Moving the alliance

The Inception

A few weeks back, an idea was floated to the alliance:

What did we think about moving into a C6 wormhole?

With EVE, everything is about setting personal goals and continuing to move towards it. As you achieve goals and accomplish tasks, the need to set a new goal often arises. Somehow, I’ve gone from being a terrible spaceship pilot, to joining a corporation I mesh with, going into a C3 wormhole completely unprepared for it, then joining an alliance that LIVES in a C5, and now, invading a C6 wormhole to help its inhabitants realize we live there.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The idea was to move up to the greater profitability (and danger), of a C6 wormhole. As a corporation, we seem to be outgrowing our britches rapidly. In the C3, right when we were hitting a groove of complacency, we moved into a C5, which is a couple orders of magnitude more demanding than a C3 – both in terms of logistics, pilot skill, and player skill. Now, less than a month after that, we’re contemplating moving into the highest difficulty of wormhole life.

And critics say EVE is slow.

After the alliance as a whole decided that life in a C6 was the obvious and natural progression of the group, we set to finding out where to go. Spreadsheets ensued. Yes, actual spreadsheets are a common site in EVE life. Much like work, an alliance is often a conglomeration of up to hundreds of people, and organization is crucial. But this spreadsheet was different (sort of). Instead of containing columns of values for various items, and their relative price in Jita, then tallied up and tabulated using functions, THIS was a document used to examine the various qualities of C6 wormholes. As we  chain collapsed to find our way into one, we recorded the information of each potential relocation. All qualities were examined, and ranked as a result. With list in hand, we finally went shopping.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, a strongly ranked choice became available, and we pulled the trigger on the operation planning. By “became available”, I don’t mean to insinuate that it was empty, or we had some nice trade deal worked out to buy it from the current occupant. That’s not how we work. This is the alliance that declares jihad on others for pay. No, we planned on helping convince the resident Russians that their lease had come to an end. Forcefully.

Initiating Plan Alpha

That Thursday, we executed a trip out of our wormhole. A good number of characters left for their favorite trade hub to pick up their choice of the acceptable ship type for the fleet composition. We were to then wait around for the soon to be ex-homeowners to do their sleeper sites of Friday, jump in, flog them mercilessly, and blap some capitals to convince them home sweet home was not so safe anymore. What ended up happening was significantly different.

The plans of mice and men oft go awry, and ours was no different it seemed. Much to our frustration, it looked as if some outside source had run all the sites in our hopeful-home, ensuring a dearth of target capitals to turn into space dust. Then a slew of other potential scheduling problems, manpower limits (in both directions at one point), and late night almost ran this thing into the screeching halt of “we’ll do it later”. Thankfully, that did not happen. Domino’s fell, planets aligned, and a fleet entirely of our alliance worked our way into the new home.

After some a lot patient waiting around, we were FINALLY at a time to strike the enemy. Realizing that sites were gone, we decided the far less entertaining tower-bash would do to send a nice message. Our carefully constructed fleet of reppers and triage was put to excellent use against a derp of epic proportions on the part of the Ruskies (ProTip: You have to set any tower guns to attack people below a certain rating. The default is 0 (zero), so if someone is neutral, it will not attack them). So, what would have normally turned into a somewhat more entertaining experience of hitting guns, and paying attention, turned into a snore fest that was only mildly interrupted by a couple of Moros showing up at clockwork site-running time. It promptly logged off, with all of its comrades. Simultaneously.

Before too long, we had reinforced the tower and all guns, then blown up some small side tower that was sitting defenseless, and erected our own little safe haven in the skies to work from. The enemy tower would come out of reinforcement in 1 day and 8 hours (or something like that), which turned out to be around 8:00 AM EST on Sunday. Right when I would be leaving to go run the sound board for church.

What happened after is second hand information, but all seems to have gone well.

Things get Interesting and Plan Beta

The truth of EVE is that it’s exciting in two ways. Excitement is found in the aggregate of game play, and the political machinations inherent to such a socially dependent game. So, the above events were dreadfully boring in the specifics, but a neat and exciting experience over all. New things, new places, new conflicts and all that. The big-getters of attention in the EVE universe always stem from the political intrigue (and the resulting pew pew). Our corporations zeal to move ahead with our conquest blinded us to the reality of just how small space can really be, and into the quagmire of the political fax pas.

