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Some of the Best Wars I’ve Ever Seen

So I promised to talk about some addtional Orca kills in my previous post, but the longer this has gone on the crazier it has become for us.

It started with three wardecs: The GARSA bot fleet was one of those three. The other two were Genesis Hammer and JagsCorp.

Right as the wars started, a Genesis Hammer Sotiyo was on its hull timer. We intended to show up for that, but Hell Dawn had a Tornado fleet on grid and they had both wardecced Genesis Hammer AND allied into the war that we had declared. I can only imagine the havoc that played on Genesis Hammer’s newbros depending on overview settings. Afterward we showed up in a kitchen sink fleet to poke them and had some fun. I stupidly lost a Legion by underestimating them, and then later a Leshak to their Fortizar due to a FC error. It was our first night back in highsec, we were off our game a bit.

The next night we came back, this time with a larger and more organized fleet. It was a short fight. Ten minutes later we moved a few jumps over and started shooting JagsCorp structures until they mounted a response. We picked up 2.8 billion in kills in that fight. Yes, there’s a Covetor gank in that. During a lull in fighting I landed a Catalyst on a random covetor that was on dscan and popped it.

Another visit to Genesis Hammer the next day netted us 25 kills and one loss. The kikimora wandered out of rang of the logis. The day after that saw the first of my Orca kills when I found a member of JagsCorp out mining. The fight went on for a while and I lost a Bhaalgorn trying to neut out a rep-heavy Praxis, but losing a Bhaal to kill an Orca, a Brutix, and a Kikimora before my Sacrilege tanked and escaped four battleships was worth it.

My locate work had revealed that some members of JagsCorp were relocating. After sending a scout over to investigate, I found they had half a dozen structures across two systems. While checking out the local traffic, I noticed an Orca in an ice belt with a 0 isk killright. Ten jumps later, that Orca was suspect. His Covetor alt tried to help and invited CONCORD to the party. The Orca died under their careful supervision and so did the pod.

The day after that, we poked Genesis Hammer for a few more kills and reinforced one of their athanors. As we were regrouping from that small fight, I noticed a JagsCorp Orca warping to a gate. We quickly moved to intercept and landed a 2.7 billion isk Orca kill. Over the next few hours I solo killed a Praxis and a Stratios before the previously-blogged bot Orca and Skiffs. That put 4 orcas on my killboard in 48 hours.

After a night of logistics, we picked yet another fight with Genesis Hammer, killing another 18 ships. Around this time, yours truly forgot to pay the war bills, and we took an accidental night off. We let the GARSA dec drop and added a new target: Free Delivery.

Clouds of War is a favorite target of Arcana. We drove them out of Genesis lowsec some time ago and poke them every chance we get. The best part is one of their former members Broken Flames, who has since quit Eve, was a favorite wartarget of Psychotic Monk. We found COW mining heavily in and around Nasreri. I took to making them priority gank targets with NEAPS. They own no highsec structures and are hiding behind war ineligibility, but about 15 minutes of scouting revealed that they were using structures owned by Free Delivery. FRDEL lists its contact as Dwerth Taymor, a member of a COW corporation. So, we found their highsec holding corp. There wasn’t even a discussion among my fellow directors; of course this dec was happening.

After the new round of decs were active, I found yet another Orca in space, this one belonging to Genesis Hammer. After realizing he was smartbombing our drones, I landed a neutral alt on the Orca. The results were predictable. Orca #5 this month.

Real life had me busy for a few days, and I came back to game just in time for a Free Delivery Raitaru final timer. They mounted a defense fleet, complete with members of Genesis Hammer and their war ally. The battle was a lot of fun, and netted us 25 ship kills, plus the Raitaru. Sadly, I spent most of the fight with both of my Leshaks being jammed by the structure, so very few of those kills actually show up on my killboard. I’ll have to console myself with the top damage slot on the structure. If you looked at the linked report, there are actually 26 ship kills. That’s because after the battle was over and we had extracted back to our staging system, my scout spotted a Free Delivery orca mining in the athanor belt on grid with the Raitaru we’d just popped. We flash formed and cited him for a mining violation. Orca kill #6.

At some point we accepted a friendly surrender from JagsCorp. Those guys were very cool about everything and we let them out of the war because it was clear they were just looking to move onto their next thing in Eve. The rest of our wartargets seemed to have disappeared. I set about scouting and running locates and happened to see one target in local with an alt. Some quick warps and I found a Bowhead jumping a gate. I called it in comms and we quickly formed and started burning towards the Bowhead while I tracked it and found that it was burning towards up. We met in Kassigainen, where the Bowhead jumped from Hatakani to find three of us waiting. Another three ships had landed before we finished the Bowhead off.

As he bled structure and realized he wasn’t going to be able to crash gate against out bumps, the pilot in desperation ejected a Vindicator and attempted to board it. We had the Vindi locked long before he was ejected from the Bowhead. We finished killing the bowhead, and realized just how much of a pinata we’d found:

Here is the kill. Yes, that’s an abyssal damage control on the Bowhead. Yes, all the ships dropped. Yes, they were all absurdly expensive. A total of 8 abyssal mods and a 4 billion isk Vindicator that wasn’t on the killmail puts this kill somewhere between 15 and 20 billion isk. This was the equivalent of losing a supercarrier.

