Sunday, 26 September 2010

Who's Running the Asylum?

The commodity of most value in EVE is not isk, nor shiny rare ships and not even officer-fit titans. It's trust.

EVE, like life, provides a openly competitive and materialistic arena in which participants vie for wealth, power and control. However, unlike life, New Eden is a virtual Darwinian environment that gives every participant the opportunity to hide behind a mask, so it is little wonder that suspicion and mistrust are rife.

Behaviourally, it is interesting to note that, whilst some may follow the moral code which they adhere to in life, others find freedom and release from the expectations of normal society and behave very differently. Or perhaps they do behave amorally in life, but to a lesser degree. Perhaps CCP has simply provided an amplifier for their anti-social tendencies. Or maybe it's just routine behaviour for the odd bonkers sociopath who thinks nothing of camping that gate whilst wearing their neighbour's strangled cat as a toupee. Hey, they can play EVE too y'know.

Some might argue that EVE is 'just a game'. however every game has rules, every sport is controlled by a ruling organisation represented by an umpire or referee. Yet EVE is the gaming equivalent of underground bare-knuckle fighting conducted in a lawless ghetto during The Blitz. There are those that will adhere to the Queensbury Rules and will fight with honour, but they are ultimately hamstringing themselves and are destined to lose to the fighter prepared throw sand in the eyes, plant a boot in the groin and stamp on the face of the floored opponent.

In fact, EVE also allows players to become the ruling body, the umpire and the crowd baying for more blood.

Human nature is nothing if not adaptable and it is interesting (and arguably disappointing) how it has adapted to New Eden. It is a very 'survival of the fittest' social exercise in some respects, however with death no longer being a concern, all participants survive, fit or not. It's the degree of 'thriving' that counts, which is much more difficult to measure. Some measure their success by looking at their wallet, others by killboard statistics or skillpoints. A few might look at the community which they have had a hand in forming as their reward, and larger groups are perhaps measured by the area that they control.

From a anthropological perspective, I wonder how similarly New Eden society has evolved when compared to the evolution of human civilisation. The growth of communites, the division into separate states, the acquisition of territory, the coveting of and expansion into lands held by others have all occurred in both realms. However, I believe that the 'emergent behaviours' exhibited in New Eden would be skewed slightly due to the lack of consequences, such is the double-edged nature of the sandbox.

Back to the issue of trust. In such a harsh social environment, it is natural to seek safety. Safety, as they say, is found in numbers, hence the formation of communities. Communities breed trust as those indiviuals work together toward a common goal and reap the benefits. However, the same communites also breed distrust and quite rightly. Outsiders are a natural threat to the order of their community and any new members will initially be treated with caution, until that trust is earned.

As an example and an interesting counterpoint to my 'The Butterfly Effect: Reality Edition' post, wherein I suspected a player of attempting to lure me into a trap, I recently found myself on the receiving end of the same distrust.

I'm excited and enthusiastic about our recent acceptance into Alexia Morgan/Black Claw's Art of War Alliance, however my naive enthusiasm was quickly dampened when I attempted to garner help for a low-sec complex I had discovered. I had failed to complete the complex alone due to an overseer with a ridiculous armour tank (reports of 1500dps), and was tired and in need of logging. I thought offering it to my new alliance-mates might be a good way of endearing myself to my new community. And maybe I'd still get a finder's fee.

Channel Name: Alliance

Seismic Stan: Anyone up for forming a PvE gang to crack a 6/10 complex?
Seismic Stan: Possible 800 million loot drop.
Selphana: !
Seismic Stan: I've been greedily trying to solo it for the last four hours.
Selphana: lulz
Seismic Stan: It didn't go well.
Alexia Morgan: lol
Seismic Stan: To be honest, I'm about ready to give up, but it seems a shame to let it disappear. So I'm happy to lead a gang to it, but I need to log soon.
Selphana: if my corp was fully moved back to k-space, i'd definately consider it
Seismic Stan: Unless theres about 10 of you, in which case we'll rinse through the complex in no time and I'll stick around.
Seismic Stan: There's a fleet set up.
Seismic Stan: In the mean time, I'm going to try one last solo attempt.
Alexia Morgan: just remember it's in lowsec everyone.... so if you're unfamiliar with lowsec survival, don't do it
Seismic Stan: Keep and eye on D-scan, watch local, stay aligned. I've been doing it for hours.
Seismic Stan: Not had a peep out of anyone else in system.
Seismic Stan: Well, apart from one Drake who snuck in whilst I was off getting ammo, but I sat cloaked and watched him get hammered and warp out.

My pitch didn't go well and my fleet remained pathetically empty. But who can blame them? In this environment of creeping suspicion and mistrust, I wouldn't trust some new guy who was trying to lure me into low-security space chasing some alleged pot of gold. I think even Alexia was suspicious, hence the discouraging comments. Realising this, I thought I'd try to build some bridges.

Seismic Stan: I know I've only been in the alliance for 5 minutes, so you're probably all staying quiet cos you have no reason to trust me...
Seismic Stan: ...but I can only give you my assurances I'd much rather get my share of 800m than concoct some elaborate trap.
Alexia Morgan: no one's interested today, it seems
Seismic Stan: It's tragic. I reckon I only need one other pilot and we'll tip the DPS in our favour.

On reflection, I wasn't helping myself, was I? If I had been witness to that conversation and was asked advice on it, I would have said 'if it looks like a trap and smells like a trap, it's probably a trap'. Suffice to say I gave up and went to bed, although I did leave the location details in alliance chat, so I'm vainly hoping to log in later to discover somebody benefited from the information, but I doubt it. It seems that I've got some work to put in before I can hope for a better outcome in the future.

