Archive for May, 2010

-A- Withdrawal :: The Last Straw?

Posted in Against All Authorities, North versus South on May 31, 2010 by Easley Thames

Following the withdrawal of Atlas and now (seemingly) Against All Authorities from the northern theater, many have asked when this “invasion” will come to an official end.

I placed quotations around the term “invasion” because, for the last couple weeks, the Northern Crusade has devolved into a mere harassment campaign. The NC are not even taking us seriously anymore, as evidenced by their attacks on Cobalt Edge.

Just as it began with Molle, he will have to be the one to turn the page and move IT Alliance into the next chapter of our history. The question is, when? Considering that we have enemies on our own doorstep, we certainly have good reason not to delay, but I do not sense any degree of urgency from Molle and his inner circle.

I can respect sticking with a plan and not running at the first sign of trouble, but I really feel that we’re only still in x-7 because our leaders haven’t decided what to do next and think it best that our pilots still have targets to shoot while they figure it out.

My working assumption is that we will be involved in the North for a while still. However, I think most combat pilots both sides (apart from the uninformed or irrational) agree that remaining the Southern Alliances lack a winning strategy and the necessary forces to accomplish Molle’s stated goals.

However, with change comes opportunity. The NC have continued to relax their guard and many alliances who have had to whip their member-base to produce a mere 20 or 30 pilots for combined NC ops will likely return to their previously scheduled regiment of Farm Ville in space. We have had several small successes of late, including a super-carrier kill, but I cannot help but feel that we are tilting at windmills.

So then, what exactly happens when IT / ROL / Init stop basing in x-7? Our eventual withdrawal will bring about a new round of warfare, that much is certain. Null sec never stays peaceful for long. While no one can be exactly certain how it will all play out, there are a few popular theories as to what might happen first:

1) The NC Pushes East:  Many think the NC will make serious pushes in Drone regions, which would create an immense conflict with Solar/XiX/RA/IRC. The NC has made attempts in the past, but this has never been a productive area for them.  If they fight in Geminate before moving further, Alliances like Atlas and -A- might also stand in the way of a group whose record on the road doesn’t exactly mirror their success in wars fought at home.

2) Coalition Pushes On IT Space: The NC (now including Goons) could join once again with PL  and others (including Dreddit’s alliance who have already grabbed some sov) to start another invasion in Delve. After the Max campaign, that’s exactly what happened, and history has a way of repeating itself when it comes to Delve. This would certainly be welcomed by our side, both as a chance to “give them a taste of Dominion from the other side” and to consolidate our own forces while keeping the same opponents we have now on a single front (instead of fighting with alts in two hemispheres).

3) NC Assaults Cloud Ring: The Goons are crashing on TCF’s couch, but they need a real home eventually. I think they’ve certainly become a much smaller player in the scheme of things, but they’re certainly worth giving a region to somewhere in the north. Some goons have said they would rather just live in curse, but the truth is they’ve grown far beyond the level of living in NPC space. The alliance is home to just as many serious-business industrialists and combat pilots who want to see their logo floating on territorial claim markets as any other major 0.0 entity.

In all three scenarios, the NC theoretically attempts to capitalize on its high morale with a quick offensive campaign. I think that, depending on the target area, the NC could face a test greater than the invasion of their space. Regardless of what happens next, it will certainly be interesting.

Fun In Fade :: A Late US TZ OP

Posted in North versus South, Roaming on May 28, 2010 by Easley Thames

It was around 06:00 when a small gang of Doom and IT pilots in long-range HACs and BCs left X-7 to kill an undefended TCU. With only 10 in the initial group, it was going slowly. Luckily, we had a number of enjoyable diversions during this process that ultimately made for a very memorable evening.

First among the distractions from our task was a Loki our scouts had found plexing in DO6H. A prober was called-in, but probes were dropped, the Loki disappeared (presumably logging). However, upon his return, he was located quickly. An interceptor had no trouble tackling him while the TCU-killers (myself included) took our sweet time showing up to the scene. With a perma-running medium shield setup, most of us only had time to fire a single volley before his T3 cruiser became a T3 wreck.

After the T3 kill we returned to wearing down the TCU. Luckily for us, word of our kill had drawn some pilots out from x-7 and – having already joined gang and made the trip – they decided to stay with us. The TCU was in low shield when we got word of a small gang nearby in ROIR.

The second fight involving our gang occurred in ROIR when 3 pilots (out of a 4 man gang) aggressed one of our ships on the C-8 gate. We jumped in our larger gang and made quick work of the cerberus, brutix and harbinger. After looting the field, we returned to our task in E-9 where the NC TCU was slowly coming online.

