Friday, 31 October 2008


We've mentioned before that we might do this, but now it's a definite:

The Hellcats Pin-Up Calendar is in the works, and with any luck should be available in time for Christmas!

I'm really looking forward to working on this, since it'll be a huge challenge, and hopefully will be a lot of fun ^_^

See ya in space, cowboys.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Wanted Woman

Chu took me out to a restaurant the other night. It was very nice, and we went with friends of his who aren't pilots in any sense of the word. It was in highsec, and the only reason I was able to get there was that Chu retrieved me from Vitrauze in his own ship, then used his reputation to convince Concord he wasn't carrying anything illegal.

I am illegal.

It's funny, when you go planetside, especially in the highsec systems. When you walk among the people, as Colonel Wieler does, without a sign that you are anything other than another planetbound soul, looking up at the stars with eyes bedazzled with the romance the holos project. They treat you as they would any other total stranger, shoulder you aside, bump into you if you're in the way, curse and swear and smile and sometimes bow (hey, perks of being female: not every man has lost his sense of chivalry). It only changes if they catch a glimpse of the implants in the base of your skull, the telltale signs that you have access to higher tech than any of them could ever dream of: their eyes go wide, their breath catches, their joints lock up and they go rigid as a cadet before a drill major, eager to please and impress, with dreams of telling all their friends how they met a real pod-pilot today barely hidden behind the glazed smiles.

I have a bounty on my head which currently stands at four million, five hundred thousand ISK. I'm worth a lot, dead. My previous bounty had scaled as high as twenty-five million. It's figures like that which boggle the non-pilots, the non-capsuleers. They don't know how to deal with figures like that. And it's a good thing that those of us with prices on our heads aren't required to wear a sign of our crimes when we leave the security of our capsules.

How would an earthbound person treat me, or any other outlaw, if they knew how many people had died at our hands, our turrets and launchers blazing fire, the hot breath of the star-faring dragons which become our bodies when we brave the cold of space? I've killed millions of workers and crewmen in the last fourteen months of my career.

They warn you of this, in the academy. Perhaps it's different in the other trade schools, where you're not expected to undock and fight. But our instructors were very insistant on making us realise that what we targeted was not purely a piece of metal and wires slotted together like the world's biggest puzzle; that there were people on board, and that we should be aware of how many could potentially be dying horribly every time we laid the coup de grace upon another challenger. They make you memorise the average crew numbers for every ship you could possibly encounter, and warn you that the destruction of too many lives without just cause will stain you forever.

I give the same talks to every man and woman who signs on to crew one of my ships. I tell them, if they have a problem with this, that they should find a different captain. My command staff I stay in touch with, since they are closer to the crew than I am; with what I do, I will drag no one unwillingly down with me.

Wrapped in a crimson Intaki robe, seated at a low table and sharing plum wine and pleasant conversation with people who know me only as the companion to their friend, causes me to wonder if our reputations only travel as far as the atmosphere, or if one day, that which does me in will be not a glorious burst of golden fire, a fleeting echo of the stars among which it will happen, but a humble knife to the throat.

We dragon-tamers are so very fragile without our beasts.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Eve Life Meets Real Life

So I was in the local games shop today, and got talking with a friend I don't see very often. He's just recently broke his WoW addiction and gone on to Warhammer. I was attempting to lure him towards Eve (we have cookies!), and a random guy nearby said, 'Who's the Eve geek over here?' So, yeah, I said, 'Me,' and waited for him to say more, maybe mention what he does or some such. He was clearly waiting for me to do the same, because he said something about people saying who they fly with and what alliance they support and other people going either 'Urgh!' or 'Yay!' I suggested that I'm relatively neutral and that I'm in the Hellcats, and he responds, 'Yeah, I've heard of them.'

And then he edged away rather quickly...

A Walk on the Carebear Side

So I decided to give my alt a little love the other day.

My alt, as most pirates' alts tend to be, is my hauler, my highsec roamer, my shopper and my mission-runner for when I just want something easy to kill a little time that isn't Second Life (because Firefly RP is just as time-consuming as piracy). It's a kind of roleplay, when I interact with people through her, because in my effort to keep her as separate from Shae Tiann as possible, I've had to come up with other reasons why my alt may be found wandering seemingly fearlessly through lowsec in unstabbed haulers full of t2 ships (I did nearly lose it once - the unexpected mega who landed on the gate just as my alt jumped in wasn't running his sensor-booster).

I have her based quite a few systems out of our base area, a couple jumps from a market hub, close enough to make shopping easy, far enough to avoid lag and Local spammers, and lately, since she's been in Shae's gear-staging system, I've been neglecting her. I forgot she had a mission on the Log to run, and her agent got a bit huffy when she failed respond, then I forgot to set a long skill running and she went 12 hours without a skill plugged into her head.

)0.0( oh noes!

So when nothing was going on down in lowsec and I didn't feel like roaming, I sent my alt back to her base to visit her agent. He had an incident report on his desk, and wanted her to go take care of it. Get those bloody Serpentis off that stargate!

Yes, it was The Blockade, level 3. NOT the easiest of missions, nor the fastest, and I wish I'd been more alert when I'd accepted it, because it ran twice as long as I'd been looking for in a mission that evening.

My alt runs missions in Hurricane with a standard pvp-style armour/resist tank, pve-quality mids setup, and ammo/drones selected for the targets' weaknesses. I have a sensor-booster fitted to make locking and hitting small/fast stuff easier, and it's prompted more than one accusation of being a gate suicider from people who clearly don't see boosters as anything more than a pvp tool. It works, it tanks like a bitch for most missions - it's actually overkill most of the time, but I'm lazy and just want to kill some time, with minimal effort.

