Gearing Up and Moving Out

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My alliance has been buzzing with activity lately, and it's definitely wearing off on me! We had an alliance meeting on Sunday and directly after that I took the initiative and created a channel in our Slack for developers. A lot of alliances have this, and honestly doing this is just us playing catch up. Regardless, it was nice to finally have.

I've taken on the responsibility of managing director, so to speak. I'm coordinating all the projects we've now started to make sure they integrate effectively with one another and to keep each developer on task. This is the kind of stuff I really enjoy, so I'm having a blast setting it all up and pointing each guy in the right direction.

As you can expect, initially the group was all over the place with wild ideas of what they would do and what they wanted to do. In the end, I've focused everyone's work onto a handful of things which we've desperately needed for a while but have been able to make due without. It would have eventually caught up with us, so it's good that we're finally working on these things. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, we're getting a modern authorization service set up to manage all our tools. We're creating a contract payment calculator that will ensure as fair a payout method as possible. We're also working on a new killboard that will work with our payment calculator as well as adding the ability to add a pilot to a kill as a scout or logistics. I'm also trying to get a website made still, but we really just don't seem to have any experienced web developers, so it's a struggle. I hope to be able to write more about this website soon, but I don't want to reveal my hand too early. It's a big project and I can't rush it. It has to be just right!

We've still got a long way to go, I'm sure, and I don't know if we're going to be able to use the current auth services that are out there or not, but it's really nice to see us beginning to move into this type of coordinated era.

More importantly, the alliance is deploying for the first of a series of upcoming contracts. This one is going to be a pretty standard event, but it's always nice to get out there and do some work. Obviously I'll write more about this once it's over.

The second one is going to be a lot more fun. Clearly I can't say anything now, but this is going to be an awesome contract. It's an amazing contract type, one of my favorites in fact, and it's in a really promising area. I can't wait for this one to start, and I'm sure I'm going to have a lot of really great stories to tell from it.

Of course, the moving part of deployment is annoying these days. It takes a long time to get everything done, and we can't carry nearly as much as we used to. But as I've said before, it's a price I'll happily pay for living in a post-Phoebe universe. Having a carrier of my own makes this much easier. Our deployment loadout for a single pilot almost fills up a single carrier, so it's quite a task to get ships out there for the guys who don't have carriers yet. I've been trying to brainstorm interesting ideas for moving ships that isn't overpowered, but there's really no easy solution to that problem, and I honestly don't believe there is a solution. Moving a lot of ships rapidly is overpowered, and despite how much I may complain, I'm really happy to struggle through our deployments.

Diplomacy is Awesome!

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Noir. Academy had perhaps its first real diplomacy issue since its inception. Woops. You see, what had happened was . . . well, first let me back up and go over how students in Nior. Academy progress through our system.

Noir. Academy has, of course, joined Of Sound Mind alliance as part of HERO. As I've stated before, this decision was made for a handful of reasons, among them the fact that when Noir. Academy was permanently deployed with Noir., students had less incentive to graduate. Secondly, this gives them a great area for content without having to rely on instructors all the time, who may be busy on contracts. Students stay with Of Sound Mind for the first two of the three stages in the program.

Once they progress into the third stage, they deploy with Noir. wherever we are. They remain in Noir. Academy however. We brainstormed ideas of what to do with stage three students previously, but came to the conclusion that it would be too much trouble for the short time a student spends in stage three to make big changes. It'd be easier to leave them in Noir. Academy, and the risk would be very low.

Well, that pretty much turned out to be true, but it did finally catch up with us. Two of our stage three students joined a going away fleet for one of our alliance friends who is leaving EVE to join the army. The fleet was made up of about 150 or so people comprising of Suddenly Spaceships, No Holes Barred, and many others. It started out in Providence, but moved over to Catch, at which point it ran into a HERO fleet. Of course, the two Noir. Academy students were blue to the fleet and were more than certainly ignored by HERO.

I talked with the students afterwards and they confided in me that they felt pressured to perform in front of fellow Noir. pilots. I reminded them in no uncertain terms that what they did was against our rules, against Of Sound Mind's rules, and made us look bad. In short, it was an absolutely stupid call to make and they should have known better.

