Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Passing at my Static

It's the weekend.  Yesterday Jeedmo got himself stuck out, when a wormhole closed rather unexpectedly sooner than expected.  So today I am scanning out, looking for highsec.

I find our static, which will be a C4.  I jump through, in my Manticore just in case there is someone there that's gankable.  Nobody around, though.  I scan the system down.  It has a C3 static, which is good news for getting people in.  But the static is EOL.  Magic 8-ball says: try again later.  OK, I set up a listening picket on the wormhole, then do other stuff for a while.

After only about an hour, I hear the zluuurrrp! noise of a wormhole going away.  I raise my window, and sure enough, gone.  Not a bad wait.  Now I scan down the new wormhole, and warp to it.  Crossing into C3a finds a system with just four sigs and one anom.  Nicely kept; thanks guys.  The system has a highsec exit.  Perfect for my purposes.  The sigs are a gas site, a relics, and two wormholes.  There's a nullsec, and finally the highsec static.  I pop out into highsec, mark the wormhole, then tell Jeedmo.  He'll be back this way eventually.

Meanwhile, I notice there's a ghost site in the highsec system I landed in.  Well, that's worth something if I can get there in time.  So I head back into wspace, risking polarization.  Nobody around.  I warp back up the chain to home, and reship into my ghostbusting Tengu.  Then back down the chain, and out into highsec.  Is the site still here?  Yes.  (Surprisingly, people do not seem to do these sites very fast in highsec.)  I warp to the site, then smash through it quite rapidly.  One can has nothing in it, but I fly to it after getting the other three just to see if there would be time.  I get to it, and crack it quickly, then warp off just as the Serpentis show up.  Ha ha.  I score two blueprints.

Since I am in the ship anyway, and I have a nullsec exit, I figure I am fated to do ghostbusting tonight.  So out to null I go.  I am out in Esoteria.  There is no loop I can exploit, which is unfavorable.  But there are multiple cul-de-sacs, several with zero jumps and some more with just a handful.

The situation looks great, but I have little luck.  I explore fifty-eight systems, most of them twice, finding just one site in which I get little time before the enemy shows and blows the can I am at.  Nice implant, poof.  Oh well.  Nothing interesting happens in the rest of the run, just a lot of warping and no finding.  Sometimes ghostbusting is like that.

One of these things is not like the others.
It's getting late by the time I head back into wspace.  I just into C3a, then dscan as always.  Nothing interesting.  I cross to C4b; again nothing interesting.  Then into my home system.  I dscan as always, and this time I do see something quite unexpected: a pod.  Nothing else is on scan, aside from customs offices.  So why is there a pod in my system?

A quick check of the probe scanner shows that there are no new sigs.  So, he must have lost a ship here.  Probably lost to my wicked decloak trap.  OK, so he will be headed out -- right to me.  In fact he must already be in warp, since my tower is not in range.  Just as I am making these deductions, the pod warps onto grid with me.  Naturally, I start trying to lock it to kill it.  It lingers briefly at the wormhole, and I cannot lock.  Why?  Oh, my gate cloak (duh).  I double-click to drop cloak, and try to lock, but the pod jumps.

I'll be polarized and the chance to get it is poor.  Still, I jump too.  Then I drop cloak hastily, but this time the pod does not linger.  It warps.  I warp to the wormhole to C3a, hoping to get one or two more shots at it.  But either it beat me here and jumped already (I don't think so), or it did not go this way.

I check the scanner.  Ah, there's a new sig here in C4b since I was here earlier this evening.  Since I am here for five minutes anyway, I scan it down.  Wormhole, to C2.  That's where he went.

My five minutes are up, so I head home.  Warping to my tower shows the expected wreck.  (Here's the kill.)
Almost out.
The kill happened not in range of any of my objects or in the warp bubble's volume, so I imagine that he was trying to microwarp clear when he got locked.  He was probably this close to warping...

I swap ships to get a Coercer salvager, then bounce off a perch to get the loot.  A nice set of Sisters probes.
I can only imagine what poor Eddie Pollard thought was happening.  He blunders into my trap and gets killed, then as he heads out he is jumped at the wormhole by a Tengu.  How could that be a coincidence?  Except that it was.  EVE is strange sometimes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fitting is Good Complexity

There's a new blog banter out.  I don't make a point to engage with those things unless they set me off.  But in this case, it did.  So let's talk about who's responsible for badly fit ships.
Drackarn pointed this killmail to me recently and proposed the following for a blog banter:
Obviously that is a not just a bad fit, its horrific. But the guy might not know any better. ... How do we educate players on fitting? This guy has been playing four months and can fly a BC, but has no idea how to fit one. What could be done to help bro's like this?
Furthermore, what (if any) responsibility do veterans players have in finding these players and instructing them on the finer arts of ship fitting? If it exists, does it extend beyond them into teaching PvP skills, ISK making skills, market skills, social skills, life skills...
Questions like this bring out the contrarian in me.  "We"?  Who's "we"?  "Responsible"?  You're telling me that via paying for spaceship pew I have assumed duties to some random idiot on the internet?

I can answer all these questions pretty succinctly.  "We" don't educate players on fitting.  It is too complex for any canned lecture.  We can offer our help if they want it.  But they have to initiate; nobody knows what other people don't know.  And there is simply no way to reach many people.  It's a game, after all, not work.  On the other hand, many learn it by themselves.  Nobody ever taught me to fit, and I doubt anyone taught you.  Of course, that particular sample is biased due to a strong survivor effect.

