Sunday, October 31, 2010


Recall that when the Russian Coalition (RUS) of Red Alliance. Legion of Death and White Noise broke Atlas Alliance, a key RUS tactic was luring the Atlas Super Cap fleet into into a system already heavily occupied by RUS forces. The resulting lag tied the hands of the Atlas fleet, forcing them to withdraw - an action that left much of their Super Cap forces boxed in the local station. 

RUS forces have shown themselves to be very adept at treating system lag as a form of combat terrain and leveraging it to their advantage. In LXQ2-T, the Northern Coalition has shown that RUS' lessons in the strategic leveraging of lag has not been lost on them. A full day before LXQ station came out of reinforcement, both sides were staging forces in anticipation of a knock-down, drag-out lag-fest.  NC, with its numeric advantage, kept a constant 1,500 to 1,600 ship presence in system to prevent the RUS forces from gaining the system performance high-ground in local. The RUS forces brought in a fleet of more than fifty Super Caps so that those ships would begin any fleet fights on the grid, and possibly to intimidate the NC forces which are Super Cap poor and tend to fight without support from Titans or Motherships. 

To a certain extent, the engagement was something of a showdown between the Density of Firepower (DoF) approach preferred by Pandemic Legion, RUS Coalition and post-Dominion boutique alliances, and the swarm approach employed by NC as they leverage their superiority in numbers and time-zone coverage. Indeed, the whole Dronelands campaign has been a test of DoF, which eschews numbers in favor of the concentration of firepower that a relatively small alliance employing Super Caps, supported by an agile Armored HAC fleet can bring to bear. As I pointed out in Hit Them Where They Ain't, DoF is much more successful at taking territory, when the attacker chooses the points of conflict, than it is at holding territory when the number of potential points of attack a defender can actively and effectively defend is restricted by the number of pilots it can field.

To date the NC has been making good use of its numerical advantage, hitting Drone regions in multiple strategic strongpoints, denying the RUS forces a single point of conflict in which to concentrate their forces. Further, the NC has been harrying RUS renter systems and market centers; driving out renters, shutting down trade and industry, and generally gumming up the works of RUS' Droneland RMT machine.

While the odd Super-Cap has made an appearance, the absence of the larger RUS Super Cap fleet in campaign's big engagements has left many who'd expected a quick RUS victory wondering when RUS was going stop dancing around and get serious about slapping down the NC upstarts.

It's been evident to most that LXQ was the most likely place for that battle to occur. The move of the RUS Super Cap fleet into the system all but assured such a showdown when the Legion of Death outpost in system came out of final reinforce mode yesterday.

As of this writing, battle reports and killboards are still sorting themselves out. However, what is evident is that there was a near 24-hour battle in and around the system with the number of pilots in LXQ topping 3,000 at one point. CCP appears to have done a heroic job of keeping the node online, and pilots reported the lag was manageable even with the pilot count in system at around 1,700. However, the better part of the battle appears to have been conducted under heavy lag conditions, and the winner would be the side that was able to hang in the fight longest under those conditions. As downtime approached, the RUS forces began to log out, leaving the system to the NC forces who then proceeded with their conquest of the system.

While this must have been a disappointment to the RUS pilots, losing even a fraction of their Super Cap fleet to lag would have been a serious blow, whereas the NC fleet could have lost half its numbers and replaced them by the end of down time. That risk, along with RUS forces time zone limitations, makes their pullback the smart, if unpleasant, choice. NC has established an important beachhead in Etherium Reach, but the RUS Super Cap fleet is still at large.  

Smack-talk in the forums is making much of NC's initial comments that they were only invading the Dronelands for "good fights". This may have caused the RUS coalition to assume they could wait out NC, trusting the "Nobody but the Russians would have the Dronelands" doctrine would leave the NC indifferent to conquering and holding space in those regions. As to the NC's initial intentions, conquest can be addictive and escalating commitment is a powerful thing. Then there's the assumption that the Dronelands aren't desirable or economically viable. That's absurd on its face, particularly in the post-Dominion world where Carebears are migrating to nullsec in ever-increasing numbers and providing income that has nothing to do with ratting by an alliance's PvP contingent.

