Alliance Phoebe Scorecards

Now that Rhea is upon us, I thought I would write a quick assessment of how each of the major blocs reacted to Phoebe, and to the major changes it implied as to how and where alliances hold space.

Hero Coalition – 7/10 – A perfectly respectable passing grade which improved due to resilience and the willingness to follow through on their decisions.  Part of Hero’s to Phoebe response was born of sheer inertia: BNI had a few options available (some of them radical, some less so) offered to them by N3/NCDot, the CFC and others. Brutally frankly, they didn’t remain where they are because they thought it was the best option – although that might turn out to be true in the long run – but because they, and specifically BNI – don’t have the structures in place to make radical decisions.  Their ultimate response was that nobody felt able to make the call on their options.

Still, having decided to stay put, they were clever enough to neutralise the Providence front with diplomacy, and they’ve been lucky that the various Russians who might have been a threat have been ineffectual or distracted by other targets. The tinfoil hattery over PL’s motivations was a bit daft but killing two of PL’s titans has given BNI in particular a swagger that they’ve not had before.  I remember the effect of Goonswarm killing Shrike’s titan in 2007 and the last couple of weeks could be similarly exploited by BNI to create a different view of themselves than was the case in the past. Closer relations with BL are a strategic ace in the hole but they do need to watch out for the traditional skimming-off of their best members as a result. Continue reading

Another Sort of Wormhole PvP

This isn’t the controversial article I mentioned in my last post: just a quick aside.

One of the fun aspects of Eve Online’s Phoebe release has been the increased importance and prominence of wormholes for fast travel: while traditional modes of fast travel like jump bridges (whether from infrastructure or titans), capital jumping and death cloning are all far less effective for moving long distances, wormholes can let you cross Eve in minutes. All you need are some dedicated probers and a bit of good luck.

Of course, there are risks associated with this. When CFC FC Kcolor found, last night, that Black Legion had used a wormhole to take a fight in Catch, he got one of his colleagues, Tarrante, to run down to Pure Blind in his carrier and collapse the hole behind the BL fleet. Then when the fleet went back into the hole in Catch, near BR-5, Tarrante and Kcolor critted that entrance, too, trapping a chunk of the BL fleet and meaning that everyone’s ships had to be transported home from Domain.

I imagine that it’ll not be long before the same is done to us, and that these sort of W-Space high jinks will be increasingly common as the weeks go by, but it’s a beautiful example of emergent gameplay and I imagine that CCP will be delighted to see it happen.

We are the Content

The job of Nullsec sovereignty powers is to be the easily-found game content for each other and, even more often, for NPC dwellers. CCP risks making that job so unprofitable that the supply of content dries up.

Eve PvE gameplay is notoriously horrible. This is not a unique problem: MMO PvE in general barely rose above the level of “kill ten rats” for many years. But, lead by World of Warcraft, the genre has gradually dragged itself up to a level where entertaining and varied scripted content is available, whether for solo or group play.

Eve, as a sandbox, does not even try to hold the attention of players with purely PvE content. Continue reading

Arrochar Alps

The last few days have been pretty intensely Eve-centric: of my few spare hours each evening it’s been a matter of going on fleets; preparing for the Newbie Drive; answering agents’ updates; repeatedly watching the new Eve advert; making my wife watch the new Eve advert and bathing in the reflected glory (“that’s nice, dear”); and doing corp stuff. On the last point, have you unrented all those empty, useless offices yet? I reckon I saved Bat Country 12 billion a year that way, last night.

Anyway, I’m excited because tomorrow I’m leaving after work for a few days on the West Coast, climbing in the Arrochar Alps. The hours of daylight are pretty limited this far north in late November: last year I was pretty ill but I managed to do a couple of crossings of Rannoch Moor.  Arrochar is a bit different: big hills and climbs that start when you get out of the car and just keep going.

This year has seen some of the best days of climbing I’ve had.  This was me in the southern Cairngorms in late April with my dog:

Glas Tulaichean
Seleighe and I on Glas Tulaichean

 

That was a glorious day.  This week will be very different: the forecast is good but I’m still betting on rain and mist and cloud as the dominant weather, and limited views.  But I’m 22 pounds lighter than I started the year, I’m not on painkillers, I’ve been in the gym multiple times a week and I’ve managed to climb 15 or 16 of the high tops since the last of my operations: the Arrochar Alps will be fine but I cannot wait for the first post-climb pint.

