Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Blog Banter 41: Director's Cut

Welcome to the 41st edition of the EVE community Blog Banter, the cross-blog discussion that shakes the hive mind of the blogging community to see what's making that rattling sound.

Anyone and everyone is encouraged to take part, whether by writing a blogpost entry to add to the list below or just by reading and commenting on the musings of others. Don't be shy.

For more of an idea how this strange tradition works, check out the previous Blog Banters by following the link at the top of this page or take a look at Knights of the Banter, a recent post about the usual suspects and history of the Blog Banter initiative.

If you would like to be added to the Blog Banter mailing list, just let me know and you'll get an email notification whenever a new Blog Banter goes live (roughly once a month).

Kubrick wasn't happy about the price of PLEX
So, on with the topic:

BB41: Director's Cut

The universe of EVE is not without its drama and epic stories, both in and out of game. Imagine a publisher, movie studio or television network asked you to prepare a pitch for a new brand of EVE-flavoured entertainment. This could be your big break, what would be your synopsis to bring New Eden to the wider audience?

Fevered Scribblings from the Blogging Imaginarium:

Monday, 19 November 2012

Knights of the Banter

The blogging community is an unquantifiable source of reading material with all manner of contributors; some transient, some content to stay in their corner and some you couldn't shut up if you tried. The Blog Banters are by no means an accurate measure of the community, but the concept is a sort of round table at which every EVE blogger has a seat whether or not they choose to sit in it. It has become an old tradition which makes no more or less sense than many such habits. But it's nice all the same.

One thing the Banters certainly do well is unite this otherwise disparate group of scribes. It gives them cause to notice each other and to opine and comment. Researching for my Banter Management article in the latest issue of EON (which you really should buy - then you can also read my comical attempt to step into Kirith Kodachi's Test Flight shoes), I looked into some statistics and history of the Banters, but for reasons of space not all of it was included in EON, so I am free to share it here.

We Few, We Happy Few, We..Oh, Maybe Not

The Blog Banters have been running since 2008 and until 2011 were administrated by Crazy Kinux. After a brief Banter-free spell, I picked up his discarded baton in Summer of 2011. Since then, I have overseen 14 Banters on an approximately monthly basis, bringing the total up to 40. It's been a thought-provoking and entertaining ride so far.

During my tenure, 123(!) bloggers have taken part in those 14 banters, with Blog Banter 39: Home breaking the record with 46 participants. That's a whole lot of column inches.

It has been interesting to note which bloggers take part in which discussions. Blog Banters attempt to embrace all manner of topics, so it's unsurprising that the faces and names often change from month to month. This means that the format stays fresh and engaging for those who read everything.

But it's also nice to see the regular mainstays of the Banter community and it's to those I want to extend a special thanks for supporting the Blog Banters.

I even went to the trouble of doing some sums (which I'm bound to have cocked up), but here is a list of the guys and gals who help to keep this bipolar, irascible yet endearing community bumping along.

Top Participants in the 14 Freebooted-hosted Banters (so far!)

1. Drackarn of Sand, Cider & Spaceships (all 14!)

2. Rixx Javix of Eveoganda (13)

3. Kirith Kodachi of Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah (11)

4. The Scientist of A Scientist's Life in EVE (10)
    Blastradius of Blastrad's Tales (10)
    Evehermit of Evehermit's Blog (10)

7. Orakkus of 2nd Anomaly from the Left (9)
    Mike Azariah of A Missioneer in EVE (9)
    Corelin of Mad Haberdashers (9)

10.TurAmarth ElRandir of A Carbon Based Life (8)
     Emergent Patroller of Emergent Patroller (8)

12.Mabrick of Mabrick's Mumblings (7)
     Helena Khan of Aggressive Logistics (7)

14.Adhar Khorin of Margin Call (6)
     Ripard Teg of Jester's Trek (6)
     Tommy Rollins of Rollins' Ride in Eve (6)
     Kuan Yida of Random Posts from Auga (6)
     Morphisat of Morphisat's Blog (6)

19.Ender Black of Pod Goo (5)
     Sessym of Rants from New Eden (5)
     Urziel99 of Urziel's EVE Chronicle (5)
     Myrhial Arkenath of A Diary of a Pod Pilot (5)
     Keyanu of MuppetNinjas (5)
     Lukas Rox of Torchwood Archives (5)
     Splatus of A Journey Through the Mind (5)
     Cozmik R5 of Beyond Space (5)
     Marc Scaurus of Malefactor (5)

