Friday, October 31, 2014

EVE Players Like Long Queues

Players of MMORPGs usually hate long queues.  Long queues to log into a game at launch.  Long queues in the group finder.  Long queues for battlegrounds.  Players just hate long queues.  With the launch of Phoebus on Tuesday, CCP will present EVE players with two new long queues.  And the players love it.

The first queue is the skill queue.  A lot of people are turned off by EVE's time-based skills learning system.  But I love the feature.  Of course, I have had some struggles.  I had to juggle my plan when I used to travel to Bulgaria on business and didn't have access to the game.  As a less than a year old player, I didn't have many skills that I could train for the two weeks that I stayed my first time.  And my last trip was three weeks.

But that changes Tuesday.  In Phoebe, the rule that a player cannot insert skills into the skills learning queue if the queue is longer than 24 hours goes away.  The new limits are a maximum of 50 skills that cannot extend for more than 10 years.  Also, a player cannot insert a skill if the prerequisites are not already trained.

Now, don't panic everyone.  CCP is not planning on shutting down Tranquility in 10 years (that we know of).  Instead, the dev blog states, "These limits are being maintained for safety as this significant change to the skill-training system goes live, and are not set in stone."

Order Subject To Change
I plan on taking advantage of the feature fairly quickly.  I'll use Wandering Rose, my CEO character.  She's trained to fly Minmatar command ships, achieved Mastery V in all Industrial and Transport Ships, and has learned every Resource Processing skill to level V except for Scrap Metal Processing and Mercoxit Processing.  I plan on finishing up Mercoxit Processing to 5, then work on getting the racial encryption and science skills to their maximum levels.  That plan will take me into January 2016.

My skill plan for once aligns nicely with another long queue CCP plans to add with their invention changes.  In Crius, CCP got rid of the bad queues when industry slots were eliminated from stations.  Now, CCP is adding the ability to queue invention jobs.  Okay, technically the change is not a queue.  But CCP Ytterbium did use the word in the dev blog, so I'm using it too.  He wrote:
"Since the Crius release in July, invention only consumes one blueprint copy run at a time. As such we are adding the possibility for Phoebe to queue those runs on a similar manner with Manufacturing runs."
I really like the possibility.  I like running my invention jobs 5 at-a-time for an item and then seeing the results of the random number generator.  Now I will just run 5 jobs off the same blueprint and research more items simultaneously.  I'm sure serious inventors will install a lot more jobs.

The New Invention Formula
I should explain why I intend to spend all of 2015 researching the science skills on a character.  The invention changes also include a revamped invention chance formula.  With my current skills, my invention chance is the base % chance for success multiplied by 1.367.  After the training completes, that will increase to the base % chance for success multiplied by 1.458.  So for instance, when inventing Barrage ammunition, my chance for success will increase from 46.5% to 49.6%.  When inventing Prospects, my chance for success increases from 41% to 43.7%.  Is taking up that much training time worth the gains?  Depends on how involved I get into tech 2 production.  But Wandering Rose is my CEO character, which means not really getting involved in combat except for providing boosts in missions when flying a Claymore or Slepnir.

So those are the queue changes.  Only in the EVE sandbox are longer queues cheered.  But who ever said that EVE players are your normal type of gamer?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The CSM 9 Summer Summit Minutes: Team Security

The CSM 9 Summer Summit minutues were released yesterday.  All 146 pages of them.  The news sites, bloggers, and podcasters will cover the minutes for days, if not weeks.  But I don't think the coverage will last weeks due to the effect the release of Phoebe is having on the null sec map already.  As usual, I'll comment on the security portion of the minutes.  For some reason, a lot of people want to know what I think.

First, the session was highly redacted.  Then again, I didn't expect anything less, although CCP apparently is showing more trust in the CSM and showing more sensitive information.  CCP is conducting a shadow war against the illicit RMTers who sell ISK and items and the botting, hacking, and exploiting that degrade the game play experience of players.  Here is the segment of the minutes of the subjects that interest me the most:
CCP Bugartist: Security topics within CCP [...] Make sure we will improve the quality of code of every single line of code we produce. The same for processes [...] that’s what we do on a strategic level. Some samples on the following slides [...]. And also technology [...].

