Thursday, December 29, 2011

For Texas and Miss Lily

"Judge shot him.  Dead.  Dead, dead.  Then he fined him for some other crimes.  And then later we hanged him."
     - The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
There is a scene in the western "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" in which an albino desperado/gunslinger named Bad Bob (played by Stacy Keach) rides into town, terrorizes the townfolk, and then calls Judge Bean out for a gunfight. When the Judge doesn't show himself, Bob resorts to all manner of insult and smack talk. When direct insults don't draw the judge out, Bob begins to insult Lily Langtree, whom Roy Bean is known to idolize as the best and most beautiful woman in the world.  Finally, Bad Bob shoots a poster bearing Miss Lily's image through the heart.

Thus provoked, Judge Bean, who has used this time to hide himself in a church steeple with a high powered rifle, shoots Bad Bob in the back from long distance. Kills him on the spot.

The judge's men, while not long on virtue themselves, are a bit off-put by this as shooting a man in the back, even so vile a villain as Bad Bob, violates the code of the West. 
Fermel Parlee:  You call that sportin'? It weren't a real standup fight.
Judge Bean:      Standup? I laid down to steady my aim.
Fermel Parlee:  Well, I mean he never had a chance.
Judge Bean:      Not at all.  Never did, never would have.  I didn't ask him to come here.  I don't abide giving killers a chance.  He wants a chance, let him go someplace else.
Which sums up my philosophy of PvP very nicely.  In fact, this is one of the few aspects of the game in which my point of view and Mitten's overlap almost entirely. War in New Eden is not about e-Honor. It's not about "good fights". It's about ruining the play experience for the other side; a deliberate peeling away of any enjoyment the enemy gets when they mess with you. It is a war of attrition on fun. A good fight, to me, is when I kill the enemy in as efficient and merciless fashion as possible with minimal danger to me and mine.

It is a pragmatic and, I will be the first to admit, soulless view of PvP.

Of course, my point of view is anathema for many small gang PvPers for whom PvP is an end in and of itself; the very reason for playing the game in the first place. Such players are very passionate about what they do and can be a bit defensive when it comes to their play style. Small gang PvPers tend toward an almost knee-jerk dislike for "fleet" PvP.  They are quick to sneer at it and state that it isn't "real" PvP; that outfits like Eve University do new players a disservice by teaching them fleet tactics as opposed to the more nuanced skills needed to be an effective solo or small gang pilot.  

In truth, they are the gunslingers, the samurai of Eve Online.

For these players it's all about the kill list and the good fight. They rail against the fleet doctrine because it is closely associated with the blob. Skilled though they may be, most small gangs are not a match for an ably led fifty ship fleet of more modestly skilled pilots. Winning by application of overwhelming force does nothing to burnish one's PvP reputation and those who win in that manner are not deserving of respect. Dueling with blobs of t1 battlecruisers does not generally fall under the small gang PvPer's definition of a good fight.

Carebears, on the other hand, are not constrained by such delicate considerations.

A carebear is, generally speaking, not terribly interested his or her PvP reputation. They are a pragmatic lot. If the small gang pirates and griefers don't enjoy blob fights, the bears are well advised to blob with a will. As I mentioned in Creatures of Light and Darkness, nullsec bears became very adept at hemming small fleets of interlopers into kill zones and then exterminating them. Executing the same tactics in lowsec, of course, assumes fleet PvP numbers, know-how and coordination that most highsec carebear corporations and alliances lack. Further, assets in lowsec have, by and large, either been impossible to secure, or not worth the investment an organization would need to make in order to project a sphere of influence into lowsec space.

With the advent of Player Owned Customs Offices (POCO), this has changed. POCOs offer a structure that can be claimed by an organization and generate a number of revenue streams. Of course a prerequisite for optimizing revenue from such a structure is that they be reasonably accessible to those allowed to use them, and that they be defended if attacked. Thus, carebear organizations have been provided a rationale for projecting power into lowsec.

Of course, as most faction warfare players will know, lowsec space is difficult to lock down. Not only are there no in-game mechanics to facilitate this, lowsec mechanics tend twork to impede such efforts. Thus, a lighter touch is needed; the development of a sphere of influence as opposed to outright territorial control. The goal of a sphere if influence is an area of nullsec in which hostile traffic can be minimized enough to allow a profitable degree of allied industrial activity by friends and allies. This is, at present, beyond the ability of most high sec alliances. Therefore, if they wish to extend their operations to lowsec and have the wherewithal to protect their investments, they are going to have to form coalitions.

To date, lowsec coalitions have been a very different breed of cat from their nullsec cousins. Nullsec coalitions tend to be highly public, with well known list of member alliances, defined borders, common diplomatic standings and a clearly defined administrative structure. Lowsec coalitions, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, much more secretive and more informal. Most are PvP/Industrial hybrids and have no interest in calling undue attention to themselves and tend to locate themselves off the beaten path. 

However, there are indications that a new type of lowsec coalition is waiting to step out into the spotlight. It bears a much closer resemblance to a nullsec coalition and that's not surprising; a key constituent of these emerging entities are former nullsec bears. Unlike many highsec bears, nullsec bears tend to be well grounded in how to fight in fleet, how to coordinate defense of their space and how to spoil a roaming gang's evening out. Some are passable Fleet Commanders as well.

Whether and how quickly these bear coalitions catch on and whether they survive for long is an open question. There will be a trial and error period, them we'll see. While I don't expect them to stand off a concerted attack by Pandemic Legion, Legion of Death or their nullsec ilk, the bears should be able to hold their own against the usual assortment of lowsec pirates and griefers. However, the winners or losers in this fight will not be measured in ships or ISK lost. It will be measured in fun denied.

For Texas, and Miss Lily.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mittens and Markets

I spent a few weeks observing the Goonswarm interdiction of Gallente ice. Ironically dubbed Goonswarm Shrugged by Mittens, chair of the CSM and Beloved Leader of Goonswarm, the interdiction's stated objective was the ruination of the Eve economy.

Now, it would seem a bit far fetched to some, the idea that interdicting a single commodity could bring New Eden's artificial economy to its knees.  However, it must be borne in mind that Mittens had an awful lot of bored Goons wanting occupation as they waited for the Winter Supercapital Nerf.  Like Border Collies, if you don't keep Goons busy they'll start eating the sofa cushions and herding the household cats. Or the other way around. Both are messy and involve constant clean up.

Anyway, you might well ask how I know Mittens wasn't planning on breaking New Eden's economy. The answer is that Mittens told me so. Well, not directly. Well, yes directly, but not in so many words.
All of EVE depends on fuel, and an extra-special amount of EVE depends on Oxygen Isotopes. These are the fuel for the most popular types of supercapitals, the Rorqual industrial ship, and for Gallente towers, which are the backbone of moon mineral reaction chains and thus of T2 production all across EVE.
See, as Mittens put it forward in his mission statement, this means that by systematically griefing Gallente ice harvesting in high sec space, his Goonswarm could bring industrial New Eden to its knees. An obvious lie. Therefore, Mittens did not plan on bringing the economy of New Eden to its knees. QED.

How do I know it was a lie? His lips were moving.

But that aside; the holes in this theory/plan from an economics standpoint are absolutely, unbelievably huge. To announce such a goal Mittens would have to be either made of two parts stupidity to one part hubris, or lying. So ask yourself this: Is Mittens stupid? See? Lying.

Oh, I won't say he doesn't entertain some secret dream of holding all of Eve hostage to his whims. We all need a dream. But there is more of Machiavelli than super villain in Mittens. No, this was an exercise in keeping the kiddies busy while engaging in a little market manipulation.

While it couldn't achieve its stated goal, the announcement of the interdiction by itself would cause oxygen isotope prices to spike due to market speculation by in game traders and the accelerated consumption of the isotopes needed to support the ongoing stockpiling of fuel cells. If the interdiction were successful in causing a production decline in overall oxygen isotope production, that would be bump the expected price spike further. But the impact of the actual interdiction was all gravy. All Mittens had to do was invest in the isotopes up front, announce the interdiction, and then cash in as the price rose. If the scam kept his troops well occupied while they waited for the winter war, all the better.

Of course, Mittens' announced goal of a complete 23/7 shut down of highsec ice production was never realized. I spent a good bit of time moving from one ice belt system to another observing the interdiction in operation, reading reports from sources on the ground and watching the supporting metrics. The effort was generally successful in the few designated staging systems, however enforcement of the interdiction elsewhere became sporadic after the initial excitement with the operation passed. Several systems appear to have been largely untouched after the interdiction's initial push. It wasn't uncommon to sit in a system for hours on end, watching a fleet of happy (if watchful) miners making little icebergs out of big ones - no doubt thanking Mittens for their the additional profit margin.

On Sunday, of course, Mittens called an end to the interdiction. He cashed in his isotopes at a nice profit and sent his goons into Branch to devil the Russians for a time. War against a neighboring nullsec power tends to hold the Goons attention better than war with mining barges.

An interesting byproduct of the venture was the degree to which some the miners worked to adapt to the Goon threat. Normally a miner will simply shut down operations and blue-ball a persistent griefer. In this case, without an expected end to the Goon campaign, and with the uptick in isotope prices making mining Gallente ice worth more risk, miners began experimenting with means of foiling the Goon attacks, or at least minimizing the related financial losses. Further, kill hungry PvE players began to haunt the ice belts in t1 PvP fit ships, waiting for an attacker. Knowing the Goon ships were fit for all gank and no tank and that their focus would be on the mining barges, it was a rare opportunity for the highsec PvE players to rack up some low risk Goonswarm kills.

