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, November 30, 2013

Art assets

I'm working on my junk drawer post for the month of November, but so many of the items in it are art-related that it feels right to do all of them as a separate post. There's still plenty of things left in the junk drawer that aren't art-related. Ready? Here goes.


Let's start with a few pictures, one comment per picture. There's a hidden message in the Mobile Depot art:

This little comic made me laugh. If you haven't been to Jita in a while, you might not get it:

From the world of DUST 514, a plea for romance:

New hardware apparently makes CCP Guard hot:

I was all set to praise this little graphic as one of the best throw-away ads that CCP had ever done for one of their PLEX sales. Very atmospheric, nice use of EVE assets, really striking and eye-catching. Then I spotted something directly to the right of that Cynabal that I probably wasn't intended to see. You tell me: am I seeing something that isn't there?

Ahem. Speaking of inappropriate content, finally there's this little gem. At one time, the entirety of Goonfleet was gagged from speaking in Local -- any Local -- for "offensive language in a public channel." Glad they've matured since then.


This one is somewhat art-related. CCP Masterplan proved that not only is he a genius developer, he's a genius artist as well. "graphs are ok but all the cool devs use gifs now", MeBiatch wrote about Masterplan's excellent warp speed changes dev-blog. Tau Cabalander added that for truly epic graphs, the following would need to be added:
  • Usage of pink.
  • Watermark.
  • Hand-drawn art.
That would be the best dev blog ever!

What could Masterplan do except comply?


This made me laugh, but it's not accurate:

Confederation of xXPIZZAXx is all but dead but they never belonged in that lower right square. Good are those who desire the greatest happiness for the greatest number, therefore evil is its opposite: those who only care for their own happiness. Those who spread chaos don't really care who they step on to get that happiness. Is there someone else on that grid that description applies to that you can think of?

Here's a hint: Rote Kapelle will be happy to take over the neutral square from them.


I am such a sucker for the new Apocalypse model. It's currently my favorite battleship model in EVE. So I so pleased to see a new wallpaper for it that I want to spread the wealth.


And finally, this seems like a good bit of art to close on. I'm not even sure who made it, but it made me smile! Someone claim it in the comments so I can issue credit where it's due.

More junk drawer stuff of a non-visual nature tomorrow...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Camping the spawn point

We play a funny game sometimes. And nowhere is it funnier than the tendency of EVE players to want to push every in-game and out-of-game border to see where the breaking points are. EVE developers don't like to make concrete statements about what is legal and what isn't when it comes to these borders. The reason is that if a dev makes a concrete statement that "doing X 17 times is legal, but doing X 20 times is illegal":
  1. there will invariably be someone who insists on doing X both 18 and 19 times to see how CCP reacts; and,
  2. any concrete statement a dev does make will be picked apart and picked apart to look for loopholes.
With that in mind, let's look at the Erebus kill that Shadow Cartel managed the other day. Normally I wouldn't write about this until my KOTW post, but there's so much going on with this titan that it deserves a deeper look. I'd rather not clutter the KOTW post with all the details.

When a ship is logged off or disconnected in space, the ship will execute an "e-warp" or an emergency warp to a random location one million kilometers away from where the log off/disconnect happened. When the player logs back in, their ship is then return warped back to its previous position in space. While this return warp looks like any other warp, the player cannot abort the warp by stopping their ship, nor can they jump the ship to another system (if it's a capital ship). The return warp is really part of the process of logging back in.

However, as the art of probing has advanced over the last couple of years and become quicker and more precise for the practitioners of it, it's become more and more common for players to probe down these e-warp locations. As player risk aversion and patience have increased also over the last few years, it's become more common for players to wait hours or even days for a ship logged off to return. In a way, it's not much different from sitting on a POS or a titan for several hours, but with one difference: sufficient patience in this situation will guarantee a kill, often an expensive kill. The CEO of my own corp has been heard to remark "you don't leave beer to go find beer" and while my alliance doesn't bother with this kind of log-off camping, there are a number of corps that do.

This situation was becoming common enough that as part of the deployment of the Inferno patch more than a year ago, CCP was asked to make a ruling about this situation: was tackling ships in their e-warp positions considered legal? CCP Masterplan said yes:
...you'll be warping back from a random 1M km point. If someone manages to find this spot and bubble it before you align, they will now prevent your warp. They could always do this with targetted tackle, this change just makes bubbles consistent.
But what about low-sec, where you can't use bubbles? You can only tackle a super with a directed heavy interdictor point. In actual practice, players trying to do this to return warping supers in low-sec found they were unable to do so... probably a side effect of the log-in return warp process.

So EVE player W0wbagger and his buddies at Shadow Cartel decided to innovate. If they couldn't "infini-point" a super coming out of a return warp, they decided to prevent it warping by bumping it. In normal EVE play, this is a perfectly valid technique and has been used to prevent many players from getting into warp. But in a e-warp return warp scenario, it's really all the tackle you need against a super. Since the super is trapped in the return warp process, they can't even use an emergency cyno to jump their ship out of harm's way!

And that's how this titan kill went down. Shadow Cartel bumped the Erebus repeatedly until they could arrange a proper dread fleet with which to kill it.

Needless to say, those involved quickly split between those crying "exploit!" and those crying "oh clever!" W0wbagger wrote a post on Failheap Challenge justifying SC's use of the tactic and wrapped it up with:
TLDR – don't feel it's an exploit due to masterplans post/previous patch changes, Rubicon just made it easier to do. Has always been legal in null. Only issue is inability to cancel ewarp. Hopefully CCP clarify.
And it's taken CCP all of 24 hours to "clarify", with an EVE Online news post written by CCP Dolan:
Bumping a ship in order to get it stuck in emergency warp alignment limbo when its pilot logs in is now considered an exploit.
So that means the issue is completely settled now, right? Well, there are a few people disputing it (and the argument is raging back and forth on FHC) but for the most part players are OK with the announcement.

But if you are currently saying "Jester, this is a concrete statement by a CCP dev. Are there players out there picking it apart looking for loopholes?", well done! Award yourself +1 Internet. No less a personality than Helicity Boson did:
Bumping a ship in order to get it stuck in emergency warp alignment limbo when its pilot logs in is now considered an exploit.
Obviously it was going to be ruled exploitative imho, but as the statement shows it was not consistently ruled an exploit until now, this has now been resolved.
Hee! It just never stops, does it? EVE players can't help but camp the spawn point, wherever they find one. And people wonder why EVE devs drink...

Picture of the week: SOE Battleship

CCP is getting into the habit of saving an announcement or two for major player gatherings to which they send developers. And this week's EVE Down Under was no exception. Pictures of the long-rumored Sisters of EVE battleship were revealed to the crowd there by CCP Fozzie:

No name or stats have yet been revealed to the public, but if you download a copy of that picture and zoom in, you might get some interesting hints. Two things are public: no covert ops cloaking ability and this BS will be very low mass, making it potentially attractive for wormhole use.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fit of the Week: L4 Mission Paladin

Let's do some Rubicon fits! And since I haven't done a PvE ship in a while, let's talk marauders for a bit. Remember how I said I think they're over-powered for missioning applications? Lesson one starts with this:

[Paladin, Missionary]
Damage Control II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Heat Sink II
Core B-Type Large Armor Repairer

Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range Script
Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range Script
Large Micro Jump Drive
Eutectic Capacitor Charge Array

Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Heavy Diminishing Power System Drain I
Heavy Diminishing Power System Drain I
Heavy Diminishing Power System Drain I
Bastion Module I

Large Capacitor Control Circuit II
Large Capacitor Control Circuit II

Hobgoblin II x5
Salvage Drone I x5
Light Armor Maintenance Bot II x5

Let's go over the basics. 1000 DPS to 35-40km. 1250 DPS tank before links. 79% minimum resists before links. Cap-stable before the NOSes. And best of all -- other than the hull cost which is admittedly substantial -- it does it all with 300 million ISK in modules. So you're not even close to gank-worthy; the ship is hardly shiny at all. And if you're even remotely concerned, downshift to a faction armor repper. You won't quite be cap-stable any more in every regimen, but you'll be all but.

Now let's talk specifics. DPS comes off pulse lasers with a 32+19km range with Multifreq and 55+19km range with UV. Those two crystals will be sufficient for most applications though you should carry Scorch and Conflagration as well. Twin faction Heat Sinks are a must but a third faction one is kind of optional: it only adds 10-12 DPS over T2. Dual Tracking Computers have been pretty standard in Amarr ships for years and the Paladin is no exception. Clear away the long range battleships, then flip them over to tracking speed to hit cruisers as they orbit you.