CCP Bugartist: More to product and game security [...] Botting, cheating, RMTing [...]. Massive amounts of data [...], data analytics [...].

CCP Bugartist: When there is a mass theft of credit cards [...] We improved [...]. So there is a lot of stuff we are working on to make accounts more secure, I will show some details [...] And there is the housekeeping we are working on [...] You will see some numbers later which are [...] Any questions? Okay, let’s talk about EVE Online universe account security. Overall [...] We also really want to have better account security, which is for example [...]

Corbexx: What about authentication keys?

CCP Bugartist: You’re talking about multifactor authentication, in the second phase [...] So we have multiple options [...] All of this will be totally opt in [...] Any questions regarding account security?

Sion Kumitomo: Having an option for multifactor authentication would be fabulous and awesome.

CCP Bugartist: Multifactor will definitely help to reduce the amount of hacked accounts. One thing for example [...] The user should control how they log into the game. So that’s why we would like the user to select how they log in, it should be an option you can choose. Of course it might change the prioritization of [...]

CCP Peligro: The guy who hacks your account is usually involved in RMT, so that’s something we want to catch too.

Multi-factor authentication is probably an area I need to explore more in-depth on the blog.  Of course, I had a bad experience with Wildstar, which chose to add the option after early access launched.  But if CCP does add in multi-factor authentication, I suggest everyone immediately use it as soon as the feature is released.  I painfully discovered that hackers will put their own authentication on the account if possible in order to lock the owner of the account out.  Then again, I do use Google Authenticator, so I'm not a skeptic, just wary of how a company implements the feature on a long running service like an MMORPG.

The big issue, or at least the one that has the most in the minutes, was ISBoxer.  Here is the section where CCP Peligro gave an overview of ISBoxer:

CCP Peligro: This is more or less CCP’s stance on multiboxing, if you filed a ticket asking if you can multibox, in a nutshell it says that CCP will never sanction or authorize use of a third party program because we don’t have control over the feature set. That’s why there might be some confusion because there is a sort of grey area. We will action on it if […] This is the stance outlined on the third party policy page on our website. So this is the amount of accounts we have flagged […] ISboxers will frequently contact us because it is a grey area […] We have stats on what ISboxers are doing […] but there’s no standard ISboxer. Peligro's edit: Refer to
The interesting part of this entry is that CCP is keeping track of the use of ISBoxer.  I'd love to get my hands on the numbers, as I've wondered about the effects of the software for some time.

The four members of the CSM who spoke out about the use of ISBoxer were Xander Phoena, Ali Aras, Mike Azariah, and Sugar Kyle.  Xander's concerns were based on whether ISBoxer violated the EULA and trying to clarify the matter once and for all.  Ali concentrated on the use for stealth bombing and input duplication.  Mike concentrated on the effects on incursion running and the wording of the EULA.  And Sugar Kyle focused not only on the perception that CCP is not enforcing its own rules, but wondered if CCP had the capability of enforcing those rules.  Xander may have spelled out the main problem with the use of ISBoxer:
Xander Phoena: The problem is that if I lose my Vindicator to ten guys then fair enough they trained for it and deserve it, but if I lose it to one guy flying ten ships perfectly than I haven’t made nearly the same level of mistake and it required infinitely less skill on their part. There’s a perception that I’ve been cheated out of my Vindicator.
That perception is bad for EVE, recruiting new players, and retaining existing ones.

I found another segment by CCP Peligro interesting:
CCP Peligro: Yes, but the blanket OK is something that I doubt we'll do. We don't have any control of third-party programs and it would be irresponsible of us to sanction use of something we didn't make. There are also concerns with regards to liability. The software is used for all kinds of nefarious things, not just multi-boxing. We’re banning RMT’s and botters because that’s more detrimental to the game world. Client Modification is another big thing, and ISBoxer in particular is a powerful framework for this purpose.
Team Security is prioritizing its work based on the impact on New Eden, and ISBoxer is not as damaging as RMTers and botters.  However, I'm glad to see that I'm not that far off when stating that ISBoxer is considered client modification.