It wasn’t long before the TCU fell into armor and the general mood among our (now 18-strong gang) was very jovial. A T3 kill and a small-gang slaughter do wonders for morale! However, the fun was not over yet. A 12-man mid-sized gang was reported only 6 jumps away. Our scouts then confirmed that they were moving in our direction.

The third fight was coming right our way (as if enough kill mails hadn’t fallen from the sky in the last few minutes) and everyone was excited. However, we lacked one crucial piece to ensure maximum carnage – a dictor. Vlade, the NC fleet commander, jumped into our gang with a rapier and was able to cloak before making any decisions regarding jumping his forces through.

Without a bubble, we stood little chance of catching the enemy FC. Vlade eventually sent his gang back a jump and positioned them on the gate we would have to come through if we pursued. A cautious move, but one that left open the possibility of a fight.

Our FC did not want to pursue them, so we simply divided our forces. Our dps went back to working on the TCU – with instructions to be ready to warp back to the gate at their respective optimal ranges – while our tackle and scouts remained in their current positions.

When we got word of some blues nearby we went through channels to contact them. However, before we could even coordinate, a Cry Havoc gang had engaged the enemy in a neighboring system. We joined the fray shortly after the fight started and the NC group was caught unprepared.

The NC HACs and BCs died near the gate while the frigate-class ships fled the field. The lone scimitar burned away up to 200km from the gate, but our light tacklers stayed with him until we coudl warp in some mid-size hulls to finish the job.

In exchange for a Sabre, the NC fleet was routed. Regarding the killboard reports for this fight, the NC fleet was much larger than it appears because most of their surviving pilots did not score kill mails on our side of the field, and thus there is no record of their involvement. The only NC ships counted in the C8- scrap were those who died or fired on our Sabre, who was the lone casualty on our side.

Finally, with the NCs small gangs defeated and the plex rats saved from death-by-Loki, we set out to complete our original task. After picking numerous fights – just as we had hoped – The TCU was killed at last.

The same fleet is now roaming, looking for more targets. I have dropped out to get some rest but if anything exciting happens, I’m sure PK will have the details on his blog.

Late Night Delve Patrol

Posted in Roaming on May 27, 2010 by Easley Thames

It was getting close to bed time on a work night when four Mavericks (myself included) decided to go for a quick spin around our neighborhood. So, after a quick survey of the ships at our disposal, we left our home constellation in Delve looking for trouble nearby from the many hostiles who have had free-run of the area for quite some time.

We first investigated a reported hostile inbound from Fountain, only to discover the pilot had been docked in a station (no doubt waging market warfare) all along. Having wasted 5 minutes of our lives, we headed back for Delve when a corp-member reported a drake + 1 unidentified ship following his cloaking hauler though a pipeline in our direction.

We intercepted one of the hostiles on the gate to JP4 in 4X0-. He held cloak before appearing on the opposite side from our close-range tackle (a scram/web fit BC) and was able to reach the gate just barely before touching armor. Anticipating this scenario, we had a tackler on the other side waiting.

After the drake broke his cloak, the tackler reported that there was a Loki on scan! The Loki was webbed while we took down the drake, but get managed to get out on a combination of inertia and ec-300 drones. If we had even 1 more pilot with us – perhaps a skilled interceptor pilot – I believe we would have taken the T3 cruiser down. As a consolation prize, the drake died a horrible death, in part due to his questionable fitting. We the turned our attention to locating the Loki.

Low on patience, we gave up on laying a trap for the Loki fairly quickly and decided to continue our roam. With our scout jumping ahead, our gang piled on the out-gate towards our destination. The scout reported a neutral Curse (npc corp) jumping into us. The recon was caught re-approaching and quickly melted.

The pilot uttered a strange comment in local, some thing like “I can’t pass?” before exploding. On further inspection, he was formerly in DICE. I don’t know if he was really a Dice alt or someone who thought his former-IT status would protect him, but without being expressly identified as friendly by an IT member I always adhere to the following rule: standings are king.

With the vast majority of main characters up north (or simply not playing the game) all sorts of hostiles have had their run of the place. Our next few jumps would pit us against hostiles in NPC (blood raider) space.

Upon jumping into an undisclosed system, three PL were reported with a cyno lit on station. We determined a falcon had cyno’d in a Chimera and that a Drake also stood guard. Feeling risk-inclined, and confident that we could get out of dodge if pointed, we warped in on the falcon and attempted to pop it between shield-transfer cycles from the Chimera. We got it to 20% shield, but no further. With the risk growing, we warped out while none of us were tackled. If I had formed a larger fleet, the recon have been a sitting duck.

