Friday 29 April 2016

BB #74: Fanfest reveals the dragon's treasure

The Most Important Reveal at Fanfest Was......
So when this Blog Banter goes live Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a "nerd-boner". What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

For me it was a reveal by CCP Quant that I believe shows the scale of the disaster that losing Deklein was for The Imperium.

The Wizard of Stats.

First have a look at what he says about null sec in his presentation during the Eve Keynote.

"And for opsec reasons we decided not to show you the top sov station."  (This has to be former Imperium capital YA0).

"However the top sov region holds 69 trillions." 

This is Deklein. Not only does the region hold what until a few weeks ago was null sec's busiest trade hub by a mile but also in nullsec most income is generated by ratting and Deklein is miles ahead. You can see on the Dotlan stats page Deklein has the most rat kills very comfortably for the year, despite ratting having come to an almost complete standstill during April.

On the 12th April I estimated there was 50 trillion isk worth of assets in YA0 station, a guess I'm feeling pretty happy with now. It's reasonable to suppose most of the region's assets are in the major trade hub.

To seal the idea that the Null sec region CCP Quant is referring to is indeed Deklein, see how he handles a question from the crowd:

Q: Which region?

A: You all know that (laughs).

I'm glad that we have this information because the official Goon line from Mittens et al has been that everyone had plenty of notice and got all their stuff out. Clearly this wasn't the case at all.

Thursday 14 April 2016

A quick MBC entosis primer

A couple of points about taking sov in Deklein in the current state of play.

  • 2 entosisers isn't enough. You need 3-4 minimum. We did a timer the other day which went like this: we did 2 nodes, then 2 more, then 2 more, then 5 naturally regenerated. Making us +1 for 90 minutes work. Which sucked.
  • use a googledoc spreadsheet to track nodes and coordinate ships. Columns are system - node number - expiry time - entosiser. Eg: VFK - G58 - 07.56 - Callduron.
  • It's important to catch the older nodes that are about to expire so have your inty pilot direct traffic so entosisers don't waste time (eg by warping to a node someone else is doing).
  • Goons will send Swordfleet. 25-100 inties. With our small numbers we've mostly used destroyers. Most junior FCs won't commit their inties against 10 svipuls. In fact I've watched them bail when I was expecting them to come in and murder us. (It was 90 v 9 and I decided to take the fight because fuck goons but to our amazement they bailed).
  • Goons may send Caracals. Against 60 or so cruisers my small gangs just run away leaving the entosiser to die. It's very difficult for them to get a fleet like this all the way up from Saranen without attracting hunters so just chill in a freeport for 10-15 mins and it will probably be dead or gone.
  • The entosis ship needs tank, eccm, the entosis link and at least 50 stront. Anti-inty combat ability is nice too.
  • Other entosisers are helping you so work with them for ihub, tcu and initial station timers. For final station timers the game mechanics pit you against each other so agree who will get it and don't work against each other.
(Feel free to steal this for internal forums).

Eve after the war.

It's perhaps a little early but I thought it would be interesting to look ahead to Eve after the war.

I think the fall of VFK and YA0 on Friday, which seems utterly inevitable now, will mark the end of an era. The Age of Superpowers will end, the new age will be - The Age of Mercenaries.

Many of the most powerful alliances in the game are all very open to working on contract - PL, TISHU, MC. Fozzie sov strongly supports the mercenary playstyle where groups of highly incentivised people can devastate larger groups of more casual players. Huge accumulations of wealth have left a number of individuals trillionaires. Some of these trillionaires are ousted bitter Goons who may well be in the market for purchasing a little payback.

So we will be seeing a balkanised nullsec where local conflicts often get decided by the interventions of mercenaries on contract. After all why lose all your space worth hundreds of billions to you when for a reasonable fee you can make the other guy lose all his space?

The MBC is comprised of a mix of people who are happy staking a claim on a map and growing rich off their land such as Test and Snuffbox and people who prefer to work on contract, pvping while others worry about things like ticks and taxes, such as Mercenary Coalition.

