Dec 9, 2015

Team Astro Sparkle Logo Contest

CCP Logibro announced a contest to design a logo for the newly-formed Team Astro Sparkle. Is that a great name or what?! The details for submission and other requirements are in this forum post. Deadline is December 22, 2015. The prize is a PLEX.

Since I couldn't resist the opportunity to do something silly and fun, I created the design below and submitted it. It is probably way too pink for anyone else's taste, but it amuses me and I like the childlike whimsy of the design.

Fingers crossed! Go pink!

Dec 1, 2015

Random Rambles: Those "Pesky" War Decs

I remember the first time Signal Cartel was war decced. Lots of our members were in a bit of a lather. As new players, war decs freaked them out a little bit. We vets calmed them down, provided strategies for not getting caught, explained our out-of-alliance logistics services, and proceeded to not pay a whole lot of attention to the fact that we even had a war dec.

And so it continues to this day. P I R A T is the most recent to dec us (3rd time!!!) and the usual questions have been raised in Alliance chat by new players.

"Why do they hate us?"

"Who hates us enough to pay them to dec us?"

and even

"Which Signaleer is responsible for this one?"

Oh my darlings. The tinfoil is strong in you. I just had to say it:

"Maybe someone in leadership is paying them to dec us to keep you explorers on your toes and teach you how to fly clever. Now go forth and...explore. Somewhere far, far away from the trade hubs and high sec."

However untrue, I admit the my pirate heart smiled at the thought. There were some uncomfortable laughs in Alliance. Maybe they were checking out my corp history? :P Thing is, maybe someone hates us, maybe they don't. Who cares?

For a corp like ours is, we are already in places where anyone can kill us. Why bother with the cost of a war dec? Come find us and give it your best shot. (Our old pal and EvE-Scout co-founder G8keeper even used to send our deccers mails with words to that effect!) Narrow escapes provide some fun diversion for those of us who sometimes grow weary of hacking our bazillionth relic site. :P Mostly, we fly clever and get away. And for the times when we don't, no worries...enjoy the loot!

I've seen some discussions of proposed changes to war decs. I suppose like any other old mechanic, it's worth looking at to see how it might be refined. I have no opinion either way...I'm off in dangerous space looking for sigs and hoping I don't get caught by some random bubble or gatecamp. War decs are pretty much the furthest thing from my mind.  But I think they are an interesting mechanic and provide some fun opportunities. Like, you know, Hugs Fleets.

At the same time, I get that war decs can present a serious challenge for newbros and inexperienced corp leadership of high sec corps. But there are answers to that challenge...none of which involve logging off for a week or letting war deccers wipe the floor with you. It's just a matter of being smart and clever while you continue to enjoy flying in space. If you happen to be one of those folks who frets about war decs and would like some practical, no-nonsense, no-tears advice, join the EvE-Scout channel in-game and ask for a Signaleer. By now our folks have a pretty good handle on life during wartime and we'll be glad to share our strategies for continuing to have fun while (mostly) denying our war deccers kills.

And clever!

Edited to add:

The War Dec Project is an organized discussion of the current war dec mechanics and ideas for how it might evolve. The players involved have put together a comprehensive "live" document summarizing their discussions/ideas. Everyone is invited to contribute ideas and add constructively to the conversation. Learn more about it here.

Nov 25, 2015

Jeff Edwards' Conversation with Signal Cartel

Not quite two weeks ago, Jeff Edwards dropped by Signal Cartel comms to talk with us about his Fountain War book project. I have been meaning to write this post up since then but...blame RL for getting in my way. Anyway, several Signal folks and friends joined in for a lively chat...more of a brainstorming session really, since some questions brought up issues Jeff hadn't thought about yet and we got to bounce ideas around with him for how he might address them.

Having met Jeff at EVE Vegas, I already knew he was a friendly, warm guy who is very enthusiastic about this project. That came through even more so as he chatted with us. In fact after he left, we joked gently about him bouncing on the edge of his seat from excitement during our entire session. I will venture to say that his visit inspired enthusiasm on our side as well. Let's see if my semi-senile brain can recall some of the things we covered (thanks to Orion Sa-Solo for the memory jog!).

Breysyth Asythe asked how the novelization would deal with or represent the impact of players' different time zones on in-game events. "Oh, haven't gotten that question before!" said Jeff and then mused off the top of his head about whether it would be plausible to explain nonavailability in-game as the result of ship maintenance/repair delays due to high demand or work schedules affecting worker/facilities availability. 

A few of us asked how New Eden's backstory and lore issues might be woven in, particularly as it related to the Pirate Factions operating in the same area as war prep or engagements. Someone observed that what capsuleers are up to--especially having big wars--would likely be noticed by various NPC factions and very possibly affect their supply lines, agendas, etc. The living work of science fiction that is EVE is after all not *just* about capsuleers but also incorporates the environment and and the societies of which we capsuleers are only a small part despite the potential enormity of our impact.  

Conversation then transitioned to the it works, how it might feel to be plugged so intimately into a ship, how limited one's perception might feel when not in interfaced with a capsule, and so forth. The hope was expressed that Jeff would explore the potentially different reactions capsuleers have to being in--or out--of their capsules, how their psyches are affected, and more about the physical, mental, and emotional details of actually being and functioning as a capsuleer. 

My impression was that Jeff had not yet dug much into the lore and backstory of New Eden but we provided him links to the Chronicles, Zendane's reading of them, Hydrostatic Podcast, and the #lore channel on Tweetfleet Slack as a start.

We talked about name substitutions that had been considered and how that would even work, and Jeff said that he was rethinking his position on that one due to player pushback. He mentioned that some names which might involve copyright infringement or refer to celebrities would have to be change to avoid legal problems, but changing names for "politically correct" reasons was being reconsidered. This is just one example he cited where feedback from players has changed his mind about how to approach something in the novel. In fact during his chat with us, several ideas were mentioned that he wrote down to explore more during his writing process. 

Someone wondered whether or how being a demigod affects a capsuleer's emotional landscape. How do we react when our loved ones die? Do we even maintain connections to them after becoming a capsuleer? Do we marry, have children, have "normal" if exceedingly wealthy lives outside our capsules? Do losses of family or ship crew favorites distract us and affect our performance inside our capsules? We wondered if Jeff planned to infuse the personalities of the characters he was writing about with emotional depth. He said he hoped to, as much as was possible and practical. It's pretty clear that while he is writing about a war, he knows that well-developed characters are vital to making a compelling story.

We talked a bit about possibilities if the current Kickstarter doesn't meet its funding goal, since it's clear we players love stories about ourselves and our impact and activities in the game. Ideas were bounced around including short story collections that focus on smaller groups or individuals, maybe contributed by a variety of authors. Or maybe some collaborations between writers and artists. Jeff was very enthusiastic about the prospects however things turned out.

We asked about his writing process. How was he managing all this complexity? Did he realize at the start just how complex it would be to not only weave together the facts of war-related events with fictional elements, facets of the New Eden environment, and the game itself? He said that challenge was becoming increasingly clear and that he hadn't foreseen that it would be quite as complex as it was turning out to be. A great deal of research is involved in fact-checking and follow-up, but he is really enjoying that. He also talked a little bit about the challenge of writing plausible reasons for actions or constraints imposed by game mechanics. He encouraged folks to keep sending their stories, ideas, and process questions related to the Fountain War Book to him at

Our hour with Jeff flew by; we could easily have spent another couple of hours talking. Hearing his enthusiasm in puzzling out answers to some of the questions we posed was really fun. Hearing him exclaim "Oh, that's a great idea!" or "Whoa, hadn't thought of that angle!" gave us the sense that the conversation was worthwhile for him, as well. As a bonus, his affable demeanor and sincerity won over at least one doubter. My friend Orion Sa-Solo reluctantly attended, bringing with him a pre-conceived notion that this was just a Goons propaganda project. However, Jeff's frankness, willingness to listen to players, and dedication to telling the story of the Fountain War as accurately and as interestingly as he can made Orion change his mind from doubter to supporter. 

