Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Monday, March 31, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week forty-seven

OK, this week's delay in the Minutes is all my fault. I'll take the hit for this week. Not all the other weeks, though. And it certainly hasn't stopped us from pestering CCP Dolan about them pretty much daily. To my knowledge, CSM8 has no responsibilities on this right now; we're 100% waiting for the mail from CCP. Ali Aras is taking the lead on this, though several of us have been chipping in on a more or less constant basis. For those of you wanting the Minutes out before the election starts: very much yes, us too! As I said a couple of weeks back, I expected them to be out before the Town Hall.

Speaking of Town Hall #5, if you missed it, EVE Radio now has their recording up. Thanks to the guys at EVE Radio and particularly DJ Wiggles for hosting this!

In addition to my Cap Stable interview this past week, I also did an interview with the Legacy of a Capsuleer pod-cast. It covers a lot of the same ground as the first interview, but also goes into my own history playing EVE, a history of the blog, the kinds of blog posts I write, et cetera. If you've been reading here for a while, it's pretty much all stuff you already know. It's currently top left on their site, though here's the direct link if you'd like it.

I'd also like to point again at the excellent CSM9 candidate interviews being done by both of these pod-casts. Legacy posts theirs on their front page. Cap Stable still has the dedicated CSM9 interview page. I'm a fan of the second format if for no other reason than it shows who has submitted to interviews and who hasn't. Thanks again to both of these pod-casts for providing this important service! One other CSM9 candidate note: progodlegend has declared his candidacy after previously stating that he wasn't going to run. So that's six CSM8 members running for reelection.

Korvin has told me repeatedly that he isn't running (but hasn't posted it in public anywhere that I can link to). Sort Dragon and Kesper North are staying quiet about it, so I guess they're not running. The official candidate list should be out before the end of the week. Once it is, I'll be talking about my own endorsements, then who I think is going to win.

Mike Azariah did an interview this week outside of his CSM9 campaign on Podside. Feel free to give it a listen; I need to listen to this one myself. Mike also did a shorter interview on EVE Radio, this one more focused on the Oculus sale to Facebook.

The status of the various communications methods with CCP could be a repeat of the last few weeks: Skype is quiet, the forums are busy! In particular, we got a nice mix this week of really practical summer release dev-blog stuff (some of it coming very soon) and a bit more theoretical design stuff also intended for summer. So there was something for every CSM member to talk about... I'll state again that we've had really nice access this past year to not only the Q&A sort of "should we do X or Y?" questions, but also much more design-related questions to which I don't think previous CSMs have had access. It's really terrific from a CCP communications stand-point! But also more work...

Speaking of more work, we had our twice-a-month stake-holder meeting this last week, and it was both quite long and quite involved. Again, there's nothing that I can share except that the summer release features are coming along great, there's more and more of them being added to the pile, and I think players will be pretty happy with what they see. In particular, there was a lot of discussion about various wormhole-related items including that thread that CCP Fozzie posted. I'm going to keep my mouth shut on specifics; I think two things that came out of this discussion are now public but I can't be 100% sure so I'm not going to mention them. Mention them in comments if you know about them. ;-) James Arget has been taking the lead on these items.

And... that's all I can think of. I feel like I'm forgetting something but if I am I'll put it in next week's update. Heading down the home stretch now! Five weeks to Fanfest!

Elder Scrolls Online Mini-Guide: Gathering

I've been seeing a bit of whining here and there about how resource-gathering is "hard" in ESO so I thought it'd be interesting to write a quick guide on it. This is by no means meant to be definitive but should get brand new players over the hump of "This is what you should look for." at least.

First rule of resource-gathering in ESO is get off the freakin' road! See that part of the map that's well away from all the in-game markers, the part that has the impassable-looking terrain on it, the part that seems the furthest away from anything at all? Go there.

Second rule of resource-gathering in ESO is to go to the edges and to go high up. The higher you are, the more likely you're going to see interesting things. The closer to the edges of things you are, the more likely you're going to see a little notch that nobody else is going to notice that goes straight to somewhere interesting.

Third rule of resource-gathering in ESO is to use your eyes! Look around the terrain around you. Those people on horseback riding around the countryside at breakneck speed are not gonna see a thing and wouldn't notice a big pile of gold if they rode right past it (and they often do!). Stay on your feet, stay mobile, move your eyes back and forth sweeping the terrain around you. It doesn't much matter if you use first-person or third-person view, though I find the third-person view useful.

Getting off the road gets you away from your main competition for resources: other players. Going to the edges of the map and going high up makes it more likely that you're going to see the goodies others won't or find hidden pockets in the terrain to hoard. And keeping your eyes open will help you spot these things. But once you're doing the right things, here's what you're looking for:

This is iron ore. It's used to make heavy armor and most melee weapons. You'll pick up 3-4 units of ore for each of these you find. Iron ore is often tucked up against the sides of mountains, particularly the sides of mountains on coastlines. In some areas you can quickly run across three or four of these in a line tucked up against some distant mountain facing the coastline.

This is wood. It's used to make bows, staffs, and shields. It tends to be in the same sorts of places you find iron ore, though big clumps of trees will often have at least one of these nearby if you hunt around a bit. These are the easiest to spot if you get high up and sweep your gaze around the nearby countryside.

This is jute. It's used to make light armor. Conversely to wood, it tends to be the trickiest to find, often tucked in among other plant life (as it is here) or in the shadows of hillsides. I've also frequently found it on the outside edges of the towns that you visit. Not shown is the various hides used to make medium armor. You'll find these on the mid-level creatures inhabiting each area you visit: mudcrabs, wolves, ketches, bears, et cetera.

This is a rune. There are three types. These are taken to Enchanting Tables in the crafting areas of the game and are combined -- one circle rune, one square rune, and one pentagon rune -- into glyphs. Once you have a glyph, you right click a weapon or armor or whatever to apply the glyph to it. Be wary of enchanting your bread-and-butter weapon since magical weapons eat through their energy stockpile and must be recharged with soul gems.

This is a reagent, used to make potions. There are dozens of types. As you wander the wilderness, look for plants that look slightly out of place compared to their surroundings. Note these blue flowers in the sea of purple. That's your clue that this plant is harvestable. I'm still learning about potion creation but it appears to follow the Skyrim model.

This is a chest. It's the most rare type of resource that can be gathered. They'll be locked, and will use the ESO lock-picking mini-game to open. Chests are nearly always tucked away in remote corners of the map, behind notches along mountain walls, on remote beaches far from other players, or under bridges or other terrain features. Note this one placed on a cliff overlooking a road on which there were a lot of people completely oblivious to its presence. Chests always have a good stock of gold, a potion of some sort, and some sort of magical goody in them. They're almost never guarded.

Finally, when you "win" a particular area and there are a lot of NPCs standing around cheering you, it will be tempting to go straight to the next area. Don't! That's what all the other morons are doing. All those resources that are usually on the map are still there in this "victory instance." Take ten or fifteen minutes and roam around looking for them. If your backpack isn't completely full of goodies before you enter the next area, you're doing something wrong.

Other than chests, resources take only seconds to gather and once they're gathered, they disappear for other players for a goodly long stretch. So if you see one, pounce on it!

Chances are, though, I got there ahead of you. ;-)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Also Ripard

What I did this weekend instead of think about EVE Online a whole lot, by Jester.

Five day early access to Elder Scrolls Online is now open! And I'm getting a head start. Out of the three character classes I played during beta, I decided to stick with the Dragon Knight class for my first main. While I tended to play a healer quite a bit in Global Agenda PvP, this game feels like like one where I'll get more enjoyment out of tanking.

On the side

I wasn't going to write about Erotica 1 again. I was content to let this vile person and his doings fade to black. Still, there is one more thing that needs to be said. I'll keep it short.

I spent most of yesterday not thinking about EVE except when dragged back or forced to. I've read most or all of my EVE mail on the matter (currently running about four to one in favor of my role in this, thank you guys). I got pulled into a five or so in-game conversations and a couple of Skype chats. And in those conversations and mail, there's an issue that keeps coming up that I'd like to address.

If you want to talk to me about Erotica 1, that's fine. But if you're going to talk to me about him, have the courage to talk to me about the main issue, not side issues. Because I'm sick to death of people desperately trying to use side issues to cover the main one. And the main issue is this: do you want this vile excuse for a human being and people like him playing our game and being part of our community?

