A Chance Encounter

Posted in Storyline on May 6, 2012 by Erbo

The Serpentis ships scattered like angry bees, pursued by their own predatory insects, Hammerhead II drones.  Behind them, the Mons Olympus’ mighty railguns poured forth their firepower.  Inside the battlecruiser, safely tucked into a relatively new Mark XVIII capsule, Erbo directed the battle, his senses extended to sweep the space around him, his motor impulses and his very thoughts translated into orders to the guns, engines, and drones.

He’d spotted this Serpentis lookout complex earlier, out probing around the Aclan system in his trusty scanning ship Amaranth.  He’d done it on a lark, really, just to keep his skills sharp.  He hadn’t known going in whether he’d find something like a hidden asteroid belt, or perhaps a wormhole entrance…but a Serpentis complex it was, and he’d decided to take it out.  Just for drill.

An alert tone crossed his awareness.  The scope showed another ship here, not one of the Serpentis.  The tactical readout quickly came across the fiber-optic control lines and into Erbo’s head: Ishtar-class heavy assault cruiser.  Pilot: Engalo, member of AlphaCore corporation.

Erbo froze.  This was an exceedingly dangerous situation.  The other pilot was prohibited from attacking him outright by CONCORD restrictions, but there were several tricks unscrupulous pilots could use to attempt to cause other pilots to lash out…whereupon those pilots would call in friends and eradicate the poor bastard who’d been tricked, with CONCORD looking the other way.  Yet the other ship wasn’t making any suspicious move…other than shooting several of the Serpentis ships, but those were fair game for anyone.

Fine, Erbo thought.  You don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.  I’ve got a fight to finish.

Soon, the last Serpentis vessel fell.  Erbo began looting and salvaging the wrecks, bringing in his drones and reloading his guns, just as standard procedure called for.  The four wrecks that the other vessel had destroyed shone yellow on the display, but he made no attempt to do anything with them.  There was another area to be cleared beyond the next acceleration gate, anyway.

Suddenly, a message popped up in Erbo’s augmented vision: Engalo was requesting communication.  Erbo opened a channel, but said nothing on the line as yet.  This complex wasn’t worth losing the Mons Olympus over.

“Good to see another corp with a moral backbone,” came a rich, cultured voice over the ship-to-ship comm system. “Sorry for messing your complex up. Take care.”

“Nah, you want the rest of it?” responded Erbo.  “You can have it.  I ought to–” But it was too late.  The channel had been closed.  The Ishtar was gone.

Erbo shook his head and went back to his salvaging job.  He did, however, activate another communication channel…this one to Swine Aviation, the alliance that his friends in the Hauling Hogs had created.  Shuckstar, head of the Hogs, was on the line; he and Erbo had exchanged greetings earlier.

“Damnedest thing just happened,” said Erbo, and proceeded to relate the story to Shuckstar.  “What was he complimenting me on?  That I didn’t try to trick him into ninja-looting my wrecks and shoot his ass? Hell, I thought that’s what he was about to try to do to me.”

“He read your corp description,” offered Shuckstar.

“Hmm…maybe,” mused Erbo, heading for the next acceleration gate.  “Maybe we’re just too nice or something.”

“Yeah,” said Shuckstar, his laughter carrying across the light-years.

Shuckstar signed off soon after that, pleading fatigue, and Erbo was left alone with his thoughts.  What was that pilot doing?  If it had come down to a fight, a heavy assault cruiser would have been able to make short work of Mons Olympus, if fit correctly…and Erbo could almost guarantee that the other pilot had more experience in ship-to-ship combat than he did.  So why didn’t Engalo try to provoke him and roll the dice?  Maybe there’s a few gentlemen left in this galaxy, he thought.

Then, too, it had been rare in the past that there would be others entering a complex as he was clearing it out.  The cluster was definitely getting more crowded.  Erbo doubted it would get better anytime soon, even with the promise of more riches out on the wild, unmonitored frontier.  There were new capsuleers being churned out of the major educational institutions all the time.

With a sigh, Erbo docked up, making arrangements to have the ship reloaded and repaired, and its spoils of war transferred to the corporate hangars.  Ours not to reason why, he mused, ours but to do or die.

Erbo Does the Math on Overpriced Clothes

Posted in Expansions, General on June 25, 2011 by Erbo

Many words have been spoken about the nature of the new Noble Exchange and EVE’s new “real money” currency, Aurum (compare: Farmville Bucks, Frontierville horseshoes, Wizard 101 crowns, etc.), but let me illustrate an example that really shows how ridiculous this is, based on another avatar environment with which I’m intimately familiar…Second Life.