As for responsibility, it is not the responsibility of anyone to fit your ship but you.  Corporations?  I certainly will help my own guys, but that's a very limited responsibility.  And they know to ask.  Not everyone has a corp to rely on.  That Navy Drake pilot was in an NPC corp; no CEO.

Everyone should learn to fit.  Yes, newbs are ignorant.  So what?  Googling up decent information and resources related to fitting is not that hard:
The internet is right there, at our fingertips.  Newbs are playing an online game; you can't tell me they cannot google.  It's true that google won't always turn up an excellent fit.  But it will find something, and even the poorer fittings at battleclinic are not failfits.

Fitting is complex.  Yes, there are aspects of fitting that are "bad" complexity.  I.e., all those low meta modules.  They could collapse that variety down into perhaps three modules per type with no complaint from me.  But for the most part, fitting is a fun part of the game.  I spend hours in EFT just messing around.  I don't fly most of the fits I make.  My ship storage is quite finite and subject to loss.  But it is still useful to know what sort of fitting is likely if I run up against a ship.  Given that fitting is an important and fun part of the game, it's not broken.  The fact that people fail at it is unfortunate for them, but ultimately part of the price we all pay to have a game worth playing.

Now that I have gotten my knee-jerk negativity out, I guess I do have some positive suggestions.  Drat.  Let's go there.

I do think CCP could help, in several ways.  First, let me plug boot camps again.  The problem most newbs have is not that they don't have questions, or that they think they know it all.  It's that they don't have anyone to ask.  They need some specific, particular person who they know they can ask about all kinds of stuff, fitting included.  One of the key ideas of boot camp is to specify that person.  (Two, in my formulation.)

Another way CCP could help is by referring players to a decent tutorial on fitting that ought to be part of the EVE wiki.  (Speaking of googling for you, I just googled "eve wiki fitting" -- the official wiki has a pretty good, if long, page on Fitting Ships.  It does not link to fitting tools.  Eve U has several pages on fitting.  Fitting 101, which does link tools.  Also Fitting Guidelines.  It has links to more pages, too.)  The EVE wiki page is too long and advanced for a newb to be expected to read, and also it lacks pointers to tools.  But it's the right idea.  What do I mean by CCP "referring" players?  I mean a hyperlink from within EVE -- from within a newbie mission, and from within the "Bad Fit" popup as discussed below.

One more idea.  CCP could programmatically detecting bad fits (perhaps on undock) and warn the player.  Drackarn's banter suggests this with a bit of humor.

Now, programs are inherently dumb.  You will never write a program capable of detecting all bad fits, or probably even most bad fits.  Nor can we detect many subtle problems with a fit.  Although such abilities would be nice, they are not what is needed here.  All you need is the ability to warn players off obviously bad fits, laughably bad fits, like that Navy Drake linked above.  Here are some easy to detect fitting problems that the client could warn people about:
  • this ship has civilian fittings [exception for newb missions and rookie ships]
  • this ship has empty highslots and extra hardpoints
  • this ship has empty low slots / empty rigs
  • this ship has a weapons bonus but has fit unbonused weapons
  • this ship has two+ types of weapons
  • this ship is dual tanked
  • this ship has an empty, nonzero drone bay
  • this ship has mismatched weapons and weapons bonusing items.
  • this ship uses three+ fitting modules
  • this ship is too expensive for what it is
  • this ship has inertial stabilizers (joke! sort of!)
(I'm sure more could be added.)  Warnings could be a popup box like Drackarn suggests, with a hyperlink to a tutorial on fitting, an itemized list of problems, a checkbox to "don't show me any more fitting warnings for any ship" and another checkbox "don't show me any more fitting warnings for this ship".  Extra bonus for an official Picard facepalm picture.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rules for Individual Mercenaries

Sugar has a post up where she throws out the idea of allowing characters as individuals to join into the wars of other corps without leaving their own corp.  Cool story, sis.  I think this is an interesting idea.  I think it would make for an interesting dynamic in wars.

Dire Necessity raises the objection in Sugar's comments that implementing it would be hard.  Well, it would take some time, but I don't think it is that hard.   To that end, I thought I would try to write down a list of rules that fully specify all the situations one could want covered.  Here goes.

First, here are the goals that the specific rules should allow and enforce:
  1. You can join wars of alien corps without leaving your home corp.
  2. You can't join wars of more than one non-home corp at a time.
  3. You can't be at war except via a corp.
  4. There should be no long-term affiliation with non-home corps.
  5. You can never be at war with your home corp/alliance.
  6. Corps can control whether their members can do this.
  7. War targets (at least; possibly other outsiders) can find out about this.

