Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Should I Look For?

Things are getting a bit ridiculous here in the EVE community.  The latest case involves a pilot named wheniaminspace, who was banned for exploiting a temporary condition that was introduced in the Crius release.  I'd go into the case in great detail, but I don't want to run afoul of point 23 of the Terms of Service.   Suffice it to say that a lot of people are white knighting someone who clearly deserves a permanent ban.  The pilot in question is the one who used the exploit the most.  Of the 31 times I detected the exploit used, wheniaminspace was involved 22 times.

Unfortunately, the article on covering the exploit was pretty bad.  The explanation of the exploit itself was good, but the author used a lot of filler to meet the word count in order to get paid.  The article jammed two good story ideas into one.  Too bad they didn't really mix well.  I'd go into more detail and even link to the article, but the article did break the EVE Online Terms of Service, so I won't link it until I know that the exploit is either fixed or the condition no longer applies.  Which, when I think about the subjects I've covered and pages I've linked to over the years, is pretty weird to type.  However, even I have boundaries I won't cross and jeopardizing my EVE accounts is one.

That brings me to the planned topic for today.  I track and write about a lot of metrics about EVE.  But those metrics are usually about illicit ISK or concurrent user counts.  I really need to start paying more attention to what is occurring in the game, especially in New Eden's above-ground economy.  EVE's economy is probably the best of any MMORPG on the market.  I should at least make one graph and chart porn filled post every month.

The Crius release is the perfect opportunity to begin.  CCP revamped industry (except invention, which is coming soon) and I can start monitoring the markets to see how the changes are impacting the economy.  But what to monitor?

Right now the PLEX market is obvious and I have data for Jita going back to the beginning of Crucible and for all of EVE going back to 1 June 2013.  Another obvious target is veldspar and tritanium.  The changes to ore and mineral compression along with reprocessing will definitely have an impact.  The question is: how big?

As far as low sec is concerned, I really wonder about the impact of the new ore sites that were released in Kronos.  I wonder how hard trying to track the amount of hedbergite, hemorphite, and jaspet mined in low is?  Since one of the goals of spawning those sites in low sec was to draw people in to low sec, I how much of those ores players are willing to haul to market.

But writing about just economic matters is a little dry.  I need to add something into the mix for other players.  Perhaps I should add in some of the stats that Wollari provides at Dotlan Maps.   People love graphs about exploding spaceships.

I'm still playing around with a way to present the data in an interesting fashion.  Since I'm just a casual type of carebear, I'll put out a call for help.  What should I look for in order to put together something intelligent?  I'm sure I'm missing a lot of interesting tidbits that would give me a greater understanding of New Eden's economy.  So please leave any ideas in the comments to this post.  I may not use them because I'm not that good at automatically extracting information, but I'd appreciate the advice.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy EVE Is Dying! Day

One of the recurring themes in EVE Online is that "EVE is dying."  We see it today with the declining ACU number.  We saw it a few years ago during the Summer of Rage.  Actually, we hear someone bring up the idea all the time.  But how long has EVE been dying?

The answer may surprise people.  Chribba did a search of the forums and discovered the first mention of "EVE is dying" was posted by Madox on 30 July 2003:

Posted - 2003.07.30 19:45:00 - [8]

i think people forget that we are paying for a service here.

if you were at a restaurant and they told you your food would be ready in an hour then 15 minutes after the hour they told you it would instead take an additional hour AND THEN they don't bring your meal out for another two hours without telling you, something would be seriously wrong.

now image that restaurant has 5000 people in it.

we are the customers here. we are paying for a service. we have every right to question what is going on. now granted, isk refunds for missed productivity and asking for some sort of public appology that all the devs signed is just plain silly. however, a dev CAN take 35 seconds out of their busy schedule and make a small post on the devblog letting the paying customers know what is going on.

i think that is all anybody is really asking for.

