Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CCP's Next Upgrade for Tranquility?

CCP prides itself on having the most awesome hardware to run a game on.  The company even posts the specs for Tranquility, Eve Online's single shard, on the Evelopedia.  So you know that people's jaws hit the floor in Reykjavik when they heard the latest news from IBM:
"On Tues, Feb 28, the IBM team will present major advances in quantum computing device performance at the annual American Physical Society meeting. Using a variety of techniques in the IBM labs, scientists have established three new records for retaining the integrity of quantum mechanical properties in quantum bits, or qubits, and reducing errors in elementary computations.These breakthrough results are very close to the minimum requirements for a full-scale quantum computing system as determined by the world-wide research community."
While ComputerWorld has a piece on the breakthrough, I'm thinking about how the real world is moving closer to Eve's highly advanced computing power.  Well, and how soon CCP can manage to "field test" the new quantum servers.

(h/t Instapundit)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Digital Dozen: 28 February 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 February 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 53.5 76,671
22Star Wars: The Old Republic20.228,968
38Guild Wars3.65,091
43Eve Online 3.55,075
54Lord of the Rings Online3.14,385
76Star Trek Online3.04,280
87Metin 22.43,414
910APB: Reloaded2.13,065
109Need For Speed World2.02,858
1112Maple Story1.92,684
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 187,919

Another week, another decline in the total number of hours played in MMORPGs with a drop of 12.1% overall.  Of the top 12 games, only Guild Wars saw an increase in play among Xfire members as it jumped 5 spots to take the number 3 spot, edging out Eve OnlineEve almost bucked the trend, seeing a drop of only 0.6% in playtime.  The biggest drops in play were Need For Speed World (20.5%), Star Wars: The Old Republic (19.4%), Rift (17.6%), Metin 2 (17.5%) and World of Warcraft (16%).  Those 5 games accounted for 91% of the decline in MMO game play. - One reason I put this feature together is the lack of data on subscriptions in MMORPGs.  When things go well, game companies are always eager to tout the numbers.  When things go bad?  Well, the numbers start going away.  Even a company like CCP, known for its openness, stopped the publication last year of the Eve Online Quarterly Economic Newsletter that published subscription numbers every three months.

One of the main sources of information for subscription numbers is  Since December 2009 the site has attempted to track MMORPG popularity.'s definition is a bit different than the one I use.
  • The game should have the capability to support at least 500 concurrent users on a single shard.
  • The game must include a graphical common area where players can interact with one another inside of the persistent game world. This excludes lobby and chat room based interaction.
  • Combining point 1 and 2 : There must be a graphical common area where in theory 500 players can come together and interact with one another.
  • The game must make use of persistent characters or avatars. This means that you should be able to log in after logging out and find your character or avatar as advanced as you left them (or more).
  • The game must contain some form of advancement.
I believe this definition leaves out games like Guild Wars, this week's #3 game.

Right now has current data for 8 games.  Ranking the games gives a bit of perspective to the Xfire numbers.
  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Aion
  3. Star Wars: The Old Republic
  4. Runescape
  5. Eve Online
  6. Lord of the Rings Online
  7. Rift
  8. Perpetuum
Looking at the list, two games are not in the Digital Dozen.  Runescape, published by the U.K. company Jagex, is a free-to-play game not very popular with the Xfire crowd.  Perpetuum, the robot science-fiction game, tries to emulate Eve Online and publishing their numbers is one way to do so.  Aion is an interesting game when looking at the Xfire rankings.  Aion is a huge Korean game but the numbers for Xfire are mainly for western players.  Even then, Aion frequently makes the #3 or #4 slot in the rankings.  How Aion's upcoming switch to F2P in the West will affect the rankings is something to watch over the next few months.

One interesting item is the ranking of Rift.  The ranking for Rift was lowered to just below the numbers for Lord of the Rings Online and the accuracy of the numbers coming from Trion was lowered from grade B to grade C.  In the Xfire rankings Rift usually holds the bottom spot in the Digital Dozen while LotRO stays in the top half.  Looking back to January, LotRO seems to have at least 50% more playtime by Xfire players than Rift every Sunday.  Are fudging the numbers the sign of decline for a game?  If so, then watching MMOData is a good way to tell when that is happening.

Monday, February 27, 2012

AAA No More?

"I want to be a SOE customer, not a PSS1 customer. They are simply not the kind of company I would ever sign up with..."
No, this post is not about someone leaving the Eve Online alliance Against ALL Authorities, but a lot of players of Sony Online Entertainment games feel that is what they are fighting right now.  The story goes back in December when the ProSiebenSat.1 Group and Sony made a deal providing content to the German media group.
"Munich, December 15, 2011. The ProSiebenSat.1 Group and Sony Pictures Television Sales Deutschland GmbH have entered into a far-reaching output deal for the video-on-demand portal maxdome. The agreement covers recent blockbusters, as well as many top movies and TV series. This deal will expand the offering of Germany's biggest online video shop to a total of 45,000 titles, thereby extending maxdome's market leadership position.

"Recent blockbusters like "Bad Teacher," "Die Schlümpfe" and "Der Zoowärter," as well as a large selection of movies from Sony Pictures such as "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" and "Zombieland," are now available on maxdome. Top TV series like "Hawthorne," "Drop Dead Diva" and "Breaking Bad," as well as classics like the children's series "Die Schlümpfe," are also available on maxdome. Effective immediately, moreover, subscribers can access movies at least two months before they are broadcast on free TV."
Apparently SOE got caught up in the deal.  In an interview with TV Europe, ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Thomas Ebeling talked about the group's diversification plans:
"We have developed a so-called Four Pillar Growth Strategy. In addition to the broadcasting business in Germany, we will expand our international broadcasting operations, we will diversify our business into digital and adjacent businesses, like online ventures, online commerce platforms, online gaming, online dating platforms, music and live entertainment, and we will expand our production business Red Arrow Entertainment internationally." [Emphasis mine]
PSS1's online gaming company is Alaplaya, a company with apparently a shady history that has previously dealt exclusively with free-to-play games.  I took a brief look at the site and I can see why Herr Ebeling would like to see the stable of SOE games, including the upcoming Planetside 2, added to Alaplaya's offerings.


