Saturday, May 31, 2014

Basics: Staying Hidden in Wspace

I had a good basic question from a reader via email.
You frequently mention that you warp into a new wormhole and "throw your probes out of the system" so people can't detect the scanning.  I was wondering what that means and how I do it.
Good question!  To explain it properly, first you need to understand the context, and that is hunting in wspace.  You want to find targets, and sometimes scan down sigs, without them noticing you are there.  If they know you are there, they'll POS up or else swap into nasty pointy ships.  I feel we need some humor to set the mood here:

The goal of the hunter is to see, but not be seen.  So, how does one go about stealthily looking for targets in a wspace system?

To see people in wspace, you can't use Local.  (Actually, you can see them via Local if they do talk, but of course the first rule of wspace club is: nobody talks in Local.)  You can only see someone who is uncloaked.  You'll see him on overview if he is on grid with you, or can see his ship using dscan.  Any time an uncloaked ship is within 14.3 AU of you, you'll see it when you dscan.  The same is true of scan probes: you can see them if they are within 14.3 AU.  Seeing scan probes is one of the more common ways to know someone is around, although not what ship it is. 

To avoid your ship being seen, the rule is "stay cloaked all the time".  This means that you hunt in a ship with a stealth cloak, and you use that cloak at pretty much all times except when you are on-grid with a target and attempting to kill it.

There are two main exceptions to "stay cloaked all the time".   One is that you have to uncloak briefly when you drop gate cloak after entering a system.  This will only appear to you as a second, and you cannot be locked once cloaked (as you see it).  However, from the point of view of other people on grid, and those watching on dscan, you are visible for about 10 seconds.  So they will have a fair chance to see you.

Here's what you should do routinely upon entering a system.  You should always dscan upon entering a system in wspace, while still holding gate cloak.  If you see ships and a tower, they are probably at the tower.  But you can use narrow-beam dscan to check that out.  If you do find a ship out in space, congrats.  You're in a fairly rare situation.  Go get 'im!

Once you've dscanned to check things out, you want to move off the wormhole and cloak as soon as possible.  Here's how to do that.  Right click on the wormhole and select Orbit at some distance.  20km is good, but mix it up with other distances.  Immediately upon doing this, your ship will start moving, and it will lose its gate cloak.  Click your microwarpdrive to get it going, then cloak as soon as possible.  (You can't cloak if you are within 2000m of anything, most particularly the wormhole.)  Usually you can cloak immediately. 

Once you are orbiting a wormhole cloaked at 15, 20, 25 or 30km (be random), you are very unlikely to be decloaked by anyone.  The volume is quite large.  Don't forget to bookmark the wormhole, so you can get back to it.  (Here's my article on the naming conventions I use for bookmarks.)

Another exception to "stay cloaked all the time" is that you must be uncloaked to fire probes.  Often you can do this as you burn off the wormhole just after you entered.  I combine the two actions unless I see a ship on scan; in that case I usually don't, since hiding your probes does take a bit of time and it also will take your attention away from the overview.  But if you see no ships, you can save time by launching probes.  Do the same moves as I just discussed above, except that just before you cloak, fire your probes.

What about the case where there is a ship on scan?  To avoid being seen, you should look for a place to fire probes that is outside of the range of any known target.  This is easier in larger systems; in general outer planets are good for this.  Warp around to various planets and see if there is one out of dscan of any ship.  (How do you know?  Dscan: if you can't see an uncloaked ship, it cannot see you.)  Sometimes you'll just have to fire probes in scan range of a tower, or ships that might be manned, or even known manned ships.  If so, do it and recloak as soon as possible.

But what about your scan probes?  Scan probes are visible on grid when you first deploy them.  After that, they are detectable only via dscan, and can be detected at all times except when they are moving.  (Scan probes cannot cloak.)  Even if nobody saw your ship when you uncloaked to fire probes, firing probes still leaves them sitting out where you fired them.  Anyone coming within 14.3 AU can dscan and see them.  Seeing scan probes is plenty of warning for anyone with any sense to realize that they are not alone in the system.

Because scan probes will give away your presence, you want to move them immediately to a location where they cannot be seen.  How is this possible?  It's possible if each scan probe is more than 14.3 AU away from every point in the system that anyone could be.  Since wormholes can appear as far as 8 AU from a planet, you want to move your probes to at least 24 AU away from any planet.

Here's how to hide your probes.  You move them just like you do when scanning, except that here you are trying to put the probes where there is nothing rather than something.  Bring up the system map, then set your scanning distance to 16 AU.  Now move the probes out of the system, such that all of bubbles showing the probes' coverage are at least 8 AU from all planets.  (8 AU is half of the 16 AU bubble size; you can eyeball this distance by comparing to the bubble size.) 

Press the "Analyze" button; the probes will warp to their assigned locations way outside the system.  (The scan itself will run, and of course never have a result since nothing can be out that far.)  This process of moving your probes away from where anyone can be to hide them is referred to colorfully as "throwing your probes out of the system".  (Anyway, I say it, and I got it from Penny.  Perhaps she is original.)

Note that it is not possible to scan things down and have scan probes remain hidden.  So you won't be able to find a gas site, for example, with a Venture in it without the Venture being able to see the probes on dscan.  You can attempt to minimize the amount of time that the probes are visible to a target.  But that's a different article.  An article which Penny has already written.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

PLEX is Money

The formidable mynnna, a guy who knows a bit about economics, has an article up at TMC entitled The Great PLEX Bubble.  As you can tell from the title, his argument is that PLEX are a bubble.
Given the context [a fact-filled discussion of the supply and demand for PLEX], the conclusion is obvious: people buying PLEX off the market are tending to hoard them, rather than use or resell them.
I'll repeat here what I wrote there, since it is buried there anyway, and expand a bit.  My thesis is as follows: PLEX are in a bubble, but that does not mean what most people think it means, namely that PLEX will eventually "pop".  The PLEX bubble won't pop because PLEX are being used as money.  Money is a bubble that does not pop.  Due to peculiarities of its design, EVE has two forms of money, splitting the normal functions of money in two.

I.  About Money

What is money, and what are its functions?  You can look at the definition at wiki for some insight:
Money is any object or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a particular country or socio-economic context. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally in the past, a standard of deferred payment. Any kind of object or verifiable record that fulfills these functions can be considered money. 
Money is historically an emergent market phenomenon establishing a commodity money, but nearly all contemporary money systems are based on fiat money. Fiat money, like any check or note of debt, is without intrinsic use value as a physical commodity.
ISK is a fiat money, the ultimate fiat in a sense.  It does not need a "legal tender" clause.  It is implemented in software; within New Eden, ISK-as-money is a physical law.  Now consider the functions of money.  Certainly ISK is the medium of exchange in New Eden, and its unit of account.  ISK do store value.  So, ISK have definite monetary qualities there.  However, ISK are relatively poor as a store of value.

II.  The ISK Economy

Why are ISK a poor store of value?  It does not matter why, for the purposes of my argument; only that it is.  You can skip this section if you want.  However, it's worth understanding anyway.

ISK are a poor store of value because they are being created much faster than they are destroyed.  (Two step computed the rate of ISK dilution in 2012 as 1 trillion ISK per day entering the economy.)  Note that I avoid the word "inflation" because it has been coopted in modern times to mean a measured rise in "general" price level, whatever that is exactly.  It's inherently ill-defined and thus subject to endless debate.  Dilution is a precise concept: there are more ISK in existence.  This is a measurable thing and, for ISK, a confirmed fact.

Players can create as much ISK as they like, simply by ratting in null, or farming sleepers for blue loot, which is then sold to NPC buy orders.  Both of these are massive faucets.  (Incursions are also apparently a pretty big faucet, though I don't know exactly how.)  There are also many sinks, but the sinks are mostly one-off things (skillbooks, BPCs) or related to production; they are inherently limited.  And of course they are also disincentives for behavior; you can't farm a sink.

