Wednesday, 22 December 2010

For Those of You About to Die... Oh Never Mind


I had a plan and it was going to be glorious.

It was an ambitious concept that would have inspired a community and brought something new to EVE. It was also naive, foolhardy and doomed to failure. Here's what happened.

Recently, during a chat between regulars in the Old Pond Pub, one pilot, Wamphyrri, mentioned that he was flying around in a solo PvP Rifter that he wanted to test out. The problem with experimental solo PvP fits is that a proper field test can be difficult to find. Hunting for a genuine solo opponent that you can trust not to have friends lurking nearby can be time-consuming and fruitless pursuit. However, one of the benefits of our loose community in the Old Pond Pub is that such an opponent can be found there. Take note of that last sentence as it would later come back to haunt me.

After a brief chat about location, we arranged to meet in Amarr. Vsmit, another Old Pond Pub regular, also wanted in on some combat practice and headed over too. We chose Amarr as it was a trade hub with a plentiful supply of affordable ships and equipment to sacrifice in the name of combat practice. A good time was had by all and I lost a lot of Kestrels to the boringly superior Rifter which the other two pilots favoured.

It was a fun evening and one that gave inspiration to a grander idea: a travelling high-sec Gladiator Circus. It would be fantastic, we could move from mission-hub to mission-hub with an Orca packed with cheaply fitted frigates and invite local missioners and new players to try their hand at some risk-free PvP. We could keep some kind of leaderboard for regulars, run competitions, invite guest stars to fight all-comers. Imagine a one-night-only opportunity to have a shot at your (least?) favourite EVE celebrity.

The idea could evolve from there in a number of directions which I was excited to explore and with the (then) impending learning skill point reimbursement, I could insta-train for Orca piloting and start looking onto getting the scheme going straight alway. I fielded the idea to the good folk in the Old Pond Pub and the feedback was positive. Several pilots seemed quite attracted to the idea of being a celebrity combatant, others saw an opportunity to sell goods alongside the local spike that it would cause. I began to dream of a carnival atmosphere with friendly combat at it's centre. It would be a festival of combat, commerce, recruitment and comedy.

Come Incursion patch day part two, I began my search for the Orca that would be the pivotal centrepiece to the whole enterprise. To my dismay I found that overnight the Orca price in Jita had spiked from around 330million isk to nearly 500m isk. Perhaps the crafty marketeers had predicted increased interest due to the skill point reimbursement.

Unperturbed, I spread my net wider and began scouring nearby regions for a better deal. The best available was for 380m over in CONCORD-controlled high-security space. Oh well, it'd have to do, so I rushed over there, bought it and threw 1.5m of my unassigned skillpoints into being able to jump straight in.

On the journey over, I suddenly realised there was a problem. My route included a single system that was of Gallente sovereignty and they don't like me very much. This wasn't a problem in my Hawk assault frigate as I could breeze straight through before the Faction Navy appeared to give me a hard time, but something as big and slow as an Orca could be in trouble. Any other route would take me through low-sec, which was out of the question in an unescorted Orca.

Gallente space it was then - I needed to find out more about the sort of response I could expect from the Faction Navy forces that would appear. Would they scramble me? How much damage would the responding forces inflict? My enquiries remained unanswered in the Old Pond Pub and I didn't really want to advertise what I was about to attempt in too many other places.

I popped onto Singularity, experimented with a Drake in Gallente high-sec and soon determined that the response would be in the form of four faction vessels who would webify and inflict quite impressive damage but would not scramble. I felt that the Orca could easily withstand the damage in the time it would take to align and warp and the webifying would even help. But just to be on the safe side I would fit an Inertia Stabilizers to assist with the aligning and a Damage Control to boost the effective hitpoints.

Back in New Eden proper and I was prepared to run the gauntlet. I had decided to name the Orca 'The Free Boot', but would rename it on gladiatorial occasions as 'Big Top' to add to that circus feel. I stored my Hawk in the Orca's ship maintenance hangar and proudly headed out on the maiden voyage of the Orca that would bring consensual PvP to the masses.

As I slowly made my way through the six systems leading to the troublesome Gallente system of Synchelle I was feeling quite confident and pleased that I had been so thorough in my planning. I intended to dock in the system preceding the hostile one in order to scout ahead with my Hawk, ensuring there were no other surprises lurking in system.

However, as I came out of warp at the gate into Tar, I noticed a Jaguar assault frigate in my overview marked as a factional warfare target. How could he be here without being attacked by the faction police? Oh hang on, I'm not in Amarr space any more am I. In the space of one stomach lurch, my excitment and confidence was instantly replaced with a sinking realisation peppered with fear and frustration. I jumped and prayed.

My prayers went unanswered as the Jaguar followed me through, locked me and started chipping away at my shields. I attempted to gain some clarity of thought through the cloud of adrenaline that was now making my heart thunder in my chest. I engaged my Damage Control which would effectively double my hull hitpoints and attempted to drift back toward the gate. An Enyo assault frigate appeared and began to assist the Jaguar, which then warped off, presumably to get something capable of more damage.

I sent out a cry for help in the Old Pond Pub channel. There were only two others in there, neither of whom responded. It was then that I noticed that one of the pilots was a factional warfare enemy. How could I have been so stupid? I'd been chatting to all who would listen about my grand plan and my acquisition of an Orca, including a pilot who was undoubtedly feeding information about a juicy target to his FW colleagues. As the old war-time poster said, loose lips sink ships.

To compound my stupidity, it was at this point that I decided that the best survival tactic would be a 'logoffski'. I vainly hoped the enemy wouldn't be able to muster enough firepower to chew through early 180,000 hull hitpoints in fifteen minutes. I walked away from my desk fuming, but after thinking it through for a minute or two, came up with a possible solution. If I could make it to the gate and jump back through, I could then log-off whilst gate-cloaked and would not incur the 15 minute log-off penalty.

Alas, a return to the character selection screen five minutes later showed me to already be in my pod. By not being logged on, I'd negated the use of my Damage Control and halved my EHP. Annoyed with myself, I logged back in to take a look at the lossmail. As I was doing so, I realised too late that the Enyo was still there. I attempted to warp away in my pod but was destroyed, losing my +4 and missioning implants. I felt like facepalming myself until I bled. Instead I pretended to not be too bothered whilst explaining events to the now responsive Greenbeard, then politely logged and inwardly vowed never to play that stupid game again.

It's now five days later, I've had a lot of time to reflect and have had some inspiration for a number of future blogposts. Sadly, as a result of my sulk I missed a Blog Banter, which was a shame as I was looking forward to participating in that. But I reckon that only now can I just about get back in the pod without being too bitter. In fact, if my suspicions about how my Orca was entrapped are true, then all credit to those who had the patience and cunning to pull it off.

On this occasion I was the victim, and although it is only a game, it is this wicked web and the resultant extreme emotional responses that sets EVE apart from other online experiences. However, having had the wind thoroughly knocked out of my sails, I'm not sure if continuing to pursue to the 'Big Top' concept is a worthwhile cause. Any thoughts?

Whatever happens, I'll have to work on speeding up my HTFU cycle. Is there an implant for that?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Extreme(ly Stupid) Missioning: The Kestrel


Following on from my Caracal experiment and in the spirit of finding new and interesting ways to enjoy EVE Online's PvE content, my continued pursuit of foolhardy ship fittings to use in level 4 missions inevitably led me to the Tech 1 frigate.

If I'd had any sense, I'd probably have gone for one of the popular 'high-end' T1 frigates; the Caldari Merlin, the Amarr Punisher, the Gallente Tristan, or the PvP favourite - the ubiquitous Minmatar Rifter. But common sense is outlawed in the bars and clone vats of the Freebooted fraternity, so I used a Kestrel.

My skills favour Caldari in general and missiles specifically, so although the Merlin is more versatile and infinitely more capable at tanking than the Kestrel, using the Merlin wouldn't really be playing to my strengths. Also, this was an opportunity to test the new rocket tweaks and despite not being the top-of-the-line T1 Caldari combat frigate, the Kestrel is actually quite a good little ship. At least that's what I kept telling myself.

So I rolled the dice and asked my local agent for a mission. I got 'Massive Attack', which is no pushover as far as L4 missions go with it's multiple deadspace zones (I dislike the term 'rooms' as much as I avoid the term 'rats' - ironic or not, I play EVE because it's not a fantasy MMO, why make it sound like one?). The biggest issue was going to be my inability to dictate my position relative to enemy ships from the outset. Because of this, my loadout pretty much built itself: maximum speed, maximum damage and to hell with shield tanking. The Kestrel doesn't have the resources for all three anyway.

