Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 30 September 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 28 September 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft45.16,154-8.2
22Guild Wars 212.41,694-1.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.21,386-17.2
44ArcheAge5.8789-9.3
56EVE Online5.2714+8.4
65Final Fantasy XIV5.2707-9.6
77Aion3.9537+10.7
810Lord of the Rings Online3.3450+32.0
99Runescape3.1421+6.3
108Tera2.5340-29.8
11--Neverwinter1.8242-5.1
12--APB: Reloaded1.6220-12.0
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 13,654

The recent three week streak of the Xfire community increasing its time spent playing MMORPGs came to an end this weekend.  On Sunday, Xfire members spent 6.8% less time playing its twelve most popular games compared to the week before.  World of Warcraft (-547 hours) led the decline while Lord of the Rings Online (+109 hours) was the only game to post a triple-digit gain in playtime.

Destiny? - I can't tell a reason for this week's decline.  Perhaps Destiny is finally having an effect on Xfire members.  Destiny, as a console game, does not appear on Xfire, but may have an affect on the choice of some members of the Xfire community.

The Dead Marshes - Lord of the Rings Online saw a 32% increase in playtime over last week.  The surprising fact is that Update 14.2, The Dead Marches, was released on 15 September.  Usually a game will spike the Sunday following the release of an update and not wait two weeks.  Perhaps the lag is another indication that Xfire is not proving itself such a reliable indicator of player behavior anymore.  Either that, or a lot of Xfire members tried out the launch of ArcheAge and returned to LotRO this weekend.

As The DDoS Turns - EVE Online experienced an 8.4% increase in playtime on Sunday.  Normally I would attribute that to excitement for the next release, Oceanus, which deployed today.  But this week I'll attribute the increase to a slackening of the DDoS attacks that have plagued the Icelandic developer over the past few weeks.  While at time slow, I did not hear of any attacks that kept players from logging into the game.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Weekend Or No Importance

Sometimes I just want to play games.  No worrying about how others are treating each other.  No parsing the EULA to determine if someone is breaking the rules.  Not even looking at games journalism.  No, after running all my errands and cleaning up around the house this weekend, I just played games.

On Saturday, I played a little Tropico 5 and spent an hour or so with a chess program.  I haven't played in a few years and thought I'd brush up and start practicing again.  But, as usual, I wound up logging into EVE Online.

I don't think that people will think what I did was very exciting.  First, I did a little theory crafting.  I lost my Hound recently trying to kill a clone soldier.  Yes, the clone soldiers really are tougher.  So I spent some time revising the fit.  I think I have something that will work for ratting in Angel space, but I maybe should look into another bomber.  Then I spent the rest of the night bookmarking a system I plan to mine in. 

Sunday I spent the day doing something different.  I was moving materials to my factory station and took fire as I docked.  Considering one of the ships sitting at the undock was a Broadsword, I decided that maybe I'd stay docked for awhile.  So instead of flying around, I decided to start making tech 2 mining crystals.

The invention process can get a bit addictive.  I had a 48% chance of success on each invention attempt. With each attempt taking 46 minutes,  I wound up going through my entire stock of Laser Physics data cores.  I now have tech 2 blueprint copies for almost every type of mining crystal.

Of course, having the blueprints doesn't do any good unless I actually use them.  So I started making tech 1 crystals for use when the invention attempts ended.  After figuring out how many hypersynaptic fibers I would need to build 5 tech 2 crystals for each ore, I headed out to Dodixie.

I have to say that making the trip was pretty fast in a Prowler.  The only thing more impressive was when one batch of blueprints I was inventing finished.  I was able to take delivery of the finished products and put a new batch in from a station in Dodixie.  The concept of setting up industry jobs in a station in Metropolis while sitting in a system in Sinq Laison is still pretty new.

Once I got the tech 2 materials back to Metropolis, I started moving my mining ships around.  I moved both the Procurer and the Prospect packaged in my blockade runner.  I did make two trips because I didn't want to take a chance of losing both ships in case I ran into a gate camp I couldn't bust through.  My area of Metropolis is a lot busier lately, so I'm a lot more cautious.  But I eventually got all of my ships positioned with all the necessary modules and rigs in my staging station.  Now all I have to do is actually assemble the ships and I can start doing a little low sec mining again.

Like I mentioned above, nothing exciting happened.  But sometimes, a little normalcy is a good thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Need A New Type Of Post

The issue of the legality of the use of ISBoxer in EVE Online is one of those running sores that creates conflict among EVE players.  CCP's position on the software doesn't help any.
"We do not endorse or condone the use of any third party applications or other software that modifies the client or otherwise confers an unfair benefit to players. We may, in our discretion, tolerate the use of applications or other software that simply enhance player enjoyment in a way that maintains fair gameplay. For instance, the use of programs that provide in-game overlays (Mumble, Teamspeak) and the multiboxing application is not something we plan to actively police at this time. However, if any third party application or other software is used to gain any unfair advantage, or for purposes beyond its intended use, or if the application or other software violates other parts of the EULA, we may fully enforce our rights to prohibit such use, including player bans. Please use such third party applications or other software at your own risk." [emphasis mine]
CCP also has a clear statement about botting software, "This is NOT allowed under any circumstances."  So clearly, CCP does not consider ISBoxer botting software.  Neither do I.  But I continue to hear ISBoxer referred to as botting software from voices as diverse as EVE Radio's DJ Big Country to one of the dean's of EVE blogging, Kirith Kodachi.

Regular readers know I'm weary of reading the same, tired arguments that CCP has already rejected.  Instead of reading how ISBoxer is botting, I'd like to hear the answers to questions about how ISBoxer has the same effects on EVE as botting.

I'm beginning to think I need to come up with a different type of post.  One with just answers to questions I see popping up.  That way, if the subject comes up on Twitter, I can just copy and paste the link into a tweet and just answer questions that way.  Maybe even come up with a catchy name for a tag.  But I was writing about the ISBoxer issue 18 months ago and the uproar in the community then led to the language in the Third Pary Policies page that exists today.  Considering that CCP just fixed an ISBoxer-specific bug in the EVE client, I don't foresee any changes in the policy.  And as I've already stated, I'm pretty tired of the subject.

UPDATE: CCP Masterplan has stated that the bug was not ISBoxer specific.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Refining My Prospect Fit

On Monday I posted my initial thoughts on how to fit the Prospect, the tech 2 Expedition-class mining frigate built on the Venture hull.  I was pretty sure a couple of smart readers would come along and leave comments telling me how I was wrong.  I was not disappointed.  Based on their feedback, I've revised my fits.

Samsara Toldya pointed out a flaw that, in hindsight, was obvious.  I had equipped a Small Anti-EM Reinforcer I.  CCP Fozzie, in his dev blog, specifically made a point of stating that, "Blessed with a small signature radius and extra hitpoints, a Prospect equipped with a Medium Shield Extender and a 1MN Afterburner can easily tank nullsec asteroid belt NPCs."  And what did I do?  I installed a rig that increased the ship's signature.  What a noob!

Given that hint, I looked at how I could decrease the signature radius as much as possible.  I decided to replace the EM rig with a Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints I as Samsara suggested.  That meant I only needed to fit 1 Nanofiber Structure II in order to get a sub-3 second align time without the afterburner turned on and a sub-4 second align time even with the afterburner running.  That one change gave me more flexibility with fitting the low slots.

But I wasn't finished.  I decided to see how else I could reduce the signature radius.  I chose to swap out the Medium Shield Extender II for a Medium Azeotropic Ward Salubrity I.  I chose that shield extender instead of the Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction based strictly on price.  I didn't consider the extra 37 hit points worth 2.5-3 million ISK.  With the changes in rigs and choice of shield extender, at max level skills the signature for my base fit is 33.8.  Considering the signature of an unfit Stilletto is 31 and that of an unfit Crow is 35, I think I did okay.