In any other online game, I could've just asked for assistance in local chat, but in New Eden that's a bit like a stray dog barking loudly in wolf territory. It makes you want to find someone to blame for spreading all this expectation of betrayal. I'll leave you with a comment I made to Aiden Mourn in the EVE-BLOGGERS channel regarding ninja-looters:

"You are New Eden's Honey Bees of Mistrust, pollenating the flowers of paranoia throughout high-sec."

I meant it as a compliment and it is worth noting that EVE would probably not work as an entertainment medium if it were not for some players' willingness to embrace and nurture the baser aspects of human nature.

Friday, 24 September 2010

New Eden is Saved

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Benjamin Disraeli

I feel a little guilty for my potentially immersion-shattering previous post. Like an immune response, the blog-reading community sprang to life to counter the possible threat to the believability and stability of EVE's intricately woven lore. I have greatly enjoyed reading the inspired and challenging comments and it has driven me to re-visit the problem.

In short; panic over, blog-readers have saved New Eden. Fact.

Like Rabbits

Firstly, my arbitrary 2bn average planetary population came under scrutiny.

The figure was just that, an average. It was based on the idea that core worlds might have a high population (perhaps as high as 100bn) and others - for example isolated worlds in null-sec - might not even be populated. However many people seemed to take exception to it, offering reasons why the average would be higher.

Some valid ideas were put forward by our intrepid commenters, the advanced technology available was the primary reason why existing optimum population values would be meaningless. This has some truth to it; the essay from which I took the 2bn optimum Earth population did cite energy consumption demands as the main reason for the optimum. Alternative fuels and off-world energy sources is certainly something that New Eden would be able to provide for the crowded worlds.

Furthermore, the acquisition of offworld resources would allow for the sustained and widespread implementation of arcology hyperstructures.

"Arcology, a portmanteau of the words "architecture" and "ecology", is a set of architectural design principles aimed toward the design of enormous habitats (hyperstructures) of extremely high human population density. These largely hypothetical structures would contain a variety of residential, commercial, and agricultural facilities and minimize individual human environmental impact. They are often portrayed as self-contained or economically self-sufficient. The concept has been primarily popularized, and the term itself coined, by architect Paolo Soleri, and appears commonly in science fiction." - Wikipedia

So it is perfectly plausible that a world could have a population of 500bn. Looking down from orbit, this doesn't appear to be the case with most temperate planets I've seen, but then I can only view the surface. Who knows what could be underground.

Taking all this into account, I think it might be quite plausible to raise our average planetary population from 2bn to 20bn. This would change our previous total planet-bound population of New Eden from 14.4 trillion to 144 trillion. A big difference.

Stacked Shacks

I may have grossly under-estimated the population of your average station. On the ships overview, some of these monstrous constructions are listed as being over 100km in size. In addition to this, they clearly have hundreds of floors, decks and levels, probably far surpassing the population of a similarly-sized city as a result.

To give a better sense of scale for a clearer comparison, the most populous city in the modern world is Tokyo, with 32.5 million inhabitants. Tokyo is 2,187.08km2, ie. 46.7km by 46.7km. So you could sit four Tokyos on the surface of some stations. A station population of 200m would be conservative, given that Tokyo has a quarter of that and it isn't entirely composed of 500-storey buildings.

Just in case you're interested, these are the population and size statistics for New York and London:

New York:19,750,000 over 1,214.4 km2 (34.8km x 34.8km)
London: 12,875,000 over 1,706.8 km2 (41.3km x 41.3km)

Taking all this into account, lets make a guestimate at the average station's population. Shall we say 25 million? Although possibly still a little conservative, bear in mind that those stations contain huge hangar spaces for our ships. I'm not an expert on planck technology, but lets not push the theory too far, eh?

So 4,888 stations with an average population of 20m = 122,200,000,000 or 122.2 billion.

Now as before, we applied a multiplier to this to take into account all the deadspace colonies and stations that we encounter. Previously we multiplied by one-hundred. But this probably doesn't entirely take into account every outpost, mining station, weapons platform and colony that we find in missions and complexes, not to mention the staff manning the countless stargates. Perhaps x1000 might be a little more accurate.

122.2 billion x1000 = 122,200,000,000,000 or 122.2 trillion. That's nearly as many as our planetary population.

So our new total population for New Eden is: 266.2 trillion.

That's a big step up from our original estimate of 14 trillion.

State-of-the-Art Health and Safety

The other side of the statistical controversy was in the survivability of the crews. Originally we worked on the basis that every ship had an optimum crew compliment. It has since been suggested that this might not be the case, especially with NPC ships. It would certainly explain their poor performance in combat.

Some interesting ideas were offered regarding escape pod procedures. More capsule-like emergency mechanisms for command crews and more basic escape pods for rank-and-file? Or some kind of life-raft attached to wrecks with an amnesty in place for survivors? Why else would a 28-metre air-tight container emerge from salvaged wrecks? Perhaps recovered crewmen might even join the rescuing crew rather than return to the same employer. That would certainly ensure that an individual crewman might reduce the risk by sticking with the victor.

In any case, in a world where conscious thought can be instantly transmitted across light-years and human bodies can be grown for purpose, it seems likely that the technology exists to ensure that most crews survive an exploding spacecraft.

So previously we estimated that 13.5 trillion crew would be involved in scuttled ships per year. Lets reduce that by 25% to take into account understaffed ships in backwater systems and poorly supported factions, leaving us with roughly 10 trillion souls floating in space, bereft of starship.

