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Monday, March 31, 2014

ESO Is a Go!

Nothing earth shattering today. Yesterday I was going through the news and discovered I'd forgotten something over the last two weeks because RL work got super busy. I forgot there was an early entry option for Elder Scrolls Online. Oops.

"Oh well, I wouldn't really have time to play until next weekend anyway," I thought to myself. I still have a probe to bring back from Moho. ;-) I went ahead and spent the extra money on the Digital Imperial Edition nonetheless.

[caption id="2116" align="aligncenter" width="942"]Digital Imperial Edition Page Digital Imperial Edition Page[/caption]

The Imperial White Horse is nice, and I really dig Imperial armor, but it was the Mudcrab vanity pet that really won me over. It's so cute! LOL Wow, did I just write that? Moving on!

Today I logged in to my account to discover I did get in on the 5-day preview period! I can at least create a character this week. So, if anyone has a guild out there and is interested in having an Imperial with a silly crab sidekick join, let me know. Something tells me this game will be more fun with others. :-P

Sunday, March 30, 2014

CyberBullying Ends with Educating the Cyber Bullies

After my post concerning Erotica 1 and the earthquake that followed, I was asked by Xolve via twitter if I'd do a follow up post with some suggestions on what we as a community can do about the issue.

So here's the problem with this issue. It's not just an EVE Online issue. It's not just a gaming issue. It's a human issue that's been bolstered by the invention of the Internet and the anonymity it provides. It's an issue that crosses all boundaries of community, nation, race, gender and age group. It's far larger than one game no matter how dark that game is. The fact is, there is no easy do-this-that-and-the-other-thing solution that will resolve it. Giving out such a list of rules is a bit pretentious and would show a lack of understanding on what motivates such behavior. So instead, I want to define the bully and then I'll talk about the difference with the cyber bully and what might "correct" the behavior.

First of all, let's look at the real reasons people cyber bully, and yes @gamerchick42, one of the reasons is they seek attention, but it isn't the only reason by far.

  • Their friends are doing it

  • They want to look cool and fit in

  • They are rebelling against their parents

  • They want to exercise adult behavior

  • They are bullies

  • They are seeking attention

As you can see, this list was geared towards teenagers cyber bullying teenagers. It comes from's What is CyberBullying page. But it applies to every cyber bully of any age. You can replace the word parent with society and it makes just as much sense. In fact, drop everything from that line after rebelling and the point is just as valid. It doesn't matter what they rebel against. It is enough to know they are rebelling against something. And aren't we all wanting to prove how adult we are even if we're a half century old already?

So what else does that page have to say about CyberBullying? It lists where it can happen and that list absolutely includes online games. It covers the spectrum that CyberBullying behavior covers. When you look down that list you can see that heated exchanges, defaming, belittling and mocking make the list. Isn't that precisely what Erotica 1 did? Don't bother to answer that, it's a rhetorical question. And it's not like we haven't all seen harassment and stalking happen in EVE Online. If you haven't feel lucky. And most times such behavior is completely within keeping with the bounds of the game. It's when it becomes repetitive, goes beyond the game or becomes personal that it becomes CyberBullying. It's a bit of a sliding scale actually, but most people can recognize it when they see it. That said, what constitutes CyberBullying? has a nice graphic based on the Internet Safety 101 curriculum by Enough is Enough.

[caption id="false" align="alignright" width="427"]Seven Types of Bullying Online Seven Types of Bullying Online[/caption]

Of these seven types of online bullying, I believe Erotica 1's behavior falls squarely into Outing and Trickery. That makes it cyber bulling - period. Don't bother arguing it with me. These aren't my definitions. They are official definitions defined by organizations whose goal it is to protect our children from such unacceptable behavior and it's backed by professional insight and expertise. And you know what they say about wearing shoes. If it fits, wear it.

But our specific interest is online gaming. And we are adults, not children. The organizations from which I gleaned this information exist to educate computer illiterate parents on what might happen to their children in a technology age. But that doesn't make it any less relevant to adults. Just like children bully other children, adults bully other adults. It happens in the work place. It happens at the gym. And more and more it happens online.

Most people who bully are only stopped by the fear they may be caught and punished. The Internet relieves them of that fear. They feel they are untouchable because of the anonymity provided by the Internet, and the distance they have from those they bully. It's a fairly safe bet that no one will drive 1000 miles to beat up a cyber bully. It's far easier to cut off contact and lick one's wounds.

In the realm of online gaming, that generally means a rage quit. BTW @gamerchick42, that's the attention most bullies really want, not being called out for their bad behavior. Online gaming bullies use rage quits as a mark of ultimate dominance over another person. They'll brag about it. Then and only then does the desire for attention come into play - because they've instigated it at a place and time of their choosing. If you respond in any way to what they've crowed about, you've played right into their hands. Whether you praise or ridicule them, they'll take pride in ownership. There is no line in the mind between fame and infamy.

And that's the key to thwarting them. In order to stop a bully, you have to eliminate those things they seek. The hardest part about stopping a bully is identifying what they want from their actions. Fortunately that's already been done for us. Now we only have to decide to start taking those things away. When they are eliminated, the bully has no reward for bullying. That's doesn't mean they'll stop. Bullying is a deep seated psychological issue that most people don't realize needs treatment to overcome completely.

Have you ever wondered what makes a bully a bully? When I was a kid, being bullied, I often wondered why my tormentors did what they did. Well, there have been lots of studies on that. Here's one summary of them: 10 Telling Psychological Studies On the Nature of Bullying. I'll summarize for you.

  1. Children who bully also have problems with other relationships.

  2. Bullying behaviors are learned and practiced at home.

  3. Social desires drive both bullying and other children’s reactions to it.

  4. Some bullying stems from a desire to maintain control.

  5. Poor problem-solving skills increase children’s risk of becoming both a bully and a victim.

  6. Students and parents may define bullying differently.

  7. Even popular, well-liked students get bullied.

  8. Cyberbullying operates differently than traditional bullying.

  9. Children begin bullying and being bullied as soon as they are old enough to engage in social interactions.

  10. Most anti-bullying programs aren’t effective.

Now, that's a fairly lengthy outline of what a bully is, what a bully wants and how they come to be bullies. But your traditional bully and your cyber bully have one distinct difference. Have a close look at item #8 above. It comes from this study by the University of British Columbia. It shows that cyber bullying and traditional bullying are not the same. The difference is,

"University of British Columbia researchers compared the two and found that the dynamics of online bullying are unique, with students not seeing their actions online in the same light as their actions in real life."

And it is that difference that gives us the opportunity to stop cyber bullies in my opinion.

This is where I get to tell you a story. It started on Facebook many years ago, after I first signed up. As you may know from reading this blog, I don't like Facebook all that much. The reason I have an account at all is because my mother shamed me into it frankly. The conversation was something like (and I paraphrase,) "Well, since you never come to visit or call, you could at least join Facebook so I can see what you're up to." The shame is I live 40 minutes from my mother's house. But that's a complete tangent from the topic at hand (and  a completely different problem.)

What happened on Facebook all those years ago was I accepted friend requests from everyone at first. I didn't really think about it. And people change. So after awhile, I noticed one of my old acquaintances referred to everyone who wasn't a WASP (white Anglo Saxon protestant) by whatever epitaph and slur he preferred for that particular race and/or gender and/or sexual orientation. When I was his friend, he would never have acted the way he did on Facebook. And though I am a WASP so none of his comments were aimed at me personally, a few were aimed at other friends who asked him to stop. He didn't. I felt compelled to join them. Every time he made such a "pronouncement" on Facebook, I would tell him he was being a bigot with a link to the definition of bigot. He protested of course, and said he was not a bigot. I informed him he was acting like one though. I only did it when he made a truly bigoted comment. Otherwise I let him have his say. I simply let him know I found his bigoted statements hurtful and unacceptable behavior. Soon others were doing the same. We weren't mean about it, we were simply firm. We would not accept him acting this way. And as his local "friends" started to "have other plans," he got the message and stopped. He figured out that his online actions DID have the same repercussions as in person interactions.

That's my point. We have to tell the cyber bullies what they are doing is wrong. We have "encourage" them to see their actions in the same light as their real life actions. To do that there must be real consequences for what they do, like banning them from a game for a time so they understand what they do online is not separate from how they act in person. If they continue to be cyber bullies, they should be banned permanently. They cannot be allowed to see what they do online as different than what they'd do in person.

