Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sofia Unrest - CONCORD Arrives

Sofia, BG - Last night was the first time since I arrived in Sofia I did not see protesters on the streets or outside the National Palace of Culture.  There was an extremely heavy police presence the past two days, although on Tuesday I saw protesters waving a Bulgarian flag as police looked on.  Last night, the area was quiet as a counted at least 30 police officers in and around the building.  That figure does not include the police that must have been on the north end of the park and fountains.  I walked through the area, but didn't take any pictures.  The way things are going, I wasn't about to risk irritating a bunch of guys carrying billy clubs who just had a couple of bad days.  While my area is quite, I don't know about the rest of Sofia.  Perhaps the arrest of notorious Roma crime boss Kiril Rashkov, aka Tsar Kiro, today had something to do with the lack of activity.

The pictures that I did take of Tuesday's protest didn't turn out too well.  Something about a big police presence between me and the protest.  While no one is going to mistake me for a gypsy, I'll take the protection the police gave, given what happened Monday, given what could have happened Monday.

Maybe if everything calms down I can go back to thinking about video games.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sofia Unrest - I Was There

Sofia, BG - With everything going on in the world today, I doubt many in the West are looking at what is happening in Bulgaria today.  On Saturday, as I was flying to Sofia, protests began after a young man was run down by an associate of a mafia boss, known as Tsar Kiro,  in the village of Katunitsa.  From my imperfect understanding of the situation, this Tsar Kiro is a Roma, or a gypsy, a group that makes up between 5 and 10 percent of the population of Bulgaria and is looked down upon as being thieves, swindlers and just all-around lazy.  I'm not saying that is true, but that is the perception I get from some here.

I didn't realize all of this was going on as I didn't follow the news.  After all, nothing local could really affect me, right?  And I didn't know any of this background until I got home last night.  However, I do have a practice of scouting out an area I arrive at, and since I had stayed at this hotel before, I actually know the surrounding area a little better than the area around my office building in Chicago.  During my two hour walk, I did notice a crowd in the park adjacent to the National Palace of Culture, which is across the street from the hotel.  I didn't know if it was a political rally since it was led with Bulgarian flags or if something else was happening, like a football (or soccer) match.  It was that type of crowd.  Did I forget to mention the Bulgarian presidential campaign began on Saturday also?

Yesterday's unrest began with crowds beginning to organize around 7pm.  I can confirm that as I and a colleague were walking home from the local office and saw a crowd beginning to form and march down Vitosha Blvd.  We wound up at the very end of the blob, which I estimated cover the area 2-3 platoons of soldiers would stand in, making the crowd size between 100-150.  Apparently, news coverage from the scene confirms my count.  But at the time, I wasn't as  worried about the numbers as I was the mood of the crowd.  This was not a fun, happy crowd.  This was one I wanted no part of.

As police began to arrive at the back of the crowd, we slowed our pace and allowed the crowd to pull ahead.  As my Bulgarian is very bad, I didn't know what was going on, and I didn't want to know the reasons why, quite frankly.  Since they were marching toward the National Palace of Culture, I figured they were going to a rally or protest of some sort.  Either that, or they were going to march up and down Vitosha, a shopping district, to make a point.  For those in Chicago, think Michigan Avenue.

Sure enough, at least part of the crowd began to double back.  Either that, or it was a different crowd.  I'm not really sure.  The only think I knew was that two foreigners walking into that crowd was not the wisest thing to do.  So I led my colleague down Patriyarh Eytimiy Blvd. and then made a quick left to get us out of sight.  After that, the way was clear, although not knowing that I had spotted all of the crowd, I was still leery of another group appearing.  I may have scouted the area, but I don't know it THAT well.

As I told my colleague, an adventure was something bad happening to someone else.  Fortunately, our adventure was minor and we arrived at our hotel at 7:30 with something to talk about.  I perhaps unwisely decided to walk to the Central City Mall around 8pm.  As I walked in the park around the National Palace of Culture, it was a pleasant evening with a not-so-good band from the United States playing a free concert.  Apparently all the real action was occurring at the National Assembly square.

I realize as a gaming blog, this post is way off-topic.  If I really wanted to, I could try to relate the experience to Eve Online and how some of the actions I do relate to the way I play the game.  I'd like to think that my life experience led my to behave the way I did (and influences the way I play Eve) rather than the other way around.  After all, I'm 47 and this is my 7th trip outside the United States.  But this is something I just had to write about.  And next time, I'll remember to take the camera out of my computer bag to prove "I was there".