So off to the mission I warped, with my Tech-II launchers loaded with Thorn Rage rockets to take full advantage of the Kestrel's 10% kinetic damage bonus per level. I'd also brought along some EM missiles in case the Sansha's Nation ship resistances cancelled out the kinetic bonus advantage. The only protection I had was the speed of my microwarp drive making me an impossible target to hit and yes, I had checked to see if MWDs would work in this particular mission.

At least Kuvekei's boys had the good grace to break me in gently with a few frigates and destroyers waiting at the initial acceleration gate. I fired up the MWD with my default orbit set to 'in the face' and I was on them straight away with the Kestrel spitting rockets as fast as it's little launchers could go. The Succubus hulls began to explode in quick succession and I was pleased with the Kestrel's initial performance. However, my jubilance was a little premature as the enemy vessels achieved lock and began to evaporate my shield frighteningly quickly. I had to make a snap decision and broke orbit to put some distance between myself and the remaining enemy ships to allow the shields to recharge.

Arse! This Kestrel fit was aptly named; The Glass Shotgun was indeed made of glass. Despite being able to hit hard, it's fragile shield and armour was going to make surviving this mission a tall order.

The problem laid with my attempts at speed-tanking. Orbiting a target at speeds in excess of 2000m/s was a fairly effective way of preventing the target from hitting me, however my speed relative to the positions of other enemy ships wasn't so consistent. Conducting combat in a cloud of enemies meant that it was inevitable that at some points I would be heading straight toward or directly away from a hostile that was firing on me. This would result in my transversal velocity relative to that hostile being essentially zero for a brief moment. If that was the moment that the hostile fired, I was basically a high-speed sitting duck with a huge signature radius thanks to the MWD.

With my shields recharged, I burned back at the enemy, taking care to pick on the outliers first, pulling out to a safe distance if incoming fire became overwhelming. In that way I successfully whittled them down and cleared the area of hostiles.

I say successful, but I was under no illusions as to what lay on the other side of the acceleration gate that sat ominously before me. I knew that landing in the midst of a sizeable enemy force would result in a fly-versus-windscreen moment for the Kestrel if I attempted to stand and fight.

I recalled how I dealt with the same problem with the Caracal - Sansha's Nation tactics tend toward close range. If I could put some distance between myself and the hostiles, I could pick them off one by one. I needed to be using standard missiles.

I returned to station to refit for the new tactic wherein I intended to pick off the smaller ships at range with missile launchers (Custard Artillery EFT DPS: 137), then dock, refit and return with the higher DPS rocket loadout (Glass Shotgun EFT DPS: 204) to take out the battleships. Simple.

And it almost worked.

It all went to plan in the first deadspace pocket, with successful kiting of the smaller ships clearing the way for the Glass Shotgun configuration to survive the high-speed engagement of battlecruisers. I even tried destroying all of the larger ships with the Custard Artillery, but it was painfully slow.

The tactic worked in the second zone too, but the Centus Overlord battleship nearly caused me to give up as it's armour repair rate all but equalled my DPS. But eventually even he succumbed to the plucky Kestrel's relentless rocket barrage.

Bear in mind that by this time I had been working on this single mission for well over two hours and I still had one final deadspace pocket to go. I was getting tired and just wanted it to be over. In order to speed things up, I decided to forgo returning to station to adopt the Custard Artillery configuration and rashly charged on through the last acceleration gate in the Glass Shotgun.

Here I quickly learned that it was difficult to remain orientated when assorted sized vessels were bearing down on my position from three different directions whilst I endeavoured to spin around in high-speed circles. Kiting was a lot trickier when my effective range was now less than ten kilometres rather than forty.

I eventually managed to lure out and destroy the frigates, but the remaining cruisers huddled together forcing me to take dive-bombing strafing runs then pulling out under fire. A battleship loitered around by an asteroid station and I tried circumnavigating the cruiser pack to kill it, but every time I was forced away by the encroaching cruiser pack.

Suffice to say eventually I paid the price for my haste and a couple of lucky hits were all it took to strip me of my shields and put me well into armour. I attempted to burn away from the incoming fire but another couple of salvoes and the Glass Shotgun was shattered.

So in conclusion, although technically I didn't complete the mission in it's entirety (at least not in a Kestrel) I think I proved that it is possible to complete a level 4 combat mission in a T1 frigate. As long as you are very, very patient.

In the next installment, I'll tell you about the legend of the SSS Stupid: the Combat Mammoth.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Incursion Sweepstake

In the Old Pond Pub in-game channel, we're running a sweepstake on the January release date of the Incursion expansion. It's just a bit of fun and you are invited to join in. The pot is currently up to 72 million isk but there's room for plenty more bets.

The basic rules are as follows:
  • One bet per character.
  • 1m isk increments per bet.
  • Bets may be placed on a single date by multiple characters, but every subsequent bet costs 1m more than the last. For example if Bill has 1m on 15th, it will cost you 2m to bet on the same date.
  • The up-to-date bets will be displayed in the OLD POND PUB channel and at the bottom of this post. Please check there before submitting a bet, as your desired date may require a higher stake than the initial 1m.
  • Bets should be sent to Seismic Stan with date choice in wallet 'reason' or in a mail.
  • CCP's official announcement of a January release date will close betting.
  • The prize pot will be divided equally amongst the winners.
We ran similar competitions for the previous two dates, but both times the prize-pot ended up unclaimed, so we've rolled the prize-pot over again to the January segment and are looking to fill more dates to prevent the same thing from happening.

Come and have a punt. There's plenty of unclaimed dates left and I don't really want to have to organise another competition to get rid of the cash.

January Incursion Release Predictions
(Winning date announced on the Official Incursion website)

Sat 1st - 343guilty1 (1m)
Tue 4th - Indiego Montoya (1m)
Fri 7th - korleena muran (1m)
Sat 8th - haav0c (1m)
Sun 9th - feilx10 (1m)
Mon 10th - Vsmit (1m)
Tue 11th - BobTheExcavator (1m), Adrielle Firewalker (2m)
Wed 12th - Merinne (1m)
Thu 13th - Herschel Yamamoto (1m), Istari Silver (2m)
Fri 14th - Nashh Kadavr (1m)
Sat 15th - Inara Baggins (1m), Aneesa (2m), Agent Smitty (3m)
Sun 16th - Commander Phoenix (1m)
Mon 17th - Mike Azariah (1m), Cyberin (2m)

Tue 18th - DoraTheExploder (1m), wamphyrri (2m), Cossity (3m) <-- WINNERS PAID 24m EACH

Wed 19th - Seismic Stan (1m), Flumer (2m)
Thu 20th - Kasmira Dufay (1m)
Sat 22nd - Teh Bear (1m)
Mon 24th - paritybit (1m)
Tue 25th - Breal D'nie (1m), Shinseki (2m)
Wed 26th - Greenbeard (1m)

CURRENT PRIZE POT: 72,000,000 isk

If this style of competition proves popular, we'll make it a regular feature of Freebooted and the Old Pond Pub channel.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

My Name is Stan and I am an Addict

On Monday in the UK, the BBC's flagship investigative TV show, Panorama, covered video game addiction. I watched it with interest, expecting yet another media-mauling of the digital satan that is online gaming, but I was surprised and pleased that it was a relatively balanced and reasoned piece of journalism.

The show was only thirty minutes long and as such only really skimmed the surface of the issue. Although it's primary focus was on the impact of video gaming amongst young Europeans, there was some coverage of the more sensationalist occurrences in South Korea that have resulted in death which should serve to elicit some knee-jerk reactions from the Daily Mail reading parents. I feel sorry for their kids, who were probably dragged off to the child psychiatrist as the result of asking for an X-Box Kinect for Christmas.

However, the message that I think Panorama was aiming for was one of concern at the hidden and misunderstood nature of addiction to online games. I believe the cause is just and I should know; when I'm not being Seismic Stan, Freebooter, Capsuleer and proud member of the EVE-Online blogging community, I am a thirty-five year-old husband and Healthcare Professional whose primary hobby is playing computer games.

I would freely admit that there are times when I do not get the balance between those two existences right. In fact, this blog came about as a result of me needing to justify, to myself and others, the time I spent playing online and the lack of anything tangible to show for it. The hours spent playing internet spaceships does raise questions, but does all time need to be productive? And who is to say that time spent playing video games is not of some value.