Let’s start with an example from the NEX, the men’s “Sterling” dress shirt.  It looks very snazzy indeed.  It’s cost is 3600 AUR.  Now we know that, from CCP’s official documentation, 1 PLEX = 3500 AUR, and also that 2 PLEX = 1 GTC = US$34.99.  So the shirt’s cost is approximately 1.0286 PLEX, or approximately 0.5143 GTC, or about US$17.99.

(Never mind that I could buy a pretty nice RL shirt at Kohl’s or Walmart for about that price…)

Meanwhile, from Second Life, I give you the Blaze “Columbia” men’s tuxedo.  I own one of these, and I can vouch for the fact that it is really well-made and looks snazzy as all hell.  (Blaze is well-known as a purveyor of quality formal wear for men and women in Second Life, and has been for years.) Now, mind you, this is not just a shirt, but a full tuxedo with shirt, pants, tie, and jacket.  It costs L$470 (Linden Dollars, the native currency of SL).  According to the latest LindeX market fix, the L$ is currently trading at L$250 = US$1.  Given that, this tuxedo retails for…US$1.88.

$17.99 for a shirt, versus $1.88 for a complete tux.

Value proposition for NEX goods: Minimal.

CCP: Clueus lackus.

I thought you were better than that, you guys.

UPDATE: Comparing women’s wear is even more indicative of the scope of FAIL we’re talking about here.  The women’s “Impress” skirt sells for the same amount of Aurum as the men’s shirt, i.e. AUR 3600 or US$17.99.  The most expensive Blaze evening gown I could find is the “Grace” gown, a stunning number complete with shawl, gloves, and undergarments, plus a matching tux vest for the lady’s escort, all for L$700.  Now, US$17.99 equals about L$4497, so you could literally buy half a dozen of the finest evening gowns in SL, with change left over, for the same price as one not-particularly-dressy skirt on the Noble Exchange.  Hell, even the finest wedding dresses in SL rarely cost more than that one skirt from the NEX would.


Posted in Storyline on June 25, 2011 by Erbo

June 21, YC113, Ralpha Dogs Aclan Station Offices

Erbo climbed up the ladder from the dock where his new Mark XVI capsule had settled, stepping onto the command gantry.  Behind him and over his head, the bulk of the Viator-class blockade runner Tantive IV floated in its mooring beams, cargo-handler droids already unloading the gear he’d flown a long way to pick up.  Running a hand through his gradually-lengthening hair, he walked towards the open pressure doors separating him from the captains’ quarters.

Selena was waiting inside.  After delicately raising herself on her toes to kiss him, she said, “Did you get it?”

“I did,” responded Erbo.  “One Sisters of EVE probe launcher, ready to put on your new Helios.  Least I didn’t have to go to Jita for it.”  Of course, he thought to himself, I probably had to jump farther to pick that up.  The launcher had come from a Sisters station deep in The Forge, where Erbo had bought it on contract for several million ISK cheaper than the best prices available in Jita.  Still, going that far into Caldari space always gave him the jibblies.

“Good,” sighed Selena.  She relaxed audibly and glanced around the interior of the Gallente station.  “Maybe now we can–”

Her words were cut short by the loud klaxon of a stationwide alert.  She whirled to face the main screen of the quarters, as did Erbo.  “What the hell…”

The screen told the story, showing an external view outside the station: cynosaural fields flaring and jump bridges opening, in a system where they had no right to be.  Pouring out from them, multitudes of evilly-spiked frigates, cruisers, and battleships.  A scrolling ticker superimposed itself on the bottom of the screen, telling them all they needed to know.

“It’s the Sanshas,” muttered Selena, quietly.  She looked up at Erbo.

Erbo, his face taut, nodded.  “An incursion.”

. . . . .

Ninety minutes later, orbiting the Meves jumpgate, Lirsautton system (3 jumps from Aclan)

The ships assembled around the jumpgate could perhaps best be termed a “fleet in being.” Very few bore the same corporate logos, and the ships themselves were a decidedly mixed bag.  Among them were Selena and Erbo, representing the Ralpha Dogs in an attempt to field a fleet that could strike back at the Sanshas.

Megathron-class Wolf 359

"Wrought in deepest Hell...our vengeance is freedom!"

Selena was piloting the Myrmidon-class battlecruiser Imala, ill-fit for this mission, but with its railguns and drones primed for action.  She stayed close to Erbo’s larger and newer ship, the Megathron-class battleship Wolf 359, freshly fitted from the shipyards at Dodixie and Aclan, based on Erbo’s rushed design work.  Its seven mighty ion blaster cannons were loaded and ready, and its massive shield generators ensured that it would not go gently into that good night.

Both of them were on multiple communication channels with the other ships, and also monitoring the new constellation-wide channel set up by CONCORD to carry news of fleets being formed against the incursion here in Ysilette.  They had arrived here in response to a call by Ricky Wrath of the International Space Pimps, who was feverishly trying to coordinate more ships, logistics cruisers especially.  Those pilots who could fly logistics were in high demand, and a number of them broke off from the fleet in Lirsautton to assist other fleets elsewhere in the constellation.

