This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

For an introduction to this blog refer to this link. You may also want to check out the guide for new readers

: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

26 Nov 2012

Blog Banter 41 - Making the cut with the director

The universe of EVE is not without its drama and epic stories, both in and out of game. Imagine a publisher, movie studio or television network asked you to prepare a pitch for a new brand of EVE-flavoured entertainment. This could be your big break, what would be your synopsis to bring New Eden to the wider audience?

I took the approach of making this a fictionalized RL conversation where I am the CCP person who has to sell this to an imaginary director as a concept for a TVseries. So you could say it's an in-character RP piece where I play a different version of myself.  

Normally something like this would call for dressing up, but after thinking about it, I decided not to. To begin with, where would I get a three piece business outfit from, and stockings, and high heels. I can not even walk with those things.

No, I decided I would look like wearing a bad disguise and I need to be convincing.

In the end, I did go for the ladie's cut working trousers and a shirt with a narrow waistline rather than cargo pants and a hoody. It should work well enough, after all I am here to sell a gritty sci-fi scenario, not a romantic comedy.

So I close my eyes, breathe in deep and exhale slowly before opening the door. I am immediately relieved when I see that the director is not wearing anything too formal either. A pair of jeans and a flannel shirt which is not even tucked into his trousers. He didn't shave for a few days either.

'Welcome miss. Please have a seat.' He pulls up a chair for me at his desk which is laden with what must be half the desktop gadgets you can order at thinkgeek.

Good, he's into geeky stuff. That should work in my favour.

'So, tell me about this project of yours.' He cuts to the chase immediately and leans back in his chair with his hands folded behind the back of his head.

'Well I guess you read the introduction material.' I begin and open the satchel I brought. 'I have some storyboard drawings, costume designs and other artwork with me that should give you an impression about how we envisioned the look and feel of things.'

'Sure.' he seems disinterested. 'But give me your personal version. Why should I work on this?'

'Well.' I have to stop starting sentences with that word. 'In a nutshell, it's like crossing wild-west with game of thrones with classical greek mythology ... demigod heroes and all that.' I can't help but smile at before saying 'In space' I feel very clever dropping that meme, but it doesn't quite work.

He just nods.

'There are all the classic archetypes available, and some modern ones. You have the imperialistic and unyielding theocracy, proud warrior tribes, an idealistic democracy and a nation of supercapitalists that Ayn Rand would be proud of.'

I wait for a reaction but none comes so I just go on. I forget how nervous I am and just let it carry me away. 'It is a backdrop for epic stories, but there is a lot of grittyness and darkness in it too. There are themes of flawed ideals, the hubris and dehumanization that comes with effective immortality. How a person is changed by becoming one with a powerful machine in which other people are just components. Political intrigue. Devastating wars. High ideals that become perverted by cynicism. It is a world - as they say - of Black and Gray Morality.'

Again he nods, and finally he says something. 'I understand that the whole thing needs a lot of special effects and CGI to work.'

'We ...' I barely catch myself this time. 'That is true, but on the up side, you don't need to do a lot of on-location filming which involves a lot of cost. I mean of course for atmosphere there would be some - it shouldn't be like the StarWars prequels.' He smirks and I smile like sharing a mutual peeve with him. 'But a lot can be done with sets and rendering machines.'

'Still, the costs would be pretty high. I already hear my producer screaming about them.' he insists. 'I am just a bit worried that it's too much of a niche product to get enough viewers.'

'I am confident that the subject material will attract a wide audience.' I reply.

He bobs his head in consideration. 'Are you? I have read that the game you are basing this on is played almost exclusively by men of a certain age bracket and lifestyle. With an investment that significant we want to be sure that we will maximise our exposure.'

I do my best to stay calm and not get all defensive. 'You are of course right, but that has to do more with the game mechanics than the theme.' I was sort-of prepared for that one. After all, I have been thinking about the issue a lot myself.

'Science fiction programs like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica have been very popular with female viewers, and the all-around success of Game of Thrones has also demonstrated that women these days are not detracted by hard subject matter. Despite the game's mostly male playerbase, the narrative has many very strong female characters. The Empress of the Amarr, the director of one of the Gallente Federation's largest corporations, the leader of a large Freestate - the Syndicate. Also the fact that capsuleers are more defined by their skill to pilot a ship than by physical attributes makes gender differences less of an issue. There is definitely enough room for the female viewing population to find characters they can identify with.'

