Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Year Later

Has a year really gone by since the end of Fanfest 2012?  The year may seem extended because Fanfest was pushed back to April this year to take advantage of warmer weather but I was returning back to work one year ago today after attending the party at the top of the world.  Looking back I thought I'd point out a few things I found interesting.

First, The Nosy Gamer became a lot more popular.  Going into Fanfest the blog averaged around 100 visitors a day according to Site Meter.  Now?  400.

The blog got a huge boost in popularity with CCP Sreegs pointing out the blog in first his Security presentation and then in a Eve Online forum thread as a source of botting tears.  The tears have dried up with Team Security's successes but somehow I've managed to keep an audience.

The next thing is the status of two people I saw on the Golden Circle tour last year: Raivi and Michael BoltonIII.  Back then they were highly visible players due to their roles as Alliance Tournament commentators.  Now they are known as CCP Fozzie and CCP Dolan.  CCP Fozzie has left his claw marks on Eve in his efforts in re-balancing New Eden's ships.  He's not the only one working on the project, and the project had already begun when he was hired, but with his arrival the effort really moved into high gear.  Add in his openness in engaging with the players and accepting feedback and he's turned into one of the game's most popular devs.  Some might label 2012 the invasion of the commentators as Verone (CCP Falcon) and Kil2 (CCP Rise)1 also left the commentary booth to work in Reykjavik.

Finally comes a non-CCP moment.  Right before Fanfest last year the lovely and talented Emily "Domino" Taylor left her position as Associate Producer of EverQuest 2 to take another position in the gaming industry.  I hoped that some smart Icelandic gaming guru had swept her away from the clutches of SOE's John Smedley and I'd see her make her appearance at Fanfest.  Instead, I noticed the absence of Nathan Richardsson (aka CCP Oveur).  Judging by his tweets he took his beer ship and flew off to San Diego where the pair went to work for Trion on Defiance, an MMOFPS that launches on Tuesday.  Looking back it's probably a good thing that Domino stayed in Southern California as she doesn't like rotten shark.

With that look back I can now look ahead to Fanfest 2013.  Hopefully CCP didn't nerf the volcano too much.  Maybe I should take my work laptop with me just in case.

1) Yes, I know Kil2 was hired in 2013.  But he was hired between Fanfest 2012 and Fanfest 2013.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Update 10 hours later... I am putting this update at the beginning of this post as it contains a correction.   What follows is a description of a single transferable vote system but not the one that CCP will use to conduct the CSM 8 election.  As CCP Fozzie pointed out to me on Twitter, the Wright system uses the Gregory method of transferring votes from elected/invalidated candidates to the remaining candidates in the system.  This eliminates the lottery system that is a feature of other single transferable vote methods.

For a more coherent explanation than just having someone tell you to look up the answer on Wikipedia (which is what I did), visit Mynnna's blog where he does a pretty good job of explaining things.

Just for the record, this will be my last post on the CSM 8 election until the results are announced at Fanfest.  Also for the record, for the first round of the election I endorsed Mike Azariah with all three accounts.  I plan on voting for Mike, and only for Mike, in the second round, leaving the other 13 slots blank.  If Mike does not qualify for the next round, I won't be voting.

What follows, since I don't believe in sending my mistakes down the memory hole, was my first attempt to understand and explain the new voting system.  Caution: after reading Mynnna's explanation, I now know how really bad it is.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 26 March 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 39.8 24,229-5.5
22Guild Wars 217.010,328-2.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.17,353-1.8
66Eve Online4.12,518-8.8
77Lord of the Rings Online3.11,902-7.3
88PlanetSide 22.61,607-6.1
1012APB: Reloaded2.21,315+1.9
119Metin 22.01,243-20.3
1210The War Z2.01,230-10.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 60,812
The top MMORPGs saw interest from the Xfire community wane on Sunday, with users spending 4.8% less time playing the 12 most popular games.  The decline was lead by Metin 2 (-20.3%), Aion (-13.6%) and The War Z (-10.9%).  The positive side was not very positive as no game saw a rise of more than 2% in time played.
Bye bye to The War Z? - While not shown, Defiance registered 720 hours played for a beta weekend.  With Defiance showing up on PC, Xbox and PlayStation 3, the game probably won't top the charts, but may affect the popularity of other shooter games like PlanetSide 2 and The War Z.  With a final beta weekend scheduled and a launch date of 2 April, will Defiance force The War Z from the list?

