2nd Annual Steel City Eve Tomorrow!


Goodie bags are made and getting ready to be filled tonight. Tomorrow is the 2nd Annual Steel City Eve player meet right here at my house! We're expecting somewhere around 20 players to show up tomorrow for a great day of drinking, eating, and talking about our favorite spaceship game. Players are coming in from as far away as Texas, Chicago, Virginia, New Jersey, New York and all around the PA area to attend.

This year we decided to just have the darn thing at our house and make it more personal. In that spirit Liz and I are making all the swag ourselves, which is pretty awesome. (I hope) And we'll be cooking food for everyone and opening our home to all our friends. Which, in my humble opinion, is anyone that plays Eve. Even if we happen to fight in-game, out here in the real world we are all friends.

If you are coming we can't wait to see you tomorrow. If you are not coming... well maybe next year. It is around the same time every year, cause it is also my birthday(!), so put August 19th on your calendar now so you'll remember.

Time to get back to work.

Pictures soon.



The Aftermath

Our amazing run in Alliance Tournament XV has come to an end. Congratulations are due to both LAZERHAWKS and BRAVE for excellent fights, well played. In both cases we gave as good as we got and both matches could have easily gone either way. But well deserved by both teams. I'm not taking anything away from either one. In the AT the matches often hinge on the smallest decisions, a mounting pile of critical errors, or razor thin margins. That is, after all, what we call a good fight. And both were good fights.

But I want to take a moment and talk about our team. I want to personally thank each of our pilots who came out for practice after practice for months leading up to this AT. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of each of you and how thankful I am for your dedication and commitment to A Band Apart. These pilots right here deserve all the credit for our incredible run this year.


A very special thank you to our team Captain Jose Zampano. Jose agreed to take on the mantle of Team Captain for last year's AT Team and this year's. It is a lot of responsibility and all of us in ABA are lucky to have him as our Captain. I hope he will lead us to yet another run at glory next year.

I could seriously point at any pilot in that picture and tell you something truly amazing about them. Most importantly I will tell you that I'm proud to fly with them and would gladly sacrifice my ship for any of them. I'm also more than happy to keep pouring a hundred billion isk at them until we win this damn thing!! lol.

One thing I want our team to know. Top 16 last year and Top 12 this year sound very similar. They are not. Our competition this year was much, much better. Slyce, Hard Knocks and Volta are solid teams. But the truly important thing that one extra win does is break you into the final 8 undefeated teams, which on its own terms is a big deal. (We were one of the final 8 undefeated teams!) For us however, it is even more important because both of the teams we lost to - are still in the Tournament and going on to the final weekend. And while it sucks huge hairy balls to lose, at least we have that knowledge to get us thru until next year. We are a much better team than you probably realize right now. But we still have much ahead of us.

To everyone in A Band Apart that supported us this year, thank you as well. Your donations of isk or equipment or time or support mean a tremendous amount to our success. It might sound trite, but it does take everyone in the Alliance to make a winning team. So thank you as well.

And to anyone else reading this post, maybe now is a good time to consider joining A Band Apart. We are a rather unique Alliance with member Corporations that cater to just about any playstyle you might enjoy, all built around the largest pirate group in all of Eve - Stay Frosty. And that doesn't even begin to tell the whole story, from our amazing Wormhole Corporations, Industry, Rookie training, and much, much more. If you are looking for a home in Eve, I can think of no better people to shack up with than ours.

And who knows, you may very well be a part of the team that wins this damn tournament next year!

I can promise you this, we are going to give it all we have.

Onward and upward.




3rd Weekend


The astute reader will notice that this is my own betting bracket from the Alliance Tournament. As I've said before I made my bets the day before the AT started and I haven't changed a single thing since then. (Tbh I did change two matches that no longer had either of my original teams in them, but that was in the losers bracket)  There are eight teams left undefeated and we happen to be one of them.