He looks at me with a raised eyebrow.

It looks like I'm getting somewhere, no reason to stop though. 'Of course many segments of the male viewers will find the theme and setting attractive too. Despite all the inherent darkness, there is heroism in the most classical sense. Of course the whole final frontier narrative will appeal to many men, and there is a lot of action, spaceships and shiny technology.'

He chuckles. 'Is that how you view men?' he wonders with a slight smile lingering on his stubbled face.

'It's how I think they like their entertainment.' I reply rather spontaneously. 'Don't get me wrong though. The material contains many deep philosophical concepts too. Reflections about what makes us human. How we would act when given the possibility to be reborn indefinitely. Also there is a lot of potential for links with current social affairs, like there is in all good science fiction. The major powers offer enough parallels with existing human societies that this will work.'

'The whole thing is not really suited for family viewing though.' he brings up.

Time for some subtle flattery. 'True, but that is the reason why I came with it to you rather than the Disney Studios or Lucasfilm. They wouldn't dare touching this.'

'Ok' he leans forward. 'You make a few good points, but I'm not sold.' he says 'What I want you to do is give me a story arc and a character development trajectory for at least twelve episodes. Together with the pilot screenplay you already submitted I will run this by my producer and see what he thinks about it.'

I can't hold the satisfied smile back.

'Don't get me wrong.' he cautions me 'I am not promising anything except that.'

I nod in understanding. 'Of course. What you ask for will be on your desk within the week.'

20 Nov 2012

OOC Entry 60 - Indignation

I stumbled upon this post by Evehermit and I have to say the post and it's comments are dealing with an issue that disturbs me a lot.

It is of course a problem that does not only exist in the EVE player community, it exists on the whole of the internet, but the fact that EVE is a game where a certain ruthlessness and callousness is part of the gaming experience does not help.

The problem I see is the terrible poverty and devolution of written interaction online.

As Evehermit has pointed out, and as Blastradius expanded on, there is a high number of really low-brow comments that contribute nothing to any discussion but just serve the purpose of someone 'leaving their tag' or - to put it another way - pissing at a lamppost like a dog stupidly trying to mark a territory in vain, oblivious that dozens of other dogs will pass by the same lamppost and do exactly the same thing.

That does not mean people should not disagree with someone's statement, point of view or attitude. I sure have my pet-peeves and I have written about them extensively.

In fact I am doing it right here and now. 

What angers me is the lack of discourse and the refusal to make an argument. Disagreement is often reduced to memes comprising even less than a oneliner. I mean, How often do you see HTFU, Tits or GTFO, Fuck Goons, -A- is shit etc. etc. ?

Even on a site like TheMittani which prides itself on supposedly better discourse than the much loathed EveNews24 a recent article by James315 got not one but several "-A- is shit" reactions which promptly got upvoted heavily.

Congratulations, you have finally completely replaced EVENews24. Down to the last aspect of stupidity.

Sorry, I guess that's not quite true because on EN24 the most quoted meme would be "Fuck Goons". ;P

I wonder whether some people are even capable of realizing that reproducing simplistic memes like that makes you come across as neither smart nor funny, and upvoting the poster of something like that makes you even less so.

Just as my two predecessors on this subject have pointed out, it is not a matter of writing the perfect counterargument. In many posts I write, my logic is flawed and my conjectures are incorrect. I have big issues with the rants of James315, and I sometimes can only shake my head at the polemics of Poetic Stanziel.

What sets them apart from the inane meme regurgitators is that they actually take the time to make an argument and write it out in a manner that is captivating to read. Even if you facepalm all the way through.

Some time ago I wrote a piece about how much I dislike the current superpowers of EVE. Someone linked that to reddit and there was a lot of useless commentary on it. One person, however, took the time to take my whole piece apart paragraph by paragraph. Also several people offered constructive (if scathing) criticism on my own blog.

It was painful and in quite a few ways I was put into my place, but I highly appreciated that.

In a follow up comment on his original post, Evehermit laments the indignation that speaks from many comments. I do not necessarily feel the same way.

