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...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fanfest day zero: Monument

The unveiling was quite nice. :-)

It went off in a very understated way with maybe 250 or so EVE players and press in attendance. As I think I've mentioned, the monument is on the harbor, right on the water within an easy rock throw from CCP headquarters. As a matter of fact, during the unveiling, a number of CCP employees simply watched from the balconies of the upper levels of the building: prime seats! Hilmar spoke, then the artist, then the mayor of Reykjavik, and all three kept their comments short.

During this time, the monument was covered with a large black curtain held in place by two loops of heavy twine. Hilmar then presented the mayor with a large hunting knife (Iceland is weird) with which to cut the twine and the curtain was pulled off to general applause. Champagne was then made available and a couple hundred EVE players moved forward to see if they could spot their names. The name finder app is up and running and seems to work completely fine for me. It spotted all four of my mains without incident.

It also spotted a fifth name that I wanted to make sure was there.

If you've got sharp eyes, you probably noticed on the top photo that the monument literally was not uncovered for 15 minutes before it was defaced for the first time...

After that, the unveiling was a social occasion with much drinking and meeting of people that hadn't met yet. It was the first time that most or all of the Rote Kapelle attendees gathered in the same place. I also got the opportunity to have a long conversation with DNSBLACK and I can report there's no rancor present there on either side.

I then headed directly to The Celtic Cross for the #tweetfleet meet-up where Neville Smit and the rest of the EVE University guys were gracious enough to let me hijack a seat at their table for a while. This has got to be one of the smallest bars in Iceland and last year I was turned away from the meet-up due to the space limitations. This time, I got there a good 45 minutes early to avoid that. By the time I left about three hours later, there was a line of people waiting to get in. But while I was there, I got the opportunity to chat with the E-UNI guys, some more social time with my alliance-mates, and a bit of mingling. Not to mention a few pints of Guinness. Good times!

Still a bit jet-lagged, though, I decided to crash a bit early. As payment, I'm up early and feeling great this morning and looking across the street at Harpa. The Fanfest flags aren't posted yet, but they've got a few hours to do that!

Fanfest day zero: Non-invasion pact

Smooth sailing to Iceland -- so to speak -- and now I've been in country for a little more than 24 hours.

Because of the interviews that CCP Mimic did during the Winter Summit, I was recognized by another EVE player at the Seattle terminal. He and I chatting about spaceships attracted a couple of other guys who also wanted to chat about spaceships. So the two or three hours between flights passed quickly. The flight to Reyk went equally smooth and quick and before I knew it, I was back in Reykjavik.

Last year's Fanfest was the ten year anniversary edition; this year's edition seems much more low-key. Not that there aren't a lot of EVE players walking the streets -- there certainly are! But there appear to be fewer large groups, and overall it seems less like an all-out invasion of the city than it was last year. Still, after landing I headed over to The Laundromat and there were a goodly number of spaceship nerds in attendance. A group of us got into a discussion of the upcoming industry changes. Ali Aras and Two step arrived not long after I did and groups formed around both of them as well.

Weirdly enough, the businesses around town also seem to realize this -- maybe CCP put out a flyer or something? -- and though some of them have window decorations or other indications that they know it's Fanfest week, it's fewer and less pronounced than last year.

After breakfast, I headed over to see if the monument is up and uncovered. It was, and it was. It's quite impressive in person though now that I've seen it, I don't envy whomever has to keep it clean. ;-) The reflective surface between the man and machine elements, in particular, seems like it's going to be both tough to keep clean and not all that resistant to accidental damage or to the elements. I spent about 15 minutes looking at the plaques listing character names, looking either for familiar names or naughty ones. I only found one of the former and none of the latter. I was told later in the day there are some 490,000 character names on the monument not counting Chinese names which visibly take up a little under 10% of the available surface of the plaques.

Yesterday evening, about half the CSM members coming here (including myself, Ali, mynnna, Chitsa Jason, and Mike Azariah) in Iceland had an informal get-together dinner with eight so CCP employees. That was quite relaxing! Then while most of the CCP'ers headed back to the office to work on FF presentations, the CSM headed over to Nora's. I learned in the process of this that the strike is now off, postponed until May 22. So that was good news!

And that's about it so far! In about an hour as I write this, I'll be headed back to the monument for the official unveiling ceremony. Hope to chat with some of you there!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week fifty-two

Again, I'm going to keep this really short.

No final stake-holder meeting with Team Five-Oh this week. It was an Icelandic holiday on the regular day and the devs have been really busy getting Fanfest stuff together, so this was not at all surprising. A couple of devs, bless them, apparently realized this was their last chance to get another set of eyes on changes they were going to announce. So there were a lot of little threads in the private section of the EVE-O forums. CCP Fozzie in particular threw a bunch of last minute stuff at us (including this, for instance).

All I can say is keep a pretty close eye on the Features and Ideas section of the forum this week! It's likely to be busy (for the obvious reasons)!

The final CSM8 Town Hall went just fine. I expect there will be a recording of it up in a few days at the usual place. There were fewer questions this time so this gave a lot of CSM members the opportunity to wax a little philosophical about the topics that did come up. My thanks to DJ Wiggles of EVE Radio and Turhan Bey of EVE University for their logistical support!

The bulk of the CSM (including myself) were traveling today or will be traveling as I publish this. So those of you coming to Iceland will be able to meet a super-majority of us. ;-) CCP pays for seven CSM members to attend and CCP Dolan worked miracles to help those not chosen to also be able to afford to come as well. As a result, this year might be a record year for the number of CSM members in attendance! Kind of a nice final note on CSM8 and nicely parallels how active and involved we've been with CCP.

As I write this, CSM8 has four days left in its term, followed by a transition period where we will be working side-by-side with CSM9 and answering any questions they have. That said, I fully expect at least three and maybe as many as six CSM8 members to be on CSM9. So there's every reason to suspect that the transition period is going to be quite short.

So, chances are that the week fifty-three update will be my last weekly CSM update. I will then do a final wrap-up post about my impressions of having been on the CSM over the course of the last year.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Back to the future

In a few hours, I head back to Iceland for my second Fanfest!

The public schedule is now out as well as a mobile version. One glance will show you the schedule is incredibly tightly packed this year. There are enough overlapping interesting events to make choosing kind of difficult. How does one choose between:
  • Virtual World Operations, Ship Skin Pilot Roundtable, Third Party Developer Tools Update, or Concept Art Live Session? That choice is 1500 on Thursday.
  • VR Game Design, From Evidence to Bans - Security Q&A, EVE UI, or New Player Experience Vision? That choice is noon on Friday.
  • Fleet Warfare, DUST 514 Vision Update, or Probing the EVE Online Engine? That choice is two hours later, at 1400 Friday.
  • Future of EVEsports, Ship and Module Balancing, or Coaching Them Up in New Eden? An hour later, at 1500 on Friday.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. It's a really good agenda this year. And that's not counting the sessions that I have to attend:
  • The CSM Panel is in the Singularity Main Room at 1600 Thurdsay; and,
  • The CSM Roundtable is in Round Table Room 3 ("Amarr") at 1400 Saturday.
For the latter, we're booked opposite the freakin' Industry Panel! So I wouldn't blame you guys if our RT room is empty. ;-)

For those of you attending Fanfest and hoping to get a word with me, I will try to keep Twitter updated as I can on my whereabouts. In particular, though, I plan on attending the #tweetfleet meet-up at Celtic Cross at 2000 on Wednesday. And after long consideration, instead of attending the Pub Crawl formally this year, I'm going to instead try to camp out on the back patio of The English Pub across the way from Nora Magasin (the old Islenski Barinn). In both places I can get a Guinness, and I discovered last year that the latter location is a near-ideal place to be able to talk and be heard. I'm an old guy so I am at a distinct disadvantage trying to hear what people are saying to me inside a crowded bar. ;-)

So if you're attending the Pub Crawl and it brings you anywhere near Nora's or The English Pub, please feel free to swing by and say hello if you care to. I'll also be attending the Party. Last year, I tended to hang out either on the second level right at the top of the stairs or on the second floor all the way in the back left hand corner behind the main hall.

Finally, I'm pleased to report that the second generation hoodies turned out even better than the first...

As you can see, I had one made for myself this time. ;-) The Rifter and EVE Online logo are on the back left corner about a foot over the wearer's hip. Each one includes the wearer's "name" and a fun little caption appropriate to their work, position, or temperament. Here's detail of the Rifter embroidery (with a pen on top for size reference):

Pretty good stuff! I've hidden the caption on mine for those at FF to see. I think you'll agree it's appropriate.

