Interview with Lord Maldoror (TMC)
Changes to the format of the original site have broken the interview, so it is reproduced here
The release of Clarion Call 4 was big news for the EVE community. Videos produced by Rooks and Kings (RnK) are notorious for their narrative structure, comprehensive coverage of battle footage and comms, and a smoothly-sinister voice belonging to Lord Maldoror. I reached out to ask Lord Maldoror a few questions related to the recently released Clarion Call 4. I wanted to know more about the history of pipebombing, the motivations, the memories that were involved with a unique tactic, and wonderful video that captured the community's imagination. In his usual fashion, Lord Maldoror provided us with quite a tidy story with some insight into the close-knit world of RnK, phobias, and low-tech security. He also teases us just a bit about what video may be coming next.
Psiah Auvyander: Clarion Call videos have been getting longer with each successive release. Is this a natural trend dealing with more complex mechanics, a method for delving deeper into the background of a topic and building a narrative, or are you simply working up to feature-length film standards?
Lord Maldoror: Pipebombing is a very brutal weapon and I wanted to explain how the gentlefolk of RnK were driven to such murderous depravity.
Sadly, there is never enough time to document all the strange and wonderful adventures that unfold in Eve. I already had to take some time out from leading fleets in order to get the latest project finished.
To put it into perspective, I have 20Tb of material from probably six years of fleet fighting, sometimes battling every day. Even if we take a year like 2011, where only a percentage of engagements were recorded, each folder in this image contains battles, stories, evolving tactics, human drama, and who knows what else:
A given year from the pipebombing era, which is better recorded, has even more entries. Hopefully I can fondly look back one day on all the remarkable people I've encountered in New Eden, friends, enemies and all between.
Since I know I can trust the folks at TMC, writers and readers alike, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.
Before I get to that, I should explain that I have my Fraps collection backed up on half a dozen Enterprise-grade drives, along with tape backups, which I keep in bank deposit boxes. Recently, I have thought I should add Eldareth to the access list, via biometric passport. After all, I've pipebombed a lot of people now, and there's always the chance that one of them eventually flattens me with a London bus. In that event, Eldareth should become the keeper of the Hark Archives.
So far, so good.
Now, I need to explain that RnK are a tight-knit group. Eldareth, who is surely one of the greatest gamers I have ever encountered, is alas afflicted with an unfortunate phobia of spiders. Being the good friends we are, we constantly attempt to cure him of this affliction and the 'doctrine' we chose for this, is exposure therapy.
Recently, I happened to come across what are apparently remarkable, preserved Indonesian Tarantulas:
I have myself obtained a similar piece. I do hope it perished from natural causes and was picked up from the forest floor, since I would never choose to harm an exotic animal. Anyway, the most rudimentary staples hold it in place and the exposed fangs press deliciously against the flimsy plastic. Glass has come to be a metaphor for distance in the human condition; transparent polythene is so much more obscene.
Given the bank's surprisingly lax rules on organic matter, the beast will be waiting snugly between hard drives three and four, so that even after my demise I can continue the treatment of my beloved friend.
Luckily, I know he won't read this as he is presently tasked with commanding a naval vessel in Archeage. By the time of the next pipebombing campaign, this article will be hidden between other things - much like our eight-legged friend.
If any of this sounds odd, welcome to Rooks and Kings.
Psiah Auvyander: You mention that during a particular stretch of time Rooks and Kings managed to kill approximately 1000 ships while only losing 2 of your own. Was there ever a time where you felt like pipe bombing was too easy, or not very fun?
Lord Maldoror: That's an interesting question. There is a strange, relentless quality to a true pipebombing campaign.
It's very different to, for example, the tug-of-war capacitor battles that were once a trademark of our fights, or the interlocking defences of an early, tight-knit Guardian group. Pipebombing is violent, ruthless and dispenses with the foreplay in favour of a knife thrust between the ribs.
As to fun, obviously there's a certain level of fun inherent to a small group still being able to hunt Strat-Ops in the coalition era. But I think fun in Eve is also linked to the stories interwoven with the events.
So, for example, let's take a look at some recent pipebombings this summer, which have been more for 'sport' and not part of a campaign narrative.
In one case, as has happened before, the loot field of the pipebombing became the setting for an entirely different battle to control the sea of wrecks. Eve is an ecosystem and everything is connected.
