Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interlude Quartus

"Three months?" said Mindy, my new research librarian. "Who the hell goes fishing for three months?" She folded her arms and favored us with a glower.

Jenny put two more sticks of dynamite into the tackle box. "All work and no play makes Mord a dull boy." she proclaimed loftily. She took up her harris tweed fishing cap and settled it on her head at a jaunty angle. "Now," she said, "Where are the blasting caps?"

"Top draw of the office supplies cabinet," I said as I settled my fly rod into its case. "Next to the stamps and white-board markers."

I snapped the case shut and handed it to Mindy. "Here," I said. "More helpful; less harridan. Put this with the rest."

"Besides," said Jenny as she rummaged through the supplies cabinet. "You don't want your face to get stuck in that expression. It would turn the mailman to stone, which would be quite the tragedy; he reads Proust and has a nice ass.  Oooh!" she cried, "Grenades!"

"Not for fishing," I pointed out.

Jenny pouted and continued rummaging.

Mindy huffed her displeasure, took the fishing rod case and set it by the door on top of a small stack of outdoor gear.

"It's just...unusual" she said, her face moving off disapproval and on to dismay. "I just started a week ago and suddenly you announce you're  leaving the office until November on a fishing trip to Canada. Just like that. You barely know me and I'm supposed to run your think tank? And who fishes for three months...with explosives?"

I sat at my desk and began sorting through a box of fishing flies. "Well, there won't be a lot of thinking going on in the tank while I'm away," I said. "Mind the library, keep the utility bills up to date, take deliveries. Easy stuff."

"Found them!" Jenny called, brandishing a small black and yellow striped box.

"But what about your blog?" Mindy said. "What if something really important happens in Eve? What if a mob of pasty, underdeveloped geeks storms the office and demands to see you?"

"Hmmm," said Jenny as she helped herself to some primer cord. " Nope. Sorry. " She shook her head. "Eve and 'really important' in the same sentence just aren't connecting for me."  She pointed at the office supply cabinet, "And didn't you hear me say you have grenades? They're a perfectly appropriate response to any mob of angry gamers."

"Are you sure you don't moonlight for CCP's public relations department?" I said to Jenny. She sniffed primly and snapped the tackle box shut.  

"Seriously," I said to Mindy. "There are lots of good people keeping the capsuleers informed these days; bloggers and podcasters and news outlets. They'll hardly know I'm gone. And I'll look in on things now and again - just to keep a finger on the pulse."

Mindy looked unappeased. "What if someone has an important tip to deliver?" she asked.

"That's why I have my mordfiddle gmail account." I said. "I'll check it every couple of days. See? Easy."

She looked somewhat mollified, but still uneasy. "Should you be fishing with dynamite in Canada?"

"Hey," said Jenny, "You fish your way and I'll fish mine. Do I tell you how to relax?"

"But it's illegal," Mindy persisted. "You start setting that stuff off and you'll have a troop of Mounties all over you."

The corners of Jenny's mouth quirked up. "You say that like it's a bad thing."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carebears Unbowed

There's an old story about a man of faith who prays mightily to win the lottery. Year after year he prays with all his heart, yet he never, ever wins the lottery. One day, the man dies. In heaven, he approaches God and asks with some asperity why God refused to let him win the lottery despite his steadfast prayers.

God rolls his eyes and says "You never bought a ticket."

Over at Haberdashers Run Amok, Corelin was waiting for me to do a write up on the fate of the nullsec Carebear after the fall of NC. Alas, my psychic powers are a bit out of tune these days, so I failed to pick up on his expectations.

Sigh. My bad.

Happily, Corelin didn't sit around wallowing in disappointment. He bought a ticket. He stepped up to the plate and wrote his own post about the prospects for nullsec bears. Well done, Corelin.

Following up on his comments, I don't think the end of NC spelled disaster for nullsec bears. As Corelin points out, most of the bears who migrated to nullsec in 2010 are still in nullsec. As I've written elsewhere, they are a tougher breed of bear than their highsec cousins. Some have retreated to safer high and low security regions to await the outcomes of the DRF invasions, but those are in the minority.

