Contract Recap: Stay Frosty ABA Free For All

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Rixx Javix of the Stay Frosty corporation and A Band Apart alliance has put together a FFA many times now. The most recent hosting was, if I remember correctly, the eighth event. It's a great, free event where people of all ages can smash thousands of frigates together for prizes. New players even have special prize categories for them!

This year we were hired to act as bouncers for the event. Our job was to ensure that the rules were being followed by participants and keep ships out of the system that weren't allowed during certain times. I was incredibly excited about this contract - I love the unique ones - but I wasn't able to make it, unfortunately. The good news is I missed it because I was installing a new SSD and stabilizing my internet. So I've invited a fellow member of Noir. to write a short AAR of the event from his perspective.  Enjoy!

The Stay Frosty FFA is an event that allows pilots from all backgrounds to come and fight with frigates in a free-for-all setting. Free frigates were given out to all pilots taking part, the rules were only to use T1 frigates until 20:00, at which time the watershed would open to all frigates and destroyers. No links were to be used in system.

We loaded up a couple of carriers and lit cynos on the central station in the system. We decided that our armor doctrine with re-sebos and damps would be effective against anything larger than a T1 frigate entering system. Our drones would take care of any misbehaving frigates. We kept up three guardians at all times, we used a proteus to place our re-sebos on for instant tackle and a loki/ashimmu for webs. We noticed two link pilots, one in a tengu on one of the other stations and one astarte near a POS. We tried to kill both of these targets. The link astarte ducked back into it’s POS every time we tried to intercept it and the Tengu pilot docked.

Our main three areas of interest were the one gate into system which bordered a highsec system, the top belt (most of the action was going on here) and the central station. Alekseyev Karrde commanded the fleet initially until he had to break for a hockey game and other pilots took over in his absence, he returned nearer the end of the event. The pilots that were benefiting from the links were quickly identified as cheaters and were using ventures and destroyers to try to mop up kills mostly in the top belt. The majority of our time was spent pinging from gate, to station, to top belt in response to intel from FFA participants.

Here are some kills we got on the cheaters.

etc

Midway through the event, two large cruiser gangs ended up coming into system. A mixture of Vexors, Hurricanes, Ruptures and quite a few other cruisers were scouted coming into the system when were were not on gate. We regrouped, added some frigate/cruiser support from the event organiser and headed back to the gate with the aim of taking out their logistics pilots first, and then holding as long as possible with our guardian pilots. We thought it was going to be a tight fight, however our opposition didn’t seem to agree. As soon as we landed on the gate, they had a little think, then decided that they were not going to aggress. They jumped out of the system with no losses. Some of our fleet members had suspect timers and we thought it best not to give chase and tank gate guns. Unfortunately one of our guardian pilots lemming’d through the gate with his criminal timer and was dispatched efficiently on the other side.

Throughout the fight there were some events. The most memorable of which were an Orca in the top belt, and 4-5 dominix’s, I recall a proteus as well. The FC called to ‘whore’ on the Orca with a neut or a scram, or one volley of ungrouped guns. One of our pilots seemed to have misinterpreted the order and put 14,000 damage into the capital ship, the FC (Buddhest Princess) found it pretty funny. Two more capitals were spotted in system, a rorqual (who was tractoring wrecks and salvaging) and a phoenix. Neither of which were bumpable.


Near the end of the event two smartbombing rokhs were scouted coming in and out of system when we were busy in the belt and on the station. We forced them both back out and caught one of them jumping in. We web/scrammed him and took him down.


One last highlight was an iteron mark V that was trying to bring in some more kestrels to fight with. We killed it as it was not a T1 frigate and was not permitted in system.


Finally, we killed a ton of frigates that were either not abiding by the rules, or were dumb enough to plink away at a fleet of sacrileges with guardian support. It appeared that some people had not gotten the memo that we were there to protect them from cheaters and to keep the frigate free-for-all ‘wholesome and fun’.

The clock struck 22:00, the event ended and we warped to station to murder everything, because why not? After 15-20 minutes of solid murdering, we decided to leave system, packed our stuff into carriers and travel-ceptor’d back home.