See some of you later this week! For the rest of you, as with last year, I'll write daily posts on my activities. On to Iceland!

April junk drawer

Welcome to the junk drawer, part of a series of monthly posts in which I dump all the stuff that I couldn't develop into full blog posts this past month. This month, the end of the month falls right in the middle of Fanfest week so rather than put this post off until May, I thought I'd jump into it a little bit early.


First, let's cover some particularly interesting blog posts that caught my attention this month, starting with this post from croda of marketsforISK. He wrote a really insightful post, digging into the real meat of the CCP 2013 financials that I covered more briefly from a layman's point of view late last month. If all you need is the layman's view, then my post is fine, but for those that want to dig deeper, croda has done a masterful job.

Speaking of financials, CSM8 member mynnna provides a really interesting perspective on the coming industry expansion. mynnna doesn't blog very often but when he does he also provides some insightful stuff. Now granted, a lot of the information about these changes are still coming and granted, mynnna is a big potential beneficiary of a null-sec industry buff. And he has to tread carefully in this post. Hell, half of my challenge being on the CSM the last month is keeping stratight what's been announced, what hasn't been announced, and what's been hinted at in public but not necessarily announced. I think I've done a good job walking the line but damn if I won't be glad when my line-walking ends coming up soon. In the meantime, if you're interested in this topic, give mynnna's take a read.

Nosy Gamer and Neville Smit have also jumped in to good effect.(1)

And that brings me to Kirith Kodachi's excellent post trying to bridge the gaps between all these posts. This is just the sort of post I would have written before I joined the CSM. Kirith does a fine job of it, so much so that I struggled with what to write as a comment. So many of the things I could write would instantly get me into :nda: trouble! So all I could say in comments was "excellent post"... and it is! Go read it.

Helicity Boson used to be on my Must Read Blogs list... then was on my Infrequent But Important blogs list... and due to inactivity fell off both lists. But he's jumped briefly back into the fray with a really interesting post about how to really apply sound and graphics in EVE to give players real tools to make PvP more interesting and more intuitive. Some of the ideas are frankly a little silly or would be difficult or impossible to implement properly. But some of them are really quite good! I'm a particular fan of additional visual rings around spaceships that are attempting e-war against you.

Finally, I do not agree with this post written by DJ Wiggles of EVE Radio, but it's worth a few minutes of your time to go out and read yourself.


So, this came up at the CSM Town Hall yesterday, something I'd never heard of. Freelance gaming journalist and writer, Andrew Groen (most frequently associated with Wired) wants to write a history book about EVE Online. Specifically, he wants to cover the history of the null-sec empires starting from 2004 or so and going through this afternoon. A more niche product, I can't possibly imagine -- and I write an EVE Online blog, I'll remind you... -- but so far 1371 people have contributed some $31000 U.S. to the idea.

It's a tricky concept. He says that CCP is supportive of the idea...
I'm a casual Eve Online player, and have never had any biases or allegiances to any alliance, corporation, or group within Eve. I'm also not affiliated with CCP Games. I've spoken with CCP about this project just to make them aware of it, and we both agreed that CCP can't and shouldn't be involved in editing or approving the content of this book in any way. That said, CCP has been very supportive, and have offered to serve as a liaison to help me get in touch with difficult-to-contact sources.
...but it does involve someone not associated with CCP making money to sell an EVE Online product. That has been shoal water where CCP has been concerned the last few years, as I've covered here.

So we'll see how it goes. He has reached his funding goal -- almost three times over! -- which means he's theoretically committed to the project.


A couple of Elder Scrolls Online items!

This doesn't warrant a full blog post, but here's a page that lists the full effects of the ESO Mundus Stones. For those not into ES lore, Mundus Stones are obelisks located here and there in Tamriel's wilderness that greatly enhance one attribute of the person who touches them. However, you're only allowed to be influenced by one Mundus Stone at a time. So the trick is to find one that grants the bonus that you're most interested in. But THAT has to start with knowing your options, so there you go.

Similarly, I'm finding out how little I know about how to optimally "fit" characters in the standard "tank / DPS / healer / ranger" meta that seems to be the thing in fantasy MMOs. That sent me looking for a guide on how to reset skill and attribute points. That is the simplest one I found. As a bonus, it includes links to how to become a werewolf or vampire, plus a link to the ESO "emote" guide.

The ESO GMs themselves compiled basic "get started" tips into a single place too, which I referred to every day or two during the first week I was playing.


Finally, let's wrap with a graphic.

Glad to see things are getting back to normal after a contentious month...


And that's all for the junk drawer this month.

(1) Though the latter briefly steals my evil twin schtick. ;-)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Burn it down

Another reminder: Burn Jita is running right now. Here's the current box score for those who want to keep track. You might want to stay out of there (and out of anywhere near there) if you're in a freighter or a JF or an Orca. Of course, if you kept up with in-game events, you wouldn't need me to tell you these things...

CSM8 had their sixth and final Town Hall today, and EVE Radio's DJ Wiggles was playing appropriate Burn Jita music, so I suggested this:

Not my favorite Linkin Park song, but certainly in the top ten somewhere. And the lyrics are quite appropriate!

Fly safe out there...

Picture of the week: Clever girl

You know, you really have to hand it to the new wave of Erotica 1 style bonus room instigators. They learn from their mistakes and adapt:

In that way, they're better than most EVE players. ;-)

For those not following, apparently the bonus room now has a new question in the script: "Do you feel you are being tortured, harassed, or bullied?" If you answer "yes", the bonus room ends and you lose all your stuff. You have to answer "no" to continue to have a chance to "win".

As Robert Muldoon put it in his last words, "Clever girl..."

Friday, April 25, 2014

State of play

So, just to be perfectly frank: Elder Scrolls Online is rapidly shaping up to be the buggiest game I've ever played.

There are broken items, broken abilities, broken quests, and broken achievements. My current favorite personal bug are the occasions where the game gives you a sidekick, balances the quests to include the sidekick's input... and then the sidekick stands there doing nothing while you get your ass hammered by a quest half again too strong for you. There are three impossible achievements I've noticed so far. There are locations you can get yourself into that it is impossible to get yourself out of. I've mentioned the dupe bug already, of course.

And that's just the stuff that's broken. Balance across the game is also marginal or bad. My favorite bit here is Enchanting, where the entire structure is based on limited availability of Aspect runes, one of the three types of runes needed to do any Enchanting at all. As a result, Enchanting skill increases painfully slowly and the overrun of the two other types of runes combined with the drought of Aspect runes quickly floods your inventory... and of course most runes are worthless and so can't be sold. But that's not the only place balance is questionable: the game itself varies between ridiculously easy and ludicrously difficult at the drop of a hat.

And that's before you add a single player to the game. There are dozens of issues once you start adding players, from the lack of foresight into designing areas like banks to the issues of spawn rates for quest objectives and exploration items to the fact that high-level dungeons are incredibly bot heavy. Remember how I said that fishing was a grinding technique worth 600-750 gold per hour? Botting in dungeons generates about five high level potions per minute average... for 1500-1800 gold per hour.

And that's before you get into game design flaws, where the definition of "design flaw" varies by player, of course. For me, the lack of an open player market in favor of guild markets strikes me as a very poor design choice.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm still having a great time with this game and it shows an incredible amount of potential. I'm enjoying myself. But it's clear that the game wasn't ready for prime time. It's playable, certainly... but sometimes frustrating. This is where my post a few weeks ago about giving the developers a chance to address the issues in their game over a period of time becomes paramount: will the ESO devs get the time they need? We'll see.

In the meantime, Matt Firor, who is the Director of The Elder Scrolls Online, released a "State of the Game" post on the ESO forums that is surprisingly frank and uncompromising in his view of the game. It's a refreshing read and if you're interested in ESO at all, it's worth your time. Hardcore Casual has also written a nice state of the game analysis from the perspective of someone who's played a lot more MMOs than I have.

As I imagine you can guess, I'm really pleased at this example of open communications and I hope that it continues. Being up-front like this goes a long way with me.