So let's look at how things will shake up after the war:

The Mercenaries

This is simple, such groups will go where the contracts are and in-between contracts will ramble around the galaxy making themselves a nuisance. Expect to see rich banker/industrial types start to drive a lot of Eve. People like Eep, Gevlon and Goon trillionaires like Aryth, Mynnna and Weaselior will direct most of us towards people they feel angry with. (I say like Gevlon but sadly not Gevlon himself as that player has decided to move on from Eve and look for new challenges in another game).

The Allies

The low sec people, the small gangers, the various people like NPSI Spectre Fleet will move on to new content. There's just not much to fight here - we're not supposed to shoot each other because it's meant to be all v Goons and the Goons are either hiding or bringing 90 interceptors which isn't all that entertaining to fight. There's already minor tensions and standings issues, someone from MOA got rather cross with us this morning. I've lost almost as many ships to "friendlies" as I have to The Imperium. I think we'll all be quite glad to get back to the clarity of NBSI with hardly anyone blue.

The Sov-holders will settle in. Test have the choice of Deklein or Vale. Personally I think they should take Deklein but Vily sounded quite committed to Vale on the Jeffraider show this morning. Pandemic Horde will have 2 campuses: Fade and Querious and may close one down, whichever seems the less entertaining. MC and CO2 seem quite happy in Tribute although I believe MC will always prioritise contracts over ratting sov. The grr Goons veterans MOA and OOS will probably hold a few constellations and there's enough space over for new alliances to move in and squabble for space. TRI PL and NC. will probably not take sov but at this point can do more or less what they like, and will probably start laying deep plans for tomorrow's metagame.

The Imperium

Enemies of the Imperium focus on the Mittani and Sion and say "how can people trust those awful men?" The directorship is not The Imperium, The Imperium is the community of players who like and trust and rely on each other in ties going back over a decade.

I think Goons is basically broken until there's regime change.

The recent decisions have been terrible. The Kickstarter, the Viceroy programme, the decision to abandon Vale (which effectively knocked two of their own alliances out of the war). The baffling decision to "cheap out" on this war. They've defended the most lucrative space in the game with frigates and Hurricanes. The brain drain.


Next Mittens has been doubling down on bad decisions.

Look, here's roughly how the Goons could have got themselves out of this mess. Appease as many people as possible - the IWI guys would have gone away if exRiver had eaten a bag of candy dicks on stream. Silly but get it over with and get back to business. Alternatively they could have kicked SMA, an alliance they've ended up losing anyway.

PL have always had a door open to Goon diplomacy, maybe something could have been negotiated.

Enemies, most of whom aren't getting SRPed could have been overwhelmed by strong doctrines which trade isk efficiently, T3 cruisers, battleships etc. Lots of people who are invading are individually poor but we're not losing many ships so we're able to keep going.

Mercs could have been hired. It's worked pretty well for the other side.

NB the Goons are the richest players in the game, totally eclipsing the people funding their enemies. They have multiple individual trillionaires.

So here's a plan: regime change, mend diplomatic breaches, stop actively trying to be hated, move to NPC Delve and wreck the neighbours until it's safe to take sov there. That would put them in striking distance of two of the main MBC enemies - The Culture and Pandemic Horde - while the move would see most of the MBC not bother to follow them provided we stop getting wound up by someone promising to hunt us forever and drive us sobbing out of Eve.

The other plan, the plan Mittens has outlined as the future of the MBC is just utterly painful, so much more painful for his own members than for the people it's meant to hurt. Never have sov, never settle, keep fighting the entire universe. It's a plan designed for an epic narrative that's more about page hits and book deals than about protecting the interest of the people he leads.

While they go down that path they will shed people. People joined the Imperium for a certain playstyle - an extreme hardcore style where you live in low sec and wreck people with awoxing, fast raids and permanent pvp is such a switch. It's more hardcore than even dedicated pvp corps like Waffles and utterly unsuited to the member base. Plus the declarations that everyone in the MBC will be hunted down one by one and utterly destroyed mean that the MBC will in a sense never break up.

See the MBC isn't really a coalition. We share no doctrines or comms and coordination is minimal. We're just a bunch of people who shoot at almost everyone and who have organically accepted we should not shoot each other while there's Goons to kill or Goon stuff to burn. I still get gate camped but if I tell them I'm entosising they let me go. We don't need to be in a coalition to prioritise Goon targets and that will happen so long as Mittens keeps promising to destroy us.

