December 24, 2014

Introducing Arma to EVE Mercenaries

I'm a huge Arma fan. It's probably the single game that got me into gaming, way back when I was 13 years old or so (although it didn't actually manifest until 2005). It's probably a large reason why I eventually got into EVE - these games aren't common, and they share some ancestral roots for sure. But not everyone likes military simulators, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty sizable interest from my corporation in EVE when I linked a Youtube video (embedded below) in our Slack chat. Coupled with Arma being on sale, we've got quite a few guys who are buying it!

Of course, with the Christmas holiday, it's been tough getting people together at the same time. So while I've been urging people to get some awesome mods downloaded, I've also been taking people out and showing them the ropes via a few multiplayer modes, usually one person at a time.

Last night I managed to get three other guys - Sovereign Apocalypse, Feetzor, and Demetri Slavic - online at the same time, so I suggested we jump onto my Arma grou's Zeus server for an interesting change of pace from the ever-so-boring Battle Royale modes. Sovereign had never played before, only having finished his installation a few minutes earlier, so I figured Zeus would be an easier transition for him anyway.

Zeus, by the way, is pretty awesome. Think Dungeons & Dragons, except inside of a first person shooter with a massive scale. One person takes the role of Zeus who can spawn all sorts of things, from friendly (or enemy, or even neutral) units of infantry, squads, vehicles, air assets, etc, to camp fires and barrels, or even artillery. The Zeus has complete control over everything except the players themselves. He can drag and drop an infantry squad across the whole island, delete something at will, or even blow it up with a bolt of lightning. Zeus can also create in-game objectives and briefings that the players can complete, keeping a pretty high level of immersion in the process.

So, as Sovereign was getting a quick course on all of the basic controls in Arma, I began setting up a little setting for my three soldiers:

A group of terrorists has captured a scientist and have been quite vocal about their intention of using him to build weapons - namely explosives. Unfortunately for the terrorists, the scientist they captured is an expert in primates, not explosives. Despite the inability for the terrorists to use this scientist against us, you are being sent to retrieve him.
We believe that there are only half a dozen or so infantry with makeshift weaponry guarding him in a nearby town.

So, with that, they set off! I scattered roughly 14 infantry (although I later deleted one squad of 6) around the town as forward scouts with two groups of two guard squads protecting the scientist himself at a chapel in town. Using the AH-9 Littlebird helicopter I provided them, they flew towards the Area of Operation - in fact, they flew directly over it and were subsequently fired upon by practically every single unit in the area.

We were all in Teamspeak with one another, so it was great to hear their plan and laugh quietly as I knew what would happen.

Luckily (for them) they managed to find a better landing zone without taking any direct hits, but I did use that as an excuse to give the closest squads - a two man recon team and a four man fireteam - an idea of their location and pushed them up towards the landing zone. They dispatched the recon team with ease, with me controlling one of the units. This was fun, because I was able to spray bullets toward their location, carefully avoiding actually hitting them, but giving - what I hope - was an intense moment. They worked well to suppress, move, and fire on the two man team.

Unfortunately, the fireteam provided them with a lot more trouble. This team had moved to take cover behind a few buildings, while the players were approaching from a forest - good concealment, but since the enemy already knew where they were, hard cover was much more important. They died quite a few times here, sometimes due to silliness, like running across a field in the open, and other times due to bad luck - the NPCs are no slouches!

However, they were able to eventually take the fireteam out, even giving me the slip a few times while controlling the NPC infantry, and moved into a good position above the town on a hill with solid tree cover.

From here, they were able to get eyes on the scientist and the two sentry groups protecting him, as well as a fireteam that was patrolling the town itself. They also managed to spot an APC I had spawned in after Sovereign spawned in as an AT soldier. He did well, having never shot one before, and managed to disable the APC in one shot without being spotted in turn. The two sentries were quickly dispatched thereafter, although I think the sole survivor of that group did manage to score a kill before he was shot.

The last remaining recon team was tougher to dislodge, digging into houses and using the excellent cover provided by all the walls. Our heroes were not well versed in urban warfare! After a few deaths, they prevailed - as one does with unlimited lives! - and the scientist was recovered and shuttled into a civilian vehicle for extraction at the docks.

I had one last surprise in store for them, which was an attack helicopter that I had edited a bit, making its accuracy abysmal. It followed them down the road as they fled, laying down convincing fire at their retreat. Bad Zeus that I am though, I accidentally sent a bolt of lighting to destroy it when I meant to take control of it instead. Woops!

Next time I plan on doing two things differently: letting someone else Zeus (I really am bad at it!) and taking screenshots. This would have been a much more fun report if I had thought to do that! Oh well, next time!
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December 16, 2014

Secret Santa and Thera

Suddenly Spaceships is doing Secret Santa this year and I've yet to buy my gifts! I guess this is a case of game mirrors reality, because I pretty much haven't done any shopping this year in real life either! Everyone wants gift cards from me this year, so maybe that's part of it. I can pick those up whenever.

For those of you who aren't familiar, Secret Santa is where you're given the name of another person and someone else has your name. You buy gifts for your person, trying to find out what they're interested in without them cluing in to the fact that you're fishing for gift ideas. Our organizer did a really good job getting it all prepared with a Google Form and everything!

I do know what I'm going to buy my person, I just have to make a trip to Jita and get it. I'm going to contract it through an alt so he doesn't know who gave it to him, although we don't really have a big reveal planned as you would in a real life game of Secret Santa. Still, it's fun!

Speaking of surprises, we're heading into Thera soon! Some of the guys have already moved in, and a bunch of us are coming later. We're just taking a little break here, basically, while we have no contracts during the holiday season. It should be a lot of fun. Lucia Denniard through down the proverbial gauntlet by linking me Thera's stats and pointing out that PIZZA was holding the lead in kills. Challenge accepted!

I'm doing a lot of CSM work already for my campaign, pounding the pavement and meeting new people. I'm working to introduce myself to as many people as possible who I think are interested in what I have to say. So far, nearly everyone seems to have come away impressed and has given me their support. I've a long way to go yet, but I'm feeling positive. I sincerely hope to be a great representative in CSM X and I look forward to being put to work and striving for a better future in EVE. I also really hope that if I'm elected CCP will be interested to talk about mercenaries, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!

If I don't check in with the blog before December 25, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!
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December 14, 2014

Contract Recap: Sukanen Constellation Assault

This was a really fun contract. It also reminded us, once again, why we hate large towers. Seriously, those things suck. This contract also ended in disaster, from an ISK standpoint, but we were able to pull it out of the hole due to fortuitous circumstances and quick reaction time.

This was our first major deployment for a contract since Phoebe. We had put a lot of thought into how we were going to move, obviously, but had never tested it on a large scale. The way we used to move was pretty simple: everyone in the alliance would put their ships into a hangar, naming their ships after their characters. Directors would then parcel out ships to carrier pilots and we'd begin the journey, jumping to one cyno, docking, and then undocking to jump the next one. We'd unload the carrier once we arrived and then make the return trip to load up again until all of the ships were moved out. We could typically make an entire deployment in one cyno cycle. We also had a pretty wide variety when it came to what we would deploy with. We didn't have to make a lot of sacrifices in deployment doctrines.

That's all gone now - and that's not a bad thing. I really like that we have to choose our tools for the contract carefully now. We've retooled our doctrines to hit harder with less ship, and it's awesome to see the results of a well-chosen fleet doctrine on a contract. And this move wasn't any more difficult, really, but it did take a lot longer; five hours to be exact. We basically logged in, jumped, logged out for an hour. It was relaxing. We do have a longer prep time to contracts now, which isn't a huge issue - we never had an emergency contract in the past, so I doubt that we'd face that now either.

Anyway, back to the contract! We were hired to remove a specific set of targets made up of POCOs and control towers in the area.  On top of that, we were to destroy the enemy at every opportunity as well. We moved out on December 3 and planned to initiate the contract on December 5. Some of our more enterprising members began causing havoc a little early, which we certainly didn't mind.