When the FAQ about the changes finally came out, players responded with a 172-page (as of Sunday night) thread.  Besides a lack of trust in the new company, what really got players up in arms was the idea that Alaplaya would use IP blocking to keep people outside of Europe from playing on European shards.  This caused some concerns.  Since the Nagafen PvP server is in North America, does that mean no PvP for Europeans?  What about French Canadians who liked to play on the Storms because that is the dedicated French language server?  What happens to the Australians?  Will they be confined to the UK servers and not allowed onto the U.S. ones?  These are just a few of the questions I had.  Feldon, the operator of EQ2 Wire, has a lot more.

Speaking of Feldon, he is in his own little war with the community team right now.  He managed to get himself a forum ban for a post he made on the forums.  His ban actually made the pages of  Why?  For Eve Online players, think of Feldon as a cross between Chribba and Wollari (of Dotlan Maps fame).  He operates the EQ2U website which utilizes the EQ2 data apis a lot better than the official SOE EQ2 site.  He also runs the highly touted EQ2 Wire which is a must read for EQ2 players.  In fact, for the past two years his coverage of the SOE Fan Faire has far surpassed that of any other news site.

Then on top of the PSS1 controversy came the news that EQ2 Associate Producer Emily "Domino" Taylor was leaving SOE.  Taylor's position was up in the air following the announcement of Holly "Windstalker" Longdale's promotion to EQ2 Producer.  She left a farewell message that shows she is sticking around the game for enjoyment, if not for work.
"They don’t warn you when you get hired to work on an awesome MMO like EQ2 that leaving the job isn’t like quitting McDonald’s; it’s like ripping out your heart and stomping on it! But today is my last day on the EQ2 team and it’s been nothing but the best times, the best of co-workers, and the best of players, all of whom I’ll miss ridiculously much. ♥ On the lighter side, a certain guild on Antonia Bayle is about to be very surprised to discover I’ve been in their guild for the last 4 years. Maybe now they’ll understand why my play schedule has been so sporadic and irregular, especially around expansions. :)"
From a personal note Taylor is one of my favorite MMORPG devs due to her work on the tradeskill system in EQ2.  She took something that was a mess and turned it into a true second path for leveling a character.  She was a beloved dev and will be missed.

I spent 3 1/2 years playing EverQuest 2 and seeing the game descend into this state is really sad despite 2 years of separation.  I have to ask when does a game stop being a AAA title.  In fact, when does a studio like SOE stop being considered a major game studio?  I know that it still has DC Universe Online and Planetside 2 coming up, but I just have problems considering SOE the home of top games.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bye Bye Bjorgolfur?

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Azeroth Goblin In King Hilmar's Court

Eve in in the air, or at least streaming through the interwebs like an addictive drug as various bloggers begin to stream back to New Eden.  SynCaine of Hardcare Casual made a return doing everything from getting wardeced in high-sec to carebearing to wormholes.  I get a kick out of the carebear part because he is famous for his advocacy of Darkfall, yet Rosewalker has a higher ranking on the BattleClinic killboards than SynCaine.

Meanwhile Wilhelm The Ancient Gaming Noob, had played Eve off and on since 2006 without getting any PvP kills.  The blogger famous for his Pokemon posts joined the Tactical Narcotics Team, a member of the Cluster Fuck Coalition, and has been racking up the kills as a member of Drake fleets.  But he still ranks behind me on the BattleClinic killboard.  Hey, I'm the biggest carebear guys, so get to work!

But the blogger making the move into Eve that possibly marks the coming of the apocalypse is Gevlon of the World of Warcraft blog Greedy Goblin.  I had heard about Gevlon, mostly from reading Tobold's blog which just might have left a biased attitude against the man who loves making gold.  Gevlon is admittedly anti-social but tends to single-mindedly search out ways to make wealth.  Lots of bloggers are giving an opinion on how well the greedy little goblin will do.

Me, I've pulled the popcorn out and plan to watch the fun.  He quickly lost a Badger Mark II in lowsec and instead of crying did a fair imitation of an after action report examining what he did wrong and how to prevent the loss from happening again.  I think he got tired of commenters telling him that the only PvP in Eve involves shooting ships because he finished off his next post with a screenshot of an Eve mail he sent telling another player he was stupid for charging so little for ore.  Of course, perhaps Gevlon put in that piece of idiocy at the end to cover up the several good observations he made at the beginning of the post. 

After a week he began posting some tips for new players and some of them were not half bad.  I think he is doing his research and taking the game seriously.  For example, he recommends Caldari for those who want to make some money.  And given how he has played so far, that is a good choice.  As I found out last January running courier contracts, Minmatar highsec is poor.  I found a lot more money in the Gallente Federation and I can just imagine how much money is lying around in The Forge.

So for now I'll welcome our new goblin overlord and watch his antics as he works to forge his destiny of creating an economic empire.  The fun has just begun.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where Is The Originality?

I started to drop out of popular culture long before 2005 when I started playing World of Warcraft.  Television was lame, with reality TV making an introduction with Survivor and American Idol back in 2002.  Movies?  Besides The Lord of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003), I didn't see anything of interest.  Music?  Country music isn't exactly mainstream, although Taylor Swift and appearances on The Apprentice by Trace Adkins and John Rich put the genre a little more into the spotlight.  Books?  Science fiction and fantasy isn't mainstream either.  In short, I was out of the mainstream and enjoying life.

I wasn't aware just how unoriginal popular culture has become until I looked at last year's top 10 list of movies in terms of worldwide gross.  Here they are:
  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  3. Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides
  4. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
  5. Kung Fu Panda 2
  6. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
  7. Fast Five
  8. The Hangover Part II
  9. The Smurfs
  10. Cars 2
Nine of the top ten movies were sequels.  And after having a drill sergeant we called Papa Smurf, I wouldn't want to watch the tenth movie as I might become traumatized.

But are MMORPGs any better in terms of originality where their intellectual properties are concerned?  Looking at the five most popular Western MMOs from yesterday's Digital Dozen post, the answer is discouraging.

The 800 pound gorilla of the genre, World of Warcraft, started with an IP created for their successful Warcraft RTS games.  By the time WoW launched on the 10th anniversary of the release of the Warcraft franchise, the game was the fourth one set in the world of Azeroth.  While very successful, as an intellectual property not very original.

