Become a Patron

My new Patron page is up and running and accepting Patrons.

As you may or may not be aware I recently crossed a rather significant milestone in my real life out here in the MMO we call Earth. This milestone happened to coincide nicely with the end of my last job. Because of this milestone I am no longer encumbered by something that dictated my life for the past 14 years. Needless to say no longer having that hanging over my head is taking some getting used to. One significant way in which it has impacted my life is that, unlike before, I don't have to just take the highest paying job I can get. Just because it happens to pay well.

Instead I've decided to start my own business, spend more time developing my art/illustration work, and take my time deciding what to do next. I have a lot of friends and networks around me, and I've spent the last few months meeting with those and getting caught back up. What happens next? I don't know, but I'm keenly interested in seeing where it all goes.

Which brings us to Eve and this incredible community of ours. I want to stay connected to it and increase my involvement with it, which is where this Patreon comes in. I'm asking for your support to help me spend time developing more projects, some Eve related, and some not Eve related. My Patreon won't have levels, or hidden groups, or anything weird like that. But supporters will get exclusive content just for them. In November I plan on providing any supporter that wants one a unique portrait of their Eve avatar, for example. I also plan on sharing developments, processes, and other behind-the-scenes work to my supporters. I have many projects in the pipeline that need attention, such as a re-design of certain Eve ships, and other projects.

Please only support me if you can. I don't want anyone to sacrifice on my behalf. This is not an emergency. This is normal, support an artist stuff. But if you do decide to support me I would sincerely appreciate it.

Who knows, I might even start streaming some day.

The Secret Art of Target Selection

Beyond learning game mechanics, beyond knowing how to fit your ships, skilling up your skills, practicing your d-scan - beyond all of those important steps lies a secret realm of PvP success in Eve Online. A magical place where you can control the environment and manipulate the outcome of fights in your favor. And while Eve is always unpredictable and ready to rip your heart out, once you master this fine art, she will at least start to make sense.

This is the single most important skill to learn as a PvPer in Eve. The secret art of Target Selection.

In preparation for this post, and in leu of my 2,000th loss in Eve back on October 19th, I started flying a strict regime of excellent target selection. I stopped my usual "attack anything" approach and began picking my fights more carefully. I haven't lost a fight since. I've exploded 41 ships, 11 Pods, and the Mobile Tractor Unit of a Raven we caught in a Mission. Yes, some of those fights were easy, but 22 of them were solo. And those included Comets, Dramiels, Cormorants, Kestrels, and an Algos. All with a T1 Frigate, except for 1 kill with a Hurricane, 2 with a Daredevil, and that Raven kill in which I used a Raven. (I enjoy bringing the same ship to kill the same ship, it's fun!)

I did this to prove that I could do it anytime I wanted, but I also did it to prove how easy it is. And no, I won't be flying this way forever. But after the insanity surrounding that last milestone, I figured it was time to control myself for a bit and see what happened. Just a friendly reminder that it can be done.

There are a lot of ships in Eve. Add to that the constantly changing environments, situations, and scenarios that present themselves to the pilot hunting for good fights. It is complicated. And no matter if you are flying solo, in a gang, or in a large 200 person fleet, picking your fights can be challenging. I'm not going to tell you it is easy. I have 216m skill points and I've been doing this for over eleven years. But I am going to tell you that target selection is critical to PvP success in Eve. It is the most critical aspect of that play-style. Bar none.

So here are some pointers on how to improve your target selection skills in Eve:

1) Know Your Ship
Whatever you happen to be flying and no matter how horrible the fit, you can have success at PvP if you pick the right targets to engage. What is your ship capable of doing? What are its strengths and weaknesses? If you are flying a blaster frigate then seriously avoid mwd fitted kiting ships. Unless you can dictate starting ranges and get that all important scram landed. Can you? How fast does your ship lock? How do you position yourself to land that scram? What are the odds you'll be successful? Can you tank the incoming damage long enough to survive? Does the other ship have a neut, do you have cap boosters?

