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...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter Summit final thoughts

For my wrap-up of the Summer Summit, I said the following...
Another aspect of the summits that's really valuable is the opportunity to build "big picture" into how we interface with CCP. On Skype and on the forums, we're often talking to between one and three devs, usually on a very specific topic -- the jump clone timer skill, say, or the marauder rebalance. The summit allows us to widen the focus from individual features to both the short- and long-term development of EVE the game. That's great for the CSM, to understand how individual features fit into the big picture, and to allow us to influence EVE development in a macro as well as a micro sense. It also allows CCP to get player perspective on the big picture, something that definitely doesn't happen in the Features and Ideas thread.
This. Only a lot more so. ;-)

If I had to sum up the Winter Summit in a single paragraph, I would say that the Summer Summit -- overall -- was more productive. That summit was a lot closer to the release of Rubicon and the CSM as a result could have a lot more specific and influential impact on specific features and ideas that were going into that expansion. Still, in terms of the seven Summit days I've spent during this term, the second day of the Winter Summit was the single most productive day I've seen as a member of the CSM. Dear Heaven, we covered a lot of ground and got a lot of work done that day! From ship balancing to the UI to discussion of EVE features promised but not yet implemented (I got that session title out from under NDA, BTW) to looking at EVE metrics to going over one of the major features of the summer expansion... whew! As I said, it was a pretty intense day.

Don't let anyone give you the impression these summit trips are a free vacation. CCP puts us to work and very reasonably expects a return on the money they spend flying us to Iceland.

But overall, the Winter Summit was a bit more abstract than the Summer Summit. Other than parts of that second day, there were fewer discussions about specifics, more discussions about "EVE development philosophy", if I can call it that. Every blogger writing about EVE these days knows that the game is at a cross-roads: we've now had several expansions in a row that have been all but "fan service": fewer big ideas, more pleasing the existing customers. It's worked: it's stopped the bleeding, and mixed in with the fan service have been a couple of really innovative ideas (the new Crimewatch system and the new scanning/site system, primarily). Bigger ideas are coming... CCP has announced they're coming... they've shared some of those ideas with the CSM.

But their last big idea was Incarna and even without being on the CSM I can see that CCP are a little cautious about over-reaching and face-planting again. They're moving cautiously, testing their footing with each step, and they're definitely not leaping without looking this time.

In my opinion, it's a risky strategy but a good one. 2013 was a year spent rebuilding and reinforcing a lot of the underlying structure that EVE rests on. There's a joke in the movie Armageddon (perhaps the finest bad movie ever made) about the Mir space station being more than ten years old at that time and most Americans not keeping cars that long. The same thing applies to EVE: what other game are you playing or software are you using that's been in continuous use for that long? I can only think of one for myself. I'm still using Paint Shop Pro 8 for most graphics editing work and Wikipedia informs me that's now ten years old.

Anyway, the devs are feeling the pressure also, so a good bit of the summit focused on various potential development directions for the game. Particularly in sessions like the null-sec, "future of big fights", EVE features update, and a couple of NDA'ed ones, there was a good bit of abstract discussion. It was almost but not quite to the level of "What should EVE feel like?" But there was also a good bit of discussion about what the best uses of dev time will be over the next year. That made the summit feel less directly productive -- a lot of the stuff we talked about may never see the light of day -- and more tiring. Answering the question "What do you want for your next car?" is a lot easier than "What kind of car do you think you'll want ten years from now and why?"

At first blush last Friday night, then, I felt like this summit was less valuable than the Summer Summit. But on a week's reflection, I realize it was just as useful... just more abstract.

OK, what else. CCP Dolan continues to run a really good summit from an organizational stand-point. The best schedules feel effortless while they're going on and that's how this felt. He also came up with the best idea to enhance summits in pretty much the entire history of the CSM. Having a stenographer record the talking points of each session at a summit has been tried before and failed because the stenographer didn't understand the subject being talked about. This time, he got an actual CCP employee with EVE experience -- CCP Logibro, mostly -- to do the recording of talking points. And despite Logibro's self-deprecating humor about "I hope I'm doing this right", his notes were absurdly good. Giant kudos to both of these men!

Here's how good Logibro's notes are and how good the notes taken by several CSM members this time were: the CSM compressed the 22 sessions that I counted down to 18 actual sessions that need to be documented and have Minutes written for them. The summit's been over a week. I consider ten of those sessions done. Ready to send back to Dolan for review. I expect the rest will be done this weekend. There's not gonna be any jokes about "Months" this time.

There were only two technical issues; one was a failed USB extension cable. That one delayed one session by about 15 minutes because the camera and microphone were plugged into it. No big deal. There was a second technical issue that on its face initially seemed major -- it prompted Dolan to write the most profane e-mail I've read in several years -- but which is turning out to be pretty minor. That one is for Dolan to talk about if he wishes to.

Iceland in winter is not nearly as scary a place as others have made it out to be, or at least it wasn't this time. Mittens wrote a thing where he came back from winter in Iceland and immediately had to lay out in the sunshine for lack of it. Trebor Daehdoow told us a story about how the members of CSM5 had to link arms to keep mazzilliu from blowing into the harbor during their Winter Summit. Yeah, we got a tiny bit of snow and a bit more rain and one day of pretty stiff wind. But winters in Connecticut and Colorado scoff at the Iceland winter.

And that, Dear Reader, is all I can think of. As with the Summer Summit, I'm glad I was able to go! I believe we provided good value to CCP for the money they invested to bring us to Iceland. I want to thank our CCP hosts who were so gracious in meeting with us, talking with us, and sharing their hopes and concerns for development of EVE Online with us. They again acted with incredible understanding as we from time to time subjected some of their ideas to... ummmmm... our interpretations. ;-)

Now I have a few more session minutes to write and/or edit...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fit of the Week: Widow

I feel like doing something goofy and a little one-off this week. How about this?

[Widow, Cowardly Lion]
Damage Control II
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Ballistic Control System II

Gist A-Type 100MN Afterburner
Large Shield Extender II
EM Ward Field II
Large Micro Jump Drive
Thon's Modified ECM Multispectral Jammer
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II

Caldari Navy Cloaking Device
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Cruise Missile
Covert Jump Portal Generator I

Large Bay Loading Accelerator II
Large Core Defense Field Extender II

Hornet EC-300 x5
Warden II x2

Black ops gangs are becoming more and more popular in New Eden these days, usually intended to hunt the growing number of null-sec renters the large coalitions have put in place to fund their space empires. Renters tend to be a pretty paranoid lot, but if you can lull them into a false sense of security with "only one guy in Local", if that one guy is a bomber carrying a covert cyno, a gang is not very far away. With the buff last year of blops bridge ranges, these ships now have equivalent bridge range to a titan and can quickly introduce a good size fleet into a target system, particularly if you have good coordination between the elements.

The recently-introduced Micro Jump Drive is now considered a required fit on all blops ships, sometimes even replacing any other prop mod. Still, sooner or later you may have to go through a gate and black ops ships can do a unique trick when fitted with an afterburner: jump through a gate, activate the AB and cloak (or the opposite, if your hands are quick), and you'll very quickly accelerate to warp speed while cloaked. Decloak as the AB cycle ends and you'll instantly warp off. Similar to the "MWD cloak" trick, the blops can only do this trick effectively when cloaked. The A-type AB is remarkably cheap and brings the Widow's speed up to very nearly MWD levels while cloaked though of course at the end of the cycle the AB will shut down. As a result, you have to practice with it to use the extra cloaked speed effectively.

The Caldari Navy cloak is a good mix of reduced speed penalty and low price but with a somewhat higher re-lock delay over a straight T2 cloak. For me, the higher speed (which I use all the time) is worth the longer delay (which rarely affects me when "bridging on someone"). Because of its good CPU, the Widow is usually the requested ship for a "return bridge" to get a hunting group back to their staging system. As a result, the Covert Jump Portal is carried to generate that return trip.

DPS is provided by T2 cruise missile launchers, and you can use whatever damage type you like to maximize it. Typically, you'll load the opposite damage type of the ratters you'll be hunting. If hunting Guristas ratters, for instance, fire EM damage (since the ratters will be tanking for kinetic/thermal). If hunting Blood ratters, fire explosive (since the ratters will be tanking EM/thermal). The Widow also receives a new entertaining bonus: that for Rapid Heavy Missile Launchers. The upside is somewhat increased DPS; the downside is greatly reduced range. For the moment, I've been sticking with CMLs on mine.

The number of jammers on a Widow is a subject of some debate; I prefer just one on mine, but I did spring for (somewhat budget) officer jammer. In my experience, you're usually bridging on a small number of targets -- often just one -- and overdoing it on jammers isn't really necessary. If I know for a fact what kind of target I'll be going after, I might pull the LSE or one of the Invuls for a second jammer specifically for that target. Most often though, the single multispectral jammer is plenty. The Widow's jammer bonus is actually somewhat poor resulting in an overheated jam strength of around 10 for pretty much any jammer you fit. It's primarily intended to be defensive, to clear away any scrams that land on you. The jam drones are for the same reason.