If there is a polemic piece put forward by someone, then it is all fair to respond in kind. It's another thing if someone like Mabrick writes about how difficult he finds it to come to terms with PVP and someone responds with "HTFU Carebear".

I have no problem with a discussion that is conducted without pulling punches. What I would like to see, though, is an exchange of blows that is more like a well coreographed kung-fu movie and less like a drunken barfight.

I myself have no formal education beyond a highschool equivalent and I do not come from a sophisticated high-society background. English is not even my first language. So it's not about being educated and sophisticated, but it's all about attitude.

If there were less meme-throwing, trolling and other forms of non-contributions there could be a real discussion that benefits the writer, the reader and the people who post reactions.

Isn't the EVE community always claiming to be so much more mature than other gaming communities?

Well maybe it's time to put more effort into showing that we actually are.

16 Nov 2012

OOC Entry 59 - Let a thousand flowers bloom

In my last feature, I was basically playing the funeral dirge for EVE. This one is about the possibility for revival. It will be as universally positive as the last one was gloomy. So the reality will very likely turn out to be somewhere in between.

If we look at the changes the last year since Crucible has brought us, and with Retribution on our doorstep, there are many doors that have opened for the beginning player in rather subtle ways.

Apart from EVE having become more easy on the eyes - which is always nice as an advertising point - the change most significant for the newcomers is the ship rebalancing program.

Before that became a reality, you were quite likely to find yourself in a rather annoying situation if you chose Amarr, Caldari or Gallente as your character's race: As soon as you want to do anything related to PVP, everyone with only a bit of experience would tell you that you are pretty useless in your T1 frigate. Very likely they would tell you that you basically have the choice to train for the Rifter, then the Rifter, after that the Rifter and maybe, possibly, but unlikely, they would tolerate you with your Incursus or Merlin. Now each race actually has quite viable combat frigates and you don't have to cross-train right away.

That is particularly useful when considering one important detail of the tutorials: In the end - if you do all of them - you will be presented with the option to join faction warfare. In the past, that choice was not only a dangerous one to make which was pretty unlikely to get you much except entries on someone's killboard, you also did not really have a ship you could fly that would make you a valuable participant that early in your EVE career (except if you were Minmatar or had trained for the Rifter regardless)

These days faction warfare is very much alive. Of course there was the initial hype when nullsec alts descended upon it like a plague of locusts, but that has started to subside. Mostly because of changes to the system that are forthcoming in Retribution. However, there still remains a vibrant community. Much more alive than it once was, and with more suitable tools even new players can become a viable part of it.

The second ship most people get into is the destroyer, and they have also seen positive changes and now there are going to be new ones that set players on a course to diversify their skills, another good entry point into faction warfare where destroyers still see regular use.

Regarding nullsec, the massive campaigns of the HBCFC (face it, despite all kinds of assurances that only TEST and GSF are really blue to eachother, it's basically one collective entity) have driven many established alliances from their space. Many of them have begun to change their approach. No longer will they be sov-holding entities, but roaming bands which basically prey on the large supply of targets the big powerblocs provide.

Since those two superpowers of nullsec contain so many new and inexperienced players with no real concept of self-sufficiency and independence, a beginning player can actually find ways to be successful against them. With sov warfare out of the picture, it is no longer necessary to function as a part of a massive fleet. One does not need to have the ability to fly a dreadnaught or carrier and sacrifice one's social life to reinforcement timers any more.

A more casual and flexible style of playing that benefits new players is emerging from those circumstances.

In addition to that, the upcoming criminal flagging system and bounty mechanics will allow for many more engagement opportunities against those who prey on the highsec population.

Real PVP will finally become a part of highsec.

Not the one-sided griefing which left the victim with little opportunity to fight back or have friends help them, but a system that allows for active participation of corp members and even third parties.

On the more peaceful side of things, we have new mining ships that are not just a step by step progression which basically made the very expensive Hulk the only viable option for the serious miner.

Now there is a choice.

 Particularly the fact that the Covetor has been increased in usefulness and that there is now going to be very effective mining frigate, creates new possibilities for the aspiring industrial tycoon.

