A tale of two pictures

First this happened (x2) in Oijanen

2 destroyed TEST Raitarus in Oijanen today

A STRATOP was scheduled for today, but I didn’t find out what it was until we jumped into Oijanen. TEST was moving as much as they could out of Oijanen, and our job was to make it as difficult for them as possible. But first we had to destroy two TEST Raitarus that were coming out of reinforcement. TEST didn’t contest either of the stations, so those were quick work.

Then this happened. After the stations we waited on the Airaken gate for the first of what I assume would be several sub-capital fleets leaving Oijenen today. We didn’t have to wait long. We didn’t agress in Oijanen but jumped in Airaken the same time TEST’s fleet did. Fun ensued on the other side of the gate.

Waiting for TEST’s sub-cap fleet on the Airaken gate

I think more pods made it back to Perimeter, than ships, in this fleet. We followed all the way there, picking off as many stragglers as we could. Including this poor sap. We docked up as soon as we arrived in Perimeter, then self destructed pods for the free trip back home. The additional ships we left in Perimeter will be useful in the near future.

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Tranquility Trading Tower saved as Pandemic Horde decline battle

After Saturday night’s festivities in Perimeter, I, and many other of my line member comrades in Pandemic Horde, were looking forward to the prospect of returning to battle over the Armor timer Monday night.  But, alas, it wasn’t to be.  PH and friends did not return and the Tranquility Trading Tower Keepstar was fully repaired by Test.  In any event, I had the timer incorrect.  It occurred during Monday afternoon when I was at work, so wouldn’t have been able to join in the battle either way.  But it turns out Test pulled a PH, and decided to provoke a response after their Keepstar was repped.  Apparently there was instead, some fun, in Oijanen Monday afternoon, which resulted in many fireworks, and ended with Supers being dropped.

So there I was Monday afternoon, stuck at work, hearing about all the goings on and feeling a strong sense of disappointment.  I get it.  From the PH and PANFAM perspective, we didn’t need to fight over the TTT armor timer.  Saturday night’s TTT battle wasn’t the primary objective, no matter how fun it ended up being.  Strategically, PH achieved its objective.  So while we apparently had no intention of escalating in perimeter Monday, I know I’m not alone in wishing we had.  I was still hyped up and wasn’t sated yet.  Turns out I didn’t have to wait long after getting home to find something else to do.  A ping went out about two stations needing defense, with the first station coming out of reinforcement about 2 hours ahead of the other.  I was able to fleet for the first defense, but not the second.

But this time I didn’t fleet up to pew pew, but rather to apply some soothing logi to those in need.  I’d been wanting to get into logi for quite a while, actually training most of the skills needed back in 2010-2012.  All I had to finish was Logi 5, though I have a few nagging rep drone skills to finish up soon and still in need of Amaar Cruiser 5 and Minmatar Cruiser 5.  For now, I can fly Basilisk/Osprey, Augoror, and Scythe.  I may not fleet as logi all the time from here on, but I expect I’ll be doing it for most large battles.  I wasn’t sure what to expect Monday night, and figured it was as good a time as any to begin my logi career.

As things happened, the battle was relatively minor.  We lost only 3 mainline doctrine ships, though the TEST/GOON fleet lost significantly more and bugged out within 15 minutes of hostilities commencing.  I assumed going into the battle that I wouldn’t have any problems getting a few killmails, having my trusty set of drones standing by.  Unfortunately, it became apparent that simply wasn’t going to be the case.  With 100km or more dividing the fleets at all times, it was outside drone range.  History won’t record the fact I was there Monday night, though I’d like to think those I helped to save appreciate me.  Even if they don’t know my name.

More interestingly, however was the aftermath of the battles.  Apparently it’s not possible to have a battle; for there to be winners, and losers, and the loser rogers up “GF” and carries on.  Apparently, if a defending force, protecting its own space, acts according to its best interest, ruffles sensitive feathers.  Yesterday we we’re treated to another litany of despair regarding capital ships and certain tactics, making it impossible for attackers looking for “gud fights”.

Unlike many, I harbor no illusions regarding space bushido.  There is none.  Its human nature, after all, that a person, or group, will use whatever force is at their disposal to defend themselves.  Even if it’s overwhelming force.  PH owes nothing more to TEST that to act in its own interest.  And in fact, this is exactly what TEST did when PL/NC were attacking it in the south.  PL/NC deployed south without supers and it went no better for them than the recent TEST deployment in the north.  An attacking force has responsibility to bring whatever force it deems necessary to achieve its goal.  And upon finding that to have failed, decisions have to be made.