Then, on the assumption that most of them survive, lets increase the survival rate from 50% to 95%. This means that only 500 billion crewmen die in cold space each year.

That's 0.19% of the entire population of New Eden dying each year at the hands of capsuleers. The current natural death rate on 21st Century earth is four times higher at 0.84%. New Eden's medical cover is probably far better than today's, and with a birth rate augmented by cloning, maturation tanks et al, I think it's pretty safe to say that New Eden is unlikely to face extinction at the hands of bloodthirsty starship captains.

Carry on with your murderous ways by all means, it seems New Eden is safe from annihilation after all.

With credit to the following saviours of New Eden, for all their imaginative solutions and brazen contrariness:

Aldariandra (Robert), Eenbal, Logan Fyreite, Kirith Kodachi, Latro, Luccal, Merinne, Jared Reidel, Shandir, sonoftheflame, Sujanra, TYR3L, Titanius, Xeross and anyone else I've omitted. Great contributions to the blogging 'think tank' one and all, thank you.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The End of New Eden is Nigh

I don't normally do TL;DRs, but in this case I'm making an exception:

New Eden is dead, we've already killed everybody. Twice. Mathematically, there shouldn't be anybody left to run the stations, farm the planets or maintain your clones. In which case you should be dead too.

You can skip to the end for the important numbers, but they might not make much sense without understanding how I got there. Read on for an explanation.

The Big Question

After researching and answering the 'Does Your Ship Have a Crew?' conundrum to my satisfaction, I mistakenly thought I could rest on my laurels, read the comments of others as they came in and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well researched. I was wrong.

One particular comment was from Robert, and what he posited wormed it's way into my head and wouldn't go away. He raised an interesting point regarding the logistics of ships crews. Putting to one side his valid arguments about the maintenance and funding issues, which I won't go into in this post, it was Robert's concerns regarding the sheer turnover of staff that started gnawing at me. He commented,

"And where do you find all these people? Think of the consistently massive recruitment and training effort needed to replace all those crews all the time. Where do they pull all these people from in the far reaches of nullsec, and are they all equally willing to have their lives thrown away casually?"

An intelligent question that needed an intelligent answer. So off I set on another information crusade, this time to determine how the population of New Eden copes with the constant loss of life that must occur as the heavens are rent asunder by we petty gods. Here's what I found.

Firstly, a disclaimer. I've never been much of a mathematician and I'm certainly no Hari Seldon. In order to arrive at any sort of a conclusion, a lot of assumptions and estimations were required and so this entire topic is largely conjecture (with a hint of Psycho-History).

Counting Planets
Initially, I wanted to determine the approximate population of New Eden. Working on the basis that humans could only naturally survive and thrive on temperate planets, as supported by the Evelopedia quote;

"Life-bearing worlds are often referred to as "temperate", as their mild temperatures are one of their defining features. Planets with existing, stable ecosystems are prime targets for colonization efforts as they are generally easier to make fully habitable; as a result, the majority of highly populated worlds are of this type. Indeed, it is not altogether uncommon for detailed surveys to reveal signs of previous settlements from various stages of New Eden's history."

According to the same Evelopedia entry, there are 7,200 temperate planets throughout New Eden. Now although I am sure that humanity isn't evenly distributed amongst those planets, we need a ball-park average to work with.

Earth's population is currently estimated at just under 7 billion (6,869,500,000 according to the United States Census Bureau), but that's because we don't have a choice. The cultures of New Eden are hugely advanced and have the capacity to spread to other worlds and construct vast homes in space. Therefore I'm sure they would be able to maintain planetary populations at optimum levels. But what is optimum? This essay suggests that it is 2 billion for Earth.

As I said before, I accept that whilst the central Empire systems like Jita, Amarr and many others have populations that vastly exceed that, countless others would be less densely populated or even uncolonised. Plus there are colonies on many other less inhabitable worlds, although I would expect those populations to make a neglible contribution. So we'll go with:

7,200 temperate planets x avg 2,000,000,000 population = 14,400,000,000,000.

That's a total planet-bound population of 14.4 trillion people.

Docking Permission Granted

Now for those in space. This figure is a lot more nebulous if you'll excuse the pun. I tried to find some definitive figures on the population of stations, but the only relevant reference I found was to 600,000 deaths when a Nyx Supercarrier crashed into the Ishukone headquarters in Malkalen. Since the station remained structurally intact despite massive damage, I assume there were survivors. So I'm going to guestimate a total station population of 1 million.

According to Grismar's EVE database explorer tool, there are 4888 NPC-controlled stations available to dock at. Most of them are possibly less grand and thus less densely populated than the HQ of a Caldari Megacorporation, but let's be generous.

4,888 NPC stations x 1,000,000 population = 4,888,000,000.

I'll round that up to 5 billion for simplicity. Now take into account Sovereignty structures and stations, Player-owned-Starbases and the countless Deadspace strucures we see in missions, I think we can conservatively multiply that by a factor of ten or more. let's say by a hundred to be on the safe side.

5 billion stn. pop. x 100 to account for deadspace/POS/Sov structures = 500,000,000,000.

Five hundred billion souls in space. Add that to our estimated planetary population and we're just short of fifteen trillion. So there we have our total population of New Eden: approximately 15,000,000,000,000. At least I think that's what that says, I'm starting to suffer from zero-blindness.

The Pan-Galactic Massacre

Another elusive figure to determine was the number of ships destroyed throughout the galaxy in a given time-period. This would be necessary to extrapolate the ongoing mortality rate of starship crewmen. The number of capsuleer's ships destroyed in the previous 24-hours was easy enough to find - it's displayed at the top of the in-game Sovereignty information window, under the 'world' tab.

