Friday, November 29, 2013

How The CSM Helped Me Win (A Copy Of) EVE

I'm sure a lot of EVE players have experienced this problem.  You've purchased EVE: The Second Decade Collector's Edition and, because you have two accounts, don't know to which account to apply the codes that come in the box.  I purchased the Collector's Edition but hadn't applied any codes because I play on both my main accounts a lot and didn't know which one I really wanted to mark as special.  I wasn't about to purchase a second Collector's Edition just to resolve the problem. 

My eyes lit up a couple of weeks ago when I saw that Raptr was going to live-stream a presentation on EVE with devs answering questions for 2 hours afterward.  Of course, the program occurred at the same time as the CSM Town Hall on 16 November.  And as any good EVE player would do, I went to the one offering loot.  Raptr was offering a Collector's Edition to the two people who submitted the best questions to the devs and 20 rookie pirate ships to people who submitted questions.

I figured I wouldn't win a Collector's Edition, but a rookie pirate ship would really look nice to fly around high sec.  So I decided to submit a question.  But since the Raptr event was probably going to overshadow the CSM event, I figured I'd throw in a second CSM-related question.  Here are my questions and the answers I received:
For all the devs: If you had to create a new character, what race would you choose and why? 

For CCP Xhagen: In all your time working with the Council of Stellar Management, who was your favorite member to work with?

CCP Affinity: "Since beta all my characters are Minmatar, I really like their backstory and ship design."

CCP Karkur:  "Is Jove a valid answer? Just because!"

CCP Eterne:  "Amarr victor!"

CCP Xhagen:  "Your question smells suspiciously like a trap! :) I'm going to take the diplomatic route and say that I made many good friends through the CSM and I talk with some of them still on personal notes, even though they've left the council. 

"And if I say that Trebor is my fav, will that make him not run again? :P"
A few days later someone from Raptr contacted me and informed me I won.  Turns out following the news and the CSM paid off.  I waited until now to write about the win because I didn't receive my copy of the Collector's Edition until Wednesday.

So while I didn't officially win EVE (I'm still logging in) I did win a copy of EVE.  Now to figure out how to apply the codes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: Spambots Two Weeks Later

Two weeks ago CCP Peligro and CCP Stillman made an appearance in Jita to witness firsthand the silence of the spambots.  The difference in the amount of chat traffic in Jita after Team Security implemented the anti-spambot traffic was striking.

The bans began on 12 November.

But the real question isn't the initial success of the anti-spambot measures or how many botters were banned.  The true measure is whether the changes are permanent or just temporary.  With the initial bans of the spambots ending on 26 November I decided to revisit Jita and see if the spambots had retaken control of local.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PLEX For Good - Philippines Typhoon Relief

Once again CCP is allowing players to turn their space money into donations to the Icelandic Red Cross, this time to help relief efforts needed in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.  The effort will culminate with an eight hour livestream from 1300 - 2100 UTC (EVE time) on 7 December on CCP's Twitch channel.  With over $43,000 already raised the current drive is already the most successful ever.  CCP is looking into arranging for viewers to give donations directly to the Icelandic Red Cross through PayPal so that may be an option during the livestream as well.

For those looking to contribute PLEX to the cause, make sure to contract the PLEX to CCP PLEX For GOOD.  As of the time I post this, no other character has "PLEX For GOOD" in the name.

Accept no substitues
Of course, someone has already tried to scam people with a fake character.  I believe that character and player were both deleted from New Eden.  EVE is a sandbox, but even a sandbox has rules.  Not scamming real life fundraisers for disaster relief is one of them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 26 November 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 24 November 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.0 14,212-4.0
22Guild Wars 212.53,951-15.9
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.22,916-2.2
44Final Fantasy XIV7.12,233-2.8
56EVE Online5.41,714+38.7
69Lord of the Rings Online4.61,445+65.5
75Aion4.21,330+3.8
88RIFT3.21,007+0.4
97Tera2.9912-22.0
1010Planetside 22.7841+9.8
1111Infestation: Survivor Stories1.6514-14.9
12--APB: Reloaded1.5480+7.1
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 31,555
 
The slow decline in the amount of hours the Xfire community plays MMORPGs continued on Sunday.  The 2.1% drop in the number of hours played compared to the week before was led by Guild Wars 2, which experienced a drop of 749 hours.  Lord of the Rings Online led all games attracting players with a rise of 572 hours compared to the week before.  APB: Reloaded rejoined The Digital Dozen this week after a one week absence while Neverwinter fell back off the list.

