Friday, June 3, 2016

A Strange New Economy: PLEX crashes, Daily SP, Citadel Markets (offshores), and the Future of Investing

The EVE Prosper blog and show (sadly now on its hiatus) has recorded the recent rise-and-fall of PLEX, and in the most recent episode pointed out the impact "offshoring" is already having on the PLEX market. "Offshoring" refers to buying/selling PLEX at one of the many Fortizar Citadel markets 1 jump from Jita, where taxes are 1% or lower. This is what the PLEX market looks like in the Forge as of 6/3/16:

First off, the sky is falling yet again for PLEX prices. 850m? In 2016? I don't think anyone predicted that one. However, just as interesting is that most of the best buy and sell orders for PLEX and Injectors are now at Citadels 1 jump away. In total there are 5 or 6 Fortizar markets 1 jump from Jita, and each has lower taxes and usually better PLEX/Injector orders than 4-4. Interestingly, the worry that a "New Jita" would be created largely turned out false (thus far)--instead, we seem to have Jita, and then dozens of "offshore" markets for high value and high volume items.

Jita 4-4 does not even appear until the bottom of this page of sell orders for injectors. When you can create contracts in Citadels and so on, they will be even more useful.

Now let's talk about daily SP and the impact it might have on the skill injector market. EVE-Gaurdian has a great write up covering the relative isk value of the 10k SP daily. It depends heavily on your implants and attribute mapping, but for new players it daily opportunities come out to roughly a 15% increase in SP gain for new players.

It is also worth noting that daily SP has a different (higher) relative value for older players (above 60m SP) and especially those who fly in empty clones (i.e. frequently PVP in null for instance). If such a player did the daily every day for a 30 day month, that is 300k SP, or equal to 2 skill injectors (because the player would only receive 150k per SP given their high skills from an injector), which is around 1.2b isk a month in injector cost currently. So the value of a daily is quite a bit higher for a vet player who does no implants PVP; it is two injectors per month or something like 40m SP in "injector->SP" isk value per daily.

Dailies are thus great for new players and even better for veterans, and the upshot is that dailies will likely put pressure off of the skill injector market. There's now a second, more active way of getting more SP faster.

The PLEX market is unstable, the Injector market is good currently (esp. for regional trading) but unpredictable; that all leaves the basic question wide open: Where to now invest isk? In the past, you could dump as much isk as you wanted into PLEX at, say, 900m isk, and make bank when PLEX hit 1b a few months later, or 1.1b a few month after that, etc. As my experiment investing 100b in ships showed, you can make decent return on ships if you buy low and have patience to sell high.

I don't have an expert view on this, but one way to look at investing large amounts of isk is to look at what in game is being replaced--i.e., structures. How much isk exists in POSes and POS modules in space and in assets? And they are all being phased out. I didn't buy a Citadel BPO but I do think it was a good investment, either for producing, selling copies, or researching and reselling. So in the future months/year I am look to the new structures as potential sources of investment, particularly since most POSes in HS are dedicated to manufacturing. Don't take my advice though, a lot of isk can still be made in the injector market!

Monday, May 23, 2016

6 months of solo PVP in Querious - good times, but going elsewhere, for now

This week I lost my final ship I had staged in the Querious region. Besides blowing up a few POSes and an occasional NPSI roam, I have been doing solo PVP in Querious almost exclusively for the last 6 months.

I primarily flew navy EWAR frigates, assault frigates, cruisers, and some navy cruisers, and a ton of off-meta stuff (RLML XLASB Blackbird killing interceptors? Check. Brawling fit t1 logi killing an Oracle? Check. etc.). In total I killed around 800 ships solo, plus assorted pods and junk. I lost around 80 ships and 30 (usually empty) pods, and 6b isk total, or about 3-4 per night I roamed. But I flew about 50 different ships total! At this point a few residents in Querious know me, and definitely know I never have backup.

