Tuesday, May 31, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: TinyMiner Tears Not Bad Either

CCP's War On Bots™ is starting to pick up attention in Eve Online podcast circles, with RMT receiving some attention on Notalotofnews Newshour Episode #51 and Kirith Kodachi mentioning The Nosy Gamer's coverage on Broadcast from the Ninveah #47.  With the podcast activity as inspiration, I finally managed to acquire something I thought I wouldn't get: reports of banned accounts from the TinyMiner forums.

When quoting bot users discussing bans, I want to provide links to the tears just so people know I am not making quotes up.  Up until now I thought that the TinyMiner forum registration process would prevent me from providing the links.  However, the TinyMiner forums have a security hole worse than the one in the new Eve Online forums and I can now provide the links.  I had heard reports that the developer was deleting "I was banned" posts, but some of them either didn't get deleted or were cached prior to being deleted.

26 March: Rusty69 ("CCP's 'new' war on bots") - A know-it-all apparently didn't.

"LOLOLOLOL...well. after writing that big post above, i went to log in and just found 3 of my 5 accounts banned.....for 2 weeks too :(.... :lol: . I'm surprised they didnt banned my orca account too.....f-ing noobs. Also my other account which i also heavily marco on.... . I thought it was convient though, i just brought plexes on 2 of those accounts too that were banned, and i'll need to "subscribe or petition 24hr pass' to pay for a plex on the other one as the ban will go past when his sub is due. OH WELL...if i cant make enough isk to pay for them all in the following 2 weeks..well CCP will be losing money ;). Problay only thing bad about it...VG...i never even got to test out that third key i just brought off ya :(. "

30 April: RuddyBear ("Banned for 14 days") - CCP is all about customer service.

"I received my first 14 day ban a couple of days ago - been using TinyMiner on and off for a couple of years so I suppose it was inevitable. Looking through my logs,I can't see any attempt at conversation by a GM which seems odd. Could be I am the victim of multiple player reporting? I've tried petitioning but the only communication I've had from CCP is a brief email telling me that my case is closed and would I like to give feedback on the way they handled it! "
1 May: JohnyR ("Banned for 14 days") - Someone got smart.  I wonder if this means that CCP Sreegs is mean?

"Well, after receiving this e-mail:

'Hi,

Thank you for contacting customer support and our apologies for the late reply.


You were detected as running macros and as such behaviour is prohibited by our TOS/EULA a 14 day temporary ban was applied. Further incident of this sort will call for more punitive measures against accounts involved, including possible permanent bans.


Best regards,

GM Nova
Senior Game master
EVE Online Customer Support'

"Guess i will behave now, i don't want my accounts banned :(, was fun when it lasted, but now, they are mean :( "
2 May: Rusty69 ("Banned for 14 days") - Not only doesn't he know everything, but he is butt-hurt about it.

"To be frank though...its not just randoms players reporting botters anymore..CCP are simply looking at logged in hours first, then IP addys...if the account in question is currently logged in, the GM will simply have a peek and see whats its doing...if it mining, the GM can go through his daily little log and check how much ore you have mined. Really..a marco isnt that hard to spot. Some say that CCP wouldnt bother 'hiring' a dedicated 'bot catcher' but seriously...within his 8 hour shift it wouldnt take him long to scan through 50-100 accounts. Then some would argue 'ccp will lose a heap of money from that'...well yes they would if they banned all the botters...but as i find here they only seem to be banning people with either multiply account first..then looking at 23/7 accounts second. I had 4 accounts goins 23/7...3 got banned, other guy on here said both his acounts got banned, other lad said all of his 6 accounts got banned. And let me guess, anyone of here that only got there one and only botting account banned...i bet you were doin it 23/7. "

19 May: fyreplug ("CCP's 'new' war on bots") - I'd ask for your stuff, but I don't like the touch of tainted goods.
"Well, they banned all three of my accounts with the update and I have only ever used one to mine with. The others I use for missions alone. I mine to a POS so I don't even know why they would bother with me.
"Guess I'm done with EVE. "
19 May: slasher87 ("CCP's 'new' war on bots") - I bet CCP Sreegs hopes the botters keep thinking this.

"Had one account banned today, was reported once and moved systems, mined probably 12 hours a day with random intervals through the day, and not ever more 5 days a week. Seems like people reporting seems to be the issue in my case. "
23 May: thug ("CCP's 'new' war on bots") - Botters really have to be careful.

"got 6 accounts 5 got banned the day after the patch came out for two weeks the one that didnt has a different e-mail address so it seems to me that they look at the e-mail address of the rogue account and ban every character with the same e-mail...."
TL;DR - Botting is bad.  Botting with TinyMiner is stupid.  The dev deletes posts to keep you from knowing how stupid, but fails at deleting.

Update:  You may have noticed most of the links no longer work.  The next time I find a security hole, I'll take screenshots.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Clear Skies 3 Is Now Available

Ian Chisholm sent out the news that all of New Eden has waited to hear for two years: Clear Skies 3 is finished and released!  The Clear Skies movie site has been updated and will direct you to the correct location on Eve Files to download the movie.  I got the news a couple of hours late, which may have helped with my download speed.  I used Torrent which worked incredibly fast for me.

First off, Ian gave the following technical warning on the Clear Skies Facebook page:
"OK bit of an update, I found at the last minute there was a problem with listening to it in stereo. The mix was too loud and distorted. I've fixed it, but it's gonna take another 5 hours or so to re-render the whole project :(

"Speaking of surround-to-stereo issues, it varies between media players, sound hardware, and video codecs if the downmix works properly. Either it does or you get mostly everything in the left channel. There is nothing I can do about this as it's a playback hardware/software issue (one of my PCs plays it fine through USB headphones and cocks it up through analogue speakers, go figure). I hope you won't have this problem, and if you do you can work around it somehow. If it becomes a big issue though, I'll release a stereo specific version at a later date. "
That said, I had no issues with the sound quality.  Of course, I went ahead and plugged my laptop into my 61" television, something that I have trouble doing for movies produced by Hollywood.  Yes, I really wanted to enjoy this.  And I wasn't disappointed.

Clear Skies 3 was the first of the series produced after the recent series of graphics updates, including to planets, and it showed.  The space scenes in CS3 are beautiful.  Yes, Eve Online actually looks that good if you turn the graphics up and Ian took full advantage of the new graphics.  But the Eve player will also probably enjoy picking out the new pieces of the interface inserted into the movie also.

I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, but I will say that Ian draws upon some of the character development and story from the first two parts of the series, so watching those if you have never seen them is advisable to get the greatest pleasure from watching the third installment of the series.  We also get to see some of the additional background of two characters, Mr. Smith and Charlie Fodder. 

The story created by Ian and Ritchie Powles pushed the use of the Half Life 2 avatars to their technical limits, and for the most part Ian made it work.  I will say that CS3 has set the bar high for what CCP needs to accomplish for Incarna and for when avatars can freely roam the interiors of stations in New Eden.

As usual for a Clear Skies movie, the soundtrack was first rate, featuring music by U2, Coldplay, Paul Van Dyk and Mike Oldfield as well as the in-game music composed by Jon Hallur.  I am sure that over the next few weeks the soundtrack will receive heavy air-play on Eve Radio.

All in all a very enjoyable movie experience.  I expect that Ian will add some additional awards to his collection for all the hard work he put into the project.  I know that I've contributed to the tip jar Ian posted on the web site.  He and the entire crew deserve it.

Update: I didn't notice yesterday because I was already in game, but CCP announced the release of Clear Skies 3 on the character select screen.  Nice!