Here are the specific new rules.  [Commentary in square braces.]
  1. There are now two ways in which characters are involved in a war: inherited (via his membership in his home corp), and personal (via affiliation with an outside corp).  A character in a war via an outside corp is called an adjunct of that corp.  A character may be the adjunct of no more than one corp at a time.  The corp which a character is an adjunct of is called his affiliate corp.
  2. Characters in NPC corps are not allowed to affiliate.  [Too powerful, since there can be no corp-level retaliation.]
  3. Create a new corp role, "mercenary", that allows a character to affiliate.  If you don't have the role, you cannot become an adjunct.  [This allows corps to control what their members do with regard to the very important business of getting in wars with outsiders.]
  4. To become an adjunct of a corp, there's an application process.  UI-wise, it should work much like the current corp application.  You apply, the corp OKs it, you accept.  There is a 24 hour wait, then you're an adjunct.  
  5. Assuming he has the "mercenary" role allowing it, a character may apply as adjunct to any number of corps.
  6. Only corps with an active war are allowed to OK applications.
  7. A character may not accept a corp invite to be adjunct unless the corp has an active war.
  8. A character may not accept a corp invite to be adjunct unless he is currently in zero wars (either personal or inherited).  [Corps should not have to tweak merc status to keep their members fighting in their own wars.]
  9. A character cannot accept any adjunct application that would add him to any war against his home corp/alliance.  [You can never be at war with your home corp/alliance for any reason.]
  10. An adjunct who loses the "mercenary" role does not lose affiliate status.  However, he can no longer accept any invite to be an affiliate.
  11. An adjunct who joins a new corp drops any affiliation.  He may, of course, re-apply.
  12. As is currently the case, each individual is allowed in any number of inherited wars.  Similarly, as an adjunct you can also be in any number of personal wars via your affiliated corp.
  13. A UI should exist to show all adjuncts of a corporation, and this info should also be available via API.  [Other corps need to be able to find this out.]
  14. When you are an adjunct to a corporation, you are automatically part of all wars of that corp.  If a war ends for any reason, all personal wars related to that war also end.  [There is no such thing as a truly individual war.]
  15. If you are the adjunct to a corp and it (or its alliance) declares war on your home corp/alliance, or vice versa, when the war goes live you are immediately removed from adjunct status.
  16. If you are the adjunct to a corp it is at peace (in no wars), your adjunct status immediately ends.
  17. The rules for intra-corp attacks should be changed so that attacking corpmates is not allowed by Concord.  "Positive" actions (repping, cap transfer, remote seboing, etc.) made to corpmates are still allowed.  [Given that duels now exist, there is little need for this mechanic any more, and it is far more often (ab)used by awoxers than used for non-tear-extractive ends.  If you really want to spar with corpmates en masse, do it on Sisi.]
  18. An adjunct counts as a member of his affiliated corp for purposes of Concord.  He can attack that corp's enemies without penalty.  That corp's enemies can attack him without penalty.  He can rep affiliated corpmates without penalty.
Go ahead and criticize.  I'll amend to close loopholes if necessary.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Trap Springs

A C28 cloud.
It's the weekend, morning.  I have been doing some AFK mining in highsec with my highsec alt while I do stuff away from the computer.

I get Von on for a while, and scan down my system.  There are two new gas sites, and no wormholes other than my static.  It is very likely closed.  This is a good time for some gas sucking.  I log off Von and get my mining alt to do it.  If he gets killed AFK, it's not a big deal.

I get my mining alt set up sucking and orbiting gas, and a new round of ice mining going.  Then I leave to play games with the Boy.  I return in a half hour, and both holds are full.  Checking the discovery scanner and a dscan in wspace shows no change.  Good.  Back to the local station/POS, and then return, and get both guys set up again.  Then I wander off again.

I come back in about 15 minutes.  The ice is gone, so back to station there.  In wspace, dscan shows... oops.  Combat probes.  I am probably about to be killed.  I warp off to my POS.  Whew -- that was rather too close.

I am not at the tower more than a minute, when I see a ship on overview with me.  Huh?  Why would he... oh, he's in my trap.  He's been decloaked, and he's in amidst my grid of small guns.  He has to get cloaked pretty fast, or else.   He does not manage it.  Pop, he's dead.  The pod lingers for a second, then warps off.


Come in to my parlor.

A decloak trap is the use of a warp bubble to drag someone into something that will decloak him.  Typically in wspace, a trap is situated near a tower.  The hope is that the victim does not notice he's been decloaked in time.  If there is time for the tower's guns and other POS parts to lock him, it applies damage and if he is small, he probably dies.  If he is large, he still cannot cloak once he's locked, and he must warp off before the warp scramblers finish locking.  If a scrambler locks, then it will be followed by two 90% webs, heavy nossing, and jamming.  No lone ship less than a capital will survive.

I had toyed with the idea of setting one up for a while, having seen many other people's decloak traps in wspace, but very few which were done well (in my opinion).  I set mine up shortly after TNC burned down my last tower.  I thought it was a great design, anyway.  The evidence of the last couple months is negative: nobody killed at all.  Apparently few pilots visit my system, or maybe those that do are just pretty canny about traps like mine. 

Anyway, now there's a wreck sitting out there.  I fly out and grab the loot.  Then I log off my mining alt, since he's of no use now that my system is unzipped.  I log Von in, and make the trip out with a salvager to clear the wreck and grab some nice T2 salvage.

I tell Jayne about it later, and he confuses me by saying he got the salvage.  No, I did!  I saw me do it!  It turns out my tower also got a guy yesterday, which created the wreck Jayne got.   Double evil laugh.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Watching a Vexor Blob

It's midday, the weekend.  I am wrapping up a ghostbusting expedition to lowsec.  The expedition started in wspace, a routine patrol in my Manticore looking for anything interesting.  I'd hopped down my chain, looking for anyone in C4b, then C2a, and C4c.  Nobody home.  But C4c had a ghost site.

I ran home, got my ghostbusting Tengu, and returned.  I got a nice 'Magpie' mobile tractor unit blueprint from it.  Then I went out to lowsec, since I was already in the thing.  Out in lowsec I found one ghost site, but did not get much from it.  I also saw a bunch of the new Mordus legion sites, the besieged covert research facility.  These evidently have tough enough rats that one cannot easily do them in the sort of ship people generally have out in lowsec.  I found a lot of them, and in clumps.  Two systems had three of them each, along with several capsuleers in local.  My guess is some of those guys wanted to run the sites but they wanted the system to be empty.  Interesting sites.  My ghostbusting Tengu has very little offense, so I was not tempted to try.