The groups I most liked fighting were probably Affirmative, Agony, the Brave corporation that lived in BX2- (Absolutely Massive Destruction), F-I-N-K, and Altruism/Triggerkittens. Many groups go to Querious to fight (or farm) Brave and Horde, and I had a lot of fun fights with them, too. Large public groups invariably have a mix of different personalities and play styles, which is partly what happens with open recruitment. I had a few occasions were I agreed to a 1v1 only to have a blob brought in, for instance, yet I also had many hours of fun fighting the large groups that live/lived in the region. Then there's also the usual share of tryhard groups in Querious (never not falcon alt, etc), but you'll find them in any region and they are not worth talking about.

On my quest to solo in every ship, I am slowly moving up to the bigger and more expensive ship classes. It's hard to roam in a BS/BC when people know who you are, and know you don't have backup. In the months before the summer update and the removal of off-grid links, I look forward to roaming deep null, into some areas of space where the population is smaller. That means less fights overall, but also less deaths to 20-ship blobs (well, sometimes--there are blobs in every region!).

It's crazy for me to think just a few years ago I was roaming in null for the first time after so many years doing solo in LS. Now, I've spent almost 2 years in null doing solo with only brief vacations. But, links are getting a massive nerf (for some play styles, i.e. those groups who do not have the skill to effectively use links on grid), and T3Ds (the svipul in particular) are also getting the shaft, and the true land of good fights that is low security space may once again be a great place to roam. Maybe.

In the next few posts I am going to highlight my favorite/best performing/luckiest ships during my time in Querious. Solo PVP for me is half luck, half dedication (maybe a bit of masochism in there, too), and most of my fits are taken from other (better) solo PVPers, so it will more so be focused on good runs I had in specific ships.

thanks for all the fun querious thunderdome and pan-fam

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Putting up my first Citadel

I've had a M Ctiadel and all of the modules ready since Sunday, and was very close to risking it and attempting to deploy it in a wormhole. The sheer risk involved made me think twice, though. The majority of Citadels destroyed so far have been in wormholes. Citadels are incredibly vulnerable in their first 24 hours. If you deploy a Citadel, a 24 hour timer starts, and at the end of the 24 hours the Citadel enters a 15 minute "repair" window where it only has hull hit points to defend it. If someone attacks the Citadel right at the start of that 15 minute timer, you cannot fit any modules to the Citadel, and are essentially an empty, defenseless shell with just a few million hit points from death.

Naturally, wormhole residents are very good at scouting a large number of wormholes in a small amount of time. All they have to do is note where a Citadel is being deployed, and show up at the end of that 24 hours. Attack the Citadel right at the start of the "repair," and it cannot fit any modules. For a solo player like myself, this means my only real chance of getting a Citadel up in wormhole (or LS/NS space) is to get really lucky and sneak one up. I have to gamble on no one noticing for 24 hours and 15 minutes. After that, I at least get a few weeks to use it (and fight back) while groups work through vulnerability timers.

Of course, the same thing happens in low and null security space, and many Citadels have died an early death--before even being able to fit a single module. In fact, no Citadel has been destroyed with modules fitted yet. Personally, I think this is a bit unfair for Citadel owners. At the very least they should be able to fit or pre-fit modules in order to defend themselves during that most vulnerable first 15 minutes. Most would still die, but they could at least fight back.

Putting balance feedback to the side, however, this mechanic is also why Citadels are actually very safe in high security space. So long as no one sees you put a Citadel up during the first 15 minutes and declares war during that time (hence starting the war during that 15 minute vulnerability window the next day), it will take groups roughly three weeks of vulnerability timers to destroy a Citadel in HS (such as the one in Perimeter that will likely soon be entering its final timer).

Santuary in Perimeter off the Jita gate was one of the first Citadels deployed

Naturally, the Citadel attracted HS war dec groups. During their first attack, they brought 3 Guardians and a few Domis. At first, the Guardians appeared to be able to tank the Citadel's damage, but then they messed up and went suspect--and immediately died to a swarm of people hoping for blood or killmails
So I changed my initial plans, and put up my first "test" Citadel in HS. There are a number of systems in HS that lack a station, but get a large amount of PVP traffic. The most notable such system is Keberz: it borders the popular null system HED-GP. If you PVP in HED-GP or systems nearby but then need to repair, you have to travel 4 (long) warps to Agil to get to the nearest station. So, a public Citadel with free repairs and docking is extremely helpful in such a system. Someone already beat me to putting one up there, but there are a few other HS systems that lack a station but where having a place to dock and repair for free would be convenient. I settled on Otelen, on the Houla gate. Repairs, docking, and reprocessing are public and free, and I may add a free clone service if the Citadel gets used. I love that Citadels repair even heat damage for free--it's a really nice feature. Another interesting feature I did not at first realize is that pirates (-5 security status or below) can tether to public Citadels, receive repairs, and sit in space safe from both other players--and the HS police! This is a huge quality of life bonus for pirates operating in high security space (and I think groups like CODE. will figure out clever ways to use this mechanic...such as by putting up their own Citadels near the gates in Uedama and stocking them with gank ships, then sitting safe in space tethered to the Citadel ready to pounce down to the gate).