Like I said, it can get complicated. But by learning your ship's capabilities you are also learning the enemies. The more you know the more things start to make sense.

If you are just starting out and flying a crappy fitted Frigate then find other young players just starting out who are also flying crappy Frigates to fight. Don't attack a ten year old player flying a Wolf. That will end badly.

2) Know Your Environment
Get to know your neighborhood and the constantly changing ebb and flow of pilots, corporations and fleets that prowl the space lanes around you. What are their tactics, how do they fly, what kinds of ships, do they blob, or do they fly solo? The more attention you pay the better prepared you will be. I've told players who join Stay Frosty and are learning PvP for the first time to take a few days and just fly around NOT looking for fights. Just fly around and watch local. Get to know it. Make bookmarks. Learn the location of things, how they work. Is that person marked Orange a scout? How soon after the Eve University scout enter local does the 40 man gang behind him land?

It is impossible to eliminate chance from the equation. All ships are built to eventually die. This is why you only fly what you can afford to lose, which is lesson Number One in Eve. But you can do more than you might think to alleviate the random.

3) Practice
It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. No matter the validity of that statement, the truth is it does take practice. You can watch tutorials, read posts like this one, or hang out on Twitch, but nothing can replace undocking and trying your hand at it.

So fit up a ship and get out there! Just be careful about the targets you engage and before long you'll be engaging them all.

Stay Frosty!

Post Vegas Thoughts

Now that Eve Vegas 2019 is in the can and I finally had a chance to catch up fully on the presentations I missed over the weekend it is time to consider what happened. Last week I wrote a post regarding what I wanted to see from the event called "What I Want from Eve Vegas" which you can read by clicking on that link. So how did we do?

1) Sense of Direction?
I would sum this up by saying Iteration seems to be the word of the future here. Nothing "new" was announced or teased, what we got was a ton of iteration on existing ideas, gameplay, themes, and directions for the immediate future. Instead of a 'roadmap' we got a year broken up into quarters, which is how everyone breaks years down. So that wasn't news no matter if you call them quarters or quadrants. The Triglavians have a Dread now, but again, I think most of us expected that was going to happen.

Iteration is not the worst thing in the world. In fact it can be perfectly fine. Later in the weekend we got more details on actual plans to iterate on existing systems in the game - so I was pleased to hear about those. But nothing grand, nothing on the scope, dreams side of things. Nothing at all negative here, just a general lack of dream building. Maybe that will come at Fanfest 2020?

2) Conflict Faucets?
Again, lots and lots of iteration on existing systems here. We did hear about changes coming to FW space and that was solid, as well as bi-weekly advances/balances/iteration coming from Team Talos - and that was solid as well. Will these changes address conflict in New Eden? Will it prompt more Null Sec alliances to make war? Will it energize the player base to fight? I think the general answer to that is nope. Nothing I heard at Vegas will address these issues. And these are big stagnation issues that Eve needs to address if it is to last Forever. In my humble opinion.

I liked everything I heard coming out of Vegas. But I missed hearing something, anything, that would help me re-ignite my own Alliance/Corp into activity. What puts butts in seats?!? What drives people to risk? What are the rewards? I suspect a bunch of Alliance leaders are asking these same questions this morning and unfortunately I think the answers are pretty much the same as last week, before Eve Vegas.

That is unfortunate. But that is what comes from iteration and not innovation.

Look I love warp tunnels, and the new female Triglavian Dread is amazing for people who fly Dreads, and the new station in Jita is incredible, heavy bombs, the improvements to the NPE are awesome, 8% more players sticking is nothing to sneeze at, all of these things are great iteration. And I am not poo-pooing them. Great stuff.

But from all the Discord channels I watched over the weekend nothing seems to have made anyone respond by re-subbing, or moving their Alpha back to an Omega. And that is what I wanted. So I have to be a little disappointed.

How about you, how do you feel about things after Vegas?