This was one of the more interesting contracts I’ve experienced whilst in Noir. and I’m very glad I was available to come on the op.

What You Do Doesn't Matter

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You've probably heard this before from the forums or Reddit or maybe even in game: you're irrelevant. Irrelevant. They mean by this, of course, that you're below them, your game play is not as meaningful or perhaps historical as theirs.

What does that even mean? Well, according to Google it means, "not connected with or relevant to something." Interesting. So, to be relevant you have to be connected with something else, and that your relevance is only based on that connection.

It's interesting because EVE and its players absolutely love the idea of the underdog. Many of us profess to playing the game because we heard about the possibilities that a player can actually have on the long-term history and even daily life of the game. Many of you have probably watched this many times before, but let me reintroduce one of the most popular EVE trailers of all time: The Butterfly Effect.


This trailer is so endearing to us as EVE players because we want that scenario to happen. This was such a clever marketing tool because it plays on our natural desires.

So why is it then that the term "irrelevant" is thrown around at anyone who isn't part of the super coalitions? It seems a strange dichotomy that so many people get into EVE because of its possibilities but then mock those who don't fall into line with someone else's dream?

As a member of Noir. I hear this all the time. Pretty much everyone has heard of us; we're very well known. But people always say we're irrelevant, that nothing we do matters. After all, how can any of our activities matter when they don't play into the grand political structure of the metagame?

The truth is, not only do our actions have meaning and consequence, so do the people we work for and those who we've never encountered. We just finished a contract lasting four months where our employer was beleaguered and tired of having to fight their local enemies. As players, they weren't interested in PvP, and hiring us allowed them to enjoy the game in the way that matters to them as well as dabble in PvP under our direction.

We've taken POS defenses and takedowns in the last day or two. Our presence isn't tipping the balance against the large coalitions, but it is providing content for the people involved.  This isn't to beat our own drum either. My point is that EVE is not a game that revolves around the large powers. It's about the individual, the little guy. It's a story of doing it yourself, against the odds - because make no mistake, simply not giving up on this game is against the odds.

Our focus on what is and isn't relevant is skewed. One isn't irrelevant simply because they're not related to you. Everything we do in EVE is relevant because it's related to EVE. Everyone loves good trash talk, especially in EVE, but calling someone else irrelevant is about as weak as it gets. Let's step our game up here. Irrelevance is something to be reserved for those who no longer play the game. It's worth remembering that everything you do in EVE has relevance, at least to someone.

Contract Recap: Outer Ring

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Contract Type: Regional Assault/Pipe Camp
Target: Outer Ring, 4C-B7X and nearby pipes
Duration: Four Weeks




















It's been a long time since we've done one of these. You could consider our assault of CFC controlled space in the NW (Cloud Ring, Branch, Fade, Deklein, and Pure Blind) in the same category, but we approached it differently utilizing BLOPs whereas with this Outer Ring contract we wanted to brawl. Good times.

We were hired by a group of PvE players. They had been tussling with the locals for quite a while and it was wearing them down. We had three objectives. I'll paraphrase from our contract announcement thread:

  1. If it's not blue, it doesn't get in or out. We're talking locking these pipe down with extreme prejudiced All our focus will be on a few system so put scouts down the pipe, set bubbles up, etc. and camp away. If it's too big and we need to run that's cool but also feel free to setup bomb runs to get kills off those fleets too.
  2. The non-blue locals in the area are aapparentlyvery annoying and need to die. They use hit + run shield with lots of tacticals so combat probing their tacs to pick off kills will be very in demand. They may also try and attack employer assets, resulting in exposed small BS and cap fleets. We're not responsible for defending the assets but we should use those opportunities to get good kills and fights.
  3. Open our fleets to interested employer pilots. While most of their forces are taking a break, those that stay need content and we will provide that for them, provided they observe our rules in fleets.

So off we go with those three things in mind. We arrive, set up shop and immediately begin. Within the first two days the hostiles in the surrounding area of 4C- had taken down their towers and moved out. Within two weeks we had basically shut down all traffic in the contract area. It was getting incredibly boring, frankly. That's the curse of doing a job right. You can look at

Nevertheless, we kept setting up bubbles and catching the stray person who would come through. We'd roam outside of the contract area trying to pull enemies back in to fight, but they were pretty good about stopping just outside our area of engagement.