The one takaway from the minutes I have concerning ISBoxer is that Team Security is tracking the usage of the multi-boxing software.  I know that Team Security is a small team and I want to see them using their resources in the most effective manner.  If I have a choice of having multi-factor authentication or banning ISBoxer, I'd rather have multi-factor authentication.

Those are some quick thoughts on the minutes.  Getting any information on the shadow war between Team Security and the illicit RMTers and their allies is always difficult.  I could have wished for more information, but that's not really realistic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

If You Like Your Ratting Stealth Bomber... can keep it.  At least that's the message I got out of CCP Fozzie's latest post in the stealth bomber revamp thread.  Of course, I play in low sec and others may have a different take on the latest news, so I'll post it here in its entirety.
"Hey everyone. Here are our latest updates to the plan.

"Firstly and most significantly, the change to decloaking mechanics has been put on hold indefinitely. We are going to take some more time to work on the best way to have ships interact with cloakies and it's very possible that our eventual changes will be significantly different than what we talked about earlier. For now, cloaked ships will not decloak each other.

"We're also going to be removing some of the earlier increase in signature radius and shifting it to a penalty on the bomb launcher itself. The T1 bomb launcher will add +10m signature radius and the T2 will add 12m.

"We're increasing the capacity of the T2 bomb launcher to 300m3.

"The Focused Void Bomb will have an explosion radius of 5000m, 1000m more than originally proposed.

"Both the new bomb and new interdiction probe will be made available exclusively in the Syndicate LP store.

"The new interdiction probe will be delayed slightly as we've run into some graphical issues with it that we'll need more time to properly fix.

"We've sourced a lot of these changes from this thread, thanks to everyone who has been providing feedback."
So what does this mean?  First, rolling back the change to cloaking mechanics will probably make players in wormholes happy.  Also, keeping the mechanics as is on Tranquility will make some people who were looking forward to not having to sig tank their ships in null sec sad.
The shift in signature radius from the ship's hull to the bomb launchers is what inspired the title for this post.  Basically, the signature change is now directed specifically at stealth bombers who want to bomb.  Those who just want to use the ships to rat with (or PvP in using torpedoes) will not get hit with the change.  However, I don't see a reduction in the proposed hit points.  So my Hound may wind up with a buff after all is said and done.

The next two changes, in capacity for the Tech 2 bomb launcher and increase in Focused Void Bomb explosion radius, are designed to make the bomber's lives easier.  I'm assuming that when CCP takes something away, they also try to give something back, even if the two are not equivalent in impact.  Don't take the last sentence as a judgment on the changes, however.  I don't really know enough to tell.

Making the new bomb and new interdiction probe available only from the Syndicate LP store is a move to bolster another loyalty point store.  From taking a quick scan through the products, placing the items here probably was the logical decision.

One thing that wasn't mentioned was the elephant in the thread, ISBoxer.  From reading the thread, apparently the changes would hit regular player groups more than users of the Lavish Software product.  According to the stealth bomber pilots in the thread, the changes would give ISBoxer users an even greater advantage over players who don't use the software.  If so, then give credit to CCP for reverting the decloaking change and trying to balance the game around the software.  Because as long as CCP allows players to use ISBoxer, the company has a responsibility to not make players feel they need to pay money to another company in order to play its game.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 28 October 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 October 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft55.08,742-2.5
22Star Wars: The Old Republic10.31,633+6.4
33Guild Wars 29.71,548+15.1
44EVE Online5.0801+14.6
56Final Fantasy XIV4.6730+33.0
109Lord of the Rings Online1.6248-21.0
1111APB: Reloaded1.5239+3.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,882

Sunday saw another uptick in the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its favorite MMORPGs.  The 1.9% increase in hours played compared to the previous Sunday was led by Guild Wars 2 (+203 hour) while World of Warcraft (-227 hours) led all games that experienced a decline in game play.

