January 11, 2014

Becoming Immortal - Part One

"Davey! C'mon. man, we gotta go! They're coming in pretty quick from 270 down 14!"

Davey Clonder swung a camera drone to look at the bearing his wingman called out but kept his focus on the ongoing hack. Sure enough, there were four of the quick and deadly assault frigates bearing down on them, all Jaguar classes. He was, he estimated, about 4/5 of the way done, having beaten multiple layers of security already. After he and his wingman, Josan Mongrey, had spent seven hours finding this hidden treasure, he wasn't prepared to leave it just yet. "Move between me and them and provide a picket for me, Josan. I need a little more time."

"Oh man," Josan whined. But Davey could see his long-time friend moving into position immediately. Josan was piloting an Omen that had been specially modified with heavy armor plates and advanced hardeners designed to scatter and deflect incoming damage. It was well suited to facing a frontal attack, especially against quick, nimble assault frigates who could also deliver quite a punch in groups, as they were now. Davey, on the other hand, was piloting a fragile Anathema. It was perfect for finding abandoned wrecks and sites, then hacking into the long forgotten computers, but it was poorly suited to a fight. The Jaguars were certainly going to be trying to take him out quick while avoiding the Omen and then leave before they took too much damage of their own.

"Bogey One has crossed into my locking envelope. Acquiring solution now. Acquired. Maneuvering for transversal." Davey listened to his friend give updates from the corner of his mind. He was nearly there now, he could tell. Just a little more and he'd have it.

"Shit, they're fast! Ha! Bogey Three  has been scrambled. Bogey Three is down! Davey, Bogey Two is slipping past me. You're going to have company; I can't catch him."

Fear began to well up within Davey's chest. He couldn't fail now! This was a rich site, full of valuable materials. And while Davey was not poor, this load would definitely improve his status in the world. If he could only get it out in one piece.

Josan continued his stream of chatter, calling out maneuvers and positions so that Davey could form a rough picture of the battlefield in his head. He knew that Bogey Two, the one that slipped past Josan, was approximately 75 kilometers away from his position by this time. He'd have only a few more seconds to finish up here before the deadly Minmatar ship was close enough to attack Davey's ship, cutting his ability to warp away. After that, it was only a formality. Josan would never be able to arrive in time to save him, and Davey couldn't possibly fight back.

"Bogey One is down! Bogey Four bugged out. I'm coming in, Davey, just hang on!" Davey and Josan both knew that he'd never be able to catch up to a Jaguar now, not with the sort of lead the Jaguar was sporting, but his friend was more loyal than smart sometimes.

"No, Josan! Go ahead and get out. Head to the rendezvous. I'll meet you there when I'm done here, one way or the other." Davey heard his friend swear, but saw his heading veer away. Suddenly he was gone, his warp engines having spooled up and shot him across the solar system. Now it was a race against time. And Davey didn't have much left.

He did a quick check, spending the effort to break his attention away from hacking to get a confirmed position on the assault frigate. It was worse than he expected, with the Jaguar having closed more range than he calculated for. The enemy was now only 34 kilometers away, and closing fast. Davey returned his focus to the problem at hand. He had to break this computer open and download the information he knew was inside and get out.

A sudden beep alerted Davey that his hacking subroutine had done it. He was able to penetrate into the guts of the machine, taking whatever vital pieces he wanted or needed out. By now, the Jaguar was 22 kilometers away. He had basically no time at all. He initiated the download sequence and fired his engines up, calculating the speed in his head. Hopefully he had it just right where the download would finish right at the envelope of his transmission range. He was attempting a risky maneuver, trying to put a tiny bit of distance between him and his pursuer, hopefully just enough to matter, while staying close enough to the computer speed not to break contact. As soon as the download was done, he would warp away, since his engines were already spooled up to the necessary speed.

Davey could do nothing more but hope his calculations were correct, relax, and watch the events unfold. His eyes darted between the incoming Jaguar, now at 11 kilometers away, and his ship computer's projection of the transmission envelope. It was going to be tighter than Davey expected, if it worked at all. A klaxon wailed, alerting him that he was being locked. Davey checked the range again. Nine kilometers. If the Jaguar's locking computer finished acquiring a solution on Davey, he was dead. He had less than a second to get out. Suddenly, the computer beeped its affirmation that the data transfer was complete. Davey immediately entered warp, leaving the Jaguar, his dead colleagues, and the now empty computer behind him.

As his warp engines spooled down, reality began to take shape around him once again. He could see a slightly battered Omen waiting patiently, glorious in its fierce beauty, its beaked nose brimming with aggressiveness.

"Heya, Josan. We got it!"

