The Perfect Thing


Years ago down in Impass I was flying around in my Manticore doing extremely dangerous Gate Perching. Gate Perching is when you sit on top of a Star Gate in a Bomber (aligned out) waiting for a Transport ship to jump into local. This rarely works, but when it does it is insanely awesome. It is also insanely dangerous. A variation of this involves doing the same thing but to a Station. Add in the extra complication of a bombing run and then watch things go to eleven. And yes, I did this sort of thing (and worse) all the time. Heck, part of the fun of Eve is trying to think of dumb things you can do and try to get away with.

On one such day I found a Armageddon slow boating away from a Station. No one else in local. So I uncloaked my Manti and pointed him. And thus began the extremely slow process of exploding his ship. And not dying to his drones. I can't begin to tell you how long this took, but one eye was always on local. He hit structure and started dying. And then I ran out of Torps.

Years later I'm in Hevrice when I notice a Megathron jumping into Jove next door. I follow in my Condor. He warps to a belt and I follow, point, and start the process of exploding his ship. I am in zero danger from him, but again, one eye on local. No one comes to help either of us. He hits structure and starts dying. And then I run out of missiles.

That first example happened almost nine years ago. The second more than six years ago. And I remember them both, and others like them, like they happened yesterday. Sadly neither of those two ended up on my Killboard, but they remain among my favorite fights. I literally have hundreds of fights like that in my history. And I can clearly remember them all. Some you win, some you lose, and some just... well, sometimes you just run out of ammo.

We are all chasing our own version of the perfect thing. The moment when everything aligns perfectly for us and the unexpectedly great thing happens to us. No matter what you are doing in-game that perfect thing exists for you. For me it always involves finding a much larger target in a much smaller ship, the ever elusive under-classed kill above your weight-class. Or the elusive equal class match-up, when two ships of equal class square up and duke it out. Your own "perfect thing" might involve much different circumstances, but no matter what it is - they all share one common trait.

Risk. And no, I'm not going to bore you with a lecture about risk. What I am going to do is challenge you. Are you risking your own story? Only you can answer this because it is going to be different for every player. But are you making your own story interesting? After all Eve isn't a game you play as much as a game you live while you are playing it. And again, the kinds of stories will vary by player - not everyone has to be the Pirate Lord of Low Sec. But what are you? Are you living the game, are you getting the best out of your experience?

You might not have an answer right now. But let that sink in. If you discover that you are not, then you should change something. Move. Change venues. Challenge yourself. Build in some risk. Comfort becomes boring eventually.

Try something. No matter how crazy it sounds.

I bet you'll like it. And even if it ends badly, or you run out of ammo, you'll remember it.




Forgotten Corners


Wormholes. Low Security Space. Spend any amount of time at an Eve Player meet and you'll quickly understand that these regions don't get the same attention that Null Sec does. Null groups dominate events. Test had over 100 players attend the most recent Eve Vegas for example. I'm guessing but I'd bet there weren't 100 total players at Vegas that call Low Sec home. Or Wormholes. Null gets the attention in every way attention can be given. From CCP, from the media, and from other players. Look, I've played in Null and fought in many wars, I've got nothing against it. Play where you want and play how you want.

But when was the last time Wormholes got an upgrade? When was the last time something new was added to Low Sec to make it more enticing? That's right, in both cases it has been almost an entire DECADE. Which is ten years by the way.

And right now I'm speaking as the CEO of a 300+ member Low Sec Pirate Corporation - low sec isn't bouncing back after the Summer like it usually does. It is concerning, quiet, slow, and relatively dead. We are running 4-5 fleets a week and having trouble finding content.

Take a look at our monthly killboard stats:

Yarrr!

You have to go back to August of 2016 to find a month with lower than 1,000 kills and we've had three of them this year alone. Again, Summer is generally slower, but this is October. And September barely broke 1k.

I have a lot of hungry mouths to feed. I'm not going to give up on LS but I also know this means we have to start stretching out even further for content. Which we will of course.

My point is more about the long-term viability of both areas of space. Nothing in the long-term roadmap that I am aware of addresses either. Nothing. No hints at FW upgrades, or WH Abyssal graphics, or special "LS Only" content, or anything that can help drive engagement. Or provide a side-income stream that isn't relying on our alts in Null Sec. (And yes, we all have them. Spais are fun!)

It is important to mention that both WH and LS players don't want a lot of help. We just want some help. We like our spaces and they way they operate. Don't mess with stuff that isn't broken. In the case of LS all I really think we need is some love given to FW mechanics and some additional type of content drivers. Not much to be frank.

But when will that happen? My worry is not soon enough to matter.


