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, May 31, 2014

No tank lasts forever

Tank in EVE Online is a balance between buffer, resistance, and reps on one side, and damage and neuts on the other. Enemy ships rage at you, your native resists apply, and they slowly chew through buffer. Reps build buffer back up and make the process take longer. But the reps are usually at a disadvantage because they are few in number... and the attackers are many. And if there's a fundamental truth in EVE Online it's that if enough people want your ship dead, it will die, and all the reps in the world won't help.

No tank lasts forever. And today, I am shutting down Jester's Trek.

Now before you ask, I'm neither quitting nor rage-quitting EVE Online. But over the last few months, I've come to realize that something like 85% to 90% of the stuff I'm doing in and around EVE simply isn't any fun. So I'm going to cut out everything that I'm not finding fun and focus my time on the remaining 10%.

This little blog was started as an experiment to support my run for CSM6 almost four years ago. And it has a nice symmetry to shut it down after the completion of my successful CSM8 term. Over that almost four years, the tenor of the game has changed remarkably... and not for the better. Four years ago, EVE players were very much "Us against the world! Woo!" Now we've learned the rest of the world doesn't care and it's become "Us against each other." In my writings trying to change that even a tiny bit, I've become something of a symbol. That wouldn't necessarily be bad, except quite ironically I've also become a symbol for any number of things I do not believe in.

For the rest, the people trying to kill the message have been trying to kill the messenger. And on reflection, I find I am quite content to let them. Metaphorically, at least. ;-) And over the month or so since I made this decision, I've been shown a dozen or more signs that the decision is the right one.(1)

So, let's end this little experiment with some thank yous and some shout-outs.

First up, Mynxee, who planted this idea in my head in the first place. All of this is her fault. ;-) <3 Mynxee. I'm so glad to see you back in the game!

Second, CSM legend Trebor Daehdoow, to whom I've gone to for advice at five key places along this road, including at the top of this final milestone. I've always found his thinking sound and his advice exactly what I needed to hear at each point.

Thank you so much to my current alliance-mates in Rote Kapelle and all my past alliance mates, particularly in Sturmgrenadier. All of you have approached my little blog with high good humor, good grace, and understanding... even when some of you occasionally hated what I wrote. ;-)

Everyone who voted for me for CSM8. I still wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart! I did my absolute best for you while I was there.

Everyone who wrote me an encouraging word, message, EVE mail, or e-mail. You'd probably be pretty surprised how rare and cherished these were. I have an incredibly thick, resistant skin, and yet these were the reps that kept me going. A special thank you to the women of EVE. About once a year or so, one of you would catch me on Teamspeak, Skype, or Mumble after a town hall or a public fleet or the like and tell me how widely read and appreciated I was among EVE's ladies. That meant a lot to me.

riverini of EVE News 24. I know a lot of you guys don't like him. But it's been inspiring to me to watch him continue to push that rock uphill... and continue to succeed at it! He was the very first person to really believe in what I was trying to do here.

Everyone who donated ISK or stuff during my annual pledge drives, or once a year or so, out of the clear blue sky. It never was much. Now that it's over, I can say with some chagrin that James 315 makes more in a good month than I ever made in a good year of writing this blog, with all of my income sources from writing pooled together. But it was enough to keep my accounts subscribed and for me to buy myself an occasional Loki. The money did help but the fact that it was hard-earned doing honest work meant a lot.

EVE's other bloggers and pod-casters, and the members of CSM9. Keep up the good work, ladies and gentlemen!

To the game developers, community members, and just flat folk at CCP, thank you! We didn't always agree and I know some of you don't like me, but everything I said was said out of love and respect for your game and your work. I hope to still be playing EVE a long time from now. Particularly fond shout-outs to CCP Falcon and CCP Guard. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!

And finally to you, Dear Reader, a heartfelt thank you. The good ones among you read my stuff, argued it with me, sometimes learned something, ofttimes taught me something. We've also been fighting the good fight against the darkness. Keep fighting it without me and know that I'm still on your side.

You might see me around EVE, though I suspect it's more likely that I'll let Ripard's account lapse for a while and concentrate my activities on a couple of my other mains. And who knows, if something earth-shattering goes down, I might be inspired to write a guest piece somewhere.(2) Please continue to support EVE's other bloggers! And if you want to say hello, please feel free to do so. I'll likely still have strong opinions about this niche little spaceship game.

It's just that from now on, I'll keep 'em to myself. Good hunting!

(1) One example: a friend lecturing me on how it's bad that EVE players avoid competition... a few days after he himself joined Goonswarm. Another: the constant reminders that ISK is piling up in the wallets of EVE's most hateful people.
(2) But don't expect it for just anything. I really do mean earth-shattering: the break-up of the CFC, say, or a 20% CCP layoff. I'm not going down the Poetic Stanziel route.

May junk drawer

Welcome to the junk drawer, part of a series of monthly posts in which I dump all the stuff that I couldn't develop into full blog posts this past month. This month at mid-month I folded a lot of what was in the junk drawer up to that point into a "Distant voices" post so if you haven't read that post, you should definitely start there. The rest of what's in the junk drawer are longer bits, graphics, and things that didn't make it into that post, usually because they came up in the back half of the month.


Let's start with a few more distant voices, since I'm already on the topic. If you've ever been happy to get the pre-release versions of the EFT data files, then you have EVE player Namamai to thank for that. He's one of the smartest EVE players I know... and now he's started a blog. You should definitely keep an eye on it!

I got a kick out of this post by Kirith Kodachi dissecting the Prophecy trailer. He did miss a trick, though, by scoffing at the idea of EVE, DUST, and Valkyrie players eventually working on the same objective. That's more or less exactly what a lot of people said about the Fanfest 2012 trailer and EVE and DUST players working together.

This article about Steam trading is the best piece of gaming journalism I read this month.

This is kind of cool: blogger TurAmarth ElRandir wrote an Open Letter to CCP asking if CCP Seagull's space colonization vision was going to have a place for the small gang player. And rather surprisingly, Seagull responded!

This blog post about game design is ancient, and is about a game about as far-removed from EVE as you can get. And yet I can't help seeing applicability to EVE in every paragraph. Even the freakin' title is applicable.

My favorite posts at Crossing Zebras? The "CZ Minutes" posts where all of the writers get together and debate in text about something. It's kind of like a written pod-cast, except better because the positions are better thought-out. Go check them out!


I love how the Mordu's Legion ships look, but I think they belong in another game. Aren't EVE ships supposed to be more... I dunno... more industrial than this? Grittier, perhaps?

Speaking of Kronos ship art, here's an enormously long link with pictures of every new ship or ship skin in the upcoming expansion.


Some real quickies, one per line:

This really amazing Captain's Quarters bug just made me laugh. Go check it out.

The former CCP Bro finally announced where he's working now. You get one guess.

The former CCP Dolan didn't have to. The former CCP Soundwave did it for him.

Spotted on Reddit, this also just made me laugh.


A few CSM9 notes:

If you ever intend to run for the CSM, bookmark this Fanfest retrospective. It's a pretty damn fine list of CCP developers and the topics that they feel strongly about. It's not exactly a one-for-one list of who works on what features, but in some cases it's damn close. CSM8 came up with the idea of building a big spreadsheet of every CCP dev we came into contact with: their name, team, job, Twitter accounts, e-mails, work location, even a place to take notes. But posts like this are where spreadsheets like that start.

The CSM Wire project from The Nosy Gamer is pretty freakin' cool!

I continue to be so impressed with the weekly updates that Xander Phoena, Sugar Kyle, and mynnna are doing! But I do kind of wish that they'd publish a joint post on what CCP did in the previous week so that they each can focus on what they individually think about what CCP did the previous week. That way, I wouldn't have to sift through the same list of stuff in all three places (or more often, two places with the third saying the other two already wrote the list, hee!).

That said, getting the three perspectives is really interesting! It's particularly interesting to see each of them talk about particularly contentious features.


A couple of Kerbal Space Program junk drawer items! I got such a kick out of this survey taken of KSP players and how they feel about science and/or the space program after playing KSP. Even if you don't play KSP, go check it out!

Have I ever linked the kerbalmaps.com website and this rather extraordinary Mun map? I don't think I have. This thing was invaluable to me when I was plotting where to try my most recent attempts to make rovers viable.


And that's all for the junk drawer this month. Even with a mid-month cleaning, there was still a lot of stuff in there!

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's only rock 'n' roll (but I like it)

The patch notes are out for Kronos and as is my custom, I'd like to go through them and point at things I like and don't like. And as I go through the list, it's rather interesting how nearly everything the least bit contentious has been pushed back to Crius. Kronos turns out to be an unassuming little release, full of lots of fun little items that will make just about anyone smile.

Let's touch on the major stuff.

