Sunday, March 30, 2014

Predators And The EULA

"I want to briefly address four more tangents that are being used to attempt to throw the discussion off track..."

"Fourth one: 'CCP needs to find a EULA/TOS violation if they want to justify banning Erotica 1.' I assure you that this is not the case. It's convenient, certainly. But at the end of the day, the EULA clearly states that CCP owns Erotica 1's account and everything associated with it. CCP can close his accounts, seize all items associated with them, and simply refuse to take this man's money ever again. They have the right not to want this person as part of their community.

"But yes, I think it would be nice if the TOS were modified to state that you can't hunt for victims in CCP's game and then take them out of the game to torture them."



CSM 9 Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg, Reserve the Right

One way to ensure I write about a topic in EVE Online is to have a member of its player advisory body, the Council of Stellar Management, state that the game's End User License Agreement, Terms of Service, and other various policies that make up the rules of conduct for the game are "convenient" if they agree with what he wants CCP to do, but unimportant if they get in the way.  But the subject, the efforts of video game companies to protect their customers from online predators, is a serious one.

Friday, March 28, 2014

CSM Election Information: 20-27 March 2014

The elections for the EVE Online's 9th Council of Stellar Management are one week closer, and now we have actual dates.  Last Friday, CCP Dolan published a dev blog about the elections that contained the following timeline:
21-31 March - Candidacy application period.
3 April - CCP posts the full list of candidates.
8-22 April - CSM 9 election.
3 May - Election results announced live at Fanfest 2014.
As is now the custom, what follows is a list of new candidates who have posted threads in the forums as well as any information put out by the candidates over the past week.  In addition, I've listed the interviews published by both the Cap Stable and Legacy of a Capsuleer podcasts.

If anyone feels I've missed something, please let me know so I can update the list.  Remember, the period of time this post covers is 20-27 March.

New Candidates

Candidate Withdrawals
Blog Posts

YouTube

Podcast Appearances
Cap Stable Interviews

Legacy of a Capsuleer Interview

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Possible Way The Refining Changes Could Affect Me

While I'm a low sec carebear, I'm not a hard core industrialist so I can't say all the effects the upcoming refining/reprocessing changes will have on low sec.  I hear that the change to reprocessing as first published is a nerf to alchemy, which I guess would benefit those who hold onto the good R32/R64 moons.  I also hear that the changes will negatively affect low sec capital construction.  I didn't quite follow the argument, but I think the maximum refining difference between a low sec POS (78.1%) and a null sec station (86.8%) has something to do with the calculation.  But as I've never done either, I don't know.

What I do know is how the change could affect the way I mine in low sec.  Wait, how is refining going to change the way I mine?  A lot of people tell me that mining and refining ore are two completely different things.  Maybe from a manufacturers point of view.  A manufacturer gets his minerals, either as minerals off the market, ore which he refines, or as items that he reprocesses.  But I will guess that currently he doesn't try to move the ore around as is.

Have these people ever tried moving ore around in low sec?  Let me give you an example using something I've mined a lot of lately, condensed scordite.

One Procurer can hold 80,000 units of condensed scordite.  That's 12,000 m3.  Prorators and Viators can carry that much, but they have to swap out their warp speed rigs for cargo rigs and use cargo containers to do so.  With the current refining rules in place, I can refine that down to 104,984 pyerite and 210,210 tritanium, which is 3,151.9 m3.  I can carry over 2.5 Procurer ore holds worth of minerals even in my Prowler when I use cargo containers.  Double that for the Prorator and Viator.  Big difference in the ease of transport, right?

What about just setting up a POS and compressing the ore, which is what the big industrialists will want us to do?  Sure.  That's assuming a gang won't see your POS and decide to have some fun.  Also, relying on a POS kind of anchors a minor to that system or adjoining system.  Currently, I'll take a Prowler and carry around a Procurer in a cargo container, find a quiet system with a nice ore site and a station I have perfect refine in, and start mining.  I then refine the ore and massively reduce the amount of trips back to my home system I need to make.  I roam several constellations doing this.

Thankfully, I'm not a dedicated miner and what I mine is for my own personal manufacturing use.  If I mined for sale on the markets, I would have to switch over to either a deep space transport or a tech 1 industrial hauler to keep the travel costs the same.  That option, while good for PvPers kill boards, introduces unintended waste in the whole process.  But for those miners who brave the perils of low sec to mine intending to sell their product on the market, life's about to get a little more costly, either in time, losses, or payments to Black Frog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Change Of Plans

Pyerite.  I'm really starting to hate that mineral.

One of the benefits of mining in low sec, apart from the obvious one of having frigates (and the occasional Brutix) drop in for visits is the variety of ore I can shoot.  Hedbergite is a nice reliable ore when I can't find a good ore site to exploit.  But lately I've run into a bottleneck in my production.  I'm always running short on pyerite.  And what's the best source of pyerite?  Unless my math is off, scordite.  That's right, most of the time I spend mining in low sec I'm mining scordite.  Pretty silly, right?

Part of my problem is that I can really only mine with one ship, a Procurer.  Procurers are great for low sec.  Cheap ships with enough toughness to outlast the belt rats combined with the ability to leave quickly when unexpected visitors drop by.  But the Procurer doesn't exactly possess the greatest mining output, even when fleeted with a cloaky ship so I can get the fleet bonus (and possibly kill a Tags4Sec rat).  I figure I fill my ore hold every 11 minutes or so.  I could bring in a Skiff, but bringing in a tech 2 ship would draw more attention.  A lot of people don't bother trying to kill mining barges.

Now, some will call me foolish.  I expect someone in the comments to tell me I should purchase minerals off the market instead.  But I'm not a real serious industrialist.  I'm more of a tinkerer.  The problem is that I'm tired of tinkering with that damn scordite and want something different.  The other problem is that I want to build a wider selection of products.  I sell in a low sec system, so making money involves selling a wider selection of goods.  Which means I need more pyerite.

