31 March 2014

Geo Fleets Up

The best part of writing about Geo on Saturday was I got it into my head that I should make an effort to get into a Brave Newbies Fleet. Around 21:00 a ping went out on jabber that a massive fight was going on in Sendaya. This was just the thing I needed so I logged into comms and jumped into EVE. Suddenly everything went slow as the time dilation dial read 11% TiDi. Oh my, over 1000 in local? Crikey! I jumped Geo into a cheap Atron and got into fleet.

From comms I could hear it was a tricky undock with snipers picking off people as they left station. Wanting to get in on the action quickly I thought "what the hell, it's only a million ISK" and hit undock. With the 11% TiDi effect it took forever to actually be spat out into space but once there I immediately warped to an insta undock bookmark. Warping takes forever in major TiDi and it gave me plenty of time to imagine fleets of snipers sitting waiting for me at the bookmark. Landing there none of my fears were founded and I realigned to the staging POS and warped off.

There was now a bit of waiting around while the FC got himself and everyone else organised. Everyone was told to be in Frigates or they'd be kicked from the fleet. This was to make sure we got the full 6 AU/s warp speed. Eventually we started out and I took a fleet warp to somewhere. It didn't matter where I was going, I just needed to be ready to start targeting, tackling and shooting flashy ships. I landed on grid and tackled the thing closest to me, someone else called point on comms so I switched to another ship which someone else also called. This grew old quickly so I concentrated on locking up primary, secondary and tertiary targets. The flood of broadcasts made this both easy and yet confusing. Easy because the names were in the fleet broadcast window, but confusing because sometimes I'd be trying to lock a new target and it wouldn't work. I quickly worked out that this was because the broadcasts were scrolling so fast I was clicking someone I already had locked. Okay, just need to pay more attention to that window then. More warping around the system, each time trying to lock the ships nearest to me. Quite often the target fleet would already be in warp as we landed so locking them was impossible. Our FC sounded a bit overwhelmed at times but did a decent job keeping it (and us) together as we bounced around trying to land on a fleet and pin them down before they fled us.

Eventually we regrouped at the POS. With the numbers we were facing the FC announced that people should ship up into cruisers if they had them.  I stuck with the Atron because I was still finding my feet and didn't want to waste any more ISK than I had to. There was a long flurry of messages and comms chatter on what ships people should take. Eventually everyone seemed to get themselves organised and we all formed up again on the FC.

Throughout the rest of the evening I maintained the same level of confusion as to where I was in space. Each time the FC warped us I kept the same routine of locking up what was nearest and shooting the primary. With the larger ships around now it was often hard to finish locking the enemy before it popped but I kept trying. All through the evening TiDi stayed in the 10% to 40% range. At one point someone uttered the classic line "local is down to 750" which raised a few laughs. The only time I've seen local like that is in Jita. Towards the end of the evening the RvB Ganked roam swung around to come fight us. I've been in a few RvB Ganked roams but never faced up against them. In my head I imagined I could hear Mangala Solaris calmly calling primaries and hoped my name didn't come up. To be fair, in an Atron it would be unlikely. After a short scuffle the Ganked roam fled the field leaving us victorious (or so I was told - I hadn't a clue what was going on).

With midnight coming up I needed to head off to bed but checking my personal killboard I was happy to see I had been blessed with 22 kills worth 2.5 billion ISK.  Somewhat amusingly, during the evening I dropped 0.3 in my sec status, which is more than I did during my failed attempt at being a pirate. This is definitely more what I had in mind for Geo, it's just a shame it took me so long to get to the right place with him.

29 March 2014

Geo Update

It has been several months since I last wrote about my pure PvP character, Geo. Back then I had just joined Rixx Javix' new corp Stay Frosty and was looking forward to being a part-time pirate. My biggest contribution to the corp was 150 Million ISK I donated to the corp wallet; nothing offered up by way of kills. Sadly I never really got into gear with Stay Frosty. Finding time to log on Geo, in addition to doing all the CEO stuff for my corp and the bits and pieces I need to do for the alliance just wasn't possible. I was logged on a couple of times with the guys and they all seemed a decent bunch. Sadly I never managed to fleet up with them and the times I was on there was nothing much going on but to solo hunt.

