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...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pair of derps

I'll make this quick.

Later today or tomorrow, I'll be publishing my monthly "junk drawer" post, in which I list a bunch of stuff that didn't really rate full blog posts this month for one reason or another.  But two of them are related in spirit (if not in content).  From time to time, I like to link things that aren't obviously linked and these two items really felt linked to me even though they deal with completely, utterly different topics.

First is this column from The Mittani about Delve War V, so this will probably serve as my wrap-up post on that topic.  Usually, Mittens's columns over at Ten Ton are quite good and well worth reading but this one is the worst thing he's written there... pretty much ever.  Petty, vindictive, and lacking in even basic substance, it's dull as dirt.  But best of all, it opens with this laughable quote:
More than fifty thousand characters were involved on each side of this conflict, and the combined forces were roughly equal in power. Commentators anticipated a war of attrition that would last for months...
Uhhh... [citation needed].  Usually, Mittens provides a source link for this sort of claim, but it's not surprising he didn't this time.  Did anyone think that this "war" would be anything other than a two- or three-week exercise in the CFC's ability to run timers?  I know I sure didn't.  And I'm less informed about Delve than just about anyone.  Everyone that actually knows anything about that region predicted a quick, brutal stomping.

Even more amusing is that "roughly equal in power" crack.  Uh, yeah.  OK.  If you say so.

"What is surprising is not that the SoCo lost, but the fact that their mistakes were so banal and elementary," Mittens says.  Even an uninformed outside observer like myself can see it's because they didn't care.  Mittens says this himself in his own article: "[events] made it clear that -A- didn’t care if their allies lost their space."  Way to attempt to insert drama into a situation that had no drama.  As I've already said, a Great War this was not.  Mittens's attempt to try to make it one is derp #1.

Second one is this dev-blog about the upcoming changes to tutorial missions.

Now I don't want to go all negative here, but this dev-blog is again lacking in even basic substance.  My favorite bit are all the artificial boundaries that were apparently put around this effort.  I've had a lot of experience with the tutorials lately trying to walk a couple of friends through starting to play EVE.  The fact that the team working this a) only gave it a month, and b) because they only gave it a month decided not to do anything much about the missions themselves really does lend a "Er, OK, so why are we doing this then?" atmosphere to the entire affair.

Granted, some of the UI changes that are being made are nice but they don't really address any of the core issues with the tutorials that I can see.  They've got a lot of data about when people quit the tutorials but unless I missed it, they have no data about why.  Drawing conclusions on what to do with the tutorials without this is not a good idea.

CCP's looking for feedback on this.  I have some.  Give ten devs a big stack of Aurum usable in either DUST 514 or EVE.  Send them and ten computers to the nearest gaming convention.  Offer Aurum in exchange for watching people run through the EVE tutorial.  One of the devs sits behind each volunteer, taking notes and answering questions.  Where do they stall?  Where do they get confused?  What questions do they have?  And most important, what frustrates them?  Bring these notes back to Iceland.  Hell, send the devs and the computers to a mall and offer the participants $5 if you have to.

There's only one mention of play-testers in this entire dev-blog.  I get the distinct impression that these play-testers were CCP employees that were already familiar with EVE and just hadn't run the tutorials in a while.  They were guessing what might confuse new players, not knowing it.  What's needed here is a completely fresh set of eyes on this process from someone who's never played EVE seriously before and I don't think the devs involved in this effort got that.

Without it, there wasn't really much point to tweaking the tutorials yet again.  It's just polishing a sneaker.  That's derp #2.

So in honor of this pair of derps, have a Rote Kapelle "derp sheep":


That was fun.  Maybe I'll start a "Derp of the Month" post around here.  ;-)

Comment of the Week: Ain't nobody happy

COTW honors goes to this one, from an anonymous commenter posted yesterday about the mining barge changes:
there is a 122 page WHINE thread on the Eve forums that might explain why they are nerfing the resists. The gankers are going wild about not being able to gank in easy mode:

https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=137125&find=unread

I think it is a sad state of affairs that the hottest topic in Eve is about the two professions that were once beneath contempt to serious Eve players.
Honorable mention to this one from KA:
Having not been around long enough to see large-scale changes to the fundamental structure of an existing ship...

"All of those Hulk pilots fitting tech 2 cargo rigs are going to be unhappy."

...what is the end result?

"Tough shit, pilot. HTFU" and they eat the cost of the those now-useless rigs, or will CCP provide some sort of compensation?
I think this is a fun pair of comments to address at some length.  It reminds me of an exchange from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that always makes me laugh when I hear it.  One character says, "Someone once said that a successful compromise is one that nobody is happy with."  The response: "By that measure, this compromise is extremely successful."(1)  Here too, what we have is a compromise that nobody is happy with, not even CCP most likely.  Let's look at each aspect in turn, starting with KA's comment since it's the easiest.

Will CCP be providing anything at all for you players that cargo fit your Hulks and Macks?  No.  Matter of fact, they won't even mention it.  You'll be eating the cost of them, at the cost of some 150 million ISK for those of you that went for the T2 rigs.  When the Oneiros buff hit, I was extremely happy with it, even though I had to eat the cost of a Tech 2 Ancillary Current Router on one of my Onis.  The previous iteration had a serious grid deficiency.  When the buff hit, that deficiency disappeared and the only good response was to rerig my ship.  Similarly, when carriers lost their large cargo holds a few years back, hundreds of players had to destroy billions of ISK in cargo rigs.

That's just how CCP rolls, yo.  "Tough shit, pilot, HTFU" indeed.  Next item.

I'm sorry, but suicide gankers are spoiled rotten.  Destroyers got a massive buff and for a good long while there, you could gank Retrievers one or even two at a time with a single Catalyst if the miners were dumb enough.  Hulkageddon V was the glory days of this.  But now the drug these guys get off on is not going to be quite as potent any longer.  Like a long-term addict needing a fix, they're going to have spend a lot more money to get the same high.  I'm sorry, but I just don't have a lot of sympathy.  Using a ship that only costs a few million ISK to destroy a ship worth some 200 million ISK in high-sec is over-powered, it always was, and CCP is fixing it.

For those of you using suicide-ganking as a career, you'll have to be smarter about it.  I assure you there are still miners out there that will use dead-space small shield boosters and ridiculously over-priced meta Mining Laser Upgrades at the advice of an out-of-date, badly written mining guide.(2)  And if you can't find miners using too-shiny mods, there are certainly Tengus that are.  You'll just have to adapt and evolve, just like the rest of us.  And for you Goon types that don't care about money and only do it for the tears, this doesn't change anything at all, right?  You'll just up-ship to Tornados and glory in the beauty of explosions regardless of cost, so I don't have to worry about you.~

Again, "Tough shit, pilot, HTFU".  The irony that they can't handle this message isn't lost on me, I assure you.

But the miners whining that the Hulk should be good at everything is almost as bad, honestly.  The same message applies to them.

CCP is already taking a little bit of pity on miners, after all.  If you look at it logically, the Hulk should be the ship with the biggest capacity and the Mackinaw should be the ship with the largest yield.  The Hulk, after all, is physically bigger and should hold more.  But miners are so focused on yield above all else that if the Mack had the greatest yield despite the enormous numbers of Hulks already in space, the tears would flow like the Amazon.  At least this way to keep making the maximum profit, you can stick with the same ship you've been flying.

There are just going to be other viable choices other than the Hulk too, now.  That's breaking a lot of hearts.  But can you imagine the tears had the Skiff been given the highest yield and the smallest ore bay?

The threat of a permanent Goon Hulkageddon is only making that worse.  After all, the Exhumer with the best tank is the one that pretty much nobody owns.  That means that if you want the tanky one, you have to buy or build one, which means enriching the Goon tech monopoly still further...  The gankers, meanwhile, are claiming that there's no reason to fly the Skiff since the Mack will have a strong enough tank that it won't be ganked.

Uh huh.

The thread in question is up to 126 pages, but don't waste your time.(3)  I skimmed it here and there and it's nothing but noise and counter-noise.  My favorites are the people claiming that the Mackinaw, or the Hulk, or the Skiff, or the Retriever is now useless.  My second favorites are the people who claim that suicide-ganking will end and high-sec mining is now "safe" no matter which ship you choose.  My third favorite are those that claim the Hulk isn't for single-player mining any more.  They're all equally wrong, of course.

Clearly, ain't nobody happy with this compromise, which means that it'll probably work for the time being.  Thanks for the comments, guys!  Sorry if I upset you with this one.


(1) I really need to go back and rewatch this show.  Best of the Treks, IMO.
(2) Yeah, I went there, but in my own defense: it is badly written, and the editing is worse.
(3) This contribution is kind of fun, though.  Yeah, that's what you think it is.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update to the update

OK!  There are some more updates to the Mining Barges and Exhumers from my post earlier today.  Most of them are pretty minor, so you can stick with the post I wrote earlier today.  Still, there are a few things worth noting.
  • The Exhumers are apparently getting their resists nerfed, particularly against EM damage against which they will have 0% resistance.(1)  To that, all I can say is WTF?  gg, CCP, gg.
  • The Covetor and Hulk EHP is getting nerfed slightly from my post earlier today.  After the combination of this change and the one above, I suspect Covetors and Hulks will be slightly more fragile than they are today.
  • The Procurer and Skiff are getting expanded drone bays.  Procurer gets 25m3.  Skiff gets a pretty amazing 50m3.  That's even better than what I was hoping for.  And the Procurer is getting four... count 'em, four mid slots.  That's one too many, IMO, but that definitely bumps the Procurer out of the "most useless ship in EVE" competition for now.  I'll have to think of a new candidate... Iteron Mark I, probably.
  • Maximum Retriever ore hold is being nerfed slightly.  nbd.  Mack ore hold is also being nerfed a fair bit.  That's probably a good decision.  It was far too big.  And it looks like the Hulk might be getting a 5% per level mining yield bonus instead of 3%, which is a really good change.  That should push it past Mackinaw mining yield again.
  • Finally, the Skiff appears to be getting another bonus to... something?  Not sure what.  It looks like a per-Exhumer-level bonus, at least, which is good.
  • There's also various changes to the capacity of things, or the amount of space things take, particularly mining crystals which have always taken up too much space.  That's a very good thing!
EDIT (31/Jul/2012): Thanks to everyone that looked into it: looks like that mystery 5% bonus per level is going to be to shield resists.  That'll get the EM resistance of these boats out of 0% but is still going to make EMP ammo quite effective for ganking them.  In other words, in terms of making mining ops defensible, it's self-defeating.  One anonymous commenter said that CCP seems to be looking at these changes strictly through the lens of PvP effectiveness and hadn't bothered to check and see if these changes make them better mining ships.  I'm starting to think that comment was right on.