Also, with the changes to the shield extender, I freed up enough CPU to have a variety of fits.  The first one is a tanky version that I think should handle the DPS of null sec rats as CCP Fozzie suggested.

A tankier version of my original fit
The resist profile is much better than my original fit from two days ago.  My EM resist drops 9.5%, but as the local low sec rats I have to worry about are the Angel Cartel (explosive & kinetic) and Mordu's Legion (thermal & kinetic), that's not a major concern.  What I am happy with is that my explosive resist increases 4.4%, kinetic resist increases 5.3%, and thermal resist increases 7%.  I have a much stronger tank for less than 1 million ISK more.

One objection to using the Prospect is that the ship does not have the Venture's built-in +2 warp core strength.  My fit above does not use warp core stabilizers.  What would the fit look like with one WCS?

I don't have time for your e-Honor
The Damage Control II has the same CPU and power grid requirements as a Warp Core Stabilizer I so I can interchange them easily.  The penalty for using one WCS is not terrible, as the targeting range is reduced down to 12.5 km, which is still greater than the 10 km range of the Modulated Deep Core Miner II or, if you choose to downgrade, the 12 km range of the Miner II.  I should point out that rats have pointed me while I was ice mining in low sec in my Procurer, so the module isn't just for use against players.

The next fit is for those who's primary concern is maximizing ore yield.  I personally would not feel comfortable flying around in the fit, but I include it as a possibility.

A carebear's version of a max gank fit
By replacing the Warp Core Stabilizer I and Nanofiber Structure II from the second fit in this post, I'm able to fit 3 Mining Laser Upgrade IIs, increasing the mining yield from 852 m3/minute to 930 m3/minute.  The trade-off is that the ship will align 1 second slower and lose the +1 warp core strength bonus.

Easy Esky isn't a fan of the Modulated Deep Core Miner II.  He'd prefer to use the Miner II.  The Miner II does require a lot less training time, but that's not what caught my attention.  If he goes wandering around exploring, he doesn't want to pass up anything interesting due to his fit.  So what have I neglected so far?  Gas harvesting.

With the advent of the mobile depot, players have the ability to make long voyages and refit at the destination.  But if a player wants to use a mobile depot in order to swap out ore mining equipment for gas harvesting equipment, that leaves very little room for mining crystals.  So in that situation, the best choice is the Miner II.

Ready to harvest gas
The above fit just takes my first fit and replaces the ore harvesting modules with Gas Cloud Harvester IIs and Warp Core Stabilizer Is.  The addition of two warp core stabilizers does reduce the lock range down to 7 km, but that doesn't matter as the range of a Gas Cloud Harvester II is only 1.5 km.

Perhaps the most important part of the fit is that, using Miner IIs, a pilot is ready to mine anything found while exploring except mercoxit.  If the above is used as the travel fit, and the pilot is transporting either a Mobile Depot or a 'Yurt' Mobile Depot, the following equipment fits comfortably in the cargo hold:
2 x Miner II
2 x Modulated Deep Core Miner II
2 x Mercoxit Mining Crystal II
3 x Mining Laser Upgrade II
1 x Co-Processor II
1 x Sisters' Expanded Probe Launcher
8 x Sisters' Core Scanner Probes
The list includes the equipment to mine mercoxit as well as a probe launcher and probes necessary for operating in wormholes.  As the list requires 73 m3 of space, some trimming is required to carry around a 'Wetu' Mobile Depot.  I'd have to ask someone who actually lives in a wormhole if a mobile depot is a practical option.  If not, I'd need to come up with a wormhole fit.

I think I'll stop posting about Prospect fits for now.  I'm pretty sure a lot of readers either already know this information or aren't interested in anything that just shoots rocks.  Hopefully by explaining the reasoning behind the decisions, someone might learn why I fit my ships the way I do instead of just how.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 23 September 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 21 September 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft45.76,701-0.5
22Guild Wars 211.81,725-6.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.41,674+6.5
412ArcheAge5.9870+249.4
55Final Fantasy XIV5.3782+11.7
64EVE Online4.5659-13.4
76Aion3.3485-9.4
87Tera3.3484-3.6
98Runescape2.7396-18.8
109Lord of the Rings Online2.3341-9.3
1111Planetside 21.8271+3.0
12--Elder Scrolls Online1.8 259+43.1
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 14,647

Sunday saw another slight increase in the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing its favorite MMORPGs.  This weekend's 2.5% increase in hours playing games was lead by ArcheAge (+621 hours) while the games facing the biggest drop in interest were Guild Wars 2 (-110 hours) and EVE Online (-102 hours).  Elder Scrolls Online returns to the list after a three week absence, replacing Neverwinter.

Too Popular - ArcheAge has had a rocky start, with server issues and extremely long queues to enter the game.  Still, the Asian import published by Trion in the west rose up to fourth on the list this week.  The game may wind up having some staying power, if only because people will finally have a chance to log in once the queues go down.

Attracting The Wrong Type Of Attention - Yesterday CCP published a statement on their official forums acknowledging that for the past few weeks that EVE Online has experienced a series of DDoS attacks.  One of those attacks hit on Sunday during a time that traditionally has the highest number of players logged in.  That is most likely the reason for EVE's drop in hours played this week.

Back On The List - Elder Scrolls Online is back on the list after a three week absence.  On 16 September, Zenimax released Update 4, which introduced a new area, a new trial, and ten arenas in both Normal and Veteran Mode.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Preparing To Prospect In Low Sec

The Prospect-class expedition frigate was introduced in the Kronos release in early June, but I was too busy training all of the ore processing skills to five to really even think about training to fly the new mining ship.  Doing further research led me down the road to training Deep Core Mining in order to use Modulated Deep Core Miner IIs once I finally did get a Prospect.  And if I was going to train Deep Core Mining, I decided to train the skill to five just in case I decided to take a null sec roam.  I'm still three weeks away from having the Expedition Frigates skill trained to five, but I'm starting to do the theory crafting and planning needed to take off gallivanting around low sec looking for ore.

Why do I want to wait until I have the skill trained as high as possible?  Partly because of the drop in mining output.

Procurer Low Sec Concept Fit - Hyperion
A variation of my old Procurer fit, I swapped out a nano for an inertia stabilizer for agility and added a +5% mining implant to make up for the loss of yield after the Procurer nerf.  High sec miners might scoff at a Procurer with only a 960 m3/minute unmodified mining yield, but the fit suits me and the way I use the ship in low sec.  However, my neighborhood is getting pretty dangerous and I don't really like losing ships.  So I want to change ships.

I realize that dropping down from a cruiser to a frigate-sized hull means losing mining yield.  But that doesn't mean I'm not going to make every reasonable effort to make the drop in production as small as possible.  I think I came up with a half-way decent fit.

Prospect Concept Fit - Hyperion
The graphic above shows an "All 5" fit because Wandering Rose lacks Expedition Frigates 5 and I wanted to show the mining yield after she finishes training the final skill.  I think I did fairly well.  My fit has an unaided mining yield of 852 m3/minute with a 3 second align time and, according to Pyfa, 6597 EHP.  That means I only lost 11.25% in yield while gaining greater survival capabilities for dealing with the hazards of low sec.

The high slots are interesting.  The Covert Ops Cloaking Device II is mandatory on this ship.  The Prospect is designed to sneak past other players, not try to fight them.  Don't fly the ship unless you can fit the advanced cloaking device.