During this first week of low activity, we began attacking POCOs and POSes in an attempt to draw fights out. This was pretty unsuccessful at first. The hostiles were just happy to let us have them. The boredom continued.

Right around two weeks in, the local hostiles began to pick up in activity but primarily focused on station games. Sitting on the other side of the undock in Tornadoes, that type of thing. We did manage to lose a few things in an attempt to draw out their carriers that we knew they had in station, but nothing expensive. This confirmed once again that we're terrible at (and hate) station games.

Three weeks in and things start to really pick up though. Hostiles began reinforcing our employer's POCOs in NM-OEA. I FC a fleet to defend these once to pretty good success. Hostile forces in the area are calling in reinforcements from RAZOR and Fatal Ascension. That's fun.

This type of thing happens a few more times; POCOs are reinforced, we defend. Typically there are no more enemy forces showing up to try and finish the POCOs off though. They're repaired with no problems and the cycle is repeated a few days later.

Our contract is winding down by this point and while the contract is definitely a resounding success, our employer isn't happy. Not with our performance, but rather that we're leaving. They offer us a contract for another month, but we're not interested. It was fun, but there are two main reasons for this decline:


  1. The longer we stay, the more the content is drying up. We don't want bored pilots any more than the next guy. We can deal with short term bursts due to a good contract performance, but a long-term situation like that is not good.
  2. Phoebe. We don't want to be stranded that far away from most of our assets after the changes. 
So we pack up, job well done, and head home. Once again I wasn't able to play as often as I would have liked. Perhaps it's time I accept the fact that I'm older and have more responsibilities, but I want to pound out 3-4 hours a night again! We'll see. Maybe again soon.

We ended the contract with 87.23% efficiency with 299 kills and 36 losses. That's not bad, but more importantly this was our first real contract as a new alliance. There were and still are some growing pains, and while I don't want to speak for Noir. officially, I can say that there is definitely a general positive feeling about the merger. 

We've got our next contract lined up and it's going to be a ton of fun! You should participate. Just follow the rules or you'll deal with us!

POCO Defense Fight AAR: Returning to the FC Seat

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Currently Suddenly Spaceships is deployed to the Cloud Ring region for a contract. We're acting as the PvP wing for a group out there, and we've been here for several weeks now. It's been fairly boring at times (we basically chased everyone out of the contract area for a week or so and no one undocked. Thankfully they've been slightly more active since then, but it definitely slowed down a lot after we started working), and it's been pretty exciting at times. Like last night.

We got word a few hours beforehand that there were going to be some POCOs coming out of reinforcement in NM-OEA. One of our interceptor roams saw the timers and marked it down in Fleet-up's handy timer tool.

I login about 40 minutes before the first timer comes out and put a fleet up. Our employer tells me that they were reinforced by roughly 20 people in mostly battleships, so I choose Sacrileges as our fleet comp. I'm comfortable in them and I trust their tanking ability, and hopefully their neuts would turn a fight if they bring something similar again. I'm worried though because I'm getting reports that FA and RAZOR are coming along. While I'm getting the fleet organized I'm trying to find a replacement FC; I didn't want to jump back into FCing on this operation since it had been so long. I literally hadn't FCd in six months or more. Lioso Cadelanne takes the fleet and moves us to NM-OEA with 5 Sacrileges, roughly 5 Guardians, and support ships of random types: Pilgrims, a Brutix Navy Issue, a Vexor, some interceptors etc. The employer couldn't field similar ships to us, but we had a core group that we trusted; the employer was just along for the ride.

We begin our presence in NM-OEA by sitting on the POCO being repped when a scout reports quite a few tech 3 battlecruisers, interceptors, a Huginn, a Blackbird, and a Sabre coming in from the only gate, 33FN-P. Lioso moves us to the gate and soon enough we're bubbled. The Sabre jumps out and Lioso has us burn away. The tech 3 battlecruisers come in and the fight begins.

