Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The first taste of Crucible

Yesterday, upon returning from work, the first thing I did: launch Eve Online, to download the latest patch, Eve Online Crucible. CCP was good enough to warn us beforehand about the download size: 1.5GB is quite the patch.. Containing new nebulae and new Captains' Quarters, this wasn't really a surprise but still. I remember people complaining about the 25MB download size for Second Life back in 2006, 2007 and obviously broadband is now much more widespread, but for some of my alliance mates - in civilized countries like Canada - downloading this patch took a few hours. Luckily we have 50 MBps download speeds here, so I had it in 10 minutes or so. Installing went well (on all three PC's I might add) and so far, Crucible has been a smooth ride for me.

I absolutely love the new nebulae (or nebulas?) and the sense of direction in space they provide. Same with the stargates: they now actually point in the direction you're supposed to travel! For a game environment, it all looks and feels surprisingly real. This snapshot for instance shows a regular piece of space, nothing fancy, but it really looks like a picture of our own milky way at night. I didn't think changing the nebulae could enhance the level of immersion, but it does for me.

Speaking of immersion: the new captain's quarters are a good, if incremental improvement over the first (Minmatar) one. And now that the UI allows you to switch easily between hangar and captain's quarters, I find myself using them more, too. A step in the right direction, I'd say. My wife likes them too, as you can see in the snapshot.

Other 'Flying in Space' features I am quickly getting used to: right click on a remote stargate in overview and select 'jump'; warps you to the gate and jumps you through. Very neat. Same with selecting a station from your asset list and select 'destination': autopilot will now bring you to that station and dock you. Again - very useful. The 'loot all' button is a boon when ratting or missioning, less mouse clicks!

Another feature that makes me happy: if your ship does an emergency warp (usually caused by an unintended disconnect from Eve: network failure, power failure, PC crash..) then your drones will attempt to return to the drone bay before your ship warps off. I've lost quite a few drones due to emergency warps, hopefully this will help! Plus, when you forget your drones out there (and who hasn't) the Crucible client will let you reconnect to them once you return to the area you left them in, so they don't get lost that easy.

I realise I'm supposed to sing the praises of the new battlecruisers, but the truth is I haven't had a chance to look at them properly, let alone buy or fly one. And as soon as I get my rusty Dominix out in space for a level 4 mission, I may be able to judge the positive effects of the buff to hybrid turrets; so far no experiences there either. And a myriad of other small fixes I haven't testedyet..

So far, I like Crucible; kudos to CCP for getting this out of the door. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Alliances fail - but why?

To fail..
Late in 2010, NOFAD was part of Saints amongst Sinners, a 500+ pilot alliance living in Querious in a -1.0 truesec dead end system (in other words - a real sanctum heaven), safely under the umbrella of the IT Alliance. A few months later, under intense pressure from enemies, IT Alliance is all but dead, Saints amongst Sinners lost sov in some of the key systems and is in full retreat to NPC nullsec and lowsec. At that moment, SaS is bleeding members and morale is at a low point. NOFAD initially redeploys to Solitude as ordered (while most alliance members just move to highsec), but the alliance seems to fail and in March 2011 we - reluctantly - leave SaS. Now, not even a year later, SAS has 5 members left; the last real corps left on November 10. Sic transit gloria Mundi and all that.

Or not to fail..
At this moment, NOFAD is part of LEGIO alliance, as part of the Against All Authorities (-A-) ecosystem. We've endured a full on assault from DRF, lost sov, lost a few corps. Several NOFAD members, with the memories of SaS's failure still fresh, didn't think LEGIO would survive. It was all too familiar! Deja vu, been there done that.. However, NOFAD decided to stay with LEGIO,as we don't want to be one of those corps that leaves at the first sign of trouble; NOFAD is committed to the alliance it joins. So we redeployed to LGK-VP as ordered, and tried to make the best of it. In the weeks that followed, the red wave crashed over Catch and then - slowly - retreated, and while we might not be out of the woodwork yet, it seems we'll survive. -A- did not fail cascade, and neither did LEGIO.

