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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