Regardless of what the more practiced tinfoilers in our community may claim, you can't come away from a conversation with Jeff Edwards about this project without being convinced that he will do his damnedest to create a story that not just EVE players but lots of sci-fi fans will enjoy. 

Whether he gets the opportunity to do so funded by the current Kickstarter remains to be seen. With just 12 days to go, pledges are at roughly 25% of the funding goal. That is shy of an ideal situation. Still, Kickstarters often see a big surge of pledges in the last few days of their projects. This one would need a huge boost to close the gap between pledges and goal. That seems unlikely unless someone with deep pockets is waiting in the wings. 

Not helping matters is the raging drama and vitriol aimed at this project and its organizer Mittani Media from certain segments of the EVE community. I am appalled at how eagerly people seem to fall into mob mentality and jump on the Goonhate bandwagon instead of taking a moment to rationally assess a creative endeavor on its own merits. I see it on Reddit, on Twitter, I've even seen a whiff of it in my own corp. It is irksomely everywhere. 

When I am feeling cantankerous, I like to call people out on their "Grr Goons" mentality. Some may think this marks me as a Goon supporter. I'm not, particularly. I'm neutral if anything. Or more accurately, indifferent. But here's the thing: I simply can't understand haters who pull out all the stops to smother something potentially good in the cradle rather than look for even a single good reason to help bring it to life. Well-intentioned creative works often end up having a greater positive impact than was ever envisioned by those who launched them. Doesn't Jeff's book, a first-of-its-kind project for our community, deserve that chance? I think it does and I will remain optimistic about it getting funded until the last minute of the Kickstarter--both for Jeff's sake and for the sake of projects that this one's success could inspire down the line. 

Want to hear more from Jeff on this project? We didn't record our session, but TEST recorded theirs and there is also a video with CCP Falcon and Jeff discussing the project. To learn more about Jeff, visit his Web site.

Nov 4, 2015

Generosity and Gratitude

We all know that our community is a generous one. Stories of ISK and in-game items being gifted to to players abound. EVE players donate to PLEX for GOOD to aid in various causes, support auctions and raffles at player meets and FanFest to benefit Child's Play or other organizations, and donate money to help buy pizza for all of CCP or assist a fellow player in need. Like many in our community, I have done lots of little things both in game and in real life to help make an EVE comrade's day a little brighter. Given ISK or other in-game items, handmade or purchased gifts, Rixx Javix posters, Signal Cartel swag, books, a collection of (the now defunct) EON magazine, and more over the years. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself and it's just nice to do something special for someone--maybe as a thank you for something they've done for me in-game or in RL or maybe just as a Random Act of Kindness.

And every once in awhile, what goes around comes around. And boy oh boy, has it been coming around lately.

First there was the amazing poster that Johnny Splunk had made for me by a fellow corpmate, Forcha Alendare. This poster was to commemorate Signal Cartel achieving 400 members and arrived around my birthday back in July. I posted about it on Reddit but notice that I never did blog about it as I intended. The amount of effort that went into its creation still astounds me.

It hangs above my desk and makes me smile every time I look at it. It's remarkable that Signal is now almost double the number of members we were back then!

Hint: Click the images to see them larger.

Next came EVE Vegas and all the awesome swag I received, including a pink Neocom polo shirt from Protovarious, lovely handmade earrings from Kira Tsukimoto, a Total EVE t-shirt from Dirk MacGirk and Wiggles, and fat bee pin from Sion Kumitomo, BRAVE patch and penknife from Dunk Dinkle, and much more. But the best of all was a grungy pink Astero 3D model given to me by Johnny Splunk. You know him: a founder of EvE-Scout, partner in Signal Cartel's founding and leadership, and one of the nicest and best persons I've ever had the pleasure of befriending or working with in game or out. I don't mind telling you that my jaw dropped in amazement when I opened the box. Later on when Johnny had the chance to tell me about the process and effort that went into the creation of this 6" long, highly detailed and complicated form--from the struggles to get the forms to 3D-print correctly to the fantastic work on the custom paint job--I was even more amazed. And frankly, humbled that someone thought I was worth of such a gift. Then to top it all off, he also included an SOE trim kit for my Jeep--or at least, that's how I used those awesome decals

They say good things come in threes. You may recall that I did a portrait of Jamwara DeCalicoe Ashley not too long ago. We have chatted here and there since then. And then...last week, she direct-messaged me on Twitter. (Aside: I don't know Jam in RL so just go with the character's gender for pronouns.) Seems that when Jam ordered a copy of EVE Universe: The Art of New Eden LIMITED EDITION, she was sent (and billed for) two copies. She held on to the extra copy and recently decided to give it to me "because you've done so much for the community".  MIND BLOWN. The regular edition was already on my wish list, but holy crap, who knew that wish would come true like this?! The book arrived in today's mail, still in its original shrink-wrap. I almost didn't want to open it until I could do so with a couple of hours to just get lost in it. But I had to get pictures for this blog post, right?!

This is a gorgeous book and a splendid addition to my collection of EVE and art books. As an artist, I know I will spend many, many hours studying and enjoying the work and the words it contains that define and describe the art of EVE Online.

Wow. I don't even know what to say in response to being the recipient of the kind of generosity I've described in this post, not to mention the time, effort, and talent that others have invested on behalf of Signal Cartel because they believe in the corp or because I asked for a favor. A simple thank-you hardly seems adequate in comparison to my appreciation for such generous acts. It's not always easy to gracefully accept gifts even when freely given in friendship. But then I remind myself of everything I've done for other EVE players and that makes it easier to accept such generosity as karma or good deeds being paid forward. Regardless, my gratitude is sincere and enormous.

It is truly something special to be a part of the EVE community. It hits me right in the feels every time one of us does something helpful, thoughtful, kind, generous, or amazing for someone--and especially when that someone is me. A heartfelt thank you to everyone.

Oct 28, 2015

My EVE Vegas Experience

EVE Vegas 2015 is the first really big player meet I have attended. The tl;dr for this wall-of-text blog post is that it was freaking magical, amazing, fun, and wonderful. The caveat for this blog post is that I will probably forget to mention many people and things that happened. Feel free to call me out on oversights in the comments and I'll update the post accordingly when I get back to civilization (no Internet at my Mom's house; I'm sat at Starbucks posting this).

It is impossible to describe the rush of meeting all the devs who work so hard on our beloved EVE Online, the excitement that comes from hearing what's in the works for the game and being able to ask questions to learn more, and most of all, the buzz of meeting all the players I know from the game and/or #tweetfleet on Twitter, blogs, podcasts, and more. I felt so humbled and utterly delighted at the warm reception I got from ... well ... everyone. It was a bit overwhelming.

My plans for EVE Vegas started after I made my reservations back in April. The Signal Cartel leadership team started talking about swag we might like to take. We decided on a budget and chose to go with two imprinted items that would represent our #freehugs, snowballs and Festival Launchers doctrine: round white stress balls and stickers. I designed the imprint (based on the awesome Signal Cartel logo designed by Signaleer Noene Drops). Items were ordered and at the right time shipped to Planet Hollywood. I also shipped a small box of swag to CCP in Iceland to share the #freehugs love among those who couldn't attend EVE Vegas.

Then I got my crafting on by making personalized gifts for all the devs listed to attend, as well as a few friends. These consisted of small journals stamped with each character's racial symbol (except for CCP Falcon, who got a Guristas symbol of course!) on the front. I carved these stamps, a fun little project that took about 3 hours one evening. Inside each journal, I hand-stamped the recipient's character name using individual letter stamps in a typewriter font. Then I stamped "You are Simply Amazing" and "Heartfelt Thanks" using phrase stamps, and signed each journal. I also stamped black gift tags with racial symbols and the recipient's name written in metallic silver ink. Each gift was wrapped in decorative "EVE-ish" paper from my long-ignored scrapbook paper stash. I tucked a couple of #freehugs stickers under the ribbon of each gift and loaded them all into my carry-on bag. That damn thing was HEAVY!

I arrived in Vegas on Thursday evening and discovered via Twitter that Signaleer Zoe Schereau was arriving at the same time. We met up, then grabbed Makoto Priano of IKAME fame after arriving at the hotel. The three of us had a lovely dinner: these are two delightful people! After dinner, we headed to the Heart Bar because word on Twitter was that that was the happening place. Hint: Twitter is awesome for figuring out who's where and organizing people for activities.

