Archive for October, 2011

The Five Most Destructive Alliances of All Time :: A Short Review of the Data

Posted in Against All Authorities, Eve History, Killboard Stats on October 24, 2011 by Easley Thames

While bored at work, I decided to construct a simple table comparing the most destructive alliances of all time. The data is taken from Battle Clinic, which is the largest and oldest-running kill mail database available to Eve players.

This table includes the top 5 ranked alliances on Battle Clinic (based on their all-time rank). Though Battle Clinic rankings are based on kill-points, I find that the most interesting data is the overall amount of kills, losses, and isk damage caused by each alliance.

A note about “BC” rankings. Battle Clinic ranking is based off “kill points,” not the raw isk value of kills.

For example, killing a T2 frigate in another T2 frigate is worth 20 points, while killing that same T2 frigate in a battle-ship is worth much less points, even though the isk value of the kill is the same in both cases. This system is supposed to judge the difficulty of a kill, and in most cases it works well.

Sharing a kill with multiple players spreads the value out, so solo kills are the most valuable. This tends to benefit alliances that have many small-gang and soloist pilots.

Of the top-5 alliances, it’s easy to see why each of them are there:

(1) AAA has held down the top spot for years. While AAA’s current enemies in the DRF tend to portray AAA as cockroaches that refuse to die after losing space, the truth is that sovereignty is a secondary priority for most AAA pilots.

AAA has maintained an almost compulsive small-gang roaming culture with multiple gangs across multiple timezones since their formation.

That tradition is very much alive today, and the alliance is now more active than ever in the U.S. timezone, in large part due to the addition of  The Maverick Navy’s fleet commanders.

Looking closely at the numbers, the sheer volume of kills by AAA pilots tells the whole story. The kill total is un-matched by any of the other alliances listed, and this tells me that AAA has been constantly involved in fighting.

AAA has more kills than the all-time #2 and #3 ranked alliance combined, and is – in that sense – the most destructive.

(2) The Privateers. Ah yes, the greatest terrors of high-sec. These campers regularly scored mission-fit battleship kills with small groups, which is an excellent kill-point generation strategy.

You can see the relatively low number of losses for Privateers, which is evidence of the well known fact that their prey is mostly unsuspecting high-sec fodder. However, the lack of large-scale battles means less overall kills as well.

Privateers also suffer in the isk damage category, largely because you cannot score high-value capital and super-capital kills in empire. I guess ganking in Jita has to have some drawbacks to it.

(3) Triumvarite, the phoenix that keeps burning itself out, only to rise again.

This alliance, which can be considered the precursor to Northern Coalition(dot) of today, was a nasty menace that kept a much larger norther force on their heels for months at a time, periodically disbanding when the e-peen of involved parties got in the way of operating a single alliance.

Triumvarite was well known for both small gang roaming and ganking capitals, both of which generate copious kill-points.

Unlike privateers, who took very few risks, you can see from the numbers that Tri definitely took heavier losses as a result of fighting an organized opponent while out-numbered.

(4) Pandemic Legion, the game’s one true king-maker for hire, and the force whose fittings and tactics have been most heavily imitated in the last two years.

I expected that, being the game’s most successful super-cap killers, their isk destruction total would be very high, and it is. PL is only 5 trillion isk behind AAA, despite killing roughly half as many ships.

PL certainly has a healthy kill-point generation source in large battles, where they are generally un-matched, but perhaps they are not quite as active between major battles.

Since PL is well-known for playing other games actively (like myself), I think this is probably explains what we see reflected in the data.

(5) Stain Empire is a tough group of Southerners with a long-held regional alliance with Coven and AAA. These Southern alliances tend to place a strong emphasis on roaming and casual pvp, which is reflected in their strong overall ranks.

Much like AAA, Stain Empire appears to care more about fun battles than holding space. SE is even more extreme in this regard than its neighbors, and they have proven they are perfectly content to live in the NPC-owned Stain region.

During the invasion by the DRF, which caused a massive wave of counter-balancing, Stain Empire stuck to its principles and temporarily reset many of its allies to keep the kill-mails flowing.

The stand-out statistic here is the fact that SE has apparently caused 68.3 trillion in damage, which is more than twice the next closest  total. Unless there are fake mails involved, that means AAA trails SE with 31.4 trillion destroyed, despite killing more than twice as many ships.

This amount is larger than the sum total of PL, Tri, and Privateer’s totals. Without going out-side the top-5 ranked alliances, this feat is un-matched and makes SE a strong outlier.

Stain Empire – at first glance – seems to be the single most destructive alliance in Eve history.

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The Super-Cap Gap

Posted in Eve History, Fleet Tactics on October 5, 2011 by Easley Thames

These days, everyone is talking about super capitals. The DRF is mass-producing them, the South wishes they had more of them, and the Goons wish they were never put into the game.