That effectively brings you up to speed. 182 kills across four wartargets in three weeks. And we’re just getting started.

shame_nestorshame_vindishame_leshakshame_nergal

More Bot Hunting

thesac

Some time ago I wrote about finding a group of mission bots and depriving them of several ships. Recently I discovered another group of bots operating in highsec, and delivered similar justice.

I’ve been using NEAPS to gank around Genesis for some time. A while back I discovered three Hulks hugging up on an Orca and mining on a corp-owned Athanor in Kobam. A Miasmos was warping back and forth, pulling ore out of the orca and delivering it to station. Ship scans showed the Hulks had some expensive yield mods, so I grabbed a pair of catalysts and burned down one of the hulks. The pod died as well.

After scooping loot, pulling concord, and waiting out timers, I found that the rest of the fleet was still on grid. After a quick bit of math, I decided to go for the remaining two Hulks by splitting the guns on a third Catalyst. Hulk 1 and pod. Hulk 2. I missed getting the second pod as the damage was a bit tight to get both Hulks in a single drop.

Here’s a battle report showing 1.27 billion destroyed by 76 million worth of Catalysts.

More loot scooped, more CONCORD pulled, more timers expired, and as I undock my scout to move on and find more targets, I see on d-scan that the surviving pod is still in space. A quick check of the Athanor belt showed that the Hulk’s pod was still chasing the Orca, and the Miasmos was still pulling ore. One more Catalyst undocked and the Miasmos died, along with the last surviving Hulk pod. Total damage done: 1,269,850,000 isk.

Based on the activity I was seeing, these were definitely bots. The following day, Skiffs replaced the Hulks. While I have ganked Skiffs before, it’s not something I make a habit of. So, as soon as our Glorious Leader gave me the green light to declare war, GARSA was among my first targets. My intent was to remove the Athanor and further inconvenience the bot owner. As soon as the war went live, I set about reinforcing the Athanor. The following day, the bots showed up with two Thoraxes and attempted to reinforce our structure in return. We quickly formed up and removed them: Thorax 1, Thorax 2. After spending two days docked in the Athanor, the entire corp disappeared.

One thing I’ve learned about botters is they can’t handle their accounts being idle. I was sure this guy moved his stuff. I gave it a couple of days to cool down and ran a locate on one of the exhumer pilots. They’d fled to Ondree, a pocket deep in Solitude lowsec. 22 jumps from my staging system, 16 of them lowsec. I guess someone got the idea I am risk-averse. I grabbed three extra scrams and set out with a scout leading me to their new hiding spot. After verifying they were in system and mining, I refitted to point the entire mining fleet and jumped.

I immediately tackled all three Skiffs and the Orca. The Miasmos made no effort to escape asI destroyed it. The pod was kind enough to remain on grid, the bot likely still trying to pull cargo out of the Orca. I then turned to the Skiffs. After the first Skiff and its pod were destroyed, the rock they were mining gave way. The entire fleet then began approaching a different rock, the Orca approaching it and the surviving Skiffs following. Halfway there, the second Skiff died. Oddly enough, its pod failed to escape as well. The remaining Skiff and its pod died shortly after coming to a stop, leaving me with just the Orca. It suffered the same fate as its automaton exhumers, the capsule staying on grid long enough for a HAC to tackle and destroy it as well.

The battle report shows a total loss of 2.5 billion.

The Athanor survived the war by way of me not wanting to alarm clock at 4 am to shoot it. I guess I’ll have to settle for 10 Frostline ‘Omnivore’ Harvester Upgrades.

Thus ends almost 4 billion isk of highsec bot miners. A drop in the bucket, I know, but I do what I can. I’ve also reported all these characters. With luck, their performance during combat should help CCP see the obvious here. This story is on the tail end of me killing 4 Orcas in two days. I’ll get on to that later, those wars aren’t finished.

New Player Retention – Skills, Missions, and Standings

Remember when CCP pointed at wardecs and said “that’s why we’re not keeping new players” and gave players a way to exempt their corporations from highsec warfare? Remember how after they made all the wardec changes, new player retention dramatically increased? Don’t worry, I don’t recall that last bit either. James315 has been suggesting for some time that CCP is effectively just aimlessly twisting dials to see what works. The short-lived nullsec blackout earlier this year would strongly suggest they are doing just that.

So, I’d like to present some of my own dial-twisting suggestions that are the result of conversations on Reddit, alliance comms, and the BU and minerbumping channels.

Skills

Remodel the skill queue. While the current iteration is a vast improvement over its predecessors, there have been several excellent mock-ups suggested over the years that would make things much better. Little things like this make a world of difference in how new players perceive the game. The skill queue is something new players see quite a lot as they tweak their training, and making it easy and appealing should be a priority for UI design.