My time in EVE is running short -- things IRL -- so I turn to home.  I warp through a few lowsec systems I have already visited -- no new ghost sites, no surprise.  Then I warp to the C2 static exit to low. I jump, and dscan according to habit.  Nothing has changed.  So I warp to the wormhole to C4b, and jump.  Again, I dscan as normal.  This time, however, something has changed.  There are a great many Naxy Vexors on scan, as well as two Augurors, two Ishtars, an EOS, etc.  Also, there are sleeper wrecks, and a battlecruiser wreck.  (Oops!)  The battlecruiser, by its naming scheme, appears to have been one of theirs.  (I did see a pod much earlier in C2a.  Hmm.)

There are two anoms left that I can see.  I bookmark them both ASAP.  Then I move off the wormhole and cloak.  Dscan shows the enemy seems to be in the nearer one.  I think about flying over to have a look, but what would I do in my 500m Tengu with loot worth 300m?  Nothing.  I might as well fly home now and get my Manticore.  I am not attacking a Vexor blob in any ship.  But sleepers require salvaging, and there is the possibility here that these guys will leave a salvager out where I can get at it.

I warp across the system, then jump to my home system.  I hope they did not see me.  Then I go home and change into my Manticore, and fritter away my polarization for five minutes in a safespot cloaked.  Then I warp back to my static and jump back into C4b.  There's nobody there to greet me at the wormhole.  Dscan shows the blob is still there, although the two anomalies are not.  (This is why you bookmark them.)  Using dscan I figure out which ex-anom they are in, and I warp to it at 100km.  Interestingly, I get the anom pop-up even though the site itself is not on my probe scanner.

Vexor Blob
BC wreck has loot!
Once on grid, I can see they are not using mobile tractor units.  I look more closely and yes, there is a Noctis there in the middle of the blob.  This is unfortunate for my hunting plans.  If I was really hot, I might be able to catch it just as they fleet-warp, if they do that.  But that will be a while; they've barely touched the wreck field.  I don't have the time to wait today.  I have to be gone real soon.  In fact I should be gone now, but I am pushing things because targets.  You know how it is.

What can I do?  Well, let me have a look at the other anom.  I can see on dscan that there are wrecks out there, and I expect they are in it.  Rather than mess with narrow dscan, I go.

Spot the expensive item
I warp over, and sure enough.  Wrecks.  I figure I might loot a few, just to let the enemy know I've been around.  I'll start with the battlecruiser wreck.  It is surprisingly unlooted, so who knows what might be on it.  Probably more than the 10m of blue loot I can expect on a large sleeper wreck.

I bookmark the wreck, then bounce off a CO about 2AU, warping back right to the wreck.  I end up 2100m from it -- not uncloaked, even.  So I uncloak and grab.  This fills my hold, so I grab the stack of missiles that did not fit, and then decide it's enough.  I have said my hello to the Vexor fleet, and now I really do have to go.  So I warp home.

On the way home I check out the loot.  The window says 38m, but I can't see what costs so much.  I have to mouse over each individual item to check its price.  Can you spot it?  It's the "Basic EM Ward", which evidently is a rare item.  (I have looked for this kill on killboards, but nothing is there I can find.  The system is J145129 if you want to look.)

I dump off my stuff in my tower's "out" folder, then warp to my safespot and disconnect en route.  Gotta go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cat? Mouse?

It's late in the eeevening... the EVE-ning... time for some pixel violence.  If only popping a few NPCs.  But there's always the hope that people are playing where I can get at them.

I log on, as usual in my Manticore off in a quiet corner of my system.  The system map shows there is just one sig our in our system.  I look for a wormhole bookmark, and there is one.  So I won't need to fire probes, and I cloak up.  A look at corp chat shows Jeedmo is on.  He's evidently been out exploring.  Good; I won't have to.

I wave, he waves.  We start talking.  It seems that we have some guests in our system.  Jeedmo was out exploring, saw them, then watched the hole cloaked.  At that point there was a cloaky scout in our system.  Then he logged in his alt at our tower and got in an Epithal.  After that he saw an Astero enter our system.  I commend him on this idea: obviously the scent of planet-gooer in the water brings sharks.  Of course, there's no use in attracting sharks unless you have a way to kill them.  Right now, we don't.

And there is also a third ship in our system: a Prophesy.  It's circling our wormhole.  I warp over to look: yes, sure enough.  It stops and puts out some Gardes.  I look up the info on the ship type: Amarr ship, lasers and drones.  I am not attacking a drone boat in my Manticore.  So I start to think about ships at our tower I might use.  But that's premature.

There's two problems with attacking the Prophesy.  First, I assume they have eyes on my tower; if I switch ships, then presumably they will see it and have the option to bail if they don't like the potential matchup.  That's no win for me, and a lose if they do like the matchup.  The second problem is worse: I have no idea what's on the other side of the wormhole.  And if my experience in wspace has taught me anything, it is that you never, never engage someone on a wormhole unless you have eyes on the other side, or otherwise have good reason to believe that nothing is there.  In this case, it's their system over there.  So first order of biz here is to get eyes on.  But there's a problem with this, too: I can't get across the wormhole without being seen.

I watch the Prophesy for a minute or two, as I try to think of something that would work yet not too risky.  Before I think of anything, he pulls his Gardes then heads at the wormhole, and leaves.

OK, that's my cue.  They may have eyes on the wormhole.  But at least I don't see any.  It's as good a time as any to get in their system.  I log on my alt, Otto, who's in his exploration Cheetah.  He warps to the wormhole and jumps.  Nothing on the other side.  He moves off to orbit the wormhole cloaked.  Now I have my eyes on the wormhole.

