Life in Eve: Got a joke for you…

How does a “roleplay-oriented, pro-Minmatar, faction warfare alliance” that has been dealing with the game’s alliance mechanics for EIGHT YEARS end up in a situation where they get kicked out of the war because their collective standings with the Minmatar are too low?

Except I'm not fucking laughing.

I’m taking a day off, I guess. Fuck.

Life in Eve: Getting Ready for Retribution

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Eugidi constellation, but after we recaptured Floseswin, we called a few days of rest to mess around with more casual roaming, running some missions for the TLF, and getting prepped for upcoming ship changes this week. It’s really a pretty huge expansion, revamping so many ships that currently don’t see any kind of use on the game. Over 40 updated ships, about 30 of which are never currently flown — in essence, this quadruples the number of viable ship options people will have, which is just… huge. It’s huge.

Anyway, like many of my fellow corp leaders, I burn a couple days with CB, tracking down some of the soon-to-be-useful ship hulls and (as much as I can) refitting them in ways that don’t work right now but WILL work in a few days, then moving them to the war zone. This process takes a LOT of hauling, so I beg Berke to dust off his rarely used freighter to save me some pain. Thoraxes getting faster. Stabbers and Mallers suddenly not terrible. Arbitrators… man, I can’t wait for the arbitrators. Or Kestrels. Or Exequrors. Or Bellicoses. Bellicoseses. Bellicosi. Whatever. It almost makes the hours spent fitting and moving prepped ships worth it.

Almost.

Still, shipping contracts are complete for the finalized ships and I actually find I’ve got a little time to… you know… fly around in space. I do that, heading toward the now mostly unused corporate office near Egglehende to work out moving the last of our corp resources to our current system. As I’m flying through Dal, one of my alliance mates hails me, asking if I’m in a combat worthy ship.

What? Why? Why are you asking? Is something going on? What's going on? Lemme see!

I still have a few frigates in a local hangar, so I get into one and ask what’s going on.

He’s apparently spotted a Slasher hanging around outside one of the minor complexes in system. He suggests he try to pin it down, and I come in and actually blow it up, since he’s really not built for such things in his fleet interceptor. Sounds like a good plan to me.

“It might cascade,” he says, “but whatever.”

I don’t ask what he means, and I suppose I probably should have.

I warp to him, but the affects around the warp acceleration gate pulls me off course and I land next to the structure and right on top of the Slasher.

Wait… that’s not the Slasher, that’s ANOTHER slasher — that’s the slasher’s buddy. The first slasher is about 30 kilometers away and closing fast.

My own ship (an Imperial Navy Slicer I liberated from the Amarr) doesn’t like being so close to the enemy, (who now has not one but two webs on me), so I overheat my microwarpdrive and pull range JUST before the second Slasher gets close enough to cause me heartache.

I go to work on my first target, battling his shield booster with pulse lasers — it’s a slow battle, but one I know I’ll when when the shield booster runs out of charges. In fact, it would be almost boring if it weren’t for the maneuvering battle required to maintain proper range with the first target while keeping away from the second slasher, who’s trying to get close enough to shut down my drives. It’s complicated. (There’s another enemy ship nearby, but he’s wasting time chasing the interceptor that first started this thing, so he’s not an issue.)

Then the Incursus lands right next to us and comes after me.

Just as the 2nd slicer gets a web on me. No bueno.

Now I know what the other guy meant when he said things might Cascade.

Once again, I overheat my microwarpdrive (a touchy piece of machinery that does NOT like to be driven beyond factory specifications) and try to pull out of the 2nd slicer’s range. It’s working, but slowly.

Then, a wonderful thing happens. Just as I’m about to break out of the web of Slasher #2, my main target decides to try to get close enough to hit me with his short range autocannons. I break the webs and quickly pull away, but he continues to try to catch up to me, which pulls him into straight-line pursuit right behind me. As far as my targeting computer is concerned, he might as well be standing still.

The Slasher explodes, and the pilot’s pod warps free. His friends decide this is a sign of how things will go, and both vacate the field.

Which is good, because I just completely burnt my microwarpdrive out. Oops.

I limp back to station to repair, my mate (who didn’t get a shot on anyone) picks over the wreck, and I get to enjoy a completely unexpected adrenaline rush after a long day of hauling and logistics.

All in all, pretty good day.

Life in Eve: BOUSes? I don’t believe they exist…

Woo-hoo! November insanity coming to a close! Our little faction warfare corp has joined an established FW alliance! I seem to have an exclamation point surplus I need to run through!

After some administrative tedium in the new home system, I set out in a cruiser fleet with JR at the helm, heading to the system of Aset, where our cunning plan is to sweep into an enemy Complex and start capturing it in the hopes of a proper fight.

Our plan seems to be paying off: scouts report an Amarr fleet inbound from the southern part of the war zone. Sounds like they’ve got greater numbers than our armor gang (15 vs. 25 or so), but roughly the same basic ship composition.

Our opponents arrive in system in what looks like two groups — maybe that’s just some stragglers catching up. Combined by their delay (and a request in /local comms for a quick bathroom break from one of our slightly more drunk pilots), there’s just enough time for a smaller friendly shield gang to slip into the complex with us and achieve optimal combat ranges, bringing our total friendly force in the complex to only a few less than the Amarr, who hit the gate and warp in. The fight is on!

Or at least I assume it is, as I’m immediately volleyed off the field and I have to run and get another ship.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good fight, and went on for so long that I was actually able to reship and make it back in time to take over target calling for the last few ships (all the real fleet commanders had been forced off the field by that point). In contrast to the last few fights I’ve been in, the group’s discipline was really good — which is to say everyone was actually shooting what the target-callers said to shoot. This sounds like a pretty basic thing, but for some reason it’s been terribly DIFFICULT for us in the past, and everyone really pulled it together.

Also (and this may not sound like a good thing, but…) it wasn’t clear until fairly near the end which side would eventually hold the field, and that made it a very engaging fight. Ultimately, we persevered. Early losses were managed, discipline continued even after our support ships were brought down, and we were left with a few pilots still standing at the end, going through the pockets of our comrades, looking for loose change. Good fight.

I, like Wesley, was quite surprised to discover my error.

Then it was time to reship (well, not for me: I’d done that already :P.)

The Amarr seemed ready to go at it again, but had a longer trek than we did to reship, so we were more than ready when scouts reported their return. Some of us had reshipped to battlecruisers, because… reasons, I guess. The Amarr had brought cruisers, however, and forced the size restriction by moving into a Minmatar Complex in Floseswin that wouldn’t admit any of our larger ships.

(That is, incidentally, one of the faction warfare features I have a great, manly, hetero love toward. Moving on.)

Anyway, our battlecruiser pilots swapped down to similarly-sized stuff, and we charged.

Once again, our combat discipline was pretty solid. The Amarr targeted our fleet commanders almost immediately, so others had to step up and maintain order — our armor fleet ran through at least five target callers throughout the fight. Despite our numerical advantage on this fight, the absence of support ships and warping into the complex right at our opponents’ ideal ranges meant we were struggling at the outset, and (again) it wasn’t clear who would hold the field.

And of course I got blapped off the field pretty quick.

Again, at least two of our pilots had time to lose a ship, deaggress, jump back to our staging system, reship, return, and finish the fight. LONG fight.

In fact, I feel I should say this: kudos to the Amarr pilots for really grinding it out to the bitter end. I’m positive that they could have called the fight a lot sooner and got more of their pilots away, but they chose to buckle down and go down swinging — it made for a hell of a good fight, and a great ‘coming back after a long month’ night.

Salutes all around, you filthy slavers.

Life in Eve: Getting a Bad Feeling

So this is just a short post and, worse, it won’t make much sense or difference to anyone unless you both play EvE and do stuff in Faction Warfare.

So here we go.

Fact one: The Amarr-Minmatar warzone is getting some new jump gates in December, meant to open up a lot of cut off systems and improve moment throughout the warzone.

Fact two: Despite the fact that it’s currently a pain in the ass to offensively run complexes in enemy systems, the Amarr are hitting a couple Minmatar systems pretty damned hard, as if they would very much like to flip them to Amarr. I wonder why?

Let’s go to the map!

Click to embiggen

Orange is current Amarr territory. The green lines are where the new gates are going to go. The systems circled in black are the ones the Amarr are hitting hard.

I’ll let you chew that over.

Home a-Roam 4

The next few evenings are spent battening down the hatches for the upcoming November privations, resetting Planetary Interaction timers, and building a few Condors for a roam JR wants to try out.

Well, that and a bit of solo fun, which included a new Cormorant I’m trying out that managed to net me a few kills on its first flight. Definitely need to take that crazy looking ship out more in the future.

One dark spot on this solo flight was that I tried taking out a minor complex in enemy held territory, and found it entirely not worth the time. With only about half the changes to complexes currently in place, the massive fountain of ISK-production has been shut down — which is a good thing — at the cost of the sites being worth doing at all. That’s fine, though: I’ll take the benefits even if it means a month of avoiding plexes until the rest of the changes go in.

But enough about that — I’ve got Condors to build for a skirmish fleet!


There’s something fun and liberating about flying incredibly cheap ships that can hit targets from over fifty kilometers away, fly 4000 meters a second, and chase down pretty much anything. Adding to the fun of this roam is the fact that Em and Shan are coming along on one of JR’s roams for the first time (Em in a custom Condor that matches his very deep missile skills, Shan in a Vigil with several target painters, because he’s Minmatar to the bone).

We don’t find any ‘big’ fights, but that’s fine for our group, which is happier mauling and taking down smaller groups of larger game. The Condor is (now) a wonderfully versatile frigate, and we have a number of ship variations that leave our targets all but helpless to harm us, and our losses are few and far between.

Not so the enemy, as we rack up kills on an Arbitrator cruiser, Retribution assault frigate, Punisher frigate, a Daredevil pirate frigate fit with entirely too many expensive modules that did him no good at all and, finally, a Rifter and Rupture out shooting NPCs in asteroid belts. It was a fine conclusion to the evening, so JR calls it for the night and we head home.

Or so I thought.

“Okay guys, I’m going to head o– oh, there’s a Pilgrim on this gate.”

“He cloaked.”

“Can someone decloak — hey! We decloaked him!”

“Eh, he’s just going to jump the gate. He’s won’t aggress anyo–:

“He’s aggressing!”

“Everyone warp to JR. Everyone warp to JR.”

The fight took well over five minutes, partly due to the Force Recon Cruiser’s tanking ability and partly because we had to work through most of his drones first (and in two cases, reship in mid fight), but eventually we took the ship down, netting us a great tech-2 cruiser kill to cap off the night, as well as — effectively — the month of October.

And how has that month been going?

Not bad! Em, Dirk, and Shan have jumped into the pool, and last night our little corporation broke 100 kills since joining the war against the evil Amarr slave lords. Our win-to-loss ratio corp-wide is better than I’d expected at this point in our learning curve, but far more importantly, not a single kill on the board is any kind of structure. I’m very happy about that — it simplifies the issue a bit, but it’s still a good indicator that I’m getting what I wanted out of this experiment.

Why the retrospective?

Per usual, my free time during November will be pretty sparse, and what I have will be mostly dedicated to family and friends close at hand. Now is the time on EvE when we schedule a lot of long, slow, annoying skill trains that I’ve been putting off. I can’t complain about how October concluded, and I comfort myself with the thought that I’ll come out on the other end of November with a sexy new expansion only days away. I’m sure I’ll post a few things here and there (perhaps stories of the corp’s adventures while I’m MIA), but for the most part all I can say is good hunting, and I’ll see you soon.

Life in Eve: Home a-Roam 3

I’d intended to just pop in and check a few bits of to-do, but a quick greeting in comms leads to an invite into an ongoing fleet lead by several pilots I don’t know, but flown in by several I do.

“Who’s the new guy in my channel?” asks the FC. “Try?”

“It’s Ty,” one of the other pilots replies, before I can speak up. “He’s got his own corp, but he flies with us a lot. He’s good.”

“Cool.”

And that was that.

Not bad.

The doctrine for the fleet was “cruisers, with some fast tackle support.” Normally, I’d bring tackle in that situation, but I was informed we already had plenty before I’d even proposed it, which left me looking over my cruiser options of which I had only a few, handy.

The problem with cruisers right now (at least for me) is that they’re all going to get quite good in a little more than a month, so unless I know the ship in question is already about as good as it’s going to get, I’m loathe to fly it right now. I don’t mind losing ships (at all), but it bothers me to lose them simply because they aren’t currently good and would have survived if I’d just waited a few weeks. All those kinds of ships are waiting for me (and December) in a market system hangar.

The only ships immediately handy include a Rupture and two Stabber Fleet Issues. The Rupture is currently set up for a weird remote-rep fit that I’ve somehow managed not to lose (and which is useless for the current roam), so I discount that. The SFI’s are another story, as they are both (a) good ships and (b) not getting tweaked next month. The first of the two is a soloing-fit that wouldn’t fare well against the damage a decent sized fleet would attract, so I settle on the second ship, much slower, but heavily tanked and ideal for survival in the face of withering incoming fire.

We wander the war zone for a while, but pickings are slim and what few ships we do snag are far too fast for my sleek, aerodynamic brick to chase down.

Finally (and, again, just like the previous two outings), we find ourselves near home, where most of the action has been happening lately. Scouts report a few ships locally, but in a complex too small to admit our cruisers. The FC glumly advises people to reship and hurry back. I speak up.

“I have lots of destroyers right here in system.”

“How many?”

“At… least six.”

With guns?”

“Of course.”

“… okay! New plan! Everyone send Ty some money and dock up at his station. We’re going to steal his shit and kill some ships.”

A few ISK transfers later and we’re in warp to the complex in a fleet of Thrashers with suspiciously similar names. The targets warp away as we enter, and our rear guard reports enemies landing back at the entrance gate to the complex.

We can’t warp directly back to the gate (one of the ‘features’ of a complex), so the FC orders us to ‘bounce’ out to an orbit around the sun, then back to the complex entrance. Imagine our surprise when we land on the sun and see an entirely different fleet waiting for us. They aren’t war targets, but they seem perfectly willing to engage anyway, so let’s call them nascent pirates.

This fight goes well — we take out all their fleet, but the war targets that had been at the complex warp in and complicate matters, turning the whole thing into a grand melee. Pretty much everyone loses their shiny new destroyers, but the fight was a good one all around, and a fine way to end the evening.

