Friday, January 31, 2014

The Butcher's Bill

Fiction Friday! Escape pod here to a B-R battle report from a Nulli pilot.

You may have heard, there was a little fight going on in Eve early this week. 75 Titans, 16 super capitals and just under 500 dreadnoughts and carriers assploded in B-R after someone in PL forgot to pay a sov bill.

That is a lot of death! But we need to consider the other casualties. No, not the sub capitals. No, not the 14 TQ server hamsters that gave their lives in the epic 12 hour fight.

The crews of those ships!

The Butcher's Bill

The thick smoke was choking him as he ran down the corridor. The tram system was offline. The last strike against the ship had damaged the power-grid. All power was being diverted into the energised armour plating and repair systems. His eyes watered and stung, but still Vari raced on. The red emergency lighting gave the corridor a ominous glow. Coupled with the smoke, Vari felt he was running into the mouth of hell.

He had one task, one priority. His standing orders had been abandoned. If he survived and there was an inquiry he might well be executed for abandoning his post during battle. However, he didn't care. Right now surviving the next ten minutes was unlikely. The armour was failing, the enemy fleet was too strong. The ship was going down.

He glanced at a sign on the wall stating the deck, district and zone. He was still a kilometre away. How could it had all gone so badly wrong.

Vari was a science officer on an capsuleer piloted Avatar class Titan. The prestigious posting was his life's goal. He had served in the Amarr Navy for 10 years before leaving and starting to crew for Capsuleers. Working for the Empyreans was a dangerous career, life expectancy for their crew was much lower than for normal ship crew. The capsuleers did not fear death and cared little for mortals. They took risks normal captains would never take. Hence the crews pay was exceptionally good.

For five years Vari worked hard, starting on battlecruisers given his previous experience. He worked his way up and gained a good reputation. Within a few years he was a bridge officer on an Archon class carrier. However, he didn't like that posting. His speciality was faster-than-light travel and the jump drive on an Archon was just boring to him. Two years ago he'd got his dream job. Science officer on an Avatar class Titan. These space-fairing behemoths were 13km long and over 100,000 people lived on them. As well as being able to jump light-years in an instant, they could also open up jump portals for other craft. This was Vari's favourite area of work. Creating these wormholes.

Over the previous few years his family had lived on stations. Capsuleer crewing was far too dangerous for family to accompany the crew. However, on super-capital class vessels it was much more common to move the crew members family onto the ship. These flying cities were extremely powerful and during any fight, there was plenty of time for the families to abandon ship. Well, that was usually the case.

Vari sprinted past people on autopilot. Everyone was running somewhere and each in their own little world. Survival instincts had kicked in. It was every man for themselves. No eye contact was made, no acknowledgement of their fellow human. To do so would be to invite a plea for help and risk their own safety and that of their loved ones.

Another explosion rocked the ship. Alarms were sounding, the armour was failing, it wouldn't be long now. He charged ahead. His legs felt like jelly and his heart as if was about to burst through his chest.

A few minutes later he burst into his quarters. His wife and son were holding each other on the bed crying. He didn't say any words of comfort, no embrace, no hesitation. He grabbed his wife by the arm and yanked her forcibly to the door as his son clung to her neck. Without a word they burst into the corridor. The structural damage alarms were sounding now. Vari knew hull breaches would be a significant danger.

They sprinted into a short corridor lined with doors. Vari looked in dismay. Above each door were three lights. Red indicated the door was locked. Green was ready and available. Flashing amber meant the escape pod had been jettisoned. The three gazed down at the two rows of flashing amber lights. Right at the end was one green light and outside the door a family was stood. The man was furiously tapping away at the control panel.

"WAIT!" screamed Vari as he raced down the corridor. A thunderous explosion rocked the ship knocking them off their feet. A ear-splitting rush of air followed.

"PLEASE!" Vari shouted. The man at the end of the corridor just shook his head with a sad look on his face and pushed his own family past the door and disappeared himself. Vari let out a sob as he saw the green light above the door vanish and in turn the amber light started to flash.

The flow of air was detectable now and was increasing. Vari left his wife and son sobbing on the floor and ran back down the corridor. It was like being planet-side now in a strong wind. Vari remembered wind from his childhood. He'd not felt a breeze like this since he was 17 and left his homeworld for the Imperial Academy.

He reached the start of the corridor and accessed a panel at the side of the door. A second later a heavy steel blast door slammed down sealing the corridor. They were trapped in one of the escape pod corridors with no remaining escape pods. But he knew they had had a better chance trapped in there than in the rapidly decompressing corridor the other side.

He returned back to his wife and son and knelt down on the floor with them. They all embraced as a massive explosion rocked the ship.

"I'm so sorry." sobbed Vari.

There was a larger explosion and the artificial gravity failed and the lights flicked. The three hugged tighter as the ship seemed to groan.

Another explosion, and then there was nothing but blackness.


Ishemi slammed the datapad on Santimona Sarpati's desk. The head of the Sisters of Eve looked up at him through narrow eyes. He stood there with a look of fury on his face.

"I'll take a wild guess that those are the latest casualty figures from B-R?"

Ishemi nodded sternly without a word.

Santimona picked the data pad up and glanced over it.

"I wouldn't bother going into two much detail. The fighting is dying down so we are not expecting a massive increase, but they will go up. The numbers lose their shock value when you pass the first five million."

Santimona went white and looked up at Ishemi.


Ishemi shook his head.

"Well no, actually its seven point three million dead so far. That is just capital and super-capital by the way. Titans, super-carriers and the carriers and dreadnoughts. We expect that number to rise when we get the sub-capital figures in. Obviously the crew numbers on the subs are much lower in terms of numbers, but survival rates from those ships are also much lower. On average fifty percent of titan crew made it to escape pods. The battleships, well we estimate it'll be the lower end. Probably 25%. Not much time to evacuate when five-dozen dreadnoughts primary you."

Santimona stopped reading the report and dropped the pad on the desk. "I take it there is nothing in there to cheer me up?"

