Sunday, November 3, 2013

Training Advice for the Newbros

We had an interesting talk on the show this week. We talked about some of the most frequent mistakes new players make with regards to training. A lot of people come into Eve from other MMO's, very rarely is this their first stop on the MMO yellow brick road. In just about every other MMO out there, players are encouraged to make a race for the "end game". Level up quickly, blaze through content, and get geared up for raids, or whatever label they're given in said game.

Eve, in comparison to other MMO's, doesn't really have any of that. Once the tutorial is complete, the "end game" begins. While many new players blaze through the space ship command training tree to constantly be able to fly bigger "better" ships, they leave behind the majority of support skills, finding themselves in a cruiser or battle cruiser without the ability to actually fit the ship with the mods it needs to kill or survive properly.

Poorly fit ships is something we've been encountering a lot lately. Fighting with TEST I've lost track of the number of pilots flying in cruisers and larger that have no business doing so. There are generally 3 reasons people fly a poorly fit ship:
  1. Lack of skills to fit needed offensive and defensive mods. Includes lack of skills for the mods, or lack of fitting skills for the grid needed to fit them.
  2. No one bothered to teach the pilot how to properly fit a ship.
  3. Comedy Troll fit.
 One of the challenges the directors in our Newbie corp have to deal with, and I suspect other training corps do as well if they bother with it, is to break people out of the age-old progress as fast as possible mentality. The Noob Mercs Director of Newbro Integration, Charlie Firpol, has probably lost count of the number of pilots he's brought in saying they can fly cruisers that needed to be bumped back into frigates for a period of time. The skills to undock a hull do not coincide with actually being able to fly the ship, lesson #1.

Lesson #2 is that bigger is not always better. A Tornado is great against cruisers and anything larger, but will get eaten alive by even a single frigate most of the time. I could load you up with examples of other ships that have hard times with small stuff, but it might take all day to get through it. Just take my word for it on #2 please.

Below, I'll share some general info that we pass along to our Newbros. If you accept newbies into your corp, and focus on PVP, this might be some good info to pass along:
  1. Frigates first. Until you are fully combat effective in a frigate of your choice, do not move on to anything bigger. 
  2. Pick a race that suits your style and focus on it. Don't distract yourself with other racial ships at first. It might seem cool to be able to fly a Rifter AND Punisher AND Kestrel, but the support skills for those ships are completely different. You will be more combat effective in one week of focusing on just being able to fly and fit one of those ships properly, than in a month of cross training for all of those ships at the same time. aside from the skills to actually fit the ship, the style of play to pilot them is also completely different and has to be learned as well.
  3. Fitting skills! Get CPU Management and Power Grid Management up to at least lvl 4 ASAP. They should both be at 5 before you even move on to destroyers. Other skills, like Shield Upgrades, reduce fitting needs of certain mods and also make it easier to bolt more stuff on your ship. Having to fit mods/rigs to increase CPU or PG to fit a basic ship is wasted mod/rig space.
  4. It's not enough to train for just fitting guns and/or launchers. Both missile and gunnery trees have extremely important support skills that stack up and will carry over to all mods in that class (including the larger versions) increasing your ability to hit and do damage to a target. TRAIN THEM, preferably before moving on to anything bigger than a frigate.
  5. It's ok to stop at lvl 4 of important skills when just starting out so you can get basic support skills up quicker. That extra 5% per skill isn't important right away, but should definitely be thought about before getting into cruisers.
  6. Don't rush into tech 2 before support skills are up, especially fitting skills. T2 guns look really sweet on paper, but you'll just be wasting money if they come at the expense of not being able to fit rigs, damage resists, or anything that will increase survivability.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Worms are Out of the Can

My apologies for the lack of posting lately, TEST has been keeping us VERY busy in lowsec, and my downtime of sitting around hoping for fights has been minimal. Today though, I am presented with an opportunity I simply can not pass up.

Earlier this month, you may recall a trilogy of postings regarding SOMERblink (ONE, TWO, THREE), the love they were getting from CCP, their practices, and what looked to me like some messed up priorities. All the attention has seemed to have a bit of a negative side effect which will likely bring harm to both CCP and SOMERblink, probably sooner rather than later. The can of worms in this case has not only been opened, but dumped on the floor for good measure.

I didn't delve too far into SOMERblink's RMT scheme in my postings here (it was mentioned, but amid other issues I was trying to discuss, delving too deeply didn't seem prudent at the time) but when I guested on Podside #144 during the whole thing, I got into it with former CCP Zinfindel. The illegitimacy of the RMT nature of it did come up, with Zinfandel defending SOMER's practice as being so small that it's not a big deal. Of course, Zinfindel no longer works for CCP, so his word means nothing as far as company policy is concerned, but one may gather an implied endorsement with all the promotional consideration SOMERblink has received from CCP. At one point (can't find the link just now, but I know I saw it) one CCP employee, Navigator I think, endorsed SOMERblink as "legit".

Let's first take a look at what is going on here. One of SOMERblink's revenue streams comes from GTC referrals. They post a link on their website that leads to Markee Dragon, an official Eve GTC reseller. Buying GTCs through this link generates a referral code. 5% of the GTC sale is then paid to SOMERblink for the referral, and SOMER rewards the player who purchased in this way by giving them a free 200m ISK in credit on the gambling site. The goal of the player is to then use that credit to win something in a micro lottery, and if successful, cash out a nice in game bonus. SOMER's hope, of course, is that the player loses the 200m gambling.

Let's draw a picture to illustrate what is, and is not OK according to current implied CCP policy (forgive my paint skillz):
Feel free to use and distribute all you like! Click for big version!

Eve players being clever and all, have begun to realize this little implied loophole in CCP RMT policy, and the floodgates are beginning to open:

First, character DNSBLACK decided to quit eve and cash out.

Now you can buy GTC through a referral link for a 500m ISK bonus from Katarina Reid! That's way better for the player than SOMER's deal, and while the exchange rate is far below market value, Katarina has figured she can cash out her 600b in assets for just over $1,000! Several players have come out and endorsed the service as 100% legit and thanked Katarina for the money.

CCP has yet say anything about this one way or the other. On the one hand, they're in an awkward spot. By endorsing SOMERblink and not thinking about exactly what they were endorsing, they have effectively told the player base that RMT in this way is OK. DNSBLACK may get caught on a technicality, but Katarina appears to be completely in the green at this point.

Coming out swinging the ban hammer on these players, along with the requisite confiscation of illicit goods before an official CCP response would be ill advised, and could spell yet another PR disaster in this chain of events.

To be reasonable though, CCP can hardly allow this practice to continue. I think we can expect a cease and desist on this form of RMT in the relatively near future. I don't expect anyone involved to get banned or their stuff taken, but a "from this day forward..." posting will probably be in the works before too long. A smart move by CCP would have been a "We're looking into this..." posting already, but, well... yeah. I guess silence is golden in this case. Happy cash outs guys!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'm Still Here El Guapo

Don't want anyone to think I've up and left or anything. The last 6 days or so in FW have been brutal in more ways than one, and with everything I've had to write lately pertaining to the Galente/Caldari war zone, TMC has been getting the nod on 4 straight.

For those of you that don't normally pay too much attention to TMC, I'll link the 3 in particular below. TEST finally joined the war today, I logged in for a few minutes, but after several late nights of FW and long days at a new job I started this week, I've decided to take the night off and curl up in bed with a good book until I pass out.

I'll be back in Eve tomorrow, and hopefully will have something Eve related but not really FW specific for you by the weekend... unless TEST sets Black Rise on fire, I make no promises on what happens if that goes down. I'll probably be too busy shooting stuff to write much.

War Coverage on TMC:
Gallente/Minmatar JTF Invades Caldari Stronghold Oct. 11-14th
Heydieles Falls, Gal/Min JTF Advances on OMS Oct 14th
Old Man Star Falls: Gal/Min Offensive Continues Oct. 14th-16th

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning From the Past and Moving Forward

This posting will mark the 3rd and final in my commentary on the SOMERblink issue that I've been talking about this week. My last 2 postings have been about the things that were wrong with this situation, and I'd like to close up with a look into the future and how these things might be handled in a better way.