Endie: the CSM Rep You Deserve, Not the One You Need

We in Goonswarm have always prided ourselves on the transparency of our democratic process. Nothing is hidden from the line member or the outsider about the subtle checks and balances that make sure that too much power is never concentrated in the hands of anyone who is not called The Mittani.

I was therefore the proudest Goon in my whole house when I was awoken by a call I received around 0430 on Sunday morning. A voice suspiciously like that of Dear Leader in falsetto said “I have The President of the CFC on the line for you with an important message.” Naturally I got out of bed and stood to attention before responding.

The familiar voice could now be heard from the other end of the line. After a short preamble of no more than twelve or thirteen minutes largely on the subject of “The Mittani”, he swiftly came to the point. “Your application for the post of alliance CSM candidate has been successful. You may inform your wife and colleagues immediately.”

I could not have been more delighted nor amazed. “My application was successful? And to think I didn’t even know that I had applied!” I’m not going to lie to you, it came as the biggest surprise to me since the time Mittens informed me that my application to manually fit one thousand seven hundred frigates ahead of the 2011 newbie drive had been successful.

Anyway, Mynnna has decided, after a year successfully representing not just Goonswarm but also many other areas of the Eve community, that he has had enough of rude and abrupt proto-Scandinavians and has elected to step down. I will endeavour to persuade you that you should vote for me for this year’s election, initially through reasoned argument and easy accessibility, but later, and in desperation, through the Avalloc method of promising to personally demand of CCP that every request made of me be enforced, no matter how borderline lunatic or even downright treasonous it may be.

Note: This will not interfere with my ongoing role as CSM Election Campaign Organiser for Pandemic Legion’s top poster Walter “Doink” Stine. A man needs to stick to his priorities or what else is left to him in this life?

Fifty Scales of Grey

Here’s a fundamental law about Eve: any penalty imposed on players will tend to hurt the most organised groups least.

In other words, if CCP don’t like something, and they try to make it harder to do it, then the people that get hurt will be the younger, smaller or more casual groups. The ones who work around it will be the larger, more established groups who can bring their organisations to bear on the issue.

As I said yesterday, I’m pretty positive about the suite of changes announced by Greyscale: I think that they would be better timed if announced in parallel with substantial enhancements to nullsec to allow greater density of living, but I am sure that that must be coming very soon.

The Good Stuff: All That Warning

From the point of view of the established blocs, one reassuring factor in these changes has been the amount of warning and information we have had in advance.

Normally, these sort of changes go through the CSM, who sign NDAs and can’t tell nullsec leadership what is in the pipeline. This time, CCP avoided using the CSM in the main and went direct to a nullsec figure who had posted about his ideas: celebrity Fleet Commander Manny of Pandemic Legion. Since Manny isn’t bound by an NDA, much of nullsec has been aware (or at least those whose FCs play DotA together have been!) about what is in the post. As I was on the record as applauding Manny’s changes, I for one was pretty relaxed about what would be announced, which is why I didn’t bother blogging any further once I started to find out what was coming.

The political machinations behind the scenes to prepare for these changes have therefore been going on for at least a couple of weeks: at least one very major player in the current balance of power has seen this as a chance to return to their roaming roots/cast off the shackles of sov etc etc, and some very interesting changes may result.

Don’t get me wrong: I do think that the CSM should have been more involved, and I understand why they are pretty peeved. But from the point of view of the nullsec bloc, having one of “our own” driving the change is certainly comforting.

This should explain why the CFC, N3 and the like are relatively sanguine about the outlook following the changes announced this week. Yes: living in nullsec, outside of a few locations with superb empire proximity, will be made massively harder thanks to the Jump freighter (and, to a lesser extent, Rorqual) changes but we’ll be able to work around that due to the resources our blocs offer. People in the Drone regions, and in the deep south, will be stuffed.

