Friday 30 August 2013

Farewell to TEST

Dear Test

Gosh this is a hard post to write.

Dear Test Allaince

Gahh, that's still not it.

Dear, darling, Test

The topic came up a couple of weeks ago that if I ever had to choose between my corp and alliance it would be a really tough choice to make. It has and it is.

I've had an amazing time with Test, both as an ally in Aug-Dec last year and as a member of first Dawww then the alliance from Feb this year. Not only have I had the enormously enjoyable time of being a line member as we've created some of the most dramatic and exciting content nullsec has ever seen but you've been gracious enough to endure my bumbling development as a newbie fleet commander.

Now FCs famously have hide of Teflon and hearts of stone but I'll share a secret - inside we are, all of us, deeply aware of how privileged we are to be trusted with hours of other people's time in the quest for fun and victory. Thank you everyone who's come on one of my fleets, I've had a blast hurling you around the spaceways and we've got some pretty exciting kills. (Blowing up Vince Drakken's battleship in talwars then warping us all out just as his outraged alliance in blinged out ships was landing on grid to try to save him is right up there!)

My deepest memory of course is the laughter. So many utterly hilariously moments, from the day I took a newbro into a wormhole to rat in drakes, we got ganked, went back in and begged salvage rights off the w-guys then came out with a few precious nanoribbons and he said I"VE NEVER BEEN SO SCARED IN MY LIFE! To the recurrent drake jokes, the Kurator banter and so many golden moments.

It's farewell but please please do say hi if you see me about, even if - no, especially if - one of us blows each other up.

Take care and best wishes. And thank you so very much.

Monday 26 August 2013

The next great nullsec war

Mord Fiddle believes that the future of nullsec's economy centres around the rise of renter empires.

I believe the next Great War will be a contest to become the premier purveyor of rented systems and that the first campaign will be fought on forums and news sites while an irrelevant sov war is fought.

Successful nullsec empires are always built on a solid bedrock of isk revenue. The Technetium revenues pre-Odyssey allowed Pandemic Legion and the CFC to rise to the top, helped by the OTEC agreement.

-A- have consistently proved able to bounce back from defeat by running missions in Stain until they get an opening to attack the sov of whoever displaced them. Currently owing to the dissolution of first the HBC then the Dinner Squadron they're pushing towards Period Basis. After a solid win against Tribal Band and a small Test presence last night they took Tribe's staging system, trapping assets and securing what must be the decisive victory.

There are now several south west regions completely ripe for the taking: Delve, which any day will see Test finally drop sov, Period Basis and Paragon Soul, currently being evacuated by Tribe, Catch, formally abandoned by Initiative, Impass, abandoned by EMP

It won't all go to the Darkness and Despair/-A- bloc - some of the Dinner Squad's old territory in Feythabotholis has been picked up by N3 and some minor CFC-friendly entities have picked up small parts of Delve already but most will.

So when all the unopposed structure grinding is over we'll see 3 major blocs: PL/N3, CFC and the russians in the south west.

Now nullsec wars work on a straightforward principle: if at all possible you pick a target you're sure you can beat. As the CFC and the N3/PL bloc are fairly evenly matched that suggests the target of both is likely to be the Russians who may find themselves attacked on two fronts and driven once more back to Stain to regroup.

But meanwhile another far subtler war will be fought - a battle for hearts and minds, for superior branding and higher market share over the latest hot commodity in nullsec: renters.

The Goons are starting a long way behind. For years they've derided the notion of renters and claimed that having subservients in the community is a fundamental flaw. They've also built a considerable economy around scamming prospective renters with skilled scammers taking a large security deposit, persuading the mark to pack everything they own into a freighter for "escort" to their new home, only to get killed and looted 2 jumps in.

So in the shadows of a ship v ship sov conquest war we will see the beginnings of the next great war take place on the boards of the Eve O forums, on /r/eve, FCed by the spinmasters of

The first TMC articles have been attempts to convince line member goons not to screw up the new system by shooting renters, depose Mittens or ragequit Eve. The next step is to convince the Eve public that enlightened self-interest suggests that renting from the CFC is better than renting from N3/PL.