Whether CCP had the right to ban him? Side issue. How much influence I or the rest of the CSM had on the final punishment? Side issue.(1) Whether what Erotica 1 and his followers do is "torture" or merely "cruel, demeaning, and humiliating"? Side issue. How I or the victim should be punished for our own actions? Side issue. How the victim now feels about what was done to him? Side issue. Why CCP acted now instead of months ago? Side issue. Whether or not you are "disappointed" about how I brought this situation to light? Major side issue.(2)

I certainly have my opinions on these and other side issues. I think I've made my feelings on all of them plain enough. But every time I drag people who want to talk about these side issues -- and these side issues only -- back to the main issue, all they want to do is nervously shuffle their feet and bring up another side issue. Once again, if you want to talk to me about this, have the courage to face the main issue and be willing to talk about that, too.

(1) Though I find it ironic that people who say the CSM has no influence at all are suddenly saying I somehow caused or enforced this ban.
(2) I had two people I respect try to play that card in the last 48 hours and I shut them both down quick. If you won't even look the main issue in the eye, you certainly don't get to say you're disappointed with me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Series canceled

Six or eight times (or maybe even ten times, I've lost count) during the run of this blog, I've chosen to take a particular topic within EVE Online, disassemble it, and look at it from a lot of different angles. When The Mittani had his wizard hat incident, I wrote eight posts about that. When CCP had their unfortunate October lay-offs two years ago, I wrote ten posts about that. When I was examining what I felt were failings in how CSM7 was operating, I wrote six posts about that.

For the lay-offs, for instance, I wrote posts on CCP financials, the probable impact on the company culture, the impact on the players, the particularly harsh impact on the Community team at that time, how future EVE Online expansions might be affected, how CCP's other games might be affected, et cetera.

So in January, I decided to run a series of blog posts about bullying and harassment in EVE Online. The eventual plan was for ten blog posts, with probably a couple of follow-on comment of the week posts as people reacted to the series. The "tent-pole" post, which I had intended to publish today, was about general bullying in EVE Online with a focus on bullying of new players.(1) The full series of posts:
  1. How nasty treatment of EVE players is escalating;
  2. how EVE players are like Reavers (a bit tongue in cheek);
  3. what happens to CCP if they do nothing about this;
  4. the intensity level of out-of-game harassment;
  5. the good that EVE players do, linked to...;
  6. the perception of EVE players outside of EVE;
  7. the bonus round (I wonder how this post went);
  8. what kinds of new players is EVE attracting, and what kinds are we driving off;
  9. how do the CSM9 candidates respond to this topic; and,
  10. the final post which would have been about bullying.
And as I mentioned, in the midst of this I expected to run a post or two with comments and reactions. I expected the final post to be the most contentious and I have been working on it and editing it for about seven weeks now.

Needless to say, that post is now going into the Disney Vault for a while as are the two unfinished posts that were to precede it. I have no particular desire to make the current EVE Community team workload any worse than it already is. After all, I'd like to see the Minutes someday. ;-)

CCP Falcon has announced CCP's official position on the current earthquake. In particular:
While the content of online interactions between players cannot realistically be gated within our game worlds, CCP strongly disapproves of clear and extraordinary levels of real life harassment against our players in the outside world.

CCP, in collaboration with the CSM, have agreed and would like to state in the strongest possible terms and in accordance with our existing Terms of Service and End User License Agreement, that real life harassment is morally reprehensible, and verifiable examples of such behavior will be met with disciplinary action against game accounts in accordance with our Terms of Service.
Short version? Even sandboxes have some limits, and out of game behavior should stay within limits of morality if you want to keep playing the game. If you exceed those limits, even if you try to hide yourself outside the client, CCP retains the right to take action against your use of their client. In other words, more or less what I said about this topic earlier in the week. So needless to say, I believe CCP made the right decision here. Exactly what was done to Erotica 1 hasn't been announced but I think it likely we'll hear from the man himself in the next day or two. After that, it will be time to see how his followers react.

For the moment, they're busily trying to rules lawyer the forum thread into the ground without notable success. This ruling doesn't mean your FC or alliance leader can't call you names, for instance, and anyone trying to say that it does is being deliberately obtuse and argumentative.

Finally, last night I gave what I feel like is going to be my definitive interview on this topic to Hoots, Lanctharus, and the other guys at the Cap Stable pod-cast. Most of that interview is now up... go give it a listen if you care to and thanks to the guys for having me on!

Anyway, I think that's all I have to say about this topic for now. I'm going to keep watching it and see how this evolves. Perhaps one day the bullying post will come out of the vault but for now I'm happy that EVE players and CCP have started the conversation on this topic... if not in exactly the way that I intended.

I wrap with perhaps the funniest response to today's events (edited slightly):
Looks like someone didn't make it though to the end of CCP's Bonus Round.

(1) For a hint of where that post was going to go, read this and this, both excellent pieces of writing.

Athena III

Remember how I said I was trying to design a heavy lifter based around KSP's Mainsail engine? And how I was having lots of trouble with it? I finally succeeded, and what a success! It turned out in very Zen fashion that all I needed to do to succeed was to go back to basics, keep thing simple, and focus on fundamentals.

This thing is a beast.

When designing the first and second stages of my rockets in KSP, I have been following a rule that I privately think of as the 3/30 rule: cut the first stage at 3km and 150m/s, cut the second stage at 30km and 1000m/s. This is a rule that's served me quite well going all the way back to my earliest "Virgo" launcher. I've read again and again on other KSP websites that there isn't much point to moving faster than 200m/s below 10km, so my step-by-step flight profile from 0 to 30km has generally been:
  1. Lift-off and acceleration as close to 150m/s velocity as possible.
  2. If velocity exceeds 150m/s below 3000m, cut throttles to 75% or so to maintain 175m/s.
  3. Cut the first stage at around 3000m and 150m/s, usually resulting in 110-140m/s up to 10000m.
  4. Gravity turn at 10000m to 45 degrees pitch at 90 degrees inclination.
  5. Allow speed to pass 200m/s no sooner than 10000m, then accelerate.
  6. Decelerate as needed to keep the stress on the vehicle at about 3Gs.
  7. Aim for 1000m/s speed at 30000m before second stage cut-off.
I find if I meet all of these goals, the resulting vehicle almost never has any issues making orbit. Hell, I followed a variation of this plan with my space planes: use the air-breathing engines to get to 30km and 1000m/s, then boost from there. It worked fine.

That last bit -- keeping the stress on the vehicle at 3G -- is something that I picked up from watching real life space shuttle launches. At about 7:20 into their launches, their computer starts dialing back thrust to maintain that load. So I thought it would be fun to mimic this plus who knows, it probably helps things not break off my rockets. ;-)

My first launchers in KSP four months ago would rapidly accelerate off the launch pad. But as I've been building heavier creations I've gotten used to slower lift-offs. Enterprise positively struggled to get into the air and was at the lower limit of the line all the way into orbit.

I say all of this because this new heavy lifter has ridiculous acceleration and speed, particularly for so heavy a vehicle. First stage cut-off and separation was at 5000m and I had to throttle the engines back to 75% at 2500m to keep speed below 200m/s! And that's where the throttle stayed right up to 10000m and the gravity turn. After that, I slowly eased the engines up to 100% throttle for the boost phase and kept them there until G-load passed 3Gs. At that point, I stepped down the throttle in 10% increments to keep the G-load right at 3Gs until second stage cut-off and separation.

That second stage cut-off happens at right around 70km and 1700m/s. That's where I start with a completely full third stage. Wow. Just wow.

Needless to say, this lifter has no trouble at all with much heavier loads. I haven't yet found its practical mass limit to a 400km parking orbit. It's definitely going to be my Jool mission lifter and I wish I'd had it for Duna. So I now know what's getting me to Jool; just have to design the final vehicles. More on that in my next KSP post.

