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...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer Summit Day Three

Welcome to day three!  In terms of weather, this promised to be the nicest day of the summit, ironic considering that an impressive storm is gathering to hit the north side of the island this weekend.  By afternoon, it was incredibly windy and hail kept falling noisily on the proceedings.  But the morning walk was quite nice and we soon settled into our accustomed chairs for the day's work.

Day three was mostly about smaller teams, smaller projects, and side issues facing EVE Online development environment for the next six months.  As a result, we were able to relax a bit more and the day lacked the frenetic pace of day two.

Session sixteen: Sales and marketing.  The first session of the day was marred by all sorts of technical problems with the video conference hardware.  As a result, we only got about 35 minutes to talk about this important topic.  Unsurprisingly, a lot of the focus of this session was around the (undeniably awesome) EVE Collector's Edition that was announced and shown off at Fanfest.  CSM8 was shown an "unboxing."  The USB Rifter is in-cred-ible -- much larger than I was expecting(1) -- and between that and the golden pod might alone justify the cost.  The CSM listened to the pitch around this product then made several suggestions on how to make the Collector's Edition even better.  Unfortunately, there wasn't time for much more.

Session seventeen: Reasonable things review.  This was a focused session with game designers from a number of teams looking over the top-rated items from the CSM's reasonable things initiative earlier this year.  As they have on the Skype channel, CCP expressed enthusiasm for a number of proposals.  Even more important, they provided good communication for why a number of the proposals are not as "reasonable" as they might appear.  It's a good bet you'll see some of the list in future expansions...

Session eighteen: PvE.  This session was a little bit disjointed because a number of CSM members have strong feelings on this topic, myself included.  The CCP team also had no presentation ready to go.  This was actually common throughout the three days and allowed discussions to range into lots of different areas where devs wanted feedback.  This session was a great example of that.  It resulted in a stream-of-consciousness discussion that ranged all over the place.  At the end of the session, the devs involved made it clear that they found our feedback valuable and discussion on this topic continued into both lunch and (I believe) dinner.  I joked that Mike Azariah gets to write the minutes of this one, and it'll probably be the hardest part of the minutes to write.

Session nineteen: Project 3.  This one is another NDA'ed project likely to be announced very soon.  In principle, the idea is very very cool.  I'll have lots to say about it when it gets announced.  Until then, the CSM were mostly asked for feedback on how the project should be announced, how it should be managed, and ways to prevent it being exploited by that most wily of gamer, the EVE player.  In other news, by this time the issues with Trinity's video conferencing had been completely fixed.

Session twenty: User Interface.  The UI has obviously been... ummm... less than one of EVE's strengths for quite some time.  I would forgive you for just getting excited over the fact the name of this session wasn't NDA'ed.  Representatives from both the UI team and teams connected to it brought us a quite good presentation for both a short- and medium-term plan to address this weakness of the game we love.  This session drew feedback from virtually every CSM member and discussion was animated.

Session twenty-one: Language support and the CSM.  Short version: this was a plea for the CSM to be more friendly to the languages where EVE has a localized client: German, Russian, and Japanese.  We accepted the input, then the members of the CSM most affected by this topic provided advice on how CCP can improve in this area as well.

Session twenty-two: Launcher and web teams.
  This was a session requested by the CSM and was our chance to really dig into the meat of the integration of the launcher and a couple of other NDA'ed priorities for the winter expansion.  CCP has a specific strategy for development of the launcher and this was also an opportunity to discuss it and for the CSM to provide feedback.  We also had a couple of suggestions for the web team, one of which would be quite difficult to implement but would be a vast improvement to EVE's web presence.

Session twenty-three: Hilmar.  This was a shorter session than the others, and mostly an opportunity for us to meet Hilmar.  But we also took the opportunity -- using a trio of leading questions -- to hear Hilmar's vision for EVE's branding and identity across its three products for the next year.  I think CSM8 came away quite satisfied with what we heard.

Session twenty-four: Valkyrie.  Let's just say that when Valkyrie was announced, the CSM was quite insistent on doing everything we could to ensure our feedback was used to make this the best possible product of this type that could be produced.  Clearly, the best way to do this was to do some heavy duty product testing.  ;-)  No, more seriously, we were interested in hearing if there was any way we could help with this, though one very lucky CSM8 member did get to try it out (no, it wasn't me).

After the last session of the day, the CSM and a large cross-section of developers met at a local restaurant for dinner, with conversations ranging from the serious to the ultra-casual.  Several CSM8 members -- including myself -- used the opportunity of a final get-together to plant the seeds of ideas in the heads of willing devs.  But it certainly wasn't all work.  Good food and socializing played an important part and CSM members and devs got the chance to learn about each other's hobbies and interests.

After that, a subset of the dinner participants adjourned to Nora's for continued chit-chat.  About 11pm, we were called outside for a really glorious display of the aurora borealis -- reportedly one of the best ever seen in Reykjavik city limits.  It was really something!  After that, CSM members adjourned back to the hotel in roughly age order, oldest first.  ;-)  I myself called it a night about 1am.

All in all, day three was interesting, productive, and not quite as exhausting as the second day, with a lot of important ground covered!  There will be one more wrap-up post where I look at the summit as a whole, along with some final random notes.  But for now, time to prepare to head for home! 

I want to express my thanks to all of the CCP developers, employees, and leadership that met with us!  Your hospitality and openness made this summit a terrific experience.  My thanks also to my fellow CSM delegates that attended both in person and over the video/audio link.  We've got a lot of work ahead of us preparing and presenting the minutes of this marathon and I think we're all eager to continue our work.

(1) That's what she said.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Summit Day Two

Welcome to the hardest day of the summit!  The schedule was really weighted hard to this day with a lot of the toughest expectations on CSM8 packed into this Thursday.  Primarily, day two was about meeting individually with members of each of EVE's four "feature teams" as well as the fifth team working on the EVE-DUST link.  Throughout the day, Trinity was often quite full of people.  Instead of a person or two presenting a specific topic, the bulk of each team appeared and anyone we needed to talk to was available to clarify points and answer questions.

On the very positive end, this gave us the opportunity to do quite deep dives into winter expansion features that we wanted to dig into a little more or that team members wanted our opinion on.  On the challenging side, it made day two mentally exhausting.  I've learned there is a bit of a running joke in CCP: which CCP dev can talk enthusiastically about spaceships continuously for the longest time?  CSM8's abilities on this front were tested.  It made for a really long, involved day...

Session Eight: Team Five-O.  This is the team that CSM8 is the stake-holder for so happily most of us were quite familiar both with the features this team is working on and with the people on the team themselves so we could jump right in.  Obviously I can't yet speak about what those specific features are but they are working on four major projects, two of which were discussed much more in-depth for an hour each during sessions nine and ten.  I think players are going to be very happy with what this team is working on.  One in particular will cost me a bottle of brandy for the CCP dev implementing it, but it will be worth it: it's something I (and lots of players in my constituency) have wanted in the game for a long time.  I myself have been begging for it since April 26 or so... can't wait!

Session Nine: Project 1.
Session Ten: Project 2. 
These were in-depth discussions of two of the four areas where Team Five-O is concentrating their efforts.  One will be a major center-piece of the winter expansion, one is set-up work for next year.  I think players will be nearly universal in their approval of both, and the CSM was too... with one tiny little baby exception where we gently tried to nudge the devs off their chosen path.  I believe and hope we provided a lot of valuable feedback on how to make these features better.

Session Eleven: Team Superfriends.  This session was a bit challenging.  I think Superfriends has drawn the most difficult and the most potentially contentious features for the winter expansion.  I also think it's fair to say that the CSM expressed deep concerns about their approaches to two of them.  On the positive end, I think we were very successful at expressing those concerns and further discussion of them will be moving to the CCP-CSM internal forums.

Session Twelve: Team Game of Drones.
  On the other hand, I think Game of Drones lucked into the "easiest" feature set for winter.  The CSM was very enthusiastic about both the features and the direction this team is taking them.  Even better, the team is well along on their implementation, so I and others on CSM8 made a case for them to make their plans public as soon as possible to draw mass player input.  I dearly hope this happens so I can start writing about this team's work in detail soon because I think it's really important.

Session Thirteen: Team Kuromaku.  This is a new team, formed from a merger of two other feature teams and as a result is both currently the biggest feature team and the one with the most expectations for winter.  CCP Seagull herself presented for this team, I think because she gently started with a sad announcement that a feature that I had considered a major cornerstone for the next couple of expansions is being pushed back due to its complexity.  I think Seagull was arming up for a torch-and-pitchfork attack from CSM8 but I think we were really understanding.  What this team wants to do in 2014 is completely awesome, but it's going to be damned tough.