Life in Eve: Home a-Roam 2

Friday’s a strangely quiet night in the war zone, so I spent some time working out some new fittings for Caldari assault ships and interceptors. I don’t get too far into this this, though, because some of the pilots I know are roaming around the zone and invite me along. I don’t know what I should bring, exactly, so I settle on the condor I’d cobbled together the night before.

As before, we really didn’t need to travel far to find trouble. I’d only just reshipped and got on comms when word came of war targets right next door. A bit more recon showed us two destroyers in a major Minmatar complex, backed up by a shiny Vigilant-class cruiser, rare enough in the faction warfare scene that most of our pilots (many of whom are fairly new) were unfamiliar with the ship’s advantages in camping a warp-in gate.

Despite the Vigilant, our FC (who, though he has faults, doesn’t number timidity among them) decided he wanted to go after the fight anyway, figuring to storm the complex and trust to our many tech1 frigates to blot out the proverbial sun… or at least overwhelm the Vigilant’s target system.

“He can’t lock down all of us.”

Our arrival was spotted, and all the ships bugged out as we entered the complex, but we waited, hoping they’d calm down and come back once they realized we weren’t the vanguard of a larger force.

They did, and at least initially didn’t hit us with any more ridiculously superior ships than they already had (those came later): the same two destroyers dropped back in with two more destroyer allies and the Vigilant.

Not Almity,” I called out on comms, before the FC could designate targets, remembering the mistakes made in the last week, calling him primary. “Anyone but Almity.”

The FC took it in stride, called other targets, and had everyone hit the Vigilant with tracking disruptors and hope for the best.

The fight was nasty, brutish, and relatively short — common for frigate brawls — two of the destroyers went down, then our own frigates started to pay the price of facing far superior firepower. Despite the disruptors, the Vigilant was nearly one-shotting our ships, and the pilots we’d already unhorsed had warped off and were already returning… this time in an SFI and Cynabal cruiser. Time to leave.

No arguments from me, as a single shot from the Vigilant stripped my shields, armor, and melted half the ship’s structure. I left the field trailing fire and smoke but (again) basically functional.

We couldn’t have been said to have come out ahead for the fight, but to be honest the engagement was so fun no one really seemed to care. Since we’d barely left our home system, reshipping and repair for those pilots willing to stick around took little time, and before long our somewhat smaller fleet was back in space and poking around, which led in a fairly short order to another engagement with the surviving two destroyers from the previous tussle, this time without the support of a couple quarter-million-isk pirate cruisers.

It went about how you’d expect, and brought my unlikely Condor up to an unprecedented three-battle survival rate.

Life in Eve: Home a-Roam

These days, we hardly need to go anywhere to find a fight. Immediately next door, we have a long-established I.LAW Amarr corporation that seems (at least to me – not everyone agrees) predisposed to relatively even fights. One more jump and you’re into the home staging system for Fweddit, which… has a lot of pilots. The same distance in the opposite direction (figuratively as well as literally) you’ll find the Agony Unleashed, full of pilots for whom I have tremendous respect, and if all else fails there’s notorious Amamake, filled to overflowing with pirate gangs.

None of that’s to say that you’ll always find the fight you’re looking for — it’s currently kind of rough running around solo, because the half-complete changes to complexes discourage pilots from clearing them on their own — but if you can find the pitch that the war zone is tuned to at the moment, things can be pretty cool.

Don't get me wrong - it can also be kind of brutal.

Thursday, JR ran up a flag for pilots interested in a remote-repair armor gang — a concept that’s only marginally workable at present but likely to be very effective in December — the ship’s are cheap(ish) so it’s good training for when the tactic becomes (much) more effective.

We ran around for a very short roam (all of two system gates, I think) before JR got word of a nearby allied fleet trying to scare up a fight with Fweddit nearby. It seemed likely that either of our groups would be outmanned or outshipped by our opponents, but together…

We reformed as a single fleet and… well, all I’ll say is that we got a fight. Not convinced it was the fight we wanted, exactly, but it was certainly a fight. In short, the other side outnumbered and outshipped us, despite our Voltron maneuver. Also, there is a regrettable tendency to call the most recognizable enemy fleet commanders primary. I’ve made the same mistake, which is why I spotted it now, and the fact that some of those pilots recognize this and play to it by making themselves particularly easy-to-reach targets in particularly hard-to-kill ships.

So we kind of wasted a whole lot of time killing one or two guys who were set up to take the pounding, while the other guys took us apart at their leisure.

Once this fight was done (my ship survived — not sure how that happened), there was a long delay while JR and the other fleet’s commander talked, and by the time it was done, most everyone was done waiting around and had taken off for the night. One pilot had tracked a group of war targets who were banging around in frigates and looking for a fight, however. We had five or six pilots still willing to fly, and dropped on them in orbit around a planet in similarly-sized ships.

Both sides were looking for a good fight, but the game itself was set to deny us — something was seriously wrong with the local ‘grid’ — it was so small that my Condor was actually running off grid from my target by simply orbiting him. Neither side could accomplish anything, so we disengaged and retreated.

By this point, however, all sides were feeling a little denied, so we basically agreed on a place to meet up and conclude our fight. This went pretty well for us, as we were able to take out all five of their ships, with two of ours still on the field (mine included, albeit ever-so-slightly on fire). Good fights all around, and we called it a night.

Life in Eve: Shake Shake Shake

It will surprise no one when I say that I’m not happy with the way some of the features in Faction Warfare in Eve work, and I’m looking forward to fixes proposed for December.

Soon.

Most of dissatisfaction stems from the ways in which the system can be gamed for the sole purpose of making ISK.

Now, I don’t have any problem with people making ISK. I don’t have a problem with someone playing smart, or avoiding a senseless fight. I do have a problem with people who are clearly subverting a system. Take a new-player-friendly theater of activity called “faction warfare”, set in “war zones”, and tell me that the most common “new” players involved are ignoring all fights and fitting their ships to avoid all consequences of any activity they undertake in that theater, and I’ll call those people bad names.

They’re not being innovative or ’emergent’ any more than a lamprey is an “outside the box thinker”. They’re just parasites, dragging down another fish.

Yes, I’ve tried to kill such pilots when I can. This also should surprise no one. As a rule, people don’t view tapeworms as a life-enhancing feature.

So I was thrilled to find out that some of the Faction Warfare changes proposed for the December expansion were going to be implemented immediately, in an effort to kill off the worst of the demonstrably game-breaking behavior. If nothing else, it closed a hemorrhaging ISK faucet six weeks early, and that alone is worth it.

But there were other benefits.

Although not all the changes are in place, enough things changed in terms of system control and defensive and offensive “plexing” that it shook things up around the war zone. There were a lot more pilots flying around, a lot more fights happening, a lot more investment. I spotted the first Infrastructure Hub bashing fleet I’ve seen in, literally, months. Then another. Then response fleets. Then pirate fleets looking to start a fight with those fleets. It’s easily the busiest I’ve seen the war zone in weeks, and that’s with one of the largest enemy corporations in the area temporarily out of the action while they repaint Amarr logos over top the Caldari flare on their ships.

There’s something to be said for changes to a system that alter the rules about what’s good/bad, useful/useless behavior in a given theatre of activity in the game. The changes get people whining, but it also promotes a heightening level of participation and activity as people figure things out, take initial advantage, figure out optimal behaviors, implement them, and adapt to the meta-game shifting as a result.

It’s a good argument for regular in-game events that shake things up simply for the sake of the shaking. Something as simple as Incursions actually spawning inside the war zone would throw a deep wrinkle into things, as would adding (or destroying) routes through the war zones.

I’m not saying change stuff just to change it, but if you can come up with cool reasons for tweaking the equations of success from time to time, it wakes people up.

Keep things moving to keep people interested.

I do a bit of defensive plexing at the start of the evening, to (a) get a sense of how the new loyalty point rewards for this activity will stack up in vulnerable systems (answer: well) and (b) try to move some vulnerable systems back toward stability before the Amarr can flip them to slaver-sovereignty.

JR is doing a “cheapfleet” roam of frigates and destroyers, and I hop into a Thrasher to join in, since (at least initially) I don’t much feel like being an important cog in the machine — mine will be the way of support and heavier DPS, not scouting and (thus) nigh second-in-command.

As he’s done in the past, JR splits the fleet into two squads and two separate but linked voice comms channels, so we can roam independently in smaller, less-threatening groups, but call for backup if needed. He then puts newer pilots in as squad commands and eases himself into the back seat to let the training-by-fire commence.

My body is ready.

Squad 2 (of which I am a member) wanders somewhat, our FC seeming a bit a sea and unmotivated. The upside: Fel is with us (since I dragged him along) and getting some scouting practice, as he’s in the fastest ship in our squad — a speedy Atron attack frigate.

Our roam takes us by secondary routes to the system of Sahtogas. We send in Fel to scout and wait at the entry gate, directing him toward any open complexes, hoping to attract the attention of the fairly numerous war targets in system (who are often more inclined to doze inside stations until prodded).

Meanwhile, a war target drops on our gate and most of us open fire. I don’t, because I suspect he’s going to jump through the gate if things look serious. They do, and he does. I follow.

… and appear in the midst of a significantly larger fleet than my own, all war targets and all heading through the same gate but in the other direction to go after our guys. They apparently slipped down to the gate after Fel warped away. I try to give warning, but it comes too late for some and we lose a couple ships.

Meanwhile, Squad One is coming at Sahtogas from another direction, and tries to bait the same group of war targets into attacking. This works, but (again) the enemy fleet proves too strong for only half our group to manage, and we trade ships at a slightly disappointing 2:1 ratio.

With several pilots reshipping, the rest of us scattered, and our squad commander unaccountably silent, I announce I’m heading back to our original mustering system, where it will be easier for our returning pilots to link up. This initiative puts me in the lead and scouting ahead for the rest of the squad.

One jump short of our muster point (but conveniently near my home station) I spot a Naga battlecruiser in one of our local complexes. A quick reconnoiter puts him 190 klicks off the complex entry and (annoyingly) still able to shoot me, so I switch out of my Thrasher and into a Taranis interceptor to see if I can snag him.

No joy, as he runs when I start to close in, but our activity attracts the attention of a small gang of pirates from nearby, notorious Amamake. Again, I switch ships, this time to a Stabber Fleet Issue — the Minmatar Navy’s justifiably well-regarded “SFI” cruiser.

The pirates, having taken out one of our frigates, retreat to Amamake, but a scout locates them near planet six and I warp to their location, clearly looking for payback for the loss of our frigate (rageface). They seem inclined to take the fight, as their three assault frigates (two Wolves, one Hawk) look to be more than enough for the job I represent. The Hawk gets in too close to me, however, and with two webifiers and a warp scrambler on him, he’s not going to be able to correct that error. I call the rest of the fleet in and the Hawk dies fairly quickly, while his allies scatter.

We try for one of the Wolves, but our chosen target it too fast — only one ship (Fel’s Atron) can keep up with him, and can’t slow the Wolf down enough for anyone else to catch up — he finally manages to slingshot Fel and slip away.

JR is... shall we say... nonplussed by the fact that only one of our small ships has bothered to fit a microwarpdrive, even though he specifically said everyone should have one.

I try to pull another fight in Amamake while the rest of the fleet slips back to neighboring systems, but the pirates jump in after them before anything else develops. This works out, as we’re able to snag and kill the Wolf who had previously escaped.

I drop back to repair the SFI, and scouts report another group on the gate in Amamake, so I head back in to try to make something happen. I can’t track them down, but that proves to be wasted effort: I drop on them accidentally after giving up my search and warping back to the out-gate. Pirate pilots in an Atron frigate, Jaguar assault frigate, Rupture cruiser, and Zealot heavy assault cruiser circle me, but none seem eager to engage, since it will mean that the mean, nasty pirates will be targeted by the stargate’s defensive sentries for attacking a squeaky-clean citizen like myself.

With my backup ready, I start things off by popping the Atron, then we all turn attention to the Rupture, who tears away and leads us well off the gate before we pull him down and take out the ship. The kill takes some time, however, and by then he has backup inbound. They manage to catch me as the Rupture… ruptures, and my heroic SFI goes down while the rest of the fleet escapes. (Luckily, I have a dozen replacements at the ready, and more reasons than ever to fly them. Great ship.)

The fleet swaps around ships a bit, and Matt calls us into an enemy-held system nearby, where we miss a Firetail frigate but catch and kill yet another Wolf, trading a Taranis to a Cynabal cruiser in the process, at which point JR takes off for the night, and I follow suit.

A good night, if a bit directionless and disorganized at the start — it felt good to head out into the war zone and actually find pilots looking for a fight.

Life in Eve: Notebook

My notes from last night, unadorned:

Roam with CB, Em, and Shan. CB in a slicer doing most of the scouting, plex checking, and war target tackling. In his words, ‘barn storming’, which he liked. Shan did a bit too, but his Slasher was using was more for brawls and offensive plexing, not fast tackle. My Vengeance wasn’t useful; the target I hoped for didn’t show, and it’s so godawful slow.

Basically just tried to get everyone out there and scouting, so we all get more used to it. Went smoothly (better than Tuesday), though no kills. (CB points out: no losses either.)

Several ships tackled/hassled, but everyone either rabbited before we got to them or warped out after we had tackle, thanks to warp stabs. Jade: “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Think he’s starting to see my frustration.

After the guys took off for the night, hopped in a Slasher and played scout for JR’s roam, back from null-sec and cruising around the war zone. Snagged a Vexor right away, and took another hour doing a loop south and losing a Vengeance (ironic) to a Harbinger bait trap with five other battlecruisers waiting in the wings.

Life in Eve: For the Tears?

Forgive me, Gor, but this one was too good to leave in e-mail.

Wait… so choosing be smart in Eve and only engage in fights that you can win or walk away from is a bad thing? Eve PVP is so much about the tears…. If all these Eve players want less risk adverse behavior, decrease the (ship) death penalty.  Oh but then PVP wouldn’t be so much fun, cause I didn’t ruin the other guys day.

I don’t mind someone being careful, but when you get together to spend an evening shooting other people and the guy in charge won’t take a fight — ANY fight — because it doesn’t look like a sure win? That guy just wasted my night, because I want to shoot something — that’s what I set aside my night to do. I wouldn’t have undocked if I didn’t accept some risk, and if I didn’t want the risk, I’d play Wizard101.