At the Heart Bar, I had my first experience of what the entire weekend was going to be like: being warmly greeted by both CCP folks and other players, so many of whom I've known via Twitter or in-game for years. It was such a treat to meet you all. But OMG, the sheer number of was sometimes overwhelming! I could never list everyone. But I will share some stray thoughts and a few memorable takeaways.

  • I spent a lot of time with current, former, or friends of Signaleers Johnny Splunk (@eve_scout), Zoe Schereau (@gabbyhon), Noizy Gamer, Markus Vulpine, Manic Velocity, Makoto Priano, Illustria Madeveda (aka scaredpanda on Twitch but we just call her Panda), and Mark726. It is impossible to overstate how wonderful each of these folks are and how pleasant it was to have such a like-minded core group of folks to x up with for meals, presentations, and more. Plus they helped me distribute the #freehugs swag. I love you all, my dears!
  • CCP Rise saved me from having to lug around all those dev gifts by taking me back the devs' staging room where I was able to leave them all on a table. Thank Bob. I felt a little bad that more devs were in attendance than were on the dev attendee list (including Rise). Hopefully they got some of the swag I left lying around if they wanted it.
  • My awesome Signal co-leader Johnny Splunk is an even more awesome friend. He gifted me with a 3D printed Astero model that is about 6" long. After a complicated process to get the 3D model just right, he then hand-painted it in that grunge pinkish mauve color I so love and covet on a SKIN for my real Asteros in-game (wrap your mind around that oxymoron, "real in-game"). The thought and care that went into this gift are astounding and so much appreciated. I am truly humbled and amazed to receive it and will treasure it forever. Thank you a million times, Johnny. 
  • Didn't get to spend as much time with Sugar Kyle as I wanted but a huge shout-out to her for her tireless CSM work...Sugar, you're amazing, admirable, and so funny in the way you express yourself, lady!  
  • The Mittani greeted me with enthusiasm and a giant hug when I introduced myself. This was quite unexpected and delightful. We had the opportunity for a brief but pleasant chat later in the weekend and he gave me an Imperium shot glass. Yay, swag! Now for what will no doubt be an unpopular opinion in some quarters: The young man behind the character is quite personable and charismatic yet fiercely protective of his tribe. You can see why he's a powerful leader. Thing is, I'm usually somewhat in Mom Mode when interacting with players like him who are a couple of decades younger than me. This tends to put those interactions on a more human level. No surprise I found myself quite liking Alex and not really factoring his in-game persona into that. Another thing is that our in-game paths/objectives have little to no overlap. Being in EvE-Scout Enclave with our neutral stance toward everyone also means I don't  let politics color my interaction with others. Thus I come at just about every player with a a positive mindset. It is a pleasant position to take, especially when it comes to interacting with often-maligned groups like the Goons and controversial players. So, ymmv. I keep my own counsel. Let the Imperium/Signal Cartel tinfoiling begin, haha!
  • Speaking of Goons, I also met the gracious and charming Sion Kumitomo who kindly added a nifty Bee pin to my swag collection. 
  • Wow, was the swag flowing! Besides everything already mentioned, I received a lovely pink Neocom polo shirt from Protovarious, beautiful handmade earrings and TimTams from Kira Tsukimoto, a Total EVE t-shirt from Dirk MacGirk, and a BRAVE patch and pocket knife from Dunk Dinkle. Thanks so much, everyone!
  • Proto did not agree to sing the creepy stalker song that he hilariously shared on a prior episode of The Neocom. Much disappoint. :P I'll have to work on his resolve at the next meetup we both attend. Proto, it was an honor to meet you and the adorable Kira guys are both delightful!
  • Greygal is a classy lady in-game and out! Was a treat to finally meet the woman who so intimidated me back in the day when she FC'd the Agony Unleashed PvP Basics class I took. 
  • The Chateau party was really fun but protip: When you see a dude with a pretty blue drink and the bartender identifies it as "a lot of liquor", only have one. Really--especially after two glasses of wine. I had two and thus made it back to my room only due to excellent scouting by Markus Vulpine and Manic Velocity. Thanks, you guys!
  • Matterall (EN24) and Lanctharus (Cap Stable podcast) are super guys, fun to talk with, and have fascinating stories to tell about their EVE experiences and focus. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with both of them. Would've loved more time to talk with them...there's always next year.
  • Was great so see my old friend and CEO Alekseyev Karrde who gave a fantastic talk on EVE corp startup success.
  • CCP folks did an excellent job organizing and presenting...a special shout-out to all of them for being so engaged and present with players in addition to working and partying hard the whole weekend. The weekend had to be extra exhausting for them yet they were friendly and accommodating the entire time. Devs, you guys are awesome. Special shout-out to CCP Falcon, who I was so happy to meet after all these years since we flew together! 
  • The presentations by CCP were inspiring and suggest so much good stuff to come. With all the positive stuff that has happened in game in the last 5 years, my confidence that they will deliver...and deliver so high. Citadels are going to be a very interesting addition to the spacescape of New Eden and I won't lie: we in Signal are quite keen to have one of our own! They won't be anchorable in Thera (I'm fine with that; let Thera be different) so we'll have to figure out where and why we'd have one. Potential lore and PvE developments sound very exciting too...I won't rehash them here...go watch the videos on YouTube.
  • It was a pleasure to variously meet, chat, and/or dine with Debes Sparre, Jayne Fillon, Onslaughtor, Druur Monakh, Dirk MacGirk, Erika Mizune, Random McNally, Mangala Solaris (who drinks beer for breakfast, WTF!), Lost in EVE, Phyridean, Ashterothi, Mike Azariah, Wilhelm Arcturis and his lovely wife, my old friend Sard Caid, Chance Ravinne, and Xenuria. There were countless others my poor brain was too overwhelmed to recall as I wrote this post.
  • I wanted to play a poker tournament or two but the schedule was so packed that I never managed to fit it in. Lesson year, I will go a day early so I can devote some quality time to playing. I didn't do any casino gambling either but that's because it just doesn't appeal to me.
  • Johnny Splunk, his lovely wife, and I attended the Cirque du Soleil show "KA" on Sunday evening. A fantastic experience...the sets, the costumes, the music, the story...all amazing. Cirque is not to be missed if you can swing the cost of the tickets.

I have managed to write a considerable wall of text already and yet it feels like there is so much else to share. But I'll end this here. Yes, I am a CCP fangirl. Yes, I pretty much like everyone and love being social. Yes, EVE Vegas was awesome. Bottom line: if you can find a way to attend in 2016, make it happen. You'll never regret it. It is an amazing, uplifting experience. I aim to be there to throw more "snowballs" at people so plan to join the fun and let's have a drink together!

Oct 16, 2015

Musings on Skill Trading

When CCP's dev blog coasting the idea of players being able to sell/buy skills came out yesterday, I had an instantly negative reaction. I found it difficult to express why. The rationale given in my EVE O reply that it would undermine the investment we feel in our characters and cause mindless character churning and a change in the connection we feel to our own and other characters feels logically weak even if--for me--it is emotionally on-target. Sugar Kyle's blog post yesterday and the subsequent comments express better than I myself can some of what's bothering me about it.

After thinking about the matter all evening and this morning, I realized that a big factor in my negative reaction is the fact that the second half of my CSM5 term (2010) was relentlessly focused on micro-transactions and their impending appearance in the planned Incarna release. We spent a 3-day emergency summit in October that year in frustratingly unresolved discussion with CCP on the matter and the frustrations continued through the end of our term. To say that that experience left a bad taste in my mouth for the New Eden Store is a understatement; I think I've looked at the store twice, spent the free Aurum that was given out on ship skins, and continue to have little interest in the overpriced goods there or the Aurum economy.

A grungy pale pink Astero skin is literally the ONLY thing that would ever entice me to buy Aurum.