I don't usually share full fittings but this time I'm going to:

[Athena III Heavy Lifter]
Stage 3 (innermost stage), top to bottom:
  • 1@ Rockomax Brand Decoupler
  • 1@ Advanced S.A.S Module, Large
  • 2@ Rockomax Jumbo-64 Fuel Tank
  • 1@ Rockomax "Skipper" Liquid Engine

Stage 2 (middle stage), top to bottom:
  • 6@ 1@ Protective Rocket Nose Mk7 (optional)
  • 6@ 2@ Rockomax Jumbo-64 Fuel Tank
  • 6@ 1@ Rockomax "Mainsail" Liquid Engine
Link to Stage 3 with:
  • 6@ 1@ TT-70 Radial Decoupler
  • 6@ 3@ EAS-4 Strut Connector (space evenly around decoupler)
  • 6@ 1@ FTX-2 External Fuel Duct
Link to Stage 4 with:
  • 6@ 1@ EAS-4 Strut Connector (heavy S4s, not needed for light S4s)

Stage 1 (outer stage), top to bottom:
  • 18@ 1@ Aerodynamic Nose Cone (optional)
  • 18@ 1@ Rockomax BACC Solid Fuel Booster
Link to Stage 2 with:
  • 18@ 1@ TT-70 Radial Decoupler
  • 18@ 1@ EAS-4 Strut Connector (at the top)
Link each SRB left to right with:
  • 2@ 1@ EAS-4 Strut Connector each, at top and bottom of SRBs
Stabilize with 6-12 TT18-A Launch Stability Enhancer to suit

Add Stage 4 to suit.

As I said, it's a pretty simple design with a minimum of parts. It just turned out the tricky bit was figuring out how to put them together without the vehicle tearing itself to bits. The secret is lots of structural bracing between the stages. Next up, some theoretical vehicle designs for the Jool moon tour.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fit of the Week: Hunter-killer Stratios

"Good artists copy, great artists steal" as the apocryphal quote goes. I've mentioned a time or two on this blog that if you're a PvP'er, you should definitely look through the loss-mails of pilots you admire for ships for which you want good fittings. I do this all the time and I'm gonna do it again this week.

Rote Kapelle isn't much of a black ops hot-dropping alliance -- we prefer fights -- but we do it from time to time. I usually fly a little max tackle Proteus I designed; it's intended to keep the victims from escaping. But the last couple of times we did it, I was really intrigued by a Stratios brought by my alliance-mate Ben Booley. It did monstrous damage, felt pretty tanky when it came under attack, and of course, it's currently the best-looking ship in the game. He shared the fit with me of course, but recently he shared the fit with everyone else, too...

I really like this fit! Couldn't have come up with much better myself.

[Stratios, Ben Booley]
Damage Control II
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Drone Damage Amplifier II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor
Omnidirectional Tracking Link II, Optimal Range Script
Omnidirectional Tracking Link II, Optimal Range Script
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400

Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M

Medium Anti-Explosive Pump II
Medium Trimark Armor Pump II
Medium Trimark Armor Pump II

Garde II x4

First, DPS is heavily weighted to the drone side and comes from Gardes, double DDAs, double tracking links, and the ship's own bonuses. So once you've landed on your target, get your drones out right away, either right before you start locking targets or right after. Fit this way and with the four guns overheated, your DPS is well over 700. That's freakin' monstrous for a cloaky ship, and unheard of for a cloaky cruiser. Prepare to be top damage dealer on most hot drops. Obviously, trade out the Conflag ammo for faction Multifrequency for sub-battleship targets, but...

...you have another option. The ship is somewhat slow for a cruiser at 1300m/s or so but you do have the option of swapping out to Scorch ammo and kiting at point range. This only reduces your DPS by 50 or so and does increase your survivability somewhat if the hot drop victims call in friends. If this happens and you want to bug out, don't worry about scooping your drones. Gardes are cheap compared to the ship itself and you can (and should) carry a backup set. That's why I'm only listing one-quarter of the capacity of the drone bay. You should probably carry a set of four Curators. You should probably carry a set of EC drones of your choice and a set of light drones of your choice. But it would also be a good idea to carry a spare set of Gardes. Those are your bread and butter attack drones.

You will want to use lasers mostly to keep your cargo bay free for lot, of which you will collect quite a lot. ;-)

A faction point is completely totally optional. I list it because Booley carries it and I want to stay true to his fit for the purpose of this blog post. But it's really not necessary at all. The main thing it buys you is the ability to overheat longer and to use Scorch to the limit of your point range and vice versa. I'd call the cap booster required, though. The Stratios is a cap-hungry ship.

Tank is provided by a plate, DC, rigs, and a faction EANM. That last really is non-optional and increases your survivability tremendously. So don't skimp! Ditto on the T2 rigs. They're remarkably cheap right now and you're only hurting yourself and your rather sizable investment in the hull by not protecting it adequately. With a squad booster, tank is around 56k EHP with quite good resists.

Recommended boosters for this ship are Quafe Zero (when you're hot dropping things, you want to lock them quickly, plus the speed boost really helps this ship) and Drop of your choice to help somewhat sub-par laser tracking. I don't usually recommend implants, but this is a ship that really benefits from both a 'Rogue' Navigation NN-6 series implant in slot six and a 'Squire' Energy Management EM-8 series implant in slot eight. Forgo the DPS implant for slot eight unless you use it for other ships. Your lasers aren't providing enough of the DPS for that implant to help too much.

And that's it! This is a pretty nasty little hunting ship and also works pretty well for cloaky roaming. It slots very nicely into the position previously occupied by the cloaky Vagabond and Cynabal fits that were popular for a long while: heavy DPS for behind-enemy-lines hunting gangs. It's expensive, yes, but it's capabilities and survivability warrant the expense. It's somewhat ironic that such a dedicated hunter-killer flies the Sisters of EVE logo but irony is what EVE is all about, you know?

My thanks to Ben Booley for the fine fit! Sorry for stealing it. ;-)

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. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The fourth nerf

The first dev blog associated with the summer expansion has been out for a few days and as is my custom, I'd like to talk about this dev blog and what I think of the feature. That dev blog is about the future of reprocessing.

I love almost everything about this dev blog. Almost.

I've been bitching about mineral compression going back almost to the beginning of this blog. I'm quite sad that it's taken three years to fix this problem but I'm quite pleased to see it's finally going to become a relic of EVE's former era. Now this change isn't 100% positive. I recognize that this change hurts EVE's solo capital producers, who have come to rely on a single jump freighter full of large rail guns to feed their industrial empire. But the addition of viable mineral compression should go a goodly way to addressing their woes. In addition, when the potential of this change was brought up at a CSM Summit, I pointed out that module reprocessing at one time was a decent portion of the income of beginning EVE players. That's going to be hurt as well. Matter of fact, between this and the ubiquity of salvage thanks to data and relic sites, it's going to make most L4 mission looting no longer worthwhile. That's a pity.

Mineral sources as a thing deserves a closer look:

This is an old graph and I've lost track of who originally produced it. But it shows -- about three nerf generations ago now -- where the minerals that were used at that time came from. As you can see, only about 20-30% of most minerals came from mining (the gold numbers). And for every mineral except morphite, the majority of minerals came from either loot reprocessing or drone compounds. Since then, as I mentioned, there have been three major nerfs:
  • Drone compounds are now also a relic of a former era;
  • loot drops in missions were greatly nerfed; and,
  • then they were nerfed again by eliminating virtually all T1 loot drops from missions.
So call this the fourth and probably final nerf of this cycle. We don't know what percentage of EVE's minerals comes from mining today. CCP guards that data jealously. But we know one thing for sure: it's going to be the large majority of minerals from now on. So this change is rather an epic buff to mining's importance.

What remains to be seen is whether it will be an epic buff to mining. It's famously one of the most preyed-upon, least interesting portions of EVE Online game play. Even its adherents can think of no greater praise for it than "it's soothing." But it's about to be where all of us get all our ships and modules from, with nearly no exceptions. Will more players partake? Or will this be an effective buff to mining bots? We'll see. Hopefully the Security team will be on their toes once this is implemented.

One last thing: I think the new mineral compression mechanics are a great idea but I do consider it somewhat unlikely that the Rorqual is going to benefit much at all thanks to the POS compression module. When choosing between flying around a large ungainly ship to do compression -- which takes special skills, lots of ISK, and involves... you know... risk -- I suspect most players are simply going to use the POS module. That, anyone can use without special skills or undue risk. It also has the benefit of being awake no matter what time you're mining. So the Rorq is going to have to rely on its other use cases and to their credit, the devs recognize it:
Also, we do know the Rorqual needs more love to be a more viable ship, and that is being looked into, but chances are this won’t make it in EVE’s summer expansion.
So call me a "hold" on Rorqs for now.

And that's all for now! Big changes afoot, and we're going to have to wait a while to see how they shake out. But overall, I'm optimistic about this one, particularly for you null-sec miners out there.