The guys that piss me off in the war zone are the guys who are ostensibly part of faction warfare, but who fly around in frigates with no guns on and a ship optimized to make money and ignore the actual war. That bugs the crap out of me, and I make it a hobby to blow them up when I can.

It's really not about the tears.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t do it for the tears — I very much doubt there are any, because that guy probably make 4 or 5 billion isk in the last week — I do it because these guys are crapping all over the area of the game I’m playing in, and I have the means to kick some sand in their face, which I want to do because this particular activity in Eve — for which I have sacrificed time, ISK, and the companionship of good friends who’d rather not join me — is being ruined by these greedy little stains.

Do I do this to miners in high-sec? Or industrialists? Or traders? Of course not! They’re doing what they do; they’re not subverting anything. That guy in the hookbill is turning an arena for a certain kind of play into a lame money-dispenser — paved the park and put up a Qwik-e-mart — and I look on it the same way I look on guys who can-flip and ninja-salvage in high-sec: I’ll kill ’em if I can.

This is tangential, but I don’t think they should decrease the death penalty to allay risk adverse behavior, because honestly the main thing that makes EvE fights exciting (they aren’t, normally) is the risk to your OWN ship). These guys that pussyfoot around, trying for a perfect 100-0 record… it just seems to me that they miss the point. The whole thing is more fun if you have some skin in the game.

No, I don’t care about causing tears, but I do care about caring about the fight. If four guys want to use some ECM so their four frigates can take on a Cynabal and have a chance of winning, fine. I can even stand to be one of those guys, because I don’t see that we’ve negated risk and made the whole fight pointless. If fourteen guys bring two Falcons on every roam and only take on groups of 8 or fewer pilots so they can guarantee none of their opponents can fight back… yeah. No. I get why they’re playing, but that’s no more “my” version of Eve than 1% margin trading in Jita.

I just can't see how it's fun.

I’m not going to suicide into a fight for no purpose — but (for example) I stayed in the fight a few nights ago because I thought we could pull out a win, or at least a draw, and that (plus the adrenaline) was worth it.

An hour after I killed that Hookbill pilot, this happened — and I was just as happy about it, because I actually found someone in a complex who wanted to fight.

These days, that’s like finding the only other guy at a gaming convention who actually came to play.

Life in Eve: Education

Last night, our little two-man faction warfare corporation tripled in size, and I led a small roam/introductory tour into the wilds of the war zone. Four pilots (myself, Em, Shan, and newly-recruited Fel) flying the very best in cheap and disposable combat spacecraft (an Incursus, Atron, and two Slashers).

Preparatory documents, FAQs, links, and useful maps had all been assembled and then sent out. Shopping had been done (including a splurge on a pile of inexplicably under-priced frigates that netted use close to two-hundred slashers). Questions had been asked and answered.

Nothing left to do but head out and learn to explode.

I had a path in mind, and sent us at best speed through Sinq Laison to Audaerne and, from there, into the Eugidi constellation, which is a kind of rat’s nest of systems well behind the front lines, popular with risk-adverse war targets and (by contrast) conflict-hungry pirates looking for a fight. All in all, it’s a pretty good group of systems to visit if you want to familiarize yourself with the ‘plex mechanics, possibly catch a fleeing enemy, and maybe even get something like an viable fight.

Emphasis on maybe. As it turned out, once we chased off a few timid Merlin frigates with Cynabal backup, the only action to be found lay with a trio of pirates I’d run into in the past. They decided to meet our four frigates with three destroyers (and more backup lurking in the wings); we decided the fight wasn’t for us. In leaving the constellation, we managed to draw one far enough away from his friends to cost him any nearby backup, but he remained wary enough to escape through a gate jump without losing his Thrasher. Ahh well.

From there, we headed south toward Dal, pausing here and there to check out likely-looking complexes for enemies, but arrived at our destination without anything exciting coming of it and docked up for a few minutes to rub our eyes and repair a bit of damage from overheated afterburners.

I returned after the brief break feeling more than a little restless. It’s been well over a week since I’ve had a proper fight (the last roam I was on had me sitting in a support cruiser, which is fun but doesn’t involve much in the way of direct violence), and after two hours of cat-and-mouse work with no payout, I just wanted a face to shoot.

“We’re going to jump over to Siseide,” I said, naming a neighboring system with a lot of violent activity showing on the map, and a known home system for a few Amarr loyalists. “See if we can’t stir something up.”

The system’s population was a weird mix of Minmatar and Amarr forces when we arrived, but as I split us into smaller groups to scout around (as I had been doing all night, to give everyone a turn at hanging their ass out in the wind to get shot at), most of our nominal allies departed toward Auga.

Em headed for one of the open Amarr complexes, I went for the minor one on the far side of the system, and landed nearly on top of a Slasher like my own, who immediately jumped the gate into the complex and invited me to follow him in. I called my fleet mates to me and charged in, but he saw my backup arriving and beat a retreat.

Once the other three had arrived, I had Shan start capturing the complex. This wasn’t a wholly empty activity; Siseide was the first system we’d entered all night that was actually held by the Amarr, so it was our first chance to actually capture an enemy complex, as opposed to defend our own, and I wanted them to get a sense of what that was like.

In any case, we didn’t stick with that for long, as it was clear the locals (all veteran members of a long-running faction warfare corporation) were putting together a response to our intrusion. The first to land on the gate and jump in was a Thrasher, but his friends seemed further behind, and I thought the odds were good that if we hit him hard when he entered, we could take his ship before the rest arrived.

My nebulous plan solidified when I realized the lead pilot it was Almity, one of the better known fleet commanders for the Amarr.

Things seemed to be going well, despite Em and Shan calling out enemy ships closing in: the enemy thrasher’s shields were dropping with comforting speed, and the heavy hitting but traditionally thinly-tanked ship looked close to death.

Then we punched through to the ship’s armor, and all progress just… stopped.

“Armor tanked?” I wondered aloud. “Who armor tanks a Thrasher?”

The answer, apparently, is “Well-known enemy fleet commanders who expect to be called primary and use that tendency to act as effective bait.”

Four other Amarr pilots landed on us while we tried to take the Thrasher out. I should have called an evacuation (I was the only one held at that point), but I wanted at least one kill, even leavened with our own ship losses, and kept us in the fight long enough for Almity’s companions to catch hold of both Shan and Em as well.

All in all it was a fine, tasty bait they set for us, and I bit with everything I had. Lesson learned, and well-played by the Amarr pilots. Hats off.

“I missed the whole thing!” moaned one of the Amarr pilots in local comms.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get another chance,” I quipped.

“I hope so, man,” he replied. “They say you were actually fit for PvP and willing to fight. Good show!”

We retreated and reshipped (I’ve got several dozen appropriate ships scattered around the the area), but by then it was getting more than a little late, so we called it for the night, with plans for more shenanigans in the days to come.

Maybe not the auspicious beginning I might have hoped for (not helped by the fact that my decision-making was colored my just wanting any kind of fight — the whole thing left me happy with the results even though we lost), but a start nonetheless and with lots of things to learn from the engagement.

Early this morning, Agony pilots came swarming through the system while I fiddled with a few ships in the hangar, and one of their pilots (whom I know from various roams and training classes) tossed me a greeting.

“I heard you decided to put up a decent fight last night, instead of running,” she said. “Very cool.”

“Thanks,” I said, and meant it — enemies they may be, but it’s nice to earn a little recognition, even if it’s for blowing up. Funny, though, that the news of an inconsequential frigate brawl spread even that far.

How sad is it that the simple act of taking a fight with no gimmicks and no bullshit is cause for comment, compliment, and small celebration (twice!) by your opponents, though you sit in the midst of zone focused on war, and a game focused on PvP? It makes me understand Rote Kapelle’s current goal.

Life in Eve: Prep

“Alright, Fel, if you feel like you understand the risks, and you’re still interested, I’m glad to have you.” I punched the virtual ACCEPT? button on my terminal and sat back in the chair in my quarters.

There was no reply from the overhead speakers to which I’d routed the caller’s voice.

I waited, then: “Fel?”

“Umm. Yes. Sorry. I’m here.” I could almost hear the other pilot shake himself. “I just… well, not to raise too many alarm bells or anything, but I’m a bit surprised you accepted me so soo — umm. Quickly.”

“Ahh.” I thought about that a moment, letting my eyes drop to my hands, resting in my lap. “You know what CB said when I told him about your original message asking to join?”

“The first one? That was months ago.”

“Yup.” I cleared my throat, wanting to get the phrasing right. “He said: ‘If he wants in the wormhole, fuck no. If he wants in the war zone, fuck it.'” More comms silence. “Don’t take that personally…”

Fel’s laughter came with a rush. “Are you kidding? I’m from a wormhole too — paranoia, I understand; I practically tell the new pilots to fly in front of me when we go on ops.”

I chuckled along with him, nodding. “Well, that’s half of it, then. The other half… ” I shrugged. “There’s maybe three hundred million isk worth of ships and ship modules in our shared hangars. I only keep enough liquid ISK around to ensure that the station rental bills are paid automatically –” I cleared my throat — “after a little mishap a few months back.”

“Sure –”

“Point is,” I interrupted, “you really can’t do much harm down here in known space, because this corp’s got no real assets to steal. Hell, even if you awox one of us for fun, we’re only going to be out a cheap clone and a cheaper frigate. And frankly we could use another couple good pilots. Paranoia is fine, but new blood helps keep people awake.”

“Well… okay then.”

“Okay then,” I repeated, letting a small smile creep into place. “Get some rack time. Odds are we’ll be roaming tomorrow night, either with friends in cheap ships or acquaintances in expensive ones. Welcome to the asylum.”

“Glad to be here,” he replied, then cut comms.

I stared at the overhead speaker for a few seconds, my thoughts drifting, then popped up to a standing position, stretching one arm across my chest and rolling my neck on my shoulders as I walked out to the balcony overlooking the hangars. “No breaks today.” I blinked. “Tonight. Whatever.” My eyes itched, and I rubbed at them while I tapped the commands that would swing the Malediction into the launch bay. “Little more scouting to do before everyone gets here.”

I’d been out of a ship for almost a week — visiting the University of Caille to talk about, of all things, my writing — apparently, as a combat pilot, I made a decent journalist. Since I’d gotten back, I’d done little more than scout new safes throughout the war zone and write a half-dozen briefings on the key systems and hot spots that a new pilot — or at least a pilot unfamiliar with the War — would want to know about.

I was itching for some actual combat, even a frustrating loss, but war targets would go unmolested tonight, at least by me; we had new pilots coming to join us, and I wanted everything as smooth as I could get it for the transition.

New pilots for the war. Old friends for the fleet.

“Aura, set course for Avenod. Let’s map out some safes in the Eugidi cluster.”

… before everyone gets here.

My voice sounded tired, even to me, but I could feel that same small smile creep back onto my face.

I practically jogged to the piloting pod.

 

Life in Eve: the Pants-on-Head Offensive #eveonline

While I’ve been playing just as much as ever, and writing about the new stuff coming in the expansion, I haven’t felt compelled to write about actual events in game for a little while, simply because it’s been pretty typical and straightforward shenanigans: small gang stuff every few nights, random solo stuff the rest of the time. Faction Warfare is a very interesting and sometimes frustrating environment; on one hand I feel as though I’d get more out of it if I were connected to some of the big established groups, but on the other hand there’s direct evidence that Sturgeon’s Revelation applies just as much to people as it does to anything else1, and I’m not sure I need to expose myself to that any more than I already am.2

Case in Point:

I went on a small gang roam last night, run by one of the really good guys I’ve run into — someone who’s a real pleasure to fly with and who always seems to have a fun fleet idea to try out.

Flying with him: a couple of his corp mates, and a cage of shit-flinging spider monkeys.

WTF am I hearing?

Now, normally, it’s not that bad. The fleet members list was about the same as usual, but for whatever reason — full moon, hormone imbalance, Ritalin shortage — this ancillary group of pilots (from a corp unaffiliated with the FC) have been particularly sub-functional lately.

But I grit my teeth and bear it, because I want to try out this new idea the FC has. The last few roams, he’s been asking for armor-tanked cruisers supported by a couple tech1 logistics ships (the exequror, which is currently a hairsbreadth above a joke setup, but receives a major facelift in a few months), and specifically asked if I could bring one of the support cruisers, which is a class of ship I’m well-skilled for and never really get a chance to fly.

Anyway: the evening didn’t offer up a lot of viable opportunities. The nature of the ships we were flying (support cruisers with poor attributes, combat cruisers press-ganged into remote-repair setups) and our numbers (ranging from 6 to, at best, 10 or so) meant that our window of viable targets was a bit narrow — potential opponents either warped away before we could get there, or seriously outnumbered us.

Still, we preserved, roaming around the war zone, looking for anything that would give us a good run.

(Side note: the tunnel vision that overcomes “healers” in any group activity is just as present in EvE as it is in any other MMO, at least in my experience. I couldn’t name one system we flew through last night, aside from where we started and where we ended.)

After a slow hour or so, people were justifiably itching for a fight, and everyone was pretty happy when a scout (one of our spider-monkeys) excitedly announced he had a war target tackled. The current fleet commander called for jump and we warped to the fight.

Imagine my bemusement when the overview loaded, and all I saw were two different shades of purple on the list of nearby pilots: the purple of my fleetmates, and the purple of fellow members of my militia.

The scout (also a militia member) was shooting one of the pilots in that second group.

We're going to war!

Apparently, the spider monkeys had had some kind of friendly fire incident a few days earlier, resulting in a pilot from some other militia corporation losing a ship. Reparations were made, but in the end, the two corps decided to use the in-game system to declare war on each other, thus making each other valid war targets.

Let me repeat that (because I for damn sure needed it explained twice when I first heard it): faced with two different enemy militia to fight (whose pilot memberships collectively numbers a bit over fifteen thousand), these two groups within the same militia decided to start shooting each other over a 10 second friendly fire incident, some name-calling, and the loss of a single frigate.

I really don’t think that is how one successfully conducts a war.

Please note the remarkable lack of SHOOTING EACH OTHER in the above photo.

Faced with this situation, I did what I’m supposed to do in a support ship, surrounded by friendly pilots taking fire: I locked up every ally I could and started repping anyone getting shot.

Yes, everyone.

Yes, the “other guys” too.

I figure we were already well into the realm of Pants-on-Head idiocy, so adding a little more ridiculous behavior could hardly hurt.3

Eventually, someone decided to shoot me. I’m honestly not sure which side. Maybe both.

Upside: I got a lot of good practice flying support, and the ship loss was amusingly cheap.