Tomorrow we face Lazerhawks. I don't know much about them, although I do know they often bump into our own WH operations from time to time. We've also practiced against them once or twice. Once for sure. This isn't a grudge match as far as I know, just two teams trying to prove themselves that happen to bump up against each other along the way. I'm sure it will be a good fight and well played. And we are not taking them lightly or anything stupid like that. I'm sure they are not taking us lightly either. I wish them the best of luck. But, of course, I hope we win.

For our Alliance a win tomorrow means we will go further into the AT than we ever have before. A loss tomorrow also means the same thing. Either way we go further. That is a HUGE accomplishment and the fulfillment of everything I had hoped for this year. The only thing I really wanted from our team was to make a better showing than our Top 16 finish (#14 overall) from last year. And no matter what happens tomorrow, we've already accomplished that.

Everything after that is gravy. But what tempting gravy it is. Getting this far, especially without a loss yet, is intoxicating. You can't help but look at the brackets and start thinking about what if scenarios. What if we win both matches this weekend? Can you imagine? Can your brain even comprehend an ABA vs Tuskers final? Mine can't. The human brain is a mysterious thing, I keep telling it to stop thinking past tomorrow's match. But it doesn't listen.

Seriously though, one match at a time. We have a determined foe to face tomorrow and, if we manage to win that one, another determined foe on Sunday. If we manage to escape those fights with another weekend ahead of us, then that will be... something to deal with later.

Who knows what will happen next? No one. That's why we fight the damn things.

Onward and upward to glory.




Whoa ABA!


So today this happened.

In case you live under a rock and missed it, today we won our third match in a row and defeated We Form Volta (last year's third place winner) and move on to the next weekend undefeated. We are now one of the eight remaining undefeated teams left in the Alliance Tournament. Whoa.

Before the match I think about 31% of voters picked us to win. Which has been about our average during all three of our matches so far this year.

I could not possibly be more proud of our pilots and our FC than I am. I am not surprised however. We've all been practicing hard and for a long time, so I fully expected us to fly well today. We've known all along that if we were going to do well in the AT we needed to do it by out executing the other teams. And so far we've managed to do just that in each of our matches. So, while I am extremely proud of our pilots, I'm also not at all surprised. Just ask Apothne, I told him a few weeks ago we'd be making a solid run at the final four this year. And I still believe that.

I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed that I didn't fly today. Don't get me wrong when I say that, we have a deep bench and everyone deserves a chance to fly in the tournament. However, from a personal perspective, I also want to fly in every match. I've spent a good part of three years training skills specific to the AT and a large chunk of personal time training for it. Like anyone else, I just want to be out there in the mix with my teammates. But while I am the Alliance Executor and the CEO of Stay Frosty, I am also not the boss of our AT Team. That honor belongs to Jose Zampano, who has been kicking ass as our Fleet Commander this year. Jose makes the rosters out for each match. And I'm fine with that. In fact, I set it up that way before last year's AT. And Jose has taken the ball and done an exceedingly excellent job of running with it. It has been a real treat for me watching that happen.

How far will we go? I honestly have no idea. The AT is often such a rock, paper, scissors tournament and luck certainly plays a role. As we continue to move forward it doesn't get any easier and the pressure only continues to mount. This is the furthest we've gone in three tries, so this is all new territory for our team. That is both exciting and terrifying at the exact same time. However, if I know our pilots as well as I think I do - we should continue to excel.

I filled out this Alliance Tournament bracket before the first weekend and I haven't touched it since then. I decided I'd make my predictions before the AT and let them ride to see how well I'd do. I also predicted we would end up in the finals against Tuskers. And, believe it or not, that Tuskers would end up winning. If you are curious I'm 59-37 so far, which is respectable. I'd do better if I changed some predictions obviously. But that ain't bad.

One match at a time. We have Lazerhawks to contend with next. Everything after that is not worth thinking about.

For now, I'm just going to enjoy the sweet taste of victory. For as long as it might last.