A more or less standard tank completes the fit.

The fun bit about using a Widow over other types of blops is that it's quite good in terms of escape and evasion. Align time is under ten seconds after landing and if you choose to, you can almost immediately MJD off the target. The Sebo will ensure you retain your lock on it, your cruise missiles can easily hit the target at that range (the main reason I haven't changed out for RHMLs), and you can even drop a couple of sentry drones to increase DPS. Only the Sin is more effective at this cowardly technique though of course you'll need someone to keep the target tackled. That, of course, is what the recons, bombers, or Stratios that came through the bridge are for. ;-)

As a result, despite the Widow being a very expensive investment, it's also a much less risky proposition than most of the other blops, yet still retains a lot of utility. And of course, it looks bad-ass.

Bridge is up, go go go!

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.

The last war

Well, that was a fun war, don't you think?

N3 are making brave noises and kudos to them for that, but this thing is over. Without a viable escalation option, they can't deploy the "wrecking ball" carrier fleet that's been so effective in the war to date. The CFC has a super-cap fleet to escalate to knock out the N3 carriers, N3 doesn't have a super-cap fleet to defend them. The CFC has already started reinforcing dozens of new systems. We've seen how every single war in EVE where one side could easily out-escalate the other has ended. Yes, N3 is better at guerrilla tactics than all of CFC's past enemies were. But it's not going to matter.

Pandemic Legion have a fearsome -- and highly deserved! -- reputation. But anyone who thinks this is the first time they've pulled back when over-matched doesn't know their history. They've done this before, lots of times, going back to 2010 just in my own memory of the game. The only alliances that have gained and lost more sov in more regions in the history of this game are probably Goonswarm and Red Alliance. PL's independent tournament team is called "Why Dash" because the alliance has a genetic fear of systems with "Y-" in the name because of a couple of major lost battles in them. A joke's been going around that B-R needs to be renamed "B-RY-59". ;-)

Hell, knowing when to fall back when over-matched so they can fight back another day is one of the things that makes PL so fearsome. So yeah, don't worry about PL and anyone making claims that this is gonna break them is being ridiculous. They'll come back just as strong.

But this war is over. And get ready to yell at me: I hope you enjoyed it because it's probably the last that EVE is gonna see for a long while. Additionally, it's a good bet that B-R5RB is not only the costliest battle EVE Online has ever seen, it's the costliest battle EVE Online will ever see.(1)

To have large wars, you need two large adversaries. To have a large battle, you need two sides willing to commit large numbers of expensive assets.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea was and will remain the largest aircraft carrier battle in the history of the world, with 15 U.S. aircraft carriers facing off against nine Japanese carriers. It holds the record and will continue to hold the record for the simple reason that after this battle was over, never again could Japan or any other country challenge the supremacy of the U.S. carrier fleet. Today, in the combined navies of the entire rest of the world, there aren't enough aircraft carriers to challenge the current U.S. carrier fleet.

And in a couple of months when N3 is crushed, that's where things will stand in EVE as well: even if the entire rest of New Eden were to combine their forces, it would be unlikely they could challenge the supremacy of the combined escalation capabilities of the CFC and their Russian allies, particularly as the B0TLRD agreement goes into effect. I suppose it's possible that the CFC and the Russians might turn on each other -- this particular group of Russians has never had much love for Goons -- but it seems quite unlikely to me. Neither has anything the other wants. So don't misunderstand: this is not me saying the Goons are going to conquer the rest of New Eden because there's no reason for them to. As long as no threats to their existence rise in the east or CCP doesn't put large new income sources there, they'll be content to ignore it.

But any even potentially existential threats to their existence will be crushed very early in their development... long before they can achieve the standings to field hundreds of super-capital ships and threaten another risky B-R-sized engagement. This will happen both to give the CFC pilots something to do and because it's the smart thing for their leadership to do. The CFC has proven to be very good at this. At least as much credit for the success of B-R has to go to their spy network as to their super-cap pilots. For that reason, we might see some minor Goon/Russian wars but nothing on the scale of the Halloween War or the past Great Wars. More likely, we'll see the Russians turn on each other with Goons cheering from the sidelines and maybe jumping in as "honorable third parties." Same difference: the scale of the fights will be smaller.

You could say "But Jester, the CFC will fall sooner or later and that will make new larger battles possible!" and yeah, I'd have to agree that's at least possible. But it also feels to me like a loss of the large number of CFC pilots needed to make the fall of the CFC happen (if thousands of them decided to switch to Star Citizen, say) would also be an existential threat to EVE Online itself.

That last is a separate issue, but also important: to have enormous fleet battles, you need enormous numbers of players who are both active subscribers and logged into the game. And those numbers, as I've said many times, are quite stagnant. The CFC might fall, sure, but I doubt enough new players would come into the game to make up the difference and make another hugely expensive fleet battle like B-R happen. So while the idea of large fleet battles caused by the fall of the CFC is possible, I don't consider it likely.

So to CCP, I suggest you guys make hay while the sun shines. B-R5RB is a fantastic marketing opportunity! But it's never going to come again.

(1) Though to be fair, if the game ever goes into some kind of massive decline death spiral, we might see some kind of one-day event where bitter-vets were all encouraged to activate their unsubscribed super-cap pilots on the same day to have a final massive free-for-all somewhere.

Port truss

Kerbal Space Program update!

In between editing Winter Summit sessions (which is going way faster this time thanks to CCP Logibro's notes), I've been building my space station. Finishing one summit session means I get to add one section to it. ;-)

It's looking pretty damn good, I think. From bottom to top, service module, science lab, 6-way docking node, crew cabin, 6-way docking node. On the very top, two big fuel tanks (more what they're for in a second). Engine facing the camera in the center, the crew escape vehicle which doubles as a fuel transfer vehicle. At the back docked to the center six-way docking node is the P0 truss with lots of rechargeable batteries and another 6-way docking node. Solar array trusses are docked to that, one on each side so far. You can see my truss delivery vehicle on the back right. I don't really need more arrays; there's nothing on the station that draws that much power.

But it looks good. ;-) And it's all done with KSP stock parts and no MechJeb.

At this point, I've clearly mastered orbital rendezvous, docking, and EVA. In particular, I've docked little things and big things, on-axis and off-axis, and I've done a couple of triple dockings with that fuel transfer shuttle going back and forth. At this point, I can just eyeball a docking if I have to (and I often have); I hardly look at the pink docking marker at all during docking.

As you can see at top right, those two big tanks are almost fully fueled. Next thing (after I've edited way more Winter Summit sessions) is to build a planetary transfer vehicle (to be called Enterprise, natch). She will dock with the station on top, and take on fuel from those two big tanks until she's full. Along her sides, six inline docking modules. Then I send up six landers. Then, test flight to the Mun. Put Enterprise in polar orbit, undock the six landers, and land on six biomes on the same day.


Next step, build and test the landers. For various reasons, they have to be capable of both landing on an airless surface and handling their own landings on Kerbin.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kill of the Week: Red blueprints

Let's see, thanks to the Winter Summit the last super kill I covered was 11 January. Have any died since then?

Sorry, couldn't resist... Anyway, B-R will be in next week's report. This one covers 13 through 26 January, starting with the super-caps. And since I'm so far behind I'm gonna keep things pretty short with just a few honorable mentions per week.

Number of dead super-caps the week before last: 0

And believe it or not, that's a surprisingly short list! Between the 13th and the 19th, no supers died at all. Not even in HED-GP which was of course the major battle of that week between CFC/RUS and N3/PL forces. 250 billion ISK in dreads and sub-caps were killed, but no supers.

Honorable mentions for that week start with these two guys, who help continue to prove that the SMA loot drop mechanic change is pretty much concentrated win. How about four billion ISK in loot... for two guys? Twice? (Two different guys.) I think I need to start hunting off-line wormhole POSes...

Putting ten billion ISK of loot in one plastic wrap? Not a good idea.

But kill of the week honors (for both weeks) goes to something truly amusing. Here's how the story goes, apparently: "Hm, I need a ship that I can put every blueprint I own into to move through high-sec... using my character who is in RvB. I know, a faction cruiser! They're pretty tough and mobile, right? What could possibly go wrong? What does 'war-dec' mean?"

Number of dead super-caps last week: 3

The following week was a little more active and it started on Thursday with this InitiativeDOT ratting Nyx killed in Derelik low-sec, probably doing level 5 missions. EN24 has a short piece on it but basically this came down to a super pilot being too predictable.

Next up is this Goon Nyx, also killed in low-sec and also covered by EN24. And again, the story is a short one. This Goon pilot had travel fit his Nyx and was probably in the process of moving it closer to the Halloween War's front lines... by himself... without support of any kind... while using an obvious cyno character... and without a fit sufficient to tank long enough for rescue in case he got into trouble. You know... a super lost by a dumb person.

