A botter’s lament

?????
From: Gabriel Stars
Sent: 2012.06.24 03:28
To: Bob Haldeman,

hello,

You kill me 2 ship and pod!!!!!

I paid you 600mil that does not kill me.

seems that the rumors are true about you that you dishonest and a fraud.

greeting

Income & outcomes

One of the basic skills of an effective EVE player? Budgeting.

In most games “money” is a sort of score, an exponentially growing number that lends the player a feeling of accomplishment and drives the play forward. Saints Row The Third is a good example of this. You can’t really lose cash, your income sources can’t be taken away from you, you just need more to get the good stuff. When you’ve upgraded all your guns, bought all the strongholds and shops, paid for the bonuses and extra gang members, the game sort of stops. Cash was the driver and now you don’t need it anymore.

In EVE, you never stop needing it. What is yours can always be taken away or rendered valueless.

I have always had an income problem. Ratting is too boring, mining is worse, I can’t be bothered to figure out PI, I’m too much of a softie to scam nowadays. I’m used to games like SR3, where I am rewarded for having fun. In short: I am lazy.

So I’ve been working with some unconventional income sources.

May was a very busy month for me: Hulkageddon and Miniluv combined into my most active month of EVE ever (and inspired me to start this blog). I started with about 3 billion isk liquid across all accounts and perhaps another 2 billion in ships and assets. Over the month, my ganking character, Bob Haldeman, lost nearly a billion isk’s worth of gankships. Meanwhile, on my main, I was demonstrating an excellent understanding of more typical PVP by accidentally flying a gank-tornado into Amamake and losing a Cynabal to Black Thorne Alliance. 0.88 billion lost in May for Alikchi.

I lost that Cynabal while my spy character was logged into their Mumble server, actively listening. Misclicked, warped to the wrong perch off a station – the Cynabal’s awesome align time working against me. Got to listen to the pubbies crow as they nipped it to pieces. I am still laughing about that.

So across both of my PVP characters, I’ve lost a decent amount of isk – about 2 billion’s worth of ships. How do I make it back? The answer is GOON SOCIALISM.

All those Black Thorne guys I killed before my Cynabal died a sad death in Solitude were wartargets, and wartargets are worth a bounty in Miniluv. I participated in the shooting of Krixtal Icefluxor’s POS that has produced so many amazing EVE-O posts, and was paid a small bonus for helping. I also assassinated an Unperson and earned the commensurately larger bounty. Total intake from Miniluv for May? About 250mil. That’s a decent amount, but I’m still 1.75bil in the hole.

My man Bob Haldeman killed 60 Exhumers in May. A couple of those kills were so funny I posted them manually –  preventing them from being API verified, and thus lowering my score on the Hulkageddon killboard. Without them showing on the killboard, I didn’t get the last bounty.

Oh, I haven’t explained the bounty system. This year, GoonSwarm decided to begin subsidizing Hulkageddon, with payouts of 100mil for every 10 Exhumers or Orcas killed. With a few missing, I made a solid 500mil through bounties. I also have a spotter-scooper-salvager character that cleans up the wreckage after I’m done. At the end of Hulkageddon I loaded my month’s worth of salvage and stolen mining equipment into an Orca, dumped it all in Dodixie, and astonished myself by making about 600 million isk off of it. Thank god for Intact Armor Plates. Hulkageddon actually earned me a small profit, even after splurging on three Tornados on the 28th.

My rough calculations say that after May, I was 520mil in the red. I think that’s okay. I made some dumb mistakes. If I’d kept that Cynabal and Tornado alive, I’d be in the green. As it stands, 520mil is a blow my wallet can absorb easily. But it doesn’t have to!

You see, YouTube is littered with old GoonSwarm videos. Suas’ songs and Stahlregen’s propaganda are the most-viewed. There’s also a whole bunch of tutorial videos for new members. Most of these are wildly out of date.

Andski, GSF’s new Director of Mentors, decided to post a Video Tutorial contest, with a top prize of 500 million isk. I put this together during my off-time in May and won. By ‘won’, I mean I was the only entrant. So after all the explosions and flubs in May, I’m down.. wait for it.. 20 million isk.