September 21



On September 21st I will have been playing Eve relatively non-stop for ten years. I popped out of a station in Todaki and haven't stopped since. There isn't a region of Eve that I haven't been in, and there really isn't anything that I haven't tried. I haven't technically been in Faction Warfare, but I consider myself an active participant in it. Some may argue that point. But whatever. The only real goal remaining, that I have yet to achieve, is a Top 4 finish in the Alliance Tournament. That has always been my goal and I hope to achieve it either this year or next.

My other personal goal all along was to train Rixx to the maximum sub-cap PvP skills you can have in the game. I recently finished training all of the Leadership skills to go along with all of the Shield, Armor, Drone, Missile, Electronic, Engineering and other support skills he already has trained. The only thing remaining in Ship skills is the Loki and Black Ops V. After those two are finished I won't have any more sub-cap ships (PvP) to train. I finished Marauder V earlier this year. I'm somewhere around 165m skill points and my current train is 195 days. It ends with Black Ops V.

It has helped that along the way CCP has added some additional ships to train, so that may or may not happen again. If it does, like Command Destroyers, I'll pop those into the train. If not... well I'm not sure. My thinking right now is that I will stop training Rixx and leave him with max sub-cap skills, and move on to another character to train. Only coming back to his training when a new ship class or something else warrants it. That is my thinking right now at least. I have half a year to figure that one out. There isn't much call for Caps in my version of low sec. And even if there is I have a couple of other characters that can be trained into them.

So what do I have to look forward to going forward? For the past two years my real life situation has dictated a very strange relationship with playing Eve. Despite what many people seem to think, I really haven't been playing that much. I've been running the Corporation and Alliance from Slack for the most part. Which says a tremendous amount about the people playing, our Directors and leaders, and their commitment to our ideals. Right now I'm focused on the Alliance Tournament, but afterwards I'm really looking forward to a much more relaxed playing experience again. Thanks to recent turn-arounds in my personal life, the pressure to "make money" with my personal time is finally abated. I can stop chasing extra work and relationships hoping that they will turn into something. That includes dealing with CCP, or not dealing with CCP, whichever way we are looking at that today.

I remain excited about Eve and ABA and Stay Frosty and primarily the relationships and friendships that I have both in-game and out. I don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. I've often said that I will probably be the last person to turn out the lights when the servers shut down and I see no reason that might change.

I plan on being around annoying people for another decade or two. Where the road leads is all part of the grand adventure we are all a part of.

Let's find out.




Boom Headshot



Behold our NEW Alliance Tournament Ad for this week! This was a gift on Sunday so we kinda had to use it. I think Jose and I had the idea at the same moment on our Slack channel, so he pulled the video clips and I added the edit magic, and boom!

Ithica's a good sport and I know he got a good laugh out of it over on EVE_NT Slack today. But I'll make it up to him with some free beer at Fanfest next April.

Enjoy!




Roll Tide


The first weekend of Alliance Tournament XV is finally over and A Band Apart comes out with two wins against two quality teams. First I want to thank both Solyaris Chtonium and Hard Knocks Citizens for two excellent, competitive, and well-fought fights. You both pushed us to the edge in both matches and came close to swinging the fight in your direction. Good fights. Good luck to both of you in your upcoming rounds.

It is difficult to communicate what flying in the AT is like. Our team is made up of pilots I've known for a long time, many of them have been in ABA or Stay Frosty for over four years now. Many others I've been fortunate enough to meet in real life, some several times now. This is our third run at the AT and we still have five pilots on the team that have flown in all three. Our team is 28 pilots deep this year and we've all been practicing and planning together for months now. For hours on end. Our entire Alliance has been building, moving, and supporting the effort. This is the part, beyond the actual fighting, that gets hard to communicate. There is a profound sense of all that friendship when you are flying. Of not wanting to be the one that lets them down, that makes the mistake that costs the match. I know I feel it and I'm sure everyone else does as well.