They have a few things in their favour:
- TMC is very popular and taken as truth by many Eve players (for the most part it is truth, the spin is subtle and generally well disguised).
- they have better rats - Serpentis and Guristas are much better rats than Angels and Drones.
- they have better ice - Caldari and Gallente ice in nullsec are more or less exclusive to CFC space - yes, they interdict the ice in high sec they mine in null!
- they have very good awoxers and cloaky campers. If they start trying to make opponent space hard on renters they will put players in to screw with PL and N3 renters, likely in anonymised alt corps.

So even though they're starting a long way behind if PL and N3 focus on good fights space brawls or even sov grinds they will eventually lose their position as the safest entity to rent from in nullsec.

Unless they in turn develop mastery in the metagame.

Thursday 15 August 2013

The burden of democracy

Democracy is a core part of our values as Westerners coming from the cultures we do. TEST alliance, which is based on the grass roots and permissive Reddit forum underlines those values further, as does the largely American base of the alliance with their written constitutional guarantees of free speech.

However there's two obvious prices you pay for operating as a democracy in Eve - 1) slow decision-making and 2) vulnerability to hostile agents.

As The Mittani once put it:

Abhor Democracy, Mistrust Reason: Most of the western world is governed by ‘representative democracies’ of one flavor or another. In practice, most of these are republics or simple plutocracies, but when players come to EVE they often try to recreate democratic governments as their first structures, as they have been taught that ‘democracy is good’ while blind to the fact that their real-world country is not actually a democracy. Similarly, there are some who believe that human behavior is governed by ‘reason’, despite decades of research into cognitive flaws. If you encounter someone so misguided as to actually believe in ‘democracy’ or ‘reason’ in EVE, run. Or, more likely, take them for everything they’re worth.

There's another more insidious evil too: internet arguing.

(With credit to XKCD)

TEST suffered huge burnout during the Fountain War and has a history of burning out its talent. Not only that but when people leave they are often bitter. Kurator, heroic defender of Fountain, who at one point during the campaign put in a 50 hour FCing stint left TEST to gatecamp our exit from Delve and take bitter revenge on the evacuees. (Although to my immense satisfaction I did get to use the words "Kurator is primary" yesterday when we blew up his Slasher).

TEST's next best hope, in my opinion, rests in its stated intent to transition to the campaign commander model used by Pandemic Legion. In this model for the duration of a campaign the FC in charge essentially runs the alliance. I'm given to understand they run it completely - one campaign commander even threatened to disband the alliance recently after people were playing particularly badly.

I'm really not sure TEST quite has prepared for the consequences of this. For example if someone's running a campaign (as Kurator was) and people start getting political, this can't be done, that can't be done, under the new model will the FC be able to sack them and replace them with someone more compliant. Because what a military leader needs is obedience not analysis, he's not telling you to do something because he wants your views on whether it should be done, he's simply telling you to just do it.

TEST has a culture of undermining its leaders. Recently Boodabooda, our CEO, kicked a disruptive player. When he woke up the next day that player was back in TEST, someone had just invited him back in. That led to a storm of argument and mudslinging that seems the main cause of some of our best FCs burning out, notably DingoGS. This kind of internal drama is inevitable when people who are not in charge feel able to exercise executive authority.

So the question for the next few weeks is can Eve's main Reddit guild get over its love of arguing on the internet to focus on playing Eve effectively?

Monday 12 August 2013

My day

I've actually found Eve really good fun today. (but don't tell Gevlon!)

I scouted my carrier to a beacon but a red logged in on the beacon while I alt tabbed, I landed on the beacon and got pointed by a RIOT stealth bomber. He cynoed in two dreads who sieged and began to melt me. He then released the point and I warped to an asteroid belt in low armour making two safes on the way, turned the bus round and warped back to the safes. No idea why he took his point off, bet he had fun explaining it to his buddies.

I FCed a convoy that hit a Boob wall in 1-Smeb, Me and some of the tankier dudes went in and wrecked bubbles while the others hid aligned in a safe. Killed Iwishiwasawookie in a dic and 2 large mobile IIs for the price of a condor and an ibis. Then got the rest through.

Did a 2 hour Silentmajority bombing fleet and killed a couple of pizza.

Got bombed by odell the multiboxer and lost a vexor.

I got to test out my headbutt doctrine idea doing a combat wing in a combo combat/convoy fleet that flew rings around RIOT in 6q- (I waited them out in RCI, they jumped in, we cross-jumped killed their broadsword and escaped for the loss of a couple of rather unwanted half-fit battleships. Convoy then went on to engage and kill kurator's bubbles again while nados sniped rather ineffectively and we got the convoy wing into warp the moment the last bubble went down, deaggressing and jumping into sakht and escaping (i was in structure).