I had a huge amount of fun and my expenses were almost entirely paid for out of the GoonSwarm Federation wallet. Space Communism kicks ass.

Esprit de corps

Let’s talk about identity a bit.

EVE is demographically overwhelmingly male – 94.89%, according to the latest information. Players tend to be in their late twenties or early thirties. (The average age of an EVE player was 27 in 2006, while the average age of a CSM voter was 32 this year.) 54% of all players are from English-speaking countries – primarily the US and UK, with a few percentage points from Canada, Australia, etc. A few other things we can infer? EVE players are well off enough to own a computer and pay a subscription (or play enough to work it out). They’re mostly white, straight, and cis.

You probably just skimmed that last paragraph because ew, numbers. Here’s the takeaway: The EVE community is overwhelmingly western males, with an American plurality. Not teenagers, but young adults. Privileged young English-speaking male adults. These people drive the conversation and set the norms of EVE. You’re probably one of these people. I am.

We have a lot in common, EVE players, as you can see. Generally similar lives and convergent interests. Maybe a bit of misogyny and/or homophobia and/or racism. I’m ignoring all that right now. This post is about the differences between us – particularly on the corp and alliance level.

My spy and infiltration work has mostly been with highsec groups. Small corporations, sometimes part of a no-name fledgling alliance, sometimes independent. These tend to have a clique of friends or CEO at the center running the show with very little interest in what the average member does with his time. Random newbies pass in and out of these corporations like shadows, unacknowledged. There is no group identity because there’s nothing special about being a member – you just have to answer a few simple questions and boom, any mouthbreather is now a proud member of Boring Corp, which follows a strict NRDS policy, honors all ransoms and mostly manufactures ammo to sell in Jita for a tiny profit.

The worst alliances are composed of a whole lot of these corps mashed together. Sure, the arrangement might work in highsec.. until someone wardecs you and half your members vanish. As for nullsec, it is littered with the wreckage of eager-beaver young organizations that worked just fine until someone decided to push them over. Check out The Methodical Alliance if you’re interested in seeing this process in action.

On the other hand, there are smaller groups that stick together for years, grow, and bounce back from defeats. UK Corp is a good example of this, and it’s no mistake that they’re a member of RAZOR, an alliance that has forged its own identity through years of play, win or lose. So what leads to these different outcomes? I’ve already thrown it out there: a strong group identity. Being a member of AAA, of PL, of TEST or RAZOR or Goonswarm, these all mean something more than “I play EVE with these people” – at least in the eyes of some.

Against All Authorities is a good alliance to start with. They were formerly a Slavic alliance, but are now mostly American. The new identity has come with some interesting baggage. The ideal that AAA members aspire to? The touchstone they’ve built their alliance around? “Eliteness.”

They are, as a rule, extraordinarily fixated on killboard statistics and small-gang tactics. Their strategic op participation is almost entirely dependent on which FC leads it. I saw a AAA guy last week who had meticulously copied his eve-kill.net stats into his ingame bio, with a little note for when he’d last updated it. When they took in a few ex-Morsus Mihi members, there was a hilarious series of alliance mails picking on embarrassing losses and individual line member’s fits. (No one really cares how Macabre Votum fits a Rattlesnake, silly as it may be.)

So that’s AAA. To generalize: massively overweening and smug (and unlike Goons, they usually aren’t faking it to troll you). Still, there’s got to be something else there. I’d like to know what it is.

Pandemic Legion is an interesting edge case, since it’s typically referred to as an “elite PVP” alliance (and attracts the sort of player who wants to be seen as elite), but is beginning to develop into a broader gaming community with frequent forays into Minecraft, DayZ, Battlefield 3, etc. A few years ago, they were pretty similar in attitude to what AAA is now (minus the lack of irony). Nowadays, without sovereignty to maintain, PL can dodge some of the least enjoyable aspects of EVE and spend the rest of their time dicking around in Jabber or playing some other game. They’re chilling out, which is good for PL as an institution.