We then decided to move on to KFIE, one of PL’s staging systems (and probably the most populated one in their prime time). Though we could probably have gotten a fight in KFIE if we stuck around long enough, the large number of docked reds was unnerving. As a rule, I never under-estimate Pandemic Legion. So, after looking for any small groups to engage in the system, we decided to head up towards the nearest low-sec entrance.

On the way up to Aridia, we caught a member of SniggWaffe in a drake. He ejected shortly after being tackled and the partially-fit drake was quickly destroyed. There may have been some tears in local as well.

Around 1-smeb we saw a previously-reported Legion on scan. However, due to good scouting by his (presumed) alt character in a t1 frigate jumping ahead, we had difficulty trapping the T3. We also ran into the Loki pilot again, but he was far more cautious this time around.

Only planning to roam for an hour, and having left our station’s docking port already a bit weary, we headed home and called it a night.

With 3 quick-kills and several other engagements we initiated resulting in zero losses, I found it to be a satisfactory roam for the evening, though I think we all wanted a strategic cruiser kill to top things off.

CSM 5 Results :: My Reactions

Posted in CSM on May 26, 2010 by Easley Thames

I predicted both Mynxee and Ankh would win this year and – with mixed feelings – I have been proven correct on both accounts. I also posted on the the IT forum that I thought these two were the front-runners for the chairmanship, which was by no means a bold prediction for anyone following the race, and I seem to have hit the mark again on that point as Mynxee was the overall winner with over 4000 votes.

These two candidates reached out to the most people and had the best “Name ID” as we call it in real-life political elections. In an election where most voters don’t know the candidates well, simply being a known name is the best possible asset. In the case of Ankhesentapemkah, the massive negative out-pour on her forum thread only fueled her notoriety and her campaign spam in Jita helped her corner the market on fellow high-sec hikikomori.

I really dislike Ankhesentapemkah (as a candidate) and I’m glad Mynxee edged her out for chairman. Ankh is a care-bear soloist who – by her own admission – plays eve like a single player game with little care for the dynamic player interactions that (in my opinion) make Eve as special as it is. Her top agenda items all relate to preventing other players from ever impacting her game-play without explicit permissions. She wants outlaws to literally serve jail time, with their characters locked up, and takes a firm stance against the game even allowing you to fire upon other ships in high-sec (presumably with the exclusion of war-decs but I suspect she doesn’t  like that mechanic either).

With 9 lifetime kills (only one of which was generated in 2010) and 141 losses, Ankh lacks the experience to comment on PvP interactions with any authority whatsoever. I suspect the majority of active combat pilots who did actually cast a vote for her were fellow CVA members.

By comparison, Mynxee is someone I can live with on the CSM.  She has experience as a former member of a notorious pirate corporation, a mercenary & sov holder (with Noir Mercenary Group) and I even see some wormhole kills with her name on them. She not only has the experience to work for improvements in low-sec but to the 0.0 combat scene as well. I don’t agree with Mynxee on several issues, but at least we share similar values regarding the overall design of the game and I believe she will work to make the “pew pew” abundant and enjoyable.

Avicenna Sarfaraz, beloved CEO of -MVN- and hero to all followers of his cult-like religious organization “Church of the Golden Jesus Penis” was not among the winners or top 4 alternates. When the final list is released, we will see exactly where he ended up.

Though Avi had supporters from many alliances across New Eden, he made very little effort to campaign for himself. The many sound-boards featuring him, if combined with a special campaign video, would have been excellent content on a campaign website. While he did appear at an alliance panel at fan fest and has many contacts across the cluster, he simply didn’t reach out beyond those he knew.

Avi also needed to clarify his position on issues and create some interest on his candidacy-announcement forum thread, but his entry was only a first attempt and I know we will all work harder next year on his behalf. Maybe next year boss.

Battle Clinic :: The Rankings Shake-Up

Posted in Killboard Stats on May 25, 2010 by Easley Thames

For many in Eve, Battle Clinic is the most authoritative source when comparing rankings between players. While BC has its flaws, I feel strongly that their formula has always rewarded the right kinds of behavior.

For example, blobbing is discouraged through the devaluation of kills by large numbers of pilots. Solo kills are the most valuable, as they should be.

Recently the BC team made changes aimed at further perfecting the formula. This time, suicide ganking was to be penalized. As a form of PvP where the risk can be perfectly calculated, I agree with their position that there should be a lower reward for these kills that come from sitting ducks in empire.

