Saturday, 19 December 2015

Day 1282 : Danger : Space Philately and the Greatest PVP plan ever.

Sounds rude doesn't it? No rude here for you. Jog on.

I convinced myself that my return to EVE would involve a proper community, a vocal involvement in an internet community. Yes Sion. We have those.

I failed. Life took over, as usual, Crohns is hilarious, and EVE became an intermittent joy. It's EVE.You make your own fun. Gradually things coalesced. It turns out that a minor industry addiction is equivalent to my old Civ addiction. No, Dan, I am not going to get involved in epic Civ V battles with you, I play only to get to nukes anyway. Play EVE damn you.

So what did I really become involved in? There's only so long that you can chase ISK for the purposes of a total. What's your top score in Pole Position, Chunk?

Well, crafting in any game I've played has always fascinated me. Add classic EVE complexity and you've got a Space Noob trap. Add a personal desire for self sufficiency and you've got one holy hell of a trap. I became convinced that the plan was to be able to build up from zero ISK without buying anything other than materials I couldn't realistically obtain in a decent time wise fashion. Imagine: one contract or market mistake and the ISK balence is zero. Where to go? Imagine: ganked to death in a corp war. Where to go? Well. I'm nudging researched 500 BPOs at the moment. Not all to top material levels of course. These include all the T1 frigates,  insanity like a Dominix, all the parts needed for T2 small industry. Why? I can't make money off them. The market is still swamped with pre revamp battleships. I can save a couple of ISK making my own frigates and cruisers. Maybe.

But I can make EVERYTHING I might lose. EVERYTHING. Where else can you do that? What other game? Let us not talk of Shroud of the Avatar. Let us not talk of a possible exit from space.

So I'm a carebear at heart and these are my badges:


They are stamps. I have pretty much no need to activate their value, but damn, is it fine to just own them. I glory in the ownership. Any political affiliation I have to the left ends at EVE. As is only proper.

These are more useful. God knows why the script BPO is in there. I do occasionally add to the collection while drunk.


All this exaggerates my loner personality. I don't want that. I want to branch out. I want to be an active  member of a vibrant community.

So I will, in the new year, probably submit an app to Stay Frosty. I was in there before but. alas, I was already on the down and out of EVE and trailed away before they could save me.

This time I will employ the lessons I've learned elsewhere. There will be an aim. I'm not your classic EVE player so no killboard stats for me. I will instead aim to kill other players ....

to incongruous music!

That's correct, I'm going, in 2016 , join a PVP corp and try to get kills while playing certain tracks.

I'll report them here but here is the initial taster

1. If You Leave Me NowChicago this will be hard because I'll be laughing about ex's all the way through

2. Land of 1000 Dances - Wilson Picket. Crazy orbit MWD shit

3. With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker. Has to be a fleet fight.

4. You Give A Little Love - Paul Williams. Might have to use ECM. Sorry.

5. Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell. This one devoted to an upclass kill, frigates vs a battlecruiser

6. Spooky - Dusty Springfield. A cloaky torpedo kill here. 

etc etc

I'll come up with some more, but essentially I need to spend 2016 shooting people to my odd taste in music rather than obsessing about small blue squares. 

Track of the Day: Don't Give Up On Me - Solomon Burke

PS. Must get a kill to Then He Kissed Me by The Crystals

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Day 1247 : The Price of Knowledge and How To Be Back

I'm back spending some time in New Eden. Lured back by news of upcoming changes. The greatest of these being the announcement of the plans for the sale of skill points. I don't really need to use it but I love the idea of it. I've read so many wary acceptance statements, and quite a lot more fearful declarations but I can't help feeling it's good for the game. Part of me suspects that it's another step on the road to free-to-play (even before I read this excellent tinfoil hat version) . I'm still thinking about the impacts of F2P but since EVE will always be "hard" no matter your skills, or even your wallet, how bad could it be? Good job they're updating EVE with Brain In A Box then they can handle the influx. Presumably the increase in the number of explosions on grid will be as exponential as the dreaded learning curve.

Back to the skills. Why do I love the idea of the ability to buy knowledge (thought not the ability to apply that knowledge)? I guess it's because I'm a fan of plans. Having a plan, finding out how to enact a plan and then bending your effort towards completing that plan. There is fun. EVE is great for plans, there is always something else to try and do. The method of obtaining the ability to do something is much more important than actually doing it once you can. It's a journey thing. But. The amount of times in EVE I've had a plan and then it's turned into "made the skill plan, now sit back and wait". See, I have a problem. I can't just go off half cocked. I'm a coward. Fools rush in and have all the fun. I sit back and glory in the safety of my cloud based harp performance. Essentially I'm bored because of fear. In a game where fear is the underlying element of attraction. The shakes this game can cause, the visceral dread, the adrenaline spikes. No gaming experience I've ever had matches it. Enough of fear, that's a story for another day. And yes, I have a plan to get over that too.

Within a day of returning I had a plan for an alt. I grabbed an old PLEX, I activated the characters training with the month worth of skills it would take me to get there. Then I sat back. I did nothing. I thought to myself "I'll be able to explore that part of the game in a month or so". I was about to crash back out of EVE, just like the last couple of times I'd restarted. I couldn't help but think of when I'd felt the same in my early EVE career. What had kept me going back then? I had plenty to distract me. I had aims that could only be completed by engaging with the game. Despite this there were always those moment where I thought "So, next week" or "In a month or two". Thankfully I was off exploring and experimenting back then. Hell, sometimes I was even mining.

Fortunately I'd started reading round the blogosphere again. I can't recall what particular post caused it but it was Neville Smit writing somewhere. Talking about plans and returning to EVE. So I looked up my old plans notes. There was a wealth of minor achievements there that I'd never got around to. Tiny things, lots of pointless things mainly but lots to do. I put one foot on the road and a week later I was shouting as I warped a Stratios home from an ill thought out attempt at a Ghost Site. For the record, the cruisers appeared after a minute and also, they hit very, very, hard. Thankfully they get distracted when an alt Caracal warps in and side swipes them with a rash of rapid lights before warping out. Either that, or they are unforgivably slow. Warp disruption icons are the scariest thing I have ever seen.

Maybe I played too many theme park games where you actively play/work towards a goal. Maybe, if new players, inevitably mainly from theme park world, could work towards their goals they could play the game as a mean to an ends in the game. Maybe then they could feel the possibilities we all have and they'd be in game while they realised them. Then they'd have the experiences which are more important than what they were actually working towards. Difficulty and loss would be part of the game and not a threat.

Maybe "theme park" has become a swear word and we're scared of it when it comes to our sandbox. I'm probably just dancing around the topic of "player engagement".

Maybe I confused "plan" with "skill plan".

Maybe I'm just a boring old coward. That has to end. I have a plan. This one can only be actioned by playing the game. What's the worst that could happen? The plan I have doesn't have any skill points attached to it, otherwise I'd wait another month or two before engaging.

