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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Wrap Up

This is my last post this month. As such, I'm going to do wrap up of some of the other posts I've made this month. It's as much for my own edification as a form of closure for those who took interest in what I wrote. I'll not wrap up every post, just those I feel need some closure. So, starting from the beginning of the month, here are your's and the rest of the community's reactions to happenings in the EVE Universe ala Mabrick.

We Need Better than Double Taxes and no Chance of Profit

There were 23 good comments to this post. They're worth a read if you haven't already. The majority opinion, which fits my readership and should not be construed as representative of EVE players in general, is that the high-sec Custom Office changes will effectively stop independents in their tracks. Shortly after that post I received word from my friend Kao Jai. He will cease all PI business by November 19th and try to figure out some other way to make ISK in high-sec. He is depressed. He even mentioned that he may quit EVE Online altogether over this. Evidently the mini-game that is PI is really what appealed to him about EVE Online; way more than any other form of industry. I think CCP should rethink their strategy in this. I don't feel it will work the way they think it will, if for no other reason than it falls squarely into the 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink' wisdom. They are not encouraging play style alteration through tough love. They are alienating loyal customers who may simply walk away. The only real question is what percentage of customers that will be. If the percentage is low, it may not matter to CCP. I certainly hope they have those numbers to backup this decision. Only time will tell.

Valkyrie - The How

Ocular VR and their Rift 3D goggles are a hot topic in the gaming e-zines these days. Not a day seems to go by without one article or another about the company and their evolutionary (revolutionary is too strong a word IMO) advancement of stereoscopic video. I eagerly read all the articles that came into my feeds and all but one made me smile. The one that did not was Nathan Grayson's Rock Paper Shotgun comment piece about the interview with David Reid. I am going to quote the relevant part but you should really read the whole article.
"chief marketing officer David Reid was quite adamant that EVE Valkyrie won’t necessarily be launching on PC or Oculus Rift. I’m not really sure what to make of it, to be honest, but here’s what he said. 
“Hold on a second, we haven’t confirmed that Valkyrie’s on PC,” he interjected when I idly noted that Dust 514 is the only non-PC extension of the EVE universe. “It’s capable of playing on PC right now, but we haven’t confirmed what we’re going to launch it on.” 
“It technically works on PC, and it’s working fine, but there are other platforms it could run on. There’s nothing that technically prevents it from running on a console, for example.”"
Unlike Nathan Grayson, I don't take this to necessarily mean Valkyrie won't be on the PC using Oculus Rift, but it does make me worry. I worry that Valkyrie will debut on a Playstation console and I don't own one of those. I have an Xbox. I suppose I could look at these statements as having a 2 out of 3 chance to play Valkyrie when it comes out. But since CCP already has a connection with Sony, I see that chance as more like 50/50. And those are uncomfortable odds. I hope I don't end up in the Angry Dome myself.

Collusion: You Have to Prove It

I have come out on the losing side of this debate. Have a look at Nosey Gamer's most recent post on the subject - SOMERblink: Headshot. The tl;dr is CCP has issued a cease and desist order to all sellers of GTC concerning referrals. [POINT OF ORDER EDIT 10/31/13 22:45: the cease and desist is not for referrals in general, only those that  lead to real money for ISK like the SOMERblink bonus. See Nosey's comment for a much better explanation.] I could admit I was wrong about this, but I am unconvinced this isn't a reaction to all the pressure and bad publicity CCP has garnered vis-a-vis GTC referrals and SOMERblink specifically. CCP sets the rules. They could have extended them to include GTC referrals if they wanted to. But like Burn Jita, this caught CCP unaware and unprepared. It's hard to not cave in to external pressures when you're completely on the defensive. I also want to point out that this says nothing about the gifting of special in-game items to SOMERblink personnel. However, that too will probably stop. I am sure new internal procedures were issued to the community team as well. As for when SOMERblink will modify their page and stop the referral bonus, I'll guess at the last possible moment. That only makes business sense. There will be a run on the referral market is my other guess, and SOMERblink and Markee Dragon will want to cash in on that. It's business after all. And one other thing, don't think this will stop them. They are creative entrepreneurs; just the sort of people CCP publicly calls to join them. Hell, CCP has publicly spotlighted both! Whether you like SOMERblink or not, CCP needs them and other's like them. CCP makes no significant gains from my blog or most of the other members of our valued community. They do make bank with the likes of Markee Dragon and SOMERblink. Rail against them all you like, I doubt they'll go away of their own accord - and CCP would be foolish to ban them.

And that's it for the October wrap up. Be sure to catch my Friday post, which is already written and waiting for other events that will happen that day. Exciting things are coming to the EVE Universe: pew-pew things! It makes me believe CCP is correct when they say the best is yet to come.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cultural Chasms

When I was making the decision on where I should go from being a high-sec carebear, one of the options presented to me was a move to null-sec. A reader of my blog contacted me and made an offer that was very, very tempting. He offered me my own system. In the end, I decided to take the plunge into Anoikis. However, I have remained in contact with him and consider him blue to this day. Earlier this year he had issues with his own alliance. They were very similar to some of the issues I've encountered. He is Russian, and did not understand why some players had difficulty expressing themselves in any way other than vulgarity. Here is what he encountered with PvP play.
"There is an old Russian phrase "if you have no will - you have thousands of excuses. If you have will - you have thousands of opportunities". This is true for my situation as well. I tried to enjoy different play style with new buddies and forget about my habits to build things, mine and research. But here comes the main, most important and most frustrating problem. Cultural chasm.
Oh yes. And I'm not talking about national cultural differences. I mean international things like common sense and manners, respectable behavior. When we were invited into <redacted> TS, the 1st conversation I heard was:
xxx: How do i shoot that shield to you if your sh..t so far from me?
yyy: go fu..k yourself! You could do that sh..t no prob!
xxx: we need to do something about that sh..ty rep range, damn
yyy: ya. Still learning this f..king skill so next time we'll rape those sh..t faced
xxx: ya! Those sh..tty di..ks waiting for anal rape! them!
Well. What can I say. In RL I'll not stay in the room where such conversation occurs. I'll leave.
Here, in TS, members felt free to splash lingual dirt without any bad feelings. For me it is the same as somebody peeing in the crowded street and sincerely can't understand why others are disgusted: "whacha prob man? It's natural!" Harlem-like slang, tons of foul language and toilet jokes filling the atmosphere of "the most pvp oriented alliance in EVE" TS. Forums? Same. They write in the same way as they talk. CTAs... Can you imagine, not even one-sentence CTA mail with time and ship type they can't be said without at least one pair of F and S words? LOL? No, this is not funny at all. This is depressing.

I really do not understand this. Well, most of them are from US. Maybe you, Mabrick, can give me idea about what's the hell is going on with these people? In Russia, if I hear such speech, it usually means, it's a person who spent half of his life in a prison and never had even elementary school education. Grew up on the streets... etc.
From my personal experience, deviation from "culturedness" always shows same curve in any MMO I have ever played. There are always people who are forming the culture of the server. People like you, Chribba, Jester, Rulers or "EVE University," they are almost never "pvp oriented" as a rule they are peaceful people.
This is not a coincidence. This is natural for people interested in an immersive world who just can't concentrate on one narrow direction of game, like pvp who look on environment through the barrel of the gun. They prefer to enjoy the whole virtual world. Its lore, its community, its politics, its economy, all ways to exist in it. Because the world does not look natural if everyone is always fighting. Such world can't be real and can't be serious. If the only thing people are doing is a fighting, this is not a world, this is an arena. And people who are keen to immersive perception of the world do not want arena, they want the whole living breathing world.
Then there are PVPers. As a rule, pvp players appears to be more rude and having lower culture level then "carebears" (I tried to avoid this word as long as possible.) In average ofc. But the cultural level of <redacted> shocked me. I put headset on the table and still had a feeling I need to wash my ears. Brr."
At this point I'll admit my unkind and likely drunk alliance member got under my skin a bit with his diatribe about my Citizen's Arrest post. And this email is proof I'm not out of line to feel that way. I am not the problem. You see, I join comms when I can. I fly in fleets when I can. It doesn't help I am West Coast U.S. and everything seems to happen before I even get off work, but I do what I can when I have time to do it - which admittedly hasn't been much lately for RL reasons. And I know I suck at PvP. But everyone has to start at the beginning. I am getting better. I actually know not to use pulse ECM in a fleet. I am learning, just like everyone has to learn. And if I post things someone feels are questionable or wrong, so what? At least I had the guts to put it out there hoping someone could explain what they thought was wrong and perhaps teach me something new (and thank you to those who did.) See, I've never claimed to be an expert. I am merely willing to learn.

