February 26, 2013

Can you find the clue to destruction?

So below you'll find my tale of how my Thorax got destroyed.  Follow along and see if you can spot the clues that I should have noticed...

The Tale of Woe

I undocked my Thorax and headed for lowsec with a grin on my face.  I’ve generally only taken frigates out into lowsec, with the exception of a Thorax I lost when I was in Gallente FW and they needed more dps for a structure bash.  In comparison to my previous post, I was definitely feeling more relaxed for some reason.  In the last highsec system before lowsec I warped to 100km off the gate to check it out.  Not that I would spot any cloaked scouts, but just as well not to go straight into something obvious.  Nobody there.  I backed up to a midwarp safe, then gave a jump command on the gate so if there was someone cloaked there they’d have less time to report between the end of my warp and arrival on the other side.

I came through and saw a Velator on grid with the gate, twenty-something klicks off.  That’s odd – a Velator in lowsec.  Must be bait or a cheap intel position.  I ignore it and dive towards a distant asteroid belt, with the idea that even if he can tell that I’m aiming to the planet he won’t be able to report which of the five or six belts I’ll be arriving at.  I drop a midwarp safe on my way and hit d-scan as I come in on the belt.  Nobody in the belt, but when I swing the d-scan out to 360 degrees I see a Venture.  Hmm, I can’t scram the Venture but I was recently talking with a corpmate about how fragile they are.  If I’m fast enough I might be able to get on him – though that would probably mean he’d have to be near the warp-in of the belt.

I try the nearby belts but I can’t seem to find the Venture.  I do see probes though – but core scanning probes, not combat probes.  As I fly out to another belt I catch sight of a Vexor on d-scan.  A lowsec explorer, perhaps?  The Vexor is a good ship for that.  A Thorax / Vexor match up could be fun, and I’d certainly have the advantage if he’s fit for anom rats.  But if he’s in an anom I’ll never find him of course.  I briefly put the Vexor out of my mind as I swoop over to another planet and look around the belts.  Then I remember the Velator and wonder if he’s still there.  I warp to the gate at 20km, d-scanning as I go.  That’s funny, I’m not showing the gate on my d-scan even though I’m pointing right at it.

I come out of warp and I don’t see the Velator, but I do see the Vexor with his probes out around him.  I don’t know what he’s thinking doing that, but I know what I’m thinking.  I lock him and hit the MWD.  He starts yellow boxing me and I’m wondering if it’s going to be ECM drones or combat drones.  I launch my Hammerheads and punch the scram and neutrons.  What?  The darn new safety warning is screaming at me.  Quick, turn the darn safety off.  Fire!

Damage piles onto my shields, almost gone in one shot.  Arggh, I wasn’t thinking of the gate guns.  I’ve lost a frigate before for foolishly engaging on the gate in lowsec, but I didn’t think of that here.  I swing around and try to align out as I my buffer armor gets smacked.  I try to warp but I’m scrammed.  I’m losing armor fast – the Vexor must have blasters.  My ship blows and I warp my pod out.  I give a GF in local along with a  joke about being a foolish noob.  I start chatting with my corpmate and figure I'll pull up my lossmail to share.  Hey wait, the top damage dealer is... CONCORD Police Captain?  Oh crap.  I look up at the upper left - I'm in a 0.6 system.  Sigh.

So, did you spot the signs?

Certainly the Velator in lowsec was one, but before that remember all that warping around as I checked out the gate?  I think what happened was that when I warped back to my safe I then grabbed the wrong gate to jump through.  Everything after that comes from that root cause.  Since I have the warning about "you're about to enter into lowsec" turned off, it is all on me to pay attention to where I am going with homicidal intent.

The Ventures weren't so big a sign - people use them for their warp stability in lowsec and WHs.  The Vexor with core scanners, also not as big a warning sign.  But after all CCP did to add that safety swtich, over-ruling it was the bigger sign.  I think my thought at the time was that perhaps the safety didn't consider lowsec, and I was so intent on killing that Vexor!

After the fact

I got a convo from the Vexor pilot.  He and I had a friendly conversation.  He said I almost killed him before he managed to hit the gate and jump.  We had a good laugh and that.  "At least it turned out okay" he says.  Not okay by me, I'd be just as fine with both of us losing a ship, though I didn't say that part.  Suicide ganking is not something I'm interested in, but if I was that close... oh no.