"Well there are a few stories I'm sure our PR guys will pounce on. About thirty minutes ago one of our new Nestor class ships scanned something down in a small floating section of Avatar wreckage. They recovered a family. Father, mother and young son. They'd got to an escape pod bay but all the pods had gone. They sealed themselves in and survived the explosion that destroyed the titan. Lucky escape, if it had been 15 more minutes they'd have froze to death. There are a couple of 'good news' stories like that. But compared to the death toll, they are few and far between."

"Dare I ask what the capsuleers are saying about this massacre?"

Ishemi looked her in the eye.

"They said it was... fun!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Eve is Nobody's Bitch

I didn't have a good day on Tuesday in Black Rise, actually it was a pretty bad day. OK, so on Tuesday a lot more people had really bad day over in null sec. But what do you expect when you are sat in your 100bn ISK ship (or 222bn) in the middle of this!

I've been there, done that, had the lag. Sat in my ship with soul crushing lag watching my guns take three weeks to cycle wondering when I'll be primaried. Jump, lock, F1, lock, F1, lock, F1, die. I'm glad I've tried null-sec sov wars and been a part of battles involving titans and super carriers, but yeah, not what I find fun in Eve.

On Tuesday, OK I didn't loose a Titan, but I did loose a few ships. At Tuesday lunchtime I had 14 loses in January. By the time I logged it was 19.

The day before, Monday, had been a rather good day. Lots to shoot, and I was killin' like it was going out of business:-

First a neutral Cyclone engaged my Thrasher on a gate so I jumped as he yellow boxed me, burnt home, grabbed a Hurricane and went back and found him in a belt. Killed him nicely! Next up was a squid Corax I probed down. BANG! And podded! Next a Slicer came at my Kestrel. BOOM! Dead Slicer! Retribution running a plex? My Enyo powered through his tank. SPLAT! Atron? My Kestrel made short work of him. KAPOW! Finally there was a Hookbill so I took my Hookbill against him. Was a VERY close fight, but I popped as he was in low structure. As an act of supreme derpness I tried to overheat my rocket launchers again towards the end of the fight... but actually turned them off. Doh! But gf anyway! FIZZLE!

In all, six kills for one loss on Monday. I was like...

Then Tuesday comes.... and Eve beats its chest and yells "I AM NOBODYS BITCH!" and royally screws me over!

I'm flying about in my Kestrel and spot a Hawk in a plex. There are others in there so I decide to take a look. I enter and he's right on the warp-in. I try to burn out, but he catches me. There are others there pointing him so I reship and get my Enyo. That'll kill him! WTF? He's tanking me easy plus the other two? What is going on? He kills me and escapes. The guy who was still pointing him lost point when I came back. I looked at his older loses and see he runs a TRIPLE ASB Hawk! I grab another Kestrel and go roaming. A Fed Navy Comet on steroids catches me covering 40km in a blink of an eye. Arse! I grab a 10mn Thrasher and find an Incursus only to find its a bait tank and his mate in a Firetail is at a pounce. FFS! Another Kestrel for me another Slicer target, close fight with him in structure but he wins.

Five losses. No kills.

So even when you think you are having a good run, Eve Online can still slap you in the face, knee you in the nads and then point and laugh at you as you roll around the floor in agony. There is nothing you can do. Its the way of the world... or the way of space. You have to accept in Eve Online some days you are the pigeon, other days you are the statue.

The silver lining to this post? A bunch of the 'Cats killed one of those Slicers after I logged so at least my KB shows one kill for all those loses. 5-1 against, but at least one of those bar stewards died!

*The title of this blog is actually an old Tweet from fellow "security status challenged" capsuleer Rixx Javix. It was in response to Sinclar Ferguson who Tweeted that he loved it that Eve Online "....looks at you and says I'm bigger than you.". I've had that Tweet stored for a long time waiting for an oppertunity to use it! Since 30/12/2012 actually!

Monday, January 27, 2014

ISIS, Gamer OCD and Passive Shield Hardeners

When that last expansion came out... what was it called? To be honest I cannot remember. Ah Rubicon! That was it. Anyway, Rubicon brought us ISIS which could quickly and easily show you what your level of 'mastery' is for every ship in the game. As a 100m+ SP PvP focused toon, I thought Drackarn would be pretty high in all of them. Nope. Level III in all Caldari ships! Wut?

This is because he only has the shield compensation skills at level 3. Why? Because in PvP you generally do not use passive shield hardeners so the skills are faily useless. However ISIS looks at your skills, see's the level 3's in shield compensation and sets your ship mastery at level III as thats all you have in shields.

However, as we saw on Twitter over the weekend people are training these skills now. Why? Because CCP are clever!

Giving vets something to train has always been a bit of an issue. Introduce new skills and you run the risk of increasing the gulf between newer players and older players. So what can you give the vets to train. Useless existing skills!

Hang on Drack! Why would these vets train useless skills that are..... Oh.... right, ship mastery!

Exactly. They prey on the normal player OCD, "gamer crack" if you will - "achievements". By introducing ISIS they scored two hits. Firstly it was helpful to new players to understand the ship trees and the skills useful to each ship. But also it suddenly gave the vets something to train. Hit all the V's even though some of the skills are useless, like the passive shield compensation skills!

So rather than getting us to train useless skills just so ISIS shows V instead of III, why not make the shield compensations skills useful again? Shocking idea I know!

The skill actually used to give a small bonus to active hardeners when they were offline. So if you had been neuted dry they still gave some benefit with these skills. That was removed a while ago and now they only effect passive hardeners.

Here we have a quick summary of armour and shield hardeners in Eve.


Damage Specific Active Hardners: -55%. 30GJ, 36tf 1mw
No adaptive.