Some nullsec bears have barely changed location since the NC fall, and rent or hold Sov in and about DRF territory. That's pretty quiet space these days, and quiet space is meat and potatoes to a mining or building bear. An opportunistic bear might see his way to a tidy living without having to move much of his stuff. New landlord? OK. Bears are nothing if not adaptable.

Other bears have moved on, either following their NC alliance or shifting over to another alliance heading in a more preferred direction. Some nullsec bears have become fair hands at PvP, and trade fours between building stuff and blowing stuff up. I know a number of bears who both build and pilot supercapitals. That, my friends, is one valuable breed of bear.  No, they're not going anywhere.

Most folk who hold sov want a good set of bears on the payroll. The Dominion sov rules have done their work. Carebears are integrated into nullsec life and it's going to take a major rewrite of the sov rules to dislodge them. By all accounts, such changes as are on the board for nullsec will not weaken the nullsec bear's position. Quite the contrary.

After all, we're not a bunch of fragile PvP divas. We're tough.

Bear tough.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Gathering Storm

There is a growing realization in New Eden that the Drone Russian Forces (DRF), in combination with their vassal alliances, primarily Raiden[DOT], Ev0ke, Northern Coalition[DOT], Pandemic Legion and a cast of smaller players and hangers on, comprise a clear and present danger to the free alliances of nullsec.

[Fiddler's Note: Yes, PL are vassals now. PL may protest that they're their own masters and can run wild at any moment. However, a wolf may only remain in the master's kennel, wear the master's collar and bark at the master's command for so long before it becomes the master's dog. PL may be a dangerous beast, to be handled by their master with caution, but they are domesticated all the same, and there is no doubt who holds PL's leash.]

Some residents of free nullsec had hoped that the DRF and company, having taken over of the Northern Coalition's former holdings, would be content with those rich territories; that the DRF might rest easily on their spoils of war and leave the rest of nullsec to go their own way.  Alas, one can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. Like unto the heads of Europe who discovered that ceding Czechoslovakia to Germany in 1938 did nothing to end the latter's territorial ambitions, the free alliances are awakening to the knowledge that the DRF's appetite for ever more space will not be sated.

Seems there's never enough leibensraum.

The principal DRF vassals have already launched an invasion of Goonswarm's home territories and had their first incursion turned back. A bit over a week ago the Goons executed a counterattack against the invaders' staging areas in VFK-IV. Repeating a tactic used to good effect against IT Alliance last January, the Goon's and their allies caught the invaders off guard and trapped the bulk of the invasion fleet in "rapecages", bubbling the station and POS locations to prevent warp outs and camping them heavily. Thus hamstrung, the DRF Vassals were unable to respond as the Deklein Coalition forces rolled back the invaders' earlier gains.

However, the DRF and their vassals are not the hollow man that IT Alliance was back at the beginning of the year. While the DRF minions were rocked on their heels, it would be wishful thinking to assume they are going to rattle off the rails on the strength of one set-back. If the Goons are going to hold their territory, they're going to have to show they can pull many more rabbits out of the hat while hanging in a grinding sovereignty fight that could last months. 

[Fiddler's Note: This weekend Pandemic Legion coordinated a suicide subcapital attack on VFK-IV's cynojammer with a mass login of their trapped superscapital ships. The PL supers were able to jump from the system , taking down a Deklein Coalition super on their way out the door. Yeah. This fight isn't over.]

Meanwhile White Noise announced its intention to invade Against All Authorities (-A-) and other Southern Russian Coalition territories. In fact, White Noise went so far as to make an appointment, telling -A- that the invasion would begin on Sunday the 24th. White Noise also let it be known that they would invade Catch from the adjacent Providence region; an odd point of entry given that region's location in relation to the White Noise home regions.

As per schedule, White Noise supported by Northern Coalition[DOT] attempted to take T-RPFU in Providence; one of the gateway systems to -A-'s home region of Catch. The system holder of record, Curatoris Veritatis alliance (CVA), received most of their current Providence holdings in a peaceful hand-off from Northern Coalition[DOT].  However, either CVA was unwilling to cooperate with the invasion, or their cooperation was not sought. CVA has been fighting alongside -A-, Cascade Imminent, Nulli Secunda and Atlas[DOT] against the DRF fleets in a see-saw battle for control of the system.

