Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (2/?)

So here’s the premise:

  1. PvE mission content in Eve comprises some of the weakest PvE content in any MMO, and is inarguably one of the weakest, least-fun parts of Eve itself.
  2. PvP in Eve is pulse-pounding, adrenaline-dumping, heart-beating-like-sneakers-in-a-clothes-dryer stuff.
  3. We can improve the PvE in Eve by adopting some of the fundamental guidelines of PvP, and in the process make it much less of a shock for a PvE-experienced player to PvP.

In the last post, I talked about how a couple of the fundamentals mentioned by Jester can apply to missions, specifically:

Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose 

Bigger is not always better. In Eve, going Bigger can be a wildly inappropriate and/or stupid choice. Missions should call for lots of different sized ships, depending on the mission and irrespective of the LEVEL of the mission: there is no reason we can’t have Level 4 missions where a tech 1 Atron frigate is a viable option — maybe the best option — and many good reasons why we should have them.

Assume what you’re flying is lost the moment you undock

Variations in mission content should surprise pilots routinely and cost pilots resources beyond ammo. Sometimes ships blow up. Some missions (like the one in “Advanced Combat” Tutorials) should require a ship be sacrificed for the greater good.Truly demanding missions where death is likely should have commensurate rewards if you can pull it off without losing the ship.

In fact, why not get rid of the idiocy of Ship Insurance and just have missions with a high chance of ship loss pay out at least as well as Platinum Insurance on the most appropriate class of ship for the mission? That way, you’re compensated if you lose the ship, and dancing a jig if you don’t.

“But what if the pilot brings friends?”

YES. WE SHOULD PROBABLY TEACH PLAYERS THAT BRINGING FRIENDS TO HELP WITH TOUGH FIGHTS IS A GOOD IDEA.

90% of PvP in EVE is preparation

PvE players learn no sense of PvP threat scale from doing PvE: they tank 15 battleships, 20 cruisers, and 10 frigates in a mission and can’t figure out why five condors flown by regular players can kill them in about three minutes. Back-of-napkin calculations suggest PvE mission opponents should be ten times more dangerous and one tenth as numerous, ballpark.

But that’s just the last post. What about Jester’s other fundamentals?

Don’t blame others for what happens in PvP

I’m not really sure what you can do with this in PvE, except shutting down appeals for losing a ship to a mission you had no business taking. HTFU, people.

I know someone who lost a cruiser when they charged into their first Level 3 mission. They appealed it, and the GM replaced the ship.

I was, in a word, appalled. I’m plenty new-player-friendly, but come on. The player fucked up, they should deal with the consequences. Obviously. If they don’t want to lose ships, they should stay docked.

If you are flying with an FC, the FC’s word is law 

This isn’t even that complicated: LOTS of MMOs have complex instructions for their missions; by comparison, the missions in Eve are insultingly simple and boring. Give the players complex instructions for missions and either penalize the HELL out of their rewards if they screw it up or (just as acceptable) provide large bonuses if they get them all right — think of it as Hard Mode for a mission, with rewards for better performance, and the stuff the agent asks for is the same stuff that is routinely required in (say it with me) every other part of the game:

“Shoot only Target X. Leave everyone else standing. Yes, even the annoying bastards webbing you. Focus. Fucking. Fire.”

Sneak into the complex. Stay cloaked. Get within 10 km of Your Target, decloak, and Activate your [Mission Cyno]. Try not to die until the Module stops running, then warp out, but even if you get blown up, mission accomplished.  Forgot to stay cloaked, or just tried to kill everyone yourself? Everyone warps away, and you fail.

“Shoot Target X. STOP! Shoot Target Y! STOP! Shoot Target X again! X! X X X! Now Z, but keep a web on X! WEB ON X! STOP SHOOTING Z AND KILL X! KILL! X! GOOD! X is down! NOW RUUUUUUUUUUN!”

Movement is life

This goes back to ideas for several of the other principles. Small, fast ships should sometimes be the perfect solution for high-level missions. Also, with mission NPCs should be tougher, harder hitting, and less numerous, making movement more effective as a defensive measure.

PvE mission runners should understand that sometimes just getting to Point B as fast as possible is “Winning”, and they should learn that even when you bring a big ship, slow = dead. Afterburners are just as much a damage mitigation module as they are movement boosting.

Related to this, get rid of the 40-minute slugfests. Any “real” fight in Eve that a solo pilot or small gang has the slightest chance of winning  is going to be Nasty, Brutish, and Short. PvE pilots should have the same expectations in this regard as PvP pilots: if a fight goes past 5 minutes, it’s probably because something is going wrong, and they should consider getting out before reinforcements arrive.

(Yes, I know big fleets are sometimes different, but solo PvE teaches solo PvP in this case, right?)

Maintain situational awareness

Since we’ve got fewer NPCs on the field, we can make them meaner. More Neutralizers. More Webs. More Scrams. More Ewar. (Fewer ships on field mean that even the much-hated ECM NPCs can be dealt with with some Eletronic Counter Countermeasures ‘tank’ and target prioritization.)  Teach the pilots to pay attention to everything that’s happening and react to the problems in order of threat level, not just “shoot the biggest guys first.”

You are not your ship. You are not your pod

This just goes back to not flying what you can’t afford to lose. Ships are disposable, when it comes right down to it, and while losing them always sucks, quite often the win you pull off by sacrificing your ship makes the loss MORE than worth it. Big rewards for ‘sacrifice’ missions will take the sting out of it, I suspect: people are running missions to make isk, after all.

Learn from your defeats. Learn from your victories

Mission-writers can do some heavy lifting here. If the pilot takes a mission where ship-loss is highly likely, but saving the ship is possible, and the pilot fails to save the ship, have the mission-agent offer some tips and advice on how NOT to lose their ship the next time – yes, this is an opportunity to talk about transversal, spiral approaches, gun tracking, optimal ranges, and other such advanced stuff.

