Monday, 21 December 2009

New Faction Threat Throughout New Eden

A top-secret DED report was recently intercepted which not only warns of a grave new potential threat to all of New Eden, but also gives clues as to the origin of the recent appearance of unstable wormholes throughout known space.

Despite denials from all official sources, evidence has been found of the destruction of a secret CONCORD scientific outpost assigned to monitor the supposedly defunct New Eden gate. The event took place almost exactly a year ago. A partial transcript of their final transmission went as follows;

"...definitely higher levels of activity...opening now...something inside...can hear a voice...ringing b...[transmission ends]"

Information retrieved from the outpost wreckage was inconclusive, but records do suggest a possible power surge coming from the vicinity of the EVE-gate. Analysis of the data by experts seems to indicate that a single object, unlikely to be larger than a drone, may have been briefly detected.

Some five-hundred souls were lost in the disaster, many of them families, but no bodies were recovered.

Subsequent DED investigations have drawn links to the appearance of wormholes, but official sources have denied speculation that intelligent forces are at work. Despite the denials, DED are believed to have evidence of electromagnetic activity similar to that detected at the EVE-gate occurring immediately prior to the appearance of each wormhole. DED have refused to confirm this.

However, this correspondent can exclusively reveal that DED forces have recently been put on high alert amid concerns that a co-ordinated galaxy-wide offensive by forces unknown may be imminent.

An excerpt from a high-level DED communication follows;




Data yielded from investigations following the EVE-Gate Monitoring Station incident and subsequent related incidents have revealed what are considered to be intelligent acts of strategic importance by a faction never before encountered.

The seemingly random appearance of unstable wormholes in the last year is suspected by our leading scientists to in fact be this faction's primary means of transport and communication. Transmissions intercepted during the opening of key wormholes near populated systems suggest that the faction is preparing for some kind of military operation within the next few days.

Decrypted communications suggest the faction is supported by a significant industrial infrastructure with the ability to manufacture and transport vast quantities in a small amount of time. Although data is still being correlated and the current understanding is likely to be incorrect, it appears they only have one transport class vessel with which they intend to deploy unknown technologies in all populated regions of space in a very short timeframe. This is clearly impossible with current known technologies, therefore as the intent and capabilities of this new faction are unknown, ALL PERSONNEL ARE TO BE ON HIGH ALERT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

We have reason to believe that the new threat is a nation of unknown origin lead by an entity known as 'Santa'. Therefore Santa's Nation information will henceforth be available on the DED database to all staff with appropriate clearance.


Our sources also provided the following information from the DED database:


>DED Database Link Established...
...Enter Query> Santa's Nation
...Enter Password> *********

Faction: Santa's Nation
Member Races: Elves (unconfirmed), Santas (unconfirmed)
Settled Systems: Unknown
Stations: Unknown
Controlled Territory: unknown
Description: Originating from a civilisation theorised to exist beyond the EVE gate, Santa's Nation was founded by Santa for purposes shrouded in antiquity. Although not confirmed to be human, Santa himself is believed to be humanoid in appearance and is the inventor of technology empowering him and his minions to transcend the normal restrictions of time and space. Santa's Nation are adept at wormhole manipulation, allowing the minions of Santa unprecedented access to all areas of space. The minions of Santa refer to themselves as elves and act as heralds and messengers as well as providing the industrial backbone to Santa's enterprise.
No direct contact has been made with Santa's Nation despite increasing activity. As such, no diplomatic channels are available to establish political affiliation or intent. Military capability is also an unknown factor therefore...[connection terminated]


Our sources will continue to pursue further DED data for the benefit of all capsuleers.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Fleet Commander 'Boris' Interview: Part Deux

With the successful completion of this week's POS assault (for details, see Greenbeard's account here), the Fleet Commander known as 'Boris' gave us this exclusive second interview (preliminary interview here).

Seismic Stan: First of all, congratulations on what sounded like a successful operation. Three POSs assaulted and destroyed. There didn't seem to be much of a defence from the owning corporation, was that a surprise?

Boris: Yes it was. They had 3 days to plan for this yet didnt show up with more than 3 carriers and some POS gunners. We were worried about being hotdropped and attacked by 30+ ships.

SS: Apparently, one of the target corps (Electric Monkey Overlords) have been known to use POSs as bait and have in the past successfully lured and destroyed sizeable fleets (killboard info here). Do you think they had planned to do this to your fleet? Are you expecting reprisals?