Remove attributes. Learning skills disappeared years ago, and no one misses them. Attributes need to go away as well. Especially in the first months of play, Eve is a game of progression. You train into new ships, new modules, and new gameplay options. In the current system, a player interested in optimizing their skill queue can’t move back and forth between engineering and gunnery skills without severely penalizing their skill production. A game shouldn’t actively penalize a new player so they cannot generate SP at the same rate as veterans because they can’t afford to spend months on the same skill group to get the most out of their mapping. As an extension of this change, anything that currently affects attributes should be a percentage boost in SP generation instead.

Make jump clones accessible. NPC stations should allow you to clone jump inside the station with no timer, for free (the way citadels do now). This idea original came from a conversation on Reddit about learning implants, and how the risk of losing expensive learning implants creates an incentive to stay docked. I said that rather than removing learning implants entirely, it would make more sense to teach people about jump clones early and encourage them to be used often. This also serves to prepare them to use a feature that is a daily necessity for large parts of the Eve community.

A reasonable nerf to injectors. One of CCP’s justifications for injectors was that new players need them to catch up to the veterans, and I won’t argue their usefulness. But the reality of day-to-day Eve is that they seem to mostly be used to inject yet another super or rorqual pilot to put even greater distance between newcomers and late-game. Injectors need a reasonable limit to how many can be used; I like the idea of a fatigue system like we see on capitals where using more injectors at once means having to wait longer before the next one can be used.

I don’t know the numbers off hand for how many injectors you need to go from new character to Rorqual or super pilot, but if the fatigue system could reasonably stretch the time on getting there to 4-8 weeks I think the vast majority of players would get behind it. Injectors were meant for new players to catch up and for mid-level players to quickly pick up a new doctrine. I don’t see how anyone at CCP interested in player retention and game balance would think it’s a good idea to allow players to create day one capital alts.

Let (newer) players grind skills. I’ll start by acknowledging that this will easily be the most controversial and potentially exploitable idea I’m presenting here. I won’t try to suggest ways to prevent exploitation: that’s for CCP to consider with the knowledge of what their systems can and cannot do and for the player base at large to test. That said, one of the greatest complaints I hear from new players who made it to their second month is this: “It takes so long to feel competitive at anything and I get tired of logging in and doing the same thing every day waiting for skills to train.”

I think we can all agree, that’s a problem. When new players look at how long it takes them to build up skills and they talk to seasoned players who have topped 100 million SP, it’s a daunting task. Currently their only solution is to grind isk to spend on injectors, which I’m sure CCP envisioned as being a great way to make money. The problem is, retention numbers suggest they are simply leaving and that injectors are largely being consumed by veteran alts who can afford to inject directly to specific skill sets.

To that end, I propose a that NPC missions should reward players with directly-applied skill points. (This probably should be an omega-only feature, both to encourage upgrading as well as to remove one avenue of potential abuse.) By “directly-applied” I mean that skill points shouldn’t be added to the unassigned pool, but rather directly to skills relevant to the mission type and empire. So a player could run Caldari military missions to improve missile and Caldari spaceship command skills. Skilled only on shield ships and need to get armor ship skills in place as quickly as possible? Head over to Amarr space and grind missions there to get a boost.

Obviously there are a lot of mechanics to consider here. How many SP should be rewarded? Should there be a cap on these rewards? (I would emphatically say yes, 3-5 missions should be the maximum grind for extra SP.) What skills would be eligible? What skills should be excluded? I’m picturing a system where specific T1 level 4 skills are attainable in highsec and level 5 skills would require faction warfare or missions in lowsec. T2 skills would not be eligible for gains from these missions. The result would be that a new player could use mission mechanics to obtain level 4 ship command and weapon system skills in a much more reasonable time, opening up much more of the game to them early. Industrial skills could be similarly improved to an extent They can choose then to venture into lowsec to continue grinding for their level 5 skills to achieve T2 faster, or simply wait out that training while doing other things.

The Grind – PVE Improvements

Obviously the bulk of my thoughts on skill improvements went towards giving new players a way to put in time actively engaging in Eve in order to speed up their skill production. Those thoughts naturally led to ideas of ways to improve the mission system overall. Conversations with corpmates on TeamSpeak further clarified some ideas that would make Eve less frustrating and less likely to induce rage quits with bad mechanics.

Remove negative empire standings. This just doesn’t serve any purpose except to occasionally cause a newer player to wander into the wrong empire and die to faction police with no obvious warnings they were taking that risk. The current system simply punishes people who don’t cherry pick missions and makes portions of highsec inaccessible to new players for using the very content the NPE taught them to use. This system has no practical value in the game and since CCP has all but abandoned lore as anything more than a way to introduce new mechanics, let’s drop the pretense and throw this out. Empire standings should only ever go up. (edit: thanks to u/bunchofsugar on Reddit for pointing out that faction warfare would be impacted by this. So I will amend this to simply say that normal military missions should not result in the loss of empire standings.)

Remove NPC corporation standings. Like empire standings, these have no practical purpose in modern Eve. Ever since mission quality ratings were removed and all level 4 missions were the same, the only metric that determined which agent a player uses is the value of the LP. So let’s just throw out the notion of having to grind standings with multiple corporations in the same empire. It serves no purpose.