The Tera Invasion - Tera bucked the downward trend on the strength of an event, the Dracoloth Sovereign Invasion.  Once killed, these big-ass monsters didn't respawn.  Players were also offered 50% off of swimsuits and the introduction of a new type of loot box.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Should I Play Skyrim?

I was a bad blogger this weekend.  Instead of writing I played video games.  Saturday I played Tropico 4 and Sunday I ground standings for Boundless Creation up to 5.0, meaning I can now use the level 4 R&D agents for both Minmatar NPC corporations with whom I can data core mine.  Getting my standings up with Boundless Creation was important since their agents actually live in the low-sec area I call home.  If I want I can do the missions for the agents and get more data cores that way.

I did think about writing, but once I started researching the subject I started to get disgusted.  Writing in that frame of mind isn't good so I decided to put the post off for a few days and try to look at the issue from a couple of other perspectives.  Math is hard.

So that leaves today's post.  While doing courier missions I watched GameBreaker TV's coverage of Elder Scrolls Online's hands-on session given to a bunch of game journalists.  ZAM's Editor-In-Chief Scott Hawkes talked with Gary Gannon about his experience at the ZeniMax offices and I found myself getting interested in the upcoming MMO even though I've never played any of the Elder Scrolls RPGs.  Then I started thinking and I realized I've played the big games that came out over the last year or so.  I played Star Wars: The Old Republic (up to level 37) and Guild Wars 2 (up to the level cap of 80) so I figure I'll probably wind up playing ESO.  I'm actually looking forward to playing WildStar because of the promise of Pixar graphics combined with the old Warner Brothers adult humor but ESO is probably THE game to watch because of the Elder Scrolls IP.

The question is, should I play Skyrim before playing Elder Scrolls Online?  From what I can tell all the reviewer have already played Skyrim, so I could give a unique perspective on the game.  Time is also an issue.  I'm hooked on Tropico 4 at the moment and with the announcement of Odyssey on Friday I want to look into what summer will bring in Eve.  Oh, and prepare in-game as much as possible.  I also have to admit I don't like first-person mode in video games.

Given all that should I give Skyrim a try?  If the game lends itself to short play sessions I could probably fit in a 30 minute session once or twice a week.  Or maybe I'll wait until I burn myself out on Tropico 4.  Then I just need to know if the next game I play is Skyrim.  So what do you think?

Friday, March 22, 2013

An Interesting Coincidence?

One of the reasons that today's tin foil hats don't work is that they are made out of aluminum, not tin.  Tin foil allegedly became scarce because food wrapped in tin foil  had a slightly tinny taste which aluminum foil does do.  Personally I've always subscribed to the theory that once the government perfected the mind control rays that they needed to get rid of the protection that true tin foil hats offered.  I blame the Trilateral Commission, The Council of Foreign Relations, and George W. Bush.

Why bring up the subject of tin foil hats?  Because Eve is real and what happens in New Eden affects the real world markets.  Don't believe me?  Look at this chart of stock prices for Alcoa Inc, a major producer of aluminum.

Notice when the stock started soaring in price?  One day after the release of Retribution 1.1.5.  A lot of bot developers and bot users started getting paranoid that day.  Coincidence?  Well, don't blame me.  I've had my tin foil hat for a long time.  And it's the real thing.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

First Thoughts On Tropico 4

EA and Maxis changed my gaming habits with the release of the latest SimCity.  I've stopped playing Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World and am now splitting my time between Eve Online and Tropico 4.  Tropico 4?  That's right.  My appetite was whetted for a city simulator but with all the issues going on with SimCity (I'm talking about the ones beyond server capacity and always-online DRM) I started looking around for an alternative.

I bought Tropico 4 on a 75% off Steam sale and have had a blast playing a Caribbean dictator.  So far I am playing through the campaign game, which is really helping me understand all of the things I can do in the game.  I look at the campaign game as what the Eve New Player Experience aspires to be.  I'm going through, seeing all the play styles (tourism, industrial, etc) and at the end of the 20 scenarios I'll stop having the game hold my hand and enter the sandbox to see what I can build from scratch.

After playing through the tutorial and first four scenarios I can say a few things about the game.  Just remember this is not a review as I've only spent 10-12 hours playing so far.  The first is that I love the music.  It is very catchy and sets an upbeat mood.  Maybe that's why I'm playing so much.  Next the game is pretty, although I don't really pay attention too much as I'm still learning how to play.  The same with following the individual residents of Tropico around.  One of these days I'll slow down and start following the Tropicans around.  From what I've heard of SimCity Tropico 4 does a much better job with pathing issues and citizen movement than the newer game. 