I've resisted the option for a long time, but I think I'll have to do it.  I'm moving my ships around so I can do some high sec mining.  I have 2 characters that can use tech 2 crystals plus a third with good command, defense, and navigation skills to pilot an Orca to make the mining go even faster.  I've only triple-boxed 2-3 times, but I think a high sec belt in a .8 or .9 system needs to die.  Then I can stop worrying about pyerite for awhile and concentrate on fun things like exploration, distribution missions, and puttering around making things.

So if anyone sees me mining in high sec, I'm not moving there.  I just need to speed up the mining so I can do more entertaining stuff.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 25 March 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 23 March 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 44.9 9,575-5.2
22Guild Wars 214.12,999-6.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.02,141-24.1
45EVE Online5.71,224+5.2
54Final Fantasy XIV5.21,105-15.9
68Aion4.08451.8
77Tera3.6760-15.1
810Runescape2.9617+15.5
99Neverwinter2.7568-5.8
1011RIFT2.6554+4.1
1112Planetside 22.2469-6.4
12--Lord of the Rings Online2.2466+1.1
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 21,323

A week after many companies provided special offers to counter the effects of the Elder Scrolls Online beta, the number of hours Xfire members spent playing MMORPGs fell back down to earth.  On Sunday, the Xfire community spent 9.2% less time playing MMORPGs than the week before.  The game experiencing the biggest decline was Star Wars: The Old Republic with a drop of 679 hours.  Runescape led the few games with increases in playtime with a gain of 83 hours.  With the absence of an Elder Scrolls Online beta weekend, Lord of the Rings Online managed to reenter The Digital Dozen after a one week absence.

Rolling Out The Content - The 8th place showing for Runescape on Sunday was the game's highest ranking in 2014.  Jagex is on a roll as they plan content patches every week in March.  The patches appear limited to subscribers, thus offering another incentive for players to purchase bonds, a PLEX-like object that allows players to buy 14 days of playtime for in-game gold.  In addition to the high ranking, Sunday's 617 hours was the highest total for the game in 6 weeks.

Crash Landing - Was Bioware too concerned with Elder Scrolls Online that it forgot about the Wildstar beta held this past weekend?  Possibly not.  While Xfire members fled to play other games when not offered the incentive to play other games, Star Wars: The Old Republic's 2141 hours played on Sunday is still higher than the total played two weeks ago.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Look At The Nerf For Ore Refining In EVE Online's NPC Stations

"Any highsec miner whines that CCP is netting you, I'm siccing Miniluv on you.Evil"
Google shows that mynnna corrected the post to read "nerfing", not "netting" before the ISD has removed the threat (and all other references to it) from the forum thread discussing the dev blog about the upcoming changes to refining in EVE Online, but Chribba's EVE Search website never forgets.  So with that in mind, I will write about the upcoming changes to refining of ore in NPC stations anyway.1  Hopefully my status as a low sec miner will grant me some protection.2

Friday, March 21, 2014

CSM 9 Election Information: 14-20 March 2014

With the start of the elections for CSM 9 probably less than a month away, the candidates are hard at work trying to get out their voters.  Three more entered the race this week.  Just because CCP Dolan has not posted the rules or timelines for the elections is no reason not to at least check out the campaign.

Starting this week and the rest of the campaign, I'll put the candidates' own content at the beginning of the rundown and then the podcasts at the end.  I have all of the content complied on the page in the tab underneath the title of the blog.

Disclaimer:  I will not point out posts from the forums, as I don't like the EVE Online forums in general and absolutely loathe the Council of Stellar Management section.  If I weren't writing these posts about the elections I would never look at them at all.

If I am missing anything, please let me know.  I should add I am only following candidates with a post in the CSM Campaigns section of the forums.

New Candidates


Blog Posts


Google Hangouts


YouTube


Podcast Appearances

Cap Stable Interviews
Declarations of War

Legacy of a Capsuleer Interviews

Legacy of a Capsuleer #8

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Changing My Mind About Betas

Before this past weekend, I was kind of ambivalent about signing up for betas for games I might want to play.  But then I had a chance to play in the Elder Scrolls Online beta through Raptr and, since I didn't plan at playing anytime soon, I signed up and played.  I'm glad I did.

I'm glad I did.  Sure, I probably will not buy play the game, but not for the obvious reasons.  The combat system is a little different and the UI is a lot different than what I'm used to.  But by the end of the weekend I was surprisingly okay with the systems.  The crafting really looked promising and I liked the graphical quality of the game.  Yes, the PvE is a themepark with a lot of room on the path, but I expected that.  I'm really glad that I played because I found out the camera system makes me ill.  I would have hated to spend $60 and then find that little fact out the hard way.

One of the things I've forgotten over the last few years is the value of the free trial.  When I started playing EVE, I didn't just hand CCP over $20 and start playing.  I downloaded the 14-day free trial and was hooked after 2 days.  Some free trials, like World of Warcraft's, are not limited by time, but instead by a level cap.  In WoW's case, the cap is level 20.  Plenty of time to try out a lot of different classes and find one or two I might like to play for months at a time.

The free-to-play craze also lessened the importance of the open beta for judging games.  If I want to try one of those games, I can just create an account and start playing.  If the game's good, I can spend some money.  If not, I don't have any monetary investment and I can just walk away.

With the return of the subscription model, if even temporarily, I need to start looking at the betas.  The days of "action combat" are here and I need to make sure I can handle the these new systems.  I'm getting a bit old now and the old tab-target system that I could handle is getting kicked to the curb.  Part of me likes the change as botting becomes harder.  But my motor skills, never great, ain't what they used to be.

