Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 2 September 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 31 August 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft48.34,103-39.6
22Guild Wars 213.61,159-47.9
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.5804-58.2
45EVE Online4.9414-46.6
64Final Fantasy XIV4.2359-61.8
99Lord of the Rings Online2.7231-37.7
11--Need For Speed World1.7148-31.2
12--Metin 21.7 146+31.5
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 8,497

On Sunday, Xfire recorded 46% fewer hours spent playing MMORPGs by its users than the week before.  Obviously, something went wrong.

Extended Downtime - Looking at Xfire, the service did not collect any data on 28-30 August, with only partial data on the 27th and Sunday.  Of the twelve games on the list, only Metin 2 recorded an increase in playtime.  Given that the average Xfire member only spent 3.5 hours logged in, that represents a real increase in players.  Then again, Xfire only recorded 40 people playing the game Sunday.

An Anomaly? - I've watched over the past few months as both Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar have slipped down the list.  But is this a blip caused by Xfire's problems or the end of the line for the two games unless they go free-to-play?  Next week should prove interesting.

Housekeeping Note - I've updated the spreadsheet containing all of the Xfire data I've collected over the past 2+ years with this summer's data.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Final Fantasy XIV - Low Level Character Appearance

I think I'm doing the whole "play computer game, see sexy female character" thing wrong.  I have a tendency to play both male and female characters in games I play for long periods of time.  Female characters are interesting to see how they interact with the world around them.  In some games, like EVE Online, your character's gender doesn't really matter.  Heck, for the first two years, my characters didn't even have bodies.  Even now, I mostly play with the hanger view on display so I never really see more than my characters' portraits.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Random Vacation Thoughts

I'm coming to the end of my vacation.  While I really don't have any coherent story to tell, I've run across a few things I want to note in just a random post.

1.  Final Fantasy XIV is cool - Admittedly, I'm only a 14 level conjurer still, but leveling my crafting classes looks like a lot less of a grind than in other games.  FFXIV has crafting quests like EverQuest 2 that I can run instead of just mindlessly grinding out items.  I like that a lot.  For crafting, I'm up to level 11 in botany, level 12 in carpentry, and level 8 in leatherworking.  I'll need to make a full post about the game some time.

2.  Muddling through EVE - I haven't played as much EVE as I thought I would.  But on the bright side, I've started up my factory planet again using the surplus I'd built up over the past few months.  Now I just need to remember my complete PI setup.  I've also built up my pool of loyalty points to keep stocked up on faction missiles.  I just need to start mining some kernite. 

Did I mention I finally lost my stealth bomber to a rat?  I need to get a replacement ship.  I haven't decided yet.  But since I completed training the last of my racial cruiser skills up to five, I have a wide selection of ships to chose from.  Do I stick with stealth bombers, move up to Force Recon ships (I love the Bellicose hull), or buy a Tengu?

3.  Braces about to come off - When I went off and had my mid-life crisis, instead of doing the normal things, I started playing video games and got braces.  Yesterday I got some good news.  The orthodontist for the first time talked about timing when I can get the braces taken off.  I can have the stupid things off in 2-3 months if all goes well.  Even with a setback, I should have the braces off before Fanfest next year.  I'm not sure about going to Fanfest again, but if I do so, I don't have to worry about braces.

However, the rubber bands are back in my mouth.  Ugh.  I'll try not to let any discomfort from the braces leak into my writing.

4.  Reality intruding - I'm not sure how much "reality" actually exists in the whole Quinnspiracy controversy I read in one of The Mittani's Traffic Control articles Tuesday.  Whenever I hear of a battle between the "social justice warriors" and the "men's rights activists", I just want to close the browser and walk away.  But I went ahead and spent a couple of hours researching the subject.  And no, I'm not posting what I found.  I feel cleaner when I visit botting and hacking forums.  Just because I made myself dumber with what I read doesn't mean I have to inflict the same pain on everyone else.

I only bring this up in light of what was revealed happened in Rotherham.  I keep reading about a "rape culture" on U.S. universities.  These people presided over a real rape culture.  Stories like this are part of the reason I stopped my old political blogging and turned to video games.