I won't go into the precise tactics developed by the carebear side. Hulkageddon is just around the corner, and it will be interesting to see if the lessons learned by some of the carebears in the Gallente Ice Interdiction of 2011 get carried over and refined when the Hulk hunters come calling.

As ever, it's an ill wind that blows no one good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stabbed Up: POCO Wars

As of  December, Stabs is back in business at his blog Stabbed Up. He's published a nine-episode set of posts called POCO wars that involves adventures and misadventures with Player Owned Customs Offices in wormhole space. A good read and I recommend them.

Stabs is a thoughtful writer (A librarian over on the UK, so I understand. Jenny would approve.) who's held forth quite intelligently on Eve over time. I'd dropped him off my blog list as he'd stopped writing about Eve for a while and then stopped writing altogether in the Fall. However, it looks like he's returned and giving Eve some press, and I'm happy to see him back with us.

Some of you have already noticed his return. For those who haven't, stop in and give him some blog love. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Golden Hour

In emergency medicine, the golden hour refers to a time period lasting from a few minutes to several hours following traumatic injury being sustained by a casualty, during which there is the highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death.
                 - Advanced Trauma Life Support
If you hang out in nullsec long enough, there's going to come a day when the barbarians get inside the walls. They're going to pillage and burn. They're going to perform unnatural acts with the livestock. They're going to laugh at you and call you all manner of impolite and impolitic names.

It's never a good day.

Defeat and retreat are part of the ebb and flow of fortunes that make nullsec what it is. However, unless you're role-playing Aeneas,  being driven from your nullsec home and into the wilderness with your fellow exiles is never fun. And, as I say so often that you're probably rolling your eyes and mouthing the words as you read this, if your guys aren't having fun, they'll soon be somebody else's guys.

So, while you don't have to like it (in fact you shouldn't), you do need to be mindful of the possibility that you'll be overrun and have to make a strategic withdrawal and plan against that eventuality. If and when it comes to that, the last thing you want is everybody rushing for the exits in panic, leaving their fellows and most of their high-value assets behind. Nor do you want the veterans of nullsec bug-outs reading the writing on the wall and quietly moving their assets out on the sly, leaving the less experienced players holding the bag. Your pilots should be confident that, in the event the unthinkable happens, an organized evacuation plan is in place and will be executed in stages if the strategic situation begin to decay.

"But Mord," you might ask, "Doesn't an evacuation plan deliver the wrong message? Won't my pilots fight harder if they have to hold their ground or lose everything?"

In a word, 'Stalingrad'.

If your goal is for your organization to live and fight another day, you need to make sure your retreat doesn't turn into a rout. You want your guys to know you've got exit options covered so they can focus on the fight and not on finding a jump freighter pilot willing to move their stuff out of harms way.  The more in the way of high-value ships and equipment you can save, the faster your pilots can regroup and get back in the game.

So, create a plan that balances the needs of your alliance and your corporation. Update your plan periodically in order to accommodate changes to your organization's pilot roster and equipment inventory. Circumstances will vary and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. A non-sov holding entity that has no military obligations (such as a nullsec renter) can pretty much pick up and move at the first sign of trouble. On the other hand, a member of a sov-holding alliance, or a renter who aspires to graduate to membership in said alliance, has to lock shields with the rest of the defenders and hold the line as long as is reasonable. Combined Indy/PvP organizations should plan for both sides of the house.

Most evacuation plans should allow for execution in phases. For Example:

Threat Level 1 - The bad guys have established a beach head in your area and you are subject to probing attacks. You believe your system(s) is a target, but they haven't arrived in force.  Travel routes are still open. Pack up non-essential industrial and PvE items and move them to safety. 

Threat Level 2 - The bad guys have broken out of the beach head and are on their way. Your territories are under direct threat and your system or key access points to your system are being routinely harassed by enemy gangs/fleets. Non-essential and "vanity" PvP ships should be moved to safety. Capital PvP ships not involved in the evacuation of non-essential ships should be moved a safe staging area behind friendly lines.

Threat Level 3 - You are in imminent danger of being overrun. Gate pipelines and jump-bridge networks are heavily interdicted by the enemy. General evacuation underway. Remaining ships, equipment and supplies not being used for rear-guard actions are evacuated by jump-ship and carrier. If the alliance is falling back to a secondary (or tertiary) defensive line and you're redeploying in support the alliance should have provided a system to use as a fall-back point. If you are evacuating alliance space altogether, a preselected rendezvous  location should be designated.

Now, the moment when the greasy, bandy-legged barbarians crash through your gates and undertake a literal approach to animal husbandry is usually the culmination of a series of lesser misadventures. Your troops will likely have been fighting the rising tide for a while and been losing a lot more than they win as the siege went into end-game. Despite their stiff upper lips, vows of return and loyalty to the cause, morale is going to be low. They are going to be tired, discouraged and, in many cases, cash and equipment poor. 

At this point you might think a leader could wipe the sweat from their brow, put their feet up, declare it Sapporo time and tell the kids to go out and play for a while. Alas, quite the opposite. From an organizational standpoint, this is the golden hour. What you do upon arrival in safe harbor will likely make the difference between whether your organization rises like a phoenix from the ashes of defeat or tumbles ignominiously into the abyss of failscade.

The first instinct of a lot of CEOs and directors is to cut the team loose and give them a couple of weeks to rat and kick back while the leadership team regroups and considers the the next move. Don't go there. At this point, structure is your friend. Keep the troops well occupied. Provide organized roams, ratting expeditions and training sessions. Set them to work restocking consumables like jump and POS fuels and ammunition. Find out who needs to be made whole and make doing so an organizational project.

Even before your last jump-ship makes its escape from the barbarian horde, start planning your organization's future and making preliminary contacts with future friends and allies. Let the rank and file know there are plans in motion. Once in safe harbor, set them to preparing. Spy missions, diplomatic outreach, recruiting, setting up logistics for the upcoming move are all tasks that will keep their eyes on the next big adventure and make it harder for other organizations to lure your best players away. 

Like as not, nullsec's going to get pretty chaotic for the next quarter or two. That means a lot of small corporation CEOs will have to lead their people out of the wilderness to rebuild and reorganize. Whether or not their organizations survive and return to the deep thereafter will depend on the planning those leaders put in up front.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When Stories Collide

"Comedy, love and a bit with a dog - that's what they want."
               Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love 

Unless your audience is made up of folk who consider themselves dedicated to serious literature (or summoning forth the Cthulhu), comedy should be one's first instinct when it comes to competitive writing such as the Ultimate Blog-Off of Destiny.  

"Well, Mord," you might well ask, "If you knew that, why did you cast comedy blithely aside try to turn out a 1,500 word flash-fiction adventure/drama piece for said Blog-off?"

Ooh. Good question. 

The story that ended up being Post Mortem began as a comedy. Think Eve Online meets Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, sans the more serious social commentary elements. Just the funny bits, thank you. 

It started off well enough. Thomas and his stuffy, high-society mother (think Margaret Dumont) have words over his taste in fiances.  Here mother has gone to the trouble of sending her son to the "right" schools where he can meet the "right" sort of girl, and he rewards here attention to his future well-being by bringing home a coarse, near psychopathic Minmatar killing machine. (The fact that she's Minmatar got left on the cutting room floor as I whittled the story down to the requisite 1,500 word limit.)  Emma Javix, like any respectable Gallentean is all about freedom, self-determination and social justice. However, social justice has just landed at her dining room table and sunk hooks into her son in the form of this...this woman.  

Comedic hijinks ensue

See? Funny stuff. Until I got to the 'hijinx' part.  

For that I needed myself a near psychopathic Minmatar killing machine for Tomas' finance. And I know what those of you who've read the Interlude episodes of this blog are thinking: Mord has a thing for chicks in tight clothes carrying high powered guns. Nonsense. Mord is far too jaded and world-weary to be drawn to such things. However Mord knows his audience. The Science Fiction, Amime, Graphic Novel and Ships in Space culture is all about chicks in tight clothes carrying high-powered guns. So is the Fantasy culture, except those chicks carry swords, and are usually a bit more...ahem...gravity defying than their SF counterparts. 

The comic possibilities of this hard-drinking, dockside-brawling, man-ravishing, borderline insane capsuleer dropped into Mrs Javix tidy, well insulated world is neigh limitless. I mean, we have the bit where she attends book-club with Emma Javix and does limericks, the sudden tendency of the household appliances to curse at Mrs. Javix in Minmatar, the accidental shooting of the fluffy family pet with explosive rounds.

So I send a call up to central casting with the character specifications; and who do they send me, but Molls.  And Molls is not just another pretty face toting a large caliber side-arm. Oh, no.

Sometimes a character speaks to you; arrives fully formed and tells you his/her story. Writing about them is almost like taking dictation. Words flow and the presence of the character practically jumps off the page. Molly is such a character. 

Trouble is, she was the wrong character for the story I was writing.

Molls is an Odysseus-like character who is not merely touched by fate, but grabbed up in its full embrace. She survives both the slaughter of her fleet and, impossibly, the loss of her pod. She fights her way across the length of New Eden;  baffling pursuers, stepping over bodies, finding help in unlikely places, until she makes her way home. Only to find that, unlike Odysseus' Penelope, her own love has moved on to a new edition of herself.  

"Geez Mord," you might say, "What's with all the drama? Why didn't she just buy, borrow or steal a shuttle and get back to her home system before mid-day mess call the next day?"  

My, you're full of questions this morning. Unfortunately, to answer this one I have to take a brief side-trip down one of the rabbit holes of my imagination. Hang on, and and be sure to keep your arms, legs and other appendages inside the car until the ride has come to a complete halt.   . 