Damage Specific Energised Plating (Passive): -37.5%, 0GJ, 30tf, 1mw
Adaptive Energised Plating (Passive): -20%, 0GJ, 36tf, 1mw

Damage Specific Resistance Plating (Passive): -26.4%, 0GJ, 0tf, 1mw
Adaptive Resistance Plating (Passive): -15.36%, 0GJ, 0tf, 1mw


Damage Specific Active Hardners: -55%, 20gj, 44tf, 1mw
Adaptive Active Hardner: -30%, 32gj, 44tf, 1mw

Damage Specific Passive Amplifier: -37.5%, 0gj, 30tf, 1mw
No adaptive passive.

Both have extra modules that effect the tank plates/extenders, +% HP plates for armour and +% recharge for shields, but these are the actual damage type modifiers we have.

Within the armour we have a third type - resistance plating. Look at those fitting requirements. Tasty eh! No CPU and only 1MW. Whilst not giving you a massive boost to resistances they do give you some for very little in terms of PG and no CPU. Ideal if you are a bit tight on CPU and have a spare slot.

Resistance plating isn't the most common armour tanking module used, but it is used. Energised plating, especially adaptive is used more commonly. Both of these get bonus from the armour compensation skills. Therefore most armour tankers train those skills up. I have a couple of ships that use resistance plating for when I'm out of CPU but have a low slot left.

Should there be a passive adaptive shield hardener?

Mid slot, 25% to all resistances, no capacitor need, no CPU and 1mw powergrid?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

SCASSSS - Malkenen Station Fires.

If you are not an Eve lore geek, never read The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales or never visited the system of Malkenen you might not know there is station on fire there! About 6 years ago a Federation Nyx class super-carrier piloted by Admiral Noir tried to prove you CAN dock a super-capital in a station....

That was one of the kick-off points of Factional Warfare in Eve Online and launched the Empyrean Age expansion. It also showed us the Caldari are crap at putting out fires! Malkenen is still burning in right now in January 2014. Even on the overview the station is called 'wrecked'.

But with the new station skins being deployed in Rubicon 1.1, they decided to send in the fire crews finally! The station is still identified as 'wrecked' on the overview.

So not yet fully fixed. There are some BIG plates floating aimlessly in space and doing nothing much, similar to your average Caldari Militia pilot, but they are getting there at last!

So if you have never visited Malkenen and have not seen what happens after a Nyx rams a station, you'd better visit quickly. When Rubicon 1.1 deploys in two days, those fires will be extinguished... forever!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Colony - Part 2

Fiction Friday! Escape pod here to read about Stay Frosty's Frigate Free for All event running this Sunday.

This continues on from Part 1 and is playing out how I see my idea for a separate Eve-O game about colony management. I think its a winner, of course I would say that wouldn't I, and it got some good feedback here and on Twitter.

The Colony - Part 2

The twelve men and women looked out of the large window of the operations centre. The cloud cover had just broken and they were we looking down at a lush, green landscape. A roar sounded as the powerful jets of the dropship carrying the colony centre fought against the increasing gravity. Slowly the ship reached the ground and they felt the contact with the ground. A series of metallic clunks sounded and the roar of the engines increased in volume.

"Dear clients. Your centre is on the ground and the dropship is clear. You are clear to commence deployment!" the dropship's captain voice sounded over the communicator. "Good luck in your new lives. Dropship HL-602 out!"

The colonists crowded around the central command console. Their leader Chao, was stood looking at screen in front of him. A large button marked 'DEPLOY' glowed red.

"Here we go everyone!" he said as he touched the screen and the button depressed.

Suddenly there was a cacophony of mechanical sounds. Clamps disengaging, motors running, metal sliding against metal, all manner of sounds echo'd through the structure. The group watched the progress on the diagrammatic monitor as the huge colony centre started to unfold and expand. After five minutes there was silence. The structure had unfolded to four times its size. Rather than an odd looking green metal box, it was now a more a futuristic small village. Greenhouses and hydroponic gardens dominated one corner. On another massive drills had deployed and had started to burrow into the ground. A small factory was coming on line as were the research labs. The colony unit could now sustain them indefinitely. Chao flicked through the start up check-list.

"OK what AI personality do we want?"

The others looked at him quizzically.

"Seriously. The colony computer needs us to chose a personality. Male or female and any race!"

A quick discussion started. It was all agreed they'd not use Caldari, they had come from the state and were fed up about being told what to do by their Caldari masters. In the end Matari and female was chose. Chao hit the confirm. A hologram started to form. It was of a Matari female, looking in her late 20's.

"Greetings colonists! Congratulations on your new colony. I am Ada and am here to help you. I see that the laboratories and factory are online. I would suggest that the first order be to begin research on power generation and that 3 scout drones are queued for production. Would you like me to engage?"

The group just stood there a few seconds not knowing what to do.

"Yes. Engage." replied Chao taking the initiative.

"Orders sent. I am currently in advanced mode. This is a free gift from the Quaffe Corporation and will last 48 hours. During this time I can assist you to queue up multiple construction and research projects. I will also deploy scout drones to search for any resources in the area and any potential threats. Should you wish extend advanced mode, or engage it at any time in the future please contact Colony Sales at Quaffe Corporation."

"What the frack is this shit?" one of the men growled.

"Its how they make their money. You think this colony centre actually cost the pittance we actually paid for it?"

The man stopped to think. He looked around as if appraising the room.

"Well, I guess not." he admitted. "I did wonder how they could build and sell these for what we paid!"

"The enhanced AI, special blueprints for the factory and hiring out specialise staff to give us a boost. Its how Quaffe make money on this. Sell the unit at a loss and accept some colonies will not use the extra services. However those that do will pay for those that don't and make them a profit overall." Chao replied whilst studying the readouts.

Two weeks later

The group was gathered in the command centre around the huge window. Now rather than open fields, they overlooked several buildings. On the edge of the developed area a large structure was being assembled by the construction drones.

"How are power levels?" Chao asked.

"We have 275mw free currently. The last fission reactor finished last night. I've queued up another to be built after the factory as once that is online we'll only have 25mw free.".

"We have enough resources for that?"