I also have eyes on their tower -- sort of.  With dscan, Otto can see the Prophesy and a Venture there.  Uh, a Venture?  What?  Jeedmo has been to the tower, and tells me the Venture is sitting there empty.  OK, mystery solved.  There may be cloaky ships out, of course, but I think I have a decent picture of where things are.  It appears the enemy has perhaps four characters, perhaps two guys playing them.

With eyes on, I can see there is not a fleet sitting on the wormhole waiting to jump on anything I do.  I can also see no fleet sitting at their tower, or otherwise within 14 AU.  So, I have a wider range of things I might do.  I start to think about that.  I also ping Jayne via text.  No answer.

I think there is a chance we can bait out the Astero.  Asteros are good ships for hunting Epithals in, since they armor tank and have four midslots to pack in the silly number of warp scramblers needed to overcome the inevitable three or four warp core stabilizers that all non-stupid pilots use on their Epithals.  But Asteros also turn on a dime and are very fast; they can escape easily given almost any warning.  The only ship we have that I think would have a chance is our Sabre.  It's not quite as fast as the Astero, so it would eventually be outranged.  But a web would work.  I could take off the sebo for the web.

The big problem with the Sabre is that I am not in it, and I can't get in it without them seeing.  (Probably.  Assuming they are hunting at all, they should be watching my tower.)  So, I start to think of a plan to get the Astero off the tower.  Here's how: my tower sits at the outer planet of my system, 20AU away from the rest.  So, we get our bait Epithal ready, then make a run to one of the other planets.  A fake run: go to a moon instead.  Hopefully the Astero sees it align, then warps to the CO.  It finds nothing.  The Epithal returns home.  Meanwhile, I warp home, get in the Sabre, then fly to the CO of our outer planet and cloak.  Then, after a wait to let the Astero re-acquire the Epithal, we fly it to the same CO.  And we see what happens.

I get Jeedmo on coms, and I am about to start explaining this plan.  But then Jayne logs in.  He logs in at the tower, twice, with Tengu and Stratios.  Well, that's awkward.  On the one hand, it makes things a bit easier, since I have more force on my team.  I won't have to go there to change.  On the other, it will make our guest a lot more skittish about engaging.

I get Jayne on coms and explain the situation.  Then Timmay logs in, at the tower, in a Proteus.  Oh well, the more the merrier.  We get him on coms too.

As we do this, Otto at the wormhole sees something.  A Loki appears at the wormhole and jumps.  I relay the info, then see the Loki on the other side with Von.  I assume it will move off and cloak, and I am starting to think about if we can take it and the Astero.  (We can.)  But then the wormhole flashes again.  Did it go back through?  Otto sees it warp off.  It went back.  I don't know what was up with that.  I guess he decided it was too risky, or maybe he got called off by real life.  (EVE is played by real people, who sometimes do things that are inexplicable from within the game.)

My new plan is similar to the first one, but a bit more straightforward.  The plan is: the Epithal makes its fake run, then goes to the nearby CO, and if it gets engaged, we all jump in and kill kill kill.  Seems good enough.  Timmay gets the Epithal, since it turns out Jeedmo's alt can't run a warp scrambler yet.   I warp my Manticore to one of our tower perches, so that I can warp in to the tower and reship as quickly as possible when things start happening.

Now we execute the plan.  Timmay runs out and back to a moon as specified.  Then he waits a bit -- it takes time to load and unload PI goo -- and warps to the outer planet's CO.  Nothing happens.  Waiting too long makes the baiting obvious, so I tell him to come on back.  He returns.  Everyone comes up with the joke to tell him to "fly casual".

I tell him to go to another CO.  Now we are slightly off plan.  This CO is in the inner system, so it is closer to our static wormhole (and thus to the enemy's assumed reinforcements), and further from us.  But I figure what's the worst outcome?  We spring the trap, lose the Epithal and the enemy escapes.  It's just an Epithal.  And maybe Timmay's pod.  But we'll buy him a new one.

Timmay warps to the CO, then pauses... and nothing happens.  Again, he turns and comes back to a chorus of "fly casual".  Jayne is beat from a long day, so we'll try one more CO.  Timmay warps, lands, and sits.  Nothing.  He warps back home.  That's disappointing.  We go through all the trouble to put out bait and they don't take it!

Jayne and Tim log off.  We have a connection to lowsec on the other side of C4b, but I am not keen to use it with the enemy still sitting at his tower, and maybe with a cloaked Loki out there, and maybe in my system.  Instead, I'll take the opportunity to go do combat exploration in highsec.  My Jita alt is gearing up for standings-scummage.  The new Gila makes it absurdly easy to do combat sites with minimal skills.  I get Otto back home, fly to the middle of nowhere and log out.  Then I log in my Jita alt and start exploring.

Meanwhile, as Von I watch our wormhole.

I chat with Jeedmo for a bit longer, but he is also tired from a long week, and he logs off.  (I suspect the prospect of PVP was already keeping him on longer than he wanted.)  I'm alone.

Von does not see anyone leave for two hours, although I am AFK for several chunks of that.

In the end, I am left in the dark about what happened.  Was that Astero still in my system, and laid off the bait?  (If you are reading, mysterious Astero pilot, I salute your spider sense.)  Did the Astero slip out somehow?  With no local, there is simply no way to know.  The whole thing could have been an elaborate pantomime for no audience at all.   Does it really matter whether he was there?  I amused myself thinking of how to trap him.  We amused ourselves quite a bit putting on the show.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Fight Nearby

It's the weekend, afternoon local time.  Prime time in Europe.  When I play in European time, I often find targets.  Today I am more interested in scanning a decent connection to kspace, because my corp needs to get PI goods in and out.  But I am in my Manticore, and I will certainly take a target if I can find one weak enough.