What is the purpose of this ISK dilution?  It is to subsidize the faucet regions (null and wspace) at the expense of the sink region (highsec).  Without the huge faucet of rat bounties, null would be an abandoned wasteland.  Similarly, wspace would be a lot more abandoned without blue loot.  Killing sleepers does have a use-valuable product (sleeper salvage, particularly nanoribbons), and so there would be some chance for market forces to help keep it viable.  But the same is not true of null: little resource extraction or production happens there.  (I hope this changes with Crius.)  And yet those huge fleet battles are priceless publicity for EVE, and the fascinating metagame with comrades keeps people subbing.  Thus, ISK subsidy.

III.  ISK and PLEX Contend

Returning to the main argument, we observe empirically that ISK is anything but a reliable store of value.  Thus, there is an opening for a second form of money.  This will be whatever commodity is found to be best at holding value; it must be in limited supply and very hard to produce, if producible at all.  In addition it should be highly liquid.  You guessed it: in EVE that commodity is PLEX.  PLEX is superb as money in this important respect.  Not ideal -- the ideal money cannot be created; obviously players can create PLEX.  But PLEX creation is sharply limited by real-world economic constraints, namely, that PLEX cost real money.  And also it is balanced by the constant removal of PLEX via use.  As such, it is not a serious problem.

Now, what happens when you have two currencies in contest?  Generally, one will out-compete the other and dominate it utterly; the loser fades away.  The reasoning here is a bit subtle, and I refer you to this excellent and provocative long-form piece on it.  Put short: because money is necessarily more valuable than the use-value of the underlying commodity, it is always in a bubble.  (The disproportion in values is extreme for fiat currencies, which have a use-value of essentially zero.)  However, unlike "normal" speculative bubbles, there is always a need for money; thus although there may be multiple money-like commodities, there can never be zero.  There must always be at least one.  And all of them look like a bubble unless you know them as money.  But multiple currencies are not stable: one will be better than another, and there is a positive feedback loop for the better one, and a negative feedback loop for the weaker.  If everyone piles into dollars, you want to hold dollars, because pesos will be become worthless if everyone piles into dollars.  Free market currencies are like Highlander: there can be only one.  (That one, historically, was gold.  It took the head of silver in a brutal contest during the 19th century.)

However, the free-market outcome -- one commodity is money, and all others not -- will only happen if the currencies are competing on a free and level playing field.  If one has a government behind it, it can take the fiat route; a legal tender law can prevent its complete demonetization.  (And indeed, fiat took the head of gold in the 20th century.)  Still, a fiat currency may retain only very limited value compared to better currencies.  This shows that it is not being used as a medium of savings; it is being used only for exchange.  Many currencies in the world today are like this.  If you get paid in pesos, you take them and spend them as soon as you can on rent and food.  If any are left and you want to save, you buy dollars.

In our case, there is no way to fully monetize PLEX, that is, not unless CCP does some serious programming.  Recall that ISK is part of the physical laws of New Eden.  (Aurum -- a PLEX derivative -- is kinda sorta a step in that direction.  But I doubt we shall ever see people spending milli-Aurum at Jita to buy a DCII.)  And ISK serve a strong purpose: taxing highsec to benefit null and wspace.  So ISK will always be with us.  But there is a way to take a lot of ISK's monetary bubbliness out of it: that way is for everyone with value to store to buy PLEX to store it.  That is what people are doing.

It is a bubble, mynnna.  Yes, indeed.  Money is a bubble that does not pop.

IV.  What Could be Done?

There are a few ways in which CCP might attack PLEX, if they wanted to de-monetize it.  The problem is the dilution of ISK: there are not enough sinks, and too many rich player-controlled sources.  As such, the price of PLEX should be sensitive to these things.  If CCP adjusts the balance of source and sink towards more sinkiness, then we should see fewer players storing value in PLEX and the price drop some.  They could do that; indeed the new industry coming in Crius appears to be more of a sink than the old.  But I doubt that the amount we are talking here is significant, and in any case the arms race out in null is not going away.  Those supercapitals don't build themselves.  Highsec must pitch in.

(Incidentally, for some exploration of what would be needed to have a rock-hard ISK, which would certainly defeat PLEX as money, you can read my old post, Towards Hard Currency in EVE.)

I see little strong reason why CCP would want to demonetize PLEX.  The main reason is that players whine about PLEX prices; that is not a strong reason.  There is at least a colorable argument that in letting PLEX bubble, CCP is squeezing out content creators.  Probably true, but not that important.  The people being squeezed out are the most marginal ones, those who can produce more than 500m per month but less than 700 (or a billion, or whatever the PLEX price is at), and refuse to pay money to subscribe.  Also, plenty of people create content without PLEXing accounts.  And for that matter, plenty of people are PLEXing without creating much content.  (I discuss this a bit with Gevlon, who criticized multiboxers.)

There are certainly good reasons why CCP should encourage PLEX monetization.  Remember that each PLEX is purchased using IRL money.  Thus, if PLEX are hoarded to preserve value, CCP gets the use of that money indefinitely.  (See the wiki on seignorage.)  They earn interest on it by putting it in a real-world bank, or they can invest it as they choose.  Another good reason for CCP to want PLEX to monetize is that it raises the PLEX:ISK price.  Higher PLEX costs are ruinous to RMTers, since the PLEX:ISK price is essentially a floor below which nobody will do RMT.  So, profits are recaptured for the company.  (The goto man in the EVE blogosphere on RMT is the Nosy Gamer; his most recent assessment of the situation is CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Reviewing PLEX.)

Thus, not only is PLEX monetization happening, it is good for CCP.  They don't have to do anything to benefit as things now stand; the process will continue.  And they seem to know this (read what mynnna writes about what Dr. E. presented at fanfest.)  As such, I do not expect PLEX monetization to reverse, but rather to continue.  And thus, if you are looking to store value, the time to get into PLEX is now.  Next PLEX sale they have, I rate PLEX a strong buy.  Next PLEX sale, I'll be putting my money where my mouth is.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spooking a Vargur

It's the AM, and I am out hunting in my Manticore.  Bookmarks from last night are valid; my system has only its static wormhole.  I cross into an eerily deserted C4b.  Most systems in wspace have customs offices at each planet, usually player-owned but sometimes Interbus.  Rarely you see systems like this one, with no COs at all.  Such systems are rarely occupied, and this is no exception.

This system is not scanned.  I guess my colleague just instatiated our own wormhole, per company policy, but did not cross.  OK, I can work with that.  I purge the old bookmarks from last night's roam, and realize too late I also deleted the bookmark to the wormhole in my system.  Oh well, have to re-do that one later.  I deploy probes and get cracking.  There are two other wormholes incident.  One is to C2, the other to C5.  I go to C2a first, since that will get me a highsec access just in case something happens.

C2a is quite dull.  But I do get my highsec.  I wait outside five minutes.  Then I come back in.  This system has a couple wormhole connections, but I think I will try the C5 from C4b next.  I am hoping to ninja mine core gas if I cannot find anyone, and it is closer to home.  I warp across C2a, jump back into C4b, then cross to the wormhole and jump.

C5a has one tower, and dscan shows nobody around.  I check the system size: medium.  Everything is in range except one outer planet which has no moons and no sigs.  Nothing to find there.  OK, I'll scan.  I move off the wormhole, fire probes, then cloak.  Now I get busy scanning.

My first order of business is to check for core gas sites. There are two sigs out of the nine that are appropriately low in signature.  (You can tell this by the size of their sig-bubble; lower signatures have bigger bubbles.)  I ignore all the other sigs, then scan down these two.  The first is a data site: ignored.  The second is another data site.  Ignored.