Lioso gets primaried at the very early stages and warps out alive, handing FC back over to me. I begin calling primaries, starting with their tackle. We down the Taranis and Sabre in quick succession. Unbeknownst to me at the time was that we had lost three non-alliance pilots who weren't broadcasting for reps. Directly after their losses we were able to kill two more Maledictions (as well as a2B ISK pod. I don't even remember what this guy was in.), making it difficult for them to hold anyone down. I think this was one of the primary reasons we were able to come away with a win; their damage wasn't applied very effectively to our primary fleet of Sacrileges.

I noticed that a large portion of their Scimitars were right on top of our Sacrileges. I checked with Isabela Valentine, was our logistics anchor, if our reps were holding and got confirmation (again, we weren't aware that blues were dying without broadcasting). I called tackle on them and began to ignore the battlecruisers who didn't seem to be putting much damage on us. We took out two of their Scimitars. It was at this point I believe they warped off the field.

They warped back in, however, and practically right on top of us. We started to chew through their battlecruisers one after another, dropping four in a row. One of our Sacrilege pilots, Adorable Rage, got hit hard here and was just outside of rep range. This was almost certainly my fault. The field was very scattered, and while I feel like I was making good target calling choices, in retrospect I don't think I handled fleet ranges very well.

All the while the Blackbird was being somewhat annoying. At one point all of the logistics were jammed out. Regardless, we continued to plow through their Scythes and Scimitars before they finally gave us the field. A few of them stayed on grid out of range and I had the fleet begin to align out towards the sun to try and get a warp in on a nearby wreck. Arkentantix CarpeNoctem went in for the tackle but perhaps didn't realize we weren't close enough to warp directly to him. Unfortunately he was out of rep range as well and died. Before we could get a warp in on that cluster of ships, they warped off. They gave us GFs in local and began to disperse.

We returned to the POCO to guard it and another blue died on the gate in a Cormorant.

In the end, all of the POCOs were repaired and our employer was very pleased. They all had a great time it seemed and really enjoyed the fight. We only lost two members of Suddenly Spaceships, which I suppose is a silver lining.

It felt good to FC again. It's truly been a long time. I'll be working on ways to improve my coordination between the logistics and myself in the future. I really think we should have saved Adorable if I had paid a bit more attention.

You can see all of the kills and losses here.

And from just Suddenly Spaceships' point of view here.

What Happened to Our Backbones?

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This used to be a common catchphrase among the players of EVE Online. Now it's a nearly forgotten relic of a bygone era. Rather than harden up, work with changes that are coming, whether you like it or not, people run around crying that the sky is falling and they're taking all 12 of their super accounts with them!

Good. Cry. Leave. EVE is not the game for you. I don't have any sympathy for you and I don't regret saying it. I'd rather play without you than have a slightly higher concurrent user number. You're no better than the "carebears" you claim superiority to. Go play a game where changes don't have any actual effect on the game, where players don't need to evolve with the universe.

Or, we can return to the players of old. The ones where pictures like this are made for. This is the mentality that made EVE infamous and wonderful. I don't have any desire to play with people who threaten to hold CCP hostage with their handful of subs whenever a change comes along that forces them to adapt.

To be fair, I've never been one of those players that distrusted everything CCP does, that thinks one CCP dev or the other is literally cancer. I'm an optimist by nature, and I have that same worldview of EVE. I think it's almost always moving in a positive direction, and the few times that it wasn't, I felt that CCP did bend its ears to our complaints and learned from it. No company is perfect, but CCP is one of the best. Now, let's harden the fuck up and play this great game. Or don't; Star Citizen awaits you.

Phoebe and Mercenaries

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It's been a while since I've done one of these posts. There really hasn't been a set of changes that are going to have an impact on mercenaries since the last time I did one - for Rubicon. But Phoebe is going to have an effect on everyone. So let's dive into what's been announced so far and what this will do to mercenaries in EVE.

