Monday, April 30, 2012

CCP's War On Bots: Questor Developer Caught In RMT Sweep

In early March CCP's Team Security scored a major victory in the War on Bots™ and the illicit RMT trade when they caught the developer of the Questor mission bot, Da_Teach, in an RMT sweep on 15 March. 
Da_Teach:  "Well it wouldn't be fair if I didnt post here :)

"I got banned yesterday on 9 of my 10 accounts. I didn't run 24/7, max 8ish hours per day. But I doubt they got me for botting, I just did a lot of RMT :) The fact that they got my mule-char (and another char that never ran a bot in its life) pretty much proves that."
tetrikx:  "I really hope this doesn't make you abandon the Questor project. Getting banned expecially in eve might be a big emotional hit but many found the inner strength to continue and/or start over."
Da_Teach:  "It was not an emotional hit :) I haven't actually played eve for over 1 1/2 years now and the bots was the only reason I actually started up eve. For me this project is over and done for.

"There are a few dev's that can maintain DirectEve and I might also consider making DirectEve open-source.

"However, I will no longer work on it, look at it, or otherwise maintain it. I'm giving away my final char to a friend who's accounts where also banned and I'll be moving on to other games."

On 19 March, Da_Teach indicated that he was changing his mind, at least partially.
Da_Teach:  "The project is still "mine". I might not work on it, but the license hasn't changed nor will it.

"That said, it seems a few DE dev's are only willing to work on DE if people donate. This is against my idea behind DE. As such I might look into two possibilities, either go open source or go partially paid (where I would still solve the issues within DE). Donations to a particular DE dev is still paying them to profit off my work (and before those dev's start saying "I did this and that", it doesn't begin to compare to the amount that I put into DE)."

A couple of weeks went by while Da_Teach decided how to proceed.  The tears started to flow.
I3Questor (5 April):  "Whatever the decision it, can it please be made soon. I have bots that think christmas came early because they havent worked a single minute since the stargate patch.

"I would like to make a decision on whether I am still running questor or go back to my mining bot because right now a few bill a month is better than nothing.

"I have already PMd People who are charging and got the answer that "oh we are only allowing selected people" *sigh* so obviously my US$ are not good enough.. lol

"Please get something going."
I3Questor (6 April):  "Dude right now, all i care about is getting Questor back up and running. If someone is charging and the bot is working.. then I'm in.

"This thread has been going for long enough for DT to get a fair idea and while I understand that he will probably have to get a billing system organised etc, I would still like to know HOW LONG IT WILL BE and how much I will have to pay for my bots.

"Right now I am making 0 income because I am not a coder and everytime I try to compile any of the builds that are on Git, I get a sea of red..

"I just need things to move faster than the snails pace they are currently moving at."
Daruna (6 April):  "Basically this, right here. I don't bot in order to RMT whatever I make, and I completely understand that those who make the bots, like DT, frown upon it. I have purchased ISK in the past because you get more than double the isk than a PLEX for the same price, and for me, money is pretty tight right now, and I'd like to be able to do things like play EVE for as little money as possible. If that means paying for a bot that in general costs as much as or less than a single EVE account and get it to pay for 5, then yes, I am very much willing to pay DT for his hard work.

"But I'd really love it if it happened sooner rather than later ;~;"

Finally Da_Teach unveiled his plans.
Da_Teach:  "I can't stress enough that the subscription is for DirectEve support. While I will fix any major-game-breaking Questor bugs (and compilation errors), I will not improve it nor will I fix any bugs that it probably contains that are not game breaking.

"The fact that I will be providing a build server is mostly to get rid of the 'Ok, I am not smart enough to perform a command-line compile' posts on this forum. Don't confuse this with me supporting / further developing Questor in any way, shape or form.

"What you will get, for your $1 per instance, is:
* A patched DirectEve as soon as possible (usually within 24-48 hours, exceptions may occur)
* A daily compiled Questor master-branch (compilation errors will be fixed within 24-48 hours)
* Optionally the ability to compile any Questor-fork (compilation errors will not be fixed, it could possibly not return the correct binaries)

"If that's not the support you where looking for, for your $1 per instance, then I guess the support subscription is not for you and you'll just have to wait a week (and compile Questor yourself)."

Does this mean that Questor is currently a top-notch bot?  Not according to some of the tears associated with changing the names of star gates.
Ritticus (6 April):  "I found 4 typo errors referring to destination directories just in the compile.bat alone who knows how many real errors are in the code itself, I deem this project broken for now. DT seems to be heading away and until someone steps up or a pay-to-use alternative is established. this is as good as dead for now."
goldenlancer (10 April):  "Just saying - I support making questor paid - but I have not had questor in over 2 months. Its been broke that long as far as I'm concerned. (Habitually broken for longer)

"I WRITE MY OWN CODE. I'm not a complete retard - I made my own AHK script (for anomalies) and have given up - im writing a code for missions too. Yet I look at the fixes I'm able to see, and none of them work. I've spent more time trying to fix questor than probably would have been necessary to write my own AHK script.

"Your alienating the very population you want to keep in the near future. I realize in the past this attitude leads to fewer people -> Less CCP attention, but these are the very people who are willing to fork over money for a product. People smarter then me will just write their own. People stupider then me usually dont have this sort of patience to sit idle.

"I wish you all farewell"

So basically development of Questor by Da_Teach is over, with the only work being maintaining the code after each patch that CCP publishes.  From what I can tell, each Eve patch requires a rework of DirectEve since CCP does things to the code that makes botters lives difficult.

Questor development has always put in tasks that are a barrier to casual people picking up the bot and using it.  Some technical expertise is required.  Reading through the forums I get the impression that Questor or Questor-derivitives  form the engine for many illicit RMT farming operations.  In fact, in the leak of the GeneralStab logs following the fall of Northern Coalition last year, The Mittani opined that using Questor is more profitable than moon mining.
[08:54:53] [the mittani] i know a rmt transaction of about 2 trillion
[08:54:58] [the mittani] that's about 40k usd
[08:55:09] [the mittani] don't knock rmt, it's p. serious cash at the upper levels
[08:55:36] [the mittani] fuck, iskbank had records of about 300k in profit
[08:55:56] [rat salat] Advice... skip the rmt, quit eve and get into med school lol
[08:56:14] [the mittani] rmt is relatively easy and doesn't involve 120k+ of debt
[08:57:06] [the mittani] it's not like humans do work to generate rmt isk
[08:57:09] [rat salat] No, but it does take 80 hours to control the corp
[08:57:14] [the mittani] it's all virtual machines running bots, or moon products
[08:57:23] [rat salat] Now, botting, that's different
[08:57:32] [the mittani] primarily it's questor in l4 mission hubs
[08:57:33] [rat salat] There's some RMT to be made there
[08:57:50] [rat salat] 1 bot over a month makes a tech moon look silly
[08:57:51] [rat salat] so yea
[08:58:57] [the mittani] and due to virtual machines, you can run as many bots doing missions as your cpu can handle
[08:58:59] [rat salat] E#xactly
[08:59:18] [rat salat] So tech for RMT is fucking irrelevant as far as I'm concerned
[09:01:59] [the mittani] goo embezzlement is an 'out'
[09:02:12] [the mittani] if you set up a rmt shop as a business from the start, you do bots in vms in empire
Since Da_Teach is not going to make DirectEve open source, hopefully that means the bot will soon become out of date and those who supply the illicit RMT trade will lose one of their best tools.

