After a long absence we have returned we a very well reviewed and enjoyed experience of asking questions that no one wants the answer to. This time we have a very special guest. Someone who I have enjoyed many black ops fleets with, my favorite aspect of the game.
So, I would imagine everyone is suffering overwhelming excitement in learning who I am actually on about.
I am Olmeca Gold. I mainly do non-consensual PVP in Eve. I am known for my biographical EVE video, The Whaler. I stole nearly 2 trillion [ISK] worth of Excavator drones. I served in the CSM at a critical time for EVE balance. And before all that I was an NPSI [not purple shoot it] FC.
Before we begin further conversation about the game we all hate to love, you announced that you had semi-retired from EVE life to turn your attention to real-life demands mainly because you recently became a dad. I think I speak for everyone in saying a massive congratulations on that front. You spoke of furthering your education in the form of a PHD, could you tell me a little more about that?
I’ve been in Philosophy since I was an undergrad. I am nearly done with my dissertation and about to obtain my Ph.D. from University of Virginia. My dissertation is in the field of Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence. It is about what deep learning can teach us about intelligence. Philosophy around the Turing Test is convincing that behavior alone isn’t a strong indicator of intelligence. A machine can behave intelligently, yet might not be so. I am contrasting classical computing with deep learning, and arguing that while classical algorithms merely derive from their developers’ intelligence, deep learning neural networks are themselves intelligent. That is because deep learning networks originate their own solutions to problems, rather than computing solutions already-achieved by programmers. Thus, the sufficient condition of intelligence is not the ability to behave intelligently, but the ability to originate one’s own solutions. Of course the current deep learning models are typically good at one thing. But the existing technology allows us to achieve truly intelligent machines if we can make them general enough (e.g. via multiple neural networks working together, or a single neural network being good at many things). This view also argues for a decoupling of intelligence from human-centric concepts such as consciousness, creativity, etc.
Although I will be looking for a job afterwards, I am a little bored and I’ve been trying to learn UE5 / C++ and get into game design. If something comes out of it, capsuleers will know.
Going back to the EVE, your name is often associated with the concept of mass cloaky camping. It was recently a subject that was brought up during the release of the mobile observatories. For those of us unfamiliar with the concept, give us a light outline of what it actually involves and the purpose behind it?
PVE is one of the main activities in nullsec. To avoid losing ships to other players during PVE activities, nullsec inhabitants rely on the reality that nullsec regions are vast and most solar systems are typically empty of players who are not inhabitants of the region. When a hostile player comes into the system, the inhabitants rely on local chat to notice that fact. Then they halt their PVE activities and secure their ships.
AFK cloaking was a way to circumvent that instant and free nature of the warning provided by the local chat. Hostile characters are seeded into a system. Their ships stay cloaked in space which means they cannot be found and killed. Then the characters remain online to constantly appear in the local chat window for extensive periods of time. They effectively “camp” the system to take away the initial emptiness which the inhabitants rely on. AFK camping users keep their game clients online even when they go AFK as a person. This mechanism can be scaled up by camping many systems in a region at once. This can be done by singular players running many clients, or many players each camping a few systems.
Camping ships typically carry tackle and cyno modules to pin down a target ship then instantly bring in friendly ships to the system to kill it. Nullsec inhabitants are left with a choice. They can cease their PVE activities in the system. Or they can undock and risk losing their ships. Thus the two possible purposes for camping. Inflicting harm to a player group by suppressing their PVE activities, or killing ships. People with camping setups got regularly hired for the former purpose. The latter was my purpose to camp.
So, obviously that would require some serious configuration and logistical effort to maintain. Could you go over the basics of the cloaky camping setup?
I couldn’t get into it without transferring Mar5hy’s know-how. Firstly, for every 45-character pack, you needed a PC with high ram (64 GB), high VRAM (6+ GB), and a high CPU core count. Mine cost around $1,000. Then you need a control solution to switch between your camper PC and your main one. We used remote control software. Afterwards, you need to purchase and configure ISBoxer for resource and screen management (not to input broadcast – you don’t need this for camping anyway). It was a pain to configure.
Secondly, you need to make skill/ship plans and create 45 accounts, bring them to Jita, buy their skillbooks, inject their skills, get them into your nullsec staging system, distribute their ships, place them in their systems one by one. This painful process could take more than a week, and has to be repeated when moving to another region. Lastly, you need to bring your campers online every day after downtime, which took 30 minutes. Replacing camper losses daily took another 30. At the time I remember it costing over 300b ISK to get a 45-pack camper setup ready. I remember Mar5hy running up to 6 of these packs. Camping was a lot of power in the hands of one person, but it took an equivalent amount of effort and investment.
There were many many objections to this setup and a lot of demand for the developers to combat this meta. Do you believe that the recent features released will be a good tool to deter cloaky camping?
Sure. I reckon the changes rooted out cloaky camping. The more interesting question is whether it was a non-invasive solution that did not interfere with other playstyles. The final implementation was more elegant than most proposals I’ve seen. However, I am not sure whether it created difficulties for people who move and use capitals in unfriendly regions with no stations to dock or tether.
So moving on, you mentioned your term in CSM?
I went in expecting to convince fellow CSMs into things being problems and reaching the much-overstated common ground. Oh boy, haven’t I faced a lot of conservatism; the idea that things in nullsec were mostly fine as is. I remember making proposals for cynos to fellow CSM, WAY milder than what CCP ended up doing, and people digging trenches like it would be the end of EVE to nerf cynos a little. It was a surprise when the same people were receptive (at least non-combative) upon CCP announcing a harsher proposal. If I could, I would take back all the time I’ve spent trying to convince CSM members.
