Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Ani: The Bonus Room

After salvaging as much of the situation as possible following the Christmas Eve battle rescuing the InterBus passengers, it was time to go to work.  Time to buy a new Maelstrom but, more importantly, time to review the tactics and fittings I had used over the last few months. 

My two-pilot gang always works best when moving fast and engaging in hit-and-run tactics, but I had looked at others fittings without taking into account the tactics I wanted to use.  This was especially true of Wandering Rose's command Hurricane.  I call it that because she fits a gang link in one of the highs to improve the shield tanks I favor while running missions.  She didn't even fit an afterburner on her ship, limiting the combined fleet speed in missions down to 197 m/sec.  Rosewalker's ship was perhaps in worse shape.  While those who post on BattleClinic may favor high dps setups, I favor those that allow me to escape with my ship.  And despite all the errors I made against the Sansha in Nakugard, if Rosewalker's battleship had fitted a Damage Control II, the ship would have escaped.  Probably trailing flames, but essentially in one piece.

The first thing I did was research fittings for the new Maelstrom.  I decided on making two fittings I could swap between, one for artillery and another for autocannons.  After doing some research I settled on the Eve University fitting for PvE Maelstroms.  By fitting the 1200mm Heavy 'Scout' artillery I do less damage, but with around 20,000 more EHP in my tank than the old gank fit, I could hang in the battle longer.  You are not doing damage if you are warping away.  For the autocannon fit I had to replace the Cap Recharger II with a meta level 3 module in order to fit a full rack of 800mm Autocannon IIs.  And by using a Afterburner II, I managed to get my top speed up to 303 m/sec.  I also managed to add 25 seconds to my capacitor when running all modules.

The next item on the agenda was to improve the setup of the command Hurricane.  Not only did it not fit a propulsion module, but it was not cap stable when running the gang link, Invulnerability Field II and Damage Control II.  Sure, it could tank a lot of incoming fire, but it couldn't race out in front of Rosewalker's battleship like the non-command Hurricane could.  The solution proved to be relatively simple.  I replaced the shield hardener in the mid slots with a 10MN Afterburner II and removed a Shield Power Relay II in the lows with a Gyrostabilizer II.  The changes were complete with the addition of a Medium Nosferatu II.  After the changes the ship was cap stable while the afterburner was off but had a 12 minute life with the afterburner on.  The energy vampire allows a recharge of the capacitor, espcially when orbiting  Marchariels.  The big benefit was that with the afterburner on, the 450 m/s top speed lets Wandering Rose speed tank the enemy, especially battleships as she pounds away with her favored 450mm autocannons.

I once heard that after a major loss the best thing to do is keep the troops busy.  So I kept the survivors busy fitting the new Maelstrom and looked for missions so I could perform a live-fire shakedown cruise.  The Krusual security agent Odor Bonnevekin provided a couple of anti-rogue drone missions and a hostage rescue mission.  Apparently the Angel Cartel were behaving themselves, although for once I wasn't complaining about not having any Angels to shoot.  The new fittings and tactics worked well and so did the replacements I hired to fill in the holes in the battleship crew.  After all the hard work, I sent the crews off for liberty to maybe enjoy Christmas.

What is it about 3 o'clock in the morning that demands emergency calls?  Because I received an urgent call from Odor about an impending Angel Cartel attack on Krusual tribe assets in Lanngisi around 3am.  Why me?  But the crews were rounded up from the station and the gang made the jump into the Lanngisi system to face an unknown number of Angel Cartel ships.  On Christmas.  Again.

Apparently news of a capsuleer losing a battleship gets around fast because these Angel Cartel gang leaders really thought they could take me and they wanted to hog all the glory for themselves.  After warping to the bookmark provided by the Krusual agent, I faced piecemeal attacks as I took out first the tacklers, then the battlecruisers and finally the battleships in each small gang I faced.  Based on signals intercepts, I knew which ship held the commander and saved him for last.  The first two deadspace pocket went like that, except that in the second pocket the Angel commander tried to hit me with Thrashers when I entered.  That didn't work too well for him.

Moving quickly, I burned to the acceleration gate and in the third pocket caught an Angel commander in a lone battleship with just missile batteries and sentry guns backing him up.  I took care of those in passing as I moved to the next acceleration gate. The blitz continued as the Angel commander committed his ships piecemeal at the Circus gang instead of holding them together as a single strong body.  In this manner Wandering Rose and Rosewalker destroyed 7 tech 2 frigates, 5 Cyclone battlecruisers, 10 Marchariel battleships and the commander's Thrasher.  An analysis of the Angels signals traffic showed that the forces in this deadspace pocket were commanded by Garin Kezmonu.  While a notable Angel commander, he possessed none of the seniority within the Domination to command a fleet the size encountered so far.  So the gang approached the next acceleration gate and warped.

The fifth deadspace pocket held the Angel commander, Tiogo Kargaz, who was quickly identified due to his sloppy signals security.  With the reason for the poor tactics explained, Wandering Rose and Rosewalker quickly finished off Tiogo's forces.  At this point Odor commed that the mission was successful and to come back to the station.  In 80 minutes of combat the Circus gang had destroyed a total of 97 ships.

But was the mission really over?  One more acceleration gate remained.  The gate was locked, hinting at something important on the other end.  So while Wandering Rose went back to Nakugard and retrieved the Noctis and salvaged the wreckage from the battle, the crew of the Maelstrom examined the acceleration gate to determine how to activate it.  Rosewalker finally discovered the secret and two hours after the battle began, the gang warped in to the last pocket to finish the job.

Rosewalker entered first to draw the incoming fire away from Wandering Rose's smaller Hurricane.  The sight on the overview was daunting as he detected an Angel Battlestation and all the fixed defenses that typically surrounds one.  Up until then Rosewalker had enjoyed the range advantage with his 1200mm guns, but now he was facing cruise missile and sentry gun batteries that greatly outranged his Maelstrom.  The operation turned into a run and hit attack as he used the superior reflexes enjoyed by pod pilots and sped away from the area while pouring fire into the batteries.

The Angel commander, seeing his fixed defenses begin to crumble, sent out his fleet in pursuit and called for the death of Rosewalker.  Two Angel Dramiels, 2 Daredevils, 4 Cynabels, 3 Cyclones and 5 Marchariel raced in pursuit of the fleeting capsuleer.  As the Angels chased Rosewalker, the ships began to clump together by type, Wandering Rose's dropped out of warp and began engaging the frigates.  The initial attack on the station resulted in the destruction of both cruise missile and one of the heavy sentry gun batteries before the pressure of the pursuit forced Rosewalker to turn his guns on the Angel fleet.

While Rosewalker poured fire into the enemy battlecruisers, Wandering Rose engaged in a desperate battle to keep the frigates away from the Maelstrom.  Even with Rosewalker's drones in support, she could only destroy two of the four frigates and the remaining frigates webbed and scrammed the Maelstrom.  At this point in the battle, I knew that I could escape the tackle if I could give my drones enough time to finish the job.  So Wandering Rose broke away from Rosewalker and raced into the middle of the group of Cynabels to try to draw some fire away from the battleship and, more importantly, the drones.  In the meantime, Rosewalker finished off the Cyclones and began firing on the Angel battleships.

Once again, the race was on.  Could I break the tackle before Rosewalker ran out of capacitor.  One of the Angel frigates died in a white flash and then the Marchariels reached autocannon range.  The shield rep pulses on the capsuleer battleship became longer as the damage increased.  At the shields hit 50% I made the sickening discovery that there were no celestial bodies in his flight path to align to.  Any alignment to warp would result in flying into the optimal range of the Angel autocannons, a situation I was desperately attempting to avoid.  Flight was no longer an option.  The choices were now win or die.

When the shields hit 40% Wandering Rose finally killed the last Cynabel and now the Minmatar pilots began focus firing on the incoming battleships.  At 30%, the last frigate died.  Rosewalker fired up the afterburner and began to open the range with the Angel battleships.  At the same time, he finally moved out of range of the sentry guns, thus taking even less damage.