And for our part, we can't run away from cyber bullying. We have to confront it so cyber bullies know it is just as wrong as doing it in person. We have to make it just as unacceptable. Each one of us have to do this even when it is not done to us specifically. Whenever we encounter CyberBullying, we have to call it unacceptable behavior while pointing at the person doing it. So must the companies that provide the medium from which such attacks are launched. I am glad CCP understands this. On Friday they released their official response to the Erotica 1 issue. It makes it very clear such behavior is unacceptable and those who do such things will be dealt with no differently than other rule breakers. It connects cyber actions to real life consequences. It sends a clear message. That's exactly what needs done - by everyone.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Operation Moho: Arrival

My last post, Operation Moho, outlined how I planned to get a lander probe to Moho, land it, and get it back home. The tl;dr is that I docked a whole lot of fuel to the lander and then attached the most efficient drive section I could engineer to it. Here's how that went (notes in the descriptions, click on the first image to go into gallery mode.)

[gallery columns="4" ids="2092,2088,2086,2094,2087,2091,2085,2090,2095,2089,2093,2096"]

This is not the end of my Moho endeavor. Not by a long shot. This was simply phase two. Next week I'll post the results of phase three, the homecoming.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It' a Discussion the Gaming Community Needs to Have

I told myself I wasn't going to get involved in this one. I told myself it was getting all the attention it needed. I told myself it was another blogger's threadnaught and he should reap the "rewards" for it. I think I lied to myself.

I'm talking about Jester's can of worms he opened up over an EVE Online player going by the handle Erotica 1 of course. Erotica 1 did a horrible, horrible thing to another human being and Jester used it to make a point. I'll have more on that at the end. Now, this post isn't just about EVE Online. This post is about unacceptable behavior anytime, any place, anywhere by anybody. As you read, you'll see mostly references to the current EVE Online kerfuffle, but that's only because it is convenient. Make no mistake, I mean this for ANYONE who interacts with other people in an online game - and that means everyone reading this.

I've avoided the thread-naught over on the official EVE Online forums because  I already have a position on this issue. I've written about it more than occasionally. I'll summarize my position for you so you don't have to go hunt down those posts. Abusing other people for "sport" is wrong. Period. I live by the golden rule: treat others as you expect them to treat you. No one wants to be abused by another, so abusing another is wrong. I don't care if you are playing a game, or working a job, or just walking down the street. It is wrong to abuse another being for your own enjoyment.

As a society, we have some fairly obvious rules concerning abuse. We have ledger after ledger filled with laws that spell it out for us. Particularly heinous abuse can get a person sentenced to death in many countries of the world including my own. In others, the offense doesn't even have to be heinous, just counter to the controlling culture. And there are score upon score of lesser punishments meted out to those who violate the cultural norms of the society they live in. This is how human society has always been. The Bible and the code Hammurabi made show us how old such cultural control is. And I guarantee you its use extends much farther into the past than those notable tomes indicate. Society would not function without such rules.

So here we are part of a subculture (gamers) within a larger culture. All of us know what the rules are for our parent culture. And what Jester described most certainly crosses the line in most, if not all, of our cultures. That is in general agreement. What Erotica 1 did was wrong. Period.

But the discussion here isn't about whether it was wrong or not. The discussion is about what we as a sub-culture should do about it, if anything. And people's responses have run the gamut of human reaction to such things. Here is a bit of what I've read paraphrased.

  • It happened outside the subculture so there is nothing we can do.

  • It's up to the victim to pursue remediation.

  • There was no abuse because he could have "hung up" at any time.

  • CCP has to ban Erotica 1.

  • Erotica 1 did nothing against the EULA or TOS so CCP should do nothing.

  • The police should investigate.

  • This isn't my problem.

  • You're just giving the bad person free publicity and you are wrong for having brought this up.

There are more, but that should do. Are any of these responses correct? Are any of them flat wrong? It doesn't matter. You are missing the point. We are a community; a culture unto our own. We have to make a decision. Do we allow the sort of abuse Erotica 1 perpetrated with his cronies or do we not support it? If we don't support it, what are we going to do about it? If we are going to do something about it, what can we do? Who should do it?

Since the majority of our subculture feels what happened is wrong, the logical next step is to figure out how our community is going to prevent something like this from happening again. It isn't a question of punishing Erotica 1. It's a question of whether or not we can take steps to discourage such wrongness in the future, and should it happen anyway what sort of punishment we should then give out. Punishment is a deterrent. It's an ages old method of encouraging people within a society to act according to societal norms. It is a cause and affect mechanism. You can't punish someone after the fact if you haven't clearly defined what wrong behavior is. So Erotica 1 probably gets a pass on this one.

But punishment for future transgressions needs to happen. It must happen. As the Internet age progresses, and more and more people interact over vast distances where they will never have to face one another in real person, we have to create a code of conduct that ensures everyone in our society is safe from the other members of our society. This is what it means to be a human society. And to be certain, this is something the world society has a whole must come to terms with. And CCP is not exempt from having to do their fair share in developing these rules of conduct.

You can make all the technical distinctions you want about it not being in CCP's purview to do anything about it. You can steadfastly believe no gaming company should have to do anything about interpersonal issues like abusing another player. But that's like saying a city mayor has no role in enforcing the laws of the society in general. Regardless of what the legalese in the EVE Online EULA or TOS says, there is a basic level of human decency that must be recognized in all this. CCP may not be compelled to act, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't act. We've had discussions before about how it hurts CCP's brand for these sorts of stories to circulate. They DO have a vested interest in addressing this. And what's more, I believe they have a legal obligation to act.

Any company that invites the community at large to enjoy the services they offer has an implicit obligation to ensure the safety of those they invite. Society at large has decreed that theaters must have fire exits. Why? Because they have an obligation to keep safe those who come into the theater to watch movies. Food manufactures are required to keep their processing lines free of salmonella bacteria. Why? Because they have an obligation to keep consumers who buy their products free of illness from eating them. So it is that CCP has a a similar obligation to their customers, us, the gaming subculture - even if that means they must keep us safe from each other. They may not like that responsibility, but it is there nonetheless.

And since Erotica 1 used EVE Online to launch his abuse, CCP has more than a little responsibility to try and ensure that does not happen again. That responsibility may be as little as posting in large pulsating letters, "DON'T DO THIS OR YOU MAY BE SORRY" at login. It may need to be part of new player training. But be assured, they must do their due diligence in this. I personally feel they have not done enough to protect their customers from the predatory behavior of other customers. And CCP has it even more difficult than most gaming companies because their game promotes such behavior as part of the game play. That certainly makes it more difficult to do the due diligence, but they must do it anyway.

And guess what friends, so do we all. Especially we who write and speak for the community. It was blatantly stated by @gamerchick42 that Jester was wrong to give Erotica 1 so much attention. And since you won't allow comments, I'll make the comment here. No he wasn't. As spokesman for the community, it was his OBLIGATION to bring it up. One member of our little society committed a horrible abuse on another, and our little society has no way of handling it, or stopping it, or containing it. We cannot keep our own members safe, and we should. We need to or our little gaming community will fail. But what's worse, we share complicity when we allow the abuse and do nothing. But stopping such abuse is NEVER going to happen unless we have this conversation first. And this conversation starts when the deeds of Erotica 1 are made public. So what Jester did was absolutely within the bounds of his obligation to the greater community he serves. I commend him for stepping up and taking the heat for doing it. That's what real leaders do. Well done sir, I salute you. o7

Now the rest of us have a decision to make. Do we ignore this problem or do we address it as a community to ensure it never happens again? You know how I feel on the subject. How do you feel? Do you want to be safe from abuse, or would you rather take your chances? Wait before you answer. In fact, forget about you. What about your child, or your sister or your younger nephew? Do you want them to be safe? Do you want them to have an encounter with Erotica 1?

I didn't think so. That's why society has laws, to protect our children and those less capable of self-protection. So let's step up to the plate on this one and do the right thing. CCP, you have an obligation. Please live up to it. Everyone else, you have an obligation. Do the right thing. And for anyone reading this who thinks Erotica 1 is a l33t kewl-dude and deserves a pat on the back, I hope the golden rule doesn't make itself known to you real fast and in a hurry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oculus VR Acquisition the Day After

As last night's post undoubtedly showed, I don't like Facebook's Zuckerberg or his "vision" and I think Facebook has lost its edge. It's not a service I associate with the third decade of the 21st century. As one commenter pointed out, yes, you can "like" my posts on Facebook as they are cross-posted there. But hardly anyone ever does. Most of my family, friends and associates there are not gamers nor do they really understand gamer culture. But last night's post was a gut reaction, after I'd spent the evening drinking beer with my favourite KSP-playing bartender down at the local brewery. The fact is it was a mostly drunk post and I didn't count to ten before ranting.

And while I'm on that subject on not counting to ten, I apologize CCP Karuck. My comment was too harsh. You no doubt knew more about the topic than I did last night. I am still not convinced this will be good for VR in the mid to long term, but I admit it will probably give the hardware a healthy injection of development capital. In the short term, that is a positive. In a year we will know if that carries into the future. But for now, thanks for being a cool dude.

