Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eyes on the horizon: part 2

I also have some thoughts on the various changes to 0.0 gameplay that CCP is considering.

In recent CSM meetings, it’s been made clear that CCP is considering making several changes to 0.0 game mechanics, all geared towards making 0.0 more accessible to smaller, independent alliances.  First, a bit of a history lesson: this philosophy isn’t new for CCP.  The Dominion expansion, released about a year and a half ago, was the first attempt at this.  Before Dominion, sovereignty warfare revolved around tower spamming.  Resources were limited, so alliances controlled vast areas of space in order to provide larger ratting grounds for their members.  With Dominion, CCP introduced the current sovereignty mechanics.  They introduced infrastructure hubs (ihubs), which were meant to allow an alliance to install upgrades (military and industrial) that would enable a single system to support more players.  It also evened the playing field a little by making a system’s profitability less dependent on its trusec.  This served the dual purpose of attracting smaller alliances to 0.0 while making it so that larger alliances didn’t need to control as much space to keep their members happy.  They also introduced sovereignty bills, which were based on the specific upgrades installed in the system’s ihub (some upgrades cost much more than other upgrades).  The scaled sovereignty billing system was meant to make it hugely expensive to hold sov over vast areas of space.  To those ends, CCP was successful, but what developed wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.

Larger alliances decreased their number of sovereign systems, but that didn’t prevent them from exercising their influence over vast regions of space.  Large power blocs developed the habit of leaving several systems within their sphere of influence unclaimed, but exploiting the system’s resources nonetheless.  In fact, CCP failed to eliminate one of the main motivating factors for holding large amounts of space: moon materials.  For anyone that isn’t aware, most major alliances rely on moon-mining for the bulk of the finances.  In short, the more high-end moons you control, the more money you have.  The more space you control, the more high-end moons you control.  Nevertheless, in many cases, smaller alliances were attracted to 0.0, but only in the form of renters and pets.  CCP failed to realize that the new sovereignty mechanics would not prevent larger alliances from maintaining control over large areas, regardless of how much sovereignty they actually held in that area.

And here we are, a year later.  Coalitions are king, and it’s rare for any alliance to succeed in 0.0 without being a member of one of the major power blocs.  The suggestions that have been thrown around to remedy the situation all involve making logistics more difficult in 0.0.  The two most prominent suggestions are eliminating jump bridges and severely nerfing the jump range of capital ships.  The idea behind the former is that jump bridges allow large coalitions, such as the Northern Coalition, to exist.  With access to the NC jump bridge network, I can travel from Fountain to Geminate in less than 20 minutes.  Fountain and Geminate are on completely different sides of the map.  Without this jump bridge network, it’s very difficult to live in one region while fighting in another.  Nerfing the jump ranges of capital ships follows the same idea.  If capital ships have shorter jump ranges, it limits the area over which an alliance can project its power.  I can’t say that the reasoning is wrong here, but what I can say is that these two suggestions, if implemented, will have a huge impact on life in 0.0, particularly for those that make their homes in regions like Branch, Tenal, Cobalt Edge, Period Basis, and other regions of 0.0 that are very far from empire space.  Many of these regions require a route through other conquerable 0.0 regions in order to make logistics work, which makes logistics impossible without “blueing” their neighbors.

If these changes are implemented, residents in these remote 0.0 regions will either have to be blue with everyone that they can practically fight, or they’ll have to rely exclusively on local industry.  The implication of this is that they will have little, if any, T2 items at their disposal.  T2 items are produced from various combinations of moon materials, which are not distributed evenly among all the regions.  Technetium, for example, is found in large abundance in the North while being almost non-existent in the South.  Alliances that live in 0.0 regions don’t have access to many T2 items without importing either the T2 items themselves or the moon materials necessary to build those T2 items.  For alliances that live in remote 0.0, importing and exporting goods would be almost impossible.  The same principle applies to meta 1-4 items, as these items are only dropped by pirate NPCs, and no 0.0 region has every variety of pirate NPC.  A resident of Period Basis would have a very hard time finding meta level shield upgrades to fit on their drake or raven.  Likewise, a resident of Branch would have a very hard time getting their hands on meta level armor hardeners.  EVE is very much a global economy, and making logistics more difficult only places unreasonable limitations on what pilots in 0.0 can fly.

