December 8, 2015

Contract Recap: Taking The Initiative

Immediately after our last contract, Going East, ended in a bust, we packed up and moved all over again. You may notice, those of you who read Golden Crusade quite a bit, that being a mercenary involves a lot of moving. It's definitely a lot of what we do and certainly one of the benefits to longer contracts - not having to move again so soon after deploying.

Nonetheless, we packed up and moved to from Scalding Pass to Curse even before we had time to settle in. It wasn't a bad move for me since our logistics team handled the bulk of the ships and I just moved a few quick jumps in my Redeemer.

Once in place, we began working on the objective: remove The Initiative and Initiative Mercenaries Towers in Curse. We didn't expect a huge resistance since The Initiative live in Tenal and were currently involved in the police action in Cloud Ring. We began the contract officially on November 30. Just six days later we had completed the contract.

The contract result was more strategic in nature than anything. Our employer was apparently very pleased with the results that our actions precipitated. There's nothing better than making the guy with the money happy.

I was only involved in one really fun fight. We were in a fleet of HAM Cerberus and RLML Caracals - not ideal together, actually. The engagement ranges are not super conducive. We were attacking one of The Initiative's towers in stealth bombers when a member came in to restront it. Assuming he wanted the timer to come out in the ideal time for The Initiative, we calculated that if we reinforced now, it wouldn't put us in the best position to finish it off. So we decided to kite the shield, leaving it at 30%. We planned to come back every so often and hit it again and make sure it stayed low without reinforcing it, causing the timer to come out at a more favorable time for us.

The Initiative responded by bringing out a Naga fleet with Basilisks to repair the tower.  As I mentioned, we shipped into Cerberus and Caracals. The plan was to get right on top of them and brawl since we knew they had 425mm Railguns on their Nagas. There turned out to be an issue with that plan; there was a Gorgon Tempest fleet roaming around that was causing a lot of issues for us, as we could have potentially been sandwiched between the two fleets, likely dying a horrible death.

Eventually we were able to move quickly enough to avoid worrying about Gorgon and get a warp in on the Nagas right on their tower, landing inside their fleet with every ship about 15km from us. We bubbled them up quickly, before they could warp - even though they were aligned - and chewed through them.

The rest of my time was spent on towers which isn't typically the stuff dreams are made of. But hey, getting to sit on comms and hang out with some really cool people is a special type of fun that only we EVE players probably appreciate.

Now we're spending a few weeks on R&R, earning some ISK and spending a lot of time away from the computer, I'm sure. After the holidays are over, we'll immediately set off on our next contract which is already bought and paid for.

I'm preparing an update to The Current State of Mercenaries in EVE, and while it may not be all sunshine and roses across the board, I have to say that the grass is pretty damn green from this side.
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December 5, 2015

Contract Recap: Going East Turned Into Going Bust

I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a contract recap for this one, because it's pretty short and not super interesting, in an explody kind of way. But, I think it's still a fairly interesting peek behind the curtain of being a mercenary, so perhaps a few of you may enjoy!

MC was contracted by Russians to defend Immensea from Drone Regions Federation. MC had contracted to this region once before in the past, before my time, and it turned into MC fighting TRI and SOLAR. Not an ideal place to be in! To avoid that situation, leadership spent some time making sure we were actually going to have allies in the area.

From a high level, our job was very simple:

  • Inflict maximum damage on DRF
  • Help retake lost systems
In practice, this means lots of roams, gate camps, and creating timers to keep DRF busy. It also meant augmenting allied fleets and taking the lead against strategic objectives. 

Unfortunately, it didn't pan out this way. Our logistics team pulled off a Herculean effort to move a staggering amount of supplies in record time - starting the day after our last contract ended. This was in preperation for the opening day of the contract on Sunday. As fate would have it, CCP and the internet had their own issues that day and laid waste to our plans. So, without a shotgun start, and because of poor timezone availability the next day (a work day, of course), a few things happened. I'll quote Seleene:

  • Red Alliance lost and did not recapture C-J6MT, their traditional ‘capitol’.
  • Since MC was contracted and began moving into position, RA lost another 16 systems.
  • RA lost a titan.
  • RA began throwing shade on their allies, tossing blame every which way.
A big chunk of that shade was cast at an alliance we had planned to co-ordinate closely with and, as a result, they decided they didn’t need the drama and are checking out.

Yet in all of this we had specifically negotiated a clause that stated our participation hinged on local support so we did not end up in an MC vs TRI, SOLAR and XIX situation similar to what happened the last time we came up here. With RA’s allies folding up their tents, that clause kicks in and, right at this moment, our current contract is null and void.

The silver lining is that the employer has asked us to remain in the area and explore other strategic options - some of which we've implemented as of a week ago. The entire premise of the larger contract was actually part of a much bigger vision and a long partnership, so while it was unfortunate things turned out this way, it was never intended to be a one off. We simply began on Step #2, as it were.

So there you have it. Going East didn't turn out quite like we expected - no one fired a single shot, technically. I suppose that makes this contract rare and unique in its own right, but between you and me, I hope we don't have many more of these!
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November 19, 2015

Mercenary Coalition Contract Recap: Ring of Fire

I blogged about this contract differently than I had any others. I didn't plan it, but what ended up happening was that I wrote more often about this contract than I usually would. Typically, I'd save everything for the contract recap, but that has its downsides. For starters, the information wouldn't be fresh on my mind any more. I would, however, have more of the overall story in mind when I was writing. Instead, I just wrote about what happened on a particular day, which ended up helping craft the story all by itself. I think I like this style.

Regardless, an official contract recap is in order.

After my last post, there really wasn't anything exciting that happened. Suddenly had all but given up. We took a few more towers and The Culture took the 1-3 station as intended. It was all very uneventful from our end, but that just means we did a hell of a job.

Needless to say our employer was very, very pleased.

And, well, that's it! That's the whole contract recap. Luckily, I do have a bit more information to share, although I can't go into too much detail at this point. One of the things you hope for as a mercenary is minimal downtime. Ideally, you'd go straight from one contract to the next without delay. This keeps the game exciting for us and gives us new challenges. Now, you do need some down time after a few back-to-back contracts, or you get burnt out. However, in reality it's quite that you'd have one contract directly after another. In practice, due to the way mercenaries work in EVE, it's more common to have to find your own content for a week or two between every contract.

Well not this time! Mercenary Coalition has already begun moving a very long way for a very big contract. This actually built off the success of our Ring of Fire contract. Had we done poorly there, we probably wouldn't have been offered this contract. That's the way it is, too: when you're doing well, you get more contracts. When you're doing poorly, you're offered less.

I haven't done one of these contracts in a long, long time (I'll link to the last contract recap I wrote where we performed this service in my next contract recap so as not to spoil anything), but it's going to be a blast. Well, it'll be a blast after the pain of moving is over. That's never fun thanks to Phoebe (but I promise I'm not complaining).

I'll also be dusting off some ships I haven't truly flown in over a year! That's always a special treat :)
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November 17, 2015

Ring of Fire Simmers Down

Yesterday was a big milestone for the Ring of Fire contract. Unfortunately it was also a very uneventful day. One of the hallmarks of a successful regional assault contract is when the target just gives up and stops trying. Like I say, it's uneventful - downright boring, in fact - but it gives me a certain measure of satisfaction to know that we've taken things to the extreme, that we never left the result of the contract a question. That's what people pay big money for.

I was happy that the "big day" happened on the weekend at least. No more watching from the sidelines while the alliance rakes in all the klls and has all the fun! And despite the fact that there weren't any kills, I did have fun.

The objective of the day was the station in 1-3HWZ. This station was called "No Not Believing in Station", a not-so-subtle reference to the alliance Noir. founded after leaving Suddenly Spaceships. Perhaps they did so as a Bat Signal of sorts to call us back home, the desparate attempt of a pre-teen to flirt by teasing. Whatever the reason, they apparently didn't want us to dock in that station, renaming it to Onae'Takku'Tree (a racist pronunciation of the system - real mature, these guys) when they realized they had no hope of defending it.

We had seen Suddenly lighting a lot of cynos in 1-3, but we were hoping they were bringing stuff *in*, not moving it out. Alas.

Speaking of no hope, I mentioned that no one from Suddenly Spaceships, The OSS, or Pyschotic Tendencies were to be found outside of *any* station. They clearly had the raw assets, they spent two days trying to move it all. But they weren't interested in losing any more of it, I guess.