Now, the fact that White Noise was broadcasting invasion plans that didn't make a great deal of sense should have been a tip-off to the lads at -A-.  There was very obviously a big ol' tarp off in the bushes somewhere close by, lying in wait. And sure enough, today the tarp made itself known.

Not long after the T-RPFU dust up was losing steam, a second invasion force, headed by Red Alliance with support from Bloodbound and Legion of Death, rolled into the Teneferis gateway system of 46DP-O.  Along with En Garde, Red[DOT]Overlord and Stain, -A- is making a stand at that side of their territories as well. However the larger DRF plan is becoming clear: -A- is being forced into a two front war, caught (so far) between hammer and anvil in the South, while Pandemic Legion, Raiden[DOT] and Ev0ke at least pin the Deklein coalition down in the North if they're not able to overrun the Goons outright.

This is how it begins. Maybe this is how it ends. That's the sandbox for you; we get to choose. If the Goons or the Southern Russians fall, so does free nullsec. The free alliances of nullsec have a choice to make.

They must, as the saying goes, stand together or hang separately.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wealth of Nullsec

So here's CCP's nullsec mission statement (for now) as I understand it:

Populate nullsec with lots and lots of small to middling-sized alliances that will spend their time happily blowing each other to smithereens.

Yes, I know; getting capsuleers to spend their hard earned real money on micro transactions (RM2MT) is mission critical for CCP in its own way. But for simplicity sake let's keep the discussion to ships in space game-play.  In that sense, the common direction I'm hearing from folk like CCP Greyscale is smaller coalitions, smaller fleets, moar PvP.

Now, I say that's the mission statement "for now" because the mission statement for nullsec tends to drift a bit over time. With Tyrannis, the goal was to shake up nullsec and bring in new players - builders and makers as well as PvPers. Then, back in December, it was announced to the CSM that PvP in nullsec was dropping off; an assertion apparently based on data covering a three month period. The supporting data/numbers were never released and CCP hasn't been forthcoming as to whether that trend continued beyond that initial three-month window. CCP's conclusions and underpinning data went unquestioned by the CSM. Mind, chances are it wouldn't have mattered if the CSM had raised questions.

Bottom line, the designers weren't liking the unexpected outcomes they'd created while chasing the last mission statement and decided on a new nullsec direction.

Of course, the overall direction CCP's designers are trying to take game-play can get confusing, because they tend to talk in more in terms of the means than the end. The goal - making nullsec home to small alliances rather than grand coalitions - tends to get lost as the designers hyper-focus on their preferred means rather than the end goal. If fact, the means seem to become ends in their own right.

For example, CCP Greyscale tends believes more PvP can be had by nerfing Jump Freighters and consolidating desirable nullsec resources into islands of wealth. His reasoning is that this will motivate more PvP as players fight over those resources. And PvP does happen. However, possession of these resources provides such a sovereignty  warfare advantage, that only massive coalitions already in possession of some of these islands of wealth, have the wherewithal to dispossess another alliance or coalition of them. As a result, nullsec wealth is becoming consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. Thus the entry costs to taking and holding sov in nullsec, rather than getting lower and within reach of a small to middling alliance, have become higher than ever.

Then there is the professionalization of nullsec. Access to vast in-game wealth has allowed a subset of the nullsec player community to dedicate themselves to the game full time, leaving the recreational players at a profound disadvantage. Which allows the professional player to acquire even more nullsec territory and the associated wealth.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now there's nothing wrong with the professional/subsidized Eve player. It's not against the EULA and many players might envy the ability to spend one's day playing internet spaceships (unless it's being played at gunpoint in a Chinese prison). However, if the consolidation of vast amounts of in-game wealth in nullsec is being used to generate real world income in order to fund professional play, we have a problem.

Of course, the trouble with RMT is that it's hard to prove, and the penalties for getting caught are too weak to serve as a disincentive to the practice. It's pretty much accepted as a fact of life. Nothing for it. Life as usual. These aren't the droids we're looking for. Move along.