There are ways around the limitations of a global economy.  For example, CCP could distribute moon materials evenly among the 0.0 regions, which would allow an alliance to produce every T2 item locally.  Concurrently, they could allow pirate NPC anomalies and complexes to spawn randomly throughout all 0.0, instead of relegating NPC pirates to specific regions. This would distribute meta level items to all 0.0 regions.  However, both of these changes, combined with the changes to jump bridges and capital ship jump ranges, would completely change the face of 0.0, and for a while things would be very chaotic.  Coalitions would dissolve and remote 0.0 regions would be thrown into a “dark age” of sorts, where the alliances that live in these areas would either be forced to slowly adjust to the importance of having a strong industrial backbone, or be forced to move out.

Personally, I don’t think that the changes to 0.0 are all that necessary.  I think that too often people jump to the “nerf-it” solution when they find something they don’t like.  I think solutions could be found if you just use your imagination.  For example, what about adding to low-sec?  How about changing low-sec so that the alliances that enjoy small-gang warfare can hold a kind of pseudo-sovereignty in low-sec systems in the same way that pirate cartels hold influence over small areas of space?  This way, 0.0 could be left to the coalition empires for those that enjoy that, and lowsec could be the realm of the small-gang pvper.  It’s not perfect, but at least it’s interesting.

We have yet to really see what the future holds for 0.0.  Everyone has their own ideas of what EVE should be like, but really, the only ideas that seem to matter are the dev ideas.  Only CCP has the power to change the game mechanics to fit their vision of what EVE should be.  But don’t be too disappointed, that power is only an illusion.  As the past has shown, whenever CCP changes the game mechanics in an attempt to influence the way people play their game, it doesn’t quite turn out the way they want it to.  After all, EVE is a sandbox, and in a sandbox you can manipulate game mechanics, but you can’t manipulate the way people interact with one another.

Eyes on the horizon: part 1

I know, I’m a bit late to the topic, but I’ve had plenty of time to think, and I want to share my thoughts on the 0.0 political situation.

First, ever since it became clear that the IT bloc wouldn’t survive, there has been much speculation on what the 0.0 landscape will be like with half of the 0.0 map being blue.  There are plenty of people claiming that it will ruin the game.  To that, I can only ask, “Ruin it for who?”  It’s always been the position of the “losers” to complain that they don’t like the way the game is being played.  All you have to do is visit the forums and read the numerous threads from miners complaining about can-flipping or hulkageddon, or the highsec nooblet corporations complaining about constant griefer wardecs.  The “winners” always respond, “stop complaining about people not playing the game the way you do.”  That’s a fair response, but now the tables have turned… somewhat.  The carebears have their 0.0 empire, and the small-gang – ‘leet – pvpers are severely outnumbered.  Frankly, with the way sovereignty mechanics work, what did you expect to happen?  In this context, complaining that the NC is going to ruin the game is a bit ridiculous.  Get over it.  Personally, I don’t really care.  I live in Fountain.  All I need to do is travel a few jumps into Delve or Querious to find all the targets I’ll ever want.  I suppose I might feel a bit different if I lived in Tenal or Branch.  And for all those complaining that the sov map isn’t going to change.  So what? Other than the rare occasions when you actually get a fight out of your enemy, sov warfare is all about shooting at stations and ihubs for hours on end.  I’d rather roam.  Anyway, that’s really all I have to say about that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fallen from Grace

Everyone has someone that they look up to.  Whether it be personality, skill, or even just simple possession, that one person has something that you covet.  For me (in EVE anyway), that person was Perseus Kallistratos.  I started reading eve online blogs back when the iphone app, capsuleer, was still running, and KrazyKinux's Blogpack was fed right into the app.  That's where I discovered PK's blog, Aggressive Tendencies.  Up until a few months ago, PK would write almost exclusviely about his roaming.  And it was good reading.  I especially liked how he would go through engagements in incredible detail, listing all the actions and thoughtprocesses almost as though he meant to teach his audience.  His blog was definitely the most exciting to read, and I read it religiously.  Not anymore.

