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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sampler platter

Thanks to recent articles on Massively and mmorpg.com pointing to my blog, there have been a ton of new visitors lately.  My average hits per day have pretty much doubled.  So I thought it'd be fun to write a little introductory piece.  If you're new here, welcome!

This blog was originally started as a platform for my run for EVE Online's CSM6.  Unfortunately, I lost that run, coming in 15th (out of 14 slots, boo).  Still, by the end of the election, I decided that I was enjoying the process of blogging.  I was enjoying it so much, in fact, that I was going to continue the blog about my search for a new MMO even when I had decided to unsubscribe from EVE Online.  However, I recently reversed that decision, resubbed, and will be continuing to play EVE.  So, while this is an "EVE blog", from time to time, I'll be delving into other MMOs.  Comparisons will probably ensue.  ;-)

I do things a little differently from most EVE blogs.  For one thing, I post much more frequently than most.  It won't be unusual to have two or three new posts per day here, except on weekends, where I might post once a day.  I have regular weekly features, like the Fit of the Week and the Quote of the Week.  And I have a wide range of play-styles in game.  I've tried just about every play style there is in-game, in fact, and I like to talk about all of them.

So, what do I write about here?

The Big Picture in EVE
A lot of my posts focus on CCP's business model, or internal factors in the game that affect CCP's business.  Examples of this:

EVE Economics
Yet more posts look closely at factors affecting EVE's in-game market.  Examples of this:

EVE Politics
I love to delve into various aspects of EVE's in-game politics.  Examples:

CSM Watcher
And in a similar fashion, I pretty frequently comment on what EVE's Council of Stellar Management is up to.  Examples of this:

Stuff I'm doing in game
I actually play EVE Online and weirdly, sometimes I write about it.  ;-)  Examples of this:

Philosophical musings
As I mentioned, I like to compare EVE to other MMOs and in the process, I usually get philosophical about game design.  Examples of this:

Various other stuff
There are categories of posts that don't really fit anywhere else.  Examples:

Enjoy your visit.  :-)

Comment of the Week: Fun and rewarding

From the EN24 posting of "Canary in the coal mine", a comment from Bitter Newb that really drives to the heart of the issue:
"Relevant" , "important", and "matter" are a funny terms to describe Eve alliances. To most, they mean "capable of affecting the 0.0 landscape." The thing is, who really cares about affecting nullsec politics and sov? Mostly it's a few egoist empire builders and the rest are carebears. PVPers are just along for the ride because they feel they have to blob to be successful.

Alliances like Merciless don't really care about being relevant; they really do just want the cliche'd "good fights". I think Jester mentioned Merciless because they are one of the few new alliances in this category that have had some success. Previously extant ones include Rooks & Kings, Black Legion, Darkside, Agony, C02, Hydra Reloaded, etc. Just because these alliances aren't building pixel empires doesn't mean they are shit. It means they want to have fun flying their internet spaceships instead of dealing with sov and politics.

These alliances have discovered something that most nullsec residents don't realize: you don't have to blob to be successful or have fun. It's more rewarding to be good at what you do, to fight outnumbered, to innovate tactics, to bond with a smaller group, etc. I would much rather watch a RNK video, or see Hydra in the Alliance Tournament, or read a Merciless battle report, than click refresh on the influence map and read troll posts about which corp jumped from one blobby alliance to another so they could PVE in peace.
Yes, this.  EVE is supposed to be fun, remember?

Passive income

Just a quickie.

Riverini from EVE News 24 made me a syndication offer for posts on my blog, which I've accepted.  He'll be syndicating four posts a month, likely concentrating on my null-sec musings (since that's EN24's focus).  So, from time to time, you might see EN24 commenters here or I might respond to comments that are posted there, here.  ;-)

The first post chosen was my musing yesterday on the future of EVE's small-gang PvP alliances.

For those who want to yell "sell-out", sure: guilty.  I like ISK as much as the next guy.  ;-)  I will say in my defense that I told Riverini right up front that while I think EN24's the most successful EVE news site out there right now, I also said:
You run a good site. A little biased sometimes, but there isn't an EVE news site that isn't.
It's kind of an interesting question: could there ever be such a thing as an unbiased EVE news organization?  And no, ISD isn't it.  They're just as biased.  Their bias just happens to be "show EVE in a dramatic light."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reinforced

"Reinforced" is a state that an EVE Online POS can get into if it comes under attack.  If you understand how this mechanic works, you can skip the next paragraph and rejoin me with the third.

When a player-owned station first comes under attack, the attackers can continue damaging it until it takes a single point of armor damage.  This happens at about 25% shields.  At that point, the POS stops consuming its regular POS fuel and begins consuming an alternative fuel (in a second bay) with the ridiculously over-complicated name Strontium Clathrates.  "Stront" is consumed by the hour at a rate depending on the size, quality, and location of the tower.  During this time, the tower is invulnerable.  It can't be destroyed, but it can't be repaired either.  Once there isn't enough stront to fuel the tower for a full hour, the tower "comes out of reinforced" and only then may it either be repaired or can be destroyed the rest of the way, depending.

Reinforcing a tower, therefore, puts it at a tipping point.  The critical battle for a tower doesn't take place when it's being reinforced.  The critical battle takes place when the tower comes out of reinforced.  Both the attackers and the defenders gather, and that's when the fate of that tower is decided: will it be repaired or will it be destroyed?

I'm going to say something that I think a lot of EVE players subconsciously realize, but nobody's put into words yet:

EVE Online is a tower that has been reinforced.

We're approaching the tipping point.  The battle for this game's future will happen very soon, and either the game will be repaired, or it will be destroyed.

Just in the last 120 days, we've had drama after drama, most thanks to CCP:
  • the Sanctum/Haven nerf;
  • the new forums debacle;
  • Alliance Tournament IX final match;
  • :$99: "Commercial licenses";
  • Incarna over-utilizing and overheating graphics cards;
  • the Incarna "off button" and "show them the door" meme;
  • Monocles, and the "space-barbies" meme;
  • Gordon Gecko;
  • Scorpions for Aurum; and,
  • the Jita riots (related to the three above).

And that's just what I can think of off the top of my head.  There's probably more that I'm forgetting.  CCP can't seem to stop the flood.  It's gotten to the point that when they speculate about making changes to Local in the CSM May Summit, they have to make sure to insert a bolded, italicized, underlined disclaimer in the minutes to make it clear that they're speculating!  (It's on page 7 of the minutes.)

Even more than that, though, there's very good reason to be distressed about the directions that they're developing the game in, and the impact that it's having on the player base.  The "Curves" post from a week or so ago is far and away the most visited post I've ever made on this blog; more than 2500 people have read it.  And that curve is worrisome as hell.  I used to have a good number of RL friends playing EVE.  The last one quit a couple of weeks ago because he's tired of sov warfare and wasn't impressed by the Incarna expansion.

When I posted that I myself was going to quit EVE and maybe come back to it in a couple of years to see how things had developed, that showed rather a lot of confidence on my part that there would be an EVE Online in two years to come back to.  I'm starting to worry that this might not be the case.

EVE dying is not something I want to have happen.  At the end of the day, I've got a lot of fond memories of this game, and I enjoy a lot of aspects of it.  It's clear to me now that if I want there to be an EVE to come back to, and I want that EVE to again resemble the game I loved, then sitting out the fight when EVE comes out of reinforced is not an option.  As I've said before, it's hard to influence an environment from the outside.

So, consider me resubbed, and X'ing up for the fight to come.

P.S. Dumbest reason for resubbing ever, I'll bet.  ;-)  -J
P.P.S. I suppose this means I'll need to find a corp.  -J

Canary in the coal mine

Back in March, I predicted that the sanctum/haven nerf was going to be disastrous for the small sov-holding alliances in EVE.  Let's see how that prediction is playing out, shall we?

Yes, I'm being sarcastic.  ;-)

I don't think I have to lay it down for most of you: the last four months have been an unmitigated disaster for anyone not part of a 1500-ship blob.  The only small alliance winners this summer have been CVA, who -- thanks to the near-worthlessness of Providence -- have retaken much of their pre-Dominion holdings and look set to reestablish a NRDS coalition in this area.  They're back over 1000 pilots and apparently doing fine.  Delve/Querious is also -- somewhat surprisingly -- turning into a hot-bed of smaller-gang PvP activity.  Catch and Period Basis are also doing pretty well in this regard.