Add a mission reputation meter. Let’s start with an example here: A new player spends months running missions in Amarr space. The corporation they’ve been active in falls apart. They find a new group that sounds great, except they’re in Caldari space. They’ve been running level 4 missions for a while now, and relocating means dropping back to level 1s and grinding their way back up. Sounds like a great way to make Eve tedious for a little while: their income drops, they have to move and refit ships that can enter low level mission gates, and their participation with their new corp is less than desired because they need to work up that income stream to afford whatever other things are being done. The solution here is to add a reputation meter for each mission type. Get your score high enough, you can jump straight to your desired mission level without the empire standing (but don’t have access to other agent services like locators).

Putting It All Together

A new player joins and finds the skill queue easier to explore and use. Optimization of training is limited to boosters and implants speeding up training, and new players are taught early that they can protect high-value implants through the use of easily-accessible jump clones.

As the new player ventures into normal highsec, the missions they run contribute directly to relevant skills. Alpha players would be notified that if they had an Omega subscription, they would have been rewarded with additional skill points.

Mission agents are easier to find and there are no nasty surprises as a result of running missions for an extended period of time. In fact, players are actively encouraged to work on standings with all empires as they will need to run missions for all of them to get all the skill bonuses. Players with a few years of experience can still find it advantageous to return and run some missions to fill in holes in their skill set, resulting in local having a greater mix of players. This influx of experienced players spending a few days grinding specific skills means new players get better advice when seeking help in local and their chances of befriending someone who can draw them into a larger social circle go up.

One More Thing – Freelance Missions

One of my corpmates is a game developer. In talking through a lot of these ideas on comms, he said that Eve has a serious problem: it doesn’t incentivize late-game players to undock and do things. He pointed at mobile apps that require players to invest at least a few minutes every day to get the most out of their games. They limit the number of times a player CAN engage in this type of PVE, but also strongly penalize those who don’t do it. He could explain the mechanic and the rationale behind it far better than I can, so I’ll just say this: I think it would be good for Eve. We need more ships in space.

His proposal was to completely replace the mission system. I can’t see that being anything that would work in the near future, so I’ll modify it and say we should add a freelance mission system to the Agency. It would work something like this: from whatever system you’re in, the Agency offers you several missions, possibly within a small radius. You can accept up to <insert number here> of them. Running those missions would be tied to…something that would give us a good reason to get online and do it for 15-30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week.

This is a new idea, and largely not of my own making. It obviously would need a lot more thought put into it to clarify the vision. My corpmate was clear about a few things, particularly that this should be available in every system, even while undocked. The idea isn’t to force every player in Eve to go do a particular piece of content. But…What would be the motivator to undock? What kind of missions should be offered? How can this work for wormholes?

As always, feedback and discussion are welcome.

Min/Maxing the Catalyst Gank

catalyst

You haven’t gotten rid of me yet. Real life and lowsec empire-building have cut into my highsec shenanigans, but I’m still up to things. Primarily ganking those evil industrialist pigs. To that end, I spend a fair bit of time in the minerbumping channel talking to CODE. and other members of the ganker community.

A few days ago, a newcomer was asking about Catalyst fits. Specifically he was asking about polarized weapons without first having checked the market. After setting him straight on not fitting a 70 mil Catalyst, several of us started comparing fits. Mine was basic: Light Neutron Blaster IIs across the highs, Magnetic Field Stabilizer IIs across the lows, a scram and a sensor booster in the mids, and a T1 hybrid rig and a overclocking rig. Gogela shared a similar fit that gave up the sensor booster in favor of a T2 hybrid rig and a T2 sensor rig. It lacked the CPU to get the sebo in and dropped one of the magstabs to a meta, so the tradoff was roughly 200 sensor strength for 27 addtional DPS. I felt like this could be improved up and set about digging through Pyfa for options. I found two things:

  • Small Algid Hybrid Administrations Unit I – this rig reduces the CPU load of hybrid turrets at the expense of powergrid. You’ve got plenty of powergrid to work with on a typical gank catalyst, and a day of training hybrid rigging keeps the penalty manageable.
  • Zainou ‘Gnome’ Weapon Upgrades WU-1002 – this implant is affordable and drops CPU demand of turrets an addtional 2%.

Combined, these two allow a full stack of T2 magstabs AND the sensor booster while using the T2 hybrid rig, maximizing damage output.

The Fit:

[Catalyst]

Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Initiated Compact Warp Scrambler
F-90 Compact Sensor Booster, Scan Resolution Script

Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S

Small Hybrid Burst Aerator II
Small Algid Hybrid Administrations Unit I
[Empty Rig slot]
Void S x112
Scan Resolution Script x1

If you’re wondering about the count on ammo, that’s 14 volleys, which is 1 more than you can use in a 0.5 system in which Concord has already spawned.

Expect this Catalyst to cost 13-14 million isk, with roughly 4.6 million on average dropping in the wreck.

