Show CCP Devs Some Love: Let's Buy Them Pizza!

The CCP devs don't get enough love and appreciation from the EVE Online community, if you ask me. So, I was delighted to see someone do something tangible about that issue, and I encourage everyone to join that effort.

Cornak Firefist has organized a GoFundMe campaign to buy the CCP developers some pizza for lunch. It's a little thing, but I know the devs will really appreciate the gesture.

I donated $10, and I encourage everyone to toss in a few bucks as well, if you can.

Let's buy the CCP team some lunch!

Fly safe! o7



Fly All the Things!

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I suffer from a moderate compulsion to collect things. If I have an interest in an item that is part of a set of similar items, I feel an overwhelming need to possess the entire set. I'm sure this makes CCP Games very happy, as there are enumerable things in the game that are well suited to becoming collectable. For example, as I've learned to fly different types of ships, I find I must have all the ships of that type in my hangar. This includes all the cross-trained pirate ships, of course.

I love to collect things in EVE Online, but I'm not nearly as obsessed as this guy. Well, OK, except for ships - I must have all the ships. And modules. And mission loot. And... OK, never mind.

I love to collect things in EVE Online, but I'm not nearly as obsessed as this guy. Well, OK, except for ships - I must have all the ships. And modules. And mission loot. And... OK, never mind.

Cross-training across races is a logical thing for capsuleers to do, once they have finished training for whatever ship types are of interest within their original racial selection. I started as a Gallente character, and trained for everything that was greenish, drone-laden and blaster-covered, from frigates to battleships, before considering cross-training into other factions. What motivated me to do so initially was the desire to fly a Rattlesnake, which was then - and still is, in my opinion - the ultimate Level 4 mission-running machine. For that, I needed to train Caldari ship skills - and so began my love affair with pirate faction ships.

I find that many new EVE Online players don't yet understand that in order to "unlock" access to pirate faction ships, they must cross-train their characters in different races' ship command skills. The Gurista pirate ships, for example, require both Gallente and Caldari ship skills; Angel Cartel ships require skills for both Minmatar and Gallente - and so forth. The various combinations that unlock different pirate factions are depicted in the following chart:

Note that training Gallente ship command skills lead to a disproportionate number of pirate factions - five of them, in fact - more than any other race. All the other races - Minmatar, Caldari and Amarr - connect to only three pirate factions each. Clearly, Gallente ship pilots are more independent and piratey-natured than the other races.

Before the Mordu's Legion pirate ships were announced as part of the Kronos expansion, most EVE Online aficionados expected those to be a result of cross-training Minmatar and Caldari ship command skills, as there is no current pirate faction that is unlocked from that intersection of skills. But CCP Games threw us a curve ball and decided to make Mordu's Legion a result of cross-training Caldari and Gallente instead. To date, there are still no pirate ships unlocked from Caldari/Minmatar cross-training.

I've since collected and flown all three of the Mordu's Legion ships - the Garmur frigate, the Orthrus cruiser and the Barghest battleship. All are designed to be kiting PvP ships - with bonuses for much increased missile range and velocity, as well as longer longer warp scramber and disruptor range - but they each accomplish this to different degrees of success.

I had high hopes that the Barghest might give the Rattlesnake a run for its money as a Level 4 mission-runner, but it just doesn't have as much tank or punch as the venerable 'Snake. Plus, it's far more expensive, costing around 800 million ISK, compared to the much more affordable Rattlesnake at around 345 million ISK. Still, I do fly my 'Ghest every once in a while, because I love its unique "giant spatula" design. But most of the time, it sits in my hangar, looking pretty.

The Garmur is a fine fast frigate and very good for tackling duties. But compared to interceptors, which have an MWD signature bonus, and to much cheaper Tech I alternatives, it's nowhere close to a cost-effective option, and therefore is not widely used.

I expect CCP to nerf the Orthrus soon, as it is generally considered to be overpowered. Arguably, it is now the best heavy tackler ship in the game, with a double missile damage bonus, scram/point range bonus, strong tank and speed. Fitted with RLMLs, or even Heavy Missile Launchers, the Orthrus delivers deadly damage. It also seems to be well-suited to Fozziesov as an Entosis Link-fitted ship. It isn't cheap, at around 300 million ISK each, but for the money, it is very effective, and hence, it has become a popular choice. 

