March 29, 2014

Contract Recap - Goblin's Crusade

Gevlon Goblin's crusade against the Goons is well documented. I won't go into his side much at all, other than to say that we were hired to reinforce Lemmings and Marmite in their attempt to kill as many Goons and their POCOs in high security space, namely around The Forge and Lonetrek. We were initially hired for two weeks, our objective: to reinforce one to two POCOs a day. Our personal goals were to take as many of those POCOs as we could alongside killing as many Goons as possible.

This was actually a really tough decision for us to make, whether to accept this contract or not. We had just gotten done with our Tenerifis contract, which was quite grindy for us, where we were at a very high level of mental stress, wondering whether we were going to get this done or not. The contract was offered to us while we were still out there, in fact, and we had to make the decision about whether or not to take it before we knew whether our Titan was going to make it out alive. We were worried that, if we lost our Titan, morale would be too low to take on another contract that was fairly grindy. Would members be too burnt out? If we succeeded we felt confident that we could tackle this contract though. After some discussion, the trigger was pulled and we were committed. Luckily Tenerifis turned out well.

Of course, when you declare war on Goon high sec POCOs, you're declaring war on RvB as well. Sure enough, they joined into the war soon after our initial declaration. We expected this well in advance, obviously, and prepared for it. The last time we fought RvB was when high security POCOs were first released. They were forming up fleets consisting of 100s of people, the backbone of which was the Dominix. We weren't able to fight them last time, and we were expecting them to show up in a similar doctrine this time. To counter that, we focused on a doctrine around sniper Eagles: take out what we can from a distance, survive against their sentry Domis for long enough to displace, and repeat. Plus, we could switch between blasters and rails with a mobile depot with no other changes to the fit, giving us a pretty flexible platform to use on a general basis.

The contract started out ok. We got a few cheap kills on Goon members, but then we lost a Huginn followed by a Talos, and then an Eagle in one day. We were suddenly deep in the efficiency hole in a bad way. I had flashbacks to some of our high security contracts from a year or so back. We've been here before, staring down the barrel early in a contract. We dug our way out, one kill at a time. We were determined to do that again. We put the screws on the POCOs, hitting two POCOs in opposite sides of the contract area, splitting any defense fleet up so that we could kill and replace whatever POCO they didn't defend. We even camped Jita.

Now, I don't want to get off on a tangent about high sec station camping, but I have to talk about it a little bit. I never understood the mentality of station campers in the first place. It didn't seem like fun to me. It didn't even seem sporting, and this is coming from a guy who loves Black Ops. Now that I've spent a bit of time doing it personally (and some of the other guys spent way more time than me doing this), I can say that I hope I never, ever have to station camp again for any contract. It was as horrible as I imagined. Incredibly boring, incredibly frustrating, incredibly unsatisfying when a kill did produce itself. Ugh.
This was our inspiration.

Anyway, as the contract went on, we lost fewer and fewer ships while killing larger and larger amounts. POCOs began falling a lot more often, our fleets were doing fairly well, outside of a few losses on some roams around. We did have  one last true derp, a guy who warped his Ishtar and 200M ISK capsule into an RvB fleet. Other than that, things were pretty solid the rest of the contract. We ended up just over 80% efficiency, which isn't exactly as high as we like, but it was acceptable at least. More importantly, we killed 14 POCOs.

As a mercenary, I don't care about the reasons for going to war. Gevlon's dislike, hatred, anger - whatever you want to call it or whatever it may be - doesn't matter to me. Whether his crusade works or not, I don't care. I'll fly to achieve his goals for as long as he has money. Put ISK in my pocket, point me at someone, and let me go. I'm a mercenary, I couldn't care less what anyone thinks of my employer or what he thinks of my targets. As a player, my goals correspond to my character's in many ways: so long as Gevlon keeps giving me things to shoot at, I'm a happy EVE player.
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March 22, 2014

The Current State of . . . What's Next?

When I first started writing about the current state of mercenaries in EVE, it never occurred to me that it may become a series. I didn't know how far I'd dig into the subject or how I'd go about getting information in the beginning. It grew organically, turning into a series of interviews with mercenary leaders and spokespeople. The format fit very well, and I think I can apply this format to other subjects as well. I've mentioned before that I want to do similar projects for other facets of the game. I'll try to keep the pattern as close to the original as possible. The question now is, what's next? 