A Holiday Event - Guild Wars 2 experienced the largest increase in hours played Sunday following the release of Blood and Madness on 21 October.  The Mad King returns for two weeks in the annual autumn event along with Bloody Prince Edrick.

A Pre-Patch Scramble - Square Enix' latest patch for Final Fantasy XIV, 2.4, was scheduled to take 25 hours to deploy on Monday.  I just have to wonder if that helped increase activity on Sunday as players knew they couldn't play on Monday.

A Nightmare of an Expansion - RIFT made its first appearance on the list since late July based on its latest expansion, Nightmare Tide.  The expansion, released 22 October, raises the level cap to 65, adds three new zones and allows players to visit the Plane of Water, adds 6 new dungeons and a raid, plus adds a minion system and an expanded mentoring system.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Mastering" The Wreathe

When I started playing EVE Online in 2009, the game had many ships for hauling cargo, but only two, the Mammoth and the Iteron Mark V, were really viable ships in the long term, with the Gallente industrial the obvious best-in-class.  The type of mission a player received from an agent (combat, courier, or mining) in those ancient times was chance-based and depended on EVE's random number generator.  Back then, Wandering Rose supported Rosewalker's stay in the constantly war-dec'd EVE University by transporting in her Mammoth what later became planetary interaction products between NPCs, buying low and selling high.  An activity that in many games is considered a bannable exploit was a feature, not a bug.

Times changed, mostly for the better.  In Incursion patch 1.5 released in May 2011, the number of agent divisions was simplified from twenty down to three: Security, Distribution, and Mining.  Better yet, the RNG was removed from the process and the type of mission handed out is now related to the agent's division.  Distribution missions now offered players the fastest way to increase NPC corporation and faction standings needed for things like access to better mission agents, the installation and purchase of jump clones, and lowest NPC taxes and fees when selling items on the market.  I have taken advantage of this over the years to obtain the best refine rates in every low sec system in which I routinely operate in Minmatar space.  I still use distribution missions to obtain the loyalty points I need to run my faction ammunition business.  But before I obtained the skills to fly a Prowler, the Minmatar blockade runner, I was stuck flying the lumbering Mammoth due to the cargohold requirements of level 4 missions.

The era of limited practical choice of tech 1 haulers ended with Odyssey 1.1 in September 2013 when the industrial ships received a rebalance pass that not only gave the ships different roles, but created specialized ships as well.  Now, the tech 1 version of my beloved Prowler was actually useful for the way I play.  Sadly, once you've gone blockade runner, you'll never go back.

Looking at the Wreathe, especially following the warp speed changes in Rubicon, I see the ship I wanted as a new player back in 2009 and again following the mission revamp in 2011.  While I don't plan to fly the ship personally, I think taking a close look at the Wreathe's potential, especially when combined with the Mastery system in the Interbus Ship Identification System (ISIS) that was released in Rubicon, is worth a few words.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Preparing For Phoebe Isn't Just For The Big Guys

Although the average concurrent user numbers on Tranquility are down year-over-year, those still logging in are busily preparing for the release of Phoebe on 4 November.  The null sec powers are on the move, with Pandemic Legion selling off half its holdings in the Drone Regions, the CFC consolidating its forces to the north-west corner of the galactic map, and Nulli Secunda rumored to have its eye on Delve.  But those looking toward the future are not just limited to members of the null sec powers.  CCP Seagull has stated on numerous occasions that she also wants to create content for solo players as well as those in thousand-pilot alliances.  For Phoebe, at least, her design team has succeeded as I find myself wrapped up in preparing for the next release as well.