My Favorite Pirate Ships

Having now flown every pirate ship available, I have developed fondness for particular ones. My affection is based on two criteria - they do their jobs extremely well, and they are pretty. I admit I'm shallow and find slick, modern-looking designs more enjoyable to fly. That's why I rarely take out any of my Sansha's Nation ships - they all look like crude spiky clubs. Give me something that looks fast, and I'm a sucker for it - cost be damned. 

So, here are my favorite pirate ships, in ascending order:

The amazingly speedy Machariel, battleship of the Angel Cartel pirate faction

Machariel - it's big, fast, agile and delivers incredible alpha damage - and it looks like a hot rod ready to scream down the highway. What's not to like? The Machariel does all damage-dealing duties extremely well: Incursions, Level 4 missions, ratting, fleet ops. Because it moves like a cruiser, even in warp, it can hang with gangs of smaller ships and never get left behind. Next to the 'Snake, the Mach is my favorite battleship.

The versatile Gila cruiser, mainstay of the Gurista pirate faction fleet

Gila - before it got a facelift from CCP Games, the Gila looked like an ungainly can-opener. Now, it's streamlined and functional-looking, and reminds me of the Serenity from the old Firefly series. It's basically a cruiser-sized Rattlesnake, but faster, which is not a bad thing to be. Strong damage-dealing from drone and missile bonuses, decent speed, nice shield tank resist bonuses, and relatively affordable as pirate faction ships go (about 265 million), the Gila is nearly always an appropriate choice.

Behold, the king of Level 4 mission-running, the Gurista Rattlesnake battleship!

Rattlesnake - often have I praised this incredible Gurista battleship in this blog, and I do not apologize for it. Apparently, a lot of people agree with me that the 'Snake is a fantastic mission-running ship, as my fitting guide post continues to be among the most popular articles I have published. This ship is tough, with an amazing shield tank, and it features very strong bonuses for both missiles and drones. If you want to earn ISK from running Level 4 missions, you just can't go wrong with a 'Snake. I've made a couple billion on mine over the years. Plus, they are fairly cheap as pirate ships go. I actually have three of them now, stashed near useful agents, and I often clone jump to one and then happily spend a couple hours killing red icons, and watching the ISK roll in. If mission-running is your thing, get a 'Snake - 'nuff said.

The beautiful and extraordinary Sisters of EVE exploration cruiser, the Stratios

Stratios - you might think my favorite pirate ship is the 'Snake, seeing that I've extolled its virtues so frequently, but you'd be wrong. It's a great mission-running boat, to be sure, but does not offer the utility of a Stratios cruiser. This boat is stealthy with a covert ops cloak, well-tanked with armor resist bonuses, and a decent damage dealer with drone and laser bonuses. It also is bonused for exploration duties, for probing and hacking. This makes the Stratios the ideal ship for running Ghost Sites, which can blow up in your face if you aren't careful - in the Stratios, you can run them with an excellent chance of survival, even if all goes wrong. I keep a Stratios based in Solitude and use it for exploration in low-sec, and I've never gotten caught, though many have tried. The Stratios is simply too elusive to catch, if you keep a watchful eye on d-scan. It's a fun ship to fly.

Some EVE lore experts speculate that the Sisters of EVE faction ships have some mysterious capsuleer-tracking purpose hidden within them. This only makes them more interesting, if you ask me.

Plus, I think the Stratios is the coolest-looking ship in the game, with its sleek lines and clean white and red color scheme, and a beautiful translucent blue shimmering warp affect in its ringed aft section. I never get tired of admiring the appearance of this fine boat while in flight.

The Future of Yarr Ships

Perhaps we might see more pirate ships released in the future. There are still other factions in EVE Online lore that are not yet unlocked by cross-training. Interestingly, there are no obvious candidates for the as yet unoccupied Caldari/Minmatar intersection, though.

Two criminal factions that are begging for their own player-flyable ships are the Equilibrium of Mankind (EoM), a pirate faction spun off the Amarr, and the Intaki Syndicate, black marketeers spun out of the Gallente/Caldari conflict. We have some Intaki SKINs for some Gallente ships already in the game, as well as the Victorieux Luxury Yacht - and some EoM SKINs for Amarr vessels - but no dedicated ship designs for either faction yet.

I'd be surprised if the Intaki was not a Gallente/Caldari cross-train, if CCP ever decides to release ships for this faction - based on the lore, it's an obvious choice. As for the EoM, they'd have to be Amarr/something - probably Minmatar, I would suspect, but that is only a guess.