We took the first POCO of the contract down on December 5, but not without casualties. It was a really good fight. Both sides were holding on, logistics barely holding on. Our fleet didn't have enough DPS to kill their carrier before its triage cycle ended, and unfortunately we didn't have our capitals ready to move quickly enough to bring them in to finish it off. We were able to grab a few kills by switching targets and staying ahead of the reps, but Violent Declaration were able to bring in more and more ships to the fight to replace their losses. Eventually a tipping point was reached and we began to lose a few ships, so we began pulling range - all the while still trying to organize our capital fleet. The enemy fleet took this opportunity to disengage and leave the field.

That was the first of our major conflicts we had over the contract, and despite destroying nearly half of their fleet and only losing four ships, the price of our doctrines did not leave us with an ISK win. Regardless, we were able to continue through seven more POCOs in short order with minimal resistance.

After a break, the fleet continued with an eye on one of the control towers. Despite not being able to organize our capital fleet in time for the fight earlier, the break had given us more than enough time to get them on the field. Unfortunately, Buhddust Princess broke his own rule of only using dreads if you can kill the tower in one cycle. So during the second cycle, an enemy fleet began to land on us and Buhhdust begins the process of trying to get our dreads and carriers out alive. Unfortunately, due to a series of mistakes and miscommunication, we had some carriers jump out first which allowed two Aeon and one Hel supercarriers to kill two of our Archons and a Moros.

This was a huge blow to us. Noir. is not well versed in capital warfare, we've always been more of a guerrilla force, although we've always worked towards being in a position to use them effectively. With the merger of Suddenly Spaceships, we're finally in that position, but we do lack experience. We've put a lot of time practicing this though, and I'd be very surprised if something like this happened to us again.

We did get the tower and a POCO afterwards though.

Another notable event for this contract was a drive-by carrier kill. We actually snagged two carriers, both of which had just come from a resupply run. For whatever reason, they decided to fight with all of that material still in their cargo holds. This really helped us turn the killboard back around. It almost got away from us, but we were able to bump them off the station by acting quickly, and then securing them both with the Titan. Not only did it boost the killboard, but it really boosted morale. We hate finishing a contract successfully, but with poor numbers. And honestly, I'm still not terribly happy with our final result, but it could have been much, much worse.

Perhaps the largest fight of the contract was over the last objective: a large control tower. We had taken every other POCO and POS on our target list. During the reinforcement operation, we had multiple skirmishes on top of the POS, and man was that thing annoying. It was covered in neutralizers, scramblers, jams, and dampeners. Their POSgunner began to focus efforts, placing everything on one target and trying to coordinate the defense fleet to take it out while it was under enormous EWAR pressure. It didn't really work, except once. Alek was our FC at the time, and when he dropped we simply had another member of the fleet immediately take over without missing a beat. That's one of the best things about being in Noir., we have a pretty deep FC pool.

We reinforced the POS and began to prepare for the final showdown. We were certain that they'd bring another large fleet, similar to the reinforcement, and perhaps their supercapitals as well, which is what we truly wanted to happen. We tried baiting them out to no success, and in the end the contract targets chose not to fight and instead gave us the field and the POS and, for all intents and purposes, the contract.

We were technically hired for a week, so we did stay around for that time and picked up some more kills, including a fairly successful gatecamp.

Finally, we packed it all in and made the roughly five hour trip back home. We broke Noir.'s all-time record for highest contract pay in one week period, which was pretty awesome, and we had a lot of fun. Our contract targets were great sports and maintained a very friendly attitude throughout, and it was a pleasure fighting against them. I just hope we're not hired to hit many more large towers soon! We ended up with 279 contract kills and 9 losses, but our ISK efficiency was only 67% due to such expensive losses. But, live and learn!
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December 13, 2014

CSM 10 Campaign

Well, it's official! I've announced my candidacy for CSM 10 and I'm really looking forward to it. Last year, despite not being elected, I met a ton of cool people through the process. If nothing else, I sincerely hope I'll do the same this year.

I really like how the CSM has performed and been viewed by the community over the last couple of terms. It's not perfect, and perhaps never will be, but being a CSM member in this era is perhaps one of the best times for someone to truly help make EVE a better place.

And that's certainly what I intend to do: make EVE a better place. I want people to have an enjoyable time in our universe, no matter what their preferred method of play is. That's a tough goal, of course, but I think relying on the core, underlying principals of EVE, it can be achieved. Those tenants include giving players more reward for more risk, making them sacrifice one thing to gain another, and having players rely on others to accomplish grand ideas.

I've never been one of those doom-and-gloom types when it comes to EVE. Even during the dark years, I've seen the great parts of EVE. I do believe that EVE will be here in 10 years, and I plan on being a part of that. I plan on helping it remain the game we all know and love, but helping it grow, helping it mature.

Let me be your voice in that endeavor.
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November 23, 2014

Contract Recap: Towers

We're in an interesting place right now as an alliance. 

We deployed to a new home just before Phoebe like many other people, a place where we store our ships and deploy to contracts from. We've always had a home base like this, it's necessary as a mercenary group to have a warehouse, if you will, for all the ships you don't need for a particular contract. Historically, when we're off contract in our home system, we do a number of things: make ISK, keep our edge sharp with regular fleets, or just log off and recuperate from the last contract. This time it's a tad different.

Perhaps it's indicative of the mercenary life after Phoebe (although I hope not), but we've received a lot of contracts over the last few weeks. That's a good thing. They've all been POS related, which isn't a bad thing. The interesting thing is how quickly the turn around on them is. We've been hired the day of the POS timer more than once. Obviously for POS defense contracts there is always very little heads up, but it's a strange turn of pace from typically having larger, week-long contracts to having small, short (but surprisingly well paying) jobs each day.

I won't go over each one in detail, there are just too many of them, but I will say that so far we've successfully completed every contract that we've been given post-Phoebe. Success is always sweet.

I'm ready for a larger scale contract though. Those are what I love and play for the most. They get me logging in more than anything else (although I'm trying hard to change that), and they're what make the memories. I doubt I'll remember any of these POS contracts in detail in six months, even the ones that had good fights, but I'll always remember the Delve II contract, or the Of Sound Mind defense. 

Anyway, it's an interesting change for us. Activity is great, we're finding tons of fights, and we're able to utilize a lot of our new doctrines, most of which have me very giddy about. We also caught an Archon chilling on a novice plex yesterday. We let some neighborhood guys come in with destroyers to whore on it, which was fun. Who says mercenaries can't be diplomatic?
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November 10, 2014

Contract Recap: Stay Frosty ABA Free For All

Rixx Javix of the Stay Frosty corporation and A Band Apart alliance has put together a FFA many times now. The most recent hosting was, if I remember correctly, the eighth event. It's a great, free event where people of all ages can smash thousands of frigates together for prizes. New players even have special prize categories for them!

This year we were hired to act as bouncers for the event. Our job was to ensure that the rules were being followed by participants and keep ships out of the system that weren't allowed during certain times. I was incredibly excited about this contract - I love the unique ones - but I wasn't able to make it, unfortunately. The good news is I missed it because I was installing a new SSD and stabilizing my internet. So I've invited a fellow member of Noir. to write a short AAR of the event from his perspective.  Enjoy!

The Stay Frosty FFA is an event that allows pilots from all backgrounds to come and fight with frigates in a free-for-all setting. Free frigates were given out to all pilots taking part, the rules were only to use T1 frigates until 20:00, at which time the watershed would open to all frigates and destroyers. No links were to be used in system.

We loaded up a couple of carriers and lit cynos on the central station in the system. We decided that our armor doctrine with re-sebos and damps would be effective against anything larger than a T1 frigate entering system. Our drones would take care of any misbehaving frigates. We kept up three guardians at all times, we used a proteus to place our re-sebos on for instant tackle and a loki/ashimmu for webs. We noticed two link pilots, one in a tengu on one of the other stations and one astarte near a POS. We tried to kill both of these targets. The link astarte ducked back into it’s POS every time we tried to intercept it and the Tengu pilot docked.

Our main three areas of interest were the one gate into system which bordered a highsec system, the top belt (most of the action was going on here) and the central station. Alekseyev Karrde commanded the fleet initially until he had to break for a hockey game and other pilots took over in his absence, he returned nearer the end of the event. The pilots that were benefiting from the links were quickly identified as cheaters and were using ventures and destroyers to try to mop up kills mostly in the top belt. The majority of our time was spent pinging from gate, to station, to top belt in response to intel from FFA participants.