..that is my question
I'm still digesting what has happened, trying to come up with an explanation as to why SaS failed and LEGIO didn't, under roughly comparable circumstances. First, I'm looking at some external factors, and then we'll take a look at what happens within the alliances.

IT Alliance died; Against All Authorities didn't. That's one big factor, right there. As soon as IT Alliance was no longer able to defend Querious and Delve, the whole ecosystem (intel channels, ship replacement factories, jb network, supporting supercap fleet etc) collapsed. SaS was on it's own, and under those circumstances unable to defend it's space. Against all Authorities didn't die, they just retreated to Stain as they'd done before, and survived even though they lost some (important) corps. The -A- ecosystem survived and continued to support the alliances, corps and pilots belonging to it. An important difference I think.

Internal - leadership
For it's day to day operations, SaS heavily relied on it's CEO, Felix Sidius. Pretty much nothing got done without him, and his alts did much of the hauling too. Felix is a friendly, nice guy; I don't think he likes to say 'no' and for such a fast growing alliance, there were just too many tasks in his hands. Perhaps he should have delegated more than he did? And then, at the critical 'make or break' time when SaS suffered, he became a father for the first time, too! Obviously that did put some strain on his ability to be online and lead the alliance :) So even though Felix did his utter best under the circumstances, (in my opinion) the leadership structure of SaS was not mature enough to withstand the pressure we were under at that time.
LEGIO, on the other hand, has a much more diverse leadership. The CEO, Urkrathos Ulnor, without doubt calls the shots, but much of the practical management work (forum permissions, ts permissions, web site mgmt etc) is done by Scozzy. Still others run the mining/industry division and other separately defined parts of the organisation. All in all, there's much more shared responsibility, strenght and flexibility (and hence coherence, too) in LEGIO as an organisation, than there ever was in SaS.

Ironically, pretty much the same goes for IT Alliance versus -A-. IT Alliance, while not completely run by SirMolle, was definitely his, while -A- doesn't rely on one such figurehead. Perhaps a warning to all those alliances out there that do rely on one strong leader!

Internal - the pilots
Of course you can't blame a failure on just the leadership. It's also up to the pilots to step up and do what's necessary, as best as you can under the circumstances. Within SaS it seems, there were a lot of pilots who were there just to graze, so to speak. Harvesting belt rats and Sanctums for hours on end they made off with billions of ISK, but when they had to reship to combat fitted vessels and defend their place, many left, soon, without even properly saying goodbye. In short, they were not really committed to SaS. It was both surprising and sobering, to notice how many familiar voices on TS just vanished after a few weeks of hardship..
In LEGIO there was one corp opposed to following the -A- strategy to retreat to Stain and fight from there, and they left LEGIO. Ironically, that corp died pretty soon afterwards as their members couldn't agree on what to do next. Still, as was the case with SaS, not all those who remained with LEGIO followed the redeploy orders; some rarely if ever showed up in Stain. But overall, there was more pilot commitment to remain loyal to LEGIO and fight for our survival.

LEGIO doesn't have the rich, perfect -1.0 space SaS had; perhaps therefore LEGIO didn't attract the uncommitted, profiteering, 'grazing' kind of pilot. And we're better off for it: more commitment, less dead weight.

Your thoughts?
I'm interested to hear your opinions and experiences, too! Have you ever been in a corporation or alliance that failed? Any ideas why?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Eve Online - more eye candy

After losing a Drake to a roaming gang a few minutes ago, I feel the need to present you more eye candy from the Singularity test server.. just to forget the loss ;-) I've made these snapshots on a trip from DSS-EZ (Stain region) to HY-RWO (in Catch), in my somewhat rusty Harbinger battlecruiser. 

(Disclaimer: the snaps were made on a laptop with a severely outdated gpu.. it should look even better on about any other PC)

YHN-3K, where the sun looks shrouded in clouds

See more below the fold..

