Monday, 30 April 2012

Operation Teabag

Politics in wormholes is fairly loosely controlled in the sense that you are not geographically located next to people, so you have no territory to fight over on a daily basis, per se, resulting in no panty-wringing sandy-vagina bullshit bluesfests of the Sov Null variety.

This is not to say politics and friends-of-friends gayness does not occur, nor convnient 'overview glitches' or shit like that, nor am i suggesting that it is not worth having a batphone. In fact, Operation Teabag and its denoument is as much about the batphone as it is about politics.

Like any well planned BUGRY operation, Teabag started out as a bit of retardation followed by a bit of smacktalk and ended up in a weekend long POS siege and so on. In this case, it started out with an attempted gank in a wormhole which saw the hero-tackling buzzard killed apparently half a second before the rest of the gang got point, and the Tengu pilot said something to the effect of "u fail, better luck next time". So, a quick d-scan of his POS later and it was decided that "next time" was now, and the troops were marshalled. (as a side note, the buzzard pilot miscalculated the warp range of the cavalry, miscalculated his survivability, and didn't tank his buzzard properly).

I, of course, was totally unaware of this as I was out bush.

I sign in to a nearly reinforced enemy POS, a 35 jump commute, and people who've been at it ad-hoc, for 10 hours already. I mean...the enemy POS had 4 guns, a dissy and a single ECM, so the POS siege kicked off with a pair of RR Domis and didn't escalate much for hours. Anyway, I make my way over and prepare for a weekend of camping a rapecage for 9 toons (a husband and wife corp apparently) all under 3 years of age. I brought a Panther and an Arazu.

The batphone guys all left the hole, my guys, having been at it 10 hours signed off, and the snoozing began. I went to sleep and woke up, signed in, missed some dudes ratting by a bees dick (not the locals, just random nubs from hisec) and sat down to camp bubbles.

Then, random convo from a guy in Surely You're Joking [HAHA]. Given we were friends of freinds, and set blue for some reason in the past (actually, it was the smackdown of CHAIN), we tried to resolve this diplomatically, as Exhale. and HAHA had been hired to defend that POS. For a cut-rate amount of 1Bn each, which suggested the defenders were mates, and skint. Threats were soon smooth-talked into an amicable agreement; the dead buzzard would be refunded, we'd leave the POS alone, and we wouldn't have to face 50 T3's and so on from HAHA, Exhale. and their batphone with a kitchen sink fleet. Sounds fine to me, this being a complete impromptu POS bash organised on 0 notice, for fuck all potential candy.

The funny thing is, our demands were cheaper than the end result. We wanted that Tengu, dead or handed over, in exchange for the buzzard he'd killed. He spent 2Bn ISK to avoid paying that rather ill-concieved ransom.

In the end, it turns out that someone else turned up to destroy the POS when the RF timer was up - they nearly achieved it, but didn't maintain hole control, so HAHA came and rescued the POS. The defender corporation also managed to lose 2 Tengus in their half-arsed defence of the POS, as well, so the losses were around 4Bn ISK.

 Funny thing, wormholes. Anyone can be watching what you are doing at any time...

In the end, Teabag wasn't a huge success. We trawled no kills, one loss, spent a lot of time and effort, and the POS remains standing. But my experience is that people cannot afford multiple merc contracts, however, we will find our way back into that hole at some point and, knowing carebears, their POS won't be any different or better defended. So we will likely have to finish Teabagging in the future.

The final take-home learning utcome for me was that running a collegiate corp of miscreants is like herding cats. Drunken, disorderly, belligerent cats. Its awesome.

Operation Creampie

There are millions of Russians IRL, and it seems that quite a few of them have nothing else to do once they've drunk their supply of horseradish vodka, eaten some pirogi's and munched on turnips hatched by yetis, than play EVE Online.

In EVE online, in wormholes, you have two types of Russians. Blobby Russians, who are supported by Starbridge's batphone (once a batphone made of MacGyver and Batman's lovechild; now not as efficient) and nooby Russians. The latter are probably not affiliates of Vladimir Putin; the former report to him for every single ISK lost to being fail.

I had previously thought that type one was easy to distinguish from type two, especially in C5-C6 space, where the second type exclsively inhabits C5's with C1 or C2 statics, never run their sites, and typically have failburger POSs. The C5/C1 and C5/C2 constellations are for bears trying C5 space out but unable to cut the umbilical to hisec which a C1, C2 static affords.