Audio customization. This one's a big win, and lets you pick and choose those sounds that you wish to hear and those you don't. I'm a bit of a mutant in that I play EVE with sounds on. I find that it helps both immersion and situational awareness, particularly if I'm flying something small and fast (which is most of the time). That said, the jump tunnel sound effect is overwhelmingly loud and annoying for me. In addition, most FCs are issuing orders as you're going through a jump gate or a titan bridge into a battle and this particular sound effect makes those orders tough or impossible to hear. So it will be great to be able to turn this off without that impacting everything else.

Pirate ship rebalance! Yes, please! My particular favorites, in rough order: Ashimmu, Gila, Nightmare (for PvE), Rattlesnake, Bhaalgorn, Succubus, Machariel, Cruor. My least favorites, in rough order: Vigilant, Cynabal. The rest, I'm pretty much neutral on. So way more good than bad in this group, for my money. Can't wait to get busy refitting and trying them out!

Freighter and jump freighter low slots. The change is more boring than rigs, but I guess I can live with it. I don't see it doing much to jump freighters, but it will make freighter fitting more interesting.

Deep space transports and Blockade runners. DSTs? Don't care. I'll buy a couple, but it will be for a stupid reason: so I can put them into my travel carriers and in so doing have the option of carrying another 50-60k of cargo in my carriers or Rorqual. But actually fly the thing? No, not very likely. The blockade runner changes, though? Thumbs way up! There wasn't much wrong with these ships and the little tweaks plus the additional high slot make them more fun and useful. That warp speed change is just flat nifty even though I now have to train Transport Ships to more than Level II.

EDIT (30/May/2014): And now I'm told in comments that DST fleet hangars full of mods won't be able to be stored in carriers after all... charges only. Which means I don't have to buy any DSTs. I'll stick to a couple of Hoarders in my carriers which do the same exact thing and are T1.

Mining barges and exhumers. Don't much care. I don't see it making a lot of difference. Maybe CODE will leave Skiffs alone, maybe they'll gank more of them just to make a point.

Phoenix and Citadel missiles. Don't much care. It'll sell a few of these dreads to Caldari and missile fan-boys but I just can't see these changes making that much of a difference. Phoenix will still be the worst dread for most applications except hysterical shield tanking. That's becoming a thing, I guess.

Various exploration fixes. The big one is the death of the lootsplosion. Thank Heaven!

Mid-grade pirate implants. I'm not quite sure I see the point to this, but it does mean I won't worry quite so much when Ripard is in his one low-grade Snake set. I'm usually in a hurry to get out of that implant set as soon as I can because it feels like he's training slow. ;-)

Medium micro jump drives. OK, this is the one feature in Kronos that I just don't care for. I think they're going to be over-powered on command ships, both in mid-grade fleet doctrines and in the upcoming Alliance Tournament. More modules that make tackling and destroying ships harder is just not a good thing in EVE, in my opinion. They were introduced into the game for DSTs but they're not very useful at all in that application: why would you wait out a 12 second MMJD cycle when you can just do a 10-second MWD-align-and-warp cycle? I suspect I recognize what's being done here: CCP Fozzie wants to encourage more BC use. But this is the wrong way to go about it, I think.

Hyperspatial accelerators. My opinion of these is going to depend heavily on drop rate. Hopefully they will be common enough that you can fit them to freighters pretty routinely. We'll know more about this in a few months. I really really like the idea! It's going to be the implementation that decides this one.

Hull rigs. These should have been stripped when freighter rig slots were. But they're not objectionable in and of themselves. Just mostly useless.

Drone changes. All in all, I'm positive on these changes! I still say drone assist on sentries should have been murdered in its bed, but I was quite literally outvoted. So we'll see what 50-drone assist does. I do like the faster medium and heavy drone MWD speeds, I like drone skills being adjusted to be more new player friendly, and I can even live with the new drone skill. I'm not sure I'm as big of a fan of fighters and FBs receiving the benefit of drone modules: I think this is mostly going to be a buff to super-powers and ratting, two areas that didn't exactly need a buff. But the rest, I like!

New Eden Store. Call me neutral on this one, waiting to see where it goes. I'm positive about the concept but again this is going to come down to implementation and more importantly, follow-through.

Factional warfare changes. I don't know enough about FW to know whether these are good or bad things.

Mordu's Legion ships. Again, this is going to come down to spawn rate, and ultimately, price. If they settle in at the same price as the Angel ships, say, then call me very positive on this one. But if an Orthrus ultimately costs the same as a Vigilant, then I'll be much less enthused. As I've mentioned, these ships dropped right into a pretty crowded niche. I'm enthusiastic about a kiting missile ship, don't get me wrong. But at a high price-point, player enthusiasm for these ships is going to wear down pretty quickly. And I'm still not a fan of the Garmur.

Prospect. Yeah, it's OK, I guess. I'm not thrilled at the additional skill book, for no other reason than it means I'll almost certainly never fly this ship.

Upgraded graphics and some new ship skins. I'm a big fan of the new Moa and Condor models! Very very pretty! The Typhoon is OK. Unfortunately, I feel like the pirate BC/destroyer skins are going to be nothing but hangar queens, which is an enormous shame because some of those ships are gorgeous.

UI changes. And finally, I love pretty much every single thing that CCP karkur and CCP Punkturis have planned for Kronos. My particular favorite is the reload timer for modules, with color-coding broadcasts in second place, and weirdly (since I don't mine any more), the lock indicator on the survey scanner being third. I also like the repair progress bar for nanite repair paste though I have this suspicion that most of the time I won't notice it. ;-)

And that's pretty much it! Lots and lots of interesting stuff in here, and I like nearly all of it! Bring on Kronos!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The stranger's viewpoint

I'm going to go a bit sideways on you in this post. Let's start with this:
Matthew: In order to prepare this speech, I rang a few people, to get a general picture of how Gareth was regarded by those who met him. "Fat" seems to have been a word people most connected with him. "Terribly rude" also rang a lot of bells. "So very fat and very rude" seems to have been the stranger's viewpoint.
No, EVE isn't dying, even though this quote is from one of my favorite speeches from Four Weddings and a Funeral. But I do want to delve again into the topic of how EVE Online is regarded outside of the game and in this way continue my thought from this morning.

I'm a big fan of Jim Sterling's work... notably his video series Jimquisition at The Escapist. Here's another example of how my brain works. Not too long ago, he did a piece about a very poor game on Steam that earned a lot of poor reviews. Amused and curious, I looked that game up on Steam. That set me remembering that EVE is also on Steam. That reminded me of the Steam tags and that EVE had probably been reviewed. And that sent me over to read the Steam reviews themselves.

Now I've read customer reviews of EVE here and there and they tend to be pretty bad, usually a mix of 1-star and 5-star reviews with the latter usually being long treatises that despite their enthusiasm make the game sound dull and the former usually being stuff like this. And sure enough, most of the negative reviews of EVE on Steam were in the same mold. But two things struck me:
  1. Most of the reviews labeled as "helpful" of EVE on Steam are negative ones (seven of the ten most helpful, in fact!); and,
  2. the most helpful review -- which is negative -- is a thoughtful, incisive, troubling piece that is well worth your time to read in full.
Reading it, it's clear that the writer (a) understands EVE Online, and (b) is exactly the kind of thoughtful gamer we want to attract to EVE Online. And it's equally clear that he wants nothing whatsoever to do with us:
People love to troll. "Collecting tears" is one of the main driving forces that keeps many people playing the game. Once you have a decent ship and skillbase, it's very, very easy to troll less experienced players. And, sadly, that seems to be enough for a lot of veterans to hang around. Eve is one of the few games that rewards you for being an asshole at every possible opportunity. If you're a sociopath and that's your idea of entertainment, then you'll have a blast.
At the end of the day, I simply could not justify spending any more time playing Eve Online. The more time I spent playing it, the more I realized how much I hated it. And that's the insidious part: it's hard to understand the negative aspects of the game until you've already sunk a lot of time into it.
Ouch! The interesting thing is that the review is so thoughtful, well-defended, and becoming so widely read (and widely tagged as helpful) that the author is having to re-edit the review every couple of weeks to add more explanations for his viewpoint:
Yes, Eve is mostly controlled by players, but they're no different from players that you could find in any other popular online game. The only difference is that Eve rewards them for their megalomania. 
In almost every other way, the human interaction is the same as in any other MMO. ... In Eve, there is just more opportunity and incentive to be a dick.
Double ouch! Guys... again: this is the stranger's viewpoint.

Then you read the comments. And while about two out of ten blast the author for what he wrote, six out of ten grudgingly admit the guy makes good points. The final two out of ten?
Thank you for taking the time to post an honest review of this game. I was really on the fence about weather or not I should purchase this game, especially since it's been out for so long and I would be a brand new player. The information you provided was more than enough to help me make the decision to stay out of this game.
I keep coming back to this point because I find it so depressing. Nobody wants to join our little sandbox and we're steadily driving off anyone who does. And as the old shampoo commercial put it, they tell five friends, and they tell five friends.