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Eve Pilots Shouldn't Land On Planets

Sofia, BG - I can give you a reason that Eve pilots should not land on planets as part of DUST 514.  Jet lag.  When you are in space, you can set your own clock, whether it be European, U.S. or Australian (and what is the lore for those designations, anyway?).  But on a planet, a pilot would have to adjust to a diurnal pattern of life.  That's way to inconvenient.  I'm a pod pilot, the world should adapt to me.  That's pretty easy for a station to do since stations must be manned continuously.

What brought that on?  Staying up 31 hours to make sure I'm functional today.  I made it, but it was a PITA.  I will have to say that having a mall about a five minute walk away that had a grocery store open until at least 9pm helped when I realized I forgot to pack some things.  Gotta love Sofia.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Real Life Urgency Leads to Eve Bravery

O'Hare Airport, Chicago - This past week has been brutal at work, soaking up almost all of my time.  My time in Eve has been almost non-existent.  The trend continued today as I had to settle an issue and didn't finish until 10:30.  By the time I completed my last second packing (iPad, Kindle and laptop got packed last) it was almost 11:30 and I was being picked up at noon.

This was important, because I needed to set up contact with two R&D agents to produce datacores so I can begin manufacturing my own tech 2 ammo.  I really wanted to get this established before I left for Bulgaria.  A three-week supply would be a nice present to come back home to.  But could I get to stations a total of 17 jumps away, especially with one of the stations in lowsec?  I decided to find out.

Of course, it helped that Wandering Rose flies a Prowler set up for maximum speed and agility.  Sorry, but I'm more that happy to sacrifice cargo space for speed.  In the case of blockade runners, speed saves.  And it is a good thing to, because one of my prospective agents is in Hagilur, and went I jumped in, the Bei-Hagilur gate was camped by a fleet that came up red on the overview.  Six or eight ships, with at least two Drakes.  Not scouting for a fleet, I didn't really take a careful count.  I just scooted away as fast as I could.  As far as I can tell, no one locked me.  I really should have paid more attention to the range they were from the gate.

After docking and making arrangements with the agent, I had about 10 minutes to make a six jump trip.  The gate camp?  I didn't care.  I was in a Prowler, it was lowsec so I didn't have to worry about bubbles, and I had a plane to catch.  Don't fly what you can't afford to lose is a good policy, and I have plenty of Prowler blueprint copies in my inventory.

As it turns out, the gate camp fleet had moved out to 300+ klicks by the time I returned.  I think they were in the process of setting up a trap and I moved through just in time.  They probably weren't going to waste time on me anyway, but you can't rely on that.

The ending is rather anti-climatic.  I finished the trip to the second agent in time so know I will have some nice things to play with when I get home in mid-October.

Fly it like you have a plane to catch.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What The Font?

It appears the big news is a dev blog about a new font for the UI.  A much needed improvement, but nothing earthshaking.  From the screenshots in the dev blog, I like the change.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Posting Will Be Slow

With my upcoming trip to Bulgaria, I knew I wouldn't be posting much while I was in Europe.  I didn't quite expect all the work required before I hopped on the airplane.  In a sense, that is a good thing as that means work is really busy.  But that has been a drag on the things I do for fun.  Over the weekend, all I really got to do in Eve is sell my planetary interaction products and make a run to low-sec to pick up datacores from an agent.  And as you might have noticed, this is my first post since Wednesday.

So I will put up the notice now instead of Friday or next Monday like I planned.  Work is crazy, but it pays the bills.  I'll post if I get the chance, but based on my experience from past trips, that won't be much.

Interesting Times Ahead?

Yesterday CCP t0rfifrans published a dev blog with some things players have been waiting for.  Ship spinning returns, the turret icons become distinguishable again, graphics in Captain's Quarters improve for those who wish to turn the feature on, and a new cyno effect are on the way to Tranquility Soon™.  But the news got more interesting as CCP Fallout posted on Twitter:
"but it's not the BBBIIIIIG Seekrit. Guard changed that reveal to tomorrow"
That was enough to get my attention, but then Jester wrote an extremely speculative post on what CCP might announce.  The first comment to the post really caught my attention.  Seleene, current CSM member and former Eve dev, wrote:
"Regardless of what is announced or how, I think I'm really going to enjoy reading this blog over the next few weeks. :) "
I seem to always write that interesting times are ahead in Eve.  With three weeks in Bulgaria ahead of me where I can't log into the game, I think I'll be watching a lot of action outside the game in the weeks ahead.  Maybe even enough to have things to blog about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Open Source Intelligence: Why Jester's Charts Mattered To The Mittani

In the real world of intelligence gathering, open source intelligence refers to "overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or classified sources)."  Those who deal or have dealt with real world intel might tell you this about a fact they just stated to make clear that they are not revealing any information that could potentially land them in jail for revealing state secrets.  Those who have been "read on" to have access to more sensitive information sign non-disclosure agreements that have a bit more power than those issued by game companies.