My overall impression of the game itself still remains mostly positive, and I continue to believe that the game is at its best when you get off the beaten track and treat it as an exploration game. I have a new favorite moment that I'd like to share. In the far wilderness I came upon a little stone platform on the bank of a river. As I approached it, a fire mage and an ice mage teleported in... and then started a duel. Both were tagged as hostile so I could have interfered had I chosen to. Instead, I decided to watch. After a few minutes, the fire mage won the duel and teleported out... and I was given a pile of XP that would have far exceeded the small amount of XP I would have received for wading in. Cute!

It's these kinds of small personal touches that really remind me I'm playing an Elder Scrolls game and keep me logging in. So yeah, I'm willing to give Matt and his team time to improve the state of the game.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fit of the Week: Hunter Astero

I can't do any pirate ship fittings for a while since they're all being rebalanced for summer. But I feel like doing a non-Empire faction ship. I've already done a Stratios, so let's do an Astero fit...

[Astero, Hunter]
Damage Control II
Coreli A-Type Small Armor Repairer
Coreli B-Type Small Armor Repairer
Drone Damage Amplifier II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 200

Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Dual Light Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S

Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump II
Small Ancillary Current Router II

Hobgoblin II x5
Hornet EC-300 x5
Hobgoblin II x5

This is obviously a behind-enemy-lines hunter, but heavily enhanced for solo PvP against enemy frigates and cruisers you may encounter. Your DPS is about 150, about 80% of it coming from your drones. Decloak, wait out your six second lock timer as you launch your drones, then use your fast frigate lock time and hope the target doesn't get away in between. An entertaining tactic to prevent that is to start your cloaked attack about 10km off the target. Hit approach, decloak, then as quickly as you can cycle your MWD for a single cycle. You'll quickly accelerate toward the target and give him a hard bump. Start your orbit as you bounce off making sure the MWD is "red" so you don't overshoot by too much. Even a bump from a frigate will usually knock most targets slightly out of alignment and give you a few seconds to get the target locked.

The Astero itself is an 80 million ISK ship as I write this, so protecting it heavily is in your best interests. A pair of dead-space reppers is about 37 million ISK for the pair; the rigs that will let you fit them and use them efficiently adds about another 18 million. So, this is about a 150 million ISK ship out the door but in exchange you'll be able to self-rep about 150 DPS before heat and boosters. Add a Standard Exile to bump this to 180, then overheat the A-type repper to push it past 200. That combined with the ship's small sig will allow you take an enormous amount of punishment. To that you can add an off-grid link ship if you care to.

By increasing the ship's survivability, you're dramatically increasing your chances of bringing the ship home... and therefore not needing a replacement. Your buffer tank is about 4800 EHP in this fitting with decent resists. That's quite good for an active rep T1 frigate.

The rest of the fit obviously focuses on getting that tackle: scram, web, and a cap booster to keep your tackle mods and reppers running under neut pressure. I recommend Cap Booster 200 charges because your total cap is only 435. That means using a 400 will probably end up being a waste. Keep your scram over-heated and if you're looking for a place to spend even more ISK on this fit, that's the place: a dead-space scram will further increase your survivability.

There's a lot of tricky fitting choices associated with this ship because it's relatively so low on grid. As a result, if you use an Engineering implant or perhaps a CA-1/CA-2 set, you may be able to tweak this fit here and there, either to use dual A-Type reppers, avoid the need for the T2 ACR, or downshift to a Gatling Pulse Laser since your gun DPS isn't all that impressive. You might even want to use an afterburner instead of a MWD though I much prefer the latter when behind enemy lines for gate camp avoidance. But you can tweak this fit to be more to your liking. As you tweak, I do recommend you leave at least the dead-space reppers in place. They really do make a big difference.

Finally, for a drone load-out, I recommend one set of attack drones, one set of EC drones... and one spare set of attack drones. You're fast, cloaky, and slippery. If an attack isn't going your away, abandon your first set of drones, GTFO, and live to attack a softer target.

Good hunting!

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. 

Quote of the week: Goodbye sweet newbie

Quote of the week honors goes to this post from Low Sec Lifestyle: Goodbye Sweet Newbie:
I do not understand why people prey on the newest of characters. I don't mean alts. I don't mean newbies that wander into wormholes and low sec. I mean the ones who sit on the rookie station in a ship with a can and offer duels or try to get them to steal. I mean the ones pulling week old characters asking questions and looking for a corp out of rookie chat and getting them to come where they can kill them.
Because they can. And because it's low risk. And because it generates kill mails. And because it causes tears. And because EVE players like low risk kill mails and tears.

The full piece is worth your time. Go give it a read.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Two strikes

Two quick Fanfest notes, both of which tickle me for different reasons.

The PLEX for Good charity stream that CCP put on back in early December fo Philippines typhoon relief included various fun one-off activities. One of these was a demonstration of close-quarters fighting that included CCP devs acting as sparring partners for Icelandic MMA star (and CCP-sponsored fighter) Gunnar Nelson. The CCP employees involved (who included CCP Guard and CCP Dolan) were good sports about being bent and twisted in various painful-looking configurations by the fighter.

It was a funny bit! I'm not an MMA watcher myself but it was interesting.

Anyway, CCP has decided to repeat the funny at Fanfest. After the second day's festivities but before the Pub Crawl with a Dev, CCP is advertising "EVE of Destruction." This event is advertised as a longer mirror of the charity stream event:
During EVE OF DESTRUCTION, Nelson will face off against CCP Games staff members and special guests in 10 back-to-back, one-versus-one wrestling matches in a fighting cage on loan from Mjölnir MMA Gym, his home training ground.
This tickles me because once it was announced that Nelson would be facing off against "special guests", one wag asked me if CCP had volunteered me to get my ass kicked in a cage match for the whole E1 thing. Plus one to you sir for the humor, minus 50 for wanting to get me killed, and the answer is "no, definitely not." ;-)

The other item on its face is not nearly so humorous, but my brain couldn't resist thinking about it in an odd way.

I'm not going to get into the politics of this, but because of a labor dispute airport workers at Keflavik International Airport are set to strike between 4am and 9am on April 25 and April 30, after striking today at the same time (they're on strike as I publish this). What day do most Fanfest attendees arrive? That's right, April 30. And that's the exact time that most flights from the U.S. land as well as a not insignificant number of flights from Europe. Keflavik International Airport is reporting there will be up to a four hour delay of outbound flights, but their website doesn't mention inbound flights.

Hopefully, the KEF website is accurate and inbound flights aren't affected. If the strike affects baggage handlers (this isn't specified by the KEF website), that's going to leave a lot of Fanfest attendees sitting in the baggage claim area awaiting bags. And here's the part where my brain is broken: the duty-free shop is right there, and this part of arrivals takes place in a large open area.

So all I could think of was dozens of spaceship nerds buying bottles of booze and starting the party early in the baggage claim area. Then buying another bottle of booze before actually leaving the baggage claim area and going through customs... kind of an amusing thought!

Fanfest in one week!

EDIT (23/Apr/2014): CCP has published a full description of Fanfest activities.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How do you stop

A reader challenged me to a really interesting mental exercise this week that I've decided to take up. It's going to get me yelled at and cause yet more misconceptions about me but hey, I can't seem to say "hello" this year without causing that. So what the hell, eh? "May as well be hung for a dragon as well as an egg," as the Westerosi saying goes. Here's the mental exercise:

What would it take to stop the depredations of James 315 and his ilk?

Before I begin, let me start by saying... again... that I support non-consensual PvP. I've been saying this on the blog for years, over and over and over again. Here are some relevant quotes from the links:
  • I absolutely believe that there should be non-consensual PvP in New Eden. I've said that many times. It's one of the things that makes EVE EVE.
  • 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.
  • ...[this] came up quite a lot during my CSM campaign, particularly when an incorrect belief that I'm opposed to non-consensual PvP was politicized...
  • For the record:
    • Do I think war in high-sec should be limited to suicide ganking?  Nope.
    • Do I think there should be a PvP-free zone in EVE Online?  Nope.
    • Do I think there should be any condition under which an EVE player can be in space and be completely safe?  Nope.
    • Do I think new or inexperienced players should be safe in low- or null-sec should they travel there?  Hell no!
So put down the shotgun, k? This is strictly a mental exercise. I was asked if I'd be interested in taking up this topic, and I decided I am. And hell, a good bit of non-consensual PvP is going to come up in my answer.

