Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bastard! / Our Health and EVE


The Quafe can bounced harmlessly off the plexiglass viewport leaving a languid explosion of fluid to meander down the starfield. Eskrid quickly scooped up the container before it disgorged the remainder of its contents across the starbase command console.

She glanced nervously toward the raging Brutor man standing next to her. His sudden apoplexy had been brought on by a private communication he had just received. Despite being in his employ for less than a week, Eskrid knew better than to enquire. She returned to her post, silently yearning for the moment the capsuleer returned to his ship.

"Why di?...wha?...mhrphhfff!..." Fury overwhelmed vocabulary and the remainder of his breath was exhaled as a strangulated rasp.

Defeated, 'Seismic' Stanvall Roth, CEO of Greenbeard's Freebooters, collapsed back into his chair and stared out of the viewport. Eskrid glanced around the Starbase Command Centre, but all of the other nineteen Free Boot command staff present were finding their duties particularly engrossing at that moment. Questioning her own sanity, she heard her voice offer;

"Can I help, sir?" It sounded small.

The air grew taut as Seismic Stan's bowed head turned slowly toward her. One bloodshot eye studied her from behind a matted barrier of amniotically-congealed dreadlocks. Heart pounding, Eskrid wiped her clammy palms on her uniform and held his gaze.

He spoke, softly but with malice, "I don't know. Can you?" She began to reply but the capsuleer hadn't finished, "Can you run a capsuleer corporation? Can you manufacture starships? Can you analyse market trends? Can you?"

"I'm not...blessed as you are Sir. I am mortal." Her mouth was dry, "I'm trained in starbase maintenance. I could learn more but the process would be slower."

Seismic Stan's head rolled back and his scowl softened. He glanced around the Command Centre thoughtfully then looked back at Eskrid. His face broke open in an unsettling grin.

"I think you overestimate me. I might be listed as the CEO, but really I'm just a recovering Vitoc addict that likes to watch things blow up. There's more to being a capsuleer than cramming some extra circuitry in your head. Greenbeard knew that and now he's..."

Stan's expression changed at his own mention of the name of the corporation founder. His brow furrowed, his teeth clenched and his gaze disappeared off into the middle-distance as half-formed obscenities rumbled under his breath.

"Sir?" braved Eskrid.

Wild eyes snapped back to her. She almost startled, his contorted visage now twitching slightly.

"That bastard Greenbeard has abandoned us.", he slavered. "Just as we've got this starbase up and running and his precious Freebooters are starting to find their feet, he shuts down his operations and goes planetside. Indefinitely." His eyes darted sideways a moment, delving into his subconscious. "I'll find him. Yes. I'll hunt him down. Then I'll use a Khumaak to rip his implants out through his face..." Spittle ran unchecked down his chin as his gaze returned to Eskrid once more.

The Starbase Technician felt like a rodent in the presence of a wounded predator. If this is the price of immortality, she was grateful not to have it. She watched, relieved, as stability returned to her employer's demeanor and a decisive expression materialised on his face. Seismic Stan smiled at Eskrid, stood and strode toward the exit.

"Contact Long Jack and Karpov Katyusha. We have work to do."


Our Health and EVE

My good friend who plays Greenbeard has left EVE. He said "It's become too invasive."

He cited the increase of EVE-related activites that had crept into other aspects of his life; leaving the EVE client idling at home just in case, checking Capsuleer headlines on the iPhone whilst at work or out socialising. He came to the conclusion that his association with EVE was having a negative impact on other aspects of his life. So he's cancelled his account. At first I thought that subscription cancellation was a bit of an over-reaction. But perhaps not.

The addictive nature of all things EVE does seem to build to a critical mass. When reading other blogs it's not uncommon to read that someone has taken a self-imposed break or that they're suffering from 'EVE burn-out'. It's clearly not uncommon for players, in moments of reflection, to realise that time spent playing EVE is ultimately time wasted. Playing EVE, or indeed reading about EVE, doesn't improve your life. It doesn't make you healthier, it doesn't improve your income or your living space and is not an efficient use of time. In fact, the more time spent in EVE-related activities means less interaction with the real world therefore less productivity, potentially having a negative impact on your health, home and income.

