Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Day 731 : Sabbatical

The 16/06/2012 is the second birthday of my first character. Forgive me Bob for I have sinned. It's been two years since I joined EVE and I still haven't lived in a 'hole. One day, perhaps.

The summer of 2014 promises abundant sport on TV and radio with the World Cup, Wimbledon and the cricket. The summer of 2014 promises a metric ton of work stress. The summer of 2014 promises a lot of days and weekends out with friends. The summer of 2014 does not promise a lot of EVE.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not quitting, I'm not even retiring one of my accounts. My plans for the summer include EVE plans but the ones that involve flying a ship will probably be short treks here and there, perhaps a little bit of mining or industry. As usual with EVE they include a metric ton of training.

Main : All cruisers to level V and to round off a few missile support skills. All cruisers to V and all medium weapon skills to V means I'll be able to use T2 weapons on any T1 hull under Battleships. I'll nudge those all to IV at some point and inevitably start contemplating null sec, a project best left for winter.

Scanning alt : I idly trained a scanning alt up to max scanning skills and it's been a boon while living in lowsec. The focus on belts has reduced the concentration on anomalies. I'm going to train him into some half assed mining/ecm/logi roles and see how much use that is. Prospect pilot FTW.

Industry alt: My ill fated industry alt is waiting for the industry changes in the next patch. Then I'll investigate more. His skills were already as high as needed so I've been training him elsewhere as discussed in earlier posts. In a slight diversion from that plan he's being aimed at Transport ships because I can build pretty much every T1 frigate and can't get them anywhere without the beast of slowness (an Orca) being pulled out of dry dock.

Industry support alt: A comedy sideline in missile firing battleships proved entertaining but I'll probably stop PLEX training this one when it runs out at the end of the month.

So, I have plans for training and while I've had some entertaining times dodging the newly busy low sec belts (Mordus - god send for activity, and an excellent scrap and a kill to boot) I'm going to be far away for the most part. My gaming energy this summer is fairly minimal and intermittent. Neither traits are conducive to a proper EVE experience so it's time for a holiday. Not a real bittervet holiday, not a log off and curse EVE until some big news item draws me back in holiday. A big, lightweight, Cliff Richard on a bus, style holiday. A break from plotting, scheming, and surreptitious belt ratting holiday.

So where is the smidgen of gaming energy going? Wildstar I'm afraid. It's Warcraft with the humour restored.  I've not laughed so much at a game for a long time until I levelled up in Wildstar. Rest assured I refused to sign on with the Dominion after finding out they were in league with Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers (almost as bad as Pandas). Content on a plate, no thinking involved. That's my summer. When the nights start to close in, and the beer gardens aren't as appealing, then I'll be back to deep space. One more factor keeps me logging into EVE. Themeparks, while providing me with easy entertainment, are so visually intense I've had to log onto EVE just to calm down. The cool, calm, depths of space, dangerous as they are, were a godsend. EVE is home. Holidays have beaches and swimming pools and beer in the sunshine.

Someone let me know how the industry patch moon rush goes. I'm expecting carnage.

EVE Track of the Day

Something a didn't mention, a fond farewell, and a tribute, to Jester. What a great blog. Even if you hated his opinions you have to have respect for thought and output. As with everything in EVE he was labelled as a paragon of everything he thought about and discussed rather than a conversational catalyst of epic proportions. He'll be missed more than you think and to him I dedicate this track. You'll need to listen to find out why. Fly like you won it dude, you did. o7

I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band) - The Moody Blues.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Day 717 : The Fall of Minas Ithil

Not really a story of the day but something I've been pondering for a while. Since my own thoughts have started to go in circles I thought I'd put down here.

Since the start of 2014 I'd been engaged in T2 industry using my old corp and a set of alts. I found it so fascinating that it soon became my game of EVE. I slowly forgot about my main character and focused almost exclusively on the logistics and economic elements of a small scale T2 industrialist. I produced small guns and popular modules, guided by the meta of the day, for PVP markets in Essence and Placid.

 Markups tend to be large over ten jumps from Jita and at least five jumps from Dodixie. On the edge of low sec there is a very instant demand driven market of faction warfare and corp' PVPers to whom a ten jump supply trip is anathema. They are prepared to laugh off 50% module markup simply to get back into action. It's a faster, more vibrant market than that of selling drones into mission hubs which I did before. The unstable meta fit nature of these niche markets creates some dedicated competitors further increasing the entertainment value. I loved it. A puzzle of planning and logistics. A game within a game. It was entertaining enough that it slowly absorbed more and more of my EVE time as I expanded operations and planned for further ones. The only thing stopping me from going further, from joining some kind of industry corp or alliance to pool resources, or to scale up operations myself was the muted subconcious raging of the spaceship pilot in my mind. All the flying I did now was either raw material runs from a trade hub (fuel block components that I couldn't be arsed to ice mine, and other components resulting from moon goo that I couldn't make myself) or market runs shipping a day or two's produce to market or moving stalled sale items between regions.

Eventually the spaceship pilot broke down the walls after my ISK balance reached a personal target and also after I accidentally reduced the strategy element of the game by delegating it to a few Python scripts I wrote. Off I flew to the arse end of High Sec and beyond to investigate our origins around the EVE Gate, a mission that remains incomplete following the Encounter at Dead End.