The famous Eve Online spymaster The Mittani found himself in a similar situation recently.  As head of the Council of Stellar Management, he led the player representatives who traveled to Iceland to attend the 30 June - 1 July emergency meeting held in the wake of the launch of Incarna and leaks of the Fearless newsletter and an internal email by CCP CEO Hilmar Petersson.  As is customary in these meetings, much of the good stuff is restricted from the public by being placed under an NDA.  From reading the recently released minutes, I believe that one of the topics The Mittani refers to as "secret squirril shit" was information about subscriptions.  Here is the relevant passage from the minutes.
"The second leg of the session involved showing the CSM how Incarna was received in terms of subscriber numbers and trends as well as informing them of other buisness and analytics metrics.  While the initial trends gave an indication of how things will go, they don't tell the whole story.  The CSM and CCP had a productive dialogue regarding these trends and how they compared to previous expansions." (page 3)
This section had to have been written by CCP.  But notice how vague this paragraph is?  No information about the trends.  The information is obviously under NDA.  So what is The Mittani to do?  He can't take any action based on subscription information, because the information is "classified."  To do so means he forfeits his position on the CSM.

In comes Jester with his latest analysis of the average daily player concurrent usage on Tranquility.  The beauty of Jester's graphs is not only does he chart the average concurrent users after Incarna, but all the way back to 2006.  That means that The Mittani now has "open source intelligence" that is sweeping the player base about player activity over the past several expansions.  Open source intelligence is also actionable intelligence, and whether you like Mittens or not, he knows how to exploit actionable intelligence.  The Mittani took Jester's graphs and ran with them.
"What we see here is the impact of the neglect of what CCP now calls "Flying in Space", what you and I call "Eve Online". Usually after an expansion there is a surge of players who join the game; these create peaks and valleys in PCU (Peak Concurrent User) numbers as people kick the tires on the new content and then either stick around or leave. Incarna, which has taken a tremendous amount of development and marketing resources from FiS, essentially had no impact.

"Read that again. No impact. Millions of dollars and months of development, into a toilet. Meanwhile we suffer a backhanded Sanctum nerf and have had no new FiS content besides Incursions since the introduction of Wormholes."
Could The Mittani have made that statement before Jester's charts became widely distributed?  I don't think so.  I think the subject would have been covered under the NDA.  But with the information now public, The Mittani was free to launch his media offensive.  CCP caved within a week, not only publishing the hotly contested minutes of the emergency summit but holding a voice conference with the CSM assuring them that CCP would address player concerns.  The Mittani posted:
"I agree, 'sounds good' is unsatisfying in this situation. Red meat is the only thing that concerns CSM6, not sound bites - deliverable improvements to EVE and a ruthless focus on FiS.

"Yet updates to the players have to come across as best they can across the wall of the NDA, and right now we can only divulge that a meeting occurred and that methods of resolution were discussed.

"I thought it was a useful conversation and I look forward to the next meeting - useful enough that we'll be relaxing the media pressure for now. Take that for what you will."
Of course, most of the latest meeting was also placed under NDA.  But things have a way of turning in a different direction in the world of New Eden, especially outside the world we see in the monitor.  Stay tuned.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My First Killmail

Yesterday afternoon I managed to free up some time to play Eve so I continued with The Ani Campaign, what I'm calling my time doing the high-sec COSMOS missions in the Ani constellation.  I had moved on to The Asylum in Lanngisi and started doing the missions from Godun Sakt, "Godun's Flunky".  As I've mentioned in the past, the Evelopedia entries for the Minmatar missions are not exactly the greatest sources of information.  If the entries were more accurate, the confrontation below probably would not have occurred.

The first mission is "Listen and Learn," which calls for obtaining four Angel Drug Addict Tags from rats in the in the Contested Minmatar Guerilla Base in Tvink. While the Evelopedia stated that they were found in the security post room, I discovered later that the tags dropped in other rooms as well.  But not knowing that, Wandering Rose hopped in her Hurricane and Rosewalker in a Cyclone and off I went to collect tags.