Davey could hear his friend's smile in his head, "And it looks like you've still never died, you lucky fucking podhead."
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January 9, 2014

Contract Recap - Gone Fishing

2013 ended with a pretty fun contract where we provided neutral logistics for Failed Diplomacy. Then we took a pretty long break for the holidays. Yesterday, January 9, 2014, marked the first contract of the year. It was also our 249th contract of all time. Here's what went down.

We were contacted about the possibility of providing the brute force for an operation. Our employer had a bunch of capital ships and at least one supercapital ship ratting in a very deep area of nullsec. The employer was going to act as our Hunter Killer, tackling the target and bridging us in, at which point we'd simply kill it. The plan was announced three days before the contract. We decided that we'd use our Black Ops doctrine, untested before now.

Now, we're experts in traditional Black Ops, which is where you have Stealth Bombers and Recons who stay within range of a Black Ops Battleship while a Hunter Killer (traditionally a Recon, but not always) roams about in the jump range of the Black Ops Battleship. When the H/K finds a target, he tackles it, reduces his speed, and lights a covert cyno. This allows the Black Ops Battleship to create a bridge between himself and the H/K which the bombers and recons can use to instantly appear around the cyno - right on top of the target. But this was not a traditional BLOPS doctrine. This time, instead of Stealth Bombers being the mainstay of the fleet, BLOPS were. Where Stealth Bombers are used as DPS and secondary ECM, and even sometimes secondary tackle, we were transferring the DPS role to our BLOPS. We also decided to bring remote repairing Tech Three ships for logistics. Anyone that couldn't fly either of these two roles would come through in bombers, fulfilling their traditional roles - DPS, secondary ECM, and secondary tackle.

Figuring out what we were going to fly was easy, of course. We have had this doctrine saved in Fleet-Up since May of 2013. The difficult part was figuring out how to get there. As I said, it was very deep into nullsec. Normal travel was out of the question, obviously.  Equally obvious, we were going to be taking advantage of our jumping capabilities. We had never tackled a move operation quite like this before, which was kind of exciting. We spent the next two days calculating fuel costs, ensuring we new exactly who was going to attend and in what ship (another great feature that Fleet-up has allowed us to be very accurate with our math). Fuel calculations and deployments were done by Deletor, Pepizaur, and Ziraili mainly. The only real contribution that I had to this personally was ensuring that we had the right disposition of ships so that our needs were met when it came to neutralizing and DPS power. I had the easy job.

The day of the operation, we felt confident; confident in our numbers, confident in our math, confident in our ability to quickly and effectively move into place unseen and unnoticed until too late. Literally just as we were preparing to undock and begin our trek across the galaxy, our Teamspeak, forums, and jabber went down. It's a curse. Seriously, it is. We scrambled to replace it. Our backup server had been taken down by the guy who owned it because of our recent Teamspeak stability. Once it was rebooted, we realized he no longer had the non-profit 500 man limit, and we were at capacity. Then another one was scrambled. This took seemingly forever. Probably 10 minutes in reality.

Once we were all back in comms with one another, the order to undock was given and we began jumping across the galaxy, one jump at a time. One BLOPS was designated the pig for all of the stealth bombers and recons, and at each location, we had haulers pre-staged, chock full of fuel for the pig. We quickly got into our final destination and cloaked, silently waiting.

By this time our employer had joined our comms and was giving us occasional updates on what was going on. If I were scoring him on our scale, I'd say he didn't communicate very often, but I'm pretty sure he was on two comms, so he gets a pass. But it was kind of frustrating not to be able to follow along with him. Normally I always know where my Hunter Killer is. It's a good thing to be mindful of as a pig. First of all, you need to ensure that your HK is within your jump range. Secondly, I think it's a very good idea to have redundancies. Maybe you'll notice something from Dotlan that your HK, who is focused on finding targets, misses because he's tuned into the Wild Tracker wavelength.

Anyway, the calls were coming in slowly. "I've got a Chimera, trying to track him down."

Five minutes.

"What happened with that Chimera?"

"Oh, he got away.

"Found a Wyvern. Trying to track him down."

They kept warping off though, to no fault of our employer.

Eventually, the operation was called. Our employer apologized for not being able to snag someone, but expressed his appreciation for moving 40 guys across the galaxy in such a short time. We all thanked him for the opportunity and let him know that apologies weren't necessary.

One guy, I think it was N'hoj Greb, one of Noir., mentioned that this is EVE. You get prepped, you do everything right and it falls apart because your prey is human. You're dealing with wildcards all the time in EVE. You can't be 100% certain about what's going to happen. It was definitely disappointing not to drop a 40 man fleet mainly composed of BLOPS onto a few carriers, but it was a successful operation, from our standpoint, and I think most of us had a lot of fun.
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January 6, 2014

What's on the Other Side?

