Direct Enlistment comes to EVE Online’s Faction Warfare

Faction Warfare (FW) was introduced to EVE Online back in June of 2008 with the Empyrean Age expansion.  It was, and this is me trying to describe it, a way to let capsuleers fight for the four major NPC empires in wars of conquest across several low sec regions.

If you have to find an analog for FW in other MMORPGs, it is probably most akin to Realm v Realm PvP.  Unlike the wild west of null sec, there are rules and guard rails and you can earn prizes for participating beyond kill mails and stories to tell at FanFest.

FW has always been a bit less than a complete success, and occasionally a victim of the dreaded “collateral damage” when CCP fixes something for one aspect of the game, breaking things for another.  (Upwell structures were very much a bad thing for FW for a while.) And, of course, like any content it has been mastered in many ways and even exploited a few times.  At one point some Goons figured out a way to farm the Loyalty Point rewards to such an extent that CCP had to go in and change how they worked.

But, in my opinion, the biggest problem for FW over the last 15 years has been the need to commit to yourself fully to it as a play style in a way that other aspects of EVE Online do not require.  You can go 3rd party on null sec battles or day trip to wormhole space or run missions or abyssals in your free time, but if you want to get into FW you had to belong to a corporation that had committed to one of the factions.

So back in November, when we got the Uprising expansion which finally gave FW players the revamp they had been waiting years to get… seriously, they were way overdue for some attention… it was more than a bit disappointing to find out that the corp restriction on joining in on FW was still in place.

In the Imperium there was a call for people who wanted to try out the new FW changes to join in… but only with an alt because you had to join a special, out of alliance corp that had been created.

But now, with lat week’s update called the Shipcaster Shadow War, non-aligned players can join in on FW events without the commitment… sort of.

You can now go find FW events in The Agency.

Right there on the front page

There you can find the first such event, the Shipcaster Shadow War, laid out for you.  All you have to do is click through and pick which of the four main empires you want to support and you can join in.

The event description

There is still some relationship to your corp or alliance.  They can block members from joining specific factions.  But your corp doesn’t have to commit fully to FW and you don’t have to quit your corp and find another one if your won’t commit.

The thing is, are you really a part of FW when you do this?

I mean yes, you are in fact supporting one of the empires and working out in the low sec FW regions doing FW adjacent activities.  But my read… and I haven’t gone out in person… is that you are not actually taking or defending objectives of your chosen empire like those who have fully committed.

I saw something the other day… I think it was in the latest Pulse video from CCP… that made it clear that there is this version of FW and there is the traditional full commitment version.

Which, I guess, is neither here not there so long as one understands that FW hasn’t really changed, it just has some parallel activities for outsiders.  Also, that this current event replaces The Hunt, the Guristas focused event that they introduced five years back.

Still, there are some other changes around this that are interesting.

As part of the game lore around all of this, there has been something of a falling out between the traditionally allied empires.  FW has been focused on two parallel conflicts.  There is the Armarr vs Minmatar war, which stems from the Minmatar uprising to free themselves from Amarr slavery, and there is the Caldari vs Gallente war, which saw the Caldari also rise up to… um… given the Caldari avarice driven empire, to own the Gallente libs I guess.

As part of that the Caldari and the Amarr were allies and the Minmatar and Gallente were allies.  But the Caldari caught the Amarr spying on them and the Gallente… I don’t know, decided they didn’t like rust… and now the empires have been decoupled.

I’m not sure what the long term implications of that are, but I know that back in the day I was able to move from Caldari to Amarr space and pick up mission running because you got a boost with Amarr when you were helping the Caldari.

And, finally, there is the whole shipcaster thing, and the race to build them, which is the point of this event.  These will apparently be jump bridges that will let pilots of a faction jump straight to contested systems.

I always sort of thought of FW as being something of a low stakes version of null sec conflicts, so I guess giving the factions their own Ansiblexes makes some sense.  I will be interested to see how this breaks FW, because it is very hard for CCP to not break FW most days of the week.

Anyway, I wanted to mention all of this as it is a significant change to the game and could bring more people, if not directly into FW, then at least into the systems where it happens and provide more targets for those involved and the third parties that just like to hunt there.


CCP Once Again Fails to Read the Room, Announces Funding for Blockchain Title

We’re back to blockchain at CCP.  Something, something, crypto, blockchain, Project Awakening.

I don’t even know what to say, aside from the fact that this will fail like every blockchain scheme has failed so far.  CCP can’t even make a second successful video game, so saddling any idea with blockchain nonsense seems like a double guarantee for failure.

It was just a year ago when we saw CCP’s CEO bragging about hanging out with a bunch of crypto grifters at GDC.

Hilmar in the middle of the crypto suite

The backlash was such that they had to swear that NFT meant Not For Tranquility.

You might think that sort of experience with your installed and paying player base might cause the company pause.  But no.  Pearl Abyss has invested heavily in blockchain and dammit, they’re going to get something out of it… and Hilmar is apparently just the sucker to believe he can do it.