In the hope that we *would* see some action, we formed in our Ishtars that proved to be quite effective before. We spent a while warping around, trying to locate any potential fleets and to keep any scouts on their toes with our true destination. Eventually we just sat in a POS while our entosis ships finished off the system and the station. There were a few times when we scrambled to support an entosis ship from a solo aggressor, but they didn't stick around.

And just like that, with nary a whimper, the station was taken. 

The rest of the night was spent shooting at towers. We, again, had no resistence. We'll continue shooting at towers until the contract is completed, but I have a feeling there is going to be far less resistence.

No one said being a mercenary was all adrenaline pumping action. Sorry to burst that bubble.
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November 14, 2015

Another Day, Another Dead Suddenly Fleet

Once again, my work has frustrated me to no end. I've had to sit there, quietly and fervently working on things that my company deems "important" while my alliance is getting into fantastic brawls, Maybe I should quit.

Today, the fight happened over another one of Suddenly Spaceships towers. this was an Amarr Control Tower Small located in 10UZ-P. Our theorycrafters and logistics pilots spent the day before the op putting together a new Ishtar doctrine for the alliance. It's pretty standard, but getting it all put together for 300 people is a feat to be applauded. Personally, I was a bit nervous because there was more than one person who said they hadn't flown one before!

But, my fears were misplaced, as I found out by constantly refreshing the killboard while at work.

Going back to the tower: it vaporized. No trouble at all. Suddenly didn't even try to contest it, or they didn't have time. Instead, they decided to camp our fleet out of LSC4-P with help from OSS using Sleipners and Hurricane Fleet Issues with Basilisk logistics.

After the tower died, our fleet warped to the LSC4-P gate and immediately burned away, dropping drones as they went. MC held at range for a while, just trying to see what the next move was going to be. After about a 15 minute stand off, our fleet burned back towards our drones to scoop them up. Suddenly decided this would be a good time to jump in.

Unfortunately for them, we were immediately able to burn away unhindered. They were suddenly in our optimal ranges, and while we took some heavy damage at first, once our tranversals were higher, there was no incoming damage.

We began melting through their fleet and they jumped in a Nidhoggur to try and keep up. Unfortunately, as the fight wore on, our drones weren't able to apply damage effectively, and were taking damage. The MC fleet warped off and back on to try and get into a better position. Apparently, during this interim, The Unthinkables arrived in Machariels and began alphaing through the remaining fleet.

It was already a done deal before The Unthinkables arrived, Suddenly admitting that we were breaking their reps. We only lost 4 Ishtars total, all near the beginning. We were in no danger of losing the fight at any point.

Here's the full battle report with the video from INK's point of view.I have to admit, watching INK's view is pretty awe inspiring. Their alpha damage is impressive, to say the least. I definitely do not look forward to being on the receiving end of that!

Shortly afterwards, we found a Barghest sitting on a tactical off a gate in A-SJ8X. Boom. And pod.

For some reason, while we had a 20-man fleet roaming 22 jumps away from our staging system, some Suddenly pilots decided to come to our home and talk shit. I'll quote them below, as the hilarity, irony, and hypocrisy of their hollow taunts can only be appreciated in their voice:

Khanadore > WAKEY WAKEY
Memphis Madagascar > they are big girls
Memphis Madagascar > only attack offline pos, as per their blog :P
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November 13, 2015

Mercenary Coalition's Burning Ring of Fire

Mercenary Coalition has fully deployed on our current contract. This one has some history for me, and the rest of Noir., as the target is Suddenly Spaceships. I'll save the details of the contract for my recap, but needless to say this contract struck an interesting chord for Noir.

It'll be helpful to give some context. Let's start with the most recent bit of relevant information: a Suddenly Spaceships alliance meeting recording.

If you don't have the time, I'll quote Talladar from his Reddit comment:

07:30 SMA are helping us evict Horde
08:45 We are going to install renters into Could Ring
12:36 Some guy with downs “WHAT DO ABOUT FWEDDIT BEING BLUE”
13:00 Downs guy: what value does standings with Fweddit bring?
13:20 CEO: None, OSS made us blue them.
14:00 CEO: They helped us defend our space and gave us two money moons (makes sense)
14:10 CEO: I would like to remove them from Cloud Ring (Cooooold!)
18:40 SMA wants to evict Horde and give us their constellation
19:25 I want to build a small empire using 30 guys in bhaalgorns
20:00 Imperium will never hit our space
20:30 After Horde is removed we turn Cloud Ring into renter space to buy 40 bhaalgorns
25:00 We just want to play the game for fun frags (and apparently run a renter empire)
27:04 Apparently SS had a meltdown at the thought of losing their sov station. (Wouldn’t that be a shame…)
There is more but those were my highlights.

Station Name: No Not Believing  in Station
Secondly, Suddenly Spaceships is apparently very bitter about Noir. leaving them to this day. They've named their station after the alliance we formed after leaving Suddenly Spaceships and have sowed Reddit with some serious salt in the last couple of days.

I won't go into it all again, I've written on the absolute horrible management, embarrasing organizational skills, and outright shameful leadership style of particular members of Suddenly Spaceships in the past. And while Suddenly Spaceships apparently thinks about Noir. every time they dock, I like to quote Don Draper, "I don't think of you at all." Suffice to say, I don't miss a single thing about being in Suddenly Spaceships.

Nonetheless, someone apparently had a bone to pick with Suddenly and contacted us shortly after the meeting was leaked. Connection? Perhaps! I honestly don't know, but my speculation says there's something there.

Anyway, off we go! We had a couple of skirmishes with Suddenly that were very bad for us. I have no idea why some members of Mercenary Coalition are fighting frigates in Stealth Bombers, but they did and they paid the price multiple times. It was quite frustrating for me and the other late US time zone players since Suddenly Spaceships is so heavily EU focused. We're not able to get in on the good action and really pick fun fights.

But, luckily for us late US players, Suddenly does have quite a few POS in the area. Some of them offline, it turns out. We killed a small and a large offline tower without any response from Suddenly or the alliances they rely on to keep them safe, The OSS and TISHU.

This, apparently incited Suddenly into some sort of rage, and so they decided they'd take one of our towers too! And so they formed up 34 members of The OSS, 27 members of TISHU, and 26 members of Suddenly Spaceships in 27 dreadnaughts, 8 carries, and 46 battleships to take it from us.

In turn, we formed up 43 members of Mercenary Coalition. Athen switched back and forth between a few doctrines as more and more information became available. In the end a Cerberus doctrine was decided on. The plan was to coordinate with our POS gunner and take as much out as we could. The tower was worthless to us, and losing it meant absolutely nothing in the short term.

However, The Culture and Pandemic Legion had scouted the tower out already, it seems, and decided to come and pile onto it already. When they saw that OSS and TISHU had fielded such expensive fleets, they made the decision to come in with Rattlesnakes and kill them all. They weren't interested in the ISK our Cerberus fleet represented. In turn, they brought Pandemic Legion who arrived a bit later and helped secure the fight.

It was, frankly, a positive turn of events for us - and an unexpected one. In the end, we lost a tower worth 293M ISK and a few cheap ships. The others, combined, lost about 100B ISK. All in all, a pretty good day.

The full battle report can be found here, along with the footage from our perspective below.

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October 25, 2015

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Carrier Pilot

Have you read the Capital Ship dev blog yet? If not, you'll want to check it out. It's pretty high level in most cases, but does a good job of laying out CCP's intentions. To summarize, capital ships will be given more options and deeper specialization. As a result, they'll be less well-rounded, and more vulnerable. There are a lot of changes coming to all capital ships, but all I want to talk about are squadrons. After reading the dev blog, I couldn't help but think flying a carrier after these changes will make you feel a lot like Admiral Adama.

Squadrons are groups of up to 12 fighters that a carrier or supercarrier pilot controls. You can launch up to 5 squadrons and all the fighters follow the orders given to the squadron - no granular control of individual fighters.

The gameplay for a carrier pilot is in the decisions you'll be making in putting the right squadrons on the field. You'll be choosing between Light Fighters, Support Fighters, and Heavy Fighters. Each type has a role: anti-fighter and light combat, ewar, and capital/structure damage respectively. Furthermore, each squadron can have up to three abilities which look to be actively controled, similarly to a ship's modules.

The look and feel of the proposal really strikes a chord with me. Look at these mockups:

This image does a good job of conveying a 'minigame' type of gameplay for carrier pilots. Managing the squadrons that are deployed, their status (some abilities may need to reload apparently), and getting squadrons on deck (or in the launch tubes if we're going to continue the Battlestar Galactica theme), and choosing what types of fighters will be in what squadrons could be a lot of fun.