Go back a couple posts.  What was one of my first Lessons Learned?  Overheat all the things.  I have to wonder if I had preheated my Neutron Blasters would I have killed that Vexor?  Arrgh, now that is much more painful.

So time to line up a few more ships.  Autocannon and Artillery Specialization is skilling now.  Maybe it's time to look up some good Thrasher fits...

Fly Like Water

A quick one...

Incursus vs Legion

Took an Incursus into Gallente/Caldari FW space to look around for a fight.  I saw a Legion sitting 17km off the gate when I came into lowsec, so I warped through and came up with a very brief plan.  Warp back at 20km, move in fast and close and hope that the medium lasers will have bad enough tracking that I can tank him.  Right, go!  Ooop, that's right my warp out wasn't right through him so now that I'm back at the gate I'm now 20km off from him.  Hmm, what should I do now?  Oh, I see, I should get locked and killed in three volleys before I can think clearly enough to align and get out.

I study a Korean martial art called Tang Soo Do.  One of the masters often gives me a hard time when sparring: "I can see that you're thinking of doing something.  It's making you stop because you're trying to think two moves ahead.  Just let it flow, you have to relax.  I see when you're relaxed because your moves come faster and your kicks are higher." I think this is common with some of us analytical types.  We're used to being able to take time to think through things.  It also comes from inexperience - the more experienced you are the less you consciously have to think about it.  In karate I have a set of moves that I am very familiar with that flow out of me very quickly and easily, but when I'm trying new things (particularly when facing a Master) then it is easier to freeze up.

Lessons Learned:

My fluid moves in Eve Online are a subset of frigate vs frigate brawling moves.  Close, scram, tight orbit and manage cap vs. repper.  What I need to keep getting experience with are more of a variety of moves.  For other noobs out there, I would say this also encourages moving from like to like in your experimentation.  I'm also tying to brawl in a Thorax (take current skills, move up one class).  I'm about to complete the skills for T2 projectiles, which will be good for getting out there and learning kiting moves (take current size class, move out one style)

Also, I got back to home in my pod and started looking around for parts to put into a ship to go out again.  Am I out of Void S again?  Where is a Hobgoblin II? Lost energy, noticed the time.  Bleh - only got the one fight in.  When I don't have the time/energy to go out and PVP I really need to get fit ships set up and ready to go.  Then when I do have time then losing a ship shouldn't cost that much momentum.  If I was in karate class and only sparred one time for two minutes I wouldn't learn much.  It's the fighting five different people in rapid succession until sweat is rolling down you that starts to bring the lessons.

Sidenote on skill queue:
Jumping between my learning clone (+4s) and my PVP clone (naked) I was really struck by the impact on the time remaining on my current skill.  I thought I had remembered it as being about a 10% difference - I just did the math and it is actually 16%.  Thanks to a recent SOMER Blink win I'm not currently as worried about ISK so I'm thinking even more on having at least +2s in my PVP clone.  Some of the hardwirings are pretty cheap too.  Perhaps a future post for me can be a "Cheap Noobs Guide to Implants."

February 19, 2013

Roaming Weekend

I had a long holiday weekend and planned to us it to get into a naked clone and go roaming to celebrate completing Gallente Cruiser V.  Thorax being the ship of choice.  I figured I'd lose three or five of them and get podded a couple times.  Well, best laid plans and all that.  For various reasons I only had two sessions for roaming and lost one Thorax (and pod).  At the end of the weekend I was disappointed with that, but after writing all this up I see there was a lot there to think about.

My Thorax was:
5x Heavy Neutron Blaster II  (Fed Navy AM loaded, Null and Void available)
10MN Microwarpdrive II
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I
2x X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
800mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Damage Control II
2x Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
2x Medium Ancillary Current Router I
1x Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I

Yes, I was going for the gank side, rather than the agility side.  General plan was to run the target over, web them down so they can't move, turn off the MWD and orbit at best nonprop speed.  But I knew going in that finding the fight was going to be a lot more work than any actual fighting.

