Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OOC: I'm It

I have been double-tagged, tagged by Flashfresh then Wensley in the space of 15 minutes. Here are the rules of this game of tag:
  • Link to the original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share 7 facts about myself in the post - some random, some weird.
  • Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.
And so, 7 random and/or weird things about your humble blogger.
  1. I was my troop's first-ever Eagle Scout.
  2. After securing the offer of a full scholarship for a 5-year degree in Nuclear Physics I answered the call to ministry and have been a foreign missionary for over 22 years now.
  3. Back in the early 1980's I hiked to the highest peak in Poland--from Czekoslovakia.
  4. I am conversational in 4 languages and can "read" (an academic technical term) 5 others.
  5. In the old days, I would be dead several times over. I have had appendicitus, maybe hepatitus (after two of my brothers were diagnosed with the disease, Mom didn't bother taking me in when I displayed similar symptoms), Guillan-Barre Syndrome, and gallbladder surgery.
  6. I enjoy SCUBA diving.
  7. I chose the nom de guerre Ka Jolo as a nod to Filipino pirates plying the Sulu Sea. Jolo is the name of a city in the area, and "Ka" is an honorrific which can stand for the Filipino words for "brother" or "comrade."
It seems most of the blogs I usually follow have already been tagged. I perused CrazyKinux's Player Blogroll to add to a couple I found who have so far evaded us I hereby tag the following bloggers:

25081197, aka 250
Wreck Count by Rakkar Than
Yarr Yum
The Bastards' VB Sarge
Blackheart
Cussbeard's A Fistful of ISK
Kitochi Oritsu's Surviving Within the Void

Not it!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A vision becoming reality

I just have to say that, as I watch the Tuskers coming together as a corp, I continue to be impressed and my expectations are being exceeded.

The Tuskers are by-and-large an unskilled crew. We have only two or three pilots who can skillfully pilot battleships or battlecruisers. Most of our bread-and-butter combat is done at the helm of T1 frigates and cruisers, assault frigates, and interceptors. But just look at the glory with which we are cloaking ourselves!

Last week a small 6-man Tusker gang consisting of an Incursus, a Griffin, a Vexor, a Retribution, a Myrmidon, and a Drake pounced on an Ishkur, Megathron, and Kronos. That's 2 T1 battlecruisers, a T1 cruiser, an assault frigate, and two T1 frigates vs. an assault frigate, a battleship, and a Marauder (a T2 battleship). The result: the Tusker gang completely wiped out the heavier gang, at the loss of a single frigate.

Then, the next day, the same heavy gang came back looking for more! This time Tuskers in a Helios (covert ops frigate), a Retribution (assault frigate), a Vexor (T1 cruiser), a Hurricane (T1 battlecruiser), two Myrmidons (T1 battlecruisers), and a Scorpion (T1 battleship) obliterated a Thorax (T1 cruiser), a Hurricane (T1 battlecruiser), a Hyperion (T1 battleship), and a Kronos (T2 battleship)--while losing not a single ship.

These guys were not playing around. Their ships were well fit, sporting several faction modules adding up to hundreds of millions of ISK. Kronos-class Marauders are menacing powerhouses of destruction. Yet the pilots were inexperienced in combat, leaving themselves vulnerable to our more experienced fleet in lesser but well-chosen vessels. In those two engagements, Tusker pilots in relatively inexpensive ships destroyed faction-fitted spaceships worth about 2.48 billion ISK--at the cost of a single 3.22 million ISK Incursus.

What do these engagements tell me about my fellow Tuskers? First, they're not afraid of a good fight. I can guarantee you that going into that first engagement, each Tusker had already accepted the chance he would be killed, yet was willing to lose his ship for the opportunity to score a Kronos kill. Second, there are now enough Tuskers that when a juicy target-of-opportunity such as these shows up, we can throw together a decent gang and get the job done. Third, I'd better keep my combat skills honed if I want to command the respect of such pilots.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That way be administrivia

I've been going through a bit of a dry spell this past week or so. Not that I've been shut out completely--I still manage to get in on a nice kill here or there. It's just that space has seemed strangely empty whenever I undock and go a'roaming.

Recently factors including intellectual copyright issues and some megacorporate corruption scandals have resulted in major differences in the ways standard spaceship hulls operate in space. Many cruiser-sized ships have grossly reduced maximum speeds, and warp scramblers can now be set to impact the microwarpdrive spectrum as well as the more usual warp drive frequencies. The manufacturers of stasis webifiers, on the other hand, have been forced to make changes in their products that result in less effective webbers.

In studying reports of what this all means, I picked up on widespread optimism that assault frigates would now be viable combat ships. I'd sort of by-passed assault frigate command in my studies, but it only took a few days of focused attention before I was certified to operate Gallente assault ships, and I took delivery of a couple of Ishkur-class beauties, commonly accepted as top-of-the-line when it comes to assault ships. I pimped them out, hit the air lock, and...well, not much, to tell the truth. It's that dry spell. I've found the odd fight, winning some and losing some, but haven't had much of a chance to really put one of my Ishkurs to a proper test. Time will tell.

I'll tell you what I have had plenty of--paperwork. Being at the helm of a pirate corporation has brought on all kinds of duties and responsibilities I didn't sufficiently consider before embarking on that course. It seems, believe it or not, that your typical scurvy pirate likes nothing better than for someone to hold his hand and tell him what to do. What subspace frequency should I have open? Where shall I wait? What ship shall I fly? Do you like my picture of a pirate? Can I shoot that ship? Managing all the "official" communications between twenty-odd motly corsairs just takes time. And while I take that time, they get to go roaming and shooting and yarring, racking up kill records I can only glare at in envy.

Oh, don't get me wrong--the Tuskers are turning out to be a fine pack of killers, and I'm proud to be counted among them. In fact, our reputation is now drawing pirates from across 20 regions to our headquarters, applying for membership. I am firm in the vision I hold for this corporation, and so I find myself, sitting at my desk, reading answers to essay questions, poring over old CONCORD kill reports, running background checks, trying to make sense out of ledgers, and scouring the infowebs for morsels of rumor that will inform my decision to admit or reject. What I'm looking for are long-term mates; I don't want us to draw close to one another, as soldiers do when they fight side by side, only to lose mates to the law, to bankruptcy, or to competing interests.

While a new recruit pops an assault frigate, I write to the administrator of our corporate killboard. While another member hunts down a battlecruiser, I answer EVE-mail from a young pirate wanting advice. While a Tusker runs to the aid of a mate being chased by an interceptor and a cruiser, I explain to an applicant why I need access to all his most personal financial details. While another Tusker hauls down another cruiser from the markets, I explain the rules for communicating ship fitouts for fellow Tuskers to peruse. It gets a bloke to thinking about delegation, and whom to tap. Hmm...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First fight in a Myrmidon

Recently I felt myself skilled enough, and skilled in enough systems, to make it worth my while to purchase, fit, and fight in a Myrmidon, a Gallente battlecruiser class of some repute. And just as money burns a hole in my pocket, once fit that Myrmidon didn't take long to break my resolve to risk her only in gangs....But first, I need to tell you about Furb Killer.

I first ran into Furb Killer back in early May. I tackled him in an Ishkur in Ouelletta, and killed his ship with my Thorax. I somehow conveyed the impression that I got lucky, and he asked for a rematch, a 1-vs.-1, which I accepted; again, I beat his Ishkur with my Thorax, by an even wider margin this time--though I let off before completely destroying his assault frigate, leaving it with deep structural damage. We had a nice conversation about the (lack of any) role of assault ships in PvP combat. He seemed keen enough, and I invited him to join the Ministry of Destruction.

Months went by, and didn't see Furb Killer around much. Then, earlier this week, he appeared again in Ouelletta. Tusker Novantco attacked his Coercer in a Taranis, and went down hard; Furb Killer's Coercer was custom-designed to take out fast frigates. Novantco lost his capsule as well, and Furb Killer commented on that--"Normally I don't do it but this was just too easy." He repeated that again later..."This was just too easy."

Well, Tusker Who8MyLunch and I decided to avenge our mate. When I made a pass at his Coercer in my Thorax, Furb Killer docked up and came out again in a Thorax of his own. I left Ouelletta local, and sat on the gate in Loes while Who8MyLunch baited him in his Rupture. Eventually Who8MyLunch and Furb Killer ended up at the same asteroid belt, and I jumped into Ouelletta and rushed to join the fray. I barely had enough time to target Furb Killer and get off a few rounds before he went down. He didn't take it well (as evidenced by his comments on our corporate kill report). In response to my "gf," he responded, "you that desperate." And in response to Who8MyLunch's "gf," he responded, "dang if you think that is a gf you really got low." Then, digging deep into the past, Furb Killer threw this zinger: "If you ever wonder again if i want to join your corp, the answer is no." I guess that finally ended my suspense after six months!

Since then, Furb Killer has continued to sit himself at an asteroid belt in Ouelletta in his Coercer, but now when I show up in my Thorax he rushes to a space station and emerges in a Myrmidon. The only ship in my arsenal that has a chance against Furb Killer in his Myrmidon is my own Myrmidon, which brings me to today's story.

Yesterday Furb Killer's tempted another Tusker pilot to attack his Coercer, and managed to kill a Rifter flown by Wesley. After passing through Ouelletta not long after and seeing Furb Killer jump into his Myrmidon, I saw Who8MyLunch log into corp comms, and gave him an update on the situation. We agreed to go for Furb Killer once again. As Who8MyLunch sped towards Ouelletta in his Minmatar Stabber-class cruiser, I undocked for the first time in my Myrmidon, primed and loaded. Our plan was for Who8MyLunch to jump into Ouelletta, jump Furb Killer's Coercer, then wait at the asteroid belt for our target to appear on 360 in his Myrmidon, at which point I would warp to the Ouelletta gate in mine. As soon as Who8MyLunch got a lock on Furb Killer, I was to jump into the system and join them with all speed.