This image gives us a taste of what the squadron control may look like. While you can't order individual fighters around, you do get a bit of granular control back by activating multiple squadron's abilities.

And quite interestingly, the tactical overlay begins to look more like something you'd see out of a strategy game, or perhaps reminiscent of a sci-fi movie's idea of a tactical overlay, as compared to just showing weapon ranges. This is important because you'll be able to order your fighters to whevere you want in space rather than interacting with a specific target.

Apparently the new camera controls that will be coming is in large part due to the gameplay requirements of squadrons. The range of fighters will only extend as far as the grid, but that does mean they can still be hundreds of kilomters away. It's pretty easy to imagine how difficult it might be to keep an eye on everything, so hopefully the new camera and the tactical overlay will help with that.

Combined, these changes could lead to be a really exciting new way to play. It strikes me as more RTS and less staring at modules and overviews, which is a really cool direction to go. Obviously this is all very early information and I won't be holding my breath, but I'm very intrigued by what could be incredibly engaging gameplay that makes you feel like you're in control of a real carrier. Up until now, drones and fighters have not been exciting to control, and this could change that.  I wonder if this type of gameplay will ever make its way to sub capitals.

I hope there are more moves in the future to add interesting ways of interacting with the game, shifting from the overview.
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October 18, 2015

The Perception of Skill Cost

Obviously the EVE Blogosphere is buzzing about the Exploring the Character Bazaar & Skill Trading dev blog that was released on October 15. It could, after all, result in a major mental culture shift. Like all changes in EVE, there are those who are support and those who are in dissent.  I fall into the latter, just barely, because of one simple reason: I don't think this change will help those it was intended for.

The Target

Who, exactly, is this change intended for? For that, we can pick up a few clues from the dev blog itself. CCP Rise writes, ". . .I made that jump from 15mil SP to 33mil SP. . .". He's writing about some of the downsides to the current character trading system when he says that, meaning that while he got the extra skill points and skill point allocation he wanted, he had to deal with things like names and corporation history that he didn't want. 

Let's have a look at the mechanics too:

Creating a Transneural Skill Packet requires approximately 500,000 skillpoints (we will fiddle with this number a bit to make it most practical considering common skill level denominations)

And in regards to diminishing returns:

0 – 5 million skillpoints = 500,000 unallocated skillpoints added
5 – 50 million skillpoints = 400,000 unallocated skillpoints added
50 – 80 million skillpoints = 200,000 unallocated skillpoints added
> 80 million skillpoints = 50,000 unallocated skillpoints added

He goes on to say, ". . this design favors skill transfers for younger characters and makes them very inefficient for older characters."

So it's obvious that this is aimed at new players, players within the first few months to couple of years under their belts. These are the players that, commonly, believe that they aren't competitive with older players, players who have retained the "level up" mentality from other MMOs they may have played. They don't understand or appreciate specializing because they don't realize the advantages, and they want to sit in new ships. And hey, let's be honest, that feeling is completely understandable to a certain degree. We all love our new ships, we just don't think that having a newer, bigger ship makes us better at the game.

The Mentality

I fear that this mechanic will cause a cultural shift in and out of EVE, one where new players aren't worth their weight in warp scramblers anymore. For a long time, it wasn't fun being a new player. Years ago, new players were told to spend weeks and weeks training "leaning skills" which just made them learn other skills faster. CCP eventually got rid of the design because it created an artificial hurdle for new players to feel useful and it just plain wasn't fun.

Over the last few years EVE has enjoyed a culture of supporting new players, thanks in large part to so many successful newbie-oriented corporations and alliances and likely the frigate rebalances. A new player was (not scornfully) told they'd be able to get into the action in just a couple of days at most, and to have a lot of fun doing it.

Even so, the mentality of those outside looking in hasn't enjoyed that type of shift. People constantly wonder if they'll even be able to compete, if it's worth getting into EVE at this point since everyone has a "head start". We all know the answer to that question by now: no, it's not too late. No, you won't be useless or behind, but you will need to specialize. 

All the skill points in the game don't matter when you undock. Skill points just mean you have more choices in the hangar. A young pilot who has mastered his ship is more deadly than a "veteran" who spent the last decade playing Skill Queue Online. This type of lesson is valuable, and likely will be lost.

Furthermore, when those questions are asked from an interested outsider, the answer will change. People will now say, "No, it doesn't because you can buy all the skill points you want. Sure, it may be a little expensive later on, but you can do it." And I fear the response will be one of severe disinterest.

People already equate skill points to levels, and levels to power. The issue we'll face is one of perception, not one of mechanical balance. And for a game that wants to bring in new players so badly, we're not giving them a good view of reality.
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September 30, 2015

Contract Recap: Black Hole Theory

This contract recap was written by Godolphin for our internal forums. Used with his permission. 

Quick Summary: Black Hole Theory hired Mercenary Coalition to destroy a heavily shielded Amarr large control tower in J130253. During the tower reinforcement we also approached the clients about smashing the POCOs in system since we were already there. The client agreed to pay us additional for the POCO kills and even came out to help. Sorta. The terms agreed upon were completed to the client's satisfaction and thanks to the 8 POCOs, destroyed we even came out ahead on ISK efficiency.

The plan was fairly simple. Or so I thought.

Completing a contract in Wspace always comes with its unique set of situations. In this case one of our biggest logistical challenges was getting everyone from our home system to the contract wormhole. J130253 is a C4 wormhole with a C4/C2 static. Since a class 4 wormhole cannot connect directly to known space (with the exception of micro wormholes) a class 4 wormhole is the most secluded and hardest to reach from known space. The first entrance the client gave us was a nice tidy highsec not that out of the way. We initially brought AHAC 2.5999 (mostly Legions) to reinforce the tower. After about 3 hours of shooting the tower our friends Odin's Call/Wrong Hole dropped by for a visit. Their doctrine included a mix of heavy beam laser/neut Legions with webbing Lokis and rail Proteus. After completely annihilating our clients early warning Bestower ( they proceeded to attempt to get tackle on a couple of the clients' Vargurs sieging the target tower. Heavily bubbled, the Vargurs were able to MJD to safety after the Sabre/initial tackle were volleyed off.

In standard wormhole fashion Odin's Call slowly ramped up the engagement by first warping in a small contingent of Guardians (in this case 4). After the fighting began they brought the rest in. An unconfirmed number of Guardians which numbered at least 4 but not more then 7. In addition to the Guardians they brought along their Nestor. After a number of hours shooting a POS, Odin's call showing up suddenly was a bit jarring and we were a tad unprepared. With our brains close to mush, we proceeded to fight our way out of tackle and attempt a few kills. Being too outnumbered to do any real damage we were forced to leave the field taking a few losses. The end result can be seen in this battle report: (

After the engagement, Odins extraction was rather sloppy. They miscalculated the mass left on the hole they entered from and it collapsed leaving about 6 T3s stranded with no logi support. Unfortunately maintaining tackle on a couple nuet Legions and a ECM Tengus is nearly imposible with a solo Stratios with a scram (the entirety of our tackle in fleet). Even timing my navy cap 150's with my scram cycle I eventually lost tackle before we could kill anything. I scanned their new exit and chased them around a bit but in the end we decided to just let them go and get back to the objective. At this point we decided to reship into bombers to complete the objective with no further interference.

Wormhole exploration can be incredibly frustrating at times, especially when your route collapses behind you. After scanning out the new entrance through the target wormhole's C2 static we brought the bombers back in and finished the job. The tower entered reinforcment for 1D 16H as per the wormhole standard of "buying as much time as possible". In an effort to create even more unrest, the POCOs were set for downtime which is not an awesome timezone for MC. Downtime nearing and our current connection to the C2 static was nearing the end of its natural lifetime, broadcasts were made on Slack to seed early for the upcoming tower/POCO destruction. This connection was 2 jumps from Dodixie and was an amazing hole to abuse. Sadly at downtime the hole died and the new static C2 was a Nullsec/C4. Basically a dead end. We eventually found a way in through the Static C4 however, through the course of the day after the POCOs were destroyed the client had put the hole on the verge of collapse by "playing with a raven" which was then EOL by the tower op. Not being able to manipulate connections by collapsing wormholes due to a lack of a wormhole closing kit we were totally at the mercy of BOB and his inhumane humor.

Attempts were made to get people into the wormhole through this EOL/CRIT chain but not being able to send somone out to guide people in severely hindered our attempts, as well as corp bookmarks not propagating (not sure what was happening with the bookmarks) left us with just what we had in system. Thankfully this Amarr tower now had 15 offline hardeners and the job was much, much faster. Not having been in the chain home in awhile we were surprised to find that the way home had collapsed. Stranded in this new wormhole with multiple people scanning furiously we eventually found a C2 with a static highsec. Funny enough the new C2 was the same one as an old which reduced the amount of scanning drastically. [NEHE] was able to reconstruct the chain we used and visually represent it. For all those who want to know why you did not have a way in.....

