Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Entitlement and the Brick Wall

As may be no surprise to readers, I'm a big fan of trying to improve myself through my life.  In the same way RPG players try to amass new skills, abilities, and assets to take on the big boss, I believe you should constantly assemble more tools to help you thrive as an individual.  Now, that "thriving" can mean different things to each individual, and the skills and situations you pursue are different from person to person.

What matters isn't that you seek a specific goal, of course, but rather that you regularly test yourself and throw yourself into the fire to be tempered by it.  To me, everyone is born in a state of uselessness, and you harden and improve yourself through your experiences.  It's not possible to "corrupt" or "ruin" yourself, and "purity" is synonymous with "untested" and "unimproved".

So, as one can imagine, in Eve, I genuinely look at losses and hardship as the very point of the game.  Let the simple level-grinding, pushing buttons to earn candy, and going through a process to achieve a desired result rest with single-player games.  Eve, at its core, to me is a live test environment, where the entire point is to implement your success strategies in an environment of friction, chaos, setbacks, and unpredictability.  Eve is the chaos and the resistance pushing against your desires, and within that tension lies all of the satisfaction when you finally overcome and succeed despite all the forces arrayed against you.

I desperately value this element in Eve specifically because the rest of the world seems to be sliding more and more towards a sense of entitlement.  Getting a college degree entitles you to a good job, or even A job, right?  And if you don't earn six figures, why we better sue to have our money returned or our student loan debt forgiven.  Never mind that your degree was in theoretical extraterrestrial sociology...

Or, when you forget to cancel your account by the start of the next billing cycle, you're entitled to have the charge pro-rated, right?  Or you're entitled to not being offended... ever.  Or you're entitled to play an online interactive game exactly the way you want without anyone interfering with your own ego-maniacal Vision playing out before you.  These days, we deem ourselves as gods of our own lives.

I ran into one of these little Gods who decided to throw a tantrum last night, and he exemplified the quintessential bad habit of failed Eve players.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dipping My Toe in Station Trading

I’m not the richest person in the universe… comparatively.  But I am able to purchase whatever ships I want.  Losing that Archon loaded with T2 and T3 ships set me back about 4 billion, which represented about 9% of my liquid isk reserves.  But, a sting like that still hurt, particularly with PLEX prices rising.

So, though I can afford what I want to buy, I can’t do so indefinitely.  Moon mining is tricky business, with only a handful of profitable moons anymore and those all locked up by larger groups (particularly in lowsec, where they’ve all migrated). 

For a long time, I’ve wanted to try station trading.  I’m told you can make a lot of isk that way.  So, I figured I’d give it a go.  One of my characters can run over a hundred open market orders and has maxed skills to reduce transaction and market order fees.  I figure that’ll do for an initial foray.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Battlecruisers Are Cool Again!

When I began my Eve career, I made the mistake of trying to jump into the largest ships I could.  My support skills were weak, and since I was doing mostly PvE, I saw Ravens as the absolute best ships in the game.  There was little in-game information available to players that explained explosion radius, signature radius, and damage application, so I figured the biggest guns were simply more expensive, not focused in use.

My second ship loss was a Ferox (hilariously poorly fit, by the way…).  I loved my battlecruisers, proceeding to lose far more of them than I had any business losing in the next several years.  Before Tengus, the Drake was my preferred ratting boat, like many.

And then, battlecruisers became fat and slow, and fell through the fabric of the universe.  Combined with the cruiser buffs, battlecruisers were more of a liability than a benefit to a fleet, and more often than not were simply tackled as stragglers in any mobile gang.

The situation became so bad that prior to a week ago (when I purchased some faction doctrine battleships), my hangar included exactly one subcap larger than a cruiser, a hull-tanked Brutix Navy Issue.

But, my friends, deliverance is at hand!  In just three days, with the Vanguard release, we’re going to see battlecruisers become cool again. I’m not going to go through all of the changes, since Crossing Zebras put together a nice battlecruiser review that I’d be hard-pressed to top.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Into the Great Wide Open

Ultimately, Eve is a game that thrives on the desire of each player to log in and interact with the world.  The game is only as powerful and valuable to you as your engagement with it.

