Monday, July 23, 2012

Alliance Tournament X Wrap-up

The Tenth Alliance Tournament has come and gone, and it was quite a show. In my opinion, there isn't an event more representative of the best parts of Eve. The AT runs the full gamut of planning, meta-gaming, and small gang pvp execution. From the first match to the last, it was an impressive display.

My initial impression is that this is the closest Alliance Tournament I've ever seen. There was a bit of a cookie-cutter feel to some matches with all of the Vindicators, Sleipnirs and Vargurs, but match outcomes were determined far more by skill than simply by bringing the right setup. Speaking of setups, there were a few noteworthy ones. The first one that has to be mentioned is the HUN Reloaded Vargur team. This one general team anchored around the two or three Vargurs pushed them all the way to the final round. The team was well put together and even more so, well piloted. 

My other noteworthy setups both belong to Pandemic Legion. I've already discussed the team with the flagship Bhaalgorn and the four Malices. PL failed to disappoint on the final day as well, packing a very impressive ECM team, anchored by three Widows. This team absolutely handled Darkside in a near-flawless victory. A part of me wonders if they should have saved it for the HUN match against that Vargur team, but I suppose you have to make it to that semifinals before you can use it there. And Darkside was not to be taken lightly after last year.

Rather not be on the receiving end of this one
I have to say, I'm damn proud of both PL and RvB. I thought the latter was performing especially well despite many people not taking them as serious contenders. As Raivi commented, I'm a bit disappoined PL couldn't manage to find their way through just one more match, as that would have at least secured 50 Cambions. I have a feeling that we may be able to get our hands on either Cambions or Etanas somehow though ;-)

Out of the Alliance Tournament, I have two new goals for my own career, and they're both a bit ambitious. The first is to own an AT prize ship of my own. I'm especially partial to the Freki, being a Rifter hull. My second choice would be an Adrestia, the Thorax-inspired HAC. I make enough isk that its plausible to procure one of these little treasures at some point. 

The second goal is to someday fly in the Alliance Tournament. The AT is a "fair" fight with everything on the line and everyone watching. That's something special. I've got some work to do over the next couple years, but that's the next step for me. I can't think of a more rewarding experience.

As a final wrap-up, CCP and all of the commentators who put in their hard work deserve a great deal of thanks. These people gave up their weekends for a month straight and put on one hell of a show. Congratulations as well to all of the competitors, especially Verge of Collapse and HUN Reloaded. Enjoy the new toys.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Suitcase Carrier

The old mantra in Eve is to trust no one. In general, that's how I operate in this game. I trust fleet members and corp mates, but less so with my ships and isk. Everyone has a breaking point in terms of where they can be tempted to steal.

When it comes to moving my gear across the universe, a Carrier seemed like the only good option for me. I've trusted corp mates before with no problem, but I also don't like to be a burden. The "Suitcase" Carrier is a fitting optimized to be jump-ready as soon as possible, and you can pack in a fair amount of ships via the ship maintenance bay, which holds 1,000,000 m3. That maintenance bay is an interesting cargohold because the ships need to be assembled to go in there. This means that you can fit 30+ fitted frigates in there, or only about 4 battlecruisers. Its your call, but there are a lot of options.

First Cyno I lit

With the action in Delve over the past couple weeks, I decided it was time to get my suitcase carrier operational. I trained up a quick cyno alt and fitted the Thanatos to the gills with capacitor mods.

[Thanatos, Suitcase]

Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Armor Explosive Hardener II
Capital Armor Repairer I
Capacitor Flux Coil II
Capacitor Flux Coil II

Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II

Heavy Energy Neutralizer II
Heavy Energy Neutralizer II
Heavy Energy Neutralizer II
Large Proton Smartbomb II
Large Proton Smartbomb II

Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I

The actual moving of the carrier is detailed extremely well by The Eve Altruist. I looked over his guide extensively before I actually fired up the cyno for my first move. There are a few quick points I'd emphasize for the trip though. If you're moving through lowsec, you likely won't be aggroed on station if you're above -5.0 sec status. If someone does try some funny business, you get station gun support. I'd say this trend was true for the cyno alts too, but its not. I've popped plenty of cyno alts for no reason other than I was bored. It will happen; you will lose the occasional Kestrel.