But...looking at the proposed change after putting the CSM5 factor aside (which takes remarkable effort), my thought is that yes, it will probably encourage new players who buy SP to stick with the game longer for two reasons: they can do more sooner and will have a bigger financial investment in the game earlier than is currently practical. Both of those are key factors in subscription longevity. In the current marketplace, anything that encourages a player to stay longer is probably a good thing for EVE Online. We do, after all, want our beloved game to persist for another dozen years, right?

Will this change have a negative impact on the big stories of the game, the rise of personalities who become space famous, or the tendency of players to develop their main characters lovingly? Heck if I know. But you know what? It won't affect MY game or how connected I feel to my character. I play a social game focused on exploration and culture building with slight overtones of roleplaying.

So go ahead...let new players buy SPs all day long to shortcut their way to being able to undock in ships they don't know how to fly well. Let them explode and buy PLEX to sell for ISK to replace those ships. Let the plex cartels and the deep-pocketed alliances fund SP packets and SRP for their newbros to field more robust fleets. These things won't affect me in any negative manner. I can even see value in using SP packets as rewards for corp members, e.g., those who do do significant work to benefit their corp/alliance. (EDITED TO ADD: SP packets would no doubt be used by corps/alliances to entice new members join and become as common as SRP ... and yes, alt farming to support that would likely happen.) Meanwhile, CCP could see a welcome positive impact on their bottom line and that can only be a good thing for EVE Online and its sister products in light of looming competition for players' attention and wallets.

Meanwhile, I'm determined to maintain my preferred laissez-faire attitude about EVE Online. I am happy to take the game casually, adapting to the environment as it evolves, with blinkered rose-colored spectacles firmly in place. That allows me to remain positive about EVE Online and not succumb to bittervet syndrome again. It's a lot more enjoyable to feel upbeat and to interact with the devs and the community on that basis. The tedious whine of the "Eve is dying" crowd adds nothing useful to my game experience anyway and upon reflection, is most certainly overblown with regard to selling and buying SP that has already been trained on one character or another.

For an opposing viewpoint, check out luobote kong's initial blog post and a follow-up on the subject.

Sep 15, 2015

IC: Mud and Mountaintops

She meanders on a mossy stone path that curves gently to follow the perimeter wall of the combination warehouse and office space. Her fingertips brush a wall of live foliage to her right. Her eyes gaze across pristine mountain vistas displayed on the curving video wall to her left. A small fountain gurgles somewhere behind her. She is lost in thought, meditating on all the matters under her purview. As those matters relate to herself, they are dead simple. Magnified through the lens of 700 pilots, they become much more complex. Somewhere between the two extremes is a manageable balance. If only she can find it.

The door chimes. "Johnny Splunk", informs the room AI. "OK", she says.

Exiting the path, she crosses to a comfortable lounge area where Johnny is already seated and unpacking something that smells delicious.

"Hey, what's all this?!" she asks in surprise.

"Dinner! You have to eat, you know!" he says, smiling. Always smiling, this one, she thinks and can't help but smile herself. He jumps up to give her a friendly hug before sitting back down to continue setting out food on the low table between the sofas. She sits across from him.

"Smells and looks great! Yeah, um...I think I forgot to eat today. Thanks!" she says. Her stomach is rumbling with hunger, she realizes. When did she last eat?

They tuck into creamy fish curry, fruit and cheese, fresh-baked (!) bread, and a crisply sweet Gallente white. "Gallente wine, best wine," she declares after the first sip. "Agreed...and I admit I conned the corp AI a little bit to find out which one you favor at the moment," Johnny says. They both laugh. If anyone could con an AI, it was Johnny Splunk.

"So, want to talk about the wars, the spies, or the wormhole search services thing first?" he asks.

"Oh gods, let's save the war talk for last. Whatcha got for me on the spies?" she says, and so they launch into a wide-ranging discussion on fresh intel, observed activities, reports from members and actions being taken. The discussion moves onto corp program changes, tools to support the ever-increasing number of wormhole search requests, EvE-Scout service coverage, corp financials, member initiatives, staff positions needing filled, personnel matters, recent fleet ops, Helios Anduath's latest update from his brief sojourn planetside, and finally the current wars and how to best help new pilots cope with them.

"I just have to stop getting so mired in the day-to-day worry about the ones who insist on flying in high sec during the wars and lose ships because they don't know what they're doing yet," she admits.

"Right...look at it like this: we provide the information they need, they can choose to use it for their own benefit or not. Either way, they get the experience of learning about war firsthand. Trial by fire for some of them. It's their choice. And if they keep making the same mistakes, they're probably not going to stay anyway. So why worry? It'll sort itself out." Johnny shrugs melodramatically and signs their inside joke #freeshrugs by crossing the first two fingers on each hand across each other. They laugh in recognition that they are both prone to worrying and obsessing overmuch about corp things.

"Ok, lady, one last thing before I go get ready for the Vulfpeck fleet." He narrows his eyes at her. "When's the last time you undocked just for the joy of wandering through space to see the sights?"

"Errr...", she mutters.

"Mynxee, you need to go...and I got you something to take with you to help keep things in perspective!" He grins, handing over a small wrapped package.

"Uh oh," she says as she begins to unwrap it. And then she bursts into laughter seeing what is inside.

"Okay, okay, I get the message. It's all about the fun! I'll get the Astero prepped and head out for a few days," she says, still laughing. "You nut!"

"You know it!" says Johnny and with that, he's out the door. Vulfpeck business is serious business.

Smiling, she sends a prep order to her Hangar Chief, gives the bobblehead a tap, and closes every spreadsheet, every email, every Galnet post, and every comms channel before heading to bed with a good book and one last glass of wine.

Aug 6, 2015

Walking In Stations: An Impossible Dream?

Recently, the Neocom podcast crew put out a Tinfoil Factory episode on Walking in Stations. It's a lively discussion worth listening to. The panel is composed of players (including two Signaleers--Dorian Reu and Illustria Madeveda) who embrace a variety of play styles and who range in character age from nearly the beginning of EVE Online to just a few weeks old. I found myself smiling wistfully at some of their starry-eyed ideas, many of which have been discussed in the past. Otto Bismarck's opinion of Incarna as it was implemented had me nodding in sad agreement.

The idea of avatar-based gameplay has been bandied about by CCP and players for years. Here's a little history which might provide some insights into the topic. Yes, you'll have to click the links and actually read stuff to become better informed.

EVElopedia's Walking in Stations page states that avatar-based gameplay was first referred to as Ambulation. "Walking in stations" (WIS) was a more descriptive name that eventually stuck as the general reference to avatar based gameplay. The release that was intended to start the ball rolling for avatar based gameplay was called Incarna.

As far as I can tell, Ambulation was first publicly discussed in late 2006 at Fanfest with a follow-up in the Walking in Stations dev blog by CCP t0rfifrans. Several months later a dev blog on Walking in Stations: Tactical Map by CCP Eris Discordia was published.

In 2007 at FanFest, Ten Ton Hammer did a video Q&A with CCP t0rfifrans about Ambulation.

In 2008, CCP t0rfifrans was interviewed by Jim Rossignal for Rock Paper Shotgun on the walking-in-stations future of EVE. He was also interviewed at FanFest by's (then) managing editor Jon Wood about Walking in Stations.

I couldn't find anything in 2009 from CCP about the state of Incarna development or more details about what kind of walking-in-stations content was in the works. This doesn't mean there wasn't anything, but in the time I had to research this post my Google-fu didn't reveal any.

In 2010, CCP was talking about a Summer 2011 Incarna release but had provided no information about what it would contain. Given the relatively ambitious schedule for such a major feature, CSM5 (to which I was elected Chair) requested a status update (to no avail) in the internal forums used for communicating with CCP. We put Incarna on the agenda at all three summits: in June (page 12 of the Minutes), October (page 15 of the Minutes), and December (page 7 of the Minutes). In early October, CCP t0rfifrans published a dev blog that introduced the new Character Creator but reiterated that doing so did not mean an Incarna release was imminent. In December, CCP Ph00ze released a dev blog that talked about the technical challenges of the new Character Creator but did not mention Incarna or release date details for the Character Creator beyond Soon(tm). By the end of December, CSM5's concern was growing. Outside the Summits, no devs would engage with us about Incarna's gameplay or design details yet CCP's apparent intention was to release Incarna within 6 months. After careful consideration, we determined that our obligation to represent players' concerns warranted a public statement to CCP about our Incarna concerns in the form of an open letter on the forums. This statement was extremely controversial and received zero response from CCP (despite our giving them several weeks to respond to it prior to its publication).