If you read my last post, you may be wondering why I was moving a carrier full of ships by myself.  The savvy among you recognized it as a relocation of assets.  That's not so surprising, right?  Null-sec alliances are relocating all the time, and Goonswarm recently redeployed.  Maybe I missed it and had to move on my own?

But, no.  Taken with some of my comments recently about the state of null-sec, it's not as simple as all that.  Increasingly, I'm finding being part of a null-sec alliance uninteresting, and after three months of building status-tension, I've decided I have to act.  The choice was between leaving a corporation I love to find the content I want, or leaving the game entirely.  And I just can't do the latter.

So, my time in Repercussus has come to an end, as a direct result of the changes happening in null-sec.  I'm doubling down on some lowsec "Adversity.".

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It Had to End Sometime...

I have been very luck with my expensive ships.  When I’ve flown carriers or dreads, I’ve done so safely and without incident. 

I use solid practices to move them around.  When I light cynos, I do it off of only stations with plenty of clearance in docking range.  I give plenty of distance between my 5 km sphere and all elements of the station, and have never bumped when I lit a cyno myself.  Before I hit the cyno, I do a quick dscan to make sure no one is inbound, so I know I won’t wind up in some random part of the system.

On very rare occasions, I’ll light a cyno in a system that has no station.  When I do, I watch the traffic for a while before I jump, and if it looks to get a fair bit of through traffic, I’ll use the self destruct cyno (setting your ship to self-destruct and lighting the cyno only during the last 10-15 seconds of the cycle, so the cyno is on grid for the barest amount of time), then immediately warp off to a safe and cloak up.

And, generally, that works really well.  So well, in fact, that I’ve never lost a carrier.  I’ve never lost a dread either, but I don’t fly them frequently enough for that to be a habit, as much as a lucky string of events.

So, I’d say I’m a very safe capital pilot.  Or, at least, I was.  My run ended yesterday.  All tolled, the butcher’s bill was about 4.5 billion isk.

And it all happened because of module positioning.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lessons: Take the Bait

There are many different kinds of bait in Eve.

A lot of times, you see a situation that’s almost too good to be true – for instance, a veteran low-sec pirate in a corp that almost certainly has its own logistics team traveling gate-by-gate in a Megathron.  Sure, you may think you can tackle and whittle down that Megathron, and things are looking good when you get him into half-shield and he still hasn’t called in help.  So, you inch a bit closer to ensure you’re under his guns, and he hits you with dual webs and a scram as local fills up.

This isn’t an article about that kind of bait.  It’s obvious he wanted to be caught, and you should feel bad for falling for it (well, okay, only a little bad, as you were willing to fight and some pilots really do pilot around solo in exposed ships).

But on the other hand, a pilot who’s trying to bait you represents a pilot who thinks he’s in charge of the situation.  And as you know from reading this blog, thinking you know something is usually the first step in a great fall.  Sometimes, walking into a trap with either a firm exit strategy or a means of turning the tables on your opponent is worth the risk.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tinkering with Soldiering

We’ve now had quite some time to see how AegisSov (I’m going with the generic name now, as there are too many good ones to pick from, including FozzieSov, Space Wands, and PotterSov) operates in a real-space environment.  Goons did their ProviSmash thing, demonstrating – if nothing else – the speed a which player assets can be wiped away.  The Russians protested the whole thing, which isn’t surprising since they were buying up renter space just as everyone else was getting rid of it.

The devs have clearly been listening to player reactions.  They made some modifications to the capture times and base capture status in Galatea.  Proof is building that the devs genuinely want AegisSov to be enjoyable, realize the limitations in this current iteration, and want to create a balanced yet engaging experience.  That’s incredibly reassuring, and shows that they haven't slipped into old, pre-Incarna habits as some had feared.