The Picture of Dorian Grayscale

As you’d expect with radical changes, the outlook is not great for everyone.  The same issues about proximity to Empire that made our renter empire harder to defend last month now make our hostiles’ deep, safe space utterly horrible even to live in tomorrow. Look at this map (one of a suite created by Innominate for our analysis):
Distance from NPC space

You can pretty much assume that everything in green is essentially space hell for anything volume-intensive like running POSes for someone without a sizeable logistics group with redundancy built in.  Unless, that is, you believe that MMO players are not lazy seekers of the path of least effort, and that they will create Internet Space Autarky instead of moving where the going is good:

There is a disputed quote, often attributed to Bradley, that says “Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics”. A great many people on the Eve Online forums – none of whom have ever run a nullsec war – are looking at the announced changes and rubbing their hands over the death of the CFC. I was told, yesterday, that the CFC would “struggle to hold onto ten systems”. Serves me right for commenting on en24. A far smaller group – those who can see the outcomes more clearly – are looking at these changes and thinking “this entrenches the blocs”.

I’m torn. I want Eve’s current landscape to burn. Those who read this blog will know how radically I want to shatter everything about the blocs. And I genuinely pity those who depend on Black Frog, for instance, since they themselves have described why that will be driven to the edge of extinction. But until the big changes happen – and I am certain that Greyscale and Seagull will have a plan for the positives that will make these nerfs make sense, then at least these changes will make life easier for us to keep what we have.

I believe in you Greyscale I really do

Let’s be honest, since it’s just you and I: don’t you just love these days? The CSM in an uproar; every forum with the most tangentional relationship to Eve stuffed to overflowing with google-translated petitions and rageposts and quitposts; all the Sturm und Drang that disappeared when CCP got their fingers burned over Walking in Stations and vowed never to change anything about the game ever again. It might all be as tense as a western journalist in rural Syria but at least it is interesting.

First, let me say that I don’t think that the changes that CCP have announced in their latest dev blog are bad in themselves. As perhaps the most visible proponent of a more fractured, regional Eve I was enthusiastically in agreement with Manny’s original suggestions to heavily nerf force projection. I certainly applaud the direction in which CCP are moving with this first draft of their changes: you can’t make wars smaller and more disparate if everyone can get to every fight in six minutes of time dilation in the target system. I want the people fighting in Fountain to be different to the ones fighting in Vale.

So, unlike some in senior nullsec leadership positions, I am not shrieking about the eldritch horrors and non-euclidean surfaces of this draft version of CCP’s changes. But I do think that, unaltered and implemented in isolation, they will have deeply chilling effects on both nullsec and on CCP’s profitability.

The CFC Will Profit Most (or suffer least)

In case anyone accuses me of opposing these changes due to self-interest, let me state that we’ve had several Goonswarm groups – Logistics, Corps Diplomatique, FCs – working on modelling the likely impact of these changes. The conclusion we have come to is that the biggest gainers in the game are the CFC. We might choose to seize a couple of additional locations, but we’re pretty confident that we can, if we choose, hold our existing empire. If hostiles haven’t yet spotted the reasons we become essentially unassailable then they may try to make a multi-pronged attack, but this will fail after a handful of easily-retrieved systems are taken.

These changes entrench the CFC at the expense of virtually everyone else. I do not view this as a good thing.

Wait did you not read the bit about carrots and sticks?

I know that both CCP and the CSM read my articles on making a more Balkanised, chaotic Eve.  When laying out my vision for an Eve of shattered empires I repeatedly stressed that the stick does not work. I hope that CCP are making these changes because they are implementing the sort of ideas I spoke about: changes to make far denser occupation of nullsec space possible, and which remove the need to travel far for profit or for fights. Indeed, for that sort of Eve to work, the ability to travel across half the galaxy at the drop of a hat must be removed.

But leaving Eve in its current form, with fights distant, logistics onerous and space incapable of supporting a dense population and bringing in these punitive measures in an optimistic attempt to force certain blocs to shatter is financial suicide. People will unsubscribe and the flow of new players will (for reasons I detail below) slow to a trickle.  I like Eve and I do not want these things to happen.

Even if CCP presses ahead with these changes – and with refinement I think that they should push on with almost all of them – then they should do so only when they remove the absolute need for player groups to spread out over large areas.  No need for me to go over my suggestions for that, yet again.

Why do you Hate New Players and Their Money, CCP?