The Red "X"s denote a wormhole that died and forced us to rescan. Green denotes the final exit used. This is the reason for the "confusion" and the subsequent frustration that occurred. Combine this level of complexity with lack of sleep and you got a very stressing op. You can also see the amount of scouts that were employed to keep us safe by watching for hostiles in the chain. Each gray wormhole above had a scout. Its important to note that the Odin connection happened the day after the fight and was not there when they showed up initially. That is the will of BOB. Also of note: Exohmin slept through his alarm and missed the final POS bash. As a result he woke up with a broken toe. Punishments from the wormhole god can sometimes be extreme.
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September 27, 2015

Bay Area Meetup: Operation Success!

When I was working in Washington D.C. I was lucky enough to go to quite a few cool player meet ups. The first of which was the BoB BBQ, which was tons of fun and had amazing food. Then, a year later I was back again and invited to join the VA/MD Meetup group for two of their meet ups (although I only was able to make one). It was super fun, and I really, really enjoyed hanging out with other EVE players. I was also able to go to Fanfest in 2014 which is, I suppose, the creme de la creme of player gatherings. I would love to go back.

But I never thought I'd try and organize my own until I got out here to San Francisco and didn't see anything happening near me. I found another meet up in Millbrae, but it's much too far for me to get there easily. The next closest one was in Los Angeles. So the only thing to do was to try and organize my own.

I spent a lot of time speaking with Bam Stoker, picking his brain since he's put on a decent gathering or two in his time. He gave me some good advice regarding timing and logistics and hooked me up with some really great prizes to give away.

So, armed as best I could with what I expected to be a fun, but haphazard meetup, I set a date, picked a location and started putting the word out. I put up a post on EVEMeet, created a Google Form for people to RSVP with, spammed #meetup in TweetSlack and Twitter. And then I waited.

About 6 people signed up which was more than I was expecting, so I was quite happy! When I originally picked the date, I wasn't thinking about it, but it happened to coincide with TwitchCon. Happily, CCP Manifest and CCP Logibro were in San Francisco for TwitchCon and asked if anyone else was around. I reached out and invited them, but wasn't sure if they would come or not.

But, sure enough, they did! Despite being 15 minutes late to my own event, it turned out to be really fun and pretty crowded since we couldn't rearrange our tables (although we did anyway).

Top Left: Reginald Sakakibara, Bottom Left: CCP Logibro, Top Right: Calmatt, Mid Right: Xian Dahr, Bottom Right: Mykol Ansii
Most of us were fairly veteran, but we did have two players who had only been in the game for a month! Everyone hung out for about five hours, had a lot of beers, had some good food, and left with wishes for the next meetup!
Top Left: Girlfriend, Bottom Left: Coworker, Top Right: Alekseyev Karrde, Bottom Right: Coworker

I gave away a PLEX to Reginald for the most embarrasing lossmail (CCP Logibro had the most embarrasing one, but wasn't eligible of course. Anytime you lose a Cockroach, it's pretty embarrasing, but he lost this one to an Imicus. Yikes). Reginald lost a Navy Apocalypse to a Tornado who alphaed him before he could dock. What a ballsy Tornado pilot.
Top Left: CCP Manifest, Bottom Left: Peltar Omari, Top Right: Lomax Aurellius, Bottom Right: Cleototh Shouna
 I'm not sure when the next one will be, but I really look forward to doing this again. And, if you're going to be visiting the Bay Area, drop by the in game channel Bay Area Meetup and we'll grab a drink!
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September 20, 2015

Contract Recap: Smoked Pork in the Homeland

Well, it's official. I've completed the first contract flying in Mercenary Coalition. I had a lot of fun, although there were certainly growing pains, as you'd expect when three (counting Noir. Academy) new corporations join an alliance right before a contract of this size. There were definitely some idealogical headbutting, but honestly things went really smoothly at the organizational level, and I think most of us had a really positive experience.

This contract's title comes from our opponents (HAMS United) and the fact that HAM now resides in MC's spiritual home. Four of the stations in the area were built by MC many, many years ago.

So, we returned, but not to stay.

Our objective was simply to harrass HAM for four weeks, specifically focused on HAM's key sytem of 1-NJLK. We had secondary objectives, unrelated to HAM, but they never came to light. To be honest, this contract was a big ask. We're half the size of HAM, which I don't think is a problem, but trying to punch above your weight while ironing out so many new alliance issues is not the ideal way to go about a contract. But if everything is easy, where's the fun?

We set out with a handful of doctrines picked for the contract and set up shop in the nearby region of Stain. Things started out pretty rough, not only because HAM quickly called in help from Russia Caldari [RUCA], making the numbers game 3:1 in their favor, but because a lot of people were flying certain doctrines for the first time. There were definitely some fuckups.

The first major fight of the contract was one I was there for, which was nice. But unfortunately, it didn't go as well as we would have liked. I noticed a fleet with roughly 6 people in Caracals, Basilisks, and a Huginn sitting outside our station. There was only three or four of us in comms at the time - we were still getting settled in after a long move - but after a few slack messages we had formed up a good sized fleet comprised mostly of Zealots.

I was in a Sacrilege, acting as bait. I checked my hotkeys for broadcasts were set up and I undocked alone to try and get them to aggress me. As I undocked I noticed that the fleet was 70km away and burning farther out, but they did aggress me, so the fleet undocked. I was webbed by the Huginn so I wasn't going anywhere, but the rest of the fleet was making decent speed to close the gap and lay on some DPS.

As soon as they saw our fleet undock, they had the rest of the fleet, comprised of Cerberuses, more Basilisks, and a few assorted ships come in.

Eventually the Huginn decided to release the slow, lumbering Sacrilige and focus on perhaps more dangerous targets, and I began to move as quickly as I could towards the enemy fleet. Somehow, someway, they allowed us to get on top of them. For whatever reason, I was called as the DPS anchor, despite the fact that I was in a totally different type of ship than the rest of the fleet and was already acting as a heavy tackle (I had the Huginn and a Cerberus pointed). So as the rest of the Zealots piled on top of me while I was humping the face of the Huginn, I quickly realized this wasn't going to work, but I didn't say anything. Big mistake. I'm not used to using or being an anchor. We rarely ever used them in Noir. and I was not prepared for it here, but that's no excuse.

The Zealots were having a hard time hitting anything since they were right on top of the target at times, but we were managing to drop a few things. Then I guess the Huginn got the FC's attention and focus shifted to me. I broadcast for reps as my shields were going down, not really worried at all. We had lost an interceptor and a Sabre at this point, I believe.

My armor starts to get chunked and I broadcast again. No reps. I call out on comms that Psianh needs reps. Broadcast, I'm told. I am! I reply. No reps. I die. I warp back to station to grab a Zealot and check my hotkeys. Turns out, my hotkeys were set up, just not for what I remembered. Damnit.

Also unfortunately, an enemy Megathron is on the undock and is keeping me from warping back into the fight, scramming me and taking out nearly all my shields in one hit. I'm out of the fight.

From there things somehow turned out really poorly. I guess with the Huginn untackled, they were able to dictate range the way they wanted, leaving our Zealots with too little damage to matter.

It was not the best way to start a contract, and we definitely had other slip ups, but in the end we adapted and pulled out a win - although, personally, I don't know if I consider the contract one to brag about. We ended up with a pretty poor efficiency for the contract as a whole, but the employer was actually very happy. We did exactly what we were paid for and we improved each week, gelling more and more as an alliance.

We already have our next contract lined up, and this one is going to be epic. I'm going to make a point of playing at least an hour every other night during this contract because I don't want to miss out on the stories this is going to generate. I'm also very optimistic about how much our performance is going to improve. I never really imagined not flying under a Noir.-fronted alliance, but I have to say that being in Mercenary Coalition is quite the dream.

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September 10, 2015

Bay Area Meetup: September 26

It's official! The date has been set for September 26 at Southern Pacific Brewing Company in San Francisco. I haven't been there before but it's got good reviews and looks like a cool place to hang out.

If you're not a drinker, never fear! The menu looks really good too, so you should have a lot of great choices even if it's not about beer.

You can find more information on the EveMeet website.

Be sure to RSVP so I can get an idea of how much space we'll need (which will determine how early I get there to claim a table or two), and to help guage potential prizes.

