Saturday, January 26, 2013


"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."
- Fiddlers Edge: Mittens and Markets, December 20, 2011
Over at Crossing Zebras,  Zander has decided to do the dance on the edge of the abyss that is called speaking truth to power.  

The message sent by the blue doughnut leadership's slap-down of Montolio doesn't appear to be sitting well with a number of rank and file CFC pilots.  There is discontent at the current moratorium on sov warfare, which said pilots regard as an attempt to turn nullsec into a player-controlled Disneyland.  The message the coalition pilots are getting from CFC leadership seems pretty straightforward:  Speak the party line or stfu.  Thus, by saying what some of his comrades are saying, Zander risks taking up arms against a sea of troubles .

Ballsy word-smithing Zander.  Respect.

My comments responding to Xander's post anticipates some of the content of my upcoming post 'Farms and Fields: Metagame'.  And it's uncharacteristically brief, so I thought you might enjoy the preview. 

Mord Fiddle

The challenge for blue doughnut (BD) leadership is how to avoid losing nullsec now that they have it all in their hands. Therefore, Sov fights, which could cascade into civil war (as happened to the Drone Russians), must be suppressed.  War-time heroes who cannot adapt to the end of uncontrolled conflicts are peace time liabilities. 

As we've seen, they'll be re-educated.

BD leadership is attempting a new play paradigm in nullsec, which is why you're seeing the aggressive and disciplined promotion of 'Farms and Fields' alongside a smothering of sov fights that might destabilize the current peace of nullsec.  I expect to see any large scale 'invasion-level' actions redirected at NPC nullsec, lowsec and highsec to provide content to the rank and file.  I expect to see Intra-nullsec warfare restricted to controlled fights within 'Farms and Fields' framework.

In the mean-time, the war for economic dominion over New Eden has begun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Farms and Fields: Pointy Haired Bosses

I still haven't stopped laughing over the minutes from the Winter CSM summit.  Especially the nullsec bits. Heaven help me, but I do love a good puppet show.  

The best bit was the lords of nullsec and their hangers-on stepping up one by one to say how awful it is in nullsec, how broken nullsec is, and how nobody wants to go to nullsec because it's so hard to make the Iskies. And how, oh how, can they possibly get those lazy and risk-averse carebears to come out to dreary, awful, broken (did we mention it was broken) and dangerous nullsec given the status quo?

You'd think nullsec was the nerdy frat-house on campus and couldn't get anyone to join 'cause all those cool highsec frat houses were giving away free sex and cocaine at their rush parties. Meanwhile poor nullsec house was stuck serving fruit-punch and two-day-old sushi.

I swear, musical themes from La Bohème must have been swelling in the background as the blue doughnut's proxies (BDPs) warbled as one from the 'Farms and Fields' songbook, held forth on nullsec's terrible state and prophesied darkly 'pon the consequences of CCP inaction.  Of course, in a later session UAxDEATH sneers that a trillion ISK as mere pocket change for a nullsec alliance (at which you could practically hear Alekseyev Karrde's jaw hit the floor).

Ah, the poor, lonely, rich boys of nullsec.  It just breaks the heart, doesn't it?

The TLDR of the BDPs' demands, as expressed in the CSM minutes and in the forums, amounts to this:  Change mining and manufacturing mechanics across New Eden so that these activities are far more efficient in sovereign nullsec than in empire or NPC nullsec.  Which is to say they want the baseline cost of manufacturing a given ship or module in empire to be higher.

Yeah, that's right. The BDP wants you to pay more for ships and modules. No, really.  Twocores/Mynnna even put it in print.  

Why? Well, according to the BDP, they want you to pay more for ships and modules so they can have economic independence from the cruel tyranny of Jita.  Of course, nobody's twisting the BD's collective arm to buy and sell at Jita.  And, if markets provide any indication, nullsec absolutely loves to shop at Jita.  However, the BDPs hold that, despite nullsec's near monopoly on high end manufacturing inputs, there is simply no way they can possibly develop industrial capacity within their domains that will compete on a price basis with empire imports given the present mechanics.  No way.  It's just not economically feasible.  


Despite all the BDP sturm und drang at the CSM summit and in the forums, developing a nullsec industrial infrastructure competitive with highsec imports is perfectly achievable with the current mechanics. Is it harder than having CCP hand you the wherewithal on a silver platter? Of course. But none of the changes the BDPs are lobbying for are required to get it done. As I pointed out in Comparative Advantages, back in July:
"If [nullsec's] economic ministers are truly interested in developing the farms and fields paradigm, building up nullsec's industrial capacity must become the primary focus of their efforts.  That will take some clever thinking on their part and require an incentives program geared toward creation rather than merely destruction."
I have done industry in nullsec. I know the difficulties involved, and know how nullsec alliances can overcome them.  Like as not, there are a large number of forward thinking industrialists, some in nullsec,  who could point the way as well. And, happily, you don't have to take my word for it.  As a reader recently pointed out, an article posted on Goonswarm's own propaganda outlet demonstrated that the lords of nullsec on CCP's Serenity server have overcome the industrial problem that has Twocores/Mynnna and the rest of the nullsec brain-trust throwing up their hands in despair. 