But That’s Not All…

I suspect this series will be in four parts. Part Three will cover the five Stages of a Mission, and I’ll wrap up in Part Four with suggestions for new missions, stolen directly from common solo and small-gang PvP scenarios. See you then.

Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (1/?)

When I first started playing Eve in earnest (which does not count the attempt some seven years ago) I went through all tutorials (this was only a few years ago, right after the new avatars, but before Incarna, so the tutorials weren’t as utterly terrible as they had once been), then did the Sister’s Epic Arc, and then started running missions.

I mean, that’s what you do in MMOs, right? Tutorial, then the mission chain the tutorials send you to, then take missions from whoever seems interested.

Mostly, I did those missions on my own, but I was sometimes joined (and often advised) by Gor, who was a veteran of High-sec PvE and any-sec industry. I remember the first time he actually rendezvoused with me in a system (Nine jumps away! The vast distance! Travel takes so long!), stoically floating next to my trusty Vexor cruiser in his slowly pulsating Megathron Navy Issue battleship. Many times, he would lead the way into a mission, knowing the massive bulk of his ship could handle virtually anything the NPCs could throw at him, and that I could safely proceed to pick off the small stuff without fear of reprisal.

Time passed, and I became interested in Exploration and eventually Wormholes. Once I’d gotten to what was probably the absolute BARE minimum level of skill for handling the most basic of Wormhole anomalies, I went hunting for them, and convinced Gor and CB to come along on a little daytrip into the first uninhabited system I found.

Gor brought one of his mission-running battleships.

It wasn’t pretty.

Gone was the idea that anyone was ‘safe’ in the site. Anyone on the field was a valid target, because the Sleepers switched primaries randomly, and even if they hadn’t, none of us could really handle the incoming damage: if you had a hole in your defenses – ANY kind of hole – the sleepers found it, bored in, and tore you to pieces from the inside.

After a dozen attempts at the site, we finally prevailed, looted the field, and limped back to known space. I’m fairly sure most of us were on fire.

Gor was, to put it mildly, peeved. Insulted, really. The way the sleepers had manhandled one of his best mission-running ships was just… well, it was clearly broken, is what it was — it was just ridiculous — he hadn’t been that close to losing a ship against an NPC in years.

Eventually (it didn’t even really take that long) we figured out how to fit ships that could handle sleepers, and we adapted our play to their little foibles as well. There were some painful losses along the way (and not all or even most to Sleepers), but we managed. Eventually, it all became routine — even the most challenging of PvE in Eve is pretty predictable, manageable stuff.

Later, I dropped into a random site in known space and was struck (shocked, really) by how EASY it was — compared to Sleepers, these known-space NPCs were a walk in the park. I even ran a couple missions — easily destroying objectives in an Ishkur frigate that I had once struggled to complete in a Myrmidon battlecruiser. Some of that was my increased training, yes, but far more was the simple fact that I’d been forced to up my game.

“I understand your frustration now,” I said to Gor. “These guys don’t prepare you for Sleepers in the least.”

“I know,” he said, sounding disgusted. “I almost didn’t come back to wormholes when you wanted to try again.”

Now imagine how much worse the shock is if, as someone new to PvP, you jump into a fight thinking that missions have prepared you for what’s to come.

You expect this.
You get this.

What’s that going to be like for the new PvPer?

Well, they’d be insulted. The way the other player(s) manhandled their ship was just… well, it’s clearly broken, is what it is — just ridiculous.

And that impression is not the fault of the PvP — it’s the way in which missions (and really any of the currently designed PvE) completely fails to prepare you for everything else in the game.

So how can you fix that in such a way as to make the PvE suck less (it is, honestly, quite poor — ironically the worst 10% of the game, yet all that 90% of new players ever experience) while preparing players for the sorts of the gameplay you’ll regularly encounter in PvP?

You Play the Way You Practice

Recently, Jester started up a PvP 101 series that I’m going to use as a sort of brainstorming blueprint for improving PvE in Eve. Jester’s guide is very good, and the things he mentions a player needs to consider are important regardless of what you’re doing in the game, so why not use the missions to teach those lessons, since that is where players coming in from other MMOs will start anyway?

The goal is three-fold, and the results are all beneficial: reduce or eliminate the profound culture shock that players experience when moving from missions to PvP, actually familiarize them with the skills and techniques they’ll use in that environment (beyond just “this is what a web is”), and improve the missions themselves by making them more interesting and engaging.

But… why?

Jester said this best, so let’s just let him explain it:

Player-versus-player combat in EVE is a rush that is very difficult or impossible to duplicate in other games. Your first few times in PvP battle, your heart rate will go up, your hands will shake, and you will have a visceral emotional reaction to what’s going on. Even after months or years, from time to time you will still have this reaction. When you are killed, you will feel compelled to obsess about why it happened and when you succeed, it is something that will cause you to smile for hours or days afterward.

Compare this to Eve’s PvE experience, which involves missions so boring that players routinely fall asleep if they run them for too long, and win anyway.

General Principles

Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.

One of the first and most profound differences between PvP and PvE in Eve is that, with PvE, Bigger is Always Better. This calls back to most traditional MMO designs in which the bigger and badder a mission is, the bigger and badder you need to be to defeat it. Think of any MMO where someone figures out how to beat a high-level mission on a low-level toon, and that method will quickly be labeled an exploit, a patch will be applied, and the innovative player in question should count themselves lucky they weren’t banned.

That’s… not how Eve works.

First of all, innovation in play is sort of the point.

But more importantly, this idiotic ship progression requirement in missions is teaching players the best ship for any given situation is the biggest fucking thing they can undock, and that is simply not the case in any other part of the game. Sometimes, you need something small and fast. Sometimes, you need something tough, and damage doesn’t matter. Often, you need something that’s got a bit of a bonus for a particular role.

Some faction warfare missions kind of work this way: in almost all of the highest-level faction warfare missions, the best ship for the task is the incredibly fragile stealth bomber frigate. That’s a fine start, but it’s ultimately a bad example, because it’s still just one ship type that must be used.

