Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Boom, Headshot

Every once in a while in EVE, kills are handed to you. Folks warp defenseless into your gang while you lay in wait in a plex or at a belt, they jump into your gate camp without a scout, or they somehow fall helplessly into your waiting hands.

And then at other times, kills in EVE involve a long, slow hunt. You lay down bait, or try to lure in a target in some way. You spend time observing your prey –waiting for them to make a mistake.

The worst times are when you hunt, and you bait, and you catch –only to have something go wrong. And, you are left looking at the engine trails as your prey runs away from you, stabbed. Or, you are left sitting in the dust as the fleet you were trying to intercept and prod into a fight, successfully avoids you and scurries away home.

Since I started PVPing again and playing EVE more, I’ve seen a very wide variety of combat.

Last week, we were out roaming around in a Svipul gang when a cyno lit up in local. Now, cynos aren’t all that unusual –and not all that exciting unless it’s a hostile one lit next to your ship with local spiking up around you.

But this one was odd. Instead of being at a station or near a POS, it was out in the middle of nowhere-space.

We warped to it to see what was coming through, and an archon popped through into our waiting hands. The only thing missing was the silver platter to go with it.

Of course, being in a destroyer fleet we weren’t exactly equipped to take down a capital. But that didn’t stop us from grabbing all the points we could and shooting the thing. (And calling for help in alliance to see if anyone was available for some heavier backup.)

Nobody saw the mobile depot. And there was a collective groan on coms as the archon warped away –far more stabbed than our smallish fleet’s points could counter.

Then the weekend arrived. And with it, a brand new experience for me, as far as pvp goes.

I was enjoying a particularly lazy Sunday afternoon playing EVE. Our Europeans were determined to kill something or other, and were hatching all sorts of plots to bait in this or that target. After a failed attempt or two, I remained in fleet and on coms—not because I thought they were going to be successfully at sparking a fight, but because it was so incredibly entertaining listening to all the elaborate things they were coming up with. 

(You have no idea what baiting is until you’ve heard our alliance folks come up with one of their crazy ideas….lol )

To be honest, I had started to zone out –alt-tabbed on another screen working on market orders, only half listening to whatever trap they were currently trying to lay. And it was then that a surge of excitement noticeably changed the atmosphere on coms, and I tuned in to see what was going on.

“omg, it’s working…I have an Avatar on long scan!”

Wait. What?

The fleet jumped into high gear—our FC calmly restating orders as though carefully moving chess pieces on a board. Just one wrong move and the prey might get away….or worse.

“Confirming that the titan is landing on grid.”

“HICs, on standby.”

“Doomsday! Confirming Doomsday!”

“Cyno up. Cyno up.”

There is a narrow period of time, just as your trap is sprung and you are preparing to act—when everything could go wrong. It could be a counter trap. Or, something could happen too early or too late. I’ve seen many situations where a single, tiny mistake blew the whole operation.

That was not this situation. Everything happened with clinical precision. The HICs. The supers. The sub capital fleet bridging in on our squirming, blistering prey.

The boys had caught themselves an Avatar, and I was about to get in on my first titan kill.

Now, it would be far more interesting a story if there was some sort of battle that then ensued. A titan fighting for its life –perhaps calling in friends. My alliance doing glorious battle to smash their caught prey.

But, that was not what happened. What happened was a very fast, very focused execution. There was no mess, no confusion. And there was only one primary.

The titan evaporated, dying so quickly that he was nearly in structure by the time I bridged through and locked him up. His only friends that came to help him were a couple of griffins –which flitted around like a couple of small, helpless birds.

So, I guess don’t mind fights and kills being handed to me on a silver platter. And I’m prepared for a few to get away once in a while. But it’s kind of fun to see folks plan and connive, and to see that planning and conniving result in a big, beautiful explosion.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sovereignty (Part 1)

CCP recently published their dev blog regarding the next iteration of null-sec sov changes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve flown in null-sec. Back then, we took sov by taking POSes and the doomsday was still an area of effect weapon.

So, the opinions I have about the changes CCP are making aren’t really based off of any sort of prejudice or pre-conceived ideas. I have no stake in null-sec. No loyalties for any sort of null-sec alliance or coalition. I’m pretty much an outsider looking at the entire thing from a distance.

Though, I admit that I’ve always thought it would be fun to go back to null-sec someday. I like the idea of fighting with a purpose and I’ve looked forward to seeing how CCP is going to improve sovereignty mechanics.

I’m not going to give a pre-amble to what I think of the changes they’re making. I’m not going to say ‘the whole thing sounds like crap’ or ‘I love what they’re doing.’ There are specific things that sound interesting, and specific things that sound like CCP is missing the mark. And, I have specific reasons for thinking what I think.