The fit includes three mods to increase cap recharge. With Relic and Data sites dropping an unprecedented amount of T2 salvage, this is a good time to go ahead and spring for T2 rigs on your more expensive ships and the Paladin definitely benefits from the treatment. Cap stability used to be the province of super-rich mission bots that paid through the nose for the privilege but now we proles can have it as well. There's fitting space for up to three heavy NOSes which can be turned on rats. Before NOSes were rebalanced, rats were a good source of cap and from my limited testing so far this appears not to have changed. You're cap-stable without them if you're not going to go after Blood Raider rats, though, if you'd like to fit something else in those highs instead.

Tank starts with the Bastion Module of course, which you should take advantage of more or less instantly after entering the mission. Once in Bastion, a DC and a pair of non-faction EANMs is quite sufficient omni-tank for any mission in the game, though obviously your laser damage will be most effective against missions against Blood Raiders, Sansha, and the like. Self-rep is provided by a dead-space repper which is very cap-efficient, helping with your cap stability.

An MJD is fitted by default, but you can go for a 100MN Afterburner if you like without hurting yourself too badly, or even a MWD. Fitting an MWD will of course eliminate your cap stability but with so much DPS on your side you hardly needed it... For most missions, you should feel free to fit the propulsion mod which best fits the mission profile. Carrying a Mobile Depot in cargo is very much advised! Anchor it somewhere in the center of the system and use it as a refitting point between missions.

Use Hobgoblins to wipe out frigate rats, then pull them in and deploy Salvage Drones to clean up wrecks. A Mobile Tractor unit is also not a bad call. The Paladin's cargo bay is immense and will probably be able to carry off the loot from a given mission (or two, or three) without any trouble at all. Drop your loot in your Mobile Depot and come back for it later.

tl;dr version? L4 mission easy mode. Go get 'em.

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.

Slippery slope

How about a quick mental exercise? Got your thinking caps on? Here we go.

In the "Sell Orders" section of the EVE forums, you can sell all sorts of EVE-related products and services for ISK. At one time, this only included in-game products and services. However of course, as the concept of being "in game" has expanded(1) so has the concept of an "in-game" product and service. For example, lots of alliances use chat services or kill-board services provided by central providers of those services. While it's not an in-game service like Red Frog Freight, it's certainly a service you wouldn't need without the game.

As a result of all this, CCP expanded their definition of in-game services (it's at the bottom of this post from CCP Spitfire):
This has been extended to include Characters, EVE Time Cards (ETCs), website hosting and voice chat services. Please use the sticky thread in OOPE to advertise signature services there. Please note that scamming for out of game services is not allowed; for more information see this post by GM Lelouch.
As implied, the post from GM Lelouch mostly has to do with scamming but does include this tidbit:
Finally, for maximum accountability, transactions involving out-of-game services such as killboard/voice chat server hosting should be negotiated through the sell orders section of these forums.
OK, so these sorts of services can be sold as long as the sale of them is documented in the forums, sort of like a character sale.

Players have certainly been taking advantage of this expansion of the definition. It's a rare day that TS, Mumble, or kill-board services aren't right there on the front page of the Sell Orders section. But Spitfire's post also mentions "website hosting." I myself have a domain that I use for hosting pictures that I put on this blog (among other things). Theoretically, someone out there who runs a website hosting company could sell me hosting services for ISK, too. And as long as we negotiated our agreement in the Sell Orders section of the forum, this would apparently be legal.

Let's suppose you run a massive EVE gambling site that recently lost its main source of RL income. You have website hosting charges to pay. You don't have a RL income any more but what you do have is billions of ISK flowing through your hands on a weekly basis. Suppose that you were willing to pay 50 billion ISK per year for website hosting...

Hey, you in the back! Don't start talking yet. I'm not finished. Stay with me.

Ahem. Suppose that you were willing to pay 50 billion ISK per year for website hosting. On paper, that's about 85 PLEXes with a nominal cash value of about $1500 U.S. It's a sizable amount of in-game currency but ironically the actual amount doesn't matter. Let's just use 50 billion per year as an example amount for our discussion. Let's say your actual RL hosting charges for your website are around $500 U.S. per year, again just as an example amount and again the actual amount doesn't matter. It's just a number we're using for our discussion.

Per the Spitfire post, if you advertise that you're willing to pay 50 billion ISK per year to host a website, and someone accepts that (or vice versa), then this is a perfectly legal transaction, an exchange of ISK for EVE-related services.

Let's take it a step further. I don't own a hosting company. But I do have $500. Let's suppose that I'm willing to pay the hosting charges for this massive EVE gambling site. I go to the operators of this gambling website and they're amenable to giving me 50 billion ISK per year for website hosting. I go to a hosting company I know, and I buy a dedicated hosting server. I then advertise it in Sell Orders with a somewhat misleading post title. The operator of this gambling site then replies to my post saying that he wants to buy my services with ISK. We then let the post fall far down into the invisible pit of thousands of other Sell Order posts.

The gambling site gets their hosting. I get 50 billion ISK -- $1500 worth of ISK -- for $500. Is this legal? Or is it RMT?

Not so fast.

When you buy a kill-board from EVSCO (which hundreds, if not thousands of EVE players, corps, and alliances have done), you pay ISK for the in-game service, which is legal. The owners of EVSCO then pay for the website hosting of your kill-board. As their in-game business has expanded, I'm quite sure they've had to pay more RL money to their hosting company to host all those kill-boards and deal with the demand. EVSCO pays RL money and in return receives large amounts of ISK from hundreds of EVE players, corps, and alliances. Same question: is that legal? Or is it RMT?

Don't be alarmed. That sensation you're experiencing is just the slippery slope.

I don't know the answer to this question myself and hell, I'm not sure there is a definitive answer. I've been asking the question of a lot of different people lately (it usually escalates into an argument pretty rapidly).(2) Nobody seems to know the answer and those that do know the answer -- if there is one -- aren't saying. What do you think? Discuss.

(1) For instance, how often is The Mittani "in game"? How often am I? Am I "in game" right now as I type this? Am I "in game" when I'm debating some concept of future EVE development in my role as a CSM member? The whole idea of being "in game" probably deserves its own blog post at some point.
(2) My thanks to everyone who's argued this with me over the last few days!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kill of the Week: Blueprint

People's dumb never ceases to amaze me sometimes:

Here we have an individual that's been playing the game for ten years. And what does he do? Loads a random assortment of everything he owns into an untanked T1 hauler and flies it right through Niarja. One of the pieces that made it into this random assortment? A Tech 2 blueprint original for a Shield Boost Amplifier II. The dude probably won it in the original T2 BPO lottery for Heaven's sake. In any case, it belongs to the Goons now -- it was confirmed dropped and recovered by the ganker. Nice going, Cronos Ubi!

It was actually kind of hard to pick this week's KOTW because there were lots and lots of amusing possibilities. So let's get to the honorable mentions, shall we? And there are a lot of them. This was a crazy week.

That opens with only the second Chremoas loss in the history of EVE Online, lost by DHB WildCat of HYDRA RELOADED to... a bunch of T1 fit Atrons and one T1 fit Kestrel. Hee! Well, in his defense, WildCat got the Kestrel before dying. TMC has a tiny bit more on the story of this one if you want to read it.

Not as expensive as the Chremoas but just as impressive nonetheless was this 18 billion ISK Charon loss, this one to a Goon Talos gank in high-sec. This one was arguably carrying everything this pilot owned including a Tengu, Loki, Golem, Rattlesnake, three T1 battleships, and enough T2, faction, and T1 cruisers to keep me in PvP ships for a year. With it, he seems to have lost fittings for all the ships, a few implants, a large pile of BPOs, and an unholy number of faction mods of seemingly every type in the game. Whoopsie!

One tiny step below that and you have this idiot in a Caracal, also ganked in high-sec, also ganked with 18 billion ISK in his hold, most of it in implants. Presumably this guy was cashing out his FW take and figured a Caracal might not get scanned in every system it passed through. He's learned otherwise at some great cost...

Next up is this special type of moron in a Rhea, who was apparently evacuating most everything he had of value in null-sec back to high-sec in a single JF run. That included 216 19th Tier Overseer Effects, worth a collected 20 billion ISK, plus what looks to me like half the minerals and PI products in null-sec. 43 billion ISK in all, and he brought it into high-sec while under a war declaration from Freight Club who kinda specializes in separating this kind of dumb person from their stuff. Happily for the ganker, nearly everything in this ship dropped.