Update2: Chribba posted on Twitter that as of approximately 14:00 UTC that Eve Files had seen close to 6,000 downloads of CS3.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: Ghost Suite Tears, Best Tears

Note: This is a copy of a blog post I wrote a few weeks back updated with newer posts, including a nice juicy post from someone who had 5 accounts banned.  I renamed it so that the post would get around language filters.  Besides, I like the name better.

Surfing the net searching the seedy underworld of Eve Online botting sites gives an idea of what CCP's War on Bots™ looks like from the botters' perspective.  One discussion thread on the GhostSuite forums about bans picked up steam starting on 8 May.  Here are some ban reports for those who would like some details of what CCP may or may not be doing in the on-going war.

From 8 May:  I love the comment about how sitting at the computer didn't save Anonymous A.


I know two people who got banned and here's what they were doing.


Anonymous A:
Program used: StealthMiner
Accounts: 3 accounts per computer + Orca; all on one comp
Mining days per week: 6
Average hours per day: 14
Mining location: All characters in same system
Mining equipment: All hulks plus Orca
Profit per day: $250M approx (not even close to all level 5)
Length before getting banned: Approximately 1 month
Banned Characters: Every character used on PC, including 3 that were never involved in mining
Banned Length: 7 days
Notes: Was actually at computer most of the time and was present when banned; doesn't matter if you're at the machine.


Anonymous B:
Program used: TinyMiner
Accounts: 2 accounts per computer; two computers; total of 4
Mining days per week: 6-7
Average hours per day: 20
Mining location: Max of two characters in same system; moved between systems every 2-3 days
Mining equipment: All retrievers
Profit per day: $100M approx
Length before getting banned: Approximately 1 month
Banned Characters: Only 1 computer (2 accounts) was banned
Banned Length: 14 days
9 May: CCP bans 4 accounts for the activities of one:

"I have only been mining one of my miners now for about a month and a half. The other miners have been sitting out. I had a miner mining for 23/7 same system. Stealth would sit idle every 10 to 15 runs for 10 to 15 minutes and log off every 200-250 minutes for 10 to 15 minutes.

"I came back Monday and Wednesday to find the same system message on Eve, I dont remember the message as I thought it had to do with jamming errors from rats; eve was open and GhostSuite had stopped mining. It wasnt showing the session had ended, just looked like it had locked up. I came home yesterday to find the the account had been banned. I woke up this morning to find that a second account that I had not used in over a month in a half with GS was banned for macro use.


"Only thing in common was the ip address and the email on the account. So far the other accounts I have, have not been banned yet. I will update further if I have any other accounts banned, as they do not have the same email address on the accounts.


"Guessing that I was reported by other users as the system I was in the rats jam heavily and GS cant handle the jamming. (I tried setting up ECCM in the tanking tab of settup-didnt have any success with it) I have come back to my account being jammed by rats for hours at a time. This may have other gamers reporting that. Especially since the systems being mined have been thinned out by banned accounts, making it more likely to be visably macroing.
"
10 May: CCP bans another 4 accounts for someone using the GhostSuite bot.  This person needs to buy a clue, as it appears he also started a thread on the official Eve Online forums about getting banned.

"FYI got banned after a number of years myself, worst thing is over the last 2-3 months ive hardly used ghost miner other than for autopilot aspect,

"Was miening about 6-10 hours a day (sometimes only 4-5) in a newbie system....

"Basically i hold 4 accounts (only run GM on 1 of them) all 4 have been banned, im apealing the ban (as i said havent realy used GM at all for the last couple of months) but they seem to have a very low priorty on dealing with banned petitions, was submitted a week ago (submitted two) and have had 0 responce form them, also when accounts were banned agian no email just your acocunt is banned for two weeks on start up, as these acocunts are all paid for by credit car dit will be interesting to see if they will also refund the two week banned peiord as time not used."

13 May:  CCP bans 4 more accounts from 2 different users.

From deadme4t.  Apparently a safety feature designed to keep CCP from detecting bot use didn't quite protect him:

User XXXXXXXX is banned
Last login: 2011.05.13 07:22
Number of visits: 2716
Reason: EULA/TOS Violation - Macro use
Until: 2011.05.27


Login message.

Only used GS in a VM, in .8space Its my only alt, fully paid account, I use the $ to fund PVP on my main. I might not play eve anymore if I have to mission or rat to make $

Mining ~16hrs a day randomly. I upgraded to the GS alternate startup method as soon as it was available.

From Voska.  This indicates that CCP are using technical means of identification and not just relying on reports.  I know that CCP Sreeg said they were developing automatic ways of detecting bots, but a lot of people in the botting community don't believe it.

"I just got 3 accounts all banned as of this morning. Only one had received a warning from CCP. 2 Were in the same system mining ~9 hours a day. the other was 23 jumps away in a system with 4 people but mining ~14 hours a day.

"Same ban durration as you deadme4t

"im slightly amused that they didnt ban my Orca pilot that was in fleet with them"
17 May: Someone reports getting a number of accounts banned for 30 days.

"I have recently been forced to put a number of my accounts on unpaid leave for 1x month, or so evesupprt told me too

"I was using GS 1.3.1.50 BUT i have a feeling there is something like a 'criteria match' going on here as one of the accounts that was banned was not used/logged into for about a month. "

20 May:  Looks like CCP Sreegs had another good day.

From jaec:

"Banned today. No warning, all my accounts, even the ones that don't mine at all.

I mine 8 hours per day on a schedule, I guess I didn't move systems often enough. "



From JustDana:

"I just received 2 more bans myself. I lost 3-4 miners total so far. The contributing factor was they were being disconnected over and over and over. windows being minimized... ive posted about this before.

"Were you receiving disconnects before you got the ban? I was running max of 8 hours per day.
"
From macro:

"eye they banned mine but also my main that was wharsh nvr macrod with him o well "


24 May: Some indication on how CCP is verifying bot use.

"what about a GM or whomever that min a window. i was on pause in the field... for about 20 minutes because ive been nursing my miners from work. so i seen my "selected item window" just randomly minimize. i had to un min it, it was pinned as well.

"so i dock up after un-min the window.. and undock after sitting for 5-15 minutes and now my selected item window is at the bottom of my screen and my overview at the top...


"this is the same horse crap that happened with 3 other miners before they got banned.


"the map got min and moved as well. "

27 May: Someone reports getting 5 accounts banned.

"Hello again, I finally had a response back from eve.

"One account was deemed a bot user - from what i can gather by accusation not "evidence" although unproven either way as eve don't wish to discuss this any further... a shame as i can see many legitimate reasons but still - it's their game.

"For clarification see below: -

Eve warning info

"All other accounts were banned due to "direct association" (Same IP I believe) and hence all 5 accounts were taken out of action.


"Solution - I'm going to ditch/sell the targeted macro account and start a new one on another unique email address.


"Small note - if banned - don't forget to send petitions from all your banned accounts (if all have a unique email) as it gives eve GM's something to do

"Fly safe all "

These are just the cases reported.  I don't know how popular GhostSuite is, but it appears that CCP has tuned their detection algorithms to detect this bot.

Using bots is bad.  Using this bot may mark a player as stupid.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Guardian: Another Look At Gold Farmers

I know that when I played World of Warcraft that I would get irritated with the New York Times when it would attempt to make gold farmers sympathetic figures.  Although a recent study sponsored by the World Bank indicates that gold farming now only accounts for 30% of virtual currency sold by RMT shops, the practice is still lucrative business in many countries, particularly the People's Republic of China.  The Guardian published an article online that provides more figures (h/t Terra Nova)

"The trading of virtual currencies in multiplayer games has become so rampant in China that it is increasingly difficult to regulate. In April, the Sichuan provincial government in central China launched a court case against a gamer who stole credits online worth about 3000rmb.