Cynoing into the Docking Ring

Also, you can cyno directly into docking range many times. On the above picture, the cyno alt had 5km clearance in all directions, and I cynoed the Carrier inside the undock. As long as your careful with an offlined Salvager I (which gives the 5km bubble on the tactical overlay), you can usually get into instant docking range.

The last big thing I'd recommend is to plan the trip carefully before you get moving. Use Dotlan's Jump Planner. Its a great application. It gives you a lot of choice in what system you want to jump into, especially with regards to cynoing to stations. Also, pack plenty of jump fuel. You wouldn't want to click the "Jump To" button only to find you can't make the trip. And lastly, try to keep a low profile. I have always kept my Thanatos docked until the second I'm ready to make the jump. Make sure the fleet is up and the cyno is lit before you undock and press jump.

In the end, I'd recommend the Suitcase Carrier for anyone with 2+ accounts and the means to do so. Its very self sufficient, and when done right, there is very minimal risk. Essentially, it operates the same way as a jump freighter, but it has much smaller cargo holds. On the positive side, its not entirely defenseless. Far from it. Plus, you've always got that fun toy in the background in case a hotdrop situation comes up. You can't do that with a jump freighter ;-)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Three Quick Fixes For Eve

I'm no CCP Dev, but there are a few quick things that Eve needs to have implemented. There would be almost zero opposition to them. My points aren't complex, but they make sense.

Recently I've been doing a lot of logistics over two accounts. I finally started moving my Carrier about to get some ships across the universe quicker. With that comes both cyno alts and for me, different jump clones. All of these points fall under making life easier for alts and jump clones.

The first thing that needs to be changed is the jumpclone timer. Twenty four hours is just too darn long. If you log on the same time every day, wait a bit, and then jump clone somewhere, you're going to be constantly fighting the jump clone timer as it gets pushed back. The overarching idea with the timer makes sense though. If there were no restriction, you could take off in a fresh clone whenever someone camped you into a station. What about twenty hours though? Or twelve? Either of those timers, or even less, would make the mechanic a lot more useful. It would never put a damper on getting into the action, and it leaves no room for abuse. I missed out on a couple of corp fleets because I was in another jump clone, and that's not a fun part of the game.

The other changes are related to characters on the same account. I realized once I wanted to start jumping the Carrier that I didn't have a dedicated cyno alt I wanted to use. There's no need to muddy up the killboard for a developed character, so I rolled another one as a cyno alt. In doing this there was a lot of flipping skill training and switching between characters. This process is too tedious at the moment. Switching skills involves logging in on one character, logging off, logging back in to the other, and starting the skill. Painful.

Here are the changes. First, let skill training be interrupted by another character on the same account. If Character A tries to start training a skill while Character B is already training, just pop up a window that says "Do you want to pause skill training on Character B?" If you click yes, the skill should start right away. My borderline OCD tendencies had me going off the wall when I had no skill training for a minute or two. Its not a huge deal, but its a pain in the ass and presumably an easy fix.

The last fix is the general switching between characters on accounts. A switch character function would be much appreciated. I tweeted about this in the #tweetfleetbacklog hashtag a while ago and it was one of the most popular RT's according to CCP. Again, its the logging out, logging back in with full-credentials-again deal. Why can't you switch more seamlessly? Most people would have no problem with a session change timer or something similar for switching between characters, but the current format is not useful.

These changes aren't monumental in any way, and its not the first time they've been suggested. But seriously, in ALTs Online, we need better functionality with multiple characters and moving around. None of these are absurd, nor absurdly difficult, but they'd make a world of difference in using multiple characters. End Rant.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weekend Review 7/15

It was quite a weekend for me in Eve. I was lucky enough to have the Alliance Tournament, Thukk You Frill Me & the corresponding Ganked roam, and my cyno alt finished up the necessary pre-reqs all at the same time. Let's kick it off with the AT.