There’s a mission, for example, called The Reprisal, where you have to kill a commander flying a battleship. It’s one of several missions of this type in Faction Warfare, but in this case the target you need to kill flies quite fast (reducing the damage sustained from the bomber’s torpedoes) and actively repairs damage (eliminating what little damage he does take).

The solution to this problem in every other part of the game would be to get a fast interceptor or attack frigate to haul ass after the target, get a web and a warp scrambler on the guy, and pin him down while the bombers do their work.

Doesn’t work. NPCs don’t work like real ships, and can just go as fast as they like for as long as they like. Scramblers don’t work to shut down the high speed of the target, and without that a web doesn’t work nearly well enough.

So: the mission fails to teach players anything about how every other part of the game works.

How do the players deal with it?

They just decline the mission, because it’s terrible. Not worth the effort, and introduces no interesting game play.

Solution: change around the missions to let pvp modules (and pvp-style fittings) have significant impact. Have agents offer hints and suggestions to that effect. Level 1 missions might be as simple as flying a tackle frig in and holding down a target until the NPC battleship can land and take him down… but the exact same mission can be offered at level 4, except now the target in question has a web he uses on you, a heavy neutralizer he uses to cap you out, and let’s say five aggressive frigates flying escort that you need to deal with WHILE keeping the target pinned down.

That would be interesting. More, it would mean that the best solution for a level 4 mission isn’t whatever damned battleship you have in the hangar. Sometimes you need an Ares interceptor.

Assume what you’re flying is lost the moment you undock.

And sometimes, you need something cheap and very, very disposable, because you know you’re going to lose it.

THAT is the thing that all but one mission in the whole game fails to teach:

Ships blow up. Pods blow up. They aren’t you and it isn’t the end of the world. You are immortal, so act like: reship and get back in the goddamn fight.

Frigates are just like any other consumable, and roughly as durable as these soda cans.

Missions should have unexpected twists and unknown triggers that may result in ship loss. To be somewhat balanced, those unexpected twists should happen more often when (a) the best ship for the mission is cheap and/or (b) the mission level is higher, or where the threat is clear and obvious in the mission text.

Adjust rewards to compensate, if you like, but ship loss should happen, and it should be no big deal.

90% of PvP in EVE is preparation.

Thanks to the eve-surivival website, you can prepare up to your eyeballs for missions, but the preparation you do is completely unrelated to the preparation you do for any other part of the game.

Missions set up some of the most unrealistic expectations in terms of your ship survivability.  How many level 4 missions in the game involve warping into a site and seeing a kitchen sink collection of fifty ships on your overview, from frigates to battleships?

You know what mission runners do in that situation?

Target the closest guy and start firing. They already know they aren’t going to lose the ship.

You know how that same fight goes in a PvP situation?

Without support, your ship will be scrap before you lock your first target.

Imagine the culture shock when some experienced mission runner jumps through a gate, sees five pirates on his overview, and those five ships — one tenth the number of NPCs he just destroyed in his last mission — wipe him out before he can even get back to the gate.

“Unfair. Broken. Unfun. Impossible. Never going to do PvP.”

Solution: First, change up missions (again) so you aren’t always bringing your biggest, most expensive ships. Second, use the missions to set realistic expectations. That means cut the number of opponents in missions by a factor of ten, but increase the relative difficulty of “pure combat” missions by 10%, overall. A player familiar with missions should have learned how to assess threat levels in every other part of the game by participating in missions — it should be fun, but it should also bestow relevant experience.

There’s a mission — I think it’s the second to last mission in the Sisters of Eve epic arc — that kills a lot of ships. It’s a tough fight, especially for one player in a tech1 frigate.

And it’s just one guy.

Just one.

“One guy,” this mission says, “can be a credible threat.”

It’s a good mission. It has value.

… and then you get done with the arc, and you go to normal missions, and get something called The Barricade and learn you can ignore all that “single ship is credible threat” bullshit.

But Wait, There’s More

This post is going on a lot longer than I’d expected, so lets break it up into multiple posts and see where we end up.

More soon.

In the meantime, grab a frigate, look up a friend in game who does that scary PvP stuff, and see if you can tag along.

Believe me, it’s not that bad.

Life in Eve: Same War, Different Front

“So this is a done deal?” CB sprawled across my couch, watching an animated children’s show on the main display screen, the sound either muted or piped directly through his Aura VI interface.

“Pretty much,” I sat at the desk, tapping my way through a briefing document that I should have sent out several days ago.

To help us through the move to the Gallente/Caldari front (hereafter the Caliente Zone), I’ve put together a basic guide with what little I know or have picked up about the war zone, both in terms of population and —

“Did everyone vote in favor?”

“Yeah.” I stopped, thought about that for a second, then shrugged. “Or voted ‘I don’t care.’ Same difference really.”

CB scratched at the collar of the formal jacket he insisted on wearing whenever he wasn’t in his pod. “Rather be shooting Caldari anyway.”

“Good,” I replied. “Then you can start figuring out how we’re going to deal with all the frakking Condors these bastards fly.”

People We’re Likely to Find Ourselves Shooting At

I frowned, trying to remember the rules of grammar I’d gotten drilled into me several lifetimes ago.

People at Whom We’re Likely to Find Oursel —

“Well that’s terrible,” I muttered.

“Didn’t you and the guys kill something like ten Condors in ten minutes last night?”

“Five,” I corrected. “In five minutes.” I couldn’t quite keep from grinning. “Pretty good start to the night.”

“The Rupture was more fun.”

My grin stretched. “Yes it was.”

CB, his back to me, raised his glass, mostly empty. “Welcome to the warzone.”

“Welcome to the Warzone,” I repeated.