Friday, April 27, 2012

CCP Sreegs Unleashed: A Three Week Update

Yesterday CCP Sreegs provided an update on the illicit RMT crackdown that began about 3 weeks ago.  After the initial rings were busted at the beginning of the month, the campaign continued with the number of accounts permanently banned at 1268 with 524 accounts having 1.5 trillion isk purchased removed.  The RMT sellers and suppliers took a bigger hit as Team Security seized 4.2 trillion in assets.  That is an average of 300 billion isk seized from the RMT trade every day.

A couple of additional facts stand out.  The first is that 90% of the accounts banned were considered "very young".  CCP Sreegs feels this is important because it means that long-term customers are not working in the RMT trade.  The next is that out of the 524 accounts which had isk removed for purchasing illicit isk, only 10 of them quit the game.  That will make the bean counters looking at the bottom line feel better about Team Security's efforts.

One other important fact should be stressed.  CCP Sreegs' dev blog was about the anti-RMT efforts, not The War On Bots™.

What follows are some of CCP Sreegs answers to questions posed in the thread.


Question.  Can you give the number of accounts that were paid with plex and money?

CCP Sreegs"I cannot right now. I can say that I was surprised by the percentages if that's indicative of anything."

Q.  Do you have any actions planned for spammers and the like, many of whom are most likely associated with RMT?

CCP Sreegs"Spam is an annoying problem and I am not sure it should reside with us but I'll start some emails internally and see what kind of conversation I can stir up."

Q.  Can you give us an updated count of false positives?  I know for a fact that it's at least 15 now, and maybe as high as 50.

CCP Sreegs"That is untrue and as I elaborated in every single case we've found where someone was flagged for RMT who shouldn't have been, they were doing something else they shouldn't have been. Not so much a false positive as a positive for the wrong activity.

"It may be mincing words a bit but there's a very big difference from my perspective as these aren't really innocents getting caught in the crossfire."


Q.  If you do find that someone you have accused of engaging in RMT is innocent, will you come out and admit it?

CCP Sreegs"I believe we have. We've also reimbursed people who were wrongly caught in the crossfire. I'll add to that though that everyone in prison is innocent and not everyone claiming to have been caught in some massively wide net that doesn't exist is doing so honestly. :)

"I don't feel any pain one way or another by admitting a mistake. We did the same by admitting we had any false positives at all."


Q:  Other than isk, did the banned accounts have lots of ore, factions goodies and other items of interest?

CCP Sreegs"Assets are calculated into an isk value for the sake of simplicity. You can imagine that items seized run the gamut."

Q.  Were there any unique items seized? By that I mean ships like the Freki, Mimir, Adrestia, Utu, Silver Magnate, Guardian-Vexor, etc... of which only a few have been released in the game and there's no way to add more?

CCP Sreegs"I don't think so but we'll look. As I said in the blog these really aren't EVE players. They don't enjoy the game or play it as anything other than a business."
Q.  There was a suggestion at Fan Fest that the confiscated PLEX might be sold to players.  Why not some of these assets as well?

CCP Sreegs"One problem I have with this is that we're seeing patterns of activity where the isk is botted up and in this case we're printing isk at a rate which it should not be happening at out of thin air.

"At the end of the day though I'm not an economics guy so the assets sit in the banned accounts until or unless someone decides to use them for something.

"I'd considered at one point using them as a reward system but I can't get over the fact that a lot of this stuff just simply shouldn't exist and that can't be good for an economy."


Q.  I understand that you have reservations about returning ill-gotten goods to the economy, but there’s a sizeable amount of isk in circulation that was created through illicit means as well; and Dr. E. seems to be more worried about the isk at this point.

CCP Sreegs"The isk was created to purchase the goods. :)"

Q.  What did you decide about "scarlet letters"?

CCP Sreegs:  "There's been no decision reached yet and I'm still going over the various responses."

Q.  Where are the graphs?

CCP Sreegs"Graphs are Stillman's department."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stalin On Eve Online

"Chribba?  How many fleets has he got?"

With all the talk of the imminent invasion of Jita, death squads and a campaign of terror aimed at the innocent miners of New Eden, one could be excused for thinking that Eve Online is a dark, dangerous game full of sociopaths.  But that image hides the many good people whose influence comes not at the point of an autocannon or blaster but through their good works and integrity.  Perhaps the most famous example of the use of soft power in Eve is Chribba.

Chribba is the carebear's carebear, disdaining scamming and ganking for mining veldspar.  Instead of feasting on tears, he provides services like Eve Files, Eve Off-line and Eve Agents to the player base.  And his reputation for honesty has enabled him to run a 3rd-party service that facilitates major transactions like super-capital sales.  This reputation has enabled Chribba to become fabulously wealthy and, for a time, a sov holder in New Eden's cutthroat world of null sec politics.


How did a carebear in a one-man alliance wind up owning space in null sec?  When Ushra'Khan pulled out of Providence they didn't want to abandon Unity Station in 9UY4-H so they gave it to a neutral party: Chribba.  He actually managed to run the place for over a year as the occasional challenger for control would be run off by Chribba's fans and well-wishers.


This past November, however, the story came to its inevitable conclusion.  Test Alliance Please Ignore eventually decided that they wanted to remove Chribba from his station to avenge themselves against CCP for its banning of beloved pilot HurrDurrHurr.  If the rationale doesn't make sense, don't worry, we're talking about TEST.  Nothing they do has to make sense.  However, with Chribba offering coffee and kladdkaka to those who would stop by during the fighting, TEST delayed their attack.

Judging by the facts of the campaign, TEST, consisting of thousands of players, was extremely weary of attacking a single player who refuses to fight other players in space.  First, the attack was delayed until Chribba had flown off to the U.S. to visit Mintchip.  Next, when the attack did go in, it was spearheaded by a Pandemic Legion super-cap fleet led by Shadoo.  When a response fleet attempted to halt the attack, Pandemic Legion stopped them with ease.

Pandemic Legion against Chribba may seem a bit lopsided.  After all, how many fleets does Chribba control?  The problem for attackers is: they don't know.  Chribba's military power is based on those who wish to come and help him.  That works against smaller opponents, but when a major null sec power wanted his system they took it.  Of course, Chribba had already signaled he wouldn't mind losing the system.  He also had already stated he would not hold any attacks against alliances who wished to purchase super-capitals using his 3rd party service.  So Chribba really didn't wield the full extent of his accumulated soft power.  A smart move as now anyone thinking about moving against Chribba still has that worry about how many fleets he can summon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Asteroid Mining ... In Real Life

Yesterday CCP launched The Escalation to Inferno, a pre-patch for this summer's Eve Online expansion.  The patch aims to promote mining by, among other things, removing alloys from rogue drones and replacing meta 0 items that can be manufactured by players in the drop tables with scrap metal.