In the beginning, my lack of willingness to explore other rooms led me to stay in the first room, which was being worked over by a Hurricane/Drake team.  I came back a couple of times and finally found one Angel Drug Addict that had not been destroyed.  There were a couple of wrecks that I knew had the tags, but I was not going to take from a yellow wreck and set myself up as a flashy target.

Another pilot in a Rifter did not feel so inhibited.  At the time I believed he was baiting people, trying to be a ninja like Paul Clavet.  After collecting my first tag, the Rifter pilot decided to loot one of my wrecks and turned flashy.  I was a little frustrated by then and succumbed to the mindset, "see flash, shoot flashy."  I knew I couldn't kill the rugged Minmatar frigate unless the pilot was extremely dumb since I was equipped for PvE and failed to pack a point in my mids.  But I locked him up with both ships and fired anyway.  Sure enough, my alpha strike failed to punch through his shields and he warped away to a point on-grid.

He had a bookmark on grid?  It's a trap!  So expecting a gang to warp in at any second, I warped off to Tvink I.  At 0.  Pretty stupid, but what the hell?

Except, my move proved to be pretty smart, or more likely, pretty lucky.  About 2 minutes later, he landed about 30 klicks from my ships.  Okay, he was hunting me.  But he was way out of range and Rosewalker was sporting 650mm Artillery IIs and assault launchers.  Also, he was still at half-shields.  So since I had a free shot, I figured I'd scare him away and commenced firing.   His ship exploded.

I couldn't believe it.  My ships were not set up to tackle anything.  How in the world could I succeed?  Although I forgot to check local for any conversation, my wits hadn't completely deserted me and I warped off to the Republic University station in Nakugard to wait out the aggression timer.  The intrepid frigate pilot contacted Wandering Rose in a private chat.
Ninja > come out of the station
Wandering Rose > I don't think so
Ninja > coward that was not fare killing a frig
Ninja > using a bc
Actually, I used two.
Wandering Rose > um, you could have gotten away
Wandering Rose > actually, should have

Ninja > i tried but you had the range on me
Wandering Rose > I didn't point or web you
How could I?  He was out of range, even if I had a point fitted, which I didn't.  I left the Rapier back in the station.
Ninja > you used artiliry or autocannons?
Wandering Rose > both
Ninja > because i was like 25 km away
Wandering Rose > there were 2 ships
Hmmm ... I picked on a new character?
Ninja > i know
Ninja > and i could have killed you bouth you would give me one more sec
Ninja > it's a shame
Tough talk.  Of course, I'm the one hiding in the station.
Wandering Rose > you were going to warp in a gang?
Ninja > yeah
Wandering Rose > so you hanging out in the site was a trap?
I don't think he liked that, since springing a trap made it look like I wasn't picking on a defenseless frigate after all.  He tried a different tack.
Ninja > i will clean everything in the complex
Ninja > and you will have nothing else to do
Ninja > good luck
Ninja > see ya soon
Wandering Rose > have fun :)
Nothing else to do?  I was watching the Bears-Falcons game.  Did I mention that 2 more tags dropped from his wreck?  I only needed one more.  But since the site was busy, I went and found a contract for 5 more tags.  That completed the collection for Wandering Rose and if I ever decide to, Rosewalker can complete the mission as well.  Of course, if I had gone into the next room, I could have gotten all the tags I wanted.

After taking care of business, I looked up the killmail and tracked down information about the pilot.  I discovered that instead of being the new pilot I believed, he was actually one year older than Rosewalker and flew with an alliance in null sec.  I don't think he was too successful, though.  So far this year he has killed 3 ships and lost 19, including 2 Tempests, a Megathron and 4 Hurricanes.  And now a Rifter to a high-sec carebear who thought there was no way in hell he could destroy it.

Looking back on the fight, I don't really think he was trying to hunt me down.  I think what happened is that he needed to go AFK and instead of docking up (there are no stations in Tvink) he just warped to a planet.  He just had the bad luck of warping right into range of a ship that he was flashy to.  Let that be a lesson to you.  Make bookmarks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Idea For Drones In DUST 514?

While surfing the net yesterday I came across a story about a real life drone that can attack information networks.

Hacking on high: The SkyNet drone, built from a toy quadricopter and a small computer, can fly for up to 13 minutes, or land and then operate for nearly two hours.
Credit: Stevens Institute of Technology 

Attackers bent on espionage could use such drones to find a weak spot in corporate and home Internet connections, says Sven Dietrich, an assistant professor in computer science at the Stevens Institute of Technology who led the development of one of the drones.
"You can bring the targeted attack to the location," says Dietrich. "[Our] drone can land close to the target and sit there—and if it has solar power, it can recharge—and continue to attack all the networks around it."