And, not for nothing, having an excuse to drop fleet afterwards (when the FC called it a night) was something of a blessed release.


1 – There’s also a disturbing trend wherein the forces behind Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory manifest at such a high concentration in EvE that intelligent, well-spoken people who seem immune to this phenomena (while on Reddit, for example) turn into mouth-breathing frat boys the moment they log into the game and join a fleet. I’m embarrassed on their behalf.

2 – One of the nice things about wormholes? You are generally insulated from the 90%, except in small doses. Call that a plus. In faction warfare, I keep my local channel set so I only see who’s in the system (not anything anyone’s actually saying), and make liberal use of the ‘block’ chat function make other channels marginally useful.

3 – It’s easy to poke fun, but you must be careful when casting stones; stuff easily as stupid happens with head-shaking frequency throughout the game. Usually, the result is a lot more costly (which either makes it more or less funny, depending on who you ask.)

Life in Eve: A Tour of the Bringing Solo Back Interview with CCP Fozzie #eveonline

I’m often on voice comms while playing Eve, and a lot of the discussion lately has been about the changes coming in the winter expansion.

One of the things I often bring up is the interview that CCP Fozzie did on the Bringing Solo Back podcast (Kil2 and Kovorix), but that gets kind of frustrating. I’ll quote something interesting that Fozzie said, then someone says “where did you hear that?”, I mention the podcast, and no one knows about it.

SO: if you are interested, you can find the podcast over here , but as it’s fairly long (~90 minutes), I’ve provided a bit of a road map to the bits I thought were particularly informative.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t have anything to do with the BSB podcast (other than as a devoted listener) — I’m just doing this to spread the word, because I think it’s hugely helpful in providing context about the changes coming in the winter expansion.


7:30 – PROCESS AND PHILOSOPHY OF SHIP REVISION

8:25 – The “training path” of the new support ships, leading to Logistics ships.
10:23 – A bit more on the process of ship revisions.
14:53 – The “flavors” of each race’s ships — “individuality” balanced against “every ship should be useful for something.”
15:55 – “Some of the old ‘racial flavor’ things… kind of suck.”
17:10 – “‘Good fits’ are often kind of similar.” Some talk about differentiating ships in Eve by finding new niches for them, and where that’s still a problem with redundancy (HACs versus tier3 BCs).

21:24 – THE “NEW” FRIGATES

22:51 – The last three combat frigates: kestrel, tristan, breacher.
27:00 – Ewar frigates. (potential change to ECM coming in the expansion)
29:07 – Support (logistics) frigates.

37:15 – DESTROYERS

37:35 – Small tweaks to current destroyers.
39:15 – The history of random silly numbers in various ship stats.
40:00 – The four new destroyers.

40:45 – DRONES
(really sort of a destroyer tangent that went crazy and became its own topic)

40:45 – Some discussion of drones as secondary weapon systems for Gallente and Amarr.
43:05 – The issue with putting missiles – especially short-range missile systems – on slow, heavily armored ships.
44:00 – Relevant Tangent: “Making active armor-tanking not be so slow.”
46:00 – More on drones.

There is SOME implication (46:10 – he doesn’t say it outright – I am INFERRING) that while the Amarr will use drones almost as much as Gallente for secondary damage, and have roomy drone bays, they won’t have the BANDWIDTH of Gallente ships, who will be able to field beefier flights of drones. “I don’t see us pushing heavy drones to Amarr hulls.” Basically it sounds like “Light fast drones go with slow heavy Amarr ships, and bigger heavier drones with the (eventually) faster Gallente ships that can get in close and THEN release drones.”

46:45 – Why drone speed bonuses are a problem.

49:10 – CRUISERS

50:20 – “We really want tech1 ships to be viable and used a lot.”
50:50 – How the relationship between new tech1 frigates and tech2 frigates demonstrates the kind of relationship and ‘gap’ CCP wants to see between all tech1 and tech2 versions of a ship.
52:14 – Attack Cruisers’ new speeds (roughly a 20% increase in speed to the attack cruisers) & what will make Combat Cruisers attractive?

55:00 – AMARR TANGENT

55:05 – “The places Amarr does well right now […] is the battleships, so a lot of those kind of archetypes are the kind of things you’ll see drop down [to smaller ships].”
58:00 – Adjusting beam weapons.

1:00:15 – ANCILLARY SHIELD BOOSTERS

1:00:40 – “ASBs are definitely a balance issue, right now.”
1:02:00 – “Greyscale is a champion for active-tanking (in PvP).”
1:02:50 – “Increasing the kinds of decisions that people can make [in Pvp] is a good thing.”
1:05:25 – Back to ASB discussion.

1:07:00 – OFF-GRID BOOSTERS and TECH3 CRUISERS MAKING COMMAND SHIPS OBSOLETE

1:07:00 – “Hitting [off-grid] boosting with a GIANT baseball bat.”
1:08:15 – “What’s wrong with links, by your evaluation?”
1:10:20 – “The idea with tech3s was always that they should be good generalists; they do a number of those things at the same time, but they shouldn’t be as good as tech2 [ships]. The area where you see that working really well is EWAR. […] That’s where we would like see them when it comes to links.”

1:11:26 – ECM

1:16:25 – HEAVY MISSILE LAUNCHERS and HML TECH2 AMMO

1:18:20 – CALDARI BATTLESHIP-SIZED WEAPONS SYSTEMS

Life in Eve: Retribution is Coming #eveonline

So last night, I actually found myself online at the same time as Em, and we had time to talk about the changes coming up with “Retribution” — the winter expansion. The upshot of that conversation was that a lot of the stuff that I’d categorized as “everybody know this is coming” was stuff that Em hadn’t heard about yet.

So I figured I’d list out pretty much everything I’m aware of that’s coming with Retribution. A few caveats:

  • I’m not going to talk about Crime Watch and the new Bounty system, because not much has been posted about it yet.
  • I’m going to be briefly summarize the changes, but this is still going to be a monster of a post. Can’t be helped: there’s a TON of stuff coming in this expansion.

Now then, let’s get started:


Faction Warfare

  • WAR ZONE CONTROL – War zone control does not currently encourage players to hold space, only to upgrade Infrastructure-hubs when they need to buy stuff from the LP store (upgraded warzone control gives truly massive store discounts for the limited time the upgrade is in place). The upcoming change removes the  discounts, and modifies the amount of loyalty points you earn doing FW stuff instead.They’re also going to make it harder to upgrade and downgrade the control in individual systems within the war zone, which should make whatever tier you’re at more ‘sticky’.There are a number of things they’re putting in to make this happen, but basically offensively taking out offensive complexes won’t ‘bleed’ the stability of a system’s upgrades quite as hard (though it will still pay as well), defensively plexing in a contested system will actually reward you something other than standing, and guys can’t just farm some system that’s been stripped down to a totally vulnerable state for days on end — vulnerable systems will give offensive plex-runners no payout at all.Opinion: Greed is a good motivator. This should encourage factions to actually keep and maintain desirable levels of zone control for the  LP bonus rather than just push to the max level for 40 minutes every couple weeks to ‘cash out’. More zone control effort = more fights. The changes to the loyalty point payouts for offensive, defensive, and vulnerable-system plexing are very good — see the other FW Complex Changes, below.
  • NEW SYSTEM UPGRADES – Current benefits from upgrading a system are a bit lame, especially in systems with no stations. The new iteration will, per level of upgrade in a system, add:
    • More manufacturing, copy, research, and invention slots in stations
    • Reduction in ship repair costs
    • Reduction in market taxes
    • Reduction in manufacturing times (this one is a pretty huge deal)
    • Reduction to starbase fuel cost (only happens twice, at tiers 3 and 5)
    • Able to anchor Cyno Jammer (only at tier 5 control of the system) to prevent getting an enemy capital ship fleet dropped on you. This is a special item and basically takes about 5 or 10 minutes to spool up, and lasts an hour.
  • FW COMPLEX CHANGES – there’s a whole lot of changes to make it harder or outright impossible to ignore PvP in plexes. CCP wants these locations to be a good hot point for fights (anything to change things so every single fight isn’t on a gate or a station is a good thing, in my opinion), and they’re doing a lot of good stuff to make that happen.
    • The ‘capture’ beacon will be moved a lot closer to the entrance to the complex, so attackers don’t have to first traverse 60 to 100 kilometers of empty space to get within range of their target.
    • All beacon capture ranges will be normalized to 30km.
    • Any hostile pilots or hostile NPCs inside the complex will prevent the capture timer from counting down, so if an enemy shows up, you need to kill ’em or drive them off.
    • They’re adding a frigate-only complex, and reorganizing which ships can get into each of the four types of complexes, focusing on restrictions based strictly on size, not tech level of the ships.
    • Since complexes can’t be captured if there are enemy NPCs active in the complex, you need to be able to kill them, though there will be fewer (only one active a time), so you can legitimately do this technically PvE activity with PvP-fit ships. (Also, they don’t spawn if there’s any PvP happening.) Also, the NPCs will be active-tanked to a level appropriate to their ships size, which means that there shouldn’t be any more situations where a frigate is soloing a battlecruiser-class complex.Opinion: All in all, good changes; a hard counter to the no-gun, warp-away, risk-adverse, plex-farming bullshit going on right now.

Mission NPCs (including Faction Warfare NPCs)

All mission NPCs will get upgraded to the “sleeper AI”, modified somewhat. That means that NPCs in all missions will switch targets based on threat (instead of just aggroing the first guy who warps into the site and sticking to him until killed). They will target drones less than Sleepers do and will, if possible, target ships of roughly the same class as themselves, provided such targets exist.

Opinion: The fact that supposedly hardcore EvE players are whining about NPCs finally obeying “threat” code that’s been standard in MMOs for ten years makes me laugh. Harden the fuck up.


Many Ship Changes are Coming

Well over 40 ships are either being revamped, tweaked, or simply created from scratch. Starting from the smallest and working our way up…

Tech1 Exploration Frigates

These ships are, today, basically used as disposable ships for lighting Cynos, and that’s about it. CCP wants to see them in their intended role: solo running of high-sec exploration sites throughout New Eden — a great occupation for newer players — or to support more advanced ships in low-sec, null-sec, or wormhole space. They’re all getting bonuses to hacking, archaeology, and salvaging so you can use them to both probe and run the “mini-profession” sites. Their combat ability has been directed at drones (3 or 4 unbonused light drones) instead of weak weapon bonuses — enough to kill the rats in high-sec sites (although a combat frig will clear them faster) — fit a light active tank, drop drones, and kite.

Opinion: The only downside to these changes is that it makes all four the ships feel sort of… the same. That said, they should be good at what they’re intended to do, and a good way for a new pilot to practice scanning and make some money. Now, if they’d just change the hull for the Imicus — god that’s a stupid-looking ship…


Tech1 EWar Frigates

Since these were formerly “low-tier” frigates, they’re getting pretty significant buffs to make them ‘as good as other frigates’, while focusing on their given role. CCP’s goal is to see these ships become commonly used by newer players to take useful roles in fleets of many different sizes. CCP has also said they expect to release them alongside some tweaks to certain ewar mechanics themselves (for instance, the Griffin getting another mid-slot for yet more ECM, but apparently ECM’s getting tweaked so that it’s going to balance out).

The Crucifier (Amarr) and Vigil (Minmatar) are being bonused towards longer-range disruption, while the Griffin (Caldari) and Maulus (Gallente) are more medium range oriented.  CCP has also said that some EWar was over-nerfed in the past (hello, Gallente) and will be looked at.


Tech1 Support Frigates — Your first “healer” ship

One of the coolest things CCP is doing with this expansion is establish better ‘training’ paths for certain classes of ships — you want to be the support/repair/buff guy? Well, you don’t have to wait two months to finally fly a viable ship! You can start with Support Frigates, move to Support Cruisers, and then to the tech2 Logistics Cruisers that we all know.

Each race will be getting a tech one support frigate, bonused in remote repairing. (10% bonus to repair amount per level, 10% reduction in capacitor draw for reppers per level, and a flat 500% bonus to remote repair module ranges). They’re also giving them more scan resolution across the board, cutting the cycle time of small remote armor and shield reps in half so that these ships can respond more quickly to the fast pace of frigate combat, and reducing the fitting requirements of these modules. These ships have a max rep range of 28.8km with Tech2 rep modules and are generally among the slowest of the tech one frigates.

The Support Frigates are generally created from the ‘mining’ frigates that no one ever uses for anything, ever. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the winter frigate rebalance, since CCP is creating an entirely new role for frigates in a fleet, and hopefully shaking up frigate and other small-gang combat quite a bit.

These ships are, by design, weaker for their size than Tech2 Logistics Ships. This reflects both the lower cost and Skill investment and the design goal that they add to current frigate warfare without eclipsing all the other ships in the lineup.


More Tech1 Combat Frigates

We’ve already seen the changes to the Merlin, Incursus, Rifter (not much change), Punisher, and Tormentor (the mini-Armageddon — a design philosophy in which CCP acknowledges that the Amarr battleships are the best the Amarr has for PvP, so let’s copy those designs in miniature). These last three round out the Combat Frigate lines to 8 ships, two for each race. All three tend to favor long-range combat.

The Kestrel, in contrast to the heavier-tanked, gun-toting Merlin, is the start of the Caldari training path for pure missile damage. It’s going to do good damage with any type of missiles you can fit on it, with great range. It’s also going to be quite a bit more fragile than the new Merlin, though tougher than the older version of itself. It’s also getting a bit faster.

The Tristan is moving away from being a mix of missiles and guns, to being a mix of guns and drones. It will be able to field a full flight of light drones, with almost a full second flight of replacements or utility. It’s guns are bonused for tracking, to deal with the fact that it will probably fit railguns over blasters (it has a nice bonus to targeting range). It’s about as slow and tough as you remember. It’s going to be a hell of a fun ship to bring on frigate roams.

Finally, the Breacher is another missile-boat. It gets an agnostic missile damage bonus, like the Kestrel, but (and I like this) it’s second bonus is to shield repair amounts, making it a tiny, missile-tossing Cyclone. I approve.


New ORE Mining Frigate (Please name it the Chribba.)

Designed as an entry-level mining ship, this will replace the old mining frigates in the Industry Career Path tutorials. It has an outstanding mining output, capacitor, and mobility, with an astounding (for a frigate) ore hold of 5000 cubic meters. Its purpose is to be a fast hull capable of mining in hostile space (even if the current value of high-sec ore defeats this goal quite a bit). It also serves as an AMAZING gas harvester. With its inherent +2 warp core strength bonus, it should stand a fair chance of doing its job without being instantly tackled and killed.