So consider this solution:  Take away the wealth. 

Yes, I know. Those of you sitting on major pipelines of rent, mineral, moon-goo or ratting income streams are probably clutching your chests right now and hyperventilating. Take it easy. Breathe in. Breath out. Calm yourselves. Tranquillo.

The problem with nullsec is the large-bore isk faucets to be found there. Even limiting the number of these isk faucets as was done in the anomalies nerf doesn't solve the problem - it only magnifies the advantages to those who possess the big isk faucets. They simply rain too much money down upon those below.

Suppose however, just suppose, that every nullsec region was as resource poor as Providence. No Sanctum anomalies. No Technetium moons. Wealth to be had, of course, but diffused wealth that doesn't create disincentives to every activity but ratting, CTAs and building supercapitals

"But Mord," you say, "If you turn off the big isk faucets, how will my alliance fund a replacement if I lose my supercapital?"


"But Mord," you cry, "If you turn off the big isk faucets, how will I justify the high rents I charge my nullsec tenants?"


"But Mord," you wail, "If you turn off the big isk faucets, I'll lose my RMT income stream."

Just so.

Consider Delve for a moment. There's not a lot of isk being made in Delve these days, and yet there's a lot of PvP going on there. Are they fighting over the resources? Not so far as I can discern. They are fighting for a place in the sun, a constellation or a region to call their own. They are fighting because Delve has become the go-to place for welter-weight PvP. They are fighting for the joy of it.

They're fighting because it's fun.

If CCP turns off the big isk faucets in nullsec, nullsec will not become a ghost town. Quite the contrary. I think it will be a much more vital place. I think the population will spread out more, the coalitions will become smaller and the alliances more independent and self-contained.  Supercapital blobs and the ultra-wealthy alliances and coalitions that fund them will wither and largely disappear, having lost the means that sustains them. Eve players will be free to simply play the game, to carve out a small place of their own in nullsec, build their civilizations and feud with the neighbors. 

The isk faucets in nullsec are far too large. They fund the organizations and enable the behaviors that are choking the life and the fun out of nullsec play. 

Shut them down.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Whistling in the Dark

As most of you will be aware, the Drone Russian vassal alliances of Evoke, Northern Coalition[DOT], and Raiden alliances, along with some elements of Pandemic Legion have initiated the invasion of Deklein region, home ground to Goonswarm. The Mittani is calling in favors to bring reinforcements to bear. Heavily outnumbered in terms of supercapitals, the Goons are relying on cynojammers protected by overwhelming numbers in their subcapital fleet in order to hold their territory. 

What could be the last stand of the Goons has begun

Meanwhile, the Mostly Harmless Alliance, caught between the hammer and anvil of external attacks by the Drone Russian vassal coalition and conflict within its own leadership has finally convulsed and given up the ghost.

In the South, the Drone Russians (DRF) have taken back the Detroid region and, depending on how matters develop in the North, are poised to initiate operations against the Southern Russain Coalition. If things stall for their vassals in the North, the DRF might hold back their Southward strike in order to support the Deklein invasion. Otherwise, with matters settling down in their new territories, expect the DRF to open a front against the South, likely with support of the main body of Pandemic Legion, focusing initially on the Southern Russian Coalition (SRC) and their allies.

A number of the remaining free nullsec alliances, many with members weary of the sovereignty warfare grind after the DRF invasion of Northern Coalition space, occupy themselves with "real PvP" in and around Delve. Lacking the will and the wherewithal to fight a full blown sovereignty war, their hope appears to hang on indifference by the Drone Russians. By focusing their attentions on each other or the SRC, and presenting no threat to the DRF, they hope to escape Drone Russian attention in the event of a Southern invasion from that quarter.

Such hopes are an old song often sung. Its refrain echoes up and down the dusty halls of history.

We all know how it ends.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interlude Tertius

I was peering down at a set of seven large tiles, each very old and etched with worn characters, when the front door at Fiddler's Edge swung open.

"Hello Mord," said Jenny, my former research librarian.