Those kills make this Fenrir look kind of sad and paltry. All it was carrying were eight blueprint copies for Asteros and Stratioses... on Rubicon launch day! Because clearly a freighter is the best possible choice you could make for moving BPCs and nothing else...

Rubicon launch day also featured this murder of Crows. That just makes me smile: the Crow is shaping up to be my favorite Rubicon inty, even outpacing my beloved Taranis for some uses. This smart-bombing Abaddon is my favorite out of the bunch. Not sure what he was thinking about when he tried this but clearly it didn't work out well for him.

This POCO kill from the day after Rubicon launch day might have you wondering "what's so special about this?" On closer inspection you'll find the POCO was killed by "the Bloodtears", which I have it on good authority are represented by two actual EVE players and a lot of faith in ISBoxer...

This I-Hub kill just made me smile. I asked mynnna what happens if Goon renters go out and claim sov on their own recognizance. He was amused by the question. ;-)

Finally, this Stay Frosty Loki loss-mail is pretty incredible if you go out and look at the kill-board comments. I'm quite sad that he didn't get any kill-mails in return for throwing down this hard, but that's the way EVE sometimes is...

Whew! That was a lot going on. As I said, it was a busy week and that doesn't even mention the battles in the RUS/CFC/N3 war in the south and east. Let's move on to...

Number of dead super-caps last week: 0

Oh, okay. So it wasn't a busy week for everyone...

Monday, November 25, 2013

CSM8 Status Report: Week twenty-nine

Stake-holder meeting canceled this week! No big surprise there with the release of Rubicon. Everyone's pretty busy watching over the servers, the changes, and the bug reports as they come in. So unsurprisingly, there wasn't a lot of chatter on the Skype channels this week, except for the occasional devs plaintively asking "Any CSM members around? Are any of you seeing [X]?" where [X] is some esoteric rare bug that a dev wants more information about.

All in all, though, it feels like Rubicon is having a smoother release than Odyssey did at the same point in its life cycle. I don't have any hard data to back me up on this feeling, but the devs that are chatting seem quite cheerful and relaxed about how things are going, a few server node crashes here and there aside. ;-)

The stake-holder meeting was replaced with a heavily NDA'ed meeting this week. More about that meeting in the fullness of time.

CCP-CSM's private section of the forums is starting up with questions directed to us about the summer expansion. We've been briefed on CCP's plans for this expansion a couple of times, once in an overview meeting during the summer summit and before, then again in more detail more recently. For obvious reasons, that's all I can say about that. But the planning process is rolling along nicely and CCP should have some exciting stuff to show us come the winter summit. We've now been told when that is but I'll let CCP Dolan make that announcement.

Speaking of Dolan, he continues to have the minutes in his hands and the CSM continues to press him on it and I encourage you to do the same if you have the opportunity. That's literally all I can say about that this week, too. I don't really have anything to add what I wrote in last week's update... or the one the week before.

Xander Phoena had his November interview with two CSM members over the weekend. This time it was mynnna and James Arget in the chairs. The interview is quite good! Go out and give it a listen. It's very much worth your time. Incidentally, if you run a pod-cast or blog or the like yourself, this is probably a pretty good time to request interviews or request CSM guests. As I said above, there isn't too terribly much going on on the CCP side so I feel like we're going to be turning more toward talking with the players more over the next month or so as CCP works through their planning process.

The "Reasonable Things" initiative was so successful during the first six months of the CSM's term that I think I'm gonna pester Trebor Daehdoow to run it again soon. It was quite fun having a whole list of little things to put in front of CCP during one of the summer summit sessions and I'd love to have that opportunity again come winter.

Remember, csm8.org is still out there and is still linking to both the previous Reasonable Things initiative and CSM8-releated blog posts and the like.

And that's all I've got for this week's update! Pretty quiet week, all in all.

POTW: False advertising

One of those cute little pictures that's probably only funny to me.

What can I say. It tickles me. ;-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday definition: Stacking penalties

And now, an EVE term definition for the newer EVE players.  You vets can move on to the next post.

When you fit multiple modules of the same type to your ship, the in-game information for many of these modules reports:
Penalty: Using more than one type of this module or similar modules that affect the same attribute on the ship will be penalized.
That raises the question: what are the stacking penalties for fitting multiple modules of the same or similar type? They are:
  • The first module is 100% effective;
  • the second is 86.9% effective;
  • the third is 57.1% effective;
  • the fourth is 28.2% effective;
  • the fifth is 10.6% effective; and,
  • the sixth module is 3.0% effective.
This means in practice that the first Heat Sink II fitted to a ship adds 10% damage and reduces cycle duration by 10.5%.  The fifth one adds about 1% damage and reduces cycle duration by about 1.6%. In short, it probably won't be worth your time to do it unless you're fitting the modules to an all-gank Revelation or something.

The effect on "similar types" happens when you fit several modules that all affect the same attributes of your ship. For instance, two Energized Adaptive Nano Membranes will have stacking penalties, as will the active or passive hardeners for specific types of damage that you fit to the same ship. In each case, it will be the module that is most effective at each step in the math that will be penalized the least.

To check whether a mod has this stacking penalty, check the mod description (or see the bottom of this post). But most of the time, stacking penalties apply to modules that have an additive or subtractive percentage impact either on your own ship or another ship. Modules that have an integer effect on your own or another ship usually do not have stacking penalties. For instance, Stasis Webifiers (which reduce ship speed by a percentage) have stacking penalties, but Warp Disruptors (which have reduce warp strength by an integer value) do not. Most often, stacking penalties are most often thought-of when it comes to defensive modules (notably the Adaptive Invulnerability Field and the Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane) and weapon upgrade modules (the Heat Sink, Gyrostabilizer, Magnetic Field Stabilizer, and Ballistic Control System).

Stacking penalties can sometimes have surprising results as well. For instance, the effect of five small stasis webifying drones, the Warrior SW-300, stack. So the first SW-300 reduces target speed by 5%. But the fifth one reduces target speed by only 0.53%. So while intuitively you might believe five small webifying drones would reduce target speed by 25%, in reality they reduce it by only 14%. It is therefore more effective on paper to launch a single large stasis webifying drone at a target (for a 20% reduction in speed) than five small drones with the same size and bandwidth.

Though of course the smaller drones being half again as fast might actually catch the target whereas the large one might not...

Finally, it's worth noting that there are two modules in the game that do not have stacking penalties with other similar modules: the Damage Control and the Reactive Armor Hardener. But of course you can only fit one of these per ship. But if you fit both of them, then the less effective one of these two modules will be stacking penalized!

You can read more detail on this topic including the actual :math: formula for stacking penalties and a table showing which module types are stacking penalized and which are not at this excellent article on the EVE University Wiki.

Occasionally on Sundays, I will be defining a common EVE term for those who might not have heard it.  If you have a suggestion for such a term, please drop it into the comments.

Campfire stories

I get anywhere from 20 to 25 EVE mails a week, about two-thirds of them related to my CSM duties, the remainder stories from blog readers. These latter are the best thing about my EVE mail.(1) In particular, I thought it would be fun to share a couple of stories sent to me by reader Kelon Darklight of EVE University. Normally this kind of thing would be something I'd put in the junk drawer but the stories are fun enough to deserve their own post.

Story number one. I'm not a big fan of the Coercer myself, but I've written about it a time or two. A previous alliance mate of mine had really good success with it in particular and swore by not even bothering to fit a point to it. He claimed he got more kills that way, mostly people desperate to finish him off and confident in the knowledge that they could warp off at any time. He'd use the second mid slot for a web instead so that he could dictate the range of the engagement. He went into every fight more or less guaranteed to lose that Coercer but he was happy if he got a lot of kills out the bargain.

It's actually quite Zen, if you think about it: he wasn't trying to get kills. After all, if he were, he'd fit a point. But by not trying to get kills, he got dozens of them.