Here are some kills we got on the cheaters.


Midway through the event, two large cruiser gangs ended up coming into system. A mixture of Vexors, Hurricanes, Ruptures and quite a few other cruisers were scouted coming into the system when were were not on gate. We regrouped, added some frigate/cruiser support from the event organiser and headed back to the gate with the aim of taking out their logistics pilots first, and then holding as long as possible with our guardian pilots. We thought it was going to be a tight fight, however our opposition didn’t seem to agree. As soon as we landed on the gate, they had a little think, then decided that they were not going to aggress. They jumped out of the system with no losses. Some of our fleet members had suspect timers and we thought it best not to give chase and tank gate guns. Unfortunately one of our guardian pilots lemming’d through the gate with his criminal timer and was dispatched efficiently on the other side.

Throughout the fight there were some events. The most memorable of which were an Orca in the top belt, and 4-5 dominix’s, I recall a proteus as well. The FC called to ‘whore’ on the Orca with a neut or a scram, or one volley of ungrouped guns. One of our pilots seemed to have misinterpreted the order and put 14,000 damage into the capital ship, the FC (Buddhest Princess) found it pretty funny. Two more capitals were spotted in system, a rorqual (who was tractoring wrecks and salvaging) and a phoenix. Neither of which were bumpable.

Near the end of the event two smartbombing rokhs were scouted coming in and out of system when we were busy in the belt and on the station. We forced them both back out and caught one of them jumping in. We web/scrammed him and took him down.

One last highlight was an iteron mark V that was trying to bring in some more kestrels to fight with. We killed it as it was not a T1 frigate and was not permitted in system.

Finally, we killed a ton of frigates that were either not abiding by the rules, or were dumb enough to plink away at a fleet of sacrileges with guardian support. It appeared that some people had not gotten the memo that we were there to protect them from cheaters and to keep the frigate free-for-all ‘wholesome and fun’.

The clock struck 22:00, the event ended and we warped to station to murder everything, because why not? After 15-20 minutes of solid murdering, we decided to leave system, packed our stuff into carriers and travel-ceptor’d back home.

This was one of the more interesting contracts I’ve experienced whilst in Noir. and I’m very glad I was available to come on the op.

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November 8, 2014

What You Do Doesn't Matter

You've probably heard this before from the forums or Reddit or maybe even in game: you're irrelevant. Irrelevant. They mean by this, of course, that you're below them, your game play is not as meaningful or perhaps historical as theirs.

What does that even mean? Well, according to Google it means, "not connected with or relevant to something." Interesting. So, to be relevant you have to be connected with something else, and that your relevance is only based on that connection.

It's interesting because EVE and its players absolutely love the idea of the underdog. Many of us profess to playing the game because we heard about the possibilities that a player can actually have on the long-term history and even daily life of the game. Many of you have probably watched this many times before, but let me reintroduce one of the most popular EVE trailers of all time: The Butterfly Effect.

This trailer is so endearing to us as EVE players because we want that scenario to happen. This was such a clever marketing tool because it plays on our natural desires.

So why is it then that the term "irrelevant" is thrown around at anyone who isn't part of the super coalitions? It seems a strange dichotomy that so many people get into EVE because of its possibilities but then mock those who don't fall into line with someone else's dream?

As a member of Noir. I hear this all the time. Pretty much everyone has heard of us; we're very well known. But people always say we're irrelevant, that nothing we do matters. After all, how can any of our activities matter when they don't play into the grand political structure of the metagame?

The truth is, not only do our actions have meaning and consequence, so do the people we work for and those who we've never encountered. We just finished a contract lasting four months where our employer was beleaguered and tired of having to fight their local enemies. As players, they weren't interested in PvP, and hiring us allowed them to enjoy the game in the way that matters to them as well as dabble in PvP under our direction.

We've taken POS defenses and takedowns in the last day or two. Our presence isn't tipping the balance against the large coalitions, but it is providing content for the people involved.  This isn't to beat our own drum either. My point is that EVE is not a game that revolves around the large powers. It's about the individual, the little guy. It's a story of doing it yourself, against the odds - because make no mistake, simply not giving up on this game is against the odds.

Our focus on what is and isn't relevant is skewed. One isn't irrelevant simply because they're not related to you. Everything we do in EVE is relevant because it's related to EVE. Everyone loves good trash talk, especially in EVE, but calling someone else irrelevant is about as weak as it gets. Let's step our game up here. Irrelevance is something to be reserved for those who no longer play the game. It's worth remembering that everything you do in EVE has relevance, at least to someone.
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November 2, 2014

Contract Recap: Outer Ring

Contract Type: Regional Assault/Pipe Camp
Target: Outer Ring, 4C-B7X and nearby pipes
Duration: Four Weeks

It's been a long time since we've done one of these. You could consider our assault of CFC controlled space in the NW (Cloud Ring, Branch, Fade, Deklein, and Pure Blind) in the same category, but we approached it differently utilizing BLOPs whereas with this Outer Ring contract we wanted to brawl. Good times.

We were hired by a group of PvE players. They had been tussling with the locals for quite a while and it was wearing them down. We had three objectives. I'll paraphrase from our contract announcement thread:

  1. If it's not blue, it doesn't get in or out. We're talking locking these pipe down with extreme prejudiced All our focus will be on a few system so put scouts down the pipe, set bubbles up, etc. and camp away. If it's too big and we need to run that's cool but also feel free to setup bomb runs to get kills off those fleets too.
  2. The non-blue locals in the area are aapparentlyvery annoying and need to die. They use hit + run shield with lots of tacticals so combat probing their tacs to pick off kills will be very in demand. They may also try and attack employer assets, resulting in exposed small BS and cap fleets. We're not responsible for defending the assets but we should use those opportunities to get good kills and fights.
  3. Open our fleets to interested employer pilots. While most of their forces are taking a break, those that stay need content and we will provide that for them, provided they observe our rules in fleets.

So off we go with those three things in mind. We arrive, set up shop and immediately begin. Within the first two days the hostiles in the surrounding area of 4C- had taken down their towers and moved out. Within two weeks we had basically shut down all traffic in the contract area. It was getting incredibly boring, frankly. That's the curse of doing a job right. You can look at

Nevertheless, we kept setting up bubbles and catching the stray person who would come through. We'd roam outside of the contract area trying to pull enemies back in to fight, but they were pretty good about stopping just outside our area of engagement.

During this first week of low activity, we began attacking POCOs and POSes in an attempt to draw fights out. This was pretty unsuccessful at first. The hostiles were just happy to let us have them. The boredom continued.

Right around two weeks in, the local hostiles began to pick up in activity but primarily focused on station games. Sitting on the other side of the undock in Tornadoes, that type of thing. We did manage to lose a few things in an attempt to draw out their carriers that we knew they had in station, but nothing expensive. This confirmed once again that we're terrible at (and hate) station games.

Three weeks in and things start to really pick up though. Hostiles began reinforcing our employer's POCOs in NM-OEA. I FC a fleet to defend these once to pretty good success. Hostile forces in the area are calling in reinforcements from RAZOR and Fatal Ascension. That's fun.

This type of thing happens a few more times; POCOs are reinforced, we defend. Typically there are no more enemy forces showing up to try and finish the POCOs off though. They're repaired with no problems and the cycle is repeated a few days later.

Our contract is winding down by this point and while the contract is definitely a resounding success, our employer isn't happy. Not with our performance, but rather that we're leaving. They offer us a contract for another month, but we're not interested. It was fun, but there are two main reasons for this decline:

  1. The longer we stay, the more the content is drying up. We don't want bored pilots any more than the next guy. We can deal with short term bursts due to a good contract performance, but a long-term situation like that is not good.
  2. Phoebe. We don't want to be stranded that far away from most of our assets after the changes. 
So we pack up, job well done, and head home. Once again I wasn't able to play as often as I would have liked. Perhaps it's time I accept the fact that I'm older and have more responsibilities, but I want to pound out 3-4 hours a night again! We'll see. Maybe again soon.