For those who are, like me, coming off their post announcement rantosterone, there is a whole lot of good stuff over on the Oculus sub-reddit concerning the acquisition. Palmer Luckey and other's go to great lengths to talk everyone down. JD-Dragon put together a great Imgur of Palmer's responses. I found myself nodding to many of the sentiments expressed there. As to my feelings on the subject 18 hours later, I think this post by sooperskip sums up my current state of mind quite nicely,

I've read every single post ok the last day on this subreddit. I've learned all I can about the deal. Most importantly I've slept on it.

Here's where I'm at: My initial reaction was the same as many here; shock and betrayal. Having had time to think about it I find it is not nearly as dire as I had initially perceived it to be. At the end of the day Oculus now has capital backing like they couldn't have possibly dreamed of. This means exciting potential for the CK1. This means manufacturing dream panels and foveated rendering. This means the capacity exists to research and develop input devices that we unimaginable two weeks ago. More than anything though this means one gigantic accomplishment; it insures VR is actually here and will become the world changer we hoped would be. It legitimizes an entire industry. It does what none of us homespun evangelists have tried so desperately to do... It shows the public that VR is a viable vision for the near future and beyond and it puts it on EVERYONE'S doorstep. I will stand fast with my hope that Palmer, Nate and John will have the autonomy to still fashion their dream for the ecosystem... for the 'Metaverse.' I will believe that they still have control of the path that Oculus takes as they suggest. Even if they do not, even if Facebook fucks it all up, it will be too late. VR will have already become adopted by the masses. Other players will come into play and we will have choices as to how we interface with virtual worlds. By the time the Rift evolves into a dreaded data mining and banner ad device, should that be the path, VR will have become as viable a commodity as the Internet which implies that there will be countless competitors with vastly different consumer relation strategies. Nonetheless all of this, the true adoption of VR, will have been made possible by yesterday's acquisition.

I don't know what the future holds for Oculus and the Rift, none of us do, but I am choosing to believe that there dream for the future is not dead but only co-opted by an entity with bottomless pockets thus more real than ever. I am choosing not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

So counter to what I said last night when I was less than firmly in control of my emotions, I will not be walking away from EVE: Valkyrie - so long as Zuckerberg stays in the background and keeps is thin-lipped mouth shut and his greasy fingers out of the proverbial pie; so long as he leaves Oculus Rift development firmly in the hands of Palmer Luckey and John Carmack, I'll go along for the ride. And I'll grudgingly accept it will make that puerile douche bag Zuckerberg even richer than he already is. One thing you can say about him, at least he's consistent. He got rich off Facebook and that was someone else's hard work too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Facebook to buy Occulus Rift

Facebook on $2 billion deal for Virtual Reality Company

This is the worst possible news EVER. I am sorry CCP, but I can't imagine news more bitter for Occulus Rift. Facebook sucks. That's the plain truth of it. It is the geriatric social network and no gamer seriously entertains it as a viable medium for furthering gaming culture. It is more a platform for cute kittens and ridiculously ignorant memes than gaming. Seriously.

Zuckerberg is a zit on the ass of the Internet. I flat out REJECT this acquisition. I would rather but a PS4 with Sony's VR headset (and I'm still mad at Sony over Star Wars Galaxy!) than give money to Zuckerberg. Sorry CCP, but EVE Valkyrie is off my list over this. I vote with my wallet and this is a NO vote. It was nothing CCP could do anything about, but there you have it. This is not a statement against Valkyrie, but I refuse to support anything I believe is a mistake, and THIS is a mistake. Zuckerberg needs to just GO AWAY and I will not let that little shit continue to believe he shapes the future of the Internet or anything to do with the Internet.

CCP Karuck, with all due respect, you don't know what the hell you're talking about. The subscriber-ship of Facebook is barely literate in modern computing trends, let alone gaming, and I see no way that "virtual classrooms" and "court side" VR seats will ever pave the way to the future of virtual reality GAMING. Educators are severely handicapped when it comes to cutting edge technology and sports enthusiasts are... well, let's just say their version of virtual reality is fantasy football. I doubt they could even properly configure a virtual reality headset - or even know what one is. There is an old saying. "You can lead a horse to water..."

Gods, I can't believe that jerk pulled this off. I'm so angry I could just spit.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Expanding on Reprocessing Changes

There is a 77 page (as of this evening) comment thread going on the the Reprocess All the Things dev blog. It's a mostly interesting read with lots more positive than negative about the changes. There have been a couple good negative points made. The one that stands out is how these changes nerf alchemy because it is not considered an ore. It's currently processed as scrapmetal and that doesn't work post change. Good catch that one.

But what I really appreciate is CCP Ytterbium comparing the true reprocessing rates post change for NPC stations, POS Reprocessing Arrays and a fully upgraded outposts. Here it is snipped right out of the forum thread.

[caption id="2065" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Base Reprocessing Post 2014 Summer Expansion Base Reprocessing Post 2014 Summer Expansion[/caption]

If I was a serious industrialist again, I'd be looking at that fully upgraded outpost. A 14.4% increase is nothing to sneeze at. And it gives a ray of hope to my secret desire to see all the null-sec alts go back to null-sec.

And that's a lot of alts BTW. Behind every successful null-sec warrior are three alts. There is the market alt for buying the minerals at the best price. There is the manufacturing alt for making rail guns with the least wastage. And then there's the jump fighter alt. Oops, I forgot an alt. I forgot the cyno alt that gets the jump freighter alt back out to null-sec. With this change the manufacturing alt can move to an Outpost deep in the middle of null-sec and the other three alts can just go away. And it's not like CCP will loose any money. All those alts are all plexed anyway thanks to the mission alt hanging out in the backwaters of it's sovereign systems making bank from running complexes.

Yeah, that's a real pipe dream isn't it? Well, I can hope anyway. But hey, look at those hard numbers again. When we eventually get out of New Eden, those outposts might really come in handy since there'll be nothing else around. ;-)

Fly Careful



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Operation Moho Continues

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1147"]Planet Moho Planet Moho[/caption]

Since my last post about Kerbal Space Program (KSP) titled Moho? More Like MoFo You Mean!, the Kerbals and I have been trying to work out the capabilities needed for a ship sent to Moho with a lander to land it and return said lander to Kerbin. It is a daunting mission. It may be the hardest mission in KSP, though I've not tried a landing on the planet Eve yet. It's certainly the hardest thing my Kerbals and I have attempted. As I mentioned in the last Moho post, the difficult thing with Moho is stopping when you get there. Its sphere of influence (SOI) is under 10,000 kilometers with a bloody fast orbital velocity. That's very little room to stop in once you arrive. It's like parking a car in your garage coming in at Daytona 500 speeds. It's possible though, and we have done it in our simulations. (That's where you run a mission, see how it turns out and then press F9 to go back to the quick save you made before you left. ;-) ) We've also simulated a successful landing. What we have not done is simulate all that and manage to get back into orbit and return to Kerbin.

At this point you're probably asking what have we managed to do. Well, we've determined that three nuclear engines do not have enough thrust for a usable orbit around Moho unless you start decelerating right after you enter Moho's SOI - and maybe not even then. We've also determined just to get from Kerbin orbit to Moho orbit requires very nearly 4000 m/s of delta-v. That's a lot of rocket fuel. We've also determined there is no way to get that much fuel into orbit in one lift.

Knowing all this, the Kerbal Scientists and I have decided to build a Moho spacecraft like you would build a space station: one piece at a time. That way I can send as much fuel as I want into orbit and dock it to the lander in a long chain of tanks. This makes for a somewhat cumbersome spacecraft to turn, but it's all done in a vacuum. So long as no radical maneuvers are needed, and a well planned mission should have none of those, the spacecraft performs acceptably. So what does that look like? Well, I've taken a few pictures while I watched my Kerbal team assemble the ship in a 650 kilometer orbit. Be sure to read my notes in each picture's description for a better understanding of the craft and its assembly.

[gallery columns="4" ids="2047,2048,2049,2050,2051,2054,2053,2055"]

With all the simulations I've already managed to run, there is something else required for this mission I'm starting to suspect. As I've said, I can get a lander there and land it. I can probably get it back into orbit at this point. But to get it home I am going to have to send it more fuel - in orbit - around Moho. This is turning out to be the hardest mission to plan yet. Nonetheless, we are undaunted. I am positive my Kerbals are up to the task. I'll update everyone again in about a week.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The 15 Games That Made Mabrick

The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) today gave us Picking My 15 Most Influential Games. Wow, was that a stroll down memory lane for me. As I read through his list, I realized that there were some games we shared in common, but most we did not. There were games missing from his list that I really consider to be monumental to the gamer I've become today. So, rather than make a comment saying, "what about this game or that game," I decided to do my own post about the 15 games that made me the gamer I am today. Here we go - GERONIMO!