I want to briefly expand on this topic and this is a good place to do it.  I've been impressed over and over again by one aspect of having Seagull at the tiller.  I think she's struck a perfect balance of wanting to do crazy cool stuff in EVE over the next three years but is also very realistic about what can be accomplished at each step in the process.  In particular, the entire leadership team is aware of the pitfalls of Incarna and understands that at each step when you're doing crazy cool stuff, players have to be respected and cool stuff to do in space has to be delivered.  It's really refreshing!  Onward.

As a result, things segued smoothly into what this team can actually deliver for winter and I think this session was one in particular where the CSM provided a lot of insights and good feedback.  In one case, four different teams including this one are working aspects of the same feature and because of this I had to give my suggestions for the feature four different times (to the point where during this session, another of the CSM said "Jester, give your WXYZ speech again" -- I'll explain what that means when I can talk about it).

Session Fourteen: Team True Grit.
Session Fifteen: EVE-DUST Link.
  These two sessions merged into one super-session on the EVE DUST link and we had a good portion of the Council of Planetary Management with us to help talk about it.  It was also another session where I think it's fair to say that both the CSM and CPM are a bit concerned with the direction being taken.  The good news is that team is ultra-realistic about the real-world failures of the current EVE DUST link.  The bad news is I believe most of the CSM and CPM don't feel like True Grit is being given the resources to attack the issues boldly enough.

A few more general notes about the day...

I mentioned yesterday that CSM8 had a minor miss during our session with the art team: we were so impressed with what we were shown that we completely forgot to make the case for optional high-definition textures that can be downloaded with the rest of the client.  This was something that lots and lots of players have begged various CSM members to continue making the case for for those players that want it.  The good news is that we had a follow-up session with the art team today and were able to deliver that message.

In addition, when meeting with all of the feature teams today, CSM8 gave a bit of a "sales pitch" for expanding the stakeholder relationship across additional CCP teams.  We had 11 out of 14 CSM8 members available for much of Thursday and I think this did a lot to show the commitment of this CSM and the expanded number of potential active participants that can give feedback to team members.  We also made the case for more CCP devs to join our Skype channels for times when they want instant feedback about issues they're considering.  By the end of the day, Trebor Daehdoow, Mike Azariah, and Ali Aras were adept at delivering the pitch.  ;-)

All in all, an exhausting but productive day!  Most of the CSM adjourned to Nora's after hours where we were met by eight or so CCP devs.  I'm pleased to report that a stout is back on the menu at Nora's -- perhaps they read this blog and got the tap running again to make me happy?  Conversation again stuck to mostly very casual topics and it was a relaxing way to end the day.  On to day three!

Summer Summit Day One

Wednesday in Iceland dawned the most pleasant so far, with the sun trying now and again to peek through the clouds and the temperature getting up to 54F/11C.  Much of CSM8 met in the basement of the hotel for a quite good breakfast provided by our hotel.  There was some amusement from "the old guys" (Trebor Daehdoow, Mike Azariah, myself) that we were up and ready to go before the younger members of CSM8 present (everyone else).  Matter of fact, with a few exceptions here and there, CSM8 declared their readiness to undock in reverse order of age... if you're curious about who is really committed to this summit thing.  I kid, I kid.  ;-)

The walk to CCP HQ was quick and pleasant and we claimed our spaces around the table of the Trinity conference room.  Conference rooms at CCP are named after EVE expansions, complete with the date of release etched into the glass wall to one side of the door.  Trinity comes equipped with a really impressive video conference suite that both provides a panorama view of the proceedings -- other CSM members will no doubt post the picture and if they don't, I will tomorrow -- as well as a focused view of whomever is talking.  The latter happens through some magic of the camera focusing on whomever is talking the loudest for a consistent period of time.  This gave a few members of CSM8 and some members of the CPM attending remotely a pretty good view of the proceedings when combined with screen-sharing.

To briefly cover the seven sessions that happened on day one...

Session One: Basic Introductions and Design Theory.  This session mostly focused on CCP's internal "org chart" as well as an overview of how the game is developed.  This is something that I went into CSM8 stating that I was going to take seriously -- CSM9 is going to have a lot to thank us for on this front -- and I was really satisfied with what I saw and heard.  In particular, there was a long discussion of how CCP can be more transparent about sharing information with players and who really makes the operational decisions about game development that affect players (and therefore, how the CSM and players can influence those decisions).

Session Two: Stakeholder review.  Probably the quietest session of the day, we looked at the past and present of the CSM stakeholder process.  Trebor was the expert here for obvious reasons and made a good case for the fact that the process is working better than ever.  Most of the discussion was about internal matters relating to CCP-CSM communications, with the CSM making a case for the various ways we can help CCP if more teams engage with us.

Session Three: Security.  One of my favorite sessions of the day.  The new head security guy, CCP Stillman, showed us a really deep presentation on various aspects of MMO security that he's planning to present at an upcoming security conference.  It really dug into the meat of the challenges this team faces.  I think everyone on CSM8 came away confident that this important aspect of the game is in very good hands.  In particular, Noizy Gamer will be pleased to know that virtually all of his list was covered.

Session Four: EVE Economy.  This session was widely regarded by CSM8 as one of the best of the day, with CCP DrEyjoG and his assistant CCP Recurve sharing with us a lot of hard data on the EVE economy including Gross User Product, PLEX prices, and deep economic indicators.  Several CSM members including myself made strong cases for the return of either the QEN or some other insight for EVE players into how the economy is going and I think we made a really strong case for which there was (somewhat grudging) agreement from the CCP side.  This session also featured our first "in-class homework assignment" of the summit.

Session Five: Art.
  This was one of the most fun sessions of the day, with the art team wowing us with a lot of pretty pictures of what they have planned for winter.  In a few cases -- to my amusement -- they got the job of spoiling some minor aspects of session seven when they showed us art for features that we hadn't yet been told were coming.  I got to beg (successfully, I think) for an art feature that many players asked me for.  The session was dominated by a review of some mock-ups of how EVE players interact with their game.  This is sure to be followed up in the UI session on Friday.  The CSM did have one miss here which we're going to rectify today (more about that tomorrow).

Session Six: State of Balance.  This was a lively, informal session with all three members of the ship balance team (CCP Ytterbium, CCP Rise, CCP Fozzie) chatting with us about their future plans for ship balance and asked for our feedback about what order things should be done in and some particular ideas they have on this front.  A lot of the time was spent chatting about the next couple of ship classes that are going to be rebalanced as well as the fact that future ship balancing is going to be much more challenging than what has been done up to this point.

Session Seven: The future.  This is going to be a heavily NDA'ed session, but was another of my favorites of the day.  The great news here is that there is a specific, coherent road map for the next three years that hangs together logically and should provide a lot of really great stuff for players over the next few years.  It actually made me kind of envious of CSMs 9 and 10...  It launched from CCP Seagull's two presentations at Fanfest and she presented most of this session as well.

Things kept moving well throughout the day.  CCP Dolan is to be commended for keeping the sessions on track and on schedule.  I can tell you from experience that this is a lot harder than it looks.  Lunch was a Mexican buffet provided for all of CCP in the employee cafeteria -- I was stunned to see fresh cilantro so far from California!  Dinner was pizza delivered to the same place.  At both points, CSM members had the opportunity to introduce themselves to and chat with any CCP dev who seemed inclined, and most of us wore CSM-logoed shirts brought from the U.S. by Trebor to help identify us.

After hours for day one was a bit more subdued, mostly because there was a scheduled marketing department dinner last night.  That meant there weren't that many CCP'ers available.  Those that were met us at Nora's for a couple of hours where the chatter was once again mostly very relaxed and casual.  The main gathering broke up a little after 11pm.

All in all, day one was fun, productive, interesting, and -- I think, anyway -- provided a lot of value for both CCP and the CSM.  I'm really pleased that CSM8 is showing value for the dollars that CCP has invested in our "free trip to Iceland".  On to day two!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer Summit Day Zero

Arrival in Iceland, about 6:30am local with the sun just over the horizon.  Have I ever mentioned I'm not a morning person?  I'm not.  The only time I want to see the sunrise is after an all-nighter.  Oh well.

All seven CSM8 members that are attending the summits in person are now present and accounted for:
  1. Ali Aras;
  2. James Arget;
  3. Korvin;
  4. Mike Azariah;
  5. mynnna;
  6. Trebor Daehdoow; and,
  7. myself.
We mostly recognized each other by voice since few of us had met face to face at this point.  I'd seen a picture of Ali on her Facebook account and met Trebor and Korvin at Fanfest, but that was it.  Still, we quickly renewed virtual acquaintance.  There were four of us in my particular arrival group: myself, Mike, mynnna, and James.  Korvin arrived later, Trebor and Ali about six hours before us.

We arrived at the hotel to find that our rooms weren't ready for us, so I asked if there was a place we could toss our bags for a few hours (a wish easily granted) and then I took my group of four over to The Laundromat so we could have breakfast and chat.  Conversation throughout this day was very casual: we added little to the plans about the summit that we haven't already made during Skype chats.  Instead, talk was personal matters, alliance matters, spaceship matters.  I noted that the Iceland trip saved me from likely participating in some of Rote Kapelle's capital fleet being introduced to a Black Legion hot-drop (the BR is a bit scrambled and is double-showing all our losses).