Every time someone says "nobody wants the Drone Regions" my first impulse is to jump up and say "I'll take a constellation or two". What I expect they really mean is that the Drone Regions aren't worth the risk of going up against the RUS coalition in a grinding fight to the death.

NC, leveraging the Dominion sov rules, may have just broken the back of that common wisdom. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies - and Statistics

Fiddler's Edge began its run in April of this year. My goal, then as now, is to create content that's interesting for me to write, resonates with you the readership, and fills a niche in the Eve blogosphere. That last is particularly important as said blogosphere is exceedingly vast and includes some very talented writers. It's easy to get lost in the crowd.

At the outset, I took a few months to let Fiddler's Edge settle into a pattern and direction. Then I began collecting web statistics. Five months later I now have a pile of data points and some interesting trends show up.

Needless to say, the Edge isn't burning up the net. However that was expected. The Edge focuses primarily on metagame analysis, which somewhat limits its audience. My pieces tend to not be the short, punchy, visually stimulating content that easily entertains - the classic model for the successful blog. As I write in The Rise of the Carebears:
It seems I'm sending invites to high tea in a world of rave parties.
But that's OK. There are plenty of rave parties out there and I'm happy to let them compete for that audience. My target audience is the capsuleer hungry for some depth in their Eve content. If there's a mission statement for Fiddler's Edge, it comes from Rise of the Carebears as well:
I've assumed you read the Edge for its thoughtful analysis, daring prose, deep insights, and its tendency to use words not writ nor spoken conversationally since Middle English went out of fashion.
I trust my readers.
Well, the numbers for High Tea With Mord are in. The audience and hit count for Fiddler's Edge doubled during September and have continued to grow during October. I'm particularly pleased with how many of you take the trouble to read through the Edge's back issues. That suggests my scribblings continue to be useful and worth reading for some time after their original posting.

I am encouraged to continue.

I get a smile or two out of looking at the "by country" audience statistics. The US and UK lead the list, which is no surprise. However it was interesting to learn Fiddler's Edge is more popular in Australia than it is in Canada (I'll have to ask Kirith what that's all about). A surprising number of hits from New Zealand have begun popping up in the last month, and the Edge regularly pulls in readers from Scandinavia. The articles on the Drone regions have caught the attention of readers from Eastern Europe and Russia, and I appear to have a regular reader from Saudi Arabia.

Shout outs to all y'all, and thanks for reading.

Fiddlers Note: Special thanks to Mynxee, an early encourager. Her Life In Low Sec continues to be linkage central for Fiddler's Edge and many other Eve sites. The same to Crazy Kinux who is chief enabler and lead cheer-leader for Eve bloggers everywhere. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Galactic Settlers

Now, the classic renter alliance model as described in Galactic Landlords is fairly popular in New Eden in that it generates lots of income for the owning alliance. What it does not generate, as a rule, is loyalty to the landlord's alliance. It is a cash transaction.

As I wrote in Barbarians at the Gate, way back in July, Dominion Sov Mechanics favor the alliance that can populate their Sphere of Influence with players who will:

a)    Stay put while you’re off war-lording
b)    Act as a buffer between your systems and inbound barbarian hordes or magazine salesmen
c)    Keep their grubby mitts of your stuff (systems, stations, loots, et al) and
d)    Pay all sovereignty related expenses

Of these, b is particularly important in that, as I continually remind my readers, Dominion sov rules require an active defense of one's nullsec space.

Nullsec alliances who remain steeped in the pre-Dominion paradigm have yet to realize the value of the nullsec Carebear for this purpose. In Paradigm Shift I wrote that, even if they can't punch in the weight class of a Pandemic Legion or IT Alliance, nullsec Carebears are rougher and tougher than their highsec cousins and represent a sizable body of experienced nullsec PVP pilots. Properly organized and deployed, I went on, their numbers will make themselves felt and major alliances would be foolish to dismiss them.