Solo play is something I'm not a massive fan of. When there is nobody else to hunt or run sites with is when I normally take care of buyback schemes and other dull administrivia in Z3R0. Scanning is also a valid preparatory solo activity too and benefits my whole corp. Solo hunting with Geo just didn't appeal massively to me, mainly because I don't have the knowledge of PvP to have a good idea of what I'm doing. This is entirely my failings and does not reflect on Stay Frosty. If you're looking for a good corp to join and have the time and motivation to do the solo hunting as well as occasionally fleet up I whole heartedly recommend Stay Frosty. One day I may go back when I have more time and/or more clue on what I'm doing in solo combat.

So where is Geo now? Well the above reasons for why I left Stay Frosty pointed me firmly in the direction of a much larger corp with a stream of fleet activities. I don't have a massive attraction to nullsec so looking there didn't even cross my mind. One large, noob-friendly group that has been attracting a lot of attention recently is Brave Newbies. From their initial creation they have made a meteoric rise in numbers to well over 6000 pilots today. Of course, the same demands on my time exist today as did during my time in Stay Frosty. Hopefully there will be more fleets for me to be anonymous in, do as I'm told, and whelp cheap ships hysterically.

23 March 2014

Hole Closing: The Long Way

It was EU op night and I was barely running on time. I'd just convinced my kids to go to sleep when jabber started pinging me about getting my arse online. We had a class 5 connection in addition to our class 3 static. Neither were interesting so needed rolled before we could get on with making ISK. Finally getting Teamspeak fired up and both clients logged in I was ready to roll, literally.

For once we had multiple Orca pilots so we could make short work of collapsing these unwanted connections. In an effort to spice things up a little (hole rolling is boring) I decided we would collapse both at the same time. Orca jumps in and out of the C5, warps to the C3 and jumps in and out of that before POSing up to wait out the polarisation timer. Things were going great and the C5 hole went critical exactly when I expected. I jumped Oreamnos back home in his Loki and then issued the command for the Orca to follow. Sadly this was not to be and I received an error that the wormhole no longer existed. "Ah crap guys, I rolled myself out" I announced on comms.

This C5 had a static C4. We were their old static so finding the new one is trivial. Well, would be if I could remember what I needed to offline to bring my probe launcher online. Ah, I remember now. I offline the EM resist and online the probe launcher only to find for some reason I had combat scanner probes. Just what I need - I'm in an unbonused ship with my weaker scanning character using combat probes to find wormhole sigs. On the plus side nobody expects the combat scanning Orca.

Scanning down the new C4 static I warped immediately to 0 and jumped through. Bob smiles on me as this C4 has a static C3. K-space was close. I had six sigs to go through and found only one additional wormhole to the C5 I just left. That must be the static C3 so again I warped to 0. Bob is less happy this time and dropped me out of warp at 8km. Slow Orca is slow and I crawled to the wormhole before jumping through and finding myself 900 metres from the exit hole, thus preventing me cloaking. Jeez, this is just unfair. I warped off, made a safe, launched probes and warped back to the safe. I'm in a C3 with a lowsec static. Ten sigs made scanning a bit tougher but I find six wormholes total. Here's hoping one is hisec.

Escape route and return path
Warping to each at range I find C3, C3, Lowsec. Then I see probes on d-scan. Only cores so they won't find my Orca, but what are the chances they'll warp to the next wormhole and catch me there? Probably slim but the thought was in my mind as I warped to the next signature. I landed 100 km away just to be safe and found a highsec exit. Bingo! I bounced back to my safe then on to the exit at 0. This time I landed close enough to jump out without any messing around and I found myself in Brapelille, 17 jumps from the k-space entrance to our static.

I had 17 jumps to cover in an Orca. As a nice bonus the home connection had been taken to mass critical. Oh yeah, did I mention the wardec we're currently under? So, 17 jumps is a walk in the park right? I feel more nervous than I did while scanning my route out of W-space. Death in w-space comes much like the dentist's needle - you know little about it until it stabs you in the face. In K-space the existence of local makes the inevitable happen in slow motion as death first appears as a little red flag in local long before becoming a little red flag in the overview. I jumped system after system, carefully scanned local for war targets on each jump with the hope that I can dock up before they found me. Each jump took me closer to home yet the nervousness increased as the jump count decreased.
Enjoy the ride; take the long way home
- "I'm three jumps out guys"
- "Quick, close the static", some wit quips.
- "Two jumps"
- "Close the hole"
- "It wasn't funny first time, Sajo", I retort.