All in all, these are mostly good changes, particularly the Skiff drone bay, the Procurer mid slots, and the additional Hulk buff.  But dropping the T2 resists on all the Exhumers?  Uhhhh... WHY?  Again though... these changes are just a colorful little band-aid.  I await with interest some real changes to mining.

Thanks to everyone who pointed me at these additional updates!


(1) "DamageResonance" is the inverse of resists, so DamageResonance of 0.8 is 20% resistance, and DamageResonance of 1.0 is 0% resistance.

The most boring activity in EVE

One of the interesting changes coming in the Inferno 1.2 patch is kind of a surprise.  CCP is actually looking over the mess that is the current collection of Mining Barges and their T2 cousins, the Exhumers.  Each of them is finally getting a dedicated ore bay as well as a collection of other changes.  These changes were first hinted at back in June.  We're now seeing the specific changes on Singularity and they've also been pulled into a database dump summary.

EDIT (30/Jul/2012): There is an updated database dump.  Expect another post soon with any updates to this one.

First things first: this work is long overdue and better not be even close to the end of the story.  Still, it is a start and does recognize some of the issues with the current mining ships, notably their fragility.  It's no coincidence that every single one of them is getting massive HP buffs.  Hulkageddon V has done its evil work well.  ;-)

Let's look at the Hulk first.  The first thing that strikes me out of the gate is how little is being changed about it.  The Mining Barge bonuses and Exhumer bonuses are almost identical.  The only change is a 1% increase in speed per level to ice harvesting for the latter, increasing from 3% per level to 4% per level.  In short, a perfectly-skilled Exhumer pilot will mine ice about 5% faster with a Hulk after Inferno 1.2 than before.  This strikes me as kind of an odd change: the Hulk is supposed to be the highest yield mining barge.  More on that in a second.  The Hulk should have been given the Mack's 5% per level increase.  Its mining yield for ore is unchanged.  That also should have been bumped slightly, to 4% per level.

On paper, its capacity is also unchanged, but that's not accurate.  The carrying capacity of the Hulk is actually being nerfed.  Instead of a single 8000m3 cargo bay, it receives a 500m3 cargo bay and a 7500m3 ore bay.  This makes all the cargo-fit Hulks out there more or less useless: cargo expanders and the like don't work on specialty bays.  All of those Hulk pilots fitting tech 2 cargo rigs are going to be unhappy.

Armor and shield are being roughly doubled, but this is going to have little impact.  A well-tanked Hulk can already stand up to several destroyers or a single battle cruiser.  A poorly-tanked Hulk cannot.  And it looks like this will continue to be the case, with one exception: Hulks with any tank at all will now probably be out of reach for suicide-ganking by a single arty Hurricane.  You'll have to use a Tornado.

All in all, I'd rate the changes to the Hulk as a net negative: it's a better ice miner than it was, with slightly better defenses.  But the effective nerf in capacity is going to make a lot of Hulk pilots grumble, particularly since its ore mining yield is unchanged.  Of the six ships affected, the Hulk comes out of these changes the worst off.

Suggested change: increase mining yield to 4% per level, increase ice yield to 5% per level.

The Covetor (the T1 variant of the Hulk) received similar updates to the Hulk in shield and armor, as well as a small buff to structure as well.  However, strangely enough the Covetor did receive an increase to mining yield, from 3% per level to 4% per level.  It also received an ice mining bonus that it didn't have before.  The ship's anemic CPU output is being increased by more than 25%, from 200 to 255 base.  Best of all, its cargo capacity has received a significant increase.  Though the cargo bay itself is being reduced from 4000m3 to 500m3 like its T2 variant, its ore hold will be 7000m3, a significant buff.

Overall, the Covetor comes out of these changes to mining ships in pretty good shape.  Still, there's one more obvious change that should have been made that anyone who's actually flown a Covetor will tell you about right off.  The Covetor's base shield resists, like all the T1 mining barges, are ridiculously poor and of all the mining barges, the Covetor should have this problem corrected.

Suggested change: increase mid slots from one to two.

Let's move on to the Mackinaw.  Though the Skiff comes out of these changes as "most improved," (more on that in a second), the "Mack" is pretty clearly the winner of this change.  The Mack loses its 3% yield bonus per mining barge level in favor of a 10% bonus to ore hold capacity per level.  Given that it has a 25000m3 ore hold by default, a 50% bonus here is hugely significant.  It instantly makes the Mack one of the best ore haulers in New Eden, outstripping nearly every T1 and T2 hauler and rivaling the ore hold capacity of the Orca!  That's a major change.

And the mining yield bonus isn't going far: the ship picks up a 50% bonus to Strip Miner yield as well as a 1% per level bonus.  That is mated to a 35% increase in CPU and an additional low slot!  I'm not 100% confident of my math yet, but I think this is going to prove a miscalculation on CCP's part.  It's quite possible that with Mining Upgrades mods and a smart fitting, the Mack is going to be superior to the Hulk in both capacity and mining yield, which we know wasn't CCP's intent.  We'll have to see what the EFT warriors out there come up with.

The ice yield is also being changed.  Instead of taking 25% longer (-5% per Exhumer level) to produce a doubled yield, the yield bonus seems to have been removed entirely and instead the duration is reduced by one-third.  A small per-level Exhumer bonus is then tacked onto this.  Again, I'm not confident in my math yet, but even with the additional CPU, low slot, and ice mining rig, I think this is going to result in a fairly large net loss of ice mining yield.  Still, the massive cargo hold will make up for a lot of this.  Ironically enough, I think we're going to see even more ice mining bots and AFK ice miners out there.

The Mack receives almost quadruple increases to shields, armor, and structure.  With its T2 resists, it's going to be a tough little boat going forward though still not anything close to even a battle cruiser tank.  Its sig radius is being doubled in size and therefore, it should continue to be quite gankable by Tornados.  The big surprise for me on the Mack is how little difference a high Exhumers skill is going to matter when flying it.  There are a lot of Exhumers V pilots out there that rely on the current Mack bonus to make them more efficient.  Losing that is probably going to make them rather unhappy that they spent all that training time on Exhumers V.

Suggested change: move more of the yield bonuses for the Mack from role bonuses to level bonuses.

The T1 version of the Mack, the Retriever, is renowned for being a thin piece of tin foil wrapped around two Strip Miners... no longer.  It is receiving nearly a ten-fold increase to shield capacity and nearly a five-fold increase in armor!  It's also receiving the doubled sig radius of its T2 version and as a result, BCs will continue to have little trouble blapping it.  Still, being in the Hulkageddon "Junior League" is going to be more expensive.  Right now, it's laughably easy to blap multiple Retrievers with a single destroyer.  It's going to take a bit more to finish one now.

The good news doesn't stop there.  The Retriever is receiving a 20000m3 ore hold, the 10% per level bonus to the ore hold per mining barge level, and the same yield bonuses as its T2 version.  The Retriever was already an extremely popular mid-level mining boat before all these changes.  It's only going to be more so now.  I suspect we're going to be seeing more Retrievers out there than any other single mining ship.

Suggested change: nerf it a bit.  I think the Retriever's going to end up being too good.

I once described the Procurer as the most useless ship in EVE (an Osprey can out-mine it right now), and its T2 variant the Skiff wasn't much better.  These two ships get the "most improved" award.  Let's start with the Skiff.  Shield capacity is being hugely increased, almost a base ten-fold increase, and the ship is losing a yield bonus in favor of a shield hit-point bonus.  Grid is also being increased from 35 to 50.  That combined with the new MAPC2 module is going to make double-MSE fit Skiffs trivial.  The ship is being given an additional mid-slot to help with that sort of fitting.  CPU is also getting an 82 point increase.  That makes the following fit quite easy:

[Skiff, Starter]
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II
Mining Laser Upgrade II

Medium Shield Extender II
Medium Shield Extender II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Limited 'Anointed' EM Ward Field

Modulated Strip Miner II, Veldspar Mining Crystal II

Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I


That means a ship with 79% average resists and about 10500 shield hit points before fleet bonuses.  That's about the buffer tank of a typical PvP-fit Sleipnir, with about a 25% smaller sig than a Sleipnir.

Net: Skiffs are going to be able to take a lot of punishment.

Will they be gankable?  Certainly.  But in higher high-sec systems, it's going to take several Tornadoes to do it in a single volley... probably six or so depending on exact fittings.  Even more interestingly, that's beefy enough that I'd consider it a "reppable" tank.  It's not going to fold up at the first sign of abuse and if smartly defended might even escape from a surprise covert cyno gank fleet in low- or null-sec.  It only takes the ship 8.5 seconds to align off for warp, which is also about the equal of a Sleip.  All in all, it's pretty impressive!