As Panorama mentioned, there are benefits to video-gaming over "passive media", like television. Video games offer forms of mental stimulation, education and hand-to-eye co-ordination that television cannot compete with. So for all those ageing gamers, if a crossword-a-day keeps dementia away, you should be fairly safe from synaptic degradation. Additionally, video games are a valid form of relaxation and stress management and they are also far more sociable now, allowing people to communicate across the globe.

However, anything done to excess is unhealthy; repetitive or excessive exercise can damage joints and tear ligaments, over-eating leads to obesity, too much alcohol leads to alcoholism, too much telly-watching makes you admire Jeremy Kyle/Doctor Phil, etcetera, etcetera.

The point which Panorama flirted with but ultimately side-stepped was that the excessive playing of video games is the symptom rather than the root cause of the problem. There are many factors that contribute to an individual's behaviour and for those seeking the ultimate form of escapism, people have to consider what it is they are trying to escape. Granted, in most cases it's chores/homework/responsibility/inlaws, but behavioural disorders are not created by video games, they are simply magnified by them.

In my case I have to admit I'm a bit of a lazy responsibility-dodger and EVE Online is just the most attractive chore-avoidance tool, but generally I manage my time effectively enough to juggle more than one ball. I have a happy marriage and a rewarding career, so I must be doing something right. Although I am rubbish at EVE Online.

The Panorama programme did seem to focus more on World of Warcraft players (there are more of them after all) and I suspect that the EVE Online demographic is slightly different, however the demands of our chosen digital world are similar and perhaps even a little more insidious.

I'd be interested to hear from you on this subject. How do you feel about your video gaming time? Do you feel you are disciplined with your playing hours or do you let external forces govern you? Or is real-life just getting in the way of your next planned fleet op?

Are you an addict?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

If Only


When I saw the first of these screenshots on the EVE-O forums, I got very excited by the possibility of customisable ships. It seemed like a logical progression from character customisation given the advanced nature of the new technology. A comment in the latest Devblog seemed to support this;

"Then I needed a picking mechanism, something to allow me to click the face, and have it react. It turns out that Eve ships can tell me where they've been clicked, with UV coordinates. That's very handy, since they're in the same rendering framework and the method could easily be "borrowed"." - CCP Ph00ze


The forum scuttlebutt seemed to suggest that this would be part of the promised 'surprise' that would be included in the Incursion expansion. There were cries of controversy when 'Plex Credit' was spotted in the lower left of the following image, but this seemed to add to the credibility of the images being leaked from an official source.


However an official response from a CCP representative was soon forthcoming as CCP Atropos broke ranks to point out apparent technical errors in the first image;

"I'll give it a 4/10. Things that jump out at me are: font, bevelling, fourth image weirdness, engine trail (it would be a point light not a 128x128 texture). Also, because I know what the surprise is!" - CCP Atropos

Alas, if there was any doubt that this was anything more than a hoax by a very talented artist, it was put to bed in hilarious fashion by this last image.


Now that would definitely have attracted a new demographic to EVE.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Extreme(ly Stupid) Missioning: The Caracal


As you may or may not have figured out from the subtext of my previous post, I recently lost my missioning Raven to a random act of stupidity. Rather than replace it or upgrade to a better ship, I thought I would compound my stupidity by attempting to complete level four combat missions in increasingly inappropriate vessels.

This was largely inspired by the recent rocket improvements and the modified Hawk Assault Frigate. I had previously tried to kill NPC battleships in a Hawk but found the damage output to be inadequate to the task. I'm pleased to report that the Hawk is now quite capable of taking down battleships whilst tanking it's way through level four combat missions, although it's quite a slow process. One Centus Overlord in an Amarrian battleship hull was armour-repairing almost as quickly as I was damaging him with salvoes of Gremlin Rage rockets. Whether I was carrying enough ammo fast became the concern.

The eventual success of my Assault Frigate experiment made me wonder what other ships could make level four missions more challenging. I decided I needed to go balls-out and use a tech 1 ship so I opted for a Caracal cruiser. This came with interesting challenges as the Caracal is not exactly renowned for it's tanking ability, something which is pretty key for missioning survival. I realised the key to the Caracal's missioning was range, a bit of a problem when many missions dump you right in the middle of the action.

Sure enough, the first mission I accepted ('Cargo Delivery' I believe) did exactly that and worse still 'natural phenomena' prevented the use of a microwarp drive. With shields instantly stripped and armour evaporating, I had to bail pretty quickly for a rethink. The rate at which I was locked and fired upon by the enemy fleet led me to suspect that cruiser afterburner speeds weren't going to be enough to get me beyond their kill-zone.

Time for some crazy.

So I strapped a battleship afterburner to the Caracal and hoped for the best. A quick speed test outside the station showed it to be just as effective as a cruiser-sized MWD, but with the added benefit of no signature bloom. The major disadvantage was the fact that the monstrous CPU and powergrid demands meant that I couldn't run any weapons systems.

This did not deter me. I plunged back into the mission and screamed away from the beacon under a sky filled with laser fire and missiles. Initial shield impacts failed to be followed up as I sped beyond their optimal ranges and to the safety of a 100km+ orbit. Haha, now I could... well, make rude gestures at them as that was about the limit of my offensive capabilities.

In hindsight, the process of powering down the battleship afterburner and onlining the cruiser equivalent, five missile launchers and a sensor booster would have been much quicker with the installation of a capacitor booster. Oh well. After ten minutes or so I started raining hot missile destruction down on the helplessly distant fleet and the mission, and my experiment, was soon a success.

In the next installment, I'll tell you how my attempts to use a lowly Kestrel frigate to complete a multi-roomed level four combat mission went.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Freebooted Tech Gear Challenge: Caldari Missioning Battleships


INT. TELEVISION STUDIO - DAYTIME

Greenbeard is presenting his regular Tech Gear television show. The cameras are rolling.

GREENBEARD
Hello and welcome to this special edition of the Freebooted Tech Gear Challenge. Our producers received a letter from a pilot asking for some advice. It reads as follows:

Greenbeard produces a clearly fake 'viewers letter' and pretends to read from it.

GREENBEARD
(reading)
Dear Freebooted,
I am a high-sec missioning carebear and a total muppet who can't even hold onto a battleship when fighting NPCs. I recently lost my actively-tanked Raven due to attempting to AFK a mission. However, I have more money than sense and was thinking of upgrading to a Raven Navy Issue or a Golem. Please could you give me some advice.
Yours sincerely, Stanley.

Greenbeard discards the letter and addresses the camera.

GREENBEARD
Well Stanley, despite the fact you are clearly a missile-throwing idiot we thought we'd look into it for you. We got the team together and drew straws on who would fly what. Naturally, I got the state-of-the-art Tech II Marauder, Long Jack took the Raven Navy Issue for a spin and nobody wanted to fly the Raven because it's shit, so we made new girl Kasmira Dufay do it.

Here's how it went.

CUT TO:

INT. VAST SPACE STATION HANGAR

Stationary Caldari battleships loom in the background being refitted by work-crews and drones. An annoyed Greenbeard, unaware that the cameras are rolling, is repeatedly kicking a mechanic. Long Jack stands nearby smirking and Kasmira Dufay maintains a dignified distance from them both.


GREENBEARD (shouting)
I don't care if I don't have the skills to fly these Caldari shit-buckets, how hard can it be? Just bloody make it happen.

Greenbeard realises the cameras are rolling, so he kicks the mechanic out of shot and addresses the camera.

GREENBEARD
Ahem. Well, due to some slight technical difficulties, it seems that field testing some of the ships in question is going to be more tricky than initially thought, so we'll go back to the studio and do some theorycrafting with our technical boffins instead.

Greenbeard notices the floored mechanic start to crawl away.

GREENBEARD
No, not you, I haven't finished with you yet.

Greenbeard pursues the mechanic out of shot. Long Jack unholsters his pistol and winks at the camera before following Greenbeard. Kasmira Dufay attempts to look professional and unphased.

FADE TO BLACK. SOUND OF GUNSHOT.


CUT TO:


INT. TELEVISION STUDIO - DAYTIME

Greenbeard is interviewing a nervous looking technician in front of a giant video screen showing graphs and statistics relevant to the topic of discussion.

GREENBEARD
This is Derek. At least that's what I've decided he's called. His name was something in Gallente but I just don't have enough phlegm in my throat to say anything in that ridiculous language, so Derek it is.

