Friday, 31 January 2014

Blood in New Eden: the Spread of Sani Sabik

As the Tech 4 Flashback archaeology dig continues, I find myself unable to provide attribution to this great article.

Like the author of last week's article on Gallente sherry production, the mystery Tech 4 contributor who wrote this piece on one of EVE's more sinister factions has no current EVE presence that I know of to which I can accredit this.

The baseliner character Harika Korr even exists in EVE, with a bio which reads, 'Freelance non-capsuleer journalist. Several articles recently published by Tech4 News.'

Who are you, Harika Korr?

Blood in New Eden: the Spread of Sani Sabik
by Harika Korr

Khanid Prime I, basking in the glow of The Cauldron nebula.
In late January, there was a scandal on Khanid Prime.

Silas Vitalia, an acknowledged Holder, patriot and commander of the (now closed) corporation Khanid Provincial Vanguard (KPV), held a celebration in recognition of the corporation’s five years of faithful service.  Many capsuleers from all walks of life and across New Eden attended, and were witness to a ceremony that officially declared her as a member of the Sani Sabik cult.  The news soon leaked to the authorities, but Ms Vitalia easily escaped before any action could be taken.

But what does that really mean?  To many of us, Sani Sabik is the name of the bogeyman, inextricably linked with the horror of the Blood Raiders and their empire in the depths of unregulated space - “nullsec” in capsuleer parlance.  To those in the Amarrian bloc, Sani Sabik are a creeping cancer, a heretical plague on the true faith, but even there few really know what it means.  Perhaps it is time to lift the lid on the cult.

New Eden Heresies

I spoke with Arminelle Binck, professor of Interstellar Law at the University of Caille. “Although it is rarely practiced openly due to all the negative connotations,” he explains, “Sani Sabik is only illegal in its own right in the Amarrian Empire and associated regions; the Ammatar Mandate and Khanid Kingdom.  Of course, there are plenty of other legal issues. While Sani Sabik cults cannot be arrested for their beliefs, I can name a dozen instances in the Federation alone of criminal cases of kidnapping, murder, torture and other such matters.  Even the accusation of being a Sani Sabik can result in social exclusion and mistrust; not least in the Republic, where it has numerous associations with the Amarrians.  Sani Sabik practioners face accusation of being Ammatar or worse, along with all the usual problems.”

“It’s a taboo, and thus engages a macabre fascination,” says Dr Patrice Asseya, of the University of Caille’s psychology department.  “Numerous sensationalist works in all formats have spread from sources across New Eden.  At least two highly popular holo-series, numerous novels and several musicians have all ridden on the forbidden allure of the blood cults.  On a more scientific note, it appeals on a primal level; human beings are, at heart, predators.  Studies of serial killers have often revealed an inner need to express hunting instincts; Sani Sabik cults provide a semi-acceptable venue to exorcise these unacceptable cravings.”

Bloody Rituals

A Sani Sabik priest conducting a ritual.
Midna Lyre, a musican, is an open Sani Sabik convert and the source of great controversy - including an attempt on her life during a concert.  Nevertheless, her widespread support has gone some way to bringing at least the concept of Sani Sabik into the mainstream.

In an interview four years ago, the young Gallente singer explained Sani Sabik in a seemingly harmless fashion, “The Sani Sabik faith is all about personal strength. It's about improving yourself, about being a strong individual.  It’s about seizing your destiny and making it what you want... yes, I use blood in rituals, but it is not stolen blood from unwilling people.  We willingly exchange blood.  It’s about strengthening the bonds between us... it’s very spiritual, like touching the hand of God.”

But to what extent is this take on the matter a common one among the faith?  Since the Amarrian rejection of Sani Sabik, forcing the cult into an underground status or expelling it entirely from the Empire, there has been no easy way to exchange information and beliefs between isolated cults; even with the comparative acceptance in society outside of the Empire, Sabik followers have little in the way of easy communication.

The primary exception to that, of course, is also the heart of most of the ill-feeling towards members of the cult; the Delve region, and its rulers, the Blood Raider Covenant.  Almost universally hated and distrusted, even among the other grand criminal empires operating beyond the reach of the law, the Covenant has been responsible for countless atrocities, slave raids and many other crimes.  Unlike the tame beliefs of Midna Lyre and her associates, attacks upon Covenant installations have revealed horrific machines designed specifically to drain unwilling victims of blood.

Delving into Darkness

“The Blood Raiders are a totalitarian, nightmare society that makes some of the darker periods of the Amarrian Empire look utopian,” explains Guddik Stierata, an intelligence analyst for the Directive Enforcement Department of CONCORD.  “Blood Raiders specifically value the blood of clones for their rituals, so they have been known to actively and specifically target capsuleers, whereas a comparable Guristas or Angel battlegroup will simply deal with any threat that approaches them.  