  1. Asteroids (1979) - What can I say? I was a miner before I was anything else. Now it all makes sense doesn't it? The local bowling alley was a mile from my house, and I didn't have a lot of money those days, but I played it as often as I could. By today's standards, the game play was rudimentary and simplistic. But I could get lost for hours just shooting asteroids with my friends and egging them on when they played. Back then, this was the closest we go to massively multi-player.

  2. Star Castle (1980) - I spent hour upon hour (and quarter upon quarter) playing this game at the local bowling alley. It was the first game I ever played where I learned you could game the game. If you flew fast enough, you could bounce off the shields and over to the other side of the screen (the edges wrapped.) By paying attention to your angle, you could bounce like a cue ball and "rotate" your ship around the screen so you were always shooting at two places on the shields. These spots were opposite each other and you'd get through one of them before the gun inside the Star Castle could destroy you. But you had to bounce faster and faster, as the rate of fire increased the longer you took. It was my first truly exhilarating gaming experience.

  3. Battlezone (1980) - There seems to be a theme going on here doesn't there? At first Battlezone doesn't seem like it'd fit. But it does. What you don't know was at this point in my like I was a huge fan of David Drake's Hammer's Slammers published in 1979. Every time I plopped a quarter into Battle Zone, I was a member of Colonel Hammer's futuristic mercenary mechanized brigade. I suppose you could call that role play. I know I did.

  4. Warp Factor (1982) - By the time I made it into college, the "modern" personal computer had made it's way onto the scene. I have written before about the hours I spent in the Computer Club's computer room at my Alma Mater. Warp Factor was my first experience with a turn based strategy game. To this day, the turn based strategy game is probably my favorite format for a game. I like to puzzle things out; use analytic thinking to come up with solutions. Every psychological test I've ever taken, from Briggs-Meyer to Personalysis bears this out. That didn't start here (it's just who I am,) but this game helped it grow and lead to the RL career I have today.

    [caption id="attachment_2043" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Warp Factor (1982) Warp Factor (1982)[/caption]

  5. North Atlantic '86 (1983) - It was the height of the Cold War. I had embarked upon my first career, and this directly related to it. It was like being able to run a training operation without having anyone around to critique it. Either I succeeded or I failed. In retrospect, it meant far more to me to win this particular game than I should have allowed. It was not an accurate reflection of the real world political situation. Nothing is ever as black and white as success or failure. But one thing this game did teach me is that Pyrrhic victory is no victory at all.

    [caption id="attachment_2017" align="aligncenter" width="640"]North Atlantic '86 (1983) North Atlantic '86 (1983)[/caption]

  6. Reach for the Stars (1983) - This was my very first space conquest game. Until Reach for the Stars, space games were tactical in nature. This game made strategy the first consideration and tactics really not that important. You could even choose to dispense with the tactical fight and simply plan your way to victory. For fleet battles that might be particularly close you might want to take control just for the option of getting as many ships out as possible if you had bad luck, but generally this game was about economic management and building a better fleet than the computer could muster. I was so into this game I can remember spending entire weekends doing nothing else except eating at the keyboard and running to the bath room while the end of turn processed.

    [caption id="attachment_2021" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Reach for the Stars Reach for the Stars (1983)[/caption]

  7. Silent Service (1985) - This was the first Sid Meier game I ever played. It was the game that hooked me on Sid Meier. If there is a giant in the game of computer game development, this man is it for me. I have never been disappointed by a game with his name on it. What this game lacked in graphics, it more than made up for in campaign mode. It was as long as World War II and sometimes seemed just as hard. There was a time in my life I preferred the difficulty of this game to the difficulty of dealing with real world issues, but that's a story I won't be telling here.

    [caption id="attachment_2018" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Silent Service (1985) Silent Service (1985)[/caption]

  8. Elite (1987) - I've written several times about this one. It's one of the main reasons I gave EVE Online a try. But there is an evolution to that statement so don't think Elite directly was the reason. It wasn't, but it was the game that got the ball rolling. I still remember with fondness the day I could afford a docking computer and wouldn't have to match the station rotation a la 2001 A Space Odyssey.

    [caption id="attachment_2025" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Elite (1987) Elite (1987)[/caption]

  9. Silent Service II (1990) - And the avoidance of real life issues continued. This update to Silent Service II was huge with me. It added the concept of achievements to the game in the form of medals. It kicked up the campaign play with strategic maps and tactical maps that relayed a lot of information in a single glance - at least they did to me. I was already a student of World War II so I knew the various theaters. I knew their history. I knew how the war was really fought there. And this simulation captured that very, very well. It made me as certain I didn't want to be on a submarine in war time as Das Boot did. It was Das Boot for me.

    [caption id="attachment_2019" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Silent Service II Silent Service II (1990)[/caption]

  10. Wing Commander (1990) - I fell in love with space based PvE in this game. It was all my sci-fi/military fantasies come to life. I played all the Wing Commander releases. This was the first game series I actually bought a specific piece of hardware to play. I bought a Microsoft Sidewinder joystick so I could have all the pickle controls at my right hand finger tips. I'd like to believe I was really good at Wing Commander. I did complete all the games and claimed victory in each one. But I had to repeat some of the missions so often that I thought they'd permanently burn the pixels in my monitor and I'd always have a ghost of the Kilrathi on my screen. *LOL*

    [caption id="attachment_2026" align="aligncenter" width="615"]Wing Commander I Wing Commander (1990)[/caption]

  11. Civilization (1991) - TAGN and I converge here. Until now, none of our early games coincide. But it's hard to argue that Civilization isn't one of the defining games of the entire industry. This is another giant game from that game developing giant Sid Meier. And notice that was not in past tense. Civilization continues to this day, and I play it to this day. This is the defining turn based strategy game and I doubt very much I'll ever give it up completely.

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Why yes, I did rip this off from TAGN. Why? Civilization (1991)[/caption]

  12. Wing Commander: Privateer (1993) - Oh yeah, flying the Orion. That's what I'm talking about... er, writing about. Here's a little something I don't think I've ever told anyone about. My favorite character in Star Wars is Han Solo. It isn't because he was handsome or debonair. It was because he was independent. He was a lone wolf. And he was confident to the point of arrogance - yet he was a hero. That meant there was hope for me. Privateer catered to the internal desire in me to be Han Solo. My ship wasn't the fastest or the prettiest, but like the Millennium Falcon, it got the job done.

    [caption id="attachment_2028" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Wing Commander: Privateer Wing Commander: Privateer (1993)[/caption]

  13. Ultima Online (1997) - UO was my first foray into the world of Massively Multi-player Online Role-playing Games (MMORPG.) It was also my first encounter with Player versus Player (PvP) and griefers. And that forced me away from my lone wolf habits and into the arms of my first in-game guild - Crusaders of the Realms. This group of players formed in Never Winter Nights and moved to Ultima Online when it released.  With them I discovered that not all other players were dicks. I found people who genuinely cared if I had a good time or not. They were a bunch of good eggs, Kalfear and the lot, and I miss them to this day. It is thanks to them I didn't give up on the MMORPG and go back to just playing turned based strategy and PvE games only. Thanks a lot guys. :-/

    [caption id="attachment_2029" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Ultima Online (1997) Ultima Online (1997)[/caption]

  14. Star Wars Galaxies (2003) - This was the first MMORPG I can say I actually won. I started playing Star Wars Galaxies because it was the direct embodiment of my Han Solo desires. I didn't even bother to try and become a Jedi when I created Mabrick. I wanted to be a Trader, just like Han Solo. Okay, not like Han Solo. There were no space craft at first and you couldn't fly in space. But I could become a Lando Calrissian - and I did. By the time I stopped playing, I was so wealthy I ranked in the top 1% of the top 1%. I'm not exaggerating. I had more gold than I knew what to do with. I was not only a Trader, but I was a triple master ending in robotics, the hardest tract. I could make any sort of robot, and I did, and sold them for lots of money. But I actually made my fortune selling commodities I got with my extractors. That was where the real money was. But then Sony killed the game and I had to move on. I'd still be there today if it wasn't for that.