If you're attending, please share this with your corp/alliance mates that you know live in the area!

Unrelated, but I hope you've had a chance to read Rixx Javix's The Great Divide and FearlessLittleToaster's In Defense of CCP Fozzie. Both of these posts really resonated with me and, unless you're a bittervet, hopefully they touch something for you too.

I've been an unapologetic optimist in my previous posts time and again. When I mention this, what I usually am trying to say here is, "I understand that not everything is perfect, but I have trust in CCP as a company and its vision." I think most people would agree that EVE can be a better game, but it's important to understand that EVE is also trying to be a better game.

Growth is never easy. Ask anyone who has worked out regularly or mastered a skill. To actually excel at something takes a lot of work, practice, failure, and repitition. Things are never planned and executed perfectly the first time and we, as players and people, have to recognize this basic aspect of growth.

There has been no signal from CCP's actions or statements that would reasonably consistute stagnation or denial. I've written about the realities of development in a modern work-environment, and I hope that somehow, someway people begin to understand there aren't an infinite number of hours in a day to brainstorm, discuss, plan, develop, test, and implement every single idea.

EVE is a ruthless game, and to move forward we (and CCP) will have to ruthlessly move forward in idealogies, tactics, strategies, and implementation. But as Rixx and Toaster and I have said before, that doesn't mean we have to be ruthless assholes.
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September 6, 2015

Contract FC Fleet

It's a long weekend for me this weekend. I haven't spent as much time in EVE as I planned, but I did get to play more than normal, so that's a plus! I logged in this afternoon after doing a little work from home and noticed about a dozen people in TeamSpeak and a fleet already up. So I joined in to see what was going on, and to my disappointment nothing was!

So, I did what any self-respecting Noir. pilot would do, I took over the fleet and got us doing something. My initial plan was to take a small, hard-hitting fleet and put it a few jumps out while three entosis ships begin doing their magic in different locations. I was hoping our enemies would split up and try to save everything or forfeit two targets to keep the fleet together. In the second case, even if my response fleet couldn't take the fight, we could likely keep them tied up while our entosis ships did their work.

Unfortunately I couldn't scrounge up enough people to fly entosis ships, so instead I decided to just do an old-fashioned gatecamp. I moved my scout, who had been watching an enemy force entosis their structure back, into their staging system and moved the fleet one jump out. Our fleet comprised of four stealth bombers and one Sabre, with a Falcon for eyes in their staging system. I had one stealth bomber as scout on an entrance system. The plan was simple: our Sabre would bubble the gate if we wanted to fight.

Things were very quiet for a while. The enemy staging system had 15 reds in local, all docked up. I guess entosising the one structure had taken a lot out of them. But after 20 minutes or so, things began to move around again. We had a few false alarms with an Occator and Viator, neither of which jumped to us. Finally we had a Manticore jump in. He uncloaked and we bubbled him. Instead of cloaking back up, he decided to burn back to the gate, but we quickly melted him and his pod. Nothing of great value was lost on their side, and we didn't take any damage.

After that, things began to heat up a bit more. Somewhere around this time we added an entosis interceptor to our fleet who began working on targets two jumps out of the enemy staging system. They'd have to come through us to get there.

Our scout in the staging system calls out a Stabber, Scythe, Oracle and Dramiel. I decide we're going to take this fight. Our Falcon will jump in behind them and land jams, at which point we'll begin bombarding them with torpedoes. The gate fires, a bubble goes up, enemy targets begin to uncloak. Unfortunately the Oracle didn't come through. He was going to be a fast, easy kill. Instead, we focus on the Stabber who is quickly going through shields. He burns back to the gate and manages to jump. Switching to the Scythe, the same thing happens: lot of damage, but not before he gets out. Same story for the Dramiel.

We continue entosising while the enemy is suddenly trapped in their staging system by a handful of bombers and a Falcon.

The gate flashes again and the Stabber uncloaks. I had already told the fleet to hold their cloaks. Sure enough, the Stabber burns right back to the gate. He was trying to get us to engage. My suspicion is pretty much confirmed now. It's almost certain the enemy fleet has mobilized and is waiting on the other side.

The gate flashes again and a Stabber and Scythe come through and immediately burn back to the gate. We hold our cloaks.

I want to know what's on the other side, but don't have anyone that can safely check. It must have been my lucky day, because right then an alliance-mate joins the fleet and offers his services in a travel-fit Ares. He burns to us quickly and jumps in to the enemy staging system.

Just as I suspected: a fleet of roughly 5 Caracals, a Maller, two Scythes, a Stabber, a Stiletto, Svipul, and a Succubus sit on the other side. It's made up of HAMS, LEGIOS, and a few other groups who are all trying to band together fruitlessly against Mercenary Coalition.

We continue entosising.

The fleet eventually decides to jump through together. We hold our cloaks and they decide to move past us. As soon as they warp away, off to harass our entosis ship, I order the fleet to jump into their staging system and begin removing the large mobile warp disruptors they had placed. There are five or six of them and we remove all but two before the fleet comes back, unsuccessful in their attempt to disrupt our interceptor.

We warp to pings off the gate and wait, cloaked. The enemy fleet jumps in and decides to sit on the gate in the staging system as we watch from our perch. Technically they had us trapped in a small cluster. This was the chokepoint in or out. However, it wasn't my small fleet that was entosising, so I don't know what they were trying to accomplish.

On the other side of the gate, one of our guys sat in system with one of their guys. The enemy pilot began to complain and bemoan the FC of his fleet. Apparently, the FC (and I have my suspicions who it was) is not well regarded by some of his alliance members. The word "stupid" and "pointless" were thrown about. It was heartening to know their leadership is inept, and I was happy to encourage their bad decisions.

Eventually they decided they were done sitting on the gate for no reason and the fleet warped back to the station. We tried picking off a few stragglers, but they managed to get out in time before our bubble went up. After that I took the fleet home. It wasn't a hectic or intense fleet, and it didn't result in a lot of kills, but I really enjoyed getting back into the FC couch. There was definitely a gratifying feeling correctly anticipating the enemy movement and objectives, even if their FC was stupid.

Now I've got the bug again.
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August 31, 2015

A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online at PAX

I'm sitting in the airport at Seattle right now. My flight is delayed two hours. I won't get home until like 1:30am and then have to go to work tomorrow. That wouldn't be so bad if I had been to PAX purely as a fan, but I'm doing this for work. That kinda sucks.

I didn't get to spend too much time inside of PAX actually. Most of my time was spent in meetings outside of the convention. What free-time I had I preferred to spend it outside and at the REI headquarters (which is freaking AWESOME by the way). I walked a couple of laps around the convention and saw some cool stuff, considered buying a few things but realized I could probably find it cheaper online. It was fun to see, but nothing really sucked me in. Except for the panel on EVE's history.

Of course, being a rabid EVE fan I know a lot of EVE's history. I've read multiple accounts of multiple wars. I think I have a fairly good grasp on the overall history of the game from the player's perspective (less so from the in-game lore perspective). Nevertheless, I was compelled to attend the panel titled The EVE Online History Lecture. I'm glad that I did.

First off, it was packed. 
There was probably 200 people there. Strangely, when speaker Andrew Groen (who wrote the book the lecture was based on) asked how many of us in the room regularly played EVE, very few of us raised our hands. There was probably 10-15 hands raised.

So for me, I was going in just to spend some time steeped in EVE while away from my computer. I always like going to EVE-related events when I can. For the rest of the crowd, I assume they played semi-regularly and were similar to me or they had some sort of morbid curiosity that so many who hear of EVE have.

Andrew was a great storyteller. His presentation started off in 2006 with the tale of RED Alliance's destruction, last stand, and resurrection as Redswarm Alliance. He expertly weaves that tale and the story of BoB attacking Ascendant Frontier, destroying Steve and the alliance as a whole together. Perhaps it was easier for me to follow along, but I thought he did a great job of explaining the context of the situation, why certain events mattered, who the players were, what their motivations were, and how things came to be. His voice (I mean writing voice here, not his actual voice - although that was fine too) was very engaging and entertaining. If the book reads similarly to how he spoke, I'd tear through it, unable to put it down.

He showed us a really well done footage clip which explained one of the major events in his history during the presentation. He said he had the help from a member of CCP who did the "camera work". It was definitely easy to follow along, but I had two thoughts:

  1. Why are there Tech 3 ships in this video about 2006?
  2. How am I going to experience this via a book?
Maybe there will be a CD included or something. I dunno.