The one item I didn't know about was the Modulated Deep Core Miner IIs.  The tech 2 version of the Deep Core Miner I, this module uses mining crystals like the Modulated Strip Miner II designed for use on mining barges and exhumers.  The one additional advantage is that the Modulated Deep Core Miner II can fit mercoxit mining crystals.  I've read comments that I should not bother with the Modulated Deep Core Miner II and instead just use the regular Miner II.  But the Modulated Deep Core Miner II gives 16.6% more yield (852 m3/sec vs. 731 m3/sec) in this fit for no fitting advantage.  The one big advantage the Miner II has over the Modulated Deep Core Miner II is training requirements.  The Miner II only requires Mining 4 while the Modulated Deep Core Miner II requires Mining 5, Science 5, Astrogeology 5, and Deep Core Mining 2.

The mid slots were influenced by CCP Fozzie's dev blog that introduced the Prospect.  He wrote, "Blessed with a small signature radius and extra hitpoints, a Prospect equipped with a Medium Shield Extender and a 1MN Afterburner can easily tank nullsec asteroid belt NPCs."  So I decided to base the ship's defenses around the concept.  I included the Medium Shield Extender II and Adaptive Invulnerability Field II to give the ship a stout shield tank and the suggested afterburner for increased speed.  The only thing I don't know is whether the tank will work against low sec rats.  I still have over two weeks to visit the Singularity test server and experiment.

I faced a bit of a dilemma when fitting the low slots.  I normally include a Damage Control II in the low slots, but the module didn't feel like it fit in with my vision of the ship.  The ship relies on agility and speed to get out of harm's way, so that's how I approached the low slots.  First, I included two Nanofiber Internal Structure IIs in order to get the align time down under 3 seconds.  Including the nanos also increased the ship's velocity while the afterburner is running up to 1311 meters/second.  I fit two Mining Laser Upgrade IIs not only because I wanted a higher mining yield, but to reduce the amount of time I spend uncloaked as well.  I may have to change that theory if I find out I need the DCII to help with the shield tank.

The rig slots are pretty basic thinking.  The Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I is present to plug up the EM hole in the shields.  The Small Processor Overclocking Unit I rig was necessary to provide the CPU required to fit the shield tank.  I played around with the idea of going with a small shield extender, but that could lead to other problems.

Finally, I have two implants I think are required for my concept of this fit.  The first was the WS-615 warp drive speed implant.  I love speed and the implant increases the warp drive speed from 5.5 AU/sec up to 6.32 AU/sec.  That will allow me to outrun almost any ship except an interceptor that decides to give chase.  The other is the MX-1005 implant that grants a 5% increase to mining yield.

When I get home from work today I'll have a newly built Prospect waiting for me to take delivery.  Did I mention I built my own ship?  I also plan on making my own tech 2 mining crystals.  Why not?  If all goes according to plan, I'll have the materials needed to make more.  Besides, I'm tired of going to Rens and Hek for stuff like this.  I'd like to make and possibly sell my own.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Master Space Priest?

Today is "Talk Like A Pirate Day," but I'm not a pirate, I'm a carebear.  Admittedly a low sec carebear, but still a carebear.  Since I'm not very good at making space pixels controlled by other players explode, I'll just point out that I have the potential to act like a pretty good space priest.

Minmatar Space Priest V

A few weeks ago I finished training Repair Drone Operation V, which allows me to use tech 2 maintenance drones.  With that, I completed Mastery V according to the Interbus Ship Identification System (ISIS) for all frigate- and cruiser-class logistics ships in EVE.  For those who don't play EVE, CCP sometimes gives different things the same name, which in this case is a bit confusing.  In this case, logistics doesn't refer to the movement of supplies, but the repairing of ships in combat.

I should point out that just because I have the skills trained doesn't mean I'm any good at acting as a space healer.  In fact, the closest I've ever come to flying a logistics ship is when I flew a Scythe back when it served as the Minmatar mining cruiser.  In EVE, knowing what to do is oftentimes more important than having the skills.  I've watched enough Alliance Tournaments over the years to understand some of the basics.

For example, always pre-lock the ships you are responsible for keeping alive.  Also, when remote repairing shields, the effects take effect at the start of the module's cycle while remote repairing armor is slower because the repairs occur at the end of the cycle.  Also, electronic warfare like sensor dampeners and electronic counter measures (ECM) can really make a logistics pilot's life unpleasant.


General Targeting Skills

I intended to write a post about the ISIS system and the skills required to have Mastery V of a logistics ship, but quickly realized I didn't even know enough about the skills I had trained to write about the subject.  Take, for example, the Advanced Target Management sub-category.  Just by glancing at the list I knew that Target Management Level V and Advanced Target Management Level V would allow me to lock more targets.  Pre-locking as many targets as possible is good.  But why was CPU Management Level I required in this group?  Looking at the skill showed that the skill is required to fit electronic counter-counter measure (ECCM) modules.  Oh.  Kind of important for a logistics pilot.

But wait, what about the sensor compensation skills that also counter ECM?  If I'm flying a Scimitar, I need Ladar Sensor Compensation trained to V, right?  That's found in a different, faction-specific skills group called Minmatar Target Management.

Faction Specific Targeting Skills
I understand Long Range Targeting for longer targeting ranges, Target Management to increase the number of targets a ship can lock, and Signature Analysis for increased targeting speed.  All of those are important for the ability to target a ship to provide remote repairing.  But why is CPU Management Level IV required?  Because the skill is required to begin training Ladar Sensor Compensation.

Just a brief look at the skills in ISIS showed I still have a lot to learn after five years of playing EVE Online.  I also see why some players don't like ISIS.  As in the examples I've used, one skill group requires CPU Management trained to I while another requires the skill trained to IV.  Why not just have a total listing that just shows the skills needed for each level?  Why have duplicate entries for some skills?

This post is an example of why having the skills separated into groups is a good idea.  By working my way through the skills, I learned that CPU Management is needed both to fit ECCM modules and train the racial sensor compensation skills.  I'm also pretty sure if I keep looking that another skill group will require training CPU Management to V.

I'll write that post about the skills needed for Mastery V in tech 2 logistics ships one of these days.  But I'm learning that to truly understand what I'm doing in game, I need to do more than just put the skills in the skills queue.  I don't even understand all of the skills yet.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

GamerGate: Yes, It's Still Going

All is going as I have foreseen.  Which is, the internecine war between a subset of "gamers" and a subset of games journalists is slowly seeing itself escalate to becoming another front in the greater culture war.

I'll ask for your forgiveness in advance for not properly documenting this post with hyperlinks to show I'm not high on crack cocaine.  I just want to get my view of the events on the record so I can link to them later.  Assuming, of course, that I write about this story anymore.  Unfortunately, I think I probably will.

Apparently, left-leaning elements of the games journalism community and people aligned with 4chan have skirmished for years about the content of video games.  That skirmishing erupted like a volcano in Iceland when a jilted lover decided to spill the beans on how his girlfriend, an indie game developer, slept around with other game developers and a member of the gaming press.  This brought out an outcry about how the indie game developer was using sex to further her career.

That story would have fizzled out with no result, except that members of the gaming press decided to strike back.  In EVE terms, they saw total victory in their grasps and attempted to do to 4chan what Darius JOHNSON and The Mittani did to Band of Brothers: not only kick them out of their prominent space and onto the fringe, but take their identity away at the same time.  Needless to say, the games journalists in question don't have the collective wisdom, intelligence, or judgment of the Goonswarm leadership.  Imagine a boy scout troop playing paintball against a SEAL team.  Yes, the difference is that great.

So the games journalists got together and came out with a series of posts about how "Gamers are over".  A real dumb move.  The backlash not only caused people sitting on the fence to side with 4chan, but resulted in some sites tightening up their ethical rules for their writers.  And, as I expected, sent up a flare for elements fighting the greater culture war to intervene.