The fun doesn't stop there: mining output from the single Strip Miner is tripled, and ice mining is given a similar yield bonus.  This means that the Skiff will still be the worst miner of the bunch, but it won't be that far behind the pack.  The ore hold is 17500m3, which is more than double the size of what a Hulk has today.  It's quite ample.

All of this opens up all sorts of fun possibilities.  I can easily see Skiffs routinely brought in to handle Lyavite mining in Incursion sites, for instance.  I suspect a smartly-tanked and prop-modded Skiff will be able to come right in with the rest of a fleet, motor to the Lyavite and start mining right away and not have to worry too much about the Incursion rats.  The grid and mining buffs also make it ideal for quick insertions into W-space.  The Skiff also puts Mining agents on the map.  Traveling in a Skiff isn't too horrible.

So yeah, call the Skiff most improved by a long way.  We're going to see a lot of them built and bought in the coming months.  They're going to be quite common by Hulkageddon VI.

Suggested change: give it a full size 25m3 drone bay.  That 15m3 one is just silly.

What about the Procurer, the most useless ship in EVE?  It doesn't come off nearly as well as the Skiff.  Without the T2 resists or mid-slots, it gives up most of the advantages of its T2 variant.  It gets a small grid buff, but without mid slots there isn't much to spend the extra grid on.  It does get the yield buffs which at least means the Osprey will no longer be out-mining it.

Still, with all of its myriad disadvantages I can't see much reason to fly it.  The Retriever is still a better call in any circumstances I can think of.  The Procurer retains its title as the most useless ship in New Eden, I'm afraid...

Suggested change: give it another mid slot.  Maybe even two more mid slots.  It has fewer slots total than a freakin' noob ship, for Heaven's sake!

Whew!  That post went on longer than I expected it to.  Overall, call me mildly optimistic about these changes.  I'm a bit disappointed that the Hulk didn't come out better than it did, and I think the Mack and Retriever are a bit OP (but maybe my math's just wrong).  But adding the ore bays to these ships is long overdue, and it's nice to see that CCP is finally starting to take the "Harvest" part of this game seriously.

But before I close up, let's make sure the elephant in the room isn't forgotten, everyone.  MINING IS THE MOST BORING ACTIVITY IN EVE!  You've put an interesting and colorful band-aid on this sucking chest wound, CCP.  Thank you for doing it and it's a good first step.  It might even distract a few people for a couple of months.  But now it's time to address the real problems here, m'kay?  Get on it.  ;-)

Quote of the Week: About damned time!

There's really only one thing to choose for the QOTW:
Ships that self-destruct whilst under aggression will now generate a regular kill-report.
And there's only one thing we say about that: about damned time!  That only took about five years to make happen, heh.  8 August can now not come fast enough.

That said, I think we can expect one unintended consequence of this one.  I know there's a class of EVE player out there that will only commit their super or capital ship today because they know their opponents won't or don't commit enough DPS to kill them in 120 seconds.  This class of player will now likely no longer commit their super or capital ship.  You know who you are.  As a result, we'll see a smaller number of small-scale capital ship engagements.

That's it, though: one small down-side in what is otherwise a long-awaited positive change.  Needless to say, the thread for this change is now up to nine pages of "thank you, CCP!" as I write this.

This change does suggest a second, related change: CCP, how about making the self-destruct timer 60 seconds instead of two minutes?  Sixty seconds is the traditional length of time for this, after all...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Commitment

Out in Iceland, you can't hear it, but CCP is breathing a collective sigh of relief.  This whole summer is a demonstration of how good David Reid, CCP's Chief Marketing Officer, is at his job.

Fair warning: you're about to read one of those posts that gets me yelled at.  Buckle up.

A year ago tomorrow, I wrote a little post that I called "Reinforced".  Go give it a read.  I'll wait.

Bit like waking up from a dream, isn't it?  Bet you forgot about that whole "Jita riots" thing.  And that whole "Greed is good" thing.  And that whole $99 commercial licenses thing.  And that whole forums thing.  And the Scorpion for Aurum thing.  And the "Door" thing.  And the space-pants thing.  All that stuff was only a year ago.  Only a year.  The EVE Online tower was reinforced.  But the battle was won and it's been saved, repped up, and is now operating more or less normally.  July is passing quietly, the anniversary of the Jita riots unmarked.

Which is funny to me, because conditions this summer are nearly identical to the conditions last summer.  CCP is just handling it about twenty times better than they did last year.  Their communications and marketing strategies are working wonderfully.

Don't believe me?  Consider: CCP is currently in another :18months: cycle.  They're committed to their current development direction... and that development direction has almost nothing to do with spaceships.  Oh sure, there's some "tiericide" going on, a few new mods, mining barges are getting tweaked, we're going to see a new mining frigate, and factional warfare got a nice unintended bump.  But the age of the "Jesus feature" is over, remember?  So we're not seeing new capital ships, new tech three ships or mods, no wormholes or incursions or new missions, only the slightest modifications to the horribly broken T2 production cycle...  Unless the CSM Summit Minutes reveal some remarkable new strategy, there's nothing major coming down the Pike.

...except DUST 514.  You know... space-barbies and space-pants... paid for with Aurum.  Heavily armored and heavily armed space-barbies and space-pants, to be sure.  But they're not exactly spaceship-shaped.

Meanwhile, everything that's happening in EVE is really not much more than well-excecuted smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that the Kama Sutra position 43 is exactly the same as position 42, except with pinkies extended.

But the EVE player base is just fine with that.  One guy on Failheap even said that the minor Inferno patch coming on 8 August is better than what we got from Incarna and Tyrannis... put together.  If that's not a good demonstration of good communications and marketing, I don't know what is.

Check out this Gamasutra article featuring an interview with Jon Lander aka CCP Unifex, another really smart guy.  Again, I'll wait.

It's kind of an interesting article in this context, isn't it?  Check out this quote in particular:
And even though some players have criticized aspects of Inferno, says Lander, "participation goes up, because it's not about giving players a feature to play through; it's about giving them tools to do their own stories."
It's a really smart insight into what makes EVE EVE.  As I've said before, the players are the content.

I'm not sure I have a point to all of this -- that's why I'm going to get yelled at.  And I'm not feeling negative about the game at all.  Quite the contrary, I'm as charged up about EVE and EVE's future as I've ever been.  Guess I'm just as committed as CCP is.  ;-)  But it's really fascinating to me how little there is that is concrete for that feeling to rest on.  Others are certainly feeling differently about it.  EVE News 24... you know... EVE News 24... has said that they're going to start covering games other than EVE.  Because they feel like EVE is stagnating.

I think it's wrong to call it that, and I've written as much.  But certainly, a lot of the EVE community is hanging out, watching, and waiting to see "what comes next" with this game.  Same as they were last year.  But they're a lot quieter and more relaxed about it than they were at this time a year ago, even though conditions haven't changed all that much.

How long will that commitment last?

That's just the way it is

I apologize in advance: this one's going to come off sounding like a bit of a rant.

I find myself increasingly losing patience with some of the things we've all just come to accept in EVE Online as "that's just the way it is."  It doesn't have to be.  Most of these things are quite easy to fix or to change.  Almost nobody wants these things to be the way they are.  But everyone involved from the developers to the players has come to accept them and not even really think about them any more.

Problem is that I've been trying to introduce new players to the game here and there, and many of them see and laugh at these quirks... or more often, include them in lists of reasons why they stop playing.  So I thought I'd list some of them and ask why they are the way they are.

As you read these things, just realize that we accept all of these things.  Why do we accept them?  Are there good reasons for them?

Why does autopilot drop you 10km from the gate you wish to go through?  The only reason I can think of is so that other people get a full four or five minutes to scan your cargo and see if they want to suicide-gank you.  Wouldn't it be nice if these people had to develop some actual EVE-playing skill?  It's funny how many macros have sprung up over the years to avoid this.

Similarly, I am apparently one of the few mutants that flies strategic cruisers without using an eject macro to prevent skill-point loss.  Is there still a good reason for this loss?

Similar to that one, why doesn't the game automatically ask you if you wish to upgrade your clone after you get podded?  The only reason I can think of not to is to punish drunk people and forgetful people.  Is EVE deliberately trying to chase off such people, or is it a sociology experiment to determine how many times the same player will retrain the same skill?

I have a high-sec POS.  This means I have to buy Starbase Charters from the Loyalty Point store.  But I can only buy them one hundred at a time.  When I buy them, I buy 5000 of them.  That means I have to click a little "Accept" button fifty times.  God help you if you want to buy Navy Cap Boosters in any quantity.  Again, there are readily-available macros to help you avoid RSI from that click-fest.

I've asked this one before, but it bears repeating: why is my ability to put up a high-sec POS limited by the pilots in my corporation that the Empires hate?  Isn't this a bit like Mexico refusing to let Ford build a factory there because a Ford janitor said something mean about Mexico once?

Another one I've asked before: why can I bribe CONCORD and the Empire navies to look the other way while I shoot some dude in high-sec (war-decs) but I can't bring my -10 security status character into high-sec and bribe them to look the other way while I don't?

Why does character security status exist at all?  If EVE is a dark, cold universe, can't we all just assume that EVE is a dark, cold universe all the time?

Why can't I put a bounty on anyone I wish to?

Why must I look at every single PI extractor on every single planet on every single character I have, one at a time?  Why doesn't the game allow me to right click on a PI planet and select "Restart all extractors"?  Yes, I realize that means I might lose a tiny bit of efficiency here and there.