It's no secret that 2010 was an extremely disappointing and frustrating year for me, especially as regards Incarna -- a feature that, based on prior hype from CCP, I had been wildly enthusiastic about. Suffice to say, I had a very bad feeling about the planned Incarna release.

In 2011, dev blogs preceding the Incarna release proliferated. CCP Chiliad talked about content for the Incarna release. CCP Zulu soon after announced a release date and summarized what was coming in the first Incarna release. CCP t0rfifrans and CCP Flying Scotsman provided a video preview of Incarna. It was starting to become clear that "walking in stations" really meant walking by ourselves in a single room with nothing much to do there. The release of Incarna that summer was a huge disappointment relative to "walking in stations". That disappointment was exacerbated by extremely short-sighted and misguided decisions that CCP made regarding the pricing and type of items made available in what we now know as the New Eden Store as well as the total lack of attention to flying in space features that were screaming for iteration or just plain broken. Cue rage and drama, riots in Jita, mass unsubs, and finally a re-focus on the Flying in Space part of the game.  Note: For further insight into the Incarna expansion (which involved more than avatar-related stuff), see Sugar Kyle's A Look at the History of Expansions, Part 22 and Part 23

Fast forward to 2015. Following the Incarna debacle, CCP suffered a few shake-ups, resources were re-focused on the spaceships, and many welcome improvements have been implemented for the Flying in Space part of the game. In many ways, CCP is a much better company and EVE is a much better game. It's not surprising then that players continue to discuss their hopes for Walking in Stations.

But to seriously consider such a massive feature necessarily leads to some important questions:
  • Does CCP have the chops to design and implement a Walking in Stations feature that would mesh with the Flying in Space game and be favorably received by players? 
  • Is such an investment even remotely feasible? 
I don't know the answers to these questions but the history of CCP's efforts relative to avatar-based gameplay doesn't inspire confidence. So, while it's fun to brainstorm about Walking in Stations, I think it is an impossible dream for the foreseeable future. Yeah, sorry to rain on your parade, WIS enthusiasts :P That said, I have no doubt that such a feature properly implemented could be amazing and fun. And despite my pessimism, I really do hope the time comes when the CQ door is unlocked and we can pursue our hopes and dreams in stations and other structures as well as in space. I just hope that time doesn't come until CCP is prepared to do it right. What "right" is remains to be seen.

Note: Please comment about any inaccuracies in my post, with links to supporting info if possible, so that I can make corrections. 

Aug 4, 2015

Reasonable Expectations

Sugar Kyle raised some interesting questions today in a blog post titled Deserving: "What as a player do you think you deserve? What do you expect when you log in?" She mentions the anger she feels when some players claim that those who embrace certain play styles don't deserve to be well-treated, or deserve the ISK they make, or deserve other things they may possess or experience in the game. Her post prompted blogged responses from both EVE Hermit and Mike Azariah (and I bet more will chime in; this feels like a mini Blog Banter in the making). EVE Hermit makes the point that some players don't seem to get that in a sandbox game, anything that doesn't violate the TOS/EULA is fair play. Mike Azariah talks about the irksome attitude of entitlement, in particular that of players who fail to put in the effort to inform themselves and then whine when they experience a loss because "no one told me" about this or that danger.

All of which got me thinking about expectations in-game and out. We all have our own ideas about what to expect from CCP, the game client, and our fellow players. For most of us, those expectations fall within a spectrum of reasonableness. I like to think that's where mine fall, anyway.

As a CCP customer, I expect access to a reliable game client, regular information about the game's development, expedient communications about issues, community engagement, and ongoing effort to iterate on and evolve the game. I expect the game to provide interesting challenges, mechanisms that support accomplishing objectives, visual beauty, and good usability. I expect the sandbox to be preserved and to get some new sand every once in awhile that is consistent with New Eden's lore and its fabled harsh environment. I don't expect that the way these things get implemented will please me 100% of the time (although I do expect to express my opinion about that by for example voting in CSM elections or responding on the forums or in social media). CCP has been meeting my expectations handily in the last couple of years.

Probably not a reasonable expectation but one can DREAM!

As a player, I expect to have to inform myself to thrive and survive. I expect that uninformed, misguided, or risky decisions will provide expensive lessons. I expect that other players are out to kill my ship and my pod and take my stuff. I expect that if I'm clever, I can avoid most of the mistakes that are there to be made. I expect that what is fun for others may not be fun for me but is still worthy of respect. I expect that every player I encounter or engage with in some way has the potential to be an in-game friend or enemy in the future but either way treating everyone with respect has no downside. I expect to forge my own path and figure out how find profit and fun. These expectations have served me well in balancing "EVE is Real" feelings against the reality that all the stuff we worry so much about losing is just pixels in a video game.

As a CEO, I expect to fiercely and lovingly nurture the corp culture envisioned by myself and my co-leaders and that my corp members signed up for. I expect to have to deal with issues, drama, fumbles, and dropped balls. I expect to have to remind new players constantly that learning to play EVE means reading...a LOT...and that undocking and dying is part of the game. I expect to demonstrate at least once a day that I am still a noob in so many ways. I expect to be annoyed, frustrated, challenged, overwhelmed, and to fail at many things. But most of all, I expect to have fun, to be delighted by the people I play with, and to have memorable experiences with them. Signal Cartel has exceeded my expectations in every possible good way.

Having reasonable expectations is essential to maintaining a healthy perspective on CCP, EVE Online, and our community of players. It helps inform the patience required to stay the course whether you're skilling for a specific ship, growing a corp or alliance, or are fostering dreams of sov, market, PvP, or other paths to glory. It helps keep things in balance both within the game and between the game and RL. It helps by giving new players a longer-term view which hopefully encourages them to stick with and become immersed in the game. I think most long-term EVE players are pretty good at managing their own and others' expectations. One of the best things we can do for new players is to help them do it better, too.

Jul 22, 2015

Effort...Why Bother? Because It Matters.

Celebratory Hugs Fleet roams have become a thing in Signal Cartel for notable membership milestones. As we approached 500 members earlier in July, Johnny Splunk (EvE-Scout co-founder and a founding partner of Signal Cartel) decided to plan something special. While he worked on his secret plans, I planned the "Dangerous Places" Treasure Hunt to commence immediately after the roam.

There is always a fair bit of work involved in a celebratory Hugs Fleet. We try to go somewhere special, we give stuff away, we aim to include an educational component. Because of Johnny's special plans and my treasure hunt, this one was particularly time-consuming. All told, I spent about 20 hours on it and Johnny spent 10 to 12 hours. Prep consumed the majority of that time. In the week preceding the op, my main tasks were to:

  • Track prize donations and send thank you notes to donators
  • Help coordinate schedules and support
  • Work out treasure hunt process and prizes
  • Draft a comprehensive instructions and tracking post for the treasure hunt (which ended up being almost 7k words!)
  • Anchor a test container at a location off-grid from a celestial and work with Johnny to ensure it could be reached using only d-scan
  • Anchor a total of 20 password-protected secure containers in low sec systems across as many regions as possible

In addition to helping me with the treasure hunt test, Johnny:

  • Staged and fitted 100 Hugs Fleet doctrine ships in Thera (which a failed Iteron delivery did not deter!)
  • Coordinated schedules and worked out plans with key players
  • Moved a cyno alt into place
  • Did route planning and last minute re-routing
  • Managed fleet day prep and festivities in space prior to fleet departure

During the fleet, Johnny FC'd (and continued to co-FC after he met with unfortunate circumstances mid-roam). After the fleet op concluded, I oversaw the treasure hunt, purchased treasure hunt prize items, and ensured that the 60-odd prizes from the roam giveaways and treasure hunt found their way into the hands of the winners.