B: I actually had not heard about that until later. We were rather lucky they did not attempt that kind of attack as we would've been unprepared however next time we will be prepared for anything short of a 40 ship cap fleet.

SS: You lost a few battleships this time around. How did that happen?

B: It was due to error on my part. I assumed pilots were not broadcasting that they needed help or that it was only fail fits. It wasnt until later when someon I knew pointed out my error but by that time we had already lost several BS. Basically I ignored the POS guns assuming they would just be a waste of time. Which was not true at all.

SS: Use of the broadcast system seems to be one of the more confusing elements for inexperienced players, is there any advice that you can give them?

B: Other than simply know how to use it and not spam it? None. It a must know tool for large fleets.

SS: Are there any broadcast system guides available online?

SS: Can you recommend any other EVE-related resources to newer players?

B: Battleclinic is very nice. However there are too many for me to link here. I recommend finding an older experienced player and asking him for any advice.

SS: You are clearly an experienced pilot. How long have you been flying and can you tell us a bit about your history?

B: Well I started eve in a small little corp ASGS. This is where I first learned pvp from 2-3 very constructive helpful people. After four-and-a-half months I moved to my current alliance and began my real PVP career. Here I lead our killboards for 6 months until I ran out of iskies and started FCing alot more. Being in a less-targeted ship is kind important so you can keep calling primaries =P. I have continued to FC for my alliance and here is where I am now.

SS: Have you learned everything in-game or are there skills you have brought through from the real world that have benefited you?

B: My sexy voice is RL =P. Shiptypes, primaries, and how to move I learned from the game. How to stay calm when things occur.

SS: How would you describe EVE to a non-player, for example your grandmother (only joking, I mean someone who might be considering playing)?

B: An extremely complex game built around teamwork and loss. It's the only game I know where three one-month-old characters with the correct ships can destroy a three-year player's battleship if fit right.

SS: What are your thoughts on Dominion?

B: So far not much. I was very worried my favorite 0.0 Region would have alot of serious trouble holding however as can be seen that is not the case.

SS: I noticed in your bio that you are also a TREAD Alliance diplomat. What exactly does that role involve?

B: I am one of the people who deals with inter-alliance issues. Basically I am one of the external faces of the alliance.

SS: How large is the TREAD alliance and what does being a member entail?

B: 600 members i believe. Being a member of Tread means being part of a team and working together to make our goals a reality.

SS: TREAD doesn't hold sovereignty anywhere. Why is this and where is home?

B: Home is assah/G-5 area.

SS: TREAD is an allied alliance operating within the borders of sovereign holders, CVA, how did this come about?

B: We enjoy the NRDS [Not Red, Don't Shoot] style and CVA has been the only stable NRDS 0.0 empire. They assisted our alliance when we were younger so we in turn are more than happy to assist now that we have grown.

SS: Does the new Sovereignty mechanic affect TREAD in any way?

B: If we want sov it will change how we do it. Also affects how we protect this region.

SS: For a neutral trying to grasp the local politics, who are the major players in the region (foes and allies)?

B: Allies: CVA, -7-, Cold Steel, Fcon, I-red, AM, Pax, LFA, VVA.
Foes: Pirates, UK, -A-, Anyone who doesnt observe NRDS within this region.... which is a ton of people.

SS: Who is TREADs greatest enemy?

B: I wouldnt say we have one great enemy all pilots who neglect the NRDS policy and kill neutrals and pirate are our enemies.

SS: What do you hope for the future of the EVE universe?

B: I one day hope to see far more of 0.0 EVE become NRDS.

SS: Thank you once again for your time and Greenbeard's Freebooters look forward to flying under your command in the future.

This concludes our coverage of this week's TREAD-orchestrated POS assault. We hope to bring more interviews and accounts from around the region in the future.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Tread With a Free Boot: Fleet Boris Strikes Back

The second phase of the TREAD Alliance POS Assault took place earlier today and although I was unable to take part, my fellow Freebooter cohort and corp founder Greenbeard was our man-on-the-scene. He wrote this account of his experience:

The Alarm goes off at 05:25. I quickly turn it off before it wakes my two-year-old. We're both in another bedroom leaving my wife in our bedroom tending to our newborn. Nope, it didn't wake my wife or either of the boys up. Good, as adding further disruption to her already fragmented sleep would not earn me any brownie points (see Seismic's previous brownie point post).

My brain is complaining about waking up at this hour after only 4 hours sleep to play a computer game. Shall I just sleep in?