I realize that a lot of you out there really want to keep New Eden as your own private little club, no noobs allowed, go back to WoW, et cetera ad nauseam. But some of you must feel differently. If you want the game to succeed, how do you not worry about it? Are we so enamored of griefing people that we subconsciously want EVE to flame out and die so we can sit down with some popcorn and watch it happen? In my darkest moments, I feel like this is exactly it. There are lots of current and former EVE players that seem positively gleeful at the prospect of watching CCP implode spectacularly.

Meanwhile, the people we are attracting are either being sold a bill of goods that EVE can't deliver on (B-R) or are only joining to get involved in the grief-fest themselves.

And if you're developing EVE Online, how can you look at this kind of thing and not be worried by it? I'll grant you that Star Citizen is rapidly turning into a joke, but the devs of Elite: Dangerous are showing quiet, steady competence. What they've got out there so far looks intriguing as hell. And even if it's not E:D, some developer sooner or later is going to come up with a game that is going to depopulate wide swaths of our niche little galaxy. It's inevitable at this point. Wouldn't it be nice to have some new blood coming in to replace them?

Assuming that at least a few of you do want that, how do we make it happen? Is it even possible?

COTW: The sandbox

My post on the 24th looking back at the "Peace dec" has generated a huge discussion that's been really interesting to read. Thank you so much to everyone who has participated in that! I myself have been trying to stay out of the discussion because I find that when I get involved in such discussions directly, suddenly the discussion becomes about "Jester said X" as a thing unto itself... rather than what Jester said.(1) I'll have more to say about that specifically on Saturday.

But I can't resist pointing to two particular comments on that post that beautifully encapsulated an idea that's been kicking around my head since the whole Erotica 1 fiasco a couple of months ago. Speaking about the peace dec mechanic, one anonymous commenter said (edited slightly):
The peace dec IS PvP! - one group of players acting on another. It's just not the sort of PvP that you like.
And another(?) said (also edited slightly):
Peace Deccing actually is the ultimate PvP against PvP-minded players. It hits them right where it hurts - and completely non-consensually. Thus it fits perfectly within the ethos of EVE.
YES! Thank you! That's a really lovely way of putting it. And reading these two comments, it finally occurred to me what kind of sandbox EVE Online is. EVE isn't a PvP sandbox. It's a griefing sandbox.

Small-gang PvPers grief solo PvPers.
Big-gang PvPers grief small-gang PvPers.
PvP corps grief industrial and mission corps.
Big alliances grief small alliances.
Big coalitions grief big alliances.
Smart-ass forum posters grief serious forum posters.
Big "media sites" grief little "media sites".
Gankers grief solo players.
Big miners grief little miners.
Smart industrialists grief dumb industrialists.
Rich station traders grief poor station traders.
Bullies grief newbies and other ignorant players.
Scammers grief absolutely everybody.

And on and on and on and on and on, throughout any aspect of the game you care to name. EVE Online is a griefing sandbox. It's all PvP if you care to look at it that way. It's the only shared experience that every single one of us have.

(1) Examples: people saying that Jester must be seriously proposing peace decs even though I said twice I wasn't, or people saying that this is yet more proof that Jester hates non-consensual PvP even though I've said at least ten times this isn't true. Sometimes, I have no idea who this Jester person is that people talk about.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fit of the Week: Tormentor

For various reasons, I feel like doing a Tormentor FOTW this week. Frigates were my first PvP ship and from time to time, I like to return to them in various forms, whether T1, interceptors, or AFs. My first actual PvP kill was in a Merlin but looking back at my most recent Merlin fit, I still like that one. So this is a ship that I flew against Brave Collective pilots:

[Tormentor, Brave Tormentor]

Small Armor Repairer II
Heat Sink II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S

Small Processor Overclocking Unit I
Small Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Small Semiconductor Memory Cell I

Hobgoblin II x2

This is a really entertaining fit. It starts from the fact that Tormentors don't have much of a reputation: they don't seem scary to most people. Hell, I'd be willing to bet a lot of players can't name the Tormentor when they try to name the six Amarrian T1 frigs. It's a pretty easy to dismiss little boat.

Except this easy to dismiss boat can put 200+ DPS out with overheated guns out to scram and web range, and it's wickedly fast for an Amarr ship and therefore perfectly adequate to apply that web and scram. 2900m/s before heat, 4150m/s after heat. If I'm in this ship and I want to catch you, chances are I'm going to catch you. So that's the core of this ship: a really unassuming little family car that suddenly screams into range of you, settles in at a nice approach and starts doing way more DPS than it has any right to.

But that's just where the fun starts.

Unlike most ships that can pour out that level of DPS, the Tormentor can also tank a surprising amount with a dual-rep fit. As you dip into low shields, start with the SAR overheated and you'll rep about 1/6th of your armor every four seconds or so. Then as your armor dips to about half, pulse the Ancillary Armor Repper, also overheated. Each cycle of that will add about another 1/4 of your armor every four seconds. The Tormentor also has pretty good structure for a frigate so you'll find yourself dipping into low armor, jumping back up to nearly full, dipping back to low armor, jumping back to full.

It's tremendously frustrating to whomever you're fighting, even as you're rapidly murdering them with your DPS.

Dive in, get tackle on a frigate, kill it and then -- and this is the important part! -- burn off on overheated MWD, get some range and rep back up. That's where the double Semiconductor rigs come into play. Shut down your AAR, reload it if you need to, and rely on the SAR to get you back to full armor. 30 seconds later, it will have done the job, you can be upwards of 100km off if you want and your cap will rapidly be back up to full and you can start in on round two whenever you like.

Brave liked to run frigate free-for-alls at the sun in Barleguet and I loved bringing this little boat out there. I could dip in wolf-like, kill one of the sickly little cripple ships not with the main group, kill the first ship that came in to try to help (usually a Condor which fell rapidly to my laser damage), then burn away, do a 50km orbit in whatever direction I liked in 20 or 30 seconds, then dive back in on another isolated ship. Rinse, repeat. It was an incredible amount of fun. But I always stayed on grid until the ship died 'cause why not? It's just a frigate.

You can replace one of the Semiconductors with an armor rig of some sort, but I do not: they slow you down. For me, the biggest strength of this ship is its ability to zip in and out of combat and choose its fights in a busy frigate brawl.

The ship is vulnerable to being blobbed, so be careful of that. And it responds very nicely to both Drop and Mindflood boosters, though you can just use Synth on each. Be careful when you've got something tackled to get off your MWD; you can outrun your gun's tracking very easily in this little boat. It's probably the most common mistake people make with laser-armed ships.

Against cruiser-size targets, change out for Conflag and do a pretty tight orbit off MWD. If you are attacked by drones, particularly Warriors, immediately take your web off the target, apply it to the closest drone and use Multifreq and your own Hobs to peel it off you. Then repeat that until the drones are cleared. Warriors are the weakness of this boat. If you get into trouble, open range in a wide fast spiral. The Warriors will try to come directly at you, tracing a more jagged course which usually allows you to outrun most of them as you pick them off one by one. In addition to Conflag and MF, carry Scorch as well. You can use it occasionally on approach or evasion.

Other than that, the little Tormentor is surprisingly hard to kill and lives up to its name nicely!

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.  

Swing and a miss

The latest blog banter is out, and the question is... well, let's state the question first:
The common wisdom in EVE Online is that, beyond the odd high-value moon or Faction Warfare scam, there's little in low sec or NPC null sec to the attract ongoing attention of the big-dogs of null sec, with their large fleets and super cap doctrines. It's assumed that NPC space simply isn't worth the bother of controlling even if one could control it.

Is this about to change?

The shift in industrial inefficiencies from high sec to NPC low sec/null sec has begun, adding value to NPC space outside of high sec. In the recent B0TLRD accords CFC claimed two NPC null sec regions, Venal and Syndicate, as part of the CFC sphere of influence.

What is the future of low sec and NPC null sec as the economic center of gravity shifts from high sec toward null sec?
The first rule of blog banters is that shorter questions are better than longer ones. The second rule of blog banters is that philosophical questions are better than practical ones. This question is both long and practical and as a result in my opinion is one of the less interesting blog banters in quite a while. But you go to war with the army you have, et cetera et cetera. ;-) So let's deal with what we have.

That said, my answer to this one is going to be fairly short: I expect the summer's industry changes to have very little impact on NPC null-sec and no impact or a generally slightly negative impact on low-sec industry.

Low-sec first: even with the changes to jump fuel prices and use for jump freighters, it's still going to be far easier to stock low-sec markets from high-sec than try to build up a native industry in low-sec. There are, by and large, not enough people living in low-sec to support a low-sec cottage industry. These days, things are built in low-sec because they have to be (capital ships), not because the builder has any particular desire to do so.