10732 capsuleer ships were shown as destroyed on 18th September. Although only a single sample, it was a twenty-four hour period including a friday night, so it included some peak time and some less so. A fair spread, it will have to do.

Determining the number of NPC ships destroyed was another matter entirely. I looked on the in-game map displaying 'Pirate and police ships destroyed in the last 24 hours' and chose one of the busiest regions (Lonetrek) and one showing little NPC destruction (Feythabolis). I then used DOTLAN Evemaps and painstakingly added together the NPCs destroyed, system-by-system. Roughly 60,000 NPC ships had been destroyed in the quiet backwater region of Feythabolis, six times more than all capsuleer ships! But even that is insignificant compared to the bloodbath in Lonetrek, with 500,000 ships having fallen at the hands of capsuleer ratters. Let's average that out, so 280,000 non-capsuleer ships are being destroyed daily in each of 64 regions.

280,000 NPC ship x 64 Regions = 17,920,000 destroyed NPCs in the last 24 hours.

It's hardly worth adding the capsuleer losses, but it ends up just shy of 18 million ships that had been obliterated in the last day. Now to figure out what kind of ships they were on so as to estimate a crew compliment. I knew from the previous Ship's Crew research what sort of crew compliments some classes of ship had. Frigates averaged two or three, cruisers were around seven-hundred and battleships about 7,000. I started attempting to squeeze useful figures from the Quarterly Economic Newsletter, but despite initially useful looking information on popular ship types, it was ultimately not especially helpful.

Instead I opted for an arbitrary average of 1,500, which is somewhere between cruiser and battleship and probably not far off battlecruiser crew numbers. With frigates, shuttles and the like off-setting the occasional average-busting capital kill, 1,500 was as good a figure as any.

So we've got 17,930,732 ships being destroyed daily with an average of 1,500 souls aboard:

17,930,732 x 1,500 = 26,896,098,000 souls involuntarily ejected into space per day.

Nearly 27 billion frozen corpses. Daily.

But I haven't taken escape capsules into account I hear you cry. I have no idea what the survival rates are for scuttled ships, but various Chronicles tell tale of escape pods and survivors. So lets generously split it straight down the middle at 50%, halving our daily mortality rate to about 13.5 billion.

That's still 4.9 trillion per year.

Umwot? Didn't we figure out earlier that the total population of New Eden is 15 trillion?

So the capsuleers of New Eden will annihilate all human life in a little over three years. At that rate, the research I did into birth-to-death ratios is entirely redundant. And since they've already been exploding ships with wild abandon for seven years, technically the population of New Eden is already at about minus twenty trillion.

The end of New Eden isn't nigh, it's already happened.

Somebody please explain.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Pimp Your Pod - The Tyrannis Collection

Further to yesterday's Ship's Crew Debate post, Rixx Javix of Eveoganda has republished his thoughts on the topic. The Pod Captain Debate (Redux) was the blog post that set my mind in motion on the subject several months ago.

I like to think the conclusions I came to in yesterday's article show that the canon entirely supports the capacity for vast differences in the way each capsuleer's ship is designed, organised and run. Although we are unable to visibly customise the exterior of our ships in-game, Rix's original post inspired me to come up with more unusual interior ship configurations. The lore-nazis may crush our inaccuracies, but they'll never take our imaginations.

I'll hand you over to our sales consultant for a brief presentation of our latest range of products.

Come in, come in.

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Shiny Happy Capsule
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Custom Pod-Pets: The Sovicou Cave-Snake

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Ship's Crew Debate

Does Your Ship Have a Crew?

It seems like a simple question, but one that provokes a surprising variety of responses.

It has long been a contentious subject and has been the focus of many forum threads and blog posts over the years. However, I've never really been entirely satisfied with the conclusions. Forum threads and blog comments have been known to get surprisingly vociferous, with some posters claiming that they control their vessel alone, whilst others state that it is impossible or that the lore doesn't allow for it.

In the Beginning

I felt it prudent to do some research to see what evidence there is available that might help to clarify the matter. It made sense to go back to the beginning, so I began by reading through the original documentation that came packaged with the 2003 CD-ROM release. The backstory material originally published wasn't very helpful, there was some broad history about the discovery of New Eden and the rise of the five races but very little about the ships and technology beyond a brief description of each playable ship (and there weren't many of those back then). There was no real reference to the presence or absence of a crew.

In fact, the information included on capsules and clones leads me to believe that the canon that we are now familiar with may not have been fully realised at the time of release. The entry entitled 'Capsules' reads as as follows;

"If your character chooses to eject from a ship, or the ship was blown up, he or she will reappear adrift in space in an escape capsule. You will need to make your way to the nearest space station to pick up another ship. Your capsule has the same steering and warping functions as your ship. You may use these to get out of the line of fire. The capsule lacks weapon capabilities, and can be fired on and destroyed. If this happens, your character dies and becomes a frozen corpse in space before your clone is activated."

I remember having numerous capsules littering hangars as they would be left behind to board new vessels. I suspect that this is an example of how the lore has evolved and expanded to provide explanations as questions were asked, with some information being ignored or revised as was convenient. In any case, the removal of redundant capsules certainly made hangars a little tidier.

Outdated Information?

So this seems to suggest that the original backstory featured more a more conventional means of ship control, with the capsule serving only as an escape mechanism. The rediscovery of old ship schematics including data on crew numbers further supports this. It is unclear at time of writing whether these schematics originate from CCP and are therefore canon or whether they are the work of a creative third party.