So the announcement today is that Andreesen Horowitz… as in Marc Andreesen, whose one claim to fame was to be in the right place at the right time to make Netscape happen, and then sell it to AOL before its failure became manifest… is investing $40 million with CCP to fund them creating and “innovative new AAA game set in the EVE Online universe.”

To start with, as some devs I know are probably saying, it is charming to think that $40 million gets you the league of AAA games.

Then there is the fact that blockchain is pretty much a landscape of failure, an idea that has no practical application, a technology that is simply a tax on transactions promoted by rent seeking venture capitalists, and any benefit from it can be done… has been done… cheaper, faster, and easier with existing technology.  It is a garbage idea promoted by scammers.  It belongs in a museum alongside ideas for perpetual motion and those tablets that would turn water into gasoline.

But even with the spectacular failures and the myriad of stolen apes, people keep pushing on this like it just hasn’t found the right home.  I wonder how many of last year’s crypto startups are even still around, or are still investing in this?

The Blockchain Game Alliance – GDC 2022

Oh Ubisoft, there you are, right at the top, right where you belong when it comes to bad ideas.

Anyway, this is me posting angry in the morning.  I’ll probably have something coherent to say at some future date, possibly when they have something beyond overblown expectations and empty quotes about the project, should that ever come to pass.

But it will no doubt have an impact on CCP and what they work on.  Software development isn’t 100% a zero sum game, but it can be close to it.  You can only work on so many things at once.  If we’re lucky maybe this fiasco will just pull resources off of their first person shooter project.


The February EVE Online Monthly Economic Report and the Build Up to War in Pure Blind

We had the Monthly Economic Report for February 2023 land the week before last… I’m only just now getting to it due to a several day power outage… and it was tempting to once again declare it to be something of a benchmark to consider before events.  In this case, the Imperium moving north to war in Pure Blind.

EVE Online nerds harder

Except, of course, that the Imperium is joining a war already in progress.  Fraternity and its WinterCo allies have been going after B3 in the north and things have advanced to the point where even CCP has taken a moment out of their usual blinkered focus on their marketing plan to note that null sec was up to something again.

So we should go straight into destruction.


And, after all of that, destruction overall was down in February.  You can see the blue line representing destruction trending down in the back half of the month.

Feb 2023 – Production vs Destruction vs Mined

The data for that chart shows the total value of destruction at 34.97 trillion ISK in value, down from 41.09 trillion ISK in January.

Likewise, the region stats also show about a 6 trillion drop in destruction, with the total there being 34.54 trillion ISK.  The top ten regions for destruction were:

  1. The Forge – 1.67 trillion 4.82% (Caldari High Sec)
  2. Pure Blind – 1.61 trillion 4.68% (B2 Coalition)
  3. The Citadel – 1.52 trillion 4.40% (Caldari High Sec)
  4. Vale of the Silent – 1.45 trillion 4.19% (Fraternity)
  5. Fade – 1.43 trillion 4.15% (B2 Coalition)
  6. Sinq Laison – 1.40 trillion 4.05% (Gallente High Sec)
  7. Lonetrek – 1.38 trillion 3.99% (Caldari High Sec)
  8. Delve – 1.32 trillion 3.83% (B2 Coalition)
  9. Perrigen Falls – 1.23 trillion 3.56% (PanFam)
  10. Metropolis – 1.08 trillion 3.12% (Minmata High Sec)

While The Forge remains on top, Pure Blind is in the second spot.  All told those ten regions made up 40.79% of the destruction in February.

So it feels like Pure Blind was indeed warming up when it came to the war, really there appeared to be less destruction elsewhere.  PB was in fifth position last month, with 1.57 trillion ISK destroyed, very close to the February value.  FI.RE and their move op disasters last month were no doubt part of what built up those numbers.

The security band chart shows null sec was still the place for destruction, though it was down by a bit.

Feb 2023 – Destruction over time by Security Band

CCP has also included a new graphic this month in an attempt to illustrate the largest battles every month.  Unfortunately, the version I can post here, the PNG graphic, is pretty useless.  It does not impart any information of value beyond something akin to a heat map.

Feb 2023 – Battles in New Eden by Participants

The HTML version has data embedded in it that gives more information and context.

A battle example from Pure Blind

But I cannot embed that in the blog because it would be too large to fit in my format and doesn’t allow that sort of thing in any case. (Too easy to embed trojans and such.)

However, they do provide the data for the charts.  If I get to another look at just kills in another post this month, I will draw some data from it.  I have already pulled the data into Power BI.  The main pain is that they don’t map the system IDs to their names in that table, so I have to go elsewhere to find the mapping.