I Barely Survived My First Eve Vegas


If you read this post you might think I had a terrible time at Eve Vegas. I did not. Not entirely. And only for large chunks of the time. You might even get the idea that I was miserable. And you wouldn't be wrong. Not entirely. But mostly I wasn't. Hopefully you will read this and understand that my feelings about Eve Vegas are complicated. And I hope you won't judge me harshly for being honest. Or, at least, trying to be honest.

This was our first Eve Vegas. It was my wife's first time in Vegas ever. And it was only my second. Although I've been in the Vegas airport a dozen times or more. My first time on the strip was a drive up and down with a few stops along the way. So this was truly our first significant exposure to the city. And let me be brutally honest here, for two people who have struggled their entire lives with social anxiety and depression - Las Vegas is possibly the worst place in the world. It is loud, obnoxious, unending, unrelenting, bright, noisy, harsh, and weirdly cavernous. It is unrelentingly oppressive. And I won't even go down the financial, corporate, stupid-tax, side of gambling. Or worse. Suffice to say that Las Vegas is not our happy place.

Our first two days on the trip we left the city and went off to the country. Those two days were awesome. More about those in another post.

I'm glad to hear that the event will be moving from The Linq because that was like having an Eve meet in a cave for three days. There are no windows. And it is dark and oppressive. For anyone that bumped into me during those three days and found me sour, or surly, or dark, I sincerely apologize. Just know that I was expending a tremendous amount of personal energy trying to be normal. And I'd be the first to admit that I wasn't always successful. I know my Wife had the same problems. The consequences for that expenditure of energy was manifested physically in my knees. So, lucky me, I was also in some physical discomfort most of the time. (Feeling much better now.)

God that sounds awful doesn't it?

But it also wasn't. As always we enjoyed meeting up with our friends and having the opportunity to meet and make new friends. As always we missed running into people we would have liked to have bumped into, or else ran into them at bad times. I also know a lot of people are dealing with their own social anxieties and I do always try to be aware of that as well. We can be a hot mess the Eve community. So it's all good. If we missed you just know that we hope to run into you again at another event soon. And if you didn't manage to grab some swag, you have no one to blame but yourself. Liz and I were practically throwing it at people towards the end there.

Top Golf was a blast and we both really enjoyed that much more than we thought we would. I sucked so hard at first it was truly embarrassing. But, as always, I struggled on and by the end I was doing much, much better. I even managed to sink an air shot into the furthest white circle near the far end. So I was pretty proud of that. Even though, by then, no one was paying me any attention.

We also enjoyed Drai's more than we thought we would. Although that was a hard place to talk without yelling at each other. Enjoyable and always good to see Permaband in person.

For a low sec Pirate Lord there wasn't much about the event itself to get excited about. Almost all the new updates are for Null Sec. Although I always appreciate updated graphics and the new Stargate effects are insanely awesome. And we get some new ships, which is always good news.

I tend to seek out and hang with the art department, so it was great to have some time with CCP Burger. Awesome guy and while he is still relatively new in the position (since July), I am very encouraged by what I've heard. CCP has traditionally been very silo oriented and it is encouraging that they are trying to change that and get different departments working closer together. That should have long lasting and positive impacts across the board going forward.

I also spent some time with him on the new 3D Camera. And I am pleased to report that this thing works like magic. And while it won't launch as feature-rich as it could be, the groundwork is obviously there to expand the capabilities of the feature in the future. For someone like myself who has been asking for something like this for a decade, this is huge. It works. And it is beautiful. Look for a drastic increase in the quality of Eve cinematics in the near future. I know I'm going to be purchasing a 3D mouse.

I also finally had a chance to sit down and talk with CCP Salvo as well. And while the Imicus is next up on the update line, I tried to convince him that the Thorax should be next. He also agrees with that assessment and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. I also stressed that the entire Battlecruiser line-up needs updated, especially the Hurricane, Cyclone, Myrmidon, Harbinger and Drake models. The important thing with those ships is to maintain the current model while updating the look and texture of each. They just need some TLC and updated to look more modern.

The Eve store featured one item with a spaceship on it, which sold out. A t-shirt with a white Rifter. I honestly don't know how many more years it will take for CCP to savvy to the point here, but at least that is some progress. Put ships on things! Duh. Remember Incarna? We like spaceships, it is the entire point of the game.

Speaking of spaceships we had several 3D printed models in the charity auction this year. I wish I knew who provided them, but I don't. (Enough said about that.) But they were amazing and they sold, I believe for a combined $1,200 or so. Proving once again that we like spaceships. Duh.

I was proud to donate a print of mine to the auction as well. And while I had to handwrite an information card for it and it had no way of being displayed (the less said about this the better), it still managed to bring in $360 for charity. I promoted the crap out of it myself and the guy who bought it was extremely happy. As was I.  All told we raised slightly over $15,000 for Able Gamers and I'm proud to have been a small part of that success. Always feels good.

