Quickie

So I spent a year writing for TMC. It’s good and fun! Now, though, I have to focus on university. I’ll be graduating in the spring and I don’t want to fuck anything up.

I am going to write a bit about non-eve stuff on my tumblr (alikchi.tumblr.com). I’ll leave this here in case I feel like rambling about EVE in an unpublishable way.

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The big time

I haven’t been writing here much. My original excuse was that the big piece I wrote about the Delve war was outdated almost as soon as I drafted it. Then it was finals and I didn’t have time, then it was Inferno 1.2 and I had to kill as many exhumers as possible before the patch hit.

Now I have a good excuse: I have been pulled into the conglomeration of nerds that is The Mittani dot com.

I’ll be writing news and feature type stuff over there (assuming I don’t get fired). Bloggy, less serious & newsworthy things will remain here when I feel like pushing them out.

Want to know what I’ve been doing post-Exhumer buff? I can’t really say, but I can link to these three killmails and say that Etienne Rossignol is an alt of mine. Later!

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.