The topic came up because New Order Logistics and the CODEdot alliance (CODE hereafter) that it's part of have apparently started expanding their scope from "miner bumping" and miner ganking to hauler and freighter bumping and ganking. This makes a lot of sense: these are often juicier targets, certainly easier to gank in most cases, easier to find, more likely to result in a successful kill, probably more fun. Goons have elevated freighter bumping (to get them away from gate guns and instant CONCORD response) into an art form, often an entertaining art form. What's not to like?

And the questioner was curious where the trend would stop: is New Order going to go after high-sec PI next, for instance? High sec incursion ships? Missioners? Will the "code" expand to include all high-sec activities? And if so, how would high-sec dwellers fight back, even if they were inclined to?

If I can be permitted a very short "Jester Makes History Fun" tangent, the whole question kind of reminds me of submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean during both World Wars. The submarines had all of the advantages: their attacks were preemptive, most often against helpless targets, and nearly always without warning. They preferred undefended targets over defended ones, and most often avoided ships that could fight back in favor of those that couldn't. In high-sec, even if they wanted to, miners can't legally act preemptively.

In terms of looking at the various options I came up with, I'm going to grade each of them in terms of "viability", that is, the likelihood that the given approach is feasible and would be successful. And it's probably not going to surprise you that I rate most of the options I could think of as having a low viability or worse. Minerbumping has been running for a couple of years now. If they could have been stopped easily, they would have been stopped by now.

Finally, I'm going to look at every option I can think of even if the likelihood of them "working" is nil or I disagree with them philosophically. As I said, this is a thought experiment. So I warn you in advance: this is a frightfully long post.

Ready? Let's start with:

Declaring war. Viability: Low. Many of the personnel engaged in this activity have lumped themselves into a single alliance, CODE. It's possible to declare war on this alliance and in so doing, freely fire on their pilots. Minerbumping is a 100 billion ISK per year enterprise on average and its budget is growing. While this is pretty small potatoes by null-sec standards, anyone who would want to put a stop to them is likely going to have to commit equal ISK to the effort, plus the 75 million ISK/week fee to keep the war declaration active over a very long period. The organization that did this would need or would need to create a larger alliance than CODE has (the aggressor in any conflict needs to be bigger than the defender), be well organized with good time zone coverage since CODE is active from EUTZ to USTZ, and would need a ship replacement program since there would be zero ISK to be made in this effort.

A typical CODE Catalyst or Talos fleet would also have to be carefully managed since it's obviously capable of doing a lot of damage to an aggressor. Against the former, it only takes one or two losses in an attacking fleet to lose the ISK war pretty badly since Catalysts are cheap. Since both ships use very short range weapons and no prop mods, I'd probably go with Maledictions as my standard attack ships. They're crazy fast both at sub warp and warp, pretty easy to get into and to fly, do a ton of DPS at good range, kite well, and a flock of them would make mincemeat of a Catalyst gang twice its size. They'd also have a fairly easy time holding and whittling down a large Talos fleet.

That said, while ganking helpless targets is fun, chasing Catalysts and Taloses around high-sec probably would not be. Station games and neutral repping would come into play in a big way, and about a third of a given CODE gank fleet appears to be made of non-CODE members that could not be attacked without further expensive war-decs. It's a pretty good bet that a number of CODE members would just swap over to non-CODE alts to keep the ganks going. So a war declaration would be a long expensive slog with not much to show for it. This tactic would also be heavily reliant on a large number of PvP pilots, something Minerbumping's victims probably aren't going to have access to. That brings me to...

Hiring mercenaries. Viability: Very low. This approach has all the disadvantages of the first idea, plus an obviously even greater expense since the mercs must be paid, and paid well. The victory conditions would have to be very carefully set as well, since "destroy 5000 enemy Catalysts" or something like that would be pretty easy to fake.

Bounties and/or kill rights. Viability: very low to none. The typical CODE ship is a Catalyst with a very low value. Even if a kill right was successfully exercised against one, the response from the pilot would be "BFD." Likewise, putting bounties on a large number of CODE pilots might be satisfying from a stand-point of being notified every time they got killed by CONCORD and someone in a frigate shot them to get on the mail. But it certainly wouldn't do a thing to actually stop the attacks.

Counter suicide-ganking. Viability: low to moderate. Here's kind of an interesting notion: gank the gankers. The Catalysts being used by CODE are ridiculously thin. A fairly small group could declare a particularly good mining system a "Catalyst-free zone" and just suicide gank any Catalyst that warped to a belt or mining anomaly in that system. In particular, a relatively small group of Thrashers posted around a mining op and dedicated to the preemptive ganking of any arriving Catalyst could probably do a good job protecting that op.

This would get somewhat expensive in a hurry, particularly since it's 100% likely that CODE would quickly learn to hit such an op with unarmed decoy ships. It would also take a large number of participating pilots; as each pilot involved ganked a Catalyst, he would have to clear the area. The organization of such an effort would be somewhat complex because the counter-ganking pilots would also need to learn the skills to "pull CONCORD away" from the target belt. Keeping the security status of the Thrasher pilots high enough to operate in high-sec would also quickly become an expensive proposition. Amusingly and finally, there would also be a philosophical argument to be made about the justifiability of fighting fire with fire in this fashion.

Still, it's more viable than some of the other options, particularly if it's combined with war-decs. And if it could be expanded to additional systems by additional corps, over time it would damage Minerbumping's play style. Of course, it would come at the cost of having to explain to newbies why you're shooting at the Catalyst he's trying to use to belt rat in high-sec...

Defensive fleets. Viability: low to very low. I covered this one in depth last year. Even if a defense fleet does everything "right", the gankers are still going to win -- and win easily -- on an ISK efficiency ratio. And to make it work, you have to subject a significant number of your pilots to the most boring game-play in EVE: orbiting a mining fleet waiting for something that's probably never going to happen (because the gankers are going to look for easier targets). Finally, from a financial standpoint, this option cuts mining yield -- the whole point to mining in the first place, of course -- to its lowest ebb. And it doesn't stop Minerbumping's tactics overall in the slightest.

Defensive logistics fleets. Viability: low to moderate. Skiffs are getting a bit of an upgrade come summer and are already quite tough. Nothing is ungankable, of course, but you can make a Skiff gank a brutal slog. Add a logistics ship or two on stand-by and doing so becomes an almost ridiculously difficult proposition. It's also as close to a preemptive strategy as it's possible for a mining fleet in high-sec: the Scimitars and Basis and Scythes can have counter-cycled reps and rep drones pointed at the Skiffs so that once the Catalysts start firing, the damage gets repped up immediately. From time to time, you might get your Skiff ganked by a group of Taloses anyway "just to make a point" but it's going to be fantastically expensive for the gankers.

From a success/failure stand-point on an individual gank basis, this tactic is probably the one most likely to succeed. That said, it also has either the biggest boredom factor or the biggest botting factor of any of these options. At least a defensive fleet doing it "right" is going to have rats to shoot at from time to time. A defensive logistics fleet is literally going to have nothing to do except orbit and rep, rep and orbit. Even if players do this with alts, this is cutting their potential mining yield by a third. Or a quarter. And like defensive fleets in general, this tactic is not going to stop the Minerbumping depredations unless this tactic were performed en masse.

Finally, of course, if this kind of tactic started to be used in any kind of numbers, the gankers could just switch to killing the logistics platforms with more or less equal benefit to them of killing the ships being repaired.

Lobby CCP to put a stop to suicide ganking. Viability: none. CCP sees suicide ganking as part of the DNA of EVE Online. They're never going to make any change to remove it no matter how many players beg them to.

Lobby CCP to somehow criminalize bumping. Viability: none to very low. This one's a bit trickier. CCP has never come up with a definition of "harassment" as it applies to an individual ship in space, preferring a Potter Stewart test applied by individual GMs. Still, the action of spending many minutes bumping a potential suicide gank target, particularly when that action is combined with a suicide noob ships aggressing the target could potentially become a sore point. If enough players made enough of a stink about this particular action, CCP might choose to do something about it.

But it would take hundreds of individual players raising the issue and turning it into a threadnaught for anything to happen. And it would only stop a fraction of Minerbumping's tactics. As a side "benefit", though, it would make freighter and jump freighter ganks during Burn Jita somewhat more difficult and costly. Still, I can't see this one getting any traction.