Helm's Deep Launched - Over the past few weeks I noted Turbine's promotion of boosted XP gains in order to get as many players ready to enter The Lord of the Rings Online Helm's Deep expansion content at launch as possible.  The strategy worked as LOTRO achieved its highest Digital Dozen score since the list began in February 2012.  The increase in playtime Sunday was magnified as Turbine's data center experienced a power outage on the 17th, which delayed the launch of the expansion until last Wednesday.

Not Hungry - Apparently players of Tera were not enamored of what En Masse put on the menu this weekend.  In addition to introducing pig mounts last week, En Masse also offered players custom food skins for their weapons in the cash shop over the weekend.  Perhaps if bacon were offered, players would have logged in more.

Ludicrous Speed - EVE Online also launched an expansion last week that brought players back to the game.  Titled Rubicon, the expansion introduced new ships, space structures and PvE content designed to lead players along a path to new space in a few years.  Oh, and players also got to experience some newly balanced ships.  All ships received changes to warp speed, with interceptors receiving what some call "ludicrous speed".  I believe many players logged in just to experience the sensation.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Is RMT?

"My impression is that the ban has had little impact on trading.  Sony, effectively the government of Norrath, is fighting a war of trade restrictions that no government has ever won."


Professor Edward Castronova, Indiana University, 20011

RMT, or real money trading, is a practice older than the existence of the 3-dimensional MMORPG.  So why do so many people argue over exactly what constitutes RMT?   The latest example occurred during the SOMERblink controversy in EVE Online.  Reading the forums, I saw the debate occasionally devolve from a discussion of SOMERblink's business practices to what constituted RMT.  When people cannot agree on basic terms people wind up talking past each other.

So what is RMT?  At the most basic level, real money trading is the exchange of virtual goods, including in-game currency, and services for real world currency.  But some of the confusion occurs when the discussion turns to the two different types of RMT markets.

In a paper first published in Proceedings of the 2005 Conference on Future Play, Dr. Vili Lehdonvirta, then at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, discussed the problems of the secondary RMT markets for games and how game companies could handle the problems resulting from players.2  According to Dr. Lehdonvirta, secondary markets are markets in which "virtual world users buy and sell virtual assets between each other without the operator’s involvement."  The secondary market is what most players think of when the discussion turns to RMT.  Activities such as purchasing in-game currency and items from 3rd party websites along with power leveling services make up the bulk of the transactions.  Game companies usually frown on these activities and will ban those players who engage in them.  Because these activities usually violate the EULA and/or terms of service for games, I usually refer to this type of real money transaction as illicit or unsanctioned RMT.

Where players come to disagreements on RMT are on those activities that fall in the primary RMT market.  The HIIT's Tuukka Lehtiniemi in 2007 defined the primary market as trade "in which the operators of certain services sell virtual items to users for real money. Such services are usually free to use. Typically players buy the service’s own internal currency with real money, and use that currency for microtransactions inside the service."  Services like this include the cash shops that often appear in games today.  Sony Online Entertainment's Station Cash and ArenaNet's Gem Store for Guild Wars 2 are two obvious examples of game operators becoming directly involved in selling in-game items.  A growing model is the PLEX-model, in which game companies sell items that players can either redeem for game time or sell to others on the in-game market in exchange for in-game currency.

Usually the operators of virtual worlds will allow real world money to flow into world but not out of one.  Exceptions do exist.  Perhaps the most famous involves Second Life.  People are able to convert Linden Dollars into real world currency.  The same is true for the Entropia Universe, although Mindark's world is more of an MMORPG than Second Life.  In fact, for a time in 2006, players could actually withdraw funds from the Entropia Universe using an ATM card.

Perhaps the most unique withdrawal of value allowed by a game operator occurs in EVE Online.  While players do not receive cash directly, they can receive real world value for their virtual currency.  Players have paid to attend events like Fanfest and EVE Vegas using PLEX as well as purchase graphics cards from NVIDIA.  CCP even has a program called PLEX for Good in which players can purchase PLEX using in-game currency and then CCP will donate money to the Red Cross.  In the past players have raised over $100,000 for relief efforts following disasters in Haiti, Japan, Pakistan and the United States.  CCP is holding another effort aimed at helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines that will run until 7 December.

Some will maintain that because the above examples do not result in bans from the game operators that those actions are not RMT.  But that assertion is not true.  RMT is not defined by whether rules are broken.  Instead, the rule of thumb for determining whether an action is RMT is whether something of value in the real world is exchanged for something of value inside the virtual world.


Notes:

1.  Castronova, Edward, Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier (December 2001). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 618. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=294828.

2.  Lehdonvirta, Vili, Real-Money Trade of Virtual Assets: New Strategies for Virtual World Operators (2008). VIRTUAL WORLDS, Ipe, Mary, ed., pp. 113-137, Icfai University Press, Hyderabad, India, 2008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1351782.