To be honest, I'm not sure. My heart wants to do bounty hunting next. Bounty hunting has a similar reputation to mercenary work for some reason - even CCP pushes this - so it could be interesting to talk with players who make a living doing bounty hunting and not only find the similarities between it and mercenary work, but also bounty hunting's unique issues, obstacles, and challenges. Bounty hunting also fits well into the template I used for the mercenary series compared to, say, industry where numbers or graphs may be important to help the audience (and myself) understand what's being talked about. 

My head, though, wonders if there are even any bounty hunters living in EVE. If there aren't, then it wouldn't fit the template at all and I'd have to figure out another way to tackle its series. Regardless, I'm about ready to tackle another project. If not bounty hunting, then I'm not sure what topic I'll focus on yet. Maybe it'll be good to work on something not PvP related.

Anyway, it's about time for me to start searching for bounty hunters. If anyone knows anyone who players as a bounty hunter, I'd love to know. I don't know of any off the top of my head, unfortunately, so I'll have to start doing some digging of my own. Hopefully word will get out to four or five of them, if they exist, and we'll go from there! 
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March 6, 2014

Contract Wrap Up - Titanic Defense with Mildly Intoxicated

Noir. has had an interesting two months. Traditionally based out of Sahda for years, it was decided in late January that we'd be moving to Venal permanently. Venal offers a lot of opportunities such as decent ISK making opportunities. But more importantly, it offers a great opportunity to find and take advantage of fights. Thus it was decided and we began living in a new home for the first time in many years. It wasn't long before alarm bells began ringing, something no one in Noir. Mercenary Group wanted to hear. There was trouble in Tenerifis, which was very bad news.

Our long time allies Mildly Intoxicated have been in control of this area since 2012, specifically the 6I-3VX constellation, which is a six system pipe ending in T-AKQZ nestled against Immensea's border. Darkness of Despair began pushing further south from Immensea and north from Feythabolis with the help of SOLAR. The encroachment was slow, yet relentless, until B-R5RB, during which time N3/PL lost a massive amount of supercaps, as we all know.

This meant that Mildly Intoxicated was in the middle of a quickly approaching enemy expansion from both sides, an enemy that was encouraged, strong, determined, and undeterred by the threat of enemy capital and supercapital ships. Instead of hightailing it out, Mildly Intoxicated decided to stand in fight. Helping out a long-time friend while being given the opportunity to fight hard and dirty was a chance that Noir. certainly wouldn't pass up, and we quickly moved into Tenerifis with minimum assets; most of us had one or two ships during the entire deployment. Nevertheless, we made our way to the target location, hired to defend the 6I-3VX constellation at all costs.

We arrived on February 14, 2014, and quickly began to help in the destroying of SBUs. From there on out, it was a knock-down, drag-out slug fest. Every day SBU's were dropped in the constellation by DD or Goons. Every day we took them down. Every day we were on alert, in space, fighting to ensure that the enemy could not gain a foothold. Every day we were keeping them out.

Darkness of Despair wasn't able to take a single system in the constellation until the 23rd of February when B-6STA fell to DD, but not without a fight in which we almost saved it. We managed to put a TCU down, but it didn't make it all the way.

The Tables Turn

Four hours later, invigorated from the fight in B-6STA, Darkness of Despair moved into T-AKQZ, trying to cut the constellation off by taking systems in the northern edge at the same time as the southern most tip. DD entered the system shortly after downtime with about 70 Dominix and Typhoons, reinforcing cynojammers and a POS with a CSAA in it. Being a dead-end system, there was only one SBU, and to speed up their destruction they jumped in three Moros, three Naglfar, and a Rorqual. While the dreadnoughts and battleships made short work of the SBU, the Rorqual warped off to Planet X, Moon II and dropped a small tower.

The SBU was destroyed and the combat ships jumped out, leaving the Rorqual and a small Minmitar tower with no guns and half shields. The Rorqual pilot tries to get guns online, but was destroyed for his efforts. Thus, in the wee hours of the morning, we decided we'd do what we could and start shooting the tower. It was a helpless gesture, really, but as mercenaries we never say die. It was a target and it wasn't supposed to be there. Once the tower was reinforced, everyone was surprised to find that it only had a two hour timer. Oops.