After that, I took my group on a quick walking tour of Reyk highlights (Harpa, location of the major bars and restaurants, quick pointer in the direction of CCP, pointing out a pharmacy and a market).  Then we headed back to the hotel and we woke up Trebor and confirmed that there were no formal plans for the rest of the day.  He confirmed that the arrival day was mostly intended to let us acclimate to the new time zone.  We met Ali and Korvin about this time and made plans for lunch.

After that, it was little groups of two or three CSM members meeting in odd places for the rest of the morning.  One big difference about Reyk when Fanfest isn't going on is how much sleepier and smaller it seems.  There are many fewer people walking the streets, even fewer than you would expect from a city of 100,000 people.  It being a work day and the weather (on and off sprinkles) no doubt contributed somewhat.  One interesting thing: about half the city seems to be under construction, something that surprised me.  Another interesting thing: Islenski Barinn has been slightly remodeled and is under new management and has been renamed Nora's!  This gave me a brief flash of unreality because I came around the corner expecting to find it and instead was confronted by a couple of big leather couches I didn't expect to see on the sidewalk.  I found out later that evening the new managers have reinstated the CCP corporate discount that was apparently not in effect earlier in the year.

Lunch was at Nonni's (which I somehow missed trying at Fanfest) and this was where we first started meeting CCP people, a half-dozen of whom made the walk over to share sandwiches and such.  One CSM member noted that he felt Nonni's was over-rated.  As far as I'm concerned, he was proven wrong by an absolutely delightful lamb sub.  Again, the conversations were very low key; even those CCP employees that are presenting later in the week felt inclined to save what they wanted to talk about in-session for the sessions and we were content to let them.  Instead it was more general conversations; I had a long informal chat with CCP Rise about what ship classes he was thinking about re-balancing over the next 18 months or so, for instance.

After lunch, much of CSM8 adjourned back to the hotel.  I gently sweet-talked the desk manager to let those of us not in our rooms yet into our rooms and a number of CSM members decided on a mid-afternoon nap to get our clocks completely reset.  That included me, so I missed a CCP office tour for those who haven't yet seen the place where the magic happens.

We met again as a group for dinner at the Grillhouse, this time with a somewhat different group of CCP employees, then on to Nora's where we were met by a full dozen or so.  Being so far north of the equator I was expecting daylight to persist a lot longer than it did.  Nope, it was full dark by 9:30pm.  I got to meet a half-dozen new CCP faces who I've chatted with extensively on Skype but had not yet met in person, notably CCP Stillman the new EVE security guy.  I am sad to report that even Nora's previous poor imitation stout is off the menu, replaced by something called Black Death (too sweet for my taste, though agreeably high in alcohol content).

Again though, the chat was very casual.  At dinner, Ali amused all of us by describing a concern one of her corp-mates has about DUST mercenaries: there is apparently a lot of hip/butt sway that I've never noticed in how Carbon avatars walk that her corp-mate finds distracting when the hip/butt in question is encased in power armor.  The amusing bit was Ali describing and somewhat pantomiming the hip and knee movements that were necessary to generate the amount of sway shown on screen.  I joked that all the CSM members would be headed back to the hotel that evening to visually confirm her description.  At Nora's, Rise and I chatted about personal stuff.  I'd noticed him on a bicycle earlier in the day, for instance, and was curious if it was a U.S. import that he had brought into the country with him (he confirmed this).  Other conversations around the table were about the same.  I describe this mostly to assure you that I didn't notice any secret CCP-CSM deals being made in the after-hours session.  Maybe tomorrow.  ;-)

By 10:30pm or so, many of CSM8 were flagging pretty hard.  CCP Dolan called last round and I headed out into the night soon after.  I was asleep less than 10 minutes after walking out the door at Nora's.  Day One starts in a few minutes, with breakfast at the hotel followed by the first session about two hours from when I'm writing this.  More tonight or tomorrow!

EDIT (28/Aug/2013): It's reported to me that a couple of CSM8 die-hards managed to last until midnight, so maybe there were some secret CCP-CSM deals penned...  ;-)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Summit Day Minus One

For the second time this year (so far), I'm on my way to Iceland!

I'm writing this from a departure gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  Needless to say, the Icelandair flight departs from the most remote corner of the airport, from a gate so obscure that there are no signs pointing to it.  However, I am an EVE player and am therefore used to adversity.

My real-life move went well and even now about half of my belongings are still in boxes back home.  I managed to get my gaming rig running for a few minutes to make sure it survived the trip.  Priorities.  You understand.  From there, it was a matter of getting packed for the trip.  Iceland seems to have given spring and summer a miss and went stright on into autumn.  50F/10C, and rain.  That altered my packing a fair bit so fortunately I knew where amongst the boxes to find such California summer requirements as a water-proof jacket.

Ali Aras gets CSM member MVP this week for posting all of the summit topics on the EVE-O forum.  If you feel strongly about a particular topic, please comment on it!  I'll be doing my best to make sure I have each thread fully read before we go into that particular session.  She also has the summary of the schedule posted on her blog if you want to review it there and understand each day's topics.  One of the side effects of putting the summit after CCP's traditional July/August vacation period is that there wasn't as much warning either for the CSM or for players to talk about the topics prior to the summit.  On the positive end though, most of the topics are pretty universal (you'll forgive the pun, I hope).

What with the move, I'm getting a little behind in my EVE mail so if you've sent me something within the last week or so and I haven't responded yet, I apologize.  I will definitely get back to you as soon as I can.

I do want to take this opportunity to say "thank you!" again to all of the people who voted for me, particularly the faith you showed in me by making me one of the top two vote recipients.  I guess I should feel a little nervous about this summit but at the moment I really don't because I know I have so many of you behind me on this.  So again, thank you so much!

In terms of the mechanics of getting the seven of us who are going to Iceland, CCP Dolan works with a CCP company travel manager to arrange flights, hotel bookings, and so forth.  We just specify departure airports.  So that part is really convenient.  Today is a travel day with an overnight flight in to Reyk.  I arrive at 6:45am Tuesday morning.  The summit itself starts on Wednesday.

More tomorrow!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Don't get too attached

With EVE now ten years old, we're starting to see a number of corps celebrate their ten year anniversaries as well.  One of those is Seleene's corp Body Count Inc.  I've never met a man so enthusiastic about his in-game corp logo.  ;-)  At Fanfest he was showing me a resin cast of it attached to his Fanfest badge and this year, he had some coins cast to celebrate the corp's ten year anniversary...

It's almost as if he thinks he owns his corp name.  Only he doesn't.  CCP owns it.  Or more specifically, CCP's GMs own it.

For the longest time, the EULA has had this to say about in-game names...
No player may use the character name of another player to impersonate or falsely represent his or her identity. You may not obtain, attempt to obtain, use or attempt to use the login name or character name of anyone else.

You are encouraged to use a pseudonym, but you may not choose a name that violates anyone's trademarks, publicity rights or other rights. Acceptance of a pseudonym by the System does not mean that your chosen pseudonym does not violate anyone's rights. You are responsible for any liability incurred by yourself, CCP or anyone else due to the pseudonym you choose. CCP retains the right to reject any pseudonym it determines, in its sole discretion, is unlawful, indecent, obscene or otherwise violates standards of good taste.
This is a very straight-forward policy that is supposed to keep CCP out of legal trouble and keep you from impersonating other EVE players.  This comes up from time to time: EVE players will attempt to troll other EVE players by choosing a character portrait and name that is a very close approximation of a well-known player.  The Mitani, say.  Or Elsie Randolph.  Or darknessss.

You will gather this policy is unevenly applied.

There are advantages to holding such a character name, of course: if someone intends to send ISK to the real darknesss for a super-cap transfer and types one too many "s" characters into his keyboard and you own that imitation, profit for you!  And that's one reason CCP frowns on the practice and one reason you're expected to know not to do that.

But other than the EULA and the Terms of Service, there are actually a number of EVE Policies that you are responsible for reading and knowing.  One of the lesser-known ones is the EVE Online Naming Policy, which was recently updated.  One of the more interesting parts of this policy states that you may not have a name in EVE Online that might...
Reflect, glorify or emulate any real-world group or organization, terrorist society, criminal elements, discriminating organizations or their leaders and figureheads. This includes the use of names of real-world military, political or religious groups.
It also specifies that...
Age of the account or character is insignificant. Players who have knowingly and willingly given their characters inappropriate names and successfully avoided detection of this infraction against the rules will not be rewarded for their improprieties by escaping reprimand.
...meaning, in short, that just because you create a character called The Mitani, and even if it goes undiscovered for a year, you can still lose it at any time if the real The Mittani notices and/or takes offense.  But it also means that the name of your character, corp, alliance, or the name of any other item in-game that you can name can be taken away from you if it matches "any real-world group or organization"... like Intel, say.  Or Microsoft.  Or Coca-Cola.  Or IBM.  Or Adidas.  Or Bill Gates.  Or Steve Ballmer.  Or Steve Jobs.  (All of these exist in EVE.)  Or -- and this is my favorite -- Hilmar Veigar Petursson.