But it seems some PvPers tend to eat their young without any thought about what it was like in their early days. When they also sucked. They are not interested in teaching. They don't care about any other aspect of the game except to further their own self-indulgences. My Russian friend is correct, they are not the same as most of the other players with whom I've had the privilege to play. And I try to be understanding, but in the end I too am at a loss to explain their behavior. Fortunately, when they begin to act out, I can ignore them most of the time. As for overt hostility, if they think they can pressure me out by their behavior, well, I've been through worse - much worse. They have no idea. I'm not going anywhere. People might as well just get used to that idea.

Watch Out

PS: To the Cynabal pilot who jumped into O-CT8N from A-DZA8 Saturday night: come on man, you can take a Brutix - especially one flown by a care-badger. It'd have been an awesome fight! See you around.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Citizen's Arrest - A Different Look at the New Industrials

[EDIT 10/25/13 09:00 - Correct points below about not needing to actually scram the ganker once they fire. CONCORD will get them regardless. However, let's not forget there is a mental aspect to PvP that most carebear lack - the kill reflex. There is a barrier between just surviving and actively hunting the hunter. It's a hard barrier to cross. I know first hand. Carebears who want to be care-badgers need to overcome this barrier to successfully make the transition, and actively scramming and webbing promotes that. Also, in PvP, you should always do those things that are most fundamental to the process of PvP. Scram and web is a basic tenant of PvP. Do not ignore it just because the CONCORD mechanic obviates the need for it. Train as you fight; fight as you train. Don't build a bunch of exceptions in your head. You won't have time to consider them and will DIAF. Besides, what else are you going to do with those middle slots? And how do you get a killmail if you don't target the ganker? You might as well go ahead and do it right.]

One of the most frustrating aspects of high-sec industrialism is the suicide gank. Nothing produces more angst than watching your hard earned assets vaporize around you so fast CONCORD can't stop it. For those who are unfamiliar with the mechanics, CONCORD has a response time depending on two things. The first variable is the security rating of the system. The lower the security rating, the slower the CONCORD response. The second variable is a timing variable for lack of a more precise term. I works like this. If a gank has already happened in system and CONCORD as not de-spawned, CONCORD assets will  respond faster to a second criminal activity.

There is some debate on what the actual response times are in reality. However, I discovered a blog post last year by Tippis where he tested CONCORD on SISI, the test server. The bottom line is it took no longer than 35 seconds for CONCORD to destroy a criminal. It took no longer than 19 seconds for CONCORD to completely web, neut, jam and castrate the criminal.

[EDIT 10/25/13 09:30 - as there has been some debate (jeez, who knew)  in responses to this post about CONCORD response times, here is the conclusion Tippis reached by actual testing.
There are two large bands of response times: one for the highest sec levels (0.8 and above, essentially anywhere where you cannot anchor structures), where it's hard to tell a difference without much more numerous tests, and another for “mid-sec” (0.5–0.7, the parts of highsec where anchoring is possible), where the response times quickly ramp up. 
1.0 — 6±1 seconds.
0.9 — 6±1 seconds.
0.8 — 7±1 seconds.
0.7 — 10±1 seconds.
0.6 — 14±1 seconds.
0.5 — 19±1 seconds.
These base times can at the moment be modified depending on what else is going on in the system or at the location (this may change when Crimewatch 2.0 is rolled out).
Pre-spawning CONCORD reduces the response time 0.5 to 9 seconds; to 9 seconds in 0.6; and to 2 seconds in 1.0 (more testing of the in-between levels is needed).
Moving pre-spawned CONCORD adds 6±1 seconds.
TMK, the results have not changed with Crimewatch 2.0 as CONCORD response was not part of the final update.]

What that means for high-sec care-bears who want to become care-badgers is you have to hold the suicide ganker for at least 20 seconds until CONCORD arrives and deals with them. This would be the New Eden equivalent of citizens arrest. To make a citizen's arrest, you have to make certain your ship is able to not only survive the suicide ganker's alpha, but hold his ship in place until CONCORD arrives. Then they'll do the "dirty work" for you.

So how does one do that? Well, before Odyssey and the changes to industrial ships, one had to trade cargo capacity for defensive/offensive modules: cargo expanders for armor modules. Even if you relied on shield tanking, you had to trade tank for offensive ability to make the Citizen's Arrest.

With new dedicated cargo holds, that is no longer necessary. Any care-bear interested in making a citizen's arrest now has a chance to do so, while still conducting their primary focus of making ISK. In a bit I'll show fits that could do the job. But first, I want to state a few facts of life in New Eden.

First, there is no ship fit anywhere in New Eden that will win every time. Second, a determined opponent will almost always get their kill. Third, the gank I will discuss is the single Catalyst suicide gank. Catalysts are very popular for suicide ganking because they are cheap and produce a large alpha even when T1 fit. However, for the purposes of this discussion I am going to base my analysis on Jester's T2 Suicide Catalyst found here. Here is the fit he posted in that article.
[Catalyst, Suicide T2]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II 
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Supplemental Scanning CPU I, Scan Resolution Script 
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S
Light Ion Blaster II, Void S 
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I
[empty rig slot]
According to Jester (and EVEHQ Fitter concurs,) "Alpha is 880 or so every 1.6 to 1.8 seconds, for 500 to 550 DPS." Your industrial needs to be able to tank that damage for at least 30 seconds. That's a total potential of 16,500 damage. This requires an active tank with some buffer to absorb the Catalyst's volley damage. It will also require a practiced flying technique to reduce the amount of damage the Catalyst can effectively deliver. Don't think you can just fit these ships and win. You won't, but it is possible with training.

Defense isn't the only thing your ship is going to have to do for 30 seconds. Your ship has to hold the Catalyst on grid until CONCORD arrives. To do this you have to both Scram and Web the Catalyst. That will put a huge drain on your capacitor, but it is manageable.

So, on to the industrial ship fits. I am using Gallente models because hey, it's me. I have specifically created very cheap T1 fits. Any module you can swap out for a higher meta module will help - sometimes a great deal. Now be aware, my skills are high and some of these fits are power tight. You may need to sacrifice an armor rig for a second power rig. This will decrease your tank and make the citizen's arrest a more dicey proposition, but you should still be able to carry it off. I checked these fits against my son's 30 million SP PvP character and only the Epithal required a second power rig. All numbers I give are for the 30 million SP character. If you are below 30 million SP, your results WILL vary. Here's the Epithal fit.
[Epithal, Citizen's Arrest]
2x Small Nosferatu I 
10MN Afterburner I
Warp Scrambler I
Stasis Webifier I
Tracking Disruptor I (Optimal Range Disruption Script) 
Damage Control I
Explosive Plating I
Adaptive Nano Plating I
Medium Armor Repairer I 
2x Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
This fit has the least tank of any of the new industrial ships at 5662 EHP. It can repair 60 damage per cycle. That is only 1800 damage total, but every little bit helps. Now here is a very interesting point. IF you can fit an Ancillary Armor Repairer, that's the one that uses Nanite Repair Paste, your repair rate goes up to 135 damage per cycle. That's better than a T2 repairer. Keep that in mind. It doesn't take long to train and it makes these fits MUCH more survivable.

This fit is extremely power limited even with the two power rigs. The key to this ship is its speed. It is faster than the catalyst even if both ships are not webbed. Notice I did NOT use an MWD. That's why, the afterburner works where an MWD gets scrammed. Oh, and it also keeps the sig radius down. That's important because you fight this ship to avoid DPS rather than deliver it. You can't absorb the entire potential DPS the Catalyst can put out so you must avoid damage by flying smart.

