Tag Archives: Speaking from Ignorance

A Consolidation of Empires

I will be interest to read what Andrew Groen has to say in his planned book A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online (the Kickstarter has six days to go as of today) about the state of affairs that exist today in null sec space.

Life is change of course.  Nothing stays the same.  But the very face of null sec seems to have changed quite a bit since I wandered out of empire space a couple of years back. (Maps from the usual source)

Null Sec as I joined it - Dec 18. 2011

Null Sec as I joined it – Dec 18. 2011

That is a pretty chaotic map, at least by today’s standards.  And look at the bulk of the CFC packed cheek-by-jowl into the space between Cloud Ring and Deklein.  We were such close bros back then and questions about who got to rat where seemed like a big deal.

I wrote semi-jokingly back in January about the nature of the conflict then running in null sec, describing the three in terms of the three competing empires in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  It seemed apt at the moment, and the big battle at B-R5RB seemed to be quite a setback for the group I tagged as Eastasia.

And then Eurasia collapsed and now we have three big powers on the map again, only rather than empires constantly at war, they are starting to take on the look of mercantile empires, having turned their conquests into rental space.  One third of the 3,524 systems that make up null sec space are part of one of the three great rental alliances, Northern Associates, Brothers of Tangra, or the Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere, and I expect that number to grow some more as time goes on.

Age of Rentals - May 18, 2014

Age of Rentals – May 18, 2014

The CFC is the furthest behind in this regard, with only 134 systems in its rental pool.  But it is also the last of the three accept rentals as a source of income, its past disparaging view of the slumlords of null sec being overridden by the ISK advantage it was giving potential (and actual) foes.  The CFC also suffers from being something of a fragmented coalition, each with its own set of policies and ambitions.  As much as Gevlon likes to call all non-GSF members of the CFC “slaves,” it is far more a coalition of the willing.  The Mittani is more akin Caesar than Pharaoh.  He has his enemies, but he gives the rank and file what they want, war and victories and ISK, all of which have been delivered regularly during my time in the coalition.

However, now we seem to be reaching a point of stasis in null sec… though every time I have thought that in the past, a new war has broken out.  And while I do not share Gevlon’s conspiracy theory on what the purpose of the new alliance in the CFC, The Bastion, might be, they did choose to frame their relationship as a suzerainty under The Mittani.

That is a very specific term, which flags The Bastion as a vassal state to The Mittani or Goonswarm, handing over foreign affairs to them while keeping some control over its internal policies.  Now, whether or not that reflects the true state of affairs or if it just a case of somebody breaking out the thesaurus for fun has yet to be seen.  But if it does turn out to be something akin to the non-Goon recruiting arm of the CFC controlled by the Goonswarm Federation, the dynamic of the CFC could shift.  And I have already seen one blogger from The Bastion talking about what new players should expect in the alliance.

Way out ahead in the rental scheme is Northern Coalition, which currently has 668 systems in its rental pool.  Having wrapped up their consolidation of the southeast, they announced they were taking a break from sovereignty grinding to refit, emphasizing the need to get members into super carriers and titans.  With their rental holdings, they will have the ISK to subsidize this effort, which makes it much more likely to come to fruition.

That seems to be the way things are headed.  Pandemic Legion is heavy on supers, and in the CFC there has been a push to get pilots into dreadnaughts and carriers, while there was a comment at one point that we CFC pilots ought to push towards supers if possible.

After B-R5RB, Jester went with a historical analogy to describe why he thought that the current war in particular, and sovereignty warfare in general, was over in null sec.  The dominance of the CFC in supers was going to crush the N3 coalition and then nobody would ever be able to challenge the CFC again.  No more big fights in null sec.

Only N3 didn’t get crushed.  Instead the CFC backed off, the Russians imploded, and now Northern Coalition and its allies blanket more of null sec than ever before.  Meanwhile, what B-R5RB seemed to do is make having a force of super caps a requirement while making losing supers now and again acceptable.  Now we have three entities building up supers on the backs of their rental income who know they can only gain advantage by taking out any super cap force opposing them.  Plus, you know, kids want to take their toys out and play or they’ll get bored with them.

So we are back to three dominant empires ala the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, though I am not sure who ought to be who any more.  There is at least one public sovereignty non-agression pact between PL and the CFC.  There is a quiet super cap arms race going on, with each side building up lest they be left behind.  And, as Daras showed, there is a willingness to whip them out when a choice target appears.

And then there is the slice of null sec that isn’t occupied by the three main empires, which is now thinner than ever.  Looks like just Providence, Catch, and Querious at this point.  That isn’t much.  Everybody else has made common cause with at least one of the big three.  And not only can’t that area expand without a mass of supers of their own (and where are they going to get the ISK for that without a vast rental empire of their own), that isn’t a lot of entertainment for what I suppose we might as well call Imperial Null Sec at this point.