At this point, the battle was essentially won.  As the Angel battleships began dying, the Angel commander belatedly realized the danger and sent out his reserve squad of 5 battleships as reinforcements.  But with the battle occurring over 175km from the battle station, they arrived too late to save their comrades.  Having seen the futility of attempting to destroy the Maelstrom, the new group focused their fire on Wandering Rose's Hurricane.  But with no tackle remaining, the Angel battleships were unable to seriously threaten the battlecruiser.  After a short sharp fight, Wandering Rose and Rosewalker left 5 more wrecks in the pocket and moved on to reduce the battlestation and its remaining defenses to slag.  With the threatened Angel attack utterly defeated, the capsuleers returned to Nakugard.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Lack of Sympathy

I realize I haven't written about CCP's War On Bots™ in awhile.  That doesn't mean I've changed my mind about botters and how CCP handles them.  So I'll apologize in advance if you get caught for botting or illicit RMT activities and come to my comments, cry about it and I don't offer you any sympathy.  I won't apologize for what I write if you come onto my blog, complain about CCP banning you for no reason and giving you no notice about what they did and then urge people to play another game.

I don't mind criticism of CCP; they have done a lot over the past year to deserve more than I can ever dish out.  But I draw the line when people make stuff up because they don't want to look bad.  Especially if you got caught botting or engaging in RMT.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chistmas in Ani: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

For the second year in a row, I managed to lose the most powerful combat ship I could fly over Christmas.  While painful, this year events turned out a lot better than the events of last year.

The events began after the latest Sansha Nation incursion in the Ani constellation.  After the victory of the anti-Incursion fleets, my corporation the Khumaak Flying Circus began operations out of the Nakugard V, Moon 12 station in support of Krusual tribe interests in the constellation.  On 23 December Rosewalker was contacted by Krusual agent Odor Bonnevekin after a Minmatar Republic convoy was ambushed and wiped out by the notorious Angel Cartel fleet commander Hoborak Moon.  The mission was to eliminate the Angel Cartel fleet as a threat, and to terminate Hoborak Moon with extreme prejudice.

The battle began with the standard corporation tactic of warping in Rosewalker in his Maelstrom to draw the attention of the Angel commander while Wandering Rose would follow a minute later with her command Hurricane.  The plan worked, with Rosewalker landing far away from the tackling frigates and led the Angel Cyclones away from Wandering Rose's landing point.  In the wild fight that followed, the Cyclones melted in a withering crossfire but the capsuleers suffered heavy drone losses as the Angels did everything they could to tackle the battleship.  In the end, the Circus gang destroyed the remaining Marcharial/Cynabel force and held the field.

Moving quickly, Wandering Rose moved her gang to the next acceleration gate and warped into the next deadspace pocket, catching the Angel fleet in the pocket without any tackling frigates.  The recent advances in destroyer technology made the Angel Thrashers a primary target in a fight where the crews barely needed to sweat.  By this time the Circus force had the Angel commander off-balance and they warped into the last deadspace pocket a full 50 km from where Hoborak Moon had stationed his Dramiels.  Given the drone losses suffered earlier, the Dramiels could have caused serious problems if they had been stationed in range.  Instead, the tackle did not last long and the mobility of the capsuleer ships was enough to finally put an end to Moon's career.

The intention was to give the crews liberty over the weekend, but that was not to be.  In the early hours of 24 December the government on Nakugard V received a distress call from an InterBus ship carrying passengers coming home for Christmas.  Elements of the Sasha incursion were still in the system and battling with the Angel Cartel.  The InterBus transport was caught in the crossfile and heavily damaged, with its ability to warp destroyed.  Rosewalker took the call, recalling the crews but still leaving the station short-handed.

If the enemy were just the Angel Cartel, the gang would have been okay.  But with Sansha's Nation involved, things got a bit complicated, as Sansha's ships dish out different types of damage.  Ships set up to tank fire from the Angel Cartel are at a disadvantage when facing off against the heavy EMP damage output by the Nation's Nightmares and Succubi.  The problem was compounded by the fact that in the initial engagement with the Sansha forces guarding the acceleration gates to their base that Rosewalker was able to snipe from beyond the effective range of the Sansha forces.  That produced overconfidence that later proved fatal.

Given a choice of attacking an Angel Cartel fleet or anyone else, Wandering Rose will always pick the Angel Cartel.  So after neutralizing the Sansha forces, the Circus gang turned its attention on the Angel forces.  The effect of the loss of  Hoborak Moon the day before was noticeable as Wandering Rose and Rosewalker sliced through the next two deadspace pockets to the damaged Interbus ship like a hot knife through butter.  At this point everything went according to plan.  But as often happens, Wandering Rose became a little too ambitious.  Instead of sticking to the plan, she decided to attempt to wipe out the remnant of the Sansha forces in Nakugard.

The Sansha forces were set up on the exit point waiting on the Circus ships.  The Sansha commander immediately concentrated on Wandering Rose's Hurricane pouring fire into the ship as two tacklers webbed the ship down.  Although the drones were eventually able to destroy the two frigates and the main guns from both ships were able to somewhat reduce the damage coming from the Sansha gang, Wandering Rose was forced to warp off.  In hindsight, Rosewalker should have warped away as well.

Instead, Rosewalker aligned to a planet and decided to punish the Sansha fleet as much as possible.  It could be that Wandering Rose could rejoin him before he was forced to warp out.  Unnoticed in all the fighting was the fact that the Sansha commander had held a third tackling frigate in reserve.  A tackling frigate fitted with a scram, not webbers.  By the time Rosewalker realized his mistake, it was too late.  The battle then became a race between whether Rosewalker's drones could kill the Succubus before the Sansha could kill the Maelstrom.  The anxiety increased as Rosewalker's capacitor for his shield booster ran dry while the Succubus was still in shields.  Rosewalker continued to pulse his booster whenever he had the cap, but he began to hit structure while the Succubus was at half armor.  Eventually the Sansha fire was too much and the Maelstrom exploded in a blinding flash as escape pods spouted forth from the stricken ship.

Sometimes capsuleers are seen as uncaring to non-capsuleers.  After all, if they die, they just wind up in another body, so why shouldn't they put their ships at risk?  In this case, I could afford the loss of a Maelstrom.  I even learned something from its loss.  And Wandering Rose did go back and pick up the passengers from the InterBus ship and return them safely to the station.  But people seldom think of the crews of the ships.  As of this time we are still conducting rescue operations, but hope is growing slim of finding anymore pods.  And given the nature of the foe we faced, I really hope those we didn't find didn't survive.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Study: Cheating in Online Games Spreads Like A Virus

"Cheaters are unethical individuals who can model the position of individuals in large-scale non-hierarchical communities that abuse the shared social space. In online social networks, they can model the abuse of available, legal tools, such as intensive use of communication tools for political activism. Taken to the extreme, such behavior leads to the tragedy of the commons: all players become cheaters and then abandon the game; corruption escalates and chaos takes place; and communication is buried in noise."

Last week a research team led by Jeremy Blackburn of the University of South Florida published what they claim is the biggest study on cheating in on-line games done to date.  The study looked at cheating by players using Steam.  Not only does Steam have something called the Valve Anti-Cheat System that marks users as cheaters, but has APIs that the researchers could use to crawl through the available information on which accounts were flagged as having cheated on an on-line game.  The researchers collected data for more than 12 million Steam users and found over 720,000 accounts that had been flagged for cheating in at least one on-line game.

The big "news" coming out of the study is that players who are friends with players who cheat (like macro miners and other botters in Eve Online) are more likely to become cheaters than those who do not have friends in a game who cheat.  However, from an Eve perspective, I believe that the geographic information is just as noteworthy.  The study looked at the accounts from 10 countries, (US, Brazil, Russia, Germany, France, UK, Poland, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and Norway) and compared them, looking to see if geographic location accounted for the likelihood of a player cheating.  The results may surprise some Eve players.

Source: Cheaters in Steam.pdf (p. 9)

While many claim that the Russians are the biggest botters, at least in the Steam community that is not the case.  According to the research players from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden are the most likely to engage in cheating.  The research team came to this conclusion about geography:
"Cheater distribution does not follow geographical, realworld [sic] population density. The fact that some regions have higher percentages of cheaters to the player population may suggest that cheating behavior is inspired by the tighter geo-social clustering speci c [sic] to a geo-social culture. Such cheating-prone communities can be the target of more scrutiny or are the result of higher tolerance to cheating behavior, both in the legislature and in the gaming population." (p. 14)
The research done might have some consequences for both gamers and social networks in general.