*eve is dying*
That's right.  The players began proclaiming that EVE is dying 11 years ago today.  Apparently EVE is afflicted with a long, lingering, illness.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 28 July 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 27 July 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft41.06,332-22.0
22Guild Wars 213.72,112-16.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.31,593-1.7
54Final Fantasy XIV5.2801-35.1
66EVE Online5.0771-3.0
1010Lord of the Rings Online3.0465-9.2
1112Elder Scrolls Online1.9293-9.6
12--Neverwinter1.8 279-12.3
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,445

Sunday saw a dramatic drop in the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing MMORPGs.  The 18% decrease in the amount of hours logged into the most popular games was lead by World of Warcraft (-1784 hours) with no game seeing an increase in playtime on Sunday.  RIFT fell off the list, replaced by Neverwinter.

Falling Back Down To Earth - Last weekend WoW surprised me with a 25.3% increase in time played by Xfire members.  Apparently, Blizzard sent out invitations to unsubscribed players to come back and try the game out again.  The offer expired and Sunday saw the number of hours fall 22% this week.  That drop accounted for over half the overall decrease on Sunday.

Technical Difficulties, Part 1 - I do have to wonder if Xfire experienced some technical difficulties that prevented hours from registering on Sunday.  Exibit A: Tera.  The game held an event over the weekend in which players received a 20% XP boost from killing mobs, an increase in the number of quests that players could do in a day, and a stamina increase.  Yet the number of hours played decreased by 3%.  Very strange, considering part of the event was allowing players to do more content.

Technical Difficulties, Part 2 - Exibit B: EVE Online.  With the release of the Crius patch last Tuesday, EVE should have seen an increase in the number of hours played.  Indeed, the maximum peak concurrent user mark was up over 10% Sunday compared to the weekend before.  Yet the number of hours played also decreased by 3%.  I know that Xfire does not always faithfully record an increase or decrease every time the actual PCU increases or decreases, but combined with the facts that not only should Tera's hours have increased but no game saw an increase in hours makes me suspicious.  We'll have to watch what the results are next week.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Little Bit About EVE Online's New Executive Producer

On Friday, CCP announced the promotion of Andie Nordgren (aka CCP Seagull) to become the next Executive Producer for EVE Online.  Despite releasing the news on a Friday, CCP was not trying to hide her promotion as the marketing department set up embargoed interviews with PCGamer, Polygon, and Massively as well as an AMA1 on Reddit. published an article covering the AMA while Eve News 24's coverage was limited to reposting CCP Seagull's dev blog.  Responses from EVE's blogosphere was quiet, although Susan Black's post on Nordgren's AMA was superior to that found in the EVE media.

The official CCP press release contained a paragraph I found rather interesting:
"'It gives me great joy and confidence that Andie has accepted this challenge. Over the years I have watched her go from strength to strength at CCP and believe her deep understanding of how communities thrive and grow will benefit EVE even more in this new role,' said Hilmar Veigar PĂ©tursson, CEO of CCP. 'As senior producer, Andie developed and communicated a tremendously inspiring path forward for EVE which, now that she’s at the helm, we are confident will deliver EVE Online to new and exciting places in its second decade.'"
Following the departure of John Lander from the role of executive producer following Fanfest 2013, I had the feeling that Hilmar wanted to hire some big name figure like Scott Hartsman to fill the position.2  In its coverage of Nordgren's promotion, Gamasutra pointed out a dev blog in which Hilmar stated that CCP was already interviewing candidates to replace Lander and that the transition would occur in the summer.  In fairness, he did not indicate the summer of which year.

I can't get inside Hilmar's mind to say definitively why he changed his mind about bringing in someone from outside CCP to fill the position.  But what I can do is try to examine CCP Seagull's background.  What about Nordgren made Hilmar decide that while she is not the candidate he originally wanted, she is the executive producer that EVE Online needs?

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Worst Swordsman

Last night I watched Ashterothi, a co-host on the High Drag and Hydrostatic Podcasts, stream his initial experiences in industry after Crius.  By the time I got home, he was doing mission 6 of the industry tutorial.  When he tweeted that he knew less about industry than the newest newb, he wasn't kidding.

I learned a couple of tricks with the new UI that I hadn't known about, mostly because I already have all of my blueprints in stations and he wanted to start playing with his new BPOs right away.  Also because I have so many minerals in my factory station and a new character doesn't have a lot.  He mentioned on the stream that he wanted to discuss the UI on High Drag to another co-host, Random McNally, and I'll be checking for when the podcast comes out.  I think that should fall sometime in the second week of August.