Lobby CCP to give high-sec players more preemptive options. Viability: low to very low. I've always thought it would be kind of interesting if there was a way for players to "stake a claim" on high-sec minerals for brief periods. And with the advent of player anchorable structures, the code now presumably exists that could make such a thing at least possible. Assume you had a "mining claim" anchorable, and while it was anchored, the zone around the anchorable became a free PvP zone, even in high-sec. I could see that creating some interesting emergent game-play. The code would have to be carefully written such that such an anchorable only worked within some number of kilometers of a minable asteroid, though, or the abuse potential would be enormous.

But giving high-sec players preemptive options would definitely put a crimp in the Minerbumping play style. Or it might put a really useful tool in their toolbox since they could anchor this structure next to an AFK miner and use it to freely blow him away without CONCORD intervention. Other options to give high-sec players preemptive capabilities would likely have similar downsides. So something like this is interesting but I could see this kind of knife cutting in both directions.

Encourage miners to use smart fits. Viability: low. Of course, you could put ganking mining ships 80% or more out of business if most or all mining ships were fit properly. This particularly applies if high-sec miners stuck to Skiffs for most or all of their operation. Skiffs aren't ungankable, of course, but it often takes a prohibitively large number of ships to do it and in the long term, trying to gank an endless stream of Skiffs is probably a non-starter from a cost/budget stand-point.

Still, this option's viability is low for a couple of reasons: EVE players being dumb about ship-fitting is sort of one of the bedrock principles that the game is based on. And of course, not every miner can fly a Skiff. CODE gets a lot of their kills from players who can't fly anything better than a Retriever.

Attack CODE from within. Viability: low to moderate. This is another one that would be philosophically interesting: could a high-sec miner put on a good enough front to be accepted into a CODE corporation, and from there, take actions that would be sufficient to put them out of business? From a long-term viability stand-point of actually attacking the target, this one has the greatest chance of success. The end goal of this operation would be to be put into a place where one could access part or all of the Minerbumping budget. I suspect that would be a long term project and in the meantime, such a person would have to prove their loyalty by destroying dozens if not hundreds of mining ships, haulers, and freighters.

And in the process, who knows, such a person might even come to like it.

So this tactic would require iron discipline, a very long-term commitment, not an insignificant amount of luck, and the internal structure of the alliance itself and Minerbumping generally would have to be open to this kind of attack. That's a lot of ifs. I'm not going to say it's impossible, though.

Various low-end meta-game attacks. Viability: very low. This one is similar to the above, attacking CODE from within, but at a lower level. Under this heading falls various spying and awoxing tactics. In particular, keeping an ear on CODE comms and warning mining fleets of incoming suicide ganks would be an example of this sort of tactic. This sort of thing would be entertaining but I suspect such a spy would be found in pretty short order.

Also under this heading are various corp v. corp awoxing attacks. A particularly entertaining option would be to include a ECM Burst module on your Catalyst fit to break some of the fleet's target locks before a particularly juicy attack. Such tactics wouldn't work more than once or twice, of course, and their chances of disrupting Minerbumping long-term is very low.

Rally other EVE players into a combination of all of these tactics together. Viability: low to very low. Most EVE players are much more interested in activities that are fun and driven by profit than making any sort of political statement. Furthermore, enough players will sympathize with the gankers to disrupt such efforts.

Rally other EVE players into a short-term "event" to disrupt Minerbumping. Viability: low to very low. On the other hand, making an "event" out of it could be done relatively inexpensively. Something like "For one week only, 5 million ISK to every person who ganks an armed CODE Catalyst! One pay-out per character, characters must be 30 days or older to participate." would certainly be exploited by CODE members themselves. But enough other players would also come out of the woodwork to participate and make that week rather harrowing for CODE members. Of course, this would require a fair budget to implement, but probably wouldn't be too expensive, maybe five or ten billion ISK in total. And there's a possibility to drive sponsorship of such an event to help pay for it.

This would be an entertaining event, would drive visibility to the issue, and get people talking about why it was done. But its likelihood of disrupting Minerbumping's operations long-term is quite low.

Various high end meta-game attacks. Viability: very low. Not going to go into details on this one. Those of you who understand what I'm getting at will understand what I'm getting at. And I certainly don't condone these sorts of tactics. Particularly since such things would likely be against the EVE TOS... and I judge their likelihood of working to be very low.

...aaaand that's all I can think of. Again, you'll note that as possibilities for causing long-term impact to Minerbumping's activities, virtually all of them have little chance of success. But I was asked to think about this as a mental exercise and finding it interesting, I have done so. Did I miss anything?


Sigh. I seem to have started another mini shit-storm and again it wasn't particularly intentional. I'm sorry about that.

I want to clarify the post I wrote on the upcoming industry changes a bit, and I'm going to keep this clarification short. But I do want to make sure that if I'm going to be roasted over a slow fire, I'm going to be roasted for things I actually said rather than things people think I said. So let's make sure that people understand what I didn't say here:
I did not say that industry in high-sec was going to be ending.
Please be clear on that because I think it's really really important.

What I did say is that every time CCP Greyscale has gotten his hands on something in the past, he has been a proponent for strong differentiation between various types of space... every single time. Put in simpler language, Greyscale likes to have things be worth doing in some parts of space and totally not at all worth doing in other parts of space. As a predictive model, this statement has in the past been very very accurate.

But this does not not not mean even if this turns out to be true that manufacturing things in high-sec is suddenly going to become a no-profit enterprise. Even when Greyscale strongly differentiates something, he doesn't differentiate the low end to zero. You can still run Sanctums and Havens and Hubs in Syndicate and Providence. You just can't make nearly as much money as you can doing the very same thing in Delve and Deklein.

Therefore, if Greyscale holds to past form, there will be things that it will be profitable to manufacture in high-sec... but I think there will also be lots of things where it will be more profitable to manufacture them elsewhere. That's all I was saying.

Except that I also said that I agree with this strategy and I think that in the long term view, it's healthy for the game. And I do think those things. I think you should make more money living in null-sec than living in high-sec... whatever it is that you do there.

Now by all means, go back to roasting me over a slow fire if you care to.

Monday, April 21, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week fifty-one

Gonna keep this one really short.

Voting closes today! If you have not voted for your choices for CSM9, GO VOTE! People right across CCP had really nice things to say about CSM8 and the influence we've had on the development process this year, but I'm gonna quote CCP Ytterbium, who summed things up nicely:
If you think the CSM has no value except as a free ride to Iceland, you are wrong. If you think the CSM are only pushing changes in favor of null-security cartels, voice your opinion and vote for someone you feel represents you to your best interest.
Ali Aras also wrote a very nice piece that was included in the CCP perspective called "A Day in the Life of CSM 8", so if you haven't read that, I encourage you to do so.

As I mentioned last week, CSM8's final Town Hall of the year is set for:
Saturday 26 April, at 1900 EVE time.
As I mentioned in the forum thread, if you have any final questions for CSM8, now's the time! I've only received a small handful of questions so far. So either please send them to me via EVE mail or post them in the thread and I'll make sure they're included. I hope to chat with all of you one last time on Saturday...

...or at Fanfest next week! As I mentioned last week, the CSM8 members that are in Iceland for Fanfest 2014 (most of us) will be presenting at a CSM8 Question and Answer Panel followed by a smaller CSM8 Round Table. I hope to chat with a lot of you there!

As a result of Fanfest next week, there will almost certainly not be a "Week fifty-two" update. I may or may not combine weeks fifty-two and fifty-three into a final weekly update two weeks from now on May 5. Either way, I do also expect to write a final "lessons learned/looking back" post on my time on CSM8. That should take place the week of May 5 sometime, and that post will wrap up the "CSM8" blog tag around here.

And that's all for this week! CSM8 continues to be busy as always but we'll soon be passing the baton to CSM9!

Traffic notification: Jita

Just a quickie.

TMC has announced the dates for this year's Burn Jita: April 25 through 28. That's this weekend.

There's also every single reason in the world to assume that things will kick off at least several hours early. After all, they did both last year and the year before. And I wouldn't put it past the Goons to start things off earlier than that this time. Last year, a number of people tried to sneak a few expensive things into Jita before the "deadline." This did not go well for them.

Don't join the dozens of people who lost freighters and jump freighters last year and the year before! Good luck!

EDIT (21/Apr/2014): Talvorian Dex makes an excellent point in the comments below: a good solid third of the losses last year took place in the systems surrounding Jita. So watch yourself anywhere in the neighborhood!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Duping scandal

So barely two days after having its first major bug explode in its face, ESO has had a second even more serious one: a bug that allowed the duping of stacked items -- any items -- in the game's guild banks. The combination of the ability to duplicate items plus the game's NPCs willingness to buy back an unlimited number of the game's craft materials has allowed some players to rack up hundreds of thousands of gold, if not millions.

