Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A quick note on apologies and apologists

A short recap, for those who missed the latest installment of eve-drama. During the Alliance panel at FanFest 2012, The Mittani (leader of Goonswarm and just reelected as chairman of the CSM) made a remark amounting to an encouragement to harass a potentially suicidal player.. 'if you want to make the guy kill himself'. Much drama ensues, and The Mittani further fans the flames when he goes on the eve-o forums to tell  people to 'deal with it'. Cue further media attention, and lenghty forum threadnaughts where indignant calls for his resignation from the CSM or even a complete permaban for The Mittani are countered by Goon-friendly apologists, telling everyone to 'HTFU' or something akin to 'it's just a game, people'. Somewhere during all this, The Mittani is either called by CCP or sees the footage of this own inebriated remarks. We don't know for sure what happens, but one thing is sure, Mittens suddenly apologizes profusely and apparently - but hey, he's a Goon so you can't be sure - sincerely.

The amusing part is, that lots of people have put considerable effort in defending The Mittani's remarks, explaining why he wasn't wrong when he did what he did. Or stating that '10.058 people' didn't agree with criticism of The Mittani's conduct - which is kind of a weird defense, given that those 10.058 CSM votes were cast before this all happened.

The Mittani's apologists must find themselves in a weird position, now. They defended his behaviour, and then he comes out and flatly states that "There's no excuse for what I did". Makes me wonder.. do the defenders stick with that they said earlier, and think The Mittani was wrong to apologize? Or do they not accept his apology as sincere? Either one is possible, but I still find it quite an ironic situation.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The new wardec system: thoughts and exploits

Back in 2008..
PVP? What is that?
When I entered Eve Online in 2008, i didn't know what the acronym 'PVP' meant. I had never heard of it, and certainly wasn't looking for combat; I was just looking for a space simulator to explore. And what a beautiful simulator it was - and today it's even better, what with all the new nebulas and such. Obviously, over time, I got to know the meaning of 'pvp'.. up close and personal :) Still, pvp was rare for us, back in 2008, 2009. In those early years, we used to hang around in highsec, doing missions or exploration, or mining, while chatting a bit in our player corp or alliance. We'd often solo stuff, but join together for those 'hard' lvl4 missions. Lowsec was to be avoided; nullsec an epic unknown. Every now and then we'd be wardecced, which meant 'dock & turtle' until the deccers got tired of hanging idly outside our home stations;  the war would be retracted, and we'd resume our casual Eve life. Relax, kick back and admire space! Over time we discovered ways to avoid wardecs: we'd hop between alliances, play with alts for a while, wardec ourselves with alt corps and such. After all, we weren't out here to fight, but to unwind and relax a bit.

This play style doesn't really fit with CCP's testosterone-laden 'HTFU' attitude, most recently seen again  oozing out of Iceland's HARPA congress center. As announced at the Fanfest there, loopholes in the current wardec system will be removed, and wars become an unavoidable part of your highsec life. Even if you are the relaxed, casual carebear kind of player that we used to be. We lived in small corps, numbering in the dozens, with alliances of a few hundred pilots: prime wardec material under the new system! If you are in such an alliance or corp, you might very well find yourself in a very nasty position once this new system comes online. You can hire mercs, but that probably won't do much to counter the fact that, as an industrial player, a wardec is effectively paralysing day to day operations: you can’t expect (or probably, afford) mercs to babysit your every move. No more casual space games  for you..

Of course you can remain in NPC corps; they don't get wardecced. But the fact is, they are large, anonymous and impersonal entities, and bad ad helping new players adapt to New Eden. I don't think that stimulating players to remain in NPC corps is a good, long term strategy for (new) player rentention! CCP explicitly raised taxes on NPC corps in 2009, to stimulate players to join a 'real' corp instead, citing the ‘isolated and impersonal’ nature of NPC corps. So, in CCP’s opinion (and I concur), NPC corps shouldn’t be regarded as a long term ‘solution’ for highsec casual pilots.

For highsec carebears, the only alternatives I can think of, is to play with corp/alliance sizes, either big or small. Join together in a large enough alliance, and wardec cost becomes an issue to wardeccers, perhaps enough to ward off frivolous wardecs. Yet the counter effect could be, that a larger carebear alliance becomes a juicy enough target to negate the shielding effect: deccing a 2000+ carebear corp, while expensive, is sure to get you a lot of kills. Or Goons might do it, as a 'victory lap', just for the heck of it.

So the opposite might actually work better: form a 5-10 man corp and stay out of alliances. Fly under the radar, as it were. Yet these small corps are very vulnerable, long term: as soon as one or two people become inactive, the corp runs a serious risk of dying. This strategy, as the previous one, isn’t a viable in the long run, and might also be bad for player retention.