Our static connection links a C4 system.  C4b has a static C3, through which C3a has a lowsec exit.  It's fairly deep in lowsec, and far from Jita anyway.  Not helpful.  There were a couple characters in C3a apparently doing nothing, in a Loki and Proteus.  I watched them at a tower for a while as I scanned.

There's also a second C3 connected to C4b.  This one also has a lowsec static, but in this case it is usable in a pinch, being adjacent to highsec and about 16 jumps from Jita.  The lowsec system had four characters in it, so not great but not awful either.

There is one more system to try hanging off of C4b: a C2.  I left this one for last.  The good news here is that C2s that connect to C4s are almost always doing so through a static.  C2s are all dual static, and those with a C4 connection also have a highsec.  So I am guaranteed that.  The bad news is that pretty much all of the C2s with highsec statics are lived in, usually by fairly strong corporations.  (That's why I left it for last: so if I attracted attention on the far side with my probes from when I scanned down C4b, anyone trying to camp the hole coming in would have plenty of time to get bored.)  Let's see about this one.

I warp to the C2 and jump.  There's nobody at the wormhole, but dscan shows a lot of towers, force fields, and ships.  T3s, a couple Epithals, a Viator, other ships.  Lots of dead towers too; it appears this system is moon-locked.  It's not looking good for running goods, but it is possible all those ships are just sitting empty.  I'll find the Epithals first.

I move off and cloak, then use dscan to find two of the three Epithals at one planet.  I fly to that planet, which has three active towers.  I get lucky; the random moon I flew to has a tower where there is a Loki, manned.  Ugh.  Not looking good.  (I get the corp: Anomalous Existence.)  But I find the Epithals after some dscan work, and get in look range of their tower.  By the time I find them, there is just one.  I look around at all planets in range for the other, but it is not out gooing, at least not in range of me.  It might be at an outer planet, or it might have logged off.  I watch the other Epithal.  I try to use my force powers to suggest that it wants to move, but it remains stubbornly immobile.

I am sitting and watching for quite a while.  Meanwhile, I am also dscanning, and I can see that the other ships I have seen on scan are active.  Some disappear, others appear.  This system is altogether too active for my taste.

A second Epithal warps in to my tower.  So I watch both of them for a while.  Then the one that warped in logs out.  Oh well.  Back to the first one.  A Rapier logs in.

At this point I am starting to worry about getting back home.  So I figure I will scan out the highsec for possible future reference, then head back up.  I warp to the outer planet to fire probes... and land on an online tower again.  There is nobody at this one; it's just a reactor tower.  Still, there are ships on scan even out here.  I have not seen such a well-lived-in system.  I warp to a second moon, which has an offline tower.  Now I can fire probes.  I find a C2 connection, and nullsec.  The last of four sigs is the highsec.  I don't go out because I expect them to be watching.  I pull probes, then sit at the tower with the Epithal and watch it for a while.  Being boring.

Time to get out.  I can see the wormhole to C4b on dscan, and nobody is there.  (And no bubbles.)  They are not on the near side, anyway.  I wonder if there will be a Sabre on the far side.  I warp right to it, and jump.  I half expect something when I cross, but nobody is there.  I move off the wormhole and cloak, and I am safe.  Good for me.  Now I move out to 30km and just watch, orbiting the wormhole.  I am definitely not going to be moving goods with these people connected to my chain.  And all by myself, I am not going to pop our wormhole, either.  So, it looks like a slow night.  Time to surf the web.

I am doing other stuff for a while, when the wormhole sounds.  Let's see what it is.  It's a Falcon.  And a Sabre, a Proteus, a Stratios, and an Arazu.  They fleet warp off.  I can see the direction: it is  towards planet V and a bit down from it.  I wonder what's there?  I get the system map up, and check.  Ah, the wormhole to C3a.  Well, I want to see if they jump.  I pursue, warping to 30km from the wormhole.

I land on grid, and I see them.  I feel a bit exposed, since they may have more people warping up behind me.  I move off in the down direction to get off the ecliptic.  Then they all disappear.  The wormhole has not flashed nor sounded.  They did not jump; they must have cloaked.  OK.  Interesting. I get about 35km off the wormhole and down from it, then I sit and watch it.

Now a few minutes pass.  A new ship warps on grid: a Procurer.  A Procurer?  Ah, bait.  They must be trying to bait someone, probably the guys in C3a.  Was there an ore site?  The bait enters the wormhole.
Bait moves forward

Minutes pass.  Nothing seems to be happening.  Then the fleet uncloaks.
Falcon x2, Proteus, Sabre

They mostly sit; one orbits.  Perhaps they expect somebody to come across.  But this does not happen.

After a while, more of them warp up and park.
Falcon x2, Onyx, Proteus, Sabre, Sacrilege, Stratios, Vagabond

And then one by one, yet more warp up.  These are all T3s, presumably of the non-cloaky variety -- the better to kill stuff.
Falcon x2, Onyx, Legion x2, Proteus x3, Sabre, Sacrilege, Stratios, Vagabond
A Rattlesnake warps up too.  (No picture, sorry.)  Then suddenly, the wormhole flashes.  They are jumping, all of them.  I am left alone.  I consider jumping to follow, but I cannot do much against this fleet, and the risk is significant.  So I just sit.