Why is EVE arguably a worse offender than any other game? I would say it's because of what it does so well. The finely balanced game mechanics require your persistence in order to get your reward. Every aspect of the game requires a degree of constant maintenance, from ever improving skills to generating money for your PVP habit. EVE simulates responsibility in ways that make you feel obliged to log on lest you let down your corp-mates or your alliance. If that wasn't enough, the monthly subscription is going to encourage you to make sure you get your money's-worth.

So should we all follow Greenbeard's example and quit EVE forever? Of course not. Not all of our time has to be productive and efficient. In fact I think experts would tell you it's important to have hobbies, to relax and to indulge oneself. If an EVE player quits the game, will he become more productive? Or will he find other, equally unproductive things to do with his time? That depends entirely on the individual I suspect.

EVE is a demanding hobby; it requires discipline, imagination and good time management (so I'm in a lot of trouble). Clearly that discipline is exemplified by those players who can 'take a break', but perhaps not everyone does when they should.

I think in Greenbeard's case, he knew the only sure fire way to resist the lure of EVE was to make the break absolute. With no active subscription, he can't be tempted to just have a quick peek in-game or be called upon to perform corp duties.

It's an odd hobby that can elicit these responses from it's participants, yet still lure them back. Taking a break from EVE is healthy. It acts like a reset switch, giving you time to assess and reflect: Maybe your 'EVE-time' has been growing and encroaching on other aspects of your life and you should be mindful of that on your return. Perhaps something else will take EVE's place entirely. Or perhaps you had the balance right and you can happily continue.

With this in mind I'm off on holiday for a week for some of that aforementioned assessment and reflection, I think we need a new direction. But it's interesting to note that Greenbeard wouldn't let us have his stuff.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Blog Elitism?

So there's to be a shake-up in the upper echelons of the EVE blogosphere. Interesting.

CrazyKinux, the blogger behind the organisation and selection of the original Blog Pack, is looking to revitalise the format by removing inactive bloggers and allowing the community to nominate replacements. Initially, I was led to the Blog Pack by their inclusion in the iPhone Capsuleer app. Since then, it has provided a useful source of EVE-related material for me to read. That soon led to my discovery of the broader community, particularly the EVE Online Bloggers Portal (and podcasts, but that's another blog).

Those I have particularly enjoyed and would like to see included/kept in the new line-up are;

Ecliptic Rift
Casiella Truza's blog is always intelligent and well-written, with diverse content and some very random photos. I'm still not quite sure what the quantum olive was all about.

Mike Azariah
He caught my attention with his CSM-related appearance on the Planet Risk podcast, which led me to his blog. I really enjoy Mike's clever weaving of his in-game exploits into a fictional narrative.

Rettic's Log: The Chronofile
Informative, community-spirited and with some great fiction writing, Rettic has to be one of the front-runners for a Blogpack spot.

EVE Travel
By his own admission a niche blog, but Mark726's site is a superb concept and brilliantly written. Any concerns about running out of material are unfounded, as his style can be lent to other concepts.

Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
I still don't know what a Ninveah is or why he's got one in his Inner Sanctum, but Kirith Kodachi's blog is relentlessly stimulating, from thought-provoking articles to EVE fiction. One of my favourites.

EVE Newb
Spectre3353's misleadingly titled blog is irreverent, funny and occasionally offensive. His unique spark of nihilistic randomness should continue to bring chaos to the blogosphere.

Rifter Drifter
A great example of a blog that started off with a particular concept and evolved into far more. Wensley's blog has recently been providing some entertaining and in-depth coverage of the war in Providence, giving a great showcase of EVE's endgame.