However, due to a mistake that caused a large number of mails to be mistakenly excluded from the rankings calculation process, many pilots who have never used suicide ganking (or have only done so with extreme rarity) awoke to find themselves many thousand ranks lower than the night before.

Here is how the change affected my own ranking. Due to inactivity, my own ranking had gradually dropped before leveling off in the  high1900’s. While far from my peak position, it’s at least respectable to be in the top 2000.

However, when the updates went life, I found myself down another 6000+ spots over night (as illustrated below).

Here is one of the official responses from Battle Clinic on the rankings shake-up:

Suicide ganking was one of the activities we decided to change inside the points calculations. On the surface, it seemed like a fine idea to drastically cut the points awarded for this activity. I’ll spare you the details: when we put that particular change together with a few other changes…

…we made an oopsie. A few thousand kills (out of tens of thousands of kills we get every month) caused data confusion.

MrCue wrote to the moderator team:
The only fair solution to this issue was to initiate a recalculation for every single entity in the killboard. This takes between a few seconds for someone with only a few kills, to several minutes for someone with a few thousands kills.

The tool is churning away, recalculating every killboard entity. Its going to take several days to process this.

What we expect to happen is that as the killboard churns through the massive pile of data doing the recalculations (10 million killmails!) the rankings for players, corps, and alliances will stabilize by this weekend.

(Source: http://www.battleclinic.com/news/88375-Killboard-recalculations-in-progress.html)

It seems that for now, it’s best to take a “wait and see” approach before getting too upset. I look forward to the updated results and – if all other elements are held constant – I might even move up with the suicide ganking penalties applied to pilots above me.

However, the Battle Clinic operators are not only changing the way suicide ganks work, they mentioned that it was “one of” the areas they were adjusting. Some have suggested that kills where NPCs have any involvement will be devalued, which is going to hit belt-hunting pilots while leaving kills from gate camps or fleet battles unaffected.

Additionally, there seems to be more to the story:

Ok so I mentioned we’re thinking about a re-write of the points. There’s an emphasis here on “thinking about” not “doing” just yet, because that is a huge undertaking. Rest assured, if we did get ambitious enough to do such a thing, we’ll involve you!

Thanks for reading all the way down here. Your support means everything to us.

Fly safe, Fight Smart!

(Source: http://www.battleclinic.com/news/88375-Killboard-recalculations-in-progress.html)

The Battle Clinic team is clearly considering a full revision. My hope is that, if they head down this path, that they uphold their promise to request and consider player input.

Longing for Low-Sec :: 1 Hour of Yarr

Posted in Piracy, Solo PvP on May 23, 2010 by Easley Thames

To handle some personal logistics, I had to make a trip to empire on my main.

I simply couldn’t resist stopping in Yong, the system where my solo piracy was so successful it eventually became the corporation’s blueprint for casual pvp ops (between 0.0 deployments).

I started by undocking in a well-tanked Myrmidon, and I was pleased to see an Iteron V follow behind me. I popped the hauler before it could re-dock, but the loot was a disappointment.

I docked up to wait off GCC before scouting nearby systems. Next door in Gemodi I played a game of chicken with two Stimulus  pilots in drakes. If they had GCC’d my Myrmidon it would have been a thrilling 2v1, but they didn’t want to tank sentry guns apparently. Not being an outlaw still feels strange to me.

I had to travel out of low-sec for a while but I was able to sort my business in short order. Upon my return to the Yong system, I noticed two cruisers on scan, an omen and rupture. Both were named after their pilots (typically a sign of ineptitude) and this allowed me to discern their corporation from local info. After re-shipping out of a travel-friendly shuttle, I narrowed them down to a belt and warped in with a plated hurricane.

Even though both ships were on scan at 5 degrees towards the belt, only the rupture was on-grid when I landed. Coming out of warp only 5km from him, I was able to scramble and web the cruiser before activating my weapons and deploying drones. My target locked me back almost immediately and returned fire. I was also pointed.

When the Omen joined the fight, the rupture was 50% into armor and dieing fast enough that I was certain I would prevail with ease. My concern in situations like this is that other pilots will come to the aid of my targets, not that I will actually lose to the ships I’ve decided to engage.

Knowing there were two targets, I had fit my cane with lots of tackle, I put my disruptor on the Omen while keeping my scram and web on the Rupture.  When the rupture died, I switched my close-range tackle and weapons to the omen, which died shortly after.

After waiting off my GCC, I ran a few other errands in high-sec and logged off. If I had more time, I would have continued the killing spree, but I have some exciting plans tomorrow and I wanted to have at least a fair amount of sleep.

