May 20, 2014

Status Update on Bounty Hunter Series

I've been trying to put together the last big piece of the Bounty Hunter series together for a few weeks now. I've sent out some EVEmails but only got two replies, so I'm trying to find some more good candidates for the live interview. Sorry it's taking so long. I didn't mean for there to be a big gap between post two and three. I may do a few smaller posts about some ideas that work with the base system but may or may not prove to be worth while, in theory.

I tried to do some more watercolor painting today, but I think a pizza box is just not working well for mixing paint. I'll keep practicing. I didn't get to play EVE at all today because my internet was fouling up, so I didn't really have anything inspiring to try and capture anyway. Since I wasn't able to play EVE I played Arma 3 for the first time in a while. I'm way out of practice. When I get back home, maybe I'll look at joining a group. I've always wanted to do that.
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May 19, 2014

Pod Journal: Day One

As I mentioned in my previous post, Mynxee inspired an idea to do a real life journal, but from the perspective of my character mainly in art. I meant to go buy supplies for this yesterday but got sidetracked. Luckily there's an art store down the street from where I live/work, so I walked over there today and started looking around.

Initially, I wanted to do pens. They're neater than paint, and since I'm staying in a corporate apartment, I didn't want to run the risk of getting it messy. Plus I've never painted anything but doors and fences in my entire life, and that doesn't really require a soft touch. But then I saw the price of pens versus the price of a cheap (relatively) set of watercolors and went with that. I have no idea what I'm doing. The only things that I own here are the things I packed and brought with me, so I don't have any old T-shirts or sheets or anything to keep tidy. I decided to use a paper grocery bag.

Anyway, so I ended up buying a set of 12 Koi brand watercolors, a Moleskine hardcover sketch pad, a brush of some sort with soft bristles (I was told that was better), and a bottle of Higgins waterproof black ink for my Lamy Fountain pen, because I was running low anyway and forgot to bring my ink well with me.

I did a test page or two, decided I have no idea whether I'm doing it right, and then tried to actually make something that was relevant to my character, Psianh Auvyander.

Quite often I'm working and living in places without great internet. This has been the case over the last year, and my play time has obviously been impacted because of that. I decided to step down as CEO of Noir. Academy for the same reasons. It hasn't been all bad though; I've moved a lot of my in-game interactions out of game, and met a lot of people, and talked about a lot of stuff. I wouldn't say that I'm a metagamer, not by a long shot, but perhaps Psianh feels like all he ever does these days is have meetings.

Another meeting, another day docked.

He doesn't seem very thrilled about it either. That's a boardroom, by the way.

I don't know how people make paint look like things. It's the most unwieldy and unwilling thing I've ever used. I may give in and just pay for the pens, but we'll see. It was kind of fun, in a pathetic sort of way.

In a related tone, I was able to go meet with a bunch of other EVE players in Maryland on Saturday. That was a ton of fun. I wish I had gotten everyone to write down their character names as I have no idea who most of them are in game. Of course, I'm one to talk with my character's name. Hopefully another one will happen in mid June before I leave DC for good, and I look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces. 

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May 17, 2014

A New Adventure and New Friends

To the left you can see what started it all. Mynxee tweeted this picture yesterday and I thought it was awesome; something I'd want to do too! You see, I sometime have a bit of a problem: I love buying notebooks and pens. I've been trying to find ways to get rid of the notebooks I've got sitting on my bookshelves back home, something that would be fun and interesting to look back on. Something kinda like this!

So the idea is pretty simple, at least for me - others are welcome to approach it however you like. I've taken some inspiration from the single image Mynxee has shown - character name, in-game date, and other in-game tidbits - and decided to make my journal in-character, as if written by Psianh Auvyander. Also inspired from the image alone is the artistic focus rather than a Dear Diary kind of thing. That part is kind of daunting actually. While I used to sketch in middile and part of high school, I was never really good. I haven't really done any real drawing since then either, so it'll be tough for me to stretch any artistic muscles again. But that's kind of the beauty. I'll hopefully be able to go back through each page and see improvements.