Now, in New Eden, we assume that the transition of "you" from your pod to your medical clone is foolproof; that surviving pod-splat after your memories, et al are transmitted to to your medical clone simply can't happen.  In fact the systems that facilitate the transition are specifically designed to make sure you don't accidentally survive.  Of course they also make sure pod "you" doesn't suffer unduly after the transition to med clone "you" has been accomplished. Personally I think the latter is a secondary use of the specialized bit of pod technology that hits you with a lethal injection to the brain.  It certainly sounds a lot better than saying you're being killed so you don't become a legal "inconvenience" for your newly woken up self. 

You see, not only your memories, skills, personality and such get transferred to your clone.  Your legal identity is transferred as well. So, to ensure smooth continuation of the capsuleer economy and culture, it's important that any loose ends be (ahem) taken care of.  And you, out there in the middle of the deep and trying to breath vacuum as your pod loses integrity, represent a profound loose end.  Hence the needle.  After all, we can't have two (or more) of you wandering about.  Quite messy for the legal, economic, and theological institutions alike.  Confusing for spousal units and offspring. And don't get me started on the security risks. 

No, there can be only one.

And if there is the needle, there must be other safeguards as well in the wildly unlikely event that the needle, the ordinance tearing your pod apart and the vacuum of space don't quite do the job of ensuring your demise. With your identity legally transferred to your clone, you would effectively become a non-person, unable to legally participate in any aspect of New Eden that requires identity.  No bank account. No medical system.  No legal protection.  You can be killed by the locals without legal repercussion.  The genetic mapping associated with any attempt at acquiring such services or a new identity would immediately tag you as an illegal clone of your legal self, i.e, that medical clone who assumed your identity when you "died".  Notified by such attempts to re-enter the system, the authorities would quickly locate you, bring you in, and take humane measures to ensure a dignified end to your suffering. 

And yes, that's a euphemism for sticking a needle full of neuro-toxins into your brain.

That's the essence of the situation Molly's dumped into at the beginning of her story arc, the driver of its central conflict. So, as you see, she was simply the wrong character for a spoof of Gallente high society - faction warfare meets the Marx brothers. And there was no question of adapting her to the story. With characters like Molls one has some latitude for change, subject to the character's approval. But there is a certain truth to such characters and if you force them to follow directions beyond certain bounds, they go limp and lifeless in your imagination's eye.  You end up with a sock-puppet of a character with no spark of life or literary ring of truth. 

So I dismissed Molly and set about the task of summoned up a more comedically suitable ingenue.

Molls wouldn't leave.

Try as I might, I wasn't able to get her out of the story. I was going to write about Molls, or I wasn't going to write.  Character persistence is an interesting variation on the "earworm" phenomenon, where you can't get a tune out of your head. You can either wait it out, or sing the song out loud a few times, thereby satisfying whatever part of your brain that's latched onto it. Same with character persistence. You wait out the character, or you give in and write about them.

With my 24 hour deadline ticking down, I was in poor a negotiating position. Thus, Postmortum was born; an awkward collision of two wildly different stories with Molly acting as the glue holding things together.  If you go back an look closely at the story carefully, you'll see the places where the "true" Molls peeks out and where she's just reading the lines I fed her.

Molly and Postmortum will go into my desk drawer for a while. I don't know that I'll ever write Molly's story. What with the restrictions the commercial Eve paradigm places on plots, characters and such, not to mention the intellectual property issues, I've no plans to write Eve fiction beyond the odd throw away piece. Molls' story is novel-length, and if I put that much work into a project, it needs to be satisfying to write and have a potential pay-day once it's completed.

But, after some time has passed, I'll sit Molly down in my mind's eye and see what she has to say to me. If her character's drifted enough be able to tell me her story in a setting outside the Eve universe, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We'll see.

It's all up to Molls.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Girl-fight in Outer Passage

The much-anticipated fraternal brawl between Legion of Death and Solar Fleet has gotten off to an uninspiring start.  Solar Fleet has taken two systems (UC-8XF and MC4C-H), however those are from the renter alliance, Shadow of Death, and neither are station systems.  One of the two systems to change hands, UC-8XF, appears to have done so with minimal, if any resistance.

As Steve alerted me to last night, a few fleet battles of some size finally erupted in the neighboring station systems J-OKB3 and 4AZV-4. Solar Fleet seems to have shown up with a combined Maelstrom and Drake fleet. The other side looks to have been primarily DRF renters: Shadow of Death, Voodoo Technologies and a sprinkling of others.

Yeah. DRF versus DRF tenant nullsec bears.  I won't bother reporting the outcome.

Of course, Legion of Death was represented.  They sent along a contingent of Baddons and the inevitable Drakes to add some meat to the hash of ships the renter alliances brought to the line, but anyone who's familiar with DRF fleet fights can tell it wasn't a serious effort. And there doesn't seem to have been a single capital ship, let alone a supercap, in sight.

In the nullsec scale of things, this was the equivalent of two milkmaids out in the meadow slapping each other and pulling each others' hair.  

So, let's walk down events to date. Much grumbling and resetting of Legion and Solar over renter stuff. A couple of low-value renter systems change hands. Token fleet fight in renter station systems, in which the renters get slapped around by their landlord's brother in law.

War and Peace it ain't.

In fact, one could wonder whether Legion of Death and Solar Fleet are genuinely at odds with each other at all. A fight between two alliances where only renters get hurt is hardly a fight at all. Especially when it's not like the renters can go anywhere else, what with the DRF owning 70% of nullsec.

Given events, I'm beginning to think the alleged falling out among the DRF is a bit of shadow play; yet another prelude to the dance to come.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Great Sitzkrieg of 2011

There have been some preliminary bouts out in nullsec. I consider these sparring matches; warm-ups as a number of alliances such as Against All Authorities, Gypsy Band, The Initiative, Brick Squad, Test Alliance and Pandemic Legion exercise various aspects of the Crucible changes in fleet fight mode. The main event has yet to come, but the long and tedious Great Sitzkrieg that occupied the better part of 2011 is finally coming to a close.

Letting slip the dogs of war sooner rather than later must be tempting. It has been a long, dry season of waiting for the Winter Supercaptial Nerf, and there is a restlessness bordering the nullsec space presently held by the DRF, their vassals and their tenants. Even so, I expect the opening skirmishes to continue through December. The Winter holidays loom, and any invasion begun now will soon stall as capsuleers abandon the fleets in order to man the carving board, travel and spend time with family. Only when they return, well fed, over-socialized and wiping the last smears of plum pudding from their chins, should the battles begin in earnest.

Alas, the holidays may be cheerless for poor Morsus Mihi. Toward the end of November they had redeployed from Delve along with Gypsy Band and Brick Squad to nullsec's NPC Curse region in anticipation of a post-supercapital nerf invasion of DRF space. They may not make it past the dessert buffet at the latke party . At the turn of the month, with the end of the 2011 Sitzkrieg in sight, four key corporations (Fusion Enterprises, Oberon Incorporated, Macabre Votum and hirr) which comprised fully half of MM's membership bolted for the door.

Even Crucible's bundle of spaceship love can't overcome Mord's Maxim: If your guys aren't having fun, they'll soon be someone else's guys.

In this case, Macabre Votum and hirr, the two largest PvP corporations exiting MM have become Against All Authorities' (-A-) guys. That move should dampen any early celebrations of MM's misfortune of the part of the DRF. -A- has spent the Sitzkrieg substantially improving the quality of their nullsec fleets. Adding two seasoned nullsec PvP corporations to those fleets, each with over three hundred accounts, will not be a cause for joy in the DRF board rooms.

The termination of the 'logoffski' mechanic, which allowed supercapital ships to escape if they could endure 15 minutes of inbound fire, has added a new layer of risk to deploying supercapitals. Likewise, a number of changes to the ships themselves have made them more vulnerable to subcapital fleets.  Initially this may favor the DRF more than their enemies as the Drone Russians should have a sizable stockpile of supercaptials left over from the NC campaign and, given the vast income that comes of holding 70% of nullsec's large-bore Isk faucets, will have likely added to it during the Sitzkrieg. 

In a RL military, the equipment involved is normally the property of the state. Sending an aircraft carrier or a platoon of tanks into harms way may risk the lives of the soldiers and sailors manning the equipment, but the loss of the equipment itself does not put the personal wealth of said soldiers and sailors at risk. In Eve the opposite is true. Fleet pilots killed in action simply wake up in their clone vat, but the loss of a ship, along with its fittings and the implants needed to effectively fly it, represents a personal financial loss to its pilot. In the case of supercapital pilots this loss is profound, both in terms of personal wealth and future revenue. Thus, a supercapital pilot may well be risk-averse when it comes to committing his or her property to combat.

Of course, well-heeled nullsec alliances typically offset this risk aversion by offering replacements for supercapital ships lost in combat (usually with a don't-be-stupid clause voiding replacement if the ship was lost due to pilot idiocy). However, in the case of supercaps a financial reimbursement may be insufficient to bring a new ship to the line if no actual replacements are available. Despite their post-Crucible vulnerabilities, the supercapitals the DRF has stockpiled should allow their FCs to be aggressive in their deployments of the ships as they can afford losses their enemies couldn't begin to absorb. Meanwhile, enemies without such reserves will be even more tentative about deploying supercapitals in post-Crucible Eve than before.