The article goes on to describe how these drones could be used as command and control for botnets that would be more secure for the botnet operator.  All for under $600, or the price of 8 monocles.  What would I rather have, a SkyNet drone or a monacle?

Doesn't this sound like something the mercs in DUST 514 could use?  If someone places too much faith in technology to defend a base, something like these little beauties could shut down the defenses.  And it ties into the space game since we already have a skill called Hacking.

(h/t Instapundit)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The CSM's Fall Offensive Has Begun

On Friday (2 September) The Mittani posted his dissatisfaction with CCP management on Kugutsuman:
"There are two fronts to the political metagame of the CSM. On one front, that of micro-level gameplay, we have done very well with FiS negotiation, focusing the next expansion on 0.0 issues and communicating our views with absolute clarity. On the other front, dealing with macro-level business decisions and squaring off with CCP's upper management, our 'carrot' strategy has failed. We can get along peachy with Stoffer and fix FiS at the micro level. But at the macro level, Hilmar et al control the amount of resources that good people like Stoffer gets, and they seem to think their subscriber curve will go upward even if they spoonfeed us excrement.

"Worse, our interactions with CCP's upper management in the aftermath of the Emergency Summit have shown us that the suits are not treating the needs of the players with the gravity they deserve; our willingness to negotiate in a chill way with the FiS teams (which has met with obvious success) is being misinterpreted as a sign of weakness and compliance by the suits.

"So the gloves come off. There's not much point for Goonswarm striving to 'fix EVE' by seizing control of the CSM and negotiating successfully with the FiS devs if the amount of resources allocated to FiS itself dwindles and the game continues to stagnate. In the coming weeks we are going to be making some extremely loud statements regarding the neglect of FiS, the failure of Incarna, and the need for CCP's management to pull the game out of this stall. We need something new to do, not something new to wear.

"This will not take the form of an incoherent threadnaught (though that certainly got results, last time) but we may seize control of the internet's dynamic media - Slashdot, Digg, Reddit, and the gaming press as a whole for several news cycles."
On Sunday (4 September), Trebor Daehdoow posted some of what got the CSM so upset:
"However, after a considerable delay, what we got back from CCP was quite disturbing. The minutes had been significantly rewritten by a senior CCP employee (who will remain nameless because we are not sure if this was done on this person's own initiative or on orders from higher-up. It was not, I am happy to say, either of the CSM's advocates inside CCP, Xhagen and Diagoras, who were on vacation at the time). What has been euphemistically referred to in public as issues of "tone" was in fact a major rewrite which grossly softened the severity of CSM's concerns and criticism of CCP.

"Furthermore, we were told that CCP's position was that the minutes were a 'joint report', as opposed to what minutes have traditionally been -- a report by the CSM to the community about the meeting.

"The CSM was unanimously outraged. CCP was attempting to put their words in our mouths; in effect, turning us into unpaid spokesclones for the CCP PR and Marketing departments."
The gaming press may have forced the CSM's hand by paying attention and publicizing The Mittani's Kugu post.

Edge (September 5th):
"Management at Eve Online developer CCP has been accused of neglecting the popular MMOG and its users, doing little to arrest a stall in growth of subscriber numbers brought on by the controversial Incarna update, and of being 'hell-bent on running Eve Online into the ground.'

"The claim comes from Alexander 'The Mittani' Gianturco, chairman of the player-elected Council of Stellar Management (CSM), who in a lengthy blog post accuses CCP of ignoring Eve Online after shifting focus and resources to its World Of Darkness MMOG and the Eve-linked online shooter Dust 514."
PC Gamer (September 5th):
"'In the past,' says Gianturco .'EVE expansions were based off the desires of the players, to augment their behavior. Player Owned Stations exist because CCP noticed players stockpiling goods in safespots in GSCs. Outposts were added based on the obvious attempts to build more infrastructure in 0.0. Wormholes provided a place for players to indulge in a no-local environment and explore the unknown.” Gianturco then points to the Eve players statistics, claiming that Incarna had no noticeable effect on player numbers, unlike previous expansions.'"
Rock, Paper, Shotgun (September 6th):
"Whatever the result, those flames could end up reaching pretty high. Unfortunately for CCP, players like Gianturco are much better at this stuff than they are. The company has been prone to devs saying the wrong things, as well as making some catastrophic design errors along the way. Of course that’s almost always forgiveable because things can change, and the game is a work-in-progress. It’ll evolve. It always does. But CCP are increasingly unable to come away from misjudgements or battles with player-opinion while also looking like a winner. This will be their most difficult challenge yet. And I believe that’s because this is the most fundamental battle they are ever going to face: a battle over how to run both their game, and their company.
"What is being fought over is fundamental because it’s about what paying a subscription for a game actually means. The subscription model of gaming is a cash-machine the likes of which gaming has never known, but it is in decline. It’s being experimented with in Eve, which is adding a “cash shop” for extra income. You still have to pay a sub to play, but not you can buy a few extra bits and pieces if you have the money spare. It’s a milder version of the system that now powers dozens of free-to-play projects. This isn’t the issue at stake here."
And if you only click on one link from this post, go read the Rock, Paper, Shotgun article.