And finally, the day before B-R, this FCON Hel was brought down by a BL drive-by of four titan doomsdays. This is another amusing story, a super-carrier sitting on a friendly POS assigning fighters to a ratting alt. I hear it's a good idea to turn your hardeners on if you're going to be sitting outside a POS shield. I hear it's an even better idea not to do this sort of thing. The guy in Derelik low-sec could have told you that... ;-) Again, EN24 takes the prize for coverage with a short story and an amusing video of the drive-by gank. Nice job, BL!

Non-supers? Let's start with this Fenrir. Let's make a deal: if you take a freighter with more than five billion ISK through Niarja, you just save me some time and self-destruct it. If you take a freighter with more than ten billion ISK through Niarja, you self-destruct it, then you take an axe to your computer. Then I wouldn't have to point out how dumb you are. ;-)

And finally, Brave Newbies are getting both some carriers and some dreadnoughts. They're kind of adorable, aren't they?

KOTW returns on schedule next week where I'll have the easiest week ever describing what supers were lost...

Dark cold universe

"EVE is a dark cold universe" we're told again and again. And if I can briefly indulge in a bit of pop psychology, walking the streets of Reykjavik in the middle of winter makes it easy to see why. At street level, people in dark clothes walk under a dark sky surrounded by gray, black, or white monotone buildings surrounded by sullen gray waves in the harbor. Cars in Iceland come in three colors: black, white, and "dark", whether dark blue or dark red or dark gray. The people drive or walk dark streets and sidewalks bordered and divided in dark gray or black lava rock as the only adornment. Another member of the CSM commented to me briefly about how "all the architecture looks the same."

But even in the darkest, coldest universe, human beings need and demand splashes of the most vibrant colors: yellow and green, bright blue and royal blue, orange and pink and red! In a dark cold universe, this is easy to forget. But sometimes all it takes is a different perspective to see it. 70 meters straight up, say...

And if you remember this fundamental truth about humans, then you're remembering something that EVE's art team unfortunately occasionally forgets.

Photo credit for the first one, All That Is Interesting. Photo credit for the second one, me. That's one of the pictures I took from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja this past Saturday. That's Harpa, top center. CCP is the building immediately to the right of the one with the crane on top of it at the top far left.

May I humbly suggest an art team field trip? It's only about 4000 steps away. ;-)

Keep your powder dry

tl;dr first: I will not be running for reelection to CSM9.

When I decided to run last year, I said this:
I've been thinking long and hard about this, and in particular reviewing the reasons that I decided not to run last year. They were very good reasons, and all of them still apply. When I eventually decided not to run last year, I made it clear that I made that decision because the reasons for me not to run outweighed the reasons for me to run. 
That calculus applies this year as well, and I have had just as hard of a decision this year. Only this time, the pendulum has swung the other way. There are more good reasons for me not to run then there are reasons for me to run. In particular, several people I respect are running for election or reelection, I feel very comfortable going back to my "CSM watcher" and "semi-neutral observer position"(1), and I feel strongly that I proved the point I wanted to prove by running. A CSM can be proactive without being a "war-time CSM", can openly talk to the players while still acting as a stake-holder in the development process. It's now proven. CSM8 has done it. In addition, as I said a few times during the election process, I felt like 2013 was going to be a critical year -- perhaps the critical year -- for EVE Online's success. That year is now past.

Does this mean I don't support the CSM process? Absolutely not, because I do! Does this mean that I feel the CSM is worthless? Absolutely not, because it definitely is not!

The CSM has much more active involvement in the development of the game than I thought we would have, in fact. The level of access is unprecedented! And this is Trebor telling us this based on what he's seen on three past CSMs! I'm glad -- really glad -- that I've served on CSM8. It was worth it!  But it's also a lot of work. I wasn't exaggerating when I said CSM duties could consume every waking hour of every day if you let them. Future CSM members really are going to have to strike a balance that works for them. The stake-holder relationship that CSM8 has cemented with CCP is fantastic... but it means that expectations from players have no other setting than "high." Done right... done as the job should be done, I can't imagine any future CSM member subjecting themselves to it for three or four years at a stretch.

Anyway, those are all good reasons not to run. But I also have personal reasons of my own to want to take at least a year off. I feel like I've earned it. And if the calculus changes in 2015, who knows, maybe I'll try for CSM10.

So yeah, I'm sitting CSM9 out and we'll see how they do. Each CSM has built on the successes of the one before, so hopefully they will keep up the strong stake-holder relationship we've built and the lines of player communication open, particularly through Town Halls, crowd-sourcing, and at least one chronicler to document the week-by-week action.

'cause I'm still gonna be out here flying my spaceships and keeping an eye on things. ;-) Ripard Plays This Game(tm), and I'm not going anywhere.

So this also means that I'm in a pretty good position to endorse my favorite candidates. I definitely will not be shying away from that responsibility though picking the top few is gonna be tough! As I said, there's lots of good people already confirmed as running. If they fall on their face, I'll hold 'em accountable. And in the meantime, there's still three months of work left in this term, and I'm not going to shy away from that, either.

Good luck to CSM9!

(1) Or as mynnna joked to me, "Gonna go back to throwing rocks from outside?"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CSM8 Incumbents

This is a tradition around here. Every year in January (usually somewhat earlier), I write a little blog post which I keep updated all through the early election season indicating which current CSM members have publicly declared that they will or will not be running for the next CSM. So here's 2014's version of the post, starting now. Feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it! The good news is that this year, I have unprecedented access to this data. We'll see if that helps. ;-)

Let's start with the obvious one. Am I running again? Er, yeah. I'll get to that in its own post in a few minutes, then update this post accordingly.

That said, here are the current CSM8 members who have said and not said whether they will be running for CSM9.

CSM8 members who have said in public they are running:

CSM8 members who have said in public they are not running:

Unannounced (in alphabetical order):
  • Kesper North
  • Korvin
  • Sort Dragon

This post will be updated as I learn more.  As with last year, I'll also put up a post in the next few days with interesting non-incumbents as they announce their runs.

EDIT (28/Jan/14): Chitsa Jason and progodlegend announced they were not running for CSM9 at CSM8 Town Hall #4 on 19/Jan/13.
EDIT (28/Jan/14): Mike Azariah announced he is running on his blog.
EDIT (28/Jan/14): Ali Aras announced she is running on her Twitter feed.
EDIT (29/Jan/14): I announced I am not running on this blog.
EDIT (29/Jan/14): Malcanis announced he is not running on Failheap Challenge.
EDIT (29/Jan/14): James Arget announced he is running on his Twitter feed.
EDIT (30/Jan/14): Sala Cameron announced he is not running on his Twitter feed.
EDIT (1/Feb/14): Mangala Solaris announced he is running on his blog.
EDIT (18/Feb/14): mynnna announced he is running on his Twitter feed.
EDIT (5/Mar/14): Trebor announced he is not running on his blog and in Jita Park.
EDIT (31/Mar/14): progodlegend has changed his mind and is running, announced in Jita Park.

QOTW: He starts arguments and belittles people

OK, just a quickie, but it made me laugh.

In my presence, a prominent EVE player just described another with this phrase:
He starts arguments and belittles people
My response? "...said the EVE player." You get 600 tries to guess to whom he was referring to. Because you'll need them. Because that phrase should be on all of our Show Info windows. Including mine. ;-)

I'll have more to say on this topic before too much longer.

Explaining B-R to your uncle

Lots of other blogs are writing about B-R today. After chatting with CCP Manifest and CSM8 member Ali Aras last night, I thought it would be interesting to write a piece looking at the battle from a completely "outside EVE" perspective. In short, if you were trying to explain what happened in B-R to your uncle who has never played a computer game in his life, how would you do it?

So here's what I came up with. National magazines usually run 1000 word human interest stories on this sort of thing, with a 150 word side-bar attached (a side-bar is an article within an article that clarifies some critical point). So here it is: 1000 words about B-R for a general audience with a 150 word side-bar. EVE players will note I have deliberately simplified critical points here and there while trying to retain overall accuracy. What do you think?


EVE Online is a game about spaceships. As Star Wars and Star Trek have taught us, sometimes spaceships get blown up. And sometimes it happens in large numbers. This is a story about how $300,000 in spaceships were blown up in EVE Online.

Developed more than ten years ago by the Icelandic company CCP, EVE Online is an MMO somewhat like World of Warcraft. WoW is focused on a fantasy world of swordsmen and sorcerers; in EVE Online players take the role as private owners of spacecraft. But while Han Solo was content owning a single spacecraft, EVE players have the options of owning dozens or more. Only one can be flown at any given time, but each must be purchased and outfitted and each serves a specific role within the game. Some are good for trading, others for exploration, and others... others are good for shooting at other EVE Online players.