At the same time, AegisSov is here to stay and CCP isn't pulling back from weakening the need for coalitions and encouraging chaos in null-sec.  By this time next year, I think we'll be there.

Player engagement appears to be picking up, although a lot of the really capable PvP organizations are moving to low-sec from null.  Whether that’s a temporary reset or not is up for debate, but it’s happening.  Low-sec is booming as a result, albeit not for the reasons we’d like (the health of low, but rather, the perceived unhealthiness of null).

Some time ago, I predicted that hunters would leave sovereignty in favor of attacking sov holders without facing retaliation.  By and large, we're seeing that.  Corporations, players, and whole alliances are leaving for low-sec.  AegisSov makes sovereignty an isk-generating resource, with the obligation to spend most of your time cultivating indexes and repelling attacks.  That just doesn’t suit with the attitude of pre-Aegis null players, and they're adapting... by leaving null.

I’ve spoken before about the way tension and discomfort build up for several months before players make a change (moving to a new corp, moving an existing corp to a new area of space, or following some other paradigm).  We’re thickly in the midst of that tension-building stage, but as the months roll by, I’m certain we’ll see more and more people leaving null-sec alliances to join pirate and “aggressor” corporations.

And this may all be part of the design… to undermine the former main draw of null alliances to weaken and split them before adding in the added benefits CCP promised.  And yet, CCP still has a desire to keep those players in the game, and has a long-stated goal of reducing hassle without reducing the advantage of organization and player experience or increasing the safety.

So, with that context, I’m encouraged and excited by the changes Team Five-O announced for Vanguard and Parallax.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Without FCs, You Have No Fleet or Command

I've been spending a lot of time recently thinking about what the essential elements of a successful corporation are.  I can name more than a dozen factors that can lead to success and a variety of content, but which ones are absolute necessities?

One of those that I continue to value highly is having a group of dedicated FCs.  Note the qualification... I used the word dedicated, not excellent, successful, brilliant, or innovative.  The characteristic that seems to be most important is the willingness to consistently lead fleets.

Corporations thrive on stability... bring able to reliably provide or enable meaningful content that the membership wants.  That could mean mining fleets, mission running fleets, or PvP fleets.  It could mean counter-entosis fleets for null-sec or escalation fleets for wormholes.  Regardless, every corporation needs players willing to stand up and take responsibility for guiding others around.

The beauty of Eve is that players can create their own content; all you need is a ship and a goal.  But to have a strong, stable corporation, you need to provide something which compels players to choose YOUR corporation over all the other options out there.  That might be a unique offering, culture, objective, or combination of all of the above.  It might be being very accepting of a variety of playstyles, as Rixx Javix's Stay Frosty is, or it might mean having a narrow focus that attracts a certain kind of player.  You have to provide some content that satisfies player needs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lessons: Trial and Error

No one gets PvP right the first time.  No one gets PvP right the 50th time, either, for that matter.  Being able to PvP even halfway decently (I claim nothing more!) is as much about knowing the rock-paper-scissors of ship types as it is about being able to internalize the Flow of an engagement.  I've spoken about flow before, and may get around to doing so again at some point.

To me, there is no greater test of individual skill than competing against someone else.  The only match for a human brain devising strategy is another human brain.  We're a wily bunch, filled with the unexpected.  It's specifically because other pilots can't be predicted with certainty that PvP carries so much thrill.  In retrospect, we can easily ascribe causes for our failures and successes, but in the heat of the moment, we're met only with probabilities which we need to do our best to narrow down.  PvP in Eve is a very cerebral thing, with much of the result being decided before the first shot is ever fired.

But you don't get to that point without picking yourself up after a failure and trying again.  And that's true for engagements of all sizes, from solo roaming right on up to large fleets.  But let me give you a recent example from a small gang roam my corp's allies undertook.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lessons: Patience

One of the keys to successfully killing targets in Eve is being willing to jump into an engagement.  If you aren’t willing to take action, you certainly aren’t going to kill anything.  But the other half of that equation – patience – is equally important.

