I Owe You Nothing

My industrial alt's corp received a random war declaration by another so-called "leet" high-sec "mercenary" corporation, so I packed up my manufacturing arrays and stored them in station. In a way, it was kind of nice, as it gave me a convenient excuse to take a break from my EVE Online maintenance routines for a week.

Today, I checked in to see if the war was being renewed. As expected, it isn't - and as expected, after checking the war report, I saw there were no kills on either side. Typical.

There were certainly targets available for our allegedly "leet mercenary" foes to bash. I'd left my POS tower hanging in space, albeit stripped of anything valuable, and there were a couple of POCOs nearby that could have been fun to pop. But apparently they couldn't be bothered.

After looking at their rather garishly colored killboard, they were obviously too busy lurking around trade hubs in Tornados, one-shotting ignorant haulers at long range - something our corp knows all too well to avoid in wartime. The result: another wardec passing with no blood shed on either side.

Thus ends another impressive show of PvP mastery from one more super-elite high-sec mercenary corporation, eh?

For those immune to sarcasm, allow me to be more explicit and point out the blatantly obvious, yet again: EVE Online's wardec mechanics are seriously broken.

And, I must admit, mercenary corps who exploit the currently bizarre war rules owe me nothing. They are under no obligation to demonstrate their supposed combat prowess. They can pay their wardec fees and hover outside of trade hub stations, waiting for easy kills, all they want. (Gosh, that sounds like fun, doesn't it?)

Surely, CCP and our current Council of Null-Sec Management (plus good Steve Ronuken) have talked about our long-suffering wardec mechanics at length, and are close to announcing some exciting ways to improve them. Surely, yes?

CSM Radio Silence

It's hard to know if our virtually all 0.0-based Council of Stellar Management cares, because they have been amazingly quiet since they took office three months ago. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed that there hasn't been any crazy drama from the CSM, so far.

I was looking forward to entertaining reports of leaks, in-fighting, backstabbing, public posturing and political intrigue that characterized the last few months of our previous CSM's term. It's a tribute to CCP Guard's supervision that he's kept such a tight lid clamped down on CSM internal discussions. If there are any shenanigans going on, nothing has seeped out to the EVE media yet.

All we've heard from Guard is that the CSM is "working hard", and that everything is super hunky-dory - although it's interesting to see who really is showing up for the meetings (only good Steve Ronuken and The Judge have a perfect attendance record, so far). 

The next CSM summit is scheduled for mid-September, and CCP has announced that all 14 representatives will be invited to attend. Clearly, the developers at CCP are looking for a wide diversity of opinions about the EVE Online player experience. Oh, wait - they're all null-sec guys (except good Steve Ronuken). Well, at least they can talk about critically important issues like the drag range of bubbles. I'm sure the entire EVE community is sitting on the edge of their chair waiting to see how that finally gets addressed.

To be fair, I admit I am extremely cynical about the CSM (can you tell?), and have personally written them off as almost completely unrepresentative of my preferred play styles in EVE Online. As a result, I have no expectations whatsoever from them. Like the high-sec mercenaries, they also owe me nothing.

I'm certain that the CSM is focused on improving the game that they and their peers play in 0.0 space. If they do anything that also just happens to help the game in high-sec, low-sec or w-space, that will be a serendipitous by-product, and I'll be delighted to benefit from it. But frankly, I have little hope this will happen.

Perhaps my cynicism is misplaced - I certainly would be thrilled to discover that it is. I'll read the minutes from the September summit, and we'll see how much the CSM even considers issues in the game that I care about - like wardec mechanics, for example. Then we can confirm whether we have a broadly-thinking CSM in office, or just a narrow focus group catering primarily to null-sec concerns.

Waiting for Upwell

I took a quick inventory of Tech II items I've manufactured over the last couple of months, and discovered I have nearly 10 billion ISK in value waiting to be sold in the market. Not bad for 15 minutes a day, grinding out boring routine tasks. Invention and manufacturing in a POS has become very repetitive and dull, and I'm eager to embark on a new project in EVE Online, and hopefully re-invigorate my level of engagement once again. 

And so, I eagerly wait for the new industry array structures to be released by the Upwell Consortium in the fall. The wait feels interminable, and there is still quite a lot of mystery about exactly what kind of specifications and mechanics they will entail. If they simply operate like a POS, with new paint and snazzy graphics, I'll be disappointed. The general assumptions are that they will use the same asset safety mechanisms that citadels use, but will be weaker with less defensive capabilities and a longer vulnerability period, but none of this has been validated for certain yet.

If the new industry structure just turns out to be an easy-to-pop loot pinata, designed for "leet mercenaries" to plunder, it will be the final death knell of high-sec manufacturing. I doubt that is CCP's intention. I've been hearing dire predictions of the end of high-sec industry ever since the Crius update, but have found ways to make a decent profit regardless. But perhaps I'm wrong, and these new structures are indeed designed to finally drive all profitable manufacturing into null-sec, once and for all.