CCP started the dev blog highlighting their goals for sovereignty, so I guess that’s as good of a place as any to start.

The Goals of Sovereignty

In general, I like the goals they’ve outlined. I think they were meant to be liked by most people. But, when I read them in the context of understanding the changes they’re making, they puzzle me.

My main concern is that it doesn’t seem like they’re going to meet their goals with the changes they’ve proposed. In some cases, the changes seem to be counterproductive to what they claim they are trying to achieve:

Goal #1: As much as possible, ensure that the process of fighting over a star system is enjoyable and fascinating for all the players involved

One of the main things that turns me off to null-sec is the grind you have to go through to take systems. The new mechanics do not seem to address this. They may spread it out and rename it and modify it, but the new process seems almost more of a grind to me than the old. And, during this grind you may or may not be even participating directly.

Command centers makes me shudder. I know first hand how this type of gameplay can quickly burn out pilots.

Goal #2: Clarify the process of taking, holding and fighting over star systems
It is vital that the core mechanics involved in taking space be easily understood and flow logically.

As someone who is outside of null-sec trying to understand the sov changes, I do not in any way feel that the new mechanics they are proposing are more straightforward than the old ones. In fact, for the most part they feel more complex and less intuitive to me.

The idea of having to go to some other system other than the one you are fighting over to capture some sort of randomized null-sec ‘command center’ doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It would be like having Faction War pilots plex in neighboring systems from the system they’re try to take. It’s completely unintuitive and confusing.

Secondly, the idea that taking sov is separate from taking stations, but that doing some sort of sov ‘event’ impacts the station is confusing. The cause and effect of certain actions should be more obvious –you should haven’t to guess what is going to cause what.

Finally, the entire process of taking sov seems too unnecessarily complex to me. There are so many steps, and events and timers. You have to attack this with some special mod, in some sort of specialized time window, and then do this other thing to cause this other stuff to randomly spawn somewhere else, where you run to those and do these other things and etc…

Goal #3: Minimize the systemic pressure to bring more people or larger ships than would be required to simply defeat your enemies on the field of battle.

Goal #6: Spread the largest Sovereignty battles over multiple star systems to take advantage of New Eden’s varied geography and to better manage server load.

Goals 3 and 6 seem similar to me, so I will talk about them together.

Firstly, I’m not convinced that the major ‘dogpiles’ that happen in null-sec are always a direct result of sovereignty mechanics. So, I’m a little concerned at the idea of basing the mechanics off of some sort of desire to ‘fix’ big fights through sov mechanics.

One of the largest fights in EVE history didn’t even happen in null-sec. And a lot of the other major fights I read about seem to have more to do with protecting (or trying to take) assets in one way or another –whether this is a titan on field, or assets tied up in a station, or etc. 

So on the one hand, I don’t think the new mechanics are going to stem big fights in the way CCP assumes. They’re just going to change how the fight happens. Instead of trying to take sov to take the station, they’ll fight directly over the station. Or, etc.

On the other hand, I think the concept of the ‘command nodes’ –which I believe was meant to trying to spread things out, is going to make things worse. Have you ever sat in a system with 10% TiDi, trying to activate your guns? Yeah, it sucks. 

With the new system, I now envision hundreds of pilots tramping around the constellation trying to get to command nodes. I imagine them sitting on a gate, waiting for ‘traffic control.’ 

Trying to strategically move people around in 50% Tidi isn’t going to be more fun or ‘better’ than everyone sitting in the same place with 10% TiDi.

Goal #4: Drastically reduce the time and effort required to conquer undefended space.
Goal #5: Provide significant strategic benefits from living in your space.

I love the idea of making it easier to take ‘abandoned’ or unused space. And I think CCP is going in the right direction on that front. If anything, I think there needs to be more of a sense of systems going 'fallow' if they are unused.

I also like the idea of players being able to build up defenses in their system and make it harder for enemies to take ‘primary’ systems, or etc.

However, the proposed system for this seems a bit contrived to me. And I realize that it’s a game, and that anything CCP does will be contrived to a certain degree. But, mining to bolster your defenses? That seems a little silly.

I understand that CCP is trying to ‘encourage certain behaviors.’ However, I think they need to try to do this in more natural and intuitive ways. 

Goal #7: Any new Sovereignty system should be adaptable enough to be rapidly updated and to incorporate future changes to EVE.

This sounds good to me. And I think that making the system more granular will definitely help achieve this goal.

I like the idea of splitting things up. Making it so you don’t need to take sov to take a station, and etc. However, where I think they’re going way too far with some things, I think they’re not going far enough with this. 

I’d like to see a system with less ‘steps’ and intertwining of cause and effect and more granular gameplay. I’d like to see CCP give the players more interesting tools, and less ‘behavior enforcing sovereignty rules.’