These days, the message is clear: if you want small-gang fights, run southwest as fast as your warp drive can carry you.

For surrounding these five regions are the blob.  From Fountain in the southeast, clockwise north through Deklein, east through Tribute into the drone regions of the northeast, south through the Great Wildlands and Scalding Pass, down into the southern Russian and AAA space in the southeast and far south, the latter touching into the southern parts of Catch, the blob holds sway.

On paper, separate alliances hold these regions, but the way they fight is the same.  Goonswarm is over 7000 members at this point, and their pets push them well over ten thousand.  I shall henceforth be calling the residents of the north "NC Reloaded."  They might object, but there were 5000 rat kills in the 52-JKU constellation in Tribute in the last 24 hours.  That makes any objections they might make laughable and hollow.  Mord Fiddle declares them pets of the Russians, and I don't see any particular reason to argue that conclusion at this time.  My opinions of the Russians across the eastern half of the map remain unchanged.  Hell, I've pulled all of my PvP stuff out of the regions bordering Scalding Pass and the Great Wildlands over the last few days.  It's clear that unless I care to learn Russian or play EVE during the U.S. work-day, I won't be visiting my old stomping grounds there ever again.

EDIT (28/Jul/2011): Just to be clear, now that I read this again, it reads like I'm including GS as part of NC Reloaded. I'm not. NC Reloaded = Raiden/Ev0ke/NCdot and their subsidiaries, potentially including PL (though I'm willing to be convinced otherwise on that last one).

Will AAA be next?  We'll see over the next few months.  The most recent fight was in Tenerefis.  The only winner of that fight was lag.

Mord at Fiddler's Edge and corelin at Haberdashers Run Amok are chatting about what the null-bears are going to do, but that isn't a difficult (or honestly, an interesting) question for me.  Wildly Inappropriate is now a single corp in Goonswarm.  That says all that really needs to be said on that topic, honestly.  Hell, it might say all that needs to be said about null-sec politics in 2011.

But no, the next canary in the coal mine are the small unbounded PvP alliances.  Not mercenary, not particularly sov-holding, these alliances have been the drivers for small-gang PvP in null-sec.  For my money, the most important alliance to EVE's future right now is Merciless., currently living in Venal and holding down a small section of Tribute, spoils of war captured when NC Reloaded pushed the old NC out of that region.  It's tempting to just dismiss them as part of NC Reloaded.  But it also feels wrong to do so.  Merciless are a very solid small-gang PvP bunch that have moved around the EVE map pretty freely, as the winds of PvP have carried them since the alliance's creation about ten months ago.  They have a few super-caps at their disposal, but are not what you would call a super-cap alliance.

From the outsider's perspective, Merciless. seems to be suffering.  Their member count is down 30% -- to about 500 -- in the last month, in part due to a slow bleed, in part due to a few member corps apparently seeking their fortunes elsewhere.  Garst Tyrell, the lader of Merciless., says 100 of those lost members were a corp they had leadership issues with.  I know Garst has little to no interest in holding sov.  And Garst both leads the alliance, and the alliance's founding corp, No.Mercy (down 25%, to 60 members).  The job of renting out or selling their few sov systems in Tribute seems to be in progress. 

So what does the future hold for Merciless. (and by extension, similar small PvP alliances in EVE)?  It's hard to say.  I have no predictions for you this time.

A few days ago, Garst announced they would be resetting virtually all of their blues.  That strikes me as a good place to start.  ;-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fit of the Week: POS-bash Apocalypse

[Apocalypse, Tower]
Damage Control II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Heat Sink II
Heat Sink II
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I

100MN MicroWarpdrive II
Cap Recharger II
Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range
Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range

Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Scorch L

Large Trimark Armor Pump I
Large Trimark Armor Pump I
Large Trimark Armor Pump I

Hornet EC-300 x5
Garde II x2


These days, if a null-sec alliance wants to take down a tower and the associated mods, they call in their Titan/Super-Carrier fleet to do it, with maybe a few Dreadnoughts in support.

But what if you don't have 30 or 40 Titans, or God forbid, the tower is in high-sec?  What if, even worse, the tower is in a cyno-jammed system?  Well, in these cases, you'll need a battleship fleet.  The best anti-tower battleships are a) relatively cheap, b) high DPS, and c) have at least 100,000 EHP buffer as measured in EFT.  You could use Hellcats, but they don't really pass tests (a) or (b).  You could use alpha Maelstroms, but they don't really pass tests (a) or (c).  So you might want to look into a tower-bashing Apocalypse instead.  This fitting is my favorite version of that ship.

Most tower bashes take place at the 30-35 kilometer range band, and this Apoc does about 750 DPS in that range band with cheap faction Multifrequency crystals and a couple of sentry drones.  Even better, unlike a lot of tower-bashing ships, this one is cap-stable while doing it.  Dual Tracking Computers are a player favorite for pulse laser ships, and allow either greater optimal range or greater tracking against defense ships, particularly bombers.  When bashing the tower, you can keep one of them off-line with a tracking speed script loaded in case of the latter contingency, or even run them both unscripted.

Like most Amarr ships, Apocs generally have plenty of grid but tend to run low on CPU.  You will need Weapon Upgrades V to fit this ship, but don't need Advanced Weapon Upgrades V.  Most of your lows (and a lot of your CPU) are going to your tank, and Adaptive Nano Plating II mods both use no CPU and are extremely cheap.  You can even use dead-space C-type ANPs if you like.  They're not too terribly expensive and work nearly as well as an Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II.  If you find yourself with some spare CPU headroom (if you can't use the T2 Mega Pulses or the T2 Tracking Computers, for instance), feel free to replace the ANPs with additional EANMs.  You can also use an active explosive hardener if the tower you're going to go after is a "death star" with lots of artillery and auto-cannons.

Carry three types of crystals in cargo: the Multifrequencies for close-range, the excellent Scorch ammo for long range, and a mid-range option.  I like X-Ray for that.  Then carry non-faction MFs and X-Rays in the unlikely event your faction crystals burn out.  There's little to no need to carry Standard or longer-range crystals.  The Scorch ammo has both longer range and higher DPS, and you won't need the cap savings of the longer-range ammo.  So carry an extra Scorch crystal or two in case those burn out.  Finish filling out your drone bay with either a flight of Hornet ECM drones or a third sentry if the danger is truly minimal.

The nice thing about this ship is that it's high DPS, cheap to replace, and cap-stable for a long POS bash.  Hell, you could practically AFK the bash if you wanted.  But if the defenders show up and a fight does happen, this Apoc is also a pretty fair PvP ship thanks to its high DPS, fast tracking and solid buffer.  As long as there are a couple of Guardians nearby, you won't die quickly.

Happy POS-bashing!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Crowdsourcing choices

Epileptic Rift, Poetic Stanziel, and Rhavas have all listed the items they voted for in Trebor's CSM Crowdsourcing activities.  It's a great idea, so here are the choices I made and why.  If you care to vote, you do it on the EVE Online forums.


I chose to vote for 10 items, giving each two points.  I decided against down-voting any of the proposals, though I came pretty close on one of them.

1. AFK/Busy/Available Indicator.  There's nothing more annoying in an alliance than to see 50 people docked when a home defense op is called and wonder why only 10 X up for the fleet.  This one is long overdue.

8. Assault Frigate 4th Bonus.  Please, for the love of God, fix assault frigs.  These things could be so awesome and would go a long way toward spreading cheap PvP.  But as a class, I'll bet they're the third least-used ships after EAFs and Black Ops.  Yet, every PvP pilot has the skills for them.  I would totally settle for just the AB boost that was proposed oh-those-many-moons ago.

12. Balance self-destruction.  Self-destruction should generate a kill-mail crediting anyone who was shooting at the ship in the last minute,  and should drop loot like any other destroyed ship.  It's really just that simple.  Still, this is my least-important vote.

15. Boost Nighthawk.  It's the only field command ship that sucks.  Even the Astarte is better, and that's saying something.  More than this, though, there should be more T2 battle cruisers, because BCs rock.  Yet more PvP opportunity.

27. Corporation Bookmarks.  Why are we even talking about this?  Fucking make this happen, CCP.  The crap that corps, particularly WH corps, have to go through to get standardized bookmarks to their members is stupid.  My most important vote.

31. Destroyer Improvements.
  Sensing a pattern?  EVE desperately, desperately needs more ship balancing.  I've written at length about this before.