These ships have become the single most important factor in determining who controls null sec territory, and they seem to have cornered the market on frustration & butt-hurt at a time when customer satisfaction with CCP is at critically low levels.

Because of the high damage of fighter bombers, which require no ammo or energy from the host ship, super carriers have been firmly cemented as the new bulldozers for sovereignty infrastructure.

Compared to dreadnaughts, super carriers have far better offensive and defensive capabilities, with none of the built-in disadvantages that dreads bring.

Super carriers, like titans, have full e-war immunity at all times. Unlike dreads, they don’t need to siege to obtain this immunity, and therefore it is much harder catch them with their pants down in the same manner that often happened to dread fleets.

While in siege mode, dreads can be killed even by a comparatively small number of sub-capital ships. This is because dreads in siege mode cannot receive remote repair, dock, or jump.

This was a great way to balance the behemoth tower-killers of yore. No such balancing mechanic exists for super carriers. Super carriers are far from helpless against sub-caps thanks to their drone bay, fighters, remote ECM burst, and considerable buffer tank.

And then there are the titans.

There is no other ship class that has caused so many problems in the history of eve. Titans have been broken since release, and every change has simply replaced one game-breaking super-weapon with another game-breaking super-weapon.

Titans have never been fun to fight against. Originally, they could remotely AOE ships from another system through a cyno. In those days, they didn’t even have to jump through to set off the weapon.

Later, they were forced to jump through in order to deliver the doomsday, so people started bring “waves” of titans to ensure it wasn’t possible for anything to survive and tackle the titan.

Now, with titans being something like a super-capital sized battleship, people are not bringing a handful titans in waves before quickly hiding them, they are dropping dozens of them at a time on everything that moves.

And why not? It’s not as if there is any risk involved with dropping 50 titans, unless of course there are 51 titans nearby who are ready to counter you. Some refer to this as the “n + 1” counter.

Titans not only reduce capital fleets to ash, they also have an equally strong impact on key sub-capitals ships. Titans can turn a “sub-cap advantage” into a long list of loss mails rather quickly unless you have obscene odds in your favor.

The common retort when discussing the primacy of supers in 0.0 is a two word reply, “cyno jammers,” as if these were an easy counter to sustain 23/7.

All it takes is an unannounced form-up by the enemy in your weak timezone, and rather quickly the jammer will be gone, usually too fast for a coalition to communicate and respond with sufficient force.

The enemy can jump in their supers and dominate the system from then on. If they need to log, they can log in system, and erecting a new jammer will do nothing to eject the supers who have already made it in.

Once you have hostile supers logged in a system, they will be able to log them in unpredictably to take down any new jammers. They can also cause all kinds of other misery for you.

Even if you could protect your jammers 23/7 and lock-in your own supers to crush invaders, you will have to cycle the jammer eventually to move your own caps into the system. Otherwise, the enemy could simply hit every other system first while you hide under a single jammer.

The bottom line is that a determined attacker will get their supers on-field if they want it badly enough.

To make matters worse, an incapacitated jammer prevents the anchoring of a replacement, so the defenders will have to repair or destroy their own busted jammer before they can re-jam the system.

So when speaking of “jammers,” remember that they are not an invincible on/off switch that the defender can flip at will, it is simply another pos module that can be taken out in a variety of ways.

Currently, supers are getting a ton of attention, and with good reason.

One of the things that makes Eve interesting is the room for creativity and innovation in fleet warfare. At the sub-capital level, this kind of evolution in tactics and fittings has always been alive and well.

Even when carriers and dreads started being used in large numbers, there was a huge space for diversity in tactics and fittings (e.g. – sniper dreads, brawler dreads, pantheon carriers, triage carrier rotations).

In those days, any good capital strategy involved using sub-caps as well, and losing all of your support often meant your destruction.

What made the capital ship class interesting was that – while powerful – they were also very vulnerable. Triage mode and siege mode present a HUGE risk. This is a TRADEOFF you make for more power.

Super capitals are not forced to choose between power and safety. A large group of supers are very safe on any battlefield.

Even against a larger group of supers, inadequate log-off mechanics ensure that you are likely to save the majority of your fleet in the case of a well-executed trap.

Supers represent a dead-end. There is no reason to specialize in anything else, and there are no counters to be found in other ship classes.

I realize people have killed supers with 200-300 suicidal gank-fit sub caps before. This is fun and I cheer along with everyone else when “welp fleet” takes down a super carrier, but this is not a counter that will allow a side with less supers to win a major battle, it’s more like harassment, and it only works under specific conditions.

Instead of a “rock, paper, scissors” situation (example: armor hacs v. alpha BS v. Tengus), or a Achilles heel situation (example: siege mode for dreads), we have a class of ships that have no weaknesses.

