Monday, January 31, 2011

Shock Treatment

In my experience nullsec changes some CareBears. They become a different breed than their high-sec cousins. Tougher. More efficient. More wily. More ruthless. Far richer. The best of them will become the great merchant princes of New Eden. - Fiddler's Edge, August 12, 2010
Let's talk a bit about economic shocks.

Most of the time changes in the economic climate are rather gradual, leaving business plenty of time to detect and adapt to changes in the marketplace. Every now and again, however, an economic shock occurs in which something fundamental in the marketplace changes very quickly. The recent bursting of the housing bubble would be an example of this, as would the oil shocks of the 1970s and India's trade liberalization in the early 1990s and the Asian baht crisis in 1997.

When market shocks attack, sudden stresses are put on businesses. Companies that have the wherewithal to adapt, or are well position to exploit the changes, survive or even thrive in the new economic reality. Weaker, or non-competitive companies normally fold or are bought out - their production capacity and market share absorbed by their healthier competitors.

As I've written elsewhere Dominion sovereignty mechanics added a cost component to holding nullsec systems. This made PvP skills alone an insufficient means of holding space. To be competitive under Dominion rules, alliances must manage their space efficiently. Dominion also altered sov warfare mechanics, requiring that alliance actively defend their space against attacks. This effectively reduced the volume of space most single alliances can effectively defend.

In effect, the Dominion changes amounted to a market shock. And fallout from that shock is still driving events in nullsec.   

While it's not happening quickly enough for the game designers at CCP (more on that next time), the Dominion rules are shrinking the size of alliances. The era of the monster nullsec alliance is coming to a close. The cult of personality alliances in particular seem headed for the exits. Atlas Alliance is no more. Against All Authorities' vast nullsec empire collapsed entirely and, though their recovery and return wins them the "comeback kid" award for 2010, they are a smaller and more efficient alliance than they were of old. CVA lost all of Providence and, apparently, the will to take it back. Pandemic Legion has given up holding nullsec sov. IT Alliance, hounded by their enemies, teeters on the edge of the abyss.

'Now wait a minute, Mord,' I hear you saying. 'What about the Northern Coalition? What about the Deklein Coalition? Those are massive alliances. Why aren't they falling too?'

In fact, they're not massive alliances. Setting the Deklein Coalition aside for the moment, the Northern Coalition is a collection of small to mid-sized alliances who originally banded together for the common defense. Looking at the sovereignty maps, the alliances are more or less "right sized" in terms of the amount of space they control given the Dominion paradigm. Originally, many of these alliances were "Carebear" alliances who moved to nullsec and banded together for common defense. That strand of Carebear in their organizational DNA left them well positioned to thrive in the post-Dominion world.

In the highly competitive world of elite PvP, one tends to make enemies. However, as I've pointed out elsewhere, organizational integrity in Eve is dependent upon successful personal relationships. While the Carebears of the Northern Coaliton have learned the joys of PvP, they have a cultural bias toward cooperation which provides them with secure space and is much better for their business and industrial activities. When the Dominion changes were introduced at the end of 2009, the Northern Coalition was, by and large, well placed to adapt to those changes.

As IT Alliance is rocked by internal and external turmoil, there's a good bit of chatter in the forums about what nullsec might look like if IT falls. Much of it involves hand-wringing over the prospect of a "Carebear" nullsec, where everyone is blue to everyone else and we all just hold hands and get along.

Don't worry, it won't happen. For that to occur, the Northern Coalition would have to take on a much more aggressive posture - in effect become like the PvP-intensive alliances that are, to some extent, collapsing of their own weight. In fact, one of the reasons I make a distinction between the Northern Coalition and a Deklein Coaliton that includes both Goonswarm and Test Alliance is that Deklein's policies are much more expansionist. As we've seen, Dominion isn't kind to hyper-aggressive organizations in the long run.

As I anticipated a while back, the Dominion changes ushered in the fall of the monolithic PvP alliance and the rise of smaller alliances that know how to cooperate for the common good. This may mean less PvP in nullsec at a high level, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is a natural extension of the Eve sandbox, people building institutions where none exist in order to further their interests.

CCP builds the universe. We, the players, shape it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SirMolle's Stand

If recent low CTA turnouts are not related to player apathy or inability to respond, we are left with the possibility that a significant body of the troops in IT Alliance are loyal to someone other than SirMolle; that someone is (or someones are) withholding participation as a political play to gain influence within the alliance.  - Fiddler's Edge, December 29, 2010
Late Sunday the Machiavellian churn in IT Alliance bubbled to the surface in the form of a forum post by FinFleet CEO Klez leaked onto the Scrapheap challenge forums. Most of you will have read both the original post in Scrapheap and the tsunami of speculation and commentary that has followed it in the forums. 