"Its tight. Tritanium is low, we might want to think about building a couple more extractors especially as that advanced factory is going to start using it."

The lights on the top of the factory started to blink indicating it was coming online. It was an amazing feat of engineering. A large factory constructed from nothing within six hours. Chao walked over to the command console and looked over the factory readout.

"I'll queue up construction blocks as we are going to need more buildings."

Three weeks later

"So what is it?"

The three men looked at the grainy image on the screen.

"Some sort of scout drone. Our perimeter sensors picked it up an hour ago. Someone is interested in us."

"Who though?"

"We'll find out soon enough. Our own scout drone picked it up and is tracking it back to its source. Good job we did pay for that enhanced AI."

Two days later

"There's more coming in from the north-east!"

The command centre was a hive of activity. Since they tracked the drone back and discovered a small hidden Serpentis base very few of them had gotten much sleep. All manufacturing had been turned to defence with the factories churning out drones and defensive installations. The Serpentis attack force was having serious issues now. They had initially scouted a small undefended colony with good manufacturing and research facilities, much better than their own. However, in the two days since their scout drone had been to the colony a lot had changed there. Matari autocannon turrets strafed the Serpentis marines keeping the pinned down. The large railgun turret installed had taken out their single light tank in only a few shots. It was now pounding the hillock the marines were using for cover.

"I see them. Looks like some of our light drones are peeling off to deal with them."

They watched the attack play-out on the screen feeling helpless. The drones and turrets were all automated. There was no human interaction needed. It was down to the AI whether the attack would be repelled or whether some very angry Serpentis would be kicking in their door in a few minutes.

"Yes! It is ready!" came a shout from the back of the room.

The group rushed to the window that looked over towards the large factory. The huge doors started to rumble open. Out of the black depths of the factory a heavy tank rolled forward.

"Told you that would be a good idea!" Chao stated as the AI controlled tank swung towards the remaining Serpentis troops.

They had paid heavily for a single run blueprint of a battle-tank and also for a team of production specialists to speed up construction. They knew it would be a gamble. Would the factory complete the tank in time for the coming attack or would the Serpentis be pleasantly surprised after taking control of the base only for an expensive tank to roll into their lap for free. However it had completed at the right time and now the Serpentis were in full retreat as the tank advanced on their position.

"What do we have offensive wise?" Choa asked.

"Well we have that massive tank for a start! Plus a dozen light drones and 5 mediums. Why?"

Chao looked down at his screen.

"Did we see many defences at their outpost?"

Kim looked down at the logs from their scout drone.

"No, it was pretty undefended. Just marines with small arms."

"OK, I'm issuing a new order to the tank and drones!"


Jean pulled himself from the hole he'd been in for the last hour. The ceiling had caved in on top of him but had created a pocket which protected him. He had waited for 30 minutes after the last of the gun fire and explosions had died away. He crawled out into the open. The single story building he had been in was destroyed, he'd been very lucky. A few others were milling about the wrecked outpost. It appeared he was the most senior of the survivors.

He retrieved his datapad from his pocket and tapped a quick message.

Outpost Code - FZ231-214-67-12
Attacked civilian colony. Attack failed. Colony retaliated. Outpost destroyed.
Request evac and reassignment for eight survivors.


"So what did we get?" asked Kim.

Chao went through the report. It had been a couple of hours since their attack and their drones and tank were just returning along with the captured salvage. The combat drones were programmed to loot what they could after a battle. Complex algorithms similar to those used in capsuleer salvage drones allowed them to scan for resources and take what they could.

"3,000 tritanium. 1,000 construction bloc plus two drones. We lost three of our drones but I think we came out on top plus that is one pirate outpost that won't be bothering us again!"

"So what we going to do with that?" Kim asked.

"Well, do we start work on our spaceport?" replied Chao with a smile.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Gank Sniper Kestrel

Yes you read that right, a Gank Sniper Kestrel!

In faction war this is a very useful ship. Full rack of T2 missile launchers in the highs, 2 sensor boosters unscripted and a target painter plus MWD in the mids, two T2 BCU in the lows and in the rigs one fuel cache partition and two hydraulic bay thrusters.

"Hang on a fecking second Drackarn! That's not a PvP fit! It doesn't even have a warp disruptor! And where the hell is your tank?"

Nope, no point, no tank, but its not designed for operating in point range. It can fire out to over 90km with max skills and targets at over 100km. It is for three things really:-

Get off my lawn!
If a larger force of Caldari Militia come into our home system and camp in a plex we can use these. Trying to fight outnumbered inside a plex can be difficult as you might not be able to ship up depending on the plex. So you need some other form of advantage to make up for their numerical superiority. Enter the plex as a small group and overheat MWD to burn away. If they get a scram on someone they may have enough speed to coast out of scram range and re-engage the MWD. Burn out to range and spam missiles at the squid scum. You have no tank so you don't want to be where people are going to shoot at you! However the combined firepower of the Kessies is usually enough to disburse the group and stop them capturing the plex.

TD Tank
A popular ship for Caldari militia is the Condor. They tend to equip them with tracking disruptors and kite-fit them. Their 'tank' is simply speed and TD, they have no room for shield modules usually. A speed/TD tank is about as much use against the Gank Sniper Kestrel as tits on a kipper. Two volleys, may be three depending on the pilots skills, will turn that kiting Condor into space-junk.

The Caldari Militia Tank
You are probably wondering what a "Caldari Militia Tank" is right? Here are a few examples of CMT:-

Yes you use WCS to 'tank'. When I say 'tank' I actually mean run away. However many of these farmers are not paying attention. They don't need to. They can be frapping away on the other screen and as soon as they hear the incoming lock sound or see the sudden appearance of a flashy orange they simply hit warp. After all they will be 30-40km away from the warp-in so plenty of time to GTFO. However, that few seconds is sometimes all you need against these low-skill pilots in trash-fit frigates. Two volleys, dead frigate, saved plex!

"But if you don't point them, they'll just warp out!"

