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Friday, June 28, 2013

Let the Industrialist Decide What Role Her Hauler Will Have

CCP Rise has posted details about the latest thinking on industrial ship changes. I decided I'd have a closer look at what CCP is proposing as an industrial "balance." What a mess. You can read them for yourself here.

Though I think it is intriguing they've split the Iteron into cargo specific roles, I don't see the point. I can already haul all of that stuff in a ship that is actually versatile. Under the new proposal, if I want to get max PI hauling capacity for instance, I have to buy another ship. I don't see the sense in that. Let me highlight something I said in my last post concerning these changes.
"We just want to know two things: how much will it haul and can it reach it's destination intact."
That's it. Why should I be burdened with having to think about what it can haul? Why should that even matter? I haul stuff - period. Give me a ship that I can fit to either be fast and agile, or big as hell. In fact, you only need one ship for this. I'll elaborate in a moment.

I think CCP has confused an outcry over aesthetics with a dissatisfaction with the original plan. They are two very different issues. We like the look of the Mammoth. Given a choice between it and another ship, keep that hull. That does not mean keep the Mammoth specs they way they are. That also doesn't mean we want every single hull kept.

The only reason I have any Iteron other than an Iteron V is because training into the Iteron V didn't happen instantaneously; I still had to haul cargo while I trained up. I still have an Iteron III sitting in my original system of Cistuvaert I haven't flown in over four (4!) years. Dropping the skill requirement as proposed means I'd have gone straight to an Itty V. The only other hauler I have is a Viator in the hole. I used to have a Occator, but it's too expensive for life in Anoikis when an Itty V does the job. I gave it to Kao Jai when I handed him MABMM. He also got my Orca. I just don't need them now.

What I do need is a versatile and inexpensive ship. I have a ship with 2 highs, 5 mids and 5 lows. I already have the ability to make that ship either fast or big. That's why I fly an Itty V, not because it looks like a baguette. It's because I can throw 5 Expanded Cargohold II's into it along with Medium Cargohold Optimizers and increase my cargo capacity to damn near 42,000 cubic meters.

Or, if I am concerned about gate camps, I can do this. I now have a ship that only hauls 20,000 cubic meters, but cloaks and insta-warps. BTW, if these changes go through this may not be possible with any of the "rebalanced" ships. I've not run any numbers, but it doesn't look like there is enough grid on any of the proposed ships to support this sort of fit. Those that might have enough augmented grid don't appear to have a max velocity in the sweet zone. But that's just taking a quick glance at the proposed specs. Still, if that capability gets nerfed out of existence... well... I'll let Marvin tell it.
Back to topic now, if I just want it to be fast, all I have to do is fill the lows with Nanofiber Internal Structure IIs and the rig slots with Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizers. I then get a hauler that aligns in 7 seconds and goes nearly 9 au/s. It hauls only 7500 cubic meters of cargo, but there is always a trade off. That tradeoff should be up to me and how I fit my ship.

We don't need a dozen different T1 haulers. That's always been ridiculous. Why not dump all the racial variants and give us one (1!) T1 ORE ship to replace them all? Make that one ship as versatile as the Itty V is now. There is no need to get all wrapped around the axle on what ship will have what role, etc, etc. As I said before, it just has to haul stuff and get there - that's it. Let the pilot decide how to fit it based on the needs of her route. Seriously, hauling stuff isn't like PvP. There are not a lot of different scenarios calling for different ships with various capabilities, and ego/vanity is almost never a consideration. Keep it simple is the best policy here. Let the industrialist decide what role her hauler will have.

Fly Carefully

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Financial Hemorrhage or the Cost of Victory?

The war in Fountain continues. The current winner of that conflict depends on who you ask and what day you ask. It is a hotly contested war both in New Eden and around the blogosphere. With all the propaganda that gets thrown around, how's a capsuleer supposed to know who's on top?

You can always look at the influence map - in this case January 31, 2013 in the left and June 26, 2013 on the right.

Unfortunately it's a snapshot in time and doesn't tell the ongoing story so much as the final result. I'm more interested in the on going story right now.

In cases like this, I always fall back to my industrial ways. In other words, I do a cost analysis. Even in New Eden, resources are not infinite. Victory eventually goes to those with the better balance sheet. But with alliance balance sheets a closely guarded secret, we can't really see what the cost is.

However, we can infer the cost from losses. To that end, I put together four charts showing how four of the major players are doing in this current fight. And yes, I'm going to share them with you. I've lifted all the numbers for these charts directly from Eve Kill.

As you can see, TEST is the only one of the four with the red line above the green line. That is a bad position to be in. Their ISK bars are not good either. They've lost more than they've destroyed. From a purely economic viewpoint, TEST is not fairing so well.

But as I was putting these together, I noticed something else in these charts. Have a look at the month and year the trend line started up for each of the combatants. From bottom to top, Fatal Ascension really got involved at the beginning of the declared war between the CFC and TEST. That's fairly typical. They're like Goonswarm militia, only called to arms when needed.

Both the Pandemic Legion and the Goonswarm Federation curves start going up in December 2012. That's when Crucible came out. I'd like to believe the trend is because of increased high-sec activities, but an investigation of the data does not bear that out. For instance, December 2012 is when Pandemic Legion was helping destroy Against ALL Authorities. It was a null-sec conflict and the majority of ship kills and losses occurred there.

Then we come to the TEST chart. Their line starts up a full month after Goonswarm's and Pandemic Legion's. In December 2013, TEST was somewhat active in Catch and Providence. In January that rolled back into Delve and their ship losses seriously escalated. Did someone miss a political clue or something? It sure seems that way to me.

So it seems this cycle of conflict actually started six months ago. TEST has been in the red the entire time, and even before Crucible launched. That makes me wonder how long they can keep going. The fact it's been this way with them for a year argues they can keep at it indefinitely. But cold reality argues for a different outcome. What do you think?