The first was Adam Baldwin, who coined the term GamerGate.  His involvement resulted in the issue appearing on the radar of former members of the pajamahadeen Professor Glenn Reynolds, who runs Instapundit, and Ed Morrissey, who, EVE readers might find amusing, wrote a blog called The Captain's Quarters before moving over to write for Hot Air.  Professor Reynolds is key, not just because of his prominence, but because he likes video games.  If he starts posting about a subject, others take an interest.

The issue has reached the wider culture, with the controversy hitting publications like The Guardian, Forbes, and Time.  Perhaps notably, though, a writer for Breitbart.uk and feminist Christina Hoff Sommers are now involved.  Interestingly enough, the games journalists have once again apparently gotten together to come up with a united message to attack Sommers.  Four articles were posted with extremely similar titles.  Which is really bad timing as Breitbart is currently running a story about how some games journalists are running a version of Erza Klein's Journolist.  That is sure to interest more conservative activists to take a look around at the gaming community.  Well, to do more than blame video games for violence (yes, I'm looking at you NRA!).

That's my off the top of my head review of GamerGate so far.  Do I really want to write about this more?  No.  But if people keep acting stupidly, I may have to.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

EVE Online Remembers Another Player

In some social circles, those who play video games a lot are not highly thought of.  I won't go into the details.  Those who's hobby involves video games know the stereotypes.  And amongst those who do follow video games, many consider the EVE community among the lowest of the low.  People hear the words "open world PvP sandbox" and immediately place EVE players in a box in their heads.  Then the stories of scamming and corp theft, activities not allowed in most other MMORPGs, along with suicide ganking, emerge.  After that, don't try to convince some people that all EVE players are immoral, player-killer monsters.  Nothing those people hear will convince them otherwise.

But the EVE community, except for a few exceptions, is able to separate in-game and out-of-game activity remarkably well.  Go to a player meetup and you'll find in-game enemies talking and laughing amicably.  That's my experience from attending Fanfest the last three years and the experience I read about whenever a player gathering is covered.

One place where real life intrudes into the game world is when a player behind the avatar dies.  The most famous example in when Sean "Vile Rat" Smith died during the attack on the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  The outpouring of grief and support was so great and so noted that academics have even written papers about the in-game events following Vile Rat's death.  Goonswarm continues to honor his memory on the anniversary of the attack.

But this type of reaction is not reserved just for the powerful and famous.  A Reddit user with the handle NickNackPaddiwack put up this post on the social platform informing those who had helped him out in the past with some sad news:
"Three weeks ago I made a post thanking a couple RedditEvers for giving my grandfather 200mil isk so I could plex his account. I ended up receiving a cosmic level of support, nice words, stories, encouragement, and a generous amount of ISK, all of which was totally unnecessary. I just want those people to know that we put that ISK to great use, and had a shit ton of fun together.
My grandfather passed away early this morning at home. I last spoke to him last night as he got lost in a worm hold and I had to go and bail him out. I want to personally thank everyone who took him, and I, through a tour of their wormholes and chains. I really think Eve gave him something positive and fun to distract himself with over the past month. It was awesome see him get out of his comfort zone, as he is a total noob with any electronics, let alone a computer game, let alone a hard mode game such as Eve.

"I could tell he was starting to go down hill over the past 7 days, but he still managed to find a couple hours at night before bed to play with me. I really think the generosity and outreaching we received touched his heart in a special way. He was a typical "get off my lawn you whipper snappers" old man, and to see so many young people get involved in something with him, really threw him for a loop, I think.

"I got one of those little Rifter USB things, and will be putting in his casket along with a picture of an Ishkur, which ended up becoming his favorite ship to try and PvP in, mostly because he though it looked like a shoe. He used to say, "Nicknack, I'm in a shoe in space, on my computer, in my house, with a cup of coffee, in't that something." I'm really happy I got to connect with him on a level we really both could enjoy, even if he didn't ever get that solo PvP kill he was shooting for.
If anyone is interested in writing a short message I could impose over the picture of the Ishkur, feel free to PM me and address it to PopPaddi. Please don't feel obligated to I just thought it would be something nice to give him, because this was our thing, and believe it or not, a lot of your were involved in it too.

"Thanks again, /r/Eve, you guys truly are something else. This message isn't so much a broadcast for Reps as it is a thanks to logi for being so awesome without even being asked for anything in the first place. This is my favorite community, and you all hold a special place in my heart for helping make an old man's last days so much easier, both on himself, but also on me. I totally hope they have Ishkurs wherever he is.

"Edit: The downpour of condolences, kind words, and for some reason, Reddit Gold, has me tearing up and emotional, on an already sad day. Jeeze guys, you know just how to cut to the core of me. What does Reddit Gold do? I mean I've heard of it, but can I eat it or something?

"Edit 2: Wow guys. I received so many nice messages from all of you. I'm truly touched, there isn't much more I can say except I love you all. You're strangers, but you as a whole form a community that is both welcoming, and fun. Today, has obviously been filled with turmoil and emotion, but you've all made it a bit easier to see the big picture, and be happy that I go to spend some time with someone I love, doing something we both love together. Again, thank you to everyone.

"Edit 3: A lot of people are asking for his Ishkur fit. Sorry, this is late, I was with family and stuff. Anyways here ya go!

[Ishkur, Gramps]
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Warp Scrambler II
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Small Nosferatu II
Small Trimark Armor Pump I
Small Trimark Armor Pump I
Imperial Navy Acolyte x5

"I think it's a good enough fit for an old man who didn't really know what he was doing, and only spent a couple weeks trying PvP."
This is just the opening post.  I really recommend reading the outpouring of support NickNack received on the loss of his grandfather.

As mentioned in the comments, Sindel Pellion is going to help those remembering NickNack's grandfather by opening  up The Angel Project's inventory and handing out up to 1000 Ishkurs this weekend in Amarr.  For those who want to aid her effort, you can contract Ishkurs, their fittings, and drones to The Angel Project (not Sindel) in any high sec station.  But given that she only has a couple of days to get everything in place, she'd appreciate it if those donating could deliver and contract the donations in the Amarr VIII, Emperor Family Academy station in Amarr.

After doing a little more research, NickNack's grandfather liked flying the Condor before he started flying the Ishkur.  So if you can't fly the assault frigate, the Condor is an appropriate alternative.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 16 September 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 14 September 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft47.16,732+2.1
22Guild Wars 212.81,835+6.1
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.01,572+3.0
45EVE Online5.3761+17.1
54Final Fantasy XIV4.9700-11.6
66Aion3.7535-9.9
77Tera3.5502-1.0
88Runescape3.4488+5.6
99Lord of the Rings Online2.6376+2.4
1010Neverwinter1.9277-6.4
1111Planetside 21.82630.0
12--ArcheAge1.7 249--
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 14,290

With Xfire working two weeks in a row, the data collected looks normal again.  On Sunday, the Xfire community spent 1.9% more hours playing its favorite MMORPGs than the week before.  In raw numbers, World of Warcraft (+138 hours) saw the biggest spike in time played while Final Fantasy XIV (-92 hours) experienced the biggest drop-off.

The New Sandbox - The eagerly anticipated ArcheAge, published by Trion in the west, made its first appearance on The Digital Dozen Sunday.  The head start period began on 12 September and the game launches for all players at 10 AM PDT today.

ArcheAge is a free-to-play, open world sandbox that has both PvE and PvP areas, although the world PvP works a little differently than other games.  And yes, according to the game's FAQ, scamming is allowed.