Meanwhile, production numbers were also off a bit, though not by as much as destruction.  The regional stats recorded 152.90 trillion ISK in production in February, off by a little less that 3 trillion, with the top ten regions being:

  1. The Forge – 22.49 trillion 14.71% (Caldari High Sec)
  2. Delve – 20.74 trillion 13.56% (Imperium)
  3. Vale of the Silent – 16.34 trillion 10.68% (Fraternity)
  4. The Citadel – 10.00 trillion 6.54% (Caldari High Sec)
  5. Lonetrek – 7.99 trillion 5.23% (Caldari High Sec)
  6. Heimatar – 7.72 trillion 5.05% (Minmatar High Sec)
  7. Perrigen Falls – 5.13 trillion 3.35% (PanFam)
  8. Fade – 5.12 trillion 3.35% (B2)
  9. Fountain – 4.86 trillion 3.18% (Imperium)
  10. Deklein – 4.12 trillion 2.70% (Fraternity)

As usual, the regions feeding Jita remain at the top of the list, while those ten regions made up 68.35% of the production in New Eden.


February saw 736.23 trillion ISK in trade value, down 61.35 trillion from January.  That feels like a lot, but the total averaged out over 28 days is about 26 trillion ISK, so that drop could very much just be the fact that February is three days shorter than January.

  1. The Forge – 494.07 trillion 73.21% (Jita)
  2. Domain – 40.52 trillion 6.00% (Amarr)
  3. Delve – 22.04 trillion 3.27% (Imperium)
  4. Lonetrek – 19.68 trillion 2.92% (Caldari High Sec)
  5. Perrigen Falls – 14.45 trillion 2.14% (PanFam)
  6. Sinq Laison – 13.30 trillion 1.97% (Dodixie)
  7. Metropolis – 12.09 trillion 1.79% (Hek)
  8. Heimatar – 7.74 trillion 1.15% (Rens)
  9. Vale of the Silent – 7.06 trillion 1.05% (Fraternity)
  10. Fade – 5.28 trillion 0.78% (B3)

As always, The Forge, home to Jita, tops the list representing almost 3 out of every 4 ISK spent on trade.

And, furthering my statement about the lower value being more a matter of fewer days in the month, the velocity of ISK continued to rise.

Feb 2023 – Velocity of ISK

That points to a healthier economy, especially after the doldrums of the economic strangulation era that CCP went through a while back.  We still haven’t full recovered… you can see grim moments in CCP decision making in the big dips in the line… but we are at least back on the rise.

Still, the bottom line on that chart, the one absent PLEX or contracts, isn’t rising all that much, so the activity of the top line, which includes PLEX, is something CCP can manipulate with in-game sales on game time for PLEX.

ISK Faucets

Here is where we talk about the money and where all that ISK comes from.  The top faucets for February 2023 were the usual suspects.

Feb 2023 – ISK Faucet Totals

Commodities remained above the combo of NPC bounty prizes and ESS payouts, but only just.  Commodities were actually down by about 8 trillion ISK in value when compared to January, while bounties were up a bit.  Commodities are always a bit odd though, because they only get counted when people cash them in to an NPC, while bounties are collected and counted immediately.

Feb 2023 – Top Faucets Over Time

You can see that, after the big climb for commodities in December and January due to the holiday event, there was a fairly big dip in both commodities and bounty prizes, followed by a resurgence for both, with commodities leading the way again.

Drilling in to commodities over time we see the holiday event spike and then the rise in Sleeper drops.

Feb 2022 – Top Commodity Items Over Time

Breaking that out to the total values for the month shows us this.

Feb 2023 – Commodity Value by Type

Then, on the NPC bounty and ESS payout side of things, the top regions on that front were:

  1. Vale of the Silent – 4.29 trillion 10.26% (Fraternity)
  2. Delve – 3.73 trillion 8.93% (Imperium)
  3. Perrigen Falls – 2.94 trillion 7.04% (PanFam)
  4. Fountain – 2.66 trillion 6.36% (Imperium)
  5. Querious – 2.59 trillion 6.20% (Imperium)
  6. The Kalevala Expanse – 2.27 trillion 5.43% (PanFam)
  7. Deklein – 1.73 trillion 4.15% (B2)
  8. Branch – 1.69 trillion 4.05% (Fraternity)
  9. Tribute – 1.39 trillion 3.33% (Fraternity)
  10. Malpais – 1.36 trillion 3.26% (PanFam)

Overall the regional stats showed the combined bounties and ESS payouts added up to 41.77 trillion ISK in value, about a trillion less than January.  Those ten regions added up to 59.00% of the total payouts.

All of that drove the money supply up in February.

Feb 2023 – Money Supply

The big jump was still in November, when we got the Uprising expansion and CCP loosened up on the dynamic bounty system.  In December we saw a flat month due to money being taken out of the economy due to players who came back for the 7 days of free omega leaving again.  But since then the money supply has continued to grow.

Feb 2023 ISK Balance

This is not a bad thing.  Players with ISK in their pockets feel better about putting assets at risk.  The whole CCP scarcity theory, that making us poor and resource starved would drive conflict, proved to be false.  I have said this before, and will no doubt say it again, but applying real world economic theory to a game like this comes with risks.  The players don’t live in New Eden.  If life gets expensive and miserable for them in game, if they feel poor and are afraid to lose the assets they have, that doesn’t drive them to conflict, that drives them to log off and play something more fun.