Pilot's License

If you are attending Eve Vegas this weekend be sure to pick up your Pilot's License with a donation to Able Gamers! And if you are not attending find someone to pick yours up for you! These two-sided hard plastic lanyard pieces are a great idea for every Eve player to own and each one helps support a great charity.

Earlier this year when we were in Alaska Greygal hit me up with the idea for these and working together I managed to design and write the copy for the front and backs, we worked hard to keep them as "in-game" as possible. I won't spoil the back design yet, we should keep some things secret until people start getting these this week. I believe Greygal and Carbon pre-made badges for all attendees, but they also have the ability to print on-demand at the venue. (I believe this is the case, but I may be wrong, so don't hold it against me.) In addition I think they have other surprises available for donations, like avatar and warp to the dance floor buttons.

I wasn't able to get anything together for the Silent Auction this year, frankly based on what happened last year I wasn't terribly motivated, but I was happy to be able to help out this way instead.

My fingers are crossed that a Rixx Javix badge will be headed my way once this is all over, but until then be sure to pick yours up or have someone do it for you.

Keep the courage.

Something New

Daredevil Watercolor
Click to embiggen and download
Yesterday I took one of my Daredevils out for a spin and managed to get into a fight, on the way back she managed to land in amongst these incredible Nebula. I admit I was inspired. But I also wanted to challenge myself, yet again, into trying something new and something bold. So I spent the next few hours working on perfecting a brand new look, something never seen before. Yeah well that is easier said than done. And after many false starts and roads that ended in hilarity, I finally managed to achieve something that looked... to be fair, pretty weird.

But then inspiration hit and the weird started making sense if I looked at it like a watercolor painting. With that in mind I finally had the connections that made the process work. I even added watercolor paper texture to the process and things started looking really good. The result is a digital watercolor process that involved about four hours of building a custom HDR color correction setting which happens after a 12-step color correction process involving Levels, Curves, and a few other things depending on the image. Even after all of that, the image needs merged with the hi-res watercolor paper texture, then final subtle color corrections are made. And then finally, the last step which I will label as "magic". Us artists have to keep some things secret.

I'm anxious to try this process on a real world landscape and see how it works.

In the meantime, enjoy the new Wallpapers!

What I want from Eve Vegas

Eve Vegas 2015 Commemorative Poster

Eve Vegas was the pure definition of a mixed bag last year for me. Not only was I in extreme physical pain during the trip (my shoulder was painful and not working properly), but certain people worked hard to make parts of the trip painful as well (the past is the past and I'm putting all that behind me), but the city itself represents much of what I find disgusting about America right now - out-of-control corporate greed, involuntary taxes, sex work, the frat ethic, not to mention the huge environmental impact a city in the middle of a desert has on water conservation, farming, rivers, and... well, you get the picture. We managed to have a great time though. We really did.

So it is that time of year again. Eve Vegas is this weekend and it will be the last official CCP sponsored event in Vegas. It is also the next to last event on the Invasion Tour this year, with Eve London being the last one. And while I won't be there I did help out on some projects that I'm excited about for the event and for The Able Gamers charity fundraiser, so that's good. Eve Vegas usually represents the end-of-the-year announcements from CCP regarding the direction of Eve, so I'm hopeful that this year will be no exception. And while I'm trying to keep my expectations realistic there are a few things I'd like to see come out of Vegas this year.

1) A Sense of Direction
Remember when we had a roadmap? While I don't expect a replacement roadmap it would be great to have some sense of where Eve is heading next. Something about the future, hopes, dreams, concepts, something to indicate that such a thing actually exists. A classic Russian five year plan would be incredible and while I don't think we'll get that, some hints at one would be welcomed. Right now much of the Eve playerbase is aimless and looking for direction. Even if it is bullshit of the highest order, give us some indication that someone is looking down the road. Please.

2) Conflict Faucets
A lot of time and energy has been spent on ISK Faucets and getting those better balanced, which is time well spent. But conflict in Eve operates much the same way, and I think it is time we focused more energy on those Conflict Faucets. I'm not an expert on the state of Null these days, but even I know it has ground down to a rather stagnant and boring meta. I know this because I hear about it all the time. Low Sec is not immune either and certainly FW needs some much overdue attention as well. All across the board the reasons for and against conflict are drying up and some much needed incentives would help to drive conflict. It'd be great to hear something about this.