There’s the national alliances. Ev0ke (ze Germans), Romanian Legion, HUN Reloaded (the Hungarians), HELL4S –  I’m sure there are others, and these guys are never going away. If they do go away, they’ll reform under another name, because the linguistic bond is so strong. The only national alliance I can think of that fell apart was Tau Ceti Federation’s French. They had years of success, but internal drama brought them down. Even so, the individual corporations regrouped, and are now almost entirely a part of GoonSwarm (which has become a small haven for the French of EVE).

Then you have TEST and GSF, the big ‘posting’ alliances. Redditors and Goons have a distinct sense of community even before they start playing EVE. Playing together accentuates it and creates new cultural touchstones. A sense of shared journey. GSF? The war with BoB, for starters. There are so many people who define themselves in opposition to Goons that there’s never a shortage of enemies, conflict, or threads to shit up. TEST? Bad memes, I guess. My Little Pony. Maybe accepting pubbie corps and then laughing at their ratting losses. I know some good TESTies, but the alliance reminds me a lot of GoonSwarm 2006-7. Montolio is basically Remedial, after all.

Anyways. What should you be taking away from this?

I try to read the comments for EVE articles on mainstream gaming websites like RPS or PC Gamer. The top two cookie-cutter responses are “I don’t like EVE, but I’m glad it exists” and “I tried it and didn’t like it.” I think a lot of folks started a trial account, trained it into a Retriever, made no friends or attachments and quit. Something similar to that, anyways.

EVE as an isolated newbie is hell. When you play this game, you need to join a like-minded group, or create one. Read RPS? Join RPS Holdings. Identity matters, and not just because it creates strong, functional alliances and corporations. Without it, you’ll eventually find a reason to stop logging in.

Fairness

I think the biggest issue here is that we’re trying to solve different issues. I’m trying to bring the merc trade back into EVE and you’re trying to add some measure of fairness into wars, which isn’t really a design philosophy in EVE.

Why would I want to balance a fight? That’s never really been the goal in EVE and the war dec system wasn’t built for that either. I understand that it’s annoying when a big alliance war decs you, but that’s hardly new to EVE. Big alliances get annoyed with bigger coalitions outnumber them and so on. That’s a fact of life in EVE and we’re not likely to change that direction anytime soon. The other thing is that war dec prices are determined by the value you get from them. If you want to go to war with someone, a higher number of potential targets should be more expensive. If you’re a smaller alliance, this makes you a less attractive target, unless you’ve made someone angry in which case you’re responsible for any social repercussions you’ve created.

CCP Soundwave, 12 June 2012, EVE Forums.

Face value

Goonswarm is an alliance of griefers – with some qualifications. GSF is the largest alliance in the game and is surprisingly diverse. It’s not a monolithic entity. Regardless, it draws a lot of attention from both the community and the broader gaming media for large-scale and/or innovative ‘griefing’ activities.

More importantly, though, it’s an alliance of posters. Don’t forget that a Goon is not an EVE pilot – a Goon is an active member of the Something Awful forums. Playing EVE is something a small minority of Goons do. (The general lack of understanding of this distinction is apparent if you actually read the EVE thread on SA.)

As a forum-based culture, ‘good posting’ is actually important to GSF line members. If you’re a ‘bad’ poster on SA, you might not even make it into the alliance. The Goonfleet.com forums are probably the most tightly moderated in EVE, and the forums we spawn from? Even more so.

The point I’m trying to make here: Goons care about posting. To be a member of GoonWaffe, you have to be at least a moderately tolerable & active poster. Weaselior, the man mostly responsible for this year’s technetium bottleneck, is a moderator on SA. He spends a good chunk of his time ensuring good posting there, and then liberates himself by trolling the hell out of the official EVE forums. (Pushing people’s buttons on eve-o is something of an official GSF pastime.)

When we see bad posting – your image macros, your shit grammar and twisted ideology, your hysterically paranoid anti-goon posts, your 500-page My Little Pony threads… well, we think it’s funny. Hell, FYAD is basically founded on the idea that bad posting is funny.

The Ministry of Love isn’t about silencing our opponents. It isn’t part of some kind of master plan, there’s no strategy. The Mittani isn’t going to “force his will” on highsec with a couple dozen goons in bombers and Falcons. All this is about is blowing up space-stuff – in this case, the space-stuff of offensively bad posters, because it tends to provoke a gut-bustingly hilarious response.