There are, however, many other blogs and articles I have enjoyed reading from other sources too and it seems like a shame to limit the exposure and publicity to only a few. Which is why I've got mixed feelings about the Blog Pack.

The Blog Pack provides a central resource of of easily accessed EVE reading material (which is certainly a great boon when using Capsuleer on the iPhone). The creation of a blogging family where traffic can be shared amongst those select blogs is clearly good for providing the oxygen of readership amongst them. That is really what every blogger seeks; the knowledge that others are reading their words. Spreading the wealth is always a good thing, but there's something I find a little uncomfortable about the concept of the Blog Pack, something almost elitist. Is it a club whose members establish themselves as the 'most important' blogs?

The value of the Blog Pack is evident, with even those current members who have been a little quiet of late being shaken out of their silence by the threat to their coveted positions, but what does the Blog Pack provide to the community that the EVE Bloggers portal does not? Was it significant that the Blog Pack was removed from the portal, allowing all members of the EVE blogging community to contribute equally in a natural, organic process of shared readership?

Yet this is a competitive, capitalist world and EVE is a celebration of that. I would be lying if I said I do not covet a Blog Pack spot and all that goes with it, I'm no communist. Yet with delicious irony, I realise in voicing the above concerns and challenging the status quo, I jeopardise any chance of being considered and may be committing blogicide.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Great Roleplaying Misconception

Lois Griffin: [Lois and Peter wait for a pregnancy test] God, I can't believe we weren't more careful. This probably happened that night we tried role playing.
Lois Griffin:[flashback] Oh, I need a spankin'. I'm a bad, bad girl.
Peter Griffin: I'm a Paladin with 18 charisma and 97 hit points. I can use my helm of disintegration and do one D4 damage as my half-elf mage wields his plus-five holy avenger.
Lois Griffin: Paladins can't use the helm of disintegration.
Peter Griffin: Oh. Then, I'm a black guuuuy.

In the EVE blogosphere, the topic of roleplaying seems to have been propelled to the fore in recent weeks. Perhaps in part due to the public attention that EVE's largest roleplaying alliance, the Curatores Veratatis Alliance (CVA), has been getting during their war in Providence versus Against All Authorities and Ushra'khan.

Akura Kawanaka at Eve Monkey blogged about the idea that roleplaying has been detrimental to the CVA and could be a contributing factor to their recent run of defeats.

Kirith Kodachi's To Be or Not to Be blog post really got me thinking. He makes mention of the "static group" of roleplayers in the days of odd-shaped dice and real paper character sheets. He also discusses the idea that the concept of roleplaying has become diluted or changed by the modern Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) concept. Which prompted me to leave this comment:

I have fond memories of the pen-and-paper roleplaying games I played during my school years. Games like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Cyberpunk were the common ground that brought me together with many of my friends back in the late eighties, and it's some of those same friends that I'm in an EVE corporation with today, over two decades later.

One of the things that we learned during that transition from sitting in the same room with familiar faces, to digitally generated online worlds is that MMORPGs are not really roleplaying games. At least not in the same sense. They may use the same IP and some of the same mechanics but it just doesn't recreate that intimate, personal environment of creativity and comedy that the old pen-and-paper games did.

I know that was basically a "it weren't like that in my day" statement, but please don't misunderstand me. We really wanted online games to provide us with the same environment and spent frustrating years trying to make it happen as a 'replacement service' once we'd all grown up and moved to different towns. Eventually we came to realise that they weren't the same kind of entertainment, in the same way that a film adaption isn't the same as the original book. Bigger, flashier, but ultimately shallower and less interactive.

So we've adapted. We sometimes indulge in a bit of in-character stuff in game (it was one of the things that attracted us to living in CVA territory), but it's secondary to game events and the win scenario will always be chosen over the roleplay. Every once in a while we talk about getting together and picking up a d20 again, but it's unlikely to happen.

When it comes to EVE, I don't believe it's original creators ever considered it to be a roleplaying game. It's a MMOG, certainly, but I dug out my original CD-ROM version and emblazoned across the top of the case art are the words "A Massively Multiplayer Online Game". No mention of roleplay.