Mining remains as boring to write about as it is to do for me, but still I have some numbers.  From the regional stats, the top ten regions for mining value were:

  1. Delve – 1.49 trillion 6.79% (Imperium)
  2. The Forge – 1.14 trillion 5.19% (Caldari High Sec)
  3. Vale of the Silent – 1.07 trillion 4.86% (Fraternity)
  4. Lonetrek – .99 trillion 4.49% (Caldari High Sec)
  5. Metropolis – .93 trillion 4.22% (Minmatar High Sec)
  6. Domain – .87 trillion 3.97% (Amarr High Sec)
  7. Aridia – .75 trillion 3.40% (Amarr Low Sec)
  8. The Kalevala Expanse – .73 trillion 3.31% (PanFam)
  9. Sinq Laison – .71 trillion 3.25% (Gallente High Sec)
  10. Perrigen Falls – .68 trillion 3.09% (PanFam)

Those totaled up to 21.95 trillion ISK in value and 42.58% of the mining value done in New Eden.

Overall, mining was broken out in February in the following security bands.

Feb 2023 – Mining volume by security band

That might be a little hard to read, but you can click on it to see it full size.

Loyalty Points

And then there are loyalty points, which I started listing on a whim, but which don’t really change enough from month to month to really be worth writing about.  So, for one final list from the regional stats, here are the top ten regions.

  1. Lonetrek – 1556.97 million 16.15% (Caldari High Sec)
  2. Venal – 1491.29 million 15.47% (Guristas)
  3. Metropolis – 1274.95 million 13.22% (FW low Sec)
  4. Placid – 851.11 million 8.83% (FW low Sec)
  5. Delve – 427.98 million 4.44% (Blood Raiders)
  6. Curse – 344.73 million 3.58% (Angel Cartel)
  7. Stain – 343.42 million 3.56% (Sansha)
  8. Aridia – 332.41 million 3.45% (Low Sec Paragon Agent)
  9. Essence – 322.24 million 3.34% (FW low Sec)
  10. Pure Blind – 286.73 million 2.97% (Mordu/SOE)

There was a total of 9,641.26 million loyalty points earned, with the ten regions above accounting for 75.01% of those earned.

And so it goes, another month in the books.  All of the sources and other places I could find where this was being discussed are linked below.


The Diablo IV Early Access Weekend Gets Some Mixed Reviews

As I noted previously, I can wait for June and the real launch of the game.  But some people are keen to get in there early and see what the new version of Diablo is all about, so I have been keeping an eye on public comments about how things have been going.

It is here, this weekend and next

On the bright side, the opening game play sounds like it was compelling enough that people wanted to play and keep playing.

But the technical issues that cropped up… well… they were a problem.  There were apparently issues all along the path depending on when you logged in.  At peak hours there were queues… did Blizzard not know how many keys they had given out, and have they not been making live service games for 20 years… and once you got in there was a fair chance of being disconnected or having the game client simply crash.

Now, of course, finding these sorts of issues is why you have these events.  The company needs to get the live and chaotic sort of load that only actual end users can provide in order to test their game from end to end.  This was part of the reason I had little interest in this early access event.  I have my own software to test.  And they certainly want to get that all worked out before the actual launch.  Many of us remember the Diablo III launch.

Oh, I remember that

However, Blizzard reputation has been built on design and polish one of my early posts in the first week of the blog was in reference to Rob Pardo speaking at the Austin GDC about the design principles of Blizzard, and there is a whole section in there about polish.  And while there were some free keys given out for this weekend, a lot of people bought a copy of the game early to get in on it.  Paying customers have different expectations.

The price to get in

I know that polish doesn’t mean perfection.  But I do still wonder if this early access in Q1 was as much a stunt, rushed out early to assure Microsoft that the company is on track to its financial goals and commitments as agreed to in the acquisition fine print.

I will say, however, that the opinion of some I have seen is that, when they did get to play, that the game was very good, with references to the way Diablo II felt being brought up a few times.  And, of course, the game is available on PC and consoles, so sometimes it helps to know which platform the person is using.  My general take is that PC gamers are a bit happier with it than console gamers.

Anyway, we’re here at the last day and I hope those who jumped in are having a better time now than they were on opening night.  And I want to thank all of you… um… game individuals so eager to jump into those untested waters that those of us who might play in June will have a better experience.


Fraternity’s Pochven Fortizar Destroyed

I want to note this event both because it is kind of a big deal and because I referenced the Fortizar in a post last week and we attacked another such structure in Skarkon back in late January.  Otherwise, this is another second hand report, meaning I wasn’t there.

The Fortizar in the dark red space of Pochven back in January

Fraternity’s Fortizar was in the Nalvula system in Pochven.  They deployed this Fortizar before the systems being battled over during the Triglavian invasion event were absorbed into the new Triglavian region of Pochven.