Friday, November 22, 2013

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Not Crossing The Rubicon

Rubicon.  For most, an expansion means shiny new ships and interesting features that players fight over.  But in the illicit RMT economy, an expansion means the possibility of increased sales as players try to buy their way to power.  At the same time, Team Security starts slipping in new code and procedures to attempt to stop, or at least slow down, the ISK rush.

Usually at expansion time I'm reading the botting forums and sharing the tears of botters as the bot devs don't fix their bots fast enough.  Or even better, the tears of the botters as Team Security sneaks in a trick that results in a ban wave.  But this launch week saw something I didn't expect; two RMT websites going out of the ISK-selling business.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Need A Plan B

Perhaps the maintenance crew didn't switch out the pod goo properly, but I was pretty disappointed when I read VG24/7's interview with CCP's Chief Marketing Officer and Interim Executive Producer David Reid.1 I knew that CCP Seagull's vision of player-made star gates jumping into the great unknow would take years to build and was ready to ride the story for that time. But expecting David Reid to hold back on information that could help him sell the game now is pretty silly in its own right.

EVE University's Neville Smit has a really good write-up on the future of Eve that explores the meaning of the information that Mr. Reid revealed and why the interview actually is the real thing and not just another flawed attempt by a games journalist to explain what is happening in Eve.  In my view he took away some of those potential "holy shit" moments that CSM Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg has referred to.  So yeah, advancing the main story line will require players to run ghost sites for the next 3-4 years.  I would have preferred to learn that as the story progressed and not before we crossed the Rubicon.

So with the spoilers, part of the incentive of just going with the flow of the main story is gone.  Exploring around low sec hoping to find something in some out of the way system of vast importance just isn't going to happen.  Just that possibility, even knowing I probably would find nothing, would have spiced up the game for me.  Now?  Thanks Mr. Reid!

So now is time for Plan B.  I'd tell you the details, but I don't have one made yet.  I have a little time as I'm still grinding loyalty points for the Sisters of EVE.  But I have a lot of vacation time I need to take before the end of the year so I'll have some time to come up with one.


Notes:
1.  I refuse to use his dev name as I believe using it may violate point 2 of the Terms of Service.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Attention To Detail

Sometimes work gets in the way of important things, like internet spaceships.  This past weekend I spent a lot of time working and tried to do a little research on Singularity at the same time.  Needless to say, I missed a few things.  The biggest thing I missed was the warp speed of the Prowler.  When I began testing I dutifully wrote down the warp speed of the Prowler without hyperspatial rigs (8 AU) and with two hyperspatial rigs and a +10% hardwiring (12.67 AU).

At this point people are shouting, "Hey dummy, the base warp speed of blockade runners is only 6 AU!"  Yes it is.  I don't even have the excuse of the developers hiding the change.  In his dev blog on the warp acceleration changes, CCP Masterplan provided a nice chart laying out the effects of the changes both before and after the release of Rubicon.


Then Rhavas in his excellent Rubicon preview post displayed the same chart.  If I had studied the chart in either post I would have noticed the change.  But I was in a hurry and didn't really pay attention.

I finished doing the testing and included my findings in Monday's post.  Thankfully I acted like a true Chicago-area native and wrote my findings in time and not speed.  But with an 8 AU base speed stuck in my head, imagine my surprise when I opened up the info page on my Prowler and saw a base speed of 6 AU.  Yikes!

I freaked out a bit and started testing on both Tranquility and Singularity to make sure fitting two warp speed rigs made sense and was able to recreate my times during testing.  My final warp speed with 2 Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I rigs and an Eifyr and Co. 'Rogue' Warp Drive Speed WS-610 skill hardwire is 9.5 AU, which is just under what an interceptor can do with 1 warp speed rig fitted.  So I won't need to make another cargo optimization rig, although the idea is tempting.  Perhaps I'm too much of a risk-adverse carebear, but given I still plan to fly in the same area as those determined Aussies for awhile I think I'll choose survivability over cargo capacity for now.

That is how I spent my first day of the winter expansion; testing the fit on my Prowler.  In the grand scheme of things, testing the changes once they go live on Tranquility is probably a good idea anyway.  But if I had paid a little more attention to detail (and charts!) I could have done something different with my time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 19 November 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 17 November 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.9 14,796+3.5
22Guild Wars 214.64,700+5.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.22,982+2.2
44Final Fantasy XIV7.12,297-17.9
56Aion4.01,281-9.8
65EVE Online3.81,236-18.5
77Tera3.61,170-4.1
88RIFT3.11,003-0.5
99Lord of the Rings Online2.7873-12.5
1010Planetside 22.4766+20.8
1112Infestation: Survivor Stories1.9604+11.6
12--Neverwinter1.7537+6.3
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 32,245

The Xfire community for the eighth time in nine weeks spent less time playing MMORPGs Sunday than the week before.  But in a sign that interest may pick up again, the decline was only 0.4%.   Last week's #11 ranked game, APB: Reloaded, dropped off the list this week while Neverwinter made its first appearance in The Digital Dozen in four weeks.