I also enjoy the political aspects of the game and trying to keep the factions happy.  So far I've only had one uprising but my army was able to ruthlessly crush the rebels.  And trying to balance the educational system so I have a good mix of workers to perform all the jobs is really interesting.  In some scenarios I actually had to import uneducated workers because my native Tropicans wouldn't demean themselves by taking jobs traditionally done by lower skilled workers.  Sorry, but not everyone gets to go to college anymore.

With Tropico 4 I can see myself playing for hours and hours to come.  I might even write about the game again once I get through the campaign and build a few islands.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: The March Dev Blog

On Monday CCP Stillman published a new security dev blog looking back at some numbers in 2012 and events occurring today.  Not the most recent efforts with the new detection methods that began two weeks ago, though.  I expect to see those numbers when I get to Fanfest next month.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 19 March 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.2 25,656-0.5
22Guild Wars 216.510,543-1.2
34Star Wars: The Old Republic11.77,484+31.0
66Eve Online4.32,761+9.7
77Lord of the Rings Online3.22,052-7.4
89PlanetSide 22.71,712+1.5
910Metin 22.41,559+15.1
1011The War Z2.21,380+2.8
1212APB: Reloaded2.01,291+17.3
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 63,898

Interest in playing the top MMORPGs among the Xfire community increased last week, seeing the number of hours playing the most popular games by 3%.  The way was led by Star Wars: The Old Republic (+31%), APB: Reloaded (+17.3%) and Metin 2 (+15.1%).  The game taking the biggest fall was Runescape (-19.8%).

A Bright Spot - In the past Star Wars: The Old Republic has disappointed EA.  But if Xfire is an accurate guide, the game's 31% rise in time played is the bright spot of the week for EA.  So far this week EA has experienced the resignation of CEO John Riccitiello and the news that EA's app store Origins has a security hole that puts 40 million users at risk.  Add that with EA's recent woes with the new SimCity game and EA could use some good news.

Nostalgia Doesn't Last - A lot of gamers want to go back and play the games they grew up with.  The question is whether the games are really as good as players remember.  A recent example in the MMORPG space is Runescape, which released a 2007 rule set of the game.  The game picked up interest but for how long?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Multi-boxing: So What Is Legal?

Is anyone else tired of the discussion of multi-boxing software?  If not I have one more post to close out my thoughts on the whole situation.  But before I post my final thoughts I'd like to retrace my steps down the rabbit hole.

If Inner Space weren't such a powerful tool used by bot developers I probably would have avoided the subject altogether.  But when this Twitter exchange between Riverini, the publisher of Eve News 24, and CCP Sreegs occurred my interest peaked.

Did this mean that the new automatic detection code released with Retribution 1.1.5 on 5 March was creating false positives and banning ISBoxer users because ISBoxer uses Inner Space?  Or had CCP changed its policies?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mouse Without Borders

Yesterday I received a nasty little surprise about a piece of software I was using, Input Director.  The freeware allows a user to use one mouse and keyboard to operate two or more computers.  I started using it long ago and found it worked better than Synergy.  Input Director only has one slight problem that TurAmarth ElRandir brought up: it has the ability to duplicate keystrokes onto multiple computers.  Worse, Input Director has the ability to create macros up to 256 characters long.  Yikes!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

ISBoxer And The Ninja Edit

Just a follow-up to yesterday's post about Inner Space.  Some people are upset with CCP for going back and doing a stealth edit on their original forum post concerning CCP's multi-boxing policy.  Why the stealth edit?  Blame Lavish Software, makers of Inner Space and ISBoxer.

On the ISBoxer website is a page titled "Is Multiboxing with ISBoxer allowed?"  One section of the page is aimed specifically at Eve Online players to convince them that CCP has no problems with the use of ISBoxer.  The TL;DR of the logic of the argument is:
  • User was banned for using ISBoxer.
  • User then shows the same actions could be performed mechanically.  See Kotaku and Gizmodo for the famous story.
  • CCP issues post on forums stating that multiboxing programs are allowed as long as they follow certain guidelines.
  • ISBoxer follows the guidelines.
Looked at and parsed very closely, that is not an endorsement of the product or approval by CCP of ISBoxer.  But as part of the sales pitch, the original post by GM Lelouch was quoted in its entirety by Lavish Software and the website directly linked to the post on the old forums.  The implication is that if CCP was banning users of ISBoxer and have now stopped, CCP must approve the use of ISBoxer.  If CCP wanted to get the information out that ISBoxer was not officially approved for use by CCP, then the surest way to get the message across was to edit the post since it is used as part of Lavish Software's marketing material.  Apparently this became a concern to CCP on 18 February 2013.