You'd think so wouldn't you? So why do I get kills with this fit?

In the first example, yes they commonly do warp off. However, you'd be surprised how many die to these when there are three or four of you. The alpha from a small group of these can be large enough to take down the primary very quickly. If you are solo the first volley makes them think I might need to warp off. The second volley makes them hit warp. If they are not in warp when the third volley hits then many will die. Plus we're not looking to wipe them out with the these Kestrels, we're trying to stop them taking the plex in our home system. We divide their fleet, split them up and get them into low armour. They then decide it is not worth running that plex and bugger off!

In the second and third examples above, the kiting Condor and the CMT, you have two things going for you. Firstly is the strength of the volley verses the tank of the ship. Usually they are expecting a bit of a fight before they need to think about fleeing. When the first hit demolishes their shields and puts them into armour, then they panic. The Condor's MWD is burning so align time to warp out is high. They are also probably orbiting you (Condor) or sat still (CMT), not aligned to a celestial. The delay getting into warp is usually enough for you to kill them. Panic is a killer!

Lastly there is the mother of all ****-ups. Assumption. They are in a fight, therefore they must be pointed right? Everyone who PvP's solo fits a point right? Oh wait I'm not pointed! So I can....


Never assume anything in Eve Online!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Planetary Interaction V3

"Drack, do you play Stronghold Kingdoms?"

A simple message on Facebook from an old mate who also played Eve. I replied nope and I'd never heard of it. He messaged again that there were a few ex-Eve players playing it and wondered if I was one.

I looked it up, having played Stronghold a long, long time ago (11 years to be specific). I remember the original game. It was a fantastic RTS in the golden age of RTS games. Build up your village, collected resources, build a big castle and lay siege to others whilst defending your own.

Apparently 'Kingdoms' is a game based on the original but as a 'realtime' MMO. You place woodcutters, iron mines and quarries. You build homes for your peasents and farms to feed them. You build workshops to build weapons and armour. You use merchants to trade goods to get gold. You undertake research to unlock more buildings, units and upgrades. All the time gathering more and more resources to build your castle. It is free-to-play with the ability to buy 'cards' to enhance the game. For example you have cards that increase stone quarrying for 12 hours or provide you with research points. I thought I'd give it a go.

You can check my Eve Online killboard if you want to see what I thought of Stronghold Kingdoms this last week! Seriously, I like my bed, but I'm setting the alarm clock for 5 minutes earlier so I can check on my village and castle and queue up some research and construction jobs before work! Cracking little game!

It is also 'always on'. Right now I'm probably at work as this draft is set to autopost on Monday (Blogger works on west coast USA times I think. So posts here don't appear as the same day unless I post them after midday local time for me). My PC may be switched off, but there is no rest for my peasents. The quarries are producing stone, the woodcutters are cutting wood, the fletchers are building longbows and the farmers are farming! When I get home and log in, I'll have a load of resourses to use. I may have been attacked, I hope my defenses are strong enough! I've managed to build a stone wall two blocks thick around my keep with a small tower in each corner with a handcul of archers on top. Stonghold Kingdoms is a great little game that is long term, but doesn't need massive time investment. Log on, see what has happened whilst you have been away. Queue up some research, set some construction going, give orders to your units and log off.

Now one of my thoughts was, why can't Eve planetry interaction be like this. I tried PI when it came out and after a day thought "sod that". I tried it again when they revamped it. Still nope.

Now I'm not saying that a Stonghold Kingdoms type game could be slotted into the Eve Online Client. Because it cannot be without a mega re-write of the code. But what about a seperate game built from scratch that links into Eve Online? PI can exist as per current for us capsuleers. But what about a more in-depth RTS/strategy game where you don't play as an immortal pilot, but as a normal person starting a colony. The PI output could be higher than that from capsuleers, but it requires more time and carries more risk - your colony can be attacked or random events could happen like the "Tama VI Plague" or an infestation of furriers!

The pitch is simple enough - You and your followers are selling up in Empire and heading into the great unknown to start a colony. You head to null-sec with your recently bought Quaffe Corporation "Instant Colony Centre(TM)" habitat and land on a new planet and deploy it.

First thing is resources! You'll need to get some tritanium extractors activated. You'll need a lot of the stuff to build more buildings so some seperate mine structures are an early 'must'. Those hydroponic pods in your "Instant Colony Centre(TM)" are fine for you and your small group of intrepid colonists. But as you attract more people to join you, you'll need more food. But all this needs power, you are going to need to build some power generation soon(TM). And what about that other colony someone has deployed 50km west of here. Damn Amarrians, who let them onto the planet? Its only a matter of time before that asshat tries something. So do I build some defenses and train up an armed security services wing, or concentrate on making lots of money and I'll hire some DUST mercenaries to kick his ass if he tries something. Mmmmmm so need to decide on researching energy turrets or improved brokerage then. May be I should upgrade the research labs and speed things up. Damn, I really need a level 1 spaceport too, but that is expensive. But then again it is really cheap compared to the space-elevator. May be one day.... Oh yeah, the colonists, they want a bar and sports hall and.... damn they are needy!

Think a long-term MMO, free-to-play in the Eve-O universe. It could feature:-

Colony building
There is a good selection of buildings of which each can be upgraded. Not exactly Sim City. Think more of Total AnihilationSupreme Commander//Comand and Conquer than Starcraft. You need to produce resources, have factories to build, spaceports to trade plus you need to keep your colonists happy. You don't want a Tibus Heth style riot do you?

Are you going to maximise factory production to make money, or invest in colony defenses? There are others on this world who are competing against you. But don't neglect your own people, they came here for a better life and are expecting you to provide it.

From resource gatherers to light tanks. Each unit can also be improved by research. Drones are the basic unit and there are various varients from scout to heavy combat.