When the only direct counter for a ship/class/character/team is more of that ship/class/character/team, this is the essence of a broken game mechanic.

Right now, a majority of the super-cap heavy alliances are part of the same coalition.

This coalition, lead by the Drone Region Russians, was formed for a singular purpose: the destruction of the Northern Coalition.

To this end, Raiden (ex-BoB) and NCdot (ex-Tri) joined hands with the heavily Russian DRF. By this time, the DRF already included Red Alliance, Legion of xXDeathXx, Solar Fleet, White Noise, Intrepid Crossing, Red Legion, The Jagged Alliance, Controlled Chaos, and others.

Pandemic Legion, the largest super-cap force in the game, once again played “king-maker” here, joining the Russians and their comrades in exchange for a hefty sum.

At first, I was cheering for the NC to finally meet their end, as were nearly all of us in MVN, but soon I began to wonder if it really was such a good thing for the game to see a large care-bear oriented bloc that was notorious for welcoming new players removed entirely.

Combined with a null-sec income nerf, and the introduction of high-paying incursions, there was little reason for the bears residing in the North to fight and reclaim their space.

The result was more people playing in empire, which means less targets for everyone other than Privateers & The Orphanage.

It would have been fine if the replacement for the NC were simply a number of smaller coalitions, but what we got was another mega-bloc.

With the NC defeated, PL went back to playing better games than Eve, and they reset standings until they are needed again.

However, the rest of the coalition has remained intact, despite the lack of any existential threat to the DRF or any real re-consolidation of the NC to be found anywhere.

Next, the majority of the coalition that was necessary to pry the NC from the North was leveraged against AAA, and the other “Southern” alliances. Ostensibly, this conflict also involved the residents of the entire Southwest, among whom are several ex-NC entities.

I can say with confidence that very few supers are being built in the South right now. Some corps are crazier than others in this regard, but everyone feels the impending doom of the DRF and their new allies.

It isn’t really a mystery why Raiden and NCdot kept the DRF blue, they want to beat up on a weaker coalition more than they want to worry about defending their own space right now.

Their choices were to attack West into Deklein, attack east into IRC space, or bandwagon with White Noise & RA against AAA in the South. Considering the stomping the Russians took in 46DP, I can only imagine that the Russians were pleading for help at that point.

So, predictably, the groups that once resented the NC for having “too many blues” decided to keep their new mega-bloc standings intact and go South.

Down here, they have been helping White Noise take revenge for the CSAA’s AAA destroyed, and to “reclaim” space that White Noise took from AAA to begin with.

Initially, the war was going well for AAA and friends. Red Alliance + White Noise + xxDeathxx + Controlled Chaos + Ultima Ratio were a good match for AAA + ROL + Nulli + Cascade/Atlas + Nulli.

Relatively even wars are conducive to large battles where super-caps are frequently deployed on both sides. Epic battles ensue, and fun is had by all. The brawl that took place in 46DP is a great example of this.

Victories under relatively-even conditions feel earned, and tend to make for great stories to write about. These are also the kinds of stories that draw new players to the game.

On the other hand, one-sided wars raise the stakes of using supers too high for the weaker bloc. While easier for the conqueror, these wars harm morale on both sides because there is no suspense, and even fewer enjoyable fights.

With the alliances currently tied to the DRF remaining blue, and the power of supers unchecked, we effectively have a uni-polar world on Tranquility right now.  This means new coalitions are unlikely to be able to break into 0.0, and the current blocs not-allied with the DRF exist only at their mercy.

This situation does not provide much fun for current players, and worse yet, it doesn’t draw in new players into 0.0 – or even to playing the game in the first place.

The Dominion experiment has failed, perhaps even more spectacularly than the Incarna expansion.

I don’t consider it a stretch to say that a super-capital imbalances between major power blocs are bad for the game itself. Dominance by one power bloc, which is made possible by an ever-growing growing super-capital majority, inevitably contributes to apathy.

This is the super-cap gap that many people, myself included, consider game-breaking.

When people feel that logging in doesn’t matter, they are more likely to move on to other games. This is bad for everyone involved, regardless of who won and lost in their most recent campaigns.

Right now, when all the supers in the game are counted up, the DRF and their allies simply have too many toys, especially if you count PL on their side.

Everything mentioned so far is common knowledge. I think CCP, the players, and even the non-Eve-playing gaming media are aware that there are balance problems with this game right now.

What hasn’t been discussed adequately is how to fix things.

First off, a political solution could be reached that breaks the DRF into at least two smaller parts. This would be a temporary fix to the problems caused by the super-cap gap, but it doesn’t access the root of the problem.

Most importantly, this kind of political solution is something only players could control, since I don’t believe CCP is creative or ballsy enough to come up with a way to penalize players for having large blue lists.