The dress code over at the National Archive's Special Acquisitions unit must be fairly liberal. In place of her usual librarian-standard grey wool suit she wore form fitting glove-leather pants and a gunmetal gray t-shirt. Her jacket was so black it seemed to absorb light. Only the shoes were the same; expensive, red soled and wickedly heeled Louboutins.

"Nice outfit, Doctor Brown" I said,  "But the shoulder holster spoils the drape of the jacket."

She sniffed. "Some accessories you just can't compromise on," she said. "The P229 is worth a wrinkle or two. I save the concealables for formal wear."

Jenny's SIG handgun fell under the heading of standard business attire at Special Acquisitions' offices.  Think of them as the only covert ops unit made up entirely of librarians. Most of the things they acquire are special to the point of being dangerous. You won't find 'Acquisitions' on the National Archives' website or their budget, so don't bother looking. When ancient texts or artifacts of mysterious provenance pose a national or global threat, SA gets the call.

Hooey? Yeah, maybe. And maybe the Rosetta Stone didn't cause the Tunguska event.

Jenny crossed the room and looked down at the tiles I was working on.

"Ooh!" she said, "Ogham characters. Old Irish?"

"Archaic," I said. I turned in the chair and drew a cloth over the tiles. Jenny's mouth turned down in a moue of disappointment.

"Sorry," I said. "Private client."

She waved it off. "I know the rules," she said. "Just, being on the outside...." She shrugged and sighed. "Ah, you can't go home again."

I raised an eyebrow. "Oh?" I said. "Acquisitions getting boring for you so soon? Ready to come back?"

"God no," she snorted. "On what you pay? The money's better at SA and so is the action. Not to mention that the Eve Online geek quotient there is delightfully low."

She pulled a small volume bound in leather from her purse. "Actually this is the reason I stopped by.  Sturlison wants you to have a look at this.  We don't have anybody in-house who reads...."

She stopped mid-sentence and glared at my desk, her mouth turned to a hard line. "What," she said pointing, "is that?"

I looked down. "Oh, this?" I said picking up a slim, flat plaque. "It's my new iPad."

"I know what it is," she said through gritted teeth. "What's it doing in your office?"

"This is amazing," I said waving it at her. "I never knew so many archives had digitized their collections."

"Who. Gave. You. That."

"Look, you just flip back this little cover and...."

"No," she said. She snatched the tablet from my hand and looked from it to me with narrowed eyes. "This doesn't fit. This isn't you. You're completely analog. You think ball-point pens push the tech envelope. And suddenly you're leap-frogging three centuries of  writing technology to this?"  She set the tablet on the desk and tapped it with a well-manicured finger. "Who's been pushing you into the twenty-first century?"

As if on cue the door to the library opened and a tall, red-headed woman, her arms loaded up with books, pushed through the library door. She was tall and willowy, with blue eyes and elfin features. When she spoke her accent bespoke Nordic origins.

"Mord," she said, "I'm done scanning the reference books, but I need the combination for the climate control vault to do the rare manuscripts."

"Oh, that's right," I said to Jenny,. "You haven't met Ella, my new research librarian  Ella, this is...."

There was a sharp intake of breath from Jenny as she reached under her jacket for her SIG. As she did, I heard a tumble of books falling to the floor. I looked around and saw Ella had dropped them to pull a small caliber pistol which she brought to bear on Jenny.

They stood that way for a moment, guns pointed at each other, their faces drawn up in a rictus of hate and rage.

I blinked. "So," I said. "You've met."

"How could you hire this...this philistine?" Jenny growled.

Ella chuckled. "This philistine just spent a month reordering the wreck of a filing system you left behind. This is who I replaced? That explains much."

"Hah," said Jenny. "Still shopping for shoes in the Goodwill bin I see."

Ella's eyes narrowed and her finger tightened on the trigger. "Luudite!" she accused.

"Bit-head!" sneered Jenny.



"Um, excuse me...." I interjected.

"Shut up!" they barked at me in unison.

"Well, well, well," Jenny chuckled, shaking her head grimly. "Erla Hilmarsdottir. You're a long way from Reykjavik."

Ella shrugged, "The business of cartoon spaceships is sans frontieres," she said.

