Friday, May 31, 2013

A Cafeteria Capsuleer?

Last night reminded me of my greatest fear for Odyssey: that the expansion will drive me out of low sec.  I scanned down an Average Dark Ochre and Gneiss located 0.3 AU from two stargates in a 0.1 security system and started munching on some asteroids.  I was able do that because I could just sit in the site hitting the directional scanner every few seconds whenever someone new showed up in local.  If I saw probes in space, warp off.  With a Procurer that can do 0 to warp in 7 seconds with the fleet bonuses I normally enjoy, I'm pretty safe as long as I pay attention and don't get cocky about my combat abilities (which are pretty poor).  With no threats to make me dock up, I managed to mine 120,000 m3 before logging off.  That is over 20% of my mining activity for the month of May.

The change to grav sites will make that performance impossible.  And please don't tell me I just have to stay aligned.  What's to keep a nice cloaky stealth bomber from sneaking into the new ore sites and tackling me when I have to change objects I'm aligning to?  Nothing.  I can chase off one ship, but if the cloaker has friends in an adjacent system?  Pop goes the Procurer.

My current project is comparing my life in low sec before and after Odyssey hits Tranquility and I plan on publishing some of the data on Monday.  For eveyone hoping I'll leave low, you'll have to wait another month because that's how long the project will run collecting data on life after Odyssey.  The funny thing is that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and went to low and now CCP is making changes that seemingly will make low sec less comfortable for me.  Then again, the possibility exists that I'm just a carebear and carebears are always afraid of change.  That's why I will HTFU, not give into my fears and give low sec a real chance for a month.

If I find low sec is even less profitable in Odyssey than today, I will not flee to high sec.  But I don't want to live in null sec either.  Can you image the drama in any null sec corp I joined if someone started awoxing bots?  First, could I resist?  Second, would anyone believe I could resist?  So living in null sec is probably out of the picture.

So if the low sec period ends, I'll become a cafeteria capsuleer.  I'll pick a couple of features from high sec, a couple of features from low, throw in a dash of null sec and w-space and come up with my own play style.  While not as cool as being a low sec carebear, that could provide a challenge.  But right now I don't really want a challenge.  I would just like to get more comfortable in low sec and really explore the possibilities, which I was just beginning to dig into with my operation selling ammunition in a low sec station in Molden Heath.  I guess I'll just have to see what Odyssey brings.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Revisiting Wildfire?

"The recall and expire options have been changed a bit – recall is now instantaneous and happens automatically on system jump or dock. Probes still have a timer, but instead of being lost when the timer is out, they automatically recall instead. The system remembers your last probe setup before they were automatically recalled so they can be quickly deployed again in the same pattern (by activating the launcher). No more forsaken probes in space!"

The above passage from CCP SoniClover's dev blog on the probing changes coming with Odyssey certainly stirred up some debate.  All I can add is that I am so glad I did not carry through with my plan to turn into a Sisters' probe manufacturer.  I don't see much of a future in that now.

I do see another market opportunity opening up in the probe market.  The RSS Core Scanner Probe now looks a lot better with these changes.  The RSS Core Scanner Probe is slightly more powerful than the Sisters Core Scanner Probe (sensor strength of 45 vs 44) but pays for the extra power with a greatly reduced endurance time (1000 vs 4000 seconds).  But now that pilots basically cannot lose probes and the probes are launched in a pattern, I don't really see a downside to using the Minmatar probes now.  I rarely find more than 3 signatures to scan down in the low sec systems I haunt and I usually finish within 15 minutes.  

I do have a set of RSS Core Scanner Probes from doing the Wildfire level 4 epic mission arc last summer.  I didn't do a guide but perhaps I should.  Both of my main pilots both have the faction standings and haven't done the arcs within the last 3 months so I can run through the arcs.  I think I'll do the arc this weekend, not only because I could use another set of probes but because my pre-Odyssey metrics gathering period ends on Friday and I have four days to kill.  I know that I usually don't like high sec but I can set up another experiment.  Since the Maelstrom is not receiving any changes, I can run through Wildfire in a Maelstrom/Hurricane gang before the expansion and then a Typhoon/Cyclone gang after the patch and see which does better.

Writing this post does remind me to do one thing on Singularity this weekend.  I need to see how the exploration changes affected Wildfire as the arc currently requires both hacking and archeology.  Now wouldn't that be a nasty surprise for the carebears who've ignored their exploration skills!  I wonder if anyone could make money off of that.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Singularity Needs Lore

"The technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is seen as an occurrence beyond which events cannot be predicted."