It turns out that the Russians on the receiving end of our forced extraction team were in reality a “sort-of” ally of ours. Yes, we were invading our quasi-friends. You don’t get pretty green arrows or name tags in EVE online, so the waters can be a bit murky at times. So, we felt a bit awkward, but mostly frustrated by our stymied plans. This meant we had to revisit our spreadsheet of glory and chain collapse holes again until we found our new NEW home. I spent the next few days spending time playing EVE by NOT playing EVE. I’d log in if needed to update my queue in the ruskie’s home, but that was it. Others who had the means and tools necessary to find what needed finding went about their job. In time a home was found, and the clarion call for a migration was given.

Our Bastion had been discovered.

Moros Dead

Yay for corp-wide text messages telling me to get in game. I got to whore a kill on a Moros. 5 billion isk kill is a great way to increase my efficiency rating!

It’s hard being bad

As an FYI, for those of you who play League of Legends, the default screen-capture key is F12. Not print-screen, like every other program invented to man, ever. I missed out on the AWESOME chat of my team calling me bad, and telling me I’m bad, and in general being a bunch of dick-wads and trying to tell me how to play. Would have been paired nicely with the below image. But them’s the breaks. God, being bad makes me sad.

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This CAN be fun

I haven’t been hitting any PvP in the game exceptionally hard yet, focusing instead more on the single-player, story-mode leveling game. Still, I have played a number of instances of each of the 3 options for instanced PvP, and even had a smattering of 1v2 open-world PvP in Alderaan. The point I’m trying to make clear, is that I have experienced what the game offers in PvP format more or less, and up until last night was mostly underwhelmed. However, I saw a glimmer of the possibility of fun last night. I played my first genuinely fun scenario (warzone, battleground, or whatever the hell it’s called) in SW:TOR last night.

For a nice change of pace, it started as a fresh game, in lieu of my typical replacement of someone who left and opened a spot. I sat in the staging area for the Alderaan fight, which consists of a familiar 3-point capture map. WAR vets: think Gates of Ekrund or Nordenwatch. I was pleasantly surprised to see a guildie who had happened to queue into the match as well. He as the scissors, and me as the rock, went to work. We weren’t even on voice comms together, but clearly, we both knew what we were doing. It continues to astound me how two competent players can play together, without any communication, but still do what is needed on a fairly competent level.

Moments like that make me think there’s the chance for cooperative, competitive play here, and it gives me hope. If the competition can match it, and wait around long enough for me to hit cap, there’s a chance that the PvP “game” might be worth sticking around for. I’m not sure of it, but I have a seed of doubt now where before there was only certainty a two month subscription. In the end, it was a close match, with a good amount of back and forth, and we squeaked out the win with a very narrow margin. The Republic doesn’t seem to win much, so anytime I get the “W” I’m a bit surprised.

Sequel to the Original

Just before the start of 2012, I got an invite into the “beta” for DotA 2. As you can probably guess, I was quite excited. I played the original DotA via Warcraft 3 more than I would care to admit, and had recently been immersing myself into its spiritual successor LoL (sorry, never actually tried HoN). LoL is a fabulous game, it’s fun, it’s competitive, and it has a lot of light, whimsical aspects that keep it from being some oppressive entity. DotA 2 feels, in many ways like a different game from LoL. Which fits, since it is, you know, a different game. I can boil down the differences between the two in one word: Unforgiving.

DotA 2 is definitely for the far more hardcore player-base. There is no going to a lane, and auto-attacking creeps to get the kills and push the tower. Though that still happens in a general sort of overview.  Where in LoL, focusing on last-hits is something you find in ranked games, and is ignored in every single PUG game I’ve played (ever), auto-attacking in a lane is almost sure to generate a comment every time in DotA 2.

Of course, you also have the return of denies.

Oh, sweet, sweet denies, how I have missed you. If you missed the original, in DotA you could attack your own units, your own towers, even your fellow teammates. What that lead to, is a strategy of denying kills. When you kill your own unit, it stops the gold for the kill from being divided to the opponent AND the miss out on the experience from its death. This can add up very quickly. A person who is good at denying creeps, especially in the early game, can easily create a level plus gap between themself and their lane opponent. It hurts to receive, and makes you laugh with glee when you accomplish it.