It is also interesting to note that in the 3rd-party skill monitor EveMon, buried amongst the ship information is a 'Max. Passengers' statistic. I am assuming that information used by EveMon is taken from source provided by CCP. The following table shows the crew compliments according to the old schematics along with EveMon's maximum passenger stat. I have only included those ships for which I have found schematics, although EveMon seems to have passenger statistics for more recent ships, including strategic cruisers.

Badger (Caldari Industrial) Crew:150 Passengers:100
Condor (Caldari Frigate) Crew:1 Passengers:8
Iteron* (Gallente Industrial) Crew:90 Passengers:120
Maller (Amarr Cruiser) Crew:800 Passengers:500
Megathron (Gallente Battleship) Crew:6900 Passengers:1000
Moa (Caldari Cruiser) Crew:650 Passengers:500
Probe (Minmatar Frigate) Crew:3 Passengers:10
Punisher (Amarr Frigate) Crew:3 Passengers:12
Raven (Caldari Battleship) Crew:7400 Passengers:1000
Rifter (Minmatar Frigate) Crew:1 Passengers:2
Rupture (Minmatar Cruiser) Crew:620 Passengers:690
Tempest (Minmatar Battleship) Crew:6500 Passengers:1000
Thorax (Gallente Cruiser) Crew:660 Passengers: 760
Vexor (Gallente Cruiser) Crew:580 Passengers:670

(*The Iteron displayed in the schematic does not appear to be an exact match for any of the 5 known variants, but it's length is listed as 300 metres, making it closest in size to the mark IV.)

Expanding and Changing Lore

As EVE grew from strength to strength, so did the depth of its supporting literature. The EVE fiction portal now contains a wealth of backstory and although it is difficult to determine quite when and how things evolved to the current understanding, they have indeed changed. In the summer of 2009 CCP Gnauton undertook a project to revise and correct the existing fiction, stating ""The aim is to solidify the backstory, patching up the cracks in the plaster so we have a stronger foundation to build future fiction on." So it is important to bear in mind what was early canon may no longer be.

However, a 2007 quote from CCP Ginger on this thread discussing ships crews seems fairly definitive, as he states "Ships have crews, most pod controlled frigates do not, above that they have crews of varying sizes."

Furthermore, approved pages from Evelopedia's ship database shed some more current light on crew numbers, stating that battleships are "...crewed by many as 10,000-15,000 lives, the combat efficiency increases greatly with the use of the pod reducing minimal crew needed to the hundreds." A similar entry for cruisers says "...400-500 personnel to a small handful of 50." and frigates "...are the smallest combat capable craft that is able to accept pod technology easily reducing crew needs of 5-20 personnel to virtually nothing."

So there you have it, some fairly ball-park figures, but definitely solid proof that your ship has a crew. But that was never really in any doubt, was it. What I also wanted to find out was whether a capsuleer is required to have a crew. Is the technology available within the canon to allow for entirely capsuleer controlled vessels of cruiser size or larger? This was going to involve a certain amount of research into the official fiction.

Fiction Archaeology

According to the current timeline, the year is YC112. The Amarr built the first modern stargate 2,058 years prior to YC112 (21,290 A.D. in old money) and the four major races have been flying around in spaceships thumping chunks out of each other ever since.

As an aside, given that the crew statistics gleaned from the schematics may well pre-date the modern capsuleer demi-god concept, I thought those figures might still be accurate for older, non-pod upgraded vessels (read: NPCs). Out of curiosity, I looked through the ship descriptions for any references that might age the hull designs. The descriptions of both the Augoror cruiser and the Rifter frigate make mention of service in the Minmatar Rebellion, which took place in 132 years ago. The Minmatar Wreathe and Scythe both state they are "one of the oldest" and "the oldest" Minmatar ships respectively, making them presumably at least as old as the Rifter. But the Grandfather of the EVE fleet is the Gallente Dominix, which dates "...back to the Gallente-Caldari War" 193 years ago.

The introduction of the current cloned capsuleer demi-god concept is well described in the Chronicle: Jovian Wetgrave, which details the Caldari acquisition of capsule technology from the Jovians 124 years ago. So this was the earliest possible time that a (non-Jove) ship could have been controlled from a pod. However, the age of the Capsuleer did not come about until YC105 (seven real and game years ago - neatly coinciding with EVE's release and meaning every subsequent event has happened in real-time) when cloning technology was combined with capsules to create the modern immortal starship captain.

The idea that the modern capsuleer still uses a human crew is further supported by the chronicles Hands of a Killer and All These Lives Are Fit to Ruin. The first detailing the recruitment of a crew member and the second outlining a possible career exit for the disgruntled mortal. Incidentally, both stories allude to crew numbers of approximately 6000, in line with our earlier schematics' figures rather than the more generous amount mentioned in Evelopedia.

Solo Capsuleers

So far, still not much evidence to support the idea that a capsuleer could single-handedly manage to control every aspect of a vessel any larger than a frigate. However, anyone who has had any dealings with rogue drones or sleepers will tell you that they are fully-autonomous mechanical space-vessels that can be battleship-sized. So if battleship-sized rogue drones can exist and smaller drones can commandeer vessels to effect an escape as detailed in this chronicle, then the technology is surely available to automate a starship. Humanity did build these same drones, after all.

Furthermore, the solo-piloting of a starships has actually been done according to the official lore and is, in fact, the entire reason why drones exist:

101 years ago, a scientist named Ceul Darieux became stranded alone in a wrecked construction ship, adrift in a system without a stargate following an asteroid strike which killed the rest of the crew. Decades later he managed to jump back to civilised space having invented drones to aid his ship's return. Darieux, now an old man, subsequently founded CreoDron, New Eden's premier drone construction corporation. The system that he had been stranded in for decades used to be called Ouperia, but was renamed in memory of his feats. It is also the name of the chronicle detailing his story; Old Man Star.