And that -- finding other EVE players and blowing up their spaceships... and then telling the story afterward -- has been the engine that has driven the game's success for the last ten years.
Within the game, each player may purchase ships ranging in size from sub-capitals -- frigates, cruisers, battleships -- to capital ships to the so-called "super-capitals." These ships have an escalating cost measured in the game's currency, called ISK. A frigate will cost a player between one million and 50 million ISK depending on the specific type of frigate. Cruisers range from 50 million to 250 million. Money is earned in game through gathering resources, running in-game missions, or through building in-game items for other players. Typically, an income source in-game is considered "good" if it is worth 100 million ISK per hour, meaning that a single cruiser will represent anything from a half-hour to two hours worth of work to acquire.

As a player's time in-game increases, that player can afford to purchase a larger fleet of ever-larger, more capable ships. Battleships range from a half-billion to a full billion ISK or more, capital ships are multi-billion ISK investments, and a super-capital ship can cost up to 100 billion ISK or more, representing months or years of effort on the part of the player that acquires one.
EVE is also an on-line social experience: players usually join "corporations", groups of players led by another EVE player. A corporation is typically a few dozen or perhaps a few hundred individuals, the size limited by the charisma and organizational skills of the single leader. These corporations can then join alliances of like-minded corporations to form organizations hundreds or thousands of players strong. The game of EVE Online takes place in a galaxy called New Eden, and the structure is set such that alliances can conquer parts of New Eden, taking them away from other players and exploiting the resources there for the benefit of that alliance's players.

Think of it like any naval battle you've ever read about or seen in a movie, just with more nerds. Once an area of space is conquered, the resources of that area can be exploited but there are also in-game costs associated with owning that are of space that must be paid monthly.

Sometimes alliances themselves can themselves ally with each other in surprisingly complex dances of diplomacy; one of the diplomats killed in Benghazi in 2012, Sean Smith, spent some of his off-time as an EVE Online diplomat. These new organizations -- called coalitions in game -- are made up of thousands of EVE players and have the ability to form fleets of hundreds or thousands of EVE players.

Players, corporations, or alliances who do not wish to spend time gathering their money in-game may purchase ISK in the form of an in-game item called a "PLEX" from CCP for about $18 U.S. At the moment, this amount of money is worth about 600 million ISK. This also establishes a "real world" value for every object in the game. A battleship worth 600 million ISK is therefore worth about $18, though CCP prohibits selling in-game assets for real-world currency. As a result, once an asset is created and purchased in the game, it's only good for getting blown up... which is where this story started.

Since Halloween of last year, two EVE Online coalitions have been at war for control of the "southeastern" portion of New Eden. The coalition owning the area, known as "N3", has for several months been under attack by a coalition of Russian player alliances. N3 has been assisted by an alliance called Pandemic Legion; the Russians have been assisted by a coalition known colorfully as the Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC). And for months these four large groups have been going at each other for control of this area of space in ever-larger space battles. Each of these battles has been relatively large in scope. In a recent large fight, for instance, 500 billion ISK worth of spaceships were destroyed by N3 in the process of capturing a strategic CFC objective.

N3 had been providing an area of space that included a space station for their Pandemic Legion allies to dock and repair their ships after each battle, and to use as a staging area for bringing more ships into the fight. Maintaining this area and its space station was something that had a continuing cost in-game that had to be paid. And yesterday, N3 failed to pay that bill. That left that area of space and its station open to anyone who could bring the muscle to take over, and the Russian coalition moved in strongly. N3 and PL, unwilling to cede the important staging area to their enemies, brought in a larger fleet. The Russians called in their CFC allies and at each stage, both sides escalated the size and scope of the fight until hundreds of the largest ships in EVE were engaged. At its peak, some 2500 EVE players were directly involved in the main battle, while hundreds more fought in side actions in nearby areas. The battle raged for about 18 continuous hours.

And by the time it was over, nearly 100 "super-capital" ships worth about 100 billion ISK each had been destroyed, as well as nearly 500 capital ships worth anywhere from two to five billion ISK each. Total cost of the ships destroyed in this battle? 10 trillion (with a T!) ISK.

With a "good" in-game income source, you could pay that cost in something over 11 years of continuous EVE play, assuming you were able to play the game 24 hours per day for that 11 years. Or if you tried to pay that cost buying CCP's in-game currency, that would set you back some $300,000 U.S. It will take EVE's ship-builders months or years to build replacements.

Though not the largest battle in EVE's history, it now holds the record -- by far! -- as its costliest. If you're curious, the Russian coalition and their CFC allies won this round by a large margin. Whether this is the battle that ends that war still remains to be seen: there are still plenty of other spaceships in EVE Online to blow up.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Picture of the Week: Downtime

Someone came up with a pretty epic fake tweet troll about the fight in B-R today:

Needless to say, downtime is not being canceled tonight. And the killing in B-R is going to go right up until the last minute before downtime. My current guess: this will push Pandemic Legion out of the war. They'll ask for temp blue long enough to evac their stuff and then sit the rest of the Halloween War out. I could be wrong, though.

Runner up for the picture of the week: on those rare occasions that PL gets their faces stomped, they change their killboard banner to this:

Pretty funny!

In memoriam: KaTurN

The members of Rote Kapelle learned today that one of our long-time members, KaTurN, took his own life in the days leading up to Christmas after a battle with depression. I flew with him often, though not as often as I would have liked because his TZ was slightly before mine. Still, we occasionally traded off Loki-flying duties in armor fleets and both of us had an amusingly unexplainable love for the Typhoon Fleet Issue.

His forum sig demonstrated his good taste in bad movies

He was a really good guy... ex-military with a really fun sense of humor. We had just started to wonder what had happened to him when we finally heard. As you can imagine, it's hitting us hard. One of Rote's FCs made a really nice video tribute to him (slightly NSFW here and there and we've already trolled him gently about the spelling errors):

RIP, Kat.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bring me something from Iceland

Just a quickie.

"Bring me back something from Iceland!" members of my family invariably ask me when they hear about these trips. To which my standard response has become "Sure, which would you like, salted black licorice or rotted shark?"(1) Iceland doesn't really get souvenirs.

Oh sure, there are plenty of souvenir shops... they're all over the place. But their stock can be broken down as such:
  • 50% warm clothing from local brands;
  • 35% cheesy crap from China (Iceland oven mitts, Iceland magnets);
  • 5% postcards, calendars, and tourist books; and,
  • 10% stuff that actually feels Icelandic.
That last category includes "candle holders made from lava rocks", "statues of elves and trolls", "stuffed puffins", and "condoms with pictures of exploding geysers and volcanoes on them." I swear I am not making that last one up.

But it's that first category I find the most amusing: half of every souvenir shop in Iceland -- from the ones in Reykjavik to the ones situated near the awesome spectacles of natural beauty that are all over the country -- are full of warm clothes. Not clothes with the Icelandic flag on them or anything like that. Just standard issue warm clothes. In case you're not hearing the hidden message here, it seems to be "The next time you're cold, wet, and miserable, put on this wool hat and think of Iceland!" An inspiring message from the Icelandic Tourist Bureau, this is not. ;-)

As I said, Iceland doesn't really get souvenirs...

(1) By the way, the first one is called Gammeldags Lakrids, is sold in the 10-11 stores in Reyk, and is like catnip to CCP devs. I've bought four bags to put on the table between the two summits and the contents of all of them rapidly vanished.

Winter Summit Day Four

Winter summit bonus day! Originally, the seven CSM members in Iceland were asked to stay an extra day in country so that CCP's video crew could film a humorous advertisement for the CSM process. We had been brain-storming ideas for this amongst ourselves and what we came up with was a sort of goofy bit where CSM members intrude on the daily lives of CCP devs with game development questions...

JESTER: Hey Rise, what are we doing about Recon rebalancing? The Pilgrim really needs some help!


MYNNNA: Fozzie, we really need to talk about this sentry drone thing...

Et cetera. You get the idea. It was pretty funny in our heads. A few of those scenes, then CCP Dolan talking about the CSM and how the process works and the impact they can have on the development of the game, stuff like that. I chatted with CCP Guard about it at Nora's at one point (he being probably the most filmed CCP employee ever, hee!) and he thought it was something that was feasible. Sadly, this didn't come off... maybe in a future CSM. ;-) But an alternative to this plan did happen so you'll be hearing about that before the election.

Anyway, that's why the extra day was planned, though in the end what was done on this front ended up getting done throughout the week. That still left us with an extra day in Iceland and since we were here anyway, CCP Falcon asked for an extra bonus session with the CSM to talk about a couple of projects. I'm not going to reveal what happened in this secret bonus session but I will say that the CSM was really happy and excited about what we heard and are looking forward to the day very soon when players will be made aware of it. Our role was mostly to look over the deployment plan, seek out any obvious holes and give our thoughts. We did indeed find a couple of holes and I'm quite sure they'll get patched in short order. That's the benefit of having extra eyes on a big project!