Or any other of literally tens of thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- of character, corporation, and alliance names.

If you are suddenly thinking to yourself, "Dear God, I could use this information to troll tens of thousands of EVE players and CCP's entire GM staff right into the ground... simultaneously!"... well,
  1. we'll get to that; and,
  2. someone's beaten you to it.
But I'll get to that story as soon as I can.  I'm sure some of you are thinking of who I am thinking of.  If things go for this corp the way they have been going, they don't get to celebrate their corp's ten year anniversary... at least, not without there being a big-ass asterisk in the middle of it.  I thought it would be fun from a journalistic perspective to interview everyone involved and use a bit of my communications training to do a real hard-core news piece.  And for the past ten days or so, that's what I've been doing.  But in the days since the story broke, I've been asked by the principals involved not to go public quite yet.  It's being kicked upstairs through CCP level by level and for now I'm going to respect the process.  In the meantime, I'm continuing to follow the story.

But that doesn't mean I can't play around the edges of the story a little bit too.  As a test case, a few days ago, I submitted the names of 15 corporations or alliances in EVE Online that are directly named after real-world terrorist organizations or business interests that have been known to be involved in illegal or shady dealings.  Needless to say, this was not a hard search to perform -- there are literally hundreds of such corps and alliances in EVE just within those two limited categories.  In the interests of science, my list included both 1- and 2-man private corps as well as larger PvE and PvP organizations with dozens of members, and one very large sov-holding alliance with hundreds of members.  All of them violate CCP's naming policy above.

Which ones will be renamed?  Or will CCP reconsider this part of their naming policy?  I personally think they should.

To all of you involved in my test case, I apologize, but I assure you this was strictly done in the name of science.  Because as you can see from what's above, the potential impact to this one part of the EVE Online Naming Policy is tens of thousands of EVE players right across New Eden, all of whom are using names they're not supposed to, all of whom are supposed to lose them as soon as they are pointed out to the GMs as being in violation of their naming policies.

Don't get too attached.  And stay tuned!  More to come on this subject.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Note from the management

Last year, I took a week off for vacation in October.  This year, my vacation time from work is going to be turned over to Fanfest, two Iceland summits, and my long-implied real-life move which starts... tomorrow.  I then segue straight from that almost directly onto an aircraft for the Summer Summit.

As a result, expect things to be very quiet around here for about the next week or so.  ;-)

There will be one more regularly-scheduled blog post -- probably tomorrow -- called "What's in a name?"  Then I hope to publish something daily from Iceland the same way I did during Fanfest.  But other than that, regular features and commentary and such are likely to be a little light around here unless something really earth-shattering happens in the meanwhile.  So I'm sorry, but you're going to have to be a productive member of society for a bit.

Things will get back to normal in September.  Enjoy your weekend!  Mine will be spent amongst an overly large number of boxes...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fit of the Week: Double bubble Heretic

I really enjoy flying interdictors, or I did until I ran out of clone slots.  I rarely get podded and right at the moment, my clone slots are all pretty expensive, including two clones heavily invested in 5% implants from Alliance Tournament 10.  I'm kinda curious when I'm going to lose them and haven't been able to seriously consider just destroying the expensive implants.

So I'm again going to express my happiness about the upcoming Advanced Infomorph Psychology skill.  Needless to say, about ten minutes after I log in after Odyssey 1.1, Ripard will be training this skill a level or two.  ;-)  And that means I get to have a cheap clone slot which means I won't mind bubbling myself in an interdictor.  My favorite dictor has been a specialized "double bubble" Sabre fit but now that I'm looking at them again, I find myself seriously considering buying a big pile of Heretics...

[Heretic, Double bubble]
Co-Processor II
Co-Processor II
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction

Prototype Cloaking Device I
Interdiction Sphere Launcher I, Warp Disrupt Probe
Interdiction Sphere Launcher I, Warp Disrupt Probe
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
Rocket Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Rocket

Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I

I generally start my dictor fits with double bubble, a prototype cloak, MWD, and at least one MSE.  That nearly always necessitates a CPU fitting mod thanks to the massive CPU use of the double warp disrupt probe launchers.  In this case though, as I built up the fit, something interesting happened: I had one more low slot than I expected which when filled with a second co-proc, opened up all sorts of nice fitting options.

So this is what I ended up with, though I might tweak the fit here and there as I develop it.  It's got a lot of really nice qualities.  The first is that it's surprisingly tanky.  My standard Sabre fit has about 8000 EHP but has horrid resists in both shields and armor.  This one is close to 10k with much superior resists thanks to the ability to wedge on a meta Damage Control.  Remember when shield-tanking Gallente ships was a joke?  Thanks to its impressive grid, now I'm shield-tanking an Amarr ship.

Sabres are the gold standard for dictor speed at 2500m/s and I've always bemoaned the Flycatcher's 2150 or so.  The Heretic splits the difference at around 2250.  It's also about as agile as a Sabre when fit this way.  Both qualities are very important for quickly getting a dictor into bubble position in the various defensive uses of bubbles.

Finally, my current second-favorite dictor, the Flycatcher, has to sacrifice virtually all DPS to its primary role of "double bubble, cloak" but the Heretic does not.  There's sufficient fitting room left over for about 120 DPS, which is just fine for chewing up pesky drones which might surround you or for ensuring that you're on kill-mails.  ;-)  The main sacrifice you make compared to a Sabre is the lack of a 4th mid.  On that mid, my Sabres nearly always have some supplemental tackle but the Heretic can't really do that.

But the biggest advantage of the Heretic is the price.  A Heretic hull runs around 30 million ISK, compared to about 41 for a Sabre hull.  That makes the small sacrifices that you make for the Amarr dictor livable, particularly given that you're in a ship that doesn't have the intimidation factor that the Sabre often does.  And cheap is important since so many dictors die in the performance of their duties.

So it's cheap, probably fast enough, and effective.  That's a pretty nice trade!  As I said, I haven't decided on this as the final fit -- I need to dig into it a tiny bit more -- but I think it's a great first start.

Bubble up!

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, August 20, 2013


It's more than just a drone.

For those not keeping track, CCP made a major announcement at Gamescom today: they are going to develop the EVE-VR prototype showed off at Fanfest as their third game, called EVE: Valkyrie.  The hardware will continue to be the Oculus Rift, and they've set a release date of sometime in 2014.

Here's the story on Massively and here it is at IGN.

What this means in practice is that the personnel that developed this demo in their spare time now find themselves a new team within CCP and they're being moved to CCP's Newcastle site to develop this new game.  The implication in the announcements is that the game will be a stand-alone multi-player game (perhaps with a single-player tutorial or missions, perhaps not).  No word yet on whether there will be any connection to EVE Online itself or if this will strictly be a one-off.  "We have big plans for EVE: Valkyrie and I can’t wait to share more details later this year," is all CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson will say on the subject.

But given a 2014 release date, I think it's safe to assume that the initial release will keep things pretty simple and dynamic, playing to the strengths of the demo.  That's no bad thing: the demo was tremendous fun, one of the best experiences I had at Fanfest this year.

So, this is an exciting announcement!  The Oculus Rift guys have to be pleased.  I'd say they just got their killer app.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kill of the Week: Light week

This was a really light week for interesting kill-mails.  What with two wars wrapping up on opposite sides of the galaxy, apparently nobody felt like dying in something odd or fun.  But an alert reader pointed me at this, so I'm going to go with it because it made me laugh:

Bravo, Morpheus Kion.  +1 internet to you, sir.

This Charon kill also made me laugh.  It's not a gank.  Not really, at least.  To his credit, I guess this guy's been living in null-sec for so long he forgot that faction police can also be cross with you even if your security status is 5.0...

And this Nightmare was also kind of an entertaining gank.  It's an incursion sniper, obviously, and killed by an embarrassingly small number of Tornados for an equally embarrassing profit.  I'm amazed that gankers don't follow incursion ships around and pop them on site entry gates routinely.  Every incursion fleet I've ever been in has a ship like this and ship scanners aren't that hard to use.  I'm entertained by this one because it was incomplete: he apparently hadn't found the last two officer guns he wanted yet and now he has to start all over.  Amusingly, there are two on the market as of a few hours after this ship died.

Number of dead super-caps last week: 2

As predicted, a pretty quiet week for super-cap kills, with only two dead, both showing up for the same reinforced POCO timer, this Nyx and this Aeon.  EVE News 24 has the story this time, and it's a well-done piece with background, story, and video.  But as I said the short version is the supers showed up to shoot at a POCO after it came out of reinforcement, presumably after being seen reinforcing the thing in the first place.  The latter allowed those keeping an eye out to have one of the local hot-droppers on stand-by to provide DPS, Black Legion in this case.  If you don't have a lot of friends, it doesn't pay to be predictable with a super-carrier...