41. Factional Warfare - Lack of Development Part 2.  Remember that iteration thing that Seleene was gonna push as part of the CSM?  Start from here, please.  FW and low-sec in general needs some love.  My second-most important vote.

56. Improve Overload User Interface.  Gods, yes.  I am filled with so much hate for those tiny, tiny, tiny buttons.

74. Modifiable corporation orders.  Those of you who grok this know what I mean, and why I voted for this.  Those who don't will never get it.

84. Personal wallet divisions.  Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if you were immune to scamming yourself thanks to EVE's crappy market interface sometimes managing to take money away from you?  This is the very smallest thing that personal wallet divisions would fix.


Runners up: 28. Coporation and Alliance tool overhaul: not chosen because it only affects a small number of people, but yes, it'd be nice.  3. Character Switching Without Logoff: yeah, this is annoying.  -143. War-dec mechanics: note the minus!  If I were gonna vote one of the current proposals down, this would be the one.  80. Neutral Orcas in high-sec wars: that said, this isn't cool.  35. Drone improvements: it'd be cool if there was a viable 4th type of combat, and it'd be a functional Gallente buff, both of which I approve of.  140. Unnerf the bio length: I feel like this one is inevitable.


A surprising number of the items on the list have already been implemented, leading one to believe that CCP actually reads this list from time to time.  ;-)  So go ahead and vote!

The Ditanian Fleet

As implied by the previous post, I spent some more time in New Eden over the weekend, but I wasn't anywhere near Deklein.  ;-)

Instead, I wanted to spend some more time playing around with the incursions feature in EVE.  Specifically, I wanted to join an armor fleet, since I had spent all of my incursion time the previous week in shield fleets.  I was also hoping to try out some Assaults, the middle level of incursion site between Vanguards on the low-end and HQs on the high-end.

The first thing that I discovered is that the armor fleet side of incursions isn't quite as well-organized as the shield fleet side is.  They do have an in-game channel to organize fleets: "The Ditanian Fleet".  However, it was neither so well-populated nor as well set up as the shield channel.  It didn't identify the "focus" area for armor fleets, for one thing.  Active incursions were happening in Amarr and Khanid space, so I guessed (correctly, as it turned out) that most of the armor fleets would be in Khanid space and based there.  I decided to stick with playing Logistics, since they were clearly in every bit as much demand for armor fleets as for shield fleets.

That led me to start with my favorite 1600mm plate Guardian.  But I figured the single medium repper wouldn't go over well, so I said "what the hell" and built myself a Medium Ancillary Current Router II.  Fitting this rather expensive piece of hardware onto one of my PvP Guardians solved the grid problem preventing me from using a fourth large repper, so I made the swap.  Trading the Hornet ECs for T2 rep drones and the ECCM for a Tracking Link gave me additional flexibility and a combat role.  So refitted, I decided to bide my time a bit, wait, and see if I could spot an active Assault fleet rather than randomly advertising and perhaps ending up in a Vanguard.

My patience soon paid off.  An active Assault fleet advertised for a replacement logi.  I dropped my fitting into channel and was in fleet ten seconds later.

I again neglected to mention that this was my first Assault ever and my first incursion ever in an armor fleet.  ;-)  Still, I'm just as experienced in a Guardian as I am in a Scimi, so the transition was pretty easy.  I got into the logi channel, declared myself as having Logi 5 skill, picked up a primary and back-up cap partner, and I was all set.  Assault fleets receive their maximum bonus at 20 pilots, and I guessed (again, correctly) that six of them would be Logistics pilots like myself.  Unsurprisingly, all six were Guardians (will the poor Oneiros ever get some love?).  I received a compliment on my fit and some advice on how to make it even better for future incursions, which I filed away.

First up, a Nation Commander Stronghold.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but my first NCS was not it.  I'd heard that Assaults were not as profitable as Vanguards, but hadn't heard why.  But overall, I think I was expecting something somewhat less difficult than the fast-moving Vanguards.  What I got was the hardest incursion site I'd experienced to date: more than 20 ships in the initial wave throwing an absolutely terrifying amount of DPS.  The first ship aggressed, even with 24 large reppers working on him full-bore, quickly dipped into deep armor.  It was like the Guardians weren't repping him at all!  I peeled the logi drones off my cap partner and threw them into the fray, finger hovering over the overheat button, just in case.  Our fleet's DPS ships, containing T2 and faction Apocs in what seemed like every color of the rainbow (with a few non-Apoc hulls here and there for variety), started working on the rats.

And slowly... the aggroed member of the fleet stabilized, then started to recover, and I started to breathe again.

After the site, I learned that a couple of logis and a couple of DPS ships had been slow entering the field, so what I saw that first NCS wasn't quite typical.  Still, I can only assume there's some kind of spawning bug in the Nation Commander Stronghold that hasn't been addressed yet, because the initial alpha that site throws is tough!  Trust EVE players to learn how to manage it, though.

Later that weekend, this time as part of a shield fleet, I got to experience that initial NCS alpha first-hand in my Scimi... and very nearly lost the ship for my trouble.  The number of battleships in that initial wave is scary enough, but the initial spawn also includes heavy neuts and a silly number of webs.  My Scimi was doing fine until those webs hit.  That dropped my speed and transversal to near-nothing, the neuts all but killed my hardeners, and the battleships then very nearly ate me alive.  Thanks to my fellow logis and a strategic bit of hardener overheating at the right moment, I escaped in 33% armor... not where you want to be in a Scimi.

So, when you go into a Nation Commander Stronghold, keep it in mind: those first 60 seconds are the worst.  After that, player DPS takes hold, reducing the amount of damage the site can produce.  Happily, though there is a second wave to the NCS, you can skip it by killing the correct target.  The remaining ships in the second wave then warp off.

That's the good news.  Even better, a fleet that's on the ball can complete the NCS in about 15 minutes with a pay-out of a little over 18 million ISK for a high-sec incursion.  This makes 75 million ISK/hour routine if you can find a steady flow of NCSs.

The bad news is that you probably can't.  ;-)  I quickly discovered why Assaults are regarded as inferior to Vanguards.  Of the three Assault sites, only the NCS is considered worth blitzing.  Another Assault site, the Nation Consolidation Network, is not considered worth doing at all.  The site splits the fleet in half for most of the site.  This requires a great deal of coordination between the two halves of the fleet and a careful balance of DPS, Logistics, and attack orders.  It's a cute idea in theory, but in practice soon becomes a giant pain in the tail.  The remaining site, the Overwhelmed Civilian Facility, is considered somewhat sub-par, particularly for armor fleets.

As a result, the Assault fleet I was in ended up doing a bit more traveling around than the HQ and Vanguard fleets, since it was considered worthwhile to do NCSs as much as possible even if the fleet had to occasionally change systems to find them.  So, in practice, the pay for Assaults turned out to be somewhat less than the easier Vanguards.

After about two hours, the armor fleet that I was in lost enough members that the FC decided to downshift to Vanguards.  This gave me the opportunity to see the armor fleet in action against these frigate- and cruiser-heavy sites.  Surprisingly, it did quite well!  By that time, we were down to a pair of Paladins, a pair of Amarr faction battleships, and a trio of Legions, plus our Logis.  The longish-range, fast-tracking pulse lasers -- all using faction crystals, of course -- fit by these ships absolutely devastated the Vanguard sites, with the large Amarr drone bays taking up any slack created by our four battleships and their large guns.  We completed ten Vanguards in a bit under 85 minutes, somewhat faster than a comparable shield fleet.

I was able to participate in a couple of other armor fleets over the weekend, and their performance was similar.  However, getting into an armor fleet was a bit tougher; there were fewer of them roaming around.  Part of this was the lack of use of the official armor channel; I later learned that it averages about 3/5 the number of players of the shield channel.  The rest can probably be attributed to the lower popularity of armor-tanked ships for PvE compared to their shield-tanked brethren.

So, overall, an interesting couple of days!  I learned a lot.  Thanks to the guys that let me fly with them!

Situational awareness

I'll make this quick.

What is the difference between a good MMO GM team and a poor GM team?

A good MMO GM team is responsive and pro-active.  Being pro-active means keeping track of what's going on in the politics and in the "outside world" of your game and preparing for the logical outcomes of events in advance.  One of the things I mentioned in my "good things about Perpetuum Online" post the other day was the fact that a PO GM contacted me about 30 minutes after I started playing the game to let him know if I had any questions.  I did, in fact, have a few, and the GM was quick to respond to those questions as I raised them.  My first question was very basic, in fact: how do I open the cargo bay of my Arkhe when deployed?  It was a simple UI question and the GM handled it.