CCP can (and might) change this dynamic slightly with lower production costs in low-sec. That said, even the increased production costs are not going to be that costly. In a game of risk averse players, industry players are some of the most risk averse of all. They're not going to move blueprints, materials, and a logistics chain into low-sec unless there's an overwhelming advantage to them to do so. I may have missed it, but I haven't seen such an overwhelming advantage.

This very same answer carries over to NPC null-sec, and for the same reasons, only magnified by about three.

Kirith gently raises the specter of null-sec blocs taking control of NPC null for the purpose of turning the regions into manufacturing power-houses. I could be wrong (and if I am, we'll know by Christmas) but I just can't see it. Yes, I continue to think that null-sec manufacturing is going to take over in some niche manufacturing areas. But I also think the bulk of those niche areas are going to be for the blocs to supply their own needs, whether consciously or unconsciously. A lot of the isotopes being used to move stuff around null is being used to bring in ships, ammo, rigs, specific modules, et cetera.

But that fuel is being used to bring them to home stations. Unless a null-sec bloc is going to live in a NPC null station for an extended period of time, there just isn't much percentage in building stuff in Syndicate only to have to ship it to Delve or Deklein. There will likely be enough native manufacturing capability for these niche markets and if there isn't, a few more stations will go up to ensure that there is.

But Kirith specifically implies that "the economic center of gravity" is going to "shift from high sec toward null sec". While this is technically true -- even a few percent would be a "shift" -- I don't see it becoming a major factor.

So... yeah. Swing and a miss on this one. I hope the next blog banter question is more philosophical!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is tournament play EVE?

It's funny that I've never thought to write a blog post about this. I'm one of the few EVE bloggers that even covers tournament play. And I tend to write about "big picture" issues when I can. So why not cover this big picture question about tournaments? So here goes.

Disinterest about tournament play in EVE takes many forms. Most commonly, this is associated with simple apathy or lack of interest in the topic. Many EVE players aren't PvPers or don't have much interest in EVE PvP and as a result they do not watch EVE tournament play that focuses on PvP. After apathy or disinterest usually comes lack of knowledge of tournament play and/or an inability or unwillingness to commit the time needed to watch and learn about it. But all of these reasons associated with disinterest are pretty passive, all in all.

That said, from time to time, I run into EVE players that are actively disinterested or actively against tournament play in EVE. And these objections usually come in two forms:
  1. Tournaments are "not EVE" because EVE should not include fair, pre-scheduled battles with "rules."
  2. Tournaments are against the spirit of EVE because CCP violates the sandbox by running them.
So let's look at each in turn.

For the first, I think it will be fun to drag in a little history to explain my perspective.

I'm an American, and patriotic. That means from time to time I enjoy pointing at activities that Americans are good at. ;-) One of the things that America is good at that bears on this conversation is war. My country was founded in war and has involved itself in a major war every 15 years or so of its existence. One of the innovations that America has brought to this field is the concept of the full-size military exercise between two powers, usually referred to as "war games."

Military exercises and military simulations have been a part of war since the Napoleonic era. Prussia and their innovation of the career General Staff is generally credited with creating the first modern military simulations and exercises. They were playing war-games in the early 1800s, and military exercises quickly followed in every major country thereafter. This later expanded to the creation and use of "war plans." These were, quite frankly, plans that could be put into place at a moment's notice were it necessary to invade or conquer a neighbor and were updated frequently based on simulations carried out in the "war colleges" of various countries. America had a whole series of these built around the same time.

For instance, the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) conducted military simulations which culminated in various war plans developed prior to and used in World War II. Prior to that war, the U.S. had held a number of NWC simulations fighting the Pacific war or aspects thereof with "blue" (the U.S.) fighting against "orange" (the Japanese)... and usually losing. These were large table-top exercises with two sides, dice to introduce random chance (usually referred to as "friction"), and umpires to judge results. The simulations were remarkably accurate and correctly predicted a lot of the challenges the U.S. would face in WWII and as a result, war plans were made to address these challenges.

In a few cases, the models were so accurate that their information was -- amusingly enough -- not believed. Persistent rumor surrounds a NWC exercise one year that simulated what for all intents and purposes was the Battle of Midway, years before it took place. In the exercise, "blue" carriers managed a series of lucky circumstances that resulted in heavy damage to and sinking of "orange" aircraft carriers. Rumor has it (the exercises were classified) that the umpires judged this result unlikely and one or more of the "sunk" aircraft carriers were "resurrected" and allowed to fight on. Except that when the real Battle of Midway was fought, luck did indeed play a major role!

But these cases did show the dice as a means of introducing less-than-ideal circumstances into the simulation -- weather, morale, supply problems, communication problems, et cetera -- were themselves often less-than-ideal.

So the innovation America brought to the table was reducing the roles of dice and umpires... and running military simulations with real military troops and hardware, often as full scale military exercises with one group of soldiers facing off against other in simulated warfare. This started en masse during World War II and by the post-war years had developed into a number of large scale joint exercises between the U.S. and allied nations. The most famous of these periodic exercises are probably RIMPAC, held every other year in the waters off Hawaii.

To use one example: one of the jobs of escort destroyers around U.S. carriers is to prevent a missile-carrying ship or boat from penetrating the screen and getting line-of-sight on the carrier to launch a missile. One RIMPAC exercise centers on destroyer captains actually using their ships to simulate this play of attack and defense. An allied destroyer or smaller ship "plays" a missile-firing ship. A U.S. destroyer tries to block. Sure, an umpire can decide whether a red missile is successfully launched against a blue carrier in a smoky room on a sand table somewhere. Dice can decide whether a theoretical destroyer does the job. But isn't it more fun and worthwhile for everyone involved to see if the actual destroyer captains involved can actually carry out these missions under simulated wartime conditions with the actual hardware and crews?

Anyway, I think you can see where I'm going with all this: if tournament play didn't exist in EVE, it would be necessary to invent it... and someone would. ;-) There's nothing wrong with simulated military exercises taking place in the sandbox.

Which brings me to the second objection, that tournament play involves CCP violating the sandbox. And here we're on somewhat shakier ground, I must admit. I myself have been known to complain about this aspect of the tournament. For instance, the introduction of prizes impacts the sandbox. For the AT in particular, there are only two winning teams, often out of dozens of competing teams. Given EVE player's tendency to balance investment, risk, and reward, this has created a situation where it is in the best interests of EVE players to join winning teams rather than to try to create winning teams themselves. That, combined with the scarcity of the prizes and the increasing influence of ISK on the process, has resulted in those winnings being concentrated on a small number of teams.

This raises various types of conscientious objectors to CCP's involvement in tournament play:
  • purists who feel that CCP shouldn't be involved at all in the internal workings of the sandbox;(1)
  • people who are concerned that CCP's marketing of tournament play sells a game that isn't EVE to new players; and,
  • people who like tournaments but are concerned about smaller impacts, like distribution of prize ships and movement of players or corps to tournament success teams.
Now the first one I have to admit I don't have much sympathy toward. New Eden has never and will never be any sort of "pure" sandbox. Controls and inputs exist all along its outer edge and this is just one. But the other two do deserve scrutiny.

The idea that tournaments and CCP's marketing of tournaments sells a game that has no relation to EVE is a valid concern. Various people including myself have been raising the idea of "arena EVE" for years and years; I don't think it will ever happen. Unironically marketing EVE to tournament viewers is something CCP Soundwave did seamlessly but I noted with interest that CCP Bro only brought up the subject once during the second New Eden Open. And this topic came up in spades at the eSports Round Table at Fanfest. You could try to start playing EVE with the intent of being a tournament player... but the lack of guideposts will soon frustrate you. The overall argument is that since tournaments don't exist by and large inside New Eden, CCP is doing itself a disservice by marketing them "as EVE" or vice versa.

The third point is a lot more fluid, subtle, and harder to argue, but there's no question that every tournament has an impact on the sandbox, with players and corps changing hands, as well as billions of ISK in PLEXes and tournament ships. The ultimate argument here is that changes to the sandbox are happening because of CCP-initiated actions instead of player-initiated ones. That drives the argument back to the central core: does CCP have the right to interfere in how the sandbox operates? Again, there's no such thing as a pure sandbox, but where are the borders when it comes to this issue?

Start arguing too strenuously that CCP has the right to play in their own sandbox and pretty soon you have to contend with the specter of favoritism. I've been slightly concerned about that once or twice myself when it came to CCP devs...

All that said, I don't consider myself a sandbox "purist" and while I've been concerned with the more minor issues tournament play has on player movement within the game, I'm not sure these objections qualify as major issues sufficient to stop tournament play. So overall, I haven't shared the concern that CCP is somehow violating the sandbox by running tournaments.

What say you, Dear Readers? Is tournament play EVE? Does it violate the sandbox?

(1) This group also objects to CCP giving prize ships to community fan sites, CCP dev roams, and usually to live events as well. See this quite good article from Brendan Drain.

