July 24, 2013

The War that Wasn't and killing a Caracal

So when last we left our heroes they had been wardec'd by a big bad highsec mercenary corp for the audacity of killing a suspect-flagged Orca in highsec.  I also mentioned that we were enjoying lowsec roaming combined with tag4sec hunting.  Let's see how those turned out.

The War That Wasn't

Our naivete about highsec wars was quickly removed.  One of our guys saw two war targets in system when he logged in at Dodixie so he hopped into an Incursus to go see what was up.  He reported back that he was dead and podded in seconds thanks to a T3/BC tagteam hanging around the undock.  Looking at Poetic's PVP Analysis we could quickly see that this was pretty much all WIS did.  Hang out at hub systems and blow up small stuff.  We weren't going to be interested enough to put together a BC level response so we did the easy thing - we bailed out of corp and carried on.

One week later the war was over and I'd like to declare that we are decisively the winner.  WIS dropped its population hard during the war, whereas we just morphed and reformed.  They spent 50M for the wardec and in return got 20M or so worth of a frigate and pod kill, while we spent a couple MISK to make new corps temporarily.  And on we go.

It was interesting that our CEO got a couple offers of people to join the war on our side, but they all wanted payment (99M or so) and we really didn't care.  If they really wanted to fight WIS they could spend 50M on their own.

Back to Lowsec

So, we returned to doing our own thing.  Not that much for me since I had some vacation and when not doing that I spent more time than perhaps I should on my industrial alt.  But then last night I couldn't deny the itch and even though I only had an hour or so to play I fitted up a new Thorax and headed out.  Same deal as last time, cruise for tags and see if I can find someone one the way.

I was almost done with a loop when I ended up in Hulmate with a pile of belts and only one other pilot in system.  He looked to be in a Russian corp so I figured there was a very good chance he wasn't actually active.  I was going through belts, took another Trainer tag, when I saw a new pilot come into system.  He soon appeared on my wideband D-scan.  Caracal huh?  Well, at least it will be cruiser on cruiser.  I moved on to the next belt with "warp at 10km" and sure enough there he was only 10km from me.  That's pretty much idea for a tackle Thorax so he was scrammed, double-webbed, and under blaster fire as fast as I could lock him.

Once scrammed I could see he wasn't going anywhere so I turned off my MWD.  Against a cruiser I was really wishing that I hadn't swapped out the second MFS for a TE, because those HAMs were hurting.  There wasn't any real finesse here, just hang on like a bulldog.  But the bottom line is that my armor was at 21% when he popped.

The pilot was cool as we exchanged GFs in local, just saying that he looked away for 5 seconds and I was on him.  I didn't chat too much because I was already in warp to the next system after looting his ship, just in case he had friends on their way.

Now looking back at that fit I'm a bit confused.  He fit a Medium Shield Extender instead of a LSE.  I can find fits pretty much identical to his fit that have a LSE for that MSE.  So you might think his fitting skills aren't too great - but he's a 2005 character.  And it wasn't a fitting slip of the mouse, because I can see that his previous two Caracal losses are fit the same.  So I guess he counts on doing the fast kiting thing at maximum warp disruption range.  I may have to put that fit into EFT when I get home.

Lessons Learned

Overheat.  Clearly it had been too long since I got into a good scrap because I forgot the number 1 rule of a 1v1 and didn't overheat.  Arrggg.  How fast I get rusty.

Missile Mitigation.  I'm not sure if I should have risked running down my cap and kept the MWD going to reduce the HAM damage by speed.  I think I did the right thing, particularly since I wanted to keep hugging him to maximize my blasters by staying in optimal.  I am glad I didn't go for a variant fit with a tracking disruptor.

Drone choice.  I had undocked with a load of Hob2s and ECM drones, with the idea that the Hobs would be for rats and targets smaller than me (AFs being what I had in mind particularly) and the ECM would be for GTFO if I ran into something bigger or a tackle for a gang.  The Caracal was neither so by impulse I went for the damage.  Hammerheads would have been nice in retrospect.  As much as people hate dishonor drones, if I had laid ECM down on the Caracal then I might well have not taken any damage and it might have been nice to actually see how they work in combat.  I bet I wouldn't have gotten as polite a "GF" though. Bottom line: if I'm going to undock with ECM drones I should plan to use them.  Even though everyone says web drones suck I am tempted to set up a mix of dps/web/ECM medium drones just because it seems most of my targets end up being fast kiters.