EVE Track of the Day

I Need Never Get Old - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Day 1233 : BB68 - Back In The Saddle?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 68th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banters Page.

BB68: This is my Rig, There are Many Like it...What do you play Eve on? I'll show you mine if you show me yours! Are you pew-pewing on a laptop? Plotting universal domination on a 12 monitor set up? Mining away on a 50" TV? Is your set up located where your other half can speak to you or do you lock yourself away for hours in your Eve themed shed? How do you play your important internet spaceships?

Banter on!


Heh. Is this thing on? Does it still work? Brush the dust (not that DUST) off the blog and wonder why, as Winter Is Coming, I find myself spending the last few evenings digging through mountains of crap stored in a set of hangars in a series stations scattered all across New Eden.

Picture The Rig time eh? Blimey, I haven't done this in oooh, 672 days.

The PC isn't anything special, an i7 with 14Gb of RAM crippled slightly by a poor disc and an ageing graphics card. Replacements for both the disc and the card are scheduled for next year. Disc swapping hassle. Urgh.

i7-2600 3.4Ghz
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti
A pair of smallish monitors in the 22-24" range, running at 1980x1080
Sound comes from a set of Logitech speakers that I forget the specs of but that I can't run even halfway up without aggressing the neighbours. EVE has sound you know. The Moa warp configuration made a noise yesterday! My God!

I can run a couple of EVE clients on this with fairly high graphics settings as long as I don't start thinking about how I need to hoover the inside of the PC case when the graphics card fan starts whirring.  The desktop itself is tucked away underneath the desk. You can just see a Kindle charging cable draped across the dusty top of it at the bottom of the picture. It's parked next to a printer I hardly ever use.

Right of that is an old (ish) laptop that gets used for EVEMon, EFT, Netflix, etc when the two main screens are in use. 

Right of that you can just see a third monitor which is hooked up to a 10 year old PC running Linux. This I occasionally use for coding experiments and quick parsing of text files such as CSV exports from EVEMon. It's a fairly new addition to the desk. In reality it probably sees less use than that bottle of whisky sat in front of the monitor and certainly less use than the NERF crossbow that sits on top of that monitor (bow not pictured, other fake weapons are available). Theoretically it will one day host my own trade&industry managing web app. Theoretically.

The desk has stood the test of time. Custom built by the old man, cantilevered so there are no legs to kick out, and fitted exactly to the corner of the room. I spend a LOT of time at it. Until recently not much of that time has been EVE time. The last return didn't take.

Minor detailing includes a ramekin full of RPG dice that I make important decisions with (do I nip into lowsec? Wooo, 19 on a d20. Etc, etc) and, somewhere, a tiny Millenium Falcon!

EVE Track of the Day

Homeward Bound - Simon & Garfunkel

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Day 1016: The Alts

Gigantic overhead spotlights burst into life, harsh electric cracks reverberating around the cavernous station storage bay. Dust cascaded slowly downwards like grey waterfalls in the newly activated gravity. With a hiss the observation deck airlock iris closed, leaving three men standing imperiously over a seemingly endless array of battered cargo modules.

“Huh, dust” said one, “I thought this place was hermetically sealed? No place for Dust here.”

“I think it’s a poorly executed descriptive device to indicate extreme age or abandonment.” replied another, warily.

The third man, their leader, strode forward. His featureless disposable combat fatigues, obviously freshly printed, hissed as the fabric moved. The impression was that of a snake, readied to strike.

“Bugger” he muttered.

“Shit, bollocks, and and bugger again for good measure.”, this time slightly louder.

His compatriots waited. Similar descriptions had crossed their minds.

“Boss wants this sorted. Potential of use he says. Wants the entire operation reactivated.”

Snidely: “Just in case”.

There was a moment of consideration, furrowed brows, a dangerous economic calculus beyond mere scientific estimation. Each face bore the hallmarks of accidents in such intellectual wars. Each man paused to consider the technical ramifications of such an exercise. A conclusion that couldn’t be articulated:

“Boss is fuckin’ mad then”.

“Yup” said the third, “Bonkers, wacko and more besides. Never made a good decision in his entire afterlife. Nevertheless, boss says jump, and by jump he means a billion in disposable ISK a month. As if he ever spends it, the lackwit, danger averse nutter. I’m gonna wake the scanner and the idiot. If I’m up, so are they.”

“I need to kick the tyres on the old Iteron then”

“Called summink else now, all of em. Concord knows what else has changed since we were last doing this crap.”

The two men walked off the deck, airlock irising open silently to receive them.

“Hey”, said the last, to himself, “I think we left some Radioactive Material down there, for like, months!?”

He was alone, no one to hear him scream. Which he wasn’t going to do. Because he felt it would have been a bit girly. And he wasn’t in space.

“I think there’s bound to be some dead Fedos and Militants in those pods ‘n all by now. This op is gonna stink in more ways than one.” he muttered. “This isn’t going to work”.

He turned and walked from the observation deck, slightly spoiling his exit by failing to trigger the iris.

“I’m bad at EVE”
EVE Track of the Day : New World in the Morning - Roger Whittaker

(had to start on an odd note, you can blame me watching Calvary the other night for that. And you can blame Fan Fest coverage and the Altruist for this attempt to return to EVE. )

PS. Thanks Google Docs for the formatting. Fixed that

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Day 832 : Roid Rage and the End

Now then, don't be rushing in on the title alone and thinking I've been ganked by CODE while mining, subsequently gone postal, quit and denounced EVE just because of a single set back that the game set me up for in the first place. The Roid Rage I'm talking about here has nothing to do with asteROIDS and more to do with steROIDS. Prescribed ones. I'm not taking steroids to build up muscles because, really, WTF would I use those for? I've been taking them for a good reason - see 

They didn't tell me that "roid rage" was an actual thing. After several encounters with it I reserved my EVE play to my industry characters. I was left exhausted by almost PVP on my front door step in RL at one point thanks to these drugs. Don't keep ringing my doorbell late at night when I'm on steroids. There's a life lesson for you. God alone knows what I would have done had I entered rage mode during a low sec frigate scrap. Probably smashed my keyboard out of the window using the monitor as a bat or something along those lines. I'd of been famous on reddit for a day.

They don't tell you that roid rage has a sinister euphoric equivalent. I didn't think that wandering the haunted lanes of low sec was advisable in this state either. It'd be like seeing someone skipping through a field of daises, singing at the top of their voice, whilst actually in The Walking Dead. Inadvisable.

I was on the cusp of trying something new when the Roid Redaction descision was made. I'm going to get back to that soon but you know what it's like when you abandon some project for a couple of months in EVE. You get back to your hangars whose contents probably reflected some masterplan, you look at said contents with a sense of discovery, and you say "what the living fuck is all this crap?". It might take me a few days to sort out.

The last month has been largely filled with optimising the industry plan outlined in A lot of that is downtime. Autopiloting, the odd amount of mining, staring at stock levels, staring at the cash icon in the sidebar, daring the bugger to blink. That kind of boring old nonsense.