After putting out some fires thanks to Sovereign Apocalypse, one of my full-time instructors, and the directors from Of Sound Mind, I decided to remove the two students from Noir. Academy immediately, have each of them pay 1/3 of the costs that HERO was asking for in reimbursements, and submit apologies to myself, Sovereign Apocalypse, June Ting, and their fellow corporation mates. By this point, I think that they began to understand the gravitas of their actions. I hope that this event will be the spark that ignites some changes to how our stage three students are handled; I certainly don't want a repeat of this situation in the future!

Outside of the game, I've had one interview with Cap Stable which should be published soon, as well as finishing up Marc Scaurus' lowsec questionnaire. The CSM season is heating up now that the holidays are over, and I look forward to the next couple of months!

If any of you have any questions for me, I'd love to speak with you by the way. You can send me any questions or comments via my CSM thread, my email (, Twitter, EVEMail, or even here on my blog!

Where Have All the Objectives Gone?

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Look at all the objectives!
I've been thinking about writing this topic for a while now, and after having it brought up on the CSM X interview I did with Cap Stable, I figured now was the time. As you can see, I've obviously been playing so much Arma lately that even my EVE posts are being influenced by them! No, that's not a bad thing.

On Cap Stable, we were talking about my experiences as the CEO of Noir. Academy and how it had enlightened me over the years, specifically about how new players treat or think about what you might consider "high level" PvP. When a new player asks for advice on how to get started with PvP, the answer is so often to buy 100 frigates and go lose them. And that's honestly good advice in some ways. There are aspects of the game that a new player won't learn without doing. You can read about slingshotting, but after consuming all the articles out there, you'll probably still fail on your first couple of tries. But for me, and I think many others, it takes more than the gameplay itself to keep one interested.

It's often said that EVE has some very . . . let's say special mechanics. The gameplay itself is often not intriguing or interesting. That's especially true for things like corporation management (meaning in the game, utilizing the corporation tab), POS management - or any type of management really. But it's also said quite a bit about the combat. It's not a terribly interesting area of the game for many people. I enjoy it personally; I enjoy being able to read the overview and understanding the battlefield, of keeping tabs on a couple of scouts and understanding where the enemy is moving to and for. That's fun for me, and that fun exists solely within the battle - there aren't any outside variables that enhance that enjoyment. But I fear that most new players don't see that fun when they take their 100 frigates out. They're learning important mechanics, yes, but if they're not enjoying it, then they won't stay around.

For myself, if the only enjoyment of PvP was found in the fight, I probably wouldn't be as involved or have stayed a player for so long. Instead, the  Fight Joy (shall we call it?) has to be coupled with something more, something bigger than the fight itself, something more permanent. Objectives. Of course, for me as a mercenary, my objectives are the contracts. A fight has a place inside of that contract, winning it increases our chances of completing the contract successfully. Losing it means that we have to work harder.

Obviously there are an innumerable amount of objectives out there for people. Not all objectives even have to relate to PvP. And of course not all pilots are going to be concerned with objectives. Some people do truly play for Fight Joy and don't care about the extraneous. What's so interesting to me about Objectives, however, is that Fight Joy can be found within an Objective without considering the Objective. That is to say, someone who cares about Objectives, like me, can coexist in perfect harmony with someone who only cares about Fight Joy. We can both fly in the same fleets, shoot the same targets, and partake in the same Fight Joy and come away from the experience both loving EVE.

But someone who isn't like me, someone who perhaps does enjoy Objectives but not Fight Joy would be hard pressed to stick around if they're thrown into pure Fight Joy situations with no direction, no Objectives. As older, more experienced players part of our duty should be to encourage new players to undock time and time again, learning by doing, but also ensuring that those who need it have the objectives to focus on. So next time you give a new player some advice, think of the Objective too.

Introducing Arma to EVE Mercenaries

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I'm a huge Arma fan. It's probably the single game that got me into gaming, way back when I was 13 years old or so (although it didn't actually manifest until 2005). It's probably a large reason why I eventually got into EVE - these games aren't common, and they share some ancestral roots for sure. But not everyone likes military simulators, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty sizable interest from my corporation in EVE when I linked a Youtube video (embedded below) in our Slack chat. Coupled with Arma being on sale, we've got quite a few guys who are buying it!