First roam

I was joined by my friend Iorga in a Caracal and we started roaming through lowsec in Sinq.  We hit a pretty good pattern where I would fleet warp and drop bookmarks while flipping back and forth to Dotlan and he would run the D-scan and look up the local inhabitants.  In a really crude way I guess I was FC and he was in-system intel.  That developed pretty naturally - it's interesting to think what we'd do with a third or fourth person.  Another person doing intel wouldn't be bad I suppose, after that a proper scout might be nice.  Part of being part of a small team is there definitely isn't anyone just riding along waiting to hit F1.

Crossing into Carrou we ran into a lowsec pirate corp that I'd encountered before, Tea and Sympathy.  They were actually the very first pirate group I ran into in Eve.  I had just gotten my Destroyer skill and decided to poke my head in lowsec to try a mission and one of them dropped in on me in a Hurricane.  Fortunately I did barely know enough to be looking for it and after he dropped a scram on me I managed to burn my way out of range and warped my little tail back to highsec.  Even more noob, I then talked two friends into trying to lay a trap for him to see if three of us could kill his Hurricane.  Thanks to my lousy organization and all of our inexperience that resulted in Iorga's first podding - of course there wasn't just one pirate.  I had poked my nose around in that area of space a few times since then but stayed clear of Tea and Sympathy.

So bringing us back from that flashback:  there were combat probes out moments after we entered system.  I don't recall exactly what we spotted on D-scan but I believe there were three active pilots for Tea and we decided to keep moving.  Intimidation or wisdom, I don't know.  I think it's fair to say that for two of us as relatively inexperienced PVPers we didn't want to take on three veterans on their home turf (see Lessons Learned below).

I think it was Crielere that we had a near thing.  Generally I would jump gate first to check things out then Iorga would follow.  That way if there was a camp we wouldn't both get caught and if there was one person who might engage a Thorax we might surprise them when the Caracal followed in.  I stepped in, saw nothing and Iorga followed.  I had no plans to try Rancer and while I was making up my mind an Omen came through the gate.  What went through my mind was "sniper T3" (yes, I got it confused with the Oracle) so I gave the word for us to engage.  Before we could get anything on him though he had crashed back through the gate.  Bummer.

Now I mentioned that two days later to a more veteran friend of mine (though I think this time I misidentified it as the Oracle).  He asked some very specific things of what I had done.  I think I had just hit approach and turned on my MWD.  "He would have burned you down.  You had no transversal and a sig the size of a battleship."  Ooh, yeah.  Perhaps I should have headed straight for the gate instead, which would close with him (since it was where he Omen was heading) while still keeping some transversal.  Hmmm - like I said, lots to learn.

My plan was to look for a larger lowsec pocket so we crossed over into The Forge heading for the strip of lowsec systems around Akora.  I was wondering if we'd run across RvB action in progress - at the time I hadn't seen the news about RvB taking on Eve-Uni.  But in Josamento we found a fight happening right on the gate and lo and behold there was a Scythe who had picked up a suspect flag (presumably for neutral repping).  So we went to our optimals (which of course for a Thorax means "plant nose of ship against hull") scrammed and killed him.  Now I was half expecting this to erupt into something bigger for our audacity to interfere, so as soon as I looted him I warped us to get out of there.  However in retrospect I don't think the current crimewatch allows that.  So yeah, not a big challenge to kill a T1 cruiser logi and run but you take what you can get.

Crossing into the area around the Forge's lowsec southeast Oijanen looked relatively hot on Dotlan's recent kill scope, so we were on edge and ready.  Iorga identified a lot of Brick Squad and PL members kicking around.  If I knew my null politics better I might have known what that might mean, but I did remember when I did a null frigate roam into Brick Squad area before it was very quiet.  But that wasn't on a prime night with 55k+ capsuleers logged in.  We decided to try to break into nullsec via BWF-ZZ and given the heat in Oijanen Iorga decided to jump with me instead of waiting for me to see the other side of the gate.