Combat - PvE
Those damn pirates get everywhere! Serpentis, Guristas, Angels. All doing the same as you, making a base to produce stuff on a planet. Their outposts pop up at random and have a negative effect on the area. Your colonists feel less safe and things slow down (factory output, research etc). The pirates will also raid and attack your colony, the bastards! When they do you will get a notification that pirates are approaching and how long before they get there (2 or 3 hours normally). You don't need to be there as there is nothing you can do. You do not control the defenders, you simply set them up and position them and leave them to it. After the event you can watch the battle or just read the notification mail about what happened. Example Serpentis sent 30 marines against you and they got horribly slaughtered by your perimiter defense drones, or, they managed to overcome your defenses and stole X credits. Y minerals and Z finished products. Yeah, also your vehicle factory producing DUST tanks was damaged and needs repairs too before it can restart.

They are rare, but you need to be on your toes when a Sansha's Nation colony appears. They are even worse than a rogue drone hive! They'll come and try and steal your colonists! But if you can attack and destroy them, the rewards can be great!

When you attack a NPC outpost the combat works the same. You form the attack force, point them in the direction, and send them off. After an hour or two (depending on distance and speed of your force) you will get the results which you can watch as a 'replay' or just read the summary stats.

Combat - PvP
Like the PvE, fighting in the game is AI controlled, even the PvP. You are not the commander of the armed forces, you simply say what to attack and with what, your troops do the rest. You can send a force over to attack another player but it will take time to reach them depending on the distance, unit type and any research you have carried out on troop speed. The attack occurs at the set time (unless you call your forces back) and you can see the battle played out as a replay whenever you want after the event. If you want to destroy a specific building or steal specific things, you'll need to hire DUST mercenaries. This takes even longer as there is a 24 hour timer and the target gets a notification so that he can hire mercs to defend if he so wishes. You do not get to see the DUST battle obviously, just a simple stats screen telling you the outcome.

You cannot completely destroy another players colony, but you can certainly hurt it.

Your "Instant Colony Centre(TM)" allows you to hire 'specialists' on the market for a limited time. For example you can hire a geo-extraction specialist for 12 hours that will give you a 50% increase to tritanium output. Or how about a group of research scientists. 30% faster research for 6 hours. These 'hires' are paid in Aurum. So whilst the game is free to play, it makes its money through these micro transactions. Another avenue would be to have limited queues for manufacture and research. You can rent an advanced colony AI. This AI gives you the ability to queue up research and construction projects, automatically send out scouting drones etc even when offline. Availible in one week or one month flavours. Again, you don't need to use these, but if you are willing to buy AUR with your hard earnt real-life cash, you can get a decent boost and an easier life!

One Universe-One War
Is that asshat over there expanding into your terratory? Hire some DUST mercs to attack one of his factories. They are not cheap, but they are effective... unless he hires some DUST mercs to defend the site!

Is that too subtle? Are you Matari and prefer HUGE guns? You might be right, DUST guns aren't big enough! So if you like your relaiation more "in your face" then put a contract out for a capsuleer to give his colony some "Thrasher Lurvin". An orbital bombardment by EMP should cool his jets for a while. Unless he has orbital defenses built. Then that capsuleer might get a nasty surprise. Making nanite paste? Well you'll want to get that to Jita won't you. You can rely on the NPC shipments but they are slow and don't carry much. A capsuleer can ferry your goods much faster and in much greater quantaties. Those DUST514 weapons you are building would fetch a better price in Black Rise. Capsuleer hauling contract is the only way to do that! Enemy colony has a space elevator? A Eve Valykerie attack on the orbital section could shut it down for a day!

Corporations and Allainces
Same as Eve and DUST. You can have a colony-only corporation or alliance or you can be part of a bigger one involving all three games.

There is so much more that could be done with this idea. I see it as a long-term strategy game. It has huge potential to bring people into the Eve-O universe. Much more than DUST ever will. This idea is a PC game in a market that is not already satuated by the same genre.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

SCASSSS - Upgraded Eve "Command Centre"!

The wife came up to me the other week...

Wife - "So what do you want for your birthday?"
Me - "Well I would like....."
Wife - "Before you say it, I'm not making out with another woman!"
Me - "Damn it!!! Oh well, just surprise me then!"

So this weekend we went up to the capital with some friends (I have a mate here who has a birthday two days before mine) and had a weekend* of wine*, women*** and song****!

I get home on Saturday which is actually the day of my birthday to my surprise presents...

A 24" monitor and a new gaming keyboard!

Result! No more triple-boxing on two screens!

* The weekends are Friday/Saturday here.
** I didn't have wine, I stuck to cider and vodka.
*** The women were our wives.
**** One of the bars we visited during the pub-crawl had a band and they were playing some Guns and Roses. I got a few strange looks from our party as I was belting out Makalu Cries by Sindel Pellion!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Colony - Part 1

Fiction Friday. Escape pod here. Any regular readers will know I pretty much agree with Kirith Kodachi's vision of CCP will bring in the new space for 2014. My first bit of fiction for 2014 followed the same vision.

I have a draft post for next week about how Planetary Interaction could be done as a separate game outside of the Eve Client. This 'short' came from the idea for that game. It is a short-short as it is my birthday weekend, I'm transitioning from "mid-30s" to "late-30s" tomorrow and have gone away to get drunk with the wife and some friends. Its been a busy week as I needed to get a lot done at the office because of only working 4 days.

The Colony - Part 1

"Build Your Own World!"

Chao looked at the title in big purple letters on the info-sheet that had been handed to him as he entered the hall. He had taken his seat and glanced over the shiny brochure. The Quaffe Corporation logo was all over it, along with a lots of promises and interesting statistics. They were really trying to sell this.

A few more people had entered the hall. Chao scanned around casually. Young, old, men, women, Caldari, Gallente, Amarrian and Matari. There was no one type of person here. They were all different and had come for different reasons.