There's no good gas.  But there are still the other seven sigs.  I'll look for more wormholes.  I de-ignore everything, then re-ignore the two data sites.  There's a few of the sites that got scanned down into points incidental to the earlier scanning.  So I start with these.  Since I was scanning using 4AU probe distance, I should be able to use 1 AU on these.

The first sig is a wormhole, which I warp to.  It is a nullsec.  This opens a new possible activity: maybe I will ghostbust later.  I sit at the wormhole while continuing to scan.  There's a low-value gas site -- ignore.

There is a second wormhole which I almost get on the first try.  As the second scan runs, I notice there is a Heron on grid.  My torps won't do much to him, particularly if he moves.  Even so, I can kill him if I get close and he just sits there.  I am cloaked, of course, and I am 20km off the wormhole.  So I cannot close quickly.  But I start heading at him anyway, on the off chance that he's an idiot and just sits there uncloaked until I crawl into scrambler range.  But before I get more than a few thousand meters, he cloaks.  He seems to have come in from nullsec.  Strange that I did not hear it.  Hmm.  Well, it's too late to hide my probes; unless he's an idiot he knows someone is around.  I'll keep scanning.

The remaining sigs go down quickly.  I find the static, which is both EOL and highly disrupted.  (Won't be going there.)  I find a connection to further C5 space.  And then I find two more nullsec wormholes.

I occasionally dscan, trying to see if there are probes out from the Heron.  Strangely, I never see any.  However I do see a new ship on dscan: a Vargur.  Is it at the tower?  It appears to be.  But it disappears while I am still finding the tower among a swirl of moons.  I have my dscan range reduced to find the tower, so I try again using max range: nothing.  The Vargur is no longer in system, or else it cloaked.  It probably logged out.  I bookmark the tower anyway, just in case.  I am hoping the Vargur logged out and I will see an Epithal or something else I can gank log in.  But this does not happen.

After a few minutes of lurking about, I guess the Vargur pilot is not logging back in.  What should I do with myself?  Well, I have a route to nullsec, so maybe I'll do some ghostbusting.  With three different null possibilities, at least one should lead to a nice idle area of null.  So, I warp to the first nullsec wormhole to pop out and look around.

I pop out.  The first thing I notice is one guy in local.  Boo.  But I also notice there is a ghost site.

The local is probably idle, explaining his non-running of the ghost site.  Or perhaps he simply has anoms off and has not noticed it yet.  Or, perhaps he's an explorer in a light ship.  That Heron I saw, maybe.  Those seem like the most likely possibilities.

Ghost sites are quite variable, but some have some very nice treasure.  I want it.  Should I wait out my polarization?  I figure being faster to return is worth the small risk of being killed because polarized, so I duck back into C5a immediately.  There's nobody waiting there, and I warp back to C4b, and then home to C4a.  Then I reship into my ghostbusting Tengu.  I have to pause to re-scan my wormhole out, but this is easy since its 3D location is shown on my system map.  Then I fly to the wormhole, remember to bookmark it, and traverse, again risking polarization.  Then back into C5a, and across to the nullsec exit.

Out in null, the guy is still in local.  I move off the wormhole, fire probes, and cloak.  These are combat probes, loaded back when I scanned in my system.  I doubt I will be able to find this guy, or I will find him at a tower.  If he is at a tower he is probably idle/AFK, I can run the ghost site fairly safely. But if he is exploring or otherwise not AFK, I hope that my probes will scare him off.  So I want them to be seen.  I don't do anything tricky; I first cover the whole system with 32AU probe distance.  There's a ship close to a planet.

At first I think the ship is right at the planet, i.e. in a POS.  So I consider centering at the planet.  But then I realize it is a bit too far out for that to be likely.  So I center on the hit, and scan again.  I get 100%.  It's a Vargur.  Huh?  That can't be a coincidence.  I think to dscan, and sure enough there's a Vargur on dscan, with the same ship name as I saw in C5a.  Aha.  He's from C5, then, not a local.

I can't see what he's doing here; no site appears on my list.  I bookmark him, and consider warping over for a look.  But I certainly cannot gank him and it is very unlikely that I can prevail against whatever he is doing there.  (Later I realize I missed his site, a DED level 8 Serpentis somethingorother, because I had only Ships selected for display on my scanner.)  But a Vargur is unlikely to come and gank me in the ghost site.  Should I run it with him here?

As I consider that, I move the probes up above the system and into a blanket-scanning configuration.  (Here's a link to Penny on how to perform a blanket scan.)  Then I scan again.  Ah.  The Vargur is gone.  It came from the wspace system connected via the wormhole I am orbiting at 20km.  It is still in Local.  Therefore it must have cloaked up in the system.

The wormhole sounds.  I watch.  A Heron appears, then immediately returns into wspace.  That's odd.  I probe-scan again, and once again I see a ship signature: the Vargur.
I see you.  You can't see me.  Except on Local.
What's he doing?  Dscan shows the Vargur.  Then I see it on grid.  It lands on the wormhole, and bwoomp, I am alone.  (This whole guaranteed-safe-by-infallible Local thing is really nice, except that how in blazes does anybody hunt out here?)  The Heron must have been a scout to make sure the wormhole was clear on both sides.

Ha ha!  My probes did just what I had hoped.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Now I warp to the ghost site.  En route I uncloak and get my tank turned on.  I land on grid, and get into the normal tempo of the thing, scanning the cans and then going to the best one first.  I add an occasional extra glance at Local.  Nobody appears.  I get two cans, with one low-value blueprint each, before the Serpentis come.
Ghost site go boom.
I also discover something I had not realized: the range on my Data Analyzer II is 6000m.  That doesn't seem like much but it is a significant help in these sites, because time is limited and you are decelerating when you come up to a can.

Then I head out into null.  After a successful ghostbusting run, I return to find the guy in the system again.  This time I just warp past as fast as I can.  I'm not mean, just greedy.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Covetor in C5

It's the weekend, and I have had some time to play.  I've been out a lot today, scanning down a substantial constellation.  Earlier I ganked an Epithal in my trusty Manticore.  I took some hours off to work around the house IRL, then came back to New Eden for another look around.  Maybe someone will be out and about.

I head out and kill a reinforced mobile depot that I scanned down earlier three systems down the chain.  I always attack these things when I find them, but they reinforce; and of course 24 hours later I am long gone.  So someone else benefits (if anyone does).  But karma has come around, and this time it's me who gets the kill.  I grab some modest loot, head home, and stash it.  Time to go the other way.

I head into C4b, and then C4c, neither of which has anything interesting happening.  Then on to C4e.  There's a fair number of sigs here, and earlier my corpmate did not fully scan it down.  He only scanned for wormholes, and there is only one (a C5) besides the one I came in.  I'll search down all the sigs to see if there are any wormholes he missed, and/or new. 

Fifteen minutes later and ten sigs wiser, I know the truth.  There are no other wormholes.  Onward.  I proceed to the C5a wormhole and jump.  As usual, the first thing I do after loading grid for the new system is dscan.  There are several ships, including a ...

A Covetor?  Weird.  It's probably at a tower, but do they have any ore anoms here?  Yes, they have one.  OK, I'll point the dscan at it and... Covetor!  A thing I can kill!  By itself!

No!  It's a trap!  I have just been scanning down C4c, right next door.  The people in here might have seen the probes, and decided to set a trap if I come in.  A lone Covetor sitting out by itself?  In C5?  These people must know better than to mine without at least a sound picket!

When my colleague found this system earlier, he evidently did not scan it down, but he did bookmark one of the towers.  Dscan shows that tower has two ships at it.  I'll check it out first before having a look at the Covetor.  I warp to the tower at 100km.  The ships are there and unmanned.  Hmm.

Well, I've done the easy and fast groundwork.  So, let's get a look at this guy.  I warp to the rocks at 10km.  (Ore anoms are tricky.) 

