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.