Why is the only ship that can carry other ships in an SMA in high-sec a mining support ship?  Specifically: why must I train mining skills to fly it?  You would think there would be an industrial ship that could do this by now.

I tried to introduce a new player to the game.  He quit after a week, then started ranting about a variety of new player topics.  He kind of amused me with this one: "During the tutorial, why does the game give me a weapon that can shoot a maximum of five kilometers, then give me a slow spaceship... and then put the spawn points 40 kilometers away from me?"

Then he started ranting about how all the things he needed to buy to fit his ship to complete the tutorial missions were only for sale ten jumps away from the tutorial missions.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that longer-term EVE players think of ten jumps as "a short trip."  I also didn't have the heart to tell him the market he was looking to buy these things from was way more expensive than longer-distance alternatives.(1)

Why oh why can we select a large block of different items, and reprocess them, trash them, repackage them, move them, or contract them... but we still can't sell them?

Similar: why must I buy every piece of a ship fitting separately?  Wouldn't it be cool if you could just drag a ship fitting into a market window somewhere and the game just asked you "This ship and fitting will cost 31.7 million ISK in this market.  Buy it?"

When I have 100 items for sale on the market, why must I individually right click each one and select "View market details" to see if I'm selling it for the lowest price for that item?  Wouldn't it be kind of cool if I could get a display of those 100 items, what I'm selling them for, what market I'm selling them at, and what the lowest price is for that item at that market?

If I select "sell item", then "advanced", why doesn't the game just go ahead and assume that I'd like to beat the lowest price on that market and set that as my default price?  Where does the price it selects come from?

When something is for sale on contract only in Jita, why can't I just accept the contract from another region?  Is there a good reason for this?

And finally, the grand-daddy: why must we all have Jita alts?  Is there a good reason for me not to be able to look at what prices are in any market I choose?

Answer to all of the above: that's just the way it is.

I'm sure I've missed a lot of these.  Weekend homework assignment: what are your biggest "that's just the way it is" pet peeves with EVE?  Discuss.

EDIT (28/Jul/2012): Lots of comments, which is not surprising.  SerpentineLogic probably has my favorite so far: why must we wait 24 hours between clone jumps?!?  The blog post proposes a new skill to shorten the time between jumps.  I propose just nuking the wait time.  What reason is there for it at all?  Great comments, everyone!


(1) He created a Minmatar character.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Alliance Tournament training is like

And now, my last post in this series.  What is training for the Alliance Tournament like?  Again, it's not something that I've ever seen anyone blog about.  Sure, there were the posts last year about how Hydra and Outbreak conspired to both win and take second place in AT9.  And that was great reading, but it was written from the perspective of whole alliances, not individual players.  What is it like for the individual pilot?  I've done it a few times now with different alliances so I feel like this is something I can tell you about.

As I sometimes do, I'm going to have a little fun with this and give you a lot of relevant quotes from one of my favorite bad movies, Iron Eagle.  Starting with...

Doug Masters: I'm just saying I'm ready for this.  You're ready, aren't you Chap?
Chappy Sinclair: You think it's gonna be so easy, don't you?
Doug Masters: No, I don't think it's gonna be all that easy.  I'm just saying I'm ready for it, that's all.
Chappy Sinclair: You ain't ready for shit, boy!

IT'S HARD WORK.  First things first: training for the AT is like training for any other competition.  It is hard work, requiring dedication and long hours.  I put literally hundreds of hours into AT10, on tasks as diverse as:
  • arguing on theory-crafting and fleet comps;
  • building hundreds and hundreds of ships on Singularity;
  • walking other team members through Sisi installation problems;
  • scanning down wormholes (where we did some of our early training);
  • planting POSes and moving ships around;
  • creating corp offices all over New Eden so we'd have lots of places to practice in outside of WHs;
  • going over the results of past Alliance Tournament matches;
  • devising pieces and parts of our team's strategy;
  • spying on competing teams; and, oh yeah,
  • actually practicing flying comps and arguing over how good or bad they were.
It's exhausting.  It's as simple as that.  Done properly, training for the Alliance Tournament is a marathon.  It ain't easy, and anyone who tells you it is either didn't work hard enough or is lying.

Related, IT'S AN ENORMOUS TIME SINK.  Done properly, don't expect to get much else done with your free time during AT season.  I haven't played another video game for at least two or three months.  This means I have no idea of any updates to DUST 514 since then; I'll be checking back into that this weekend.

Related to that, IT'S A STRAIN ON YOUR REAL LIFE.  Before I signed up to be a member of Rote's AT team, I sat down with those close to me and explained what the impact would be.  I wasn't going to proceed on this without strong RL support behind me.  Fortunately and obviously, I got it.  In particular, in the last month, either AT-related work/practices or trying to relax by flying on TQ fleets took up literally every weekend night and most Sunday nights as well.  Saturdays were still my own; my commitment only went so far, heh.

IT WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER PILOT.  That said, there are some definite up-sides, and this is one of them.  You're going to spend dozens of hours flying every type of ship you know how to fly.  You're going to learn the ships, you're going to know them.  You're going to learn what they can do, what they can't, and what they can take.  You're going to learn how your ship fits in with a small number of other ships, and how they work together.  Matter of fact, I'd say you learn more about EVE from ten hours of AT practice than you learn from a couple hundred hours of any other type of EVE play, PvP roams and solo roams included.

Doug Masters: What is it with you, Knotcher?  Can't you make it through a day without proving what an asshole you are?

THE TOURNAMENT WILL BRING A LOT OF BURIED ANNOYANCES TO THE SURFACE.  This is a big one.  If there are any sub-surface cracks in your alliance, the AT will expose them.  With so many of your alliance's biggest competitors involved in one aspect of play and all of them under tremendous pressure, the buried slights, annoyances, and hurt feelings will emerge every time.  A tourney captain of my acquaintance from another alliance would end practices by yelling at individual pilots about their flying... and then segue from there straight to berating them about things they'd done a year previously completely unrelated to the game.  Those shouting matches invariably led to nasty things said outside of practice on Teamspeak followed by nasty posts on the forums.  This is typical, unfortunately.  Even if you're not involved in your alliance's tourney team, you'll see all sorts of crap will be dredged up and then flung around like excrement coming off the rotary air-circulating device...

YOU WILL BE SPIED UPON.  Dear Heaven, will you be spied upon.  The moment "bubbles" of destroyed ships start appearing on Sisi come tournament time, ships will flock into the system to see what's up, what comps you're flying, and how you're flying them.  You wormhole alliances have an enormous advantage here.  It was no surprise to me whatsoever that so many WH alliances did so well in the tournament and that a WH alliance won it.  Of course, you might not have PL hot-dropping Titans onto your tournament practice, but you can bet you'll be messed with.

YOU WILL SUFFER ALL SORTS OF META-GAME ATROCITIES.  There's always a major bit of thievery that happens every year at AT time, and this year was apparently no exception, with Suddenly Spaceships having their entire AT liquid ISK fund stolen.  In addition to this and spying from outside your alliance, you'll have people trying to join your AT team that have no business there, people trying to listen in on practices, people trying to get you to talk about comps... it's just part of the process.  Don't let yourself get annoyed by it because...

YOU'LL GET TO INFLICT META-GAME ATROCITIES ON OTHERS.  And it's kind of amusing.  If you like tears, this is actually a pretty good way to gather them, even if you're not interested in the actual AT.  Just get in Sisi during AT training time, head for a bubble, and hang out in system.  I'm surprised that nobody seemed to try to sell intel on the open market this year.  I'm sure it happens.

Doug Masters: Chappy, what if I screw up?  What if everything goes wrong?
Chappy Sinclair: Then I'm gonna get real mad!  You ever see me get real mad?
Doug Masters: No.  And I wouldn't want to.

YOUR TEAM CAPTAIN WILL BE A HARD-ASS.  Hate to break it to you, but if your team captain isn't being a bit of a jerk, he isn't doing his job.  Alliances that even enter the AT are competitive by their very nature, and that doesn't happen by accident.  It happens because these alliances gather a lot of competitive types.  There are egos involved -- big ones -- and it takes a tough sort to stand on top of all of that and try to inflict some order on the chaos.  The good alliances will back their team captains up 100%, if the team captain isn't already an alliance executor.  And if you try to take that job and then be nice about it, you're just gonna get rolled.

Related, YOU AND YOUR TEAM-MATES WILL BE STUBBORN.  The more someone shows up for your AT practices, the more competitive he or she is.  The more competitive, the stronger the ego and the more stubborn that person is.  The two go hand-in-hand.  So, there are going to be lots of personality clashes.  Try not to take what happens in AT practices personally.  Remember that everyone is tense and under the same pressures you are.

IF YOU'RE LUCKY, YOUR CAPTAIN WILL ALSO LISTEN.  A good team captain has strong opinions, strong leadership skills, and a definite idea about the comps he wants and the pilots he wants to put into them.  But at the end of the day, a team is made up of a lot of different people and it's important to listen to all of them.  I've been on AT teams with both captains that listen and captains that don't.  The latter lose matches.  But that means that if you're working for the latter, you're going to have to do everything you can to make him start listening.

YOU WILL LEARN AN ABSOLUTE TON ABOUT SHIP FITTING AND SHIP ROLES.  I started out AT10 practices with what I thought was a pretty solid understanding of individual ship fitting and ship roles.  But I admitted that I was not a good choice to build fleet comps: I simply wasn't good at it.  By the end of several months of practice, I'd learned a lot more about cooperative ship fitting, the strengths of different ships vis a vis other ships in similar roles, and fleet compositions.  I even submitted a couple of comps that were well-received.  Though we didn't use them, another AT team did (coincidentally) use one of my comps, and won a finals match with it.