I did get up to some other stuff that caused a little more excitement but not so much that I stood the chance of turning into The Incredible Roid Hulk. 

Firstly, a round of reorganising turned up an odd faction blueprint that I'd missed. I generally keep these aside for some future use. I got them out of COSMOS missions on my first character, grinding reputation for a POS (back when you needed reputation to anchor them). Idly I checked the blueprint in the new industry interface. Then I checked it again. Then I made a spreadsheet and did all the calculations myself. Then I flew to Jita, sat in 4-4, and looked at the prices. I read them aloud. I counted the numbers. In other words, standard EVE levels of paranoia and nothing drug related. A 3 run BP was going to make me around 2 billion profit. Somewhere I'd picked up a 3 run BPC for'Radical'_Damage_Control_I

I expressed out loud how much of a "shame" it was that I couldn't remember where I got it. I've quoted the word shame as it covers a series of expletive based tirades that I couldn't utter in a prison, let alone a blog.

Anyway I built all three, spent several hours deciding on the best way to get them to Jita, got annoyed with the whole thing, ran them to Jita one by one in an Interceptor. Not, in hindsight, the greatest idea. Exciting though. The most exciting and adrenaline laden twelve mouse clicks that there has ever been.

I received a less sizeable windfall, but a surprisingly large one nonetheless, when using a pair of destroyers to run hi sec sites. There's a DED 3/10 that crops up now and again in high sec and a few of those left me 200 million richer in a day. The money was eclipsed by the surprise at how much fun I had running the sites with two destroyers. It was a lot more hands on than normal PVE and somewhere along the way I fell in love with an MWDing rocket fit Corax. I'd have my Algos and it's drones gather up all the attention and then yell "Dive!" and drive right into the center of the mobs exploding as many things as possible with rockets. Who said EVE PVE can't be fun? It might be the closest I'll ever get in EVE to the run of the Killing Time in Excession by Iain M Banks. What can I say? It killed some time.

The same pair of destroyers also encountered some weird station scenery attached to the bizzaro Gallente science station model. I'd go and make sure it's common scenery of some form but I'm rather attached to the notion that it's an alien UFO. "No one would have believed, in the last hours of a steroidal nightmare, that Gallente affairs were being watched by a small, green, blinking light."

EVE Track of the Day

Midnight Confessions - The Grass Roots

Monday, 4 August 2014

Day 780: Abandoning the Margins

Crius was released, and with it the great Hoover Dam level EVE block I've had. The waxing and waning of interest in EVE is something that initially worried me but that since I've come to view as something natural. Not just for myself, I see it in others. While I've had other reasons for a ebb in EVE interest I'm probably just as much affected by the summer of the northern hemisphere as the rest of us are. There is something about EVE that lends itself to play during the dark.

All I did to break this block was log back in to evaluate the changes to the industry and the effect it would have on my profit margins. When I do industry (it's been a while) I cook up small scale T2 module production for things common to all PVP fits with a side order of frigate guns and a smidgen of riggery.

The UI was an instant joy. Gone are the boring lists and constant menu clicking. The entire process of T2 production was previously an RSI inducing nightmare of clickage against a dull background. Now the process is more "get picture, press buttan, circle appear, pretty, press buttan, receive shiny". That's about it, the UI serves as a both a pretty visualisation, a guide and a useful approximation of the process and costs. I've my quibbles with the UI outside of the bugs. The bugs I've seen are generally to do with it not updating fast enough or claiming I can't build due to lack of components when I can. I can live with them as long as I press the button and it works, which it generally has. Other problems are slightly more irritating

  •  Missing price per unit in the cost approximations for materials. As a small scale producer the total cost of the batch of say Quantum Microprocessors is just annoying. I want the price per unit. Because I'm lazy. Yes - I can do the mental arithmetic but I don't want to. The approximations job is to do that, the market displays in PPU, why not the estimate based on the market? 

  • Missing value in the System Cost index. The single bar isn't enough. Where is the actual percentage? I'm not losing any sleep over it mind, I actually don't care that much about it. It is annoying. Maybe I've missed it, certainly the values are available via the CREST API

  • The Invention calculation cost summary factors the decryptor in every time when in fact the decryptor isn't used up so it's cost is really amortised over every Invention job you do with it. Having it there just makes the approximation useful if you're only ever going to do one Invention run and then throw the decryptor away.

By and large though I love it, it's graphical yet concise, informative yet clean.

Possibly the greatest thing about Crius is the removal of the queue system for available task slots in stations. Queues were one of the main reasons I first ran a POS. The entrance barriers to a new player wanting to perform research on a BPO and get into industry were dictated by queues of older players hogging the system of limited slots. Now a new player can buy a BPO and get started straight away. Sure there is a cost associated with it but there is no absolute block as there was before. If I have the BPO and the ISK and the station has the facilities then I just press the button. While previously manufacturing slots were generally available somewhere within reach there were still queuing occasions.  Now a new player can just hit the button, and go do something while the result cooks up. It's a fantastic removal of frustration and a fantastic addition of fulfillment. It also led to my idea for Project Appleseed, as did build times.

The times taken for various tasks have all been revamped. Copying takes forever though the new system of Invention taking just one run from a BPC rather than the whole thing makes this even out for me. Invention times are scarily longer and are a possible bottleneck for me. Manufacturing time seems to be massively down across the board. Again this is very handy for new players. It's probably the speed of manufacture that makes me so wary of the Invention times - I'm going to consume T2 blueprints faster than I can produce them if I'm not careful.

Much has been written about the added costs of industry. Even POS owners are being charged a tax on their industry tasks. POS now mirror the sure things in life. Death and Taxes. I looked into the station charges with some trepidation only to find out that the impact on low volume, high margin trade goods isn't going to be that bad. Even building in a station where I have bad standings. I did some quick mental calculations, dangerously eschewing my usual "resort to spreadsheet" solution. Erring on the side of utter disaster there was a chance I'd take a 5% cut in profits. 5%. Five. Even now I'm sure I got something wrong. A day after I caved in and did this in a spreadsheet (because the phrase "spreadsheets in space" doesn't just come from the Overview). That spreadsheet claimed my entire station charges averaged down for a single run (don't ever actually run singles off 10 run T2 BPCs, EVER. Make all 10 at once, or at least enough so that low ME percentages are applied effectively) added 10,000 ISK raw profit drain to the item in question. It was an extreme case but that was about a single percent of the margin. Even so, it did make me glad I wasn't in the business of T1 production where it's generally high volume, low margin. I should note here that the system I'm in seems to have a fairly low cost index.

Not only are POS owners being charged tax but they must now store the blueprints in the POS modules themselves rather than at a local station, increasing the risk substantially. Now, on the surface, Crius is a POS popularising release. You no longer need standings to anchor a POS and you can anchor in higher security systems. There are plenty more locations for POS now. Given the calculations above it didn't seem worth it to throw up a POS for me. I'd guess maybe for refining and maybe for T1 work but not for me. I'd be saving a ton on fuel blocks too, eating into the profit impact of station charges.