A few people start trickling in, fresh from a night's sleep. I was one of them, and with a mug of coffee in my hand I too began shooting at a small tower, fresh out of its reinforcement timer, chatting freely on comms. We were at least planning on destroying the tower and trying to trap the Rorqual, which we knew had logged off inside the POS.

Suddenly, an Arazu that we knew was in system appears at the edge of the POS shields and lights a cyno. Two chimera jump through. The Arazu dies. There were only about five or six of us at this time, but we began shooting at one of the two Chimeras, trying to keep them from edging into the shields with our measly stealth bomber bumps. We manage to get one to about half shields, but there wasn't any real hope. They were inside the shields now, and we redirected our attention to the tower as we began searching for more people and hard tackle. The tower soon dropped, but we had gotten bubbles onto the field by this time, anchoring them so that they overlapped the carriers inside the POS shields. Once the tower was down, we swiftly put bubbles up with our one or two available dictors.

At some point during this, three more carriers appeared on the field. A total of five Chimeras now, all stuck in our bubbles. We didn't have nearly enough DPS to do anything to them, however we could keep them tackled there indefinitely as we tried to reach out and find the manpower.

NC answered the call and was en route with an Eagle fleet, but to ensure that DD took the bait, we brought two Nyx onto the grid, 200km away from the carriers. As soon as DD saw this, another cyno went up and 17 more carriers jumped in. DD interdictors raced to our friendly Nyx and bubbled one, but they were immediately dispatched by the quick response time of Noir. The other one safely warped away when the bubbles went up. At this point, DD had not only taken the bait hook, line, and sinker - they're the ones who set their own hook.

We maintained constant tackle on all the carriers with less than five interdictors, keeping them on the field until NC showed up. It wasn't much of a fight after that, with nearly every single carrier being lost. CFC jumped in dozens of Archons to try and save the doomed Chimeras, but it was too little, too late. The battle was over, and it wasn't even close.

After this, we heard from Mildly that Darkness of Despair was willing to allow MI to evacuate the constellation peacefully and was given ample time to do so. Mildly accepted the offer, and Noir. immediately began making our way back to Venal, one more successful contract under our belts, with everyone quite happy - no one more so than us.

You see, as well as being hired to defend a constellation against an imposing foe in a desperate situation, as well as supporting our friends in a time of need, Noir. Mercenary Group had an interest in keeping the area under Mildly Intoxicated control for a certain amount of time. That CSAA that I mentioned earlier? It was building our Titan. To be honest, there were many moments were we weren't sure if we were going to complete all of our objectives. We felt confident we could bloody DD's nose and make them stop at the line we drew in the sand for longer than they expected. While it was tough, that wasn't the worry. The worry was if we could keep our tower alive long enough, keep the system under control long enough, for our Titan to finish.

Isn't she a beauty?

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March 2, 2014

Interview with High Sec Mercs - Featuring Khromius, Macath, and Lord Razpataz

As I began working on this series more and more, I realized that I was going to need to get the entire story. While I may consider high sec mercenaries to be fake mercenaries, their opinions and experiences were vital in understanding the whole story. So I reached out to a bunch of the high sec merc leaders the same way I did with the others: I sent an EVEmail asking about contract numbers and types and requested an interview.

Unsurprisingly, none of the people I contacted could give me numbers, just vague responses: "A lot," one replied. I was surprised to find out why they couldn't give me hard data though. Unlike mercs in every other type of space, it turns out high sec mercs haven't really been effected like the rest of us have, at least not when it comes to the number of contracts they get. The reason I couldn't get an exact answer was because there are so many contracts taking place each week that they simply can't keep track. However, one thing that seems to stay constant no matter where you're a mercenary is that structure focused contracts are on the rise, especially with the release of high security POCOs. I should also point out that after speaking with these guys, I found that I had quite a few preconceptions that simply aren't true. So, here's an official apology to all of you high sec mercenaries who do real work!

Without much further ado, I'll let you guys listen. I'm going to try and wrap this series up here soon with one last post, probably pretty lengthy, about what I've learned, what I see as issues facing the merc community, and a few ideas I have for the future. Thank you for being part of the ride.

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