So where will null go?  Will it be stagnation or bloody super capital warfare?

I know, I know, why can’t we have both?

Now what is it going to take for me to train an alt up to a titan…

Conspiracies, Immersion, and the Secret Life of PLEX

In which I attempt to set a record for insulting the most gaming industry professionals in a single post as I meander towards a conclusion you probably saw coming a mile away.

The business model announcements last week for WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online have gotten a lot of people writing about subscriptions and free to play.  The subscription-only model, declared dead and buried after SWTOR got through with it, is now generally cast as a proposition that is all downside.  Any perceived benefits of subscriptions are illusory, or so says the man who failed to make it work.  So he ought to know I guess.  Just don’t disagree with him, he gets upset.

But then WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online inexplicably threw in with the model.  And the question of the day became “What the hell are they thinking?” as people declared en masse that they would never play a subscription only game.

My completely uninformed opinion is that the TESO team is just hopelessly naive, though in an endearing sort of way.  Down there at the Hunt Valley end of the MTA light rail line, life is good, the air is clean, and the atmosphere just fills you with hope that it is still 2001 and you can launch an MMO that is simply better than the original EverQuest and have a winner.

Cynics… whose outlooks have no doubt been shaped by the industry… have opined that the ZeniMax Online team has an evil plan to launch as subscription, cashing in to the maximum amount possible, only to be ready to swap to a F2P model as soon as the sheep realize they are being shorn.  Then it will be flying pig mounts, pinwheel hats, and hotbars for sale all day every day, with regular in-game pop-ups to remind you of the latest currency specials.  Because fuck immersion… as far as I can tell only about 6 people on the internet believe there is such a thing… and these are just video games, so why not turn them all into a carnival midway?  Just crank the crap volume to 11 already and be done with it.

In my world view… and really, the only thing driving my world view in the regard is the TESO team’s seeming lack of understanding as to what drives the popularity of Elder Scrolls games… hint: It isn’t the availability of something like Barrens Chat… the team at ZeniMax is planning a picnic on a nice green median strip in the midst Interstate 83 and are going to get hit by a semi-truck while crossing the blacktop.

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

(Picture stolen from the EVE Online Facebook page, where they were encouraging people to suicide gank this truck, and then cropped and edited.  Don’t view the full-size version. Like people my age, it only looks good at a distance, if at all.)

And then all the subsequent drama will be the result of an emergency team trying to stitch things back together while the aforementioned cynics nod their heads and point out that it was all a setup.

We shall see how that works out.

And then there is the WildStar team at Carbine.  What the hell are they thinking?

You could easily assume that they, too, were just another start up in a self-contained reality distortion bubble where “we can make a better WoW” seems like a reasonable proposition.  They have the experience, the talent, and they have thrown in with the monthly subscription model.  Easy to dismiss as either misguided or, again, hatching an evil plot to bilk players out of money for boxes before jumping to a F2P model.

But then there is the whole CREDD thing.  The PLEX comparison is obvious, but just as easily dismissed due to the nature of EVE Online.

These guys aren’t dumb though.  Right?  This isn’t SOE with its seeming blind spot as to the obvious next question the moment they announce something.  Maybe they have a plan, maybe they feel they can build a player driven market with EVE Online-like participation levels.

And maybe, just maybe, they have their own model where running multiple accounts gives you a serious, tangible advantage in-game.

Because it is that, plus the advent of PLEX, that could be driving growth in EVE Online.

Think about this.

In EVE Online I think we can all agree that playing multiple accounts gives you an advantage.

And that has been the case for quite some time.  Even when I started playing the game, way back in 2006, you were only really serious about your internet spaceships if you has an extra pilot in space.  Multi-boxing was common.  And hey, if you enjoyed the game, then one or two additional accounts wasn’t a huge stretch.

But then along came PLEX back in 2009.

EVE Online was growing before PLEX.  It continued growing after PLEX.  But I do wonder what impact PLEX had on growth.

Because after the introduction of PLEX, it was suddenly viable to run more accounts, so long as you could use them to create enough ISK to buy PLEX to pay their subscription.  Having two or three accounts gave way to having five or six or ten or a dozen.  Seeing formations of mining ships clearly controlled by a single person became more common.

Pretty blue lasers

One fleet, one guy

In fact, CCP has expressed concern about the rising price of PLEX at times.  A single PLEX was selling for over 600 million ISK earlier this summer.  That concern has always been couched in terms of being concerned with the in-game economy.  And it is hard to deny that CCP takes the in-game economy seriously.  But I have to wonder if there isn’t also some concern around the out-of-game economy; specifically the bit that pays the bills that keeps payroll going and servers humming.  Because, while some players play for “free” by buying PLEX, every active account is still paid for by somebody, and nothing says “winning” more than an always increasing subscriber base.  Grow or die, as they might say on Wall Street.