So for me regime change in the Imperium is inevitable and the interim, months of pain and internal strife in low sec while everyone farms them isn't that important.

After the interim new Goon leadership will, I think strike out for sov. It will be a more diplomatic, less domineering Goonswarm, probably just a single alliance rather than a coalition.

The current member alliances will either get "widotted" - folded into the big Goons alliance - or will depart like SMA CO2 and now FCON. INIT will definitely stay independent, they've always had minimal dependence on the coalition. TNT, LAWN, EXE and RAZOR are not, I think viable. If they're smart they'll widot themselves into an alliance that isn't hated like FCON. If they're mulishly loyal they'll widot into Goons where they'll have a tough year but will never not be an interesting part of Eve's rich political tapestry.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

World War Bee: The Deklein Front

Deklein is in a somewhat odd place at the moment. The people who live there are waiting for the axe to fall and putting up quite a spirited defence against the lead elements of the MBC.

There's no doubt that the main thing blunting the edge of our assault is simply the vast amount of space needing to be absorbed. 6 regions outside Deklein are basically being mopped up which takes a lot of manpower.

The Mittani's decision to move all the defensive timers to AU TZ, otherwise known as Fuck You TZ, hurts participation in the capture events on both sides. From the attacker's perspective the Goons are desperately stretched at that time. This morning I freeported DKUK station with a tiny Waffles gang with help from CO2 friends while the Imperium was more concerned with contesting critical Pure Blind timers. Hat tip to the determined Bastion pilot in a Crow who was determined to contest it but eventually conceded that he couldn't do much without backup.

However later on a small combined MOA and Waffles force was shut down by a comparatively strong showing by The Imperium for the DKUK ihub timer (40 strong Caracal fleet plus a separate fleet of 20). A later attempt by me to ninja a timer in a bad ADM system solo was dealt with peremptorily by Danish Goons who blew up my entosis alt then chased my main all the way to Pure Blind.

Ratting has ground almost to a halt in Deklein, jeopardising the crucial ADMs which make the region hard to assault. Yesterday I toured Deklein in interceptors, finding that each system had someone from Pandemic Horde in, enthusiastically typing rubbish into Local chat and trying to engage the sullen Goons docked in their stations.

Tomorrow sees a set of timers for the critical system of YA0. I estimate there's around 50 trillion isk of assets in that station. Tomorrow morning my time (and Eve time) there will be assaults first on the ihub, then on the TCU, then finally to freeport the station. If the station is successfully freeported the final timer will come out Friday morning and the prospect of the richest trade hub in nullsec falling to its enemies may become fact.

What can you do to help?

Come to YA0 tomorrow and Friday. The headshot is lined up, let's not miss.

Fight in Deklein. In WW2 the panzer columns drove around their enemies to the more vulnerable rear areas, cutting troops off from support and gaining massive territory as fast as the tanks could trundle through the countryside. There's no need to mop up in Branch and Fade when the alliances that live there have gone (unless you're more worried about your friends seizing space than about defeating Goons).  Don't get bogged down, push forward, move staging systems closer to the front and let's get the job done.

Support timer events. When things come out of reinforced mode we need to win as many of these timers as possible. This link shows the Deklein timers.

Make new timers. Refer to Dotlan's ADM filter to see which systems have low ADMs. The lower the ADM the wider the timer window. For example X-Z at 2.6 ADM is vulnerable from 03.32 to 10.27. Americans can make timers in their evenings, Europeans can make timers in our mornings.

Turn off station services, especially cloning. As the Goons try to evac their stuff they rely on cynos to move capital ships and particularly Jump Freighters around. You can entosis station services at any time.

Kill cynos. Don't forget to loot or blow up the wreck.

Shut down ratting and mining. Don't let them push the ADMs up.  One system in the Testagram managed 3341 rat kills in the last 24 hours. Come on Test where are you? Don't you want your ancestral home back?

Good hunting everyone! We're nearing the finish line.

Monday 11 April 2016

VFK by...... today!

The critical ihub at ancestral Goons homeland system of VFK was destroyed just now, crippling the defences of the famous solar system.