So in conclusion, if an ordinary man nearly a century previously could have devised the means to pilot a ship alone without the aid of capsuleer technology and subsequent advancements have been made with the introduction of Jovian technology, Crielere Project-initiated Tech II and Sleeper-derived Tech III, I really don't think it's much of a stretch to imagine that a Capsuleer could, if he so chose, pilot a battleship alone. The know-how is certainly out there.

But it might be wiser to have a crew, unless it's the fellas at the top of this page.

[Thanks to Pian Shu/Parity Bit of EVE's Parity Bit for the research and the inspiration for this post.]

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Butterfly Effect: Reality Edition

1. Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.
2. Baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
[courtesy of] layman's terms, EVE makes you bonkers. It has you jumping at shadows, suspecting every other player of possessing a machievellian agenda and plotting to kill you and/or steal everything you own. Although you only have to read about a few of Paul Clavet, Cyberin or Aiden Mourn's antics to know that those suspicions are totally justified.

Any veteran of New Eden will tell you that distrust should be your default mind-set, but as a test of where you on the New Eden Scale of Paranoia, let me describe a situation in which I found myself yesterday and ask yourself how you would have acted. Consider this 'The Butterfly Effect: Reality Edition'.

Having just entered a high-sec system in a newly-purchased PvE-fit faction battleship, an unsolicited conversation invite pops up:

Seismic Stan > hi
Schneizel Veiss > hello! i dont know you but im stuck and im looking for help 
Schneizel Veiss > i will lose my hyperion if i dont get it soon.....

Schneizel Veiss > there is a reward of 30mill if you will, im being warp scrambled =/

Schneizel Veiss > hello? =/

A minute or two had passed without response from me as I was suspicious and was information-hunting. Schneizel Veiss was a little over two months old but had joined his current harmless-looking small industrial corp on the day of his creation. A quick learner for a new player or an alt with prior knowledge of the game?

A minute or so before he convo'd me, this had appeared in local:

Schneizel Veiss
> a reward of 30million is on the table if someone, anyone will please assist!

Seemingly the tail-end of a genuine call for assistance, but my egocentric paranoia nagged at me, telling me it was an elaborate set-up. Despite my reservations, I was curious. I proceeded cautiously. Back to the private conversation;

Seismic Stan > So what would you like me to do?

Schneizel Veiss > idk if you have a combat ship you could warp here and help me kill the 4 small ships attacking me?

Schneizel Veiss > that would be extremely helpful lol

Schneizel Veiss > i could form a fleet with you so you could warp to my location. if you want of course but im totally pleading with you

Spidey-sense tingling, at this point I'm totally convinced this guy is a ringer and is almost certainly the alt of a nefarious ninja. I relayed the situation to the denizens of the Old Pond Pub, seeking a second opinion.

Seismic Stan > Never happened before, but I've just bought a faction missioning ship. Coincidence?
Vsmit > I got convo'd by a "newb German" after he saw me take my Cynabal out. 
Vsmit > Though he just wanted fitting help.

Pian Shu > I think I would let it go. It usually doesn't pay in EVE to be a good samaritan.

Pian Shu > Although I did save a KOS pilot in Assah one time when CVA was still in power, and we got a couple kills out of it.

Pian Shu > pirates were always worse than people who might be pirates.

Seismic Stan > I'm tempted to go buy a cheap frigate and fleet up with him.

Pian Shu
> what exactly is happening to him? mission getting him or ninja salvagers or something? You're still in high-sec right?

Seismic Stan > He claims he's stuck in a mission being scrambled by 4 NPC frigates. He's in a droneless Hyperion.

Pian Shu > Should be okay if he just shoots everything else. They couldn't possibly kill him. Then he could just log off

Seismic Stan > No way I'm fleeting with him when I'm flying anything valuable.

Vsmit > What kind of missioner goes into a Lvl 4 mission in a BS without drones?

Vsmit > Man...

Vsmit > Just let him lose it.

So, the milk of human kindness is clearly not a popular drink in the Old Pond Pub. Still questions remain unanswered and the mystery of the scrambled noob remains unsolved. However, there's about fifteen other pilots in local so...

Seismic Stan > Why me? 
Schneizel Veiss > because you have a high security status. your not a pirate and you wont kill and loot me as far as the security status indicates

Seismic Stan > So why can't you kill these four frigates?

Schneizel Veiss > because my guns are too big =/ i could tank against them all night but id would never be able to get away from them. and i freakin left my drones at my last mission site when i warped out! ugh... lol

The oh-so-innocent-noob routine is almost too convincing. However, despite lacking the wherewithall to take drones into a mission he seems to have a pretty clear idea of what he wants me to do. It just doesn't add up.

But even with Pian Shu and Vsmit's sage advice, my vanity gets the better of me and I'm determined to give curiosity the chance to kill my cat. Or at least for curiosity to realise the cat probably isn't worth the effort.

Seismic Stan > Ok, so there's no rush then. I could go buy a little frigate and come help. 
Schneizel Veiss > yes. and there is 30million in it for you lol

Schneizel Veiss > and id get to save my baby! i love this ship XD

Seismic Stan
> Gimme a few minutes then, I'll go find an appropriate ship.

Schneizel Veiss > thank you soooooooo much!!! omg you have no idea how much that means to me! lol

Schneizel Veiss > ive been sweating bullets for the past 30min!