With the gaming press starting to pick up the issue, The Mittani began the media campaign yesterday.  He did a brief interview with Eve News 24:
Q: What sort of measures do you have in mind to coerce CCP into getting back to reason, considering that being CSM chairman also puts some limits on you?

The Mittani: CCP is enormously reactive to media pressure. We’ve seen that before, and we’re going to see that again.

Q: Having a background as a lawyer, would threatening with a boycott campaign (legal in some countries) against these new products CCP is producing was been considered?

The Mittani:  Nope, that wouldn’t do anything as those products haven’t been released yet people often suggest really foolish tactics for pressure on CCP such as resignation, violating the NDA, etc.

All you need to do is have them called out in the media for their failures. Devs are very reactive to the media because the media influences customers significantly.

Resigning is the kind of tactic teenagers think matters. Many CSMs have resigned in snits over the years, it’s accomplished nothing, ever.

The Mittani ended the day doing an interview with DJ Funky Bacon along with fellow CSM members Trebor Daehdoow and Seleene.  This is an interview that I would like to get a copy of and I would recommend people listen to.  The interview will be on the Rewind section on the Eve Radio site.  The show is found under "Funky Bacon 6th of September" and will be available for 7 days.  If this were a weekend I'd actually try to write up the details.

UPDATE:  One final thought.  The analysis of player activity posted by Ripard Teg at Jester's Trek seems to have really fueled The Mittani's resolve and given him proof that something is not right in the game.  I do have to make one statement about his articles, however.  Jester states that the average daily usage is unavailable.  I checked the Eve-Offline site and the average user graph going back to 2006 is up-to-date and data is available, at least the way I mine it.  This is not to knock the numbers that Jester uses, since I use the Eve-Offline site as the source of my analysis on peak concurrent usage as well.  I just point this out to state that if CCP had been hiding the numbers (which would be stupid) they have wised up.  Then again, CCP is not publishing the Quarterly Economic Newsletters anymore, so thinking that CCP is looking to hide bad subscription and usage numbers is only natural.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Ani Campaign - Moving To Lanngisi

I continued doing the COSMOS missions in the Ani constellation over the weekend.  I had to move on from The Glass Edge because the final agent, Dalkar Kersos, didn't have any work for me.  I'm not sure if that is because faction standings don't count for doing COSMOS missions or whether sometime in the distant past I had talked with the agent.  I'll probably find out later.

But before moving on to Lanngisi and the Sanctum Psychosis, I needed to take care of other business.  Specifically, building heavy assault cruisers.  The last order for materials I had on the market was finally filled and I just needed to take the haul back to the station and start building parts.  I'll be able to actually start the construction of both a Vagabond and a Muninn later today and I'll be flying one of the ships in Ani next weekend.

While I was building the HACs, Wandering Rose finished training Shield Warfare V.  That meant that she can finally fit gang modules on her Hurricane.  I also discovered another reason for basing out of the Republic University station in Nakugard: skill books.  I needed skill books, and where better than a university station to find them?  So now Wandering Rose can fit siege warfare links.  And since she will now fill a buffing role, I don't want her warping out if at all possible, so I also increased the tank on her battlecruiser.

Rosewalker was in a bit of a spot over the weekend.  He's waiting on the HACs to finish, but he needed to upgrade from the Rupture he flew the weekend before but I didn't want to bring in the Maelstrom.  So he just used an old Cyclone I had sitting in the hanger.  Not the greatest ship in the world, but enough to get the job done until the fun stuff comes on-line.

With all the business out of the way, I proceeded to go to Lanngisi and do the missions for Beris Nitrus and Remy Ouche.  I have to be careful around Remy because he works for Eifyr and Co.  I can't let Rosewalker talk to him because Eifyr and Co. provide the corporation's jump clones and I do not want to get Rosewalker up to speed on getting the necessary faction to keep that access.