EVE Online is just the right speed for me, which means I'll probably keep playing for a long time.  But I am going to want to try out different games, if only to take a peek at how the genre is changing.  I should also add that I do want to play Wildstar for a few months, but I don't really want to play sight unseen.  I managed to get a beta key from Curse for this weekend's Wildstar beta.  I figure I need to get into the beta this weekend, because as I get closer to Fanfest, I'll want to spend more time involved in EVE, either playing the game or reading about the upcoming changes for the summer expansion.  I may not even have time to play my weekly game of Tropico 4.  But I really need to try out Wildstar to find out whether I'm going to buy the game or just spend a lot more time in New Eden this summer.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

CCP, Financial Reports, And the PS4

Over the past 48 hours or so some news has come out about the direction that CCP is traveling in its quest to diversify its income beyond EVE Online.  The first involved the release of CCP's financial report for 2013.  Not really such good news, because while revenues increased by $11.4 million (17.5%) and gross profit by $9.4 million (15.5%), the company lost $21.3 million in 2013 after posting a profit of $4.7 million in 2012.  CCP would have lost $30.4 million, but the company's accounts are good and apparently made $9 million from income tax.  In 2012 CCP only made $800,000 in tax subsidies.

So what happened?  To tell the truth, I don't know.  I see that research and development costs rose from $16.5 million in 2012 to $56.6 million in 2013.  In numbers that seem related, a non-current asset line item called "development cost" decreased by $20.6 million and retained earnings declined by $21.3 million.  Those numbers seem to match up so probably have something to do with each other.
 
Brighter financial minds than mine (which isn't a big bar to clear) indicate that CCP lost $21.4 million in assets due to something called "derecognition."  CSM Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg explained in a blog post on Monday:
"On page 22, you'll find CCP taking a 21.4 million USD "derecognition" hit. The note for that says the following:
During the year the company assessed its capitalized development assets and determined that a portion of those assets would likely not have future economic benefits. IAS 38 requires that such assets should be derecognized and removed from the balance sheet. The expense related to the derecognized assets are presented as part of research and development expense in the statement of comprehensive income.
"Translated into English: 'We've decided that some of the code that we capitalized development costs for is no longer likely to be a future income source.' As code goes from 'something that a programmer is working on' to 'something that's going to generate revenue for our business', you capitalize it, i.e. turn it into a capital asset that's going to generate revenue in future balance sheets. CCP is saying that the opposite is happening for some of their code.
"Therefore, that same 21.4 million USD then disappears as an equity asset on page 26. This essentially 'writes these costs off the books' and indicates that CCP no longer regards this code as a capitalized asset."
Now, Ripard continued on and not only stated that he knew exactly what was happening, but that the subject was NDA'd.  That didn't stop him from giving a heavy hint that the code in question belonged to DUST 514.   If he didn't break the NDA with that, he's about to fall over the line.  So in the interest of not losing New Eden's most prolific blogger, let's see if I can help pull him clear.

Looking further at the report, we see on page 17 that the derecognition hit did not involve Worlds of Darkness.  In section 5.1 of the financial report we see that the value of non-current assets in North America declined by less than $100,000.  Those in Iceland, on the other hand, declined by $21.2 million in 2013.  I'm assuming, of course, that no WoD code exists in Iceland while the DUST code in Shanghai counts toward the valuation in Reykjavik.

Now, before everyone starts freaking out, please remain calm.  Or stop celebrating, depending on whether you like or hate DUST.  Remember what Ripard wrote.  Yes, CCP has probably derecognized the value of the code as DUST has not come near the expected profit margin.  But just because CCP is writing the current DUST code off the books doesn't mean the game is doomed.  Has anyone considered that perhaps CCP plans to port the DUST 514 over to the PS4 after all?  One Icelandic-based game site thinks CCP will make the announcement at E3.  If so, expect the new code to go on the financial books sometime this year.

Of course, I'm not just making assumptions based on a source in the world's northernmost capital city.  My assumptions are also based on the news that came out of a Sony presentation at GDC last night.


Project Morpheus is Sony's virtual reality project that will connect with the PlayStation 4.  Sony came up with the name a week ago and the project is still in very early development.  In addition to EVE Valkyrie, Sony announced that Square Enix was creating a special build of Thief as well.

David Reid, for those new to CCP, is the company's Chief Marketing Officer as well as serving as the interim executive producer of EVE Online since last Fanfest.  He also revealed that the Shanghai studio will not convert from DUST 514 to EVE Valkyrie production.


So with PS4 development for EVE Valkyrie in the U.K., that leaves the PlayStation coders in China free to continue development of DUST.

Now, why would CCP wish to consider its continued investment in Shanghai?  For one thing, the Chinese government in January lifted the ban on the sale of foreign console platforms in the People's Republic first imposed in 2000.  Sony has wanted to crack into the Chinese market for a long time.  Having a free-to-play FPS like DUST would help work around the problem of pirated software that is rampant in the PRC.  In addition, Sony could boast of a locally developed product, which would gain favor with Chinese authorities.  And the Chinese authorities may wish to gain favor with Iceland.  The Chinese are interested in some of the natural resources in the Arctic and have come up with some pretty wacky ways to try to invest in the island nation.  An Icelandic company could actually grease the skids for Sony.

Finally, I have to wonder if the search for a new executive producer for EVE Online is about over.  David Reid also sent out this tweet last night.