Of course, with the Christmas holiday, it's been tough getting people together at the same time. So while I've been urging people to get some awesome mods downloaded, I've also been taking people out and showing them the ropes via a few multiplayer modes, usually one person at a time.

Last night I managed to get three other guys - Sovereign Apocalypse, Feetzor, and Demetri Slavic - online at the same time, so I suggested we jump onto my Arma grou's Zeus server for an interesting change of pace from the ever-so-boring Battle Royale modes. Sovereign had never played before, only having finished his installation a few minutes earlier, so I figured Zeus would be an easier transition for him anyway.

Zeus, by the way, is pretty awesome. Think Dungeons & Dragons, except inside of a first person shooter with a massive scale. One person takes the role of Zeus who can spawn all sorts of things, from friendly (or enemy, or even neutral) units of infantry, squads, vehicles, air assets, etc, to camp fires and barrels, or even artillery. The Zeus has complete control over everything except the players themselves. He can drag and drop an infantry squad across the whole island, delete something at will, or even blow it up with a bolt of lightning. Zeus can also create in-game objectives and briefings that the players can complete, keeping a pretty high level of immersion in the process.

So, as Sovereign was getting a quick course on all of the basic controls in Arma, I began setting up a little setting for my three soldiers:

A group of terrorists has captured a scientist and have been quite vocal about their intention of using him to build weapons - namely explosives. Unfortunately for the terrorists, the scientist they captured is an expert in primates, not explosives. Despite the inability for the terrorists to use this scientist against us, you are being sent to retrieve him.
We believe that there are only half a dozen or so infantry with makeshift weaponry guarding him in a nearby town.

So, with that, they set off! I scattered roughly 14 infantry (although I later deleted one squad of 6) around the town as forward scouts with two groups of two guard squads protecting the scientist himself at a chapel in town. Using the AH-9 Littlebird helicopter I provided them, they flew towards the Area of Operation - in fact, they flew directly over it and were subsequently fired upon by practically every single unit in the area.

We were all in Teamspeak with one another, so it was great to hear their plan and laugh quietly as I knew what would happen.

Luckily (for them) they managed to find a better landing zone without taking any direct hits, but I did use that as an excuse to give the closest squads - a two man recon team and a four man fireteam - an idea of their location and pushed them up towards the landing zone. They dispatched the recon team with ease, with me controlling one of the units. This was fun, because I was able to spray bullets toward their location, carefully avoiding actually hitting them, but giving - what I hope - was an intense moment. They worked well to suppress, move, and fire on the two man team.

Unfortunately, the fireteam provided them with a lot more trouble. This team had moved to take cover behind a few buildings, while the players were approaching from a forest - good concealment, but since the enemy already knew where they were, hard cover was much more important. They died quite a few times here, sometimes due to silliness, like running across a field in the open, and other times due to bad luck - the NPCs are no slouches!

However, they were able to eventually take the fireteam out, even giving me the slip a few times while controlling the NPC infantry, and moved into a good position above the town on a hill with solid tree cover.

From here, they were able to get eyes on the scientist and the two sentry groups protecting him, as well as a fireteam that was patrolling the town itself. They also managed to spot an APC I had spawned in after Sovereign spawned in as an AT soldier. He did well, having never shot one before, and managed to disable the APC in one shot without being spotted in turn. The two sentries were quickly dispatched thereafter, although I think the sole survivor of that group did manage to score a kill before he was shot.

The last remaining recon team was tougher to dislodge, digging into houses and using the excellent cover provided by all the walls. Our heroes were not well versed in urban warfare! After a few deaths, they prevailed - as one does with unlimited lives! - and the scientist was recovered and shuttled into a civilian vehicle for extraction at the docks.

I had one last surprise in store for them, which was an attack helicopter that I had edited a bit, making its accuracy abysmal. It followed them down the road as they fled, laying down convincing fire at their retreat. Bad Zeus that I am though, I accidentally sent a bolt of lighting to destroy it when I meant to take control of it instead. Woops!