The Goals that Aren’t

In addition to questioning whether the changes are really going to achieve the goals CCP claims to have, I wish there were a few other things they were addressing and focusing on.

First, I wish they were more focused on giving players choices and tools. And less focused on simply changing the rules. Again.

Secondly, I wish I felt that CCP was more interested in being innovative and really doing something new. I’m not sure ‘more of the same’ is going to cut it in null-sec sovereignty. And I don’t think reshuffling and renaming and trying to pass something off as something incredibly new and exciting is going to fly with veteran players.

I think the player base needs to feel like CCP is willing to go all out. I don’t get this from this blog post. Rather, I get the feeling that they’re limited, and that they’re possibly ‘making do' and settling for something less than they may have wanted.

Finally, I wish CCP was more focused on establishing’s a pilot’s sense of pride and ownership in taking space. Pilots want to be a part of something and are highly motivated by the sense that something is theirs and that they are directly involved. I’ve learned first hand through Faction War how the concept that ‘someone else is mainly in control’ or ‘my actions don’t matter’ can demotivate a pilot. And I feel that the changes they are proposing are tending toward disassociating pilots even more from the process, and from each other.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Old Habits, New Schemes

My laptop decided to go on the fritz, so I took a week-long break from EVE while waiting for my new desktop to arrive. I didn’t get anything fancy –no oober gaming machine or anything like that. But it’s the first time I’ve played EVE on a desktop with a fairly big screen. And now that I know what it’s like, I don’t know how I ever played EVE before.

My inclination toward ignoring all things ISK-bearing, and jumping full throttle into the business of spending and pvping was short lived. In many ways, trading is more of a habit to me than an activity. Or perhaps it could be better described as a way of thinking that has settled in over the years.

When I go places, I look at the market in that region. I have certain items I check out and keep tabs on price fluctuations. I keep lists. While I’m fitting a ship, I keep tabs on what I thought was expensive and what I found to be missing. I experiment with small amounts of items to see how they’ll sell and whether there is a need for them in various places.

I’m constantly poking and observing. And, it’s often a subconscious thing. I don’t sit down and think ‘I’m going to trade now.’ I do it in all the white space between everything else. While I’m chatting and planning with corpmates, preparing for ops, or running somewhere on an unrelated errand.

I have a small number of items setup in Sujarento. I consider that to be my most relaxed market since Sugar Kyle already stocks a lot of the important stuff. I can dabble and experiment and not worry about whether the basic necessities are kept in stock. Between the two of us (and the handful of others I’ve noticed are also trading here) we’re going to have ourselves our own little low-sec Jita. In fact, I’ve already had people comment in passing at how easy it generally is to find things they need in Suj.

And, I’m thinking about setting up another low-sec market. This will take more time and research. And it will probably be quite a ways from Suj, so I will have to learn how to operate things in multiple regions.

I personally think that the hardest part about low-sec trading is figuring out the logistics side of it. Hiring people like Black frog can be way too expensive if you’re trying to make a decent profit on your runs. So, you’re typically stuck dealing with things yourself.

And, have I ever mentioned that I really, really hate logistics?

Thankfully, I have a corpmate who both needs isk and has the ability to handle some of my logistics for me. And, he is someone I trust. So, I created a scheme with him where I pay him quite well to move things for me--especially high-value loads. It’s a win-win situation for both of us. He is able to make some fairly easy ISK off me, and I can make runs I would never make with an outside logistics group.

I like ‘hiring’ my corpmates and I wish there was more reasons to 'hire' more people for other aspects of my various projects. I have always gravitated toward hiring people to do things I don’t like to do. But it’s much more gratifying when you’re paying that ISK to people you fly with. It’s much more satisfying when you know you’re not just padding your own wallet with your various endeavors –but that you’re also padding your friends’ wallets as well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Just a Pirate

After several sleepy months where quite a few more people than just me were fairly inactive in corp, IFW seems to be waking up again. I’ve logged on several nights now to multiple roams and ops going on, with corpies fairly busy with the business of killing folks.

It’s been an interesting experience being a pirate in low-sec, and not a Faction War pilot. When I first moved to low-sec, it was to join a militia. And I was then in militia for years, rarely every experiencing low-sec without the backdrop of FW. And while it’s fairly common for militia pvpers to also be pirates (for some they are more pirates who happen to be in militia…) it is a bit different experience being just a pirate.

Low-sec pirates, I have found, do a lot of ‘for the heck of it’ pvp. Where, they roam around and shoot things without any particular goals or objectives. While this was also the case a lot of the time in militia, we also had the backdrop of defending our home system, and occasionally taking systems away from the Amarr.

Lately, a lot of what we do that isn’t ‘random roaming’ ends up being taking moons and pocos. And a lot of the time, it’s not really because we need or specifically want the moon or poco location, but because we’re hopeful it will aggravate someone into fighting us.