But a new emphasis on mining asteroids was not confined to New Eden.  In Seattle, Planetary Resources Inc, a company backed by such figures as Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Perot Systems chairman Ross Perot Jr and former Microsoft chief software architect Charles Simonyi, announced it was going into the asteroid mining business in real life.  The founders of Planetary Resources, Eric C. Anderson and Peter H. Diamandis, already run a successful space tourism business and decided that the next step is to get into mining.  Can they do it?  Mr. Anderson told the New York Times that the group of investors in the project had a combined total net worth of over $50 billion.

Source: Planetary Resources, Inc.

I don't think the folks at Planetary Resources will mind if I paste their press release here since it does make for some interesting reading.


Seattle, Wash. – April 24, 2012 — Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. Through the development of cost-effective exploration technologies, the company is poised to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible.

Resource extraction from asteroids will deliver multiple benefits to humanity and grow to be valued at tens of billions of dollars annually. The effort will tap into the high concentration of precious metals found on asteroids and provide a sustainable supply to the ever-growing population on Earth.
A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history. “Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space. As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications,” said Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Additionally, water-rich NEAs will serve as “stepping stones” for deep space exploration, providing space-sourced fuel and water to orbiting depots. Accessing water resources in space will revolutionize exploration and make space travel dramatically more economical.

“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space. Accessing a water-rich asteroid will greatly enable the large-scale exploration of the solar system. In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Of the approximately 9,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. The capability to characterize NEAs is on the critical path for Planetary Resources. To that end, the company has developed the first line in its family of deep-space prospecting spacecraft, the Arkyd-100 Series. The spacecraft will be used in low-Earth orbit and ultimately help prioritize the first several NEA targets for the company’s follow-on Arkyd-300 Series NEA swarm expeditions. Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, said “Our mission is not only to expand the world’s resource base, but we want to increase people’s access to, and understanding of, our planet and solar system by developing capable and cost-efficient systems.”

“The promise of Planetary Resources is to apply commercial innovation to space exploration. They are developing cost-effective, production-line spacecraft that will visit near-Earth asteroids in rapid succession, increasing our scientific knowledge of these bodies and enabling the economic development of the resources they contain,” said Tom Jones, Ph.D., veteran NASA astronaut, planetary scientist and Planetary Resources, Inc. advisor.

Planetary Resources, Inc. is financed by industry-launching visionaries, including Google CEO Larry Page and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group, who are committed to expanding the world’s resource base so that humanity can continue to grow and prosper:
  • Eric E. Schmidt, Ph.D., Executive Chairman of Google, Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Planetary Resources, Inc. investor: “The pursuit of resources drove the discovery of America and opened the West. The same drivers still hold true for opening the space frontier. Expanding the resource base for humanity is important for our future.”
  • K. Ram Shriram, Founder of Sherpalo, Google Board of Directors founding member and Planetary Resources, Inc. investor: “I see the same potential in Planetary Resources as I did in the early days of Google.”
  • Charles Simonyi, Ph.D., Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Planetary Resources, Inc. investor: “The commercialization of space began with communications satellites and is developing for human spaceflight. The next logical step is to begin the innovative development of resources from space. I’m proud to be part of this effort.”
Some of the company’s advisors include film maker and explorer James Cameron; General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.); Sara Seager, Ph.D.; Mark Sykes, Ph.D.; and David Vaskevitch.
Founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Planetary Resources, Inc. is establishing a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the solar system within humanity’s economic sphere of influence by enabling low-cost robotic exploration and eventual commercial development of asteroids. For more information, please visit www.PlanetaryResources.com.


Of course, with that type of money invested in a mining operation, Planetary Resources really needs to invest in good security.  After all, you never know what kind of attention you'll attract.

Space pirates have noticed already


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 24 April 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 22 April 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.



Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 55.9 74,254
22Star Wars: The Old Republic16.221,595
33Aion7.49,812
44Eve Online 3.74,876
58APB:Reloaded3.04,044
65Lord Of The Rings Online2.83,692
77Metin 22.53,258
86Guild Wars2.22,898
911Need For Speed World1.92,463
1010Rift1.72,263
119Star Trek Online1.41,903
1212Maple Story1.41,864
 
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday:175,127
 

Time to drive:  In a week that saw a drop of 8% in overall MMORPG hours played by Xfire members, two games in the Digital Dozen saw double-digit gains.  APB:Reloaded saw a 40.4% jump based on the release of version 1.7 plus the give-a-way of a 3-day premium code to make up for the server issues upon launch.  Need For Speed World saw an 11.4% increase in time played following the release of the 2010 BMW M6 CoupĂ© plus a 30% off sale in the cash shop.

Luster fades quickly: Two games that experienced gains on the 15th, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Aion, saw those gains evaporate Sunday.  Despite players trying to get that free month of play and another free weekend for new players, the Bioware offering saw almost all its gains from patch 1.2 disappear as its hours dropped 13.7%.  Aion did see the gains from the Ascension launch disappear plus more as the game saw a drop of 15.1% in hours played.

Beta Madness:  With all the games that will come out this spring and summer, open betas are all around.  This weekend saw two open beta weekends of significance, Tera and Diablo III.  Tera managed to pull 1,585 hours on Sunday, indicating that it may debut on the Digital Dozen on the first Sunday of May.  The other beta, Diablo III, attracted 38,581 hours and probably contributed to the 9.5% decline in the hours played in World of Warcraft Sunday.

 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monsters

I was surfing the net this weekend and ran across the news about the Tera open beta.  The part that interested me was the mention of "big-ass monsters".  That got me to thinking.  Every MMORPG I can think of with combat has players fighting monsters or gods bigger than any single player can defeat.  Players have to band together to fight the giant, whether it be Onyxia or Deathwing in World of Warcraft or Nagafen in EverQuest 2.  Raids are the name of the end game and big raids call for big-ass monsters.  Well, except for one game.

That's right, Eve Online is the only MMO I can think of in which the developers allow the players to be more powerful than the most powerful NPCs.  Some might dispute that is the case in Eve.  But the Jove never interact with the players unless a dev is behind the controls of the ship.  And as for all-powerful CONCORD, they only punish.  If a player is willing to pay the price and knows what he is doing, even CONCORD can't stop him.

In fact, the devs sometimes have to protect the NPCs from the players.  Without the cyno jammers that accompany incursions, the null-sec alliances would hotdrop the Sansha NPCs with capital and super-capital fleets.  While the Sansha have the Revenant-class mothership, Eve players have access to titans, the biggest and most powerful ships in the game.  Even the super-carriers available to players are more powerful than the Revenant.  In Eve, killing the biggest and baddest monsters involves killing players, not NPCs.



Friday, April 20, 2012

Why You Should Join A Corp In Eve Online

On Wednesday I wrote about some of the reasons I am in a one person corporation in Eve Online.  While many people have good reasons to do so, Eve is a massively multi-player online role playing game.  In such games, joining a guild, or in Eve's case a corporation, is usually a good idea.  I know, I know, the modern MMO is turning away from that idea, at least recently.  Just look at Star Wars: The Old Republic or what World of Warcraft turned into, although perhaps comparing WoW to SW:TOR on the social aspects of the game is a bit unfair to Blizzard.  But Eve is a game that is 18 months older than WoW and still influenced greatly by what MMORPGs like EverQuest were like.

I am not opposed to the idea of joining a real corporation myself.  After all, I had a great time when I was in Eve University.  So why move from my nice cozy niche and join the wider game?  Here are some reasons.

