What goes up….

I missed a week of blogging probably because I spent my EVE time undocked rather than sitting on the RL tarmac somewhere with a laptop on my knees (thats where I tend to write my blogs).  And as much as I like satisfying the intellectual desires of both my readers, I actually prefer unloading T2 ammunition on flashy reds.  Sorry if I broke your heart.

Well, where do we start?  I know, lets start with Humble Pie.  Last blog post, I felt quite good about myself, I was being useful to the Mercenary Coalition in helping to fulfill our contract.  But what goes up must come down and so my streak of confidence ended when I made a couple of pretty serious mistakes that could have costed us boats and (far worse) reputation.  Herein follows the tale.

So, we are deployed somewhere and shooting ships that appear red to us.  This is about the level of intel that I have and hence share freely.  One night, I log into an existing 40+ fleet Machariel fleet.  Noir Academy pilots are not allowed to fly faction Battleships of course (for good reason) and I rummage in my hangar what I could bring when our FC orders:  “NA and little shits form gate camp in X“.  Since I am both NA and “little shit”, I heed the call, jump into a Heretic Interdictor and in corp chat rally my 2 corp mates (=more little shits) around me.  The main body of the fleet undocks and goes into the opposite direction, while us three “little shits” (I love that expression) head to X to form a gate camp as ordered.

Now this is where I am getting a little antsy.  I took charge of our splinter fleet but we have no separate comms  and we are 2 Interceptors and an Interdictor.  Not exactly a setup that can hold the mighty goonswarm or whatever we are fighting.  The orders were quite clear (“gate camp”)  but the means are very limited.  FC is busy managing a 40+ man Machariel fleet and has no time to micromanage our sideshow.  We head off to our ordered destination and since our team doesn’t have any real stopping power, I decide that we set up a “running ambush”, something that in real armed combat is left to special forces and not “little shits”.  Basically, we can’t stop an enemy but we can slow him down and keep him busy.  For this, we must stay alive and the two interceptors make for long range tacticals at the target gate while I create stop bubble tacticals in front of it.  The idea is that hostile forces toy with us at first (buying our FC time to achieve his objective) and when they mobilizes in earnest, we provide intel and slow them down with bubbles as best as we can.

The dance commences.  We have a Vexor landing on top of us, we have 2 Tengus toying with us and a T3 Destroyer.  Since we have been in this area for quite a while, we all stole each other’s tacticals and our little ballet keeps us all entertained.  The hostiles don’t know whats on the other side of our gate and I bank that they think that we are the advance team and tacklers for a mighty DPS group on the other side.

Only we know that there is literally nothing backing us up and I’d like to keep that illusion for a while.  So, asking our ‘ceptors to abandon post and provide intel on the station and the gates would give our plan away.  Bad idea.

But running ambushes rely on the “running part”, we are sitting (ok, “fluttering”) ducks and the hostiles are getting more numerous and more aggressive.  They now camp the gate and their Flycatcher is on its way.  They are basically calling our bluff.  One of our Interceptor pilots asks for permission to jump back home and switch into a cloaky bomber – I agree, we are beyond actual combat mission but we desperately need intelligence.  The station is outside of Dscan range and in order for me to set up stop bubbles, I need to get the timing and the direction just right – all under the eyes of the hostile opposition that is harassing me.

My corp mate jumps home just when the proverbial shit hits the fan both in the main body of the fleet (Machariels engaging) and our mini camp gets dropped on in earnest.  Comms get busy with FC ordering the main fleet and I “pull the pin”, warp to my gate stop bubble tactical, blow the bubble and burn to the gate.  The other interceptor jumps clear and we are on the “friendly” side now, setting up at tacticals again.  My second mate comes back in a bomber as promised and jumps through.  Somewhere in this mess, I wasn’t clear enough that our mini-camp moved, that there now is a bubble on the other side and likely a fleet of hostile ships.  My colleague jumps and gets whacked.