Unfortunately he left us on a huge cliffhanger. He had just explained T20 including, again, the major players, what their motivations were, how they came to be there, and what that meant. So after setting up the Great War, letting us know the highlights ("it lasted two years and involved over 50,000 real people"), he ended with "That's all the time we have in this presentation. You can read the rest in my book."

Andrew, you bastard. 

I chatted with him a bit right after the panel, just thanking him and regretting that we didn't get to talk about Mercenary Coalition. He asked me if I was in MC and I said I was. He let me know that he spoke with Seleene and Sabre A quite a few times during the process of writing the book. I asked when it was going to be released but all he said was in the next few months. He did let me see an advanced copy he had in his bag. It was a hardcover edition in all black, similar to the limited edition EVE Source book. It was probably 3/4 of an inch thick. He flipped through it some and I could see quite a bit of artwork. You can see some examples on the Kickstarter page.

To be honest, I was hugely impressed with the panel. Andrew is, without doubt, a great speaker. With his pedigree I expect his writing to be equally impressive. I've alread pre-ordered my copy from his website If this sort of thing seems interesting to you, I highly recommend reserving a copy. 

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August 27, 2015

Arma 3 Server is a Go!

Sorry for two non-EVE posts in a row. I probably won't get to play EVE until next week. I'll try and make it my main gaming focus next week, but I think I'll fail since Metal Gear Solid V will be available. I've never been the stoutest fan of the Metal Gear series, but I have enjoyed them and have fond memories, so I'll look forward to this play through.

To be fair, I haven't been able to play much of anything this week, although I did spend about 30 minutes in our new Arma 3 server! So far there aren't any mods and only one mission, a Capture the Island scenario. I was the only one on the server too, so it was really more of a test than anything. It ran silky smooth. Mods are coming soon, and then it's game on!

We also have a planned session tomorrow night without mods. It'll be a Zeus scenario more than likely. Maybe we'll throw in some missions downloaded from the Steam workshop. It'll mainly be a getting-to-know-you session since many of us have never played together, and those of us that have haven't done it in a while.

I won't be able to play anything this weekend either due to PAX. Maybe some League of Legends on my work computer, but that's about it I'm afraid. Speaking of which, Ashterothi and I are both going to be at PAX so I'm going to try and meet him and hopefully as many other EVE players as possible. So if you're going, let me know!
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August 24, 2015

Arma 3, PAX Prime, and Lugging a Supercomputer Around

I didn't really play EVE today. I had a courier contract delivered to me in our staging system so I logged in to fit the ships up, but that was about it. I played a bit of League of Legends instead of EVE tonight. Slowly climbing back up to where I was last season. It's painful sometimes. But my Quinn game is strong.

I've also been getting Arma withdrawals. The Arma group that we had in TRUST has sort of pittered out. There are still 7 people in the Mercenary Coalition Arma Slack channel. We've added one new guy from Noir (Primus Fortune) and one new guy from Mercenary Coalition (spacebar). So that puts us back to about half strength of what we were at our max in TRUST. I hope some more people will be interested. I've always wanted to have 10-12 guys playing every other week or so regularly.

I could go find another actual Arma unit, but they usually play when I can't, plus I don't want that much commitment. The nice thing about playing Arma with EVE people is that they understand Arma isn't the primary game for you.

I did find a couple of people that may be interested in playing with us via the Tweetfleet Slack (which I highly recommend joining if you like talking to a lot of other EVE guys). I don't know how I'll coordinate that very effectively, some people in one Slack, other guys in another Slack. I don't even know if they're interested in downloading a shit ton of mods to play with us.

If we do get it off the ground, I'd really like to make some more one-off missions. Typically I'll put together these big, dynamic missions where the two opposing forces will vie for control of the entire map, which is seriously awesome to see in effect when it goes well. But, they're usually not as engaging as smaller, more focused missions can be, especailly with a more casual crowd.

The problem with that is I don't want to be the only one responsible for new missions. I'd love for some of the other guys to pitch in so we can have a good, stable crop of solid missions even when I'm really busy with work. But it's kind of my show, I'm the one rounding everyone up and getting them motivated to play, I'm the most dedicated, hardcore player of the group. That makes it hard to convince anyone else to spend time learning how to make missions. I do have one corpmate who has showed interest but never completed anything. Perhaps one day.

This weekend I go to Seattle for PAX Prime. Is anyone else going to be there? I'd love to meet up with a few other EVE players while I'm there. I'm considering taking my big Razer Blade Pro with me so I can play some EVE and Arma if I want, but haven't decided if it's worth the trouble. It's svelt for a computer that has this much power, but it's definitely no light weight.

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August 23, 2015

Shake it Off, Shake it Off!

I've begun the slow process of shaking it off. The rust that is. I was moving a couple of ships around in-system and noticed a small fleet of mainly Cerbs and Basilisks outside one of the stations. I reported it, created a fleet, and we rounded a few people up. The plan was pretty simple: I'd undock in a Sacrilege, get them to aggress and then let the cavalry come to the rescue. I did a quick double check before undocking to make sure my broadcasts were set up, and away we went.

It all went pretty well at first. I undocked, was immediately pointed and webbed, and began burning ever so slowly towards the enemy fleet which was located about 70km behind the undock. The rest of the fleet undocks, I broadcast for armor, and the logistics easily outpace the damage.

Our tackle burns ahead and starts to get points on a Basilisk. By this time the enemy fleet is disengaging me and trying to fend off everyone else since I was the only one pinned down initially. Both our fleets are a little spread out, but everyone is holding super well on our side, so the logistics continue moving as fast as they can towards us while we get tackle on a Basilisk, Cerberus, and Gila. Our Heretic lands three great bubbles but is caught when he goes in for the fourth.

By this point, most of the DPS is caught up with me. I'm held down pretty heavily since I somehow got back in front. I've got tackle on the primary Cerberus and a Gila which is right next to me. I'm holding fine, the rest of the fleet is in Zealots and Guardians. The fleet is told to use me as a DPS anchor. But, unfortuntely there lies the first problem. I recognized it, but put it out of mind immediately. In hindsight, I shouldn't have; I should have spoken up.

You see, I'm in a Sacrilege, I'm webbed. I'm already slow as molasses, but I'm point blank on the primary, that Cerberus. I'm neuting him, scramming him, and putting my missiles on him. It's working great. For me. Our Zealots were having trouble hitting him because I was so close to him.

I didn't really consider this at the time for two reasons:

  1. I'm not used to using DPS anchors. In Noir. we've avoided using DPS anchors in most cases, preferring to let each pilot handle themselves. I like this style myself. Everyone has to remain focused and can correct for mistakes like the one we have now. Except during POS bashes. Then I love DPS anchors.
  2. I've been out of the PvP game for quite some time. Even when I was playing more heavily months and months ago, most of my play time was administerial. I didn't want to rock the boat.
Like I said, I should have spoken up. I also could have tried to correct the issue manually, flying as a Zealot to get the rest of the fleet better transversal, but I don't think that would have been the best solution.

Anyway, things are still going ok at this point. No one is dying and the Cerberus is in low structure but is catching some shield reps. We should have him shortly. Suddenly, all the DPS is focused on to me. No problem, I broadcast for more reps as soon as my shields start to chunk. Slight amor damage. Nothing. I broadcast a couple more times. Armor creeps lower. I announce it over comms, "Psianh needs armor." The response: broadcast for them. I am! I say. 

I die.

I warp back to the station where my Zealot is in to come back in the fight, but a Megathron is on the undock and he scrams and webs me before I can enter warp. I'm pretty sure his plan was the same as mine, but Alek was keeping him from warping on an alt account in an Ares (I think it was). We're stuck there together and I can only listen to comms from here on out.

We slowly start to lose people, Zealots primarily, while taking down the Cerberus I mentioned earlier and the Gila I had tackled at the same time. The rest of their fleet, presumedly, was too far away for anyone to catch by the time those two were dropped. People start to reconsolidate, recognizing that the enemy fleet is going to be able to kite us from here on out.

During that time, I check my broadcast settings. What the heck happened? I know I checked them before I undocked, but clearly no one saw me ask for armor. I made sure I was broadcasting to the entire fleet. Yup, I was. Open up the shortcuts and I can only shake my head at myself.

My broadcast settings were set, just not to what I remembered. I usually use Shift+A for armor, Shift+S for shields, and Shift+C for capacitor. This time my settings were Shift+Ctrl+A, ,Shift+Ctrl+S, and Shift+Ctrl+C. Damnit.