In another example, the good folk of Reddit were upset that we had stooped to the murder of a helpless Procurer mining barge. Admittedly, it had occurred in the act of killing a Drake, which as we all know is the scourge of decent civilisation. Still, they had point. And so, although ostensibly on a break from pipebombing, there was a call for blood. With perfect timing, the same evening, Pasta's Ammzi then provided - in a most Red Dragon fashion - a tip-off about a fleet he'd like to see murdered.
After we returned home from the deed, we happened to pass through the very system of the mining barge kill, where the Procurer pilot then received his own tip-off: namely, two hundred unlooted wrecks, two jumps away. So the fellow who was killed in his barge ended up helping loot the wrecks of hundreds of his enemies, whose demise the outcry over his own death had precipitated. Bizarre.
Pipebombing is a very sandbox weapon and, in the end, that's part of what makes it fun for me.
When things are gained, things are also lost. It may be a little like the finesse of samurai swordplay giving way to the pounding of railroad artillery. The results are aesthetically beautiful and grand, and hence the popularity of the video, and yet also tactically very stark.
But perhaps the truth is also that I love all of that - the arms race, the journey, the extremes one is pushed towards along the way. Where does it all end? I don't know and that's part of why I play Eve.
Psiah Auvyander: Was the pipe bombing technique practically perfect from its creation or was there a lot of fine tuning that went on before the first experimental run?
Lord Maldoror: Like any doctrine, it constantly evolves.
An early example can probably demonstrate this well. As people know, refitting in combat has always been a major part of our gameplay. This initially extended to pipebombing, too. As can be seen in some of the early CC4 footage, we would tend to jump in two Archons with us (this being long before Mobile Depots) for the purpose of refitting to guns, damage mods and conventional tank, if required.
On one occasion, we hastily attempted to pipebomb a Maelstrom fleet with a collection of pirate faction battleships, kitted out with Officer Smartbombs, and loaded with guns and conventional modules in our cargo.
Things didn't go to plan and all but one of the hostile fleet landed far off, at the edge of the grid. The lone exception hit the bubble. Before Eldareth or I could say anything, our enthusiastic pipebombers vapourised the lone hostile vessel - thereby revealing to the blob that we were fit with smartbombs. Moreover, they happened to be well placed to warp in to their optimal combat range and would not hit the bubble from the correct angle.
At this point, we began trying to refit to guns and normal builds. However, the act of so many people trying so quickly to refit so many modules, caused intense server lag to the point that many module slots simply defaulted to empty.
The result of all this was that we were sitting in thirty faction battleships, half-fit, with our cargos loaded with Officer Smartbombs and surrounded by jet cans of equipment that refused to move to the carrier's hangar. And all this in a bubble, with 200 hostiles in short-warp range.
However, rather than attack, the enemies were so relieved at having evaded our bubble trap for the first time that they simply celebrated their joy in Local chat. They proudly pointed to the missed trap and the fact that they were still alive. Feeling a little like soldiers with one pant leg on and the other flapping in the wind, we played along. I shook my fist to the Heavens and gave Dr. Claw's "I'll get you next time, Gadget!" speech. Then, gathering up the jet cans and modules strewn around us, we pootled back to station with one kill and no losses. A total non-incident and yet an interesting piece of Eve psychology.
Thereafter, we dropped the refitting element of pipebombing for all but a few select cases. On that note, working around server limitations is often an aspect of pipebombing. These days, one in ten pipebombings fail to rout the fleet simply because on those occasions each ship can only get activation on one or two of their eight smartbombs (although the flipside of it is that we're then usually able to extract fairly well in those situations, for the same reasons).
Beyond the times covered by Clarion Call 4, the pipebombing actions have evolved in many ways, including Blackops Pipebombers to serve as 'mobile artillery'.
Psiah Auvyander: You mention a player named Skrubs in the credits, hinting at future releases. Care to give us a small hint at what we can expect next from the Clarion Call series?
Lord Maldoror: We can't have any spoilers, though suffice to say Skrubs is a dangerous fellow. As to the future, I hope there will be more pipebombing amid new plans and doctrines - and we may also introduce, 'The Pelican'.
Psiah Auvyander: And lastly, do you consider yourselves rooks or kings?
Lord Maldoror: Hmm, I'd say we're all toiling under the same sun.
Interviewer mini-bio: Psiah Auvyander; EVE mercenary, CEO of Noir. Academy, hiker, community manager, blogger, but mostly just a normal guy with an abnormal EVE obsession. Twitter: @wsethbrown