Singularity.  EVE players know it as the test server.  That's right, CCP doesn't give its live testing environment a name like "Public Test Realm."  Our test server gets its own name.  But shouldn't Singularity have its own lore that ties our test universe into the live one?  Having a copy of New Eden floating around disconnected to events seems wrong.

As CCP's marketing department keeps reminding us, EVE is real.  Singularity is already a place where players do theoretical work.  Whether that work is testing new features or training for the next alliance tournament, important work occurs on Singularity.  Why not tie that world more closely into the New Eden universe?  If people thought of Singularity as a part of New Eden instead of a separate shard that one has to follow special procedures to log onto, perhaps participation in mass tests would increase.

Here is a brief description of how I would tie the test and live servers together...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 28 May 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 May 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 38.8 20,133+6.8
22Guild Wars 216.18,367-2.1
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.45,389-9.0
55EVE Online4.82,470-6.0
88Planetside 23.31,728+31.8
99Lord of the Rings Online2.61,327+3.1
1111APB: Reloaded2.11,110+2.8
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 51,907

The Xfire community saw its interest in MMORPGs increase on Sunday as members spent 2.4% more time playing the twelve most popular games than the week before.  Games seeing the biggest percentage increase in playtime were RIFT (+38.8%), Planetside 2 (+31.8%) and Runescape (+29.1%).  The only game seeing a double-digit decrease was Tera (-12.7%).

That Old Patch Magic - While not posting big numbers on a percentage basis, the week's overall gain was powered by World of Warcraft's 6.8% increase in playtime.  Blizzard released Patch 5.3: Escalation for the most popular western MMORPG on Tuesday. 

Another Conversion To Free-to-Play - RIFT is in the Digital Dozen for the first time in 26 weeks and only the second time in 56 weeks as players begin to prepare for the game's conversion to F2P on 12 June.  As we saw earlier this year with Tera, people will pay for the last month of a game in order to get perks like more character and bag slots.  Those purchasing Storm Legion will also receive four additional souls not available to those solely going the F2P route.

Those who only follow the Raptr charts may find RIFT's lack of presence strange, as the game is one of the most popular among the Raptr community.  For example, here are the top five games (all genres) on Raptr last week:
1.  RIFT - 734,056 hours played
2.  League of Legends - 417,941 hours played
3.  Call of Duty: Black Ops II - 389,074 hours played
4.  World of Warcraft - 238,824 hours played
5.  DOTA 2 - 176,008 hours played
The reason for the discrepency is that Trion has offered the Raptr community a lot of rewards for playing the game.  While good for members of Raptr, the uninformed could believe that RIFT is a lot more popular than World of Warcraft.  With the game going F2P, I expect the Raptr promotions to cease and that the Xfire and Raptr numbers to become closer.

Double XP Weekend - Some games may experience declines due to holidays, but don't count SOE games among them.  Sunday saw Planetside 2 experience a 31.8% as SOE held one of their double XP weekends over the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 27, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: Winter Is Coming

With Odyssey scheduled for launch in 8 days, I'm preparing for what I hope are some botter tears.  I don't expect the level of tears caused by the unified inventory last summer, but I have some hopes just because a lot of botters tend to not follow the game closely.

But I'm already waiting for the winter expansion, at least as far as the War on Bots is concerned.  Why?  When Sean Conover (a.k.a. CCP Sreegs) was in charge I just felt he had a plan.  Sure, the plan was slow moving, but I could track the progress.  I still think Team Security has teeth and I don't see anyone turning off the automatic detection system any time soon.  I bet CCP Stillman has a couple of tricks up his sleeve that we'll see over the next couple of months and I know CCP Peligro will track down freighters full of RMT ISK.  But something just seems missing.

I think that part of the reason is a lack of leadership at CCP.  No, I'm not saying anything bad about CCP Ripley or CCP Seagull.  I'm looking at the holes in the organization chart.  Looking at the CCP jobs page not only shows that the Director of IT Security post unoccupied, but so are the positions of EVE Online Technical Director and EVE Online Executive Producer.  The people in place are good, but they need a full team, especially in positions that require strategic thinking.

The other reason I found this weekend when I watched the Fanfest Dev Track coverage on Twitch over the weekend.  I found the session that featured CCP Seagull and CCP's General Counsel Bill Winter fascinating.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Finally Lost It

That Procurer I keep dangling out in low sec?  I finally lost it last night.  I'd put up the kill report but my loss didn't show up on Battle Clinic.  Maybe later when I have time I'll write something up with the link.  But it really was a good fight, with an Enyo, Algos and third ship I forget what it was.  Most importantly, they didn't get the pod.  If you don't have a pod saver tab on your overview, make one.  Also, I didn't kill anything but I did make one of the ships warp off the field once.  And my stealth bomber got away. 