After the stream ended, I was reminded of a quote from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court:
"The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him."
I get the feeling that CCP has just put the sword of industry into the hands of a lot of people who have never heard of opportunity costs and believe that minerals you mine yourself are free.  I'm not saying that Ashterothi is that type, since one of the co-hosts on the Hydrostatic Podcast is Lockefox, who will educate him as necessary.  And if Lockefox doesn't do it, I expect Random will.  But a lot of the complexity of industry in EVE was fighting the old UI.  I just wonder how many people will try industry out now that the UI makes the task so much simpler.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Return To Datacore Farming

Yesterday was the first time I was excited about getting home from work and playing EVE Online in a very long time.  Does having an industry UI I don't have to fight with make that big of a difference?  Yes!

I know that Crius launched with a lot of bugs.  Yes, the UI not updating correctly once a job was delivered was irritating, but that was fixed this morning (I hope).  But last night was more about updating my long neglected datacore farm.  I want to make a Prospect and need the Gallente Spaceship Engineering datacores.  So I needed to drop a level 2 research agent in Metropolis and hire a level 3 one in Essence.

In EVE, one does not simply fire an agent long distance.  That's because the agent will keep any datacores (or the research points used to buy the datacores) once told to go away.  The agents aren't very helpful once told to go away.  They just stop talking until you apologize or fly away.  But if you apologize, they still keep the research points.  Research agents are petty like that.

All told, my trip took 43 jumps and collected 45 datacores.  Not that cost effective, but gave me an excuse to really open up the speed on my warp speed rigged Prowler.  The two things I love in EVE are speed and stealth and the blockade runner has both.  I had three nanos in the lows which cut down on the align time, but was just a bit of overkill.  I hear CCP created a new module for the lows that boosts warp speed even more.  I should probably look into getting one.

My flying for the night wasn't over.  I had 100,000 rounds of tech 2 ammo to deliver to Molden Heath.  Did I mention I love flying with small cargoes?  I know I'm supposed to min/max everything, but EVE is such a beautiful game that a chance to just fly and watch the planets pass by is too good to pass up.  Besides, I was kind of excited because this was the first time I was putting tech 2 ammo on the market.

With production costs up in the air due to the industry changes, I double-checked my calculations to make sure I wasn't dropping a zero.  Nope.  Not only that, but I was competitive, putting up a price that I thought was fair.  Okay, maybe I charged more than Jita prices, but for one of the ammo types I was actually offering a price lower than that found in both Rens and Hek on Wednesday.  Quite frankly, I worry more about prices in the trade hubs of the Republic than I do some distant cesspool of scum and villainy in the Caldari State.

Of course, I ended the night picking out blueprints to research and copy.  Since I'm interested in making a Prospect, I took my researched Venture BPO and set up to make 5 30-run copies.  When doing invention, I like the number 5 for some reason.  The only disappointing thing is that I'm still doing industry stuff on one character.  I have 4 with training!  I guess the good news is I have more to look forward to tonight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Industry UI For The 21st Century

I know the title of the post will annoy roleplayers who will insist we are in the 2nd century (or 23rd millennium, depending on how one counts these things), but I'm glad that CCP has updated EVE Online's industry user interface to compete with games developed in the 21st century.

The old industry UI harkened back to the time in which EVE was developed.  Many may not realize that CCP was formed back in 1997 and its first successful product was the board game Hættuspil.  Back when EVE Online was conceptualized and developed, Everquest was the king of the MMO world, using third party sites was frowned upon by both developers and many gamers, and presenting information in table form was not only acceptable, but what many gamers had grown up with.  Is it any surprise that with the amount of information needed to play the sci-fi game that EVE quickly earned a reputation as "spreadsheets in space"?

But times change.  I don't play a lot of Wildstar, but one thing I like about the game is the crafting user interface.  Everything is nicely laid out, with the information presented in an accessible format.  I was able to get into making items quickly.  I'm glad to say that after playing with the new industry UI last night that CCP has taken that clunky late 20th century UI and created a new one that compares favorably, if not surpasses, one from the latest AAA MMORPG.