There are other options for cross-trained ship lines as well. The Ammatar Mandate is an obvious Minmatar/Amarr cross-trained faction. The Khanid Kingdom could be Amarr/something as well. Perhaps the Amarr may eventually lead to more pirate cross-training options than the Gallente do today.

The SoCT faction battlecruiser - the Gnosis

We already have one Society of Conscious Thought faction ship - the Gnosis battlecruiser. The SoCT is affiliated with the Jove. This is the only faction ship that does not require cross-training, making it unique. Perhaps we might see SoCT frigates, cruisers and battleships someday, which also do not require cross-training to fly.

Also notable is that the Gnosis is the only faction battlecruiser - I wonder why pirates don't like battlecruisers? Clearly, this is a gap in every pirate faction ship line that CCP could fill, if they chose to do so.

According to the lore, Jove technology is a what gives CONCORD ships their amazingly punishing powers, and supposedly it is what makes Angel Cartel ships so speedy, too. And now we have the Drifters, also of Jove extraction. Perhaps the empty Minmatar/Cadari cross-trained slot might be reserved for a CONCORD-inspired Jove-enabled faction ship line. Now, wouldn't that be something?

Fly safe! o7


Reflections on Fanfest 2015

I'm writing this on the return flight from Fanfest 2015. This was my fourth journey to the annual EVE Online community celebration. I had a good time, as always, but each Fanfest trip is always a little different than the others. 

The Harpa convention center, meeting place for Fanfest 2015.

The Harpa convention center, meeting place for Fanfest 2015.

This event brought us a lot of interesting news about the future of Internet spaceships, and I'm more optimistic about the prospects for our beloved game than ever before. I have several blog posts in mind which will each focus on specific aspects, but in this post I just want to share a few general thoughts about my Fanfest experience over the past week.

Iceland weather is weird.

Some Icelandair flights into KEF airport were cancelled or postponed the day before I was to leave for Iceland, so I was worried that I'd have similarly bad luck. My flight out from JFK was delayed an hour, but our pilot rode the jet stream all the way and we actually arrived 30 minutes earlier than scheduled - amazing.

It was indeed snowing and sleeting and very windy when we landed, but by the time the Flybus delivered me to the Klopp hotel, it was sunny and calm. And so it went all week - periods of intense wind and sleet punctuated by stretches of blue skies and relatively calm, albeit very cool weather.

The heavens are awesome.

Speaking of weird weather, I was very dubious that we'd see the sun at all during the eclipse event on Friday morning, but Iceland's fickle weather cooperated with the CCP Games planners, and we had bright, clear skies. I stood outside the Harpa convention center with Rixx Javix and his charming wife, a few fellow EVE University alumni and staffers, and hundreds of other locals, watching the moon blot out 98 percent of the sun. CCP gave all Fanfest attendees special dark glasses for the eclipse viewing. It was a fantastic sight.

The night before, a heavy solar storm provided an especially vivid aurora borealis light show. Nice of Mother Nature to give us spaceship geeks a couple of free shows during our stay!

EVE University is awesome.

I always enjoy seeing my E-UNI friends at Fanfest, and though I'm not officially a member currently, I always think of it as my "home" in New Eden. This year, there were many new Unistas in attendance, as well as some of the habitual Fanfest repeaters, and it was a lot of fun to hang out with them all.

I had three moments during Fanfest that made me especially proud of my alma mater.

First, Spanky Ikkala, of the E-UNI teaching team, gave a lecture on "The Art of War in EVE" and it was well attended. I sat in the back to watch the crowd reactions, and worried a bit when I saw The Mittani and an entourage of Goons take some seats at the front of the room. "Oh, this does not bode well," I thought, expecting a constant barrage of trolling forthcoming. But when Spanky started his talk, describing his quarter-century of military experience, then touching on key lessons from Clausewitz, Sun Tsu, Liddell Hart and other military theorists, and applying them against corporate and fleet leadership styles in EVE, everyone was impressed. Spanky even got a compliment Tweeted to him from one of the Goonswarm attendees afterwards.

Later, there was a special presentation called "From Science Fiction to Science Fact" and two of the panelists were E-UNI members, as well as scientists working for NASA. Yep, that's right - EVE University has genuine rocket scientists teaching players EVE mechanics. That session also went very well.