Here's what I mean by that last statement. If you let the Catalyst do what it does best, you will not survive until CONCORD arrives. It will chew through your armor and you will not be able to repair enough to make it 30 seconds. You need to stay as far from the Catalyst as you can while still keeping him from warping off, and you need to reduce his ability to deliver DPS. That's why there is a tracking disruptor with a range script. The Catalyst is already pretty damn near sighted. If you can reduce that even further, you will make it so long as you stay at your optimal and don't give him a clean shot. Keep your transverse velocity high. Your optimal is far enough away his guns can't hit as hard.

If your tank does start to break, with the afterburner you have the option of quickly stepping out of harms way and warping off. Even if you have to do the latter, imagine the stain on the ganker's seat when you scram and web him and take several volleys without crumbling. What ganker expects the prey to become predator? That alone is worth the risk to me.

Along the same lines as the Epithal, we have the Miasmos and Kryos. They are practically the same ship.
[Miasmos/Kryos, Citizen's Arrest]
2x Small Nosferatu I 
Small Capacitor Booster I (Cap Booster 100)
Warp Scrambler I
Stasis Webifier I
Tracking Disruptor I (Optimal Range Disruption Script) 
Damage Control I
Explosive Plating I
Adaptive Nano Plating I
Medium Armor Repairer I 
Medium Ancillary Current Router I
2x Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
These ship fits have no afterburner. Once committed, you are there until someone explodes unless you get lucky. You are warned. This isn't for the faint of heart. The fits have 5771 and 5807 EHP respectively and are cap stable with the cap booster 100 charges and the NOS active. You can increase the size of the cap booster charge to alleviate the need for the NOS. Fly this as you would the Epithal. With the web you can still stay out of optimal but it is trickier with less room for mistakes. Flying these fits require more pilot skill (and I don't mean SP) than the Epithal.

And last, let's look at a bait ship just for good measure. I call this a bait ship because you still have to trade cargo modules for tank modules. However, if your intent is to bait and gank the ganker, this is your ship. Put something really juicy in the cargo hold and lure them in like honey.
[Nereus, Gank Bait]
2x Small Nosferatu I 
10MN Afterburner I
Warp Scrambler I
Stasis Webifier I
Tracking Disruptor I (Optimal Range Disruption Script)
Small Capacitor Booster I (Cap Booster 200) 
Damage Control I
Explosive Plating I
2x Adaptive Nano Plating I
Medium Armor Repairer I 
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
2x Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I 
6x Warrior I
This fit has 11,472 EHP. It has the best tank of the three fits because it has an extra middle and lower module slot. This fit is also cap stable with the NOS active or with larger cap charges. You have a rather large cargo hold with which to carry plenty. There is plenty of extra CPU and power to play around with various modules, and T2 modules fit nicely if you can use them. This ship even comes with drones so you can pod the ganker if you want. The other fits would require you to drop a NOS to do so; they all have one turret so it's possible. Just remember, if you want to lure gankers, you have to appear as helpless as possible. Don't over do it.

In closing, I'd like to point out again that these ships are not designed for PvP. None of them have much more than 50% resists and all have thin buffers. The goal with these fits is to hold a suicide gank Catalyst on grid until CONCORD arrives to destroy them. That is all. And that goal isn't for the faint of heart. Gankers often have buddies. You should have some too if you really want to even the odds. And if you really want some lulz, your buddies should all be in battle Ventures. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Collusion: You Have to Prove It

Gods, I wish I could walk away for the SOMERblink player-initiated controversy, but I can't. A blogger I have no small about of respect for has labeled SOMERblink an RMT site. His last two EVE related posts have been all about that. But is that SOMERblink's intent? I actually got to talk to the owner of SOMERblink this past weekend. I found him to be an earnest entrepreneur trying to run a business. Yes, a business you knuckleheads; just like you all wish you could run. Keeping that site running is not cost free. It takes real world money, or do you also still believe in fairies? That makes it a business even if it is essentially a non-profit.

But back to this RMT charge. In a standard RMT transaction, one party creates ISK through the game mechanism designed for that purpose, and then sells it to a second party for real money. This transaction may involve many people: multiple bot runners, RMT web site managers, as well as the person buying the ISK. But, there is a very clear intent by all those involved to conduct RMT. It's why the botters bot, the web site exists and the lazy gamer finds it in the first place. Everyone, at every step, knows exactly what they are doing and their actions show it without a doubt. Their intent is to circumvent the game from the beginning to the end. No contract between any party in this chain of events is allowed according to the EULA or ToS.

Now, let's look at the SOMERblink incident. First of all, there is no clear cut contract connecting all parties to a single purpose. You actually have three contracts in action here for three separate reasons. At least two of these contracts are sanctioned by CCP.

The first sanctioned contract is Markee Dragon selling GMT. That is a contract between CCP and Markee Dragon. It is no different than the contract given all sellers of GMT; 'nuf said. It is the least controversial segment of this chain of events.

So Markee Dragon asks a site operator with a shit-ton of hits per day to act as an outside sales person for them. This is the second contract and it is done EVERY DAMN DAY in this world. It is not illegal and does not violate the EULA or ToS anymore than syndication agreements between EN24 and bloggers are illegal. I know, I've been a recipient of ISK for that sort of thing. Does that make me an RMTer? If the agreement between Markee Dragon and SOMERblink is illegal, so are all those other agreements out there. The fact they all exist argues otherwise.

There is nothing "wrong" with the previous two contracts. They are also distinct and different. SOMERblink does not sell the GMT directly. They are an agent of Markee Dragon, a duly authorized seller of GMT. We all good up to this point? I hope so because there is nothing controversial about these relationships whatsoever.

Now we get to the third contract that has everyone in an uproar. SOMERblink made a decision to entice their users to use Markee Dragon by offering them blink credit. It is possible for the recipients of blink credits to redeem some of that credit for ISK. It is an indirect process to be sure, but it is possible. Now, this contract is between SOMERblink and its users. If the user uses the link on the SOMERblink site to buy GMT from Markee Dragon, SOMERblink will give them 200 million blink credit. Is this RMT? Well, I've written posts and received ISK for them so I'm inclined to say no. Others say yes.

But ask yourself this. If SOMERblink did not get paid for the transaction, would they still issue the blink credit for using the link? The answer is yes, they would. How do I know? Because I personally got blink credit for a GMT sale that was initially refused by Markee Dragon. I had to contact Markee Dragon directly to sort it out. Here's the email thread.
However, SOMERblink still gave me the blink credit on the 11th. No real money had yet been given to them, because I had not reordered yet, but they honored their contract with me. Wish I could prove it beyond a doubt. The 200 million blink credit they gave me has scrolled off the history available on the SOMERblink web site unfortunately. But the fact I got blink credit first indicates to me the contract has nothing to do with actually obtaining real money via the transaction I conducted with Markee Dragon. It is an incentive not unlike the coupons stores offer to get people to buy certain products for which those stores have a special pricing agreement (SPA) with the manufacturing company. Perhaps SOMERblink would have reclaimed the credit if I had not followed up and resubmitted the order. Perhaps I could have scammed the hell out of them. They've been robbed before. But either way, calling it all RMT is a hell of a stretch.

And that's the point here people. We are not talking about RMT when there are three separate contracts being completed, two of them are outright sanctioned, and there is no intent to get ISK for money. Fact: I bought the GTC for blink credit, not ISK. I wanted to play for "free" and not have to use my hard earned in-game money to do it! How in the universe can this be considered RMT? Well, obviously many do. They believe SOMERblink and Markee Dragon are in collusion.

But a charge of collusion requires a huge amount of evidence. Without said evidence the accusation is at best envy and at worst outright libel. Bloggers need to walk a very fine line here. Making such accusations without proof is a dangerous undertaking. So far this does not seem to have affected SOMERblink or Markee Dragon as a business. But if it does, rest assured that the businesses which are SOMERblink and Markee Dragon may have legal grounds to seek compensation. And don't forget, libel is a civil charge, not a criminal one. The courts are much more lenient on interpreting the term "harm" in such cases. Be very, very careful treading that field. It's full of mines.

