Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Taxes WERE Too Damn High

Today is the launch of the Citadel expansion for EVE Online. Honestly, I am not excited. Sure, we got a couple of cool videos, but as far as I can tell, that's the highlight.


Well, for me anyway. A lot of players are excited, but if anything, the expansion looks like a slight nerf to the way I play the game unless the change to loot rates in data sites has a bigger impact than I foresee.

The situation did get better yesterday when CCP Fozzie posted an update on the tax situation with the introduction of citadels:
As we announced in the Fanfest Structures presentation, we are planning a smaller change to market taxes than had been announced earlier. This more incremental change is intended to reflect the fact that some extra features such as contracts that are ideal for a market hub will not be released in Citadels until a future date. We also want to gain the ability to observe how the market adjusts to these smaller changes and then use that information to advise future tweaks.

The currently planned market tax values are:

3% Broker’s Fee
Reduced to 2.5% with skills and 2% with both skills and max NPC standings
Is sunk from the game in NPC stations, is paid to owners in outposts, is customizable and paid to owners in Citadels
Skills and standings don’t apply in player structures
Broker’s fee formula: 3% brokers fee - ([Broker Relation skill level]0.1 + [Faction Standing level]0.03 + [Corp Standing level]*0.02)

2 % Transaction Tax
Reduced to 1 % with max skills
Is sunk from the game in all locations and is not customizable

We intend to tweak these taxes further at a later point after contracts have been added to citadels. The exact values of that next round of tweaks would depend on the metrics after this first release.

We are also making an adjustment to the plan for reprocessing rigs in Citadels. The earlier plan had two security bands for reprocessing rig bonuses, one for highsec and another for low/null/wh. We are separating lowsec into its own band with intermediate reprocessing rig bonuses to preserve the advantage of nullsec refining.

The new values are:
Unrigged Citadel (in all areas of space): 50%
T1 rigged Highsec Citadel: 52%
T2 rigged Highsec Citadel: 54%
T1 rigged Lowsec Citadel: 55.12%
T2 rigged Lowsec Citadel: 57.24%
T1 rigged Null/WH Citadel: 58.24%
T2 rigged Null/WH Citadel: 60.48%

Thanks and good luck with all your post-Citadel plans!
I never had a desire to own a POS and citadels, if anything, are even less attractive. Overall, I think we will see a lot of solo players and very small corporations forced to abandon the use of all but the smallest structures in EVE like mobile depots. Still, the reduction in the tax hikes from the previously announced levels is a welcome development.

As a general principle, I don't like nerfing an existing game feature to make a new feature more attractive. In the case of citadels, I realize that the tax and broker fees in the existing NPC stations were too low to give a slight advantage to player-owned structures. However, I think giving the new citadels a 3-4% tax advantage was a bit much. Lowering the tax differential while giving citadels better active game play I think is a much better decision.

I do want to start logging into EVE a lot more going forward. Not because of the expansion though. I usually don't chase after the new shiny objects CCP throws out. I do, however, want to lose myself amongst the virtual stars and leave some of the more mundane cares like the Council of Stellar Management behind me. The metagame is getting old and I need to start pressing keys and clicking buttons on my mouse again.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bobmon, Team Security, And Pandora's Box

One of the interesting aspects of EVE Online is one never quite knows what will happen next. Not just inside the game world, but outside as well. Even in my chosen specialty of real money trading, conditions constantly change. Something as simple sounding as a PLEX sale or the introduction of a new item like skill injectors can cause major effects not only in the out of game secondary RMT markets, but in New Eden itself. In the world of RMT, even the results of the election for the eleventh Council of Stellar Management matter.

When I attended the Security roundtable on Saturday, I expected something unusual would occur. After all, someone always asks about a new tool or some situation that makes me think. What I didn't really expect was a newly elected member of the CSM, Bobmon, to appear. He strode confidently across the front of the room, taking a seat four or five chairs to my left.

As he sat down, I knew I needed to keep an eye on Bobmon. During his CSM Watch interview conducted in January, he bragged how he intervened when CCP, presumably the security team, blacklisted the gambling site I WANT ISK from EVE Online's in-game browser in the spring of 2015. I looked around and saw no sign of 1ronbank, the fabulously wealthy Twitch streamer who frequently serves as I WANT ISK's spokesman. Both I WANT ISK and 1ronbank are major advertisers on the EVE news site Eve News 24, of which Bobmon is editor-in-chief. Some who covered the CSM election this year even believed that Bobmon, if elected, would actively work to advancing the interests of his sponsors. Would I witness Bobmon prove his detractors correct less than 48 hours after the announcement of the voting results?