Since the Fountain war began, his posts have become... well, overtly political.  He stopped focusing on pvp, instead filling his his blog with half-assed propoganda against the NC, constant bitching about blobbing, and whining about how biased evenews24 is (which is true, but everybody already knows it; the site practically trolls itself).  You can pretty much summarize every one of his posts over the past couple months by saying, "the NC are napfest carebears, the Fountain campaign is a joke, and everyone sucks but me. The end."  Reading his blog is like listening to a small child throw a fit because his mommy won't buy him icecream.

But this isn't all.  Immediately before he stopped posting about his roams, he would post about his nightly sniperhac roams into cloud ring.  This is where I personally got the most exposure to him ingame, as I was FCing a lot and occasionally I would run into him.  I started to notice what others had already pointed out: in his blog, he never makes mistakes.  Whenever his fleets are bested, it's always someone elses fault.  When he can't blame losses on anyone else, he doesn't write about them.  I remember one particular night where I was leading an ahac fleet against his even-manned sniperhac fleet.  By the end of the night, 7 of his sniperhacs and only one of my zealots were dead.  He didn't meantion it in his blog, which wouldn't be unusual, except that he has a tendency to ragepost when he takes as little as 3 or 4 losses.  That's just one example, and there are many others.  On top of all this, comments on his blog have to get his approval before they'll display.  It looks like he took a play out of the SirMolle book of information control.

His post today is the piece de resistance of the general character his blog has adopted:

"The NC "Incursion" has fallen short of Delve" - It's amazing how he refuses, even after IT is gone, to give the Deklein Coalition (Clusterfuck) it's own identity, as if being defeated by the goons is unthinkable.  While there was NC participation in the Fountain invasion, the truth is that every one of IT's losses in Fountain was to a goon FC with a 95%+ Dekco (Goons, TEST, Widot, FA) fleet composition.  The only notable exception was the seond battle of Z30, where the NC capfleet ambush was a deciding factor.  And even then, the NC wasn't there to help take Z30; they were there to get titan killmails.  Oh, and here he's also ignoring the fact that even before the Fountain war ended, both the goons and TEST openly stated that they don't want Delve.

"perhaps the biggest surprise was the apathy of Goonswarm towards the whole affair." - Again, he ignores reality and focuses on pushing his own agenda.  In Fountain, goon leadership asked the NC to put their supercaps on the field to completely overwhelm IT's supercaps.  The NC supers were never in any significant danger.  Asking the goons to drop their relatively small supercap fleet into an already hopeless situation is pointless.  If 100 of your dudes are going to die, making it 101 isn't going to change anything.

"what... [the NC alliances] lack in participation, experience and FCing they make up for with massive numbers." - This is an efficient combination of the "you blob, no fair" and the "I'm good at everything, you're bad at everything" agendas that have come to characterize all of his posts.  Despite being one of the most successful, if not the most successful, entity in EVE's history, PK attributes that success to blobbing, and blobbing only.

He is so pleased at the NC's losses that I half expected him to claim victory for Perseus Kallistratos.  This is the general air of the entire post, and I have to say, I'm over it.  I don't think I'll be reading PK's blog very often anymore, if at all.  It's not that he's my alliance's enemy.  On the contrary, I love reading my enemys' posts.  I read Easley Thames' blog and Manasi's blog almost as religiously as I used to read PK's.  It's just that PK's posting has gone south so rapidly that I don't think it can recover.

So, why write this much about another writer?  As I said at the beginning, I once looked up to PK's blogging ability, and it's extremely dissapointing that his writing has turned to crap.  I'll miss reading about his ganks and his FCing.  Only time will tell if his blog can regain it's character.  I hope it can.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Now that I have your attention, I just wanted to say that things have been busy for me ingame lately, so I haven't been able to post as much as I'd like to.  But more business = more things to write about, so expect a flurry of topics shortly.

Also, CrazyKinux has been kind enough to add me to the Eve Online Blogroll.  If you have the time, there are a lot of great blogs in there, including another Ixionian blog, Vive Virtual.  Many thanks to CrazyKinux.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Coming Down

We’ve been cleaning up IT’s mess in fountain for the past week and our progress is nothing short of spectacular.  Of course, much of the cleaning is being done by NC FC Imperian, along with significant help from the NC supercapital fleet.  Nevertheless, at the time of writing, only 12 hostile systems remain of 108 conquerable systems in the region.  Most of those hostile systems are under the control of Hun Reloaded.  Hats off to them for holding out for so long, but they’ll soon be disposed of like the rest of IT’s pets.