If you need to catch up, the first 2 postings in this trilogy can be found here: POST 1 | POST 2

I'm a huge fan of Eve, and by proxy CCP is one of my favorite game developers on planet Earth. I celebrated my 10 year anniversary a couple months ago, and no other game in the history of gaming has been given the time I have given Eve. On June 24th I made the following statement on facebook that was seen by some 57,000 people:
"So many game companies will blow off feedback and just plow ahead with what they're doing anyway. One of the things that makes CCP unique is their ability to take constructive feedback, and hone it into something awesome."
I believed in CCP during the T20 incident, I believed in them in the wake of Incarna, and I still believe in them now. Don't get me wrong, I also believe they've made some monumental mistakes in the past, but I've never seen a game developer with their ability to adjust, respond, and make things right.

Looking back for a moment, much of the community backlash can have it's roots boiled down to the following:
  1. SOMERblink prizes donated to them by CCP were effectively sold and profited from by requiring monetary participation by the winners to get their "free" tickets.
  2. The size and scope of the prizes were unprecedented, even after they were toned down.
  3. With regards to the IW Scorpions: By selectively gifting in game items that can be traded and/or sold for great profit to anyone they choose, the integrity of the sandbox was compromised. This issue was exacerbated by the secret nature of the gifts.
That's the nutshell. Each of those points could probably be expanded on a bit, but when boiled down, that's what we're left with. But those are the problems, I'd like to look at solutions.

In no way would I like to see CCP pull back completely and NOT reward people and organizations they feel have given them and their game a fair shake. Prizes donated to community sites and given away to players are a great way to draw attention to CCP approved 3rd party services, and there are many individuals who contribute to the Eve community in some significant way that should be able to show off some bling.

Number 1 is a fairly easy fix. Any site that is gifted items from CCP for contests or giveaways should be just that; given away. No community site should be permitted to sell the items directly, or sell chances to win the item, or sell chances to win "free" tickets to win the item. The winning of these items should be open to any player of Eve Online with an account in good standing, and should require NO monetary participation to win, either in ISK, or real life currency. The increased traffic, awareness, and sales or donations gained as a result of the increased awareness and traffic is the effective reward.

If it is shown that players are prevented from participating in these events because they are arbitrarily banned from the community site in question for behavior that would not get them banned from Eve Online, these sites should not be given prizes from CCP to give away. Recall not long ago when CCP pulled out of in-game RP channels and set up their own official ones when it was revealed that the players running these channels were banning other players from participating simply because they didn't like or agree with them.

I am aware that in game items and other swag are sometimes given out at player gatherings and events both sponsored and supported by CCP. I've been to one myself, and considering the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a lot of the people going to these events spend to attend, a battleship model or a coffee mug, or an in-game ship like the quafe iteron is a nice thing to take home as a momento. You effectively bought the stuff by attending.

Number 2 is a bit murky. How does one determine if a site has been given prizes of a size and scope that dwarfs the support given to other sites? CCP has certainly raised the bar quite a bit with this latest SOMERblink prize fest, that is for sure. In short, unless the prize pool is really, and I mean REALLY flagrant, you can't. Perhaps this is something that can be run by the CSM for their opinion before final prizes are determined?

It's become apparent that the community and marketing teams don't feel the need to consult the CSM with regards to these things, but I would argue that had they consulted the CSM prior to this latest outcry, most (if not all) of it could have been avoided entirely. I'm not saying the CSM should have a say in what's given out, so don't get me wrong on this, but using them as the sounding board they are meant to be might help weed out some issues before they become issues at all.

Number 3 is where things get interesting, and my suggestions get radical. No single player or entity should EVER be given any item by CCP for personal use that can be traded or sold, thus affecting the sandbox and giving that player an ISK or item advantage over other players for the simple reason they have done something to get into the good graces of CCP.

Let me repeat that.

No single player or entity should EVER be given any item by CCP for personal use that can be traded or sold, thus affecting the sandbox and giving that player an ISK or item advantage over other players for the simple reason they have done something to get into the good graces of CCP.

Non cosmetic, trade-able/sell-able items would not be acceptable in any other game community, and shouldn't be tolerated in Eve either.

In other games, such players are rewarded. They might be given a special mount to ride around on in one of those fantasy RPGs that is bound to their account. They can show it off to other players, but they can't trade it or sell it. When I used to play Pirates of the Burning Sea, I had special flags I could put on my ships, and a special colored parrot I could have on my shoulder to signify my participation in Beta and other contributions. I could show them off, but they had zero affect on the game itself, and I couldn't sell them.

This might be a hard thing to adapt for Eve since just about everything can be sold, traded, or contracted to other players. But there are things that exist in Eve that cannot.

Take for example the golden pod for purchasers of the collector's edition. I'm fairly sure that a pod is not trade-able in eve. Skin a new pod, make it pink and slap a picture of a cat on it, or do something else with it to make it cool and flick a switch on the account of the player in question to make all of their pods like this. If the type of pod shows up on kill mails, so much the better. Every time the player is podded, their murderers will know they have slain a pillar of the community... I hope they can live with themselves.

What about tatoos, or T-Shirts for the character creator? Is there a way to activate such things to be player specific without requiring an item that can be traded? A gold star forehead tatoo to be shown loud and proud in someone's character portait might be a nice thing to be shown off, and will probably go over better than the gold monocle! (cheap shot, sorry.)

Here's another badass one. Chat text. I think Orange is the only color not already taken by CCP, the GMs, or the various divisions of ISD. Imagine if every time Rixx Javix or Sindel Pellion typed something in local you could see it around all the spam because it was ORANGE! This one might require an agreement between the player and CCP though... can't have someone with orange text scamming the newbros with promises of implied trust from CCP because your text is orange. If complete orange text is too confusing, or needed someday for a future division of ISD, perhaps just a colored highlight similar to how Dust players show up in chat.

For the record, I see nothing wrong with the free accounts given to fansite operators. Free account time can't be traded, and while you could make the argument that it's like giving them a free plex every month, it's not. In all likelihood, it's saving them a few bucks a month RL money, and in the rare cases where they would be buying PLEX with ISK to pay their account, their income is probably such that 600m a month isn't going to sway things much.

And That's That 

So there you have it. I told myself I didn't want to end this by just pointing out problems and not offering up some tangible solutions. I sincerely hope that CCP is taking a long hard look at what a large part of the community found wrong with this situation, and is taking steps to allay those concerns for the future. The past is done. For better, or worse, the best that can be done at this point is to look forward.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

SOMERblink T20 '13

I had a great blog post planned for this weekend. I was going to talk about how awesome CCP Masterplan is for figuring out how to overcome warp acceleration to make small ships so much more useful in PVP than they are presently. I was going to talk about what a great job the balance team is doing with the ships this round, and how balls-on-awesome the art department did with the new SOE ships.

Instead, I have to talk about SOMERblink again, because otherwise it's like making a report on the Rose Bowl while the f--king stadium is on fire behind me. Thanks CCP!

So let's dive back down into this rabbit hole again shall we? Please first read my previous post, where I go over the issues with giving SOMERblink super special rare shit to give away to promote their service. Done? Great, now let's talk about what is tentatively being called T20 '13 (twitter hashtag #T2013)

Some people were equating the previously revealed part of this swag give away with the T20 scandal from all those years ago, but that wasn't fair at all. Everything was done out in the open, and regardless of whether I or anyone else agreed with CCPs choices on this, at least it didn't look like something was being hidden. This new bit that's come to light though, now THIS is pretty close to T20. It's not exact, but tossing up some serious bling to a bunch of employees of an Eve enterprise that is more wealthy than Eve's most powerful alliances on the sly is eyebrow raising at best, and Jita riot worthy at worst.

I'm about to say some things that are not exactly nice, but I want to make plain that regardless of anything else I say here, I have no problem with SOMERblink. SOMERblink is a legit Eve enterprise. It's creators and the people that run it have found a way to make Scrooge McDuck look like he's in the poor house in terms of wealth in Eve. They sponsor some cool events, support various aspects of the community, and people appreciate that as well they should. But as I've said before... they're a business, not a charity.