I don't know if my death had much to do with the overall events. I feel like we still would have lost some Zealots and come out behind, especially one we found out after the fleet was over that at least 4 of our Zealots were using Meta 4 guns and at least one person only had Gleam, the short range ammunition available. Part of that is because we had literally just unpacked our stuff from the move 5 to 10 minutes ago. Some people unpacked and undocked immediately after one another which isn't the best way to make sure you're prepared.

Overall it was a pretty poor showing, but I actually flew pretty well, all things considered. If I only had double checked my settings I probably would have lived at the very least. It was a lot of fun though. I absolutely love flying armor, especially the Sacrilege. I've already got another one on the way via courier. Next time I'll make sure to hit the right hotkey.
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August 22, 2015

Bay Area Meetup

Not a lot going on in EVE today. I moved a few more ships through an out-of-the-way WH route. It wasn't ally that bad really, and was definitely easier than cyno jumping or moving the ships through known space. I'll be trying to get some action going tonight, see what I can stir up. I've been having better luck with socket closing error lately too. I don't know if it's anything I've done or if there was something on CCP's side, but hopefully things are leveling out.

I also took the first steps towards organizing a Bay Area meetup. There's supposedly a monthly get-together in the South Bay, but I have two issues with it:

  1. It's far, far away for people like me in the East Bay.
  2. It doesn't seem to be well advertised.
I want to do something a little more irregular, but a little larger. I also want to do something that's a bit more accessible to the entire Bay Area and those who are coming from outside of it, something more centralized.

I don't know when it's going to be yet, sometime in mid September if things go smoothly. Bam Stoker gave me some good advice, which was to hold it at one location for a long time so that people coming in late will have an easier time of meeting up. I'm looking at doing the first one at a brewery. Hopefully that will be a good, fun place to hang out for quite a few hours. If the party is still rolling we can always start bar crawling.

I created the in-game channel "Bay Area Meetup", so if you live in the area, you're going to be visiting soon, or if you just want to chat feel free to come on by.
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First Contract Deployment with Mercenary Coalition

I always get excited when a contract deployment happens, whether it's a quick POCO contract or a protracted, month-long deployment behind enemy lines. So with that in mind, I felt pretty happy to start the first leg of my deployment.

This is Noir.'s first contract with Mercenary Coalition and we're pretty stoked about it. Alek, the CEO of Noir., has been tasked with the command of the contract. It's one of my favorite types of contracts, and it's for a fairly substantial length of time. Both of those things are even more exciting for me. As much as I enjoy the small, one-and-done contracts for easy money, the real memories are made in the longer contracts. We still talk about specific contracts in Noir. even though they happened years ago. You're out there, typically behind enemy lines, with nothing but you and your alliance-mates. There are a lot of "I was there" moments.

Now the question is, how am I going to get the rest of my stuff deployed. The wormhole I was using closed. Bah.

Completely unrelated, but I have to buy some new jeans. Every pair of pants I wear rips in the back. I was looking at Outlier pants because I've heard they're pretty solid, but the only store they have is in Brooklyn, New York, so I can't try them on. Tough choices, tough choices.
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August 20, 2015

Super-Duper Defense or What to Do with Super Capitals?

Fixed fortifications have been a part of warfare since man stopped living in caves and started fabricating mud huts. Perhaps the first fortification was just a ditch, then maybe some sharp sticks were added to it. As warfare became more advanced, so did fortification technology. From walls around a city to castles to bunkers, man has continued to advance its stationary defense technology.

In EVE there's nothing that's directly comparable to real-life fixed fortifications. POSes, indices multipliers, that's about as close as it gets. It makes sense, honestly. Castles were the premier fixed fortification, perhaps of all time, but they too became outdated as weapon technology leaped ahead of defensive tech. Gunpowder and cannons meant that the war had to move to a battlefield rather than a castle siege. In EVE, there's no need for a castle archetype, but I do think that EVE may benefit from "fixed" fortifications of a kind.

There is a lot of talk about what to do with super capitals these days. The question of what to do with them is much harder than the question of if something should be done. I've talked to some people who think Fozzie's off-the-cuff comment about turning them into "bards" is a good direction, others who think they should be given more jump range, and others who think they should be deleted altogether. I don't agree with any of those ideas though.

I think super capitals should be EVE's fixed fortifications.

Here is my suggestion: remove super capital's ability to jump altogether. Instead of relying on an absolutely horrible game mechanic (that is hot dropping an invincible fleet on unsuspecting hostiles with no chance of advanced warning), make them enormously powerful within local defense. The caveat, of course, is that they must travel like most other ships: through a gate.

In this way, you can retain most of the super capital's superior statistics, but at the cost of incredibly slow movement and vulnerability during certain scenarios, mostly regarding traveling. Super capitals still can turn fights, but they don't appear from no where. Fleets can scout them and disengage, or try to hamstring the super capitals as they're relocating. 

And that, quite simple, is the entire idea. There is fine tuning, oh, to be sure. But the basic idea is simple and can be tweaked. I've been trying to think of the downsides, and to be honest I have come up with a few. For one, it doesn't really allow the attacker to counter a super capital defensive fleet. That would have to be addressed in some way. Secondly, it may encourage defensive actions rather than offensive, which is (in my opinion) a superior game design.

With that said, I still feel like the idea has legs and I'd love to hear more thoughts on the matter. I know there would be an absolute outcry of rage if CCP were to announce something like this, but if the idea does turn out to stand up to criticism, I'd much rather weather the tidal wave of tears than continue lamenting bad game mechanics.
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August 19, 2015

The Truth About Iteration of Sovereignty

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

George S. Patton said that. You can just imagine him standing around a table littered with maps, the smell of diesel thick in the European air. His officers are arguing over a particular part of a battle plan while Patton grows more and more frustrated. Finally, fed up with the bickering, he gives the now-immortal quote. The decision made, the army rolls out on its treads and victory is won.

I've taken that quote to heart, and not just because one of the most successful generals in human history thinks it's true. I've seen its usefulness first hand in the business world. Speed is absolutely critical to winning a market, even if the product isn't perfectly polished.

Dave Girouard, the former President of Google Enterprise Apps says:

"I’ve long believed that speed is the ultimate weapon in business. All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win. Speed is a defining characteristic — if not the defining characteristic — of the leader in virtually every industry you look at."
Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, has said, "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."

As you can see, this sort of mentality is not unique. Getting something out into the virtual wild that has a clear, structured plan and with basic mechanics that are solid is actually far more important than delaying the release to polish and perfect. This idea is just table-stakes for a startup environment. If you're moving slowly, you don't belong.

CCP has, of course, released the sovereignty restructure in bits and pieces, little at a time, as they should. This is exactly how the fast-moving tech world works. If they did anything else, they'd actually be failing as a company. Is it perfect? No, and no one in their right mind would expect it to be. But it is a good plan being executed very violently.

The Pareto principle is also commonly referenced in the tech world (also known as the 80-20 rule). It basically states that 80% of your output, or results, are due to 20% of your input. The practical lesson here is that almost all of the productive things that can come from a concerted effort are from a small amount of that effort. Putting more and more and more effort will only return a small portion of the total output, making you quite inefficient.

If CCP were to put more effort on top of more effort with the goal of perfecting a system before releasing it (with the goal of eliminating the 20% of output remaining), it would be a huge undertaking that would suck an inordinate amount of resources. It's much more efficient and logical to expend a lesser amount of resources to reach a nearly perfect state and iterate over time as resources become less scarce.

In essence, the approach that CCP is taking to rebalancing the sovereignty system is an absolutely tried and tested approach to a stable, polished product. It's unfortunate that people aren't perfect and can't create perfection easily, but since that's not the case, using an approach like I've described helps us to overcome as much of those flaws as possible. In the long run, we end up with a much better product, and in the short term we end up with changes that we can digest and give feedback on. Can you imagine the impossible task of trying to comb through the entire sovereignty rebalance if it were released all at once with the intention of bug fixing, tweaking, and doing small iterating? That's a perfect example of how much manpower would be required just to finish off that 20%.

So when CCP releases the next small piece of the rebalance, don't complain that it's not done. Don't lament that patch A is useless without patch B, that until patch C happens then we might as well all unsubscribe. That kind of thinking is antithetical to a good product, a good game, and a healthy nullsec. Instead, give them feedback. 
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August 18, 2015

Sovereignty, Socket Closes, and the Information Highway

I was browsing /r/eve the other day (the habit is hard to kick despite the subreddit devolving more and more) and was surprised to see a really good post on it. Well, sort of - it was a New Eden News Bot sharing Thoric Frosthammer's summary of complaints to Aegis and suggestions to those complaints. If you haven't read this somehow, please do so.

