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Mika Hirvonen
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Mika Hirvonen

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Yesterday was pretty quiet, so I cleared out a few anomalies full of Guristas pirates. Because there was a small enemy gang roaming about, I didn't pay that much attention to the non-thinking enemies. So my drones kept killing them and triggering new spawns. Not that it mattered, of course. most PvE ships are built to take sustained punishment first and foremost, and the Ishtar has been called an AFKtar for it's particular excellence in that regard.

Today's fleet was all about home defense. There had been reports of some gate camps and roaming enemy fleets in our space, so we headed out to take a look. We caught a Vexor, a Stiletto, a Maulus, a Raptor, a Garmur, a Thrasher and a few newbie ships. Even a Thanathos undocked to play station games with us, but for the most part the roam was all about an old saying: "If you end up in a fair fight, somebody made a mistake." None of the targets had a fighting chance, and the only time I had to repair one of our ships was when NPCs shot him. And for their part, the enemy gangs did avoid us, scattering as soon as their scout in the neighboring system told them we were coming.

Which brings us to fleet discipline. Most of the fleet members are only required to show up in a predetermined ship and do exactly what the fleet commander says and nothing more. If you shoot before you're told to, you might get an aggression timer and be unable to use stargates for a short while and either be stranded for worse, force the fleet to wait for you. If you uncloak before told to do so, you might be picked off by the enemy instead of overwhelming them when the entire fleet uncloaks. If you warp into a system on your own, you can either get picked off by the enemy and/or alert them that the fleet is coming. So unless you're in a special role like scouting, tackling or doing logistics, there's no room for improvisation. That is, until the fight itself starts and the commander is too busy flying their own ship and barking orders. And even then you're supposed to drop whatever you're doing when the commander issues an order.

So if two fleets of relatively similar sizes and speeds are in the same area, chances are that they're going to avoid each other until someone makes a mistake. Usually said mistake is someone being a little too slow in following orders and getting picked off by the incoming enemy. It's thrilling in it's own way like submarine warfare, but not exactly screenshottable material.

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Mika Hirvonen

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You can't win them all. A long roam from Catch to Wicked Creek eventually brought us against a Caracal-Scythe fleet. Having just flown in one, it was pretty obvious what was going to happen.

Upon retrospect I shouldn't have undocked in a jump clone that I've been using for the last.. five years or so? A set of +4 implants do make training for new skills noticeably faster, but they're a bit out of place in combat. Especially in a ship that costs five million versus around hundred million for the implants. Oh well, plenty more where that came from.

There was also a fifth fleet advertised right before I logged off, but I think I've had enough for one day. Tomorrow I got to check up on my finances; I've tended to ship more stuff whenever I've had around half a billion of spare cash, and the cycle time for that seems to be getting faster. Some of that is due to our neighboring enemies, who try to buy stuff and relist it at a higher price; Sometimes they buy an entire shipment only a few hours after I had it hauled in.
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Mika Hirvonen

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One of our neighboring alliances had one of their towers attacked, so we formed a support fleet to defend the tower while they repaired it. The chosen fleet makeup was designed to be as frustrating as possible to fight, and it worked as designed. The downside is that if you're frustrating to fight, the enemy can choose to not show up at all.

Because the enemy was not yet in position, the fleet commander decided to blockade their main base, an NPC station owned by the Guristas pirates. While there were a few skirmishes, there was only one that ended in a kill. Because most of our ships were the Gallente Celestis cruisers that specialize in electronic warfare, the enemy didn't even want to undock with anything capable of fighting us. And as an Exequror logistics pilot, I had even less to do. Because nobody was taking damage, there was nothing to repair. Eventually our allies finished the repairs on the tower, and we all went home.