Silencing critics? Being targeted by Miniluv just makes people louder, if Krixtal is any example.

So how did this relatively innocuous idea – fighting people who don’t like us – get blown wildly out of proportion? There’s the Goons Are Doing Something And I’m Angry factor, of course. But this is more than that. I think I know what it is.

Remember a little less than a year ago, when Goonswarm Shrugged was announced? The thread in question was reposted from Goonfleet.com to Kugutsumen and linked all over the official forums.* Relative to the actions of the past few months, it was a small step into the market manipulation game. The large heading near the top – “We’re going to wreck the entire EVE economy” – was for propaganda purposes. A big, bold, attention-getting headline to drive up participation and provoke a response. The ice interdiction succeeded beyond GSF’s wildest expectations, but the game’s economic engine kept on humming with a few hiccups and coughs.

The greater community – bloggers and posters – could have laughed this off. Pointed out the overreach. Instead, they took the propaganda at face value and ran screaming to the forums about Goon Oppression and Destroying The Game where we could laugh at them.

The Ministry of Love is turning out to be pretty effective as a gigantic ‘bad posting’ generator, designed to provoke the most paranoid response from forum warriors and tinfoil-hat pubbies. It works, right down to the 1984 reference in the name. Yes, Miniluv exists. There are Goons flying around highsec killing people who we don’t like and who don’t like us. This isn’t new – anyone here remember Rens 911? Jihadswarm? No?

Funnily enough, narrowing the scope of ‘Goons in highsec’ has provoked a stronger reaction. Let’s say we accept the premise that in-game actions should be viewed through a real-life moral lens. Isn’t fighting between those who actively and mutually dislike each other more acceptable than the alternative – me and my friends blowing up exhumers and barges regardless of their name or affiliation? What’s more ‘moral’ – an assassination or a massacre?

The correct answer: it doesn’t matter, because EVE is a video game and CCP doesn’t care. Nor should they.

No matter how many times someone blows you up, you’re free to express your opinion. No one’s right to speech is infringed by the destruction of their pixel-spaceship. The whole argument that this is anything new or crosses any lines in EVE just doesn’t hold water. Are you a rational human being? Do you choose not to spend your time posting threads that compare Goons to Nazis or disbanding BoB to the Holocaust? Then you’re fine. Keep being reasonable. Sit back and enjoy the show as Goonswarm & friends poke crazy people with a stick and see what happens.

*One of my favorite things about this was confused people wondering why ‘kugutsumen’ was censored on eve-o. A taste of history.

Evolution of a ganker

I remember my first attempt at a suicide gank. It was late September of last year – day one or two of Goonswarm Shrugged. Gallente space was full of Goons in Brutixes (Brutices?). Atrum Veneficus would soon earn the nickname ‘the Scourge of Deninard‘. Mittens himself was slaughtering Mackinaws left and right, and a new generation of highsec killers – Fuujin, Gorn Arming, et al – was born. The talent lost or buried with the demise of Jihadswarm was being rediscovered.

I was mostly not aware of this. My knowledge of game mechanics was shaky at best and at its most unreliable in highsec. Security status, aggression mechanics, GCCs, CONCORD? All annoying as fuck and usually confusing. Nullsec is both simpler and relatively safe for a GSF member.

So: I decided to make absolutely sure I would start on a good note and score a kill. I picked a Hulk in a belt – completely oblivious and stationary, typical at this stage – and lugged a Dominix over from Dodixie. It was kitted out with one of the old 2009-era Jihadswarm fits still on the wiki. Big fucking blasters, drones, damage mods, scram, web, everything needed.

Good warpin, stationary target, massive firepower. Piece of cake.

While I was in warp, I became concerned. I still couldn’t believe that the guy wouldn’t notice a Velator sitting 200 meters away. (I had forgotten just how miners tend to play this game.) As soon as I landed, I targeted, scrammed, opened fire, everything. Hit all the buttons.

I didn’t notice that I’d bounced off a chunk of ice and was now travelling that about 2km/second away from my target.

I’d already aggressed. Miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, pop. Dominix gone. The Hulk probably didn’t even notice I was there. Mittens was on comms and his scout was in the belt. “Hey, who just flubbed a gank in a Dominix?”