Who8MyLunch did jump into Ouelletta, and Furb Killer was waiting in his Coercer. As Who8MyLunch sped towards the asteroid belt, Furb Killer headed towards a space station. And then...we waited. Who8MyLunch shifted from belt to belt. Ships in local spiked at around 9, then dropped to 3 or 4. Finally, Furb Killer's Myrmidon showed up on local and I warped to the Ouelletta gate. Furb Killer played coy; he went to a different belt than where Who8MyLunch was waiting. Who8MyLunch warped to a third belt. Local remained low. My tension grew as I sat on the Ouelletta gate, hoping no roaming gang would come by to complicate things. Finally, impatient, Who8MyLunch warped to Furb Killer directly, Furb Killer didn't flee, and the fight was on.

I jumped into Ouelletta immediately and warped directly to Who8MyLunch, who was going down fast. His plan was to warp away as soon as I managed to disrupt Furb Killer's warp drive, but he waited too long and lost his ship, then as his command and control systems got stuck in a loop he lost his capsule as well. I landed right on top of Furb Killer, locked him, deployed my drones, and engaged my weapons systems. It was to be a Myrmidon-on-Myrmidon fight, and I was game.

Things were going well for me at first. I fielded a mixed bag of high-tech drones, two heavies, two mediums, and a light, while Furb Killer threw five high-tech mediums back at me. Then--what--wait--Furb Killer slipped out of range while I wasn't paying attention! Belatedly, I activated my microwarpdrive, but it was too late; our quarry escaped. I recalled my drones and warped to a safe spot in space to assess the situation. This time, in response to my "gf," Furb Killer responded with a "gf" of his own. There was only one other pilot in the system, and he'd been there all along; he was probably resting at a space station. It occurred to me that Furb Killer had probably not had the time to comb the wreckage of Who8MyLunch's Stabber for surviving modules, so I warped back to the asteroid belt to salvage what I could. I scooped up Who8MyLunch's corpse, then saw that quite a few valuable modules had survived the destruction of his ship. Then, as I prepared to eject some capacitor booster charges from my cargo to make room for the more valuable pieces of wreckage, Furb Killer appeared just a few thousand meters away, ready to finish the job.

Grimly, I locked my target, sallied my drones, and opened fire with my battery of heavy blasters. As my target moved away, this time I engaged my microwarpdrive and kept after him; I was gratified to see I had a slight speed advantage, and continued to close range--slowly--while doing some damage in my blasters' falloff range. I noticed one of my drones was down, and realized he was trying to gimp my DPS by shooting at my drones; as I inspected my drones to see if any needed to be recalled, a second fell. Dang! I'd already lost one medium and one heavy drone! No matter, I was on it now, and as a third drone began to take damage, I recalled it to my drone bay, breaking the lock Furb Killer had on it, then sent it right back again into the fight.

Whoah! I was almost out of energy! I activated my capacitor booster, and was gratified to see my dials register a fresh infusion of juice before any of my modules shut down. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about the fight; I was hurting my target more than he was hurting me, I was keeping him well in range, and I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to push my blasters a bit beyond spec, planning to let them overheat a bit in exchange for even more DPS. That was when a Vagabond appeared, less than 20 kilometers away. Dang, dang, dang! My heart sank, and I began to consider the possibility that this would not, after all, end up well for me.

There were now two pilots in local, and my overview flagged them as threats due to their affiliations. Probably they were members of some competing pirate corporation. I quickly glanced at their public records; the Vagabond pilot was a member of the Ministry of Destruction, while the other pilot--ship yet unknown--was part of some other pirate outfit. I made the decision to try to get out of I could. But first, more overview information clawed its way to the forefront of my brain, and I realized my guns were well and truly overheated and in danger of shutting down; quickly I issued the order to stop overheating them. The Vagabond...I recalled my drones, suffering from my unfamiliarity with those heavy drones--they seemed to take forever getting back home. I launched a flight of medium ECM drones, vowing to simply abandon my heavy drones next time rather than waiting for them to return. The ECM drones I sent after the Vagabond, which still did not have me locked.

I delayed trying to warp out for a while more. I was almost doing structural damage to my Myrmidon target, and the Vagabond didn't have a lock on me. Some of my modules shut off as I ran out of cap--my cap booster wasn't automatically reactivating itself when it reloaded; I reactivated it manually, and then reactivated my modules, glad my target hadn't escaped' he was at point-blank range by this time. My DPS was slower now, without any drones on target, and slowly the damage my foe was inflicting on me began to catch up to what I'd dealt him. I had him well into structure, but he finished off my armor and began to damage my own structure. I overheated my armor repair systems, then stopped before my mind wandered and I caused irreparable harm.

What was I doing? I was risking the most expensive ship in my stable against superior odds! Some voice in the back of my head told me I wasn't thinking rationally, and with the momentum now in my enemy's court (we were both at 50% structure) I decided once and for all to try to get out. I issued the command to warp to a safe spot in space, fully expecting to be informed that my warp drives were being disrupted--but that message never appeared. Slowly, ponderously, my ship aligned toward my destination, and my impulse speed built up to throw me into warp. At the last minute I recalled my ECM drones, but I waited until too late (my drones are not my ship; better to lose them than recall them prematurely) and left them behind, along with a severely damaged Myrmidon and a Vagabond that never did get a lock on me.

My first fight in a Myrmidon ended inconclusively; I lost my wingman, Who8MyLunch, and I lost a medium drone, a heavy drone, and a full flight of ECM drones; I burned through some expensive ammo and capacitor charges; and I failed to get a kill. On the other hand, my ship emerged in one piece after engaging a battlecruiser and a Vagabond. To me, it felt like a good fight. "Gf," I broadcast, but didn't receive one back from Furb Killer.

Was it a good fight? Let me review my criteria. On one side of the equation, I'd fought against two respected combat ships, and I felt like the decisions I made during the fight mattered. I was in real danger, and felt I could easily have lost my ship. I learned a lot about fighting in my Myrmidon. So 4 points on that side of the equation. On the other side, in my inexperience I made some foolish mistakes (losing combat drones when I didn't have to, failing to engage my MWD, not keeping a close eye on cap, not keeping a close eye on local), and my foe did not seem to share my appreciation for the encounter--2 points against. So yeah, it scores as a good fight.

Later, the Vagabond pilot claimed he wanted to help me kill Furb Killer. That would have been nice to know earlier--if it was true; since he never announced his intentions (and I'm not sure I would have believed him even if he was sincere), I feel I made the right decisions in jamming him and running away.

It cost me over 1.8 million ISK to repair my damaged vessel and overheated modules. Adding up my losses and weighing them against experience gained, my conclusion is I got good value for my money.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So you think you can fly

As CEO of the Tuskers, one of my responsibilities is to keep an eye out for promising recruits. Occasionally I come across pilots such as the one who claimed:
I've been playing EvE on and off since 04' and settled down in 06'...

I currently have around 18 million S.P.
Spread out mostly in Tanking and Damage dealing (like my background says, I'm a soldier pure and simple)

I have Leadership V and warfare Link Spec IV
Been Running My LvL 4's in my Command Ship (Sleipnir)
Will train more leadership skills if asked to

I'm currently training Electronic Warfare skills while not wanting to be a dedicated EW pilot.

I'm also trained in Covert Ops and Espionage Behind Enemy line. In PVE terms that means that I did Exploration Deep in hostile low sec and 0.0: Covert Op IV ; Cloaking IV ; Cyno Field Theory (in progress- can be trained on demand)
PS: I'm not a spy: I will not execute an order to join a corp with intent on deception, that kind of behavior happens on the battle field.

I have a few Logistics Skills: Freighter Pilot (never used)
; Anchoring skills; and will train combat utility skills: Shield/armor transfer Modules (while not being a dedicated Combat Utility Pilot)

I'm a Highly skilled Mission Runner
(Running LvL 4's for Minmatar Republic for a while now)
My main weapons are Turrets and Autocannons. I only fly Minmatar ships and excel at both Shield and Armor tanking (depending on the ship).
Impressive! Training since '04, now has 18 million sp mostly in tanking and DPS, can fly covert ops, command ships, and freighters, also has good skills in leadership and anchoring. Here's another pilot, this one with 15,700,000 skillpoints:
What I offer:
Experienced 0.0 pilot in the following areas
PVP, Hulk Mining, POS warfare,Big fleet Small fleet Ops., and other areas
I can fly small hac,intercept,snipe bs,EW frig,T2 fit on most mods,and also a hulk for any mining(not a miner)but we all have to make the coin.
What I seek:
Bounty Rats ,0.0 with sov,(no npc space,or Drone Regions))small gang pvp,will do Big fleet as well ,I believe in Defense and offense.
That's right, a 15.7 million sp pilot who flies interceptors, EW frigates, HACs, and battleships--all with mostly T2 modules! And on top of that, he flies a Hulk! Or check out this guy:
I want to join a big alliance that has daily battles and need for good pvp pilots on a daily basis to take on the odd's and come up good.
I will Kill Anything and anyone. all i am looking for is some direction.
Can Fly full Tech II gallente BS V
HAC
Frig V in caldari and gallente
I have a fettish with faction/officer fit navy megas and Neut Domi's atm.
6 mill in guunery
4.5 mill in drones
This guy actually has more skillpoints than I do in gunnery and drones (though at 18m sp, less overall), and flies full T2 battleships at a skill level of 5, has Frigate 5 in two races, and flies HACs. That's actually pretty focused.

One more example:
  • 19m char with majority of it in missiles and gunnery
  • Own and fly up to HAC and BS working up to Command (will have it in about 3 week)
  • Also able to fly up to Minmitar Freighter (Just need to buy the book)
  • 16m char with near max probing skills and decent mining skills
  • Own and fly Logistics, Cov ops and BS
  • Able to fly up to Hulk and Recon
This team's "support" pilot boasts of flying 5 classes of ships that I don't even fly yet, with more skillspoints than he!