In my humble opinion those are the two major areas I hope to see addressed coming out of Vegas this weekend. I have lots and lots of other things I'd like to hear more about, but those two are the biggies. If we have a sense of direction and admit that conflict faucets need addressed, the rest is window dressing. Without those two big ones anything else is just the same old same old, some new skins, some new instances, new ships, and whatever else is going to be used to distract us.

Otherwise I hope everyone has a blast and enjoys themselves. Despite my feelings about Vegas I'm still sad I won't be there this year. So I look forward to hearing all about it.

Drink responsibly and have fun.

Words of Encouragement

Comet Signature Wallpaper
Click to embiggen or download

Over the past two weeks as I approached my 2,000th loss in Eve I started playing a dangerous game. I knew the milestone would come, one way or another, so I decided to lean into it and really go crazy with the engagements I started taking. This "trial" approach was like regular me on boost mode. Over that time I went 49-24 in fights which isn't horrible, but I also noticed a funny thing happening. As the 2,000th loss came closer and closer my record became worse and worse. In the last four days it was 10-9 for example.

This fits my long-time assertion that Eve is somewhat dependent on your mood in real life. Over the eleven years I've played I've noticed that my real life situation impacts my success in-game more than you would think. I can look back and find direct correlation between in-game downtrends and moments of depression, or legal turmoil, in my real life. The 2,000th loss became something I actually thought about, it started becoming a thing. And in my business, having a "thing" is not good. This is why most PvPers will tell you they don't care about kill-boards, because they can't. The moment you start thinking about them, or paying attention to them, it impacts your choices in-game. And that is never good.

So I'm glad that is finally over.

I had a good fight I want to mention without mentioning anyone's name. I had fitted up a ship with a new fit I wanted to try out and found this ship sitting in a Plex. As I mentioned it was a good fight and very close, I was just a few cycles away from toasting my reppers when it was all over. The details don't matter, it is just one of 10,000+ fights and yet it stands out because of what happened next. We spoke in local and I tried to encourage the pilot, as I often do. And then five or ten minutes later my inbox bleeps with a new mail.

"Greetings. I won't go on and on, and you don't have to reply to this message, but you are a bit "internet famous" with respect to this game, and when I saw you appear I was 99.9% sure that I was going to get probably the fairest fight possible in EVE. And it was. Thank you for not blobbing me. Thank you for for possibly the best 30 seconds of EVE I'm likely to get."

Y'know, it is moments like this that keep me playing this game. Back when I first started playing I wasn't that interested in Eve at first, sure it looked great and it was fun flying spaceships around, but it wasn't until I realized that real human beings were on the other side of those ships that Eve really came alive for me. And over the years it has certainly been the main reason I keep playing this crazy game. People. Often it is easy to forget those that are on the other side of the screen, especially those we explode. I try never to take them for granted, but even I can get caught up in the action, the speed, the thrill, and everything else that is going on around me.

Thank you for writing that and for sending it along. Even us "internet famous" people need a word of encouragement from time to time and I sincerely appreciate your words. Sincerely.

I did write back by the way.

Change of Direction

Last week I saw a Maelstrom on scan, I was in an Incursus at the time. I was running solo, so I had no backup. I warped to a large plex and sat there with the engine running, waiting to see if it would land. It did. And I tackled it. Now the hope that springs eternal in my mind, and what motivates me to do such stupid things, is the idea of the great kill. The great kill is even better than a good fight. The great kill is exploding a Megathron in a Rifter (which I've done) or otherwise overcoming the obvious odds and scoring a great kill. They happen. They are extremely rare. It didn't happen, the Maelstrom was smart and had small drones. I got away from that encounter with my ship. Lucky.