"The lack of regulations has meant that even prisoners can be exploited in this virtual world for profit.

"According to figures from the China Internet Centre, nearly £1.2bn of make- believe currencies were traded in China in 2008 and the number of gamers who play to earn and trade credits are on the rise.

"It is estimated that 80% of all gold farmers are in China and with the largest internet population in the world there are thought to be 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country.

"In 2009 the central government issued a directive defining how fictional currencies could be traded, making it illegal for businesses without licences to trade. But Liu, who was released from prison before 2009 believes that the practice of prisoners being forced to earn online currency in multiplayer games is still widespread."
Prisoners?  That's right, prisoners.  Apparently immates of re-education camps are forced to play World of Warcraft to farm gold.


"'Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. 'There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.'

Memories from his detention at Jixi re-education-through-labour camp in Heilongjiang province from 2004 still haunt Liu. As well as backbreaking mining toil, he carved chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood until his hands were raw and assembled car seat covers that the prison exported to South Korea and Japan. He was also made to memorise communist literature to pay off his debt to society.

But it was the forced online gaming that was the most surreal part of his imprisonment. The hard slog may have been virtual, but the punishment for falling behind was real.

"'If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things,' he said."
So if anyone tries to tell you that buying in-game currency through an illegal RMT site does not hurt anyone, try to remember this story.  Whether you buy gold, plat, isk or gil, the way it was gathered may be collected in a way that harms others, whether it be through hacking or, as I just learned, forced labor.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: AFK Cloakers

The lore of Eve Online tells players that they are capsuleers, immortals who are among the most powerful beings in the universe.  Even players who do not role play come to exhibit that type of mentality in one measure or another.  Indeed, without that mentality, the player created empires in null security space that draw players into the sandbox we call New Eden would not exist.

So when a matter reaches importance to individual pilots, they often don't rely on CCP to fix the problem; they attempt to handle it themselves.  Players currently are taking matters into their own hands where botting is concerned.  But these pilots are not confined to the large alliances with leaders looking at bots as an enemy's strategic asset.  Oh no.  CCP has given pilots in even the smallest corporations a tool that can ruin a botter's day: the cloaking device.

The AFK Cloaker, as the pilots who engage in the practice are known, lie in wait in a cloaked ship for hours at a time.  All they have to do is turn on the cloak and they disappear from the universe, but not the local chat channel.  Most people use the local chat channel as an intelligence tool.  In null sec, if a neutral ship appears, all the mission runners and miners in their PvE fit ships tend to dock up until the threat goes away.  But the purpose of the AFK Cloaker is to not go away.  Instead, he just hangs around until the locals no longer consider the pilot a threat.  At that point, the PvE mission running ships emerge from hiding and the AFK Cloaker has plenty of nice juicy targets to pad his killboard with once his real life obligations are taken care of.

How does this affect the War On Bots™?  Many AFK Cloakers are turning their attention to area denial, just sitting in systems with no intention to attack.  Mission and ratting bots are set to dock up at the first appearance of a neutral pilot, so an AFK Cloaker can deny a good ratting system to botters.  And the AFK Cloaker can perform the mission for hours at a time.  Given that bots can operate at any time for long periods of time without human operators, AFK cloaking is one of the few effective alternatives an individual pilot has to combat botting.  If the botter turns off the neutral pilot detection, then the botter's ship just becomes a piñata for the first roving gang that comes along.  If he leaves it on, no isk.

AFK cloaking, when combined with suicide ganking, also provide a way to combat macro miners in high security space.  Many bots will allow a botter to place certain pilots on a blacklist so that when that pilot appears in local the bot immediately logs off.  A really good way to get on that list is to successfully suicide the botters Hulk or Mackinaw.  Then all a pilot has to do is show up in system and the bot no longer engages in its mindless activity.  Many pilots report success with this method, although they are disappointed in that they don't get to gank the bots anymore.

So how does this affect CCP's War on Bots™?  Well, it is pretty tough to ban someone from botting when players are either keeping the bots cowering in stations or logged off.  Then again, I keep reading reports on the forums that large-scale botting operations are continuing.  So if there are fewer active reports, then maybe CCP can respond to the reports of the larger scale operations that really get the player base upset.  Well, we can hope.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: Enter The Mittani

While The Mittani's emergency Goonion address about the situation in Tribute and concerning White Noise is now two weeks old, I feel it is potentially an important event in the War On Bots™ occurring in Eve Online.  Here is the portion that I feel is newsworthy in the present context:

"What we're fighting against here is a business model.  There was the initial investment in buying the supercapital fleet or acquiring the isk to buy that and put their FCs on payrolls. That what we suspect but this is not confirmed and we are investigating it is that they are hoping to take the North, live in the North and seed the North with renters such as Raiden(dot) who is going to be installed in Vale of the Silent.  From Tribute they can control and project power through all of the [unintelligible] holding areas of the North.  And it is just a tremendous amount of real world money.  It is a massive amount of profit that is potentially to be had.  If they are able to do it they can recoup their initial investment in supercapitals very easily.


"This is why Dekelin is under threat if Tribute falls.  Because Tribute is centrally located it is essentially the key to the North.  And if Tribute and Morsus Mihi and thus the North falls we are going to be faced with a rapacious business which isn't going to be just satisfied with just sitting there saying "we have enough."  Goonswarm's expansion eventually stopped because we had enough to clothe and feed our people, as it were, in Maelstroms and titans and what-have-you.  Businesses have no such level of contentment.


"We are trying to source which of the RMT storefronts are associated with White Noise.  As you know, we do not police RMT.  I am not CCP's cop even though I am chairman of the CSM, or whatever.  I don't chase down botters; I don't chase down RMTers.  In this case however it appears that some RMTers are coming to threaten us personally, which means we have to start caring.  So if you happen to have any information about White Noise or the RMT scene feel free to drop me a line in Jabbr, let me know what you have.  If you want to send me information anonymously you can send intel to our drop box which is goonfleet.intelligence@gmail.com."
So why is one of the biggest alliances in the game potentially going after RMT operations an important event in the War On Bots™?  Because according to a report sponsored by the World Bank, 50% of all in-game currency sold by RMT shops is acquired though the use of bots.  I would link to the excellent work done by EveNews24 to back up how botting fuels the RMT shops in Eve Online, but I can't get through due to the continuing DDoS attacks on the site.  Any attack on RMT operations cannot help but attack botting in New Eden.

Currently, player-owned bots are beginning to curtail their activities to avoid CCP's new technical methods for detecting bots.  What will happen if bots are not seen as a necessary evil by alliances but an opponent's strategic asset that must be destroyed?  The Mittani's words give reason that such a change in outlook is about to occur.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Playing With The New Agent System In Eve

I've read a lot of complaining about the new agent system that came out last week in Eve Online, but after finally getting a chance to play with it this weekend, I like it.  I know a lot of role players don't like that the instant access to other players' standings was removed, but with the wealth and power of the capsuleers, why shouldn't they be able to keep at least some of their data hidden?  Are there no competent information security folks in New Eden?

The main thing I like about the new system is I go to a mission agent, I know what type of mission I'm getting, as long as the mission is not part of a multi-part mission line.  This weekend, I didn't want to shoot anything; I just wanted to fly around and look at the sights.  But I also wanted to get some status with a corporation or two in Derelik because of the different mix of minerals I can mine in high-sec Ammatar space as opposed to the Minmatar Republic.  I always like to have facilities close by where I can refine my minerals prior to shipment and so with the new agent system, I just visited Distribution agents and did courier missions.  The option to not shoot anything really helps keep the security status up, although I did a lot of missions and received a lot of story line missions.  How many is a lot?  Well, Wandering Rose now has 3.04 status with Ammatar Consulate and 5.15 with Nurtura.  That's right I started from scratch and can now do level 3 missions for the Ammatar Consulate and level 4s for Nurtura.  Hey, I was having fun!