As I warp over, my paranoia resumes.  No.  C5 guys do not mine alone.

I land on grid and there she is, about 80km from me.  She's got a jetcan right next to her, which does not help my fearful state.  She's making it too easy!  Trap!  Not only that, but when I look at her I can see what she's mining.  Pyroxeres.  You mine that in highsec.  Nobody mines Pyro in wspace.  You mine the good ore and sell it.  I suppose you might mine pyro if you are making something and want... whatever it refines into.  Some mineral.  Still, it's unlikely.

Even so, I wonder if I can get in and kill her before... whatever it is happens.  It is probably just uncloak, bubble, etc.  Still... I'm curious to see their trap.

What else can I find out?  Wormhol.es shows they are Euro time zone.  It's 7:30 here (Eastern time), so by now it is pretty late in Europe.  There's a fair amount of Cyrillic names for things visible on dscan, so my guess is they are Russian.  Moscow is 8 hours ahead of me.  So it's the very late night or early morning there.  It may well be that this corp is mostly offline, with just one crazy night-owl up mining.

Well, there are more ships I can see on scan.  The first tower had no pilots.  There's several more unaccounted for.  I am going to have to bounce off something anyway to get over to the miner.  I'll look for the ships I don't know about yet: a Devoter and a Cerberus.

Empty!
I dscan a bit to find the right planet.  There they are, along with an Orca (which I am not concerned about).  I warp over to the planet, and narrow the POS location down to the right moon.  I warp in at 100km.  The Orca is manned, although what use that is inside the POS field I don't know.  The ships are unmanned. 

That's decided it.  If you're setting a trap, you really don't want scary-looking ships sitting out where they'll spook the target.  That's what I am thinking, at any rate.  And also that if I don't go for it, I'll regret it.  So I am decided: kill or die trying.

I warp to the Covetor's can at 10km.  I land about 6000m from the Covetor.  Reach out and touch someone.  I pause for a picture of the idyllic mining action.
When suddenly...
Then set my orbit around her at 2500, and uncloak.  I get my systems active; she's locked and scrambled.  Now her fate is sealed unless she has help.
This is what you get for not being a trap.
She does not have help.

Boom.  She's dead, and I immediately start locking the pod.  Alas, she's alert by now and warps promptly.  Good on her there.

I move in and loot the wreck for what I can.  Then I scoot off and cloak, and bounce off a nearby celestial so I can come back to watch at a decent range.

Nothing happens.  I am watching on dscan, though, and I can see a Rifter appear where there was not one before.  I warp to the wormhole I entered at 20km, cautiously.  Sure enough, it appears she's deduced where I came from.  The Rifter is sitting on my wormhole in close orbit.

Thou shalt not pass!
It appears Riadri is going to try to go for me when I leave.  Well, there is no hurry.  I will just make a perch here and wait her out.  I warp off to make a perch.  Then I sit and bore her until she gives up.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anomymity in Space


Here is an amusing new fitting I dreamed up.

It's a high-slot item, the Signature Disruptor.  It is passive and only one is allowed per ship.  It has low fitting requirements so that any ship can mount one.  When you have one fitted and it is enabled, you are anonymized while out in space.  In a station, there is no effect.

When you undock with a Signature Disruptor fitted, there is a special long undock sequence.  First, if in highsec a warning requiring affirmation will be prominently displayed that anonymity is frowned on and you will be chased by the police.  Next your character is removed from the station and local, as if you had logged out.  Then there is a special long undock delay for up to two minutes, where you do not display at all in local, the station, etc.  Finally you are placed in space at the undock and back into local, as per below.

When you are anonymized:
  • your name appears in local (in kspace) as "Unknown". 
  • your pilot info shows a special "Unknown" pilot.
  • you display no corporation/alliance tag.
  • your portrait is replaced with a generic anonymous one.
  • your ship name appears on others' dscans as "Anonymized".  The actual ship name is not forgotten and will be shown in stations and if the Signature Disruptor is ever taken off or disabled.
  • your security status is -10 -- you are flashy red.  Faction police will hunt you.
  • you do not gain bounties, security status, standings, etc. for killing NPCs.
  • you do not lose security status for PVP.
  • you cannot initiate PVP in highsec (including against war targets) without Concordokken.
  • locator agents cannot find you in space (they still can if you are in a station).
Be the villain.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Quick Hits

There's been a couple of really interesting posts I have run across recently, that I wanted to keep track of and think about.  Since I am writing them down anyway, you get them too.

On TMC, a really interesting article by FearlessLittleToaster on the woes of nullsec fleet fights.  The thesis is this: because of logistics, there's been an escalation race where logistics can out-rep an entire fleet.  Higher alpha is required to get any kills.  Higher alpha fleets are deployed.  Higher alpha causes the other side to escalate in ship class.  Then the process repeats.  We're getting toward the end of that, though, as there are no larger ship classes to go to.  Anyway, interesting stuff.  The author promises another article with his ideas on what to do to fix the problem.  (I will update for that.)

Since I already have proposed a partial solution, I might as well plug it.  Create an attrition mechanic that does not rely on the players, but rather, crowdedness itself.  I am guessing that FearlessLittleToaster will come up with something related to nerfing remote reps.

At The Wild Rose of Molden Heath, a fascinating recap by Kaeda Maxwell of the use of battlecruisers in EVE.  Since I know very little of EVE history, and very little about what people do in null and lowsec, this is all new to me and quite interesting.

While I am on the topic of EVE history (I just created a tag for it), I should definitely link to Sugar's series The History of Expansions.  Every one of these is worth reading for the EVE aficionado.

One other interesting thing.  It seems that CCP is planning to nerf the use of scanning boost parts, by making them active modules.  That is, they will turn on and therefore you cannot use them when cloaked.  A boon for offgrid boosters, a nerf to a lot of super-scanning ships.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Basics: Wormhole Pickets

A wormhole picket is a cloaked ship that is used to monitor a wormhole for alien traffic.

Game Mechanics Used

When a wormhole is traversed, any ship on grid with the wormhole and looking in its direction will see it flash (which is somewhat subtle).  Also, regardless of camera angle a distinctive noise will be heard.  I refer to this noise as the "wormhole noise", and often try to transcribe it as "bwoomp-crackle".  (Here is a youtube video about it, although unfortunately recorded with music on.)  Wormhole noise will vary in loudness depending on how far your camera's point of view is from the wormhole.  You can hear it pretty far off if your environment is quiet, but I prefer to be very close so I can play music and not miss it.

Since you don't need to be watching to hear noises, you can monitor the wormhole without actually looking at the screen it is being displayed on.  The client can be minimized or underneath, although this makes it harder to see who came in before they cloak.  Indeed, you can monitor a wormhole from across the room.

Setting up a Picket

For a picket to work, be sure your sound is working.  Assuming that is the case, setting up a picket is quite simple.  Your goals here are as follows:
(1) be on grid with the wormhole, within "Look at" distance (100km)
(2) be as far from the wormhole as possible, subject to (1), convenience, and any offensive desires
(3) be cloaked

Of those, (1) and (3) are pretty self-explanatory.  Why (2)?  Because there is always a small chance of being uncloaked by people zooming off the wormhole.  And there is also always some chance that your connection dies; in this case your ship will automatically uncloak before warping off and being logged off.  Finally, I suspect that it is possible for people warping to the wormhole to uncloak you if they happen to be close to you as they come out of warp.

So, here's how to do it.  If you are in the system where you want it, but not on grid with the wormhole, warp to it at 70km or 100km.  A ship with a covert ops cloak should be cloaked while warping.  A ship with a lesser cloak must wait until it lands on grid.  In either case, immediately orbit the wormhole at your current distance so that you are no longer directly in line with a known celestial.  Finally, use Look At to get a short perceptual distance from the wormhole.  After a while of orbiting, you are likely to be out of line with everything and you can stop.