6.  NPC starter corporations are horrible:  I'm already past this part, but I cannot say this strongly enough.  Whatever you do, do not stay in the starter NPC corps.  I'm not even referring to the 11% tax on mission rewards and bounties.  The two corps that Rosewalker and Wandering Rose were in were cesspools.  I was really glad when I got my interview with the Eve Uni recruiting officer and got out of the starter corp.  In Wandering Rose's starter corp, I actually watched one player hounded out of the game.  I tried to convince him things were better elsewhere and tried to encourage him to join Eve Uni, but it was too late.  I know that the NPC corps are just starter corps, but that kind of environment is just horrible.  If nothing else, do what I did and start your own corps.  I'm never going to disband mine because I'm never subjecting Rosewalker to that again.

5.  Making dull things fun:  Earlier I wrote that Eve is a throwback to games like EverQuest.  In EQ, boring tasks like camping mob spawns turned into social occasions as players met and waited around together.  Eve has plenty of those moments, whether it be gate camps, structure shoots or large mining operations.  Those are the moments it helps to have people on voice comms to help pass the time.

4.  Meat Space bragging rights:  I didn't really think about real life face-to-face interactions with people until I went to Fanfest.  What sounds better: I'm a member of a one-man corp or I'm with -A- and I engage in big fleet fights?  And Fanfest isn't the only place I can meet other Eve players.  There are occasional meet-ups in Chicago with one happening tomorrow at The Tilted Kilt.

3.  PvP is less scary with friends:   It's true.  Solo PvP takes real skill and cool nerves as you have no one to rely on but yourself.  In a corporation you have friends to watch your back (and scout out front) and a fleet commander to make the tactical decisions while you just worry about killing and avoiding losing your ship.  By myself, I'm always worried about jumping into low sec, but I never had worries when flying with Eve Uni.

2.  Wider option of things to do:  A single player can only do so much.  Sure, if you play the market then you may not need a corporation.  Solo PvP is an art form that can get a lot of respect if done well.  Players are well able to run level 4 missions in high sec with no problems as long as their ships are not so shiny the attract attention.  Mining can be done solo.  And setting up a POS is viable, although I don't know how viable after the upcoming patch.

As part of a corp the world opens up.  Low sec roams.  Null sec warfare.  Extended living in wormholes without having to hide all the time.  Moon mining.  In fact, as part of a corp a player has a chance to partake in the epic stories that make Eve famous.

1.  More goals:  As a sandbox game, Eve challenges players to find their own goals and motivations to play the game.  Even with all the content in the game, sometimes players have some difficulty deciding what to do next.  As part of a corporation, not only does a player have their own goals but the goals of the corporation as well.  In fact, sometimes personal goals can grow off of the corporation's goals.  Having goals and the ability to work toward achieving them makes the game more enjoyable.

Looking back at my gaming history I spent almost the entire time from October 2005 to May 2010 in a guild or corporation in one MMO or another.  These last two years have been a bit strange, but I had my reasons, some good and some quirky, for remaining in a one-person corporation.  I don't really see that changing before fall, and not just because that's when my training plan finishes.  For those without real life reasons that restrict your actual playtime, I would encourage you to join a corp.  Eve is, when all is said and done, an MMORPG.  These games are more fun when you are playing with, and not just against, other people.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Napoleon Bonaparte on Eve Online

"When pilots have been baptized in the fire of time dilation, they have all one rank in my eyes."
In addition to scams, espionage and political maneuvering, Eve Online is know for its epic wars and epic battles.  How epic?  Fights involving 1,000 players are not uncommon in 0.0 space and fights of up to 2,000 players are playable.  How does CCP do that?  Time dilation.  When the servers start to become overloaded and begins to lag, time slows down in order to allow the servers to catch up with the requests.  The result?  Lovelocke gave an example in his battle report on a battle in 92D-OI on 21 January:
"We carried on fighting, many of us died and we killed many. But do you know what was most remarkable about this fight? The lag was barely noticeable. 1400+ in local, super capitals with fighter bombers swarming, doomsdays, Drake missiles, etc, yet with TiDi in full force there were no crashes, no unresponsive modules, no MWD’s that wouldn’t turn off. Astonishing. I still don’t fully understand what TiDi is, its explanation far too technical for my fragile little mind, but whatever it is CCP have certainly struck gold. This was by far a huge improvement over even smaller battles I’ve encountered in the past."
Many pilots shower disdain on the "blob" warfare in 0.0, preferring smaller fights in wormholes or low sec.  Others shy away from combat altogether.  In Eve Online, players have a choice of how they want to play.  But to my knowledge, no other MMORPG offers the scale of combat and war that Eve players take as a normal part of day to day life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remaining Independent

John Rourke: So this going back to signing up for a corporation then, is it?  Some faceless bunch of idiots who spend their whole time bickering before screwing you over for every isk you’ve got?  And when they say jump, you have to jump, because they own your ass!

Charlie Fodder: At the moment, John, when you say jump, we have to jump or it *is* our ass!  In a corp you get a paycheck, some security and stability, and a whole corporate fleet behind you if the going gets tough.  Big difference.  And for all the freedom you talk about in this crew, it’s gotten us chained to dangerous operations that we can’t refuse because we never have any damn money.

- Clear Skies, Act 2, Scene 1

I've quoted the above dialog from the award-winning machinima series Clear Skies before but I can't help it.  The scene between Captain Rourke and his gunnery chief illustrate a conflict I have within myself on whether to stay in my own small corporation or have Rosewalker leave and find bigger and hopefully better things.  Even though I enjoyed flying in fleets when I was in Eve University I'm still leery of joining another corp.  Here are my top reasons for remaining in my small independent corporation.
  
5.  Buying PLEX:  So far I have avoided buying any PLEX in Eve Online.  I'd like to keep it that way.  I've heard a lot of stories about players buying PLEX in order to fund their PvP habit.  If I have to pay real money to purchase ships, then I'm playing the game wrong.  At least the way I want to play.  I don't want to be pressured by corp leadership into doing that.

4.  My corp:  Yes, I know my corp is just me, myself and I.  But I've developed some stories surrounding my corp that I've written about on the blog.  My corp just feels like home now.  And with the coming of DUST 514, I know a couple of people who might play.  They might want to step into Eve and make some extra money for their characters.  If I have both my main characters in the corp I can really help them out.

3.  The skill queue:  The one thing I really want to do is be able to fly every Minmatar sub-capital ship and fly it well.  I don't want to join a corporation and then be told I have to abandon my training plan.  Sure, I can fly a Drake, and fly it well, with less than 3 days of training.  The fact is that I want to be able to fly a Panther and learn all the leadership skills to fly command ships and don't want to be sidetracked. 

2.  Botting:  I've heard stories about corporations and alliances, especially renters, telling their members they have to bot.  Anyone who has read the blog knows how I feel about bots.  What happens if I join a corp, move to null sec, and then am asked to bot?  That would get ugly and probably result in me losing most of my possessions.  Do I want to take the chance?  No way!