With it’s bonuses, the ship can do with two mining lasers what it would take any other ship five lasers to accomplish. This means that when gas harvesting, it’s output as good as any gas-harvesting battlecruiser you care you name, with almost twice as much ‘ore’ cargo capacity for that gas.  Even without a propulsion mod, it can be built to be practically unscannable, cruise around at close to 500 meters per second, and align-to-warp in 2.5 seconds.

Oh, and it gets a flight of three light drones.

I will buy these things by the six-pack.


Existing Destroyers Rebalanced

CCP sees destroyers trading resilience and mobility for firepower. Existing destroyers are mostly fine as they are right now, but they are getting a few tweaks, notably the Coercer, which is in sad shape.

The Coercer is getting a second medium slot (finally!), losing a low in the process. It also got more CPU and Powergrid, so it can squeeze on the largest small lasers (once those weapon’s fitting requirements are changed, see below).

The Cormorant swaps one medium out for a new low slot. Capacitor, agility, and signature radius were inconsistent with other Caldari ships and were adjusted.

The Thrasher and Catalyst were barely touched.


Four New Destroyers

The new destroyers keep the same role as existing hulls – anti-frigate platforms. However they use alternate weapon systems to reach that goal, which means drones and missiles. Next to the existing destroyers, they have slightly less mobility, more signature radius, less capacitor, but are a bit tougher, with better damage projection due to the weapon types they use. Price will be roughly the same as existing destroyers.

Amarr: The Amarr destroyer is designed to take down opposition through indirect means. It gets bonuses to drone damage and hit points, and 20% range bonus to energy vampire and neutralizer modules (which will take up some or all of its six turrets with small neuts that reach out to about 13 kilometers). It’s basically sort of a mini-Curse. The damage is nothing special, but energy disruption ability plus drone control makes it, potentially, a real game changer in smaller fights. Like the Arbitrator, it has large bay of drones (able to field flights of five light drones at a time), giving it many options and utility choices.

Caldari: Missiles, missiles, missiles, missiles, that’s what this hull is all about. It spams missiles from eight launchers at quite a long range, and boasts improved explosion velocity to catch those pesky annoying little orbiting frigates.

GallenteCombines both turret and drone damage. Will probably have five turrets bonused for tracking (railguns), with a single utility high slot. Damage is lower than a Catalyst, but much better damage projection (two full flights of lights in its drone bay) — especially with drone damage amplifier changes.

Minmatar: This ship is unique among all Destroyers as it has a bonus that improves survivability – it is designed to zip around in the battlefield at high velocities (it gets a bonus that reduces its signature size when using a Microwarpdrive) while spewing missiles from its seven launchers. As a downside, it’s less efficient at hitting fast moving targets at greater ranges, like the Caldari hull.


Weapon and Module Changes

There have been a bunch, and I’m going to summarize a lot, and probably forget many things. This is the stuff that seems to be attracting the most attention.

Missiles

Light missiles and rockets got buffed. All larger short-range missile systems got buffed either directly, indirectly, or both. Heavy Missile Launchers got ‘nerfed’ so that they perform more in line with long-range weapon system — compared to those weapon systems, they’ll be second highest in DPS and volley damage once the changes go in. Several types of missile launchers got easier to fit. Tech2 missiles generally got buffed, though a few became less useful.

Lasers

Smalls and medium lasers got easier to fit, and several got renamed to be less stupid. (No more small lasers named “medium” something.)

Projectiles

Medium artillery cannons got easier to fit, and some ships (Hurricane) got their powergrid adjusted down to compensate. (As I mentioned yesterday, this ‘hurricane nerf’ isn’t much of one, though there may still be more changes coming.)

Drone Damage Amplifiers got easier to fit.

Ancillary Shield Boosters got nerfed down a bit, because they needed it. Basically, they have the same repair capacity, but they can’t keep it going for nearly as long before they have to reload (and then die).


Ewar Cruisers

These are the Disruption cruisers, inexpensive ewar platforms. CCP is revamping the tech1 Ewar cruisers with similar goals to the Tech1 ewar frigates. Two are focused on pure ewar with range bonuses (Blackbird and Celestis) and two are more hybrid ewar/brawlers for small gangs (Arbitrator and Bellicose).

Arbitrator: Bonus to tracking disruptors and drone damage/hit points. Not many changes, as CCP sees this as a really good ship already. In general it got a bit tougher and the capacitor got buffed. It’s got better weapon options now as well — rather than trying to squeeze on unbonused energy neutralizers in an effort to be a poor-man’s Pilgrim, the Arb pilot can run with two lasers and two missile launchers in its highs, if he wants to.

Blackbird: Bonus to ECM jam strength, optimal range, and falloff. Slightly better tank and capacitor. Now has a small drone bay. Ridiculous base targeting range (85km).

Celestis: Bonus to Sensor Damp effectiveness and optimal range. Big drone bay (two full flights of lights, or a flight of mediums) with the bandwidth to match. With the added drones and two(!) more low slots, it’s even better at ignoring its intended role to triple-web-kill frigates.

Bellicose: Bonus to Target Painter effectiveness and Missile Launcher rate of fire (with four launchers). Complimentary bonuses! Amazing! Way more CPU for fitting. Better shields. Faster. I’ll be having these.


Tech1 Support Cruisers

These are the tech1 remote repair ships designed to operate alongside or instead of Tech2 Logistics ships.
These ships continue the ‘upgrade path’ started with Support Frigates, which new players can follow all the way into T2 Logistics ships (or even carriers). These ships are weaker (both in reps and tank) than Tech2 versions, but they are designed to be capable in a mixed Tech1/Tech2 fleet, when what counts most is participation.

CCP Fozzie:
“If we’ve done our job right, then when a newer player shows up to your Armor fleet saying “I’ve got an Augoror, how can I help?” the FC will respond with “Join our logistics channel, the guys in there will get you set up with the cap chain and anchor“, rather than “LOLN00B come back with a real ship.

These ships are very close to their Tech2 counterparts in range, speed, agility, cap chain ability, and cap stability. They should be able to hang out with a Logistics crew and do their thing, albeit at reduced effectiveness. They also rely more strongly on role bonuses than skill bonuses, so that they will continue to be viable even when your pilot doesn’t have Cruiser 5. (Their repair range and cap chain ability remains basically the same no matter who’s flying the ship.)

Also, as with the the Logi frigate balance pass, CCP adjusted the repair modules at the same time, reducing some fitting requirements significantly.

The downside for their cheapness and low skill requirements will mainly be rep amount (at best, two-thirds of a Tech2 Logistics ship), signature radius, sensor strength, and tank.
Basically, all four ships got:
  • A 15% bonus to either either Remote Armor Repair amount or Remote Shield boost, per level.
  • A 5% reduction in the capacitor use of the appropriate module (remote shield or armor reppers), per level.
  • A flat 1000% bonus to the range of the appropriate module (and to Energy Transfers, for the Augoror and Osprey).

In addition, the Osprey and Augoror get a flat 200% bonus to Energy Transfer Array transfer amount (welcome to the cap chain), while the Exequror and Scythe get a bonus to the repair amount of Logistics drones.

They all get a few more fitting slots, improved power grid or CPU (or both), buffed tank, buffed capacitor, and increased drone capacity. (The Exequror tops the charts on this, as it can field a full flight of bonused medium logi drones, while the Scythe has the weird bandwidth and drone bay values that Scimitar pilots should find familiar.)


Attack Cruisers

Somewhat more anticipated cruisers than Ewar and Support Cruisers. “Attack” cruisers are the faster and lighter of the fighting cruisers.

The gap between Attack and Combat cruisers mirror the gap in the frigate lines, although for cruisers the divide isn’t as sharp. These ships do have less EHP than the Combat cruisers, but can still be tanked pretty well if you sacrifice some of your firepower.

These ships (the Omen, Caracal, Thorax, and Stabber) saw quite a bit of adjustment, though the really lame ones got more love.

Omen: Speaking of lame, boy did this guy get some love. Double-bonuses laser turrets. Another low slot. Improved powergrid and CPU. Roughly a 20% increase in mobility. Much better drone capacity.

Caracal: Excellent missile platform. Improved tank. Two more low slots. Much better powergrid and CPU. A nice fat boost to base speed.

Thorax: Probably adjusted the least of the group. Slight weaker tank, but a big boost to base speed, leaving it second only to the Stabber. A bit more CPU for fitting, another medium fitting slot, and that’s about it.

Stabber: Poor stabber, how you’ve been mistreated all these years. How can we make it up to you? How about being the fastest attack cruiser by almost 20%? Bonused turrets with a falloff buff for better kiting? Another low and mid slot? Better tank?

Can’t decide? Then you can have all of the above!

You still only get that one little light drone, though. No luck there. Sorry.


Combat Cruisers

Last but not least, the Combat Cruisers are designed as front line warships with both solid damage and good staying power. These ships got less dramatic changes than the others. The average tank of the set is only 2% higher than the average tank of the old “Tier 3” cruisers. Their main advantages over the other t1 cruisers are in tanking and a more robust capacitor.

Maller: No longer the useless, over-tanked, under-gunned bait ship! The maller gets a bonus to damage on its five laser turrets and a bonus to armor resists (rather than raw hit points, like the old version) (oops: got this confused with the Navy Augoror). A nice fat boost to powergrid should make fitting the medium turrets a lot easier, too. It picked up a chuck of base armor hit points, and also got about 25% faster.

Moa: Basically the shield version of the Maller, with a bonus to hybrid turrets and shield resistances. Doesn’t look like much else changed on this ship, but I never got the sense that it was that weak — just unspeakably ugly.

Vexor: If it ain’t broke, dont’ fix it. The vexor gets a bonus to both medium hybrid turret damage and drone hitpoints and damage. It loses the utility high slot, but gains both a mid-slot and low-slot, making it very versatile. The extra powergrid may even mean it can fit right-sized guns! Very solid tank (tons of structure hit points, because Gallente) and improved speed.

Rupture: If anything the Rupture was tweaked even less than the Vexor. One less high slot (why even bother making launchers an option), one more mid-slot (yay flexibility!). As with all minmatar, it’s faster than the other ships in its class, and remains a great option.


… and I’m spent.

Life in Eve: Quick Post on the Hurricane Nerf #eveonline

Quoting CCP Fozzie:

Since we plan to reduce the powergrid needs of all medium artillery by 10% across the board, we are also planning to subtract 225 Power Grid from the Hurricane.

The upshot is that […] fitting a standard shield autocannon cane with neutralizers and a Large Shield Extender will require dropping a few guns down to 220mm.

Lots of people are freaking out about this. This is a bit ridiculous for two reasons.

1. The hurricane deserves this adjustment. Like the Drake, it’s too good: better than most any other battlecruiser class in the game.

2. No one actually went and looked at what they could do with a Hurricane with the new powergrid totals.

[Hurricane, Post-PG-nerf 425s Shieldtank w Neuts]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Experimental 10MN MicroWarpdrive I
Warp Scrambler II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II

425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Warrior II x5
Light Armor Maintenance Bot I x1

So the current ‘cane has a powergrid of 1687 with perfect skills. Subtract 225 powergrid, and you have 1462.5 powergrid.

This fit:

  • Requires 1461.35 powergrid.
  • Rolls out at 1552 m/s.
  • Does a whopping 698 DPS.
  • Still has a solid shield tank.
  • Still has two medium-sized neutralizers, just like it always does.

In short, with good skills, this really doesn’t change much.

With less-than-perfect skills, you still don’t have to drop down to 220mm autocannons — you just put in a couple Meta3- or Meta4-level 425s to squeeze everything in.

(And even if you do switch to 220s, the damage is quite close to 425s, with better tracking — if anything, this change will make hurricanes even more dangerous as anti-support ships.)

I won’t even talk about the Drake changes — it’s been a long time coming, and if anything I don’t think it goes far enough.

Life in Eve: How to Kill Joy-sucking Faction Warfare Farmers #eveonline

So one of the more annoying (albeit small) problems with Faction Warfare that I mentioned yesterday is the fact that “running” complexes (either offensively or defensively) is, about 90% of the time, done by guys flying small, cheap ships that are built to tank damage, move fast, and let’s-not-even-bother-with-guns. This post details the basic process (and what to do with the loyalty points you make), but since then people have… let’s say “honed” the basic idea.

See, while the MLYT version works, it’s got — from a risk-adverse farmer’s point of view — a fatal flaw: it’s an armor-tanked ship, and as such, all of its low slots are devoted to tank, which means it can’t also fit Warp Core Stabilizers that will prevent anyone from tackling it and holding it on the battlefield. Well, we can’t have THAT.

I was going to post up a theoretical fitting for a ship like that, but I don’t want to waste the screen space on it. The basic idea is: Take a Merlin, then add an Afterburner, one or two Medium Ancillary shield boosters for an active tank, three Warp Core Stabilizers in the lows, and whatever rigs seem useful or necessary.

Suffice it to say you can spot a lot of Merlins on d-scan in the war zones.

I happen to love the Merlin, and it makes me sad to see it used for such lame activities. It is a noble ship, and worthy of much better things.

It behooves us, when we see such injustice, to put the poor thing out of its misery.

But how?
The problem with this type of ship is that it’s very good at what it does, which is:

  • Orbit a structure fast enough to mitigate most damage and repair the rest.
  • Leave when anyone shows up to interfere.

With the original YLMT ship, it was hard enough to catch the damn things — anyone even half awake could warp out as soon as they saw you on short-range scan. With the Warp-stabbed version it’s even worse, because you might actually get in on top of an inattentive pilot, and he’ll STILL get away, because you didn’t bring enough tackle to hold him down.

So, in order to liberate the Enslaved Merlins of Farm Warfare, we require a ship with almost the same degree of singular focus in its design as the farmer-frigates it hunts.