Fly Careful

Monday, June 24, 2013


Things around Surely You're Joking have been busy lately. Rather than being isolated in a class 6 wormhole system, as had been my initial view upon moving in, I find there is a lot more coming and going. Certainly much more than before in HBHI's class 3 with a low-sec static. It's a very busy place.

So as my Cloaky Tengu came out of standby, I was not surprised to find two of my corp mates in high-sec desiring a way back in. One pipe exit was a high-sec system, but it seems the exit bookmark was missing from the list of bookmarks we'd obtained. So I headed down the pipe to take care of the problem.

It was easy sailing as the three intervening wormholes were quiet. I arrived at the HS hole and found it end of life. I should have jumped through and marked the exit, but my mates would have many jumps to get there meaning it'd probably be gone by the time they arrived. Besides, I just didn't feel lucky that night. There was a decent low-sec entrance into the pipe as well and it wasn't EOL. They could use it.

As if moved back up the pipe, I of course hit d-scan at every jump. There were probes in the system just down pipe from our static. I made the announcement on comms and proceeded with caution to the entrance into our static. I landed several kilometers off, and sure enough there was a Tengu on the hole. It cloaked soon after I arrived.

Taking that as my queue, I approached the wormhole cloaked and gave the order to jump. There was no way the Tengu could catch me. It couldn't lock fast enough after decloaking. Besides, the pilot was probably face deep into scan probe data by now.

I emerged into our static and found nothing on d-scan. This told me nothing. If there is one thing I've learned living in Anoikis for ten months, it's that nothing found means nothing at all. The only certainty is a positive contact. I proceeded to our static entrance with caution, landing several kilometers off after having bounced from a celestial not in a direct line from the wormhole I entered by.

There were two Proteus and a Falcon on the hole. Well, hell: I made the announcement on comms just as the three ships warped off. It was in the direction of the hole I'd just come through so I figured they were with the Tengu. I breathed a whisper of relief and headed for home.

The customary d-scan was unnecessary as I arrived. Plainly visible on the overview was a Manticore. It was in our home system. When I'd left, there were miners in our belts. I announced a Manticore in the home system, and without hesitating I decloaked and approached. The Manticore didn't leave. I announced I was engaging the Manticore and put a warp disruptor on it and kicked on my microwarp. His shields so started to fail.

I had the Manticore below half armor when the two Proteus and Falcon arrived. Soon my shields were below half and falling rapidly as the Proteus came within optimal. By this time I had the alliance's full attention. Our FCs took over and help was marshaling quickly within the home system. I just had to hang on.

However, my shields were failing and I had Caldari paper mache for armor. I was advised to jump back through if it got too hot. I de-aggressed and jumped back into the static. After announcing this I was advised to hold cloak, which I did. Help was on it's way.

Soon though it was time to leave or lose cloak. The four ships had followed me through the hole and were waiting for me to break cloak. I decided to do it at a time of my choosing. I'd done this a hundred times. Yes, the adrenalin was pumping. Yes, I was excited. But I could do this and help was coming through the wormhole at any moment. I aligned to a celestial breaking cloak. Then I immediately stabbed the recloak button on my control panel - twice.

You know how your finger can kind of acts like a spring? You know, there's enough give in the ligaments that you can crook it hard and then the muscles spasm it straight again for you? I hate it when that happens. I cloaked, then I de-cloaked. And then my Tengu exploded. Well, it wasn't that fast. First they pointed me, webbed me, neuted me and jammed me back into the stone age. Then my Tengu exploded. Nope, not lucky at all that night.

However, it wasn't for nothing. My alliance mates got one of the Proteus and the the Manticore in trade. My Tengu was worth 600 mISK. They lost a Proteus valued at 850 mISK and a Manticore valued at 50 mISK. We win; good fight Polarized. I hope you had fun.

Now, let's get real for a moment. That's how I'd like to remember this encounter. The reality is I was neither this calm nor this helpful during the fight. Let's go through my mistakes. This will help me get better and hopefully you as well. That last is aimed at my fellow carebears. As much as we'd like to believe we can live and let live, the reality is you will, at one point or another, have to fight for what is yours. So, on with the lesson.
  1. I did not use break-break to make my announcement of hostiles. There was a lot going on in comms. Just saying so isn't enough when you have hostiles in your hole. People need to know it's urgent and by not using break-break they didn't immediately understand what was happening. The fact that I was actually asked what was going on is indication that I failed to properly inform.
  2. I acted BEFORE I reported. I decloaked in front of the Manticore giving him plenty of time to assess the situation and call his friends back. More importantly, I didn't give my alliance mates enough time to react nor the intel needed to counter the threat. They were still bringing their ships out of stand-by when I started firing at the Manticore. This is especially egregious because time was on our side. Get your ducks in a row before doing anything. Time is an advantage. Use it.
  3. I was not in fleet. Yep, that's right. I had neglected to join the alliance fleet on startup. I had to take precious seconds in the middle of the fight to do so. There is a reason we have a standing fleet. It's partly for situations like the one I found myself in. I failed to follow alliance procedure. Follow procedures.
  4. When the fight got hot, I got vocally excited. We've all heard this many, many times. It's important. Take a deep breath. Keep your voice level. Detach yourself from what is being done to your ship and be efficient. This will also help you wade through the myriad of buttons you will have to be pushing on your console. Buttons to fire. Buttons to talk to others. Buttons to align. Buttons to cloak. That doesn't even take into account the here a click, there a click, everywhere a click-click dance going on at the same time. All of these must get done in seconds, and all other things being equal the pilot that does it best wins.
  5. When I spoke, I failed to quickly and accurately relay valuable information. There is a way to speak in combat. Once upon a time I knew how to do this. Time and lack of practice makes one rusty. And this is a game, so it just doesn't occur to me I should use it. Perhaps if I traded my Sennheiser for a CVC helmet... never mind. The point is, learn battle comms and live by battle comms. After the fight, I was clued into an excellent guide done two years ago by Jester. It's Jester's guide to PvP Voice Communications. Read it. Learn it. Live by it.
I will soon get to practice all of these things and more. Surely You're Joking is in Alliance Tournament XI. It's all hands on deck for practice. Our combat pilots need people to maneuver against and I am a perfect target. I may lack experience, but I can fit a fair number of ships. And I want to learn. Next time, I want to get both Proteus and that damn Falcon too!