Let's start by looking at some numbers. SOMERblink has now given away almost 1.2 QUADRILLION ISK in prizes (we're only half a trillion away at this point, so forgive me for rounding up). That's amazing! That's a hard number to wrap your head around, so let's write that out and color code it. Green will get us to a billion, which most of us can relate to, yellow to a trillion, which is an easier number for the head of a super rich alliance to relate to, and orange beyond that.


So that's 1.2 million billion, or 1,200 trillion ISK. But that's what they've given away. To make math simple, let's say the profit margin on a SOMERblink lottery is 10%. We all know it's closer to 20%, but let's assume that as a responsible business, half of their profits go back into the business through employee wages, event sponsorships, promotions, and whatever else you can think of. 10% profit means we need to take away a 0. That leaves us with a paltry 120 Trillion ISK in profits. Heh.. paltry. Let's be honest, that's a lot of money. How much is it really though? Let's go full-on-super-stupid here, and convert all this ISK to cash for a moment... you know, because it's what the press is going to focus on with this.

According to our good friend The Nosy Gamer, his most recent listing for ISK based on plex conversion puts us at almost $31 USD per billion ISK. Because I like simplicity, I will round down to $30. 120,000 Billion ISK comes out to... wait for it... $3,600,000.00 USD. So, if SOMER only pulls in 10% profit, that's $3.6 million dollars of ISK, to say nothing of all the kickbacks from Markee Dragon for PLEX sale referrals which come out to real life $$$ money coming into the site. I can't begin to estimate what money is flowing in there, but from all accounts, with 200 million ISK in bonus credit per purchase, the business is brisk for both MD and SOMERblink.

Again, there's nothing wrong with this. Good on SOMERblink for making more $$ in ISK than I've made in RL cash for my entire working life so far. That's incredible!

How much money has Jason Parks made developing and supporting AURA for Android that tens of thousands of Eve players use every day to enhance their Eve experience? (hint: nothing) How many trillions has EVSCO pulled in supplying kill boards to almost Everyone in Eve. Chribba runs (what? 5?) websites for the Eve community out of his own pocket. Eve Uni has been making up for Eve's piss poor tutorial for as long as I can remember. Dozens of bloggers are hitting the web every day keeping the Eve discussion churning. If all of these sites went dark tomorrow, Eve would be a far shittier place. If Somerset Mahm decided to pull an Eve-Bank tonight and cash out his ISK for RL cash, some people might not be able to feed their gambling addiction tomorrow.... and Eve would be making headlines in Time Magazine.

SOMERblink employees, already compensated at 1 plex per month and up to 125m ISK per hour of their time are pretty much the best paid "employees" in Eve, pulling in more ISK/hour than just about any CCP designed in-game activity can grant a player. They're doing such a good job in fact, that CCP has slid them a pile of ships worth somewhere between $13,500 and $18,000 (depending on who you talk to) under the table! If they choose to convert to plex and activate for game time, that'll be a savings of $450-$600 each!

But why are people mad? The Ishukone Scorpion only refines for 1 tritanium, and is actually an inferior ship to a regular scorpion. So what if CCP gives a bunch out to their super rich pals in SOMERblink as a thank you for running "one of the most awesome community sites we have" (read: Online Casino). People must be jealous. FunkyBacon is mad he doesn't have an IW Scorpion in his hangar, right?


Even Eve-Bet is stepping away from this one stating "For the record, we would like to state that EVE Bet has never received, nor would it ever endorse, having CCP hand us special "gifts". These sort of prizes should be reserved for more deserving winners and not sites that can afford to purchase limited edition ships off the market like everyone else."

It's the underhanded way this was handled. If I wanted an IW scorp, I could buy one right now, I hear they're dropping in price. CCP could announce today that they are making a 1 off special issue pink Revelation that can jump through star gates, and delivering it to Chribba in the Amarr system. Outside of a few trolls, the community by and large would be perfectly fine with it, because Chribba provides a lot of community service. If Chribba suddenly undocked that ship tomorrow with no announcement from CCP on where it came from, we might have a 2nd broken statue in the Amarr system from the riots as people demand how many of the ships were given out and to whom.

Do you even want to consider what this scandal would be if the IW Scorps were secretly given to the staff at! The Grr Goon sentiment would topple CCP headquarters in a shitstorm tsunami!

The problem here boils down to a few key points:
  1. SOMERblink is just about the wealthiest entity in Eve. They are more than capable or promoting themselves through sponsorship and advertising with various in-game and out of game events. Yes, they give a small portion of their profits to sponsoring worthy causes and in game events. In return they gain advertising and more customers. 
  2. Regardless of sponsorships and other philanthropic deeds in Eve, SOMERblink is an Online Casino, not a community service.
  3. Over the last week, CCP was already perceived as granting incredible favoritism to SOMERblink with lavish prizes to give away that dwarfed any previous community site prize donation by miles. 
  4. The "secret" bestowal of 30 extremely rare ships to SOMERblink employees that was revealed today exacerbates #3, creating what appears to be a scandal in line with ex-CCP dev T20 spawning some T2 BPOs for his friends in BoB.
  5. No criteria have been given, or procedures made public as to how it is decided who receives special CCP spawned ships aside from "when we feel like it".
Look, hardly anyone involved in providing community service to the Eve populace is in it for the money. Unless you're a for-profit enterprise in Eve (Like SOMER or EOH), it just doesn't pay. Sure, some of the fansites get a free account, but none of those people are doing it because they value their time at saving $15 a month on a game subscription. It's a nice "thank you" from CCP, much like the IW Scorpions are supposedly meant to be, nothing more.

All this community has asked for in these cases over the last several years are 2 things. Transparency, and fairness. That CCP hasn't seemed to grasp either concept yet (as demonstrated yet again today) has many people in this otherwise extremely supportive community throwing up their hands in frustration, and in some cases disgust. I can't personally help but wonder how many new cases of bittervet syndrome were acquired in the process.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SOMERblink: Serving the Eve Community, Not a Community Service

My twitter feed just about exploded yesterday morning, and it would appear that we're not quite out of the woods yet with regards to the CCP/SOMERblink fiasco that has been all the rage lately. The good news is that this has taken the heat off of the recent TOS PR disaster. The bad news is that this has arguably been far worse.

Enough blogs and sites have given coverage to this by now that I'm going to assume my readers are at least passably clued in to what is going on. If not, I'll drop you a couple links to get up to speed first.
  • SOMERblink's Celebration page detailing prizes and how to enter.
  • Original CCP News Item announcing the reintroduction of the extinct Gold Magnate among other super rare stuff coming to a SOMERblink lottery near you!
  • Threadnought: CCP pulls out on Gold Magnates and Guardian Vexors after severe community backlash, and changes the prize pool.
  • CSM Response: We'd have told CCP this was pants on head dumb if they'd have only run it by us first.
Now then, a lot has been said thus far as to how wrong it is for player run organizations to be given such rare bits of swag to give away. I have some experience with CCP and swag, so I'll happily delve into this in a moment. The issue at hand is really 2 issues though. One of them is the swag. The other is the venue, and the issue with the venue is not so much that it is a player run site, but the type of player run site.

As most of you are aware, I am personally involved with 2 player run community sites. I do a weekly radio show on Eve-Radio, and I write about Faction War on The 2 sites are funded quite differently, but they share 1 thing in common. They provide a service to the Eve community that any player (or non player) has access to, and they do not profit from those players, though Eve-Radio subsists on donations (and the generous wallet of its owner when those fall short) and TMC presumably from ad revenue. TMC writers are paid in ISK from Goonswarm coffers, while ERs staff is completely volunteer.

SOMERblink by comparison, requires players to sign up for an account, profits directly from those players, and can ban them from using their service. SOMERblink is not a community service, it is an online casino. In order to win these prizes donated by CCP, players accumulate "free" tickets by playing blinks (requiring ISK) and by winning blinks (requiring ISK). The more you play and win, the better your chances of walking away with some stupidly rare in game items, or an all expense paid trip to fan fest 2014 worth thousands of dollars. It goes without saying that the people with the best chance of winning these prizes will be spending a crap ton of ISK on SOMERblink.