    [caption id="attachment_2031" align="aligncenter" width="628"]Star Wars Galaxies (2003) Star Wars Galaxies (2003)[/caption]

  15. Eve Online (2003) - After Star Wars Galaxies, I moved to Earth and Beyond. That was a nice game that never lived up to its potential. When it died from its own apathy, I spent a brief period in World of Warcraft. I quickly got tired of that and spent two years in Lord of the Rings Online. But my heart wanted a space based MMORPG and the only one out there was EVE Online. So as my third choice after Star Wars Galaxies, I started playing EVE Online in 2008. Does it surprise you it was my third choice? It shouldn't. EVE Online's non-apologetic embrace of Player versus Player is it's weakest attraction from where I stand. I meet plenty of jerks in real life. I don't want to be forced to meet them in the games I play. But EVE Online is a true space opera MMORPG. I get to fly spaceships. I can be Han Solo or whomever I want. And that attraction has kept me interested for six years now - and even got me to start this blog. That last more than anything is why it's in this list.

    [caption id="attachment_2032" align="aligncenter" width="800"]EVE Online (2003) EVE Online (2003)[/caption]

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Of All the Things

Today, on the Vernal Equinox of all days, we get this developer blog post from CCP Ytterbium (such a cool handle... still.) If you're an industrialist and you've not read this post yet, go read it. You will be gobsmacked just like I was. This was completely unexpected. Of all the things they could have started the summer expansion dev blogs with, this wasn't even on my list. The compression/refining issue has been a long standing one I thought could never be tackled. It's one of those areas in EVE Online's code I felt would have to be completely ripped out to do anything about. After reading his post, I don't think I feel that way any more.

This is totally off the cuff, but I've got to put my initial thoughts down in writing. This may be a bit rambly. I've long felt there was something inherently broken about building railguns to haul into null-sec just to reprocess into minerals again to build something else. It's an immersion breaker for me, and I like immersion. It's one of the reasons I never got into the commodities trade, though not the primary reason to tell truth.

The primary reason is more involved than that. While I lived in a wormhole, I often thought about all the minerals just floating around in them. It wasn't difficult or even too risky to mine them. I've done my share of mining in wormholes. See for yourself.

The thing that always brought me up short was mineral processing. The old refining arrays, as CCP Ytterbium points out, are a real pain in the ass to use. The small and medium arrays are useless for industrial pursuits - too small. The Intensive Processing Array takes so much power you literally have to turn things off in a shared POS (not committed to industry only) to use it at all. Then you have to wait for four damn hours to turn your other stuff back on. When you are a small corporation in a wormhole running out of a single POS, that doesn't sit well with your CEO I can tell you. The power that array takes could be extra defense or hanger arrays. That won't change this summer, but the amount of time needed to complete a reprocessing run will. It means you won't log off while the POS is vulnerable. You can do your business and then put things back to normal. You can have a DickStar and do industry. That makes it a lot easier to sell to a CEO and Board of Directors.

The other part of the issue with wormhole industry is getting the goods out. Because jumping a wormhole is by its very nature a risky endeavor, small, fast and inexpensive transports are best. Cloaky transports prefered. These transports are not known for their cargo capacity. Hauling raw ore out with then is a terrible way to make ISK. It's slow. It's more dangerous. Multiple runs down the same pipe WILL be noticed. It's just not something you want to do unless you have a direct to high-sec connection. Most wormholes do not. The most lucrative wormholes for sure don't, unless you just happen to get lucky. Lucky does not make a consistently profitable business.

At least with the most lucrative wormholes you can get a Rorqual into them. Compression helps a lot - in a wormhole it's everything IMO. You cannot get a Rorqual into lower end wormholes. Capital ships don't all fit through those holes. You have to build them there. That's a different problem all too its own. So you may have a direct to high-sec connection in lower class wormhole, but it's far less useful because you have to make so many runs. And there are always those tourist's who'll try and ambush you on the way back into your home. But CCP has come up with a very nice solution to that by reinventing the fairly useless Medium Refining Array into a Compression Array, and praises to the entire team, completely eliminating the damn blue print requirement to boot! That was the most ridiculous thing about using a Rorqual IMO.

Oh, I'm almost forgetting to mention the niftiest thing CCP Ytterbium didn't expound upon. They are standardizing all ore batch sizes to 100 units! If you've ever processed in a POS, you know the frustration of having 499 units of Omber left. Multiply that by every known ore type and you have lots of wasted storage. With everyone needing to use the same storage, that can get under some people's skin - people who don't mine and would rather store other things than stupid ore. It's a benefit I'm not even sure CCP Ytterbium is aware of, but thank you nonetheless! After the summer expansion, many things in wormhole industry life becomes easier.

As for the decreased yields and changes to the equations, that's fine by me. Mabrick's been maxed out for quite some time. :-D But that aside, budding industrialists need this sort of progression. It keeps them working hard. It rewards them for taking the time to train. It will also decrease the amount of non-professional competition. Those who may mostly PvP, but to make up a lack of ISK will do some industry. That cuts into a professional industrialist's profit. Now these part time industrialists might not be so inclined to bother as their yields will be lower. These part timers are probably few, but in commodities any competition can be bad. The margins just don't support it. Oh, and since they'll have to sell their loot instead of reprocessing it, it adds another niche to the station trading game - high yield reprocessors who buy low end loot and make a few ISK turning it into minerals.

As for what this will do to the economy as a whole, I haven't had enough time to consider it. I'll hold my peace for now. I'm sure CCP has done due vigilance on this change just like hey did for PI. The funny thing is, their changes to PI urged me to walk away from it. Now they are doing something that encourages me to start another industrial endeavor. I'm going to have to give some hard thought to that. I don't want to shoot little red crosses all my life you know.

Fly Careful

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's About Time!

And as I finished up the Blog Banter 54 post, this popped into my email.

[caption id="attachment_1999" align="aligncenter" width="643"]SimCity Your Way SimCity Your Way[/caption]


BB54: Like Kelly's Heroes

Today's topic comes Diaries of a Space Noob blog and other sources:

Quick post. I was listening to a song and a question occurred to me. Where are the EVE heroes? Against a dark background surely all we have are anti-heroes? A lot of mockery is aimed at any who attempt to be white knights. EVE is a dark place and yet pretty much all other MMO's try to place the player in the role of some form of hero, boosting the ego and taking the player out of the humdrum 1 in 7 billion that is RL. Why have I fitted into EVE? Did I never want to be that? So I guess my question is:

Do classic heroes exist in EVE? Is such heroism even possible in EVE? How would you go about being one without opening yourself wide open to scams? Is the nature of the game so dark that heroes can't exist? How do you deal with that irony? What effect does this have on us and the psyche of new players coming in from other MMOs? Is it something special that we don't have classic heroes, or should we? Are our non classic heroes more genuine?

And I would add to this, who have we elevated to the level of larger than life heroes ourselves in the game, and do they actually deserve it?

One of my favorite all time moves is Kelly's Heroes. It's about a rag tag bunch of Army misfits in the waning days of World War II who band together to steal a horde of Nazi gold. If you have never watched this movie you must, must, must watch it. You will not regret the time spent. If you have watched it, then you know exactly what sort of guys Kelly's Heroes are. For those that have never seen it, here is the plot summary given by Wikipedia,

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400"]Movie Poster - Kelly's Heroes Movie Poster[/caption]

"In World War II France in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the town of Nancy when one of the division's mechanized reconnaissance platoons receives orders to pull out while under attack from the Germans. Kelly (Eastwood), a former lieutenant who has been demoted to private following a disastrous assault some time earlier, captures Colonel Dankhopf of German Intelligence. When Kelly notices that his prisoner has a gold bar in his briefcase, he gets him drunk to try to get information about the gold. Before he is killed by an attacking German Tiger tank, the drunken Dankhopf blurts out that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont.

Kelly recruits the rest of his platoon, including skeptical Master Sergeant "Big Joe" (Savalas), to sneak off and steal the gold. With their commanding officer, Captain Maitland (Buckley), neglecting his duty to sample his personal spoils of war while denying them to his weary men at the same time, the platoon is only all too eager to sign up for the expedition. Eventually, others have to be recruited (or invite themselves) into the scheme, such as an opportunistic supply sergeant "Crapgame" (Rickles); and a Sherman tank commander, "Oddball" (Sutherland).

The expedition successfully breaks through a German-held town during a mortar barrage that has been arranged by Kelly. An American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, strafing their vehicles and destroying them with rockets, forcing them to continue on foot, and three of their number die in a subsequent skirmish in and around a minefield. Meanwhile, Oddball's tanks battle their way through the German lines, but their route is blocked when the last large bridge is blown up by Allied bombers, prompting Oddball to let a bridge engineering unit in on the deal. When intercepted radio messages of the private raid are brought to the attention of gung-ho American Major General Colt (O'Connor), he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patriots pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front line to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men race to reach Clermont before their own army. There, they find it defended by three Tiger tanks with infantry support. The Americans are able to dispatch two of the Tigers and most of the German infantry, but as they prepare to take on the last tank, which is parked right in front of the bank, Oddball's last Sherman breaks down and cannot be repaired. Powerless to defeat the tank, Kelly offers the German tank commander a share of the loot. After the Tiger blows the bank doors off, the assembled crew finds the gold cache. After dividing the gold, the men go their separate ways, just managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious Colt, who is delayed by celebrating town residents."