I suppose it's possible that Serenity's lords of nullsec have out-thought their Tranquility brethren or are simply better managers.  And it is certainly possible that I am just infinitely smarter than the combined talents of the GoonSwarm Federation Economic Cabal; the self-proclaimed 'foremost authority on Eve Online economics and game play'.  Or perhaps the lords of BD nullsec simply lack the energy for enterprise, preferring a free hand-out from CCP to rolling their sleeves up and doing some honest mental heavy lifting.

Improving 0.0 industry (the reason POS changes are being so aggressively pushed by the BDPs) is certainly worth talking about. However, speaking based on experience, the primary problem with industry in nullsec is mismanagement, not game mechanics. Nullsec is what its owners make of it.  If the BDP truly wants to develop an industrial infrastructure, they have it in their hands to do so.  Nullsec management hasn't made a serious effort at optimizing their space for industry with the tools at hand.  I see no reason to reward their lack of initiative with new special advantages for nullsec.  Nullsec has plenty of advantages as it is.

Some folk can't be happy unless they're holding *all* the toys. 

But, let's be charitable. Let's assume the BD lords of nullsec and their proxies know they can produce competitive ships and modules given the right policies (Industrial optimization, open carebear immigration, low use fees to incent industrial activity, etc.).  Let's assume they know that independence from Jita is theirs to grasp without any, (or only modest) changes to game mechanics. Why then, are they insisting the economic playing field must be tilted to their absolute advantage over both highsec and lowsec.  Why are they so anxious to push up the cost of cartoon spaceships.

Here's a possibility:

In the Economic section of the December CSM summit meeting, UAxDEATH states that Technetium can be nerfed if the desired 'Farms and Fields' changes replaces that income stream. None of the other BDPs record any objection to this statement.  This speaks volumes to revenue yields the lords of nullsec expect from 'Farms and Fields'.  Reading elsewhere in the minutes and the forums it is evident that 'Farms and Fields' is expected to provide nullsec alliances with a new large-bore stream of revenues from taxes on industrial activities. 

In other words, you need to pay more for your ships and modules so the BD alliances can get more tax revenues.   

Perhaps we should discuss that next.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Edge Awards

I know, you were looking forward to another neigh opaque wall o' text on 'Farms and Fields'.  I know that because you are one sick, crazy bunch of logophiles.  My kind of people.  But no, there'll be no heavy lifting by the eyes, or brain-strain today.  No iPhones or Samsung IIIs will suffer an unsavory immersion because this post was too long to read at your desk, and you had to sneak off to read it during your bathroom break (No, really. It's happened).  For behold, Seismic Stan has declared a holiday on deep thinking.

In his most recent blog banter, Siesmic Stan has tapped the blogosphere to invent our own awards to recognize members New Eden's community for their contributions to the Eve zeitgeist:
"I would like to invite every participant to nominate their peers for whatever awards you think they deserve. Let's celebrate the best and the worst of us, the funniest or the most bizarre, the most heroic of the most tragic of the past year. They could be corpmates, adversaries, bloggers, podcasters, developers, journalists or inanimate objects. Go nuts."
Not as easy an assignment as you'd think at first blush. Many are deserving. And I do enjoy the company I keep in New Eden; from the callowest carebear to the bitterest vet to the hoariest interstellar pirate. Bro-hugs with appropriate back-slaps all around, folks.  Like Mr Javixx, I'd like to say you're all winners. 

But this is Eve, not Montessori school.  Not everybody gets a trophy.  For some to win, others have to suck vacuum. Not my rule. Just the law of the digital jungle. New Eden is a Hobbesean place, red in tooth and pixel. 

With that, and in the spirit of Hollywood's award season, I give you The Edge Awards.

Alliance Awards:

The Technetium Throne Award: Goonswarm Federation
"It is not a seat where a man can rest at ease. Ofttimes I wonder why my brothers wanted it so desperately."
    - George R. R. Martin
Credit where credit is due: The Goons have their collective nether-regions firmly parked on nullsec's Technetium Throne and none can say they didn't earn it.  Not only did their leadership lead the coup that unseated the high seat's prior Drone Russian occupants, they did so with a nuanced application of diplomatic maneuverings punctuated by brute force. All in all, a Machiavellian performance worthy of the great houses of Westeros.

Well played, gentlemen. Well played.

The Walking Dead Award: Against All Authorities
"What Hamlet suffers from is a lack of zombies....No need for iambic pentameter because they are grunting, groaning annihilators of humanity with no time for meter. You’re not asleep in the back of English class anymore, are you? This is what I’m talking about. Zombies.”
    - Libba Bray
Call it mental toughness. Call it 'Too dumb to die'. Call it zombification. Whatever. -A- have an annoying way of not knowing when they're beaten.  You can knock them down, shoot them execution-style, knife the body a dozen times, rub their collective face in the dirt and dog-shit, and walk away from their mangled corpse with their lunch money jingling in your pocket while you whistle tunes from 'Aida'. A week later -A- will be back, nailing the dismembered body of your beloved family pet to your front door.