"Our study has consequences for gaming in particular, but also for other online social networks with unethical members. In the case of gaming, individual servers can evaluate the cheating risk of a new player by looking at a combination of attributes inferred from the player's pro le that include the fraction of VAC-banned friends. Our preliminary investigations in this direction show that traditional machine learning algorithms (such as logistical regression, naive Bayes, and decision trees) can classify players as cheaters or noncheaters with accuracy between 65% and 74%. More work in this direction is left for the future." (p. 14)
As much as I've applauded CCP Screeg's War on Bots this past spring, I'm not ready to start instituting screening procedures like this for games yet.  I guess I'm too much like CONCORD and prefer to punish wrongdoers after they commit the violation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Week Change In Eve

I originally intended to take today off and finish my Christmas shopping and kill a few Angel Cartel ships but events caused a change of plans.  Today's dev blogs, in combination with this week's earlier leadership announcement, were just too enticing not to write about today.

Today's big news is that DUST 514 has emerged from the land of vaporware as CCP announced that beta signup begins today.  Right now sign up is currently limited to those who are subscribed to Eve Online.  Previously, CCP announced that all attendees of the 2012 Fanfest would receive beta keys.

With the coming of a second game into the New Eden universe comes a new senior producer for Eve Online.  The former senior producer, Arnar Gylfason (aka CCP Zulu) is stepping aside for the head of CCP's Carbon technology team, Jon "CCP Unifex" Lander.  Based on the introductory dev blog, Lander intends on polishing the current game:
"As Zulu  has already mentioned, now is the time to improve the EVE. The task ahead of us in 2012 is not to be taken lightly. We are changing EVE’s internal project structure to bring it in line with a product that has nearly 200 people working on it and making sure that everyone is concentrating on delivering a game which has real value for our players. As well as changing the project organization, we will also be spending time on improving our internal tools, pipelines and processes to improve our efficiency and effectiveness for the future.
"Finally, we will be concentrating on those features we already have in the game after 8 years of development. Yes, we will be iterating (it‘s not a dirty word) on those features which need some polish, balance, fixes and general love. The releases throughout 2012 will be an extension of the type of release we had with Crucible with the addition of a theme to help us scope and tie the work into a really compelling and coherent package. The first theme is going to be War and everyone is getting very excited about it.
"I had some great meetings with the CSM when they were recently here in Iceland and hopefully you will see in the minutes, when they come out, that the future is looking pretty good for EVE, spaceships and you, our players. I will be trying to keep everyone updated on our progress as we go through 2012 and look forward to meeting many of you at Fanfest where, as well as all the great things you have come to expect, we will have something a little different and special for you."
While some may lambast CCP Zulu's time as senior producer, he came in at a bad time for Eve development.  
His first dev blog in August 2010 became infamous for the statement that CCP only had three teams of 28 developers working on the "flying in space" portion of Eve Online.  CCP Zulu's tenure will be remembered as the "18 months" when CCP put Eve on the backburner as it tried to develop DUST 514 and World of Darkness.  Now that CCP has decided to pour resources into its flagship game, CCP Zulu will not get to enjoy the change in focus (and resources) unless he is moved to another important position.

The final development was the dev blog that announced the publication of Tony Gonzales' latest Eve novel, Eve: Templar One.  The shocking news was that the novel is Gonzales' last contribution to the Eve canon.  He is being let go as the IP Development Manager, although for the moment he is still employed.  Here is his goodbye:
"Bringing EVE to life through storytelling and world building has been one of my greatest joys. For the past six years, I’ve devoted myself to building this IP through the sheer power of her setting—hands down the most underutilized force in EVE. I walked the floors of conventions dreaming of the day when we might have a 30 foot tall poster of Tibus Heth or Empress Jamyl to compete with the larger-than-life icons of other IP’s like the Master Chief and Commander Sheppard. EVE’s story is so deep and offers so much to science fiction fans that it has every potential to reach those heights. It could take years, decades, or longer. But the fact remains that it’s possible. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that’s kept me inspired since 2003.
"EVE: Templar One is a labor of love that began in 2009. For now, itis [sic] my last contribution to EVE’s fiction as I was amongst the casualties of the recent difficult times CCP endured. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it. My publishers and dev colleagues are excited for it, and I hope you are too.
"Your support over the years has been overwhelming, and I’ll never forget it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything."
The post was quickly moved off the top of the dev blog feed with other blogs, CCP's version of the Friday document dump we see in the United States from government officials.  For those who love the lore, what will the replacement of the head of the IP development mean?  Something to look forward to in 2012.  But looking back at the world Mr. Gonzales created, I'll just say that Tony, you did a great job and you will be missed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Four Quick Links For Eve Online Beginners

I am currently working on a post aimed at those just beginning to play Eve Online designed to get them started in the universe of New Eden.  The task is a little bigger than I originally thought and I may not get it finished before Christmas.  So since some people may begin playing over the holiday weekend I thought I would at least post the three sources and one Eve-related application I use the most.

Before I continue, I want to urge all new players to do the tutorial missions.  What CCP calls the New Player Experience is much improved over what I ran two years ago and doing the missions, in addition to teaching you the game, sets players up with a nice beginning war chest of ships and cash.

ISK: Industrial-Sized Knowledgebase - I have the print edition, but the ISK guide is also available as a free download.  For new players I recommend reading the first part on getting started.  It is a quick and easy read.  Well, compared to other sources.  The guide is a bit dated, having not been updated for Crucible.  But still a very good source.

The Evelopedia - The Evelopedia is the official CCP wiki for Eve Online.   The site is not written solely by CCP, which many would consider a good thing.  As is befitting a game in which much of the content is player-driven, the Evelopedia seeks out contributions from the player base.  Overall, I use the Evelopedia a lot when looking up information.

Eve University Wiki - Eve University is a player corporation (or a guild or clan to players of other games) that has worked since 2003 helping new players into New Eden.  Over the past few years the UniWiki has greatly improved and is a site I go to primarily for planetary interaction information and for the excellent Eve University Class Library.  Eve University gives classes over Mumble and makes the audio recordings available to all.  The class library also contains links to video guides as well.

EVEMon - No list of information for new players is complete without a mention of EVEMon.  EVEMon is an essential tool for managing a pilot's skill development.  With all skill learning occurring in real time instead of by whacking on mobs, developing a skill plan is essential to making the best use of time.  Eve University provides a guide for new players on how to use EveMon as well as an audio class in the class library on how to use EVEMon with another popular application, the Eve Fitting Tool.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking For A Few Bad Angels

Over the past two nights I decided I do not like combat missions.  Sure, combat missions are a nice break from courier missions every once in a while, but as the main thing I do?  They are not for me.  I have to add one caveat.  I like missions where I kill members of the Angel Cartel.

Why the Angel Cartel?  I do have a long term goal that requires acquiring Angel tags and killing the Angel Cartel fulfills that.  But I felt that way before I set getting those faction ship blueprint copies as a goal.  Maybe early experience influences ways of thinking and I spent most of my first months as a capsuleer killing the Angel Cartel.  Or perhaps because of the roleplay that goes on in my mind, I don't want to kill the Serpentis because of their connection with Eifyr and Co.  I have tied a lot of my play around Wandering Rose's relationship with the Minmatar biochemical company which is a reason why I've moved my operations to Nakugard to aid in increasing my standings with the Krusual tribe.  So who else is left to fight that isn't an empire?

Now, I don't want to chase after the Dominion in Curse; I am not that ambitious.  But I do want to fight the Angel Cartel.  Perhaps the missions situation will improve once the incursion fleets finally take down the Sansha forces in the Ani constellation and I can work on my Krusual standings.  I think I may have to stop relying on mission agents and do some hunting of my own.  Of course, the last time I did that, things didn't turn out so well.  Perhaps it is time for me to get over that and try my had at exploration again.  After all, I must have learned something over the last year, right?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pavlov's Dogs

Over the weekend I moved much of my operations to Nakugard in Metropolis' Ani constellation.  The Ani constellation is interesting because not only is it the Minmatar COSMOS highsec constellation with all systems having a security status of .5, but all of the Minmatar-owned stations as well as the Sisters of EVE Bureau stations have cloning facilities.  So I figured I'd run some missions for the Krusual Tribe to get access to more lovely jump clone facilities and try to pick up some Angel tags to buy blueprint copies of Minmatar faction ships.

