Showing posts with label Signal Cartel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Signal Cartel. Show all posts

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Year of Taking it Seriously

This is probably my last substantial post for this year. It gets stupid busy at Kong Towers over the festive period and I will be going on vacation straight after. So I will wish you all a pre-emptive "Happy New Year". May you reach your goals, or at least have fun trying to attain them.

I suppose that makes this an appropriate time to reflect on the year. If there was a way of generically characterising this year, it would be the year I took Eve  a little more seriously. While I still play on the margins of the game, I have made the effort to get involved in it and understand it a bit more. Before, I did a little bit of trading because that was the only thing I had success at. This year I took a stab at exploration. I learnt to fly Astero's, Interceptors, Covops, Orca and now the Stratios. This along with the cloaky Prowlers and Tengus mean there aren't many places if any in New Eden where I can't travel with a reasonable expectation of success. This is a pretty liberating feeling in itself.

I also learnt that I am not suited to being in a Corp. This despite joining the nicest Corp in Eve - Signal Cartel. The hierarchical design of Corps/Alliances in Eve just doesn't work for me. I prefer to collaborate rather than be led. Fortunately, the Eve community (yes, I can confirm there is one) is broader than the game and it has been an unexpected pleasure to get to know so many people this year and this has filled the void that is in the game. I wonder just how many people play Eve without ever communicating with anyone. That was essentially me before this year.

Of course it wouldn't be Eve if there weren't any frustrations. Eve has been going through a big transition and we have not reached the end yet. Often there have been proposed changes that have would have had a pretty horrendous impact on what I was seeking to do. Some of these have been subsequently reversed or at least put on hold. But it is clear that making long term plans is a bad idea right now so I am going with short term objectives instead and I have put my more hair brained schemes on ice until we see how citadels play out. I also stopped dual training once the future ability to pay for SP was announced. While I intensely loath the idea and I am completely unpersuaded by the reasoning behind this change, I would be mad not to take advantage of it if that possibility exists.

Looking forward, CCP have still not given us any real insight into what is happening in Q2 next year. So either nothing is happening and a lot of developers are twiddling their thumbs or something big is coming along. Something they don't want to share with the CSM it seems and you do have to wonder what future that institution has next year. I wrote about that some time ago and current events only reinforce my view on that. 

What will CCP be doing next year? It is not unreasonable to suspect their focus will be Valkyrie, but I expect they will be looking to capitalise on the publicity and attempt to attract more players to Eve. It is (almost) baseless speculation on my part but I would expect Eve will be moving to the Free to Play Model. Those with subscriptions would become the Pay to Advance/Pay to Win whales. CCP clearly has to do something to extend the playerbase and free to play is a proven model. The PVE events and SP changes seem to hint at that this could be the direction of travel. They are certainly not inconsistent if CCP chooses this path . The marginalisation of the CSM by some members of CCP, seemingly with senior support (they haven't spoken up in support of the CSM's role since before Eve Vegas ad they are the one's paying the bills) would seem a tactical choice to manage the introduction of something potentially controversial change. The perceived lack of trust is a convenient back story. Just to be clear, this is certainly fanciful thinking on my part but the Q2 silence is beguiling.

Anyway, I have had a great time this year and looking forward to what next year brings be it good or bad. Have a good holiday folks and if I don't get the chance to write again, I will see you in the New Year.  Fly Safe o7

Monday, 10 August 2015

Summer of Music - Signal Cartel

The Making of "Scout"

After finishing the Nova Haven project, Scout posed very different challenges. The hard part of Nova Haven was finding the right inspiration. Once I get the idea that works, the execution is pretty straightforward. Not so with Scout. Because it is a parody of an existing well known song, it will always be measured against that. The vocals have to be clear because it is a parody and the backing music needs to be a credible representation of the original. What could possibly go wrong?


This all started when Mynxee (CEO of Signal Cartel) got bullied into singing "Shout" by Tears for Fears on mumble. In a frankly uncredo like fashion this was recorded and put into the public domain. I put a musical backing to her dulcet tones and sent it back her. Surprisingly, she liked it so the idea was born to do a parody version of Shout - Scout. Mynxee wrote some excellent lyrics and I had to come up with a guide track for her victims to sing against.

