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.