Yes, it was a lot of work. But when everything comes together according to plan and people have fun, it is totally worth it. Why? As Johnny says: "First of all, it's fun to plan an event that I know will be enjoyable for our members. Second, it's fun to participate in fleets like this. Finally, it's entertaining when plans don't work out precisely and the whole fleet just takes everything--including ship and pod loss--in stride. Seeing everyone's maturity, good humor, and the credo in action at those times is fulfilling." I feel the same way. Our members are extremely generous in helping each other and particularly new players. Organizing these special Hugs Fleet roams is our way of returning the favor and hopefully inspiring others to organize their own fun events.

So did all this effort pay off? You betcha! Prep and plans were all wrapped up an hour or two before start time. The fleet went up and we had somewhere between 35 and 40 members join. A few of us sat in station to hand out ships while excitement began to build due to Johnny's hints of what was to come.

"Why are we getting an Infomorph Psychology book with the ship?" asked one new member.

"You'll see. Just inject it and train it to at least Level 1." replied Johnny. He likes to play his cards close to his chest in order to give our newbros fun learning surprises on fleet ops. Our more experienced players smiled at the implications.

As an incentive to join fleets early so that ops can leave on time, we usually have a fun little treasure hunt in Thera before departure. Everyone undocks and gets to random safes, then Johnny dumps a set of bookmarks into a Corp bookmarks folder and pulls the trigger. There's a mad dash to be first to grab loot from the cans at the bookmarks. Loot typically consists of collectible trinkets, Sisters gear, implants, and other items useful to explorers. This tends to get everyone excited and hearts pumping, which is the best state in which to begin a Hugs Fleet roam!

With everyone chomping at the bit, our FC--who may well be the calmest, politest, most instructive FC I've ever seen--called the op start. Member Captain Ace Rico produced a video of the roam which does a better job than I ever could of showing the fun we had. Go watch it.

How awesome was that? Our most heartfelt thanks to Phoebe Freeport Republic for their freeports with jump clone installation capabilities and to Otto Bismarck of Pandemic Legion for providing us the opportunity for a memorable experience with the greatest of all ships in EVE.

Hugging Phoebe Freeport Republic--thanks for the jump clones! (Image by Stikkem Innagibblies)
OMG it's a Titan! (Image by Stikkem Innagibblies) 

Once the remnants of our fleet bridged through to Doril, I announced the "Dangerous Places" Treasure Hunt, posted instructions, and gave fleet members a 10-minute head start before sending a corp email about it to everyone. It seemed our intrepid explorers still had energy to burn as they raced across New Eden to the far-flung low sec systems where I had hidden containers with prize vouchers in them. Along the way, they used their Google-fu to figure out container passwords using the clues provided. Once in the target systems, explorers had to use their d-scan skills to narrow down the off-grid location of each container and manually fly to it. It was great fun on comms listening to the excitement, frustration, and determination to find these cans.

Their effort was well-rewarded. The vouchers were good for things like Asteros, sets of 6% scanning implants, Stratioses (Stratii?), Sisters gear, ISK and collectibles, one of Rixx Javix' battlecruiser posters, and a character portrait by yours truly. Any idea I had of this event lasting a day or more was obliterated by the competitive nature of our members. Most of the containers were discovered within an hour and all had been looted within about two hours. Remarkably, only one can was MIA and I think that happened because I forgot to anchor it and it got junked at DT.

Participants had a great time with this Treasure Hunt and provided useful feedback to inform the next one--which will be a lot harder! I was really thrilled by one member who said she didn't know how to use d-scan before the treasure hunt and got so good at it thanks to the "just in time" practice that she ended up helping someone else learn to d-scan! That, friends, is op success.

So the festivities for our 500 Member Celebratory Hugs Fleet concluded with a bunch of tired, happy explorers. We had a lot of laughs on comms, corp camaraderie, and fun times but also--and maybe more importantly--gave a few very new players a great introduction to EVE Online. One that I hope sucks them in and makes the game and its potential irresistible. I beat this drum a lot but the message is important. How we treat new players matters. It has a very real impact on our corp culture, on the wider community, and (I believe) on the sustainability of the game itself. Our goal in Signal Cartel is to give new players a solid start, fun experiences, and peeks here and there into the bigger game outside our corporation. They may stay with us or ultimately move on but either way, we do the best we can to prepare them for whatever path they choose and hopefully both the community and the game ultimately benefit from that.

For that alone, the effort is worth it. It matters.


Shout-outs to a few individuals who provided donations or special support to this event:

  • robertbobo Orlenard, Breysyth Asythe, Gaston Cartier, Foolproof Kado, Edohatrem Inur, and Helios Anduath for random drawing prize donations
  • Johnny Splunk, Hugs Fleet FC darling
  • k98sniper, Hugs Fleet Hero FC
  • Edohatrem Inur, Sentosa Erata, and Selvien Mieyli for scouting
  • Dorian Reu for handling the random drawings for prizes during the fleet op
  • Everyone who helped newbros in fleet with private mentoring convos
  • luobote kong, former and forever honorary Signal Cartel member, for joining us
  • Captain Ace Rico for superb videography
  • Otto Bismarck for arranging Titan love for us and talking with members afterwards to provide eye-opening insights on what it's like to be a big league player in New Eden

Jun 29, 2015

IC: BrightStar's Promise

It was good to be back on solid land, if only for a day or two. Zoohen V's morning sun was warm as I walked through profusely blooming gardens toward the kennel. Promise ran ahead to examine and mark every tree, rock, and bush with great enthusiasm. Despite his compact stature, he was athletic and extremely correct. But his most notable feature was the sharply striated tones of black, gold, and russet in his coat. The uncommon coloring appeared to ripple in the bright sunlight as he moved. While more traditional brindle coloring is known in miniature slaver hounds, Promise's coloration appeared to be a unique variant. It was my hope to develop this variant as a dominant feature in the BrightStar Kennel line. I had my fingers crossed that it would breed true in combination with the excellent conformation and temperament for which BrightStar pups were known.

My Kennel Manager waved to me from an exercise yard. I could see a horde of fat little pups bouncing around at her feet--three litters sired by Promise, all about 7 weeks old.

"Hey Lacey!" I called out.

"Hey, Mynx!" she replied, "I'm so glad you could get back here while they're still in the cute stage!"

I grinned, stepped over the low fence, and sat on the grass. Immediately fourteen excited pups bombarded me in an effort to lick my face, chew on my clothes, and bite my fingers. Six of them--four males and two females--looked to have Promise's coloring. Only time would tell if their conformation, temperament, and coat pattern was good enough to qualify them for the breeding program. In the moment, however, they were all adorable! That wouldn't another month or so they would all be horrible hooligans and their training to become good citizens would begin in earnest. Lacey would have her hands full then, but if I knew her, she'd love every minute of that process.

After extracting myself from the puppy pack, Lacey and I retreated into the cool, cozy office to discuss the breeding stock's family lines and outlook breeding plans for the pups. We were both excited by the possibilities but it would be a year or more before any of these plans bore fruit. Meanwhile, we could dream.

"By the way, none of the plain-colored pups in these litters carry the mutated gene. I assume it's okay to sell them after I'm done with their basic training and temperament testing?" Lacey asked.

I nodded and said, "Sure thing...let's DNA-test every pup going forward...I don't want anything with the mutation leaving here intact. I guess we need some more breeding quality bitches--I'll see what's available and bring them home next visit."

"Makes sense...we have room for 8 or 10 more in the kennel...and there's no end of demand for the pet quality pups. Want some lunch?" she asked.

"Sure," I said. We headed for house, Promise at my heels.

"Oh! I almost forgot!" Lacey said as we sat on the veranda later. "The association paperwork is in order and the name registered, so I'm going to go ahead and hire someone to deal with the admin stuff."

"'ll be nice to get a hound registry going here. What'd you call it?" I asked.

"Nothing very brilliant: the New Eden Miniature Slaver Hound Association. I figured we could call it NEMSHA for short." She shrugged.

"Sounds good to me. Thanks for following up on that." Lacey was one of my favorite employees; practical and high-energy, she always got things done and done right.

