We won the war. What now?

[The first part of this post at times slips into a grandiose, over-the-top style following the “big history” lore-spinning that EVE lends itself to. The basic points I’m making are still my opinion, though.]

Goons disappearing from the map. (Click for much better quality)

Goons disappearing from the map. (Click for much better quality)

The day has come. MBC has won the war… at least it has according to my personal definition. Within the almost 2 months that I have been in Pandemic Horde, Goonswarm Federation has been reduced from a big yellow blob to a run-of-the-mill lowsec alliance. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit… They are still the largest alliance in the game, and even if they continued to lose pilots at the rate they are now, they could survive into next year. But I’m happy (and a little smug) that, for once, I was able to (help) achieve a goal in EVE. The “War of sovless aggression” has turned some of the most annoying aggressors in the game into a sovless group, so to speak. Maybe the Mittani can spin that as a “told you so from the beginning, my name was the best” thing. It wouldn’t be less ridiculous than some of his other recent lines. These days, he sounds like a certain information minister more often than not… and that’s by comparison to others, in a game where over-the-top propaganda is a given, and my side wouldn’t exactly win a Pulitzer prize for independent journalism either.

This is a momentous occasion. Goons haven’t been sovless for almost 6 years. The last day Nullsec was as beefree as today was the 25th of July in 2010. The next day, Goonswarm’s conquest of Deklein began (incidentally, with TEST as allies, if I remember correctly… tempora mutantur!), and thus began the Goon reign in the north.

However, we must not be complacent. When the Goons descended onto Deklein, they were by no means an unknown entity. In fact, less than 6 months before, they still had been a powerhouse in the southwest, ruling over all of Querious and Delve, and were only felled by corporate treachery. When on this day we look at a Northwest, freed from Goon influence, we must not forget that our enemy is still dangerous, and only waiting to fight and conquer back. And make no mistake: they are still dangerous enough to defeat most of us, if we do not stand together.

When I look at the current state of the coalition, however, I see entities resetting each other from blue status. I’m not sure whether Horde is hit especially by that, because people don’t like to blue us because of the, admittedly, high spy infiltration rate. But TISHU has reset us, Exodus also attacked some of our sov structures, and Darkness has been constantly switching between blue and gray for the last week or so. The coalition will break apart, there is no question about that. In itself, that is not a big surprise: it was stated by many groups beforehand that banding together would only be a temporary measure. But I’m afraid that MBC will become “everybody against each other” rather than “everybody against each other, but all of us against the Goons”. If push comes to shove, will people that fought each other before and are getting ready to fight each other again bury their differences yet once more? Because if not, we might see a resurgence of Goon sov. Maybe very soon. Maybe only by fall, if they use the typically slower summer months to reorganize. But they will come.

I’m wary that some people have such a fear of stagnancy, of running out of their coveted “gudfite” opportunities, that they might be letting down their guard towards the real enemy way too early.

Which brings me to the second part of the post.

My Personal Future

I mentioned in my last post about Horde that I feel like it is not a place for me to stay long-term. This opinion has not changed much. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few people there that I like flying with; they have several very entertaining FCs, that’s for sure. But I still feel out-of-place there more often than I’d like to. To get a better idea of why that might be, I tried to pin down what I enjoyed doing in the game recently, and what I didn’t, and how that aligns with my perception of the “corporate culture” of Horde. As a neat side effect, I can come back to this post at a later point and see how my attitudes might have changed. So this is nice for my personal future reference, too.

I prefer winning without fighting over fighting without winning.
This might be the biggest point, so let’s get it out of the way immediately.
Exhibit 1: I interrupted writing this post to answer a ping on IRC about a Goon fleet coming into our systems. Within 5 minutes, we had about 60 people in Caracals and Ospreys ready and jumping to greet the Goons. When they realized our numbers and intentions, they turned around and went back to wherever they came from. People seemed to be sad to have missed out of a fight opportunity (though others pointed out they would have been foolish to fight our superior numbers). I, on the other hand, found it a rousing success: we had defended our sov, and we didn’t even need to fight them for that. Our sheer presence made them turn around. How’s that for force projection? Some mentioned how our kitchen-sink standing fleet had been obliterated in our home system earlier that day by White Legion. Others answered “yeah, that went pretty bad, but at least White Legion comes to fight us!”. I was secretly happy I hadn’t been there.
Exhibit 2: My killboard is woefully empty (if you ignore a ton of in-corp kills on the 21st, when we had an event to “liquidate” assets in our old staging system in Querious). That doesn’t mean I haven’t been on fleets. However, almost all of my recent fleets were flown as Entosis ship, sitting on nodes and watching timers go down and percentages up. It’s not a very popular role, because you’re stuck in place and don’t get to shoot other people much. I loved it, though. With every nodes I entosised, we would get closer to prying another system from Goons. Watching the timerboard, I could see the tug-of-war going back and forth (forth, for the most part). It definitely isn’t the most exciting role, but it felt like a very useful one, and that’s what counted to me.