I live in earthquake country. I've been on the ground for two major earthquakes (Loma Prieta 1989, Northridge 1994) and a host of more minor ones. So I can tell you with at least a little bit of experience that the longer a fault goes without moving, the worse the quake is when the fault finally starts to move. And how EVE players treat each other is one hell of a big fault that hasn't moved for... well, forever, really. I should have expected an earthquake this big. But I didn't.

I apologize for being one of the catalysts that started this earthquake. But clearly, there's been a very deep river of feeling in the EVE community about the topic of how EVE players treat each other for a long time. Without that, there's no way this situation would have escalated into a threadnaught. I tapped that river without realizing it. That, I'm not going to apologize for. I'm still glad the topic is going to be discussed, and discussed seriously.

Because make no mistake: what Erotica 1 and his cronies do isn't about the scams. I don't have a problem with scams. But by the time his victims are in the bonus room for 10 or 12 minutes, the scam is over: the perpetrators of these despicable things already have the victim's assets and ISK. They've already "won." The other 100+ minutes are about how the victim is treated and what he is made to do and how he is made to humiliate himself. The punishment for "non-compliance" with this humiliation: loss of every in-game asset. But it's the learned helplessness associated with this sick little game that's the problem. That's the part I'm concerned about.
This is why I'm really friendly with EVE players... because they're scary. -- CCP Guard, at the NEO2(1)
Earthquakes do damage because of the strength of the quake of course. But the type of buildings you put on the ground also plays a major part. Stronger buildings can survive and ride through a major shock. Part of the why the EVE community worries me is the kinds of players it tends to draw. We make jokes about EVE being a sociopath simulator. Maybe we should stop. Maybe it's in danger of becoming not-a-joke. In my opinion, CCP needs to draw a firmer line between what is allowed and what is not.

Because every story about a particularly lucrative scam or massive corp theft or a particular way one EVE player treats another drives off one type of potential EVE player... and attracts another type. These things are allowed in the game. And they should continue to be allowed in the game! I do still believe that!
Please do not judge EVE Online community on this tiny ugly sample. This guy appears to be a sociopath and I hope CCP does something to show there are limits to meta-gaming. -- Massively commenter
But over time, the concentration of EVE players that join the game specifically intending to inflict misery on fellow EVE players -- because they can... because this behavior is never punished and in fact seems to be encouraged and in fact rewarded -- only seems to increase. That can't help but have long-term implications on the community and how it is viewed. Skip the rather poor article at Massively and jump straight down to the comments. Read what non-EVE players think about EVE players.

Malcanis and I disagree nearly completely on what should be done about Erotica 1. But we agree on one thing: EVE needs tens of thousands of new players. Are we ever going to get them? And if we do, what sort of new players will they be?

So I seem to have catalyzed an earthquake. I didn't intend for it to be quite this strong. But I'm also not going to say I didn't want to start a discussion. I did want to start a discussion. I think it's about time we have it.

(1) He was joking.(2)
(2) I think.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week forty-six

I'm behind on my regularly scheduled posting, so let's catch up. But I'll keep this fairly short because honestly there isn't a whole lot new to say.

No Winter Summit Minutes yet. Go back and read what I said about them last week. It still applies. Ali Aras continues to push this near-daily. What we're waiting for, I really have no idea at this point. Yes, I'm frustrated. Everyone on the CSM is. We got our work done on them lightning quick this time. Doesn't seem to have helped.

That said, CCP Dolan did keep his promise to publish the dev blog about the CSM9 election process, so that's now in play. There are several bits of excellent news here: the STV system from last year is being used again, minus the pointless "pre-election" process that was stapled onto it last year. That's going to result in a much expedited election process which means that we're back on schedule. We're in the official candidate application period now, so if you'd like to run, now's the time to follow the process to kick that off.

The official candidate's list gets published on April 3. Soon after, I will publish my now-traditional three blog posts regarding the list: who I endorse and why, who I think will win, and who I think won't win and why. As with last year, I'll be publishing a list of 14 candidates that I hope you will vote for... even if I'm not among them. ;-)

CSM8 had our fifth scheduled Town Hall this past weekend. I thought it went very well! The number of CSM members there was a bit fewer than I would have liked -- several had to bow out at the last minute. Still, we had a good group and a large number of participants who asked some great questions. And I've just realized I completely forgot to ask about a recording. I'll do that this week and see if someone has one. No less than three different people commented to me that several of us sounded tired. And thinking about it, I think that's a fair comment. It's been a long term... productive as hell, but long.

Speaking of that, we got a couple of big homework assignments on the private section of the forums this past week. Both of them are complex, fiddly as hell, and about as :nda: as you can get. But CCP continues to impress me with their increasing willingness to get the CSM involved in the nuts-and-bolts design phase for major game features. Both of these topics were right down to the bare metal of rough ideas intended for future EVE releases. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue with our successors, because it's nothing but positive!

As has been the trend for the last few weeks, Skype is actually pretty quiet. Casual conversations, a few one-off serious questions, and the last few days, a lot of discussion about CCP Fozzie's w-space signature delay proposal. You may have missed it because he posted it to the Wormhole section of the forums instead of Features and Ideas. That said, I'm staying completely out of that one. I recognize I don't know enough about wormholes any more to offer much in the way of intelligent commentary on the proposal. But if you want to get involved in that discussion, please do!

And that's about all I can think of for now. More next week!

Reserve the right

OK! I seem to have started a bit of a shit-storm. That wasn't my intent, but I'm not going to shy away from it either.(1) This deserved and deserves to be discussed widely. I'm glad it will be.

I want to briefly address four more tangents that are being used to attempt to throw the discussion off track.

First one: "The victim could have left at any time." This is Erotica 1 and his supporters saying that all the victim had to do to prevent what was being done to him was walk away. This one just makes me laugh every time I read it. Suuurrrrrre. You have a choice: continuing psychological torture, or give up every single item you own in game. The people supporting this torture only bring up the first part and never bring up that second part, I notice.

Second one: "This isn't torture! [Person or group that was tortured] wouldn't say it was torture!" A child psychologically tortured by an abusive parent would disagree. A wife psychologically tortured by an abusive husband would also disagree. I agree what is done here does not involve physical agony. But torture takes many forms and the psychological ones are just as destructive as the physical ones. Maybe more so.

Third one: "The victim threatened Erotica 1's mom!" Let's go ahead and put aside the concept of what is or is not justified in this situation and just address this complaint on its merits alone. The EVE TOS makes it quite clear that such RL threats are to be reported to local law enforcement (bullet 5). Did Erotica 1 do this? If not, I would question why he did not do so if he felt his family was being threatened. I'm quite sure the police would have been interested in the story.

Fourth one: "CCP needs to find a EULA/TOS violation if they want to justify banning Erotica 1." I assure you that this is not the case. It's convenient, certainly. But at the end of the day, the EULA clearly states that CCP owns Erotica 1's account and everything associated with it. CCP can close his accounts, seize all items associated with them, and simply refuse to take this man's money ever again. They have the right not to want this person as part of their community.

But yes, I think it would be nice if the TOS were modified to state that you can't hunt for victims in CCP's game and then take them out of the game to torture them.

(1) And to those that care to bring up the tired old "he only does it for hits" strawman, I invite you to point me to the advertising revenue I make off this blo-- owait.

COTW: Outlier

There are lots of comments already about my post earlier today about Erotica 1 and his behavior. I want to address a couple of them real quick so the discussion doesn't go off on pointless tangents.

Very occasionally, I get accused of wanting to ban the grey areas of EVE Online. People who level such accusations at me are charming, dumb, and flat wrong. I accept, embrace, and defend the gray areas of EVE, from scamming to non-consensual PvP to unequal warfare to corp names that some might find questionable. People who actually read the blog have read me defending these things. If I didn't accept and embrace these things, I would not play this game.

But there are limits. There are points where grey becomes black.

The most common tangent of my post today is people claiming that this behavior is an "outlier" or a "fringe case." I could not agree with you more. It's definitely an outlier! But the question here is where oh where does the line get drawn between grey behavior and black behavior? I again invite you to let a neutral observer living outside the bubble decide. Tell your mother or your sister about Erotica 1 or about the recent "go back to WoW" scam. Play the story for laughs. See how quickly the amusement on her face becomes revulsion.

This was an outlier, but it's an outlier that must be opposed and punished. This, I'll remind you, is coming from the very same guy that said The Mittani should not be kicked off the CSM for the wizard hat incident. EVE is not a free country nor a democracy. Hard limits are needed on behavior and those limits should be enforced. I don't know where the exact line is but any reasonable neutral observer would rapidly conclude that this behavior was well beyond that line.