Shut up brain.

No time for a coffee, lets fire up the PC and have a quick pee. Not at the desk I hasten to add, that just wouldn't be comfy at all.

I blurrily looked at the Typhoon I had left in Assah the night before along with a very hastily put together fit. Why had I put autocannons on it?!?..... Why had I bought a load of Tech-2 energised plating I can’t use?!? I blame it on the fitting happening in a rush just over four hours before. I've not been on a POS assault before and I want to see it. So I'll take whatever I can cobble together.

'Boris' is FCing and he tells the fleet we've got time to spare before we set off. Right, queue up Hull Upgrades level 5 to rectify that for next time and wonder what I can do. I find some Tech-1 armour odds-and-sods and fit them, with a Damage Control II on I can just manage 77000hp.

It’ll do.

Right now I had better swap out the AC’s for arties and shuffle the fit around to get it working. I hope to b*ggery there's some large artillery cannons in station....... yup there is. I add a last minute large remote repper and look back at my handiwork. Rubbish, but I've got no time to do something better. I really should leave these sort of ships ready fit for their purpose, like we do with everything less than a battleship.

I undock and power the Typhoon over to the muster system where the vent chatter is starting to pick-up.

I arrive at the fleet and there's already a good few battleships and other assorted vessels. It's all looking quite impressive and beats the factional and security fleets I've been part of previously.
I'm feeling more awake now and glad I came along. I'm even starting to warm to the Typhoon again. It was the first BS I bought several years ago and I've always had a soft spot for it, also because it looks like Red Dwarf.

As I dawdle and mess with the escape menu hotkey settings, I fail to notice the fleet has warped off and is already in the next system. I really should have made time for that coffee. I set off in hot pursuit. Well as hot as battleship pursuit gets.

I catch-up with them three systems down the line, as they head into to the first target system.
Safely nestled in the bosom of the fleet again, I sit back and get some screenshots. We had a good representation of most battleship types, with the Amarr vessels, Domi’s and Ravens in the majority. There was even a fellow Typhoon. A handful of battlecruisers, a cruiser and some Tech-2 ships rounded the group off.

We arrive at the first target. It's still reinforced. There’s been a timing miscalculation and we’ve arrived just under an hour too early. Nevertheless there’s still work to be done as Boris directs the fleet's awesome firepower to the POS guns nearby.

A couple of BS’s get quickly blown up and Boris reminds the fleet to be checking broadcasts and remote repping. The speed of the losses surprised me and I start trying to work out where the bloody hell my broadcast window has gone. The latest release has changed things and trying to keep up with the battle and work out where it’s gone is not proving easy.

After another loss Boris is keen to minimise losses with pilots like myself who are clearly not using or have minimal knowledge of the broadcast system and he urges all folk who don’t know how to use it to warp out. That includes me, but I decide I don’t mind the potential loss and would like to figure it out during battle. A quick question in fleet and I’m directed to the fleet window tabs - it’s now merged with the broadcast window.

To be honest most of my pvp experience has been small fleets and we don’t really use it, so it’s been a useful experience for me as I often lead the corp wolf-packs. I can also see why anything less than a BS is going to rapidly get in trouble in a POS attack unless they are very quick to call for help and their fleet-mates are very quick to support them. The direction from Boris and wing commanders for everyone to stay close to him clearly helped that.

With the First POS’ guns silenced we headed to the second target in a nearby system.

We opened fire at the POS, but the still active guns claimed a one or two more victims. I really watched the broadcasts like a hawk, locking and repping as I went. Often though, the time to lock was having an effect on my ability to rep fast enough, so I left regular victims of the POS guns locked, so I could repair them quickly.

Despite the losses we now looked to be more cohesive as a fleet and folk were following FC direction better.

I can’t quite remember if the Capital section of our fleet joined us for the end of this POS or at the next POS, but their awesome size and firepower topped off our fleet off nicely.

Once this POS was blown across the solar system with the majority of the debris destined to float eternally through space, an Iteron and a shuttle hiding within the shield were exposed to the firepower of the fleet and lasted as long as a Jawa in an arm-wrestling contest.

We then packed our bags and moved back to the first target system.

We landed on the POS guns this time and finished them off, before turning the fleet onto the POS itself. Boooom.

Returning to the very first POS, with the guns already down and the capital ships in tow it really didn’t last very long at all.

