Monday, April 25, 2016

All's Fair in Love and Video Games

From piracy and scamming, to backstabbing and thievery, EVE is full of stories of players and their nefarious deeds against one another.

I logged in yesterday evening to find my alliance (aka Snuffed Out) embroiled in a drama of our own making. After enjoying joint ops with other low-sec groups in the longest standing state of Voltron that low-sec has ever seen, a few alliance members decided spontaneously to disrupt the tenuous peace by awoxing several Shadow Cartel supers while they were using one of our POSes to travel home.

While I don't particularly condone the backstabbing of blues in this way, I do find it an interesting situation in the context of the last few months. After all, if we were a CFC corp and the supers had been Goons we were awoxing, people would probably be buying us a beer instead of calling us dishonorable for “killing our friends.”


But I guess the same rules don't apply when you're going up against those who the community has labeled tyrants. Kind of like those TV shows that make you sympathize with people doing bad things because they're doing them against other bad people.


Needless to say the whole thing caused much gnashing of teeth, both in alliance and out. I was not there during the “event” but according to those that were, most of the fleet did not know what was going down until they were bridged into the field. (And forced to switch to their friendly overview tabs to find the targets the FC was calling.)


Most folks were none too pleased afterwards and the whole situation kicked of Snuff's three stages of drama:

  1. Someone (usually a specific someone but I won't mention any names ) does something to piss everyone off.
  2. People grumble. The average age of Snuff is fairly high in the 'adult' range, so this grumbling typically does not contain highschool quality hormonal outbursts. Instead, there is this slow boiling of tempers where everyone uses various channels (and forums) to articulately and subtly jab at each other with brutal words of thinly veiled malice.
  3. Our glorious British overlord writes a thing. This 'thing' is typically an odd and perplexing mixture of humorous inspiration and cranky snarkiness, wrapped up with a few amusing imgurs. And, for unknown reasons, the drama subsides and people are tentatively friendly again.

I will never understand men, lol.


As for me, I have mixed feelings on the matter.

On the one hand, it was a dick move. Lots of my own alliance mates are disgusted by it, and alliance leadership says it's not something that's going to happen again. Turning on blues is not our style in general.

But on the other hand, the last time I was fairly active in EVE there was a large, heated war going on between Snuff and Shadow Cartel. Up until World War Bee we weren't exactly holding hands and singing kumbaya. And no amount of money badger ISK will dissipate some of the bad blood that exists between various folks in both alliances.

So, for the sake of playing devil's advocate against the most common feelings on the subject, I can kind of understand how some folks in Snuff would jump at the chance to kill a SC super or two. (Or three.)

Even if they did have blue crosses next to their names at the time.

But either way. What's done is done. And only time will tell if Shadow Cartel will do anything about it in retaliation.

(And whether or not they will bring angry friends with them when they do.) :/

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hotel California

Three months ago I packed up shop, pulled down markets, cleared out alts, and let accounts expire. I was burned out and bored and had thoughts of perhaps quitting EVE for good.

But, like the Hotel California, you can never really leave this game. You can check out all you want but as many veterans will knowingly smile and tell you, “you'll be back.”

And so I am. I made the mistake of reading about the latest happenings of EVE. A massive war with the CFC and my alliance was smack in the middle of it. How could I possibly resist such a thing?


Now, most people, when they talk about wars in EVE talk about great battles –the amount of ISK lost, the number of pilots involved, and who won or lost.

But, battles in EVE are very complex things. Hundreds of pilots do not simply materialize out of thin air at the whim of a commander.

There are compositions that have to be theory crafted, and then put together. These often happen long before a specific battle, as many alliances have 'repertoires' of compositions they keep on hand. But they are often tweaked and honed for specific situations.

You have massive amounts of logistics efforts to move things where they need to go. The hulls, ammunition, drones, fuel have to be brought in. (That is, after the materials are mined and the equipment manufactured by either your industrial wing, or the general guys who supply the trade hubs.)

POSes and other structures have to be fueled and maintained. Timers have to be watched and planned for.

And then, leading up to the battle itself, there is all the strategic planning and movements that happens. Cynos need to be put into place, and multiple scouts sent out. Titans may need to be relocated or prepared for bridging chains, and capitals staged at specific locations.