Our challenges:

  • Quick travel times. We’re going to be roaming all over faction warfare, looking for targets, and we want to do so quickly and with as little interference from third parties as possible.
  • Fast closing speed. Bottom line, we aren’t going to catch a pilot who’s paying close attention to directional scan. A skittish farmer will see us when we land on the acceleration gate that leads into a complex and warp away. Some won’t, though, either out of laziness (hoping we won’t actually come after them) or lack of attention, which gives us a chance when we land inside the complex. Once on-grid, we are much more likely to be noticed, and we need to get on top of our opponent before they can react; we need the speed of an interceptor in the affordable chassis of a cheap frigate.
  • Tackle, and then some more tackle. In short, we need enough tackle to negate a whole rack of low-slots loaded with warp core stabilizers.
  • Enough damage to finish the job. Our targets will be fit to tank a bunch of NPCs, so you will have to patiently whittle down their tanks until they run out of power or need to reload their capacitor boosters. Upside: You shouldn’t be taking any damage from them as this is going on, so your own tank can range from ‘thin’ to ‘nonexistent’.

Also, we want the build to be cheap (no extra-strength Faction warp scramblers that cost 14 times more than the rest of the ship), and able to get into any complex in the war zone (no Interceptors).

With these goals in mind, I’ve come up with a couple options.

[Atron, Burn the Farm]
Damage Control II
Overdrive Injector System II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Warp Scrambler II
Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I
Warp Scrambler II

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]

Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Hybrid Metastasis Adjuster I

The Atron makes a fine steed for your crusade.

  • Quick travel times. Attack frigates warp fairly quickly for ships of their tech level — all we’ll really need to worry about is how fast we get IN to warp, so as to avoid gangs and gate camps while we pursue our calling. This particular fit get into warp in 2.1 seconds.
  • Fast closing speed. With overheating, this little Atron can push over 6600 meters per second, which is enough to get from the warp-in-point to the complex beacon in roughly 10 seconds (depending on the size of the complex). You can lock your opponent about five seconds into that rush, and tackle them about as soon as the lock finishes.
  • Tackle. I don’t like this part of the fit for two reasons — one, I’d rather have one long point and one short scrambler, or better yet a web and a scambler, but that’s not enough tackle to stop our heavily warp-stabilized farmer, so this is what we have to do. The main problem here is that a farmer with an afterburner can still keep trying to escape at his full speed, which means we’ll have to pulse our microwarpdrive to keep up and keep him tackled.
  • Damage. This fit does around 155 dps, which is more than enough to finish a farmer frigate quite efficiently. Bring more ammo than you would for a normal PvP fight, since you’ll need to wear through a ship that relies on a strong, cap-booster-supported tank.

All in all, a good ship; nimble and hard-hitting.

Let’s try one more:

[Slasher, I Come for My People]
Damage Control II
Overdrive Injector System II

Warp Scrambler II
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
Warp Scrambler II
Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I

150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
Small Energy Neutralizer II

Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

Let’s just sum this up relative to the Atron:

  • Travel. Lacking some of the agility mods of the Atron, this Slasher gets into warp just a shade slower (2.3 seconds) but it’s still quite quick out of the blocks.
  • Fast? Again, it’s a hair slower than the Atron, pulling 6200 meters per second while overheating, but still quite fast.
  • Tackle. This is where the Slasher has an advantage over an Atron, as the fourth slot lets you address the issue of holding an afterburner-fit farming frigate down. I’ve opted for a dual-propulsion solution, which lets you switch to the afterburner once you have the ship tackled, easily running circles around the tackled ship, but you could accomplish pretty much the same thing with a webifier in that fourth slot. As an added bonus, the Slasher can easily run a Small Energy Neutralizer, which should let you shut off their afterburner in a cycle or two. You can’t run it permanently in this fit, but you shouldn’t need to.
  • Damage. The Slasher boasts about 65% of the Atron’s damage output, but you can afford to be patient — with superior tackle to the Atron, the ship isn’t going anywhere, and eventually the farmer will run out of cap boosters… bring lots of ammo.

I generally prefer my ships to be a little more versatile than this — these builds aren’t good for much but the job I’ve laid out here, as they are too fragile for proper PvP and somewhat too easy for bigger ships to blow up in a fleet environment — however, I could easily see myself spending an evening banging around the war zone in a ship like this, terrorizing farmers, freeing Merlins from ignoble service, and humming a jaunty tune. It would be fun.

And really, what more can you ask?

Life in EvE: How to Stop Sucking the Joy out of Faction Warfare, You Piece of Crap #eveonline

So when I started out in Faction Warfare, these were my impressions:

  1. Good place to get some small gang or solo pvp experience.
  2. Decent place to make some ISK, especially if you didn’t mind running the missions, but even if you didn’t do that, a decent way to get paid by capturing enemy complexes.
  3. A great entry-level activity for new players, thanks to the low barrier to entry on a lot of the FW-related activities.

So… yeah. Two out of three isn’t bad, I suppose. Pity I was mostly wrong about #1.
Here’s the problem.

Due to the way Faction Warfare rewards are handed out for various activities right now, and because of the way those activities are accomplished, it turns out Faction Warfare is (until the Winter Expansion drops) one of the most profitable PvE activities in the game — requiring little effort, little time invested for each payment, and very little investment in terms of ships — you can make great money with your main character, and good money with an alt only a few days old, flying a very cheap ship (the downside to making this part of EvE accessible to new players is that it’s easily exploited by experienced players with a low-skill alt).

This situation has attracted a lot of people who are only there to make ISK and have no interest in PvP. Further (and worse), it encourages those players who would be interested in PvP to avoid it in the short-term so they can make hay while the sun shines — raking in piles of ISK before the changes in the Winter Expansion come out.

My impression of Faction Warfare — the way I thought things would work, and the way I honestly believe they are intended to work — was something like this:

  • High-level FW Missions, though fairly repetive, boring, and requiring a slightly more expensive ship investment (and a fragile ship easily destroyed by bad luck or misadventure to boot), pay out well enough that an hour or two of that a week easily pays for your PvP.
  • Offensive and Defensive Complex capturing, while a decent source of income, are best as a way to stick a flag in the ground, fire up a flare, and say: “Here I am, come and get me,” with the added bonus that you wouldn’t get mobbed by a crowd of ships that vastly outclass your own.
  • System ‘sovereignty’ changes lead to larger fleet activities as systems are attacked or defended.

In short, a great place to get fairly low-commitment PVP with regular fights, in a more varied and tactical experience than a bunch of station undock and up-shipping games.

The reality:

  • High-level FW Missions are farmed for hours upon hours, day after day, by people who pull in tens of billions of ISK in any given week, because if running them for an hour or two covers PvP for a couple weeks, running them constantly is a way to get filthy rich. For all intents and purposes, these full-time mission farmers aren’t even part of the war — they contribute nothing.
  • Ninety-five percent of Offensive Complex capturing is done by unskilled alts in cheap frigates designed to fly very fast, repair enough damage to ignore all the NPC attackers in the complex, and warp away if any players try to engage them — which of course they want to do, because they have no guns fit to their ships.  Their only purpose is to rake in rewards for capturing plexes and get paid.
  • Defensive Plexing doesn’t happen.
  • No one give a tin shit about system sovereignty changes, barring one or two ‘home’ systems where larger alliances stow all their ships.  When such systems need to be defended, only those larger alliances are involved, and if you aren’t part of those alliances (but are part of the Faction), you’re left on the outside looking in, uninvited and largely unable to participate.

I can’t solve any of those problems. I have some small hope that the updates coming with the Winter Expansion will address some of it, but in the meantime…

Well, no, there is one thing I can try to do; I can try to help out those players who would like to PvP, but who are running complexes in non-combat-fit ships simply because that’s what 95% of the plex-runners do, and they figure that’s what they should do, rather than actually fly a ship that can survive the complex capture and still remain viable for PvP.

How Does I Shot War Tragets?
I’ve never run a complex in a ship that wasn’t capable of engaging in PvP, and because the ships are all cheap and fun to fly, I pretty much fly whatever race’s ships catch my fancy that day.

Since I’m flying a lot of different kinds of ships, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, I can’t just copy the same fit from ship to ship. Instead, I have certain criteria I try to meet with each ship.

  1. Afterburners > Microwarpdrives. There are exceptions to this (interceptors), but in general most small ships make themselves more vulnerable to incoming damage/easier to hit if they’re running a microwarpdrive. Yes, a microwarpdrive makes you go faster, and that seems like a good thing when you’re ‘speed tanking’, but most speed tanking is actually ‘signature tanking’ or ‘moving at a good clip while keeping your silhouette small’, and Microwarpdrives fail hard at that second part. So: Afterburners.
  2. Active Repair Tank. This doesn’t have to be a very strong active tank, if you’d prefer to just have a fat buffer of hit points, but you do need to be able to patch yourself up at least a little bit as you go, because you WILL get hit a little bit by the NPCs in the complexes, and if a player engages you, you don’t want to start the fight beat up.
  3. Put some fucking guns on. Man up and get in the fight. In fact, one of your main goals is a fit that is reasonably viable for PvP while still being capable of the modicum of PvE required to capture a plex.
  4. Have a way to reduce the heat from NPCs, if it becomes a problem. Since you actually want to be able to fight if someone engages, you can’t make the ultimate, gimped, super-fast, speed-tank, non-combat, run-away frigate. This means that you might actually get tagged every so often by NPC enemies, and that can become a problem if they build up a lot as you capture the complex. Therefore, as you pick out your weaponry, try to have some kind of option for taking out the more troublesome of the enemy NPCs. Ironically, the tougher the complexes get, the less this becomes an issue, because the big ships in the bigger complexes can’t usually hit your little frigate. That too will change with the winter expansion, to which I can only say “about time”.

So with that covered, here are some suggestions.

[Merlin, FW Med Anc Booster Rails]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II

J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster, Cap Booster 50
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

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

There are lots of ways to fit a merlin — it’s a wonderfully versatile ship, but I have some criteria to meet, if you remember:

  1. Afterburners/Speed. Check. Although its tank depends on shields, the signature of the Merlin stays fairly small. It’s not the fastest ship I’ll mention, but it clips along at just short of 1000 meters per second, which mitigates a great deal of damage.
  2. Active Repair Tank. The inherent damage resists in the Merlin make it a great shield tanker, and a medium ancillary shield booster is more than enough to patch up incidental damage, and then go into overdrive during a proper PvP fight.
  3. PvP-viable. This isn’t a typical, “pure” PvP-fit for a Merlin (which usually features blasters instead of long-range railguns), but it still works well enough, considering you’re trying to serve two masters. The idea is to get both the warp scrambler and the webifier on your opponent, so as to cut his speed and hold him at arm’s length — about 6 to 8 kilometers — where you can plink away with your railguns and stay out of the effective range of their (presumably short-range, hard hitting) weapons. Works well against blasters, rockets, and auto-cannons. Pulse lasers are your bane (as they can put their full damage on you from right in your sweet spot), and light missiles and Artillery-fit Thrashers can be a real problem unless you maintain sufficient range and plink away from very long range with Spike ammo to drive them off.
  4. Have a way to reduce the heat from NPCs, if it becomes a problem. This is easy with rails, as it is with most longer-range weapon systems. Wait for the NPCs to get close (<15km) if you’re using short-range ammo, or pop NPC frigates with Spike ammo when they get any closer than about 35 kilometers. They’ll never get a proper hit on you.

[Incursus, Incursus: Dual repper]
Small Armor Repairer II
Small Armor Repairer II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
Warp Scrambler II
Small Capacitor Booster II, Cap Booster 200

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

Hobgoblin II x1

This is far more of a standard PvP fit, which just happens to work beautifully for capturing complexes.

  1. Afterburners/Speed. Check. Although the armor rigs on the Incursus make it a bit slower than a Merlin, the fact you aren’t puffing up your shields make you an even smaller target.
  2. Active Repair Tank. Holy cow can this thing tank. Although running both repair modules (or even one module full time) will empty out your capacitor fairly quickly, you don’t need to do more than pulse a single repper every so often to keep up with incoming NPC damage, and when a player engages, you can bring both online, start using your Cap Booster, and tank pretty much any ship in your class.
  3. PvP Viable. A dual rep Incursus tanks extremely well – around 170dps before overheating, which with the cap booster it can sustain for … well, longer than any frigate fight should take. The downside is, you give up a web to pull this off, which means you might struggle to get in close and melt face as the gods intended.
  4. Have a way to reduce the heat from NPCs, if it becomes a problem. Although the blasters on this thing make it very unlikely you’ll want to run around killing NPCs directly, you have a single scout drone, which should be enough to take out frigate NPCs, which are the only things that will hit you with much regularity.

[Atron, ASB AB Rails Atron]
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II
Overdrive Injector System II

1MN Afterburner II
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster, Cap Booster 50
J5 Prototype Warp Disruptor I

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

I don’t have much to say about this Atron, really, except that it works well enough. I put rails on it so it can kite and fight at long ranges with a long-range point, since at close range the shield fit will make you feel the absence of a web to control range on your opponent. I tried an active armor tank, but it doesn’t do enough to keep up with the NPCs and gimps the speed on the ship too much. Left as-is, it works, it’s quite fast, and gives you the option to get out if things start to look really bad. Basically, you fly it like the Merlin, above, except you fly about 500 meters/second faster, aren’t as tough, and don’t have the web to help you hold range. Fly accordingly. (I like Atrons a lot, I don’t love this particular fit, but it works well enough. I’d welcome other fits viable for plexing + PvP.)

Still, if I was going to go with a really fast shield tanked frigate, I’d prefer…

[Slasher, FW-Frigate]
F85 Peripheral Damage System I
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Medium Ancillary Shield Booster, Cap Booster 50
1MN Afterburner II
Warp Scrambler II
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
5W Infectious Power System Malfunction

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

Sweet fancy Moses, but this thing flies. 1500+ meters/second. The tank isn’t as hardcore as the merlin, but almost nothing will get a solid hit on you. With short-range guns and no drones, clearing out frigate NPCs is a problem — until the Winter Expansion changes come, this is a frigate that would rather be in a medium or Major complex, rather than a frigate-heavy Minor.

I find the ship very flexible for PvP (I’ve got double handfuls of these ships around, featuring a ton of variations). This particular fit wants to get in very close in most cases (excepting blaster-wielding opponents), and it’s generally fast enough to do that, then hold them right where you want them.

Best of all, you can run every single module on the ship, full time, including the energy neutralizer, and your capacitor remains stable. That neut will ruin the day of almost any other frigate you meet.