The Northern Coalition alliances are no fools. They seem to have, by accident or design, developed a renting scheme that thrives in the Dominion paradigm and brings a sizable renter militia to their calls to arms.

Carebear alliances invited to operate in NC space are referred to as 'guests' rather than renters. While this may seem a minor distinction, it underscores the difference between the NC's approach to managing their space and that of their Southern neighbors. Guests alliances are given space to occupy. No rent (yes, you heard that right) is required of guests. They are, however, expected to respond to CTAs and assist in defending NC space. In other words, the coin expected of guests is loyalty, not ISK.  Unlike their renter counterparts, the NC guests do not pack up and leave when the wolf is at the door. Rather, they act like armed settlers who band together in a militia to support Northern Coalition regulars in defense of their space.

Note the possessive in the prior sentence; "their space". By including guests in the common defense of NC territory, the NC gives their guests a sense of ownership in the NC cause. As a result, the NC guest/renter alliances appear to have a close identification with the Norther Coalition alliances that practice the guest program.

The power of this approach was evident when IT Alliance, AAA and other "Southern Coalition" alliances invaded the North earlier this year. Rather than backing their bags and heading for the exits, which is often the case with conventional renters, the NC guests stood and fought the invaders. While they were not "elite" PvPers like the invaders, routine participation in NC CTAs had developed them into a respectable fighting force.

During that invasion, there was a good deal of smack talk from Southern pilots about the quality of the NC militia pilots, about the lack of finesse in their fleets and their tendency to blob the invaders. And yet, those ungainly blobs blunted and slowed the southern attack. Bogged down and handed unexpected losses by the defenders, the South eventually withdrew. The barbarians had come to the gates and been turned back. The Carebears had shown their worth.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The Northern Coalition's (NC) invasion of the Drone Regions* continues into this week with Shadow of Death's systems in The Kalevala Expanse and Etherium Reach bearing the brunt of the attack, with Shadow drawing support primarily from elements of White Noise and Red Alliance.

The first large scale fight took place in system UJXC-B (constellation 6-CBBM)  in the northern-most part of The Kalevala Expanse. Despite a very close-run (and, by all accounts, wickedly fun) fight, NC forces held UJX at the end of the battle. For those interested, an excellent battle report was posted by one the participants on the NC side on Kugutsmen's. It's very well written and has been both corroborated by other participants, and re-posted on several Eve news websites.

As of this writing, NC's RAGE alliance has taken sovereignty of UJX, as well as two adjacent systems UDVW-O and F48K-D. RAGE has also taken advantage of the Shadow of Death sovereignty abdications that occurred earlier this month due to Legion of Death's mishandling of their renters and occupied the better part of the 2Q-8WA constellation in the North-East corner of Kalevala.

The next likely target for the NC is L-GY1B, which a gateway to Etherium Reach and a stepping stone to 74-DRC. Entering the Reach via L-GY would put the NC in the D-GU3R constellation, which is part of a long, single strand of unoccupied systems (again owing in large part to Legion's poor renter management skills) that leads to Etherium Reach proper. 74-DRC is a single system bottle-neck between The Kalevala Expanse systems the NC currently holds and the remainder of  the region.

The I-Hub at Etherium Reach's gateway system LXQ2-T comes out of reinforced mode today. RUS has been fairly quiet since the dust-up at UXJ, which would indicate they've something in the works. If that's a smack-down in LXQ, it's going to be quite the party when NC arrives to finish the job. Should NC take LXQ and open up a second beachhead in the Reach via L-GY1B, while at the same time continuing their push into Kalevala, they may force Legion of Death to make hard choices as to where to hold and where to fold.

In that event, given that Legion has only nine Shadow of Death renter systems remaining in Etherium, they might choose to fall back to a more defensible frontier and relocate their Etherium renters to other regions in the Legion of Death sphere of influence. However, Legion's neighbors in the Reach, which include Red Alliance and White Noise, are unlikely to approve of such an action. RUS may require that Legion remain in place and put the interests of the coalition ahead of its own.