The group stages in the Alliance Tournament were pretty spectacular. Both of my teams drew a bit of attention. The buzz surrounding RvB was mostly in regard to their comeback win over Rote Kappelle in the boundary violation match, which the Robo-Blogger has of course already covered. The more interesting match was Pandemic Legion vs Rote (Congrats Rote for stirring up some good fights this weekend, by the way). PL dressed to the nines, bringing out their flagship Bhaalgorn and four Malices, which were Alliance Tournament prizes from previous years. If you haven't seen the match yet, watch Michael Bolton III squeal like a little girl here:

I'm still not quite sure how the second PL Bhaalgorn went down so quickly. The Guardian wasn't jammed or neuted from what I could see, and the reps never really kept up. After that, Rote was able to pick off a couple Vengeances and the Guardian, and they took a relatively close match. I was pretty impressed with the PL pilots keeping all of the Malices alive, but that's the only real positive for them here. It was a great fight to watch, but you've got to give it to Rote for not only winning the match but kicking ass in the isk war. I'm surprised the Pandemic Legion fit wasn't able to do more with the ridiculously awesome ships they had on the field.

All while this was happening, Thukk You Frill Me was forming up and rolling out. For the unaware, this is the campaign headed by Rixx Javix and Seismic Stan to bring the Frill back to the Vagabond. The event started in Jita with an official protest by shooting the infamous memorial there. I couldn't make it to this part since my security status was just a bit too low, so I waited patiently in lowsec while the gang moved towards me. 

The Ganked roam featured Stabber hulls in honor of the Vagabond's frill. Personally, I grabbed a Stiletto, as we were a bit light on tackle with no Dictors in fleet, and there's no better way to whore on killmails than a fast locking interceptor ;-).  This was one of the slower Ganked nights I've been on. It took quite a while to get someone interested in fighting us, and we were a bit distracted by the great AT matches wrapping up the evening. Eventually, AAA decided to ~undock~ and fight us. It was a pretty decent fight, finally. I'd say the highlight was knocking down a Loki, since it was a bit pimped out. Perhaps most surprising is that I survived! When I started taking some damage, I burned out of the bubble and managed to warp off before anyone got point on me or managed to take me down. I even made it all the way home! Mangala formally apologized for this obvious flaw in the roam, as he promised that we would all die.

Speaking of Ganked, next week's is RvB's year anniversary of hosting them. The theme should be up soon, but I invite everyone to come. They're open to the public, and they're a blast. The fleets are disorganized, drunken messes, and they're fantastic. Also, I'm sure Mangala has something up his sleeve for this one. Don't miss out.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Day I Learned To Pack Barrage

The other day, I fitted up an Ancillary Shield Booster Cyclone and headed out roaming. I took off through  Gallente lowsec, as Gallente space has always felt like home for me. I was checking out some of the local hotspots, but wasn't really able to find a fight. I had been roaming for about an hour without seeing any targets before I came across Old Man Star. I knew I'd probably end up being blobbed, but I decided to give it a go.

Despite there being about thirty in local, the system was pretty quiet. I warped to the station to find a Jaguar there. I didn't think he'd give me a fight, but I aligned and warped to the top belt to see if he was interested. He quickly followed, landing about 30 km away from me. I engaged first, popping drones and firing away with my 425mm Autocannons. He kept range on me, orbiting around 20 km. That was trouble. He had me pointed, but couldn't touch me with any real DPS. As he went to work on my drones, I knew he was also Autocannon fit, which meant that he'd have to come close to do any damage to me.

...That or he could bring friends. In warped seven of his buddies, in battlecruisers, a few frigates, and of course the Rook for good taste. At this point, I didn't have much chance. The Rook had me permajammed for the duration of the "fight." Their DPS couldn't touch the ASB tank though. In fact, they didn't actually down me until I had to reload cap charges for the booster. All of this was without any blue pills, warfare links, or implants of any kind.

What did I learn from all of this? First of all, I've got to start packing Barrage for solo roams. The Jaguar wouldn't have lasted long enough for his friends to warp in had I just reloaded and started hammering away with the longer-ranged ammo. That's the last time I'll make that mistake. The other part of the lesson was to fit ASB's more often. Especially when coupled with any bonuses, they're absolutely unreal right now. If you haven't flown with one yet, fit a ship and give it a whirl before CCP nerfs them. Its worth your while.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BB 37: The Double Edged Sword

Welcome to Blog Banter 37, the mass-community bloggery your mother probably didn't warn you about. Don't worry, it is legal and it won't hurt a bit (more info here). The question being kicked around the blogosphere this month is possibly a sensitive one, but it's certainly topical.

"EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"

Our little sandbox is a pretty dangerous place. Our playmates' behavior can get a little bit out of hand sometimes, but we like it that way. It keeps it interesting. Where do we draw the line though? What becomes too much for the average player to handle?

