Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's Crunch Time!

Welcome to the nineteenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This months topic comes to us from @evepress, and he asks:

The CSM: CCP's Meta Game?

'The CSM, an Eve player's voice to CCP, right? In the grand scheme of things, yes, the players bring up issues and the CSM presents them to CCP. But in its current iteration the CSM was supposed to be given small authority to assign CCP assets to projects that the CSM thought needed work on. As it has not come out this was not the case. So fellow bloggers, is the CSM worth it, has the CSM improved the game in any way, or is it just a well thought out scam by CCP to give us players a false sense of input in the game? What's your take?'

For anybody that is in the dark about the reasons for the CSM being the focus of this Blog Banter, let me bring you up to speed with recent events:

- The election results for the 5th Council of Stellar Management were released at the end of May.

- The CSM members were invited to a three day summit meeting with CCP in their Iceland offices, in order to discuss Eve player's recommendations and look at what CCP have planned for the development of the game. This took place at the end of June.

- On the 12th of July CCP published the documented minutes of the summit meetings. These minutes were approved as a correct record by both CCP and the CSM.

- After reading through the minutes the majority of the Eve playerbase couldn't help but notice that many of Eve's issues or areas of Eve that were considered broken are not likely to be fixed by CCP any time soon. In fact there were hardly any issues brought up by the CSM that CCP committed to working on in the current development cycle. The overwhelming view was that CCP were focusing on new Eve features, rather than fixing and refining existing ones.

- The discussion has raged on ever since then, aided by the release of CCP Zulu's Dev Blog and the ongoing comments by Devs in the accompanying thread.

So there we have it. As Eve players we are concerned that CCP is neglecting already existing features of the game in favour of new shinies, and also that they are ignoring the CSM's calls for issues to be fixed. Thus, many people are wondering whether the CSM is really worth it.

Now I've posted before on this blog at length about my enthusiasm for the CSM. Despite current events my views on this remain unchanged. The CSM still remains an excellent opportunity for Eve players to take advantage of and get their opinions heard. In fact, if it wasn't for the hard work and dedication of the CSM, we would be in the dark concerning CCP's plans.

The reality is that this furore is a product of the developing CSM process. It has taken 5 consecutive CSMs to reach a point where the current CSM has the power and leverage to take CCP to task for not acting on issues that have been raised consistently by all of the CSMs.

There is now no excuse for CCP. They have had ample time to react to some of the major player concerns, and enough of the playerbase have bought in to the concept of the CSM to force CCP to take note. Thousands of people voted for the CSM and hundreds of proposals have been raised. What we are seeing is the culmination of 5 CSMs worth of work, both raising support and forwarding proposals.

In short, this is crunch time.

This is the crossroads for the CSM, and it's the reason I can't answer the question as to whether the CSM is worth it or not. Because ultimately that answer lies with CCP. If they listen to the CSM speaking on behalf of the players, and if they show us proof that they are acting upon player's recommendations, then every single CSM will have been worth it. If they don't, then it's been one gigantic waste of time and money.

I'm a realistic person. I'm not expecting a multitude of game changes. I'm not even expecting game changes anytime soon. All I want to see from CCP is that you're acting as a result of listening to the CSM.

I voted for the CSM. I read the Dev Blogs. I read the CSM meeting minutes. I read the summit meeting minutes. I even tried to read most of that Dev Blog threadnaught (44 pages and counting)!

I've bought into this whole CSM thing. CCP, please can you too?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Roaming Cheap

Most people who play Eve could talk about PvP all day. They could strategise, plan and theorise for hours on end. But there is no possible substitute for undocking and finding something to shoot.

In the context of wormholes this is sometimes a little bit more difficult than it might be in known space. But if you scan regularly in wormholes you are sure to find a Lowsec or Nullsec exit every now and again. Treat these holes as an invitation to go and find some PvP.

But by far the most important thing for a player new to PvP is to fly cheap. Nevermind that you have 50 million skill points and can fly every T2 ship in the game, pick something T1, fit it cheaply, rig it cheaply and use cheap ammo. I'm sure everybody can understand why this is a good in terms of isk, simply put, you get more fights for your money.

But there is also a psychological aspect to flying cheap. Your victories will feel greater and your losses more inconsequential. Even if you have billions of isk, flying cheap will be more fun. Not only will you be more prepared to take risks, but the inevitable red stain on the killboard will seem much more insignificant.

Ultimately, of course, the maths will work in your favour. Just last night our corp took down a Prophecy Battlecruiser in four T1 frigates. He lost 53 million isk, which was worth more than all of our ships put together. As it happened we didn't lose a single ship in that engagement, but we could've lost three of them and still have 'won' the fight.

So if you're looking for a fun PvP experience my advice is to find some friends, fit cheaply and score some expensive kills!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Try Another Ship!