Backing Track

The first decision was identify which version of Shout to work with. The Bristish release was nearly 6 minutes long, the German/Japanese releases are 5 minutes long and it was 4 minutes in the US. I opted to work with the UK version but cut two sections of instrumental bridge mainly because I never liked those parts anyway.

The second decision was to consider whether to use the original track and doctor it or construct my own version. I opted for the latter. The original track was recorded around 1984 onto tape. The quality is actually quite poor. If you listen to beginning of the original on YouTube, there is a lot of his and noise and the mix is quite muddy. Nostalgia gives us a clarity that never really existed. Most of my vinyl records (showing age here) were scratched. But I don't remember the jumps and scratches - just the songs. Unfortunately we are no so tolerant now in the digital age.

The original song was also mixed aggressively resulting in a very powerful sound. This worked well because the singers had strong voices, belting out the vocals with gusto and could compete with the powerful backing. The capsuleers of Signal Cartel however don't have time to train Music and Singing to Level V. So it was evident that more control on the backing would be needed so that their voices would not be overwhelmed. In the end, the only part of the original song I used was the opening triangle and detuned bottle percussion loop at the beginning and this runs all through the song as it does in the original.

Constructing the backing track from scratch was a bit of a detective story in itself but I think I managed to capture most of it. The percussion track was the most interesting. The original starts with a drum machine which is later augmented with a real drummer playing on top. So essentially I had to try and make it sound less like a human in the beginning and more like a human in the end, but not overwhelm the vocals as the original would have done (and was intended to do as part of the climax) Stuff like this messes with your head.


The vocals were always going to be challenging. Each were recorded locally on Audacity by the singers concerned. From a technical and sound quality perspective, people obviously use different quality microphones and had different background acoustics (including a barking dog!). Then came the musical interpretation. This included different phrasing, tuning, tempo and lyrics. So I spent a bit of time editing these to blend them together. What I must say is that everyone's contribution was invaluable and added to the overall sound. So well done for having the guts to sing (or bark)!


When bringing the music and the vocals together, you tend to know already what is and isn't working. Novices tend to boost something they like to fix a problem. While that might work, more often I use a subtractive approach. If you can't hear something clearly the it is likely that some other sound frequency is clashing with it. The power chords on the guitars where the biggest offenders in that regard and had to be toned down (but kept the same volume). The vocals needed to be beefed up using a mixture of compression, reverb, delay and a light unison effect.


Similar to mixing but takes the viewpoint of the to device or format the final mix is going to be listened on. What might sound great on my earbuds my sound terrible on someone elses headphones. And Mp3 format degrades the sound as part of the compression. It is my weakest area to be honest. I don't have a set of neutral sounding monitors and I suffer from tinnitus in one ear anyway. So I compromise. I do have a set of really cheap and bad earbuds so I use them as a reference set. If it sounds half decent on those it usually sounds pretty good on more reasonable speakers.

As I have said before, the software I use is Reason 8.3. It's an acquired taste but I have always found it flexible and allows you to concentrate on the music rather than worrying about how to make something work . The main difficulty I experienced was with my laptop dying (motherboard failure) and the drama around getting it fixed which took about three weeks.

Anyway, I am really pleased with the result and hopefully Signal Cartel are too. It could not have been done without them and they deserve all the credit because at the end of the day, it was their performance and ideas that made it what it is. Well done.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Playing with Fireworks

The perfect treatment for all the soul searching and hand wringing about the direction of Eve (mea culpa) is to just play the bloody game. So a big thanks to my good friends in Signal Cartel for inviting me on their 500th member celebration Hugs fleet. The 30+ Griffin blob is sight to behold with a couple of rookie ships for those new players without the skills. A hugs fleet for those who don't know is the credo friendly doctrine wardec griffin fit. DPS is zero. However, ECM, Fireworks and Snowball delivery is off the scale. The ships were provided by SC. The roam started and finished with a treasure hunt with all sorts of goodies to be found. I resisted the challenge thinking it would be a bit mean to deprive some newbro signallers of SOE probe launcher, despite being in close proximity to a container (note to self: must change that 'safe' bookmark).