We ended the contract with 87.23% efficiency with 299 kills and 36 losses. That's not bad, but more importantly this was our first real contract as a new alliance. There were and still are some growing pains, and while I don't want to speak for Noir. officially, I can say that there is definitely a general positive feeling about the merger. 

We've got our next contract lined up and it's going to be a ton of fun! You should participate. Just follow the rules or you'll deal with us!
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October 20, 2014

POCO Defense Fight AAR: Returning to the FC Seat

Currently Suddenly Spaceships is deployed to the Cloud Ring region for a contract. We're acting as the PvP wing for a group out there, and we've been here for several weeks now. It's been fairly boring at times (we basically chased everyone out of the contract area for a week or so and no one undocked. Thankfully they've been slightly more active since then, but it definitely slowed down a lot after we started working), and it's been pretty exciting at times. Like last night.

We got word a few hours beforehand that there were going to be some POCOs coming out of reinforcement in NM-OEA. One of our interceptor roams saw the timers and marked it down in Fleet-up's handy timer tool.

I login about 40 minutes before the first timer comes out and put a fleet up. Our employer tells me that they were reinforced by roughly 20 people in mostly battleships, so I choose Sacrileges as our fleet comp. I'm comfortable in them and I trust their tanking ability, and hopefully their neuts would turn a fight if they bring something similar again. I'm worried though because I'm getting reports that FA and RAZOR are coming along. While I'm getting the fleet organized I'm trying to find a replacement FC; I didn't want to jump back into FCing on this operation since it had been so long. I literally hadn't FCd in six months or more. Lioso Cadelanne takes the fleet and moves us to NM-OEA with 5 Sacrileges, roughly 5 Guardians, and support ships of random types: Pilgrims, a Brutix Navy Issue, a Vexor, some interceptors etc. The employer couldn't field similar ships to us, but we had a core group that we trusted; the employer was just along for the ride.

We begin our presence in NM-OEA by sitting on the POCO being repped when a scout reports quite a few tech 3 battlecruisers, interceptors, a Huginn, a Blackbird, and a Sabre coming in from the only gate, 33FN-P. Lioso moves us to the gate and soon enough we're bubbled. The Sabre jumps out and Lioso has us burn away. The tech 3 battlecruisers come in and the fight begins.

Lioso gets primaried at the very early stages and warps out alive, handing FC back over to me. I begin calling primaries, starting with their tackle. We down the Taranis and Sabre in quick succession. Unbeknownst to me at the time was that we had lost three non-alliance pilots who weren't broadcasting for reps. Directly after their losses we were able to kill two more Maledictions (as well as a2B ISK pod. I don't even remember what this guy was in.), making it difficult for them to hold anyone down. I think this was one of the primary reasons we were able to come away with a win; their damage wasn't applied very effectively to our primary fleet of Sacrileges.

I noticed that a large portion of their Scimitars were right on top of our Sacrileges. I checked with Isabela Valentine, was our logistics anchor, if our reps were holding and got confirmation (again, we weren't aware that blues were dying without broadcasting). I called tackle on them and began to ignore the battlecruisers who didn't seem to be putting much damage on us. We took out two of their Scimitars. It was at this point I believe they warped off the field.

They warped back in, however, and practically right on top of us. We started to chew through their battlecruisers one after another, dropping four in a row. One of our Sacrilege pilots, Adorable Rage, got hit hard here and was just outside of rep range. This was almost certainly my fault. The field was very scattered, and while I feel like I was making good target calling choices, in retrospect I don't think I handled fleet ranges very well.

All the while the Blackbird was being somewhat annoying. At one point all of the logistics were jammed out. Regardless, we continued to plow through their Scythes and Scimitars before they finally gave us the field. A few of them stayed on grid out of range and I had the fleet begin to align out towards the sun to try and get a warp in on a nearby wreck. Arkentantix CarpeNoctem went in for the tackle but perhaps didn't realize we weren't close enough to warp directly to him. Unfortunately he was out of rep range as well and died. Before we could get a warp in on that cluster of ships, they warped off. They gave us GFs in local and began to disperse.

We returned to the POCO to guard it and another blue died on the gate in a Cormorant.

In the end, all of the POCOs were repaired and our employer was very pleased. They all had a great time it seemed and really enjoyed the fight. We only lost two members of Suddenly Spaceships, which I suppose is a silver lining.

It felt good to FC again. It's truly been a long time. I'll be working on ways to improve my coordination between the logistics and myself in the future. I really think we should have saved Adorable if I had paid a bit more attention.

You can see all of the kills and losses here.

And from just Suddenly Spaceships' point of view here.
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October 19, 2014

What Happened to Our Backbones?

This used to be a common catchphrase among the players of EVE Online. Now it's a nearly forgotten relic of a bygone era. Rather than harden up, work with changes that are coming, whether you like it or not, people run around crying that the sky is falling and they're taking all 12 of their super accounts with them!

Good. Cry. Leave. EVE is not the game for you. I don't have any sympathy for you and I don't regret saying it. I'd rather play without you than have a slightly higher concurrent user number. You're no better than the "carebears" you claim superiority to. Go play a game where changes don't have any actual effect on the game, where players don't need to evolve with the universe.

Or, we can return to the players of old. The ones where pictures like this are made for. This is the mentality that made EVE infamous and wonderful. I don't have any desire to play with people who threaten to hold CCP hostage with their handful of subs whenever a change comes along that forces them to adapt.

To be fair, I've never been one of those players that distrusted everything CCP does, that thinks one CCP dev or the other is literally cancer. I'm an optimist by nature, and I have that same worldview of EVE. I think it's almost always moving in a positive direction, and the few times that it wasn't, I felt that CCP did bend its ears to our complaints and learned from it. No company is perfect, but CCP is one of the best. Now, let's harden the fuck up and play this great game. Or don't; Star Citizen awaits you.
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October 4, 2014

Phoebe and Mercenaries

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts. There really hasn't been a set of changes that are going to have an impact on mercenaries since the last time I did one - for Rubicon. But Phoebe is going to have an effect on everyone. So let's dive into what's been announced so far and what this will do to mercenaries in EVE.

Jump Changes

We'll jump right in and focus on the elephant in the room. This is going to effect pretty much everyone, at least because capital ships can move through gates. As a quick recap: 
  • jump drive ranges are limited to 5 light years for everything except Black Ops Battleships
  • jump fatigue will begin to create a larger time period between successive jumps with jump freighters having less consequences applied
  • Capitals will be able to take normal stargates
  • Medical clones can only be moved to stations you're docked in
Jump drive range and fatigue will have the largest effect on mercenaries at the first, most obvious level. Groups like us will be the hardest pressed since we operate in nullsec and we're one of - if not the most - mobile mercenary alliances in the game. We move multiple times per month on full deployments. I don't think anyone else can claim that. So how will this effect our day to day? Well, deployment operations are going to have to be planned well ahead of time. We're waiting for the final edition of these changes before we start creating our actual standard operating procedures, but initial thoughts are just that we'll have to take a longer amount of time for moving rather than handle everything in an hour or two. We'll also have to encourage our members without carriers to get one. Where before we could make back and forth trips, that isn't possible any more.

I have to admit I'm a little torn on this aspect of the changes. I like the effect this is going to have on the game's health, but I don't like that the gameplay encourages not playing. I've always said that, all the way back to my CSM campaign, that I want to encourage people to login. This doesn't really do that. We'll probably just jump, log off and wait, jump, log off and wait. Not fun, but it'll work.

The medical clone changes won't really effect us. We don't move around using medical clones anyway, and I doubt we'll notice the change.

Capitals being able to take normal gates is going to be a pandora's box. At the time of this posting, we're on a contract to keep traffic from moving through a particular pipe. Capitals aren't on the menu for this contract, but if they start taking gates that could change! Who knows how this is going to play out in the long run, but I think we're going to see a lot more capital ships in the wild, and that makes me excited.


Hitpoints and resistances on various sovereignty-related structures will be revisited, to balance out the reduced ability to use Supercarriers against them. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog on this.