Blizzcon Bump - While World of Warcraft lost 100,000 subscribers in the third quarter, the game is taking up a bigger and bigger share of the play time of the Xfire community.  Following Blizzcon, WoW achieved its highest Digital Dozen score since getting a 46.4 on 4 November 2012.

OMFG! - On 12 November SOE released phase one of Operation: Make Faster Game for Planetside 2.  Apparently the optimization patch worked as the Xfire community spent 20.8% more hours playing the game on Sunday compared to the previous weekend.

Calm Before The Storm? - Two days before the launch of the Rubicon expansion, EVE Online experienced an 18.5% decline in the hours played by the Xfire community.  Are players just waiting for the new ships and putting activity on hold?  I went back to the Sunday before the summer expansion Odyssey launched, but that gave no clues to any trends and the Tranquility shard suffered a DDoS attack that day.  I guess an 18.5% drop is actually an improvement.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Prowler Crossing The Rubicon

With Rubicon launching tomorrow I should discuss a little bit how the changes will affect one of my favorite ships, the Prowler.

All The Ships I Have Mastery V For

Up until now, the lesser cargo capacity of the Prowler didn't matter too much compared to the other blockade runners when thinking about distribution missions.  After looking at the math I decided to fit Medium Cargohold Optimization rigs and have used them for the past 5 months.  I made a lot of ISK with the agents I found that would give me destinations an average of two stations away.  But with Rubicon the big thing is warp speed.  That makes the Prorater the king of distribution running blockade runners as it can fit two Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer Is and still carry over 8000m3 of cargo.  The Prowler, by comparison, can fit none in order to carry the maximum cargo required for a distribution mission.

How big of a difference is that?  In my pre-Rubicon testing, I first compared my Prowler with 2 Medium Cargohold Optimization rigs, 2 Extended Cargohold IIs, and no skill hardwiring in my clone making the Olin-Keri run.  I used that as my baseline because that was the farthest distance the Sisters of EVE level 4 distribution agent has sent me while I've ground SoE loyalty points.  The entire run is 7 jumps traveling 205.1 AU in low security space.  Using the Odyssey ruleset on Tranquility the trip took 7:48 one-way.  The same run on Singularity using the Rubicon warp speed changes only took 5:49, a time savings of 25.4%.  I then replaced the cargo rigs with the warp speed rigs to simulate how fast a Prorater will make the trip in Rubicon.  I made the Olin-Keri run in 4:39, which means the Prorater can do the distribution missions requiring 7200m3 and 8000m3 of cargo 20% faster than my Prowler.

So why don't I retire my Prowler and go Amarr?  Go Amarr?  Ugh!  But my decision of sticking with the Prowler isn't just based on racial pride.  Those familiar with New Eden's spaceways may have noticed that the Olin-Keri run is completely in low security space.  The Prowler still gives me some advantages useful in surviving in that lawless area.  First, align times.  The Prowler is generally faster to align than the other blockade runners.  Also, the Prowler has the smallest signature radius.  At 110m, the Prowler's signature radius is 15m less than the Caldari Crane's and 5m less than the Gallente Viator and Amarrian Prorater.  As fast or faster to align plus taking longer to lock.  And if I settle for only having a maximum cargo capacity of 6604m3 my warp speed is just as fast.  Perhaps just as important, the Prowler is the fastest blockade runner out of warp as well.  Having the ability to slow boat out of an area faster, like out of a bubble, while cloaked is definitely a plus.  Less time for someone to find me.

One other benefit to the Prowler I haven't mentioned yet is the second high slot.  Put a Sisters Probe Launcher in the second slot and if the situation gets sticky I can try to probe down a wormhole and escape.  Or if I ever team up with some black ops types, light a covert cyno. 

I have one final reason for not flying a Prorater or another blockade runner: I can't fly the others and I don't want to take the time to learn.  Due to the SOMERblink scandal, instead of researching Rubicon while on vacation I spent my time tracking down one of the biggest illicit RMT stories of the year.  While covering the story was important, I really wish I had spent the time digging around the expansion on Singularity.  I see a lot of potential for this expansion and for the expansions to come.  I even have a few ideas I need to flesh out and make sure they are not totally crazy and unworkable.  If what I'm thinking is viable, then I'll probably need the sneakiest blockade runner I can find.  In my book, that's the Prowler.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Paying For An Alpha?!