Minutes go by.  A few more ships warp up individually and jump.  Then a pod comes through the other way.  Looks like they found someone.  I think about trying to get up close to ambush a pod, but even with my sebo I don't think I can lock fast enough, and again there is risk.  So I stay put.  A second pod crosses.  Then the Sacrilege returns.  More waiting.  And the Procurer.  I wonder whether someone took the bait or did they have to search further.

Finally the bulk of the fleet appears.  Presumably victorious, losing two of their number for more of some enemy.  A few more stragglers trickle out, then things are quiet.  I have not kept careful track.  But I think enough of them have left.  Curiousity gets the better of me and I go in to look around, to see if I can find any trace of a fight.

C3a has no wrecks anywhere.  I exit to lowsec to look around.  There is an ore site, which has a Gallente Frigate wreck in it.  This is not the fight I missed.  I drive up and loot it just on principle.  Then I cautiously warp home, none the wiser for what happened.

As I write this, a look at the killboards suggests they got a fight in a C4 that I had not even gotten to.  I think there was an EOL C4 connection off a C4 down there; maybe that was where it went down.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Following Up

Last week I mentioned the article Driving the Meta: N+1 and the Logistics Cruiser, which I thought was quite insightful.  At the time the author, the stupidly-named "FearlessLittleToaster", promised a followup with his idea for how to attack the problems created by remote reps.  Now the followup is there: Driving the Meta: The Remote Logistics Disruptor.
I propose ... the introduction of a module called the Remote Logistics Disrupter (RLD). ... [It] would be identical in all respects to a Stasis Webifier, except that instead of reducing the speed of the target, it would reduce the amount that the target was repaired by incoming reps. The RLD would have no impact on the logistics ship, only the target of the repair disrupter.  
Following the normal stacking penalty progression incoming repairs would be reduced to 50% for the first RLD then 28%, 20%, and 17% with each successive tech one disrupter placed on the target ship. For tech two the progression would be 40%, 19%, 12%, and 10% respectively.
Interesting idea.  It won't solve the blue donut, which is a consequence of easy capital projection and there being no counter to capitals except more capitals.  But at least it's a step in that direction.

Stabs has a lolcat post that makes a good followup to Staying Hidden in Wspace:  Scouting for Dummies.  How should I scout?  I should send in Jayne!

Here's an tangential followup to last week's post, PLEX is Money.  With Chronos, CCP has a new ad on the launcher:
"Treasure it".  Do you think CCP wants seignorage?  I think so!

One final item.  Not a followup, but something I want to note.  Jester, the robo-blogger, has had enough.  He's out.
I am shutting down Jester's Trek. 
Now before you ask, I'm neither quitting nor rage-quitting EVE Online. But over the last few months, I've come to realize that something like 85% to 90% of the stuff I'm doing in and around EVE simply isn't any fun. So I'm going to cut out everything that I'm not finding fun and focus my time on the remaining 10%.
This leaves a big hole in the EVE blogosphere.  The best commentary I have seen on it is Mabrick's.  I share his sentiment.  Thanks, Jester, for the insight and amusement I got from you.  I do expect Jester will eventually return to writing about something, because writers gotta write.  I hope it is EVE Online.  Whatever it is, they'll be lucky to have him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Boot Camp

This is a call for CCP to set up a system of boot camps for new EVE players.  A boot camp is a special corporation, which a newbie can join for a limited time, run by selected players.  There are three goals for the boot camp experience.  First, to provide each newb a specific experienced player or two for information, guidance and support .  Second, to teach each newb hands on how to do particular in-game professions.  Third, to establish a social environment so that newbies can meet each other and make friends.

I. Models

I think my biggest inspiration is OUCH, the Open University of Celestial Hardship.  They run a nullsec survival and PVP boot camp.  (Here's the recent dev blog community spotlight featuring OUCH.)  I am not thinking of anything that complicated, though. 

Another inspiration is EVE University.  They are a great resource, but I think that going into lowsec to live is intimidating to many newbs.  How do you make money there?  EVE U. seems like a very big step.  I think many people don't want or need that much guidance.  They just need a little bit, and they need personal attention.

I should also give a mention to the Goon training materials, and the attitudes which they seem to point to within Goonswarm.  Goons seem to be very focused on bringing in newbees, helping them, and getting them going. 

II. Why Boot Camps?

New player retention and the new player experience are big problems for EVE.  EVE is a cold, dark universe.  It's a place of griefing, of tear-extraction, awoxing, scamming, reverse-awoxing and the gank.  This is as it should be.  Keep EVE dangerous.  But still, there's a general feeling, which I share, that many newbies are lost and need more guidance and structure before being thrown in the shark tank.

I don't think we'd need boot camps if everyone was a Goon.  But most players aren't.  It is true that many corps have good recruitment and training.  But this is generally of use only to real life friends that bring in someone, because otherwise how does a new player even know about these groups?  And how does a smaller corp know that a player is not an awoxer?  They don't, and so it is generally only larger corps that recruit widely.

On the one hand, we want players to join corps because we want them to have friends in the game, because people with friends keep playing.  On the other hand, joining any corp is potentially dangerous.  This is not really a problem for a vet, who knows the score.  He should know how to check up on a corp.  He won't contract all his assets to some Goon recruiter to jump out to null.  If he does fall for a recruitment scam, he deserves to lose what he loses.  But it does run against the expectations of a newbie, and the potential loss there is much more.

Similarly, the war dec mechanic is awful.  The best response is to drop corp, so you can keep playing.  So much for your social environment.  The experienced player knows he can chat on coms or on a chat channel other than corp.  He won't lose his social environment.  Indeed, the experienced corp owner knows how to duck wardec.  The newbie?  That's unlikely.  He'll stay in corp, and keep playing, and become a cheap target.  