In essence two sizable IT Alliance corporations, FinFleet and X13 declared themselves SirMolle loyalists acting to oppose a cabal of CEOs who had taken control of IT Alliance from SirMolle. They demanded said cabal step down. Ultimatums were given. Yesterday the two corporations parted ways with IT Alliance and as this writing have joined with The Ankou, a former Initiative corporation, to start a new alliance called Raiden.(-RDN-).

There's been a good bit of chatter in the forums about an imminent IT Alliance failscade. I don't see that happening, at least not in the next week or so. There are reports of IT Alliance corporations moving resources to empire or NPC space but, given the wolf at Delve's door, that may be more prudence than panic. I do expect more IT corporations are positioning themselves to leave, but a wise CEO would keep his head down and keep his movements in the shadows.

Internal events have resulted in a degree of defensive indifference by IT Alliance forces in Fountain for the last 48 hours. Test Alliance deployed TCUs in a number of systems yesterday without opposition. However, it is worth noting that Deklein Coalition forces haven't taken advantage of IT's disarray when it comes to taking station systems. As I've written elsewhere viz The Initiative's dealings with -A-, it's never wise to give an enemy room to recover when he's on the ropes. You keep punching until he's a bloodied mass on the canvas and the referee has counted him out and declared you the winner. Deklein may regret not taking greater advantage of IT Alliances's disarray. 

Meanwhile IT Alliance is attempting to calm the internal waters and reassure the rank and file. In an audio file produced for public consumption and released to EveNews24, SirMolle reassures IT's members that all is under control. Operations are restarting. The front is Fountain, not Delve and all forces there are to remain in place. FinFleet and X13 are IT Alliance allies. Super secret allies are on their way to support IT Alliance. PL is attacking the Deklein coalition. The Northern Coalition is going to be too busy to help the Deklein Coalition. Rumors that RKK was withholding supercapital ships despite direct requests by SirMolle are "bullshit".

All is well. Really.

The IT Alliance plan at present appears to be to stabilize the Fountain front and engage Deklein Coalition there in a war of attrition. IT would leverage its deep financial reserves, repaying IT pilots for operation related ship losses in an attempt to bleed the DC white. The underlying assumption here is that the IT Alliance are the superior PvPers and, given even odds, can slaughter the inferior Deklein pilots. It should be pointed out, however, that even fights in sov warfare are a rarity. In Fountain, IT Alliance's CTA attendance has slumped, even when spurred on by SirMolle's previous "all in" offensives. Betting the house against repeated experience seems a long throw in the dark.

Further, the plan appears to assume SirMolle can dictate the battle lines in this fight and keep the war to a single front in Fountain. Unfortunately, the number and location of the fronts in this war are not in his control. If IT's opponents open up enfilading lines of attack into Delve and/or Querious he'll be forced to defend, which will bleed off pilots and ships from Fountain. Failure to do so will, at best, allow the enemy to disrupt his supply lines (critical in a war of attrition) or, at worst, leave his ships trapped in their Fountain staging areas.

The debacle at Z3OS-A suggests that, having learned their lessons at the hands of Pandemic Legion, the Deklein and Northern coalitions are the better PvPers when it comes to supercapital engagements. This, coupled with IT Alliance's pre-existing reluctance to risk their supercapitals is another speed-bump on their road to victory. 

Finally, there's IT Alliance itself to consider. One might assume that with FinFleet and X13 purged from the alliance, the boil of discontent has finally been lanced and, from here on in, it's all man-hugs and free beer in the IT boardrooms.  OK, unlikely. However, if IT Alliance can win big in the next few weeks, many rifts will be healed, and many grudges forgotten. If not, the backbiting and hedging against defeat will continue.

As ever, victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Initiative At Bay

Sovereignty warfare is an acquired taste.

The central point of Sov warfare is to take territory from the other guy. Taking territory, now as ever, requires the reducing of military strong points. Siege warfare, in other words. For the average Eve pilot, that means a lot of time grinding away at structures while waiting for the enemy to drop a fleet or two on you. 

Long stretches of boredom, punctuated by moments of terror/excitement.  Just like real life.

Mind, there are rewards for sov warfare beyond simply holding space in nullsec. There is something about being part of large fleet actions that can't be found in small gangs. The pace of combat is not as rapid, but you're constantly aware of the sheer volume of power being thrown around. When structure grinding gives way to punch and counter-punch by fleets numbering in the hundreds of ships, there's nothing like it - particularly if you're winning.

Losing in sov warfare, on the other hand, totally sucks.