I was a bit nervous putting it up during those crucial first 15 minutes, but no war decs so far suggests that there's just too many Citadels in HS already to honestly care. My Citadel is one of probably a few hundred M Citadels, and before long they are going to be far more common than POSes or potentially even NPC stations. However, being so visible and so close to a major PVP system, there are certainly enough groups nearby who can destroy it if they wish.

Something I've quickly learned about the balance changes is that tech 2 light fighters are incredibly strong at the moment, and probably brokenly so. Getting tech 2 fighters (like Firbolg IIs) is going to be incredibly important for Citadel defense (not to mention for Carrier pilots).

The 350km lock range of the Citadel prevents them from being able to exert force over the area around the gate itself, yet I still think that Citadels are going to change how groups control their space. A Large Citadel 1,000km off an important gate or station is a powerful force multiplier for the owner, and projects a large sphere nearby where the home team has a significant advantage. Thank Bob, however, that CCP effectively killed station games with the tethering mechanic and inability to dock when tackled.

In total I paid around 4.5-5b for the Citadel and fittings, but the prices are dropping very quickly. M Citadels are already sub 2b. My plan at this point is to leave the Citadel up with all services free. I do hope it gets attacked at some point, just so I can experience defending it, but if it still stands by the summer months I will likely replace it with a Large Citadel and set up market services in addition. The summer months may also be quiet enough to attempt a Citadel in a wormhole as well. Looking further in the future, CCP has plans to remove off-grid links and nerf T3Ds this summer. When they do so, I will certainly be returning to low sec PVP primarily, and a Citadel will be a great place to base out of.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Citadels and the Solo Player (with hypothetical fittings, strats, and uses)

Updated, fixed mistakes already!

If you're not a capital pilot, and you are not interested in owning a Citadel, the Citadel expansion is mostly business as usual. (What percentage of the EVE population flies capitals? And what percentage flies them on a regular basis? Those are good questions I do not have answers for, but charts of the player distribution in EVE suggest that it is probably a minority!)

In fact, it's likely that the majority of the playerbase will be unaffected by the expansion (setting aside paying overall higher prices for items due to the increase in taxes!), at least until Citadels become so common in all areas of space that docking in them, using their market, and so on, will become an everyday occurrence. The first few Citadels are going up currently, though the price of the M/L Citadels likely will not stabilize until June or July (a lot depends on what happens in the PI market and how many players want to set up an XL, which would drain the market of supply). After the initial excitement of using the first Citadels, though, most players will likely see them as just another kind of station to dock in and maybe buy/sell in.

However, are there any reasons a solo player might want a Citadel? And if so, is there any way it would work? While I have tried almost everything in EVE, my play style is largely solo, and primarily solo PVP. Often I like to do things in EVE just to take on the challenge of accomplishing something solo. There are two ways I am going to use the new Citadels (a M and a L), just for the experience of using them. However, I also think more casual solo players do have some good potential uses for M/L Citadels. I am going to talk about how I am planning on using Citadels, and then go into detail about the fits I've tested for the M (as well as how to destroy it!). I am sure what follows has a ton of mistakes, so any feedback is welcome! Also, I'd love to hear how other solo or small group players are planning on using a Citadel.