However, at the risk of contradicting myself, I believe EVE does achieve a level of immersion that many other MMOGs fail to attain. In some respects, it could be said CCP cheated the system by choosing a setting in space; in order to achieve immersion the player simply needs to feel isolated with unseen dangers lurking in the void. EVE is unsurpassed in providing those moments, and there is no denying the stark and stunning visuals. But then convincing and immersive deep space is probably easier to do than convincing jungles. Especially since none of us have actually been there to disprove CCP's interpretation.

EVE doesn't say that it's a roleplaying game, but neither does it say that it's not. The clever thing is in the fact that the universe of New Eden doesn't force itself upon you. The beauty in the design is that it conveys the spirit and essence of it's environment without demanding that you utilise it and interact with it in any particular way, it's all just there for you to interact with or ignore.

There have been many times when I have stopped chasing the "winning move" for a while just to ponder a particular planet or celestial object, allowing myself to wonder on it's purpose or the lives of the inhabitants. I know I am not alone in that, Mynxee recently blogged on the subject in A Sense of Scale and Mark726 has dedicated his blog to enjoying the detail over at EVE Travel (essentially A Rough Guide to New Eden - either Mark is actually Michael Palin in real life or he works for Lonely Planet).

In the end it's all just pixels and, as Kirith highlighted, there are many barriers preventing roleplaying in the traditional sense. But before computer games it was just words on a page, yet somehow in our minds we managed to translate that into far more. The essence of roleplaying is the nebulous ideas within our imaginations being brought into focus by a form of media that allows interaction. EVE is a tool that encourages you to enjoy those parts of the experience that we know are there without ever seeing them, that we fill in for ourselves. In the same way that books, early computer games, tabletop war-games and our old role-playing games stimulated our minds, providing an outline for our imaginations to colour, EVE doesn't attempt to do it all for us.

It takes us part of the way, inspires us and then invites us to believe.

Monday, 15 February 2010

How to Buy and Build POS*...

...if, like me, you're an impatient idiot who has done very little research. I sincerely hope you haven't stumbled across this article looking for a guide on the specifics of Starbase construction. You'll be sorely disappointed when met with my account of poor planning and myopic foresight. Although it might still be worth a read if only as a cautionary tale.

[*note to self: find out what POS officially stands for: Player/Pilot/Puppet Owned Starbase/Station/Structure/Sex Club]

In my last post, I was considering what path to take with nearly a billion isk burning a hole in my pocket. Some very useful advice from Kirith Kodachi has seen me scouring the contracts market for a good deal on a Raven Navy Issue, although being a bit of a miser I have yet to take the plunge.

Casiella Trusa suggested I pimp myself up with some implants and get involved in some Tech I frigate PvP combat. I like that idea; potentially giving me an edge on a budget (providing I don't get podded). And things may soon come to pass where I'll have no choice, but more on that later.

Instead of following this sage advice offered to me by my peers, I decided to buy my own 'space station'. This decision was based almost entirely on the fact that I was given a Hyasyoda Mobile Laboratory after completing the Caldari epic mission arc. Also, I've always kind of had a deal with Greenbeard (our corp founder) to get into the whole blueprint research and invention thing as he had skilled up to be our senior manufacturer. Until now I'd either been too busy blowing things up or had got frustrated by the endless queues to make use of a public laboratory. I was curious about how I could make use of my new lab.

I used EveHQ's POS Management tool to get a grasp of the basics. It all hinged around a control tower which, similar to a ship, provided powergrid and CPU to support other structures. The key thing to note was the fuel costs. Initial outlay aside, the more structures you have, the greater the fuel demands. The towers come in three sizes with correspondingly greater powergrid and CPU and therefore more structure capacity (and more fuel demands). I opted for the smallest tower in an attempt to reduce my running costs (it'll still cost me in excess of 10m isk per week). I chose the Minmatar one, mainly because advice I read elsewhere suggests it is the most balanced in terms of power/CPU and it provides bonus to projectile weapon batteries which are the POS defence weapon of choice as they continue to fire even after the starbase has been put into 'reinforced'*.