However, the DRF paradigm, based on a relatively small number of elite and highly mobile supercapital pilots, depends heavily on the ability of large supercapital fleets to operate in relative safety against subcapital fleets unsupported by their own supers. With grouped Titans unable to target Hictors, Command, or Logistic ships, or instapop enemy fleet commanders, subcapital fleets will have the opportunity to make the DRF pay big any time they play the supercapital card too aggressively.

If the DRF is challenged on many fronts, their ability to properly support supercapitals with subcapital fleets will be diminished. In that case, the likely response will be their usual tactic of giving ground on selective fronts and letting their enemies spend their strategic momentum in reducing undefended stations and sovereignty infrastructure while the DRF deals with more immediate threats elsewhere.  However, that tactic could work against them this time. Even non-supercapital alliances now have the opportunity to take space as long as their fleets are well supplied with Heavy Interdictors and have the DPS needed to grind through a supercapital's defenses. By giving ground too early and too easily, the DRF could encourage alliances that might have stayed on the sidelines to enter the fray.

Of critical importance now will be the diplomatic maneuverings that occur between now and the new year.  Information will flow freely, wound about and shot through with disinformation. Offers and promises will be made; some sincere and some intended to be broken. This is the true great game of nullsec; the prelude to the coming dance.

Eve at its Machiavellian best

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Ah, the lowsec love offensive at Fiddler's Edge continues.

Of the changes planned for the impending Crucible release of Eve Online, the one that intrigues me most is the advent of destructible player owned custom offices in lowsec and nullsec space.  (OK, that and the Amarr t3 battlecruiser which, while weak on capacitor, looks very cool.)

Now, back in the days of CSM 5, then CSM chair Mynxee was collecting player input on desired lowsec improvements as part of her Making Lowsec Matter campaign. A lot of interesting suggestions were made, and if I had to net them out into a single overarching want, it would be: Put valuable stuff in lowsec that will lure in more Carebear targets, but not stuff so valuable as to attract those Isk-grubbing, structure shooting null-sec alliances. Obviously, that doesn't encompass all the suggestions put forward, but cultivating a target-rich environment struck me as the closest thing to a common thread running through the Making Low Sec Matter forum.

Oddly enough, PI in lowsec became exactly that sort of phenomenon.

As Kirith Kodachi pointed out in his walk-down of the Crucible modifications, a number of enterprising high-sec industrialists have been engaging in ninja lowsec PI production.  Planets in lowsec provide a higher yield of PI materials than their highsec counterparts. Further, the dangers associated with lowsec mean there is much less competition for more abundant PI resources. Once the ninja industrialist has discovered a PI rich planet in lowsec, it's simply a matter of sneaking in and dropping a command center onto said planet.

After that the entire extraction and manufacturing operation can be managed remotely, without the industrialist having to kick off his or her bunny slippers. However, finished PI goods sitting on the planet are of no use or value to our ninja industrialist; those goods must be repatriated every now and then. And that means that, sooner or later, our ninja industrialists (or their proxies) must leave those bunny slippers by the door and slip back to into lowsec, sidle up to the lowsec planet's customs office and retrieve their stealthily gotten goods.

Of course, lowsec players of a piratical bent are hardly asleep at the switch. They've become aware of these goings on and some of them have begun playing cat and mouse with the indy ninjas; staking out customs offices on planets with evidence of PI activity when the industrialists are in-system, or likely to come calling. While this is usually a cat and mouse game and not an outright turkey shoot, it has provided additional targets and lively hunting opportunities for the rogues and scalawags of lowsec.

With the upcoming Crucible expansion, customs offices will become structures that can be destroyed and replaced (or not) with player-owned custom offices. With player-owned offices, access to the customs office can be restricted. Futher, the isk-sinks represented by the payment of customs taxes to NPC offices turn into isk-transfer mechanisms. The owners of player-owned customs offices will both set and collect the associated taxes and can set taxes to varying levels based on the standing of the office's users with the owners. 

Now, how this change will be absorbed into nullsec play is pretty straightforward. Galactic landlords are always looking for ways to separate Isk from their industrial tenants and this provides them one more. Some may try to exercise total control of customs offices via the renter alliance's holding corp, but given the number of planets involved, that involves a good bit of work of the sort most PvP landlords find distasteful. A more likely approach will be to charge a monthly PI tax per customs office a tenant corporation controls, or a PI tax per system in which a tenant is allowed to control customs offices. 

However, in lowsec things get really interesting. As Kirith points out, a good bit of head-scratching is going on with regard to how this mechanic will play in lowsec, and what the fallout of the play that emerges will have on lowsec and on the the overall Eve economy.

While player entities with industrial interests exist in lowsec, small gang PvP is the predominant style of play. Entities that favor this play style tend to self-select away from business or industrial occupations. I would think the idea of building and protecting structures, even structures with an income or logistics potential, has too much the tang of sovereignty warfare for the footloose gangs of PvP players. 

Lowsec corporations and alliances with an industrial component or those seeking to generate their own POS fuels might be inclined to maintain customs offices. However, in lowsec a structure that has your name all over it and no reinforce timer practically screams the owner's presence and is an obvious target for hostile entities or even casually malicious passers-by. It seems likely that only a big dog in lowsec who can quickly run off interlopers across all time zones, or someone living in an exceedingly low-traffic backwater, is going to invest in such structures.

I suspect at first the main attraction of the new Customs Offices will lie in their destructibility and look to see lowsec gangs merrily blasting away at them for the novelty of seeing them explode. Mind, there are an awful lot of these offices and I expect that, once the novelty has worn off, a population that prides themselves on not spending ammo on structures will stop doing so indiscriminately.

With the planned de-nerfing of anomalies widening the ratting isk-faucets in lowsec, I don't expect the potential income player owned structures represent to be a sufficient incentive for lowsec corporations or alliances to take the trouble to build, defend and manage player owned customs offices. Those lowsec corporations that engage in PI for logistics purposes (POS consumables, for example) will likely attempt to use NPC owned offices rather than building an obvious target for their enemies.

Ninja industrialists will, of course, be restricted to NPC offices unless they can cut a deal with a lowsec entity willing to provide them with access to a player owned structure and free passage to use it. While orbital launch from the PI command center can be used to bypass the customs office at present, it remains to be seen whether this will be possible when a player owned office is present, or in the absence of a customs office altogether. Even if orbital launch is permitted, the volume of materials that can be lifted to orbit from a command center is very limited. This will mean a slower and much more tedious harvesting process, which will make that activity both more costly and more dangerous for lowsec and ninja industrialists alike.

Much depends on how quickly lowsec disposes of its NPC customs offices. As those decline in number, so too will the availability of PI materials in highsec and lowsec markets. This, of course, will drive up the cost of items and activities for which those materials are a critical input.

Such market turmoil will be no never-mind for lowsec's purist PvP corporations. Any resulting price hikes for ships and fittings should be offset by the income provided by the buffed anomalies. Meanwhile, a spike in the price of PI materials means greater rewards for those industrialists willing to risk lowsec in order to harvest riches where NPC customs offices remain. Thus, a reduction in the number of lowsec planets open to PI could actually result in an uptick in the number of Carebears venturing into lowsec.

Which is what the pirates and griefers of lowsec wanted in the first place.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Results: Lives In Low Sec

The turnout for the Lives in Low Sec writing contest was small, but what the field lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. Each author brought their A-game. The entrants, as you'll recall, are: 
First place was a very tough call. I always enjoy Rixx Javix's literary 'voice', and with Swinging Lucifer's Hammer he finds another gear, taking it up a notch more. He renders his story with a rich prose style, textured with details that draw the reader into the narrative. Rhavas' The Tide Pool, while more stylistically spare than Hammer, pulls the camera back and describes two PvP corporations locked in a battle of attrition. Alternating between the antagonists' points of view, his story of the war's ebb and flow draws a compelling portrait of the combatants, highlighting their individual actions while maintaining the larger story arc and investing it with dramatic tension.

First Place: The Tide Pool

Second Place: Swinging Lucifer's Hammer

Essence and Flight of the Hibernia both tighten the focus and give us stories of individual capsuleers in combat. While both were well written, Essence features a taut and visceral prose style, and the four poetic lines he uses punctuate his story provide it with poignancy and speak elegantly to the contest's theme. 

This is lowsec, a place to be forgotten.
This is lowsec, where it is always a trap.
This is lowsec, where I lie in wait, a spider in the dark…
This is lowsec, where I lay to rest the pieces of my shattered soul.  

Third Place: Essence

There is little doubt in my mind as to which prize lovelylittlevagabond had in her sights. Her lowsec encounter with the mad, bad and dangerous to know Rixx Javix is at once dramatic and whimsical. I'm quite sure it tickled Rixx from the tips of his toes to the top of his twitter hat. Speaking of whimsy, the story does involve a dread pirate bantering with the ingenue while hiding in plain sight from the authorities. So...

Best Story Featuring Rixx Javix & Jack Sparrow Prizes: Spoon

Although Tressador's Flight of the Hibernia did not finish in the money (this time - I look forward to future works by him) he was first to the line in a strong field of entries. In appreciation, I'm awarding him a special 50 million Isk prize
Alas, while there were battles and banter a'plenty, not a single cloak, dagger or act of thievery crossed the desk at Fiddler's Edge. With that, the Best Cloak & Dagger Story of Thievery Prize will not be awarded this time around, and the Blood Raiders Ashimmu will remain in Kaeda Maxwell's hanger for now. 

Finally, I want to give a special mention to Stalking Mantis. While he had no submissions that met the criteria for this contest, he has been posting some very nice lowsec Faction Warfare stories (all based on in game events) in the Eve forums.  I encourage you to stop by and give them a read.