So, my old business looked interesting again. I didn't investigate Teams because the process and interface feel like the spectre of the old industry UI for some reason. That and the fact that they aren't useful at my volume of production. The only problems facing me if I were to take up my old business again were:

  •  Invention was going to take some more planning due to the time taken. The previous hour long runs made it possible to submit two sets in the mornings on my inventor, and even more in the evenings.

  • POS are actually more annoying in Crius than before, despite being easier to put up. It's as if CCP would rather us not use them. I'll leave speculation about that to others for now but there is a big fat question mark hanging over POS use.

  • My home station only had manufacturing capabilities.

So I came up with a plan and like that I was back in EVE. In addition to this, the ease of starting industry for new players (mainly the removal of the time barriers) made me come up with Project Appleseed. Things to do! Returned to the fold by Crius! Who can say that?

The Plan :

 1. Move to a station with the capability to perform all the necessary science jobs. Don't put up a POS. Given that the station I'm in has been home to one or more characters for pretty much my entire career this meant a lot of moving. Thankfully my main alt can fly Orcas, Freighters and now Transport ships. I bought a Transport ship to speed things up. I tried not to apply the cost of this to my thoughts on profit margins but strangely the worst bit of the entire thing (apart from the one point I got bored and jumped several billions worth of stuff in an unscouted and unfit Freighter) was

 2. Revitalise the industry character and the two support alts, making sure they all have 10 science and manufacturing jobs each. Easily said. I spent 1.5 billion on PLEX to activate the training queues. I definitely tried not to apply this to my notions of profit impact. This is the longest step and should be complete by the end of the month. I might squeeze in Frigate Construction V on one of them too though theoretically it's getting to around the time that I need to think about getting Cyno' IV on them all.

 3. Bulk submit jobs or whatever, whenever, rather than for optimal reasons. There will be some plan but essentially industry will be less demanding. The same timing will apply to market sales. I'll let them roll on their own for longer and restock at longer intervals.

 4. Reactivate my PI farm but put it on slow mode, basically as a minor source of income and materials that I activate once every few days or more rather than the 24 hour cycles I had going previously. Coolant and Uranium were being produced for fuel which means I'm now carrying something to Jita when I go for materials I can't produce (or reasonably source locally).

5. Produce stuff once a month for Project Appleseed.

6. Produce ships and modules for my main character, who now also has new plans that will be focused around having a little more relaxing fun than normal.

Basically I decided to abandon my fear of the margins after what I discovered. No small business min/maxing. I'm taking my cue from the industry UI and making the entire thing easy fun rather than a cerebral exercise (fun, of a sort, though that may be). Sure, it won't support as much but the ease of industry now makes it a hobby rather than a full time EVE pursuit. I applied this to PI to and found myself deluged by the result anyway. More than enough for some useful spending cash which comes in handy when you start thinking about 10000 ISK increments and then suddenly spend 1.7 billion. This too had it's advantages. I always felt before that ISK was an anchor, that it was important and that I had to have a certain amount of it rather than spending it. Logically I knew that liquid ISK was just losing value all the time but I was wedded to that bank balance for weird and paranoid reasons (as natural as they are in EVE). Now I've decided I'll just spend some stuff. As ever I went too far and, after a drink or three, I woke one morning to find that the outlay described above had a fully fitted Naga added to it. Not only that but it was named the "Sulaco" and the hold contained ten Marines and three Tourists. I guess even drunk I wasn't prepared to use a Slave or a Janitor to represent Bishop.

I'm thinking I should have called this post "How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Spend My ISK" or maybe "Stop Criusing Your Heart Out"

EVE Track of the Day

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - Nina Simone

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Day 767 : A Postcard from Nexus

It was inevitable that I'd give Wildstar a try sooner or later. I just didn't think it would be sooner, or that it would take over so rapidly for various reasons I'll go into. So there is going to be some discussion of a theme park MMO here.

For those who think I've fallen from the true path then you might read something that today gave me giddy nostalgia for the realms of New Eden. Over on Low Sec Lifestyle Sugar has written about how she became an FC for a bunch of self professed carebears under the hammer of a war dec. She learns to FC and they learned to be FC'd. It reminded me that the glory of EVE isn't really those stories that the mainstream media pick up on. It isn't the Burn Jita or Titanomachy videos I send non EVE-playing friends. Instead it's the smaller narratives woven by the innocents that compels. I care more about the story of the newb who went to war in a frigate he could barely fly or afford to lose than about the story of a Titan pilot who can shrug off the loss. Go read, be entertained, jump in a frigate. With both this and the Crius release on my mind I feel I'll be back between gates sooner or later. Anyway, this is the story in order I think:

So I'll be back, or I will once things get sorted. Summer hit England and with it (and the usual lull and changes in my gaming habits) the annoying news that I was getting more ill. I have Crohns disease. I generally refuse to call it that and refer to it as the "Witches" and it's intermittent attacks as "witchfire". Punning cheers you up. I'm lucky though, it's a fairly mild case compared to some, including at least one EVE player we've lost to it this year. However, an MRI result revealing it spread sent the doctors into a preventative panic. Since I felt well beforehand and haven't felt worse in years afterwards I'm assuming I'm a victim of the interpretation of shitty JPEG compression coming out of a 15 year old MRI machine but what do I know? They put me on immuno suppressants which promptly made me so ill I had to go on a course of steroids too. Entertaining fact - I have to phone up if I have "strange or frightening thoughts". Newsflash doc'. I have them all the time. I have to phone up if I "see or hear things which aren't there". A) How do I tell and B) I'm a gamer and a nerd. I purposefully try to "see or hear things which aren't there" all the goddamn time.

What does all this grim medical shit (ah ha ha) have to do with a theme park MMO? Well, it's easy to pick up. The game, not the disease ( not that it is a disease technically). At the start Wildstar is easy. No fiendish plans, no secondary backup plans and no disaster plans required to go and do some basic PVE. I'm not in the kind of place where I want a nervous, adrenaline laced, edge to everything I do in a game.

But "it's just Warcraft!" I hear you cry. Well, it is and it isn't. At first you are just in a standard theme park. Go there, kill these guys, come back, press button, receive reward, add "Pavlovs favourite" to your character title. That kind of thing. It was a relief just to have nonsensical stuff to do without fear, whether the adrenaline laden fear of EVE is a good thing or not ( and it is ), considering what was going on. Then the game started to make me laugh. It's a cheesy humour but it's rife with it. The first few times my character levelled up just made me laugh. Not just the incredibly over the top animation but the messages played over the top of that. And I do mean "over the top". It's like an answer to the old message of "ding!" you'd say when you messaged a friend in Warcraft to say you had levelled up. In Wildstar you might as well play the first bells of Big Ben in comparison. As I said to someone at the time, "That's a big fuckin' ding". Humour and exuberance are rife. Of course this makes the game less "serious" which at the time was a big a draw as anything for me. I needed a non-serious refuge.