Derek is our expert on the graphs and dull facts that I am told are an important part of putting together a good missioning ship. He is now going to astound you with the science of hiding vast distances from your opponent whilst languidly throwing missiles at them. Take it away Derek.

DEREK (starting nervously)
This is a quick comparison of the Raven, Raven Navy Issue and the Golem in their performance of soloing high-security missions. It is worth noting that all three ships, correctly fitted, are more than adequate for the task. This is simply an examination of their differences.

GREENBEARD (looking at the display)
They don't look any different. They are in fact all equally, hideously ugly.

DEREK
This is true, the cosmetic differences are only very slight. There are however, significant differences in performance and price.

GREENBEARD
Yes, the more you pay, the shitter the colour scheme.

DEREK
Indeed. Firstly, in terms of price, the Raven caters for the budget end of the market and is available in all trade hubs for around 70 million isk, which is pretty reasonable for a basic tier-2 battleship.

The Raven Navy Issue is currently unavailable on the open market and can only be purchased by contract, although I believe this may soon be changing. Of the auctions that I saw, most buyout prices are around the 600 million mark, although one recently sold for 517 million.

The price of a Golem ranges from 550 million to 600 million in most high-sec trade hubs.

GREENBEARD
Hang on, that's ridiculous! The Tech Two Marauder is exactly the same price as a slightly souped-up tech one variant? I mean, I can appreciate that not many people would want to pay top dollar for the tech two version of an already ugly battleship that has been painted in a fetching shade of raw sewage and had it's go-faster stripe put on sideways, but still...

DEREK
Well I believe a lot of that may be to do with the demand. The skills required to fly a Golem are significantly higher than to fly the Navy Issue. If you can fly a normal Raven and you're looking for an upgrade, you can already jump straight into the Navy Issue, whereas a significant investment of time is required to access Marauders. It's market forces.

GREENBEARD
Bah! So the basic Raven is already ahead by virtue of being affordably priced. I suppose the question we need to ask is, are either of the expensive ships worth the money?

DEREK
Well the first thing we looked at was the tank. Being Caldari vessels, all three ships are shield tankers. At first glance, the Navy Issue appears the most solid, with base hitpoints to shield, armour and structure significantly outstripping the other two. The Navy Issue starts with an impressive 31,172hp to the Golem's 22,800 and the Raven's 20,782, unfitted.

GREENBEARD
So that's one-nil to the faction vessel over the marauder, meaning that the Raven and the Navy Issue are level-pegging with a point each.

DEREK
So it would seem, however we need to bear in mind at this point that we are not taking into account key factors like improved tech two damage resistances and ship specific bonuses.

GREENBEARD
Are there any that will make much of a difference?

DEREK
Yes. Significantly, the Golem benefits from a 7.5% bonus to shield boost amount per level of the pilot's Marauder skill. So we fitted all three vessels with an active tank to see how the figures stacked up. Our test pilot had good but not perfect fitting skills so it would be possible to improve upon these figures.

GREENBEARD
And?

DEREK
Our aim was to build a capacitor-stable permanently running active tank using tech 2 modules. Where possible, we fitted identically, however we adapted to the slot variations given that the Golem had one fewer low-slots and one additional medium slot and...

GREENBEARD (impatiently)
Blah, blah, module, toaster, gubbins-in-the-wotsits, whatever. What was the the result?

DEREK
Well, the Raven and the Navy Issue were identical with the ability to 'perma-tank' 346 hit-points of damage per second. But the Golem was capable of withstanding an impressive 636hp DPS.

GREENBEARD
So the Golem redeems itself and draws level with the other two with the score at one a-piece. So they're all off the starting blocks. Which is surprising given that they are all built like starting blocks.

DEREK
Although the basic Raven's shield tank is not without it's redeeming qualities. As our viewer 'Stanley' lost his ship by not maintaining his Raven's active tank, we thought we'd look at a low-maintenance passive tanking option for him.

GREENBEARD
Right, an idiot-proof "lol-fit". Interesting, how did that go?

DEREK
The results were surprising. Due to a slightly better basic shield recharge rate, the standard Raven was passively tanking 321 DPS to the Navy Issue's 295 and the Golem's 289 DPS. So the Raven's ability to passively tank is almost as good as it's active perma-tank.

GREENBEARD
Well there you go. If you are a complete idiot and sometimes gets lost at your own keyboard then it is possible to fit your missioning Raven with the equivalent of safety padding and guard rails.

So looking at the scores, that means the plucky little Raven has clawed itself ahead of the big boys by a point.

Now we've looked at survivability, what about the all-important destruction. How well do these ships make other ships blow up?

DEREK
We looked at this from two perspectives, the first being fitting for maximum damage output with no concern for range, the second variation was to go for an effective 'sniper-fit' with a view to optimising damage as much as possible. It is important to bear in mind that we did not concern ourselves with any kind of tank for this test.

GREENBEARD
Yes, I think now would be a good time to point out to the viewers at home that the Caldari combat mentality is to hit your opponent without him being able to hit back. This is generally achieved either through the filthy use of ECM or by hiding on the other side of the galaxy whilst throwing things in the general direction of the enemy. Many would say that Caldari combat is 'fighting in easy mode'.

DEREK
Yes, well, be that as it may, in our first test we fitted as many Ballistic Control System IIs and Siege Missile Launcher IIs using Tech II ammunition as we could to each ship, gave them each a full flight of Hammerhead IIs and fitted whatever the optimum damage-inducing rigs were.

Both the Raven and the Navy Issue have identical damage-related bonuses in a 5% increase to rate-of-fire per Battleship skill level. The Raven can fit six launchers and the Navy Issue has seven hardpoints. The Golem is slightly different in that it gets a 100% bonus to torpedo and missile damage which offsets the fact that it can only has four launcher hardpoints, giving it the equivalent of eight launchers.

GREENBEARD
So? Which is best? Which one gives you the biggest, most impressive 'explosifactionisation'?

DEREK
With an effective range of 27 kilometres, going by damage-per-second, the Raven Navy Issue was the most effective with a DPS of 1453. More surprising was that the Raven beat the Golem with a DPS of 1270 to 1262.

GREENBEARD
Well, there's an upset. That's a point for the Navy Issue and I think I'll award the Raven one for outgunning the Golem...Hang on, a voice in my ear says I can't do that. Oh, who gives a crap about the integrity of the show, it's not like anyone's actually watching. If I was still CEO I wouldn't have to do this stupid...

DEREK
...erm...Well the second test pretty much yielded the same results as the first, with Cruise Missile Launchers replacing the Sieges and Sensor Boosters being used to increase targeting range to match the uniform effective missile ranges of 227.8 kilometres. The Navy Issue DPS was 842 to the Raven's 745 and the Golem's 741.

GREENBEARD (regaining his composure)
So we're starting to see how the Raven Navy Issue's price can be justified against the Golem's.

DEREK
Well, in part, yes, but that's not the full story. There are additional benefits to the Golem that make it more suited to the dedicated task of missions. It's 10% bonus to missile and torpedo velocity and 5% bonus to explosion velocity per level make it more effective against faster targets and the Marauder skill bonus of 7.5% increase in target painter effectiveness per level makes damaging small targets much easier. This coupled with drones would mean that nothing in the mission will last for very long irrespective of ship class, size or speed. On top of that, the 100% bonus to the range and velocity of tractor beams and a cargohold twice the size of the other vessels' enables the golem to make short work of any mission.

In short, they can all do it, but on balance, the Golem will probably do it quicker.

GREENBEARD
Okay, so that about wraps up our 'carebear' special. Thank you to our resident boffin, 'Derek'.

What have we learned? Well, the basic Raven stands up surprisingly well against it's bigger brothers, but if you've got more money than sense, buy a Raven Navy Issue. If you've got the patience to learn the skills, you have pots of cash and sense is still in short supply, buy a Golem. Although if money is still no object but you do have a modicum of sense and all you are ever going to do is mission whilst occasionally being absent-minded, buy a Rattlesnake: it has a passive tank that can stop planets and does enough DPS with it's drones that you can pop to the shops whilst they clear out the mission for you.

And on that bombshell, I've got to go talk Long Jack out of making a skincoat out of dead mechanics. Good night.

ROLL CREDITS



[More like this: Tech Gear Challenge New year Special - The Legend of SSS Stupid]

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Trouble with Clones


How do clones work?