Chao reason was he was tired. He'd worked at Caldari Constructions for twenty years. He'd slaved away hard as all good Caldari did. And what had he'd got for that? Nothing. His managers and supervisors had been promoted and rewarded, but not the guys who actually did the work. Then Tibus Heth came to power and they expected all this to change. Heth was one of them, a man of the people, one of the down trodden workers. However, it had become clear that whilst Heth might have been wanting to change the State for the better, but his hatred of the Gallente had distracted him. Chao knew things would never change in the State and he had found a group of people who felt the same. Their pooled savings was enough to buy this promise of a better life.

"Leaders of tomorrow! Welcome!"

Chao looked up to the stage to see a thin Gallente man stride to the podium. His suit was purple, the same as the huge Quaffe logo and made Chao feel slightly queasy. He doubted he'd ever get used to Gallente fashion. He longed to get back to Caldari space if not just for the plain attire.

"You are here because you are brave! You are here because you want to be free! Why bow down to a government when YOU can be the government? Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Quaffe Corporation Colony Starter Unit!"

The room lights dimmed and a holographic projection appeared above them. It showed a massive drop-ship with a large object slung underneath. The simulation showed the dropship landing in a planet in a lush valley with vibrant vegetation and a babbling brook. The dropship took off again leaving the large object on the ground. Very slowly the object unfolded and deployed into an outpost. It looked rather Gallente. Lots of curves and green featured predominantly. It sort of stung Chao's Caldari pride. However, he noted on the brochure that the basic outpost came in four variants, a style for each of the four empires. The presenter was continuing to talk.

"The Colony Started Unit has everything you need to get you started. It can house 15 people initially and provide food, water and even air, if the planet you chose is not temperate. The recycling systems and hydroponic gardens can keep you sustained indefinitely just in the starter unit. But wait, you didn't come here to sit back did you? No, you came here because you want to build something special."

Chao noticed the hologram highlighting what appeared to be drills to one side of the outpost.

"Resource collection starts immediately after deploying. Tritanium deposits are pre-scanned before set-down to ensure your outpost is able to start mining immediately. Whilst the in-built mining system will never be sufficient for large-scale expansion, it gets you started! The internal factory can produce further buildings which will allow you to expand your colony. Better mining buildings, factories, power plants, habitats, research labs, food production. The Quaffe Corporation Colony Starter Unit has blueprints for all the basic buildings you will need to found and expand your own colony. With a good site you can have several more buildings within days with the Quaffe Corporation Colony Starter Unit!"

The holographic simulation continued. It showed more buildings being created and time sped up until there was a small town surrounding the now small looking original outpost. Dropships arrived and departed from the small spaceport, collecting containers that appeared to come from some form of factory. Resource processors were connected by tubes, obviously supplying raw materials that they were mining from below the surface.

"And you'll never be on your own! Quaffe experts are only a comms-hail away! Need some short term expertise on mining? Hire one of our specialists to boost your output. One of your neighbours threatening your borders? Our defence specialists can speed up deployment of railgun turrets, shield projectors or production of automated light tanks. We can even provide brokerage between you and cloned soldier mercenaries when the going gets a bit too hot! But it is not just personnel we offer. The included blueprints become a bit too basic down the line? You can purchase advanced blueprints direct from us and save time researching them! Advanced laboratories, Zero-G Ball Parks and of course the crown in any colony's crown, the space-elevator!"

Chao noted the very quick flash of text as the holographic simulation played out. "Additional fee's apply huh?" he thought. "So that's how they make their money, selling additional services and blue prints!"

Time sped on more and more. Chao thought it must be getting close to the end. The town had now grown into a sprawling city. Hundreds of vehicles and craft buzzed around the city with the impressive space-elevator serving as the main focal point of the scene. The camera flew around the city a few times before zooming towards an ornate palace. It entered the front doors and flew through the corridors before entering a magnificent throne room. In the raised chair sat a faceless human. Chao couldn't tell if it was male or female. Suddenly the face started changing and morphing into lots of different faces. He saw his own for a brief second. Finally the face returned to the blank and the words "You" appeared at the bottom.

The lights in the hall brightened and suddenly dozens of smartly dressed people entered via side doors and lined the walls. Sales people.

The man on stage was still giving his sales pitch, something about 'claims' on deep-space planets. Chao wasn't listening, he was now staring at the sales brochure and the small outpost in the green valley. The 12 peoples life savings would just buy one of these with a little cash to spare if they wanted some extras from the Quaffe Corporation early on. The ultimate gamble. They may fail and end up with nothing, or they could be ruling their own city where everyone was equal and hard work and effort was truly rewarded.

He stood and walked over to one of the smarmy sales people. A stunning young Gallente woman with jet back long hair, high cheekbones and a skirt-suit so short she would probably get arrested in the Amarrian empire dressed like that. He also know there was no point in asking her technical questions. She and the others like her, both men and women, were the eye-candy to get you to sign on the line. However, he didn't need any more sales pitch, he had made his decision.

"Where do I sign" was his curt introduction.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Risk Adversion in PvP

Are we getting more risk averse in Eve Online PvP? Of course 99% of my Eve experience these days is limited to faction war. It appears to me anyway that we are.

The Caldari Militia are down on their knees. The LP price finally crashed and all the farmers have all deserted the squids to use their Minmatar alts to milk the tier 4 they have over there. So basically I'm low on war targets, but the ones I am seeing want to fight... sort of. Its a funny situation. Either there are loads of war targets around, but 95% are stabbed or cloaky and won't fight, or there are very few war targets with hardly any that are stabbed or cloaky and won't fight. No bloody middle ground! However, with the farmers away, I'm having issues with a new type of low-sec dweller. I have termed these "Kill-farmers".

PvP has always had its share of kill-farmers. The smart-bombing, multiple stabbed battleship lurking near a gate to murder pods and frigates is an extreme example but there are others. Those who KB stats are king and they will not engage unless they are 110% sure they will win. There are some specific types flying around:-

The Frigate Killing Cruiser
Now I have a frigate killing cruiser. I use my frigate killing cruiser when there are some frigates that need killing. I do not roam in it. However many do, especially in faction war. OK, that is one way of getting kills I guess. 