Coordination happens between allies, as multiple groups come together for similar objectives. Fleets are started, and sometimes an hour or more of organization happens.

Logistics and links and e-war. Channels and chains and wings and fueling. Last minute refits and theory crafting.

Then, a breath of relief as the FC finally announces it's time to move out. Then, you have bridging and gating and warping. There are bubbles to be avoided and small groups hounding you, waiting to pounce on any stragglers. There is traffic control, and that one logi that always disconnects, and scouts reporting in, and you're perhaps meeting up with an allied fleet along the way.

Then you arrive. There are bounces and pounces and positioning and re-positioning. There are cynos and coordination with other friendly fleets and the scouting of gates and enemy movements intensifies.

And then, finally, the battle starts and all the losses and carnage you read about in the blogs and watch on youtube begin to unfold.


Large battles, in EVE, are like weddings. Massive amounts of preparation, planning and coordination (and cost) leading up to a few hours of gratification. The sheer amount of man power and effort that goes into it is staggering if you consider everything back to the point of the materials being mined up to the moment when hundreds face off in their spaceships within some distant solar system.

And large wars themselves exponentialize this complexity, with the full impact spanning from the most renowned war lord to the lone miner in high sec. Trade hub prices fluctuate as demand increases, coalitions are born, allegiances shift and turn, and the large virtual world that is EVE churns as thousands of real life players all over the world push their agendas.


It is all quite glorious if you enjoy such things. And I'm afraid I've been thoroughly and hopelessly sucked back in.









Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Tale about Super Epic Cat Robots


I must be getting old or something because it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay up late. I sat down at my computer around midnight last night in a half-stupor, fully intending to log everything off and shut it down. Time for bed. Long past time for bed.

As my sleeping screen awakened, I noticed Teamspeak bloated with people, and a ping on Jabber that had been sent merely minutes before. Something big was about to go down. And it was midnight. *Sighs* Time for pvp.

“What do you need.”

“Machs and guards, Susan. But we could really use more guards…”

I decided on hopping in a Mach. If I fell asleep half way through the fight it would be a lot less detrimental to my fleet if I was in DPS, rather than a guardian. Falling asleep in a guardian is bad. Very, very bad.

My Mach was still damaged from the last fight we had with Goons 24 hours earlier. That fight had been both insanely fun and a bit stressful. High TiDi. Massive numbers against us. Everyone had to pay attention—applying dps and ewar and anti-ewar to the appropriate targets.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes I just want to set there and click F1, and see killmails roll in. But, unfortunately when you’re a little pirate alliance (or group of pirate alliances) going up against the ‘evil Imporium of doom and rage and gnashing of teeth’ (or whatever they’re called these days) you don’t have that luxury. Most of the time, our ‘line member’ DPS ships are managing multiple targets and roles at once, applying damage, applying E-War, and feeding our logistic buddies some much needed anti-ewar support. 

I guess you could say that low-sec pirates are like the cowboys of pvp. In addition to firing our guns we also have to ride horses, and keep our cowboy hats from blowing off in the wind.

Apparently, our alliance leaderhip’s directives (and cracking of whips over our heads) to ‘not be bad’ has paid off. The fight ended like this. 57 Billion ISK in damages, to 11 billion of our own. And that doesn’t include the multitude of skillpoints lost by the hostile CFC fleet while losing all those Tengus—probably another good 8 Bil or so, in terms of plex prices.


Needless to say, we probably made them mad. We had poked the hive in that fight, and had riled up a large swarm of very angry bees. And so, I was interested to see what would happen in this new engagement that was brewing –even if it was now half past midnight and I was quickly turning into a pumpkin. (I apparently complain about late fights and ‘turning into a pumpkin’ a lot to my corpmates. Someone affectionately gave me a ‘pumpkin’ title in-game…lol)

“One fleet is bringing Tengus….”

“They have an entire squad of 20+ Crucifiers…”

“Looks like may have at least 30 supers on standby.”

As intel rolled in as to what we were about to go up against, my heart sank. This did not sound promising, and I was afraid that we would be standing down. We’ll go up against some pretty heavy odds stacked against us but there is a limit to when boldness turns into suicide and our FCs pull the plug. And I knew our current FC very, very well having flown with him for many years, and I heard an edge in his voice that told me things were beginning to get tight as to our probabilities of surviving.