I've built my entire career in Eve on the back of taking insane risks, throwing caution to the wind, and essentially playing it like what it is - a video game. I don't care about ship losses, I just go back and fit up another one. This play style isn't how I started playing Eve, it evolved over the last decade for a variety of reasons. CCP pays my subscription so I feel a responsibility to be a content creator both in-game and out of game. I also don't work for my ISK in a traditional method, my ISK comes from making things for the community. Alliance logos, etc. So all I do in-game is PvP. I've learned over time to not care so much about losses and have thrown myself into my role as Pirate Lord.

But lately I've started to get a tad carried away with all that and I've started thinking maybe I should evolve beyond it. I'm four deaths away from having lost 2,000 ships in Eve. I still maintain a solid 66% win to death ratio and a 77% ISK ratio, this month alone I've won 71 fights and only lost 26. And yet I think maybe I need to stop taking so many insane risks and mitigate my approach a tiny bit.

It struck me today when I was waiting for a Stork to land on my Dramiel. Again, I didn't think twice about the risks involved. But I lost that fight and I knew I was probably going to lose that fight. So why did I take it? On the off chance I'd win? The odds were very, very small. Same with another fight yesterday when I attacked a Sabre with two Rifters. That fight's odds were incredibly small. And sure enough, not only did we both die, but I screwed up the align and got myself podded again. Only the second time this year. But still.

I think the milestone of hitting 2,000 losses is making me question my approach. What I need to focus on is the 6,735 wins, many of which are insane, impossible, odds defying wins that wouldn't happen if I was more cautious. Can I be a tad more cautious? Of course, perhaps attacking a Stork with a Dram, or a Sabre with two Rifters isn't the smartest move. But then I ask myself this question, why?  Why stop? Who cares about a stupid thing like a killboard anyway? Did I have fun doing these things? Yes. Did I lose more than I could afford? Nope. Who is hurt by me being a crazy ass Pirate Lord that attacks Maelstroms in an Incursus? No one.

While I believe I could be a tad smarter about the risks I take, especially those that involve other pilots - it is often the other pilots that encourage me into these fights. I'm surrounded by risk takers in Stay Frosty. Often we are all to blame, yarring our way into trouble time and time again. And it always comes back to the real point here - who cares? Someday this will all be a distant memory and the only thing remaining will be the stories. The crazy stories. The insane risks. The unbelievable victories. The close calls. That time I killed a Megathron in a Rifter.

So no, I doubt anything will change. In fact I look forward to losing yet another 2,000 ships (which is really only 181 a year over the past eleven years) because that hopefully means I'll have 13,470 wins to go along with them.

And that would be great. Yarrr!

Not Gone

Hookbill Signature Wallpaper
Click to embiggen
I'm not gone. I know it has been almost 12 days since the last post but things have been very busy getting the new business off the ground. You can see the proto-website in action here if you are interested. This is a slow roll-up launch, so for the past two weeks I've really been out on the road meeting with people, having lunches, drinking Starbucks, and catching up on the latest and greatest. I've been out of the agency biz for seven years, so a lot of my contacts have grown cold or moved on to other positions. Or, in many cases, retired. So that has been eating up a lot of the time I usually spend writing.

I have been busy however.

Working with Greygal I created these Pilot License plastic cards that will be available at Eve Vegas for a donation to charity. So be sure to grab yours if you are going, and if you aren't going have someone else grab yours for you. They have backs also. I'm really pleased with how these turned out. We talked about this idea during the Alaska cruise earlier this year, so I'm glad we got the chance to make it happen. I can't wait to get mine.

But sadly we won't be able to attend Vegas this year. With all the chaos surrounding the new business launch, my Wife's new job, and family matters - this year just didn't work out. But, as always, we'll be cheering from the sidelines and hoping that CCP shows some sign that they still have a plan for Eve Online.  Honestly I'll take anything, any slight ray of hope.

I'll be back writing on a more regular basis in the coming weeks, so hang tight.