Screw-up 1.  I should have established comms with “my” team much more effectively, ignored our main FC (who we couldn’t help and he couldn’t help us) and asked for a 100% cloaky team – basically make the decision to move from offensive reconnaissance to intel gathering only.  I didn’t and our loss was my mistake only.

Our mini camp is being recalled by the FC and we hurry to our new target destination.  My whacked fleet mate made it out and jumps into a Vigil to rejoin the fight with good spirits.  I make best speed to the main body of the fleet and anchor on our FC.  As the only ‘dictor in the sea of Machs, I feel out of place, more like the FC’s personal shotgun rather than a viable fleet member.  There are tons of hostiles right in front of me but outside of my range.

By now, I am itching to get into the fight, when someone reports a second hostile fleet en route to us in a neighboring system.  I consider my options.  Among these Machariels I am relatively safe but useless.  FC is busy managing ranges and DPS and has no time for “little shits”, so I make the decision to warp into the path of the hostile fleet and slow them down as only an Interdictor can – blow bubbles.  I turn my boat around, warp to the target gate at 10km, land in a bunch of hostile ships, launch my bubble and hightail out, warping back to fleet.  Incoming hostiles will now be slowed down by a few seconds.  I feel good about myself.

Unfortunately that warm feeling doesn’t last.  FC asks on comms which Interdictor just bubbled a friendly fleet.  Oh dear.  Overviews. Mine doesn’t show friendlies, just hostiles.  I didn’t realize that we had more than one friendly fleet in this system, the other one being a full-blown gate camp exactly where I thought I was being useful.  In my zeal, I bubbled a friendly fleet which could have been a major, major problem if they had to warp off for whatever reason.  They didn’t and FC moves on but I realize just how big this could have been under other circumstances.  Damn!

Screwup 2.  Warping off my FC anchor and into the direction of a hostile fleet wasn’t the screwup.  The tactical situation had indeed made me expendable and slowing the enemy down was the correct decision.  The screwup was to launch the bubble without making 100% sure that no friendlies would be equally affected.  Lesson learned.

The engagement nears some form of conclusion, it sounds like that we are volleying hostile ships off the field faster than they can land.  I think we reinforced a tower or something and that goal was completed also, not sure.  FC orders all fleet to de-agress, warp to some gate, jump and warp to another tower for the next fight.  I feel right stupid after my bubble screwup and swear I will stay by the FC until explicitly ordered off.

Which happens real soon.  FC “what the fuck is the Heretic doing in the fleet, this is Low Sec, get off the field“.  Thats me alright.

Screwup 3.  I had forgotten that we are now in lowsec and that my Interdictor ain’t much use here.

Damn.  Getting called out like this in front of everyone is embarrassing but that was not my problem.  Not being in a ship that is useful to the fleet is.  I turn tail, warp off and fetch a Vigil.  Nobody objects to things getting painted, right?  At least I get onto 1 kill that night.

The fleet has accomplished its objectives and stands down.  I feel pretty depressed, its been a long time since I screwed up this hard and this frequently and I am posting my tale in /alliance to make sure that people know that I realized what I did wrong and that I won’t do that again.  And the Noir. guys were awesome about it – in general, they are a terrific bunch.  I likely get ridiculed over this but not whipped too hard.

The good news – I truly learned my lesson. Flying Interdictors requires a different set of situational awareness than flying – say – an Interceptor and I am really looking forward to do more of it.

 

Line ’em up

As both loyal readers of this blog may remember, I am still flying with the Mercenary Alliance, specifically with Noir Academy., an outfit designed to pressure-cook new pilots into hardened combat machines within a month or so and move them on into Noir. itself.  My erratic gaming time caused me to simmer in this environment and while I wholeheartedly enjoy myself, its really time to move up.  My instructors tell me that all I need to do is to command a fleet and I am good to go – assuming I don’t completely cock up and whelp every single ship into a POS or something.

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What makes good SciFi?

