Saturday, July 30, 2016

Theomachy: A Litmus Test Against the Unknown

On this blog, I've talked about the value in putting yourself in unfamiliar scenarios and trying to fight your way out. True growth, after all, occurs after the unpredictable experiences. Recently, I caught a ratting VNI and found myself having to contend with reinforcements. It wasn't an ideal situation, and things didn't go as planned. But as the engagement progressed, I kept my head and carefully moved from target to target, clearing the field in the process.

That didn't happen in a vacuum.* In fact, the Talvorian Dex of two years ago would have panicked and fled. The Talvorian Dex of three years ago likely would have died. The battles that I took part in during the interim directly led to me surviving and succeeding this past week.

It can be expensive, though, learning those lessons. A quick look at my killboard shows about a trillion isk of destruction and around 41 billion in losses. Now, a sizable chunk of those losses were of fleet doctrine ships for which I received SRP reimbursement, but the cost of those lessons is still enormous.

As I learned, cost was a factor for me. I'd find myself feeling hesitant to take an engagement because of the cost of my ship. And while isk and skillpoints don't improve how you fly in and of themselves, they do unlock some possibilities that a pilot who works hard to improve can take advantage of... if you've the courage to try them.

That's why Theomachy, a player run event happening on August 27 on the Singularity test server, is the answer to all of your unspoken prayers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lessons: Try, Try Again

Universal axioms are rarely useful; in almost all cases (see what I did there...), the devil is in the details. Take, for instance, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." In certain cases, it just doesn't make sense to follow that advice. If you fail to kill a carrier with a single battleship, don't try again. Give up. It's foolish.  Or if, say, you aren't willing to inject, repurpose, or buy a neutral jump freighter pilot, don't fly jump freighters.

Yet, that's not to say the axiom is wholly worthless, because there are a lot of situations where slight differences in details can make a world of difference. Sometimes, victory or defeat comes down to a slight fitting change here or there, or knowing more about the habits of your target. In many cases, even the experience of losing once provides critical information you can use the next time to turn the tables.

One of those situations happened to me this weekend. In between hunting Goonswarm supercaps as they moved and killing a couple carriers that wanted to commit insurance fraud, I made two quick whaling trips to a nearby ratting system. During the first one, I tried to jump two Vexor Navy Issues, but it didn't go as planned.

The second trip ended much differently as a direct result of the lessons I learned, though.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wherein My Galleon Capsizes

I've been playing Eve consistently for the past five years, and have spent all of that time in null-sec (I did start out in high-sec in the two years prior, but that was intermittent). I really should know some things that I clearly don't know.

Recently, I've undertaken to begin market seeding and contract stocking for NC. This is a new thing for me, and it involves a lot of learning. While you do need to mark up the costs from Jita prices, I don't want to gouge anyone, and have been pricing my contracts beneath the least expensive alternative as a way of letting the market dictate an appropraite markup. Really, if I want to make the most isk, then, the trick is in velocity, not margin. It's taken some time to understand which ships move the fastest, letting me reuse those contract slots and keep the stock flowing. I'd say I've done a good job at that.

But, there's one huge piece I'm not doing well. Case in point.

Yeah, that happened. I'm a terrible jump freighter pilot.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Third Hotspot?

For years, a very limited number of interesting things happened in nullsec. You essentially had two major empires, the CFC and the Russians, with Provibloc seemingly content with its modest region in Providence. But - largely, nothing of much importance happened in other regions of space. The whole south, for instance, was a vast renter wasteland.

Mind you, things happened. Empires lived there, they built up their space, and did all the things people do will null systems. But when you were planning a roam or deciding whether to roam around the systems near where your wormhole popped up, would you even really waste your time going through any other area of space? There was simply too much of nothing around.

And on top of that, Russian space outside of RUTZ was pretty well-known for being botland, filled with pilots who dock/safe up like clockwork when you entered local. I mean, ridiculously consistently, with - dare I say? - machine-like efficiency. It was kind of a dead zone for entertainment, despite the population.

Around each of those areas, you saw satellite activity pop up. the pirates moved there, and provided more targets for you to shoot. Both the owners and the pirates had to make isk and enjoy the content, so they tended to spread into the nearby FW areas, buoying the action there. You ended up with two main hotspots surrounded by opportunists and hunters. Two centers of content, if you will. But it was all made possible by the concentration of active players in the north.

And that's all about to change. Goonswarm is leaving the north.