I jumped into Engosi, and warped to the wormhole entrance of our static. We'd reduced our static so much that we couldn't even risk a scout jumping in to guide me to safety. It would be hysterical if I lost my Orca now given what the evening had thrown at me. I jumped into the 'safety' of "Unknown Space". Checking d-scan I see nothing, which made me feel safe. Engaging warp to the entrance to my home system I warned the guys on comms I was on the final hop home. Sighs of relief were emitted by my as I jumped home with my prop mod active to make sure I closed the hole behind me. "So, about these sites. Shall we run them?".

16 March 2014


I normally check the alliance killboard in the morning when I'm having breakfast. Today I was up earlier than normal for the Australian F1 race so my brain was more sleep-addled than normal. When I checked the killboard I was convinced that we had lost some capitals overnight. It took a little while for my brain to realise the capitals were on a green background.

3 Caps + 1 T3 + 1 Pod = 22 Bn ISK
The Moros was worth 6.7 Bil, the Naglfar was worth 6.8 Bil and the Thanatos was 7.2 Bil. The pod was pretty tasty too. I missed getting in on this action by an hour. Admittedly if I hadn't been getting up stupidly early to watch motorsport it would have been more like four hours, but still. Nice kills boys, I'm proud of you.

Update: An after action report has been written by someone actually there. It makes for a good read.

15 March 2014

Best Laid Plans

It's Friday and I have plans for EVE. I'm going to log in with Geo, see if I can get into some fleets and shoot people or die trying. As Rabbie Burns once wrote "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men / Gang aft agley". Before the working day is over I am getting pinged about issues with the alliance authentication server. A quick check reveals it isn't just one person with an expired API; the whole alliance is no longer matching the test to allow them to read the forums. The knock-on effect of this is nobody can log into Jabber, Teampeak or submit wormhole loot or PI to my corp's buyout scheme. Oh hell, what have CCP changed now?

A long time ago I wrote about setting up the alliance forums so it is no secret that I use Simple Machines Forum (SMF) with Temar's EVE API (TEA) for access control. It has been some time since TEA was actively developed so these problems crop up from time to time. The last time was when CCP forced SSL access to api.eveonline.com and I had to dig around in the code to find where that needed fixed. After a little bit of exploration in the code I realised it wasn't going to be as easy as grep'ing for 'http://api.eve-online.com/' and replacing it with the correct domain. On top of that real work was running well into my evening and I was trying to do a bit of both. Oh, and I had promised to watch a film with my wife. Oh, and call a friend I'd not spoken to for a while. Suddenly my Friday was probably going to feature a lot less pewpew with Geo.

Once all my committments were cleared it was 22:30 and various workarounds had been put in place to allow people to use TeamSpeak and the buyback site with little inconvenience. Now I needed to dig into the cause of my spoiled Friday plans. There is no exciting way to describe debugging code. It's a case of following the flow and getting the code to spit out interesting information in various places. Once you work out something that doesn't look right you dig deeper into where that came from. After a little while I worked out that the thing which is only meant to contain the ID CCP gives to corporations actually contains additional information. I suspect this has just been added or rearranged by CCP recently. If TEA used a proper XML parser to read attributes there would be no problem here. It doesn't and instead relies on the order and number of things appearing in the API output.

<row name="Oreamnos Amric" characterID="1047741762" corporationName="Z3R0 Return Mining Inc." corporationID="226346106" />
or something similar to it became
<row name="Oreamnos Amric" characterID="1047741762" corporationName="Z3R0 Return Mining Inc." corporationID="226346106" allianceID="99002348" allianceName="Illusion of Solitude" factionID="0" factionName="" /> 
TEA was matching the finishing "/>" in the first example to find the corporationID value. So when it used the same logic on the second string the value found for the corporationID also included the allianceID, allianceName, factionID and factionName. The upshot of this is the new string didn't match any corporation in my alliance therefore every member was considered not in my alliance any more.

The workaround to this was rather trivial. I just updated the code to look for "allianceID" instead of "/>" to find where the corporationID was set.
$char = explode('" />', $char[1], 2);
was changed to
 $char = explode('" allianceID="', $char[1], 2);
but this is only a workaround. The proper fix would be to rewrite the code to actually process the XML as XML. Doing that means CCP can modify the output of the API to add and remove things without breaking TEA. As long as the attributes TEA requires are present the code would still work.