Implants:

Yes, you should use implants. The WU-1002 is crucial for the above fit. Here’s the full implant set I’d recommend:

  • Zainou ‘Deadeye’ Small Hybrid Turret SH-603
  • Zainou ‘Gypsy’ Signature Analysis SA-702
  • Eifyr and Co. ‘Gunslinger’ Surgical Strike SS-903
  • Zainou ‘Gnome’ Weapon Upgrades WU-1002

That makes for a 50 million isk pod on today’s Jita prices.

With implants, this fit is capable of 746 DPS and a scan resolution of 988. or 1041 with heat (be careful heating a sebo, it can kill your scram if you run too many cycles).

Skills:

Purchase these for a new character (about 2.5 mil):

Gallente Frigate
Gallente Destroyer
Small Hybrid Turret
Small Blaster Specialization
Jury Rigging
Hybrid Weapon Rigging

Alpha skills:

If you’re cooking alpha characters prior to subscribing or just planning to gank as an alpha, this will take about two months. Max perception with the rest of your points in intelligence for an optimized train.

Cybernetics 2
Jury Rigging 3
Hybrid Weapon Rigging 3
Power Grid Management 5
CPU Management 5
Signature Analysis 3

Gallente Frigate 3
Gallente Destroyer 1
Weapon Upgrades 4
Motion Prediction 3
Small Hybrid Turret 5
Small Blaster Specialization 3 (once this is trained to 1, you can fly this fit)
Rapid Firing 4
Surgical Strike 4
Gunnery 5

Omega skills:

Note: if you’re starting this plan as an omega, get Weapon Upgrades 5 earlier, as it’s necessary for fitting (see my note below). This is another two months training for perfect DPS and scan resolution.

Weapon Upgrades 5
Small Blaster Specialization 5
Rapid Firing 5
Surgical Strike 5
Signature Analysis 5

Boosters:

The Agency ‘Pyrolancea’ DB3 Dose I booster can eek out an addtional 20 DPS, which can make a difference on tight gank numbers. Anything more is rather costly as you’d be doing really well to get 3 ganks on a dose.

A Note on Alpha Characters:

This fit as listed requires the Weapon Upgrades 5 skill, which is not accessible for an alpha character. You can sacrifice about 20 DPS and some extra isk by switching the ‘Deadeye’ SH-603 implant for the Zainou ‘Gypsy’ CPU Management EE-603 to make this fit work for an alpha pilot.

My First (Almost) 500 Days of Eve, According to My Killboard

Over the years, I’ve had a lot to say about player retention, how people experience Eve, and what should be done to protect people. I’ve frequently referenced my own experiences to reinforce my point. Recently I reached back into the last page of my killboard to do just that, and it got me to thinking: there’s a story there. I was finally dragged into playing Eve on May 24, 2010 by a good friend, who had himself started playing a month before with several mutual friends. I came in with no prior MMO experience to draw from, having primarily played FPS and RTS prior to Eve.

Day 1: The new player experience gives me a mission that requires me to lose a ship.

Day 3: Or maybe that was this loss. One of those two is my first unintended loss of a ship. I just turned around and bought another one. I took to this lesson quite well: ships were disposable. They were something to be used, and sometimes used up.

Day 24: Two days after joining the corporation founded by my friends, I lost an Omen tagging along on level 4 missions. I took to the Omen because I liked the lasers. Less reloading, less cargo for ammo, also PEW PEW PEW LASERS. I immediately replaced the Omen with bounties and insurance money. In spite of such losses, I was easily making isk to replace ships I lost to my habit of diving in over my head.

Day 48: Still flying and losing Omens in missions. My little noob corp had no one to give me advice on fittings, though the fit does indicate that we’d recently discovered salvaging. Being a bit behind everyone else, I took it upon myself to become the salvager as it gave me a role in higher-profit missions to which I would never grind standings enough for access.

Day 59: I discovered the pre-Noctis salvage Catalyst, and proceeded to lose two ships  because I lacked the patience to sit on a gate waiting for the combat ship to finish doing his thing. I didn’t stop this habit, I simply learned how to not die taking a catalyst into hostile level 4 mission grids. The most important bit here is this is the first fits you see in my history that have truly deliberate fittings. It took me two months to reach that point. I’d be embarrassed if I hadn’t seen hundreds of new players do exactly the same things.

Day 63: Around this same time, a corpmate introduced me to exploration and I found the first thing that really suited me. I lost my first battlecruiser in a drone site. My fit was still kitchen sink, most likely built primarily from mission loot I’d picked up working as the corp salvager. I feel it’s important to note here that I’d learned early to mistrust Battleclinic, which was supposedly the place to go for fitting ideas at the time.

Day 96: Exploration led me to wormholes and I discovered just how ill-prepared I was to contend with sleepers. This fit shows that after 100 days, I was finally putting together a proper ship, although clearly there were some concepts I was still missing.

Day 100: We discovered ABC ores in the wormholes we’d been poking around in. The first couple of ops were uneventful and more than paid for the barges we’d been risking in w-space. So when my first taste of PVP was the loss of a retriever, I wasn’t concerned. I understood that I had very little on grid at any given time relative to the potential payout involved.