I've another concern too. The EVE community is full of ISK for work deals. We all accept those as legitimate without ever questioning them. But are they really ligitimate? If I pay for this blog (I don't BTW) and accept ISK for the things I put on it, am I not guilty of RMT by the same logic used by all those who want to burn SOMERblink down? I am, after all, using my real money (and time, which everyone knows is money) to get ISK. To use another analogy, Pandora should never have opened that box.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Valkyrie - The How

Of course Jester beat me to the punch on this one. He'd no sooner gotten home from EVE Vegas than he posted about the upgraded Valkyrie experience. You can read his excellent write-up here. He is right on the money with everything stated. The only thing I will add is this little gem that popped out of my news alerts last night as I was waiting form my late night flight home.
Eve: Valkyrie -- The Future Of Immersive Virtual Reality Gaming Experience - by Michael Venables for Forbes Magazine
Mr. Venables states that SigurĂ°ur Gunnarsson, "points out that the biggest challenges are figuring out the configuration of the user interface, and figuring out the core game play." (Emphasis mine.) To me, core game play is synonymous with the 'wrapper' Jester wrote about - or the 'how' as I like to call it. Since Jester already covered the 'wow,' I'd like to throw a few ideas out on the 'how.'

No matter how you slice it, this game cannot be a stand alone product. I know there are a lot of gamers out there who resent the always connected requirements leveled by most of the game companies these days. I sympathize in certain situations, because games like SimCity or Civilization, when not played in multiplayer mode, should just work regardless of Internet connectivity.

That said, Valkyrie is not one of these types of games. This is a space dogfight game. NPC AI will not make this a compelling game even for the one or two hours Jester wrote about. It will be appealing for exactly as long as the 3-D wow factor lasts - 5 minutes. Okay, it will actually vary from person to person, but for me, I was done with the wow after my first 3-minute session with the hardware on. After that, it was about the dogfight! For the dogfight to be compelling, there must be humans flying the other fighters.

The simplest PvP implementation that I personally would find appealing is the kill board. Pilots would compete for "bragging rights" based on a publicly accessible database of victories and losses. In addition, there could be special achievements  for maneuvers successfully flown, fighters mastered, weapons utilized, etc. The list of possible achievements is limited only by the imagination of the developers. Pilots who do exceptionally well would see their faces blastered on billboards at every gate in New Eden and on the live feed in the Captain's Quarters. Now there's real New Eden fame!

And there would always be room for expansion. Take fighter types for instance. Currently there are only two in the simulation: Minmatar Einherji and Amarr Templar. But, EVE Online has many more types of fighter craft, as well as bombers. More could always be added. As the various factions develop them, perhaps pilots would have to master those new craft by achieving preset goals. This could also double as player tutorial. These achievements do not have to necessarily entail combat. The navigation and general flight graduation ceremony could be a no holds barred race through space, or some such PvE scenario. Not everything done in these single pilot ships has to be combat oriented. However, everything should lead the pilot to the PvP aspects of the game - in true EVE Online fashion.

One thing that would be crucial to this TOPGUN (and I mean the Navy program, not the movie) approach would be a social environment in which to exercise it. CCP Pokethulhu alluded in his talk at EVE Vegas that CCP would not keep the door in our Captain's Quarters locked forever. Valkyrie could give that reveal a more urgent need. It would help answer the question of how CCP could fit Valkyrie into the EVE Online universe as it stands today.

One way I think that could be done is to call the piloted fighter program a test by the various factions to see if capsuleer pilots can handle the fighters better than a drone AI. Can even a capsuleer clone, as heavily enhanced as it is, withstand the sheer physics of that dogfight? This test program would be implemented at faction navy bases throughout known space. Capsuleers would become test pilots by walking through that now locked door. Once that happens, their achievements would not only be visible in the database, but would be worn as medals and ribbons on their uniform for all to see.

And think of the tournaments that could be aired on CCP's Twitch channel. The casual viewer may not understand what's happening in Alliance Tournament, but everyone understands Top Gun (this is the movie reference.) Imagine a future where the best Valkyrie pilots are professional gamers earning a living flying EVE Online fighters...

These few start-up ideas are just a beginning. From what I heard and saw at EVE Vegas, there is a strong desire to integrate Valkyrie into the PvP capsuleers already conduct. Just as Dust mercenaries have a role in New Edin politics, so will those capsuleers who elect to become fighter pilots.

That will be a far more difficult proposition than this simple kill board and tournament based system I've outlined. Players have already shown a finicky nature when it comes to anything they perceive as "bad" for the sandbox. And I do foresee difficulties that could arise from Valkyrie integration with the sandbox. For instance, what if some very large alliance gained a substantial advantage over everyone else because CCP implemented Valkyrie in a way they were the only one's in a position to take advantage of? Those not in such a position would no doubt feel the balance of the game was decidedly tipped against them.

In conclusion, I agree with just about everyone else. Valkyrie has a very promising future. I also see a way in which it can fit into the EVE Online we all love. Whether it successfully becomes an integral part of the sandbox is a question orders of magnitude more difficult to answer. I know CCP will go carefully here, and I for one will be very interested to see what they develop. But until then, I can't wait to get back in the cockpit again!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Happens at EVE Vegas Doesn't Stay There

It's Sunday, the last day of EVE Vegas. It's been one hell of an awesome weekend. And though they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, I don't believe it would be correct for that to happen with most of what I've experienced this weekend. It would be practically criminal not to talk about it.

I'd like to start by expressing my unending thanks to all those who made this event possible. From Zapawork, to CCP Guard and the whole EVE Vegas entourage, to all those who swabbed Valkyrie headsets and goggles, ran the tournament, scanned our tickets, handed out bling or were just general dogsbodies, I cannot say thank you enough for all that you've done to make this weekend a smashing success! I'd shake every single one of your hands if you had the time.

Personally, I'm a fairly private person. I began this blog as much for general therapy in the fine art of socializing as for the opportunity to pontificate on things important to me in Eve Online. It has taken a long, long time for me to get mostly comfortable with meeting others, saying hello and just shaking hands. This goes for RL as well as EVE Online. And regardless of how my writing might sound at times, I am as insecure about my own "talents" (see!) as everyone reading this are about there's. In the back of my mind there is always that little voice calling me a fraud and telling me I should just shut up.

So I boarded a plane for Las Vegas with no small about of trepidation. In this thing we call meta-game, we've all had to choose a side even if that side is none-of-the-above. We've all traded barbs and arrows from time to time. We've done it for the sake of a game we all love to play. Now, I mean nothing personal when I challenge someone else's position or decision. I firmly believe we are all adults and disagreement is a fundamental right of free speech. I also understand there may be consequences in game for exercising that right. And to my way of thinking, that all stays in the game. I was not so sure others would feel the same.

Man, did I have a supreme case of derp-think. In the past 48 hours, I have not met a single Eve player who was not friendly, funny, and full of the same love of Eve Online that I have. "Who do you fly with?" was perhaps the most frequently asked first question asked of me. Then it was, "who are you?" That was usually followed by, "Who?" So much for greatness. And then it didn't matter. After that we were just people who loved the same thing. That was the best thing about this gathering IMO: the sheer feeling of shared passion regardless of who blew up who last week.

I've made friends. I've met EVE celebrities. I've got to play Valkyrie! I've drank way too much and made it back to my room without falling down. And best of all, it's not over yet. But when it is over, and I have to get on a plane for home, I'll still be thinking about all the people I met and they things we talked about and the game we share. Perhaps they'll drop me a line in game. I'd even smile if they red boxed me during a happenstance meeting. And I'd certainly love to see them again next year. And if you've not thought about attending, you should give it serious thought. No, it isn't cheap, but you've a year to save up. And you really can't put a price on an experience like this. These'll be memories I carry around with me for a very long time - and worth every penny.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eve Vegas, Baby!

My ship is ready and speed tanked. I've checked in with CONCORD and have a scheduled undock in approximately five hours. Barring any HS pirate intervention, I'll be through the gate and on my way soon. With any luck, I'll be docked in Las Vegas a couple hours later. Then the real fun starts!