Making Tech 2 Ammo

First is the manufacturing UI.  I like it.  No more having to flip between two windows.  I can select my blueprint, see what materials I need if I don't have enough, and see what I will output.  I can even change the number of runs and watch the materials needed change on the fly.  The interface is really convenient as I can read off the materials used on the screen, enter them into my spreadsheet that stores the amount I spent purchasing the materials, and quickly calculate the price.  I can then figure out how much to charge.  The above example is for tech 2 ammunition.  Remember I said I planned on doubling down on low sec Monday?  The graphic above was the first batch of Barrage S I'm producing in a low sec station.

Searching For Researched BPOs

One thing that used to drive me crazy was getting my researched and non-researched blueprints mixed up.  Just because I'm a casual industrialist doesn't mean I want to waste material by building something with the wrong blueprint.  That should never happen again.  The UI shows how much, if any, a blueprint is researched.  As the graphic above shows, I did pretty well with my material efficiency research, but horribly with time efficiency research.  With the new UI, I can easily tell which blueprints need some research love.

Finding Station Activity Levels

One concern I had with the new industry system and the removal of industry slots was how to determine if a station is really busy or seldom used.  Turns out that the information is displayed graphically in the "Facilities" tab.  The information doesn't give numbers, but a tooltip will pop up that displays a bar that shows the system cost index.  The shorter the bar, the less the service costs.  I think each notch on the bar is 10%, but I'm getting old so I'm perhaps reading the display incorrectly.  But I like the display as a way to quickly tell the favorable and unfavorable stations apart.

Testing Invention Outcomes

One of the nice features of the system is that one can experiment with outcomes, even if a player doesn't have all the items.  In the above example, the UI lists the possible decryptors and meta items that can influence the success and output of an invention job.  No more having to find a third party site to get the information.  Just play around and when I find a combination I like, just click on the "Start" button.  Of course, in the example above I'm running the maximum amount of jobs my skills allow, so I'll have to wait until a job finishes.  Did I mention the UI remembers the inputs if you accidentally close the UI?  Or if you need to wait for a job to finish?  That is very nice.

The industry changes only went live yesterday, so the jury is still out on how the whole industrial revamp will eventually turn out.  But I really like the UI changes that came out with Crius.  I wish we had this five years ago when I first started playing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 22 July 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 20 July 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft43.18,116+25.3
22Guild Wars 213.52,538+23.9
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.61,620+18.2
44Final Fantasy XIV6.61,234+15.9
66EVE Online4.2795-5.1
1012Lord of the Rings Online2.7512+73.0
129Elder Scrolls Online1.7324-25.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 18,826

Sunday saw the Xfire community return to playing its favorite MMORPGs following the end of the World Cup.  The 20.7% increase in the time spent logged into these games was lead by World of Warcraft (+1641 hours) while only two games, Elder Scrolls Online (-113 hours) and EVE Online (-43 hours) saw a decline in interest.  Neverwinter fell off the list, replaced by RIFT.

The World Cup Effect - I've made a lot out of the decline of the decline in the Xfire numbers this year, but now that the World Cup is over, did the numbers bounce back?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Sunday witnessed Xfire members spending 20.7% more time playing MMORPGs than the weekend before.  Comparing Sunday with 8 June, the last Sunday before the beginning of the World Cup, also finds a favorable comparison.  From that date, the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its favorite MMORPGs only declined by 1%.  Compared to the huge declines earlier this year, that is a victory.

But What Happened In WoW? - A big question I was unable to answer concerns the king of MMORPGs, World of Warcraft.  I was unable to find a reason for the 25.3% increase in playtime.  The increase appears driven by the amount of time playing WoW.  Players spent 5.8 hours logged in.  Did players watch so much World Cup that they were catching up on lost time?

Are ESO Players Steamed? - Despite having a reported 772,374 subscribers in June, Elder Scrolls Online is at the bottom of the Digital Dozen this week.  Is this just another sign of the weakness of Xfire?  On Thursday, Zenimax made ESO available for sale on Steam.  I always figured the numbers would drop once ESO was released for console, but I never considered that Bethesda would release the game on Steam.  I guess that many players who play their games through Steam wouldn't bother to put on another tracking source like Xfire or Raptr.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tear Fueled Ambition

Normally, the only tears I'm associated with are those I collect from botters and those engaging in buying and selling virtual currency.