Even more than these sorts of simple questions, though, the Perpetuum GMs (and later, the devs) reacted quickly and efficiently to the influx of new EVE players that hit their servers.  They were also very responsive when that influx itself caused problems.  They had what fighter pilots call "situational awareness": they could see outside factors influencing their area of responsibility and pro-actively responded to those factors, reinforcing the positive outcome of better game servers and limiting the fallout of negative outcome of potential player rage.

Over and over again, in forum after forum, I'm reading stories about  pro-active and responsive Perpetuum Online GMs.  Even though I found the game itself to be a bit second-rate, there's no question that those involved in the making and supporting of it are enthusiastic and on top of things.  More than one EVE player has described it as reminiscent of EVE back in 2003.  And those GMs and devs are being rewarded: more than one such EVE player has urged others to support PO and to encourage their GMs and devs to retain this level of involvement.  They recognize the game is weak but also recognize that money and support will improve it.  That's what good situational awareness buys you: an involved, positive player base.

Compare and contrast with EVE Online, particularly in the area of being pro-active.

There are only a few areas of New Eden that are active from a 0.0 large bloc warfare stand-point right now.  There's some fighting going on in Delve, certainly, between the Nulli Secunda bloc and various enemies.  There's also large battles going on in Catch/Provi between -A- and White Noise.  Still, in the new era of 0.0 warfare, these are currently no bigger than skirmishes, mostly with only a few dozen pilots, with perhaps as many as 200 pilots on each side for the largest battles.

The biggest 0.0 hot-spot over the weekend was unquestionably VFK-IV in Deklein.  Goonswarm had trapped and rape-caged a flock of "New NC" super-caps at POSs in orbit of three moons in that system.  The Goons were keeping hundreds of people in that system 24/7 to keep those rape-cages up and active.  Only a complete 0.0 moron could fail to notice this.  The system was showing up like a freakin' cyno beacon on the in-game map for days, with a population blob color to rival the most active systems in high-sec.  There was no way in hell the New NC was going to leave those super-caps there to rot.  There would definitely be a rescue op, and it would come sooner rather than later.

And the EVE Online GMs, obviously anticipating that this action would take place... did absolutely nothing at all.

When the hammer dropped, it dropped on an unreinforced node.

Hundreds of players ended up jumping into the dreaded black screen and having to relog in order to play.  Before it was over, there were near 1200 pilots in system, something that was entirely predictable given the size blobs that both groups can field.  When players did get on grid, lag swiftly reached soul-crushing levels.  And in the middle of all of this:
A gm was seen in local saying that CCP was not notified about the extra load the node was to experience.
Nice.  Real nice.  Way to blame the victim.

Granted, there's a fleet fight form to warn GMs about upcoming large battles(1).  But you know, EVE GMs, it would have been nice if you'd shown the tiniest bit of awareness about your game and pro-actively reinforced this node until the situation stabilized.  Are there that few servers that can be shuffled around for reinforcing nodes?  Were they that busy?

Show some situational awareness, please.


(1) But the form, of course, assumes that players will use the form when it's appropriate to do so.  The Goons had no reason whatsoever to do so, even though they knew the battle would take place.  Soul-crushing lag would generally work to their advantage, so why would they fill out the form?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Guide: Basic Incursion Tagging

Introduction and Definition

In a traditional PvP fleet, the FC will declare this target or that target as "primary", designating targets as primary one-by-one until they are all destroyed.  However, this results in very little communications bandwidth for chit-chat, which is the only thing that makes repeating the same few incursion sites over and over again bearable.  ;-)  As a result, nearly all incursion fleets instead rely on Overview tagging of targets to designate which targets should be fired on.

This also introduces an element of increased flexibility for an incursion fleet, since there are several types of tags -- alpha and numeric -- that can be used to designate different types of targets.  An incursion fleet includes different types of ships in different roles, so this differentiation of targets is important, particularly in the higher level Assault and HQ incursion sites.  Before joining an incursion fleet for the first time, it is important to understand how these tags work so that you can direct your fire properly.

This guide will also cover the basics of how to tag an incursion site so that you can understand the theory behind what you are being asked to do.


Assumptions

To see and use tags in incursion sites, the first thing you're going to have to do is make them visible on your Overview.  Click the lined box on the upper left hand corner of your overview to open the menu, then select "Open Overview Settings".  Once you're in, you want the tab marked "Columns", as shown.  Make tags visible by clicking on the "Tags" checkbox shown at left.  A lot of players find it useful to move the Tags column to either the far left or the far right of their Overview, so use the "Move Up" and "Move Down" buttons as needed to make that happen.

It's also very helpful in incursions to filter your Overview such that fleet members do not appear on the Overview.  This is done on the Filters tab, in the States setting, by unchecking the "Pilot is in your Fleet" checkbox.  This will cause members of your fleet to disappear from your Overview.  Since you will be fighting in incursions with between nine and 70+ other fleet members, your Overview will be much more manageable and less cluttered if your fleet members do not appear.

As your fleet's tagger works, tags will appear in the Tags column using numbers (0-9) and letters (A-J, X-Z).  You will be shooting at tagged targets in either alphabetical or numerical order depending on your role in the fleet.  As a result, many players in incursion fleets like to sort their Overview by tag while they are doing incursions.  To do so, click the Tag column until it is in the desired order.


Fleet Roles

To understand how tags will work in incursion fleets, you need to understand the roles in an incursion fleet.  There are five roles: FC, tagger, logistics, DPS, and sniper.  There is a sixth role that might or might not be used in your fleet: drone FC.  The FC will act as any other fleet FC will do, issuing orders which should be immediately followed.  The tagger's role is to place tags for all fleet members to see on their Overview.  Every fleet will have someone in the tagging role, even if that person is the FC doing his or her own tagging.  Your role will depend on your ship type, and this guide assumes that you are either in a DPS or sniper role.

DPS are defined as ships that have good damage and tracking out to about 50 kilometers or less, depending on ship and weapon type.  There will likely be a mix of both close-range DPS (most Minmatar ships, most Gallente ships) and medium-range DPS (most Caldari ships, many Amarr ships) in your fleet.  Snipers are defined as ships that have good ranged damage from 50 to 150 kilometers (in shield fleets, for example, most will be Ravens, Scorpions, Maelstroms, and Nightmares).  Your ship fitting will determine which of these roles you will take.

If your fleet has a drone FC, as soon as you enter the site, you will launch your drones and then assist them (not Guard, Assist) to the drone FC.  This will cause your drones to automatically attack the targets attacked by your drone FC.


Tag Types and Uses

There are five types of tags:
Full Fleet tags:  0 and 1
DPS tags:2 through 9
Sniper tags:A through I
Drone tags:X through Z
Trigger tag:J

"Full Fleet" tags, 0 and 1, represent targets that the FC or tagger has designated for all available DPS.  This means that DPS ships and sniper ships will both attack targets with these tags.  The drone FC (if your fleet is using one) will also attack these targets.  If you are controlling your own drones, it is generally accepted that you will put your drone DPS on tags 0 and 1 as well (though this varies a bit by fleet).  In addition, any time that a target is tagged 0 or 1, no matter your role and what you are attacking, you will shift your fire to the newly-designated 0 or 1 tag.  This will most often happen when a new spawn enters the field.

Otherwise, if you are a DPS ship, you will be shooting at targets in numerical order, starting with target 0 and ascending to target 9.  Once target 9 is destroyed, you will continue with the lowest number target, whatever that may be.  Watch for the creation of new tag 0 and 1 targets if they are created.  In addition, listen to the FC for change of orders, which may happen occasionally, particularly in higher level or Sansha Mothership sites.  In addition, you may occasionally be called upon to fire on sniper targets "until they are out of range."  If that is the case, use the optimal ranges of your weapons as a guide to determine when that is.

Snipers will shoot targets 0 and 1 as needed, but will then attack targets in alphabetical order, from A through I.  Again, watch for the creation of new tag 0 and 1 targets and redirect fire as needed to those targets.

If you have a drone FC, he will direct your drone damage to targets X through Z in order.  Otherwise, assign your drones to attack targets X through Z in order.  When target Z is dead, either direct your fire to the new X target, or -- if there are no targets tagged X through Z -- onto the current DPS target.