As a point of reference, I myself have been flying for just over one year and have about 18.5 million skillpoints. From the day I mustered out of the Caldari military, I've focused my training on PvP. Though I learned to fly a Crow well, the entire rest of my training has prepared me to fly combat ships designed by the Gallente consortiums: the Incursus, the Taranis, the Thorax, and as of this week, the Myrmidon, a battlecruiser of some repute. How is it, Friend, that I'm not flying fully T2 battleships and HACs and command ships, like some of those pilots above?

When I say I can command these ships, I mean I command them. My blasters are the appropriate size for the ship I'm flying, spewing out about as much destruction as it is possible for a blaster to spew. Mine are high-tech blasters with the most advanced ammunition, and I've studied hard to lock faster and maximize range, tracking, rate of fire, and damage potential. Beyond that, I know my ship systems well enough to push my blasters beyond spec, causing them to overheat, and at times to malfunction, but in the vast majority of situations merely giving me yet another slight edge over a worthy foe. My drones are high-tech whether they be small, medium, or large. Not content with off-the-shelf drone AI routines, I've learned to modify the drone hardware and reprogram them for speed, range, accuracy, damage, and defensive capability.

When I'm hunting for targets, I'm not cowed by an unfamiliar pilot in a good combat vessel with more experience than I have. The experience I do have tells me that the typical pilot has squandered his time as a pilot, or perhaps merely not focused on combat skills as I have. In a large proportion of my fights, I honestly expect my T2 Hammerhead drones to outperform his T2 Hammerhead drones, my T2 microwarpdrive to push me faster than his microwarpdrive pushes him, and my T2 blasters to deal more damage than his T2 blasters. Heck, I'm never surprised when my opponent can't even field T2 drones, guns, or modules at all. I don't really blame people for not focusing as I have; I recognize the need for miners, haulers, manufacturers, inventors, explorers, or what have you. But when it comes to a fight, the dedicated combat pilot has an edge.

Yet when I say I can command ships, I do not at all mean I have pushed them to the limits of which they are capable. I am aware of advances I could make in nearly all my systems. I am learned in armor tanking, with a merely adequate understanding of shields--and yet I know there are situations in which it would be better for my Myrmidon to rely on shields rather than armor. I have mastered blasters to the neglect of projectile weapons or even railguns--and yet I value the flexibility I would have could I fit my ships for longer range or with less cap-hungry weapons systems. Finally, in many cases I've made the decision that "superior" is good enough, and I have not pursued my studies beyond level 4 to the level 5 of training.

My own conclusion is that those pilots above focused more on spaceship command than on spaceship efficiency. They've concentrated on being specced to fly a ship, whereas I've concentrated on being able to excel in a ship. And I'm not going to say they did it wrong; no doubt they in their HACs or recon ships or command ships or battleships would defeat me in my Thorax. Not surprisingly, an adequate pilot in a superior ship can beat a superior pilot in a lesser ship. But I really want to engage some of them and test my Myrmidon or Taranis, and I really believe I'd have a chance against at least one pilot's battleship with my Thorax.

In the end, I'd probably take any of these pilots if they would demonstrate that they have the Tusker approach to PvP (if they could show me the solo kills, including taking out pilots in superior ships). It's not like I haven't provided my share of comedy killmails.

Just know that when you see me in a battleship or HAC, you'll have a fight on your hands.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gate wars

As I jumped into Aeschee from Jovainnon, I saw a battleship sitting on the gate. Not particularly concerned, I warped off to the Adirain gate; unless their ship sensing arrays are boosted above factory spec, a battleship generally can't get a lock on a cruiser in the time it takes for a cruiser to drop cloak and warp away.

I was interested to see another battleship sitting on the Adirain gate. I jumped on into Adirain, but detected no unfortunate pilots ratting or mining at any of the asteroid belts there. I had to go back through Aeschee to Lisbaetanne, and that battleship was still sitting on the Adirain gate. No battleships on the Lisbaetanne gate, but no targets in Lisbaetanne, either. I went back through Aeschee--again--towards Onne, on my way to check out Hulmate. A Taranis was on the Onne gate--and this time, when I jumped through, the battleship was sitting on the far side of the gate in Onne. Hmm, this battleship was registered to the same corporation as a couple of the other solo campers--SOE Cartel.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand; I checked out Hulmate, then Vitrauze, but the asteroid belts were devoid of prey. Once again, I headed up through Aeshcee.

The battleship was still on the Aeschee gate in Onne, and the Taranis was still sitting on the Aeschee side. I sat their for a few moments, still cloaked from my jump through the wormhole. The fact that the Taranis was still on the gate led me to believe he was working in conjunction with the SOE Cartel battleship on the other side. And unlike a battleship, a Taranis-class interceptor should have no problems getting lock on a cruiser trying to warp away. He could do this without fearing the sentry guns, thanks to my status as an outlaw. My fears were confirmed when the jump gate activated, and the battleship's transponder indicated it had entered the local system.

With tactics honed by dozens of deaths at gate camps, I calmly slipped out of the trap. First, I set the Onne gate as my next destination; then, in quick secession I engaged the autopilot, set the ship on a course to approach the gate, engaged my microwarpdrive engine, and activated my damage control systems. As expected, both the Taranis and the battleship locked me and initiated hostile actions against me, with weapons, warp disruptors, and stasis webifiers. Nonetheless, I reached the gate before taking too much damage and jumped out. I now had time to warp to safety, as the jump gate's operators would refuse to allow passage to any ship which had just been engaging in hostilities.

I did not warp to safety.

What I did do was turn around and orbit the gate back into Aeschee, well within activation range. For the next fifteen minutes or so, the authorities would recognize my right to attack the interceptor and battleship pilots, in view of their hostile acts against me. If that battleship returned to his post in Onne, I would have a short amount of time to try to take out the interceptor in Aeshee before the larger and slower battleship could return to the gate and jump back again to assist.

And just as I was in position, the battleship returned to Onne. I immediately jumped back into Aeshee.

Now, the issue would be whether I could tackle the Taranis. Unless I was very lucky, not likely; but working in my favor was the fact that he would be pre-conditioned to try to tackle me, and get up close and personal, within range of his deadly blasters. As I entered the Aeshee system, he was only 12 kilometers away; I quickly targetted him and began approaching him, microwarpdrive active. As I locked my target, I disrupted his warp engines and impulse engines, and deployed my drones against him.

Oh, how fast that Taranis dropped before my wrath! With glee I watched my overview display how his shields and armor evaporated under the withering fire of five heavy high-tech ion blasters and five medium high-tech combat drones. And just as I had hoped, the SOE Cartel battleship didn't manage to return to the battlefield until the fight was all but over.

Remember those other battleships on the Jovainnon and Adirain gates? As it happened, I had failed to factor them in. And unfortunately for me, the SOE Cartel Dominix that had been sitting on the Adirain gate arrived at the Onne gate while the Taranis and I were locked in combat. That Dominix had me locked before I could kill the Taranis, and pretty much did to me what I'd done to the Taranis; my own shields and armor seemed to simply disappear under the furious assault of the Gallente battleship.

A fair trade? I guess so. I fought against superior odds and lost the cheaper ship, and received a nice insurance payout to boot; but they held the field and got to scoop the loot from both wrecks. At any rate, as I sped away in my capsule (past yet another battleship sitting on the Ladistier gate in Aeschee), I basked in the glow of another good fight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A good fight...a really good fight

Joc and I had us a fight the other day that garnered us a lot of congratulations and notice. We came across a battleship, ratting all by itself in Cumemare. What little experience I have with battleships at asteroid belts has left me with a rather low regard for their pilots, whether it turns out they're mining or ratting. So even though I was flying a lowly Thorax, and Joc was in an Ishkur, we swooped in and killed us an Apocalypse.

Funny thing, though; it wasn't a particularly satisfying kill. Sure, I like a big e-peen as much as the next lowlife pirate scum, and it was with pleasure we posted the kill. There was some smugness in having pulled it off. But I got a lot more satisfaction when Joc and I killed a Rupture earlier today. Heck, I even enjoyed it more when I lost a fight with an Abaddon I thought I could schnooker while he was tanking sentries. The thing is, that battleship pilot didn't give us much of a fight; in fact, I didn't take any damage at all from him, and Joc and his itty-bitty T2 frigate tanked him nicely.

That Rupture pilot, now--well, Muad' Dib is a real warrior. I was at the Vitrauze gate in Onne when I saw him coming on the scanner, so I jumped through to take him on the other side. I knew Joc was coming for backup, and told him to jump right into Vitrauze and engage immediately--Muad' Dib was an outlaw like us, and whoever runs the sentry guns wouldn't mind if we were the tools lady Justice used to bring retribution (or vice-versa). The Rupture sure wasn't trying to duck no fights; I approached him, he approached me, and there were guns and blasters and drones lighting up the inkly blackness of space with destruction. I was pretty sure I was going to die, as the Rupture seemed to be hurting me faster than I was hurting him. After the fight, I realized I should have overheated my blasters, but in the thick of things I plumb forgot. I broke through his shields and armor, though, not long after he broke through mine, and whether it was because I had a stronger ship structure or because Joc's meager DPS finally made it on the scene, the Rupture went down leaving me with 1-2% of smoking structure still holding things together. I was trembling with adrenaline as we looted the wreck and recalled our drones. That was a fight, I tell you!

As for the Abaddon--I noticed him molesting the never-ending train of industrial ships that pour in and out of Hevrice, shrugging off the sentry fire as he did so. It occurred to me that those sentry guns would be much obliged if I'd help them out by pinning him down, so he couldn't just come and go as he pleased; and if the heavy blasters and high-tech medium drones of my Thorax were to engage, why that would just help things along a little faster. I figured wrong. Glaz Almaz was able to kill and loot his industrial target, tank those sentry guns, and continue to tank the sentry guns plus everything I could deliver long enough to kill me and help himself to the cornucopia of high-tech modules that remained intact in the twisted metal that had been my Thorax. He wasn't even particularly sporting about it, whining that I was being ungrateful for "killing him" after he'd helped out a corpmate of mine a little earlier. Still, as I got my capsule out of Dodge, I was thinking I'd just had a very good fight.