Unacceptable outliers that are not opposed have a funny way of moving toward the fat end of the bell curve and not being outliers any more. Anything that "works" in EVE immediately has imitators and copy-cats and anyone who denies it is deluding themselves.

The second tangent is coming from people claiming that I'm railing against the entire EVE community for what Erotica 1 does. This is also not true. I was very specific about this in my post today. The people I'm railing against are people who think what Erotica 1 does is acceptable or "funny." Make no mistake: there is absolutely nothing funny or acceptable about taking a person's every in-game asset and then torturing him for hours -- while recording it! -- and his vain hope of getting them back... and then broadcasting the results of that torture across the community.

If you think there is, I am afraid for you and yes, I'm going to call that out.

Clear? Lovely. Carry on.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The bonus round

Let's delve into a simple story of EVE players behaving badly.

I'm not usually the type to call out individual EVE players on this blog. This time I'm going to. Erotica 1 is an EVE player. He is also a despicable, vile, evil human being. I am ashamed to share a video game community with him. I'm not going to tell this man's full story because that wouldn't be a blog post. That would be a novel. This blog post will be quite long enough. Feel free to Google him and look at the appropriate threads in Crime and Punishment on the EVE-O forums and elsewhere. No, I'm going to limit myself to a short introduction and then a single link to a simple recording.

It starts with ISK doubling. Now ISK doubling is a pretty standard scam in EVE and quite profitable for those that engage in it. You create a set of rules, and then you exploit the fact that most humans have a difficult time following a specific rule set. It's not nice behavior, but in the grand scheme of things, it's relatively harmless. People lose a few billion ISK and emerge from the experience sadder but wiser, and then they keep playing, or they become ISK doublers themselves, or they quit.

Erotica 1 has taken the practice to a new level. Every once in a while, he finds a victim and escorts that victim into what he calls a "bonus round." The purpose to the bonus round, supposedly, is to quintuple the amount of ISK put into the pot by the victim. The real purpose to the bonus round is to inflict as much humiliation on the victim as possible with the intent of making the victim snap. The entire thing is recorded and the recordings listened to by this slime and his buddies for their enjoyment, and very occasionally shared with the EVE community at large.

Here is one such recording of a "bonus room" and its victim.

I encourage everyone reading this to listen to this bonus round in part or in full. I have listened to it in full. I owed it to the victim to understand his story. He lived through it. The least you can do is understand what he was put through... for more than two hours.

The bonus round proceeds in three "phases." In phase one, the victim is instructed that he must have "faith in the process" and must volunteer to follow all instructions given to him. The victim is then pulled into an out-of-EVE Teamspeak session (to attempt to avoid EULA or TOS issues that might result). The victim is then instructed to create a full API to which Erotica 1 and his team of instigators will have access. The victim is then instructed to:
  • contract all of his assets to the instigators;
  • send all of his ISK to Erotica 1;
  • turn over any items in the redeeming system;
  • turn over any PI materials;
  • cancel any in-work science and industry jobs and turn over those blueprints;
  • turn over all in-game clothing;
  • convert any sizable balances of LP into items and contract them over as well;
  • turn over all balances in any EVE-related gambling sites such as EVE Online Hold-em, SomerBLINK, et cetera.
By now, most of you are saying that anyone who would agree to these terms is not thinking clearly and I would tend to agree with you. Except we've established for a long, long time that there is a subset of EVE players who are (a) ignorant about the nature of the game, and (b) greedy. I have no doubt that Erotica 1 gets his share of victims by simply dangling the prize of a quintuple payout. Who knows, perhaps from time to time he does even pay out for the sheer entertainment value.

In this recording, the victim follows all instructions (or as the instigators put it, "he shows faith in the process"). Things then proceed to phase two, the "educational component." The educational section involves the victim reading the most boring, pointless tripe imaginable for long stretches. Early in the proceedings, the victim admits to having a minor speech impediment that quickly becomes apparent. One of the instigators pounces on this and suggests that any word the victim cannot pronounce properly, he be made to look up the definition for and read that definition as well. Another of the instigators decides that the best possible "education" will be for this person with an admitted speech impediment to read a Wikipedia entry about Russian history(!).

By forty minutes in, the victim is understandably a little bit upset. How long is this going to go on? He wants to know. It's quite late at night for him. He has to go to sleep and go to work in the morning. "Have faith in the process" he's told each time he gets frustrated, bored, or impatient. "Think about what you're going to do with your winnings!" he's reminded. And the process continues, and continues, and continues, increasing the pressure on the victim. This phase goes on for more than an hour and a half!

Then phase three begins: the "social component." This starts with the victim singing songs and generally acting out childish behavior at the urging of the instigators. By an hour and 44 minutes in, the bonus room instigators are obviously having a very difficult time holding in their laughter and from time to time they mute the channel so that they can laugh at the bonus room victim. At these times, they alternate speaking. This gives one instigator the chance to get his laughter under control while other instigators continue to prod the victim. This alternating of torturers allows one to deliver a masterstroke. The victim finally asks in exasperation how many songs the victim he have to sing. The torturer casually says "We usually do ten or twenty songs."

Needless to say, at this point the victim snaps and goes into a profanity-laden rant to the very great amusement of the torturers.

I do not use the word torture lightly. Look at any list of psychological torture methods you like. You will invariably find on that list:
  • Sleep deprivation. Check.
  • Creating a state of learned helplessness. Check.
  • Subjecting the victim to interrogation for long periods. Check.
  • Isolating or surrounding the victim psychologically. Check.
  • Inflicting pressure through greed or blackmail. Check.
  • Exploitation of phobias, such as -- say -- making a man with an admitted speech impediment perform long periods of public speaking. Check.
I remind you again that this is happening in the game that you play.

EVE is real. And I assure you, what is being done to this man is also real. If you -- for even a single moment! -- would think to defend what is happening here or if you think it is "funny", I invite you to share this recording with your mother or your aunt or your grandmother or your sister. Tell them that this is something that happens in the video game that you play. Tell them the "funny" tale of a few friends in EVE Online having a few laughs. Play her the recording. Let her judge this recording from outside the bubble that you're living in.

I assure you this female relative will look at you in a whole new light thereafter.

I do not know the mental state of the victim and frankly, it doesn't matter. It is quite clear by this point that the purpose to the "bonus round" is to inflict psychological torture on the victim for a long enough period of time until the proper pressure point is found and the victim snaps. Given the increasingly volatile nature of the EVE player base -- something I'll talk about later in the week -- I can't imagine this is too uncommon.

So here's the victim, having snapped. He's shrieking, he's ranting, he's screaming obscenities. His wife has to intervene and try to calm him down... unsuccessfully. She retires from the proceedings, apparently having a panic attack. At this point, any human being with any conscience at all... anyone with even the smallest drop of human mercy in them would put a stop to the proceedings.

Erotica 1 and his fellow torturers do not. They continue to exploit the victim's fear of losing all of his in-game assets and his greed and his rage for their own jollies for a further half hour, continuing to increase the pressure all the while! "Perhaps you could get your wife a paper bag to breathe into," one of the torturers says, trying not to laugh, "I hear that helps." Eventually, the torture ends.

And once it's over, Erotica 1 publishes the recording to the world. In the process, he can no doubt piously claim that the victim threatened him, screamed at him, swore at him. I suppose that allows this vile human being to look at himself in a mirror. More likely, he sleeps like a baby. I assure you, Dear Reader, that there is evil in this world.

"The bonus round isn't intended to be fun for everyone," the victim is told by his torturers. No doubt.

So, how does CCP respond to this vile human being? I can tell you that if I were in the position to make a decision about this person, I would seize his assets, permanently ban his accounts, and I would then go to work on his buddies with asset seizures, negative ISK balances, and temporary bans. I personally believe there is absolutely no place in EVE Online for this level of depravity and evil. To date, CCP has chosen not to do that. Sooner or later, they're going to have to decide, though: is this the sort of thing they want going on in their EVE?

"Isn't that the game where...?"

What's changing about EVE player culture? The intensity level, that's what's changing. Welcome to the bonus round, everyone.

QOTW: Well, that took about 20 minutes...