That's a quote from Greyscale's dev blog. This is a tough one to make predictions on because we have such a small amount of information on. It's always been my hope that smaller organizations could compete in nullsec, and the massive HP amounts of the required structures barred most of those groups from playing independently.

This in and of itself probably won't have an effect on mercenaries. It may become possible for a group of our size (~200 people in the alliance) to take one of these structures down in a reasonable amount of time after the change, but I don't foresee anyone needing that in the near future. The need likely won't come until after all the other, as of now unannounced changes that will alter the way sovereignty mechanics work. Until that happens, nullsec's alliances and coalitions won't be altered much, although the jump changes may strain some smaller ties.

We should hope that these changes combined with the future mechanical changes will create an environment where people are working independently, hiring in help when they need it. That's the kind of game that would remain fun and dynamic for a long time. I like to think we're on the road there, as an optimist, and Phoebe is a good step - although not perfect - in that direction. CCP needs to really focus on the fun factor with their next changes. We shouldn't be encouraging people to log off rather than play. I don't think we'll see many people choose to take stargates over waiting out their jump fatigue.

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September 25, 2014

Wardecs in Nullsec: A Mercenary's Playground

Ali Aras took some time to sit down with Noir. and Of Sound Mind recently as preparation for the null-sec pre-summit meeting. In this conversation, quite a few ideas were hashed out, the Focus Train was derailed more than once, and some inspiration was sparked. Two ideas in particular were the control bar from faction warfare and the war declaration mechanic. I'm going to focus on these two aspects of sovereignty changes and talk about how they would help create a healthy environment for mercenaries.

The War Dec

War decs are useful solely in high sec. No one who lives anywhere else cares at all about the mechanic, and that's a shame. Activity-based sovereignty has been a hot topic lately, but war decs are a necessary component to making that type of sovereignty control a reality. Let's use CVA to illustrate this example, simply because they're the easiest to showcase. In Providence, currently, anyone is welcome as long as you're not on the Kill on Sight list. New players, old players, players who have never been in nullsec; it doesn't matter who you are, you're welcome to use Providence. As I wrote in my earlier post, Providence offers a great opportunity for people to try nullsec - even in today's EVE. In a purely activity-based sovereignty system, CVA wouldn't exist, they'd be overwhelmed by all the unaffiliated people messing up their sovereignty. But not if war decs are involved.

Adding war decs to an activity system would mean that you're actively announcing your intent to take this space from someone else. Then you'd have to go take it, one way or the other. I was speaking with Ali just before writing this, and she made me realize that it's important to have some form of militant action involved in the taking of a system. Other activities, such as mining or ratting or industry or whatever could bolster your claim, but you'd have to kill something. This is EVE after all, and violence has its place in nearly everything. It's just not a fun system where you can out mine a ratting group, for instance.

Going back to CVA, this implementation of war declarations means that people could use Providence freely, like always, without CVA having to worry about their goodwill having adverse effects on their sovereignty claims. Likewise, renters can still exist, but the actions of those renters will have no effect on the control bar if someone else comes in.

The Control Bar

You've seen this before in other MMOs and games, not just faction warfare in EVE Online. It represents a tug-of-war between, typically, two opposing forces. The side that fills the bar up wins. There's been a lot of talk about taking mechanics from faction warfare and putting them to use in nullsec. Frighteningly, most of that talk has been about buttons. Yuck! That would be absolutely terrible. However, implementing a system where a control bar is filled by doing various activities would be a very nice mechanic. Even without getting into details about how the bar is filled, it has advantages. For starters, if the specific mechanics or methods of altering that bar are changed, the overall concept remains the same. CCP can make changes that reflect the current state of the game without altering the entire system. Also, the bar gives a nice visual incentive to players. There have been studies done about the psychology of games, how certain game mechanics interact with the brain, and one of the things that keep people playing and invested is the experience bar. That same concept applies here, and it would be a small, subtle side-effect to encourage people to actually play.

The control bar is a good way to visualize and measure activity-based sovereignty control. Mining in a system will add or subtract from the bar as appropriate. Taking another small page from faction warfare's book, the bar can even be used to show advantages for having the bar at a certain level.
Like I said, the details of what moves the control bar can change as needed. Right now, we want a game where smaller alliances can compete, where every battle doesn't turn into a 2,000 man dog pile, and where big battles aren't guaranteed to end in who has the most super capitals. If things change, and we want one or more of those things - or completely different things - added back into the system, the control bar is still a useful indicator of control.

The Mercenary

In this environment, a mercenary organization would be very useful for someone trying to maintain or remove control from another. In the past, Noir. had been hired quite often to disrupt the day-to-day lives of those living in one area or another. We regularly provided asset denial contracts where we shut down certain areas from all activities: no ratting, no mining, no missions, and no undocking. We were hired to do regional assaults where we just killed other combat fleets. These activities would be useful to a group in the sort of sovereignty system discussed here. War decs could be allied on to, a feature that's underutilized I'm sure.

New mercenary corporations are vital to a healthy merc community, and having smaller objectives that have a smaller entry of barrier would only be a good thing for up-and-coming mercenary groups. An organization wouldn't need to hire a huge mercenary group to fend off a group that's raising the control bar via ratting, for instance. It would be just as important of a job as fighting off enemy fleets to the owner of the system, but with an objective that's achievable by a smaller organization both the employer and the mercenary benefit: the employer doesn't have to pay as much, and the mercenary outfit has another job, and one that doesn't require a huge up-front cost.

The Incumbent

This assumes that there wouldn't still just be three major coalitions in nullsec, of course, but I can't imagine that it would be possible for those organizations to control as much space as they do, or remain free from their border systems being constantly in flux if they maintained a large domain. Instead, it seems more likely that we'd see a lot of asymmetrical warfare to try and prepare a system for final conversion. And that's the kind of system we need to work for: one where the large organizations still have a place, a purpose, and a reason for being there, but one where they don't destroy the ability for small organizations to exist independently.

Independence is a strong underlying theme in EVE: be your own man, forge your own empire, be infamous, be lawless. That attitude needs to be supported by the game in a way that is coexistent with large, unified groups. Everything should have its price. The bigger you are, the more wildfires you're having to put out, for instance; the more vulnerable your borders are. This is the price you pay for a larger area for your members to work within so no one crowds others while trying to live and make ISK.

Being independent means you're more secure, more centralized, aren't beholden to rules, orders, and regulations that don't concern you. You don't have to listen to anyone but yourself if you're independent, but you can lose it all if you're not careful.

Luckily, I know an organization you can call if someone comes huffing and puffing to blow your straw house down.
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New Jobs

Finally! I've found a new job! For those of you who haven't read it before from my blog, my last job sent me all over the country for almost all of the year. I was rarely home, and while it was nice in a lot of ways, I was glad to be back home when I left that job in June. Unfortunately, the job I had lined up fell through literally the last minute, so I was left scrambling for three months trying to find something else. Well I officially have a job now, and my first day is tomorrow!

I'll be the Social Media Manager for a local women's boutique called Entourage. I'm super excited because, while I've never worked in the fashion industry, I'll finally be able to put my social media/community management experience to good use in a well-paying job that includes benefits and doesn't make me travel all the time. It goes without saying that my girlfriend is super excited about all the discounts I'll be able to use to purchase her lots of stuff!

But of course, all things must relate to EVE, right? For me, this means that I'll once again not be space poor! I don't maintain multiple accounts, so all my ISK is generated by one of two characters on the same account - although I very, very rarely use the second character (the third just sits in Jita if I need to sell a PLEX quickly). For me, it was always more timely to just buy a PLEX than spend multiple hours in the game trying to earn the same amount of ISK. I'm certainly looking forward to buying all the faction fittings that we fly in Suddenly.

Coincidentally, the alliance is on a new contract too. New jobs everywhere! As per usual, I won't go into any details until after the contract is over with, but that may not be very long.

Noir. Academy is chugging along nicely too. We're finally settling into the transition into SOUND, and classes are starting to pick up. I foresee classes and instructor-led roams increasing as soon as the current contract is over, unless we embark on another one straight-away. We have a couple of very promising students who I'm super happy to have, and a few who may not last long.