Offer Expired - Sunday was the first weekend after the close of Final Fantasy XIV's end of summer event, the Moonfire Faire.  As usually occurs in such a situation, players don't log in at the rate they did during the event.

eSports Fans - EVE Online provided another example Sunday of how the shrinking Xfire community is becoming less valuable as a source to determine if an event occurred in a game.  CCP makes the number of players logged on available to the public and I can say that no big jump in the concurrent users occurred Sunday, but Xfire is showing a 17.1% increase in time played.  Remember, when using the Xfire numbers, the data shows what is occurring in the Xfire community and not in the gaming community at large.  As the community shrinks, the differences grow.  The only explanation is that the Xfire community is more into eSports than the general EVE player base.  Last weekend was the first following the end of Alliance Tournament XII.  Perhaps people were too busy watching EVE to play the game.


Monday, September 15, 2014

EVE's Six Week Release Cycle: A First Look At Results

CCP is now 15 weeks into its plan of releasing content patches every six weeks instead of every six months for EVE Online that CCP Seagull announced at Fanfest.  While EVE's executive producer laid out a technical rationale for the change, I see a couple of other benefits to the increased release tempo.

First, the standard in the MMORPG industry is moving towards faster releases of content.  ArenaNet really began the trend with the success of its two week release schedule for Guild Wars 2.  But setting such a pace is easier said than done. Carbine is the lastest studio to find out, as Wildstar's Senior Game Designer Megan Starks admitted at Gamescom that the studio was abandoning the attempt to release content every month.  But as CCP demonstrated over the past few expansions its ability to release point releases, I'm pretty confident that the game devs will have no trouble keeping up with a six week release cadence.

A steady release of content is important, especially for a subscription game in a genre now filled with free-to-play and buy-to-play games.  The more frequent release schedule also is consistent with Hilmar's past statements that EVE is a service.  Selling the game as a service will make sense to those used to subscribing to entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify.  The consistent updates will help convince people that the monthly fee is worth the price.

Another benefit I see is in marketing.  Let's face facts.  EVE Online is an eleven year old game.  Barring CCP adding a functional version of Walking In Stations or vastly improved PvE content, the game is probably not going to attract a huge wave of new players who are going to jump into an expansion and play for years.  The old PR model of hyping two big expansions and then relying on player events like Asakai and B-R to publicize the game just wasn't working anymore. 

Going to the six week release cycle means a constant stream of dev blogs that the gaming press can write short stories about.  Between that and coverage for regional events such as EVE Vegas, Evesterdam, and EVE Down Under, and CCP can keep EVE mentioned on the gaming sites.  Keeping EVE constantly visible could draw in lapsed players, especially if CCP fixes features that irritated the former subscribers.  At this point in EVE's life, targeting former players is a viable option.

Theory is fine, but what are the results?  In fairness, I think we really need to wait until early December and the Rhea release to judge.  From the launch of Kronos to the launch of Rhea would represent the typical length of a summer expansion.  But since I'm starting to read and listen to analysis and speculation as to how the new deployment schedule is working, I thought I'd pull out some numbers and take a look at the halfway point.


The chart above lists the performance of each summer expansion at both the twelve week mark and at the end of the expansion.  The year 2009 did not have a summer expansion as Apocrypha launched on 10 March 2009.  I added an entry for Kronos to show the performance of the new release cycle this year.  The calculation was performed by taking the average concurrent user mark (ACU) for the week before an expansion launched and comparing it to the ACU number for either the twelfth week after launch or the week before the launch of that year's winter expansion.

The historical data shows that by the twelfth week after the launch of a summer expansion, one could determine whether the expansion would have more or less activity by the final week of the release.  If that trend continues this year, the first five releases of the new release cadence will result in fewer accounts logged into EVE.   But that could change, as Oceanus is scheduled for release on 30 September, with Phoebe following on 4 November.


I was also interested in the trends after the launch of each expansion compared to the new release cadence.  The above graph represents the change in the weekly ACU compared to the ACU recorded in the week before the launch of an expansion.  An interesting fact is that seven weeks after launch, all the summer expansions (not including the 6-week releases) showed a positive change in the ACU.  Even Incarna.  But the strength of small, frequent releases began to show at the nine week mark, as Crius began to outperform Incarna and Hyperion scored better than Odyssey.

Will CCP buck the historical trend and see the ACU in the first week of December exceed the number set at the end of May?  With two more releases, the possibility exists.  But CCP Seagull's announcement at the end of her dev blog on Oceanus could also play a role.  CCP is currently working on changes to null sec.  She linked to a forum post by CCP Fozzie who spelled out CCP's plans:
"Those of you who watched the Fanfest presentations or the recent Alliance Tournament will remember that we have formed a targeted 'Nullsec Working Group' back in April of this year to lead the way towards our next major round of changes to zero security space. This group consists of CCP Bettik, CCP Delegate Zero, CCP Greyscale, CCP Masterplan, CCP Rise, CCP Scarpia, CCP Ytterbium and myself.

"We have been working on re-evaluating the high level goals for nullsec and sovereignty, surveying and learning from the EVE community’s extensive discussions on the issues, and designing and prototyping potential changes to improve nullsec gameplay.

"The working group recently held an extended offsite design and discussion session on September 5th, in which we discussed many of the player-written proposals about Nullsec, clarified our collective position on several issues and made a lot of progress in preparation for the CSM Summit.

"For this upcoming CSM summit we are planning to discuss in detail a set of significant, specific and targeted changes that we hope to release in late 2014, as well as the concepts and prototypes that we are developing for more far-reaching changes in 2015. The CSM has already proven an invaluable resource for bringing us feedback and analysis on the current state of nullsec as well as the community’s desires for the future. We are confident that the multiple nullsec sessions that we have scheduled for this summit will be extremely valuable.

"Our current plan is to bring the late 2014 designs to the wider community for feedback very soon after the summit, independently of the minutes.
"
So we could see action concerning null sec, even if it is the form of offering feedback, as early as the end of September/beginning of October.  The first changes to null sec are likely to deploy in the Rhea release on 9 December.  Would the promise of change to null sec, and the coverage the associated dev blogs may receive in the gaming press, lure players back to EVE?  We'll know in a few months.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Some Background On The Recent Bans For Harassment

"Yes Ripard, you are literally nearly the worst kind of human filth. You parade around as a social justice champion while you purposely try to destroy people for your agenda. Reminds me of a lot of extreme right wing conservatives we have here in the states. You make me sick. You are truly sick in the head."

Yes, the silly season is in full tilt in EVE Online.  The recent bans based on out-of-game harassment using in-game EVE assets have brought the old bonus room crowd back into the spotlight.  The ring leader of that circus, Erotica 1, even trotted out some of the arguments from the GamerGate crowd.  Of course, he just knows the words and doesn't understand the concepts, as "social justice" and "extreme right wing conservatives" never go together. 

For those new to the EVE Online community, Erotica 1 is the name of the main avatar of a person who preyed upon the greedy and weak-minded in EVE.  He would prowl the main trade hub of Jita looking for victims to lure to an out-of-game "bonus room", where he would, along with his sycophants, scam the victim of all his/her ISK and assets and then try to humiliate the victim for hours, all the while recording the sessions to maximize the humiliation by posting the edited session online.  Ripard Teg is the man (and member of the Council of Stellar Management) who brought the practice to the attention of the greater EVE community in his blog post, "The bonus round". 

Yesterday, I referenced the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.  I believe this theory does not apply to Erotica 1.  I have gotten negative feedback about the way I choose my sources, but I consider Erotica 1 as unreliable a source of information as exists on the Internet.  When he claimed that he was permanently banned from EVE, I totally discounted that statement.  I wanted additional proof.

Now, while people are talking about the recent bans for out-of-game harassment as just a follow-up for the Erotica 1 scandal, I don't believe that's true.  I believe that these are all new infractions and that some of the Erotica 1's flunkies failed to learn the lesson.  I agree with the following Reddit post from RonUSMC:
"I understand you think you have been wronged. You should move along.