Gate camp.  I spotted several Naga, Talos, and Huginn and made a noob mistake.  I didn't take full advantage of my gate cloak to think, but instead must have done something to break my cloak because next thing I remember I had the scram symbol down on me.  I told Iorga to run and I dove straight at the Huginn that had me scrammed.  For a moment I thought I might melt him but then the fire intensified and my buffer tank melted.  I had the presence of mind to aim myself back at the gate as I went into structure, but my pod was snagged before I could get out and I woke up in station.  In retrospect I probably hit my MWD to get to the Huginn which meant I could catch him but also meant I was a huge target.  Best would have been to make sure I toggled that off once I was on top of him and had him webbed.  I see on my own killmail that a Blackbird is listed, but I don't remember seeing my lock break before I died.  I don't know if you show on the kill for attempting to ECM or if he just happened to break my lock right at the moment I died.  I know I was watching the Huginn's shields drop right up to the point that I was podded, though that could have also been my Hammerheads.

Fortunately Iorga did make it out of system.  Sloppy on the camper side I think.  Given that they had multiple Huginns and Claws present they had enough points around that they should have been able to nail both of us.  So we spent the next little bit with me staring at Dotlan working out the shortest/safest path back to empire for him as he zipped through nullsec.  He ran into several bubbles on the way, but apparently nobody was minding them so he kept going without being molested.

Second roam

Monday I got back on and started heading out again, solo this time.  Cruised around Sinq lowsec a bit, running through belts to see if anyone was out and about.  I was using Jumps as a stat to follow on dotlan, rather than recent kills.  My theory was that if there were double-digit kills in an area then it was probably already hot and people would be avoiding them.  Solo I would much rather find an out-of-place missioner or explorer than lowsec residents.  But no one was being silly and hanging out in an obvious place.

Eventually I wandered over to the area around Gerper.  If you don't know the system take a look at that map and I bet you'll see my mistake right away.  I got in there and started making the usual bookmarks and noticed local pop up behind me.  Somehow I had the impression that just because the corp name was Thou Shall Not Kill I shouldn't expect them to be big adherents of that particular commandment.  On D-scan I spotted an Ishkur and was ready to take that engagement.  Then a Falcon appeared on scan too, and I realized that wasn't an Ishkur - it was an Ishtar.  I had no desire to take on an Ishtar and a Falcon - jammed and bored isn't a fun way to die.  That's when I realized how stupid I was in putting myself into a dead-end system.

So I decided to dock up and get lunch.  Let them get bored and I could make a run for it.  Thou Shall pilots buzzed around a bit, and they put one of their alts into the same station I was to keep an eye on me.  A veteran friend of mine logged on and offered to come by in a CovOps to check things out for me after he ran an errand in a nearby area of space.  That was certainly much appreciated, as was his advice about various details I won't go into in this post.

In the end I made a run for it and didn't run into any opposition.  My hand was also forced by the arrival of the local cable company tech, so I figured that not only was I likely to be distracted at any moment, but offlining my internet was likely in my future.  So while the roam came to a anticlimatic end, I still think there were some good lessons in there.

Lessons Learned

Home Sweet Lowsec: I think it's only just dawned on me how a reasonably sized group can really lock down a lowsec system or three.  I would guess that the keys are geography, activity, and aggressiveness.  Geography - you want a pocket out of the major traffic patterns.  Activity - you need enough people around to claim it consistently and be known to claim it.  Aggressiveness - you have to be ready to challenge newcomers.  There is always a bigger fish of course.  This is also a really interesting contrast to WHs that I think hadn't quite sunk in for me before.  With local you have the ability to get undocked and challenge visitors in minutes - and people may expect that of you if you're trying to hold down the space.  With WHs you don't see them come in, but perhaps the expectation difference is important too.  Do people actually claim down systems and own up the moons (likely via alt-corps I suppose, given the standings needs)?

There's never just one pirate: Is this a rule?  Does this mean to solo you have to be ready to take on multiple ships?  Perhaps if you're in a pirate's home lowsec you should consider it a rule, if you're out an about it's a maybe.

Manual Piloting:  I think it was Azual Skoll who recommended that you should take any new PVP ship out and try a few things.  First, use the orbit command around an asteroid at your optimal with your propmod on and see what orbit you actually hit at that speed.  It will probably be more than you set, so you don't want to be surprised if it swings you too far out of optimal or scram range or the like.  Second, try manually piloting to do the same thing.  I've done this before on random undockers in highsec too, which gives you a feel for what happens when the target is moving - though unless they are making an undock safe they probably aren't at full prop.