Two ways a solo player can use a Citadel

The two uses I have in mind involve Citadels in HS and C1-C3 WH space. I am not going to theorize about using Citadels in LS/NS/C4-C6 WHs simply because of capital ships and the groups who use them! With Citadels being so new, of course everyone wants to destroy them, and any Citadel in any region is going to attract a lot of attention. Every Titan pilot in EVE is just itching for a reason to try out the new DDs and so on. However, there may come a time when a solo player or small group can get away with building a Citadel in such space. Once Citadels are "old news" (like POSes are now), they may simply be too much of a hassle, and too boring of a killmail, to destroy. That's not going to happen until 2017 or latter, though. So what follows are the two ways I plan on using Citadels as a solo player in the coming months.

An Astrahus (M) Citadel in C1-C3 space: Solo players have small groups have a fairly easy time living in C1-C3 wormholes. The logistics for a POS isn't too bad, and the hassle of evicting you is often reason enough for large groups to ignore you. A M Citadel in such a wormhole does not have to worry about capitals (unless, of course, they are built in-system) and the logistics is far easier than a POS. In fact, if you forego service modules altogether, you don't even need to fuel the Citadel. Why forego services modules? Well, if you are running a M, you won't be able to use the market. If you aren't mining, you don't need the reprocessing ability (or, you can export minerals to k-space). That leaves, for now, cloning. Clone services in wormholes is going to be one of the best quality of life improvements for WH dwellers in years, as it allows the ability to swap clones (to go from your slave set to +5s or an empty clone for when you want to roam null for instance). However, for the solo or small group, it is not very necessary. Just having clone services will consume a fairly irrelevant amount of fuel, though, but the clone center itself is going to be quite pricey. The upshot, though, is that you can have a fully active and functional Citadel (albeit without services) that does not require any fuel. That by itself is a reason to use Citadels instead of POSes in wormholes, especially for small groups that do not have time for the logistics involved in POS management. Putting a Citadel up (and taking it down) is very convenient, and the 24-hour timer is brief enough to sneak one up without groups noticing, especially if you find an empty wormhole.

There are disadvantages, however. The M Citadel, especially without services, is simply fairly useless right now, and a giant target. In a wormhole, there's no asset safety, so everything will either be destroyed or dropped if the Citadel falls. CCP will eventually add more services to Citadels, but currently they are either useful as a market hub, or simply as a staging and storage location.

In the next week or so I will be putting up a M Citadel in an empty(?) wormhole. I'll be writing some posts about how it goes but I do hope I get attacked eventually. I will be disappointed if 1-2 months go by and no one has attacked it, but if that happens I'll just move it to somewhere more visible and name it "Vote Trump"!

A Fortizar (L) Citadel in HS: While the L class of Citadels will not be on the market for a few more days, and not reasonably priced probably for a good few weeks into May if not June-July, they should eventually come down in price to sub-10b isk. With significantly better fitting and defenses than a M, the L class should be fairly hard to remove from HS. And, once there's a lot of them, the inconvenience might be their best protection. My plan is the same as many players, some of whom are solo or in small corps (such as Delonewolf on Youtube who has been making videos about his plans for using a L Citadel in HS for a while). Build a L Citadel in HS, set up public market and reprocessing services, put a low tax rate, and see if you get any business. It probably won't be until summer that I'm able to do this though, at which point I will post more about it.

Fitting, Defending, and Attacking a M Citadel (besides just nuking it with caps)

Since I'll be putting up a Medium class first, I've tested fittings and services on SiSi to get an idea of what to expect. This is my first pass at fitting a M Citadel. I am sure I am making a ton of mistakes, but at this stage Citadels (and capitals) are really an unknown. I will definitely improve on this as I learn more.

Here is an example fitting for the M Citadel I've tested a lot on SiSi.  M Citadels simply do not have a lot of fitting options. First off, the missiles. ASML missiles come in three sizes L, M S. The large sub-cap missiles do omni damage with an explosion radius and velocity similar to torpedoes. With a max velocity of 8700 m/s and a range of over 1k, they can hit well past the Citadel targeting range.
 On this test fit I am using 2x ballistic controls and one guidance enhancer, along with a projection and a precision rig, with a base damage of 1.7k. That's highly deceptive unfortunately: These missiles will primarily be effective against battleships, but any signature sizes lower are going to reduce that DPS substantially. As a result, I think two webs or a web and a target painter are essential. The Citadel stasis web has a range of 250km and reduces target velocity by 70%--very nice! The M and S missiles sizes are much more useful than the high DPS large size. The M size applies comparable to heavy missiles, but with 2 webs or 1 web and a target painter than will apply well against most ships with a signature size of 100 or more, and makes fitting 3x ballistic controls more sensible. That leaves the small missiles, which go 10k m/s and apply well against frigates and destroyers.