The Russian coalition has a passion for viewing the game from the standpoint of Russian military history. It will be interesting to see which page of that book they open to in planning their fight against the NC. They take a long view of the game and aren't demoralized by set-backs. For their part, the NC are not underestimating their opponents. They've brought their game-face, knowing they're stepping up to PvPers with a well-deserved reputation for discipline, guile and tenacity.

Its going to be interesting  

[*Fiddler's note: For those capsuleers new to Eve or unfamiliar with nullsec, Drone Regions are Eve-speak for the contiguous nullsec regions that have drones as their local pirate type]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nerfing the Drake

Toward the end of World War II in the Pacific, an American pilot attempting to land his battle-wounded Dauntless dive-bomber on an aircraft carrier crash landed on the flight deck. The flight crews decided that the damage to the Dauntless was irreparable; that the pilot's airplane should be pushed into the ocean and replaced with one of the more modern Helldivers, which were then rolling off American production lines.

The pilot took out his .45 pistol, stood by the wrecked Dauntless and threatened to shoot the first man who tried to push his ride into the drink.

The history of war is full of weapons like the Douglas Dauntless; guns, planes, ships and vehicles that so exceed their design specifications that they perform with distinction long after their normal expected service life has run out. They are effective, reliable, useful beyond their original purpose, and their owners often develop a passionate attachment to them.

In the worlds of New Eden, the Drake is such a weapon.

For years, in a universe of ever more expensive tech 2, tech 3 and faction ships, the humble Drake has been scorned by the nullsec PvP community, derided as a mere mission-runner, or bait ship. Nullsec FCs frequently told pilots showing in fleet with a Drake to "lose that t1 piece of shit" - an instruction often followed by the Drake being declared primary by the FC and destroyed by the fleet on the spot. Nevertheless, for reasons I've described in a previous post, the Drake has remained one of the most popular ships in New Eden.

I've written elsewhere as to how the Super Cap/armored Zealot HAC combination came to dominate the battlefields of nullsec.The classic sniper-fit BS fleets, unable to counter the speed and low signature radius of the Zealots, were regularly raped by the hard-hitting HACs.  The fleets of the old nullsec alliances were rolled back on their heels. Atlas fell and Against All Authorities was falling. FCs desperately looked for a means of countering the new fleet configurations and tactics.
And the ever-useful Drake has stepped into the gap.

Suddenly, the Drake is the new darling of nullsec, and the owners of all those shiny t2 ships are crying foul to CCP. If a fleet of t1 ships costing under fifty million each to buy and fit can go toe to toe with a fleet of t2 ships that cost 150 million each to buy and fit, the reasoning goes, the game is out of balance and t1 ship obviously needs to be "nerfed".

In a devblog thread titled "Drakes- Do They Need A Nerf?", CCP Chronotis revealed that, while CCP rarely intervenes in emergent strategies, they are considering nerfing the Drake to make it less effective in fleet fights. 
Drakes on their own are reasonably balanced. When you get 50+ of them all buffer tanking and alpha striking people at up to ~85km as the current FOTM strategy is out there, this underpins their usefulness (max buffer for sig/speed tank and max range with same damage) so this is a scenario specific issue to large fleet warfare. There are counter strategies to this, but drakes+scimitars is an easier to coordinate tactic. The drakes tank or specifically its passive tank does concern us where both can be equally affected in a similar way. Food for thought anyway, we rarely intervene with emergent strategies and tactics as a counter usually matures after some time but will keep an eye on this thread to see what the rest of you think.
Going on, CCP Chronotis tipped what was really drawing the developers attention to the Drake
It is a hot topic internally as the number of drakes present in fleet fights is rising dramatically in the last six months and with this behaviour change we are witnessing a large impact on performance as the missile usage causes high additional load.
He later stepped back from that statement, responding to one poster that CCP would never nerf the Drake solely for system performance reasons. However, the words cannot be taken back, and I suspect the 'balance" issue is merely an search for an issue aside from performance to justify the nerf. 
All cards are on the table, we are merely analyzing for now with a high degree of concern its rapid rise in popularity and being open about it.
Now, when the Zealot was ripping the guts out of Sniper BS fleets, nobody at CCP was talking about nerfing that ship - maybe ticking up its sig radius or some such to make it more vulnerable. CCP didn't even twitch at the rapid rise in the popularity of the Zealot. And yet, when the Zealot is countered by a lesser ship, CCP suddenly becomes gravely concerned about "balance". 