"I remember reading a thing you wrote about Coercers not needing a point as much as one would think considering their DPS," this story from Kelon starts.  Here's how it ends:

Yup, that's three kills to zero against Stay Frosty, the third of which being Rixx Javix himself in a Harpy. Hee! Somehow, this loss slipped Rixx's mind when he did his "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" post that week... Why yes, I am trolling Rixx. Anyway, here's the rest of the story, edited slightly:
They came after me in a plex and I managed to use range control to dictate the fight, first with MWD speed then closing into web range to keep them interested. Then I used the web to keep the Harpy from closing in long enough for me to kill the Hawk. Then I stayed close enough to the Harpy to keep him interested and not thinking about getting out. I just thought you would enjoy knowing someone followed that advice quite successfully!
And that's very smart flying. Blaster Harpies are incredibly dangerous if they get close to you but with a web you can hold them at arm's length while you deal with longer-range opponents. This is a tactic I love to use myself whether I'm flying a combat ship with a web or in my beloved Rapier.(2) It was really fun to hear about the tactic being used successfully by someone else.

Story number two is just as interesting and it also involves a kill-mail:

E-UNI wasn't there to gank freighters, but a small group of them were there to harass the gankers by adding themselves to CONCORD kill-mails and catching pods before they could warp off. Harmless fun. You understand. In any case, the gankers intended to profit by their exploits and warped their own freighter to the wreck. The EVE University group immediately locked the freighter. Now the instant the ganker's freighter scoops the loot, the freighter goes suspect and the E-UNI group can shoot it down.

As a result, the gankers now have a problem: how do they profit from their windfall? The standard solution is to bring in suicide e-war ships like Griffins. The Griffins can jam off the E-UNI group either before or after they point the freighter -- dying in the process -- but they theoretically buy enough time for the freighter to warp off. This still ensures a tidy profit for the gankers.

Meanwhile, the gankee had his own ideas: he warped in in a new ship and blew up his own wreck!

By my count, that's three types of emergent game-play you'll only see in EVE:
  1. the deliberate suicide ganking, of course;
  2. EVE University deliberately preventing the gankers from profiting by their actions; and,
  3. the gankee himself using full-on scorched earth tactics to deny loot to everyone.
Gotta love this game sometimes...

Thanks for the stories, Kelon, and thanks for sharing them with me!

(1) The worst thing about my EVE mail are the "Jester, make CCP..." demands.
(2) Interestingly enough, it's a tactic that's also taught in the Advanced Military tutorials introduced by CCP last year. If you haven't tried this string of tutorial missions, you should do so. On a lark, I tried them for the first time this weekend and found them quite good!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Emergency Responder

Just a quickie.

As you know by now, CCP is running another PLEX for GOOD campaign to assist those affected by the awful typhoon that struck the Philippines. I urge all of you to drop what you're doing right now and go donate at least one PLEX to this effort. Not only will you be doing some good and building up some real life karma to replace all the tears you inflict on others in EVE Online, but you get a special edition in-game t-shirt for yourself on December 10. Stop reading this for a second and go take care of it.

Back? Good.

In the dev-blog, you'll find hints of a second surprise coming up from CCP Bro of the community team:
CCP Bro will also have another Dev Blog lined up for you next Wednesday, November 27th, with more details of a surprise that will hopefully make this the most successful PLEX for GOOD drive to date.
There's a Reddit thread out there with a really nifty suggestion: make the surprise a raffle with a Stratios Emergency Responder going to the lucky winner or winners. As you may know, the Stratios Emergency Responder is a upgraded version of the Stratios created specifically to be a prize to be given away in the recent SOMERblink giveaway.

Why should SOMER have all the fun? Let's get a few more of these out there. The name alone merits this being a good idea, and would make this PLEX for GOOD campaign memorable and successful.

Let's make this happen, CCP! And to all of you who are donating or have already donated, thank you.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Outsource the hard work

So here's an interesting get-rich-quick sort of scheme that some of you might be amused by.

Back in August, faced with the more or less insurmountable problem of figuring out where the valuable moons were in an entire region, Marlona Sky hit upon a brilliant strategy. Instead of scanning every single moon around every single planet in every single system, his alternate solution was to only scan moons that had moon harvesting arrays nearby. The logic was simple and devastating: with so many sov-holding alliances treating moons as a valuable asset, he figured that someone, somewhere, had already learned where all the valuable moons were. Any moon that had a moon harvesting array was probably something worth investigating; any moon that didn't have one probably wasn't.

The only downside to his strategy is that he had to go and fly out into space to learn where the moon harvesting arrays were. That's a lot of work.

Suppose you're sitting on a nice big pile of Mobile Siphons. Where are the best places to put them? Well, it turns out that you can follow a variation on Marlona's strategy and you don't even have to undock (too much) to do it. If a Mobile Siphon gets killed in a system, particularly if there's a POS on the kill-mail, you can pretty well assume that there's a moon worth siphoning in that system.

It even turns out that Mobile Siphons are something that you can search for individually. Here are -- at the moment I'm writing this -- 169 Mobile Siphon kills.

It's safe to say that there's a POS in each of those systems with something worth siphoning. You can even pull up individual kill-mails and learn what the siphons were eating. Here's a system with a technetium moon. Here's a system with a neodymium moon. Here's a system with a dysprosium moon. You'll still have to go to that system and hunt around a bit for the right POS, of course. But 17 times out of 20, I'll bet if you find the POS with the right corp that killed the previous siphon and the POS has a moon harvesting array, that's the one you're looking for.

Have fun!

Fit of the Week: Brick Flycatcher

Let's spend the next few weeks on Rubicon-focused ships. An age ago, I talked about a double-bubble Flycatcher fit that I liked. Now that "double bubble" has gone the way of "double MWD" (yes, this was a thing), here's its replacement:

[Flycatcher, Suicide Squeeze]
Damage Control II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Medium Shield Extender II
EM Ward Amplifier II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Medium Shield Extender II

Prototype Cloaking Device I
[empty high slot]
Interdiction Sphere Launcher I, Warp Disrupt Probe
[empty high slot]
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
[empty high slot]
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
[empty high slot]

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

This ship is about as straightforward as they come, but it's now the preferred go-to dictor for medium-size shield fleets. Main reason? The thing is a freakin' brick: 20k EHP, off a dictor, the large majority of it in a high-resist shield tank. In the past, dictors haven't had the CPU to go super tanky, particularly shield dictors given the high CPU requirements of most shield tanking mods. No more. As you can see, there's plenty of room for double MSE, Invul, Damage Control, and double rigs, in addition to a passive shield mod to close the ship's EM hole. Your minimum resist is still EM, but it's 63% before bonuses.

In short, this is a dictor that can take reps, and stay alive long enough to work under them. For dictors, particularly shield dictors, this is pretty huge. It's one of the major game-changing effects of Rubicon.

Of course, once you do that there isn't much left for anything else: a cloak, the bubble launcher, and a pair of guns for getting on kill-mails completes the package. You've got surprisingly good cap to keep the Invul running even under MWD so dictor tactics haven't changed that much despite the three-round limitation of the new bubble launcher. In a typical fight, you'll be bubbling one side of the gate, jumping through, bubbling the other, then saving your third bubble for a target of opportunity, then swooping well outside the fight during the 60 second reload period. In the past, Flycatchers have been slow... no more of that, either. This one goes 3300m/s plus when overheated, which makes this boat one of the fastest things flying with a shield tank.

X-Instinct booster of some kind is a good choice to carry in this ship to mitigate the signature radius which will be around 100 meters.

There isn't much more to say about this one so here's a bonus fit:

[Flycatcher, Light Missiles]
Co-Processor II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
EM Ward Amplifier II

Prototype 'Arbalest' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile
Prototype 'Arbalest' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile
Prototype 'Arbalest' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile
Prototype 'Arbalest' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile
Prototype 'Arbalest' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile
Prototype 'Arbalest' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile
Interdiction Sphere Launcher I, Warp Disrupt Probe
Prototype Cloaking Device I

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

This one isn't nearly as tanky: about half the tank, in fact. But it trades that tank for actual DPS potential: about 120 DPS. In what is becoming the common interceptor gangs, that's not too terrible. But even better, the range of that DPS is almost 60km. So you can swoop around the battlefield exactly like the Flycatcher above... only you can also add a little bit of damage to the proceedings as well. Feel free to trade the defensive web for a meta target painter if you like. Or if you insist on maximizing tank, a second meta Invul fits as well though you'll have cap trouble running both for very long.

That said, this fit requires near-perfect fitting skills so it might be a bit beyond a lot of players. But it gives you an entertaining idea to think about...