Escape plan: If things go wrong, what is your path out?  If you go into null and hit a gate camp have you and your fleet already talked about whether you're crashing the gate or running through it?  If you go into lowsec what is your gate out?  Or do you want to dock up, logoff, or sit in safes?  These plans have to be decided, at least by the FC, and in small groups everyone has some FC responsibility.

Overheat, Overheat, Overheat:  Yeah, I know this is a repeat from my FrigFest lessons.  But I realized I didn't overheat when suiciding into the nullcamp and I have to wonder if I could have taken that Huginn with me if I had overheated.  It's not like I had any question that any of those modules were going to survive the fight.

February 13, 2013

Rax Roam

In celebration of getting around to completing Gallente Cruiser V I'm planning to fit out two or three Thoraxes for roaming this weekend (a long weekend for some of us here in the US).  That means I have two (okay, three) things I'm pondering over.  What to fit, where to go, and who I can talk into joining me.

Now all of those actually also beg a fourth thing: who is my target.  I'm putting that aside because I don't know enough to know what I can find to build a plan.  I'll probably take what I can get.  Ratters?  Miners?  Other solo roamers?  That eventually I'll hit some sort of gatecamp is probably a given.

What to fit
I've been surprised that there aren't more Retribution-specific Thorax fits posted out there.  Perhaps it is that a lot of Thorax fans know pretty immediately what they wanted to do with that extra midslot.  I admit I'm also looking only at armor fits, as getting my shield skills up is the plan for the coming month.  I see mentions of going dual-prop (which would be good for big targets you want to speed tank like BSs I'd guess), dual-web (which would be good for small, fast targets), or going web/scram/MWD/booster to counter being neuted.  I'd love to keep those options in a station, find a target and hop back to refit to match, but I don't know if that's feasible.  I see some run Med Armor Reps, but most are plated.  Given the concerns people seem to have with cap I'll probably go plated.  One less thing to manage too.  In general I'm going to be aiming for high gank fits.  To paraphrase a quote I ran into on Failheap: "If you're afraid of dying, why are you flying a Thorax?"

Where to go
Last time I roamed through nullsec I ran into a lot of nothing.  From reading around it sounds like if local pops up by one with an unknown neutral then all the nullsec residents run to dock.  Then if you stick around all you're likely to find is gangs of defense forces.  I'm no Kil2, so I don't expect I'll be splitting gangs of triple my numbers and all that.

Lowsec I can think of as the FW zones and the non-FW zones.  In FW areas I expect to run into solo plexers who will warp as soon as anything appears on their D-scan and PVP-seeking solos and small gangs.  The good news is that FWers are looking for fights, the bad news is that they're both better than me and likely on comms with allied FWers who will be there in minutes.  In non-FW zones I have less idea what to expect - high risk miners, pirates, people following lowsec missions and escalations.  I think I might need to hang out in a scanning ship and swap to the Thorax when I find something there, which means running around a lot.  The places where there are large stretches of lowsec seem to be more the hope of professional pirate types, which both means people who are way better than me (and have more buddies) as well as the kind of place that scares off anyone who isn't a top notch PVPer (at least in their own head).

There there is highsec.  My friends and I have noticed a number of people running around with suspect flags that would be valid targets to jump (and bonus if they have a bounty).  Also as of the new patch there is the dueling system and I've certainly seen plenty of people hanging around hubs looking for 1v1s that will probably start using those.  That might not be bad for getting the feel of the ship and fit, but it doesn't feel as "real".  If I wanted to do that I could just fleet up with corpmates and do the "to structure" thing (which is probably even harder to keep from being a  "to destruction" thing in ganky cruisers).

So I'm thinking some low sec of a reasonable pocket size where I can run around making bookmarks for an hour or two and then spend the weekend there learning the place and looking for targets.  Close enough to high sec gates to get people ducking in for missions and escalations, as well as to provide a nearby place I can get replacement ships.  Probably base my clone in a nearby highsec actually.

Who to join up with
Some of my corpmates sound game for a small gang roam.  It will probably be kitchen-sinky given all of our skill levels and general organization.  I'll be happy if we can get together and have some fun chasing someone down - or being chased down - though getting completely blasted by something we can't counter like a Rapier plus T3 with a 23km point, and a bunch of Tornadoes might be less fun.  At least if we go with T1 cruisers we won't be at risk of simply being smartbombed into oblivion by a BS as we try to crash a gate.