After a long discussion about the importance of account security in the age of skill injectors, CCP Bugartist called on the newly elected space politician. My attention perked up a little, as Bobmon had his hand raised for a lot less time than did a lot of others vying for the security chief's attention.

Reports from previous CSMs all indicate that Team Security under the leadership of CCP Bugartist is always well-prepared. From my own experience working with the team on its Fanfest 2015 presentation, I can confirm the observation. A lot of issues players want addressed are out of Team Security's control, but what they can control is usually handled well. When CCP Bugartist called on Bobmon, I knew shit was about to get real.

Bobmon began by introducing himself as the editor-in-chief of Eve News 24. He then went into his background of helping a gambling site when it lost access to the in-game browser. Trying to establish his bona fides as a champion of the people, Bobmon broadened out his argument to include everyone who receives either a temporary or permanent ban and appeals the ruling. The newly-minted CSM member concluded by asking what Team Security planned to do to not only prevent players from receiving undeserved bans, but to speed up investigation of those bans.

I admit my memory of CCP Bugartist's first few words are a bit hazy, because what came next is one of those moments many players, including myself, dream of. Most of the time, game companies do not disclose the details of incidents involving breaches of a game's terms of service. Every once in a while, however, a game company obliges if the complaining party does so loudly enough. Saturday marks one of those times.

Before continuing, I want to emphasize one point. I do not know CCP Bugartist's thought process for what occurred next. I do know that Team Security tries to keep up-to-date on the meta and current events. Also, Bobmon did introduce himself as someone who intervened on I WANT ISK's behalf in a previous security matter. Whatever the reason, CCP Bugartist chose to treat Bobmon as part of the I WANT ISK family and acted in the time-honored tradition of game companies everywhere when confronted by a rule breaker relying on the game company's usual reluctance to disclose details of disciplinary action.

CCP Bugartist cut right to the chase and pointed out that the incident Bobmon really addressed with his question involved the twelve I WANT ISK bankers banned for illicit RMT activity in late December/early January. Addressing the accusation that the banning of the bankers involved an inadequate investigation, CCP Bugartist revealed that two members of his staff looked into the matter before any bans occurred. The head of security also revealed that the activities the twelve engaged in were serious and if he had his way, they would still be banned. Furthermore, if any of the returned bankers stepped out of line in any way, he would receive a permanent ban.

I don't think Bobmon expected CCP Bugartist's response. In the space of 2-3 minutes, the entire narrative surrounding I WANT ISK changed. Up until Saturday, I WANT ISK and its defenders claimed that a single bad apple introduced dirty ISK into the system and that CCP was slowly clearing the other bankers of any wrongdoing. Bobmon, with his question, gave CCP Bugartist the opportunity to set the record straight and expose the false narrative pushed out by I WANT ISK to the player base over the past few months.

I do have to give the I WANT ISK team credit for developing such a good story. Everyone knows that the penalty for selling ISK, PLEX, skill point injectors, and other in-game objects in EVE is the termination of all of that player's accounts. Instead, for some unknown reason, CCP only temporarily suspended the accounts of the I WANT ISK bankers in question. Because they knew when the bans expired, they could establish a storyline in which bankers are unwittingly caught up in a huge RMT operation run by someone in SpaceMonkey's Alliance, with CCP slowly clearing all the "innocent" bankers.

I believe the story I laid out above is just the end state that played out at the end of March and beginning of April. Did the bankers initially receive permanent ban letters? At this time, I cannot determine either way. Did someone overrule CCP Bugartist? Given his statement in the roundtable session, I see that as a distinct possibility. But reducing a punishment is not the same as declaring someone innocent.

Normally, I would end the story here. But I wound up with one loose thread: Bobmon. Is he some sort of secret I WANT ISK insider whose connection to the gambling site was uncovered by CCP's internal affairs team when vetting Bobmon and that is why CCP Bugartist felt comfortable revealing the information he did? Seems too complex, right? After all, who would come up with the concept of "secret shareholders" anyway?

Time to apply Occam's Razor. What is the simplest explanation for Bobmon's behavior given his behavior over the past 12-18 months? Bobmon actually believed the story put out by the I WANT ISK community that CCP unjustly banned 11-12 player's and was extremely slow in clearing the players' names. Why did Bobmon believe the story? Because members of the I WANT ISK organization told him that CCP had cleared the involved players of any wrongdoing. Or, to express what occurred more indelicately, they misrepresented CCP's statements, a fact we only learned on Saturday.