It’s been a hard fought war, by both sides, and it will be nice to have some downtime for harvesting and building up the infrastructure in our new home.  I’ve gained some good memories during this war, including the defense of PNQY, the supercapital fight in Z30, where I was one of very few bubblers on grid with the enemy supers (and the only HIC that got on the titan killmails, yay me!!!), and the epic campathon in 6VDT.

We’ve been riding high on our victory, and we’re only now starting to come down.  But, before we do, we’d like to share one last treat together.  If TEST is good at one thing, it’s… well, it’s trolling.  If they’re good at another thing, it’s propaganda.  Tez is one of our best video-maker-dudes, and he made a video to commemorate our victory over IT, our campaign in Fountain, and Dreddit’s one-year birthday (for those not in the know, Dreddit is the largest corp in EVE and makes up the bulk of TEST Alliance).  Enjoy.  (BTW, the dude talking at the beginning and at various parts of the video is SirMolle, the leader of IT alliance.  Tez is nothing short of an artist)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Scams, Lies, Betrayals

I remember the first time I was scammed.  I had joined my first corp after about 6 months of playing EVE without enjoying the MM in MMO.  We were deploying to Stain and one of the members volunteered his services to transport our things.  I don’t know exactly how many of us he duped, but I know that I was one of them.  In hindsight, he only got a Rokh and a few mods out of me, but at the time it was the bulk of my assets.  Now, 2 years later, I am worth tens of billions in cumulative assets, and a Rokh, worth about 130mil isk at the time, seems like a paltry loss.  Hell, I’ve lost several times that amount in last few weeks of duking it out with IT.  Nevertheless, it’s important to realize how significant the loss was at the time, and how much it affects newer players when they realize that that EVE is not a friendly place, even within your own corp/alliance.

TEST is full of newer players who are still in the process of learning the ins and outs of the game.  What’s special about TEST, though, is that it’s very newb friendly.  There are mentor programs, in-game channels, and even a special fund dedicated to getting newbies airborne.  However, despite the friendly atmosphere, danger lurks behind every corner, because after all is said and done, this is still EVE.

Recently, a member of the corp OMFG within TEST Alliance scammed several billion from various TEST members in the same manner that I was scammed two years ago.  It’s not clear (to me anyway) whether this person originally intended to scam or not.  He was an old friend of OMFG CEO TooDucky, an honest and trusted member of the TEST community, and he was reportedly having real-life issues.  It is possible that when he was finally able to login, he saw the drama centered on his lack of activity and decided to abandon EVE for good.  I don’t think this is the case, but it is possible.  Regardless of what his original intentions were, the end result was still the same: lots of scammed newbies.  This, along previous issues with both OMFG and TooDucky, resulted in massive flaming of OMFG in the TEST forums.  This, in turn, led to OMFG deciding to leave the alliance.

I’d like to start by stating that OMFG leaving probably has more to do with the constant aggravation towards them and less to do with their recruitment standards.  First, this is EVE, and scams happen in EVE.  Betrayals happen in EVE.  It’s an unfortunate part of the game that no one can control, regardless of how strict their recruiting standards are.  There are methods that recruiters can employ to mitigate risk on new recruits, but those methods are limited.  Second, TooDucky is a bad forum poster (lol TEST and their posting standards).  While the incident was unfolding, he made several posts that were intended to be funny and/or calm people down, and they came off a bit insulting.  Having spoken to Ducky and people that have known Ducky for years, I don’t think he meant to insult anyone.  This only worsened the ill-feelings that a few high ranking members had towards him and his corporation.  In true TEST fashion, the trolling started, and some of it was fairly vicious.  It caused OMFG to leave the alliance.  I don’t think that this is what (most of) the trolls intended to happen, but it happened nevertheless.