"But just because they value clone blood over all others does not mean they will ignore others; a ship captured by the Covenant will sometimes be modified on the spot into a processing plant to mechanically extract the blood of the crew.  Those that are taken alive will either be drained later at a more secure facility, or be made a slave.  Those who have been rescued from Covenant slave camps have usually been treated horrifically.”

Yet despite their reputation, reports of defections by ships, crews and even some capsuleers, individuals one would assume would steer clear of the Covenant, mount up every year. Why?

“Power fantasies,” Dr Asseya opines. “The Blood Raider Covenant represents the what happens if one takes the predator instincts and lust for power inherent in both the human psyche, and in the Sani Sabik tradition, to their logical conclusion.  Both the stories and many of the factual reports centred around the Raiders paint a very clear dividing line between the ruling class, the Raiders themselves; and the slaves, who exist only to serve in any way the Raiders desire.  Common sense would suggest that capsuleers would stay away from the Covenant due to the value of clone blood among the Raiders, but studies have shown that over ninety-seven percent of capsuleers suffer from what some refer to as the deity complex; they have absolute confidence in their effective immortality, distinct signs of narcissism and egocentricity to the exclusion of all else, and display an inability to empathise with normal human beings.  The fact that they even use an implicitly derogatory term for us - ‘baseliners’ - merely reinforces that diagnosis.  With this in mind, is it any great surprise that many are attracted to a society that reinforces and caters to their delusions of godhood?”

Angels and Demons?

It sounds a dangerously convincing argument.  To what extent are all Sani Sabik on a spiral towards that of the blood-stained demons of Delve, then?  Are moderates like Midna deceiving themselves, or is there really another way?

In the second half of this in-depth study, I will be seeking out real Sani Sabik; seeing how they live, what their beliefs mean to them, and concluding once and for all if there is a place for this ancient blood-cult in New Eden.

An isolated Blood Raider colony, somewhere in deadspace.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

Monday, 27 January 2014

Tech 4 Undercover - Trafficking In Dodixie

This Tech 4 Flashback is from the pen of a certain prolific EVE fiction writer and honourable knight of the banter who is known to enjoy balmy weather and apple-based beverages.

Tech 4 Undercover - Trafficking In Dodixie

This weeks undercover report highlights the dreadful trade in human trafficking, and we're not talking about slaves in the Amarrian Empire. We're talking in the heart of the Gallente Federation - Dodixie.

Whilst the system of Dodixie is well known for its trade-hub status, there is more going on there than the sale of legitimate goods and a thriving economy driven by the capsuleers. Our investigation has highlighted a worrying trade in trafficked people throughout the system.

A tip led us to a small bar on Deck 23 of the Federal Navy Assembly Plant station in Dodixie, one of the top four busiest stations in the galaxy. Our reporter posed as a bar owner from a mining outpost in a distant null security system and made some enquiries where he could purchase some girls from to attract more customers. We were offered a selection of girls depending what our needs were. The contact, Vian, was quite forthcoming in what he could provide.

The Federal Navy Assembly Plant in the Dodixie System
"Well it all depends on what you want and what you want to spend. For a handful of credits we can supply you with some Minmatar refugee girls. You get what you pay for, so these we recommend keeping in a darkened back room and send the guys to them once they handed over their cash first. If they have good eyes they might not pay afterwards. For 20,000 credits upwards we've got decent dancing girls that your customers can watch and then take to your back-room. Again mostly Minmatar, but a few Gallente and some wayward Caldari. If you looking to spend 50,000 upwards then we've got some fine Gallente women. However, you need to keep them secure and out of the public eye, oh, and make sure the customers aren't bleeding hearts either who may turn against you following a good sob-story. These are more likely to run and go to the authorities than the cheaper ones. If you're looking to spend ISK rather than local credits, then we can do you something special."

This was all offered within 20 minutes of making contact. The dealer went onto explain how the cheaper girls can be kept in line with fear and intimidation. Many of them were fleeing their former lives for a variety of reasons and simple threats to send them back can keep them from causing trouble. However, the implication was that all the girls are being forced against their will. Some having no choice, others being blackmailed or threatened. When we said we were not looking to spend local credits and had Interstellar Credits (ISK) the story became even more menacing.

"If you have the ISK then you just need to find the women you want anywhere on station. Take a discreet holopic of them in a crowded area and we'll track them down. We can usually deliver within a week. Obviously they will not be keen on the new life you have planned for them. Leverage will cost you more, but we can supply two methods. A distance-detonated explosive, surgically implanted into them is cheapest. Just have a transmitter in your bar and let them know the range. They rarely wander far, but be careful. Loose lips can turn one of your customers against you. It can also leave a little scar. For best results we recommend Vitoc which we can supply. Just let them know your store is flushable and if the security services raid your bar it'll all be destroyed. When they know they'll not be able to get anymore in time, they'll be as loyal as a slaverhound puppy to you. These are the best two ways for the price. I've heard that some of my competition are advertising that they have adapted Sansha style nanites to control a girl’s will, but that's a crock. Don't waste your money."