28.Harrigan VonStudly of Gun Turret Diplomacy (4)
     Rhavas of Interstellar Privateer (4)
     Anshu Zephyran of Structure Damage (4)
     Poetic Stanziel of Poetic Discourse (4)
     Jace Errata of Year of the Snake (4)
     Firstly of Flying Silent (4)

Whilst I was tempted to list all of the participants, the full list of 123 bloggers would be a tad too long and the linkage would hurt my brain. Nonetheless, thanks all for taking part and I hope to see names new and old on future lists.

Honourable mentions are certainly also deserved to those most noble of individuals who have come to my assistance with the summaries for the more recent banters. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of TurAmarth ElRandir, EVE Scientist (twice!), Firstly and Nikolaj Vincent.

Thanks again folks, enjoy your imaginary Knighthoods. I'll find some poncy royal to cuff you round the head with a bit of ornate metal as soon as Liz calls me back. She must be out walking the corgis.

Now quickly, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

The Blogassic Period

Having dug back into the mists of antiquity and exhumed forgotten lists of yore, what follows is an archive of every Blog Banter since the dawn of the Crazy Kinux era.

Kirith, Roc & Mandrill come to terms with shared incontinence pants.
Something I found of interest - blowing the dust off the very first Blog Banter, entitled "Exotic dancers, Corporate Meetings & more" - of the 20 original participants, only three remain active in the blogging community. So if those listed previously were the Knights of the Banter, then surely these venerated and hardy individuals are the Lords of the Blog.

Those lauded three are Kirith Kodachi, Roc Wieler and Keith "Mandrill" Neilson. Ancient blogging titans still going strong despite increasing incontinence and a need for walking aids, I salute you.

Banter Archive

Crazy Kinux Era (2008-2011)

1. Exotic Dancers, Corporate Meetings & more (Oct)
2. Space, the Final Frontier... (Nov)
3. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Dec)

4. The Game with the Thousand Faces (Jan)
5. Leave what you know at the door please! (Feb)
6. Nowhere to go... (Mar)
7. Eh, nobody told me you could do this in EVE! (Apr)
8. Care for a little game of SecWars? (May)
9. If I were a CCP Dev I would... (Jun)
10. It's just a game! (Jul)
11. The Few, the Proud, the next Tech 3 ships! (Aug)
12. Tying the dots and locking me in! (Sep)
13. Your mission, should you decide to accept it... (Oct)

14. A beginning is a very delicate time... (Jan)
15. Why We Love EVE Online (Feb)
16. The Three Pillars of Wisdom (Mar)
17. The Ladies of New Eden (Apr)
18. The Heroes with a Thousand Faces (Jun)
19. Growing Pains (Jul)
20. Care for a little griefing tonight? (Aug)
21. The Lure of the Wild (Sep)
22. Home Sweet Corp (Oct)
23. Rome wasn't build in a day, neither was New Eden (Dec)

24. Be, all that you can be, and so much more! (Jan)
25. And by Alliance you mean.....? (Feb)
26. Beyond nebulas and shiny ships (Mar)

Freebooted Era (2011-present)

27. EVE Quick Matches (Aug) [Summary]
28. The Future of EVE Online, CCP and the CSM (Sep) [Summary]
29. Immersion (Oct) [Summary]
30. The Melting Pot (Nov) [Summary]
31. Community Review of EVE Online (Dec) [Summary]

32. Non-Consensual Combat Restrictions (Jan) [Summary]
33. The Capsuleer Experience (Feb) [Summary]
34. The Rise of the Spaceship Politician (Mar) [Summary]
35. The Public Perception of EVE Online (Apr) [Summary]
36. The Expansion of EVE (May) [Summary]
37. The Line in the Sand (Jun) [Summary]
38. Dogma (July) [Summary]
39. Home (Aug) [Summary]
40. Interstellar Blood Sports (Oct) [Summary]

Edit: As linked in the comments below (nice one TurAmarth):

Knights of the Order of the Garter (by TurAmarth ElRandir & Terry Gilliam)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

New Eden is Open: Can EVE eSports Make for a Good Casual Viewing Experience?

