Learning to not care

So I’ve been really busy trying to knock out my thesis proposal. For some strange reason, I used to be a pretty good writer up to when I started work. I never had any problems writing essays in school, although I do write pretty slowly so sometimes I didn’t finish all the questions in stuff like geography exams where you’re supposed to absolutely regurgitate PARAGRAPHS of stuff. But somehow in my first job, I started developing hangups when writing papers. I worried about whether I was doing it the “right way”, whether I had the proper subsections, or formatting. I worried about whether my boss would like the way I was phrasing things. I worried about whether I needed more supporting data.

In hindsight this may have contributed quite a bit to why I did not particularly like my job. It paid decently and I think I had a decent reputation amongst management (having received a scholarship from the company obviously helps). But I just hated writing papers. I always felt unhappy for perceived criticisms from my bosses about my papers, sometimes over obviously niggling details. Amongst us we used to joke that this was just the way all bosses were, they had to “value-add” otherwise their job would be redundant if all they said was “OK looks good”. But even though I knew this I think I still felt a little bit unhappy, particularly if I actually respected the management.

So fast forward to the past few weeks (months?) where I’ve been trying to knock out this proposal. It sounded so simple and yet it was taking me so long to do it. I worried about whether I had enough references. I worried about whether I was making statements that were just plain false and I was too ignorant to know it. I worried about the formatting and structure of a proposal. I worried about my datasets and what kind of tests I needed to do. Writing this proposal has been horrendously painful, and for no real reason. It got to the point where there were actually things I wanted to blog about, but the mere thought of writing would put me off. Kinda ironic considering I retook up blogging to help me in my thesis writing. I worried about making my posts interesting, finding pictures etc.

Then after a conversation with my wife one night, she decided to help my son make me a sign that now sits right on my desk. It’s written on plain white paper, with lots of random stickers on it (there’s a pickup truck, a red sports car, baby Lion King and… a butterfly). And it says “Write for Yourself”. Of course underneath it is a scraggly letter “S” written in yellow crayon by my son, with explanatory note that “S is for stencil”.

So now I try to remind myself not to care about what others are going to think of my paper, and just write what I want. If I need more data, I’ll go get some. If my advisor thinks I need more references, I’ll put more in. If it’s just plain bad then I’ll work on it some more. I don’t have to get it done right the first time and it’s ok to get criticised.

As a corollary, I’ve actually resumed playing a bit of World of Tanks. WoT and EVE have this love-hate tango going on where basically I seem to play one or the other, but never both at the same time. I guess they satisfy similar yet subtly different itches. They both have that collector aspect of driving/flying different tanks/ships, and making ISK in EVE is as rewarding as getting credits in WoT. However, WoT satisfies a bit more of a PVP itch and in fact I wish EVE had 15 v 15 battles rather than random ganks where one side is normally hugely outnumbered. Of course ganks are actually much more realistic but… When I get tired of mindless PVP, EVE starts looking attractive because of the complexity of the universe and the multitude of options, rather than just fighting in the same maps over and over.

So I actually quit about a year ago, and a large portion of that was that I felt that I was performing poorly in the game. There is a mod called XVM that measures players according to various metrics, such as win/loss ratio and other arcane formulae such as efficiency and WIN8 (some kind of weighted index of damage dealt, spotting, etc etc basically being useful). According to those metrics, I was a fair to good player at about 54% win rate. I had tanks of all tiers but at that point I was playing the E-75 German Tier 9 heavy tank and the Object 704 Russian Tier 9 tank destroyer, both of which were supposed to be pretty good tanks.

And I was (am?) horrible at them. Even now my E-75 has a 46% win rate, I think the Obj 704 is 47%. I actually performed decently well with their tier 8 predecessors (50% in the Tiger II, 52% in the ISU-152 respectively) so I was getting so frustrated that I was sucking at their supposedly better versions. I guess I found out that tier 9 is markedly more difficult as tanks start getting a lot more armor and their guns start doing ridiculous damage, so any mistake (like showing your ass to them…) gets punished extremely severely. My stats started taking a nosedive and I started getting frustrated playing instead of enjoying the matches.