Hopefully this answers the question of why CCP would ninja edit a post on the old servers.

Update: I just reviewed the OP of the forum thread.  The player in question was not banned for using ISBoxer as is stated in the Lavish Software marketing materials.  The player was using Synergy, open source software that allows a user to move the mouse across multiple computers and move the keyboard functionality.  I will try to be more careful in checking my sources in the future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: Inner Space

Yesterday got a whole lot more interesting when I saw a Tweet from Riverini directed to CCP Sreegs come across at 16:23 Eve Time:

I have actually been waiting for this moment since the release of Retribution 1.1.5 last Tuesday.  I knew that if Team Security was using automated methods to detect and permanently ban Red Guard users that Questor would receive some attention from CCP shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 11 March 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.9 25,780+8.6
22Guild Wars 216.910,676-18.3
34Star Wars: The Old Republic9.15,715-7.6
66Eve Online4.02,518-16.8
77Lord of the Rings Online3.52,216+17.3
98PlanetSide 22.71,687-10.2
1010Metin 22.11,355-22.6
1111The War Z2.11,343-7.4
12--APB: Reloaded1.71,191-6.1
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 63,076

On Sunday the Xfire community interest level in the most popular MMORPGs slumped back to the level of two weeks ago, with the number of hours playing these games falling by 5.4%.  Two games, Lord of the Rings Online (+17.3%) and World of Warcraft (+8.6%) managed to buck the overall trend downwards.  The games leading the rush downhill were Metin 2 (-22.6%), Tera (-22.3%) and Guild Wars 2 (-18.3%).

The Giant Awakes - World of Warcraft led the list on the raw number of hours played based on the release of Patch 5.2 on Thursday.  While the 8 year-old game is showing signs of slowing down patch day in Azeroth is still a big event that draws people to play.

We Raid Too - The big winner on Sunday was Lord of the Rings Online based on the strength of Update 10: Against the Shadow Part II which deployed last Wednesday.  The second half of Update 10 introduced four new dungeons, the 6-man The Bells of Dale and 12-man Flight to the Lonely Mountain, the Fires of Smaug, and the Battle for Erebor.  Apparently raiding isn't just for WoW.

A Failed Promotion - Over the weekend Tera ran a cash shop promotion in which players received 40% off the price of XP boosts.  The result?  The Xfire community spent 22.3% less time playing the game compared to the month before.  A fluke or the harbinger of things to come?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Red Guard: It's Unbelievable!

Oftentimes covering Eve Online's botting scene is boring and filled with inaction.  But sometimes things get crazy.  Some of you who have followed my coverage of CCP's War on Bots will find this tweet from CCP Sreegs amusing.

That's right, Red Guard is no longer freeware.  Cost to purchase: $25.  And here's where I started laughing.  "The charge is $25 per update. 'Update' means CCP action (deliberate or not) that forces me to go back and recode parts of RG. It DOES NOT mean a bugfix release or snoopcode change."

Of course, that doesn't happen a lot.  Besides what happened last Tuesday, the last time the developer had to update code was way back on 19 February.  That's 3 weeks ago for those reading in the future.  So for those who wish to continue to use Red Guard, be aware that not only can the prices get fairly expensive but when the application does need to be updated, whoever is using it at the time will most likely receive a permanent ban.

I also found an amusing statement from civan, the Red Guard developer, on the Public Demands forums.  That's right, I'm actually linking to Public Demands forums.  Unlike all the other sites I visit this one is open to the public.  I love this quote he gave 36 hours before Team Security sprang their little surprise:
"Well, you want input. IMO you sound funny. You sound quite paranoid about CCP detection methods, hint there are three - sending bad exceptions, tripping sanity filters (actions per second, hours played etc.), and getting reported by a player."
I like this quote so much I actually took a screenshot to record it just in case civan tries to send it down the memory hole.

Looks like he was wrong, wasn't he?