Others have joined us on this idea. I coined it Pod Journaling (#podjournal on Twitter if any of you want to join us via that medium). Mynxee came up with some unofficial rules: it has to be EVE-oriented and creative. That's it!

And not only am I excited to embark on that adventure with some new Pod Journaling buddies, I'm also heading out to Maryland after work this evening to meet up with some other EVE players. There should be about ten people there, we hope. So far the only person that has confirmed their attendance that I've spoken with previously is Sugar Kyle. One of the things I enjoyed most about Fanfest was the talking to people. I skipped a lot of panels simply because I was having a good conversation, so I'm really looking forward to getting another experience like that.

If you're in the Maryland, DC, VA area, come out and say hi! You can read more about the meet up on the forums.
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May 15, 2014

EVE University Q&A on Mercenary Life

At Fanfest this year, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Neville Smit, a member of EVE University, during the alliance panel presentation. After the presentation ended, CCP began quickly ushering us out as the panel had reached its outer limit regarding time. But before we all got pushed out of the door, Neville suggested I contact him about doing a talk with EVE University. Hey, now that's a good idea!

So, Fanfest ended and I contacted Neville but wasn't able to get anything going due to our schedules. However, I was pointed in the direction of Kivena who was able to help me set up a time and date for an interview and Q&A session, hosted on EVE University's Mumble server.

I'm really excited about this opportunity. It's vital that we as veteran players reach out to newer members and help them bridge the gap between trying the game and getting absorbed. Playing as a mercenary in EVE is exactly what got me hooked to the game. While I certainly understand (especially from my time as Noir. Academy's CEO) that not everyone who is interested in being a mercenary ends up enjoying it, if I can increase the number of people who try it out, I'll be happy. Even if only one out of ten people that give mercenary work a try end up in it for the long haul, that's still a worthwhile effort.

I'm going to try and do a lot more outreach like this. I've found that a lot of people don't really understand how mercenaries work in EVE, how to get in touch with them, or what it's like to be one. Hopefully I can do a small part to shed some light on a career that's dark by nature, but seriously fun.

(Also, my internet cuts out on my every few minutes at the apartment my company has put me up at. I may have to go to a coffee shop for this to make sure I don't cut out all the time on them! Not exactly great for gaming either...)

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May 14, 2014

Contract Recap: Failed Diplomacy POCO Defense (Plus some extras!)

While we were removing four months and 150B ISK from Goblin's life, our friends Failed Diplomacy contacted us about a contract very similar to the last one we did for them. This time they wanted us to ally on their wardec against Obsidian Front and actually fight compared to being neutral logistics though.

Unfortunately, it got a little crazy! So there were two wars between Obsidian Front and Failed Diplomacy (well, one of the wars was from a corp that was similarly named to Failed Diplomacy). One of these wars was created by Failed Diplomacy and one was created by Obsidian Front. Alekseyev allied with the one started by Obsidian Front accidentally! After realizing he allied with the one with Failed Diplomacy and sent a mail out to both Obsidian Front and Failed Diplomacy explaining the situation and asking Obsidian Front not to accept the alliance. Unfortunately (again), one of the Obsidian Front directors accepted the alliance without reading his mails. Both us and them were a bit embarrassed.

Well, what can you do? Alek sent another mail out to both sides explaining our role in the fight. We then set Failed Diplomacy blue and ensured that our pilots had their overviews set correctly so that there wouldn't be any confusion. From there, it was pretty straight forward. We showed up in Ishtars and provided long range fire support against high priority targets (Bhaalgorns) and kiting ships (EWAR frigates).

Failed Diplomacy ended up winning the fight easily with our help. Not a single Failed Diplomacy ship was lost in the entire fight. We were asked to stand down by the Failed Diplomacy FC, another job well done.

I've really enjoyed working with Failed Diplomacy over the last six months or so. I think it's great that we were one-time enemies, now they're repeat employers. Obsidian Front is a great group of guys to fight against.