Schneizel Veiss > would you like a down payment on the frigate? ill give you like 7million isk right now to help you pay for the frigate and its fittings

Seismic Stan
> Heh, don't worry.

Schneizel Veiss > thank you sooo much like sincerely from the bottom of my heart lol i just got this ship not 4 days ago and i dont want to lose it soo quickly...

Seismic Stan > So is that your first battleship?

Schneizel Veiss > yes, and ive grown very attached XD lol i fondly call her the Avalon lol

He's laying it on a bit thick now, at this rate he'll have promised to pay me more than his ship is worth. Yet another reason to suspect foul play. But perhaps he is just really fond of his first battleship. I start to vaguely recall what it was like when I first started playing EVE. The wonder and the depth, the naive attachment to ships. I was reminded of Rixx Javix's post about new players and how we veterans forget what it's like. Oh dammit, I was starting to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Seismic Stan > Is this your main character then?

Schneizel Veiss > yes it is. this is my only character lol i started playing the game hardcore about two months ago, id played off and on before that for alittle while but im totally addicted now xD

Schneizel Veiss > especially now that im part of a corp and stuff.

Seismic Stan
> Heh.

Schneizel Veiss > they offered to help but they are all 28 jumps away so i didnt tell them were i was xD i didnt want them to jump all the way here.... their in the middle of a level 4 blockade mission anyway

Seismic Stan > So you've not grown to distrust everyone else in the game yet then?

Schneizel Veiss > nope lol well i have a healthy distrust for anyone with a low security status but i know that not the only indicator of a theif. lol

Schneizel Veiss > but i have good friends in my corp that are accomplished bounty hunters with many locator agents so im not too worried as long as i get to go on the vengence runs lol

Seismic Stan > People can be a lot craftier than that.

Seismic Stan > You see, the only reason I'm taking my time [to buy a low-cost ship] is that the cynic in me smells a trap.

Seismic Stan > Which is why I didn't come to your aid in my usual missioning ship. I don't want to risk losing it in some elaborate trap.

It's almost like I'm trying to remind myself not to trust him.

Schneizel Veiss > lol thats what i was afraid of. i knew i wasnt going to be trusted, i didnt want to give up on help though, i wasnt going to just sit here all night hoping i dont die or lose internet connnection lol
Seismic Stan > Well I figure I can't lose now. I'm either helping someone genuinely in a predicament or I'm about to lose a worthless ship and an implantless clone. Either way my curiosity will be sated.

Schneizel Veiss > thats a great way to look at it lol especially since that perspective will save my beautiful Avalon!

Schneizel Veiss > i take it that your almost ready? just tell me when and ill form a fleet with you

Seismic Stan > Nearly ready.

Schneizel Veiss > yay! lol

Schneizel Veiss > ugh this was supposed to be my last mission of the night too.... i have a japanese test tomorrow...... =/

Schneizel Veiss > first class of the day and of course, it has to be a 8oclocker....
Schneizel Veiss > lol
Seismic Stan > I remember losing my first cruiser. It was a Thorax I'd spent weeks mining for.
Schneizel Veiss > damn...... lol that sucks =/ my first ship to lose that i really felt the blow was my first retreiver....
Schneizel Veiss > after that isk came easier (not easy enough though =/) but easier so i havent dreaded a ship loss since. but i will if i lose my Avalon ='( lol this is a huge freakin investment...

I'm still not sure. He seems young and guileless, but it could just be Khalia Nestune going for an Oscar. Meanwhile, in the Old Pond Pub, Pian Shu was doing some digging on our hapless noob. Nice work fella. Schneizel had clearly had previous experience of ninjas, he was telling the truth about losing a retriever to Durty Nelly of Suddenly Ninjas. He'd also lost a Myrmidon in low-sec. Perhaps he is as he appears. I'll go with it.

Seismic Stan > Ok, I'm in system.
Schneizel Veiss > yay!

I accept his fleet invite and disappointingly find he is alone. I warp to him and find his Hyperion is in a deadspace area with two NPC frigates and a battlecruiser. Not the four frigates he mentioned earlier, but perhaps he was just confused or innumerate. I set about slowly whittling away at the offending rats in my junk-fit Merlin, the Suicide Samaritan.

Schneizel Veiss > thank you!!!!!! 
Seismic Stan > it's not a great ship

Schneizel Veiss > mine or yours? lol

Schneizel Veiss > haha

Seismic Stan > I built it out of loot I had in my hangar.

Schneizel Veiss > its doing the trick lol

Schneizel Veiss > thank you sooooo much dude....

Schneizel Veiss > damn the other elder corpii warp jammed me ugh i thought i was good to go for a sec lol

I dispatch the remaining NPC frigate.

Seismic Stan > Don't worry about the cash. I think you need it more than me.

Seismic Stan > You need help with the cruiser too?

Schneizel Veiss > no im good
Seismic Stan > Go and get yourself some drones.

He warps away, leaving me with the battlecruiser. I attempt to destroy it, but my loot-fitted Suicide Samaritan just doesn't have the DPS. Still struggling to grasp the concept of not being betrayed or entrapped, I idly wonder whether Schneizel intended for me to be destroyed by the battlecruiser. But it couldn't hit me. I warped out.

Schneizel Veiss > take the 15mil, its the least i can do to compensate you for your time

Seismic Stan > Thank you. It was a pleasure coming to help.

Schneizel Veiss > your welcome and thank you for helping...... some ppl can totally be trusted lol

Seismic Stan > Heh, not in this game. I have no way of knowing if the outcome would've been different if I'd turned up in a ship worth ganking.