So, yeah. The Blockade. The level three version chucks NPC battlecruisers at you like their market value has dropped and the owners want to cash in on their investment before it's worthless. They're incredibly squishy - the Guardian cruisers take more time to pop - and I was tanking up to fifteeen of them together toward the end. I kept running out of ammo, it took nearly three hours, and at one point I commented to a friend, 'No wonder the carebears-cum-faction militia whined, if they're used to mopping the floor with rats like this.'

Anyone who's ever gone head-to-head with another player can tell you that pve!=pvp. There's no comparison - players fight hard, they improve themselves, they work together, they know when it's time to run. Players use drones, one of the biggest differences I've noticed between missions/ratting and pvp. Players swap out ammo types, overheat modules, optimise ship fits and try unexpected combinations (a passive-shieldtanked artillery myrm? surely not! ...But I've seen it). NPCs...? Fail. They really, really do, and personally I think they ought to be a lot harder. They're predictable. They're slow. They don't switch primaries, they don't go back to shooting your drones except in rare cases, their dps output is predictable, they go to a certain preset range from you and they stay there. If you can't beat one, you can go back to your base, refit or grab a more appropriate ship, return and pwn the bastard, because it ain't going anywhere.

There's virtually no challenge - admitting to losing your ship to rats is like admitting you got mugged by an 8-year-old in a Frankenstein Monster costume. There's hardly any strategy to it, apart from don't kill the trigger rat first. I'm not even serious about the pve aspects of Eve because it's essentially the same for every mission. The miners/industrialists get the more interesting stuff - yes, I had an indie alt for a bit, I got a cool mission where I had to buy items and make stuff, and I liked it because it wasn't, 'Go there, shoot that,' or, 'Take Xitem from Apoint to Bpoint'. PvE isn't a challenge once you learn the tricks, and that takes... what? A month or so? If you can practically solo a Level 4 with your eyes shut, something's wrong. The system is so totally broken now becuase the missions may have been tough back when cruisers were the biggest ship in the game, but that's no longer the case.

I'm not certain if the mission difficulty has been boosted in the past, but it could use a little steroid injection. PvE players really should have to work harder for their rewards: tanking fifteen battlecruiser rats should not be resolved by the expedient of flying (very, very large) circles around them. It shouldn't be embarrassing to lose a ship to an NPC, mission-running shouldn't be an easy route toward ISK and standings, and it couldn't hurt to give the missions a little more variety so we're not all bored sick and falling asleep in front of our keyboards.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Hellcats Office Tack-Board: Roamin' with The Bastards

Mynxee's been decorating the corp office in Vitrauze, and since I enjoy taking photos, I thought I'd hang up a tack-board to display a few of the better ones. This week's display: Cruiser-Roam With The Bastards.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

One for two

*This is a long one, and in-character. Enjoy!*

"I am the harbinger of hope! I am the sword of the righteous. And to all who hear my words..."
I shook my head at the display. Until I'd caught Pegleg Punk's commentary on the coronation of Jamyl Sarum, I'd not bothered to look at the broadcast recording. Perhaps I ought to pay more attention - the Amarr are a serious power in New Eden, no matter how much I may disapprove of their methods, with a very long history and deep-set traditions... but how much of that elitist tradition will remain, if they can accept a cloned royal on the throne? Rumour will not be contained so easily.

Seriously poor choice of words, there, for a diplomat, I thought. 'Harbinger' is a dire word to use; it's never, ever applied in relation to good things.

The contrived pomp on the monitor irritated me on some base level I couldn't explain, and I switched it off. Like the attacks earlier this year, the display of force was barely larger than that fielded by many of the capsuleer combined alliances. Idly, I mused that if the capsule pilot community cared enough and could put aside their differences, we could totally stage a coup over control of the skies.


Comms buzzed; it was Mynxee. 'Hey, girl! You up for a roam with me and Niss? Chesh might be coming, too.'

Oooh. The sheer silliness of the other night had put me in the mood to laugh in the face of death. 'What sort of ships we flying?'

'Ghetto gang. Cheap stuff.'

'I'll get Spice.'

I hadn't flown this particular Thorax yet; my contracted hauler had only just brought her in from highsec, along with a spare 10MN microwarp drive for Sugar, which I hadn't yet got around to refitting after our last outing. She'd left a note taped to the side of the replacement module which read simply, 'LOL, n00b!'. Spice was fitted with a tracking disruptor in place of a stasis webber, with a full rack of ECM vespa drones in the bay. Arriving at the docking bay, I checked the Local channels while the crew warmed up the cruiser for me. Where the hell did all these people come from? A swarm of random neutrals with no obvious affiliations were out in space; logged into the station docks was a pair of women I'd ID'ed as a capital pilot and her hired cyno operator.

Mynxee checked the undock and reported it clear as I settled into my pod and stirred the cruiser from her slumber. Dropping into space below the station, I debated a dive to one of my instant-warp points or a direct hop to the gate. Just as I hit warp, the cap pilot decided to emerge in her Thanatos carrier. A prod at the directional scanner showed several freighters out in space, and I guessed there must be some sort of operation going regarding a pilot-owned station (in conference with a local acquaintance later, I learned that my assessment was indeed correct, and it was his corp's POS that got shot down to armour that evening).