With that, we close the book on this edition of the Lives in Low Sec writing contest. Despite the low turn out (I personally blame this month's wildly successful Blog Banter topic from Seismic Stan) I am encouraged by the good writing in the entries received.

Keep your weapons primed, your pencils sharp and look forward to another contest some time in the new year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mord Fiddle and the Ultimate Blog-Off of Destiny

One would think that the life of a podcaster was pretty sweet: An hour of goofing off with your buds on Skype, followed by a bit of audio editing punctuated by trips to the kitchen for another beer, and then its off to be feted at yet another gala luncheon. Turns out there's actually hard work involved. 

I know. Who'd have thought it.

As described last Thursday, Seismic Stan and I faced off this weekend in what Arydanika of Voices of the Void has dubbed variously, The Ultimate EVE Online Bloggist Throw Down, The Ultimate Blog-Off of Destiny and The Throwdown Showdown in Blogtown. Personally, I prefer The Ultimate Blog-Off of Destiny. It makes be feel all Indiana Jones and stuff.

Beginning at noon on Friday, we each received the three-word trigger for our stories which had to be under 1,500 words and be completed in twenty four hours. I finished with twenty minutes and two words to spare. My story (Postmortum, which appears below) was a conventional fiction piece involving an upper class Gallentian boy who brings an Eve Capsuleer home to mother.  Stan's entry was a two character radio play; a Monty Pythonesque romp with no less than four titles (I prefer The Accidental Capsuleer) which you can read over at Freebooted.  

Then it was off to the recording studio. Without intending to, we'd each rather hobbled the other when if came to performance. Stan loves radio drama and I'd given him a conventional "bed time story". On top of it, the primary characters in Postmortum are both female and, according to Stan, female character voices are not in his sweet spot (though I think he does very well).

I on the other hand, was handed a radio drama featuring two very obviously English men that would have to be laid down on at least two tracks. My voice is fairly distinct and, while I can do multiple characters, there is absolutely no hope of playing both at once in a single dialogue and maintaining any illusion that they are being voiced by separate actors. On top of it, I am not the man you want doing an English accent. Let's just say that one character's accent is all over the map, as if possessed by a throng of ghosts from a BBC casting call.

After some hours of wrestling with the audio recording software, my contribution went over the wall to Arydanika over at Voices from the Void. Dani took both Stan and my contributions and slaved long into the night in order to bring the whole mess into a coherent whole and add it to the latest V and V podcast.  Go listen. Go vote.

Sure, instead of blearily toiling away at one o'clock in the morning Greenwich Mean Time, Stan could have been abed and sweetly dreaming. And Aridanika could have been out last night, tipping back a beer with friends and enjoying the urbane Texas night life instead of toiling away at her editors desk. It seems they're both suckers for a bit of silliness. 

Props to you both, Dani and Stan.

~ ~ ~


“Mother, you said you’d give her a chance.”

Emma Javix glanced nervously toward the door that led from the kitchen to the dining room.

“I know, Thomas” she said quietly to her son, “I want to.  I mean she seems perfectly lovely, but…”

“You hate her.” Thomas, a young man with the patrician features of the Gallentean well born, crossed his arms

“No, I don’t hate her," Emma said. “She’s just…just….”

“Bizarre?” Thomas offered sarcastically, “Grotesque?”

“Don’t be coarse,” sniffed Emma, primly. "She’s exotic," She patted his arm. “Sweetheart, I understand perfectly the attraction. She must seem…a refreshing change from the local girls and the women at university. But you must think of your future.”

Thomas frowned. “You said as long as I married a professional…”

“I meant a doctor. An interstellar trade lawyer. Not a…”

“Capsuleer, Mother. Molls is a capsuleer. It’s not a dirty word.”

His mother’s eyes narrowed and she leaned in close. “There are influential persons who would say otherwise,” she hissed. 

“You know, I can hear you,” a young female voice called from other room.

Emma Javix froze, her eyes darting toward the door and then back to her son in an unspoken question.

“Perception implants,” he said, smiling grimly, “Hears like a cat.” He turned on his heel and went into the dining room.

Molly Stark sat slouched in a high-backed chair talking with Thomas’ father. She had one leg slung over the chair’s arm and the opposite foot propped on the dining table.  She was a slim, long limbed woman. She wore form fitting glove-leather pants and a snug black t-shirt. A heavy looking pistol was slung under her arm in a shoulder rig.

Her head was shaved and, at various places on her scalp, were small colored plates beneath which, Emma understood, were implants; small cybernetic units wired into her brain, augmenting senses and reflexes. The sockets of Molly’s eyes were covered by matte green lenses; ocular implants, Thomas had said. They were opaque, decorated with a circuit-board pattern and melded to the flesh around the eye. As Molly turned to smile at Thomas, her blank gaze reminded Emma of a predatory insect.

“Hello lover,” Molly said, raising a clear glass of colorless liquor to her lips.

Thomas’ father Drew sat close by, a broad grin on his face; obviously engaged by the girl’s novelty, much to Emma’s irritation. He had set aside his usual red wine and was drinking the home made “hooch” Molly had brought with her.

As Thomas sat in the seat next to Molly, she grabbed him by the front of the shirt, pulled him toward her and favored him with a deep kiss.

“It seems,” Drew said to Emma, “That Miss Stark here dies on a regular basis.”

“Mmmm. Occupational hazard,” Molly said as she released Thomas from their kiss.

“How…interesting,” Emma said as slipped into the chair opposite Molly. “I’ve heard capsuleers clone themselves and, ah, wake up in them if they die in combat.”

“Well, not just in combat,” said Molly. “I’ve known capsuleers to off themselves ‘cause they were unhappy with a tattoo or a bad haircut.”

“Facinating,” said Emma shakily. She took a sip of wine. “Tell me, Miss Stark….”

“Call me Molls”

“Molls. Ah, tell me Molls, how often have you, um….”

“Died?” asked Molly. She took a sip of her drink and appeared to be calculating in her head. “You know, after the first fifty or sixty times, it all sort of blurs together. I’ve kinda lost count over the years. Last time was a week ago, just before I shipped planet-side.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Hurt? Hah! Lessee, your ship’s been blown, your pod’s lost integrity, everything’s on fire and you’re starting to suck vacuum. Then your pod’s systems jam a fat needle full of neurotoxins into the base of your brain.” Molly tossed off her drink.

“Hurts like a sonofabitch,” she said as she poured herself another. “But it’s over quick.”

Emma’s hand shook as she set down her wineglass. “I see,” she said. “But I would find the idea of copies of myself lying in vats in this star system or that, waiting for me to die, disturbing. I mean, what if one woke up while one was still alive. ”

Molly snorted. “Sweetie, clones are tightly controlled and the systems have safeguards on top of safeguards.” She smiled and shook her head. “There’re old spacer stories about it, but I’ve never heard of it actually happening.”

“But what about the bodies?”  Drew asked. “I mean, if you’ve died so many times there must be, you know…corpses. Your corpses, floating about in space.”

“Hell yeah!” Molly laughed. “There’s regular traffic in celebrity corpses. A famous pod pilot will run you a half billion easy. Hell, I’ve got three of my own corpses on ice at home.”

“You keep your own corpses?

“Sure. On ice,” nodded Molly. “In a display rack.”

She slapped her free hand on Thomas’ thigh. “Hell Tommy and I screw on the rug in front of them every time I die.”

Thomas’ face flushed and Emma looked back and forth between them. “That’s…that’s ghastly!” She stammered.

“Hell no,” Molly said. “It’s all life affirming and shit. Sort of ‘look at me, you dead ‘ol cobs!’  I’m alive and they’re not and I’ve got a young stud to do me proper while I look up at them, all cold and packed in ice.”

The synthesized voice of the house computer spared Emma Javix from the need to respond.

“Mrs. Ravix,” it said. “A fault has been discovered in the oven.”

“Oh, what now?” Emma groaned. “Computer,” she said raising her voice. “What is the matter with the oven?”

“A fault has been discovered in the oven,” the voice repeated.

“But what sort of….” began Emma

“A fault has been discovered in the oven,” the voice persisted as the smell of smoke began emanating from the kitchen.
Emma clenched her fists “Oh, now this is just too much.”

“A fault has been discovered in the oven.”

Molly rocked her chair forward and stood up. “Want me to have a word with it?”

“With the oven?”

“Well, yeah,” Molly reached back behind her right ear, grimaced for a moment, and then produced a small plastic disk about the size of a fingernail. “See? AI interface.”

 “But Darling,” said Emma “Isn’t that for, ah, interfacing with your ship.”

Molly looked at the disk and shrugged. “Small component diagnostics,” she said as she left the table and walked into the kitchen. “Not a lot of difference between an antimatter injector and a dishwasher. Software is software.”

“See?” Thomas muttered to his mother under his breath. “She’s handy.”

“Are you alright, dear?” Emma called toward the kitchen.

“Heh. All I’m getting from your oven is ‘Destroy all humans’,” Molly called back. “You might want to hit the autoclean once in a while.”

And then the front door to the apartment blew in.

They heard the sound of the explosion before the shock wave that twisted the door off its hinges knocked them from their chairs. Smoke filled the living room as they staggered to their feet and through its choking haze a slender figure strode toward them.

“Molly,” said Thomas under his breath.

The woman standing before them could have been Molly’s twin. But her clothing was a motley collection of rags and the side of her face, where it wasn’t bandaged, was horribly burned and swollen. The left ocular implant had been shattered and the eye beneath was swollen almost shut. Her left arm was bound up in a splint, but the right hand held a large bore revolver on them, and was steady as a rock.

“Where is she?” she woman snarled.