Sadly, not even the arrival of a more experienced fleet commander in a high-powered ship, Balin Tovak from Dead Nation Industries, could keep the fleet together, and it dispersed without launching an attack.  In the process, though, Erbo and Selena learned much about the Sansha incursions, as both Wrath and Tovak had flown against them before.  Erbo realized that he and Selena–and Lexx, too–would all have to start taking crash courses in logistics flying.  He might be able to do more good flying an Oneiros-class cruiser than he could with the big battlewagon…and eventually, he might need the option of flying other races’ logistics cruisers, too.

This incursion would eventually be driven back.  Pilots from other sectors of space would converge on Ysilette, their tactics already tried, their ships battle-tested.  And they would reap the rewards of a successful fight, and once again, the constellation would be at peace.

But Sansha’s Nation would return.  And when they did, Selena and Erbo hoped to be ready for them.

Searching Out Further Away From Homebase

Posted in He Said-She Said, Storyline on June 20, 2011 by CelestialFirePhoenix

Selenalore wakes and looks around the new Captain’s Quarters on the Jarzalad Station that has been the spot for the Ralpha Dogs Headquarters for a long time. She smiles softly to herself as she makes sure that she doesn’t wake Erbo. She quietly heads out into the living and office area and touches a few spots on the new desk and a computer screen rises from the desktop.

She then reaches out and touches the screen and does a few code processes to activate her computer system. She smiles as she hears a voice come from the computer and a face appears on the screen in one of the corners of the big computer screen and says, “Greetings Selenalore, it’s been a while since you have awoken me from my slumber to do some research.”

Selenalore smiles and says, “Greetings Coahoma, nice to hear that voice of yours. Did the move to the new quarters computer go smoothly for you?”

There was a brief silence, and then the face showed a big smile and Coahoma says, “It went smoothly as planned and they treated me well in the move, didn’t even shake my code up. They done a great job.”  Coahoma looks around and says, “The quarters could do with some sprucing up but I’m sure you’ll do that eventually.” Then she looks back at Selenalore and says, “So what do you want me to do for you, cause you wouldn’t have woke me for no apparent reason just to chat.” she laughs softly.

Selenalore sits down and pulls out some maps of the chartered systems around and looks at them when she speaks, “You are correct on that Coahoma. I need you to look up the Gallente space domain areas and check each one for ice fields. We want to spread out towards that area for corporation operations and possibly pick up new members in the process if all goes well.”

Coahoma says, “Working on that now boss.” and as she starts doing the research the data and pictures of the star systems start popping up and all over the screen as the computer starts searching. Selenalore smiles as she watches the screen with much interest since the newer systems are far more superior to the older systems that wouldn’t do very many graphics especially of the high quality that is being seen now. She is amazed how far technology is coming and going in everyone’s lives here in New Eden. She then goes back to pursing the maps in front of her and checks for routes and trade hubs and dangerous areas, which she will recheck via Coahoma’s research and the star system maps and more over the computer system.

Coahoma finishes and starts talking and explains what she has found and where and also updates Selenalore on all things including news and gossip and stocks and more. She then checks Selenalore’s mapping and routes against what she has come up with and what has been found and makes the plans that will be sent to the shuttle to help Selenalore get to the destinations and to have the updated information there as well. Oh yeah and she herself will be there as well since with the new computer systems you can do the base to ship over distances.

Selenalore finishes the preperations and prepares to head out, but she checks in on Erbo to see if he is still resting well, and then she heads to the balcony and picks the ship that she will be using to fly to the locations and scout out areas for both mining and offices as well as jump clones and more.

Selenalore gets into the shuttle and prepares to launch, and she has left a note to Erbo to let him know she has gone out to scout out new territory for ice mining, mining and offices and more. She then sets her destination to head to the Everyshore territory of Gallente space, and sits back to enjoy the ride and listens to good music and taking naps off and on and such while she travels.

Makeover Part Deux

Posted in Expansions, General, Meta on February 5, 2011 by Erbo

Some of us have taken advantage of the opportunity to revamp our character designs and portraits, thanks to the opportunity CCP has given us to do so.

First here’s mine (original revised image on left, new revised image on right):

The new one looks less harsh, and I’ve lightened up certain aspects of the character.  In particular, I went with a different hairstyle, looser, with a little more length at the back. (Selenalore will like that.)  The revised image has a nobler, more heroic quality, I think.

Now for Selena:

She didn’t change her character design, or not much; she just fixed the portrait to better show off that sweet new face.