Level gaps are hard to overcome, and the gold gap is just as unforgiving. One big contributor makes the situation even more desperate than any other MOBA I have played: when you die, you lose gold. Significantly. So, if your opponent is denying you hard, uses their advantage to jump you in an unforgiving moment, you get to sit there dead not gaining any experience, and weep a little inside as the stockpile of gold you had been saving just dropped faster than the U.S. employment rate. Poor play is rewarded brutally and is very unforgiving. What can seem like a simple mistake can quickly cascade into catastrophic failure.

You may be thinking to yourself how terrible this makes the game sound, but it doesn’t. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve been going to DotA 2 nearly every time I would have gone to LoL in the past. It’s eating up the majority of my gaming time this month, and poor Skyrim has been feeling ignored because of it. If you enjoyed the original DotA, you will love the hell out of this. If you get easily frustrated, your beginning here will be painful. The learning curve for those new to the genre is tremendous, and becomes shallower the closer you move to DotA familiarity. Even I had to get back in the groove so to speak, and remember how different the gameplay is, and what gear does what.

Of course, it has some issues, every game does. But nothing that seems game-breaking. The progression system isn’t involved yet, and I haven’t found a good reporting system. A lot of the heroes aren’t implemented yet (Phantom Lancer, k thx?), but there is a very robust selection available. I feel as if the UI, and particularly the item shop could use a bit of tweaking to fine-tune and smooth out the experience, but overall, it gets my rocks off.

Not sure what else there is to say about it.

Prime Incentives

I lightly participate in Prime’s forums, but I do lurk fairly extensively. One thread did entice me to respond, as it was a wide arching discussion on a subject that interests me: game incentives. Here is my post.

PvP incentivization is a very hard thing to get right. Hard core PvPers just want everyone to go out and fight, for the sheer thrill of pitting wits and talent against an opponent. That wish is a (pleasant) fantasy on the whole. Creating wide open fields, devoid of any compelling objectives will not entice conflict. What draws people into battle is a scarcity of resources required to complete an objective. The resources don’t need be tangibles, but they are usually the easiest to implement.

Examples help clarify.

EVE online is arguably the most succesful PvP MMO currently. Beyond just a sandbox game, its distribution of rewards and resources compels players to seek out dangerous and unsafe regions to get the greatest acquisition of goods, wealth, and control. WAR got players out to fight at first by placing vertical progression rewards in the world,but as expected, once the community achieved that goal, conflict dropped – the impetus for going out was gone. This shows us something else, whatever incentive is used as the driving factor, should need to be continually renewed/defended to encourage constant participation across all spectrums of the player base.

It’s important to recognise the motivational differentiatiors between PvP MMOs, and other PvP genres. FPS’s, MOBA’s, and RTS’s don’t have the persistance and long term progression to contend with. So the need to make a renewable motivator does not exist. Creating a PvP system that requires players to partake for no other reason than to fight won’t work in the MMO model long-term.

Fucking Stupid

“Drag bubbles”

I was making a trip to hi-sec to work on some faction for Minmitar. I’m sure to encounter gate camps, so I’m very careful in my travel, and I was flying a fast frigate to make sure I can get out of any bubbles that might be in the way. So, about two-thirds through, I encounter a gate with three bubbles around it, warp away to a planet PAST the gate and bubble so that it’s not in my way on the turn around.

Well, low and behold, it turns out that if a bubble would be in your vector, whether PAST your destination or before, it pulls you into it anyway. So, never mind that the target I was shooting for was 25km behind the bubble itself, I still got pulled into it, and then summarily killed.  Shit like that pisses me off, I’m told about a mechanic, told how it works, and then find out to my own detriment that there are other little extra rules that I knew nothing about. I could care less about losing the frigate, but the time for travel and the bullshit logic behind it doesn’t even work as far as the description goes. Is there a limit to the range of the drag bubble? Fuck, infinite vectors shouldn’t be possible, it would fuck EVERYTHING up.

Bah, terribad fucking way to end a weekend. I went and played LoL instead, at least that shit doesn’t come up with a new rule every week to surprise you.