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eve Online - the new nebulas

Of course I'm very interested in the new nebulas, now visible on the Eve Online Singularity testserver. My opinion: New Eden  looks more realistic than it does on Tranquility, with a much darker space and a milky way like band of light. I like it! The nebulas themselves are clearly modeled after the Hubble space telescope pictures such as this one or this, and as such, they are more in line with what a wider audience might expect to find in a scifi universe. Personally I think they need to blend in more: right now they appear as clearly defined bright blobs in an otherwise dark sky. I'd like to see them fade out at the edges, so that you can't really tell where they begin or end.

But other than that: it looks gorgeous. I want the winter expansion - badly. Have a look at the snapshots!

(Disclaimer: the snaps were made on a laptop with a severely outdated gpu.. it should look even better on about any other PC ;-))

Junsoraert, Everyshore (highsec)

The new, clearly unfinished Raven model in Stain (nullsec)

See more below the fold..

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Catch me if you can

Ever since the DRF started attacking -A- in Catch, we expected to lose sov and end up exiled somewhere in highsec. Yet -A- hung in there, and so did we; and after the DRF said they had achieved their goals and their attack lost it's vigor, we were able to recoup our lost sov and get back to 'business as usual'.

Although business is still far from usual; it's much better than that! There's still tons of reds and neutrals roaming through our neck of the woods, and there's plenty of opportunity to shoot at them.

And shooting them we did, yesterday! When I logged in, around 21.30 eve time, several corp and alliance mates were fleeted up and looking for trouble, trying to catch the neuts and reds zipping through HY-RWO and it's surroundings. Our scout reports a 12 man gang nearby; it looks promising but a little too much for our kitchensink fleet; their Scimitars would have been hard for us to overcome. But with an -A- gang also nearby, who knows.. What happens next, is some sort of intricate dance. They jump in; we safe up. They leave; we move back to the gate. Scouts report an -A- gang moving in; reds move out; we join forces  with -A-, but finally decide to stay at the gate, in case they try to escape through it. It's like chess, like wild animals circling each other, looking for that weak spot, for that little mistake that will get someone killed. Catch me.. if you can!

After some fifteen minutes of this, our scout suddenly yells out on TS: the -A- gang has finally caught up with the 12 man roam we're shadow boxing with, and the fight was on. Go go go! Scimitar is primary! Go! I feel an adrenaline rush and my heart is beating, we move as quick as possible, eager to score some kills, but to no avail. As soon as you hear the scout change his language to past tense, you know you're too late! -A- had done a proper job: the enemy gang was decimated before most of us landed on grid. Good job for -A- and some of us actually got in on a killmail, but most of us missed out. GF's all around in local.

So we moved back to square one, camping the gates near HY-RWO.. and what do you know. Our scout reports a lone Vigilant on the other side of the gate! Will he...? Quickly our bubble is up and yes, there he is! We lock him, drones are unleashed, the FC asks for webs, our loudmouth Dutch pilot yells to 'BUMP, bump the f&cker away from gate'.. We get him in deep armor... come on, come on.. almost there, almost there.. and then he's gone, jumped back through the gate. Crap! Of course all of us had engaged him so we couldn't pursue. And  then, suddenly, the scout yells out on TeamSpeak: RED SPIKE, safe up safe up!

Immediately we switch back from 'post fight relaxing' to 'get out asap' mode: we align to safes, to station, away from gate while the scout urges us to get the heck away. I am still en route to my safe spot, when one of our pilots says ON ME! ON ME! He's at the V-3 station where, unexplicably, a lonely red Abaddon hangs idly in space. We lock, we shoot.. no response. He must be dc'd, AFK or something like that. We expect him to dock any minute, but his ship and pod are killed without him ever moving. According to his eve-kill stats, this pilot had 15 losses for 117 kills.. this one must have hurt.Oh and that red spike? They moved out via another gate, we never saw them.

By this time it's 01.00 AM and I am as tired as a newt, so I dock up and say goodbye. My mates haven't had enough, yet, and in the following our they manage to score a few more kills: a Purifier and a Rapier. Both pilots are podded too.

All in all we had a great night. This is where Eve Online really shines. This is what I come back for!