Crossing the Line

The Imperium News (formerly published an investigative report on the alleged suicide attempt by "Olivia", a supposed EVE Online player, exposing it as a scam. The podcast Talking in Stations further explored the story. It has been further corroborated by investigation by relevant in-game corporation leaders. Now, the identified offender's EVE Online character has biomassed.

I will not recap the entire history of this sad episode - you can read the sources above for that background - but I would like to comment on various implications of this revelation.

Exposing the Evil

A lot of good and well-intentioned people were taken in by this hoax, and ran immediately to support "Olivia", using the alleged incident to highlight the evils of online bullying. Proto at The Neocom published an impassioned post. Charles White, known in game as Max Singularity (a.k.a., the "Space Pope") produced a video condemning the offenders. Many others published tweets and posts in support.

Well-deserved kudos go to the Imperium News team for taking the time to investigate the story and report their findings. They exposed a sick individual who was fabricating a very serious Real Life tragedy for in-game advantage. While EVE Online tolerates scamming within the game, this incident stepped outside of that boundary to prey upon people's good nature, solely for personal gain. That is not just a violation of CCP Games policy - it is criminal behavior, and should be condemned and prosecuted accordingly.

Some may dismiss this affair as inconsequential. After all, no one was really hurt or in danger, and at worst, some gullible people were taken in by what could be argued to be a harmless ruse. There was no physical damage or material loss involved.

I don't agree - this incident cannot be so easily forgiven and forgotten. Faking an attempted suicide to scam people not only crosses the line of tolerable behavior, but jumps aggressively across. It trivializes an extremely serious issue - the pain and danger of depression - solely for selfish gain. It makes no difference where that gain was to be acquired. This isn't someone just role-playing in a game - when it crossed over into Real Life, it became the work of a sociopath.

Our Community's Goodness

Despite the dirtiness of this sad incident, I was heartened by the people who rallied to support "Olivia" - even though they were in error, their intentions were all honorable, honest and good.

Some have said that there is no such thing as an "EVE community" - that we are simply a collection of tribes enjoined only in competition with one another. This is an extremely cynical view, shattered easily whenever an incident like "Olivia" happens. If an EVE Online player is in trouble, I see hundreds of people rushing to them in support, both in and out of game. By and large, we are a generous group with our time and our treasure, and eager to come to the aid of those in need.

From my perspective, the "Olivia" incident once again illuminated the pervasive goodness of the EVE Online player community. Max Singularity published a follow-up video, once the truth of the situation came to light, which I think illustrates this point very well:

To those who were taken in by "Olivia", and stepped forward to help, I say this: thank you. Those who take action to help a fellow human being - especially if they do not know them personally - are valuable people indeed. We need more of them in the world. Who would have thought that we have so many of them in a group of dedicated Internet spaceship pilots? It's a wonderful thing, and should be celebrated and applauded.

Fly safe! o7

Vegas, baby!

This time next week I'll be in Las Vegas hobnobbing with fellow EVE Online enthusiasts at the EVE Vegas convention, sponsored by CCP Games. I can't wait.

I went to EVE Vegas four years ago when it was a player-organized event, and had a good time, though I felt a little out of place, as I was a director of education at EVE University at the time. The vast majority of attendees were blood-thirsty null-sec dwellers, who regarded me - a high-sec resident in a neutral training institution - as an odd curiosity, at best. I was glad I attended - it's hard not to have fun in Vegas - but after doing so, I decided that Fanfest's larger and more diverse audience was a better player gathering for me.

But after five years of pilgrimages to Reykjavik to attend Fanfest, I've decided it's time to return to EVE Vegas, and see if going there instead of Iceland for my annual EVE player meet-up makes more sense. Since my first sojourn to EVE Vegas, CCP Games have taken over the event, and with the company's return to more substantial update releases, a pattern of two big announcements each year - at Fanfest in the spring and at EVE Vegas in the fall - is emerging. Certainly, this year's EVE Vegas is shaping up to be fascinating, with promised details on the November 8th Ascension update to be revealed in full.

When I attended EVE Vegas four years ago, the content was disappointingly unsubstantial. There were several player presentations, mostly consisting of aggressive posturing by various representatives of null-sec alliances, all with mostly good-natured hoots and catcalls periodically exclaimed from the audience. This was entertaining, but not very informative. I watched CCP Soundwave try to explain that he is not evil incarnate, which he accomplished, to a degree. But on the whole, there wasn't a lot of news revealed to the couple of hundred attendees. Candidly, the most interesting thing that happened there was the pub crawl.