At this point our reporter arranged a further meeting where he would provide the holo's and deliver the ISK down-payment as well as collecting a case of Vitoc. The secret recording of the meeting and a pre-copy of this report was handed to the Federal Navy Security Services before that meeting was due to take place.

The Federal Navy Security Services made the following statement the day following the scheduled meeting.

"Thanks to some excellent investigative journalism by Tech 4 News, the Federal Navy Security Service has arrested three Gallente and two Caldari citizens on charges of human trafficking, false imprisonment, blackmail and false accounting charges. In addition we have recovered 20 litres of Vitoc and related dispensary equipment. Finally a total of 18 women from all four Empires were rescued and are receiving medical attention and support from the corporation. The Federal Navy Security Services would like to point out this is an isolated incident and that law and order on this station is of the highest levels."

Whilst Federal Navy Security Services are to be commended in the swift action against this trafficking ring, their claim that this is an isolated incident is viewed as highly unlikely in academic circles. We spoke to Professor Chan of the University of Caille School who is the senior professor of criminal studies at the Egghelende V Moon 13 station.

"The truth is that there is money to be made with trafficking humans, a lot of money. And when you have a lot of money then blind eyes are turned, doors are left unlocked and obvious things are not seen. From seedy cantinas in null sec mining outposts to the high-class bars on the capsuleer decks in stations in high-security home-systems, people can make a lot of money from this. For them [Federal Navy Security Services] to say that your investigation revealed an isolated incident is like saying an Amarrian Holder with slaves is an isolated incident! My research has shown there is a shocking amount of trade in humans being undertaken throughout Empire space. This is especially true in the large trade hubs such as Dodixie, Rens and Jita where the amount of shipping helps cover their tracks."

Whatever the truth, Tech 4 News will continue in exposing this vile trade wherever we find it.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

More of the author's fiction can be read here.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

In Conflict Ravaged Huola, Sherry Producers Feel the Pain of War

This Tech 4 Flashback article is a brilliant piece which conjures vivid scenes of planetary strife in a pastoral setting and could easily reflect the impact that DUST 514's troops have on any populated planet.

The author's pen name was Maris Livour and all correspondence received was from his real name rather than an EVE character, whose identity remains a mystery even to me.

In Conflict Ravaged Huola, Sherry Producers Feel the Pain of War
By Maris Livour

Ravani Province, Huola VII - In an unusual step in Galactic politics, the Gallente Federation has called on Matari forces to ease the level of violence on the planet of Huola VII. In recent weeks, the Minmatar paramilitary force known as The Hand of Freedom has conducted countless raids on the fertile planet that exports the expensive and highly sought Ravani Sherry.

Since the THF raids, Ravani Sherry, whose main buyers come from the Gallente elite, has seen an almost complete shutdown in production. It has been confirmed by Tech 4 News that one of the most known producers of Ravani Sherry, Max Gralany, has been taken hostage by the THF since last week.

Different Governments, Different views

Sunrise over the Ravani Province on Huola VII
“The violence on Houla VII has affected a partnership with one of the only non-slave industries in the Amarr Empire,” says Gallente Deputy Minister of Trade Martin Rasu. “We are simply asking that our friends in the Minmatar Republic focus their energies on defeating the oppressive forces of the Amarr Empire while leaving those desirable elements of the Empire, who I’ll mention again are working with non-slave labor, alone.”

That was the official word from the Gallente Federation Government as it responds to protests coming from a number of its wealthier and influential citizenry in regards to Ravani Sherry production. One such citizen is Bruno Masters, holo-reel action superstar. His philanthropic organization, Borders without Borders, concentrates on bringing peaceful solutions in times of war.

“Like, Huola is not…Ravani Sherry production needs to be protected because…like…uh, it’s a peaceful operation and, like, it hires all kinds of people. You know?” said Bruno Masters in regards to the violence that has effected Ravani Sherry production on Huola VII. “We think that people should just, you know, cool it. Peace, you know?”

In contrast, the Minmatar Republic has sent the following statement to Tech 4 News:
The Hand of Freedom is a group of independent freedom fighters who have no political ties with the Minmatar Republic. They are citizens from the Bleak Lands who have banded together to fight off the oppressive activities of the Amarr Empire. While we encourage their brave actions and urge them to continue to harass the enemy in order to shake off Imperial rule in their lands, we cannot and will not dictate to them the proper method to fight in their own homeland.
“Utter and complete rubbish,” says Houla Defense Minister Marcus Vander. “The Matari terrorist forces that are engaging the citizenry of Huola VII are armed with the most sophisticated Minmatar weaponry and have shown to have been highly trained in insurgency warfare. To claim that this is a citizen’s militia group is laughable.”