Three POSs down and a few casualties, good fun. I was a bit let down that we faced no enemy fleet resistance; I had been quite looking forward to it. Though on the upside my good ship “Building Site II” survived the venture and I’d taken part in my first POS assault as well as taking notes on Boris’ good fleet command to better my own smaller outings.

I left the fleet and skipped safely back to base, getting shot at by gate guns as I went, who were clearly not pleased to see me at all. Miserable sods. [Try it in a stealth bomber - SS]

Now lets see about getting that coffee, brekkie and a dump. Not necessarily in that order.

Guest written by Greenbeard.

An Interview with Fleet Commander 'Boris'

As a follow-up to my previous blog about a TREAD Alliance fleet operation I took part in, shortly after I had the good fortune to catch up with the Fleet Commander, known publicly as 'Boris'. He was kind enough to give me the inside track on operation organisation and the Fleet Commander role.

Seismic Stan: Boris, today you led a fifty-pilot operation to incapacitate several enemy POSs. Did everything go to plan?

Boris: No not even close. Downtime lasted an extra hour and a half. Today we were supposed to blow up the POS not simply put them into reinforced. However the extended downtime gave them time to repair the POS so we had to do the whole thing again.

SS: How much preparation is required to undertake that kind of operation?

B: A good bit. We send scouts to the POS to check fittings. We monitor the system for traffic of reds and our target. We get information on who we are attacking. We also make sure that the initial attack and our estimate for when the POS comes out of reinforced will be high activity times for us.

SS: What tasks are required of you during the operation in order to make things run smoothly?

B: A sexy sexy voice =P. Seriously however a level head at all times. You must always expect for something terrible and unexpected to happen and when that does you need to act and without freaking out.

SS: And what do you expect of others?

B: I expect others to follow my orders. Other than that the majority of my fleets are my Treadies and the [local security channel] friends we have and I know them to be efficient and well trained for these things.

SS: The fleet seemed to comprise pilots of various levels of skill and experience, how did you mitigate that?

B: Proper fits. As a Remote Repair (RR) fleet you can keep the inexperienced pilots alive easily by lots of RR. I wish we all had 2 years of skills but I cant make that happen. So we take what we have. Havin a solid core of your highest level of experience pilots does help a lot.

SS: What, if anything, could have gone better? What would you have done differently?

B: The frigates at each POS - I would've kept them at bay until the turrets were incapacitated. There was no need to lose a single ship on that op yet we lost a stealth bomber to POS fire.

SS: You seemed very self-assured and in control throughout the operation, what advice would you give an aspiring Fleet Commander?

B: If people think you know what your doing they'll follow and trust you. Don't disappoint them. Also know your ships. FC's call primaries in most other fleets. I have seen many FC who dont know what is what and call A -> Z which is ok but not the most efficient way to call primaries. Also call primaries, if your fleet warps in and you dont say anything. Your fleet can easily die to that.

SS: I understand that today's operation was only the first part of a larger undertaking. Can you give us any insight into what is next and what you hope to achieve?

B: Well the next part of the Operation is to blow up all three POS. So the next Op will be similar just a better time of day. The goal is to put up our own POS there is moongoo there we want so we are taking it. Also we hurt a red alliance at the same time.

SS: I believe this operation was a TREAD Alliance initiative. How does this fit into TREADs long-term goals?

B: Other than we like beating up reds I cannot comment here.

SS: Intriguing. Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

B: No, thank you for coming [in the fleet] and thank you for the interview =).

SS: Thank you for your time Boris and good luck with the next stage of your operation.

Boris has agreed to a second interview after the completion of the second part of this operation, where'll we'll get to find out how successful the whole thing was.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Boris' Big Fleet

Yesterday, I was quite excited to find an e-mail in my shiny new inbox from a senior member of the security forces in our region. As it's apparently a big security no-no to mention him by name, we'll call him 'Boris' (he requested 'the Master of Sex', but I think we'll stick with Boris).

The message was a call-to-arms for all pilots with the appropriate security clearance to take part in a fleet operation aiming to bring down some Pilot Owned Stations (POSs) in nearby systems. I'd not yet had the opportunity to take part in a large engagement (not counting factional warfare blobs) so I was quite keen to get involved.

The planned start time was a little behind schedule due to unforeseen server hiccups, but the arrival of key members of the security forces in the Intel channel heralded the beginning of the muster in a nearby system. The fleet was to be mostly battleships and remote repairers but, as I'd just clone-jumped from my missioning battleship, it was too far away to retrieve in time. I had a Manticore stealth bomber gathering dust in my local hangar, so that had to do.