But my favorite moment is one I've had every single time I go to Fanfest. I was on the way to the Harpa cloakroom to retrieve my jacket, and someone saw my E-UNI shirt, came up to me, and said, "I just wanted to say thanks for all EVE University does. I wouldn't be playing the game anymore if it wasn't for you guys."

So, while I'm not in E-UNI currently, I still support them every way I can. In fact, I'm delivering a guest lecture on "Gallente Ships 101/102" on Friday, March 27 at 21:00 EVE time. It's a open class, available to anyone who wants to attend. Instructions for joining are here - feel free to participate!

Roc Wieler is awesome.

If you don't know who Roc Wieler is, check out his website. He's a very talented EVE role-player, artist and musician. He also has a personal Real Life story that is truly inspiring - he transformed his body and life outlook, using his in-game character as a model.

I've met Roc before, and interviewed him in an E-UNI Q&A session, but the extent of his personal transformation never really sank in for me, until I saw him give a short talk at Fanfest this year. His session, "A Brutor Guide to Empyrean Health", was more motivational speech than EVE lore, but I've been thinking about my own physical health lately, so the timing could not have been better. He made quite an impression on me. He'll be the first to tell you that he's awesome - but he is always quick to remind you that you are awesome too.

In fact, space-famous people are generally awesome.

Fanfest tends to draw the hardest core of the hard-core EVE Online devotees, including many people that are well-known in game. It's fun to rub shoulders with them during the event.

NoizyGamer and I hung out quite a bit, talking about the joys and agony of EVE blogging. He also gave a fantastic segment in the middle of the Team Security presentation on the decline of illegal ISK trading out of game - be sure to check out the recorded video.

Sugar Kyle is a truly delightful person, and I finally had a chance to tap her considerable brain a bit during Fanfest. She is also incredibly dedicated to the game's development and to the community. I joined her to attend the roundtable discussion on the new player experience. "Surely you've heard all the news on NPE from CCP before, in your CSM sessions?", I asked her. "Yes," she replied, "but I want to hear what the players are asking about." And she proceeded to take careful note of every single question and comment. You can see some of her summaries in her blog. I was very pleased that she was one of the top two vote-getters for the CSM election.

I talked with Morwen Lagann about CCP's latest additions to EVE lore, and how the role-playing community, of which he is a principal driver, are reacting. We agreed how CCP is now working hard to involve the players in lore developments. It's cool to hear his voice (from excerpts of the Hydrostatic Podcast) used in the latest CCP "emerging threats" video.

I finally got to meet Xander Phoena and Niden of the Crossing Zebras team, for whom I am now writing articles. Both nice guys and excited about the future of EVE Online.

There were many other "EVE celebrities" attending - far too many to list here. It's always interesting to associate a real person's face with their in-game personality, especially when they have a broadly known reputation - for good or for ill.

Valkyrie is going to be awesome.

Just watch this. Need I say more?

Head colds are not awesome at all.

I'd planned to skip some of the extra activities at Fanfest this year - the charity dinner, pub crawl, etc. - and focus mostly on hanging out with fellow capsuleers. Unfortunately, I caught a cold on the second day and felt congested for the rest of the event. I attended most of this year's Fanfest in an antihistamine-induced haze. Not a lot of fun at all, let me assure you.

I drank a lot of hot tea and tried not to infect anyone, but no matter what you do, trying to do it with a stuffy nose is not a lot of fun. It definitely had a negative impact on my experience this year.

CCP is awesome.

From Hilmar's opening address, which emphasized "less talk, more action", through the closing session, every CCP Games presentation contained a different tone than I've noticed in past years. Basically, everything that CCP presented remained focused on things that will be delivered within the next year. And yet, no one missed the longer-term speculations on what could be, because there was so much good material generated from what is actually coming.

More importantly, I felt a lot more confidence coming from the CCP staff, in general. NoizyGamer calls this "swagger", and that is close, but I think it's more of a feeling of excited optimism. It's clear that the entire team sees what is now possible with the more frequent release cycle - a greater degree of control and productivity. Thanks to CCP Seagull, the team knows where they are going, and increasingly, how they will get there.

It's hard to interact with the CCP team and not get caught up in their excitement. This year's Fanfest was certainly the most positive that I've experienced so far - even with the introduction of major new changes in game mechanics, such as the sovereignty system.

Next year, Fanfest will be April 21-23, 2016, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Tickets are already on sale. I have every intention of returning.

Fly safe! o7