1.  Limited playtime:  Eve Online is the first MMO I have spent any significant time in where I have played solo.  In World of Warcraft I was in a guild from level 17 to level 60, which was the level cap in Vanilla WoW.  In EverQuest 2 I think I only spent 2 months of my 3 1/2 years playing the game not in a guild.  I started off that way in Eve, joining Eve University and staying there for 5 months before eventually going solo.

So why go solo after being in a guild or corp for so long?  The limited playtime I now have.  A lot of times during the week I'm lucky to have enough time to tend to my planetary interaction colonies and tend to housekeeping tasks in-game.  In addition over the past couple of years I've taken business trips to Europe and I anticipate at least one more this year.  Does a corp really want someone that might disappear for a couple of weeks because of real life?  More importantly, I'm not sure how I'd feel about just dropping in for a few minutes a day most days.  That wasn't how I was in WoW or EQ2 and depending on what was happening to the corp I might feel guilty about not being there when things get rough.

Now, I'm not stating I will never join another corporation in Eve.  If the right one caught my eye I'd probably jump at the chance.  And perhaps once fall arrives and I've completed my current skill queue I'll actually start looking around.  But for now I'm having fun playing just the way I am.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 17 April 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 15 April 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.



Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 55.9 82,020
22Star Wars: The Old Republic17.125,028
33Aion7.911,551
44Eve Online 3.45,035
55Lord of the Rings Online2.84,104
66Guild Wars2.53,682
77Metin 22.33,358
88APB:Reloaded2.02,881
910Star Trek Online1.62,358
1012Rift1.62,342
119Need For Speed World1.52,211
1211Maple Story1.42,122
 
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday:190,301
 

As expected, the technical glitch I saw with the Xfire numbers was fixed and the total hours played in MMORPGs declined by 21.5%, or close to my estimate of 20%.   As such I'll be doing any comparisons to 1 April instead of to last week's numbers.

Expansions Rule - If you want to see the number of hours played jump, just publish an expansion for your MMO.  The two games with major gains in the Xfire charts, Star Wars: The Old Republic (16.6%) and Aion (10.5%) both launched expansions this week.  Aion: Ascension brings along with free-to-play a level cap increase from 55 to 60, siege warfare that occurs 3 times a day, player housing and mounts.  SW:TOR Update 1.2: Legacy brings a new planet, a new PvP  war zone, UI updates and a pet.  Bioware also did something controversial in awarding 30 days free playtime to those with a level 50 character on their accounts.

The reason for the controversy is that called those with max level characters its "most valued players".  Yipes!  Bioware eventually had to revise its offer from just those who had level 50 characters on 12 April to having either a level 50 character or have a legacy level 6 account by 22 April.  With a month's free game time on the line, the average Xfire member who logged into SW:TOR on Sunday averaged 5.7 hours in the game.

Follow The Money - Why did Bioware decide to give out 30 days of playtime to those with level 50s on their accounts?  If only 10% of the 1.7 million accounts reported on the Electronic Arts Q3 FY 2012 Earnings Call met the qualification, that is over $2.5 million in game time.  With rumors swirling of impending layoffs and a loss of nearly 40% of its stock price since November, why give up millions of dollars in revenues?

The first is that ranked war zones are not included in the patch.  This disappointed a lot of players who were eager to see this feature implemented.  The offer is designed to help mitigate the disappointment and keep players from leaving the game.  The second is to make the subscription numbers look as good as possible before the upcoming conference call discussing EA's Q4 2012 results.  Although EA's fiscal year ended on 31 March, the call is not just about the past quarter but what the game company expects to happen in the coming quarter and year as well.  If the Xfire numbers are reflective at all about the number of players who left SW:TOR, one of Bioware's major products, then the numbers may come as a shock to investors.


One way to lessen the shock could be to make update 1.2 appear more successful than it really is.  If all the accounts are given 30 days of playtime, that means those accounts will still count toward the subscription numbers when the earnings call occurs.  If EA can say that the decline in subscriptions is normal for MMORPGs but that Legacy is bringing in new players and that Bioware's planned content update schedule will help ensure a rising player base, then perhaps the stock price won't take too big of a hit.  If I didn't know about the funny business with the free time giveaway, I would think that a perfectly reasonable analysis.

Daily Hours Played - Xfire
The weird thing is that I actually thought based on the Xfire numbers that SW:TOR had finally reached a plateau and was stabilizing around 15,000 - 17,000 hours played on weeknights and people were just less excited about playing on the weekend.  SW:TOR had since the beginning seen a higher number of hours played per person than the average game.  I just saw the hours on the weekends finally getting down to MMORPG norms.  I planned to write an analysis similar to this last week but then Xfire had the issue where it added one hour to everyone's playtime and I decided to wait one more week to see better numbers.  Or, in other words, I chickened out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

CCP's War On Bots: H-Bot Tears Are Interesting

Tomorrow is tax day here in the U.S.  Since I know a lot of people are feeling the blues as they scramble to finish their federal and state tax forms, I thought about how I could brighten the day.  The only way I know is to publish some more forum porn from a botting forum.  Today's spotlight falls on H-Bot.

H-Bot is an Eve Online mission and ratting bot that apparently is pretty popular, even at a price of 30 euros.  But does that higher price lead to a higher quality of tears than those I found on the Eve Pilot (Eve Miner/Eve Trader) forums a couple of weeks ago?  I'll let you be the judge.  Enjoy!



27 Feb 12 - Diligent:  "I believe that these actions are only fanfest propaganda. I don't have my accounts banned, never had. I don't RMT. I have 4 bots, my friend has more and also don't get banned. Maybe we will be banned next few days but anyway...whatever you do it's too late. IMHO they don't look for how long you bot, 23h or 8. Bots are pretty easy to find. Just look at tengu players that uses specific fit or at least subsystem, then check his wallet. You got list of bots, then ban few accounts that had money transfered. So we have multiple accounts baned wchich raises statistics. I think this move is not to ban us permanently but show society how good is policeman. In my country there are days called by policemans "blue days", where all forces are on the street. Just to show ppl that police is there and doing their job, so they can feel safe.

"CCP as professional developer ended "hobby and cool game" stasis and entered "making big money" stasis. So remember that those guys from management have to show profit $$ at the end of month. So it's not interest to ban bots. Especially when Nex Store idea failed at start Cheesy.

"But anyway, whatever will happen I will be pissed if my main get banned and I wouldn't be at PVP, even for a week."

15 Mar 12 - Diligent:  "Just got banned. 2 bots that were in use + my main char.  Great Job CCP Smiley. Now it's time to take care of my GF and other game. Be back in 2 weeks o/"

28 Feb 12 - Pepko:  "They got statistic on everything : check this link https://twitter.com/#!/CCP_Diagoras - they can see every shit that happens.  I dont think anyone can run anomalies for 8 hours without break .... so i think they know exactly who is botting."

1 Mar 12 - mike8787:  On the news that accounts flagged for botting can no longer transfer character:  "Well they just lost 40k euro in transfer fees. Sreggs mentioned they want to do this every month. That's potential half mil euro loss per year. Let's see how long he can keep it up before accountants show up and format his hdd lol"

11 Mar 12 - chzz808:  "is anyone still being hit by the bandwave or is it safe to come out of the cave"

12 Mar 12

jackoko: "Guys only bot when you are near the computer, or get banned.  I am always watching my bot on a second screen and if anything comes up I react like a real player"

wutwutwhy:  "so why bother botting"

16 Mar 12 - Scald:  "I'm using different e-mails for each account, but 4 chars was banned. So they use not only e-mails to track related accounts - I suppose IP, isk transfer and many other things can be used."

