Archive for September, 2011

A’J: MRID – Interview with Rhavas


Rhavas, capsuleer license image

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of the capsuleers active in the Multidisciplinary division of Arek’Jaalan (hereafter referred to as A’J), Rhavas. In this article we take a look at him, the division he is active in, and two of the projects under his lead. He also lets us in a little on what goes on in Arek’Jaalan as a whole, and how those interested can become involved.

Please start off with a short introduction of yourself and your capsuleer background, Corporations, alliances and other organizations that had a significant impact or where you held a position can be incorporated too. 
I graduated from the Republic Military School and didn’t join up with a corporation right away. Instead I spent a great deal of time exploring New Eden, particularly visiting the shattered planets that were the legacy of what would later be known as the Seyllin Incident. I was briefly with a small military corporation called Lupus Vires in Derelik, which folded a few months later. Free again, I worked with Boundless Creation scientists for a while again on exploration but eventually the project took on a life of its own, and eventually led to the Shattered Planets Datacore. After most of my exploration was done, I spent nearly a year at Eve University, where I flew as a Lieutenant (jg) in the Ivy League Navy as a scout and combat pilot. I left there and now am a member of the Corporation of Noble Sentiments, headquartered in Essence. I am an active research with Arek’Jaalan, primarily on the Multidisciplinary division but collaborating with the Talocan Technology and Sleeper Technology groups as well.

What is Project Tesseract and Project Catapult? (Hereafter “the project” refers to either) 
Both are specific projects under the Arek’Jaalan Multidisciplinary division that deal with wormhole chemistry, physics and navigation.

Why was the project set up, what is the background story or motivation? 
I set up these two in particular because I have two major interests in this arena, and those two interests tie directly to these two projects.

The first is simply a hunger to understand – what happened, what drove it, what it means, and how to control such unbelievable forces. In my travels and studies I have determined that Isogen-5 is potentially a force for unholy destruction but also awe-inspiring creation. It is a source of energy unlike anything we can truly comprehend in current New Eden technology, and the potential impacts to us if we could harness it are almost impossible to contemplate.

The second is, simply put, space is big. Another thing my travels have taught me is that, even with the wonders of warp and gate technology, it simply takes an inordinate amount of time to get anywhere beyond your immediate environs. I have a passion to bring rapid travel over huge distances to the masses of the capsuleer population.

What are the aims of the project? 
Project Tesseract is, at some level, simply the porting over and updating of all the knowledge I incorporated into the Shattered Planets Datacore. It is about the Seyllin Incident’s causes and effects, the A0 Blue stars, the shattered planets, and the mysterious isotope known as Isogen-5 that appears to have been intimately tied to that event. It is a direct outgrowth of my desire to understand the uses of and implications of the energy that created the wormholes.

Project Catapult is an in-depth investigation of the Sansha capability to create point-to-point wormholes with a goal of understanding and if possible duplicating the capability. It is a direct outgrowth of my desire to understand how all capsuleers might take advantage of such capability.

Who works on the projects? Where other divisions than the Multidisciplinary involved? 
Multidisciplinary is sort of a strange division. We are at some level the “et cetera” of Arek’Jaalan. While most of our projects focus on astronavigation, there are other wildly different efforts as well, including reviews of Trinary data structures (used by the Jove and Sleepers) and cloning and mind transfer investigations. In the astronavigational projects, we work heavily with other teams, particularly Sleeper Tech and Talocan Tech.

How does the project work, what activities do those involved take part in, what methods and tools were used? 
Right now, Tesseract is largely a placeholder for me to move information to when I can find the time, and will hopefully spur new capsuleer-led ideas and explorations to fill in the blanks that I have.

Catapult requires a significant amount of capsuleer assistance in using photography drones to capture sky pictures for comparison of nebulae with the Sansha wormholes, as well as attempting to reverse engineer or acquire the Sansha technology that currently exists.

One of the biggest challenges that Arek’Jaalan faces is that we are heavily dependent on the scientists from Eifyr assisting Dr. Tukoss to give us solid analyses of the numerous captures that we bring back for processing, and unfortunately they are far behind schedule given that our efforts are at some level “not their day job”. They have their business to see to first and can only provide us with so much processing time.

What location(s) did the project take place in? 
Both involve almost the entirety of New Eden in their scope. To narrow it a little, Tesseract is focused on the nine shattered planet systems, the three echo systems, the Eve gate and the wormholes themselves, where Catapult is almost literally a search for the proverbial needle in the haystack. We think the source of the Sansha wormholes is somewhere in Stain but the preponderance of the evidence thus far suggests otherwise.