Then surprisingly the game turned out to have a hard edge.

Combat isn't target, click buttons, loot. It's target, run around trying to aim, plan your boosting mechanic, try not to aggro everything in range, and then try and stay out of the red. I knew top class raiders in Warcraft that couldn't stay out of the red. They'd be dead every ten minutes after level 20 in Wildstar. Dungeons are apparently challenging from the get go. I refused to get involved in long term group things for reasons I've covered above.

Healing is worse, in a good way. I used to be a healer in Warcraft and it could be tough up at the raid and heroic dungeon level. I've healed one five man mob in Wildstar and it made me swear to get to 50 on one character and then go back and consider the entire thing again. Having to aim heals while people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, while dealing with odd class mechanics and damage that has to be avoided is a lot harder than it looks. It certainly made flying logi in EVE a lot more appealing, something I avoided like the plague after my Warcraft healer days.

The market is more complex than Warcraft. Admittedly it is no where near the free market of New Eden but it's there. Buy and Sell orders are possible. Knowing what these where and having certain experiences in EVE to back me up meant that I was pretty much sorted for cash from about level 15. I've calmed it down a bit but there is still no way I'll need to worry about cash until I do something stupid like raiding ( which I won't be doing ) and even then I think I'll be ok. I'm not at the levels of purchasing CREDD ( the equivalent of PLEX ) but who cares? I could do it if I wanted

Crafting in the game is a little more involved than Warcraft. Not that excitingly so, in fact occasionally random and annoying to the point of difficulty, and not the satisfying result of intellect that it is in EVE. My main skills were easy enough to level so that I was sat around getting the materials from buy orders because I'd never been to the places where the materials I needed were available to gather. Then I discovered the "hobby". Cooking. It became an obsession to get 15 talent points in it. They had deliberately made it trying and difficult and so I got addicted to it. In the end I just used the market to avoid the otherwise incredible level of grind that it represents and got what I wanted. It took some planning and my conclusion was that I'd gone from being a starship and weapon manufacturing expert to a character having some difficulties making a certain type of sausage. The humour was not lost on me and again the game made me laugh.

Housing. Yes. I wasn't going to get into virtual doll housing either. Then I did. Finding the optimal position for the liquor filled bar you are installing in your house, finding the optimal position for the huge eyeball you found in some random challenge, finding you can install personal challenge tasks. They take their toll. Let's face it, if CCP turned around with a working Walking in Stations implementation tomorrow where decor for your quarters was paid for in AUR then the spike in PLEX prices would make the last six months of PLEX inflation look like a one pence increase on your favourite snack bar. At one point I seriously considered what EVE would be like had Walking In Stations worked, and worked well. It looks like the guys at Wildstar just took all the crap they made the world out of, stuck it in various places for you to find and then gave you a blank canvas. I can't imagine it was a lot of work to make a player version of their own world building tools compared to developing the rest of the game and it's worked out well for them.

Are there any bad points to consider?  Absolutely loads but I'll stick to two comparisons to give you an idea.

vs Warcraft : The world is too zoned. You always feel like you are in a zone rather than just a part of the world. Often zones in Warcraft had long running borders and it made you feel like part of the world. You'd pass through old areas on the way to somewhere else and reminisce. In Wildstar you just teleport around and follow the paths through the gaps in scenery to the next zone. Open world it is not, not really.

vs EVE :  Damn Wildstar is visually noisy. I had to log back into EVE to calm down and make sure my eyeballs got a rest. There is so much shit going on all over the shop, it's a visual assault. The most powerful muscles in my body right now must be in my eye sockets. Give it a rest guys and put some calm places in.

Will I continue to play Wildstar? Well I don't think I'll ever be able to fully leave EVE. I've been keeping characters skilling over the past month mainly because I had plans but even if I let my sub drop I'll be back one day to use them. It's an old EVE story we've heard before. The Hotel California of games. There are other games nudging gently into my awareness, Landmark and ArcheArge among them. I'll continue to monitor the situation but for now, with my own body conspiring with the NHS to kill me, I'll leap from a precipice on a hoverboard, flip out my twin pistols and gun down a ton of angry something or others and laugh. Then two minutes later I'll switch off and go and watch some TV, secure in the knowledge that I had a little thing to do and a laugh.

While I watch TV that little thread of thought, almost autonomic now, that didn't exist until two years ago, will be plotting and scheming. Perhaps just as it was always meant to.

EVE Track of the Day

Hotel California - The Eagles

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

Monday, 19 May 2014

Day 703 : The Caravans of the Dead

I arrive in the optimistically named system of Dead End in an odd mood. The colonists I'm following have left no real trace. I'm becoming disillusioned with the hunt, idling around quiet systems, keeping out of the way. I'm generally a solo non-combat pilot but I like to fly with a noisy background. I'm trying to hold to my project but I'm becoming sure that our ancestors had ample reason to flee this backwater. Thousands of years later I'm coming to the same conclusion, which makes what happens all the stranger.

Despite the gloom there is reason to be optimistic for the system. Not only are there two temperate planets but the authorities have dropped a becon highlighting the presence of something unusual called a Monolith. I take the planets first.

Neither have a station nor any indication of civilisation. By this point I'm unsurprised. Why settle here when the cluster beckons? The second of the planets I look at confirms this. It's grey.

An impending ice age? An unusually active hydrosphere reflecting light? For a second I ponder a colony overrun by it's own nanotech, a world down there in a slow, losing battle with terraforming nanobots unleashed by the desperate people who washed up in this pit of a system. You can see what kind of mood I'm in. I shake it off. My targets aren't here. I doubt they're in the pipe out to the cluster. I might as well indulge this dark storm of imagination and go and survey this Monolith thing.

Of course there were others there before me. The Blood Raiders are here. Gathered around the becon like vultures circling a potential meal site. For some reason this infuriates me and before long I've got a contact flying in a Coercer destroyer. This will enable me to do three things

1. Kill blood raiders.
2. Kill blood raiders quickly in a low powered ship and hence mocking them while setting some kind of low level challenge to boost me from my current apathy.
3. Feel better by "Flying Bling". I give the Amarr a lot of grief but damn. The Gold and Ivory and Guns of Light. Kudos.

Once my HUD is clear of annoying red crosses and my cargo hold full of surprisingly interesting things like meta Damage Controls I investigate the monolith itself. Defeating sensors other than simple optics it's a dark hyperectangle that reflects the background sky . Stare too long and too darkly and you'd swear it was full of stars. Though simple in appearance its mystery is hypnotic. Isolated, free standing, apparently purposeless, it nevertheless manages to convey the impression of patience, of waiting. I can't shake the feeling that not only am I being watched, even judged, but also that I'm being affected somehow. A more suspicious person would wonder where this information was being sent and what conclusions were drawn from it.