I liked this post for a few reasons. It clearly articulated:

  1. The problems
  2. The reasoning behind those problems
  3. A solution (in most cases)
I've been learning a lot lately about passing information upwards, which is a pretty big change of pace for me since I've spent the last two years in EVE passing information downwards. That is to say, in my real life I spend a lot of time trying to convey important, high level information up to my company's CEO and the way you do that is vastly different than the way you transmit information to the people who follow you.

When you're trying to get someone whose time is very valuable, whose mental bandwidth is always strained, it's incredibly important to lay things out in a manner similar to what Thoric has done. This puts whoever is in charge of making the decision of pulling the trigger in "approval mode". You've already presented the problem, why it's a problem, and a recommended solution. All you need is approval to get the job done. This is effective, this is good communication. It would be great if other people would learn from it and use a similar mental process for complaining in the future. It's amazing how much farther up the ladder you can get if you can just frame your message in a way that's easy for someone to understand. Even if someone had the  hypothetical job of doing nothing but sorting through complaint posts on the EVE forums or Reddit would be able to digest, comprehend, and formulate plans of actions faster, better, and more effectively with this style of feedback.

Kudos to you Thoric, for your formatting if nothing else.

Now, all that's well and good, but unfortunately I can't enjoy EVE currently, even if it were in perfect harmony and balance with the playerbase. For some reason, my socket is continually disconnecting. I can stay logged in 5 minutes before it happens (which is pretty typical) or I can stay logged in a few hours (which is very atypical), but sooner or later my socket will close and I'll get disconnected.

So far it hasn't had any adverse effect as I've only been moving ships around, updating my doctrines in station, and moving a few alts here and there. If it continues, I'm obviously not going to be able to undock for a fight. I've done a bit of Googling, tried changing DNS, tried changing my ini file as per CCP's instructions to connect to a different port - but no luck. I've just moved to a new place where the internet is provided for me, so I don't have access to the router, and I'm at a loss here.

I'd hate to be getting my craving for EVE again right when my internet is failing me. It sucks because my internet speed is great, I apparently just have packet loss issues. If anyone is a networking guru, boy I'd like to talk to you.

I'll leave you with a teaser: my favorite series on this blog is about to get revived after quite a long hiatus. I'm pumped about it, and if I can fix my damn socket problem, I hope I get to be heavily involved!
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August 16, 2015

Mercenary News: Noir. Joins Mercenary Coalition!

I apologize for how long it's been since I've posted. There have definitely been things to write about, I've just been lazy on my precious weekends or I've been traveling for work.

First, as the title says, Noir. has joined the Mercenary Coalition alliance. I can't say I'm well informed about the decision; after stepping down from Noir. Academy I'm not privy to the leadership discussions any more. I suspect it's because Alek, who also has been working a ton (we both work at the same place since March), has had less and less time to manage an alliance and didn't want to do things half-way. We had a small Australian corporation that was in the No Not Believing alliance leave, and rather than continue to try and build, it was far easier to join Mercenary Coalition, who holds very similar ideals to Noir.

In fact, Alek had originally tried to join MC years ago when Tortuga was trying to become a thing. It may have taken many, many years, but that dream is now realized.

As for myself, I'm ambivalent about it. I've always respected Mercenary Coalition and its history, of course, but I'm also not a huge fan of being a regular grunt, at least in theory. We'll see how it goes. I am excited to see what happens in the future. I feel like I say that in every post, "I'm excited to see what the future brings." Sometimes I wonder when that future will come.

I know there's a lot of complaining on the EVE Reddit right now (although isn't there always?), and I feel there are some good points on both sides of the arguments, even if they're buried deep down under layers of shitpost and vitriol. If you've read my blog for very long, you'll know that I'm ever the optimist. I have hope that CCP can work these things out, but I wonder if the playerbase will even let them. Sometimes I feel like people are hoping for EVE to fail so they can feel smug for a while.

In any case, I do feel confident that there will be a fun, enjoyable nullsec solution one day. I hope it's sooner rather than later, and I also feel that its arrival will bring more playtime for me and more contracts for MC. Just as before, the less people are willing or excited about taking sovereignty, the less people are going to ask for help.

If that day comes, Mercenary Coalition will be there. I don't think MC will ever return to its former glory, PL fills that hole these days, but I do think that Mercenary Coalition will be known as the hardest hitting, most efficient, most reliable merenary name in the game. Besides, I want dozens of contracts a year, not one or two like PL has (on a good year).

Anyway, here's to the future.
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June 14, 2015

Whoa, I'm in Space?

I totally logged in today. That was cool. Haven't done that in a while, but I've taken a step back from EVE for a while as one is want to do at times, and now I'm feeling refreshed and excited about Noir, No Not Believing, and EVE again.

So when I saw a broadcast go out on Slack about CVA bringing in a lot of armor, I totally logged in. Nothing happened, because what was apparently looking like a doable fight quickly turned into a few dozen carriers and dreadnaughts, but still: I totally logged in today.

But now I'm going to play H1Z1. We'll do it again very soon, EVE.
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April 19, 2015

The Trouble with Teaching

When I first volunteered to start helping Noir. Academy, back in early 2013, I had just started a job which had me playing video games from home. It didn't work out (surprise surprise), but at the time I had nothing but time, so I figured I'd be happy to help out the program that got me where I am today, taught me how to PvP, helped me find my EVE home. So when, at a corp meeting, volunteers were called for, I said I'd help with recruitment. Little did I know what that would turn into.

Helping with recruitment is basically the easiest thing I could have done for Noir. Academy. As much as I treasured the corporation, the program, and what it had done for me, I had gone through it out of necessity, not love. The goal was to join Noir., and Noir. Academy was a stepping stone. So while I was happy to help a bit, I had no intention of, nor desired to focus the majority of my efforts on a training corporation. I had seen what had happened to the two CEOs previously: burn out, and quick. It's a lot of work and it's certainly thankless. 

But, before I knew it, I was basically running the thing. And to be honest, I didn't mind. The more and more I got involved, the more I enjoyed it. I really liked being able to shape the program, try and create better pilots, fulfill a student's needs before he realized he had them. But my attention was split. I was, and am, a Noir. pilot first. I'm the CEO of Noir. Academy second. A huge part of my reform was to try and provide a great learning environment with very little instructor overhead. As you can imagine, that's easier said than done.

After a handful of tweaks the first iteration of the program, a few major tweaks, and one gigantic one (moving Noir. Academy into the Of Sound Mind) alliance, I've come to the obvious realization that there's just no substitute for full-time instructors. The second obvious realization is that Noir. pilots are here to be in Noir., not train students - much like myself. I had a couple of guys volunteer to move down to Catch with NA. and be there full time, but unsurprisingly they didn't last terribly long. It's just not what we signed up for.

I believe I've created a terrific program, and if I only had five full-time instructors, it'd run almost flawlessly. But I don't, and I probably never will. So, with that in mind, it's time for a change - and while I'm not sure it's the best one long term, it is the best one for the foreseeable future. And there's a chance that it'll actually become a great choice, one that will be sustainable and enjoyable.

I sat down with my instructors Saturday and had a pretty long meeting. I wanted to nail down a lot of things in detail, and I'm really happy with what we came away with.  Here's what we decided:

  1. Noir. Academy is leaving Of Sound Mind Alliance and joining No Not Believing Alliance.
    1. This was the biggest decision. I've been super happy with OSM and their treatment of my students, and generally students have been very happy with the situation too. However, we've found that the divide between Noir. and Noir. Academy was too great. We're going to be careful not to return to a state where students felt no impetus to graduate, but we feel it's critical that we're constantly in connection with them at all levels.
  2. There won't be any more "Stages" in the academy. You're either in or you're out, whether you graduated or you were kicked.
  3. The hard limit to graduate is going to be enforced at three months.
    1. We had this before, but I felt it was unfair to students to kick them if we weren't able to provide timely classes. And I was also bad about removing people who took extended breaks. 
  4. Students will be limited to a specific set of ships that feel are important to master yet won't be a detriment to a contract if multiple ships are lost in good learning experiences. We'll provide them, but students need to pay for them.
In essence, we're stripping the academy down into a more streamlined, but faster-paced program. We're also putting a heavy emphasis on Noir. pilots to connect with the students, even if you're not interested in helping train them.

I'm hopeful that with our new alliance culture that Noir. Academy will find a great home in the alliance, one that wasn't exactly present when we were flying under the Noir. Mercenary Group Alliance.  I'm certainly excited to be there when these guys get to go on their first contract. That's always the highlight for me. Turning good newbs into good mercs, one day at a time.
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