Prior to this meeting, I took the opportunity to visit the Hallgrímskirkja, something I hadn't had time to do in the rush of either Fanfest or the Summer Summit. It was well worth the trip! It really is a magnificent structure. For 700Kr, you can take an elevator to the top of the spire and get a panoramic view of Reykjavik. It was worth the money, I thought. Of course, being the spaceship nerd that I am, I couldn't contemplate the sky view of Reyk without thinking of something EVE-related. So watch for that in a day or two. ;-) Out in front of the church is a lovely statue and monument to Leif Eriksson, a gift to the people of Iceland from the people of the United States in 1930. I was proud of my country to stand in its presence: our own version of the Statue of Liberty for another country.

Oh! One more thing I forgot to mention. At the dinner at the end of Day Three, I ended up seated next to CCP Greyscale. Yes, he's still alive.(1) His time on the DUST 514 team seems to have mellowed him. For the record, he's quite aware of his reputation within the player base and seems to have had time to think about it. This may or may not change how he approaches EVE. We'll have to see; he didn't say anything during the summit that made me want to throw him in the harbor too much. Anyway, he was telling an amusing story about an alternative form of e-war that he was working on in 2007 or so. And I have to admit, the idea that he had was really intriguing! I was listening to the idea and thinking through the implications (and, I must admit, expressing approval) when he was about to change gears into another subject. So to troll him, I held up my hands in a "time out" fashion and said, "Wait... time out... you had a good idea once?" "Shut up," he said, grinned, and moved on to his next story.

There isn't much else to say about Saturday. After the meeting, several of the CSM had a meal (and talked spaceships), then several more of us met at Nora's that evening (and talked spaceships). If you care, from the Marina hotel to the Hallgrímskirkja (and around it once) back down to CCP back to half-way up the Bankstraeti back down to the marina back up to Nora's and back down to the hotel is 10683 steps. If you come to Iceland, whether as a CSM member or for Fanfest, bring good shoes. ;-)

And that's all from Iceland! Once I get back, I'll have a final retrospective post and then it will be time to get down to some serious work.

(1) Or he was when I left the restaurant. You can't prove anything.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Summit Day Three

Three hours before dawn, the weather for the third day of the summit was the worst so far, with strong winds and light blowing snow. The marathon nature of the proceedings has definitely been taking its toll, with only three members of CSM8 up early enough to enjoy the hotel breakfast. Most of us agreed to head over to CCP a little earlier than usual to allow time to fight the weather.

Once we arrived, we discovered that CCP itself was having some trouble waking up. The office is normally pretty busy by the time the summit starts at 9am. Not today! Most of the windows were dark and it took a few minutes to find someone who would let us in and a few minutes more before we could make our way to Trinity. Once things were running though, the rest of the day went very smoothly!

Session Sixteen: EVE Leadership. No, this didn't have anything do with in-game leadership. Instead, the focus was on the current state of the EVE development management and executive team. It's no secret that the job of Executive Producer for EVE Online has been open for a good long while now and this session was partially devoted to the continuing search for a replacement. But there have also been some other personnel changes in the EVE leadership team -- some public, some not -- that CCP wanted the opinion of the CSM on. CCP Pokethulu was the key player and he took lots of notes! We also got a glimpse of something that was announced at Fanfest this past year with great fanfare. It is looking amazingly good! I'll let CCP announce exactly what it was, though, which should happen any time now.

Session Seventeen/Eighteen: EVE Community. This was a double session promised by CCP Guard, CCP Manifest, CCP Dolan, and others, for the key players in CCP and the CSM to go over the many community-related fiascoes that have taken place since the Summer Summit. You know the list by now. ;-) There was a lot of discussion about how CCP should handle support for community fan-sites and other organizations that serve and assist the community. In the process, the discussion turned to a lot of other related topics like the TOS, EULA, GM team, et cetera. A pretty wide-ranging discussion!

Session Nineteen: Future of Big Fights.
I got permission from Dolan to release the name of this session since I've been making it clear for a few weeks now that it was going to happen. The CSM specifically requested CCP to bring a large team together to answer the following question: how the hell is the development of the game going to address the large and growing size of the average fight in EVE? The first half of this session was spent "defining the problem." Specifically, this meant making sure everyone knows that a "big fight" in EVE seems to be doubling in size every two years or so. Since that's clearly not sustainable on a single node, the rest of the discussion was about things CCP can do about it...

Session Twenty: Team Space Glitter. This was a "getting to know you" sort of meeting with a new team formed to address a specific problem with EVE development. I can't talk about what that specific problem is, but the CSM urged the team to write a dev-blog to introduce themselves to the player base at some point soon and talk about this team's short- and long-term goals. After that was done, the rest of the session was spent mostly on the long-term goals and the CSM's opinions of them.

Session Twenty-One: New Player Experience. Another new team has been formed to address this long-standing problem with EVE: how to get new players to understand the EVE experience better and make it more likely that people will turn trial accounts into paid accounts? The new team has a new -- and very interesting! -- approach and the meeting was spent discussing how this approach can be specifically implemented. This was kind of an abstract session, but the ideas this team has show promise.

Session Twenty-Two: Art. Finally, we met with the art team who showed us some of the ideas they have for the summer expansion and beyond. They didn't get to spoil specific features of the upcoming expansion this time since they went last, and this made for a nice relaxing close-out for the Winter Summit.

Following the last session of the day, there was a brief close-out chat with Dolan, then the CSM adjourned to our hotel for a bit of relaxation time before the closing dinner. As with the summer summit, this was held at a quite nice restaurant in Reyk with all seven of the CSM plus a good mix of the EVE development team. One difference from summer was that only one person from what I would consider EVE's management team attended so discussion was actually a little less casual and personal than the summer dinner, and more focused on spaceships. I myself was at a pretty significant disadvantage because the acoustics of the room weren't all that great and people ended up having to talk pretty loudly in order to be heard at all. This caused everyone else to speak even more loudly and before long I couldn't hear all that much. ;-)

After a very long three days, CSM members collapsed in reverse order of age and unfortunately that means your humble narrator was among the first two to bow out (along with Malcanis). The two of us made it to the end of dinner before heading back to the hotel at around 11:30pm or so. The rest including most of the CCPers headed for the bar afterward. I'm told the youngest members of the CSM lasted until 2:30 or 3:00am... I myself was asleep five minutes after the door to my hotel room closed and didn't wake this morning until well after nine.

It turns out the winter summit wasn't done quite yet, though, so I'll cover that in a brief Day Four post, followed by a Winter Summit wrap-up from Iceland.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Summit Day Two

Very light partially frozen "wintry mix" made the darkened streets of Reyk a bit treacherous to navigate for the morning of day two. But fortunately, our walk to CCP is very short and we made it without any falls or incidents.

Lots of NDA'ed sessions as part of this day! So unfortunately this update is going to be a little bit light. Many of the sessions spoke to the very heart of what the summer release is going to be about. As a result, we're not going to be able to write about these sessions until the feature set for summer is announced. This is a side effect of the summit this time being a bit further from the summer release date. By the time of the summer summit, a lot of the intended features had been announced. This time, that isn't the case. So I apologize for all the NDA'ed summit titles below.

From the "credit where credit is due" file, Korvin joined us for virtually every session today! So we had 13 out of 14 CSM members participating throughout the day with a good volume and mix of opinions. Still no Kesper North, though...

Today was definitely the heavy lifting day of the summit, with a lot of core discussions taking place...

Session Nine: 2014 Plan Echo. The first of four topics today where the topic title was NDA. I almost changed them to single words for each one, but "2014 Plan Echo" is what CCP Dolan called this one so I'm going to leave it alone. It at least tells you that it's something that will almost certainly happen in 2014. ;-) Other than that, I can't say a thing about this one except CCP basically came into the room, sat down, asked us for ideas on a project, and wrote down everything we said. I can't recall anyone from CCP saying "we're thinking of doing X" and asking for comments. It was all "what should we do about X?". Kind of refreshing!

Session Ten/Eleven: Feature Discussion Foxtrot/Golf. The second of four NDA sessions today, this one focused on the major deliverable for the summer expansion. Again, I can't say a thing other than what I saw very nearly made me squeee. ;-) The common reaction of several of the CSM to these two sessions was SHIP IT. MONDAY. Sadly, that ain't gonna happen but I'll be quite happy when it's in place.

Session Twelve: Discussion Hotel. The third of four NDA'ed sessions, this is a speculative idea that CCP has been throwing around the office that they wanted impartial feedback on. The idea itself (and therefore the session minutes) may never see the light of day. It's safe to say that the CSM was of mixed opinions on the idea, with some being hugely enthusiastic and others being hugely not so much. I'm really pleased that the devs in question felt that they could trust us to listen to a speculative idea and provide feedback without expectations. It's the very thing we promised them we would do when we took office. What they say they're gonna do? Fair game for follow-up. What they say they're just thinking about? We'll leave 'em alone.