This year's EVE Vegas promises to be much different. For one thing, the crowd will be much larger and more diverse. I'm looking forward to meeting Mynxee in person, and hanging out with fellow counter-culture, peace-mongering Signal Cartel pilots. And the agenda is jam-packed with pithy, newsworthy content. I think we're going to hear a lot of interesting details about Ascension, and about CCP's plans for the future beyond the November update.

My EVE Vegas Plan

CCP released the official agenda for EVE Vegas earlier this week, and I immediately organized my schedule.

Thursday, October 27 - I will land in Vegas in the mid-afternoon, and will check in at the Cosmopolitan, across the street from the official venue for EVE Vegas, Planet Hollywood. There's a pedestrian bridge that connects the Cosmo with PH, so it's convenient. I have a ton of Marriott points, which I can use at the Cosmo, so I've splurged and upgraded to a corner suite with a wrap-around balcony - certainly more than I need, but I've decided to indulge myself. I'll probably grab some Secret Pizza and then try to find some fellow capsuleers to get into some mischief together.

Friday, October 28 - One very nice thing about the agenda for EVE Vegas is the relaxed pace in which it is organized. I'll wander to the registration desk in the afternoon, and then join the official welcome event at 4:00 pm, followed by CCP Seagull's keynote address. I am hoping to see an updated roadmap vision for EVE Online development there. CCP has organized a social event at a local pub with vintage pinball machines, but I think I will pass, and have dinner and a pleasant evening with some Signaleers instead.

Saturday, October 29 - This day is packed with some really good sessions. Here are some highlights:

  • Balance Roundtable - CCP Fozzie and CCP Larrikin will talk about ship and module balancing. I suspect we'll hear more about T3 Destroyer changes - and maybe something about the new Rixx Javix Modified Warp Core Stabilizer with +10 strength. (Sorry, Rixx!)
  • Game Design - CCP Fozzie and CCP Larrikin carry on about game design principles in EVE Online, always an engaging topic.
  • Clone States - CCP Rise will discuss Alpha and Omega clones. This should be an interesting presentation, as I'm curious to hear how CCP and the CSM arrived at the current policies, and how they may change.
  • Player presentations - there are a lot of good ones this year. On Saturday, I'm attending the sessions on wormhole life, EVE media, cultivating a counter-culture in New Eden (by Signal Cartel leaders Mynxee and Johnny Splunk), being a nomadic EVE player, and becoming a content creator. There are also two other good player-delivered sessions - EVE's role in a social support network and how to be an EVE Online streamer - but I'll probably attend the CSM Panel instead, as I want to thank them for a job well done (so far).

On Saturday night, there's a big party on the Chateau Rooftop at the Paris Hotel. Permaband is expected to perform, and I can't miss that.

Sunday, October 30 - lots of interesting stuff scheduled here, too. I'm planning to attend:

  • New Player Experience - I'm really looking forward to this one. CCP Ghost is an interesting fellow, and I'm keen to see what his team have created for their new "Inception" NPE.
  • Scaling EVE's Social Cliff - I'm not exactly what this session by EVE streamer Manic Velocity is really all about, but I'm curious to find out.
  • Lore Roundtable - I'm an EVE lore junkie, so I have to go. This one was a hard choice, though, as there is an EVE art panel and a roundtable on the NPE scheduled at the same time. But I need to hear what plans CCP Falcon and team have cooking for lore developments.
  • Scamming in EVE - it's always good to know what the bad guys are up to.
  • The Solar System - not EVE-related, but promises to be fascinating. To be delivered by Charles White, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but far better known as Max Singularity, a.k.a. the Space Pope.
  • Closing Ceremony - CCP Falcon and CCP Guard will do something entertaining to end the event, I am sure.

This is a lot of content, but there is still a lot of time for just hanging out with fellow EVE players, which is by far the best part of a gathering like this. If you see me there, please say hello!

I'll also tweet out bits of news, and submit summaries of proceedings to Crossing Zebras for publication each day, so if you aren't joining, be sure to read the live tweets and updates.

It all promises to be a fun event. I expect to be quite happy when I'm flying back home on Sunday night. If nothing else, my enthusiasm for EVE should be significantly reinvigorated.

Fly safe! o7

Bits & Pieces: October 2016

CCP Games' developer team has been busy over the last couple of weeks, issuing a series of meaty dev blogs and news. Each of these are worth multiple blog posts of analysis about their implications for EVE Online, and for its community of players. Specifically, the big reveals have been:

I intend to explore some of these announcements in more depth in future posts, but for now, I'd just like to share a few reactions and opinions.

