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Notes from an Undisclosed Location in the Insmother Region October 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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The big, pre-Phoebe alliance update was posted yesterday addressing the new order in sovereign null sec.  Since the CFC is as riddled with spies as any other organization in New Eden, updates from The Mittani get posted directly over at The Mittani dot com, saving people the trouble of stealing/distributing them and generating some ad revenue as some people rage against The Mittani in the comments.  You can view it at your leisure.

Some of what was mentioned had been gone over before in less formal venues not long after the Phoebe changes were announced.  In fact, such fireside chats in Mumble with The Mittani started as a campaign to calm down some of the super capital pilots who were losing their heads in the forums about the death of their gold-plated space coffins.  When you opt to fly a super cap, that is pretty much all your character does from then on.  Of course, a bunch of us line grunts piled into the room as well because Mittens is a good public speaker if nothing else and these became 400+ pilot events.

For the super cap pilots, the message was that supers were becoming more powerful and more likely to be used in combat because, with Phoebe in place, a fleet of local supers no long has to fear a group of hostile supers dropping on them from the other side of New Eden.  Super cap fleets cease being a huge stick to be brought down literally anywhere in null sec on a very short notice, something only the three large powers could manage.  Instead they become the local super powers that can drop on anybody within 5 ly immediately, and within 10ly pretty quickly, becoming less of a blue water navy by analogy and more of a coastal defense force.  Without the threat of incoming forces from all over New Eden you can drop on your are much more likely to drop on your own zone of control.  Even Gevlon seems to agree with the idea that supers will not fall by the wayside, and the goblin would find a technical reason to oppose Mittens if the CEO update declared the sky to be blue.

The rest was more about how the Phoebe changes favored us more… or at least hurt us less… than our rival superpowers (My joke about the genie at the end of my own first cut at Phoebe seemed to match that), how much this will favor the defender who actually lives in their space, and some plans under way to help us adapt to the new world.  Stepping up MiniLuv operations to harass jump freighter operations so as to make pre-Phoebe prep more difficult for our null sec opponents was mentioned early, as was a new group called the Reavers.  More on the latter further down the page.

That was all a couple of weeks back.  Since then more obvious preparations for the coming expansion have surfaced all over null sec.  Pandemic Legion has divested itself of nearly half of its rental empire.  The Mittani says that Northern Coalition is abandoning space in the east to the Russians and looks to be headed towards the southwest where it was announced that the CFC is pulling out, drawing back into the northwest of null sec, abandoning Querious, Period Basis, and Delve as being too far from our core and too sparsely populated to defend itself with local residents.  Phoebe working as intended for many. (EN24 has a null sec movement rumor mill post up that is worth a look.)

Farewell southwest null!

Farewell southwest null!

A joke going around is that the Goons, having invaded and taken Delve six times already, gave up the region out of habit just so they could invade it again later.  Hell, even I have been through two Delve invasions at this point.  But I am still shipping all my stuff in our forward deployment base in Querious back to Deklein before the expansion.

It isn’t quite setting the clock back two years, but with the CFC pulling back into the northwest and Russians possibly resurgent in the east,  it seems like all we have to do it get Intrepid Crossing back into Cobalt Edge and we would practically have the band back together.

2012 vs. 2014

2012 vs. 2014

The 2012 map looks like it has a lot more entities on it, but if you count the various Russian alliances as one coalition, they overlap a lot with N3’s rental empire.  And that brings us to the renters.  In an age of static null sec, one upside has been an ample supply of stable and relatively safe null sec systems to rent, which has lead to a lot of corporations being able to move out to null and mine, rat, or whatever.  PL’s rental empire, Brothers of Tangra, had more than 10K pilots in it until they started to divest, while N3’s rental space, Northern Associates, currently has nearly 14K pilots spread over about 360 corporations in nearly 700 systems across 15 regions.

That is a lot of players… a lot of entities that just don’t show up on the map… for whom the much ballyhooed “blue donut” era has been a benefit.  Where will they go when Phoebe, Rhea, and expansions beyond make holding vast tracts of sovereign null sec untenable?  Phoebe and beyond, working as intended, means a lot of different things.  The CFC will hunker down and weather the storm, PL will consolidate, NC has its own core defense perimeter in sight, but there will be areas in null which will become the wild west.  That will likely be a good thing in the larger scope of the game, but may suck mightily if you’re a PvE sharecropper in a null sec empire that has abandoned you because they can no longer move fast enough to defend far flung space.

So we will see new entities on the map… or old entities returning… while a mass of invisible entities may well be at the mercy of whoever shows up.  Will the find new landlords to protect them or barbarians who will drive them back to empire space.

Interesting times.

Back to Reavers.  This is a new formation in the CFC, and I joined up because they look to be the place where things might be happening going forward.  It is actually the first CFC group I have joined.