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, November 19, 2013

Kill of the Week: Standing guard

Picking a KOTW this week was hard. For the most part, New Eden was pretty quiet, waiting for Rubicon to drop. So instead of something super serious, I think I'll go with something that made me smile:

This Brutix Navy Issue killmail was sent to me by an alert reader involved in the kill. It was standing guard over a Skiff (which got away). That of course makes me wonder: is it a requirement in wormholes to guard a 150 million ISK Skiff with a billion ISK Navy Brutix? Or do you just get additional style points for doing so. Fun kill, Adhocracy! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

On to the honorable mentions. How Rooks and Kings plays this game is not how I want to play this game. Still, I kind of admire this well-laid trap they inflicted on Nulli Secunda. They wiped out a good size bombing wing... with battleships. That struck me as funny because it's almost always the other way around.

If a single plate is good and dual plates is better, surely five plates is best of all!

Why do people continue to insist on putting tens of billions of ISK into Providences, Charons, and Anshars? I don't understand. Is it lack of understanding of risk? An accepted cost of doing business? Or do enough freighters loaded like this get through that the expensive ganks I see are just blips?

On the other hand, I do also appreciate it when jump freighters are caught with not very much in cargo but die anyway... to a small pack of assault frigates. Excellent kill, Choke Point!

Finally, this is technically this week and not last week, but this Talos kill made me laugh. And the Talos didn't die alone. Rote Kapelle use to roll "LOLneiroses". I'm glad to see there are still a few of them out there.

Number of dead super-caps last week: 2

This section's pretty easy: two supers dead this week. The first was this EUTZ Avatar baited out and killed by Veni Vidi Vici Reloaded. This is one of those titans that everyone in Syndicate knew about and that everyone wanted dead. Various alliances had tried baiting him out because it was known throughout the region that he had a fondness for drive-by doomsdays. Sure enough, that's how this went down: a trap was set near a group of dreads working on a structure and the Avatar pilot couldn't resist. It's a shame that it was Splinter07, the CEO of Veni Vidi Vici Reloaded that was the DD victim and didn't get on the kill-mail. Still, nice job! If you care, there's a bit more detail at both EN24 and TMC.

The second super killed was this Northern Associates Nyx, caught and killed by DARKNESS. Word has it that he came into the system intending to do a site escalation and it was his bad luck that the escalation was in one of DARKNESS's home systems. The Inertia Stabilizers are part of a badly failed attempt to realign after landing at his escalation point.

It was a busy week for supers on Serenity, though! One of the alliances there lost four titans. The fight appears to have been every bit as one-sided as a typical super gank is on Tranquility...

C'mon, TQ players! Let's not let the Chinese have all the fun!

CSM8 Status Report: Week twenty-eight

So here we are the day of Rubicon!  Former CSM member Two step was kind enough to extend CSM8 some good wishes even though we had only very little to do with it:
Pretty impressive #csm8, you are the first CSM to have the patch come out before the minutes from the summit about the patch #tweetfleet
Thanks, Two step. Very kind of you.

More seriously, after Freelancer117 much more productively asked directly where the minutes were, CCP Dolan was kind enough to fall on his sword, though also make it clear that the community team has been very very busy, not only with the issues I brought up last week but with CPM/DUST 514 issues as well that I'd forgotten. But he also had this to add which I thought was kind of interesting...
Additionally, the minutes system is one of the oldest CSM systems, and just like I did with the stakeholder process and elections, it is next on my list of things to revamp. The minutes, as they have existed, are responsible for burning out more CSM's than any other activity, because they are a monotonous and lengthy task. I feel that we can try and find a way to preserve what I see as the key value of the minutes (letting the community see how they are being represented by the individual CSM's on various topics) without repeatedly forcing the CSM to create full transcripts of NDA'd meeting only for me to then edit down to fit the confines of what information we will release.

I think that in the past, people have viewed the minutes as some sort of delivery mechanism for hints about upcoming expansion/features. I pretty firmly disagree with that notion. The minutes are a system for review of the CSM, not preview of what CCP is doing.
Right now the minutes are a rather time consuming process for both CCP and the CSM, and I am a huge fan of efficiency. If I can streamline the process to retain all the things that are great about the minutes, and perhaps even find new great things, while cutting out a lot of the negatives and the fluff, then I will be a happy man.

I'll probably be discussing this endeavor as we near the winter summit, as the community in general (as the reader) is also involved in the process and I'm interested to hear your feedback. This was just me talking about for the first time.
Now needless to say while I somewhat agree with this -- in particular, it's definitely not our job to steal CCP's thunder about when they want to announce features. But that said, as a blogger and a CSM follower, I've always been mostly interested in the minutes sessions that dealt with the bigger picture: CCP organization, long-term future plans, EVE's economy, player communications strategies, issues surrounding the new player experience and expanding EVE's player base. And I assure you those sections of the minutes remain intact and of value through Rubicon's release and beyond.

In addition, as Trebor Daehdoow pointed out at our Town Hall meeting on Saturday, there's plenty of value to be had from getting a view of where Rubicon development was in August. This is particularly true for game design watchers, potential future CSM members, and those just plain interested in EVE Online development. And there's one advantage to the minutes not being out yet: a lot of stuff that was under NDA when we started this journey certainly isn't now!

So I do understand Dolan's point, and do look forward to hearing his ideas on this front. But I do also think there is a place for fairly comprehensive notes about what goes on at the summit beyond "CCP shared some ideas with us and we gave feedback."  If you're interested in this topic, please feel free to read the rest of Dolan's posts in the thread and respond. He wrote quite a bit! As for when they will be out:
I'm hoping to have them all out during next week. In the meantime, hopefully nothing catches fire and forces me to put on my fire fighter costume (which is quite fetching, I might add).
I'll keep my fingers crossed for everything except a viewing of the fire fighter costume.

Anyway, onward. As I mentioned already, we held our third Town Hall of the term on Saturday. Thank you one more time to everyone who attended! The recording is now up, courtesy of EVE Radio. My current plan is for the next Town Hall to happen the first or second weekend in January, which will probably correspond to right before the Winter Summit. As we approach that date, I'll announce it using the same process I have been. I feel like we've got a pretty good feel for how to run these things now. 90 minutes felt like the right length, and half pre-submitted questions and half live questions also felt like the right process. I'd also like to find a way to get live voice questions mixed into the process, quite frankly so that those who attend who might want to run for CSM themselves can more publicly put themselves in front of voters. We're also starting to talk a little bit about a video Town Hall if we can work out the process for it.

As you might expect, the CSM internal forums were busy this week with various final dev-blogs detailing the last few features in Odyssey that haven't received them, such as the warp speed changes and the ship and module rebalancing. Giving feedback on these dev-blogs is an important part of the CSM process intended to identify areas of player confusion and prevent another "$1000 pants" situation. ;-) Still, with everything going so smoothly and CCP-to-player communication about Rubicon at a high water mark thanks to the two official sessions held by CCP on this topic, this is a pretty easy process this time around with very little drama.

No meetings this week, and I suspect the devs will be busy with bug reports going into next week. Skype is also remarkably quiet right now. This is the same pattern we saw with Odyssey and I see no reason why it shouldn't repeat itself here. In the meantime, CCP Fozzie has started a thread talking about the future of player anchorables. There will definitely be more of these and if you have ideas about some possibilities, you should join the conversation or upvote the proposals that you like. The CSM has done some chatting about digging through this thread looking for common themes so if there's one that you'd like to see, join the conversation!

That's all for now! I'm looking forward to a smooth deployment of Rubicon in just a few hours!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shake your money-maker

I've covered lots and lots of Rubicon features that I'm positive about (and there's one or two more coming), but I also want to cover one that I'm less than enthused by.

Go through the list of EVE's ship classes and you'll find that most are historical -- frigate, destroyer, cruiser, battleship, freighter. Most of those that remain are descriptive -- command ship, interdictor, stealth bomber, interceptor, logistics. It's quite arguable that only one ship class name in EVE Online is picturesque and fanciful, not describing the ship at all. That is the marauder. The first marauders were French deserters from armies of the Thirty Years War in the late middle ages. Historically, the word has has come to refer to hit-and-run bandits or thieves, particularly those operating in groups. Over time in English, the word has even picked up a slightly romanticized subtext.

So it's totally appropriate that the name be applied to a class of ships that almost always operate alone, perform tasks that couldn't be more legal or more boring, and quite often do so while completely stationary.