While unoriginal in its application to an MMORPG, at least Blizzard created the IP, unlike 3 of the other 4 games in the top 5.  The #2 game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, relies on the Star Wars universe and LucasArts is listed as co-publisher of the game along with Electronic Arts on Wikipedia.  The #4 game, Lord of the Rings Online, relies on the world created by H.R. Tolkien, although Turbine does not have rights to works like The Silmarillion.  The #5 game, Star Trek Online, uses the universe created by Gene Roddenberry. 

That accounts for 4 or the top 5 games.  What about the #3 ranked game, Eve Online?  Bucking the trend amongst the most successful MMORPGs (and movies), CCP created an original intellectual property we now know as New Eden.  CCP didn't just create a world and then leave story generation to players.  Over the past nine years CCP has added to the story to the point that the lore information was reorganized into the Fiction Portal in the Evelopedia.  With thousands of pages of information, famed explorer Mark726 of Eve Travel in conjunction with Seismic Stan has published a lore guide on Freebooted that gives a rather long summary of the Eve Online IP.

But Eve Online launched in 2003.  Are we condemned to see major game studios pushing unoriginal intellectual properties to us?  I don't think so.  Last year's surprise hit Rift climbed as high as #5 on Xfire among video games of all genres and last week was the 11th most played MMORPG.  In April, Funcom plans on releasing The Secret World, an MMORPG in the modern world with the premise that three ancient conspiracies are at war with each other and with ancient evils.  A game about conspiracies promises a lot of originality in looking at myths and legends.

Perhaps the most intriguing use of an intellectual property may come from Curt Schilling's 38 Studios.  Schilling hired R. A. Salvatore to create a world for the company's Project Copernicus that was used for the sRPG Kingdom's of Amalur: Reckoning.  In 2004 Blizzard released an MMO based on a world created for a RTS series.  Will Project Copernicus launch to a ready-made player base already invested in the Amalur world?  CCP had a lot of growing pains as it slowly climbed up the charts.  Has 38 Studios found a winning formula, at least as far as their IP is concerned, to avoid that?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 21 February 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 12 February 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 54.8 91,328
22Star Wars: The Old Republic21.635,943
34Eve Online3.15,105
46Lord of the Rings Online 2.84,697
63Star Trek Online 2.74,505
78Metin 2 2.54,140
87Guild Wars 2.23,687
99Need For Speed World2.23,596
1011APR: Reloaded 1.93,116
1112Rift 1.83,036
1210Maple Story1.72,810
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 213,883

Why the overall decline in hours played from last week?  Last week was a down week for the hours played in the twelve most popular MMORPGs on Xfire.  The overall decline of 5.6% was lead by four games that saw over a 10% drop in playtime from the previous week: Star Trek Online (-20.7%), Star Wars: The Old Republic (-14.4%), Maple Story (-12.5%) and Aion (-10.9%).  Those 4 games accounted for 82% of the overall decrease in time played.  Why?

Server stability issues hurt - Maple Story continued its decline from its 2012 high of 5,616 hours played on 15 January following issues that began after a game update on 18 January.  These issues required a rollback on 27 January back to a restore point on 24 January.  That was bad enough, but due to continuing issues Nexon made additional offers of free items to players on 30 January, 1 February and 3 February.  As CCP found out last year, the financial situation can get bad when the veteran players become disgruntled.  Maple Story apparently is facing its own problems with hackers, exploiters and bugged content.  CCP took months to recover and wound up laying off 20% of its workforce as financial issues forced the Icelandic company to scale back its ambitious plans.  Maple Story is in free fall, seeing a drop of almost 50% in the past month.

The new internet spaceship smell is gone - Star Trek Online led the decline in percentage terms this week as the game hit the one-month mark as a free-to-play game.  The popularity surged to a peak on 5 February when Cryptic celebrated the two-year anniversary of the opening of the servers by giving away free stuff.  The peak was short lived and players are moving on to greener pastures.

Converting from subscription to free-to-play - The Korean MMORPG Aion is in the process of converting from a subscription based game in the West to a F2P game.  Not only is the game changing payment models, it is also changing publishers.  NCSoft will hand over the running of the game to Gameforge, publishers of Wizard 101 and this week's #7 ranked game Metin 2.  This does pose some short-term problems for the game as some players don't like playing in F2P games.  A bigger issue may be the actual transfer of accounts between NCSoft and Gameforge.  Are players comfortable with the process?  And will new players hold off on subscribing until the changeover is complete?  The wait may be over as closed beta finished yesterday.  So while the numbers are down now, expect a surge from Aion in the very near future.

The fourth pillar is crumbling - I can explain what is occurring in the first three games fairly easily, but what can I say about Star Wars: The Old Republic?  This week's 14.4% decline in time played is just part of a larger decline of 49.1% in time played since 15 January.  15 January is a significant date as it is the last date that everyone who had purchased SW:TOR counted as a subscriber.  Starting on 20 January people could decline to subscribe.  If the Xfire numbers are representative of the entire player base, EA and Bioware are in danger of not having the 1 million subscribers they feel they need to be successful. 

Why is SW:TOR having the huge drop-off?  Don't blame WoW tourists.  Since 15 January World of Warcraft has seen a drop of 13% in hours played.  If I had to guess, the emphasis on the story, which I really liked when I played, isn't enough to keep people playing the game multiple times through.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Day In Evati

On Sunday I had some extended free time to play Eve Online so I continued my plan to spend more involved in lowsec.  As I hinted at on Thursday, my target system was Evati in Metropolis.

Evati is an interesting system.  Ten planets, including 1 plasma and 60 moons make the system a welcoming place to those willing to run more risks than found in Empire space.  The nine stations are divided between the Minmatar and the Caldari, with DED having one.  For those who don't want to run the risk of running combat missions in lowsec, the Kaalakiota Corporation Warhouse located at Evati IX, Moon 4 contains distribution agents for levels 1-4 to allow for gaining top standings with the Caldari research and development corporation.  In addition to the level 4 distribution agent, the system also contains a Kaalakiota Corporation level 4 mining agent and a Boundless Creation level 4 security agent.

As is becoming standard operating procedure, my first objective is to create a basic set of bookmarks in the system.  Right now the basic set includes creating a observation bookmark off-grid for each gate, an observation bookmark off-grid for each station, and an instawarp bookmark leading to a point off-grid for each station.  With nine stations and five star gates, that's 23 bookmarks.  I wanted to spend a lot more time in lowsec.  Making that many bookmarks was a good start.