Monday, July 18, 2016

BB77: The Network News Effect in Eve

Over at Sand, Cider, and Spaceships, Drackarn asked an interesting question as part of Blog Banter 77:
Is there a malaise affecting Eve currently? Blogs and podcasts are going dark and space just feels that little bit emptier. One suggestion is that there may be a general problem with the vets, especially those pre-Incarna and older, leaving and being replaced by newer players who are not as invested in the game. The colonists versus immigrants? Is this a problem? Are there others? Or is everything just fine and it's just another bout of summer "ZOMG EVE IZ DYING!"
I raised a few points on this topic with Ripard Teg (formerly of Jester Trek) on reddit, and this blog banter gives me an ideal opportunity to expound a little.

Generally speaking, this blog banter includes two sections. The first raises good questions, but the suggested problem in the second half takes us down the wrong path. Generally, I'd say Eve is just fine, and here's why.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

FC Lessons: Cool as Ice

My post discussing my desire to become a better FC has generated a lot of response, and for that, I thank you. One of my readers, the much-celebrated Jonathan Atruin, commented that one of the most critical tasks of an FC is to be heard with a calm voice at all stages of an engagement, regardless of the result.

The thinking behind this goes something like this. First, being an FC requires that your fleet members feel comfortable enough that you have a good understanding of the situation that they're willing to suspend their usual self-preservation instinct. In so doing, they do what will maximize the chances of the fleet succeeding, even if it means their own individual death. sometimes, a few more seconds of a ship remaining on grid can mean one extra volley, and one extra volley can mean a critical target explodes instead of catching reps. And if that's a critical enough target, the whole enemy fleet could unravel.

For pilots to commit that fully to a fleet, they a) need to believe that their FC has a bigger understanding of what's happening than they do, and b) have faith that this understanding will result in a better chance of success than pilots doing their own thing. When things happen in an engagement and they don't hear the FC's voice, or when the FC sounds emotional and agitated, it erodes that trust that the FC is in control.

That's hard instinct for an FC to develop - understanding when communication is needed, even if nothing is happening. It starts with the FC understanding the likely reaction and motivations of his fleet, and responding to the unspoken desires.

Let me give you an example.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

That's Who I Want to Be

About a month ago, Repercussus left Violence of Action and joined NC. I was a little surprised. It's well known that NC. wants every player to have the ability to fly and live out of a capital. With some of RP's newer players, I wasn't sure it'd be a good fit.

But after a few weeks, I've been enjoying it so much that I've moved Talvorian back into RP. First impressions have been strong. On comms, pilots are cool and collected. The alliance flies the shiny ships that initially drew me to join TISHU last year, and has both the ability and interest in flying smaller doctrines. And when they do throw down, they do so with the support of PL and a robust capital SRP program. If I lose a dread, I can get back into the fight regardless of how much isk I have tied up. Suffice to say, I bought and fully decked out two Naglfars in the first week.

But that's honestly not what impressed me about NC. It's not the doctrines or the SRP, but rather the FC corps. These people know what they're doing.

And I've found myself increasingly wanting to be like them.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Making Trading Easier

A couple days ago, someone on reddit asked what sort of tools for Eve the community was asking for. At first, nothing came to mind, but after deciding to start up a trade empire (read: market stocking), I do have a suggestion after all.

Any time you do any trading, there are a few key things you want to know. What's your buy price? How fast are you likely to sell through your stock (allowing you to replenish and put that profit back to work as principle for the next round)? And, most importantly, how profitable is it for you?

Now, this last bit is actually quite difficult to calculate. To understand it, you need to know the price you buy at, the price you sell at, and the quantity moved. Now, if you're selling one item, that's not that difficult to keep track of. You can open up a spreadsheet and pull the data, then compare the results to see what you're making.

But what happens when you have a hundred different items selling piecemeal as you adjust your prices to reflect the competition? Your sell prices are all different? They're interspersed with other items, with restocks of items you sell through, etc. etc. Your wallet balance can't tell you if you're making money, since your profit is being fed back into your operation.

Plus, you may salvage or loot any number of additional items, rendering "Transactions" useless too.  You may be looting missions, looting wrecks from your kills, and repackaging and sellling ships you don't need anymore, creating a lot of mess.

At any given time, your wallet balance is an imprecise measure of your profitability.

So, if there are any enterprising individuals out there, I'd like to see a tool that allows you to track your market orders and calculate profit and loss over time, filtering out unrelated items. In an ideal world, you could customize which items you track, either by a clipboard pull/copy & paste or by tracking items sold on market order. If it pulled directly from the api this would be a tool I'd use every day.

I'm relatively new at trading as a profession. In the past, I've tracked perhaps ten items at a time, and the prospect of doing it with jump freighters, full fittings, modules, ammo, and implants is definitely going to require some additional thinking on my part.