In retrospect, a very large problem was also that I was trying to get better, funny as that sounds. I had read a lot of guides by very good players on strategic moves to pull, like trying to move into a position near the middle of the map early on. This gives you the highest chance to do the most damage to the enemy team and also gives the flexibility to react to any other flank falling. However, in practice this meant that I would often come up against the great players on the enemy team early on, or I would simply lack the skill and knowledge to survive in those areas resulting in a derp moment and our team would be down a decent player (i.e. me). I knew I played better in slow, heavy armored tanks with big guns at long range because I liked sniping and I didn’t react fast enough to changing tactical situations. Yet I felt obligated to put myself on the front lines with the E-75 because it’s strong point is great frontal armor and it’s good at brawling, and with the Obj 704 I kept pushing aggressively because it’s strong point is that it mounts a FREAKING HUGE GUN and hiding at the back may not give me any targets until my team is dead at which point my FHG is moot.

So now, upon picking up the game again, I told myself to ignore those stats and accept that I am at best a slightly above average player. I’m not going to be great, so just play the way I want to and if I lose so be it. Hang back, let the truly awful 43% win rate players rush in and die and reveal the enemy (hopefully doing at least 1 shot worth of damage) and use my knowledge of the game to do what I can. And it’s working. I’m not winning drastically more, but there has been an improvement and most importantly I’m enjoying the matches. I don’t have that impotent feeling that I can’t control the match, because I’ve accepted that at this tier I’m not going to dominate anyway and I’m just going to try to hold my own and rely on my team (which is a dicey proposition considering that the average skill level of WoT players has gone waaaaaay down).

Now to translate this to my pickup basketball games…

Shopping for toys

No, not an EVE post so no new shinies.

My wife and I have recently been looking at Transformers toys for our 4 year old son. I used to be a big Transformers fan when I was a kid (ok fine so was every other male kid in my generation) so yeah my wife blames me for getting him all nerdified even at 4 by showing him the animated 1986 movie, which he has watched like probably 200 times. All the kids in his school probably don’t understand him because he keeps going on about fighting Decepticons all the time.

Originally we weren’t really planning on getting him these kinds of toys, at least not at this age. But during our Christmas trip to my sister’s place her neighbor gave him a Transformers Prime Wheeljack toy, and he was super delighted. Kept playing with it for the entire trip, even though he can’t really transform it by himself (does a credible job but honestly these things are like Rubix cubes…)

Wheeljack

What really cinched the deal though was that his grandparents promised to buy him a toy when we go back to visit them in Singapore, and his eyes lit up and he immediately declared that he wants OPTIMUS PRIME! and now every time he talks to them he gets reminded about it and he starts muttering about how he can’t wait to get OPTIMUS PRIME!. So we had to start looking for a nice figure that would look recognizable to him, given that he basically only knows the G1 Transformers instead of the newfangled movies or cartoons.

Looking through modern Transformers toys, it’s really amazing the kind of work these toy designers have done. I remember my old Transformers as these mostly blocky things that tended to look pretty good as vehicles but you had to kinda stretch your imagination for some of those robot modes. The stuff nowadays… by golly the arms flip out and rotate and this hinge opens and this part slides out and tabs in here and you rotate the body with these two hinges and they tab together … these things make a motherboard look simple. I’m guessing that the target audience has shifted from little kids into essentially big kids like me who grew up with Transformers. Probably works too because man I think these new toys are cool, maybe that’s why I kinda want to buy them for him (so I can play with them myself).

So anyway we’ve kinda decided on this Voyager Optimus Prime, mainly because his truck mode looks kinda like the G1 truck mode (kinda) and also because it’s not ridiculously expensive like most of the other Optimus Prime figures. Seriously triple digit prices are insane for a toy figure. The other figure is the triple changer Generations Springer, mainly because Springer was in the movie and it does look a lot like the G1 model, at least in robot mode. Plus, triple changer, value for money!

Voyager PrimeGenerations Springer

Still sorta undecided on the last figure to get (need to get a $50 order for free shipping). We were originally debating between Grimlock or Blitzwing, but now we’re leaning towards getting this Mini-Con assault team set of 3 mini Transformers that combine into a bigger robot. I’ve never heard of them before, so obviously neither has our kid, but the combining thing looks fun and the transformations are relatively simple enough for him to manage on his own. So hopefully that will avoid a reprisal of the 1)”papa can you transform Wheeljack into a car” 2) five minutes later : “papa can you transform Wheeljack into a robot”

Mini-con assault team

March already… and war returns

Wow it feels like February has just completely flown by. I was originally working towards getting my PhD proposal out by the end of February but unfortunately it has not happened. It’s been a real slog writing up my proposal, and sometimes I spend hours at my desk and end up with just half a page of stuff. My difficulties in writing my proposal have also translated into a reluctance to write anything on this blog as well.