Once Pochven was formed, players have not been able to deploy structures in that region, so any legacy structures from the before times are extremely valuable as bases from which to farm the profitable Triglavian sites in the region.

As I mentioned, we took a run at it in cooperation with B2 and some low sec people, which was something of the nascent coalition that formed later for the current war.  So while we were messing with Fraternity Keepstars, Snuffed Out and the Freemen of the North, a group who Fraternity blobbed out of Tribute a couple of years back and who have been fighting a low level conflict against them ever since, went after that Fortizar.

That led both sides in the war against Fraternity to pile into Pochven once more to lay siege to the irreplaceable Fortizar.  And this time it was destroyed.

But, the battle report looks a little crazy.  I was tempted to go with a headline about 7,000 ships being destroyed.

Battle Report Header

That header, divided into Fraternity and its allies, the loose association that is the Freemen of the North, and then the B2 Coalition and the Imperium, appears to show that the latter two won a victory against astounding odds.

The thing is, Pochven is like wormhole space, and when you kill a structure all the stuff in it drops into space rather than being sent nicely packaged to asset safety.  So, shortly after the Fortizar was blown up, the field looked like this.

The Pochven loot pinata pays off

Those are all the hangar containers and ships and whatnot that were kicked out into space, and anything that wasn’t valuable enough to be scooped up and hauled off was blown up.  So if you run down that battle report you start seeing a lot of shuttles, corvettes, and other small ships as part of the destruction.  And whoever those ships belonged to get counted as being part of the battle, even if they were not logged on.

So, it sorting out the battle report losses for Fraternity and allies, aside from the Fortizar itself, there were 7,051 ships and capsules lost, broken out by the following groups.

Type                  Involved      Lost      Value
Shuttle               3,598         3,597      843m
Frigate                 845           843     5.35b
Corvette                616           616      202m
Destroyer               373           363     9.03b
Cruiser                 263           254     6.35b
Capsule                 229           228      327m
Interdictor             223           216     12.0b
Heavy Assault Cruiser   144           142     29.3b
Stealth Bomber          127           113     4.99b
Interceptor              95            92     2.71b
Logistics                64            64     13.4b
Hauler                   64            63     1.91b
Command Destroyer        61            61     3.61b
Tactical Destroyer       60            53     4.82b
Assault Frigate          45            41     1.48b
Battleship               41            40     24.6b
Covert Ops               39            39     1.84b
Combat Battlecruiser     39            38     3.84b
Expedition Frigate       35            35     1.08b
Command Ship             34            34     10.8b
Mining Barge             29            29     1.26b
Logistics Frigate        23            22      819m
Mobile Tractor Unit      18            18     2.85b
Electronic Attack Ship   13            13      497m
Blockade Runner           9             9     1.47b
Combat Recon Ship         6             6     2.61b
Attack Battlecruiser      7             6      724m
Industrial Command Ship   5             5      455m
Strategic Cruiser         4             4     2.15b
Marauder                 11             3     5.49b
Flag Cruiser              1             1      211m
Force Recon Ship          2             1      199m
Deep Space Transport      1             1      119m

That is quite a list.  The capsules is probably much closer to the count of those involved on the side of the defenders, since you can only lose a capsule if you are logged in.

Still, reports were that the fight was pretty spectacular, with Rote Kapelle even bringing in a titan to pile on… a titan that managed to get the final blow on the structure.  CCP was on the scene and grabbed a screen shot of the Erebus unleashing its lance doomsday weapon on the Fortizar.

A hit on the Fortizar

So their Pochven Fortizar is gone.  As I noted before, it is now a question of where the war goes next.  Fraternity has lost three Keepstars and more Fortizars in Pure Blind, which has been a blow, but which also reduces their distractions.  The Keepstart in X47 is now the core of their line.  Will they continue to defend it, or will they be worn down and evacuate it to its fate?


EverQuest at 24

The anniversary has rolled around again and EverQuest is celebrating its 24th birthday… um… yesterday.  Did I miss the date this year?  I blame travel and power outages.  But still, here we are, an MMO that has been around longer than I have been married. (By about six months.)  I mean, the game has been on Steam for nearly 15 years at this point.

Once more Firiona Vie is on another bit of celebratory artwork.

Getting drunk with dragons

I think I ran out of things to say about the game back at the 20th anniversary, but time never stops and apparently neither does Norrath.

EverQuest, not just the cornerstone of the history of SOE and Daybreak games (I keep thinking about extending that post to the EG7 era), it remains an ongoing and expanding product.  Not only is it one of the best earners in the Daybreak stable (DC Universe Online bring in more total dollars, but EverQuest is so inexpensive that its net revenue is something to envy) but it is carrying on.  Last year we got a 64-bit version of the game.  This year we have a host of roadmap items, including the 30th expansion and a rework of the now decrepit UI.

The 2023 road map for EverQuest

There are, of course, celebrations going on in the game as well.  There is bonus xp and special events and some free goodies.  You can read all about that here.