22 Mar 12 - MrBlubb:  "I think, the problem is that hbot shows a very very special behaviour, that is easy to see on logs:

- Most people bot with open map due to OCR Problems.
- hbot keeps hitting Engage drones on every cycle, even if drones are already on target.
- current hbot layout for the eve-client is way to strict.
- hbot very often loads new overview (usual players will use tabs)
- hbot keeps trying to target a target, that is actually in the locking process (means a carrier will retry to target a frig like 20 times, until its actually locked)
- Color Schema: Black, black, black... (why not use a configurable fore- and background color with only NO Transparency?)

and so on."

26 Mar 12:  Clevik and nubhubble respond to CCP Sreegs' Security presentation at Fanfest.

Clevik:  "I don't know if they realize it but putting wallets into negative is pretty much a 1-strike policy.  There is no way people are going to try and work their way out of a 10-20bil negative wallet.  And since you can't upgrade your clone, make contracts, or do anything really, that account is essentially dead.  I can understand the no trading characters after a ban, but if they want to try and make players good after a ban and keep them, they would take away assets on the 2nd or 3rd strike."

nubhubble:  "We will see whether this is bluff or not but CCP can't go around setting every bots wallet in the negative. They're already losing out on a lot of money through not allowing characters who've been banned to be traded. This will really cause serious problems for them. But don't underestimate the stupidity of CCP."

29 Mar 12 - Diligent:  "To bot or not to bot? What do you think guys? Bans going out today, is it worth to risk second strike or wait some time until CCP forget about bots?"

29 Mar 12 - Zeevs:  "todai got ban for all caracter include those who non bot !  Intresting thing that am just siting in local 2 days and do not rat and get ban Smiley ccp is sheet"

4 Apr 12 - Sashka_kakashka:  "it is over?"

Friday, April 13, 2012

EA's Compliant Media

Some within the Eve Online community believe that the mainstream gaming media has a bias for and against certain types of games.  One of those types of games that supposedly receive favorable treatment are triple-A themepark MMOs.  That view is being put to the test with the news surrounding yesterday's deployment of Star Wars: The Old Republic's patch 1.2.

Even though I still have 10 days on my SW:TOR subscription, I am more concerned with the programs designed to attract and retain players than with the game updates.  The biggest news in this area is that EA/Bioware is giving all players with accounts containing a level 50 character 30 days of free game time.  The unanswered question is: why?

I have two reasons.  The first is that ranked war zones are not included in the patch.  This disappointed a lot of players who were eager to see this feature implemented.  The offer is designed to help mitigate the disappointment and keep players from leaving the game.  The second is to make the subscription numbers look as good as possible before the upcoming conference call discussing EA's Q4 2011 results.  The move to give all of those accounts with a level 50 on them ensures that they will not unsubscribe before the year-end results are announced.  In February EA issued a financial forecast for the fourth quarter that came in lower than Wall Street estimates. Having stated that SW:TOR had 1.7 million subscribers on the February conference call EA needs to present the best numbers possible. 


The success or failure of SW:TOR is probably the biggest MMORPG story of 2012.  At this point indicators from a threadnaught on the official forums calling for server mergers to the number of hours played on Xfire declining by 71.7% from 1 January to 1 April indicate the game is facing problems.  The efforts to keep the subscription numbers high for the upcoming investor conference call seem to be another indicator that the numbers are declining.


Will we see any major gaming web site cover the story?  I looked at Google News and couldn't find any stories about a decline in SW:TOR's subscription numbers.  In fact, the stories were about how SW:TOR is taking subscribers away from World of Warcraft.  An article published on Massively.com Monday stated that SW:TOR has 2 million subscribers.  That Massively article is the only place I can find a number higher than the initial report from EA.  But everything I see states the numbers have really declined.  Of course, I can say that because I don't have to worry about EA and Bioware shutting off access to their people for interviews.  The MGM seem to tip-toe softly around the giants to avoid offending them.  Or perhaps those Eve players who claim there is a bias are right after all.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Winston Churchill On Eve Online

"Many MMORPGs have been created and will be created in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that Eve Online is perfect. Indeed, it has been said that Eve Online is the worst MMORPG ever published except for all those other games that have been tried from time to time."

A lot of people hate Eve Online.  Sure, the UI needs some work and the physics reminds people more of submarines than of space.  And there is the rather boring PvE combat that grows old after awhile.  Did I mention mining?  Many players say that you don't win at Eve unless you are not playing the game.

So what accounts for Eve's success?  Why do so many people follow the game even though they do not play?  The game takes the term "Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game" seriously.  Do you want massive?  Look on Sundays when Eve routinely sees over 50,000 accounts logged into the same shard at the same time.  Fleet fights occur involving up to 2,000 ships that are playable due to time dilation technology.

Do you want the necessity of interacting with others?  To reach even the middle level of success usually involves joining player-run corporations.  Those individuals who are highly successful outside that structure usually wind up interacting with a lot of other players.  And it is that social interaction which creates different stories for each player in the game.

Do you want role-playing?  Every player who logs in engages in it to some extent, from space truck drivers to space despots who rule empires of thousands of other players.  Even The Mittani publicly admitted to the difference between himself and his in-game persona.

In the wake of the success of World of Warcraft, companies made MMORPGs that can be played as a single-player game until the level cap and then demand players become social and play together.  Sure, some of those games are more popular, at least for a time, than Eve.  But that formula for success has never matched that of WoWEve is different in that the developers want players to join together as much as possible even in an environment that discourages giving trust to others without care.  In most other MMOs, the developers create the story and the players follow the yellow brick road to the pot of gold.  In Eve, the players are the story and nothing is guaranteed.  I think a game is better that way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CCP's War On Bots: A Matter Of Scale

In his dev blog last week, CCP Sreegs stated he expected to seize 100 billion isk a day from botting accounts.  But how much money is that really?  Using the average sales price in The Forge in March 2012, it converts to 205 PLEX.  Over a month, that is 6,150 PLEX, or over $107,000.  That sounds like a lot, but is it in the context of Eve Online?  Here are some other figures that puts CCP Sreegs expectations into perspective.  The amounts have been converted to the PLEX value at the time of the event in order to account for inflation.
So how much money does CCP Sreegs think he will remove from the New Eden economy?  To keep up with CCP Sreegs, the Goons would need to scam the price of 8 carriers every day.  People would need to lose 3 PLEX-laden Kestrels in Jita every day.  On a grander scale, CCP Sreegs thinks he will seize assets equaling the combined values of the EBank & Titans4U scandals and the Phaser Inc ponzi scam every month.

How about at the macro-economic scale?  CCP Sreegs' operation would become the fourth largest isk sink in the game following skillbooks, blueprints and fees/taxes.  If he is right about the effectiveness of his team they will remove the equivalent of 34% of all isk made by players running incursions.  If everything stays the same the seizure of botters assets will reduce the growth of New Eden's money supply by 11%.