If you are on grid with the wormhole usually it is because you just came through it.  In this case, use "Orbit at 30" to get distance, and before cloaking, pulse your microwarp if you have one to speed it up.  30km here is an example of convenience.  If you have spare time, you can move further out, but this means stopping by hand.  Alternatively, you can bounce off a nearby celestial and come back at range.

Examples of Use

There can be many reasons for wanting to know when a ship transits a wormhole.  Perhaps the most common is monitor your home system while you do PI with an alt.  PI runs only take a short while, and are relatively low risk anyway.  Have two accounts; one can picket your static wormhole while the other does PI, then you swap places.

You can use pickets while doing PVE, i.e. killing sleepers for ISK.  Generally, it is better to zip up than picket, but you won't always want to do that.

Another common situation where you will picket wormholes (often more than one) is when your corp is transporting stuff to and/or from known space.  In this case you cannot be zipped up.  Once you have a route and have determined that the systems along the route seem to be idle enough to move transports through, you want to keep watch on them to make sure they have stayed that way.  So, you picket the wormholes in the direct path out.  If you have additional pilots, you might also picket other wormholes in the chain.

A less common use is when you have found a target and are going to gank him.  Here, you don't want to be interfered with, or at least you need to know when your target's friends are coming to help him.  Perhaps your target is in system B with a connection to system C, and you've determined that C is his home.  In that case you might picket the B->C wormhole before attempting your gank.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An Intrusion

It's the weekend.  I killed a pair of miners earlier, something I've never done before.  So I am in a good mood.

I am also in a good mood because I am outside, on a sunny but cool late spring day.  I am watching boys (mostly) playing baseball.  Or a modest approximation of baseball, as played by children of ages seven and eight.

I'm a coach for my team, though not the one who pitches today.  So, when my team is up to bat I coach near first base.  My job is to keep on the boys about paying attention to their running and not the ball.  And running through the bag.  Also, of course, offering positive feedback about their hitting and running as much as is reasonable.  On defense, I have to position several of my players almost every inning, since they have very little idea of where they should be playing.  Then I watch them to make sure they are ready and paying attention.  (Small boys lack much focus, and baseball as played by this age group has much down time.)  And I yell at them to throw to first, remind them of where forced outs are, etc.  I try to encourage them all even when they fail.  It's all very low key.  We are losing 5-2 after the first inning, but that is not really dampening my mood at all.

I am out in the field, watching my guys fail to get another out at first base, although they do try, when I get a text.  I pull out the phone and have a quick look, but I cannot read it at all in this bright sunlight, and I should be paying attention.  After the next hit, there's a delay as the other team gets their next boy up to bat.  I take off my sunglasses and shade my phone with my other hand, and I can read it.  It's Jayne.
Crap.  There's nothing like being helpless as your tower is attacked to spoil the mood.  But I figure it should take the enemy, whoever they are, some time to do serious damage.  My tower is better designed than last time, at least.  It has a mix of small artillery and ECMs, as well as the small amount of other stuff.  And Jayne is there.  Our one guy with Starbase Defense Management is one of his characters, so he can do what he can with the tools there.  (Come Kronos, we're going to have a lot more starbase defenders.)

Meanwhile, the ball game rolls on.  My team is up to bat, bottom of the second.  We get several hits, but the opponents have a couple of good players in the infield.  These kids can actually throw and catch decently, unlike many at their age.  So, combined with my team's underwhelming hitting, they are getting outs.  We don't score at all.  Back into the field, and the last inning repeats itself.  We get one out before the opponent gets their five runs, which is the league's per-inning scoring limit.  And we swap again.  My team is up to bat, and I am near first base in foul territory.  Buzzzt.  A new text arrives.  This time I am right on it.
I feel better.  I have little idea what's going on, but Jayne wouldn't say that unless the enemy were doing something quite inexplicable.  Enough so that I doubt they are serious in attacking.

But back to important spaceship baseball business.  My better hitters are up, including The Boy leading off.  He whacks his usual hit, which is too strong to act like a bunt but too weak to get out of the infield.  As usual, the hit almost reaches third base then dies.  With nobody on base, there is no force-play over there; they have to throw the ball to first base.  The throw is off, and the first baseman has to leave the bag to grab it.  He tries to get back, but The Boy beats him out!  He runs exactly the way we've repeatedly told them: don't look at the ball after you hit it, head down and run run run, hit the bag at full speed, overrun it.  So I am proud.  Ha.  Good times.  Take that, stupid EVE.  The next batter gets a single, then the next gets another hit that makes it slightly out into the outfield.  Balls in the outfield mean the kids are allowed to try for extra bases; The Boy sees this and alertly scoots home.  Yay us.  The rest of the inning goes downhill, with two outs at first and a tag at third (not forced).  We do score another run.  But now we're down 10-4.

Their raps.  This inning we have one of our weaker players playing pitcher.  The "pitcher" at this level does not actually pitch; the other team's coach does that.  But he is allowed to stand at the pitcher's mound.  The pitcher is about the most important defender at this level of baseball, because the majority of hits will be fielded by him.  If he can throw, and the first baseman can catch, you get outs.  If he can't throw, or does not know where to throw, you don't.  In this case, he can't throw effectively.  He gets close on one hit that goes right of the mound, but otherwise is not even getting close to getting outs.  After the other team loads up the bases, he gets confused on two plays and does not get a throw off to anywhere.  They get their five runs.

Buzzzt.
I like the sound of that.  Evil laughter is unlikely unless there is little real danger.  I am not sure when I can be on, so I don't answer that one.  Baseball ends when it ends, although we do have a time limit on starting innings.

By this time it is clear the other team is just better.  They have slightly worse hitting and much better fielding. We get a few more runs, while they score their five in each inning.  Final score: 20-8.  We do the post game "good sportsmanship" rituals, and I award the game ball to a kid for trying hard and paying attention.  Then most of the kids have to leave.  (Chop chop!  On to the next scheduled item!)

I am still doing the "post game talk with parents" thing, gently encouraging one of my players' Dad to get out and play catch with him.  New text.
That sounds rather final.  Knowing something of how EVE fights go, I doubt there is anything for me to do now.  I have nowhere to be, so I hang out to enjoy the day.  The Boy sucks me into a game of 4 on 4 baseball, kids vs adults (me and three moms).  We have a good time.  There's no hurry to get back in the 'verse, so far as I can tell.

Just as I get home there's a new text:
I go to get online.  But that's another story.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Kronos: Transports

The buzz in the EVE blogosphere is all about the revisions to transports that will be coming with Kronos.  There are three forum posts detailing proposed changes: freighters, blockade runners, and deep space transports.

Most of the hubbub in the larger 'verse is coming from nullsec and lowsec people worried about jump freighting.  Some of it is about normal freighters.  I don't use a jump freighter so I have no opinion worth sharing on that.  However, I do run a normal freighter from time to time, and the changes there don't seem to me to be terrible.  Basically I can get similar performance to today, just by paying some for rigs.  I probably won't attempt to rig my post-Kronos freighter to replicate its current stats, though.  Instead I will go with probably one cargo expander and two hulls, since I'd like to be able to autopilot and I am more paranoid about ganking than many.

People seem happy with the blockade runner changes, which includes having two highslots on all of them.  This makes me happy because I currently use Viators, which have one highslot.  Obviously a stealth cloak is a must-have; much higher priority than a probe launcher.  Still, a probe launcher would mitigate the possibility of being trapped when using EOL wormholes, and/or having one popped on you intentionally.