Edit: Just looked up web drones.  5% speed reduction for a light webber, no thanks.

July 15, 2013

Hey, Hey it's a WarDec

Time for us to wardec around!  This being a public blog I expect there's a chance that people wardec'ing us may take a look.  Hi there!  So without further ado, the tale of how we received our first corporate wardec.

The Suspect Orca

So about a week ago our corp boss Billius Zabub ( though I expect he wouldn't want to consider himself a boss) was cruising around in a bomber and noticed an Orca in an ice field take on a suspect flag.  Not one to let an opportunity slide away he locked it down and started with the torpedoes.  Sounds like the Orca pilot was pretty chill about the whole thing in an ensuring convo, but a boss higher up wasn't so chill about it and threatened that they had powerful friends that would wardec us.  Billius shrugged it off and finished off the Orca, but he felt bad about the Orca pilot after thinking back on the various convos and shouting that flew around so he even sent him some ISK to help him towards his next Orca.

Back on the corp channels we chatted about it with an aura of excitement.  We haven't had a wardec yet against this corp.  We had long since figured that with our lowsec roaming eventually someone might get unhappy with us and wardec us, so it was really just a matter of time.  All sorts of ideas for possible responses were tossed around.  But the days passed and no wardec came, so we kept on with our usual activities.

The WarDec

Fast forward another week and what pops up in my (non-Eve) communications from one of our corp members: "Hey! We Got a Wardec!"  Ooh, now it's on.  Turns out that indeed the people they threatened to sic on us came though.  Whores in Space now will have free rein to kill us in highsec ... along with the 77 other corporations they have currently at war or are pending.  Yeah, that's not a corp name I want to see flying around in front of my kids or my wife, so let's call them "WIS."

WIS has 437 members according to EveWho - that's one less than when I looked yesterday, so clearly we're already winning!  (468 according to evekill)  They are spread out over 27 different corporations of varying sizes (from 1 pilot to 61 pilots).  They're ranked #53 on BattleClinic for what that's worth.  So definitely not just some chumps.

So we're back to tossing around ideas.  Sadly I have some RL commitments that will probably make me miss the first night (my local) under the wardec and some time coming up as well, but I'm sure I'll hear from my friends soon.  I doubt that WIS is only being paid for a week of wardec, so I really doubt I'll miss out on the whole thing.

What do we have to lose?

We don't have a lot of big value stuff to lose.  We don't have a POS.  We don't have anyone running blinged-out ships in incursions.  We don't run mining fleets or anything like that which would be vulnerable to passing ganks.  Nobody is going to make their ISK efficiency numbers by catching one of us running around.  We'll probably be mostly running T1 stuff out there and getting it blown up a bit faster than normal.

There is an inconvenience factor.  My industrial alt has piled BPCs into the research queue and I'll probably chill out on her - gives me a great excuse not to micromanage all the fiddly bits for a while.  If the war runs long and I really want to do industry for some reason then she can either drop into an NPC corp or start up her own.  But until then I can sit in station and update trading orders to keep her moving if I want to.

But I'm sure there's plenty I don't know about wardecs that I'm about to learn.  I think that's also why we're pretty excited to see how it goes.

July 14, 2013

Curiosity killed the Rax

I know I'm late to the news on this one, but the addition of Tags4Sec has definitely improved the lowsec roaming experience.  You can go looking for tags and targets in the same roam - as some have discussed even at the same time.  The tags can nicely pay for the losses eventually to be incurred in the roam... which is pretty much what happened this time.

The Roam

So we spun through lowsec near my usual home.  We found an Imicus who wasn't paying much attention in an asteroid belt and popped him.  Thanks for the loot.  We've gotten pretty good at swinging by and checking out belts by splitting up, warping to each other if we find a player target or a clone-NPC that is bigger than we might want to take in our cheap T1 PVP fit cruisers.  It makes it much more entertaining that most of our roams, which involve a lot of nothing and then a big boom at a null sec gate camp or the like.