And finally, Lexx:

Yow! Can you say “Sexxi Lexxi”?  The revised image looks ready to do some serious biz.  Looks like all she really fiddled with was the hairstyle and the portrait parameters…but what a difference!

Still loving the parameters of the new character creator…and it’s going to be interesting to see these figures come to life when Incarna comes out!

Payback, Motherfrakkers

Posted in Storyline on January 27, 2011 by Erbo

“Latest reports indicate that Sansha incursions have taken place in Amarr and Gallente space.  Capsuleer forces have mobilized to counter the Nation attack fleets, but indications are that even they may find this a long, tough fight.  The Federation Senate today released a statement, saying–“

With a mental command, Erbo dismissed the subspace newscast.  Hell of a mess these days, he thought.  Those murderous bastards will stop at nothing, will they?  Let’s hope Jarz doesn’t come under attack any time soon. It was a long way from where he sat in Pimsu…and right now, Amaranth was hot on the trail of a rogue signal.  He refocused the scan probes and told them to try again.  The visuals before his eyes showed the four probes warping to their new positions, then reaching out, homing in, correlating their signals.  What is this?  Wormhole, maybe? Or…

Bingo! A hard lock on a target, identifying itself as SANSHA HIDEOUT.  A thin smile crossed Erbo’s lips.  Time for a little payback.

He quickly recalled the probes and sent Amaranth, which was, after all, not a fighting ship, speeding for the jumpgate back to Jarzalad.  Once he’d jumped back into the system, he streaked for the Ralpha Dogs’ base, sending a message ahead to have Syria Planum ready for departure.

Upon arrival at the site, though, he discovered it was an acceleration gate that wouldn’t pass anything larger than a destroyer.  Cursing, he returned to Jarzalad, trying to remember: Do I actually have any destroyers that have been reactivated after the corporation-wide stand-down?  What kind of shape are they in? He checked his hangar inventory, settling on Mannerheim for the assault.  Its configuration required some rework, though, replacing an afterburner with a more efficient one, rearranging the gun turrets, and so forth.  He gave orders, and ordnance and materiel quickly converged on the Catalyst-class vessel from the Ralpha Dogs’ corporate stocks.  Turrets were reconfigured; ammunition arrived from bunkers to load the guns and resupply the reserve in the ship’s cargo hold.  With a quick message to the insurance office to properly cover the destroyer, Erbo got the wing-shaped ship into the black.

Mannerheim easily passed the first gate, catching several Sansha frigates by surprise with her long-range railgun batteries and her single drone.  A second acceleration gate from that point led to a refinery and a pair of bunkers, with but a few guardians.  Soon, though, as Erbo was busily engaged in shooting them, a True Sansha, obviously the boss of the group, warped in.  A harsh voice sounded over the local communications net: “The refinery must not be destroyed!”

Erbo kicked Mannerheim around in a tight loop circling the boss, opening fire with the short-range blaster battery.  The armor-damage warnings began sounding, and he engaged repair systems.  Soon, though, the assault was too much for the True Sansha, which exploded quite nicely.  The remaining ships didn’t last much longer.  Neither did the refinery and the two bunkers, which died in a blaze of glory under the impact of the iridium slugs from the railguns.  After all the fuss the True Sansha had made, blasting the refinery to smithereens had seemed like a fine idea.

As Erbo turned to the tedious work of looting and salvaging the wrecks, a reading from the communications suite caught his eye.  Somehow, the True Sansha had managed to get off a distress call before it was destroyed.  The computer extrapolated the likely target of the signal: Andabiar system, one Erbo knew from flying the route between the Ralpha Dogs’ headquarters and their major manufacturing base.  But freighters and haulers would not be needed for this task.

“We’ll not let you get away,” muttered Erbo under his breath.

. . .

Syria Planum warped to the likely location of the recipients of the Sansha distress call, to find a newly-constructed acceleration gate surrounded by nine Sansha guardians.  To meet the threat, Erbo released a flight of drones heavier than the one Mannerheim had used, and engaged with four railgun cannons of larger bore.  The combined forces quickly made short work of the enemy ships, and Erbo soon discovered that this acceleration gate would carry a battlecruiser’s heavier mass.

Sliding through the gate, he emerged far behind a trio of Sansha vessels, that picked up speed and went to warp before he could get within gun or drone range.  But the computer had pegged their trajectory: right back to Pimsu where he’d started, perhaps to the location of the refinery that now only existed as rapidly-expanding gas clouds.  Erbo gave chase.

At Pimsu, another acceleration gate guarded by Sanshas awaited.  Again, the frigate-size vessels were no match for the guns and drones Syria Planum could bring to bear.  And again, after passing through the acceleration gate, Erbo emerged too late to fire on the three traveling Sanshas…though, this time, he’d been able to identify one of them: Gamat Hakoot, a notorious wanted criminal relatively high in the Sansha hierarchy.  And his computer had pegged Hostakoh system as their most likely destination.  “A stern chase is a long chase,” mused Erbo as he set the course.