If he doesn't have to do the "EVE Online thang," does that mean CCP has finally found a permanent replacement for John Lander?  I realize this post has probably asked more questions than it answered, but that's the nature of EVE.  Or at least, the little bit of it I cover.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 18 March 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 16 March 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 43.0 10,099+6.1
22Guild Wars 213.73,219-8.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.02,820+33.0
45Final Fantasy XIV5.61,314-1.0
54EVE Online5.01,164-15.5
6--Elder Scrolls Online (beta)4.1965--
76Tera3.8895-8.0
87Aion3.5830+13.4
98Neverwinter2.6603-15.2
1011Runescape2.3534+5.3
119RIFT2.3532-8.4
1210Planetside 22.1501-2.3
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 23,476

After two weeks of sagging interest, the Xfire community perked up when the subject was MMORPGs.  On Sunday, Xfire members spent 5.1% more time playing their favorite MMORPGs than the week before.  The uptick was lead by Elder Scrolls Online beta (965 hours) while two games, Guild Wars 2 (-278 hours) and EVE Online (-213 hours) led all games seeing declines.  ESO's appearance on the list meant the end of Lord of the Rings Online's 39-week run that started on 16 June 2013.

A Weak Showing -While comparing hours between 2012 and 2014 is not really valid, comparing the Digital Dozen scores is.  That's because the DD score is a measure of the amount of time players spent playing a game compared to the other top games that weekend.  On that scale, Elder Scrolls Online had a much weaker performance than Guild Wars 2 did on its final public open beta.  On 22 July, GW2 scored an impressive 18.4 and second place in its final open beta.  In comparison, ESO managed just 4.1 and sixth place on the list on Sunday.  However, that could position ESO to rank as high as second place on the first full weekend after the official launch.

Rocketing To The Top - World of Warcraft had a strong showing Sunday, breaking 10,000 hours once again.  How did Blizzard manage to fend off the effects of the ESO beta?  By introducing a new service to the in-game store, a boost to level 90.  For $50 USD, a player can boost a character up to level 90, and if the character is already level 60 receive a level skill boost to their primary professions and level-appropriate gear.  Looks like the tactic worked for now, but will the players stream to ESO when that game launches live on the 4th?

Racing Ahead - Players took a more sedate route this paste weekend to getting players to max level in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Bioware counter-programmed the ESO beta by holding a double xp weekend from 14-17 March.  That paid off, at least with Xfire members, as the number of hours spent playing SWTOR jumped by 33%.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Jumping Into The Elder Scrolls Online Beta

I didn't plan on trying to get into one of the Elder Scrolls Online beta weekends, but when Raptr sent me an email offering to let me in, I couldn't resist.  So on Friday I spent my 10 rewards points, received a beta key, created an account and started the 22 GB download.  On Saturday, after I finished fiddling with my planetary interaction colonies in EVE Online, I logged in and created a character.

The character creator in ESO is pretty nice, with a lot of customization along with 4 classes, 3 factions (which weren't explained) and 9 playable races, including three different flavors of humans and three more flavors of elves.  The body sliders worked great.  I'd say the same about the facial sliders, but I wasn't able to zoom in on my face when creating my character.  I slid some of the sliders in about the same positions I have for other games, and the results weren't too bad.  The only thing I would really want is some sort of label for each setting like Star Wars: The Old Republic has.  Switching between looks is a pain.

For those who are worried about hair length when creating a character, I created a female character with long hair to test whether clipping is an issue.  I found that my character's hair would clip through a shield when the shield is carried on her back.  For those who find that irritating, the character customization screen does offer a lot of short hairstyles that will avoid that problem.

Now, I have to say that Saturday was very frustrating.  First, I discovered very quickly that the game makes me nauseous.  Within 5 minutes of entering the game world, my stomach felt queasy and I had a bad headache.  I think the problem is the camera.  When the tracking camera in EVE was first introduced I had issues similar to what I experienced in ESO.  But in EVE, I worked around the issue by training myself to look away when coming out of the warp tunnel.  In ESO, I had to stare at the screen.  I probably missed some important things, like skills, that popped up in the tutorial.  Imagine wandering around World of Warcraft with only auto-attack.  Yeah, it was that bad.  After 4 1/2 hours of struggle through 2 play sessions I gave up, deleted my character, and told myself I was through with the game.

However, I woke up Sunday feeling well and decided I hadn't given the game a fair chance.  So I popped a couple of aspirin, logged back in and created a templar.  And within minutes of entering the game world my stomach felt queasy, but at least I didn't have a headache.  I managed to get up to level 6 before I finally stopped for the beta.  Here are a few thoughts.

First, the user interface.  To say I freaked out when I saw it is an understatement.  Where's my health bar?  Where's my mana bar?  Where are my hot key bars?  I'm one of those people who uses the mouse to click on my abilities in the hot key bars.  Part of the reason that I didn't know I didn't have any skills selected on Saturday was that there is no permanent UI display of skills on the screen.  I found that out on Sunday with my new character.

Running through the tutorial
The above screenshot shows the UI outside of combat.  Not much, is it?  Health, magika, and stamina bars only display on screen during combat when at less that 100%.  The screen warns when health is low by pulsing read around the edges.

Attacking something consists of either left-clicking the mouse or pressing 1-5 or R to trigger a skill.  Right-clicking blocks incoming attacks.  I literally took hours trying to master that.  I would say I'm barely passable now, although I do like to shield bash.  I didn't really get the system until I found a shield and was able to go sword and board.  If I ever play again, that's the way I'll play.  Everything else is just too weird.  There is a quick key for using potions, but I mis-type too often and used up all my potions.  That's one of the reasons I use a mouse to click on abilities instead of using keys.  What that meant was no healing or getting more magika during a fight for me.  Ugh!

I've only spent one disastrous hour in Skyrim, so I didn't realize that ESO does not have class restrictions on the types of armor and weapons a character can use.  The screenshot above shows my templar dual-wielding swords while wearing robes.  I was able to wear heavy armor on my nightblade, which I image should really wear medium armor.  The classes appear to really come into play for the abilities a player can use. A player can only have 6 abilities on the hotbar, so the characters probably get more unique the higher up in levels.  Either that or the game will see flavor of the month fits like seen in most games.