Simply put, the line is where it becomes too personal for a player in terms of out-of-game experience. Across the board, other bloggers are pretty unanimous on this point. My biggest problem with this definition is that its vague. What is too personal for you might not be for others. We're playing in an international and incredibly diverse game here. The casual smack talk seen in local might be more than enough to turn some away, but I think most would agree that type of stuff is still solidly in the "not-so-bad" category. Griefing goes the same way. Is it a behavior that everyone finds acceptable? Absolutely not. Too far? The general consensus is no on that one as well, despite some vocal opposition from the minority.

For me, it goes a little deeper than some of the examples above. Griefing and smack talk can be considered "soft" lines in the sand, if you will. My "hard" line is where people start interfering with actual home computers, other assets, or real people. If you read Emergent Patroller's Blog Banter Entry, those incidents were well over the line. In fact, it was enough to make me consider shutting down the blog and just get back to solely playing the game. Stalking someone is far, far over the line. "Lesser" offenses like DDOS attacks break the boundary for me too. Say someone had a bill to pay online that night after their dedicated Eve time. You just cost them real money, and I'm not talking about Plex. Even if they just felt like watching Netflix, its still a real disruption to their lives outside the game, and that's unacceptable.

The most interesting part about all of this though, is that deep down, we secretly like that its a part of our game. I'm not saying everyone is out there hoping and praying that the opposing alliance gets DDOS'd into submission. No one roots for the internet stalker gathering others' private information. But it is intriguing. We like that people are willing to go to these measures. Its part of our culture at this point. It is very much a part of our "Eve is Real" notion. Its an extension of the old saying, "if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying," and in this game, everyone is trying.

Simply put, Eve is a double edged sword. On one side, no one really wants others property destroyed. On the other, it wouldn't be the game that we know and love without that base level of slightly malicious intentions. That's the Eve we know. Don't expect any drastic changes to these lines in the sand any time soon. Eve's dark side is here to stay.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The First Time FC

Today was quite a day for me. Things were a bit slow in Delve, so I logged on to find RvB had a small gang (10 or less), frigate, free-for-all weekend. For the first time, I decided to give it a go and take the helm as FC. I've been flying on and off with RvB for the better part of a year now, and the small gang FFA weekends are some of my favorites. Worst that could happen is that I lose 10 frigs, I was pretty sure that the RvBers would survive that atrocity.

I've got to say, its pretty thrilling to be the guy making the calls. On the first go, I took the fleet out towards Red HQ through Josameto. A gang lead by a Taranis and a Slicer spread us out a bit and picked off a few of our guys. That one was my fault. I shouldn't have let the Slicer draw us apart without good reason. A few guys died, a few got out. I went down under fire from the Taranis, and apparently he ended up slipping away in hull after I warped my pod off. Damn.

We reshipped and headed back out, this time with more success. First, we caught the notorious Patrick Kasper in his Hookbill on Blue HQ. Always good to get Patrick, a fantastic solo artist. Then we went out towards Otela again, hoping for better results. I had us set up a camp on the Josameto side of the Otela gate, waiting for prey. Our forward scout reported a Merlin engaging him on the other side of the gate, so we jumped through and locked him up. The Merlin had some mates join, and it was a decent clash. We traded some kills and got out of there ASAP.

One of the last things that we caught on the day was a Harpy who was sitting at a corp bookmark. Tisk, tisk. Great work by one of our scouts to realize and get point on him.

Overall, I'd grade myself at about a B/B- on the day. We got some kills, sustained some losses, but it wasn't anything too terrible. I think I managed the fleet well, including communicating back and forth with the scouts. Target calling seemed to go fairly well too. There are certainly things to improve upon though. The biggest example I had today was to not take bait from ships like the Slicer. There's no excuse for giving away easy kills. The other big thing was just learning to think more like an FC. Some calls were just a hair slow - I'm used to being on the listening end of the target calling and fleet movements. I think it'll all tighten up with experience.

My advice to potential FC's is to go out and try it. Take out a cheap fleet and see what you can do. Don't go in totally blind. Know the area, know your corporation and definitely know general pvp mechanics first, but once you've got that down, give it a shot. Its pretty rewarding to see what you can do at the controls. I'll be out again soon for sure.