A Bad Run

In my experience there comes a moment in every game when you reach the zenith. When you figure things out, gain enough experience, get used to the pace, or whatever it takes to essentially master the game. Then it stops being as much fun, or as challenging, or as interesting, as it used to be. This is one of the biggest reasons that Eve Online remains interesting to me after 11 years - because it doesn't do that. Of course much of that is because I've purposefully engineered my own play style for that specific purpose, so that it doesn't happen. I can understand how some players might have a different experience, doing the same things over and over until they hit that zenith.

But I realized a long time ago that if I was going to commit to long-term Eve, then I needed to make sure that didn't happen to me. I know more than a few players in my line of work that have chosen a different path, always flying a few types of ships, always with a Wingman, and only choosing fights they know they can win. That's a choice. But for me, I know that kind of choice would get boring quickly and I'd end up quitting. Which, to be fair, most of them do.

To each his own. I'm not disparaging anyone else's chosen play style, only explaining my own choices to help set up this post. Sometimes I hit a hot streak and I write a nice post about all my victories, solo kills, or gang action to help promote Stay Frosty or ABA. But I also like to point out the times when I suck ass at this game of ours. I'm not ashamed of those moments (well, some of them are pretty bad), and I want to encourage those players that are also having a bad run. Even the Pirate Lord of Low Sec has his worst moments.

Let's take a closer look at some of the horrible choices I've made recently.

Scorpion Tarp
I built this Scorpion for one reason a few years ago and I kept it in my hangar only undocking it when that reason came around. I built it to engage large Frigate gangs, mostly E-Uni gangs, that come thru local every so often. Rarely I would use it for other very specific engagements. So the other day a large E-Uni fleet came thru and I warped it into position hoping they would come and attack it. They did not. But then I saw a few of them lingering on gate and I warped over. Well, as you know, BS warp very, very slowly. By the time I got there they had gone. But there was a Slasher that had just jumped thru, and it wasn't leaving. So I aligned out and killed the Slasher. Of course that is when the Hyperion appeared right next to me. I had gate aggro from the Slasher/Pod but I immediately engaged the MJD, but the Hyp caught me before I could warp away. Mostly it was the gate guns that killed me, but still that was an obvious tarp I fell right into.

No Cap
FireSequence and I were out in dual Firetails when we saw the Vexor in a medium all alone. After not carefully considering our options we decided to attack it. You never know right? Well this Vexor happened to be properly fitted and I spent the entire short fight without any cap at all. My guns still worked and while we both bought the farm we did manage to get him into low armor at least.

Beam Lasers
Yeah they are not good for poor little Rifters. Despite heroic levels of manual piloting I never even landed a blow.

What's the Range on this?
God only knows the last time I flew this CNI, it was obviously long enough that I totally forgot that the range on the dual target disruptors is only 16k. Yeah, derp. That was dumb.

Oh I have Rails?
Sometimes you grab a ship from the hangar and head out to find targets without really taking a good look at what you are flying. I totally tackled this Caracal thinking I was sporting blasters when in fact I had rail guns in the highs. Either way the Caracal almost died. But it didn't.

Think Before You Undock
And this is the one I am actually ashamed of because I have no idea what the Hell I was thinking. I remember seeing the Daredevil in the plex and I remember grabbing one of my Daredevils to go engage it ( I always try to engage with a like ship when possible) and instead I ended up fighting in one of my Dramiels. Which I would never in a million years drop on to a blaster DD inside a plex. As you would predict that fight did not go my way. Sigh.

These are all good stories. Sometimes the best stories don't always end with you winning. But just so you don't start thinking that they all end with me losing, I'd like to point out the kill of the month.

Dominix with Orca
Yes this 4b Dominix was mining in my home system with an Orca. Yes that is 3 Pithium A-Types on a ship with mixed guns, miners, and no rigs. Yes we each made close to a billion from selling the loot and yes we suspect that he was multi-boxing both ships. Otherwise I have no explanation for this.

But I suspect this white unicorn kill is what started the Bad Run that followed. The scales must be balanced.

Fly Smart.