That brings us to the other two high slots. The guided bomb launcher and point defense battery do not fit on the M class. Heavy energy neuts do, however, and they are at least as important as the webs. With a range of 100km and a neut power of 1.5k capacitor drained every 15s, two of them can drain a T2 logi dry in one cycle. With a neut projection rig, you can boost this range up to 145km. Having either ECM or Damps in the 4th mid slot is going to be important for combating enemy logi in particular, as fleet comps will likely be designed around keeping logi outside of the Citadel's neut range or simply repping through the slow neut cycles, and either a signal amplifier in the low or a scan res rig is going to be important for boosting the Citadel's terrible scan res.

Now, the fighter bay. In my limited experience with light fighters thus far (I have even less experience with the support fighters), they feel strong against most sub-caps. Take 3 flights of tech 1 Firblogs on a Citadel as an example. Depending on your skills, their slowboat speed can be pretty bad. Their MWD ability boosts them to ridiculous speeds, easily as fast as interceptors. The blaster canon is their primary weapon, but it is the heavy rocket salvo ability that is particularly scary. They have a 10km range, 8 charges per fighter squad. With an explosive radius of 100m and velocity of 120m/s, and doing around 250 damage per fighter, if you have a target with a 70% web on it (or two, or one and a target painter) these salvos are going to be doing high damage against most ships (e.g., against a target with a sig of 50 the salvo was doing between 500-1k damage). Unfortunately, a simple question like "how much DPS can a M Citadel do against a target X?" does not have a simple answer, because of how much depends on the fittings, fighters, skills, and specific abilities you use--but that's part of the excitement of the new Citadels (and capital changes). Destroying a Citadel's fighters is likely going to be a strong strategy unless you have enough logi to tank the DPS.

Now that we have an idea of the potential defensive capabilities of a M Citadel (admittedly I may have missed a lot or made mistakes, sorry!), what will it take to destroy an actively defended one? A M Citadel has 7200 shield, armor, and hull, with 20% resists across the board, and as far as I know there is no way of improving these defenses. The M Citadel only has 3 hours of vulnerability per week. If you think about it, that narrow window is a massive form of defense in and of itself, but Citadels also have a damage limit. No more than 5k DPS can be done to a M.
So, in sum, you have 3 hours to do 7200 damage (before resists) but anything more than 5k DPS will be wasted. If you brought one ship with 1k DPS, before resists it would take 2 hours to put the Citadel into invulnerable (note that Citadels do not repair while being attacked, so besides resists there's no, say, passive regen you have to out-DPS as well). That's good news for solo players interested in destroying Citadels like myself, as it means if I find a poorly defended/fit Citadel, or one that is not actively defended during its vulnerability period, I can easily put it into reinforcement. A bomber with polarized launchers can get upwards of 1k DPS. A  Raven with polarized torps can get upwards of 1.5k DPS. A Talos with polarized blasters can get upwards of 1.7k DPS. And so on. Further, many players can bring an alt or two in "POS" bashing ships. Bring 3k DPS and the Citadel is goes into invulnerability in maybe an hour. Bring the max 5k DPS (easy for players with many alts or just a few friends, or a gang of 10-15 svipuls or bombers for instance) and it's maybe a half hour total. Put in that perspective, and Citadels with no one to defend them are extremely vulnerable. CCP has basically said, unlike POSes, if you aren't there to defend it, it's going to be really easy to lose.

But, we are interested in actively defended Citadels, which will absolutely shred through a POS bashing small gang of sub-caps. Unfortunately for the solo player like myself, I suspect it is going to be fairly easy to destroy a M Citadel in either HS or WH space for the dedicated group (again I am not considering LS/NS or C4-C6 wormholes here where capitals make destroying a M Citadel even easier). The hardest part might simply be the inconvenience of the once a week 3-hour timer!