While TMC has not to this point been donated anything from CCP to give out in any promotion, Eve-Radio has. Christmas Comes Early is a yearly event we have, and over the course of the year some other smaller events take place. CCP will often step up to the plate and hook us up with some swag, usually in the form of some PLEX, and some other stuff. Last year it was battleship models. The people who won those prizes only needed to have an eve account. Entries were handled through eve mail. No one had to spend a single ISK to get in, nor did they have to donate to the site. We did give a PlayStation 3 away to an ER premium supporter, but that was not supplied by CCP.

This past February I teamed up with CCP Masterplan to hold a tournament to herald the implementation of the new dueling mechanic. We didn't ask for it, but CCP came through and donated 25 PLEX to the prize pool.  Teams had to give a 100m ISK entry fee that was refunded when they showed up and didn't cheat. Only 1 team did not get that 100m back, and it was due to cheating. That 100m went to the pilot who lost his ship unfairly. The 25 PLEX never passed through my hands, and were awarded to the winning team by CCP directly.

Perhaps we see a pattern here?

In short, I (and much of the community it would seem) have 4 very serious problems with this SOMERblink promotion.
  1. While SOMERblink serves the Eve community, it is NOT a community service.
  2. Eve players must sign up for a 3rd party account which they could be banned arbitrarily for things that have nothing to do with Eve.
  3. Players must spend ISK and directly enrich SOMERblink for a chance to win these prizes. The more ISK they spend, the better their chances.
  4. The prizes on offer are more rare than even tournament prize ships, presumably of greater value, and some may be substituted for a free trip worth thousands of RL dollars, completely dwarfing anything that has ever been donated for a community site giveaway to this point by light years.
Number 4 is easily rectified if CCP plans for this to be the norm in community promotion giveaways. The first 3 can not be fixed at this point, and point to a larger issue that's been concerning me lately with CCP's promotion of 3rd party community sites, which have seen community spotlights like Markee Dragon (who made his money in RMT before going "legit") and Eve Bet.

Eve Bet is especially an interesting one as they handle betting in ISK on real world sporting events. At one point on my facebook page, I had advertised playing a round of Sins of a Solar Empire where everyone would toss some isk in a pot and the winner would walk away with it. I was shortly contacted by a CCP employee and warned that this might not be ok as ISK for non-Eve related events is kind of a grey area... this was right after the Eve Bet Community Spotlight went up, but none the less, I like to play by the rules so I called it off. Still, if this is a grey area, why is CCP spotlighting the service?

I don't know what's going on over in Reykjavik lately, but I suspect we have some serious issues with the right hand not being in full communication with the left hand, the feet, the head, and certainly not the CSM who would have seen these issues coming before they had finished reading the proposal.

One thing is certain. Regardless of what rules CCP comes up with for itself on things like this in the future, they need to take a long, hard look at who, and what, they are endorsing with these types of promotions.

  1. The site being endorsed should be a not-for-profit community service, or legitimate business partner (like EON Magazine was).
  2. ANY eve player should be able to participate without needing to sign up for a 3rd party site or service.
  3. Players should not be required to enrich, or otherwise spend money (RL cash or ISK) directly payable to the entity performing the promotion.
  4. Prizes supplied by CCP should not show favoritism to one community site over another by large and clearly obvious margins.
That's my 2 ISK anyway. Comments welcome.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Caracal That Could

I've talked on the blog before about Monkeys with Guns. (BNANA) and the philosophy we fly by that we call Fly Fearless. Flying Fearless dictates that if there is any chance for victory, you take it. If there's no chance for escape, you take as many of your enemy with you as you can. Fortune favors the bold as they say, and sometimes being bold at an unexpected time forces the other guy to lose his cool and make mistakes. Costly mistakes.

Flying a solo cruiser in lowsec is almost always an adventure
Our story begins earlier today. Mirana Niranne is our Executor, and sometimes likes to have alone time, away from fleets and dealing with diplomatic incidents where a member of Noob Mercs had their overviews set wrong and killed someone they shouldn't... again. The chosen solo ship of the day was a fairly standard rapid light Caracal, designated K-19 (you might have heard of a Soviet submarine of the same designation). Nothing exotic, susceptible to gate camps, but the target system was only 3 jumps, so YOLO. K-19 was off on a presumably routine Loyalty Point smash & grab with a hopeful side of PvP.

The target system of choice today was Pavanakka. Pavanakka was recently captured by the Caldari, and is on a well traveled route, though the system itself is of little importance. Upon arriving in system, K-19's captain took stock in local. 1 war target, 1 neutral in an NPC corp... possibly a booster alt. A medium complex was already open (T2 cruisers and smaller ships) as well as some smaller complexes.

"The medium was out of scan range, so I opted to just warp in at 10. Hit a D-Scan when I landed, nothing showed up so I headed in. A squid (ethnic slur for a Caldari national) had been running the plex for a short bit already as  the timer was at 21:40 or so when the NPC blew up. Still nothing on scans, so I settled in at a perch about 20k off the warp in and began the long wait." -Mirana Niranne
The original K-19, Soviet Submarine
Little did K-19's captain know, the medium complex was, in fact, already occupied. Caldari pilot Piquituerto (the squid in local) had arrived some time prior and had cloaked up his Rapier in hopes of catching some unsuspecting Gallente plex runner in a frigate, destroyer, or even a short range cruiser. A Caracal, unfortunately, usually has some range.  Piquituerto decided to bide his time in the hope that a fellow militia mate would happen along before the plex ran out, and with the help of his Rapier, they could make short work of the Caracal. He too began the long wait.

The minutes were dragging. With about 10 minutes left,  a Corax showed up on short range scans, but left again.  A couple Caldari popped in and out of local, but it didn't look like anyone was looking for a fight. Mirana's attention began to wander.

"After the corax bailed, I was pretty sure I'd brought the wrong ship and wasn't going to get a fight. Nothing was going on and my attention started to wander. I refreshed short scan every 30 seconds or so (it takes about 45 seconds from showing up at 150 million to actually landing inside the plex, longer if they sit on the gate outside to think about it) and nothing was showing. There were about 45 seconds left, and I was looking away from the screen, reading something on my laptop when I heard the buzz telling me a combat timer had been started. I looked over to see myself tackled by a Rapier about 4k off of me, and thought 'Well, that sucks.'"

I'm double webbed at this point, and taking damage from 3 medium and 2 light drones. The Mjolnir Fury missiles I had loaded I didn't dare use, he's a minmatar T2, so that'll probably be his highest resist. I decided to gamble that he didn't bother boning up his explosive resists and switched to Nova. I was already at 80% shields before I fired the first shot. I had nothing left to lose really, so I just went for broke." -Mirana Niranne
The Captain of K-19 at this point was looking at a no-win situation. Best case: the Rapier gets chased off and gets away. Worst case: the Caracal is forfeit. With 2 webs on it and only a long point for tackle, K-19 was limited to 460 m/s while the Rapier was able to top out at over 1700 m/s. With a 47km range with Fury light missiles, the Caracal's only hope was to force the rapier out of point range before going down for a chance to escape.

"But then I start to notice as I'm dipping past 50% shields, that he is too. His shields were dropping faster than mine, and for a brief minute I'm worried he's armor tanked the damn thing and I'm completely fucked. But he must have noticed the situation at about the same time, because he started to pull range." -Mirana Niranne
Piquituerto did not armor tank his ship, and once he realized the Caracal would eat through his tank before he could eat through the Caracal, he panicked. He started making mistakes. Hist first mistake was actually made even before the fight started. By having his guns loaded with Barrage ammo and his 3 medium drones all doing explosive damage, he played right into K-19's strongest resist profile. His next mistake was that once he panicked, Piquituerto simply burned AWAY from K-19, and did not align to something he could warp to.

"So he's burning off to nowhere and he finally breaks my point. I see him start to align out, so I figure he's hit warp. I quickly hit overheat on my point giving me the 28k range and hit him with it one more time. He stopped dead just as his shields went down. I think it took him a second to realize his engines cut when I cancelled his warp because I caught up to him by maybe 1k or so and he started burning AWAY again. He finally got out to 30k and hit his warp again, he was in structure at that point." -Mirana Niranne
Piquituerto's 3rd mistake was again burning off to nowhere. Had he re-aligned towards whatever celestial he was trying to warp to, he might have escaped. His 4th and final mistake was in not shutting down his MWD when he tried to warp out, causing his ship to take several extra seconds to align out and get to speed.