As often as not, losing a sov war is not about the battles you win or lose in the field, but the battle to keep your pilots' heads in the game. You can be holding your ground against a determined enemy when suddenly the daily grind of responding to attacks starts to get to your pilots. Eve stops being fun. Starts being a job. Some pilots stop answering CTAs. The operational burden falls on a smaller set of pilots, and some of them burn out and stop answering CTAs. Wash, rinse, repeat. Next thing you know, an enemy you once outnumbered on the battlefield starts outnumbering you, and pilot morale goes into a downward cascade. Sov warfare is as much about psychology as it is about strategy and tactics.

It is the psychological battle The Initiative appears to have lost last Sunday in its fight for the Catch region against Against All Authorities (-A-) and the rest of the Southern Russian Coalition (SRC). 

The Initiative's position had deteriorated over time. The first warning signs were This Initiative's inability to support the vassal alliances Circle of Two (CO2) and Dead Terrorists (DT) that provided a buffer between Catch and the NPC regions -A- had retreated to after The Initiative's invasion. The next blow was the SRC overrunning of Impass and Feythabolis followed by incursions into Catch proper. The initiative turned to IT Alliance for help - a move that backfired from a morale standpoint when IT abandoned the Initiative's cause only a week after going "all in" to eliminate the Southern Russian threat. The Initiative's rehiring of the Northern Coalition Alliance's (NCDOT) capital fleet last week, despite their lack of utility during their first term of service, captures the degree to which The Initiative was in trouble.

In abandoning Catch, The Initiative has pulled its forces back to Immensea. Their intent, according to a press release by Initiative leadership, is to use that Region as a base for raiding and harrying -A- forces in an effort to step away from sov warfare and get back to the rapid-fire PvP they enjoyed before taking of the burdens of a vast nullsec empire.

If you look at the Immensea region, it has only a single point of entry to Catch, which acts as a bottleneck for SRC forces attacking from Catch. At the same time, the region has a number of entry points to Teneferis, where the greater part of The Initiative's renters - and income - reside. The Initiative appears to be making their headquarters at E1F-LK, a system in the station-rich C73-U5 constellation. It's proximity to both the region's sole gateway to Catch and a gateway to Teneferis speaks to The Initiative's intent.

To an extent, The Initiative's actions seem to replicate -A-'s tactic of withdrawing to NPC space to regroup after The Initiative's invasion last Fall. However, The Initiative's circumstances now are quite different from -A-'s then. Many of -A- pilots were long-time veterans of nullsec, hardened to the rigors and pace of sov warfare. Unlike The Initiative, -A-'s pilots had not endured months of bruising sov warfare prior to their retreat. Finally, unlike Immensea, NPC space cannot be conquered.

I doubt the SRC will allow The Initiative the leisure to recover, or a strong point from which to raid Catch. While The Initiative's plan might seem sound at first glance, it's dependent upon defensive indifference by the SRC to be successful. Once they've consolidated their hold on Catch, expect the SRC to go after Teneferis, forcing Initiative into another grinding sov fight while, at the same time, applying pressure to the gateway between Catch and Immensea.

If Teneferis falls, the SRC forces will be able to attack Immensea from three additional gateways -  leaving Initiative's forces trapped in their own refuge.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

CSM Summit - The Coming Super Carrier Buff

Super Carriers (aka Motherships or Moms) are out of balance. Even the lads at CCP will admit that, albeit reluctantly.

In the latest minutes of the CSM summit with CCP, the near overwhelming advantage Motherships bestow on their owners was a point of discussion:
The current situation with Super Carriers is that they are just not dying, they do large quantities of damage to other Capital ships and sub Capital ships – in fact they can be wielded in any situation with very good effects.... There were some examples given of how easy it is to move Super Carriers due to their jump range – allowing extreme force projection by relatively small number of pilot flying Super Carriers.
While he agreed that Super Carriers are out of balance, developer CCP Greyscale seems strangely resistant to the idea of reducing the Super Carriers utility out of apparent concern for the lot of Super Carrier pilots. Simply nerfing Super Carriers, Greyscale said, "imposes a great cost on [Super Carrier] pilots".

Now that's a bit strange.

In imposing nerfs on various ships over the years CCP's policy over the years has been to put the health of the game over the interests of pilots of a class of ship than had gotten out of balance.  Investing heavily in any overpowered ship or technology has always been a calculated risk in New Eden, as such ships are routinely targeted by CCP for re-balancing.  We are all aware that, unlike Star Trek's Scotty, CCP can change the laws of physics on you.

But, suddenly, crocodile tears are being shed for the poor, poor Super Carrier pilots.

Cynic that I am, I suspect a for-profit company might have a financial motive for this sudden swell of concern.