“What the hell is going on out here?” yelled an identical voice behind them.

Emma turned to see Molly standing in the kitchen door, her automatic drawn.

“Oh my god,” Emma said looking back and forth between the women. “Molly’s clone.”

“Bitch!” Molly’s ragged twin yelled and fired first, her shots riding high and to the right. Explosive rounds tore huge chunks from the dining room wall as Molly rolled to the side and came up firing. With a hiss, her doppelganger leapt backwards into the living room, disappearing into the smoke. Molly ran past the table, snatching up a steak knife as she did, and dove into the room after her.
Through the smoke the family heard the sounds of struggle; a gunshot, breaking furniture and bodies slamming against walls. Suddenly there was a cry that gurgled down into silence. 

Minutes passed. The household fans kicked in to vent the smoke, and a figure emerged from the haze and slumped to her knees in front of the family. Molly adjusted her ragged clothing and wiped bright arterial blood from a bandaged cheek.

“Wow” she panted. “Sorry I’m late, Tommy.” She smiled wearily at Emma’s son.

“Come give me a kiss.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rumors of War

A few weeks ago, rumors that Morsis Mihi (MM) was pulling out of Delve and heading North again began percolating in several forums.

Spot checks on Delve indicate MM activity there has been tailing off for the last week. That, along with the occurrence of combined MM, Brick Squad and Gypsy Band fleet activity in Curse and lighter harassing forays into into Scalding Pass indicate that MM and their allies are indeed attempting to re-establish themselves in the North after months of exile in the Delve "Thunderdome". 

A move into Curse would indicate that the dispossessed alliances are establishing a base of operations in the the NPC region from which they could launch strikes into Scalding Pass against DRF targets. By establishing themselves in Curse now, over a week before the Crucibal release, they could be well positioned and provisioned to begin large scale operations soon after the planned Winter Supercapital nerf is deployed. 

Incursions into DRF sovereign space in early December may allow the exiles to consolidate any early gains during the Christmas and New Year holidays, when capsuleer activity tends to fall off. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


One would think returning to Eve after a Summer abroad would be easy; a simple bit of picking up where one left off. But, even with the return of ship spinning, I find myself little disoriented. Getting reorganized is painful. I've no idea where I stowed that can of BPOs or why I parked my Legion half way across known space from my re-entry location.

Then there's shopping around for a new corporation; a job made much harder by the current CCP charm offensive. With all the resulting Ships in Space changes being bundled up for the Crucible Release a lot of pent-up change is going to hit New Eden all at once. And about four to six weeks after it hits, all that change is definitely going to drive some upheaval in New Eden. I dislike kicking my heels in an NPC corporation, but post-Crucible New Eden has the potential to alter the composition and strategic direction on any corporation I join pre-Crucible.

In the meantime I've gotten myself into a wee throw-down with Seismic Stan over at Freebooted.

As many of you know, he did a wonderful job of performing Fever Dream about a week or so back (his Brian Blessing impression alone is worth the price of admission). Over the weekend I was on Twitter and said (or tweeted, to use the proper verb) that I'd have to do a read-off with him one of these days. Next thing I know Stan pops to the surface and says he accepts my challenge, but it should be both a writing AND a reading throw-down. So I said "yer on" but that we should each read the other's writing to make it more interesting.

About that moment Arydanika, Stan's co-host on Voices from the Void, pops to the surface and volunteers to air the readings and have the V and V listeners vote for the winner. A few details were hashed out and I am now party to what Arydanika has dubbed "The Ultimate EVE Online Bloggist Throw Down".

What with Stan's animated delivery, his English as the Royal Shakespeare Company accent, and performing in his own venue, I will be hard pressed. But trust, gentle readers, that I will do my level best to bring home the win for the Guthrie Theatre and the good old US of A.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writing Contest: Lives in Low Sec

“Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
           - Obi wan Kenobi, Star Wars

Sharpen up your pencils and start your word processors. Mord Fiddle is pleased to announce the first ever Lives in Low Sec Writing Contest.

Obviously, Obi wan had never been to New Eden's lowsec. Lowsec is the dark heart of the beast.  A place teeming with the dregs of humanity. Pirates. Thieves. Grifters. Jaywalkers. They all find their way to lowsec sooner or later. Lowsec makes Mos Eisley look like effing Mayberry.  In lowsec, if it's not nailed down, they'll steal it. If it is nailed down, they'll tear up the floorboards and steal it anyway.

I'm looking for stories that highlight the particular (ahem) character of lowsec. I'm looking for political intrigue, rogues on the run, clever scams, spaceway robbery, against-all-odds heists, how you bailed the corp loudmouth out of (yet another) tight spot he'd gotten you into. I'm looking for human drama. The compelling or larger than life characters are not only welcome but the best way to win.

The Rules: 
  • Bloggers from all across New Eden are welcome to participate in the Lives in Low Sec Writing Contest, but the events described must take place in low security space. 
  • Pure fiction is not allowed. The events described must have actually occurred in lowsec.
  • Poetic license, being life's blood to a good story, is assumed and outright encouraged. 
  • All entries must be published in your Eve Online blog. 
  • If you wish to enter Lives In Low Sec Writing Contest but don't have an Eve Online blog...well, this would be a nice time to start one, wouldn't it? 
  • To enter, simply post your entry in your blog and send Mord Fiddle the link via his gmail account.
  • New blog posts only! Entries to the Lives In Low Sec Writing Contest predating midnight,November 16 will not be considered. 
  • All entries to the Lives In Low Sec Writing Contest must be received no later than noon (EST), November 22, 2011
  • A list of entries received will be maintained on Fiddler's Edge.
  • Mord Fiddle will judge the entries and announce the winners.
  • Jenny, Mord's former research librarian, will provide covering fire.
The Prizes*:
  • First Place: 400 million ISK and Infinite Bragging Rights
  • Second Place: 200 million ISK and Stratospheric Bragging Rights
  • Third Place: 100 Million ISK and Somewhat Lofty bragging rights
  • Best Story Featuring Rixx Javix Prize: 250 million ISK and choice of Pirate Frigate (Contributed by Rixx Javix) 
  • Jack Sparrow Prize: A fitted Zephyr to the story best embodying the spirit and whimsy of Cap'n Jack (Contributed by Duncan Feldane) 
  • Best Cloak & Dagger Story of Thievery Prize: A Blood Raiders Ashimmu (Contributed by Kaeda Maxwell)
The Entries:

      *Persons wishing to contribute additional items or ISK to the above prizes, or contribute to an additional "special category prize" (e.g. Most 'Lovable Rogue' Character, Best Bit 'O Larceny, Best Story Featuring Arydanika) please contact Mord at his gmail address.

      Friday, November 11, 2011

      The Narrative Gap

       "We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?"
                - Steven Moffat,  Doctor Who: The Big Bang
      Four men, armed with swords and axes approach each other on a spit of sand. A fight ensues. One man takes an axe to the neck and goes down. The axe catches in the victim's collar bone and as his killer tries to jerk it free he's (quite literally) disarmed by the other opponent. The remaining two face off for a moment, then come together in a clash of steel. Meanwhile two more men approach from either side of the sand spit. 

      The scene continues in this wise for some time with never more than two to three men on either side. Eventually, men stop joining the fight from one side. The two fighters on the other side wait a while, talking quietly with each other, and then return from whence they came.

      I could provide the details of each pass at arms, but after two to three cycles it would be as tedious for me to write as it would be for you to read. I would have to work very hard to keep it interesting; to make each fighter and each blow they struck or took meaningful in order to keep your attention. After the twentieth or thirtieth death, dismemberment or disembowlment, you'd probably have moved onto another blog or be shaking your laptop while screaming at me to get to the point of all this bloody mishigas.

      Now, if I pull the story's point of view camera back a  bit, you would see that the narrow spit of sand is the only way of fording a tidal pool that stands between two small armies. On one side is a raiding party of about three hundred battle-hardened vikings. On the other is the local Saxon Earl, his fifty armed retainers, and an assortment of two hundered or so irregular fighters brought in from the surrounding countryside to defend it from the raiders.

      The Earl's retainers, while fewer in number, are better armed and better trained than their viking counter-parts. If they can hold the spit of sand, the vikings won't be able to bring their superior force to bear, kill the Earl and his men, and raid the countryside.  The vikings, on the other hand, can't simply wait out the locals, lest the inevitable reinforcements arrive and cut them off from their ships. Knowing this, that spit of sand becomes a piece of real estate upon which a larger story, and the fate of many, turns.

      In short, fights are more interesting when their outcomes have, or contribute to, larger consequences.  And this is at the center of a narrative gap that divides lowsec and nullsec.

      Small gang PvP as commonly practiced in lowsec operates at a much faster pace than the large fleet combat that drives the nullsec sovereignty wars. The mechanics of lowsec allow a small gang to assemble, encounter and engage targets, and then return home to refit and either go out on another sortie or call it a night in fairly short order. Gate camps notwithstanding, it's a quick-action format and very attractive for those players who are in the game for the pre-fight adrenaline spikes and the apre-fight shakes that follow.

      However, one characteristic of this style of play is the absence of a larger narrative. Like the fighters on the spit of sand viewed in isolation, there is nothing but the fight itself.  One lowsec resident recently wrote that, among lowsec's PvP community, "you aren't judged on where you live, you are judged on what you kill".  Which is to say that, for a majority of that community, there is no overarching strategic goal to combat. It is both means and end in and of itself.  Nothing is at stake for the combatants except for cost of the loser' ships and bragging rights once the fight is over. It is battle without substantive risk or consequence.