I was also happy to hear that Toronto will be an official meet next year. I know those people have been working hard on that event for years and they deserve the recognition. I'm sure that we will be going next year, it is so close after all. Once I heard that, I figured we wouldn't win the Fanfest at Home contest. And sure enough it ended up going to those nudists in Finland. Well deserved.

I could complain about more things. Or I could just shut up about it.

We're already looking forward to Eve London in less than a month. That'll make FOUR Eve Player Events for us in 2018. Fanfest, Steel City Eve, Vegas, and London. I doubt we'll do that many again next year. But you never know what the future holds.

Whatever happens just know that I'll always be over here trying to shame CCP into a better store experience, better merch, better game play and more better graphics all around. In the end all I want is for Eve to be awesome. Just like we all do.

Now I'm just looking forward to logging in and blowing something up.

Yarrr!



Vexor Progress

Right now I'm working on something new. I hurt my shoulder over the Summer and the lingering effects from that injury have impacted my work. I can't really work some of the same techniques I used in the past. Heck, it is probably those exact techniques that led to some of the problems I'm having to be honest.

So I've been working on a less impactful schedule and technique which I am getting pretty decent at. I did a few trial runs with it and then decided to challenge myself by painting/drawing a Headhunter skinned Vexor entirely in Illustrator. The ship is just a part of a larger piece, but it is the hero and the most important element.

So I thought I'd share a few of the progress images with you.

First step is just to block out big areas of color, shadows, and a few fine lines and details.

Then it is just a question of adding increasing details, color, shading, and then final details like lights and labels. Almost all of this stage is done freehand using the brush tool.


Some elements required testing out various SVG Filters, mostly to do with blending and blurring. As this is a vector based illustration, achieving the desired results is not as easy as it is in Photoshop.

The real challenge for me was going to be getting the skin effects correct. This was extremely challenging.

And there it is. An entirely vector based illustration of the Vexor with the Headhunter skin. I'll finish this piece up when we get back from Eve Vegas. But now that the ship is finished, my original intention might change. I'll have to give this some thought.

A piece of advice if you are going to try working like this in Illustrator - be sure to outline everything as you go. Or at least at the very end. It makes dealing with the drawing so much easier later on. Especially when moving it around or re-sizing it.

In total this piece took about 6 hours from start to finish.

BONUS:

Here is a wireframe view of the illustration about halfway along.


And the whole thing up on my monitor.


Off to Eve Vegas



In two days we leave for our first trip to Eve Vegas. Finally! After years of trying (insert long-story here) we are finally going. I hope. There are still two days...

Above is our entry in the recent Eve Fanfest Home Contest. The Harpa in Reykjavik is undergoing some renovations and CCP is moving HQ buildings, so in 2019 there won't be a Fanfest in Iceland. Instead they will be spreading things out a bit across the globe. And one of those stops will be at someone's house. Most likely not mine. But one can hope and after long and careful consideration, my lovely Wife and I decided to go ahead and enter. Just on the off-chance we might win. Because we already host Steel City Eve at our house and that is awesome.

Last week CCP held another contest and asked the community to post Fan Art around the social media universe. And while I could have posted a lot more, I did try to contain myself. Over on Instagram I posted a few images, one of which was selected as one of the three winners. I think we each get one of those awesome white Art of Eve book collections. Which, believe it or not, I don't already own. (Although I do have the Art of Eve book, I'm not a caveman.)

This is the piece that won:
Maulus In Orbit Illustration
Click to embiggen
Which is cool because this piece was really a test more than anything. One of the very first times I tried to do an entire piece in Photoshop using the Wacom tablet and a whole bunch of custom brushes. So it represents an important moment in my own history, so it's nice for it to get some recognition.

I don't do as much Eve art as I used to these days. But I try to stay busy and I have a new piece I'm working on that I am very excited about. But that will have to wait until after Eve Vegas.

Until then.






War Decs in Eve


There is a lot of talk within the community lately about War Decs. The possibility that something may be or may not be done with them has stirred up discussions around town. The recent CSM minutes are to blame. But there is another culprit, one much more serious and impactful. It is becoming rather obvious that War Mechanics in Eve are actually driving players out of the game. This possibility has been debated for years, but it looks like we finally have actual data to back it up. Indeed, players do disengage from Eve when under War and (even more importantly) afterwards. They don't always come back.

The critical issue here is engagement. The more engaged players become the more likely they are to stay players. And sadly, War Decs as they exist in Eve are anti-engagement. There is literally nothing you can do about them. Except log off, stay in station, stop doing anything, avoid them, and other non-engagement activities. For most Eve players these are the options. Back when I lived in High Sec at the beginning of my Eve career a War Dec meant a jump-clone into our Null Sec base. But not all players have that option.

I'll leave it to others to complain, because I have a simple solution - get rid of them. Completely.