Now, having ties with the local authorities is all well and good (especially once I start dealing with the Thukker). But destroying a Minmatar Republic ship engaged in a diplomatic mission with the Khanid and bringing the diplomat back for questioning?  That's a step a little too far, even for a hard-bitten businesswoman like Wandering Rose, and she made a hasty retreat back to Metropolis.  It's a good thing that was an extremely black op, because I have 2 Nurtura level 4 Distribution agents just a short flight from my normal stomping grounds who don't seem to have gotten word and still work with me.  I'll just work with them until the dust settles in Derelik and once I have perfect refining with Nurtura I'll conduct a couple of mining ops in Ammatar space.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eyjafjallajökull Erupted Again?

DJ Justice on Eve Radio is telling listeners that the Eyjafjallajökull  Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland just erupted again at 6pm Icelandic time.  Also that today that Iceland lost Internet service to about 95% of the population, but somehow he got lucky and the show could go on.  And now Tranquility went down for an emergency reboot at 19:16 UTC. 

This is a really weird day.  But this gives me some time to rebuild the skill queues I built in EveMon that I lost when my computer crashed.  And yes, I didn't have backups running.

Friday, May 20, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: TEST Director Banned, 15 Billion Isk Confiscated

leetcheese - TEST Director
On top of my busy work schedule, my 4-year old computer finally died last night.  But what I heard through the forums (hat tip to Rakshasa Taisab) I visit was just too good to not write about.  A Test Alliance Please Ignore director was recently banned for botting.  This bit of intelligence is confirmed because the pilot in question, leetcheese, posted the information on Kugutsumen:
"A 3 weeks ago, I received a 14 day ban on all of my accounts for allegedly botting. Like anyone else, I petitioned this ban, received a response saying 'Sorry, we say you were botting, so it still stands.' Whatever, only one more week, I thought. I found out that some guy, Anthie, a member of my alliance that I had never interacted with before, had petitioned one of my characters after he had killed and podded it. Fast forward to the end of my ban, two days ago. I excitedly log into my accounts, to update skill queues and do my other duties as TEST's military director. I was actually pretty excited to play eve.

"I logged in my main. Hovered over my wallet, expecting to see the money that I left on the character, or at the worst a zero balance. Nope. Negative 6.9 BILLION ISK. At least all my assets were there. Today, I logged into another alt that I was training towards a Leviathan. It's balance was at negative 5B isk and all of my assets were removed. I had activated that account using the 4 hour activation for unsubbed account as my subscription lapsed during the ban, expecting to plex my character with one of the PLEX I thought I had stored on that account. NOPE. All of my assets were removed. I had 3 shield mods, the drake I was in space with, and an Ibis. Now CCP had not only banned me for two weeks, but had removed between 11 and 16 billion isk from my accounts. Two of my accounts are unusable, as with a negative balance a player cannot:


Upgrade a clone.

Purchase insurance.
Create a contract.
Receive a contract.
Participate in a station trade.

"Essentially, they removed my ability to play the game. I could try manually ratting up that isk in sanctums, averaging 40 million isk an hour, but that would take me 172.5 hours, or 4.3 regular 40 hour work-weeks of nonstop ratting. Just to free one character from the shackles of a secondary punishment I received AFTER the ban."
Ouch!  While I don't remember this information from CCP Sreeg's presentation at FanFest, others are pointing out that the security chief did say that the punishments could increase if the current ban plan is insufficient to deter players from botting.  Treating ISK gained through botting is one way to do that.  Is that the punishment going forward?  Or will that punishment only occur for those who involved in very large cheats?  Time will tell.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: Roid Ripper - Epilogue

Hopefully this is my final post on the subject of the mining bot for Eve Online called Roid Ripper.  The forums that the bot was advertised on are up again, but the bot is not.  The developer, DareDevil, apparently has skipped town, according to the admin for the site.

"This is being asked alot so im going to explain; After the recent events with the site being locked to maintenance and my admin access removed, Daredevil and me had an argument over the weekend until he left the conversation. He had been speaking to me like I am dirt for no reason and I am just not going to take it. I don't like to make assumptions but im pretty sure he wanted out for whatever reasons judging by the recent events. When Daredevil offered the roidripper support subscription, he was supposed to give me 25% for using publicdemands for his services. Any refunds are completely down to him. If I could offer support on roidripper I would, but that was not my part, I was supplying the means for him to advertise those services, nothing more."
The developer has disappeared and all of those who subscribed to the service are out of luck and out of money.  I know that some readers will want to see bot tears, so here are some...

"If you're reading this DD, or someone can get the message to him; if you want to quite RR fine but WHY screw over everyone who has paid for it and supported you? You made profit out of it no doubt given the number of subscribers. Server/forum isn't that expensive and anyone only has to do some minor research to see that. But nobody complained about your making profit and that's fine but I really hope you reconsider. It is completely uncalled for to punish everyone who supported you because of some spat you might have with one or two people from publicdemands.

"I subscribed because despite being piss poor I felt you deserved the support. Without Roidripper I can probably no longer afford Eve since I paid with PLEX and also bought game time. I have very little time to play otherwise. So I really hope you reconsider and work things out and come back. It isn't just you and MeSaR. Many others like me are caught in the crossfire too and paying the price through no fault of our own. You did a lot of good work for people for free so I don't believe you're just some money grabbing asshole. C'mon man show us you're a bigger man than that"

I don't think people want to admit that CCP just shut the bot down.  From watching the forums for this bot, the developer had to pull the bot due to CCP's activities and was never able to fix it so it would work.  But some people don't want to admit their bot writer perhaps wasn't that good:

I'm grateful for the work DD did in the past, but his recent actions were pretty fucked up. Vindictive even. If he wanted out, why not just say so and go, why try to fuck over people who gave him support, why lead people on with "will be released soon" messages. What a douche.
Heck, even a conspiracy theory was posted:

"guys u re being funny not to see such obvious fact.
WHY would DD do such thing, disappear close the website and delete forum...
u should answer urself simple question, who made him do that or in other way, who would benefit from PD being closed.

"how much CCP or other companied would have paid him.... if it was to consider that this whole issue with PD had been caused by some 3rd party losing money cause of PD
maybe they somehow forced him, although

"another thing is i couldnt stand all of you buttlicking and simply kissing DD's ass to urge him to finish Roid Ripper. 'ohh yes lovely DD take ur time we all love u oh oh kiss kiss'
never seen such a flame of candy pink sweet bullcrap addressed to one person who deliberately pissed on u most of the times."

But I'm going with the simplest explanation, lack of skill.  And I found a post to back me up on the conclusion.


"oh yeah well. havnt used RR since 3.5 or something as it was bugged for my in every single release with new bugs coming up by every following release. i more felt like a bughunter than a paying customer.

"some month ago i lost the intereset in this piece of code as there was no real progress whereas other bots had 'friendly' developers without napoleon complex but with a a very fast and reliable update/support. i have never seen so many users beeing banned in this forum. that was funny like 'uuh dude you are gonna burn for this comment' haha."
So the sad tale of Roid Ripper comes to an end.  Someone from the Public Demands community may come up with a new bot based on DareDevil's code, because where there is money, someone will try to get some of it.  But I'm sure CCP Sreeg would do a happy dance if that happens, since he would know how to ban those users fairly easily.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: GhostSuite Forum Porn

Surfing the net searching the seedy underworld of Eve Online botting sites gives an idea of what CCP's War on Bots™ looks like from the botters' perspective.  One discussion thread on the GhostSuite forums about bans picked up steam starting on 8 May.  Here are some ban reports for those who would like some details of what CCP may or may not be doing in the on-going war.