As noted in The Mittani’s post, we are tasked during war time to deploy into the enemies rear areas to be partisans.  We will destroy infrastructure, siphon moons, and basically terrorize the PvE locals who stayed behind.  This will be made a viable strategy by Phoebe, which will keep anybody attacking our territory unable to move quickly back to defend their own.  We will slip in, shoot up the place, and move on.

As part of the plan we have been on a practice deployment down in Insmother, where we have had a few days of token resistance as we reinforced and blew up towers. (Let’s hear it for low stront and no stront towers!)  Even in this pre-Phoebe stage, where fast travel is still a thing, N3 seems to be more focused on trying to hit our structures in the north than defending their holdings in the east.  I hear they may have woken up to what we are up to at last, so we may have to move on.  But as a learning exercise it has been good, and a lot of fun.  It is also nice to be in on the creation of a group, where the traditions and procedures (and inside jokes) are being formulated.  You end up feeling more a part of things.  I even spoke on voice coms… once.

And it is even a new section of space for me.  The Goons have a history out here, but I have never been deeper in the east than B-R5RB… though that was a memorable visit.  So new sites for the tourist in me.

We will see how the deployment fares.  In the mean time I have a few postcard screen shots from the deployment which (I hope) do not violate operational security.

 

A Short and Bloody Visit to F7C-H0 October 20, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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Well, it was a short visit for me.

The highlight of weekend fleet ops up until Saturday evening had been flying around Black Rise to pop a couple of Black Legion faction battleships with DBRB.  I hadn’t been in one of his fleets in ages, and it was good to see that he hasn’t calmed down at all.  The best moment during that op was when he had us on a gate, yelling into coms that the hostiles were on the other side and jumping through, only to discover we were on the wrong gate.  All those low sec names look alike.

Things were quiet on Saturday afternoon until the call went out to form up to take on some hostiles out in Cloud Ring who were hitting one of our towers.  We were going to head out in Tengu fleet, though we had to go through the usual round of trying to get enough Scimitars and boosters before we could get on our way.  Having gotten on my share of kill mails for the month, I joined up in a Scimitar to help keep the fleet alive.

I figured something interesting must be going on as when I undocked to join the fleet at the staging POS, there was a huge lump of capital ships undocking as well.

Heavy iron undocking

Heavy iron undocking

We had to sit in the POS and be cajoled for a while until the fleet composition settled down into something useful before we headed out and down the “so familiar I could fly it in my sleep” pipe from Deklein to Cloud Ring.  After nearly three years in null, I think I have finally flipped over and systems with seemingly random letters and numbers as designators seem normal while systems with actual names seem odd.

We got into the region and held a couple of gates out.  I gather we were waiting for our own caps to get into the system.  Eventually we moved into F7C-H0 as well though, and dropped into the fight under heavy TiDi.  The main fight seemed to be a slugging match between capital ships, but there were plenty of sub caps running around as well.  Our personal nemesis seemed to be a fleet of rapid light missile launcher fit Cerberuses. (fit)  Those seem to be the counter to our Harpy fleet doctrine, but they seemed to do equally well in a mass against our Tengu fleet Scimitars and Scythes.  They were able to lock up and alpha Scimis off the field before we could get reps on them.  And so when my name came up as a target, I could see that mass of ships yellow boxing me, meaning that they were locking me up as a target, at which point I called for shield reps.  But before help for me could arrive, the boxes went red and the missiles began to hit.

And soon I was in a pod in the middle of the battle, my Scimitar having exploded.

I had about a minute of peace as I tried to move towards the edge of the bubbles with an eye to warping off when I got caught and was sent quickly home to our staging system at YAO.

The battle was still in full swing, and my first reaction was to just jump into another Scimitar and head back towards the fight.  I knew the route after all, and a Scimi can be swift.  But that way lies madness and gate camps, so I reigned in my enthusiasm and took stock of the situation.  A Harpy fleet had just gone out (soon to pay the price in facing those Cerebruses), and was far enough away that I wasn’t going to catch them.

However, a Baltec fleet was forming up.  That meant swapping to an armor doctrine ship.  As usual, logistics was in demand so I went with an Oneiros.  I wasn’t in the right clone to fly the Apocalypse battleship, the mainstay of the fleet, in any case.  It needs an implant.  The joys of clone juggling.  Anyway, we got out there on the titan, as fleet boosters were obtained and logistics pilots were recruited (including any number of dead Tengu fleet logi pilots), and sat.

We ended up just sitting for about an hour before we got our participation link and were stood down.  We were, it seems, just a fleet in being, there to show the hostiles that we had more forces to drop on them should they pursue our withdrawal from the battle.

The whole thing was apparently a trap to lure out some CFC capital ships to kill.  While much of the CFC leadership was hanging out at EVE Vegas (here are Elo Knight and The Mittani, something I linked in fleet during the op) Black Legion and N3 set their plans in motion, and we stepped right into it.  (Rumor has it that the leadership in Vegas were all hovering over Skymarshal Blawrf and his laptop at one point to find out what was going on while they were away.)  The ISK war was tilted heavily in their favor, though they did not leave unscathed, losing some caps of their own.  The battle report sums it up as such:

Red: BL & N3 - Blue: CFC

Red: BL & N3 – Blue: CFC

Long time gaming pal Gaff, who just returned to EVE Online last week, managed to get on kill mails for ten hostile dreadnoughts before losing his Archon in the fight.  He was almost all the way into the POS shields as the capital fleet pulled back when he went into structure and exploded.