One indication of how much game development has changed since I bought World of Warcraft back in 2005 is that when I first heard how Sony Online Entertainment1 is offering $60 and $100 packages for its upcoming free-to-play game EverQuest Next Landmark, I didn't immediately laugh and dismiss SOE as a bunch of lunatics.  After all, games like Minecraft and Kerbal Space Project2 started charging for the game in order to finance continued development.  We've also seen the emergence of Kickstarter as a way to fund games like Star Citizen and Camelot Unchained.  If people are willing to spend over $1000 on a spaceship in a game that wasn't scheduled for release in two years, then spending $100 for a nice package to get into a game's alpha seems very reasonable.

So then I decided to start comparing the prices of the Founders Packs with other items available in the MMORPG market.  So how good is the value of the Founders Packs?

For $19.99, SOE offers the Settlers pack, which grants access to beta plus some items to get a player started.  For that same amount, an EVE Online player can purchase the game, with includes the first month of play.  Or a player can purchase a PLEX from CCP or a 30-day GTC and exchange it for either 1 month of play or sell it in Jita.  Currently that price is approximately 600 million ISK.  I think that's a better value.  However, for the same price in Neverwinter, I can buy a 24-slot bag.  In that case, I'd rather spend the money with SOE.  Or for the price of a Settlers pack and 500 Station Cash, I can buy the Jewel of the Firelord and a Cinder Kitty pet from the World of Warcraft cash shop.

Things get interesting when looking at the packages with alpha access.  For example, for the same price I'd pay for an Explorer's pack + 1000 Station Cash, I can buy a monocle in EVE.  If fashion is not your desire, then Star Citizen offers the Origin 325a Fighter if you don't mind delivery in a year's time.  Or if I don't want to spend the extra $10, I could purchase an epic mount with 110% bonus to run speed and a 24-slot bag.

When looking at the $100 Trailblazer pack, I have to go back to the days of the $200 lifetime subscriptions of games like Lord of the Rings Online and Star Trek Online, now both free-to-play games, to show that spending $100 isn't the craziest thing in the world.  And Star Citizen's Rear Admiral package, clocking in at $275, isn't exactly cheap either.

So is SOE a bunch of greedy developers looking to suck all the money out of our wallets?  Thinking about the matter, I think they're pretty restrained, relatively speaking.

Notes:
1.  Not to be confused with the Sisters of EVE.
2.  I own the game and the tutorial is fun.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: A Deafening Silence

For anyone interested in CCP's War on Bots and illicit RMT, following CCP Stillman's Twitter account is mandatory.  He tweets the most interesting things.  Three interesting things occurred.  First, Team Security made an unannounced visit to Jita.  Second, a pilot with -10 security standings was not only flying around Jita in a ship, but he was cloaked.  And third, local grew quiet.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Watching Others Do The Work


Over the past few weeks I've happily sat back and watched others cover stories about real money transactions in EVE Online.  Funky Bacon was ahead of me on the RMT aspects of SOMERblink's operation.  I even used one of his graphics in one of my own posts on the subject.  But that was on a controversial topic that had forces behind the scenes digging up dirt in a vast anti-SOMERblink conspiracy.  Absent drama, I wondered if we would see that type of focus on EVE's botting and RMT underworld continue.

At least in the short term, the answer is yes.  Team Security's CCP Stillman and CCP Peligro paid a visit to Jita yesterday and TheMittani.com's Ali Aras quickly had a story up on the absence of spam bots in local.  Ali, who is also a member of the Council of Stellar Management, has to take care to use publicly available information on security matters to avoid running afoul of the dreaded NDA, so she left me with some things to write about.  But her story gives me some things to use in my upcoming post.  Perhaps more importantly, by publishing the story so quickly, she allowed me to focus on finding sources that can help in evaluating the effectiveness of whatever Team Security pulled out of its hat.

As an added bonus, I got to sit down and actually play EVE.  Getting up to 70,000 loyalty points for the Sisters of EVE plus having the time to go back to Metropolis to start some manufacturing jobs was really nice.  I like to write, and the research is interesting, but flying around space in an internet spaceship delivering pixels is pretty relaxing.