Friday, March 8, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: Lock Up Your Bots, Hide Your Accounts!

Yesterday published a piece I wrote on the latest innovation in the War on Bots.  Well, at least the developer of Red Guard thinks it is an innovation because botters using his software started getting banned.  I'll let you click on the link for the initial story and present an update.

CCP Sreegs came out on the forums yesterday and made the following statement:
"We will not state what changes were made but yes there were changes made targeting specific malicious actors who are aware of the fact that they were targeted and have made some early attempts at guessing how they were targeted on their forums which is where this information seems to be sourced from. We don't have any further comment on the topic at this time but it can stay open for discussion as it's based in fact."
Right now the bot devs are speculating that CCP is reading the memory to see if various ddl files are loaded into memory.  But the possibility exists that CCP just solved Red Guard and the technology is based on techniques used to keep banned users from logging in with fresh accounts.

I keep referring to Red Guard, but what is it?  Casper from the Eve Pilot forums gave this explanation:
"its a freeware closed source app put out by another bot developer, idea was to intercept the communication between the client and server to mask the hardware and os the client is using. Should a GM take the time to look for hard links between accounts it would make it a bit more difficult.

"However this is deemed a major violation of 3 sections in the EULA, modifying the client, intercepting and modifying the communications between the client and server, and using a third party app in conjunction with the client. If you are caught, all linked accounts are permanently banned, no warning.

"Slav [the Eve Pilot dev] warned me earlier about using it. Lesson learned."
Yes, I am quoting someone from a botting forum.  In fact, the title of the post, "Lock up your bots, hide your accounts" is actually the title of the posts the Red Guard dev was making warning all the users of his software that they would get banned for using his software if they logged into Eve.  If you want to read more from the forums, keep reading after the break.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

An Investment Opportunity

I'm not very good at the financial game in Eve Online but with all the looking I've done into macro market information I can see the attraction into some of the activities surrounding the whole typing numbers into the interface thing.  But poking around the Market Discussions area on the Eve Online forums led me to a very interesting thread that could lead to a nice profit to patient investors.  Once I saw that Mynnna, a very savvy financial type who is a Goonswarm financial director, put 4.4 billion ISK into the venture and Retirement Fund Admin, the CEO of Goonswarm Federation's Executor corp contributed 334 million ISK,  I began taking a closer look.

The entity is The New Order.  I'm not sure what to call them since The New Order is not a corporation and not an alliance.  But The New Order's business is entertainment, at least according to the IPO thread I saw on the Eve Online forums.  One investor summed up the expectations for investing in the venture:
"Pretty sure not a single investor here is expecting an ISK return. You're essentially paying James for a very entertaining service and receiving your investment back in the form of tears/hilarity."
The James in question is James 315, the master of The New Order.  Back in August he explained the need for more funds for his operation:
"Partly it's a matter of expansion. The New Order currently lays claim to two highsec systems, and we're looking to acquire the other thousand or so--wouldn't hurt to get some capital for that. As you say, this is an extremely profitable business, though the profit margin was inflated a touch in the last couple reports because of the billion odd share orders that were reclassified before I opened up the latest offering.

"The other part of the equation is demand. Every time I stop selling shares, I have people beating down my door hoping to get in on the action. At the end of the day, I can either refuse to give them a chance to invest, or I can let them in on the fun. Not surprisingly I opt for the fun option. Blink

"As for the tears, you're right--but they'll be coming from AFK miners instead. My investors, on the other hand...I predict smiles and hi-fives all around. Cool"
I then went in search of answers to other questions.  The first was whether The New Order had any staying power.  Given that the IPO thread began in August 2012 and that The New Order's web home of boasts a greater number of blog posts than Jester's Trek during that time and one gets the impression the growing entertainment concern will last for some time.  Add in an impressive 59.7 billion ISK in shares sold since August and James 315's child does not appear to lack for funds.

The second question was whether The New Order was just a bunch of role-players or if they showed some skill and solid tactics.  I found some very sound practices in place.

The first is the avoidance of the "griefing" issue.  In the past CCP has ruled gratuitous bumping a type of griefing.  James 315 is clever and couldn't come right out and say he was being paid for entertainment because that could rebound adversely on his benefactors.  So instead he role-plays a religious megalomaniac who also extorts money from licenses from miners for mining permits.  Not only does that provide an additional revenue stream but adds spice to the entertainment he provides his monied following.