And so it goes.  Another big fight in before the November 4 Phoebe expansion turns operations like that from a two jump flit for capitals (16 ly covered from YA0 to F7C according to DOTLAN) to a 20 gate slow march through TiDi.

The two competing EVE Online news sites both have battle reports up.

Meanwhile I have, as usual, a few screen shots from my own short time on grid.  You can just see the ball of Cerberuses that killed me in that last picture.

The Birth of a Pipe Bombing Campaign October 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec, YouTube.
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When it comes to watching gaming related videos on YouTube, I must admit that I do not have much patience.  Small screen video, bad audio commentary, and a general inability to grab and hold the interest of any viewer not captivated by shiny colors and an overbearing sound track pushes me to reject just about anything that demands more than 5 minutes of my time in the medium.

Some of that is my MTV generation attention span, but a larger part is resentment that some poorly produced nonsense is demanding my full attention as it spews out its low quality efforts onto my computer screen.  I can tolerate armature podcasts… well, some armature podcasts… because at least they only require me to listen.  But demanding eyes and ears and mind for crap, that is asking too much.

And then there is the Rooks and Kings channel on YouTube.

Rooks and Kings is a small PvP alliance in null sec that, through skill and innovative tactics, is able to take on much larger alliances and win fights.

And they can make decent videos.  Their latest effort is over an hour long and I sat and watched the whole thing.  It is a documentary describing how the alliance had to alter its tactics to deal with the ever larger fleets it had to contend with, how they came up with and evolved the tactic called pipe bombing, and then how effective it ended up becoming.

(Direct link to video)

If you are interested in seeing a small group smash much larger fleets, describing how they did it, and playing audio of the victims (who in most cases express admiration at being so done in) this is a worthwhile watch.

Related to things discussed in this video are a couple of shorter videos, The Drebuchet,The False Tower, and War Crimes in Fountain.  The latter documents the time that Mister Vee got pipe bombed after mocking his fellow CFC FCs who had been roughly handled by Rooks and Kings.  I was in a fleet later that day and people were talking about that action.

Another Null Sec Achievement! October 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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There we were.  The ping had gone out.  Nulli Secunda was running around Deklein.  They were in YA0-XJ, our staging system, when I logged on.  all 54 of them.

A fleet was formed.

We piled into Tengu fleet doctrine ships to fight them.  We undocked, but our scouts reported they were running.

Reagalan, our FC secured us a titan.  We could cut them off.  All we had to do was get bridge to a system a couple jumps out to cut them off.  We had eyes on them, we knew where they were headed.

We hit the staging POS first, then Reagalan had us warp to him on the titan.  We all bunched up there, looking straight into the face of the giant Amarr titan, the Avatar.  Reagalan asked the titan pilot to bridge us to the beacon in the cut-off system.  We started intently at the titan, waiting for the visual effect that would indicate that the bridge was up.

The tension mounts...

The tension mounts…

Nothing happened.  Reagalan nudged the titan pilot again.

Suddenly the Avatar, this giant visage right before us, transforms itself into a red ball of energy and disappears as a streak into the distance.

Poof!  Gone!

There was a moment of silence as we processed what happened, and then fleet chat broke out in hilarity.

The pilot selected “jump to” instead of “bridge to” and sent himself off to the cut-off system, while we were all left to run there the hard way.

Fortunately Nulli Secunda was too busy heading out of our space to see the titan.  Not that they could have made much of an issue of it, as we were very quickly burning through gates as fast as we could to catch up.  Reagalan got himself popped racing ahead, but otherwise everything was okay.

So we headed back to YA0-XJ, catching a hostile on the way.

I have heard about titan pilots mixing up “jump” and “bridge” before.  It was how the battle of Asakai happened.  But to see it happen was quite a thing.  I feel steeped in just that much more of the null sec experience.  I can now mark that off of my list of things to experience.  And, some day, should I fly a titan, I will try to follow the simple guide.

Picture source: unknown

Picture source: unknown

All the more so because once Phoebe drops in about a month, there will be the heart ache of jump fatigue to deal with.  Then again, a titan won’t be able to get very far away after Phoebe either. Fun stuff.

 

We Pay Black Legion a Visit October 6, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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We are suddenly living in interesting times in New Eden.  Change is coming.  A lot of people think they know how things will play out, but when CCP is telling people that they cannot predict the results, it can be hard to tell which pundit has some deep insight versus just some wishful thinking.