As I rushed to the muster system, I saw in the fleet interface that we had fifty pilots involved. An impressive turnout I thought, for fifty people from various corners of the globe to be amassing online for a common purpose. But impressive just didn't do it justice as I warped to the fleet and my screen filled with battleships.

We were soon underway to our target system and the first thing that struck me was how professionally organised the whole exercise was. Despite the Ventrilo channel being full of pilots, it remained largely silent, allowing Boris to give precise and clear instructions to the fleet. All other chatter was restricted to the fleet text channel. Occasionally pilots scouting ahead would speak, relaying the status of the next system.

Fairly quickly, our fleet arrived in the target system, when Boris gave the order for a smaller vessels to remain at the gate through which we had just come, with the main body of battleships and battlecruisers warping to engage the target station. Not understanding the reasoning behind this, I was a bit miffed and cursed myself for not jumping in the Ferox battlecruiser I had also stored nearby. Then Boris told the few of us that held back to jump back through to the preceding system.

What followed was a seemingly endless period of time where I sat cloaked, watching a steady stream of battleship late-arrivals piling through the gate and into the action. I tried to make my time useful by trying to understand how the broadcast system worked. I could hear it constantly being referred to in fleet comms, but it was all a bit of a mystery to me. Finally the call came and I was allowed to re-enter the system and engage. Finally.

Warping in, it was breathtaking to see that number of battleships unloading a phenomenal amount of firepower into a single target. The beauty of EVEs graphics aren't really seen at their best until you've witnessed something like this. The only shame is it's really hard to get a good screenshot, because everyone rarely fires at the same moment.

I pitched in with my paltry three torpedo launchers, feeling a little humbled by the might and majesty of the battleship fleet. As per instructions from Boris, I orbited one of the remaining online sentry guns at speed in order to avoid being hit, whilst delivering my payload to the primary station target. I did so surrounded by a cloud of friendly drones who were concentrating fire on the sentry guns. The thinking was that the guns would be unable to track smaller vessels at such close range. That thinking, apparently, was wrong as one of the only other stealth bombers in the fleet was targeted and destroyed with worrying speed.

Immediately, Boris ordered all frigate and cruiser class vessels to withdraw. Which was very thoughtful of him I felt, he could've just decided it was our risk and we would be acceptable losses. Shortly after, it was announced that the station had been put into a 'reinforced' state, which I surmised was our goal.

We had two more stations to attack and I was pleased to play a significant role in one of them. I, as one of the only remaining stealth capable ships, was required to solo warp to the enemy station and take up a cloaked position within specific ranges of key structures. This allowed the main fleet to warp to me and have the right ranges without interference from the station shield bubble. Or something. I felt useful anyway. I became of further use when Knorp's Typhoon ran out of torpedoes and I was able to resupply him.

The fleet suffered no further losses and the two remaining stations were 'taken down'. Overall it was an interesting experience and allowed me to see some of EVEs best eye-candy, but shooting static automated objects could probably get pretty repetitive after a while. Nonetheless, respect and thanks must be given to Boris and his subordinates for co-ordinating a very slick operation. I was very grateful for the opportunity to take part and see how the pros do it.

I just wish someone had warned me about the Global Criminal Countdown before I started making my way back to my home system. Then I would still have a stealth bomber.

The Bloggeratti

As I've mentioned in a previous blog, one of the impressive things about EVE is it's community. At the risk of sounding elitist, I think the nature and depth of EVE is more likely to attract the interest of the more intelligent, mature gamer. The kind who have the patience to read books, hold a good conversation and communicate an opinion. EVE is certainly not for the ADHD-suffering console-monkey generation, but they still have money, which is why CCP is making DUST 514.

I'd be interested to know exactly what the relationship is between EVE players and the wider videogames playing demographic. I suspect it'll certainly be older gamers - I'd be surprised if there are many EVE players of school age. Although I enjoyed playing Elite at the age of 10 so I could be made to eat my words.

Anyway, I digress. One benefit of having a literate and articulate player-base is the wealth of reading material available. There is no shortage of well-written guides, vibrant forums and (finally getting to the point of this post) captivating blogs.