Another thing I discovered is that exploring helps.  For instance, when I got out of the tutorial, I had robes and iron pants on while others still had on their starting gear.  That's right, those urns, crates and chests actually have valuable things in them.  Exploring doesn't just mean rummaging though containers, either.  I discovered that the "mystery" heavy armor for sale from a vendor was better than any of the quest rewards I had received.  Not bad for 270 gold.

For those who like gathering (and really, who doesn't), no special equipment is needed.  That includes fishing poles.  Well, bait is required for fishing, but for any other gathering task just go up to the node, press "E", and get bacon.  For fishing, not only do you need bait, but successfully landing the fish requires pressing "E" just as the sinker starts going under water.  Bait is acquired by, among other things, killing rabbits and collecting insects.

Final appearance
Just as a character is not limited to the types of resources it can gather, characters can craft any type of item as well.  In addition to making a few pieces of heavy armor, I made a potion and an enchantment.  I could have made lighter armor but didn't feel the need.  Also, the option exists to deconstruct gear, but I didn't try using that feature.  I will say that the items I made at level 6 were upgrades over what I had gathered through questing.  Indeed, I hadn't even picked up any shoulder pieces or boots, so making those helped a lot.

I also think, at least at the low levels I played at, that the armor actually looks good.  In the screenshot above, the dagger and shield are quest rewards, the chest piece was purchased from a vendor, the leggings were a drop, and the boots, wrists and shoulders were crafted.  Not a bad look.

I should say something about the use of phasing in ESO.  Usually in a game you finish a quest and the mobs spawn back 5 minutes later.  I finished one quest and I didn't have to worry about getting back out of the area because after killing the necromancer all of the bad guy's minions dropped where they usually spawned.  Not bad, although I hear that causes problems for people who want to group up and do things together.

Overall, if the game didn't make me feel sick I would consider purchasing Elder Scrolls Online.  Even with the bad effects I managed to get to level 6 without too much pain.  But once I spent most of my Saturday going dealing with ESO, I really wanted to write a fair post about the game.  Would I go through this just for fun?  Probably not.  But that doesn't mean I recommend not getting the game.  Just that a $60 price tag is too much for a game I probably wouldn't want to play for more than an hour at a time, if I wanted to put myself though this feeling again.

Friday, March 14, 2014

CSM 9 Election Information: 7-13 March 2014

I know I posted that I am not covering the CSM 9 elections.  But that really only pertains to the specifics of candidate positions or who said something really stupid.  The CSM elections are important and I think that I should at the least help point people to where they can find information.  I have a page set up already, but I think I should do a little more.  So until the election is over I am also going to give a weekly update of the candidate's words.  Most of the information will consist of podcasts and YouTube videos, but I also plan on pointing out blog posts as well. 

I will not point out posts from the forums, as I don't like the EVE Online forums in general and absolutely loathe the Council of Stellar Management section.  If I weren't writing these posts about the elections I would never look at them at all.

If I am missing anything, please let me know.  I should add I am only following candidates with a post in the CSM Campaigns section of the forums.  Also, I've listed all the interviews done so far, but will only post the ones posted during the previous week in the future.

Blog Entries

Cap Stable Interviews

Legacy of a Capsuleer Interviews

YouTube Videos

Thursday, March 13, 2014

CCP's War On Bots: One Step Closer

CCP's War On Bots doesn't just involve the security and community service teams.  So while a lot of people were excited about the changes in Rubicon 1.3 that launched yesterday, I was more excited about CSM candidate Steve Ronuken's tweets yesterday.



What's Steve so excited about?  CCP has opened up access to historical market data via CREST.  A feature mentioned at Fanfest last year, CCP managed to get some of the functionality released before this year's event.  And Steve went right to work.


So what does CREST and Steve's work with market data have to do with the War On Bots?  Simple, really.  When market data is available, hopefully the practice of obtaining the information through cache-scraping will go away.  Cache-scraping is a practice that violates the EULA, but CCP employees years ago told players was okay anyway.  I can't blame players for believing that the practice was acceptable because CCP even added objects to make the practice easier.

I've never liked cache-scaping because I never saw the difference between someone operating their account AFK with code running to mine ore in an asteroid belt for hours at a time and someone operating their account AFK with code running to mine information from the market interface for hours at a time.  But once people at CCP woke up to what was going on, the practice had gone on for years and the decision was made to allow the practice to continue as long as cache-scraping did not turn into botting.

Whenever I step back a moment, I always find the fact that some of those who cry the loudest for CCP to do something about market bots are the staunchest defenders of the practices that make developing market bots easier.  Hopefully, as CREST opens up the market data that players are scraping the cache to obtain, the constituency for cache scraping will go away and CCP will have an easier time banning the bad guys.  Yesterday was a good first step.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Schedule Is Almost Set For 2014

I don't just blog about EVE Online, but I usually confine that content to my Tuesday column.  But with the news coming out of Blizzard and leaking out of Carbine over the past few days, the release schedule for the major games published by MMORPG companies is almost final for 2014.

First up is Hearthstone.  While not an MMORPG, the game is published by Activision/Blizzard and based on Blizzard's Warcraft universe.  I think Blizzard surprised everyone by ending the beta and announcing the live release of the game yesterday.  I think Blizzard needs the game to do well to keep people's interest in Azeroth alive, considering some of the other news that came out over the past few days.

Next is EverQuest Next Landmark moving from closed alpha to closed beta no later than 31 March.  At that point players can join the unlimited closed beta for $19.95 USD.  I really think that the game can pick up some popularity even though SOE will promise bugs at first, as they plan on the closed beta serving as a true beta.  I'm following the game and I might even try the game out even though I'm pretty terrible at the artistic thing.