Then did a convoy that got the rolls royce bridge treatment and sailed carefree into our new home while dozens of people in delve wondered where we were and if we were coming like a fat 15 year old on her first date.

Friday 2 August 2013

What next for nullsec?

With the CFC's stunning finish to the hard-fought Fountain war denizens of sov null are waiting with keen interest to see what they will do next. The ball is firmly in their court.

In the Test camp there's some speculation on what we might do if kicked out of Delve but overall most of us are still up for a fight. Considerable reserves of ships are available and we're using the lull to recover our isk balances for Round Two.

Most analysts expect the CFC to move in for the kill but I think there's good reason to think they may not do this.

Let's consider things from their perspective.

1) First priority is never to take on a war they might lose. The Fountain invasion was launched at a time when Test was in full war with NC. and when PL was increasingly distracted by the upcoming Alliance Tournament. At one point things looked shakey for them with Test/N3/PL rolling back the gains made from Sort Dragon's selling out of his PL friends but a shrewd if expensive deal with BL allowed them to bring Razor alliance down to add weight and skill to their campaign. Razor's expert nado camp of the Karan undock was a significant contributor to CFC ascendancy in the late stages of the war.

The Delve campaign would see PL out of tournament mode and in the market for a fight. Meanwhile look at NC.'s position. They moved away from Fountain to prosecute a war with ROGUE alliance. As you see from the map of Cobalt Edge once NC. finishes conquering ROGUE that puts them right up to the CFC's eastern border, adjacent to Razor space. SOLAR has also been beaten back into submission again.

So the lineup for round 2, instead of a desultory and halfhearted effort in Fountain by the people allying with Test could see them launching their own campaign on the CFC's flank. The CFC management can't want to commit as deeply to Delve as they did in Fountain knowing how open it would leave them in the East.

2) Isk considerations.

While the biggest financial hardship of the campaign was almost certainly suffered by Test several of the CFC pets became seriously poor. Alliances like Li3 forbade pilots to go home to make isk, everyone had to be deployed for pvp or get kicked. Many of these newer alliances had not had the time or the financial skill to build up the kind of isk that Goons had. They may not be ready to redeploy so soon.

3) The supercap disadvantage.

 PL + N3 + Test massively outweigh the CFC super fleet, and would do so even with BL support. Therefore all CFC strategy has to be based around the notion that they can't deploy supers where there's a real risk of escalation. That means they can't deploy supers where there's a risk of subcap parity. Now they were able to deploy supers in the end stages of the Fountain campaign after NC. and PL withdrew. However with those two entities potentially willing to take a super fight they have to look at the logistics of moving supers into an already begun fight.

If a fight has max tidi local time moves at 10% speed. That means that if PL and NC. log on and move their ships several cynos across the universe to join in a fight in Delve taking 30 minutes the FCs on the field have just 3 subjective minutes to manoeuvre their forces to safety. The dynamics of marshalling reinforcements into a tidi-ed fight are like a turn-based game where one player takes 10 turns every time his opponent takes one turn.

And we saw in Fountain that sides don't get through a contested sov campaign very fast without supers. The front barely moved until the CFC felt able to use them.

4) "We've got them where we want them"

TEST in Delve is a known quantity for the CFC. Highly raidable, a source of continuous pvp entertainment without being a genuine threat. A TEST liberated from the shackles of sovereignty could go anywhere, likely moving somewhere as annoying as possible from a CFC perspective (like NPC Venal or Fountain).

Or Test could frustrate the CFC by moving miles away to Curse or Great Wildlands, or to faction war, where the CFC would lose the chance to fight us. And be left with the consequences of having blued everyone for 12 regions.

In my opinion (which is very much a minority one in Test) I wouldn't mind seeing an end to the Goon/Test "forever war" which is pretty ludicrous considering that they are 30k people and we're 12k people (sometimes helped by allies). I'd much prefer a Goon/N3 forever war that we could poke our noses into when it suited us.

Elsewhere in nullsec the Legion of XDeath has driven SOLAR underground (almost certainly temporarily), the Russians of DnD/-A- are slowly rolling over The Dinner Squadron and may be pushing Tribe space soon and everything else is ruled by either the CFC or the N3/PL pact. We're not quite at the blue doughnut stage but we are getting close to there only being two sides in nullsec.