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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