I'd love to hear how other traders do it - not their items and routes, of course, but what tools do they consult every day to do their business? What's the first thing they do when they log in?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hearts in the Right Place

Assuredly, CCP has been putting effort in to improving the immersion and experience of Eve, and I have to appreciate that fact. Yet, despite this obvious work, I find myself less engaged with the game.

I understand what they're trying to do, of course: remind us of all the complex activity happening just beneath the surface. For instance, when we dock, the screen goes black, then it fires back up with us safely in our private berth, it's easy to lose track of the fact that we're just one ship within a massive structure, that so much is happening around us. The docking animation reminds us of this, and is a neat part of immersion.

Or, rather, it might be, if not for the jerky camera action that actually gives me vertigo. When I dock, I'm immediately looking to either a) repair my ship, b) move items between my ship cargo and hangar bay, or c) swap ships, all of which require my eyes to focus on the static cargo screen. But the docking animation being a side-angle pan really plays havoc with my equilibrium and makes me feel like I'm trying to throw a baseball onto a moving train.

It's an example of a great idea done just slightly wrong. Now, CCP's responding to this with an option to toggle off the effect, but to me, that falls in the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach. Why not just default the camera angle to face squarely at your oncoming ship, so you see it grow slightly bigger while the background behind it stays the same? The vertigo effect would be drastically minimized for those who want to get to station business, while players who do want to enjoy the effect can simply shift their camera angle. You're 90% of the way there, but that 10% means the difference between a sick stomach and a great change implementation.

For me, this sums up my recent experience with Eve... almost, but not quite.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tips for Adjusting Overview Colors

The overview is the most vital means of interacting with Eve, and it's critical to get the right information you need in any given situation. As of the June 2016 patch, each character can have up to 8 overview tabs set up at a time, with an unlimited number of overview profiles.

These overview tabs are highly customizable, and I encourage you to spend a little time creating your own. Because you can import and export your whole overview set between characters, you only need Or, you can search for "Eve overview packs" to find some pre-made ones. I don't use any of them, though, so I can't recommend a good pack. I put together about two dozen of my own combinations, which I use for specific situations. My standing overview tabs are:

  • PvP: Despite the name, my first overview includes everything that could do damage to me or be relevant for PvP, including NPCs, bubbles, and basic warp-outs.
  • Reds + Gates: Includes only non-blue, non-fleet member ships and stargates. This tab is for when I'm in a fight or scanning for targets and don't want the extra clutter.
  • Fleet: One of the new tabs added since the 5-to-8 expansion, this tab includes only fleet members.
  • Loot: Wrecks and cargo containers; incidentally, my cargohold also has a filter for 5 mil+ loot.
  • Misc: Jack-of-all-trades overview tab, which I swap out as necessary with my niche presets.
  • Planet: The second of the new tabs, the planet tab used to be one of my "misc" profiles.
  • Belts: The third of the new tabs, also populated "misc" occasionally.
  • Probes+Bubbles: As my last tab, I can shift+tab to this one from my primary tab, "PvP" to quickly check the area for anything that might block my travel, including anchored and dictor bubbles.
I should also point out one overview profile I recommend everyone have: a "safety" profile. While this profile doesn't find its way onto a tab, it's my default scanning profile. This safety profile is identical to my "Reds +Gates" profile, but also includes both core and combat scanner probes. I can't over-state the value of this profile. While I started using it when I'd run cosmic signatures in hostile null space (to see both ships in dscan and any time they'd drop probes), I found it to be absolutely essential when going whaling as well. I didn't always have the luxury of dropping a mobile depot and swapping to an armor repairer in a completely empty system, and being able to see both probes and hostile ships at the same time was critical in preventing me from missing a probe scan cycle as I changed overview tabs. It saved me more than once.

But all of that would be highly confusing if not for one fun option: overview tab colors! After all, it's easy to forget which tab you're on, or what the different tabs are for. Eight tabs is a lot for the eye to capture, and it's a psychological fact that the maximum number of elements an average person can keep in their mind at once is 7. Some can manage more, some can manage fewer. Colors help break up the tabs. But, there's no easy way to set up color options.

Rather than reproduce the description of how to add color to your overview tabs, I'd prefer to refer you to the master reference at Follow this guide and you can sort your overview in a quick, meaningful way.

This is much easier to keep track of. If you don't like the colors indicated in the guide, you can choose any colors you want. Just reference a color code guide and change the field within the color tag.

Anyways, experiment and find something that works for you. But, with eight overview tabs to use, you shouldn't ever lose a ship - or an opportunity for a kill - because of fumbling for the right preset.

Good luck out there!