At the end of Saturday night I jumped my Orca into Nakugard and received a shock.  Sansha had invaded Ani.  Fortunately for me, the anti-incursion fleets had been in system and I did not have a Sansha greeting party waiting for me.  In fact, my display indicated that all Sansha anti-ship effects that reduced armor, shield and capacitor had been completely neutralized by the anti-incursion fleets.  So I docked in the system's Republic University School system and logged off for the night, confident that the Sansha would be defeated by the time I logged back in.

I did a lot of Christmas shopping Sunday and didn't climb back into a ship until Sunday night.  I was surprised that the Sansha mothership was still operating in the system.  Apparently at the brink of defeat the anti-incursion forces were stopped dead.  Was the mothership really that powerful?  I asked in local and found out that the anti-incursion fleets were ignoring the vulnerable main threat to the planetary populations in the constellation and instead were "farming" the secondary forces because it was more profitable.  Isk.  Yes, you can always count on us capsuleers to try to squeeze isk out of any situation.

The question I have is: what is that old devil Sansha Kuvakei up to?  Sansha may be evil and several kinds of crazy, but he's also brilliant.  Why does he continue to sacrifice valuable motherships and support fleets this way?  I know he doesn't care about the crews, but shouldn't losing that much material hurt eventually?  He has obviously established an operational pattern that has convinced anti-incursion fleet commanders to not go for the jugular and piddle around with the small-fry.  So when is Sansha going to break the pattern and do something really nasty?  And what evil will Sansha unleash on New Eden when he does so?  I really don't care to find out, but with so many capsuleers trained like a pack of dog show poodles, I don't know who will stop him.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Goodbye Fratt!

I wrote a few weeks ago about Fratt Asmurdik, an agent for the Republic Parliament and his apparent infatuation with Wandering Rose.  But now that the Khumaak Flying Circus has met its goals concerning relations with the Republic Parliament (over 9.9 standings) Fratt is no longer necessary to her plans.  So after receiving another offer to do a kill mission, Wandering Rose just ignored Fratt.  Her mother taught her if she didn't have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all.  Well, the agent sent this Evemail yesterday:
From: Fratt Asmurdik
Sent: 2011.12.18 22:45 
I can no longer await your response to my offer. I am displeased by your indecisiveness.
Typical Brutor male arrogance!  Do all Brutor men think they are God's gift to women?  Did it ever cross his mind that he could not get into the bed of a capsuleer by diverting a few million isk in missions to Wandering Rose?  I've never met anyone in New Eden in more desperate need of a blow job than Fratt Asmurdik.  And he thinks Wandering Rose is the one with the problem?

Wandering Rose can afford to ignore him as the Khumaak Flying Circus has shifted operations back to the Ani constellation.  And after all the work increasing her influence with the Republic Parliament, she is not going to undo it by a clumsy act of revenge.  However, if she gets the chance (and can get past that damn door), Wandering Rose would really like to re-enact the final scene of this video with a certain agent based in Ridoner.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Zynga, Nexon Go Public

This week saw two big on-line gaming companies, go public with initial public offerings (IPO) worth over $1 billion.   U.S.-based Zynga, makers of Farmville, raised $1 billion with an IPO of 100 million shares at $10 each.  The Tokyo-based Nexon, creators of Maple Story, raised approximately $1.2 billion with a sale of 70 million shares at 1,300 yen, or approximately $16.90 per share. 

I know I've played too much Eve Online when I can draw a CCP analogy between the Icelandic space vikings and the two IPOs.  Zynga's Farmville invites a comparison to Eve's Planetary Interaction, especially the first iteration of PI which was a clickfest, just like Farmville.  Zynga reminds me of CCP CEP Hilmar Veigar Petursson before the launch of Incarna.  Way overconfident.  The $10 share price was at the top end of the predicted is potentially a disaster in the making for purchasers of the stock, with analysts already predicting a sharp drop in price. 
Arvind Bhatia, an analyst at Sterne Agee, played the roll of bitter vet and placed a "sell" rating on Zynga stock before the stock begins trading on NASDAQ today.
“'Farmville, the company’s flagship title which helped generate hyper-growth in the past, has peaked and the other titles are coming on line at a much slower pace,' the analyst wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.
“'While we believe in the potential for social games, we think Zynga’s growth is slowing even faster than what is obvious at first. Its margins are under pressure, and free cash flow has been declining recently; thus we believe the implied valuation in the IPO is not justified.'”
Nexon, the company CCP has hired to bring Eve Online client to the Japanese market, on the other hand plays the role of Hilmar after the Summer of Rage and bases its price on reality.  The price reflected a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of 17:1, which while a bit high, is reasonable.  The price slipped 2.3% on the first day of trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange down to 1270 yen, but analysts are positive.  The Wall Street Journal reported that:
"Deutsche Securities initiated Nexon at Hold with a Y1,400 target price, saying that while shares have already largely priced in current growth, expansion onto smartphone and social networking site platforms will be a key point going forward."
And according to one analyst explained the first day price drop this way:
"'Part of the problem is that they priced it at fair value, so it wasn't going to come on at a huge premium,' said David Gibson, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo, also noting some Nexon shareholders were allowed to offload their holdings immediately."
So we have two game companies, one that is over-hyping itself looking to cash in on its main product before the buzz goes away and the other trying to base its business on reality.  The situation really does sound like CCP in 2011 to me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pushing New Eden

I've written in the past how I am somewhat reluctant to recommend Eve Online to people I know.  Eve is a sci-fi PvP sandbox game with so-so PvE play but the most sophisticated economic system in MMORPGs.  In other words, a game not for everyone.  But New Eden, the universe of Eve?  That is something I recommend to any gamer who wants to see what a virtual world can be.  And that universe will expand with the launch of DUST 514.

I know that a lot of Eve players dismiss DUST 514 as a sure failure because the game is a Playstation 3 exclusive.  But I've heard interest in the first-person shooter around the office from people who would never play Eve.  So what's the best way to introduce people to New Eden?  The "Eve Is Real" web site?  The tabloid news site EveNews 24?  The Eve Blog Pack and Eve Pod Pack? Eve columns on major gaming sites like Brendan Drain's Eve Evolved on and The Mittani's Sins of a Solar Spymater on Ten Ton Hammer? 

Of course, I could just go ahead and give out some free trials that are longer than the standard 14-day trial available on the web site.  I still had all of my 60-day free trial codes so I gave out two yesterday to a prospective DUST merc.  With as beautiful as New Eden is after the nebula update, I hope his son likes flying around.  And with any luck, his old computer can support the new graphics and both can fly around together.

I've come a long way in the last few months from wondering what CCP was doing with their game during the summer to giving out extended game trials now.  I wrote back then that I wanted to be a fanboi but CCP was making it hard.  With the launch of Crucible, I can even feel good writing positive things.  So if you're interested in New Eden, come on in while there are still a lot of good seats on the bandwagon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Developing Real Life Learning Implants

While CCP is developing a new set of implants that improve a pilot's intelligence and perception for delivery during the holiday season, researchers at Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto are working to turn our game play into reality.
"For the first time, researchers have been able to hack into the process of learning in the brain, using induced brain patterns to create a learned behavior. It’s not quite as advanced as an instant kung-fu download, and it’s not as sleek as cognitive inception, but it’s still an important finding that could lead to new teaching and rehabilitation techniques.

"Future therapies could decode the brain activity patterns of an athlete or a musician, and use them as a benchmark for teaching another person a new activity, according to the researchers."
Unlike in the future universe of New Eden in which pilots' brains receive hardwired devices, today's researchers are looking into something called visual perceptual learning (VPL) in which repetitive training improves a person’s performance on a particular task.  The study used "decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks."  Or, in simpler terms, subjects were able to learn stuff without traditional study.  According to the press release:
"What's more, the approached worked even when test subjects were not aware of what they were learning.