Monday, May 26, 2014

How PvE should work in EVE Online

This is a little idea that I've been kicking around for a couple of months now.(1) It's not a full proposal. It is, in fact, just the skeleton of an idea that would need a lot of muscle, sinew, and flesh wrapped around it. Still, I think it's a pretty good skeleton. It would fit within the framework of EVE Online, would be much more balanced than what exists now, and would encourage EVE players toward group PvE instead of the solo PvE which dominates so much of this game.

And it starts with a pretty basic three-part premise surrounding real life pirates:
  1. Pirates, by their very definition, attack shipping.
  2. Pirates hang out where there is profit to be made.
  3. If a fight is going against them, pirates will leave.
And yet in EVE, none of the three of these things happen: pirates are just dispersed randomly in locations scattered far away from other ships... and they wait for players to attack them. They make no attempt to profit by their attacks, nor does the game even try to present an illusion that they do. And pirates will hang out on a grid even when up against completely overwhelming odds.(2)

Think about this for even five seconds and I think you'll agree that none of this makes a lick of sense.

What we have in EVE are stupidly reactive pirates: they hang out in random locations and wait for players to show up. Then they line up to die. Further, the way pirate locations are structured, it not only encourages players to attack the sites solo, PvE in EVE actively discourages them from partnering up with other players. Since the bounties are fixed and split between players involved, players will (if at all possible) bring whatever ship type is necessary to defeat them either completely solo, or with only themselves and their alts involved. It is pretty rare PvE in EVE that actually encourages or rewards group play.

What needs to be done with PvE in EVE is to turn the dynamic completely around. Instead of pirates waiting patiently for the player to come in and kill them, pirates in EVE need to react to and be spawned by what players do.

So here's the skeleton of the idea:
  1. Cut the existing null- and low-sec warpable sites by something like 75%. For those that remain, keep a variety. These are pirate strongholds and such.
  2. Any time there is a ship in space not in warp, that ship has a chance to spawn an attack by pirate ships.
  3. If that ship is an industrial or mining ship, that chance is very significantly increased.
  4. The longer the group of ships remain in the same place, the higher the chance of an attack; and,
  5. ...if the ships remain in the same grid for long enough, that will create a chance for an even stronger attack.
  6. There will be different types of pirate ship spawns for different groups of player ships on a grid.
  7. A given pirate attack will be "sufficient" to destroy the player ships that cause it to spawn; but,
  8. ...there will be an upper limit of the numbers and types of pirates that will appear in a spawn.
  9. If the first wave of pirates is destroyed, a second stronger wave will spawn, and then a third.
  10. Spawns will rarely or never attack grids with capital ships on them because what pirate wants that trouble? But if they do spawn on such ships, the spawn will be impressively large.
  11. And finally and most importantly, if pirates feel they are being overwhelmed by numbers, they will all immediately warp off and the spawn ends.
That's it. And the same rules apply to the pirate strongholds. There will be a range limit of the number of ships that it is "expected" will warp into the strongholds, depending on level. If it is too low, every pirate ship on grid will immediately aggress, driving the invaders off. If it is too high, the "stronghold" will self-destruct and the pirates will warp off.

This skeleton comes with a corollary: there will be some number of ships -- probably something like 50 or so -- that, if on grid all at once, will never cause a pirate spawn and will immediately cause any group of spawned pirates to warp off. Because what pirate in his right mind wants to deal with so many heavily armed ships?

So let's put this in context:
  • One player ship warps to an asteroid belt. This randomly kicks off a pirate spawn. So two rats warp in, then two more warp in, then three more warp in, and then rats stop coming and the spawn ends.
  • One player ship warps to an asteroid belt. This randomly kicks off a pirate spawn. So two rats warp in. The player tanks them for a bit and calls in the three buddies who were scouting other asteroid belts in the same system. These three additional player ships warp in which causes the spawn to escalate and six more pirate ships to warp in. Then after the first eight rats are destroyed, 12 more warp in, then 16 more warp in, and then rats stop coming and the spawn ends.
  • Fifteen player ships warp to a mining site, including mining ships and haulers. A half-hour later, this kicks off a pirate spawn. So 20 rats warp in, then after these are destroyed 35 more warp in, then 50 more warp in, and then rats stop coming and the spawn ends.
  • Somewhere else, fifteen player ships warp to a mining site, including mining ships and haulers. A half-hour later, this kicks off a pirate spawn. So 20 rats warp in. The players panic and call for help and 30 more player ships warp in. So 40 more pirate ships warp in on top of the 20 already on grid. Then 70 more warp in, then 80 more warp in, and then rats stop coming and the spawn ends.
  • Somewhere else, fifteen player ships warp to a mining site, including mining ships and haulers. A half-hour later, this kicks off a pirate spawn. So 20 rats warp in. The players panic and call for help and 40 more player ships warp in. So all the rats warp off and the spawn ends.
In each case, assume that the pirate spawn is "sufficient" to destroy the player ships, so if one player cruiser warps to a belt and spawns an attack, the attack will come from a cruiser and a BC, say. This will encourage players to include logi and e-war in their PvE groups. And instead of null-sec upgrades just creating more and more warpable sites, the upgrades will instead increase the chances that a large group of player ships will spawn a large attack.

And again, that's it. That's the skeleton of the proposal. It would require a lot of work to develop into a working PvE system. But it would make a hell of a lot more sense than what EVE has now... and it would turn PvE in EVE into a group activity instead of an exercise in solo AFKtars.

Anyone see any obvious holes in the idea?

(1) Yes, this idea was partially catalyzed by looking at the problems with Elder Scrolls group PvE.
(2) Except in very specific circumstances that -- ironically -- EVE players control.

An MMO for loners

I'll start this post with a tl;dr: with a great deal of regret, I am moving Elder Scrolls Online from the list of "Current MMOs" to "Departed MMOs."

Unsurprisingly, the flood of serious launch bugs are the catalyst for this decision. However, the launch bugs are really only incidental. I've said this a time or two before about other games but for no game does it apply better than ESO: the game's minor bugs hide major design catastrophes. I believe in due course the relatively minor bugs that have plagued and continue to plague the game will be fixed -- many reviews state (accurately) that it feels like the current players of ESO are no more than beta testers for an untested game. Each patch closes more and more of them and the rate of patches are accelerating as Zenimax has time to focus on them. Even the most recent bug that I mentioned the other day will almost certainly soon be fixed.

But it does reflect an overly-casual attitude over at Zenimax. They're supposedly in the forefront of building an A-list MMO suitable for millions of people to subscribe to it... but they can't prevent issues this silly and preventable? This is not a good sign for the future.

Even if this were not the problem, though, the design issues will be a bit tougher to fix and I think will in due course doom the game to the free-to-play also-ran list that includes Star Wars The Old Republic, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Aion, Conan, Star Trek Online, Everquest 2, and Perpetuum Online.

That said, ironically I think ESO will be quite successful in that space because there is a lot of content to the game. In addition, the PvP is actually quite good and will lend itself well to a pay-to-skip-grinding framework. Zenimax seems able and willing to push both of these aspects of the game. For the first, given that Elder Scrolls games have always been single-player sandbox content-driven games, that's actually turning to be kind of appropriate... I just don't feel the need to subject myself to it. As for the latter, while PvP in the game is quite good, I'm discovering there are other games I can get PvP that's just as good and not have to pay $15/month for it.

Another aggravating element of ESO design...

I talked about my concerns with the design of ESO group play about ten days ago and for the most part, these concerns continue to hold true. And I respect that Zenimax is aware of them and is trying to deal with them. For instance, the 1.1.2 patch of the game includes instanced treasure chests in dungeons so that rewards are spread a bit more equitably among the players involved. That's a step in the right direction. But so many of the design elements in the game reward you for avoiding other players that it's becoming clear to me that:
  1. the designers didn't think this through; and,
  2. there's not going to be any simple way of fixing it.
That's a bad position for this game to be in.

Mabrick -- who is struggling with his own decision whether to subscribe to ESO -- pointed over to this quite good article at PC & Tech Authority by another writer also confronting the same issue. And that writer came up with a near-perfect descriptive phrase for ESO: it's an "MMO for loners", he says. And the more I think about it, the more accurate I find this description. As I mentioned in my own piece on the matter, if you like exploration, ESO is a terrific game. And if you play it at the right times, you can avoid the bulk of other players or use them to your own benefit to punch through the baddies in the more difficult dungeons for you. But most of the time in the PvE, you'll find the most pleasure from playing the game solo.

Which kind of begs the question of why ESO is a MMO at all, except to pull down those sweet sweet monthly subscription checks. How the hell does a MMO that seems disdainful of the social element of gaming succeed? I'm really not all that interested in an MMO that seems custom-designed to be played as a subscription solo game. I can find all sorts of excellent gaming experiences that don't come with the continuing drain on my wallet.