In other news, we've pretty much gotten the entire alliance to our new home. A fleet went out last night made up of two Crows (one of which was flown by a Noir. Academy member named Maddord), one Curse (flown by Fayral), one Ishtar, one Vagabond, one Hawk, and one Cerberus. They start roaming around and in 8W-OSE Maddord saw two Thanatoses on Dscan. He found some Gecko drones in an anomaly, but no carriers. So he bookmarked the drones and the fleet moved out, back into FIO1-8, swinging around into E9KD-N, then WQY-IQ, and finally back to 8W-OSE. And as you may have guessed, when Maddord warped back to the bookmarked drones, the two Thanatos were there as well. He immediately got point on the first and called the rest of the fleet in, who promptly took the first Thanatos to half armor (the other Thanatos had warped off). At this point the other Thanatos came back and tried to save his friend. Our six-man fleet wasn't able to beat the reps, of course, and so we called in Black Legion. and Mordu's Angels.

Black Legion. got on their Titan and prepared to jump, only to find upon trying to create the bridge that it was too far. Mordu's Angels showed up in a few Ishtars though and we managed to kill them both. Fayral died in his Curse keeping point on the second Thanatos until reinforcements were just a few jumps out and secondary point could be established, though. If it weren't for his death, I doubt the second one would have died at all!

Pretty fun ending to a tiny roam, really. Our guys managed to hold two Thanatoses down for about 20 minutes warping in and out, juggling points, until just enough DPS came onto the field to break their tank.

You're welcome for the kills, Mordu's Angels.
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May 13, 2014

Traveling Blues

I flew to Washington DC today for work. I'll be here for six weeks or so, the normal time frame for my assignments. I had to wake up at 3:30am this morning to catch my flight though, which means that I took a really long nap after my work was finished for today! So, unfortunately the contract recap post that I intended to write will have to wait until tomorrow. I want to make sure I have my details right since I wasn't able to participate in this one. It's a pretty good one though!

In other news, I seem to have arrived in DC at just the right time. There's a player meet up Saturday evening about 30 minutes from where I'm staying via the metro. It'll be nice to have a smaller group of people to hang out with after coming off the back of Fanfest. 

At the advice of a pretty prominent blogger (who is almost certainly going to become much more prominent these days!), I'm going to really focus on putting out posts more frequently. Once a day is the goal, but more either way.

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May 11, 2014

Contracts Recap: Save Jita 3

Burn Jita. It's an awesome event that happens every year in the biggest trade hub of the game, where members of the CFC spearhead suicide ganks on all freighters that are brave (or dumb) enough to undock. Thousands of people pile into the system, not unlike the zombies you see to the left, and try to tear apart anything juicy with their destroyers. Since its inception, Noir. has spearheaded the Save Jita campaign. We go in and shoot as many of the CFC as possible. This year was no exception. We were going to Save Jita no matter what. Luckily for us, we got paid for it this time! Unluckily for us, one of our employers turned out to be insane. Well, I guess it shouldn't have come as a shock to us, but oh well.

Our first contract was from an anonymous employer. They wanted to hire us to ally onto any wardec that was placed on Goonswarm during their Burn Jita campaign as well as shoot the CFC at the same time.  Employer was aware and fine with us continuing our normal Save Jita efforts, since that was basically what he was hiring us for anyway. This contract turned out pretty well. There weren't that many people who declared war on Goonswarm itself, and those that did we drove out of Jita altogether. Most notably, The Marmite Collective and Darwin's Lemmings - self-proclaimed Jita undock masters and staunchest of the Grr Goons group - spent the rest of the weekend in Amarr after they lost ships to us. I think their official statement was because it wasn't fun and tidi is boring. Yeah.