"'The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects' awareness of what was to be learned,' said [lead author and BU neuroscientist Takeo] Watanabe, who developed the idea for the research project along with Mitsuo Kawato, director of ATR lab and Yuka Sasaki, an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"'We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects' visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training,' he said.

"The finding brings up an inevitable question. Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research?

"'In theory, hypnosis or a type of automated learning is a potential outcome,' said Kawato. 'However, in this study we confirmed the validity of our method only in visual perceptual learning. So we have to test if the method works in other types of learning in the future. At the same time, we have to be careful so that this method is not used in an unethical way.'"
Unlike other advanced technologies in Eve Online like cloning, the hydrostatic capsule and interstellar travel, CCP does not have a story about the history of implants on its official game website.  In November I wrote about work done at the University of Pennsylvania on non-intrusive brain-computer interfaces.  Now we have successful experiments in advanced learning techniques.  Perhaps if we want to learn about implant technology all we have to do is read the newspapers (or at least the Internet).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Following The Plan

No plan survives contact with the enemy.  In Eve Online, that enemy too often is a player's own ignorance.  Take for example my plan to get the blueprint copies for three of the Minmatar faction ships.  Late last night I finished getting both Rosewalker and Wandering Rose up to what I hope is the required 9.9 unmodified standing with the Republic Parliament in order to get the Tempest Fleet Issue 2-run blueprint copies.  Except that is not the case.

According to the ISK guide I bought, I need 9.9 unmodified standings with the agent that sells the BPC for 30 Angel Diamond tags.  But I've assumed that means I needed 9.9 unmodified standings with the corporation the agent belongs to, the Republic Parliament.  I did a little further research and according to the EVElopedia, I need faction standing, not corporation standings.  But it is understandable that I missed it, because the EVElopedia only has two articles, "Cosmos faction ship offers" and "Makor Desto", that tell players that.  Oops.

As much as I hate grinds, I'm not really upset.  Sure, I could have used the time better by grinding standings with a better NPC corporation like the Brutor Tribe, but I didn't really lose much, if anything.  I was still gaining Minmatar faction, now over 7 for both pilots.  Rosewalker now has a corporation he can get jump clones from independent of any corporation or alliance membership.  And with my corporation's standings now at 6.98 with the Minmatar and over 6 with the Gallente, I can now anchor POS in high-sec now, with the ability to do so in .7 Minmatar syatems probably a possibility once I accept and finish the storyline mission in Wandering Rose' neocom.  And the combined 400,000 loyalty points earned during the grind are enough to purchase a complete set of +5 implants or a pair of those highly coveted Scythe Fleet Issue cruisers that can only be purchased from the LP store.

I now might deviate from the plan.  The initial plan was to do another grind up to 9.2 with Republic Fleet.  Now that I know I need faction standings and not corporation standings, I might do that more useful grind with the Brutor tribe after all.  According to the EVElopedia, I really don't benefit with corporate standings of over 6.67 now that I have standings of over 8 with at least one corporation to get jump clones from.  So unless I find something I really like that costs a lot of loyalty points, I have more freedom to do what I want and can engage in a lot of little mini-corporate grinds instead of one huge grind.  That is good because I really do hate grinds.  This one is just proving to be so darn useful I'll put up with it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Helicity Boson, The Mittani Not To Face Real World War Crimes Charges

In what I hope is not a stunning developement, the International Red Cross will not have Helicity Boson or The Mittani, co-organizers of Hulkageddon V, dragged before the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face war crimes charges.  Apparently a story was circulating among news sources on the Internet stating that the Red Cross wanted to charge players of any game, not just Eve Online, with war crimes conducted within video games that violated the Geneva Conventions on War.  But yesterday mainstream media sources knocked down the story.  The Associated Press reported:
"The International Committee of the Red Cross says media reports that it is investigating whether the Geneva Conventions apply to video games are false.

"The Swiss-based humanitarian group assured gamers Thursday that "serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations."
"The ICRC says it is nevertheless interested in working with video game makers to promote a better understanding of international humanitarian law because some companies also develop war simulations for armed forces."
Why would the rumor ever begin?  Apparently it began at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland when the famous humanitarian body held a side event in which the influence of video games was discussed.  The Kotaku coverage of the event included this passage that I think sparked the rumors:
"While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL," according to the event's description. "Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in video games. In a side event, participants were asked: 'What should we do, and what is the most effective method?'

"While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer. There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action."

Reached for comment earlier this week, Alexandra Boivin, head of the Civil Society Relations Unit's Department of International Law and Cooperation for the committee, declined to discuss their findings yet.

"Unfortunately, it is too early in the discussion to share our views publicly," Boivin told Kotaku. "We will be posting some information on the ICRC's website in the weeks to come, with a view to stating and explaining our interest in the topic."
This look at behavior in video games goes back a few years and last week's efforts were based, at least in part, on the award-winning The Playing By The Rules project from TRIAL, a Swiss-based NGO.  While the project looked at first-person shooters and not MMORPG's, I am sure that as we see the development of more MMOFPS like Planetside 2 and CCP's DUST 514, MMOs will begin to see their share of scrutiny in this area.  But in the meantime, Helicity Boson and The Mittani are free to conduct Hulkageddon V with no fear of being hauled to The Hague. But this being Eve, you know someone is going to try it anyway.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Preparing For The Next Grind

As much as I complain about some of the massive grinds in MMOs, I committed myself in August to getting blueprint copies for three of the Minmatar faction ships, the Tempest Fleet Issue, the Stabber Fleet Issue and the Republic Fleet Firetail.  Back then, I didn't think I could accomplish the goal in less than a year.  I might have been too pessimistic because I am about to finish the first of the two standings grinds I need to do in order to get all three BPCs.  That's right, Wandering Rose now has the standings with the Republic Parliament (9.9) to get the Tempest Fleet Issue bpc and Rosewalker is almost at the goal with standings of 9.78.  I figure with as much time as I have to play lately that I should have the grind finished in about 2 weeks and maybe as early as this weekend if everything breaks my way both in game and in real life.  Of course, that means I have to start planning for the next standings grind with the Republic Fleet in order to get the Stabber Fleet Issue (9.2) and Republic Fleet Firetail (8.5) blueprint copies.

While on the surface the grind with Republic Fleet may seem easier since I only need to get to 9.2 standings instead of 9.9, the grind will present a different challenge.  Doing a little research, I discovered that Republic Fleet does not have storyline agents.  When doing the grind for Republic Parliament, I did courier missions along with the Republic Parliament COSMOS missions.  Courier missions go quickly which not only fit in with my schedule but lead to doing a lot of storyline missions (16 regular missions = 1 storyline mission) and the standings built up fast, especially for Wandering Rose who unintentionally exploited the emotions of a lonely agent in Ridoner.

I have the feeling I will do combat missions on the standings grind for the Republic Fleet.  In preparation, I have Wandering Rose training up her leadership skills (Siege Warfare Specialization is already at IV and I'm training Armored Warfare V now) to make doing level 4 combat missions a little easier.  But I have a couple of questions if anyone wants to chime in.  Do I blitz the missions to get the faction as fast as possible or do I try to gather as many tags in missions instead of just buying them on the market?  In addition to standings, I need 30 Angel Cartel Silver Tags to purchase the Republic Fleet Firetail bpc, 30 Angel Cartel Gold Tags to purchase the Stabber Fleet Issue bpc and 30 Angel Cartel Diamond Tags to purchase the Tempest Fleet Issue bpc.  Another question is if I decide to blitz, what kind of ship should I invest in?  I hear Vagabonds can blitz level 4 missions solo pretty well and I'll have a battlecruiser, and in 2-3 months a command ship, in support.  Just remember I can only fly Minmatar and only sub-capitals.  Oh, and I can't fly tech 2 battleships.

I also have to think about my standings with the Amarr and Caldari.  Rosewalker doesn't care, but Wandering Rose is the CEO and really needs to think about transiting all of Empire space, not just the space of the good guys.   As a break from the Republic Fleet grind, I might start thinking up some unusual mission running duos to run through some level 1 combat missions.  A Bellicose/Breacher combination might be fun, especially since Rosewalker can fit the Breacher with tech 2 launchers.