Assuming I am correct about Bobmon lack of secret shareholder status, I know he is not the only one fooled by the story. If someone goes around telling everyone that CCP cleared them of an offense when his account was temporarily banned and the ban ended, a lot of people will believe what they heard. After all, CCP isn't contradicting the story right? Well, at least until Saturday they weren't.

One of the most important currencies for gambling websites, as in EVE, is trust. A site with a reputation for running crooked games will not last long. Neither will a site known as a hub for illicit RMT activity. Who wants to patronize a site that CCP may close at any time and thus lose all their ISK? At best, the extra level of risk limits the amount of players willing to visit the site. I WANT ISK recognizes that factor and in the past publicly declared an intolerance for illicit RMT. The operator of the site and his spokesmen even went so far as to state he would immediately remove anyone found engaged in practices like ISK selling.

In the past, I WANT ISK could easily maintain that position to the public. CCP immediately terminated the accounts of those caught selling ISK. But in the latest case, CCP only suspended the accounts of the bankers involved. I WANT ISK faced a dilemma. Follow through with its stated policy and permanently lose the services of eleven experienced bankers? Or misrepresent CCP’s enforcement actions, secure in the belief that the security team would never contradict them? The gambling site chose the latter course of action. After all, stating that CCP had investigated the operation and found no one currently involved had not engaged in any wrongdoing is a lot better for business that admitting that eleven bankers received temporary game bans for conducting illicit RMT and that some of them still served on staff.

I believe the latest information concludes the story of the I WANT ISK bankers temporarily removed from the game at the beginning of 2016. I know questions like whether the enforcement action began with information supplied by members of SpaceMonkey’s Alliance still exist. If the answers to those questions emerge I will blog about them at that time. As for the cover-up? I am too tired after travelling home from Fanfest to address the question fully. But from my understanding of the situation, I don’t believe I WANT ISK, in spreading the false story, violated any of the terms of the EVE Online EULA or Terms of Service. I will add that EVE Online is CCP’s game, not mine, and if they think differently and take public action, I will blog about that also.

UPDATE (26 April): I probably need to put in a clarification. When I refer to I WANT ISK making statements, I refer to the entire organization, including bankers. If I refer to a statement from the owner of I WANT ISK, Eep, I try to point that out.

In the comments, I believe Eep, posting as the user I WANT ISK, left the following comment that sheds a little light on Bobmon's involvement with IWI.

Hi!
On my phone right now and ran across this.

CCP never told us why the bankers were banned or unbanned. In our announcements we always included multiple possibilities and theories. The most believed theory was tainted ISK. How this came across as factual is simply the natural spin of things on the web. I mean, it is possible that somewhere down the line I mistakenly made it sound factual but I always tried to make sure I never revealed any information from CCP.

Bobmon is a banker but not a shareholder of IWantISK.com.

Hope that clears some stuff up at fanfest, CCP Bugartist was simply stating that they had multiple people conclude that these bankers deserved a ban. I don't know what caused them to decide to ban and unban these bankers but it definitely had to do with investigations into possible rmt. That was never denied.

Cheers

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Learning From Each Other

The Fanfest schedule came out late last week and I heard some rumblings about how few developer presentations would occur.



I realize I have a limited social circle here in Reykjavik, but the questions continued. The schedule for today really stood out. No events in any other room but in the main Tranquility hall. As I recall, no drinks are allowed in that room, making for a very long 5 hours. Even then, CCP developers will only speak for 4 hours, with the 5th hour a presentation by Andrew Groen, the author of Empires of EVE.

Looking at Friday's schedule, one can see that player presentations far outnumber CCP's. I know that last year the theme from marketing was that players make the game and they wanted player involvement to really push the concept. But does that now apply for this year? After all, the Citadel expansion is less than a week away. Why isn't CCP using Fanfest to promote its first great expansion in two years?

A couple of reasons come to mind. The most obvious is: the expansion launches in less than a week. The developers are busy putting the finishing touches on the expansion and don't have time to put together and practice presentations. The tinfoil hat crowd may even claim that the lack of presentations indicates the expansion is not ready and we will see a delay on Citadel reaching Tranquility.

The second reason is that CCP is busy turning itself into a maker of virtual reality games and doesn't want to distract from players trying out this year's offerings. Observers may recall that EVE:Valkyrie first made a public appearance at Fanfest in 2013 and a beta version of EVE: Gunjack appeared last year. Who knows what's in store for players this year? Whatever the VR devs present, one can count on the fact that participants will receive a survey to take afterwards.

One thing I wonder about is just how much CCP learns from players during Fanfest. Looking at the schedule, CCP conducts a lot of roundtables in which they gather a lot of information. The devs also get to hear a lot of chatter from players both at the Harpa walking around and in the bars at night. In fact, one such bar is downstairs from the CCP offices. Is the presence of so many player presentations a sign that CCP learns as much from the player presentations as the players learn from the developer presentations?