[watching Doug buzzing the motorcycle rider]
Reggie: Why don't you just land on the fool and get it over with?
Doug Masters: What's the matter, don't you feel like flying today?
Reggie: Oh flying yes... dying, no.

YOU'LL MAKE MISTAKES.  Oh, my will you.  You'll do dumb things so often that you'll wonder if you should be on your alliance's team at all.  But the trick is to learn from them, and not to repeat them.  Make dumb mistakes, learn from them, make all new dumb mistakes.  It all adds to your experience playing the game.

YOU'LL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH PRACTICE PARTNERS.  If your team is smart, they'll start practicing well in advance.  Hell, Rote started practicing in earnest a couple of months before the AT10 rules were even published, messing around with comps from AT9.  Once your major practices start, though, you'll never have enough people.  It must be nice to be a member of one of those big alliances that has dozens of people logged in at any given time that you can bully onto Sisi.  Rote never did, and I've never been in an alliance that did.  That's what I get for being a fan of smaller alliances, I guess.  Major props to ExodusDOT, who were our sparring partners this year!  Very cool guys.

YOUR COMPS WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS YOU THINK THEY ARE.  This one's just aggravating.  "You're only as good as your opponents" is a tried-and-true statement about gaming in general.  And nowhere in EVE is this more true than the Alliance Tournament.  It's no coincidence that every year, lots of teams gravitate to the same metas.  Everyone brings four or five or six or eight metas of their own to the AT, of course, but sooner or later one pops up that nobody else thought to practice against.  This year, I think it was Vindicators.  Given all the Bhaalgorn flagships, I don't think anyone gave Vindi comps a lot of thought... until other teams started winning with them.  Suddenly, everyone was flying them.

YOU'LL GAIN NEW RESPECT FOR YOUR TEAM-MATES AND THEIR FLYING.  All of this said, in a typical gang, you rarely have the opportunity to see how good or bad individual people are at this game.  Once your AT practices start, though, and you're put into a situation to watch and evaluate a small number of other pilots, you'll gain a great deal of respect for your alliance-mates and how good they are.  You'll learn fast who the good frigate pilots are, who the good Logistics pilots are, and who knows e-war like nobody's business.  It's terrific.

Doug Masters: Chappy, I got 'em, I got all three of the guns!
Chappy Sinclair: Yeah, but one of them got me.

YOU'RE GOING TO GET BLOWN UP.  A LOT.  If you have any residual fears about getting blown up, you're going to get over them.  There were practices with Rote where I got blown up ten or twelve times in a two-hour practice session.  I may never sit in a Sabre again.  ;-)

YOU'LL HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WIN WITH PARTIAL COMPS.
  During your practice sessions, you'll suffer bad luck.  Someone will make a mistake and get blown up right away.  Someone won't follow orders.  Someone won't have their ship fit correctly.  Oddly enough, these things happen in tournament matches too.  Sometimes it's obvious that a comp isn't working and you need to start over.  But a lot of times, you need to let a failed match run its course so you can see if the situation can be salvaged, or if there are other aspects to the comp that can be improved or built from.  And sooner or later, you'll have to bring partial versions of comps to fights and figure out how to win with them.

PEOPLE WILL BE ULTRA-CRITICAL OF YOUR FLYING.  As I've said a couple of times, if you're flying in AT practice matches, you're both good at this game and competitive.  If someone offers suggestions or criticism, constructive or otherwise, it's going to be tempting to dismiss it out of hand.  After all, you're already a great pilot or you wouldn't be there, right?  Trouble is that other people are smart too, and you have to try to divest yourself of your emotions about your own flying.  Try not to be defensive, listen to what they have to say, and judge their opinions on their merits, not emotions.  It's tough -- almost impossible -- to do.

ANY "TUNNEL VISION" YOU HAVE IN YOUR PILOTING STYLE WILL BE BURNED AWAY.  An alliance tournament match is ten minutes long, but often the critical part of the match starts and ends in just 90 seconds.  You have to have the maximum amount of information when it does.  If you have a tendency to get too focused on this or that part of the screen, you'll find yourself having to unlearn that tendency and put all the information you're being given to use.  Ranges, ammo types, ships near you and ships far away, what you're doing and what they're doing... all of it is important and even a single mistake in any of those factors can cost your team the match.

Chappy Sinclair: I want you to know now that you've got more courage than anyone I've ever met.  And you're gonna need every ounce of it to get through this thing.  Now listen: I'm proud to have been by your side, and whatever happens just remember we tried, and no one can take that away from us!

YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO HAVE ENOUGH ISK.  More and more every year, ISK is going to be a major factor in tournament matches.  Pandemic Legion spent more on the comp they used against us -- far more! -- than our entire AT budget.  But that's going to continue to escalate.  It cost Rote Kapelle's team more than 20 billion ISK just to ENTER the tournament.  Every match, we had to decide between 3% and 5% implants, and we never had particularly expensive ships, or super-expensive ammo or drones.  It was only through super-generous donations of our alliance members that we got as far as we did, and we always felt like we were going to run out of ISK at any second.  A lot of teams had no such restrictions...

YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO HAVE ENOUGH TIME.  "The perfect is the enemy of the good," as the saying goes.  You're always under time pressure during the tournament.  You'll constantly want to practice this or that comp just one more time.  And there won't be time enough to test against everything you want to test.  Sooner or later, you'll have to take it on faith that your comp can beat a Minnie Rush set-up that has three assault frigs instead of four Sabres...

YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE NIGHTMARES.  Once the tournament starts, you never get enough sleep.  At least one of your matches will be at a fabulously inconvenient time.  And you'll have spent so much time playing EVE by this point that it'll be hard to get it out of your brain.  You'll have recurring nightmares where something goes badly wrong with your fleet or your flying, and every time your computer locks up or your Internet connection acts up, you'll wonder if it's going to do this to you right when a tournament match starts.

YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE AN AWESOME TIME.  Practicing for the tournament is hard work, it's nerve-wracking, and it will be the source of all sorts of drama.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything: it's a damned good time.  Planting your alliance flag on someone else's face and saying "We're better than you" is probably the epitome of the EVE experience, don't you think?  And being able to do it where everyone who is interested can watch only enhances the experience.  I can't talk about how it feels to win one of these things yet... but I can hope.  ;-)


And unless "something happens", that's my last post about Alliance Tournament 10.  Hope they've been enjoyable, and hope they haven't been too boring for those of you who have no interest in this topic.  Things will get back to normal around here tomorrow.  For today, bring on next year!

EDIT (26/Jul/2012): This post originally stated that Shadow Cartel had its tournament fund stolen. It was Suddenly Spaceships, actually.  I regret the error.

Fit of the Week: Tourney Sentinel

Let's do one more Tournament fit, this time focusing on the Verge of Collapse Sentinel:

[Sentinel, Tourney Sentinel]
Damage Control II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II
Overdrive Injector System II

Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Tracking Speed Disruption Script
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Tracking Speed Disruption Script

Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Small Diminishing Power System Drain I
Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Egress Port Maximizer I

Warrior II x4
Hornet EC-300 x4
Hornet EC-300 x4


As I've already said, I'm a big fan of this ship.  Electronic Attack Frigates are so underestimated in their capabilities, and none more than the Sentinel.  Back in October when I put together my list of "best in class" for each ship class, I chose the Sentinel as the best of the EAFs, describing it as "death in a tiny package."(1)

That said, you can't actually fly the EAFs on TQ most of the time: they're too fragile.  One volley from a HAC or other cruiser-size ship will do in an EAF.  And as fast as most cruisers lock, they're more than capable of delivering that volley.  The Sentinel suffers this problem most of all, being theoretically an armor-tanking ship with only three low slots.  And if you shield tank one?  Forget about it.  So hopefully the EAFs will be getting a buff at some point.  It's no coincidence that they are among the least-used ships in the game.

Still, in the tournament setting, the Sentinel is pretty freakin' scary, and Verge of Collapse's fit demonstrates a lot of reasons why.  The tank is non-existent, of course, and it's horribly vulnerable to being lasered into ash.  But two of these little monsters are capable of neuting out a Scimitar or Oneiros in less than 30 seconds.  And one of them can knock the tracking of a perfectly-skilled Kronos pilot from 0.067 to 0.011, or that of a perfectly-skilled Vargur pilot from 0.094 to 0.015.

It's no wonder we and Hun lost our matches against VoC.  ;-)

A small amount of DPS is provided by four light drones, but don't count on it.  I can tell you from experience those four drones can't even kill a T1 frigate by themselves.  The Sentinel is much more useful as a repository for multiple flights of Hornet ECs which can make an adversary's day a lot more annoying if he isn't paying attention.

When I get around to writing the Best in Class post for 2012, I suspect the Sentinel will continue to be my pick for best EAF.  It's an annoying little bastard to deal with, and it's likely we'll see more of them in AT11.


(1) It's interesting to me how many of the choices I made in this post I'd change today.  I think I'll do a "Best in class" post every year in October.  Note to self.


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, July 24, 2012

What an Alliance Tournament match is like

A couple more posts in my AT series to go.  Since I've never seen this written about, I thought it might be interesting for those of you who have never been in an AT match to know some of what it's like.  All times are relative to the actual match broadcast (and scheduled) time.  So T-5 minutes is five minutes prior to the broadcast time.

T-4 days (if you're lucky).  You learn when your next AT match is going to be.  It might or might not be in a TZ that's convenient to you, so if you're smart, you'll start planning your sleep schedule well in advance.  This time is full of practicing comps, running intel on your opponents to find out what types of ships their key pilots can fly, and consulting the crystal ball to determine what comp they might bring against you.  Trade cell phone numbers with your other team-mates, if you haven't already.