I've been sharing lately how impressed I am at how fast the Starcraft streamer Destiny has been learning EVE Online. If you throw a tactic at him, sure he generally dies to it a time or three... but then he learns from it and adapts. Thanks to the experienced EVE players in his corp, all the reading he's doing, and the advice he's getting, he's learning the game at a substantially accelerated rate.

So it was a lot of fun reading the debate he's currently having in the Syndicate thread of the Failheap Challenge forum, and it's the source of the quote of the week:
Ehh yeah, call me a bitch, then, heh. I'm still insanely new to this game but I really, really hate the cyno mechanic. It seems like it destroys so much of the strategic side of the game. The idea that you can move an entire carrier/dread fleet from one end of the galaxy to the other in 10 minutes just doesn't sit well with me.
OK... it seems to have taken Destiny about 20 minutes to figure out EVE Online. ;-)

Yeah, I shouldn't kid. Cynos and the power projection they engender is one of the thorniest problems in EVE Online. But it's funny to me how quickly he slammed into it... and decided that it hurts. And if that's where the discussion had stopped, it would be a fun quote, I could quote it, and move on.

But then Destiny chose this forum, this thead, and this audience with which to get philosophical (condensed somewhat):
I guess we'll see if that changes or not, but I have zero draw to meaningless fights. It's just not my specific approach to the game. I can definitely understand how other people are into fights and that getting on killmails etc...is really exciting to people, but it means nothing to me to fly a ship around in a big fight and shoot at stuff. I need there to be real meaning behind the fights.

Again, I understand people enjoy raw PvP, but if I just wanted to fight, I'd go back to Starcraft. I'm looking for something a little bit deeper or more meaningful to me. That's what's cool about Eve, though, yeah? Everyone can play how they want. :-)
...aheh. Remember most people go to Syndicate to get away from sov fights. And here's Destiny (whose corp has been living there) advocating for them! And he does so in what is to that audience a likely unintentionally insulting way: by saying that people who want meaningless PvP should play some other game! Whoops!

He hardly could have chosen a worse place to express this philosophy and a couple of the residents of the Syndicate thread at FHC responded with all the charity, respect, and class for which they are so justifiably famous.

The argument goes back and forth for a few pages, with Destiny giving every bit as good as he gets (or better).(1) But then if the quote at the top wasn't good enough for one week, he lets fly with this piece of pure freakin' gold:
It's "supposed" to be a sandbox, but everyone insists on people following their own paths. Everyone wants people to do the same things they're doing, and they're very against anyone doing anything outside of an established "trend". It's especially funny (to me) when a game markets itself as a sandbox but the community vehemently wages war against anything outside of what they consider to be the "proper way" to play.
Errr... not only did it take Destiny 20 minutes to state his objection to one of the thorniest problems in EVE Online, it took him about ten more minutes to figure out a good solid majority of the community, too...

Finally, he had one other thing to say that I don't understand:
I don't think I'll ever become a bittervet in this game. If it wasn't fun, I'd just stop playing. :b
I'm not sure I understand these phrases "fun" or "stop playing." Can someone explain them to me? ;-)

Anyway, if you have a half-hour or so, go read the thread for a while. There's lots and lots more out there and most of it is extremely entertaining (if somewhat NSFW in parts). The fun bits start on page 14 and don't wrap up until page 23.

gg, Destiny!

(1) My particular favorite thing he says during this section: "'Surviving' in Syndicate, from what I've seen, is being a bitter, inactive theory-crafter who spends more time sitting in station shit-posting on forums than actually doing anything in game. I've played too many games at too high levels to listen to people who are clearly past enjoying the game and have moved on to shitting up forums all day while doing nothing." LOL... wow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Isn't that the game where...

I want to continue my series of posts looking at "EVE players behaving badly" this week with an eye toward finishing the series before the end of the month. Before I continue though, I want to address a one-off question on this topic: why should CCP care how EVE players behave? If I'm out here advocating that CCP should start to try to put the brakes on bad behavior (and I am), does CCP get anything out of it?

And the answer to that question starts with two young men you've never heard of, James Upchurch III and James Egbert III. Go ahead and read their Wikipedia entries if you like, but I'll summarize. Yes, this is another history lesson... but recent history this time. James Upchurch III is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the brutal and sadistic slaying of Lieth Von Stein, the step-father of one of his friends, Chris Pritchard. James Egbert III committed suicide. Both of these incidents were tragedies and I don't want to minimize the effect they had on the families of the people involved. But they do make an interesting point. What did these two young men have in common? Both of them played Dungeons and Dragons in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Some of you know where this is going now. For the rest, I will explain.

In the early 1980s, I myself was in secondary school. One of the teachers in this school was the adviser and supervisor for a sanctioned "D&D Club" that met once a week on campus. By the time I left that school, the club was forbidden. By that time, you see, D&D had achieved a reputation as a satanist, destructive game that drove children to murder and suicide. Now the murder of Lieth Von Stein and the suicide of James Egbert III were undeniably tragedies as I've already said. But both were only very peripherally tied to D&D... yet there were just enough fantastical elements in both stories (the particularly horrific murder, the steam tunnels where the suicide took place) and enough whispers about the culture of the game (demons! hell! devil worship! chaotic evil! the book promotes the charisma of Adolf Hitler!) that the press at the time had an absolute field day.

There were books! There were movies of the week! There were episodes of TV series! There were outraged parents! There was a 60 Minutes piece! And in the middle of all of this was a little company with no staff that nobody had ever heard of called TSR trying to answer a lot of really embarrassing and off-putting questions from reporters all over the country.

The fact that their little game was only peripherally involved in the suicide and the murder didn't seem to be relevant to anyone.

All those dozens of satanist murders that you think you've heard about happening related to D&D? Didn't happen. All those murder-suicides you think you know about? Didn't happen. All those cults of demented kids studying witchcraft and occultism at the feet of some dungeon master out there? Didn't happen. As far as anyone's ever been able to prove, James Upchurch III and James Egbert III were all it took... and TSR's little game had only very little to do with either situation.

Yet, for the next decade, D&D had a stigma associated with it. TSR tried to fight it. Didn't help. They changed the names of creatures in the game to be less off-putting. Didn't help. They tried outreach programs explaining to parents that kids that played D&D read more, studied more, and did better in school. Didn't help. The company soon ran into financial difficulties, reorganized twice under new owners, eventually failed and was bought out.

All anyone knew or cared to know about D&D was "Isn't that the game where..." plus the fantastical story they could think of pulled out of a book, movie, TV episode, or pamphlet. Tom Hanks got an early paycheck out of it.

I assure you that CCP Manifest would rather volunteer for exploratory dental surgery than ever have to deal with a similar situation. And yet, I worry that's where things will eventually head. If you're a CCP executive, how do you deal with the fact that this is the reputation that your game develops? Sure, a lot of them kind of laugh it off. But sooner or later, I feel like someone in EVE is going to do something permanent and nasty to someone else in EVE or to himself and it's going to be one of those sick little viral stories that goes around.

If something horrible like that went down, CCP could say all the right things: that it's a tragedy, and that their game was only peripherally involved, and the individual was disturbed, and he was in no way emblematic of the player base, et cetera et cetera. It wouldn't matter. Discussions about EVE Online would suddenly start "Isn't that the game where..."

For those of you saying "Yeah, but that was decades ago. A company having to respond to a massive crisis with only one or two tragic deaths? Something like that couldn't happen today.", Toyota would like to have a word with you.

It probably won't happen. I hope it doesn't. Generally, EVE players -- even EVE players that dislike each other -- are pretty mellow at player gatherings and events. EVE players that commit suicide -- and tragically, there have been some -- generally have other factors in their lives also impacting their mental health. But all it takes is one disturbed individual to take things too far.

EVE is real.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's how you play the game

I'm feeling kind of philosophical today, so I thought I would share.

There's a lot of games out there, both MMOs and non-MMOs, and they both reward success and how you gain that success in different ways. I want to concentrate on the latter part of that equation for this post: how games reward you based on how you succeed rather than if you succeed. It's kind of an overlooked area of game design, I find.

A lot of MMOs base your reward on the amount of force you use relative to the amount of force necessary to achieve an objective. Put another way, if you play a game like Skyrim and you kill a low-level creature or adversary at low level, you receive a large reward for doing so. However, if you kill the same low-level creature or adversary at high level, you receive a very low reward for doing so. Guild Wars 2 operates on a similar principle with a bit of variation: you can farm low level creatures at any level and you'll receive high rewards at low level and low rewards at high level. However, to encourage higher level players to assist lower level players to complete low levels, every once in a while the game will reward a high level player with a high level reward.