My first step was making the observation bookmarks at the gates.  As usual, Rosewalker snuck into the system in a Prowler and warped to another gate and started to work.  One of the benefits of doing this is the opportunity to view the traffic coming into and out of the system.  Despite the occasional flashy Tengu pass through, I only saw one pilot with a -10 sec status hanging around the gates in a Naga.  He didn't have much luck while I watched.  Eventually I finished my work at the gates and moved on to the stations.

I must have caught everyone going to dinner because during this time local dropped from 17 down to 6.  I only saw action at one station.  The Naga pilot, bored camping gates with no traffic passing through, started hanging around gates.  Although I did see wrecks, the only shots I saw fired were by the Naga pilot at two frigates that emerged from a station.  I was too far from the action to lock the ships, but I did see the Naga have to warp off.  I assume the sentry guns at the station drove him off.

After finishing the observation bookmarks came the dangerous task of making the instawarp bookmarks.  I like having instawarp bookmarks because they can help me get out of trouble if I emerge from a station when pilots who wish me harm are camped outside.  Due to the game mechanics, ships are launched out of stations at full speed and can warp away instantly given a good celestial object or a well placed bookmark.  Without something like that, pilots with much more experience have come to bad endings.

When making an instawarp bookmark in a covert ops ship, the most vulnerable time is when the ship is within 2 km of the station and cannot cloak.  To minimize the risk, I bring Wandering Rose into the system to watch the outside of the station for any incoming traffic while Rosewalker is in the station.  That takes care of most of the risk, but not all.

The big risk is that I enter a station and the pirate is inside the station and follows me out.  That actually happened at one station.  A member of The Bastards, an infamous pirate alliance, was sitting in the station.  My normal procedure is to enter the station, have Wandering Rose check the directional scanner to give the all clear, and then undock quickly and hope that Mr. Pirate doesn't notice me. 

I thought I got away clean and was burning away at 3100 m/sec, but when I had gotten about 80 km away from the station a flashy Caldari Navy Hookbill emerged from the station.  I immediately cloaked but still sped away from the station at 560 m/sec on a path to make my bookmark.  Looking at the pirates actions I could tell he didn't see the type of ship I was flying.  Or perhaps he did and my cloaking through him off.  But I don't think he saw me as he hung around outside the station for about 2 minutes and then warped off.

I was working on the last of the nine instawarp bookmarks when I saw a very unusual sight pop up in local.  A pilot with a sec status of 2.5 showed up and was in The Bastards.  I had to make a comment in local and a brief exchange occurred.

[03:02:46] Rosewalker > A member of The Bastards. with positive sec status?  That's cheating :)
[03:03:40] CPT ELMY > Early days yet RW :)
[03:04:31] Rosewalker > well, I hope you don't mind if I don't help you out with that little problem
[03:05:42] CPT ELMY > If you've got the choice, it sounds like the right call :)

I know that I should really check the pilot out more, but I was in ships with no guns and The Bastards have a reputation for knowing what they are doing where PvP is concerned, so I just finished making my bookmark and exfiltrated Rosewalker and Wandering Rose back to Bei.  I then looked up CPT ELMY and discovered he wasn't kidding.  His employment history goes back to 2 August 2003 and given the activity listed he hasn't taken any breaks.  He also has a history of being in PvP corporations.  Given my lack of PvP ability, he would have eaten me for breakfast and still been hungry. 

So I managed to accomplish my objective of setting up all my bookmarks and had my first brushes with one of the pirate alliances I'd heard so much about and lived to tell the tale.  Right now I'm doing okay as I prepare the battlespace for future operations.  Perhaps I can get over my fear of lowsec yet.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Three Years

I don't want to say that lowsec is a scary place, but the thought of it made me forget that yesterday marked the third year anniversary of my first post on The Nosy Gamer.  What started out as general MMORPG gaming blog concentrating on podcasts and EverQuest 2 has turned into a blog concentrating heavily on Eve Online with side orders of the nature of virtual worlds and the MMORPG games industry in general.  In other words, the blog has tracked how my interests have changed over the years.  And yes, I can say years now.

I don't see myself stopping anytime soon.  I might slow down a bit depending on work, especially if I have to travel.  Last year I did a little bit of posting from Bulgaria so I might do some more this spring and summer.  But besides that, I expect to keep on posting about the antics of CCP and the players that inhabit New Eden.  Oh, and comment on things that just generally amuse me that I can somehow tie to MMOs.

Before I end this post I just want to warn you.  This is a presidential year in the United States.  I'm beginning to agree with everyone that this is the worst political class we've ever had.  If The Mittani wins the CSM 7 chairmanship, I might start comparing Mittens with our presidential candidates.  I'm really beginning to think he is more calm, rational, honest and, let's face it, a more competent leader than what we are going to get to pick from.  I might have some fun demonstrating why.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Return To Scary Space

As I wrote on Monday, I want to spend more time in lowsec.  I actually started the process Saturday as I did a few items on my agenda that require skirting the edges of Empire space.

First up, transporting some frigate and cruiser BPOs to a station to make copies for invention.  Here's a tip.  Carebears are afraid of getting shot at so lowsec and highsec stations that require traveling through lowsec to access usually have shorter waiting times for copy slots than those safely in the core of Empire space.  My favorite stations are in highsec systems that require travel through lowsec.  That way I don't have to worry too much about getting ganked when leaving a station.

So I pulled up the industry interface from my neocom and found what I was looking for; 10 copy slots with only 8 & 9 day waits in my favorite system for copying/researching blueprints.  Only one jump through lowsec.  A nice way to get my feet wet again.

I put the BPOs in Wandering Rose's Prowler and headed off for the short trip.  I jumped into the system and at the gate was a single ship.  That's right, I'm in a lowsec system completely surrounded by highsec and on the gate was a -10 pilot in a Phobos.  I wondered if the flashy pirate in the heavy intedictor was associated with the Manticore pilot who had paced me in his stealth bomber for three jumps.  Yes, I'm getting better at not panicking at the first sign of trouble.  I then figured, what the heck, he saw the gate flash so he knows someone is with him.  So I waited a bit to try to lull him to sleep.  I don't know if it worked or if he was just looking for bigger game because I didn't notice him try to lock me as I aligned, cloaked and warped.  I don't know if he grew bored or was driven off because when I came back through the system five minutes later he was gone.