Now there are still battlecruisers and battleships to rebalance and then the stage is effectively set for an actual content-based expansion that enriches the world of EVE rather than just fixing it.

In other games, the developers add new lands, new opponents to fight, new races to play and so on. In EVE similar things can and should happen.

I want to close with a few suggestions of features which I think could be great as an addition to the game that would benefit new and experienced players alike:

More Incursions

Sansha Kuvakei deserves a rest. I guess by now he has collected enough victims for his empire of cyberzombies.

What about the Angel Cartel, Serpentis Corporation, the Guristas, the Blood Raiders? Wouldn't they want to make a move too?

The mechanics are in place, so all it would take is a little ship redesigning and off we go. Also, why should such incursions just be about sitting somewhere and blocking a system. They could camp gates which would have to be liberated to open the spacelanes again. They could shoot TCUs in an effort to drive capsuleer empires off their borders and force them to actually come out and defend their sovereign space against NPCs. This would also create an opportunity for other alliances to capitalize on that weakness, effectively allying themselves with the NPCs until the locals are driven away.

Dynamic PVE content

Missions are repetitive and boring. Why not make them more dynamic?

A mission could be to clear a system of invading pirates. Those pirates would not just sit in a deadspace complex but appear in belts, at gates and at stations. They can then of course be killed by other people too, and would also be in fights with the local navy at the gates and stations. So the mission would be a race to get as many of them as possible before others do. Navy ships and players killed would count against you. NPC ships you kill would do the opposite. Once a certain threshold is reached, the pirates withdraw.

That also creates competition and keeps the highsec environment in flux. Today you might be safe mining in a belt with only the occasional frigate spawn. Tomorrow, there might be cruisers and battleships in large numbers and you need to find a mission runner to beat them back for you. This way, more cooperation between the notoriously isolated highsec PVE players could be encouraged too. Not to mention that it would be terrible for bots.

Alternative Sovereignty Mechanics

Today, sovereignty can only be gained by grinding through static timers which require large siege fleets. A very linear and boring affair.

What if that were different?

What if it were possible to hack a TCU to purge the sovereignty from the system?

Not for good - that would still require destroying and replacing it - but for a certain time. It could be a base time of 24 hours plus six hours for every level in the hacking skill. A small group of players could thereby intrude into an unused part of sov-space and create their own temporary zone of control without having to grind through structure timers that require 20 dreadnaughts. It would also keep the large empires on their toes. No longer can they just let their systems sit there unwatched and unused. Someone has to actually be there to prevent the hacking attempts.

Combine that with nullsec NPC incursions and you get a really dynamic mix that helps against the static nature of nullsec as it is today.

Dynamic Security Status

Last year Goons and others killed scores of ships in Jita. Strangely enough the place is still 1.0 security.

What if that could actually be changed by all those ship kills?

What if a system could turn into lowsec by the actions of capsuleers?

It should be hard enough and require large numbers of kills - on the scale of a "Burn Jita" event - to bring down the security status of a 1.0 system, but a 0.5 system could be easier. Pirate corps could make fringe regions less safe. Such systems would automatically become faction war territory, and kills by faction militias would increase the sec status again.

At the same time, NPC navies could also intervene. If you are with an alliance that has started to take down the security status of a highsec system, the local navy will shoot at you, regardless of your personal security status or standings.

In conclusion

I am just tossing around a few ideas, and the particulars would have to be worked out by people more meticulous than me. I guess some of my suggestions could be open to exploiting by throwing large masses of players at it in the way how some do, but there are ways that problem could be mitigated.

My general point is, though, that there should be more dynamism. More content that fosters cooperation. More content that creates RP opportunities even. A corp could be envisioned that specializes in keeping highsec safe against invading pirates, defenders of local order. On the other side there could be terrorists looking to destabilize the system of control. This way the progress from PVE to PVP also becomes more gradual.

The important part is to create an environment which encourages and rewards cooperation while at the same time making New Eden more than just a bunch of dots on a starmap, but a living, dynamic, environment.

That will attract players and keep them in the game, because it immediately gives them something to do and actual influence on the starscape from their first weeks on. 

14 Nov 2012

OOC Entry 58 - The Winter of our Discontent

The following will be the depressing first part of a two part feature. Here I will basically be stating the problem. I will take the whole second part to speculate on solutions and to offer perspectives, so bear with me.