The timing was impeccable, as we just defeated IT, which dissolved largely due to internal drama.  Irony isn’t without a sense of humor.  The effects of OMFG’s departure are yet to be seen, as they haven’t yet departed.  A few people aren’t concerned, as it puts only a small dent in the number of pilots that TEST can field.  But, I’m more concerned about the long-term implications.  Ignoring OMFG’s sizeable cap fleet, they also had an asset that we really need at this stage in our development: TooDucky… that is to say, TooDucky’s skill as an FC.  While we have many FCs with talent, other than Ducky, none have been truly tested as far as I know.  The Catch campaign was very significant for TEST alliance.  We were on our own against the IT/INIT bloc in Catch, and we proved our worth… with Ducky FCing all of our major engagements, including a huge victory where we eliminated an enemy CSAA and several carriers.  When we moved on to the Fountain campaign, the Goons led most of the strategic ops and FC’d all of the combat ops.
Regardless of what some think, what we lost in OMFG will be difficult to replace.  They’re assets that we need if we’re to project our power.  In addition, if TEST members (especially members in positions of authority) continue to fan the flames on internal situations, it won’t be long before we rip at the seams… just… like… IT… did.  Don’t get me wrong, I like that TEST trolls.  It’s a very effective weapon.  But just like nuclear arms, trolling needs to be handled with care, or it will blow up in your face.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

For every end, there is a beginning

DICE recently left IT, SUITS has already announced their departure, and BNC has announced that they’re disbanding and moving most of their members over to Raiden..  I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind what the (near) future holds for IT Alliance.  I just read Easley Thames’ blog, and I’m impressed with his brutal honesty about the current state of IT.  He goes deep into the origins of IT’s current situation.  He traces IT’s politics and internal policies from the end of Max 2.0, elaborating in great detail on how things have proceeded since then.  It’s long, but it’s also a very good read.  I highly recommend it.  Mad props to Easley for being so honest.

Despite fighting a bitter war with IT for over a month now, it’s a bit disheartening to see one of only a handful of power blocs in 0.0 go down the crapper as quickly as it has.  But to put it simply, IT owes its current predicament to a breakdown in leadership.  IT’s leadership has shown such a lack of prudence diplomatically that by the time they came under a significant amount of pressure, they were unable to stand united against a determined adversary.  The Clusterfuck Coalition (Dekco; CF) invasion of Fountain was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Despite all the internal issues within IT, if Goonswarm hadn’t of invaded when they did, IT would have been able to hold AAA off long enough to work through their drama.  Coupled with being unable to regain any ground in Fountain and allowing SW to open two more fronts in Period Basis and Querious, their internal issues came the bear and now the alliance is on the brink of cascading.

Now, IT seems to be holding up in Delve, content to allow CF forces take most/all of the region without resistance.  Indeed, looking at the Morsus Mihi timer app, it looks like most/all remaining stations in Fountain are reinforced, along with a good portion of the ihubs.  All of Fountain should be in CF hands in a week or two.

The question that seems to be lingering in everyone’s mind is “So what now?”  And that is the million-dollar question.  It’s obvious that for the immediate future, we finish off Fountain and in the meantime work on our new region’s infrastructure.  Most people think that our next step is to prepare for the inevitable Delve invasion, and I tend to agree, but it should be noted  that it’s not all that inevitable.  Before the Foutain war really kicked off, Goon leadership admitted that they weren’t willing to wage a full scale sovereignty war, simply because they didn’t know of anyone that was able and willing to hold the sov.  Then TEST stepped up to the plate after it became clear that a single region wasn’t enough for the cumulative 9000 characters in both TEST and goonswarm.  Expansion for TEST was inevitable, and that gave goonswarm all the reason that they needed to wage a full scale sov war against their ancient enemies.  Now, Both Goonswarm and TEST have openly stated that they don’t want Delve, and I think they're being honest.  TEST/goons may decide to not invade.  They may decide to just let IT die slowly while they build up infrastructure in Fountain.  But the question still remains, who will get Delve after IT falls?