One doesn't even have to win or lose to have a good fight. Recently I was set upon by a Wolf, a Cormorant, a Buzzard, and a rookie ship (really). I almost killed the Wolf--but I think the Cormorant got me webbed in time for the Wolf to slip out of range of my blasters. Then I almost killed the Cormorant; in fact, I thought I had killed him, but the lack of a wreck or killmail has convinced me that I must have been jammed instead just as he was running out of structure. The fact that I did well against superior numbers, didn't make any stupid mistakes (though I may have done a thing or two better), didn't lose, and shared heart-felt "gf's" afterwards in local, left me feeling happy and satisfied.

All of which got me to thinking...what exactly does constitute a good fight? Here's what I concluded: There are a number of factors, any one of which may help a fight be a "good" one, and if you put enough of them together you end up with a really good fight. On the other side of the equation are factors that help make a fight a "bad" one. If neither side of the equation outweighs the other, you end up with "meh." It's actually possible, then, to feel satisfied after losing some fights, while feeling "meh" even after winning others.

Factors contributing to a good fight
  • Winning
  • Good loot
  • Fighting a more experienced pilot
  • Fighting a famous or well-known pilot
  • Fighting against a respected combat ship
  • Fighting against a ship that is generally considered superior to one's own
  • Having tactics or a strategy that make a positive difference
  • Fighting against foes who employ a clever or innovative tactic or strategy
  • Fighting slightly outnumbered
  • Hearing respect from the other pilot or others in local afterwards
  • Almost (but not quite) dying (Joc and I killed a Vexor in a similar scenario to the Rupture kill above; but since it was Joc who almost died and I who arrived at the last minute to save the day, it wasn't as satisfying a fight to me.)
  • Learning something valuable that makes one a better pilot the next time
Factors detracting from a good fight
  • Losing
  • Losing expensive rigs, implants, or modules
  • Making stupid mistakes
  • Fighting against hopeless numbers
  • Fighting against a pilot who is not at the helm, extremely inexperienced, or stupid
  • Fighting against a ship that is generally considered inferior at combat
  • Hearing disrespect or excuses from the other pilot or others in local
Good hunting to you, Reader! Go have yourself a good fight!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Honor (OOC)

Is there honor in EVE? Is there honor in piracy? This question is brought up quite often around New Eden. Personally, I've been dumbfounded at the discourse on the subject; here is my attempt to set things straight.

Is there honor in EVE? Of course. However you may define "honor," it exists in EVE. There are pilots who would never initiate aggression against others, pilots who would never take from someone else's jettisoned cargo container, pilots who honor their 1-vs.-1's, pirates who honor their ransoms, pilots who never lie, etc. etc. etc. There are also pilots who lie, cheat, and steal every chance they get. And then there are pilots who are some custom honor blend--pirates who honor ransoms and 1-vs.-1's but will gank a 5-minute-old noob; otherwise trustworthy characters who succumb to the temptation of billions of ISK in corporate assets. If we envision a spectrum with "completely honorable in every conceivable way" on one end, and "the epitome of despicability, lying cheating scum" on the other, we could chart the pilots of New Eden and find that they are spread out across that spectrum. (Actually, people are more complex; it's more like a three-dimensional axis than a two-dimensional spectrum. Consider, for example, the pirate that honor ransoms, and always kills and pods so his ransom offers will be taken seriously. Or consider RMT, economic PVP, etc.)

This seems so totally self-evident to me, and perhaps you find yourself nodding thoughtfully. So what do people mean when they declare, loudly (and often with ridicule), "Of course there's no honor in EVE; it's just a game!" I contend that what they're really trying to do is argue that there should be no consequences for flying dishonorably. Everybody should like and respect the dishonorable (again, however you define "honor") just as much as the so-called honorable, and not shun them or point out their behavior or make them feel bad. Good luck with that. Since EVE pilots fall on a spectrum, like it or not what people think about any given pilot will also be spread out over some kind of spectrum.

Hmm. Now as I think of it, perhaps those asking the question, "Is there honor in EVE?" are being a little bit disingenous themselves. Are not they really arguing that everyone should fly with honor--in fact, with their flavor of it? They want to feel better about being duped, and they want their tormentors to feel bad. Based on the responses they get (many from people trying to justify some other standard of honor or dishonor), they'll need some luck of their own.

My view is that yes, EVE is a game; just as in chess one player tries to deceive the other as to his true intentions, so in New Eden pilots can, may, and will backstab one another, lie to one another, cheat one another, and abuse one another's trust. How one plays his role in EVE is not how one lives his (real) life. This is EVE working as intended. But EVE is "multiplayer"--it's social. People have reputations, they want reputations, and honor can serve as one of the criteria people use to form their identities. At the end of the day, each of us must play the game in a way that's fun for ourselves. For some, that means being noble and true--a nobility all more enobling for being optional. For others, it means being honest, if rascally. For yet others, it means lying, cheating, and backstabbing--only dishonorable if one protests "it has to be that way." It's that spectrum. We all must deal with it.

I have friends from across the spectrum. I recognize more than one definition of "honor" in our common context--or rather, I recognize that the definition of "honor" is subjective, and EVE is massively multiplayer. I pay attention to how pilots and corporations and alliances with which I am familiar behave; I want to know with whom it is and isn't safe to duel. I follow the "name and shame" threads, glad to know the names, not sure about the shame. I check the "corp thief" list everytime someone applies to the Tuskers. I have chosen to fly with pirates (we initiate non-consensual destruction and death) who honor their ransoms and their 1-v.-1's (though, being smart, there are precious few of those). I live for chances to gank others, but if I say I won't gank you, I won't; I keep my word. To some that still makes me a slimy griefer, to others I'm an out-of-touch goody-goody. Whatever. I'm having fun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A good day, a good corp

I just have to say how happy I am with the way the Tuskers corp is growing. New members are being added every week, and I'm impressed with the caliber of pilots we're attracting. As a fairly new corporation, it is difficult for us to attract long-time PvP pirates with many skills. Yet I resolved from the beginning not to accept just any applicant into the Tuskers. We have no minimum skillpoint requirement, and as a result the typical Tusker flies a T2 frigate class or two at best. But we do require every new Tusker pilot to already have at least 5 solo kills under his belt--at least two of which must be kills of a ship class greater than that flown by the Tusker candidate. I'm sure many impatient pirate wannabe's turn away at this requirement; but the ones that persevere find themselves surrounded by mates of like mindset.

I also require quite detailed skill and wallet and journal information of all Tusker candidates; I'm sure this winnows out some otherwise qualified pilots. But poring over their educational and financial records helps me identify other pilots with whom they may be in league, spot those with certain irregularities that could result in their wallets going deep into the negative, and establish trust up front. Finally, I'm amused to report that I have actually turned away several candidates simply because they were unwilling or unable to join our voice comms during fleet operations.

Let me tell you how my day went today; to me, it was a testimony to the Tusker quality far beyond our experience level.

"There's a Hyperion in Costolle with a two-month old pilot." This from Nupe, a Tusker who frequently flies with a ship-probing wingman. He'd found a Gallente battleship, and according to public databases, the pilot had only received his captain's papers a couple of months ago.

"I'm two jumps out; on my way." But by the time I reached Costolle, the Hyperion pilot had left the system. I stayed in the fleet with Nupe, and we worked our way over to Ouelletta, where I'd seen a Vexor flitting about earlier. Nothing this time. Nupe wandered back to Melmaniel; just then the Vexor did show up on my overview, and I charged in to make the tackle. Nupe immediately put his Hurricane-class battlecruiser in warp to the Ouelletta gate.

I tackled the Vexor with little difficuly in my Thorax, fit with heavy plate armor and small blasters. My ECM drones began buzzing around the Vexor, but his real DPS was in drones of his own, and they were on me. The Vexor was fast, and I had to manage my microwarpdrive, stasis webifier, and ship navigation closely as I struggled to keep the point-blank range dictated by my blasters. Unfortunately, my drones missed a jam cycle, and at that range the Vexor sucked my cap dry--he had modules that could drain my own cap, and perhaps take a little for himself while they were at it. As his drones bit deep into my armor, I shut down my guns and managed my modules even more intensely, struggling to keep the Vexor's warp drives disrupted, struggling to keep in range, struggling to fit in a repair cycle on my armor when I could...but it wasn't enough. "Get that Hurricane here! I'm not gonna make it!"

Finally, the powerful 'Cane arrived on the scene, ponderously bringing it's heavy guns to bear on the target; I just couldn't take any more of a pounding, and as the Vexor's drones began to bite into the very structure of my ship, I jumped out. I'd hoped my friend in the battlecruiser would be able to finish the job, but the Vexor also managed to escape before the 'Cane could re-establish the tackle.

That's the life of a belt pirate--and I'm sure the Vexor was every bit as much a pirate as were we. I listened with distaste to the Vexor pilot's smack talk (Bulldags'hunter was the name he chose to go by), crowing about how he would have killed me (if only I'd stupidly stood still and let him do it), and taunting us for not being able to keep him tackled (hello?). As you may expect, all I said in return was, "gf."

Nursing my grudge from the safety of empty space, I was nevertheless powerless to engage the Vexor, now coyly keeping out of sight. As Nupe and I sat there, waiting for the authorities to cool down and allow us to once again jump through a star gate or dock in a space station unmolested by sentry guns, Nupe's wingman reported that the young Hyperion pilot was back--and he was right next door in Melmaniel!