Well clearly the concept is a simple one, but maybe not some of the EVE fiction written around it.
A genetic duplicate is constructed and stored in some way until it needs to be "activated".

Memories are transferred at some point so when activated it is a duplicate of the original (minus any physical wear and tear the original had suffered e.g scarring, injuries etc.).
So delving further in, lets think about the technologies required:
  • Human cloning (to a large degree already possible, though not at the accelerated growth rate clearly required).
  • Reading, copying and impressing memory (we are still in the realms of sci-fi here, at least for the moment).
  • Assorted other technologies that are not the focus of this article and don't create too big an issue, such as data transfer over distance (clone activation and memory transferral) and clone storage (conciousness suppression and life support).
So the issue starts to appear when we give some thought regarding to the fiction around it and the game mechanics. Apparently you can have only one clone active at a time (although one EVE novel had someone who could control multiple active clones. Apparently they didn't last long and caused mentral strain to the controller).

Why?


It's a copy, it's not linked in anyway to any central controller or other clones. A genetic copy with the up-to-date memories imprinted on it.

This is when other thoughts start to appear, it's not the same life-form as its predecessor and even if you believe in a soul (which I don't), clearly there's no way our technology is linked with such spiritual concepts. One life form dies, another, or potentially any number of duplicates, begins.

So what if it was linked to some central digital consciousness contoller, controlling a host of automatons but only capable of keeping one active at any time? Again, why would it need to be centralised? Memory space? Surely the clone doesn't constantly access a central memory bank just to work, it's a stand alone replica.


If it did however, the a central digital device would surely be capable of maintaining many active clones at once, also not forgetting that if that were the case then humans wouldn't be necessary at all, other than being drones of centralised computing functions.

So we have to return to sentient, fully autonomous, genetic duplicates. Why aren't there loads of copies wandering around in New Eden? Only if humanity purposely did not allow copies, but unless it was uniformly adhered to by all, which sounds improbable, this would rapidly be forgotten in an arms race of mass clone production.

Further thoughts to explore:


Do capsuleers age? Surely not, they can pick the age of their next clone and memory transfer away. If so, never dying, sanity, sociopathic tendencies and total memory storage capable by the unassisted human brain start becoming interesting topics of their own.

I know it's sci-fi and good fiction relies on suspension of disbelief, but the thing about sci-fi is, its a window into potential futures and where our technology will take us. In short sci-fi by it's very nature is often thought-provoking fiction.

It's not important, but once I started thinking about it, it had holes in it and it niggled me :-)


By Greenbeard

Monday, 8 November 2010

Writing is Hard Work

Late last month I discovered the National Novel Writing Month. Being one of those wannabe writer types who had recently found a rewarding outlet through blogging, I thought 'how hard can it be?'. 1,667 words per day, that's shorter than some of my blog articles. Easy.

Being new to this 'NaNoWriMo' thing I went in blind but, after seeing the way the NaNoWriMo website is designed, soon came to realise that part of the fun was in having fellow would-be-novelists to share encouragement with and provide a little friendly competition and motivation. Through the legendary communication hub that is the Tweetfleet, I found other EVE players who were also intending to participate. After all it was, for me at least, CCP_Fallout who had planted the seed in that very Twitter group.

I added all the Tweetfleeters I could find to my little gang of writers and off we all set on November 1st to pen our masterpieces. I don't know if the others had a clearer idea of the undertaking at hand, but according to the little word-count progress bars that every participant has, some of them clearly had the good sense to put down their quills and walk away before the starting pistol fired. Surely, it can't be that much of a challenge if you've got a general story idea in your head.

Oh no, my friends. Oh. No.

How over-confident was I? Those who chose not to start have cleverly avoided a listless month of too much caffeine, word blindness and broken sleep patterns. Unless you've got kids, in which case it's probably business as usual.

Personally, I'm finding it quite challenging to keep up with the average word requirement. When I say 'challenging', I mean, I'm just not. Well, not quite. I made great progress today (day 8) and managed to make up my steadily rising deficit with nearly 5,000 words in one day. But I'm drained now.

@Jaggedrain, writing as ArcanaMortis, has apparently given up on her 10,000 currently written words of EVE fiction and has started again with a zombie story. It sounds like NaNoWriMo suicide, but she did fire off over 4000 words in the first day so maybe she can pull it off.

Keith Neilson/Mandrill has made a start with 1,819 words, his story, 'Ashes to Dust' has an intriguing premise that reads like Nikita/The Manchurian Candidate set in New Eden (although I've got images of LeeLoo from the Fifth Element too). Unfortunately work seems to have petered out with a projected finish date of June 2011. What with CCP being very quiet too, it makes me wonder if the volcano has erupted and wiped everybody out over in Iceland.

Garheade did 200 words of his 'Finding New Eden' story about the fall of the EVE-gate several days ago, but we've seen nothing more since. I suspect he's been distracted by his EVE Commune podcast project. Congratulations on the four episodes so far. I especially recommend listening to the second discussion topic in episode 1. But what about the fiction?!

I tip my hat to CCP_Fallout who has led the pack throughout, steadily maintaining a daily word output and meeting target. Fallout's story is non-EVE fiction, a Cold War thriller called 'Project Delta'. But given the current total of 14,396 words written, there's not much info to go on. Very secretive.

As for myself, I'm just shy of 13,000 words at the moment, but that was only after a marathon day today which has brought me within shouting distance of being back on target. If only I hadn't stopped to write this blog, I'd be on even more.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

NaNoWriMo is Go

About a week ago on Twitter, CCP Fallout mentioned something called NaNoWriMo, asking if any of the Tweetfleet were participating. At that time, I had no idea what this meant so I consulted the great god Google, discovered National Novel Writing Month and my interest was piqued.

NaNoWriMo is a clever initiative designed to encourage would-be novel writers to get over their fears and actually write. There are no real prizes for 'winning' beyond the satisfaction of knowing that you've successfully written a novel.

To cut a long story short (there's a pun there somewhere), I'm going to attempt to churn out the required 50,000 words or more by the end of November. I signed onto the NaNoWriMo website as Seismic Stan as I originally intended to write an EVE-related story, but that has been put on the back-burner in favour of a different idea.

Despite the non-EVE theme, I thought it would be worth mentioning here for two reasons. Firstly, to give advance warning that Freebooted blogposts might be a bit thin on the ground in November as the novel will require an average 1,667 words per day. Secondly, because I could always do with more support and encouragement. So if you enjoyed any of my previous EVE-inspired short stories here on Freebooted ('Meat Salvage', 'Bastard!', 'The Final Blow' and 'Social Clones'), please support/heckle me throughout November on Seismic Stan's NaNoWriMo page.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 29 October 2010

BB22: Loyalty, Trust and Shameless Recruitment

Welcome to the twenty-second installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month topic is brought to us by L'Dene Bean of Nitpickin's who asks: Why, and how did you pick your corporation? Is your loyalty solid or just until a better placed organization "recruits" you. The shorter version: Who holds your Unshakable Fealty and why?


I am proud to say that my loyalty to Greenbeard's Freebooters is nearly seven-and-a-half years strong.

For pretty much the entirety of the existence of EVE Online, Seismic Stan has been a member (and currently CEO) of Greenbeard's Freebooters. It's become a badge of honour as I would imagine it's fairly rare to see a character in-game so old with only a single corporate affiliation. On a related note, Greenbeard himself has exhibited significantly less devotion to his own organisation, which is why his official title has for a long time been 'scurvy turncoat'.

Undoubtedly, it has on occasion become restrictive. There have been times when I have been tempted by other offers and the final decision has come down to my unwillingness to ruin my unbroken streak. You may think such blind loyalty is stupid, and to an extent you're probably right, but there is one simple reason for my unswerving fealty.

Trust.

In a game whose developers appear to delight in coaxing the darkest and most sociopathic deeds from it's playerbase in an environment that actively encourages duplicity, deception and theft, creating an island of trust is priceless. Greenbeard's Freebooters is a corporation comprising only real-life friends of over two-decades and this creates a fundamental bond of trust that protects us from and trivialises any EVE-based maliciousness.

For a time though, it wasn't always that way. Greenbeard's Freebooters was originally created in 2003 as an 'alt-corp'. The corporation's primary purpose was to allow players from a number of allied corporations (anyone still out there from Arachnid Industries, Blackstar Mining or Beyond Worlds?), to occasionally do shady things with backup characters without any detriment to our mains (with whom we'd be busy mining, manufacturing, missioning and all other things carebear). I have faint memories of assorted griefing and harassment activities that took place with varying degrees of success.