The process of finding and successfully killing targets is a difficult one, with a number of steps.  Pilots aren't keen on being killed, so they usually do things to avoid you.  Warping off, staying aligned, fitting WCS, operating within deadspace or mission sites... anything to make it more difficult for you to find them initially.

When you initially enter system, most folks do a quick dscan to see what's around.  Depending on the location of the anoms and faction warfare plexes, you may decide to warp deeper into the system or even decide to warp directly to an ice or asteroid belt.  That's risky, though.  You need to break your jump cloak, and in so doing, may tip your hand to the local residents.

Obviously, it's easier to catch targets in a low-sec system - which is used to seeing pilots entering and leaving - than a null-sec system where only hostile roamers and data/relic hounds tend to go.  And a busy system, ironically, is usually more lucrative than one with few pilots.

As you warp around, you start to get a picture of which ships are where.  Narrow dscan is your friend.  Start with different ranges to narrow them down, then switch to a 5 degree scan in the direction of celestials within that range band.  But all of that takes time, and every second you're in space is another second you're being seen, reported on intel, and seeing targets slip through your fingers.

But sometimes, it doesn't matter how long you're in system.  Some pilots are afk.  Sometimes, staying put can give your enemies a chance to form up a response fleet.  And some times, you get a gift handed to you on a platter.  But none of it happens unless you're patient.  And thorough.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lessons: A Whirlwind of Assumptions

Assumptions are almost unavoidable in Eve.  On the one hand, we have to make assumptions to simplify the amount of information available to us as pilots. But taking too many shortcuts can be disasterous.  The challenge is in hitting that golden mean between information paralysis and hasty action.

That’s a tough skill to achieve, and even after you achieve it, it tends to come and go.  Take, for instance, this loss I suffered today.

Yup, that’s an insta-blap Tornado.  And yes, the moment that interceptor (an interceptor!) landed on top of me and my guns failed to hit him at a 0.01 rad transversal, I knew it was all over.  The trick of flying an alpha ship is in not letting them get close to me.

At the time, local consisted of me, a corp mate, a blue, and one other pilot I had seen enter system through my gate in in a Prowler.  This had been that Prowler’s second trip through, so I figured he was just doing some transport runs.  He was in a five-man corp of which he was the CEO.  That smelled distinctly of a private alt corp for industry.  No threat there.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Players and Accounts Courtesy of CCP Quant

Talk about responsive GMs!  I had done some speculating about the average number of accounts per player after the alt-login issue this past Tuesday, and came up with a number of 1.7 per player.  This number was based on a snapshot, so of course I can’t put any great authority to it, but I found it interesting.  I based the number on how many accounts were logged in immediately after the fix, compared to those logged in beforehand.

In no time flat, CCP Quant put together some statistics to understand how many accounts players maintain (not logged-in numbers, though):

Obviously, the giant story to this graph is the number of players who maintain only one account.  I admit, I’m surprised that 2 out of every 3 players have only one account.  CCP Quant mentioned that the data isn’t absolutely accurate, but if they published these numbers, I imagine they’re somewhat comfortable with the accuracy.  I’m going to have to keep that stat in mind when I write my articles.

Perhaps boosting alts aren’t as big of a problem as we all feared?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oops… Here’s Our Player Base

So, there’s an interesting development happening in Eve right now.  The client is bugged with an error which causes a second client opened on the same computer to crash.  The result is that players are only able to log in a single account at a time.  This started after downtime, and CCP is aware of the problem and actively working on repairing it.

But this presents a rare opportunity to gain a little insight into the true player base, rather than the PCU or active account base.  How many people are really playing Eve online?

At 12:00 Eve time, we had 7,700 players logged in to the game today during this glitch.  CCP was able to fix the problem by around 12:30, after which players restarted their clients and began to log in their alts.  By 12:50, the player count was up to 12,145.  At 13:00, we were at 13,068.