Just focusing on a solo player defending a M Citadel, one of the best ways to kill an Astrahus with sub-capitals is going to be by bringing a T3 fleet, T2 logistics, and skirmish links for reducing signature radius. The L size missiles won't apply, the S won't do enough damage, but the M size still might not apply well enough and not do enough damage. However, how many will be needed to have minimal or zero losses? I really don't know, partly because I simply don't know how well fighters work. I would guess, though, that a gang of 3-5 logi and 10 T3s could destroy a M Citadel with no losses (at this point I am largely guessing of course). 2 neuts and one ECM would probably not be enough to disrupt the logi enough to burn through the high resists and low sig of such a fleet, and meanwhile the T3s melt fighter squads before the salvo DPS can take out a log or T3. Keep in mind that there's no overheating on Citadel modules currently, leaving them with limited burst outside of fighter abilities.

It is also likely that a large enough T3D fleet with afterburners and T2 frigate logistics could work well against the medium Citadels, particularly because they would be able to destroy fighter squads very quickly and sig tank the DPS of the Citadel. Plus, the heavy neuts have such a low cycle time that the logi could simply cap boost up after getting drained and be fine for the next 15 seconds, making the neuting power of the M Citadel largely useless. My feeling at this (hypothetical) stage is that the defenses of the M Citadel are best against a small group of battleships with only a few (or zero) logi, but that's also one of the least likely compositions that is going to attack it.

The first M Citadels come out of reinforcement in around 8-12 hours. When will the first be destroyed? How many will be up by next weekend? When will the first L go up? The first XL? There's a ton of "firsts" and big questions to look forward to, even for players who won't personally use or own one. But I hope what I've written here is some evidence is favor of using a Citadel as a solo or small group player, even if it is only a matter of time before you lose it!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reaching 80 Billion in Loot from Offline Starbases (but nearing the end of the project?)

Way back in the summer of 2014, I stumbled across an offline POS in high security space and wanted to see what would happen if I tried to blow it up. What started as a test of science became a regular part of my routine of casual EVE time, along side doing occasional exploration in high security space and working toward my goal of visiting every system in game. My skills for scanning POSes have improved to the point where I can scan a region in a short afternoon.

Granted, I didn't find any tech 2 BPOs, such as this player did. With one offline POS that player likely made over 150b isk, but this is potentially a drop so rare that it will never occur again. (I mean, who would store tech 2 BPOs in a POS?)

Though I haven't quite gotten so lucky, I have reached around 80b in loot dropped--in assorted BPCs and BPOs, ships, materials, and ore. It has been a fun--and profitable--weekend activity over the past 1-2 years. I used most of the funds from this activity to donate to the last Plex for Good campaign, and the rest I've simply re-invested back into market trading or bought ships to explode in solo PVP.

Here's some screenshots of the various loot piƱatas. Part of the fun is in seeing what drops:

But in two days a massive change hits EVE, Citadels. Citadels do not replace dedicated manufacturing and research POSes, so it is likely we will see M&E POSes remain at least until the the next expansion (or so far as Fanfest suggests, fall and winter of 2016) when more new structures are released to cover such roles. Medium Citadels are also a few hundred million isk more expensive than a small staging POS that might be used in C1-C3 wormholes or for storage in systems without station, meaning we will likely see small and medium POSes still used as convenient staging platforms.

Based on the records I've kept, I estimate there are around 1.5k-2k active POSes in high security space currently. Around 500-1000 of them do not have any research or assembly arrays, I estimate (but only reprocessing arrays and maybe a single hangar). Finding an inactive POS in HS with labs or assembly arrays is roughly 1/40 systems per week, or one per HS region per week. When Citadels are released, some of these POSes will be removed in favor of the more convinent or at least newer option.

Well what about Citadels in HS? How vulnerable will they be? We already know how vulnerable Citadels in LS and NS will be: in LS, you will likely attract the attention of groups like Shadow Cartel etc., who will form overwhelming numbers of dreads to kill your Citadel. In null, the same thing, but different groups. Can a solo or small gang Citadel survive in LS or NS? I don't think so (but I'm happy to be proven wrong). So that leaves HS and wormholes.