An official of the 24th Imperial Crusade, talking to Tech 4 News under the condition of anonymity, elaborated more, “The THF has shown itself to be an elite special operations terror unit. So far it has bested both the local Houla authorities and our own elite paladins sent into Houla VII to hunt down its members. The skill displayed by these terrorists can only mean years of special training, possibly learned in Gallente Special Operations training camps or the like.”

Ravani Sherry and the Gallente

One of the few remaining Ravani Sherry cellars on Huola VII
Meanwhile, the coveted Ravani Sherry is seeing a rise in prices due to the lack of availability.

“To put it mildly, this has made Ravani Sherry even more of a drink of status among the Gallente privileged,” says Kena Moraeux, chief editor of Fine Wine Magazine. “Before the troubles on Huola VII, one bottle of Ravani Gold would go for nearly forty thousand ISK. Today we are seeing that price tripled. This may go well with the wealthiest citizens of the Federation for a time, but there are fears that Ravani Sherry production will completely run dry if hostilities on Houla VII continue.”

There have been calls by some distributors for a government sponsored replication program, which would copy Ravani Sherry in limited quantities, assuring a high but fixed price on the product. This wouldn’t, however, go well with consumers. “The allure of Ravani Sherry is the unique soil composition of the province the grapes grows in and the amount of light it receives from that systems white dwarf star. The taste coming from the Houla grape after such natural and organic conditions is exotic, like nothing else in the galaxy. Ravani Sherry can’t simply be ‘replicated’. There’s also the fact that this product, grown in Amarr space, is not produced from slave labor. This came about after growers in Huola VII came to an agreement with their largest consumer base, the Gallente, to not only abandon slavery, but use freed slaves as paid labor. It’s a success story to the Gallente. So when one has Ravani Sherry, it’s not only a fine drink, but a symbol of Gallente pride as well,” adds Kena Moraeux.

But not everyone in the Federation is buying what some would call elitist politicking and a potential thorn in Gallente-Minmatar relations.

“What we’re talking about here,” says Gallente Senator Ben Welson, “is fuss coming from the elite of Gallente about a product that only the richest of the rich can afford to drink. We have no business telling our Minmatar allies the best way to fight an enemy whose preoccupation is the subjugation of an innocent people.”

Senator Welson, along with fifty other law makers, has sent an urgent letter to the Gallente president asking him to pull back the protests of the Department of Trade. “There is much more at stake here than Ravani booze. What the Minmatar have endured for years under the Amarr and their continued struggle to defend themselves from Amarr aggression is worth far more than the drinking habits of a few elites.”

Sherry Producers Wary That No Aid Will Come From Amarr

Clandestine meetings are becoming commonplace amongst civilians.
On Houla VII itself, Ravani Sherry producers are weary of recent paramilitary activity in their province and the Amarr military’s willingness to engage enemy forces. This anxiety has become even more evident after the abduction of Max Gralany, owner of the top selling Ravani Gold.

“We just want to make a living,” says Veniesa Gralany, wife of Max Gralany. When her husband was abducted, she said that the THF troops also killed some of her free Matari workers. “They claimed they were traitors. Ammatar. They lined some of the men up along the large stone wall in the vineyard, and shot them all. It was horrible.”

“We will defend our land if we have to. Most of us out here don’t give a flip who owns the planet,” says Ravani Eagle Sherry producer Cavin Dredge. “We just want to be left alone, and continue to make our Sherry without the violence of war affecting our lives.”

When asked if he was confident Amarr forces would protect the area, Mr. Dredge said he wasn’t.

“There has been a lot of friction between the Amarr military and the Ravani Sherry industry. We have been subject to random searches, and suspected many times of being of engaging in abolitionist activities. It comes from our decision not to rely on slave labor and the prosperity we’ve seen because of that decision. We’re distasteful liberals according to them, and I’m sure they would love nothing more than this Minmatar terrorist group wiping us all out.”

Both the Houla defense force and the 24th Imperial Crusade deny those claims.

“We are bound by both honor and duty to defend all Amarr citizens,” said Marcus Vander. “We may not like their politics, but we will ensure their safety at any cost.”

The status of Max Gralany is unknown, though Tech 4 News is currently trying to meet with a representative of The Hand of Freedom for an interview and their take of the situation.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

Monday, 20 January 2014

Flagship Store Fiasco Imminent?