Blog Banter # 52 - The Other SideWelcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 51st edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.
* * * * *
Go to the always useful EVE-Offline.net (http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility) and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.
What's on the other side of that plateau? 
Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past. 
Also, what would EVE be like with an order of magnitude fewer or more players?
So why has EVE been unable to continue upwards? You can clearly see the rise and fall of the numbers over the last four and half years, and it's a pretty safe bet that each peak lines up with an expansion. People are hearing about EVE again. They quit for a reason, and while the reasons may be different, they're still intrigued by EVE. They still think about it sometimes. They're the people who say, "I love the thought of EVE. EVE's universe is great, I just can't get into the gameplay." They get an email from CCP as the patch is coming out and they think, Well, maybe it's better now. These pictures look so cool after all!

But of course, they don't stick around. Not for long. Maybe they'll pay for an extra month after they first resubscribe, probably out of guilt that they spent another $15 coupled with the hope of finding it, whatever it is.

And that's the issue, right? That's what was talked about quite extensively in the last CSM8 minutes - what keeps people subscribed. It's not mission, not in its current form, that's for sure. It's engagement. It's getting out there and interacting with people. 

What EVE needs to get on the other side of this plateau is easier access to people. And not just anyone. After all, Just Anyone is in local chat already. Just Anyone is in the Rookie chat. There needs to be something that forces people to engage with one another to actually play the game. 

Look, I hate PVE. I've never liked it in any MMOs I've played, much less EVE's PVE, which I think we can agree is pretty horrid. But why can't there be excitement in the PVE for people who come to EVE expecting something like other MMOs, at least when it comes to PVE. They already know what EVE is about, at least on the surface. They know there is PVP out there, even if they don't know it can reach out and touch them. What they don't know is how boring our PVE is. And it really shouldn't be. Make people work with one another in coordinated ways. I'd hope we'd never have bosses like in World of Warcraft where you can just look up the places to stand so the boss can't hit you with his super attack, but how cool would it be to have some epic battle that requires people to group up and actually work hard to beat something? We don't have anything like that now.

Some of you may be thinking of Incursions, but I wouldn't consider them up to this task. They're inclusive, mind-numbing affairs. I'm talking about something more spontaneous, something that really grabs the attention of people coming into the game. Something that makes them feel like they're progressing as they finally upgrade from their frigate into a destroyer. And more importantly, something that makes them feel connected to the world around them. It doesn't have to be PVE. I just used the example because so many people come into the game with that as their main effort and never realize there's more, so much more. So maybe we need to meet them half way.
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January 3, 2014

The Relevancy of CSM Minutes

A lot of noise was made about the CSM Minutes being delayed and delayed until 2014. That outcry was justified, as it's not good the minutes were so long in coming. We need CCP and the CSM to be able to work together efficiently enough to put their minutes out in a timely fashion. If they can't do that, what does that say about CCP's view on how important the CSM is to the players? What does it say about the way the CSM and CCP work together? Well, truthfully, it doesn't say anything. But it won't often come across that way. It reflects poorly on CCP and the CSM, and we need to continue to expect more from our CSM and CCP Dolan, who has taken responsibility for the delay due to his inexperience in the position, promising to help improve the turn around time and usage of the minutes. But are CSM Minutes that are delayed still relevant?

What is relevant anyway? It's used a lot in EVE Online. Certain alliances are relevant while others aren't. Certain fits are relevant while others are apparently pointless. CSM Minutes are only relevant during a specific window, according to some, and outside of that window, they, too, are pointless. But they're wrong. The CSM Minutes are always relevant, even long after the CSM in question is no longer seated. The minutes have a purpose, and while that purpose may not be understood, that's not the fault of anyone but the confused.

When you read the CSM Minutes, taking the CSM 8 Summer Minutes as our example, you shouldn't be digging for clues about what's coming next in EVE Online. That's not what these minutes are for, nor should they be. Instead, read them with a critical eye, focused on how your CSM is functioning with CCP. Is the CSM representing the playerbase well? Is CCP ignoring what the CSM is saying? Are the CSM members unconcerned with things that CCP is planning on doing? Are the CCP developers disconnected with reality?

The CSM Minutes give us a window into the boardroom meetings in which CCP is pitching ideas to a small set of elected players. This is where CCP takes what it works on throughout the year and tries to convince people that it's good, that it's going to be fun, that CCP knows what it's doing and isn't taking us down Incarna Road again. Use these minutes, and the minutes of the future, to ensure that what CCP is doing is healthy for the game. Don't use them to try and peek into the future of ship rebalances or new modules. It's not what minutes are made for. That stuff isn't relevant anyway.
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January 2, 2014

The Mechanics of Rebuilding a Training Corporation

The other day I wrote about my first year as Noir. Academy's CEO. I touched on the broad strokes of what I did when I took over, but now I'd like to dig into the bones of why these changes were made. I hope it will be informative for any of you who hold leadership roles in training corporations of your own, or maybe you've just got a few inexperienced players in your corporation who could use a little extra help. There are thousands of ways to approach teaching others, of course, and there isn't any right method; often the best way differs for every single person. For smaller corporations or if you've only got a handful of people who need extra help taking the specific pilot approach would probably be better, but for larger organizations, here's one approach.