As I wait in anticipation for the first matches of the New Eden Open to kick off, I'm quite intrigued by the idea of the mix of professional tournament pilots and rookie groups with little previous experience. It will probably just result in some real car crashes, but that's still entertaining, right?

Whilst I appreciate that some folk are disparaging about the lack of identifiable teams as in the Alliance Tournament, I'm someone struggles to tell the various null-sec tribes apart, so the viewing experience of the New Eden Open will be little different for me. Having read some forum posts and other useful site (see bottom of post for links), I've got a vague idea of the composition of a few of the teams which has given them some character for me to latch on to.

I think that, with a little investment of time from the viewer, team character will develop over the course of the tournament. I'm hoping for some surprises and some drama. Here's a quick overview of some of the competitors.

Something Else (so called because their original name was a little controversial and they were asked to come up with 'something else') has a mix of TEST, RAZOR, Goons and FCON pilots, so it'll be interesting if that depth of experience can be combined into something resembling a team synergy by captain SpeedY G0nZaleZ.

Much Crying Old Experts (Engrish for 'Bittervet') are representing the US segment of the anarchic Failheap Challenge forum community. Great depth of experience here, but will they be able to see through the tears?

The Exiled Gaming are from a small high-sec alliance and as the clear tournament underdogs will have my complete support for their two matches. Their first is against Something Else, so they really are up against it, but wouldn't a giant-killing shock victory be entertaining. I can dream.

Goggle Wearing Crime Fighters are mostly from the Suddenly Spaceships alliance, but they've got a few rookies in the mix too to take advantage of the open tournament format. Team captain Seldarine said “My team has a mixture of tournament veterans like myself and people who whilst being PVP enthusiasts, have never had the opportunity to fly in an EVE tournament before.” Perhaps another people's favourite?

Expendables are from the HYDRA RELOADED stable, who took the title of Alliance Tournament IX under a cloud of controversy and were disqualified from competing in this Summer's Alliance Tournament X. They've got the pedigree to be strong contenders.

Oxygen Isonopes largely comprises Goonswarm members, so they can play the slightly comical pantomime villain role, as they so often do so well.

The HUNS are from HUN Reloaded, the Alliance Tournament X runners-up who made that seemingly unstoppable charge for the title with the same fleet setup in every match. They really made the Vargur (or was it the Vindicator?) battleship the symbol of their relentless march to near victory.

Why Dash represent Pandemic Legion, the null-sec alliance who dominated tournaments for a number of years, winning three titles in succession, VI, VII & VIII. Team captain is Council of Stellar Management member, Elise Randolph.

Guiding Hand Social Club won't appear initially, as they've got a bye due to the uneven number of competitors, but they are perhaps one of the most infamous names in EVE history. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just Google them.

The Reputation Cartel are another team from the Failheap Challenge forum community, but are made up of European timezone members as opposed to their US Much Crying Old Experts stable mates.

Africa's Finest deserve a mention as they are a team made up of the current Alliance Tournament champions from Verge of Collapse, who were the unfavoured underdogs in the ATX final against the apparently unbeatable HUN Reloaded team.

Whilst this is only a small selection of the twenty-seven competing teams, I hope that as the tournament story plays out, we'll see others make a name for themselves and new heroes, fall guys and villains will be made. Logan Fyerite has made a useful complete competitor list on his Eve Opportunist blog.

Watch the feed below from 6pm-9pm GMT for the next three weekends.

Tournament Resources Live Stream
New Eden Open Official Site (for rules & schedule)
EVE-O Tournament Discussion Forum
Wunder Bet (team info, interviews and betting)
Monocle Madness (match betting)
Blog Banter 40: Interstellar Blood Sports (A community discussion on EVE eSports)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Carbon Based Blog Banter - Summary of BB39: Home

"Some say a man's home is his castle. For others it is wherever they lay their hat. The concept is just as nebulous in the New Eden sandbox.” - Blog Banter 39: Home

Summarising a Blog Banter is no easy task. It involves reading through tens of blogs, weighing up the differing opinions and then finding a way to present the results in an appealing way. Last month's "Home" topic was gentler and less divisive than most banter topics, so this made the review process all the more challenging.

However TurAmarth ElRandir of A Carbon Based Life stepped up and wow, did he go to town. He left no stone unturned and clearly went through each and every one of the 42 entries (which, incidentally is a record under my stewardship, beating BB32: Non-Consensual Combat Restrictions, which had 40 entries) in detail. I salute his thoroughness.