Fly Careful

Friday, June 21, 2013

It Would Be a Mammoth Mistake

I've read with some amusement for the past day or so the growing discussion on industrial rebalancing. I never thought there would be such passion on the part of some players... for industrial ships. I mean, they serve a purpose that has nothing to do with how they look. Unlike combat pilots, I thought industrialists generally have little ego when it comes to what their ships look like. We just want to know two things: how much will it haul and can it reach it's destination intact.

But the debate over the looks of the Mammoth, that took me completely by surprise. I'm an industrialist and I'm like, "Who cares?" But people evidently do care. They care enough to have passionate opinions about it. Who knew?

And all this really begs a simple question. What should a space cargo ship look like? That's a good question. I'm pretty sure that's a matter of opinion and there are likely to be as many opinions as there are people willing to argue them. So to add a little context to the discussion, I decided to showcase some space cargo vessels from Science Fiction. That should at least give everyone an idea of what other's outside New Eden feel a space cargo vessel should look like.
Allied Spacecraft Corporation Firefly Class Cargo Transport Serenity
Of course I have to start with this one. Is it pretty? No. Frankly it looks like a goose with a rung wrung neck (that's a broken neck for those not familiar with the term.) Some of the lines are pleasing, but overall Serenity looks like she's undergoing gavage feeding. It is not what most would consider beautiful. That's just my opinion mind you but I'm not alone in that opinion. Here's what the scrapper boss had to say when Saffron betrayed Mal and almost got Serenity destroyed (emphasis mine,)
"This is why you'll never be in charge, Bree. You don't see the whole. The parts are crap, but you put it together you got a Firefly. Thing'll run forever they got a mechanic even half awake... Some people ain't lookin' for flash. She's a good catch."
Jupiter Mining Corporation Mining Ship Red Dwarf
Okay, technically this isn't strictly a cargo vessel. But it does haul things and as such I am including it. This is a ship I need say nothing about. It was said on the show far better than I could put it (emphasis mine,)
KRYTEN: Sirs, please, there's no advantage in finger-pointing. We didn't
lose Red Dwarf. Red Dwarf was stolen. By persons... or life forms
CAT: Who would steal a gigantic red trash can with no brakes and three
million years on the clock?
Corellian Engineering Corporation Light Freighter Millenium Falcon
Once again, what further evidence of ugly do you need than this scene from the script of Star Wars: A New Hope (emphasis mine,)
        Chewbacca leads the group into a giant dirt pit that is Docking
        Bay 94. Resting in the middle of the huge hole is a large,
        round, beat-up, pieced-together hunk of junk that could only
        loosely be called a starship.

LUKE: What a piece of junk.
        The tall figure of Han Solo comes down the boarding ramp.
HAN: She'll make point five beyond the speed of light. She may not
look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid. I've added some
special modifications myself.
         Luke scratches his head. It's obvious he isn't sure about
        all this.
From these three examples of well known industrial ships, there are a few concepts that come through loud and clear: crap, trash and junk. Obviously that's what an industrial transport is supposed to be. And if that's what it is, that's what it should look like. Evidently ugly is in when you're a cargo ship. It would be a mammoth mistake to think otherwise. So what other examples of space cargo ships are there out on the interwebs?

Fly Careful

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Respect is the Keystone of Success

I'm part of a small corporation in a big alliance. We're relative newcomers to this group of old friends. This has presented a few issues: for me, for us and for them. Lately it seems the issues bucket has been overflowing. Some of it has been outright drama, but nothing serious. Though it hasn't been serious, it has been thought provoking - and troubling.

See, I've had some reservations myself while adjusting to the new order of things. I was a lone wolf carebear for years before I joined HBHI. When I joined HBHI, it was only three other people and we were isolated in a Class 3 wormhole system. That was easier than high-sec to tell truth. I've never had to deal with large numbers of people in this game.

Those days are long behind me. Now I have dozens of people at any given time to deal with, many of whom I don't know from Adam. Some I like. Some I'd rather not say. But I try to be polite. And therein lies the rub - and the cure. I must remind myself to ALWAYS be polite, no matter how hacked off I am.

Politeness is the correct and respectful response to any personnel, or personal, issue. When someone in your organization is rude to you, don't antagonize the situation by being rude back at them. That only makes a bad situation worse. And questions, no matter how silly seeming, should always be treated as serious questions requiring a polite answer. Doing otherwise is not constructive in the least.

This is especially true in military organizations. You may not like the commander's adjutant, but you damn well treat him with respect and give him the careful consideration you'd expect to receive yourself. Officers are expected to be gentlemen, always. To act differently is an affront to the uniform they wear. I know. I wore one.

And officers are also expected to treat their subordinates with the same respect. As General John M. Schofield once said,
"The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself."
I have written about this before. This short paragraph has more wisdom packed into it about how to run an army than any similar length statement I have ever read. It is a statement to make even the legendary Sun Tzu proud. The essence of what General Schofield was on about is respect. Respect is the keystone of military discipline, and though this statement is addressed specifically to those in command, it applies to every soldier.