One of the most humanising (if sadly under-developed and controversial) aspects of EVE Online is the avatar element introduced in the Incursion and Incarna expansions. Although it provided little in terms of gameplay, 'Walking in Stations' was a bold, if botched, attempt to bridge the disconnect between player and spaceship and it remains an endless source of material for column inches.

Today's Tech 4 Flashback author (and also a contributor of vocal talents to the audio series) used the pseudonym of Sabine Clochemerle to pen articles for Tech 4. This coverage was a clever poke at the attempted introduction of micro-transaction vanity items via Incarna's NeX store and a thinly veiled criticism of the management decisions behind it.

At least that was my interpretation.

Flagship Store Fiasco Imminent?
by Sabine Clochemerle

Noble Appliances' flagship luxury clothing store, Noble Exchange (NeX), has been beset, some even say cursed, by near non-stop controversy and protests since its launch in June YC-113.

The company CEO and share-holders remain shrouded in mystery and many believe that the company is backed and run by the powerful and secretive Tash-Murkon family. For decades Noble Appliances has specialised in highly exclusive limited runs of niche goods for the ultra wealthy and revered.  In mid YC-113 they diversified into another elitist range of goods - this time specifically aimed at the difficult and unpredictable “podder” market.  Though many capsuleers are extremely prosperous it appears that even these privileged sons and daughters of New Eden like a good bargain, and in an unprecedented show of solidarity called for NeX to close its doors and fire its entire management.

Rather ominously there has been no major new release of designs since August YC-113. Though House of Rana and Sennda of Emrayur have refused to comment, Sihan Bemoumouf, a spokesperson for Vallou admitted that they had made “significant investments in hiring top notch designers in anticipation of an influx of orders from NeX.” She went on to say, “Quite frankly this has not happened and we’re very worried. The NeX buyers have not been responding to any of our design submissions for many weeks now.”

An insider source who asked to remain anonymous has been quoted as saying that NeX is in an “unstoppable nose-dive to financial ruin. The 1000 Aurum give away was an accounting nightmare.  We begged management to reconsider but they were adamant. The company will take a long time to recover from that massive financial outlay which still fails to show any significant return.”

In further developments, Mr Bamadak Orabasash (Chief Coordinator of Public Relations Noble Appliances) was seen last week partying with his Personal Assistant and “It Girl” Zizi Babalou on Crystal Boulevard, Caille. Zizi was wearing customized lavishly embroidered “Mystrioso” boots. The Noble Appliances public relations department has always staunchly declared that the integrity of the designs would never be“sullied,” all the more perplexing that a fairly low level employee appears to be the exception.   The day after the sighting, Mr Orabasash was seen looking harried and distressed as he rushed from the monthly share holder’s meeting to his shuttle. He declined to comment on either Noble Exchange’s apparent slump or employee favouritism.

Outside the NeX headquarters in Suner, the gigantic - and by now somewhat faded - “Grand Opening” posters still grace the towering building. A demonstrator who asked to be identified as “Mr Bridgington” stages a daily protest there, calling for the company’s archaic notions of what constitutes women and men’s wear to be discarded. He is understood to be representative of a large body of podders who support the call for gender equality in garment selection. Menswear and womenswear remains strictly delineated, and Mrs Fararouze Elnah (floor manager NeX) says that the store has “no plans to change its targeted approach.”

On hearing this, Mr Bridgington retorted that it pained him that the issue had still not been resolved.“I demand fair treatment,” he declared.

Professional agitator and populist Jade Constantine, one of the more stridently outspoken amongst the podder elite, is quoted as saying “NeX is evil!” and she has repeatedly denounced Noble Exchange as a brazen front for the ruling parties to separate capsuleers from their hard-earned ISK. Many Noble Exchange employees are now reportedly very concerned about their personal safety and livelihoods in anticipation of Ms Constantine and her cadre of activists long threatened retaliatory measures.

Further news of drastically stepped up security measures at all NeX stores only serve to give weight to the rumours about this troubled company,  but to date management decline the opportunity to shed light on their current situation.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Cryllisium Demand Spikes After 'Empress Love Slave' Confession

In today's instalment of the Tech 4 Flashback series, we inject a little sex and drugs into proceedings.

The idea behind the clandestine network of Tech 4 News reporters was that 'baseliners' (ordinary non-capsuleer folk) had become suspicious of official coverage of capsuleer activity and so were dedicated to giving more exposure to how the actions of these starship demigods impacted on New Eden's ordinary working mortals.

But that didn't stop the occasional story from putting tongue firmly in cheek. Vesper Naskingar, who usually specialised in Angel Cartel coverage (a clue as to the blogging author's real identity), was inspired by a forum post from infamous Intergalactic Summit regular Muck Raker, resulting in this report:

Cryllisium Demand Spikes After 'Empress Love Slave' Confession
by Vesper Naskingar

Empress Jamyl Sarum I and an 'advisor'.