And so I mark the passing of another year of Norrath.  I wasn’t all that young when it launched, and it has now been around for half of my lifetime.


Three Fraternity Keepstars Down in Pure Blind

The fallout from the weekend clash, where more than 6K capsuleers clashed carried on into the week.  Fraternity chose to defend only their Keepstar in X47, which meant that the other three Keepstars advanced to the hull timer, the final step before destruction.  Meanwhile, B2 and the Imperium went back and set the armor timer for the X47 Keepstar again.

So, come the morning of the 15th, there were more timers to fight over.

Fraternity and its allies in PanFam were clearly split over what to do.  Previously, with four equal choices, X47 was their answer, it being their primary staging base, the location with the most member stuff to, if not lose, at least get sent awkwardly to asset safety.

This time, there were three final timers that would end up with structures being destroyed, which is never a good look, and their most valued structure at risk of being put into its final timer.  Fraternity was not helped by the fact that two of the timers, the X47 timer and the final timer for the 5ZXX-K Keepstar coincided.

The Imperium and B2 chose to exploit the issue by pushing some fleets into X47 to keep that timer in play while throwing the hard hitting Leshaks at the 5ZXX target, making the defenders choose between the two.  This let the Leshaks tear through a good chunk of the hull hit points.

A Leshak on the 5ZXX Keepstar

That image is from CCP who is, surprisingly, sitting up and taking notice of the war.

The defenders managed to win the timer in X47 and started to pile into 5ZXX in order to try and save that Keepstar, leading to another savage tidi slugfest.

Frat and PanFam even dropped capitals into the morass, and it was said to be touch and go because the server performance was so bad that the Entropic Disintegrators weapons that the Leshaks use would fail to cycle and have to be constantly restarted.  The real damage from a Leshak builds up over time, but that build up is cancelled if the weapon does not cycle, forcing it to start over again.

However, the Imperium had other choice on the field and were able to keep the timer from counting down long enough that the defenders, fearing they would end up losing the structure and be stuck in the middle of angry hostiles, began to extract.  This led to the Imperium and B2 tearing apart the defenders and they tried to get away.

The battle report shows that across the four systems in play the defenders lost more than a trillion ISK in ships and structures.

Battle Report Header

That battle report is broken out into four groups, with Team B representing Faternity, PanFam, and allies, and Team C representing the combined forces of the Imperium and the B2 Coalition.

More than 600 billion in losses were in the form of structures, as three Keepstars total were destroyed, the later pair with minimal defense.

Keepstars destroyed

The kill reports:

Meanwhile, another two Fortizars were also destroyed, all with considerably less in losses for the attackers this time around. (Plus, Snuffed Out used this distraction to put PanFam’s Pochven Fortizar, the one we took a shot at back in January, into hull timer again.)

Unfortunately, I missed the whole thing, so this is a second hand report.  It wasn’t just that, once again, a timer was coming when I have no business being anything but asleep, and doubly so on a work night.  The weather was against me as well.  Tuesday saw a strong storm hit Nothrern California, dropping lots of much needed rain, but the high winds knocked down a tree that took out an electrical transmission tower that was key to my end of Silicon Valley.

So the power was out and isn’t expected to be restored until Saturday.  That explains the rather bland post I put up yesterday… I had a lot more I wanted to get into it… but the power was down and I ended up wrapping it up on my iPad tethered to my phone.  (Of course, that post got nine comments, which is a lot more than usual lately, proving once again what I want to write and what people like are clearly different things.)  Now I’m on a short trip for work, so in a motel room with power and Wi-Fi.

However, it wasn’t difficult to find sources.  There was a nice post by Kunmi on the Imperium internal news site. (Why it doesn’t get posted to INN I do not know, but there is some rumor that INN is still controlled by The Mittani and that limits it to a few Twitch shows.  I don’t know, it is just a rumor.)

And, of course, there was r/eve.  After the weekend battles partisans of Fraternity and PanFam were working hard to spin a narrative of a fatal loss by B2 and the Imperium.  Like we haven’t thrown away way more than 300 billion ISK on risky experiments before.  So the B2 and Imperium posters were ready to remind them of their smugness of just a few days ago and how they were promising their line members another big Goon feed.

All of which puts the focus back on X47.  That is the linchpin  of Fraternity’s position in Pure Blind.  Again, this isn’t the first time we’ve been in the north battling over a critical Keepstar in that system.  The question is if there is a way around it that can force Fraternity to fall back, or will they evacuate on their own if we keep putting pressure on it?


Images of the fight from CCP Aperture.

A video of some of the fight.

Another epic night in New Eden.

Did Free to Play Work for MMORPGs?

This will be one of those posts where I am asking a question that I do not… and probably will never… know the answer, it both being murky, situational, and possibly unknowable because there is no way to go back in time and test the alternatives.  But such barriers have never stopped me from asking a question before, so why let it stop me now?

In my memory, when it came to MMORPGs, free to play had two objectives.