So it is a huge relief when all of that actually works. When I was flying with my teammates today it felt like being part of a well-oiled machine. All of those hours of practice, all those different trials, testing, figuring out things, all came together. It wasn't so much as thought as it was pure instinct. And confidence in those around you. That is a truly great feeling. And it doesn't really have anything to do with actually winning. But winning sure does make it even better. I ain't no idiot.

I'm also not going to take more credit than I am due. I'm mostly just the Head Cheerleader for our team, link pilot, and big ship boom guy. Often primary. Our FC Jose Zampano deserves the most credit. He stood up last year and led us into a Top 16 finish and this year he is doing another fantastic job of leading our team. And he has a lot of help from Andy, and Methea, and Bluey, and Stickel, and others on our team.... Heck, here they all are.

An awesome team shot from Bluey Snuttsoff! (<3 td="">
That's the ABA ATXV Team right there. (Thanks Bluey!)

I have no idea what will happen next Sunday against We Form Volta. According to Ithica Hawk we are in a lot of trouble. Which is a strange thing to say seeing as how they are 8-10 in the AT and we are 6-10 in the AT, doesn't seem like that much of a gap to me. But what do I know? I'm just a low-sec player. What did Mittens say, "a bunch of idiots of no consequence"? I'll take that and own it.

Whatever happens no one can take these two wins away and for now that is good enough for me. Next Sunday's match will take care of itself soon enough. Until then I'm going to enjoy this feeling as long as I can.

Keep the courage and Stay Frosty.




ABA ATXV Poster

A Band Apart ATXV Poster
Click to embiggen


I didn't create much in the way of propaganda for our Alliance Tournament run this year, so I thought I should do at least one piece. I did this for me and I like it. I thought the Cars 3 teaser poster (I haven't seen the movie) was a powerful image and it came to mind today when thinking about the Daredevil. DD's are only 2 points this year, so I expect we will be seeing a lot of them in the AT.

First match is Saturday!!

Go ABA!!




ATXV Our Third Trip



The 15th Alliance Tournament starts this Saturday. This will be A Band Apart's third trip to the tournament. Our first year of eligibility was a rush that was quickly assembled while we were still putting the Alliance together and experiencing growing pains - but no excuses - we got our asses handed to us and lost both matches. Last year we did much better and made it into the Top 16 before our practice partners knocked us out of the running. Which was a good run for us and it meant we didn't have to worry about getting in this year.

Honestly I'm much more comfortable with being underdogs, and although we did finish in the final 16 last year, I still feel like we are underdogs again this year. As Apothne and Jin'Taan are more than willing to point out to me, one year doesn't count in the Alliance Tournament. So, no pressure or anything.

I prefer it that way. And I believe it is the way that all our pilots in ABA are approaching it again this year. We really are underdogs and not just because we only did well in one AT. We also have a lot of pilots in our team this year that didn't fly last year. We're also a relatively small Alliance in a field of much, much bigger fish. We don't live in zero space or have big cousins, or any moon goo to throw around, or whatever it is these days that null sec people do. We are a scrappy bunch of low sec pirates, wormhole denizens, mission runners and industry experts who take sov by accident and refuse to participate in the worst that Eve has to offer. Which is our entire reason for being. We refuse to participate in your version of Eve.

So that makes us underdogs. Not just in the AT but in Eve. A position we thrive in and expect. So nothing different.

I can't begin to tell you how we will do this year. I have no idea. I'm a Pirate Lord not a mystic. I can tell you that I am proud of our pilots, our team is well practiced and prepared, our FC is German, and our ships are well and purposefully fitted. I can tell you that I am thankful and appreciative of our practice partners again this year, all of them. Thanks for grinding with us and best of luck to you all in the AT. I can tell you that no matter what happens this weekend or in the following weekends, that I am proud of our team and all of our pilots. Good people and great Eve players every one.

I can also tell you that I am sooooo glad that I finally finished training ALL of the link skills!

So that is something to celebrate.




