Saturday 30 January 2016

For those about to blog.. we salute you.

I mentioned in my last post that a Blog Banter can be a good way to start blogging and I'm writing this post with the hope of encouraging new Eve bloggers.

Blogging can be really good fun and it's a personal soapbox where you get to shout your opinions out to the rest of the community. It creates a personal history, like a diary, I can use the sidebar to see where my head was at regarding this game in 2009 because I blogged about it back then. It gives peer review of your ideas which can help you refine them into better ideas.

Let me briefly mention what blogging is not:

- blogging is not a way to make money.

- blogging is not a way to become "space important."

- blogging is not a way to keep secrets. Don't put stuff you're not supposed to tell people in your blog.

- blogging is not a way to farm upvotes on reddit. A typical blog link gets downvoted to oblivion, there are about 3 exceptions to this, all very well established bloggers.

So where should you start?

Most blogging posts are one of two kinds: a soapbox post (eg offgrid links are EVIL!) or a diary post (today I lost my first Stork). Both kinds are fine.

Read other people's blogs with a view to what they are doing that you can also do. Some bloggers take extreme positions such as the Greedy Goblin, some people just churn it out with consistency and regularity like TAGN, some people are diarising the interesting gameplay they get up to like Cloaky Bastard.

It's really easy to start, just pick Blogger or Wordpress and take the defaults then publish. It's not really any harder than posting on a forum.

I suggest you start by writing for yourself. Do an article, then do another, then do another. Look at them, is this something you want to make part of your hobby?

If it is build an audience. Here's several ways to get people reading your blog.

- comment on other people's blogs. Many bloggers will click on interesting commenters and follow them back to their blogs.

- link selected posts on reddit. I definitely wouldn't make it a habit as it's demoralising to be downvoted but remember the people downvoting you are usually doing so for strategic reasons, as a way of gaming reddit, not anything personal.

- ask other bloggers to add you to their blog roll. If you reply to this I'll take a look and if I like your blog I'll add you. Don't be a pest, no one wants to be asked 50 times, you'll just get yourself blocked.

- write with consistency. Generally the most popular bloggers in the Eve community write daily. I don't, I don't want to work that hard nor am I worried about popularity but it works well for many bloggers.

- stay on topic. This is a rule I don't follow. If I wanted this blog to be more popular I'd stick with a topic, say FCing and publish only high quality articles that are relevant to people wanting that info. But the blog is for me more than for anyone else so if I want to sidetrack and write about something else I do it here. But that adds "noise" for people hoping to read something that interests them.

- get yourself added to Eve aggregator sites.
Please don't do this until you've stuck with it a couple of months.

Good luck and don't be timid about putting your views out there. It's what the internet is for!

BB71: Dear Santa. Thank you for all the presents!

A blog banter is a shared topic for bloggers to share their views about a controversial topic. BB71 goes as follows:

Too Many Ships Spoil the Sandpit?

We all like important internet spaceships right? The more spaceships the better right? Or are we getting too many to be easily to remember them all. A Mastodon on scan? That the hell is that and what does it do? Oh! Never mind!

Are we getting too many ships. Is it too complicated to remember them all and what their traits are? Do FC's these days need an encyclopedic knowledge of ship types unless they want their fleet to DIAF. With more and more ships being released each year will we ever reach "too many" or do you think there can never be too many important internet spaceship types?

Source: Blog Banter 71 - Too Many Ships Spoil the Sandpit?

You'll find a bunch of very good articles listed there from many of Eve's bloggers and, if you feel it's time you entered the discussion, start up a blog and post your thoughts, a blog banter is a good place for a new blogger to start.

This Banter seems to be seeing a general consensus that lots of ship complexity is a good thing although some bloggers admit to being rather befuddled by all the ships. Still you can be both befuddled by the complexity and still think it's a good part of the game.

For me the multiple ship types is part of what makes Eve an amazingly fun game. As a FC not only do I have to decide which ship type to fly (actually that's usually from quite a short list because for various operational reasons I like to fly the standardised doctrine fits from my corp) but also I have to assess support ships and I have to recognise and decipher an opponent's battle plan from the ships he has on field.

I'm going to use the rest of this post to talk about FC decision making and to show how Eve's rich range of ship types play into making that a complex and fascinating game with a high upside for mastery.

So a couple of nights ago I take a gang out. I decide to take Vexors for operational reasons - we had just deployed and an importer had earlier announced that he'd stuck a load of Vexors and Ospreys up on contract. I think it is a hallmark of a competent FC that he/she can run a fleet that isn't their own personal special snowflake brew, it's a trap for FCs to EFT some amazing fit and try to run that every fleet. So Vexors it is, not perhaps the strongest modern fleet comp but they apply well and kite well for cruisers.

Support is a key aspect of any fleet - how many Logi, how many Scouts, any special role ships. I would have loved a boosher but there wasn't one available so my support was 2 scouting Inties and 4 Logi cruisers.