How TEST proceeds after Fountain is heavily dependent on who takes Delve.  Will the new Delve holders press for Fountain?  It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

 After Max 2.0, the seeds of our downfall had been planted. We had already achieved our mission to retake the homeland, and it was established that we could not wipe out the NC. What purpose remained for us?” -Easley

Easley makes a good point about purpose, here.  Namely, alliances tend to begin their downfall when their members become apathetic for want of a unifying objective.  They need something to keep them on their toes and focused on fighting a foreign enemy instead of each other.  TEST is a unique alliance in that its average member base tends to be very low SP.  Most of our members still have a lot to discover, and we even have a dude dedicated to teaching vast hordes of TEST newbies the ropes, and he’s doing a very good job so far (o/ Tewkz).  Our members have lots of training to do, ISK to make, new toys to buy, and experience to accumulate.  So some downtime in Fountain to puruse those activities may be our best option.  This doesn't preclude PvP, of course.  One of the reasons that we're so successful is that most/all of us want to go out and make our enemies cry, and during our downtime we would have enough time to make that happen.  We don’t have very many bitter vets, so boredom won’t be an issue for us for a while.  This will be especially true if/when an unfriendly force takes over Delve.  Then we’ll have someone to fight, even if it is just in the form of roaming gangs.

Long term, things are uncertain but also exciting.  Montollio (TEST executor) openly stated that he, like the rest of EVE, doesn’t like the fact that the half of the influence map is now blue.  This is where things get a bit complicated politically.  TEST itself has no significant ties to the larger NC.  Our loyalty lies mostly with Goonswarm Federation, who, of course, will not leave tech-rich deklein, and will therefore be blue to the NC for the foreseeable future.  So it’s not likely that we’ll reset the NC, but it’s not difficult to imagine that, once we accumulate wealth, a significant capital force, and an elite FC team, we’ll go solo and cut our ties with the NC.  Who knows?

The only advice I can give to anyone outside of TEST, underestimate us at your own peril.  We proved in Catch that we could contend with IT/INIT on our own.  We may have a large newby population, but it’s a determined hoard of newbies who live to harvest our enemy’s tears.

If you do decide to go after us, good luck.  We’ll see you on the front.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Alpha Mael: Reloaded

I’m finally getting out of Saint Louis.  I’m sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight with nothing better to do.  So I figured I’d post.
A couple of days ago I posted a description of the Alpha Mael fleet doctrine that most alliances have adopted.  Now, I’d like to go over its limitations and usability as an effective fleet doctrine.  Keep in mind that I am just a peon in the beast known as TEST Alliance.  Another brick in the wall, as it were, ready to absorb the impact of yet another TEST dummy.  Most of my ideas are either my observations, or opinions based on those observations.

Critical Mass
Because the alpha fleet doctrine is based on doing huge amounts of damage in one shot, alpha fleets require a certain “critical mass” in order to be effective.  If there aren’t enough Maelstroms in your fleet, then your combined alpha might not be enough to get through your primary’s buffer.  Therefore, you’ll have to cycle your guns and get off a second shot.  By that time, the enemy logis have already locked up your target and have repaired whatever damage you did in the initial volley.

The Alpha Fleet doctrine is based on arty Maelstroms, which means its weaponry is largely ineffective against close range, fast moving, low-sig res shiptypes.  If you’re an Amarr pilot, the first thing that should come to your head is “ahacs!!!!”  The ahac, short for armor heavy assault cruiser, fleet doctrine is designed to be effective against most long range battleship setups.  It typically consists of pulse zealots armored with a 1600mm plate and decent resists.  They use 10mn afterburners, as opposed to MWDs, in order to keep their speed up and sig radius down.  Coupled with damnations for armor gang boosts, mindlinked lokis for sig radius boosting, and guardians for logistics support, the ahac tank is extremely tough to crack.  In addition to their incredible tanking power, they have a huge punch for being fit with very few damage mods.  And as a final touch, as if they weren’t already totally awesome, they run cap stable with hardeners, an afterburner, and five heavy pulse lasers.  Ahac fleets are my favorite. 

In theory, ahacs should be the perfect counter against the long-range BS based alpha fleet model.  This theory, however, is shattered by lag.  If you’re not familiar with large scale sovereignty warfare, lag is EVE as air resistance is to the real world.  It slows everything down, drains energy, and makes theories difficult to test.  If it weren’t for air resistance, a bowling ball and a feather would both hit the ground at the same moment if dropped from the same height at the same time.  If it weren’t for lag, ahacs would dominate alpha fleets.  In the early days of the fountain war, IT put this idea to the test and called for ahacs to counter the Dekco alpha fleet poised to defend the PNQY station.  The IT ahac fleet failed miserably.  Although I can’t say for certain why it failed, it’s widely known that lag was particularly bad during the assault.  In order to be effective, ahacs have to be able to maneuver very well.  They have to be able to get into range as a group, as well as warp in and out at will.  Lag does not permit this.  In addition, module lag means that the differences in cycle time that level the dps between artillery and lasers are nullified, and large artillery ends up heavily out-dpsing pulse lasers.  In this particular instance, ahacs were not the best of choices, and IT paid dearly for their mistake.