Jump Changes

We'll jump right in and focus on the elephant in the room. This is going to effect pretty much everyone, at least because capital ships can move through gates. As a quick recap: 
  • jump drive ranges are limited to 5 light years for everything except Black Ops Battleships
  • jump fatigue will begin to create a larger time period between successive jumps with jump freighters having less consequences applied
  • Capitals will be able to take normal stargates
  • Medical clones can only be moved to stations you're docked in
Jump drive range and fatigue will have the largest effect on mercenaries at the first, most obvious level. Groups like us will be the hardest pressed since we operate in nullsec and we're one of - if not the most - mobile mercenary alliances in the game. We move multiple times per month on full deployments. I don't think anyone else can claim that. So how will this effect our day to day? Well, deployment operations are going to have to be planned well ahead of time. We're waiting for the final edition of these changes before we start creating our actual standard operating procedures, but initial thoughts are just that we'll have to take a longer amount of time for moving rather than handle everything in an hour or two. We'll also have to encourage our members without carriers to get one. Where before we could make back and forth trips, that isn't possible any more.

I have to admit I'm a little torn on this aspect of the changes. I like the effect this is going to have on the game's health, but I don't like that the gameplay encourages not playing. I've always said that, all the way back to my CSM campaign, that I want to encourage people to login. This doesn't really do that. We'll probably just jump, log off and wait, jump, log off and wait. Not fun, but it'll work.

The medical clone changes won't really effect us. We don't move around using medical clones anyway, and I doubt we'll notice the change.

Capitals being able to take normal gates is going to be a pandora's box. At the time of this posting, we're on a contract to keep traffic from moving through a particular pipe. Capitals aren't on the menu for this contract, but if they start taking gates that could change! Who knows how this is going to play out in the long run, but I think we're going to see a lot more capital ships in the wild, and that makes me excited.

Sovereignty

Hitpoints and resistances on various sovereignty-related structures will be revisited, to balance out the reduced ability to use Supercarriers against them. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog on this.

That's a quote from Greyscale's dev blog. This is a tough one to make predictions on because we have such a small amount of information on. It's always been my hope that smaller organizations could compete in nullsec, and the massive HP amounts of the required structures barred most of those groups from playing independently.

This in and of itself probably won't have an effect on mercenaries. It may become possible for a group of our size (~200 people in the alliance) to take one of these structures down in a reasonable amount of time after the change, but I don't foresee anyone needing that in the near future. The need likely won't come until after all the other, as of now unannounced changes that will alter the way sovereignty mechanics work. Until that happens, nullsec's alliances and coalitions won't be altered much, although the jump changes may strain some smaller ties.

We should hope that these changes combined with the future mechanical changes will create an environment where people are working independently, hiring in help when they need it. That's the kind of game that would remain fun and dynamic for a long time. I like to think we're on the road there, as an optimist, and Phoebe is a good step - although not perfect - in that direction. CCP needs to really focus on the fun factor with their next changes. We shouldn't be encouraging people to log off rather than play. I don't think we'll see many people choose to take stargates over waiting out their jump fatigue.

Wardecs in Nullsec: A Mercenary's Playground

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Ali Aras took some time to sit down with Noir. and Of Sound Mind recently as preparation for the null-sec pre-summit meeting. In this conversation, quite a few ideas were hashed out, the Focus Train was derailed more than once, and some inspiration was sparked. Two ideas in particular were the control bar from faction warfare and the war declaration mechanic. I'm going to focus on these two aspects of sovereignty changes and talk about how they would help create a healthy environment for mercenaries.

The War Dec

War decs are useful solely in high sec. No one who lives anywhere else cares at all about the mechanic, and that's a shame. Activity-based sovereignty has been a hot topic lately, but war decs are a necessary component to making that type of sovereignty control a reality. Let's use CVA to illustrate this example, simply because they're the easiest to showcase. In Providence, currently, anyone is welcome as long as you're not on the Kill on Sight list. New players, old players, players who have never been in nullsec; it doesn't matter who you are, you're welcome to use Providence. As I wrote in my earlier post, Providence offers a great opportunity for people to try nullsec - even in today's EVE. In a purely activity-based sovereignty system, CVA wouldn't exist, they'd be overwhelmed by all the unaffiliated people messing up their sovereignty. But not if war decs are involved.