I have to say upfront that I really like stealth bombers. They are fun ships to fly and can be very useful in certain situations.

But a number of recent experiences have led me to the conclusion that many people, especially wormhole dwellers, fly them badly. Not only do they fly them badly, but they fly them in totally the wrong situations.

I suspect the proliferation of stealth bombers in wormholes is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, everybody in a wormhole has a Covert Ops ship, otherwise they wouldn't be able to do anything. And since Stealth Bombers require most of the same skills I guess it makes sense for wormhole dwellers to fly them. In addition to this, they are light and can cloak, which takes advantage of both the wormhole mass restrictions and the lack of Local Chat in wormholes.

So far , so good. I'm not claiming that Stealth Bombers are bad to fly in wormholes. But every pilot should learn one very important lesson, they are paper thin! They have no tank! None.

This means that you should take the utmost care when putting them into a situation where there is the possiblity of them getting damaged. The biggest tip I can give you is:

Be prepared to flee

Make preparations before a fight to get out. During a fight, keep aligned to a celestial object and if you start to take damage, push that warp button. Keep out of both Scram and Disruptor range. If any of your enemies launch drones, you may as well exit the field straight away, because I bet they will head for you.

Ultimately Stealth Bombers are guerilla fighters. They are meant to be used for quick and decisive action that shatters the enemy in one go. Then they disappear.

But too often I've seen Stealth Bombers being used as a some kind of staple fleet ship. People are using them to camp wormholes and tackle enemy ships. They are being used as DPS ships in long extended fights. Of course they can be used like this, but only with great care and the addition of supporting ships to control the enemies range and give them an alternate target to shoot at.

So my suggestion is, if you find yourself a little too reliant on Stealth Bombers in wormhole PvP, go grab a nice T1 Cruiser. It might not be able to pack quite the punch that Stealth Bombers can, but it will have a decent tank and will be able tackle invading pilots. Not only that, but it will hurt your wallet less if things don't go to plan!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Staying Safe in a Wormhole

Wormhole space is currently the least densely populated area of the Eve universe. Unfortunately this can have the effect of lulling people into a false sense of security. Often in a wormhole you won't see anybody who isn't in your corporation for days; it may begin to feel like nobody else plays the game.

This attitude can often lead to complacency, and complacency will get you killed. Because the reality is that wormhole mechanics mean that wormhole space is the most dangerous place in Eve that you can be. More dangerous than Highsec, or even Lowsec and Nullsec.

The key reason for this is the lack of local which enables other people to enter your system unawares. Also new wormholes can spawn at any time, giving people an ideal opportunity to surprise you. For these reasons, wormhole space is the easiest place to gank people in Eve.

This matters very little if all you are losing is perhaps one Drake per month, especially when compared to the riches that can be harvested from wormholes. But once you start mining in Hulks or hauling Sleeper loot in your Iteron V or running anomalies in your Tengu - a gank becomes a whole lot more worrying.

So here are a quick few tips for wormhole safety.

Stay Cloaked

There is no better way to remain safe than cloaking. Not only can your enemy not see you, but they also don't can't even know that you're there. You can be 5km away from a totally unsuspecting target. Use cloaking as both an offensive and defensive tactic.

Stay in Your POS

Minimise the time you spend outside of the warm and comforting embrace of your POS shield. Just be aware that people may be watching you. So if you suspect there are hostiles in the system, warp away to a random position before warping to your true destination.

Keep Some Probes Out

There is no excuse not to have probes out whenever possible. If you are running a mining operation or a Sleeper combat fleet be sure to assign somebody to keep an eye out for any suspicious new signatures in the system. There is no better way to surprise someone than jumping out of a newly opened wormhole.

Keep Spamming D-Scan

The Directional Scanner is your dim torch in the darkness that is wormhole space. It won't spot everything, but it can save your life. Just make sure to uncheck the option to use your overview settings, this way you are sure to notice scanner probes.

Keep a Scout on a Wormhole

If there are any dangerous wormholes and you have the luxury of an alternate character that can cloak, put them next to the wormhole. The wormhole activation noise is very distinctive and will be a tell-tale sign that you have a visitor. This is the only definite way to notice somebody entering into your wormhole.

There are many other precautions that you can take, but these are some of the best and most basic ones.

Pick which precautions to take based upon what is at stake. If you are gas mining in a Tech 1 Cruiser, then perhaps some of the precautions are more trouble than they are worth. But alternatively if you are flying around in your swanky faction fitted Tech 3 Strategic Cruiser, then it might be a good idea to protect your investment well.