My big disappointment is the Deep Space Transport revision.  I had hoped that the DST revision would position DSTs more or less between T1 industrials and Orcas in EHP and cargo. (T1: 20k EHP, 40k m^3; Orca: 200k EHP, 120k m^3.  I was hoping for something around a geometric mean, 60k EHP and 70k m^3.)  The current proposal does not really do that.  What CCP proposes is to basically remove the cargohold as such, instead giving each DST a 50000m^3 corp hangar.  (The unexpanded cargohold will drop from around 4000m^3 to 1000m^3, so expanding it won't really be worth doing.)  This is a change in the right direction, but really 50000m^3 is not that much more than an Iteron V carries.  The DST is going to be harder to kill, of course.  A lone stealth bomber won't do it, so there is some value to it.  They will be able to fit the new medium micro jump drives, so you have to tackle with a warp scrambler.  But I think most people in wspace, at least, are using scramblers anyway.  It's an argument for putting two scramblers on my default fit, but I'll have to actually see them being used, and used riskily, to do that.

The one thing I do see going for new DSTs is that you can't just bubble them; they can micro jump out.  But this does not seem very valuable, since everyone will have a warp scrambler, and in wspace everyone appears within about 6-8km of a point.  (Warp scramblers turn off microwarpdrives and micro jump drives.)  Sabres will still be a problem.

Overall, you get a ship that has little more cargo capacity than an Iteron V, for many times the cost, and somewhat more survivability.  I am underwhelmed.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Minor Massacre

It's the weekend, and you know what that means.  It means I can interact with Russians and maybe even Australians, if only I log on early.  Well, let's see if we can't get some international flavor in the killin' today.

I log on, warping into my safespot that is out in the middle of nowhere in my system.  Dscan shows nothing, which is no surprise, because there is nothing within 15AU.  The probe scanner shows two sigs.  One of those is going to be our static wormhole, which might be EOL by now but should still there from last night.  The other one... well, what is it?

I fire probes, then recloak.  Now I look at our bookmarks.  Ah, there's a C4c marked, and in the right place.  It appears someone has already been on, and scanned.  That's nice; saves me having to do it.  (Thanks, Jeedmo.)  I recall my probes, then warp to our static at 20km.  I want to see if it is still there before considering the new wormhole.

It's still there.  But I do a dscan almost out of habit, and it shows something quite unexpected.  A Retriever, a Venture, and ten sleeper wrecks.  Eh wot?  I know we have, or least had yesterday, two mining anoms.  So I guess someone is mining in my system!

Let me just interject to point out how weird this is.  Nobody mines rocks in wspace, at least not in midlevel wspace. And nobody but nobody mines rocks in someone else's system.  Well, apparently that's wrong.  At least one corp does.  EVE is strange.  OK, forward.

I point at various sites with a narrow-band dscan.  Eventually I find a site with the Venture in it, but not the Retriever.  I warp to the site at 10km; time to get on grid.  The Retriever is not in the other ore site either.  That's odd.  Let's try a scan with full 360.  Ah, the Retriever is gone.

It is possible it just left.  But most likely, the Retriever just filled up and will be back.  I can wait.

I drop onto grid with a bunch of rocks, the wrecks of five sleeper frigs that guarded them, and the Venture.  The Venture is moving towards the wrecks.  It might be a salvager, or it might just want the blue loot that's on one of them.  As I watch this, the Retriever warps back on grid about 110km from me.  I can't see what it is doing; is it mining?  I cannot see the laser.  Well, it's not a Procurer at least.  Unlikely to be bait.  It deploys three drones.  (Three?  More weirdness.)  That's bad news for me; even a few hobgoblins can kill a stealth bomber.  I will need a different ship.

I look for ways to warp close to either enemy.  I can certainly get to the wrecks, but they are not particularly close to the enemy.  Well, they are close to the Venture right now.  But it loots a wreck, then warps off.  OK, what about the Retriever?  There are a few large asteroids sort of close to it, but nothing obvious.  The Venture warps back into the site, near the Retriever.  With careful spin and zoom, I get a closer look without being close:
Now I know what they are doing.
Now I can see what they are doing: there is a teeny weeny Arkonor asteroid that they are mining.  I could not see it before.

Two miners, in striking range, without anything more than a few drones for defense.  I can reship and be here in a minute.  Everything is clear to me.  WWPD?  I know, and I will do it.

I bookmark the Ark asteroid, then warp home.  They may have eyes on my tower, but it's not in dscan range from the miners, at least.  I will swap ships fast as I can.  I land on grid, inside the force field.  This of course uncloaks me.  The clock is ticking now -- maybe.  In any case, I reship into my Onyx, Brick.  400 DPS, a huge tank, and 16km of warp bubble.  Immediately, I warp to the Arkonor bookmark.

As I cross the system, I turn on my massive tank.  If they do not warp very, very soon, they are dead.  Did they have eyes on my tower?  Will they see me on dscan?  Is it a trap?  I'll find out real soon.

I land on grid, and both the Retriever and Venture are still there.  Oh yeah.  ASAP upon leaving warp, I pop up the warp bubble.  The bubble inflates, and they are still there.  Both of them are trapped.

I start locking them.  The Retriever finishes first but I wait; the Venture completes, and I open up on it.
Bubbled.
A few volleys and boom.  It never moved; moving would have helped.  The pod is ejected, but it is trapped by my bubble.
Venture killed.
So I turn to the Retriever.  As I aggress, its drones attack me.  But they cannot even scratch my tank.  The kill takes more than a few volleys, but the Retriever is going nowhere fast.  Dead.

Back to highsec.
Finally, there are the pods.  I lock them up.  PopPop.  Ah!  What a monster I am!  Mwahahaha!  It is a dream come true

Now I scoop the drones, and scoop both wrecks -- the Arkonor is too large -- and turn off my bubble.  Bubbles go for quite a while, so I have to wait for it to drop.  Finally it ends, and I warp back home.

Grabbing Arkonor.
As I do this, I am logging on my alt Otto.  He's already in the ship I want, a cloaky scout.  I warp him to the assumed enemy wormhole, the one to C4c.  Once Otto is set up, I feel safe enough to reship into a Miasmos.  This can handle the Arkonor loot, and it also might serve to cheaply reveal if they have cloakies on the site.

I warp over, and grab the Ark.  Nobody kills me.  I warp back to the tower.  Now I feel a bit more confident, so I get our Coercer salvager.  I want those ten sleeper wrecks.  And also I want the two wrecks I just made.
Domis on scan.

I warp to the Arkonor first, to get the two ship wrecks.  On the way, I see something quite unexpected: three Dominixes on scan.  Was I wrong about where these guys are from?  I guess so.  It seems they are from C4b, even though it is EOL.

Anyway, I land on grid and lock up the two miner wrecks, and start salvaging.  But I also set my dscan to half range, and the Dominixes do not show up.   OK, that is good.  I can get good enough early warning.  Two frozen corpses are there on my scan, and I realize I forgot to scoop them earlier.  I scoop them now. Now I start dscanning like a maniac.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Etc.

Loot.
The two wrecks are salvaged, so I am off to salvage the sleepers.  I microwarp over, dscanning all the way.  Then I salvage, which seems to take forever.  It takes forever because I am dscanning every 10 seconds religiously, and also I have to tractor in all the wrecks.  Nothing shows up.

Finally I finish.  I want to do the second site too, but I think I should dscan at full range to see if they are still lurking out there.  They are not.  They are gone.

A glance at Otto's screen shows they are not gone.  Rather they are sitting on the wormhole to C4c, in a spider configuration, with Garde IIs out.  

I won't attack this by myself.
I revise my guess again: C4c must be where they are from.  Were they hiding in my system?  They did not enter, at least not since Otto started watching and listening.  Were they in the system my static connects to for some reason?  That's possible, I suppose, but what would they be doing there?  Running sites?  But we have a few barracks; why not run those?  It's a mystery.  It does not make sense.  But this is EVE; real people often do surprising things.  I am just happy that they cannot see either ore site.  