Oh, how time crawls when you have such a target so close, and yet so far. The remaining minutes until it would be safe for us to jump over to Melmaniel seemed like hours. But finally, they passed. "I'm docking real quick to rep my hull and replinish my ammo," I reported. Nupe and his slower spaceship headed right over to Melmaniel.

"He's still here...he's not in deadspace! He's at a belt!" This seemed too good to be true. As I jumped into Melmaniel, I received a report of the exact asteroid belt the Hyperion had just warped to, and set my warp engines to get me there. Once again, the short time I was in the wormhole stretched. Was I jumping into a trap? How would a low-tech cruiser and battlecruiser fare against such a fine battleship? Would we be able to break his tank? Would he chew us up with his own DPS? Why didn't I refit with bigger guns?

At last, I dropped out of warp and onto the Hyperion. I keyed my comms, "He's here! Warp to me now!" At the same time, I set course for a tight orbit around the target, catching him just as he was approaching some of the local "rats" polluting the asteroid belt. "Engage the warp disruptor! Engage the stasis webifier! Drones, engage target!" The fight was on, complicated by the decision of one of the rats to take the battleship's side against me.

It seemed to take forever for Nupe to arrive in his slower Hurricane, but I still had some shields left when he finally did arrive. Slowly, slowly, we ate away at his shields, then started nibbling at his armor. I made the decision to demand a ransom, and opened up a ransom channel with our target; he hemmed and hawed and asked for assurances that a ransom would be honored, but after going well beyond the 30 second deadline I initially set no ISK was transferred; no problem, Nupe and I were quite happy to chalk up a battleship kill. (Later, the battleship pilot told me he was going to pay the measly 50M ransom we demanded, but couldn't figure out how; I believe him, given the rigs and all that he lost with that ship. Somehow my mates, using the same ransom channel, don't seem to have the problems I do exacting ransoms.

Rylack, the newest Tusker, joined us about this time, and we set off through Heydieles and Old Man Star to Aeshee, hunting and probing for suitable targets but having no luck. Joc, and original Tusker, caught up with the fleet as we checked out Vitrauze, home of the Hellcats. Our scout caught a glimpse of Mynxee, CEO of the Hellcats (an all-female pirate corp), blogger, and something of a friend, just as she ducked into a station in her Rupture.

This put me in a "situation." Our corp had just been discussing allying with the Hellcats and the Python Cartel; I reiterated our "no blues" policy, and have been trying to talk about how it is possible to have friends that one still might fight, using intel channels instead of alliances, etc. In this case, I ordered a camp at Mynxee's station, and then I warned her not to come outside. "Sometimes reverse psychology works," I told the fleet, "If she doesn't come out, good, I warned her and she heeded the warning; but if she does, I can say she can't say I didn't warn her." Mynxee wisely chose to stay inside the space station, but she did admit how much she was dying to come out just because I told her not to. Heh.

Patience not being our strong suit, the Tuskers aren't much good at camping, and within just a few minutes we were headed back towards Verge Vendor. As we neared Hevrice, I told everyone we would be taking a break there, so people could replinish supplies, grab a smoke or a cup of tea, and regroup with a couple of other Tuskers who were in the area. But this idyllic plan was not to be.

In Hevrice, we found a Vexor zipping from point to point in space. Almost immediately, Mynxee showed up in her Rupture, and she and the Vexor appeared to be working together. Within minutes, Bulldags'hunter, the Vexor we'd encounted earlier in Ouelletta, was on the scene, keeping to himself. After a few frantic moments of chasing targts around, I ordered the fleet off-grid and left one scout to probe out a target in a safe spot. Occasionally one of our targets would pass by, warping along a wormhole from one point to another. I docked my Thorax and came out in a Crow, the better to tackle a fleeing target. A third Vexor was sighted in the system. Finally, our scout got a fix on Mynxee and her ally, but he was several hundred kilometers away, cloaked. As he stealthily closed range, Joc parked his Thorax at an asteroid belt, acting as bait, hoping one or more of our targets might attackhim.

As our covert ops ship got within 50 kilometers of the Rupture and Vexor, the other two Vexors took our bait. "Fleet! There's a Vexor here! There are two here! Warp to Joc!" I instructed our covert ops friend to continue closing range with his targets; the rest of us warped to Joc and made short work of the first target there--local down one Vexor, though at the cost of Joc's cruiser. Bulldags'hunter and our target were apparently working together, but when "Bh" realized they'd sprung a trap, he managed to elude us and warp out. "Gf," I broadcast on the local hailing frequency.

Before we could properly loot the Vexor and recover intact modules from the wreckage of our mate's Thorax, our scout reported he was in range of the Rupture and Vexor, and we'd better come fast because they were aligned to warp away. Needing no further encouragement, we warped to our scout's position. "Vexor is primary," I confirmed, but that Vexor was fast and I was having trouble catching him, even in an interceptor. Not wanting our targets to have time to think, I changed course to a wide and fast orbit of the Rupture. "Strike that, the Vexor's too fast. Rupture is primary." I tackled Mynxee, and in due course she went down.

The Vexor had closed range to aid Mynxee, and I managed to get a point on it. "Vexor tackled!" With only one target left, our focused fire did not miss, and the Vexor dropped fast. We briefly engaged our targets in several rounds of admiration and respect on both sides, veteran combat professionals acknowledging one another after a fight. We loaded up on loot, then made a few trips to our earlier Vexor encounter, transporting loot to a jettisoned cargo container as we waited out our Global Criminal Countdown.

Another Tusker left the station in his frigate, only to encounter Bulldags'hunter waiting just outside. The Vexor pilot and his drones killed our man; what a frustrating way to begin one's day. When our GCC was up, we warily transported the loot back to the station, slipping by the Vexor now that we knew his game, but noting his hostile position right outside our headquarters. The fleet was down to just Nupe and I again, and we decided to take Bulldags'hunter if we could. It would be tricky; our quarry had already slipped away intact from several engagements today, and nothing would be easier for him than to simply dock up if we broadcast our intentions.

I refit my Thorax for pure gank, replacing the small blasters with high-tech heavies, replacing the armor with Magnetic Field Stabilizers to maximize my damage, and replacing my ECM drones with deadly Hammerheads. Our plan was for me to undock first and engage the flashy-red Vexor, and for Nupe to come out ten seconds later, by which time we hoped Bulldags'hunter would already have fired back--giving up his chance to dock immediately.

I am undocking now; undock in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5..." I stopped broadcasting as my overview display resolved. Target Vexor; engage warp disruptor; engage stasis webifier; don't launch drones yet--let him think I have ECM's...

"4, 3, 2, 1, undocking!" Nupe picked up the count. Between the heavy guns on that Hurricane and the DPS I was spitting out in my Gankerax, the Vexor's shields and armor just seemed to melt. But he hadn't returned fire yet--and he docked before we could finish him off.

"Stay on station," I told Nupe, "Let's see if he tries again." To our surprise, he did try again; perhaps he thought we'd been on our way out, and he was hoping to catch a straggler--for while his shields had been replinished, he'd not taken the time to repair his armor damage. Within seconds he was locked and taking everything we could throw at him; then, once again, he was gone from the overview. Had he docked again? No! There was his capsule! We failed to lock the capsule, but basked in the afterglow of a successful engagement. I recalled the drones, scooped the loot, and docked back up.

That was it for me today; I spent an hour in my office, compiling lists of loot, checking local prices, and dividing 24.2 million ISK among the pilots who had lost ships or participated in today's battles (and that was not counting the Hyperion's wreck, which disappeared before we could recover anything from the wreckage).

A good day to be a Tusker. A good corporation.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't "Count" on it

Note: The following account concerns some of my encounters with Count MonteCarlo, a pilot who has since been accused of being a corp scammer. I was not at all pleased to hear of what he and Feline Ferocity allegedly did to their Ministry of Destruction corpmates. While I can't help but recognize his combat prowess, I no longer feel that New Eden needs more pilots like him.

"We have a target at a belt. He is at belt II-1. All pilots stand by; on my order, jump in and proceed immediately to asteroid belt II-1, or warp directly to me. Ready...Jump! Jump! Jump! And warp immediately to belt II-1!" I warped to II-1 ahead of my fleet; by the time our target registered the spike in local, with any luck at all I would be tackling him.

I've written about many fights, but this one is special. It took place in Ouelletta, a lowsec system adjacent to highsec space, a frequent stop for miners and ratters curious about the riches of lowsec--and therefore a frequent stop for pirates who prey on unfortunate young miners and ratters. So nothing special there. I was flying a Crow, scouting for a fleet of Tusker pilots flying an Ishkur, a Taranis, a Rupture, a Stabber, and a Hurricane; well, actually, that's special--it was the biggest Tusker fleet I've yet flown with--but that's not what really made this fight special to me. What really makes this fight a Big Deal is the pilot we were up against.

His name is Count MonteCarlo. The Count and I have a history. I knew him first as a killboard-whore-of-a-corpmate, when I flew with the Ministry of Destruction; rarely were we flying in the same area at the same time, but I was impressed with the sheer number of kills this guy could rack up. Consider official MOD reports for week 30, for example, or week week 31 of this year; I mean seriously--over 50 kills in a single week? (I notice by the way that although my killmails remain, the name Ka Jolo has been expunged from all awards and top pilot reports on the Ministry of Destruction killboard. I haven't seen that before from other corporations from which I've resigned.)

But it has been as a rival that I've come to respect Count MonteCarlo best. I have the unfortunate habit of consistently underestimating him. Consider: my Crow vs. his Claw; my Crow vs. his Rupture--and then again, because I had my orbit set wrong the first time; and finally, my Taranis against his Thrasher. It seems every time I think I can beat him--I'm wrong; I'd lost every single engagement against MonteCarlo. Nor am I the only Tusker to suffer loss at his hands--by my count, this single pilot had 13 Tusker kills coming into tonight's engagement. The Count accomplishes what many pirates try unsuccessfully to do: he gets fights because he's underestimated, and in getting those fights he gets kills.