I am sorry to say that despite these saftey measures, you will still get blown up at some point. It's just a fact of wormholes. But nothing so lucrative should be risk-free.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Blob

Much of my time time last weekend was taken up by watching the Eve Alliance Tournament VIII. It's the first Alliance Tournament I've been able to watch live and I found it hugely enjoyable. The video quality was great, the majority of the commentating was informative and the matches themselves showcased some spectacular ships and piloting. If you missed any of it the matches should be appearing on Youtube.

I feel like I've learnt quite a lot from both the matches themselves and the commentary to help me when I PvP also. But there is one thing about the whole Tournament that is quintessentially not what Eve is about:

The Alliance Tournament is fair...

... Eve isn't fair.

In fact the first rule of Eve PvP should be that it is not fair. You won't get the same number of ships as you have to fight against. You won't get a pre-arranged battleground. You won't have a list of rules to comply with. There are no rules against bringing as many people as you can, piloting whatever ship you like and podding people wherever you can.

Of course anybody that has played Eve even a short amount should have already realised this unfairness. But despite this, Eve players still moan and whinge about it. All over the forums fly the constant accusations of Eve players that the fights they engage in weren't fair. And, blurted out incessantly is the warcry of the ship-less forum poster, 'We were blobbed'.

'Blobbing' somebody in Eve is simply destroying someone's ship with what appears to them to be an overwhelming and over-reactionary force. For example, bringing ten pilots to take down one enemy ship, or bringing a Carrier to destroy one Battlecruiser.

Personally, I find it a bit annoying when people are accused of 'blobbing' as if it is a bad thing; as if, somehow, a fight in Eve is only legitimate if the odds are balanced. People should realise that any fighter, including themselves, will take whatever steps they can to ensure the odds are in their favour.

What about, you might ask, those amazing pilots that go into fights one against four? Surely the odds aren't in their favour? Well, here's the secret, they are. Amazing PvP pilots calculate odds based on their own skill. They are amazing because they know how to twist our idea of a heavily one-sided fight into an amazing victory. Maybe it is true that the skillful pilot is more than equal to you and your three friends. The truth of it is, everybody that loses a ship got 'blobbed' in some fashion, even if it doesn't appear so initially.

Whether it is by numbers, ships, or skill - everybody gets blobbed and blobs in return. The only exception to this being, of course, the Eve Alliance Tournament.

So, my conclusions from this rant:

1. Stop moaning, Eve isn't fair.
2. Rejoice! Because the Eve Alliance Tournament is!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Where Are My Wormholes CCP?

Just yesterday I lost a Minmatar Blockade Runner ship, a Prowler, to a Nullsec gatecamp. In total I lost around 400 million isk, which is a fairly large sum. In order to deflect accountability for this mistake from myself and attempt to stem the guilt for producing such a horrible dent in our killboard stats, I've decided to blame CCP for this tragedy.

To explain, I live in a patch off Nullsec where there isn't a very well-stocked market. So I rely on Highsec market hubs to re-supply all my needs. To reach these hubs I try and always use wormholes which are, arguably, a lot safer than attempting to traverse the perils of Nullsec and Lowsec. I will scan down a wormhole in my Nullsec home and continue scanning to try and find a route through to Highsec. I can then use this path to bring back to Nullsec anything I particularly require.

So how did I manage to get caught in a Transport ship in a Nullsec gatecamp? Well, for around four days the pocket of seven Nullsec systems that I call home hasn't contained one single wormhole. This, despite the fact that at least one of the systems has been upgraded with the Quantum Flux Generator, a sovereignty upgrade that is meant to increase the chances of a wormhole apprearing in the system. This lack of wormholes caught me at a bad time and forced me to attempt the more dangerous route to Highsec, and I got unlucky.

Maybe the lack of wormhole spawns in the systems is also just a result of being unlucky, but I'm inclined to feel that the Quantum Flux Generator is not doing its job properly and is not attracting as many wormholes as it should be doing. For this reason I feel justified in blaming CCP for my loss.

In addition to my inability to plunder the Highsec market, our corporation as a whole has been starved of wormhole PvE. Although we live in Nullsec, it is a key desire of the corp to exploit high level wormholes from our Nullsec base. Many days we have had plenty of people online and plenty of shiny ships ready to go, but no wormholes to raid!

This method of wormhole raiding from Nullsec is a legitimate interaction with wormholes that I think CCP should support. So I'm intending on gathering some evidence on the wormhole spawns in our pocket of Nullsec and examining the effect that the Quantum Flux Generator is having on spawns. I would be really interested if anybody else has any information to give on this as well. If I feel the effect granted is too small I might ask the CSM to present it to CCP as an issue that needs looking at.

But, moaning aside, wormholes can be exploited in a large variety of different ways and it would be really nice to have Nullsec wormhole raiding as one of these ways. It should be able to provide a viable source of activity and income for a small Nullsec corp, and I could definately use a little bit of that income right now.