If anything, the new drama simply illustrates that certain people want their cake, and to eat it too.  Even while advocating for the removal of super capital class ships all together, they maintain their own very large super capital fleet.  And don’t hesitate to use them when it best suits.  Which is to say, often. 

But there are also those wanting defenders to “fight fair”.  In other words, fight in a manner which they dictate, because reasons.   The situation in question occurred during the fights between PANFAM and TEST/GOONS Monday night at the two PH Fortizars.  We arrived first, ahead of the ref timer and tethered up on the station to see what would happen.  Not long after a combined TEST/GOON fleet arrived about 100km off and didn’t approach.  Our FC soon sent tackle down to tackle whatever they could, and simultaneously had carriers send Sirens (also tackle).  Anything the FC called out was soon alpha’d off the field.  TEST/GOONS warped off and back a couple times, and in between we’d tether up again.  This specific tactic apparently runs afoul of someone’s idea of fairness.

But there’s an inconvenient fact here that is being ignored.  Ships on tether can’t target, or fight, without losing tether.  Making them targetable, and attackable, in return.  It also belays the point that TEST used tether on their TTT Keepstar Saturday night.  Which in no way stopped us from attacking the station, ultimately prompted TEST to untether in order to attack, in turn.  The fact we were tethering didn’t stop TEST/GOONS from attacking either of our Fortizars, and we could not have remained tethered and simultaneously defended the stations.  The drama over the tactic is simply a red herring.

Most often I’ve found drama, such as this, to be a thin veneer thrown over failure.  It’s easier to cast blame elsewhere rather than face up to personal mistakes.  Whether those be in tactics, inability to execute, or something else.  But doing so is a tremendous obstacle to long term success.  You can’t learn from mistakes if you never accept that mistakes were made.  Some learn that in time, others won’t.

Perimeter battle with TEST was a fun meat grinder

Test’s TTT Keepstar was shield reinforced in a massive battle against PANFAM last night

Anyone who’s been playing EVE for a while knows that Perimeter has become a true battleground in recent months. TEST pushed out IChooseYou and Pandemic Horde from the alliance owned market space last Fall and thus far has been able to operate Tranquility Trading Tower with virtual impunity ever since. PH reinforced shields over the Christmas period but didn’t go back for the Armor timer and hasn’t made much of an effort to remove TTT from grid since then. What has been happening, however, is a constant influx of new trading structure have been dropped in order to undercut TEST’s market profits and grind their will to continue down.

Many of those structures are blotted from existence within a couple days. And most are not defended. But occasionally they are, and last night was one of those instances where a large fleet was formed to defend a friendly armor timer. When TEST didn’t show up to contest leadership decided to reinforce TTT instead. We were all dressed up and didn’t want to go home feeling blue. 5 hours later TTT’s shield was reinforced and 60B ISK in ships had been lost.

When the pings first started going out that an important Strat Op was forming I was busy with my wife and couldn’t join up. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to join up for the Op, which grew into something much bigger than originally planned, for another 3 hours. But when I was finally free to log into EVE my wife broke out into laughter. Apparently I looked like an excited kid on Christmas morning. I literally ran to the Den and logged into EVE as fast as I could. But it took me about 30 minutes before I could haul in some ships with my hisec hauler, because there was no way I was going to warp in a Ferox from our O-V all the way to Perimeter through a string of hostile space. I had been lax in pre-positioning ships in Perimeter prior to last night, but that has been rectified by this morning. I’m ready for whatever comes next time.

But last night I had some initial hauling to do with my alt while I frantically burned to Perimeter in my Interceptor. Once shipped up I joined the overflow fleet (there was no room in the main fleet…) and spent the next hour guarding the Jita gate and racking up a number of kills. Streams of capsules were heading through the gate into Jita in order to re-ship, and occasionally TEST pilots would come back through the gate hoping to warp off before they could be tackled. For those trying to re-ship, I had already found Jita practically bare of Ferox’s an hour earlier. I paid a 20M premium for the two hulls I purchased, and it only went higher from there. I saw hulls going up on the market for 100M, which were selling. It was an industrialists wet dream last night, if they had hulls to sells.

Earlier in the battle Test brought a Battleship heavy fleet up against our Ferox doctrine but were unable to break our back or push us off TTT. Wave, after wave, of the TEST fleet threw itself at PH, finally shipping down into a Ferox doctrine fleet as well. From that point I’ve heard the battle described as a “knife fight in a bathtub” — RonUSMC [TEST], which is as apt a description as I could come up with myself. So we’ll go with that.