[*'reinforced' is the state into which a besieged starbase enters once it's shields are reduced to 25%. At this point it becomes invulnerable for as long as it's stored supply of Strontium Clathrates lasts. This is essentially a gameplay mechanism to minimise any timezone advantage and give POS owners the opportunity to marshall a defence. All structures that require CPU cease to function at this point, rendering many defences useless.]

Initially, my plan was to set the POS up as a corp staging point on the edge of high-security space to support our operations in the vicinity of our low-sec HQ. However, a bit of research soon put paid to that. Greenbeard's Freebooters were required to have a faction standing of at least 5.00 with Amarr and we were a long way off. So low-sec was our only option. I scouted around our system of choice to find a suitable moon without a current resident.

The SSS Wabbit in the search for a new home.

I even dabbled with a bit of moon probing, but it seemed most of the available moon resources were pretty worthless.

Moon probing: Fire probe, watch white dot for 10 mins, wait for Spock to come back to life.

Site chosen and armed with a pimped-up hauler called the Big Empty (a Mammoth with a cargo capacity in excess of 35,000m3) and a shopping list of structures and fuel gleaned from my EveHQ research.

I purchased the following:
  • A small Minmatar control tower.
  • A Mobile Laboratory (cos my fancy one can't do copying).
  • A Corporate Hangar Array (for storing junk).
  • A Ship Maintenance Array (for parking).
  • A Ballistic Deflection Array
  • An Explosion Dampening Array
  • 2xMedium Autocannon Batteries
  • 2xMedium Artillery Batteries
  • A Stasis Webification Battery (to make little ships hittable with big guns)
  • A Warp Scrambling Battery
  • A Sensor Dampening Battery (to encourage sniping assailants to come into weapons range).
In addition to all this I purchased the maximum storable amount of fuel which consisted largely of crap that I've previously found in destroyable mission structures and never given a second thought to. Stuff like coolant, robotics, heavy water and enriched uranium (why can't that be stored in containers?). All in all, I think I spent about 400,000isk and it took several cargo runs to move it all into a high-sec system close to the deployment site.

The SSS Big Empty worked tirelessly shipping equipment from Amarr to Assah.

With Long Jack in a Griffin on scouting and ECM duty, we managed to move everything into position and deploy it all without event. It's the first fifteen minutes which are the most nerve-wracking as the Control Tower anchoring and onlining countdowns ticked away slowly. Until the tower is up, there is no shielding or protection of any kind from passing opportunistic pirates, so sitting in a defenceless hauler filled with expensive cargo is not where you want to be, which is why I installed a cloak. Fortunately we were setting up in a low-sec system that has the benefit of being protected by a militia enforcing a Not Red, Don't Shoot (NRDS) policy. Even so, it pays to be careful.

Once the shield was up, I uncloaked the Big Empty and deployed the other structures in the hold whilst Long Jack warped in and out in an expendable frigate to determine optimal placement and ranges for the defensive gun batteries. The whole operation took an hour or two, but I understand for a larger POS the time involved would be considerably more.

After everything was anchored and onlined it was time to admire our new playground. Well, I say 'everything onlined', but in actual fact I can't online any of the structures within the shield when all of the defensive structures and batteries are running. This was a deliberate design decision, allowing all of the control tower resources to be used in the defence of the starbase in my absence, with concessions to the defensive capabilities made whilst someone was in residence and using the facilities. It's pretty much like remembering to switch on the burglar alarm on your way out.

It looks like a docking bay, it's big enough for a docking bay, but there'll be no docking at a starbase.