My next task was recruiting 2 new research agents and collecting all the datacores my existing 8 agents had churned out since I last went to Bulgaria.  If you follow the blog, you know that means I've been a bad player and hadn't visited them in over 5 months.  Luckily, research agents are geeks and just want to be left alone and work so were not offended.  But I had a lot of datacores to collect.  So I formed fleet with Rosewalker in a Cheetah and Wandering Rose in her blockade runner and started the 86 jump circuit to collect them.  Why cloaky ships?  Because two of the agents live in lowsec.

Visiting my first lowsec agent in Alal was pretty non-eventful.  No wrecks at any of the gates and only one other pilot in local during the trip.  A good thing because by this time Wandering Rose was carrying 650 datacores.  Rosewalker spotted for Wandering Rose just in case and back to highsec I scurried.  After the experience, I docked up and went to bed.

On Sumday I resumed my trip.  I felt a bit nervous with all the datacores in my holds, but I don't believe in the autopilot so I would align, cloak and gang warp from gate to gate.  The last agent I visited lives in a lowsec system in Metropolis that gets a bit more traffic than Alal.  So I emptied Wandering Rose's cargo hold and sent Rosewalker in to scout.  Rosewalker did more than scout.  He set up observation bookmarks at all of the gates and stations.  Once that task was done Wandering Rose entered the system to spot for him as he created instawarp bookmarks for every station but one.

The time I spent making bookmarks made me a huge fan of corp bookmarks.  While Rosewalker made the observation bookmarks at the gates, he would make them a corp bookmark.  Then he would copy to his own folders and then Wandering Rose, safely sitting in a station, would do the same.  I once tried to copy bookmarks into a container and trading them between characters but that just didn't work well.

The more time I spend in lowsec the more comfortable I get.  Perhaps that is the effect of having bookmarks.  The more places I have to hide the better.  But I am not going to get too confident because anything can happen.  According to Dotlan the next system I plan to visit saw Eve University slugging it out with Pandemic Legion yesterday.  Scary, but time to get over the fear.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 12 February 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 12 February 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 52.7 92,988
22Star Wars: The Old Republic23.841,991
34Star Trek Online3.25,679
46Eve Online3.05,322
68Lord of the Rings Online 2.64,642
73Guild Wars2.23,923
811Metin 2 2.23,814
99Need For Speed World2.03,609
107Maple Story1.83,213
1110APB: Reloaded1.83,173

Internet Spaceships Is Serious Business!  For the first time I can remember, the top 3 games not named World of Warcraft are all science-fiction MMORPGs.  Star Wars: The Old Republic is still riding high in the #2 spot based on its very successful launch, Star Trek Online gained new life and soared to #3 after its move to free-to-play on 17 January, and Eve Online is recovering from last year's debacle called Incarna.  If Star Trek Online can maintain its popularity and Eve regains the steady growth it had been famous for over its first 8 years, perhaps we will see more sci-fi MMORPGs in the near future.

Is LucasArts screwing over another MMO?  While listening to The Instance #263 Sunday Turpster pointed out that the EA marketing team is strangely quiet lately.  Has anyone else noticed all the advertising for the 3D version of The Phantom Menace?  Turpster has and thinks that LucasArts had a hand in EA's inactivity.  Looking for evidence, I looked at the script from the EA Q3 Conference Call and noticed that EA planned on increasing their advertising buys during Q4 (p7).  But if they plan on spending more, where is the spending?  I would have thought that the Super Bowl would have been the perfect opportunity to publicize the game, but the only thing Star Wars I saw were adds for The Phantom Menace.

According to the numbers from Xfire, the number of hours played has decreased 40% since 15 January, the last Sunday before the first players who bought the game at launch needed to choose to pay money to subscribe.  This trend is making SW:TOR look bad.  Would the decline be less if EA was more active with its marketing efforts?  Or, for conspiracy theorists, would the decline be less if LucasArts hadn't muzzled EA?  Hey, a lot of people remember Star Wars: Galaxies and the NGE.  LucasArts didn't cover itself in glory back then.  Is history repeating itself?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Six Month Check-in

"No plan survives contact with the enemy."

Every six months I get the urge to re-evaluate my progress and goals in Eve Online.  Some people don't like Eve Online because of the harsh death penalty, non-consensual PvP and the weak PvE play that doesn't lead players down a path to an end game and universally recognized success.  I find that, although I'm a carebear, the death penalty and possibility of getting ganked adds a bit of spice to the game.  However, those are characteristics of the game I don't need to supply.  The path I take, however, sometimes requires trying to find it amongst the bushes and brambles.

So where am I at? 

Cool ships - Back in August I set as my goal to own all the Minmatar sub-capital ships except for the black-ops battleship Panther and the faction ships.  At this point I think I also won't get a Vargur either.  I also set a goal to make as many of the tech 2 ships as possible.  But before I purchased the ships I wanted to have the skills to fly them, and fly them well, before shelling out any cash.  Now I do.

Right now I'm making all the copies of blueprints I need to research the remaining tech 2 cruiser, destroyer and frigate hulls I don't have, but I'm not sure about the battlecruiser hulls.  Do I really want to buy a Cyclone blueprint?  Actually I would like to buy a Hurricane BPO and I'm not sure if I have enough isk to purchase both and still purchase a Loki.

I also have a two-year goal to get the BPOs to produce faction Minmatar ships.  Six months ago I believed I just needed the appropriate standings with select NPC corporations.  Instead, I need the standings with the Minmatar faction.  Gulp!  But with 18 months to go I'm doing well, getting my standings for Wandering Rose to 7.3 and Rosewalker up to 7.2.  Considering I can get Republic Fleet Firetail BPOs at 8.5, I think I'm doing well.

Manufacturing - In addition to getting my ships, I now plan on concentrating on making tech 2 projectile ammunition and drones.  I also would like to eventually figure out what tech 1 items are worth making, but that is taking a backseat to my personal ship production.

One of the things I needed to do in support of my manufacturing is finally putting together a full network of research agents.  The next step, of course, is to train up the characters on my third account to do research.  I have one alt who is currently trained up to my standards for planetary interaction and the other will be set in two weeks.  After that, I'll start training to double my invention and copying abilities.