This model obviously encourages you to generally stick to objectives that are close to your own level.

RTS and turn-based strategy games like Civilization take a different approach: this game actively rewards you for using overwhelming force against an enemy and the rewards remain the same. If you attack a town with an overwhelming force, chances are you will take the town with few or no losses. Whether you attack that town with just enough force to do the job or overwhelming force, the reward is the same. However, attacking the town with just enough force to do the job will probably result in heavy losses. Therefore, the game actively encourages you to use overwhelming force: the upside is the same either way and the downside is much less. Starcraft uses the same model: you can use just enough force to attack an enemy base, but if you use overwhelming force to hit the same objective and achieve the same reward, your reward will be fewer losses for using this strategy.

This is the opposite approach to an MMO style of game, and it encourages you to concentrate your force on a smaller number of objectives and overpower them utterly before moving on to the next.

Other RTS games and other MMOs, however, take the opposite approach. In Homeworld 2, you are actively punished for using overwhelming force against an objective. The game cheats and builds its force based on the amount of force you bring to bear. If you bring greater forces, the game also brings greater forces. Instead of being rewarded for using the minimum amount of force, you are punished for NOT doing so. Skyrim's predecessor in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, used a similar model: each creature or enemy had a level "range." Attacking a particular creature at a low level would result in a lower level version of that creature. Attacking the same creature at a high level would usually result in a much more challenging fight with a tougher adversary. In particular, there were a few timed missions in Oblivion that it was advantageous to complete at lower level where your adversaries would be easier and therefore quicker to destroy. Again, you were punished for bringing more force than was necessary to complete your objective.

What does all of this have to do with EVE? That's where the philosophy comes into play.

EVE obviously rewards you for bringing overwhelming force to bear on your objectives. This is a pillar of EVE game-play and even the devs buy into the philosophy and develop the game with that philosophy in mind. The game rewards you for bringing more friends, more logi, more special teams ships, more super-caps and basically just adding more and more bodies. Sure, add enough bodies and the servers will crash but right up until that moment, it's advantageous to bring every single person you can. And this applies to every single aspect of EVE.

What if the game didn't work that way, though? What if the game actively started punishing you for just throwing additional people at a problem?

Here's an amusing example just to give you something to think about. Suppose only the person that did top damage on a target got on kill-mails? The kill-mails could be changed such that it said "Ripard Teg and nine friends killed this ship" but the nine friends would be otherwise anonymous. Many players feel rewarded by getting on hundreds of kill-mails a week and they ensure it by making sure their fleets are enormous. But if you were one of the "nine friends" that never received any kill-mails in that fleet, you might wonder if there was another way of playing EVE.

Sure, EVE's n+1 problem would remain and I doubt it would change a whole lot about how a lot of people play the game. But today, not only are the biggest fleets rewarded with high value space worth billions of ISK, they also receive hundreds of kill-mails too. Should they get all the rewards for this game-play style? Or should they be actively punished in some way for playing the game the way they do?

What if they game were changed in some way to actively punish people who engage in n+1 game play? Like I said, a little philosophy for you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

POTW: Art direction

The Mittani makes his debut in the Dark Horse EVE: True Stories #3 released this week. Have to admit it made me laugh a little. The direction to the artist seems to have been: "Give him a goatee. Make him look smug."

Mission accomplished. ;-)

That said, the "True Stories" seem to be delving further and further into "based on a true story" territory...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fit of the Week: Damp Celestis pair

My damp Tengu didn't go over well last week -- I am gonna give that damp Loki fit a try, though! -- so I'll make amends with a more traditional damp ship in a pair of fittings:

[Celestis, Shield Damp]
Damage Control II
Signal Amplifier II
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script
Large Shield Extender II

Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Light Missile
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Light Missile
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Light Missile

Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Polycarbon Engine Housing I

Warrior II x5
Hornet EC-300 x5

Let's start with a shield fitting. This is actually my preferred Celestis mostly because this ship operates most effectively in a kiting fleet operating at around 50km range. The major advantage to shield fitting a Celestis is speed: your base speed is about 2000m/s and your overheated speed is around 2800. That means in a cruiser v. cruiser fight, you shouldn't have any problems and nothing bigger is going to be able to catch you. You can hang out at 50-70km plying your three damps while assisting your drones of choice to your FC (load Valkyries if you like, but for this application, I prefer a set of lights and a set of ECs).

The secondary advantage to the shield fit is excellent cap endurance. As long as you're reasonably careful you'll be able to use your damps more or less continuously. The meta CPRs in the lows are currently cheaper than T2. The Signal Amplifier increases the number of targets you can keep locked as well as your targeting range and scan-res.

The disadvantage to the shield comp is that you're pretty thin even for an e-war cruiser, with only about 16k EHP. If you fly the ship properly, this should be plenty: hang out outside the range of your opponents and if you're seriously threatened, warp off and warp back. If you need to, you can hang way back in this fit. With an FC booster, your lock range is 134km though of course you will be well outside the optimal of your damps at that range. Still, degraded damps are better than no damps.

Still, as I've said a few times, I prefer speed and mobility to tank particularly for a kiting ship. And if anything gets close enough to you to tackle you, set either your ECs on them or see if you can burn them down with overheated Rapid Light Missile Launchers. If you're confident in your ability to evade tacklers, you can swap the latter out for HMLs and add about 20km to your missile range.

The booster of choice for this version of the fit is X-Instinct, and you can carry a Crash booster as well if you like.

[Celestis, Armor Damp]
Damage Control II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Armor Explosive Hardener II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I, Targeting Range Dampening Script

Drone Link Augmentor II
200mm AutoCannon II, Barrage S
200mm AutoCannon II, Barrage S

Medium Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I

Valkyrie II x5

The armor fit has its uses as well! The big advantages of this fit are tank -- you're well over 40k EHP -- and your fourth damp. Lock range is reduced to about 100km but if you want to hang out at that range, the Drone Link Augmentor allows you to assist your drones to your FC even at extreme drone handling range. However, you lack even the most basic self defense weapons if you do this so you're going to be reliant on the charity of others to clear tackle.

That said, your chances of evading being tackled are much slimmer. The base speed of this fit is 1350m/s with an overheat of 2000m/s, so frigates, cruisers, and fast BCs will be able to catch you. Your resist profile is pretty good, though, particularly with a fleet armor bonus ship so you can hang in a fight for a while if you DO get caught and primaried. Cap management on this fit is also a lot trickier with only a couple of minutes of usable cap unless you're pretty conservative in your MWD use.

Booster of choice for this fit is Mindflood -- you're going to need it thanks to the reduced cap.

So yeah, all in all if you see me in a Celestis, I'm probably in the top fit even if the rest of the fleet is armor tanking. There's nothing wrong with the armor fit, but it doesn't really fit a lot of armor fleet metas and makes too many compromises for my taste.

Tactics for damping remains pretty much the same as last week:
Once in battle, your usual tactic will be to damp enemy logistics and long-range tacklers. A common tactic with damps is to "damp dump": get into a position to use three or even four damps against a single target, dropping all of these damps at once on the target at a critical moment. The best use is to damp dump on a distant logistics ship just as your FC calls a new primary. If the enemy logi isn't really on the ball, he might find himself out of position and unable to lock your FC's primary as it's cut to ribbons. If the targeted logi moves in, shut down the damps and replace the scripts with Scan Resolution scripts. Then wait for your FC to call a new primary and damp dump again. The logi will waste many precious seconds waiting and waiting and waiting to lock your fleet's primary... and may lock it up just in time to see it explode.
The major difference is that you'll have to put every damp you're carrying into play. The Celestis doesn't have enough mid slots to keep a damp in reserve for self-defense though of course if you really need to you can shut down your active damps and put them to work in this manner.

Again, have fun annoying people!