This may have all sounded very smooth, but I'm aware of a number of snags, hitches and concerns that may await us on the path ahead.
  • DEFENCE. The defences are untested as of yet and I'm not sure how well they will hold. As mentioned in previous posts, turret-based weaponry is not my speciality. However as I understand it, a determined effort will get through any kind of POS defence, the object of the exercise is just to be a nuisance to any potential attackers.
  • SKILLS. The ownership of a POS opens up a whole new field of skills that I now need to learn, distracting me from my pursuit of combat excellence. Starbase Defense Management (prerequisite: Anchoring V) is required to take control of the defence batteries. The blueprint research/invention field requires a host of new skills in order to be efficient.
  • UPKEEP. The upkeep of 10m+ isk per week puts the onus on me to continually find money and transport fuel to the POS. Not a problem whilst actively playing and making use of it, but it could easily become a burden if the situation changes.
  • DESERTION. Our illustrious founder Greenbeard has recently decided to decompress his pod for the last time (maybe) and will no longer be providing manufacturing support. His departure may cause activity from the remaining corp members (all two of them) to diminish.
  • INVASION. The political climate is a bit dicey in the locality. A small corp like the Freebooters is only able to enjoy taking risks like setting up a POS in low-sec due to the CVA-enforced NRDS policy. I have concerns for our POS investment when a large marauding Ushra'khan fleet is reported two jumps away. I'm fairly sure they and their allies won't have as accommodating a policy should they choose to roll through here.
Time will tell, I'll just have to hold onto my hat and see what happens.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Epic Decision: Advice Needed

Further to my previous post about Penumbra, the Caldari Epic mission arc, I'm pleased to report I managed to complete the saga without the predicted loss of my battleship. Even better news was the total profits. If I was a 'proper' EVE player, I'd be able to give you an exact breakdown in spreadsheet form of my total income/expenditure for the whole adventure. But I can't, nor would I want to.

What I can tell you is that over the week or so it took me to complete the arc, my wallet increased by about 300 million isk. That was from mission rewards, bounties and sale of loot and salvage. On top of that, I'm now the proud owner of a Hyasyoda Research Laboratory - which is bloody useless without a POS (Player-Owned-Station/Pilot-Owned-Starbase/whatever).

So now I've finally got a bit of wedge behind me (just under a billion) and my skills are approaching a crossroads, I need to make a decision on what to spend the money on and what direction to take next. The options are as follows;

Option 1: Buy the Golem Tech II Marauder-class battleship. Apparently, it's the ultimate missioning ship and would maximise my mission-grinding ability. The downside to this is that it would take my entire cash-reserves to get it and my skills aren't quite there yet. Plus it would just send me back into the mission-grinding loop again, which wouldn't really feel like progress.

Option 2: Buy a Chimera Carrier. Although potentially huge fun, I'm not sure what it's application would be other than acting as a trouble-magnet due to it's inability to get into high-sec space. Also, like the Golem, a few additional weeks of skill-training would be required.

Option 3: Buy a Cerberus Tech II Heavy Assault Ship, fit it for PvP and get involved in some local action. At 100m isk a go, if I get it blown up at least I can afford to replace it a few times before I have to go back to missioning.

Option 4: Buy a Tech III Strategic Cruiser. This has the customisability to operate as a missioning ship, a PVPer and a 0.0/wormhole explorer. I'm quite excited by this option but, like the carrier, will I end up not using it because I'm frightened to lose it?

Option 5: Purchase a POS so I can make use of my epic mission reward. I can start trying to improve our existing blueprints and try inventing some Tech II stuff. This is the most corp-centric option and it's something new.

Look at those options, financially it is achievable for me to do more than one of options 3, 4 and 5. Options 1 and 2 are pretty much one-shot deals. Some suggestions would be very welcome, especially from those who must've reached this juncture at some point in the past.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

In Search of the Epic Experience

Every now and then, I bounce around in our favourite space sandbox looking for the next thing to try. This time I settled on trying out one of the Epic mission arcs.

All the talk lately has been about the new pirate faction interceptor-friendly ones, but as I'm still only flirting with low-sec like a big girly-girl and I've spent the last 18-months really upsetting the Guristas et al, I'll have to try out one of the original ones.