[Tormentor, FW Plex]
Small Armor Repairer II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
Small Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Cap Booster 200

Medium Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Medium Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Medium Pulse Laser II, Scorch S

Small Anti-Kinetic Pump I
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

Warrior II x2

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually flown this one yet, because the changes to lasers in the winter expansion will change how this fitting works, so just a few notes:

It doesn’t tank as much as the Incursus, obviously, but the tank isn’t bad, and it’s more than enough for either pulsing to keep your tank up versus NPCs, or for the brief flurry of violence that characterizes most frigate fights. You make up for the lighter reps with much better damage projection than the Incursus: two drones (great for NPC clearing), plus pulse lasers (Scorch ammo optional) let you push your damage out very well (10+km with Scorch, which is damn good for ‘short range’ guns.)

Yes, I know it doesn’t have a scram on. Play around with it if you like, but you’ll have wait for the fitting requirements on the Lasers to drop in the winter expansion before it will fit. My theory with the web is that it will slow down the opponent and let the lasers hit hard, hopefully killing them before they realize they’re in trouble and try to get out, because frigate fights are so fast.

Is it a perfect fit? No.

Is it better than flying something with no fucking guns on, where your only PvP option is to run away?

I’m not even going to answer that.

Grab a ship.

Grab your guns.

Have some fun.

Butterfly Effect

The Mittani news site reports that one of the four people killed in an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya was Sean Smith, known in Eve as Vile Rat, one of the old-guard Goonfleet members, probably one of the group’s best known diplomats, and member of the generally well-regarded sixth Council of Stellar Management, a player-elected group that brings player concerns to CCP, face to face.

In short, he was a guy who helped steer the helm of the one of the most influential groups in the game, interacted with all the other influential groups in the game, and represented player concerns to CCP. If you played EvE, odds are he said or did something that affected you every time you logged in, whether you knew it or not; whether you cared or not.

The internet is a weird place, and EvE no less so. I didn’t know this man, and my only interaction with Vile Rat was shooting at him a couple times last year when he flew through Curse on his way somewhere else. But I still found myself touched and a little misty as I read through memorials and eulogy posts by those who knew him better. He touched a lot of people, he was by all accounts a stand-up guy, he had a wife and family who were happy to fly with him to Iceland when he had to do internet-famous things, and he served in more than a few locations around the world that forced him to log out suddenly with nothing more than “Shit. Gunfire.” —  The quiet heroism of those who choose to serve their country despite the risks.

Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Let’s play a Game

Just because (a) I’m super busy right now and (b) this little quiz (via Reddit) has been running around in my head all day. Here we go:


You’re going to spend 10 years in a 10×10 foot cell. The cell has the most basic facilities; a toilet, cold running water from a tap, a thin mattress and a light. Everyday a basic ration of food is delivered through a small hatch. There is no way to escape this cell. Before you enter you are given 30 credits to spend on some of the following items.

  • Access to a basic gym. It contains a rowing machine, treadmill and several free weights. [10 Credits]
  • A window. The window overlooks a lake. It does not open and you cannot break the glass. [3 Credits]
  • A comfortable bed. Memory Foam Mattress, a quilt and two comfortable pillows. Sheets are washed weekly and delivered through the hatch. [6 Credits]
  • Unlimited alcohol. Either beer or spirits available through a second tap. You must choose what drink you want before you enter the cell and cannot change your selection. Mixer available for spirits. [8 Credits]
  • 42″ TV. You can select 1 TV station to view. You must choose what station you want before you enter the cell and cannot change your selection. [6 Credits]
  • PS3/Xbox360/Wii. You may select one current generation console and 10 games. You must have a TV to play these on. [6 Credits]
  • Gaming PC. You can select 10 games. The computer has no internet connection. [10 Credits]
  • 100 Books. You can choose your selection. [7 Credits]
  • Unlimited takeaway food. Whenever you want you could get McDonalds’, KFC, Burger King, Subway, or any other food from a fast food restaurant. [10 Credits]
  • A companion. Another person to spend the time with. You may choose the sex of the person and general age. [15 Credits]
  • 32GB MP3 player and speakers. Loaded with your favorite music. [5 Credits]
  • Tennis ball. Think of the fun you can have! [2 Credits]
  • Fleshlight and unlimited lube. Vibrator if you’re a lady. [5 Credits]
  • Glory hole. Insert penis, receive blow job! Opposite for the ladies. [6 Credits]
  • Netflix. You must have a TV or PC to view it on. As new films are released they will be available to view. [2 Credits]
  • A cat. The cat will receive as much food and vetcare as it needs. [5 Credits]
  • A dog. Mans best friend. The dog will receive as much food and vetcare as it needs. [4 Credits]
  • Access to a read only archive of Reddit. [2 Credits]
  • Hot water. Available in a shower cubical attached to the cell. [3 Credits]
  • Access to a garden. The garden is the same size as the cell. It is surrounded by 15ft walls which are impossible to climb over and escape. [9 Credits]
  • Double the cell space. Have a bit more room to live in. [4 Credits]
  • Get out 1 year early. You may buy as many of these as you like. [4 Credits]
  • $2million when you leave. You may buy as many of these as you like. [3 Credits]
  • Healthcare. If you get ill, whether it’s a cold or full blown cancer, you will receive the best medical care possible. [5 Credits]
  • Youth. Don’t age a day while inside the cell. [5 Credits]
  • Knowledge. You will have the chance to study for 6 hours every day in a subject of your choice. A tutor will be available once a week. [7 Credits]
  • Guitar. A guide to how to play is included if you don’t know how. [6 Credits]
  • Leave immediately card. You can use this to leave the cell straight away. However you will forfeit your ability to see. You’ll be free but blind. You can choose whether or not to use this item. [1 Credit]

So: what do you pick and why?

I’ll post my answer in a few days, so as not to skew replies.

Life in Eve: Faction Warfare Tools

Following a conversation with a fellow Eve player after one of my readings last week, I realized I’ve dug up a fair amount of information about how Faction Warfare works, and that it might be useful for any players looking to check it out. Here we go:

Basic Guides

Maps

  • You’ll want to keep an eye on what’s happening in the warzone, and who controls what systems. The easiest way to do that is via dotlan, which keeps API-updated maps on the Amarr vs. Minmatar warzone, as well as the Caldari vs. Gallente.
  • One thing the dotlan maps don’t show particularly well, though, are the systems where the Faction Warfare corporations have offices (and, thus, where you can trade in Loyalty Points and pick up missions). Luckily, there are static maps for that, one for Minmatar-Amarr, and one for Caldari-Gallente.

Knowing Who to Shoot At
As with any other PvP activity, one of the most important things you need to do is make sure your Overview isn’t completely useless. I found very little on this initially, and simply muddled around with the PvP overviews I was already using, with a few changes in the priority of displayed information. Although fairly basic, this image (which I was shown quite a bit later) is a decent starting point for new pilots adjusting their overview settings — every little bit helps.

… and that’s about it. There are a few guides from sites like Eve University that I haven’t mentioned, but they’re easy enough to dig up, and honestly don’t add much in my opinion. If you want to check them out, I’m sure you can find them.

Good hunting!

My Reddit “Ask Me Anything” is Today!

Like the title says, today (well, at 7pm central) I will be on Reddit answering All The Things during an AMA or “Ask Me Anything.”

The basic idea is quite simple. I make a post to start things off, the ENTIRE INTERNET shows up and asks me stuff, and this evening I answer their questions.

If you have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).

If you do not have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to make one and then drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).

So: possibility of free stuff for the low low price of bugging me on the internet. WHERE IS THE DOWNSIDE?

Hidden Things Release Week News

Things are going to be very crazy around Casa Testerman this week, and rather than just going radio silent, I figured I’d at least let you guys know what’s going on.

So Hidden Things officially releases tomorrow — I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people telling me that they’ve gotten notification their preorders are on the way, which is both very scary and very exciting. There have been quite a few reviews posted already (more on that in another post), but obviously that doesn’t compare to the number of people about to put their eyeballs on the story — I really have no idea what the end result of all that is going to be, so I’m going to focus on what’s going on right now.

“Right Now” Means…

Today, the Once and Future Podcast has a new podcast up, and it’s me, talking about Hidden Things! Well, it’s me and Anton Stout, and we’re talking about Hidden Things, Adrift, writing, City of Heroes, Tolkein, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, MMOs, fan fiction, lego, Skylanders, tabletop gaming, dice obsessions, and pretty much every other nerdy thing you can pack into an hour and ten minutes.

Wednesday, I will be reading and talking and signing books at the Tattered Cover, a great Colorado indie bookstore. This will be my first public reading, ever, which means I will probably screw it up in some kind of hilarious fashion, and you should totally stop by to point and laugh and post pictures on Facebook.

Thursday, I will be doing an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit’s r/Fantasy, organized by the fine moderators of that subreddit. I will have more about this as we get closer to go-time, but as a pretty rabid redditor I have to say that I’m incredibly geeked-out and excited about this, and I sincerely hope THE ENTIRE INTERNET shows up to ask me questions about… you know… whatever. I mean, it’s supposed to be about writing, and Hidden Things and probably NaNoWriMo and gaming stuff but… whatever.

Thursday will also see me drop by for an interview with Chuck Wendig on terribleminds.com (direct link when it goes up), which will include a short story that I’ll be hosting here. Also, I’ll be countering his baseless slander and accusations with an interview of my own, with Chuck, posted up here on the same day.

Friday, I’ll be doing a reading/signing up at Fireside Books in Fort Collins, another great indie bookseller. I’m excited about this one as well, especially since I really have no idea what to expect from this event, in terms of visitors and audience.

Next week, I’ll also be over at the Qwillery as part of their 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

The object of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge is for participants to read at least 12 debut novels during 2012 – one from each month of the year though you may read them anytime between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

(Last week, Hidden Things won the Qwillery’s 2012 Debut Author Challenge August “Cover Wars”, which I’m really happy about even though I had nothing to do with it — it’s just cool that other people liked it as much as I do.)

That’s it for now — I’m still trying to sort out September events coming up, but stay tuned.

Funcertainty

This is sort of a general gaming post, though it’ll end up talking about EvE very specifically at the end, which is only fair since EvE is where this whole line of thought began.

A few days ago I was doing an interview with Anton Strout for the Once and Future Podcast and (because the ‘cast is equal parts about writing and the rabid nerdity of the guests) Anton asked me when I first got my start with gaming.

For the sake of my own dignity, I won’t get into hard numbers, but my answer involved the novelization of the movie E.T., and me begging my mom to buy me the pink DnD boxed set from the Sears catalog. It was a while back, is what I’m saying.

On the long march between then and now, I ran a lot of bad games, for which I will make few apologies, because at the time I don’t think any of us realized they were bad games. Me and my high school gaming buddies (who dodged typical mid-eighties nerd hazing by also being most of the starting offensive line for the varsity football team) might have gotten the rules wrong as we stomped through Castle Ravenloft, but that didn’t stop it from being a good time. Monsters were vanquished, horrors were driven from their places of power, and the village graveyard acquired more than a few fresh headstones in the process, each marble slab engraved with the name of a beloved player character (levels 3-5) who’d failed a save against poison, fear, or (most often) death.

Thing is, getting a rule wrong was never (directly) what made the game bad. After all, when you’re talking about a game (any game) the only real qualifier for “bad” is “not fun.” Misruling could lead to that, sure, but most of the time, a lack of fun came from two places:

  • Something social, outside the game itself.
  • The absence of uncertainty.

I’m not going to talk about the Social thing right now — that’s well-traveled ground. I do want to talk about that second thing.

Ask any gamer about the best moments they’ve had in their gaming, and you will usually hear a story about some nail-biting conflict.

My crazy barbarian decides to try to trip the dragon he and his allies are fighting, despite horrible odds — and it worked.

My buddy’s knight takes on an evil paladin wielding a sword that can kill him with a single unlucky hit, and the fight comes down to a mutually fatal roll of the dice.

Our team has to hold the western flank against the the advancing Imperial forces on Hoth to give the transports time to escape, then get away themselves… by stealing Vadar’s shuttle.

Good times.

You know what no one’s likely to mention?

“This one time, I walked into a room full of 50 goblins with crossbows, but my Armor Class was so good they couldn’t hit me and I just used Great Cleave and killed all of them in like… two turns.”

“I walked into this hook-and-chain trap that was supposed to do a bunch of damage to a group of people, but it was just me, so the damage for a whole group hit just me and basically turned me into a pile of giblets, instantly.”

“We tried to talk the King into letting us do something, but we couldn’t convince him, because the GM had something different planned.” 1

I think you can see the core difference between those examples, but I point it out anyway.

Certainty.

In my opinion, certainty is the death of fun in most any game, and it may be one of the things that separate “games” from “sport” (where certainty of victory comes via skill and ability and lots of hard work, and is justifiably celebrated).

If you’re on the winning side of things, certainty is boring. The classic example of that is the old “Monty Haul” campaign, where the GM is basically there to make sure you find all the treasure he put in the dungeon, and never have to feel the sting of defeat. Fun as a powertrip, maybe, for awhile, but ultimately coma-inducing.

If you’re on the losing side of things, certainty is — at best — frustrating. When there’s no chance at all of success, even the ‘live to fight another day’ kind, then you might as well check out of the whole thing now and save the time you’d otherwise waste on caring about the outcome.

Over many (many) years of gaming, I’ve managed to figure out (one situation at a time) when something I was doing was killing fun by making the results (good or bad) a foregone conclusion. (Sometimes this was a question of mechanics; sometimes it was a question of “the inviolate plot.”) It also helped me identify what was going wrong when I wasn’t having fun as a player, both at a table or online.

Slamming my head against the same raid boss over and over, when it’s clear we don’t have the right group or the proper gear to succeed? Not fun.

Fighting that same raid boss when we’re this close to pulling off a win, and every attempt might go for us or the bad guys? Exhilarating.

Farming that boss once we have all the best gear, know the fight backwards and forwards, and all the surprises are gone? Boring.

Wandering around the newbie starter zone with my max-level character, picking flowers to level my Herbalism? Boring.

Sneaking through a zone 10 or 20 levels too high for me, running for my life in an effort to get a specific location or find a special macguffin? Fun!

Getting insta-killed out of nowhere when you unknowingly walk your new character into a high-level PvP zone? Frustrating.

I think we get the point. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re running or playing a game in which you have any kind of input (usually tabletop, but not always). Are you bored? Add challenge to what you’re doing by changing the choices you make. Are you hopelessly frustrated by never-ending failures? Change things up, or take a break, right?

So let’s talk about EvE
First, EvE PvE content — from missions to mining to exploration — is pretty terrible.