Aeschee, next door, was as full of docked-up Dead Parrot Shoppe boys as ever; flying through there is like wandering into an empty cave wondering if the bear's still in residence. We met up with Nisstyree and Cheshirepus in Vitrauze, Niss in a heavy assault cruiser, Chesh in a Hound stealth bomber and having severe comms issues. He finally managed to rig something useable out of a set of normal earphones, which was so typical of Minmatar construction that I had to laugh.

'Hey, I thought this was a ghetto-ship run, Niss, what the hell?'

He just laughed: Ishtar is his baby.

We set out, following Mynxee's lead and poking around for targets as we went. The systems this end of Gallente space were echoingly empty.

Mynxee spoke over the comms, laughter bubbling under her voice. 'Set course for Amamake.'



(random, barely audible exclamation from Chesh)

'What, you didn't think we'd be going home in ships, did you? C'mon!'

Amamake it was. After a quick conference with my command crew - all of whom seemed game - I decided it was time to throw caution to the solar winds and see what happened.

We rattled around the pipeline for a bit, myself trailing a few seconds behind the others, and at one point I noticed someone tailing us, a lone pilot in an unknown ship. I called it in and we regrouped on the gate in Saidusairos to see if he'd bite.

In hindsight, one of us - ideally Chesh in his cloaking bomber - should have stayed behind in Gratesier to see what was coming; at the very least, I should have done a better job scanning. And we definitely shouldn't have engaged on the gate a pilot with not-quite-outlaw standings with Concord: Mynxee and I were in the same corp, but Niss and Chesh would be on their own.

Not the most well-thought-out of plans. This is why I should never be put in charge of a fleet. And we paid for it when the Deimos-class heavy assault cruiser jumped in, reapproached the gate and primaried me. Niss got sentry-fire and had to run, leaving his drones behind. Mynxee took sentries well after Nemeron opened fire on me, which just does not compute, and we all expressed interest in knowing why it's not permitted to defend one's alliance- and gang-mates if they are not in the same corporation. My vespas got a couple good jams on him before he loosed his drones on me; when I saw which way it was going, and that I'd not be able to deagress and jump in time, I ordered the crew to their escape pods, pulled the drones back and four of them perished with my poor Thorax.

We didn't care; the fight had me grinning from the sheer madness of it, so broadly that my face hurt. Creased from laughter, we exchanged cheerful pleasantries with Nemeron as the others safed up in the system and I headed back to Vitrauze for Sugar and a fresh crew. My replacement Thorax was still lacking that MWD, requiring a quick run back to Ladistier, where Local was still abuzz. On the return trip, I passed Nemeron, still in his Deimos, who promptly turned and followed me into Gratesier again! Ready for another go, we set up for a belt-bait in Saidusairos, but after a few minutes of waiting, we decided the Deimos pilot had simply been rattling my chain a little more, and we headed on. Niss needed drones, his own flight having been scooped along with my loot by Nemeron. We set a detour for Kourmonen for a quick shopping-trip, but Chesh had to go home to attend to more important things than goofing around terrorising total strangers.

A few systems down the pipe, we caught a query from the Hellcats open channel.

''Sup babe. You guys out hunting?' It was Jaxxon Voers, debating which ship to warm up.

'We're on a roam in hell,' Mynxee responded - leave it to her to sum it up so encouragingly!

Lord Mathar broke in, asking, 'Hell? Gallente nullsec?'

'Kourmonen headed for Amamake.'

'Hmm, I will meet ya in Amamake, that's real close to me,' Jaxx responded, prompting Mathar to drool over the prospect of killing our neutral associate. We dropped Jaxx the fleet comms information and he got on with prepping his Helios covert ops.

Of course the reason Kour was such a good place for shopping was due to the high level of militia warfare raging through that system! That entire region of Minmatar space is currently under heavy contest from the Amarr, and the system teemed with fleets. It set my nullsec-ingrained paranoia to high-alert, being in a system that cluttered with people itching for a scrap. The only reliefs were the lack of warp-scram bubbles and the locals' attention focussed primarily on each other - four random pirates were a minor concern, though that didn't stop a large portion of the station-camp from pursuing Niss on his way out.

Too many people around for us to nobble a straggler quiet-like. We headed through into the quieter system of Auga.

It's runs like this that, rather than the adrenalin-overdose shakes, give me a buzzed high of near-invincibility. It doesn't matter if I lose ships or never catch anything. It's the rush of beating odds, slipping through nets and dodging potshots. I'm a tiny thing, if you meet me face to face. But let me strap that rocket to my back and it's like letting loose a deranged demigoddess.

Auga was ripe, and we settled in to do a little hit-and-run hunting whilst waiting for Jaxx. I picked up an Ishkur assault frigate in the direction of a Minmatar-faction complex beacon, we warped to the acceleration gate and Mynxee dropped in to see if he was there.

'He's here! Hurry up!'

That damn gate couldn't activate fast enough - Ishkur vs Rifter is far from an even fight. Between the two of us, we gave Kaifen something to think about, though Mynxee had to warp out and beg a remote-repair from Niss, who... hell, I dunno where he'd been during all that, but he was around somewhere (edit: Niss says the acceleration gate wasn't configured for his ship, which makes sense, since the faction pilots who took offense to our intrusion were piloting frigates).

While we waited out our aggression timers, a guy I remembered from Atrocitas hailed me in the Local channel. We chatted for a bit, catching up, and Mynxee commented in fleet comms, 'Shae knows people everywhere!' - Which isn't true, really, I just remember people I see frequently. The faction militiae moved in and the system began to heat up, so we moved on into Amamake

Now that's irony.