I'll be switching over to Twitter (@mabrick) for the duration of the event. I'll post my thoughts about what I saw and did on Monday's post. To all those making a similar journey who have not already left, safe journeys. I'll see you there. To those who could not, we'll miss you... but not so much it'll distract us from having fun. ;-)

Watch Out

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Physics of New Eden

Nosey Gamer today had a post with a first paragraph custom made for what I wanted to write about today. In his post Submarine Game, he likens the physics of Eve Online to submarine warfare. I agree that space combat and submarine combat are very similar. Submarines hide in a hard to scan three dimensional environment as do spaceships. However, the analogy really doesn't have anything to do with physics. It's how humans overcome the obstacle of fighting in a low visibility yet immense environment. The underlying physics of the two mediums are apples and bananas at best. For one, ships in New Eden are not trapped in a gravity well like submarines are and won't sink when depth charged. Then there is the basic difference between hydrodynamics and vacuum dynamics, high drag versus no drag, etc. Though we humans may maneuver vessels similarly in such environments, they are in no substantial way the same - sorry Nosey.

But the physics of New Eden, and the warp changes in Rubicon, are exactly what I wanted to discuss today. I'm not a physicist, but I've had more than the average number of physics courses in my life, and I am fascinated by the subject and read everything I can about it. I'm very familiar with some of the current thinking in the fields of theoretical physics and what scientists are thinking might bridge the gap between Einstein's relativistic universe and quantum mechanic's seemingly random one. More on that in a moment.

Those two models of physics are the root of our physics issue in New Eden. The current way ships get from object to object within any system in New Eden is pretty much in agreement with Einstein's view of the universe. Quantum mechanics is only valid for the infinitesimally small. In Einstein's model, there is a finite speed limit in the universe. That is the constant 'c' in the famous e = mc^2 equation. The layman's term for it is the speed of light. That is inaccurate, but it suffices.

Nothing in the relativistic universe travels faster than this speed limit. To make matters worse, as speed increases so does mass. This requires more energy to move the ship. Any acceleration of that ship again increases mass and requires even more energy. The acceleration curve looks like this when plotted.

It requires an infinite amount of energy to travel at 'c'. But that's not what ships do inside a star system. Star systems are small compared to interstellar space. Relativistic effects aren't noticed on such short trips. Notice how flat the curve is until the velocity gets to about 50% of 'c'. That's the realm of what we do in New Eden. It's the realm of what we can do now in RL. Well, actually we can't even get to the first tick on that graph, but our understanding of physics can theoretically get us to that 50% mark.

And interestingly enough, anything below that threshold can pretty much use the older Newtonian model of physics to travel from point to point. Those equations are not as accurate is Einstein's model, but they are accurate enough at lower speeds.

Here's something most people don't know. NASA actually uses modified Newtonian equations to pilot its spacecraft around the solar system. All the orbital mechanics, those slingshot maneuvers like the Jupiter bound Juno probe just executed, are all done using Newtonian equations.

In Eve Online, the concept of these equations are being used too. Ships cross entire solar systems in seconds, but they do so in a Newtonian manner. According to the current chart, the longest it takes a ship to go 100 AU is 161 seconds or just under three minutes. Now, if that ship is treated as a Newtonian body, that is an accurate reflection of getting a freighter's mass up to max speed, cruising along at that max speed and then flipping end for end to slow down. All things being equal, the deceleration takes as long as the acceleration. And therein lies the issue with current ship physics in New Eden.

The freighter is a behemoth compared to most ships. The only ones close mass-wise are capital ships. All other ships are minnows by comparison, even the battleships. Since one set of equations are used on all ships, the minnows all travel similar distances in similar time spans. The shorter the distance travelled, the smaller the difference in travel time. It diminishes until it is no longer realistically any different. That is what we've all dislike about New Eden physics for a long time. It was a simple case that Eve Online was too real. By adopting the Newtonian model, all "small" ships behaved too similarly.

So what are they doing in Rubicon? Well, they are in essence making Eve Online less real. But are they really? This is where I start to get excited! You see, CCP has just jiggered the equations to produce more divergent behaviors among the minnows. But it actually falls in line with some of the most recent thinking on how to move ships across vast interstellar distances without requiring infinite energy. The term I like to use for this is "gravity surfing." The official term for it is the Alcubierre Drive. This is what it looks like.

Alcubierre Drive Representation
Your spaceship sits in the middle. It manipulates gravity in front of and behind it to constantly "fall" into the gravity well.

Now you'd think that larger ships would fall faster and thus the freighter would arrive before the frigate. However, the larger the ship the larger the perturbation of space-time has to be in order to set up this 'gravity surfing.' There is a diminishing return based on mass that to my way of thinking looks a lot like the new charts CCP published for the upcoming Rubicon expansion.

Of course, I could just be blowing a lot of gravitons up your arse. After all, I'm not a theoretical physicist. But New Eden is also not a real place. And we ignore the known laws of the universe everytime we pretend to travel at speeds that get us from sun to Oort cloud in a minute. By all things real, that can never happen. So I'm satisfied the Alcubierre Drive explains the new warp mechanic. Are you?

Monday, October 14, 2013

BB #50: Time for a New Doctrine

With the Rubicon expansion being announced and the SOMER Blink scandals (or non-scandals depending on your point of view) that have erupted on the community at the same time, it truly feels like an age of EVE has passed and a new one is dawning.

But which direction is it going? This blog banter can be about several different topics:
- where do you think EVE is going? Is it a good or bad vision ahead?
- if you were EVE's new Executive Producer, where would you take the game?
- What comes (or should come) after Rubicon in terms of the mechanics and ship balancing we've seen? (CSM8 not allowed to answer this one!)
- Is there anything in EVE's ten year past that should be resurrected? Or buried and forgotten?
- What is the future of the community? What should or should not change?


I am going to look at this as an amalgam of most of the above topics, with the exception of specific Eve Online development stuff. The reason I'm doing this is because the future of CCP isn't about Eve Online. That was last decade. The next decade will not be successful if Eve Online is the absolute focus of CCP. I know a lot of players don't want to read/hear this, and many will react vehemently against it, but Eve Online is about as big as it is ever going to get. There is no more growth opportunity in it. It is the bulk work of CCP's gaming empire for now, but it is not going to bring victory.

As evidence of this fact, one only has to look at log in numbers independently supplied by Jester or head over to EVE-Offline. Oh sure, the total number of accounts has grown a little in the past few years, but they are not new players. They are alts, and a single player can only actively play so many alts at one time. That's why the log in numbers are key in the determination that Eve Online won't bring CCP the success they need.

We've discussed the average number of alts a given player has within this community in the past, but CCP has never released hard figures to my recollection. But my experience over the past year of actually playing with other people tells me there are probably, on average, two alts for every player giving a total of three characters per real person. This is not to say everyone has three characters. It is an average. Goblin has eleven by his own admission. From things Jester has said over the years, I'm fairly certain he has more than three accounts. Most of the guys in my own corporation have multiple accounts. And no, these aren't just multiple characters on the same account: too many people I fly with these days multibox.

It's good that players have multiple accounts, because every account generates revenue. But they do not generate growth, and without growth Eve Online cannot take CCP to the next level as a business. Without getting to the next level, CCP will simply decline until it vanishes.  Like Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI,) they'll end up bought and resold until no one remembers their past glory and younger upstarts retire the brand. To stop this from happening, CCP needs a new doctrine for their second decade.

Back in my early days in the military, I had a British officer, Major Joe Baker of Her Majesty's Parachute Regiment, as an instructor. Back then, before AirLand Battle doctrine, NATO had this idea called Active Defense. Major Baker's position on it was simple. If you just jump around a lot while waiting for the Soviets to come kill you, you are still going to die. In other words, a good offense is the best defense and no amount of "active defense" was going to win a land war in Europe against the Soviet Union. Here's the analogy for those who don't see it. No amount of expansion, balancing, new modules, or ship types - or anything else pumped into Eve Online - will make CCP succeeded in the coming decade. It's the gaming industry's equivalent of Active Defense, and they'll see their players bleed away one by one until a tipping point is reached and they become SSI.