I like caring for the corp, the alliance, and the sov.
There is another reason I liked to fly Entosis: it makes sure our blob stays on the map. It’s one of the few things I feel I can do for Horde. I’d love to help out with logistics (of the transporting and producing kind, not the healing one), but the core of directors seems to have that pretty well organized already. I’ve tried importing and selling some stuff, but it’s a risky business: if you manage to sell, you can do so at a nice premium, but you always run the risk of not finding buyers, or somebody swooping in and undercutting you to the point where you barely break even. I tried to offer my industry slots for producing newbean ships, but again, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in that: the directors are a well-oiled machinery (and they need to be with the number of people in corp, and, granted, they are doing a brilliant job). I think Horde is simply too large for a single person to do appreciable amounts of work for the corp. I’d help importing wares, and while I almost have the skills ready to pilot a jump freighter, and do so effectively, I am nowhere near the point of being able to afford one. Which brings me to the next point:

I really, really need to finally find a way to make decent money.
It’s frankly embarrassing. My character is sitting at close to 100 million skill points by now (that’s another post that will write itself), but my highest liquid ISK amount was slightly above 3 billion ISK, which was in early April. The war hasn’t been kind to my wallet: I’m now sitting at about 1.6 billion ISK. To be fair, not all of that is due to war losses. I was very excited when I read about the WAFFLES 10-year-birthday roam, and lost more than half a billion when that went not quite as planned. RIP Machariel… I would’ve loved to keep you for longer than a day. I also lost more than 100 million when I bought a module in a hurry that should’ve only cost some 100 thousand ISK. On the other hand, I’ve been very frugal: if FCs handed out free Logistics, I’d fly those. I even skipped a few fleets, just recently a Harbinger fleet I was very interested in, to keep spendings low.
Ratting anomalies in Nullsec is, in theory, quite profitable, and I made about 100-150 million ISK that way (income minus cost of the VNI). But since we’re in a war zone, this is in practice either very cumbersome or quite risky: if you stop ratting as soon as enemies are in the system, you barely get to rat at all. If you keep ratting, you run the risk of getting blown up. Once I lingered around because I was curious about what the attacker was flying and only made it out by the skin of my teeth.
There are so many ships I would like to fly, and that I could fly, and actually fly well (skillpoint-wise), but can’t afford to lose, or sometimes even buy in the first place. My poorness is one of the main things holding me back.

Plus, vindicators look sexy.

Plus, Vindicators look sexy.

So I’m currently thinking of dropping out of Horde some time this week and doing incursions. I’ve never done them, but I heard there’s serious money in them. They’re supposed to be a bit like raiding in other games, and I at least used to be pretty decent at raiding, so we’ll see how I’ll fare in EVE. Besides, by sheer coincidence, I have one of the more popular Incursion ships lying around. I won a Vindicator from Somer Blink back when that was still a thing. (And I hadn’t even played with them for at least a year before they went belly-up… yes, the Vindi’s been sitting in Jita for that long). When I got it, those things were worth more than a billion ISK. I learned the hard way that this was the high-water mark. I tried to sell it, and it wouldn’t sell. I refused to cut the price, waiting for it to pick up again. The order timed out. I let it sit in my hangar waiting for the price to pick up again. The price fell and fell. Now it’s worth barely half a billion ISK. At the same time, PLEXes have gone up from about 400 million to 900 million (and more before the whole PLEX wall incident earlier this year). Shows you again how good I am at money-making! But that also means that I only need to invest maybe 300 million ISK in a TVP-certified incursion fit to start out. That sounds manageable, and my hope is that I’ll rake in hundreds of millions of ISK within a week or two. If this works out, I probably should make sure to accumulate a few billion ISK before I look for further opportunities.