And for ten minutes of poking about and scanning, nothing happened. There were camps on the stations, camps on most of the gates, and everything was incredibly, eerily quiet. There was nothing manageable that we could consider popping without having a fleet drop on our heads. We decamped to Dal.

Which was hopping. We found a convenient safe and sat for a bit, letting Jaxx warm up the prober. Seeing the probe on scans initially nearly gave me a heart attack, till I noticed its icon floating a few kilometres away on my overview. Then the excitement started.

'Jaxx...' I asked, 'How many of those Spook probes are supposed to be out here?'

'I've only dropped one.'

''Cause I've got two on the directional.'

Someone was onto us. I made a couple more safe spots while we debated what we wanted to do, then returned to where Mynxee and Niss were sitting. Niss, the sneaky bastard, had a cloak fitted on his Ishtar, and was sitting a ways away from myself and Mynxee.

'Jaxx? What kind of probe have you used this time?'

'It's just the Spook, why?'

'I'm seeing a Spook and a Snoop on the scanner.'

Niss piped up. 'If that's there, they're really close to finding you guys.'

Time to play chicken. Mynxee and I aligned to different things in space, and I started refreshing my scanner like a mail junkie refreshes their inbox.

Broadsword on scan!

'Broadsword!' Niss yelled, just as the heavy interdictor appeared on our overview. Mynxee and I punched the warp commands and zipped off in different directions.

'I bet that drove them nuts the way you guys bugged out like that!' Niss chuckled. Unfortunately, my warp dropped me onto a planet, and the hictor was coming in hot behind me. As soon as I landed, I was grabbing a safe point from my database as my next destination. My armoured cruiser was distressingly slow to realign, and by the time I'd coaxed it back around, there was a Broadsword sitting on my head.

Come on, come on, comeoncomeoncomeon... Warp!

I couldn't honestly say what must have been going through the Broadsword pilot's head at the narrow escapes... I didn't even stop to catch the guy's name. A member of my command staff prodded comms for my attention, then called me a psychotic, suicidal nutjob and informed me I'd just taken ten years off every crewman's life with my antics.

'Mate, if you wanted safe and unexciting, you'd've stuck manning haulers.'

I was jazzed from how close I'd come to being caught. This was what I'd come out here for, why I'd started down the combat route to begin with. If I'd been sitting in a chair, I'd have been virtually bouncing with glee; as it was, I'm fairly certain I was giggling madly.

But I was feeling hunger start to gnaw in the pit of my stomach - the nutrients supplied in the pod provide everything a pilot needs, but they do nothing to quell the emptiness in your stomach when you've not had solid food for more than eight hours. I said as much to the others, and everyone seemed to be in the same situation. Making certain we were deeply hidden in the empty spaces between the planets, we shut our ships' systems down and offlined, each emerging dripping from our command capsules to tend to the needs of the flesh, after so long spent tending the needs of steel.

* * * *

'Shae? Hey, Shae?'

I glanced up from what I was working on. 'Heya Mynxee, what's up?' I poked the button under the little green light that indicated visual transmission and her proud Brutor features appeared on the monitor.

'I've decided I'd rather not drift in here much longer; wanna be in my own bed tonight.'

'Uh huh. You got a hot date you'd rather not keep waiting?' I grinned as she blushed and muttered something noncommittal.

'Aaaaaanyway... The guys are incommunicado, probably already asleep. I'm gonna banzai the route back to Vit.'

'Cool. Think I'll follow you.'

I unfolded myself from my chair, stretched, and made my way to the capsule bay. 'Commander Vexx, I'll be onlining shortly; we're heading home.'

'Understood. Passive sensors indicate the system's gone quiet in the last hour or so.'


Sugar rumbled to life in the blackness, external lights winking on like pale imitations of the far-distant stars, automated systems warping her back to the point she'd drifted away from since systems shutdown. Mynxee was already a couple systems out, reporting the way clear; I set course for Vitrauze and the warp drive flung my Thorax towards the gate.

In catching up with Mynxee, I spotted a familiar name in the Local channels, running at speed ahead of me.

'Hey, Letrange is in Ezzara.' Attempts to hail him locally went unnoticed, however - he was leaving systems as I was entering, and his path left ours shortly.

I caught up with Mynxee in Arzad and we headed for a system I shall call Tarara-Boom-Diay simply because it's more interesting than 'Tararan'. The pipe back down was quiet, very quiet. We were chatting about random stuff with other people who frequented the corp open channel when I hit the Mannar gate in Mormelot just before Mynxee.

'Oops!' I yelped as the system coalesced around me. 'Got an Astarte... Nighthawk... Myrmidon. On the gate,' I reported. The three ships had arrived at the gate just as I'd emerged, setting off my 'It's a trap!' alarms.

'I love this system,' Mynxee sighed. 'It's so pretty.'

I realised that her Rifter's systems were suffereng slowdown again - she'd been having issues with it lately, and clearly hadn't yet seen what was awaiting us.

'Yeah,' I agreed tightly. 'Pretty gatecamp.'

I'd emerged aligned with empty space, and those ships were fitted for small-ship capture, judging by the blue ripples of sensor-boosters ringing them. 'I'm screwed.' I felt a sort of dull resignation; there was no way in hell I could coax the microwarp drive to get the cruiser back to the gate in time to avoid destruction, and the nearest object I could align to was the next gate. I sent an alert to the crew to abandon the ship and get to safety. Then I set the warp coordinates for the next gate and closed my eyes.