Session Thirteen: Ship Balancing. There will be ship balancing for the summer! Amusingly the session started with a series of yes/no/maybe questions about specific ideas being batted around for specific ships. mynnna jokingly called this "ship balancing by show of hands." Mike Azariah worried that it wouldn't provide sufficient accountability to individual CSM members and how they voted but I'm not overly worried: all the votes but one were pretty one-sided one way or the other. Discussion then moved from specific summer plans to more generalized discussion of ship balancing topics. It was a good session!

Session Fourteen: UI. The UI team continues with the work they showed us in the summer and brought us a status update on how that's going. You can read about that part on page 58 of the Summer Summit Minutes. However, the bulk of the session was spent on specific UI changes and fixes that the team is either ready to deliver or is working on for summer. Several of them had CSM members saying "thank you!" or "yes, please!" so there was some really cool stuff here. I brought my directional scanner range slider mock-up and promised the next embroidered hoodie to the dev that made it happen. There was some interest shown in collecting. ;-) Another good session!

Session Fifteen: Feature Plan India. Finally, the fourth NDA'ed session of the day was a continuation of a CSM-requested session from yesterday. I have no idea why the title of this one is NDA'ed. It shouldn't be since the CSM requested it. I'll talk to Dolan about that today. That said, the session was very productive -- maybe the most productive session of the day! -- with spirited discussion back and forth across both sides of the table. That made four really productive sessions in a row. The CSM is earning their keep!

Here and there during the morning, CCP Fozzie brought out a CCP tool for internal metrics of EVE and shared the data with us, then asked for specific requests as to data we'd like to see. It was almost like having the QEN back for a few hours. ;-) I'm not sure if I can share what metrics I asked for so I'll be safe and not say. That said, they were things that I was curious/worried about and Fozzie agreed enough with my curiosity to oblige me and work up the graphs. Overall, I was pretty happy with what I saw except for one metric which was very slightly worrisome. I'll ask if I can share the metrics that I requested and their results. If the answer is yes, I'll put them in tomorrow's update.

After the session, dinner at CCP was quite good! All of CSM8 then adjourned to Nora's later that evening where Fozzie and CCP Guard joined us. No business that I can recall was discussed; it was just a casual evening spent chatting. Things wrapped up for most of us relatively early. As I said, this session is much more intense than summer was and several CSM members claimed the need for sleep...

That's all I can think of for now. Day three awaits!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter Summit Day One

Out the door before dawn, back at the hotel long after sunset! The Winter Summit promises to be even more of an endurance trial than the Summer Summit was, with longer days and somewhat more esoteric topics. While the first day of Summer was a kind of relaxing build-up to the meat of the Summit on day two, this time we jumped right in with very little preamble. Further, the discussions tended to be less specifically focused on summer and more general and philosophical. That was partially the CSM's own fault for reasons which I'll get into for the specific sessions today.

Virtually all of the CSM met for breakfast early and spent some time chatting about our strategy and our thinking for the coming day. This turned out to be a good move because it kept us a lot more focused once the sessions started. There's a good bit of overlap between some of the things we're covering. So staying focused was important and I think we did a good job. CCP Dolan again did an excellent job of keeping everyone focused and on schedule as well. This summit's schedule also included breaks throughout the day which also helped.

I'll have more to say about the "transcription" process once I see more of the output but it seems to be going well! For each session, there's someone knowledgeable about EVE taking notes about everything that's said. This should really speed up production of the Minutes.

We again had technical problems today, right during the two most critical sessions of the day. The joke going around is that the CSM curses the Trinity conference room whenever we arrive. Unlike last time though, the issue this time was a relatively simple fix and only delayed things by about 15 minutes or so. 12 out of 14 CSM members were involved all day, four out of five remote CSM members through video conferencing, the last through audio only conferencing. I'm gonna go ahead and name and shame those who weren't: Kesper North and Korvin.

To briefly cover the eight sessions today...

Session One: Tournaments. This was primarily CCP Bro talking about his plans for more and more varied styles of EVE tournaments and further pushing toward "EVE as e-Sport." He and I have had lots of conversations on this topic at Fanfest, EVE Vegas, and elsewhere, and I've covered my opinions of this topic on the blog several times. In particular, I expressed my worry about the widening experienced tournament "player gap" and the widening "money gap" that is separating EVE into top tier teams and "teams that get their butts kicked by top tier teams." The rest of the session was spent looking at various ways CCP could build more enthusiasm for this topic and how much dev time would be consumed by the various options.

Session Two: Localization.
This was primarily a follow-up to the Summer Summit session on the same topic. The team is most interested in how to get more CSM activity on the localization front to which most of the CSM responded: "Get more players that use localized clients involved in the election process!" The bulk of the meeting was then spent on various strategies to do that.

Sessions Three/Four: "Feature Plans Alpha and Bravo".
I can't say very much about this pair of sessions, but it was definitely the cornerstone of the day, with specific prototypes, specific plans, and a lot of really good progress for summer! I will say that this is the same feature that I had hoped was going to be in a Rubicon point release so it was great to see that it hadn't been forgotten. My personal suspicion is that half of this feature is going to make some players angry (and they'll be wrong to be so) and the other half will make lots of players really happy. And they'll be right! But I'll encourage them to push for this feature to continue iterating to its logical conclusion. What we saw of this feature was definitely iteration one (and to their credit, the devs involved said that themselves). So this one will mostly be about CSMs 9 and 10 pushing to make sure this one is iterated on.

Session Five: Team Superfriends. The first of two more generalized sessions, this one was more focused on siphons, the ESS, and the philosophy of game-play disruption. Discussion was... ummm... "spirited." Someone commented on my blog a couple of weeks back that if the CSM had "let" the ESS through as it was, we should all be fired. While I generally agree with the concern this player had about the feature, sometimes working with CCP isn't that simple. That said, I'm not an expert in this team's work so I mostly kept my mouth shut during this one.

Session Six: Team Game of Drones. The second of two generalized sessions and do I wish I could say more about this one! I'm actually pretty excited about what this team has on tap for summer. I'm even more excited about how they're going about developing it so that's the part I'll talk about. For this feature, this team cam eo the CSM with a "homework assignment" ealier in the year on what problems this team is trying to solve. They then did a great job of canvassing other experts in the player base on this same topic. We got to see directly both how CSM influence and player influence are driving this particular feature's development. Anyone who says we as the CSM or the player base don't have any influence on CCP is dead wrong.

Session Seven: Null-sec. This was the first of two sessions requested by the CSM today. Specifically, we wanted to hear what CCP's plans are for developing sov warfare. The session was long, every key player I could think of was involved, and a lot of ideas were tossed back and forth. And that's really all I can say about this one. The specific details of this session are liable to be under heavy NDA.

Session Eight: EVE Features Update. This one the second of two sessions requested by the CSM and was a clever way of saying "What about that X you promised us? How is development on that going?" Cast your mind back and I have no doubt that you'll quickly think of several values of "X" and that's what was discussed. ;-) There's another session for this topic tomorrow I believe and we won't have any trouble filling it. In the final two minutes, I got to very casually drop in a "Hey guys, what about X?" of my own and everyone involved looked at everyone else and seemed to agree that the feature I brought up has a good chance of gracing your screens come summer! Obviously, I can't say what it is, but a specific subset of you out there will be very very happy if it goes through. Again, with the influence!

Finally, not really attached to any specific session, I paid off my "technical debt" today by presenting CCP Masterplan with a bottle of Cardenal Mendoza brandy as thanks for the best change to small gang PvP in EVE in years, the warp acceleration changes! But I also wanted to provide more lasting thank yous to both he and CCP Fozzie, who has been an absolute hero both in dealing with me (hee!) and in assisting the Syndicate Competitive League. So my wife and I worked together with one of her associates to make both of them hooded sweatshirts.(1) On the back left of both, an embroidered Rifter about 10cm square at about kidney level with the EVE Online logo prominent. On the front of Fozzie's a T2 gold triangle with the text "CCP Fozzie, T2 EVE Dev" across the chest. On the front of Masterplan's, "Everything is working as intended. --CCP Masterplan."

A couple of other devs let me know how jealous they were. ;-) I forgot to bring the pictures of the sweatshirts with me to Iceland so I'll post them when I get home. I let Masterplan know that he could (and should) share the brandy with anyone who helped him with the warp speed changes. He had some volunteers!

By the end of the first day, I was a bit more tired than I expected to be and there was no planned dinner so I skipped the evening at Nora's and got some extra sleep. Feeling 100% now... on to day two!

(1) The original plan was for my wife and I to do all the work in-house with me doing the graphics conversions and she doing the embroidery. But I found out she has the wrong kind of embroidery sewing machine for this kind of work. She was quick to point out she could be more helpful with a new one. I joked to the devs "My association with you people is likely to cost me several thousand dollars in the near future..."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Summit Day Zero

Hello from Iceland! I'm getting ready for the first day of the Winter Summit. You can... um, ahem... "read" about the schedule on the EVE Online website. Needless to say I've already started chatting with Dolan about making more of the session titles at least non-:nda:. I have no idea why a couple of them are when I and others have talked about them in public. So stay tuned on that.