However, I was also hearing whispers, and intel of another sort throughout various channels. And it quickly became evident to me that we were forming Voltron.

Voltron


For those interested in the nuances of politics in EVE, Voltron is a term used by low-sec pilots to describe the stars aligning in the political back channels of the pirate kingdom. ‘Voltron’ happens when the various pirate groups (amongst other low-sec inhabitants) suddenly (and briefly) come together to fight a common foe.

It doesn’t happen very often, and generally only occurs when there is an invading force of some kind that is considered to be ‘outsiders’ in the minds of the various involved entities. In all my time in Snuff, I can only remember it happened one or two other times. And with the current war between BBC and Shadow Cartel, it has been many, many months since there has even been a hint of the possibility or need.

Not being up on my nerd-speak, I asked a corpy why people called it ‘Voltron.’ 

“It has to do with cat robots, Susan.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty epic…”

“Cat robots that form together to make a bigger cat robot…”

I stared confused and snickered a little at that explanation in corp chat. Null-sec pilots give themselves super fancy coalition names like ‘The Imperium.”

We are super epic cat robots. FEAR US.

And of course, it was approaching 1 AM. And EVERYTHING is funnier at 1 AM. So, as I undocked to make way to our titan, I was giggling like a little drunken fiend.


“Refit arties. We’re going to try to alpha some stuff off the fight during the beginning of the fight.”
I scrambled to refit in space, our Nestor helpfully idling in space nearby.

“Tell Exodus they will need to clear those Crucifiers. Those are priority.”

Exodus. For all your super old school elite pirate hunter needs. I’ve been in a few fleets where we asked a couple of them to come along and have heard them hunt their prey first hand.

They are scary dudes. I wouldn’t wanted to be on the receiving end of their talents. 


“One fleet they’re bringing has over a hundred tengus…”

“Right.” Our FC responded.

I looked at our fleet. We were sitting at over 100 pilots, but if you took away all the scouts and the off grid boosters....

“To hell with it. Light the cyno.”

“Bridge is up. Bridge. Bridge. Bridge.”

“Warp to the pos, www’s in fleet.”

This was a pos rescue mission. So, the pos we were landing on was friendly and we all cruised into the shields.

“Everyone move out of shields, and then anchor up. Out of shields, now.”

“Go ahead and triage. We’ll risk it..”

“Easy for you to say…” one of shield triage pilots muttered lightly on coms.

As I popped out of the shield I quickly went through the check list. Anchor on DPS anchor, check. Lock assigned logistics bro and feed remote sensor boosts, check. Verify guns are stacked correctly to current FC specifications, check. Brackets are turned off, check. Secondary anchor is watchlisted, check. Drop sentries to prepare for firewall, check.

“Hostiles incoming. Hostiles incoming.”

I gulped as my overview flooded with red flashing hostiles. They landed a solid 200K+ from us, and there were hundreds of them.

I smiled as I saw a local notification from Exodus grabbing points on some of their small stuff.
“Go Exodus go.” Someone muttered.

“Wooohooo, go gettum boys.”

“Here they come.” The bulk of their fleet was burning toward us.


And then it began.

I got hit hard with TDs from multiple crucifiers, and an ECM burst wiped out all my locked targets.
“Get support back on Logistics!”

I began prioritizing relocks on my logi bro, and made sure he was getting fed sensor boosts before turning to my dps target.

“Guardians are jammed.”

“Guardian down, guardian down.”

I refit to projected ECCM on one of my mids, and relocked my logi bro, having been ECM bursted again.
It was touch and go for a while. We were losing guardians, and our fleet was being pounded with ECM bursts. It seemed like every time a coordinated artillery fire was called, I lost lock.

“POS bug! I can’t lock anything!” someone called.

“I can’t lock anything either …what the %$&^%?!

And thus started our second major problem of the evening. There seems to be a weird bug in EVE where occasionally it will not let you lock targets because it thinks you are inside the shields of a starbase, even though you are very obviously a generous distance from any shields.

“Logi can’t lock!”

“Burn us further away, burn us away.”

After trying a few things it was determined that we would need to stay a much bigger distance from the shields to avoid the bug. Not the best idea, but there’s no fighting the game ‘mechanics.’
Finally, I noticed the TDs dropped from my ship.

“Logistics is stabilizing.”

“How many we have left?”