How can the solo player use--or destroy--Citadels? Is there any possible way? That's what I am going to be testing in the upcoming months. And maybe my POS destruction side-project will transition into a new and much more interesting project involving Citadels.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Joining the Hype in Tribute

Today was a near perfect storm of conditions that in some ways officially starts the war against the Imperium. Out of game, many players have re-subbed to join in the war, and some are on spring break with the time to play during both of the EU-US timezones. A few timers in M-OEE8 came active at 20:00, a system that is symbolic for the Imperium as the gateway into the North and very close to Jita.

At peak, J-GAMP hit over 3,500 in local, but with the way the new Aegis sov works many other hundreds of players were fighting in other systems in the constellation at the same time. I watched many small gangs fight over command nodes spread out in the constellation, a very interesting mechanic Aegis brings from my perspective as a more solo/small gang PVPer.

M-OEE8 was at around 900 at the same time J-GAMP peaked over 3k, which is when I jumped into the largest fight of the day. Just as I was to jump in, one of the Imperium fleet trying to join their allies got bombed on the gate, losing something like 20-30b isk in Hurricane's, HFIs, and Slepnirs. 

I joined the fight just as a third party, while also watching a live stream of the fight on twitch. I really lucked out with my timing--just as I jumped into J-GAMP the Imperium Mach fleet was 30k away getting pummeled. I got a bomb off just as PL. bombed and ended up doing over 50k in damage with one run and contributing to over 10b isk in ship destruction, including a Nestor kill which I believe is my first time on a Nestor mail. That's cool for me since I am still learning the ropes of bombing, and typically try to join these firsts as a solo party only to die horribly to a gate camp on the way there. Later in between work I did some solo PVP in the area in an interceptor, getting a few good fights against stragglers and people trying to loot the field. You do not have to join a corporation involved in the wars to actually get involved in these huge battles. Especially if you can fly a bomber, you can potentially contribute to these huge fights. Or at least get on kill mails if that is the sort of thing you care about. My total from the fight got a bit long!

Will the hype continue? It is really hard to say. I am personally very excited about the war and think it could do wonders for the health of the game, maybe even more long-term good than the epic B-R did. I don't have much interest in the political side of the game. I suppose my ideal scenario of the war would be to see the breakup of large coalitions, and in its place to see the North become much more comparable to the "thunderdome" that is the South, with dozens of largely independent corporations fighting one another. The North in EVE has simply lacked interesting PVP content in literally years due to the massive amount of blues and PVP stagnation in this region, and seeing it have more activity and local conflict would probably benefit everyone.

I mostly just hope that EVE will get a ton of PR from these fights which leads to an influx of new and lasting players. But I am curious to know how a few aspects of this war play out:

  • How long will the fighting last? (Particularly relevant given that fanfest and Citadels--along with the entire capital/supercap rebalance--comes in just a month.)
  • Will the "Allied" forces make it to Deklein?
  • If the Imperium is fully evicted, how will they manage the retreat to low security or NPC null, and will large coalitions continue to exist after this war?
  • Will any more entities within the Imperium defect or go it alone?
  • Will we see a fight breaking 3,500 players or will this first battle end up as the largest?
  • Will a large supercap fight happen?
There's definitely a lot to be hyped about. The next month is going to be interesting, to say the least.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How Do Alliances Die?

This piece has two tentative theses about large group dynamics in EVE:

1. In most cases, alliances do not die to war, propaganda, or loss of space, but to inability to survive stagnation in the game.

2. In most cases, alliances that manage to live through war, losses, propaganda, and so on, are those who have learned how to manage membership activity during periods of low content--like the summer of 2015, which arguably claimed more major alliances than almost any other period/war/event in the game's history.

Let's take 2015 as an example and consider some of the major groups that largely died during this period.

Nulli Secunda was a surprising loss, considering their role in most major wars in the prior few years. In Nulli's case, "The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now.” In the low activity summer of 2015 Nulli was getting less than 2k kills a month—less than what many small gang PVP corps were getting. Ship losses, too, were substantially down. Players were simply not logging into game. Gentlemen's Club likewise closed its doors partly due to inactivity as well: “More specific to GCLUB, I am seeing a steady drop in fleet participation, and have been getting an escalating number of complaints/concerns about morale, culture, atmosphere, and enjoyment levels.”