Adding war decs to an activity system would mean that you're actively announcing your intent to take this space from someone else. Then you'd have to go take it, one way or the other. I was speaking with Ali just before writing this, and she made me realize that it's important to have some form of militant action involved in the taking of a system. Other activities, such as mining or ratting or industry or whatever could bolster your claim, but you'd have to kill something. This is EVE after all, and violence has its place in nearly everything. It's just not a fun system where you can out mine a ratting group, for instance.

Going back to CVA, this implementation of war declarations means that people could use Providence freely, like always, without CVA having to worry about their goodwill having adverse effects on their sovereignty claims. Likewise, renters can still exist, but the actions of those renters will have no effect on the control bar if someone else comes in.

The Control Bar













You've seen this before in other MMOs and games, not just faction warfare in EVE Online. It represents a tug-of-war between, typically, two opposing forces. The side that fills the bar up wins. There's been a lot of talk about taking mechanics from faction warfare and putting them to use in nullsec. Frighteningly, most of that talk has been about buttons. Yuck! That would be absolutely terrible. However, implementing a system where a control bar is filled by doing various activities would be a very nice mechanic. Even without getting into details about how the bar is filled, it has advantages. For starters, if the specific mechanics or methods of altering that bar are changed, the overall concept remains the same. CCP can make changes that reflect the current state of the game without altering the entire system. Also, the bar gives a nice visual incentive to players. There have been studies done about the psychology of games, how certain game mechanics interact with the brain, and one of the things that keep people playing and invested is the experience bar. That same concept applies here, and it would be a small, subtle side-effect to encourage people to actually play.

The control bar is a good way to visualize and measure activity-based sovereignty control. Mining in a system will add or subtract from the bar as appropriate. Taking another small page from faction warfare's book, the bar can even be used to show advantages for having the bar at a certain level.
Like I said, the details of what moves the control bar can change as needed. Right now, we want a game where smaller alliances can compete, where every battle doesn't turn into a 2,000 man dog pile, and where big battles aren't guaranteed to end in who has the most super capitals. If things change, and we want one or more of those things - or completely different things - added back into the system, the control bar is still a useful indicator of control.

The Mercenary

In this environment, a mercenary organization would be very useful for someone trying to maintain or remove control from another. In the past, Noir. had been hired quite often to disrupt the day-to-day lives of those living in one area or another. We regularly provided asset denial contracts where we shut down certain areas from all activities: no ratting, no mining, no missions, and no undocking. We were hired to do regional assaults where we just killed other combat fleets. These activities would be useful to a group in the sort of sovereignty system discussed here. War decs could be allied on to, a feature that's underutilized I'm sure.

New mercenary corporations are vital to a healthy merc community, and having smaller objectives that have a smaller entry of barrier would only be a good thing for up-and-coming mercenary groups. An organization wouldn't need to hire a huge mercenary group to fend off a group that's raising the control bar via ratting, for instance. It would be just as important of a job as fighting off enemy fleets to the owner of the system, but with an objective that's achievable by a smaller organization both the employer and the mercenary benefit: the employer doesn't have to pay as much, and the mercenary outfit has another job, and one that doesn't require a huge up-front cost.

The Incumbent

This assumes that there wouldn't still just be three major coalitions in nullsec, of course, but I can't imagine that it would be possible for those organizations to control as much space as they do, or remain free from their border systems being constantly in flux if they maintained a large domain. Instead, it seems more likely that we'd see a lot of asymmetrical warfare to try and prepare a system for final conversion. And that's the kind of system we need to work for: one where the large organizations still have a place, a purpose, and a reason for being there, but one where they don't destroy the ability for small organizations to exist independently.

Independence is a strong underlying theme in EVE: be your own man, forge your own empire, be infamous, be lawless. That attitude needs to be supported by the game in a way that is coexistent with large, unified groups. Everything should have its price. The bigger you are, the more wildfires you're having to put out, for instance; the more vulnerable your borders are. This is the price you pay for a larger area for your members to work within so no one crowds others while trying to live and make ISK.

Being independent means you're more secure, more centralized, aren't beholden to rules, orders, and regulations that don't concern you. You don't have to listen to anyone but yourself if you're independent, but you can lose it all if you're not careful.

Luckily, I know an organization you can call if someone comes huffing and puffing to blow your straw house down.