The Long Road


(PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains references to real events in the author's actual life. I know that for some of you this can be traumatic and often indecipherable, so I want to give you time to return to your previous programming. I'm also planning on being brutally honest and I know how you can get when I do this.)

I had to start this over. I just learned that another good friend on mine has terminal cancer. That's two that are fighting for their lives as I write this. This kind of news hits you hard and makes you think. About your own life, about the transient nature of life in general and our own moment in the sun. Certainly any news like this gives us all pause. I know it does me. I've known this gentleman since 1987, we worked together at my first professional job. In side by side cubicles. Both of these friends played significant roles in my life and in my career. One of them I had a chance to re-connect with over the past few years, the other one... well, we shall see.

That reconnection is necessary because of what I started writing this post about in the first place. But now the energy is gone, like a vapor in the wind. So I'm going to pocket the rant about time and re-birth and instead just get down to the point of it all. I'll spare you the long philosophical build-up. I'm sure you are grateful for the respite.

The point being that almost everything in my life burned down five years ago. I didn't know it at the time, (how could I?) but those five years would be enlightening, revelatory, and life-changing. A lot has happened in those five years and I'm not the person I was back then. My life is both infinitely better and also significantly different now. If you think about your own life five years ago, I'm sure you feel much the same way.

So let's move this post to be more about Eve, our community and my professional life. I want to first thank you all once again for your tireless support of me over the years. My readers, my fans, and all of you that I have crossed paths with at one point or another. I can assure you this is not a post about quitting, or stopping, or anything like that. In fact, despite the dark opening paragraphs this is a celebratory post. On August 1st I will be starting a brand new chapter in my life. Just as I was beginning to consider looking for a new job, a couple of gentlemen appeared and offered me one.

A good one. We still have a long road ahead of us before I can say, "we've made it", but this is a huge step in the right direction for us. This community of ours, or whatever you want to call it, has been an important part of our lives these past five years. A lifeline. A place to play, to cast aside the worries of the day, to try new things, to explore, to have fun, to share, to talk, and to make connections that truly mean something. I know my wife and I consider many of you reading this post as our friends. And I can only hope you feel the same way. Even if we've never met. Although at this point, we've certainly met a lot of you. And we hope to have the chance to meet more in the future.

There were two moments when you saved us. Some people out there want to make those moments out to be more than they were. We needed help and hundreds of people reached out to help. If we hadn't gotten that help our lives would be much different right now. That's as simple as it gets. And because of that help we are in the position we are today. Along with a lot more help from friends and family you don't even know about.

We will never, ever forget that. Or all of those that have supported me on Patreon, or have bought things from me on RedBubble or thru commissions. All of which has helped along the way. Thank you. I can't say it enough.

So I will be taking the Patreon down in the next few days. I want to reach out to everyone first and write each one a special thank you note. The RedBubble store will also be coming down in the next few weeks. It served its purpose, to show certain people how easy it was to do, but without access to IP it is pointless. And once I finish those items on my Project List, I will no longer be accepting further community projects for isk. I may continue to consider special projects for the community, charity, or other special needs along the way. I want to wait and see what my time looks like before I decide on closing the door on those.

Essentially I just want to get back to playing Eve again without feeling like my time would be better spent working. Which is how it has felt these past few years. And writing in these pages, and doing my podcast, and finally taking the time to work on art that is for me.

Onward and upward my friends. Thank you.


PS: I'm already having second thoughts about the RedBubble store. So that may be staying up after all. Sorry, sometimes I get carried away.


Summer Doldrums


I haven't been posting much lately and After Hours is on hiatus until after the Alliance Tournament. I haven't been logging into Eve as much as I'd like lately either. All of these things are a combination of the dreaded Summer doldrums. Kids are home from school. Weekends are precious. Activities are escalated. It is awesome outside (usually). And any free time is used up by AT practice!

Typical summer. I'm sure a lot of you reading this are experiencing something similar.