I finished my lunch and tossed a tidbit to Promise who caught it mid-air as usual.

"Did the lab get his straws done?" I asked, indicating my hopeful little hound. I threw him another tidbit.

"Yeah, we're good to go for ... like ... ever." she replied.

"Okay then, I'm taking him with me this time," I said.

"Thank the gods," Lacey exclaimed. "All he does is mope around when you're not here. Spoiled brat."

"You're fired, Lacey, for calling this darling creature such vile names!"

We laughed...we both knew Promise could be a pain in the ass. (Just ask my Hangar Manager. On second thought, don't. She gets very cranky about "that damn hound underfoot all the time".)

The afternoon was spent drinking a delicious local wine while I described life in Signal Cartel and talked about the Drifter threat and recent dramas concerning Dr. Hilen Tukoss' remains. As a non-capsuleer, Lacey found it all fascinating and at the same time horrifying. She couldn't quite wrap her head around capsuleer immortality, the atrocities and loss of life that so many of my kind were responsible for, and what it all meant for someone who almost never left the planet.

"You seem so different from all that when you're," she observed.

I sipped my wine. "I guess I've learned that in order to stay human, one must do basic human things. Like walk in sunshine, breathe fresh air, and pet dogs. It would be easy to never leave my pod but...I fear that way lies madness. You know?" She nodded, but she couldn't ever really know.

In my quarters the next day at the Theology Council Station, I stroked the small dog asleep on my lap as I worked through several days' worth of emails and whispered, "You keep me human, Promise. You keep me human."

Jun 27, 2015

Curating a Corp Culture

It is an interesting thing to establish a vision for a "counter-culture" corp, lay the groundwork, and watch it manifest the way it has been doing in Signal Cartel.

As we continue to grow at the surprisingly consistent rate of about 100 new members per month, the central pillar of our corp culture--the Credo--is subject to interpretation by more people every day. More questions are raised about meaning, intent, and scope. More guidance is sought regarding practical applications in specific circumstances. More boundaries are tested and more debate is generated. This has led to some heated discussions as different interpretations of the Credo and different temperaments or outlooks collide. While sometimes challenging to moderate in a way that fosters free expression yet maintains civility, all such discussions are welcomed and encouraged by leadership.

In an effort to better understand what parts of the Credo our pilots struggle with and how they personally embrace its tenets, I recently put out a call to our membership for Credo feedback. To give you some idea of just how strongly our pilots feel about the matter, I got back about 10,000 words of opinions, suggestions, and questions within a couple of days. In addition to which, there have been extended conversations about it in our Alliance chat and on comms. In all these communications, I find myself constantly amazed at the intelligence, maturity, wisdom, and insightfulness of our members. The really neat thing is hearing from so many how much it means to them to be a part of the vision for Signal Cartel. It is a humbling responsibility to curate a corp culture that has such high value to such a large number of people.

And so Signal Cartel leadership (myself, Johnny Splunk, G8keeper, and Helios Anduath) is currently reviewing all of the feedback received and considering how best to answer questions and provide guidance to our members. As our Credo-inspired culture becomes ever more deeply entrenched, we are less interested in being "Credo Cops" than in sharing our vision of Credo intent and "best practices" application in ways that encourage others to internalize those things and let their actions and decisions be informed appropriately. It is particularly challenging to find the right balance between policing Credo compliance and evolving a self-policing culture but that is an organic thing which can only happen over time and we are beginning to see desirable trends in that regard. As someone who finds the social interaction in New Eden to be its most compelling aspect, I am fascinated by how far things have come already and how Credo challenges play out among our members.

"But spaceships, what about those?!" Oh yeah...well, we don't just sit around ship-spinning, drinking fine Gallente wine, and droning on about corp culture all day. We *are* out there in space all the time, everywhere, doing things:

From crazy-ass Party Probers fleets to in-space research to wormhole ops to getting lost on expeditions to impromptu mentoring roams, we are fearless about undocking and embracing the unknown. We encourage and provide lots of resources to aid in savvy piloting but losing ships is simply the price we sometimes pay for going in search of enlightenment and valuable loot in dangerous places. I sometimes joke that we are solely responsible for keeping the Astero market afloat. The truth is that killboard ISK efficiency is of very little interest to me. What I care about is that Signaleers accept losses gracefully, show opponents respect regardless of circumstances, and undock their next ship with the same enthusiasm as they did the previous ones. We do this amazingly consistently, thanks to the mindset fostered by the Credo and the generosity of our members with each other both in sharing expertise and helping each other with more tangible support. The lack of tears and whinging due to losses might well be one of the most delightful things about our corp culture. We know how to laugh at ourselves, have fun, and roll with the punches.

And so we go, and so we grow. It is indeed a fine thing to behold. You can be part of it, if you're so inclined. We welcome everyone with whom our corp culture resonates. If you'd like to learn more about our culture or about joining, drop by the EvE-Scout public channel in-game and listen to our recent interviews on The Neocom and Hydrostatic podcasts.

Apr 22, 2015

The Engine of Interesting Experiences

In 2007 when my first EVE character was a two-day old newbie mining her little Gallente heart out in the rookie system Bourynes, a friendly 2003 pilot named Edohatrem Inur struck up a conversation. He convinced me to join his corp along with a bunch of other newbies he'd recruited. The opportunity to harvest knowledge directly from a veteran player fast-tracked my EVE experience in many valuable ways. 

What goes around, comes more ways than one. Not only do I now find myself leading a corp doing the very same thing for exploration-minded newbies, but in full-circle fashion, Edo recently joined Signal Cartel. A self-styled glittervet (kind of like a bittervet but with more optimism and an interest in helping new players), he is still up to his old tricks in Bourynes and elsewhere engaging "adorable newbies" (as he calls them) with his special brand of tough love and carrot-on-stick recruiting tactics.

Edo is fond of pointing out contradictions and questioning assertions. I learned long ago to be amused rather than annoyed by this, since it can lead to interesting discussions and reflections on how we change and grow as players. Case in point: I grumbled recently about the time demands that leading Signal Cartel imposes on me. He immediately pointed out the contradiction of the situation with assertions I posted just over a year ago upon my return to New Eden regarding what I wasn't interested in, to wit:

  • Leadership responsibility
  • Restrictive corp rules
  • Non-PvP, non-low-sec corps
  • Newbie corpmates

HA! Guess I'm eating those words now, as my peaceful, credo-bound corp is at 275 members not quite 3 months after public launch...

The contrast between a year ago and now is amusing. But I can roll with it because I've been around EVE long enough to know that nothing stays the same. Anything can happen. Being open to new things--like EvE-Scout founders G8keeper and Johnny Splunk approaching me to lead a peaceful exploration corp--leads to new friends and new experiences. As I've said before, the Signal Cartel experience has given me a fresh perspective on the game, a sense of purpose, and interesting new challenges. All of that is made even better when old friends like Edo decide to come along for the ride...and he is by far not the only one who has done so. Quite a few friends and acquaintances--many who were or are pirates, amusingly--have joined Signal Cartel and contribute significantly to the camaraderie and success of the corp.

Relationships are clearly the engine of interesting experiences in New Eden. Whether those experiences are dramatic and sweeping (e.g, BRAVE's recent troubles) or result from taking a path less traveled (as in Signal Cartel), they all create ripples--sometimes with far-reaching and unanticipated outcomes. The unpredictable way that those ripples, even the tiny ones, intersect with others and evolve will trump assertions every time!

Mar 8, 2015

War Hugs :P

It's now about five weeks since public launch of Signal Cartel. Corp life is bubbling along delightfully with over 170 members active all across New Eden, mostly in wormholes, null and low sec. Which makes it kind of funny to get war decced...we are already mostly in places where we could be shot at without the need to pay for it! Still, a war dec provides an excellent opportunity to field a Hugs Fleet as we did in response to the first war declared against us. That war ended with a pleasant conversation with our war targets who said we were "so nice and polite" that they just didn't have the spirit to continue in a war with us. :P Our credo in action!