I also read about wormholes, but those things still scare me, and constantly hitting d-scan over and over and over again doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. Plus, it feels like I would need to invest a lot of money upfront to make similar money to incursions, and I would need to find a good wormhole cooperation. Incursions have the advantage that the barrier to join is quite low. Get a ship, join a channel, get going; at least that’s the way I understand it.

Then, when I feel like I have a comfortable buffer of money (and still feel like playing EVE), I might look around for a corporation in a “proper” sov-holding alliance, one that likes to work its space and defend it when people try to invade it. Carebears with scary teeth and claws, in a way. I doubt a “pvp-only” alliance like Horde could keep my interest long-term. But we’ll see.

EVE In Numbers: Solar Systems

It’s been almost a week since my last post. The war in EVE is dragging on and getting a bit tedious. I have spent a lot of time sitting around in stations and reading on the side (but hey, at least I get some reading done for a change).

The Imperium's area is steadly shrinking (click for larger version).

Maps such as this are driven by CCP’s public data interface.

So I need another topic. I’m a computer scientist by trade, and that comes with a certain amount of nerdy affection for numbers. I also found out that CCP gives access to a lot of the basic game data. Actually, I already knew that, because how else would sites like dotlan or the verite maps work? But I stumbled across the official CCP database dumps (though they only contain static information, no sovereignty), and I thought it would be fun to play around with it. Plus, I always wanted to look into programming with Python (I raised myself on Perl), and a refresher in SQL couldn’t hurt either. So I tinkered around with both, and ended up with a bunch of quite meaningless and mildly interesting trivia. Of course, I’m a mean person, and thus, you’ll have to endure this post.

A few rules about how I look at the data set: Unless I say otherwise, all facts will be about public K-space only. No Jove Empire, no wormholes. Sorry holers, but the stuff I’m going to talk about for now just isn’t very interesting or doesn’t make much sense for wormholes.

EVE in Numbers: Solar Systems

How many systems are there in EVE?

There are 5201 systems in EVE. That’s pretty impressive, I hadn’t expected that many. Of those 5201 systems, 1090 are highsec, 817 are lowsec, and 3294 are nullsec. That last number again surprised me: more than 60% of all systems are nullsec, although only 15% of all characters dwell there. That would explain why so many places in Nullsec feel so empty.

What are the longest system names in EVE?

A lot of system names are notoriously hard to pronounce for many people. Uosusuokko, Hofjaldgund, Bherdasopt, or Ethernity (note the h!) have twisted many an FC’s tongue. What, however, are the longest names, and how unpronounceable are they?

  1. Tash-Murkon Prime in Tash-Murkon (duh)
  2. Ardishapur Prime in Domain
  3. Serpentis Prime in Fountain
  4. Kor-Azor Prime in Kor-Azor (did we already say duh?)
  5. Hedaleolfarber in Molden Heath

In the Top 5, the Primes reign supreme. Of course, such compound names are long, but not necessarily hard to pronounce. In fact, most of these spots are quite easy for an English speaker. But in spot 5, we have a good candidate for a new tongue twister: say “Hedaleolfarber” five times really fast, and CCP Karkur might materialize in your room teaching you how to pronounce Icelandic names.

I suck at pronouncing foreign names, so what are the shortest system names in EVE?

This should be a lot easier, because at least the names are short enough so you won’t need a map and a compass to find your way. (Unless you’re Nordic or German, in which case you were born with a natural aptitude to navigate through them.) So let’s have a look at the shortest solar system names in EVE:

  1. Ala in Sinq Laison
  2. Alf in Metropolis
  3. Ami in Kor-Azor
  4. Amo in Metropolis
  5. Ana in Domain
  6. Ane in Essence
  7. ….

OK, you know what? That might not have been the smartest idea. Let’s just say there are a LOT of three-letter names out there. 44, to be exact. So instead, let’s look at how many systems there are for each length:

  1. 0 (we saw that above, it starts at 3)
  2. 0 (seriously, it starts at 3)
  3. 44
  4. 177
  5. 338
  6. 3663 (see below)
  7. 393
  8. 291
  9. 153
  10. 91
  11. 36
  12. 8
  13. 2
  14. 2
  15. 1
  16. 1
  17. 1

You might wonder where that immense bulge at 6 letters is coming from… unless you’re living in Nullsec, in which case you should have a strong hunch. It is indeed because by the time CCP reached Nullsec systems, they seemed to have run out of steam. It was probably a Friday afternoon, and they wanted to finish work fast, so they just gave every Nullsec system a 6-character name, consisting of 5 letters or digits, and one dash somewhere in the middle. So you end up with names like O1Y-ED, B-R5RB, or X6AB-Y.