Upon arriving in Hostakoh, it was more of the same…except, this time, the guardians included four Centii Loyal Butchers.  Though the other five defenders, including their True Sansha commander, fell quickly, the Butchers proved troublesome, as Erbo’s standard tactics weren’t breaking their tanks.  They were no longer capable of breaking his, but…A classic Minmatar standoff, thought Erbo. Time to change the game. He concentrated his drones and cannons on one Butcher at a time, adjusting his orbital plane to maximize the effectiveness of the railguns.  This tactic proved successful, as, one by stubborn one, the Butchers exploded.  Quickly, Syria Planum followed the acceleration gate.  Again, Hakoot slipped the leash…but this time, his escorts didn’t, bursting in showers of sparks.

Grimly, Erbo set course once more, this time for Elmed, in pursuit of Hakoot.  By now, he was halfway convinced that there was an incursion being planned somewhere nearby, and that this was his one chance to stop it in its tracks before it started.  And the Sanshas must be stopped.

More Sansha vessels awaited him at the rendezvous spot, though thankfully no Loyalists as at Hostakoh.  As he wiped out first one group, then another, he spotted Hakoot’s ship, seemingly tired of running and spoiling for a fight.  Erbo directed the Valkyrie II drones towards the Sansha overseer, and opened fire with all guns.  Between the two, it was a matter of mere minutes before Hakoot’s ship detonated in one final explosion.

Erbo sighed with relief as he recalled the drones and secured all weapons.  The Sanshas were cunning enemies, but they would not get the upper hand here today.  And perhaps, New Eden was just a teeny fraction safer.

The Reimagined Ralphas

Posted in Expansions, General, Meta on January 20, 2011 by Erbo

What with the new Character Editor having been released just yesterday, the core members of the Ralpha Dogs have gotten back in to redesign their character portraits using the new system.  Since many of us are experienced at avatar design, from Second Life and elsewhere, we were anxious to try out the new Carbon-based editor and see what it presages for Incarna.

First, your humble narrator (old on left, new on right):

Many people who knew me from SL thought my original avatar image looked too much like my SL avatar. 🙂  The new avatar looks more like the kind of guy who should be second-in-command of a corporation like the Ralpha Dogs.  Sadly, CCP’s clothing options don’t include the equivalent of the Ralpha Dogs’ uniform (the description taken straight out of Jeff’s book), but that was as close as I could get.  His full costume looks vaguely Han Solo-ish, IMHO, but Selena didn’t think so.

And speaking of Selena, here’s the lady herself:

With the new avatar, it’s like she’s gotten a facelift…or maybe a rollback.  (She plans on fixing the portrait a bit to better center her face.)  She may look cuter now than in her previous guise, but, if you plan on trying anything with her, remember…PH33R t3h cute on3s!

And now, our Glorious Leader, LexxEva:

She, too, seems to have reversed the aging process slightly.  And anyone who knows her in SL (where she has many names) knows that Lexxi loves the red hair.

All three of these are Gallenteans.  Here, to counterbalance those, is the Amarrian Zephira Najam:

She’s taken on a more haughty, aristocratic air in her new “ice queen” image.  It’s the kind of image that says, “I could order your death in an instant, and none would challenge me.  We are the Chosen Ones.  Amarr Victor!

And to counterpoint her, we have Fanchon Sihu, a member of the Seven Tribes of Minmatar:

Action Girl all the way, Fanchon has become slightly more sophisticated in the new picture.  But it still says, “I could kick your ass, and not even smear my eyeliner!  Bring it on, bitch!”

All in all, I’m reasonably impressed.  The visuals certainly knock anything Linden Lab has ever done into a cocked hat.  Now if only CCP will eventually let people design their own clothes…

See, I Told You So

Posted in General on August 10, 2010 by Erbo

Seems that one “aystra,” of BOAE INC, was not reading the blog entry I posted on the changes to PLEX, which included some tips for moving them safely.

Look among the destroyed items.  Seventy-four PLEX.  Worth 22.4 giga-ISK, or about US$1,300 in real money.

And this guy was hauling them through Jita, in a Kestrel.  Unescorted.

What was he THINKING?!?!?  WAS he thinking?!?!?

Remember, kids, treat PLEX the same as any other small, valuable object you don’t want to lose.  Especially if you’re hauling them in quantity!

“Stupidity is the only universal capital crime…the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out swiftly and without pity.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Governance Thrash Redux?