Short version, though: long sessions in the morning are about anticipated major summer release features. Early afternoon ones are generally team meetings. Late afternoon ones are generally one-offs or smaller teams.

Before the day starts, though, let's wrap up the travel day so that those of you who run for CSM9 know what to expect.

As before, travel arrangements are made by an in-office CCP travel guy and this time with some experience, I was able to request a much more satisfactory routing, California to Colorado to Iceland. That shaved significantly off the travel time. The Iceland flight was empty: perhaps 45 or so people rattling through a Boeing 757. I learned this when I checked in so I specifically requested an empty row in the back of the plane so I could stretch out and sleep if I chose to. I nearly always do, and this flight was no exception. It's an all-nighter that lands in Iceland at 0630, so I slept through about half of it. CCP's regular driver Alli then picks you up at the airport and it's off to the hotel.

This time, that's the Islandair Marina, right on the water. Good news: you can see CCP from your window. It's, at most, a ten minute walk door to door. Bad news, the rooms are kind of tiny and inconvenient. I'm writing this sitting on a bar stool with my laptop on a shelf. So do be aware of the trials I go through to bring you guys this blog. ;-) The room has a deck overlooking the marina (more floor space than the actual hotel room!) but the marina in this area is all about repairing big fishing boats and small cargo ships so there isn't a huge amount to see. Still, I'll take a picture tonight. The good news: they were able to check us right in. And one of the desk staff helping us was an EVE player and reacted very enthusiastically when he learned who I was, hee. I forgot to get his in-character name!

It's full dark until 0900, twilight lasts about 60 minutes, it's light until 1600 or so, another 60 minutes of twilight, and then it's full dark again. So you can personally confirm the axial tilt of the Earth here if you haven't done so already. The weather is actually supposed to be surprisingly pleasant all week: just above freezing with just a minimum of rain and wind.

mynnna, progodlegend and I arrived on the same Colorado flight in the morning, with our four Europeans scheduled for the afternoon so the three of us went to breakfast at The Laundromat with CCP Fozzie and CCP Rise. As before, the conversation was mostly casual though of course some spaceships drifted in. The three of us then adjourned to our hotel for short naps and to wait for Chitsa Jason, Sala Cameron, Malcanis, and Mangala Solaris to arrive. To let some cool air into the hotel room, I oepned one of my windows while I napped. The guys on the marina cleverly attempted to prevent my nap by hammering and welding on ships all afternoon. This didn't have a hope of keeping me awake.

So for the record, all seven of us are present and accounted for:
  1. myself, Ripard Teg,
  2. mynnna,
  3. progodlegend,
  4. Chitsa Jason,
  5. Sala Cameron,
  6. Mangala Solaris, and,
  7. Malcanis.
Most of us agreed to meet at CCP for dinner and that's where all of us except mynnna were by 1830 or so (mynnna had a hankering for Italian food). As before, dinner at CCP is free and there's lots of casual conversation to be had. A number of CCPers bring their families to dinner to save living expenses (and honestly so they can keep working...). After a hi-how-are-ya conversation with the four new arrivals, CCP Dolan led an office tour. I then led the group back to the hotel and from there to Nora's for the summit's first beer. Chitsa and I lasted until midnight.

Breakfast and first day's planning session in an hour or so. Unless something remarkable happens, new post in 24 hours!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter Summit Day Minus One

Back to Iceland for the first time in 2014! A few hours after I post this, I'll be flying from California to Colorado, then boarding an Icelandicair flight to Reyk. Projected arrival, 6:30am or so on Tuesday morning. So unless something remarkable happens, this will be my last post for a bit.

Weather for this trip seems mostly cooperative: 1C/33F with light "winter mix" toward the end of the week and surprisingly light winds. So if all goes well, the very same kit I brought for Fanfest last year (when it was colder with more snow!) should work fine. It's serving to keep my suitcase fairly light. It'll be lighter still on the return trip since a fairly significant portion of my kit is gifts and thank yous for various CCP devs. Yes, the bottle of brandy is in there. ;-) I'll try to remember to get a picture of it before or as I turn it over to its proper recipient. But there are a few other surprises as well that I'm bringing along. The devs don't have to deal with us -- lots of them don't! -- so it's nice to recognize those that do with brib-- er, nice thank you presents if one has the ability to do so...

Speaking of that, thank you to everyone who showed up or sent in questions for CSM8 Town Hall #4 today! It went really well, a productive meeting, I thought. Lots of the questions were really good, and there was a minimum of sniping at us for the minutes fiasco. I appreciated that quite a lot. CCP Dolan showed up to talk about some of his plans to speed up minutes production for the Winter Summit, notably a CCP employee -- he didn't say who -- who will be transcribing the key portions of each session as they happen for conversion to Minutes. That ought to speed things up quite a bit though we'll see how it goes in practice.

Thank you again to Neville Smit of EVE University and DJ Wiggles of EVE Radio for their technical support of CSM8's Town Halls! Outstanding work and assistance from both of them, as always!

A couple of CSM members including myself noted that it's time for people who are running for CSM to start their campaigns in earnest. Two CSM members (Chitsa Jason, progodlegend) took the opportunity to state in public that they will not be running for CSM9. Right after I get back from the Summit, I will be doing my annual traditional post listing who from the current crew is and is not running as they make public announcements about it. Notably, the CSM8 Chair Trebor Daehdoow did not take the opportunity to announce his retirement...

Next Town Hall will hopefully correspond roughly with Rubicon 1.1's release and the release of the Winter Summit Minutes. I'm aiming for the first week of March. We'll see.

As with the Summer Summit, I expect to do daily posts from Iceland giving my impressions of the process, the attendees, as much information as I can reveal briefly about each session... same stuff I did in August. Things that will probably not happen this week are my regular weekly KOTW and FOTW posts, nor is there likely to be a CSM update for the obvious reason. I'll catch up with the super kills in next week's KOTW post.

That's all for now, I think. Next post will be on Iceland time!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Soul-crushing lag

And the final bookmark for today, 18 January 2014, is a short one. Specifically, it's a reference to the bad old days of the introduction of Time Dilation two years ago this month. Just a couple of months ago, I wrote a longer piece about TiDi in which I said...
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.
As of January 2014, it's no longer holding the wound closed. The wound is reopening and it's starting to bleed. Yeah, I want to talk about HED-GP a little.

Thousands of people piled into HED-GP for the timer today and every report I've heard from the fight indicated that the bad old days of 2012 have returned: ships trapped in warp tunnels, ships subjected to random effects, ships unable to cycle mods or launch drones, ships apparently operating in space while the pilots of these ships received notification that their ship was dead, fleets ordered not to jump in to prevent them from suffering these ill effects.

And of course, ships that already held the field having a significant advantage over ships trying to enter the field... one of the major things that TiDi was introduced to the game to prevent.

The fight itself was a demonstration of where sov fights are in EVE these days: dozens of titans, hundreds of super-carriers, hundreds and hundreds of Archons and Chimeras, and a number probably not all that short of a thousand dreadnoughts either in the system or trying to jump into the system.

Welcome to sov fights, circa the first month of 2014.

So yeah, as I've mentioned, the CSM requested a session on "The Future of Big Fights in EVE." CCP bought themselves two years with the last band-aid, and I know there have been plans to address this problem further. But I don't see the fights in EVE getting any smaller, do you? I mean after all, even a relatively small event in EVE now features some 1200 pilots (and TiDi, and lag!) in a single system... a fight size that would have been a major event in 2012. Now this size fight is relatively routine. And yet it still causes problems.

What will a "big fight" in EVE look like two years from now?

EDIT (19/Jan/2014): CSM8 Chairman Trebor Daehdoow wrote a long piece on this topic. Go read it! It's worth your time. I'm trying to talk him into a second piece with some of his ideas about how to address this long-standing problem.

Blue is the warmest color

Second bookmark I want to put on today, 18 January 2014, centers on this agreement.

In the CSM Minutes, you'll find the CSM being initially informed of CCP's intent to put players in control of high-sec POCOs. I immediately raised the concern that the biggest entities in the game would take over all the POCOs worth anything and then would hide behind the inability of anyone else to war-dec them effectively (it's on pages 41 and 42):
Soniclover pointed out that there are a lot of planets in highsec, though Ripard Teg countered that there are far fewer in range of Jita. Soniclover stated that those would be hotly contested.
The Minutes don't show what the video conference recording shows: me shutting up and shaking my head. ;-) CCP SoniClover, how did that whole "POCOs around Jita will be hotly contested" thing end up working out?