Not that anything happened to write about… but still…

At the end of February, my trading earned me 2.8 billion ISK, which was a touch down from what I originally estimated. But also not surprising given that I didn’t even update my orders every day. I had been speculating on a few Stratios hulls a while back and it looks like I’m going to make a slight loss on them now that the price seems to be very reliably trending around the 300 million ISK mark. I knew that the ridiculous prices were not going to last (in fact it’s still ridiculous, just slightly less so) so it was a bit of a gamble but oh well. I’m probably going to lose about a 100 million total, or I could just keep the hulls for personal use since I really like the combination of firepower and covert ops cloak.

Since I wasn’t really doing anything in the wormhole, I took advantage of a high-sec static that dumped me out 5 jumps from Amarr to move both Drakes back into known space. For a while now I’m been pondering what to train, and I thought that I might need to pick up some skillbooks in the near future. Right now, for lack of better options Noork is finally training Large Hybrid Turrets 5 to complete his T2 gunnery skills. Even though I generally dislike both blasters and railguns, I guess I might actually want to fly a Kronos at some time just to round out my Marauder collection. Another alternative would be to train every sub-cap racial hull to 5, but I just don’t see the use of a lot of them. I have Caldari and Gallente Cruiser to 5, and Minmatar frigates to 5. How useful are the Amarr and Minmatar T3s and T2s in PVE? I could also actually train for my Archon that’s still packaged in low-sec…

Unfortunately, it also looks like I won’t be doing that much in EVE for a couple of weeks more because the corp is now under 2 new war-decs. Sigh, such is life in a biggish corp I guess. At least I finally passed the 80 billion “milestone” (all cash and assets combined) which I’ve been hovering near for a while. Until I need to buy 2 more PLEX, that is.

Lack of urgency

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Marvel Puzzle Quest lately. And yesterday I even updated Guild Wars 2 due to the new Living World story of Lion’s Arch getting destroyed. Didn’t actually get around to logging in, since I went to play basketball until 11 pm which was a bit later than I had planned.

It struck me then that a very large reason of why I haven’t really been doing anything in EVE lately is because there is very rarely anything urgent going on in EVE. EVE is a sandbox where there is a ton of stuff you could do. The problem is that you can always do it. There’s no reason to do something RIGHT NOW compared to, well, maybe I could do it next week. Or the week after. Or next month.

Marvel Puzzle Quest has timed tournaments, so if I don’t do them I miss out of some easy rewards. Sometimes it can feel like a little bit of a grind, where even if I don’t particularly want to play MPQ versus, say, Assassin’s Creed IV, I still feel obligated to put in the time because I don’t want to kick myself later for not spending a couple of hours.

Guild Wars 2 on the other hand has it’s Living Story updates (which have been getting a fair amount of criticism lately). For the past few months, every 2 weeks there has been a minor content release with new events that gradually tell the story of some crazy person with some grand plan (since revealed to be the attack on the main hub of Lion’s Arch). I can’t even imagine the developer resources that go into this, quite amazing that ArenaNet managed to pull this off so well. Personally I was a bit meh with some of the chapters, but I did also have quite a bit of fun doing the meta achievements and getting the corresponding rewards for quite a few of them. This latest (maybe final?) chapter has gotten me a little bit excited about logging on and seeing what’s up. The previous chapter wasn’t so great as there was a big boss event that depended heavily on the ability of groups of 5 random people to be defeat a sub-boss multiple times. Yeah, no thanks, since the average random person has the intelligence of a rock while still being too stubborn to actually go and read up on what’s going on or even read chat when instructions are given.

But anyway, the point is that EVE in comparison is always there. There’s nothing to really motivate me to log in on any particular day. My skill points chug along all the time. My main income is (mostly) passive with just some orders to be updated once a day. I suspect that for a lot of older players ISK very quickly becomes just a way of keeping score rather than anything of import. I mean, I’ve really dropped down my market activity in January and as of right now I’ve made 2.3 billion ISK (pre-PLEX, so take off 1.2 billion and I still have a 1.1 billion profit 2/3 of the way through the month). If I want to mission, do incursions, industry, wormhole, explore etc… those can always be done at any time.

EVE has pretty regular expansions, but most of them don’t really change anything about the universe. Maybe you fly a different ship because your old one was nerfed, or you mission somewhere else because SISTERS OF EVE LP OMG. But for the most part the universe just ticks along quietly, same old same old. Does it really matter which alliance controls what space in null? It doesn’t to me, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter to a large proportion of pilots even in the alliances in question. It just churns around and around.