I am re-reading Peter Hamilton’s “The Naked God”, the last book in his “The Night’s Dawn” trilogy and even on my second turn, I love (nearly) every passage, character and plotline.   Hamilton now holds first place on my list of authors, a place that Neal Stephenson used to hold – before Neal published the abortions Reamde and Seveneves and thus utterly destroyed my devotion to his prose.  But on that later.

Then was of course the hubbub around the “Fountain War” book that died prematurely due to incredibly bad planning and marketing.  I had endorsed that book and was genuinely looking forward to it before I had read a single word by Jeff Edwards.   So, I felt compelled to buy one of his books “The Sea of Shadows” but struggled to finish it.   I maintain that with solid research and good editing, Jeff could have done an awesome job at writing our story in a popular fiction format but I can’t see myself reading anything else by him.

So I found a new favorite author, ditched an old one, assessed a candidate and developed a strong opinion on every one.  But why?

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EVE Industry – a new game

I have been playing EVE Online since about 2009 and one would assume that I would have experienced pretty much all content that a computer game can give during those 7 years.  I should by now be a bitter vet, been there, done that, spend my time on /r/eve and generally be a complete waste to the EVE community.  But instead I go where I have not been before.

Let me reach back here for a second and explain why I downloaded EVE in the first place.  As both avid readers of this blog remember, I was a WoW player, raiding, my Dwarf Hunter gave this blog its name.  Sometime at the end of “Wrath”, I got bored and looked around for things to do, wished there was value in exploration and crafting, something other to do that beating the exact same monster week on week.  In those days, industry and trade were entirely useless, except a couple of consumables, nothing that players crafted affected the gameplay enough to grind the skill up and gold was free and literally useless.  In this mindset, I listened to “The Instance” where Randy at the time was co-host and discussed briefly the amazing depth of industry in this weird spaceship game called “EVE Online”.   The host – Scott Johnson – dismissed EVE swiftly, he was and is a proud Blizzard fanboy but I was intrigued, the next day I downloaded the client and rolled my first character.

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2015 – Looking back

It is customary to take the Christmas break (yes, I am that old, I don’t call it the Winter Holidays) and reflect on the past year, draw the lessons and promise to improve oneself and by that the world in general.  Its a fine tradition in the EVE blogosphere and I shall continue my own mini trend.

On a personal level, this year was incredibly exhausting with a ton of work-related travel and many burned weekends and evenings.  It came at the neglect of friendships & spaceships, a course that I vowed many times to steer against but was unable to do so.  Another personal event were the death of a good friend, she held out as long as anyone could but in the end that “Emperor of All Maladies” won the day.  But only this day.  I happen to know many dedicated and amazingly hard working cancer researchers and together we will defeat this disease.  Never in my life have I been more certain about this than now.

I am far less certain about the root causes of the tragic of death Robert Adams, known in our community as “Photon Torpedo“.  Death by disease – I can deal with.  I can knuckle down, hope for progress, work hard and commit myself to fighting it.  But death from religious fanaticism?  I have no handle on it.

But there was also a lot of fun this year, I traveled across beautiful landscapes, took lots of photos, futzed around with Arduinos and managed to keep my house in decent repair.  It may have been a rough year but overall a good one.

Onward to EVE.  Well, the year started with me killing an Erebus with an assault frigate – yes, I had a little help but the event was a riot.  Thanks Nashh Kadavr for setting this up, may your CSM XI campaign be successful.

In February, I wrote about CSM X elections and unfortunately, two of my primary candidates didn’t make the cut.  Overall, the year was bad for the CSM, I stayed out of the childish discussions about the CSM’s value, I admire their dedication and assume that they want the best for the game and our community.  This is all I ask from them, no more, no less.

In March a little commentary on Boosters and the crummy state the industry is in.  I am getting the feeling CCP is addressing it and I am really looking forward to it.  Maybe I will become an industrialist drug kingpin after all.

In May, I wrote my first piece about Citadels and I recall vividly how I had to stop myself squealing like like a little girl (is that politically incorrect?  I don’t know anymore) in anticipation of building massive space fortresses with my comrades and storming hostile ones.