The deathcloning change – making it possible only to set your medical clone to your current location – is the scorpion in the shoe of this change. I can see the reasoning behind this change. Let’s imagine that the scenario which has been attempted so often is repeated once more: Someone attacks the CFC in Fountain, someone else in Delve, someone in Pure Blind and a fourth attacker in Vale. Each of those four attackers is essentially isolated: you could very rarely ask your pilots to gate it from Fountain to Vale, but it would be a pain. But if people can deathclone around then the defenders in particular can have numerous office stations in each region to which their entire bloc can jump in minutes, while attackers will be scrabbling for enough offices for a dozen corps in NPC null.

So yes, the ability to deathclone around every day – or many times every day – should be stamped on.

But what about new members? Brave Newbies, Dreddit, Goonswarm, J4LP and others bring thousands of new people into the game each year. Thousands of subscriptions. We say this to new members:

  • Log into the game and DO THE BLOODY TUTORIAL
  • Apply to [corporation name]
  • Get accepted
  • Press accept to get into the corp
  • Set your clone to nullsec
  • Kill Yourself (in game!)
  • Get into fleets and have fun

It’s a bit prolonged and CCP should look at it some day but it works and we get newbies into the game.  Now in the new system, it will go like this:

  • Log into the game and DO THE BLOODY TUTORIAL
  • Apply to [corporation name]
  • Get accepted
  • Fly to a border system
  • Set your clone there
  • Press accept to get into the corp
  • Undock
  • You’re a newbie so get killed by campers since they know the nullsec entry system hundreds of BNI/Goonswarm/Whoever newbies are told to go through
  • Find yourself camped in the station again so log off
  • Log in the next day, undock and if you are lucky find that there are no campers on the gate
  • Warp to the nullsec gate, jump through
  • Get killed by a camp
  • Wake up in the station again, camped in a wardecced alliance in empire
  • If you want to play the game then drop corp but remember you cannot rejoin for a week due to wardecs
  • Go play Archeage Online

You might say lawl stupid newbies but new players are the health of the game. And this is no theoretical matter: I was preparing to kick off our annual newbie drive this week, but I simply cannot do so when we can see clearly that we will lose most of the new players before the month is out.

And if you think that that’s a minor detail then it’s no idle boast to say that between Dreddit, Goonwaffe, BNI and others we bring in many thousands of new players every year, who I strongly suspect have far better retention statistics than random individuals who mission in empire for a few weeks, alone and friendless, and who pass from the game unmourned and unknown.

I would strongly advise CCP to make deathcloning possible on a timer of, say, eight days with a skill that reduces this by a day per skill level. But don’t put your thumb in the end of your newbie hose, because you’re not going to survive long on your declining veteran base.

Loss Teaches Us the Worth of Things

“The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other.” – Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism

The wolf eats the deer. The wolf is sated and, for a while, suffers no sensation of hunger. The deer is destroyed utterly, and suffers pain and terror in the process. This is not a zero-sum game. The pleasure in the moment is vastly outweighed by the pain.

Any experienced player in Eve will recognise the parallels in the game, Continue reading

Crazy Ivan – Russians Spying on Their Own Members

I don’t want to play into cliched preconceptions about the Wild East but Russians – and their “near abroad” – do seem to play Eve a little differently from the rest of us. This week, however, the Russian Eve forums are aflame with accusations over black-hat hacking of alliance members by its own leadership.

I’ve been director of the Goonfleet Intelligence Agency for almost four years, so I’m reasonably-well-placed to talk about this subject. Amongst Euro-Americans, the intel conflict is played out within certain bounds. Whether it is the GIA or N3’s Jean Leaner or PL’s very effective (if slightly more devolved) spying set-up, we all play the old-fashioned Cold War-era spying game. We attempt to insert agents into each other’s blocs and alliances. Continue reading

The Evil Behind the Thousand Megathrons

Last week, I posted about the need for Eve’s nullsec Sovereignty system to be redesigned in order to break up blocs, shrink alliances and give a chance to younger players to strike out into nullsec without the risk of being stamped upon. The key post with the vision and reasoning behind this is found here.

I also posted an example of a sovereignty system that would reward small groups who turned up to fight for their space and offer little encouragement or reward for grouping up into vast coalitions as happens now. Importantly, I showed how such a system could be created using only existing mechanics that already exist in the game: mechanics stolen from wormholes, from Factional War complexes, and from the sovereignty index system. Continue reading

I've been GIA director and a senior Goonswarm leader for over five years and eminence gris of Bat Country for seven.