Day 112: C1 sites were a far more consistent source of income than hoping for a good grav site in w-space, and I was regularly day-tripping in a decently-fitted Harbinger. I found the risk to be well worth the reward. I continued to venture in and out of wormholes, occasionally losing T1 frigates to hole camps as I scouted and bookmarked.

Day 146: Our first wardec! My first PVP loss in highsec! I remember us scrambling to figure out how war worked, and quickly realizing we could simply continue to operate so long as we watched local and didn’t blindly jump gates.

Day 170: My first PVP kill. I was doing some highsec exploration and this guy intended to swipe my loot and run. Turns out, I had a point on my “PVE” ship. W-space had hardened me enough that I started fitting one just in case.

day 176: We get can flipped during a corp mining op. Being the daring one, I proceeded to take our stuff back, making multiple trips in my Bestower, aligning before scooping and warping immediately. I finally lost the Bestower on my last trip. My antics earned us another wardec.

Day 180: Ignorant of the watch list and locator agents, I drove 20 jumps away and proceeded to run missions there, thinking I’d be safe far away from our “home” in The Citadel. I learned the hard way that didn’t work.

Day 205: A recent recruit and I decided to roam lowsec and score a modest kill. This kicked off two weeks in which I lost several ships in lowsec, both roaming for fights and attempting exploration.

Day 227: My exploration Harbinger continues to evolve and serve me well, netting me a small kill when I stumble across a Cormorant during my trips.

Day 241: Our third wardec comes at the hands of someone who posed as a recruit to gather intel first. I decided to yolo a Slicer versus a Typhoon. He let the war go after that. A few more losses followed as I continued to take risks and push the limits of my exploration ships.

Day 363: I enter into some sort of PVP tournament a friend was running, killing a Catalyst before losing my Omen to a Thorax. Somewhere in the past two months, my friends/corpmates began to leave the game for other pursuits, leaving me wondering what to do next.

Day 462: Another war. Having recently trained into a Pilgrim, I decide to take it for a spin. Unfortunately my wartarget had no interest in honoring a 1v1 and the Pilgrim died a noble death.

Day 474: I joined The Skunkworks.

As my killboard stands, everything you see above represents page 27. That first page contains 36 of my total 97 losses. Page 26 is entirely green. My shift from a corp made of inexperienced friends to a corp run by seasoned veterans had an immediate impact on how I played the game. I’d never noticed this fact until I sat down to write this, and I don’t think it can be overemphasized.

So what conclusions do I take from all this?

  • It simply cannot be overstated how valuable it is to have someone with experience guiding new players. Psychotic Monk taking a chance on a very negative killboard is the reason I didn’t quit Eve before I hit day 500. I learned so much more in the first few weeks with SKNK than I ever figured out on my own.
  • Comparing my killboard to that of the noob corp that I joined, I accounted for the bulk of the losses to NPCs and to players. I’m also the only one of us still playing Eve eight years later. CCP’s own data suggests this isn’t a coincidence.
  • CCP relies too much on external sites and obscure eveonline.com links to convey important information about how the game works. There has been a slow trend over the years to demystify some of the game, but a lack of good documentation leaves it to others to fill in the blanks…and they quite often get it wrong.
  • I remember what it was like, watching my friends trickle away from the game one at a time. One guy, or mission “expert”, simply burned out on running missions but had become accustomed to his blinged out Golem and didn’t want to take risks. Another had made several attempts at getting out to lowsec, jumping mining ships into Tama and dying horribly before giving up. Our marketing guru had a similar “what now” experience to our mission guy: he was at a loss for what to do besides nickle and dime his way into more and more isk…which wasn’t enough for him to stay in the game. Everyone hit a threshold where they were looking for something else to do, and simply not finding it.

Instanced PVP, Wardec Changes, and An Invitation

A Larger Abyss

When CCP first announced Abyssal content, they justified its instanced dungeons with the claim that the content of the pockets was such that running it as normal deadspace would be tasking on the servers. It flew in the face of fifteen years of Eve’s “one universe” ideology by creating PVE spaces that couldn’t be interfered with. I had my misgivings at the time, but at least CCP made the high-end content riskier by having people running Abyssal content in highsec come out as suspects on tier 4 and 5 sites. Then they walked that back “temporarily” with no fixed end date in sight.

Now with the Onslaught release, that instanced content is accessible to other players…if you want it to be. You can form a three-frigate fleet to run that “server-tasking” content. I guess it didn’t need to be instanced after all. And if you’re running the solo cruiser content, you can opt in to some instanced space jousting where another cruiser who also opts in does battle with you.

I recently ran about a hundred Abyssal sites. I lost two Gilas in the process, one to a warp gate refusing to activate and one to a pile of neuts. The PVE content is quality and the randomness of it is refreshing (though still repetitive). I don’t even particularly have an issue with the “enchanting” mechanic of the mutaplasmids. I say that to make it clear that my primary concern is that the Abyss and the underlying concepts of instanced content and on-demand PVP are dangerous to the larger Eve meta.