You can imagine, then, what kind of thoughts filled my head as my Crow warped to his position at asteroid belt II-1 in Ouelletta. Excitement: Could I be on the verge of my first victory against The Count? Fear: Was this a trap? Had I just underestimated him again? Was I leading my fleet to certain doom? Anticipation: This was going to be fun!

I dropped out of warp, and the fight was on. We locked one another, and I hurried to activate my microwarpdrive to hit my chosen orbit at top speed. Before I even launched my first missiles, all of my shields were depleted and most of my armor was worthless. I think I knew right then that it would be up to my corpmates to successfully prosecute this fight, if indeed we were to succeed. In fact, I immediately entered a destination for my escape capsule--and by the time I had my destination selected, I was already in that capsule; I felt glad to escape. As I warped away, Count MonteCarlo held the field.

My senses contracted, and only my hearing registered; I strained to hear radio reports from my mates.

"He's here! He's looting Jolo's wreck!"

"I don't have a point on him!"

"I'm trying to get in range; he's fast!"

"Does anybody have a point on him?" I asked, desperate.

"Burn Mac does."

"I do," some other pilot reported.

"We're getting him down," yet another Tusker assured me.

"I lost my point!"

"I lost target! He got out of range!"

"Point!"

"We got him!"

"Get his pod!"

"He got out!"

Heart pounding, I smiled as a sense of peace swept over me. It may have taken six Tuskers and the loss of my Crow, but we had killed Count MonteCarlo and his dreaded Thrasher! (What, you were expecting some other ship?) Somehow, it felt like a victory.

Within 60 minutes of our engagement, The Count had destroyed two more ships--including another Tusker. Sigh.

Will I underestimate Count MonteCarlo again? Probably. Will I ever get on the good side of a killmail against him again? I sure hope so. But I have to admire his kind of combat pilot. New Eden needs more like him.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What a year may bring forth

It's been a little over a year now since I mustered out of the Caldari Special Ops and returned to my ancestral home in the Saisio system, only to find my family killed and my home a smoking ruin. On September 15 of last year, I vowed to devote my energies to disrupting the smooth operations of business and government, throwing violence and plunder in their faces until perchance someone might wake up and make New Eden once again safe for peaceful families such as were the Achura inventors.

After an unexpected interlude educating myself to fly the ships of my chosen line, I set out looking for trouble. Almost exactly a year ago--on September 28--trouble caught me looking. Undeterred, I persisted in my evil intentions, and within the week I made my first unsanctioned kill. Since then, I've neither looked back nor wavered in my resolve.

I ingratiated myself into covert gangs of grizzled veterans, at various times over the past year flying under the banner of the Sanguine Legion, the Black Rabbits, and the Ministry of Destruction--notorious names one and all. I soaked up arcane knowledge--tricks of the infernal trade--learning from masters the setting of traps and ambushes, the basics of dogfighting, how to engage and how to evade; and all the while, my soul has soaked up the blood of innocents (and the not-too-innocent). You may not have heard of me in those days, O reader, but I began making a name for myself. Recently, my own stubborn independence and purpose led me to strike out from those old gangs, gathering some few mates around me, leader of a band of promising young like-minded brigands. They call us the Tuskers. (Apply here.)

And now, though I am far from the most feared pirate in space, though there are many whose tungsten steel and weapons systems and engines and numbers render them safe from anything I can bring, there are few who are as committed as I to death and destruction, as merciless, as cold. But how effective? As I pondered what this year has brought forth, I pored over my ledgers and official reports of my many engagements to see what I could learn. For now, I stare at a page of numbers. What to make of them?

Financially, I have little to show. Although I've looted modules from my victims' wrecks, and those modules have brought me hundreds and hundreds of millions of ISK on the markets, the risks of my chosen profession mean I myself have left over a billion ISKs worth of wreckage drifting in space. Thankfully, my investments in the markets have fared better, keeping me always with ships in the hangar.

As of this writing, records indicate I have made 858 kills and suffered 140 losses. BattleClinic currently ranks me number 4,688 in space, and finds each of my kills weightier than each of my losses, giving me an adjusted success ratio of 408% (11:1). I'm pretty sure I don't follow that math. After spending hours trying to make sense of all the statistics, I finally decided to tabulate only the action reports where I and just one other pilot are recorded; this doesn't correspond neatly to 1-on-1 solo engagements, as one might think, but it's as close as I can get.

Early in my career, I specialized in flying frigates of the Incursus class. While not generally considered the best combat frigate in space, I have found the Incursus reliable and deadly, and I still keep one or two in my hangar, and I still take them out now and then to execute my deadly business. In an Incursus have a kill-loss record against other low-tech frigates of 70-4. I'm 10-0 against rookie ships and shuttles, 28-0 vs. destroyers, 10-1 vs. mining and industrial ships, and 22-12 against low-tech cruisers. Ships I've not fared so well against include battlecruisers (2-4), an interceptor (0-1), stealth bombers (0-3), and battleships (0-2). Overall I'm 142-27 in an Incursus; 87 of those kills I followed up by also killing the poor pilot's capsule.

After flying nothing but an Incursus for six weeks, I started experimenting with cruisers. At that early stage in my skill development, I liked the Vexor best; compared with an Incursus, a Vexor seemed to have a beast of a tank and great offensive capability. My most glorious battle to date remains the one from last December where, less than three months after mustering out of the Caldari military, I defeated four ships in my Vexor--including an assault frigate and an inteceptor. I compiled a 20-5 solo combat record in my Vexor: 2-0 vs. rookie ships and shuttles, 1-0 vs. frigates, 3-0 vs. destroyers, 3-0 vs. miners and industrial ships, 7-1 vs. cruisers, 2-0 vs. assault frigates, 1-1 vs. interceptors, 1-2 vs. battlecruisers, and 0-1 vs. heavy assault ships. Six of my 20 victims lost their capsules to my drones soon after ejecting. I didn't find Vexors particularly feasible from an economic standpoint, however, and have rarely flown them since checking them out.

Apparently I got caught once flying an Imicus, a ship I generally use for hauling loot around in lowsec; so let me say here that I am 0-1 vs. assault frigates when flying an Imicus.

I continued to prefer Incursus frigates in general over a cruiser, up until around February. At that point I received my Interceptor pilot rating, and mastered the Taranis-class Gallente interceptor. I racked up a 113-13 kill-loss record in a Taranis, and further locked on to 86 fleeing capsules to drop the pilots back into their clones. Against frigates, 46-0; 2-0 against rookie ships and shuttles; 23-1 vs. destroyers; 30-9 vs. cruisers; 8-0 vs. miners and industrial ships; 1-0 vs. assault frigates; 2-1 vs. battlecruisers; 1-1 vs. interceptors; and 0-1 against stealth bombers. Those are some nice ratios, but when I lose a Taranis, that's a lot of ISK out the airlock!

Dissatisfied actually with the Taranis interceptor as an interceptor, I flew it more like a super-Incursus, and gained the skill to pilot the Crow class interceptor. I like the Crow, but use it more in gangs, so don't have much of a solo record to go by. That combat record is 18-7, plus 9 capsules killed. 2-0 against rookie ships and shuttles, 11-1 against frigates, 4-0 vs. destroyers, 1-2 vs. cruisers, 0-1 against interceptors, 0-1 vs. battlecruisers, 0-1 vs. heavy assault ships, and 0-1 against force recon ships. The Crow's low DPS, while admirable for an interceptor, just isn't enough to support a real impressive solo record. I believe I probably lost ISK when flying solo in Crows.

By May, my support skills were approaching respectable, and I re-discovered cruisers, this time favoring the famed Thorax class of Gallente cruiser. For many purposes, a Thorax remains my ship of choice today; it's inexpensive and deadly. My "solo" combat record with a Thorax is a delightful 127-13, with 58 of my victims waking up in their clone vats. That's broken down to 33-0 against frigates, 21-0 against destroyers, 22-0 against mining ships and industrials, 39-1 against cruisers, 5-0 against assault frigates, 6-7 vs. battlecruisers, 0-2 vs. heavy assault ships, 0-1 vs. force recon vessels, and 0-2 against battleships. With that kind of record, it's easy to see why the Thorax is my meat-and-potatoes warship.

During the course of these 486 fights--420 kills 66 and losses--I managed to follow my kills with capsule kills 246 times...while only losing my own capsule 3 times!

Again, let me point out that those 486 fights do not reflect all my combat experience. They don't include the times when I didn't manage to tackle my target, or the times when I myself managed to slip away, or the times when we engaged but reached an impasse and had to break things off. They don't reflect the kills I got together with my mates in the Sanguine Legion or the Black Rabits or the Ministry of Destruction, or with alliance partners in the Guristas Associates or the Southern Cross Alliance or the Greater BoB Community, or with partners of convenience and opportunity. They don't show my losses where I was ganked by more than one opponent or a whole blob of them, they don't show my loss in a dishonored 1 vs. 1.

Yeah, it's been quite a year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fearless. No, clueless.

Alerted to the presence of a juicy target by a fellow Tusker, I entered the system's coordinates into my navigation computer but kept manual control of my Thorax as I began negotiating the seven jump gates between us. Just as I was only one system out from my target, I jumped into the middle of a serious fleet camping the gate I had just come through.

I didn't panic. A quick glance informed me the fleet included a Rapier and a Crow; my odds of simply warping on were low. Instead, I set the gate I had just jumped through as my next destination, then waited for a few moments to let my jump timer reset. Taking a deep breath, I issued the command to approach the gate, followed quickly by commands to engage the microwarpdrive and activate damage control systems. To jump as soon as I hit jump range, I engaged my autopilot. My cruiser turned slowly to the gate, then picked up some crucial speed as it returned to the gate. Then my foes had me locked; my shields evaporated, and I activated my meager armor repair system as large chunks were bitten out of my armor. My speed slowed some, then slowed even more, as electronic warfare modules targeted my propulsion systems. But it was too late for my attackers; by the time I reached jump range, I still had half my armor.