So, what would I like to see? I guess one of the biggest things I’d like to see is more events. Even failed ones like the pre-Rubicon Ghost Site Massacre are better than none. I have very pleasant recollections of the Sansha attacks that heralded the introduction of incursions. I don’t think I actually even went to one of those attacks, but I still remember the event. I don’t know how much developer resources it takes to plan one of these, but honestly I would prefer multiple, smaller scale stuff rather than something earth-shattering that would probably just garner 10 complaint threads on the forums from whiners. And I’d go for these events even if there weren’t really any rewards, maybe just some bounties on destroyed ships or something, I’m not talking about event ships dropping PLEX or anything like that. One idea that popped out of my head would be something like a Caldari-Gallente skirmish, where you could join in fighting over a border system. Depending on what happens, maybe the system sovereignty changes to the opposite faction. Yeah, sounds like Faction Warfare, but that again is just a churn of people farming LP and it’s just a designated FW system. It would be much more meaningful if a “real” high-sec system actually changed hands. Probably a bad idea but just something in that vein would give players something to log in for.

I was also thinking a bit about having official monthly tournaments, like maybe 1v1 or 2v2. Maybe like all competitors can only use T1 frigates, or all T1 battleships, etc etc. But then I realised that there are already plenty of player-created tournaments, so I’m not sure whether this would really be a good idea. When I think of those player tournaments, most of the time the impression I get is that it’s just pointless lol-PVP for the sake of space explosions, so I’m not sure how to make any other kind of tournament a bit more meaningful. Maybe a leaderboard for best Rifter pilot, best Ishtar pilot, etc etc?

One other thing I kind of like about Guild Wars 2 is their Monthlies. They have daily achievements where if you finish 5 of them, you get a reward chest with some small loot in it once per day. The monthly achievements however are a different set of 4 per month, that give you a bigger chest (roughly equivalent to the reward from 10 dailies). EVE could benefit a bit from the monthly idea, where if you achieve some set of goals over a month you get some small reward (maybe CONCORD LP?). It could be “donate 50,000,000 units of tritanium to your faction” or “kill 10 capsuleer ships” or “clear 20 anomalies”. I think it would help introduce different aspects of EVE to players (the monthly rotates to a random subset every month), which is part of the reason it was introduced in Guild Wars 2. Yeah yeah it could turn into a grind, where you don’t really want to do it but “man I gotta finish my monthly or it’s wasted” but honestly almost any kind of incentive is going to be like that, you just gotta be able to set your foot down and realise you’re not being forced to do it.

Maybe the whole player-constructed jump gate thing will change stuff around. But in lieu of that being announced, I guess I just wish that there would be something going on in EVE that would really make me want to log on.

Undocking into Unknown Space

Omg I actually played EVE!

I had just logged on to update my orders, restart my PI (extractors had stopped running, oops) and check skill training. However, I noticed that the corp C2 wormhole had a static to Safilbab, 4 jumps out from Amarr. Furthermore, I had already finished training T2 Heavy Assault Missiles on both characters and shipped over a bunch of T2 HAM launchers and Scourge HAMs a few days earlier. And most importantly, the wardec against the alliance had expired.

All of which meant a golden opportunity…

I quickly refitted both Drakes to HAMs instead of the lacklustre heavy missiles which I had used during my last wormhole adventure. Checked to make sure I’m carrying the right ammo, also bring along a improved cloaking device which I noted that I might need more than the probe launcher in the utility high slot… ok here we go, undock time!

Of course 4 jumps from Amarr had to be in the completely opposite direction from where I was and so it ended up to be 10 jumps, but still relatively ok.

Safilbab turned out to be a newbie system… I think. It was a 1.0 system with an explosion of signatures when I opened the discovery scanner. Whoever had posted the HS static system in the corp wormhole channel had unfortunately neglected to add a corp bookmark for the actual wormhole, so I had to spend a bit of time scanning down the two possible unknown signatures, both of which turned out to be wormholes. I warped to the first one and spent a bit of time staring at it, hoping to be able to tell from the coloration if it was a C2. I remember a C2 wormhole is supposed to have a bit of a teal teardrop shape on the top, but this one didn’t. Warped off to the second one, but nope it looked exactly the same.

Not sure if this is the wormhole I'm looking for

Not sure if this is the wormhole I’m looking for

Is the HS static correctly updated? That would be annoying… oh well since I’m here might as well pop in and take a look. And lo and behold, the screen turned teal and corp bookmarks for the POS turned up. I’m in!