As the StratOp crossed the four hour point the overflow FC had to head off and TEST finally pushed us off the Jita gate. It was at that point I was able to join the main fleet and move up to the Keepstar. Test was still sending small waves at the PH fleet, but in truth the fight was largely over. The shield inexorably ticked down, and when it crossed below 5% you could hear the excitement rising on comms. Nearly 5 hours in to the Op and all you could hear were pilots ready for more. The fight isn’t one of the biggest of battles to ever happen in EVE’s history, but its very rare to see hisec battles approaching anything of this magnitude. It was a meat grinder to say the least, and I’m happy to note that it was PH turning the handle this time around.

So what comes next? I have no idea, but speaking only for myself I hope we go back for the armor timer. Reports are that Goons will be joining TEST for the armor timer. And make no mistake, TEST must show for their timer, regardless of whether we do. The position TEST finds itself in is not enviable. They control the alliance market space in the Forge, but its far from their home base in the south, whereas its immediately next door for PH. Strictly speaking, TEST can’t control the battlefield. And that was precisely what TEST’s recent campaign into Geminate was all about. They sought to keep PH busy in Geminate, and out of Perimeter. But they’d lost when they decided not deploy their Super Cap fleet. No one knew how badly the “war” would go for them at the time, however. It went badly.

So even if PH ultimately decides to eschew the armor timer this time around, we can go back any time we choose. We can reinforce the shields over, and over, and over again. Imagine how demoralizing that might feel to constantly be on the receiving end of attacks on your key strategic asset and never being able to fully secure it? Always having to respond, only to see the enemy not show up for the next battle. Always having to be on the ball, when the enemy only has to be on the ball once. Can this go on all Winter? Spring? Summer? We’ll see.

TEST isn’t alone, however. For all of the posturing that TEST and GOONS aren’t allies, the evidence says otherwise. Frenemies, or whatever, I expect GOONS to get more involved. They did when TEST launched their campaign into Germinate, largely responsible for the shenanigans in Kalevala. But are GOONS willing to make a major deployment to the NE in order to support TEST? This is the real question I’m waiting to see answered. Events may have started last night in a Perimeter meat grinder of a battle, but it’s likely last night won’t be the end of it when all is said and done.

First month in Pandemic Horde

Action late in the TTT Perimeter fight last night

It’s been a month since I joined Pandemic Horde, and what an exciting month it’s been.  Immediately after joining PH at the end of December we line members started hearing about an upcoming TEST Alliance campaign against our space.  Which, incidentally, started shortly afterward.  Talk about immediately getting thrown into the deep end of the pool.  I basically went from not playing EVE for 3-4 years, to deciding to play again, to playing for a month and coming to the old realization that playing in hisec with a small corp wasn’t enough for me, to joining a very large nullsec corporation, to WAR WITH ANOTHER VERY LARGE NULLSEC CORPORATION.  And not a war in some far-off region, but one literally on our doorstep that was having continuous impact throughout our space.

Although Test’s official campaign didn’t go well for them, ending after only a week of its official start, the prior low-level hostilities continue to some degree.  Smallish Test fleets still do periodic roams through our gate system and surrounding space, but there aren’t the great fleets and extended camping any longer.  We’ve settled into skirmish raids that usually get handled quickly by our standing fleet.  Though the test roams have subsided considerably within the last 7-10 days.  There’s still activity going on in Kalevala, however.

To some, this might have felt overwhelming, but it’s exactly what I’ve wanted from EVE Online from day one.  I wish I’d gotten involved in Null space when I started playing in 2009, otherwise I’d likely never have quit (repeatedly).  My brief foray into Null in 2010 notwithstanding.  

There’s always something to do; always fleets, whether for response actions, mining, roams, or battles like we had in Perimeter last night.  And if you don’t have time for fleet activity, there’s plenty exploration, PI, industry, or ratting to your hearts content, to keep you busy.  I suspect mileage may vary from the very large alliances, to the smaller ones.  But from the perspective of a player who wants to experience everything EVE has to offer, fleeing hisec was the wisest choice I ever made. 

Joining PH has to be the second.  Not that I have a huge range of experience on the matter, but I can assure any new player interested, you won’t go wrong joining PH.  The on boarding process couldn’t be easier, and there’s a host of caretakers who are there to take care of you while you grow.  The culture in PH is great and is very inviting to new players.  For that matter, even to older players who haven’t experienced Nullsec before.

So what have I been doing for the last month, exactly? My ability to join fleets is somewhat constrained by various responsibilities, so I’ve generally only been able to fleet up 2-3 times a week on average (not counting random response fleets). But even then I’ve already experienced more kills than I have in the previous 9 years combined. Even counting my FW alt I created back in 2012. But what I have had a lot of time to do is ratting. I say “a lot”, but I generally only spend 1-2 hours of ratting a day. Unfortunately my ratting this past month has gone entirely to building up my personal fleet of ships. Although I still need to buy a few more ships, I expect a majority of my ratting proceeds from here on will instead build my wallet.