Our Opponents

In addition to the Caldari and Amarr, there are quite a few solo/small gang/pirate groups active in the area. The two best known are probably The Tuskers and Black Rebel Rifter Club — both groups we’ve studied in the past. I’ve flagged these corps so everyone can easily recognize them in local, not as a warning, but to point out an opportunity for a fight. They generally embrace solo and small gang combat, and scorn the same practices we dislike. I’m excited to see them in the area.

The Landscape

Placid Region makes up the majority of Gallente half of the warzone. It connects to three different null-sec regions (Syndicate, Pure Blind, and Cloud Ring), which we’ll be making use of, and to Stacmon and Orvolle, minor high-sec trade hubs.

Black Rise is the Caldari’s largest —

“Where we heading tonight?”

“Everywhere?” I shrugged. “I’m just going to point us toward systems where stuff’s exploding.”

“Nice plan.”

“Whatever.  I haven’t memorized the map.”

“Yet.”

“Yet,” I agreed, since it was probably inevitable.

I looked around my new quarters, not missing the rust-chic of our mothballed Auga office nearly as much as I’d expected. The room shouted “Gallente” from every contoured chrome corner, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it felt good to be back under familiar stars.

I suspected we’d be here awhile.


Gambit Roulette is now flying under the auspices of the Federal Defense Union, the Gallente version of Matar’s Tribal Liberation Force. Some stuff we moved, but most of our pilots fly light enough it was easier to simply duplicate supplies and hangars in our second home in Essence, and leave jump clones and supplies in Auga.

Basically, this isn’t so much changing sides as it is moving to the other front in the same war. Some new faces to shoot at (and some old), different tactics from our opponents, new stars overhead — that’s the short term benefit. The long-term: by duplicating rather than moving our office, we’ve basically doubled (or more) our arena of operation.

Feels good.

Life in Eve: Junkies

 

March was a really, really good month for our corporation. By most any standard, it was the best month the corp has had since it was formed, and aside from the dry statistics, there’s the more interesting fact that we had gotten fairly well-known in the warzone.

“Props to you and your guys, Ty,” said one enemy pilot in local comms. “You guys always bring a fight.”

April… has not gone so well.

Really not a fan of this month.

Here’s a sample of our comms this month:

“Can I take on a Hookbill in this Atron?”

Answer: no.

“There’s a dragoon in the medium complex… can we even fight that?”
“Let’s… give it a shot… I guess?”

This was two guys in slashers. The Dragoon had backup.

“They only outnumber us by two.”
“And they have gang boosts –”
“And they have boosts, so really it’s worse than that.”
“By a lot –”
“By a lot. Yeah. Should we engage?”
“…. yeah.”

We did. It ended about how you’d expect.

“It’s horrible odds, but… whatever. We’re only two jumps from Auga to reship.”

Good argument. Then…

“We’re only three jumps from Auga to reship.”

Which was funny.

“We’re only four jumps from Auga to reship.”

Still funny.

“We’re only five jumps from Auga to reship.”

Less funny.

“We can always fly back to Auga to reship.”

And now it’s just grim.

In fact, in the last couple days, everything is grim. Tone of voice. Topics. The sense of desperation.

The desperation of a junkie.

In April, so far, the Corp has already racked up about a third of the losses we had all through March, and have snagged about one-twentieth of  the kills (my personal ratio is even worse, at least in terms of losses).

It seemed due to the simple fact that there are less fights available: the Amarr have been particularly scarce, especially in groups anywhere close to the size/composition we can realistically engage, and when we get anything that looks even sort of doable (if you cross your eyes and squint), we go for it.

Most of the time, though, what we decided was ‘sort of possible’ was really nowhere near that, but we go for it anyway.

Because March turned us into junkies, and April is making us go cold turkey.

Consider: in March, I was involved in at least one hundred fifty fights, give or take. Not all of them were recorded, because one side or the other ultimately managed to escape, but that’s a (low) estimate of the number of times a fight loomed. Probably, it was closer to two hundred, so let’s split the difference and call it one hundred eighty.

That works out to six fights a day, give or take, during March. Every day, six jolts of adrenaline (yes, adrenaline dumps from MMO PvP: an experience — for me — all-but unique to Eve).

A guy can get kind of addicted to that kind of thing.

We’ve got guys in the corp who, in February and March, have gotten in more fights than all the rest of their time in Eve, even if you count shooting NPCs.  It’s fun. It’s exciting. There is really nothing else in the game like it.

Then it just… stops. You are left with only bad opportunities to get your fix. Very bad opportunities.

And we’re taking those chances anyway. Of course. We’re junkies.

It’s not… good.  The frustration from not finding fights is bad already, and coupled with the stream of bad fights ending badly…

Yeah. Not good.

Time to make some changes.

Life in Eve: Voting for CSM 8

The elections for the eighth Council of Stellar Management (the CSM: a  group of players elected to represent player interests, face to face, with CCP) are coming up, and I wanted to talk about them a little bit; something I haven’t done with past CSMs.

Does the CSM even matter?

One of the common threads of complaint about the CSM is that it’s all just a smokescreen for CCP: the CSM doesn’t have any real say, they aren’t taken seriously as stakeholders, they squander their influence on stupid things, or gain influence only in exchange for shilling for CCP to the player base at every turn.

Maybe that’s all be true, or maybe none of it’s true.

Doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the mere existence of the CSM is an unprecedented thing in the MMO industry. It may not be the perfect iteration of elected player representation and/or conduit to the developers, but the first company to try something very rarely gets it all right. The point is, it’s an opportunity that very few players in very few MMOs are given at all, and Eve players would be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

Eve players are not known for being stupid, nor are they known for passing up the chance to take advantage of any possible opportunity.

Put another way: get off your ass and vote.

Speaking of which, what’s up with the Trickle-down voting system?

There’s a new voting system in place for this year’s election. It’s a bit odd: the only thing I’ve seen that even kind of sounds like this is the way Oscar voting is handled, which may be the only overlap on a Venn Diagram of “Oscar Race” and “Eve Online”, ever.

Basically it goes like this.