Our second contract was from former employer Gevlon Goblin. He wanted us to shoot Goonswarm. Well, as it just so happened, we were already going to do that! So, sure, we'll get paid to do it too. In all honesty, I can tell you that, as a long time member, many of us perform harder and better when we know we're being paid. So even though we were planning on doing what Gevlon was hiring us to do anyway, now that it was a -real- contract, we all dialed it up to 11. Gevlon agreed to pay 2M ISK for every Catalyst killmail, 5M for every Brutix killmail, 10M for every Talos killmail, and 20% of the value for every capsule killmail.

Noir. ended up killing about 1900 CFC ships - our highest Save Jita record yet. In fact, just like last year, CFC sent out suicide squads and defense fleets to stop us. So, there you go - two jobs well done. Our employer had the biggest of the organizations that declared war against them completely driven out of the region. Gevlon Goblin received our highest kill amounts in three years of doing this. By his own reckoning, he owed us 2B ISK (which, might I add, is pretty cheap for us).

But then, of course, it gets interesting. And a bit pathetic, really.

See, Gevlon Goblin, despite announcing to the world that he was no longer affiliated with Darwin's Lemmings (and thereby Marmite since DL is a feeder corp for Marmite) was actually lying and is still, apparently, running the show over there. Of course, Gevlon Goblin failed to mention that when he contacted us. So when we demolished his two corporations, sending them to other regions to play, he was upset that we were shooting, as he says, "my forces". Of course, as is normal for a guy who deletes comments on his blog that don't line up with the narrative he's so carefully trying to construct, Gevlon blocks communication from all Noir. personnel who try to reach out to him. From there, he manages to take an impressive logical leap that no mortal could make without breaking their own sanity, and begins to accuse Noir. of being Goonswarm pets.

You see, according to Gevlon Goblin, we were hired by Goonswarm to scam Gevlon Goblin out of 2B ISK! Oh, and not only that, but Gevlon actually hired us to jam Goonswarm, not kill them. And so that's why he's not paying. Or something. It all gets a little fuzzy since, you know, everything he says is made up. It's hard to keep his lies straight when there are so many of them.

So yeah. Like all Contract Recap blogs, these are kept fairly short. I don't go into a ton of detail. If you want to read a lot more, you can check our website, Gevlon's blog, and our EVE-O thread.

Unsurprisingly, business has increased since Gevlon's tantrum. It's obviously true when they say bad press is good press. The vast majority of people who actually are in the market for mercenaries weigh in on the side of Noir. Let it be said that no one in Noir. is worried or upset about our future because of this incident. To us, it's another successful contract - whether the employer wants to admit it or not.
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May 9, 2014

The Current State of Bounty Hunters: Part Two

My first post on the Bounty Hunter subject was focused on how CCP seems to have a misunderstanding of what a Bounty Hunter actually is. This post is focused on laying a foundation for changes, changes that should make bounty hunting a viable career path for people. It's not meant to be an easy life, but it should be fun and dangerous. My goal is to present ideas that try to prevent loopholes without being overly complex. I'm not arrogant enough to think these ideas may be perfect, without necessary changes, but I do hope that it will be solid food for thought.

Before we can really get into the meat of things, it's always important to have a firm structure in mind to build off of. Let's define a few things as constants.

1. Bounty Hunting is a PvP activity.
2. Bounty Hunting is not meant to be exploitable in ways that make bounties pointless.
3. Bounties should not encroach into the territory of wardecs.
4. Bounty Hunting should be an active career.

With those in mind, let's look back to what Bounty Hunting used to be and why it was changed. The main goal of the bounty hunting changes back in Retribution seemed to be focused more around stopping abuse than nurturing a career. The changes succeeded in the first, but failed spectacularly at the second. You could place a bounty on a target, much like today, but when the target was killed, the entire bounty was paid out at once, no matter what. A player with a bounty on his head would undock in an inexpensive ship and kill it with an alt or the help of a friend, thus gaining the bounty himself at no real expense. Now, of course, only a portion of the bounty is paid out relative to the cost of the ship. This means that it's not economically responsible to kill yourself, but it also means that anyone trying to hunt bounties isn't paid very well in most cases.