Do not attack target J until directed to do so!  If a target is tagged J, this represents the trigger target that will cause a new wave to spawn.  Attacking triggers out of order is the quickest way to be black-listed and prevented from attending future large incursion fleets.


Basic Tagging

Now that the basics are understood, let's look at tagging for a typical incursion site.  As our example, we'll use the first and main wave of the Nation Commander Stronghold, the most difficult and most profitable of the incursion Assault sites.

The NCS includes an initial wave of more than 20 ships, which can be overwhelming to the beginner.  Still, the mechanics of the targets are very well understood at this point, as shown from the Incursion Guide article above.  Each of the nine types of incursion sites has such a page on the Incursion Guide website, and each divides the ships in each wave by the type of DPS that should be applied to the target.  Review the article closely, and you'll find that these 20+ ships have been split into four categores: "full fleet", "damage", "sniper", and "drones."  Like many incursion sites, the NCS has initial targets that the full fleet DPS should be applied to to knock them down as quickly as possible.  After that is done, the player fleet can then split DPS by type to take down individual objectives.

The tagger should recognize right away from the guide that the Arnon Epithalamus and Mara Paleo are targets for the full fleet DPS.  As the tagger enters the field, he should tag the Arnon with the "0" tag right away, followed by "1" and "2" tags for the two Maras.  That will get landing ships busy.  This wave also features a Niarja Myelen, an annoying jamming frigate that will make life difficult for the player fleet's logi pilots.  That should be tagged with an "X" next, followed by a "Y" for the Schmaeel Medulla.

At that point, damage and sniper tags can be applied as tags 0, 1, and 2 are destroyed, starting with an "A" through "D" tags for the Yulai Crus Cerebi, then a "3" for the Auga Hypophysis, and so on until the entire site is tagged.  Once near-complete, the tags you deploy will be:

0  Arnon Epithalamus
1  Mara Paleo
2  Mara Paleo
3  Auga Hypophysis
4  Intaki Colliculus
5  Intaki Colliculus
6  Ostingele Tectum
7  Ostingele Tectum
8  Romi Thalamus
9  Romi Thalamus
A  Yulai Crus Cerebi
B  Yulai Crus Cerebi
C  Yulai Crus Cerebi
D  Yulai Crus Cerebi
E  Antem Neo
F  Antem Neo
G  Antem Neo
X  Niarja Myelen
Y  Schmaeel Medulla
Z  Eystur Rhomben

This will leave a couple of untagged Romis and Renyns on the field.  As the fleet destroys targets "2", "3", "X", and "Y", these tags can then be applied to the remaining ships.  Your FC should remind the DPS ships that after they complete tag "9", they should proceed to tag "2", and that as soon as tag "Z" is destroyed by drones, they should move those drones to the new tag "X".


Conclusion

Tagging is an important role in an incursion fleet, nearly as important as the FC's role.  A good tagger will make the jobs of both the players and the FC much easier, and allow the FC to keep the communication channel open for general chit-chat.  Doing so makes incursions much more friendly and fun, sicne most of the fun in doing incursions comes from the social aspect of being mixed and matched with various other types of EVE players.  Without a good tagger, this social interaction doesn't happen and doing incursion fleets becomes just another boring grind.

Don't forget to thank your tagger at the end of a fleet.  Tagging is a thankless job, but the difference between a good tagger and a bad one will be all the difference in the world...

Key non-conformance indicators

I'm going to delve a bit into the technical aspects of metrics.  Hang on tight.

In the business community, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the important metrics that you use to measure how well your business is doing if your piece of the business is not directly financial in nature.  Let's say we're building iPhones for Apple to sell.  In manufacturing, three important KPIs are the availability, performance, and quality of your manufacturing lines.  The first measures how many hours per day your manufacturing line can run.  The second measures how many iPhones your manufacturing line can produce when it is running.  The third measures what percentage of those iPhones meet quality standards once their manufacturing is complete.  Simple enough so far?

KPIs are important, because they make it easy to see the "levers" that can be used to improve your business.  If you can manufacture 5000 quality iPhones per day, it's easy to see where you can make changes to make that 6000 per day.  You can increase availability (unless it's already at 24 hours/day), or you can increase quality (unless it's already at 100%), or you can increase performance.

Or you can open a second factory.

Once your metrics are in place, changing the underlying assumptions underneath them can make it a lot harder to compare historical data.  If you open a second factory, do you combine the metrics from your second factory with your first?  This will create a large change in the data that you will have to explain every time you show your metrics.  Or do you measure separately?  And if you do that, what happens if one factory (because it is newer, say) has significantly higher performance than the other?  How do you explain the difference month after month?

Things really get tricky if the data start showing things that you don't want to share.  To get to 6000 iPhones manufactured per day, suppose you greatly upgrade your factory's performance at the cost of its quality.  You're producing more sale-ready iPhones, but you're also producing many more defective iPhones that will need rework before they can be shipped.  That's data you might not want to share with Apple.  So one month, you might not publish your quality data.  You publish and highlight your performance data instead, showing the large increase in output, explain the historical difference, and keep the quality data to yourself.

And hopefully, Apple doesn't ask.  And if they don't, it's easier to keep that quality data to yourself next month, too.

Which brings us to today's EVE Online devblog.

Dr EyjoG, CCP's economist in charge of EVE, has traditionally published Quarterly Economic Newsletters about 45 days after the end of the quarter.  I've spoken of them in this blog many times, and the 4Q 2010 was great fodder for two or three blog posts looking at different aspects of the EVE economy.  I've been waiting impatiently for the 1Q 2011 QEN, because I thought it would contain excellent baseline data to compare to the 2Q QEN.  That was important because the biggest economic change to EVE Online since Dominion was made the first week in April, with the sanctum/haven nerf.  That presumably hugely reduced the amount of ISK moving in the game and I was really looking forward to seeing the numbers.

Only, it looks like we're not going to get QENs in the future.

The devblog itself is a complete waste of your time... a little piece of nothing-fluff comparing the four established EVE price indices.  Each index supposedly measures a different aspect of the EVE consumer economy, but as I've written before, the quarterly slices make this data practically useless.  It doesn't help that EVE's Consumer Price Index contains more than 4000 items which range from ships to POSs to ammo to PLEXes: in short, items from durable goods to consumables and back.  It's worthless as an economic indicator.  The graph that accompanies the devblog confirms it showing (as it does) the CPI being completely flat for the last four years.

Despite massive changes to EVE's consumer goods in that time, the CPI graph is flat because there are so many items in the CPI, that big changes to one item are damped down by stagnation in other items.  It's one of the reasons that I wish EVE had a "durable goods index" containing items that are rarely destroyed like Hulks and capital ships.  Taking these items out of the CPI would reduce this stagnating factor.

So, as I said, the devblog is practically worthless.  An EVE player was quick to ask: "is this blog a replacement for the QEN?"  Dr EyjoG was good enough to answer, and his answer isn't comforting:
We will change the format of the QEN but this devblog and the data that comes along with it is an addition to other economic information available to the players. This is a part of a larger plan to give more data directly to players so that they can do their own analysis. And yes, this will continue in the future.

We have not published QENs for 2010 (sic) and will most likely not publish them in the previous format but rather moving the Economic Newsletters to more of an annual report. The frequency of the publication is though still being discussed.
In other words: "yes", this useless crap is replacing the QENs, with some other "annual report" data and "more data directly to the players" being discussed for the future.  In short, I think we can safely assume that the Q1 QEN metrics showed some data that CCP is not in a hurry to share.

Fearless.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Highway larceneve

Back in April, I predicted that EVE's first trillion ISK theft would happen this year.  Either I was 100 million off, or there's a still bigger theft coming before December 31.

Or I was 400 million off.  Or I was some amount off.  With a theft this big, it quickly becomes impossible to determine just how much was stolen.  In the meantime, you can read about the new record holder.

Despite myself...

I'm gonna bow to reality and move EVE back up to the list of "Current MMOs" on the right for a while.  I'm still unsubbed, with 30-odd days to go on most of my accounts.  But I've spent more time in EVE in the last couple of weeks than in the previous couple of months, most of that in high-sec incursion fleets, learning how this element of EVE works.

What I'm learning: I'm enjoying the incursion fleets far more than I should be, given EVE's terrible, terrible PvE.