From 8 May:  I love the comment about how sitting at the computer didn't save Anonymous A.

I know two people who got banned and here's what they were doing.


Anonymous A:
Program used: StealthMiner
Accounts: 3 accounts per computer + Orca; all on one comp
Mining days per week: 6
Average hours per day: 14
Mining location: All characters in same system
Mining equipment: All hulks plus Orca
Profit per day: $250M approx (not even close to all level 5)
Length before getting banned: Approximately 1 month
Banned Characters: Every character used on PC, including 3 that were never involved in mining
Banned Length: 7 days
Notes: Was actually at computer most of the time and was present when banned; doesn't matter if you're at the machine.


Anonymous B:
Program used: TinyMiner
Accounts: 2 accounts per computer; two computers; total of 4
Mining days per week: 6-7
Average hours per day: 20
Mining location: Max of two characters in same system; moved between systems every 2-3 days
Mining equipment: All retrievers
Profit per day: $100M approx
Length before getting banned: Approximately 1 month
Banned Characters: Only 1 computer (2 accounts) was banned
Banned Length: 14 days
9 May: CCP bans 4 accounts for the activities of one:

"I have only been mining one of my miners now for about a month and a half. The other miners have been sitting out. I had a miner mining for 23/7 same system. Stealth would sit idle every 10 to 15 runs for 10 to 15 minutes and log off every 200-250 minutes for 10 to 15 minutes.

"I came back Monday and Wednesday to find the same system message on Eve, I dont remember the message as I thought it had to do with jamming errors from rats; eve was open and GhostSuite had stopped mining. It wasnt showing the session had ended, just looked like it had locked up. I came home yesterday to find the the account had been banned. I woke up this morning to find that a second account that I had not used in over a month in a half with GS was banned for macro use.


"Only thing in common was the ip address and the email on the account. So far the other accounts I have, have not been banned yet. I will update further if I have any other accounts banned, as they do not have the same email address on the accounts.


"Guessing that I was reported by other users as the system I was in the rats jam heavily and GS cant handle the jamming. (I tried setting up ECCM in the tanking tab of settup-didnt have any success with it) I have come back to my account being jammed by rats for hours at a time. This may have other gamers reporting that. Especially since the systems being mined have been thinned out by banned accounts, making it more likely to be visably macroing.
"
10 May: CCP bans another 4 accounts for someone using the GhostSuite bot.  This person needs to buy a clue, as it appears he also started a thread on the official Eve Online forums about getting banned.

"FYI got banned after a number of years myself, worst thing is over the last 2-3 months ive hardly used ghost miner other than for autopilot aspect,

"Was miening about 6-10 hours a day (sometimes only 4-5) in a newbie system....

"Basically i hold 4 accounts (only run GM on 1 of them) all 4 have been banned, im apealing the ban (as i said havent realy used GM at all for the last couple of months) but they seem to have a very low priorty on dealing with banned petitions, was submitted a week ago (submitted two) and have had 0 responce form them, also when accounts were banned agian no email just your acocunt is banned for two weeks on start up, as these acocunts are all paid for by credit car dit will be interesting to see if they will also refund the two week banned peiord as time not used."

13 May:  CCP bans 4 more accounts from 2 different users.

From deadme4t.  Apparently a safety feature designed to keep CCP from detecting bot use didn't quite protect him:

User XXXXXXXX is banned
Last login: 2011.05.13 07:22
Number of visits: 2716
Reason: EULA/TOS Violation - Macro use
Until: 2011.05.27


Login message.

Only used GS in a VM, in .8space Its my only alt, fully paid account, I use the $ to fund PVP on my main. I might not play eve anymore if I have to mission or rat to make $

Mining ~16hrs a day randomly. I upgraded to the GS alternate startup method as soon as it was available.

From Voska.  This indicates that CCP are using technical means of identification and not just relying on reports.  I know that CCP Sreeg said they were developing automatic ways of detecting bots, but a lot of people in the botting community don't believe it.

"I just got 3 accounts all banned as of this morning. Only one had received a warning from CCP. 2 Were in the same system mining ~9 hours a day. the other was 23 jumps away in a system with 4 people but mining ~14 hours a day.

"Same ban durration as you deadme4t

"im slightly amused that they didnt ban my Orca pilot that was in fleet with them"
These are just the cases reported.  I don't know how popular GhostSuite is, but it appears that CCP has tuned their detection algorithms to detect this bot.

Using bots is bad.  Using this bot may mark a player as stupid.

Update: I have a new post available that adds forum entries from 17 May through 27 May just in case this wasn't enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: Anti-OCR Bot Measures?

I wasn't going to write a fresh post, but this was too good to keep on ice.  I'm looking at a new (at least for me) mining bot, Ghost Suite.  From what I can tell, it is an OCR-based bot, which should get around any software CCP uses to check for Python injection.  But CCP may have come up with a counter something to annoy the users of OCR bots.  The evidence is slim, but I have two posts that indicate this may be the case.

The first is from the developer of Ghost Suite back on 18 April complaining about a "bug."
"While fine-tuning the preferences today, I discovered that there is a bug in EVE. The window that opens for a chat request from unknown pilots floats around. So, everyone needs to go back into your EVE preferences and set your Auto Reject back to being active (under the Audio and Chat Tab), if it's not. It's being commented out of GS Preferences and the program, until EVE gets it fixed."
When I first read this, I wondered if this really was a bug.  A post yesterday on the Ghost Suite forums now leads me to believe that CCP is messing with botters' UIs.


"This is what I was experiencing before the ban-stick fell

"many, many log offs. i was getting drop outs of any character that was on Eve from my network. I shrugged it off as to a router problem (on eves end). After that I was getting windows that were minimizing which i thought was odd since the machines the miners are running on are FAR from being taxed (CPU wise)." 


...

"Before going to GS, i was using another program where I experienced my first ban. I was getting window movements as well. One of my friend who was also using the same program was getting the same issues."
...

"BTW the cargohold, and overview were the windows that were being screwed with. Back to my first ban, the same windows were being screwed with as well, but they would move the cargohold to a different position and the overview as well."

I imagine that messing with an OCR bot's windows would interfere with the effectiveness of the bot.  If this is indeed something CCP is using against bots, I really don't think the floating chat request window is going to change anytime soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eve Peak Concurrent User Mark Exceeds 50,000 Again

The final peak concurrency numbers are in for Sunday (15 May). For the first time since 10 April, the PCU hit over 50,000 (52,743). If I have the numbers figured out correctly, 10 April was probably the date when CCP started handing out 30-day bans to botters for getting caught a second time. If that is true, then yesterday was the first Sunday since the bans expired that all those botters were allowed back in game.

One interesting thing I noticed on Eve-Offline is that concurrency went down from 43,682 at 21:50 to 39,628 at 22:26. I don't know if that is normal at that time on a Sunday night, but a 9% drop in players in a 36 minute span seems drastic. Wouldn't it be funny if that was the new bed time for bots trying to escape detection?  What would be even funnier is if CCP Sreeg managed to automate the banning process so a GM did not need to be present.

I expected this to happen but was too cautious to actually post the prediction.  That is a bad habit I really need to break.  But to make up for it I'll go ahead and start running numbers again and in a few days post the results.  Work is going to tie me up for a few days making blogging and playing Eve almost impossible.  Fortunately I scripted most of the number crunching so I should have time to do that.