We now have a system in which players can engage in PVE content without fear of immediate interference. What’s more, with Onslaught it is being transformed into a way to get “goodfights” without the effort of roaming and with no risk of being baited into engaging a superior force. The slippery slope here is obviously that fleet content is already in effect, and it’s reasonable to assume that eventually the frigate fleet variant will make its way into offering PVP. The ability to find and engage other players on those terms is going to take more and more ships out of regular space and leave Eve feeling more and more desolate while the people using the content operate in an increasingly safe environment.

The Next Target: Wardecs

As I mentioned previously, CCP is poised to take a nerfbat to the wardec system again. I agree that there are problems in the current state of affairs, but that’s a discussion for a previous post. It looks like the final decision for a “short term” nerf is to limit wardecs to entities that own structures. Look for that change to come with the “winter update.” Merry Christmas, now anyone looking to opt out of highsec PVP will need to simply opt out of owning structures with the same corp they’re a member of. The solution to “we made a corp and are now getting pummeled” is apparently to move the bar to “we anchored an Athanor and are now getting pummeled.”

I honestly can’t even predict what this will mean for all of you who aren’t in one of the handful of big wardec alliances. My gut tells me that a lot of smaller mercs and wardec enthusiasts will lose a fair bit of content while the hub campers will continue to do what they do with a slightly smaller margin on their killboards.

Lowsec Is Still Fun

I never really planned on using this blog for recruiting, but here it is: Arcana Noctis is looking for dudes like you. We need competent, maladjusted individuals who can’t properly start their day without wrecking something. So if the new highsec isn’t your bag, or you’re just looking for another flavor of content, or maybe you just want to come fly with me on the rare occasion that I can actually make fleet ops, drop me a mail in game. We have been known to dabble in highsec shenanigans (see TerrorDestroyer5K and the OAK structure fights I blogged about), we have a large network of things and people over several regions of low, and we’ve got jump range on dozens–probably well over 100 now–of null systems.

Drop me a mail in game and I’ll set you up an interview with the leadership.

So About Wardecs…

There is considerable discussion on r/Eve right now about wardecs. It seems the recently-released CSM 13 minutes indicate that CCP has data showing indicating a startling rate of attrition among new players who are the targets of wardecs. It seems significant enough that some members of the CSM stated that it could justify an immediate removal of the wardec system while a more lasting solution is worked out.

Such knee-jerk reactions are rarely good in the best of circumstances. CCP’s history of such things can hardly be classified as “best” and their recent acquisition by Pearl Abyss should give us all even more pause. I also feel that most of the CSM has little vested interest in the areas that wardecs affect, as most of them come from null blocs where a wardec simply means using neutral haulers in highsec, and perhaps aren’t the most qualified people to make sweeping suggestions on how to address the situation.

A Case for Wardecs

One of the long-running problems with making suggestions on improving the war system is that most people in the conversation are trying to solve the current problems without a clear picture of what a good wardec system would look like. To get that, we have to consider why warfare is necessary in highsec.

Even in highsec, there is competition over resources. I’ve seen competing industrial corporations go to war trying to force each other out of good ice systems or to drive out fleets that are mining out good ore from belts they claim. Since moon mining has made its way to 0.5 systems, currently the only way to remove an abandoned Athanor is with a wardec. Taking these options away from active fledgling corporations is removing one of the major selling points of Eve: the ability to influence the world around you via combat.

What’s more, those of us who spend most of our time in lowsec also make use of wardecs. Some of us prefer to maintain a sec status that allows us to wander in and out of highsec as we see fit, and wardecs allow eviction campaigns to remove structures and engage in fleet fights without having to spend hundreds of millions per character on tags.

Wardecs should be a tool for achieving a goal. Taking territory, allowing a nullsec conflict to spill into highsec, impacting cash flow of your enemies, or just settling a grudge.

What’s Wrong With Wardecs?

Obviously there’s a problem here. Or perhaps several.

Neutral Logi

One major issue is the use of neutral logi. Since CrimeWatch 2.0 came out in 2012-2013, providing remote reps to anyone engaged in combat while in a war or while they have a limited engagement causes those logis to go suspect. This seems like a great idea; now anyone can shoot those logis.

The problem is that shooting the suspect logis triggers its own limited engagement, meaning that your in-corp logi is forced to go suspect to continue providing you reps.

Poor Leadership and Bad Information Among Defenders

Over the years I’ve been on the aggressor’s side hundreds of times. I’ve also been a defender dozens of times and had spies in dozens of wartarget corps. The common trend I’ve seen among those corps that fall apart in the face of wardecs is a leadership who, frankly, shouldn’t be trying to lead. This breaks down to two basic flaws: a complete lack of proper response to war and ignorance of basic game mechanics.

Most corps I’ve seen fall apart when targeted by a much smaller group of seasoned combat pilots do so because their leader(s) don’t communicate with their members, don’t formulate any kind of response to the war, and don’t take any initiative in showing people how to deal with the situation.

What’s more is the absolutely terrible information often being taught by “experienced” players who try to lead these corps. Over the years I’ve seen people with far more skillpoints and years in the game than me tell people to fit ships completely wrong, misunderstand game mechanics that a simple Google search would explain, and state with total confidence that things work a certain way and be utterly wrong.