  • Every active player account gets a Single Transferable Vote, or STV.
  • Instead of voting for a single candidate, you pick up to as many as 14.
  • Whoever you put in your #1 slot will get your vote unless they don’t need it (either because they’re already in the top 14, or they have no chance in hell of getting into the top 14).
  • If they don’t need your vote, it will slid down to the 2nd person your list, and keep sliding down through your list until it gets to someone who can benefit from the vote, or your list is exhausted.

Some people will tell you that it’s important to fully fill out your preference list to 14, to ensure that your vote does something, but I disagree with this. For me, this system breaks the candidates into three groups:

  1. Candidates I think would really bring something special to the CSM, especially given the new design strategy that CCP is using for their upcoming releases, who might not get on the CSM without my support and the support of non-bloc voters.
  2. Candidates I don’t want to get my vote, who I refuse to put on my list anywhere, because I don’t want to run even the slightest chance they will bring their input to the CSM.
  3. Candidates who I don’t feel need my vote, because they should be able to get on the CSM with the help of their support base, or not at all. In short, this means that while I personally think Banlish is a good CSM candidate, I’m not putting him on my list because he’s the official TEST candidate and frankly if he can’t get his Alliance all pointed the right direction at the voting booths, that speaks to his overall effectiveness — it’s not a hole I’m going to dig him out of.

So who am I looking at?

  • Candidates excited and motivated to participate. Every election, the CSM seems to acquire about 5 active members, and 9 hunks of deadwood.
  • Candidates that bring a strong, coherent vision of the game that is different from the inevitable nullsec bloc candidates.
  • Candidates that are knowledgeable and communicate well about many aspects of the game.
  • Candidates that aren’t there to represent a single aspect of the game. CCP is now rolling out expansions with broad themes that will encompass changes to all aspects of gameplay in New Eden: there will be no “Wormhole Expansion” or “Nullsec Expansion” — as such, a single-flavor candidate is too one-dimensional for me, so no wormhole candidates or other specialty candidates with no obvious knowledge of other aspects of the game are getting my vote.

So here’s my picks.

#1: Ripard Teg

The number one position on my list is going to go to the person I think is an absolute must-have on the CSM, and that means Ripard. One only has to read a fraction of his blog to realize that he’s hugely invested in the success and growth of the game, has great skill as a communicator, and knows a great deal about many different aspects of the game: He’s a small gang pvper who pays his way with Industry efforts far more complicated than anything I’ve ever even tried; he’s done Incursions and PvE content extensively; he’s lived in wormholes for a good stretch of time (and did mining and other industry therein); he’s lived as a Sov nullsec resident. In short, he knows the game as well or better than any other candidate.

Best of all, while I don’t always agree with everything he says (he’s got a weekly feature on his blog that now ends with a disclaimer he added because of a long argument we got into), I can always understand why he sees the topic the way he does, and why he came to the conclusion he did. Sometimes he even changes my mind.

#? Ali Aras

Ali’s running on a platform aimed at improving new player experience and getting new players to move into currently-dreaded areas like Nullsec. Also, not for nothing, she’d be a feminine voice on the CSM, which I personally think is something both the CSM and Eve desperately needs. I like her views on the game, and I like her ideas on how to get new players into nullsec. If Ripard doesn’t need my vote, I’d be happy to see it go to Ali.

#? Mike Azariah

Mike may be perceived as more of a high-sec carebear roleplayer, but the fact is he’s done pvp, he’s done Nullsec soldiery, he’s even done some wormholes. His commitment to the game is clear. I think he’d be a really great workhorse for the CSM.

#? Roc Weiler

Roc’s a tough candidate to love, as his in-game persona is a little… off-putting. That said, the player behind the character is smart, knowledgeable, has a lot of relevant real-world experience, and obviously communicates well. He meets all the criteria I have for a good candidate, and he hope he makes it on — I just want Ripard on more.

#6 Mangala Solaris

To be blunt, Mangala will be my catch-all candidate. I’ve flown with the guy, I know the kind of play he represents as, basically, the RvB candidate, and I know I agree with a lot of what he has to say about the game. That said, he’s not my first choice, mostly because his stance on many topics seems a little half-formed. He’ll probably do fine once the rubber hit the road, but maybe not, and I don’t feel like risking higher-ranked votes on that chance. Like true bloc candidates, he may not need my vote, but if he does, and no one else does, he’ll have it, and be (at least) one voice on the CSM that doesn’t represent Nullsec power blocs who think everyone else in the game is a 2nd class citizen.

And That’s It

Only five candidates, but the candidates I’ve picked are those I feel strongly about and who I think are going to need my votes. Realistically, only one of these will have the votes it takes to make it on the CSM, let alone the coveted “always going to Iceland” top two positions. I consider it HIGHLY unlikely any of my votes will be wasted — someone on this list should need them, and if they don’t, I’d rather the votes fly off into the void than strengthen the position of anyone else on the field.

Live in Eve: March in Review

So with March in the bag, I thought I’d look back and see how the corp did, both in terms of killboard statistics as well as the harder-to-track but far more useful non-metrics of mood, morale, and accomplishments.

Corp Numbers

Our ship losses for march were pretty much the same as February — just breaking 125 — though overall the total value of the ships lost was lower. I’m completely happy with this — it reflects the high level of activity in the corp right now — most nights, someone was flying and fighting, and that feels like a good thing to me.

Conversely, our kills for the month nearly doubled, and the value of the enemy assets we destroyed tripled and very nearly quadrupled.  This left us about 78% efficient for the month, and made March by far and away the most active month our corp has ever had, even compared to the month of fights in the Eugidi cluster.

It’s worth considering our losses compared to our wins for another reason: while we lost about as many ships in March as February, our spike in destroyed enemy ships means that we are selling our lost ships far more dearly.

We also saw a nice spike in solo kills: March tripled our number of solo kills over the next highest months, which speaks (I think) to growing pilot confidence and a willingness to engage and make something out of what looks like an bad  situation.