Now, maybe (probably) it doesn’t seem terrible when you first start playing the game, because you don’t know enough to realize how very (very) certain the outcome of any PvE mission content in the game really is; you don’t know how much DPS you need to be able to tank to survive a mission, and even if you do, you may not know how (or simply be unable) to fit your ship in a way that will achieve that threshold. Your lack of knowledge provides the uncertainty that is not otherwise present. 2

Once you know much at all about the game, though, you start to see the reality of the situation. The groups are always exactly the same size. They always do pretty much exactly the same amount of damage. They always aggress the first person they see, they never switch their aggression to another person (unless the first one leaves). Once you have the situation worked out — once you know how to approach it, it’s about as challenging as your fiftieth game of Minesweeper.3 The ‘best’ PvE in the game (Sleepers and Incursions) injects a bare amount of uncertainty with randomly switching aggro, which is still pretty hopeless. Almost any other MMO you care to name (even those that predate EvE) have long since worked on more advanced combat AIs.

“But the PvP in EvE is so much better than everyone else: completely emergent, completely unpredictable, completely uncertain!”

Maybe.

Yes, a big part of the draw in EvE is the PvP (whether it’s PvP with bullets, tactics, or the infamous metagaming). Even if you don’t personally seek out PvP, it’s still a factor in your play, because once you undock, someone else can shoot you. They might choose not too because of the potential consequences, but they always have that option. Always. There isn’t a one hundred percent safe, PvP-free zone anywhere in space. (Hell, for that matter, you’re not entirely safe from PvP even if you never undock and just work the market all day — Market PvP is a very real thing in EvE, but I digress.)

For as long as there has been PvP in EvE, there have been people bitching about the PvP. A lot of that kvetching and moaning (on both sides of every subject) has do with mechanics like ECM or the ever-present accusations that this or that tactic or practice is “dishonorable”, “ruins the game”, or removes any chance of a “good fight.”

Dishonorable. What a word! Simultaneously loaded with drama and completely meaningless in any debate involving more than one person. 😛

You can kind of sort out what most of the people using the term intend when they say it, though.

“Your actions have removed all questions of skill, choice, and your opponent’s actions from the equation, ensuring your victory.”

Put another way.

“You have removed all uncertainty.”

Put another way.

“You’ve taken everything that makes a game fun out of this situation.”

Now, that’s a comment that’s likely going to earn you a lock of mockery in EvE (which is why no one says it that way). The leader of one of the biggest groups the game is famously quoted as saying “We’re not trying to ruin the game, we’re trying to ruin your game.” Tell those guys that they’re taking away the elements of the game that make it fun for other people, and they’d probably exchange high-fives and another round of Jagerbombs.

But let’s ignore the walking embodiment of the John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory for a moment, and just look at the basics here.

EvE is a game.

A game’s primary purpose is to provide fun.

Fun in a game (unlike fun in sport) arises from a sense of uncertainty.

Removing uncertainty removes fun.

What’s the kind of stuff that removes that uncertainty?

  1. Overwhelming force.

Actually? I can stop there. There are lots of ways in which “overwhelming force” is expressed in the game (attacking a group of 5 with a group of 20 (if only: 1 vs 100 is just as common), shipping up, a impenetrable wall of ECM, logistics support for a ‘casual roam’, et cetera, et cetera), and pretty much all of it takes place in the game with the specific goal of ensuring victory.

Is that a bad thing? No, not if the goal is winning, which is a goal I completely understand. EvE is a costly game in terms of time and resources — when you lose, you really lose stuff, so people often forget (or forego) “what would be fun” in favor of whatever the best way is to mitigate risk.

I’m not going to say that this is bad for the game. In a lot of ways, it’s what makes EvE what it is, and I like what it is.

However.

If you find yourself frustrated by the game, may I suggest taking a step back and looking at your current style of play.

Is it possible that the reason that you’re not having much fun is simply because you’ve methodically removed the elements that make a game fun?

Uncertainty is fun.

Uncertainty comes from risk.

As an experiment:

  • Distance yourself in some way from groups that treat ship losses an inherently bad thing.
  • Release your death grip on “Killboard Efficiency.”
  • If fights are always boring, maybe bring fewer people. Or leave the ECM or the off-grid boosting alts (or both) at home.
  • Take a fight when the outcome isn’t clear.

It’s hard to do.

It’s hard to do even when it’s just you — it’s even harder when you’re making decisions for a whole group of people.

Going back to my tabletop roots, it’s damned hard as the GM to take the plunge and start rolling all the dice out in the open and letting things go on without that safety net of secretly fudging a potentially fatal roll. I mean, OMG: what if your dice get hot and you kill the dude one of your guys has been playing for two years?

Similarly, what if your decision costs your fleetmate his 2 billion isk strategic cruiser?

Most people don’t know what would happen, because they don’t have the guts to risk it.

But what a story they’d have if they did.


1 – This is, incidentally, why I prefer to roll dice to determine the outcome of social conflicts, rather than let “pure role-playing” determine the outcome. No matter how mature or unbiased we claim to be, that sort of ‘system’ is one highly susceptible to out-of-game social maneuvering of various kinds, the least harmful of which is the simple fact that if you know the GM well enough, you know exactly what argument will convince them to let you win. It’s the same reason I don’t like playing Apples to Apples with my best friends anymore — there’s absolutely no challenge to it; we know each other too well. Roll the dice, and enjoy the fact that the outcome may not be what you expected.

2 – This is what I call the Chutes and Ladders syndrome: Chutes and Ladders is a terrible, boring game… unless you’re too young too realize it’s terrible, at which point you probably think it’s the Best Game Ever.

3 – Mining is even worse. Barring the possibility of being jumped by a random player (which isn’t part of the mining system itself), there is no variation at all: ask any serious miner how much he can mine in an hour, and he will be able to give you an answer down to the second decimal point for every type of ore available. I don’t know what ‘injecting uncertainty’ into the baseline mining experience looks like, but it’s what needs to happen to make it suck less.

Life in EvE: Shirt Off My Back #eveonline

“You bought a shirt?” CB’s voice on comms is muddled, as if he can’t decide between a mocking tone and something that conveys more disgust.

“Two shirts,” I correct him as I check the map of the local constellation. “Let’s head for Floseswin via Gallente space — there’s usually some Amarr hitting complexes back there.”

“On it.” His ship, a mirror to my own Thrasher-class destroyer, comes about and aligns to the next gate. “So what are you going to do with two hundred-million isk shirts?”

“They didn’t cost that much, with the discount the TLF had at the time,” I reply. “More like 25 million.”

CB fills our channel with a string of profanity that last most of the way through the 63 AU warp across the system. “Who the fuck pays 25 million isk for a shirt?”

“Well…” I drawl. “Someone who intends to sell them for… more than that.”

He pauses. “How much more?”

“The thing is, these things are really rare outside the Militia. Hell, they’re rare inside the militia.”

“That’s not exactly hard to understand.”

“Right. Anyway, hardly anyone picks them out and then puts them back out on the public market, so I figure they won’t move very fast, but if someone’s looking for some fancy outfit that no one else will have –”

“– for those incredibly common times when we’re out of our ships and socializing?”

“I don’t know — people with too much money spend it on stupid shit just to say they have it. Jump gate on contact and swing over to Isbrabata.”

“Copy that.” His ship warps off, and I continue through the Aset system. “So how much did you put them on the market for?”

“That was tricky,” I say. “No one had ever sold them on the market before, so I kind of had to guess how much some rich idiot would be willing to pay.”

“Fascinating,” CB deadpans. “How much did you list them for?”

“I tried to check the Jita market, but with the Caldari shooting me on site whenever I swing into their system, it was kind of hard to do –”

“How much,” he growls, “did you list them for?”

“Two hundred fifty million,” I answer. “A piece.”

He makes sputtering sounds into his comms. “You think anyone –”

“Break break,” I cut in. “Got an Ishtar on scan.” I hit the directional scan again, but the ship is gone. “Crap, he’s going the other way. Jump back to Avenod.”

“I’m two jumps out.”

“That’s fine, it’s just to get in front of him. I have to get turned around first.” I land on my destination gate, cancel the gate jump, spin the ship around and warp back the other direction.

“Which one’s the Ishtar?”

“Ishkur,” I correct him.

“You said Ishtar.”

“Did I?” I frowned. “Well, I meant Ishkur. It’s that Incursus variant with all the drones. Tough little assault frigate. He might be willing to take us on, or I can get him engaged and tackled before you get there. Something.”

“Can we take him?”

“Probably, though he’ll likely blow up whichever of us snags him first.” Our destroyers were fit for short, brutal engagements ending in explosions — either ours or someone else’s — the Ishkur was tough enough to drag the fight out and get through one of our ships. Probably not both, though.

Probably. I grin. As always, it was the uncertainty of a fight that made the whole thing worth it.

“Jumping into Avenod.” There’s a flash on my overview, gone almost as soon as I see it. “He was right here. I think he just opened a major complex in here. Ballsy. Warping up there.”

“Landing on my gate. Want me to jump in?”

My ship enters warp. “Yeah. I’ll land and –” I frown as I drop out of warp at short range, eyeing our target ship’s silhouette. “That’s weird, it looks like Vexoooooh… oh. Shit.” I laugh into the mic as the Ishtar heavy assault cruiser — the Ishkur’s bigger, badder brother — disgorges a flight of drones in my direction; one of the probably half-dozen or so flights he can field before the ship runs low. “Cancel that. Don’t warp. Target’s not an Ishkur. It’s an Ishtar.”

“I told you that’s what you said.”

I laugh again, shaking my head and readying my warp commands to get my escape pod out as my fragile destroyer melts in the face of the far heavier ship’s firepower. As the explosion rocks me free of the wreckage, I switch to the star system’s public comms for a moment.

Ty > Good fight! Thought you were a little ol’ Ishkur… Whoops!
Maren > Ahh… yeah, I just thought you were just being really aggressive.

“I’m laughing my ass off at you right now,” CB says as I warp out and set course to pick up a new ship. “I thought you should know.”

“I am too,” I grin. “Ahh well. Good start to the night’s roam. What shall I blow up now?”

“Whatever you like, I guess,” CB replied. “You can pay for it with those shirts, if they ever sell.”

“Oh,” I replied. “See, that’s the punchline.”

Silence. Then: “They already sold?”

“Yup. Not right away, but pretty fast.” I shrug. “I priced them too low, I guess. Still, half a billion off a couple shirts isn’t bad.”

“Who –” CB cuts himself off. “Okay, hurry up and get back here. I really need to shoot somebody.”


So yeah:

  • I was so used to seeing frigates and other small ships that my brain convinced me an Ishtar was an Ishkur. Whoops. Still, it was pretty funny.
  • People will pay stupid amounts of money for rare things.
  • You can actually put those special clothing items on, wear them awhile and then, if you get bored with the look, remove them and they drop right back into your items hangar in whatever station you’re in. Which means you can then sell them. So… if you recently spent 250 million on a black and red uniform shirt that smelled a little… used? Sorry about that.

Life in Eve: Two Months in the War #eveonline

Ty’s currently at 2 months and 2 days with the small corp he and CB formed solely to take into Faction Warfare and, if memory serves, that means it’s been exactly 2 months since we joined up. I’m inclined to take a look back and see how things have gone.

PvP Experience and Enjoyment
This is, ostensibly, what I wanted to get into the whole thing for, so how’s that been going?

June was definitely a learning month; all told, I was on two kills for the month and lost seven ships (six of which had something to do with Faction Warfare (the seventh was just me running around nullsec in a Talos until I blew the thing up).

With that said, I learned a lot from those losses, and June also marked my first small gang roam with a FW group (netting a fine battlecruiser kill), and my first solo kill, ever. Pretty hard to complain about that.

Killboard efficiency is vastly overrated, in my opinion, but it’s hard not to be pretty happy with both July and August. I turned around the numbers from June and have managed to maintain a 3:1 kill ratio and a stupidly lopsided ISK destroyed to ISK lost ratio (thanks to flying frigates and other cheap ships), in addition to getting a couple more solo kills and FCing a fleet for hilarious results. Again, I don’t really care about the numbers, but it’s nice to look at the big picture as well as review fights and review my many mistakes. 🙂 (In all seriousness: I don’t lose less ISK if I destroy someone else’s ship, so who cares what my “ISK efficiency” is? Meaningless number.)

Income
The Faction Warfare screens are accessed in-game by drilling down into the “Business” menu, and that’s no accident — a lot of folks are there solely to make ISK, and though it’s a secondary concern for me (I make more than enough from Planetary Interaction Colonies), you’re going to make a fair amount of money even if you don’t pay it much attention and just “try everything”, as I like to do. In the last two months I’ve netted (not grossed) several billion isk from Faction Warfare as a result of truly, TRULY desultory money making effort on my part (easily less than ten percent of the time I’ve spent on FW, total), including cashing out my loyalty points at the “wrong” tier almost every time.1 On a minute-to-minute basis, there is simply nothing else I’ve done in the game that makes as much ISK in such short, discrete, instant-on chunks of time.

People will argue about whether the small gang and solo pvp is a bonus feature of Faction Warfare money making activities, or if it’s the other way around, but it hardly matters — if you want both, and plan for both, you’re going to be pretty happy with the results.

Social
This is slower going, due to the necessary and justified paranoia that runs through Faction Warfare, but I’ve gotten fairly familiar with a couple groups, and can jump on (or ignore) their nightly shenanigans with zero drama. That ‘social curve’ is steeper than what a typical MMO player might expect (unless you’re joining up with friends), but the rewards are worth it for me.

Overall
You know, the fact of the matter is, I didn’t blog about EvE all last week because I was too busy playing EvE. I suppose that says a lot right there, and mercuryapp.com (which I use to take down the notes that eventually become blog posts) reflects my satisfaction with the last sixty days.

After a year or more in Wormholes (which, while fun, almost always require extensive scanning preceding any kind of organized activity, and ongoing scanning throughout said activity), the fact that I can log in, hop in a ship, undock, do something, fight someone, and make twenty to sixty million isk — all within 15 to 30 minutes — is a huge draw for me, especially right now.

In my opinion, Faction Warfare may be the best “mixed-discipline” activity in the game for a new player coming into EvE Online for the first time, though RvB and EvE Uni have a better infrastructure built in for training new pilots the ins and outs of the game. I’d highly recommend it for that new player, or any more experienced player looking for something different to try out.


1 – Can you make more money doing other things in EvE? Sure. Can you do it in ten-minute chunks of time, solo, in a tech 1 frigate or a cheap bomber? No.