Anyway, this is a pretty long post for a pretty short conclusion. I just find myself incredibly disappointed by the state of affairs. As all of you know I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. And while I do feel like it avoids the mistake of being another World of Warcraft clone, it makes all new mistakes that are unique to itself and that should have been avoided. There's nothing saying this decision is permanent: perhaps Zenimax will find some way to address the worst flaws of the game and draw me back in (because Heaven knows I love this IP). But for now, I'm going to look for someplace else to spend my money.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Recycling day: Peace dec

My very occasional "recycling day" posts usually point back to past things that I've written that still have relevance in the present. This time, I want to point back (with permission) to a past post written by someone else, in this case CSM8 and 9 member Mike Azariah. At Fanfest this year, he told me a funny and intriguing story about this post, which described something he called a "peace dec".

Now the purpose to Mike's original post and this somewhat longer post describing and expanding on his idea is not not not to make a proposal regarding EVE Online. It is simply to attempt to get you to look at the game in a new way. That was Mike's idea, and it was a really good one. I'd just like to give this idea wider exposure.

EVE players that describe the game as a "PvP sandbox" are flat wrong, and are wrong in a specific way that betrays a basic lack of understanding of the sandbox mechanic. But this phrase and the belief that goes with it are relatively widespread among the player base. And it's usually the most widespread among players that want to enforce their ideas of "how people should play EVE" on others. So the peace dec turns the perceptions of these players on their head to comic effect. Here's how it works.

In the existing war dec mechanic, one corp may declare war on another. In the vast majority of cases, the war dec mechanic is used so that a PvP-based corp may freely attack the ships of a PvE, manufacturing, mining, or industry corp in high-sec. The peace dec mechanic works the same way, except in reverse: a PvE, manufacturing, mining, or industry corp "declares peace" on a PvP corp or alliance. While the peace dec is in place, the alliance or corp under its influence may not preemptively attack another ship. Those under a peace dec may defend themselves against attackers, but that is all.

Not only are they perpetually under a "green safety", but in high-sec their aggressive mods simply would not operate at all unless they were shooting at a ship that had already attacked them, their corp, or their alliance. Mike refers to this state as an "ultra-green" safety. This restriction would follow peace dec'ed ships into low-sec. Only in null would the peace dec be without effect, just as war decs are also more or less meaningless in null.

Just as a war dec can only be lifted by the surrender or agreement of the corp or alliance on which it is used, a peace dec could only be lifted in the same way. As long as the "peace dec'ing" corp wanted the restriction to remain in place and was willing to pay for it to do so, it would remain in place. Instead of tracking comparative kills between the parties affected, the tool would track missions completed, rats killed, industry jobs completed, and minerals mined. Perhaps if this were a serious proposal -- which I am again quick to say it is not -- if the peace-dec'ed corp or alliance exceeded the PvE totals of the corp or alliance placing the peace dec on them could they again preemptively attack other players.

So that's the gist of the peace dec idea: while under a peace dec, your corp or alliance may not be aggressive toward other EVE players. You may only shoot at players who shoot at you first.

In short, the peace dec forcibly limits how you are "allowed" to play EVE Online to a specific way... a specific way that you yourself might reject, find un-fun or uninteresting, and that might cause you to leave your corp or alliance to escape the effects of, or cause you to log out of the game for days or weeks at a time hoping for it to be over when you return. And the peace dec may be kept on your corp or alliance in perpetuity if the evil bastards that place it on you have enough money or want to grief you hard enough to do it.

We're pretty far down the rabbit hole at this point... but this is how a war dec feels to some EVE Online players. They're not allowed to play a game they find fun with their friends... and they can be prevented from doing so in perpetuity by other EVE players.

Kind of an interesting way to look at war decs, isn't it? Thanks to Mike Azariah for sharing this idea with me!

This is why we test

Sigh. I'm getting rather tired of reporting massive Zenimax Online screw-ups, so I'll make this one fairly quick.

Today, Zenimax released version 1.1.2 of ESO, a patch that should have been absolutely nothing but good news for players. The patch includes dozens and dozens of fixes for ESO's most annoying issues. It also includes lots of upgrades to ESO's "veteran" level content, a new 4-person veteran dungeon, a new "trial" challenge for 12-person groups, nice upgrades and fixes to PvP, and lots and lots of other stuff. Combined with Zenimax's increasingly successful war on bots within the game -- in one session this week, I only saw one group of bots in four hours -- ESO should have been able to go into the busy Memorial Day gaming weekend in the U.S. in triumph.

Except for the fact that they also screwed up royally.

Not only is the patch a 25GB monster, but once that monster download is complete, many players are reporting that the in-game quest achievement system and tracking system for all the in-game's quests has a display bug. In short: you're no longer able to see what in-game quests you have completed. In any zone. Whether you have finished that zone or not. The devs insist that the bug is a display bug and the achievements are not lost. But if you're playing the game to quest, the game is essentially rendered unplayable for existing characters as they fight with blank quest journals.

Face. Palm.

Oh, but it gets better.

After a day of increasingly panicked devs in the forum thread on this disaster replying to player questions, they finally reluctantly revealed that they cannot back out this patch to fix the bug. Some players are reporting they are being told that repairing this problem is likely to take "at least two weeks." Whoops!

Anyway, expect this to break in the gaming press today. That's after Zenimax did a really big marketing push this week to promote this patch to the very same gaming press. Needless to say, a lot of players aren't happy and the business-killing R-word has started to appear in the various ESO fora... Sounds like it's time for another Zenimax apology. On a day that was supposed to be a triumph.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bonus QOTW: The Source

It's been a week for quotables, hasn't it? Here's The Mittani in his latest Goonswarm CEO Update...
We recently saw that PL is willing to side with even their hated enemies in BL to wound us - as they did in Daras, by abusing our endearingly naive trust. Our treaties hold for now, but we should have no illusions about their ultimate desires. We have suffered essentially continuous attack since our inception...
*cough* *sputter* Wait... what? What did you say?
We have suffered essentially continuous attack since our inception
That's what I thought you said.

Don't mind me. I'll just be over here being just a tiny bit smug.

The five paragraph essay

I'm reluctant to write this sort of piece. When I write responses to other poeple's writing, I am more or less constantly accused of "starting a feud" with that writer. Hell, at this point, I seem to have "had feuds" with every writer covering EVE from DNSBLACK to Mord Fiddle to Xander Phoena and everyone in between. And this is both a silly accusation and not particularly true, for two reasons:
  1. If I write a response to a given writer's piece, I fundamentally respect that writer; and,
  2. I generally have friendly relations with the writers I respond to and I don't make a continuing big deal about my issues with their writing. "Feuds" by definition are on-going.
When is the last time you saw me write a response to James315, for instance? If I were going to have a feud with someone, presumably I'd go on and on about him. He certainly goes on and on about me!

No, from time to time, I read a single piece at a place where I usually enjoy reading their pieces... and that single piece strikes me as a little silly. It then seems right to me not to let that single piece pass without at least commenting on it. Such back-and-forth responses and counter-responses have been a center-piece of opinion-based writing for hundreds of years... and you guys know what a fan of history I am. ;-) So at the danger of starting a feud with yet another EVE writer, I'm going to do it again.

In writing, there is the concept of the logical chain. This is most commonly used in the standard "five paragraph essay" that U.S. middle school students are taught (to their horrors). The idea behind such an essay is that you open with a paragraph stating three major points you're going to write about in a thesis statement. Then for three paragraphs, you cover the points in your introduction usually in one point per paragraph. Then you conclude with a final paragraph stating that you've proven your thesis and why.

With this in mind, go read this five paragraph essay from Forlorn Wongraven of Pandemic Legion on Xander's Crossing Zebras. Read the whole thing. It won't take long.

Ready? Let's deconstruct this piece a bit.

Forlorn starts with a rather startling thesis statement with five points:
  1. Providence is newbie-friendly and NRDS. Stations in Provi are open stations freely dockable by anyone.
  2. CVA and other Provi holders offer bloc-wide fleets and doctrines;
  3. Providence provides lots of stations with easy access to ratting and mining;
  4. "The region has no valuable moon such and as such is inattractive for a sov attack."; and,
  5. alliances in Provi do not have a "decent SRP."
Then he starkly states as his thesis statement "[This] is all a lie"! So, interesting thesis statement, right? Let's see if he follows it up.
  • In para two, Forlorn departs from the standard format to briefly state that PL is on deployment to Providence and what that means -- he adds that PL "shys away from using capitals";
  • in para three, he states "Providence is as rich as any other region as far as moon goo is concerned." with some rather spurious backup, then implies that this moon goo is going toward lining the pockets of individuals, corps, and alliances rather than a ship replacement program;
  • in para four, he complains that PL is being unfairly maligned for their conduct, then with no sense of irony at all maligns Provi residents for theirs; then,
  • in his concluding para, he states "the reason why Providence still exists is that almost every entity uses this region to entertain their pilots since alliances there will often only field cheap T1 fleet doctrines but you can catch the 2b ISK Marauder or the unscouted Freighter." He goes on to say that one day, former residents of Providence will return their to destroy CVA utterly and after that, "decent newbie friendly alliances will find a place there."
OK. There's a lot going on in this piece. Let's deconstruct it a little.