See, a healthy number of Super Carrier owners pay for all or part of their Super Carriers using real money. A Nyx Super Carrier on the RMT market these days runs about $1000 US. Assuming a 700 million ISK return on a $35 US Plex purchase, that rounds out to about 19 billion ISK, which is on par with the in game cost of the ship if you include a healthy profit margin. The build cost of a Nyx these days runs 12 to 14 billion ISK including materials and the blueprint copy. That nets out to about $700 US worth of Plex purchases to buy a bargain-basement priced Nyx in-game. Mind, that's assuming you're lucky enough to have someone who'll build it for you at cost.

That, my friends, is money in the bank for CCP assuming those ISK are bought through CCP's Plex program.

And then, of course, there's all that money changing hands outside the game for Super Carrier-piloting characters, the right to purchase the next Super Carrier coming off the assembly line and all those expensive Super Carrier-specific implants.

With some of that money coming in as legitimate Plex income to CCP, it's not surprising that the developers have a healthy concern for keeping Super Carrier pilots happy. And if some of the people with an interest in the illegitimate supercapital trade had some degree of influence over CCP, why there'd even more leverage for maintaining the Super Carriers' position as the "must-have" item in nullsec.

Now, given the Super Carrier's ability to project power over a large area, there's one change in Eve that would make it even more powerful, even more essential that it is now. It's a change that would brighten the day of Super Carrier pilots everywhere and turn the Super Carrier market white-hot. It can be done without even touching the Super Carrier, and the CSM is on record in the Summit minutes as having approved the change.

Get rid of jump-bridges.

One of the advantages of holding sovereignty in nullsec has been the ability to install jump-bridge networks. Most readers of The Edge will know that jump bridges in two different systems can be linked, allowing the player to jump directly from one system to the other without use of a gate. Thus, what might be a tedious ten jump trip by conventional gate travel can be condensed to a single jump. A well-planned jump bridge network allows sovereignty holders and their allies to move across an entire region of nullsec in only a few jumps. 

Needless to say, jump-bridges allow an alliance to project conventional (i.e. subcapital) force over a much larger area than normal gate travel would permit. Alliances employing efficient jump bridge networks enjoy superior mobility over an attacking force and can provide just-in-time logistics support for both offensive and defensive operations.

During the CSM summit, CCP Greyscale proposed eliminating jump bridges from the game. Part of CCP's rational for this is that decreased mobility will increase the costs of supporting allies, fragment coalitions and (get ready for it) "...may make it easier for small alliances to set up shop, with less supercapital curb stomping."

Apparently mind-altering substances are cheap and plentiful in Iceland.

If you get rid of the jump bridges, the supercapital becomes the only item that can project force over a wide area. Defending alliances will no longer able to move and concentrate conventional fleets quickly in response to a Super Carrier attack, making Super Carriers much less vulnerable to take-downs by defending forces.  Barring poor scouting or bad luck, the Super Carriers' superior mobility will allow them run rings around enemy subcapital forces and strike their enemies more or less at will.

Unless, of course, those enemies have enough Super Carriers to counter the attacker's Super Carriers. So, contrary to CCP Greyscale's expectations, small, Super Carrier-poor alliances will be subject to supercapital curb-stompings on a regular basis.

In short, the removal of Jump Bridges amounts to a Super Carrier buff.  CCP's going to need a bigger cash register, 'cause I smell an arms race.

Ironically, in the same meeting minutes CSM members supporting a nerf of the Super Carrier observe that supercapital blobs are quickly becoming an 'I win' button in nullsec engagements. Thanks to the CSM's thoughtless acquiescence to CCP's jump-bridge elimination plan, they've ensured that the "I Win" button will be standard equipment on even small gangs of Super Carriers.

In proposing the elimination of jump bridges, CCP Greyscale cautioned that it would result in a chaotic transition, or as he put it, "everything will go to shit.”.  In other words CCP is preparing to inflict an unprecedented amount of suffering on most of nullsec's current residents in order to accelerate their goal of shrinking nullsec alliances, begun in Dominion. That's an interesting contrast to their desire to avoid upsetting Super Carrier pilots.

Apparently, Super Carrier pilots feel pain more than the rest of us.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Return of -A-

Fiddlers Note:

Reports coming in from multiple sources indicate that The Initiative's defense of Catch has collapsed.

GE system is reported to be in its last reinforce cycle and little resistance is being encountered. Initiative's PvP forces are engaged in running fights as they attempt a pull back to Immensea E1F in order to establish a new defensive line. Alliance leadership has ordered FCs to delay the pursing Against All Authorities (-A-) forces as opportunity allows and necessity demands, but avoid "hold at all costs" actions.

A large number of Initiative carriers and freighter have been reported in Doril, which corresponds with internal Initiative statements that non-PvP resources are being evacuated to Litom and Doril.