What irks me somewhat, is that CCP is forcing a play style on their customers here. Certain ways of life in New Eden will, most likely, become untenable after the new wardec system is implemented, and CCP doesn't seem to care very much about that. You either adapt to their preferred play style, or you unsub. In this regard, HTFU goes both ways I think. "We didn't want those subs anyway" :)

Wardeccers and mercs, unite!
What worries me, is the potential for exploitation. I haven’t been to Iceland, and there isn’t a lot of information available on what was specifically discussed at the roundtable. But, it is to be expected that mercenary contracts on wars will be much more expensive than the initial wardec. I can see a situation where a wardeccing griefer corp and the hired mercenaries to fight them, might be alts of one another, or at least working together covertly. Good cop, bad cop: first you declare war on a random highsec corp, and then your alt mercenary accepts a war contract issued by the very same highsec corp! For the show, arrange for some cheap gank ships to be blown up to show that the mercs are worth their money.. and easy ISK is pouring in. In effect highsec corps will probably be paying these players one way or another, either by 'surrendering' which will cost them ISK, or by hiring them as mercs. ISK ATM incoming!

Put differently, the investment is 20 mill + 500k per player, the return is as of yet unknown but potentially much higher.

It remains to be seen what the day to day effect of this new wardec system will be; too much is uncertain. Of course CCP has never cared for the kind of casual carebearing pilots often found in highsec alliances, and it shows: as it stands now, these players are left with the (probably expensive) bill for this wardec change. To be honest, I'm not sure what I would have done if I were in CCP's shoes. After all, the basic fact that New Eden should never be 100% safe for anyone is still valid, and should remain so. But from my perspective, it seems CCP is willing to sacrifice a part of their customer base (a part to which I used to belong) to satisfy another part. Or their own thirst for a hearty serving of HTFU, of course.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Goons bring the numbers

As TheMittani himself explained a while ago: Goonswarm has an edge over other alliances, when it comes to new player retention in Eve Online. All goons are part of the community: when new goon pilots join, they are immediately .."surrounded by their fellows, ushered into massive alliance warfleets, mentored by veteran players, and showered with isk and ships". A normal newbie Eve Online pilot on the other hand, (an 'Eve born' as Mittens calls them), is often alone and confused, usually forced to overcome the learning cliff by themselves. A more difficult experience! This translates into player retention: goon pilots are more likely to become or remain an active pilot after their trial ends, largely due to the support of their pre existing out of game network. In the same vein, Test Alliance Please Ignore originates from, and likewise is able to bring a lot of dudes in space.

TL;DR: Goons have an easy time recruiting new pilots when compared to traditional 'eve born' alliances; Goons (and TEST) have the numbers. Over 14.000 pilots between the two of them, actually.

Mittens has used the numerical advantages of the Goonswarm in securing a a place in CSM6 for himself. A place which he has used effectively, promoting the CSM to a much more important position than before.

Earlier today, CCP Greyscale posted an item in the Eve Forums (not even a devblog..?), about an upcoming nerf to Titans. I won't go into the details, mostly because I don't know enough about Titans anyway, but the intended effect of the nerf is to severely limit a Titan's effect against subcapital ships. You won't, it seems, be able to kill large amounts of subcap ships with Titans anymore.

This means that sov warfare in Eve Online will become a numbers game: the alliance that can field the most subcap ships will have a clear advantage over alliances that are now relying on supercapitals and/or Titans to project power. I know that in New Eden, superior FC'ing or excellent use of strategy and tactics may give an outnumbered fleet an incidental victory over a numerically superior enemy. But, all things being equal, it's increasingly likely that raw numbers will - in the end - make the difference, once the Titan nerf goes into effect.

Time to adapt your strategy or up your numbers, then, if your current survival strategy relies on supercapitals! So how much time have those alliances been given? How much time do they have left?  In CCP Greyscale's words:
"These changes should hit TQ some time in April. If there is a sizable release in April then expect them to turn up then; if not then we'll announce deployment dates for these changes closer to the time."
In other words: CCP doesn't know or doesn't want to say - yet. CCP has just provided all alliances relying on their Titans, with a very uncertain deadline of anything between two to six weeks before their current strategy becomes useless. Two to six weeks.. that is awfully short notice. There is no way in Jita that an alliance like RAIDEN. can find a way to overcome the drawbacks of this nerf, in such a short timeframe. Where are they supposed to get the raw numbers that Goons have, in two weeks? Everybody knows it's impossible, and the amount of goon gloat and :smug: on the forums in this regard is telling.

With this nerf, CCP is interfering directly with the balance of power in New Eden as it is now. This is their right, and perhaps they even have to from time to time, but it should not be done without allowing alliances to properly adapt before the nerf goes in effect. I cannot for the life of me come up with a sound reason as to why CCP hasn't done that here. But it sure makes Goons happy, and I can't help myself but to think that their ability to 'bring the numbers' - read subscription fees for CCP - might have something to do with it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Don't spread, please

Last week, while patrolling the pipe between HED-GP and GE-8JV with a couple of other LEGIO pilots, we  ran into a sizeable enemy fleet. From the beginning it was doubtful whether we could win this engagement, but there wasn't much to do but fight, as the enemy was already engaging us. Quickly the FC ordered us into position; the skirmish was on.