All in all I'm happy, especially since I have 9 more Procurers.  I just need to buy rigs and I'm set to terrorize the asteroids again.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

No Kill Reports For Drones

Last night I found an Average Dark Ochre & Gneiss site.  The first gravimetric site I had found all month, I wasn't about to let the opportunity to do a little non-belt mining pass me by.  Things were going well for an hour or so.  I sat around in my Procurer and mined 4,500 units of Obsidian Ochre and 4,500 units of Onyx Ochre with only the Angel Cartel and some rogue drones getting in the way.  Those were easily enough to kill with a heavy missile Bellicose on overwatch.

I should have stopped then because I needed to get some sleep but with this perhaps the last grav site I would find before Odyssey and the changes to grav sites so I decided to press on.  As I started munching on a Dark Ochre asteroid I saw someone enter the system and then a few minutes later Sisters probes in space.  Someone was probing me down!

Did I do the prudent, carebear thing and dock up?  No, I was greedy and wanted to keep mining.  So while the Procurer kept mining, I swapped out the Bellicose for a Hound and stationed the stealth bomber 48km away from my barge.

When the interloper arrived, I suspected I was in trouble.  I was confronted with a Pilgrim.  At the time I didn't know it was the Amarr force recon ship.  I just remember reading about Rixx Javix flying them, so I knew they must be pretty bad-ass.  Yikes!

To say I panicked was an understatement.  I fumbled at my keyboard and the Pilgrim scrammed me.  I think he also was draining my cap, but I couldn't tell in the middle of the action.  I forgot to launch the drones but I did remember to align to a station and hit the dock button.  I then uncloaked and lit up the enemy ship with a target painter.  I forgot to fire up the sensor dampener.  I also managed to lock one of his Hammerhead II drones instead of the Pilgrim.  That probably accounted for the lack of attention given my stealth bomber.  The Pilgrim pilot didn't notice I was there with two ships until he saw his tech 2 drone go "POP!".

I think that made him mad because he forgot about the Procurer and came charging after the stealth bomber, allowing the barge to escape.  Looking at the logs after the fight showed I had just enough capacitor to get me to the station.  That's how close he got to capping me out.

At that point the Hound was aligned and firing Nova torpedoes.  Explosive damage probably wasn't the best thing to use, but I forgot about swapping over to the thermal damage torps I had in the cargo hold.  The Pilgrim did manage to get within 28 km before a burst of my afterburner extended the range out to 32 km.  But at that point I figured I didn't have a chance of killing the ship so I warped off before he could get close enough to tackle me.

Okay, so I'm still pretty bad at this PvP thing.  But while I fled the field, I did manage to kill a tech 2 drone, which means I won the ISK war, right?  Too bad we don't get kill reports for that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Trend

Sorry folks, but something ate my original post.  All I have left is this YouTube video.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 19 May 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 19 May 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 37.2 18,844-2.7
22Guild Wars 216.98,548-6.8
34Star Wars: The Old Republic11.75,922+6.3
55EVE Online5.22,628+1.4
88Planetside 22.61,311-7.9
99Lord of the Rings Online2.51,287-2.1
1010Ragnarok Online 22.21,103-8.3
11--APB: Reloaded2.21,080+15.3
1211Need For Speed World2.1992-2.4
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 50,676

Sunday saw another big drop in the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing the most popular MMORPGs.  The 8.3% decline in time spent playing games in the genre was led by declines in Neverwinter (-45.9%) and Metin 2 (-22.3%).  Games bucking the trend were led by APB: Reloaded (+15.3%) and Star Wars: The Old Republic (+6.3%).

Rollin', rollin', rollin' - Part of Sunday's decline is explained by the decline in Neverwinter.  The Perfect World beta was interrupted by a massive exploit that resulted in a 7-hour rollback.  Once the exploit was announced, many players apparently stopped playing fearing that a rollback would occur.

It's How You Look - Star Wars: The Old Republic saw a 6.3% increase in time following the release of Game Update 2.1: Customization.  The update included a new race and the introduction of the character creator into the Fleet areas.

No Cannibals - Last week CCP's MMOFPS DUST 514 officially launched.  One of the Icenlandic game company's objectives was to not see massive players shift from their flagship game EVE Online to play DUST.  The goal was achieved at least among the Xfire community as the EVE playtime rose 1.4% while DUST saw a peak concurrent user mark of 9,255 set Sunday.