Is the project still running or finished? 
Tesseract has a great deal of time already invested but has a lot of “restarting” work to do.

Catapult is underway right now.

Are more people needed, and if so how can they get involved?
Tesseract mostly needs skilled archivist assistance, and time and patience from the same. It involves a lot of culling through months worth of travel data from myself and others and distillation of that data down to current facts that others can then use to expand what we know about this critical potentiality.

Catapult needs capsuleer assistance immediately, and we’ll take as much as we can get, particularly pilots living in or willing to go to Stain. Our immediate goal is to localize the Sansha launching system and attempt to track down the source ship or station. This means nebular captures from almost every known constellation in New Eden, which is a great deal of work.

What does this project mean to A’J as a whole? What was its impact or significance in the greater whole? 
I suppose you’d have to ask Dr. Tukoss for the official answer to that question, but I’m one of the more “applied science” people on the project, and to me while there is much to discover in the broad scope of the initiative, the most interesting pieces are the ones in which we can determine how to use the technology that was apparently commonplace to these ancient societies. I find their archaeology fascinating, and the Rogue Drones amazing to watch evolve, but I think that the understanding and application of the ancient technology is what could really move the capsuleer world forward. It’s the glue that holds everything else together.

Where there any problems or incidents in the project, or in A’J as a whole that affected the project? 
I think what the Arek’Jaalan initiative has suffered from most is some of the well-publicized political conflicts between Sansha and Empire loyalists. This seems to have calmed somewhat in recent weeks, so I am hopeful that we will pull together on these efforts. I will admit that I was very surprised to get almost no feedback either within the project or from the Intergalactic Summit members when I proposed and looked for assistance on Project Catapult. I expected a firestorm. For our part, we want to work with anyone who will help. We’re about results, not politics.

Any other notable facts or additions regarding the project? 
Other parts of the Multidisciplinary effort are coming along very well. Mark726 has turned in a report on Project Compass, which is trying to determine the localization relationship of New Eden to the Wormhole clusters. Julianus Soter’s efforts around Project Trinity are bringing in impressive results. Project Atlas, the mapping of wormhole space, has a lot of energy behind it from various groups but concrete results have not yet come to light – we are hoping to see some soon.

How can readers interested best get involved in future work done by the Multidisciplinary division, or A’J as a whole? 
The best thing to do is to read the division information pages, join the Arek’Jaalan mailing list and the Arek’Jaalan fluid router discussion channel and start asking questions!

Blog Banter 28: CCP, the CSM, and the future


With CrazyKinux recently retiring his blog and hanging up his coat as the “blogfather”, several cornerstones of the blogging community were relocated to a new home. Rixx Javix took it upon himself to maintain the Blog Pack, and now Seismic Stan stepped up to keep the Blog Banters going. That makes Blog Banter 28 the first set up by our new host, and right off the bat we’re getting a very hot topic to discuss:

In recent months, the relationship between CCP and it’s customers has been the subject of some controversy. The player-elected Council of Stellar Management has played a key role in these events, but not for the first time they are finding CCP difficult to deal with. What effect will CCP’s recent strategies have on the future of EVE Online and it’s player-base? What part can and should the CSM play in shaping that future? How best can EVE Online’s continued health and growth be assured?

For those of you who aren’t too sure what this about now — didn’t CCP give us a dev blog in which an accord was reached? — you best read Seismic Stan’s post, as it has a good amount of resources, before continuing on. All read up, or know exactly what this is about? Good, here we go then.

First off, this Banter is a bit on the late side. One of the reasons being my dad getting remarried at the end of the week, so I’ve been out and about to get everything ready for myself, from a dress to makeup to dropping by the tanning salon. The other reason, however, ties in perfectly with this topic. My motivation for EVE seem to have hit an all time low. From experience I know that summer is a terrible period in online gaming, because even the most die-hard players cannot say no to sunshine outdoor activities a nice BBQ. But this summer has been particularly bad, and then not just because most days were filled with rain, though that may have made made have rubbed in the issue a bit extra. There is a big loss of faith in CCP amongst my alliance members, myself included, and that results in activity dwindling. “I just don’t feel like internet spaceships anymore”, several people told me. Others simply filed an absence due to work, real life, or plain out lack of motivation. And sure, some of them will be truthful, there are jobs that are just not able to combine well with gaming, especially if you also have a family and social life to maintain, but if you really like a game you will find the time to play it, believe me. Currently Ghost Festival has about half its members on some kind of leave, and even the core players who are on every day are spending less time logged in on average. And this is a trend I only see continuing unless something is done about the cause.