Anyway, we moved on to our first destination. A smartbomb took a chunk out of me on one gate but a quick repair and we headed off to null. The scouts doing a robust job ahead of us meant it was a relaxed journey with the added novelty of heading in the right direction this time. We arrived with fanfare and docked up at PFR's Freeport so thanks to those guys for being so accommodating. New bros were taught how to use jump clones at this point. With the lesson over, the PFR TCU was then deluged with snowballs and fireworks. It was about then my name got called in the prize draw. A Prospect! Now that ship has never been in my calculations but now I have got one.... 

PFR gets a good hugging

So time to leave PFR space. Now at this point my journey came to an abrupt halt as I landed in a bubble and got instantly alpha'd. I regard this as progress. Last time I was in a Griffin I erm... mislaid it. To this day I don't know what happened to it. Part of the problem this time I think was I imagined I was still in my Ares. But a Griffin is no Ares. It was a good way to explode however and I was not alone as a terrible toll was taken which included the FC. Nevertheless, the guy who stepped up to take the remaining fleet of Griffins and Pods to the final destination did an excellent job. And what a reward it was for those who made it. I am not sure how discreet I should be about this so will stay on the safe side of OpSec. 

The the final destination was a POS and inside it was an "OMG it's a Titan moment". Except of course these are explorers so less prone to outbursts describing the bleedin' obvious. Clearly they were shocked because they kept bumping into it. Deep thanks again to the guy in PL (you know who you are!) for arranging this, for providing replacement ships and bridging the bewildered newbros back home safely. Shame I missed it!

I woke up in Amarr, hastily bought and fitted an Ares and dashed by the shortest route to the arrival point in HighSec just as the stragglers arrived. A fantastic and memorable roam. Well done to JohnnySplunk, Mynxee and all the others (including the scouts) for putting together such an awesome event and congratulations on reaching the 500 member mark. That, when all is said and done, is what Eve is really all about.

P.S. Check out the next Neocom podcast ;) 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

It's the journey, not the destination that counts...

The London bus is a rare beast. It travels in herds. So you can wait hours for one and then find several turn up at once. My killboard is much the same . Two years without dying and then a couple of explosions in a row. This one was interesting. Most people try and save their pods once the ship is doomed. I, however, lost my pod but have no idea what happened to my ship. 

Let's rewind. Signal Cartel have cause to celebrate. They now have gained over 300 members since January. You can hear more about that here on the Neocom. That is no small achievement with the current newbro friendly fest that is going on in Eve right now because there is plenty of competition. Anyway, as part of that celebration a roam come treasure hunt was organised. They graciously allowed me as an interloper to participate. As with any party it is always a problem to know what to wear. A Griffin was the safe option. But then the Corax with its astonishing firework delivery rate would be good but perhaps a little vulgar. Then my brand new Ares But that would be like going in fancy dress to a dinner party. So I took the dust covers off the Griffin.

It took me an age to get to Thera. This was because for some reason I went to Jita instead of Hulm for the WH. I could hear the finger tapping coming from Thera when I admitted my mistake. Navigation is not my strong point. But at least there was an Easter Egg hunt arranged in Thera to keep the restless fleet occupied. Finally I join the fleet.

And what a fleet it was. There were nearly 30 people in it. It was the largest fleet I have been in and the FC did a great job in shepherding us along as well as streaming on Twitch. My Griffin did not look overdressed so I settled in and kept my head down. The objective was to go through Null Sec to see the B-R5RB system and take pictures of the Titanomachy monument.

So off we went. At first we cruised along with prizes being given at every gate. I won a Buzzard but there was a Nestor on offer to some lucky soul. Hugs were delivered in local comms to the bemused residents as was the link to the Signal Cartel theme. It  got an additional 30 plays and 2 downloads during the course of the journey.