"I understand it's a sandbox, and you think you have the right to play how you want. It's not your sandbox, so move along.

"I understand that you want clear lines... so it's easier to skirt them, well, go ahead and move along.

"The party is going to be even more fun without you sociopaths here to torment us, so guess what.... move along.

"You are a cancer and we have been operated on. So please, just leave.

"You will not be missed. There will be no protests. You will just fade away like the other miscreants. If anything, we will be able to retain more new people that never knew how dark and freakish you guys ever were.

"If you really start to admit that you need EVE more than it needs you, and you create an alt and come back.... I hope they ban that too."
I will slightly disagree on one point.  Contrary to what CCP Falcon has posted, I don't think the EVE EULA and player code of conduct is clear on this matter.  I would like to see a statement concerning "the usage of EVE Online and assets, characters and items from within the game environment as leverage for the purpose of real life harassment" put directly into the Terms of Service or some other policy document.  I do not want this position just placed somewhere on the forums.  CCP doing that is one of my pet peeves and I wish they would cease that practice.  But besides that, I don't have a problem kicking these people out of EVE.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Non-RMT Ban Wave

I guess some people didn't learn that CCP is serious about some of the things it bans.  Last month, SOMERblink tried to institute an RMT trick that was banned in November of last year.  Yesterday, CCP Falcon posted this on the EVE Online forums and stickied the post to the top:
"Hello everyone,

"We would like to remind the EVE community of our stance regarding the usage of EVE Online and assets, characters and items from within the game environment as leverage for the purpose of real life harassment.

"As outlined in our previous announcement, this type of behavior lies in clear breach of our End User License Agreement, and as such we have a zero tolerance approach when dealing with these cases.

"Our stance regarding this type of behavior has not changed since the last announcement, and any individuals who are found to be engaging in such behavior will be met with disciplinary action against their game accounts in accordance with our Terms of Service."
Apparently, someone once again proved the validity of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (GIFT).

A picture says a thousand words
A Reddit user by the user name of Patwa put up the following opening post:

As seen on 10 September 2014
"Two of my accounts were banned as of today. The reason stated: Participation in a group engaged in out of game harassment of EVE players. I have confirmed that I am not the only participant to receive this ban. Due to policy, I won't publish or quote any part of the email I received from the GM. However, I can tell you that my participation in the bonus room was minimal at best - only x-ing up for contracts."

When asked if the ban was related to the Erotica1 scandal earlier this year or was a new event, Patwa replied, "It was the original issue. And no, I did not. I only actually x-d up in a small percentage of the total bonus rooms. I found that it wasn't really worth my time."

Really?  Another Reddit user, rykki, found another post back from the original Erotica1 incident:

As seen on 10 September 2014
"I'm friends with Erotica 1. I've made quite a bunch of ISK from the victims in the bonus room. We use TS not to avoid EULA stuff, but because it's funny.

"We also force people to pod themselves 20-50 times without updating their clone."

That was the situation as I knew it as of midnight, EVE time.  Shortly after midnight, another post appeared on Reddit:
"Earlier this morning, many players were banned permanently, pending investigation. The reason given was 'Participation with a group involved in real life harassment.'

"To my knowledge, many members within CODE have been banned, along with steadfast and trustworthy members within Calmil. People within GSF have also been banned.
People in every region of space are being banned--and everyone down to a dime that I've talked to have no idea what they got banned for.

"We don't know what we were banned for, and we've been stonewalled. I didn't even know most of these people before we got banned today.

"The only reason specified is 'Participation with a group involved in real life harassment.'

This has set a most startling precedent."

Confusion is also reigning over on the Failheap Challenge forums.  The post with the most information came from a poster named Lucence:
"It's still early, the bans were only handed hours ago. At first the wording of CCP Falcon ('harassment') was reminiscent of the sohkar episode so we thought bans were related to anyone involved in it, but we soon got reports from banned people saying they had never been involved in it in any way (wasn't on TS, didn't accept a contract, wasn't in the ingame chat channel), and others from people who were eyebrow deep in it and yet didn't get banned, so it must have been something else.

"So far we haven't been able to draw a complete picture, the only pattern seems to be people generally involved in griefing in some way. However I know of at least one banned person in a lowsec alliance who is apparently described as trustworthy and not into griefing; he claims to have no idea why he got banned. My understanding is CODE is surveying its ranks and all its PR is centralized with line members instructed to lay low (do not post GM logs, do not partake in flamewars etc.) while we figure out wtf exactly happened. BU is pinging logged off regulars through jabber/TS/IRC/Steam.

"We haven't heard anything back from CCP yet, besides CCP Falcon's cryptic message, and we don't expect anything for another few days if at all. This is why we concentrate our efforts on building a solid case we can submit to CSM members."

At 2:22am EVE Time, CCP Falcon put out a reply to the 2 1/2 pages of posts that were asking what happened (and that CCP was ruining EVE).  Responding to the question, "can we expect some clear-cut rules on what you would classify as 'real life harassment'?", CCP Falcon replied:
"It isn't our job to dictate to people how to maintain a base standard of human decency toward one another, and we're not going to do so.

"The bottom line is that it's down to members of the community to know where the line crosses from common decency to harassment. We will not draw a line in the sand so that people can skirt on the edge of it and bend the rules as much as possible.

"This isn't a debate about what constitutes "harassment". If you're not familiar with the word, find the definition in a dictionary and that will satisfy your question.

"What we will do, is continue to use best judgement on a case by case basis to ensure that real life harassment is kept out of the game, and ensure that those who choose to involve themselves in such activities are no longer permitted to be part of our community.

"Cut and dried, that's all we have to say on the matter."
To save time, I visited the Oxford online dictionary (UK version since that is where CCP Falcon is from) and found this definition:
Harassment: Aggressive pressure or intimidation.
Hopefully that will make things clearer.  No?


Well, I'll admit I'm a bit confused.  From what I gather, this is not a repeat of the bonus room situation.  I'm not going to try to guess what occurred, although CCP Falcon's recommendation to visit the dictionary does provide fodder for speculation.  Some names of characters are already floating around and I don't want to malign anyone with totally baseless speculation.  The story may continue, and with CODE. involved, many people will want to learn more.  I kind of do myself.

UPDATE: Erotica 1 has decided to jump in and defend those banned.  When evaluating sources to determine the truth, one should always consider past behavior.  So here is a post from the Failheap Challenge:
sharptoast: Having not really paid much attention to this whole thing I think people are going to regard you generally as an arsehole no matter what you say mate.

Erotica 1: Well, that is to be expected. Mynnna and Ripard did a great job with making up shit.

Lady Spank:  You haven't spoken a single truth in your Eve playing life so don't expect anyone to pay you any regard now either. There is no point to you trying to defend your honour or whatever else you might want to say because no one except the truly uninformed is going to take you seriously.
For the record, I consider Erotica 1 a predator and EVE is better off without him.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Clearing The Decks

Summer is basically over and it's time to organize some things.  No, not my closets, although I need to do that too.  I have this whole blogging and gaming life thing and I need to shake some things up.  I found that I've diverted a bit from the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year and I want to get back on track.

On the blogging front, I'm going to stop following Player Auctions on a daily basis.  Sure, graph porn is good, but that particular project takes up so much time.  The last PA graph I made represented 45 hours of labor.  Admittedly, most of that time was spent on the train ride home from work, but that is still a lot of time.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), a group of game journalists decided to, perhaps unwittingly, open up the gaming scene to the wider culture war. So my next project is to start seriously cataloging the articles and different points of view flying around. Even if I never write about the subject, I need to pay attention now.  Some people think I'm some sort of "investigative journalist" or that I produce "scholarly work".  Trust me, the people who are starting to sniff around make me look like a rank amateur.  If I decide to write about the subject at all, I need to improve my writing.