More than a year has passed now for the gaming community of EVE online since the famous Summer of Rage that followed the failed Incarna expansion. CCP has changed their release philosophy drastically since then - actually in a way that was completely unprecedented in their history: They focused on ironing out the glitches, freshening up the visuals, balancing ships, tweaking mechanics and rebuilding neglected features like faction warfare. New content was shelved in favour of making the old work better.

Initially it was a change welcomed by many, and rightly so. Even now as the changes continue there is lot to be happy about, but something seems to be missing.

This new way of redesigning the game, rather than expanding it, comes at a price if it is going on for too long. The price you pay for it is stagnation. A few bloggers have written about that danger recently. Now we are looking at two expansions that have been almost entirely about redesign. That is almost a year during which nothing fundamentally new has been added to the game.

While EVE can heavily rely on the players themselves to provide their famous ''Emergent Gameplay" content, that is not the only thing which keeps the game alive and interesting. Actually, by now even that side of the game begins to show serious signs of grinding to a slow halt.

The two main forces which once shook up things and dared to challenge the established order, have become superpowers. Together they and their allies now control more than half of the conquerable territory of nullsec, and can project their force easily into almost all the rest.

What once was a force for change, has become a well organized system of more of the same. 

In the north, there was a short flare of hope when NC. actually defended against Goonswarm and the CFC, but now that coalition's potential opponents just offer their space for sale and everything is back to normal. Nobody cares about fighting against the CFC anymore, it has just become a repetitive tedium with a predetermined outcome to do so. Even the cheerfully destructive highsec shenanigans of miniluv have turned from an exciting event into a systematic grind where everyone just goes through the motions and collects freighter kills.

In the south, AAA have long decided to not actually fight against HBC openly, much to everyone's disappointment. Surprisingly enough, though, weeks upon weeks have passed without TEST - or the HBC as a collective - even making any serious effort to take over the largely evacuated space left behind by their opponents. These days it seems they even have to force members to go there and do the sov grinding. There is movement, yes, but it is a far cry from the blitzkrieg that removed White Noise from Branch, or the incredibly fast campaign that yielded the HBC three new regions last summer.

On the PVE side, things are not looking any better. Highsec mission running and Incursions have become seriously reduced in their payouts and loot. PI in highsec has been reduced to virtual pointlessness.  Where there is little individual profit, large networks of incursion farmers, multi-account miners and resource gatherers prevail, because they can reap the economies of scale. The wishful thinking behind it might have been that by creating a disincentive to staying in highsec, more people would go out earlier into lowsec or nullsec.

The exact opposite was what actually happened. Large nullsec alliances with superiour numbers and organisation have migrated masses of alts into highsec to drain it of it's resources in comparative safety.

The ones hit most by that are the small time mission runners, miners and other starting players who rely on this highsec content for their first income and as a way to learn the game.

Faction war is no different. Once a neglected and laughed-at hobby of a few roleplayers and people who didn't seem to know better, it has now been flooded by savvy players who know all the tricks to gain the highest amount of rewards from it. What inevitably follows is a reaction by CCP ''nerfing the ISK faucet", the consequence being that the money-maker alts migrate elsewhere, leaving beginning players deprived of a feature that could offer income and an entry into lowsec PVP.

Speaking of lowsec. How about pirating? Well, there once might have been a time where you could go there and fight for your life (or your ISK, depending on which side you are on) but now most systems are either empty or occupied by highly professional high-skilled gangs that manage to get almost everything that passes through. The budding criminal of New Eden will hardly find any inexperienced victims. More experienced and organized pirates have long killed them.

The new players who come in are inevitably ground to dust between those massive millstones made up of ISK, metagaming skills and established organizational principles.

This makes new players not only feel challenged by the difficulty and vast scope of the game, but also makes them feel powerless and incapable of achieving anything on their own or together with a group of equally new in-game friends. Since there is no added content that actually opens up a new playing field which has not been completely taken over by those who already have everything in place, many of those new players will leave again after a short time. After all, what is there to aspire to? The only logical progression that remains, is to become part of the ever smaller number of mass movements that run things in a certain way, and thereby adding to the stagnation of the game world.