Since the publication of a confession made by a woman who claimed herself to be a “love slave of Empress Jamyl I”, demand for the hallucinogenic aphrodisiac Cryllisium has spiked.

Serpentis Corporation, the premier biochemistry company, have dubbed this the new ‘liquid morphite’ due to the high prices clients are willing to pay for the still relatively rare substance.

Serpentis Corporation are the currently only confirmed source to possess the blueprints for production, yet there is no evidence if or if not they are the only producers right now. Their press representative was very vague about the details, but did confirm the drug has been around a good while in the underground circuit, mainly in the sex industry.

He also let slip that while previously clientele had mainly been centered in the Cartel and Serpentis home regions, as well as the Federation, the biggest demand spike has come from the Amarr Empire. He did not wish to go into further detail, but the most likely explanation is that if the Empress does it, so can the more liberal Amarrian. The Caldari State and Minmatar Republic have also seen a rise in demand, yet far less spectacular. It was theorized they could simply be slower in catching on.

An unarmed(!) Serpentis Vigilant lurks in Amarr high security space.
Further research has shown that there are no traces of capsuleer production or blueprint (copy) possession, likely because the drug does not classify as a ‘combat booster’ and would surely have reverse effects on one’s performance. The usage for recreational purposes however is something we have received several anonymous confirmations of, yet all sources were unwilling to reveal their supplier.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

More of the author's fiction can be read here.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Hundreds Dead in 'Pleasure Hub' Massacre

In our continuing Tech 4 Flashback series, we take a misty-eyed look back at the collaborative efforts of EVE's talented lore community, who provided many fascinating news shorts to give an alternative view on life in New Eden.

One of the fun aspects of the project was that many contributors adopted non-capsuleer pen-names, even going as far as creating the character in-game (even if only temporarily, for portrait purposes). Frustratingly, looking back through the submissions I have stored, record of who is behind each pseudonym is sketchy.

But I'm pretty sure I remember which prominent (and still active) blogger wrote as Darlan Mosota, the reporter of this piece from 14th February YC114 (2012).

Can you figure it out?

Clue: He's a great writer of fiction, but misspelled the name of an ancient Assyrian city in his blog title.

Hundreds Dead in 'Pleasure Hub' Massacre
By Darlan Mosota (State News)

Teonusude, Molden Heath – Rescuers from the Republic Fleet continued to pull bodies from the wreckage of an illegal “pleasure hub” that was brutally attacked and destroyed yesterday by an unidentified capsuleer vessel.

Unlicensed pleasure hubs are a common sight in remote and poorly policed locations.
Authorities within the Molden Heath Regional Assembly in Gelfiven commented that the issue was being raised with CONCORD. “This is not the first time that capsuleers have acted recklessly and endangered many lives as a result,” assemblyman Uoro Juntin said in a prepared statement to the press. He continued, “We will not stand for this type of vigilantism in our space.”

The pleasure hub, believed to have been constructed by operatives of the notorious Angel Cartel, was hosting numerous illegal and restricted activities such as gambling, drug trafficking, and prostitution when the attack began.

Master Chief Kold Haardt of the Emergency Services division of the Trust Partners Trading Post station in the Teonusude system said that “normally the escape pods get almost everyone off a structure like this during an attack,” but as the hub was just recently opened and construction was still ongoing, “several decks did not have the proper safety mechanisms in place.” He also noted that “a legal establishment cannot open without those measures for this very reason.”

Trust Partners Trading Post, Teonusude III, Moon 6.
Trust Partners Emergency Services were the first to respond to the distress calls, arriving approximately two hours after the attack, at which time they began retrieving people from the escape craft.

I realized there was only half as many boats as expected for a structure that size,” Chief Haardt said. “At that point I called for the military as they have the proper equipment for structure search and rescue.”

This morning, a release from the Republic Fleet stated that they have pulled 344 bodies from the wreckage of the pleasure hub.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

More of the author's fiction can be read here.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Man Dies Attempting to Surf Station

Following on from yesterday's revisit of the Tech 4 News non-capsuleer fiction project, here is the first re-released Tech 4 News article, originally published on 27 January YC114 (2012). 

Given the upgraded station graphics coming in Rubicon 1.1, it seemed appropriate place to start in our journey back through the trivial, local news stories that were brought to the capsuleer community by Tech 4 News.

Tech 4 News Flashback: Man Dies Attempting to Surf Station

The scene where a mag-boarder surfed to his death at the Ishukone Facility above Altrinur VIII Moon 3, Metropolis.
A 20-year-old Brutor man was vapourised in front of hundreds of witnesses yesterday in the Altrinur system, Metropolis. The deceased, known as 'Zee Sway' to his fellow gang members, was participating in an extreme form of the increasingly popular sport of 'mag-boarding'. Sway was attempting to surf across the lethal electromagnetic fields that envelope the Ishukone facility orbiting the third moon of Altrinur XIII when he fell from his board and was incinerated in the protective invulnerability field.