In addition to my own minor predictions, I am going to guess that, over the next few weeks, we will be witnessing the last hurrah of easy jump drive and jump bridge travel.  The Phoebe expansion and its huge travel changes, expected to drop in early November, looms and all good pilots in New Eden are at least making contingency plans.  The wise are making sure all their jump clone related skills are up to snuff.  The traders are stockpiling goods, the industrialists materials.  Those needing to have stuff shipped are doing it now rather than later, as shipping charges are expected to jump.  And I am willing to bet that alliances with supercapital heavy doctrines will be looking to get in some last-minute cross-region hot drops.

And those of us who have been flying subcaps back and forth across half the galaxy in order to defend the empire… we’ll be eager to do a few last farewell flings across space as well.

So it was Saturday when Reagalan put out a ping on Jabber that he would be doing something hilarious and that he had a fleet up, but that the doctrine was as yet undecided.

Once nearly 200 people showed up and piled in on that promise, it was time to pick ships.  Reagalan wanted to go with the new Hawk fleet doctrine which he has been championing, however logistics held us back.  There just weren’t any Hawks up on contract.  Some of us had them, but most of the fleet did not.  So the doctrine was changed to Harpy fleet, while asking some people to stay with Hawks to give us some more tacklers.  I opted for a Harpy because I happened to have three in the station, so I figured I might as well lose something I already had backup on.  Besides which, as I found out with Sunday’s fight, the Hawk fleet configuration changed a bit and my Hawk needed to be refit to be brought up to date.

The act of nearly 200 of us swapping ships brought up TiDi in the system.  CCP is going to have to put some more CPU power behind our new home, what with fleet assemblies and Black Legion coming to visit.

Once shipped, it was time to undock and head out to… wherever it was we were going.

Most dramatic undock screen shot yet

Most dramatic undock screen shot yet

That was some more TiDi, as was the move through the first few gates.  Other ops were likely in progress.

We started down a route I had not previously been aware of, and Reagalan had been very quiet about our actual destination, no doubt in the name of operational security.  But eventually he had to tell us where we were headed.  We ended up joining the old convoy route to Fountain, and by the time we got to J5A he had put NOL-M9 in as a destination for fleet.  We were headed to Delve.

Which was something of a pisser.  I have a jump clone and the correct doctrine ship down in Delve.  I could have just landed down there and waited for everybody else to take the jump bridge highway from Deklein.

Looking at another jump bridge array...

Looking at another jump bridge array…

That is the problem with op sec.  You can’t just ping that you want people for form up in YA0 and then add in the bit about jump cloning to Delve if you’re trying to keep the hostiles from being totally aware that you are coming.  So my jump clone sat unused, still saved for a rainy day, or Phoebe, whichever comes first.  I suppose I did get to update some jump bridge bookmarks.  The Oceanus expansion last week changed the rules a bit on where jump bridges could be anchored, so some of them had to move, obsoleting some bookmarks.

We were headed to Delve to support our southern cousins in the CFC.  FA had a fleet coming from Fountain, while the LAWN gnomes were forming up along with The Initiative to defend their turf.   A tower in NPC null had been put in reinforce so there was going to be a timer fight and Black Legion, also crossing the galaxy for a fight, was expected to be there.  Time for a bit of pay back for our losses at YA0 Thursday evening.  We had to fart about a bit camping a gate to see if we could grab anybody headed to the fight, but eventually we jumped into G-TT5V, warped to the tower in question, and found a fight in progress.

Landing at the tower

Landing at the tower

We were a little far off from the fight, so Reagalan warped us off and then back on top of Black Legion where we anchored up and started in.  Bubbles went up around the fight.  The numbers were in our favor, so the key to things was to pin them down, kill off their logistics, and then chop them up one by one.

Ball of Tengus in the bubbles

Ball of Tengus in the bubbles

As a percentage of their force, their logistics was not as prevalent as they were at YA0 two days before, and they did not seem to be as well coordinated.  This may have been due to there being different fleets calling different targets, thus spreading the Scimitar reps more thinly.  Whatever it was, we were able to start breaking the tanks on their Scimitars, and pretty soon they were going down as quickly as we could lock them up and start shooting.  With support down, our path to juicier targets was clear.

Black Legion Chimeras

Black Legion Chimeras

Black Legion had three Chimera carriers on the field, which we proceeded to target and turn to scrap one by one.

A Chimera wreck, and a soon to be wreck

A Chimera wreck, and a soon to be wreck

Three carriers down and the battle was really going our way.  Without logistics to support them, bubbled up and unable to flee, the Tengus were meat before us, waiting to be consumed.

And then, as we were laying down another round of  bubbles on Black Legion, some allied stealth bombers dropped on the Tengus and bombed them.  This was unfortunate, as they did not have nearly the firepower to do more than scratch the Black Legion fleet, but they had more than enough blast to clear away the bubbles.  The Tengus, already burning to get out of the bubbles, was clear to warp away.

There was some chasing about.  We managed to drop on and tackle one hostile in an asteroid belt.

Harpies unleash

Harpies unleash

But Black Legion had freedom of action and was able to dock up in the Blood Raiders station in system to avoid further loss.