Perhaps this accounts for a sudden bout of free roaming violence. I visit the two belts of the system in turn, quickly magnifying the value of the cargo hold with some Clone Soldier tags. I fly these out to high sec but feel compelled to return and attempt the haul again. The next bag of loot is of less value which makes it all the easier to cope with being ganked by a gate camp on the way out. Members of the Easily Excited alliance camp the trail out with alarming regularity. Come here at your own risk.

Despite this I want to return. I want to see the monolith again. Spend more time near it. I have more hardware flown in. An Omen cruiser with a specific cargo load in addition to a belt combat fit. A gate running fit and a Mobile Depot. The latter is a space caravan (note to Americans and other non UK life forms : A Caravan is the UK term for a mobile home mounted as a trailer behind a vehicle). I spend a couple of weeks roaming the Dead End system living out of this box since there is no station in system. It even holds repair units for my hull and shield, and remote repair units for my drones. So much for my fear of wormhole lifestyles.

 I trawl the system idly. As if I have no choice. I run the belts every now and again. At the depot I refit the ship to a gate camp running spec' and fly out tags, meta damage controls, webifiers and neuts. I make a lot of money with a fairly low amount of effort. Each time I'm out though, I return to the scene of these solo pilot crimes and make an orbit of the monolith.

I begin to think that the name of the system is prophetic in more than one way until one morning I find my caravan has been scanned down and destroyed. I hadn't even noticed it being reinforced such was the level of my apathy. Fortunately I'm fit to fly out, even though I think it might be late. I'm right. A few jumps down the pipe out to the cluster I'm caught by a Devoter and a Fleet Issue Stabber which trap me and take down my gate running Omen fit. Lesson learned. Prop mod required. Out in my pod though I feel free and bounce off the sun and out, down the pipe, past the odd rock bound gate in Djimame (which I really must have a closer look at) to the calmer waters of Imya.

Once docked I realise the mild adrenaline has broken whatever hold the system of Dead End had on me. It's unlike me to not care about the loss of a ship that made so much ISK. I'll be back one day to investigate again and continue the trail of the colonists but for now I need to get out of the vicinity and far away from this strange addiction to lonely gloom. Good luck to any other prospectors that try the lifestyle a young pilot with a T2 fit Coercer and a bunch of luck could make some ISK down here. Getting out alive is another matter.

EVE Tracks of the Days

(I was here a while)

A Hazy Shade of Winter - Simon & Garfunkel
What Am I Doing Hanging Round - The Monkees
The Blue Danube - Strauss

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Day 674 : A Paradise of Perhaps

Canard (n) : an unfounded rumour or story.

Even from two light years away our intrepid colonists must have seen the soft blue-green glow of not one but two worlds with a potential biosphere. One was bound to be viable. Right?

You know what they say about viable colony worlds. They're like buses. You wait ages for one and two arrive at once. They're my target. On arrival I quickly and superficially scan the rest of the system. I'm in a hurry. I'm the worst system surveyor of all time but even here I see hope. The inner system is full of rocky worlds handy for industry and there are enough belts to draw mineral resources from. A pair of gas giants stand sentinel further out into the system, guarding any potential life zones from higher than average impacts from wandering space debris. We're in a cul-de-sac system here, one way in and one way out. In short, we've hit potential space suburbia. Move in, settle down, raise a horde of ravening space maniacs to take the cluster by storm.

Canard VI, Oceanic

A single vast shallow ocean is pulled different ways by a pair of small moons. With the majority of large cyclical storms confined to the polar regions, initial impressions are good. Is it a surfers paradise? Skip a couple of rocks past the gas giants, land them on one side of the equator to make a reef. Spend your days surfing the waves, chilling out, and smoking gene-tech altered kelp.

Is land required for a colony? No. Float one, and roam the world. Dome one for an aquatic, if vulnerable, paradise under the seas. The planet is a little small though, a bit warm. Low pressure and gravity is probably going to make it a little steamy down there. Surfers in facemasks.

There is life down there already. A huge amount of micro organisms, a fair amount of planktonic lifeforms, and a small amount of complex organisms. I'm imagining that some kind of giant cross between a manta ray and a bird hoovering up the air borne life cycle of the local plankton. It's a shame my planetary scanning mechanisms don't reach so far.

In short, it has potential. In the longer term the colony might die from an outbreak of chronic athletes foot. There's a rocky world with a biosphere further up the slope of spacetime. Onwards to our next candidate.

Canard VIII, Temperate

She's a water world, nightly lit by the reflections from a single moon. Fractured land masses resembling island chains thread the seas. Is this a sign of bad tectonics or are we safe? Gravity is lower than normal but high enough to be an advantage rather than a problem. The average temperature is just shy of perfect so I'd expect some of the gaps between the islands to be clogged with ice for half the year. We are, after all, a massive 7 AU from the local star. Some of the highlands might be chilly enough to pose a problem.

Oddly though, most of the indigenous life congregates in the more barren highlands. Most of the obvious vegetation hugs the coast. Something odd is going on here. Perhaps the deep seas are dangerous in some fashion? Perhaps there is something that lives along the coasts that convinces everything else to stay inland.

I fly to the night side of the planet looking for signs of civilisation. Light. There isn't any. It's dark down there. None of the large light sources you'd normally see on an occupied world. In itself that's interesting but I'm grasping at straws now. Perhaps the lack of light is sign of a hidden colony? Perhaps the lack of light discourages whatever lifeform makes the coasts so dangerous from making it's way inland? Perhaps the colony regressed and the light sources they have aren't large enough to register from way up here in the icy black?

In desperation I inspect the land more closely. Is that signs of agriculture or local flora variation? Are those roads or signs of riverine or tectonic action?

I think the time for dreaming is over. In the end I prepare to leave the system with a heavy heart, was the "canard" the potential to settle? Perhaps it was that they had found a home? Perhaps a few did. Perhaps a few of our ancestors descendants are still here, perhaps I couldn't reach them and perhaps they are happier for it. Too much "perhaps" in this study. I'll leave the story of the tribal native hitching a ride to the capsuleer POCO in orbit to another writer. 

Alternatively, knowing our colonists sense of humour, perhaps they couldn't settle because of an indigenous and violent form of giant water fowl. Given the nature of both worlds it wouldn't be such a reach. Perhaps they just ducked this system, and perhaps I just about got my joke in.

EVE Track Of The Day
Turnin' My Heartbeat Up - The M.V.P.'s 

Sustained by my Northern Soul.


This post found me, for various reasons, in the heinous grip of writers block. Thanks must go out to the members of tweetfleet that helped me along with advice. and

Books that also helped:

The Engines of God - Jack McDevitt
The Legacy of Heorot - Niven, Pournelle and Barnes
The Mysterious Island - Jules Verne

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Day 672 : Liminal State

We're around five light years from the EVE Gate now and it's time for a little analysis of my subjects and a little introspection on how I view them.

First, a quick look around the system of Central Point. It's quiet. Like every system I've visited so far on the journey. Capsuleer activity is muted, there are a few stations running but plenty of empty moons. The belts are pristine and chock full enough of interesting amounts of minerals that I almost consider moving here. A man with a mining plan could make a lot out of a system as quiet as this. Even the planets are underused. Half of them still have the infrastructure of the old Interbus customs office racket in orbit. They must have been here for years.