So, when our contact in Axiom Inc. reported via our Batphone (which is made of two beer cans connected by dental floss) a large Shadow POS with only blasters for defence, in a C5, and said he had already organised a carrier and dread for the siege, would we like to come? I of course said "bleargh, drunk, but whatever the fuck yeah lets do this bitch like Rocco Siffredi on a Viagra bender!"

As you may guess, I am a pathological planner, so we whipped around a few concepts for the siege. We worked out the large blasters were the only threat, having 80km max range, and hence with was tier 3 BC's, cruise Ravens, etc, to sit comfortably outside the range of the POS's defences. Dread would incap the neuts, dissy, ECM, and it would be gravy. Of course, due to Batphone mistralsation, we missed the fact this was a C5 Pulsar.

Cue epic epicness of epically long reinforcement. The Russians sign in halfway through, and proceed to defend their POs with POS gunnery. They soon enough discover they haen't put ammo in their guns - the POS shot a total of 14 times. Even our scrub in a Caracal managed to survive (and this is, remember, after I told him not to come on account of the blasters raping him). So, much lols.

Then we discover that these failburger Russians are Type 1 Russians, not Type 2 as expected. It turns out this was a corp of alts who were basically owned by the CEO of Starbridge. Threats of annihilation and desecration of Axiom Inc's C6 home, sisters and porn subscription details soon came in, and we of course feared 100 RR Tengus at any moment.

Axiom Inc. felt a bit of trepidation and took a break from the final push, as the situation was discussed and politics wrangled. Having absolutely no compunctions about annoying Starbridge, BUGRY of course pushed on relentlessly. In fact, I think the guys responsible were probably mostly AFKing it with sentry Ishtars and Domis at that time.

Of course, control of the C5 was maintained and 2 of the alt corp's alts were trapped out in probers, resulting in the Russians electing to SD their caps and pull a logoffski in their freighter, rorqual and so on. The loot Pinata was beaten, and much candy fell out.

Then came the great POS Mod Killmail Harvest; 96 guns and defensive mods all up, murdered by 4 very bored gentlemen. Operation Creampie was declared a resounding success and our noob in the Caracal, who literally a few days before had been worrying about sucking ABC's in a C2, found himself in possession of 200M ISK in the space of 48hrs.

In the end, deploying blaster-only defences without dampeners to force the enemy onto the guns was retarded. But even so, putting ammo in the guns would have been a good move. So, it seems Starbridge and the Type 1 Russians have their retarded moments.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Risk Management 101

To my mind, one of the things which separates a "good" EVE player (or the appearance thereof) from a "bad" EVE player, is not so much the ability to orbit a BS at 200m manually in an assault frig - managing capacitor, keeping point, minimising inbound DPS and maximising transversal - it is being thorough with your risk management.

There are guys with sterling killboards who do nothing more complex than anchoring on the FC and shooting broadcasts. Put these guys in a 1v1 - organised of course - and the guy who is better at PVP will win (this being the dude from the AF piloting crowd).

There are guys who have old, ossified toons, and they win in PVP via sheer skillpoint accumulation, or using expensive ships, or using off-grid boosting or neutral RR. This all helps you in a potted 1v1 or a situation where these attributes can be fuly exploited in your favour.

There are also guys, and here I risk hubris by including myself, who have reasonable killboard efficiency because they manage risk well. I will admit, you put me in a frigate 1v1 and half the time I will die in a fire and probably learn a thing or two. I could definitely use brushing up on some of the actual skill of flying a ship in PVP. This has nothing to do with managing risk.

What am I talking about? Well, if you live in a wormhole with no local, you have to assume that there is someone cloaked in your hole 23.5/7 watching you. You have to engage in certain behaviours and certain rigorous, methodical ways of doing things which counters the risks of being ganked by cloaker and campers, otherwise you start losing ships in totally avoidable ways.

I work in the mining industry, and if any industry is safety conscious it is mining, or construction, or indeed the military. The appreciation of risk, and managing it, is integral to running a business or conducting a war; oddly enough some SAS guys who I encountered in the mines are perhaps better at assessing risks than anyone else I know. This is all training.