If that turns out to be true, then I will shrug my shoulders resignedly, and recognize that my high-sec manufacturing days are over. After all, CCP is not obligated to give me any guarantee of profitability for my preferred method of earning ISK - they owe me nothing.

We'll just have to see what the new industry structure specs look like when they are finally released. And so, I wait.

With thanks to  @TheNeocom

With thanks to @TheNeocom

Walking the Walk

I read with interest the recent article by my friend and editor at Crossing Zebras, Niden, about "walking the walk" in EVE Online. Niden criticized EVE media pundits who do not actively play the game, but who eagerly spout increasingly uninformed opinions in every forum they can find. In his editorial, Niden describes these self-appointed commentators:

On podcasts, reddit, Twitter, forums, and streams they appear. Their bread and butter is fame; their currency, visibility. They are the politicians and cheesy salesmen of EVE. Making noise and having an opinion is what matters, not the substance of what they're saying, or actually having a perspective anchored in reality, or some kind of real need within the player community.

I think Niden makes good points, but as I was reading his harsh indictment, I wondered: "Am I one of these people?"

After all, my activity in EVE Online has subsided ever since Fanfest in April, as I've since documented several times in this blog. I've become disenchanted with the game, and have not actively pursued new avenues of play. Instead, I've simply reduced my level of involvement to a trickle, and settled in to wait for the "next big thing" to revive my interest.

And yet, despite my currently low level of activity, I have been eager to post some aggressively critical opinions in this blog, without reservation. This sounds like I may indeed qualify for Niden's definition of "unrealistic motherf***ers" - those who have no real business issuing public opinions about EVE Online.

Perhaps he's right. Perhaps I should wait until I'm more engaged in the game to post any opinions about EVE Online or our community. Perhaps I am out of line, until I am logging dozens of hours in the game each week, once again.

But I remember why I started this blog in the first place. Before I ever posted my first post here, I wrote a mission statement of sorts, which you can find in the "About this blog" link:

What is this blog all about?
Good question - glad you asked. This blog is a learning tool for me. That's it.  
With the depth and complexity of EVE Online, I have found that one of the best ways to learn the nuances of the game is to write and dialogue about it. Therefore, I decided to start this blog, to give myself the opportunity to discover insights that might be useful.
Since the sole intent of this blog is to help myself become more enlightened about EVE Online, the primary audience shall forever be me - and only me. If you are entertained by reading this blog, that is well and good, and you are welcome to it.

My level of activity in EVE Online is indeed lower than it has been in the past, but I still love and care about the game, and about the community of players it brings together. And I hazard to suggest with only a bit of humility that my opinions are more informed than most people playing the game today. Most importantly, I'm still learning things about EVE - and this blog is still helping me learn.

And so, whether or not anyone likes it, I'm not going away anytime soon.

To be blunt, dear reader, I owe you nothing - except honesty and sincerity. It's up to you to decide if my words are useful. Keep reading or discard them as you see fit.

Fly safe! o7

A Sense of Home

In the summer of 2009, when I first started playing EVE Online, I blundered through the career tutorials and then wandered around for a few days near my starter system of Bourynes, not really knowing what to do next. The novelty of flying a starship was fun, but I had no clear goals established for myself. Having joined the game on my own, I didn't really know what corp would be a good fit for me. It was like moving to a new neighborhood, but not yet knowing anyone there. I considered dropping from the game.

Then I read about the newbie-friendly EVE University, and I suddenly had somewhere to go that made sense. I still recall making the 15-jump journey to E-UNI headquarters in Aldrat, which seemed like a long trek to me at the time. As I got closer to my destination, I felt like I was going to the right place - somewhere I would belong.

My original plan was to stay at E-UNI for a few weeks to learn how to survive in New Eden, and then find another corp that might find my newly developed skills useful. But it never worked out that way. The more classes I took, the more fleet ops I joined, and the more ships I flew, the more I realized how little I understood the depth of EVE Online. At E-UNI, I could happily develop my understanding of different facets of the game to whatever degree that I desired. And so, my stay in EVE University stretched from weeks to months to years.

When you hang around somewhere long enough, you eventually get noticed, and the E-UNI teaching director at the time, Dierdre Vaal, asked if I'd like to run a class or two on some EVE fundamentals. That's when I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching, and helping new players find their own place in New Eden. I became director of education myself (twice, in fact), and was an active part of E-UNI for five years. 

Eventually, I grew weary of the administrative burdens inherent in a large corp, and I left E-UNI to become an independent industrialist in Metropolis (and actually undock once in a while). But I didn't resettle very far away. I was still teaching the occasional E-UNI class as a guest lecturer every few weeks, and besides, I was now very familiar with the systems between Aldrat and the nearby trade hub, Hek. I didn't see any reason to migrate too far.

In short, E-UNI gave me a sense of home in New Eden, and I liked it there.

Who moved my E-UNI?

For the last year, life has been good in my little corner of Metropolis. It felt familiar and comfortable. I would visit Aldrat from time to time, and I always enjoyed seeing a couple hundred blue crosses show up in Local chat whenever I entered the system - lots of new students attending my alma mater.