His full body of work, "Minutes of the Thirty Ninth Capsuleer Philosophical Round Table", is a fictionalised account of a summit of the bantering capsuleers and it runs to nearly 10,000 words! But don't worry if you don't have an hour to spare reading it, it works in bite-sized chunks too and TurAmarth has even included a TL;DR at the end.

I'd like to think, if nothing else, the sheer number of entries and the passion and effort that has been put into this particular Banter by all participants is proof that the EVE Blogosphere is alive and well. Doom-mongers be damned.

Much gratitude and respect to all the Blog Banter 39 participants - and especially TurAmarth - for making being part of the EVE blogging community such a rewarding experience.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Formation Combat: Relevant or Redundant?

Combat is central to much of EVE's gameplay, from simple 1v1s to massive blob(fleet) clashes. Despite the depth of preparation options in ship fitting and fleet composition, the engagements themselves play out in a fairly predictable way. A target is selected and pilots scramble to achieve their optimal weapon ranges to settle into an orbit and achieve the highest speed possible to reduce incoming fire. Of course there are other subtleties to consider, especially in multiple ship engagements, but that is the basic essence.

I've just been having an engaging and thought-provoking Twitter conversation involving @Mandrill, @SpaceKazz, @CCP_Sisyphus, @ktouborg (CCP Soundwave), @DrVerikan and others, but the limitations of 140 characters was making the discussion difficult.

Would some kind of formation mechanic add any depth to the combat experience?

Personally, I'm not convinced that preset formations would be of value, however what about the simple introduction of a 'match speed and direction of target' option? We already have a 'keep at range' option, but this simply makes the ship attempt to move directly away from the target then perform all kinds of ridiculous and unsafe manoeuvers at slows speeds to maintain the distance. As a result, it is pretty useless.

If the ability to match speed and heading to a friendly or enemy target were available, how might this impact on existing gameplay options?

If the mechanic was kept simple and the onus was on the pilot to reach the appropriate range before hitting the button, pilot skill and situational awareness and knowledge would still be a key factor. The decision remains with the pilot on what distance would be of use, but once that had been achieved, the ability to shadow another ship in this manner may have applications.

Fleet Arrangement
A blob is so-called because it is a disorganised collection of ships, fleeted together but arranged pretty much at random in a spherical formation. Being able to match speed and direction could give rise to more thoughtfully arranged blobs with central or back-line sniping ships, outlying tacklers, vulnerable ships placed appropriately before an engagement begins. It would be key that the formation holds together through warp, but it would allow a more tactical spread of ship types to be able to execute an attack plan with a “playbook formation”. Of course, once the combat itself begins, all hell will break loose and the individual pilots will have to respond accordingly.

This could give rise to American Football style set plays, all laid out the moment a fleet comes out of warp, with ready-placed bait ships, micro-jump drive enabled frontline squads, well-placed sniping support and other subtleties.

Follow the Leader
Being able to match speed and heading to the FC could make fleet movement more user friendly. It would provide an alternative way of aligning a fleet to the next jump point. Once a fleet pilot has jumped through a stargate, he could manually align to the designated destination, or align with the FC. The speed matching would prevent faster ships from straying too far from the fleet. Of course, if the FC is in a rapid vessel, he would need to consider slower fleet members.

Mirrored Behaviour
A distant target is only an icon on the screen and an entry in the overview. Without CCP T0rfiFrans' promised picture-in-picture functionality, it is difficult to determine what the target might be up to unless you want to decipher the transversal and velocity data in the overview columns. Having a pilot in fleet who is mirroring the target's behaviour might give early warning to his intentions.

In conclusion, could such a mechanic provide any additional depth to the build-up to an engagement, or even to the combat itself? Is there an application for manual formations enabled by a 'match speed and alignment' function? Or does it “make EVE too easy” as some have suggested? There are undoubtedly other applications that players might exploit.

I'd welcome your input.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

An Ecosystem of Wordsmiths

There has been some recent community discussion regarding the welfare of the EVE blogosphere. Marc Scaurus, custodian of the Blog Pack and EVE-Bloggers as well as Judgemeister General of the Eebies (the EVE Blogger Awards), has published a blogpost asking for a frank look at how these community services (and by implication, also the Blog Banters) can continue to be run. If the continuation on any of those traditions is important to you, you should head over and leave a comment. Marc needs to know if his efforts are appreciated and those services are still desired.