This September will mark ten years that I've been playing Eve. Straight. Continuously. I didn't quit and come back, except for a few brief moments here and there, it has been a uninterrupted ten years of playing Eve. That is the kind of revelation that can give a person some pause for reflection. There aren't many things I've done longer than ten years in my life. I was in a toxic marriage for longer than ten years. I've been a Father for longer than ten years. I ran my own business for longer than ten years. Been a creative person obviously. But not counting knowing my wife, or friends, or family, there just isn't a long list of things. But Eve is one of them now. Or will be in a few months.

Does it mean anything? I dunno. I'm still training skills. I'm still wishing I had more time to play. I still enjoy the banter in our Slack channels. I still love AT practice. I still get a kick out of undocking. And I still believe there is no better feeling than hunting down another pilot and winning a close fight.

So I guess I'll stick around and see where the next few years take us.

More later.



Vargur on a Beach

Vargur Beach Commission
Vargur on a Beach
I had a blast working on this commission. Essentially my direction was that they wanted a certain skinned Vargur and a certain skinned pilot in the image, the rest was up to me.  They also indicated that they liked the way the images in the Eve Travel Series looked. So I decided to go in that direction.

The Tempest model always makes me think of sailing ships, so the ocean theme was a great place to start. Plus I really like how the ocean plays into themes of space, exploration, adventure, and many others. You probably didn't think I put so much thought into these things, did you?  The base image of the beach is made up of four (iirc) images, most of which I took myself while in Iceland. The framework image is borrowed, but little of it survives intact. The clouds and sky are also a couple of images worked together. I wanted to combine several things that are unusual, both the Sun and the Stars, into one sky. So that wasn't easy to make work. The Stars themselves are both hand-painted and based on a Hubble image. Same with the planet.

Photographic style images are challenging. The other challenge is trying to get humans into images alongside Eve spaceships! Our ships are so large it makes it nearly impossible. But I imagine this pilot is on SHORE LEAVE! (lolz)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this preview. The original is 24"x18" at 300dpi and I can't wait to see it framed and on the wall.

Stay Frosty my friends.



SOE Poster

Sisters of Eve Poster
Click to view in Flickr


There are so many things to say right now that I don't even know where to start. So, instead, I'm just going to let this one hang here on the site without much comment. At least for now. The creation process is an exhausting one.

I hope you enjoy the new piece. The original is 27x40 Movie Poster size btw. The image on Flickr is a low res version.

Enjoy!



ATXV

A Band Apart: Roll Tide
ATXIV Propaganda
It has been a relatively quiet run-up to the Alliance Tournament this year for my Alliance. Having finished in the Top 16 last year certainly helps take some of the edge off this year. We didn't have to worry about getting in, since we had an automatic bid, and we didn't have to fight in that weird feeder round crazy. Whew.

So we've just been quietly going about our business since almost January or so, to be honest it all starts to blur together after a while. Real practices started being serious after Fanfest and we've been doing solid three-a-weeks since then. This is a tough slog for everyone. We all have real lives out here and it can be difficult keeping everyone enthusiastic, especially when it comes to Time Zone weirdness, work schedules, and the dull ache of non-internet spaceship crap we all have to deal with.

But that is all part of the game, isn't it?  My job as Alliance leader person is to put the pieces in place and then help them as best I can to succeed. We are truly lucky to have the people we have, from our FC, support FCs, theory-crafters, pilots, and all those supporters behind the scenes cheering us on or building things for us. Which is all very exciting. Mostly I just write the checks. And pay the bills. And interject what I hope is some wisdom into the mix from time to time.

How will we do this year? I have no idea and neither does anyone else. I know that we will be ready and that everyone will give it everything they have. Of that I have no doubt. The rest comes down to the luck of the draw, the comps aligned on field, and the millions of split-second decisions made under extreme pressure. 

I'd like to see us do better than last year. I think we left a lot on the field last year and those losses still sting. I've probably watched our matches from last year about twenty times in the past few weeks. That isn't healthy. But who cares? I'll probably watch them some more before July 29th.

Lots to do before then. We are almost a month away.