“Creating content.” they call it.  And while some people seem to think this is the definition of a sandbox –where users are left to their own devices and their own content-creation –it just makes me frustrated. I’m okay with there not being any ‘paths’ or linear steps toward some specific end game, but it seems like there should be more for people to fight over than this. And it seems that the players of a game shouldn’t be stuck resorting to poking each other for no particular reason in the hopes of temporarily making someone annoyed enough to cause an aggressive (and hopefully explosive) situation.

Sometimes, I miss my null-sec days. It has been many, many years since I lived in null-sec. And there were many things I hated about it. But I liked the campaigns, and the feeling that I was helping toward bigger goals than just killing random dudes I happened to come across whilst roaming about.

I often ponder over what the ‘magic’ ingredient was that made us fight over space and go to war with far less ‘carrots’ than we have today. Sometimes I think it has nothing to do with EVE, and everything to do with the people that play it.

Nowadays, people want cookies and they ponder the finer points of risk vs reward of their various endeavors. They shirk from activities they deem aren’t ‘worth it’ and min-max EVE’s game mechanics down into spreadsheets and numbers.

Nobody goes to war anymore just to beat their chests over the bodies of their defeated enemies. There’s not enough profit in it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

They Said What?

It was negative degrees outside this morning so I curled up  to skim through some of the CSM candidacy posts out on the forums.

These are things that caught my eye --either because they made me laugh, sounded intriguing, or sounded plain awful. (I'll let you decide which was which.)

"If you’re logged in and undocked, I think you should also be active behind the keyboard. Players should press a notification button every 30 minutes if they are still on the same grid in space."
-Tora Bushido

"If you allow one pilot, or one pilot with multiple friends waiting to join via cyno, to shut down everything you are doing then you deserve to lose your system(s)."

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it press F1. We can get millions of people to try EVE, but the reality is that EVE’s new player experience sucks."
--Chance Ravinne

"I see nullsec's problems as being its general emptiness, and this is driven in part by the massive amount of rentinggoing on, where whole regions are leased out to risk-averse bears by colaitions of greedy spitballs."
--Trinkets friend

  " #1 ''Hardcore Player Mode''
CCP Rise talked about this a few weeks back and it got me interested. I did some thinking, and I liked the idea to have a ''special alt'' who is badass at doing pvp related stuff. "


" I’d love for there to be more dynamic and active ways to mine for those who wish to do industry in more dangerous areas of space."
--Sugar Kyle

 "I am one of the alts of a player that has been in the game for more than 5 years"
--Borat Guereen

"After hearing the CSM called a “PR tool” by one of CCP’s public relations people, I know where the CSM stands. After many of the disparaging comments made to me directly, I know where I stand. The new release cycle makes it harder than ever for the CSM to have input and be heard."
--Sion Kumitomo

 "Failure is an important aspect of the game, and shouldn’t be prevented. However success and failure should come from informed decisions and counter-play, as opposed to encyclopedic knowledge of confusing mechanics. If I am playing chess with someone, I will make sure they understand the rules fully before I crush them.;) "

"I have been exclusive Amarr Militia. I am immensely happy in low sec and in FW, I will never go back to Null. I am pleased with the recent changes done to FW, thank you CCP."

"Eve for me is more than a game. First and foremost i log on to eve to socialise with my friends, and as i am sure you can all relate to, i end up spinning a ship whilst i am doing work for work or marking or otherwise being busy with other non-eve-related things."

 "Despite all of the rumors of my alliance being a front for Goonswarm to project influence into highsec, I'm neutral with respect to nullsec wars, and will happily build guns and sell them to both sides."
--Sabriz Adoudel

 "Statistically 4-7% of the EvE Population is Female.
90%~ of my voting base is Female.

 "An idea that I have had for a bit is the idea that when you deplete an asteroid is that the fragments that are left over scatter around the belt and you can maybe find a extra ore pop up. "
--Erika Mizune

"I have never left High Sec space."
--Lorelei Ierendi 

 "I've done a little faciton warfare, and did bad. (It was bad.) ((We were bad.)) (((I am so, SO sorry about that.)))"

 "When I grow up I want to become a great pvper. I do enjoy ship explosions, but I tend to die a lot."
--Migui X'hyrrn

 "I'm pretty terrible. I DON'T know who the major players in the game are. I DON'T know the history. I DON'T know the lore. I DON'T even know what a jita is. (some sort of minmatar probing frigate, right?) I DON'T know the best way to nerf an Ishtar.

I DO know newbies.
--Cagali Cagali

 "Why would I vote for you? Well probably you wont ^_^ But wouldn't it be awesome that someone with a fresh look on the game be allowed to share and shape this experience."
 --Doudou Lachatte