For those thinking about doing the COSMOS missions in Ani, I should warn you that the Evelopedia doesn't seem to have entirely accurate information.  For both agents the systems that I was sent to were different than listed in the articles.

I really wonder if the missions have been rewritten.  I'm noticing that a lot of the blueprints I received as rewards require knowing the Sleeper Technology skill.  The items needed to build these have the name "Sleeper" in them and can be acquired from the sites in Ani.  I really didn't think I would find anything like this outside wormholes.  Is this an effort to attract players to go into wormholes?

I had been recording everything about these missions.  I'm going to stop doing that because I'm running out of free time.  Let's just say that the missions I did were pretty easy except for Remy Ouche's mission "Extremely Unfortunate Incident".  That one required getting three refugees from the guerrilla base in Tvink.  For that, I'm glad Wandering Rose had a well-tanked Hurricane.  Rosewalker, even with his superior skills, had to warp out three times in his Cyclone because it just didn't have the tank to handle the incoming fire.  But with the Angels bouncing back and forth between Rosewalker and Wandering Rose, I was able to grab the refugees and get out of the site, 800,000 isk richer in CONCORD awarded bounties.

Oh, and I finished up the weekend with a mining operation while I wrote this post.  I needed to do it because while doing the COSMOS missions is interesting, it is not really putting a lot of isk in my wallet.  And while I like the blueprint copies, I do need a little cash to do some of the other things in game.  Thinks like buy the raw materials to build HACs.  Now those are going to be fun to fly.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Sometimes I see things on televisions that indicate that MMO's are gaining wider acceptance in society.  Commercials like World of Warcraft's Mr T. and Ozzie Ozborne brought attention to the genre.  But a yogurt commercial I saw last night might be the old PvP/PvE divide creeping into popular culture.  I'll let you decide.


Friday, September 2, 2011

The Glass Edge: The Ani Build-Up

Having helped out the Republic Security Service's Them Burkur, I moved on to the other level 2 agent in The Glass Edge, Penda Rakken.  But even with all my previous work, the Republic Rarliament agent still didn't trust me.  So off I went on "The Ani Build-Up - Extra Medical Supplies":
"Although I'm sure you're just itching to get into combat, I'd like to put you to a small test first... to see if you're really sincere about helping us out. there's this minor task that needs to be done, which involves ferrying a load of medical supplies to this system. You see, Nakugard has been hit by strange viral infections of late which have devastated a few outlying settlements here and put a scare into the local populace. Not only that but it's really having a negative effect on our efforts with bringing more Krusual tribe civilians here, a system with a viral outbreak is not exactly the first place on your list when you're thinking of relocating your family somewhere. The Vherokior Tribe were kind enough to give us access to their Zemnar supplies on Teonusude VII - Moon 1 - Vherokior Tribe Treasury. Zemnar has proven to be an effective antidote against this latest outbreak, and we desperately need a large supply of the drug to prevent any more deaths and more bad publicity. I would like you to pay a visit to the Vherokior station in Teonusude and pick up the shipment and bring it to me, I'll see to it that it's distributed to all the affected settlements in Nakugard."
A cargo run to Molden Heath?  Right up my alley, with both my pilots hailing from the Vherokior tribe.  Wandering Rose hopped in her Prowler and sped off earning both the 200,000 isk reward and the 50,000 isk bonus for completing the delivery within 3 hours.

Having proved my seriousness, I was then offered "The Ani Build-Up - Carrot on a Stick."
"As your second assignment, I need you to fetch a valuable Nefantar artifact from one of the Nefantar ruins through Ani. Most people consider the Nefantar ruins a lost cause when it comes to treasure hunting, as they were all looted for decades after the Rebellion, and are now either used as a hideout by pirate forces or guarded by local militia intent on saving 'valuable relics of the past' from looters. I would like to reverse this myth by proving to the people of the Republic that Ani is in fact still full of surprises, including treasures from the past. All I require is some evidence of this to present to the media, in other words our propaganda machine.
"To be more specific, I'd like some kind of Nefantar relic that will raise eyebrows. They were very keen on creating portraits and sculptures of their leaders, which were unfortunately mostly destroyed by the freedom fighters during the Rebellion, and I'm certain one of them would interest all sorts of people. The Krusual Tribe are renowned treasure hunters, so finding these Nefantar objects here would undoubtedly increase their interest in Ani.
"Now if you're completely clueless as to where to start looking, I'll suggest one promising spot. There are some Nefantar ruins in Barkrik which have been claimed by the Maru Rebels as one of their bases. Maru is a criminal organization that is not to be taken lightly, most of it's members are wanted by the law and can be killed on sight. And other than being prepared for a fight, I suggest you bring someone along that has experience as an archaeologist, you might need someone like that to dig up the artifact for you. Good luck."
This is the first mission that offered the types of rewards I came to Ani for.  For fetching an old piece of art the Parliament agent would give me a 3 run blueprint copy to make 250mm Light 'Jolt' Artillery Is.  And a bonus of 180,000 isk if I brought back the artifact within 4 hours.