Then things started getting complicated as we got deeper into Goon space. Sadly the Goons didn't exhibit a great ability to conceptualize and just wanted to shoot and blackmail us instead which was all rather dull. Generally, we outpaced them or just jammed them on the gate but they managed to pick a foew of us off on what was now feeling like the Long March with a bit of Benny Hill mixed in. Our scout heroically took one for the team.

By the time we got to the penultimate system we were a bit thinner and had a few just in their pods. I was still unscratched at this point. But the posse chasing use had grown and got more organised with bubbles sprouting around gates. We made a mad dash to the target and made it.

It was possibly at this point that collective hysteria set in. It was sort of like when you drink a cup of tea when you were expecting a cup of coffee. You know something isn't quite right but you plough on drinking it regardless. This point for us was the Titanomachy looking rather small and diminished and with rats hovering over it. "Rats don't shoot pods" says someone. So we park our ships safely and abandon them and go to at the Titanomachy. Finally, someone gets the courage  to say the emperor has no clothes. 

We are in the wrong system. We were in B-588R not  B-R5RB. My heart goes out to the FC but it was funny. Really funny. I was was crying. This probably explains why I couldn't reunite with my poor abandoned Griffin and its hold full of fireworks. It was gone. On the frantic dash home my pod got caught in a gate bubble. But a few others made it home. It was a fantastic event so well done for those organizing it. Can't wait for the 600 member celebration!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Beyond Aurora

I've not written for a while because...  reasons. OK let's be more precise. Real life is part of the picture. Then Eve naturally. Two Hugs fleets, a rescue mission (failed), getting to grips with Tripwire, exploring a shattered wormhole for the first time, the hilarious consequences of meeting BRAVE newbies in a wormhole. That all took time. Then there is a little research project on the history of HMS Aurora after it was sold to the Kuomintang in 1947. The Wikipedia entry is depressingly inadequate because typically it is written from a very narrow western perspective. It misses an amazing story. Murder, intrigue, corruption, principle, families split by civil war, international crisis... it has it all and is important to my family. I've been helping a music project as well which isn't unrelated. Oh and I left Signal Cartel..

Now if you are expecting a drama bomb then there is nothing to see here. It's a cliche but it wasn't them, it was me. My expectations were flawed. Eve Scout/Signal Cartel are a great and growing corp. I have deep respect for them. JOIN THEM. I do not regret my time and it has allowed me to reflect further on why I participate in Eve and what I want from New Eden.

So what have I learnt? Well in a sense the experience was reaffirming. My belief has always been been that there is an alternate way to play Eve. There is an orthodoxy in the way the game is currently played that is self reinforcing. New players get told to join a corp and that the pinnacle of the game is the Null-sec where you can be a pawn in someone else's game of capture the flag. The only measures for success are the Killboard, Sovereignty, ISK and tears. Result!

On an individual level I have always looked for ways to challenge the tradition. For example, when CODE were doing their thing in my area, as a trader I imagined there must be better way of achieving the same outcome without all the grief. And there was. You just needed to take a different perspective. I decided to defend the New Eden environment and save the asteroids. Venture production had saturated the market because of CODE's activities and I could pick them up really cheaply. Cheaper than they cost to produce. So I bought them, recycled them and put the Tritanium on the market causing the prices to fall locally. This kept the miners away (Ventures now too expensive and Trit prices too low), saved the asteroids, denied CODE possible targets and my trader made a profit. I also destroyed more Ventures than CODE did so it was a win all round with no grief.

So the orthodoxy can be challenged at an individual level. And if we all did that then New Eden would change. It just needs a consensus and some lateral thinking. But how do you extend paradigm so that like minded people can work together? How do you codify an alternative way of playing the game? This where I thought Signal Cartel might come in, They have the Credo and the organisation. But there is a difficulty. Using a Corp structure is inherently orthodox and hierarchical. And that is part of the problem not part of the solution. You can't be a peer in a game mechanic enforced parent/child relationship. The Credo is also tightly coupled to the objectives of the Corp which are narrow in scope (Exploration). Unintentionally perhaps, that leaves you with a priesthood who curate the Credo. So it is hard to extend it to other activities in Eve without creating awkward contradictions. This doesn't make Signal Cartel bad. Quite the contrary. They are definitely a step in the right direction. But there is a bigger vision to be had and a corp just isn't an appropriate mechanism. I probably already knew that so it was my fault for expecting it to be different. At least I know for certain now.