We headed up the pipe towards Delve, passing a nullbear system which we shotgunned for a mining barge kill. Shotgunning systems in Vexors? One works with what one has. And it was in fact one of our inties that caught the miner.

As we neared Delve scouts reported a couple of cruisers, a couple of Canes and a Scimi. This is where I made a mistake.

A Scimitar is an expensive T2 logistics cruiser. In nullsec people don't usually fly them alone because the ship is much worse without anyone to rep it. This is generally true of all logistics because they don't rep themselves - if a gang has one logi then when we shoot the logi there are zero logi repping it. if a gang has two logi then when we shoot one they have one logi repping it etc. N minus one.

Hey ho I thought, a slightly smaller number of slightly higher quality ships, game on, let's brawl.

Then I made my second mistake. Numbers in Local chat increased as we jumped into them and started fighting and in my multitasking I missed this key indicator. Sure enough the rest of their 30 strong gang arrived on grid and I realised I'd made a complete cock up of this.

3 or 4 cruisers died, plus when I extracted we lost another on the way out. Not my best fleet.

Knowledge of ship types should have signalled me to get better intel and be more cautious. A Scimi? OK where's his friends? If I'd had one of my Inties check 2 systems ahead it would have found the rest of the gang and my group of a dozen cruisers would have tried to evade rather than taking the fight.

Later that evening I ran another fleet. This one worked out differently. I won this fight, it actually turned out to be a bit of a turkey shoot.

A gang had come, as gangs do, to the Pandemic Horde staging system in A2- in Querious. Ever see *Return of the Living Dead* where the zombie, after eating a policeman's brain, picks up the police radio and says "Send more cops?" That's what A2- is like these days. Please feel free to visit :)

I was planning to surprise them so I had my guys in Svipuls docked up, waiting for Horde to engage them. I knew that they might run so I had chosen my comp for the mobility and fighting power of the Svipul which I thought would do well against Battlecruisers. In fact when Horde undocked 30 Talwars they bizarrely decided to run. We undocked and, with our newbean friends, chased them to the outgate. They shed various members on the way, a Prophecy was tackled on our undock which I ignored, we killed a Blackbird on the outgate.

Here's where the difference between our type of ships and their type of ships really mattered.

I knew that even after a 60 second time-out due to our aggression we still had a great chance of catching the slow aligning, slow warping battlecruisers.

We caught them two jumps away in Ashmarir and belatedly they decided to take the fight. We lost one ship early then our Deacon logi - a new ship introduced in December - managed to stabilise us and we stopped losing ships. We killed a bunch of cruisers and battlecruisers while only losing the one ship. I was being backseated by an expert FC from PL who advised me to primary the Blackbirds first - a ship that can cause disruption out of all relation to its tankiness. Horde piled in in Talwars and helped us but frankly the battle was won. What was useful was that the opposing FC, despairing of killing our low sig high resist ships - Svipuls and Deacons - switched to the Horde Talwars and killed half a dozen of them, staying longer on field which was great for us as we were chewing through Battlecruisers. Thanks my Horde friends for your sacrifice!

I belatedly realised after the fight that perhaps I could have killed even more by deaggressing then chasing, depending on what route they took we could possibly have caught stragglers in another couple of jumps for what would have been basically free battlecruiser kills.

So this example tells us a lot about ship types. Which ships work well in which context. The Battlecruiser fleet lacked effective paints and webs so we could get away with running small sig low hit point ships against it because the application of the weapons would be poor. The usefulness of the new Tech 2 logi frigate - it's just tanky enough to hold where Inquisitors would not have been. The advantage of high warp speed. The correct order in which to choose primaries against a kitchen sink fleet.

That's the complexity that makes Eve Hard to Master. The old Blizzard mantra of Easy to Learn Hard to Master is a good indicator of an enjoyable game that will endure replaying over and over and the complex arsenal of different ships adds greatly to the Hard to Master side of the equation.

Does ship complexity penalise the Easy to Learn part? I think only if you are a FC or a soloer and those are clearly hard paths for players to take and they're not paths played by the majority of Eve players. So Eve offers plenty of Easy to Learn avenues while including features that make it Hard to Master for those who seek a difficult challenge. And that's the key to what makes this a superb game.

In conclusion ship complexity is a great part of Eve and adds depth to the game. It's definitely what can be considered "good complexity" as opposed to say things being complex because the UI is so confusing. It doesn't hurt new players as they don't need to know but some players will be drawn to paths that require us to learn ship types because we like and seek deep gameplay.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

The CSM and you.

One of the most dreary things in politics is regulatory capture.

I've linked the wikipedia article but the TLDR is that regulatory capture generally happens when an issue is too uninteresting for regular people to worry about so the people who make money from a certain activity get to write the laws that govern it because they're the only people who give a shit.