"After he broke point that second time, the first volley that hit him put him to about 70% structure. 2nd one brought him to about 20%, and I'm thinking he should be in warp and gone at any second when the 3rd volley popped him." -Mirana Niranne

Kill Link

[18:59:21] Mirana Niranne > gf buddy
[18:59:40] Piquituerto > why i didn't warp -_-'
[18:59:49] Mirana Niranne > takes time to align
[19:00:07] Mirana Niranne > esp with mwd on
2 minutes later,  Piquituerto would be podded by a smart bombing battleship just off the highsec entry gate to Ichorya. Lowsec can be a dangerous place.

And that friends, is the story of how keeping your cool in a no-win situation can lead to unexpected results. Even in a fight you have no business winning, the other guy could cock things up just enough to lose... and you could be the hero.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Epic Music & Eve Online

Something I have been getting into a lot lately has been a new (at least for me) genre of music called Epic Music. I've learned through the radio show that several listeners are already aware of this stuff, and I'm just arriving late to the party. For those that are unaware:

What is Epic music, and what does this have to do with Eve?

I'm glad you asked! Think for a moment about any epic movie trailer you have born witness to, or any part of a movie where something epic is happening. That music they play to TOTALLY PUMP YOU UP, that is Epic Music. While there is some variety in the pace and emotion of the various pieces, I have found a few relative constants.
  1. Gratuitous use of string instruments.
  2. Strong percussion, including drums and/or piano.
  3. Some chanting, usually not actual words.
  4. Tracks are usually short, 2 to 2.5 minutes, lest the epic become too much and cause your brain to explode. To compensate, the albums usually contain 22+ tracks.

In relation to Eve, as I've said many times,  after 10 years the in game music has worn thin on me. For proper immersion, standard popular music, like rock, rap, country, etc just won't do for me. I need something that takes me a bit beyond the now, or 20 or 30 years ago. Something a bit more cinematic to accompany my epic journey through the stars. I have found this genre, and the artists linked below, to really fit well with Eve. For me, proper music can increase focus which (at least in my own mind) gives me an edge in PVP situations.

Different pilots may get different results of course, but I urge all of you to at least give some of the artists below a sample, and see if maybe they'll fit your journey as well as they have mine. Whether you PvP, mine, run missions, do exploration, even spin your ship in station, epic music may take you to another level.

I'll be playing a lot of this stuff on the show over the next few weeks, so if you find yourself online from 0000-0200 GMT Saturday mornings (Friday nights in North America) feel free to have a listen at Eve-Radio. You can also catch the show on the rewind service if you miss it.

Through a lot of sampling, I have found 3 artists I really like for this Genre. I'm including links for Amazon Mp3. I tend to avoid iTunes due to the restrictive DRM that does not allow me to use SAM broadcaster to play (and stream) their music without using a program, or other methods to strip the DRM first. This is silly, because as an online radio station, Eve Radio pays royalties for the music we play (one of the reasons it's so damn expensive to run an online radio station, but that's a topic for another day). Anyways, Amazon lets me play my mp3s in whatever player I please, so unless something can't be found there, it's the service I use.

Two Steps From Hell - Came as the most highly recommended of the bunch from listeners and followers. I've already grabbed the album "Invincible" and it's, well, epic. "Sky World" is next.

Audiomachine - I featured their album "Chronicles" in a previous posting. That's really what got me started on this kick. I recently picked up "Tree of Life," and from what I've heard thus far, I don't think you can go wrong with any of their 4 available albums.

Future World Music - Of the 3, this one seems to have the most variety of emotion and theme on any one album. So far I've purchased "Reign of Vengeance," and it's all over the place bouncing from pirate movie worthy "The Swashbuckler and Fair Maiden," to "A Winter Fairytale," and then coming off with something that wouldn't be out of place in a Star Trek movie (pre JJ Abrams) with "Flight of the Imagination."

If anyone has some solid recommendations in this genre of music, please feel free to drop a comment below so I can check them out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Drone Assignment & Enabling Stupid

Today it is snowing in hell, because for the first time in recorded history, I have found myself nodding my head in agreement with something posted on Jester's Trek. Make no mistake, I read his blog all the time. I read lots of stuff written by people I don't agree with because I think it helps keep perspective on things. I just won't watch Fox News... I draw the line there.

Drone Assist!

So let's look at this particular "gameplay" mechanic for a moment. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why we even have it in eve. It's something that I think has always been there, even from the way back early days when drones had skynet-like intelligence and would shoot what they wanted to rather than the target you would designate for them. I can think of no other part of eve where I can allow another pilot to control or activate anything to do with my ship for me, except maybe the squad/wing/fleet warp mechanic... but even then, at least I still have to hit the jump button, or engage the target. I certainly can't get any kilmails from fleet warping afk except maybe my own.

The present controversy stems from a newly announced exploit whereby someone can assign sentry drones to another pilot, and then slip inside a POS shield. The pilot in question can then head off to the local pub for a pint while the fleet member they assigned drones to racks up kills for them. If I am to believe what I read on reddit, then we have Nulli Secunda to thank for bringing this tactic to light through over-use. Great job guys, see you in 319 station!

Why stop with just fixing the mechanic with regard to POS bubbles though? I'll be the first to admit, even I use drone assist from time to time, and I'll also admit, it's dumb. In the group I fly with, drone assist is used for 2 reasons only.
  1. To allow logi pilots to whore on kills more effectively.
  2. To compensate for incredibly stupid pilots that can't follow primaries. I fly in FW, there are a lot of people that fall in this category.
 #1 I can kind of get behind... really, logi shouldn't need to kill whore, they should get credit for kills for assisting pilots that score the kills, but I'm pretty sure that's a bit far down on CCP's priority features list. #2 has no place in Eve.

There is a 3rd reason for using drone assist of course, and I see it sometimes. Assign 50 Guard IIs to an insta locking ship and roll around on the floor laughing your ass off (ROFLMAO) while your killboard fills up faster than you can lock the shit you're getting kill credit for. It is my understanding that the CFC is attempting to come up with a tactic that will allow them to face stomp entire fleets doing this, hoping that if they succeed, CCP will kill this mechanic.

Why wait for the CFC to abuse this more than anyone else has to date? Can't we all agree that drone assist is a fairly lame mechanic that shouldn't be in the game in the first place? It's like assigning your turrets and launchers to your FC so they automatically fire on the same target he does at the same moment he does, and surely that would never be allowed. Would it?

I can't imagine removing the drone assist mechanic from the game would take much Dev time. Just remove the option from the drop down menu, and remove any hot key support. I doubt it would require anyone to  mess with the code. CCP Karkur could probably handle this one in less time than it takes to order a pizza.
Is there a legitimate reason for this mechanic to exist? Have I missed something in my 10 years of Eve where a mechanic like this is necessary or adds to gameplay in some meaningful and significant way aside from enabling stupid?

With this "new" exploit brought to light, CCP has a chance here to simply take the easy road for once that makes more sense than the difficult one. Ripard Teg has posted his feelings under his alter-ego Garth, which I am told suggests he's "hedging his bets" on this one. The guy doesn't like to be wrong, but it's not something I'm too afraid of. No alter-egos here. No fake names. I am FunkyBacon, and I would approve of this nerf wholeheartedly.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

AUTHOR'S NOTE: There seems to be some confusion. I'm not leaving Eve, or shutting down this blog. I've barely started. The title is in reference to the 2 or 3 other blogs that have gone dark in the last couple months, Poetic is just the latest of the bunch.

Bittervet. The urban dictionary was no help defining this one. According to them:
Bittervet: An experienced computer game player who keeps complaining about new features that are added to his favorite game.
- Cataclysm sucks, i want vanilla WoW back!
- Stop being a bittervet, no one cares.
Bittercat... at least I think it's a cat...
That's a shallow definition, but given it's probably in reference to the WoW subspecies of bittervet, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. In Eve, the adding of new features is generally not so much a catalyst for the onset of Bittervet Syndrome, but if one were to class the constant carebearification of the game one step at a time as a feature, I suppose I can understand if some people will disagree with me on that point.