“At least three guardians down.”

“What’s the status on those crucifiers?”

“Looks like Exodus has forced them off field.”

“Good, good.”


We continued popping Tengus. Sometimes, our volleys were coordinated enough and they evaporated. Sometimes, their logistics caught them and we were too staggered. And every couple minutes, locks would drop as more ECM bursts arrived.

TiDi was in the orange, so it was a bit painful. But, things were slowly moving in our direction and it was looking like we would probably be winning this. It would be a slow, tedious win. But we would hold the field and save our POS.

It was far past 1AM and heading closer to 2AM when everything changed. The fight had been going on well over an hour. There were ebbs and flows as Goon e-war came back, and was forced off again. And a constant cycle of getting ECM bursted, relocking, ECM burst, relocking. We knew they had a trump card, but up until then they didn’t seem willing to use it.

“They are mobilizing their supers! Also, a large capital fleet incoming!”

“How many carriers do they have?” our FC barked.

“Scanning…”

“Supers landing, supers landing!”

“At least forty carriers also landing.”

“Forty?!”


Game over. They were trumping out.

“Everyone back inside the shields now. Move back, move back. Go. Go. Go. Go.”

A full-scale, organized retreat ensued. And while most of the fleet made it out, there were a few that didn’t quite get there in time as the swarm landed on their heads.

“Once inside the shields, warp to station. Go, now.”

“Guardians, stay outside shields as long as you can and rep people.” The guardian anchor piped up. “Keep our Machs alive.”

I gave a big sigh of relief as my Machariel slowly slipped past the shield bubble to safety, and began to initiate warp to the station.

In the end, we ended up with about a 50/50 split in the ISKlost. (not including lost skill points)  We lost field, and lost our POS. Goons brought in around 30 supers, and nearly 50 capitals at the end.

The ‘bring supers when all else fails’ is a card we’ve played against others in the past. So you will find no ‘grr goons’ here on that account. They’ve been losing to us rather soundly since they arrived, and I suspect that losing field again was simply not an option.

Well played, good fight.


“So, how long are we going to be in this station?” I asked FC sleepily.

“Go to bed, Susan.” 

And so I did.




Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Dead Goon (or two)


We had just stood down from killing a miscellaneous Ferox fleet when someone dropped the d-scan into alliance showing a fair amount of particularly juicy targets a mere three jumps from home.
It was Goonswarm and it was obvious that they were there for blood.

Fights happen for a variety of reasons in low-sec. We have wars and rivalries and go after each other’s assets. We fight over poses and pocos. People put on events, or twitch themselves romping around with a group of their friends.

Sometimes, however, a fight happens for no other reason than that someone has the bloodlust. They plant themselves in an open place, and bare all—daring the locals to come engage them.


And, it was clear that this was the case with Goons. It was obvious they knew who lived nearby, and how to get our attention –the shiny battleships and capitals they had brought to our doorstep were as good as a loud taunt to come fight.

Our FC began to contemplate some ideas as what to bring, and a certain amount of theory-crafting started up on coms. 


One thing I’ve always found intriguing about BBC is the level of strategy that goes into some of our fights and engagements. As a small gang pilot, it’s easy to assume that all larger groups adopt a “FC and a bunch of F1 pushers” mentality. But, this is rarely how we operate.

The DPS and rep power of the enemy is discussed, and whether we have enough tank to hold and DPS to break them. Often, precise ship numbers are called for. The number of Vindicators, triage, dreads, and other ships we have are not a matter of ‘luck of the draw’ in who wants to fly them, but are specifically asked for and planned out.

Additionally, specific fits are called for based on whatever strategy we’re using, often down to the ammo types and scripts we will need to use for various parts of our plan. During some fleets, we have a secondary caller who’s job it is to merely call out ammo type switches and etc.

It is all a lot more complicated than I ever thought it would be. Sometimes, I think that it is even more complicated than the solo pvp and ultra small gang warfare I came from—which goes against what most small gang pilots will generally tell you. I find smaller gang pvp easier simply because there are less factors to consider, both within your own fleet and for the enemy fleet. And the less factors you have to consider, the more in-control you are.


Anyway, back to Goonswarm, who had gotten comfortable camping a random gate three jumps from us. They had a mixture of carriers and dreads, as well as a fairly shiny battleship support fleet –including Bhaalgorns and Paladins.