Warping to the station, everything starts to look a bit familiar. It took quite a bit of time fiddling with the SMA before I found out how to store my Drakes inside. I then warped my pods back to Amarr to bring back a scanning, stabbed Buzzard and a salvage Catalyst. I was originally intending to bring over the hulls from my main base, but the 20 jump round trip sounded too boring. I needed to get some extra modules from Amarr anyway so might as well buy and fit the hulls there. My previous trip had convinced me I was better off bringing a salvage destroyer rather than refitting the Drakes for salvage using a mobile depot. The Buzzard was just for faster scanning and maybe doing some hacking.

So far the wormhole had been pretty quiet. I’m guessing not that many newbies would be willing to poke their noses into a C2. So, while I was there, I decided to do a couple of sites to see how it goes. Ended up doing Perimeter Hangar and The Ruins of Enclave Cohort 27. Both sites included Sleeper battleships, which was the first time I’ve seen them… I think.

Greetings, I come in peace, you go in pieces

Greetings, I come in peace, you go in pieces

Looks very similar to the old Nighthawk/Ferox model, I think. However I realised some deficiencies in my HAM Drakes, namely the very limited range. In the C1 site I did the Sleepers orbited pretty closely, leaving me to think HAMs would be preferable since they have much higher damage and better explosion velocity (slightly lower explosion radius). In these sites some of the spawns were more than 80 km away, and my Drakes had no prop mods. HIGHLY ANNOYING. And some of the Sleepers would dance in and out of my 18km HAM range. I didn’t bring the Javelin version because they only extend the range to 26 km anyway and if I wanted to do pitiful damage I’d go back to heavy missiles. So I have to go back to the drawing board and rethink my HAM fit.

Lootwise I got practically nothing for both sites, but I remained undisturbed and I got to finish both sites easily which was the main point of the whole exercise rather than ISK (wouldn’t say no to at least ONE melted nanoribbon though). I’d still like to bring my RR Myrmidons in because I love sentry drone DPS, but I’m really unsure of how they’d do against Sleepers. The other alternative would be to use a RR HAMgu fit I’ve been looking at:

[Tengu, RR WH HAM Active resists]
Tengu Electronics – Dissolution Sequencer
Tengu Defensive – Adaptive Shielding
Tengu Offensive – Accelerated Ejection Bay
Tengu Propulsion – Intercalated Nanofibers
Tengu Engineering – Capacitor Regeneration Matrix

5x Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II (Scourge Heavy Assault Missile)
Large S95a Remote Shield Booster

Caldari Navy Large Shield Extender
10MN Afterburner II
2x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron

3x Ballistic Control System II
Damage Control II
Capacitor Power Relay II

2x Medium Capacitor Control Circuit II
Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I

495 dps, with a 662 dps cap-stable tank. Has AB and at least the HAMs go out to 30km. And the price isn’t too unreasonable too, at 350 million ISK according to EVEHQ. Of course that’s still something like 7 Drakes, and it doesn’t have any utility highs for cloaks or probes. And it has to at least be dual-boxed, as opposed to the Drake which could solo a site if I had to do something with the other account. Hmmm…

But at least I’m in the hole now and flying in the unknown.

Guess I’m not alone

Well a while back Wilhelm mentioned that he only encountered 2 people in the blog banter which mentioned EVE’s horrible community. With the release of the news about the EVE monument, I guess it’s a lot more than 2 people now?

About the monument itself… well honestly I’m kinda indifferent about it. First of all, I will NEVER EVER EVER go to Iceland because I hate cold weather and the food does not interest me (other than curiosity about whether people actually eat the famous rotten shark that was featured on one of those “most horrible foods in the world” shows). Secondly, I generally have zero appreciation for any kind of sculpture. So I guess I think of it as a nice gesture, just not my specific area of interest. But hey, I’m going to be subscribed to the game at the deadline anyway so I guess I’ll have 2 names on the thing.

But as usual we have the usual raging mob frothing at the mouth, pitchforks at hand. There are the usual middle-management types saying “if only there wasn’t a timer, then it would have been ok”. As I’ve said before, EVE’s playerbase has been spoilt into thinking they are somehow shareholders in CCP or something. If the game is so broken that CCP should be pouring every single cent into fixing it, then perhaps it would be a good idea to stop playing it? Evehermit’s post about it actually has the most appropriate title in my opinion. You’d think a bunch of juvenile e-thugs would be happy to have their names immortalized for doing basically nothing.

Personally I feel that EVE would benefit greatly from an exodus of about 50% of the playerbase, but obviously this isn’t going to be a view popular with CCP…