The bug was fixed with an emergency change earlier this week, but needless to say there's a long Reddit thread, gaming magazine articles, an ESO forum thread, and a video tutorial of how the bug worked in practice:

Now coming out of EVE as I do, I find the whole mess rather amusing. This is exactly the sort of thing that would instantly generate a 250 page threadnaught on the EVE forums and righteous player indignation right around the world whether this bug affected those players or not. And I certainly don't want to discount the ESO players that are concerned about it. For ESO's PvP game, this early major bug is certainly going to have an impact.

But I'm going to give the same advice to ESO players that I've given to EVE players from time to time when this sort of thing has come up: calm down. It's honestly not that big of a deal. If you want to get angry at ESO's developers, get angry about things that they do on purpose, not things that they do by mistake. Now granted, this bug has apparently been known for quite a while -- rumor has it that a number of players found it as part of the beta then simply didn't report it, intending to profit by it after the game launched. But a number of players have also said that they reported the bug and Zenimax and Bethesda did nothing about it.

Those things are worth worrying about, yes. Even in a newly launched MMO with hundreds of bugs to address, a duping bug should have been given higher priority and chances are excellent that the devs are going to be looking at their bug priority system a lot more closely going forward.

But as to this issue itself? It's certainly a major headache for the GM team but game-breaking? No. Something that necessitates a relaunch of the game? Absolutely not. MMOs have dupe bugs. Every MMO has dupe bugs. WoW had one. EVE had one. Rift had a couple. I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the idea: MMOs have dupe bugs. It's sort of a fact of life.

Those bugs didn't break those MMOs and this one won't break ESO.

What's likely to happen with this one is that the ESO GM team will get busy banning the players that perpetrated this one, wipe out a lot of assets and a lot of gold, and generally heavily attack anyone that they can link to this problem. Will that eliminate every single benefit that some players got out of this bug? Nope! Will this bug have a continuing impact on ESO's PvP going forward? Yeah, probably. But over time, the impact of it will smooth out and become less important. In the meantime, it seems clear that the influx of gold isn't having any sort of major inflationary impact on ESO's economy.

So, yes. It's serious. But no, it's not worth freaking out over. Here, look at a pretty tree for a while.

Incidentally, that's the central Argonian Hist tree that ES lore has been hinting exists for the last thirteen years or so. "Make it majestic," the artist was clearly told, "make us believe this is the central focus of the Argonian race." I'd say he or she delivered. It's something else!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


OK, let's talk about the industry changes announced so far.

Between the refining change announced last month and the overall sweep of the industry changes announced by CCP Ytterbium a few days ago, a number of you want to talk to me about this. And most or all of you that want to talk to me about it have one thing in common: you do your manufacturing in high-sec or low-sec. The latter group are mostly solo capital producers. You guys, by and large, are particularly angry.

And yeah, make no mistake: I totally get why. Most of the advantages that are being touted, particularly in refining, are mostly going to benefit null-sec. Refining will be more efficient in null-sec than can be managed in high- or low-sec and though we haven't seen the full sweep of the changes for manufacturing, it's a pretty damn good bet that manufacturing is going to be cheaper in null-sec as well. Particularly since -- *shudder* -- it's CCP Greyscale working on that. "Expect costs ranging from 0% to 14% of the base item being produced for the most extreme case," Ytterbium says.

That's pretty freakin' significant since as I covered a couple of years ago, once you take out the materials costs today the "COGS" -- cost of goods sold -- for most manufacturing in EVE typically runs less than one percent, the vast bulk of that in station taxes. Manufacturing costs are insignificant to the point of being something industry players ignore entirely. Once summer comes, industry players will no longer be able to ignore those costs. Players that live on industry would be idiots not to pass those costs directly to their customers, and players that live on industry are definitely not idiots. Most of them know their profit margins down to the fraction of a percent. I know I sure do!

Therefore, what Ytterbium is saying is that every single little thing in EVE is about to become 5-10% more expensive. Some things will be 14% more expensive. And those items built in high-sec will be on the higher end of that curve, while the items built in null-sec will almost certainly be at the low end of that curve. And the bigger and more expensive and more reliant on minerals the item is, the bigger the benefit is going to be to build that item in deep null-sec. As I said, the low-sec capital producers are particularly annoyed.

What this naturally means is that goods built in null-sec and shipped to Jita will have a significant cost benefit over goods that are built in high-sec and shipped to Jita. Furthermore, the tendency is going to be that the further away something is built from Jita, the lower the cost of that item is going to be and the higher the profit margin that manufacturer is going to realize. The systems nearest Jita are almost certainly going to end up being -- either through dev intention or player action -- the most expensive places to do industry.

This is absolutely, totally going to flip high-sec industry and trade on its head. Hell, it's even somewhat possible that we'll even see multiple major trade hubs grow out of this change. Sooner or later people might start getting bored with all that logistics, say "screw it" and start selling their stuff in high-sec entry systems closer to where those things are being manufactured. If Burn Jita is too successful this year, this possibility actually becomes slightly more likely.

And in the midst of this, the people who are making their living doing the bulk of their manufacturing in high-sec -- and I include myself among this number -- are going to be the most trodden on: we'll be paying the most for minerals, we'll almost certainly be paying the most for manufacturing. That is going to make our margins on a lot of products razor thin... where we're able to sell these items for a profit at all. I suspect there are some items for which manufacturing in high-sec at a profit is about to become impossible!

"Jester," some of you are saying, "make CCP understand this!"

And here's the simple fact of the matter: guys, they do understand this. Hell, they haven't said so -- if they had, it would be NDA -- but I suspect that's the goal of the exercise. Greyscale in particular has for years been the champion of the philosophy that doing some activities in some areas of space should completely suck and you would be dumb to do those activities there. In the past, the goal has been to make living full-time in null-sec directly correlate with higher player income than living in high-sec. I can easily see industry warping off in that direction come summer.

Did I raise a major objection to this at the Summit? Call me a traitor if you must, but no I did not. Because in the long-term grand scheme of things, this view of EVE is the correct one and it's more healthy for the game.

Now, I might object on other fronts. For instance, I'm personally of the view that there are vast swaths of null-sec that are much safer than high-sec because they happen to be either full of friendly pilots 24/7 or somewhat more often are simply empty of another living soul. As a result, a good bit of null-sec manufacturing is about to become ridiculously profitable while at the same time being ridiculously safe. You do your manufacturing, you pile everything into a jump freighter, and you jump all of it nearly directly into Jita (or wherever). You can add the JF fuel to your COGS confident in the knowledge that even with this expenditure, your profit margin is still probably going to be higher than if you did the very same manufacturing in high-sec.

But as I keep saying, the safety that I feel in null-sec is something that should be addressed in a rebalance of how sovereignty works and the mechanics of null-sec. It's one of the ways in which I feel null-sec is broken. I might shift uncomfortably in my chair and wish that CCP would address that before they addressed the industry expansion. But CCP Seagull showed us all a picture last Fanfest of a giant star gate being built in space. To get to her vision, EVE needed a Crimewatch-level rebuild of industry and it looks like over time we're going to get that.

So, there's likely no stopping this train.

In the meantime, all that I can tell you high- and low-sec manufacturers is what's good for the goose is good for the gander. There are dozens and dozens of PvE-, mining-, and industry-focused corps in null-sec now. Sure, they're mostly called "renters" and sure, I think the whole rental mechanic in EVE is more than a little bit dumb.

But it certainly isn't stopping industry players from taking advantage of the coming changes by sticking your manufacturing alts in these renter corps and taking advantage of these new industry tactics yourself once they come along (assuming they do). After all, in the end you'll be well paid to do so and it will continue to be the safest way of making money in EVE Online. And isn't that why you got into industry in the first place?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Picture of the Week: Dem bones!

OK, this just made me laugh:

One of the mid-level ESO quests turns you into a skeleton. And it's not just skin deep, either. While you're a skeleton, you're a lot tougher than average... but healing spells don't work and you don't regenerate health. It's a very clever little twist on the standard Elder Scrolls vampire/werewolf tropes, because you can keep this quest running for as long as you like...

...and while it's out there running, you're still a really tough skeleton that can't be healed and doesn't regenerate health. A few people seem to have taken the game up on this bargain and are playing a bit as a skeleton. And when the quest is over, if you just want to go skin deep with it, the game rewards you with a little token to skeletonize yourself.