I also activated my remaining accounts. I’m having too much fun playing EVE again not to. Outside of my main, I have my hisec hauler/market/industry character, a second hauler/market/industry character, a Cap pilot skilling up, and a FAX pilot skilling up. I plan on bringing everybody except my hisec hauler into PH within the coming weeks. All part of a plan to achieve goals I’ve had from early in my EVE playing experience, but wasn’t able to achieve previously. I want to grow within PH and PanFam, but I also want to build an industrial base to help me grow space rich! Cap pilot and Fax pilot to experience the truly big fleet battles I’ve marveled at for years, but which were always so far out of my reach.

It’ll be some weeks, to months yet before I have everything I plan on doing set in place. But I suspect by the time Summer rolls around, my industrial aspirations will be in full swing. My Cap pilot will also be fully trained and my Fax pilot will be significantly along in his training plan as well. When I started playing EVE again in early December I never thought for a moment that I’d think this. But EVE may supplant WoW as my main gaming pastime. In all the previous instances where I’ve played EVE, I’ve played for a few months before going back to WoW. But in every instance, I never thought EVE wasn’t a “momentary” thing. WoW had been my main game since early 2005, and while I’ve taken small breaks to play other games over the years, those breaks had always been short. But I feel completely different this time around. At least from the point when I joined PH. It’s not entirely that my disappointment with BFA is high, but more that I’m finally experiencing the true EVE Online. WoW will be the game I play infrequently moving forward, if I play at all. While EVE is the game I’m now spending virtually all of my gaming time playing. Anything can happen, but as I sit here today, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Aquaman Nudges the Redemption Meter


I’ll be honest about this. I nearly didn’t see Aquaman because when I walked out of Justice League I all but told myself I was done with DC movies. Although I loved Wonder Women, Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and the Nolan Batman trilogy, DC movies for the most part have been a crap show. I’ve given DC pass, after pass because I love their characters as much as I love Marvel’s. But Justice League was such a stinker that I told myself they just didn’t get “it”; that DC Entertainment was all but irredeemable.

I realize I just said I loved several of their most recent movies, but Marvel laid out a road map for DC. And did everything but tie in up neatly in gift wrapping for them. What did DC Entertainment do instead? Skipped the foundational movies and went straight for the “Avengers” arc. Did I mention just what a steaming pile Justice League was?

About that irredeemability… Well I was wrong. While Aquaman’s story has holes, some campy to corny dialogue, and the wrong leading actor, it went a long way to redeeming hope in me that DC can still rescue their sinking ship. If you were to judge the film by its visual effects alone, you’d probably give it a solid 10. in short, they were stunning. Hell, *I* want to live in Atlantis now. But overall I give the film a 7.5/10 with marks down for Momoa’s acting, those pesky plot holes I mentioned, and a few rather obvious hanging questions that will leave many viewers scratching their heads as they walk out.

Also curious was the divided sympathies the movie engenders. You’re not usually supposed to feel sympathetic for the antagonist in a story, but damned if you don’t end up having some feels for the guy by the end. He may be a bit slimy around the edges, but all-in-all, his motivations are arguable. Which is interesting because naturally you’re supposed to be sympathetic to the protagonist — in this case, Arthur Curry (AKA Aquaman). It’s weird where you have a movie of this type where both sides are somewhat sympathetic, though perhaps the rationale for it is paid out in the finale scene. Could there be foreshadowing there, perhaps? There was certainly foreshadowing in the mid-credit scene regarding the other antagonist in the movie (cough Black Manta cough). Stick around for that!

If I were pressed on the matter, I’d choose the fight choreography as a second truly high point in the movie. Sans the first fight scene in the opening minutes, which portrayed Aquaman as a lumbering brawler. And not a very good one, at that. From then on, however, the fight choreography is both visually appealing and action packed. I most especially liked the scenes between Orm and Arthur, though perhaps the most important fights were with Black Manta. Again, the mid credit scene foreshadows much that could come to pass. And if the fight scenes between Manta and Aquaman here are the bar by which to judge, I can’t wait to see what may come next.

If you’re going into Aquaman expecting more than an entertaining action movie, with stunning visuals I’m afraid you may come away disappointed. But see this movie. Go and see it. If you love superhero films, don’t wait for the DVD. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it. While Momoa’s acting is a bit flat — he lacks emotion and has but one shtick — Amber Heard carries him through many of the scenes that are must wins. I would have preferred a leading actor more capable of a dynamic range of emotion, but I suppose there’s the eye candy perspective to consider.