Horde formed a fleet to take VFK, in fact the fleet was even named VFK BY TODAY. The FC then led us in a circular dance, while a 100 man Goon Hurricane fleet stalked us. We dragged them down to the key gateway system of EC- which was also contested this morning. There we entosised for a while as we were ahead of the Goon 'canes.

Meanwhile other allies took VFK with the canes too far south to affect the outcome. Chasing the obvious Horde fleet had pulled them out of position. We held on in EC- against a massively superior force playing cat and mouse before finally the Horde FC decided to go out in a blaze of glory. Not long after superior allied forces came down from the north, perhaps to keep the contest for EC- open and to avenge another fleet of Horde Thrashers.

If you're a newbie industrialist you should be able to make some decent money mass producing the Minmatar Destroyer. I doubt it will be the last fleet to be sacrificed in this conflict.

Sunday 10 April 2016

V-Day Fade


Saturday 9 April 2016

What's in a name?

In British slang "willy" means penis. Thus when a cutesy American movie about a killer whale arrived here people found the inadvertent double entendres hilarious. People went to the cinemas in droves to laugh at the accidentally hilarious film.

With that in mind consider the new Imperium fleet doctrine: Snatch Fleet.

And then remember what "snatch" means in British slang (NSFW).

Friday 8 April 2016

AAR: The Great Goon headshot

(Editor's note: this is an internal document written as an After Action Report for Pandemic Horde who were kind enough to let me take a fleet out and try something ridiculously ambitious. I'm told that Pandemic Horde is recruiting and that you can find out more in in-game channel Join Horde).

Today we tried to headshot Goons. You know, those Bee guys.

Goons have a capital, nullsec's Jita, the bustling trade hub of YA0. I estimate there's around 50 trillion isk worth of assets there. Losing it would be an utter disaster, collapsing confidence in the lying Goon leadership and trapping these assets, possibly for years. The ratters would have nowhere to shop for ammo, nowhere to buy new ships, complex T2 and T3 manufacturing chains would be broken by the inability to buy critical subcomponents. Deklein would grind to a halt.

YA0: nullsec's busiest trade hub

8 Pandemic Horde heroes set out from Okagaiken on a mission for glory, our weapon the mighty Cormorant class destroyer, our mission to win the war in one dramatic stroke.

We burned up into Deklein losing a couple of stragglers not far out of Okagaiken. Sorry for not waiting, we had to reach the target before the vulnerability window ended.

We got into YA0 and started entosising and camping the station. A carrier came out to take a look but decided we were scary and docked back up. We were reinforced by a small waffles svipul gang. We murdered a couple of ships on the undock including a limited edition Gnosis battlecruiser. Just became more limited he he.

The entosis module completed its warmup mode and started conquering Deklein's mercantile jewel. 39 minutes. They slowly ticked by.

A large and seemingly very angry Goon caracal gang landed on us. In the words of Jennifer Lawrence "Oh Hell NO!" I bounced us to a planet, then we extracted without loss but for the stuck entosis ship.

JLaw's assessment of our engagement viability

We headed back nonchalantly, having stuck our head into the bee's nest, taken a huge poo on their lawn, then sauntered out whistling.

We'll be back

After all we have a name for the station once we conquer it, once we trap 50 trillion worth of CFC assets and cause their coalition to dissolve in tears.
YAO ain't gettin your stuff back    Refinery (40%), Cloning, Repair, Factory     Minmatar Service Outpost

Big thanks to everyone who came especially Reapered who wants to do it again every day from now on.

Saturday 2 April 2016

A strategic overview of World War Bee

In Eve Online Empires are controlled by structures. There are three types of sovereignty structures thatcan be placed in a system to enhance ownership: a station (which can be conquered) a territorial claim unit, and an infrastructure hub or ihub. (The latter two are destroyed after being successfully attacked which creates a vacancy for an attacker to place a new one).

This video explains capturing and holding sovereignty structures in null sec space.

Defending one of these is hard work. This is why The Imperium, despite a resolute defence, is in so much trouble. To keep what they have they have to win every event. Saving some, while losing others, weakens their hold over their space.