Posted in EVE Blog Banter on July 20, 2010 by Erbo

Welcome to the nineteenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month’s topic comes to us from @evepress, and he asks: The CSM: CCP’s Meta Game? – The CSM, an eve players voice to CCP.Right? In the grand scheme of things yes, the players bring up issues and the CSM presents them to CCP. But in its current iteration the CSM was supposed to be given small authority to assign CCP assets toprojects that the CSM thought needed work on. As it has not come outthis was not the case. So fellow bloggers, is the CSM worth it, has the CSM improved the game in any way, or is it just a well thought out scamby CCP to give us players a false sense of input in the game? What’s your take?

. . .

Erbo Evans, speaking for the Ralpha Dogs.

Many capsuleers have had high expectations for the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), a group of players elected by their peers to, essentially, represent the player base to CCP.  CCP’s own overview page refers to them as “A democratically elected representative council, manned by players elected by players. The implementation of social ideas in EVE and the strengthening of the social structure.” Unfortunately, sometimes, expectations clash with reality.

The fifth CSM, in particular, seems to have come up against the “wall” dividing expectations from reality in particularly short order.  Mynxee, chairperson of the Council, sums it up in a brutally honest graphic that is not to be missed, and in her words:

Players are a brute-force rock of expectations driving CSM face-first into the hard place that is CCP decision-makers who hold all the cards and decide which balls CCP devs will be juggling at any given time. There ain’t much wiggle room in that hardscrabble zone for CSM. It’s a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t job.

Her words are even more true than, perhaps, she herself recognizes…because this has happened before.

. . .

In what seems now like the “Elder Days” of the Internet, in 1996, Howard Rheingold, veteran of The WELL conferencing system and author of the influential book The Virtual Community, sought to put his ideas about online community into practice by creating Electric Minds, a new community focused on innovative content and discussions for the growing online population.  The following year, it began to run into financial trouble, and Rheingold sought potential buyers…but he pledged to the community that one of the conditions for the sale was that the community had to be “self-governing.”  The eventual buyer, Durand Communications of Santa Barbara, CA, agreed to this condition, and, in the main, stayed clear of the “governance” issue.  (In the interests of full disclosure: I was an employee of Durand Communications at the time of the Electric Minds acquisition, and afterward following Durand’s own acquisition by Online System Services, later Webb Interactive Services, of Denver, CO.)

So what happened?  I’ll let Nancy White, virtual community expert with Full Circle Associates and a participant in what was later termed “The Governance Thrash,” explain:

We thought we knew [what we were designing], but in hindsight, I’m not sure that we really did. We were essentially designing a process for a “roll-your-own, owned-by-the-members” governance modeled on the River and other communities. We were not designing for a community whose infrastructure was owned and controlled by a company. I believe this was one of our first missteps. When you roll your own, there are a host of administrative and financial issues which suggest specific governance structures related to financial accountability, and to assignment of tangible responsibilities. When infrastructure is not a priority, the driving set of needs is more related to the social structure — the operating norms, “rules of the road” and policies relating to membership. But before the sale to Durand, it seemed like fiscal responsibility was about to necessitate more formality, so we may have started with that assumption.

To compound our confusion, we were also dealing with emerging factions within the group, some aligned with individuals, and some aligned on certain principals. The words “democracy,” “free speech,” and “power” took on some loaded but little-examined connotations, setting up waves of argument and misunderstanding, rather than dialog and alignment. Compromise was not the theme of the day. There seemed to be the need for each of us, in our own way, to be “right.”

The result?

The Thrash did not kill Eminds, but it set the tone for it’s second phase, July 1997 – July 1998. Electric Minds was small and in some ways self-limiting by it’s recoil from the Thrash. There was some difficulty dealing with members who consistently crossed outside of the informal “norms” of the community. Eminders were hesitant to make changes for fear of being perceived as “power-mongers.” They wanted to tread lightly, not too deep into problems or innovation and play it safe.

And, ultimately, the user base of EMinds was unable to prevent Durand Communications from making changes to the underlying conferencing system that alienated the members.  Nor was it able to prevent Webb Interactive from discarding the community entirely in 2000, though some of its members kept it alive for some years thereafter, in a different form. (Full disclosure again: I was one of those people.)

Now see how what Ms. White says in that last quote resonates with this one, from Mynxee again:

If we have certain expectations about being able to influence EVE’s development, if we push too hard on CCP for not giving CSM issues priority, if we call CCP out on bigger-picture issues that seem to be involved in the problems related to EVE, then we’re just a bunch of egotistical, overzealous players on a power trip. If we don’t raise the “right” issues, don’t push CCP hard enough for results, don’t document every detail of every controversial event for public purview, refuse to share NDA-protected information, don’t conduct ourselves like paid professional advisors 100% of the time, and worst of all possible sins can’t actually MAKE CCP implement the changes we ask for, then we’re nothing but elitist pigs who are just in it for the free trips to Iceland. Or so some recent blog posts and forum flames would have you believe.