That was it on supers, though this super-expensive Rorqual also died in low-sec.  The system of Oddeluf has two stations, one a safe undock, the other... not.  Given the small fleet that took this Rorq out and given that the KB comments said there were friendly carriers docked that could have provided support, I'm going to go ahead and assume that this Rorq undocked from the "not safe undock" one.  It also seems to have been carrying a reasonable percentage of someone's life savings in EVE.  So it's almost a super.

That was it for this past week, though, and this coming week is only looking slightly better.  Only one super death so far.

T'Amber rule of CSM demonstrability

Sometimes you have to throw together a little mock-up to explain an idea visually.

This is a mock-up, not a feature.  But I wish it were a feature.

"Hey CCP, how about a range slider on the d-scanner that would let you quickly and easily set d-scan range to various increments?  The slider would update the number in the text field, and vice versa."

Happy Monday, kids.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

CSM8 Status report: Week fifteen

Things are slowly speeding back up!

We were scheduled to have a stake-holder meeting this week, but it didn't happen quite frankly because everything that Team Five-Oh could have shown us this week they would have been showing us on Singularity (since that's where it is now).  I really wish CCP would just announce Odyssey 1.1's release date already.  Yes, the CSM has been told what it is.  No, we can't say.  All I AM allowed to say is this announcement from CCP Explorer over the weekend:
CCP Explorer > The date for Odyssey 1.1 has been set and will be announced soon. The rest of the autumn schedule (for EVE & DUST) is drafted. [Twitter relay]
So there you go.  It's set and will be announced soon(tm).

We continue to be in the roll-up toward the Summer Summit, which is now coming up in less than ten days.  Surprisingly though, we don't have the topic list yet for it.  I was pretty much counting on us having this by yesterday but it didn't happen.  I suspect this is a side effect of the much later Summer Summit than is typical, combined with it taking place immediately after CCP's vacation season.  That's cutting into the time needed to organize the Summit, decide on the topics, and get them announced to all of you.  Needless to say as soon as we have that information, we'll get it out to you.  In the meantime, this is a good lesson to take out of this later Summit for next year for CSM9.

Trebor Daehdoow took some time out to talk to Penny Arcade Report and that article came out this week.  It's really more of an EVE intro piece than anything else, but is a lovely example of the CSM "activism" that I called for last year... and I didn't even do it.  ;-)  But sometimes the best thing the CSM can do is sell the game!  And now that the Providence civil war is over, Ali Aras is going to be restarting her Space Hangouts on Saturdays at 2000.  I'm pretty sure this is the link you want to participate.

The CCP/CSM Skype channel is heating back up, but it's mostly casual chatter right now.  The devs are busy with Odyssey 1.1 preparations and debugging of stuff discovered on Singularity.  There hasn't been a new topic on the Internal CCP/CSM forum in a couple of weeks; in terms of Winter expansion stuff, we're mostly thinking through a brainstorming project that CCP Fozzie gave us while waiting for the Summit.

So in short, things are pretty quiet right now but the busy is visible on the horizon.

That started with our second CSM8 Town Hall over the weekend, which was attended by Ali Aras, Chitsa Jason, James Arget, Korvin, Malcanis, Mangala Solaris, Mike Azariah, Sala Cameron, Sort Dragon, Trebor Daehdoow, and myself, Ripard Teg.  So quite a good turn-out!  The recording is already up, so go give it a listen; it's just over one hour in length.  We were asked lots of really good questions, and we got to almost all of them.  We did miss a few (including a couple that were sent to me in EVE mail) so I'll be getting CSM8 members to answer them this week and posting the answers into the EVE-O forum thread.  EVE Radio as usual did a stellar job with the broadcast, both through their own medium and on twitch, and EVE University again donated their public Mumble server for our use.  Thank you again so much to both of these organizations (and most particularly DJ Wiggles and Neville Smit) for helping us, and thank you to everyone who attended!

Town Hall #3 is tentatively scheduled for early October, or as I put it to Neville Smit, "the weekend after we get the Summer Summit minutes out."  That's going to be fairly heavily dependent on how fast CCP can and will approve them, but I've set a tentative schedule for it for four weeks after the end of the summit, which would put the minutes out around October 1.  Hopefully, that's not overly optimistic.

First though, we actually have to attend the Summit, and there will be one more weekly update before it starts...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Did things just get better or worse?

Awesome movie quote time.  There's an amusing scene in Die Hard 2, about half-way in.  Former soldiers become mercenaries have taken over an airport full of people and are holding planes circling overhead hostage by their control of the tower's landing equipment.  A U.S. Army special forces unit is sent in to take out the former soldiers under a Major Grant (the sublime John Amos).  The airport's Chief of Operations, Trudeau, can only think of the fact that his airport full of innocents is held captive by a large number of men with guns... and now there are even more men with guns arriving, and making it clear that the peaceful solution isn't on their minds.  Needless to say, Trudeau isn't thrilled to hear this and the protagonist of the piece, John McClane, cracks wise:
Hey Trudeau, did things just get better or worse?
McClane doesn't get an answer.

Let's talk about some of the long-term implications of the post-moon New Eden.  And I apologize in advance: this post is going to be rather long, but there's a lot of ground to cover.  It starts with the concept of scalability.

One of the boons the pre-Dominion sovereignty system had going for it is that holding sov space didn't scale well.  Scalability is a measure of how easy or hard it is to control and manage a system as it grows.  Systems that scale well are just as easy to manage as they grow.  A lawn scales well: a lawn that is twice as big takes twice as long (or twice as many people) to mow, and a lawn that is four times as big takes four times as long (or four times as many people) to mow.  A communications network scales poorly.  Networking professionals will tell you that a network with 500 end-points is more than twice as hard to manage as one with 250 end-points.  Pre-Dominion sov, based as it was on the fueling of widely scattered and hugely numerous towers, did not scale well.  It took much more than twice the effort to control twice the space since you had to manage both a logistics network and a communications network to keep all those towers fueled.

However, Dominion sov scales extremely well: all you have to do is conquer the systems and pay the bills.  Pre-Dominion sov was like a communications network.  Post-Dominion sov is like a lawn.  All it takes is more people to mow it.

Now in practice, this hasn't mattered since Dominion was released in late 2009, and the reason -- ironically enough -- was the moons themselves.  In a lot of ways, they acted as control rods for the nuclear reactor of a large sov alliance.  We refer to "the north" as a unit because that's where the tech moons tended to be clumped and for the longest time a single coalition held "the north."  That single coalition has changed over the years but the natural boundaries have not.  Alliances in that area took the valuable moons, and then humans being human and because we like clean endings and round numbers, tried to establish buffer zones at the regional borders.  Once those borders were established, the alliances behind them tended not to stray too far from home because few alliances could project power across a wide enough sphere to both launch invasions far from home and protect the moons held there.

But now those moons aren't worth as much, are they?

Alliances used to measure their budgets based on the number of moons they held but as I established yesterday, that's unlikely to be a thing for much longer.  Alliances will probably be a bit more casual about losing moons knowing full well that individual moons here and there probably aren't going to be fought over to the extent that they have been, they won't be defended quite so vigorously, and they'll therefore be easier to take back when needed.  To a large extent, EVE has lost a conflict driver... a pretty big conflict driver.

Yesterday, I touched briefly on this article at TMC which lays out the potential income differences between moons and rental agreements (hint: renting wins).  The entire article is nothing more than a sales pitch aimed squarely at the CFC membership.  But particularly striking was this graph...

...which puts renting into the perspective of 11(!) regions that the CFC could potentially rent out.  And to my utter lack of surprise, Delve, Querious, and Period Basis are included in the list.  One presumes that N3 isn't going to take that sort of thing lying down.  There's every reason to think that whomever is in charge of TEST right now is receiving some very interesting offers from both north and east for the peaceful transfer of sov.

But let's get back to scalability.  The northeast part of New Eden is a rather notorious rental zone almost specifically due to its lack of moons.  But the interesting thing about the much-ignored northeast is how it demonstrates how scalable rental income is.  Once your own alliances home constellations are set up, the only real limit on the number of constellations you can rent out are:
  1. your ability to project power across the constellations you rent;
  2. your ability to find renters; and,
  3. your ability to conquer new constellations for them to rent.
Power projection being what it is in New Eden these days, it isn't much harder to control a larger area of renters than it is a smaller one.  Sure, once the CFC puts this into practice, they're going to be inundated with visitors looking to prey on their renters.  But the CFC has always been utter masters at power projection via jump bridges and their members are used to crossing the galaxy quickly to deal with threatening situations and multiple overlapping timers.  I think the biggest issue Goons will have with a rental empire won't be holding it or conquering new territory for it, it's going to be their ability to find people willing to trust Goons with their livelihood.

That could be a very large challenge indeed.