No, what CCP needs is it's own AirLand Battle doctrine. The key point about AirLand Battle was that it was offensive by design, not defensive in nature. It relied on ALL assets to win: land, sea and air. It did not concentrate just on the main battle area as Active Defense did, but extended the fight into rear areas, the sky overhead, the ocean depths and even space. Offensive pressure was created on every front and with all means at NATO's disposal. They did not limit themselves and no region, continent or even planet was theoretically off limits. That is what CCP must do in the coming decade if Eve Online is to survive.

That is why we have Dust 514 and CCP is continuing to develop the game. It doesn't have to be Halo or Call of Duty. It only has to be different enough from Eve Online to appeal to a different sort of gamer. But even a tangential relationship seems to be having an ill effect on the game. People who play first person shooters (FPS) really don't want a situation where those who have more ISK or are in the biggest organizations win by dint of in-game assets or sheer blob size. More offensive fronts are needed because Dust 514 is really no more than Eve Online on a planet.

So in comes Valkyrie. There is a lot of appeal in this product. It appears to be a genuine FPS and so far ISK and affiliations have nothing to do with the game play. It'd be best if it stayed that way. If any of the sandbox mentality creeps into Valkyrie, it will send non-Eve players running for the exits. Fact of gaming, most gamers don't want to play in a sandbox. They want games with rules and boundaries and many just want it to be their persona versus the environment. They don't want to be forced to deal with other players at a time or in a manner not of their choosing. At most they want evenly matched sides and an opportunity to win within the framework of an impartial system. That is one reason Alliance Tournament is so successful and deserves special mention as one thing CCP invented last decade that has been successful. So Valkyrie will help CCP in the next decade so long as it works more like Alliance Tournament and less like the general sandbox.

And then there is World of Darkness. It's a completely different genre than Eve Online, and hopefully that will make it a completely different sort of game. If Eve Online along with Dust 514 is the land component of CCP's new doctrine, and Alliance Tournament is it's air power component, and Valkyrie is it's orbital component, then World of Darkness must be it's nuclear ballistic submarine fleet. CCP already has a sandbox. And I've already pointed out it appeals to a very narrow spectrum of the gaming population. If World of Darkness actually comes to be, and it is not a sandbox, it will be unlike anything CCP has done. It will appeal to a completely different sect of gamer. CCP must have this component to have a successful doctrine.

But there are impediments to establishing a new doctrine with which NATO didn't have to deal. In many ways CCP has the same problem many celebrities face. Celebrities get type cast based on the roles they accept early in their careers. Who ever thought in the 1980s Tom Hanks could be more than a comedian? Who thought Bruce Willis could do more than Die Hard? Do you remember John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn or Sean Thornton? If CCP is really to succeed in the next decade, they have to shrug off the shackles of being just a sandbox MMO game developer and become more.

That is why their branding campaign is crucial to their future. It won't necessarily make a lot of money, but things like a television series, a comic book, EVE Vegas and all the other stuff they do, even though it is Eve Online related, get's them name recognition. It shows that they are more than just a bunch of computer programmers selling a sandbox MMO to a diminishing player base.

This is key to CCP's success in the next decade. It is the game designer's version of networking. We all know that networking within any industry is the key to future sales. I once asked my company's president why we take customers on fishing trips. It's because it builds a shared experience, even if he doesn't catch anything. Even negative experiences are shared experiences. Both make a connection between you and the customer that is more than prices on a sheet of paper.

It is no different with CCP. They need to reach out, stretch themselves, shake hands with other players in the gaming industry and push out the envelope of their affiliations. To be taken as more than just another game developer, they must show the world they are capable of being more than just another game developer. That will create shared experiences and new opportunities in the future. This is perhaps the huge unseen benefit to Dust 514 for CCP. They now have a shared experience with the console sector of the industry. It provides a new avenue of advance for CCP.

That is the doctrine CCP needs to pursue. They have to be more than the world's best sandbox MMO developer. One trick ponies always go extinct. They have to employ all their strategic assets to reshape the battlefield and break out of their singular niche. Their new image needs to be one of a broad content provider, not just an insular Icelandic oddity. The only way they are going to do that is to expand beyond Eve Online. It will take a tremendous amount of effort. Eve Online will not even get the lion's share of attention it used to get, though it will still be important. That's what must happen if this new doctrine is to succeed. In the end, it will save the sandbox because it will save the company from fading into obscurity.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Real Problem with Eve Online PvP

Last night I logged in to see what was happening. Lately that hasn't been a whole lot. But soon after waking my ship, a general CTA went out for a merc op. Someone in Anoikis was having a tower bashed and wanted the party raided. I was in Stain, but fortunately my jump clone timer is only 19 hours at this point. I jumped back to Amarr, got into my trusty Proteus and headed for the staging system about seven jumps away.

I arrived, docked up and waited for the rest of the fleet to assemble. Soon we were on our way. The target wormhole was only two low-sec jumps away and soon we were all gathered at the low-sec end waiting to jump. The order was given and then this transpired.

It was such a disappointment. They obviously saw us start our warp. We'd also lost our Devoter to an RL concern. As my comrade said, it'd been nice to have a bubble. And as for locking up our assigned targets, because we all had them, you'll notice I did that quite quickly. In fact, it was the only kill we got. But you'll also notice I had to do it THREE DAMN TIMES. Yeah, that burst ECM really sucked. Too bad it wasn't the enemy doing it. Derp.

As for our opponents, they were evidently far more risk averse than the average carebear. We know for a fact they had a T3 (Loki I think,) Falcon and an Arazu in system too. We know this because they locked up one of our fleet members when we tried the old log-offsky maneuver to see if they'd come back. They never returned. So with eight battleships, a Loki, a Falcon and an Arazu they decided they couldn't give less than a dozen T3 cruisers, two guardians and two non-DPS battleships a decent fight? Yeah, that's the problem with Eve Online PvP these days.

So after spending precious flying time executing the log-offsky maneuver - which is my least favorite of all maneuvers - we got an offer from a friendly corporation to journey to another wormhole and help kill four supers they'd caught running sites. Hooray! Something to do!

While log-offsky, our so called opponents had collapsed our original entrance. No problem, we just scanned down a new one. We're now and formally all wormholers. We do this in our sleep. We exited 18 jumps from our new staging system. From there it was a C2 --> C5 pipe to the pointed supers. We got into warp fast.

However, while on the way the high-sec static we were going to use collapsed. We diverted to Amarr and waited for the new static to be found... and waited... and waited. Finally be got a new staging system. It was only 12 jumps away, but four of them were through low-sec. They were also faction war. They also each had more than 10 ships destroyed in the past hour. That smelled like gang activity to me and I reported it to the FC.

However, we are not that risk averse so we free warped to the last high-sec, formed up and headed into low-sec together. The first system was easily traversed. As we warped to the out gate of the second system our scout told us to hold up and not jump on landing. In low-sec, really, who jumps on landing? Not me! So all but one of us stopped on the out gate. Then it was like, "DOCK UP! DOCK UP!" so we did. Evidently there was a 50 pilot battleship gang on the other side. Really? Really? REALLY? Why was I not surprised.

So we re-routed. It was now 11 jumps to the target system with all but one system in high-sec. But they were on to us. One of the fleet got caught un-docking. One of the fleet got caught at the high-sec gate when the battleship gang started to land on us - or at least half of them. Okay, so we are risk averse when faced with a battleship fleet that outnumbers us three to one and we're flying T3s. But you know, I'd have fought that fight if our FC had committed. And I'm the damn care-badger! Just staying. But no, we wanted CAPITAL kills on the killboard.

So I got out okay and continued to free warp to the new staging system. Three jumps out we got word the last Archon had just initiated self-destruct. After four hours of rabid warping from gate to gate, over an hour of log-offsky and enough risk aversion to make even my stomach roil, all I had to show for it was this kill.

I'm going back to null-sec. Maybe I can find a good fight there - but somehow I doubt it. Somedays I think the only people having fun with PvP anymore is Stay Frosty. And you know how bad it is when MABRICK feels that way. Jeezus guys, just shoot the damn things all right?