Additionally, any temporary reset between group like NCdot and their Russian comrades is likely to be temporary. Any serious threat to either side would lead to a renewed bandwagon.

Second, supers could be nerfed. This is something CCP has already come to terms with, and I suspect a poll of every player in 0.0 would heavily favor this outcome. The only question is, how.

Right now on singularity, titans cannot doomsday sub-capital ships. This is the first step towards balancing titans, and by far the most needed change.

Titans currently get “rooted” for 30 seconds after firing their doomsday weapon, which is only a minor limitation, but they also cannot cloak or jump out of the system for 10 minutes. These restrictions are still present on singularity, but they have not been increased, which has come as a disappointment to some players.

The real problem with the current “penalties” associated with the doomsday weapon is that they make dropping a single titan on a hostile target (like a ratting carrier or jump freighter using a cyno beacon) hazardous for that one pilot, but they do not make large titan fleets any less safe when deployed together.

In order for 50 titans on grid to worry about their 10-minute timers, they would need to be in danger to begin with. Making them stick around is only a penalty if there is a chance that someone stands a chance of killing them.

So what’s still missing?

Titans need to be more vulnerable to sub-cap fleets. The DD target nerf is a huge step, but turret-based titans need to be unable to chew through hostile battleship fleets like they do. Nerf them all to the level of the Leviathan, which can only harm other capitals with its launchers.

I think that dreads also need a major boost in damage, effectively making them a viable counter to supers if you can resign yourself to losing them in large numbers.

My biggest question is, what about the super carriers?

Super carriers are cheap compared to titans, and they out-class both carriers AND dreads in every way.

I think a dread buff would go a long way to indirectly nerfing super carriers, since they share the role of anti-capital and anti-structure powerhouse. However, that doesn’t seem sufficient to me.

Some have proposed limiting super carriers to fighters and bombers, removing the ability to launch other drones. I don’t think this really gets to the heart of the problem. Having only fighters for killing sub-caps and only bombers for killing capitals would not be particularly limiting.

I personally favor a hit point nerf, reducing them to about 5x the EHP of a carrier instead of their current form (which is around 12-15x times the EHP of a carrier).

As an example, a Thanatos has 125k armor while a Nyx has over a million armor, with more slots to add tank. Supers are usually dead-space tanked as well, while carriers get t2 or faction at best.

There is another more radical change that I support. I am a proponent of removing e-war immunity for super carriers and titans.

What better way to reign in the power of super capitals than to allow well-coordinated teams of e-war specialists to dampen, disrupt, jam, scramble, and web these behemoths.

It only seems fair that titans should be vulnerable to tracking disruption since they can benefit from remote tracking links. It only seems fair that super should be vulnerable to dampening since remote sensor boosting works on them.

I would absolutely love to see a smart group of players beat an over-confident super-cap fleet using ewar and superior tactics. Perhaps a group of sniper dreads supported by dampening from a large sub-cap fleet (all of which fitting a phased muon dampener) would be able to pull off an incredible victory.

Isn’t that kind of scenario the stuff that makes for great player videos and great stories? I think it is, and I also think it’s time to move away from a model where the side with the most supers always wins.

This change would also make it possible to keep supers tackled with sub-capitals, even if they clear away all hostile dictors. Bubblers would still be important though, since it’s hard to individually point a large number of ships.

Finally, I think it’s time for one more major change to the game, longer log-off timers for capital and super-capital ships.

Right now, a side that commits large numbers of supers to a battle can simply log them all off when things start to go south. Sure, they will lose a few of them, as the DRF did in 46DP, but the majority of the fleet will survive.

What we need to do is move from a universal 15-minute log-off timer (before the ship disappears from space after logging) to a tiered system.

I would suggest that all sub-capital ships disappear, as they do now, in 15 minutes. I think that capitals (carriers, dreads, rorquals, etc.) should disappear in 30 minutes. Most importantly, I favor a 60 minute timer for super-capitals to disappear.

If you commit supers, I want logging them off to be suicidal. Your choices should be to clear away tacklers and escape, fight to the end, or defeat the enemy. No more of this “logoffski” crap, it’s a giant source of blueballs and a crutch for bad fleet commanders.

Best Spam Comment Ever

Posted in World of Tanks on October 3, 2011 by Easley Thames

So, like most bloggers, I get a ton of spam comments on my posts. In most cases, companies do this for SEO purposes.

These posts typically get caught by Akismet, and I delete them in bulk without a second thought. After all, who wants to visit some shady drug peddling website.

However, today I spotted a particularly humorous one, and I felt compelled to share:

In any case, I plan to be a bit more active in October, so there should be a bit more content coming from me soon.

I have been busy IRL, and all my gaming time is currently going towards grinding for the tier 10 heavy tanks in WoT.

As soon as I have the T30 unlocked I will be done grinding.

Update: Best search engine term that brought someone to my blog —