In fact the only activity I really see in space is the presence of the Blood Raiders. I've heard they now hunt for capsuleers in the their pursuit for the red stuff. This is about as clever as it sounds. A craving for rusty water leads them to the only place in the cluster I've ever seen quiet. There's less life here than anywhere else. It's a shame I've no guns on board. I've a inkling to get a rack of hybrid blasters fitted, load them with damp Iron Charges and roar in shouting "hey you guys, here's another mix of water and iron". I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

Planet wise there is nothing to write home about. The only planet you'd consider setting foot on is a barren world about 1.5 AUs out from the star. It's value? You could get a good sun tan before leaving a good looking corpse. I wonder what our ancestors thought when they passed through here, which brings me back to my central theme.

Crossroads are odd places in the minds of humans. The obviously required decision causes our poor monkey brains to overheat when they start over-thinking and begin to ponder all kinds of other decisions and perhaps even the nature of decision. Here we are. East or West? Why West? Why travel at all? What's the purpose of it all? What am I in the grand scheme of things? Hey presto, you've gone from a simple choice of direction to the last stop on the line, Existential Dread, by falling asleep on the philosophy train. Nevertheless I'm going to use this effect. I'm going to consider how I've been thinking about my subjects and lay some ghosts to rest here, burying the criminal corpses of old ideas at a crossroads so that their intellectual shades don't follow me on the rest of my journey.

I've been romanticising the notion of our ancestors in two ways. Firstly, in their identity. I've grouped them into a single tribe. A people of purpose. In fact we have the evidence to suggest they were just as fractious, greedy, opinionated and political as, well, as we are now. The Gallente and Caldari ancestors must have aimed straight at Luminaire, the Amarr for what was Athra, and the Minmatar for what became Pator. I doubt they hung around to enjoy the view. The evidence suggests they knew exactly what they were doing and where they were going. It's not those "successful" colonists that I'm following. It's the ancestors of the smaller groups who either vanished altogether or turned up later in places like Intaki. Particularly the former. The independent explorers who never formed viable colonies after the EVE Gate shut down.  The directness of the larger groups brings me to the next myth I've invested in.

I've been romanticising the colonists mode of travel, imagining rag tag convoys at sub light speed, slowly being whittled down to a hard core of solid explorers by their arduous travails through the void. This didn't happen. I've listened to too many tellings of the chronicle of Old Man Star perhaps. I've made the mistake of thinking that they had less tech than us, when there is evidence to suggest they had more. They terraformed and put up stargates to speed travel after all. They left all this behind for us to find. Additionally they picked home worlds far from the gate. Luminaire is somewhere around 15 light years from the New Eden system. It's unlikely that they'd look at the results of an astronomy survey, pick a planet and think "Hey, brilliant, we'll be there in two or three decades. This was a great idea. To the cryo chambers!". They either had warp capable ships that could sustain indefinite, or long periods of, warp, perhaps at low FTL speeds, or they were able to focus jump drives on natural gravity wells at distances as much as or more accurately than our current technology can. They had something. The dispersal across the cluster doesn't match sub light speeds.

So who am I following? I'm following the independents. I'm following the people who made the journey into the cluster system by system. I'm following the people who named each waypoint on this star road and left the names behind as a story of the experience. I'm following those who vanished afterwards, and along the way I'll think about why.

I look back towards New Eden and see the gate and the star glowing together, distinctly separate even here.

No wonder the Amarr looked at the night sky and dreamed of the distant. Mind you, the Amarr could take significance from just about anything. I hear you can't even do sleight of hand tricks in Amarr cities for fear that it will cause a religious schism or be taken as proof of validity of whatever genocidal, human rights violating idea they come up with next. The muppets. Still, the star and the gate are an inspiring sight, as long as you don't take it too far. I'll bury my mysticism and my annoyance with the Amarr here at this crossroads and keep a smidgen of spirituality for the rest of the trek. Slightly ironic but also vaguely amusing.

In the end it's back to the simple choice. Where next? I decide randomly rather than try and figure out what the travellers would have done. Decision made. It's a short hop as the duck flies to Canard.

EVE Track of the Day

Blowing Up My Mind - The Exciters

(back to rolling down the space lanes to Northern Soul again)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Day 670: Broken Promises

When the travellers from Earth arrived in the one horse town of New Eden you could have forgiven them for turning around and heading back home. They had whatever they brought with them plus solar power plus whatever they could scavenge from a single barren planet. Let's hope they never had to put down there and build anything. I wonder if they were surprised to find the planet teeming with microorganisms or whether that too was true back in the old Earth system. I can't help but find it odd that we're the only ones out here despite all this low level life on every barren planet you visit. Perhaps our ancestors seeded the entire place. Perhaps space going sentience is rare. Or perhaps we're a blip and some regularly scheduled astronomic event will press the reset button sometime soon. It's nice to think, isn't it?

Anyway, the reason our ancestors stayed you can see in the name of the next system onwards into the cluster. Promised Land.  With whatever telescopes they had they must have seen the squat, cool star and sighed. However they must have also seen the system was chock full of stuff. Unlike New Eden: Planets and belts. Only one light year away. No previous owner. Chain free! Perfect. Who knows what goodies could be hiding in the system? Perhaps one of the planets was viable for terraforming. They were going to be disappointed, but they had named the system anyway and kept it. As I've said before, I like their sense of humour.

Arriving in system you quickly realise that there was to be no settling here. The two Barren planets are on the edge of the system surrounding an already cool sun. The glimmer of hope you get from a close in gas giant possibly providing an inhabitable moon ( not that I can recall any such thing in the cluster but it might be possible) is quashed, again, by the suns reach. The gas giants have icy balls. Even in close.

There is one chance. A Storm planet. While wreathed in permanent violence it sits in a potential garden zone. Perhaps the surface, with a little coaxing, could be viable for a while. Hey, they'd just crossed half a galaxy. Nuking a storm into submission has nothing on it.  Disregarding capsuleer legends about the stormy planet of LV-426 I make the Storm planet my first destination, diving sunwards, looking for traces.

I then leap almost out of pod in fear. The planet is looking back.

 I calm down and salute the Cyclops, climb down from my Solaris moment, mutter something about Sauron and wonder if I can ever fit more genre breaking lack of consistency into one sentence.

According to my instruments this "Violent Wormhole" is tagged

Though the wormhole seems stable, the exotic radicals pouring from the tear imply that using it would be catastrophic.
This is so bizarre for so many reasons that despite the exotic radicals spewing from it (focus on physics, this isn't pouring Amarrian priests out into space) I go in for a closer look. I've forgotten the planet because a brief look at it's statistics reveals you'd need to be a masochist to even go down there once, let alone set up a base there. Suppose you overcame the storm, the storm reflecting off most of the suns heat. You could settle down there and raise huge strong redneck sons who'd never seen the outside and who would snap in standard gravity. Nah.