It's interesting to note that the Zealot oriented alliances who would most benefit from the Drake being nerfed are those associated with the RUS coalition, who are, in turn, most commonly associated with Real Money Trading. These are folks for whom playing Eve is serious business - as in real income business. It appears that when real money talks, CCP listens.

Reading the blog thread surrounding CCP Chronotis' comments, what the majority of players think about nerfing the Drake is evident:

Don't. You. Dare.

The arguments they present against the nerf are very solid. With the missile nerf a year or so ago, the Drake along with the rest of the Caldari fleet has already been heavily nerfed. There is no way to nerf the Drake in a large fleet context without nerfing it in a solo or small gang context where it has long been considered balanced by CCP. This issue with performance is not Drake related, but lag related. If CCP would fix the lag and its missile tracking algorithms, the impact of missiles on performance, and the fact that missiles are more effective under lag conditions would not be an issue.

Drake fleets are not a silver bullet for all situations, and events in nullsec show that countering Drake fleets is not, as CCP Chronotis suggests, a terribly complex activity. Drake fleets, having large signatures, are vulnerable to Sniper BS fleets that can pour DPS into the Drakes that the battlecruisers, with their missiles' middling DPS and delayed strike, cannot match. They have also shown themselves very vulnerable to attacks by Stealth Bomber gangs.

Even Zealot fleets, the ships the Drakes were fielded in nullsec to counter, can match the Drake in a fight. Where the Zealot loses to the Drake is in the logistics of replacement. That is an old song in warfare. The World War II Panther tank was more than a match for the American Sherman. However, the Sherman was easier to maintain and operate, cheaper to build, and rapidly replaced if destroyed. On a price/performance basis, the Sherman was a better tank than the Panther, however they matched up one on one. I'm sure the German commanders found the situation unbalanced. War is like that sometimes.

Even in New Eden.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I do hate to drop one post on top of another, but some events call for an extra edition.

Remember when I said that taking down Against All Authorities (-A-) was like killing a vampire? That you had to make sure that sucker was buried in the crossroads decapitated, garlic in its mouth and a stake in its heart before you turned your back on it? Remember that?

Why does nobody listen?

The fight took place in AZN-D2 today.  Circle of Two (CO2) and Dead Terrorists (DT) against -A-, Stain Empire and friends. PL was nowhere in sight, having finished their contract with CO2 and moved on.

At 19:56 the first carrier went down - A CO2 Chimera. Thirteen minutes later a CO2 Hel supercarrier joined the Chimera. For the next two agonizing hours, CO2 and Dead Terrorists watched as they lost a total of  seventeen carriers (DT-13, CO2-4), four supercarriers (DT-2, CO2-2) and two Erebus-class Titans (DT-1, CO2-1).

Ladies and gentlemen, assuming the killboard numbers hold, that is one family sized can of whup-ass that got opened on DT and CO2.

In the course of those two hours the chatter on the forums changed from a party celebrating the end of -A-, to speculation as to how long the newcomers to nullsec space would be able to hold onto their newly acquired systems once the old occupant came calling.

Rumble in the Reach

There's a restlessness to nullsec at the moment. The upheaval begun with the conquest of Atlas and AAA space continues to to generate aftershocks as alliances, mobilized for war and looking at a sovereignty map in flux, are tempted to see what they can harvest from the chaos.