Look, I know that people are engaged in a culture war and video games are now an accepted part of the culture.  That doesn't mean I have to like people bringing their politics into my virtual worlds.  I play these games in order to escape from reality for an hour or two.  Unless we're trying to blow up each others internet pixels, can't we all just get along?  In game, of course.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back To The Future Part 2?

Last night I stopped by Big Country's EVE-Radio talk show for an hour or so and wound up talking about both SOMERblink 2014 and, surprisingly enough, ISBoxer.  Yes, apparently 2013 was such a good year in EVE history that we need to revisit all the issues.

I don't blame anyone on the show for bringing up the subject as ISBoxer keeps getting talked about in the community.  But if anyone just starts shouting, "It's against the EULA!", I'm just going to whip out the link to EVE's Third Party Policies and quote this paragraph:
"We do not endorse or condone the use of any third party applications or other software that modifies the client or otherwise confers an unfair benefit to players. We may, in our discretion, tolerate the use of applications or other software that simply enhance player enjoyment in a way that maintains fair gameplay. For instance, the use of programs that provide in-game overlays (Mumble, Teamspeak) and the multiboxing application is not something we plan to actively police at this time. However, if any third party application or other software is used to gain any unfair advantage, or for purposes beyond its intended use, or if the application or other software violates other parts of the EULA, we may fully enforce our rights to prohibit such use, including player bans. Please use such third party applications or other software at your own risk." [emphasis mine]
The multiboxing application is ISBoxer.  I also highlighted the last sentence as a reminder to ISBoxer users that CCP can change its mind about ISBoxer at any time.  Basically, this paragraph basically states that CCP will allow players to use ISBoxer as long as they don't act like major dicks when using the software.  At a certain point, banning ISBoxer could prove a better business decision that allowing the use of software that, in a dev blog from 2013, was described as "powerful enough to count as 'client modification' if used for that purpose."

Some players are claiming that ISBoxer users are acting like major dicks.  But calling someone names is not going to sway CCP.  At this point, considering some of the things I've heard, name calling will have me trolling people by quoting CCP's public statements and policies.  What I'd like to see are some questions asked and answered.  Here are mine.

1.  Are ISBoxer users monopolizing content?  I've seen the screenshots of the massive ISBoxer-powered ice mining fleets.  I also heard Mike Azariah state on BC's show that he doesn't like seeing big fleets of Nighthawks monopolizing some incursion sites.  Are there other examples?  And are these just isolated cases or widespread problems?

2.  How does the game need to change to accomodate the capabilities of ISBoxer?  If CCP is going to allow players to use software as powerful as ISBoxer, what mechanics do CCP need to change to make the game fairer for those who don't use ISBoxer?  I know that cloaked ships need to decloak others again to counter the ISBoxer bomber meta.  CCP already changed the way ice belts act; do they need to iterate on that?  I'm honestly curious because I don't see a lot of ISBoxer fleets in low sec.

3.  Is the objective to have more actual players, or increase accounts?  Ideally, having more players should increase the number of accounts.  I've gotten the impression over the last year that CCP would like to cut back on the number of alt accounts people have.  However, people running large numbers of ISBoxer accounts goes against that impression.  So when push comes to shove when making design decisions, does CCP want to cater to the largest amount of players possible or just treat all accounts equally?

4.  How many people actually use ISBoxer?  Are people blowing the whole ISBoxer issue way out of proportion?  Or is this a growing thing?  One thing that could turn people off from trying EVE is if the game gets a reputation as needing additional paid software in order to compete.  Since the ISBoxer extension runs in the EVE memory space, CCP could set up some monitoring to check to see just how widespread the use of the multiboxing software really is.  If anything, such monitoring will freak out bot developers, which is always a good thing.

5.  What is the effect of ISBoxer on the PLEX market?  I think everyone assumes that ISBoxer users PLEX all of their accounts.  I wonder what effect that has on the price of PLEX.  Has an assumed increase in the use of ISBoxer driven up the PLEX market?  If so, is the effect quantifiable?  Perhaps a more interesting question related to my third question is: If ISBoxer users go away, will the price of PLEX drop enough so that all the people who had to cancel accounts because they could no longer afford the price be able to reactivate those accounts?  If the answer to that question is yes, then the loss of ISBoxer accounts wouldn't really affect CCP's bottom line.

