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."