So for all of those out there wanting to write about the subject, jump on in, the water's fine.  And I won't mind.  Honest.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 12 November 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 10 November 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 44.2 14,300+2.1
22Guild Wars 213.84,452-14.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.02,919-13.1
44Final Fantasy XIV8.62,797-7.3
55EVE Online4.71,516-8.3
66Aion4.41,420+5.4
77Tera3.81,220-5.4
88RIFT3.11,008-4.6
99Lord of the Rings Online3.1998+0.8
1010Planetside 22.0634+3.6
1112APB: Reloaded1.8569+5.2
12--Infestation: Survivor Stories1.7541+13.9
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 33,643

For the seventh time in eight weeks, the Xfire community spent less time playing the most popular MMORPGs than the week before.   Sunday's 3.8% decline was slightly lower than the average weekly decline of 3.3% seen during the past two months.  Infestation: Survivor Stories replaced CABAL Online on the list, preventing CABAL Online from appearing two consecutive weeks on The Digital Dozen for the first time.

Convention Bounce:  Okay, 2.1% isn't a big bounce, but World of Warcraft did see the number of hours played go up the day after the end of Blizzcon.  Don't expect to witness a rise similar to EVE Online's following CCP's Fanfest in April.  CCP not only had a 10th year anniversary celebration in May but an expansion in June to keep the hype train running.  The release date for the next WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was not revealed and is still probably months away.

Has The Living Story Magic Ended?  Guild Wars 2 initially had much success keeping the Xfire community engaged with new content coming out every two weeks.  But has the novelty worn off?  Last week, the number of hours actually declined.  But was that just a bad content patch?  We'll find out next Sunday as ArenaNet is launching The Nightmares Within today.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Helicity's Minmatar Dream: 0.5 Systems In The Republic



Last Wednesday, EVE Radio DJs Wiggles and BigCountry pulled a troll about all 0.5 security systems losing CONCORD protection on Wiggles talk show.  Needless to say, people like Helicity Bosun were very happy, right up until the time the troll was revealed.

But what would empire space look like if CCP actually went ahead and made Helicity's dream come true?  I can't say for all of New Eden, but I have enough data to try to preview how such a change would affect the Minmatar Republic.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Something Faction Warfare Doesn't Screw Up

I was reading Mabrick's blog and a thought struck me reading his latest blog post.  He wrote about doing level 4 distribution missions for Inesmir Jimud, an agent for the Sisters of EVE located in the 0.9 system of Gicodel in Everyshore.  He wrote doing the missions is pretty easy money and helps set a player up with Sisters of EVE standings, which is another good thing given how prominent a role the Sisters will play in the upcoming storyline over the next 2-3 years.

But the additional thought I had is that the Sisters are becoming a major faction I can work for without joining factional warfare.   I know, I know, factional warfare is respectable today.  But I just can't do it.  I'm a low sec carebear, true.  But those faction bears give us honest carebears a bad name.  I may fly from station to station and enjoy some quality time in the belts, but someone getting more rewards for flying around a stupid button in a stab-fitted frigate is just crazy.

Yes, CCP has catered a bit to the faction bear.  Invention and data cores?  Shift the money to factional warfare.  I even hear members can buy the slot 1-5 implants from their store.  Okay, that screws the courier bots by decreasing their profits, but that also decreases mine as well.  I don't mind if the faction bears get access to the navy mods and ships.  People participating in factional warfare should get cool stuff like that.  I just don't want to complete with them on non-faction items as well.

The Sisters of EVE, especially now with the introduction of the Astero and Stratois, changes that.  Even though I don't plan on training the lasers needed to fly the Stratois anytime soon, a lot of people are interested in Sisters goods right now.  So I have something else I can sell now to make a little ISK.  Hopefully the Sisters are smart enough to stay above the fray, because they have more important things to do.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Test Server, Don't Ignore

The Rubicon expansion is less than two weeks away and I'm behind on my testing.  Yes, even a carebear like me needs to do testing on Singularity to maximize my efficiency or, in my case, minimize my inefficiency.  But that's tomorrow's post.

Today I just want to urge people to take advantage of the test server.  I know I didn't for the longest time.  I came into EVE Online from EverQuest 2, which also has a test server.  But I never went onto the test server in EQ2 because 1) I needed to spend all my time playing actually leveling up my character and 2) I didn't want to spoil the discovery experience of the new expansion.  Besides, the developers made changes up until the last minute, so what was on the test server did not necessarily reflect what we saw when the expansion launched.

Blogging about botting in EVE Online is what made me see the value of the Singularity test shard.  Whereas I was relatively blasé about my own performance, I began to examine how changes affected bots.  Of course, as a carebear who does some mining, looking at the changes also showed how the expansion would impact me.  Needless to say I acted on the intelligence.

Carebears have a lot to look at with Rubicon, with the warp speed acceleration changes affecting travel times to missions as well as moving product around.  Did I mention distribution missions?  Also, what do the changes mean for mining?  How do the changes affect mining barges, exhumers and Ventures?