But everything is not staying the same.  As both Jester and Kirith Kodachi have noted, CCP plans to not only remove alloy drops from rogue drones but are removing meta 0 drops as well.  With this shift of obtaining minerals to miners, CCP Sreegs will face pressure as the incentive to run mining bots grows.  I wonder if this possibility is factored into CCP Sreegs' calculations on how many assets he expects to seize.


Notes:

1 - Average price of PLEX in The Forge, December 2011 (441,690,419 isk).  Eve Market UI, The Forge region.

2 - June 2009 price of PLEX (300 million isk).  Quarterly Economic Newsletter, Q4 2010, p 46.

3 - Calculated using the $16,500 value of the losses suffered by Ubiqua Seraph.  PLEX did not exist in 2005.

4 - Average price of PLEX in The Forge, March 2012 (486,879,049 isk).  Eve Market UI, The Forge region.

5a - State of the Economy presentation, Fanfest 2012. (32:45 minute mark)

5b - State of the Economy presentation, Fanfest 2012. (27 minute mark)

6 - Eve Market UI, The Forge region.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 10 April 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 8 April 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.


Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 59.2 107,755
22Star Wars: The Old Republic13.825,045
33Aion7.313,218
44Eve Online 3.66,619
56Lord of the Rings Online2.64,798
65Guild Wars2.44,411
77Metin 22.44,406
88APB:Reloaded2.24,071
99Need For Speed World1.83,360
1010Star Trek Online1.62,896
1112Maple Story1.52,749
1211Rift1.42,637
 
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 241,062

An Extra Hour:  One of the criticisms of using Xfire to gauge the popularity of MMORPGs is that the numbers can be unreliable.  That is a major reason I came up with a scoring system of my own.  This week is clearly one of those weeks in which the Xfire numbers look funny.  This week the number of hours played jumped 20.6% from last week.  While I don't record the number, a closer look at the games numbers indicates that the average times for a game player jumped one hour.  I expect to see a decline of 20% next week.

Data Now Available:  The data I have collected for this column is now available as a Google document, assuming that I have set everything up correctly.  Click here to see the data.

Monday, April 9, 2012

EA: The Worst Company In America - 2012

For those who are worried about the mainstream media picking up on the Alliance Panel fiasco at Fanfest this year because of the poor reporting of the gaming media, don't be.  The MSM will soon have another gaming company in their sights: Electronic Arts.

EA won the 2012 Golden Poo award from Consumerist.com as the worst company in America.  EA managed to beat out Bank of America and AT&T for the title.  The Consumerist had this to say about EA:
"After more than 250,000 votes, Consumerist readers ultimately decided that the type of greed exhibited by EA, which is supposed to be making the world a more fun place, is worse than Bank of America's avarice, which some would argue is the entire point of operating a bank.

"To those who might sneer at something as 'non-essential' as a video game company winning the Worst Company In America vote: It's that exact kind of attitude that allows people to ignore the complaints as companies like EA to nickel and dime consumers to death.

"For years, while movies and music became more affordable and publishers piled on bonus content — or multiple modes of delivery — as added value to entice customers to buy, video games have continued to be priced like premium goods.

"There have even been numerous accusations that EA and its ilk deliberately hold back game content with the sole intent of charging a fee for it at a later date. It's one thing to support a game with new content that is worth the price. It's another to put out an inferior — and occasionally broken — product with the mindset of 'ah, we'll fix it later and make some money for doing so.'"
Speculation in the comments is that gamers upset with EA organized themselves and crashed the contest.  Unfortunately for EA, the mainstream media have picked up the story.  Forbes, to no great surprise, picked up the story as it definitely has the potential to affect the business community and stock prices.  And this after news sources like The Guardian picked up the controversy over the ending for Mass Effect 3.

But the shine of the MSM is about to hit EA again over plans to introduce same sex romance in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The controversy is nothing new to gamers as Massively covered the Family Research Council's statement back in January.  But as Forbes' Dave Thier reporting on not only the latest on the SW:TOR controversy but Bioware's damage control efforts on Mass Effect 3, I would not be surprised if other news outlets pick up the stories.  Can Bill O'Reilly be far behind?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mercenaries, RMT and DUST 514 With CSM 7 Chairman Seleene

When I put together a list in my head of people I wanted to contact about how RMT could impact mercenaries and DUST 514, Seleene was near the top of the list.  Not only did he command the legendary Mercenary Coalition but then moved on to work at CCP as a developer for 3 years.  Currently, he continues his mercenary activity as a member of Pandemic Legion.

But another reason for contacting Seleene is he is a member of Eve Online's Council of Stellar Management.  At the time I asked and he agreed to answer some questions he had not yet been elected to the chairmanship of CSM 7.  So while I was interested in getting the reactions of members of the CSM, I never imagined I'd wind up getting the opinions of the chair himself.



The Nosy Gamer:  Did the possibility that a potential client engaged in RMT influence whether you accepted a contract for BDCI and later Mercenary Coalition? If so, how did you determine whether a potential client engaged in RMT?

Seleene:  This will be a very un-sexy answer but back in those days, it simply wasn’t something that crossed my mind much. I closed Mercenary Coalition in mid-2008 and for the over four years it was active I never really bothered to back ground check the legitimacy of a client’s ISK. So long as the money exchanged hands, the job was taken. It’s also important to bear in mind that contract prices back then were a pale shadow of what they are today. Only in the last couple of years have I gotten a real grasp of how insane this problem is and the tools that people use to make it happen.

The Nosy Gamer:  The changes in the war declaration mechanics will allow prospective clients to view a mercenary corporation's war record. Do you believe CCP should add a mechanic that allows mercenary corporations to view whether a prospective client has ever paid a mercenary corp in RMT isk or otherwise engaged in RMT activity?

Seleene:  Yes, but with conditions.  I believe what is commonly known as the Scarlett Letter mechanic would work just fine for this. I like the idea of "first strikers" only having their shame on display when they try to join a corp or pay for a merc contract, etc... This gives players a chance to reform and become Good Guys while still allowing you to make a judgment call as to whether you want to do business with a convicted felon.

The Nosy Gamer:  With the upcoming changes in the war declaration mechanics to allow mercenary corps to formalize their relationship with their clients in some circumstances, do you believe that CCP should put in mechanics to protect mercenary corporations from being paid in RMT isk for becoming an ally?

Seleene:  I think that such mechanics should apply to ALL players. I would also like to think that the same protections would purge the RMT isk out of the system before it even got to that point. It might be a bit ~head in the clouds~ but I’m a pretty big fan boy of nuking everything RMT-related.

The Nosy Gamer:  With the coming of mercenaries to New Eden from DUST 514, do you think CCP should build a lot of systems to formalize relations between mercenaries and their clients or do you think the current systems after the war declaration changes are implemented will suffice once DUST 514 is integrated into the Eve universe?

Seleene:  As with everything else EVE related, I believe that the systems will evolve over time.  With DUST 514 this will require even more care.  The initial links should be simple as possible to prevent severe disruption to the game play of either side. What I think will happen is that the developers of both games will put some core systems into place and then watch how players interact and evolve those systems accordingly.  From speaking with CCP Jian (the Executive Producer of DUST 514), I’m confident that player feedback is going to be an enormous driving factor in how the two games interact in the future.

The Nosy Gamer:  Is there anything else I didn't ask that is important about this issue that should be covered?