But the PvE part is entirely incidental.  What I'm enjoying is the very friendly, sociable, knowledgeable players that are in the incursion fleets.  It seems like a good, solid half of them are ex-0.0 players like I am, but with the refreshing attitude that they're not interested in going back to 0.0 in the future.  They've done it.  They've survived it.  And they're no longer interested in it.  Another quarter are alts for current 0.0 players taking a break from 0.0 to make some ISK.  As a result, the level of derp in an incursion fleet is surprisingly low.

Targets are identified by tags in the overview (I'll post a guide for them this weekend sometime, I think), which means that actual fleet communication in voice chat is usually fairly rare, except for the occasional "Watch your tags!" or "Niarja on the field, retagging." or "Everyone watch out; new bomber spawn."  The shooting is pretty boring and routine, which leaves a lot of time open for chit-chat with friendly, knowledgeable EVE players.  And you get a new batch of them to talk to every time you log in.

It's quite refreshing.

Even better, there's very little waiting involved (or at least, that's been my experience).  You log in, you X up for a fleet, and as long as you follow the right procedure and your ship fitting is good, you're out flying within ten minutes or so.  And the better your ship, the shorter that amount of time.  Which means that incursion fleets are a true meritocracy.  If you don't know how to fit or fly a ship in EVE, you won't get picked up.  You learn or you don't get to play.  There is little to no, "I don't care what you think.  I like this fitting and I'm using it."  If your fitting is bad, you'll be using it by yourself.

This pushes the level of derp in an incursion fleet even lower.

Most surprising of all (though I guess I should have expected this), since there are eight times as many people in high-sec as there are in 0.0, there are incursion fleets going at all hours... including hours friendly to those of us in California.  ;-)  I've had a couple of nights where I struck out, but most of the time, even if I have only a couple of hours to do this, it's available to me.

So... yeah.  I seem to be enjoying a part of EVE again despite myself.  Still going to Global Agenda for my PvP needs, though.

But wouldn't it be nice if CCP could find a way to create PvP like this -- little or no waiting, knowledgeable players, monitored ship fittings?

Melee

Think of a medieval tournament.

You probably thought of jousting, didn't you?  This is the modern audience's romanticized view of medieval tournaments: two heavily-armored knights on horseback, charging at each other, lances in their hands.  The winner takes on someone tougher in the same contest.  Repeat until only one knight remains.  But for most of the 300 or so years that tournaments happened in Europe, the joust was among the least important events.  There were other events: contests of swordsmanship, horsemanship, and archery among them.  But the main event of the tournament was actually the French-originated mêlée, simplified to the English word melee.

In the melee, dozens or hundreds of knights would be divided into two teams and they would simulate a full battle, often taking all day!  This was a hugely popular event.  It would open with both sides charging at each other on horseback with lances (the origin of jousting).  Those that remained on horseback continued fighting that way until knocked or dragged from their saddles.  Those unhorsed would fight on foot until they were injured, exhausted, or killed.  The melee would continue until one side or the other was victorious, or until the sun went down.  Though it was a "game", the tournament melee was often soon indistinguishable from a real battle, with knights from rival kingdoms taking advantage of real-life rivalries or attacking real-life enemies.  Often, knights were captured in the melee and held for ransom -- it was considered among the valid rewards for the victors of the melee.

And ambushes and accidents happened.  It was not at all uncommon for a knight on team A to be focused on attacking a knight on team B in front of him, tiring but close to victory, only to be brained from behind by a second knight on team B with a mace.  Serious injury or death would be the result, and it wasn't always unintentional.(1)  Ganging up was also common.  A lord might enter the tourney field with his tenant knights around him, protecting him from harm so that he could come through the entire melee as the victor, not unlike what happens today in competitive cycling.

Black Prophecy PvP is a lot like medieval tournament melees.

At the end of a long string of required PvE missions, where you are introduced to the game mechanics, your ship, the story, the players, the crafting system, and everything else about the game, you are finally required to "choose a side."  The two sides are the Tyi, a human race off-shoot that has chosen to augment themselves with technology (think cyborgs) and the Genides, a second off-shoot focused on biological enhancements (think splicers from Bioshock).

At the lower level of play, it doesn't seem to matter very much which side you choose.  Your ship stats don't even change very much; the previous upgrades that you've bought or crafted for your previous non-Tyi/non-Genide ship are just transferred over with no changes.  This might or might not change at higher levels of play.  The U.S. beta of Black Prophecy doesn't really work well past level 12 or so, so I can't say.

Once you choose a side, though, you are transferred from the starting all-PvE areas to a new set of mixed PvE/PvP areas.  And when I say mixed, I mean truly mixed.  If you accept a PvE mission, you'll be going into a PvP area to complete that mission.  Others in that area might be completing PvE missions, or they might be there specifically to hunt people trying to complete PvE missions.  They might be on your side, or they might be on the other side.  They might be there to hunt the hunters.  And maybe they have three or four of their friends logged in to help them.  Or just maybe they're in the area just to test a new ship fitting by shooting a few rats.  Or a few other players.  The guy attacking you might be level 6 and be unable to penetrate your shields, much less your armor.  Or maybe he's level 12, with a plasma-based weapon that can kill you in five or six shots.  People on your side might jump in to defend you if you get attacked, or they might take the opportunity while you're keeping the hunters busy to complete a PvE mission themselves instead.

"Chaotic" doesn't even begin to describe it.  ;-)

It's definitely not how I would have designed things.  In a way, it reminded me of the old Crimson Skies Xbox game, and is also in some ways similar to Global Agenda PvP.  But in both Crimson Skies and GA, you are at least guaranteed an equal number of combatants and similar levels of weaponry.  Black Prophecy makes no such promises.  There's a huge difference between a level 6 player and a level 12 player in BP.  In that way, it's similar to World of Tanks, but again, WoT at least gives you relatively equal teams that will hopefully work together.

But, on the flip-side, Black Prophecy practically enforces socialization.  It's a survival technique.  If you enter the melee with a half-dozen of your friends around you, you can take control of and dominate one of the zones.  Once you're in control of it, you can either PvP to your heart's content against anyone silly enough to enter "your" zone, or you can use that control of the zone to complete PvE missions in relative peace.  When your gang breaks up and your control over that zone fades, it returns to its natural chaotic free-for-all state.

So, from that perspective, it's an interesting choice in terms of game design.

But is it the correct choice?  I'm not sure yet, but I'm leaning toward "no".  The difference in level is the biggest factor for me.  The difference between L6 and L12 players in this game really is huge.  Maybe if there were three zones for levels 6-9, and three more for 10-12?  But the difference in team sizes is also a bigger factor.  You don't know until you enter a zone and try to accomplish something in it if that zone is being controlled by your side, the other side, or nobody at all.


(1) George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song Of Ice And Fire series of books, missed a real trick when describing tournaments on Westeros.  While he mentions melees in passing, apparently jousting is the popular event there.  How much more fun would it have been had he made melees the popular event?  A few dozen Lannisters and Starks and Tullys and Baratheons and Freys taking their mutual antagonisms out on each other on a simulated battlefield where "accidents" can happen?  Would have been awesome.  Big miss there, GRRM.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fit of the Week: Bulldog Enyo

[Enyo, Bulldog]
Damage Control II
Small 'Accommodation' Vestment Reconstructer I
Tracking Enhancer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I

Light Neutron Blaster II, Null S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Null S
[empty high slot]
Light Neutron Blaster II, Null S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Null S

Small Hybrid Burst Aerator II
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I

Hobgoblin II x1


There was about a 45-minute period in EVE when this was a really good ship.  I post it now for historical value.  But who knows, maybe someone will get some use out of it.

This was my favorite heavy-hitting faction warfare Enyo, circa late 2009.  At the time, I was heavily into Gallente boats with Ripard.  I loved all things green and covered with blasters.  Small rigs had come out recently, and were cheap and easy to build.  This is a super-tight fit, and I make no apologies for that.  At the time, Ripard was also heavily optimized for flying T2 frigates and that's where I got the bulk of my early PvP experience.  You will need Advanced Weapon Upgrades V, Hybrid Weapon Rigging IV, plus a CPU implant to fly this.  I kept a CPU +3% in Ripard's head 24/7 (and still do to this day, where it continues to help with my second-favorite Claymore fit).

Still, if you can make this fit work, this Enyo is cheap, fast (for an AF) and hard-hitting.  With Null ammo, 200+ DPS will be the norm, and you'll find that you can effectively kite many other type of frigates, with an effective range on your weapons right out to the limit of your scram range.  Few will expect that of a frigate-class blaster boat.  Or, if you want to hug something big close, swap out for faction Antimatter and you'll do 250+ DPS in a tight orbit.  The Tracking Enhancer helps with both.