In short, we’re flying smarter and being a little less careful.

We certainly have our bad days, but all in all, it's been great.

Top ships flown:

Frigates. There are a (very) few cruisers mentioned, because of one abortive op we went on with Daggers, but that’s it. We didn’t get a single kill in destroyer all month, either. I have no plans to change that drastically, but we will be flying at least some bigger stuff this month.

How about me, personally?

I had a pretty weak couple of months in January and February, so March was pretty good for me in a lot of ways. I broke 100 kills for the month (102: a personal best), and lost exactly the same number of ships as last month. Of those 102, 93 were actual fights as opposed to destroyed capsules, 11 were solo fights, and I managed to be top damage on 40.

Had you watched each fight, you’d have seen me in a Slasher about one third of the time, the Executioner and Atron a distant second and third, and the Tormentor and Incursus coming on strong in the last week as I fiddled around with different ships. Lots of other stuff saw at least some use: I flew at least 15 different types ships during successful fights this month, and possibly more — I finished four fights in my escape pod, so I don’t know what I was flying before the explosion.

And what about the War?

March was a pretty good month for Minmatar. While it was never hard to find Amarr willing to fight, many of those fights were in entrenched systems where the slavers have set up a lots of support in the form of off-grid fleet boosting and the like. We can manage fights there, but we need to kill and get out in a hurry, because the follow-up wave in those systems is usually some kind of ridiculously overwhelming response. (My personal favorite is the gang that attacked our six-man tech1 frigate fleet with armor-boosted cruisers and an assault frig (vexor, maller, enyo), and then brought in an Ashimmu when they lost two ships and couldn’t kill us. GF?)

Anyway, the result of this tactic has been a downswing in fights in random locations around the war zone, and the Amarr down to about seven controlled systems out of 70. I’ve seen some 20+ Amarr fleets flying around, but I honestly don’t know what they’re doing or who they’re fighting, if anyone; most of LNA seems to have gone to sleep again, and I don’t know who else in the TLF is fielding fleets that size.

I’m not thrilled about this development, as it limits the level of activity we see from the other side. Early in the month, the Amarr and Minmatar were dead-even on warzone control, with both sides maintaining tier 3 for nearly a week, and I couldn’t have been more pleased: it seemed the best situation possible to encourage high activity in both factions, and I’d hoped it would last a lot longer.

A few days from the end of the month, Minmatar managed to push warzone control the highest level — tier 5 — the first time that’s happened since CCP made their most recent changes to the Faction Warfare control system.

Nice feather in the cap, but ultimately more trouble than it's worth.

This event triggered a rash of one-day-old alts flooding Minmatar faction warfare to leech Loyalty Points while the rewards were increased 225%. Gambit Roulette tried to go out and capture plexes during this time, but we kept getting distracted with good fights and — I believe — never actually collected an LP payment during the entire Tier 5 period. Whoops.

We also may, here and there, have pointed some unaffiliated pirates in the direction of particularly obvious LP leech pilots who needed a good ass-whupping. I consider it a community outreach and beautification project. Related: if any Amamake residents want to know who likes to boast in Minmatar chat about flying ‘combat’ ships with warp core stabilizers and cloaks on, give me a ping: I have a list.

And that’s about it! We’re planning to start April off a resounding thud of stupidity: who knows what’ll happen after that.

Life in Eve: Local is Fine, and Here’s How to Fix It.

First, a brief background, for the non-EvE players:

Like most MMOs, Eve has a number of text-based chat channels built into its user interface. The ones likely to see the most use are whatever corporation and/or alliance you’re part of, any player-made channels created for specific purposes or interests…

And Local.

Now, to the outsider, the concept of a “local channel” doesn’t seem that big a deal: most games I’ve played have some version of this: a channel that can only be seen by the people currently visiting a particular city are common, for example (though there’s usually some question about whether or not anyone pays attention to it).

In Eve, that Channel is called “Local.” It’s always on, always there, and always includes whomever is currently in the same solar system as you.

The reason this matters (for the purposes of this post), is that all the channels in Eve have a Member List displayed alongside the chat window.

Like so.

In some less-common situations, the member list only shows people who have actually spoken in that channel since you logged on, but in most cases, including Local in all of known space, the member list automatically updates to show everyone who’s currently in the same solar system.

This means that, in Eve, within known space (wormholes work differently), the very second that anyone enters the same solar system you’re in, you know, thanks to Local.

As a result, Local — specifically, Local’s member list — is more often used as an intelligence gathering tool than it is a means to chat with the unwashed masses of whatever backwater shithole you happen to be flying through at the moment.

I actually shrink the window so that the member list is the only thing I see.

Not everyone likes this.

There have been great fiery debates about whether or not Local’s member list should remain immediate (like it is now) or delayed (the way it works in Wormholes and some private channels, where no one knows you’re there unless you say something).

Which led to this conversation today:

“Man,” Em said. “I really wish we didn’t have automatic local out in the war zone. It’s so lame to have that much intel at your fingertips. It’d be so cool to see guys on directional scan in a complex and have NO idea of they were friendly or hostile — no Local list to compare it to and say ‘Well, I see three ships, and there are only two hostiles here and three friendlies, so it’s probably friendlies.'”

“Sure,” I replied. “Though it would suck for us as well if they changed it.”

“We’d cope,” Em said. “Hell, we already deal with that every day up in the wormhole.”

“Definitely, but that’s the wormhole. Things should work differently up there. I mean…” I pondered. “We’re in low security space, but it’s still Empire space, you know? The infrastructure is kind of messed up, but it’s still functional.”

“Empire?” Em replied. “Why would the Amarr or Minmatar or… hell, anybody provide intel about their own troop movements to anyone and everyone who can see the Local member list?”