I was surprised I couldn't find too much in terms of googling for small gang fleet comps and tactics, though I really like the Agony Unleashed articles about their Hydra and Wolfpack ideas. What I did find (like the Agony stuff) seems to think of small gang as 10-20 ships, whereas I hope to get three ships together and will be thrilled if we get five.  I'm guessing that you should just think of the 3-5 gangs more like you were a solo - jump together, warp to your optimals off target, and if you have to run in the face of a superior force just scatter and reform/reship later rather than trying to flee as a coherent group.

So going through all of the above has brought me back to "who is my target?"  I guess I'm thinking that right now that falls into two categories: people who aren't seeking PVP (which gives me an edge) or places where the other guy is looking for PVP but I can control the escalation of the conflict (FW plexes, Dueling).  Control isn't the right word - restrain the escalation  perhaps?  Nothing is going to keep a FW group from piling a dozen faction cruisers into a medium plex if I try to duck in there.  Nothing is going to keep my suspected "ratting BS" from being a bait BS with five buddies in battlecruisers one system over.  But then, that's part of the thrill of the uncertainty, isn't it?

February 7, 2013

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

So EveHermit had a contest on his blog on naming his new alliance and offered some shiny prizes as well.  My his generosity and the good graces of luck I've gotten a choice of prizes.  As I've been pulled away from my blog for a bit I thought it was only fair to go through this in public, as it isn't an easy choice.  To get it right out in front, I've already heard you say "take the most expensive one" - it just doesn't seem like that much fun.  I have considered that a friend of mine might like one of these, and that some of these might have value for their parts for me.  Okay, let's move on.

The choices are (quoting EveHermit)
. A Faction Fit Hi Sec Exploration Buzzard (Covert Ops) (Value ~120M)
. Or a Faction Fit PVE Retribution (Assault Frigate) (Value ~102M)
. Or a T2 Fitted PVE Osprey Navy Issue (Cruiser) (Value ~73M)

Until now my main (Jakob) has only flown Gallente ships.  I've done the tiericide Battlecruiser skilling, so I technically can fly Caldari and Amarr ships.  And I know enough to recognize that those are Caldari and Amarr ships... but that's about it.  My only trained weapon system - hybrid turrets.  I've also just recently gotten into enjoying High Sec Exploration, having used that as my PVE of choice after the double Megathron loss.

So let's go through these:

The Buzzard:
The Buzzard is the Caldari CovOps boat.  Coincidentally enough I just completed the skill prerequisites necessary to inject the CovOps skill last night.  Given how I've been enjoying exploration lately I already planned to run this up to IV or V pretty much right away.  My first thought is that even though my missile skills are lacking, there isn't a lot of need for that to be a successful high-sec explorer.  My current Imicus has almost never fired its railgun, letting its drones kill the... wait? what's that you say? The Buzzard has no drone bay?  Ah, well.  I guess I'd need the missiles then.

Skills required for this choice:
* For T2 Light Missile Spec 3: 8d 12h
* Frigate Launcher Control Standard certificate: 10d 14h
* For Caldari Frigate V: 6d 17h
(I'm not counting the CovOps because I'm going to run that anyway)

So the skill cost is pretty high but... I do also want to get into a Stealth Bomber sometime this year.  That's going to take some base missile skills, though I see not terribly overlapping with the certificate above.  So a small discount there.

Skill Costs: Medium.  Most of a month in a direct a bit skew to my plans.
Cool Factor: High.  Having such a ship could be a nice motivator to cross-train.  Plus I'd likely name the ship in tribute to EveHermit, which makes me smile since this was won from a naming content.
Practical Factor: High.  "Faction Fit Hi Sec Exploration" says so right there on the wrapper, and that's what I've been doing lately.
Sum of its Parts: Medium.  Aside from the weapon system, I'm guessing that all of the fittings would work perfectly well on a Helios too, should I shy away from the alien missile tech.