We had a unique case of idiocy a few days ago which was interesting. A student with a very unusual application was accepted with some caveats. He was put on the instructor's watch list to make sure everything was kosher. Turns out, we didn't need to do anything. He spilled his guts to one of our instructors, completely unprovoked, about how he was breaking multiple rules on his second day in the corporation. Kicked!

We have a few students who are on the very cusp of graduating, too. I feel kind of bad for them since, just as they were about to be invited to come fly with Noir. for their final testing period, we left on a contract which means that they had to stay in Catch while we worked on this. We invite students who are in the final stages of the Academy to basically relocate to be with Noir. to ensure personality and basic ability before graduation. These guys just got a little unlucky. I'll be very glad to get them out here though. They deserve it and I think they'll fit in just fine.

By the way, one of our guys is going to be speaking at EVE Down Under, so if any of you are there, say hi to Arkentantix CarpeNoctem! I should get him to guest write something about it now that I think of it.

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September 16, 2014

The Current State of Combat Battlecruisers: Part Three

I apologize for taking so long to get this one published. I haven't had the will power to pound it out in between the other EVE related stuff I've been doing, but that's no excuse! Plus, I'm not really very quick at math, and it takes me a lot longer than your average person to do what some may consider very easy. So when I approach a blog post that contains almost all math, I hope you'll forgive my trepidation!

Luckily I was able to call in some help from IcyMidnight. Hopefully the math I'm presenting here is correct, but please point out any errors in my calculations! So without further ado, let's talk about my proposed fix to combat battlecruisers!

It's a simple change, really, and it has a precedent in the form of deep space transports: an overheat bonus. We'll use a cut down version though:

+100% bonus to the benefits of overheating Afterburners and Resistance Modules

You'll notice I removed microwarpdrives and local rep from the original list. I like the idea of more classes using afterburners with a bonus, a 100% overheat bonus to microwarpdrives would be a little too powerful, and can you imagine a Myrmidon with 100% overheating bonus to its three armor repair modules? Crazy.

But why go this route? Well, it was mentioned in the original thread that spawned this series, and I like it, that's why! Plus it fits the role really well. Combat battlecruisers are meant to get in there and slog it out, withstanding a ton of punishment and giving back just as much pain. Currently they don't really have much of an advantage though, as we've spoken about before. They're out damaged and out tanked and out maneuvered by all the classes that you might consider their cousins. Giving combat battlecruisers a 100% bonus to certain modules when overheated gives them a nice niche: a short-term monster tanking ship.

So let's take a look at a bit of math that I promised. What kind of effect would this have in a practical sense? We'll take a Harbinger for example. Here's a sample fit that I threw together.

We'll focus on the EM resist since it's the highest. A Harbinger has a 50% base EM resist. Our EM Hardener gives us 55% more. We'll multiply that by 1.4 to get our 100% overheat bonus. Finally, our Damage Control gives us another 15%. We can use this formula to calculate our resists

1 - ((1 - 0.5) * (1 - (0.55)) * (1 - 0.15))

This gives us the same result as EFT: 80.9%. To calculate what it'd be like if we overheated we'd use this formula instead

1 - ((1 - 0.5) * (1 - (0.55 * 1.2)) * (1 - 0.15))

This would give us an EM resist of 85.555% (EFT shows an EM resist profile of 85.6%).

Now, to find what our resist would be like if we had a 100% overheat bonus we can use this formula

1 - ((1 - 0.5) * (1 - (0.55 * 1.4)) * (1 - 0.13))

This gives us an EM resist of 90.2%. We can simulate this in EFT by using a Red Giant Class 6 wormhole effect and overheating our module. It's good to have the math, because now we can also simulate these effects in a Red Giant Class 6 wormhole!

1 - ((1 - 0.5) * (1 - (0.55 * 1.8)) * (1 - 0.15))

This gives us an EM resist of 99.6%.

That definitely makes our Harbinger a pretty tough nut to crack. Our EHP goes from 72,000 to 122,000 but you'd burn out all of your hardeners in 60 seconds. I think that's a pretty fair trade.

Taking a quick peek at the effect on afterburners, we see an increase in speed from 486 m/s to 593 m/s. That's not a huge increase, but considering the fitting and signature benefits, it's still not a bad boost, certainly more than they're getting now. The afterburner lasts for about two minutes. These changes are definitely not going to make for prolonged fights of intense overheating.

Of course, the Harbinger isn't the toughest combat battlecruiser. The Prophecy, for instance, receives a 4% bonus to resist per level. What would it look like in this situation? Its base EM resist is 60%, so we can just plug that into our formula to see! We see a return of 92.2%.The Prophecy can easily reach 190,000 EHP, for about 60 seconds as well.

And yes, it's true that there are a few combat battlecruisers out there that see some use in some situations. There's the afforementioned triple rep Myrmidon or the bait tanked Prophecy. But overall, the class needs help. It needs a place in EVE, a niche that only it can fulfill. This idea really takes the combat battlecruiser into a new area, one where it can tank battleship-level damage, but only for very short times. I really like the idea; it's got some obvious advantages with some great disadvantages - our Harbinger goes from 122,000 EHP to 43,500 EHP once those resists burn out - which is a core tenant of EVE Online.

If this type of change came to pass, how would you use a combat battlecruiser?
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September 5, 2014

Change is Life

Pretentious title aside, one of the best parts of being a mercenary is the constant change. Each contract offers something new, even when compared to contracts of the same type. You're fighting a different enemy who approaches things in a new way, you're using a different doctrine, or the geography of your area is different. Regardless, mercenaries go through a lot of change even if it is just in regards to contracts.

Sometimes the change is more dramatic, if not totally unique. Noir. and Noir. Academy once left the alliance Noir. Mercenary Group back in 2013 to join Black Legion. Now, these guys are known for being great, and there were some pretty fun fleets back then, but most of us hated it. Their culture and our culture did not mix. They felt that having a corporation with Academy in its name was not good for their image (never mind that NA members were on the top ten alliance members board every month), and that they were too good for Noir. Academy. After several failed attempts at a few vocal members to have Noir. Academy kicked, they resulted in awoxing Alek, which was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. It was one annoying incident after another. After that, none of us were eager to even think about other alliances for a long, long time.

A merger with Suddenly Spaceships was proposed earlier this year but no one was excited about it, the memory of Black Legion. still fresh. We decided that we wanted to hunker down and work on Noir. Mercenary Group, bringing other corporations into the alliance. Unfortunately, there are very few corporations out there that are both interested in being actual mercenaries, have the members, and the capability to interest us. We tried a few, none of them really working out for one reason or another.

So when the topic was brought up again to merge with Suddenly Spaceships, it was actually surprising to me to notice that most people were positive about it, myself included. I have always been a very staunch supporter of bring others into NMG., but it simply wasn't working. I personally tried to find corporations that were worth approaching for many months to no avail, so I could rest safely in the knowledge that we had done our due diligence to find prospective members. Maybe that's why it wasn't such a negative response. In any case, I think many of us were a bit disappointed to leave behind the Noir. Mercenary Group name, but reality insists that we join Suddenly Spaceships since they have about double our numbers.

But like I said, we came away with a very positive outlook on this change. We're going to suddenly have the pilots we've been looking for over the past two years, we're going to have some experienced mercenaries to fly with right off the bat, and we're going to have the ability to fly more expensive, higher-quality fit fleets. Suddenly is going to benefit from our infrastructure (they had practically none it seems), showing them how much more effective you can be with some of the out-of-game tools we've come to rely on.

We're also going to be able to take a wider variety of contracts than we have been able to in a long time. We just recently had to turn down a contract which really bummed me out. It was for a very high profile client (not that we would have made it known even if we had accepted, of course), and it was a pretty cool contract. Unfortunately, we just didn't have the manpower. Now, however - we could accept that contract, and might still if the situation returns to how it was for this client a few weeks ago. We're also going to be able to branch out into things that we had never really done before at all due to our own increase in capital pilots over the years plus Suddenly Spaceships'.