Scrap the whole thing. Don't keep iterating on a system that is horribly broken. Instead, wipe the slate clean so that it can be replaced for a new system built from the ground up. I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers here, but I do know what a new Engagement System should look like. Here are a few of the basic tenants:

• Goal Based - Both sides in an engagement should have goals that can be completed to achieve victory conditions. These victory conditions need to be meaningful for both sides. This can easily become a very complicated and intricate system, but I would prefer it stay as simple as possible. Goals could be tied to missions, or other pve content, or based on activity levels. Getting out of a War Dec should be easy for an active, engaged group of players. We want to encourage activity. Not penalize it. Maybe some goals are in Low Sec, Null or in a WH?

• Bribery - This wouldn't be Eve without risks and underhanded mechanics. I suggest building it into the system. You should be able to bribe Concord to gain advantages or to combat advantages. I'd like someone to bribe Concord to let me into HS for a war mission (Yeah, War Missions!) for a few hours. Or for a victim corp to pay off one of their goals and reduce the timers. The options here are numerous. Cross pollination is the goal here, let's get players jumping into systems and experiencing new parts of space.

Right now there is nothing an Alliance like mine can do against a War Dec. Our HS arms simply move around it and HS activity is avoided. But our main combat arm, Stay Frosty, is 100% useless when it comes to HS Wars. Us scum-sucking Pirates can't do anything to help. At least not reasonably. I suggest that during a War Concord grants temporary sec status to all combatants. So I could fly into HS to search out and freely engage War Targets. Obviously, if I abused that access by attacking anyone else, my status would be removed. But to other members of HS I'd appear just like a regular joe. Maybe with a special icon or something so they could avoid me. More engagement.

People who declare War need to have skin in the game as well. I'm not trying to take anyone's play style away from them. I'd also want these systems to engage them as well. But they should have something to lose. And something to gain.

And then we need to eliminate the ability to engage other players in HS. You simply are unable to lock another ship, not under a War Dec, in HS. Any smartbombs on a gate will not damage ships not under a War Dec with your corp/alliance. Let's eliminate ganking completely from Eve. It is horrible game play that only encourages the worst in players.  It is borderline abuse and it is time for it to be eliminated. Let HS be for the safety conscious, encourage them to travel, to be engaged, to experience other aspects of the game. HS shouldn't be that great. Players should want to move to Low and Null and Wormholes. If they don't, then something is wrong.

But that only works if we can more easily travel between those sections of the game. It only works if I can travel into HS to engage War Targets. It only works if HS Wars require visits to Low, Null or WHs. And that's why we need a new system.

In my opinion.



So What's Next?


I keep getting asked in local about my Podcast After Hours and when it will be coming back. And I keep having to decline commission work. And sometimes I find it challenging to think of something to write in this blog. Any free time I have these days is typically time I want to be spending in-game. Things are really hopping in Stay Frosty and ABA these days. We're running anywhere between 4-6 organized fleets a week lately. Which is exciting.

I think I've gotten my FC mojo back. I keep thinking about more theme roams that we can try. This past Saturday we went out in Rifters and that was a lot of fun. I want to do more of those. During the week most of the fun stuff happens while I am at work, which has always been a bummer. But I'd rather be working than face the alternative. Which is why weekends end up being so important. We will be missing a couple of weekends for Eve Vegas and Eve London. And all of the Holiday stuff coming up end of year.

It is a busy time to say the least. I've been at my current position for over a year now and things couldn't be going better. The marketing is humming along and we are exceeding our goals. I really enjoy the people I work with every day. So that's going really well.

All of which adds up to decisions that need to be made about priorities. I've already made the decision that commissions will generally have to be a thing of the past. Except for charity or community projects. Those I will continue to help with. But sadly I just don't have the free time these days to commit to anything more than that. I want to focus more on my own work when I do have the time. I need some new creative projects that I can get excited about. I'm in a sort of transitional time right now when it comes to my personal projects. I was expecting to be working on several card games right now to reveal at Eve Vegas - but sadly those didn't happen. So I'm looking to be inspired again, I keep fiddling around with different things, but nothing has stuck yet. It will eventually.

I admit I'm not 100% percent sure about After Hours right now. If it does come back I'm not sure what the format will be. I've been thinking about doing something else with it, but I'm not sure yet what that might be.

Believe it or not I've even considered the possibility of Streaming.

In other words, I dunno. Right now I'm having fun in Eve roaming with my Pirates. Planning our Eve Vegas and Eve London trips. Mailing out the posters people won during EveAThon this past weekend. And generally taking a small break from being insanely busy - to just being moderately busy all the time.

It feels good for once not to have the weight of the world on my shoulders. And maybe that is the thing after all. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm pretty sure this time it isn't actually a train coming towards me. It might just be daylight.