We kept the station under guard while the other fleets finished up their business and withdrew.  The most expendable fleet gets to fly cover while the more expensive assets pull out.

Sitting on the Blood Raiders station

Why does every Amarr structure look like it was made out of Apoc parts?

We sat outside and made chicken sounds and attempted to goad Black Legion into undocking, but Elo Knight merely responded in local that sticks and stones might break his Tengus, but words would never hurt him.  At least I think that is when he uttered those words.  That might have happened on Sunday when we had him holed up in the station at 5ZXX-K.  I forget which.

Once everybody was clear, we were able to withdraw and get on the jump bridge highway back to the north.  Our movements may be hampered come November, but it is still October.  Black Legion also headed north.  As noted in the previous post, we ended up facing them along with Nulli Secunda in Pure Blind just a day later, and then again later that night up in Deklein.  They were not able to repeat their performance at YA0 and the Sunday night brawl devolved into us chasing their Ishtars all over 2R-CRW in Hawks while they tried to escape.

But the fight at G-TT5V at least got a little payment back for YA0, with the ISK war tilted in our favor this time according to the battle report.

Losses - Team 1: CFC, Team 2: Black Legion

Losses – Team 1: CFC, Team 2: Black Legion

A lot of our losses were wrapped up in a Naglfar that The Initiative threw into the brawl to hit the Black Legion carriers.  Being fixated on my own little corner of the battle, I completely missed the dreads dropping in to assist.

For a wider view of the battle, what it was about, who did what, and so on, there is a post up over at TMC by Arrendis, who was also our anchor for the main part of the fight.

I expect, with Black Legion, Nulli Secunda, and a few other groups now in the north to take advantage of the last few weeks of easy travel in null sec, that we will have more fights on our hands .  The final days before Phoebe will be bloody because nobody is really sure what we will be doing once the travel changes clamp down.  So we will take our fun while we can get it.

There is Blobbing, and then there is Blobbing October 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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It was Sunday afternoon/evening and elements of the N3 coalition along with Black Legion came calling in force, taking advantage of easy travel while it still exists.  There was a call up for fleets, a tower to be saved, and all of the usual elements.  But the surprising bit was catching the Tengu fleet on the gate in R6XN-9 and having first capital ships and then supercaps drop in on the fight.

Titans on grid did not bring out PL, so there was no B-R or Asakai style escalation.  Not ready to have a supercap pyre just yet I guess.

Meanwhile, DBRB and his bombers were taking care of a hostile Abaddon fleet in one pass.

Addendum: Reports on the bombing run at TMC and EN24.

 

Black Legion Pays Us a Visit October 3, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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I managed to sit down at the computer last night just in time to have a Jabber alert pop up calling for a fleet.  Black Legion was in our new Deklein staging system at YA0-XJ.  I guess those change of address cards worked.

The alert said that more than 100 ships were in YA0 looking for a fight, so I logged right in.  I was in my high sec training clone, so I jumped back to my clone in YA0,  got into my Baltec Apocalypse, and got onto voice coms to listen to the usual operetta of a fleet form up.  The fleet commander, the tenor, must sing his sad tale of not having enough logistics (and too many interceptors) and how we won’t even undock if we do not get enough.  I sit in my Apoc and rationalize by saying to myself that it is a new month so I need a couple of kill mails, and in any case I am in my Apoc clone, the one with the EG-603 implant, which is required to fly our fit, so if I am going to get podded and lose it I am damn well going to do it in the ship that requires it.  I’ll fly logistics next time, I swear.

Eventually Red Crown cajoled enough people to swap so that we meet the minimum doctrine requirements.  The logistics theme is not done yet though.  That motif will continue through the fight.  But we are able to start undocking, which turns on the time dilation.

Undocking in YA0

Undocking in YA0

Red Crown had us align to the 2R-CRW gate in YA0, where Black Legion was reported to be lingering.  That is when we started to prove again that we can be very bad at EVE Online.  On of the squad commanders warped his squad to the gate rather than aligning, sending most of his squad to a quick and early death.  On person was able to cancel warp, the rest were blown up on landing, being served up for Black Legion like hors d’oeuvres.  The rest of us managed to align without warping to a fiery death.

Once we had a safe warp in, Red Crown warped the fleet and we landed on grid with Black Legion and the shooting could begin.  Black Legion was out in Tengus with a fleet of over 120 ships, a quarter of which were logistics.  As has been discussed elsewhere, logistics is a very powerful aspect of fleet composition.  This is why the FC is always shouting for more logi.  Black Legion was going to be a tough nut to crack with all that support.

The first thing on the agenda was to clear off a Mobile Cynosural Inhibitor that was on grid, so that we could bring in some more firepower in the form of some carriers and their sentry drones.  This led to a moment of comedy where everybody locked up the inhibitor, shot it into structure, then moved on to the next target.  When you are shooting ships, and you see one out of shields, out of armor, and taking damage to its hull, it is time to think about moving onto the next target.  But with structures, the hull actually makes up the bulk of the hit points.  The inhibitor only has 20K hit points armor and shields combined, but 150K in the hull.