OK yeah, maybe that was a little off-sides. Sorry. ;-)

Anyway, when the CSM first learned that these ships were to receive a first rebalance pass, I was initially excited. For years, the only real use a marauder could be put to outside tournament play was missions. Sure, you'd see the very very occasional Kronos being used as a substitute Vindicator thanks to T2 resists. But for the most part, the ships were relegated nearly 100% to solo risk-free PvE with no other use. I was looking forward to seeing some interesting PvP use cases thrown in for this ship.

Which is why I'm much less than thrilled to see that after no less than two full series of revamps, including a brand new fitting mod, dozens of CSM posts, and thousands of player posts, they're going to be relegated nearly 100% to solo risk-free PvE with no other use. So far, I haven't heard of anyone -- small gang, medium, or large fleet -- building a doctrine around these things for PvP... with one exception that I'll talk about shortly.

That would be bad enough. But now the thing is not only relegated to risk-free solo PvE, it's completely, hilariously over-powered at it. Even in CCP tests, dropping a single one of these things into an L4 mission results in the undoing of several years of nerfs to high-sec missioning as a high-value income stream. It clears the mission with ease, never at even the slightest amount of risk, and thanks to long-range firepower does so extremely rapidly. It will be routine to do four or even five L4 missions in an hour solo in a marauder of your choice. With only one of these, you'll be able to routinely make 60-70 million ISK per hour with a return on investment of about 24 hours of play. And with two run from a single machine dual-boxing, I'm having a hard time imagining less than a 100 million ISK per hour income.

The most painful part of the process is going to be the warp from mission to mission, something that can be mitigated somewhat by having a third character request and return all missions, warping into each completed mission with an interceptor before warping the fleet composing the two marauders to the next one. That will save the marauders having to dock.

You'll certainly be able to make more ISK running havens with Vargurs and the like in null-sec and I'm sure those in deep null with good intel channels will do so. But for the rest of us, why bother? We'll have access to an unlimited, no-sharing-needed, zero-risk ISK faucet that's nearly as good.

This is going to have a few downstream effects, all aggravating. First, we're going to see a slacking off of group PvE such as low-end wormholes and incursion sites. Given that solo income is more easily available, requires less travel time and less risk, and will be capable of equivalent or near-equivalent ISK-making, why bother with group PvE? In my opinion, this is bad for the game. Second, marauders are hugely tanky, which is going to result in ships that can be pimped to levels where suicide ganking them will be extremely difficult. In my opinion, this reduction in perceived risk is also bad for the game. And third, of course these ships are only open to those that can fly tech2 battleships... in other words, the very same people who least needed the help.

Finally, if all of that wasn't bad enough, PvE isn't the only place the Bastion Module is hilariously over-powered. Oh no, for those of you who didn't see marauders in action during SCL5, just wait until the next New Eden Open. While finding a PvP niche for marauders on Tranquility is going to be challenging, in a points-governed, numbers-limited tournament match, it's going to be all marauders all the time. As I mentioned during my own wrap-up posts on SCL5, we got to see both a Golem and a Kronos hold off nearly an entire enemy team single-handedly. The rest of you will be seeing it soon. The NEO organizers will have to set the points cost of these things to an absurd number to prevent them from dominating the proceedings.

So yeah, all in all it's safe to say I'm not a fan. If you're doing solo L4 missions and you don't have one or two of these, you might want to fix that. For those of you that have them already, enjoy several months of a massive income buff!

A brilliant band-aid

Over the next few days, I want to wrap up a whole series of posts on a variety of topics, most of them centered on those last few features of Rubicon that I haven't yet talked about, plus a few things that came up at our Town Hall meeting on Saturday.

That starts with a question that I was both asked directly recently (twice!) and which also came up in the Town Hall: "What do I think about Time Dilation?" And my position on TiDi is fairly simple: I think it's a brilliantly designed, brilliantly implemented band-aid that I wish was not necessary to the survival of EVE Online.

Now granted, TiDi is immensely superior to what came before: black screens, unpredictable behavior, massive lag, et cetera. TiDi is better than all of that. No question. But is it introducing its own problems?

If CSM8 Chair Trebor Daehdoow had a law, it would be "Fleets expand to fill the lag available." Back when TiDi was first introduced to the game, I predicted that it would simultaneously be the best single change ever for the game and the worst piece of garbage ever to be inflicted on the game. These were not incompatible beliefs. Enormous fights are good for EVE Online: they great for the game's publicity and press, great for marketing and promotion, and contribute to the epic feel of the game. But I also predicted that it would simultaneously increase alliance sizes such that they could put thousands of ships on the field if they wished to attack or defend a position.

Both of those predictions have come to pass: enormous fights have been successfully used for marketing EVE Online and alliances sizes and fight sizes have doubled since TiDi was introduced with no corresponding increase in PCU count. Trebor's law has been coming to pass: since alliances could put thousands of ships on the field, they have been.

And with these changes, the underlying problem that caused TiDi to be added to the game in the first place is again starting to rear its head. We've all now seen TiDi inflicted on us during routine in-game situations. Alliances are now large enough that they can reinforce 15 targets at once across multiple regions and then pick and choose which of those 15 they're actually going to attack when the timers hit. They're even big enough to show up to attack more than one of those targets simultaneously if they choose to. That makes asking CCP to reinforce the right systems tricky or impossible. Does the attacker or defender ask for all 15 systems to be reinforced? Even when the node is reinforced, some TiDi happens anyway.

TiDi is a brilliant band-aid and for now, it's still holding the wound closed. But yeah, we can now see it's not going to hold forever.

At the Summer Summit, I and other members of the CSM warned CCP Seagull directly that her vision for EVE, while fascinating, promises to create the biggest timer in the history of EVE Online. If a few thousand people wanted to be in Asakai for the fight there, can you imagine how many people are going to want to be in the system to see the first player-constructed stargate brought on-line... or not, depending on how the fight over this goes? I certainly want to be there, and I suspect there will be thousands and thousands of others that will be too, enough to make any prior gathering of players in a single system look like a faction warfare skirmish.

EVE is soon going to need more serious band-aids or -- preferably -- it's going to need an architectural redesign at some fundamental level to handle bigger and bigger fights. This isn't the job of one team; this is soon going to be a challenge facing the entire company.

In the meantime, TiDi is causing problems that couldn't have been predicted back in 2011. At that time, I wrote:
In order to survive in 0.0, you have to learn, develop, and practice a whole skill-set around managing deficiencies in the so-called "game" you are playing.
And that's swiftly becoming true around TiDi as well! One of the key components that made the recent live event so deadly for high-sec players, after all, was the fact that the null-sec alliances living around Doril had something like two hours to prepare their kill box... thanks to TiDi. Had TiDi not been a factor, the kill box wouldn't have been nearly as efficient and the event might well have gone differently.

So now TiDi's not only impacting the game, it's creating an all-new meta-game, an emergent game-play mechanic that didn't exist and couldn't exist without TiDi! I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intent. But it's interesting, don't you think? Discuss.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My dying alliance is better than yours

I don't do a lot of BRs unless they're entertaining in some way and this one definitely turned out to be that.(1)

Our FC Cassius Longinus called for cruise missile Typhoons because come Tuesday they're going to be fairly painful to roam in ("shakes" for 25 seconds). So this was one of our last chances to play with agile relatively quick roaming battleships. I have one but Cass asked me to fly a Rapier. I do love Rapiers and every time I sit in one I think of one of the nicest things Jayarr Altol ever said to me: "Jester, I hated seeing you in a Rapier because ever time I did, it meant I was gonna die." I suddenly realize with pleasure that now that Jayarr is no longer in Rote he can resume his climb up the list of people I've killed the most times.

Final fleet is 8 Phoons, Raven, 2 Rapiers, Lachesis, Scimi, Onyx, dictor, Cynabal (and later, Vaga) for close tackle/anti-tackle, and a Claymore for links.

The evening starts almost immediately with a pair of BNI caught in 5-F. Then we receive intel about BNI hitting a POS in LSC4 with a mixed medium size group of cruisers, BCs, and a couple of battleships. We start rolling in that direction but it's kind of hard to hide a group of Typhoons. As we approach, they scatter. BNI, risk averse? This clearly will not stand and we need to remind them of their modus operandi so we roll the Phoons back toward TXW while arranging for a sacrificial cyno ship. A Rote titan logging in usually means the sphincters of everyone in Syndicate slam shut but BNI apparently haven't gotten the memo 'cause they keep doing what they do. Decloak, cyno goes up, and our dictor goes through but it's actually the Onyx bubble that's most effective.