If that isn't a description of what goes on in New Eden on a daily basis, I haven't been playing the same game you have. Capsuleers are pretty much a self-serving lot. They're all about, "What's in it for me?"  This is not the stuff of classic heroism. But then again, EVE is real and classic heroism is a fantasy. It's romantic claptrap invented by those that wish people were different than they actually are. Any student of humanity can see people have been the same for as long as our species has memory - and we are not the stuff most classic heroes are said to have.

Knowing this, what is it that makes Kelly's misfits and scam artists heroes? It's the fact they unite to pursue a common goal. That along the way to that goal they make sacrifices for the common purpose. Some even die to achieve the goal they'd set for themselves. They were heroes in that they did not give up when everything began to come apart at the seams. They stuck together, even when the sticking was hard. Though individualists in the extreme, their creed got them through. In the end, they got their reward for remaining true to it.

I think one of the issues with the classic hero, what makes it more fantasy than reality, is we want to look at heroism as a character trait. Heroism is not a character trait. Heroism is an action. It is the end result of doing something others judge as good. But heroism isn't the "thing" that enabled the hero to accomplish their feat. It was that person's character traits that lead to an act of heroism. What are those character traits? Well, what is considered "good" in a person? Courage is good to have and most heroes have that character trait in spades. Altruism is another character trait many heroes have, but not all. There was nothing altruistic about Kelly's Heroes. They were in it for the gold. But they had determination, and that is also a good character trait. Kelly's Heroes also had honor. They honored their agreement with one another, and they honored their agreement with the Panzer 115 commander - their "official" enemy. People generally consider these and other positive character traits as "good." And that sense of "good" can be different from culture to culture and even situation to situation. What Vlad did in Crimea many Russians consider heroic. I know the Ukranians have another word for it.

When faced with difficult situations, positive character traits can lead to heroic actions. And the hero doesn't even have to start with what are generally considered positive character traits. A hero can begin with negative character traits and through experience and personal growth learn those traits that allow heroism to happen.  The book Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is perhaps one of the best known examples of how heroes can emerge from those we don't believe can be heroes. Or try Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo, if you don't want a war story. Even those who have a checkered past can overcome that past to become a hero. And in the same vein, heroes can fall from grace and become the most reviled among us. We need look no further than modern cycling history to learn that lesson.

So when you ask whether EVE Online has heroes, don't fall for the old fallacy the only hero is a classic hero. Classic heroes don't really exist. Real heroes are just ordinary men and women thrust into extraordinary situations who just happen to have positive character traits guiding their actions. It happens every day. Heroes happen every day. We all have the capacity to be heroes. We only have to overcome our own self-limitations and let our positive character traits flourish; even if in the end we are only serving ourselves.

Fly Careful

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I Can Almost Feel the Salt Spray, or Was That Blood?

I've got in almost 30 hours of play time with Assassin's Creed IV (AC4) now. I am most definately getting the hang of the game. Over the weekend (and until tomorrow,) there was a community challenge. They wanted over a million assassinations completed with 40 for each participating player. I already had the first assassination contract from  Salt Key Bank so decided I was in. Here's the description of the contract from

1. Shady Business

Shady Business Target LocationNote: Target you are going after for is on a boat. As you approach him from east, he is going to sail away between land to the south and small island north of it. Soon enough he will find himself in a company of other ships. In order to prevent this you should cut his path. Do not rush towards him directly from east. Sail further north. From his northeastern side start the chase. He will sail between a small island and large land to the south. Use travel speed to sail north from of the small island. As soon as you sail past it, turn hard left, positioning yourself for a crash with his ship. You should have plenty of time to play cat-mouse game since, at this point, you should be in the lead.

It took me three failed attempts to catch his schooner before I looked this up. The key was sailing around the island and not getting tangled up with the frigate sitting nearby. This early in the game, frigates are seriously dangerous. Once I'd avoided the frigate, setting the schooner on fire with my recently upgraded mortars was easy. I killed the target with a swivel gun. That was fun!

But I had 39 more assassinations to go so I couldn't bask in the glory for long. I took the second contract available at Salt Key Bank.

2. The Informant

Note: In order to kill your target you should destroy Dry Tortuga fortress’s defense, if you haven’t done so before. Do not bother with enemies inside it and head directly for your target. He can be found on a platform with, what appears to be, the war room.

Destroy a fortress? Can Jackdaw do that? Well, evidently she could! It was actually great fun. It was so fun in fact that I did it later, but more on that in a minute. After I'd killed my target and the fort's commander, I realized it would take forever to assassinate 40 enemies if I did it via contract and conquest. I needed a place with a practically limitless supply of enemies. I knew just the place.

I fast traveled back to Havana. There are guards aplenty in the streets and lots of roof tops from which to drop onto them. In no time at all I'd gotten my 40 assassinations and then some. I must brag. I'm becoming fairly adept at them. I've even started to use them when I plunder ships because the enemy crew is usually too busy fighting my men to notice me quietly strolling around behind them. They are such dumb bots. Of course, I use the swivel gun first. That's just a blast - pun intended!

My reward for completing the community assassination challenge was a spiffy new Explorer outfit. Here I am wearing it while plundering yet another schooner.

[caption id="attachment_1972" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Explorer Outfit Explorer Outfit[/caption]

Now back to the fort comment: when I took Dry Tortuga I noticed Naval Contracts were now available to me. I'd seem them in some stuff I'd read and they look fun. Escorting friendly ships past a hostile flotilla for lots of gold is just what Blackbeard ordered. But I also read some of them are really hard. I watched a YouTube video of the Dry Tortuga mission and it's a 5 out of 5 difficulty. I decided it could wait, if there were easier missions to run first. These sorts of game always have a  difficulty progression. So I looked up the easiest Naval Contract. It's given in Eleuthera. I didn't "own" Eleuthera at the time. I do now. :-D

[caption id="attachment_1971" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Eleuthera is Mine Eleuthera is Mine[/caption]

That was all the time I had last night, but soon I'll be able to run my first Naval Contract. This is way too much fun. On that note, I'll leave you with this Sea Shanty to worm its way into your brain.

We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

We extort, we pilfer, we filch and sack
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
Maraud and embezzle, and even high-jack
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

We kindle and char, inflame and ignite
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
We burn up the city, we're really a fright
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

We're rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

We're beggars and blighters, never-do-well cads
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

Monday, March 17, 2014

Incursions Have the Same Old Problem

So far I've bought and fit two ships for Incursion running. I bought a Raven to start with, and yesterday I re-fit my newly skinned Rokh to run Incursions. And that's about all I've been able to accomplish. It's not that I've not been trying either. Unfortunately Incursions suffer from the same problem they've always suffered from. There are more capsuleers wanting to run them than there is available content.

Yesterday I spent two hours in and around Bereye. That was where the U0R channel said they had a fleet active. I didn't even bother to 'x' up. A quick count of the number of pilots in local and the number of Vanguard sites available showed more pilots than fleet slots. If you've never done this type of estimate with an Incursion site, here's how it works. Assume all fleets are filled to maximum for the site you are aiming to run. That would be 10 ships per Vanguard site. Count the number of Vanguard beacons. If there are five beacons, you can assume they need 50 pilots to clear them. If there are over 100 pilots in local, as was the case in Bereye when I was there, you have more than twice the number as needed to run the sites. It's a quick and easy way to determine how long your wait will likely be. In most instances, numbers like the ones I just listed mean you'll get into a fleet in no time soon. That was bore out yesterday as I watched the U0R channel. Periodically the lead FC would list the waiting list. It never shrank the entire time I watched it except when people said they had RL stuff to which to attend.

I didn't watch it the full 2 hours though. For a time I went over to Aice, the Staging System, and messed around with the Scout sites there. Even with four mag-stabs, a tracking computer with tracking script, and a Federation web I couldn't always hit those damn frigates. However, with 20 kilometers range, an Optimal Range script and Null ammo they were toast! But within 15 minutes all the Scout sites were done, and there were over a dozen ships hanging around waiting for the next spawn. In a battleship, I'd be Johnny come lately at every new site that spawned. It just wasn't worth my time.