On the gaming front, I'll probably not sub up for Final Fantasy XIV.  Not that I don't like the game.  I do.  I just don't have the time needed to commit to a good free company.  Maybe I'll feel differently after I run a battleleve, but I'm just invested in EVE and have neglected the game too much.  I finished reactivating my planetary interaction colonies last night and am using Trello to keep track.  The software is cool and I'll probably write about it in a couple weeks.  Also, I now have Mastery V in all logistics ships.  That doesn't mean I'm good at flying the ships, but I have the skills that will help.  Did I mention I hope to have at least one Prospect BPC when I get home?  Outfitting and flying that ship could lead to a lot of fun.

I also want to get back to playing single player games.  I bought Tropico 5 and haven't even downloaded the game yet.  I think that is an offense that warrants the death penalty in some jurisdictions.  I also purchased Papers, Please and the Fable Anniversary Edition.  I also want to get check out Kerbal Space Program again to see what's been added recently.

All in all, my hobby takes up a lot of time and I need to prioritize better.  Even the unfun stuff.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 9 September 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 7 September 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft47.06,594+60.7
22Guild Wars 212.31,730+49.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.91,527+89.9
46Final Fantasy XIV5.6792+120.6
54EVE Online4.6650+57.0
65Aion4.2594+49.2
77Tera3.6507+49.1
88Runescape3.3462+89.3
99Lord of the Rings Online2.6367+58.9
1010Neverwinter2.1296+96.0
11--Planetside 21.9263+806.9
1212Metin 21.7 244+67.1
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 14,026

On Sunday, Xfire collected data properly after experiencing issues the week before.  Comparing the numbers with two Sundays ago, the Xfire community spent 10.8% less hours playing the top 12 MMORPGs.

Due To Technical Difficulties ... Not. - This week confirmed that the partial data was not an aberration where Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online were concerned.  Both games remain off the list this week.  That means that ESO was on the list for 22 weeks after launch and Wildstar only 13.  Wildstar's performance was made more remarkable because the game's Digital Dozen score declined every week until the game fell off the list.  Even The Secret World, which also remained on the list for 13 weeks after it launched back in 2012, managed to see two weeks of a positive gain in its score.  I should add, however, that both games will probably wind up on the annual year-end list for 2014.

The Party's Just Starting - Lord of the Rings Online had the best performance over the past two weeks with a decline in the time Xfire members spent playing the game of only 4 hours.  That was probably due to the Farmer's Faire event running from 2-16 September.  The annual event features egg and mushroom hunts along with dealing with drunks and fishing.


Monday, September 8, 2014

EVE Is Dying? Tell That To The ISK Sellers

Now that summer is almost over, I thought I'd take another look at the secondary RMT market1 for EVE Online ISK.  My last review occurred three months ago when prices crashed.  Now that CCP has published the Kronos, Crius, and Hyperion updates, I wondered what changes had occurred.2

Friday, September 5, 2014

GamerGate: Tempest In A Teapot

I've followed the GamerGate "scandal" for a few weeks now.  At the risk of besmirching the name of a fine Minmatar battleship, I think the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot.  Although the participants would disagree.  For a rundown on the whole scandal, please read Erik Kain's excellent piece published on Forbes yesterday, "GamerGate: A Closer Look At The Controversy Sweeping Video Games."  For those who don't want to take the time, here are some points to take away:

"First, we have a young industry that began, like so many others, as a male-driven industry on both the producer and consumer side now experiencing growth pains. The media is even younger than the industry itself and it’s experiencing growth pains, too. These growth pains have resulted in some raw, open wounds that fester whenever controversy erupts, and risk being infected further by politicized forces that care less about video games and more about political agendas. (All of this is a distraction from the real business of reporting on the video game industry and critiquing video games, though I think there is plenty of room for cultural commentary with political slants here as well, just like in TV, film, etc.)

"Second, we have deep mistrust between consumers and the video game industry thanks to years of bad DRM and other poor business practices. That mistrust is now being cast on the press that’s supposed to be covering the industry to protect the consumer. Consumers (gamers) have increasingly viewed the press as 'in bed' with the industry rather than working for consumers. This is enforced by stories of chummy developers and journalists, lavish AAA publisher-thrown parties, high-scoring games that aren’t particularly good, and so forth.

"Finally, we have a video game press with a largely left-leaning political bias in some ways alienating itself from much of its readership. This seeps into the first two problems and complicates the matter, but isn’t in and of itself an invalid complaint. If the video game press were deeply conservative, you’d have a lot of left-leaning voices decrying it as well. The tenor of the discussion has become so 'us vs. them' at this point, that many gamers simply feel unrepresented and condescended."
I've only spent 15 hours or so researching and reading about the topic, but in that extremely brief time I've come to one conclusion: who cares?  The matter is about as important as mass-based ejection in wormhole space in EVE Online.  Extremely important to those involved, but on the scale of the millions that play video games on planet Earth, not very significant at all.

Excuse me if I ignore 4chan, because that's my policy on dealing with 4chan if at all possible.  That was reinforced with this whole "scandal".  The only thing I can say is that they've appeared to have gotten better, at least in projecting a more positive image upon an unsuspecting audience. 

As for the "social justice warrior side", are these people I should really worry about?  I'd never heard of any of these people before.  After what I learned doing my research, I wish I'd never heard of them.  That goes for the indie game developer involved as well as the games journalists who wrote the "Gamers Are Dead" pieces.

I think I need to say this about the games journalists in question.  Not only have I never heard of these people before, but for the most part they write for gaming sites that I only visit if it comes up on a Google search.  As for the quality of those sites, if I have a choice between any of those sites and PC Gamer, Eurogamer, or Massively, I don't use the sites that published the "Gamers Are Dead" articles.  Sites like Gamasutra, Polygon, and Kotaku always seemed sketchy to me, so I'm glad to see my judgement vindicated.

So what we have is a scandal a game developer who make games I'll never play and the relationship with writers whose work I never read on sites I rarely visit.  The group that really pushed the story, 4chan, is one I try to avoid if humanly possible.  Then I think about the tens of millions of people who play video games.  Do they even care?  I highly doubt it.

As the title of the post states, the whole GamerGate scandal is a tempest in a teapot.  Unless the scandal grows way beyond where it should (and that is a real possibility), I'm done with this topic.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Grr Goon Industrialists

I did something stupid last night.  I read a thread on the official EVE Online forums titled "Ore Compression and the State of Crius Industry."  Apparently Goons and other members of the CFC are upset that the high sec miners are not doing as they should and compressing their ore.  I'm not going to tar all of null sec with a broad brush as others, notably from Pandemic Legion and The Fourth District from the alliances I recognized, disagreed with the CFC members.

When I first saw the proposal for the refining/reprocessing changes, I figured that null sec alliances would need to set up POS in high sec in order to do the ore compression needed to supply the newly buffed null sec industry.  Apparently a lot of null sec industrialists thought that people in high sec would do all of the work.  Personally I didn't think they would.  I know I would refuse to haul the ore around when I could just refine it.  Or, as Goonswarm's Retar Aveymone stated:
"There is a massive amount of round-trip hauling, which is perhaps the worst sort of pointless busywork that exists in this game. As a result, few people are doing compression and I expect a shocking number of those are hauling bots. No sane human at the computer can sit there doing round trips from a station to a pos in a freighter all day."
In another post, Retar stated:
"Price signals do not work when the producers are too dimwitted to respond to them. Furthermore the immense effort of compressing any reasonable amount of ore is not a fun addition to the game. Nobody wins when someone's doing an infinite number of round trips to their pos. Their pos has nothing valuble in it, their freighter doesn't either (and even if it did, it's ungankable unless they don't think to dock up) and the actual gameplay is basically a war crime.