EVE is, of course, just a game. We play games to have fun, or to solve puzzles (like why are Goons so annoying) or achieve a goal (highscore!) or compete. Arguably, treating EVE like a mining company treats safety would make the game totally un-fun. However, there are some things which spill over, and result in avoidable losses going down, and one of these is intimately related to the rigorous manner you learn to identify risks, isolate them, and then eliminate them.

Managing risk in a wormhole relies on developing habits. One of the first you learn is to bookmark your exit. You also learn to spam d-scan like a ferret on meth. You learn to always be moving while cloaked. To orbit a wormhole cloaked at 3500m. Never warp to zero. All of these are habits and behaviours which reduce the risk of losing a ship - much like people who live in nullsec learn to align out when in a nano gang, etcetera.

However, the greatest risk is intelligence leaks. The habits of flying in wormholes are easily learned (spam d-scan, etc) but there's a few which aren't quite so obvious, such as maintaining silence in local; always checking your enemy's corp size, toon age, killboard proficiency so you can form a view of the risk they pose assuming the toons you don't see online are cloaked in T3's.

Further risk is encapsulated in what ships you fly (eg, flying marauders or pirate faction BS's attracts PVP like flies to shit), how you fit your POS (no scrams, bitch it's on!) and how much candy is on display. This then drills down into how you manage your POS and your shit; if you run a lean operation without assloads of assembly arrays on show, you attract less fishing expeditons or people bashing to get at the candy. And if you don't hoard crap in the POS, the eventual loss is lowered, reducing the cnsequences of risky behaviour.

One of the biggest risks is letting in spies, campers and so on. Oddly enough, you can only mitigate this risk via instinct during recruitment (or full API's, but even this only catches sloppy habitual AWOXers), never loitering in your hisec system and never divulging the hisec location in public.

The most important? Being disciplined with these things always. You slip up once, and people mark your corp as a bunch of idiots and noobs, and they think they can get cheap, easy kills. You begin attracting war decs and campers cloaking in your wormhole.  Suddenly, you find it a pain in the arse to cycle a static or run a site and you have to set traps.

Like I said, I am only good because I manage risks. I don't get into fights I know I can't win, I fly cheapish ships reasonably well, the corp has difficult and annoying POSs confronting people looking for candy, I manage my recruitment reasonably well (a couple of AWOXers and one thief in 12 months), and I at least try to pass this culture on to my members - with variable success. It never helps when people just simply don't show any discipline and do retarded shit.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Politics of Looting

Money, in EVE Online as in the real world, is the root of all conflict.

This may not be obvious to the carebear in hisec, who is being griefed by a scurrilous bunch of cads who hunt his Raven or Tengu down in a mission and gank him, but this is still true: money is as valuable to a PVPer on his killboard statistics as it is in his wallet.

The competition for resources, rent, taxes, good belts and planetary interaction rights is as important to players outside of nullsec as it is to the venal, elite, anciens in sov nullsec who squabble over tech moons or good truesec with thousand-man fleets. Particularly, in w-space, a system will become fought over as much for its planets as it will for its static connections and tertiarily for its actual class.

This boils down to money. There is an extraordinary amount of ISK to be made in w-space, and we w-space corps fight over the plum systems like feral cats with rabies. This mostly occurs in the C5-C6 space, where the famed alliances and corps with the connections to EVE News 24 spout propaganda and make videos of their fights, voiceovered by Hannibal Lecter imitators (AKA Lord Maldoror imitators).

Nevertheless, you can still make a good living off the lower-level wormholes, and one should not merely assume that because someone is living in a C2 he is poverty-stricken, feckless and a noob. Kicking people out of their homes, you can uncover inordinate amounts of ISK, which they either bought or accumulated in the safety of their wormhole via habitually not probing their exits (the Schodingers Wormhole theorem having been proven via SiSi behaviour) or because they just...accumulate money there.

Similarly to Schrodingers Wormhole theorem, one never knows how rich is the pinata POS until you beat the candy out of it. Once you have the candy, that is when the angst and politics and greed and crazy really begins.

For example, our recent Operation Santorum against Element of Power RUS (EPRUS) resulted, of course, in total crushing victory. We had camped them all weekend (or a small cadre of people without a life, anyway, the bulk did IRL stuffs), trapping them out via wormhole collapses one by one until 3 of 26 toons remained. 5 hours before the tower came out of reinforced, they self-destructed 50 ships.