Whatever the reason, all I know is I don't have to think about what sessions to attend today. I just need to take notes and stay awake.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In Reykjavik Once Again

Reykjavik and Fanfest are now a constant in my life. For the fifth year in a row I have made the pilgrimage to Iceland. In the beginning, I came by myself and didn't know anyone. In those years the highlight of my journey was Fanfest and the Golden Circle tour. But as the years went on I began to meet people and the trip became more of a social event.

CCP Manifest with Rahne and Scared Panda

The new twist this year was I took a non-stop flight from Chicago to Reykjavik. Icelandair began the service in 2015 and I enjoyed the lack of a layover in Boston. The service only runs four days a week, so I arrived Monday instead of on my usual day of Sunday.

I saw a lot of celebrities, and I'm not just referring to Twitch streamers Rahne, Scared Panda, and Yolo Swagtron. Andrew Groen, the author of The Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online, was flying out on his short book tour taking him to Fanfest and PAX East. A bit to my surprise, we found CCP Manifest camping the gate. If he thought he could slip unnoticed into Iceland by avoiding the East Coast airports, he thought wrong.

Bairfhionn Isu and Spanky Ikkala

After taking a nap, I next took the scenic route to the opening of this year's Fanfest beers with Twitter celebrity GabbyHon. I managed to get the scale of the map wrong and we got off the bus a little farther away than expected. I probably should have told her I get lost at least once during a trip. A useful trait when flying around New Eden, but not so much in real life.

We then met up with a few familiar faces, including EVE TV host Spanky Ikkala. With the brewery's location right under the CCP offices, I also spotted a lot of developers and community people. Oh, and the beer. Last year I didn't like any of the beer served. This year, I found a red ale, called Safety Off, pretty good. A little pricey at 1100 krona (sometimes abbreviated ISK), but I'm on vacation, and I drank more expensive drinks at EVE Vegas.

The Pearl (Perlan)
As I type this post, I see snow falling from the skies from my room at the Natura co-located at the local airport. I am not too worried, as the weather can change quite dramatically in the space of an hour. One of my goals is to visit the grounds of The Pearl restaurant. The Pearl sits on top of Öskjuhlíd Hill and has a great view of Reykjavik. Even if I don't make it into the reportedly pricey restaurant itself, I would like to visit the grounds and take some pictures. I have a new camera and want to try it out.

That's the travel update so far. I expect I will turn more towards game mechanics and the future of EVE as the convention nears. But I'm back in Iceland and when I'm not cold, I'm having fun.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

This Time I Mean It

Tomorrow I head to the airport and fly off to Iceland to attend Fanfest. Instead of feeling excited, I feel kind of disgusted. That sense of something evil lingering in the background has bothered me for a couple of weeks. I finally figured out the problem. Against my own advice, I fell into the habit of visiting r/eve again.

Reddit in general, and r/eve in particular, are bad places to go. The EVE Online sub-reddit is capable of sucking the enjoyment of EVE out of a person faster than an officer-fit Bhaalgorn can drain the capacitor from an Atron. But the war to end all wars erupted and I found myself reading the posts looking for news. Oh, I found news, but I also found the usual collection of hatred, poison, and ignorance that drove me out last year.

In 2015, CCP felt the wrath of the internet hordes. Now, during the war, the target is the Imperium. The one constant is that the denizens of r/eve will aim their vile focus on someone. I'm not going to wait around to see who the mob chooses as its next victim after the Imperium falls. I am outta there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Casino War: Deklein and FCon Departs

Just a short post concerning the war. Fidelas Constans, one of two Imperium alliances that called Branch home, left the Imperium last night. Wilhelm has a post up over at The Ancient Gaming Noob concerning the situation in the Imperium.

Also, the Money Badger incursions into Deklein now look like an actual invasion looking to take sov.


I realize that with Goonswarm setting its timers during the Australian time zone that the fights listed on the map are outdated before this post is published. To see the results, just refer to the map above and compare it to the live map on Dotlan. But I figure if Goonswarm puts up a determined stand that someone should record the action somehow. I think maps may make a good medium.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fact Checking Yesterday's IWANTISK Story On TheMittaniDotCom

By now, thousands of EVE Online players have heard about a story, "How IWI Made Criminals Of CCP And Me", published on TheMittani.com yesterday. I had a simple reaction: WTF! So I decided to do a little fact checking of the article.