So everybody shot it into hull and moved on, leaving it still alive.  So the FC had to get us all to go back and finish it off so some carriers could land on grid with us and add their fire to the mix.

With that finally accomplished, we started trying to whittle down the enemy logistics, which were on the far side of the battle from us.  Baltec fleet in general, and Apocs in particular, are good and picking off ships at range. With the right crystals loaded, I can engage targets out past 150km.  So the FC began calling Scimitars as targets.  We even managed to pop the first one, but then the hostiles were alerted and each subsequent target got reps before we could get it into armor.

BL Scimitar taking heat

BL Scimitar taking heat

On our side though, casualties began to mount.  We had half as much in the way of logistics, and a third of it was being flown my one guy who was multi-boxing.  Add in the fact that armor reps apply at the end of the module cycle, as opposed to the beginning of the cycle with shield reps, and there was a lot less margin for error on our side.  Even TiDi, which usually makes logistics easier, as your reaction time remains the same while the world around you slows down, wasn’t enough to help us out.

BLYTiDi

We swapped to other target types, and managed to knock down a couple, but once the hostile logi was wise to our plan, reps thwarted further kills.

At some point Red Crown went down and Reagalan took over the FC slot.  He aligned us away from the hostiles so we could engage at range and then tried a few tricks to see if we could alpha ships before reps kicked in.  He would have us all hold fire until we were ready to go, then give us a target to lock up and shoot.  When this worked, it worked quickly, but for the most part Black Legion seemed to be on the ball and calling for reps as soon as we started locking somebody up.  Anybody who was slow died, the rest got reps in time to thwart our damage.

There were a couple calls to get more logistics in our fleet and a small Celestis fleet went up to try and damp the hostile logistics, though they were targeted and destroyed in pretty short order.  After a while of mounting losses for little gain, we left the field and headed back to the station.  Black Legion won the day, with more kills and more ISK destroyed.

Team 1: CFC, Team 2: BL

Team 1: CFC, Team 2: BL

The battle report from which that graph was drawn is available here.

Some screen shots from the fight.  There are a couple of shots where you can, thanks to colors, spot people using the wrong crystals for their lasers.

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Super Caps… October 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in EVE Online, entertainment, Null Sec.
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We expect the impact of these changes to be emergent, and as a consequence are unpredictable and will take a while to develop on TQ [Tranquility, the EVE Online live server]. This plays into our longer-term plans…

CCP Greyscale, Long-Distance Travel Changes Inbound

Oh, we’ve spent a lazy summer, with no major sovereignty war to occupy us, going on and on about how null sec is broken and how it ought to be fixed.  The problems and potential solutions have been enumerated, argued over, compared, contrasted, discarded, and picked up again and again while CCP, long aware of the situation, has largely been quiet.  They have been busy with other business, but with the Phoebe expansion now next on the agenda, which we can expect at some point next month (because there isn’t enough stuff dropping in November already), null sec is now on the agenda.

The first dev blog has been posted and it is a doozy.

CCP is planning to bring changes to null sec in multiple phases.  Later phases will include things like sovereignty mechanics and the like.  But the initial phase is going straight after power projection and the apex force with a one-two punch around travel.

Caps and supercaps will have their jump drive range limited to 5 light years.  That is the distance you’ll be able to go with max skills.  No word yet on how that will scale up if you only have jump drive calibration III trained, but the max distance jump will be five.

And the second blow is jump fatigue.  Now, via another mathematical formula, you will accrue jump fatigue… if you’re an old-school EQII player, think experience debt applied to travel I guess… which will act as a way to limit how soon you can perform your next jump.  Fatigue builds up based on how far you have jumped.

So there will be two new timers.  The first counts down until you can jump next, while the other keeps track of your accumulated jump fatigue, the latter being used to calculate the next round of the former after each jump.

JAandJFtimers

The stated goal is to make any travel using jump drive technology… which includes jump bridges… take longer than travel by gates past the 20 light year mark by basically putting an ever increasing timer between jumps.  CCP loves timers.  There are formulas and samples in the Dev Blog which I hope have been corrected by this point, as there were errors initially.

There are a couple of mitigation to this.  To keep the spice flowing supply lines open to null sec, Jump Freighters and Rorquals will get a special 90% reduction in the jump distance used in the fatigue calculation.  And, to keep caps and supercaps moving, they will now be allowed to use jump gates in null and low sec.

How do I frame this to get across to a non-EVE player how this feels to your typical null sec capital ship pilot?  I suppose this is about the equivalent of Blizzard limiting flying mounts to a half a zone in travel, putting a timer on travel between flight points, but letting all your flying mounts act like ground mounts to compensate.

Wait, isn’t that almost the plan for Warlords of Draenor?

Anyway, this has caused a lot of drama.  No kidding, right?  Emotions are running high and the comment threads on the announcements over at The Mittani and EVE News 24 are full of woe, while the threadnaught on the official forums is a joy if  your goal in life is to see supercap pilots delivering “I quit!” messages.