I'll admit, I don't know the answers.  What I do know is that I'm getting tired of hearing the same complaints month after month.  Worse, I keep reading the same really bad arguments month after month.  If people are going to complain about ISBoxer, at least do so intelligently and bring something new to the table.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 25 August 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 24 August 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft43.26,796-1.6
22Guild Wars 214.12,223+2.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.21,925+50.6
44Final Fantasy XIV6.0939+10.1
55EVE Online4.9776+10.2
911Lord of the Rings Online2.4371+11.1
1212Elder Scrolls Online1.7 273-9.6
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,732

With the summer almost over and school about to start, the Xfire community headed back to their keyboards.  On Sunday, Xfire members spent 4.4% more time logged into their 12 favorite MMORPGs than the week before.  The game that drove the surge was Star Wars: The Old Republic (+647 hours) while World of Warcraft (-113 hours) and Tera (-111 hours) saw the biggest drops in interest).

Player Housing Is Popular - Star Wars: The Old Republic launched its Galactic Strongholds expansion for subscribers last Tuesday.  Not only did Bioware introduce player housing, but guild housing both on planets and in massive ships.  In addition, the Conquest system was introduced to give players in guilds an extra incentive to log in and participate in group activities.

New Content and Old Players - Patch 2.35 for Final Fantasy XIV launched on 18 August offering new beast quests, colored plumage for chocobo companions among the highlights.  Square Enix also began an event Friday to welcome players back to FFXIV.  Players who unsubbed are eligible to log back into the game for free until 1 September.

Not All Patches Are Created Equal - One game that didn't benefit from a patch Sunday was Tera.   Despite adding in the "Blast from the Past" system so max level players can run older dungeons with lower level players, many Xfire players switched from Tera to other games.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vacation And Final Fantasy XIV

I'm on vacation this week, which means I have some time to play some video games as I'm not heading anyplace.  I probably won't make lengthy posts here either, which means I have no graph porn planned.  No, I'm just going to try to keep my market orders stocked up, try to revive my nanite repair paste activity again, and play Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV?  What happened to Wildstar?  Honestly, once I got to level 16, I just lost interest, so I unsubbed my account, although I still have some time left.  Also, someone at work who doesn't play MMOs got hooked on the game and sent me a referral code.  The code doesn't do anything unless I subscribe past the 30 days that comes with the download, but he could get a chocobo mount if I do wind up subscribing.  Besides, whether looking at Xfire or Raptr, FFXIV is one of the most popular MMORPGs and I haven't given the game a try. 

I was a little dubious about playing the game because I've heard how grindy games from Asia are, so I checked the game out a little more than I normally would.  First, I wanted to make sure the game runs well on my computer, as Wildstar really doesn't.  I downloaded the benchmarking software Square Enix provides and the game looked beautiful just using the standard desktop settings.  I also get around 55-60 fps at that setting.  I added a couple of graphical settings that drops the performance down to 35 fps, but as that is the performance I'm used to when playing most games, I'm keeping it.

Next, I did a little research and the job system looks intriguing.  While not as flexible as the skill-based system in EVE or The Secret World,  I like the fact I can theoretically level up all classes on one character.  Since I wanted to play a healer, I rolled a conjuror.  I'm not sure if I want to play a White Mage or a Scholar, but I understand that White Mages usually want a skill Archanists have at level 34, I can do both if I play long enough.

The game looks good, and the class system is different from what I've found in most western games.  But how does it play?  I am currently a level 10 conjurer so I haven't played enough to really tell.  But on the first night, I played until 1:30am and yesterday I wound up playing until I got sleepy and my character died for the first time.

I don't want to lead anyone on about FFXIV.  I still haven't purchased a subscription as I'm waiting to see whether the game grinds to a halt around level 15-20 or so.  I hope not, because I'm enjoying the world right now and I would like to see how everything turns out.

Friday, August 22, 2014

P2P Is Pay To Pad ... Your Killboard

Love Squad in Pasta Syndicate is at it again.  This time Saburo Ogami is ganking an alt flying a Bestower full of Khumaaks repeatedly in Hek.  They are common as dirt in Metropolis, but pretty rare in Jita, especially after someone buys up all the stock and sees the price climb to 899,666.97 ISK just four days ago.  The price has lowered back down to 399,999.99 ISK but that is still inflating the calculated server values of the items.  Or was, until about 30 minutes ago.