"Wait a minute," I said to Jenny, "Are you telling me she's...."

"Yeah," nodded Jenny, "Erla here works for CCP."

I frowned. "But that's ridiculous. Why someone from CCP come all the way to DC to work at Fiddler's Edge?"

"Well," Jenny said, "Not for your charm or good looks. That's for sure."

"Or the pay," Added Erla. "You know, for an American, you are very cheap."

 "Hey, there's a global recession going on," I said defensively.

"Pfft!" said Jenny, "You were stingy long before then. No, she was here for the only thing you have that CCP could possibly value."

"My unpublished insights into the politics and economy of New Eden?"

"God, no!" Jenny rolled her eyes. "No Mord, not your stupid spaceship bloggy thing; your rare manuscript collection."

I snorted. "What possible use are ancient manuscripts to people who make digital universes? I mean, they're physical books most people can't read. Even if she could sneak them out she could only sell them as vanity items and...and...oh." I stammered to a halt. "Oh my." 

"See?" Jenny smiled at Erla, "He can be taught."

"She didn't want to steal the physical books," I said slowly. "She wanted to scan them; make detailed digital avatars."

"So she could sell virtual copies of them on the Eve Micro-Transaction market. Isn't that so, red?"

"Did you think we were going to make make our revenue quotas selling monocles and pink spaceships?" Erla sneered. "Without a market for golden ammunition and status upgrades, MT revenue projections for Eve are dismally off their targets."

"But my manuscripts...."

"Have the advantage of being both rare and nerd-chic," she laughed. "Exclusivity is the new tactic. No one will pay twenty dollars for a monocle if anyone can buy one. But," she lowered her voice dramatically, "What if there were only five monocles for sale in all New Eden? Suddenly an accessory that makes you look like an idiot is a must-have vanity item. We'll be able to name our price."

"It'll never work," I growled at Erla. "Capsuleers play Eve for action. For adventure.They're not going to spend real money for cartoons of books, clothes and station window treatments, no matter how rare. They're not idiots, after all."

Jenny raised her eyebrows at me.

"OK," I said. "Most of them aren't idiots. You'll never make those revenue projections."

Erla smiled evilly and began backing toward the door. "The Mittani wristwatch is already in prototype," she said. "As are the Mona Lisa, the Phreeze bobble-head, the Crown Jewels of England and the Kirith Kodachi snow globe."

Jenny kept the SIG trained on Erla as she pulled open the door to Fiddler's Edge.

"There are many rare items in the world," Erla said, "If not your rare manuscripts, them perhaps Einstein's brain or a first folio works of Shakespeare. There are many of your friends who would pay dearly for exclusive rights to display such things in their quarters. Trust me when I say our revenue targets are well in hand."

Erla stepped through the doorway. "Soon, all the capuleers will be so busy chasing rare vanity items, they will forget they ever objected to golden ammunition. They will beg us to sell it to them. Farewell for now, Mord Fiddle."

"Catch you later," Jenny promised.

"I think not," Erla smiled.

The heavy oak door closed, and she was gone.

Jenny looked at me reproachfully.

"I suppose this means I don't get to keep the iPad," I said.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Leading Indicators

To a certain extent, all the rage over micro-transactions and melting video cards has played well for the Drone Russian Forces. While the rest of New Eden watched in slack-jawed fascination as CCP's public relations department reenacted the Hindenburg disaster, the Drone Russians went quietly about consolidating their holds on territorial gains from the Northern Coalition wars.

Having added former Northern Coalition territory to their already swollen real estate portfolio, the various members of the Drone Russian Forces seem to be taking somewhat different courses in exploiting their new holdings.

Legion of Death alone possesses 311 nullsec systems; 216 of them by way of Shadow of Death, Legion's renter alliance. As of this writing Shadow of Death's member count hovers at around 6,500, an uptick of about a thousand members since the beginning of June. Meanwhile the Legion of Death alliance proper has increased its membership only slightly, indicating a desire on the part of their leadership to remain lean and avoid alliance-bloat, despite the broad swath of territory they now have to defend. 