I warp to the second ore site, and microwarp to its sleeper wrecks, and salvage them.  All the time I watch the Dominixes on my other screen, and I dscan just in case.  But nobody uncloaks, and I zoom off with a bit of loot.

One of the Domis leaves.  It's just two now, and I am still not attacking them.

My curiousity is piqued.  I have to know if those guys were doing anything in C4b.  So I get my Manticore and warp over, and jump.  It might be a trap... but it is not.  Nobody at the wormhole.  There are no wrecks on scan in C4b.  I warp around to the planets.  No wrecks.  I have no idea what, if anything, they were doing in there. 

Later on, they attack my tower.  Revenge, perhaps.  But that's another story.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Real Hunt

Another virtual day in space.  I log in, and my system is zipped up with only a single signature.  That will be our static wormhole.  Since there is nothing to do here, I might as well find it and see if I can find someone to kill.  I deploy probes and quickly scan down the sig.  Then I warp to the nearest celestial to it, align, and finally warp to it.  Every second can count.  I land on grid with the static, bookmark it, and jump.

As always, your first move when entering a new wspace system is to dscan.  I dscan.  There's a Venture on scan, which would be interesting except that there is also a tower.  The Venture is probably at the tower, that is, uninteresting.  Still, you never know for sure without trying.  And even if it is at the tower, a Venture is an unusual ship to just sit there in.  Most people do it in their logoff ship, which is usually a covert ops.  Maybe it will do something not within the protection of a force-field, like mine some gas.

I bookmark the wormhole and move off to cloak.  Now to find the Venture.  I get the system map up, point towards the inner system, and narrow my dscan to 180 degrees: both the Venture and the tower are still there.  OK, how about 90 degrees?  Neither.  Wrong direction.  Well, let me point this way.  Oooh.  Just the Venture!
A rare ship with no tower.
This is exciting!  A Venture will be in a gas site.  My Manticore has only normal probes, not combat probes.  I cannot probe down the ship, but I can probe down the gas site it is in.  That means I can get on grid with it, and if I can get on grid with it, then at least in theory I can kill it.  Never mind that a Manticore is completely the wrong ship for that.  First things first: find the gas site.

Or maybe not.  A Venture could be used on rocks.  I mean, mining rocks with a Venture is possible, albeit stupid.  Still, I should check that.  Nope, no rocks in this system.  It's got to be in a gas site.

OK, WWPD (what would Penny do?)  She'd warp to the outer planet -- is there an outer planet? yes! -- and fire probes.  I warp to the outer planet.  Then she'd warp back in, find the approximate location of the target on dscan, put the probes there, and scan it out in one cycle.  Then she'd kill it.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I land on grid at the outer planet, 25AU out from the center.  A quick check of dscan shows nothing out here, so I uncloak and fire probes, and throw the probes out of the system (just in case there is someone here to see them).  Then I re-cloak and warp right back to the wormhole, which is the only thing in the system I know.  It has a good position, a bit above the ecliptic plane of this system.

There is a good chance the gas site is one of the smaller/easier "perimeter" sites, which are common.  These can be scanned with a 1AU probe distance.  And that means I don't have to be highly accurate placing the probes for the initial scan.  If the gas site is one of the intermediate "frontier" gas sites, it will require a 0.5AU probe distance, which will mean I have to scan twice.  Not good, but I am not certain that I can get that accurate of a initial scan.  So I will go with 1AU and cross my fingers.

I set the probes to 1AU, then move them vaguely into the right place, and start looking around with dscan.  I am using Penny's scanning method here: you use your current location and that of the center probe to keep track of the vector you are currently theorizing as that to the target.  Starting with 90 degrees, you narrow the beam by one click, then see if the target is still in it.  If so, iterate.  If not, you have to look around.  The probe location is very helpful in keeping a fixed point to orient to.  Once you find the target again (with the narrower beam), you move the probes so that once again they record the vector.  Then iterate.

I do this.  It takes me time, because I am not very good at it.  But finally I get the beam down to 15 degrees, which is enough if the target is close.  Is it?  I think I should have determined the range first.  But I will do it now: quickly I find that the range is just about 1.5 AU.  That's nice and close; 15 degrees should be fine.  1.5 AU means that I should place the probes so that about their outer circle is where I am.  I do that, carefully trying to keep the vector from me to them correct.

All ready.  I hold my breath a second, then hit scan.  This brings in the probes; until now the actual probes have been sitting way outside the system where they are hidden.  But now the target will be able to see them, if he dscans in the next 20 seconds or so.
Probed out first try.
Bingo.  100% on a Token Perimeter Reservoir.  I am a bit surprised -- thought it would require two goes.  But I quickly recall my probes to get them out of sight.  Then I warp to the site.  No, cancel.  The site is almost straight down from me; you want to warp into gas sites from the side.  I warp to a planet first, and then into the site at 20km.  I hope I am not decloaked by gas.

I land on grid, and I have missed both gas clouds.  Good.  And there's the Venture!  I am a little surprised he is still here.  I did it!  I am on grid with a Venture, gas mining, in a gas site I had to scan down.  Go, me!

Now to kill him.  But how?  He is orbiting the large gas cloud, and currently over 100km from me.  I watch his orbit for a while, and I can see he is going over the top and will pass relatively near me -- perhaps 30km.  I can get in front if I can predict it.  So I start moving that way.  He gets within 100km of me, and now I can look at him to see better how he is moving.
Coming to me.
Now I am certain I can intercept him.  But can I kill him?  Probably not.  All Ventures have two points of warp core stability, and I have but one warp scrambler.  So I cannot stop him from warping.  And my torps do very little damage to a tiny moving frigate.  I can kill him in my Manticore pretty much only if he is AFK.  He may well be -- he didn't see the probes after all -- but he is probably just not fully alert.  I think about when I suck gas.  I pay some attention, dscanning occasionally, but not that often.  Of course, I know how to use the discovery scanner to force its update.  This is more important than dscan, at least if you only mine when zipped up.

I head toward the intercept point I think is likely, then stop.  Then I do it again.  I can reship only a jump away.  A jump where he might see me on dscan, and another chance coming back.  On the other hand, my Manticore is not the ship for the job.  But what ship do I have that can do it?  It needs a cloak so that it can sneak up.  So most of them are out.  Falcon?  Not much DPS.  (Actually in retrospect it might work.  Two drones.)  Tengu?

Hmm.  There is my ghostbusting Tengu.  It has rapid lights in the highs for killing scanning frigates that it might find while exploring.  Rapid light missiles are perfect for Ventures.  And I can refit it to have two warp scramblers.  OK, that's a good idea.  I warp out, back to my static wormhole.  I cross, then warp home and get the Tengu.  Then, just a bit concerned about possibly being baited into being polarized/jumped, I wait.  I figure that gas mining is slow, so the odds are good he'll be there when I return.

Four anxious minutes later, and I warp back to our static.  If I am attacked I can just wait out the last minute in gate cloak on the other side.  I jump, and nobody is there.  The Venture is still on scan.  Looks good.  I get off the wormhole and cloak, then warp to the gas site at 10km this time.  I figure I will wait for him to come over the top again, and then try to kill him.

I land on grid, and I am briefly confused.  There's no large gas cloud any more.  He's within the small gas cloud.  Evidently, he finished sucking the other cloud.  OK, he's still here so I still have a shot.

But he is not moving.  He is just sitting in there.  If I try to get close, the gas cloud will decloak me.  So, how do I get in there to shoot?  He's about 40km from me, and appears closer to the far edge of the cloud.  I figure I can get a bit closer by bouncing off the sun (which is nearby), then coming in more from the side at the gas cloud.  So I bookmark the cloud and bounce, warping back at 30km.
Not moving any more.

This is better; I am about 28 km from him.  I start toward him, then I realize I am nearing the edge of the cloud.  I am only about 8km from it, and still over 20km from him.  So I will be decloaked before I can get in scramble range.  That's not likely to work.