All Nullsec systems? No, not all of them. There are a few curious exceptions.

How many properly named Nullsec systems are there?

A perennial EVE meme is the question, “Did you know that Poitot is the only named system in Syndicate?”. It is so popular, it has its own website. (Edit: which seems to be down, so in lieu of that, you may go to Poitot’s YTMND.) I have no idea how that started, though. If anybody know, I’d be happy to learn. And while it indeed is the only named system in Syndicate, it is not the only named nullsec system in EVE. Though those are still rare beasts: Only 12 such systems exist, more than half of them in Curse (all in the Heaven constellation):

  • Atioth in Geminate
  • Doril in Curse
  • Farit in Curse
  • Hemin in Curse
  • Jamunda in Curse
  • Jorund in Curse
  • Litom in Curse
  • Poitot in Syndicate
  • Roua in Geminate
  • Serpentis Prime in Fountain
  • Shintaht in Providence
  • Utopia in Curse

So the meme could just as well have gone “Did you know that Shintaht is the only named system in Providence?”. Maybe it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, though.

Finally, of the 230 systems in Jove space, there is one named system: Polaris. It is a system without any star gate connections to other systems in its region, and the region is unreachable from the rest of Jove space, which in turn is separated from the rest of New Eden. Polaris is the unreachable of the unreachables. Far, far away like the Northern Star, it seems.

3 Weeks of War, A Status Update

In a few hours, it will be 3 weeks since I joined Pandemic Horde to take part in World War Bee. Since servers are down (and I found a way to quickly and potentially automatically create sovereignty map animations), it’s a good time to look at my current impressions.

Win conditions

There was a discussion at the Ancient Gaming Noob’s last week about how to figure out who has won and who has lost the war, once it’s over. My personal take is that this is difficult for two reasons. First of all, it might not be clear when the war is over. It might drag on for a long time, but reduced in scope. There will be no official surrenders to mark the dates. Just like big conflicts such as the 30 Years’ War, it might end up being a bunch of somewhat-related smaller conflicts lumped together under a label, with the difference that we most likely won’t have a Peace of Westphalia to mark the end. It will also be difficult to decide who has “won”. It’s not uncommon that wars end with both parties claiming victory. This can be just for propaganda reasons, or it might be legitimately so because the win conditions don’t align.

The Imperium's area is steadly shrinking (click for larger version).

The Imperium’s area is steadily shrinking (click for larger version).

I therefore decided that I’m better off defining my personal win condition: I will consider this war a success, and won for my intents and purposes, if Goonswarm federation loses all its sovereignty. I might accept a situation in which they lose all their northern possessions, but manage to establish a foothold in another area of Nullsec, but I would consider this only a second-class victory. This victory condition aligns well with my personal convictions. I don’t care much about GSF’s “Imperium” buddies, so I focus on GSF sov. And with a background in strategy games such as Civilization or Europa Universalis, I am a map painter at heart. I like to see areas taken and held, and my enemies to lose theirs. And it seems as if that goal is reachable: within the last three weeks, Goon allies have lost almost all their sov, and within the last ten days or so, the Goon heartlands have slowly been occupied by others. A ragtag coalition of Mordus Angels, Darkness., NC., Short Bus Syndicate, The Blood Covenant, Slyce, and my own Pandemic Horde, has eaten up large swathes of land… well, space, but you know what I mean.

Personal Impressions

So my victory condition looks very achievable, and within reach. however, there are still a few things I’m worried about. First of all, the Goons are not nearly defeated yet. That doesn’t come as a big surprise. However, they’re so much not defeated that they managed to attack and even take back sovereignty recently (the sov maps always lag a bit behind, so they don’t reflect this yet):

Still many losses, but also gains again for the first time...

Still many losses, but also gains again for the first time in a long time.

However, the general attitude to that is “well, at least they undock again so we have something to fight”. And I think that gets me to the fundamental disconnect I have with Pandemic Horde, and many other EVE players: they play to fly ships and fight others, and the results of that are secondary. That also explains why, even in a war situation, some FCs and many players are happy to just go out in small fleets and whelp them against much more powerful fleets, where the outcome is already a foregone conclusions. They prefer to have “good fights” (though I’d argue such a lopsided battle is hardly a good fight) to not fighting and coming back another day. I find that behavior a bit too frivolous for my taste, at least if it ends up in fleet whelps against the war enemy.