“Well… they wouldn’t,” I said. “But I don’t think it’s really up to them — that’s just part of the deal with the technology. I don’t think they control it.” I shrugged. “Maybe CONCORD controls it.” I frowned. “Actually, I think it’s tied to the stargates somehow — like they’re relays or something — which is why the member list breaks out by star system, and why there’s other channels like one just for the local constellation of systems you’re in, and why it works the same way in High sec and Low sec and Null sec — all the same stargate technology.” Finally, I added, “That’d be why it doesn’t work that way in wormhole space — no stargates.”

Bringing people together in more ways than one.

There was a pause in the conversation. I turned back to the ship fitting I’d been assembling.

“You know what would be cool?” Em said, voice almost dreamy.

“I –”

“What would be cool,” he continued, “is if Local didn’t add you to the member list until you either used the channel… or used a Gate.”

I stopped, turning that idea over, then offered my analysis. “Huh.”

“I mean…” it didn’t even seem as though he heard me. “If it’s all attached to the stargate tech, and you didn’t use a stargate to get there, then…” He shook his head. “MAN that would be cool.”

“Wormholes,” I said, picking up on the idea. “You could — I mean, when you dropped out of a wormhole into a system in known space…”

“No one would know you were there,” Em completed the thought. “It’d make all those shitty class two systems with exits to Null sec SO much more fun.”

There's a hole in your sky...

“It’d be like having a black-ops drop capability for people who can’t fly black-ops ships yet.” I blinked. “Actually…”

“… black-ops jump bridges bypass gates.” Em finished.

Widow likes the idea. (It's smiling - trust me.)

“Regular Titan bridges too,” I said. “I mean –”

“– you’d see the beacon go up, but–”

“– you wouldn’t know who came in, or how many, without more recon. You’d just know a jump bridge happened.”

"Who left the door open?"

We were quiet for a while.

“Wow,” I said.

“Not like wormholes,” Em said, “still it’s own thing, and for most people flying around, it’s basically like nothing really changed, because as soon as you use a gate to jump into system, you’re loaded into Local, but… better than it is now.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. I shook my head, blinking. “You know what?”

“You’re going to write about it.” Em sounded amused.

“We need to tell people about this,” I replied. “This is a good idea.”


TL;DR: Wouldn’t it be cool if, in known space, you stayed off the Local member list if you could manage to bypass the stargate when you entered the system? As soon as you use a gate (or talk in Local), you show up, but until then…

Not quite how it works now. Neither is it the way it works in wormholes. Provides a really neat way to work around the current system, in-character.

Dunno about you, but I like it.

Life in Eve: Gambit Roulette

Regardless of the game, I’ve never been particularly drawn to stealth classes. Rogues, Burglars, Assassins… you know the type. The long setup. The slow creep. The careful maneuvering. The final violent burst of action that was, for all that, almost anticlimax to the preparation that got you there.

I could do it well enough. I just didn’t enjoy it all that much, or at least not as much as I did other possible options. I got my ‘single bullet kill’ achievements in Hitman II, but there were at least as many missions where I crashed the game because the engine couldn’t render that many dead sprites at the same time. That one where you dress up as the fireman? With the axe?

Oh, bank lobby killing spree: you complete me.

Which brings me to wormholes.

About a year ago, I started to get… itchy, when it came to living in a wormhole full time (which I had been doing for roughly a year and a half). As interesting and inspiring as blogs like Tiger Ears were (and continue to be), I found myself increasingly dissatisfied.

To be fair, wormholes aren’t for everyone. Wormhole living requires a lot of specialized knowledge about certain areas of Eve: the perpetual scanning; the living out of a player-owned-starbase that feels like camping full time out of twenty-year old modular tent with missing pieces; the ritual-and-requisite paranoia. No, it’s not for everyone. It’s not even for most.

But that wasn’t really my problem. I’d just gotten tired of playing a stealth class.

There are certainly examples of other kinds of combat that happen in wormhole space, but day to day, for most pilots, that’s the exception rather than the rule. In the life of a dedicated wormholer, pvp is about finding a target and, having found them, doing something with that knowledge before they know you’re there.

The slow creep. The long step up. The careful maneuvering. The final burst of action. Stealthy stuff. It had taken me awhile to recognize it, but when I did it was a bit obvious.

So I left.

Well, Ty left, anyway, and CB decided to come with me. The wormhole stayed just as active as it had been, but we were off to explore other options, which led to Gambit Roulette: our foray into Faction Warfare.

Gambit Roulette: A convoluted plan that relies on events completely within the realm of chance yet comes off without a hitch.

If your first reaction to seeing the plan unfold is “There is no way you planned that!”, then it’s a gambit roulette.

The reason for giving the corp this name was straightforward: I didn’t know what I was doing. Anything that looked like intentional success was obviously going to be, in truth, blind chance.

The first month of the corp’s existence wasn’t exactly draped in glory. I think we destroyed two enemy ships and lost seven.

I did a lot of solo flying in the months that followed, and managed to turn the kill/death ratio around, though never by any particularly stunning amount. 21:7. 18:4. Then right back down to a mediocre 11:9.

Through the early months, I was struck by the fact that, while there were obviously many groups flying around the warzone, I wasn’t *in* them, and getting in — becoming someone known and trusted — was going to take time.

“How’s that faction warfare thing going?” asked my buddies in the wormhole.

“Pretty good,” I said, and it was true, for all that I mostly on my own. “There’s always something to do.”

“Nice,” came the reply. “Maybe I’ll bring an alt down and join you or something.”

“Sounds cool,” I said, because it did, but at the same time I thought: I need to pave the way for my friends — to find the way into the good groups, and learn which are the bad groups — so they don’t have to do that slog work.

Something of a breakthrough came in that next month, as a veteran FW pilot I’d flown with a couple times invited me to a channel he seemed to use to sort out newer pilots he thought were worth the time.

He got me in my first fleet with the Order of the Black Daggers, a group of pilots who had fun, didn’t get too riled up when things got hard, and (most importantly) had a good leader and times when they regularly and reliably “did stuff.” I was happy – thrilled, really – to fly with them. Gambit Roulette ship losses per month increased by a factor of three; ship kills increased by a factor of six.