Next time I plan on doing two things differently: letting someone else Zeus (I really am bad at it!) and taking screenshots. This would have been a much more fun report if I had thought to do that! Oh well, next time!

Secret Santa and Thera

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Suddenly Spaceships is doing Secret Santa this year and I've yet to buy my gifts! I guess this is a case of game mirrors reality, because I pretty much haven't done any shopping this year in real life either! Everyone wants gift cards from me this year, so maybe that's part of it. I can pick those up whenever.

For those of you who aren't familiar, Secret Santa is where you're given the name of another person and someone else has your name. You buy gifts for your person, trying to find out what they're interested in without them cluing in to the fact that you're fishing for gift ideas. Our organizer did a really good job getting it all prepared with a Google Form and everything!

I do know what I'm going to buy my person, I just have to make a trip to Jita and get it. I'm going to contract it through an alt so he doesn't know who gave it to him, although we don't really have a big reveal planned as you would in a real life game of Secret Santa. Still, it's fun!

Speaking of surprises, we're heading into Thera soon! Some of the guys have already moved in, and a bunch of us are coming later. We're just taking a little break here, basically, while we have no contracts during the holiday season. It should be a lot of fun. Lucia Denniard through down the proverbial gauntlet by linking me Thera's stats and pointing out that PIZZA was holding the lead in kills. Challenge accepted!

I'm doing a lot of CSM work already for my campaign, pounding the pavement and meeting new people. I'm working to introduce myself to as many people as possible who I think are interested in what I have to say. So far, nearly everyone seems to have come away impressed and has given me their support. I've a long way to go yet, but I'm feeling positive. I sincerely hope to be a great representative in CSM X and I look forward to being put to work and striving for a better future in EVE. I also really hope that if I'm elected CCP will be interested to talk about mercenaries, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!

If I don't check in with the blog before December 25, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Contract Recap: Sukanen Constellation Assault

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This was a really fun contract. It also reminded us, once again, why we hate large towers. Seriously, those things suck. This contract also ended in disaster, from an ISK standpoint, but we were able to pull it out of the hole due to fortuitous circumstances and quick reaction time.

This was our first major deployment for a contract since Phoebe. We had put a lot of thought into how we were going to move, obviously, but had never tested it on a large scale. The way we used to move was pretty simple: everyone in the alliance would put their ships into a hangar, naming their ships after their characters. Directors would then parcel out ships to carrier pilots and we'd begin the journey, jumping to one cyno, docking, and then undocking to jump the next one. We'd unload the carrier once we arrived and then make the return trip to load up again until all of the ships were moved out. We could typically make an entire deployment in one cyno cycle. We also had a pretty wide variety when it came to what we would deploy with. We didn't have to make a lot of sacrifices in deployment doctrines.

That's all gone now - and that's not a bad thing. I really like that we have to choose our tools for the contract carefully now. We've retooled our doctrines to hit harder with less ship, and it's awesome to see the results of a well-chosen fleet doctrine on a contract. And this move wasn't any more difficult, really, but it did take a lot longer; five hours to be exact. We basically logged in, jumped, logged out for an hour. It was relaxing. We do have a longer prep time to contracts now, which isn't a huge issue - we never had an emergency contract in the past, so I doubt that we'd face that now either.

Anyway, back to the contract! We were hired to remove a specific set of targets made up of POCOs and control towers in the area.  On top of that, we were to destroy the enemy at every opportunity as well. We moved out on December 3 and planned to initiate the contract on December 5. Some of our more enterprising members began causing havoc a little early, which we certainly didn't mind.

We took the first POCO of the contract down on December 5, but not without casualties. It was a really good fight. Both sides were holding on, logistics barely holding on. Our fleet didn't have enough DPS to kill their carrier before its triage cycle ended, and unfortunately we didn't have our capitals ready to move quickly enough to bring them in to finish it off. We were able to grab a few kills by switching targets and staying ahead of the reps, but Violent Declaration were able to bring in more and more ships to the fight to replace their losses. Eventually a tipping point was reached and we began to lose a few ships, so we began pulling range - all the while still trying to organize our capital fleet. The enemy fleet took this opportunity to disengage and leave the field.