I, on the other hand, generally don’t care much about the fights themselves. For me, fights are almost always a vehicle. I go on the occasional roams just for roaming’s sake, but those are rare. I only see sense in fighting if it furthers my goals, such as gaining or defending sovereignty, or demoralizing an enemy by crushing them with superior numbers. I actually like entosis fleets that take two or three hours and never see a single fight. As I said, I’m a map painter. Thus, it annoys me that most people don’t seem to care that we lost four systems in the last two days, and might lose a couple more in the near future if people don’t go out to defend them.

In the end, this is probably more a mismatch thing between me and my corp. Pandemic Horde, after all, is the baby wing of Waffles and Pandemic Legion, who both don’t seem to care much about holding system sov. This is fine: I half expected that, and the only reason I ended up in Horde is that it was the easiest and fastest way to get into the war against Goons. I probably will drop out after (or if?) my personal victory condition is reached. I just have to think again about what I actually want to do after that.

Or maybe somebody from Horde leadership will publish an announcement pushing for a more coordinated sov defense soon, and will make me look like an idiot. Who knows?

A Tale of Two Tales

With SMA, the second alliance has dropped out of the Imperium, the Goons-led erstwhile clusterfuck coalition (CFC).

Wilhelm, who I admire as a blogger, is in the unenviable position of being a member of TNT, an alliance that has been part of that coalition for years, and whose homelands have just gone down in a torrent of blood hunger (with little help coming from their powerful Goon allies, it seems). It seems as if half of New Eden is up in arms to tear down Goons and their allies. To the repeated questions why he decides to throw in his lot with the Goons (he’s been getting those for years, but only very occasionally; now there’s a veritable flood of them), he points out that he’s been flying with TNT for so long that he feels loyal to them, even if that might mean that TNT is disbanded and absorbed by the Goons. I suggest you go over and read his post, because the rest of this text is a reply to it that got a bit unwieldy.

Back? Good.

So you might have had a look and seen my reply. I thought I had made it sufficiently Godwin-proof by pointing out that is in an extreme example that just is intended to show the reasoning, not that Goons are Nazis or something similarly ridiculous. My point was that Wilhelm’s exasperated question why some people just can’t understand his loyalty to the Goons has a simple answer: some people hate Goons so much (really, that’s not hard, I can’t think of any other current group in the game that is similarly despised) that loyalty to them is not considered an endearing treat.

I really think a lot of this fighting comes from a disconnect due to wildly different narratives.

Of course Wilhelm likes it in Goons… well, CFC… Imperium… whatever. And I’d like it there too if I were him, for exactly the same reasons. I’d like the degree of organization, the fact that you can fly whatever is needed without having to invest much work, and even getting reimbursed for losses. It’s almost like paradise! I’d love to be his in your position! Sure, I would (and he probably does) cringe at some of the people you fly with, and the guy at the top is a nutjob, but the middle management is nice guys, and the benefits are great, so who cares.

That’s the one side.

The other side sees a blob of assholes whose advertised core idea is scamming the weakest, and “ruining everyone else’s game”. They don’t see the decent middle managers in Goonswarm, they see the figurehead and the loudest and most despicable of the line members they had contact with. They feel Goonswarm crosses a line from “it’s all fun and games” into “you literally ruined my game experience”. And being loyal to such assholes obviously gets you, at best, restrained applause for putting your sense of duty over your moral compass, and at worst attacked as a bad person.

That’s the other side.

OK, I maybe went a bit overboard with painting the picture, but that’s where some people are coming from. It also doesn’t help that the map tells a story (true or not) of a powerful alliance who can’t be bothered to go and defend their longtime coalition allies’ lands. Or maybe they literally can’t. I guess we’ll figure that out in the next few weeks.

I personally would like to see Goons disappear from the map, but not because I hate them: I don’t, to be honest, that would be too strong a word. I, however, dislike them for the image they project. I feel a bit dirty around them, because of how appealing I find their “we’ll provide content, you can relax most of the time” system, even though I consider parts of their behavior immoral and over the line, especially since that kind of behavior is officially sanctioned and encouraged by their leadership. That’s reason one why I’d prefer to see them out: I don’t like their presence and the negative influence they have on the game in that respect.

Reason two is that I’d love to see the moment at which Goons are destroyed and the anti-goon coalition will break up sooner than you can say antidisestablishmentarianism. (Yes, that is actually a pretty long word; I’ll play it safe and account for some delay in the outbreak of hostilities.)