You can look at the commander-soldier relationship as an archway - a sallyport in military terms. The base of one side of that sallyport is military discipline. That is the discipline of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The other base is also discipline, but is the self discipline that translates directly into professionalism. The two manifestations of discipline balance each other; supporting the sallyport. Self-discipline prevents military discipline from being necessary, and military discipline reasserts self-discipline should it fail. The sallyport anchored by these two types of discipline leads to operational success, and respect is the keystone that keeps that sallyport from collapsing.

What are we in this big alliance if not soldiers? Our alliance CEO sends out a call to arms and it is because of self-discipline that we respond. That's what professional soldiers do. If we fail to respond, our alliance CEO has any number of options for disciplining our misconduct - from a public dress down to booting us from the alliance. We are a military organization by almost any definition.

Therefore Schofield's Definition of Discipline applies. If a leader does not treat his subordinates with respect, they will resent it. If he then attempts to apply military discipline, it will not work. At best the subordinate leaves, because this is a voluntary army. At worst there is outright mutiny. Neither outcome is beneficial to the organization.

So leaders, when you deal with the rank and file, be respectful. They are there because they choose to be there. Treat them with the respect they deserve for responding to the call. Subordinates, never forget the leaders have a far harder job leading than you have following. Treat them with the respect they deserve for accepting such responsibility.

If you do this, you will be successful. If you do not, you will eventually failscade. And commanders, the onus is on you to prevent that from happening. That is the responsibility you accept when you become the commander. Good leaders never forget how they act towards others is a direct reflection of their own character. That is what General Schofield means by, "spirit in the breast of the commander." Your character must be respectful beyond reproach. If you cannot live up to that expectation, you should step aside - or risk everything.

Fly Careful

(NOTE: This is a general discussion about leadership and nothing in this article directly relates to any specific person except myself. This is in no way meant as a recrimination of those I choose to follow, though current events may have served as a catalyst for these thoughts.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

We All Reap the Benefits

Six months ago this is what known space looked like.
Ships Destroyed Past 24 Hours - December 31, 2012
This became known as the big blue donut. All of that mostly peaceful area around the edges of known space is null-sec. There are a few areas showing fleet fights, but the entirety of the CFC area to the northwest, and the TEST area in the west and southwest, is quiet - very quiet. It had been quiet for many months before I recorded this data and it remained so for many months after.

Things have changed. It's been all over the news. Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST) left the Honey Badger Coalition which collapsed and now the Cluster Fuck Coalition (CFC) has declared war, vowing to take Fountain away from TEST. As the days have progressed, more and more null-sec entities have chosen sides and joined the fray. It's the end of the big blue donut, at least for now.

Here is today's ship loss report.
Ships Destroyed Past 24 Hours - June 17, 2013
The picture is very different. Not only is there hugely increased ship losses in the northwest and west, but the routes through NPC null-sec leading to them are also much more aflame than they have been in the past. And it's combat in earnest. One look at pods destroyed in the past 24 hours shows the truth in that statement.
Pods Destroyed Past 24 Hours - June 17, 2013
This is how New Eden is supposed to be. CCP makes no secret of their position Eve Online is a PvP game. Even I accept this at face value. And yet for months and months the caretakers of the exclusively player run areas of New Eden acted as if caretaker equated to carebear. It does not. That way of thinking is more dangerous to the future of the game we love than just about anything else.

For all that I've run down the high-sec gankers of New Eden in past posts, the truth is they were never the threat to New Eden that these null-sec caretakers are. High-sec gankers, as much as they are a proverbial pain in the ass for every high-sec carebear, are actually a component of this PvP game that has lived up to its purpose. They keep carebears like me from becoming complacent because they are always willing to explain to us the price of complacency in New Eden. But their actions do not drive production.

Very little ammunition is used in a gank. The ships used are basic and cheap. The ships they most often gank are typically cheap, even if their cargos aren't. But what is lost of that cargo is literally a drop in the ocean. Very little of New Eden's industrial capacity is destroyed by ganks. Look at all the cargo haulers in high-sec at any given moment if you disbelieve this. The amount of goods moved is incredibly high and the vast majority of products reach their intended destinations intact.

So where are these resources used? They are used wherever ships are lost and need replaced. That is the overall driver behind New Eden's economy. From ammunition to Nanite Repair Paste to assault cruiser hulls to POS defenses, the products of New Eden are not consumed by carebears, or miners or most of the other high-sec dwellers including gankers. They are consumed in low-sec, null-sec and Anoikis. And of those three areas, CCP envisioned that null-sec should be where most of that output is consumed, but that has not been the way of it. It has been the place where the least has been consumed and, in fact, became a production center of critical T2 production components.

In an odd twist of fate, that actually helped forestall economic disaster I now believe. It caused a rise in price that was not justified by a true supply and demand equation. The demand did not rise. It remained constant so supply and price should have as well. As new players entered the economic market, supply should have increased causing prices to fall. This in fact is what has happened over the past several months as I pointed out in my post 10 days ago. Now prices seem to be rising.

There are no doubt many reasons for this. We could easily point to changes that came with Odyssey. That was just the catalyst though. I think one fundamental reason is that demand is once again increasing. As manufacturers work to ramp up production, prices rise. That's simple economics. So long as demand remains higher, prices should also remain higher than pre-war levels. This is what war in null-sec does. This is what CCP designed null-sec to do. This is what those in null-sec need to understand. Those who claim the capsuleer empires of New Eden as their own have not lived up to their economic responsibilities for a long time.

They complained it was too hard to go to war. They complained sovereignty grinding was stopping them because it was no fun. Really? From what I'm reading in the news, and on reddit, and seeing on YouTube, it looks like a lot of null-sec residents are having a lot of fun doing just that. Hell, I'm having a lot of fun just reading about it.