Meanwhile, the blogging autocannon that is Rixx Javix has fired off a related post citing as the cause of a perceived decline in the Blogosphere population. It's an interesting line of thinking, but as a medical clinician I'd like to take a more pragmatic approach and look for some differential diagnoses before claiming civilian casualties in The Mittani's media war on EVE News 24.

Acceptable Attrition

It is true that some notable EVE bloggers have gone dark of late, either announcing their retirement or just quietly ceasing output. Nashh Kadavr, EVE Scientist, Kaeda Maxwell and Corelin to name a few. But that is the way of things. Each has their own reasons for leaving, but also a game like EVE, whose history spans a decade, is likely to outlive the interest of all but the most hardened of addicts. Equally, the very fact that EVE has been around for so long is testament to the fact that new players join or old players return.

This holds just as true in the blogging community. In the last month we have seen the return of some bloggers too, my idol of irreverence, Spectre, has started blogging again on EVE Newb after being dark since 2010. Alexia Morgan, founder of EVE-Bloggers and the Open university of Celestial Hardship has returned to the fold and is interested in reclaiming his creation. We've seen several promising new blogs start up over the last year too (Crossing Zebras, Low Sec Lifestyle, Flying Silent, The Gallente Blaster Cannon etc.), so the revolving door continues to spin.

I think is a magnificent thing. There is regular, high-quality content to be found there and, as Rixx says, several bloggers are focusing the lion's share of their efforts on providing material there, Marc Scaurus amongst them. EVE News 24 continues to deliver and has even had a facelift to keep up with the Joneses.

But that doesn't mean that all that there is to say has been said. Far from it. Not every blogger will be producing material that fits a commercial news site. As new bloggers hone their craft, they may not feel ready for the challenge but may aim to contribute in the future. It's all part of the same grand ecosystem. Bloggers are a unique breed and I'm sure a community of independent blogs will continue to thrive in the EVE metasphere.

In the latest edition of EON Magazine, I wrote an article about the EVE blogging community and the Blog Banters. In it, I said this:

“Imagine EVE players are animals. You can find many of them in zoo-like forums where you can witness the moderated behaviour of players in controlled enclosures, pacing and snarling or building their nests out of walls of text. Beyond these menageries are player-aggregated news sites which could be compared the circus; here players celebrate and show off their best tricks and highlight the clown-like gaffes of others. To complete this analogy, the blogging community then is a safari, where these same players return from their controlled environments with a wont to explore and discuss their gaming experiences in their own environment. Whilst a brave blog explorer could always go on a walkabout of self-discovery through the blogosphere, Blog Banters are the off-road vehicles that can take you on a tour of the blog wilderness to witness these nomadic writing creatures in their natural habitat.”

Taking it on the Chin

So I don't think it's time to go all Chicken Little quite yet. The sky is not falling and has not “killed the Eve Community”, it's just joined it. Whilst Rixx observes that there has been a decline in blogging, I can see a number of other possible explanations for this. The current EVE development cycle of refinement and polish is perhaps less inspiring to some and there may be slight decline in general interest in EVE (particular from more creatively-led bloggers), which would naturally influence many parts of the community. Also, we are just coming off the traditional Summer hump, where there has always been less activity and interest. Again, this would impact many aspects of EVE. It's just part of the cycle.

But, if the doom-mongers do prove to be right, so be it. Everything has its day. With regard to Marc's discussion, I see little sense in setting up an automated process for any of the community initiatives. If a recharged and enthusiastic individual wants to help out or take over, that's great. But if not, trying to provide artificial life support for any of the services seems pointless – if there's no demand and no interest, let it die.

As Massive Attack once sang in The Hymn of the Big Wheel;

The big wheel keeps on turning
On a simple line day by day
The earth spins on its axis
One man struggles while another relaxes

This topic as it developed (in chronological order):
And (hopefully) to finish it all off, Rixx Javix and Marc Scaurus will be duelling with handbags at twenty paces on Podside tomorrow night. Maybe Ripard Teg will just assimilate them into his Borg collective and that'll be the end of it. ;)

Blog on.