Me, personally? After I’m done fighting Goons in this war, I might go back to PvE. Or look for a more long-term null-sec corp solution. Time will tell.

EVE at its finest

The invite (see last post) didn’t take too long to appear. I used the meantime to check reddit, which suggested putting some jump clones in strategic places before accepting the invite, because, high-sec wardecs and all that. It only took me about 150 jumps back and forth, and back again, and running out of jump clone, and clone jumping to a different clones, and flying back 30 systems again to my almost-impossible-to-tackle interceptor… where was I again? Oh yes.

Then I had to set up forum logins, and mumble logins, and IRC logins… really, IRC? I feel like I’m young again! All the while I got a deadline ticking for a fleet that I wanted to join. So I rushed to the staging system in Okagaiken while still haphazardly setting up my overview and all the other small things you’re expected to walk through. It almost felt like the good old days.

I arrived at the staging system about 5 minutes late, which, as everybody who plays EVE knows, is plenty early, because such a big operation (it was too big for a single 250-people fleet) takes at least half an hour to get going. There was just a small problem: I had come with my travel inty, and had no ship at all in the staging system. And because I’m not very good with the EVE interface (which, in my defense, can be a bit… confusing), I didn’t realize there were Feroxen on the market as corporation-only sale contracts. Yes, I decided to run with Feroxen as a plural Ferox for now, because I like the sound of the that. It sounds old-fashioned and endearing, like oxen or VAXen, just the right thing for a ship that was the laughing stock of everybody for the longest time, but suddenly seems to not suck any more. Seriously, you walk away from a game for a year or two, and thing change! The audacity.

Thankfully, all I needed to do was wait for the call for logistics. There never seem to be enough logistics in fleets, and so they handed out Ospreys to people able and willing to fly them. They even came with a set of combat drones, so I could assign them to a random person and maybe cheat my way into some kill mails! They also had a call for entosis pilots, but since I have no idea how that system works, I stayed with Logistics. At least I’ve flown space priests before.

The fleet got going about 30 minutes late, which is not bad considering a 300+ people fleet with lots of new pilots who have never done a fleet, and many, like me, who may have never gone out on one with Pandemic Horde. Someone mentioned that in the last week, over 500 players had joined. Finally, the “undock-undock-undock” command came, and we promptly went down to 80% TiDi. That would be interesting.

The first few jumps, we logis practiced our cap chains, which worked perfectly almost immediately, which I found pretty good going for a mostly ragtag band of people. (Then again, maybe the logi pilots are on average older players and already know a bit more of how this stuff should work, at least in theory.)

Pretty cap chains

Pretty cap chains

We jumped a few systems into Fade and then waited. And waited. And waited. Then we got the information that the fleet we were heading out for to fight decided not to face us, and that there probably would not be any fighting. That’s the way of EVE I guess.

But while we were out here, we at least could get our entosis wing to work, so we headed over to YKSC-A (seriously, these names are horrible. They’re literally random characters mashed together. I have to look them up every time. I guess nullsec players eventually learn to cope with them? ) and installed an Infrastructure Hub in SMA’s space. I’m not really sure what that means, especially since there was still a TCU (territorial control unit) by SMA in that system, but I guess it means a tactical victory, so go us?

Fozzie lasers at work. At that point, I had reduced the rendering quality in anticipation of a big fight that never happened.

Fozzie lasers at work. At that point, I had reduced the rendering quality in anticipation of a big fight that never happened.

And that was that. Well, almost. The most hilarious moment still was about to come. On our way out, another alliance allowed us to use one of their titans to bridge us home, cutting back on the travel time. However, I guess partly due to the speed at which this “all against Goons” coalition has come together, we weren’t set blue to each other. So as soon as we landed on the starbase that contained the titan, the base’s guns started picking apart our fleet. That made for a slightly panicked and very hilarious moment.

At least the bridge worked, and we made it out… most of us. Expect for those that had already been killed, or those scrammed by the base’s scrammers, unable to jump out, and being killed over the next minute while we were many systems away.

Thus ended my first EVE fleet in years. It seems to have had anything a typical EVE fleet has: long formup times, flying around in space while not finding any fights, waiting for entosis timers to count down, and a funny occurrence at some point through to talk about after the fleet.