Actually, "it's too hard" is an excuse, not a reason. It's supposed to be hard. Who would want to fight and die in an area they could lose in the blink of an eye because it was too easy to conquer? Imagine the tears if one largish Anoikis alliance suddenly dropped out of a K162 in the heart of the CFC and took over sovereignty in a system or two just for the lulz; because it was easy.

That's why sovereignty grinding is hard. These null-sec caretakers benefit from it more than they don't. That's why it was always an excuse not to fight, but never a reason. The real reason is because they didn't want to. Why not? Well, the 100% Mabrick opinion on that matter is because they'd turned null-sec into an economic opportunity zone rather than the fighting arena it was designed to be. Moons full of ISK turned them from war to peace, from good fights to caretakers - still, YMMV.

Regardless, in the future when null-sec leaders whine about how hard they have it, remind them of this war which ushered in the end of the blue donut. Tell them it obviously isn't too hard to grind sovereignty because they are doing it. Remind them their rank and file actually seem to be enjoying themselves. In the process, they are once again living up to their purpose. They fight the big fights. They control vast capsuleer empires. They do this.

And we all reap the benefits.

Fly Careful

Friday, June 14, 2013

Was it a Gank?

Last night we we ran sites. Before we ran them, we closed our static, we did not open the new one and we put a scout out who's only job was to monitor our C6 for new incoming wormholes. Then we started killing Sleepers. During the course of five sites, we had no new K162s appear and we completed everything without incident. Had one appeared, we'd have had instant warning and the order to POS-up would have been given. The capitals would have gotten webs to get them there and then the sub-capitals would themselves abandon the site. I've also outlined all this before. This is how you run sites in deadly space.

After we salvaged the last Sleeper wreck, with the fleet still assembled, we decided to start rolling the static to see what we could find. On our second roll, we found carriers and dreadnaughts in an anomaly. With eyes on the targets, word quickly went out and an even larger fleet began to assemble.

While the fleet gathered, the occupants of our static did indeed notice a new signature appear. Probes soon populated the static system and within a couple minutes their scout arrived at the K162 we'd opened. We had an interdictor there and a warp bubble went up to preserve the connections. The race was on!

The other wormholers were not fools. They bugged out. That is all of them except one Archon. It was evidently warp scrambled by the Sleepers who were still quite plentiful as it seems they had just started to clear the site. We descended upon the hapless carrier like locust on ancient Egypt. At optimal range I laid into the Archon's shields and armor with a half dozen Neutron Blaster IIs spitting Void. The carrier was in triage though and we barely made a dent in it's armor.

Still, Aura announced the self-destruct activation on the carrier not long after we started our attack. I continued to fire even though the Sleepers were now focusing on our ships. The home team had started the site as a full escalation, there were well over a dozen Sleeper battleships still on the field. We lost a Guardian to them. Their alpha was so high our remaining three Guardians were overmatched. We continued to hang tough though.

Then our scouts announced an enemy capital fleet warping for our location. They landed and engaged. The carrier went down and I had not only last blow but most non-Sleeper damage (which wasn't much mind you.) The carrier had self-destructed. In the heat of the fight, I didn't stop to wonder why he hadn't aborted the countdown when the cavalry was on it's way.

But now we were between a rock and a hard place. We had Sleeper battleships with enough alpha to obliterate anything sub-capital on one side and a fleet of angry capsuleers in dreadnoughts on the other. We lost half a dozen more sub-capitals, including a 663.5 mISK Legion to the carrier pilot who'd just blown up his Archon.

We bugged out. The fleet returned once more in sniper ships. The enemy bugged out to regroup. There were no kills and no losses. Again the order was given to leave. We'd obviously overstayed our welcome and further action in their home system would be without the element of surprise. It was time to go. Besides, we'd gotten what we came for. The carrier was a smoldering wreck floating in the vacuum of Anoikis space. We returned home and collapsed the static.

All in all I thought it was a good fight. They lost a carrier to us and we lost six sub-capitals to them. I am not counting Sleeper loses; them's just the breaks. We won the ISK war and they won the numbers war. Fair dinkum all around. But word filtered back to us that our raid had been labeled a gank by the victims. Had I participated in a gank? This disquiets me even this morning. Was it a gank to attack a carrier that was warp scrambled by Sleepers and unable to escape? You decide.

Fly Careful

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's in a Name?

CCP has a naming policy. It can be found here. Recently CCP made some changes to the policy which they outlined here. It was a short post so I'll quote it leaving out the preamble, etc.
"First, we changed the name of the policy from “EVE Online User and Character Name Policy” to “EVE Online Naming Policy” in order to better fit the actual purpose it serves. Then, we changed the heading of section 2. from “CHARACTER NAMES” to “IN-GAME NAMES” so that it is made clear that the policy covers much more than just the names of characters.  As further clarification of this, section 2. b. has been expanded to say:

“In-game names include, but are not limited to: Character names, corporation names, alliance names and any other player-nameable item or entity within the game world.” 
Also, we have added section 2.c. which states:

“c. No player may use the character name of another player to impersonate or falsely represent his or her identity.  Player created corporation and alliance names also fall under this policy, as does any other in-game entity named by players”
I have emboldened and underlined the change that really caught my attention. This is a far reaching change. Think of all the things you name within Eve Online. If you are like me, you name things practically  e v e r y  -  s i n g l e  -  d a y.  All of that activity now falls under the purview of this policy. What does that mean in practical terms? What can we use and not use?