T-2 days.  The real worrying begins.  By this time, you've got a pretty good idea of whether you're going to be on your alliance's team for the match that weekend or not.  Plan out your jump clone timer so you'll be in at AT-legal clone (no pirate implants or the like).  Start worrying about playing EVE in front of 10,000 hard-core EVE fans who will be watching to see if you make mistakes.  Have a sleepless night or three dominated by EVE-related nightmares.  Practicing, practicing, and yet more practicing.  Around this time, your team captain will make the final decision about which comp you've been practicing you'll actually be using.

T-24 hours.  Confirm you'll be in the proper clone come match time.  Final practices.  By this time, you'll probably have a pretty good idea of what ship you're going to be flying.  Try to calm down team-mates (and yourself).  Final second-guessing of this mod over that mod, this warp-in distance over that warp-in distance.  Most likely around this time, you'll forget to do something important because all of your brain's CPU cycles are taken up with AT business.

T-12 hours (if you're lucky).  Your team's logistics guy is moving ships, fittings, implants, and ammo around.  Hopefully he's done a good bit of this already because some ship types, implants, and the like have been completely bought out for days, weeks, or months.  For everyone else, try to sleep the night before the match without having a recurring dream about your guns burning out after only one overheat cycle.

T-4 hours (if you're lucky).  Wake up before your match time.  Realize that pretty soon, a lot of people are going to get first-hand knowledge of how bad you are at this game.  Contemplate faking a family emergency of some sort to get out of it.  Realize that you can't let your team-mates down.  Get on alliance Teamspeak, Mumble, or the like and exchange bleary good-mornings with them.  If you're smart, get something to eat at this time.  Get pilot to the proper station where your team will be forming up and get docked up.

T-3 hours.  Realize some critical member of your team can't wake up from recurring nightmare where the match starts and he can't move his ship.  Use previously-traded cell phone number to wake him up.  Second-guess drone layout, use (or not) of ECCM, and warp-in distances (again) with team-mates.  Try to talk about something non-EVE related.  If you're lucky, watch other AT matches to take your mind off your own.  Make an ill-considered bet on one of these matches.  Lose ISK.  Hope that this isn't an omen.

T-2 hours.  If you're dumb, get something to eat at this time.  The team captain will start gathering the people he wants into a separate channel on Teamspeak or Mumble at about this time.  Ships will begin to be distributed.  Hopefully, they're fitted correctly and have the necessary implants in the cargo hold.  Final discussion of general match tactics, plus a bit more second-guessing about this or that fit.  The shakes start.

T-1 hour.  Re-gather with the rest of the alliance.  Good-natured ribbing and good lucks exchanged.  Any alliance rituals around securing good luck from the gods performed.  Final chance to go AFK for a few minutes if you need to (if you're smart, you will).  If you're smart, let anyone around you IRL know that you're not to be disturbed for the next two hours.  Move to either a hidden TS channel, or someone else's TS entirely, to avoid DDoS attacks.  The shakes ease up.

T-45 minutes.  Final check of ship, fitting, ammo, drones, implants, and the like.  The shakes restart.  Fleet formed and invitations sent.  Roles within the fleet are assigned, both in-game (FC, WC, etc.) and out-of-game (lead FC, frigate FC, e-war FC).  Roles of each ship covered one more time.  In Rote Kapelle, much discussion about the ship naming convention for the match and who gets this or that ship name.

T-30 minutes.  Your team captain is contacted by a CCP GM.  Good-natured jokes and/or pornography exchanged.  One GM asked us if we were ready to drink the blood of our enemies.  If someone asks if you're a god, etc. etc.  GM runs some sort of automated script that checks over each ship and clone for anything illegal.  He informs your team captain of anything that must be removed or changed.  Your team captain informs the GM of which of four beacons you'd like to be teleported to.  The shakes ease up.

T-20 minutes.  Close down any superfluous programs running on your computer.  Hope that computer and internet connection will behave during the match.  The match right before yours starts.  Someone on your team will have a laptop or something open and will relay what's going on in that match.  Someone on your team will make everyone nervous by insisting again that everyone look over fittings, ammo, or something.  Some spy will show up in Local hoping that one of your team ships will undock.  Uncontrollable urge to go AFK for a minute comes up and is suppressed (or not).

T-12 minutes.  You and your team-mates are teleported instantly from being docked in station to a line of ships in space somewhere in Jove space.  It's actually kinda strange-feeling.  You're in space, and you didn't do it.  Nearby will be a GM frigate, weirdly only sometimes that of the GM your team captain has been talking to.  In Local will be your team-mates, a handful of CCP personnel, and a number of "EVETV Cameras".  On your Overview will be your team-mates, the GM ship, six "Battle Arenas" and eight "Team" beacons, four for each team.  The closest Battle Arena is 18.4 AU away.  Closest enemy team becaon is 23.1 AU away, so there's no point even trying to scan for them.  First chance for a good screen-shot.

T-10 minutes.  CCP Sreegs starts talking in Local, warning you against smack-talk.  He says he'll tell you which of the six "Battle Arena" beacons to warp to, and that you'll have 60 seconds to do it or face penalties.  Final instructions from your team captain.  Count up the number of neutrals in Local to see how many ships they brought.  Make educated guesses about who their FC is and who might be flying their Logistics ship.

T-8 minutes.  CCP Sreegs gives you the warp-to.  Fleet gets into warp at their proper ranges.  Someone (unnecessarily, as it turns out) warns you not to move when you land.  First scans of enemy team give you an indication of what you're going to be fighting.  Shuffling of fleet bonuses if needed happens.  You land and get your first look at your opponents, ships, distances, and angle.  Final instructions from your FC about specific tactics and primary target.  Final instructions from the e-war and frigate FCs about tactics.  Used to be that you could try to move during this period and you'd get half of shield, armor, and structure taken away as a penalty.  Today, rumor has it you can't move even if you want to (I didn't try).  Second chance for a good screen-shot.

T-7 minutes.  Spend a few minutes listening to your team captain, frigate FC and e-war FC giving final instructions.  Stare at the opposing team.  Hope for them to die (in game, of course).  Brief discussion of where you should have warped in.  Try not to think about how many people are watching the match.

T-5 minutes.  Match begins.  Yes, it really does begin about five minutes before you see it broadcast most of the time.  By the time you're watching the match, the match is pretty much over a lot of times.  You implement your plan.  The enemy implements theirs.  You see who comes out on top.  If there's something goofy about your ship (you're carrying ten drones in your Ishkur when you only have enough skill to carry nine, for instance), this is the first moment you find out about it.  The Ishkur pilot in question (not in Rote) found himself paralyzed, unable to move, and died almost instantly.  Forget that people are watching the match (really!).

T-2 minutes.  PvP like any other PvP, surprisingly enough.  Once you're in it, you don't think about the fact that it's an AT match.  If you come up for air at all, you're surprised at how fast the time goes.  The minutes flash by very quickly unless you're in an ASB reload cycle, in which case one minute is a life-age of the Earth.

T+0 minutes.  By this time, the match is probably decided, if not over.  You're too busy to take screen shots, or you're in a pod.  If you're in a pod, you're paralyzed, but you can't be killed or smart-bombed.  The latter is actually pretty cool.  If you're alive, hopefully you're killing stuff.  If you're dead, hopefully you're passing useful information to the people who aren't.  For instance, when I died in our second match, I spent the rest of the match calling out which enemy ship hardeners were still working for our Curse pilot.  Might be a good chance for a screen-shot, depending.

T+2 minutes or so.  Match ends.  If your ship is alive, no matter how much actual time is left on the clock, you only have about 30 seconds to loot wrecks.  Used to be you got the full ten minute match length to do this.  Today, you don't.  So if you see a team pull damage from their vanquished foes late in the match, this is why they did it.  Exchange "gfs" with your oppoents (or not).  You can restart your browser and watch most of your own match if you want.  Last chance for a good screen-shot.  Meanwhile, 30 seconds after the last ship on one side or the other dies or 30 seconds after the ten minute match length ends, your ship or pod are teleported instantly back to your previous location.

T+3 minutes.  Get back on main alliance TS or Mumble.  Find yourself warned sternly not to spoil the ending to the match, heh.  Try not to.  The shakes return.  Listen to your alliance-mates cheer you on (or not).

T+8 minutes or so.  Accept the congratulations or condolences of your alliance-mates, as appropriate.  Post-fight briefing.  Start again at the top for your next match (if you're lucky).

And that's it.  I think I covered it all.  ;-)  Final post in this series: what training for the Alliance Tournament is like.  I'll probably go ahead and wait until tomorrow to publish it.

Picture of the Week: Mustache

OK, this is hilarious (click to embiggen):


Thanks to Aiden Mourn for pointing me at it.  For the record, I'm also a facial hair aficionado.  I sure wouldn't bet my beard on an AT match.

About that Pandemic Legion comp

From ISD, the wrap-up of our match against Pandemic Legion:
Rote Kapelle [STUGH] defeats Pandemic Legion [-10.0] 95 to 52 points in one of ATX's most exciting matches.

[STUGH] appeared on field with a standard Minmatar rush squad while PL brought the most expensive squad yet of the tournament featuring their flagship Bhaalgorn as well as 4 Malices, the AT9 prize frigate.

The match began as a rush towards the PL flagship which soon fell, after which PL spent the majority of the fight kiting and picking off whatever they could with their frigates.

Apathetic Brent of [STUGH] explains that their setup did "5361 DPS before overheating," which was enough to take down the PL Bhaalgorns, after which "what did they have left?" "We tried to kill the Malices but they are too well tanked and too fast."  When asked about their strategy he says that while [STUGH] had focused in previous matches on "finesse setups" they decided "to stop fencing and pull out a chainsaw."  A strategy which very much worked in their favour.