Of course, the HBC and CFC core alliances are new-player-friendly and they keep bringing new people in, but they are not adding to the diversity of the playerbase. They are simply expanding their playstyle, their model of organization and their own community. What this means is the creation of a monoculture, and that carries it''s own inherent danger: Despite all the brash and youthful image these alliances like to give themselves, their core and leadership are actually pretty old in game terms (and RL terms too mind you). What if those people grow tired of EVE and abandon it? How many of those masses of new players will follow them to the next best thing? After all many of them are not in EVE because of the game, they are in EVE because of their community.

What remains will be a game that has been streamlined and balanced in ways that satisfy experienced players, but it will contain nothing which would specifically attract new players and - more importantly - retain them.

Because there is a large number of established players who are very involved in the community, who have thousands of equally established others behind them, CCP seems to be forced to cater to them first and foremost. That playerbase is aging though. They will get children, a fulltime job, approach graduation, burn out, lose interest ... and what then?

Then there comes decline, the fall of empires, the dropping of subscriptions.

Or, there could be a new beginning.

But only if the course is set for it rather sooner than later.

Right now as a matter of fact.

In the next part I will write about what I would envision for the new spring of EVE.

Stay tuned.

11 Nov 2012

OOC Entry 57 - Ethical Killers

As I have hinted at in my IC Entry, my main character has joined a mercenary outfit. To be specific, I enrolled her at Noir Academy with the goal to acquire more PVP skills and experience.

Of course there would be other options for that. RvB has an open door for constant casual PvP and if one wants to learn fighting in a more structured environment there are the Agony Unleashed classes.

There were a specific reasons, though, why I went with the Noir Academy option. RvB is good fun, but basically you don't learn much except how to follow an FCs orders and shoot at people together with lots of others. The fights they have are everything but strategically and tactically planned affairs. Also EWAR ships are generally forbidden, and that means missing a very valuable tactical element of small gang fights.

Agony Unleashed classes are very newbie friendly, and if you can afford their fees while still a young PVPer, I can definitely recommend them. For me they are not so valuable though. I don't feel the need to learn in detail how to fit a frigate and fly it through simple engagements. You need to pass the basic course, though, to be allowed participation in the more advanced seminars which would be more valuable for someone like me.

Noir Academy offers something that is as close as things get to the way you have to conduct PVP in wormhole space, and that is what I want to learn. Noir fight with comparatively small gangs of more advanced ships and make heavy use of force multipliers. The ships and tactics used also come reasonably close to what one would employ in wormhole fighting.

Noir Academy tags along with Noir proper when they are on contract. So in addition to classes and lectures (yes they have those) you get to participate in actual strategical and tactical operations. That's a far cry from the usual PVP roam where you basically fit a ship and see how many fights you can get before you die. 

Also, Noir operates on a principle of ISK efficiency. While that is less important for WH PVP, it teaches you to choose your engagements carefully and make sure you don't lose your ship in stupid ways. In wormhole space that is also pretty important. After all you have only a limited amount of ships available, and if you get podded out to k-space it could be 30 jumps home or even completely impossible to get there because there simply isn't a route back in.

Apart from those pragmatic aspects, I was also very much attracted by the attitude of Noir Mercenary Group which I find pretty remarkable for a corp in EVE, particularly one engaged in PVP.

It is an organisation that is founded on professionalism.

That does not only mean you get the job done, it also means you act like a professional. No smack talk in local is allowed (actually talking in local is generally discouraged). One does not talk in public about contracts or employers. The people who hired you are treated with professional courtesy even if you personally consider them the worst idiots you ever met.

Most importantly, you never ever betray an employer.

In a game like EVE where scamming, betrayal and backstabbing are practically a way of life that is pretty special.

Of course a lot of people will sneer at that and make smug comments about e-bushido and how people who act according to such principles "do not get EVE".

Considering what Noir does, it makes perfect sense, though.

Despite the generally bad reputation mercenaries have IRL, in EVE you can only make a serious living as mercenary if you are reliable and trustworthy. You can never allow yourself to take sides except with the people who pay you. If you betray an employer, all the potential other contractors out there will think twice about hiring your services. If things go wrong, it is better to terminate the contract and disengage rather than turning on those who hired you.