The FC called targets, beginning with the enemy logistics: Scimitar primary! As I was about to fire the first round of missiles, an enemy Ishkur targeted and scrammed me; he also fired his few tiny guns at me. Instead of following the FC's orders, I loaded precision missiles, determined to kill this Ishkur first, before attending to the FC's orders. The first volleys hit the Ishkur where it hurt, but I didn't quite succeed in breaking his tank. And so I kept firing at him, when my DPS was badly needed elsewhere.

When you are targeted, and someone begins to do nasty stuff to you, your first, primitive, instinctive response is to kill it. The drive for self preservation is usually strong in humans! And yet, what I did was stupid..

The skirmish got ugly, for us; we lost one ship, then another one, and then a third one got down. By now the FC was clearly agitated, as he noticed us doing a little bit of damage here and a little bit of damage there, instead of focusing our fire. Apparently I wasn't the only one shooting at the only ship that was actively targeting me. Of course I was way out of line, here, and so were my fleet mates. We misbehaved like a bunch of n00bs!

The problem is: when people focus on shooting just the ships targeting them, few enemy ships will die. Spreading the damage over multiple targets, means that hostile ships aren't damaged too bad, and get a chance to repair themselves, either through remote repairs by their logistics, or through their own ship's self repair.
Also, ten ships in half shield can still fire their guns: they can apply the full amount of their dps on you. Now focus your fire and kill one of them; that's 10% less damage that comes your way. Kill another one.. you get the picture.
This may all be very obvious to many a PVP pilot out there, but it's a lesson I forgot and had to learn again. Which I did.

Ironically, if you want to survive such a skirmish, the wise thing to do is follow the FC's orders, ignore who's targeting you, and kill enemy ships as fast as possible. And get that reptilian, instinctive self preservation mechanism under control! Otherwise you'll lose your ship.. just like I did. Yes, I lost my Drake that evening, and deservedly so.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Another night, another feast

As Kirith said, PVP is sometimes feast, sometimes famine. Two nights ago we had a famine: an enemy roam much too strong for our team roamed our space, and there wasn’t much we could do except for our bombers to give it a shot every now and then. But yesterday was quite a different day.. Unfortunately I 'wasn't there' for the whole thing as family matters kept interrupting me, but I witnessed enough for a bare bones battle report.

Early in the EU TZ evening, a small gang of 10 or so LEGIO pilots joined up and went looking for trouble in CVA territory in Providence. It’s not too far from our home in Catch, and usually makes for some nice pvp. I didn’t have the time to commit to a roam, but listened in on TeamSpeak anyway: the guys seemed to have fun, trying to catch ratters and miners in D-GMTI and surroundings but no kills were made, although it was a close call a couple of times. After a while the guys  had enough and turned around to head back home.

But they were not alone.. around 15 CVA pilots formed up in response to our roam, and they pursued our fleet all the way back to our home area. CVA was lagging our fleet by a jump or five, so it wasn’t exactly a hot pursuit, and we knew well in advance what was coming. This is where I had to go away from keyboard, but when I got back about 20 minutes later, CVA was already in system.

What had happened while I was away, was that several more LEGIO pilots joined the original roam: both teams were now at similar strength, numbers wise. We had logis and ECM on field too, as did the enemy. To CVA, it would have looked like a fight between comparable forces. But what CVA didn’t know, was that a sizeable Cascade Imminent fleet (blue to us, hostile to CVA) was only three jumps out. And they knew what was about to happen.. and were ready to join us at a moment’s notice. And that’s precisely what happened! CVA jumped into our home system, LEGIO engaged them.. and after half a minute or so dozens of blues pile in. Local spikes to around 100 pilots, several CVA ships go down quickly, the rest burns out of of the bubble and warps to safes. CVA loses a Scimitar, a handful of Drakes and a pod. Nothing dramatic, but it's a lot of logi and dps to lose while stranded in enemy territory.. GF’s are said in local and a few CVA remain, scattered here and there.

Yet there’s more non blues in local. Just before the CVA fleet arrived, an Agony Empire roam also paid a visit to our home system. coming in from a different direction. Apparently shocked and/or confused by the large numbers of pilots of different alliances coming and going in local, they didn’t hang around too long: after the CVA brawl began, they went for the gate, back to where they came from. Cascade Imminent pilots joins ours in the hunt for these neutrals, warping from one gate to another, catching an Eris interdictor at the gate. It is quickly destroyed. The remaining Agony pilots are now scattered as well; one Cheetah slips past a gate camp, another one escapes to another system.. they end up with less than ten pilots, spread over two or three different systems. Over the course of the next hour and a half, our team manage to catch two other Agony ships, first a one billion Loki and then a Deimos. Around this time I join the party again, but unfortunately nothing happens anymore, even though we’re eagerly awaiting a hostile roam that was supposed to be inbound. After fourty minutes I log off again and go to bed.

I don’t know yet what happened later this night, but this morning our killboard shows another couple of Agony kills, a few hours later: an Enyo and a Rokh battleship. To top it off, apparently we also scored a few kills against BrushieBrushieBrushie - an alliance that has been 'trolling' us, by their own words.

Even though I didn't get to participate much, yesterday was clearly a feast to many LEGIO pilots!