I'll provide analysis as the fog of war clears. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011


So, I'm in an alliance op a few weeks ago, and our fleet bridges to a lowsec system in order to box in an enemy fleet that's a single jump into nullsec space. As our 300+ ship fleet tears its way down the lowsec pipeline toward the nullsec gateway, we encounter a number of lowsec gate camps. Fleet's ordering no aggro on the camps, so we blow by them, leaving the pirates untouched and none the worse for wear.

Mind, I can't speak for the state of their trousers.

As we roared past, I couldn't help but think about my own days in lowsec. Those were the dark days of exile for SirMolle and BOB Alliance, after they'd been driven from nullsec by their enemies following the BOB disband of early 2009.

Now, as I've said elsewhere, when a band of barbarians shows up on your doorstep, it's often  because they've been displaced by another band of barbarians who showed up on their doorstep. The Goths, after all, didn't cross the Rhine-Danube line in 376 simply because it was too nice a day to stay indoors.

As in real life, so in Eve. When BoB was pushed out of their space, deep lowsec (those areas in close proximity to nullsec) suddenly had to contend with a wave of well organized and well equipped ex-BOB PvP veterans. Needless to say, they pretty much made camp wherever they pleased.

In order to make money for a recovery and eventual return to lowsec, SirMolle's lads went about dropping cap fleets on tower-occupied high value moons, liberating them from their former lowsec owners, and setting up IT Alliance towers and mining operations in their place. The lowsec corporations and alliances fought back as best they could, but were boxing well below IT Alliance's weight class. The lowsec denizens were brushed aside and the moons were taken for the greater glory of IT Alliance.

I suspect those moons were abandoned by IT Alliance once they returned to nullsec. After all, while high value for lowsec, those moons could not compete with the moons of Delve, Querious and Fountain for sheer money making capacity. Further, the logistics involved with collecting lowsec moon-mining outputs from deep nullsec likely didn't make it worth IT Alliance's while to hold onto them.

That's a bit of a long story, but it illustrates a key point for what follows: Nullec alliances give lowsec denizens a serious case of the wiggins.

There has been an ongoing drumbeat of concern by residents of New Eden, many of them lowsec residents, that lowsec is 'broken'; that lowsec is sort of the forgotten middle child of Eve space, who looks a little too much like the milkman for comfort, and doesn't get the degree of nurturing that its younger and older siblings get. CSM Mynxee campaigned on making lowsec matter, and has focused a great deal of time and effort on soliciting ideas from the Eve community and bringing them before CCP development.

Meanwhile, throughout 2010, the population of lowsec has continued to drop, even as the post-Dominion population of nullsec has increased.

Shadai of Sleepless in Space, brought the future of lowsec back into sharp focus when she published The Downward Spiral of Lowsec on January 6. While I don't agree with Shadai on every point, it's a frank and thoughtful assessment of the state of lowsec.

A grateful lowsec proceeded to excoriate her for her pains.

A lot of the folks in lowsec, it seems, like lowsec as it is. In fact, as some of them write, the fewer people out there competing for loot and PvP kills, the better. A key point they raise is that there is no reason why an entrepreneurial carebear can't make a tidy sum - in between poddings, of course, which they regard as an occupational hazard. In fact, a number of carebears can and do make a living in lowsec.

But why would a Carebear want to make ISK in lowsec when he can make lots more ISK in greater safely and with less effort in nullsec?  By definition, a businessman who takes on more risk and effort to make less money is a poor businessman.

The Post-Dominion nullsec sov rules have made industrial corporations and players a much desired asset in nullsec. Nullsec alliances are actively recruiting them to come out to nullsec and work in the relative security of alliance space.

Now, PvP corporations who want to go to nullsec have to build a kill record to qualify for membership - and that usually means time in lowsec. Indy corporations in empire, on the other hand, have begun routinely leapfrogging over lowsec and rent nullsec space or join a nullsec alliance.

Why would they not? It's safer. The rewards are greater. Sure, there are risks, but they're much more manageable than in lowsec.

Nullsec alliances are courting carebears (many of whom develop a decided taste for PvP once they're in Nullsec at which point they become Nullsec Bears) because the Sov rule changes meant that holding nullsec space suddenly required money. Lots and lots of money.

Nullsec alliances have a huge incentive to bring in and provide reasonably safe space for carebears. Lowsec players, as a rule, merely want to kill carebears (and each other). Right now there's no incentive for a lowsec alliance to create a reasonably safe space to invite Industrial players and corporations to do business. Until there is, lowsec will remain a backwater.

Looking over the Making Lowsec Matter forum, most of the suggestions attempt to strike a balance between making piracy easier and more profitable (Lure in more fat carebears! Make them easier to catch! Special pirate goodies!) without making lowsec attractive to those scary guys in nullsec.