New EVE Home

I have a new EVE home

I’ve relayed the difficulties I’ve had in the previous instances of playing EVE Online. I was never able to find a solid fit anywhere in my previous stints in EVE. It can be difficult to find an active corp, that remains active for a long period. But I’d had a lot of fun in Nullsec when I was last there in 2010, and coming back to EVE this time, it was one of my top goals to head back out. I had planned to start my search for a corporation after the holidays, with Spring as my deadline for finding one to call home. But I’d actually been looking around for at least a couple of weeks already. And after a pretty significant amount of hours looking at various options, it came down to BRAVE and PANDEMIC HORDE.

Both Alliances/Corporations are “new player” friendly, and essentially take anyone without the muss or fuss of ESI to deal with initially. Over the Christmas weekend I compared and contrasted the two, and Wednesday I’d decided I like Pandemic Horde better. Finally, last night I joined up and moved out to my new home system in O-VWPB. Its in Germinate, which looks and feels much the same as Vale of the Silent that I called home with my Alliance (Northern Coalition) back in 2010. I like Gurista space, and since its right next door to the Forge (Jita!) it served as the final enticement. I’d been operating out of the Forge for years, and I’m happy that my base of ops — in Nullsec and Hisec are still fairly centralized on the map. It’ll make it much less messy to jump things in and out when I need to down the road. 1 jump, both ways. Or 2 jumps out from Jita.

Those that follow me on Twitter probably saw my comments over the weekend about relocating all my stuff back to Caldari space from Gallente space. More than a month ago I was doing the reverse, spending some days hauling a fair bit of ships and equipment 30 jumps from my old system to my new. And over the course of 3-4 days this last weekend I made that long trek back. The silver lining to the effort is that I’ve never had a cleaner, or better organized set of personal property in Eve since I started playing 10 years ago. Even when I made the move to Gallente space in November, I still had a bunch of stuff strewn across several diverse systems. But no longer. Going into Null I wanted to ensure I cleaned up and turned the lights off. Now my stuff out in Hisec is contained in 3 stations. Jita being one of them.

With jump clones installed in the systems I wanted to ensure I could clone back to as needed, I made the final preparation to remotely set my home station to O-VWPB, then left station to self destruct my pod. 2 minutes later I was out in Null to start another chapter in my character’s life. Have to say, this first 24 hours has been almost overwhelming. The pure amount of information Horde provides you takes some getting through. They’ve thought of virtually everything and have a a bulletin, article, or forum post ready to answer whatever question you may have. And additionally, have a cadre of helpful corp mates standing by to provide free tier 1 ships, skill books, skill plans, as well as answer any other questions you might have. I’m told most large alliances have similar programs, but this is a different experience than I had back in 2010 with NC. I entered Null completely unprepared, and unknowing. But my eyes were opened very quickly, then.

This time around I’m more prepared, and Horde NBI members will make sure they ease me into whatever else for I’m not.

Quick Update

Staying active during the holidays

I haven’t posted in a while, so it must seem like nothing really is going on with me recently. But nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the holidays and I’ve been extremely busy all month, and most especially these last two weeks. I haven’t gamed as much as I normally do, but what gaming I have been doing has almost entirely been centered around EVE Online (more on this in my next blog post). I’ve only logged into WoW on Christmas morning for the gifts, and a couple other times in the last week or so for random stuff. Sad to say, my motivation level for WoW is about a 1 or 2 on a 10 point scale, right now. I was hoping patch 8.1 was going to improve that for me, but it unfortunately didn’t. Enough about that, though. This post isn’t to bash WoW, and frankly there’s enough of that going around without me adding to it.

As I said, I’ve been busy. In addition to the normal holiday stuff, I’ve done a lot of walking. Averaging about 6-7 miles per day (9-11 km), I hope to increase that to at least 10 miles (16 km) per day by Spring. But for now the 6-7 miles I am walking amounts to about an hour walk, with the remainder coming from normal daily activity. The daily temperature where I live has remained around mid/high 40’s into the low 50’s most days, which is fine for walking. If it gets colder than that I find I have trouble with overheating because I bundle up too much to remain warm at the start. Its a layers issue that I’ll eventually figure out. But for now I’m going to ride the “pleasant” weather while it lasts. I know as we move into January it has a tendency to get a lot colder, so there may be a period where I have to go back to using my treadmill.

That’s not such a bad situation, you may be saying to yourself right now. But I’ve also recently started playing Pokemon Go. And I normally hit several gyms and stops along my walking routes. None of which are accessible to me from my treadmill. So no, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the weather turns much colder. But I’m not ashamed of wishing it to remain tepid so I can stay active and walk out doors. I never thought I’d find myself playing Pokemon, but I rather enjoy it. Its something to do while I walk. Gives me a little more motivation to keep going than I otherwise already had.