      The goings on in nullsec, on the other hand, are driven by events and characters that wouldn't be out of place in an Homeric epic. They feature a cast of characters that range from heroic to tragic to venal. On each clash of arm and each act of heroism or treachery hangs the ultimate fate of fortunes and empires. The disbanding of Band of Brothers, the betrayal of Paxton Alliance, the Fall of Atlas Alliance and the return of Against All Authorities are each a story with epic sweep driven by fallout from the actions and inactions of thousands of capsuleers.

      And this, I believe, is why nullsec gets so much more love in the Eve zeitgeist than does lowsec.  

      There are a lot of lowsec blogs out there. I read a few regularly and drop in now and again on some of the others. Most of them involve descriptions of good fights recently had (or bemoan the absence thereof) and/or focus on tactics and fits for small gang PvP. All valuable in their own right for the aficionado of small gang PvP.

      The technical blogs I find useful and interesting. The fight recaps were interesting for, oh, about the first hundred. After that it all became a bit repetitious; sort of like listening to crazy uncle Billy, who corners me after every Thanksgiving dinner and holds forth in excruciating detail about his adventures on the golf course, like the time he broke par at Saint Andrews using nothing but a mashie niblick.

      Human beings are suckers for a good story. One of Eve's selling points is a player's ability not only to hear a good science fiction yarn, but to participate in one; to be immersed in it as a character capable of driving events in the larger tale, even as it is being told. I am certain lowsec is rife with stories and characters that the Eve community and gaming fans at large would find riveting. They may not involve the clash of great fleets or the fall of  empires, but are compelling and engaging in their own right. However, they pass quietly through the deep and go largely untold.

      Someone once suggested that Fiddler's Edge was biased in favor of nullsec. I hold that it is biased in favor of good stories, of which more are told in nullsec than in lowsec. Closing that narrative gap is the challenge I throw out to my friends in the lowsec blogging community. Doing so involves a commitment to nothing more than engaging in one of the most primal of human activities.  

      Tell us a story.

      Wednesday, November 9, 2011

      Drums In the Deep

      While my research librarian and I wipe away dust and cobwebs and air out the offices at Fiddler's Edge, I've been thinking about recent events in New Eden. Or, to be more precise, I've been thinking about the absence of events in New Eden.

      Yes, I know. Much has gone on within CCP.

      It turns out the Hosne Mubarek school of customer relations is not a strong business model.  Even a loyal customer will take his or her business elsewhere if one takes said loyalty for granted; doubly so if one is outright rude and condescending in the process.  Mind you, the genetic material that makes for good customer relations managers likely runs a bit thin amongst a people whose ancestors had names like "Killer Hrap", "Sigvat the Red" and "Arni the Bitter", and whose most famous literary figure was axed to death in his home.  Nevertheless, even in Reykjavik the maxim of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar holds true.

      The near collapse of Hilmar's business plan and the resulting emphasis on Ships in Space for the Winter Expansion of Eve Online has a been good fodder for Eve bloggers and podcasters, and a good thing; there's been precious little action of any consequence to write about in New Eden itself.

      The nullsec board is set in pretty much the same configuration as at midSummer. The DRF and their vassals rest easily 'pon their starry beds, occupying the better part of nullsec and renting it out at a tidy profit. The only change evident from that quarter is the transition of the DRF vassals from NAP to NIP.  Delve is still standing in as PvP central. Against All Authorities (-A-) is still in Catch. All in all, the only thing notable seems to be the absence of anything notable.

      Mind, I'm keeping an eye on CVA.

      Way back in the Spring, Curatoris Veritatis Alliance's then leader Aralis, having failed time and again to reestablish CVA in Providence, left the alliance and the game. The game mechanics, he stated in his farewell address, were the cause of his failure.
      CCP have made it clear they have no intention of fixing Dominion and there is thus no hope that what I wanted to do can ever be done. I don’t mind a hard road, I’ve been struggling to keep things going and hope alive since Dominion hit. Trying to do something impossible is just stupid and I don’t wish to stray from the path in Eve and CCP have made it painfully obvious they don’t intend to fix Dominion. 
      Since his departure CVA has returned to Providence and managed to hold onto the space they picked up with the departure of Northern Coalition[DOT] and Ev0ke for points North. Leo D'Green was named head of CVA at the time of Aralis' departure. Indications are that D'Green reversed Aralis' practice of burning bridges with allies and began building a few instead. I'll have to look into whether D'Green is still at the CVA helm. If so he deserves credit for steadying that Alliance and guiding them back from exile in Catch and lowsec.

      The fact that White Noise and NC[DOT] still hold key Providence gateway systems to Catch and Kari, and that CVA is engaged in a Sov fight with the much smaller Care Factor (CF) suggests CVA is still in recovery mode and adapting to the present reality of supercapital dominated warfare. However, the decision of many nullsec alliances to wait for the Winter Supercapital Nerf before engaging in serious sov actions has likely given CVA much needed breathing room with which to rebuild both its combat capacity and it's list of allies. It's an ill wind that blows no one good.

      Which brings us back to the Winter Expansion. Driven by a need to shore up their subscriber base, CCP seems willing to take a more aggressive hand at curbing the supercapital beast than was previously indicated. Many nullsec corporations and alliances, dispossessed by supercapital fleets and nursing grudges, have been waiting for changes that will make those ships somewhat less than the "I Win" button they are today. The announced changes may satisfy them and make nullsec's supercapital-oriented powers more cautious about calling in the supercapital blob. With that in mind, knives are being sharpened and plans formed.

      The DRF, meanwhile, will not be idle. The rich regions they have parceled out amongst themselves and their allies generate vast incomes for those alliances. Even if their supercapital fleets are less potent after the Winter Expansion, their large stockpile of the ships mean they can deploy them with abandon and simply replace any losses. Further, those deep pockets will put the DRF at the front of the line, positioned to outbid all comers when the new t3 battlecruisers make their debut. And then there's out and out bribery. Enemies who can not be beaten or intimidated can be bought in whole or in part. 

      There is a sound of drums in the deep. War, like Winter, is coming.

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      About Fever Dream

      Scapa, for those unfamiliar with it, is a single malt scotch from a small Orkney Island distillery. It is not one of your rough, big-boned single malts. Oh my goodness, no. 

      It is all heather and honey. It comes at you, with gentle kisses and soft curves. 'More of me,' it whispers as you drink it. 'Have more of me. I would never hurt you.'

      Scapa lies.

      I'd been entertaining thoughts of doing another post along the lines of  Vox Populi as a commentary on the CCP/CSM drama occupying the Eve blogosphere in early September. After my dalliance with lady Scapa, I passed by a copy of the Iliad lying out on my desk on my way to bed. And it occurred to me that the Iliad, one of humanity's oldest literary works, opens with a seminal moment in the history of rage-quitting.  "Heh," thought I, blurrily. "Crazy Achaeans."

      And I slipped below the wine-dark waves of sleep that night, muzzily pondering the parallels between Ilium and New Eden. 

      Old muse visited while I slept and woke me early. Really, painfully early; having conspired with lady Scapa to fill my head with thoughts of sharp-tined pitchforks and proud-eyed spymasters. I typed it out through the ragged morning lady Scapa had left behind. Cleaned the post up over coffee as the haze lifted, and then sent it out, hoping a few folk would get a laugh out of it.

      Imagine my surprise. 

      In a single day Fever Dream garnered more hits than the cumulative hits for any single post at Fiddler's Edge. Since then it's continued to pull in readers, which is very gratifying. Writing something with 'legs' is always a pleasure in the blogopshere, where content tends to wander off into the never-never of the archives soon after it's released.

      I was especially delighted with the number of readers who picked up on the Iliad reference right away. Eve players continue to show themselves to be a special breed of MMO gamer. For those who've never taken that story for a turn around the block, I recommend the Fagles translation which is eminently readable and easy to find.

      Thanks to all of you who enjoyed the Fever Dream, to those who passed it on, and those who left kind words behind.

      (PS - For those waiting on the promised piece about low/null security space, it's on the front burner.)

      Sunday, September 11, 2011

      Making Low Sec Matter

      When a band of barbarians shows up on your doorstep, it's often  because they've been displaced by another band of barbarians who showed up on their doorstep. The Goths, after all, didn't cross the Rhine-Danube line in 376 simply because it was too nice a day to stay indoors . 
                    -"Lowsec",  Fiddler's Edge, January 15 2011

      In response to Winter is Coming, Rixx Javix, lowsec anarchist and sometime pirate, invited displaced nullsec residents to migrate to low sec space. "Not only is it more fun," he wrote, "But we don't shoot structures - only people". Rixx and a few others have held forth otherwise and elsewhere on what a wonderful world it would be if only the alliances of nullsec would come to lowsec, where real PvP is practiced. There, unprotected by their cynojammers and warp disruption fields, they would provide Rixx and the rest of the lowsec pirates and rapscallions a target rich environment filled with PvP opportunities.

      It seems one must be careful what one wishes. 

      With free nullsec capitulating to the Drone Russians Forces (DRF), a number of medium to large nullsec alliances and corporations players have been pushed out of their nullsec holdings. In some cases, as with Northern Coalition members driven from Vale of the Silent and Geminate, these entities moved from Northern to Southern nullsec, only to be displaced a second time when DRF and their vassals moved South to complete their run of the nullsec table. Unable to withstand the assault of the heavily bankrolled DRF supercapital blobs, ever more nullsec refugees have been seeking safe haven in which to draw breath until the much hoped for Winter Supercapital Nerf ® is deployed.