On fire, half dead, and limping away with the stuff off the other guy's wreck.

More importantly — FAR more importantly — I had found a group of good people to fly with. If my friends from the wormhole ever decided to check out this Faction Warfare thing (they did, and not on alts), I could simply say “these guys are with me,” and that would be that. (And it was.)

First, we were two.

Then another guy joined us. A stranger, though someone who’d read the blog, started in a wormhole, and wanted to try something else.

“If he wants in the wormhole,” CB said, “hell no. But if he wants to come out here? Sure. Blood for the blood god.”

Then our old corp mates joined us. Em and Div and Shan and the rest, with a few particularly dangerous souls staying behind to keep the lights on back in Anoikis and destroy the unwary.

We joined Daggers in their alliance – Ushra’Khan – and joined the fight for the Eugidi constellation: the first time the war really felt like a war and not a roaming free for all.

After days of fruitless efforts to find an Amarr opponent, Em got a fight with a neutral pilot in a complex — a guy who just wanted a fight; wanted to try something new in the game.

“Recruit him,” I said.

“Already talking it over with him,” he replied. “Going to get his buddy in here too.”

That recruited pilot got in on a Titan kill a few weeks later.

We have our up months and down months. January was quiet, with many of us traveling.

February, which saw two new pilots join — former wormholers looking for something different — was not quiet. Record number of ship losses, and if the number of kills didn’t spike by quite as much, we’ll chalk that up to the learning curve. We still destroyed as many enemy assets as I did the month I started flying with Daggers.

More importantly — far more importantly — we’d found more pilots we really clicked with.

And suddenly it’s now, nine months since this thing started, and we are the small group of pilots “doing stuff” on most nights.

This month, halfway through, we’ve nearly doubled the value of destroyed enemy assets from last month, with half the losses. Ignoring that crazy titan kill, it’s already our second most productive month, behind only the Eugidi war.

And best of all, it’s fun. It’s fast.

And we rarely need a cloaking device.


The five-character Corp ticker for Gambit Roulette is IMPRV.

Some people read that as “Improv” and assume we’re just making things up as we go.

Some people read it as “Improve” and think we’re all about trying to learn and get better.

I think: Why not both?

Life in Eve: Tys R Us, now open in Sinq Laison and all points East

So about a month ago, it became evident that the pilots in our corp would need to get into replacement ships often, and probably in a hurry.

It also seemed as though, while all the pilots were pretty smart at building interesting ships, sometimes we didn’t need ‘interesting’ as much as we needed ‘good and effective’. There was nothing wrong with the ships we were flying, but there was some functionality I often wished we had in the fleet that simply wasn’t occurring to anyone.

At the same time, I wasn’t (and never will) hand down some kind of ‘directive’ on what people can and can’t fly.

So, with all that in mind, I flew over to a market hub and spent most of an afternoon and evening buying the parts for about 50 ships, hauling them a few jumps away from the warzone, putting them together, and setting them up on corporation-only contracts, at cost.

The goal was two-fold:

1. Make it quick, easy, and cheap to get back into the action if you lost a ship.
2. Increase the odds someone would be flying one of those go-to ships I often wished we had.

And at the same time, if someone wanted to do their own thing, then no problem: this was in no way stopping them.

I got everything all set up, and Ty sent out a corp-wide message informing everyone that the storefront was open.

I probably shouldn’t have used the word “storefront.”

I also probably shouldn’t have left the default name (mine) on every one of the ships I’d assembled.

Because this happened:

Our pilots love their terrible puns.

I’d like to say it stopped there, but of course it didn’t.

I have a habit (I think it’s a good one) of reminding everyone to turn on their Damage Control modules as we drop cloak and warp toward a fight. Mostly, I’m reminding myself, but if it saves someone else’s ship, then all to the good.

Apparently, I say it often enough to be noticed.

And it’s not always about me. The most recent addition to the advertising campaign celebrates how March has been going.

Personally, I like the duck.

I also like that it doesn’t specify whether it will be our ships or the opponent’s that will blow up — whether the Slasher pictured is more deadly to the target or the pilot. This is what’s known as “Truth in Advertising.”

Nice work, Div.

Life in Eve: In Like a Lion

I want to say the month really got going when we got the escape pod with a set of low-grade Slave implants. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice surprise, but it’s not as though that was a particularly tough fight. It’s pretty hard to catch a pod in low-sec — the guy clearly wasn’t paying attention.

I kind of want to say the month started with Xyn and Ty taking down a Dramiel (and his Merlin partner) in a pair of Slashers. That was pretty sweet.

But no. For me, the month started with the very first time I undocked. I was starting late, and everyone else had already set out. There were enough pilots that they’d split into two smaller groups, both of which were kind of far away, so I set out on my own: hopped in a Slasher and headed into the warzone.

Right off the entry star gate, I see a Merlin. I want a fight. So does he. We go at it. I dock up afterwards, repair, and head back out.

Next up, I find a Rifter tucked into a complex. Good fight, good fight, and then got an Incursus on the way back home.

Not that any of these fights were easy (well, okay: the pod-kill was easy). All the real fights are close, heart-pounding things. Whether I’m solo or in a small gang of corp mates, someone has to re-ship or repair when the smoke clears: that’s just how it works when you’re in a bunch of frigates: even if you win, you’re probably on fire.

Frigate Combat: I'm on fire? That just means I'll do more damage!

I’m not good at this. I forget basic stuff in the middle of a fight. I burn out modules I desperately need, or forget to turn them on. Or I get out-piloted, pure and simple. Or I try to fight stuff I should really leave the hell alone.

Sometimes I get lucky.

The pilots in my corp are pretty much same.

Sometimes we're in the zone.

Like an eight on eight fight where we were outgunned, outshipped, took down all targets, and only lost a single frigate.

... and sometimes something that looks fine goes horribly wrong.

Even so, it’s been a pretty damn good month so far.