Escape Dependency

I played a bit of WAR over the weekend. My Knight remains on Gorfang, so I hooked back up with my old guild Blitz who are on Norn with my Shadow Warrior. The nostalgia was pleasant, and the game’s art is still some of the best around, but there are still some serious flaws that I just think aren’t going away anytime soon. One of these issues is the way escape tools perform in the game.

When looking at WAR as a PvP game, I tend to do so strongly filtered through my recenly refined lense that from playing EVE and LoL. In doing so, I see concepts that may be miss-applied between games. When looking at LoL, you see that the melee killers have some way of closing the distance. Xin’s charge, Eve’s stealth, Nocturnes speed path and his crazy warp ultimate. This same concept is found in MDPS in WAR: leap, charge, stealth. All are actions that work independent of the some enemy condition, outside of range.

Now, look at the escape tools for the ranged in LoL. Ashe tends to be insanely fast, Nidalee has her cat leap, Cait has her net snare + blow back, and so on. Most of these don’t depend on the state of the target, or even a target at all. When looking at ranged careers in WAR, all tools for escape are contingent on hitting the enemy and not being met with an immunity (outside of the universal flee).

Why is this a problem? Melee has much higher damage. This was done to make up for needing to close the distance. Except always functioning gap closers, and sometimes multiples of them give them the ability to make the range advantage immaterial, and this problem became even further attenuated by the unification if immunities. That act may have been good for the game as a whole, but it fucked the ranged players.

Ranged players either need to have the damage to stand toe to toe with a melee combatant, or need to be equally good at escaping as their assailants.

POS taken down

Shadow Control Tower - Medium

POS doesnt’ meant what you think it means. Unless you know I’m referencing EVE, in which case, maybe it does mean what you think it means. I don’t know, I’m not a freakin’ mind reader. Give me a break. For those who DON’T know what I’m referencing: a POS is a player-owned starbase. These are a big part of the world of eve, and is a part of what helps determine territory players are seeking to hold. Starbases fulfill a lot of functions, from launch points for fleets, to research and construction hubs, to giant moon-mining stations. Multiple people desire a sweet spot around a nice, lucrative moon, and that causes good-ol’ fashioned capitalistic conflict. My favorite kind.

Then you have corps like mine, who see those stations as ripe trees, hold very valuable fruit in the form of turrets, scramblers, hangers, arrays, and all sorts of other add-ons that can be stolen if you find the right situation to do so. A few nights back, a scout found the unshielded POS, and after tracking down the corps information of its owners, we war-deced them, so we could blow it up and take the yummies. To help encourage participation in what was expected to be a rather dull event, the CEO of our corp provided an incentive: each point of damage done = 10 isk, and the killing blow = 20 million isk. Well, I’m a lucky bastard, not because I had the most damage (in fact, I did about 5 million less than the top guy), but I got the killing blow, so I walked away from the endeavor about 58 million isk richer.

While throwing missiles at this starbase last night, I couldn’t but help to remember a conversation I had with my brother when walking around down-town D.C. a couple of years ago. He was telling me a bit about his time in the Ranger battalion, and how the rule of six-P’s (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) helps to reduce the excitement of combat. That this was a necessity, because remaining calm and working off your training kept you alive. In much the same way, leading up to our corps attack of this POS, we prepared ahead of time, and had done a fair amount of fleet drills before hand. So, while we didn’t need to use any of our talents – as the target never bothered to show up and defend, we were all prepared for the eventuality. This made the event a bit boring, but also created a sort of relaxed tension amongst us – calm, but prepared.

Seeds of Conflict

There are a lot of different ways to participate in PvP in EVE Online. Dependent on the sector of space you’re living in, you need to adjust your style and be cognizant of the rules of space you are currently in. For players living in null-sec space, conflict is never further than your desire to engage a target. In contrast, in high-sec space, there are rules to engagement, and similarly, enforcement of said rules. The enforcers are known as CONCORD. The sectors of space that CONCORD technically protects are 1.0 down to 0.1. However once a player goes below 0.5 space, no CONCORD patrols will come to kill aggressors, and their presence is found only in the nature of sentry guns around some stations and stargates. Additionally, aggression in ANY sector of space from 1.0 to 0.1 will result in a negative impact to your security status, which affects your ability to travel in hi-sec space without getting popped by the police.

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