Friday, 11 June 2010

How to Fit a Stealth Bomber

Lately I've been flying my Stealth Bomber quite a lot. Stealth Bombers can be very powerful ships, but they can also be frustrating ships to fly. You have the potential to unload a large amount of damage on a target, but in return you are paper-thin.

I thought today I might explain a few ways of fitting Stealth Bombers and explain how these fittings can be used. So here is a short guide to Stealth Bomber fitting.

1. Firstly fit a Covert Ops Cloaking Device II. This cloak is built specifically for your ship and you wouldn't be 'stealth' without it. Be warned that the Stealth Bomber has a larger recloaking timer than its Covert Ops cousin, so you may need to be a bit more careful about uncloaking.

2. Fit a Bomb Launcher I. Bombs are like untargeted missiles that, when fired, shoot the direction your ship is facing for 10 seconds, covering 30km before exploding. The explosion has a radius of 15km and anything in that radius will take damage depending on how large the signature radius of the ship is. Bombs are very unlikely to blow up any type of ship in one hit, but they can put a severe dent in a ships defences, or multiple bombers can be used to devastating affect. Bombs are a key part of being a Stealth Bomber but bear in mind they can only be used in Nullsec and wormhole space.

To launch a bomb at a target, find a position around 33km from them. Begin to approach them cloaked. When they are 30km away, de-cloak and launch the bomb. Then, either warp away or attempt to finish off the target with Torpedo missiles. Be careful not to stray into the explosion radius of your own bomb. The safest way to launch a bomb is for the target to be exactly between yourself and a warpable celestial object. This way you can launch a bomb and immediately enter into warp to avoid being tackled.

3. Fit 3 Siege Missile Launchers. Be warned that since Stealth Bombers have no tank to speak of, you must be very careful about choosing when to engage. Siege Missile Launchers can fire Torpedos, which do large amounts of damage to big, slow ships but may have difficulty hitting smaller, faster targets.

4. Fit a propulsion module. This can be either a MicroWarpdrive or an Afterburner. Generally a MicroWarpdrive will be a better choice, although there are some occasions when an Afterburner may come in handy. To give just one example, a Stealth Bomber can speed tank Medium POS Guns by perma-running an Afterburner. Whichever module you choose, it will be very handy to escape gate-camps or close distance with a target.

5. Fit utility Mid slots. The remaining mid slots on your Stealth Bomber can be fit with a range of modules. Most common is the Target Painter. The Target Painter boosts the Signature Radius of your target, making it a larger target for your torpedos, which, as a result, will hit for more damage.

Another option is to fit a Warp Disruptor. The Warp Disruptor will allow you to pin down the target, while you finish it off with your Torpedos. The range of the Warp Disruptor allows you to orbit from at least 20km away from the target, keeping you out of range of most Stasis Webifiers and Warp Scramblers.

The last general option for mid slots is to fit Capacitor modules. This could be a Capacitor Recharger to increase your cap stability or perhaps a Capacitor Booster to be able to run a MicroWarpdrive and Warp Disruptor for a little bit longer.

It is theoretically possible to fit some form of shield tank in the mid slots but in my opinion it is inadvisable. Any fight where a Stealth Bomber is taking enough damage to require a tank is definitely the wrong fight for a Stealth Bomber to be involved in. A Stealth Bombers job is either to pick off weak targets, or to get the job done so quickly that no retaliation is possible.

6. One option with the low slots is to fit for speed and agility. The best contender for this is the Nanofiber Internal Structure which gives a healthy mix of both. This will enable you to get yourself in good positions quicker and, if needed, escape faster.

You can also boost your damage output by using a Ballistic Control System. Note that this will only increase Torpedo damage, it will have no effect on Bomb damage.

It may also be necessary to use a Co-Processor in the lows to boost the CPU available, especially if you are using Tech II Siege Missile Launchers.

Lastly, it is also possible to fit a tank in the low slots, but again, I feel that this is just as inadvisible as it is for shield tanking.

7. Rigging is not especially important on Stealth Bombers. Feel free to cut the cost by avoiding them entirely. If you do want to use them, speed and agility rigs such as the Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I will be the most useful. If you wish to boost damage further you can also use missile rigs.

8. Grab some ammo. Each race has a bonus to a specific damage type, so make sure you take advantage of this. For example, my Minmatar Hound has a bonus to explosive damage, so I often use Bane Torpedos and Shrapnel Bombs. Be aware that bombs will explode other bombs if they are not the same type. So if you are flying with other Stealth Bombers, be sure to coordinate Bomb types before you fly.

Those are my key tips for fitting. Feel free to play around with them and see what you can come up with. The best test, of course is to fly them. If you have any different ideas on how to fit then please comment, I would really appreciate any good advice!