Watch Out

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Stripes Method of Training is Over

Just a quick one today. Who remember's the movie Stripes, starring Bill Murray as a not quite ready for prime time Army recruit? One of my favorite dialogs in the movie was this one:
General Barnicke: Where is your drill sergeant, men?
John Winger: Blown up, sir!
Soldiers: Blown up, sir!
There are some quickly whispered updates from CPT Stillman and then this dialog:

Yeah, that's Eve Online summarized in a movie released nearly 20 years before CCP incorporated. For a long time the barrier to playing Eve Online has been it's complexity - not it's vicious nature. No one likes getting blown up without any chance of doing some blowing up themselves.

To some degree, this problem has been addressed by organizations like Eve University and Red versus Blue. Other corporations and alliances have their own training regimens as well. But these are all informal training and vary wildly in depth and success in actually teaching something of value. Simply putting a New Bro in a ship and saying "fly this" isn't anywhere near enough. And yet, that's pretty much what most Eve New Bros get. I know it's what I got. It's one of the main reasons I never got into PvP. It was simpler to just shoot asteroids, make ISK and avoid all the unpleasantness that comes with climbing the learning cliff.

Now it seems CCP is out to change all that by formalizing capsuleer training. Hallelujah! You can read about it on this dev blog: New Player Training Sessions. The training will be done in themes. A summary of what a theme will entail is covered in this paragraph.
"For example, our first theme, running from October 10th to November 19th, is going to be “Player vs Player Combat”. There will be 10 sessions in total, starting with a breakdown of the different modules in EVE, moving on to how to fit a ship, and eventually progressing to a full on CCP-led player fleet where we will hopefully get a few kills, get killed, have some laughs, and learn a few valuable life lessons."
I do hope that attendance is good for these sessions. I think they are very much needed for the good of the game. I think their success will come down to advertising though. CCP really needs to dive into the recent subscription lists and offer this training proactively. In fact, don't just offer it to new recruits. Bribe them! When they complete a training session, give them a theme appropriate thank you. For instance, with the PvP session, give them a Navy frigate or even a Navy battlecruiser - something not too expensive but really spiffy and a cut above the average. We all like shiny ships, so make that the reward for sticking with the training and becoming a better pilot.

Now, for those who think they are going to crash the party, get real. This is too important to let gankers and other ne'er do wells turn it into a gank fest. CCP has given clear warning. The GMs will deal with anyone trying to crash the party. They don't specify what will be done though. I am certain no one will get banned. Their ships will probably just be CONCORDOKKENNED. Personally, I'd like to see their ships instantly hot dropped into the middle of Tama. If you decide to go that route CCP, please let the rest of us know beforehand. THAT's the party I want to go to!

Watch Out

Monday, October 7, 2013

In the Spirit of Full Disclosure

In the spirit of full disclosure, I've decided I must provide the Eve Community the following information. [1]

I was born a capsuleer on March 23, 2008. For the next one year, nine months and three weeks, I was a lone wolf industrialist. I hardly ever (never?) spoke in local. I had few contacts beyond RL acquaintances and those contacts I did have were brief and professional. I mined asteroids in Cistuvaert for the most part and minded my own business.

On January 13, 2010 I created the single capsuleer corporation Mabrick Mining and Manufacturing as a tax shelter. I continued to mine asteroids. I tried some courier work. I plied some trade routes. I later moved from my home system of Cistuvaert to Aporulie. I started manufacturing T1 and T2 ships. I got heavily invested into planetary industries and ran a profitable Wetware Mainframe business between Aporulie and Jita.

On February 11, 2011, I started this blog. It's been the most interaction I've had with other characters and has spawned several in-game associations. The most notorious was when Goonswarm declared war against my one man corporation for having written some uncomplimentary things about their dictator and chief, The Mittani. I do not know The Mittani personally nor have I ever met him. During this war-dec the longest conversation I had with another capsuleer took place with Elecktra Blue of Thunderwaffe. It was polite and professional, and no I wasn't blown up. It was mostly about how she liked my "bad press." As she put it, "no press is bad press."

Because of this war-dec, I had several contacts from various capsuleers asking if I'd like to join them. There is no need to discuss from whom, because I made a choice and those capsuleers are the only one's with whom I've remained in contact.  On August 12, 2012 I handed over CEO duties to my good friend Kao Jai and joined Hiigaran Bounty Hunters Inc. in their C3 wormhole system. After moving in, the only contact with other capsuleers I had, other than on the blog, was with members of my new corporation or those that wanted to blow me up. And even then, there was no talking. Wormholers aren't chatty and local is that thing known space dwellers use.

And on the blowing up front, the most notable example of that was when elements of Surely You're Joking (SYJ) camped the hell out of our C3 system while on Jihad. After several weeks of ship losses, including one inglorious DIAF suicide dive, we negotiated a ransom. Then we negotiated a membership in the alliance. Hiigaran Bounty Hunters Inc. joined them eight months and 10 days ago. We moved to SYJ's C6 home base and I resided there until I moved to Stain last month.

While a member of SYJ, I've interacted with many capsuleers on an almost daily basis. Nearly all of them are members of SYJ, though a few were not at the time I began corresponding with them. Every bit of recruitment helps don't you know! To date, I have 31 contacts in my list. That's less than one every other month since I've become a capsuleer.

To my knowledge, no one I've ever had any contact with has ever been awarded bling by CCP, except for those items all capsuleers received as gifts. SYJ did participate in Alliance Tournament this year, and I suppose there might have been some bennies for flying a ship in it, but I am personally unaware of anything anyone might have been given in the way of bennies.

And I myself have never been the recipient of any favoritism from CCP or any CCP affiliated sponsor. This blog isn't even an official fan site. I don't get anything for writing it, except once in awhile syndication on EN24. That is until last Friday, when I accepted a contract for the Phantasm I won as part of SOMERblink's Eve Vegas extravaganza whoopdy doo...

What's that? You don't give a rat's ass? You feel like I just wasted your time with a whole lot of trivial bull shit? You really don't care about my past or present associations because I'm just a carebear and a nobody?

Then why the hell would you you get angry because Ripard Teg may know someone who has benefitted from CCP largess? Ripard Teg has been around quite a bit longer than I have. He has been much more involved in getting to know other capsuleers than I have. He seems to be far more extraverted than I am, and his expertise as a capsuleer is far superior to mine in most every respect. People seek him out. They value his opinion. And that goes for any other well known and respected citizen of New Eden. Hell, Chribba is giving a presentation at Eve Vegas.

<sarcasm> OMG, CCP actually reached out to one of the most famous capsuleers EVER to speak at a capsuleer event. HOW DARE HE ACCEPT! FAVORITISM I SAY! IT'S PURE FAVORITISM! </sarcasm>

What a load of crap. If you suspect impropriety, and actually have evidence to back it up, then report it to the appropriate people in CCP. Otherwise, HTFU. Spouting off about alleged favoritism is something I'd expect from grade schoolers. We call that Teacher's Pet syndrome in the United States. Grow the hell up. The man does not deserve to feel like he has to post a point-by-point rebuttal of what is nothing more than slander with a twinge of penis envy.

If you feel he hasn't earned the right to be as well regarded as he is, ask yourself why you feel that way. The issue isn't him. The issue is with you, and it's probably the reason why you'll never be as well respected as Ripard Teg is. He's gotten past his petty jealousies (I think, LOL.) Either get past your's or shut up already.

[1] This was not the post I'd intended to write today, but this really chaps my hide and I had to vent some about it. Thanks for indulging me.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Hardest Job on any Planet

I was fairly blunt in my last post. I was not at all supportive of the direction PI will go in if the Rubicon plans go forward. I am not changing my opinion on that. I believe what CCP is doing to high-sec PI is possibly one of the biggest ganks ever. I don't buy their logic of tax rates actually going down because that's counter to human nature. I think large swaths of the player base will pretty much get excluded from high-sec PI with this plan. This isn't a game known for nice guys finishing first, and no amount of faith believing the new PI system will not be gamed to death will change that fact. You need look no further than the most recent changes needed to "fix" the Faction War LP system to see that IMO. Who saw that coming?

But that does not mean I think the developers at CCP are dunderheads and CCP itself is clueless. That is the farthest thing from my mind when I point and chastise. The fact is, the majority of what they do I think is correct and properly done for good reasons. But the developers at CCP have the hardest job on any planet. They have hundreds of thousands of taskmasters to please. It is very, very easy for me to spend a single day and say all sorts of negative things about what they are planning. But they spend months developing it, living it, and hoping it will at least make someone happy.