In addition, just like contract killers in the real world, you will often be working for the EVE equivalent of dangerous criminal cartels or powerful nations. If you cross them, they have a number of their own hitmen who will come after you for payback - figuratively speaking. You might find yourself permacamped in some station and forced to fight costly engagements that get you no ISK while you could be on the next contract already. That's another good reason to keep things professional and stick to your contract terms.

Of course your situation can potentially change, like when BoB basically hired Mercenary Coalition for an indefinite period, or when PL became so large and powerful that they did not need to rely on contracts for survival, but in general it stands as a rule: If you want to run your mercenary outfit in a sustainable way your professional reputation is the basis for your continued existence.

I myself am not the type for all that scamming and public trolling etc. so I have absolutely no problem sticking to the rules. Actually I very much enjoy that aspect because it means I don't get to feel embarassed about the people I fly with because they act like idiots at every opportunity.

So at the time I am writing this, I have only been with Noir Academy for a week, and I have not been part of anything big or learned something profound I didn't know. Well, I did learn a few really interesting things which I am not at liberty to discuss here.

I went through quite some of the lesson materials they provide, however, and I heard what people said about the class I had to miss, and everything looks and sounds very sensible and promising.

If you are someone who looks for a place where you can learn how to fight in ways that are meaningful and useful in-game, Noir Academy is certainly a good option to consider.

9 Nov 2012

IC Entry 01 - Leaving Home

 I feel like back when I left home, despite the fact that I am actually returning in a way – for a short time.

It has only been a year and a half since I turned my back on New Eden and set out to live in the uncharted territories which people now call the Anoikis Cluster, but even after such a relatively short time I find that I am no longer used to the constant stream of ships coming and going from stations.

Every once in a while during the past eighteen months I have come here to buy materials or ships or to take care of some bureaucratic issue like visiting a Federation Navy medical facility and signing for a clone upgrade. But for the rest I have become familiar with the serenity of the wormhole systems. Even more than that I have become conditioned by their subtle lethality.

Each new system could potentially be the home or the hunting ground of capsuleers, and out there that always means hostiles. There are no local authorities that enforce the law, no CONCORD to punish transgressors. Not even the vast capsuleer alliances that have conquered and settled space beyond the four great empires and created their own internal security.

Even if space looks empty, except for the ever present Sleeper Drones which can be found everywhere in the Anoikis Cluster, you never know how many stealthy assassins hide behind cloaking fields somewhere close to you. The usual transmission beacons that broadcast a capsuleers ID as soon as he or she enters through a gate are not present there, so the roster of local capsuleers on the ship's communication channels remains empty.

My old home in the core systems of the Gallente Federation seems overcrowded now, and I have a hard time with not getting all twitchy whenever I see a capsuleer piloted ship that doesn't transmit the calling code of my alliance.

Federation space makes me nervous.

I tried to reconnect with it. After all, I had some time before embarking on the next part of my personal journey.

I decided that I should go an meet my family.

It turned out to be a mistake.

My father was in the middle of a senate election campaign. I didn't even get to talk to him. A secretary with an annoyingly-sweet voice told me that he could not be seen associating with capsuleers since the platform he ran on was a lot about restricting capsuleer privileges within Federation space.

Great. His political career is more important to him than seeing his daughter.

I was not surprised about that, but it still hurt.

So I went from Villore to Doussivitte where my mother still works as an immigration lawyer helping escaped Matari slaves to gain asylum.

For all her outwardly projected idealism she obviously wasn't sacrificing any personal comforts. Her two floor apartment with it's wide, open terrace on the 27th floor of an impressive condominium spire was a nicer place than anything I have seen since my childhood, when my father would sometimes take the whole family along to meet with 'friends from politics'.

Of course she made a big scene.

She already went half mad with concern back when 'her girl' enrolled with the capsuleer program of the Federation Navy Academy. She could still take it when I would work as a freelance contractor for them later. When I announced that I would be leaving to go and seek new regions of space to settle, she was in tears again.

This time she just ranted and raved at me for the lack of morals my current career choice showed. How I had become just like all the other capsuleer scum who only think about ISK and would do anything for it. We had a screaming argument and I left in the middle of it.