In a normal sov war the attacker will make a couple of timers and the defender has time to organise an effort to win those timers. The Allies have made and continue to make so many timers that it's just not possible to contest them all.

The awesome Lucia Dennard has created a World War Bee section on her Timerboard site. Here's what it looks like at the moment:

So 120 separate capture events, each one requiring several more command nodes to be entosised  than the enemy can manage if contested.

Let's do a little roleplay now. Imagine you're the Imperium Sky Marshall. You have two bloc FCs currently online who can command any type of fleets (although escalation to a full commitment of titans requires the Coalition Leader's agreement), 5 Full FCs trusted with any sub cap and 15 Skirmish FCs (rookies who can command small gangs of frigates and destroyers). How do you spread your forces to protect everything?

Well, you can't. You don't have the manpower to do so and against the locust swarms you're only able to win here and there while losing ground somewhere.

Now let's consider the Empire that needs to be protected.

The heart of The Imperium is the Goons home region of Deklein. Vale of the Silent, 3 regions away, has already been abandoned. It's just too far.

The Imperium's main staging system is in the unconquerable low sec region of Lonetrek. On the one hand this is clever because just in case they lose all their sov space their stuff can't get trapped in a hostile station. On the other hand, as you can clearly see, it's far from the northern parts of their empire.

Making things worse is the fact that all of Venal and 2 crossroads constellations in the middle of Pure Blind are NPC Nullsec - unownable and currently infested with The Imperium's enemies.

Now to better understand null sec strategy we now need to go deeper into the game mechanics than the simple 2D map. Null sec strategy is heavily influenced by Light Years - units which determine the distance ships can be teleported. Capital ships can teleport, subcapital fleets can be teleported by titan bridges (or if they're all cloaky by Black Ops bridges) and can also use a special internal highway, a network of jump bridges that let defenders move more quickly within the borders of their empire.

Here's the range a titan can directly bridge fleets to from the main Imperium base at Saranen. That's fairly pitiful, barely half of a single region.

10 LY is a range that's still realistic, a titan bridge then either waiting out jump timers to grab a jump bridge or taking a few gates. Here's 10 LY from Saranen. That reaches everywhere in Pure Blind, most of Fade, half of Tribute and a small corner of Deklein.

That's not enough. Nowhere near enough.

So what's happening is that there's effectively a separate northern battlegroup, staging out of UQ9, formed by 3 alliances: Fcon, Razor and The Initiative.

And that group is losing badly. Currently most of Initiative space in Tenal has already been taken and about half of Razor's space is reinforced, likely to be lost in a couple of days. In a sov war as each alliance loses its territory the line membership becomes more concerned with securing personal assets than with forming for the collective defence. This is tremendously time-consuming. When I left The Bastion it took me 3 weeks to move and that was in peacetime! No wonder then that when Vale was abandoned the participation rates of Lawn and The Bastion dropped off a cliff.

So in the North, Tenal will fall soon and then Branch. The heart of the Empire, Deklein, is being encircled as if by some galactic Schlieffen Plan.

One of the creative ways that The Imperium Sky Team has come up with to cope with these enormous distances is a doctrine called Sword Fleet, based on fast warping interceptors. The problem with that is that Interceptors aren't very brawly. Still they work well in large numbers if the enemy splits up and isn't in anything especially tough.

Today one of the things the Allies have done is kill ihubs. When you kill an ihub the jump bridge associated with it stops working.

This is a map of The Imperium jump bridge network at the start of the war. Here it is in list form.

Now here's a map showing the structures currently in Pure Blind.

See the section near the top? A healthy sov system shows either T-I or T-I-S. In 3 of these systems the ihub has been killed by the attackers.

Actually, it's a lot worse than it looks because in systems where the ihub was killed and then replaced by the other side or where the TCU was killed the jump bridge is still snapped and unusable. The defensive superhighway is in tatters. Application of any force more powerful than a group of interceptors anywhere far from Saranen is becoming increasingly difficult.

So to sum it all up: The Imperium is going to lose, they know this and have planned for this which is why they base in low sec, defence will get more difficult by the day and they can't really begin to reconquer anything until whatever perfect storm of emotions made everyone else in the game decide to come and kick them in is resolved.