In July, I left my spiritual home “Z3R0 return Mining“, the corp I helped survive and grow into the nucleus of a mini alliance. Z3R0 represents everything that is good about EVE, a small trusting team of slightly whacked out space nuts who spend more time on Jabber / Slack than in game and share everything from work aggro, health trouble and spaceships.  A true band of brothers that I still count as friends.

I joined Noir. Academy in August and I still haven’t graduated – its entirely my fault.  The mercs of Noir are a phenomenally nice and competent bunch and I enjoy every fleet and training class with them.  If they kicked me out for not keeping up, it would be entirely justified but so far they have shown nothing but tolerance for my bursts of enthusiasm followed by weeks of radio silence (work laptop and phone don’t even allow Slack).  If you – cherished and handsome reader – feel like a round in an incredibly skilled, supportive and enthusiastic environment, give Noir. Academy a try.

October of course saw EVE Vegas and I loved every minute of it.  Will I go back next year?  Sure, probably.  Vegas is fun without EVE – in fact, I am back there for a conference in March (? I refuse to look at my travel calendar for next year).

In November, I also wrote my most popular post – weirdly enough the only all year that had nothing to do with EVE.  I must do that again. And just in case anyone is asking, the results of my endeavor are awesome.  Maybe I deviated from the recipe a little more by doubling the Bourbon.  I can’t confirm or deny this.  Hic.  I also endorsed the Fountain War book after speaking with Jeff Edwards at EVE Vegas.  The book was doomed by incompetent management which is a crying shame and – personally speaking – an insult to Jeff Edwards and fellow professional artists.  He deserved better than that.  By the way, I read one of his books and thoroughly hated it but I fully appreciate that I don’t have to like the EVE books he was going to write, millions of others need to like it.  Thus works the world of marketing.

December then finally saw me flying with the Noir crew and actually having a lot of fun.  I flew scout (quite well, if I may say so myself) and Logistics and had a blast. EVE played with a small team of good guys (and gals) is a phenomenal experience that I wish every gamer could have one day.

That brings us to today – what are my plans for 2016?

Well, goal number 1 – stop giving a crap about people.  Its an odd New Year’s resolution but the majority of my life is spent cleaning up others’ incompetence and lazy mistakes and I am getting too old for this.  A dose of arrogance is what I need right now.

In EVE, unless they kick me out, I will graduate from Noir. Academy and become a full-fledged mercenary.  I will not excel in any one role but be the gap filler for everything. I will scout, I will hunt, I will light covert cynos, I will heal and I will damn well learn to FC sort of, kinda.  I will not seek any form of leadership position, directorship or any responsibility beyond the pixels right in front of me.  This I pledge solemnly.

Unless, of course I change my mind.

I will continue writing this blog with long-winded narration of my wanderings. I will not succumb to the Bitter Vet Disease and rant about some arcane nerf, change or person.  EVE is and stays an amazing game, social experiment and community and I will do everything I can to amplify the good, constructively approach the bad and ignore the ugly.

And to you, Z. A. (you know who you are) thank you for writing me in game:

I just found out about your blog and I’m loving every post. I like your view on EVE and how you (as I do) find little things enjoyable.

Yes.  EVE fills me with wonder, the small things, my little adventures, the glee of winning a fight, the satisfaction of sending ISK to a newbro whose ship I just blew up.  And the respect I have for the dedication, skill and warmth of my fellow man, enemy and comrade alike.

Many small things together can make something truly great.

Spacepriest

I am still in Noir Academy. (emphasis on “Academy” and the “.”), I have not graduated yet due to my inability to log in, attend the SiSi classes and take the “exam” (a fleet where I demonstrate that I was awake during the class).  I would not be surprised if my stint in this educational facility will be longer than my postgrad degree.  And likely more difficult.  But I do make progress, I just passed Scouting and was looking forward to do some serious shooting when Alekseyev Karrde called for an Algos Destroyer Fleet to roam nullsec and shoot random people into the face.  I was tired from RL work and really not in the mood to scout (scouting requires brains) and being an F1 monkey for a night would have been just fine by me.