Something good did come of all this mess. While trawling the forums to see if anyone else was having problems with the API I discovered the task of updating the TEA code has been taken on by someone new. In this forum post I found links to a github repository so now I need to look at that and see what changes have been made and if upgrading will make my API checking more robust.

9 March 2014

Just a Little Patience

I get home from work on Friday evening to a message on the alliance jabber server from one of my guys. Seems the people living in our static are moving out and, being the good neighbours we are, we decide to help them. Our current scout needs to take a break so I log in with Orea and park myself on the perch we made near their POS. I realise they still have a decent number of modules to offline and unanchor. This could be a long wait.

During the course of the evening I watch a rather disorganised POS pulldown. One of my corpmates comments that we should jetcan a prop-mod for their Iteron V just to speed things up. Eventually our targets realise warping off and back to the next thing they want to unanchor and scoop is faster than slowboating around. By now I'm required elsewhere to watch a film with my wife. Others are watching the POS efforts unfold and I'm floating back and forward between the film and fleet chat to see what's happening. Just as my film ends the locals offline their POS and almost immediately start onlining it again. WTF?! Oh, they left a PHA anchored and need the POS online to unanchor that before they can unanchor the POS properly. Also, we now have a Proteus guarding their hisec connection. Guess what guys, we're already in here plotting to kill you!

Cue even more waiting, watching, and discussing how terrible they are at pulling down their POS. We watch one guy log off followed by a new contact appearing on d-scan in a noobship. Okay, that'll be his alt leaving the hole. Noobship jumps out, new contact logs off, old contact logs back on. Guess we were correct. Now they have one guy leave in a pod and return in a pod 10 minutes later. What was he doing? Why did he leave and return in a pod? Why is he sitting next to that Tayra? Oh, I know, he needs the skill to fly it and in 22 minutes he'll jump into it. Turns out we were spot on with that prediction and he warps out with the now unanchored PHA.

Our initial plan was to hang around until they unanchored the POS then blow up what we could before stealing the POS when it unanchored. Due to the Laurel and Hardy show they exposed us to we modify that slightly. New plan is to warp down as soon as they down the bubble. Hopefully they start unanchoring the POS before they see us, if not tough. We've waited too long and can't be sure they won't online the POS again or do any manner of unpredictable crazy.

By now we've been watching these guys for six hours. We just want to shoot something - anything. A corpmate who has a habit of wandering through traps logs on and receives that as a warning. I have eyes on the tower. Another corpmate is watching the hisec. A third is ready to go from our home system in a Phobos. After the longest time they offline the POS and I shout "go go go". I warp down and land on what is now only a Mammoth and a Buzzard. I kill the Mammoth and the pod flees. Someone calls that the Proteus jumped into hisec. Is he running away? Damnit! I get the Buzzard into structure then stop firing so someone else can get on the killmail. That explodes and I get the pod.

Sadly, the POS isn't unanchoring. Like everything else these guys did tonight they even took too long to click the appropriate buttons. We're considering what to do when our Phobos pilot mentions he has the Proteus in a bubble but is taking damage. Wait, didn't the Proteus jump out? Turned out he jumped out and back in to crit the mass on the hisec hole. Presumably this was part of their unanchoring strategy? Whatever reason he did it for he was now polarised and we warped off in his direction to end another ship. Expecting a fight I also had my industry character jump into a Brutix for some extra dps. As expected, the Proteus' shields melted as I had my indy character warping to our static hole. The armour started to vanish surprisingly fast as I entered warp to join the fight with the second character. I noted the Proteus set his drones on Orea's Loki but this didn't worry me much as his armour was almost gone now. Really? So fast? Just as my second character landed the Proteus exploded. I started shooting the pod but he got to the hole and jumped out with structure damage.

We looted, salvaged and shot the wrecks plus took the corpse back to our 'meat locker' container. During this we noticed they had a character we didn't know about re-online the POS. This meant taking the fuel which dropped in the Mammoth was really important for us just to annoy them. By now it was really late and two of us had to leave. My parting shot to our Phobos pilot was to have more fun with these guys when they went for more POS fuel. It seems he took that to heart and got five more kills. Including two in hisec which required sacrificing a smart-bombing Naga to the powers of Concord.