But playing Pokemon Go while walking isn’t the only thing that keeps my occupied while ticking off the miles. I also normally listen to podcasts, or if I’m caught up on those, my favorite play lists on Spotify. I have a core set of podcasts I love to listen to, but I’ve discovered a few others recently that have me rapt. Plug in the earphones, turn on the podcast or music, and away down the road I go. Its been an extremely enjoyable way of unwinding from the business.

Speaking of business, tonight is the first night since early in the month that my wife and I are going out on a date night. We’re heading out to see Aquaman this evening. I’d been on the fence about seeing it but a few friends have all told me it was good. One going on to tell me that it was almost as good as Wonder Woman. Frankly that was the comment that tipped me over. DC hasn’t had the best reputation for developing movies, and after the debacle that was Justice League I was just shy of deciding never to see another DC movie in the theater. So, tonight will be a bit of a second chance for DC. I doubt they’ll get a third from me.

Hope you all have had a wonderful holiday. Whether you believe, or not; whether you’re Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or whatever; I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

For the endorphins

Thanny is the new Uber

I haven’t always been a gamer, though I’ve always been an extremely active person.  From childhood I wasn’t someone to sit still for very long, playing various sports and hiking for miles virtually daily.  I grew up in a time where it wasn’t unusual — and dare I say, was actually expected — for children to be outside and playing with friends all day.  And when I wasn’t playing something non-competitive I was usually playing some sport.  I excelled in the competition of sports, and looking back at it now, I can understand why that extends into other avenues of my life.  Gaming, not excluded.

But my mother made sure I didn’t entirely focus on physical activity.  I remember one miserable summer when I was 6 or 7 where I was kept inside and was forced to spend a few hours in the living room daily reading aloud with her.  She made me sound out words I didn’t know how to pronounce and mercilessly ignored my poutiness.  I hated every single minute of it, but of course I understood later in life what she was doing and why.  Quite honestly I grew to be forever grateful she cared enough to endure that summer along with me.

One can’t be physically active all day, every day, all year long.  So I filled the voids in physical activity most especially in my teenage years and early adulthood with reading.  It became an important part of my life, and I’d disappear into the worlds amongst the pages of whatever I was reading.  But I didn’t discover the the worlds that would impact me the most for a few more years.  It was in 7th grade when I discovered Tolkien’s works.  First the Hobbit, then his Magnum Opus, Lord of the Rings.  And lastly the Silmarillion, which for me was the cherry on top of it all.  These works, and those of Frank Herbert, which I first read many years after are without a doubt the books that had the most profound impact on my life.  Though Tolkien and Herbert were certainly not alone as authors to impact me in some way.  Asimov, Piers Anthony, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, and so many others molded me into the person I am today. 

I’ve become more sedentary as I’ve grown older, but my mind’s need for activity hasn’t decreased in the least.  I’m no where near the voracious reader I was in my earlier years but this is where gaming comes in.  I grew to love reading because I was imaginative and could visualize what I was reading.  I could immerse myself.  Gaming is a step up from that, as there’s no need to visualize something you can actually see and experience.  You’re not living vicariously, but are experiencing it “personally”.  Gaming was a higher, high so to speak.  One that I simply can’t get enough of.  My dream is still to experience a real, full, virtual reality setting so if you all could make that happen for me, it would be greatly appreciated.

So now that I’ve laid the canvas for you, you can understand some of the context when I say the best “drug” out there for gamers like me are sandboxes. The type of gaming environment where the sky is almost the limit; where the excitement, impact, and player agency attain its highest level.  Unfortunately so few sandbox games are truly any good.  Despite many issues I would love to discuss with regard to EVE Online, I have to give the game its due.  Its the single greatest endorphin pumping experience I’ve ever played.  A developer can never come close to producing the kind of content that thousands of players are capable of producing themselves.  And if CCP has done anything with EVE, its created an atmosphere and systems that excel at letting players exercise the mini-Sun Tzu, or mini-Machiavelli they all seemingly want to be.  The meta-game is as important as the spaceships, lasers, machine guns, and missiles.  And in some respects, it’s even more important, as the engine that drives virtually everything else within the walls of the sandbox.