They were on me in an instant, and spent less than a minute carving Sugar's hull down to the beams. As I watched the shields, then armour and structure disappear in puffs of smoke, I plugged warp coordinates in and began the warp attempt - I could do nothing whilst still anchored in the ship, but the capsule's computer would remember the instructions while I suffered that dangerous moment of vertigo every pilot gets upon the loss of their ship, as our perceptions through the electronics readjust and reset. I escaped the camp safely, received a notice from Commander Vexx that all crew were safe and accounted for, and vented a little of my frustration into the local at the three men who'd blown my ship up, so close and yet so far from home.

'Whee. Man, we just got out of fucking Amamake, too,' I complained, not really caring what the reaction might be.

Triksterism, the Astarte pilot, responded, 'Amamake is fun.' The man's name twinged at the back of my memory, but I couldn't place him. I simply asked where I knew him from, but he didn't know, either. It wasn't till much later that I found his name on the old Atrocitas killboards and realised he must have been one of the Syndicate locals while we had been mercenary.

The rest of the run back was uneventful, but I continued into Ladistier, since I had no ships docked in Vitrauze. Later that evening, I received notice that my crews had been picked up and were returning via InterBus; did I have ships for them to get to work on with my usual modifications?

'Not yet,' I sighed. 'Return to Lad, I'll see to obtaining replacements in the next few days. Until then, everyone's on paid leave. Go take a break.' I could use a break, myself, but when you live from others, cutting out the middleman, you can't afford - literally - to slack off.

The hot water from the shower only made me realise how exhausted I was, and I collapsed shortly thereafter into bed. It wouldn't be the last time.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

With friends like these...

I know a lot of people around Eve. The number probably barely scratches the surface of the player-base, but it's a fairly reasonable cross-section.

I still keep in touch with some of the people in Atrocitas, and a couple (not many) from Tygris, and a few from Universal Securities. I know in Real Life a guy in Ushra'Khan, a woman in Razor, a couple whose corp just joined KIA after a long struggle in Hydra, a former Veto guy, a guy in BoB, and several members of Under the Wings of Fury (thanks to sharing a flat with one and having a corp meetup in Holland earlier this year). Though them and the corps and alliances I've been with, I've met hundreds of people, some I've liked and stayed in contact with, some I've killed and remember fondly, and some I despised and would happily have slaughtered had we not been mutual blues.

Toward the end of my time in Tygris, Razor and Huzzah/Exqisite Malevolence/Tygris were mutually hostile, and I was relieved to have to take 3 weeks off when I went on holiday, because I didn't feel comfortable the raw vitriol of Tygris & Friends towards the encroachment - such is nullsec life, may I never deal with it again (it later became a party Red Alliance, Pandemic Legion and BoB invited themselves to). I'm in a channel with two guys who joined BoB 'just because', who only a few hours ago dove headfirst into M-O and H-W; there's a guy in another channel who is in Triumvirate and was commenting on the blobs.

I get to hear bits and snatches of all the excitement that goes on elsewhere. It's nice to get a feel for what happens in the virtual world around us and compare that to the constant changes that eventually show up on the maps; it's fun to hear different sides of the same story, in much the same way that comes through other Eve-bloggers' writing. The Eve universe is as small as the Real World, if not smaller - the former Veto member I know flew with UWoF about a year before I started playing.

Hmm, we should put together a Six Degrees of Separation for Eve, sometime! Maybe with an addition for famous events you experienced secondhand through being in convo with people at the time...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Moral dilemma

I found myself pretty much in control of Ladistier for most of this afternoon. It was seriously quiet, hardly anyone online, and I drifted randomly in my recon for lack of anything better to do while I worked semi-afk on a sig commission.

A change on the overview caught my eye; I watched as the second of two Gallente faction plexes popped open. The larger of these would admit my ship, so I checked Local. One pilot, looked like an alt, FW corp... in a vigil. She was in the smaller plex, and I found myself wracked with indecision.

Should I go wait within the larger deadspace for the unsuspecting frigate? Should I wait til I knew it was in the larger deadspace?

A scattered trickle of neutral pilots and isk farmers passed through the system whilst I debated my options. The vigil moved to the larger plex and the system went quiet again.

It was the proverbial sitting duck. I could wipe the poor thing out in an eyeblink, without breaking a sweat. Should I?

In the end, no faction-warfare vigil graces our killboards. I could not bring myself to go after it. I can tell most of you are facepalming just now in disbelief; Mynxee did when I told her. How could I have turned it DOWN? Easy target, next to no risk... WTF?!

There is a big difference, I feel, between having an advantage over your opponent and punching someone you've tied to a chair. Had I been in something frigate-sized, or a tech-1 cruiser, I wouldn't have felt nearly so conflicted. But a recon killing a frigate would have been akin to kicking a puppy, and I just... couldn't do it.

Anyone else ever hit that snag? Where do you draw the line between having the upper hand and holding all the cards?

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Since when did I have that much of a reputation?

Select: Advanced Weapon Upgrades Level 4
Option: Pause training
Confirmation Request: Are you sure you want to pause training this skill?
Response: Affirmative
Notify: Advanced Weapon Upgrades Level 4 - Training paused
Select: Jumpclone located in Vitrauze XI - Moon 2 - Federal Navy Academy School
Option: Clone jump

[16:47:31] EVE System > Channel changed to Vitrauze Local Channel
Select: Advanced Weapon Upgrades Level 4
Option: Resume training

[16:51:38] Avalon Stormborn > All calm here?
[16:52:29] WC Shillelagh > seems to be
[16:52:44] Avalon Stormborn > Aight, you got a pirate lurking, so you know
[16:52:57] WC Shillelagh > ah thnx
[16:52:59] Shae Tiann > who, me?
[16:53:03] Avalon Stormborn > Yeah
[16:53:07] Shae Tiann > I'm docked :p
He'd entered the system less than 30 seconds before querying the locals. I'm rather bemused he picked me out of the small crowd of clean-sec pilots that quickly.