Zenimax Online plans on releasing Elder Scrolls Online a few days later on 4 April, although early access will also fall on 31 March.  Unlike Hearthstone and Landmark, Zenimax plans on charging a subscription as well as a box price.  With the Elder Scrolls IP, expect the game to make a big splash in the market, although some of those numbers on the PC are guaranteed to disappear as soon as the console version is released.

The next game scheduled to launch is Wildstar.  That in itself isn't too surprising.  What is surprising is that we may actually have a date.  Apparently Gamerzines released the information before the embargo was due to lift.  MMORPG reports that pre-orders go on sale on 19 March, with early access starting on 31 May and the actual launch on 3 June.  Carbine has leaked information like a sieve about Wildstar throughout the game's development, but at least they can't take the blame for this release.

I have to admit I'm intrigued by Wildstar.  The first time I saw a video of the game it reminded me of a Saturday morning cartoon.  I'm hoping Wildstar will combine that mix of entertaining for the kids while having witty, amusing content for adults like the cartoons had when I was growing up.  The fact that the game has a PLEX-like item in C.R.E.D.D. just adds to the attraction.

The end of the summer promises to release the blockbuster game of the year, Destiny.  Due out on 6 September, Bungie is marketing the game as an action, role-playing first-person shooter.  As not only a FPS but a console exclusive I don't plan on playing the game, but the game will probably have a huge impact (i.e. fewer players) on other games in the genre.

Finally, what about the other blockbuster due out in 2014, the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft?  Some WoW players started, to use the technical term, to freak out when word leaked out that the expansion was due out "on or before 12/20/2014".  That's a worst case as Blizzard plans a fall release and 20 December is the last day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.  If Blizzard times their launch compared to Destiny similarly to what they did compared to Guild Wars 2, I would expect WoD to launch in the first half of October.  I should add that seems optimistic, so flame away.  As Blizzard stated at BlizzCon that WoW would see no new PvE content like raids or dungeons after Patch 5.4, that is an awfully long time to go without new content in the game.  The Blizzard front office must really think a raise in the level cap to 100 and free level 90 characters will really serve as a strong incentive to come back to Azeroth.  In the meantime, expect WoW to hemorrhage accounts throughout the summer.

That's the schedule of major releases so far.  I don't know when Landmark will go into open beta/live launch or when Trion will release the highly anticipated Korean sandbox game ArcheAge to the English-speaking market.  That game may not even release in 2014.  A rather eventful year and hopefully one with a lot to write and podcast about.  I probably won't do that much of the writing, but I do enjoy watching the coverage put out by others.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 11 March 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 9 March 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 42.6 9,515-10.5
22Guild Wars 215.73,497-7.4
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.52,120+0.6
45EVE Online6.21,377+1.3
54Final Fantasy XIV5.91,328-18.5
67Tera4.4973+11.0
76Aion3.3732-30.8
88Neverwinter3.2711-4.8
910RIFT2.6581+1.8
109Planetside 22.3513-18.4
1112Runescape2.3507+5.6
1211Lord of the Rings Online2.2489-6.3
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 22,343

The Xfire MMORPG community continues to see a decrease in the amount of time spent playing its 12 most popular games.  Sunday's 8.4% decrease in time played was led by World of Warcraft (-1116 hours) and Aion (-326 hours) while Tera (+96 hours) was the only game that was a greater than 18 hour gain.

A Long Slide - For the first time World of Warcraft saw Xfire users spend less than 10,000 hours playing the game on a Sunday.  In comparison, the first week of The Digital Dozen saw the Xfire community spend 88,221 hours playing WoW.  The last Sunday in which players spent over 100,000 hours in Azeroth was 22 January 2012, when Xfire recorded 103,443 hours played.  While WoW has lost millions of subscriptions during the past two years, I think the decline really shows how players are abandoning Xfire for alternatives.

Anti-climatic? - Last week ArenaNet launched the final patch for the first season of Guild Wars 2's Living Story, the Battle for Lion's Arch.  Normally a release of a Living Story patch would result in an increase in the Xfire numbers the following Sunday.  This Sunday saw a decline.  Do players find the ending anti-climatic, or is something happening and players figure they have two weeks to run through the content?

Wild Card - I wonder what the effect of games in closed alpha/betas like Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online, and EverQuest Next Landmark are having on the numbers for the existing games.  Guild Wars 2 had a huge impact whenever ArenaNet held a beta weekend and I can't help but feel the same is true today.  While ESO is supported by Xfire, I do not see any entries for Wildstar or Landmark, which makes judging the impact of events like Wildstar's Alienware closed beta event that occurred this past weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2014

CCP's War On Bots: Learning From Questor Tears

I know that EVE Online has a lot of new players.  Since the Battle of B-R5RB that drew them into New Eden, I haven't done a War On Bots post, mostly because I haven't had too many tears to post.  Charts and graphs are fine, but everyone loves reading bot forum porn.  Apparently someone at CCP was busy a couple of weeks ago because a discussion started on the Questor forums.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Low Sec PI Is Not THAT Scary After All

When I moved to low sec, one of the things I'd given up for life in EVE Online was planetary interaction.  Low sec is a very dangerous place and using a customs office looked like a sure way to run into someone who wanted to do violence to my internet spaceship. But at that point in my EVE career, I strangely was not upset at leaving the activity behind.  Fast forward to today and I'm looking for an extra revenue stream so I decided to take the plunge.

In low sec, tooling around in a tech 1 industrial ship servicing my colonies isn't a real good idea.  So instead of making the most valuable PI products I decided to make something useful: nanite repair paste.  Nanite repair paste is something small and valuable that easily sits inside my Prowler.  Also, the PI products used to make nanite repair paste are low volume goods so I only have to make one trip with the finished products to the factory station where I make the paste.