"Anyone who wants to verify what I say is correct needs only look at the actual compressed ore volume in jita. I have simply halted my T1 building until it's fixed, and I'm not the only one."
Like I stated above, this attitude was not shared by most of the posters.  The tone was pretty much reserved for CFC members and forum alts.  The Fourth District's Grace Chang responded directly to Retar's quote above:
"So basically you are saying people are too dumb to make a profit in EvE and the market is broken when the market is ruthless for pretty much other item. I am pretty sure that is it and not you being a cheapskate.

"Here is what i suspect: The market accurately reflects the effort and much volume is handled via private contracts.

"You can currently buy plenty of compressed veldspar at a 19% markup in Jita. Seems fair to me considered the hauling around issue.

"Here is a thought:

a.) pay the extra fee to the people who do the logistics of buying ore, hauling it, compressing it, and hauling it back
b.) befriend some highsec miner corporation to get a stable deal
c.) recruit miners for your 0.0 operation (because that is what this is about) and stop treating them like ****.

"Either way the easy mode mineral logistics is gone for now. HTFU."
Pandemic Legion's Kenneth Feld chimed in with a few notable words.  Post 1:
"Education is the key. I flew around and found corps of miners, talked to them, educated them, now I have brokered deals with them to buy every piece of ore they mine. I have now 8 corps on my roster and I buy everything, I haul it for them.

"Now before you get up in arms about freighters, red frog does the same thing - I am just one stop shopping.

"This is not rocket science but sitting in Jita and bitching and moaning about the compressed ore not coming to you is stupid

"425mm railguns never came to you either, but in the end you figured out a way to get them

"This is NO DIFFERENT

"You need to figure out how to get ore or compressed ore, the tools are there for you to use"
Remember my belief that null sec entities would have to set up operations in high sec?  What Kenneth is doing is what I thought would happen.  Then again, perhaps the fact that PL's spiritual home is in Minmatar low sec has something to do with having a more pragmatic attitude.

Post 2:
"If people have been doing something for 11 years and now you need them to do something different, bitching on forums to get CCP to change it back isn't the answer. Education is key my friend - that also is NOT CCP's job

"If you want to get to a different discussion on how viable mining is in nullsec ---> forum is that way

"Last year at EvE Vegas when anomoly changes were coming and Mexallon was getting the big nerf bat, we complained and everyone toed the same line 'We will monitor'"

"In lieu of them changing, you must overcome and adapt, obviously, you have been unable, I have been able with little or no fuss whatsoever."
Post 3:
"So, educate the miners to not refine, it isn't difficult and I have had GREAT success at doing it, I suggest you try the same. It would require you to talk to pubbies, which is beneath you, I understand.
 

"or you can continue to ***** and moan here
 

"Your call"
Tzar Sinak of Mythic Heights (which I believe is a w-space corp) offered up some practical advice:
"CCP has changed the mechanics of the game and it is having an impact on the way many in null sec play the game. Instead of asking CCP to change the game to meet null sec needs and effecting everyone else I respectfully suggest null try to adapt to the changes.

"Let us see, how do I now get all the minerals I need to build my fleet of capital ships?

  • I could slow down production.
  • I could hire miners to mine the low ends exclusively in null sec (better pay them appropriately). Yes, that means anomalies, combat sites, belts (shudder) of many systems.
  • I could hold mining ops in low sec.
  • I could take control of some low sec systems for the sole purpose of mining them.
  • I could hire hi sec miner corps to produce what I need.
  • I could hire hi sec transport outfits to haul and compress.
  • I could, wait for it, mine in WH space while linked to my null sec systems.
  • I could hire WH corps to mine and transport for me.

"I could do any combination of the above WITHOUT affecting the rest of the game by insisting on a mechanics change.

"Compression mechanics as is is just fine. Time to expand your horizons and possibilities."

[Some reformatting performed to make more readable]
Another member of the CFC, Komi Toran, believes the small, high sec mining corps or casuals who mine part-time should just carry a small tower around with them.
"You only put it up when and where you need it. A compression POS doesn't just save you ISK, it lets you mine anywhere in high-sec without the need of a freighter fleet to get your goods to market. So not only do you make more ISK on the rocks you mine, but it saves you over one billion ISK for your logistics chain. It's a better investment than upgrading a barge to an exhumer."
Sorry, but I know if I still lived in high sec I wouldn't bother with a POS.  Why do I want to go through the hassle of setting one up and tearing it down all the time?  Besides, I don't mine enough to make a POS cost effective.  I think those who are just mining on an alt in order to afford to PvP would agree.

I should add that some wondered about low sec mining.  A character in an NPC corp, handige harri, wrote:
"It appears this is not really a high sec miners not compressing problem though seeing your trit and pyerite numbers. It looks more like nobody mining Lowsec ores, which are the major supplier of Isogen/Nocx and in a lesser amount Mex.Which is weird, as they have been the best isk/hour ores in the game for a while and with the new compression ratios you get mad isk/m3 with compressed low sec ores."
Grace Chang added:
"Makes perfect sense tbh. With lowsec being the most dangerous region for miners, the prices have to go up a lot more i suspect before people bother to go there with a prospect. But wouldn't it be nice if they would actually eventually do that?"
As I've written before, the problem isn't the actual mining itself.  The problem is getting the ore to market.  Small-time operators like myself are not going to operate a POS in low sec.  That's asking to lose a lot of ISK.  So if we want to move significant quantities of ore, low sec miners will need to use either a Miasmos or a deep space transport.  I came up with a Miasmos fit that relies on the Cloak/MWD trick.  I'll have to look up my Mastodon fit, although I don't know if the extra cargo capacity (the Mastodon can use giant secure cargo containers) is worth risking a tech 2 ship.

The use of the Prospect is amusing since the introduction of the Mordus rats in low sec belts.  The argument for the Prospect is, besides the ability to use a cloak, that its defense would rely on a small signature.  But with the tackle bonuses on the Mordus rats, would I want to risk a tech 2 frigate?  I think a Procurer could fight its way out of the situation.  I'm not sure if a Prospect could run away.

Also, I'm not sure if a Prospect can really mine fast enough.  I saw a fit that relies on Modulated Deep Core Miner IIs that could match a max tank Procurer in mining output, but I'd rather rely on a Procurer for low sec.  I'd use the Prospect in either a wormhole or in NPC null trying to track down mercoxit.

I guess I'm getting mean in my fifth year of playing EVE, because I have very little sympathy for Sir Mittani's industrialists.  I realize they are locked in an arms race with Nulli and PL and the industry changes benefiting null sec weren't supposed to inconvenience them in any way.  Instead, high sec miners are acting in ways that make sense to them and not according to design plan set up by CCP.  As Kenneth Feld and others pointed out, the optimal play is to actively engage with high sec miners and otherwise adapt to the new environment.

I know, I know.  Why should the industrialists of the Greater Goon Community have to stoop so low as to talk and work with pubbie scum?  Such a system puts a group like the Goons at a severe disadvantage.  After all, between the thousands of scams, daily suicide ganking of freighters and miners, payment of billions to James315 to harass high sec miners, the yearly Burn Jita event, plus the constant name calling and derision that comes from the GSF and CFC, why would any high sec miner want to do anything to benefit Goons if they have any alternative at all?  CCP, in effect, has set up a system that benefits people like Kenneth Fuld who belong to alliances that at least keep their antics mostly confined to low and null sec.

I realize that is so unfair and that I should sympathize with the desire to have CCP alter the game to benefit a group like the Goons and CFC who have a poor reputation.  I mean, why should the Goons' actions have any consequences?  The stupid pubbies are supposed to do all the work of compressing the ore.  If they don't, then the game developers need to change the mechanics.  After all, what do they think EVE is, a sandbox?