Next was a unique adaptation of the old ship bumping tactic.  Usually used against large ships like titans and freighters to keep them from escaping, James 315 brought the tactic to the asteroid belts where alert miners were soon caught in a Catch-22.  The best tactic for beating a gank is to stay aligned and warp out at the first sign of trouble.  But staying aligned means flying in a straight line, making a mining barge an easy target for The New Order's bumping tactics.  Attempting to move more erratically or just orbiting an asteroid can make a barge harder to bump but then makes the miner an easier target for a suicide gank.

James 315 also turns the war declaration system on its head in another innovative move that aids the showmanship of his performances. Normally New Eden only sees carebears who wish to avoid conflict abandon their corporation and then reform it in order to get out of war decs.  But James 315 has made what many see as an exploit in the war declaration system into a positive for an aggressor in a high sec conflict.  In order to maintain the image of strength required by the "Supreme Protector of Halaima" and "Saviour of Highsec" James 315 can't remain in an NPC corporation so he resides in the one man corp Experimental Fun Times Corp.  However he can't afford for any of the carebears he faces to manage to acquire a kill mail so whenever he is war deced he disbands his corp and immediately recreates it.  According to his listing on Eve Who James 315 has performed this trick 7 times since mid-September.  Too bad he cannot post the 350 million ISK in tears he has gathered from carebears wanting to fight back but can't because it would tarnish the entertainment he is providing his sponsors.

So James 315 is a pretty savvy guy and The New Order is probably going to stick around for a few more months.  How can someone make money off their antics.  Simple, really.  Just visit regularly and find out when the entertainment troupe will hit the road next.  Then try to play the market for ice products.  I hear that worked out well for Goons in the know when The Mittani announced the Gallente ice interdiction last year.  With a little bit of effort the rest of us could cash in on The New Order's antics in high sec.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spambots Are Bots Too

With the first round of voting in the CSM 8 election process only two weeks away now is a good time to bring up one of Chribba's big issues, spam bots.  When he is not busy sneaking up on snipers in DUST 514 he's using one of his websites, Eve Live, to keep tabs on the spam bots throughout New Eden.

By the way, the spam botter has fixed his bot and as I type this post is merrily spamming Jita every 108-109 seconds with a big variance in time every 15-20 minutes to try to throw off any automatic detection efforts.

Now, this may come as a surprise to regular readers of The Nosy Gamer, but I don't like bots.  I also wish to state I don't discriminate in my views on bots: I hate them all.  Doesn't matter whether the EULA-breaking code in question is a mission/ratting bot, courier bot, mining bot or market bot.  Just because I haven't written about spam bots in the past doesn't mean I hate them any less than the other flavors of bots.

My belief is that Eve Online is a player vs. player game, not a player vs. bot or player vs. macro game.  That means anyone who wants to run contract scams in Jita needs to actually sit at the keyboard typing and not run a macro that runs for hours trolling for suckers.  The same for anyone running macros offering goods in an attempt to do an end run on the market system by offering goods directly.  I believe these are definitely violations of the Eve Online EULA, specifically Section 6 Paragraph A subsection 3:
"You may not use your own or any third-party software, macros or other stored rapid keystrokes or other patterns of play that facilitate acquisition of items, currency, objects, character attributes, rank or status at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play. You may not rewrite or modify the user interface or otherwise manipulate data in any way to acquire items, currency, objects, character attributes or beneficial actions not actually acquired or achieved in the Game."
As is traditional when judging bots, the ability to perform tasks over an extended length of time compared to what a human can reasonably perform is what constitutes "at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play."

Up until now spam bots were seen as an annoyance in the major trade hubs and are given a low priority by CCP unless the spam bots are advertising for RMT websites.  While Chribba sees the people closing down local because of the spam bots damaging the social aspect of an MMORPG, many are beginning to see a business case for CCP to crack down on the annoying bots.  With the recent boom in subscriptions more and more pilots are trying to enter Jita, the economic center of New Eden.  Because of population limits they are turned away at the incoming gates and have to wait patiently for someone to leave.  What is that doing for commerce in Eve's famous player-based economy?  Worse yet, what does that do for the new player wishing to go to market.  I can ignore the problem living in Minmatar low sec but what about the new players who roll Caldari?  Makes life kind of hard on them, doesn't it?  And isn't CCP concerned with new player retention?