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The lack of information is a feature, not a bug. Information is valuable, especially information about an enemy fleet's current makeup, command structure and current objective. That's why fleet commanders usually reveal the destinations and the objectives at last minute, if at all. Objectives and destinations can and must change on the fly, so telling the entire plan up front might cause inattentive people to rush forwards and alert the enemy by showing up sooner than the rest of the fleet. Or just get caught by random enemies. There's strength in numbers, after all.

I'm currently at an intermediate stage. I don't know exactly where a particular fleet fits in the big picture, but I can form an educated guess. Likewise with minute-to-minute commands. I don't get disoriented anymore, but my role-specific actions (prelocking important friendlies, deciding when to launch drones and so on) still aren't as snappy as they need to be in a fleet that would survive one of those mythical fair fights.

It's still interesting, and I'm building up towards more and more expensive and important ships and roles. While I can technically fly some of our Serious Business warships already, all this practice will help reduce the chance that I lose one of those warships in a stupid mistake in the earliest opportunity.
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Earlier this year, one of Blizzard's designers shared very early screenshots of World of Warcraft (http://kotaku.com/very-early-screenshots-of-world-of-warcraft-1711350152), which were quite eerie in retrospect; You recognize many things that would end up to be in the released game, but at the same time they're not quite what you remember.

Chribba is one of the oldest Eve Online players out there, and he's the maintainer of eve-files.com, one of the early Eve fansites. So he too has access to very early screenshots. It's interesting how ship, stargate and station silhouettes that were made more than ten years ago are still distinctive.
13 years of eveonline in 39000 screenshots 2001-2014, based on Chribba's http://eve-files.com/ public material
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Mika Hirvonen

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Burn Amarr is now over, and it's time to do a reckoning.

Preliminary overall stats are 208 freighters, 37 Orcas and 19 jump freighters, with the total damage of 772 billion ISK.

Personally, I participated in 39 kills with the total cost of 96 billion ISK. Oddly enough, that wasn't enough to reduce my security status to -5, where I would become targetable by anyone in highsec. I started out at roughly 3, and ended up in -4.7. Since anything I do in nullsec won't reduce it any further, it'll slowly crawl back up again. I did gather quite a few kill rights and some of them were put up for sale, so I could still be hit by someone who saw an opportunity, regardless of security status. No bounties, though; There's really no incentive to go after a random newbie.

Before this I had only participated in a couple of roaming fleets, nothing serious. And this event certainly wasn't. People were joking around, spouting memes that I quite didn't get yet and played music and sound effects through voice comms. Even though the fleet commander, the scouts and the tacklers did most of the work, there was still the thrill when we committed to a fight, even if most of them were utterly unfair. But then again, when the fights were fair, we knew that someone (usually us) had made a big mistake.

There were a couple of different fleet commanders overseeing the event, and the best of them really sound like air traffic controllers. And that relaxed attitude is infectious; The calmer the fleet commander was, the more courteous other people in the fleet were, pre-emptively shutting up whenever they anticipated the commander had something important to say.

And there really was no reason why people wouldn't have been relaxed. From an individual member's perspective, there were no downsides aside from the time spent. Ships were handed out freely in packs of five, all ready to go at a moment's notice. Without clone grades, even if you did get podded afterwards you lost nothing. And there was an additional participation bonus; These free ships were reimbursable.

For each lost Catalyst, the corporation paid twenty million as a reward for participating in the event. I had made an impulse purchase of an Intaki skin for the Catalyst for 75 million early on, but I still ended up with around 700 million ISK from the rest of the reimbursements. But on the other hand, trading back home was definitely slower than usual.

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Mika Hirvonen

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This man is insane, and I look forward to his next game.

Yoko Taro is the main creative force behind the Drakengard (Drag-on-Dragoon in Japan) series, and he just announced that he's partnering with Platinum Games to make Nier 2.