Schneizel Veiss > lol fine dont trust me then. but check out my corp. perhaps if your a business man and in a corp that is willing, our corps could do some dealing.

Seismic Stan > btw - why didn't you kill that battlescruiser rat - it was worth 150k

Schneizel Veiss > i couldnt hit the damn thing! Lol

Schneizel Veiss > my guns are to big and my gunnery skill too low lol

Schneizel Veiss > im only doing these missions to increase my standing so i can get a level 4 research agent so i can go back to doing some real business
 Seismic Stan > You ever had your missions invaded by ninja salvagers? 
Schneizel Veiss > nope. i dont even know what that is lol

Seismic Stan > Your retreiver was killed by one.

Schneizel Veiss > really?

Seismic Stan > Durty Nelly of Suddenly Ninjas was your killer.

Schneizel Veiss > lol wow i had no idea i had information online xD

Schneizel Veiss > and that wasnt my first retriever loss.

Schneizel Veiss > see? you can totally see by the pilot details that i am not a fighter at all xD and no im too busy either working (i work at best buy) or doing homework for college lol

Seismic Stan > Yeah, you seem genuine, but a clever ninja would have a convincing alt persona. Eve is, after all, a game where people spend months infiltrating a corp just to steal everything. 
Schneizel Veiss > indeed lol

Schneizel Veiss > well thank you very much for you help, ive added you as a contact and i hope you dont distrust me too much as to not do business with me in the future (or my corp, i try to advertise as much as possible xD) going to bed and thank you sooo much! 
Seismic Stan > Sure, it's been a pleasure.

Seismic Stan > By way of explanation as to my mistrust, some further reading for you:

Seismic Stan >
Seismic Stan >
Schneizel Veiss > bastards all of them

Schneizel Veiss > ttyl comrade

Seismic Stan > lol, laters

So what did you make of that? How would you have played it?

Was I paranoid? Was he a ninja in diguise, secretly disappointed that things didn't go as he had planned? Or was he just a hapless new player struggling with the complexities of EVE? Would you have helped him? Ganked him? Can anyone really be trusted in New Eden?

And where is that damned butterfly?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Green Shoots

We've been quiet of late here at Freebooted.

It was a symptom of a corporation-wide loss of interest in EVE which had a knock-on effect on this blog, sorry about that.

But having stepped away from the capsule for a couple of months and enjoyed a period of holidays, bathroom-redecorating and mutant-dog shooting (co-operative Borderlands is like a barren planet safari-trip for vacationing capsuleers), I feel I once again understand why we play EVE.

Before the imminent formulation of new plans, I think it might be worth indulging in a bit of reflective practice. I cannot speak for the other Freebooters, but I think I understand how we lost our mojo. I believe there were three contributing factors, each compounding the others.

1. The Fall of Old Providence in early YC112/2010

As an independent corp that enjoyed the freedoms provided by the NRDS in the Derelik region adjoining Providence, the routing of CVA and allies from the Providence region and the subsequent collapse of player-policing in the surrounding low-sec areas meant that our local neighbourhood quickly got a lot more hostile.

We considered our options at that point, however, we defiantly chose to stay despite the knowledge that we would have few allies remaining nearby. In some respects this made it more fun, but as we were a corp of only four active pilots based on the doorstep of 0.0 we often found the volume of hostiles passing through or hanging around to be quite overwhelming. We had to adapt; escape and evasion being the key strategies to adopt so we could continue to go about our business in low-sec.

In short, changing political and environmental factors pushed us toward keeping a low-profile and adopting a passive play-style. This was not in itself a problem, in fact for a while I quite enjoyed it; not so much player-versus-player, more player-avoiding-player. And so we continued supporting our industry and POS efforts in Derelik low-sec in a very quiet manner.

2. Embracing Tyrannis

Given the Freebooter's increasingly industry-based direction, I was initially quite excited and intrigued by the industry-centric nature of Tyrannis and embraced it eagerly. Unfortunately, the repetitive and attention-hogging nature of Planetary Interaction turned my EVE experience into a nightmarish solitary slog through clicky treacle.

3. Summer

I think that a lull in player activity and a general drop-off in concurrent users is fairly standard in EVE over the northern-hemisphere summer months. Folk are lured outside* by the promise of sunshine, beer and good cheer (*UK residents should replace the word 'outside' with 'abroad'). This is why I think CCP tend to release their bigger expansions in the autumn. Although if that is their strategy, surely they would benefit from making more of an effort to retain our interest over the summer.

In any case, these three factors combined caused us to temporarily 'walk away from the table'. The strange thing is, despite the knowledge that a simple change in play-style would again make EVE fun, that solution just wasn't visible from what felt like our sand-box dead-end. EVE had become as dull as dishwater and it was all Tyrannis' fault. Everything in our EVE-world had combined to make it a very solitary and uninviting experience.

But the truth was we'd shaped our sandbox to be a massively single-player experience. With only four players in Greenbeard's Freebooters, it only takes the disillusionment of one player to have a huge impact on everyone. We'd built our house on sand.

However, I'm glad to say there have been telltale signs of a resurgence in activity, both from the Freebooters and the wider EVE community. I was encouraged by the comments from the last blog banter, thanks folks. Greenbeard has been going about his subtle skullduggery over the summer which has yielded some results. So now is the time for a re-think and a re-build. I know where we went wrong - we need to be more sociable - but how best to put that right?

Should we open the Freebooters for recruitment and become a low-sec PvP corp with some teeth? Join a local alliance? Follow our old allies and move all assets wholesale setting up elsewhere? I'm not sure yet, but I'm open to suggestions.

I intend to get the Boot kicking Freely once more.