To answer that question we need to look at all of section 2.b:
"b. In-game names may not:
  • Impersonate or parody any employee or representative of EVE Online, CCP, Customer Support personnel or volunteers.
  • Impersonate or parody an NPC type from the EVE game world (i.e. CONCORD or other official NPC corporation or organization members) for the purpose of misleading other players.
  • Reflect, glorify or emulate any real-world group or organization, terrorist society, criminal elements, discriminating organizations or their leaders and figureheads. This includes the use of names of real-world military, political or religious groups.
  • Be obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, offensive, hurtful, harmful, promote drugs, profane, anti-gay, and ethnically, racially or sexually offensive or impart any real-world hostility toward a specific nationality, race or religion.
  • In-game names include, but are not limited to: Character names, corporation names, alliance names and any other player-nameable item or entity within the game world."
The last point is the new addition to this list. Above it are the specifics. It is standard business practice to ban all of the types of terminology identified. This list could have come straight out of my company's HR policy handbook. Indeed, I have written such paragraphs for the online usage policy of said handbook.

In a culturally progressive society this is what responsible people do. The additional language clarifying the policy includes ALL items players can name is a long overdue clarification. I especially applaud the banning of sexually explicit and offensive terms. I can only hope this extends to the word "rape" in all of it's current juvenile and blatantly offensive manifestations. Names like "rape cage" and "mega rapist," promulgations of which I have seen in game many times, make light of tragedies the authors of such names clearly have never undergone themselves or been exposed to through a loved one. These are not adjectives, they are affronts to all that is decent. I report such names to CCP at every opportunity. I only wish CCP did something about them. Perhaps they will now. Only time will tell.

But CCP has certainly left the option open. Further down they state:
"b. Blatantly offensive names created in direct violation of the EVE Online Terms Of Service and the User and Character Name Policy will not be eligible for name change approval under any circumstances. These characters and their assets will be immediately deleted upon discovery and disciplinary action may be taken against the player’s account."
This draconian response is also possible for a violation of the Terms of Service. I had to go there to find even more reasons a player could have their character and assets immediately deleted. You know, as I read down through the ToS again, as it'd been a long time (almost 5 years in fact) since I'd actually read it, I was surprised at how many things were listed I see violated on a weekly basis (and almost a daily basis while I lived in high-sec.) For example,
"9. You may not advertise, employ, market, or promote any form of solicitation – including pyramid schemes and chain letters – in the EVE Online game world or on the website."
When I go to Jita and someone there is spamming their new Eve Online oriented gambling site, does it not violate item number nine? What about the last clause of item number one?
"or implying favoritism by a CCP Employee."
How many times have I read something alluding CCP Soundwave promotes Goonswarm's agenda? Doesn't that fall under this provision too?

The answer to those questions, and others, is "maybe." The definitions are broad for a reason. It gives CCP the latitude to act on irresponsible and offensive behavior without having to react to every single incident of anything. It allows them to be selective.

But there is a danger there. The danger is they will be seen to show the favoritism they attempt to ban mention of by their policy. That is no way to run a business. We are CCP's customers. They are obligated to treat all of us equally regardless of who we are, etc., etc., etc. They came down hard on Alexander “The Mittani” Gianturco. But was that because they deliver "blind justice" which cares not for a person's status or station, or because it was a very public and embarrassing transgression? 

What about the less than congratulatory responses about the announcement of CCP Mint Chip? If you don't think there are inappropriate things being said about that you need to go read reddit, since the official forum post about it had to be removed.  And looking at that short reddit search result, it's evident to me perhaps CCP can, when motivated, enforce their policies - even outside Eve Online. But again, did they only do it because it was publicly embarrassing or because it was the right thing to do?

Make no mistake, I am thrilled the CCP and reddit admins acted so quickly in regards to this. What was being done, and is still being done, in regards to CCP Mint Chip is inexcusable and in my home state illegal as well. And I believe CCP's response to last year's affront by Mr. Gianturco was also appropriate. But what I am not thrilled about is this does not happen every time, regardless of visibility. 

The world is full of enough hate to fuel the fires of war until our sun novas or we wipe ourselves out. I play Eve Online to escape that hate if only for a short time. But when people drag their hate, or just there inconsiderate and thoughtless bigotries, into the game it makes me want to leave. CCP has to realize this. Otherwise, why would they have recently revised their policy on naming? It only remains to see if they will act on it. Here is my unsolicited advice CCP. Go for it. Start changing names and delivering temporary bans on first time offenders. Let your customers know they can PvP all they want, so long as it is in a ship and nothing other than "good fight" and other such pleasantries are said in local. Take a stand against offensively insensitive terms like "rape cage" and you will make a name for yourself, and it will be a good one. It will be a name of which you can be proud. A name I will be proud to support.

Fly Careful

Monday, June 10, 2013

When the Route Home Goes Through Low-sec...

Surely You're Joking is for hire. Seriously, we do things for others - for ISK. Hey, T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L. If you need some muscle, or anything you think SYJ could help you with, give our diplomats a ring. You can find out how at this forum post.

Anyway, we needed to get home last Friday but the nice wormhole we'd used to sally forth had already closed. We had another way home though. There was a low-sec entrance six or seven jumps into low-sec. Since we were all in a fleet, and we all needed to go home, we all went home together. It was late and we expected to have a quiet time of it. That wasn't exactly how it worked out.

Here's the link to the killmail for that unlucky Arbitrator. I'm not sure why the pilot decided to turn around and burn for the gate. It took me four cycles to burn through everything he had.
[ 2013.06.07 05:02:37 ] (combat) 1320 to Sir Maximus Khamsi[-RAZ-](Arbitrator) - Heavy Neutron Blaster II - Hits
[ 2013.06.07 05:02:40 ] (combat) 1106 to Sir Maximus Khamsi[-RAZ-](Arbitrator) - Heavy Neutron Blaster II - Hits
[ 2013.06.07 05:02:43 ] (combat) 892 to Sir Maximus Khamsi[-RAZ-](Arbitrator) - Heavy Neutron Blaster II - Hits
[ 2013.06.07 05:02:46 ] (combat) 675 to Sir Maximus Khamsi[-RAZ-](Arbitrator) - Heavy Neutron Blaster II - Hits
And he was so clearly out running us too. But I'll give him marks for having balls. Good fight Sir Maximus Khamsi, I salute your courage.