A witness from the canteen on Deck 76-A42 said 'We were all watching out of the viewport, it was crazy. We could see the boarder burning toward us across the station surface. It looked amazing, with this incredible halo of static around him. He was being tracked by security drones but they weren't firing. Then there was a flash and he was gone,' then she gruesomely added, 'Well, most of him.'

Anton 'Spiderhawk' Robert, former professional mag-boarder.
Anton 'Spiderhawk' Robert, former professional mag-boarder, spoke out against this dangerous new trend:
'Man, I learned to mag-board where I grew up on a backward deadspace can [colony]. First thing you did was learn to find the good lines [routes] away from the fuzz [security forces] and the buzz [defensive equipment and shielding]. Only an idiot would try riding one of the big cans [orbital stations].'
Station Security Officer Altos Sinen gave credence to Mr. Robert's statement, confirming that this new craze is an order of magnitude more lethal than other forms of mag-boarding:

'This mag-boarding is a ludicrously dangerous activity even on low-tech colony structures, where the worst those individuals would have to contend with is some anti-intrusion measures and an angry security detail. But attempting any unauthorised surface activity on an Orbital Facility is suicide. Aside from the automated defences, any contact with the high-energy invulnerability field would instantly vapourise them. Which Mr. Sway has learned to his cost.'

Local security forces are conducting a full inquiry into the incident and fourteen of Mr. Sway's mag-boarding associates, all of whom were reportedly present at the accident site, have been detained for questioning.

The Rise of Mag-Boarding

Mag-boarding is an activity involving the use of a flat board equipped with magnetic repulsors (and/or jet propulsion) upon which an individual will stand and attempt to navigate his way across a course.

Interior facilities like this can be safer, but mag-board extremists prefer the excitement and freedom only found outside.
There is some dispute as to the origins of the activity, with both Minmatar and Gallente subcultures claiming historical indicators. In any case it has long been popular as a planetary pursuit in highly urbanised core worlds.

In the previous century, due to the technologies involved, planetside mag-boarding was largely the purview of the rich and the privileged. However, with the capsuleer-fuelled technology boom of the last decade, manufacturing costs have fallen making mag-boarding an increasingly affordable cultural phenomenon being enthusiastically adopted by many of today's youth. Some alarmist commentators fear a rise in petty crime and vandalism.

Whilst planetside mag-boarding is a well-established sport, of greater concern to safety lobbyists is this recent rise of mag-boarding on space-borne structures ('canning'). Availability of affordable protective spacewear has given wide reach to a highly dangerous and often illegal activity. Whilst tolerated at a few designated deadspace locations, mag-boarding on commercial orbital facilities is expressly forbidden cluster-wide.

Story Supplied by The Altrinur Daily Chronicle

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

Monday, 13 January 2014

Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden

Tech 4 News was a community-sourced creative collaboration which examined the universe of New Eden from the non-capsuleer perspective.

Running from 2011 to 2012, it started life as an ambitious dramatic podcast featuring some of EVE's renowned podcasters of the time (and some cameos from further afield), but was also supported by some great written submissions from various contributors from the blogosphere.

Sadly, the march of time has seen the original Tech 4 News website shut down and the iTunes episode downloads disappear, but there was a lot of great work done by many talented individuals whose efforts deserve to be remembered. To address this, for the next few weeks I will be recovering assorted Tech 4 News resources and re-publishing them here on Freebooted.

The Faces of Tech 4

To kick off, here's a shortened version of the Tech 4 machinima title sequence, featuring the musical composition of Garheade (EVE Commune) and video sequence by me, Mat 'Seismic Stan' Westhorpe. All footage was captured from the EVE client using FRAPS.

Wormhole Spelunking

The original podcast series featured over 3 hours of in-character audio spread over several episodes. Its magazine-show format saw the main episodes made up of a news segment, interviews and discussions, a comical technology and science section and a more dramatic field report sequence. That field report story arc, focusing on the exploits of ambitious Minmatar reporter Meilikki Valpuri as she broadcasts an frigate exploration mission to wormhole space, is reproduced below as a single episode.

The voice talents of Angus McDecoy (Fly Reckless podcast) as the broadcast's anchor Paydas Adavaar, and Arydanika (Voices From the Void) as reporter Meilikki Valpuri carried the show, but this particular section was most definitely Arydanika's finest hour, with a genuinely compelling dramatic performance.