The final group actually turns out to be a mixed group of BNI and Of Sound Mind who have moved into the area. We kill seven then restart our roam from there. To their credit, they immediately form back up and go back to what they were doing once we're gone, but we're content to let them.

On our way out of that pocket we catch a lone FIGL Caracal, then poke our noses into FD- to see what's up there. What's up turns out to be Goons farming a little cluster of bubbles using long-range gank ships and a SFI for tackle. A Stiletto has joined us and catches an unwary Oracle while we bait the SFI in with the Cynabal and both go down.

We continue east into the maze and get intel of a mixed cruiser gang guarding another set of bubbles in 6-C so we make our way over. Cass does a terrific job of hiding our numbers and sending in a bait group, made up of all our expensive ships (including me). We fall obligingly into the bubble trap laid by a mixed KRYSISdot armor cruiser gang with strong logi support. To their credit they stay in the fight once local spikes with our main DPS, trying to justify their fleet with an expensive kill. But the special teams do a good job of protecting each other with our one Scimi and tactical webs (he said modestly) keeping their Thoraxes at arm's length. By the time KRYSIS realizes they've been outplayed, they're down seven ships including most of their logi.

We wander the maze for a bit longer but not finding anything happening turn toward our low-sec route home.

On the way, Apathetic Brent pings someone in our gang offering to skirmish with us, saying he has nine. We're rolling in his direction but don't intend to fight them since it seems unlikely they'd want to fight us -- we're quite a bit heavier than they are. Their nine later turns out to be a mixed group of Ishtars and Cerberuses. You can watch the replay from Brent's perspective. At around the 30 minute mark in that replay, one of Brent's Ishtars gets a little confused about instructions to warp "there." He doesn't know where "there" is but he warps and it turns out for him, "there" is the middle of our fleet. We tackle and kill one Ishtar.

As we head closer to home, we also learn about a Goon BC fleet in the area (they announce themselves and their location in local). This sounds like something worthy of our attention and turns out to be an honest-to-goodness asteroid belt fight just like the old days, in Barleguet. We confirm the intel with our own Stiletto scout. It turns out Brent's gang is already engaged with them but we slowly trickle our group in and eventually take over, killing four of the BCs (losing our Stiletto in the process) before turning our attention to the Exodus group. You can hear this fight from Exodus's perspective at the 40-45 minute mark of the recording. Some of Exodus don't want to fight us saying it would just be a stalemate. Brent responds "Why don't we fight a stalemate and then say 'our pilot skill is better!'? Why don't we do that?" These turn out to be prophetic words.

But they prompt a long argument on Exodus comms about what they should do which goes on for about the next ten minutes. For our part, our fleet occasionally and very rudely interrupts their argument by killing four more of their ships, an Ishtar, Omen, and two inties. My favorite quote of the recording: "This is Exodus. We don't have a single FC.", sotto vocce at about 43:00. Second favorite? Voice 1: "Where the hell is Ripard going?" Voice 2, two seconds later: "Oh fuck, I'm webbed." Props to them for staying on field and trying. Once we get a solid warp in on them, they warp off and we head home.

All in all, much battleship fun was had! Final score: 28 ship kills, various pod kills, 1 loss.

(1) The title of this blog post is a reference to accusations on Failheap Challenge that Rote Kapelle must be a dying alliance because the AdversityDOT corp recently chose to leave us.


Despite the double-booking issue I mentioned, CSM8 had a really good third Town Hall running for 90 minutes, the first half of which were pre-submitted questions on our announcement thread and the second half of which was live questions submitted by those who joined us on the EVE University Mumble server. Really good stuff, and I was really excited to see a few hundred interested people tune in and/or participate. If you were one of them, thank you!

Here's Ali Aras's blog post with the advance questions and as she joked, "we got to most of the good ones and two of the bad ones."

In particular, I enjoyed one of the opening questions that was submitted by Endovior among others. Here's Endovior's post in full which you should read because it was really well-written. But the gist of his question was:
I'd ask a more answerable question like: "Overall, how optimistic (or pessimistic) are you about the continuing development of EVE?"
And I answered it both in the forum thread and at the Town Hall but here's my response, which deserves its own showing here:
This is a really good post in all particulars. I've covered a lot of what I think about this topic here:


That said, it also deserves some expanding on. The basic answer to your question is "it depends." If you buy into CCP Seagull's vision of space exploration and capsuleer ownership of space that she laid out at Fanfest and consistently since then, then I think you have good reason to be very excited about developments over the next few years. Think about a movie or TV show or book that you like that had a long slow gradual build-up, laying groundwork as it went for several MAJOR pay-offs at the end -- Babylon 5, say, or Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you buy into the space colonization vision, then I can safely say that you have several HOLY SHIT moments ahead of you.

On the other hand, if you do not buy into the vision, then with one exception I think you may find the next few expansions to be not your cup of tea. A few scraps will fall from the table onto everyone's plate, but EVE is definitely on a journey for the next three years and you're either part of it or you're not. As I mentioned though, there is one sizeable exception that doesn't necessarily follow the space colonization vision that CCP is nevertheless going to do that I personally am quite excited about but which is quite NDA. But I suspect CCP will start letting details about this one out soon(tm).
So yeah, really good question! And there were lots of other good questions as well about the minutes, the SOMERblink situation, drone assist, renter mechanics, more about the future of the game... good stuff! I really appreciated how engaged everyone who participated in the discussion was so thanks again to those of you who attended!

For those who couldn't, the recording should be up very shortly at the usual place on the EVE Radio website. I want to again thank DJ Wiggles from EVE Radio and Neville Smit from EVE University for their outstanding support of our Town Halls! Next one will be in early January, probably right before the Winter Summit. Hope to talk to you there!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The first two minutes

There's been a good bit of hurf-blurf on the topic of CCP Rise's rapid missile launcher changes. In particular, Rise is pointing out that a number of CSM members supported him in the change he's proposed to them. For those not keeping up, the change roughly summarized, is:
  1. Rapid Launchers would hold between 18 and 23 charges, roughly enough for 45-50 seconds firing time;
  2. during that time, they'd do greatly increased damage over what they do now;
  3. the exact amount of damage during that time hasn't been announced, but it would be very significant (Rise mentions that RLMLs would do damage comparable to HAMs); but,
  4. once the launcher is empty, you'd have to wait 40 seconds for a reload.
And unsurprisingly, that last bit is the sticking point. "Jester, what do you think of this?" I'm being asked here and there. "Rise says some CSM members support this. Are you one of them?"

Answer: yep! And I'll explain why, but first let's talk about where this change is going to suck.

If you're having way too much fun in an RLML Caracal either solo or ultra-small gang, particularly trolling through FW space, you almost certainly think this is the worst change ever to happen to EVE Online. The root cause of the reason is that Rapid Light Missile Launchers are incredibly over-powered:
  • they're good at short range or long range;
  • they're good at attacking small ships or big ships; and,
  • in most ships on which they're used but especially on the Caracal, they do every type of damage, too!
They're good in every situation against every target. In short, unless you have a good reason to use HAMs on your Caracal for a specific fight, there's no reason not to use RLMLs. But particularly in ultra-small gang scenarios where you have to clear tackle if a fight starts going against you, if you don't use RLMLs on your Caracal you're just being dumb. And the first rule of EVE nerfs is that any time the phrase "do this or you're dumb" comes up, this situation is -- sooner or later -- going to get the hell nerfed out of it.

So indeed Rise is cutting the sustained DPS of people using this tactic to about 60% of what they're getting now and unsurprisingly, they're pissed about it. But I say again: RLML Caracals (and to a lesser extent, RLML Gilas) were OP as hell. So let's just start by agreeing that some kind of monster nerf was inevitable, shall we? Anyone who plays the game like this has to have been playing this game long enough to realize it. Don't worry, there's always going to be some other wildly OP tactic in this game that you can change to.

With that done, let's get to the good bit. A HAM Caracal has a volley of around 1150 damage or so, depending on skill, and the RLML Caracal is going to be getting 18 comparable volleys before reload. Only now this 1150 volley is going to be mated to a much smaller explosion radius. In the situation where anti-tackle ships were intended to be used, this is freakin' huge and is almost OP in its own right. (Don't tell Rise I said so.) But let's look at that situation: in a typical anti-tackle scenario, you land on grid, you have to clear tackle at the beginning of a fight. Then you might have to clear tackle again if your FC decides to disengage.