Intel Is Hard in Highsec

Along with neutral logi, neutral boosts and neutral scouts are able to roam in and out of local without alerting the enemy. Quite a lot of work can be done to stage prior to a fight without the enemy having any idea it’s happening. This in itself isn’t a problem–personally I always enjoyed the fact that highsec allowed you to hide in the crowd, but as a part of the larger issue this is important to recognize the unique challenge it brings. Low and null have the ability to stage gate camps and operate vast intel networks. Wormhole entities can roll holes and hammer dscan to remain constantly vigilant.

This really becomes a problem when a fleet of enemies can move into position and join the enemy corp minutes before an engagement. No amount of scouting can protect you when suddenly local is full of wartargets that were neutral moments ago. Some effort was made to punish corp-hopping years ago by adding the 7 day ban on rejoining a corp you left while it was at war, but that’s trivial when you can simply join another corp in the same alliance, or jump to an alt corp that’s in a different wardec.

The “Bully Factor”

I don’t really know how to quantify this, but I know that I felt very victimized as an early player being targeted by much more experienced and wealthier players. This is perhaps the hardest thing to solve without severely hurting the sandbox nature of the game, but it’s enough of an issue in player retention that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the role it likely plays in subscriber counts. It’s also perhaps the last issue I would seek a solution to; nullsec doesn’t protect a month-old player from a ten-year-old player. I’d just as soon we not start trying to do that in highsec.

So What Now?

  1. The “quick fix” solution that stops short of completely ending wardecs is to make providing reps to at-war characters in highsec into a CONCORD offense. No more neutral logi forces aggressors to bring logi that can’t hide in the crowd and makes them valid targets to the entire fleet without breaking defender logi. Do I like this idea? Not that much, but it’s preferable to the sledgehammer fix of getting rid of wars and follows with CCP’s recent trend of making small changes to see how they impact rather than making drastic changes that are much harder to predict the effects.
  2. I don’t know how hard it would be to limit wardecs to specific areas. But imagine a war system where you could specify a system, constellation, or region (or “all regions”) in which a wardec would be active. The larger the area, the more expensive the war. This would make wars for territory reasonably priced while galaxy-spanning wars could be made prohibitively expensive for all but the largest of alliances. If you’re the target of a wardec in Domain, you have 24 hours to move people and equipment a dozen jumps out of the region to a fallback position and carry on.
  3. CCP can do a much better job of communicating the nature and mechanics of war to new players. Eve’s legendary learning curve should be the result of its complex nature, not poor documentation and insufficient alerts. By making war less mysterious, newer players can make more educated decisions.
  4. Further restrict corp mobility during war. This will be a delicate issue as too much restriction allows griefing by simply maintaining wars, but it might make sense to force a character to remain in an at-war corp for a minimum of three days and/or place a four hour delay between accepting an invite and actually becoming a member of the corp so that instantly shifting the balance of a fight is much more difficult to achieve.
  5. Unless something has changed very recently, there are still issues with local channel properly showing standings and wartarget status when that changes. That desperately needs a fix as I’ve had instances where I missed tackling a valid target because they didn’t show properly in local or on my overview. Eve is a game where fights hinge on good information, it shouldn’t be acceptable for that to happen.
  6. One idea might be to have a handful of no-war systems. These would need to be free of PVE content and not permit anchoring of citadels for obvious reasons Some lore work could be done to justify maybe one safe zone for each empire. I’m specifically thinking about Jita, but don’t want to make it a special system just because it’s Jita.

What Shouldn’t Be Done:

I’ve seen a lot of talk about doing a couple of things. I’d like to address those now.

Limit wardecs to corps that own structures: The problem here is that a lot of active corps that are doing things that might warrant a wardec don’t own structures. Maybe they’re constantly mining your 0.5 athanor belt. Maybe they’re doing logistics for gankers. Maybe their CEO just wouldn’t shut up about how great they are in local and you want to show him how wrong he is. Doesn’t matter. Creating an opt-out method for highsec PVP is a bad idea.

Give wars set goals so that the war ends as soon as that goal is accomplished: Situations change quickly in Eve. If I set the goal of destroying a particular structure, then my target can immediately anchor another one when my goal was to drive them out. Not to mention, there’s no amount of options you can give me that will cover every possible legitimate reason to declare a war.

Bonus Round: Corporations

Another thing I’ve said many times over the years is that corporation membership needs to be more valuable in highsec. Wars would be more interesting and used by more people if there were compelling reasons to remain in corp and fight it out rather than (as most experienced players do) simply dropping corp and carrying on about your business. It’s beyond this scope of this post to propose changes and consider all their implications, but just like the “bully factor” I mentioned above I feel it’s important to consider the role this plays in how wardecs got to the state they’re in today. Perhaps, just perhaps, new players wouldn’t be subject to so many wardecs if every experienced hauler, miner, and mission runner in highsec weren’t so adept at simply opting out of them.


Side note: my eight-year-old motherboard finally took a dirt nap several weeks ago. My budget prevents me from rebuilding my PC for a while, so I’m blogging in lieu of actually playing Eve. See you guys in space whenever I can get back to it.