But if they're successful, the "big blue doughnut" has a chance of becoming much more fact than fiction.  As I said, rental income scales very well and the eventual war between the CFC and N3 seems inevitable at this point.  If the CFC starts conquering new regions in the south, they could find themselves once again in control of nearly unlimited wealth... wealth that the graph above shows would dwarf their previous fortunes made on the tech throne.  And more importantly, wealth that would be even easier to maintain.

Without the natural control rods holding back the growth of sov and sitting on an easily scalable income source, it might be very tempting for the CFC (or N3, should they start winning the war) to just expand... and expand... and expand some more.

Did things just get better or worse?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Well, that escalated quickly

First, if you haven't already done so, go out and read this masterful article by Lockefox on TMC.  It is -- by far -- the best thing written on TMC so far this year, an incisive, well-researched article into the history of moon-goo in general and its impact on the CFC in particular.  Go read it, in full.  I'll wait.

Back?  OK, let's talk about it.  In particular, I want to call your attention to this graph on page three:

That single little graph, more than any other factor, is probably what sealed the fate of TEST in Fountain.  It documents the collapse of a financial empire that makes the Great Depression's tumble pale by comparison.  Presented in that context, the doom of anyone near CFC territory holding the new R64s is obvious.  If tech was a drug, that graph charts the withdrawal symptoms and they ain't pretty.  The corresponding graph detailing the prices of the new R64s post-Odyssey finished the job.  That thick green line, showing the average price of R64s at a bit over 20k ISK per unit tells the tale.  As I write this, technetium is below 14k per unit.  At 80k per unit for tech, the future of the CFC's empire was secure.  At 25k or less?  Not so much.

Short version: even if the CFC held every moon in EVE, they probably couldn't finance the lavish ship replacement program that their empire was built on.

I could have easily called the blog post "Be careful what you wish for".  Or just maybe "The heavens blaze forth the death of Princes".  I'll let Mord Fiddle have that second title, because I can't imagine it's too long before he starts gloating.  I just checked.  He hasn't posted his CFC post-moon analysis.  It's definitely coming.  I can feel it.

So let me say it again and let's talk about this bit in particular: even if the CFC held every moon in EVE, they couldn't finance the lavish ship replacement program that their empire has been built on.  CCP has... very quietly... very sneakily... given people what they've been asking for for going on four years now.  We live in a post-moon New Eden.  Sure, moons are still going to be valuable.  At today's prices depending on the size of the tower, dysprosium and neodymium are going to be worth about 1.5 billion a month, promethium about 1.3 or so.  It's not money to turn your nose up at.  But it's also not the seven or eight or more billion per month that tech once poured into an alliance's coffers every moon.  After those three moon-goos, the values drop precipitously.  Tech is barely worth a half billion per moon per month.  A few moons have to be mined at a loss.

We live in a post-moon New Eden.  And it happened very quietly while most of EVE wasn't looking.  Now we have to stop and seriously consider: are things about to get better or worse?

The CFC had a long, long time to think about this.  We were hearing about their post-moon plans and strategies and ideas as long as two years ago.  But I'm not convinced they ever really actually truly believed it would happen.  Make no mistake: the CFC is addicted to its SRP.  But now the bottle is empty, the liquor store is closed and bankrupt, and the alcoholic is looking around in a bit of a bleary stupor wondering where the next fix is coming from.  And the answer has come down from on high...

...pubbie scrublords.

Pubbie scrublord money is where the next fix is coming from.  Goons are about to become that very thing they have despised forever: slumlord renters with a contact list even more full of blues, their space full of blue Tengus and Ishtars and Retrievers and Taloses and even PvE battleships that they aren't allowed to shoot... that they aren't even allowed to think about shooting... that they aren't even allowed to scam into thinking that they might shoot.  Oh dear Heaven, how the mighty have fallen.

And what makes it doubly glorious is that the long asked-for treaties and rent control measures that EVE's existing slumlords have been asking for for about a thousand years aren't in the game.  The fixes and changes and mechanics that could have made this at least semi-palatable to the average Goon -- that CFC leadership could have started stomping their feet to obtain two years ago -- are not in place and aren't going to be in place.  Meaning that CFC leadership had to announce a little bit shame-facedly that Goons aren't allowed to scam would-be renters any more because of the danger of scaring off the real renters that they are so desperately going to need... nowish.

Wherever SirMolle is, he's cracking a beer and having a good long laugh.

Anyway, the full court press to convince Goons that this is a good thing -- really! -- has begun in earnest, spear-headed by that very same TMC.  All the while, CFC members are also doing their very best to convince themselves that they are definitely not Band of Brothers... mostly I think because they're saying they aren't expecting their renters to die gloriously for them as cannon fodder or even to form up to defend their homes because Goons -- Goons! -- Goons! -- will be doing it for them!

And holy crap I can't believe I just typed that.

When The Mittani was bounced off CSM7 last year, one of the things he said in his first GSF address to the troops afterward was that he wasn't even all that upset about it.  The reason was because being a good CSM member -- whose job it was to stand up for EVE players -- and being a good Goon -- whose job it is to troll and torment EVE players -- were fundamentally incompatible goals.  Needless to say, it's going to be quite interesting watching GSF having to adjust to having some pubbies that they have to treat well and protect while having other pubbies that they can still gank in high-sec somewhere.

But finally, let's come briefly back to the question I asked earlier: is this better or worse for New Eden?  And that I think deserves a post to itself.  Look for that tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fit of the Week: Alpha Talwar

It's pretty easy to forget that missile ships can be volley ships, too.  So many of us get so focused on gun volley damage that we overlook a ridiculous little ship like this one:

[Talwar, Alpha Shield Buffer]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II
Ballistic Control System II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script

Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Experimental TE-2100 Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I

First things first: because this is a tight fit, this is an old character's play-thing.  Brave Newbies like Talwars but they mostly like them because lots of cheap meta1 mods can be fitted to them with even cheaper rigs.  You throw in a small pile of Nova Missiles (faction or otherwise) and when a bunch of them get firing, suddenly you have some 1200 volley damage Per Talwar.  Short version, 50 or 60 of these means that you have sufficient volley on field to alpha through even relatively tough targets like HACs and battle cruisers.  The DPS is even pretty reasonable, at 120 to 150 depending strongly on player skill and the exact meta of light missile launchers chosen.  Don't choose particularly expensive launchers  It's unlikely you'll live to bring them home.

The only difference between this ship and the Brave Newbies version is that this one tanks better... whereas a Brave Newbies Talwar dies to a single bombing run.  They don't care; they're not proud.

After the missile launchers, damage assist mod and MWD, the next most important module is at least one rig improving missile flight time or speed, maybe even two of them.  This is not a brawling ship.  It has the sig radius of a small cruiser and the EHP of a frigate.  It's not a good combination and it should try to stay out of range of damage, particularly HAC damage which can absolutely eat this kind of ship.  The missile flight time rig combined with a Sensor Booster allows the ship to shoot missiles almost to the extent of its 72km lock range.  Not many HACs can effectively counter-punch at that range.

After that, I've filled in with a MWD and the remainder of a tank, most particularly Medium Shield Extender and a T2 MAPC so that I can fit both it and the MWD.  As implied above, this is the ultimate skirmishing ship; it should be fighting in the 45-50km range.  There's no point fitted because the last thing this ship should be doing is tackling things.  Therefore, a Talwar fitted this way is highly reliant on either close-range tackle, bubbles in null-sec, or -- daringly -- no tackle at all.  With each Talwar doing 1200 alpha and enough of these little monsters on the field, your enemy might not realize that he's going to start losing ships until it's too late.  This will take a small bit of timing on the part of your FC since like all volley damage, it's better if the volleys arrive together to minimize the likelihood of enemy logi undoing your good work.

That, incidentally, makes this Talwar remarkably easy for beginners to fly: skirmish away from your targets, lock the ones your FC tells you to, fire when you're told to do so.  It couldn't be much more straight-forward.

Finally, there isn't much point to carrying other types of missiles.  The Talwar gets a significant explosive damage bonus.  Still, if you want to carry one reload of faction Mjolnirs, I won't stop you.  Shield ships are traditionally pretty well-tanked against explosive damage and you might want to try the alternative.

Happy missile launching!

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, August 13, 2013

AT11 Wrap-up: Snowball

OK, let's wrap up my series of AT11 posts with one that I've been orbiting but haven't quite dared really talk about yet.  I'm going to try to make this a little bit low-key.  I'm going to try.  But it's a difficult subject.  Here goes.