The pilot, Muhammad Imam, is 9 days old.  If I didn't know better, I'd say that Saburo was trying to grief Muhammad out of the game, because as of this writing he's ganked Muhammad 10 times.

As I was writing this, the value of Muhammad's killmails today dropped from 18.5 billion ISK down to 557 million ISK.  Apparently, either the system is self-correcting, or due to today's extended downtime the prices didn't get updated as quickly as they usually do.  But from where I'm sitting, it looks like Saburo was attempting to do a little market manipulation to pad his killboard stats.  Either that, or he was taking advantage of someone elses.  Still, I guess adding 2.5 billion ISK in kills to your killboard will make a pilot look a lot better.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

SOMERblink 2014: Final Verdict

Less than 72 hours after CCP's investigation into the controversy over SOMERblink's latest promotion began, CCP Falcon created a new forum thread with the results.  I'll just post the core of the opening post:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SOMERblink 2014: Closing The Doors

Last night just before midnight EVE time, the following statement was posted on SOMERblink:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SOMERblink 2014: Not So Fast

Matters are moving quickly in the case of SOMERblink's latest promotion.  The CSM contacted CCP about the matter at 2am Reykjavik time and received an immediate response from CCP Falcon, EVE Online's community manager, and CCP Leeloo, CCP's liaison with the CSM.  After putting in a 22-hour day, CCP Falcon gave an update on the forums that included this paragraph:
"Given the sheer size of the investigation that we’ll be undertaking, this is going to take some time, as a lot of ISK and assets have changed hands. While some temporary action has been taken in order to keep a handle on the situation, any outcome of an investigation is still to be determined, and I can’t give any further information regarding the process while it’s ongoing."
One of those actions apparently was to tell SOMERblink to stop their promotion.  SOMERblink's site was updated with the following:

As seen on SOMERblink on 18 August 2014
The first of the two hyperlinks contains an email exchange between Somerset Mahm and Lisa Bell-Cabrera, Vice-President in charge of Global Sales for CCP.  Posting that exchange violates point 18 of the EVE Online Terms of Service:
18.  You may not publish private communications from CCP, their agents or representatives or EVE Online volunteers without authorization.
I'm pretty sure CCP did not give permission to post that, so Somerset Mahm is subject to some sort of punishment from CCP.  While the contents of the email exchange are flying around the forums, I'll take the prudent course and not quote from the emails directly.  I'll just characterize the exchange as Somerset was anxious to get his authorization to proceed.  He became impatient with the speed with which the legal department was working and she gave her approval via email.  Interestingly, that was back in April.  The promotion was originally supposed to debut 1 May.

The second hyperlink is for the actual proposal for the promotion.  Apparently affiliate promotions are sent to CCP's legal department for approval.  Here is how CSM delegate DJ FunkyBacon described the document:

The justification for the promotion was very interesting:
"Justification: Blink provides no extra ISK or bonus Blink credit for buying through the link. Instead, we make it easy to sell your PLEX and get your ISK quickly, no matter where you are-- no Jita alt required. This is a service, in keeping with CCP's new guidelines that ETC affiliate link rewards should be service-oriented."

The description of the proposal given to CCP
Selling PLEX in Jita as a service?  Okay, I can understand that.  A very useful service for those deep in w-space.  But the paragraph begins, "Blink provides no extra ISK buying though the link."  That is true.  The extra ISK in the promotion would come from the sale.  Indeed, in point 1 of the workflow, the proposal flat out states that, "... we guarantee we'll give you the best price."

PLEX sales in Jita, 9-17 August 2014

In the proposal, Somerset stated he would give the people who purchased PLEX through his referral link the best price.  But I don't think people really understood what "best price" was.  To add to the confusion, he did not define how he would calculate that best price.  To some, the offer of 830 million ISK for a PLEX on Sunday was the best offer.  But considering that the most expensive PLEX sold for 794 million ISK in Jita on Sunday, some might consider the additional 35 million ISK "extra".

These are some of the basic facts I found yesterday.  I actually intended to wait until Wednesday to write another post on the subject, but the changes on the SOMERblink website were too significant to pass up.  Besides, with the new information available, I couldn't sleep until this post was finished.  Hopefully, other bloggers and news sites will fill in the blanks with some more detailed analysis throughout the day as more information becomes available out of CCP headquarters in Reykjavik.