With tactical overlay.
I realize he is sitting pretty close to the center of the cloud.  Let's look at that better.  I turn on the tactical overlay, and indeed he seems to have warped in there to zero.  The overlay shows lines coming up from the plane I am on, ending at the gas cloud and the Venture.  They are very close.

The gas cloud is already bookmarked.  It is time for another bounce.

Back to the sun.  This time I warp to the gas cloud at zero.  From what I saw, I should land almost on top of him.  Certainly in scrambler range.  Then he will have the four seconds of sensor recalibration, plus my lock time, to notice and GTFO.  If he doesn't, he's dead.  I consider uncloaking in transit, but he could then see me warp on grid and have more warning.  I'll let the cloud decloak me.

I land on grid, and end up 2400m from him.  Now I start clicking to lock him.  After an eternity the lock attempt begins.  I have no time to see what he is doing.  I get my weapons primed, and then turn on my defenses just in case.  I realize now a sebo might have been a good idea.  But too late for that.

The lock completes, and I have him.  And just as suddenly, he's dead.  Two rounds of missiles is all it took.  I am a bit surprised (sorry, no screenie of that), but I start locking the pod.  I have him!  No, I don't.  He warps. Almost got him. 
So close.

Now I loot the wreck, and warp off to a celestial to get out of this gas so that I can cloak.  Then I fly to his tower to watch.  The pod sits.  Eventually he gets into an Astero and warps off.  That's the end of it, so I head off to start scanning his system.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CSM 9: Victory!

I promise not to bother you -- much -- with stupid politics.  But hey, stupid politics bothered me first.  He started it!  Sometimes I write about stuff that other EVE bloggers are writing about, because I read them and react.  And are they ever!  Here's a link-dump of stuff that I thought was good writing:



I. My Initial Take on the Election

I refer you to my CSM 9 voting recommendations article.  What were my goals with respect to this election?
I want to discourage you from voting.  ...  Voting when you know nothing should be seen as a shameful act, not praiseworthy.
Turnout was way down.  I like to think my discouragement helped.  Victory!

And what about for people who did vote?
What are my criteria for candidates?  Well, first of all I feel that all areas of the game should be represented on CSM.  Of them, I feel nullsec is overrepresented while lowsec and highsec are not enough.  Veterans are represented by the nature of the thing, and newbs hardly at all.  Beyond that, I care about whether the CSMs will work.  ... I don't really care as much what their specific "policy" opinions are...
Who got elected?  Most of my slate, in particular the people I selected as hard working, and those representing lowsec and newbs.  Victory!

Finally, what about the specific reason I voted?
Sugar Kyle - this candidate is the reason why I am bothering to vote.  It comes down to this: I like her.
Sugar finished third, surprising many commentators and pleasing most.  Victory!

II. Responses to Common Complaints

Most other people I read think that the CSM9 results were poor.  This is strange, because for the most part they also seem to think a lot of good people got elected.  (I.e. everyone lauds the election of Sugar; Sugar is not an acquired taste it seems.)  The handwringing is really about three things: that nullsec and in particular the Goons are over represented; that wormholes are under represented; and that turnout was low.

Why is turnout not a big deal?  Because the CSM is an advisory body, not a legislative body.  According to the modern political formula of "will of the people", a legislative body draws its power from the people; "Governments... deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed".  Consent is manufactured in many ways, but ratified by votes.  If the people do not vote for it, the legitimacy of the legislature is questionable.  Therefore, it is certainly in the interests of politicians, and arguably in the interests of the larger society, to have as many people vote as possible.  Note the inherent contradiction here, between maximizing turnout and maximizing the quality of the legislative body.  It's easier to get lots of people to vote for you if you never say anything controversial.  It's also easier to get credulous idiots to vote for you than skeptical geniuses.

By contrast, an advisory body has no power of its own; its power (if it has any) lies in giving good advice to some powerful patron.  As such, it does not matter how many or how few people voted for any particular adviser.  What matters is only: is the advice helpful to the patron?

This is why I was serious when advising people who know nothing to not vote.  Your consent to CSM is neither needed nor helpful.  The only vote that matters to CCP is your subscription.  Whereas your ignorance might reduce the quality of the CSM, by electing a useless representative over a useful one.

Now, why is bloc voting not a big problem?  Again, because the CSM is an advisory body.  An advisory body exists to give advice (duh); to do that it needs a work ethic, and it needs smart people.  That is why I emphasized those things.  It also needs expertise in what it is advising about; this is the reason to want representation from various areas of the game.  Beyond that, though, all the candidates are quite familiar with many aspects of EVE.  So blocs are not a significant problem.  And while I don't feel that the representation level is perfect, it's quite good enough.

Consider what happens in a legislative body when a party is overrepresented.  It starts making rules to favor itself.  I.e. if CSM had legislative power, perhaps the Goons could lead the nullsec blog to vote in "nerf highsec into the ground".  And CCP would have to do it.  The key thing here is that votes in a legislative body are power.  If  51% vote for a policy, good or bad, it is enacted.  Therefore, the voter needs to worry about who has or might obtain that 51%.

By contrast, in an advisory body popularity does not automatically translate into power.  The nullsec representatives can push whatever they want.  But CCP can easily take their bias into account.  They know who the nullsec guys are.

What this really gets back to is that this is CCP's game, and CCP -- for all their weirdness -- are still a pretty good sovereign.  Hopefully, the CSM can improve CCP's governance, but they are not the government.

III. What CSM9 Needs, The Big Picture

There's one more thing to say with regard to null representation and wspace underrepresentation in CSM9.  And that is that wspace is not broken in any truly deep and/or complicated ways, whereas nullsec is.  In nullsec, as I wrote at Jester's:
The problem is the blue donut, which is an inevitable result of capitals trumping everything else and easy force (i.e. capital) projection.
(Yeah, that's three different problems in a single sentence.)  To which I might add one more huge problem: blobbing and time dilation.  Nullsec is, or should be, the end-metagame of EVE for the biggest groups.  The wars out there should be a source of wonder, and inspiration; every player should want to get out there and fight -- at least a little bit.  Currently, I don't.

There's a lot one can say about null's malaise, and indeed I have ideas on how CCP might address it, some published, some not.  But whatever the solution(s) might be, it is a huge problem.  And CCP is going to be working on it soon, if Jester is to be believed.  (See here; key diagram below.)

The problem here is large in terms of in its scope, in terms of what changes would be needed to fix it, and in terms of getting nullseccers to accept those changes.  It is large in terms of EVE's and thus CCP's profitability.  For all of these reasons, I think it is good that CSM9 has a lot of nullies involved.  You or I can have all the good ideas in the world, and CCP will probably never know about them.  But rest assured that if mynnna has a way to fix null, he will be heard.  Even though his name is annoying.

By contrast, there are no fundamental problems with wspace as it is.  POSes and corp roles are deeply annoying, but they do not threaten to remove the reason for PVP in wspace.  Similarly, the horrible z-arrow probe movement is a blight on the user interface of EVE, but its existence does not make wspace hunting unfun.

I think overrepresented null may be just what we need for this particular CSM.  Victory! -- arguably.

IV. My Recommendations to CCP

As if they need them or listen to me!  Hah.  But here they are:

The system is working.  We have a perfectly adequate CSM, and perhaps even an excellent one.  So huzzah for us all!  You don't really need to change anything.

But you can do better still.  As I commented at Stabbed Up, contrary to the conventional idea that CCP needs to "get out the vote", you really should be working to suppress the vote, in the interests of weeding out dilettantes and greedy bloc voters, and thereby getting a superior advisory body.  You should institute a steep voting tax. I would say a PLEX is too much, but perhaps 200m ISK. This would cut the voting numbers down to perhaps a tenth as many, with much higher quality.