Also, I know people are looking at the ghost sites and the potential there.  Are they worth going out an obtaining one of the new SoE ships to run?  Since they tend to explode, perhaps a bit of practice running them on Singularity before the whole thing goes live would help make the decision.

I "wasted" a lot of testing time researching out-of-game issues concerning real money transactions when I was on vacation last week.  I barely got a chance to log onto Tranquility, much less Singularity.  But my testing has started and I already see changes I need to make, not only in how I fit my ships but in skills I need to train as well.  I do need to change my skill queue as a result.

So if you haven't already, follow the instructions on how to log onto Singularity and take a look around.  The place is pretty empty so privacy and interruptions like ganking are not a problem.




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Where In New Eden Are The Servant Sisters Of EVE?

With the coming of Rubicon on 19 November the Servant Sisters of EVE are receiving a promotion from a minor faction to a pirate faction.  The Sisters of EVE a pirate faction?  Well, where else does a faction with its own ships and a new, emerging place in EVE Online's backstory belong?

Now, most people want to know about the new ships, the Astero-class frigate and Stratios-class cruiser.  Others are pluming the depths of the clues CCP has seeded to make brilliant connections about the nature of the Sisters' role in upcoming events.  Into this sea of talent I don't have much to offer, except space geography.

I shouldn't denigrate the field, because internet space geography is serious business.  But today's post isn't about super-capital force projection or jump bridge networks.  No, today's post examines where to find those SoE level 4 mission agents required to quickly acquire the loyalty points needed to obtain those sweet, sweet ships.  Along the way perhaps some additional information about the Sisters of EVE.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 5 November 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 3 November 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.6 14,012-8.4
22Guild Wars 215.45,174-4.4
34Star Wars: The Old Republic10.03,358-1.5
43Final Fantasy XIV9.03,016-16.4
55EVE Online4.91,654-11.5
6--Aion4.01,347+162.1
76Tera3.81,289-5.3
87RIFT3.11,057+7.8
98Lord of the Rings Online2.9990+14.6
1010Planetside 21.8612-3.0
11--CABAL Online1.8593+38.9
129APB: Reloaded1.6541-17.5
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 33,643

The slow decline in the Xfire community's interest in MMORPGs continued again Sunday.  This week's 4.6% decline in the time members played the most popular games was led by World of Warcraft (-1290 hours) and Final Fantasy XIV (-591 hours).  The games experiencing the biggest percentage gains were Aion (+162.1%) and CABAL Online (+38.9%).

Unexplained - I can't explain why Aion and CABAL Online experienced the rise in play time, but they broke into the Digital Dozen this week.  Aion returned with a vengeance after a one week absence, leaping back into the sixth spot with its best performance in six weeks.  CABAL Online, on the other hand, returned to the list for only the second time.  The first time was on 23 September 2012.

A Successful Patch - Amidst a general downturn in the hours played in all games, RIFT is staging something of a revival after the launch of Patch 2.4 in September.  The game has experienced an overall rise in playtime of 77.9% since 22 September and has seen playtime increase each of the last three weeks.  Over the same time six week time period, the overall time spent playing games listed in the Digital Dozen has decreased by 18.1%.

Excitement For An Expansion - As the Helm's Deep expansion for Lord of the Rings Online nears, expect players to take advantage of the 100% experience point boost to catch up to the new content.  LOTRO saw a 14.6% increase in play time by the Xfire community Sunday.


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Global War On Illicit RMT: CCP's War Of Attrition Continues

With CCP's General Counsel Bill Winter taking control on the legal front in the war on illicit RMT, I can go back to my normal business of watching the illicit RMT sites.  I'm glad because while everyone else was distracted by SOMERgate, another website on my watch list went out of business.  Safe EVE Isk, an EVE-specific website that sold only ISK, let the domain registration lapse.  That makes 3 websites that have stopped selling ISK over the past 6 weeks.  The other two, IGE and MOGS, did so between 22-29 September.

Yes, you can copy this graph
I should add that yesterday's figures still represent 12 ISK sellers and 14 ISK-selling websites as I found another EVE-specific illicit RMT site on Google Ads to replace Safe EVE Isk.  I had to visit a furniture store website to find the ad, but I eventually found one.