One thing I have to consider are the bomber changes.  Although I fly in low sec, I've flown a Hound for two years.  Lately I have signature tanked the ship, but that is getting nerfed in favor of a shield buff.  I may have to shift to a new ship to provide overwatch when I dual-box with my Procurer pilot.  Do I finally build the Stratios?  Or do I switch to a Force Recon ship?  I can fly the ships from all four factions.  I love my cloaky ships, and since I finish up training the last of the medium weapon tech 2 skills to 4 on Monday, I'll feel more comfortable with my weapons choices.  Oh, did I mention that I have Force Recon 5 scheduled to finish training by Thanksgiving in the U.S.?

Second, the new exploration content.  CCP is advertising that to probe out those sites will require maximum skills.  From the most recent design trends, that probably includes needed skill hardwiring as well.  I already have the faction probes from the Wildfire level 4 epic arc.  Will I need tech 2 rigs on my Cheetah?  I maxed out my probing skills long ago, so at least I don't have to worry about that.  Time to grind out some loyalty points if I don't have some lying around.

Next comes the Higgs Anchor.  Anyone reading the blog this week knows I'm excited about the new rig.  I'm back in business mining in a Procurer.  The Prospect is fun, but I really like the mining barge.  In relation to that, I'm looking at another faction grind involving mining missions.  I finished up training Mining Connections V on my industrial character so getting the loyalty points for mining implants will go so much faster.  I probably need to go on Singularity to see the materials required for building the rig.  I may already have the parts sitting in a hangar somewhere.

The invention changes will also require some thought.  I need to reevaluate my datacore needs and visit my agents over the next two weekends. Thankfully, the dev blog thoughtfully provided a table outlining the changes.  Thanks CCP Ytterbium!

With all of these changes, especially the new exploration sites, I'm busily grinding out the loyalty points necessary to keep my store stocked with faction ammunition.  I have to keep that income stream running while I develop a new one based on exploration and reinvigorate my old mining activity.  Do I sound busy?  I am.  And as much as I've complained about changes in the past, I'm happy with this release, even if my trusty Hound is getting nerfed.  I think players will eventually use three words to describe their play in Phoebe: adapt, survive, and thrive.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Super Belts: A View From A Small Fish

Before the week ends and EVE Vegas becomes a distant memory, I just wanted to comment on CCP Rise's intriguing idea of just having one super-sized asteroid belt in a system instead of several smaller ones like currently exists in New Eden.    Perhaps having one big belt, like exists in our own solar system, would make EVE more realistic, but from the perspective of this small fish in the EVE PvP ecosystem, I'm not a big fan of the idea.

In the grand scheme of things in EVE, I'm the tiny yellow fish feeding off the plankton, except in my case the plankton is the ore in the asteroid belts.  As such, my gameplay partially consists of frustrating the bigger fish and leaving them hungry.  One of the tactics I use is searching out belts that are out of d-scan range of all the gates in a system.  I've found in low sec, most pilots on a roam won't bother to check the belts that are off the beaten path.  Between that and mining in factional warfare space, I manage to mine with neutrals in system (aka everyone else except EVE University) fairly successfully.

Creating one big belt, while having the attraction of bringing players together, has the drawback of putting all the small fish in one place for the predators of New Eden.  Instead of PvPers having to go to a lot of mom and pop stores looking for an item, we would instead see a Wal-Mart pop up in every system.  On the face of it, that sounds like a great idea, right?  If so, try thinking like a small fish.

Small fish, if they have their way, don't want to wind up as someone's breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I know, I know, hard to believe, but true.  As such, we don't want to put ourselves in too much danger.  PvPers would call us "risk adverse".  Ha!  Whatever makes them feel good.  But in low sec, would only have to check one asteroid belt instead of eight lead to more visits to belts by roaming gangs or less?  I'd predict more.

I know that if I have a high chance of encountering a ship in a belt that I would just stop going to that belt.  I had that happen to me with Kronos.  I had a pilot hunting me who would show up  whenever I tried ice mining.  Guess what?  I stopped ice mining and found something else to do.  Think that might happen with super-belts?  Maybe not.  CCP was nice enough to create the Higgs Anchor, so I might stick around.  But I think you would see some falloff.  In low sec, I wouldn't be surprised to see the share of ore mined in low sec drop from 0.4% down to 0.2%.