Fly Careful

Friday, June 7, 2013

T2 Prices Are Rising and It's Saving Our Economic Butts

One of the things I am liking about Odyssey so far has been the near total lack of gross market speculation leading up to and following Odyssey's release. It's been nice for a change to see things pretty much stay the course. I can find no indication of any attempts to corner the market as in times past, and I like that - alot. Though a free market means anyone can pretty much to anything they like, abuse of that market is detrimental to all in the long run. It isn't always true that the rich get richer and all that, but it is true they have the power to bring the economy down around everyone's ears. Let's have a look at the current state of New Eden's economy, why I think the changes in Odyssey were really made and why they may save our economic butts.

The common wisdom has been for some time that the Organization of Technetium Exporting something-or-another (OTEC) has been making prices rise in the T2 market. I think at first, this was the case. Inflation was caused by limited supply because of this grand supply side maneuver. But it was a short lived inflation, just as I said it would be.
You can see the prediction in that initial price slump. That's where everyone ran to faction and deadspace mods. Then the price sorted itself out as people adjusted to the new pressures. But for the past year, prices in the T2 market have been generally falling and certainly not increasing. Demand has increased but prices continue on a negative or neutral path. Remember the Hulk cost analysis some people did? Have a look at the 1-year trend for Photon Microprocessors and Hulks.
That's stagnation, not inflation and it's also no good for an economy. We may all hate it, but inflation is a necessary economic control system. It's one that has to follow the Daedalus Principle, also known as the Golden Mean. Inflation in the one to three percent range allows for profit and growth, and I don't mean in raw numbers produced in anything. I mean in increased business and diversification. New Eden's economy has had none.

Odyssey has attempted to correct this problem. What Odyssey did, if you don't already know, is this. Please read it if you like but the tl;dr is CCP replaced the requirement for Technetium in T2 production with four new metamaterials you can get from all over New Eden null-sec and low-sec. This effectively breaks OTEC and corrects the terrible economy it created.

"What?" you ask? Yeah, OTEC was a really, really bad idea and I now have 20/20 hindsight to support that position. With OTEC, production was restricted to just one organization. But with no way to effectively impose production restrictions on individual members, they simply produced themselves into oblivion. There was no mechanic to stop it other than self control and that doesn't strike me as a Goon strong point. This was a serious threat to the New Eden economy, possibly more dire than botters as they have the same effect but one is sanctioned play. And never forget this is a game. Having game items that are too cheap literally cheapens the game. It makes it no fun. To draw a parallel with another sad game, when everyone can be a Jedi Knight, or triple master trader/manufacturer in my case, what's the point?

Furthermore, there's a lot of ISK in the New Eden economy and ship prices, especially T2 prices, were just too low to absorb it all. When I was a new bro it took me a month to make 100 mISK and replace my first lost Hulk. Today new bros are making a billion ISK in their first month. I followed a link from a blog to a noob post about doing just that station trading. I should have saved that link but you'll just have to take my word for it. It has never been easier than it is now to make ISK in New Eden. And all that ISK could cause inflation under normal situations, but with unlimited resources it actually causes the opposite.

What would the price of oil be if everyone got all the oil they wanted? There would be a glut and that glut will cause prices to drop as suppliers try to keep their cash flow going. It wouldn't matter that the supplier was in a cartel. Hasn't that always been OPEC's problem? And if we got all the oil we wanted, and had enough money to buy most other things, we'd all be driving petroleum guzzling vehicles - the T2 items of real life if you want an analogy (or even if you don't.) And as long as oil prices kept dropping, the cost of the vehicles would drop right along with them and anything else made from petroleum. That is really bad for business. Businesses have fixed costs, mostly labor. They can only accept so low a price before they go into the red. It works the same way for Eve industrialists - minus the labor perhaps. But I know of some industrialists who pay people to haul for them, etc. so perhaps not. Anyway you look at it though, there is a minimum cost of business in New Eden and we were dropping closer and closer to that event horizon.

Now there is a safeguard against this threat. The rate at which these metamaterials can be reacted is fixed. They have a built in supply restrictor which takes will power (or lack thereof) out of the equation. I've read a few "why, oh why" types of comments both in blogs and on reddit and I think the answer is relatively simple. CCP realized if capsuleers were not going to restrict their production of raw materials, CCP would have to do it for them. That's why reactions are now regulated. To curb the inexhaustible supply problem. You could also lump the gravimetric anomaly change into this as well. The more miners get blown up, the lower the supply. And even the change to high-end ores can be explained by this reasoning. If you can get all the tritanium you need where you are (this is not an inexhaustible supply and has the same gravimetric control,) you don't need to hire haulers. That lowers a business' operating costs, providing they are mining in cheap ships. It's a bad business choice out there not to. So if the null-sec industrialist makes sound choices, it's easier for them to remain in the black under the new system. Taken altogether, these things put New Eden's economy on a much more sound footing; making it more real than it has ever been. Yes, I am liking it alot.

Currently production of the new metamaterials is just ramping up and the market prices are still high and unstable. The current price after four days is approximately 30k ISK for Photonic, Plasmonic and Terahertz and 60k ISK for Nonlinear. Nonlinear Metamaterials is the only one showing an increasing trend line, but with only four data points don't read too much into that. I'd go with buy orders as the litmus, which are running 20k to 30k ISK. You'll see approximately a 25k ISK price settle out for all metamaterials in the near term is my guess. That should be high enough to generally increase T2 costs, but price isn't the real point. Supply is the point and keeping it restricted is best for the economy in the long run. Capsuleers will still buy ships. They will still pony up the ISK. And industrialists will adjust their prices accordingly while remaining profitable: their pricing supported by a much truer supply and demand mechanism. And we will all prosper.