But what does it really mean?  I have no special insight, but I can take a few guesses.

The first guess is that the plan for Phoebe will be altered before it goes live.  The proposed industry changes for Kronos got pushed out to the next expansion when it got this sort of “the sky is falling” reaction.  That said, I don’t think it will be changed drastically, if only because CCP tends to throw things against the wall in the forums, but once it is a Dev Blog they are fixed on a target.  I suspect a cap on jump fatigue will be an early change.

The second is that the status quo won’t change.  Phoebe will not usher in the fall of the mighty null sec empires.  The same sovereignty mechanics apply, and as slow as capital ships will move, they will still be able to respond to a timer.  Instead the empires will optimize for the new system, the same as they have always done.  For example, I expect a new jump bridge network layout that makes the best use of those 5 light year jumps and is spaced to minimize fatigue.  It will even be easier for GSOL to maintain.

I can probably foresee us spending more time in interceptor fleets moving across space to link up with pre-positioned equipment.  Technically, the CFC pilots should have fleet ships in Deklein, Delve, and Fountain already, but I am guessing that most do not.  That might have to change.  And since jump clones aren’t being touched yet, the argument for pre-positioned equipment is increased.

Finally, the CFC seems to be the best positioned to absorb this change, being made up of alliances that are spread over our territory and actually live in the locations they hold.  Also, we’re already a subcap heavy group, so expect us to just blob on as we always have.  In fact, the first thing that came to mind was the old joke where the genie tells a guy he can have a wish, but whatever he wishes for his enemy will get double.  So the guy wishes for the genie to beat him half to death.

In the longer term… well, we shall see.  But I suspect that changes to the sovereignty mechanics will have to come into play before anything big happens.  And what CCP is saying on that front is not incompatible with the Null Deal proposal that was put out this week by the null sec stakeholders.

What else do you think this means?

Of course, others are also looking at these changes.  I will link them as I find them so we can go back later and see who had the best insight further down the road.

End of the Month Op Success in Low Sec September 29, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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The back half of September has been somewhat quiet in space.  At least for me.  There is always something going on somewhere, but since the move back to Deklein and Freedom Squad hell camping Mordus Angels back into their station and taking all their towers earlier in the month, there has not been a regular set of foes in space.

I tend to leave Jabber up most evenings, and not a lot of op announcements have been showing up.  And those that did pop often came at awkward times.  I have to be at my computer and ready to go and have the free time available when things get rolling.  A non-strategic fleet op tends to get moving somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes after it has been announced, and once an op is undocked and on its way somewhere, catching up can be a dubious proposition.  Travel in EVE Online is not trivial.  Catching up to a fleet op solo in anything other than an interceptor can be a dubious proposition.  Gate camps that will hide from the main body of the fleet tend to close in to try and grab stragglers and you have to cover every inch of space that the fleet has covered.  Nobody can summon you to the raid, you have to fly there on your own.

Flying Alone...

Flying Alone…

Still, sometimes it works.  I did managed to get into a fleet already 30 minutes live, fly out, and get on a kill mail before getting blown up myself.  I managed to warp into spot that made me the closest target and that was that.

Saturday night I gave it another shot.  There was a call for a Harpy fleet already 15 minutes old when I sat down at my desk.  As my wife was going to be away for a couple of hours, I figured I had time enough to give it a shot.  I logged in and got in my Harpy and then couldn’t get in the fleet.  I commented on the CFC general channel that the fleet was full and the FC, Alphastarpilot, got back to me in less than a minute with a “try now.”  And, hey presto, I was in.

And I was behind.

They were already 8 jumps down the pipe towards their destination and the FC was calling for people to catch up.  I undocked and immediately started down the route posted in the MOTD in fleet chat.  Three jumps in and then the FC began calling for people to reship to Bursts, as we were short on logistics.  I had to stop and ask myself if, already running behind, I should further compound that by turning around and reshipping or if I should just press on to catch up.  I decided to press on rather than miss out.  And it started to sound like the J4LP guys coming from another direction might have us covered on the logistics front.

I got to within a couple of jumps of the fleet before it started moving again, so it was just warp and jump and warp again trying to catch up.  Eventually the fleet stopped.  Part of the plan was to pass through a wormhole that the Circle of Two team had found that would get us a big leap towards our destination.  But he wanted everybody to go through together so nobody ended up lost in W-space where you actually have to know how scan and such to get out.  I managed to join the fleet on the wormhole.

Landing on the wormhole

Landing on the wormhole

Once we were assembled, we passed into W-space, flew to the exit wormhole, and ended up in Black Rise, Caldari low sec space.  From there Alphastarpilot had a plan.

Based on intel he had, we were going to drop on a group attacking a POCO in Pavanakka.  Our Harpy fleet, with about 70 people present, would land on them and attack in hopes that the would call in reinforcements in the form of a carrier.  So the FC got us into position and we landed on them and starting shooting up their logistics support.  Some of them were spooked, but the rest held on, a cyno was lit (which we were told not to shoot) and an Archon landed in our midst.