Let's start with full disclosure. Forlorn Wongraven was previously in Ushra'Khan, apparently fairly highly placed among them. For the learned among you, take a moment to laugh then move on to the next paragraph. For the rest, Ushra'Khan was a Minmatar role-play alliance. I won't belabor the details but you can rest assured that a former U'K pilot is going to be nothing but hostile to CVA. When Forlorn talks of fueling towers in Provi in 2010, that's who he was doing it for. Presumably, Forlorn only has a problem with some "decent newbie friendly alliances."

Now, the basics. Forlorn raises five points, then states the five are "all a lie." Does he prove his thesis statement? Flatly, no.
  1. Providence is newbe-friendly and NRDS. Stations in Provi are open stations. Forlorn says almost nothing against this, except for an implication that Provi residents overcharge in their markets.
  2. CVA does provide bloc-wide fleets and doctrines. He says nothing against this... he just implies he doesn't like what those doctrines are.
  3. Providence does provide lots of stations with easy access to ratting and mining. Can't tell you the number of Ventures, mining barges, and ratting ships Rote Kapelle guys have had to let go in Provi. That hurts, man. ;-)
  4. I'll get back to his statements about moon-goo and whether the region is unattractive for sov attack because of it.
  5. And I can assure you that alliances in Provi indeed do not have a "decent SRP." Only a small handful of ship classes are replaced, and only in CTA fleets.
So out of the five points in his thesis statement, at least four of them are in fact not lies. Yes, Provi residents do overcharge each other in their markets but I have yet to live in a region in EVE where this is not the case. Further, he fails to spot the irony in his statement that "[Provi] alliances are looking down at each other and always point out what others are doing wrong." Again, point me at a location in New Eden where this is not the case.

For the final point, some background is in order. Right now, Providence is the hottest location in New Eden. PL aren't the only ones deployed here or fighting here. Provi residents have their pick of targets from PL, N3, the CFC, HERO, and a dozen smaller corps and alliances, every single day. And unlike several of these, Provi residents are free to shoot at any or all of them. We can pick our battles on a daily basis and engage who we choose to engage, ignoring the rest... or ignoring everyone if we so choose. That's the benefit of playing defense. It probably won't surprise you that CVA and allied pilots are pretty routinely racking up sufficient kills to put them on weekly top killer lists on the EVE kill boards that track such things.

So from among our choices, is PL the best choice to fight? Sadly, no.

In American-style baseball, a backstop is used with school-age teams; its intent is to prevent a single wild pitch from turning a game into a rout. In Pandemic Legion, their capital and super-capital fleets exist in Providence as a backstop to prevent them from losing battles. Forlorn might claim that they are "shying away" from using capitals but in six major timer battles so far in their deployment, they have used massed carriers in one and super-capitals in another. Against Provi residents more routinely, they use massed bombers and large Vulture fleets.

Again, Provi residents have the option of fighting whomever we choose. N3 has been reinforcing Provi assets but come into the timers with engageable fleets.(1) Where we engage them in a big fight or two, they have shown a willingness to take down their SBUs and even help us rep structures. Brave Newbies and other HERO Coaliton members have been everywhere in Provi and have been fun to fly against. CFC member alliances have been bringing small "no fucks given" fleets into the region. Smaller alliances have been coming in with fun little fleets to fight. Provi residents can fight whomever among these we wish. If you could choose, which of these would you fight? One of these others, or PL with their massed bombers and backstopping capital ships?

I thought so. Us too.

As for whether Providence is unattractive for sov attack, even by conservative estimates, Pandemic Legion alone has between ten and twenty times the mass of capitals and super-capitals of Providence residents. The other blocs fighting in Provi have even more. Provi residents have absolutely no illusions about our ability to hold sov in the face of a real invasion. I think the vast bulk of us recognize that CVA and the other holders hold that sov only at the pleasure of the big boys on the block. If they chose to close down this little NRDS experiment, they could do it without breaking a sweat.

When it looked for all the world like N3 was going to try to head-shot CVA, we immediately pulled our main staging system out of Provi and put it in low-sec. Our assumption at the time was that N3 did indeed intend to fold the Providence region into their rental empire. As accurately reported in both EN24 and TMC, PL took exception to this. Forlorn doesn't have a word to say about that, though.

Finally, I find it ironic in the extreme that a PL member would complain that moon-goo might be going into the hands of individual pilots, when PL is proudly, defiantly famous for doing exactly this. I can tell you from experience that if there were large number of moons worth anything at all in Providence, the big boys would take them. Mittens -- who is obviously in a position to know about such things -- is openly dismissive of Providence. I don't doubt that a few moons are in CVA member hands and it's even possible that a corp or individual here and there is profiting by this.

But the amounts are paltry and certainly not sufficient to fund any kind of large SRP. In a single recent battle of the six referenced above, Provi residents lost eight billion ISK. I assure you that is a significant fraction of CVA's total SRP budget. It wouldn't take many such battles would bankrupt it. And that's with CVA using inexpensive ships.

All in all, Forlorn's piece comes off as an angry screed that he can't understand why Provi is fielding Ruptures... and that we should definitely start fielding battleships or something even more expensive against PL bombers, Vultures, capitals, and super-capitals. In particular, we should apparently definitely do this instead of taking on fleets belonging to other organizations where we have a fighting chance of actually winning a battle here or there. To that screed is attached a vendetta against CVA springing from his own personal history.

The overall piece is the product of sloppy thinking and sloppy writing. In an American middle school, Forlorn's five paragraph essay would likely have trouble scoring a "D".

(1) They immediately primary FCs, though, which is counter-productive if they want fights with us. They've been slowly learning not to do this.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fit of the Week: Arty Rupture

I've been kind of looking through the first 50 or so FOTWs I ever did, concentrating on ones that might need a refresh. After all, most of those are from 2011 and there's been a lot of ship balancing done since then! In addition, increasingly, those old fits are going to have old modules on them where the names don't exist any more or aren't going to take advantage of new modules that have been added to the game.

In that tradition and in honor of a ship and doctrine I mentioned in my Hangar posts this week...

[Rupture, Skirmish Arty]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Tracking Enhancer II

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

720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Tremor M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Tremor M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Tremor M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Tremor M
Drone Link Augmentor II

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Warrior II x5
Warrior II x1

As I said, I prefer brawly cruisers but there's certainly something to be said for a longer-range fit. When I started this blog, skirmish tactics were the domain of battle cruisers. Cruisers fought against these tactics by getting in close to their larger brethren, applying scrams, and maximizing transversal. Increasingly though these days, it's the cruisers that are wanting to skirmish and the BCs that want to get in close (if only to avoid getting bombed). The only constant in EVE is change and all that.

So, this or modifications thereof is becoming the preferred fit for an arty Rupture. Let's look this ship from the standpoint of ship fitting theory.

As I mentioned in my Basic Ship Fitting Theory Guide (note to self: you're off the CSM now; finish more guides!), the most successful way to theory-craft a ship fitting is to start from engagement range, then role, then tank. This ship is firmly in the skirmish range, which starts at around 27km and goes to about 70km. The role is DPS, the tank is shield. As a result, you fit from the guns down rather than from the tank up. That means fitting 720 artillery and then figuring out what you need to do to make those big guns fit.

Each takes 223 grid with max skills and your required MWD for skirmishing takes another 150. That puts you at 1042 grid (out of 1075) and you don't have a tank yet. When that happens, you have to start thinking either RCU or Ancillary rig. Eight times out of ten, the Ancillary rig is the right call and so it is here. That gives you the grid you need to fit an LSE (T2 with max skills, otherwise meta4). Then at that point you fill everything else in around that.

Arty ships rely on alpha which means saving your low slots for Gyros and TEs. Start by maxing Gyros out at three. That gives you an alpha of about 1500 damage per ship with Tremor ammo to 60km, and 2600 per ship with high damage ammo to 17km. 720 arty on this ship has 26km fall-off regardless of ammo but you generally want to try to fight in around mid fall-off, so your combat ranges are 30km and 73km. You can get slightly more DPS out of Quake ammo at 8.3km+26km, or around 21km combat range. This ammo is pretty good for structure shoots like POCOs. So the ammos you want to carry are Tremor, EMP, Phased Plasma, a little bit of Fusion and a little bit of Quake.

"Gyros versus Tracking Enhancers" has been a running argument for arty ships for a long time. Generally on this ship you go 3/1. But 2/2 isn't crazy. You only lose about 80 alpha without the third Gyro and you pick up about 8% tracking and 5km optimal with the second TE. In general, I prefer three Gyros on arty ships but if your CPU skills are a bit weak, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that second TE instead.