CRIPES. (He was cool and helped me clear CONCORD, but still. Cripes.)

The point I’m trying to make here is that ganking is simple, and that it’s not. There are so many things to fuck up. You can land out of range. You can bounce. You can forget that CONCORD is in the belt. Forget to overheat your guns. Aggress, and watch the miner warp out – you didn’t fit a scram. Effects are glitched, so you couldn’t see that the Orca was repping your target. Faction police jam you early. CONCORD hasn’t been previously spawned in the system, so they pop into existence – right on top of you.

I’ve killed at least a hundred exhumers now and I’m still refining my technique. This video, which was recorded about a month ago (and which I’ll comment on further later), shows a pretty clean kill, but I run my ganks rather differently now. The Orca is too slow and clumsy. Two Catalysts aren’t usually necessary. Tabbing between windows is inefficient. Back then, it was almost perfect – overkill and I missed the pod, but still. Now it looks sloppy. If I ever make a proper exhumer-ganking tutorial video (and I intend to) I’ll have to account for these differences in style and tactics. What’s appropriate and when?

I bring all this up because of a conversation I had in local a few weeks ago with a miner. He said that CCP was coddling gankers, that the Catalyst is too powerful, that exhumers and barges should have about twice the HP they do now. ‘Suicide ganking isn’t PVP’, he said, and that’s a phrase I’ve heard often – presumably from angry miners who are Elite Killboard Superstars in their spare time.

Ganking is PVP – by definition. And it’s more complicated than you think it is. More importantly, defending yourself is a lot easier than you think it is. Do you have two or three brain cells you can rub together and make a thought? Then you can align out and watch your overview! Hey, you’re practically invulnerable now, because you’re paying attention to the game. Like the gankers have to.

A start

Hello! I am Alikchi, and this is a blog about EVE. And maybe some other things.

I have been playing and reading about this game for a few years now. My first character was created in early 2009, although I was just dabbling, really. I stuck my toe in after reading This Gaming Life by Jim Rossignol. Typical EVE newbie story: I got bored after a few months of playing with my roommate – trained into a Hulk, heh – and dropped it.

About a year and a half ago I came back as a member of GoonWaffe and had a dramatically different experience. Being part of a like-minded group made this game fun – but that had more to do with the amazing community built around GSF than the game itself. I was showing up for the big wars and the fleet battles, but not necessarily logging in on my own time or for my own reasons. I posted and talked on jabber and shot POS.

This past month, EVE has finally engaged me completely. I am Logging In and Doing Stuff. Every day. Consequently, my partially-formed opinions and observations about EVE and its inhabitants have grown into big annoying boils of thought that can’t be crammed into 140 characters.

So what will I be posting? Mostly EVE-related stuff, but I will spiral off into other games and media occasionally. Maybe even important, non-entertainment things. Probably nothing overly personal, but you never know. 

As far as EVE goes, I am no expert or old pro. My best character has 24m skillpoints and I lose ships regularly. I kill shit, too – but I’m no ELITE PVP killboard fetishist. I don’t play the markets much. I don’t rat unless I have to (sec status!). I don’t manufacture and I very rarely mine. What I do is suicide ganking, wartarget hunting, and regular 0.0 fleet warfare. Expect some posts about these things.

What I especially intend, though, is to spend some time talking about the culture of EVE and its denizens. Why do some groups so completely misinterpret the motivations of others? Why are many players beginning to equate in-game behavior with real-life morality? What is culture in terms of EVE and the broader gaming community, anyways? How about the gender, race & sexuality issues? This is the sort of shit I will be digging into. Hopefully it will be illuminating.

I am going to try and take this .. well, not entirely seriously, but I will do my best to be reasonable. At the very least, I’m not going to force you to read words like ‘ePeen’ and ‘iskies’ and ‘lol’ and ‘Fluttershy’. Maybe an ironic ‘o7 m8’ every once in a while.

I’ll probably update every few days or so (although not on weekends). This blog will occasionally be used to simply vent about the game or its community. I could go completely off the rails and ramble about politics or whatever! That’s OK – I will strive to be at least a little entertaining regardless.