Elise Randolph of PL says that knowing [STUGH] "required a win, they decided to field a very strong team."  While they were successful in destroying the [STUGH] Scimitar early on, with their Bhaalgorns lost it was a race to eat through the ancillary shield boosted Sleipnirs, which they were unable to do.  She concludes saying, "we'll get back to testing this week, polish up our strong setups and see where that takes us."

Apathetic Brent end with the statement, "Rote Kapelle – No Boundaries" in reference to their previous match in which suffered numerous boundary violations.
For me, the single image I'll always remember about Alliance Tournament X is this one:


PL brought overwhelming, massive force against the exact wrong thing.  Why oh why oh why did Pandemic Legion bring that comp against us?  I've seen that question asked again and again.  PL has been characteristically quiet about it.  I have a theory.  It's kind of a funny story.

After our very first match against PERCUSSIVE PIZZA TIME DIPLOMACY, I said:
For the record, Rote's first comp did exactly what we wanted it to do.  In any way you think it didn't.
Poetic Stanziel said of our matches right before the PL match:
Rote is already known for being shy at the start of their engagements. I'm sure Pandemic will bring something to exploit that tendency.
I'm here to tell you right now: that was deliberate.  Why did PL bring that comp?  I can only guess.  But they were spying on many of our practices, and every time they saw us practicing, we were practicing a quite different comp than what we eventually brought: Bhaalgorn, 2x Oracle, 2x Curse, 2x Ishkur, 4x Merlin, 1x Oneiros.  That's 12 ships for 100 points.  We even had a name for the comp: Vamp-Scorch.  Did we ever field it?

Nope.  But we sure made it look like we might field it!

After all, look at our first six-man comp.  There's a Bhaalgorn and Oracle and Curse, right there.  We were shy about engaging, right?  We kept using finesse comps and kept kiting, right?  We did everything possible to convince PL that was the case.  Every match, we showed up with damp Merlins and finesse e-war.  Everyone else had a Bhaalgorn flagship and we kept hoping that nobody would notice that we didn't.  And we bided our time, and waited for the right moment to pivot to our front foot and do something completely different... something lots more aggressive.  Something more in tune with our actual flagship, in other words.

When would it be time to stop fencing and pick up a chainsaw?  The moment we saw we drew PL in our group.  We really wanted to beat PL.

Things almost came apart for us after the RvB match we lost.  But it had one rather interesting side-effect: we got a night when we weren't being watched by PL.  At all.  The whole team came together and we convinced our team captain that it was time to stop fencing.  So we took the opportunity, the night before our PL match, to get in some practice with the Execution comp while we had a whole system on Sisi to ourselves.  But the damn plan almost came apart right there!  Toward the end of one of our practices with Exodus (our sparring partners this year), we were in that comp wrapping up a fight when a PL spy appeared in Local.

"Wrap it up!" our FC said, "Pop wrecks!  Back to station!"  The last thing we wanted PL to see was us in something other than Bhaalgorn, Curse, Oracle, Oneiros.  We'd won the last sparring match in the Execution comp, but I said "Someone say 'Rote white flag' in Local!  Quick!  Quick!  Rote white flag!"  We'd been showing PL spies a lot of that, too.  Someone got it typed into Local and we ended that night's practice soon after.  We wanted PL to think we were whipped.

Apparently, it worked.  ;-)

So why did PL bring that ultra-finesse comp against us?  Again, I can only guess.  But as I said on our comms before our PL match began, "They came here ready to out-finesse us."  I have to admit a certain satisfaction when I said it.  Their comp was the perfect counter to Bhaalgorn, Curse, Oracle, Onieros.  Against what we actually brought, though?  Not so much.

"I've got a chainsaw to their face instead," our FC replied, and started issuing orders.  It's not every day you can out-meta-game Pandemic Legion.

Is that how things really went down?  I don't think we'll ever know.  PL likely won't say a word about why they brought that comp.  Still, I'm glad we could give everyone watching that match a good show.

And if you lost money on us, I'm not sorry at all.  ;-)  Couple more posts about AT, then I'll move on to other things.

About that Hun Reloaded comp

Alliance Tournament 10 wrap-up time continues with a series of at least four more posts.  The first one was one that I was writing when I got a serendipitous comment from lifeofzenith, who wrote:
I would really like your thoughts on the HUN setup. It has performed so solidly till the last match that it is nothing short of a miracle in my eyes.

A lot of people dismiss it because... - well because they lost at the last match but I really think their setup and dedication behind it would be worth a lenghtier blogpost, don't you agree?
I certainly do.  ;-)  So, what about that Hun Reloaded comp.  How did it work?  Why did it work?

At the risk of annoying a certain someone out there, before the matches started, I got into a... cough... "discussion" with this person about whether frigates are viable platforms for anti-electronic warfare support of main tourney ships.  I argued yes.  This person argued no: the frigates would die too fast and not be useful, this person argued.  Using frigates was a stupid thing to do, this person assured me.  But virtually every tournament team, including ours and definitely including Hun Reloaded, went ahead and did it anyway.(1)  Frigates are absolutely viable AT support ships, in particular beefy frigs like Merlins and Punishers.  Hun Reloaded used Merlins:

[Merlin, Mistress Ice's Merlin]
Warded Gravimetric Backup Cluster I
Warded Gravimetric Backup Cluster I
Warded Gravimetric Backup Cluster I

Medium Shield Extender II
1MN Afterburner II
Phased Muon ECCM Caster I
Remote Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script

75mm Gatling Rail II, Javelin S
75mm Gatling Rail II, Javelin S
75mm Gatling Rail II, Javelin S

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I


That's the dumbest fitting in the world in a TQ fleet battle, but in the AT, it's a lovely support ship.  It can defend itself against drones (though I would have put an Anti-Explosive reinforcer on to protect more against Warrior IIs) while it plies its main trade: making sure the main DPS and the logi can operate.  In this case, it's supporting friendly Vargurs with ECCM and both logi and Vargurs against damps with that Remote Sebo.  Your chance of jamming that support ship is pretty small (its native sensor strength is 29.4), and all it has to do is stay 68km away (its lock range) from threats.  Easy enough for a good pilot.

That projected ECCM, plus an overheated mid-slot ECCM on the Vargur itself, will push the Vargur up to 50+ sensor strength.  That will make jamming it damned hard.  More about the Vargurs in a second.  Hun brought three of these Merlins with their comp, one for each Vargur.  To that, they added three assault frigs (AFs were a damned good buy for the points this year) for behind-enemy-lines DPS.  Hun chose Hawks, which I really liked this year and I don't think were used enough.  The Hawks were supported by a Stiletto to provide initial tackle.

Say you've got an EAF behind enemy lines.  These four ships dive in.  The Stiletto provides the initial scram, then the Hawks roll in and finish it.  The Hawks, interestingly, also had a ECM Burst module each.  I'm kind of curious what the theory behind this module was but I can think of one use right off: diving into groups of enemy Sentry drones and bursting them.  A drone subjected to this treatment will go idle and if the enemy pilot isn't paying attention, he might well not notice and not retask that DPS.  The burst also probably protected the Hawks against Warriors and Hornet ECs.  It's an interesting tactic!

Anyway, that's half the team: three Merlins, three Hawks, Stiletto.  They're the support.  Front-line DPS is provided by three Vargurs.  Again, more on them in a second.  The final two ships were a Scimitar and a Tengu.

The Scimitar was a little piece of tin-foil wrapped around an X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster and four large shield reppers.  With its Invulnerability Field and ASB overheated, that would allow the Scimi to tank about 1500 DPS.  Each Vargur was carrying three Heavy Shield Maintenance Bots.  Each of them adds 67 DPS to the Scimi's tank, for another 600 DPS if all nine were used.  The Scimi was AB fit, which gave it an 87m signature... freakin' tiny!  So, you can attack this team's Vargurs or you can attack their Scimi, but if you do the latter, you're probably going to do about 1/3 of your base DPS.  Each pulse of the ASB restored about 20% shields to this Scimi.  So you're going to be shooting at the Scimi for a long time while you're under the guns of those Vargurs.  Not tempting!

So I think this is going to be the go-to Scimitar fit for AT11:

[Scimitar, Pr3t0r's Scimitar]
Beta Reactor Control: Reaction Control I
Reactor Control Unit II
Reactor Control Unit II
Reactor Control Unit II

Large Azeotropic Ward Salubrity I
10MN Afterburner II
Medium Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Navy Cap Booster 400
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster, Navy Cap Booster 400

Large 'Atonement' Ward Projector
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I

Medium Shield Maintenance Bot II x4
Light Shield Maintenance Bot II x1


It requires a 5% grid implant and probably, pretty significant support from those Merlins if someone tries to jam or damp it.  So it's not a fit you can fly unless you build part of your team around it.

There's nothing particularly impressive about the Tengu fit Hun used.  It's just supplemental DPS running a tech2 Shield Harmonizing link.  In terms of tanking, it was the weak link in the bunch, with a 234m signature and an 1800 DPS tank under Scimi reps.  All nine Shield bots on the Tengu would have added another 675 DPS.  So it was probably the easiest ship in the group to break, but the one that would have had the easiest time maintaining range, too.  Those HMLs can shoot at about 115km.  So good luck trying for it.

That leaves the Vargur fit.