However as time progressed and players came and went, our taste in play-styles shifted. With every expansion New Eden evolved, rules changed, alliances rose and fell, agreements were forgotten and somewhere along the way our alts became our mains. It was never really by design, but only those of us who knew each other in real-life remained. After a period of inactivity we returned to New Eden and it turned out that playing the roles of a rag-tag bunch of ne'er-do-well space bums was just far more fun than dull rock-mining industrialists.

We've stumbled along quite happily ever since, the only flaw with our insular little EVE bubble is just that, it's a little insular. Which is nice for the most part, but EVE is a social game where numbers count so sometimes it's good to have some friends. We've attempted to remedy this on a couple of occasions by joining alliances, but for reasons documented elsewhere on this blog, it's never quite worked out for us.

So we're going to try a different tack and attempt to expand Greenbeard's Freebooters, throwing open the doors of active recruitment for the first time in over half a decade. We'll be looking for just a few folk who don't take their EVE gaming too seriously, aren't easily offended and think that they could fit in with the Freebooters. We have just rejoined Factional Warfare under the Amarrian flag and as we're UK-based, our EVE prime-time is 1900-2300 EVEtime, which would be the most likely time we'd get a squad together.

If you think you fit the bill, drop into the OLD POND PUB channel for more details. Feel free to chat to the folks in there. Most of them won't be any help, but they're quite funny.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Social Clones


"Aha! I can feel the problem."

The CloneTech engineer was squatting with his arm plunged up to the shoulder into an access valve in a thick plasteel pipe, "Unprocessed biomass material blocking the filter." He was staring into the middle distance as he spoke, concentrating on the movement of his unseen fingers, but his words were presumably for the benefit of the trainee engineer standing awkwardly nearby.

"Ya see," continued the elder man, "you can stare at diagnostic readouts and quote optimum mixture ratios all day..." There was a throaty gurgle as fluid drained from somewhere to somewhere else within the dark chamber of metal cylinders and interconnecting pipes. "But sometimes there's no substitute for getting your hands dirty."

He withdrew his arm from the pipe with a squelch, stood triumphantly and handed something to his subordinate. The trainee took it without thinking and instantly regretted it. He looked down at the cold, wet mass in his hand: matted hair, rotting fatty tissue, bone fragments and ... was that an eyeball? He gagged as he poured the grue into a nearby bucket. The engineer continued,

"Not been serviced for months. That's the problem with these budget-end clone-formers. The capsuleers buy em in for their entertainment industry then just expect it all to work indefinitely."

He idly cleaned biomass slime from his arm as he stared around at the dizzying network of tubes and vats surrounding them. "They operate on the principle of reusable biomass but sometimes bits clot quicker than the anticoag filters can deal with." He tossed his dirty rag into the junior engineer's bucket. "Now close that access port and purge the system through."

As the apprentice followed his instructions and entered the appropriate commands into the portable control terminal, he offered a query;

"What I don't get Guv, is that this cloning array is property of a corporation of five capsuleers. But the logs show they are outputting over fifty clones per week. Are they committing suicide after every meal or something?"

There was a hiss and rumble as machinery juddered to life and the purging process began.

"Don't be simple, boy." the senior man mocked, "They not teach you anything at Tech School anymore? These are just 'social' clones."

The younger man looked blank. "Social clones?"

"Yeah. These are far lower quality than the actual clones that capsuleers spend most of their lives in. They've got lots of limitations, like range and lifespan. They just use these as extensions so they can effectively be in more than one place."

The trainee frowned, struggling with the concept. His mentor sighed and tried to explain again.

"Right, well you know that capsuleers use state-of-the-art cloning technology to enable them to survive the unsurvivable, don't you? Good. And that when they're controlling their ships from their pods, they do it with their minds? Okay."

"Well whilst they're doing all that they also have sophisticated ways of contacting each other. Sometimes they are physically in their pods for weeks or months, so they've devised a way of mentally stretching their legs and socialising. They have 'channels' that they meet up in to plan and discuss, or sometimes just to relax."

"You mean like a meeting room or a bar?"

"Exactly. But the clever thing is, they are still really in their pod, somewhere out in space, whilst at the same time, part of their consciousness is also controlling their social clone sitting having a beer and a chat."

"But surely that's dangerous. Their minds are controlling a battleship in combat whilst they're also drinking in a bar? That's just ridiculous."

"Oh I agree, but it happens. It's weird to see too. I've watched a capsuleer in a bar go from being all animated and talkative to suddenly shutting down, dead behind the eyes, cos the main consciousness is needed elsewhere in some space battle or maybe in another channel. They can run multiple social clones in theory."

"Why don't they just talk to each other over subspace comms like normal people?"

"Well I'm sure they do that too, for fleet operations and stuff, but ya gotta remember, money is no object to them. Your year's salary in the currency of your home planet is probably less than one of their Interstellar Kredits." the engineer casually inspected a noisy pump as he spoke, before clubbing it into silent operation with a large wrench, "Besides, the social clone is just the bells-and-whistles option. Some podders stick to more basic holographic simulations, virtual reality client interfaces or even just a basic text interface. It's down to their personal preference. But most 'channels' provide an actual physical location to be populated and they have sophisticated wetware integration suites to allow every type of connection to link together."

"So you're saying the reason that this cloning facility is being pushed over capacity is because the capsuleer friends of this corporation might be flying a ship on the other side of the galaxy and just decide to pop in for a quick chat in a social clone which is then biomassed as soon as they're done with it?"

A series of amber lights on the terminal display suddenly blinked green as the purge cycle ended and the biomass recycling chamber returned to optimum functionality.

"Exactly. One minute they're discussing interplanetary politics, the next minute their big toe is in your bucket. It's a funny old world, eh? Shall we go to lunch?"

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Three Step Guide to Replacing Capsuleer Headlines

If you a reading this via Capsuleer on your iPhone, then this article is for you. Please read on.

As you're probably aware, the developers of Capsuleer will be shutting down their servers on 17th October, meaning that the headline pages will no longer be updated. I'm sure I speak for every writer in the Blog Pack when I say that we value your readership and we hope that you'll stick with us by other means. Some readers may already have other ways of accessing their favourite EVE blogs, but if Capsuleer was your only point of contact, don't worry. There is another way.

I've been researching iPhone alternatives based on the principle that you'll be wanting a replacement service that is as similar as possible to Capsuleer's Headlines function. So it needs to be free, convenient and simple. The hard truth is that it's not going to be as quite simple as Capsuleer to set up and there will be a bit of effort required on your part. However your efforts will be rewarded, because with just a smidge of admin work you could revolutionise your EVE reading habits forever.

The benefit of being released from the gentle restraints of Capsuleer's Headlines means that we are free to discover the myriad of other EVE blogs that are out there. The Blog Pack barely scratches the surface and I'm personally looking forward to exploring the 500+ other EVE blogs that I can now easily access from my iPhone.

Step 1 - Google Reader

Before you rush off to the app store, there is one unavoidable bit of maintenance that is needed. It seems that having a Google account is a requirement for pretty much every iPhone blog-reading app, as they all rely on Google Reader to manage your blog subscriptions (RSS Runner does allow for direct 'OPML' inputs, but it was really unintuitive and I found managing my blog-feeds via Google Reader to be much less frustrating).

If you haven't already got a Google account, it's totally painless and takes only seconds to register. Go here to set up an account now.

Step 2 - Manage Your Subscriptions

Once you're logged into your Google Reader account, you'll want to add some subscriptions. If you just want to stick with Crazy Kinux's Blog Pack, click here, however you can add the whole kit-and-caboodle of currently (October 2010) active EVE blogs, courtesy of Keith Neilson, by clicking here. CCP News and forum feeds can be added by clicking here.

I'm sure some enterprising individual will enjoy bundling them into themed packs to make them more manageable, but that is beyond the remit of this post. I'm sure there's a way to organise them through either Google Reader or your chosen iPhone app. I'm just opening the door; it is you, gentle reader, that must step through it.

Step 3 - Download an Appropriate App.

There are a number of free apps that I've looked at and although I have yet to determine the pros and cons of each, you could try FeeddlerRSS, MobileRSS, NetNewsWire and RSS Runner. They all provide similar functions and I suspect the difference will be down to personal taste. Your chosen iPhone RSS reader will have a function allowing you to access your Google account, where it will automatically use your Google Reader subscription data to download all those delicious blogs to your iPhone.