Mining Changes - It's All Good

This dev blog focuses mostly on how mining boosts will change using the new area-of-effect mechanics, to be released with the recently named Ascension expansion set to debut on November 8th. It also covered changes to the Rorqual and Orca mining support ships, and introduced the new Porpoise-class industrial command ship.

I'm excited about moving fleet boosting to an on-grid, entirely visible experience, in general. I wrote previously about how I can't wait to try the new mechanics in combat, which is way off my usual playstyle preference for EVE Online. Applying the same kind of local boosting mechanics to mining fleets makes perfect sense, though I recognize that it will change the experience significantly - nevertheless, I think it will be all for the better, on the whole.

This does mean that I'll keep my Orca on grid with my fellow miners, in asteroid belts for the most part. And that means it will be vulnerable to roaming ganking gangs. But with the effective 50 percent bonus to drone hitpoints and 100 percent bonus to drone damage, flying the Orca with a fleet of Skiffs packed with combat drones means that miners now have a fighting chance to fend off gankers, especially when supported with the Orca's 400 percent bonus to Remote Shield Booster optimal range and the bonus to Shield Command Burst strength.

The new, improved Orca industrial command ship, now with extra oomph!

The new, improved Orca industrial command ship, now with extra oomph!

I haven't finished running the numbers yet on tank and damage potential for an Orca-supported mining fleet, but my back-of-the-napkin calculations look almost too good to be true. Unless my math is seriously off, I'm seeing applied drone damage of an Orca with four Skiffs at more than battleship-level ranges. The only downside is the long target lock times due to the Orca's low scan resolution. In high-sec, it looks likely that CONCORD will wipe out any gankers before the mining fleet could apply significant damage themselves - especially since the Orca's logistics bonus and effective buffs to the mining fleet's EHP will make miners a much harder target, for sure.

I admit I'm enjoying the whining from the ganking community in the feedback comments thread about the Orca now being too overpowered - but I must also admit, they might be right. Personally, I can't wait to give my refreshed Orca a whirl in November, and see how it actually operates in practice.

I've not yet flown a Rorqual, but the changes look very interesting, and I suspect there will be a lot of experimentation in null-sec come November. Given the creativity of EVE players, I suspect we'll see this ship being used for many purposes other than just mining support.

The new Porpoise-class entry-level industrial command ship, based on the Noctis design

The new Porpoise-class entry-level industrial command ship, based on the Noctis design

As for the new entry-level industrial command ship, the Porpoise, I will certainly get one for my collection, and am eager to try it out in wormhole space, especially since its low mass can fit through frigate-only holes - shattered wormhole ice mining, anyone? And since it will have cruiser-level DPS from drones, the Porpoise should be quite fearsome there. And it is relatively cheap, so even if it is lost, it won't break the bank. I like it.

Finally, the changes and new additions to mining drones fascinate me. The addition of ice harvester drones, new Excavator drones and enhanced mining drones, along with buffed stats for regular mining drones provide a lot of new options to miners. I'm going to have to experiment to see what combinations of drones and bonuses work the best, but I like what I see very much. I'm especially intrigued by the "new set of NPCs that will be announced in the near future" mentioned in the dev blog, which will drop the revised Harvester drones - what could this be, I wonder?

The weird, squid-like Excavator mining drones captivate me - too bad they can only be used with the Rorqual in null-sec space.

The weird, squid-like Excavator mining drones captivate me - too bad they can only be used with the Rorqual in null-sec space.

All in all, this dev blog reveals a very thorough refresh of mining capabilities - I'm finding myself looking forward to organizing some mining fleets in November to check out the new features. Still, it leaves me wanting more - huge asteroid belts that fill the now much larger grids, comet mining, ring mining, new team mining options. Improving the ships and giving us more diversity in the tools we use is good, but I think the mining profession in EVE Online needs a real revolution. But for now, I'll take what CCP has given, with pleasure.

Engineering Complexes - the End of an Era

This dev blog, which I've been eagerly awaiting for months, finally reveals details about the new industrial platforms to be available in the Ascension update. And unfortunately, it confirms my worst fears.

The new medium, large and extra large Engineering Complexes - shown with an Avatar-class titan for scale - these things are big.

There is much to love about the new structures. They provide very substantial bonuses for research, invention and manufacturing operations. They can be tailored and specialized with an abundance of engineering rigs and service modules. They are significantly less expensive than Citadels. They use the same tethering and asset protection mechanics as Citadels - with a special provision that BPOs will always be protected.