Fly Careful

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

All Quiet on the Wormhole Front

“The things men did or felt they had to do.”
― Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

The past week or so has been really quiet in Anoikis. On several nights we have rolled our static ad nauseum  looking for a good fight. And by ad nauseum I mean closing and finding the new static dozens of times, scouting it each time and being disappointed each time. I think the only thing that can really sum up how that feels is this little ditty, especially the peckerhead comment.

We found no good fights. We thought we might get one about a week ago. We had a 30 member fleet all safed and ready to go. We thought for sure someone would want to defend an offline faction tower. But no matter what we did, even warping in a Moros and putting it in siege, convinced the occupants to come out and rumble.

So we blew up the faction tower anyway. I was #8 on the damage list. The Moros was #1 of course. I thought this was interesting because I was in my fleet Proteus but was using tungsten (hey, it's what I had loaded. I was saving the Void and Null for anyone who wanted to play) and Hammerhead IIs. Even using a minimal DPS charge that Proteus is a monster.

On a slight tangent, I am a week away from being able to effectively fly a Legion. One of the things I want to do is compare the DPS between the two ships. I eventually ran out of Tungsten and had to use some of my Null. Had I not had any I would have had to go get more ammo. In Anoikis that's not really a good thing. So if the Legion DPS is acceptable, I'll make it my fleet ship and use the Proteus only for Sleeper sites.

Back to topic, the lack of good fights is making life pretty damn boring. I'm blaming the current malaise on a couple of things. The first is the Odyssey update that went in yesterday. Life always seems to get a tad more boring just before an expansion. And there were enough ship changes in this one to make anyone full of caution and a wee bit of trepidation.

I mean, have you seen the fracking prices on Damnations lately? It looks like the starting climb on a damn roller coaster. The talk on comms was the ship changes had this unexpected result. The current sell price for just the hull is 360 mISK. My friend Kao Jai couldn't even get into Jita today. He only got as far as Perimeter but that was close enough. Have a look.
 I wonder what else has been affected. What's surprised you so far?

Anyway, back to why things have probably been so quiet. On May 31st Talocan United disbanded. The executor corporation still exists but everyone else has left for other pastures. It's probably not a good time for any of them to come out and play. Of course, I've not seen many encounters with Talocan United in the past so perhaps that doesn't factor too deeply for our current lack of action. I'm not sure where the other wormhole alliances are or what they're up to. All I can say is it's really disappointing to role the static 30 times (and more!) on several different evenings and get nothing for the effort.

The only thing that keeps me hopeful is the thought this is Eve. Change is inevitable. Some day the good fights will return. Until then, I'll just keep doing the carebear thing.

Fly Careful

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Never Just About the Lulz

Tranquility is back online. The Internet gank perpetrated by LulzSec (EDIT: or whoever, I used LulzSec because they've done it before though they are currently status unknown - however a whole book could be written on that assumption)  has been stopped. Entertainment at our expense is over. But was it ever about just entertainment?

I've been an IT professional for two decades, since my first career crashed and exploded. Over time I have earned many security credentials. As all good white-hats do, I've delved into the dark side of my profession. As Sun Tzu admonishes,
"If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles."
What I have learned is that such attacks are never done simply for lulz. Lulz are not enough. To make such an effort requires a real pay off. But it does not surprise me that (EDIT: groups like) LulzSec (EDIT: that last for those who can't read between the lines) would want us to believe otherwise. Sun Tzu also states,
"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."
These folks are smart; in some ways probably smarter than I am - or at least more devious. I am sure they too understand the Art of War. So I also found as no surprise this paragraph in CCP's official statement on the DDoS attack.
"What we can now confirm is that a person was able to utilize a vulnerability in one of the back-end services that support the operation of the Tranquility server."
So the point of the DDoS was to cover the attempted hack of a zero-day vulnerability in the CCP back-end. That's confirmation in this business that it never was about just lulz, though I'm certain a few were had by someone. But I have a more important question burning in the back of my brain. Why the attempted hack in the first place? That's a helluva escalation. Escalation of what you ask? The war on bots is what.

My experience with black-hats tells me it always boils down to money. When it comes to online gaming, the illicit money is in RMT. The people who write the bots that gather the ISK know enough to wear black-hats if they so wished. Did they wish to at this time? I can't help but think this might be an indication of some desperation in that camp. If true, it's a brazen escalation of the current war on bots. Still, it was inevitable I believe.

The new login system can only have one purpose to my professional eye. It's yet another weapon in the anti-bot arsenal. If it's now more difficult to login as a thinking human, you better believe it's even more difficult to automate. I see the new launcher as a successful means to that end. By separating the login from the client, it requires two dissimilar sets of code to manipulate. It is in effect, two-step authentication. You must log in and you must have a valid client. Client checking is now done at stage one, the login. We already know CCP has ways of detecting an altered client. Before the client even starts, it must be valid. There is no hacking the client to intercept the result and alter it. Open DNS error returns on launcher failures lead me to believe (it's a job thing) any attempted manipulation of the new launcher would be far more detectable than the older client. It's double jeopardy. Touché CCP.

I can easily believe the bot masters would do just about anything to access the code for this system. If I were them, I'd want to know exactly how it worked - or have a way around it. Is that what happened here, an attempted end run? I'm sure there are those who really know but I am only making conjecture. Still, it's what I would do if I wore a different color hat. I think skirmish one goes to CCP. But make no mistake, this was only one battle. The war is far from over.

Fly Careful