In truth, despite playing EVE for some time, for me the blogging community lay undiscovered until I upgraded to an iPhone. The Capsuleer app instantly gave me access to articles written by the EVE blogpack, a selection of some of the more popular EVE-related blogs, piped straight into the application. I found reading the posts a great way to see how others play EVE and to learn from them. They were also incredibly addictive and not frequent enough for my liking, to the point of cursing those lazy bloggers when the application refresh button refused to yield any new unread posts. So I went in search of more.

I wasn't disappointed. It seems the EVE blogging community ring-master was one Crazy Kinux who has taken the time to compile an exhaustive list of all blogs EVEish on his site Crazy Kinux's Musings - blogroll (460 sites and counting). Good work fella.

Not content with just reading, I decided to dip my toe in the blogging pond and am glad I did. Early on I think I was writing for a readership of me, myself and I, but a special thank you has to go to Rettic of Rettic's Log: The Chronofile, whose position in the Blog Pack gave my site some much needed publicity when he mentioned one of my articles. Cheers dude.

I've also enjoyed reading Mike Azariah's blog after hearing him appear on Planet Risk's CSM debate podcast. Mike has a great writing style, weaving in-game events and experiences into a fictional narrative. My entire corp (of 4 pilots) voted for him in the CSM elections and was disappointed that he never got in.

Spectre3353's blog, EVE Newb, is always entertaining and I think he's become my favourite EVE sociopath. I wait with baited breath to see how his recent neighbourly dispute pans out. I think I may even have had the privilege of having been podded by him once when I made the naive error of attempting a mission in low-sec space whilst flying a PvE-fit Drake. Thank you for the lesson, you scoundrel.

There are many, many more great reads out there, but rather than list them here it makes more sense to visit CK's library of blogging goodness.

Happy blog-hunting.

Edit: Thanks to Ga'len, the Wandering Druid of Tranquility for these additional blog-seeking resources; OPML download website

Planetfall on Amarr Prime

Following Dominion's spoofy planet graphics I, like most capsuleers, decided to become an interplanetary tourist. But after finding just about every variety of planet that I think there is (I like the plasma planets - they remind me of the entity in Fifth Element), I needed something new to do.

So I thought I'd try to land on one.

Now I know that when in warp you pass straight through celestial bodies (which although is due to engine/resource limitations can also be explained away with some theory of relativity/quantum physics/FTL technobabble), but I wasn't sure what happens at sub-warp speeds. I began to idly wonder if CCP had snuck in a atmosphere burn-up mechanic in anticipation of further planetary interaction. Or maybe I'd just skim off the upper atmosphere with my onboard Nav computer behaving like the drunk kamikaze pilot it does whenever there are asteroids and acceleration gates around. Only one way to find out.

I happened to be in the Amarr system, so being Minmatar I thought I'd try to pay my enslaved kin a visit on Amarr Prime. Failing that I'd just pick up a few bargains at the local hypermarket.

I noticed that all of the warp-in points, certainly in the Amarr system, were right on the day/night penumbra. I'd had enough of the inky blackness of space and decided to try to head for the sunny side. Maybe I could stop off at a nice equatorial island and top up my tan. Do they have grass skirts on Amarr?

My shallow equatorial decent was slowly catching up with the day, but it was a slow and laborious process as my Minmatar shuttle chugged along. I had considered using a faster ship, but it seemed folly to charge into the atmosphere in an expensive ship, given that I couldn't rule out this being a one-way trip. I thought I spotted a 'Sleigh' class sub-orbital frigate heading for the pole and turned north to intercept, but he evaded me.

Looking down, my viewscreen was now filled with planet and the horizon was beginning to flatten out. I nervously kept checking for any shield fluctuations or warning messages, but everything appeared to be holding together. I spotted an odd rectangular anomaly on the planet surface. Some kind of planetary-scale cubist art? A shielded facility? The Royal Amarrian Pixel Museum? Whatever it was, I had the odd sensation that it was looking at me.

My instruments were now reading that I was a mere 29 kilometres from the surface and decending fast, I adjusted my angle and speed to slow the decent in the hope that I would have time to react if there was a nasty surprise in store...

But what happened next was just bizarre. Either interference from the atmosphere was messing with the signal from my camera drones or I'd discovered some kind of fiendish Amarrian defence system. Whatever happened, my altimeter was displaying 0 kilometres, so technically, I'd landed.