Is that what the WildStar team is hoping to achieve with CREDD?  Because if it is, they aren’t convincing me.

I have been through this before, but I would be hard pressed to name another MMORPG where the player base is as invested in the in-game economy as in EVE Online.  And the in-game is what drives PLEX and enables it to succeed to the point that it likely contributes noticeably to the subscriber base totals.  And WildStar hasn’t said a thing that makes me think that they can manage that.

So I am throwing in with the conspiracy group on this one.  Carbine must be making a cynical cash grab with this “buy the box and subscribe” plan up front, while readying the transition to F2P once the sheep are well and truly shorn.

Did I use that metaphor already?  I can’t help it.  I have seen sheep shorn, and they always come out looking pathetic, cold, and pissed off, in the same way certain MMO players do when their game makes that F2P transition.

Anyway, there is no other logical explanation for Carbine’s plan aside from a complete loss of grip on reality.  And the TESO team will probably claim they own that and sue.

But it sure has given us all a lot to talk about.

Oh, and Brian Green’s hair continues its complete and total migration towards his chin.

I felt I needed just one more insult to secure the record.  Did I make it, or do I need to bring up the NGE?

Fountain – The Fighting Goes On

The war in Fountain has been declared over.

Boodabooda has said that TEST is leaving the region.  The CFC is busy picking up systems and knocking down the remaining TEST towers.  The latter seem to be all empty of strontium and conveniently labeled.  We hit one last night with the name “TEST R16 reimbursement fund moon.”

Who needs scanning?

Who needs scanning?

Systems are going our way.

Fountain - July 30, 2013

Fountain – July 30, 2013

The map is slowly turning our color.

Fountain turns yellow... eew...

Fountain turns yellow… eew…

What will happen beyond Fountain seems in doubt however.

Boodabooda is saying that the CFC will “almost definitely attack Delve.”  And certainly, in terms of chance, Goons attacking Delves seems only slightly less likely than there being a maintenance downtime on any given day.  It is almost habitual at this point.  They all have supplies and stuff sitting in stations from the last few ventures.  Even I still have stuff in Delve from last summer’s expedition.  So it is practically the natural order of things to head to Delve.

Arguing against an invasion of Delve are several factors.  It will be at least a month until sovereignty rises high enough in Fountain for a jump bridge network to be established to create a pipe into Delve.  It was a big deal for us to get the jump bridge from J5A to 4-EP, as it meant holding those systems for 35 days straight.  Now we have to wait that same 35 days after taking systems before a full jump bridge network can be established.

There is also the nature of the war from the CFC point of view.  The stated reason for taking Fountain was to possess the moons.  You may ascribe whatever additional sinister motives you like, but the moons are still important.  They are a source of income and they need to be protected.  We cannot all go back to Deklein and Branch and Tribute and expect these moons to remain unmolested.  Which means somebody needs to live in Fountain.  I expect that in a couple of weeks there will some realignment of sovereignty to cover the Fountain front, and a lot of people will be moving into new homes.  It is difficult to do that in the midst of a war.

And then there is the question of what happens if we do invade Delve.  Best case scenario is that TEST rolls over and dies, leaving us Delve in their will.  We march in and then face Northern Coalition in Querious and Tribal Band down in Period Basis.

The Delve Neighborhood

The Delve Neighborhood

Last summer when Delve was taken, the war moved immediately to Querious and would likely do so again, what with a competent foe holding a grudge and in possession of a lot of support sitting right there.  That means war with just about everybody from Cobalt Edge to Querious.  And while the most deluded conspiracy theories see total null sec domination as part of the vast Goon conspiracy, the idea of a great Goon donut strikes me a implausible.  Even if it were manageable militarily… and I wouldn’t grant that one… and could be held against all comers… and there would be many… I am not sure they could find enough competent and trustworthy satraps to administer and empire without them coveting each others possessions, fighting amongst themselves, or attempting to break with the empire altogether.  I think a Goon null sec Caliphate would be a very brittle entity before long.

And, finally, there is the fact that the war isn’t over.  Did I say that it was?  Yeah, I was clearly full of VF day enthusiasm when I wrote that headline.

Sure, TEST is pulling out of Fountain.  And they are not contesting timers any more.  Sovereignty is rolling over to us.  But there is no agreement in place, no peace plan in process.  Boodabooda is digging trenches in Delve waiting for the Goon onslaught.  We’re busy camping 6VDT station trying to keep TEST from evacuating anything valuable.  Gates are camped.  TEST is still red.