At a time when we have CSM members openly advocating for the removal of wardec mechanics, a constant nerfing of suicide ganking, and now what at least has the appearance of a first strike against scammers, I can understand how some people might be getting disillusioned with the game of late. Poetic Stanziel is the latest casualty of this disease that carries with it the risk of Eve's only permadeth mechanic: biomassing.

I personally gave up on highsec well over a year ago. Aside from hitting a major market hub on occasion for a shopping trip, I hardly ever visit the place. High sec has consistently become less interesting the "safer" it gets. I will agree with certain bittervets that CCP seems hell-bent lately on saving stupid people from themselves. Those same stupid people whose lemming-esque behavior and rage reactions have made their stories and adventures so entertaining to observe, are one of the driving forces of emergent content in high security space... at least I hope it's them, and not that damn damsel.

Imagine for a moment that high sec space was as perfectly safe as some people desire it. No war, no podding, just the peace of station trading, missioning, mining and hauling goods... all in perfect safety. Space truckers could autopilot around at will with expensive cargoes in their hulls with no fear of suicide ganks. Missioners could undock in 60 billion ISK mission running monstrosities with no worry of their loot being stolen, or their ship getting blown into oblivion by a determined set of gankers that have been stalking them for days. Miners could sit semi-afk enjoying a good book and Star Trek TNG re-runs waiting for their hold to fill up, where they could drop it into a can for their hauler alt to pick up with no fear of someone coming by to steal it. That guy who was dumb enough to believe HandJob667 was a representative of the CFC Rental Empire, could petition CCP and get his 6 billion ISK back and a ban for HandJob667.

Are any of the examples above actually playing Eve? Does any of that actually sound fun from a gameplay perspective? What makes any game interesting, entertaining even, is the element of danger, and prospect of failure. In Eve, we call this Risk vs Reward. The less risk, the less rewarding the gameplay is. Oh, surely you could keep the payouts of incursions, mining, and missions the same, or even increase them while at the same time reducing the risk those players are taking (in the form of danger from other players) but in the end, you will not increase their enjoyment of the experience.

It all goes back to that thing you really wanted as a kid. Some kids had to scrimp and save their allowances for weeks to be able to get that thing. Some kids were just handed it to them as a present. I'll give you 3 guesses as to who got more enjoyment out of the end result... since there's only 2 possible answers, this shouldn't be hard.

Eve is about player created stories. Every plot needs a key element to keep it interesting. This element is conflict. Without conflict, you have no plot, and the story fucking sucks. Removing risk from highsec isn't going to do anyone any favors. If James315's New Order shut down tomorrow and said "fuck it, it's just not worth it anymore!" At first his victims would rejoice. Then, over time, they would realize how empty and risk free their lives had become. They would need something else to complain about, some other conflict driver, or they would get bored and quit.

No one, not even the most die hard CCP employee, will be brazen enough to suggest that Eve's PvE content is the least bit good. Repetative missions that haven't seen their gameplay significantly updated in 10 years of eve, mining, space trucking, B O R I N G. Maybe not too boring when it's still fresh, but after you've saved that damsel for the 5th or 50th time, they've about run their course. Eve is made awesome by the player driven stories and content, and the more that aspect of the game is gimped, the less the game is for it, and the less our experience is.

And yes, Eve needs another Apocrypha level expansion (which happened to be Eve's most successful in history iirc). These short development bursts, with a bunch of minor features, but nothing big, are wearing thin fast. Ship balancing is necessary. Fixing broken or stagnating features is a must. We also need some new shit to play with. That hacking minigame? While I appreciate the work that went into it, no one I've talked to about it to date feels like it added any significant gameplay to Eve. If anything, the loot vomit mechanic, added to attempt to make exploration more of a group activity, only pissed people off. The Odyssey trailer was also probably one of the dullest CCP has ever put out, but then, at least it matched the overall excitement level for the expansion this time around.

Here's the difference between myself and a lot of folks like Poe though. I still have hope. I've stuck with this game for 10 damn years, and I'm not ready to quit just yet. I've seen CCP run head first into a brick wall more than once, back track, look to their community for guidance, and then get it right.

There may come a time when CCP is large enough to forge ahead with their grand plan without having to consider Eve's veteran players as much as they do now, but as Incarna has shown us, they're not there yet. 1 or 2 more Incarna level gaffs could spell disaster, which is why the CSM, and prominent voices in the community are more important to Eve than they would be to other, larger development studios.

If it IS CCP's intention to further carebearify Eve, then folks like Poe, and some of the others that have decided to hang it up over the last few months will only help that along. A certainly hope this is not CCP's intent, but as many have pointed out, when we look at the little changes that have been stacking up over the last few years, it is A direction Eve is headed in baby steps.

Who knows? Without the bittervets, clinging to Eve like a piece of driftwood in a sea of shitty theme park MMOs, screaming at the top of their lungs to make themselves heard over the din of rage and tears flowing in the wake of broken haulers and exhumers, maybe Eve would have already fallen over that NGE cliff Star Wars Galaxies took a swan dive off of all those years ago. (Yeah, possible run on sentence, but the imagery was too good to pass up.)

Brace yourselves gents (and ladies). The fight is only going to get harder.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Grr Goons: A Conspiracy Theory

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This posting is meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, though I have to admit I'm a bit surprised someone hasn't put this one up for reals yet.

Before I delve into this posting, first you may need some background. Poetic Stanziel did a pretty good job covering the recent change to the Terms of Service and will give you some background and insight into it. If you prefer to go directly to the source without getting someone else's frosting glazed all over it, you can find CCP's announcement HERE, along with an ever-growing threadnought HERE.

How about some gravy for the brain?
I'm personally quite shocked that no one has made the obvious connection. 1 month ago, on August 12th, reported the opening of a new CFC rental empire. Part of that announcement was The Mittani letting his fellow goons know the following:

"Ain't gonna sugar coat this one. As a matter of policy, we do not allow people to present themselves as diplomats for the purposes of scamming. In the same vein, goons are henceforth forbidden from presenting themselves as "rental managers" or basically anything else. In fact, rental scams are just outright banned from now on.
Let me repeat that.
Rental Scams are forbidden, effective immediately."
Not even a month later, on September 9th, CCP updates their naming policy, adding the following line:

"You may not impersonate or falsely present yourself to be a representative of another player, group of players, character or NPC entity."

Coincidence? We ought to know better than this by now. Something underhanded and behind the scenes has obviously begun to rear it's head. The timing is just about right, taking a few weeks to cut through some corporate red-tape, and BLAMO! Goons don't have to handle this stuff internally anymore, dragging their misguided offenders out behind the shed for an Old Yellering. Now they can just drop a petition on their own membership, or anyone else trying to cut into their rental profits by scamming the masses as a "representative" of CFC Rental Properties.

Hey Boss, we got a problem with some rental scammers.
Of course, CCP have come forward to say that this is a change in wording only, and enforcement of the policy or it's intent have not changed. Well, let me float this one at you: before the CFC rental empire was announced, rental scams were both common place and encouraged. Now it's a business, and you can't have rental scams if you're going to be a legit landlord.  If I have been scammed I may have very little recourse, and plenty of people have lost billions on these scams, rest assured. What happens when you're scamming on my behalf though and ruining MY good name (or in this case, the CFC's good name)? That's a different petition entirely, and perhaps one that has only recently cropped up, in say, the last month or so.

The argument could be made that rental scamming while passing yourself off as a CFC rental agent is doing more than scamming one individual, but also costing the CFC potentially Billions... a CFC with members on the CSM and a bent ear with CCP. I'll leave the rest for you to put together dear reader, but it shouldn't be hard from here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Factional Warfare Fits: The Rocket Man

Ah, the rocket Kestrel. There are many fits available out there, but I'm going to share what I feel is one of the best, especially where solo and small gang work is concerned in Factional Warfare. Rockets are one of my favorite frigate weapons as they play into the strength of a fast ship working close in. While I may be able to squeeze a little more DPS out of an Atron on paper, because of tracking issues at the high orbit speeds necessary to survive against enemy fire, a lot of that DPS can be lost. With rockets, only the speed and sig of your target matter, you can be going as fast and have as high of a transversal as you like without affecting your damage output. You're also immune from being tracking disrupted.