Epic Destinations: A secret depot in 0.0 space.

As I'm only really skilled-up to fly Caldari ships, it made sense to me to attempt the Caldari arc in the hope that I'll earn some useable reward out of it. After spending the last few weeks slowly improving my standing with Expert Distribution in order to achieve the required standing of 6.8, I was finally able to get the Penumbra arc started. I was quite looking forward to the opportunity to undertake some missions I hadn't done a thousand times before - I really no longer care if Professor Delainen wants to be a battleship and elope with an asteroid and if those miners aren't prepared to defend themselves perhaps they should consider a different line of work.

For the epic missions, I was actually looking forward to the storyline and hoped to feel some level of immersion and involvement. I had already moved my missioning wagon train (Raven Battleship, a hauler full of ammo, kit for loadout changes and some disposable scouting frigates and shuttles) into the vicinity of the Josameto system. Although I had researched the arc a little (I'm not sure how else a player would find out about them), I had been careful not to look to far into things as I wanted to be surprised by events.

I wasn't disappointed. Like everything in EvE, a little effort on the part of player results in a rewarding experience. I was soon embroiled in a plot that I have no intention of giving away here - there are plenty of spoiler-riddled walkthroughs out there. Suffice to say that now I'm nearing the end of the arc (I think), I'm a bit confused as to which corporation I'm actually working for and who I've agreed to stab in the back.

There were some impressive sights to be beheld in some missions, chief amongst them has to be one particular agent's Chimera carrier, one of the ships on my money-no-object wishlist. It was the first time I'd seen one outside of the market preview tool and I enjoyed flying around it and being dwarfed by it.

A Chimera carrier in the Astoh system in Black Rise.

There were a couple of challenges that threatened to impede my progress through the arc:

One agent's insistence that I would need a covert ops frigate or an interceptor for a future mission meant I had to fly halfway across empire space to recover my Crow, only to find out on my return that the mission involved carrying a message into 0.0 via the notorious FD-MLJ/PF-346 pipe. Pah, like I was going to waste a tech II frigate on a suicide mission. I clone-jumped into an unimplanted clone and did the outgoing trip in a shuttle. I took an indirect route to my target system where I completed the mission. Out of curiosity, I returned the short and dangerous way, just to see if I was right to be cautious. No sooner did I jump into FD-MLJ did I get bubbled and podded by several members of the Solar Fleet alliance. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Zidrik and co for proving me right and saving me a dull 25-jump trip home.

Another problem that arose in one mission was the requirement to hack into a detention centre. The mission in question required me to scan down the site, so another trip back to my home system was in order to pick up my Buzzard covert ops frigate. Once the site was found and a couple of other hoops were jumped through, it turned out that my Hacking skill was of an insufficent level. It was going to take at least ten hours to learn the next level before I could complete this mission and that was assuming that Hacking level 3 would be enough. It turned out that it was, so it wasn't the end of the world.

Now I believe I'm on the last mission - it certainly has the hallmarks of a final showdown. It's bastard hard for starters. An uber-tanked Nugoeihuvi Caretaker battleship that can absorb everything I can throw at it and can travel at over 1000m/s, four elite cruisers capable of ECMing me from over 100km away, a horde of torpedo-hurling battleships and several elite frigates that are staying out of drone range at the moment, but you know they'll scramble me as soon as they get close enough.

Now I think of it, the behaviour of these NPCs is a bit Sleeper-like. I wonder if CCP have started to migrate the AI over like they threatened to.

The S.S.S. Big Boomstick Chucka takes a pounding from disgruntled NOH employees.

I had managed to whittle away at them and kill the ECM cruisers but I had to stop for downtime, so I bet they've respawned now. Oh well, it's been a lucrative arc, so even if I lose the Raven, I reckon I'll still have made a profit. I'm going back in.

Wish me luck.

The end of the line?