However, my issue with these guys are that they are also some of the most gobby in game especially when you kill them. It defies logic, but this is the standard local chat we get after we've baited him with one frigate at a plex and then warped two or three more in after he goes for the gank.

"Nice blob. ****** *******! None of you can fight solo!"
"So if I was in a cruiser you'd have still come into this plex?"
"No way! This ship is anti-frigate."
"So you'd be up for a 1v1 in your cruiser providing I'm in a frigate?"
"Yeah! You F****** blobbers!"

T1 vs T2
This entire post was a result of two non-engagements I had early in the week. I was in a plex solo when I got a Harpy on scan. Now a Harpy would murder my little Tristan so I aligned out. Sure enough the Cal Mil Harpy enters the plex and I warp to a gate and jump out. Luckily I was only one jump from home so quickly docked up and shipped up to a Harpy. I got back to the system and the guy was still there in the plex. Great! Time for a nice 1v1!

He ran, and he kept running as I chased him around the system. There was no way he was going to fight in equal ships. Eventually he left. Thinking I'd have less chance of a fight sat in the plex in my Harpy I went back home, reshipped back to the Tristan and came back to the same plex. 10 minutes later I get a Hawk on scan. Different player, same idea. As he lands in my plex he eats my exhaust. Less than two minutes later I'm back in warp to the plex in my Hawk. I do have a lot of ships in my hanger and always try to reship to the same level or just under. Will this guy fight? Nope! I Benny-Hill around system for a while and he leaves. Against a T1 frigate these guys are "COME AT ME BRO!" in their tech two Assault Ships. When faced with the same ship and an equal battle its a big old NOPE!

T1 vs Faction
Now this is not as clear-cut as the above. Whilst you can kill an Assault Frigate with a T1 frigate it is fairly difficult. Faction frigates are not as good as assault frigates but they are still better than T1. Again like the frigate killing cruiser, these guys moan like a bitch if they die to you being "sooooooo unfair". I'll have a go solo many times when I'm in the T1 frigate but some times I'll just say on comms "Hey guys.....". Issue is these bitches never ask for a 1v1. Because not only do they want you in a T1 frigate, they are also hoping you are not paying attention. Asking for a 1v1 sort of ruins the element of surprise. So when they come at you hoping for the relatively easy gank and a friend shows up. Well, you get this:-

[07:36:01 ] Drackarn > gf
[07:36:19 ] P > garbage fight not one piece of shit in this game can 1v1 your garbage
[07:36:28 ] P > circle jerk fags
[07:36:52 ] Drackarn > Oooo nice one for the "rage" forum thread
[07:36:56 ] Dr Wilson > What the heck did I walk into !?
[07:37:09 ] P > a bunch of bitchs

He was trying to gank a Breacher in a Republic Fleet Firetail and HE is moaning it is soooooo unfair!

If you asked and we agreed a 1v1 then you'll get a 1v1. I ALWAYS honour 1v1's. But if you are rubbing your hands with glee whilst in warp as you think you have an easy gank and suddenly you hear Admiral Ackbar in your head, don't blame me you toss pot! If you are in an equal class of ship, THEN you are allowed a small whine with cheese in local about any trap or backup.

The Griffin Fleet
No, not a fleet of Griffins, just one amongst several ships. This is a common tactic for Cal Mil where they put a few gank frigates and destroyers on the warp-in and have their Griffin ready to jam anyone coming in. Now many people look at the fleet and think its going to be difficult to get them out unless you can outnumber them. Nope. All you need are some sniper Kessys, Dertatrons or similar. Overheat MWD to coast away from warp-in even if you get scrammed, burn out and take that Griffin down. Now you might still be outnumbered but just watch what happens. They run! Even though technically they should wipe the floor with your inferior numbers and inferior ships, they are running away. With their jamming ship dead you have the opportunity to shoot back. That is not what they signed up for! Cut the head off, the rest dies off. It is an amazing thing to watch.

So there you have a few examples of players I encounter most weeks in low-sec. Now if that is how you want to roll, OK. Each to their own. Cannot say I'm happy but if we all liked the same thing it would be boring. But please, at the very least, keep out of local chat if you have no concept of irony!

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Caldari Station Skins

In a blog post last week I said I wasn't sure about the new Caldari station skins coming in Rubicon 1.1.

I thought I'd have another look at them on the test server.

Clearly we have a lot more effects now similar to the V3 skinned capitals. There are now forcefields and glow effects. But these new textures.....

.... Now, I really do not know what to say.

Caldari are supposed to be dull! Their stations are supposed to be boring Arnold Rimmer Grey. These revised skins look like the bloke who designed the Hookbill paint job had some spare time on his hands. I went to visit another station with a different model.

The docking bay is very cool, but the general textures just don't feel right to me. May be they'll grow on me. I don't fancy moving simply because I don't like the stations 'paint job' any more!

On a very positive note, this is now live on SiSi:-


Sunday, January 12, 2014

SCASSSS - Gifs for Local Chat

"Let your guns do the talking"
- Rashmika Clavain, CEO, Revelation Space

That was a quote from my first CEO in Eve Online and always stuck with me. I've never forgot that one. Same as another quote from his real life girlfriend Eelis - "Kissed a few girls in my time but the bumps weren't in the right places".

And Rash has a point. It is impossible to smack-talk in local without sounding like a 8 year-old in a playground. However, a good gif always goes down well if you've had a bit to drink!

Escaped that gate camp with ease?

Someone yellow boxing but won't aggress?

Inside a complex and the war-target lands on gate but won't come in and instead runs away?

Need a "Come at me bro"?

Did he come at you bro and it didn't work out well for him?

The gobby little shite who thinks he's escaped and smacks in local only to find your mates camping the next gate.

Did the tarp they set for you not work out 100%? Or was their DPS sadly lacking?

Did their tarp actually work out and you died to 50:1?

Some odd No's and Nopes!


Finally a couple of randoms you may find useful.