I got into the habit of putting my empty slot in the middle of the rotation with this ship.  Overheating heat damage is supposed to "wrap around" from the top to the bottom slots, but I find in practice that this doesn't always happen.  As a result, even today, if I have a utility high, I tend to put it in the middle of the guns rather than on one end or the other.  When flying this ship, I would often charge into battle and then hit all three "overload rack" buttons, then see what threatened to burn out first (hint: it was invariably the MWD).  So... yeah.  Carry some paste.  ;-)  100-150 units will be enough.

The rest of the fit is pretty straight-forward for solo work.  Fitting a repper was something I started doing after finding how much I liked it on my Taranis fit and becoming uneasy because the slightly bigger Enyo didn't have it, too.  ;-)  You can use a faction repper instead if you like.  But I tended to fly Enyos as throw-away ships, particularly in LOL-T1 cruiser fleets where they excelled as tackle.  An Enyo fit in this manner costs about the same as a T1 cruiser, if the cruiser is T2 fit.  Even the T2 rig isn't very expensive, but I built those myself.  For a while, my favorite ship for T1 cruiser roams was a Kitsune, but with the spread of HACs, those became way too fragile.  The Enyo is much tougher, and at the end of the day, much more effective.

And of course, if you're badly outnumbered, a frig in the middle of a bunch of T1 cruisers will probably get away whereas a Rupture might not.  ;-)

So, in today's EVE, consider this ship for what it is: cheap, disposable heavy tackle, fun for learning light ship tactics and maintaining transversal velocity.  Take it out on your corp or alliance's next LOL-T1 cruiser roam and I think you'll be pleased.

Fly suicidal.  ;-)

One man can make a difference

Warning: there isn't much of a point to this post.  ;-)  It's just some musings that probably don't mean anything.  You have been warned.

Early in World War II, there was a period that Winston Churchill calls the Twilight War, but which most historians call the Phoney War.  Wikipedia incorrectly dates it from 3 September 1939.  It really started about a month later, in early October.  It lasted about six months.  Poland had just fallen, and there started an almost amusing philosophical argument among the combatants about what should happen next.  After all, though the UK and France had declared war on Germany, those war declarations were just an automatic response to the military alliances and guarantees that both countries had given Poland earlier in the year.  Neither country sent Poland so much as a scout plane.  The UK contented itself with a few bombing raids, most of which dropped fliers.  France invaded Germany.

Oh yes, they did.  On 7 September, they had more than 40 divisions on the German border, with 50 more available.  The Germans had less than half of that, and their true striking power was in Poland.  The French struck into Germany toward the Rhine valley.  Over the next five days, the French army penetrated about five miles into Germany, meeting only light resistance.  On 12 September, they met with their British allies in council.  What happened at that meeting, nobody seems to know.  But the next day, France declared that their invasion had succeeded in its intent of drawing some German divisions out of Poland -- which was untrue -- and they fell back a few days later.  That invasion is now forgotten.

Poland finally fell after more than four weeks of hard fighting.  And for the next six months, the UK and France continued to not attack Germany.

Hitler gave some speeches asking for peace, which were roundly rejected by the democratic countries at war with him.  But then, those very same democratic countries weren't exactly covering themselves with glory, either.  In the democracies, the philosophical argument soon erupted around whether autocratic systems -- the National Socialism of Germany and the Communist dictatorship of Russia -- were inherently superior to democratic systems, particularly in their ability to fight wars.  After all, in an autocratic system, it all came down to one man.  Hitler said invade Poland, so Germany invaded Poland.  To attack Germany, meanwhile, required a lot more people to agree on just how to do it, and indeed whether they could or should do it at all.  Hitler was only too happy to fuel these doubts with a series of veiled implications in his own speeches.

Which brings me to the amusing spectacles over the last week or so in VFK-IV.

It's been kind of entertaining from an outsider's perspective to watch the NCdot/Raiden/Ev0ke/PL blob face-plant in Deklein.  Their attack on Goonswarm territory was just about as effective as France's invasion of Germany.  Why has their attack been so ineffective, and why are they giving up on the campaign so soon?  After all, this same coalition took severe losses in their initial attack on Geminate during the early invasion of the NC but kept going despite those losses.  Presumably, others will look into this.  For myself, I'm content to sit back and chuckle at the spectacle.

But I'll bet a good portion of the problem is that as the supply lines stretch, it's becoming harder and harder for the four major alliances attacking Goonswarm to coordinate their actions and attacks.  Goonswarm is quite a bit more autocratic.  Mittens himself has written that an autocratic system is the only one that makes sense in EVE Online, and that's a position that I happen to agree with.  I've been part of both democratic and autocratic alliances in EVE, and the autocratic ones are always, always superior.

Unless the autocrat quits EVE, in which case that alliance has a major problem on its hands.

This topic came up in my thoughts because in his victory-but-let's-keep-fighting message to his own troops, Mittens brought up my most recent 0.0 alliance, Get Off My Lawn:
LAWN and FCON will finally be given rights to their local territory; LAWN will expand from one tech moon to six, and FCON will receive the four tech and six neos – rights denied them in their own space by the NC. SMA will be restored to its pocket and its moons. I do this primarily out of the kindness of my heart; the statistics of the Battle of VFK showed barely 1% attendance from the Pure Blind holders. Having been notified of my displeasure we have already seen better attendance; those who show up in the right ships at the right time will be showered with love and riches (like TNT and FA); those who do not show up will meet the same fate as OWN and BCA. We are not the NC – fight and die with us or get the fuck out.
And yes, it's true that my old friends from LAWN weren't exactly asserting themselves.  In the battles of July 16, 17, and 18, LAWN never fielded more than about a dozen ships, and fewer than five ships was more typical.

When I was in LAWN, it was more typical to have 40 or more ships for a fleet.  And when a battle was guaranteed and on a good day and time, such as the fight on the 16th?  LAWN could field a fleet of 60 without any trouble.  Nor were expensive or high-skill ships a problem for LAWN; the last major battle I fought with them in early April, we brought 60 ships, more than 40 of which were T2-fit alpha Maelstroms of just the type the Goons are looking for.  After these fleets were over, we'd look over the participation from various entities and pride ourselves as being one of the top contributors in terms of both total ships and ships of the right type.

So what happened?  As I said, this blog post doesn't have much of a point.  ;-)  You were warned.  All I will say is that after Gentlemen's Club lost Mya ElleTerego to RL commitments, GC's typical fleet sizes were cut in half, then cut in half again.  GC was swept from Scalding Pass soon after.  Some alliances rely heavily on their alliance leaders.

One man can make a difference.

So, congratulations to my friends in LAWN on the new tech moons.  But I sure hope you guys can get it together to actually defend them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not all curves are pretty

On Failheap yesterday, Trebor from the CSM asked if someone could put together 7-, 30-, 90-, and 180-day rolling averages of the number of EVE players logged into the game based on data that's available on the EVE Offline website. That website's primary purpose is to act as a check-point so you can see -- if you can't log into the game -- whether that problem is just you or the server itself is down. But as a side effect, it tracks the availability of the EVE API by querying for the number of players logged in at any given time... and then as a second side effect, publishes daily averages and maximums.

Liang Nuren managed to download that data and put it into a CSV spreadsheet. On a whim, I took that spreadsheet, collated the data, and generated a graph of the rolling averages that Trebor asked for. Batolemaeus then took my graph and drew lines to indicate when various EVE expansions were released. Here's the final product (click to embiggen):


The raw data behind this analysis is available if you want it, too. You can ignore the places where the dark blue (7-day average) briefly bottoms out. Those represent gaps in the data provided by EVE Offline and don't materially affect the longer-term trend lines. And keep in mind, this data just reflects the number of people logged into the game, not the number of active accounts.

In particular, the big dip that takes place during the Apocrypha expansion, around June 24, represents the "Unholy Rage" implementation: CCP permabanned the accounts of about 6000 botters (logged in 23/7) that day.