They couldn't board a cynabal, or the orca which had been taunting us for a week and a half, and of course we got the tasty morsels from the arrays and hangars. The rest, including 2 Tengus, 4 BS's, 3 dramiels, a firetail, comet, 2 retributions, etcetera, etcetera...all gone up in smoke. Nevertheless, including liberated ships, the total loot was 1.6 billion ISK.

The question inevitably gets raised: how do you split up loot from a POS bash? There were, all up, around 30 meat bods and 50 toons involved in the reinforcement, death and camping over 72 hours. We invested heavily in T2 large bubbles, nearly all of which my alt had to redeploy constantly due to lack of anyone having skills. 30 guys turned up for the final splattering, yet only 4 meatbods did the most vital camping during the AU TZ night on saturday, and successfully prevented more than a lone tempest escaping.

In the end, being the guy in control of the wallet of Sudden Buggery, it is up to me to decide how to dispense remuneration. I cose to honour commitment - one of our allies turned up with 9 BS's to the final push, just to show willing and rack up some karma we will repay. Then, I have also decided to honour the debt owed to the guy who almost solo camped the EPRUS guys in the hole by quad-boxing for 7 hours solid. The rest of the money, I am unafraid to say, will stay in BUGRY to pay for the POCOs we will be upgrading, and the POS fittings I embezzled when I shut the corp in December.

In the end, sieging out someone from a wormhole pays out in the long run, via access to the statics (in this case, a C3), the sites (meh, C2's), the gravs and ladars and mag-radars, and the PI. The fact is, if everyone invested 72 hours x 50 toons, that would be less than 500K per hour each. There is no way you can make money off sieging POS's like this. Yet, the division of the loot is always a bitter thing and can drive a wedge between people and corporations.

In the end, I believe you make a decision you think is fair, be firm about it, be ready to explain it...and make sure its not just you lining your pocket. In the end, people may get bored of doing sieges if their expectations aren't met - but that is only because they don't think it through and the leaders don't explain the decisions and loot split.

if this results in bleeding vajayjay, so be it.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Seven P's of Pew Pew

Warfare, in EVE as elsewhere, is won by the Seven P's: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. This is a part of warfare, and indeed corporate administration and alliance-level organisation, that I see neglected all too often.

For instance, this weekend, a Suddenly Ressurrected Sudden Buggery is going to kick open a wormhole home. Sure, its a C2 with C3/Hisec and we are fortunate that the locals are a (now smaller than us) Russian carebear operation with a shitfit POS. We are also fortunate that all manner of offers of help and "yeah were bored enough" came out of the woodwork to beef our numbers up. I would not be surprised to see 20+ RR BS turn up for this POS reinforcement which is, frankly, pretty awesome for a corp that is reborn only 4 days ago.

The key to the success of this operation is the logistics and preparation. Plus of course, discovering your mining alt somehow has a billion ISK you forgot about, and a stash of POS towers left over from last time. Those are advantages you get with playing a while, and with experience, remembering to hold on to the lot pile when you shut the corp for mental health reasons.

What logistics have I had to organise?

  • An alt in an AFK Geddon, so I can F1AFK the shield phase of the reinforcement. I put him in the hole last night. 
  • An alt in a prober, to refresh the corp bookmarks regularly ahead of the operation
  • Getting my own fine ass into a RR Tempest (my F1AFK Geddon skills will come online during the bash and siege, and my other armour tanked ships are all BLOPs). 
  • Organising a small secure container at a safespot, so the batphone participants can be allowed to exit the hole freely, even if we aren't on to scan
  • A small amarr tower, fuel for 10 days, a dissy, SMA, component assembly array, and 6 small laser batteries, to provide a refuge POS for all and sundry during the siege
  • Some T2 large warp bubbles for rape cage
  • A selection of ammo for said POS, to keep the war effort stocked; someone always run out halfway through
  • Core probes and combat probes, and probe launchers, so people can be refit to GTFO the hole
  • Nanite paste so the overheat whores can repair their cooked points midway through the bash
  • A heron, magnate, imicus or probe hull to fit up for emergency GTFO ship in case anyone fucks up on the bookmark can location
Then, of course, aside from the machinations in getting the batphone ready, we have to organise the fleet to run at least a reasonable approximation of a similar tank, to simplify the logi's work; get people blued to each other; get everyone the correct comms, and finally, get them to the hisec.

This is the anatomy of running a successful wormhole assault. Some in the corp are old hands at this, others totally noob. In the end, it takes a little bit of prep, and knowing what you need ahead of time is the key, but fucking up preparation will see a lot of time wasted, frustrations, and people deciding its not worth their time.