And just last night Northern Coalition and friends… and they let TEST tag along this time… attempted to pick off another CFC titan.  This time they dropped right into 4-EP to try and get it.  An observant CFC member noticed NC dreads in the system while a Baltec fleet that had been forming  for a structure shoot was able to jump right into the fight.  The siren went off on Jabber and a big battle ensued, with the NC fleet losing more than 20 capital ships.  And while they took down a few in return, no titans were killed.  Titans did, however, drop on the field and got to doomsday the hostiles.  See my current site banner (which I stole) or this NC video of the fight.   Here is the battle report.  (A write up at The Mittani as well.)

CFC kills in blue

CFC kills in blue

I missed that fight by just five minutes, but got into fleet in time to chase people all over Fountain and then go shoot some structures.

Titans were still hanging around when I got there

Titans were still hanging around when I got there

So fighting continues and seems likely to carry on for some time.  Grinding out sovereignty… even when uncontested… goes much faster with capital ships, and when capital ships are flying somebody will inevitably seek to blow them up.

Last night in comms, somebody said that TEST is the new Intrepid Crossing, an alliance that used to be on our border in Cobalt Edge and which we used to raid for fights, but which we never sought to conquer. (That is until Razor pushed the joke too far one day and IRC’s house fell over.  And now Razor owns Cobalt Edge.  Nice going.)  And that seems like an apt enough analogy.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of “win” in attempting to exterminate TEST, but having a hostile neighbor we can tangle with has value.  If nothing else, it gives us something to do and someone to fight on a regular basis.  That might not be something you would want in real life but, in a game like EVE, that could be the best possible situation for now.

Or such is the way things look to me.  But I am just a CFC grunt and the most exalted position I have ever aspired to is that of squad commander in a fleet. (I trained Leadership V somewhere along the way.)  I have no special insight into alliance politics.  I go where they tell me and shoot who the FC calls out.

So feel free to correct my assumptions and tell me where you think this whole situation is headed.

Vast Goon Conspiracy Ensnares Even Its Foes!

The Goons, not content to infiltrate CCP and subvert democracy, have apparently co-opted their foes on and off the Council of Stellar Management as well.

Take CSM member Tredbor Daehdoow, who was, in his own words, the target of Goon smear campaign as part of the last CSM election.

Tredbor, who had this to say about the Goon’s CSM goals.

And that is exactly why The Mittani and his buddies are running for CSM. He’s realized that it is actually very, very effective at influencing CCP, and he wants to try to use it as a vehicle to advance his own petty in-game interests, at the expense of the vast majority of the players of EVE.

And while he managed to overcome the Goon onslaught and get elected to the 6th CSM, he is probably in the corner of, “Goons are bad, mmkay?”

And yet Tredbor seems to be pretty much on board with The Mittani’s views about the lack of focus on Flying in Space (FiS) development in the game, as stated in the now famous/infamous Nuclear Winter Goon CEO update.

The Mittani speaks... and he has a cool icon!

And there is Shadoo, who is not on the CSM but who is, The Mittani says, “…at the moment, my enemy,” and who seems to see merit in the goals of the agenda of the Goons.

Apart from the first few paraghraphs feeding the new found pubbie empire, that is a pretty good stab at where EVE is at and what needs to be looked at. A good CEO update for sure.

Microfixes are no longer enough to keep this aging game afloat, radical changes are needed which I have no doubt CCP will not have the balls or the resources to commit to without a strong as fuck kick in the ass.

Nerfs focus on fixing shit in isolation, but unless you address the core of the issue the imbalance will simply shift to something new. Just like it did with supers.

So you have to admire the guile and power of the Goons and their CEO/Spymaster, The Mittani. They are apparently unstoppable in their drive to get what they want, able to turn their foes to their point of view and subvert the company itself.

We might as well just change the company name from CCP, Crowd Control Productions, to GCP, Goon Controlled Productions and declare the age of  Pax Goonicana… Goonaria… Goonatopia… hrmm… the Empire of the Goons!

Unless, of course, they actually have some sort of legitimate point that resonates with their friends and foes alike in 0.0 space. (Along with some people at CCP who care about that aspect of the game.)  In which case this might just be another example in the long, long tradition of a specific sub-group within a game complaining as loudly as they can manage that the company just doesn’t get it.

But EVE is a sandbox, and especially so in 0.0 space, so the content is all player driven.  They couldn’t possibly need anything beyond the most minor changes related to FiS.

It is obviously a Goon conspiracy.  Damn them!

[Addendum: More on “What The Mittani Wants” in an interview over at MMORPG.com.]

[Addendum 2: And there is a humorous take on the whole thing.]