So how can we prevent the first while avoiding abuse? I've already laid out the things we must keep in tact with a new bounty hunter system, lest we create another broken system. The best way to introduce my idea is to walk through a hypothetical scenario, I think. From there, I can break down the finer points.

As a Bounty Hunter, you must start by purchasing a license from CONCORD at a bounty office. This license gives you the right to kill anyone with a bounty above 500,000,000 ISK at any time, any where. There are several license tiers, each costing more - each coming with more responsibilities. We'll call these License Tier One through Ten, Tier One being the cheapest with fewer responsibilities, and Tier Ten being the most expensive with the most responsibilities. But let's say you're a new player, and you don't have much money, and you're not even sure if you're going to enjoy the career, so you buy a Tier One license. You're now a legal Bounty Hunter. You may now begin to hunt legal targets, but other Bounty Hunters are free to hunt you as well1.

As a Tier One Bounty Hunter you're paid a smaller percentage of the bounty than a Tier Ten Bounty Hunter, starting off at 20%. Each Tier increases the bounties paid by, say 7%2. However, unlike today, you aren't paid your bounty immediately upon killing someone. No, each tier requires a certain amount of kills during the license period. A Tier One license may last, say a week, and require claiming five bounties. Successfully doing so will pay out all of the bounties at the end of the license period. Failing to do so pays out nothing. A Tier Two license will require seven kills per license period, and so forth.

No bounty under 500,000,000 ISK can be claimed to avoid stepping on the toes of wardecs. A player can place a bounty of any amount still, but unless the cumulative amount tips over the 500,000,000 mark, it can't be freely claimed. Furthermore, a bounty can't be claimed for 24 hours after its been placed. Therefore, someone can't sit around looking for juicy targets and place a quick bounty to cash in.

Concerning groups of Bounty Hunters, I think the best way to handle it is by paying out the highest bounty plus 10%, then splitting it between everyone that was on the kill in the fleet. This encourages people to group together for a slightly higher payout, but makes it increasingly more difficult for someone with a very high Tier license to pay for their license outright via the bounties, if they continually group with others.

There are two options for non-bounty hunters that I think both have merit:

1. Non-Bounty Hunters can claim bounties like normal, except at 5% payouts. For those in nullsec, or those who are legally killing someone in high sec, they still receive part of the bounty - after all, the person who placed the bounty doesn't necessarily care who claims it.
2. Non-Bounty Hunters can't claim bounties whatsoever. This creates incentive for people to actually become bounty hunters. If you're not collecting bounties in your big fleet fights, maybe you'd prefer to pay for a license.

Honestly, I could live with either of those options.

Those who have bounties placed on them should be warned, very loudly, when their bounty is 500,000,000 or more. There should be no confusion that if you undock from this point forward, you can be hunted by a Bounty Hunter. I'd also like to see the ability to pay a bounty off. Paying the entire thing off would offer an option with less interest, saving you more money in the long term, but someone could pay chunks of their bounty off at a time. Maybe even NPC payment plans could be set up, sort of like sovereignty bills. You continue to pay your bounty every month when the taxman comes a'callin and everything is fine. But if you don't, your interest rate goes up - or maybe the bounty is just replaced altogether.

Talking with a corp mate, we came up with some interesting iteration ideas that concern factions and faction LP. I won't put the details on that in this blog as I want this to be fairly straight forward and simple, but if I get good responses I'll talk about this idea in detail later.

Short and sweet, really. Nothing too complicated. It seems to get the job done without inviting abuse. However, the idea hasn't really been stress tested yet. Do you see any major loopholes or flaws I'm missing? I tried to envision a system that scales well, where a major organization can't simply game the system by throwing their deep pockets at it - although deep pockets are a slight advantage in almost any case.

Let me know what you think. Is this a system you'd be interested in participating in? Does it seem interesting or exciting?

1. It is important that this isn't abused somehow - just not sure yet how.
2. This percentage is just an example and can easily be tweaked without crippling the idea.
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