When I first sat down to create this fit, I started with an old BNANA favorite, the derp fit suicide tackling kestrel. That ship is a MWD fit ship that hits fairly week at 88 DPS with faction ammo, but has just enough in it to snag a target with a scram and web and hold on for a bit while the rest of it's fleet helps out.

Click Image if you want to read the stuff.
My goal with this ship was a little different than suicide fleet tackles. I needed a ship that could handle itself in a plex fight, possibly against more than one opponent. The nice thing about a FW plex is that as long as I get there first, my enemy is going to come to me, and I know exactly where they will land within a 2 kilometer margin of error. The first thing I was able to ditch was the MWD in favor of an afterburner. Yes the afterburner is slower, but can still be used while I'm scrammed, giving me a better speed tank in situations where I'm tackled. Next is that since my target will presumably be landing right on top of me, so I shouldn't need to travel great distances to catch anything. Finally, exchanging a MWD for an AB frees up a good amount of grid to fit better mods in other slots of the ship.

Next up was to upgrade all the launchers to tech 2. Aside from giving me extra capacity, the T2 launchers have a better rate of fire and allow me the use of rage or javelin rockets. Rage for when my target is tackled and slow giving me nearly 170 DPS at 12k with heat. The javelins give me a range of 22k if I'm getting kited by a non-boosted frig, so even with an afterburner running and they with a MWD, I can usually force them far enough off to break their orbit and point allowing me to escape.

The passive tank is where some variation can be put in. In my particular area of space, we don't run into too many Amarr frigates, so EM damage is relatively rare and I have not bothered to increase the ship's EM resistance above the basics provided. Thermal, kinectic, and explosive tend to me the more common damage types encountered. I've got 2 damage resist rigs installed, so feel free to swap them for what you feel your main resists need to be.

"What about emp projectile ammo?" I hear you ask. Well, I'm glad you thought of that. This fit is designed to be what I refer to as a mid range brawler. I set my orbit for 7800 or so, and if not webbed, I'll be dancing at a high transversal just outside of falloff for blasters and autocannons. The hits I take tend to be miniscule. Once things are under control, if you find yourself still taking too much damage, but still in a winnable situation if you can just get a little more damage reduction, you can overheat your point and pull back a little further against short range guns.

For artillery and rails, you have the option to pull into a 500m orbit where they won't be able to track you, and your rockets don't need to track at all. The important thing here is to recognize quick enough what you're up against. A well fit arty thrasher blasting you with EMP will likely obliterate almost all of your shields in one shot. You've got 5 seconds to get under his guns at that point because you'll be dead on the next shot. Don't fly straight at him, strafe him first, wait for the 2nd shot, and then hit orbit at 500 once you pass within 3-4k or so and you should have a nice kill. Pulling further back in this case is the WORST thing you could do. He will get a 2nd shot off on you long before you're away. Similar situation with rails on a catalyst.

Against cruisers, as long as they're passive tanked, you've got a serious advantage. You're faster and should be able to dictate range. Falloff of a Neutron Blaster Thorax is well under 8k, and if he goes with null ammo he shouldn't have the tracking to hit you reliably. Any other short range cruiser weapons like pulse lasers or auto cannons, get in as close and fast as possible. Without 2 webs on their part, you'll be able to dictate that range all fight. An active repper will be able to keep up with your DPS easily though, so be aware. If all else fails, it's only a Kestrel.

Fitting this ship as I have it set up is the one complication. With my perfect fitting skills, I still need to have a Genolution CA-1 and CA-2 plugged in to leave me with 0.0 CPU when it's all said and done. I don't think I have a single other ship I fly that cuts the CPU that tight. You have the option to downgrade the damage crontrol and ballistic control to a meta 3 or 4 to fit the ship without those implants if you need to, otherwise, a genolution set is a pretty solid 35 million isk investment.

The total cost of this rocket kestrel as I have it fit is about 8.5 million isk at current prices, so not only is she effective at what she does, but she's a cheap date as well.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fly Fearless!

I was going through my morning blog cruise and came across this posting by Sugar Kyle on Lowsec Lifestyle. It's a great blog, and one that I regularly read. Though I'm not too familiar with the corp she flies with, 7-2, they sound like a bunch of folks I would like based on her descriptions of them.

In today's post, she talks about deployments, station games, and a few other things. One of the things she mentions is how her corp mates have deployed to their target system with the intent of returning home in empty carriers.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of energy. A lot of aggression. A lot of abandonment. People want to go home with empty carriers when we go home. I've always been torn between the idea of 'losing all the things'. I know that the reason for loss is because of a lot of activity. Loss is a side effect and not a bad one. But when people don't plan to come back in a ship I'm always torn by the image of losing a ship just to lose it. I know that is not the intent (always) but it makes me twitch. I tend to take things too literally."
I made a comment on her posting, but I want to take some time to dig into it a bit further. I've seen a lot of comments like this in my travels in Eve. The point is to win right? Why would you throw away your ship just to throw it away? The answer is complicated, but regardless of how someone answers, it's not all about getting exploded for the sake of it.

This is my Rifter. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
When a new candidate signs up with our newbie corp, the first thing we teach them is that the ship they fly is not them, it is only a tool. In the tears that are relished by so many in our line of work, one of the most common things you see is people who are off the deep end bat-shit crazy mad because "you killed me." No. It's just a space ship if you RP, and some pixels if you don't. Easily replaceable, there are many more to be had just like the one you're flying now (tournament prize ships excepted). If you're smart, you're flying within your budget in a ship you can easily replace, or in one you really don't want anyway.

Tools are meant to be used, and some, like space ships in Eve, are meant to be broken. The next thing we teach our newbies is to consider their ship forfeit the moment they hit the undock button. The last thing we teach before they head out into the cold darkness of space is to not fly safe, and fuck being brave.

Fly Fearless

I suspect that much like us, the guys in 7-2 are not heading out on their deployment this weekend for the sole purpose of losing ships just to lose them. That is an easy message to confuse with the Fly Fearless mentality. Flying Fearless dictates that if I have ANY chance of a positive outcome, I take it. In all likelihood my ship will probably explode, but I'm going to head in anyway to either win, or die trying.

Often times we'll be off in fleet and come across another gang that outnumbers us, out ships us, or both. The FC will be courteous (partially to absolve himself of any upcoming guilt) and inform the fleet "Guys, we can take this fight, but we probably won't win." The response in our fleets is almost always a resounding "Fuck it, let's go!" We win a lot more of those fights than we should. We also get dunked sometimes, but if you don't shoot, you can't score. We're also of the mentality that it's better to have fought and lost than get no fights at all.

This newbro knows how to Fly Fearless.
One of our newbros was out 2 nights ago looking for some trouble in his Rifter. He's barely a month old, but he's been diving into PvP with reckless abandon and an enthusiasm that I sometimes envy myself. He's had some help; one of our veteran pilots had been helping him come up with a low sp fit that he could fly well. A short time later, Alliance chat lights up with a link to his first solo kill. His target was nearly 12 times his age. He was over the moon super pumped, we were pumped for him, and the veteran pilot that helped him with his fit was probably grinning like a Cheshire cat most of the evening.

More sensible pilots than Xiderpunk would have seen the age of the pilot they were about to engage, and logic would dictate a low probability of success, meaning the proper course of action would be to GTFO. Xiderpunk is not a sensible flier, he Flies Fearless. He took a shot, and in this case he scored. He might get dunked on the next 10 times he tries that, but that one victory will keep him hungry for another one, and he'll keep trying until he gets it again.

Winning against the odds is like a drug in Eve. The shaking hands. The adrenaline. The jumping out of your chair yelling "GET SOME!" at the top of your lungs causing those friends and family around you to wonder if you've lost it. That's why we take those long odds. It's not about derping to derp, it's about winning when you shouldn't, and not being afraid of inevitable failure.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What Eve's Music Should Be

I'm not sure if it's just that after 10 years the default music in Eve has just worn thin on me, but while Eve still does have sound for me in the form of it's sound effects, I have the music permanently muted at this point. I've had a few tracks of things I like to listen to while flying in space, but after coming across a track by Audiomachine on Pandora a few days ago, I had to find more.