      Thus, safe harbor for such refugees is at a premium. NPC nullsec, immune from being claimed by player alliances, was the safe harbor of choice for -AAA- when they were rolled over by White Noise, The Initiative and Pandemic Legion last Fall. Likewise, Pandemic Legion (PL) sought temporary refuge in NPC nullsec early last Spring, after the Northern Coalition showed PL at the Saint Patrick's Day Massacre that they had developed the tactical wherewithal needed to defeat PL supercapital fleets.

      However, nullsec has never before seen so many organizations and players displaced at one time; NPC space will simply not contain all the refugees. As the DRF & Co expand their holdings, competition for the scraps of nullsec space not yet under siege increases, and the overflow is pushed elsewhere.

      Elsewhere, as in nullsec-adjacent low sec space.

      We've seen this before, of course. As I wrote last January in Lowsec, BOB retreated to lowsec after that storied alliance was disbanded and run out of nullsec by their many enemies. There they appropriated high-value lowsec properties, recovered, rearmed, and reorganized themselves as IT Alliance before re-entering nullsec. Though much diminished in their retreat from nullsec, the BOB refugees were veteran nullsec PvPers. Their ships and fleets more than a match in terms of size, composition and discipline for the lowsec entities they encountered during their exile.

      One again lowsec alliances have nullsec entities arriving on their doorsteps. Even those denizens of lowsec with prior nullsec experience are taken somewhat aback by the sudden presence of supercap fleets they've begin to encounter. Lowsec is well acquainted with capital ship combat and the odd ratting carrier is regarded as high-value prey by lowsec pirates and griefers. Faction warfare militia regularly engage in capital ship combat, and even the odd Titan or Supercarrier encounter is not unusual.

      However, Supercapital fleets are another matter. Immensely powerful, immune to ECM and unstoppable except by Heavy Interdictor (a ship class in short supply among lowsec combat groups due to its relative lack of utility there), a small fleet of ten or so supercapitals can drop on most lowsec capital/battleship fleets with relative impunity. There is limited chance (for now) that the lowsec alliances will have hictors and larger supercap fleet on standby for a counter-drop.  Life in lowsec is markedly less fun when any Drake or Navy Raven caught ratting a lowsec anomaly might cyno in a supercapital fleet on top of the jolly gang of pirates that tackle it. 

      At the moment, the most evident example of this phenomenon is Pandemic Legion cooling their heels in Amamake. While not driven from nullsec per se, PL seems to have realized that, with no contract in hand binding them to the DRF, and the Goons having made common cause with PL's former employers, they are high on the gank list once said employers get bored with chasing -AAA- and look around for their next victim. With all of their enemies laid low or in hiding, the DRF as little use for PL and will likely seek to ensure the weapon they have  employed regularly and to good effect isn't available to DRF's growing list of enemies. Thus PL seems to have quit nullsec in good order to wait outside the DRF field of vision for what changes to the strategic landscape the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® may bring.

      In the meantime, the lowsec residents have largely adopted a strategy of either steering clear of the PL forces altogether, or venturing in to pick off the odd PL straggler. The faction warfare teams in particular seem inclined to take the odd potshot at the unwary PL ship. Recently a PL Carrier was jumped by an Amarr faction Stealth Bomber fleet. The degree of drama that accompanied the take-down, along with the celebratory chest beating that followed, speaks volumes about the degree to which the lowsec residents are over-matched by the new arrivals. While a critical loss for a lowsec player, mere capital ships have practically become a commodity item in nullsec; the loss of one barely attracting any notice at all.  

      The presence of PL in lowsec has, in turn, drawn other nullsec entities into the neighborhood as nullsec alliances, looking for some good fights with the legendary Legio Pandemica, drop in for visits. Lowsec players seem largely ignored in these incursions, unless they happen to get in the way or try to participate in the action.

      Once the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® and associated nullsec sov changes have been put in place and assessed by the various parties, I expect most nullsec entities that bide time in lowsec will saddle up and head back into the sovereignty game. Their departure will be met with relief by some parties in lowsec who prefer the region as it is.

      However, the wiser lowsec players will see the presence of Pandemic Legion and their nullsec peers as an opportunity; a teaching moment. As with any game, the best way to improve at PvP is to move out of your comfort zone, and play against one's betters. The presence of some excellent nullsec PvP talent in lowsec provides a rare chance for lowsec fleets to measure themselves against the big hats and up their level of play.

      Expected changes to the sov rules will likely mean greater opportunities for incursions by lowsec fleets into nullsec. Likewise, they may make parts of lowsec of value to nullsec entities, resulting in nullsec alliances adding parts of lowsec space to their spheres of influence.

      This could go a long way toward blurring the lines between nullsec and what I like to call "lower" lowsec.

      Friday, September 9, 2011

      Fever Dream

      Proof that Scapa and Stilton cheese are a bad before-bed snack


      Sing, Godess, the rage of Gianturco's son Mittani; who brought forth a sea of discontent to break against the rocky shoals of Reykjavik, and stirred the hearts of capsuleers to rebellion against the fair-haired masters of New Eden.

      Sing of Mittani's coming unto the hall where Hilmar, astride his lofty throne, surveyed his realm with troubled brow.

      "I'faith," quoth Hilmar, "What is this rabble gathered before my corporate gates? Who are these scabbed dogs, who creep their bellies 'pon the ground, yet seek to turn mine noble hand to do their churlish bidding? Why stand they thus, all armed with flaming brand and sharp-tined pitchfork?" 

      "They are thy customers," answered Mittani, lord of spies. "Unto thee and thine they pay a monthly tithe, in return for which they deem their satisfaction must needs be thine fondest desire."

      "Wherefore, their discontent?" rumbled Hilmar  "In what wise unsatisfied? Have I not bestowed upon them worlds and ships in space that they might strive mightily, one against the other? Do I not provide all manner of digital fashion-wear for their purchase? And yet still unsatisfied, you say?"

      "Aye," said proud-eyed Mittani. "And vexed full sore, both by the misdeeds of your minions and your own sad neglect of their plight. Long have supercapital blobs driven honest capsuleers from their holdings while you dallied with first person shooters. Long have ships in space languished, falling ever farther from balance while your minions sought the bright gold of Microtransactions at your behest."

      At this fair-haired Hilmar grew wroth, and smote the arm of his throne, saying:

      "What doth these knaves think $14.95 a month buyeth them, the keys to the executive privy chamber?  They canst not see the big picture. How shall I prosper from this venture lest there be Microtransactions? Whither else my looked for profit margins? Thou, Mittani, thou art mine elected herald to this unwashed mob. Thou shouldst have explained all to them ere now and counseled them to patience against the coming of a better day."

      "I?" spoke the sly Mittani, a modest hand upon his breast. "Nay, storied son of Petur, thou dost misconstrue both my purpose and my place. I am not come to dismiss the host before you, for I have led them hither. Neither shall I quench the fire in their hearts for your pleasure, for I am its author."

      "Cruel treachery then!" cried Hilmar. "Have I not played host to thee many times; brought thee across the sea's broad back to Reykjavik? Have I not feted thee with fine bacon and pretended to give ear to thine counsel, all at great expense? This is vile payment for favors past."

      "Bacon eaten is bacon beyond the reach of regret," said wily Mittani. "Yet nay, no treachery here. For though I am bound by thy NDA, I am by this 'rabble' elected; to speak for them, not for thee. If I partook of thy bacon, 'twas done on their behalf."

      "And yet it fattened none but thee," mused Hilmar. "Tell me in sooth, lord of Goons; who is thy true master in these matters twixt us; this mob of paltry tithers, or thine own self?

      "Like unto a slate grey sea under a leaden sky, I cannot see the end of one and the beginning of the other," answered the master of metagame." The twain are as one. If you heed my words and see to their needs, thus my name shall grow. An' you not heed my words I shall speak loudly unto thee, and lo, even unto the media outlets until you relent and bend to my will. Then shall my name grow larger still."

      "But how if I do not bend?" quoth Hilmar, his voice like thunder. "New Eden is mine, yea down to the its tiniest nanoship and humblest pubbie. Naught avails there but I decree it. The council of stellar managers manages naught but what I deem meet and proper. Vex me not lest I disband it; casting you and your troublesome ilk into the outer darkness!"

      Wily Mittani answered Hilmar, all untroubled.

      "Remember my repute among thy customer base. I have the ear of many; yea even my enemies listen to my counsel. So too the gaming magazines, who hunger ever for the content of discord, give me heed. Bend not, and I shall bring down 'pon you a great storm of rage-quitting. I shall tell stories to the media that will hearten your enemies and make your investors quail. Then shall the very stars of New Eden flicker and go dark, and with them all your ill-starred designs."

      "Nay," quoth Hilmar. "If the unfaithful would rage-quit, let them do so. And let not the gates of New Eden strike them 'pon the ass ere they leave. Thus unvexed, I shall have Microtransactions and the storied wealth they bestow. Yea, even unto golden ammunition should I desire it. Then I shall no longer be hostage to those who tithe but a monthly pittance, yet seek to make themselves my master."

      At this, Mittani did but smile and turn to leave.

      "You have no power or desire to lay New Eden low," unbending Hilmar called after him. "And even didst thou, it is the stage 'pon which your own reputation struts. Turn off New Eden's lights and you likewise stand in darkness. Where, Mittani, would you go, New Eden having fallen?"

      The Mittani paused, and turning unto Hilmar spoke thusly:

      "There are other worlds than thine. If New Eden falls, I will lead my minions forth and play at World of Tanks."

      "Tanks?" cried proud Hilmar, "Tanks?!"

      The assembled host bowed and answered him as one.

      "You are welcome, Hilmar."