They have a cyno inhibitor setup on the other side of the gate.” Our scout informed our FC.

hmmmm

This is totally bait.” Someone else commented. Others agreed. “I wonder what they have up their sleeve…

The FC began to rattle orders. We would go in two separate waves, on two separate cynos.

Can I have someone volunteer to be our quadrant cyno?  I giggled a little at this. We had a backup to the backup of the backup. We were willing to spring whatever trap this was, but we weren’t going to give ourselves away without a fight.

Okay guys, this is going to have to be super fast.”  Our first cyno would just be a Cheetah –not much wiggle room for getting a bridge up and thirty or so people through safely.

Go in three……two…..one..”

Cyno up.

"Bridge, bridge, bridge. Bridge, everyone bridge now!”

First wave of capitals in now. Go go go.”

We immediately tackled a Goon Moros who was slightly off the gate we were bridging into, and melted him as his friends escaped through the gate. 

We had been more or less expecting this move from them, due to the cyno inhibitor they had setup on the other side. However, we had a few minutes to adjust things a bit, as we had at least two caps stuck in siege/triage.

Okay, what can you do for a cyno on the other side.”

Just a sec….” our scout/second cyno was concentrating. “Okay. I’m out of range of the inhibitor, 28K above the gate, and around 20K from their fleet.”

Perfect.”

Most of us were on the gate, however we still had our second wave of capitals to bring in.

While all this was going on, I smiled to see a random neutral fly his cloaky hauler through the gate. The poor guy probably peed his pants a little, arriving on gate to be surrounding by a large, red-flashy BBC gang, only to jump through smack into the middle of a big scary Goonswarm fleet.

Gotta love low-sec.

Okay, we’re ready. Everyone get ready…”

Jump in three…..two….

Jump and hold cloak. Jump and hold cloak.

I jumped my Machariel in, and quickly switched to friendly overview to see if anyone had accidentally decloaked. Not a single fleet member showed up. 

Broadcasting our primary, secondary, and tertiary targets. Get ready for decloak."

Decloak now, decloak now. All DPS on the primary. Go Go Go.”

I quickly set range on our anchor and began locking the three broadcasted targets, waiting for the other shoe to drop. There had to be more of them –or some other fleet nearby getting ready to sandwhich us. Every bone in my body said it was a trap.

Meanwhile, Goon capitals were quickly beginning to melt under our guns, along with Bhaalgorns who were called primary to lighten the neut load off our on capitals. 

Our Vindicators and dreads were doing their job,--I only made one or two volleys on targets before they evaporated off the overview.

We’ve got a triage down.

Going in. Going in.” another friendly carrier triaged to take his place.

Don’t primary that Damnation, it’s probably their FC.”  Our FC had broadcasted their on-grid links.

Good call. Guys, ignore the Damnation I just broadcasted.”

It is fairly common practice in low-sec combat to save the hostile FC for last. It has been our experience that death of an FC can often cause a premature termination of the fight, with everyone starbursting away from the field at the death of their leader.


I jumped a little in my seat as a Ragnarok suddenly appear in my direct line of sight. A friendly Ragnarok.

What the…

I stifled a giggle as a hostile dread disappeared, doomsdayed off the field.

A nice shiny Goon fleet? Of course one of our more kamikaze titan pilots would probably be chomping at the bit to jump in and doomsday one of them. BBC super pilots are not exactly a passive, nor safety-inclined bunch.

The fight did not last especially long, and as time went on I barely had time to lock targets before they disappeared. They were more or less evaporating off the field. Finally, Goons called the retreat.

Grab points. Point them!

When all was said and done, we lost a single triage, and managed to kill over 50 billion ISKworth of battleships and capitals

There’s tons of crazy loot here…”

Yeah, loot the field…go crazy guys.” The FC told us.

We spent fifteen minutes or so gathering shiny mods and loots, while some of the guys compared killmails and complained at the fact that all the goon pods they killed were mostly empty.

Crap pods, all of them. Pffft

"That was probably their ride home." 


Finally it was time for us to head home. As we all collected on the gate and prepared to jump, our FC let out a yelp.

What the hell are you doing?!?!

The Ragnarok casually landed with us and jumped through. “I thought I’d gate home with you all…”

I snickered. Yeah, my alliance was positively certifiable.