We picked up a variety of tags, blew up some NPC battleships to offset some of our sec status loss.  Positive sec status is actually within range for me now, which I find rather undesirable actually.  I think I like being on the negative side, while still able to enter all systems, perhaps because I don't want to think of myself as a carebear.  Maybe I should consider myself some newb shadow of Sugar's yarrbear.  But seeing as I don't have too much outside of my main, I still want to have that access to 1.0 space.

Having completed a loop through low we paused to drop off some tags at a highsec station.  I was starting to get itchy about it since the tags in my hold were greater than the value of my ship (granted, not hard to do in a Thorax).  That done, we pushed down into a new stretch of low.

Ooh, I said, a cyno!  (is my newb showing?)

The Cyno

What the heck, maybe it's a jump freighter.  I've never tried to kill a jump freighter. But no, it's an Ibis sitting next to a station.  Whatever has happened is gone.  The pilot of the Ibis asks me to pop him in local, says I've already missed the fun.  I'm suspicious.  As I'm typing in local some dialog box pops up and is dismissed and I get worried.  Did I happen to hit a key agreeing to something while I was trying to type in local?  Apparently not - thank CCP for reasonable defaults on the Enter key.

Not wanting to get station gunned to death I head out.  Only as I hit warp to the next system do I realize he probably was offering me a duel, which would then take care of the station gun part.  Ah well.

Next system.  Flashy in system.  It's a name that I just saw appear in the previous system.  Hey, maybe that's who cyno'd in.  Oh wait, there is a lot of flashies.  And they're all in the same alliance.  Something is going down.  My friend and I confer briefly and we decide to try to see if we can find out what.  We start warping around, d-scans running.

I drop into a belt and am quickly joined by a flashy Tristan.  Right, I'll take a Tristan... my friend starts warping to me for the fight.  Everything happens fast.  Oh crap.  Domi warping in.  I tell my friend not to come, I'm pointed by the Tristan already.  I burn for the frigate with my Valkyries out and going, but I don't know how long my buffer will stand up to whatever that Domi can throw.  If it's normal drones at least they'll have to travel to me.  A second Domi drops in.  Crap, I'm melting.  Align, align, align.  Ship blows and my pod is in warp.  Fortunately my buddy gets away.

Ganked.  Now I don't want to act like "gank" here is a pejorative.  I was actively looking for trouble.  It's just that is was overwhelming firepower and hey, that's what happens.  I actually got a convo from a representative of the guys who popped me.  He says they say they're on a POS bash and they thought I might be an enemy cyno, and offer to let me loot my own wreck.  No thanks, my pod is already three systems away.  My friend just laughs when I pass on their offer.  Trust them not to pop him too, no thanks.

I feel a bit bad about that later.  We go on to chat more, my killer and I, and he's very friendly and suggest I look him up if I want a PVP alliance spot working on small gang stuff.  We chat drones for a while, as he's clearly an enthusiast on the damage a set of sentries can do.  My Thorax sure didn't last long under the fire of 5x Garde I, 5x Garde II, and a Tristan-load of Hobs.  I wish them luck with their POS bash and settle in.

My friend and I agree it was a good roam.  Killed someone (even if it was a cheap kill) and found some trouble (even if it was way out of our league).  It may have even been hypothetically profitable.  And there's a reason I have a small pile of Thoraxes waiting to be fit - these things are meant to be lost.

Lessons Learned

Curiosity kills.  Yeah, if there is a cyno that goes off and there are 8-9 flashy pilots suddenly in system, you probably need to very carefully consider your next step.  Now, if my mission was to find out what was happening, I was successful.  Just not in a way many people would consider success.

July 8, 2013

Blog Banter 47: Communicating Complexity and a Proposal

I've been playing Eve for a bit over a year now, but I still consider myself a noob.  I'm not sure when that will ever leave.  "I'm bad at Eve" is a meme that multiyear veterans repeat, as a point of pride no less.  Part of that is the complexity of Eve and the change in complexity.  So this Blog Banter 47 rang a bell for me - check the site out for other people's thoughts too.

"Is EVE too complex for one person to know everything? Is it, in fact, too complex for one person to know everything about one topic? How do you maintain any knowledge or skills related to EVE over time with breaks and expansions? Does CCP do a sufficient job documenting the features of the game, and if not, what could they do better? How does one determine where the gaps in their knowledge even are?"