Normally, I’d not post those numbers, because they don’t exactly help recruitment along. Or people will conclude that I must simply be failing as a CEO / Co-Executor. Well, I can tell you with confidence that this is not the case, or at least what mistakes I am making are not at the core of the problem. I’ve prodded enough members who I know are frank in their judgement and asked them, so unless everyone is out to kiss my behind or dead afraid of me, I think I did my homework right.

I have been discussing the issue to great length in the last few days, and there are certain things that keep returning. First off is the fact that we are a niche corporation / alliance. In fact, just slapping roleplay on anything already cuts your recruitment pool quite a bit, unless you take a really light approach to it, which on a sidenote is the only way to continue going if you reach a particular size like CVA or U’K. Then there is the fact we live out in 0.0, and then not the sov kind, but the NPC kind. That’s right, we’re a roleplaying alliance that bases out of Curse, you know that region most people know as the place alliances go to die, or use as a staging point, or grumble about because it requires an extra cyno to get from here to there. Welcome to niche play.

However, recruitment is not really the issue, we’re overall seeing a decrease in applications made but nothing that we didn’t see every summer already. Nor do people cite any particular issues with how we operate. Yes, we have a new neighbor that lost their sov and is now running around the neighborhood like they own it, but that’s something we’ve seen before. And it’s quite certainly going to be temporary, because alliances who consciously decide to live in Curse are few and between. It’s also my experience that once a sov player, always a sov player, which explains why losing sov can be a killing blow. It’s kinda hard to go back from there. This is just Curse being Curse and we’ve learned to deal with the eb and flow and carve our own path through that.

When going over what I will call “annoyances” like a former sov holder or the unprobable nerf or the summer activity slump, when digging in deeper, the core of the problem seems to be there is a whole lot of uncertainty going on which traces back to the current state of the game. The drama may have well passed, but it still lingers in the back of everyone’s minds. This ranges from performance issues with Incarna — though the recent patch that fixed load times and system temperatures has done a lot, but we did lose people due to not being able to replace hardware — to the NeX prices to there still being only one CQ to patches that patch patches which are fixing patches that broke patches (I feel for QA here) to the stagnant nature of flying in space. And even though we were presented a nice dev blog with 0.0 design guidelines which I wrote about previously, these are only guidelines, and long term at that, meaning that for the time being we have to make the best of what we do have. Fair enough, people knew when they joined what we do, and that would be quite alright, if only people were still motivated to do it. Not to mention that the things that Incarna brought are not things that will keep players entertained all day.

Ok, let me show you some numbers, which you may have seen over at Jester’s Trek and in The Mittani’s Kugutsumen announcement. Unlike the latter, I will link both images, as I feel they must be viewed together to really understand what is going on. Not that I disagree with what Mittens is saying, on the contrary, I just want to broaden the scope a bit to make the point even clearer.

EVE Logged-in Players (rolling averages)
EVE Online Average Logged-in Players 2011

The first image is a total view, going from 2006 over to 2011, with the red lines being the changing of the year. It’s rather obvious, but I’ll state it extra that means that summer sits halfway in between those red lines. More on that later. The second image is a view of the current half-and-a-bit year. Now, go ahead and compare the two. See how summer is nearly always offset by an expansion releasing, except in 2009 where timing was a bit awkward but where the winter expansion made well up for it. See how Tyrannis shook up last summer. And most importantly, see what didn’t happen right after Incarna. Now ok, the graph doesn’t a whole lot further after Incarna, but if you look at how soon spikes in activity occur after a patch, it should have to have been visible on this chart!

Looking at the second image then, we can see much higher the impact certain things have. What were the only spikes for Incarna? The riots and uproar, and then the time around where some positive dev blogs appeared. Fun fact for the readers, of all the blog posts I made in the last year, the one I did where I called out EN24 on creating / feeding the mass hysteria received double the amount of views any other post this year did. Yes, most of my writing is as niche as my alliance is, and I assume my readers are people interested in some way in that niche, so either that post must have broken me out of the  usual niche (pretty sure it did!) or my usual readers must care a great deal for post-Incarna woes. Likely a mix of both, especially taking into account all posts on Incarna have been doing really well.