And there's the rub. The Dominion Sov rules have made nullsec riches much more accessible to the average carebear. However, anything attractive enough to lure carebears up from nullsec is not going to escape the notice of the nullsec alliances those carebears belong to or rent from. And something valuable enough to bring in the carebears will be of interest to those money-hungry lads with all the scary Supercapitals.

There are people like Mynxee, who see the dead end lowsec is rushing toward and are moving to change its course. However, for many of its residents, life in lowsec is fine as it is, even as the population dwindles. That's not uncommon in failing economies. In fact, a common obstacle to economic recovery are the established businesses with an interest in the status quo.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Game Face - Eve Blog Banter #24

Welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month's Banter topic comes to us from the ever helpful Eelis Kiy, capsuleer behind the "Where the frack is my ship" blog. She asks: How does your real life personality compare to who you are as a character in EVE? Does a good leader of people in the real world make a good leader of pilots in game? Or vice-versa? Do your real-life skills help you with the roles you fulfill in your corporation or alliance? Or do you behave completely differently? Does the anonymity of the Internet allow you to thrive on the tears of others in New Eden whilst you work as a good Samaritan away from your keyboard? Or are you as mean outside of your pod as you are inside it? Have experiences in EVE Online affected your behavior, skills or attitudes outside of the game?

I look to my right, at the four books immediately to hand. They are Design Patterns by the Gang of Four, UML 2.0, Herodotus' Histories and the Journal of Late Antiquity.

Further down the shelf, it's a jumble of archaeology, psychology, econ, and assortment of IT books and journals. There is fiction of both the literary and science fiction/fantasy genres. Rushdie's Midnight's Children rubs shoulders with Zelazney's The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth. Jonathan Franzen's Freedom leans against one of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels.

Real life, for me, is a bit of an eclectic circus. My virtual life in New Eden is much the same.

That's, to some extent, the pleasure of the Eve sandbox. The game doesn't begin at point x and end at point y. I am allowed to wander, to make my own path. As a result, there's always something new to try. I have lived in all seven types of Eve Space (yes, there are at least seven. More on that another time) and tried my hand at most of the various Eve professions.

As a more (ahem) mature player, I bring that maturity into the game with me. I take a somewhat type B approach to New Eden. That doesn't mean I'm passive, it means when a fight occurs I prefer it occur on my terms. When a fight on unfavorable terms is pressed on me, I remain patient, often leveraging the enemy's impatience to temporize my way out of a tight corner. I try not to hold grudges - life, as they say, is too short. However, when I must, I try to be thorough about it. I have a very short revenge list, but I keep it up to date and close tabs on those players who are on it.

On the other hand, I play the game for fun. That means that I will never, ever be a galactic overlord. Galactic overlording is hard work, and the work involved is too much like my day job. After a day of being a responsible citizen,  people manager and keeper of the world's digital plumbing, I've no interest in coming home to administer a vast interstellar empire. A bit of PvP or mucking about with the lads in local is often just the thing to knit up the unravelled sleeve of cares at the end of a long day.

After all, I'm here to play.

Other Eve blog sites bantering on this topic:

roc's ramblings
A Mule In Eve
Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
where the frack is my ship?
prano's journey
Drifting Through the Stars
Victoria Aut Mors
The Durzo Chronicles
Captain Serenity
Confessions of a Closet Carebear 
The Phoenix Diaries 
Yarrbear Tales
The Hydrostatic Capsule

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Lion In Winter

Thing are betwixt and between in nullsec at the moment.

Pandemic Legion's attempt to stake a claim in NPC Venal has more or less unraveled. As I've written elsewhere, PL these days has declined the costly business of holding nullsec sovereignty in favor of being nomadic elite PvP mercenaries. Indications are that the ISK coming in from merc contracts and pirated tech moons wasn't keeping up with the outflow. New contracts were not coming in as one would hope and capital ship losses were mounting. Rank and file members were reportedly not getting reimbursed for ships lost in combat.

The Venal plan was apparently to carve out a sphere of influence in NPC nullsec that would provide them both moon mining and renter income without the financial and administrative headaches of post-Dominion sovereignty. Further, as sovereignty in NPC nullsec is fixed, PL's presence would not be evident on the sov maps and PL controlled space in Venal could not be taken from them via sov warfare. Pandemic Legion's leadership would have the breathing room needed to review and reorganize their fleets and organization in the face of recent military setbacks. Meanwhile, Venal would provide rank and file PL pilots with a safe place place to rest, rat, refill their bank accounts and rebuild their stock of ships. 