Then Aleks calls for Algoses (Algi, Algae???) – my kind of boat.  Last time I flew one was in my short stint fighting the evil Caldari on the side of the mighty Gallente and the rail Algos was a thing.  Am looking forward to fly one when the FC is spamming “wtb Logi” and I get volunteered by my Noir.Academy teacher.  Thanks Alluminora, really, thanks.  The new T2 Logi frigates came out last week and somehow everyone assumes I can fly one perfectly.  No, gents, I can not.  Never flow logi, dont want to fly logi, cant fly logi, hate logi, I am going to hold my breath until I am blue and then you will be sorry.

Or not.  Aleks links me a fit for a T1 Logi and with much ridicule (ha, ha, look at the noob), I somehow make it work.  Grumbling at the world, I undock from the High Sec station to get a feel for this thing.  Everyone else being in Destroyers, I should be reasonably nimble.  But this Inquisitor turns like a battleship although, I must say, it looks really cool.  I totally dig the can-opener look.

 

Image courtesy of EVE Online ships

 

Anyway, fleet departs, we have 2 of the newfangled T2 Logis and myself to support the Algos-es and OpsSec scouts, intel gatherers and various other ships that one brings when one is about to roam deep into nullsec.  Aleks guides us fast and efficient and the fleet gets quite a few skirmishes on the way where my reps actually made a difference.  I had to rework my overview, mostly replace D-scan with the Watch List and show friendlies in my Overview.  Not the most elegant way of doing things but I have no intention to target hostiles and as long as I still have fleet mates, someone else can bloody well watch D-scan.  Which they do.  I am actually not doing so badly, the few times I come under fire, my logi-bros (get it, get it?) have me and I am feeling cocky.  This logi thing aint that hard, whats the brouhaha all about? Its like healing in WoW, get your UI organized, do as you are told and watch for aggro.  Spacepriest? No big deal.

Well, unless more and more bad guys pile up on us, FC gives command to deagress, let the timer run out and jump the gate to “safety”.  Someone I have been repairing continued to accumulate aggression and my repairing kindly transferred it to me.  I can’t jump, I am scrammed, pointed, shot at and – oh yes – jammed.  My fleet mates warp clear.  Its all me, by my lonesome.

Not so cocky anymore, are we?

Not so cocky anymore, are we?

 

Well, I assume this is the end of the boat and I am looking forward to end this fleet in my pod or my clone, whatever comes first.  But I have eyes on the aggression timer and the damn Inquisitor lasts forever.  Timer runs out, gate is clear and I jump!

Soiled Pants

Soiled Pants

Yes, I have smoke coming out of my boat but I have a boat!  Blues are on the other side of the gate but none of my logi partners and I can’t risk staying there, the next encounter will vaporize me.  So I warp off, bounce around and finally find a station to repair my damage.  FC is calling for losses and is aghast when I check in alive, perfectly calm and relaxed.  I swagger.  It takes more to kill me than a few Battlecruisers, Blackbirds, Destroyers etc.  My pants may need a wash but I get cheers all around that I made it out.

But hey, we all know: dumb luck and a great fit saved me, not my piloting skills.  Don’t tell the Noir Academy guys or I’ll never graduate!

 

A Busy Week

Its been a busy week in EVE online and the blogosphere has responded with much commentary.  I was on the road for a few days and am slowly catching up.

So, firstly, the senseless act of terrorism that came down on San Bernardino this week claimed 14 lives and shattered uncounted more.  Among the dead is EVE Online player Photon Torpedo.  And while I never met him, the fact that we shared the same virtual universe makes his death personal to me.  I feel great sorrow for his family and wish that they find support in this terrible time.  If you want to help them out, visit their “fund me” page.  I don’t know if the family needs the money but I am certain that they need the assurance that they are not alone in their grief.  And if you have an opinion about gun control – do everyone a favor and keep it to yourself.  This is not the time for politics.

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