That was the first of our major conflicts we had over the contract, and despite destroying nearly half of their fleet and only losing four ships, the price of our doctrines did not leave us with an ISK win. Regardless, we were able to continue through seven more POCOs in short order with minimal resistance.

After a break, the fleet continued with an eye on one of the control towers. Despite not being able to organize our capital fleet in time for the fight earlier, the break had given us more than enough time to get them on the field. Unfortunately, Buhddust Princess broke his own rule of only using dreads if you can kill the tower in one cycle. So during the second cycle, an enemy fleet began to land on us and Buhhdust begins the process of trying to get our dreads and carriers out alive. Unfortunately, due to a series of mistakes and miscommunication, we had some carriers jump out first which allowed two Aeon and one Hel supercarriers to kill two of our Archons and a Moros.

This was a huge blow to us. Noir. is not well versed in capital warfare, we've always been more of a guerrilla force, although we've always worked towards being in a position to use them effectively. With the merger of Suddenly Spaceships, we're finally in that position, but we do lack experience. We've put a lot of time practicing this though, and I'd be very surprised if something like this happened to us again.

We did get the tower and a POCO afterwards though.

Another notable event for this contract was a drive-by carrier kill. We actually snagged two carriers, both of which had just come from a resupply run. For whatever reason, they decided to fight with all of that material still in their cargo holds. This really helped us turn the killboard back around. It almost got away from us, but we were able to bump them off the station by acting quickly, and then securing them both with the Titan. Not only did it boost the killboard, but it really boosted morale. We hate finishing a contract successfully, but with poor numbers. And honestly, I'm still not terribly happy with our final result, but it could have been much, much worse.

Perhaps the largest fight of the contract was over the last objective: a large control tower. We had taken every other POCO and POS on our target list. During the reinforcement operation, we had multiple skirmishes on top of the POS, and man was that thing annoying. It was covered in neutralizers, scramblers, jams, and dampeners. Their POSgunner began to focus efforts, placing everything on one target and trying to coordinate the defense fleet to take it out while it was under enormous EWAR pressure. It didn't really work, except once. Alek was our FC at the time, and when he dropped we simply had another member of the fleet immediately take over without missing a beat. That's one of the best things about being in Noir., we have a pretty deep FC pool.

We reinforced the POS and began to prepare for the final showdown. We were certain that they'd bring another large fleet, similar to the reinforcement, and perhaps their supercapitals as well, which is what we truly wanted to happen. We tried baiting them out to no success, and in the end the contract targets chose not to fight and instead gave us the field and the POS and, for all intents and purposes, the contract.

We were technically hired for a week, so we did stay around for that time and picked up some more kills, including a fairly successful gatecamp.

Finally, we packed it all in and made the roughly five hour trip back home. We broke Noir.'s all-time record for highest contract pay in one week period, which was pretty awesome, and we had a lot of fun. Our contract targets were great sports and maintained a very friendly attitude throughout, and it was a pleasure fighting against them. I just hope we're not hired to hit many more large towers soon! We ended up with 279 contract kills and 9 losses, but our ISK efficiency was only 67% due to such expensive losses. But, live and learn!

CSM 10 Campaign

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Well, it's official! I've announced my candidacy for CSM 10 and I'm really looking forward to it. Last year, despite not being elected, I met a ton of cool people through the process. If nothing else, I sincerely hope I'll do the same this year.

I really like how the CSM has performed and been viewed by the community over the last couple of terms. It's not perfect, and perhaps never will be, but being a CSM member in this era is perhaps one of the best times for someone to truly help make EVE a better place.

And that's certainly what I intend to do: make EVE a better place. I want people to have an enjoyable time in our universe, no matter what their preferred method of play is. That's a tough goal, of course, but I think relying on the core, underlying principals of EVE, it can be achieved. Those tenants include giving players more reward for more risk, making them sacrifice one thing to gain another, and having players rely on others to accomplish grand ideas.

I've never been one of those doom-and-gloom types when it comes to EVE. Even during the dark years, I've seen the great parts of EVE. I do believe that EVE will be here in 10 years, and I plan on being a part of that. I plan on helping it remain the game we all know and love, but helping it grow, helping it mature.

Let me be your voice in that endeavor.