That's the same problem Incursions have always had. There is far more demand than supply. The Incursion channel itself had nearly 700 capsuleers in it. That's just too many. It makes getting into a fleet a hit or miss proposition unless you can sit there for hours waiting on a list, doing nothing. I don't know about you, but I'm not inclined to sit around and do nothing for hours. Mining is more stimulating than that. Incursion game play just isn't compelling enough to make me sit around. I can make ISK in other ways. I can't say this definitively, because I've not really made a lot of ISK waiting for Incursions, but I bet if you factored that wait into the ISK per hour calculation everyone is so fond of, you could do better running L4 Security missions. So unless you have an "in" with an Incursion fleet, you need to consider that wait.

To be certain, this is a high-sec issue. From what I can tell, no one ever really bothers with null-sec Incursions. I believe the same can be said of low-sec Incursions. Taking them on in that space is just too much risk. I don't think anyone reading this will disagree when I say PvE fleets are no match for PvP fleets. It'd be like lambs in the slaughterhouse to try and run Incursions in insecure space. When a pilot can run a dead space complex and make as much ISK with less risk, and do it by themselves, who'd want to bother with an Incursion? I know I wouldn't.

And aren't Incursions in non-secure space a sort of lore breaker anyway? Sansha Kuvakei's real beef is with the Empires and their invention the capsuleers. Why is he wasting his resources on non-empire space anyway? That seems like a really poor strategy. I'm certain there are those who know better than I. Can anyone explain why we even see Incursions in null-sec? Wouldn't it make more sense if Sansha concentrated his forces against his hated enemy's main bastions?

Here's a thought. Since there is more demand for Incursions in highsec than supply, and no (or very little) demand for them in null-sec, why not just swing all those null-sec Incursions into high-sec? In the end, EVE Online is a game, for people who want to play the game. It is obvious to me more people want to play Incursion EVE in high-sec than anywhere else. Why doesn't CCP give them what they want?

I suppose that's the nuts and bolts of it, isn't it? CCP will say EVE Online is their game and they know what's best for it. They'll say too many high-sec incursions will <insert negative consequence here, like breaking the economy> and they won't ruin their game in that way. That's wrong headed. It's not their game. It's our game. We pay for it every month. CCP may have created EVE Online, but like selling stock, they gave up absolute control of it the day they accepted their first subscription.

That makes CCP a service provider. Service providers cater to demand. Its obvious where the demand is. Big null-sec battles may give CCP their marketing spikes and make them quiver all over with new found popularity, but they need to see high-sec for what it is - the place where most of us play; the place that has the most demand. It's incumbent on CCP to understand where the demand really is (that's where the player numbers are if you haven't figured that one out,) provide the service desired (as indicated by those numbers,) and make it work in a manner that doesn't break the game - in that order. That's their real world charter. Failing to fulfil demand will harm the game more than breaking the economy will. There are plenty of games out there with broken economies that still earn money. There are none that have survived a lack of participation due to unfulfilled expectations.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Banished! - An Update

This is just a quick update. As you might remember from my last Banished! post, my little group of exiles had a bit of a problem with procreation. They didn't - procreate that is. That left me with an aged population and no one to replace them as they began to die. It wasn't really their fault. My housing was full and I didn't understand people age faster than game time progresses. I am happy to say the village of Netto made it through the lean years and has a much better population distribution.

[caption id="attachment_1958" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]Netto - Late Spring Year 25 Netto - Late Spring Year 25[/caption]

It's been another 15 years game time since I reported the looming population issue, and all my original villagers are gone now. At one point I was down to 13 workers. Their graves fill one small graveyard and I've had to start a second. As you can see in the screen capture above, my working population is now nearly as high as it has ever been and I have 16 students and children. No one currently living in the village is older than 60. I've actually managed to grow a bit. I've purchased chestnut and wheat seeds from visiting merchants as well as sheep so I could get wool for warmer coats. Oy, the sheep were expensive! I had to give up 240 units of iron for just two. But like the villagers, the sheep are happy and have had a lamb.

I've learned a few more things about how the game operates during these 15 game years. I'll make a bullet list for easier reading. The list is in no particular order except the first item.

  • As I suspected, the key to procreation is to have empty housing available to new couples. If there is an empty house and a man and woman available, they will move into the house and start a family. I've tracked this with several new families. The first year a new couple moved into the house a child was born. Houses are for families, not just a random group of people. My advice to those starting the game is to count how many potential couples there are and build that many houses plus one. Your urban planning needs to take that into account.

  • Merchants only seem to want to trade like for like. For example, I couldn't buy sheep with anything other than iron though I had a dozen other products in my inventory. Those other products were food stuff and herbs. The only non-food type item was the iron.

  • You can hold  a merchant at your trading post for long enough to gather several hundred units of iron. I had to do this to get the sheep I wanted. If you dismiss the merchants they go away immediately, but that doesn't seem to affect when the next merchant comes. Holding them doesn't seem to affect the timing either, so hang onto them.

  • It takes four years before chestnuts produce. They'll produce for a couple of years, and then you'll start to loose trees. Dead trees are harvested and added to your log stores. Your farmer plants a replacement tree and it'll begin producing in four game years. I assume all orchards behave similarly.

  • Size matters when creating fields, orchards, pastures and graveyards. My little pasture can only hold three sheep. My herdsman will place any sheep born after that into the food stores, if you follow my meaning. Keep that in mind when you are planning your village layout. You'll need lots of pasture to be self-sufficient in domesticated livestock. I'll be hunting and fishing for some time.

  • I love the fact deer wander all over the map and you can actually see their fawns in the spring time.

Okay, that last wasn't really a learning point, but it is something I find myself watching when I'm not trying to help the villagers help themselves. One that score, there appears to be a laziness quotient built into the villagers. They particularly like to "idle" in the graveyard. The graveyard is a source of solace for the villagers and therefore happiness. You know, when this game is opened up for modding someone will certainly create a zombie plague to throw into the mix. Perhaps a vampire plaque would be more medievally appropriate. On that note, I want to make everyone aware that I am playing this first round of Banished! with disasters turned OFF. This game would be far harder if half the town burned down or a tornado roared through it. I'll save that excitement for my next game. For now I'm content with getting the mechanics of the game down.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Moho? More Like MoFo You Mean!

The next mission I've set for the Kerbals is to land a probe on Moho and return it to Kerbin. This is no easy feat. In fact, it is harder than getting to Jool and even Eeloo. Jool has a large sphere of influence (SOI) and is hard to miss. It also has a very thick atmosphere that lends itself to the best aerocapture and aerobraking in the system. If you're even half way decent at those maneuvers, you'll get into orbit. Eeloo has no atmosphere and requires retrograde thrust to get into orbit. Eeloo's gravity is only slightly more than Mun's, so it is relatively easy to modify a Mun lander to work on Eeloo. And Eeloo orbits Kerbol at just over 4000 meters per second making it the easiest planet to "sneak" up on and get into orbit around. Eeloo orbits Kerbol at just over 4000 m/s. That makes all your velocities, both there and back, at least manageable.

Now let's compare that with the speed of Moho. Moho whips around Kerbol at over 12,000 m/s at apoapsis. At periapsis it's traveling at a blistering 18,000+ m/s. Any probe hoping to have any chance of catching Moho must travel at those speeds. That'll peel the special space paint right off your parts! It's a hard mission no doubt and I hope the Kerbals are up to it.

To begin this mission, the Kerbals designed a new advanced probe. The old stacked design had a couple of issues. It had a high center of gravity and needed a heavy base to be stable. It also had a bad habit of coming apart at the joints when the landing parachutes fully deployed. There is nothing more frustrating than a successful mission undone in the last few minutes because your probe doesn't survive the sudden jolt needed to bring it home safely. So with this in mind, the Kerbal scientists began designing a more squat probe with a better landing system. Here's what they came up with.

[caption id="attachment_1945" align="alignleft" width="300"]Advanced Probe Advanced Probe[/caption]

This probe has an inline RC-L01 Remote Guidance Unit as it's brain, powered by 4000 kilowatt Z-4K inline battery bank, which in turn is charged by two Radioisotope Thermo-electric Generators.  It has 200 units of mono-propellant for it's RCS maneuvering system. The RV-105 thruster blocks are installed at the probe's center of gravity for maximum efficiency. Total mass is 4.395 tons.

To address the issue with sudden deceleration causing structural failure, there are four Mk25 "Drogue"  parachutes. These open at a higher altitude than standard parachutes and have less drag fully deployed lessening the negative g-forces on the probe at deployment. If you look at the staging for the probe, you'll see we've programmed the parachutes to open in three stages. We've tested this system many times and have found it does quite well. We deploy the first stage chute just below 10,000 meters so it can aid in slowing the probe. It fully deploys at 2500 meters. At deployment, the probe's velocity is just under 120 m/s and drops to around 40 m/s once the chute is fully deployed. It is then safe to deploy the second chute. This will decrease vertical velocity to around 14 m/s. This is still too fast for most parts to withstand landing however. Therefore we have two more chutes we deploy below 500 meters. This drops the velocity below 8 m/s. Most parts tolerate this well. If you want to land at an even slower velocity, you can make your last two chutes standard chutes without risking deceleration damage.