In all objective measures, this fleet was a bummer. But as a first fleet in ages, it worked out alright for me. I had time to get reacquainted with fleet mechanics without too much stress, and there’s always another day.

I do hope I get to shoot something tomorrow, though.


Which Way to the Warzone, Please?

So EVE is having another big war. I’m sure you must have heard of it by now, because you have Internet, and under a rock you generally don’t, which is where you’d have to live to not have heard about it. This is because whenever something big happens ins EVE, every gaming website seems to talk about it, and occasionally even highbrow newspapers will, because it’s the game everybody likes to read about (but fewer people actually want to play).

The weirdest part about this, people seem to agree, is that it’s been almost 2 years long since they’ve had one. I, on the other hand, mostly played the non-interactive “Skill Point Online”, so I hadn’t followed any news recently, and now have a character with more than 90 million skill points, more than 250 skills, but no skill at flying, so to speak. Wilhelm would agree we’re in the same category.

Speaking of which (who?), the other day I moaned in this comments about how I never get anything done in EVE. He pointed out the obvious: that I should join a corporation that is active in the current war. The main problem I had with that is that I remember corporation join processes from the days of yore, where they wanted a cover letter in triplicate, and API key to look at all your assets and skills, and a CV to talk about why you joined which corporation in the past, and a physical preferably including a blood test and a colonoscopy. Alright, I might have exaggerated a bit… they generally didn’t care about the blood test.

These days, however, things seem a bit easier. You click an “apply” button in-game, send in some minimal information about yourself, and you can join and leave whenever you want. No hard feelings, no “why did you join our current enemies 3 years ago? SPY!” bullshit. That sounded easy. The hardest decision maybe was which side to join. I like to fight for underdogs, and, as unlikely and insane as that sounds, the Goons seem to be the underdog in that fight. They also have a nice ship replacement program, which is great for someone like me with limited funds and flying skill. In the end, however, I decided to go with Pandemic Horde. I know a few people in PL, definitely more than in the Goons, and… well, they made it even easier to join. Literally the only requirement to join up was to be able to click a button, then wait and eventually click another button:


I’ve already clicked the first button, but am still waiting for the second button to appear, which will happen as soon as somebody on the other side will press their button to make my button appear. The text below is what I put in the application text box, to show them how seriously I take the whole process.

They don’t even want an API key from you. Which is great, because it means I don’t have to navigate the confusing EVE Online web site again to create one. Let’s just hope that the old adage “you get what pay for” doesn’t apply here, too, in the form of “what can you expect for that a low barrier to entry”. But, hey, if I don’t like them, I can leave again whenever I want, and nobody will care!

So there’s that. Oh, and shooting spaceships. I’m so looking forward to shooting spaceships. And probably dying in horrible fires many times while I learn what and what not to do.


Finally! As of one hour ago, I now have Internet at my place. Not slow, limited, cellphone net any more, but actual DSL with decent speed. (Also, my furniture got moved into my new apartment today, but… priorities!)

Limitless joy! I can now do and play whatever I want, without worrying about bandwidth and monthly volume! I can… I can…



… right.

But tomorrow!


The Joys of Limitation

We live in times of endless choices. I just noticed again very acutely when I went shopping for some new furniture. For example, I want to get a new wardrobe, because my current one had never been all that great since I got it: It was a second-hand one that had been stored in a garage for too long during humid weather, and never fit together 100%. But I was fresh out of university, and it still looked good and I got it for free, so I didn’t care too much about the state of equine’s molars. Now that I move again, though, I decided I’ll leave it behind and get a new one.

IKEA has a nice and highly modular wardrobe system called Pax. The opportunities! But now I had to decide: Do I want a longer clothes rail and fewer shelves, or the other way round? Oh look, I can split just the lower part of the rail area: full length for coats, half-length (with some drawers below) for shirts. And they have shoe storage too? And 4 kinds of drawers and about 27 combinations frames and doors? But which should I take?!

The bottom line is, I’m still without a wardrobe. (I haven’t yet made my peace with it, to not leave the obvious pun unsaid.) The last couple of months made me make lots of, sometimes quite far-reaching, decisions. I feel like I’m thoroughly exhausted on decision-making for the time being. I just want a nice wardrobe, but not spend days on designing it. On the other hand, now that I know that there’s so much choice, I can’t just take a predesigned one, because I know I have the possibility to improve on that. So I’m stuck in decision limbo.

Choice is not always good.