If I brought it back within four hours?  Having set up two Ruptures with analyzers for Ripple Effect, I was well-prepared for the run to the ruins in Barkrik.  I even found the sculpture in the first container I checked.  Having learned from my experience in Inder, I warped out as soon as I collected up the artifact.

Oh, and how much was the sculpture?  I didn't check.  However, the bpc was up for sale in contracts for 5 million isk.  A 5 million isk item for about 10 minutes of work?  I'll take that every time.

After turning in the sculputre, I was given "The Ani Build-Up - Strike'em Where It Hurts."
"The last mission I have for you is the most difficult. The heavy pirate presence in Ani has a very negative effect on our mission, as I told you before. And the Angel Cartel are at the heart of it. Their operations in Ani must be stopped, at all costs. As the saying goes, cut the head off the snake and you kill the snake. I'm not sure if this holds true with the Cartel, but it's worth a try. Their leader within Inder is Lagaster Malotoff, by killing him we hope to paralyze their forces for some time at least, and give the local populace a morale boost. This is the final task I have in store for you, once you have accomplished it my mission in Ani should be complete."
Given my past experience in the Inder site, I was a little hesitant about doing the mission.  But two Ruptures seemed to be a solution to all my problems so far, so I continued with that plan.  Especially since the reward offer was so nice.  One 3 run blueprint copy to make 1 MN Digital Booster Rockets and a speed bonus of 1000 units of Republic Fleet Fusion S.

The plan was another simple smash and grab.  Run through the first two rooms, tanking any incoming fire and then kill every named ship I could find.  The plan worked, too.  Will wonders never cease.  Wandering Rose is actually getting the hang of this combat business.  At least against NPCs.

Total ISK (mission rewards + bounties): 1,128,682
Notable Items:
1 1MN Digital Booster Rockets bpc (3-run)
1 250mm Light 'Jolt' Artillery I bpc (3-run)
1000 Republic Fleet Fusion S

Standings changes: 
Republic Parliament (unmodified) : increased from 3.63 to 4.71

Minmatar Standings Gain (unmodified): from 1.81 to 2.17
Gallente Federation Standings Gain (unmodified): from 1.72 to 2.01
The Servant Sisters of EVE Standings Gain (unmodified): from 1.56 to 1.81
Caldari State Standings Loss (unmodified): from -0.52 to -0.60
Ammatar Mandate Standings Loss (unmodified): from -1.03 to -1.32
Amarr Empire Standings Loss (unmodified): from -1.17 to -1.37

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eve Online Peak Concurrent Users - August 2011

What happened?  No, scratch that, I know what happened.  From 31 July to 31 August the 7 day rolling average of peak concurrent users on Eve Online's Tranquility server dropped 10%.  The question I have is, "why?"

Is it because of summer?  I didn't really start paying attention to the peak concurrent user numbers until this spring, so I really don't know if Eve always experiences a slump in August.  The drop really seems to have been greatest starting about 15 August, with the 7 day average falling 7.7% in those two weeks.  Maybe a lot of players are also going back to college, and the moving is getting in the way of playing.

The above comparison of the numbers from July and August really show the drop in activity.  In the middle of each month the numbers were sliding down, but in July activity rose while in August it plummeted.  I'm always inclined to believe that patching could cause the average to decline, but a look at the Sunday peak concurrency numbers, the busiest day on Tranquility each week, show a general slide in activity, especially over the last two weeks.

So what is the cause?  I can come up with a rather simplistic explanation.  On 15 August CCP Greyscale published the long awaited dev blog on the future vision of null sec.  Given how jumpy and primed to leave a lot of players were following the Fearless newletter leak and the resulting firestorm, were these changes enough to push people out of the game?  Or is this just a temporary blip and in a couple of weeks we will see the numbers push back up?

Like I said, that explanation is very simplistic.  If anyone has a better explanation, I'd really like to hear it.