The only drawback to my plan was that I discovered that the best way to make the two main P3 products, Data Chips and Gel-Matrix Biopaste, involves moving around processed materials (P1 products) instead of refined commodities (P2 products).  That means transporting a larger amount of materials and more runs between planets.  The amount of materials wouldn't matter in high sec.  After all, the chances of having a tech 1 hauler suicide ganked transporting P1 products is pretty slim.  But in low sec?  That's a free-fire zone.

Once again, my Prowler comes to the rescue.  While not possessing the largest cargo capacity, putting one Expanded Cargohold II in the lows does give me 5100 m3 available and a nano in the other low gives me good speed and an align time under 5 seconds.  But it's the sub-warp speed that I really use.  The align time is useful only if I make a mistake.

Since if I waited for all neutrals to leave the system I'd never get anything done, I have to take the approach to the customs office seriously.  I land some distance, depending on my level of nervousness, from the POCO and align to a celestial in a path designed to take me withing 2000 meters of the POCO.  Yes, bookmarks are useful for this task.  Why 2000 meters and not just the 2500 needed to open the POCO and take items from it?  Because I let the ship's path naturally decloak the ship.  What I do is have both the POCO cargo and ship cargo windows open and the items highlighted.  Then, when the distance indicator shows under 2000 meters, I just drag, drop, and warp off instantly since I'm already aligned.  For best results, I turn the tracking camera off.

Is what I do dangerous.  A little.  I do have frigate pilots drop on grid from time to time looking for something to shoot.  Once I had to abort the approach 3700 meters away from the POCO.  Another time a frigate was heading directly at me and I sheared off the approach before he got within 7000 meters.  The only thing I'm really worried about is a stealth bomber tackling me, since they do not have a targeting delay after decloaking.  But if I wanted the illusion of absolute safety, I'd stay in high sec.  Since I'm in low, I just make sure I take calculated risks and stack the odds in my favor as much as possible.

I should add that despite the brave talk above, I still get a small rush of adrenalin every time a Kestrel drops on grid.  This low sec PI thing is still pretty new and maybe over time I'll get used to having ships come on grid.  But I'm not so scared that I'll stop. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Buff Clocks

In the past, when I looked at how much I made in EVE Online, I wasn't trying to actually make money.  I was trying to judge the effects of changes made in the Odyssey.  But this month is different.  In March, I wanted to make 1 billion ISK in a month for the first time.

Seems like a really low bar to set for myself.  If I really want to make 1 billion ISK, I could just go to high sec and run level 4 missions.  I'm pretty sure I could make 33.5 million ISK a day running missions.  But I want to accomplish this in low sec.  Still, I can't make 33.5 million ISK a day?  Sell some faction ammo, make some nanite repair paste, run some relic and data sites, do a few distribution missions, done.  Piece of cake.

But as we all know, the cake is a lie.  Here's why.  I'm now at the point I think I can expand my product line, but I now have to do the research to find out what actually sells.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Research is a good thing and results in long-term profit.  But if I'm doing research, that means I'm not running those relic and data sites.  My business model currently requires running those sites in order to meet my financial goals.

But just because things are not looking that good now doesn't mean they won't improve.  I'll have more nanite repair paste on the market this weekend than I did last, and I managed to sell out last weekend.  That means the cash flow will look a lot better.  Also, I looked and my area has plenty of open slots to research my BPOs for time efficiency.  That would mean I don't have to have stockpiles of finished goods lying around.  I think the term I'm looking for is "just in time" manufacturing to keep my orders stocked. And finally I need to find some really good blueprints.  One of those Low-Grade Ascendency Omega blueprint copies dropped from a ghost site I ran last weekend.  That's a start.  I need to do some more research to find out which of the BPCs I'm finding are worth manufacturing from and which ones are garbage that I should just put in a container and forget about.

Now, I really shouldn't rush trying to make money.  I should just play the game the way I like, make small tweaks, and if the money rolls in, great.  And since I did make over 800 million one month in low sec just doing my normal activities, I'm pretty sure I don't need to change what I do drastically to meet my goal.  Of course, if someone would add an hour or two to the day, I'd meet my goal a lot faster.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The CSM And You: A Focus Group On Steroids

"Today, roughly 70% of all consumer research dollars are earmarked for qualitative research, and it is nearly impossible to find a Fortune 500 company that does not use focus groups to develop its corporate image and/or marketing strategy."

As we approach the official start of the silly season in EVE Online known as the Council of Stellar Management elections, I'd like to take some time to write about what the CSM is.  Some will say that the CSM is useless.  Others say the body is just a public relations ploy to get some good press for EVE.  I say that the modern CSM is a body that players should care about even though the CSM does not have the power to make CCP do anything.

From where I sit, the CSM is part of CCP's market research effort into its game.  Not only does the company need to attract new players, but retain the current player base as well.  The company employs Dr. Eyjolfur Gudmundsson, a real world economist, to monitor EVE's player-run economy, which gives CCP more information about how New Eden works than is available to decision-makers and scholars in the real world.  That tells CCP what players do, but not exactly why they do them.  For the whys, CCP engages in quantitative research in the form of surveys asking players about specific areas in the game as well as the exit survey asking why people leave the game. CCP also engages in qualitative research, with a standing focus group called the Council of Stellar Management playing a key role.

Focus group is perhaps not the most technically correct description, because CSM delegates do a lot more than the typical focus group.  Besides staying together as a body for one year, the members make themselves available at odd hours to give input to the developers as well as gaining the opinions of other players.  A member who is serious about his/her duties can see all free time consumed by CSM work.  A group of 7 delegates meets twice a year at CCP headquarters in Reykjavik with others joining in via video conferencing.  Also, members of the CSM attend meetings with developers via the internet throughout the year, sometimes on a weekly basis.  During these meetings, and indeed even off-line, CCP presents ideas and materials to the CSM for feedback which is then used to make changes or new features for EVE Online.  Sometimes the feedback is enough to even kill bad ideas.