And the quest itself also isn't just skin deep. ESO doesn't have a morality system that I've determined, but about 10% of the quests do have moral choices in them and this is one: a village has made a Faustian bargain with one of the Deadric Princes, Clavicus Vile, that turned out really really badly for them.(1)

As the end decision and moral choice of the quest, you can either enforce that bargain forever (blue) or break the bargain and release the village from it -- with potentially even more disastrous consequences for the village (red).

This is the sort of really interesting game play choice that I just love in a game.

I couldn't help but sit in this room for about 10 minutes and watch other players pass through, curious as to which choice they'd make. During the period I watched, it was running about 50/50. A few of them reached the room and sat there for a minute, clearly thinking about it, before deciding. You know the quest designer is doin' it right when that happens. Hopefully over time, ESO will develop a reputation system for its NPCs. Or maybe it's there already and I haven't encountered it yet.

(1) Hint: in a previous game, a group of vampires made a bargain with Clavicus Vile asking him to end their vampirism. He sends the player into their lair to kill all of them. Because that ends their vampirism, right? Clavicus Vile could be an EVE player.

Minecraft in space

I want to write a pair of posts about space-based industry in EVE Online (as well as a bit about industry in EVE Online in general). But I'm going to write the first post in the context of Kerbal Space Program. The two games are more connected in this small way than you probably realize. Or at least, they should be. Because both of these games involve building things that fly in space. And because building things that fly in space in KSP is insanely fun.

Doing so is challenging, engages your brain, and instills a real sense of accomplishment when you build something big and it happens to work. This applies whether you're doing it in space or on a planet or building some of the truly goofy creations that KSP players have come up with.

Building stuff -- just building stuff! -- in KSP is insanely fun.

Though my progress in the game has slowed down a lot (due to the factors I mentioned this morning), I'm still in the process of building my Jool exploration ship. And I got it into my head that I'd kind of like to use the same basic design as spaceship Discovery from the movies 2001 and 2010: thin and really long, crew cabin up front, engines in the back. But to put a KSP spin on it (and in a slight nod toward reality) I decided that instead of jettisoning fuel tanks from the sides the way I did it with my Enterprise design, this time I'd jettison fuel tanks from the length of the ship.

Fly around for a while, undock from both ends of a fuel tank, cut it loose, redock the remaining components, fly around for a while. Before long, I'll just have the small fuel tank up top left with a few landers (both remote-controlled and piloted) attached to it. I'm making the whole thing modular, and playing around with different modules. Do I want to use the tried-and-true Skipper engine to power the thing? Or do I want to go with a trio of nuclear engines like the movie Discovery? How long should I make it? What should the landers look like? What should the probes look like? It's all pretty much in flux, though I think I've finalized my Leythe lander:

That sucker can make it into orbit from the surface of Kerbal, easy, which means it should also be able to get itself into orbit from Leythe despite that moon's gravity. I'm absurdly pleased with it, actually: everything I need to actually land -- parachutes, landing legs, lights -- is attached to the three outboard fuel tanks and engines. Once it's on its way back to Leythe orbit, I can cut all that stuff loose. The central spacecraft is surprisingly light and nimble.

And in doing all of this, from the design of the ship to the design of the unmanned probes to the design of the landers, I'm using past experience from my previous KSP ships. I'm testing each piece, then I make sure the pieces work together. I'm trying out different engines, trying out different landing strategies, starting to pay more attention to mass than I have previously. It's all immensely satisfying.

It'll be weeks before I actually get around to flying the mission and I don't much care because I'm enjoying the playing and tinkering. I'm having fun, which is kind of the point to playing a game. Anyone remember that?

Compare and contrast with EVE, where building things that fly in space is a workmanlike chore. It's spreadsheets and logistics and huge cans full of obscure stuff. And all of it is about as much fun as one's real job... probably less so, because lots of people do enjoy their real jobs.

Building my space stations in KSP felt like a project, and it was something I was invested in at each stage of the process. I thought about the design, the elements I wanted to include, and how all of them were going to fit together. I thought about my stations in the context of what I was going to use them for, which meant that I had to think about what items I wanted to incorporate and where I wanted to incorporate them. It took skill to do and instilled a real sense of pride of ownership when I was done and they were doing the job that I wanted them to do.

Again, compare and contrast to EVE, where building a starbase is a task that players dread and will avoid if they can at all do so.

As CCP Ytterbium has revealed, EVE is doing an industry-based expansion for the summer. Heaven knows it's been a long time coming. And as a partially industry-focused player, of course I'm happy about it. But in a lot of ways, what was announced in the dev blog announcing this theme is really just polishing the sneaker: making industry a little bit easier, making it a little bit more interesting, and changing the dynamic of how and where things get built (more on that in my second post).

But I don't kid myself into believing that building stuff will be any more fun. The game and the fun that goes with it is still very much about what you do with the ships after they're built, not the enjoyment of building the ships. But does it have to be that way all the time? KSP (and other games that focus on the mechanics of building things, and making building things fun) says no.

It's an answer to the question that maybe CCP should consider at some point.

Anyway, more about the actual mechanics of what's being announced in the dev blog in my next post.

My cup runneth over

Quickie note from the management: I am incredibly, incredibly behind on my EVE mail.

This has turned into a fabulously busy two weeks for me, between blog posts, trying to keep up with CSM-related EVE-O forum threads, trying to keep up with my RL life and job, and my desire to put a decent amount of time into Elder Scrolls Online. But as a result, right now I'm running about two weeks behind on my EVE mail and it's piling up.

So if you've written me something in the last two weeks, I apologize in advance. I'm not ignoring you. I'm just getting behind on it. I'll get caught up this weekend.

I apologize and thank you for understanding...

EDIT (21/Apr/2014): I did indeed get caught up this weekend so if you sent me an EVE mail and I didn't respond to it in some way, feel free to resend it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

So, Kirith Kodachi by way of The Ancient Gaming Noob has a new blog banter question out, and I am continuing to try to keep my promise of staying up with them. TAGN writes:
Write about somebody who is "space famous" and why you hate/admire them, somebody who isn't space famous but you think should be or will be, or discuss space fame in general, what it means, and how people end up so famous.
Kirith adds:
I'd like to add another take on the subject, is there a cost of being famous in EVE and if so, is it worth the price?
An old adage that I sometimes like to quote -- maybe it's even original to me -- is that if you ask someone three questions, they'll answer the one they like and ignore the other two. It was really tempting to do that here. Instead, I'm going to twist this topic and come at it from a completely different direction.

Are famous people good for EVE Online or bad for EVE Online?

On a per capita basis, EVE has more "space famous" people than any game I've ever heard of. Oh sure, there are famous Starcraft players and famous League of Legends players and famous World of Warcraft players. But compared to EVE's player base, the percentage of "famous" people -- at least within the community -- is actually remarkably high. It's a high enough percentage that it adds yet another layer in which a novice EVE player can look foolish or ignorant. In EVE, not only do you have to know the corps, the alliances, the modules, the ships, the tactics, the fleet doctrines, and the mechanics, you can be looked at is if you are stupid if you don't recognize by name EVE's famous people too.

Hell, you can practically speak by metaphor about this game if you care to, and some people do. After all, we talk about "Awoxing" as if it were a verb. If you can't follow a reference to SirMolle or The Mittani or Haargoth Agamar, you might miss a whole layer of reference to a narrative story. You'll certainly not be able to follow a single thing in the first "True Stories of EVE" comic. If you don't know who Chribba or Darknesss or Somerset Mahm are, then references to why they're important will just fly over your head. If you don't know who the good EVE tournament pilots are, you won't be able to follow tournament commentary half the time. If you don't know who the big alliance or coalition leaders are, you won't be able to keep up with EVE's politics. It goes on and on.

But -- believe it or not! -- it even goes beyond that. CCP made a specific choice to make the players the content of their game. And in so doing, they literally built space fame and the cult of personality right into the very DNA of EVE Online. You don't have to idly know these famous people to be in on the conversation. You have to know these famous people to even understand the landscape of the game that you're playing! Sure, you can choose to play EVE solo and you can choose to ignore the landscape of the game that you're playing and some people do that. But in so doing, they're never going to understand or be able to cope with how that landscape can suddenly shift underneath them without warning.