I'll tackle that in three parts, but I'm going to work it out of order and make a proposal.

Communication and Learning

I'm the kind of person who read blogs and wikis about Eve for about two weeks before I made my first character last year.  (Yes, those blogs that some people said are a dead medium.)  There is a lot out there and it quickly made me aware how complex the game was.  That was a lot of the appeal to starting the game for me.  But if you ask me to rate CCP on documenting their own game I'd probably give them a "C" on the American grade system.  Just passing, but not going to get a lot of positive attention.

The official Eve wiki is big and does cover everything a brand new player needs to know.  But it does have out of date information.  Painfully out of date.  I believe at least when I was learning about the game there were still official Evelopedia references to Agent Quality, which I gather hasn't been in the game for quite a while.  After Retribution I went to evelopedia and noticed that ships entries hadn't been updated to cover rebalancing.  No problem, it's a wiki, I'll do at least the ships I fly and do my part, right?  Nope, locked down.  Go look at the Navitas right now - it still lists the mining laser bonus.  That should be very embarrassing to CCP.

Proposal: Hire a group of players to keep the wiki up to date with the releases / patches.  Pay them in ISK - I'd do it.  The real cost here will be organization and that's something you could either run through CSM or a volunteer player.  After that you have one person edit and two other people review the edits for approval.  Disagreements escalate to the related CSM person or CCP employee.

Too complex for one person to know everything?

Probably, and that's good.  As someone new to the game it certainly seems like Eve is too complex to know everything.  Having people not be able to know everything allows people to specialize, which means they develop something which can be a positive contribution to your community.  And many Eve people love to talk about how Eve is a game that you're meant to undertake as a group right?  But then then the solo player can do their thing and be an expert at it without knowing "everything."  I have very little idea how supercapitals and titan-bridges work, and I really don't have any need to.  Let that be something mysterious for me to learn later.  Ditto for moon-goo and T3 production.  Someone else can be the master of those.  I feel like I've gone for a wide option (thus the "checklist" aspect) and I still can't cover it all.  Learning lowsec roaming, level 4 missions, T2 production, relic/data "exploration", with occasional jaunts into the jaws of null gate camps is quite enough for me right now.

Now that is different from needless complexity.  Having a bunch of cryptic names for skills and modules doesn't really do much for me.  There isn't much game play added when I have to keep looking up to see if the "Upgraded" or "Experimental" propulsion unit is the better one and if there is one of either in the size I'm looking for now.  Having "Electronic Drone Warfare" skill actually having nothing to do with EW drones but instead increases all drone control range is not a useful form of complexity.

Good complexity are things like the turret and missile damage physics.  Good complexity is interplay such as "you can warp, but people can scramble your warp, but then you can counter that with a stabilizer, but they can have more points than you stablize.  But there is also an infini-point for a specialized ship, and there are bubbles, but a interdiction nullifier subsystem will let you ignore bubbles - but not targeted points."  That's fine with me.  I know there is yet more levels there with supercapitals that I'm only vaguely aware of.

Good complexity is the human-driven market and scams.  Bad complexity is "if you don't click in exactly this way, you'll buy at the wrong price."  That's just bad software interface design.

Good complexity is the eve mining -> industry -> trading interplay.  Bad complexity is not being able to tell if you're at your limit of jobs until you get through the 6-8 clicks that it takes to set up that new job.  I think I'm okay with the "oh, you didn't make a copy at max runs, guess you screwed up that invention process."

But lack of communication of how the interface or system works is bad, period.

Changing complexity

The Eve Universe is in flux.  I like that.  Judging from our own real-life universe, Eve could change even faster.  If Eve was like the real world old modules could constantly be made out of date with new modules of higher Meta-level sliding in above them every six month.  Can you imagine: "Oh, you only have a Meta 4 MWD?  That's so 2012.  An industrialist in Amarr just invented a new Meta 12 MWD that has 150% of the speed of Meta 5 though the fitting is pretty rough.  Of course, he's only producing 50 a month so the price is huge but I'm sure someone else will reverse-engineer it pretty soon."  (you see what I did there?)

New ships, new modules, new places to go (*ahem* exploration) - all good complexity.  Complexity is hard as hell to balance, sure, but that's what Eve is all about right.  Don't shy away from it.

But again, it's the communication that gets ya.