White Noise, on the other hand, appears to be taking the opposite approach. Their White Angels renter alliance has slumped from roughly 1,700 members in mid-May to about 580 members in control of only 10 systems, most of them in Wicked Creek.

The roll-back of the White Angels renter alliance began when Against All Authorities reclaimed Teneferis, a region White Noise had seeded with renters. White Noise seems to have made no attempts to relocate those renters or replace their numbers. Even as the White Noise star has risen, the population of their renter alliance has continued to fall off, with most of its membership moving to the other DRF renter alliances Shadow of Death, Red Citizens and Solar Wing.

Note too, the difference in the territorial footprint of these two DRF alliances. Whereas Legion of Death has stations scattered across eight regions, White Noise appears to have traded off space in order to consolidate their holdings primarily in two regions: Branch and Vale of the Silent. While Vale is a patchwork of DRF and vassal alliances, Branch appears to be largely White Noise's show, shared only with Mostly Harmless who occupy a small cluster of systems. presumably at White Noise's behest.

The population changes in the two alliances, accompanied by their geographic differences, suggest two alliances pursuing opposite strategies in terms of occupying and exploiting their nullsec space.

Legion of Death appears to be following an approach very much in line with the the current Dominion Sov/Supercapital paradigm. They have undertaken to defend a large and far-flung territory using a lean, highly mobile force based on a strong supercapital fleet. Their territory is largely occupied by renter and vassal alliances who provide Legion of Death with a vast income flow which is, in turn, used to purchase the supercapitals and the other wherewithal needed to deliver an overwhelming advantage when defending or expanding their space.

White Noise, on the other hand, may be anticipating an end to the Dominion Sov/Supercapital paradigm. They are adopting a territorial footprint that allows them a reasonably compact area of space to defend, and a larger body of PvP forces with which to defend it. This would make sense if they are anticipating a reduction in the range and mobility of supercapital ships and jump ships in general. Such a change would likely leave an alliance with diffused holdings unable to respond quickly or effectively, even given a large and well funded supercapital fleet.

White Noise seems to be deliberately reducing the size of their renter alliance as well, which may indicate a move away from that model altogether. This might indicate that they've found a means of exploiting their space that yield significant revenues without the burden of administering space for a a loose collection of renter corporations. Short internal lines of communication, logistics and defense would reduce their outlays in those areas and thus their income needs. In essence, not having a vast renter empire reduces the need to pay for its defense and upkeep, allowing for a more efficient financial and logistic model.

White Noise appears to be planning for changes to the game that will punish alliances that depend on long range mobility and spend alliance resources maintaining far-flung renter empires. It may be that White Noise has received early word on said changes and is optimizing their operations in anticipation of them.

If that assumption is true, it's interesting that Legion isn't following a similar course. This would suggest that either this intelligence hasn't been shared with Legion of Death, or Legion is disinclined to act on it.

Friday, July 1, 2011


As most of you who've read the back issues at the Edge know, my goal is a thoughtful discussion of events and general goings on in the Eve meilieu; to provide insight as well as entertainment.  Of course as Jenny, my former research librarian, likes to remind me, entertainment at Fiddler's Edge, with its Wall o' Text (tm) approach to blogging, can be sparse.  I tell her to think of it as elegance achieved through restraint.

However, I fear I've let you down of late.  It's been brought to my attention that I've become something of a curmudgeon. 

And looking back over the last we months of posts I do see a marked uptick in axe grinding at the expense of thoughtful analysis.  Now, there's nothing wrong with grinding the odd axe, particularly if the axe being ground calls out or illustrates a crucial point.  Even the odd bit of curmudgeoning can be entertaining and inform or illuminate.

However, while routine and gratuitous curmudgeoning can be entertaining, it rarely adds value to a point or argument and can, in fact, be a distraction.  In short, while aging cranks get lots of attention, they are rarely persuasive no matter how convincing the content of their arguments.  Besides, the land of curmudgeons is well populated. If you're jonesing for that sort of entertainment, you don't need 'ol Mord.

With that in mind, I will take extra care with the application of curmudgeonese; use it more sparingly to enhance rather than stand in for the commentary and analysis I serve up here.