The big target arrives

The big target arrives

At this point Alphastarpilot calls in a Razor fleet that has been hanging around the area and we all drop on the Archon for the big kill.  Op success.

At that point the whole thing was probably the best fleet op I had been in all month.  A capital ship kill is always worth the effort, and another 16 kill mails was nice.  We could have gone home happy at that point.

But, according to intel, the people we dropped on were pissed and looking for a rematch.  Razor went on their merry way, happy to have helped, but we were still hanging around many jumps from home with nothing else to do, so we decided to stick around.

The one thing we had lost was logistics, so while our foes got themselves sorted out, we docked up in a station and started scrounging for replacements for our lost Bursts.  The J4LP guys managed to come up with a couple of Bursts and a few logistic fit Bantams for us, which gave us just enough coverage to go back for a second run.

Again, intel managed to put us in the right place at the right time and alerted us to the fact that our foes had phoned in for some help in the form of some ECM Blackbird support, no doubt in hopes of locking us down to be easy meat.

However, that did not end up working out for them.  When we clashed again, this time in Akidagi, Alphastarpilot called the targets, we shot them with a minimal amount of target splitting (when you get a secondary in the midst of a reload cycle, it is easy to think you should just move on to the secondary target if the primary looks like it is going down), and managed to get on top of things, again taking few losses and tearing a strip off of our foes.  I was on kill mails for 9 of the Blackbirds that came out in support.

They broke off and we chased around trying to find them again, catching one big fat target on the gate in Hikkoken.

Where we fought in Black Rise

Where we fought in Black Rise

From there we headed to the station when they seemed to be hold up and hung around the undock in hopes that they might come out for another round, but it did not look promising.  After a while playing undock games, Alphastarpilot pointed us back towards our wormhole and brought us home.

All in all, it was the best op of the month for me and ended a slow September on a high point.  I tried to assemble a battle summary to sum up who was there.  Alphastarpilot and his team did a great job.  I also have to commend Alphastarpilot for just being a great FC, calling all the right targets, and being able to pronounce, seemingly off the cuff, every low sec system we passed through.  I know a couple of time I thought to myself, “Ah, so that is how you say that name.”

And I also had a new ship spotting.  I saw my first Mordu’s Legion ship, as we had an Orthrus cruiser along for the ride.  It takes a while for new ships to filter into fleets.

As is the norm, I have some screen shots from the op, including a couple of the Orthrus, after the cut.

(more…)

Null Sec Lords Come Together for “The Null Deal” September 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in EVE Online, entertainment, Null Sec.
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Fixing null sec has been a discussi0n point for a few months now.  All sorts of pet philosophies have been floated about power projection, apex forces, travel, fleet sizes, the effectiveness of logistics, how easy or difficult it ought to be to take a system away from another null sec entity, what actions/efforts should be required to even hold sovereignty, to going back to the pre-Dominion system of sovereignty.

Which ever theory is your favorite, the consensus seems to be that null sec needs to be changed.  Big battles in null sec garner the most attention for the game, but right not the effort it takes to actually run a war is beyond what anybody really wants to commit to.  The giant brawls are the shiny jewels in the crown of null sec, but having been through a few sovereignty wars now, I can say that actual victory goes to side that can maintain a hellish operational tempo the longest.  Winning is wearing out your enemy, and the inevitable “fail cascade” in a war generally amounts to one side declining to show up for a seemingly endless string of timers and structure shoots.

Null Sec Sov - Sept. 28, 2014

Null Sec Sov – Sept. 28, 2014

So everybody involved seems to want to fix null sec, CCP included.  We’ve admitted we have a problem. Now how do we fix it?

Towards that end, members of the major sovereignty holding null sec entities, including N3, Pandemic Legion, and the CFC, have come together to draft a list of things that they feel are important to a successful update of null sec.  The list is short, with just three items, that I would summarize as:

  • Occupancy Based Sovereignty – You should only be able to hold the systems your alliance lives in and uses.
  • NPC areas in all null sec regions – NPC null is the spring board for smaller groups to inject themselves into null sec, however much of sovereign null sec is out of reasonable range from NPC null stations.
  • Increased Player Density – A backwards way of saying that null sec systems should be able to support more player activity.  Right now based on various factors, systems can only support so many players ratting or mining or running anomalies, and there are many systems that support so little of each that they are essentially useless and are held only because the alliance in question holds the systems around it.

You can read more detail here on what is meant by each of these propositions, and who has signed on the bottom line in support, but they strike me as a reasonable and positive set of goals for a new null sec system, as opposed to a lot of the talk that has gone on over the summer, which focuses a lot on just altering one mechanism or another from the current system.

Of course, any change is a long way off.  CCP has to lay a lot of groundwork in their code just to be able to change things from what I have heard.  We may have to get things in bits and pieces over time.

There is, of course, a forum threadnaught associated with this as well.