When I throw in the need to do the Republic Fleet COSMOS missions in the Ani Constellation to get some additional standings, I think I have my missioning plans for the next few months mapped out.  I've discovered that Eve is like that.  I play for a few months, reach my goal, then set another goal for myself and the path I want to take.  Sure, the PvE combat isn't exciting, but I get to choose my path, not the game developers.  Aren't sandboxes great?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts On Eve's Player Owned Customs Office

A lot of players are upset over the introduction of player-owned customs offices (POCO) to replace the existing customs offices used in Eve Online's planetary interaction feature.  I'm late jumping onto the subject because I wanted to think about the subject after the shock of the tax increases wore off.  Hopefully I can provide a little insight from a little different perspective.

Who called the assessors office?  The way that CCP raised taxes on planetary interaction products reminded me of the property tax bill on my home.  My taxes are based not only on the cumulative tax rate assessed by the many taxing districts my home falls in but the assessed value of my home.  For example, this year my tax rates didn't go up, by the value of my house was reassessed.  Ouch!  Fortunately my housing association went to work and the value was adjusted downward.  But something tells me CCP won't adjust the assessed values of planetary interaction products.

The new insurance?
  For the longest time, the price of minerals was tied to insurance payouts due to the practice of insurance fraud.  Will the prices of PI goods evenually stabilize at the assessed product values used to determine the import and export taxes?  Or will the prices serve as a floor unless some nullsec alliance decides to play market games like the Goons currrently are with blue ice?  As a reminder, here are the values:
  • Advanced Commodities: 1,350,000.00 ISK
  • Specialized Commodities: 70,000.00 ISK
  • Refined Commodities: 9,000.00 ISK
  • Basic commodities: 500.00 ISK
  • Planet Resources: 5.00 ISK
Improving Null Sec:  Going back to the Nullsec Development: Design Goals devblog back in August, the POCO meets several of the design goals that CCP is looking to implement in improving null sec.

Industry:  The introduction of POCOs allows the production of planetary interaction goods at much cheaper rates than in highsec.  This meets several of the goals set out in the devblog:
  • Geared towards T2
    • Our current proposal is that hisec is for volume T1 goods, lowsec will be for meta/faction gear eventually, nullsec is for T2, and wormholes are for T3
  • Lucrative
    • Building T2 modules/ships in nullsec should be a good way to make a lot of money. There are many inherent drawbacks in doing industry in nullsec and we need to balance out these hidden costs.
  • Requires investment
    • Again, we want the real wealth-generation machines to require people to settle down and spend some money, because it encourages concentration of effort and makes for interesting targets to attack or defend.
  • Accessible to all in small volumes
    • Anyone should be able to build enough bits and bobs to support a reasonably frugal lifestyle, anywhere in nullsec. This allows small groups to feel self-sufficient provided they're all prepared to work for it, while still encouraging specialization efficiency for larger groups.
Small Combat:  I'm a highsec carebear, but from everything I've heard and read, much of nullsec combat revolves around shooting and defending structures.  The relatively small (10 million hit point) POCOs should be structures that can quickly be put into structure.  I think POCOs help meet two design goals:
  • Objectives and incentives
    • Smaller fleets moving through enemy space should always have something to do, and doing that something should make them feel like they've achieved something worthwhile even if they didn't get any actual fights. This means having things to do that are both satisfying and deliver some kind of long-term value (ideally things with tangible ISK-relative value as well as intangible strategic value) to offset the opportunity cost of a roam. We want people out PvPing, and if they're thinking "I wish I'd stayed at home and run missions" then something is wrong.
  • Disrupt, not destroy
    • When interfering with infrastructure, smaller fleets should as a rule be causing damage that can be brought back to its pre-damage state in a short timeframe, and without costing that much money. A single small-scale roam is not a large investment, and it should not require a large investment to undo the damage. A sustained harassment campaign should be possible to disrupt activities for longer periods, if the harasser puts in the hours to do so.
Smallholding:  I think POCOs arguably meet all the goals for CCP has for small-scale infrastructure, but two goals stand out:
  • Accessible
    • Pretty much anyone with a little seed capital (~10m ISK) should be able to establish some small, semi-permanent presence in nullsec. Not everyone wants to get involved in nullsec, but every player that feels even a slight interest but never quite takes the plunge represents a failure of design that we should fix.
  • Mostly self-sufficient
    • For non-trivial investments, the day-to-day running of operations in smallholdings should be more-or-less self-sufficient. Something akin to a bi-weekly supply run (bi-weekly because then the investment gives you a "weekend off" every other weekend, which is rewarding) is desirable for a number of reasons - adds interaction, creates weaknesses, removes the need for high-value manufacturing in smallholdings, and prevents players from feeling totally isolated - but it should not be a massive amount of work, nor should it be that often. Smallholdings should make players feel like intrepid pioneers, living off the land of the frontier and hoping the bi-weekly mail coach gets through safely.
Kill InterBus!  CCP couldn't just remove all of the customs offices because lots of industrialists had colonies in null, low, and wormhole space.  But they could give everyone an incentive to do structure shoots.  That's right, they gave the existing offices who promptly instituted a tax that is greater than the launch costs in highsec.  I wonder how many merc contracts were issued to kill the InterBus offices.

My plans:  Having nearly a week to think about the PI changes, how have I changed the way I play?  First, I've abandoned trying to make P3 products.  Right now I am just making P2 products on single planets.  Eventually I may try to run a factory planet that imports P1 products to make P3 goods.  But for now I'll just set up my colonies to run for as long as possible without my having to enter the interface and then pick up the goods once a week.  For me, I'm making more money than I was two weeks ago due to the increase in prices.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Operation ISHAEKA

The Arek'Jaalan Project continues to discover new elements of New Eden even as its home base in Eram falls under attack.  The latest news comes from Mark726 of Eve Travel who continues to do research in relation to Project Compass.  The famed explorer submitted the following report this morning to the members of the Arek'Jaalan Project:

For those of you who may not recall, near the beginning of Arek'Jaalan's existence, we were warned by CONCORD to stay away from Monalaz (the Constellation you must enter in order to access the EVE Gate and surrounding systems). We were not told of any specific information, but rather warned generally to stay away from CONCORD affairs in that Constellation. After vigorous debate, the Project decided to ignore CONCORD's warning to stay out of Monalaz, while still attempting to stay out of CONCORD's way should any activity present itself. This was perhaps 6 months ago. We have heard nothing from CONCORD about activity since that time.

Just now, as I was moving through Monalaz for Project Compass, Aura presented me with the following information:

"In this dark new era of Sansha’s Nation incursions, the Monalaz constellation has become home to the most well-funded and notable anti-Sansha taskforce, Operation ISHAEKA (Intaki for “Leader Two”).

"ISHAEKA represents a multinational effort to coordinate forces against Sansha Kuvakei and oppose his twisted, dystopian visions of conformity and slavish obedience. The tactical response unit is comprised primarily of DED captains, but it is also supplemented by a contingent of elite combat veterans from the Tash-Murkon region. These soldiers are known only as the Justiciars.

"The ISHAEKA taskforce is believed to have relocated to the Monalaz constellation shortly after the conclusion of the first phase of their operation. During Phase One, the taskforce was deployed to the Stain region. Rumors persist that the Justiciars learned something of Nation’s plans while on deployment, and that their choice to relocate to Monalaz, of all places, speaks volumes about what they may have discovered."

It appears to be clear to me that this is what CONCORD wanted us to stay away from. I have not yet had the chance to thoroughly investigate Monalaz for any CONCORD allied structures, but I shall be doing so on my first opportunity.
I really hope that Mark726 writes about any facilities he finds on Eve Travel.  He confines his writing on his site to interesting places.  Hopefully these DED facilities will fall into that category.

For those who wish to follow the progress of the project, you can follow the progress in-game (and through Eve Gate) by joining the Arek'jaalan mailing list as well as join the Arek'jaalan chat channel.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sansha Attacks The Arek'Jaalan Project, Others As Well?