The latest example of this is what has just befallen an Alliance called Hard Knocks, in a wormhole no one from outside of EVE would ever know anything about.  Over the last couple of weeks a massively entertaining battle in Wormhole J115405 (AKA “RAGE”) has been underway between the Imperium (a massive alliance of corporations) and Hard Knocks (a much smaller alliance, though a titan amongst wormholers).  If the rumors are true, the Imperium had been planning the engagement for a very long time, and had started pre-positioning equipment a year ago.  When the fight erupted it involved more than 1000 players, but many who don’t play EVE won’t understand the logistical nightmare that must have been.  Suffice it to say, if preparations for this invasion began a year ago, then it took a year to pull all the right strings for this to happen.  Imagine that, playing World of Warcraft?  In as much as managing a 20 man Mythic raid team takes skill and endurance, imagine what it must take to manage a 500-700 person attack force, through a multi-layer wormhole system which mechanics are adverse to the movement of large numbers of personnel, or size of ships.  And which required a year to plan and pull off.

I salute the Imperium for what they accomplished.  Which is to say, they defeated Hard Knocks and cracked open Fort Knocks.  There’s still some mop up going on, but the war is all but over by this point.  Whether you think this is just more of the blob or strategic and tactical genius, you can’t deny rolling that kind of gear up into a major wormhole system is extremely hard.  

You don’t see this kind of action, on this scale, anywhere else but EVE.  And I eat it up like honey.  Its the reason why I keep coming back to EVE.  Of all the games I’ve ever played in the MMO space, only the World of Warcraft and EVE Online have held my attention and have kept me playing or coming back.  All the other MMO’s I’ve ever played, I either played and abandoned within a couple weeks or have bounced back a couple times over the years but have completely or virtually abandoned since.

If I love EVE so much, why have I repeatedly stopped playing over the years?  My problem with EVE is that its me, not EVE.  I’m not the most social person.  Never have been and my proclivity to solitude has only increased with age.  I’m not anti-social per se, I just like to be social when I like to be social and the rest of the time not.  But Sandboxes rely on social activity and I’ve had real issues finding the right place for me in EVE in the past.  EVE also has a high learning curve, made all the higher when you keep leaving like I have and come back to find many things in the game completely different from what I remember.  I’ve played on and off for 10 years but still feel like a “new bro” in many respects.

Back in 2010 when I was last playing heavily, I thought I found a good corporation, and since it was in Nullsec it seemingly offered everything I wanted.  But my corporation didn’t stay very active for long after I joined and our Alliance wasn’t doing so good either.  I eventually dropped out and headed back to Hisec without a corporation, leading to just one of the several times I stopped playing.  Finding an active corporation, or group — the right corporation, or group — is so important in EVE.  A lot of time you find great people in a small corporation that isn’t very active, and you find yourself without the support you need.  Or maybe the corporation isn’t as active as you’d like, leaving you playing solo a good part of the time.  Solo play in EVE can be fun, but EVE isn’t the sort of game where you do that for long.  You need support, and since I crave the war (and glory) our in Nullsec anyway, that’s where I’m going to try heading back to in the coming weeks.

Like I said in my last post, I’m officially back to playing EVE.  But it won’t be the only thing I do.  One of the issues I also had in previous stints was that I only played EVE.  This time around I’m not.  I’m going to split time with WoW, so I expect to remain pretty busy regardless of which game I happen to be playing at the specific moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Alliance and my Night Elf Druid.  But if you want something a little deeper than the Battle for Azeroth, you should take a loot at EVE Online.  You never know if you’ll like it, unless you try it.

EVE Online Update

I really want to drop bombs on someone

Since my last update, I did make a point of logging in and being more active.  Thankfully I’ve been able to find time to get in several hours of ratting over the last several days, including a couple hours today.  I’ve been looking forward to getting back to that, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.  Sadly, I’m still spending more ISK than I’m making, but I do expect to turn that around here soon.

I’d also mentioned previously I hoped to get involved with Bombers Bar again, though I just haven’t had that kind of time.  Maybe after the holidays I’ll see what I can do.  But for now my time in EVE will be invested in Ratting, exploring, and the odd bit of mining.  Also, I’m still consolidating things.  My primary goal in playing EVE — and I am officially playing again and splitting time with WoW (more on this later) is to find a good, healthy, corporation out in Nullsec, and move out there to take part in the fun again.  It’s been several years and the excitement of engaging in fleet battles again is growing in me by the day.

In the past I had several accounts active, but for now I think I’ll be sticking with three.  And I’ve had those accounts active for the last month.  As a matter of fact two of those accounts renew their subscriptions tomorrow, while the third renews next week.  And instead of renewing month-to-month, I’ve already gone ahead and renewed for an entire year on the first two accounts, and will do the same for the third next week.  So I’m locked in.  As I said, I’m officially playing again, but more on it later.

So a couple things continue to strike me as odd.  I mentioned last week how dead I thought Oursulaert.  It was never a major market hub, though it was certainly an extremely busy secondary market hub in years past.  But now it feels all but deserted and I’m not sure why.  I haven’t been out to Amarr or Minmatar space to see how things feel out there, but I’m wondering if its that there really aren’t that many wars going on at the moment or something else.