They have their reasons for what they do. I don't doubt that, though I can question it because of the extreme lack of transparency when it comes to internal CCP decisions. Hell, we don't even get quarterly financial updates any more, and more's the pity. In the end, all their hard work sometimes gets hoisted on the proverbial petard. Such was the case with Incarna. The real tragedy there I think were the hundreds upon hundreds of person hours that went for naught there. It makes me wonder if this PI course isn't caused in some part by that painful memory. After all, PI carebears are certainly not going to instigate another Burn Jita over this PI thing.

But back to the people who make Eve Online real, and I mean that quite literally, for without them there would be no Eve Online. I don't for one moment believe they don't feel what they are doing is best for the game, their company and us, their sometimes harshest critics for whom they do all the work. Me, I get to play the game. What work is there really in that? It's all fun and games in the most literal sense. How sick and tired the developers must get of it all when their hard work is lambasted by a blogger.

I just want them to know, I have the highest regard for all of them. What they do is incredible. When I read things like SOE Ship Names: It May Not Make Sense At First by Interstellar Privateer, and realize how much thought and personal investment CCP Abraxas buts into something as "simple" as ship names... I'm gobsmacked. These people invest their heart and even soul into this game and people like me say negative things all too quickly sometimes.

Well, this is not one of those posts. I couldn't even begin to do CCP Fozzie's job let alone do it as well as he does. I admire them all for their willingness to not only do this for us, but to put up with all the slings and arrows to borrow a phrase. Please don't forget that, CCP folks, whenever we have a difference of opinion over anything. I still think the universe of you all! I look forward to shaking as many of your hands as possible in two weeks.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We Need Better than Double Taxes and no Chance of Profit

My last post on POCO economic concerns got a tweeted response from CCP Fozzie. Here's what he had to say.

Don't worry we never ignore isk sinks. And blowing stuff up doesn't sink isk from the economy, it generally adds it. :)

The response puzzled me to be honest. Not ignoring sinks is a good thing. The blowing stuff up was the part that I found confusing as I was discussing taxes, which is most certainly an ISK sink. Blowing stuff up... was not really my point. My reply back was simply this.

Sweet deal. I'm like that old song: "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song." It'll all be good... I think. :)

Was I ever so wrong with that "it'll all be good" comment. Today CCP published their first dev blog on high-sec POCO changes. True to CCP Fozzie's word, CCP has not ignored the sink. It's still there. The NPC tax rate will remain 10% even if the customs office is player owned. There will be a new skill to train that could reduce that by 50%, but never fear, the sink remains intact.

The income the POCO owner gets is IN ADDITION to the the NPC tax rate. Yeah, I'm completely at a loss for appropriate verbiage here too. This is supposed to be made more palatable by a reduction in commodity tax rates. I don't think the reduction in commodity rates will do anyone who doesn't own a POCO any favors. The increased cost of the double taxation the rest of us will see will more than overwhelm the small gains we make on commodity rates. You know, I've long suspected that CCP regretted ever implementing Planetary Interaction, but now I know for a fact they do. Why else change the entire dynamic of a game element designed for carebears into one that only profits PvPers? I am not impressed.

You know, paying the potential extra ISK isn't what bothers me most about this. Taxes are a part of life and as inevitable as traffic jams in New York City. You can business plan around taxes. What bothers me most about this is the unprecedented nature of this new mechanism.  When CCP nerfed datacore mining, the extra charge for claiming the datacores went into the sink, not other player's pockets. When they nerfed Incursion running, they simply reduced the payouts, they didn't give them to other players. With LP farming, they modified the mechanism, but they did not reward other players directly by doing it. And these three things remained PvE in essence. They were not converted to a PvP mechanic - except LP farming which was one previously. Why is PI being handled so differently? Why not control the faucet by means used before, rather than creating a new source of income for those too lazy to earn it the hard way?

Once upon a time I made the statement carebears don't exist to facilitate other play styles. I think I was mistaken. Evidently that's exactly why carebears exist in CCP's mind. Why else would they take the money from carebear pockets and put it into PvP pockets? And to make matters worse, they have tied the ownership of POCOs directly to the war declaration system. The only way you can take out a player owned POCO is to declare war against the owner - the entire damned alliance.
"Once a POCO is in place, players can make a legal attack only if they’re at war with the owning corporation. Attacking without an active war on the owner will bring CONCORD intervention."
Okay folks, that really plays favorites there. No single person or small industrial corporation could ever profit from declaring war against an alliance of several hundred let alone several thousand. That's a half billion ISK per declaration. Forget it, I could never afford that just to do PI at a reduced tax rate. There is no ROI in it. Players like me will stop doing PI and independant new bros will be excluded with this plan.

No, the only players winning anything here are the large PvP alliances and those few large industrial alliances with enough care-badgers to defend their property - and even that might not be profitable. It's not enough the large PvP alliances have the richest asteroid fields, the best ice, the second most profitable PvE and all the damn moons. They now get a piece of the high-sec PI (pun intended, because at this point my sense of humor is the only thing stopping me from retching.) If you're not part of one of those large alliances, you're screwed. This really does shit on the small time industrialist and those who like to go it alone. I am most certainly NOT in favor of this change as outlined. It isn't even an industry expansion. It's an industry killer. It not only discriminates against my favorite play-style, but it shows me a side of CCP I really hoped wasn't there.

And since people shouldn't bitch if they have no solutions themselves, here's what I suggest CCP do instead of this PI catastrophe.
  • Have a one tax only system: either the tax goes to an NPC corporation (ISK sink) or it goes to the POCO owner; not both.
  • To offset the ISK transfer POCOs create, require a CONCORD contract for POCOs in high-sec. These are won from CONCORD via a blind bidding system (substitute ISK sink.) Make players bid for the right to run POCOs - high bid wins. Some systems are inherently more valuable and will elicit more and higher bids. Less valuable systems will be left to smaller organizations to exploit. Everyone gets a niche. The ISK paid for the contract can be replaced with enough dedicated PI done on the planets so owned - but they will have to be worked to ensure this happens.
  • Replace the war dec mechanic with this contract system. Set a limit on how often POCO owners can rotate. Give the new owner three months to recoup the bid cost before CONCORD opens bids for that system again. To keep the POCOs, the current owner must participate in the next bid cycle or fight for it as outlined next.
  • Once a contract is awarded, the winner has a week to take down the existing POCOs (unless the winner is the previous owner.) If they do not, ownership remains with the current owner (for free!) The winning bid is forfeit regardless of this outcome. If a current owner loses the bid, they can still keep the POCOs if they successfully defend them. Combat WILL ensue.
  • Rinse, lather and repeat every three months: boom, BOOM and KA-BOOM without any play style blatantly discriminated against.
This would be far more fun, and involve much more devious planning, than the current proposal where the 900 pound gorilla wins every time. It retains the spaceship combat element by requiring the new contract awardee to replace the POCOs within a week. Hell, I'll wager it'll make them even more hotly contested. If the current owner can prevent their destruction, they keep them for free! Corporations or alliances that are not huge PvPers but are rich could bid high to win and hire mercenaries to destroy the old POCOs if they like. Then don't bid to keep them and hire the same mercenaries to defend them three months later. It's a win-win!

Regardless of who fights and who pays,  ISK will be sunk every quarter and ships will blow up every quarter. With over 10,000 plus systems, there'll be constant combat in high-sec. But lots of combat is only likely for very valuable systems like Sobaseki. The less valuable systems could be quiet backwaters for the smaller corporations and alliances to exploit. They wouldn't automatically be excluded by the mechanic as would be the case if CCP continues on their current misguided course.

The war-dec oriented system only helps those with large numbers and vast fleets. Those aren't the people who really want to do PI now are they? I believe my idea is far more equitable in that regard. I also feel it is more in line with past game mechanic change precedents. To me it also expresses the spirit of Eve Online better. It provides several approaches to participating in the PI game and allows greater sandbox play. Thinking outside the box could really pay off for those with bidding savvy. If CCP stays their current course for high-sec PI, the game will become nothing more than who can blob the best. We deserve better than that.

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