The Northern Coalition, not pleased with the prospect of Pandemic Legion as neighbors, undertook  a series of strikes against PL in Venal. Leveraging their superior numbers and time zone coverage, Northern Coalition pilots staged round the clock operations, taking down Pandemic Legion POS and mining installations, driving PL from their staging systems near NC space back to constellation UTZ-7B, and generally putting PL's Venal plan to the torch. 

In the meantime things continue to not go well for IT Alliance in Fountain.

Once again SirMolle has made an all-hands call to arms to defend Fountain against Goonswarm and Test Alliance. This time IT leaked the news that SirMolle himself would lead an enfilading attack against Cloud Ring in an attempt to relive pressure on the Fountain front and allow Black Star Alliance to take back PNQY. This proved a feint, the IT Alliance hope evidently being to draw some of the Goonswarm/Test strength in Fountain off to to defend Cloud Ring. While a small IT Alliance fleet attacked at a Cloud Ring gateway system, the main IT force struck at PNQY once more.

However, once again, the turnout for the event amounted to less than five percent of IT's membership. The Goonswarm/Test leadership had not risen to the bait and shifted significant forces out of Fountain. Once again the IT Alliance forces were driven from the field and took refuge in a staging POS. Once again IT's supporting allies were denied access to the POS, bouncing off the POS force field- an occurrence so regular in these fights that Goonswarm and Test Alliance have developed a tactic called "drive-bys" to take advantage of it.

So the Goonswarm and Test Alliance forces remain in Fountain, not only repelling the attacks of IT Allianc and their allies, but adding to the systems they control. Probing attacks have begun on IT Alliance holdings in Fountain's station-rich Unicorn constellation.

With IT Alliance punching well below its weight class, talk in the forums and Eve blogosphere has shifted from what IT Alliance might do to its enemies, to what IT Alliance's enemies will do to IT Alliance. For the first time since IT Alliance reclaimed its space in Delve and Querious, there is talk of invasion and the dividing up of that territory once IT Alliance has been driven out. Mind, IT Alliance is still on its feet, well ensconced in Delve, and mere talk will not remove them. However, it is Winter for the lion of nullsec. Weakness has been betrayed, and the wolves have begun to circle.

And there are rumors that Pandemic Legion may join the hunt.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cry Baby Cry

The whole tradition of whining in the forums after you take a beating is getting a little old.

Folks, sometimes you're going to lose. Sometimes the enemy is going to bring the wrath of god down on your fleet, nail your collective ass to the wall, burn the remains and dance on the ashes. It's never an happy occasion, but it's going to happen.

Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.

It doesn't matter whether or not they pwned your sorry ass "fairly". It doesn't matter if you were outnumbered 500 to 1,  if they brought half of nullsec to the fight, hired Pandemic Legion's Supercapital Fleet using RMT cash, infiltrated your coms and fleet channels with spies, lagged the system, and SirMolle showed up at the last minute with all of IT Alliance in tow solely for the purpose of whoring killmails and making you look bad. Doesn't matter. At the end of the day, you lost. They won.

Now man up.

There's no such thing as e-honor. Don't even start with me on e-honor. In nullsec you go out there and do your level best to defeat the enemy. You reach deep into your bag of dirty tricks and, even before the first shot is fired, make sure that your guys have every advantage you can give them. E-honor was invented by nasty men like me to keep idealistic rubes like you from developing your own bag of dirty tricks. This isn't Camelot in space. This is nullsec. Leave your moral outrage, your righteous indignation in highsec - or go join CVA.

If your side loses, your enemy is going to take to the forums and trumpet their win. They are going to call you names. They are going to laugh about how you got yourselves owned. They're going to play psyops games, try to get into your heads and under your skin which, immediately after you've taken a drubbing, is not to hard to do. 

Do not respond with a bunch of cry-posts about how they didn't win "fairly" (see above), or excuses for your loss. It doesn't matter if your FC was wild-eyed drunk, taking spousal aggro, screaming at his/her kids between calling primaries and bitten by a K-9 dog while being dragged off by the police at the onset of the battle. Your side lost. Cry-posts do nothing but make your side look even more pathetic. Let alliance leadership handle the forum responses. If you can't control your post-loss impulse to whine, stay out of the forums. 

The best response to a loss is to look honestly at why you lost and take steps to make sure you don't lose the same way twice. Be ruthless. Look at what your side did wrong as well as what their side did right. Don't waste time blathering on about how you had the moral high ground. Find and fix your weaknesses. Find and exploit the enemy's. Next time, it's the bear's turn to get got. Winning, after all, is the best revenge.

Stay frosty.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Through A Glass Darkly

"I'm tired of hearing about Bobby Lee. You'd think he was going to do a double somersault and land in out rear. Quit thinking about what he's going to do to you and think about what you're going to do to him."  - U. S. Grant

Reputation is important.  A reputation for invincibility can defeat your enemies before they take the field against you. In the field, it can cause those enemies to tie themselves in knots trying to anticipate you; make them hesitant, allowing you to dictate the timing and tempo of engagements.