The more I looked at this chart, the more it bothered me. I finally took some more time and put together a table that looked at the data in a different way. This time, concentrating on the 30-day rolling averages, I decided to look at three numbers: how much did the average number of players change 30 days after each expansion was released? How about 60 days? And finally, how about taking that metric from the day of that expansion to the release of the next expansion, whatever it was? I figured the first number would reflect people trying out the new expansion, and the second number would represent those same people sticking with the expansion, plus telling their friends "hey, look at this, this is pretty cool." The third number would at least partially reflect the overall success of that expansion: had it drawn in new players to the game, who in turn kept playing?

When I looked at the data in that way, I got this:

ExpansionFeature+30D+60D+NextResult
RMR/Bloodlines  T2s, Carriers-4.6%+7.0%+11.9%Success
Revelations IInvention, rigs  +4.3%-0.1%+17.6%Major success
Revelations IISov changes+0.8%+6.4%-2.6%Failure
TrinityNew graphics+2.4%+29.0%+19.5%Major success
Empyrean AgeFaction war+0.5%+7.1%-8.5%Major failure
Quantum RiseNano nerf+18.5%  +30.5%  +24.7%  Major success
ApocryphaWormholes+11.4%+10.7%+5.7%Success
DominionSov changes+13.6%+13.5%+6.4%Success
TyrannisPI+6.1%+2.6%-0.6%Failure
IncursionIncursions+8.9%+16.8%-5.0%Failure
IncarnaCQ-1.8%?????????

"Feature" is just a one or two word indicator of what that particular expansion is now best known for. By this metric, Trinity is one of the most successful expansions written for EVE, and it's not hard to see why: Trinity made the game much, much prettier. The +29% growth of average players logged in after its release shows the "hey, this is pretty cool" factor at work. The numbers for Quantum Rise are a bit tougher to justify. Three years later, this expansion is mostly known for being the infamous "nano nerf" expansion that cut the speed of every ship in EVE and every mod or rig that was being used to help players speed tank. However, Quantum Rise also introduced the new scram mechanic (scrams shutting down MWDs) which made PvP in EVE a lot more interesting, so that might have had something to do with the big increase in log-ins this expansion brought.  In addition, CCP did a lot more marketing (including TV advertising on SciFi in the U.S.) during this period, which probably brought in a lot of new players.  There were also a couple of fairly major meta news items affecting EVE at that time: Band of Brothers was disbanded in February 2009, for example.  That probably attracted a few more players still.

Apocrypha can also be regarded as very successful. Despite showing only a +5.7% long-term increase in players, Unholy Rage took place in the same period. Normalized for that, Apocrypha would have actually boasted about a +24% increase in logged-in players.

And by these metrics, Empyrean Age, Tyrannis, and Incursion have been failures. Empyrean Age brought in new players to try faction war, but the overall dip in players by the time Quantum Rise was released showed that very few players stuck with the game after trying it. Tyrannis had the same impact for PI. Incursion had the same impact for Incursions (though the number of players in high-sec Incursions apparently recently took a huge jump). The Incursion +60D number is probably an outlier; Incursion also released a lot of skill points from Learning skills back to the players and for a while there were a ton of people playing with the new ships these SP gave them access to.

Expansions like Revelations I and Dominion are in the middle. Dominion is mostly known for its massive changes to the 0.0 sov system (including system upgrades), but it also included a ton of other new features, such as pirate ship buffs, an auto-cannon buff, a super-carrier buff, and pirate faction mission arcs. Revelations I had pretty much no cool factor at all, but the combination of its incremental upgrades and the fact that players at this time were really getting into capital and super-capital warfare (introduced in RMR/Bloodlines, the previous expansion) likely kept players logging in.

But the overall worrisome indicator on this table? By this metric, EVE has not had a truly successful expansion since Dominion, almost two years ago. Which leads to...

One last thing: this chart seems to prove what a stagnant state EVE is in at the moment: other than the +60D peak after Incursion, the 30 day rolling average number of players logged into EVE has not changed from 30,000 in 27 months.

It will be interesting to see what this kind of metric shows for Incarna. We're only about +35D or so into Incarna at this point, and of course it's a long long way to the next winter expansion. However, the curve so far is not pretty.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Comment of the Week: Chain reaction

One or two anonymous posters pointed me at another Perpetuum Online anti-blob mechanic that is, if possible, even more awesome than the mechanic I talked about the other day.

Not only does standing too close to another robot increase your targeting time against your enemies, but if that robot gets blown up, it has a "death AoE" attack that will damage or even destroy other robots nearby!  At first, I thought this might be a joke or a troll, but it's real enough.  This mechanic only operates on Beta (PvP) ground.  Here's a video of it in action, a chain reaction that seems to take out five friendly Arkhes at once... and here's someone on Failheap explaining some of the mechanics.

This rocks so much.  :-)

It also opens some interesting new mechanics, such as intentional suicide bombing.

I can't see it working in EVE, though.  Destiny (the app module in EVE that, as I understand it, handles "commitments" such as what to do when a ship gets blown up) is badly overloaded already and wouldn't be able to handle multiple AoE attacks in close proximity, particularly if those multiple AoE attacks could cause chain reactions.  EVE has a hard enough time when a small squad of bombers does its thing.

Still, it's another great innovation to Perpetuum.  Love it!  It's not enough to keep me subscribed, though.

Thanks to both anonymous commenters!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quote of the Week: Global warming solution

The other day, I snarked a bit about CSM members advocating the removal of ABC minerals from C1 and C2 wormholes.  Failheap has also picked up the discussion, which was proceeding in pretty much the same direction as my blog post, ie., "It'd be nice if CSM members kept their mouths shut about things they know nothing about."  Then Meissa Anuntheil, CSM-for-life, decided to jump into the discussion.

And his response has got to be the longest post Meissa has ever made about any subject, on any forum.

In the post, he reveals himself as the champion for the "remove it" position.  Among other things, he also states that he believes getting ABC out of a C2 using an Orca is "trivial."  Speaking as someone who's done it, my response is "Oh?  Try it."  But in short, Meissa's main argument around this seems to be that getting even one unit of arkonor out of a class 2 wormhole is too much, further reduces the demand for 0.0 mining, and that all such minerals should be provided from 0.0 sources. 

Meissa is a 0.0 miner and industrialist, but I'm sure that doesn't influence his opinion on this matter in the slightest, nope.

Needless to say, this kicks off a firey back-and-forth argument on the matter, but after correctly characterizing the CSM's reaction on this as "knee jerk", Kate Yeats destroys Meissa's argument in one sentence, then adds a bonus double-helping of snark (which, as always, I approve of ;-) ):
CSM's suggestion for combating global warming is to sew up everyone's asshole because they fart methane and that contributes, right? 
Bonus is it sounds like it'd effectively silence certain CSM members.
Bravo.

If you're interested in the discussion, you can pick it up from Meissa's post.  It goes on for about three pages before turning to other topics.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Irony, like gold-y or bronze-y, except with iron

So, the latest State of the Goon speech is public.

It's a good speech: short, to the point, reasonably witty.  It's also self-congratulatory, but Mittens wouldn't be Mittens if he wasn't self-congratulatory.  It's his defining personal characteristic.  The speech covers the situation GS finds itself in: the NCdot/Raiden/Ev0ke/PL blob, having slowly pushed east to west throughout the entire northern half of the 0.0 map, is going for the hat trick by finishing the job in Pure Blind and Deklein.  And why not?  There really isn't much else for them to do.  Presumably, if they succeed in Dek, they'll turn south and head for Cloud Ring and Fountain next.

Still, there's an amusing bit where Mittens belittles his enemies by stating that they've become what they hated.  They attacked the NC, in public because the NC were horrible blue-setting, blobbing, stagnant, lag-fest combatants that used weight of numbers instead of skill.  Yep.  That's all true.  And it's true enough that's what's happened to NCdot/Raiden/Ev0ke/PL as well.  So Mittens riffs on this theme for a while, how ironic it is that this "new northern coalition" has become what they hated.

But... isn't becoming what you hate sort of the definition of success in New Eden?

Let's look at another EVE entity.  One that...
  • is huge,
  • lives in a single and most distant region in EVE space,
  • (which is the richest part of EVE space),
  • and comes out only occasionally to terrorize the local populace,
  • using tactics that were great a couple of years ago but which are now probably out-dated,
  • but otherwise sits back and congratulates themselves on their past accomplishments, and
  • all the great things they've done for the game,
  • creating terrific propaganda,
  • while they surround themselves by a small number of pets,
  • which they have a cute nickname for,
  • all while glorifying a single semi-charismatic Internet spaceship nerd.

Does this remind anyone of anyone we know... ummm... knew?