Seleene:  I would just say that people who don’t know about the PLEX 4 Snitches program should take note of it. At the moment if you provide CCP with information at ‘security@ccpgames.com’ which leads to them discovering something of value they can action against, they will give players a reward which matches the value of the data.  As a caveat, they don't use this for individual botters, for instance, but detailed information about an RMT ring might qualify.



I'd like to thank Seleene for taking the time in the middle of all the craziness that must have surrounded his assuming the chairmanship to answer my questions.  And I'd also like to thank Alekseyev Karrde for his quick reply which helped keep me for totally falling for Pandemic Legion's troll.  However, I can't complain too much about the troll because that is what gave me the idea to contact Aleks and Seleene.


Related post:  Mercenaries, RMT and DUST 514 With Alekseyev Karrde

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mercenaries, RMT and DUST 514 With Alekseyev Karrde

The massive troll Pandemic Legion pulled on people over the weekend in connection with CCP Sreegs initial anti-RMT bust got me to thinking.  With CCP trying to design features to encourage mercenaries, what would happen if these fledgling mercenary corporations got their contract fees yanked because their clients payed with RMT isk?  That would certainly put a damper on the enthusiasm for that play-style, wouldn't it?

I then took another step down the rabbit hole and thought about the effects on DUST 514 if brand new players saw their profits disappear because someone in Eve Online decided to cheat.  Not only would that be bad for a new game, but Sony wouldn't be very happy. Not very happy at all.  Hmmm.  Do you think someone made a very persuasive business case for cracking down on RMT and botting and that is why CCP Sreegs was finally unleashed?

As a carebear I don't know anything first hand about the mercenary business except that I may need to hire a few in the near future.  Having recently seen people making fools of themselves trying to report on Eve, I knew I needed to contact an expert.  So I asked around and Alekseyev Karrde was gracious enough to answer some questions.  For those who don't know, Aleks was recently elected to CSM 7, his second term on CSM having served on CSM 4.  More importantly, Aleks is the head of Noir. Mercenary Group, one of the most successful mercenary alliances in Eve today.  He also wrote the mercenary guide on the Evelopedia.

Before I get to the first question, please remember that Aleks answered the questions before CCP Sreegs dev blog exposed Pandemic Legion's claims of massive isk confiscation as a hoax.

The Nosy Gamer: Does the possibility that a potential client engages in RMT influence whether Noir. declines a contract? If so, how do you determine whether a potential client engages in RMT?

Alekseyev Karrde:  We've never had an issue with it, but if I happened to know that the client was an RMT suspect I'd petition CCP so there was a paper trail about what the money was for.

TNGThe changes in the war declaration mechanics will allow prospective clients to view a mercenary corporation's war record. Do you believe CCP should add a mechanic that allows mercenary corporations to view whether a prospective client has ever paid a mercenary corp in RMT isk or otherwise engaged in RMT activity?

AK
If RMTers have been caught by CCP they will be banned and if ever unbanned watched closely so I dont see this as a useful feature.

TNG: 
While RMTers get a permanent ban, people who use mission and courier bots receive 14 and 30 day bans, but CCP still seizes the money produced by the bots. Do you think marking corporations who have been caught paying mercs with botted isk should be instituted somehow?

AK:  In that context sure. I'm pro flagging botters.

TNG:  With the upcoming changes in the war declaration mechanics to allow mercenary corps to formalize their relationship with their clients in some circumstances, do you believe that CCP should put in mechanics to protect mercenary corporations from being paid in RMT isk for becoming an ally?


AK:  I dont know if mechanics will be possible, but at a minimum there should be a GM ruling/policy to that effect. No merc should be penalized because their client did something bad.

TNG: 
With the coming of mercenaries to New Eden from DUST 514, do you think CCP should build a lot of systems to formalize relations between mercenaries and their clients or do you think the current systems after the war declaration changes are implemented will suffice once DUST 514 is integrated into the Eve universe?

AK: 
I am not satisfied with the current way the "merc market" will function. There's more to being a merc than just assisting corps under war dec, and CCP needs to support things like offensive wars and lowsec/0.0 work. I cant comment on DUST 514/EVE Integreation other than I'm sure there will be a mechanism for EVE players to hire DUST players and who knows, maybe vice versa.

TNG:  Is there anything else I didn't ask that is important about this issue that should be covered?

AK: 
RMT is serious stuff, and both Noir. and the merc community in general take a strong stand against it. The circumstances around the latest RMT purge aren't clear, but what is clear that both clients using RMT'd isk to hire mercs and mercs involved with RMT are extremely uncommon. I can't even remember the last time it came up.

After hearing from Aleks I felt a lot better about the impact of RMT on the mercenary business.  Looking back in hindsight he probably knew, or at least suspected, that PL was trolling people about their "red wallet balances".  We were exchanging Eve-mail on Sunday and his answers convinced me to wait until more facts emerged on the anti-RMT story and instead post some Eve bot forum porn on Monday.  For me that turned out to be a very good move.


While CCP's anti-RMT/bot efforts in the past have not interfered with mercenary contracts in the past, I still have some concerns considering CCP Sreegs is planning on seizing 100 billion isk per day from botters.  Three trillion isk a month is a lot of isk that could wind up in a lot of innocent (or at least not guilty) peoples' hands. But I think with Aleks' influence that any loss of isk by DUST 514 players will come from legitimate scamming and not from CCP Sreegs enforcing truth, justice and the CCP way.


Related post:  Mercenaries, RMT and DUST 514 With CSM 7 Chairman Seleene

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CCP Sreegs Unleashed: Scarlet Numbers

CCP Sreegs didn't want those RMTers anyway

With one tweet CCP Sreegs started a load of fun around RMT in Eve Online.  While members of TEST Alliance Please Ignore asked each other on Reddit who lost money, Pandemic Legion was busy trolling the player base on both Kugutsumen and the Eve Online forums that they had now had a negative balances of 15 trillion within the alliance.  Yesterday CCP Sreegs issued a dev blog clarifying the situation.
"Much like with the initial reintroduction of botting bans many of you have noticed that a wonderful event occurred last Friday. Prior to Fanfest and again at Fanfest I promised that the security team would be looking into RMT as well as botting. Last Friday saw the first results of that work. I'm not going to get into confirming or denying who was involved as per policy and as much as I love to write I'm just going to break down the results of the first action into bullet points."
  • Around 105 accounts with direct ties to RMT (Real Money Trade) operations banned permanently
  • Between 1-3 trillion ISK in assets seized permanently
  • Around 500 billion ISK in RMT transactions reversed
Unlike botters, those engaged in selling illicit isk receive no warnings, just a permanent ban.  Those who purchase the isk have it removed, even if it means the player's wallet goes into negative numbers.  You can tell because the numbers go red.  Also, just like the War on Bots™, CCP Sreegs plans a daily war of attrition against the RMT operators instead of allowing them to operate unmolested for weeks at a time.

Botters should not feel left out.  CCP Sreegs intends to hit botters every day and expects to take an average of 100 billion isk a day from their wallets.

And just as a taste of things to come, tacked onto the end of the dev blog was information that another RMT/bot ring consisting of 365 accounts was banned.  The war is starting to heat up again.