When I took over Noir. Academy, there were a lot of things that were clearly not working. Over the course of the first four months or so, I made quite a few changes - some small, others quite large - but they were all reactionary. That doesn't necessarily mean these changes were bad - in fact, I feel they were all quite good. But, some of them turned out to need refinements, some of them even needed to be completely replaced. This is because we were making changes based on what we saw as current problems, but we weren't spending enough time in planning. Luckily, one of my instructors has education in the training of others, and he gave me quite a bit of good advice which we used to construct the outlines of our current program. It still took time to get to a "finished" product. I'm sure we'll still need to make refinements over time, especially where game mechanics are concerned, but by using proper planning and methodology, we're better prepared to make changes in the future.


To start with, we had to determine what challenges we were facing and may face in the future. Some of these things are glaringly obvious when you think about them, but it's important that you do think about them and realize they are truths.

Here are three universal truths that will apply to every organization out there.
  1. All of our training is done online. This means any program we develop may lack advantages that training a group of people face-to-face boasts. There is a separation of humanity when you train people online. This could mean anything from coming across as distant to your students or it could mean that there is a greater chance for people to misunderstand meaning without small body language cues. 
  2. Neither the Instructor or the Trainee is being compensated in real life for their efforts which can decrease retention and interest levels. 
  3. EVE is an evolving ecosystem of ships and techniques, therefore we're going to have training lag based on developing trends.
There are other, smaller challenges that depend on your organization, your corporation's members, your corporation's culture, and countless other variations. It's important to identify the large, static challenges that apply to your situation as well. Don't focus on small, temporary obstacles too much, but it may be worth your while to pinpoint any hurdles that need to be smoothed out sooner rather than later during this stage too.


To find our solutions, we used what is called a Training Process Model. There are probably many approaches and variations to this model, but ours is pictured below.

Essentially, we tried to assess any Triggering Events first, and then develop a Needs Analysis. For Noir. Academy, a basic example of this were that we were having issues with pilots not feeling comfortable with their ship knowledge. Our Needs Analysis tells us that we need pilots who are very familiar with the roles and bonuses of EVE Online's ships so that they can effectively fight and FC.

The Design Phase follows in which we compile whatever materials we may need to train our pilots in ship familiarization. This may be some flashcards or a website or a spontaneous, oral test. After the materials are ready, they are pushed into the Development Phase where we refine what is taught. Perhaps, for you, refining means removing ultra-rare ships from your lists, or maybe it's getting rid of the flashcards because they're not working well.

 Finally, the refined methods are pushed into the Implementation Phase and Process Evaluation Phase simultaneously where the methods are used and evaluated to ensure that they're effective in teaching what we needed.

In simpler terms, what we're talking about is basically
  1. Identify what we need to teach.
  2. Identify how we need to teach it.
  3. Refine the lesson 
  4. Implement it. 
  5. Evaluate how it's working and make adjustments.


Another aspect of our restructuring was realizing our limits. There are some things that can be taught and others that can't. We refer to these as KSAs, meaning Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes. Knowledge and Skills can be taught but Attitudes can not be. Some examples of each are listed below.
  • What Can Be Taught?
    • Knowledge - "Keeping within our doctrine and fitting rules, what best named module can be fit here instead?"
    • Skills - The ability to spiral in on a target while piloting an interceptor.
  • What Can Not Be Taught?
    • Attitudes - An example of this would be FCing. While some aspects of a successful FC can, in fact, be taught (such as ship recognition and prioritization), others can not (such as appropriate aggressiveness, confidence, leadership).
Recognizing what we can and can not teach to others helps us maximize our time to be most effective and minimize frustrations, both for the instructor and the student, as we're not trying to teach someone how to do something they must find within themselves.

Be aware though, that there are ways to support your students as they try to find their Attitudes on their own. We have our own support structure for budding FCs, for example, but there will always be those who "get it" and those that don't.


It's often times a very scary proposition, the training of others. EVE is a game that benefits greatly from people willing to help others learn, and having a formal method has really helped me do just that. The great thing about this approach is that it can be used in so many applications. No matter what your training needs are, whether you're trying to teach someone how to be a more efficient hauler or even how to teach people how to teach people! It's a really flexible method and can be used as an entire process or, like I've done with Noir. Academy, simply a part of the entire picture. 

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