Regular readers of The Edge (or those of you who've taken the time to read the back issues) will recall I wrote that the current expansion of the Russian Coalition (RUS - White Noise, Legion of Death, Red Alliance, et al) into space formerly occupied by Atlas and Against All Authorities (AAA) had moved a substantial part of its forces away from their traditional base in systems like Etherium Reach, the back door of Legion's sphere of influence. This, along with the use of their forces to secure recently won territories, I posited, left Etherium Reach vulnerable to attack. 

Several days ago, the Northern Coalition took that advice and launched just such an invasion, attacking RUS forces and their renter alliances in Etherium Reach and elsewhere. Mind, they waited longer than I'd recommend, which allowed the RUS forces to settle their new frontier - freeing forces previously occupied there to return and defend their home turf. Earlier would have been better.

Further, they staged their invasion of Etherium Reach from Paala in The Forge and are presently attempting to take the gateway system, LXQ2-T. NC appears to be bottle-necked there for the moment, with RUS employing a 400 member blob to repulse NC's most recent attempt to take the system.

NC would do well to take a page from the RUS victory over Bobby Atlas. Rather than attempting to force their way into a blobbed and well fortified system by sheer force of arms, bypass that system altogether and attack the enemy at multiple high-value targets. This forces the enemy to either hunker down while you take their space and structures (which are often their forces' re-supply points), or spread themselves out and fight the war on your terms. 

Sending an attack force into Etherium Reach by way of lightly defended L4X-1V, the gateway system to Molden Heath, would put NC forces in the RUS back yard. Once out of the 1VN-XC constellation, they could bypass LXQ, and attack the Red Alliance stations in the 6TT8-Z constellation; the region's largest concentration of stations and commerce. I imagine that might break the RUS concentration in LXQ.

Just a thought, lads. First one's free.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The Caldari Drake versus the Amarr Zealot. That's the flavor of the month in nullsec.

There are some serious set-tos going on between these boats. Large fleets of sniping Drakes maneuver for range as their counterpart Zealots attempt to stay outside the reach of the Drake's long range missiles until they can slip inside and lay in some heavy hits before dancing away again.

As many of you know, the current trend is away from the massive t1 battleship fleets toward a pairing of super-caps and armored HACs - particularly the Zealot. This is particularly true of what I like to call boutique PvP alliances. Such alliances don't have the membership of the traditional (and every day more extinct) heavyweight alliances. However, by pairing the right hook of the Super-cap with the jabbing left of the Zealot, they can outfight the traditional battleship fleets. In fact, standing orders for some alliances (C02, for example) are to train Zealots as a matter of course as soon as possible (See Rixx, I do read your blog).

Direct Zealot/Drake shootouts have tended to favor the Zealots in terms of sheer numbers. However, in terms of the cost associated with the losses, the Zealot's done far worse, with Team Zealot having to kill up to four Drakes in order break even for a single Zealot kill by Team Drake. Further, a lost Drake is much easier to replace than a lost Zealot, which may account for their reduced presence in fleets fielded by Zealot -intensive alliances.

Consequently, the Drake is taking a larger and larger role in fleets fielded against the boutique alliances. Take a recent dust-up in XWY-YM off in Impass where Circle of Two (CO2) with help from Pandemic Legion (PL), who are trying to put down the last pockets of resistance in the region, ran up against defense fleets fielded by Stain Empire, Against All Authorities, Red Overlord and Vera Cruz alliances.

There are conflicting accounts as to the number of Drakes fielded in the battle by defending Stain fleet. Some Stain accounts give the defenders an about four to three advantage of Drakes and Scimitars against the mixed fleet (Abbadons and Armageddons providing the primary punch) fielded by CO2 and PL. CO2 pilots place the number of Drakes higher, with one pilot reporting wave after wave of Drakes pounding the CO2 fleet.

In terms of losses, the kill count appears to have been somewhere around 120 for each side. However, many of the ships lost by CO2 were battleships, Armageddons showing a particular vulnerability to the Drake fleets.

The Drake fleet has become the cost-effective response to the Super cap/Armored HAC 1-2 punch that's the flavor of the moment. The Drake's success there has led to a broader role for it in the fleets of nullsec. Cheaper, insurable ships with a legendary shield tank and a long reach. Easy to fly and a low training threshold relative to armored HACs like the Zealot.