The action is heating up in Eram as Site One of the Arek'Jaalan project was attacked twice.  In the initial attack on Wednesday, a Raven piloted by a day-old pilot with a -10 standing engaged the security forces around the Arek'Jaalan facility and was destroyed as well as a Crow that later warped in to salvage the Raven.  The Crow was also piloted by a day-old pilot with -10 standings.  Myrhial Arkenath issued this report from the scene:
"Somewhere around 19:00, a capsuleer by the name of Kaitoh Aikoh (deceased), then member of the State War Academy opened fire upon the Arek'Jaalan security forces at Site One. I witnessed the attack first had, though it took me a while to catch on what was happening as I was taking camera drone shots for an MRID report.

"The capsuleer managed to destroy one or two vessels -- one wreck is currently present, yet I registered more security vessels before -- and then appeared to activate a cloaking device. As I relayed information into the main Arek'Jaalan channel, the pilot jetissoned a can (contents unknown) and targetted me. I kept a steady distance, and after a while his ship cloaked once again. As reinforcements arrived, he eventually uncloaked and registred as free to fire upon. Moments after, his wreck and corpse were seen in space, and the one day old licensed -- suspected record fraud -- capsuleer registred as being deceased.

"Some while after a pilot named Surento Anniki, also licensed for only just one day, appeared in a Crow named 'Cold Wind' near the Raven wreck. He left Ishukone Operational Reports behind.

"It is important to note that neither CONCORD forces, nor Minmatar Republic forces, responded to the attack. This is even more curious as both pilots registered as -10.0 security status and should have been shot on sight. I'd also like to draw attention to the face that both capsuleers graduated from Caldari schools, which in light of the suspected record fraud may be either intended, or chosen to make the State look as to be behind this."

Guillome Renard, one of the pilots responding to the attack, provided some additional details:
  • Both pilots were flying advanced hardware for freshly licensed pilots. The Crow, in particular, had advanced missile and other modules fit to it. The pilot records, including their affiliation, is likely forged or spoofed somehow.
  • The Crow pilot appeared (though no one was in its proximity to confirm) to salvage the wreck of the Raven. Both ships were destroyed under mysterious circumstances.
  • The raven wreck was discovered roughly 90,000-100,000 km from Site One, down the axis of travel one would expect from the Under Construction acceleration gate. It is unclear how it arrived there.
  • Both corpses were recovered.
Gejaheline came up with rules of engagement (ROE) for capsuleers looking to help the defense forces:
"There seems to be some form of huge red-tape snafu RE Site one, possibly relating to CONCORD jurisdiction problems. I shall sum up the various points that were discovered during the attacks on Site One today. I shan't go into reasoning why, merely the basic facts, and shall leave speculation to those wiser than I.
  1. Capsuleers may freely fire upon the non-capsuleer staff at Site One.
  2. Capsuleers who are firing upon non-capsuleer staff may not be fired upon by other capsuleers, including A'J staffers.
  3. Capsuleers MAY remote-repair non-capsuleer staffers with no repercussions, to the point where attackers cannot fire upon the remote-repairers.
  4. Capsuleer - capsuleer interactions obey the normal RoE. The above only apply if there is a non-capsuleer ship involved in the middle.
"So, to sum up: Capsuleer staff may defend non-capsuleer staff by repairing them, but may not retaliate with force against their attackers.

"Similarly, Capsuleer attackers may not attack A'J capsuleers who are repairing non-capsuleer staff.

"I suggest that you take advantage of this to keep Site One craft intact until their crews have time to evacuate.

"Naturally, if you get a warning that repairing a target will flag you for aggression, do not attempt to repair the target unless you know what you're doing."

In the wake of the first attack, Dr. Hilen Tukoss, the head of the Arek'Jaalan Project, issued this statement:
"It appears that around an hour ago, a breach of our security was attempted by an unknown individual or individuals, presumably capsuleers.

"Two security vessels were destroyed and material acquired from them was used to activate the acceleration gate present at the site. Only a few crew members remain unaccounted for at this time.

"The gate these individuals were attempting to use currently leads to an empty pocket of space. No construction or work of any significance has begun there (only basic surveying has begun so far), as those who presumably found the wrecks at the same location can hopefully verify. This suggests that our would-be infiltrators were perhaps expecting something more.

"As soon as these individual's identities were discovered to be falsified, a notification was sent to CONCORD, and special operations teams were dispatched to neutralize the situation. Both pilots have since had their capsuleer records wiped.

"I agree with others that the somewhat bizarre nature of events is designed to muddy the waters, and that we should not rush to conclusions.

"I've sent a formal request of information to the State War Academy, on behalf of Eifyr & Co. to share any information they can about these two individuals, but I suspect little in the way of solid leads.

"Please continue to report any clearly violent or erratic behaviour observed at Site One to the list, and remember to presume innocence on a capsuleer's behalf as a matter of course. We do not want to start threaning day-old pilots with a genuine interest in our research."  
While the first attack was conducted by pilots flying with forged data entries and orders from Ishukone, the second attack this morning appears the work of the Sansha.  From the initial reports, at 6:41am a Sansha Nation sympathizer by the name of Kanza Mikakka flew a Bantam filled with nuclear pulse generators and thermonuclear triggers to the mouth of the Federation outpost next to the Residential Shuttle Port.  He initiated the self-destruct sequence and alert forces managed to bump the Caldari mining frigate 5-10km from the structures where it harmlessly blew up.  Kanza shouted "For the Master!" while conducting the attack and left this message for the Arek'Jaalan community:
"The Master calls; Your fleets will burn You will not see the Promised Land.

"We will vanquish your fear and commute your flesh to dust."

So what's going on?  Who really is attacking Arek'Jaalan?  Is Dr. Tukoss getting to close to things?  Is Ishukone looking for revenge against someone they may consider a traitor?  I have the feeling we will find out soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Day Of Crucible

As launches of MMORPG expansions go, yesterday's launch of Crucible went pretty smoothy, at least for me.  The announcement that the expansion was deployed went up around 1700, or about 3 hours after the scheduled time.  Of course, working in Chicago like I do, that was 9 hours before I could get home, plenty of time for everyone to download the game before I tried.

I have to update two clients and for the first time I had to run the repair tool on one of my computers.  Following a 9 minute download, the repair tool took 22 minutes to eventually install the game.  Not to bad considering a 1.2 GB download because of the graphics.

Upon logging in, I noticed that the Captain's Quarters in the Minmatar station I was docked in looked a lot better.  I suspect that the graphics settings changed from what I had set, but as I did not notice any lag like the initial download of my CQ at Incarna's launch, I left everything as is.

Planetary Interaction doesn't look any different, but then again I wasn't importing or exporting products last night.  On the train ride home I read the uproar over the hugely increased cost of conducting business in the CONCORD (high-sec) and InterBus (low-sec) run stations.  For high-sec, everyone knew that the tax rate would double.  From what I read on the forums, no one expected the base prices of products to increase as much as they did.  I thought about just stopping, doing the math and writing a blog post about what I'm sure will be a hot topic in the Eve blogosphere in the coming days, but I had courier missions to do.

And am I glad I decided to play the game!  Wow!  My first missions were done flying a Mammoth.  After I got done looking at the background, the first thing I noticed is that my Mammoth had engine trails going into and coming out of warp.  That little detail made the warp experience a little better.

The Ice Cream Man Warping To Zero
The warp tunnel affect is pretty cool also, especially when warping through a planet.  Ships look like they are transiting a distorted subway as the warp tunnel gets dark and then lightens up as the background nebula appears.  I didn't get a screenshot of that experience, but I did get a nice one of how celestial objects along the way appear distorted.

An uncloaked Prowler in warp.  Don't try this at home.
One nice feature is that pilots no longer need to be within 2,500m to click on the jump button in the action menu.  Just click on jump on the outbound gate and you warp to zero and then jump through.  Before Crucible, I was turning the autopilot on and off to get the same effect.  Now I don't have to pay as much attention to how I'm flying.  Caution, though.  This functionality does not work for cloaked ships like blockade runners.  When I tried it, I received the message that I could not jump through because I was cloaked.

Coming out of warp at a backwater high-sec gate
I didn't have much time to play last night, but what I saw flying around my little corner of Metropolis was pretty pleasing to the eye and left a good first impression.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts On Crucible Patch Notes

The rollout of Crucible expansion is underway now so I thought I'd review some of the more interesting (to me at least) items we will soon see on Tranquility.  I keep hearing how Crucible may be the best Eve Online expansion ever.  I realize I was not around for Red Moon Rising, but I was around for Apocrypha and I do not think Crucible will surpass that.  So here is my look at the patch notes.