Reflecting on these events: I had a fair bit of fun in only one hour (roughly). In my experience, solo pvp is not as hard to seek out as some make it out to be. The key is visiting regions where people actually live or travel through. Deep 0.0 ratting space full of macro-ravens does not make for great solo hunting (unless your name is Monkeysphere).

With their home taken away, many of the former providence residents are living in low-sec and there were many great targets around.

I actually tackled a BS in a belt, but he was stabbed. After watching him warp off casually – despite being pointed – I got to experience the joy of waiting out my GCC before doing anything else.

I think the one area where CCP could improve low-sec for the outlaws would be to lower our GCCs to 5 or 10 minutes. Your GCC constantly resets as long as you are aggressing someone, so the only real difference with a 15-minute timer is that it makes you bounce safe-spots longer after a fight (even if your target gets away).

I will be cloning up North shortly, but my quick visit to low-sec reminded me just how much I’ve missed solo hunting away from the blob wars. If I can find the time, I will definitely try to visit my favorite low-sec (and NPC 0.0) hunting spots again very soon.

Atlas Shrugged:: What It Means for The War

Posted in Atlas Alliance, IT Alliance, North versus South, Renters on May 21, 2010 by Easley Thames

Much has been made of Atlas’s withdrawal from the northern theater. While Bobby’s misgivings about the “SC” invasion are not held by him alone, it’s important to remember that the internal politics of Atlas are rather different from either IT or -A- (despite the opinion of some in the north who like to paint Atlas as either an IT or -A- pet).

Atlas pays their bills with money obtained from rent. They’re slumlords to a wide array of alliances; some decent and some terrible. With poor resource density in most of their space, Atlas do not have he luxury of allowing all their renters to be slaughtered and move out.

Furthermore, Bobby and some others in Atlas do not have much love IT (or MVN who left Atlas to follow Molle into Fountain). IT Alliance is considered the lesser of two evils by Atlas, but they certainly don’t get fanatical member participation in our ops like they would fighting for assets at home or neighboring -A- space.

Atlas are much closer with -A- because these two alliances had their backs against the wall many times in 2009 and held their own against PL, Goons, Xdeath, Razor and more threatening to constantly hot-drop their tower-bashing ops. At one point, both PL and Razor had stationed a large dread fleet (with spares) in Curse strictly for dropping on Atlas. I remember the rise of Atlas to the status of South-Eastern regional hegemon with great fondness.

With Atlas out, I think many have ceased saying “just wait until the rest of our side shows up,” but that doesn’t mean the entire coalition is going home. In a small meeting of various alliance heads, the majority of alliances (including IT, -A- and ROL) decided to stay in the fight.

I think the best thing that could happen at this point would be for IT members to step up their game and prove they are capable of making a real showing. For our alliance size, deployments have been chronically under-sized.

As we are now, our “invasion” is more akin to a Triumvirate-like harassment campaign with the occasional moon grab than a credible, existential threat to the NC.

With problems at home in Delve and Fountain, IT’s position is not totally unalike that of Atlas. However, as this was our campaign, I think many are reticent to write it off so soon.

Eve history has some examples of one side suddenly making remarkable progress against a previously dominant opponent, but the NC has been strong on “fundamentals” like numbers, morale, alarm-clocking and capital/super capital deployments with no clear signs of cracking.

We’re still “up there” on the front and there have been some excellent fights. Soho Torres has been tenacious lately and – despite very obvious differences of opinion on fleet composition and tactics – he shares Molle’s unwillingness to surrender prematurely.

The NC seems juiced-up and has been trying to purge all hostile infrastructure with great haste. However, there have been many significant engagements in the US TZ with Soho and other Southern Alliance FCs unwilling to allow the NC to reinforce friendly infrastructure unopposed.

A short while ago, we flew a 70-man gang composed chiefly of RRBS into 150 hostiles and had a good old-fashioned slug-fest. Fights on this scale have been fought in KQK, X-7, H-W, UMI and many other systems in recent days.

While this campaign may not be the success it could have been thus far, improved coordination among SC alliances (and among SC leadership) will only benefit us in the long-run. It is important that we have this experience for the future because our enemies are not going to be any less-unified if we fight again (be it up north or down south).

The worst part of Atlas leaving the north wasn’t really the loss of manpower. In my opinion, it was the loss of faith from a key ally. That can’t be measured in k/d ratios or efficiency.

Ultimately, the fighting has not ended and there has been no orders to evacuate assets, but if we want to claim more than the occasional Pyrrhic victory up north, I cannot see us continuing like this for long without coming up with an entirely new strategy.