No sign of the locals, no grass skirts and no hypermarket. Amarrians are so dull. They have cornered the market on disco lights though.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

EVE - the Other Woman

I'm sure it's not an uncommon phenomenon that EVE is widely despised by our fairer partners, probably more so than other generally unpopular husbandly pursuits. Even if you're slouching on the sofa in your underpants, watching sport/sci-fi/documentaries or out drinking beer with the lads, the resentment EVE seems to generate is altogether of a different kind, at least in my experience.

Part of the problem with EVE is that by it's very sandbox nature it has no defined start and end time. There aren't any levels or zones that delineate when you could reasonably stop. Also there is a need/temptation for little 'maintenance' visits just to queue up skills, check sales orders or some other administrative task. Because of this, the tendency is to have EVE idling on the PC more often than is strictly necessary. Something that doesn't go down well if you're caught tidying up your hangar when you had only popped to the loo.

Having recently married, I looked to my more maritally-experienced friends for advice. Fortunately, one is also a corpmate and so suffers from the same problem. We've jokingly referred to having to earn "brownie points" by attending to our husbandly duties in order to earn the right to play EVE. We've even developed some chat-window shorthand to determine whether a sudden online appearance is with or without the wife's knowledge.

So for a laugh I thought I'd formalise the process so we'll have a better idea of whether we should be playing at any given time.

Let's assume that a brownie point [BP] is worth 10 minutes of EVE time. I would've gone for a greater value, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the exchange rate of Good Husbandly Deeds to BPs isn't going to be great. What follows is a rough guide to how BPs are won and lost.
  • Cooking dinner (+3 BPs).
  • An evening out together (+12 BPs).
  • Time spent watching a chick-flick/X-Factor together (+1 BP per 30 mins viewing).
  • Buying flowers (+3 BPs).
  • Agreeing to another holiday (+3 per days holiday agreed).
  • Going to bed at the same time (+1 BP).
  • Staying up to play EVE instead (-5 to -50BPs).
  • Being caught in the same room as an EVE client - "it's just on, I'm not playing it, honest." (-2 BPs).
  • Being caught playing EVE without official clearance (-5 BPs).
  • Administrative EVE visit whilst entertaining dinner guests (-10 BPs).
  • Playing EVE for longer than stated (-2 BPs per 10 minutes overrun).
  • Reading EVE-related blogs on iPhone whilst out (-2 to -10 BPs dependent on situation).
  • Planning life around EVE/rushing home to play (-10 BPs if intentions are discovered).
  • This blog ever being discovered (-240000 BPs).
Current Estimated BPs: 24 (I cooked dinner yesterday and recently agreed to a 7 day holiday). That's four whole hours of EVE time. I'll have to see if I can redeem the brownie points before I squander them.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Migrating from Hi-Sec

Some months ago we moved the Freebooter's base of operations into low security space, seeking opportunity and violence. It sort of worked. Although if the truth be known, our inexperience has largely led us to provide others with the opportunity to inflict violence. But at least we can say that we are no longer inexperienced.

Despite claims in our bios that we were sinister piratey types, we had spent longer than we'd care to admit following the 'carebear' path. Fortunately, Greenbeard had some contacts which allowed us to make use of the security channel used by the friendly locals in the systems surrounding our new HQ. However, during our relocation, I still managed to lose an industrial to a pirate gate-camp I attempted to blockade-run one too many times. Amusingly, their failed attempts to warp-scramble me on three previous cargo runs (due to the four stabilisers I had fitted) prompted one of my killers to refit and rename his ship the Warp Disruptor 9000. It certainly did what it said on the tin.

Once we'd moved in, it was down to us to make ourselves useful to the local friendlies. Given that everyone else was flying around in bigger, scarier ships than us and knew what they were doing, the only contribution we could make was providing information in the security channel when required. Simple in principle, although there were a couple of barriers; the seemingly inpenetrable use of coded language and my inability to gather and convey the required information. Knowing who was 'red' and who wasn't was a prerequisite, and our corp standings were obviously not in line with those of the security channel pilots. On several occasions I was chastised for mis-calling a target and once I spent the time auto-linking the names only to be told the links were wrong. But I think we're pretty up to speed now.

As well as being PvP novices, financially we weren't really in a position to get involved in the active defence of the system. However, immediately after the release of Apocrypha, we hatched a cunning plan. We pooled all our limited resources and threw everything into manufacturing Probe Launchers, which we managed to sell effectively in multiple regions for a ridiculous mark-up for the first few days after Apocrypha's release. This served to get us the financial foot-up we needed to fund our survival in low-sec.