Critical:  CCP is rolling out a new localization technology called Cerberus.  Unfortunately, all the German and Russian translations were not complete so those using German and Russian clients will see some text in English.  Also, it sounds like CCP isn't too confident in the performance of the overview settings under extreme load (like massive fleet fights) so that is something to watch out for.  And if you have your windows customized, you'll have to set those up again.

Time Dilation:  While time dilation will make the large fleet fights Eve is famous for more playable, those looking to experience the feature right away will be disappointed.  The feature will not be turned on at launch.

Worldshaping:  Eve Online is a beautiful game and CCP has from all reports improved the scenery immensely.  I'm looking forward to seeing the new nebula, enhanced starfields and new background for the in-game map.

Captain's Quarters:  I'm looking forward to seeing the new Caldari, Gallente and yes, even Amarr quarters.  I also want to see just how the quarters change in appearance depending on the system's security status.  Just a warning to all those who like to spin their ships.  That feature in only available if you turn the "Load Station Environments" option to "ON".  If you leave it off, you just get a static screen.  I have the feeling some people are not going to be happy with that.

Ships:  All Caldari and Gallente ships as well as the Apocalypse and Impairor have had their shaders upgraded to the V3 shader set.  But the big news is the 4 new tier 3 battlecruisers.  I'm not a big fan of glass cannons, so I'll probably only pick up the Tornado to say I own one.  I like by battlecruisers mounting warfare links and able to take a tremendous pounding.  That said, I won't go into the stats, just the lore descriptions.

Naga (Caldari) - The Naga was designed in YC 109 by the Corporate Police Force as an anti-Guristas ship, sacrificing the usual robust Caldari Navy standards in favor of supporting battleship-class weaponry. It was rejected by Hyasyoda management for being overspecialized. The Naga design remained in the Hyasyoda archives, forgotten (save for a cameo in the Gallente holo-series CPF Blue). In YC 113 the Caldari Navy entertained contracts for a new tier of gunboat battlecruiser. Hyasyoda quickly submitted and won with the Naga, underbidding both Kaalakiota and Ishukone.

Oracle (Amarr) - In YC 113 Empress Jamyl Sarum I challenged Amarr ship manufacturers to build a new battlecruiser that would break the stalemate of the Empyrean War. Deviating from the doctrine of brute-force and heavy armor, the engineers at Viziam took inspiration from Caldari history. During the Gallente-Caldari War, the Caldari developed light, maneuverable ships to counter the slow ships of the Gallente Federation. This philosophy, along with a cutting-edge powertrain and ultra-light alloy armor plating, led to the Oracle. The Empire immediately ordered the ship into production. The Empress personally congratulated Viziam Chief Researcher Parud Vakirokiki, calling the ship ‘a work of Divine Grace for the Empire, and retribution to our enemies.’

Talos (Gallente) - The Talos began in YC 110 as a R&D concept by ORE. Conceived as a patrol craft for mining operations in lawless space, the Talos would have been abandoned completely were it not adopted by the Black Eagles, a black-ops branch of the Gallente government. The Black Eagles stripped the Talos of non-essential systems and bolted on battleship-class weapons, creating a quick-strike craft ideal for guerilla action. The Talos remained a military secret until YC 113, when it was introduced into wider circulation as a third tier battlecruiser. Today the Talos is manufactured by Duvolle Labs, who modified the original ORE designs to bring it in line with Gallente standards.

Tornado (Minmatar) - In YC 113 Republic Security Services learned the Amarr Empire was building a new battlecruiser capable of supporting battleship-class weapons. Determined to not lose their technological edge to their adversaries, Republic Fleet commissioned Boundless Creation to construct a gunboat to match. What they designed was the Tornado. Developed in record time and total secrecy, the Tornado is a testament to Minmatar engineering. Modeled loosely off of flying-wing designs of ancient planetary bombers, the Tornado supports multiple large projectile turrets, dealing massive damage while maintaining a small signature radius.

New Tech 2 modules:  I'm excited about the new tech 2 modules.  I'm really looking forward to the warfare and mining links as well as the Micro auxiliary power core II and Small Tractor Beam II.

Customs Office:  This feature I hate.  One of my goals for my third year was to get more active in low sec.  This change is a disincentive to do that.  For me, low sec planetary interaction just became unprofitable, if doable at all.  I'll have to find some other motivation to risk my ships out there.

User Interface:  For me, the change is meh.  I'm used to the current UI and I don't mind it.  And a "loot all" button?  Big deal.

Combat:  The big change is in killmails.  Implants now show up as well as the difference between blueprint originals and blueprint copies.  Good for stroking the epeen of PvPers, but not really exciting for me.

Exploration and deadspace:  I guess I should be excited about the addition of more 3/10 and 4/10 DED complexes.  But I don't run DED complexes, so no big deal for me.  I am looking forward to seeing Site One in Eram, though.

Graphics:  The graphics updates look interesting, with the reintroduction of engine trails, seeing shots miss your ship, new warp tunnel effects and seeing the full body avatars of other players.

Changes:  I just can't get excited about the changes that everyone is raving about.  I guess my style of play just doesn't lend itself to being affected by too much.  About the only thing I see that really affects me is that destroyer buff that will make getting ganked in high-sec so much easier.  I might have to keep the Orca docked now, at least for the first few weeks until the novelty of having gank ships like the new tier 3 battlecruisers and the buffed destroyers wears off.  Unfortunately I forgot to move my Orca and it is stuck on the wrong side of Hek.

Null sec players are interested in the supercap nerfs and changes in capitals and lots of players are interested in the POS fuel changes.  But for me, I have a big case of the blahs about the changes.  Maybe I just need to take more time to read them.

Conclusion:  I now regret writing this post.  After reading the patch notes and thinking about them, I'm not excited about Crucible anymore.  Fortunately, Eve Online is a game driven by the players.  If the general player base is excited, that will bleed over into the general feeling about the game I have.  But in my opinion, the only thing that makes this expansion exciting is just how bad Incarna was.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fratt Asmurkik Needs A Girlfriend

I think almost everyone who has played MMORPG's for any length of time has heard stories of guys giving female avatars free stuff to attract attention.  My main in Everquest 2 was a female wood-elf ranger and I did receive a few items in my time in-game.  Things are a bit different in Eve Online because with the overwhelming majority of players (over 95%) being male, I think people assume you are male unless proved otherwise over Teamspeak, Ventrillo or some other VOIP program.  However, over the past week I think Wandering Rose has received some special treatment because she is a woman.

The man's name is Fratt Asmurdik, a Brutor agent for the Republic Parliament stationed in Metropolis region's Ridoner system.  But he's not just any agent; he is a level 4 storyline agent.  That's right, an NPC is sweet on Wandering Rose.

Lonely In Ridoner
Why do I think I've got an admirer in Mr. Asmurdik?  Last week I was on vacation and decided, when I wasn't sick in bed, to conduct a faction grind to get the necessary standings with Makor Desto of the Republic Parliament to get the 2-run blueprint copies of the Tempest Fleet Issue.  According to the ISK guide, that means having an unmodified standing with the Republic Parliament of 9.9.  Ouch.  So I started the grind by doing the courier missions with Rutadulf Hilsenaef, the level 4 distribution agent working out of Ridoner.  I like flying around in ships, and having both Wandering Rose and Rosewalker do the missions kept me busy enough while I listened to podcasts or Eve Radio.

Last Saturday, Rosewalker had an unmodified standing with the Republic Parliament of 8.03 while Wandering Rose lagged far behind at 6.53.  When I finished last night, Wandering Rose was almost finished with standings of 9.87 compared to Rosewalker's 9.66.  Why the difference?  Because Fratt kept giving Rosewalker missions that didn't give very much standings and gave all the choice assignments to Wandering Rose.  Since both Rosewalker and Wandering Rose are both Minmatar of the Vherokior tribe, I am assuming that the difference in treatment is gender.  Or perhaps I should say sex?  As in Fratt isn't getting any?

Hopefully this is just a fluke in the random number generator.  Or maybe not.  Can you imagine if the agents took gender into account when handing out missions?