So this comes down to what I'm personally thinking of as a "first two minutes" situation. In that first two minutes with a RLML Caracal using these new missiles, you have three time periods:
  1. 45 seconds where you're doing 1150 damage per volley, about 20k volley total.
  2. Then 40 seconds where you're reloading.
  3. Then 45 more seconds where you have a second 20k volley.
So in that 130-140 seconds, you're doing 40k volley damage. That compares to 27k to 28k with the current RLML Caracal.

Put another way: a couple of these things can clear away anywhere from two to six tackle frigates in the first 45-50 seconds of a fight. Then they reload. Then, right as the FC is deciding to either fully commit or disengage, they can do it again!

Clear away up to 12 tackle frigates in the first two minutes of an engagement, then be able to warp off if desired, while the rest of the fleet concentrates on heavier stuff in the meantime? Yes, please! That suits Rote Kapelle's small- to medium-gang play style all the way down to the ground. So did I tell Rise I was in favor of this change? Hell yes, I did! I think it has some really interesting strategic uses for small gang scenarios.

Yes, if you're relying on RLMLs as a primary weapon system, I can see why you're upset. But I don't, and I'm not. I'm thrilled with the possibilities here.

Besides, you should have seen the other possible nerfs he was thinking about.  ;-)

Now all that said, I'm a little less sanguine about this change as it applies to Rapid Heavy Missile Launchers. I can't see quite as many use cases for them and any fight to which you bring a battleship is likely to be an extended engagement by default. Therefore a weapon system that doesn't have good endurance for the whole fight probably isn't going to be as useful. But I'm willing to suspend judgment on that situation because I can think of one use case that's really really entertaining. But I want to try it out a couple of times first before I talk about it.

So anyway, yes, I was in favor of the "v2" rapid missile launcher changes and now I've explained why. I think it adds some really interesting emergent game-play possibilities to the game while addressing a previously overpowered weapon system that was quite frankly way too good in way too many scenarios.

One off

Just an FYI, for all you people who delight in telling me when I'm wrong about something. You've been missing a big one for the entire life of this blog. Apparently, I've been doing something wrong for ten years and literally nobody has told me about it until this morning.

I learned how to type in the 80s on typewriters, which means that I would double-space after every sentence. But thanks to modern typography and the overall death of proportional fonts in text (including this blog), apparently all the key style guides were changed around 2003 to indicate that one space after a period is now correct. People who are into typography assure the rest of us that two spaces induces an unnecessary pause in the reader's mind while reading, a single space therefore eliminates these pauses and increases flow. Not only did I completely miss the change, but I've been continuing to double-space for ten years now in all of my writing and nobody's said a single word to me about it...

...until this morning, when CCP Dolan mentioned it to me in the most off-hand way possible.

I suppose I could say that I'm old school. But if the style sheets change, I'm willing to change with them. That's what style sheets are for. So, I'm surprised I haven't heard about this change until now, but henceforth this blog will be following the style sheets.

But there's an amusing counter-argument if you want to read it.


Seen on EVE's in-game news feed this morning...
CSM8 Town Hall on November 16 at 1900 EVE time
reported by: CCP Dolan | 2013.11.15 16:47:41

The 8th Council of Stellar Management (CSM8) will be holding its third Town Hall on November 16 at 1900 EVE time. This is an excellent opportunity to speak with your elected representatives to CCP on matters that you feel are important in New Eden, particularly as we approach the Rubicon expansion release three days later.

» read more

EVE Online: Rubicon Raptr Stream & QA- November 16th, 19:00 UTC
reported by: CCP Falcon | 2013.11.15 15:08:21

Tomorrow evening at 19:00 UTC, CCP will be hosting a 30 minute EVE Online: Rubicon live stream on Raptr, followed at 19:30 UTC by a 2 hour questions and answers session with a group of our developers.

Guests will include CCP Fozzie, CCP Xhagen, CCP Karkur, CCP Affinity, CCP Paradox and CCP Eterne who will be on hand to talk about EVE Online: Rubicon.

For more information, and to take part in the questions and answers session,  please see the announcement at Raptr.com!

» read more
Yeah, don't bother checking your watch.  They're at the same time.  If you wanted to go to CCP Falcon's thing instead of ours, even I wouldn't blame you.  ;-)  This is just the sort of thing that -- had it happened to CSM7 -- I would have trolled them mercilessly about it.  But since it's happening to CSM8, I'll probably bring a lot of Guinness to our TH tomorrow... and it's at 11am my time.  As the goddess Ivanova famously stated, "I can only conclude that I am paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate."

Anyway, CSM Town Hall info is at this thread.  CCP Raptr stream info is at this thread.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fit of the Week: Rail Thorax

I can't recall doing a medium rail ship since the rail buff as FOTW, so let's do one now.  This is my preferred way to fit a Thorax...

[Thorax, New Rails]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Fourier Transform Tracking Program
Fourier Transform Tracking Program

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Large F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Warp Disruptor II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II

200mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Lead Charge M
200mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Lead Charge M
200mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Lead Charge M
200mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Lead Charge M
200mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Lead Charge M

Medium Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Valkyrie II x5

First the bad news: this fit is extremely tight.  If you don't have really good fitting skills, you're going to have to compromise somewhere... maybe a couple of somewheres.  First place to do so is the point, which you can downgrade to meta, though that does hurt your survivability since you'll have to engage closer if you tackle something.  But even if you do that, chances are what you're going to have is a grid problem rather than a CPU problem and you may find the only way to solve it is to replace one of the rigs with an Ancillary Current Router.  All I can tell you is to grit your teeth and do it and count the days until you can undo this very hard trade.  Sometimes ship fitting comes down to these hard choices.

If you can fly this ship as-is, you're going to find a really terrific inexpensive skirmish boat.  With decent skills and the faction lead ammo, you'll be engaging at 40km or so for about 275 DPS before drones.  Change out for Spike and your range increases to 60+ with a corresponding drop in DPS to about 235.  So the first tip is to take this ship out in good size groups: Brave Newbies, for instance, likes rail Thoraxes in groups of 40 or so and they've become quite effective with them!

Get your drones out and on the primaries.  They're a significant portion of your DPS, around 140 or so with Valkyrie IIs.  Like any skirmish doctrine, your tank is quite thin, consisting of a couple of rigs, Invul, meta LSE and DC, and a little bit of prayer.  Also like any skirmish doctrine, the correct choice in this ship once you're engaged on a target is to align off.  If you start getting targeted by a large counter-fleet, warp off, turn around, and come back in.  As I've said lots of times, this is the heart of a good skirmish doctrine: you're outside of point range, so don't get killed and don't panic.  Just get out and come back.

You're going to have to do this anyway in all likelihood because your cap endurance is not very good under MWD, which is also necessary in a skirmish doctrine.  You've only about about 80 or so seconds of useful cap depending on your skills and the exact type of ammo that you're firing.  A good rail Thorax gang racks up a lot of initial kills quickly, and is countered by its enemies by forcing them into an extended fight.  As the lower-skilled pilots in the Thorax ball start to fall away, the DPS of this group drops dramatically.  So if you're FC'ing or are part of this group, keep in mind that you want to rack up kills right from the get go!

Working to your advantage is that Thoraxes are fast, at about 2100m/s, which means that they can kill the things that can catch them quite handily, and outrun the things they can't kill.  With double meta Tracking Enhancers, you gain terrifying effectiveness against tackle and if things swing close, swap out for faction antimatter ammo or even Javelin, which substitutes range for an additional tracking bonus.  Don't be afraid to bring your drones back to attack any tacklers on you as well.  Valks can catch frigates without too many problems.  The preferred booster for this kind of fleet is some form of Frentix, to improve optimal range.  X-Instinct is also a good idea for skirmishing fleets, but you might even want to go with Mindflood to address the cap issue.  Carry four types of ammo: Javelin, Spike, anti-matter, and lead.  Use lead by default.

Thoraxes fit this way can be a tough fit but are inexpensive and quite effective in medium size groups.  Fit with the double Tracking Enhancers, they're also quite forgiving of the routine new player mistakes made in terms of transversal of opponents.  Your fleet will probably need some form of dedicated tackle; while these Thoraxes have points, it's optimal for them to be fighting at skirmish range just outside of point range rather than committing to a close battle where they don't have many advantages.  Skirmish flying is my favorite way of playing EVE Online and you'll learn very quickly what to do and what not to do in this kind of fleet, lessons that will serve you well when you start flying something more expensive.

Everyone jump jump, and burn for the sun, microwarpdrives on!

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.