That's it. Welcome to your new, fully customisable EVE Online Headlines app.

Useful links:

The Blogs of EVE Online (OPML bundles)
OPML Builder

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Final Score: AWA vs WACK0

Following the previous post regarding the our brief membership of the Art of War alliance and their war with the Clinically Insane Carebears corporation, I received word that the conflict was imminently coming to an end. I was interested in finding out how things had transpired. I managed to catch up with Art of War Executor Alexia Morgan in the EVE-BLOGGERS channel.

Seismic Stan: Huzzah.
Alexia Morgan: o/
Seismic Stan: Aah, Alex. Apologies if the tone of my blogpost seemed bitter toward you. That isn't the case.
Alexia Morgan: it's ok :)
Seismic Stan: Cool.
Alexia Morgan: Are you joining the alliance again?
Mike Azariah: o/
Seismic Stan: Dunno. I don't know that the others are all that keen.
Alexia Morgan: hi MA
Mike Azariah: Heyas AM
Seismic Stan: Wotcha Mike
Mike Azariah: You approve Jiorj yet?
Alexia Morgan: You know, a spy corp would say "Yeh, I was interested before the war, but now I'm not so interested..."
Alexia Morgan grins
Seismic Stan: lol
Seismic Stan: Bastid.
Seismic Stan: I'm doomed.
Alexia Morgan: yep ;)
Seismic Stan: So now the war is over, how did it all pan out? Were there any good engagements? Can you discuss it here?
Alexia Morgan: The war was public, and the results so far are here [OUCH/AWA campaign killboard].
Alexia Morgan: the war ends in about 12-13 hours
Seismic Stan: A close-run thing then.
Alexia Morgan: We're within 70 million ISK of them. Considering we killed some of their T2 ships, and we're relatively even in kills/losses, and their 10 week war was ended within 2 weeks, would it be wrong of me to think we won? :)
Alexia Morgan: Also, every day of the war leading up to you and the other corp being kicked out, the enemy CEO gloated about his spies in the alliance. As soon as I got rid of the corps I had suspicions about, the gloating stopped.
Seismic Stan: That's something. The gloating was annoying me. Very much "hey look how clever we are.", when it really wasn't.
Mike Azariah: The only reason to brag about intelligence is when you haven't got any.
Seismic Stan: I agree Mike, which was the point I made just before we got shown the door.
Mike Azariah: But you always have to see it from the [perspective of the] person holding the door, as well.
Seismic Stan: It does indeed look like you played it right.
Mike Azariah: If you are leaking intel, you leak stopped. [?]
Alexia Morgan: yeh
Seismic Stan: Like I said at the time and in my post, I totally understood the decision and the results entirely vindicate you. But it was still a bit of a disappointment for us.
Seismic Stan: Especially as we were innocent.
Seismic Stan: So it just felt a bit injust. Bigger picture aside.
Seismic Stan: But bruised egos heal.
Alexia Morgan: I'm sorry your ego was bruised.
Alexia Morgan: would you like me to deliver a toolbox to you?
Seismic Stan: Don't worry, it's a big ego. It can take some bruising.
Seismic Stan: I think I'll email Doxana and Dead Ratt to see if I can provoke some kind of response.
Seismic Stan: Given my neutral position, the public have a right to know. :)
Alexia Morgan: You're going to too much effort.
Seismic Stan: You think? How so?
Alexia Morgan: Your involvement was peripheral, but you're making it a huge thing.
Alexia Morgan: And you spend a great deal of time and effort in trying to convince everyone you weren't a spy.
Alexia Morgan: Get my drift?
Seismic Stan: From your perspective perhaps. Whether I was/am considered a spy is of no consequence to me [any more]. My first priority is to the blog. If I can squeeze an interesting story out of an event, I will.
Alexia Morgan: :)
Seismic Stan: I can only talk about the aspects that I was involved in, so of course it's going to be biased toward my perspective. Unless you care to offer another perspective?
Alexia Morgan: I've already given you my perspective in the statements I've made in the past 5-10 mins.
Alexia Morgan: :)
Seismic Stan: True.
Seismic Stan: Would you mind if I used some of it in a follow-up post?
Alexia Morgan: go for it
Seismic Stan: Cheers.

So there it is, an impromptu interview from the questionably victorious executor of Art of War, Alexia Morgan. Despite Alex's concerns I did e-mail Doxana and it really wasn't that much effort. This was the response:

Greetings,

Regretfully our contractor did not fullfill an extension payment for the war on time so we retracted the declaration of war. The war itself was fairly uneventful. A few small skirmishes at best. As far as breaches in security and spies go, they are a common occurance in EVE and should be utilized in every avaliable situation. I do have to give a bit of credit to some of our counterparts though. They did try to put up a little defense and that says a lot. Until the next time out paths cross should the need ever arise fly free...

Dox

Here is the Clinically Insane Carebears campaign killboard, for reference.

It seems that the 'at-a-glance' method of determining victory is by comparing the value of ships lost to ships killed. It is interesting to note the difference in recorded values between the killboards of the two organisations. Art of War's statistics makes it 492.88M isk (14 ships) destroyed to 537.38M isk (16 ships) lost, making the Carebears victors by a narrow margin of 44.5 million isk. Whereas the Carebears have it at 396.73M isk (14 ships) lost to 747.87M isk (20 ships) destroyed, a much more flattering victory margin of 351.14 million isk.

The two killboards agree on the number of Carebear vessels destroyed, but not on their value, and much of the remaining disparity comes from the Carebears crafty inclusion of losses sustained by Arctic Prestige, the other corporation ejected from Art of War under suspicion of espionage (you know, the ones that actually did the spying).

In any case, it seems that despite the events leading up to the war, the combatants have all come away from the engagement fairly satisfied.

EVE really is a strange place and it's denizens even stranger.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Art of War: A Week of Deceit

Alliances do not seem to agree with us at Greenbeard's Freebooters, as we've just managed to smash our previous record of shortest-tenure-in-an-alliance-through-no-choice-of-our-own. The Gods of the Void have decided the Freebooters are once again to forge their way alone in New Eden. Here's how it happened:

Being residents of low-security space, we quite like the idea of a bit of PvP from time to time. But being a small corporation of four active pilots, we would often find ourselves facing overwhelming numbers. So we decided joining an alliance might give us the opportunity to engage in some small fleet combat more regularly.

It fell to me to research our options with the following basic criteria;
  • We would like to be able to participate in an active community in a variety of fleet operations, particularly PvP.
  • We would maintain the integrity of Greenbeard's Freebooters and would not be asked to merge with another corp.
  • We would not have to move our HQ and Industrial interests from the Derelik region.
With his in mind, there were several options that were attractive, although corporation size tended to be a bit of a sticking point with the more established alliances. However, one particular alliance stood out.

Art of War had sprung up around Black Claw's Open University of Celestial Hardship training corporation. They comprised a number of small corporations, the whole concept of the alliance was PvP-focused and they operated five jumps from our home system. It was perfect. One brief chat later and our application was in.

After that began our slow descent into mistrust, deceit and betrayal. Read on and decide for yourself:

Day 1 - Giving the Wrong Impression

Our first day of membership saw me attempting to encourage my new alliance colleagues to assist me with a potentially profitable low-sec exploration site, but my candour was misinterpreted as a possible scam and the help I sought was not offered. I covered this incident in more detail in the blogpost 'Who's Running the Asylum'.

Day 2 - Moving in

In an effort to foster some kind of bond with our new alliance colleagues, I spent some time trying in vain to find any kind of fleet or activity to participate in. Nothing seemed to be happening so instead I focused on moving a variety of PvP-fit ships over to a more usefully-located system for future involvement in alliance operations.

I was concerned I was going to look like a bit of a lemon when the other Freebooters came online to find nothing but tumbleweed and dust-devils where there should be a thriving alliance community. Joining was my decision, after all.

Day 3 - The Meet & Greet Fleet

I had arranged to meet the other Freebooters online in the evening so I spent the afternoon attempting to gather interest in some kind of alliance activity. It soon became clear that I needed to take the bull by the horns and set up a Meet & Greet fleet, where myself (flying a Blackbird), Greenbeard (Rupture) and Long Jack (in an overweight Punisher with the agility of a battleship) planned to take a tour of the systems frequented by Art of War in an effort to fly with some of our new alliance colleagues.