Wandering Rose - The training is going well.  I finished my training all my warfare specialist skills up to IV so I am now working on flying command ships.  I am also on track for gaining my Elite Core Competency certificate, although I don't know if I will finish that in the next six months.  As for the Elite Production Manager certificate, I decided that the ability to start manufacturing jobs from anywhere within a region isn't that important since the 20 system range I currently have is sufficient.

Getting out of my comfort zone - I've considered doing exploration sites and wormholes, but I think I really want to play around in lowsec.  Why?  The rumor that CCP is considering, or that CSM candidates may push, to make lowsec mission-running safer.  I want to try my hand at lowsec mission running and perhaps even try to live in lowsec before any changes are made.  I think I just need to concentrate on one thing, unless that one thing turns into a big ball of epic fail.

A lot of people may laugh, but I find lowsec very scary.  Then again, I used to find roller coasters very scary as I have a highly developed fear of falling.  I've gotten over that fear to the point I like riding roller coasters.  The fear has not disappeared, just subsided enough to put an extra thrill into the experience.  I hope my feelings toward lowsec take a similar turn.

Those are the rails I have set myself upon for the next six months.  As always the plan can change depending on the real world.  From what I hear my trip to Iceland is not the only trip over the Atlantic I'll make this year, but that is not set in stone.  In that case some of my plans go right out the window.  But in Eve, do plans ever go according to plan?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Caldari or Gallente?

I was reviewing Rosewalker's skill queue last night and realized that I had just about come to the end of learning the skills for flying Minmatar ships.  Oh sure, I only have the advanced artillery and autocannon skills to IV instead of V, but except for that I'll have the skills to fly all tech 1 Minmatar sub-capitals maxed out and all tech 2 sub-capitals up to IV by the end of the year.  Since the only Minmatar capital ships I want to fly are the freighter and jump freighter, and Wandering Rose is training for those, I'm left with the question: what's next?

I've ruled the Amarr right out.  I know that lasers use no ammo and are perfect for extended structure shoots, but they just don't interest me.  Perhaps because I don't like the people who build them.  I found that I've developed a distaste for the color gold playing Eve Online.  That leaves the Caldari or the Gallente. Both use hybrid weapons, which means that if I train for one faction's ships I'll be able to train for the other's ships quicker than I could if I trained Amarr.  So I have a logical reason to back up my prejudice against the Amarr.

What are the advantages of training for Gallente?  First, training Gallente will allow me to fly the Angel Cartel frigates Daredevil and Dramiel, the cruiser-class ships Cynabal and Vigilant and the Machariel and Vindicator battleships.  In addition, I hear that drones are great for missioning (and carrying around ECM to allow a pilot to flee bad places) and that ships like the Taranis and Ishkur are absolute beasts.  And the Gallente blockade runner can easily carry packaged cruisers while the Caldari blockade runner struggles with that task.

Why think about flying Caldari?  After all, learning Caldari ship skills will not allow me to fly any faction ships.  But since I already will have all my advanced missile skills trained to IV to fly the Typhoon better, I should be able to train through all of the Caldari ships faster.  And while I won't have the skills to fly faction ships, I will get to fly more famous ships like the Tengu, Drake and Raven.  Did I mention Caldari ships are really good at electronic warfare?  That would give me an excuse to also strengthen my target painter skills for Minmatar ships.  Another big plus is that Sleepers really hate drones, so Caldari ships are better in wormholes than Gallente ships.  Or so I'm told.

So which faction to train for, Caldari or Gallente?  Right now I really don't have an opinion, which is good because I really don't have to make the decision until November.  But Eve being Eve, I have to think about the choice now in order to use my time (i.e. set up my training plan) most effectively.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bind On Pickup and Bind On Equip

Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic reintroduced me to a concept I had pretty much forgotten about playing Eve Online: Bind on Pickup and Bind on Equip.  For those who are either new to MMORPGs or have just played a sandbox game like Eve, most MMOs I have played have a game mechanic in which an item is bound to a character when the item is picked up or when an item is actually placed in an equipment slot.  For games in which item progression is important and the items persist forever (or until disenchanted), BoP/BoE is an important game mechanic because the developers don't want to make life too easy for players.  If players can just buy more advanced items from other players, then those tagging behind are saved hours and hours of slogging through a game because questing becomes easier and raid zones don't need to be run for hours on end.  That slog is called content, and developers can never keep up with players as things stand now.  Think about the situation if slower players could advance faster.  More players would get bored with the game faster, leading to people leaving the game faster.  Since MMORPGs are all about keeping people playing the games for months and even years, anything that reduces the time it takes to get through content is bad for the business model.

I understand the business reasons for BoP/BoE and I wouldn't have a problem with them if the developers would just give a lore explanation for why items are BoP or BoE.  They don't and I find the fact irritating.  A lot of people talk about the importance of immersion in MMOs.  Well, BoP/BoE breaks it for me.

BoP/BoE does not have to break immersion.  In fantasy MMOs, a game developer could explain to new players about items having mystical properties that bind an item to a character.  That would be find and add to immersion.  Bound magical weapons are cool.  However, I don't know how you could explain that in a science-fiction game like SW:TOR.  BioWare didn't even try.

Eve Online doesn't have this problem.  No items are Bind on Pickup and only three classes of items I know of, implants rigs and planetary interaction command centers, are bind on equip.  And those three classes of items make sense that they are bind on equip.  Implants are, as the name suggests, implanted in your head.  Getting them out destroys them.  Besides, would anyone want a used implant anyway?  Icky!  Rigs make perfect sense because they are installed into the fabric of a ship and removing them destroys them.  And planetary command centers?  The cost of moving something that massive out of a gravity well is cost prohibitive.  Easier to just buy a new one and then build onto it once the center is on the ground.  Of course, why you can't sell colonies between players is beyond me, but I never bothered to read the treaty that allows capsuleers to own property on planets in the first place.

Now, CCP is able to get away with that because of the nature of the game and the harsh death penalty and looting of other players' ships when they are destroyed.  From the comments I see on other sites, most people are put off by the death penalty and don't want to take that much risk.  But for me, I don't mind the death penalty if I don't have to put up with unrealistic and immersion breaking game mechanics like Bind on Pickup and Bind on Equip.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Nosy Gamer's Digital Dozen

Is Star Wars: The Old Republic losing subscriptions?  How is Rift doing after one year?  What has been the effect of Star Trek Online going free-to-play?  How badly is World of Warcraft really dropping?  And has Eve Online really recovered from the Summer of Rage?  I can tell you the answer to the last question because CCP makes concurrent user data available to developers through an API so all I have to do is visit Chribba's Eve Offline website and look for myself.  But other game developers and publishers are not as open with sharing information that may place their games in a negative light.  So I have created my own system for ranking the top MMORPGs based on statistics gathered from the Xfire MMORPG games page on 5 February 2012.

Rank Game ScoreHours Played
1World of Warcraft 49.8 88,221
2Star Wars: The Old Republic25.244,717
3Guild Wars4.07,078
Star Trek Online
6Eve Online2.74,771
7Maple Story2.64,540
8Lord of the Rings Online2.54,465
9Need For Speed World2.03,559
10APB: Reloaded1.72,995
11Metin 21.72,955

I'll give my take on what I found interesting looking at the numbers, but first an explanation of what is in the chart.

How is the score derived?  The score is a percentage calculated by taking the hours played for a game and dividing that by the total hours played for the 12 most played MMORPGs by XFire users. 

Is Xfire a reliable source of information?  When I first heard of trying to use Xfire to gauge subscription numbers for a game, I was a little dubious.  I still am.  According to Wikipedia, Xfire is a proprietary freeware instant messaging service for gamers, that also serves as a game server browser and has various other features, including recording how long users play a video game and which video games users play. More importantly, Xfire currently has over 20 million registered users, with frequently over 200,000 users online.  That is a large collection of users that should make the information produced valid for my purposes as long as I am careful in how I use that data.

Why create a score?  Why not just use the total hours played?  While the base of users is quite large, the numbers are not consistent across time.  For instance, on Sunday, 10 April 2011 Xfire recorded that users played Eve Online a total of 2087 hours.  Last Sunday Xfire recorded users played Eve a total of XXXX hours.  Does anyone really believe that Eve has grown in use by 50%?  So instead of measuring hours played, I will compare the top 11 games against each other to look at the share of the market they are capturing against the their closest competitors.  But in this case, time, not money, is the commodity I am tracking, which makes sense since a player can own two or more games.

Your list is wrong. Guild Wars is not an MMORPG! - Since I am not an expert on the MMORPG market, I will use Xfire's definition of what games are MMORPGs and which games are not.

Why 12 games?  Because "Digital Dozen" seemed like a cool name.  I originally intended to track 11 games, but eleven is just too odd to use.  The reason for using eleven is that if I wanted to throw World of Warcraft out of the mix to do some analysis, then that list would have had ten games.  But sometimes marketing wins out over analysis.

The News:  The biggest question is: how is Star Wars: The Old Republic really doing?  According to the Electronic Arts Q3 FY2012 Conference Call, SW:TOR has an average of 1 million players logging onto their servers every day and still maintain 1.7 million of the 2 million players who purchased the game.  But a controversy is brewing over the date that was really referred to on the call.  The key date is 20 January.  That is the date that those who started playing at launch (or in the early period) would need to subscribe to keep playing.  So how did SW:TOR do with keeping players using Xfire?  Not so good.  From 15 January to 22 January the number of hours played decreased by 14.8%, which closely correlates with the approximately 85% retention rate reported on the call.

Looking at the hours played on every Sunday from the beginning of the year, the number of hours played decreased 41.2%  Was that due to school starting again?  I don't think so.  Looking at World of Warcraft, the number of hours played only decreased by 4.4%.  It is possible that SW:TOR is bringing a lot of people new to the genre so the old bitter gaming vets leaving the game may not represent the player population.  But given the correlation between the Xfire numbers and those reported by EA, I don't believe that is true.  The Xfire numbers decreased 36.6% from 15 January to 5 February, meaning that EA could be facing some problems, although 1.3 million subscribers is still excellent.

Star Trek Online is moving up in popularity following its switch to free-to-play on 17 January.  If the numbers are correct, Eve Online has moved from the biggest science fiction MMORPG at the beginning of December to the third largest today despite seeing the hours played in New Eden increasing by 7.5% since the beginning of the year.  Of course, last weekend marked ST:O's second anniversary and Cryptic/Atari was giving out a lot of goodies.  It will be interesting to see what happens with the game over the next few weeks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Don't Nerf Lowsec

Yesterday I was reading my Twitter feed and came across Marc Scaurus' blog, Malefactor.  On it he has a survey for CSM 7 candidates to answer about their stances on lowsec issues.  One question really caught my eye.

"What are your thoughts on the notion that increased protection for PVE players in lowsec will result in a better lowsec?"

I was glad to see that, except for Two Step, all of the candidates who had answered so far thought it was a bad idea and would not support it in any measure.  Those who have read my blog for anytime might think this is unusual because I am one of those carebears who have never run a combat mission in lowsec.  In fact, I am one of those people who Trebor Daehdoow doesn't understand as the recent POCO changes for planetary interaction killed the idea of setting up PI colonies in lowsec for me.  That one move removed the biggest incentive I had to trying to set up shop, or at least take a lot of daytrips, in lowsec.

So why wouldn't I support protecting mission runners in lowsec?  Wouldn't that lead me to actually run missions in lowsec?  No.  Actually that would remove the last major reason I might want to go into lowsec.  Right now, lowsec is a very scary place for me, so mission running in lowsec is a very big deal.  If I start running missions in lowsec, that would mean I had gotten over the risk aversion hump, which is a far greater accomplishment than any loot that may drop or bounties that appear into my wallet.  If CCP nerfs the content like Blizzard does with every raid they create in World of Warcraft, that sense of accomplishment would disappear.  At that point, why even bother going into lowsec?

So one of these days I'll eventually head into lowsec.  Actually, if not for the implementation of POCOs, I probably would have already tried my hand at setting up PI colonies in lowsec.  To tell the truth, having that goal snatched away from me by CCP made me very receptive to playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But now I'm back and making up a list of things to do in Eve.  Maybe I better put lowsec missioning on the list since CCP apparently is thinking about screwing that up too.  I need to get in before the nerf.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mining Mission Madness

I blame CCP.