As far as I’m aware, ahacs have not been properly tested against the alpha fleet doctrine, and they likely never will be.  The “critical mass” requirement described above means that alpha fleets are inherently large.  Large fleets mean serious lag, even on reinforced nodes.  It’s not likely that ahacs will ever have a fair shot at beating alpha fleets, and even if they do, it won’t be a fair fight because the Maelstroms probably won’t have enough in fleet to actually be effective anyway.

Alpha fleets were implemented with the intention of limiting the effectiveness of enemy logistics.  Given their popularity, what you often see on the battlefield is two alpha fleets throwing volleys at each other until one drops bellow its critical mass and is no longer effective.  Both sides often take heavy casualties, and a fully rigged and fit Maelstrom is an expensive ship to lose.  Like 240mil+ expensive.  Considering insurance, lose five or six Maelstroms, and your fleet has already lost over a billion isk.  That’s too much loss for the average Joe to support on his own, so only alliances with hefty reimbursement programs can support this kind of warfare.  Listening to the Sys-K alliance meeting, they make two points very clear: 1) no, they don’t have a reimbursement program, and 2) they want their dudes to show up in Maelstroms for the fountain war… I hope they have some serious tricks up their sleeve, because it won’t be long before their members jump ship, so to speak.

On the flipside, large, powerful alliances like IT have huge coffers (according to Molle, IT has a thousand billion isk!!!) and can spend spend spend.  Because of the heavy losses endured by both victor and vanquished in alpha battles, the richer alliance can, in theory, wage a war of attrition, hoping to eventually bleed the enemy of its resources and its will to fight.  After the loss of Z30, this is the position that IT took, and SirMolle told his alliance that he has plenty of money to spend of reimbursements and that his FCs were instructed to never call off ops for any reason.  Listening to him say this evoked images of the opening scenes of “Enemy at the Gates”, where Jude Law and his comrades are mercilessly thrust into German machine gun fire, only to be shot by their own commanders when retreating from a hopeless situation.  Thus far, Molle’s tactic has yet to be tested, as the stunning commitment of Dekco forces in the siege of 6VDT seems to have taken Molle aback, and IT seems to be less active militarily.

These are just my thoughts.  Any insight is appreciated.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011



That... I... oooooppphhhh.

Ok, to be fair, close range (CR) battleships (BSs) (sporting webs and target painters) is a very good way to beat ahacs.  And Evoke are very good PvPers.

That said, this battle shouldn't have been that one sided.  the NC ahacs had Evoke out-dps'd and had more logis.  From what I've heard from others, it sounds like the NC FC anchored his fleet 40-50km off of the enemy fleet and started calling primaries.  This is outside of ahac range (about 30-35km for pulse scorches) but almost exactly at CR BS optimals.  It sounds like he didn't know what he was doing.

There are some reports that command assumed that Evoke was bringing long range (LR) BSs, which are really popular in 0.0 warfare nowadays.  And if that was the case, then their tracking would have been horrible at 40km.  But tbh, you should never assume long range when you see a ton of abaddons and tempests on field.

There are also reports that a lot of the NC dudes brought a sniper hac setup instead of an armor hac setup, which would have been disasterous.  I don't know if this is true.  I didn't look at every killmail individually, but the ones that I did see were all armor hac setup.

Alpha Mael

No, the title isn't a typo.

I'm currently snowed into Saint Louis because of the storm that's stretching across my continent.  I'm about 2000 miles from my desktop, so atm, I'm not very busy in EVE.  I decided to take a break from watching Weeds (great show) to write about the current fleet doctrine that most (if not all) major alliances have adopted in last few months: the alpha fleet.

It's a pretty simple concept, really: overwhelm your enemy's logis by dealing so much damage on the initial blow that they can't lock and repair the primary target fast enough.  But let me back up for a moment.