Things seemed to be looking up when we were joined by nightshadow25 (in a Thrasher), HoboHansi (Rifter), Dead Ratt (Rifter) and Samuel Hudson (Rifter). I had hoped one of the alliance veterans might take command of the fleet, but sadly no-one was available, so it was down to my inexperienced FCing abilities.

Greenbeard left the fleet a short time later as one of the younger and over-enthusiastic OUCH pilots was becoming increasingly annoying on comms. Greenbeard has many good qualities, but he can't abide any more idiots than the ones he's already stuck with, so he took the diplomatic and less torturous option of spending the evening stroking his face with a cheese-grater.

Due to the fragile nature of our ships, the remainder of us were restricted to trawling the belts for possible combat opportunities, but for over an hour we failed to find a single target of opportunity in numerous systems. When we arrived in Irshah, the Local channel was fairly well populated, so potential targets were surely available.

Dead Ratt, who seemed quite experienced and knowledgable, suggested sending frigates out to scout. I agreed and off they went. Within a (very) short time, Dead Ratt discovered a Maller in a belt in Irshah. I held the squad at a safe-spot until Dead Ratt confirmed tackle, which seemed to take a long time (something about having to close a 50km gap), then we warped in.

The Maller had a very good armour tank and our combined DPS was looking insufficient to the task when suddenly a host of reds (Blackbird x2, Stabber, Thrasher x3, Rifter x2, Kestrel) warped in to support him. Realising it was a trap I attempted to warp the fleet away to safety but unfortunately some of our pilots were already scrambled.

We lost all three of our Rifters, but the rest of us were able to limp away to safety, even Long Jack's fat Punisher. We waited out our Global Criminal Countdown timers and retreated to safer systems.

So far, so ordinary.

But...

Day 4 - War!

I logged in to find that the amusingly titled Clinically Insane Carebears had declared war on Art of War Alliance. It was an interesting turn-up, but given the difficulties we'd had finding PvP so far, it wasn't an entirely unwelcome turn of events. A quick bit of research showed that they had a membership of 60-odd and their description suggested they were a 'griefer corp':

"We are the outcasts of society. You know the ones I am talking about the nerds, geeks, freaks, and spazzes. We are the people everyone talks about behind their backs. We are the people that nobody can stand to be aroud. We are just plain old mean and nasty people. We get our staisfaction by making others miserable. We frame our hate mails to admire for a later date. We do have one good quality though. We treat everyone equally. Why do we do this being that we are mean and nasty people? Its really simple, WE HATE EVERYONE EQUALLY. So please keep the hate mails coming because we will never stop. We will just rejoice in your pain and suffering.

Love and Kisses,
The WACK0's Crew"


Entertainingly sociopathic, but it didn't sound like they we're all that interested in a fair fight. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers.

More interesting, however, was the fact that it turned out that our combat engagement the previous day had been against the very same corporation.

Oops, did I just start a war?

Feeling a bit responsible (although oddly pleased), I though I ought to provide details about our engagement from the previous day. I wrote a brief 'After Action Report' and posted it to the Art of War forum. A section had sprung up for all information concerning the War Declaration, with intel and discussions of war-time procedure and the like.

I read through some guidance notes posted by Black Claw containing suggestions on how to conduct normal business during a wardec, with recommendations to pack up POSs and only use alts for hauling etc. Fairly sensible and obvious stuff, but as it was a training organisation I suppose some newer players might not have been quite so aware of the risks. Instead, I decided to remove the more valuable structures from our POS whilst onlining some more defences and otherwise continued about my low-sec business as normal.

Day 5 - the Art of War Preparation

As intel continued to be gathered on the forums, I spent some time adding all known War Targets to my watch list. At least this way it would be easier to determine their peak activity times.

Of particular interest was a forum post detailing a recent chatlog between OUCH pilot Ximune and enemy CEO Doxana. In it, Doxana claimed that the reason for the war declaration was due to a multi-billion isk contract from a disgruntled third party whose offlined POS had recently been destroyed by an Art of War fleet. She claimed that the billions paid would fund a war for at least 10 weeks.

I considered this but her claims seemed very unlikely to me. The POS bash had taken place prior to Greenbeard's Freebooters joining Art of War, but apparently the value of the POS was significantly less than the payment claimed by Doxana. Additionally, the POS was offlined so the owner either didn't care about it or couldn't afford to run it. I posted a response suggesting that if the enemy CEO was so forthcoming with this information, it is most likely misdirection.

Later that day, an in-game chat with Alexia Morgan revealed that there were suspicions that one of the pilots that was on our Day-3 roam was a spy. As soon as it was suggested, it made sense to me. Dead Ratt had joined our squad quite late in the proceedings, by way of being a friend/corp-mate of nightshadow25's. It was Dead Ratt who had suggested a change in procedure on arrival in Irshah where he subsequently discovered the Maller. Although his was one of the ships destroyed in the ensuing trap, the killmail spoke volumes. His rifter was only fitted with 3 basic 200mm autocannon Is. Nothing at all in the mid- or low-slots. He clearly expected not to survive the roam.

Embarrassingly, what was worse was that after the engagement I had sent an e-mail to Dead Ratt thanking him for being "the voice of reason and experience" on comms. Looking back, whether his corpmate nightshadow25 was also in on the deception I am unsure. I spent some time after the combat on the alliance Teamspeak server talking with nightshadow about ship fittings and the use of EFT (he claimed to have never used it). An attempt at intel gathering perhaps, or just being sociable? Who knows.

Day 6 - the Art of War Avoidance

I received this rather smug and self-satisfied e-mail from Doxana, CEO of the Clinically Insane Carebears:

"Wrong Reasons Given

Greetings,
Although your forum post was put together very well it was way off base. We were contracted to war dec you and have been watching all of your movements for over a month. Yes you are right to assume you are infiltrated because you are. Your roam the other day was a mere coincidence. But just so the record is straight this war will last a minimum of 10 weeks with an optional 10 week renewal policy for the contractor. Just so you dont think I am blowing smoke here is an example.

[the entirety of my After Action Report from the Art of War forums was attached]"


It was clearly an attempt to be an unsettling influence. Personally I can't be bothered with meta-gaming, which is presumably what this was, but Doxana seemed to be enjoying herself.

Having read it, I resisted the temptation to send a reply as I didn't want to give Doxana the satisfaction. Instead, I forwarded it to Black Claw/Alexia Morgan to see what he made of it. But apparently, I was not alone in receiving similar e-mails and it seemed that they had worked as intended. As soon as I returned to my Inbox, I found this message from Alexia Morgan:

"It is with Regret...

Unfortunately, I am going to have to remove your corp from the alliance, effective immediately.
Please understand that this is not about you, but about the security of the alliance. This war started after your corp recently joined us, and I am forced to enact security measures to reduce the effect that spies might have on the alliance while it is at war. (Your corp is not the only corp I am removing from the alliance.) You will be welcome to re-join the alliance after the war ends, and I hope you can understand my reasoning for doing this. Please note there is a 24-hour period during which time you will still be involved in the war. One of the bonuses to this action is that after the 24 hours you will not be subject to the war, and will be able to return to an element of safety in highsec. I hope you decide to rejoin us after the war ends.

Kind regards

Alexia Morgan
Executor of the Art of War Alliance"


So that was that. My access to alliance forums had already been revoked, I could no longer access the majority of OUCH/Art of War's in-game channels and I assume I could no longer access the Teamspeak server. I didn't bother trying.

A day or so later, nightshadow25 appeared in our OLD POND PUB channel to tell me that Doxana wanted to speak with me. She joined the channel and essentially invited us to join her in the conflict against Art of War. As disgruntled as I was, I found her conduct to be quite distasteful and I had no desire to be seen as a turncoat, so I declined. During the conversation she would not be drawn on whether Dead Ratt or nightshadow25 were her spies, but nightshadow25 was apparently "considering joining them". Nuff said methinks.

In Conclusion

These events took place a couple of weeks ago, so I've no doubt there have been developments since although I have no idea what they might be. However the Clinically Insane Carebears had taken huge strides toward victory without a shot being fired. Through underhandedness and infiltration they had convinced Art of War alliance to thin their own numbers and effectively weaken themselves.

With regard to meta-gaming, although on one hand there is an admirable amount of planning that must go into this kind of subterfuge, I have to say I find it all a bit distasteful and pointless. The only outcome for my corporation was a complete lack of the PvP that we were seeking in the first place. Surely this kind of conduct just creates ever-decreasing circles of suspicion leading to more and more gameplay disconnects.

When did betrayal become a form of entertainment?