But then E-UNI established extended campuses in every type of space - wormholes, low-sec, null-sec, even a new one elsewhere in high-sec. They hosted a campus for miners in Amarr space, and another for explorers in the remote Solitude region. The population in Aldrat dwindled. The last time I went there, only a half-dozen blue crosses appeared on my overview.

It was a smart move by E-UNI's leadership. The extended campuses enable new players to experience every type of space in New Eden in a relatively well-supported environment. As a result, E-UNI has continued to thrive. But over time, only a few UNI's based themselves in Aldrat, the official headquarters.

EVE University's new home in Slays, in the Placid region.

EVE University's new home in Slays, in the Placid region.

And so, I was not surprised to see Azmodeus Valar's announcement that EVE University was moving its base of operations from Aldrat to Slays, in the Placid region, in order to be more centrally located relative to its multiple extended campuses. 

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.
— Stephen Chbosky

It feels weird going to Aldrat now. None of my old corpmates are there anymore. I'm reminded of when my parents moved out of my childhood home. Even though I had left there many years previous, it felt odd to think of other people now living in "my" old room. Similarly, when I now fly by E-UNI's old headquarters station, I can't help but feel a little abandoned, even though it was I who left them some time ago.

Suddenly, my old stomping grounds in Metropolis feel a little less like home.

In search of a home

I have long wanted an opportunity to build a valuable base of operations in EVE Online - a place that feels permanent and useful to maintain - but I have been frustrated by the limitations of the game mechanics. Practically speaking, the current capabilities do not really encourage players to build a base that they want to grow, develop and defend - someplace they feel invested in personally. But I have some hope for the future.

When I decided to become a serious industrialist, I worked hard to earn the standings and skills needed to set up a Player-Owned Starbase (POS) tower in high-sec space. It took a considerable investment in time and effort to accomplish, and when I was finally able to anchor my own tower and get it online, I hoped that my ugly stick in a bubble might become my true abode in New Eden.

Since then, I've learned how silly I was. I've put up and taken down towers so many times and in so many places, they no longer feel like anything other than a tool - a more efficient device for industrial production. You can't live life in a bubble - and the same is true of POSes in EVE Online. They don't feel like a home at all, much to my disappointment.

When mobile depots were introduced, I got a little more excited. I hoped they might become the foundation of a new series of structures that might provide a way to build a base with some sense of permanence. But mobile structures were never intended for that grand a vision. They, too, are simply convenient tools for remote ship fitting and other tasks. Handy, but much more like a pup tent than a real home.

And so it was great anticipation and delight when I watched CCP Ytterbium's presentation at Fanfest about structures, earlier this year. Finally, it appears that a way to build something that feels like a place to live and work may be possible soon - a place that players will want to invest in and defend. A place that matters - a home.

Will this become my new home in New Eden? I certainly hope so.

I have high hopes for structures. In fact, I hope they eventually replace most, if not all, of the NPC stations we currently see in game, but that may be too much to reasonably expect anytime soon. Structures look like something that can be developed and defended, and which can be configured to suit a wide variety of purposes. Because you will be able to locate them anywhere, and that you will be able to dock in them, tells me they should feel like a residence in space. I can't wait to establish my own structure in "my" space.

Perhaps, someday soon, I may finally have a place to truly call my own in New Eden.

The emerging value of home

Though we have yet to see whether Fozziesov is a success in null-sec space, I am encouraged by two changes affecting the sovereignty system. First, the jump drive limits of Phoebe effectively expanded the relative size of 0.0 space, and made defensible territory and borders more important. Second, the establishment of designated capital systems now provides for a central rallying point for every 0.0 alliance - a place that becomes an useful anchor for developing an sovereign empire.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I suspect that more players will begin to think of their part of 0.0 as "their" space - their homeland, in effect. This has always been true to some extent for some alliances, but due to the fluid nature of 0.0, it has not been uncommon to see whole corps and alliances pull up stakes and relocate across the cluster if it suited their interests. If Fozziesov encourages players to develop more personal affinity and affiliation with certain regions of space - if they begin to think of that space as their natural "home" - then I suspect we may see 0.0 shift its emphasis from skirmishes between wandering tribes to more wars between nation-states over territorial disputes.

People are often motivated to fight if their home is threatened. If Fozziesov establishes more of a sense of home for 0.0-based organizations, I suspect we'll eventually see a lot of emotionally invested people engaging in some very significant and interesting fights - and not just a lot of trolling of structures with Entosis Links. The introduction of very large but potentially vulnerable structures, and their eventual replacement of POSes and Outposts, may further enhance this desire to defend one's home against interlopers.

Home is where the heart is

Now that E-UNI has moved, I feel a little displaced. I still have my modest industrial operation in Metropolis, but I don't feel quite as grounded there as I once did. Perhaps it is time for a change. I have no rational way to explain this - it's only a feeling that I need to find a better place - a new home.

I'm not sure where that is yet, but I'll figure it out. I'm confident it's out there - somewhere.

Fly safe! o7