Next on the list was the honing of our PvP skills. Although still very much a work in progress, setting up a stockpile of disposable Tech 1 frigates on the borders of nearby Factional Warfare space gave us the opportunity to engage in frequent death-by-blob activities. At first it was a painful education, but more recently we have managed to successfully wolf-pack around and pick off a few stragglers. The low cost of our lost ships has already been easily offset by the sale of loot acquired from these engagements. Finally PvP was starting to reap rewards. Now we just need to replicate this success in "proper" PvP in low-sec.

Ultimately, moving to null-sec would be interesting I think, but we've still got some 'carebear' habits to shake off. I would imagine that, if all goes to CCP's post-Dominion plan, many more hi-sec dwellers will be having similar experiences in the future as they are lured by the promise of riches and excitement beckon. But so much is dependent on how they are received by the current denizens.

Friday, 6 November 2009

2003-2009: The EVE-olution

Although we have been playing EVE for just over a year, my corpmates and I originally began playing back in 2003, attracted by the huge potential of the game. As I recall, the only ships available in game then were Tech I frigates, cruisers and industrials (and possibly battleships - I can't quite remember, but if they were, they were certainly a rarity).

The player-base and available features were much thinner on the ground then, but the open-ended thrill was still there. I recall the spacelanes being terrorised by the pirate corps back in the day; 'm0o' and 'RUS'. Lord Zzap was one of the most feared pirates in the universe and I was furious and sick to the stomach when I was podded by him in high-sec shortly after purchasing my first cruiser which I had worked so hard for. I'd never played a game that could trigger such an unsolicited rush of adrenaline. I think, at the time of my podding, I spat my dummy out and refused to play the game for a week afterwards.

When I did return, I was incensed by the ability of some pilots to terrorise the high-sec dwellers and set about organising a coalition of corporations who would contribute to a defence fleet to prevent further random acts of terrorism. In doing so I discovered that others had had similar ideas and there were alliances springing up all around the galaxy. There was no in-game mechanic for this at the time and the administrative effort required to make it happen was enormous.

Ultimately though, despite being enamoured by the concept of EVE, our interest waned. Due in part perhaps to the infamous learning cliff, but also because we're a fickle bunch and probably got lured away by some other shiny new MMO.

In nearly fifteen years of MMO-playing, I cannot recall ever having been lured back to a game. But EVE was different and had somehow always stuck in my mind as a concept that, if it survived the harsh and competitive MMO climate and had the opportunity to evolve it could become truly exceptional. My corpmates and I returned late last year, having heard rumours of the imminent expansion (Apocrypha) including Ambulation. Obviously we were wrong about that, but so much else had changed it almost didn't matter.

A whole host of new ships, Tech II stuff, full alliance functionality, in-game voice-coms, fancy new graphics, the list is probably pretty endless. Whilst we were catching up, they hit us with Apocrypha and we got wormholes and Tech III and the spoofy new skill queue. Although they still haven't given us the ambulation that was part of the reason for our return, we now know it's coming in the shape of Incarna. And with the advent of planetary interaction and a pioneering multi-platform universe with Dominion and Dust 514 respectively, I am so glad that we returned.

Having dug a little deeper, another remarkable aspect of EVE is the community; endless in-game channels, a thriving forum, a network of informative blogs, regular amusing and professional podcasts and even an opportunity for players to interact with the developers in the shape of the EVE Fanfests and the Council of Stellar Management.

There is so much going on, we are probably never going to get up to speed, and I like that. EVE is enjoyably bewildering, endlessly deep, seductively terrifying and it doesn't wait for you.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Knocked-off Implants Make You Stupid

My name is Seismic Stan and for some reason I am the CEO of Greenbeard's Freebooters. Not that Greenbeard has gone anywhere; he left me in charge whilst he went off on a jolly around the galaxy before coming back with plans that only he is privy to. Which seems to include leaving me to do all the paperwork.

Now we've relocated to an area of low-security space claimed by the Curatores Veritatis Alliance where we are attempting to carve ourselves a niche. With his return, Greenbeard has obtained a couple of shady goons in the shapes of Long Jack and Karpov Katyusha, who always seem to be skulking nearby.

I'm not sure what part they, or indeed I, play in the machinations of my former CEO, but in an effort to increase my chances of survival, I've changed the batteries in my implants to get the grey matter working again. That's had the added advantage of reminding me how to read and write, so I'm going to write it all down so once the dust has settled, the backs have been stabbed and the blood has dried, we'll know who to blame.