 All going well, we should have the guns incapped in half an hour and the POS on its timer well within 3 hours. Then we can get down to the business f finding other idiots to shoot and camping for the pinata.

Seven P's. Do them.

Culture wars in EVE Online

As CEO of Sudden Buggery, an incorporated venture intended to make me space-rich and internet famous, I lay awake at night a dozen times a fortnight, sweating with worry that someone may war dec us, which would of course prompt me to give the same advice I give to every noob on EVE-O to my corp, which is namely, to disappear up your own colon for 7 days.

Nevertheless, having observed the bucket brigade of tears attempting to put out the Great Fire of Lamedom which is hisec carebears commenting upon the upcoming Inferno war declaration systematics changes, vis a vis. "zomg its just going to be grief grief grief", and having recently watched the Operation Nekkar video posted by w-space brosufs EXHALE. I would like to say a few things, before this sentence becomes a monster with no end, about what I see as the evolving duality of cultures between us wormholers and at least hisec carebears. *deep breath*

I won't comment too much on brosec, because you have your nerds bathing in cheetas dust like the guys camping Rancer, you have 'honorable' red-flashy corps like Heretics who'll (95% of the time) respect a 1v1, and you have the sinister stabby-back brigade exemplified by Shadow Cartel, et al. who, I must say, do their job well. The morals of Lowsec are beyond this discussion.

Anyway, on with the pontification!

Having watched the OPERATION NEKKAR video, and Exhale's blatant attempt to sound like Lord M from RnK (gg guys), I witnessed a large slew of comments in the Eve News 24 page which, basically, equate to "luls, whatevs you reckon you picked on nubs cause u fail" *fingersnaps*

Believe it or not, there is a culture in the C5-6 reaches of w-space, of seeking and demanding good fights from the various entities which put in the time and effort to live there. This culture, as promulgated by Exhale. and others, can be confirmed by anyone who wishes to go onto Failheap. It is the recognition that everyone who dares live in C5 space should damn well be part of a loose brotherhood of sorts there for the same reasons, and above and beyond petty grievances of the individual fights won or fights lost. This is about having some fights, because you should certainly be space rich after a few months in C5+ space.

Indeed, groups go to seek out fights, fair or not, and if you consistently fail to deliver, then yes you will probably wake up one day to see a dozen dreads purging your placeholder towers one by one.

This brings us to my observation about the impending war dec mechanics changes. Yes, it will be cheaper to dec people. Yes, you can grief people. Yes it will cost you more to grief or wage logistic denial on the big alliances. But perhaps people should consider that out of this may grow a similar culture of PVP in highsec as occurs in C5+ space right now.

I know this is a wildly optimistic idea; from my experience hisec corporations tend towards immaturity as organisations, and with the individuals within them. Organisations of noob CEOs running noob herding operations full of noobs who are just starting the precipitous EVE Learning Curve O DoomTM are often ill-equipped to fight wars, even when faced with a lesser number of toons. Their CEO's let them down with poor advice, poor strategy, poor organisation and poor morale boosting (eg; signing off for a week is not uncommon). Hence your noob in a noob carebear corp will die stupidly, to people he has no hope of fighting (neutral RR alts propping 250k EHP Proteus' for example) and will quit the corp and/or game.

You almost never see properly equipped, properly organised groups of peers meet one another in hisec for consensual PVP. I think this comes down to the maturity level of the people involved, inasmuch as they enjoy picking on nubs and are too precious about ISK efficiency and reputation. Its a way to play, no doubt about that, but it is odd, is it not, that people don't just fight good fights in hisec very often? This is despite Floppie The Banjoclown's assertion that hisec wars are, in fact, a skill beyond "alts alts alts spies and neutral RR" - and this coming from the Skunkworks, who do PVP via quasi-exploits and game mechanic rorts, which has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with pushing the boundaries of the game to its limits - and seeing them changed.

In the end, the new war dec mechanics will actually, I think, protect the noobs who can socially engineer an ally or confederation, even if its not an actual Alliance. Finally, the supposedly elite mercs will find themselves embroiled in wars with each other they perhaps didn't expect, as the conflicts escalate beyond the initial aggressors. We might soon see people fronting to actual PVP, versus exploit trolling and neutral RR blobs.

Bring it on.