Also featuring in this story were the voice talents of Max Torps and Noise (Starfleet Comms) as the hapless technicians, Breki Tomasson (CSICON) as Captain Brek, Hallen Turrek (Voices from the Void) as Lt. Koyo Sejamon, Penelope Star (Starfleet Comms) as 2Lt. Celeste Joringer, Arkenor (The MMOsketeers) as 2Lt. Arken Westlea. A cameo from the now departed lead designer CCP Soundwave aslo features in the opening sequence.

I look forward to sharing more Tech 4 material in the coming days.

Feature Flashbacks

Monday, 6 January 2014

Homeostasis (BB52)

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 52st edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

In this edition, Blog Banter supremo Kirith Kodachi asks:

Go to the always useful and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.

What's on the other side of that plateau? 

Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past.


Judging by the 4 1/2 year average as shown, I would say that EVE Online has achieved a state of homeostasis.

Don't worry, that's not something you can catch; according to Tortora & Dickinson's Principles of Anatomy and Physiology (I don't get much cause to blow the dust off my favourite medical tome much these days), homeostasis is defined as follows:
Homeostasis (homeo- = sameness; -stasis = standing still) is the condition of equilibrium (balance) in the body's internal environment due to the ceaseless interplay of the body's many regulatory processes. Homeostasis is a dynamic condition. In response to changing conditions, the body's equilibrium can shift among points in a narrow range that is compatible with maintaining life.
Like the human body, EVE Online is an incredibly complex interplay of components, structures and systems. But instead of base chemicals, cells, tissues, and organs, EVE comprises base data, ships, players and developers, and organisations (corporations, dev teams).

Considering the way these all interact, EVE Online could be viewed as a kind of digital meta-organism.

Therefore, homeostasis is a good thing - it means EVE is most certainly not dying. As some elements within this EVE meta-organism inevitably burn out and are flushed from the system (even blood cells only last 120 days before being recycled), so they are replaced and homeostasis continues.

This analogy applies equally to individual players, corporations, alliances, fleet doctrines, flavour-of-the-month ships, popular playstyles all of which contribute to this strange interweb lifeform. Like phagocytes and enzymes, the player and gameworld processes are policed and revised externally by CCP, whilst simultaneously the staff contingent and development processes themselves continue to be reviewed and updated.

Stunted Growth?

Of course, it could be argued that the absence of the continual subscriber growth that we saw in the years prior to this plateau could be an indicator of some kind of malaise. I think that this is not the case. Instead, I see it as EVE reaching a kind of maturity.

Like other complex organisms, EVE Online's need for growth ceased when it reached an optimal state. Things have found a balance; the population densities of the various playstyles married to the demand for those specific game experiences are unlikely to see any significant increase. For example, there are only so many people who will fit the specific criteria required to be a high-sec industrialist, a roving piratical terror, successful wormhole resident or sov-warfare grunt. Niches within niches have only so much room.

In its current form EVE can at best only expect to continue to enjoy this stability and CCP has become very adept at staving off the decline of old age. But the need for growth would require fundamental changes and additions to the environment to provide a true expansion to the existing fields of play.

Such changes have been attempted in the past, with varying results:

Stitching On Additional Organs

In 2009, the Apocrypha expansion saw the successful introduction of an additional 2000+ star systems and a whole new element to the New Eden sandbox and was widely considered to be an outstanding success, even though the technical debt caused CCP serious problems.

Nonetheless, the mystery and solitude of wormhole space still holds some allure today and more than contributes to the New Eden meta-organism.

In 2011, Incarna was to provide the stage for a whole new arena of avatar gameplay within New Eden's thousands of space stations, but the expansion's execution failed to match the vision and calamity occurred instead. Incarna now remains attached to the main body but only as a withered appendage we are unable (and/or unwilling) to show in public and few still find time to play with.

2013 saw the the most recent attempt at EVE Universe expansion with the launch of DUST 514 on the PlayStation 3. An EVE-themed first-person shooter aimed at an entirely new player demographic had the potential to trigger real growth and see that static 30,000 average concurrent user line climb, but sadly the early signs have been underwhelming and DUST 514 has proven to be a Frankenstein-esque attempt to graft on additional organs in a pioneering but dubious experiment. The result has shown signs of life - and may still thrive - but presently it is an ungainly addition to New Eden which struggles to bear its own weight, let alone improve the quality of life of the EVE organism as a whole.

Future Surgery?

There are rumblings of new reasons for growth in the future. The nebulous promises of player-built stargates and whatever lies beyond the Rubicon may contain the right components to trigger another growth spurt. That remains to be seen.

But for now EVE Online is a rare, ageless, stable, if slightly odd creature. An internet Dorian Grey perhaps?

I wonder if there's a portrait in CCP's attic of malevolently pulsating legacy code which stares back into your digital soul...

[This topic is being discussed across the EVE blogosphere, check out Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah for other entries.]