An example will suffice: Burn Jita. A lot of solo players were taken completely and utterly by surprise by this... and then they were enraged by it. And then they blamed CCP for it. How could CCP let a mere famous person shift the fundamental landscape of the game? But that's how EVE is. Again, it's built into the DNA of the game.

But of course that brings me to the ugly bit, the bit that a lot of EVE players don't like to face: most "space famous" people in EVE aren't famous. They're infamous. They're famous for being bad people, for doing bad things, for making other EVE players like the game just a little bit less. Or maybe a lot less.

When I read the original question, I couldn't help but focus on that word "admire." What space famous people do we admire? The word and the context behind it, quite frankly, struck me as a little bit puerile and naive. Don't get me wrong! I certainly don't mean to insult Wilhelm Arcturus of TAGN, who is a really smart guy. And the question is certainly interesting. But seriously: think about it. Sit down and really think about it: how many famous EVE players do you actually admire, as such? And if it is more than a tiny handful, why do you admire them?

More to the point: do you admire them? Or do you merely wish to emulate them? A lot of players have jumped into EVE over the years not because they want to play the game itself but because they want to emulate and imitate someone else who is playing the game in such a way that they want to play the game. It's imitation, not admiration. Again, it's the players that are the content driving the narrative. Space fame and/or the desire for it has almost certainly brought in more potential EVE players than CCP's actual marketing ever has. CCP -- to their credit -- recognizes this. Every time someone or something becomes famous in this game, there's CCP right there hanging a lantern over it.

So in that way, I've answered my own question: famous people are good for EVE. Mostly. Because instead of asking whether there's a cost to being space-famous to the people who are, maybe Kirith should have asked: is there a cost to the game? I've already said my piece about that bit...

Another interesting banter topic! What do you think, Dear Readers?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fit of the Week: Instablap Loki

Here's a ship that proves I'm just a really really bad person. And yet, every great once in a while in a low-sec gank fleet, I enjoy flying it.

[Loki, Instablap Loki]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Tracking Enhancer II
Tracking Enhancer II

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

Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP M
720mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP M

Medium Targeting System Subcontroller II
Medium Targeting System Subcontroller II
Medium Core Defense Field Extender II

Loki Defensive - Adaptive Shielding
Loki Electronics - Tactical Targeting Network
Loki Engineering - Power Core Multiplier
Loki Offensive - Turret Concurrence Registry
Loki Propulsion - Chassis Optimization

This ship is custom-built to do one thing: make sure a smallish gank fleet roaming through low-sec doesn't leave any pesky frigates behind. You've seen those frigates, so secure in the knowledge that anything with quick enough lock speed to tackle them can't tank the gate guns for long enough to hold them. This particularly applies to low-sec hacking site runners, who roam the wilds in frigs with two, three, or more Warp Core Stabilizers with the intent that even if you do somehow manage to tackle them, they're still going to get away.

Well, they won't get away from this really terrible little ship.

First rule of this ship: don't fly it unless your FC knows what you're doing and approves of it. Second rule of flying this ship: don't tell anyone else what you're doing if you don't have to. Oh my word, will you get yelled at.

Anyway, the basic idea behind this ship is incredibly quick lock time combined with very high alpha damage. You're not even bothering to tackle the target; you're just pumping a 4000 damage alpha into it every 12 seconds or so. That's sufficient to cut straight through most frigates in a single volley. The standard ship for these sorts of tactics is a Muninn fitted to a similar spec. The Loki beats it in several key areas:
  1. Alpha is 25% higher than the equivalent Muninn;
  2. Lock time is 50% quicker than the equivalent Muninn; and,
  3. the base tank is more than three times as strong.
That last bit is critical. An instablap fit Muninn is rather fragile; if it doesn't pop its target on the first go, it will soon have to get off the gate. And if a small group of frigs comes through, the Muninn won't get more than one or two before having to clear the gate. The Loki does more alpha and can stick to the gate longer so even if a group of frigs comes through, the Loki can clear one every 12 seconds or so until the frigs wise up and decide to depart.

The tank comes from a single T2 rig, a LSE, and an Invul. That last is not included in the equivalent Muninn and can be overheated. Resists are surprisingly strong: 70% plus even before heat, making this ship quite friendly to reps from nearby logistics.

But of course the key mods on this ship are the two lock time rigs and the two Sensor Boosters. This is about as terrible a way to play EVE Online as you can get but damn if it isn't effective. This ship can lock a typical frigate in just over one server tick meaning if the target isn't in an instawarp Malediction or something similar, you're pretty much assured of the ability to put damage on it.

Damage is applied through alpha volleys from artillery with good tracking. You can increase the volley damage somewhat with a faction Gyrostab but I don't bother. This ship is intended to be fairly inexpensive by T3 standards so if you lose it you can chuckle about what a bad person you were without feeling it too much. The lock time rigs, in particular, have fallen below 10 million ISK each making them quite affordable even on a budget. The one thing you do lose compared to the equivalent Muninn is cycle time; the HAC refires every 7.5 seconds. This is definitely nice to have (particularly in a frigate swarm). That said, the Loki gives more reliable kills.

A utility neut completes the package but particularly aggressive pilots can go for an Auto Targeting System II instead. This adds three more lockable targets so you can just lock up the world applying your alpha to each target you can keep locked long enough for your guns to cycle. Drop booster is an excellent addition to this ship, but for maximum terrible player attitude, add a Quafe Zero. This makes your lock time even more ridiculous...

This is a rather specialized ship, and will get you called all sorts of names, both by your fleet-mates and by the people you're shooting at. Still, volley tactics from a variety of ships are becoming standard practice right across New Eden. I'm seeing more and more players eschew Muninns for Tornados specifically fit for ultra-fast lock time and ultra-high tracking. But the Loki retains mobility over these ships and is more generally useful in fleets whereas the Tornado is better for gate-camping.

It's a bad old world out there. This ship will let you contribute to that, if you choose to... have fun!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The lost gem

I'm coming up to my fourth Iceland trip in the last thirteen months. Each of these trips, my suitcase has come home progressively lighter on the return trip than the outgoing trip. That's because each time, I've been bringing small and large gifts for people I know I'm going to see while I'm there. For Fanfest 2014, I have some question about whether my main suitcase will be too heavy to fly. ;-)

But for Fanfest 2013, I didn't know that many people at CCP very well, so I only brought two gifts that first visit. One was for the alliance-mate who agreed to pick me up at the airport. The other was for Jon Lander, CCP Unifex.

Now I'm not going to get into what the gift was, but you can rest assured it was pretty nice. And it was given for a simple reason: as far as I'm concerned, Jon Lander saved EVE Online. To keep the record straight, I'll say that I had my doubts about this guy when he was first named to the position in December 2011. But over the following 18 months, he made a believer out of me. CCP had just come out of the harrowing summer of rage, subscriptions were falling like a meteor, and it seemed that CCP could do nothing right.

Jon Lander came in and very quietly and resolutely pulled the game out of the pit that :fearless: had driven it into, got it into the air and got it flying again. He got the troops re-energized and moving. Without him, I sincerely believe that there wouldn't be an EVE right now, or at best, it would be a shadow of its former self. He focused development on what customers wanted and then he got the teams to deliver.

Is that a strategy for long-term success? No. The apocryphal Henry Ford quote fits here: "If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses.'"

But he also came up with a development strategy that I strongly suspect will be the bedrock principle for how CCP develops games for the next ten years, and he led development through the ground-up rebuilding of one of the core systems of EVE, Crimewatch. When he left the post of Executive Producer of EVE Online last year at this time, I was upset but understood his reasons. He can talk about them if he ever cares to. But knowing what a gem he had in his hand, CCP CEO Hilmar Pétursson seems to have very sensibly given him carte blanche: work where you want, work on what you want. Hilmar clearly knew the value that Lander had brought to CCP in his previous job.

So yeah, my first ever gift to a CCP employee went to Jon Lander. So you can imagine how I feel hearing today that Jon Lander is leaving CCP. This is confirmed by his LinkedIn profile, which publicly lists his final position at CCP as a Senior Development Director... in Atlanta, after spending six months publicly rotating between CCP's mobile strategy and CCP's Valkyrie strategy. What was Lander doing in Atlanta, and what was he Senior Development Director of? That has never been announced by CCP.

In the meantime, I say farewell to a legend of EVE development. I'm still a believer. I myself will be watching very closely to see where this guy ends up. I'm sure it will be a universe worth exploring.