Pound for pound, isk for isk, skill-point for skill point the venerable Drake is showing itself to be one of the best ships out there.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Galactic Landlords

Generally speaking, PVP alliances make lousy landlords.

Take Shadows of Death, the renter alliance run by Legion of Death, for instance:

At the beginning of October, they found that system rentals were down. Withing their sphere of influence, a full 25 designated renter systems were without occupants. As a result, Shadows wasn't making their earnings targets - i.e., Legion wasn't getting as much money as they expected out of their renter alliance.

Well, to the brilliant business minds at Legion/Shadows the answer was obvious: Raise the rents on their occupied systems. Tenant corporations were informed of the following changes to their rental agreements.

- Rents would no longer be based the number of belts in the system
- Base rental for all systems is 300 million ISK per week
- For each level of sovereignty a system holds, add an additional 100 million ISK per week "sovereignty tax'
- The jump bridge tax would be discontinued

In other words, rent of the wormiest, nastiest Sov 1 system in the drone regions, the monthly rent is 1.6 billion. A Sov 5 system? 3.2 billion per month.

Of course anyone with the slightest insight into business and/or economics will know what happened next:

Within three days of this announcement 40 additional renter systems went vacant.

In some cases, the renting corporation simply got angry enough to go looking for a better deal. With all the territories changing hands in nullsec, Carebear corporations are in high demand. Everybody wants the renters necessary to generate the income needed to pay the sovereignty bills and, (if the landlord is the wise, insightful sort), to support a lively market and a healthy industrial sector within their sphere of influence. Consequently, those renter corporations who've departed Shadows likely walked out with a warm welcome and much better rental terms awaiting them elsewhere.

In other cases, the tenant corporations stayed with Shadows/Legion, but reduced the number of system they were renting. Such corporations assessed the relative trade-offs of the systems in their possession and released those that returned the least value once the new rent structure was taken into consideration.

Now, I expect the Carebears in question could have made enough cash in their systems to pay that rent. However, though it may shock the lads down at Shadows/Legion HQ to hear it, Carebear corporations don't exist merely to pay alliance rents.

They exist to enrich themselves and their members.

I know, it seems so petty of them, but there it is. If you're charging 3.2 billion a month for a system your Carebears can rent elsewhere for 500 million to a billion, any business bear worth the name is going to head for the doors. Even if he has no other options, why would your business bear keep the overhead of three systems at an elevated price when his corporation can do quite as well with only two?

Chances are, the last brick from this barrel hasn't hit Shadows/Legion on the head as yet. Some corporations will have made the decision to leave, but are waiting until they've got their stuff out of Shadows' sphere of influence before announcing it. This is often a wise tack to take when your landlord is grumpy, well-armed and capable of reprisals. Other corporations will remain with Shadows, but will take a month before deciding which systems to dump ... er, that is, to opt out of.

Now, even if those abandoned systems were all of the Sov 1 variety, that's 192 billion in expected revenue Shadows is not going to take in. Makes me glad I'm not the Donald Trump who came up with the rent recovery plan and promised all that missing money to the parent alliance. Boy, his face must be red right now, assuming he hasn't been vented into deep space by the alliance directorate by now.

In his February blog post, The Mittani lamented the loss of pre-dominion sovereignty mechanics, where holding space was just a matter of dropping POS and superior firepower. He complained that, with sovereignty costs in place, PVP alliances had to trouble themselves with the headaches of administration and revenue generation. That now, instead of just looking for good PVP, a nullsec empire had to administer their space - to involve themselves in the petty concerns of the CareBears who make the money, that pays the cost of empire, that frees the warrior class from the tedium of day-to-day revenue generation.   

As I've said elsewhere, all this is by design. Those crafty devils at CCP have made the CareBear a nullsec empire must-have.