[caption id="attachment_1946" align="alignright" width="300"]Moho Lander Moho Lander[/caption]

We can mount the probe on a variety of lander modules. For instance, here's a lander/return stage we figure would get the probe down to Moho and back into orbit. It has a total of 3144 m/s delta-v in vacuum. The escape velocity for Moho is approximately 1200 m/s. Double that to get a quick and dirty idea of the delta-v needed to land and take off again. That leaves us with a comfortable margin of just over 700 m/s. Of course, that in no way gives the probe enough delta-v to affect a transfer back to Kerbin. But we are still in the planning stages here, running simulations and seeing what is possible. We'll worry about a return stage later. It's the easy part.

Let's discuss the hard part, the transfer from Kerbin to Moho. As I mentioned above, Moho is fast. Damn fast.  That makes it difficult to catch. According to the KSP Wiki, it takes 1676 m/s delta-v from a low Kerbin orbit (70 km) just to get into the vicinity of Moho. But that's far from all it takes. Moho has a very small SOI. It's a little bullet going very fast. Unlike Jool, it is easy to miss. As I've mentioned before, it's best to complete a refinement burn while on the way to any other planet in the Kerbol system. This will ensure you arrive within the SOI of your target. To the left is the refinement burn for Moho according to my simulations.

[caption id="attachment_1948" align="alignleft" width="300"]Moho Approach Burn Moho Approach Burn[/caption]

That's a LOT of delta-v! It's three quarters as much as we needed to transfer. But without that burn, we'd miss Moho by a Kerbal country mile. The final Moho periapsis of the new trajectory is 50 km. Before it was in the millions of kilometers. Our transfer stage now has to have at least 2970 m/s delta-v. But wait, there's more!

[caption id="attachment_1950" align="alignright" width="300"]Moho Orbital Insertion Moho Orbital Insertion[/caption]

Take a look at how fast the probe is travelling in this simulation. It will easily top 12,000 m/s by the time it gets to intercept, and probably considerably more. So what's it going to take to get into a 50 km orbit of Moho from that velocity? Here's the answer for you (look right.) It will take another 3660 m/s delta-v to get into orbit. That's way more than needed just to get this far. It's more than needed to land and take off from Moho.

So what can deliver the total delta-v needed, all 6630 m/s, in an economical package? Many (most?) people would immediately shout, "Nuclear Engines!"  The Jool mission had a nuclear transfer stage of 4403 m/s delta-v. We can certainly design a nuclear transfer stage with enough delta-v. But, I'd quietly reply, "Think again." Remember what I said about Moho being a very small, fast bullet with a dinky SOI? At 12,000 m/s that SOI is even smaller than you think. How long does it take a nuclear engine to affect a 3660 m/s change in delta-v. The answer is too long. Have a look at the other picture to the right. See what happens when you use nuclear engines for an orbital insertion of Moho the normal way (half delta-v before and half after the maneuver node?) The probe goes right the hell out of your insertion window and ends up with a horribly useless "orbit."

[caption id="attachment_1952" align="alignright" width="300"]Nuclear Engine Moho Insertion Nuclear Engine Moho Insertion[/caption]

So we'll have to use rockets to get into orbit, there's no two ways about it. And that means more fuel. More fuel means a bigger lift stage just to get it into orbit around Kerbin. We've been working on the lift stage. We've got one that will get the entire payload into a 75 km orbit of Kerbin. It isn't enough. I personally like to start planetary missions in a 650 km orbit for reasons of time dilation and OCD, if I must be completely honest about it. Such a lift stage is dauntingly huge. In fact, it's probably too huge.

That leaves us with a few decisions to make. We'll need to take the mission up piecemeal and assemble the transfer, orbit and lander stages in space. We may have to fuel those sections in space and that means docking practice. That will take time, but it is technologically feasible now. While we were testing the new Advanced Probe, the clever Kerbal scientists were also collecting data with it's full suite of instruments. "You know, just to make certain they worked," I was told. The result is the Kerbals have now researched every stock technology possible. I guess I owe them that weekend long party after all. It took them only a quarter century. Those guys are good!

[caption id="attachment_1954" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]All Stock Science Researched All Stock Science Researched[/caption]

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Real Skinny

I got home so late yesterday that all I had time to do was download and install the 1.3 gigabyte update that was Rubicon 1.3. I am not complaining mind you, it just prevented my from doing the thing that I'd been looking forward too all day. But Tuesdays are always long days for me RL so I mostly figured I'd have to wait. So I waited.

With all the patching done, main system and laptop, last night, I was able to log into New Eden today at lunch and set my plans in motion. I had to do some flying around to find just the right system, but soon I had it: Renyns. I obtained the blue print copy, purchased the needed component, and started the manufacturing job. It would take 40 minutes and then I'd have it! The phone rang - of course. RL claimed the rest of my lunch hour. :-(

I finally got home this evening about two hours ago and found my way back to Renyns. I retrieved my manufacturing job with bated breath. The result was definitely worth the wait.

[gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="1923,1924,1925,1926,1927,1928"]

So what's a care-badger like me supposed to do with a fine ship like the new Rokh Nugoeihuvi Edition? Take it mining of course! [1]

[gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="1929,1930,1931,1939"]

With the Adaptive Invulnerability Fields playing over the custom paint job, the skin of this Rokh seems to come alive. I was mesmerized just watching it. I am impressed.

Fly Careful

[1] Seems I wasn't the only one with this idea. The scientist over on A Scientist's Life in EVE mentioned it as well in his post Jita to Jita, Pod Goo to Pod Goo, Dust to Dust. ;-)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Banished! Again

I've now played ten hours of banished. I am on year ten for my townsfolk. Many things are as I expected them to be. This isn't my first turn on the merry-go-round. However, there have been a couple of surprises that may lead to the ultimate failure of my first town, Netto. Before I get into that though, I want to talk about starting conditions for the game. There are three modes. Here are the exact descriptions from the game.

  • Easy - Six families. A large amount of clothing, food, firewood, building materials, and tools are provided. Homes and storage areas have already been built. Seeds for fields and orchards are available as well as a herd of livestock.

  • Medium - Five families. Clothing, food, firewood, tools and construction materials are provided. A storage barn has already been built. Some seeds for fields and orchards are available.

  • Hard - Four families. A small amount of clothing, food, firewood and tools are provided. No seeds for farming are available.

The default starting mode is medium. On this mode, I found it somewhat challenging to get enough food and firewood for the winter. Fairly quickly I built a Hunting Cabin, a Gatherers Hut and a Herbalist. I also built a Fishing Dock as well as a Woodcutter. This got me through the first winter - just. I ran short of firewood twice, but no one died. I counted that a success. That was the hardest winter I had.

Over then next seven game years everything went well. I added a Blacksmith, Trading Post, Tailor, School and a Forester Lodge. I also created a farm. My average health and happiness remained at four and a half out of five. It was at the start of my eighth year, when I began converting wooden houses to stone houses, that I noticed my first problem. It was not a disaster or anything like that. My population had grown a little since the settlers founded the town, but that had stopped around year five. Now the children had all become students and there were no more children. Then my first adult died of old age. Soon all but one of my students were adult and there were no more children.

Netto Year 10

It turns out there was a very easy to understand reason for this. My houses were full. I had eight people per house. Guess what? People don't fool around in such crowded environments. No hanky panky, no children. It's as simple as that. So I went on a stone house building spree. I increased my first five houses to twelve. That should fix the problem I thought.

And it has, sort of. The second surprise I got from this game is odd. One year of game time does not equal one year of citizen time. The townsfolk age three ot four times faster than the game progresses. When I started looking at their ages, I realized most of my female population had passed into menopause - yes, I believe that is actually programmed into it. I've not seen any children born to a woman past that age. I have 28 people in the village. Only three adult women are under that age, and they all have a child; one actually has two. I did discover they will have children at the medieval correct age of twelve, so that was good. But I am currently looking at an aging population who will soon die off leaving my town without enough people to do everything.

So I am currently stock piling and hoping I can hang on long enough for the children I do have to become adults and have children themselves. I'll need at least two generations to fix my population problem. I'm not certain they'll make it. While they struggle to procreate, I will not be growing the town, that's for certain. My quick start turns out to be a longer range handicap. The game demands a more nuanced strategy than I initially gave it credit for to be honest. Well played Shining Rock Software, well played.