How many really good alliance tournament teams are there in EVE?  Because frankly, with the current design of EVE tournament play, I don't think it's very many.  More specifically, I think it's two: HYDRA RELOADED and Pandemic Legion.  And the more alliance tournaments CCP has with its current design, the fewer really good teams I think we're going to have.  We're going to see a snowball effect where fewer and fewer players will be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be really good at this tournament thing... to really be competitive in tournament play... and I think those players will respond to it by moving either temporarily or permanently to alliances that support that play style.(1)

In short, tourney play in EVE is in serious danger of becoming just like every other play style in EVE: dominated by a small number of groups that wipe out their competition in the meta-game rather than the actual game-game.  Like sovereignty.  Like wormholes.  Like moon-goo (yes, this is different from sov; it's just some of the same groups involved).  The differences between AT11 and the Dota2 International Championships over the weekend were really striking, particularly how many really good Dota2 teams there are.

EVE isn't there.  I'm starting to wonder if it ever will be.

After the Hydra/0utbreak embarrassment that was AT9, I had the opportunity to chat semi-publicly with one of the Hydra players.  I mentioned that AT9 seemed so much more professional and hard-core than previous tournaments and more casual teams were ROFL-stomped pretty aggressively early on.  Then I essentially said, "after dominating this tournament so forcefully this year, do you think we'll see Hydra's core of pilots break up into other alliances to try to build a number of competitive tournament teams?"  The answer I got was essentially, no, this player felt like other teams were stepping up to their level and we'd see more competition.

We saw how that worked out in AT10 when Hydra was banned from competing.  A lot of Hydra players were openly dismissive of the AT10 winners on the EVE-O and other forums after it was over.  And now with AT11 in the books, we can see that was with good reason.  Hydra crushed anyone they even came near, not even losing a single ship to their competition until we were down to the top four(!) teams in the winner's bracket.  Sure, Exodus came in third, and sure, they feel there were extenuating circumstances that might have got them past Hydra and into the finals.  Know what?  No, there weren't.  Exodus was crushed, too.  The gap between the second-best team and the third-best team in AT11 was wide and deep.

This year, a few PL pilots said that no other alliance could have gone through the marathon they did in that loser's bracket.  I'm not inclined to argue with them.  I asked my own alliance-mates if any of them could say with a straight face we could have supplied the ships for and fought 17 matches, winning 14 of them.  Nobody did.  And Rote Kapelle isn't considered a bad tournament team... I don't think.

OK, I promised I wasn't going to make a big deal of this.  I'll try to back off a bit.

But I'm gonna say it: this style of play is really really nasty and very few EVE players are stepping up to it.  Putting together 12 or 15 or 18 players all in the same alliance, all willing to do it?  Tough.  Very tough!  Oh sure, we'll continue to see competitive matches among the lower tier teams between each other.  And some of those will be great fights!  But right now, they're mostly fighting for the right to show who gets to be badly crushed by a first tier team.  Maybe they get to say they gave their first-tier opponent a hard time, but probably they don't.  And as the first tier teams continue to collect more and more tourney ships, that gap is only going to get deeper and wider.  Thank Heaven the AT11 prizes were sub-par tournament ships.

For a lot of players, their best chance to get a sniff of those tourney ships isn't going to be to motivate their alliance-mates into doing the work.  It's going to be seeing what they can do to convince a winning alliance to recruit them.(2)  And that's only going to make the snowball effect protecting those top-tier teams more pronounced.

Whew.  Glad I got that off my chest.  I might be totally off the mark here.  What do you think, Dear Reader?  And in the meantime, no more tourney stuff until NEO.  Or maybe until SCL.

(1) As a side note, as the CREST "battlespace simulator" becomes more and more advanced, I wonder if it will cause some EVE players to become more hesitant about flying in AT matches and have their every move scrutinized?  It's yet another way that pilots competing at this level have to be absolute perfectionists at their play, because any mistakes will be seen...
(2) Apathetic Brent in my own alliance caught a lot of crap from my alliance-mates (including myself, truth be told) for trying to do just that before being selected as a commentator instead.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kill of the Week: Wrecking shot

Given the number of people who pointed me at it, I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't pick this Cynabal as KOTW...

Yeah, that's a Rote Kapelle ratter-hunter Cynabal being murdered by one of the ratters he was hunting.  And the ratter in question was AFK.  Whoops!  Story here is pretty straight-forward, though.  The pilot involved is an extremely experienced ratter-hunter but also has been away from the game for a while.  As a result, he was not yet fully versed on some of the more interesting changes in the game lately, like Drone Damage Amplifiers, the reduced tank needs this puts on Ishtar ratting ships, and the fact that rats now aggress on threatening targets rather than staying locked on a tank.  This means that ratting ships can be thinner and can incorporate changes like Drone Navigation Computers which make Wasp heavy drones quite quick.

Now combine this with an overly aggressive, overly confident ratter-hunter who burns in super-close to his relatively motionless target to apply Hail DPS... rather than the EMP damage that would be more appropriate against a shield-tanking ship.  He also applied e-war drones to his prey, mistakenly thinking that the targets drones wouldn't go after him... then badly underestimated the amount of damage those drones would do to his... ummm... relatively motionless ship.

Then add a wrecking shot (it's three below the highlighted line):

I think you'll agree that mistakes were made.  ;-)  You can see the Cynabal's DPS drop off markedly as he realizes he's in trouble toward the bottom of the log and starts burning away from the Ishtar's drones.  Too little, too late.  Needless to say, we in Rote are trolling the victim here mercilessly, particularly after he initially bitched that he was going to petition the loss...  That said, the Ishtar did die, presumably finished off by rats.

I think I'm going to limit myself to one (and a half) honorable mention this week, but it's a doozy...  That said, the story is that of a pretty straight-forward missioner gank.  I think you'll agree that an insulting small number of Tornados were needed to do the job.  Remember what I wrote last year about having at least some buffer?  Yeah, that.  Anyway, just to add insult to injury the same guy was apparently moving some loot to Jita to sell so he could buy another Abaddon when this happened.  That isn't how you fit a MWD to an Iteron V.  This sort of thing generally happens because you make a name for yourself as a high-value target, by the way...

Number of dead super-caps last week: 3

First one up is one that should have appeared in last week's report but hadn't yet been API verified at the time I wrote it (which is somewhat unusual).  It's this Circle-Of-Two Wyvern, absolutely crushed by Black Legion and a few friends up in Venal.  From the video, it looks like this was an awox scenario.  There are two Sabres on field with the Wyvern which is at the sun but the FC orders his fleet not to shoot at them, reporting that the only hostile on field is the Wyvern.  So, presumably this guy was tricked into taking his new toy for a joyride and then ganked when he did so.  Whoops!  In other news, I don't think I've seen that many Lokis in one fleet before...

The next one is kind of fun, this Nyx.  Story on this one is that the ship got bumped out of a POS force field somehow while the pilot wasn't present, perhaps by bumping off a POS mod with the residual speed that a ship has when you eject from it.  The two killers from Black Legion and Origin, apparently had the choice of either stealing the now unpiloted Nyx or killing it.  They chose the latter.  When you eject from a ship, your character name remains associated with the ship for a period of time and if killed during this period of time, the game assigns a kill-mail.  So that's an entertaining little kill for the two guys involved.

Last is this Fidelas Constans Nyx, killed in low-sec by Shadow Cartel and friends.  This one was fairly pimped out even by super-capital standards, featuring a super long-range officer smart bombs and two VERY expensive officer cap rechargers as well as a few other officer mods.  EN24 has the story on this one, which essentially starts with a Caldari militia tackle on the super followed by the obligatory bat-phone for the DPS needed to kill it.  Other than that and a video, the story is pretty thin.

Anyway, with wars wrapping up right across New Eden over the weekend, the chances of another large scale super-cap battle drop to near-nil for a while and as a result a lot of supers will probably remain logged off or their pilots un-subbed for a while.  We'll see how long it is before I have even this many supers to write about...

CSM8 Status report: Week fourteen

Vacation time is wrapping up in Reyk!

We're starting to see a lot more activity from CCP as people trickle in from their vacations.  Things are also starting to heat back up on the forums and such.  By now, you know that Odyssey 1.1 is going to be released very soon but I don't believe the code is locked yet.  That makes for a lot of very busy devs at CCP as they wrap up this between-releases-release.

Other than the ship re-balancing stuff (which I'm always a fan of), I think my favorite mini-feature this release are the new jump clone skills.  Unfortunately, I am not very happy with the 19 hour limit on the new skill Infomorph Synchronizing.  I personally think it is the worst of all possible solutions: a new skill that only provides a very minor benefit for vets with too many other skill trained so they can have yet another advantage over newer players.  I argued long and strenuously for a more compelling skill with a larger benefit for training it.  In particular, days of training to pick up that last Level V one hour bonus?  Ugh.  No, make that ugh.

Still, it's a step in the right direction if only a small one, and I can continue to bitch about it in the coming months to see if I can make the skill more worthwhile.  It was NOT lost on me that a skill like this was one of the most requested Reasonable Things suggested by players, and lots of you had lots of great ideas for alternatives to make this skill better.  Trust me, I've been pushing them.  In a more clear win, I also pushed for the new Advanced Infomorph Psychology skill.  This is one that I've really wanted since I mentioned it would be something I'd push back in February.  Op freakin' success there.  Thank you again to the several of you that also suggested that one on the Reasonable Things list.(1)  Next up, the rest of that February list, to say nothing of the rest of the Reasonable Things list.  ;-)

With all of the features that the CSM has been briefed on for Odyssey 1.1 now public, CCP has now turned their attention to starting to fill us in on preliminary ideas for the next expansion.  But of course there will be lots more ground covered for that at the summit, which is now... yeesh... two weeks away.  Time's going fast!

