Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Triage, Pantheon and a Prismatic Dragon

It's been rather a long while since I updated this blog, so I'll try and make this a bigger entry. Hopefully you've caught our battle reports on various forums and sites. Aside from the usual bit of CAODing, this included PL's (then) new site BattleDB, who kindly gifted us a prize of a carrier in a competition, and the ever excellent SHC forum, the latest report (from the weekend) on which is here.

The era of the Apocrypha expansion is now over, having given way to Dominion (and perhaps in a few months, Tyrannis). The tactics behind our exploits in Apocrypha are shown in our video, Clarion Call 2: Pantheon. I've not had a chance to respond to all the people who've commented on the Eve-O, youtube, SHC and other forums, or who have written evemails, so let me take the opportunity to thank people for indulging us with their time.

It's been nice to see how triage use has taken off in Eve. The market spotlight reproduced below from the Eve Quarterly Economic Report shows how the sales of the triage module have grown from October 2008, when the first triage video came out (Equinox, followed by Clarion 1 in December of that year). Not to say, of course, that Eve players will do whatever some video says. But perhaps it - and all the battle reports of that preceeding year's ops - played a role in showing how much fun it can be to rep your friends in this fashion:

Of course, every protagonist must eventually face his own tactic. Clarion Call 1's finale involved us using the then-signature tactic of baiting with a triage carrier and battleships, which hold the middle of the field like a ferocious porcupine, to force the enemy to either retreat with losses or escalate with a capfleet. At which point, the good guys drop an even bigger capfleet at their optimal range.

So for sequel's finale. I picked a fight where someone did exactly that to us, i.e. bait with a triage carrier and battleships, wait for us to drop some caps - and then drop a lot more caps on our head. That's really the heart of the narrative: with no counter-counter-drop coming for our side, can the ambushed ships on the field stand and deliver?

That's what Pantheon is about.

And in many ways, that's also what the alliance is about. Throughout Apocrypha, we dropped Pantheon (and also our triage setup, of course) on a lot of different groups with much success. There's a narrative there, usually involving low sec moons, which were very valuable pre-Dominion and epitomised hit-and-run cap fighting in 2009. But to some degree, I find the narrative of the evolving tactical battles even more interesting. It's very interesting developing, refining and popularising something - and then having to fight it yourself.

In the original Prince of Persia - yes, I'm showing my age - you beat your shadow by putting away your sword. Admittedly, Eve being Eve, the Pantheon solution was a little less pacifist.

As for Dominion, the topic of the moment is certainly that much despised beast: lag. People have asked me regularly how much our approach to the game is affected by lag and whether it's more difficult in Dominion.

To some degree, we're shielded from the worst of it since Rooks and Kings fights tend to be in the 50-200 range for Local count, which is still (usually) functioning in Dominion. However, sometimes there's no way of avoiding a monster battle and, certainly, the lag issues at the beginning of Dominion are much worse than in Apocrypha.

However, there is still the sense of taking part in a cutting edge MMO experience. It's not just that people bring numbers because they don't want to lose (granted that's a big part) - it's also that there's something addictive about having an engine/server that's creaking and groaning under the strain of what you're asking it to perform. It's the natural urge to push things to the limit, in this case in numerical spectacle.

Sitting on a hushed Teamspeak at 4am, waiting for a cyno, is a little like being hunkered down in a trench waiting to go Over The Top when the whistle sounds. You might get a great fight and some fraps to show your grandchildren, who relunctantly indulge your war stories, or you might get a black screen and never load grid. But then, to be bleak about it, someone going 'over the top' might just instantly get a bullet in the head.

Having said that, it's certainly a shame that numbers which were sustainable in Apocrypha no longer seem viable for a smooth fight in Dominion (a problem which is added to by Titans having become anti-capital vessels rather than steamrolling hundreds of support at once). Judging by devblogs, CCP are on the issue. In the meantime, yes, it does make life harder for people fighting outnumbered and planning to do so with complex, lag-sensitive plans or micromangement. But I have no doubt the issues will be solved and to some extent it's the price we pay for the cutting edge.

In Everquest 1, the Sleeper (Kerafyrm) was a creature originally thought to be unkillable within the mechanics.

Yes, the small person under his belly is a player.

Eventually, a few hundred players from different guilds got together to kill Kerafyrm. Things started well, despite an enormous amount of XP lost from countless player deaths. Then, at 27% health, Kerafyrm disappeared. He'd been despawned by Sony's GM's, unsure of what exactly was transpiring (later attributed to a bug).

But a few days on, the people returned and tried the whole thing again. This time they succeeded. Despite all of the problems, it became one of the most noted events in Everquest lore and one of the very examples of the players making a mark on the world they inhabit.

The point being, despite all the setbacks, people still prefer an experience that tests the limits and boundaries of their (virtual) word over a plastic, pre-packaged experience.

Perhaps saying "people still prefer.." is a little dangerous with many instanced, formulaic MMOs selling rather well. So let's say, people remember. People remember Kerafyrm being killed. People remember Lord British being killed in Ultima. And Eve is just filled to the brim with this stuff. Life goes by so fast that in so many real life events, 2007 seems like almost yesterday. But in Eve, 2007 seems an eternity ago, hidden from us by a long winding path of narratives and ever changing tactics.

It seems we grow up quickly in Space.


  1. nice writeup. you guys are the kind of elitists even a goonie can appreciate. see you in space for ~goodfights~

  2. Great comment as ever, keep up LM :)