The first was to remove a barrier to getting players into your game.  I will use WoW as the example, as it stands as something of the pillar against which success might have been measured.  Back in the day you needed to commit to a $15 a month subscription in order to play WoW.

You might have gotten a free trial period from an offer or through a referral, but in not too many days you were going to be asked to commit to a monthly fee to access the game.  In addition, you might have to buy a box up front.  Or a virtual box.

I remember being annoyed way back in the day when I first started playing EVE Online because once I got the end of the free trial I not only had to subscribe, but I had to buy the game… but there was no physical game to buy.  I had to give them money up front for the privilege of being able to subscribe to their service.  I already had the game downloaded, so this felt more like an initiation fee than buying something tangible, and it irked me.

I think free to play has wiped most of that away.  At a minimum I think most MMORPGs have some sort of infinite trial period.  Even World of Warcraft doesn’t require you to buy the base game anymore, and you can hang around and play to level 20 taking as long as you want.  There are restrictions, and companies will promote the benefits of subscribing… every time you log off a Daybreak title it opens a window in your default browser to encourage you to subscribe… but the barrier to some sort of basic level of entry is pretty low.

I am sure there are still a few titles out there that are old school on this front.  I think Final Fantasy XIV still requires you to buy the game.  But, on the flip side, there are titles like Guild Wars 2 that have a whole game available pretty much for free.

So I think on that front free to play succeeded. Some f the friction, the barrier to entry, was erased. Granted, there is still the whole multi-gigabyte client down that stands in the way, but at least most places don’t make you pay for the privilege.

The other aspect was competitive advantage. Against titles that charge to play, free is a pretty good opening bid.

And, certainly, the early titles to jump on board did, in fact, find the conversion to that model drove their numbers and revenue up. There were more than a few press releases about the total and complete success of the change in the first month or two.

But as Brian Green once pointed out to me, nobody puts out a press release when the numbers fall off down the road. And, since almost all entrants in the MMORPG market have some free option, has free become a requirement rather than a differentiator?

Some titles still have subscriptions to back up their free model. John Smedley was very up front when he said that the free option was there to get you to subscribe. Others sell expansions. And there is always a cash shop and an RMT currency.

I do think that free to play has let some titles survive. The $15 a month model can be a high bar for many. So success in that way seems to have occurred.

But, just to throw out another measure at the end of this post, did we end up with better games because of the free model. That is harder to measure. Sure, a game that is still up and running is better than one that shut down because of the subscription model. However, it also feels like the cash shop and the weekly specials become the focus of some titles because of that model.

So no good or definitive answer here I suppose. But, as I said, that never stopped me from asking a question.

Out Running the Argent Tournament

Phase 2 of Wrath of the Lich King Classic brought us the opening of the Argent Tournament up in Ice Crown.  And, as I noted previously, I was all in on that, and somewhat surprisingly so since it was something I ran to its extremes back in the day.  I keep running those dailies.

Don’t forget to put on the lip balm first!

Or, rather, I kept running those dailies.

I went out there almost every day and did the whole load of dailies

The list of all the solo ones

The thing is, there is an end goal for some of the dailies.  Once you do your tournament initiation, then you go fight for each of the races of your faction to become a champion of each.  It takes five days to become the champion, and there are five factions, so at the end of 25 days of dailies you get to the end of the last city and get a new achievement.

Champion of the Alliance

And then, that is it for the faction dailies, which are four of the eight daily quests you can get in the phase 2 version of the Argent Tournament.

That leaves me with four daily quests, three of which are solo and which I run through pretty quickly.  There is a fourth quest, which involves slaying Chillmaw, and elite dragon that floats around in a corner of Icecrown.

Watching Chillmaw circle

I have some vague memories of being able to solo Chillmaw and his three helper NPCs back in the day.  But I must have been much better geared or more talented back then, because right now he eats me up pretty quick if I try to challenge him.

So when I am doing the dailies I grab that quest and hang around where he spawns to see if I can find a group to work with.  That can be pretty hit or miss.  Sometimes I find somebody eager to help, sometimes I am hanging around alone.

I did try using the group finder interface that Blizz put into Wrath Classic.  A good idea in concept I suppose, but not very effective in practice.  I have yet to have anybody take me up on a group I have formed, and the ONE time I found somebody else who had setup a group, I couldn’t join because they were full.

I suppose that the group filled up proves that there is somebody out there willing to join… and who knows about the group finder.  But it has yet to work out for me.  I think our server might be a bit low on the population scale.

Now, if we were in phase 3 of Wrath Classic, with the rest of the Argent Tournament available, I would have an additional series of dailies to work on, the set that unlocks once you are champion of your faction.  But phase 3 is somewhere in the distance.  People are still doing Ulduar regularly if the LFG channel is any indication.

Also, I did find it odd that you cannot post in the LFG channel unless you have created an advert in the group finder.  I guess that is a feature, but it does complicate what was once a fairly straightforward operation.  Hey, come help kill a thing, it will be quick.