Anyways, what I now know is that exploring New Eden isn't just about looking at the pixels. There is a whole other dynamic to be explored and experimented with. And who knows maybe one day there could be an alternative New Eden. That's what the crew of the ship formally known as HMS Aurora discovered if you look at it from a different perspective.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

War and Peace

The corp had another hisec wardec. From my perspective it is inconsequential and not surprising. For the kill-board farmers however, a corp like ours looks too good to be true. Our Credo dictates we are a peaceful corp so in ISK efficiency terms our stats are terrible. In principle it is not an issue but to a new corp member a trade hub is like a flame to a moth. It is a hard lesson to learn. 

This in turn sparks a lively internal debate. It is natural for people to want to fight back. It is natural for people to take a wardec personally. The clinical gaming of the mechanic for easy content and kill-board padding isn't readily understood by some of the newer players. The Credo comes under scrutiny. In truth, there is no comfortable resolution and the debate will continue. But for me it is straight forward once you distinguish the difference between being peaceful and being a pacifist. Being peaceful is a behavioural choice. Being a pacifist is more of an ideology. One is a pragmatic approach the other is a dogmatic approach. I interpret the Credo as being pragmatic. I choose not to shoot. I choose to find alternative ways to interact with Eve and its players. Ways which doesn't involve them exploding.

Which leads me onto last night's fleet operation. It has become a tradition before a wardec becomes active to give some "hugs" to our adversaries. Hugs in the form of fireworks and snowballs. It was only my second experience of being in a fleet. Weapon of choice was a gratuitously equipped Corax with 7 festival launchers, a couple of hardeners for that glow in the dark effect and an afterburner. The cargo bay was full of pyrotechnics. Our targets were shy to say the least. But being explorers means it is quite natural for us to track something down. The downside is FC'ing a group of explorers is like herding cats. Kudos to the FC for maintaining his sanity. Anyway, the pursuit began and hugs were forthrightly delivered. The impression I get from both operations I have been on is the victims seem pretty embarrassed by the attention. Being a sneaky dock or gate camper is not entirely consistent with being lit up like the 4th July for 90 minutes. It certainly disturbed their gameplay and they often warped off or docked up. Their ISK efficiency spoiled for the night I retired secure in the knowledge you can conduct war peacefully.

Cuddle Wagon action

Keeping the peace

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Signal Received

I am in a Corp. You might find that strange. I was for many years a solo player. I still regard myself as an independent player. But it is always good to inhabit a community that shares your interest and Signal Cartel is certainly provides that community. Signal Cartel is no ordinary Corp. It has a credo that prohibits aggression and promotes exploration as an activity. So in some ways it is more of a professional body or perhaps a Trade Union than a Corp in the traditional Eve sense. I would hesitate to use the word 'Guild' because of the WoW connection but that is sort of what it is if you think of the original usage of the word.  However, it seems to have caught the imagination of quite a few people and the membership continues to grow. Signal Cartel is part of the Eve Scout Enclave Alliance. If you have ever traveled to, or via Thera you will have likely used their services. So it is nice to part of a player driven activity that contributes to the larger Eve story. The set of circumstances that led me to send in the recruitment application were somewhat interesting. Something I will no doubt talk about in later posts.

Having joined the corp, I have enjoyed the participation and the joint sense of purpose. It houses an eclectic group of people ranging from newbros to former CSM members and Eve blogging aristocracy. All in all it has certainly enhanced what was already a good game experience. It also inspired me to indulge my musical urges such as they are. Taking the Corp motto - Can't Stop The Signal, I translated it into Morse Code and used it as the basis for a two minute soundtrack. The response from my corp mates has been pretty positive so thought I would share.

Now it just needs someone to put a video together