Drakengard games have always been.. odd. Just the main premise of the original game is very interesting: It imagines what kind of a man the protagonist would have to be to rack up the kind of a body count that protagonists usually do. And what would need to be at stake to still consider this person a hero. But the weak point of his games has always been gameplay. Slaughtering tons of expendable mooks just gets old, and his previous game, Drakengard 3, even gets self-referential about it. But with Platinum Games, I can expect Nier 2 to be favorably comparable to Metal Gear Rising: Revengance.

Oh, and why am I talking about Nier and Drakengard? Because Nier is a spinoff of the infamous final ending of Drakengard 1. To understand just what kind of a plot Yoko Taro would have in mind, let's take closer look at Drakengard.

In Drakengard, you play as Caim, a soldier of the Union fighting a desperate war against the Empire and the Cult of the Watchers. Despite his martial prowess, he gets mortally wounded and finds a captured dragon called Angelus. In exchange for setting the dragon free, Angelus saves his life by forming a Pact, linking their life forces together. As long as she lives, so does he. Caim accepts, even if the pact costs him his voice.

Together with Angelus and other colorful characters that they meet on the way, Caim tears through the Empire forces on a death march towards their capital. But as the symphonic orchestra with an insane conductor blares in the background, it becomes apparent that the Cult of the Watchers is a very proactive apocalyptic cult. And the madness only gets worse on subsequent playthroughs. Each time the game ends on a more apocalyptic note. And by the time the player gets to the ending E (unlocked by 100% completion with lots of grindy sidequests), it is not only Caim's world that's doomed but also ours.

And that's where Nier starts. After a short prologue right after the apocalypse, the game skips 1000 years to a time where the remnants of humanity live in the ruins of the past. Here we meet a reincarnation of the protagonist Nier and his sick daughter/sister (depending on localization) Yonah. Saving her is impossible, but he tries nevertheless. And by now you can probably guess where this particular road paved with good intentions ends. And let's just say that Yoko Taro outdid himself when it came to making the player suffer to get the final ending of Nier.

Oh, and that costume? That's Emil, the kindest character in the entire series.
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Flying into a thoroughly bubbled gate always feels tense, even if your cargo hold is empty.
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Mika Hirvonen

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This morning there was an another fleet advertisement for a Titan kill. It was clear that the fleet commanders were in a hurry, because the only instructions we got were to get to a specific system. The trip went fine, but the system itself was in chaos. I tried multiple times to warp to the main fleet, but by the time I got there they had already moved to evade an enemy fleet. Eventually they caught up with me and popped my Jaguar.

After I had fetched a spare ship and got back to our staging system, I finally had a chance to take a look at my finances. I had around 600 million in cash, with around 4.9 billion in various market orders. A Nomad costs around 6.5 billion, so, it would take an another month or two to buy one. But like in Elite, a hauling ship is useless unless you have enough money to buy something to haul. And the alliance's logistics are probably faster, safer and cheaper than myself, so there's really no need to buy a bigger hauling ship for myself. And I'm probably not even close to hitting diminishing returns in my importing business, so I guess I'll just keep going.

So I bought two Bursts to replace the ones that I had lost yesterday and got two Caldari Harpies this time. They're the main damagedealers in our most common frigate fleets, so I'll certainly find some use for them. The Bursts cost around 5.6 million each, and the Harpies cost 36 million each. That left me around 500 million for trade goods, which I purchased immediately to include them in the shipment.

I guess I could buy a T3 Tengu cruiser at some point; They're our main ships of the line nowadays, but that would require switching my skill training; I'm currently training for Logistics IV and V to be able to fly Scimitars and Guardians, which are the top-of-the-line shield and armor logistics cruisers, respectively. But the Logistics skill is one of the few skills in Eve that don't work on diminishing returns; If you want to fly a T2 logistics cruiser, you practically need Logistics V to achieve any kind of capacitor stability. And the Guardian can't even do it alone, it needs fellow Guardians (or the Gallente Oneiros) to form a capacitor transfer chain. And finishing Logistics V will take about a month to complete.