For those following the War On Bots™ I have a couple of posts coming up over the next two days you may enjoy.  You may even enjoy them if you bot.  However, I strongly recommend not botting.  A wave of permanent bans is about to hit New Eden.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Mittani: Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

On Tuesday CCP Soundwave published a dev blog about planned changes to null sec.  I don't know if the changes are good or bad, but upon hearing the news Kirith Kodachi used coarse language and Mord Fiddle engaged in a bit of "I told you so."

The news is about changes to the jump bridge mechanic:

"We’ve been looking into players interacting and how that ties into movement and security. Jump bridges have become a bit too much of a crutch in terms of getting around, so we’re going to apply a three changes. Basically, it’s become a very easy, convenient and safe way to travel, with little or no downside. That’s not to say you’re invincible when using jumpbridges, but if you’re in an alliance with an intel channel and a semi-decent jumpbridge network, you have a pretty overwhelming degree of safety. That safety is detrimental to interaction, both in terms of meeting friendly and unfriendly players, which is the base of our change. If it’s difficult catching people moving around, roaming/open world pvp becomes more sidelined, which we’re against. On the other hand, we don't want to take jumpbridges out, since they provide a great way of reaching whatever content you’re using quickly. Anyway, this is what’s happening:

"The first change is the removal of ships with jumpdrives from the jumpbridge eligibility list. This isn’t very dramatic and long overdue. Basically if your ship has a jumpdrive, it can’t use the jumpbridge (Black Ops ships are exempt from this rule). This change will go in on the 17th of this month.

"The second and third changes will go in next month, with the main patch. We will be limiting the number of jumpbridges you can have in a system to one, while upping the fuelbay to 30.000 (3x) to avoid suicide among players who do logistics. We would suggest you start reconfiguring your jumpbridge network as soon as possible.
"Hopefully, this will better balance the rewards of fast travel with the risk of getting caught on the way. So you’ll still be able to use jumpbridges, but every jumpbridge link adds a normal gate jump too. Anyway, that’s short term."

The second part is where The Mittani steps in.  CCP Soundwave then goes on to write, "Luckily, the CSM will be joining us this month so the players are adequately represented. We’ll have several sessions with them and hopefully they will be able to contribute to our goal."  This is exactly what The Mittani campaigned on during the CSM elections.  Let me just give a couple of quotes.  First, from his Ten Ton Hammer column:
"Unfortunately for nullsec, CSM5 actually did matter - in all the wrong ways. With the year-long term, stakeholder status and a gaggle of bushy-tailed representatives, CSM5 and CCP prepared to tackle all sorts of issues - including the crippling failures of the Dominion system which alliance citizens must cope with daily. This meeting of the minds took place at a summit where the single remaining nullsec representative on the CSM, Vuk Lau, was not present, meaning that whatever discussions that took place could at best be described as ‘completely uninformed by actual experience’. The less polite reaction, from CSM Alternate Helen Highwater, described the CSM5 principals as “drooling retards.” In the aftermath of this, Vuk Lau resigned at the end of his term, forfeiting a free trip to Fanfest in protest."

So the null sec alliances got together to make sure CCP did not screw over the residents of null sec.  And who was the leader?  Our friend from Wisconsin with the really cute puppy:
"Every candidate is going to tell you that they want to bring your ideas to CCP. I want to bring CCP to our ideas.

"We play their game, we pay their upkeep, we use their features and we suffer from their shortsightedness. For this they give us one resource, the CSM, and they treat it like a mere focus group, not a stakeholder to be respected. On the CSM, I’ll do what I can to make it better, but I’m not going to promise you the moon and the stars, because I can’t deliver on that.

"What I can deliver is me being a ruthless, manipulative bastard. And you need that, if you want to see the CSM become a real advocate for the playerbase, one that cannot be dismissed by CCP. Thus far, the CSM has never been united. It has been a cacophony of individuals, mostly deluded by the false notion that their election has given them a designer’s position, bleating out their personal ‘fixes’ and being surprised when the devs ignore them. A divided CSM isn’t an effective advocate for the playerbase.

"If the CSM doesn’t band together to oppose CCP when they suggest ******ed things, the interests of the playerbase get steamrolled. Obvious, preventable imbalances get implemented. You need someone who knows how to build a coalition, how to make people want to work together, how to make members feel like their voice and their opinion makes the collective union stronger. I have brought together a coalition of people who normally can't agree on the color of an orange and directed them in a war that most players can only dream of. If I can bring these people together, I can do the same for the CSM as its chair."


Well, now is the time for The Mittani to live up to his campaign rhetoric.  Will he succeed in bringing the players ideas to CCP or will he wind up labeled a "drooling retard"?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SOE: About That Station Cash

With all SOE games and web sites down since 2 May and SOE giving out 30 days free play time plus one day for every day out the outage, SOE is in serious financial trouble, especially if the Bloomberg report about the PSN network target date of return of 31 May is true.

So what might help SOE's bottom line (and save some games) once all the security problems are solved?  The much maligned Station Cash.  That's right.  With SOE potentially giving out 2 months of game play for free and gamers probably leery of buying new games from a company that suffered such a serious security breach, I see Station Cash as the primary revenue stream for SOE for a significant period of time.  That is good for Free Realms and EQ2 Extended which already rely on Station Cash sales, but what about other games?  EverQuest and EverQuest 2 already have the Station Cash shops in game so maybe they can ride out the economic storm if a large number of players don't come back.

As for Vanguard and Star Wars: Galaxies, games without a cash shop?  This may be the end, particularly for SW:G.  After this fiasco, can anyone doubt that players will flock to SWTOR?  If the original release date (Q2 2011) for SWTOR had been met, I would say that SW:G is dead now.

I remember back when Station Cash was introduced players complaining that it would ruin EQ2.  Wouldn't it be ironic if Station Cash actually helps keep EQ2 from closing its doors in the aftermath of the security breach?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: Roid Ripper R.I.P., Eve Pilot Use Curtailed

The War On Bots™ officially claimed its first victim, Roid Ripper.  Not victim as in, the bot is down for revision.  Victim as in, the bot is now officially out of business.  The site, roidripper.com, now displays an error page and NinjaSpud reports in the unofficial War on Bots™ thread that the domain of the forums is available for purchase.  And given the developers difficulty not only getting a new working version of the bot but with the taxing authorities in the U.K., I don't see it coming back.

Yesterday I wrote in the explanation of why the peak concurrency numbers are down that those botters who haven't been caught yet are not running their bots 23/7.  For proof comes a post from the developer of Eve Pilot, slav2:
"Guys, stop posting about bans please. You post really useless information which dont help to understand, improve macro etc. Dont use bot for longer then human usually do, do something with your bot besides mining to change behavior of it. Use latest version of the program, rename executable to something differen. Do all customizations I added to the bot (custom program title, custom hotkeys, overview preset naming, other settings, custom bookmark names, custom delays and log offs). Dont make direct transactions, use market to sell something to your bot for expansive and buy from your bot for cheap or another public methods. You getting banned because your used to click "START" and forget about precautions."
One of the things that makes botting so powerful is the ability to make more isk than normal because the bot can perform longer than a human.  CCP appears to have curtailed that benefit to botting.  In fact, in order to avoid detection and a ban from CCP, users of Eve Pilot have to actually PLAY their botting pilots.  Play Eve?  What a concept!

TL:DR: Roid Ripper, dead.  Eve Pilot, you have a really good chance of getting caught if you use it.