So I continue to pile up the currency from the dailies.  I have bought a couple of the gear upgrades, but it is the Argent Hippogryph I am saving up for.

Rescue from X47L-Q

Battles in EVE Online are not like WoW battlegrounds or things like that.  There is no mechanism to teleport you into the event and certainly nothing to extract you once you’re done.  In New Eden everybody has to walk uphill in the snow both ways and events don’t just happen.  Every big battle and every event, including things like Burn Jita or the Frigate Free for All, involve a lot of up front work by a dedicated crew invested in making something happen.

A battle where 6K people show is the result of considerable effort, both setting up the supply lines and resources as well as simply getting people into and out of the battle.  There are often whole side battles going on to interdict reinforcement or catch stragglers trying to leave the field.  I’ve spent my time off the periphery as often as I have been in the main scrum, stopping people from joining or leaving the fight.

For example, back at B-R5RB, I was able to join the battle late in the evening as part of a subcap fleet sent in to drain titan capacitors, but only after hours of fights between reinforcement ops clashing around the constellation.  And that opportunity started in so late on a work night that I couldn’t stay up until downtime at 4am local, so I left myself logged in and, the next day when I had some time, got back in game and docked up at the station in system.  I then jump cloned back to our staging and picked up another ship.

I left my Dominix and a jump clone in that station for over a year and was never able to extract that ship.  Eventually I put it up on contract at an attractive price and somebody bought it, but it was deep in hostile space and while I might have YOLO’d it out on some quiet week night, it was easier to just sell it at some point down the road.

And this is hardly the only example of things I have left behind in battles or deployments where extraction hasn’t been viable.  I have stuff littered about New Eden in NPC stations… some where we stayed, others where asset safety sent things… so make an effort to try and not leave things behind.

As I mentioned, with last nights battle in X47 I ended up docking in a friendly Fortizar in system and heading to bed.  I was somewhat resigned to leaving my Strombringer there to linger until the time was right to try and get it back out.

The X47 Keepstar where stuff happened

X47 isn’t far from our staging.  It is just eight gates between there and or current home in DO6.

The straight route home

But that route was guaranteed to be camped for days.  The gate out from X47 to J-CJIV was sure to be bubbled and watched by those eager for a few more easy kills.

Alternate routes were possible, and not even that many more gates in distance.

Avoiding the straight route

But anything I can think of somebody else no doubt has marked down and camped for now.

The camps do die down.  Eventually those in a hurry to get home stop taking the chance, the people on the gate camps get bored, and opportunities arise.  But it can take a while and, in a war where we’ll be back and forth to X47 again soon, the risk will remain higher than one would like.

If I had gone out in a Scythe logi cruiser, which I felt like doing because they are so cheap and insure so well that the loss would be negligible, I might have just tried to blast out right away.  But I was in my Stormbringer, kind of a pricey cruiser for me.  So I was set to let thing lie, jump clone back to staging, and worry about it later.

But that morning, as I was writing up yesterday’s post about the battle, a ping went up for a fleet set to go rescue people who were trapped.  It didn’t specify where, but there were not a whole lot of options besides X47.  So I logged myself back into the game and got on voice coms to listen to their progress.

They did indeed come to X47 and began clearing away bubbles and shooting the cyno jammers and generally making a path for egress.  I had to hold tight because I was tempted to just warp to them and follow them around while they did their stuff.  But that isn’t always helpful.

Other people had the same idea and we were soon told to just hang on, a plan was under way.

Once that fleet had cleared a path from the Keepstar to the Fortizar where I was now undocked and sitting on tether, more pings went out telling people to log back in and warp to the Fortizar.

Meanwhile it was clear that other groups were part of the same plan.  I saw The Initiative undock their Navy Apoc fleet from the Fortizar, where they must have safed up earlier, and head off to the Keepstar to help clear.

INIT Apocs undocking

We had to sit around for quite a while while things got sorted, and it is possible that at least one group went off to shoot the Keepstar again to set a new timer, though I cannot confirm that on my own.

Eventually though there were last calls to get everybody who wanted to go home on the Fortizar.  Then titans started to drop in, one for each fleet, in order to bridge us home.  Another aspect of this war is that our front line staging Keepstar and theirs are a single jump apart for capital ships.

We all got on our titans and when the bridges went up, we were sent back to our staging system.

Fleets bridging back to staging

I am sure there are still people stuck in X47.  We never get everybody out in one op, so there will be more ops later.  But a bunch of us got back and are ready to undock again.

Meanwhile, I am a bit surprised at the lack of response this whole extraction operation got from Fraternity and PanFam.  There are a few of their partisans on r/eve posting about a “hell camp” and Imperium ships being trapped in X47, but the actual action in the system was fairly low effort.  A couple of small groups put up some bubbles and grabbed a couple of stragglers, but when one fleet can drop in, clear the undock of your Keepstar so that people can log in and warp out, a “hell camp” it is not.

And the lack of effort in trying to extract more losses from trapped ships makes me wonder how committed Fraternity and PanFam are to the war.