The Retribution:
The Retribution is an Amarr Assault Frigate built on the Punisher frame.  I've flown the Punisher on an alt, though that alt is not really combat focused.  It is a pretty ship and I'm coming to appreciate that as I play more Eve.  I see the Retribution doesn't have the armor resists bonuses, instead focusing on the lasers all day every day (optimal, damage, and capacitor use).  I would probably use it to clear exploration sites that were too hot for my CovOps to handle, though since I'm mostly kicking around Gallente space right now the laser damage only half-matches the Serpentis rats.  On the other hand, maybe it's a good time to explore a bit farther afield towards Amarr.  Learning laser skills wasn't something I planned to do for a few months, but my armor skills are already strong from running Gallente.

Skills required for this choice:
* For T2 pulse or beam lasers to Spec 3: 4d 11h
* For Amarr Frigate V: 6d 17h

Skill Costs: Low, in line with what I wanted to do this year (if not this quarter).
Cool Factor: High.  Nice looking ship, good motivation to move turf.
Practical Factor: Medium.  It's a backup ship to the exploration approach.  If I decided to train up my industrial alt to do security missions for the standings then an AF might be a good way to do it too.
Sum of its Parts: High.  Any faction non-weapon systems would apply to my Gallente stuff and if for some reason the weapons are faction rather than T2 then they could also work on a variety of Amarr light ships if for some reason I didn't want them on this Retribution.

The Osprey Navy Issue:
The Osprey Navy Issue is a Caldari Cruiser with bonuses to medium missile system.  I can take this one off the list pretty much right away.  To fly such a ship I'd want good Caldari Cruiser skills and the medium-size missile skills.  Now, by the way I say "medium missile skills" you can probably guess that I don't have a clue what I'm talking about there.  I picked up some light missile and rocket skills when I first started (since at the time the Tristan was a split-system ship) but once I realized that missiles and turrets and separate core skills I decided to focus on turrets.  So I'm sure it's a great ship, but it's not for me.

Skill Costs: High, and not in line with my plans for this year.
Cool Factor: Low.  Caldari cruiser, meh
Practical Factor: Low. Don't have an immediate use for it.
Sum of its Parts: Low.  Some might be applicable, but it's still just T2.

Wrap it up!
Again, I'd like to thank EveHermit.  I'll send him an Evemail with my final decision next time I log in, but the Buzzard seems like the best choice.  Even without training Caldari/Missile stuff I can probably use elements of the fit in my current ship right away.  I'm also just plain curious what EveHermit has considered to be a good HiSec explorer.  The Retribution is really tempting too, but it would be more of a toy.  The Buzzard will be both a new toy and a new tool - and a new challenge!

Think I made the wrong choice?  Let me know what you think.

February 1, 2013

Eve Achievements, Part 1

In the CSM Minutes section on "Customer Loyalty" there is a call for Achievements in everything but name.  But also just recently, CCP made clear that they had to do a lot of hand-coding work to give the Gallente Faction Warriors a medal for achieving total system control.  This is a definite warning sign that the infrastructure isn't ready for a full blown Achievements system.  I hope that doesn't dissuade CCP - part of the real opportunity with Achievements is for CCP to motivate - one might even say "Enable" and "Instigate".  So we have the opportunity to encourage behaviors that aren't explicitly rewarded in game.

So what could those look like?  I'll start with a general one, then let's go into the roles that CCP advertises Eve with and see if they'd be a good framework for Achievements.  To be clear up front - I'm still a newb (if enthusiastic) and I haven't played all of these roles, so my take is probably both misguided (never been there) and completely spot on (if I'm a well-read newb and these aren't what Eve is advertising, perhaps that advertising is wrong).  As Ripard Teg might say: It is important to believe these two opposites at the same time.

These got so long I'm going to break them into multiple posts.

General: Skill Certification

Before we get into the roles that CCP promotes on their website and in their advertisements, there is one easier path that is already in EVE: Certificates.  When you first start the game you can roll through a lot of these as you knock our your frigate and small weapon skills.  This is a great opportunity to start popping up congratulatory Achievements to the new player, getting them hooked and maybe pointing them towards possible next steps.

Sidebar: I haven't seen certifications mentioned too much even in recruitment postings.  Instead of saying "25M SP required" I'm surprised recruiters don't say "Core Competency Standard + Cruiser Standard in a shield tanked faction" or the like.  Instead we even have some posts that have a huge long list of skills.  So, is there something wrong with certificates that people don't tend to use them?