I'm getting back into the swing of things in Eve Online after dragging myself away from The Old Republic.  After moving one of my pilot's Iteron Mark V 18 jumps from the Gallente Federation to Rens last night, I decided to look through my inventory to see if I had enough material to build a Claw, a speedy Minmatar interceptor.  I don't know what went wrong, but the assets just wouldn't come up for me.  I was too lazy to look for any solutions on the forums and instead looked to see what else I could do.  Level 4 combat missions?  I tried asking agents with both Rosewalker and Wandering Rose but all I got were missions against the Amarr and the Serpentis Corporation.  I couldn't do combat missions against the Amarr because my status is getting too low and I don't want to anger the Serpentis for the role-playing reason that they are allied with Eifyr and Co. But at the same time I didn't have a lot of time to play so I didn't want to leave the Ani constellation.

Fortunately Eve always presents multiple options so I chose to work on Wandering Rose's Amarr faction.  Having a standing of -2.6 is really bad, and for what I want to eventually do in Ammatar space her -3.4 faction is even worse.  So since the Amarr corporation Joint Harvesting has a significant presence (and more importantly a level 1 storyline agent) in Traun, I decided to run some missions for them to try to improve my standings.

Playing Minmatar pilots, I try to stay out of Amarr stations as much as possible.  The fact that ships are always ejected from the bottom of the station just irritates me and leaves a bad picture in my mind.  But I was going to need to do a lot of undocking because I intended to do a lot of missions in a hurry.  But what kind of missions?  Security?  Sorry, I'm not going to kill my fellow Minmatar.  Distribution?  I get asked to haul slaves way too often.  How about mining?  Ugh, mining!  But they keep asking for useless ore, so that is the most morally upstanding choice.

Actually, doing mining missions to get my faction standing over -2.0 is not such a crazy choice, especially since Wandering Rose can fly a Covetor. So I steeled up my courage and did mining missions for an hour.  To make the trip go a bit faster, I had Rosewalker provide security flying escort in his Jaguar.  By being fleeted, my align times for my mining barge were much faster.  Plus, when the Angel Cartel came out to try to gank Wandering Rose, I got to have a little fun.

I found out that by paying attention to the mining cycles that, including travel time to and from the agent I could do a mission in about 5 minutes, sometime 4.  The Covetor has a cargo hold big enough to carry all the minerals for a level 1 mining mission so I don't have to make multiple trips back to the station.  I did that for an hour.  Ugh! 

I think I'll break down and finally train Diplomacy up to 5.  It is a nice filler skill to put in the skill queue to make my training schedule fit in with my Fanfest trip.  And besides, my standings with the Caldari are -0.08.  I can do some security missions for them.  I've always wanted to do missions with a Breacher/Bellicose fleet anyway.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Working Vacation?

Have I mentioned before that I work a lot?  Well, I am going to Fanfest, but my plans changed slightly.  Yes, I still get to take a week-and-a-half off and go to Iceland, but I have to take my work laptop with me.  That means my gaming laptop will stay at home as I am not going to put a computer in my checked luggage.

So what does that mean?  I'll be working sometime during my stay in Reykjavík.  Something is going to go horribly wrong and someone will get on the Bat phone expecting me to fix whatever is wrong.  But with all the drinking that will go on, my response times will suffer.  Luckily the pub crawl and Party at the Top of the World are on Friday and Saturday nights so I shouldn't have to answer issues then.

Needless to say I now have extra incentive to get as much in place to allow people to solve issues on their own.  I have confidence that the people I work with can already handle most of the issues that may occur, but I work on a couple of high-profile projects that people just assume that no one can work on but me.  That's what I get for training both Advanced Troubleshooting and Thinking Outside the Box both to 5.

Another thing that will happen is I need to take some time to arrange my skill queue so I have skills training during the 9 days I plan on being away from home.  Not much of a stretch, really.  I have plenty of practice over the past two years.  But no gaming will occur.  A good thing really as I may never get back to Iceland so I should see everything I can.  So maybe work is a good thing?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Social Networking and More Forums

Last night I got home really late from work and didn't plan on doing anything except update my skill queues, drink a beer and go to sleep.  I started doing a little surfing on the net and ran into a post on MMO Melting Pot about how to turn World of Warcraft into a social network.  A blogger named Cynwise wrote a post speculating on how social media could be worked into an MMO like WoW.  A thought provoking post, at least for those who have only played Blizzard games.  However, other game companies have already implemented some of the things listed in Cynwise's post.

EverQuest 2 has had text chat between servers for years and SOE extended it between select SOE games (excluding Vanguard, of course) over 3 years ago if my memory serves me correctly.  I thought SOE was attempting to tackle the problem of multiple shards when they experimented with putting all EQ2 Extended players on a single shard (Freeport) but they eventually got rid of the service.  But the experience with Freeport may influence EQ Next.

Eve Online doesn't have to worry about multiple shards, but CCP launched a social networking platform, EVE Gate, last year that allows players out of the game to send mail to players in-game.  EVE Gate also has a Facebook-wall type broadcast feature and a plug-in that allows voice chat without the client running.  And with the probable launch of DUST 514 this summer/fall, CCP plans on tying the two games together both socially and mechanically.

Yesterday CCP Guard came out with a dev blog announcing the coming of corporation forums on the Eve forums on 8 February.  That is not as innovative as you might think as my old guild in EQ2 used the SOE provided guild forums until we moved off of them to nicer digs, and that was about 4-5 years ago.  The reasoning in CCP Guard's post goes along with the social networking theme:
"There are two reasons basically. We are very interested in providing corporations, particularly new and smaller corporations, with a community enhancing tool which boosts communication and corp cohesion without all the hassle of starting their own external forum. We also have DUST approaching and this will provide corporations with a cross-game platform where both their EVE members and their DUST members can talk and discuss whose planet to curbstomp next."
Of course, just because a company supplies social networking tools doesn't mean that players will use them.  A very vocal segment of the Eve community derided the site as "Spacebook" and only logged into EVE Gate to turn all of their privacy settings on since the default setting was to leave all of your information wide open to the public.  And once a corporation starts getting serious, I'm pretty sure that it will move off the forums onto their own site to "look more serious".  Who knows.  Maybe established corporations will use these new forums as a holding spot for new members until they prove they are not spies.  One can never tell in Eve.