CCP’s intentions are good, just as Durand’s were.  But governance–even the sort of “limited” governance over game issues as the CSM is intended to have–is not easy.

. . .

In some ways, the CSM has it worse than the participants in the Governance Thrash.  EVE’s player base is many times what EMinds’ user base ever was, and even more fragmented by opinion.  Though the process by which the CSM was elected was “democratic,” and CCP did their best to help match candidates with the views of the “electorate,” ultimately these sort of online elections always come down to a popularity contest.  (No flame against the CSM, who have demonstrated exceptional competence thusfar! That’s just how it is.)  And popularity contests always involve a certain degree of resentment among those who weren’t chosen, or whose favorites weren’t chosen, so, yes, the CSM is already fighting with one foot in a bucket.

And then it comes up against CCP, whose intentions may be good (as evidenced by the fact that they created the CSM in the first place, as a feedback mechanism), but which is, ultimately, a business that is responsible to its investors and shareholders first and foremost.  Jamie Zawinski, formerly of Netscape Communications, has observed:

Some will tell you that an organization is the people who make it up, but that’s not the case at all. The whole is larger and completely different from the sum of its parts. The system that we as a society have invented to run our world is a simple one. It’s a game with a small number of rules. You put the pieces on the board, wind it up, and let it go. The thing is, the rules involved are all about money. The underlying theory is that you motivate people to provide value to society by making it be in their best interest to do so. But that’s the intent; the mechanism is much less vague. The mechanism is money.

Corporations are not evil. That kind of anthropomorphism is inappropriate. Corporations are too stupid to be evil, only people can be that. Corporations are mechanisms. People can influence them, but by and large, corporations just follow the rules.

Bear in mind that, for a publicly-traded company, if a CEO makes a decision because it’s the right thing rather than because it’s the most profitable thing for the shareholders, he will lose his job, and possibly be sued into oblivion. That’s the way the rules work.

And, more to the point, if CCP doesn’t make money, it goes bankrupt, and EVE Online goes down with it.

And that means that, if CCP feels that Incarna and DUST 514 are more critical to their future ability to make money than the “bugfixes” and “polish” demanded by the CSM, then they are duty bound to expend resources on those, and the CSM be damned.

Sorry.  I don’t make the rules.  I just report on them.

And yes, it’s entirely possible that CCP could be wrong.  Game companies have been wrong before.  Most of them ended up going under as a result, or provoked such a backlash that they were forced to back down and lose face.

But while the CSM may be “stakeholders,” they are not “shareholders.”

. . .

So what of the attempt at governance that is the CSM?  Nancy White has a few suggestions for emerging design patterns for online community governance (and make no mistake, EVE is as much an “online community” as EMinds ever was, it just has fancier toys to play with), which may be useful to look at:

  • Make it as simple as it can be. The CSM is certainly simple in concept, explainable in just one sentence on the EVE Online Web site.  As always, “the devil is in the details.”
  • Make sure the needs and purpose of the community (and community owners) are articulated.  This is where the struggle lies with the CSM and CCP.  The CSM must articulate its purpose with respect to the community (and by this I mean the whole community, not any subgroups of constituents), and CCP must do so as well, and things must not get bogged down at “cross purposes.”
  • Consider that structures may need to be fractal in nature giving the most control at the smallest group units.  I’m not sure what this would mean in terms of EVE.  Perhaps a system where the CSM could recommend people as outside game masters, or make recommendations concerning the existing ones?  But how much influence would this have on CCP as a whole?
  • Consider that sometimes benevolent dictatorships are good solutions.  CCP is a good example of a “benevolent dictatorship.” The CSM is their attempt to add feedback into this loop, and is noteworthy for that purpose alone.  (Could you see Blizzard doing something similar with World of Warcraft?  Me neither.)
  • Consider that listening is probably the most important skill for any player, site owner, staff or member.  I think Mynxee has been emphasizing this point to anyone and everyone, as much as possible.
  • Consider that it is easy to leave an online community so why make it easier? A word of warning, perhaps, for CCP as well as the CSM?
  • Avoid time-unlimited circular conversations (know when to fold-em!).  The fact that each CSM is inherently time-limited works against this tendency, but also means that each CSM may have to “fight the last war” over and over again unless and until CCP listens.
  • Define and use decision-making processes.  The difficulty here is that CCP’s own decision-making processes are largely opaque to outsiders, including the CSM.  The CSM will have to plan and react accordingly.
  • Put up or shut up. Cook or get out of the kitchen. Fish, no bait cutting here.  Something tells me Mynxee is heartily in agreement with this statement! 🙂
  • When a group process is used, consider the power of words and seek some alignment on definitions the minute people fall into advocacy modes as opposed dialog.  Especially difficult in EVE, where “advocacy modes as opposed dialog” is the order of the day on the forums.
  • Keep it in perspective. Life is short and precious.  Good advice at any time, no matter what the situation.
  • Eat more chocolate! Perhaps Mynxee would agree with this point as well? 🙂

For those of us that know Nancy, it’s not difficult to see why she included that last point.  (Her EMinds user name was “choconancy,” after all.)  Chocolate is kind of her catchphrase…just as mine, when writing in authorial voice as Abbot of the Ralpha Dogs, is:

Wrought in deepest Hell, our vengeance is freedom!