The second thing that has really struck me is the dramatic change in meta since I last seriously played.  Big blingy ships for ratting and mission running are apparently out, and smaller, drone boats are in.  And what did CCP do to my Tengu?  I was looking at it this morning and none of my old fits work any longer.  Looks like there was a pretty serious balancing with the Tengu (and other Strategic Cruisers??) at some point in the past and now few people are running those for missions.  I’ve been trying to sell one on contract at a major mission hub in Caldari space 3 weeks, but thus far there hasn’t been a single nibble.  I recall a couple years ago when I last played I sold off a spare Loki in contracts, which took all of a week.  Tengus used to sell like hot cakes and here I have a blingy spare up on contracts for 3 weeks gathering dust?

I admit, it makes a lot of sense to run around in a VNI which costs less than a tenth of what a good Tengu mission runner would cost.  But VNI just feels so less satisfying at the end of the day.  I love the action of launching missiles, but with my VNI I get to watch my drones plink ships while I orbit something.  Maybe its an acquired taste that I just haven’t acquired yet?  I’ll do it, but no one said I have to like it!

Stellaris is complicated

My first Stellaris campaign — 4 hours into game play

Back in the day when I liked to play single player games, and did so predominately, I tended to play RTS and RPG games more than anything else. RTS games were perhaps my favorite, eeking out a bit more favorability with me than RPGs.  But quite honestly, none of the RTS games I was familiar with in the 2000-2005 era were very deep, offering somewhat simplistic and easily understandable power progression systems.

Maybe the odd RTS offered a bit more complexity than its competitors, but in all the years I played RTs’s I never once felt out of my depth in understanding of what I needed to do within the game, and certainly never once felt I needed to hit up youtube to watch video tutorials before playing again.  Yet that is precisely what I feel I need to do before playing Stellaris again.  Six hours into playing Stellaris and although I feel I’ve emerged from the chrysalis of a complete game novice, I still feel like I’m playing with a thick cloud of fog surrounding me.

While I love the complexity and richness of Stallaris, the game woefully lacks any real semblance of a tutorial system.  It guides you through some basic nuances of the game but that’s about it.  You’re largely left on your own to figure out a game that by many accounts, offers “hundreds of hours” of game play.  If there was ever a game where a tutorial campaign was desperately needed, Stellaris is probably it.

So what is Stellaris?  Its a massive RTS game set in space, in which players are afforded multiple distinct paths to success.  As a player you can “conquer” the galaxy through diplomacy, trade, or warfare depending on your specific set of goals, which equates to a tremendous replay value to the game.  There are a number of variables you can also tinker with to make the specific game play easier, or difficult; and there are a number of different races, along with their own sets of variables to choose from as well.  Some races offer tremendous advantages over others in certain respects, so there is an awful lot of consider before you get started.  Again, another instance of where the game fails to help you understand which decisions you need to make, why, and which decisions matter less than others.

I wish I could say I know more about what the game offers, long term, but as I said, I’m six hours into it and feel only slightly more knowledgeable than when I started.  At this point in my play, the important elements are building up my resources, producing units and buildings/stations, and performing research in order to develop new and useful technologies which ultimately feed back into my production.

Sounds like every RTS game you’ve ever played, right?  But resource gathering is slightly more complex in Stellaris than in any other RTS I’ve ever seen.  While there are certainly the mundane resource stockpiles available where you simply build an appropriate gathering station to develop those resources, but on the planets you’ve settled, you can also tweak resource production somewhat.  You aren’t entirely locked into the game deciding for you how many resources are available to you as a finite number.  Rather, you’re afforded some agency to produce more, or less, of different types of resources depending on your need.

But its not quite that simple either, because in addition to the resources themselves, you have a workforce you have to keep happy too.  You also have to manage favorability rating, unemployment, housing, amenities, ecological impediments, and a range of other variables that impact resource production.  All while expanding throughout the galaxy, and eventually encountering other alien empires.  Some of which may not be as tolerant, or peaceful as you may be playing.

Whether you set out to play a a trade, diplomatic, or conquest based game, you’ll expand across the galaxy by taking possession of systems.  Some of which will have habitable planets you can settle, while the rest will become sources of resources and technology.  You can imagine, in a galaxy with up to 1000 systems, the prospect of producing resources, units, and managing work forces across a number of worlds becomes more and more complicated over time.

I’m definitely not giving up on the game, but feel I need to watch some videos before dipping my toes back into it again.  This, instead of playing the game I spent $32 on off Steam yesterday.  Not quite the experience I was expecting Paradox Interactive….