Reports of the death of Black Legion also cite boredom and burnout after taking sovereignty: "so too were our members starting to get restless, when CCP finally hosted their new sov party, and no-one came." Many other alliances died during the summer stagnation. Black Legion's stagnation was rather surprising, given that other groups with arguably similar playstyles managed to survive or even thrive during the most recent periods of low-content. Yes, Black Legion's trademark pre-Phoebe playstyle of using the massively flexible jump range of capital fleets to third party fights across New Eden was substantially nerfed. Many other alliances died during the summer stagnation. Yet, Black Legion's stagnation was not guaranteed, given that other groups with arguably similar playstyles managed to survive or even thrive during the most recent periods of low content, groups like PL and low security powerhouses like Shadow Cartel. In terms of ship kills, ship losses, as well as leave/join rates as tracked by sites like EVE Who, 2015 was probably Shadow Cartel's most active year in game.

Take a further, much different case that illustrates how alliances do, and do not, die. EVE University is now 12 years old. This is a group that trains newer players in all areas of space that has been under near constant war dec during that entire 12 year period. If ship losses killled alliances EVE University should have died a decade ago. Yet what E Uni is probably the best in game at is teaching players how to avoid and cope with groups who want nothing else than to farm them. They even recently turned their wars into interesting content, amassing large enough fleets to destroy the POCOs of some major high sec war dec groups. EVE Uni is a group that knows how to survive stagnation and a group that knows how to create content, even against groups who want to simply farm them, and that is part of why it is done so well over the past decade plus.

For another recent case, TEST alliance is currently waging a concerted propaganda war against the CFC/Imperium on reddit (that's my favorite of the many, many TEST posts currently). Very much like during the recent large-scale harassment of SMA space by a variety of smaller groups, the propaganda this time around also often paints itself as a war to destroy the alliance.

Propaganda wars usually help both sides (even if they cause some members to switch respective sides, or move to a neutral 3rd party). Getting pings to log in to defend another POS or Sov timer against a fairly no-name group that likely will not form up is boring. Getting pings to participate in fights against some of the most storied alliances in the game's history, with battlereports filling the front page of r/eve and fights being streamed live on twitch--now that's something to log in (or re-sub) for, even if you are on the "losing" or "hated" side. Alliances are often fluid groups. Some players stay with their friends in the same alliance for as long as they play the game, whereas many others come and go--especially some famous fleet commanders who are known more for their charismaand skill no matter who they lead. It is thus hard to say whether wars in EVE even have losers. In EVE, wars are almost always win-win.

The lesson of this history in EVE--if there is really one worth drawing--is that you don't kill groups by PVPing them. Fighting them, even taking their space or their moons, generally gets their membership to log in--it's content, even if you are on the side losing more space pixels or reddit up votes. It is still, in the end, just a game, and the possibility of ship or sov loss is still a reason to log in and play.

There's also, I suppose, a lesson here about how to kill an alliance or any other group in EVE. You could, on one hand, wait for stagnation to kill them, and try to outlast them. Maybe the summer of 2016 will kill as many groups as the summer of 2015, or maybe the current trend of activity will continue into 2017 (I hope it does). Of course, this tactic very much makes the game a "last group standing," and since it is just a game, there's not much bragging rights in being among the very last people still playing.

So, that leaves another method: denying content. Denying content is very hard to do if you have something that needs defending, such as sovereignty or POSes/Citadels. (This is partly why groups like Pandemic Legion are so impossible to "kill," they simply rarely have attackable assets like sovereignty or ratters/miners that need protection.) But, systematically denying a group content is one way to stagnate (or poach) its membership. If no one fights a group, if no one goes to their space to play or forms fleets to counter their roaming gangs, the game can become very boring for many of its members, especially those like its fleet commanders who play to organize such content. The one and only maxim of FCing is don't be boring for a reason. I would say the current wars in the North are good for the game, and good for all sides. But if you really wanted to kill the groups in the North (and I deeply suspect many of the players leading the "invasion" do not actually want their CFC/Imperium friends to literally stop playing the game), you'd pretend they don't exist, denying any sort of fun or content to such groups, while poaching their membership and leadership with the offer of fun content.
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at:"
The consistent burnout of important people has been a problem for a while now - See more at: