Thursday, July 28, 2011

Playing Eve Too Long Or Just Tired?

Too much work, not enough sleep, and playing Eve Online can lead to some strange thoughts.  At work, my group is apparently a little bit short-staffed in the U.S. time zone and I was talking with someone who was reading through a bunch or resumes.  He explained some of the plans, and I thought, "can't we just hire Pandemic Legion in the meantime?"  Thankfully, I didn't say it out loud.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fly Drunk - CCP Soundwave's Latest Eve Radio Interview

Eve Radio and DJ Funky Bacon's interviews with The Mittani and Dianabolic in the wake of the dismantling of the Band of Brothers alliance are probably what convinced me to take up Eve Online.  Not only because of the player-driven story, but I was amazed that Eve had a fan-run radio station.  I had to be a part of that world.

I've listened to a lot of music over the last two years and due to the influence of Eve Radio I no longer just listen to country music.  Lately, I'm getting a lot of my Eve Online news from listening to Eve Radio.  During the Monoclegate crisis DJ Funky Bacon had members of the CSM on for two Fridays plus put out a podcast with coverage of the press conference CCP held for Eve fan sites.  On Tuesday, Voices From The Void made its Eve Radio debut on its new 1600 GMT slot, giving Eve Radio a news show for the first time since I've been listening.

But the surprise may have been DJ RezRadgrif scoring an interview with CCP Soundwave on his show last Thursday.  DJ RezRadgrif booked the interview before the launch of Incarna, so this may have been a fortuitous occasion for CCP Soundwave to get out into the public again.  And with DJ RezRadgrif's main character flying with Dirt Nap Squad, we had an interviewer familiar with some of the issues in the game today.

I think that CCP Soundwave was a bit taken aback when DJ RezRadgrif asked him to introduce himself, but given some of the confusion I've read over his role, I thought the question was appropriate.  CCP Soundwave is the lead developer of the Flying in Space part of Eve as well as retaining the lead of Team BFF.  After the introduction, DJ RezRadgrif started taking questions from the audiance.

Since CCP Soundwave is the head of Flying in Space, no one asked him about Walking in Stations, right?  C'mon, this is an Eve Radio audience.  Of course they asked about Incarna.  When asked his opinion about Incarna, CCP Soundwave said he thought that Incarna was "really, really cool" but didn't really fit his play-style as he is not one of those players who obsesses for hours getting his avatar just right.  However, he is looking forward to establishments coming out so he can visit a casino and play poker or look at a corporate headquarters.

When asked about whether members of corporations or alliances under a wardec could fight in stations, the answer was no.  Physical fighting like that is kind of uncapsuleer-like.  Just having someone come in and shooting everyone would be "retarded".  Stations are gentlemenly space and outside the stations pilots can do whatever they want.

He also compared the changes coming to Eve to Radiohead.  He liked the group when they first came out, but now that he's old (about to turn 30) he doesn't really understand the latest music they publish.  That probably wasn't the greatest analogy, but his point was that games change over time and to expect that a game, especially an MMO, not to change is a bit unrealistic.

When asked by clothes are not destroyed when a player is podded, he turned to his dislike of the clone system in Eve.  "The clone system is a way to punish players who come home drunk on a Friday night and forget to update their clone."  Having to remember to take off your clothes before getting in your ship is in the same vein.  "It's just being dicks to people."  In other words, CCP Soundwave doesn't want to punish drunks.  Sounds like he endorses flying drunk, or, more likely, has flown drunk on many, many occasions.

CCP Soundwave also stated that CCP is not holding back any Incarna features to compete with the release dates of other games (i.e. Star Wars: The Old Republic).  The releases of other games don't really affect Eve so CCP has no incentive to do so.  New features will be released as they are ready.

Not all the questions focused on Walking in Stations.  He was asked about when we could see new ships like T3 frigates.  CCP Soundwave stated that while tech 3 is the obvious route to take with new ships, he did not have a time frame on when the next ship would appear.  At the end of the interview, DJ RezRadgrif asked a Dirt Nap Squad type question: would CCP consider a larger version of the stealth bomber based on a battlecruiser hull?  The answer to that was that such a ship should really be a battleship-class hull.  CCP Soundwave is thinking of changing the black ops ships to fit that type of anti-capital stealth bomber type role.

Another hot topic was engine trails.  Apparently CCP tried to get them into Incarna but the turret upgrade just took too much time.  He would be very surprised if engine trails did not make an appearance in the winter in this winter.

When asked whether CCP and he personally had anything against hybrid weapons, CCP Soundwave revealed that he had been abused by hybrids as a child.  Turning serious, CCP Soundwave explained that changing hybrids was more difficult than just changing a characteristic or two.  He then expanded on the theme of balance, admitting CCP had been bad at balancing ships and weapons over the last few years.  He stated that with things like the upcoming changes to capitals and super-capitals and a Dramiel nerf that the winter release will contain more re-balancing than the game has seen over the past two years.

CCP Soundwave was also asked about fixing low security space.  He replied that adding or modifying one single feature will not turn low-sec around.  He replied that CCP actually did not have any ideas in writing on what each zone (high, low, and null) was supposed to be.  So CCP started working on a rule set for null sec (that's the famous CCP Greyscale blog that hasn't been released) and we should see the results of that work on Tranquility this winter.  As for low-sec, "If we are going to make low-sec good we are going to have to put in the same effort we are doing for null sec now."  He did not make any promises but said that low-sec is the natural place to work on next.

As for those pesky ABC ores found in wormholes that the CSM is so worried about ruining the economy of New Eden, CCP Soundwave thought that the CSM overreacted a bit.  He also explained that while the CSM is important, not all of its ideas are enacted.

Finally, I found an answer to a question about what games CCP Soundwave plays interesting.  He plays a lot of League of Legends because he prefers playing games in which he competes with other players.  Until about a month ago, he used to play World of Tanks, but he didn't like the end game economy.  The fact that he needed to purchase a Löwe in order to compete at the highest levels ruined the game for him.

For those interested in hearing the interview, DJ RezRadgrif's July 21 show will remain on the Rewind page until July 28.  Just remember that you cannot fast forward the show so you will have to listen to the first 2 hours of the show before listening to the interview.  But I didn't mind; he plays a pretty good selection of rock.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Return To Bulgaria And Skill Queue Choices

Once again I get to go to Bulgaria for business.  Things are a little different than last year, but that's work and I really don't want to get into the details.  But it will affect my gaming, which is what this blog is really about.  As I've said in the past, I'm lucky to play Eve Online, where the preparation for a long trip in real life is just part of the game.

I'll just take the most obvious example: skill training.  Depending on how long I will stay in Bulgaria will determine what I'll train.  If I just stay the two weeks plus travel days, I'll have Rosewalker train Battlecruisers V.  But if I can somehow manage to arrange to stay a few extra days, I'll move my choice to Minmatar Battleship V.

For Wandering Rose, I have to admit Minmatar Cruisers V is looking really tempting as a choice, even though she isn't really a combat pilot.  Either training Exhumers or Transport Ships to V really makes more sense.

Right now my schedule looks like I won't get to stay for 3 weeks.  Not because I don't want to, but because of the situation at work.  Real life is greater than Eve. While flying around in a Prowler or Cheetah is more fun than sitting in an Airbus over the Atlantic, I can give up the game for a couple of weeks for some real life adventures.  Besides, I can always listen to Eve Radio.  Trust me, it's a lifesaver.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Does A Pimped Out Ship Mean?

I didn't get a chance to buy a new Hurricane last night due, in no small part, to a slow freight train causing a delay in my train arriving in my station.  But that gave me a bit of time to think about what "pimping out" a ship really means.

First, I don't think PvPers really pimp out a ship unless it is a capital or supercap.  I think the majority of PvP pilots weigh the cost of expensive fittings vs. the risk of losing their ships.  So the people with the really pimped out ships tend to run missions.

That said, I think there are three types of pimping out a ship.  The first is when a pilot has a low amount of skill points.  At that point, tech 2 gear is a dream so a pilot will try to obtain meta-level gear.  As the isk accumulates in the wallet (and equipment falls off rats), players will want to maximize their capabilities by acquiring meta-level 3 and 4 gear.  In some cases, meta-level 4 gear is actually more expensive than its tech 2 equivalent.

I'm in a middle phase.  Now that I have the skills for most tech 2 gear, I want all my fittings to be tech 2.  I'm still not using tech 2 ammo in missions, but just about everything else except rigs are tech 2.  Tech 2 represents a lot of planning and is the carrot that is dangled in front of players.  Once you can have it, you want it.

The last phase is the over the top, top of the line equipment.  Those are the billion isk mission ships with billions of isk worth of faction fittings.  I'm sure if I ever get enough isk together that I'll wind up having one or two ships like that.  But having a flashy ship just isn't my style.  From playing a ranger in EverQuest 2 to flying Prowlers and Cheetahs in Eve, I prefer hiding in the shadows and striking when least expected.  Besides, I'd rather buy and equip another ship than get the faction fittings.  And I have a lot more ships I want to buy first.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't Drink And Fly

After my bout of drunken blogging on Sunday, I decided it would be a good idea to run a couple of level 4 missions.  No problem.  Then it got late (around midnight) and I decided to do one more.  Not such a good idea.  I ran into a Serpetis mission, which was bad for me since I am used to fighting the Angel Cartel.

I was doing pretty good until a couple of spider drones came out and webbed and scrammed Wandering Rose's Hurricane.  Oh oh.  Remember the part about me drinking?  I forgot to load drones in her ship.  That was bad.  And the drinking kept me from realizing what type of danger I was in.  Before Rosewalker's drones could come to the rescue, the Hurricane went "pop".

After killing the spider drones, Rosewalker continued cleaning up the first room, which was a nice piece of change.  But losing a Hurricane was annoying.  Annoying?  I hadn't lost a ship in 7 months.  But I am a long ways away from The Viper's Pit where I lost my last Hurricane.  Back then, I was just on the edge of being able to afford to lose a Hurricane.  Now?  I'm ready to pimp out a new battlecruiser.  After all, a CEO should fly in style, especially when I can afford to lose it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Drunk Blogging The May CSM Summit Minutes, Part II

This is the second half of my look at the CSM6 minutes from the May Summit held in Iceland.  As I did last week, I will finish up my reading of the minutes while attempting to achieve a pleasant level of intoxication.  I ran out of rakia last week and am hoping I do not suffer the same fate while drinking Jim Beam.  Hopefully I can keep the pain for those who are sober to a minimum.

As I did last week, I will make my comments in the order of the document and as I read them.

Team Gridlock: The War on Lag - Team Gridlock is turning into one of the more popular dev teams at CCP due to their efforts to make bigger fights more playable.  Some recent wins are:
* General load; CPU per user is down 50%.
* Missiles (Drakes suck less). Fixing missiles involved optimizing inventory operations, which also accidentally fixed Jita. Jita has not been at 100% since this fix deployed.
* The recent fix to Monikers reduced overall CPU load by 8%.
* Telemetry! Gridlock has implemented a new node monitoring system that lets them trace the execution of everything and zoom in down to the procedure call level. This has made finding new optimization targets much easier. Steps will be taken to elaborate on this further in public.
* In response to a question about the 30 second session timer, it was explained that this is a consequence of needing to allow enough time for various nodes in the cluster to settle on a consistent state (everyone agreeing on where you are and what ship you are in). When 30 seconds is not enough time, the infamous "black screen" is likely, so it is not anticipated that this can be reduced anytime soon.
A major cause of black screens when loading a lagged out system turned out to be the fetching of character names for chat channels, which was being done in an inefficient way. This has now been fixed.
* The Drone engage command was not doing what it was supposed to be doing, and other drone commands were doing things they didn't need to be doing. The drones have been given a stern talking-to. (p. 20)

But Team Gridlock's work is never done and they will be working on things like time-dilation, hot-remapping of systems to a reinforced node during fleet fights, implementing "Brain in a box", an improved skill-management system, and optimizing current resource hogs, such as Area of Effect weapons, Drones and Ship deaths.

ISD and Community Matters - Let's just say that things got a little testy as the CSM thought that the original subject was a waste of time.  Then some of the CSM were a little upset with the idea of direct democracy in game decision making by putting a voting method on the forums.  Yep, giving people on the forums a direct voice would probably be a bad idea.  Then I remember what happened a month after the summit with Monoclegate.  I'm still against the idea.

EVE User Interface Issues - This section actually goes 4 pages (pp. 23-26) and I haven't had enough to drink yet.  However, I expect many irate people to storm the barracades when the find out that UI changes in the spaceship game were delayed to work on the Walking in Stations game.  What's that?  The barracades have been stormed?  Well, then it is a good thing the minutes came out so late.

Here is the TL;DR version of this section.
"The basic design principles of the UI team are that the UI be; Recognizable (UI elements and their functions should be obvious), Layered (complexity is there, but hidden), Minimal (shows you what you need to see, and no more), User-centric (focused on what user wants to do, not what the interface can do), Human (fits itself to user's mental models), Discoverable (easy to explore), Consistent, provide Feedback, be Dynamic (giving relevant information), Real (support immersion), and Visual (death to numbers)." (p. 23)
If you really want to know about the issues (and there were a lot), read the minutes.  I need a refill after trying to digest this section.

POS Misery
- This section apparently was requested by the CSM.  One big holdup is that art assets are tied up until next year.  It wasn't said, but I'm pretty sure that is due to Incarna and making items for the Noble Exchange (NeX).  Once again "Space Barbie" is affecting the development of the spaceship game.  In my personal opinion, it is all one game, but a lot a bitter vets will disagree.

Somehow jump bridges were discussed in this slot.  I got a kick out of this one.
"CSM pointed out that jump bridge passwords were stupid and a CSM with espionage experience showed CCP his list of every alliance's jump bridge passwords. Removing the need for these passwords was discussed, but no promises were made." [emphasis mine] (p. 27)
In other words, all your passwords belong to Goonswarm.

In one other matter, I have heard that it was the CSM that suggested the removal of null sec minerals from wormholes.  I'm not sure that this passage supports that claim.
"CCP talked about removing ABC (Arkonor, Bistot and Crokite) mining sites from wormhole space at some point in the future. This may be from all wormholes, or possibly from lower class wormholes only. It was claimed by some members of the CSM that a large fraction of the high end ore supply is produced through these sites, however the CSMs who were active in wormholes would not accept this claim without hard data to back it up." (p. 27)
However, I do believe the passage signals CSM support for such a move.

Feature Abandonment - Another section that received a lot of attention, wormholes once again received a call for a mineral nerf from the CSM.
"Based on comments by CCP Greyscale in a previous session, the subject of removing 'ABC' minerals from wormholes was raised by nullsec-resident CSMs, who were surprised to learn that WH space was nullsec and that ABC minerals were available in them. They favored entirely removing ABC from WH space -- or limiting them to C5 and C6 holes -- but the two wormhole-resident CSMs objected strongly, pointing out that exporting minerals from deep wormhole space was difficult, and much of it was likely consumed locally.

"An argument was made by some CSMs that the prices of ABC ores and refined products were being crashed by "daytrippers" mining in easily-accessible wormhole space; other CSMs stated that no nerfing of ABC minerals should take place without first obtaining detailed statistics about the balance of trade for each mineral and class of wormhole." (p. 29)
I was told that if I voted for Mike Azariah for CSM6 that the CSM would pressure CCP to take high-end minerals out of areas of null sec, and they were right!  The incredible thing is that so many people didn't realize that w-space was null sec.  I'm a carebear and I know that!

Reading the forums I have read a lot of paranoid people state that the cash shop will go to develop other games.  Well, here is some backing for that train of thought.
"In response to a question about how incremental virtual goods store income might be used to benefit EVE, Zulu replied that he is currently arguing for the addition of a full feature team, and that extra virtual goods income will give CCP more options; some of it will go to EVE, but other projects will benefit as well." (p. 30)
Now, before everyone pulls out the pitchforks again, some of those other games will contribute to Eve as well.
"It was also noted (again) that each CCP game provides elements that can be re-used in other games; examples given included:

* the WoD combat system being reused in Incarna.
* WoD has higher requirements in terms of number of Avatars in scene that EVE, so substantial work is being done by WoD teams to improve performance, all of which will help Incarna.
* Seamless transition between world-spaces (scenes in Incarna).
* The basic body models for Incarna came from WoD, with "certain features" edited out." (p. 30)
Okay, if the final scene in A Future Vision trailer could come true, would that be worth having the cash shop?

There is a lot more in the section that may interest you (pp 28-30), but I am trying to keep this short.  And too much typing interferes with the alcohol consumption.

Nullsec Industrialization and Risk/Reward - This is an area that might actually get me to actively try to find a way into null sec.  I like the idea of forming areas of industrialization in null sec.  And this idea would definitely get me to spend more time in low-sec.
"The CSM believes that nullsec needs to be more self-sufficient from hisec, at the industrial level. The CSM suggested that nullsec should be able to produce T2 goods at higher margins than in hisec. Many ideas were thrown around, such as making T2 production superior in nullsec compared to hisec as well as adding many more factory and research slots in nullsec outposts. The CSM suggested that high technology products come from nullsec - they can be done in hisec, but with better margins in null. The CSM was intrigued by the idea of allowing meta-level item production in lowsec, creating a continuum of t1 - meta - t2 across hi/low/null. Most of the CSM favored the idea of increasing invention chances in 0.0 compared to hisec." [emphasis mine] (p. 32)

 And with all the new blueprints available, a new isk sink is formed.

I'm sorry, but what is it with the null sec CSM members and wanting to nerf wormholes?
"The CSM, with the exception of two members, is irked at the idea of high value ores being mined in low-end wormholes distorting the market. CCP Zulu mentioned that he considers this ‘retarded’ and that this will be looked into. In Class 5 or 6 wormholes the position is more nuanced, and the CSM acknowledged that these minerals could be used for local production, and that they are too far from the market to distort it." (p. 31)
So the CSM wants null sec to be more independent economically from Empire, but wants to take such independence away from wormhole residents?  I'm a high-sec carebear, but I call BS on the CSM.

Incarna and the new NPE - To me, the presentation about the New Player Experience (NPE) is another indication (along with the partnership with Nexon) that CCP is looking at growing subscriptions instead of at the cash shop as the major area of future income growth in the near to mid term future.  I'm just going to post this following section because I think it is highly informative.
"CCP Flying Scotsman presented a dizzying array of statistics showing where the current NPE was lacking and where its strengths are. CCP analyzed the tutorial at each step to see at which points trial players would abandon the trial, and this was used to identify flaws. CCP considers a 10% boost to the current conversion rate, from trial accounts to paying accounts, will be the success threshold for the improved NPE.

"CCP emphasized that refactoring of the NPE won’t be a one-time thing, but a continual process to improve retention of new players.

"It was noted that players who get to the Career Agents in the tutorial have vastly increased conversion rates. CSM was very positive about Career Agents and wants the NPE to do a better job of guiding players to them; presently they are hidden away in the Neocom. In the future, Career Agents might be physically met by players in Establishments in Incarna, to allow new players to bump into each other and make friends at the location. The CSM thought this was cool." (p. 33)
EVE Art - After reading this, I now know why the art team is seen as a bottleneck.  Here is the timing to upgrade each ship in Eve to modern standards like the Maller or Scorpion.
"The CSM inquired about the ‘V3’ process, which is required to upgrade each ship to the new graphics system. It would take an entire release to do all of the ships; each individual ship takes 2-3 weeks of work to bring up to V3. The conversion process allows CCP to improve the aesthetics. It will take years to update each ship not merely to V3, but to modern aesthetic standards, like those on the new Scorpion and Maller. This requires further clarification: Moving a single ship over to the V3 shaders, with minimal texture work takes 2-3 days per ship. V3 with extensive fixing and texture rework takes 2-3 weeks per ship. Full renovation, which is to say brand new model and textures takes 5-7 weeks. The current V3 project would be the first option. Reason: 185 unique models, with their associated textures, which are then used to produce the over 300 ship variations in game." (p. 35)
The discussion (pp. 35-37) was fascinating to me and I didn't even notice my glass was empty.  Then I saw the next topic and figured I needed a refill.

Meeting with Hilmar - Given the events of the past month or so, I thought this section was short but informative.
"...When questioned about the CCP business model, Hilmar presented a view of Eve not only as a game but also a hobby – a hobby that doesn’t necessitate further investment but allows that means to exist.

"The jovial camaraderie between the CSM and the CCP staff seemed to relieve Hilmar, resulting in a roundtable discussion about spaceships. The primary focus was Incarna and micro- transactions, where Hilmar reassured the CSM that their continued feedback was valuable." (p. 38)
Some of the rage last month might have been averted if CCP had remembered this statement.  Judging from the reactions of the CSM, our player representatives did.

EVE Economics - I am going to take the opportunity to state that I was correct about CCP regarding Incarna as a major expansion that will draw in a lot of new players and increase accounts.  I now have proof.
"...It was noted that Tyrannis was, in CCP's eyes, a failed expansion in terms of expansion of the player base. There was a small bump in accounts which quickly leveled off. The pattern more recently has been steady growth, and the usually post-expansion "hangover" has been greatly delayed. They are also seeing the start of the expected jump in subscribers because of the upcoming Incarna expansion. The CSM felt that CCP’s subscription forecast was achievable. CCP Zulu believes that there is a lot of pent up demand for Incarna which will result in higher than normal post-expansion subscriber growth." [emphasis mine] (p. 40)
Another area I have received criticism for is looking at the PLEX market and expecting to see changes in the market too soon after the launch of the Noble Exchange.  If I read this right, CCP doesn't expect as big of an impact as the CSM does.
"There was a lot of discussion about Aurum's influence on the PLEX market as well as how previous programs that used PLEXes (such as PLEX for character transfer) influenced the PLEX market. CSM pointed out that those programs were much more limited consumers of PLEX than Aurum." (p. 40)
Ship Balancing - The final section!  I'm not all that concerned with ship balance, but then again, I'm a carebear.  If I become a more serious industrial carebear, then I should be concerned as ship balance will determine what is popular and what is not on the market.  The long and the short of it is that balancing ships in Eve Online is as difficult as balancing classes in MMOs like World of Warcraft and Rift.  The fact that CCP Tallest actually wants to do the task might say something about his sanity.  Either that or the ship balance dev gets to drink at his desk.  Given CCP's reputation, that is not out of the realm of possibility.

That concludes this look at the May 2011 CSM Summit.  If you made it this far without the fortification of distilled spirits, I salute you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Drunk Blogging The May CSM Summit Minutes, Part I

The minutes for the CSM Summit held in Iceland in May are finally out.  I guess I should be fair and point out that the minutes were released withing two months of the end of the summit, but I can't help but wonder if the events surrounding Monoclegate would have changed if the minutes had been released before Incarna's launch.

As usual, I'm having a hard time finding time for my Eve Online activities, so I am going to drunk blog the CSM minutes as I read them.  Drunk blogging is a time-honored tradition among political bloggers when covering live events they might find distasteful.  While the minutes are weeks old, I have the feeling I might find things I don't like, so the principle is the same.  So armed with a glass of rakia, I'm going to go where no sober blogger should go.

The start isn't very promising.  Honestly, I decided to do the drunken blogging thing before reading this.

"The CSM wanted it noted that the meeting, being the first meeting of the summit and conducted at 9am, was not off to a late start because of late arriving CSM members. It is however recognized that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and thus this tiny, rocky start, was forgiven." (p. 1)
Team BFF & the Little Things.  Everyone loved CCP Soundwave until the Fearless newsletter was leaked, and his role in leading Team BFF was one of the reasons why.  The May Summit revealed that Team BFF's list of things to do has dropped from over 300 items to around 180.  One thing I learned is that there is a null sec revamp planned for this winter and all of the null sec items on Team BFF's list have been moved to a special list for being worked on.  CCP Soundwave would like CSM to give him a top 10 list of issues to work on and the CSM would like to make that top 10 list an on-going institution.

Did I mention that while rakia is supposedly odorless, the fumes alone will get you tipsy?  Back to reading the blog.

Oh, and we learn that anything in Eve can be explained by Jovians or nanobots.

Eve Flying in Space.  Okay, here's something for all you hard core null sec types.
"The presentation began with Team BFF representatives Soundwave and Greyscale introducing the plan for the execution of the Winter expansion. The plan involved releasing not just one large expansion on Christmas, but instead several moderately-sized expansions leading up to the main Winter expansion. The main theme of this Winter expansion, at least with regards to FiS, would be iterations on 0.0 space. Specifically: null-sec sovereignty related features, supercap proliferation and the rule of super-capitals, and various other 'Team BFF' tweaks." (p. 4)
I was more interested in the stuff associated with Walking in Stations than with Flying in Space, so this is for me.
"Soundwave then spoke briefly about the non-FiS aspects of the Winter expansion and how they would relate to walking in stations. Establishments, the progression of Captains Quarters introduced with Incarna 1.0, would also deal with smuggling contraband and boosters.

"Soundwave and Greyscale reviewed the current game mechanic wherein NPC customs officers are responsible for confiscating contraband. The change that they envision would see this enforcement fall into the laps of players. A vague mechanic was discussed with the CSM about how the players would scan and enforce “the law”. The CSM response was positive, emphasizing that corruption and bribery amongst player-enforcers should be a viable mechanic. CCP agreed." (p. 4)
Oh, and for those who were worried that a CSM dominated by the big null sec alliances would focus on null sec issues at the expense of other areas of the game, you don't have to worry anymore.  It's true.
"CCP then brought up Supercaps, and the CSM were basically on the same page. Supercarrier changes were discussed, with everyone agreeing that a fighter- or bomber-only drone bay would be a welcomed change. The CSM agreed that Titans in their current state are fairly balanced, and that the focus should be placed on the Supercarrier. Soundwave and Greyscale noted that the coding involved in such a change would represent a large portion of resources that could otherwise be used for several smaller changes. Given the importance of SCs, the CSM suggested that it was well worth the resources to focus on this one thing and it seemed as though CCP agreed." (p. 5) [emphasis mine]
Of course, I don't know what the changes that won't be made are, but as long as the smuggling works right, I really won't care.

Eve Future.
  This started sleepy.  Yada yada yada, ENGINE TRAILS!  Yada, yada, yada CHANGES TO LOCAL!  What?!  Pay attention to this part.
"Conversation then took a bit of a tangent, and Arnar mentioned that local as we know it is going to change in a Winter expansion. The CSM was taken aback by this and let fly a torrent of questions about this new “no local”. Local, as it was explained, had to change because of changes to EVE’s infrastructure needed for future Incarna development. However, it would be replaced by a new, yet-to-be-designed intelligence gathering tool. Local would not simply just “turn off” and turn into delayed mode, such as in wormhole space. It is worth a repeat – local will NOT be simply turned off and/or turned into delayed mode. Arnar and Torfi both emphasized the importance of not feeling alone in space; they reasoned that the game has fifty thousand players and that it shouldn’t feel as though you’re alone. The CSM will be kept in the loop regarding this design when more is known." (p. 7)
Local is changing because of Incarna/Walking in Stations.  People are going to flip over that!  And with that news I need a refill.

The Eve/DUST Link.  The big thing for me is that DUST players will not be destroying my planetary interaction installations.
"The linkage between EVE and DUST could end up being stronger than most people anticipate; DUST players will be members of EVE corporations, and there will be new planetary surface command centers (distinct from PI) that players can build and destroy. These installations will produce some as-yet-undetermined materials that will feed into the EVE economy.

"DUST will have multiple game-modes, so that DUST players do not have to depend on EVE players in order to fight, gather resources, build their weapons, etc."  (p. 9)
Eve Marketing.  Now for something to explain why The Mittani sounded smart during the press conferences following the emergency CSM Summit.
"CCP is introducing Aurum and vanity virtual goods to reduce EVE's reliance on the subscription business model. The intent is to expand the business model, not replace subscription income with virtual goods income; the objective is primarily risk mitigation as opposed to increasing income.

"The games industry is currently moving heavily towards microtransaction models, and the risk that the subscription model that EVE depends on will become obsolete is of great concern. Thus, having experience with microtransactions and having the infrastructure in place to move to them should that become necessary is important. That said, CCP does not have any immediate plans to move away from subscriptions as their primary source of income." (p. 10)
Okay everyone, as much as I've been amazed reading the minutes up til now, here is a shock.
"Regarding the power of virtual goods, CCP Zinfandel revealed that he not only plays World of Warcraft (shock!) but that he paid a substantial amount of money on eBay for a Spectral Tiger mount (horror!). He was immediately mocked by the entire CSM." (p. 10)
As well he should!  I really need to go back to Darrin Love's (late of Shut Up, We're Talking and Common Sense Gamer, currently of Catholic Gamer) position on the $10 dollar mount.  Hmmm ... my glass is empty and I'm out of rakia.  Time to switch to Jack & Coke.  I do need to go into work in the morning.

"However, Zinfandel made the point that some people treat MMO's like a videogame, and some people treat them like a hobby. Hobbyists both desire and look for ways to invest in their hobby, and virtual goods are a way to satisfy this desire.

"'I get a great deal of pleasure every time I pull it out,' said Zinfandel about his large sparkling pussycat. He pointed out that buying it increased his identification with the game." (p. 10)
So if Zinfandel understands the whole buying things increases indentification with the game, why couldn't CCP provide clothes in the NeX that were priced decently?  But I'm not bitter.  Really.

Here is an interesting tidbit.
"The first ship-related virtual good will be the Ishukone Watch Scorpion. As with other virtual goods, this will be a unique item; the cost will be some amount of Aurum plus a regular Scorpion. However, this will not be available in the immediate future." (p. 11)
I don't remember if the CSM summit occurred before or after CCP was going to sell the Ishukone Watch Scorpion without paying a Scorpion to get.  I think it was after.  Thankfully, this item was pulled before Incarna launched.

Quality Assurance.  CCP has started outsourcing some of its QA functions.  I'm in a business where some QA functions are outsourced to a third party.  In my experience, when the shift occurs, things slip through the cracks and quality suffers. These are called growing pains. The third party does get better over time.  Having good management is key to making the switch as painless and seamless as possible.  When done correctly, the effect is just like expanding staff internally by hiring new employees.  In other words, quality doesn't drop very much and the drop in quality doesn't last very long.  I just hope that CCP is doing this move right.

In an unrelated note, I'm finding that Jack Daniels is no longer my favorite adult beverage.  Now I need to find a source for rakia.  On the plus side, the Chicago area has the largest Bulgarian community in the United States, so I should be able to find more rakia.

Game Mastering – Policies, Petitions and Large Fleet Lag.
  Since I never go to null sec and participate in the large fleet fights, this didn't interest me, even fortified as I am.  For those interested, the discussion occurs on pages 15-16.

EVE Security Task Force.  As anyone who has followed The Nosy Gamer over the last few months knows, I'm really interested in this topic.  And I wasn't disappointed.  This is confirmation of some of the things speculated about on the botting forums.
"Detection methodologies include (but are not limited to): behavioral (looking for activity over time that a human simply cannot perform), signatures (patterns of activity associated with particular bots) and technical detection in the client." [emphasis mine] (p. 17)
The minutes suggest this, but the "operation targeting a particular bot and the website that supported it achieved significant results" was RoidRipper.  Because of the success against RoidRipper, more resources will be allocated to do repeat this success.  And here is something that botters will REALLY hate.
"In addition, more resources will be devoted to protecting the client. As part of this, ESTF is considering disallowing the use of virtual machines with the EVE client as metrics indicate there are very few players using virtual machines for legitimate purposes." (p. 17)
Read it and weep botters!  But wait, that's not all.
"Another new program will encourage players to report botting programs, RMT, and exploits. The current name for this program is "PLEX for Snitches", and it has been running informally for a while; there are plans to make it formal. The goal of this program is to encourage responsible reporting of security issues." (p. 18)
Forget the satifaction of getting a kill mail.  Now you get money.  Report 4 botters and you could get a monocle!

Just from reading this part of the minutes, I need to write a separate blog entry just about this section on the War on Bots™.  But after reading 19 pages of the minutes, I really need to do my planetary interaction work and then get some sleep.  I will continue this tomorrow Monday with some more alcohol fueled analysis.  Because quite frankly, I don't think I would have gotten this far without it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Summertime Blues

Last night something happened that hasn't happened in awhile.  I wasn't excited to either play or write about Eve.  I needed to visit some of the systems while doing my planetary interaction work and so got to fly both the Probe and the Prowler and felt, meh.  Then I finished up the session by flying to a station and finding out my invention efforts had produced two 2-run Vagabond blueprint copies.  I was excited for a little bit, but not enough to run any missions afterward.

I'm not going to blame the whole situation that occurred with CCP's launch of Incarna.  I made my peace with that while Monoclegate was going on.  Eve is a sandbox and just because CCP changes the rules it won't affect the way I approach the game.

Nope, I'm blaming real life.  Again.  Some things are happening that have lead to some long days, which isn't so bad but this time it has led to earlier starts of the work day.  Less sleep means less excitement when I do get some time to play because I just want to get some sleep.  That's what happened last night.

I'll probably write a little bit about what is happening in the upcoming weeks because I think I can get a couple of gaming related posts out of them.  Hey, I accept most types of inspiration for posts.  In fact, writing a post about basically nothing just gave me an idea for a post.  So tune in tomorrow for something more interesting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another Look At The Probe

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I actually find time to play Eve Online.  But I do.  Sometimes I even get a chance to think about more than scandals like Monoclegate.  Over the past week I took another look at one of the ships players receive doing the tutorial missions: the Probe.

For new players, I think the Probe is a wonderful ship.  A Minmatar frigate with nice scanning bonuses useful for ninja salvaging, the ship's cargo capacity leads some to prefer the Probe over the Burst despite the lack of mining bonuses.  For me, that cargo capacity makes the Probe an attractive ship for my main combat character Rosewalker, a nearly two-year old character.

Part of the problem I have is that I have no room in Rosewalker's skill queue to fit the skills to fly a Prowler.  I really love the Prowler and I've spent hours with Wandering Rose flying around doing courier missions or darting in and out of low sec picking up or dropping off blueprints or blueprint copies.  While Rosewalker can fly a Cheetah, the covert ops frigate only has a 200 m3 cargo hold and I'm not going to do anything disgraceful like fit expanded cargoholds in it.

Occasionally I need to make some cargo runs that Wandering Rose can't make, mainly to pick up datacores.  I've found that the Probe is a real good ship for making those high-sec runs, especially when I neglect to pick up the datacores for a couple of months.  Oops!

Here is what I fit for the outgoing trip when I'm not carrying any cargo.
[Probe, Probe - Cargo]
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Inertia Stabilizers II

Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters
Small Shield Extender II

Salvager I
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I
Small Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints I
With my current skill level (I am just 21 days away from completing my Elite Core Competency certificate), my align time with this fitting is 2.5 seconds with a maximum warp speed of 7.2 au/second.  Mimatar Frigate V gives me a cargo capacity of 400 m3 without cargo expanders.  I carry 2 Expanded Cargohold IIs with me, which boosts my cargo capacity to 650 m3 at the cost of increasing my align time to 3.2 seconds, which is still pretty good.  I put the shield extender on just as a buffer in case someone tries to take a potshot at me.  It probably wouldn't help, but you never know.  And the reason for using an afterburner instead of a microwarpdrive is the increased warp range.  Hey, every AU counts.

I'm sure someone will find something wrong with this fitting.  But that's okay.  I just want a frigate for some quick cargo runs and this setting does the job, with a couple of additions just in case I run into something interesting.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Look At The PLEX Market After Incarna's Launch

I think players in Eve Online generally agree that the launch of the Noble Exchange (NeX) was, to put it kindly, less than optimal.  One of the objectives of the Noble Exchange was to reduce the amount of unused PLEX in New Eden by offering items that players would want to buy for the new Aurum currency that is only obtained by breaking down PLEX.  So I thought I'd looks at the PLEX market again almost 3 weeks after the launch of Incarna.

Just as a reminder, at the end of May the price of PLEX hit 410 million ISK in Jita and around 400 million in the other major trade hubs of Amarr, Rens and Dodixie, apparently due to an influx of players chasing too few available PLEX.  Once the spike of players dropped, the price of PLEX dropped down to the 370 million to 390 million range, depending on the market region.

The market saw a speculative bubble occur on launch day (21 June) and then a steady decline until Saturday (26 June) during which time the leaks of both the Fearless newsletter and the leak of the Hilmar internal email occurred.  The PLEX price stabilized and then rose a bit (at least in Jita) following the announcement of CCP calling the CSM to Iceland for an emergency summit.

The price of PLEX actually fell again on 1 July after a joint statement from CCP and CSM failed to materialize.  Did the uncertainty in the future of Eve cause the drop?  I don't know, but after the joint communique and video blog appeared on 2 July the prices stabilized.  On 9 July, prices again began to fade after CCP issued a dev blog on 8 July explaining the pricing strategy of the Noble Exchange.  I am guessing the market was as impressed as I was at the marketing strategy.

Is a lack of demand causing the price drop?  A look at the numbers shows that demand has not decreased.

The 7-day rolling average of the number of PLEX sold each day in New Eden's four major trade hub regions shows that while the sales have dropped almost 6% since 1 June (3405 to 3203), that number is not really indicative of the direction of the market since that figure includes the bubble that occurred at the end of May that coincided with holidays in both the U.S. and U.K.  A better indicator of the effect of Incarna is looking at the number on 20 June, the day before Incarna launched.  Even with the events called Monoclegate leading to players leaving Eve, the number on 9 July is still up slightly over the day before launch (3184 vs 3203).

So if demand is constant, why the drop in prices?  Supply.  I started taking snapshots of the PLEX market in the four major trade hub regions every Sunday and found that the supply of PLEX for sale had risen by 29.5% from the Sunday before Incarna launched to yesterday.

While I don't have the ability to look at the numbers throughout all the regions, CCP can.  I believe this growth rate in the PLEX supply is the reason that the PLEX reward for the Buddy Program was discontinued on 7 July.  After all of the talk about the need for improved communication, I am a bit surprised at the language in the announcement.
"The PLEX reward option for the Buddy Program will be going on temporary hiatus as of July 7, 2011. This means no new PLEX based invites can be sent after that date. This is a planned part of the experiment to measure the effects of the program on the PLEX market and to find new ways in which we can evolve the Buddy Program for our players. The program looks to be very successful initially and will likely return within a few months.

"Players can still send Buddy invites normally after July 7, but the only reward option will be 30 days of game time; as before."
Perhaps CCP Fallout was referring to the increase in numbers that I keep referring to that occurred at the end of May.  In that case, yes, the program succeeded.  But at a time when CCP is attempting to remove PLEX from the economy, a program that adds them does not help matters.  Maybe the program will return if the Noble Exchange gets its footing and starts attracting all the PLEX hanging around New Eden.  However, with the current pricing structure where even a mid-tier outfit costs about what I normally where to work each day, I really don't see that happening.

Looking back at my last article on the PLEX market, I think I'll forgo making any predictions.  Here is what I posted back on 20 June.
"I really have the feeling we are about to see the price of PLEX rise even higher in the near term future.  But time will tell.  That's what makes Eve fun.  You never really know what to expect next."
Given the contents of this post, I think I'll chalk that up as one prediction that didn't come true.

Friday, July 8, 2011

CCP Partners With Nexon and SOE's Community Address

I wrote on Monday that the story published by Eve News about Sony Online Entertainment buying a major interest in CCP Games would finally be put to rest on Thursday. I'm glad I'm able to report some good news.

First, CCP announced that the company it was going to partner with was Nexon, not SOE. Here are the details from the press release.

CCP and Nexon Announce Strategic Partnership for EVE Online in Japan

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND and TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 7, 2011– CCP and Nexon Co., Ltd. today announced an agreement to bring a fully localized game client and product services for CCP’s award winning science fiction virtual world experience, EVE Online, to Japan this fall.

Continuing with CCP’s international growth plans, the company has targeted one of the largest online games markets to expand the EVE property. “Japanese players have always been an essential part of the EVE Online community,” said CCP CEO, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. “Having considered Nexon’s excellent reputation as Asia’s leading game developer and publisher, they were the obvious choice in who the best possible partner would be to help us make the game more accessible to our growing fan base in Japan.” With the release of EVE Online on PC later this year, and CCP’s upcoming persistent shooter, DUST 514 on PlayStation 3 the following year, Japanese players will have localized access to the complete EVE universe ecosystem.

Localized services for Japanese players will enable them to access the game in their native language through the Tranquility server, which currently plays host to over 350,000 subscribers from around the world in three languages: English, German and Russian.

“We are pleased to have this opportunity to be a part of CCP’s ongoing plans to provide premium services to their subscribers,” said Seung-Woo Choi, Nexon Co., Ltd. “Our shared commitment to quality and excellence is the ultimate cornerstone from which to build an even greater gaming experience for Japanese video game enthusiasts.”
While CCP will continue to develop and manage the game, EVE Online will be added to the ever-expanding portfolio of titles available through Nexon’s portal site, utilizing Nexon’s billing system and supported by the company’s expertise in the areas of regional marketing and promotion.

While some may not like CCP associating with a F2P company like Nexon, the fact that the Icelandic company is looking to open up new markets as a source of revenue bolsters The Mittani's analysis of the Noble Exchange.
"My impression is that CCP is primarily doing the microtransactions in EVE not as a revenue-creation metric at all. Many other MMOs are doing microtransactions in one way or another and I think that CCP is doing it not to make money but just to learn and acquire the capacity to do it such that they aren't left in the dust as the industry changes. As you all know, the industry is shifting in toward microtransaction or hybrid models, and that's just the way it is. I don't think CCP are about to start trying to take the player's money and have that be a primary source of revenue for EVE. "
Speaking of companies that are trying to take the player's money as a significant revenue source, that brings us to last night's SOE Community Address given by SOE CEO John Smedley. The highlight was the introduction of Planetside 2. Planetside 2 promises to be direct competition for CCP's upcoming MMOFPS title DUST 514. The game engine for Planetside 2 that Eve News insinuated was Carbon is instead a new engine developed by SOE called Forge Light. Not only will Forge Light power Planetside 2 but the new EverQuest Next project as well.

SOE is touting Planetside 2 as a sandbox game, which places it in direct competition with CCP. In fact, one of the features of Planetside 2 will be a time-based skill system similar to Eve Online. The one fact I found weird is that SOE is introducing classes to the Planetside universe. I think classes works against one of the strengths of a skill point system: customization. I can do whatever I want in Eve depending on how I spend my skill points. A class system limits what a player can eventually do in the sandbox without rolling another character.

And since I did watch the entire hour-long presentation, I thought I'd mention the news about EverQuest 2, a game I played for over 3 years. I think that EQ2 is one of the games that players in Eve use as an example of how a cash shop would ruin a game. The new expansion, Age of Discovery, comes out in November 2011, returning to the November release schedule abandoned with the Sentinal's Fate expansion. While having no increase in the level cap, the expansion will introduce tradeskill apprentices and mercenaries as well as the ever popular Beastlord class from EverQuest. As a final item, players will be able to design their own dungeons.

It is always nice to bury a rumor like that pushed by Eve News. The fact that competition has emerged for DUST 514 makes writing a post like this a lot more satisfying. Honestly, if this post were just to pile on Eve News for engaging in journalistic malpractice, I would have spent too much time on this. But posting about real news gives me a happy feeling. And speaking of happy feelings, I'll leave you with the first trailer from Planetside 2 along with the DUST 514 trailer from E3 to look at and compare. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CCP Foot In Mouth Disease: PLEX For Neural Remaps A Possibility Again?

Apparently my statement yesterday in which I stated that CCP had not stuck their foot in their mouths again during the press conferences held Tuesday was a bit premature.  In my defense, I did say I was waiting for DJ Funky Bacon to post a podcast of the event on the Eve Radio website before feeling better about CCP learning to communicate better.  After listening to the podcast, I'm glad I put in the qualifier.

According to the crew of the Funky Bacon show, when asked about what a "game breaking item" was, Eve Online's Senior Producer Arnar Gylfason (aka CCP Zulu) could not define what a game breaking item was.  To be fair to CCP Zulu, I'll post his answer from Brendan Drain's coverage of the press conference over at
"That's actually a very interesting question. For the second half of that question, I want to take the example of PLEX. PLEX is something that you can take out of context and say it's a way for you to buy ISK with money. People buy PLEX for money, sell them on the market and get ISK out of it. If you were to put it up like that, I imagine most people unfamiliar with the subject would say  'This is game breaking! ' and that it's definitely 'buying win.' However, it's important to note that there is arbitrage through the player economy and this is done through the player market. There is no magical ISK spawned when it is bought, and you are not buying ISK directly from CCP.

"When you go through that thought process and when you see the level of public acceptance that PLEX has today, I think there's a lot of those things to be mindful of. Yes, you're absolutely right, we can't really go against the player-driven market or the player-driven socio-economic state of EVE. In terms of what is game breaking, I don't think I can answer that in an hour long interview, not to the extent that it really deserves. But it's important to see the CSM for what it is here, as we were able to have that conversation over the period of two days. [We discussed] what is acceptable, what isn't acceptable, what are the gray areas, what will we never do, and what will we possibly do at some time."
But the grey area in the micro-transactions, at least according to the Funky Bacon podcast, was in the area of account services.  According to the crew, and they all agreed, CCP Zulu stated that selling neural remaps made sense to do.  Other items that may also emerge on the NeX are purchasing enhanced skill time (similar to EQ2's bonus experience point potions) and double-training time (being able to train two characters on the same account at the same time).  I should note that The Mittani brought up the double-training time idea, not CCP Zulu (minutes 8 to 10 of the podcast).

Open mouth, insert foot.  Again.  For those who might need a history lesson (like CCP Zulu), the neural remap for PLEX issue was basically the opening salvo in the player uprising over micro-transactions in Eve.  The outcry against the idea forced CCP to pull the feature off of the Singularity test server before it was ever deployed live and required CCP Zulu to post a dev blog about the retraction of the feature in November.  Here is the meat of the dev blog:
"First, we've decided to shelve all the changes to neural remaps we had planned. We now have no plans to change things from the way they are currently on Tranquility. No PLEX for remaps, no ISK for remaps, nothing. All code has been reverted, no new code has been written. Nothing will change.

"Second, we wanted to explain our thinking a little more. It‘s always been the intent of CCP to continue diversifying EVE Online's business model and we‘ve been looking at various options to do so. This started with the introduction of PLEX, which was an innovative way for players to exchange in-game assets for subscription on a fully player driven marketplace. Since we introduced the PLEX item we've monitored its trading, price and velocity closely. It's now time for us to take the next evolutionary step.

"It‘s clear that it‘s the will of the community to keep virtual goods sales outside the spectrum of what we classify as the 'merit economy. ' That refers to skills gained over time or items that have a gameplay impact. So after discussions, designs, brainstorming and all sorts of processes we‘ve come up with a strategy that we‘ve already polished with the help of the CSM and would now want to present to the larger community.
"Virtual goods sales in EVE Online will evolve through sales of vanity items, first in Incarna but later in-space features. The scope will be (and there‘s no design has been done around this, we‘re just talking strategy now) that anything that doesn‘t affect gameplay directly can be, potentially, sold for PLEX or other means. Ideas that have come up include Incarna clothing and furniture, logos on spaceships and swapping out portraits. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it a commitment that said items will be available for sale, I mention these as an example for what type of items we‘re thinking about."

The words written above are what made the leak of the Fearless "Greed Is Good?" newsletter so damaging.  While I think CCP Soundwave has gotten a bad rap for his part in the "virtual goods sales argument on monetization versus design integrity," the fact that the debate was still occurring after CCP Zulu seemingly posted that the decision had already been made helped send players off the deep end.  The Scott Holden article I think really contradicted CCP Zulu's public statement and helped light the bonfires.

But things were about to recover.  The CSM went to Iceland and scolded CCP for being terrible at communications.  The Mittani continued on the theme throughout the press conference and I encourage you to read the transcript of the press conference with the gaming press.  All was sort of okay in the world, which was a huge improvement on last week.  And then CCP Zulu has to bring up neural remaps again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Now Preparing For The SOE Community Address

No news is good news, I hope.  Yesterday CCP held press conferences covering "Monoclegate" and the player unrest that accompanied the launch of Incarna and the Noble Exchange.  As of the time I write this, I haven't read any blistering pieces from the gaming press, although I'm waiting for the podcast DJ FunkyBacon said he was recording last night to be posted to the Eve Radio site before feeling confident that CCP surpassed expectations and avoided putting their feet in their mouths again.  Perhaps the biggest indicator that all is getting better is that New Eden's tabloid press of Eve News 24 and Eve News are silent on the subject.  I'll be waiting to hear what Eve Tribune has to say on the subject.

That just leaves the upcoming news from Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming Fan Faire.  I really, really want to bury the rumors of SOE purchasing a major stake in CCP and silence from SOE CEO John Smedley (aka "Smed") would do the trick.

Why am I so anxious about this despite the official CCP denial?  For that, please read's Karen Bryan's article on how SOE introduced RMT to EverQuest 2, my home before moving on to Eve Online.  I lived through a lot of that and I really don't want to see that happen to Eve.  I have no problem with vanity items, but some of the other items?  I don't like it.  I left the game before SOE started selling mounts in the cash shop, but some of the recent changes are just strange.

Since I plan on watching the Community Address on, I figured I'd look around for some information.  First, 2 hours?  Really?  I agree with Feldon on EQ2 Wire that with everything going on how is the Community Address going to last 2 hours?  I'm starting to get a little nervous. 

But what about substance?  The Ancient Gaming Noob pointed out that Planetside Next will likely be announced.  Hmmm.  I guess with DUST 514 being a MMOFPS console shooter that there is room for a MMOFPS PC shooter.  Karen Bryan speculates on the future on the EverQuest franchise, including EverQuest Next and a 25th class for EQ2.  And over the weekend SOE announced the introduction of a cash shop into DC Universe.

If I were still playing SOE games, I would really be interested in watching the Community Address.  Okay, call me paranoid, but I'm interested in what is going to happen in Las Vegas Thursday.  I've registered for getting the feed and hopefully will find nothing concerning Eve Online.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Look At Peak Concurrent Users After The Incarna Launch

The last two weeks have been a tumultuous time in Eve Online.  With CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson telling his company "... I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say," disgruntled Eve players took him at his word and stopped playing Eve and searched for other games.  We can assume that things were bad enough that CCP flew the Council of Stellar Management to Iceland for emergency talks.  But how bad are things really?  The CSM can't tell us because they are under an NDA.  But we do have some open source information courtesy of Chribba's fine web site Eve-Offline.  Eve Offline is a source for concurrent users on the Eve Online servers and by parsing some of the source code on the web page I can obtain the daily peak concurrent usage on the Tranquility server.

The first thing I took a look at was the overall trend of peak concurrent usage from 4 weeks before the deployment of Incarna to Monday, 4 July.

Overall, the 7-day rolling average of the daily peak concurrent users is pretty flat over the last 6 weeks, which is a bad sign considering that Incarna is a major expansion/patch.  I would wager that CCP is very disappointed at this stage of the expansion.  If I were CCP, I would have expected a 5-10% growth in activity as players flock to see all the new stuff.  Instead, the rolling 7-day average is actually down by almost 1,000 players from 6 weeks previous.

To get a better reference for what the numbers meant, I took the average PCU for each day for the proceeding 4 weeks before the launch of Incarna and compared that baseline vs. the actual daily PCU after launch day (21 June).

As expected, the PCU was between 5-10% greater on the Wednesday thru Saturday after launch compared to the average for those same days for the previous 4 weeks.  But then the hardware problems, bugs and overall player rage started to take effect.  For the next three days the PCU numbers fell back to just matching the baseline numbers and then during the rest of the second week the PCU either matched or fell below the baseline averages.  When an expansion only produces a one week bump in numbers, that is bad news for an MMO.

Looking at the Sunday PCU numbers gives a better perspective on just how big a hit CCP took with the launch of Incarna.  Sundays are historically the busiest days on Tranquility and the numbers shocked me.

Even after the emergency summit meeting with the CSM the level of activity on Sundays is going down at the same speed as before.  On 19 June, the Sunday before the deployment of Incarna, Tranquility saw a PCU of 53,626.  Two weeks later, that number had declined down to 48,888.  This 8.8% decline in activity was exceeded by the 13.8% decline back in April during the height of CCP's War on Bots™.  The only problem for CCP is that we don't know if the decline will continue or if the emergency summit plus this week's press conferences will stem the tide.

Anyway you look at these numbers, the situation is bad for CCP.  Having less players after an expansion than before it is never good.  A lot of players are concerned about the company's finances and I would wager that CCP expected to pull in a significant amount of money through increased subscription numbers.  The fact that the numbers are flat or declining does not bode well for CCP staying on schedule for all of its plans.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Almost Over

The joint communique from CCP and the Council of Stellar Management just about ends open hostilities between the game company and the player base.  Like them or not, the CSM did help to diffuse the situation in Eve Online in which players responded angrily at everything from melting graphics cards to the possibility of the introduction of non-vanity items to signs of disrespect from the highest levels of CCP.

I still see two items of business still outstanding before we can declare that only a "cold war" exists between players and CCP.  The first occurs Tuesday when CCP will hold unprecedented news conferences, one with Eve Online fan sites and a second session with the general gaming press.  Eve Radio's DJ Funky Bacon is one of those invited and he stated on his Friday show that he will try to upload a podcast on the situation on the Eve Radio website before his normal Friday night show next week.  As we have seen since the deployment of Incarna on 21 June, CCP has mastered the art of sticking both feet in their mouths and so the possibility exists of a blunder that reignites the blaze.

The second involves the stories published by Eve News stating that Sony Online Entertainment is purchasing a significant stake in CCP.  Personally, I believe that the higher-ups at CCP would have needed to have lost their minds to get into such a relationship.  However, two weeks ago I would have said the same thing about talk of $70 monocles and $1000 pairs of pants.  So I did a little research and I can see the logic of it, especially since CCP does not have to sell the stock.  Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, who owns over 30% of the game company, owes billions of dollars to creditors due to his role in the Icelandic banking collapse in 2008.  Would he sell part or all of that interest to SOE if the price was right?

For those who do not believe CCP's denial of the rumor, they will receive an answer to this question Thursday night and the answer statement will not come from Iceland.  SOE's Fan Faire begins 7 July and SOE CEO John Smedley will deliver the annual Community Address at 7pm in Las Vegas (or 1am on 8 July GMT/New Eden time).  In an interview with about the closing of Star Wars: Galaxies, Smedley teased that, "We're super excited about the future of sandbox gaming. Let me just leave it at that!"  If SOE is going to release any news about any connection with Eve Online, the Community Address is where Smedley would make the announcement.  No announcement and we can bury the story once and for all.

The fallout from the events of the past two weeks will be felt for months to come.  But the crisis is just about over barring any unforeseen missteps over the next week.  While the increased traffic was nice, I just want things to get back to normal.  Although in Eve Online, is anything ever "normal"?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Mittani's Tweets On The Emergency Sumit, Future Of MT

Breaking news: The Mittani tweeted around 7:00 AM GMT that   "I am confident about non-vanity MT not happening. CCP has to go to apology school but that's sorted now. "

Breaking news 2:  The Mittani's after action report on the summit is now available on Failheap. (1:35 PM GMT)

"Basically I think we won the war, but there's going to be people who will be unsatisfied no matter what. At the point that I think the game is fucked I'd quit and suggest Goonswarm do the same; I don't gain anything by playing or trying to force my people to play a game I think is fucked/a waste of time/etc. " 

Breaking news 3:  The joint communique is now available (2:20 PM GMT)

Last night's Funky Bacon show was a bit disappointing.  He rounded up Council of Stellar Management members Seleene and Vile Rat as well as beat reporter Brendan Drain to discuss the joint CCP/CSM statement that emerged from the emergency CSM summit held of the past two days.  The only problem is that the statement was not released, so the CSM members were limited in what they could talk about due to the NDA over the proceedings.  So I decided to go on Twitter and look for some news.  And he let loose the biggest news of all; he believes that microtransactions in Eve Online will be limited to vanity items.  We will have to await the formal communique for confirmation, but the big yellow question appears to be answered.

I wish I could find a better way of linking tweets, because while Trebor's posts were informative, he has also been blogging about the experience as well.  No such output from The Mittani is expected until his next Ten Ton Hammer article.  So here is a listing of his posts and who he replied to.  I'll color his posts in blue to make it easier to read.

Warning: The Mittani is his usual restrained, cultured self.  Strong language follows.  However, this is not as bad as what we've read about some American politicians tweeting recently.

The Mittani: anyway the whole mess is pretty much sorted out and i said some v. mean things which will be public soon, but you can calm down p much

Litefire01: Sometimes the truth hurts, and in order to make a point it has to sound and be kind of mean.

The Mittani: arnar's a bro but sometimes you got to say harsh things to get shit sorted. i think shit's sorted. babbys will not. w/e, fuck'em

The Mittani: but seriously if i have to come back to this country before december as planned i'm going to be fucking furious, holy mother of god

John4767: Is Iceland THAT bad?

The Mittani: iceland's great when you don't spend a week there like clockwork for three fucking months in a row. march, may, june, argggh

MaladyJ: Holy shit did you really just put in a 19 hour day of crap over internet spaceships? You deserve a big slice of whale.

The Mittani: my whale was overcooked, but yeah. wake up, do summit day, bust our asses. summit doesn't end when meetings end. vOv

Kirai_Severasse: If you are of CSM and worth a damn make sure they dont by pass their change to computer hardware minimum and howit fucked people

The Mittani: hardware requirements go up over time, shit happens duder, that's not the big problem in eve atm vOv

MajorStallion: are our fears about non-vanity MT going to be put to rest for good? Or will this blog be a subtle "its a go"?

The Mittani: I am confident about non-vanity MT not happening. CCP has to go to apology school but that's sorted now

VBechill: Time dilation is the lazy way. They should do it the right way, with threading, user experience should come first

The Mittani: you literally have no idea what the fuck you're talking about codewise and should kill yourself/pay homage to veritas/die

MailDeadDrop: I'm taking a page from Hilmar's playbook: I will look at what CCP does and less of what they say.

The Mittani: yeah you and me and fucking everyone else who plays the game, i completely agree

dalton_steven: not cool about being charged extra for any expansion content but grateful that you gave them harsh reality check

The Mittani: if you don't want any silly space barbie crap just don't buy any, 'charged extra' is hyperbole. idgaf about my barbie vOv

jeffrags: This tells me there much ado about nothing. Shouldn't've dragged you all there - thanks for all your work!

The Mittani: there was a lot ado about ccp having a series of terrible communications failures for which they were vehemently scolded at length

W_T_M: Thank you (from the rest of us) for going all the way over to Iceland, and stating our case to the people in charge of the game.

The Mittani: your welcome. now back to telling people to kill themselves and generally being a sadistic asshole, thank god.

The Mittani: ok gays christ there's a lot of you but i'm really going to sleep now just chill until the statements and video blog release peace out~

Friday, July 1, 2011

Posts I'd Like To Write Right Now

As day 2 of the emergency CSM summit in Reykjavík begins, I'm actually glad for the slight pause in the news from outside the virtual world of New Eden.  Don't misunderstand, what occurs up there will determine what happens to the future direction of Eve Online and I will continue to cover the story.  But I have other subjects I'd rather write about, if only because writing those stories would mean that New Eden was a happier place.

What is happening in CCP's War On Bots
?  I bet botters are shedding a lot of tears right now.  Why?  Because the increased load the new features are placing on systems have to be affecting the botters who are used to having 4-8 clients running on a computer.  If they cannot run their botting gangs, what is the use of having all of those botting accounts?  I really need to catch up on the botting forums about this.

Another subject I'd like to write about is T2 ship production.  I finally have combat ships rolling off the production lines.  That right, ships.  Over the past week I completed a Wolf, Hound, Stiletto and Rapier.  The process has stalled for a bit as real life has interfered with my game play even more than usual, but I do have the blueprint copies made to start researching Huginn and Vagabond blueprint copies. 

Before New Eden exploded, I was excited to find out about being able to purchase faction ships with tags.  I'm at the point with the Republic Parliament that running level 4 combat missions now makes sense.  Documenting the grind doesn't make for exciting reading, but writing about my nice shiny new Noctis would give me an excuse to post a picture.  I really love the look of the hull and making use of the Primae hull was a smart thing to do.  The Noctis is also an example of what players like about CCP.  They watched what their players did (salvage) and designed a ship to make our lives easier.  At the same time, they listened to other players who thought CCP was wasting art assets on a ship (the Primae) that was destined to be a hangar queen due to its out of production status.  Now if CCP would have paid a bit more attention to players about this whole cash shop thing.

The final thing I'd write about is about a frigate I've rediscovered, the Probe.  Now that I have a Cheetah I'll probably never use it for exploration, but since Rosewalker can't fly blockade runners, having a fast little cargo frigate like a Probe around is nice.  Now to find out if I can something faster than an industrial for those slightly larger loads I sometimes haul around when doing planetary interaction work.

Yes, writing about player vs. developer conflict is interesting and leads to lots of hits.  But life in New Eden does go on and I'd like to write about that too.