A focus group is only as good as its members, and that's where the elections come into play.  CCP looks to get the players most involved in the game to make the choice of who is best qualified to represent their views.  The election process is designed to hopefully select members who will work hard throughout the year trying to make the game better.  Or should I say, weed out the slackers who are only looking for a free trip to Iceland or a tag by their name in the forums.  CSM 8 was very successful in this regard with only 1 or 2 members (that I've heard of) not contributing to the effort.  One interesting point to make is that with the single transferable vote process introduced last year, the makeup of the CSM is designed to represent the makeup of the voters, not necessarily of the player base as a whole.  That is not a bug, that is a feature.  

In my opinion, the CSM is a focus group designed to figure out what the long-term, emotionally-invested player wants (or doesn't want) in order to keep player (or at least account) retention rates high.  Those who don't vote are obviously not that emotionally attached to the game.  Those involved in the community or even following EVE news sources will know about the elections.  I think that is why a number of players want the option to vote, but abstain.  They are attached to the game and wish to demonstrate that fact.  But "none of the above" isn't really viable in a STV election, so the option was dropped last year.

That's a quick description of the Council of Stellar Management and the role I think it fulfills in the EVE universe.  I'm sure some will disagree, but I think my description conforms with most of the known facts.  This description also accounts for one other fact.  If CCP trusts its focus group, then the devs will listen and learn.  If not, well, Incarna happens.  So it's up to the players to give CCP a group it can rely on.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 4 March 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 2 March 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 43.6 10,631-11.6
22Guild Wars 215.53,778-12.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.62,108-12.0
45Final Fantasy XIV6.71,630+13.5
54EVE Online5.61,359-10.4
67Aion4.31,058+2.4
76Tera3.6877-21.1
88Neverwinter3.1747-7.0
99Planetside 22.6629-16.2
1010RIFT2.3571-17.8
1112Lord of the Rings Online2.1522-6.6
1211Runescape2.0480-28.2
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 24,390

Sunday saw a dramatic falloff on the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing its favorite MMORPGs.  The 10.7% drop in the hours spent playing these games was led by World of Warcraft (-1396 hours) while the only game with a significant increase was Final Fantasy XIV (+194 hours).  For the second time this year, the same 12 games stayed on the list in consecutive weeks.

Technical Issues - Sunday's 10.7% decline was the largest decline in playtime since I started The Digital Dozen in February 2012.  I have to believe that technical issues were involved, but not necessarily on Xfire's part.  This past weekend saw ZeniMax hold a beta weekend for Elder Scrolls Online.  I know that Xfire has support but the game only recorded 142 hours played on Sunday.  Did players try to play the game and fail?  I know some streamers had issues during the weekend.  Of course, the game still is in beta, so things happen, especially during stress tests.  If so, the drop in playtime could indicate ESO's popularity at launch.

Moving Day - The game most successful in bucking the downward trend was Final Fantasy XIV.  I've never played a Final Fantasy game or played more than 30 minutes of a Elder Scrolls game, but I wonder if the two groups that play the games are really so different that the launch of ESO will not hurt FFXIV.  Also this weekend the barrier between Legacy and non-Legacy worlds lifted and players were allowed to transfer their characters so they can play with friends.  Either way, FFXIV leaped back into the number 4 position on the list.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The CSM And You: Candidate Information

I posted last week that I was not going to cover the Council of Stellar Management elections to be held sometime before Fanfest on 1-3 May.  But with the recent influx of new players and people who just like reading about EVE Online in general, I think I need to type up a few posts about the CSM. 

The CSM is one of those unique institutions in the MMORPG industry that just seems to come out of Iceland and then slowly spread across the industry.  While EVE probably isn't the first game with a player council giving advice to the developer, CCP tends to take ideas and push to them to the limit.  Or perhaps the players just run with the ideas and CCP sits back, passes out bags of chocolate licorice candy, and watches.  Either way the result is interesting.

Now, I don't want to get too involved in the actual politics of the election.  But I think people unfamiliar with the CSM process might find a guide to the candidates useful.  I think I can do that without ruffling too many feathers.  So if you look under the title of the blog, you'll see that I've added tabs, with one titled "Candidates Running For CSM 9".  Clicking on the tab will open up a web page with the following information:
  • A list of candidates in alphabetical order.
  • A hyper-link to the candidate's profile on EVE Who.
  • If the candidate is serving on CSM 8, that is noted.
  • The candidate's corporation and alliance.
  • A hyper-link to the candidate's announcement thread on the EVE Online forums.
  • Social media contact information (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.)
  • A candidate's blog/podcast/website/Twitch channel.
Not all candidate's have all of this information.  Also I basically only entered the information from the candidate's announcement thread unless I already knew the missing information about the candidate.  Mainly that consisted of missing Twitter accounts.  So if I am missing information, please contact me either through the email address on the blog or via Eve-mail to Rosewalker.

Also, I am going to try to update the list with all of the media appearances made by the candidates.  Those appearances will probably consist of podcast appearances, although I'm interested in posting written articles, preferably interviews, as well.  Last year Xander Phoena did yeoman's work interviewing almost all of the candidates for CSM 8.  This year with Xander running for a position himself I expect a few podcasts to jump into the breach and interview candidates.  I am not going to catch all of the appearances myself, so any podcaster or candidate who makes an appearance and wants to make sure I list it can just contact me (either via e-mail, Eve-mailing Rosewalker, or sending a tweet to @noizygamer) and I'll update the list.

For those unfamiliar with CSM elections, I think as the list grows the amount of work displayed by both the candidates and New Eden's player-run media will show how serious internet spaceship politics really is.