Wait a minute.  On second thought, if you want to bot, please use Eve Pilot.  It's totally safe.  Honest.
/sarcasm off

Related Post: CCP's War On Bots: Roid Ripper - Epilogue

Monday, May 9, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: Peak Concurrency Numbers After Six Weeks

During Fanfest 2011 CCP Sreeg told the attendees of the Security presentation "If you are botting, it is the perfect time to stop."  Although success against mining bots like Roid Ripper (which no longer even has a working web site) and TinyMiner has been reported on the forums, other posts indicate that bots are still operating.  Since players are demanding proof of action against botting and CCP Sreeg has failed to produce a dev blog on the "slow burn," I decided to look at the number of players actually on Tranquility for the 6 weeks before CCP Sreeg made the announcement and the 6 weeks immediately preceeding the announcement.

Unlike most games, CCP makes the number of users in Eve readily available to the public.  Not only does the figure appear on the login screen, but also is accessible via an api.  Luckily for me, Chribba created Eve-Offline which tracks not only the server status for all Eve servers but also the concurrent user status.  Eve-Offline is the source for all the stats used in this post.

Graph 1 - Daily Peak Concurrency

First, I took a look at the daily peak concurrent user marks.  With the red line in the graph marking when the slow burn began, we see that in the 6 weeks before the latest anti-botting campaign the PCU reached over 50,000 users 10 times.  After the campaign began, it reached over 50,000 twice.  The first time was the Sunday of Fanfest when word of the campaign probably hadn't spread far (and was probably laughed at by those who heard) and on 10 April.  Now, 10 April is an interesting day because if CCP really was banning a lot of accounts for botting, that day marks the end of the 14-day bans those caught botting would have received in the first round of bans.  So the possibility exists that on the 10th a lot of botters logged back in and were hit with a 30-day ban.



Graph 2 - PCU Sundays

Focusing on the Sunday PCU numbers really shows that something drastic changed.  In the six weeks before Fanfest, PCU exceeded 54,500 every Sunday, averaging 55,962 users.  After Fanfest, PCU has not reached that mark and has failed to reach 50,000 four out of the six weeks, averaging 49,562 users.  That is a reduction of 6,400 users, or 11.4%, from the 6 weeks before CCP Sreeg began the slow burn vs the 6 weeks after.

Does that mean that 11% of the people playing Eve were botters and that CCP Sreeg's efforts are responsible for all the reduction in pilot activity.  Not at all.


Graph 3 - 7 Day Rolling Average

As the above graph shows, pilot activity was falling even before the War on Bots™ began in earnest.  The above graph is a 7-day rolling average of the daily peak concurrency numbers.  Although it appears that the number of pilots logging in was stabilizing at the 47,000 - 48,000 mark (the pink line), that represented a 3.8% decline in pilot participation on Tranquility in the 6 weeks leading up to Fanfest.  Still, since Fanfest, the 7-day rolling average of PCU has declined by 6.1%.  And other factors, like the anomaly nerf and dissatisfaction with Incarna could have led to pilots leaving Eve.

However, the spike in the middle of April leads me to believe that attacking botters was a significant factor in the decline of the PCU numbers.  If Eve did not suffer the drastically lower CPU figure for 6 April due to the deployment of Incursion 1.4, the 7 day rolling average for 11-13 April most likely would have matched or even exceeded those from 6 weeks previously.  The lower activity does not mean that accounts were banned.  What is most likely given what I've read on the botter forums is that those botters who were not banned are more cautious on how they bot.  The botters are now not running their bots 23/7, which may lead to CCP having a harder time detecting the bots.

I wish I had figures available for the Australia/New Zealand time zone because I think that would show botting activity better as fewer players are on during that time, but Eve-Offline does not provide those numbers in a reliable (i.e. at the same time every night) fashion.  But that's okay, because Chribba's site provided a lot of information proving that activity is definitely going down on TQ.  While I believe that CCP's War on Bots™ is a major factor, others can disagree.  Until CCP Sreeg comes out with a dev blog, the debate will rage on.

Related Post: CCP's War On Bots: Peak Concurrent Users - 1 May 2011 to 5 June 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Weekend Of Planning

This weekend I'm looking forward to doing a lot of planning as I embark on some serious industrial activity in Eve Online.  I've already set up Wandering Rose's skills queue through the rest of the year so now its time to try to actually figure out how to turn my dreams into reality.  Here are just a few of the things I need to consider.

Blueprints:  I need to do an inventory and figure out what blueprints I need to buy, which ones I need to copy to make tech 2 items, and which ones I need to conduct material research on.

Research agents:  I began setting up my network of research agents about a year ago.  I need to revisit my setup to make sure the datacores I'm researching match my production needs.

Placing buy orders:  Once I figure out exactly what I want to produce, I need to start placing some buy orders for the construction materials I don't plan to mine or mission for myself.  I also need to haul out my alts to start observing the markets in The Forge and Sinq Laison for the best deals.

Better record-keeping:  I need to develop some tools to help figure out if I really am making a profit on the items I make.  Well, I should say better tools.  I have a couple but they are really rough.  Also, while I used the average prices in Heimatar when figuring out my costs in making my Mastodon, I really need to keep track of what I actually spent.  And who knows, bargain hunting might become a nice mini-game in its own right.

That's probably a good start for what I need to accomplish.  Heck, with my limited playtime, that might be enough to keep me occupied for a couple of weeks.  I guess I better get started.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

When Mining In Eve Is Not So Bad

I've written before that in Eve, friends don't let friends mine.  Of course, I don't always follow that advice and own a Covetor and an Orca when I get the urge to primary an asteroid or two. 

Last night was one of those times I wanted to mine.  I've been doing level 3 missions with the Brutor tribe to get some better rates selling items out of the main station in Rens and I had an Eve-mail in my inbox from a level 3 storyline agent.  She wanted 10,000 units of Omber.  That's only 2 cycles of mining for Wandering Rose, and Rosewalker's skills in an Orca cut the cycle time by 12 seconds.  And the reward?  A Social Adaptation Chip - Basic.  Sure, it is a +3 charisma implant, but it lists for 8-10 million isk in Rens.  I don't mind running mining lasers for 6 minutes for that much isk.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Halfling Stew - Brenlo's Back On Air

I found out last night that Alan "Brenlo" Crosby, longtime Community Manager for SOE games who ended his career there as Senior Producer of EverQuest2, is now on-air with a show on Online Gaming Radio called Halfling Stew.  Broadcasting Sundays from 1700 - 1900 PDT (don't ask me why U.S. gamers usually use Pacific time), he is co-hosting with Christie "Kiara" Renzetti, who also worked for SOE with the EQ2 community.

And what are they talking about?  RIFT.  And MMOs, but we get a to hear Brenlo and Kiara talk about the new kid on the block.  The only problem for Brenlo is that RIFT has no halflings in it.  Kiara is lucky in that the Defiant has a flavor of dark elves called the Kelari.

No matter what I thought of Brenlo's stint as the senior producer of EQ2, I always did like him on the SOE podcast, which he started.  Looks like I'll have to check out his show Sunday.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SOE Was Also Hacked

Everyone by now has probably heard of the hacking of Sony's PlayStation Network.  Now, we find out what many feared is true: the SOE customer database was also hacked.
SAN FRANCISCO [AFP] — Sony on Monday reported that cyber assaults on its online videogame network were broader than first thought, with intruders getting away with credit and debit card data.

Hackers breached Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) network as well as PlayStation Network and Qriocity streaming music service, according to the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

"We had previously believed that Sony Online Entertainment customer data had not been obtained in the cyber-attacks on the company," the company said in an online update.
"But, on May 1st we concluded that SOE account information may have been stolen and we are notifying you as soon as possible."

Engineers and security consultants investigating the PlayStation Network breach discovered evidence that information was stolen from 24.6 million SOE accounts and from an outdated database containing people's financial data.