I like to think of myself as an educator... no really, before I got into nulsec, I had no idea what the hell a "logistics ship" was.  Since I heard a statistic that more than 70% of characters never see nulsec, I'm thinking that at least one of my readers has no idea what I'm talking about when I say "logis."  But I digress.  Typically, in a large gang warfare there will be two general shiptypes essential to your fleet: a tank and gank shiptype and a logi shiptype.  Tank and gank is pretty straight forward: ships with heavy buffer for tank and ok dps.  The logis (short for logistics) are a shipclass in EVE that are roughly equivalent to priests in WoW; they repair freindly ships that are being primaried by the enemy.

Lag is bad... obvious right?  Well, in large gang warfare, it causes a lot of problems for logis.  In a high lag situation, when an enemy switches primaries suddenly, some of your logis are going to be trying to cycle their reps and won't be able to respond very quickly.  Therefore, you would only expect a fraction of your logistics force to be responding to a friendly crying out for help.  This makes things easier for the enemy fleet commander (FC) and forces you to scream at your dudes for more logi participation when you formup a fleet.  Despite lag still being horrendous, CCP has made quite a few improvements that have made it much less of an issue than it was six months ago.  So, a few months back, FCs started to realize that the now heavy logi participation (with reduced lag) was making the drake army (the popular fleet doctrine at the time) very difficult to kill.  This is when FCs started to think of ways to take logis out of the equation.  They came up with an elegant solution: the Maelstrom.  The Maelstrom has a decent buffer tank and, fitted with 1400s, does a ton of alpha damage.  Its damage is somewhere on the order of 10k damage per volley.  Of course, the cycle time is insanely long, which evens out its dps.  Nevertheless, with this fleet doctrine, at least in theory, your boys should only be able to get off one shot each before the primary target goes down anyway.

Practically speaking, this fleet doctrine has lived up to its promise.  I remember hearing stories about the early days of the Fountain war, where we would jump our alpha fleet right on top of a group of enemy carriers and pop them in two volleys.  And, damn my name for starting with A-j, every time I bring an alpha fleet ship onto the field against another alpha fleet, I get one-shotted before I can lock anything on field.

Most alliances use the maelstrom as the backbone of their tank and gank, but they also supplement the doctrine with another battleship.  The first time I heard of the alpha fleet doctrine, it was being used by IT in Catch against AAA.  They added beam Apocs to mix because they wanted to accommodate their members who had Amarr but not Minmatar skills.  This would be a tactical mistake that they would realize a bit later during the Fountain war.  Shortly after hearing about IT's doctrine, the goons announced their own alpha setup, using heavily tanked scorpions to add a little ECM to the mix while supporting the fleet close-range with smartbombs and neuts.  The goons refused to accommodate their non-matari pilots, reasoning that CCP was giving everyone an sp reallocation and that their pilots could use that reallocation to get the necessary skills for the maelstrom.  PL came out with a similar setup that used rohks instead of scorps, but nothing really came of it.  I think PL decided to stick with their famous hellcat setup instead.

Once the Fountain war rolled around, the differences in alpha setups would be tested.  The goon setup came out on top in most cases.  The reason: apocs can fit a weak shield buffer, at best.  The IT apocs would melt very quickly, and their number of effective combat ships quickly dwindled in every engagement.  This, along with the added ECM support from their scorpions, meant that the Dekco would win in almost every engagement.  Since the beginning of the Fountain war, IT has been trying to follow the goon lead a little bit and has been encouraging more of their people to bring scorpions to the battlefield.

If you live in highsec and you're wondering what impact this has had on you, check out the market data on maelstroms and everything that compliments the alpha fleet doctrine.  Keep in mind that the alpha fleet started to become popular in November/early December 2010.  Here's some six-month price histories on a few things that I literally just pulled up on my jita alt:

Since last November, the price of a Maelstrom has risen from a stable 95M isk to 125M isk.  Likewise, Scorpions have risen to 60M isk from 45M isk.  Meta 4 1400 prices have more than doubled from less than 3M isk to about 6M isk.  Also note the rise is sale volume.  It’s a sellers market.  The heavy battleship use nowadays might have something to do with the steady rise in mineral prices over the last few months.  But I’m burnt out on this post, so I’ll let you do the research on that one.

Until next time, good hunting, and I'll see you on the front.