[Vargur, T0mcs1 Hung4ry's Vargur]
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II
Reactor Control Unit II

Prototype 100MN MicroWarpdrive I
Heavy Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Navy Cap Booster 800
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Conjunctive Ladar ECCM Scanning Array I
X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster, Navy Cap Booster 400

Dual 650mm Repeating Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP L
Dual 650mm Repeating Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP L
Dual 650mm Repeating Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP L
Dual 650mm Repeating Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP L
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Large Rudimentary Concussion Bomb I

Large Ancillary Current Router I
Large Projectile Collision Accelerator I

Heavy Shield Maintenance Bot I x3


In terms of the actual fit, it's actually the most standard and least imaginative of the bunch.  Still, the Vargurs are fearsome enough.  Fight them up close and you have to deal with three large smart-bombs, three each of medium and heavy neuts, and 825 DPS before overheating each.  Fight them far away and they can still do 650 DPS or so out to about 65km with great tracking.  Still, 2500 DPS from the Vargurs plus about another 600 from the Tengu plus some supplemental Hawk DPS... there are comps out there that did a lot more DPS than that.

The impressive thing about these Vargurs were the tanks.  Oi.

What you have going for you there are the Vargur's native bonus, the ASB, two hardeners you can overheat, three shield bots each, plus the Scimi reps and the Scimi's rep bots.  Each pulse of the ASB restored about 15% of the Vargur's shields.  That gave each of these three Vargurs a tank of 4400 DPS.

4400.

Put another way: the Hun Reloaded native tank was bigger than the Hun Reloaded native DPS.

Minimum resist on those Vargurs was 75%, so one way of trying to break the tank was to deal with those hardeners.  But each Vargur was carrying a Heavy Cap Booster to protect against just that.  The damn thing probably allowed the Vargurs two cycles of the ASB once out of charges instead of one, too.  The Vargurs have a surprising amount of native capacitor for a Minmatar ship.(2)

So, all in all, a pretty impressive comp: Vargur x3, Tengu, Scimi, Hawk x3, Stiletto, Merlin x3.  12 ships costing 100 points.

Why didn't Pandemic Legion beat it?  In my opinion, two reasons.  First, they spent a lot of time going for the enemy Scimitar when the Scimi wasn't the linch-pin: the Tengu was.  But of course they couldn't hit the Tengu.  So they tried firing torpedoes at a ship with an 87m signature.  That's an exercise in pain.  Jamming the Scimi was unlikely.  The Hun Merlins were probably well outside optimal jam range (and the jam attempts on them were probably coming from Griffins), so I doubt they were jammed.  So with two ECCM casters on it, the Scimi had a 76 sensor strength.  As I've already mentioned, the Vargurs with one ECCM caster as needed had a 50 sensor strength.

Second reason?  Just bad luck on PL's part.  Once you sit in an ECM comp, you're rolling the dice.  I think PL just got some bad dice rolls.  Run the match again and it very well might have come out differently.

Why was Verge of Collapse successful against it?  Also two reasons: lots and lots and lots of DPS was one.  The other, ironically, was the same reason they were able to beat us: double Sentinels, plus enemy battleships attacking friendly battle cruisers.  The Hun team was not able to apply its full DPS.  The VoC Sleipnirs and Cyclone were able to stay within a few hundred meters of the Hun battleships, wear them down, get them into their reload cycle, and then finish them off.  It takes VoC a full 2:20 to kill each Vargur.  That's how long each Vargur can overheat that tank.

Patience is a virtue.  Once again, the VoC Sentinels were the MVPs as far as I'm concerned.

EDIT (24/Jul/2012): One more thing.  It's easy to argue that "Hun did change up their comp!  After all, they brought two Vargurs, they brought a Loki, they changed mid slots, they changed things up every time!" and sure, that's true.  But the hard iron core of the comp was the 4400 DPS tank on the Vargurs, plus the reps and Tengu.  Really, everything else was an attachment to that.

So, that's it.  Sorry for the length, but hopefully this information is useful!


(1) Note: if I think you're only 20% wrong, I'll argue with you.  If I think you're 100% wrong, I'll ignore you.
(2) Still, it would have been entertaining to see what this comp could do with a Large Energy Transfer on each Vargur instead of the medium neuts.  Two LETs from the non-primaries to the Vargur under attack would have allowed it to run that ASB without charges a lot longer, and it fits easily.

Monday, July 23, 2012

You win some, you lose some

Yay!  Alliance Tournament 10 is over!  A big congratulations to Verge of Collapse on their victory, and an equally big congrats to Hun Reloaded for showing that playing the AT meta-game is more or less unnecessary if you can execute a single comp well enough.  ;-)

I want to try to wrap up my thoughts about AT10 today and tomorrow.  After that, things will get back to normal around here.  Quite a back-log has built up and though some of the things I wanted to write about are now stale, others are still quite valid.

First though, I'd like to cover our final two matches from my perspective.  First up, our match with Kill It With Fire, which Rote Kapelle won, 125 to 28Tedra Kerrigan doesn't like us very much, I guess.  Everything Rote did in this match was "unfortunate" and we "paid for a victory" according to the ISD article accompanying the match.  Someone should remind this person that ISK doesn't always win AT matches.(1)

From our perspective, everything in this match went according to plan.  That particular comp was one of our main three or four comps and we felt it was quite strong against a variety of opponents.  We had a very good idea that KIWF would bring a double Vindi set-up against us.  In our practices, we'd found that the double Kronos/Vindi comp beat double Vindi very consistently as long as we were super-aggressive about it.  So that's what we did and it worked out just fine for us.  Every one of our ships warped in at zero, which left my little Incursus in a rather unfortunate position once we all landed...

Ummm... hi.  Please don't hurt me.

Fortunately, that Vindi had bigger fish to fry and the frigates were mostly left to ply our trades.  We were really pleased at how well our plan worked out: both enemy Vindis died in 55 seconds.  Partly, this was due to the fact that both KIWF Vindi pilots activated hardeners right away.  Important tip about armor-tanking ships: you don't have to and you shouldn't activate hardeners until you're actually taking shield damage.  At that point, you can make the decision whether to overheat your hardeners!  It wouldn't have changed the outcome of this fight, but it would have allowed the KIWF ships to live a little longer.

I got to have a bit of fun after this match was over.  Both of our Kronoses were smart-bomb fit, of course, and many of our frigates took more damage from friendly smart-bombs than they took from most of the enemy fleet.  Your humble narrator, meanwhile, found a place to hide on the far side of the enemy Vindicator from our marauders.  As a result, I avoided virtually all of this early damage.  Again, didn't much matter overall in the match, but it was fun.  I also got to demonstrate my intent from the PL match.  Once I was one of the few frigates standing and brawling superiority was assured, I burned out to break hostile frigate locks.  That didn't work so well against PL Malices, but against Enyos and Ishkurs it worked fine.  I then prepared to move in to tackle the last remaining KIWF frigate.  It turned out not to be necessary.  A Vindi plus Null ammo is deadly.  So I uncharacteristically got to bring a ship home.

Overall, a great fight!  Thanks very much for bringing it, KIWF!  We were really concerned that you might try to push us out of the group stage with some sort of turtle comp.  You have the respect of everyone in Rote Kapelle for not doing that.  o7

I've already written about how all of us were on the edges of our seat during the PL fight.  All RvB had to do to advance was score 36 points.  Winning or losing was irrelevant.  36 RvB points would have ended our AT10 run.  PL pulling damage from the RvB Eos in the last few seconds of their match and holding it at half structure for 10 seconds was nearly the death of a lot of Rote pilots.  ;-)  gg PL.

That brings us to our last match of the tournament, which we lost to Verge of Collapse on their march to the championship.  Again, we had a pretty good idea that VoC would either bring a brawling comp or a full Caldari jamming comp to our match.  We'd tested our double Kronos/Vindi team against jamming attacks and with some modifications felt it could stand up just fine to it.  To give us more thinking time before engaging, we made the decision to warp the frigates and our logi in farther away than we had against KIWF.

I've got to hand it to VoC: they flew their comp perfectly against us.  Enemy frigs would dart toward our lines and pull back, dart toward our lines and pull back.  Our response to these tactics was probably not as crisp as it could have been.  We also completely underestimated the enemy Sentinels.  Those were the MVPs of the match as far as I'm concerned.  Their ability to put several bonused tracks on each of our battleships, combined with those battleships having to attack smaller targets not under MWD probably decided this match.

Because our frigs were ordered to stay in the back field until the enemy Scimi exposed himself, I didn't see much of this action.  I spent all of this time using my tracking disruptor, popping the odd enemy Hornet EC-300 that went for our logi, and waiting for that Scimi pilot to make a mistake.  He made that mistake, so our frigs pounced on and rapidly murdered him, which was all to the good.  But by that time, the VoC Sentinels and Keres had negated much of our DPS and our logi pilot, respectively.

Even more insidiously, I think we forgot how effective Sentinels are as neut platforms, too.  As I said, they were the MVP of this match.  It's painful for me to rewatch.  By late game, I was sticking to Gods Coldblood like glue, applying tracking disruption, my pitiful DPS, and NOS when I needed cap, waiting to see if our Vindi pilot could kill him and pull it out.

Nope.  So I used the last of my cap to MWD about 45km off our Damnation, hoping some of their DPS would follow me, and happily, some did.  Again, gf, Verge and if you gotta lose, losing to the AT10 champs certainly takes some sting out of it...

One survivor

Ah well.  Great fun all around.  Bring on Alliance Tournament XI!  I'll have more AT stuff over the next 36 hours or so.

EDIT (23/Jul/2012): Oh, I almost forgot.  Our ships for the KIWF battle were named after things that died in a fire.  Our ships for the VoC battle were named after alliances in EVE that have collapsed.  I named my ship for that one "Gentlemen's Club"...


(1) Though it sure helps!  More on that later.