-A- has been prematurely eulogized so often in the last few years you'd think they had a Summer home on the River Styx and rented jet-skis from Charon.  If this is their time to cross over to Hades, I'll break out the good stuff, toast their memory and ask if I can have their ticker and logo. However, until the boatman cashes in -A-'s silver coin, I'll keep the good stuff on the shelf and the pop-corn on stand-by. 

The Henry Higgins Award: Test Alliance, Please Ignore
"Pandemic Legion, you are to stay here for the next six months learning to behave beautifully, like a lady in a flower shop. If you work hard and do as you're told, you shall sleep in warm Deklein, have lots to eat, and money to buy bacon and go for rides in Supercapitals."
   - George Bernard Shaw (heavily paraphrased)
Who knew Pandemic Legion could be domesticated?  Under Test Alliance's careful tutelage, the Legion appears to have curbed their anarchistic tendencies, adapted to nullsec's new 'controlled PvP' doctrine, and behave in all manner civilized.  Props to HBC for teaching the toughest floozie in the nullsec gin-joint to walk and talk and dress like a proper lady.

Media Awards:

Best Blog:  Jester's Trek

Those of you who read Ripard Teg's blog know that he is a prolific writer, often putting up more posts in a day or two than I publish in a month. Mind, I make that an easy bar to get over.  Personally, I believe he keeps a platoon of middle-school composition teachers chained in his basement writing blog entries for him, and starves them if they don't produce.  But that's beside the point; my point being that Ripard Teg writes a lot. And he writes well on a surprisingly diverse set of topics; from player guides and ship fittings to game mechanic analysis and critiques of the the primary drivers to and impacts of changes to said mechanics. He also is known to opine on the effectiveness of CCP personnel and the elected members of the CSM, a body known to get a bit prickly when confronted with less-than-glowing reviews.

Regular readers will know I'm quick to snap Teg with a rolled-up newspaper when he goes astray, but he always stands up for his point of view and gives as good as he gets. And I'm every bit as quick to back him up when he suffers the slings and arrows of an outraged Eve media for speaking his mind.  Speaking truth to power is not for the faint of heart. 

Best New Blog: Diaries of a Space Noob

Diaries of a Space Noob began as two month long, day by day, diary of a former World of Warcraft player's early days in Eve Online from the beginning.  Those early Space Noob  diary entries were written from the perspective of a new player to a non-Eve audience and spoke eloquently the Eve new player experience with fresh eyes.  It is a portrait of the Eve community written from the point of view of an outsider.

Since those early days the 'Noob' soldiers on. He he still writes eloquently to the player experience and puts out an enjoyable and informative blog.  It is recommended reading for anyone who wants to know (or remember) what the Eve experience is for the first time visitor to New Eden.

Sail on, Noob.

The Four Feathers Award: Mynnna

Best Podcast: Crossing Zebras

Doing a podcast is easy.  Just record yourself and four or five buddies bloviating about Eve for four hours or so. Be sure to bring beer. Lots of beer. Four hours of bloviating is thirsty work and you're way more funny and charming after downing that first six pack. Drop in a little music here and there and post the resulting audio gold. See? It's not hard at all.

Unless, of course, your goal is a quality podcast.  A quality podcast is hard, exacting work before, during and after the recording session.  I respect people who put together quality podcasts and wish there were more of them. There are podcasters out there who behave as though they're yukking it up in corp TeamSpeak when they should be contributing to a quality product.

How much quality work do I expect for free? Quite a lot, actually. If you're doing it for love, learn to do it right.

Happily the lads over at Crossing Zebras stand as a good example of doing it right. The hosts, Xander and Jeg, have a good dynamic. They complement each others' on-air strengths and, I believe, have a much better audio presence together than either would have on their own.  The content they deliver is usually interesting and, a few hiccups aside, well paced and well edited.  I have the sense that they're keeping their audience in mind as they go; treating the listener as a silent third party to their conversations who they must include and keep interested.  The ability to do so is a rare gift.

Zebras is a relatively young podcast, and going back through their playlist gives the listener a sense of how their podcast has matured over time. It's an instructive journey for nascent or would-be podcasters. I think Zebras hasn't hit their peak yet and the best of their podcasts are yet to come.

The 'Fist of Doooooooom!' AwardPoetic Stanziel

Likely the most fearless and uncensored blogger in all New Eden.  Utterly unafraid to speak his mind and pulls no punches.  You may not think he's right, but you'll never doubt where he stands.  Stanz may swing wild at times, but he hits hard when he connects.

The 'Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean'  Award: Voices from the Void

On a hiatus since early December, Arydanika's Voices from the Void is, to my mind, the best planned and produced Eve podcast out there.  The back issues of 'V&V' are well worth a listen, particularly those featuring Seismic Stan as co-host, and Dani and Stan's song parody series. Dani singing Sansha Baby to the tune of Santa Baby is not to be missed.  The disappearance of Episode 33, AKA the Lost Podcast of Zin remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time.

Hurry back Dani.