Jumping through the gate, it was too soon for celebration. Competent gate campers would have ships waiting to tackle me on the other side. With elation, I realized my gate campers were heavier on numbers than competence; the other side of the gate was clear! I quickly warped away from danger to a safe spot I had previously recorded in space.

Smugly, I turned to my comms console and gave a rundown on my brief encounter to my fellow Tuskers. Then activity on my proximity overview caught the corner of my eye.

What was this? The entire gate camp was at my position! Wait--I had warped back to the gate! Now it was panic time. I realized, too late, that my autopilot was still engaged--and my ultimate destination still took my ship through that gate. To fix my destiny, the autopilot had jumped to a "safe" 17 kilometers from the gate--way too far to just jump right through. In desparation, I spit out orders to warp to someplace else--anyplace else. Not in time. The commands were still in my mouth as I was locked and tackled. Time to think about my escape pod, and denying my foes the bounty still riding on my head.

Some would say that warping 17 km. off a heavily camped gate is fearless. Those who know better call it clueless.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Killmail denied! Dignity also denied.

Getting low on supplies, I messaged my hauler partner a shopping list and contracted a large amount of loot to him. He picked up the loot, set it for sale in a regional market hub, purchased my requirements in Jita, and dropped my cargo off in lowsec. This all required multiple trips for him, and he noticed a pirate camping the Hevrice gate from highsec--a lone Zealot. My partner reported that the pirate was observed on at least one occasion to incur sentry fire.

Fitting out a shiny new Thorax in one of the manners I favor, I confirmed that the pirate was still in the system. Remembering how I'd once killed a Drake all by myself in an interceptor (with the help of sentry guns), I got excited about the opportunity to solo-kill a Zealot. I loaded the Thorax with high-tech ammo and ECM drones, lovingly painted the name "Pork Belly" on her hull, did a quick check of all systems, put in an order for insurance, and I was out of that station as fast as I could, bumping Bestowers out of my way as I did so.

"Set a course for the jumpgate to Raneilles!" I ordered. Part of me wondered if I should take a more cautious approach, but it's a part of me I ignore often. And often, as in this instance, to my detriment.

As the yet-unproven ship Pork Belly dropped out of warp, my overview filled with data on multiple bogeys. Faction battleships, interceptors (camping a highsec gate?), battlecruisers--I was facing a formidable fleet. With a nod to a certain part of me, recently ignored, I quickly barked, "Run away! Run away!"

"Our warp engines are being disrupted, Captain."

I cursed. There was no way I was going to let my incompetence result in a kill for this gravy-sucking fleet. "Jump into Raneilles! We'll take our chances that the authorities there aren't just waiting at the gate!"

We were out of the frying pan, and into another frying pan. The Gallente police were, in fact, sitting on the other side of the gate. We received their broadcast, warning us that our presence in the system was not to be tolerated, as they waited for the temporary cloaking of the jump gate to disengage. "Set Hevrice as our next destination! Approach the gate! All ahead full! Engage microwarpdrive engines! Engage autopilot!" I had seconds to try to save the ill-fated Pork Belly, and everyone knew it.

Our seconds didn't add up. Our speed dropped to a crawl as the police cast a stasis webifying field on us, and our shields and armor took a pounding. It was clear we weren't going to make it back to the pirate fleet on the other side of the gate. I ordered the crew to their escape pods, then followed suit, dogging the hatch just as the short-lived Pork Belly disintegrated.

I did next what any self-respecting pirate Captain does after losing a ship in highsec (almost always due to incompetence): I called up the report of my ship's loss, and turned to the section listing the opponents credited with the kill. To my satisfaction, only Gallente police were listed. Since none of the pirates were listed (and I know at least one of them engaged me with a warp scrambler), I was not required to submit a report to my corporation.

Yay?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not yet satisfied? Read more!

A lot of you enjoy reading Your Money or Your Life, but it is a sad yet true fact that an average of 23.99 hours each day remains after reading any new content on this site. In response to demands for "moar yarr," and in efforts to introduce even more readers to my own take on the space lanes, this blog has recently been added to the EVE-Online Blog Pack.

Now, you can more easily find and read 25 other blogs, ranging from stories to news with plenty of advice and drama thrown in for good measure. Thanks to CrazyKinux for all his work in creating and maintaining the blog pack. My thanks also go to Mynxee for brokering my inclusion in the list. I don't know about you, but for me blogs and websites related to EVE-Online are pure value-added.

One last thing: if you don't mind, could you please go afk in your battlecruiser 100km off a planet while you do your reading? I'd appreciate it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

gf

That's what I transmit on the local public frequencies whenever I finish a fight--win, lose, or draw. "Gf" is the abbreviation for "good fight," a courtesy real PvP pilots extend to one another, grateful for the opportunity to actually fight. "Gf," I say. How I wish it were true.

Most of the time, when I say "gf," what I really want to say is, "You stupid idiot. What were you doing at an asteroid belt in pirate-infested space? And what the heck were you doing with one laser, one railgun, one blaster, and one artillery piece on that ship you were ratting with? I mean, thanks for letting me get the kill and all, but seriously, you should have owned me in a beautiful ship like that! Fit for shield and armor tanking? Bah! Well, thanks at least for the loot."

Other times, my "gf" takes the place of an inner, "Ouch! Can't a pirate travel from one system to the next without having 3 battleships, 2 command ships, 3 recon ships, 4 heavy assault cruisers, 2 cruisers, and 2 interceptors pounding him to death? Well, at least when I post this loss mail nobody's gonna tell me I could have lived."

But sometimes--just sometimes, that "gf" is heartfelt and genuine--win, lose, or draw. When I kill that assault frigate by the skin of my teeth, venting gases and trailing odd bits of smoking armor--now that was a fight! Or when I'm speeding away in my escape capsule, my mind racing as I think of a half-dozen things I might have done different, I know I was just in a fight! Or what happened a short while ago...

Joc and I started out to get a small gang going, but one thing led to another and we found ourselves a few jumps from home, he in a covert ops ship for scanning down a ship at a safe spot, me in the platerax I often solo in. As luck would have it, Joc spied a Covetor-class mining barge that appeared to be at a safespot! But as he approached the ship under cloak, one of the Covetor's drones made a lucky turn and disrupted Joc's cloak; Joc appeared on the overview, and the Covetor pilot was spooked. The Covetor ran to a safe spot, then warped from point to point in space. Joc made a valiant effort to pin the Covetor down, but the pilot was too savvy to let that happen. Eventually he docked up and came out in a Myrmidon, a battlecruiser class not to be taken lightly.

Joc and I were even more eager to engage a battlecruiser. If the Myrmidon pilot is not experienced in PvP, it is very possible for a Thorax with ECM drones to beat him in straight combat. To our glee, after a few frustrating minutes, Joc was able to tackle the Myrmidon. I warped in, and the fight was on. After adding my own scram point to Joc's, I unleashed my Vespa EC-600's, hoping to jam the Myrmidon so he couldn't target me or my drones.

About those drones: the Myrmidon had five high-tech scout drones out, and they didn't need him to target me to know I was a bad guy. Because of the generous tank a Myrmidon can have, I determined to take out his offensive capability first, before attacking the battlecruiser itself. I was able to pop a few drones before the remainder were recalled; so I turned my guns on the Myrmi. Then 5 fresh drones appeared, and I went back to them. After several minutes of this, I was hurting. Joc held the Myrmidon down while I kept trying to warp out, hoping for a few moments to repair my armor before jumping back into the fray. There were some tense moments for me, as my foe had disrupted my warp engines, but soon enough my trusty ECM drones broke his lock and I was free. Unfortunately, with me out of the picture the Myrmidon turned to Joc, and we soon realized we would have to let the battlecruiser go.

It was a good effort on our part, but our opponent was competent, experienced, and prepared. He did what a Myrmidon should do in such a situation. When I kill Myrmidons from the con of a T1 cruiser, it's because the Myrmidon pilot is only proficient in controlling low-tech drones, or he doesn't have backup drones in his bays, or he can't field more than 3 or 4 at a time. Perhaps he has all the right gear, but in his inexperience he freezes and doesn't know what to do. Well, not this guy; he made one mistake--getting tackled in the first place--but that's about all. We were unable to kill our target, but he was also unable to kill us. It was, in other words, a Good Fight.

So, to Tak nTar, I say it again: "gf!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Tuskers: an early perspective

Wow, leading a lowsec pirate corp has been interesting. Here are some notable observations.

First, almost immediately I attracted a couple of recruits. In our little three-man corporation, I'm actually getting in more and bigger roaming gangs than I usually did in pirate corps more than ten times our size! What I love about my corpmates is we all seem to have a common enjoyment of roaming (as opposed to camping, or ratting, or buying stuff and fitting out ships, or logging on just to change skills, etc.). Each pilot has been communicative and helpful on our forums and in-game. I have no trouble speaking with everyone on TeamSpeak. When we aren't roaming together, we're happy to roam solo. Any one of us would be top 5 on the killboards of any pirate corp I've been in. In short, what our corp lacks in numbers, it makes up in quality.

About those numbers...it was a little surprising to me how few applications we're getting. But then I looked at the situation again, and I'm not surprised. First, there seems to be a never-ending stream of new pirate corps trying to get off the ground; there's a lot of competition out there. Second, I really do have standards, and I think I put off many potential recruits with my demands. I've chosen to insist that any new Tusker demonstrate the right stuff in the form of killmails documenting at least 5 solo kills, including 2 kills of ships "better" than the applicants: killing a destroyer in a T1 frigate, for example, or a battlecruiser with a cruiser. In the past, I've seen how even a grizzled old pirate corp with a dozen people online can struggle to come up with three pilots at a time to actually go out and fight. At the same time, I've seen how eager new pilots barely able to fit a warp scrambler can see stunning success. The Tuskers want fighters. But I think this requirement is intimidating to many new recruits, who can get in easier with some other corporation padding its numbers.