Not before smashing her favorite wine carafe though.

Finally I flew my ship to Luminaire to visit my brother.

He had become a professor for law at the University of Caille in the meantime. He made a big show of his newly acquired social status by inviting me for dinner in an expensive penthouse restaurant high above the Crystal Boulevard.

It was ridiculous actually.

The ship I am flying was more expensive than the whole 20 story building, but to him I am still the little sister playing spaceship with her stuffed animals.

I guess I should be happy that he didn't pat me on my head.

I realized that those people are not my family anymore. They don't even understand what life beyond the borders of their precious Federation means. How I spent month after month negotiating, lobbying and bribing to be allowed entry into the Amarr Empire and the Caldari State. That there are nations of capsuleers out there on the fringes of New Eden which almost rival the established powers in size. They certainly have no idea about the wonders and dangers of Anoikis.

Least of all they understand why I am joining a mercenary outfit now.

So here I am, surveying my ships in the vast hangar bay of Dodixie Moon 20 station. Making sure those of my crew who are leaving get paid their share and arranging for new ones to sign on for this dangerous trip.

Strangely enough, you find quite a lot of people who would sign on for a capsuleer crew going on combat missions in null-security space. It's pretty hard to find crewmembers if you tell them you are going to take them into a wormhole.

They are all the same: Afraid of things they do not know. Afraid of severing their ties.

Well, to be fair, I once was like that too, but my family have severed all those ties for me.

Nothing really holds me here.

When I say goodbye to my best friend Miralee who had helped me moving my ships, that's when I really feel like I am leaving home and family. Those people out there in Anoikis, in a system that is on no starchart, which has no jump gate leading to it and no name. They are my real family and that is my real home.

Then, hugging that strong and calm Matari woman, I cry.

She calls me a sentimental Gallente chick and tells me to come home with great war-stories.

I can't help but to smile.

I promise her that I will.

5 Nov 2012

OOC Entry 56 - Anniversary Crowdsourcing

So, the last chapter of my 19th story is written and published.

Maybe some people will hate me for the ending, but, you know what, if you do you can actually be part of what happens next.

Like I wrote yesterday (well technically it was today), my story blog has it's one-year anniversary this week and coincidentally that will also be marked by my 20th story.

It's a tradition in my home country to treat your friends with cake on your birthday. Well, cake doesn't work so well online, so I decided to give you another treat.

I give you the opportunity to influence what my 20th story will be about.

Do you have a favourite character you want to read about? It can be a main protagonist or anyone else. Is there a loose end or an untold back-story you always wanted to have tied up or filled in? Is there a special theme or adventure you want my protagonists to be part of?

Whatever your wishes are, I will do my best to make them happen. Send me those requests and if it is in any way doable I will all fulfil them in one story.

I do retain the prerogative to not fulfil any wishes that are just plain stupid, but if you read this blog then you are not that kind of person I would assume.

In case requests come in that can not be put together in one story, I will make two of them (I guess I'll number them 20A and 20B in that case).

Ok, so I know all three of my readers have something that they would like to read about ;) The comment field is there for you.

Happy anniversary!

OOC Entry 55 - We are coming to a conclusion

While I was writing my entry for the Pod and Planets Fiction Contest I interruped my writing of the last chapter for What once was lost.

Since then things have changed in my in-game life which also diverted my attention.

I will write about that soon. In fact I have an in-character story about it which will be the first ever glimpse into the experience of the character I am in-game from an RP perspective. It''s due soon and I was actually thinking of submitting it too for the story contest.

As for my more OOC in-game experience, I m also going to write about that.

But there is a story to finish, and I almost did. The text is written but I still need to proofread it and find a nice image in my screenshot collection, or elsewhere, to use as a banner.

I promise you it will be online by tomorrow (or today - depending on your timezone)

So this will be my 19th story. Incidentally that also marks the one year anniversary of this blog more or less. On the 10th of November 2011 I published my first story episode.

I have something special planned for the 20th story and it will involve all of you, my faithful readers.

All I can say is, choose your favorite story and your favorite character - main protagonist or otherwise - and think about what you would wish to read about them.

More on that once the final chapter of story 19 is published.