I'll briefly mention one other item that could hurt some of the bigger fish as well.  I have set up bookmarks in several constellations in Great Wildlands in preparation for doing a little mercoxit mining in my Prospect.  I discovered that having a lot of asteroid belts to warp to is helpful in avoiding bubble camps.  Asteroid belts, combined with bookmarks around the gates, helps get around those obstacles.  Do we really want to see less celestials to warp to in order to avoid bubbles?

Those are my thoughts on the concept of super belts.  Perhaps we need the challenge to shake things up.  But I think CCP should think about the effect on us small fish.  After all, without the small fish hanging around, what are the big fish going to eat?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Higgs Anchor Rig

Watching the EVE Vegas stream on Sunday, I now wish I had flown out to Sin City this weekend.  After all, how many players of any game get to hear from a game developer that they were the inspiration for an in-game item?  But enough about me.  EVE Online is serious business and I don't have time for the space smugness of those who command the massive super capital fleets that have conquered the sand box to the point CCP is revamping the rules of null sec.  My little fleet of low sec mining barges has just received a new tool and I aim to use it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 21 October 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 19 October 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft57.58,969+35.9
23Star Wars: The Old Republic9.81.535+2.7
32Guild Wars 28.61,345-11.6
47EVE Online4.5699+32.4
64Final Fantasy XIV3.5549-18.8
99Lord of the Rings Online2.0314+6.1
11--APB: Reloaded1.5230-5.7
12--Star Trek Online1.2191+117.0
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,590

This weekend witnessed a huge increase in the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its twelve most popular games.  The 15.1% increase in hours played Sunday was led by World of Warcraft (+2371 hours) while the game experiencing the biggest decline was Guild Wars 2 (-176 hours).

The Tide Rises - Last week, Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft gained 600,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2014.  If Xfire members are any indication, they all logged in this weekend to play patch 6.0.2, The Iron Tide.  In addition, Blizzard is offering all previous expansions, including Mists of Pandaria, free to all current subscribers.  With a deal like this, a 35.9% increase in playtime by the Xfire community is understandable.

A Change Near The Top - For the first time since 19 August 2012, Star Wars: The Old Republic sits in the number 2 spot in The Digital Dozen.  Since Guild Wars 2 burst on the scene in August 2012, the ArenaNet product had always scored higher that its Bioware competition.  Until this week.  But has TOR pulled in front for good?  Guild Wars 2 launches its Halloween event today, will resume Living World Season 2 on 4 November, and run the Wintersday holiday starting on 16 December.  But in the lead-up to the Shadow of Revan expansion for TOR, Bioware is offering a 12X experience boost to subscribers who preoder the expansion.

Delta RisingStar Trek Online makes its first appearance on the list since 18 August 2014 on the strength of the game's second expansion, Delta Rising.  The expansion, released last Tuesday, raises the level cap to 60 with a new zone, the Delta Quadrant, available to those who have reached level 50.

Monday, October 20, 2014

When CCP Seagull Talks, People Listen

"In the Phoebe release, we're making some of the biggest changes we've made to EVE in years. And those changes are just the start.  In November, December, and the whole of 2015, we're going to bring some pretty drastic changes to EVE Online.  All of them with the ambition to strengthen everything that is unique and amazing about EVE and to make your experience with EVE better."

- CCP Seagull, EVE Vegas 2014

Andie Nordgren (aka CCP Seagull), the executive producer for EVE Online, is not a flamboyant speaker like Sony Online Entertainment's Dave Georgenson.  But that's okay.  Georgenson, the director of development for the EverQuest franchise, is trying to make and popularize two new games, EverQuest Next and Landmark.  Nordgren's task is far more difficult.  She is attempting to modernize an 11-year-old game so that new players are not immediately turned off while at the same time reinvigorating the passions of veteran players with improved features and new gameplay.  Given CCP's history of unfinished and uniterated upon features, a voice of authority who doesn't overpromise is what EVE needs at this point in time.