In the last couple of years, the concept of a "conflict driver" in EVE has come to have less and less meaning as out-of-game treaties and agreements have come to govern the control of the money-making constructs in EVE. Moons and home region sites, incursions and now POCOs, are managed by gentleman's agreements and handshake discussions and outright treaties that basically come down to "these two are yours, these three are mine, and let's agree not to mess with each other's money-makers." Non-invasion pacts and blue lists have become the norm, as player social agreements have grown from corps to alliances to coalitions to now... whatever this B0TLRD treaty is. We're gonna need a new word.

Reading it, I was unmistakably reminded of Londo Mollari and Mr. Morden dividing up the galaxy between the two of them on Babylon 5.

The rest of us? Bad at EVE and therefore irrelevant. In any event, the treaty does make it pretty clear that the two of them may need to join forces to wipe out any of the rest of us that seem inclined to get uppity and forget our places. In short, it's an blue agreement for which the word "coalition" isn't blue enough to describe.

But really, all of these agreements come down to one thing: rather than fighting over the sources of ISK in EVE, let's just split them up in some "equitable" way between the "relevant" players in this game and bring in ISK by the tens of trillions until Dr. EyjoG starts to weep!

It's a good enough goal for those lacking a better one, I suppose.

Year in the Life: PLEX cycle

I want to place a couple of bookmarks on today, 18 January 2014. This is one of them:

In the last two years, PLEX prices have gone through a recognizable cycle (all seasons, northern hemisphere):
  • they climb in the period after the summer expansion, probably as students return to school and their outside activities are replaced by EVE;
  • they peak and hold in October or so as short-term investors make their buys to get their characters through the winter;
  • there's a brief further spike after the winter expansion as some lapsed players return to the game to try out new features;
  • there's a long fall through the winter as exams and school and work intrude on gaming time;
  • they bottom out in April, a month or so before the release of the summer expansion; and,
  • they jump a bit here and there through this period as long-term investors make their buys for the next year.
It's a cycle predictable enough that players and bloggers have started counting on it. And each year the peaks escalate by 50 or 60 million ISK: the October 2011 spike was 500 million ISK. October 2012, 560 million ISK. This year, it was about 610. The valleys in 2011, 2012, and 2013 show similar trends, just with bigger escalations each year, closer to 100 million per year than 60. The winter valley in 2011 (it happened in March that year) was 320 million ISK.(1)

But prior to that first valley and peak in 2011, PLEX prices were actually pretty stable long-term, if two prior years of data can be considered "long term". Here's the proof:

So the PLEX cycle does break, and has broken before.

I bring up this moment as a bookmark because I feel like the cycle of the last two years is going to break in the coming year. I don't have any specific proof of it... just a feeling. That feeling is based on my sense that the EVE player base is becoming more and more "distilled": more dedicated long-term multi-alt vets being fed PLEXes by fewer and fewer newbies buying them trying to get a jump-start into the game. A close review of the data will reveal that PLEX volumes are inching slowly, steadily downward: supply is being reduced. CCP seems to be responding to this with more frequent PLEX sales and this will certainly help, slowing the trend.

But if I recall correctly, economics still have something to say about prices when supply is reduced.

Anyway, I might be wrong, but I wanted to bookmark this moment. I'll come back to it in four or five months after the winter "bottoming out" has either happened... or hasn't.

(1) There was also a recognizable December peak in 2010. It was 380 million ISK, if you can believe it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Picture" of the Week: Drebuchet

God knows that I'm critical of Lord Maldoror's Rooks and Kings videos around here from time to time. As I've said before, while I thought Clarion Calls 1 and 2 were masterpieces, I find his more recent stuff incredibly pretentious, and hugely lacking in both actual EVE game-play and specific suggestions on how to apply the tactics that he talks about. That last was one of the things that made CC1 and CC2 truly great: not only was the game-play video fantastic, but the vids showed how the tactics worked, step-by-step, and more or less dared you to put the ideas therein into practice.

So I guess it's only fair to point out when they get one right. The latest tactics Rooks and Kings video, jokingly called "The Drebuchet" is brilliant, the most fun and clever thing put out by Rooks and Kings in years. It's particularly funny for me because I was prepared to hate it after the first 25 or 30 seconds. Go give it a watch:

So yeah, OK, that was funny and fairly brilliant. Well done!

The real question, though: can anyone actually implement the tactic demonstrated in this video? In particular, can someone use it to save a titan or other super tackled on a POS? Guess we'll see.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fit of the Week: HAM Sandwich Legion

I give you this fit in the hopes that someone out there will find a use for it (or already has). Rote Kapelle was flying these regularly for about two months then a couple of new FCs came in and wanted to take the meta in a different direction and we never flew them again.

And yet, I love the concept and think it has a lot of promise in the right application. Let's start with the fit, then I'll tell its story:

[Legion, HAM Sandwich]
Federation Navy 1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Damage Control II
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Warp Disruptor II

Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Heavy Assault Missile
True Sansha Medium Energy Neutralizer
True Sansha Medium Energy Neutralizer

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

Legion Propulsion - Chassis Optimization
Legion Offensive - Assault Optimization
Legion Electronics - Energy Parasitic Complex
Legion Defensive - Adaptive Augmenter
Legion Engineering - Capacitor Regeneration Matrix

The fit itself happened completely by accident. During one of the Syndicate Competitive League matches, the Reputation Cartel team being captained by Bob Shaftoes had to go through a grueling set of matches where they had to fight again and again and again, seemingly all afternoon, one match after another. And in the process of those matches, they started with a lot of standard comps and fittings, but eventually had to field so many comps and so many ships that they had to improvise a lot of ships to take specific roles.

And in one of their improvisations, they needed neuts but also DPS, so they threw both onto a single Legion: a pair of neuts supplemented by an otherwise full set of HAM launchers. The fit they used was really rather horrible. And I can't even remember if they won the match (I believe they did). But the concept...

...oh yes, I could see a lot of interesting possibilities in the concept.

For the longest time, my two favorite ships to fly were the Hurricane and Tempest, both of which featured dual neuts. But 2013 treated both ships pretty poorly, and I think I was all primed to love another dual neut attack boat. At the time, Rote was already running close-range brawling AHAC gangs pretty regularly and this struck me as a really fun addition to such a fleet. AHAC DPS plus utility neuts on a super-tanky, fairly mobile platform? Yes please!

So I took the Reputation Cartel fit and tweaked and modified and tweaked and modified, through several iterations, ending up with the fit above. It has lots of fun advantages! Let's start with the tank: it's twice as tough as the Zealots and Deimoses that were the cornerstone of the Rote brawling fleets. 115k EHP before fleet bonuses or armor links, with an average resist in the mid 80s. Paired with a Damnation, EHP rises to 150k with average resists in the high 80s. If you have the ISK, you can get another 10k or so by trading out the faction EANMs for A-type ANPs. So the ship is incredibly tough, incredibly suited to close range brawling and close range tackle.

DPS is about average for the AHAC fleets that this ship was paired with, a little over 400 base which can be increased routinely to about 475 by overheating half the missile launchers at a time. That's very respectable DPS particularly since it's tunable to whatever type of damage you want to fire, and you can swap out for Javelin missiles and get a 30km range. Even the base 20km range is quite good for a brawling ship, again superior to the Zealots that it would be flying with.

Speed is also quite good, at 1400-1450m/s, which is about equal to Zealots. The secret to the speed is the little-known Federation Navy plate, which greatly reduces the normal mass penalty of a 1600mm plate on a cruiser-size ship. Many of my attack T3s use this plate for that reason. If speed is not as important to you, it has the same fitting requirements as a T2 plate (which will increase the ship's sizeable tank still further).

This particular fit has standard MWD, point, and web, but you can (and should!) seriously consider a low-end deadspace MWD to reduce the cap penalty inflicted by MWDs and faction point and web to increase the ship's tackle range. A good faction web, in particular, is definitely worth seriously considering.

But the heart of the fit is two medium neuts that with the Legion bonuses are sucking away 540 cap every 12 seconds. For comparison, that is nearly the equivalent of two heavy neuts on a battleship platform. It's sufficient to drain pretty much any cruiser- or battle cruiser-sized ship of its cap in 30-40 seconds and in small groups is a credible threat to capital ship cap... while it's also doing very respectable DPS and can't be blapped off the field by a dread the way an Armageddon might be.

So yeah, hopefully you can understand my fascination with the concept. During those two months, I rapidly racked up more than a hundred kills in this boat with no losses. The thing looks very unassuming -- I mean, who cares about a Legion, right? -- as it sucks your life away while simultaneously plugging heavy assault missiles right into your resistance hole... if it's not making a new resistance hole more to its liking. ;-) And the best part? It's dead simple to fly: go right at 'em!

But as I said, a couple of new FCs came into Rote, pooh-pooh'ed the close range brawling AHAC meta, and ordered everyone into a longer-range skirmish AHAC meta. I haven't flown my "HAM Sandwich" in months.(1)

But now, maybe someone out there will get some fun out of it. Neut someone into the ground for me!

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.

(1) HAMs in the middle, sandwiched between the dual neuts.