The more irritating the article, the deeper I dig. So I decided to start with a sentence most would take on face value:
"What might be less obvious on its face is that IWI is actually a legal (using that word loosely) business entity – owned, formed, and operated under the laws of my own state of Florida."
That's right. After reading the author's article, I trusted his fact checking ability so little that I didn't even trust his statement of where he said IWI operates. So let's go down the rabbit hole one more time and see where we wind up.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My New Google Site

Sometimes I hear people displaying ignorance about the rules concerning real money trading in EVE Online. For example, players do not get permanently banned for the first time they are caught buying ISK from illicit RMT sites; the penalty is a 7-day suspension of all accounts and confiscation of the ill-gotten goods and funds. Despite all of CCP's efforts, a lot of people don't know the rules surrounding RMT and other security issues.

The lack of knowledge is really irritating, especially during The Casino War (aka World War Bee) as The Imperium seeks to tag one of the greatest slurs on its enemies, often without proof. Then some defenders feel they have to respond and display a level of knowledge that makes me want to tear my hair out and bang my head on my keyboard. Of course, I should look at the bright side. As long as players don't know the rules, CCP will keep holding Security presentations at Fanfest and I'll get to learn a little more about the situation.

I am currently in the process of building a Google site with information about real money trading in MMORPGs like EVE Online. When I write building, I have not even made basic decisions like the best method to navigate the site or even the site's name. I also still need to put in sections like "Frequently Asked Questions". But I figure I needed to link to the site on the blog. Right now, the Google site contains links to some of CCP's policies as well as security-related developer blogs and some of my writing on real money trading.

I added the site to the menu at the top of the blog already. For those perhaps reading the post through some sort of RSS feed, you can access the site by clicking here.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Casino War: Full Retreat

I only have time at night to make two maps. Unfortunately, I needed to make five to show the Imperium's collapsing situation. Tenal is just a mop-up operation for DRONE WALKERS right now that may take a couple of more weeks to finish, even with little to no opposition. In Branch, Money Badger forces have spread out and are reinforcing as much as possible. And in Pure Blind, Mordus Angels and Dot Dot Dot have sovereignty despite their relative proximity to the Imperium's main staging system of Saranen.


The first map is that old favorite Fade. The Money Badger Coalition seized five freeported stations yesterday, including four in the constellation of UWRZ-2. The Imperium is still attempting to shore up SpaceMonkey's Alliance, but I'm not sure how much longer the alliance can remain independent within the coalition. If SMA loses all its systems, I can see the coalition leadership closing the doors on SMA.


The second map is of Tribute. Tactical Narcotics Team is under tremendous pressure from Mercenary Coalition and Circle-of-Two. If TNT moved its main fighting force to the Imperium's main staging system of Saranen, I would consider the situation in Tribute another mop-up operation.

From 0400 on 7 April to 0400 on 8 April, I counted a total of 50 capture events occurring in Branch, Fade, Pure Blind, Tenal, and Tribute. The Money Badger Coalition won all 50 events. Perhaps in a great war scenario the Imperium may eventually win. But for The Casino War, the Imperium is well on its way to losing the conflict.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Casino War: Fade And Tenal

I realize I am bad at EVE. If I were good, I would chime in on the controversy over what to call the current war now underway in the galactic north. Instead, I have my head buried in Dotlan maps and the current situation. Today's selections comes from Fade and Tenal.


First, the situation in Fade. After Sunday's drubbing, I wondered how the Imperium, especially SpaceMonkey's Alliance, would fare. Over the past 48 hours, they split the events 22-22. Better than losing 20-2 as happened Sunday, but that still meant that the Money Badger Coalition continued its march toward Deklein.

In the constellation of 7X-X1Y, the MBC finally took firm control, with SMA left holding only 2 TCUs at the end of yesterday's fighting. The MBC, particularly Pandemic Horde, streamed into the UWRZ-2 and freeported 4 stations in the constellation. Including the outpost in P-33KR, capture event for 5 stations will begin between 21:34 on 7 April through 00:10 on 8 April. Everyone could wake up Friday morning with the MBC sitting on Deklein's doorstep in a very strong position.


The situation in Tenal is a lot worse for The Imperium, assuming the region wasn't outright abandoned. The Initiative. moved to Syndicate and the DRONE WALKERS may take the remaining INIT. space in the next couple of days. RAZOR Alliance's holdings will take longer to swallow and digest. DRONE WALKERS, however, have switched to a strategy of capturing stations first. Currently, they have 9 stations freeported in Tenal. I guess they want to make sure anyone who attempts to come back and harass them will not have a station to base out of.

I know I should look at the situation involving Tactical Narcotics Team in Tribute, but I'll let Wilhelm tell that story.