. . .

Other EVE Blog Banter posts:

  1. Growing Pains | CrazyKinux’s Musing
  2. CSM: Hoax or Serious Business? « Lost in New Eden
  3. CSM-Power to the people or puppets of CCP « A whole lot of Yarrrr!!!
  4. Gaming the CSM | A Mule in EvE
  5. A Taste Of Democracy | StarFleet Comms
  6. CSM: Player Power or Paper Tiger? | I Am Keith Neilson
  7. Governance Thrash Redux? « The Ralpha Dogs
  8. CCP Doesn’t Care: Blog Banter 19 « OMG! You’re a Chick?!
  9. The Cataclysmic Variable: It’s Crunch Time!
  10. The 19th EVE Blog Banter is upon us… and about the CSM and CCP | Victoria Aut Mors
  11. CSM: Lame Duck from the beginning?
  12. Blog Banter #19 << Dense Veldspar
  13. Be careful what you say, Roc « Roc’s Ramblings
  14. Exchange Fraking Phone Numbers « Scrap Metal & Faction Ammo
  15. Blog Banter #19: Assumptions
  16. EVE Blog Banter #19 | EVE on Real Life
  17. A Reality Check | A “CareBears” Journey
  18. Quit your bitching | Fly Reckless – EVE Online
  19. War has come to EVE | Scram Web
  20. CCP and the CSM | Morphisat’s Blog
  21. BB 19 Riding the elephant | mikeazariah
  22. The CSM: A well thought out scam by CCP | Nitpickin’s

CCP Takes the Hex off PLEX, Leaves Pilots Vexed (Of Either Sex)

Posted in General on July 10, 2010 by Erbo

So, after all this time, CCP has decided that PLEX should be treated as any other item…you will soon be able to transport them between stations, have them couriered, and so forth.  This has resulted in a veritable firestorm on the forums; some people are in favor of it (and think CCP should be encouraging more of it), while others are against it.

Chief among the objections is that, if a ship gets ganked while carrying PLEX, the PLEX may be destroyed or dropped as loot.  The concern is that, since PLEX represent “real money” and “real game time,” this is somehow a bad thing.  But let’s look at this objectively.  A PLEX can presently be acquired for somewhere on the close order of 300M ISK.  While this isn’t “chump change” by any means, neither is it the most valuable thing you can have (and potentially lose) in EVE, not by a long shot.  An Orca presently goes for just over that, and an Obelisk freighter goes for something on the close order of 700M ISK.  Or, if you want something about the same size as a PLEX (0.01 m3) to compare to, a blueprint for that selfsame Obelisk goes for right around 1.7 billion ISK, or the equivalent of roughly half a dozen PLEX.  Yet people haul blueprints around all the time, and even lose them when they get ganked, and no one seems to have a problem with that.  (And the ones that do, quite frankly, need to HTFU.)

For those of you who don’t like the idea of PLEXs getting ganked out from under you, I say, don’t move ’em.  Just deal in them the way you always have; that will still work just fine.  Fly out to Jita (or Amarr, or Rens, or Hek, or your favorite trade hub), redeem your GTC to PLEXs there, and sell ’em off there.  Or buy your PLEX at one of the trade hubs, and immediately redeem it for game time, which you can do from your Assets window from anywhere in the galaxy.  If you do want to move PLEXs, take the same care as you would moving any other small but valuable item.  (In small quantities, I’d recommend a Covert Ops frigate with a cloak, speed mods, and as good a tank as you can put on it.  You can also put ’em into small, password-protected secure containers, and load those aboard a similarly-fit Blockade Runner.)  This is not rocket science here.  (Well, maybe it is, but you get the point.)

CCP’s avowed motivation in doing this is to keep PLEXs from being treated “differently” from any other item.  Of course, they will still be “different,” in that (a) you can “buy” them with GTCs, ultimately “real money,” and (b) you can trade them in for game time.  But consider this: Does this not open the door for CCP to introduce other items, perhaps, that have the (a) or (b) natures?  What if, say, there were a Live Event, in which a powerful NPC ship were to drop as loot some special items that could be redeemed for 5-10 days game time?  The mind boggles.

TL;DR of the above: This change was long overdue, and gives players more options.  And isn’t that what we like?