Meanwhile, CCP was not conservative at all. I don’t know how much credit I myself should be taking. But it was a year in which CCP began to shift EVE’s balance toward the direction pointed by myself and many people who argued similar angles. Our pain points were things like umbrellas, cynos, bosons, capital ship tank and capabilities, resource density (not abundance, but density). All of these received balance passes. Then CCP decided to implement scarcity. I understand they are trying to balance the long term health of economy. But nobody ended up happy. We wanted a high risk, high reward nullsec. CCP rendered it high risk with no reward. I often received blame for it.
Lastly, there was a divide in what people’s views on the purpose of the CSM. For the record, even CCP does not have consensus on this issue. Among CSM members, there were those who thought CSM’s main function was to police CCP. And there were those who were truly there to teach CCP and help improve the game. The former group paid a lot of attention to things like performances of CCP teams, employees of CCP, or why CCP attacks their organization (the drifter events, etc.). For this line of thought, one should remain a CSM for several years to do it right. Ironically, they were likely the reason why CSM got term limits. I couldn’t gather much insight from them on what makes the ideal EVE. They were mostly acting reactionarily. Meanwhile, the latter group deserves praise for their hard work. They would do summit presentations, lead discussions on Eve balance, work tirelessly to receive feedback from groups even outside their influence (e.g. FW, wormholes).
After your term on the CSM, you haven’t held back on your philosophical commentary. When it came to recent developments within the game, a big subject being the war, how do you feel the 13 months that have went on has changed the dynamics of how the ecosystem works? How do you feel the more recent changes have influenced the war?
This is many questions bundled as one but let me address at least three issues. Most recently I used my platform to talk about how cultural issues with Goonswarm and the Imperium are corrosive to our overall enjoyment of Eve Online. The first step of overcoming cultural issues is calling them out, so I saw value in doing so. But the flak I receive for doing so makes it not worth it, so I decided to stop criticizing Goon culture. I will not be initiating further discussions about it.
Secondly, about the relationship between the war and the ecosystem, I think the war and COVID has been great to fend off some of the cooling down of player activity that we would have seen otherwise as a consequence of scarcity changes. It gave CCP a precious window to rebalance the steps from mining at anomalies to production of ships and modules. That window has recently expired. Meanwhile, I think the scarcity phase has undermined the PAPI cause in the war. Goons didn’t have space to farm, PAPI did. But space being worthless in the war period caused many Goons interested in money-making to remain in Imperium rather than seeking greener pastures. It disabled PAPI from catching up.
Lastly, I offered comments on the war. One issue with the war was win conditions. PAPI side failed to offer a progressing list of conditions to make their folk feel accomplished. They have captured most of the Imperium land, inflicted significant monetary damage, and prevented Goons from glassing regions of any PAPI alliance for one and a half years. This is great compared to the scenario without the war. Unfortunately, PAPI lost the narrative war by going into binary goals such as “exterminating Goons” or “capturing 1DQ”. Meanwhile, Goons warped concepts such as the blue donut to further push their agenda. The entire reason the notion of blue donut matters is the lack of fun associated with it. The war was fun. But Goons manipulated the concept to render PAPI as a game-harming unification. On several fronts they actually fully exploited the fact that PAPI was not a blue donut. The majority of the power did not belong to one person, so Goons pit PAPI leaders against one another. The bonds between its elements were weak, the inner turmoil leaked everywhere. And everyone knew it would disband once the war against the common enemy, so Goons could push the “TEST is next” slogan. Overall, I tried to push back against the Goon narrative, but I don’t think even the PAPI side appreciated my involvement. Then again, perhaps they might not have lost if they cared more about the metagame.
Overall, going back to the stale meta in which Imperium glasses any region uncontested does not make me feel good about EVE’s future. Perhaps FRT vs. Imperium could be interesting, but FRT needs non-Chinese TZ capacities for there to be any meaningful conflict.
When/if you return, how do you believe you will adjust your approach to accommodate the new features within the game?
Excavator stealing and AFK camping is gone. But there will always be things to hunt for. There are still many promising approaches to non-consensual PVP. Alts will always be powerful. I wonder what an army of logged off alts could do for ESS hunting. I might also look into conducting solo dread bombs in deep null space (no docking), or hunt C6 dread or battleship groups. We will see how the upcoming capital PVE unfolds as well; perhaps targets will be created there. I might also try going back the NPSI route, or actually join and create content for a group.
When I was writing this Olmeca did provide me with some fun as additional material. It didn’t really fit into the overall format but I wanted to show you guys nonetheless as it seems like a fun day at the office.
‘One of my goals in the game has been pushing the limits of what a single real person (multiboxing included) can do on a grid. This guy had 45 Mackinaws and he was protecting them with chaining Rorqual P.A.N.I.C. protection. As the Rorquals themselves were protected by the Delve umbrella, he rarely lost his fleet. In this battle report I kill the mackinaws by chain-booshing away from the anomaly rocks, so the Rorquals cannot lock on the rocks and light their PANIC buttons. That happened by multiboxing 7 bombers, 6 Pontifexes, a Sabre, a scanner/cyno bomber, and bridging black ops battleship; which was my most action-packed moment in Eve.’
A massive thank you to Olmeca for taking time out of his busy life to answer the questions that I had, I hope that you guys enjoy a bit of a read. A reminder that if you wish to provide your own brand of feedback on Olmeca’s commentary please remain respectful 100% of the time and you can do so in the comments below.