Hot on the heels of that came a new war dec, this time by The Pursuit of Happiness alliance. With considerable intel in hand, a Hugs Fleet op was called and FC'd yet again by the venerable Carrie Frog. Having run locators on our war targets, we headed to their last reported location. No dice, but within a couple of jumps, we got reports that several were in the adjacent system and heading our way. We sat excitedly at a gate tactical waiting for them to jump in but darn if they didn't choose to go somewhere else. In the end, we were briefly in the same system with a one war target a couple of times. They did not respond to our cheerful greetings in Local and soon left system.

To assuage our disappointment, Carrie made the call to take the fleet to the Jita 4-4 undock to deliver hugs to deserving pilots there. We felt a little better after this charitable action--giving hugs is just as nice for the giver as getting is for the recipient!
Delivering hugs to a suspect pilot at the Jita undock
We hoped that our few war targets still online might come looking for us. Unfortunately, the last one logged off as we were about our business in Jita Local so the FC called the op and led the fleet home to Thera. I stopped in Amarr to leave some hugs for our war targets, then meandered into low sec (where I still feel most comfortable) and called it a night. Better luck next time!

A gift left in Amarr for our war targets after we couldn't deliver in person

At The Quafe Rack

CCP announced a contest the other day for EVE-related artwork submissions. Two winners will be selected whose work will be enlarged, printed on canvas, and displayed on a blank wall at CCP HQ. Not gonna lie, I would love to see my work hanging on that wall!

For my entry, I repurposed my ink and watercolor portrait of Niraia into a Quafe ad poster, with a little play on words:

I'm looking forward to see which submissions the CCP judges choose as winners and hope we will get to see all the entries in some online format. There's a lot of talent in the EVE would be very cool if CCP designated to target blank wall as a curated "gallery wall" of fan art in the office. The pieces selected for large format canvas printing could be supplemented with framed paper prints of other fan art that could be swapped out from time to time to keep the exhibit interesting.

Feb 26, 2015

Recent EVE Character Portraits

I'm continuing to work my way through the Eve character portrait queue. In the last few weeks, Real Life and the considerable attention that Signal Cartel has required since launch have cut into the amount of time I have had to work on these. Fortunately, things are leveling out and I'm back on track with getting current commissions done.

Thinking ahead to real life commitments in the year ahead, I have simplified the portrait service to offer only ink and watercolor sketches for new commissions. These are a lot faster and easier to do than more formal portraits, so hopefully that translates into faster turnaround time for everyone who orders a portrait going forward.

Here are the most recent portraits completed:

Marc Scaurus

Makoto Priano

If you'd like a portrait of your character, check out the info in the Gallery tab above and then get in touch via EVEmail or regular email.

By the way, if you're doing creative EVE-related things, there is a creatives channel on the Tweetfleet Slack. Go and share your work there!

Feb 25, 2015

CSM X Thoughts

I voted my slates for two accounts this morning, both exactly the same. It was not particularly difficult to choose 14 candidates. It was MUCH more difficult to prioritize them.

My primary focus in game these days is corp management, new player assistance, and community building. CSM X candidates who focus on those things got preference on my slate. However, some other things factored into my choices as well, such as:
  • Stand-out incumbents doing good work deserve to continue doing that work and are also important in terms of continuity from one term to the next. 
  • While I could not care less about sov mechanics, it is an important topic that the CSM will be addressing this year and I have clear opinions about who I prefer to see leading the CSM side of that discussion. 
  • Fresh voices and perspectives are important; I prefer that each council have no more than 25% incumbent carry-over. 
  • Candidates with large voting blocks behind them potentially shouldn't even appear on my ballot but other factors may influence me to include them.
  • Candidate affiliation with a particular corp or alliance doesn't matter to me; I assess candidates based on their likely expertise, their campaign discussions, and how they have conducted themselves during their campaigns, not on who they play with. 
  • Loyalty to friends and colleagues factors in somewhat, but less than you might imagine. 
I'm not going to share my specific slate. Voting a slate of candidates is a highly personal and complicated choice with such a large field of quality candidates. It's practically a moving target right up until you cast that vote. However, as a way of supporting and endorsing them, the candidates I voted for are listed below in alphabetical order with a brief comment about what I think they bring to the party.
  • Ashterothi (lore, communications)
  • Bam Stoker (community advocate)
  • Cagali Cagali (new bros, life in null sec)
  • Chance Ravinne (fresh new player perspective, community support)
  • corbexx (wormholes)
  • Endie (sov) 
  • June Ting (new players)
  • Khador Vess (new players, exploration, diverse experience)
  • Manfred Sideous (sov)
  • Mike Azariah (new players, high sec)
  • Psianh Auvyander (mercs, new player training, community) 
  • Steve Ronuken (third party tools)
  • Sugar Kyle (CSM MVP of all time)
  • Xander Phoena (communications)
I encourage everyone to inform themselves about candidates and vote their own preferences and interests, prioritizing candidates in a way that makes personal sense to themselves. Many bloggers have published endorsements and suggested slates. Check out the following links for a plethora of information about candidates:

And finally, VOTE HERE!

Feb 11, 2015

Musings on the Explorer's Way

Opening the doors to Signal Cartel on January 30 was more like opening a small floodgate. Every day, I log in to find new applications and new faces in Corp chat. We are 85 already! Who knew there were so many pilots out there--both old and new--infected by wanderlust and compelled by the idea of finding something interesting out there among the stars?

Exploration tends to be a solo journey. Many who have joined us are in the habit of flying alone and continue to do so. Others enjoy self-organizing into ad-hoc groups to pursue shared objectives. Everyone seems happy to be able to chat with other like-minded souls in the Alliance channel. And many are stepping up in extraordinary ways to support our rookie explorers and help them hit the ground running. It is a lovely thing to see both rookies and veterans alike sharing ideas and inspiring each other with their adventures and discoveries both large and small.

Listening to our members talk about their activities, I am struck by how--just like any other career in New Eden--exploration is as nuanced as the individuals who embrace it. Some are content to wander the stars unfettered by an agenda. Others are intent on earning ISK through exploration sites or finding items of value abandoned by other players. Still others are interested in mapping the universe or otherwise wandering for personal reasons or profit. And at least a few are seeking empirical evidence related to Caroline's Star, the Circadian Sleepers, Thera, and other lore-related mysteries. Despite these various nuances, dedicated explorers seem to share two things: a rugged sense of independence and delight in discovery.

Exploration has given me the time and opportunity to notice and appreciate a New Eden filled with interesting stories, intriguing mysteries, and beautiful things just waiting for me to discover them. When I was a pirate, my focus was solely on the hunt for "targets of opportunity". All my attention was centered on ship fittings, logistics to replace lost ships, combat tactics, and the output of a constantly spammed directional scanner. It was a predator's tunnel-vision perspective from which I rarely looked up to wonder about a nebula, a landmark, or New Eden backstories. I rarely sought out the unknown path just because it was there. Now, I look up. I wonder. And I seek.

Violent Wormhole in Thera

My approach to exploration is relatively stress-free and uncomplicated. When not attending to corp duties or helping rookies find their feet, I wander randomly from Thera in search of low sec, null sec, and C1/C2 hacking sites. I often take side trips to landmarks or simply to see what this system or that looks like or see what others are doing there. Although the discovery angle of exploration is a reward in itself, ISK opportunities tend to be modest (although there have been one or two rather significant finds). That's okay by me as I have few assets to maintain: probably fewer than 10 ships, all frigates, perhaps 5 of which are fitted. Although I explore in more dangerous areas of space, I aim to "fly clever" (as we explorers like to say). Maintaining situational awareness is a big part of that and I can thank my time as a low sec pirate for honing those skills such that my ships are not much at risk and thus rarely need replacing.

Exploration is not the play-style for everyone. Many pilots will prefer a faster pace of life, more profitable pursuits, PvP-oriented activities, or grander objectives. New Eden is a more interesting place because of them. But explorers are on a different, more personal journey. We are the lone wolves among the stars, thinking for ourselves, charting our own course, marching to the beat of our own drum. We find our adventures, friends, and riches where we find them. As New Eden evolves around us, so will opportunities also continue to evolve for our kind to seek, discover, and profit on our own terms.

Want to know more about Signal Cartel? Click here.