The manufacturer role seems pretty well set for Achievements. Offer the first one when the player takes delivery on their first T1 ammo (which they'll likely do in the career mission).  From there ramp it up to more complex objects: small ship utility modules, drones, rigs, medium weapons, then bigger rewards for their first cruiser hull, battleship hull and that vaunted goal: capital ship.  An additional path can be with the first ME and PE research, as well as leading into Invention (T2 ammo/drones through T2 ships).  Note that these should not be a prerequisite chain.  I bought a BPC and manufactured my own first (sadly deceased) Battleship after I had built a battlecruiser and a cruiser, but I never built a frigate or destroyer.

I'm musing on the idea of one-time achievements for new items.  Let's say a new ship class is introduced.  A one-time award to the first manufacturer to build that ship could be cool - and would definitely be a public one.  It ought to be a non-trivial one though, something that perhaps also requires a new skill, the equivalent of the first person to build a Titan.  Just having a race to see who can login first after downtime, grab a BP from an NPC seller, then churn it out doesn't sound like much.  If it is the first person to get a BPC from a NPC drop, learn a new science skill, invent from that BPC, and manufacture it is more of a race.

I'd recommend that we don't care about the sales side.  This could be for personal use or for corp buddies.  The market side will be covered by the trader.


So the trader's obvious achievement here is measured in ISK of profit, but that is boring and is already a reward in of itself.  Part of the opportunity with these Achievements is to go beyond the profit.  Let's think about what we want to motivate in Eve - what could make for a better community and a better game:

* Regional Market Dominator: Move the most ISK volume in a region in a given month.
The challenge here is how to keep people from selling to themselves and their alts to rack it up with only frictional cost.

* Market Maker: Move the most ISK volume in a specific constellation
The goal here is to encourage creation of new hubs.  I'm saying constellation instead of system to keep the number of these rewards down and because if we see a well stocked system in every constellation we'd definitely have the sub-hub goal achieved.  Same weakness as above of course.

I considered item domination, but there are just too many items and if it is a collective achievement then it essentially becomes the goals above.

Loyalist, Freedom Fighter

I don't know how they're trying to distinguish these in terms of in-game roles.  The description of Freedom Fighter specifically references slavery, so was this meant to be an anti-Amarr specific role?  That seems very odd compared to the other roles, and there is no in-game matching artifacts.  The description of the Loyalist is clearly meant to include FW as well as mission runners.

Faction Warfare In any case, the easiest expression of these roles appears to be Faction Warfare, and FW has something that killmails don't - a built-in system for spreading out LPs.  This will make it a lot easier to build an Achievements system on that other areas.

A few more could be structured like these, in multiple levels:
* (faction) Loyalist: gained X LP by killing opposing faction player ships
* System Defender: gained X LP by defensive plexing
* System Assault: gained X LP by offensive plexing
* System Controller: donated X LP to system control.

That last one seems particularly important.  During my stint in Gallente FW I noticed that while we were pushing towards higher Tiers, there didn't seem to be any individual incentive to contribute, thus leading to a big free rider problem that any game should seek to avoid.

Mission runners could also be loyalists.  The trick here for me is figuring out what the goal behavior is.  Just racking up LPs and Standings are already covered.  I've argued before that there should be a role for players to exert control over factions so that they aren't the passive power blocks that really seem at odds with the sandbox theme.

Perhaps just as FW characters donate LP for system control, other characters could donate mission-earned LP (including FW LP) to manipulate the faction's policies.  The top circle of donators for a month become the ones who get to call the shots for the next month (along with a shiny badge like "Amarr Imperial House Member" or "Boundless Creation Executive Board Member").  They would then take the sum of all donated LPs and institute certain actions:
* Increase / Decrease sec status of a system (for X LP - obviously a lot of LP, btw) - Faction Only
* (basically anything you can do now in a FW system, but corp station by station) - Corporation Only

Now imagine the fights over that, the wonderful sandboxy fights. A whole new form of PVP, one might say.

Next time: Achievements for Explorer, Salvager, Pirate, Bounty Hunter, Miner, Fleet Commander, Planetary Industrialist, Empire Builder