Of course there's a downside to reputations as well.  While past performance does not guarantee future results, we are somewhat hardwired to believe that the opposite is true. Which means that we are susceptible to buying into the same reputation that intimidates our enemies (drinking your own kool-aid so to speak) and assuming victory to be a given.

This sort of behavior can lead you to miss changes on the ground that render previously successful tactics ineffective, to rely on the enemy to repeat past mistakes or for their resolve to fail at a critical moment, or to deliberately engage the enemy when your own forces are at a pronounced disadvantage. A common thread running through such battles as Waterloo, Isandlwana, Little Bighorn and Tsushima, is the losing side's confidence in victory at the outset of the battle. Belief in ones own invincibility is a garden path well strewn with bones.

As we enter 2011, this warning bears repeating. Legends fell in the post-Dominion sands of 2010 and more will fall in 2011.

IT Alliance gives every indication that it will be one of them. The hesitancy and risk-aversion I've discussed elsewhere is on full display in Fountain and Catch. IT continues to pile one defeat on top of the other, the culprit in almost every case being participation. The numbers IT Alliance brings to key battles relative to its overall size is small enough to encourage its enemies and dismay its allies. Despite IT assurances that 2011 would bring renewed energy from the alliance and a crushing response to Goonswarm's incursions in Fountain, the opposite has happened. It is as though the fall of PNQY has accelerated a growing crisis of confidence within the once-mighty alliance.

A factor in almost every significant engagement in Fountain is the unwillingness of the IT fleet commanders to deploy their Supercapital fleet under anything but optimal circumstances. IT Alliance is quick to brandish its Supercapital fleet, but its commanders appear paralyzed by the fear of losing it and the appearance of strength it provides.

This is a profound departure from the practices of Pandemic Legion (PL), who are the present cutting edge with regard to Supercapital combat. PL obviously regards the Supercapital as a tool of war to be be deployed aggressively. If that means Supercapitals are lost on occasion, that is the nature of the beast. A weapon of war one is afraid to use is no weapon at all.

However, despite their self-proclaimed reputation as the best PvP alliance in New Eden, Pandemic Legion may have entered a glide pattern to their own end. The mercenary alliance were arguably the architects of the aggressive, supercapital-oriented post-Dominion tactics that laid low Atlas Alliance and took Against All Authorities (-A-) to the brink of extinction. Since then their leadership has led them to one victory after the other against the Northern and Deklein coalitions. Yet, in the waning weeks of 2010, there is some indication that the worm has turned.

Pandemic recently announced that, rather than remain nomadic, they would settle in the NPC nullsec region of Venal - a move that gives their membership nullsec space without the burden of holding sovereignty. This suggests that mercenary contracts alone were not keeping the PL membership in sufficient cash. While this gives PL a place to hang curtains and throw down a few rugs, it also makes PL easier for its enemies to target.

PL has a lot of enemies. And they've all taken lessons in the PL school of hard knocks.

Ironically, it is the Northern Coalition, a loose confederation of northern nullsec alliances know more for bringing large numbers to fleet fights than nuanced PvP tactics, that has learned PL's lessons best. Having been hired by the Drone Russians (DRF) to blunt a Northern Coalition offensive, Pandemic Legion delivered one smarting defeat after another to the less-experienced NC fleet commanders. However, as the PL attacks were designed to apply pressure to the NC rather than support an invasion (as had been the case with Atlas and -A-) this gave the NC time to learn some hard lessons and adapt to PL tactics. Now, rather than merely bringing on the 'blob', the NC forces have developed nuanced tactics, including their own one-two punch of conventional and Supercapital fleets.

In the last two fleet fights between the two involving Supercapitals, it was the NC who delivered the lessons to their teachers, matching PL in terms of tactical audacity, and in once case taking down seven PL Supercapitals in exchange for two of its own.

These events, in and of themselves, don't mean Pandemic Legion is blithely dancing down the garden the path toward self-destruction. However, they do stand as leading indicators. As I've stated elsewhere, PL as a nullsec entity has certain structural weaknesses. Key among them is that PL as it exists today thrives within a fairly narrow environmental space. It requires a constant flow of both mercenary contracts and military self-esteem ( in the form of victories) in order to maintain itself. Deprived of either of these critical nutrients, PL could swiftly collapse.

IT Alliance and Pandemic Legion are both alliances with larger than life reputations. How each of them fare in 2011 will depend to a large degree on whether they're able to tune out the siren song of past performance and focus on the road ahead. Indications are, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Kool-aid, anyone?