Be wary New Eden. There's a new mercenary alliance in existence now, a breed of mercenary that hasn't existed in almost half a decade. You may have forgotten what it was like back then, but we're going to remind you. And it's going to be awesome.
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August 28, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Despite having sporadic internet, I was able to really get reinvigorated this week and accomplished quite a lot in the last few days. I could feel the desire to get stuff done starting a few weeks ago when a well known contact and friend talked to me about Noir. Academy and his organization working together. At the time I wasn't affiliated with Noir. Academy in any way other than historically, but to him I was the person to go to. This type of thing has happened - usually on lower scale though - for months now. I started to realize that I really did miss being the CEO; it's something I'm good at and enjoyed the interactions with students. Admittedly there were times during my tenure that I was pretty much MIA due to work related issues, but I was able to get a lot done from an administrative point of view, and I wanted that again. You can see the birth of those feelings in some of my earlier posts. Well, a few days ago another VIP contacted me with the thinking that I was still very much in a leadership position at Noir. Academy, so I figured I may as well throw my hat back in as an instructor.

It wasn't too long - like, seriously not long at all - of doing that before I sent a message to Isabela Valentine, a Noir. Director who took NA. over after Horok (the guy I tapped to take my place) had to leave the game due to work reasons, and asked for his thought on sending CEO back to me. He was completely open to the idea (NA. is not an easy or glorious job, folks!) and so here I am, once again the CEO of Noir. Academy. It's good to be home.

Isabela did a lot of great work as the CEO, but if I had to pick one thing that was better than the rest, it was his last big achievement of kicking Noir. Academy out of the alliance. No, I'm serious! One of my top priorities as CEO during my entire first term was working on getting them to a point where they could operate outside of Noir. Mercenary Group for quite a few reasons, all of them beneficial to the recruits, but it was a very tricky situation. Isabela managed to work out a deal with our long time friends Of Sound Mind so that Noir. Academy will be joining their alliance. This is great for our recruits as it gives them more day to day content without feeling like they can't mess up while learning (a common fear for Noir. Academy students). It gives them more content they can be a part of; many students can't fly high SP ships yet. It also helps SOUND by giving them more warm bodies.

As instructors, we'll continue running classes to teach our students and we'll continue to facilitate Noir. Academy just as we normally do. Nothing really changes from our perspective. Except now we have more students! SOUND will be invited and welcome in all our classes and/or training operations, and we're super happy to have them learn from us while we learn from them. This is seriously an awesome situation for us.


I also was able to teach a class to BRAVE about BLOPs yesterday in the BRAVE Dojo Advanced Class, and it seemed to go over really well. I think there were about 40 people that joined for the lecture part of the class, and nearly the same for the practical portion. Within about 10 minutes of the fleet getting set up, one of our Hunter/Killers had found us a target and his pod. The excitement in the fleet right after that was great. Some of the guys had never done this type of fleet before, and you could hear it in their voice as they talked about how cool that was. I left soon after to go handle Marmite not showing up to reinforce our POCOs again, but the fleet did continue and managed to nab this and this. Awesome job, BRAVE. Thanks for having me out, and I hope to teach such an eager group again soon!
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August 25, 2014

The Current State of Combat Battlecruisers: Part Two

For part two of The Current State of Combat Battlecruisers, I wanted to get a good representation for what kind of usage combat battlecruisers are seeing these days compared to how they often they were being used. I decided to take the monthly number of kills for each class of combat battlecruiser and plot it into a line chart from April 2013, which is when Retribution 1.1 was released containing the combat battlecruiser changes, to July 2014.

 It's truly interesting to see the drop in usage almost every month after Retribution 1.1. All of the combat battlecruisers end up with pretty normalized usage at the end of our data recording. I was also curious to see what sort of effect warp speed changes were going to have on the combat battlecruisers usage. Announced in October and released in November of 2013, we do see a decline in usage here that combat battlecruisers never really recovered from. If the warp speed changes were the sole cause of that, I couldn't say; I doubt it, but I would think it was a good part of it.

Now let's take a look at the same period of time before the Retribution changes. I thought about not including the time in between the original dev post about the upcoming changes, but figured that information would be neat to look at. You can hover your mouse over specific points on the graphs to get more detailed information.

In January 2013, Fozzie posted a thread to the Features & Idea forum about proposed changes to combat battlecruisers. The thread itself had 128 pages of feedback and it seemed to be quite a popular subject. However, we can see that in January 2013 we barely see any change in the prevailing patterns. There is a slight uptick in all but the Drake, but overall, the graph tends to continue in the direction it was moving just before the announcement.

It's pretty clear that combat battlecruisers are getting no where near the amount of use they once were. In regards to the Drake and Hurricane, that's a good thing. The others definitely needed some help. But as a whole, the combat battlecruiser class is not in a healthy position. Other ships have certainly moved in to fill its role - notably HACs - but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a place for combat battlecruisers.

Now that I feel comfortable saying that there is indeed a need for something to change with combat battlecruisers, There is clear indication that their usage has been on a steady decline since Retribution was released despite heavy changes. And while it has benefited some ships (notably the Prophecy which had embarrassing numbers before Retribution), overall it has not been good for the class. I'll begin working on part three of this series dealing with the specific mechanical changes in regards to the overheating bonuses that I mentioned earlier. 
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August 24, 2014

Contract Recap: Alliance Tournament XII

This weekend marked Noir. Mercenary Group's fifth Alliance Tournament appearance. We had previously participated in AT VII, VIII, AT X and AT XI (The past tournament links for AT VII and VIII only show the finals). Noir. has never had a very strong showing in this setting - something that doesn't really bother me personally. Iit's not how we operate on a day to day basis, and we're not large enough to dedicate massive amounts of time to practice like many organizations are able to do. In AT X we went 1:1 and in AT XI we went 0:2. This year was a little different, in some ways.

For Alliance Tournament XII, we were hired by a fan of the Declarations of War podcast that is run by Noir. (and an ex-Noir.!) members to participate in the tournament. We were given a lump sum of money to help fund our fleets - something we've never had the opportunity to do before. We also put most of our other contracts on hold for this period and focused almost exclusively on training for the tournament, another first for us. Generally we practice when we have time and that's not an ideal environment to get ready for the unique aspects of the tournament.

Each year that we participate in the Alliance Tournament we re-open a section of our forums to theory crafting. This year was no different except for the amount of work put into it; a lot more this year than in any of the previous years. We also trained heavily, scrimmaging against someone every weekend except for one from June all the way up to the tournament. We even brought in a few notable tournament veterans to give a couple of lectures. Without a doubt, this was our most prepared year yet.

Day One

Our first match was against SCUM., a really solid low sec corporation. We had done a lot of homework on SCUM. and decided to bring a set up that was a likely counter for their set up. Unfortunately for us, they brought something different. Despite setups that looked opposite on the surface, we each brought very similar set ups as far as our tactics went. We realized that we had the better DPS, but they had the advantage in control. We moved towards a mobile jump unit in an attempt to close the gap quickly so they couldn't apply damage if we tried moving in the slow way - something they would be better at than us. If we could get close, we would have a distinct advantage with the Vindicator webs. SCUM., realizing this, quickly moved away to their own mobile jump unit on the opposite side of the field. A standoff ensued in which neither team was willing to make the first jump in case it put us in a bad position - mobile jump units have been notoriously difficult to use properly in this Alliance Tournament. Also, we decided that, should we go into reverse TiDi, we'd have the advantage again with our high DPS. SCUM. eventually made the jump after the timer reached 0:00 and we followed suite. This was likely a poor choice in retrospect, to let them jump first, but in these moments it's very difficult to understand how things are going to play out - especially when time is sped up. There's simply no way to practice for that. In this setting, SCUM. was able to neutralize our support wing very quickly, making it difficult for our Vindicator to apply the damage it needed. What ships it did get a hold of with its webs, melted. You can see, using the chart function in the link below, where our damage spiked up where the Vindicator was getting in range of targets.

SCUM. played very well and ended up with a win.