...On the other hand, since I was the only one with 'WANTED' plastered over half my character portrait in big red letters, I can't have been easy to miss, either =P

When RL attacks

I've just received some news which, for me, is incredibly depressing.

Dunno how many of you know this, but I'm an American living in the UK. I've been here as a student for the last five years, and until a few minutes ago, I thought I would be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after the 27th of September (my 5-year anniversary).

What ILR means is, essentially, I'd get all the rights of a citizen to come and go as I willed from the UK, for the rest of my life.

Great thing, right? Unfortunately, I don't qualify for this.

See, I've been living here as a student, in the interests of finally obtaining qualifications of some sort which will allow me to actually get a job. In all the time I've been here, I've never been accepted even for the piddly part-time summer cafe-waitress jobs I've applied for (I have a long list of reasons why nobody will hire a 20-something foreigner with previous work experience, living under a student visa, but I'm not going to go into that here).

But living under a student visa gives me all the rights of, say, that moth you just swatted on your wool coat. Despite the last five years costing a shocking amount in tuition, bills, rent, food, clothing and yes, taxes (because the City Council will leech me for property tax and there's not much I can do about it) - none of which has come from external funding (there is no agency in the world that will pay for this sort of thing) - I get to be viewed as a virtual parasite on society, attempting to take a job away from some hard-working National.

What I get to look forward to now is paying for an extension on my student visa so I can finish this degree, then whoring myself out to the first company which will acquire a work visa for me, with the potential worst outcome of being a virtual slave for a further five years, unable to leave a horrible workplace without losing my right to live in the UK.

Well, no. The absolute worst outcome would be never getting a job at all and being kicked out of the UK, losing everything I have built for myself here. My life, my friends, my home. I've been at the mercy of a capricious and quixotic bureaucracy most of my adult life, and every time I seem to have gained a little victory over the system, it turns and swats me down again.

I dunno what else to say.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Looking back

I let loose with a string of obscenities, careful not to transmit them over comms, cursing out my fleet, my ceo, and the world in general. Depite my noobishness and utter lack of experience, Abbel Nightroad had spontaneously dropped Fleet Commander duties on my head and gone off to take care of his own stuff. I found myself now, barely more than two months out of the Academy, in a Tristan and in charge of a small and incredibly chaotic fleet, without a clue in the world how to deal with it.

We'd been hired to mess with Insurgency alliance's highsec operations, and I hadn't seen much action from it. Not knowing what else to do, and unable to foist FC off on anyone else, I had picked a gate in Vuorrassi on our targets' main trade route and sat us on it, with scouts in the nearby systems. It was boring, I had the shakes from being on a prolongued adrenalin high, and for maybe an hour, no targets passed through the system.

The guys knew I was inexperienced. Most were sympathetic and helpful, but a couple of the hotheads thought this meant they didn't have to listen. One went haring off after an outlaw who was doing a seat-of-his-pants flee through highsec in an interceptor; when I put my figurative foot down and bitched him out for his lack of professionalism, the opportunist left the fleet. Another got fed up and went roaming on his own in search of war-targets.

Eventually, the gatecamp paid off and we caught an enemy Bustard. I didn't even get on the killmail because my reflexes weren't so great and I'd been too far away for my scram - what in the name of Black Rise had I been thinking, fitting a shortrange scram? - to catch it. When I docked up for the night, I felt a mixture of embarrassment and frustration at my own ineffectiveness. Everyone who'd stayed for the camp told me I'd done well, we'd caught a transport due to my choice of camping-spot, after all, and a Buzzard covert-ops in the same system an hour later - though that had less to do with my direction and more to do with sheer luck on the side of the Hawk and Ares pilots who'd nobbled him. For my part, I knew my inexperience could easily have got someone else killed if Insurgency had decided to challenge us, and I resolved to shoot Abbel if he tried to leave that responsibility in my hands again before I could instinctively tell the difference between a hauler and a battlecruiser.

I've FC'd a few more times since then, but by that time Atrocitas had gone pirate and I was starting to get a feel for the kind of trouble a particular ship could dish out. It's not been quite a year since that first run as FC and I can still remember that sort of frustration-terror feeling that makes you want to pull at your hair, and the queer, sick tremors that run through you in waves as the adrenalin starts pumping and doesn't let up. Hell, I still get those shakes from time to time, usually when I'm going into a situation where I'm likely to die horribly.

You can't do stuff like this in Real Life. Those were hair-raising hours for me, but it still counts as one of my favourite memories from when we were doing the highsec merc thing, if only because it was my first real test and I learned a lot from the experience.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Save the Last Yarr

Someone brought up an interesting point in a conversation earlier: now that popping a ship incurs far greater penalties than before, Eve is likely to see a slow decline in the Weekend Warrior population. I remember when I started with Atrocitas; during our down-times between wardec contracts, people would pirate in the areas around Stacmon, since it was only a matter of a couple hours' ratting to bring ourselves back up to full operational status. Now? Casual pirates may not be so eager to engage frequently in a far more costly activity, or may turn anti-pirate in an attempt to get their pvp fix without risking nullsec or standings loss.