But as a solo Tech II manufacturer in high-sec, it looks like an Engineering Complex will not be as flexible as my current medium POS tower and arrays. Clearly, these new structures are intended for use by a team of players in a corporation or alliance, and not by individuals. They will not be able to be unanchored and stored quickly enough to protect them against wardecs, like you can currently do with a POS. They will have longer vulnerability windows than Citadels, one-third fewer hitpoints, and much weaker defensive weaponry levels. Unless you have a sufficient number of players willing to defend the structure, an Engineering Complex is going to be a big, fat loot piñata for wardec'ing marauders.

And I suppose that is the point - these structures are obviously designed first and foremost to provide points of conflict and combat content. To that end, I think they will serve their purpose very well. But I don't think I will try to operate one as a solo venture - that simply looks unwise. In addition, as a result of the much higher effectiveness bonuses for operating engineering complexes in null-sec space, competing as a high-sec based manufacturer is going to be more difficult. I'm still crunching numbers and running analyses of different scenarios, but the message seems clear: CCP strongly prefers that players manufacture things in 0.0, and not in high-sec.

Roger that, CCP - message received and understood. Looks like my days of Tech II manufacturing in Empire space are nearly over. Time to find another way to make a living in New Eden.

Alpha Limits - Wisdom Prevails

This dev blog describes more details about how the new free-to-play Alpha clones will be limited. I've already written about my pleasure in how the CSM and CCP Games are handling this. Treating Alphas the same as current Trial Accounts, by making multiboxing with them a violation of the EULA, is a good thing. I'd still prefer to see safeties locked on for Alphas in high-sec space, but I'm happy enough with the planned restrictions.

Now, only the question remains: how successful will Alpha clones be in attracting new players to EVE Online? And even more importantly, how many will remain to play, and ultimately upgrade to Omega clone status?

The answers to these questions depend a great deal on the improved new player experience (NPE), slated for release in November. If that NPE is compelling, and is able to entrance novices with an emotional hook, then I think the Alpha clone program could be quite successful. I'm very keen to see what CCP Ghost and his team have wrought at EVE Vegas, at the end of October. And I'm planning to generate a new character myself and give it a try. Then we shall see how good it truly is.

The End of Gambling Sites

Speaking of the EULA, this dev blog highlights all the prospective changes that will become effective with the release of Ascension. Many of these are changes needed because of the introduction of Alpha clones, but the most significant by far is the inclusion of this one line:

You may not use, transfer or assign any game assets for games of chance operated by third parties.

One short sentence of 18 little words and *POOF* - goodbye to all EVE-related gambling sites.

The best summary of what this all means, and why it is happening, was published by my friend and fellow EVE blogger, Noizy, on his site, which you can read here. (Go ahead if you haven't read it already - it's an excellent post.)

While this action was obviously stimulated by illegal Real-Money Trading (RMT) activities, the community has reacted with shock at CCP's broad policy. I personally have enjoyed wagering ISK on for EVE tournaments, and I'll miss the option to do so. It's a shame that well-run and above-board sites like eve-bet are being closed down as a result of others' illegitimate actions, especially when so many in the community have benefited from their support and generosity. But as streamer Manic Velocity eloquently parodies in this video, those who enjoy making EVE-related content will continue to do so. Even without the support of gambling sites, I think we can all rest assured that the game shall endure.

Still, as I was cleaning my tinfoil hat yesterday, I wondered: does this mean that CCP Games may introduce their own in-game casino, as an alternative? I find it interesting that the minutes of the recent CSM summit meeting redacted out the entire session on monetization. Do they contain plans for generating income from legitimized in-game ISK gambling, wholly within the EVE Online client, and to CCP's exclusive benefit?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

New Character Sheet - Change is Hard

CCP announced a new character sheet, needed to support the introduction of Alpha clones, but also to incorporate more graphic information about a character's skills and capabilities. In theory, this is supposed to make it easier to understand what you can do with your character, and how you can develop them, but it's a significant change. It's going to take a while to get used to.

The new, improved character sheet

It certainly does look pretty - I'll grant CCP that. And by consolidating the training queue into the character sheet, it eliminates a potential point of confusion for new players, as there is now just one window to view what is happening with their character.

But I'm an old bittervet, and old habits die hard. I'll probably stumble around the new character sheet after Ascension comes out, and take much longer than I should to eventually figure it out. I might even come to like it, in a few months. Change is hard.

New kids in EVE Online don't know how good they have it. Why, back in my day, we had to log in every night to update our skill queue, and we liked it. (/me shakes cane angrily)

Fly safe! o7