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. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There's no more heroes left in the world, son

So Kirith Kodachi has a remarkably well-timed blog banter out. Here it is:
Quick post. I was listening to a song and a question occurred to me. Where are the EVE heroes? Against a dark background surely all we have are anti-heroes? A lot of mockery is aimed at any who attempt to be white knights. EVE is a dark place and yet pretty much all other MMO's try to place the player in the role of some form of hero, boosting the ego and taking the player out of the humdrum 1 in 7 billion that is RL. Why have I fitted into EVE? Did I never want to be that? So I guess my question is:

Do classic heroes exist in EVE? Is such heroism even possible in EVE? How would you go about being one without opening yourself wide open to scams? Is the nature of the game so dark that heroes can't exist? How do you deal with that irony? What effect does this have on us and the psyche of new players coming in from other MMOs? Is it something special that we don't have classic heroes, or should we? Are our non classic heroes more genuine?
It's a great question and I don't just say so because I'm talking about the villains of EVE right now. Before I really dove into the topic of EVE players behaving badly and how I think this is impacting our game long term, I had intended to write a post about the good that EVE players do. So this strikes me as a fine time to do that.

Yes, I'm going to answer this question completely unironically. There are heroes in EVE. Here are some of mine in no particular order.

EVE University. Do I need to go over the remarkable amount of good these guys do again? I think I do, at least briefly. They're ten years old, and for all that time all they've tried to do is teach people how to play EVE Online. This alliance is one of the most remarkable creations in all of video gaming and we have it as part of our community. Take a moment and just think about that! I am simply in awe of all the good these guys do.

AGONY Unleashed. A very similar organization to E-UNI, I don't suppose it's any secret that I'm a fan. ;-) These guys have had their ups and their downs over the years, but every time they struggle they come back even stronger with one mission in life: teach basic and advanced PvP tactics to anyone who wants to learn... and have fun practicing what they teach on the side, too.

The Angel Project. One of the newer ones on this list, created in 2012 by Sindel Pellion, intended to help newbies with a few ships to get them started, and help them learn this game, build relationships, and connect with other EVE players. That this organization was started is remarkable. That it's had success is a freakin' miracle.

The Valhalla Project. Say what you like about the incursion community, but these guys took me in when I was lost and helped me find a purpose in the game again. This is a rest stop for wayfarers right across New Eden between careers, and a remarkable community in their own right. You can talk to ex- and current sov warriors from every alliance in the game here. It's just a terrific, eclectic community. They keep getting better and they keep getting stronger.

The Ditanian Fleet. ...but sometimes I wanted to fly an armor ship in an incursion and when I did, these guys were here for me. This is every bit as welcoming a community, every bit as fun to fly with, but sometimes tinged with that streak of aggressiveness that has been the hallmark of my own EVE play. ;-)

Red Frog Freight. I try not to miss opportunities to plug the excellent service these guys provide. The fact that they make a living based on doing it is just icing on a pretty damn fine cake. Jester uses this service. You should too.

Estel Arador Corporation. These are some of the unsung heroes of the PvPers of EVE. They run a free jump clone service providing support in dozens and dozens of stations right across New Eden. And they've been doing it for six years now. This is a wonderful service to the community.

People who donate to PLEX for GOOD. 190 thousand USD for aid in the Phillipines. Tens of thousands for other causes over the years. The people who give their hard-earned PLEXes to these efforts are champions. 'nuff said.

People who run EVE community fansites. Let me just say it: this shit ain't easy, and it ain't always fun. The rewards you get from CCP are nearly worth the value of mining veldspar for the same amount of time. And yet dozens of people provide maps, guides, tools, entertainment, advice, art, help, and communities to this little bunch of people playing with internet spaceships. I could not be prouder to count myself among them.

People who voluntarily run player events around the world. I simply can't imagine anything less fun or more stressful than signing up to run an event for EVE players, of all people! And yet people do it, they run terrific events, and I've had fun at every single one of them I've had the pleasure to attend. Bravo!

Players who unironically start new trial account after new trial account just so they can answer questions in the EVE Newbie channel. Yes, they use it as a recruiting opportunity for their corps. I don't care. Have you ever just sat in the newbie channel for a while and watched its ebb and flow? I'm always very impressed at the players who take it upon themselves to answer the literally thousands of questions that pop up here, many of them over and over again.

My fellow delegates on CSM8, and the delegates of past CSMs. Likewise, the intrinsic reward of this job is remarkably little for the enormously high expectations that the players and CCP put on them. If you haven't done it, you simply cannot understand. It's the hardest work anyone can do for EVE and I have nothing but respect for (almost) everyone who's volunteered to do it.

And finally, the EVE developers that actually talk to and listen to EVE players. I'm not going to name names. They know who they are. You know who they are. And if I start naming names, I'm going to forget a few to my sorrow. But every time I see an EVE dev interact with the players on a one-on-one level or as a group, I'm more and more happy I play this game.

So... yeah. There are a few heroes left in EVE, no matter what the nay-sayers think. And I've probably forgotten a few.

It's just a shame there aren't more.

Kill of the Week: Change of pace

First, an announcement. I'm going to be scaling back the KOTW posts. I feel like they're an area where I'm making fun of EVE players, something else that I want to start scaling back on (for reasons which I hope will be obvious). I'll still be doing a KOTW post every week, but I'm probably going to limit it to one or perhaps two KOTWs and I'm going to try to focus on cool combat stories instead of people doing dumb things.

So if you have cool combat stories, please send them in. :-)

By the same token, I'm also done tracking super-cap kills. The more I think about it, the more I think that ship has sailed.(1) When the Goons are strongly implying that their members -- en masse! -- should buy titans... well, I think we can safely say that worrying about super-cap proliferation has had its day. Super-caps are going to proliferate and because of this, those who don't have enormous fleets of them are going to be kicked out of any sov that matters. CCP has had years to address this and hasn't done it. At this point, anything they do do to address it -- unless they do something remarkably drastic -- is, I think, going to leave the status pretty much quo. So I personally am going to stop worrying and learn to love the titan blob.

If something realllly remarkably dumb happens -- that gank from last week, say -- or there's a particularly notable super-cap kill, I'll cover it. But other than that, I'm finding the KOTW posts as they are now to be the least fun to write and they tend to draw the fewest comments. Therefore, I'm going to try a little change of pace.

So again, if you have fun some combat stories, please send them along! End of announcement.

Fight of the week this week was this battle between a combined Brave Collective/Test Alliance dreadnought fleet on one side and what looks like half the world on the other. There's a terrific video of the fight with a great synopsis of who was there and what was going on. Short version: Brave and Test decided to attack a -A- station without sufficient sub-cap support. Providence FC corebloodbrothers formed up a sentry Domi fleet to go after them. They did lose a good chunk of their BSs to getting blapped off the field by tracking dreads. However, the Provibloc still came out ahead thanks to reinforcements from all over the place coming in to get involved in the fight and kill the tackled caps. The video covers it well so if you're interested, take a look.

The kill that entertained me most this week is this SMA kill done by a single T2 frigate and which dropped as loot... one Rorqual. That's quite a profit margin! Nice kill, Voodoch1ld, and thanks to an alert reader for pointing me at it!

Actual kill of the week, though, is this Kronos. Destiny and his corp, whom I've talked about a couple of times, has been learning EVE really fast. To his credit, when he gets hit with new tactics, he learns them and comes right back out swinging. In this case, Destiny's corp was killing a POCO in high-sec and this Kronos pilot and one other (involved in the war) came in and tried to drive off Destiny's fleet of T1 cruisers and Scythes. To their credit, they killed 20-odd ships and they were almost able to tank Destiny's whole fleet but the Kronos that died ran out of cap boosters in the end. It's a pretty epic fight, though, and Destiny and his fleet do a really nice job in it! Here's the video sent to me by an alert reader. The fight starts around an hour and 12 minutes in and the Kronos dies about ten minutes later.

And finally, if you are interested in all the supers that got killed this week -- and there were actually quite a few! -- EN24 did a terrific job of covering most all of them.

(1) Please forgive the pun.

Picture of the Week: Is it hot in here?

Just to enrage the "This! Is! An! EVE Blog!" crowd of commenters still further, POTW honors goes to this screen shot I took in KSP:

Kerbal Space Program has just as gorgeous internet spaceships as EVE does, in its own way. The picture is inspired by one of my regular KSP commenters who bemoaned the fact that I hadn't bought the nuclear engine yet. So I bought one, fitted out one of my Pathfinder series probes with it, and sent it on the hardest mission I could think of: ultra-close examination of the sun.

And the engine performed the mission beautifully, handling my first attempt at a gravity assist with ease and getting me into a super close orbit with no trouble at all (including a 1.5 million km peri at one point). Check out that freakin' orbital velocity! Insane. As a bonus, the mission brought in 255 science so the engine nearly paid for itself in one mission. This engine is definitely going to be the centerpiece of my Jool mission. Thanks for the tip!