Is Eve destined for a greater division between casual pvpers and hardcore pirates? What do the rest of you think?

Half-brick in a sock

Ever since the last patch went through, Eve's had startup and graphics issues for me. Unexplainable ones, including weird colour settings, forgetting that I run in Windowed mode, and always have, and once everything going stark white and laggier than the worst fight I've ever been in.

I went to log in earlier this evening, and while I was attempting to re-set Eve to Windowed, it froze, locked the system up, and all I could do was hard-restart.

And for the last six, maybe eight hours (I lost track of when the problem occurred), Eve simply hasn't loaded. Not even a login screen, and nothing I've tried has made the damnedest bit of difference.

I hate reinstalling Eve. I think everyone does. You lose your settings; if you're REALLY unlucky like me, you sometimes lose bookmarks, channels, and more. At least, thanks to some freak of game-installation weirdness, all my captures and logs are safe, or as safe as they can be on the C drive (you know, the drive you wipe if you ever have to reinstall the os? yeah...)

The worst of it is having to reset your overview. It's a bitch. In fact, it's a bitch and a half. If the reinstallation process is like being mugged by a hoodie, resetting your overview is like being beaten with a half-brick tied up in a sock after you've peaceably handed over your wallet and mobile to the slimy skag. I don't know why overview settings aren't easier, or saved off in the system, or something... maybe this is the only way it can be done.

It would REALLY be nice if you could adjust your overview settings whilst docked, but instead you have to potentially put yourself and your hull at risk to fix the display so you can actually find things in space.

Other things you have to remember:
- Audio settings
- Graphics settings
- Turn auto-lock OFF, for fucksake; talk about a stupid function, if you're going into pvp
- Preferred colour-scheme (I use different ones for primary and secondary accounts so I don't mistake one for the other)
- Turn welcome pages off (really irritating, even if you're totally unfamiliar to things)
- Turn tutorials off (only annoying if you've gone through them already)

I didn't lose my bookmarks this time around, which is a relief. But I'm still fixing settings, and sitting in a safespot in a frigate, preparing to reprogram my overview.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The Life We Choose

I awake in stages, in and out, a little more aware each time, until my surroundings begin to register. The softness of a mattress under me; the gentle patter of raindrops against the window. The pale morning light leaking through the curtains and the force of unaccustomed planetside gravity weighing me down...

The slim, strong arms tighten around me as I shift a little, pulling me comfortably close. Lips brush my neck, and he murmurs, 'I've missed you.'

I met Churches briefly while I was based in Syndicate with Tygris Alliance, then lost touch for a while before he'd got back in contact on a whim. A pod pilot himself, Chu had made his billion running missions for the Gallente Navy, and had settled in for an early retirement, occasionally venturing forth into space simply because he could. When I'd returned to Gallente space after my stint in Universal Securities, Chu had suggested meeting up, and things just sort of worked out from there. Despite his carebearing nature, he was fearless in low-security space, entering and leaving as he willed, and eventually acquired living quarters on several planets in the systems I frequented.

I sigh and tug the duvet higher around our shoulders. 'I've missed you, too.'

We see one another only a few times in a week. My lifestyle is one which keeps me out late and anchored largely to stations where I can be in a ship and active at a moment's notice. I have repair bills to pay and crewmen to take care of, and every day I'm not available to support my allies is a day that one more pilot could make the difference between success and failure. It's the same everywhere, for every man or woman who steps into a pod or straps into a captain's chair. And for the ones we leave behind, it can be days or weeks, sometimes months, before they see us again. Sometimes, never. I count myself lucky to have a man who can afford to visit me in space.

Chu understands all this. He's been there, himself, though his risks were against the non-pod pirate factions and subsidised by the Navy. He's fought with and against other pilots for survival and lost ships in encounters with pod-pirates such as myself. He does occasionally ask why I do what I do, but I have no better answer than that it's what I know best; and for some reason, rather than bringing condemnations and accusations to my door, he brings relaxing evenings and chocolate-stuffed breakfast pastries.

Perhaps, in the end, that which makes us different from the normal people outweighs that which makes us different in our moralities. Capsuleers are gods among men: in our protective shells, we are virtually immortal, and to control a ship as we do is to master the beast and become one with it, with the power and energy of a tempest at our fingertips to call forth at will. The last young man in my life - not the odd distraction but actual interest - had been as grounded as one can possibly be aboard a station, and could never see why I didn't settle on a more 'normal' career path, hauling pharmaceuticals and tourists the way the only other pilots of his acquaintance did. Chu may ask why, but he doesn't try to change me, as I do not try to change him. We try to see things from each other's perspectives and we respect each other's choices.

When I leave, he holds me close, and it's the hardest thing in the world to let him go. 'I'll see you later,' he says, in that soft accent of his. He says that every time, knowing that if it isn't true, it will be no doing of my own and due to circumstances far beyond our control. At the end of the day, it is the path I have chosen to follow, and a part of who I am.

I remember his kiss of farewell as I slide into my pod and begin the startup sequence. Yes, you will.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Are Pea Gee?

I've lately been pondering Empyrean Age and why it was introduced; what the function of the factional warfare is supposed to be, and why it was considered necessary enough to develop. I'm not a big fan of it - as far as I've been able to tell, it hasn't particularly revitalised lowsec, as it was apparently intended to do, and means that if we do happen to see a FW player in a system, we generally check outlying areas for lurking blobs before engaging. The number of FW gate- and station-camps my highsec hauler passes are enough to prove that highsec has just become more of a playground than before.

So what's the blummin' point?