While I would never expect someone to head out and grab an album just because I said it was awesome, I've found a youtube clip of the whole thing. Next time you're getting ready to undock, open this up in your favorite out of game browser. I don't care if you mission, mine, PvP, or whatever. This hour of music will up the level of epic experience by at LEAST 10 fold. Seriously. If anything, I think it ups my game when I'm in a fight, clarity of thought and all that. There are themes in here that would fit all of Eve's races, the only thing it's missing is some calm stuff to wind down to.

Let me know what you think. I don't know what this guy's price would be for CCP to get him to redo  the game music, but it would be worth it! Here is a link to the album on Amazon MP3 for easy downloading. I prefer them over iTunes due to the less restrictive DRM.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

PvP is a Constant Education

Had an eventful night last night. Assault Frig gangs have been the flavor this week, and it continued last night. Like a tool bag, I opted to bring a Cerberus to an AF fleet, figured I'd pull back to range in engagements and spew missiles. With the new buffs I was barely slower than our shield Enyos, but had the ability to engage from up to 162k instead of needing to be right on top of stuff... less time lost switching targets, and I've been dying to try this thing out since it was made decent.

Great news by the way, the Cerberus is a better ship in just about every respect. Especially appreciated is that my fit is now magically cap stable with a MWD, something that required a lot more finesse before. On top of that, more speed, more damage, slightly better tank, much better kiting ship overall. Aside from HMLs at extreme range, it's got some interesting applications as a kitey HAM boat as well. FunkyBacon approves.

Fleet Ho!


One of the tactics Gal Mil FCs like is that when we have a decent gang, say 15-20, we'll send a couple people ahead to attempt to entice targets. Hopefully they get tackle on something, and then they will hold it down while the rest of the fleet jumps in and gets there to whore on the kill. That's how our first "engagement" of the night went. Caracal caught in a large plex, FC calls jump, people trickle in. FC even ordered our logi to rep the target while the rest of the gang landed on grid and burned to the target.

I don't particularly care for this flavor of kill whoring, but I understand it to a point. Jumping everyone in too early means the target gets spooked by the spike and bails out. People are in fleet usually to get kills. This is the middle ground, and has been the primary way to get kills in a fleet lately since the Caldari have been loathe to form up fleets against us. We haven't even been able to get any fights when they've outnumbered and out shipped us lately. If not for Sniggwaffe, we probably wouldn't have gotten any fleet fights in the warzone at all lately.

Last night being another quiet night, there were some scattered ships flying around, but no other fleets to fight. The Minmatar/Amarr zone was suggested and immediately shot down as word has it things are even quieter there than in our neck of the woods lately. Apparently the minnies hit Tier 5 and are in mission mode.At tier 5, FW mission payouts are insane, so even the most avid anti-carebears will dust off their tech 3's for 500k-600k LP/hour. That's a pair of Tempest Fleet Issues, or 4 Fleet Canes, or 13 Stabber Fleet Issues an hour. Can't really blame them. We hear the amarr are also pretty dead lately.

So with Waffles off to places unknown for the night, our usual sparring partners are out, and we decide to take a shortcut through 0.0 Cloud ring and come out on the far side of Placid. Based on some sketchy intel, we decide to make for some system at the ass end of nowehre I've never heard of to see about running into a fleet someone thought might be in the area. We ran into that fleet head first. Eve Uni was out, like me, giving the new HAC balance a try. Unfortunately, we did not have the numbers OR the ship types needed to even make it interesting so the FC ordered the fleet to pull back. This was where being the only cruiser hull in a frig fleet came to bite me in the ass.

During the strategic withdrawal, I ended up getting separated from fleet, knowing that if I had jumped through the gate with them, I'd have been caught on the other side before I could get off the gate. I bounced around in system for a bit, and then the gate was finally called clear. E-UNI was still in system somewhere, but what the hell, I made a break for it. Turns out the gate wasn't clear. They had the good sense to drop a point on me before I could warp back off, so there was nothing for it but to jump. Our gang was on the other side 200k off gate, but most of the E-UNI fleet had followed me through.

I only had 2 options at this point: 1. Attempt a warp and hope these guys are slow to tackle. 2. Attempt to burn back to gate. We had logi in our fleet, and a plan was being formed to have everyone warp down at 0, get some reps on me and see if i could be held up long enough to reach gate. As long as I didn't return fire, the logi could jump out if agressed. Would have been a good plan, but the execution was slow and my 60 seconds was up. Didn't make it back to gate. I also lost my first pod in about 6 months. No biggie though, was only a zor's/genolution clone, and 44 million was a small price to pay for not having to make 30 jumps back home.

Solo Time


Say Hello to my little friend.
Thankfully we retook Enaluri a few days ago, so my clone woke up next door to my home station. I plugged in a spare set of implants and contemplated my next move. The fleet was was off in the middle of nowhere, so I decided to drop fleet and strike off solo. There are plenty of people flying around Black Rise right now, and fights to be had, just not for fleets lately. I settled on a rocket Kestrel I've set up specifically for plex fighting, and made my way over towards Asakai. On the way, I was passing through Rakapas. With several neuts, pies, and WTs in local, I figured "what the hell" and opened a medium.

Almost immediately a Thorax showed up on short. Not feeling too confident in a kestrel vs a Rax, I bounced as soon as he landed, and he gave up the chase there. I bounced back to the medium a couple minutes later; Thorax was gone, Manticore on short. There was 1 friendly in local and I figure that's him, but I headed in to be sure... gone. That settled, I began to orbit the warp in at 7500 and waited.

Plexing in a hostile system is a lot like fishing. You set your hook with something juicy that people will want to fight, and then wait patiently to be noticed. In this case, it took 12 minutes for a condor to show up on short. Unfortunately, I screwed the pooch on this one. As he entered, what I *should* have done was flown straight at him to make sure I snagged him nice and tight. Instead I hit orbit which was set for 7800 meters, designed to skirt the outside of blaster/AC range while peppering my target with rockets still within scram/web range. He managed to get enough intertia, thanks to this error, to get just outside scram range, got his MWD re-activated, and was able to pull range.

As I was cursing myself for being dumb, mid range scans showed another condor and a pair of tristans that would likely be joining us in another 30 seconds or so. Karma is a bitch.

After a couple quick attempts to slingshot the condor back into my tackle range, the second condor landed. At this point I knew I was screwed, so I made a mad dash back to the warp in, determined to take someone down with me. As the first Tristan landed, I was all over him like a cheap suit. He was kite fit like the others, and his weak tank didn't hold him up for long.Unfortunately, the rest of them had too much range on me at that point for me to do much else than wait to die.

I hate going out on a loss, and the whole way back to station I kept thinking what I could have done differently. With something to prove, I grabbed another Kestrel, same fit. P-304 streaked back towards Rakapas. After jumping in, I returned to the medium and slid the gate. The Tristan I killed was out of local, probably reshipping, but the other 3 guys were still there.The remaining Tristan was inside the medium, but the range was too far, so I bounced to the small and crossed my fingers.

As I was landing on the small, one of the Condors was already within 15 million kilometers, so 10 seconds behind me at most. I slid that gate, and just had time to pre-overheat the necessary modules as he landed. This time I charged right for him, scram, web, and dead before the 2nd Condor was able to get inside. I saw the 2nd Condor on 15 million just as the 1st went down, so I burned back to the warp in and snagged him just as he entered. Same result. Unfortunately the remaining Tristan got in before I was able to finish the 2nd Condor and managed to get out of my tackle range just as his last friend went down.

With 5 Warrior IIs crawling up my ass, and the Tristan doing 1700 m/s better than my AB fit kestrel, I did what any sensible pilot would do and switched to javelin rockets. His weak kite tank had a hard time keeping up with the javs, so he pulled his orbit back and I took to opportunity to break it entirely and bounced back to the medium. He was smart enough not to follow.

After cleaning up the mess, I decided to continue on to Asakai, but the rest of the night was pretty uneventful. One Caldari Anathema inexplicably warped into one of my plexes to give me a very puzzling 40m ISK kill, but that was it. At least I had a pile of LP, and an exciting fight to console me when I logged for the night.

Final Tally for solo roam: 1 Loss, 8m ISK. 4 Kills, 62m ISK