ISK buyer tears
But the amount of tears on the forums and in the comment sections of the blogs I read are getting a bit much.  I guess I could take the complainers at face value and believe that a casual manufacturer like me is doomed and that I need to find something else to do in EVE.  Then again, I find it hard to take the complaints of people who will have it so good compared to me after Crius is deployed yesterday very seriously.

Really, folks in high sec, don't expect much sympathy from someone in low sec.  High sec industrialists will have access to teams, which should give them an advantage over a casual low sec manufacturer like myself.  The only advantage I'll have over the high sec industrialist is their belief that low sec players are just in the game for them to exploit, which should still allow a member of the Cult of Reasonable Prices to operate in low sec markets. 

Well, that and the fact I'm willing to bust through a gate camp or two.  Just remember, high sec industrialists.  Forget anything I've written about PvP in low sec declining.  Listen to people like Niden and FunkyBacon.   That post Rixx made about his video card dying?  IT'S A TRAP!!! If you jump into low sec, you will die. Niden, Funky, and Rixx are waiting for you on the other side of that gate.  If they aren't, then someone from one of their alliances is.  Better to just not come into low sec at all.

All right, that last paragraph was a little over the top.  But I think I made my point.  I and low sec carebears like me have to evade and escape from people like Niden, Funky, and Rixx in order to operate.  That right there limits my effectiveness compared to the high sec industrialist.  Teams and having CONCORD protect high sec POS just add to the attraction of operating in high sec.

I seriously considered moving back to high sec.  Quite frankly, with the changes coming tomorrow, staying in low sec is pretty stupid.  But a low sec base is more convenient for my faction ammunition business.  Most of the cost of that is the time I take acquiring loyalty points, not manufacturing. 

With all of the tears flowing from high sec, I figure I'll do something really stupid.  That's right, I'm going to double-down on low.  Can a casual industrialist not only survive, but thrive, in low sec operating against the high sec industrialists and all of the advantages they'll enjoy once Crius goes live.  The only way to really know is to try, right?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Butterfly Effect In EVE: Bloggers And Data

I realize that Friday's traditionally are reserved for flaming other bloggers, not praising them.  But Gevlon did a nice piece of quantitative analysis today using data from the past 18 months from Dotlan and came up with some interesting conclusions.  I would say that even Goons wouldn't argue too much with the post.  Of course, Goons are Goons and the post was written by Gevlon, so insults would fly.  That's just the nature of EVE at this point.

That got me to thinking about how Gevlon came to write that post.  He credits my Wednesday post for giving him the idea, but I started gathering data in response to a post by Sven over at EVE Lost and Found, "The State of EVE – Some Player Activity Statistics".  I thought he may have uncovered some data (I didn't realize Dotlan stored data back to 2010) that would validate a theory I have.  Turns out he didn't, but I learned something.  And a hat tip to Sugar Kyle for pointing out his blog to me.  I've added it to my blogroll.

He, in turn, was inspired to write his post due to the reaction to my post using the average concurrent users mark to note historical events in New Eden from the launch of Retribution up to the launch of Kronos.  I think the doom and gloom was getting to him.  Interestingly enough, though, he credits my post explaining how to pull the average concurrent user information from EVE Offline as the true start.  What really makes things interesting is that I wrote that piece partly in response to another post of Gevlon's, although I had considered posting the instructions for some time.  Gevlon's post just spurred me to action.  Gevlon then took the instructions and updated his post with some more cool analytic work in a way I hadn't considered before.

Just to allay fears that Gevlon and I sit in a little echo chamber discussing the merits of quantitative vs qualitative analysis, I should bring Niden into this post.  Niden's post took ideas from Sven's post (i.e. the ships killed projection for low sec in 2014 is pretty obvious) and pruned them down to concentrating on PvP.  Niden tends to focus on PvP, while I try to look at all aspects of low sec.  Then again, I'm a carebear living in low sec, so that's where my biases lay.  But I think that both Niden and I agree that low sec is a more lively place than before.  I think we just analyze the data differently.  Also, I'm a bit leery of using projections as no one really knows when CCP will choose to shake up the ant farm.

I probably should conclude this post with a chart I came up with when Blog Banter 52 was still a thing back in January.  Just because the ACU is declining doesn't mean I think subscriptions are also.

I have other reasons to believe that.  Just relying on the ACU?  Kind of weak.