People always propose developing the newbie mission system more, but the problem here is that it is very hard to know what each individual needs and what he has missed.  And it is also hard to teach some of the more subtle things.  Certainly I don't see in-game tutorials ever explaining wardecs, or ISK doubling scams.

III. How Boot Camps Should Work

The boot camp is a special corporation.  Boot camps should have a distinguishable name and ticker reserved for them that normal player corps cannot take, and emulation of these names should be frowned upon.  Boot camps should be wardec-proof.  Other than that they can be normal corporations.

The CEO of a boot camp is its lieutenant; he should have one assistant, his sergeant.  Collectively these two people are the officers; they are the teachers.  The newbies are recruits; they are the students.

Officers should be required to agree to and follow a code of conduct, including the following items:
  • they will always attempt to advance the best interests of their recruits
  • they will advise their recruits to the best of their knowledge
  • they may not recommend or discourage any specific corps as later homes; they can give general advice on how to choose a corp, but no specific advice
  • after a recruit moves on, all knowledge they have about that recruit will not used in any manner, either to favor or hurt that recruit, without written (email) permission from that recruit
After boot camps get going, each officer applicant should be required to take a boot camp as a newbie, just to see how it goes and what works.

Boot camp officers should given access to newbie chat.  They should also have a special recruitment channel for boot camps.  Access to this channel should be restricted to boot camp officers, and new accounts for a limited time.  Perhaps it would be the first six months of an account.

Each boot camp should have clear skill requirements to enter.  These should not be very high, of course, but they must be there so that standard fits can be proffered, and a newbie can partake of all of the training and do hands-on.  Boot camps should require an API for the purpose of verifying skills and for advising newbies in general.

Boot camps should run for a limited time per training squad.  I'd suggest a period of no more than one month.  The point is emphatically not a long-term home.  It is acclimatization, advice and training.  At the end of each month, the boot camp should kick all recruits and start over.  Hopefully, a boot camp would have enough applicants lined up to immediately cycle after discharging the last squad.  However, this may take time.  This may allow some recruits to spend extra time in the camp.

Boot camps should take in recruits in squads, so that they join and leave synchronously.  This makes running and scheduling them easier, and also puts the recruits on an equal footing socially.  Squads should be relatively small.  I would suggest no more than 20 recruits per squad.  Maybe more could be handled, but that's where I would start.  Once the camp has its 20, it should start its training cycle.

Each boot camp should be run for a specific time zone, i.e., "evenings from 8:00 - 11:00 in Eastern Time".  This would be advertized as such, of course. Both officers would be required to commit to the same time zone.  Both officers would be required to leading a training session one night per week, at least three hours per night.  This would give the corp eight training sessions over the course of a month.  These sessions should be used for getting people on coms, then lectures and group activities.  Officers should also be logged on, though not necessarily leading anything, for at minimum 3 nights per week in addition to the one they are on duty.  This gives them time for one-on-one chat with individual recruits, or generally to help fine tune recruits as they independently do whatever they do.

I expect some variety of boot camps, but not that much.  I imagine boot camps focused on mining, exploring, missioning, etc. -- the basic highsec income staples.  In the last week, they could have a few classes on lowsec survival and attempt to make some money out there.  

One kind of boot camp that I think would be particularly fun and interesting would be one focused on PVP.  The recruits could be fleeted and taken into lowsec to be slaughtered.  They'd learn that losing ships and even being podded is not the end of the world.  They'd get adrenalin and feel the fun.  In the last weeks, two cooperating boot camps could wardec each other and have fun learning how to fight in highsec.

IV.  What CCP Would Have to Do

Boot camps can be implemented largely within the existing game.  There are a few places where CCP support would be very helpful or necessary.  I'll try to identify those.

The biggest thing CCP needs to do is to create a division of ISD for the boot camp officers.  Every officer should be screened, interviewed, and doxed similar to how ISD does things currently.  Boot camp is part of CCP's public face and must be above reproach.  There must be internal processes to remove bad and/or incompetent officers.  This would require at least one CCP employee to run.

Each boot camp officer should get an ISD account to be used only for doing boot camp stuff.  This account would be free.  Otherwise there should be no remuneration for officers -- it is a calling, not a business.  (It is interesting to think about how it might become a business.  But start small.)  Officer accounts should be allowed to give ISK and items to their (current) recruits only.  However, they may not accept gifts of money or goods from anyone except CCP.  Any ISK they have would be because they generated them in-game, incidental to their work.  If a boot camp is deemed to need special equipment (i.e., lots of frigates for a PVP boot camp), then CCP can supply those or ISK to buy them.

It would be very convenient if CCP were to implement boot camps specially, as a corporation subclass that cannot be formed by unprivileged players, and which cannot be wardecced, and in which awoxing is Concorded.  However, these effects can be simulated via special rules when using normal corps.  That is, just as there is a game rule that suicide gankers in highsec must die, there could be a rule that boot camps are not wardeccable, and a clear warning that awoxing in a boot camp is a bannable offense.  Corps impinging on the namespace would be renamed.

As previously mentioned it would be helpful if boot camps had easily distinguished names and tickers reserved for them that normal player corps cannot take.  I.e., CCP might reserve all strings "Boot Camp X" in the corp namespace for boot camps.  And they might reserve "BT_XXX" in the corp namespace.  And while I am thinking about it, they should also have a unique corporate symbol.

Finally, it would be important to refer newbies to boot camps as a part of their normal Aura training.  Explain what they are (that is, a limited-time but safe environment to learn), and that they can be found on the corp recruitment interface as follows, blah blah.  And open up the boot camp recruitment channel.