Either way, your fifth low slot is a DC2. It's unfortunately non-optional and provides a good 20% of your tank. That's wrapped up with an Invul, CDFE, and Anti-EM rig to close the ship's glaring defense hole. Your total tank is 25k EHP before fleet boosts -- not great, so if you have the opportunity to warp off in the face of damage, do so! A good skirmish FC will keep you aligned to a distant point and you can always warp back into the FC and resume your duties if you're alive.

Since your guns can fire longer than your lock range, that means a Sensor Booster. You can technically range script it but that's not really necessary. Run it unscripted most of the time and that will give you about a 90km lock range with a good FC. Carry the Scan Res script for situations where you're fighting close.

That leaves you with a utility high slot and a Drone Link Augmentor is a really entertaining option. It adds 24km to your drone engagement range which nicely matches your drone range with your gun range. Assist your drones to one of your fleet's tacklers so that you can concentrate on locking primaries and timing your volleys accurately.

Volley timing is so important for arty ships so do not ignore it! Fire only on the targets you are told to fire on, when you are told to fire on them. A competent FC will warn you that a new volley is coming, order you to stop your guns cycling with a good amount of notice, and then will count down from three to the next volley on a new target. This maximizes your alpha on the target and therefore maximizes the chances that the target will just vanish. Your guns will be cycling for 7.5 seconds which is plenty of time for enemy logi to do a lot of repairs. So don't let your fleet's volleys be ragged and don't contribute to that! The ideal is that everyone's volley lands on the same server tick, maximizing destructiveness.

Frentix booster is your best choice with this ship, with Sooth Sayer and Drop being decent secondary choices. Drop is particularly good if you mostly fight at kiting ranges (below 27km). Like all cruisers, the Rupture has a bit of a cap problem -- and you'll be pushing it by MWDing around pretty frequently -- so a Synth Mindflood is also a good thing to carry along.

Volley tactics are very entertaining! If done right, you'll shoot once, the target will vanish, and you'll then have 7.5 seconds to lock the next target before that one vanishes. So it's a fast, fun, engaging way to PvP. You also have to be on the ball with movement orders; fleet mobility is going to be very important! But skirmish flying will definitely make you a better EVE Online pilot.

Everyone fire in three, two, one, fire.

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.  

COTW: Five ships

Easy Esky had a really interesting "desert island question" in my "Hangar" post:
If I could only own five hulls - which would I choose?
His choices are sadly burdened by mining ships. But to his credit all of his choices were either green hulls or based on green hulls. On the spur of the moment, my immediate response was "Rapier, Loki, Crow, Heretic, Cynabal". The first four are easy. Not only are they my four favorite ships to PvP in right now, each of them has secondary benefits that make them pretty good universal ships:
  1. Rapier: cloaky, good scan platform, good scouting platform, can covert cyno;
  2. Loki: probably the most versatile T3, good in shield or armor, good in leadership, good at cloaky ganks, decent 1v1 ship, decent in PvE;
  3. Crow: excellent scouting platform, excellent frigate roamer, good mobility platform, good for moving clones around; and,
  4. Heretic: most versatile bubbler, can be fit for bubbling or gank, can do low-level PvE in a pinch.
The fifth one is trickier.

I complained in my "Not Hangar" post that there will soon be at least seven ships fitting into a "shield plus skirmishing range" DPS role: Cynabal, Thorax, Stratios, Ishtar, Cerberus, Vagabond, and soon the Orthrus. So my last would definitely be one of these seven. But which one? The Cynabal has a lot of advantages and was my spur of the moment choice in reply to the comment. But on reconsideration, I think the Thorax would be my 5th instead. It's about 80% as good as the Cynabal in the skirmishing DPS role, but it can be rail or blaster fit, armor or shield, throw-away or tank. It's a pretty good 1v1 ship, and it's T1 and therefore insurable. There should be at least one T1 ship in my list of five.

Plus I realized I refused to make such a list without having at least one hull that was green and potentially covered in blasters. ;-)

So that's my amended list: Rapier, Loki, Crow, Heretic, Thorax.

What say you, Dear Reader? What would your list of five be? Why? Oh and just for grins, I'm going to add a side rule: you only get to pick one of the four T3s. It would be way too easy to pick all four T3s and then some random fifth ship. Thanks to Easy for the interesting question!

Sugared water

Some of you might ask what I think about the news that CCP DrEyjoG is leaving CCP to become the new Chancellor of the University of Akureyri where he was previously the Dean of the School of Business.(1) My opinion might sound a little mean. That's not my intent but if it does, I apologize for that in advance. Ready?

I hate to bring up Apple references twice in the same week, but Steve Jobs legendarily asked John Sculley the most famous job interview question in history: "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?" Sculley's choice was controversial but there's no question he chose to change the world. And that's exactly what he proceeded to do, whether you agree with how he did it or not.

After seven years of changing the world, Dr. Eyjo is choosing to sell sugared water for five years.

I congratulate him on a prestigious position! Presumably it pays well and it certainly looks excellent on a business card. I wish him nothing but the best. I also hope he continues to consult with CCP from time to time. But there are academics in the world by the hundreds of thousands and university Chancellors by the thousands. But only one person on planet Earth -- so far -- manages a virtual economy that drives an eight figure business. There's no question in my mind that in this way, CCP is showing us a small part of the future. Dr. Eyjo was the first. But now someone else will be doing it.

(1) Official title, "Rector", which is translated in various geographies as President or Chancellor. It essentially means he becomes the new head of the University.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prophet and loss

I hate to keep following up on previous posts I've written, but the changes that are happening pretty much daily in EVE right now are kind of demanding it. So let's do a double follow-up, one related to Kronos changes, one not.

As I noted in my post about the freighter/jump freighter rebalance, the addition of rig slots to freighter mated to large nerfs in cargo hold and/or align time and/or tank (depending) was leaving JF pilots with one and only choice: fit cargo expander rigs. The original idea was to put some customization into freighter fittings and CSM8 felt like rig slots would be an interesting way to do that. We had also talked about low slots instead but the idea of rig slots was slightly more interesting to us: we had the idea that players or corps that do heavy-duty logistics might create a small fleet of freighters specialized to different tasks.

In practice, it's clear it wasn't working that way and yesterday CCP Fozzie announced they were dumping rig slots on freighters and JFs in favor of three low slots for freighters and JFs, as well as some new low slot modules to increase base warp speed and (eventually) jump fuel conservation. For those who only care about cargo, three T2 Expanded Cargoholds will increase freighter capacity by 21-25% and JF capacity by 1-2%.

That opens up a few more choices (as well as making those choices non-permanent). JF pilots will be able to jump out to null with full cargo loads and come back with Inertia Stabilizers or the new Hyperspatial Accelerator low-slot modules with much reduced cargo loads. Freighters will have a bit more freedom to customize in both directions since their base cargo is starting above 435k.

So overall, a little bit less interesting but a positive change, I think!

In the same post, malko asked in comments:
You cheerfully admit having invested in that type of salvage material the day it's been made public. Did you already know, as a former csm member, that this resource would be involved in that rebalance pass?
More generally, do you guys, part of the csm, have a code of conduct to respect regarding speculation and nda-protected information?
And those are really good, interesting questions! The second one, regarding the "code of conduct", refers to a quiet little trolly rumor going around that although CSM8 member mynnna can't profit from changes that CCP tells him about, there's nothing stopping him from hinting (falsely) to players that changes are in the offing and then delighting as they lose tons of ISK on bad bets based on those hints.

What will EVE players think of next, right?

Here's my response:
CSM members are not allowed to profit by things that we learn that are NDA'ed until those changes are made public. Larkonis Trassler was famously removed from the CSM for breaking this rule a few years back. The finances and inventories of CSM members are periodically audited to make sure this isn't being done.

However, there is no ethical code of conduct for CSM members whatsoever. CSM members can be as evil as any other EVE player and indeed can use their position to be even more evil. Mittens famously ran a supercap third party service scam during his time as CSM chair, for instance, and Darius III famously scammed for votes directly.

To answer your coy little question, there is nothing at all preventing mynnna or anyone else from driving people toward hugely unprofitable investments (hinting that those investments would be made profitable by future changes to the game) and then laughing up his sleeve at any who fall for them. That said, there's no evidence that I've seen that he's ever followed such a strategy.
I later added:
[This] includes alts and corps owned or directed by alts.

Example: at one point during the CSM8 term, a dev made a reference to something that I had stored in a cargo can owned by my alt corp in an office hangar.

CCP has VERY good tools to link the movement of ISK and assets around different characters.
Yes, once a change is made public, a CSM member can compete on the market along with everyone else.
So there you go. If you had questions along those lines, hopefully that answers them. Thanks for the question, malko! Quite a good one!