CSM8's second Town Hall is also coming up this Saturday August 17 at 1900 EVE time.  As I mentioned last week, you can find all the information that you need to attend at the EVE-O forums announcement thread.  In the meantime, Xander Phoena continues his monthly CSM8 interviews.  This month, the victims were Mike Azariah and Trebor Daehdoow, who had lots of interesting ground to cover.  Xander continues to be one of the best interviewers around.

Knowing what I know about the CSM's history, it's been kind of painful for me to watch the CPM's growing pains.  They're currently going through some of the very same communications issues with CCP that dominated the terms of CSMs 2, 3, and 4.  Rather than suffer in silence, though, they've published a lengthy open letter airing their grievances and giving a long list of suggestions on how CCP can better take advantage of the resource they have in the CPM.  Whether it will work is anyone's guess.  It's going to have a lot to do with how the restructuring of the DUST 514 team goes and how they feel about this letter.  We'll see...

Did I mention that we've been trolling CCP about this post from CCP Ytterbium?  We have.  Needless to say, we recall that flowchart that states "Is it a ship in EVE?  It will be rebalanced!" and had a good time reminding CCP of it.  They didn't need the reminder.  But trolling about it was fun.  ;-)

And... I think that's all for this update!  This week, we start pestering CCP Dolan to release the schedule of Summer Summit sessions (try saying that three times fast) so you guys will have something to ask us about on Saturday... hope to see you there!

(1) This one makes me particularly happy because now I can have a couple of blank clones to fly dictors in. I haven't been able to fly dictors since Rote Kapelle bought me a couple of expensive tourney clones for AT10.

Quick request: Renaming stories

As you might have heard, over the weekend long-time small gang PvP corp "Blackwater USA Inc." (formerly of Gentlemen's Club, AAA, and Atlas Alliance, now part of Pandemic Legion) was renamed to EveCorporation12315533.  The reason for the renaming?  After review, CCP GMs determined that the original name was a violation of EULA.  BUSA's CEO has been invited to choose a new name for his corp.

The corp has been active with its prior name for more than five years now.

I'm writing a full-length article about the renaming, interviewing the partipants involved (where I'm allowed to).  But it also occurred to me that it would be fun to crowd-source a little bit of the background information-gathering for this piece.  As a result, I'm looking for any corroborated information anyone may have regarding past forced renamings that CCP's GM team might have done over the years.  I'm obviously most interested in renamings that have been done in the past for EULA violations.  But I'm nearly as interested in provable stories anyone might have about "gank renamings."  From time to time, you hear campfire tales in EVE about "[Corp X or player Y] ganked my freighter, so I submitted a petition saying I was offended by their [character name/corp name, depending] and CCP should make them change it and CCP actually did it, lol."  I'd like to investigate if any such story is true or if they're strictly apocryphal.

Please post in comments if you have such a story, along with a contact method (Twitter, e-mail, Skype, etc.) that I can use to reach you.  Comments with contact information will not be published.  Again, I'm looking for stories with documentation behind them.  Thanks!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

QOTW: It's not news, it's TMC

Just a quickie.

I've commented before on TMC letting the opinions of their reporters into their news articles and not exercising sufficient editorial oversight over the practice.  The combination creates the situation we have today where many EVE players -- even large numbers of loyal TMC readers -- regard themittani.com as nothing more than the CFC propaganda arm rather than a news website.

Latest example is this article (in the TMC News section, written by Angry Mustache) which includes this combination of amusing lines:
In classic TEST fashion, TEST made their entrance in the most incompetent way possible...
Then later in the article...
Attempts to contact TEST leadership were unanswered, and TMC was politely told to leave.
Gee.  I wonder why.

After turning on your BS filters, do go read the news both there and on EN24, though.  Lots of stuff happening yesterday and today, the net result of which is going to make null-sec a whole lot less interesting:
  • TEST appears to be abandoning Delve for Aridia low-sec;
  • CVA gave in to SOUND's philosophical demands (which will result in SOUND also falling back to low-sec);
  • The Dinner Squadron also appears to be disbanding and going every which way; because,
  • Insidious Empire is leaving the south entirely over the next month.
With NCdot quietly taking over Querious the last couple of months, no points for guessing what happens next.

Friday, August 9, 2013

AT11 personal wrap-up

Two more AT11 wrap-up posts, one of them small picture, the other big picture.  Then I'll move on to other things, I promise.  First the small picture: I want to close out my own personal experiences with AT11.

Last year, I wrote a pair of posts generally going over what being in the Alliance Tournament is like.  And while I'm not going to cover that old ground, I do want to point those posts because they are still perfectly valid.  The only thing that really changed from last year to this year in terms of what's in those posts is that the broadcast delay between when we would start fighting and when all of you would watch all of us start fighting was greatly shortened this year.  Last year, we could generally watch the back halves of our own matches.  This year, not so much.  It was a minor change.

Even before tourney training season started, I quite frankly felt like this was going to be a "rebuilding" year for Rote Kapelle.  We lost:
  • two really good tournament pilots to ExodusDOT (where one in particular did a great job with them);
  • two more pilots to being tournament commentators;
  • one more to internal alliance drama (see that first post above); and,
  • three more were affected by RL issues and could only fly with us infrequently.
Matter of fact, out of our 15 key AT10 tournament pilots, only seven flew in AT11.  That was a lot of rebuilding.  I was setting expectations fairly low but even without that, I'm really pleased with how things turned out in terms of the results we achieved.  We were a top 12 team this year after being a top 16 team last year.  Next year, top eight.  Right?  Right?

There's no question, though, that we were impacted by this year's mechanics in a myriad of ways.  Our budget this year was quite small and of that budget, if my math is accurate about 35% went into implants and another 50% went into our entry fee.  Ships were actually the smallest part of the budget and I believe there were only four ships in our tourney hangar worth more than a billion ISK each (of those, we only fielded one).  I was not a happy camper with this year's silent auction method for choosing tournament slots.  I advised Bob Shaftoes right from the get-go to low-ball our bid a little bit; didn't happen.  I'm almost completely positive we massively overpaid to enter but of course only a few people know if that's so... and they ain't telling.

That also meant that the Rote Kapelle team was run by a remarkably small number of people: there were really about five or six key participants and we worked our butts off.  That's the disadvantage of a small alliance entering the Alliance Tournament and any other small alliances that do so should go into it with your eyes open on that score.  Another disadvantage of being a small alliance is that you end up practicing with partners and while that helps you see the gaps in your own thinking, it of course also feeds right into tournament meta-gaming.

Because there were fewer available pilots this year, I was pressed into more important roles, which was nice.  That said, I was also kind of pigeon-holed this year.  Every ship I flew this year had a link fitted and most had three or more.  I trained Ripard into Marauders V this year... not necessary.  I trained an alt into Black Ops V... also not necessary.  I pumped a ton of SP into drones this past year (finally closing what's always been an embarrassing gap in Ripard's skills profile) and while drones were indeed a huge meta this year, I only flew one second-tier drone ship.

Either because of all this or because of my increasing tournament experience, I was much less nervous about matches this year.  I was able to come into them very comfortably feeling like it was just another small gang fight with very little on the line.  But as a result, I also feel like I flew a lot better this year than I did last.  Going over my own flying, I found only very minor piloting errors and nothing that could have swung any of our matches.  But it does have me hoping I'll be tapped for more challenging ships next year.  Last year -- spent primarily in frigates -- was far more challenge for my flying skills and I think I grew more as an EVE player as a result.

Community Fansite accounts (which includes CSM accounts) aren't allowed to fly in the New Eden Open and my involvement with the SCL back-end means that I'm not allowed to fly there either.  That means I likely won't be flying in another tournament until AT12, if I do.  There's lots of time between now and then, anything could happen, and who knows where I'll be a year from now.  But I'll of course continue to take a keen interest in tournament flying over the next 12 months.  It's quite likely I'll commentate for the SCL more than once in the coming year as CSM duties permit.

All in all, though, I can't help but feeling a little depressed about the whole endeavor and I'm not sure there's a good reason why.  It might be because we won our first three matches so convincingly and then unexpectedly folded.  It might be because I'm positive we couldn't have followed the path that PL did.  More on that in my next post.  And it might be because as ever, a failed tournament run has stirred up a lot of internal alliance drama.  This happens to the alliance I'm in every year whether I'm on the team or not.  But like a badly-failed love affair, I'll be happy when I can put this year's AT behind me and forget about it.

Not quite there yet.  One more post.