I've yet to meet a PVP alliance that understands the mechanics of the industrial side of New Eden, or has the faintest grasp of how markets work. To top it off, the PVPer's natural contempt for Carebears tends to slop over into their business dealings with them - never the sort of thing that wins hearts and minds. With the current renter's market in nullsec, this is a big problem for alliances that take the old-school 'youz my bitch' approach to managing tenants.

Never forget: The relationship between a Carebear renter and the renter alliance is transactional. Loyalty - the lynch pin of the PVP alliance has limited application in the landlord/tenant relationship. The Carebear renter gives you money, which spends better than loyalty. All he wants in return is fair value for his ISK. But even so, a little Carebear love and understanding goes a long way toward keeping some slick-talking alliance in Teneferis or Catch from luring your revenue bears out from under you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Undead

There is an ongoing postmortem for Against All Authorities (AAA) cascading through various blogs and forums. And though they are, to a degree, merited, it appears that the funeral may be a bit premature.

In Catch, The Collective and Russian Thunder Squad are putting up a spirited defense of their systems, reportedly getting aid from Black Aces, a recent corporation add to AAA (formerly of AAAC), and VVS Corporation. Meanwhile, AAA itself stubbornly refuses to roll into failscade.

History is full of cases where the enemy's on the run and battle looks to be over, until suddenly the troops of the apparent victors decide this would be a good time go looting. I suspect that's what's happening in Catch at the moment. With most AAA possessions in four regions rolled over and Catch looking pretty well in the bag, a lot of the Catch Invading Forces (CIF) have turned their attention to securing their new real estate in other regions. Meanwhile, PL's contract is rumored to be near completion. All of this removes CIF troops from the main front and gives AAA the breathing room to recover.

This explains RUS/Initiative/CO2 reaching out to IT Alliance to open a second front, and thereby inject additional forces into the fight's supposed end-game. Part of the agreement appears to be that IT will not keep any systems it captures, but turn them back over to the CIF alliances.

Meanwhile, as I pointed out last week, IT Alliance has to wonder how friendly its new neighbors are going to be once they've removed AAA from the map. One has to assume that AAA is making similar overtures to IT Alliance. IT Alliance may well play both ends against the middle - though I don't attribute SirMolle with that degree of diplomatic or strategic subtlety. 

The outlook is still bleak for AAA, but their enemies have provided an opening. We should see fairly soon whether AAA's leadership has the steel to take advantage of the opportunity.

How many times have I told my minions, "Don't forget to stake the vampire," only to have them come back with holes in their necks saying, "Really Boss, that vampire looked totally dead when I turned my back on him,"?  If you want a vampire dead, you have to drive a stake through its heart.

Despite the eulogies, AAA still walks among us.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Smile on the Face of the Tiger

There once was a lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger

A quick look at the Catch region shows the tight spot Against All Authorities (AAA) is in. Their Main trade center at GE-8JV and, more importantly HED-GP, the region's primary gateway to empire are in enemy hands. AAA is pushed back and making a stand in the region's West-South-West quadrant.

Worse yet, AAA's defense has been complicated by IT Alliance attacking AAA holdings in Catch from Querious. IT has rolled up Catch BRK2-K constellation and are presently staking their claim on 6JCS-4 constellation, which is a direct attack on the remaining concentration of AAA systems rather than the nibbling at the edges IT has engaged in until now. 

It's understandable that IT Alliance would like to grab some real estate before AAA is completely over-run. However, I have the sense that IT is making a very serious and short-sighted mistake. 

IT Alliance's long term interests would have been better served by salvaging the remains of AAA and helping it stabilize as a buffer vassal alliance between IT Alliance and the RUS coalition, their new vassals and Pandemic Legion. 

Should AAA fall, IT Alliance will be the last of the pre-Dominion "great powers". It sits on some of the most valuable real estate in all of nullsec. Rumors abound that IT is not the fighting alliance BOB of old once was. Over time IT has made many enemies - some of whom are whetting their knives a mere step away from IT Alliance's doorstep. 

SirMolle is deluding himself if he thinks that sitting down next to the tiger at the AAA feast is going to keep IT Alliance off the tiger's menu.