One of the clearest examples is copyright. Originally copyright law was introduced to give writers an incentive to publish works, some security that if it proved popular the writer would get money from the sales. It now extends 70 years past an author's death. Does anyone think for one second that any writer is going to refuse to publish because they won't get paid 70 years after they've ceased caring about worldly things? Of course not. It got extended because Mickey Mouse was about to go into the public domain and that would have killed Disney. The company wanted new law and no one cared about it enough to fight them.

The problem with regulatory capture is that, like all forms of political corruption, it's very bad for the politics of the institutions affected by it.

The CSM is riddled with regulatory capture and always has been. It's been getting worse and worse over time, mostly as rivalries developed in the Eve media world have grown as significant as rivalries developed in the conquest wars of nullsec. Candidates openly stand as representatives of vested interests - imagine real world politicians who wore badges saying Enron Senator or BP Member of Parliament. It's actually an outrage that we have "Goon CSM candidates."

The usefulness of the CSM depends on the dev's interest in seeking them out for advice. If a dev team would rather develop their feature without talking to the CSM they do so.

When Fozzie rebalanced nullsec ore he consulted extensively with Mynnna, the Goon finance guy and CSM member. Mynnna helped him craft a solution which was good for the problem (risk/reward of mining) but especially good for Goons. The profit of mining shifted some from high sec to null sec.

Eve is suffering a declining population. The low sec and null sec populations are stable, the people who are losing interest are the high sec players.

It's not a coincidence that part of the development process has been captured by nullsec vested interests and that the unrepresented space is in decline. I can't help wondering if maybe CCP Fozzie looks back to the solution he worked out with Mynnna and asks himself "Was I played?"

Political progress happens when people get active. The abolition of the slave trade in Britain was a result of publicity and political pressure by William Wilberforce and others. The emancipation of women in England was a result of passionate direct action by the suffragettes. The 1968 Civil Rights Act of the USA was the result of the civil rights movement.

In each case to make things better people had to get involved.

Gevlon proposed to run for CSM on a protest slate, various people recommend protesting by abstaining or voting for joke candidates. Look at the real world. When did anything change for the better because good folk did nothing or because people voted for a joke candidate? That's not the way the world works.

If we want a CSM that can rebuild bridges to the CCP developers, that can work to make this game better we need to install people who don't have these agendas.

People who are there to advance the interests of their block are not people who the devs should be listening to. People who are there for inside scoops on news stories are not people the devs should be outlining confidential plans to.

The fix is to vote for good candidates who genuinely have the good of the game at heart and who are not there to shill for some null sec alliance or Eve media site.

There's far too much conflict of interest - actually conflict of interest is too kind because people like Sion aren't conflicted about whether to put the good of the game ahead of the good of their alliance. He'll chose the wrong thing every time.

I will be voting this CSM and I will be voting for people who I think will make Eve a better game. If you don't vote, effectively you're empowering Sion and all the other nullsec and media shills because they do care, they will mobilise support and they will be there unless we work to put someone better ahead of them.

So let's not hand over the CSM on a plate to the people least deserving of power because the devs aren't stupid and they just won't want to talk to such people.

Monday 25 January 2016

Eve is NOT a "storytelling experiment."

It's less an MMO than a storytelling experiment conducted between CCP and its fanbase. A shared universe of complex political and economic factors; where intrigue and betrayal can spark seismic shifts in the power structure of its major players. Aside from the regularly-updated systems and in-game actions, EVE is an MMO about people, to the point that its most famous player—The Mittani—isn't technically a player. But while he doesn't log into the client and play the game, he does play the game, mobilising his forces in a way that is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the unique, anything-goes possibility space that CCP has created. 

Source: PC Gamer 

I'm going to call bullshit.

Eve is a game. We play it. Gevlon does his trading, I do my fleet pvp, Mike drives around in his bus giving frigates to rookies. Noizy flies around the pirate-infested belts of low sec stealing ore out from under the noses of Eve's most ruthless while Sugar keeps those criminals supplied with ammo and exotic dancers. Meanwhile beyond the edge of nowhere Tur is doing unguessable things in unfindable space.

The idea that the metagame is more important than the game is bullshit and simply doesn't represent the experience of the vast majority of players, many of whom don't even notice the metagame. It's an idea that journalists get because they're lazy and unprofessional and simply parrot The Mittani who schmoozes around professional media like a 16 year old fangirl trying to get an Adele backstage pass.

It's an unhealthy attitude because the direction of the game is being steered by people who don't really play it.

Let's make 2016 the year that the real players take back Eve. Vote in the CSM for someone who will be effective. Leave alliances where you're just following the path of least resistance and go find yourselves a challenge. Experiment with new things to do and make new friends.

Eve is a great game. More than that it's a great MMO where all of our actions affect everyone else.

Go play it!