The graph is the first one I've published showing the effect of IGE and MOGS leaving the ISK market.  What appears to have happened is that some of the RMT companies were engaged in a price war that had kept the median price of 1 billion ISK hovering around the $22 USD mark.  But then CCP came back from vacation at the end of July and Team Security initiated a ban wave


That result was a lot of illicit RMT sites, not just the ones on my watch list, selling ISK for at or above the price one could get from purchasing 2 PLEX directly from CCP and selling the PLEX in Jita.  What can't continue, won't.  With the withdrawal of a giant like IGE from the market competing for the supply of ISK, the prices fell down to the $24-$25 per billion ISK range, with the cheapest price on my watch list at $17.64 per billion ISK.  Yesterday's median of $24.72 per billion ISK was still 12.4% over the median on 28 July.

What does the rest of 2013 have in store for the ISK sellers?  Despite the temporary bump in the price of ISK in Jita caused by the SOMERblink sell off in an effort to RMT as much ISK as possible before the 7 November deadline, multiple character training promises to keep the demand for PLEX up and the real life cost of ISK down.  The only question remaining is how high will the price of PLEX go?

The other questions, of course, are what changes did CCP put into Rubicon that will affect bots and what sneaky stuff is Team Security sneaking into the game at the same time.  Just because one part of CCP is having difficulty with the RMT issue doesn't mean that everyone is.  CCP is not a monolithic company where everyone knows everything everyone else does.  Some people in Reykjavik are actually pretty good at catching the bad guys and I haven't heard that anyone's told them to stop.

Friday, November 1, 2013

SOMERblink: Liquidation Sale

As game time code resellers and their affiliates scramble to comply with the change in the interpretation of how the GTC resellers agreement interacts with the EVE Online End License Users Agreement, one website is determined to milk the situation for all the real world money possible.  SOMERblink, the gambling website at the heart of the controversy, has raised its bonus for purchasing a 60-day game time code from Markee Dragon from 200 million ISK per GTC to 1 billion ISK per GTC.  Here is statement put out by SOMERblink on its front page:

As Seen on 1 November 2013

"CCP is changing policy and has asked that we discontinue the bonus credit program after November 7th.  So until then, enjoy a super-bonus of 1B Blink Credit for each 60-day GTC you buy!

"Thanks to everyone who has helped support our server costs by buying through the affiliate link :)

"The bonus will go away after the 7th, so we'll be investigating other options to cover the server expense after the GTC money runs out :)"

On Monday I posted an explanation of the policy that allowed giving away ISK for GTC referrals from the Chief Operating Officer of Shattered Crystal, Dennis Hutchinson...
When I pressed him for an explanation, Mr. Hutchinson first pointed me to point 2 of the EVE Time Code Bazaar rules, "Any form of ETC trading outside of the CCP created system is not permitted or supported by CCP." As I had also asked if he knew if CCP had approved of SOMERblink's "purchase GTCs, get ISK" promotion, he included that in his explanation...

"We are an authorized reseller so when the affiliate gives isk incentive to buy from us he is using the official ETC system. Shattered Crystal affiliate ###### and somer are doing the same thing. Somer gives blink credits which you gamble at a 20% loss to get isk, Shattered Crystal affiliate ###### leaves out the gamble part. It will probably be a few weeks until any official response is made by CCP, although I understand they are meeting about the situation. Anything that stops Shattered Crystal affiliate ###### scheme may do the same for somer. Somerblink has run for years and CCP has done so much with somer they just never got ask to make a direct decision about the incentives." [affiliate identification number edited out by me - NG]
I also wrote on Monday that I disagreed that the rules of the Time Code Bazaar should override the EULA and Terms of Service.  Apparently CCP's legal staff agreed, which has led to the shakeup.

One thing I found curious about the statement is the claim that SOMERblink will have no money coming in from GTC sales referrals after 7 November.  On its face that makes no sense.  CCP did not outlaw the ability of the GTC resellers from having affiliate programs.  They only told the resellers that their affiliates had to follow the EULA. 

The statement does make sense if Markee Dragon or SOMERblink plans to end the relationship.  From the description of the end of the business relationship between SOMERblink and Shattered Crystal given by Mr. Hutchinson, SOMERblink is probably getting a sales commission of 8% from Markee Dragon.  The normal rate is 5%.  I'm guessing that without the referral bonus, SOMERblink will not drive enough traffic to Markee Dragon to justify an 8% sales commission.  I have the feeling that SOMERblink is looking to use this as cover for why the business relationship is ending.  Whether SOMERblink can find another GTC reseller with an affiliate program willing to work with her is, in my view, questionable.


In the meantime the demand at SOMERblink is high.  In fact, Markee Dragon ran out of 60-day game time codes within 3 hours of the offer going live.  So the madness ended temporarily until Markee Dragon can purchase more time codes from CCP.  So will we see Markee Dragon end its relationship with SOMERblink before putting any more GTCs up for sale?  A lot of people are watching, wondering what will happen next.