For the same reason, it took me almost 3 weeks to decide which Internet provider to take. I tried asking around at the workplace for experience with providers in this area, and as a result, I’m still waiting on “real” Internet and currently use a mobile connection for my Internet needs. Which works… ok, I guess. Better than I had feared, but it comes with limitations. Which means there’s less choice in what I can do. For example, I’d rather not stream videos, because of the monthly volume limit. For the same reasons, I don’t dare to update too many online games.

This has an unexpected beneficial side effect. When I first realized that I had leisure time again, I was a bit out of practice and couldn’t come up with something to do with all that free time. The worst part was that I had to decide which of the many games available I should play. I have a large Steam library, and about a dozen MMOs I could choose from. But having a somewhat strict monthly limit, I realized I couldn’t really afford to update lots of games, let alone download new ones. So I had a look at which games needed no updating, and picked one of those.

Minstrel back in action!

Minstrel back in action!

Which is just a very roundabout way of saying that I spent some time in LotRO again for the first time in… maybe a year or two? I dusted off my Minstrel, and got going.

I’m actually surprised how little data MMOs (or at least LotRO) exchange with their servers. It seems as if the other background traffic of a mail program, browsers, etc. uses more volume than the game does, to the point where I can easily stay below 200-300MB a night.

LotRO is nice for some other reasons. It is a very relaxed game. At least the way I play it, I spend a lot of time just traveling through the world (which is still one of the best in any MMO I’ve seen), with some laid-back tab-target fighting without any strict timing requirements (which is important, because I often have about 300ms lag). It’s great! It’s almost like a meditation exercise. Except that this meditation exercise got me upwards of 30 levels, from before Moria into early Rohan. Who can say that about their yoga exercises? All you get from those are slipped discs.

There is one more reason that LotRO works well over the mobile connection. At some point, I did have to update the game because a small content patch had come out. If you ever played the game, you know that their updater is one of the worst in the business, because it’s excruciatingly slow. I’ve now proven by demonstration what I always suspected, that your line speed indeed has little influence on the time it takes to update: it works almost as fast over a somewhat slow mobile connection as it worked over my 3MB/s+ DSL. So relatively speaking, it’s going faster! (Well, in Bizarro world, which I like to visit every now and then when I come up with weird comparisons, thanks for asking!)

So even though Sid Meier supposedly said that good games are a series of interesting decisions, sometimes a game can be good even if (or maybe because) its decisions are very low-key and, at face value uninteresting.

Maybe in another 10 levels, I’ll have recovered from my decision paralysis enough to order that wardrobe, after all.

I got a Hat

We gamers are all obsessed with hats, aren’t we? Maybe most of them, the TF2 people. But still, even in MMOs, hats reign supreme in the cosmetic category. Wilhelm loves them. Bhagpuss loves them. And those who went through the horrible grind to get the coveted Bloodsail Admiral’s hat wore it proudly (while they were busy grinding even more afterwards to repair their standing with Booty Bay).

I did some grinding for a very special hat, too. A hat like no other. Bespoke crafting, a one-of-a-kind. Behold.


For those not familiar with the tradition: around here, when someone finishes their PhD, their coworkers build them a hat roughly resembling a mortarboard that is decorated with bits and pieces that lampoon (in good humor) noteworthy events or personality quirks. Sadly, all pictures from the event itself with me and the hat have coworkers and friends on it that are not easily croppable, and I don’t want to put those online without their knowledge. So you get the hat sans me.

Some grinding it was. The last months were a bit intense. In summer, I got a job offer I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) refuse. But they wanted me fast, so I started working there earlier than I had planned. (My plan had been to just slowly start looking around for jobs, then one of the first applications already turned out to be this apparently great fit.) Too early to defend beforehand, which made for some packed months. Get up, go to work, get back, study, go to bed. On the weekends, drive back to the old place, 3 hours each direction, to finish the preparations for the event.

Now I just need to print the final versions and send them to the respective libraries. Oh right, and move out of this company-arranged temporary one-room apartment and get my stuff from my old place into a new, real one. Lots of packing and unpacking in the near future. But around Christmas, I might actually have time to play games again. And maybe I’ll even have Internet in the new place by then… if I’m lucky.

Maybe then I’ll even find time to write again, and have ideas what to write about. To be honest, my writing here has been extremely spotty the last… 18 months or so. So I’m not holding my breath. But I’m also not willing to give up quite yet.


I may start with trying to fix the fancy live-updating blogroll to the right, which seems to have broken some time ago…