I’m not conjuring up these conclusions out of thin air, and neither is it a sentiment trapped within the borders of the usual crowd I play with. Three CSM members have written or blogged about this (Mittens, Seleene, Trebor) and likely more have forum posted, but I avoid the forums like the plague. Yes even the fancy new ones ain’t doing it for me, which shows that design isn’t everything (even though I secretly am fond of the like button). The fact that CCP has messed up, and that the aftermath of that is being felt and has a negative impact on the game, is a reality. And it is one that must not be ignored.

So, to answer the first banter questions, I feel CCP’s recent strategies have a negative impact on the playerbase. As for the CSM, I used to once have faith in the process, but what with CSM members have been revealing about the missing emergency minutes, and Seleene’s account of it, I think Mittens and his (unintended?) media campaign are going to have a much bigger effect. I’m a fan of playing things by the book when they can be done, but right now, I feel a revolution might be more in order. CCP may say that things are going as they should, but honestly, I don’t think they mean what they say. Yes, decisions were made in a past in a very different era (see Iceland’s role in the banking bubble), and it may be hard to let go of great visions that indeed would be truly great when achieved. The question however is if this is still feasible? I have great ideas that would be truly great when achieved for Ghost Festival and Naraka too. It’d be amazing to create the equivalent of what CVA had with Providence, but for Angel roleplayers. But I know damn well enough that such an idea is foolish to chase when you are at a stage where you realistically can only support small gang roams and mission running.

The kicker is that the investments have already been made, that DUST is going to release, that the WoD MMO is being developed, and that we now have Incarna. And yes, sometimes you have to force certain concepts down people’s throats because they will lead to greatness in the future. But that means you have to be able to cope with the losses of those who will simply not take it. And that is just bad when likely your business strategy was built upon numbers from previous years which looked a whole lot more optimistic and may today be a lot more forgiving if not everyone was a lot more prudent about their expenses.

I am of the opinion that at the end of the day, while a company owns a game and is thus entitled to do with it as it pleases, it is still a good idea to develop what players really want. And the Incarna numbers show that either players did not want this, or rather so far it’s been very lackluster. And that is a sentiment I share. While I like my CQ, certainly now it runs smoothly so I don’t have to stare at the dreaded door, I’d have been a lot happier with new things to keep me going through the summer. They’d have given a distraction, and something to work with other players on. Instead we got something we can all bitch about. And that’s a poor ground to build or maintain a corporation on.

So what about the future? My plan is to stick around and do all those things I’ve never really had or made time for before. If EVE is really “dying” then why not make the best of it while it lasts? That should fill up the time until the winter, where I expect / hope / pray that we will see good things again. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for any changes that will improve our situation in Curse, be it directly or indirectly. I’ll take what I can get. Maybe by then CCP manages to restore the faith of players, but that is going to mean that first off this current mess needs to see a definite end (at the very least, the minutes have to be released in a way that the CSM is pleased), and that a move forward must be made. We got a bunch of optimistic dev blogs, but it’s high time we get to see establishments, contraband, and some starting details on 0.0. And what if winter doesn’t bring anything good? Well, we’ll see about it then. There’s SWTOR, GW2 and D3 on the horizon, and maybe it is time for a change of scenery. But damn, that’s not how I’d want it to be. I would like EVE to be part of my gaming diet then, instead of dropped. Though if it happens, I suppose at least I’ll be ready for it.

Arek’Jaalan: MRID publication deal


Arek'Jaalan: Media Relations & Information Dissemination As has appeared on the Arek’Jaalan mailing list today:

“Today, Arek’jaalan representatives from the Media Relations and Information Dissemination group have secured a deal with Myrhial Arkenath, Co-Executor of Naraka., to utilize her well-known public logs as a publisher of scientific and theoretical information on behalf of Arek’jaalan. We hope to use this to our advantage in order to spread knowledge of the project to wider parts of the cluster.”

I’ve been watching the project from afar, having always had an interest in science, but my CEO duties coming first place has meant my ability to explore it, or the AJ project, are limited. After some helpful feedback from Hilen Tukoss and a few other sources, I figured I can help science in many more ways than field work, and combine it with things I already love to do, like writing. And thanks to Myxx and Anslo, this is now possible. I hope that you, dear readers, will find this just as interesting as I do. And if you really do, and aren’t involved yet, I urge you to look at the various divisions and seek to get involved where your passion lies.