So in the meantime, I guess I could try to fly electronic attack frigates like the Keres, the Hyena or it's little brother, the Vigil. And then work my way up to the recon cruisers like the Huginn and the Lachesis.

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The third fleet of the day brought us back to Fountain, where an earlier fleet of ours consisting of Harpies and Bursts met a glorious and utterly pointless end. I avoided getting podded that time and flew back just in time to join that tower defense fleet. This time we had upped the ante a bit and brought a bunch of cruisers: Caldari Caracals for damage and Minmatar Scythes for logistics.

The Caracal had a model revamp recently, and it does look quite nice. It still has the original lanky silhouette, but now the surface is covered by armor plates at different angles. CCP also added a new warp-in animation where the downward-pointing wings straighten out when entering warp.

The locals were definitely caught off-guard, because one of our interdictor pilots caught several of them in a bubble at one of their stations. After lounging around a bit and shooting anyone who dared to undock, our fleet commander told a few people to dock up to this Angel Cartel pirate station and buy Entosis Links. These are meant to be used in the future for all kinds of high-stakes warfare: Capturing systems and stations and so on. Currently, they can be used to disable station services. We couldn't use them on an NPC station, so we headed back to one of the player-owned stations in a neighboring system. For example, disabling the fitting service means that the inhabitants cannot add or remove equipment from their ships, and disabling the cloning bay means that they cannot be reborn in that station if they die.

While the Entosis folks were doing their thing, we kept watch at the station. The locals must have known that we were around, because we've been in their space for more than an hour by now. But despite our provocation, they did not engage us and we killed time by popping random ships still trying to undock.

At some point, one of the veteran players with the expensive Entosis Link said that they needed to log off early, but didn't want to leave their ship here to be destroyed. So he ejected from his ship and gave it to a newbie, letting him fly it home with us while he took the "pod express".
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Mika Hirvonen

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I don't know exactly how long I've had Star Citizen alpha access, but there doesn't seem to be all that much in there yet; Just training missions and dueling against other players.

It is of course pretty, but the flight model somehow seems off when compared to Elite. At least the tutorial craft seems to turn on a dime even if I didn't want it to, which lead to a lot of scrapes during undocking. And despite what the tutorial instructor said, I'm pretty sure that all safeties are disabled and you can easily black out by just pivoting to face an enemy that just zoomed past you. Likewise, the instructor mentioned two leading target indicators, but I'm pretty sure I only saw one.
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I really like the flight mechanics of Elite: Dangerous and every time I've considered Star Citizen and watched a few videos, I always pick up on the comments about the flight model being awkward.

I'm also totally baffled with the lack of progress they've made considering the huge pile of cash they now have.
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It isn't Wipeout, but it's pretty close.
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I can't think of any game where the cost difference between low-end and high-end equipment is as large as in Eve Online. And that can lead to events such as Burn Amarr, where about a hundred tiny ships can do a suicide run on a bigger one and inflict more damage in terms of cost.  Or even turn the whole venture into a profitable one if the bigger ship had something nice in it.

I've observed these as a bystander before, but I've never participated in one until now. From the inside, it looks like a factory assembly line. Countless ships (that were prepared in advance) get handed out while scouts look for viable targets and tacklers get into position to intercept them. And as soon as the fleet is ready and has a target waiting, it heads out and destroys the target. CONCORD warps in and destroys the fleet, and the pods head to the nearest station to wait for the criminal cooldown to end. Meanwhile, haulers salvage the wreck and scoop any loot still intact in it. When the criminal cooldown expires, the entire thing repeats.

One detail that keeps the assembly line going is the removal of clone grades. Because none of the suiciding pilots have implants installed, the cost for dying is literally zero and the pilots can suicide to get back to the staging area.
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Kaksi suurta salia on varattu efektipläjäyksille ja muille suuren budjetin leffoille, ja neljässä pienemmässä salissa pyöritetään tarpeeksi pienemmänkin profiilin elokuvia.
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