Things don't get any less spooky by looking around

 I go in for a closer look. I'm seeing hints of Caldari space and I'm seeing hints of Cloud Ring. The wormhole goes further into the cluster? I hit the usual books, by which I mean EVE Travel. It looks like this is a Sansha relic. Intriguing and weird as it is, I've no desire to get turned into a cyber-zombie by the original owners. It's fascinating, unlike the rest of the system but it might be time to do a runner and head off further down the line.

You can imagine the original colonists gathering raw materials here, perhaps doing some repair and patching, but you can't imagine them staying. Even capsuleers haven't done much with the system. Only three planets have customs offices and most of the moons are unused. Central Point with it's choice of direction beckons. It's time to follow the trail again.

EVE Track of the Day

L'Estasi Dell'oro (The Ecstasy of Gold) - Ennio Morricone

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Day 664: The Pilgrim

In the six hundred and odd days I've played EVE there has been one thing I've always meant to do and never done. For various reasons really. Wariness. Fear. Lack of skill. Some more Fear. I've always meant to visit New Eden. Home of the cluster, origin of the cluster if legends are true. Home to the EVE Gate. Coincidentally rumoured to also be home to chock loads of ancient tech style loot. All hidden of course, and that's not really the reason I'm going. But a guy can get lucky, you know?

I guess if you've never been and the pilgrimage is on your cockpit list too, you should probably stop reading right now.

The first task is to pick a ship. A proper explorer would take an exploration ship, a Covert Ops frigate at least if not the Sisters of EVE ships. The latter would fit very well since the Sisters are rumoured to be down at the EVE gate doing whatever it is they do. They've probably used these hulls before. Then again I have my doubts about the Astero and I suspect the Stratios would be like flying a one man honey trap down there. Additionally, in my mind, this "pilgrimage" has more of an aspect of "joyride" than most pilgrims would like. "Tourism" wouldn't be far off the mark. I'm EVEs first tourist. I'm Twoflower in space.

To ameliorate this image and inject a suitable amount of macho bullshit back into the mission I pick a muscle car. The Ares.

It's fast, armoured enough to probably survive an insta locking gate sniper, and red. I keep thinking that it would look good if it had the Gallente shield badge on it but with the shield having a yellow background instead of a green one.

 I've not pimped my ride. This isn't a case of "how fast can you go" it's a case of cheap, suitably amusing, cap stable, 5k per second speed, high warp speed, and manoeuvrability.

The route to the EVE gate is fairly short. Fourteen jumps or so of hi sec and another nine of low sec. Thanks to the Ares I'm at my last hisec waypoint in record time. Along the way I notice that some Amarr stargates have a rotating ring built into them. Given my recent obsession with all things rotaty and ringy I note it down for future inspection.

I arrive at Imya and decide to take a break, I spend this manually flying the Ares round a spike on one of the systems stations. I tell myself this is to test the manoeuvrability of the ship under MWD but mainly it's because my inner RP geek is imagining the stations inhabitants looking on with abject fear at 1.5 million kilos of spaceship travelling at 4km per second less than a kilometer from their windows. It's good practice for the PVP technique of spiralling too. Circling something by clicking halfway into a tangential vector and producing a rough, ever decreasing, circle.

Enough faffing. I check my route. This is when the plan changes. After a few jumps in the systems all have meaningful names. Access, Exit, Gateway, Central Point and Promised Land. There's a story here. I'm going to be here longer than I thought because I'm going to trace the earliest arrivals route out into the cluster and see if I can get a feel for what they might have seen. This is now Space-archaeo-social-anthropology. It also gives me an excuse to roar through the systems at top speed. I'll see them at length on the way back.

On arrival in New Eden the gate isn't hard to miss though I'm briefly confused by the sun having a distant nebula at it's back. That's a messy origin story structure. I turn around and see what I'm really here to see.

The Gate

Apparently over three light years away there isn't any chance of reaching it. There isn't even an indication that it's there in any of the navigational sensors. The rest of the system is as quiet as the grave. A single barren planet without even a moon sits in a tight orbit around the sun. There isn't even a station in the system. Had I been the Amarr, who own this neck of the woods, I'd of dropped a station just for research and the tourist trade. Scratch the latter.

Dscan on the other hand is crowded. While there are only two other pilots in system, on of whom arrived after me, there is evidence, scattered all over the first 100,000km of the system, of other visitors. Cans are anchored everywhere, each bearing a message. Being capsuleers these are the usual variants of "Here I am!", "I am important!", "I was here!". Wolves howling at the moon. Honestly, who would have the gall to believe that others would be that interested in where they've been and what they thought they'd achieved. Er. Lets leave that thought while I finish this informative, and not egotistical at all, post.

I pay attention to local for the first time. There is something odd going on. From the tone of the messages I think these capsuleers are here to do something not too far from worship. Like the Amarr who, along with the other crime of thinking that hoods are a good year round fashion statement, decided that the supernatural is a go-to excuse for doing whatever you want, these capsuleers hold a reverence for the EVE Gate that borders on mysticism. Despite a few attempts to get me involved in their ritual greetings I'm still thinking of announcing that I've filled the hold full of explosives and I'm on a collision course with the gate. Of course I won't get there for several hundreds of millennia but I'm still tempted to say I'll try. I'm immortal. There's bound to be enough TV to keep me entertained for epoch making levels of time. No.

Instead, I'm tempted to leave my own can, undoing all the good work of mocking everyone that I wrote above. The main reason is a can emblazoned with this message

"Know, Pilgrim, that you do not travel alone. Palcus Jan 26, 2007"

For some reason this message resonates. I look around the system and try to think what it must have been like to end up here after a legendary journey. Apart from the gate itself, something of a depressing anti-climax. I like these early, supposedly legendary, colonists. They had balls. They named the system after a garden, origin implied or not. They had a sense of humour. I would have taken one look at the half frosted, half burnt ball of rock in orbit around the sun and said "Guys, wait, I think I forgot something. You go ahead, I'll just nip back and get it and then catch up." Perhaps they had their eyes cast towards further stars. I'm going to follow their route and see what it's like.

Before I go I travel 50,000 km out from the arrival gate and leave my own can, my own message. It's there now if you care to go and find my own identity claim in a bottle. In a highly confused and hypocritical way I leave a token behind, a single Ultraviolet laser charge. Suddenly I'm understanding the "why" of votive offerings that I never really understood from my Archaeological studies. There's a palpable sense of deep humanity here in the emptiness for some reason. Something that almost contrasts the electromagnetic glory of the EVE Gate itself. Something that demands acknowledgement. Here we began.

Having waxed lyrical and morally perjured myself enough for one day, I turn the ship around. Next stop. Promised Land.

EVE Track of the Day

The Eve of the War - Jeff Waynes War of the Worlds

(It works on so many levels! There's also a tenuous joke in the lyrics about my journey here for those that care to figure it out. )