So, it was only through the agency of EVEMon and it's notification tracking that I found that my old corp, and now industrial house, had been wardecced. A quick investigation revealed that Forsaken Asylum had declared war on me. As far as I know they are mercenaries and must have been hired to take the tower down. Were they bored and indulging in a little hisec shenanigans for once or had I angered someone? If the latter then had I angered them in game somehow - in the market or merely by an in system presence? Had I angered them in the metagame? Here on the blog or my involvement in a couple of recent issues surrounding the game and it's mechanics? One thing was certain. A bunch of industry characters were not going to be able to fend off well known mercs' like Forsaken Asylum and there was no way my main character would abandon his studies to pointlessly assist.

Initially the root causes had to take a back seat because the war dec had been declared a while before and I had less than twenty four hours to prepare. I had even less than this in reality since I had to go out in Real Life for reasons where "internet spaceship issues" would be ill-regarded as an excuse.

I quickly surveyed my POS and it's contents and realised I'd let a lot of crap build up in the various modules. More even than an Orca could deal with in one run so I took a risk and shipped a lot of it out of the POS in a freighter. What could go wrong? Not much in fact. I doubt prepping for a freighter gank is either planned or profitable when you are hired to take down a station. As far as I could tell the mercs were not even watching the system, though I knew they'd be back. I flew out for one last run to grab the tower itself and stopped. The unanchoring process would probably make me late going out. All the expensive stuff was stashed away in a nearby hisec system. A small tower isn't worth that much on it's own compared to the billions I'd just recovered. Even fully fuelled it's a maximum of 100 million ISK. There was an opportunity here, a chance to see a station be taken down. A chance to watch how merc ops dealt with things and how efficient they were. An expensive lesson, but if EVE teaches you anything it's to learn new stuff all the time as best you can. I onlined various minimal defences to extend the life of the station by a fraction, stuck a few pages about station grinding in my phones browser cache, grabbed my coat and ran for the Underground.

I was back in space flying a covert ops exploration ship the next day in time to observe mercs grinding down my poor station. Ops initially comprised a Dominix and an Oracle with a Tengu, the latter presumably for defence of the former more than for damaging POS shields.

Of course I was noticed in system and a few more pilots arrived but considering my capsuleer had almost zero weapon skills there was no chance of me offering a fight. I was there for observation only. I was also there for conversation. I picked up two pieces of intel straight away. Firstly the mercs assumed I wasn't the same person as the corp CEO. They knew where the target was but not all the nature of the target. Secondly, although they tried (slightly juvenile at one point but hey, not everyone is as old as I am), they quickly realised there would be no tears and I was content to chat along for a while. In fact once they stopped attempting tear extraction they were quite entertaining, in addition to being leaky buckets of intel. I'm not sure they knew I was a few tens of kilometers from them at the time but that was largely for my own amusement.

A focused target and half hearted attempt at tear extraction? That doesn't sound like griefers so it's a hire job. Was someone deliberately targeting me? How cool is that? It's a sign that, despite my loner PVE ways, I'm very much an EVE player : as soon as I realised I'd probably gotten under someones skin I broke out in a wide smile.

The Asylum were back the day after to finish off the tower at a time which I missed. Another lesson for me, working out the amount of strontium to set an entertaining timer. In the meantime I'd quickly learned a few skills, jumped into a new ship (another plus!) and just to be a bastard while testing the new ship out, repped up the two POS guns. Industrialists with bad gun skills AND bad logi skills now.

In conclusion a great experience and a chock load of lessons. The only problem was that I no longer had the standings required to set up a new POS. While that changes with the release of Kronos (as far as I recall - maybe it's with the later industry changes) no POS left me with no real income stream apart from belt ratting loot from my explorations elsewhere.

I switched my alts to new skill plans. I'd previously prepared for the loss of the tower by training a trading freighter pilot but I found I couldn't face it when the time arrived. The new plans were based around investigating PVE as both an income stream and as an activity but now they'd also serve as potential skills in a POS defence. Fighting back could be a great piece of gameplay. Expensive maybe, but fun.

Despite all the positives I was left feeling a bit odd. I couldn't put my finger on why. I definitely enjoyed my time exploring but I spent less time in EVE overall. I didn't like EVE any less and didn't feel like quitting. Did I so badly rue the loss of the tower I'd owned so long? I didn't think I did. When I thought about the tower I felt relief if anything. Was I defensively claiming a sort of "didn't want that tower anyway"?. It didn't feel like it.

What then was this last element of the experience that I couldn't pin down? Was it another lesson? Another thing to learn about the gloriously dark game of EVE ? Sort of. A conversation in the pub at the weekend made me realise quite how much watching film and TV and reading I've done over the past month compared to the earlier part of the year. Where did the time for all that come from? From not nerding out over my industry projects. It appears the endless complexity of EVE extends to games within games. I did learn a lesson. Don't fall into that type of game so readily or it will be just like Civilization all over again. ( I really should shout at Wilhelm Arcturus over at TAGN for tempting me back to that game with his stories )

In the end I enjoyed the entire thing for one reason or another. One last niggling detail remains. Who hired the mercenaries? Do I have a mysterious nemesis or is it something more dull? Maybe I should try and find out. That, and maybe that I should use all my extra time to try Wildstar instead of watching too much TV.

EVE Track of the Day

Helpless - Kim Weston