Day Two

In our second match, we squared off against The Fearless Empire. I have to admit I don't know much about The Fearless Empire other than they operate in Caldari low security space. As an alliance we didn't have much intel on their set ups either, so we didn't know what to expect. They ended up bringing a 7 man tinker set up versus our 12 man shield fleet. This is what we were trying to avoid, in fact, as evidenced by the Tengu ban. Our shield fleet is one of the set ups that we performed very well with in the scrimmages and felt comfortable in, so we decided on it due to our lack of intel. It turned out to be a composition that left us at a disadvantage, but we wanted to try a few things to give us an edge. One option would have been to try and kite them, putting our drones out, but since the Kronos has a smartbomb, that would have killed too much of our DPS early while still taking a lot of fire from the Kronos. Our thought process here was to break that Proteus quickly by bumping it out of range, chewing through it, and then picking off the rest of the team.

Sure enough, the Proteus dies very quickly, but the Kronos was able to apply too much damage, hitting us at any range while we worked on the rest. We were able to chunk down a lot of their high EHP ships quickly, but without logistics, time wasn't on our side and unfortunately the ships just had so much EHP, even if we could have taken out one or two more ships earlier it's doubtful that we would have been able to chew through the Damnation and Prophecy, not to mention a Kronos in bastion mode. I really feel like our strategy was good. If I could change only one thing, I'd love to have had a logistics ship in that set up. It may have made all the difference. This fight was really all about EHP, and their team probably had twice ours. We were able to take out their flagship at least.

The Fearless Empire had a costly, but deserved victory. The ending stats show that we dealt 170,411 damage and took 173,794. For some reason, none of the normal sources for the battle reports show accurate ISK ratios that match CCP's, and our battle report show Thalesia's Kronos on our side due to smartbombs - so ignore the fact that it shows the Kronos on the wrong side (it doesn't skew any of the information anyway) for a clearer picture of the results.

In the end, we didn't perform as well as we would have liked or as well as our effort in preparation showed. I can tell you, from an insider's perspective, that although we're not happy with the results, we're pleased with our performances. If we continue to improve as much as we did in the build up to this year's tournament, I think we'll surprise quite a few people in the next tournament.
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August 23, 2014

The Current State of Combat Battlecruisers

I was browsing through Features & Ideas on the EVE-O forums. Usually this is an exercise in frustration; most idea are completely idiotic and self serving, born from some in-game slight, usually in the form of someone killing the submitter's ship. But I saw one of the rare decent ideas, one that I feel deserved more thought. You can read it here, and feel free to put your thoughts on it if you'd like. As you can see, I asked if he minded if I took his idea and ran with it. This is a series that's going to focus on that topic.

I'm not quite ready to delve into the meat of the subject yet. I still want to do some research and get some data on usage. But in this initial post, as I always try to do, I want to set the topic up a little bit. Combat battlecruisers, formerly known as tier one and tier two battlecruisers, were the only battlecruiser-class available for many years, until the release of the attack battlecruiser back in 2011 with Crucible. What was once known as just battlecuisers adopted their new combat battlecruiser title. These were meant to be slower and tougher, wielding medium-sized weapons, compared to the attack battlecruisers which fielded battleship-sized weapons.

Tiericide officially took over the battlecruiser lines, changing them fairly drastically in purpose, with Retribution 1.1. This definitely helped bring the battlecruisers that were already not being used into more popularity and trim down the ones that were being used for too many things, but the question is: did it make combat battlecruisers as a whole more useful and more used.

I have a feeling that they're not being used as often as they should be. My feeling is that combat battlecruisers don't offer enough advantages over cruisers (especially when the Ishtar exists), HACs or Battleships to choose a combat battlecruiser over any one of these other classes. The combat battlecruiser has the ability to use links, but as CCP stated in the initial thread about the combat battlecruiser changes, this was added in preparation for link changes at some unknown point in the future. I don't think many people are using them for the purpose of cheap links though.

So before I'm going to tackle the 'is it useful' question I'm going to find out first before I delve into the specifics of the recommendation in the first paragraph. If we find that combat battlecruisers are not seeing a lot of use then I think we can have a good platform to work from. If you didn't read the proposed change, the idea on the table is to give combat battlecruisers an overheating bonus similar to deep space transports. My first reaction is that giving combat battlecruisers a somewhat higher bonus for defensive modules and lower bonuses for overheating high slots giving quick bursts of tank, and even shorter bursts of high damage. It's an interesting gameplay approach to attack battlecruisers that I feel fits their proposed purpose, but we'll have to wait for more definitive data before we can make a final statement!

Before we get there though, what kind of gut reaction do you have on this kind of bonus to combat battlecruisers?
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August 19, 2014

Marmite. Marmite Never Changes

I was really pumped to play EVE today. It was looking like it was going to be a memorable one, an operation that you'd look back on fondly and laugh with your corp mates about later. "Hey, remember that time when we...?" But it wasn't to be. I really shouldn't be surprised, but I guess it's been a while since I've been reminded how Marmite actually operates.

You see, two days ago (August 16) Marmite declared war on us. This in and of itself is not unusual. They sometimes do this mostly, I believe, to be able to tell other people, "Do you see how tough we are? We even have Noir. wardecced!" Nothing ever comes of their wardecs, of course. But then yesterday Marmite hit a bunch of our POCOs in Augnais. Four in total I believe. Now we're talking!

So we prepped to defend them. We expected about the same number of people that attacked them to show up to try and finish them off. We form up a little ahead of time, decide on our doctrine that we're going to use and make sure our fleet is squared away with the proper amount of each role. We had one new Noir. Academy student who needed a quick run down on how to fly a dual propulsion Wolf (or was it Jaguar? All those rust buckets look the same to me), but otherwise it was a fairly smooth set up.

We send one of our scouts ahead of our fleet to try and get eyes on the Marmite fleet. It's only about 15 minutes before the first timer and we're maybe 6 or 7 jumps out. Suddenly our scout reports 11 Marmites in his system. Bingo! I think. "Get eyes on," Alek commands. We continue moving as our scout starts to search them out. I'm getting excited now. Marmite actually formed up to fight! We're going to toast them. "It looks like a gate camp of a bunch of destroyers and crap," our scout reports. Well crap. Our scout is told to keep eyes on them and we'll keep moving.

So we get one system out and we're sending out more and more scouts trying to find any other Marmites. We find Tora Bushido's alt (he's the leader of Marmite) docked in a station. He soon logs off. Well double crap! We're unable to find any other Marmites and the gate camp had dispersed after we had been in our destination system for a few minutes, scattered to their various hiding places.

So instead of fighting Marmite, we ended up hanging out on Teamspeak while we repaired our four POCOs. No Marmites were seen within 100 light years of our undefended Ospreys which I was hoping would draw them out for a desperate attempt at something. As the saying goes: war never changes. But as a mercenary, each day is different. Each contract requires different skills, different tactics, different doctrines. Marmite, however, is not a mercenary unit. Marmite is the same. Marmite never changes.
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August 9, 2014

Alliance Tournament XII Practice

I had the opportunity to practice for the Alliance Tournament again this weekend. As always, flying with Noir. is tons of fun, no matter what. I honestly can't imagine a cooler group of guys (for the most part) to fly with.

 I did ok, despite not having been able to play much lately. While I was there, we ran two different compositions, one of which I enjoyed a lot more than the other. I won't go into details because opsec. You know how it is. It was refreshing to hear everyone else agree with my thoughts regarding one of the compositions, everyone pretty much agreed it fit our mentality better. Alek sighed.

Our practice lasted for a few hours and we were able to make some nice tweaks to our set ups based on the experience. It was, in that regard, a perfect practice. This type of thing is definitely not our strong suite though. We're not an alliance tournament focused group, and - as far as I'm concerned - that's quite alright. It's a great experience for the alliance, and I'm always happy to see our name on the boards, regardless of how we end up doing. I do have to say that this year is our strongest year yet. I don't know how far that's going to carry us, but I'd put this year's team up against any of our previous teams, hands down.

Also, I was shocked to see how close the opening day is when I looked at my calendar! It's almost here!
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July 23, 2014

Pod Journal: Girlfriend Edition

My girlfriend helped me with my last entry, which is why it actually looks like a thing. She also wanted to play around a little herself. She's always been artistic, she almost went to art school before deciding on education. Anyway, here's what she did. She forced me to agree not to claim it as my own.

She doesn't play EVE, hasn't ever played EVE, and never wants to try EVE, but she still had fun with this picture. She decided to paint one of my favorite ships!

Have I mentioned how much better she is compared to me?

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