About 12,700 credit or debit card numbers, along with expiration dates, belonging to people outside the United States may have been stolen along with 10,700 direct debit records of customers in Austria, Germany, Netherlands, and Spain, according to Sony.

"We will be notifying each of these customers promptly," the Japanese consumer electronics giant promised.
EQ2 Wire reports that EverQuest 2 is down and has a round-up of the news.  The worst part is that SOE assured customers on April 22nd that the Playstation Network hack did not involve the SOE databases.  But according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Sony has been under cyber attack for 6 weeks and has now drawn the attention of Congress.  At this point, Sony has stated it will answer written questions but will not send representatives to appear at congressional hearings on the matter.

Some people talk about not trusting SOE becase of the Star Wars: Galaxies NGE so many years ago.  I think this is a heck of a lot more serious.  And on a personal note, even with the recent forum problems, I'm feeling a lot safer with CCP than I am with some of the other companies.  I think I'm fortunate in that I gave up playing EverQuest 2 over 18 months ago and decided that SW:G was not for me.  While SOE does have a credit card on file for me, it expired 6 months ago.  Lucky me.

Update:  EQ2 Wire is now conducting a poll asking when people believe EverQuest 2 will come back online. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Running The Numbers: Why I Won't Jump Into The Tech 2 Market

I have been flying around in my nice new Mastodon for a couple of weeks now and have just gotten around to looking at the cost of actually building it.  Let's just say I'm glad I'm not trying to make a living out of building tech 2 ships or I'd go broke pretty quick.  Of course, as a hobby, building tech 2 ships is expensive, but I have a goal of building at least one of each Minmatar sub-capital ship.  Why?  I like making my own stuff.




My Mastodon, Soundwave's Bane


At this time I'm not going to try to calculate exactly how I should include the cost of the Mammoth BPO I bought in order to create the blue print copies I used to create my Mastodon BPCs.  Part of that is because I intend on trying to sell Mammoths later on.  I also haven't figured out how to include the price of the Cryptic Ship Data Interface, since it can be used multiple times and I have so many T2 ships to make.  I also won't include the costs of making copies, doing the inventions and then the actual fees for the construction slot.  One, those costs aren't that great but, more importantly, I forgot to write them down.  So let's just look at the major costs: decryptors and materials.

I only really looked at two possible decryptors when inventing my Mastodon BPCs, Advanced Theories and Calibration Data.  While Calibration Data reduces the material efficiency of a Mastodon BPC to -1, I chose the Advanced Theories decryptor because of the additional run I would get for a successful invention. The other advantage is the slightly better chance of an invention succeeding using Advanced Theories over Calibration Data.  I normally attempt 5 inventions of a single type whenever I try to make T2 BPCs.  Given my skills (all level 4 in the relevant skills), making 5 attempts and factoring in the additional run from using Advanced Theories, I had a 89.4% chance of getting at least 2 runs worth of Mastodon vs the 53.6% chance of getting at least 2 runs using Calibration Data.  Of course, the downside was getting blueprint copies with a material efficiency of -2.  So I purchased 5 Advanced Theories and crossed my fingers.

As it turns out, I was successful in creating 2 2-run Mastodon BPCs, so I was pretty happy that I used 5 decryptors to make 4 Mastodons.  But was it a good use of isk?  In order for using a decryptor to make sense, at least to me, the savings in materials has to be greater than the cost of the decryptors used.  For the rest of the post, I will use the average prices of items actually sold on the Heimar (Rens) market on 29 April 2011 for all calculations.  I'm not using The Forge prices because I'm a Minmatar pilot and I didn't feel like flying all the way out to Jita.

According to the prices on Friday, 5 Advanced Theories cost 57.5 million isk.  Divide that by four to divide the cost across all four runs I achieved and the associated cost per run was 14.4 million isk?  So did I save that much on the building materials over not using a decrytpor at all?



Table 1 - Mastodon Construction Materials
No decryptor (ME -4) vs. Advanced Theories (ME -2)


ItemME -4ME -2
Construction Blocks225195
Deflection Shield Emitter375325
Electrolytic Capacitor Unit300260
Fernite Carbide Composite Armor Plate5,2504,550
Isogen4,6644,042
Ladar Sensor Cluster135117
Mammoth11
Megacyte5043
Morphite10591
Nanomechanical Microprocessor1,8001,560
Nocxium515446
Nuclear Reactor Unit4539
Plasma Thruster7565
Pyerite30,92626,802
R.A.M. Starship Tech1010
Tritanium123,707107,212
Zydrine21


According to my calculations, I saved 17.2 million isk in materials.  Of course, decrytpors are not the only items consumed during the T2 blueprint copy invention process.  Each invention attempt requires 8 mechanical engineering and 8 Minmatar starship engineering datacores, the value of which was slightly more than 4 million isk per attempt, or 5 million isk per production run I obtained on my two blueprint copies.  Because I am using small numbers, for the purposes of calculating the costs of not using decryptors, I'll just assume I would have also succeeded in 2 out of 5 invention attempts and so the cost per production run would be 10 million isk per production run.  So the total cost savings using Advanced Theories was 7.8 million isk.

Of course, if I had only been successful 1 out of the 5 invention attempts, I would have actually lost 8 million isk by using decryptors.  So the break even point seems to be needing to succeed in 40% of my attempts.  And what is the probability of succeeding only 1 time or totally failing?  40.6%

Well, for that type of risk, I'm saving money, right?  No.  On 29 April the average Mastodon sold for 105.6 million isk.  And, not counting NPC fees and factoring in my start-up costs, I spent 132.2 million isk.

But wait a minute, you may ask.  I actually purchased some of the moon mats and created my own finished moon products.  Surely that saved me money, right?



Table 2 - Mastodon Construction Moon Materials
No decryptor (ME -4) vs. Advanced Theories (ME -2)


ItemME -4ME -2
Fermionic Condensates4539
Fernite Carbide274,800238,160
Ferrogel495429
Fullerides5,1004,420
Hypersynaptic Fibers270234
Nanotransistors11,2359,737
Phenolic Composites20251755
Sylramic Fibers61,12552,975


Yes, but not that much.  According to my price sheet, manufacturing the products in table 2 only saved me about 500 thousand isk.  So for arguments sake (and to make the math easier) lets assume all of my NPC costs are equal to the amount of isk I saved by manufacturing the items in table 2.  So why are my costs to make a Mastodon 25.2% higher than the average sales price of a Mastodon on the Heimar market?

The answer is simple.  Mastodon BPOs.  I had heard a lot about the advantages that people who have BPOs have in the market, but I'd never really looked closely at the numbers before.  Now I understand all the complaining about Tech 2 BPOs by those who have no hope of ever owning one and why the T20 scandal was such a big deal.  Players that own BPOs can do material efficiency research and if they only research the BPO to ME 9 the base waste factor goes down to 1%.  At ME -2, the base waste factor is 30% and my skills only take that down to 23%.

Even with the waste factor against me, my material cost is only about 8 million isk, or approximately 7.5% greater than what the ship is selling for on the open market.  According to the Evelopedia, the best I can do is produce a blueprint copy with ME -1 (using Calibration Data).  Where owners of BPOs have a distinct advantage is they do not have to go through the invention process.  I wound up spending 19.4 million isk per run on decryptors and datacores, which is 18.4% of the sales price of the average ship.  And that is 19.4 million isk that those who have BPOs don't have to pass on to their customers.

Unless I can find a market in some out of the way system someplace in low-sec, I won't be jumping into the Tech 2 market, as I have no chance of competing in the major trade hubs.  I'll just make my tech 2 ships because I want to say I built them.  And who knows?  Maybe one day the situation will change and I will be glad that I have some tech 2 BPCs in a station somewhere.