Looking at all the recruiting spiels from new pirate corporations similar to the Tuskers, I asked myself again why I wanted to risk starting my own. But as soon as I thought about joining an existing corporation, I found something inside me shying away from the thought of seeing the inactivity behind a glowing reputation, the drama of alliances, the feeling of flying solo again even with a half-dozen "mates" online, and more I won't speak of now.

More surprising than the dearth of applications has been the cornucopia of pirate alliances seeking our membership. Several times a day, the Tuskers have been invited into alliances that would link us up with numbers, skilled pilots, and opportunities that we can only dream about on our own. Some of these alliances are really first-rate; I've flown along on some of their ops, and seen some impressive kills. For the time being, however, we're not considering joining any alliance. First, we like targets, and alliances lead to "blues" in space, off-limits in our hunts. Second, as a corporation we're just forming our own unique identity. I'd like to see what kind of corporate culture develops within the Tuskers before casting us into the shadow of an alliance. Finally, I'm enjoying the professional gang we make up, free of foul language and chest-thumping smack-talk. Maybe later.

I've actually enjoyed setting up all the trappings of a pirate corp: the Tuskers have forums, a killboard, and we're even one of the few corps in New Eden with a ransom board. Corpmates Joc and Ronan Jacques have been helping to contribute some excellent articles on the forums to help our corp as it grows and gains a better reputation. Fun stuff when space seems empty.

The Tuskers will probably never be the biggest, baddest pirate corp on the block. Her members now have a fraction of the skills many other pilots enjoy, who have been flying for so much longer. But we can be a living body of committed combat pilots, with a strong comraderie, and enjoying the healthy respect of those we encounter. May the Tusker label always be a badge of honor and pride.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm starting a pirate corporation

Well, I finally did it. I finally decided to leave Ministry of Destruction. I am not taking this action without regrets--I've had a lot of good times with MOD. Her veteran pilots guided me, teaching me much about educating myself, fitting ships, slipping through traps, and springing traps of my own. Under the MOD banner I fought uneven fights at asteroid belts, risked shame and courted fame at stargates, and even fought in fleets of hundreds of ships under BOB command.

My readers will know of some of my previous issues with MOD--mostly stemming from shifts in vision and purpose; eventually, however, MOD returned to lowsec (and piracy) en masse. More recently I found myself being bothered by foul language and entire vulgar conversation threads; most of the time, I simply switched to another comms channel. The comradery I shared with my corpmates was stronger than my personal discomfort at such times.

But then I woke up today and read an account on our corp forums that caused my jaw to drop. A MOD pilot had entered into a 1-on-1 duel with a pilot from a rival pirate faction--and then, when the fight soured, called for help; a second MOD pilot uncloaked and jammed the enemy, allowing the first to escape, and bringing the 1 vs. 1 to a premature end. Cries of "dishonor!" from the rival corporation were laughed off. I posted my displeasure on the forum, then opened the corp voice comms.

As it happened, the story was being re-told as I tuned in. Again, I expressed my sense of dishonor at being in a corporation that does not (no longer?) honor 1-vs.-1's. I called upon the CEO to make things right with the offended pilot. The CEO, who was part of the conversation, chose to take no action at this time to defend MOD's honor. I suggested MOD pilots be warned to always honor 1-vs.-1's in the future, on pain of expulsion; again, no action was taken at this time. In shame--or honor--I resigned my commission as a corp director. Then I contacted the rival pirate corp, expressed my shame, and informed them of my resignation. As soon as Human Resources processes my paperwork, I shall cease to fly for the Ministry of Destruction.

In the meantime, I went out for one more rollicking-fun roam with a MOD gang; we lost a battlecruiser, but killed a Dominix and a Megathron. How can I harbor bad feelings toward my erstwhile mates? How can I hold a grudge against men and women with whom I have shared the risks and rewards of a swashbuckling life? While I always fly not-blue-shoot-it (NBSI), and former corpmates are no exception, I also enter into ad hoc alliances of convenience when opportunities demand more than I can bring; perhaps it is naive of me to hope that I may yet fly with MOD pilots again in the future. Certainly the code I fly by is not one to be imposed on other pilots who take a different view.

While I have already received a couple of attractive offers from pirate corps of some repute, I have decided to start my own pirate corporation. My problems with MOD stemmed from small incongruities in vision and philosophy. I hope that by articulating a clear vision, and by enforcing a clear code of behavior, I will attract a family of cutthroats in closer agreement and more united in purpose than I've yet experienced. Still a lower-grade pilot than most I see in space, I am under no illusion that my corporation will be a dominant one, or that most others will shy away from us in fear; yet I am resolved that my corporation will be respected and regarded as one of competence and honor.

Interested? Then check out the Tuskers!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mega lucky!

"There's a Megathron under the command of a five-month pilot."

"Think we can take him?"

"I dunno. I'm willing to try if you are."

"Alright guys, see if you can scan him down to a belt."

"I think he's at the station at...no wait! He's at belt V-1!"

"On my way," I reported from the helm of my heavily-armored Thorax.

"On my way," Wraith Sho'Ktar reported from his Malediction-class interceptor.

"Point," announced Joc, also flying a plated Thorax.

Three Ministry of Destruction pilots, in two T1 cruisers and an interceptor, were engaging a Megathron-class battleship.

"Shall we go for his drones first, or focus on the ship itself?"

"He hasn't deployed any drones yet."

"Okay then, for now focus on the ship."

"He's hitting me for little damage...with light missiles!" wondered Joc. Soon, however, the battleship wasn't hitting anything. Vespa EC-600 drones don't have a great chance of jamming a battleship--individually. But ten such drones improve the odds, and today was our lucky day.

"Interceptor, get a fast lock on his pod."

"Let's ransom him. Everone stop firing when we get him into structure. I'll invite him to our private ransom channel." I started keying in the commands to make this happen, then--

"Stop firing! Stop firing! He's ejected from his ship!" Joc snapped my attention back to the overview.

"Pod locked, and I have a point on it."

"Everyone, kill the pod before he can re-board his vessel! Good."

"Who can fly a Megathron?" It appeared none of us could--but a corp member nearby was called in to pilot the helm of our prize ship.

"Wait, this isn't an Amarr battleship--it's Gallente."

Startled, I sheepishly spoke up: "Oh, I can fly it then." I found a safe spot in space, and parked my Thorax there after carefully noting the coordinates, then flew back to the asteroid belt in my escape capsule. I had no problems boarding the badly-damaged ship, and managed to get it also to my safe spot.

What a bonanza! We'd captured a ship of the line worth a good 85 million ISK, taking little damage in return. Maybe the pilot had expensive implants he was trying to save--if so, I'm afraid he was bitterly disappointed. Maybe he thought to deny us a killmail--in that case, good on you, mate! Killmail denied!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The burden of command

I've commanded small fleets of T1 cruisers or interceptors before, but today I found myself flying a Gankerax in command of a fleet that included a Blackbird, an Arazu, a Huginn, a Malediction, a Hurricane, a Merlin, and a Stiletto--all piloted by blood-thirsty members of the Ministry of Destruction. Ignoring the odd frigate or destroyer up to no good at an asteroid belt, I charted a course for adventure.

First we dipped our toe into Old Man Star, a known hangout for pirates and cutthroats. Our scout in the Malediction spotted several juicy targets, including a Taranis that was dogging his steps as he warped from vantage point to vantage point. I instructed the fleet to stand by on the gates into the system, and told the Malediction pilot to linger longer at his next stop; when he felt the Taranis was on his way, he gave the word and we all jumped into the system and warped to his location. Unfortunately, the Taranis webbed our scout and popped him in short order, and while a couple of our fleet members managed to web and jam him, the Taranis made it out before anyone could disrupt his warp engines. MOD 0, bad guys 1.

I set a course for Oulley, and we hunted our way in that direction. Local bad boys from the Dead Parrots and Starbucks kept a low profile. The other combat corps seemed to be taking it easy in well-defended space stations; I like to think they were quivering in fear of our mighty fleet, but it could be they were simply sleeping off a party from earlier encounters where they ruled the field.

Then our scout reported a gate camp on the Agoze gate in Vey; an Armageddon, a Harbinger, a Hurricane, and a Tempest from the ParadoXon alliance. Our Blackbird had all racial jammers except Amarr, so I laid out a plan wherein he would jam the Hurricane and Tempest while the rest of us primaried the Armaggedon. Inexperienced as I was, I opened the floor for alternative suggestions, but none were put forward. On my command, we jumped through the gate; once everyone was in, we dropped cloaked and put the plan into action.

Immediately, things began to sour. Have you spotted my fatal mistake yet?

Pilots began to spam comms with reports of taking heavy damage and imminent death. I ordered a stop to those reports, pleading for useful intelligence. Then it came, perhaps 30 seconds into the engagement: people were taking fire from sentry guns. I had ordered the fleet to open fire on neutral ships at a jump gate! Our Arazu went down, then the Blackbird. I ordered all pilots to get out immediately; I myself was primaried by this time, and could only pound my command console as my warp engines and impulse drives were scrammed and webbed. While my Thorax was doomed, I was at least able to pilot my escape pod out of the engagement before any of those lucky ParadoXon dogs could claim the bounty on my head.

I don't know if you can imagine with what heavy heart I pondered, sitting at a lonely spot in Vey space, the damage I had done this day to my mates in the Ministry of Destruction. Their professionalism was reflected in the fact that they executed the plan with full trust in their fleet commander, initiating hostilities against ships protected by the powers that be. Ships fit to levels I couldn't afford were turned into scrapmetal, pilots with skills I can't fathom found themselves waking up in some cold clone vat bay.

I hope someday to become a pirate fleet commander of some repute. May I find the fortitude to endure the burden of command. And may I learn more from the mistakes of others.