Eve is marketed as an RPG on the MMOG scale, but a large quantity of the player-base don't actually RP any more than they would in any other game; yes, your character lives in a space station and flies fantastically expensive ships in a far-distant future galaxy, but for many players that's as far as it goes. Like swinging a crowbar and reponding to the name 'Gordon' for a few hours, or running around ruins pretending to be an exceptionally well-endowed archaeologist. Like a Choose your Own Adventure book, it's not so much roleplay as it is selecting options and seeing where they take you.

Eve has such a vast amount of background, which is continually being added to, that you would think RP would be easy. It's a game designed for roleplay. Look at all the character creation options you get! Read those descriptions! You get enough info in there that if you so desire, you can enter the game straight off in-character, a raw newbie fresh from pilot training, overflowing with natural questions for the more experienced pilots to answer. It's not quite to the point where you can pull a 'Commander Worf' and decide to start as, for example, a Caldari who defected to the Gallentean Navy, but once your character is freed of the yoke of the NPC bureaucracy, you are free to turn them to whatever pursuits you desire. You have a bio slot in which to flesh out your character's background a bit more, enough so that other players might understand why you play your role as you do.


But not many players take advantage of that. The Chronicles are fun to read, but how many people process that and work it into their own character backgrounds? How many people even stop to consider what it would feel like to control a ship, or think of the hundreds or even thousands of ship's crew who die when a ship is destroyed? A Titan loss is practically genocide, ingame. For many players, it seems to be less RP and more numbers and strategy. If I plug modules A, B, C and D together on X-hull and use Y-ammo, I get $bignum1-DPS output and can tank $bignum2-DPS input which should allow me to outlast Target Zed. Whoopteedoo, where's the fun in that? They largely just ignore the roles and play the game, to whatever goals we choose.

Us vs Them

If you look at other MMORPGs on the market, the biggest difference between Eve and, for example, WoW is the level of involved roleplay. People playing WoW may act the same ingame as they do in Real Life, but their level of involvement in the RP aspects is higher than the average Eve player's. The key really is the introduction of absolutes and barriers. In WoW, you pick a side right from the start. You follow that side's quests, take part in that side's actions, and can't even communicate verbally with the players you oppose. It is entirely black is black and white is white, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Eve, by contrast (ugh, pun unintentional) is grey. It's so grey you can't tell where one side starts and the other ends. Anyone can run missions for another faction, enter another faction's sovreignty without penalty (unless you've succeeded in utterly destroying your standings, but that's not the point here), fly alongside and support players whose characters are from other factions, pilot a different faction's ships without suffering a racial penalty. Communication is easy and even the Chronicles mention implants that translate languages for the players, covering any potential RP questions to that effect.

It's always easier to roleplay when you have defined sides to support and oppose. While Eve's background allows ample space for this, the game mechanics aren't so conducive to choosing sides. (Note: I'm not referring to the 0.0 warfare in this - that is a whole 'nother story and not related so much to roleplay as it is to the numbers games, anyway.)

Immersion therapy

Enter Empyrean Age. I'll admit, I don't really read Dev blogs, so I wasn't even aware of EA until less than a month before it was brought into play. I wasn't impressed when I first heard of it, since it reeked a bit too much of (as so many have called it ) WoW In Space. We were all steeling ourselves for the inevitable Eve-equivalents of 'For the Horde!' being capslock-typed into Local channels, and a few people worried openly about being the wrong race in the wrong space and being attacked by the NPC police forces. Apart from a few instances of 'Amarr Victor!', however, none of that has actually been an issue. Empyrean Age is probably the best - if not only - way to bring a little roleplay Us vs Them into Eve. Look at the way Empyrean was introduced - several hours'-worth of news reports and video clips which were absolutely riveting. I have to admit, it kept me hitting Reload every ten minutes or so to keep up with what was happening; it was exceptionally well-done on getting people into it, and I even managed to snag a few screenies of the Luminaire Titan under attack before the lag-monster hit.

With Empyrean Age, you can play that Caldari defector or that Amarr sympathiser. There are now five sides to choose from - the four factions and the neutral, or uninvolved - and players can create an entire character history explaining why their Gallente flies alongside the Minmatar in Caldari ships, or why they only run missions for, or which will not hurt their standings with, the Amarr. It makes the roleplay aspects of Eve not so much easier as more accessible, and pulls the matter of Eve, that which makes it what it is, closer to what it was most likely intended to express from the start.

Missing the Point

Of course, there are more than enough FW involvees who don't do the roleplay part at all. Some use it merely as a vehicle to obtain kills and action; some just enjoy the strategic aspects of conquest and struggle. Some people simply give first one side a try, then another, testing corporations' suitability to their individual needs and goals the way all players do, without paying much heed to the potential roleplay issues of loyalty and treachery. And of course, by introducing the factional issues, CCP have meddled in the sandbox Eve has always been proudly attributed to, rather like installing a pony-ride and fun-park boardwalk on a beach. Perhaps, in the end, that isn't such a bad thing for the development of Eve as an RPG, though it's rather a shame that it was thought necessary in the first place.


As much as we - as normal, by-the-numbers strategy players - may roll our eyes at the factionistas and their devotion to that strange religion known as Plot, it's important to remember that Eve was designed as much for their style of play as our own. Like a novel or film, the Eve universe is as active and alive as any fictional world can be. Instead of being merely spectators, we play the characters who give the world its final detailing and a coat of laquer after the God-hand of the Devs has roughed out the shape. A little thought as to the ultimate design couldn't hurt.