As I mentioned before the first round of the CSM 8 election process begins on 22 March.  While CSM members can't directly tell CCP what to do they can influence CCP's priorities.  I'm sure if the issues gets mentioned in passing often on the famous CCP/CSM Skype channel frequently that CCP may do something just to end the complaining.  The question for voters is, which candidates are willing to do the complaining?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 5 March 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 35.6 23,739+5.8
22Guild Wars 219.613,060+12.7
44Star Wars: The Old Republic9.36,183-3.9
66Eve Online4.53,027-5.3
77Lord of the Rings Online2.81,889-7.2
88Planetside 22.81,879+7.1
1010Metin 22.61,750+13.2
119The War Z2.21,450-15.7
1212Star Trek Online1.91,251+6.8
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 66,643
Interest in the most popular games in the Xfire community rose 6.1% last week on the strength of more interest in the games at the top of The Digital Dozen.  In percentage terms, the games showing the largest gains in interest were RuneScape (+62.6%), Metin 2 (+13.2%) and Guild Wars 2 (+12.7%).  The game seeing the biggest decline in interest was The War Z (-15.7%).
Fool me once.  The War Z saw a big spike in interest when it originally appeared on Steam in December but Valve quickly pulled the game for deceptive advertising.  Last week The War Z reappeared on Steam but the Xfire community turned its back on the game.  I guess not all publicity is good after all.
Blast from the past.  RuneScape made its initial appearance on the list this week based on the strength of the launch of old school servers.  The servers are using the 2007 rules set and apparently are popular.  Is today's player ready for more challenging games, at least compared to some of the new title's today?
Patches at the top.  Last week saw the introduction of World of Warcraft's Patch 5.2 on the public test realm and Guild Wars 2's Frost and Flame: The Gathering Storm on the live servers helping to account for this week's overall gains.  Expect another gain next week as Patch 5.2 is scheduled to go live today.

End of a streak.  APB: Reloaded was one of the original games on The Digital Dozen and for the first time in 57 weeks did not qualify for listing.  The game owned and published by K2 Network is not dead as the Xfire community only played 1.8% less than the week before.  Other games, like Tera and RuneScape just launched with new/old content and leapfrogged ahead.  While The War Z's decline could allow the game to sneak back into the top 12, I expect Defiance, which launches next month, to potentially keep APB: Reloaded from re-entering The Digital Dozen.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tranquility PCU Hits 60,476

Yesterday Eve Online witnessed an event players had not experienced in two years.  That's right, Eve saw the peak current users (PCU)1 for the day exceed 60,000 for the first time since the launch of the Incarna expansion.  Sunday's total of 60,476 is the fifth day in Eve's history that the PCU exceeded 60,000.  I contacted Chribba, the owner of Eve Offline, and he was kind enough to send me the times it has happened in the past.
  • 23 January 2011 - 63,170 (current record) 
  • 30 January 2011 - 62,333
  • 6 February 2011 - 60,782
  • 3 March 2013 - 60,476
  • 6 June 2010 - 60,453 (previous record)
For a bit of comparison of how big 60,476 people is, I looked at the size of the cities in Iceland.  A big deal was made a few years back when the number of subscriptions exceeded the population of Iceland, so I wondered how the active population compares to Iceland's cities.

If New Eden were a real place its population would make it the second largest city in Iceland.  Does anyone want to wager that CCP's marketing materials might include such a comparison once DUST comes fully online?

I also wonder how long the doom and gloom crowd will take to announce how horrible a development this is.  How Eve doesn't have enough space and resources to support so many players.  Why, we'll have to add space to high-sec or all the carebears will quit because they will not have enough asteroids to mine!  If CCP doesn't submit to their wishes they will quit, and because each carebear has 2.5 accounts that will lead to a failcascade that will cause CCP to shut down Eve and go bankrupt!  That's right, we'll never get to see vampires emerge from the World of Darkness.  Oh noes!

Okay, that last was written with tongue planted firmly in cheek but some forum troll will use those arguments.  Personally, seeing Eve's numbers recovering to the point I thought I'd see two years ago is enough to give me a warm feeling.


1 - Peak concurrent users is the highest number of players logged onto Tranquility at one time during a day.  The New Eden day follows the in-game day.

Friday, March 1, 2013

CCP Reaches Another Milestone

Yesterday CCP announced that Eve Online had surpassed the 500,000 subscription mark.  Not bad for a company whose first game was the board game Hættuspil ("Danger Game").