Data Updated - As a bookkeeping note, I have updated the Google document with the latest data.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ten Things I Look For In An MMORPG

Once upon a time I was a monogamous gamer.  I only played one MMORPG at a time.  But over the years I learned that EVE Online was not a jealous mistress and that I could always come back if I strayed for a week or two.  So over the years I've dabbled in several other MMORPGs ranging from FreeRealms to my latest acquisition over the weekend, Defiance.  With games like Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar scheduled for release later this year, I pondered why I choose the games I do.  I came up with a list of ten factors that guide my decisions into the games I like.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why I Didn't Mine Last Night

I know that a lot of people think I'm living the high life in low security space.  You know, sitting in a belt mining all those delicious low sec ores while eating Hot Pockets and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon all night.  But sometimes I actually fly around and well, do stuff that involves expending a little ammunition.  I got so caught up in that last night that I actually didn't have time to undock the Procurer.

I started the night doing my new lead-off activity, checking my market orders.  I'm only using a fraction of my available market orders but I'm finding the experience of selling things interesting.  Of course, I'm selling in a low sec station so I figure I'll only have to restock once a week, if that.  After all, nothing really happens in Molden Heath, right?

That lead to my next activity, exploration.  I was a bit unlucky as the first system I scanned in came up dry except for a wormhole.  As I wasn't interested in doing any ninja mining I moved on to a system where I had scanned down two radar sites the day before but didn't get a chance to run them.  One was still up and among the things I found was a 10-run Large Micro Jump Drive BPC.  I think I can start manufacturing and selling those as it was the third one I found this week.

Since no one apparently was exploring in the system, I dropped probes and scanned down 2 wormholes, another radar site and a Minor Angel Annex.  I quickly ran the radar site and picked up two more BPCs, these for the Target Spectrum Breaker and Small Ancillary Shield Booster.  I'll definitely keep the 10-runs of the Small Ancillary Shield Booster for my personal use but I wonder if a market exists for the Target Spectrum Breaker.

Then came the big decision of the night.  Run the Minor Angel Annex or belt mine?  I chose running the site.  So I hopped my pilots into a Cyclone and a Jaguar and headed out for some nice relaxing PvE where I have to constantly watch local and hit the directional scanner.  But everyone seems pretty chilled, including the Fweddit guys who I think were looking for Minmatar plexers as the Amarr militia has made a real push in my constellation this month.  Unless people were dropping deep space scan probes, I was the only one launching drones all night.

The details of the PvE battle against the NPC forces weren't really interesting.  Let's just say that Cyclones burn down battleships really slowly, but as killing the Angel Cartel is always enjoyable that just prolonged the fun.  The best part is that the Domination battlecruiser dropped something interesting.  In addition to a Gold Domination tag and 1000 rounds of Arch Angel Nuclear M, I also picked up a Domination Nanofiber Structure.  My first good pirate faction drop!

I spent about 3 1/2 hours playing last night, which kept me up way past my bedtime.  But I had fun and for a change my finances noticed.  In addition to the drops of the 3 BPCs, I pulled in 24.3 million ISK in bounties and the calculator in my cargo hold showed 64.3 million ISK in salvage and drops collected.  That's right, I pick up after myself.

I realize that many will look at my night's work, see a 25 million ISK/hr rate and say low sec sucks, I'm having fun.  Despite the spreadsheet I'm keeping EVE is a game and playing in the dangerous end of the pool just increases the enjoyment.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sandbox > Lockbox

Even though I'm hard at work gathering metrics on how I play EVE Online, I still found a little time to download and start playing Neverwinter.  While I'm still only level 11, I've managed to pick up two Nightmare Lockboxes.  These boxes contain 10 Tarmalune Trade Bars (whatever those are) plus a random item.  A random item?  I went to the Zen Market, the Neverwinter cash shop, and sure enough keys are available for purchase with real money.

Paying real life money for random items?  What kind of madness is that?  Apparently one that is going around as I first encountered the trick when playing Guild Wars 2 and the keys for the Black Lion chests.  Sure, the keys do appear in game, but not nearly as often as the chests.  I watch GuildCast on Gamebreaker TV and was amused at some of the stories of people buying lots of keys trying to get a particular drop.

Surfing the net landed me at the Ancient Gaming Noob and even more games that have gone the lockbox route.  Everquest 2 and Star Trek Online both hopped on the lockbox train.  EQ2?  That's the game where I first gambled, paying the Gigglegibber goblin on the docks silver for tickets while waiting for ships to dock to carry me to distant lands.  Now the trend appears to have players spending real life money trying to win internet pixel prizes.

Perhaps I'm biased but I prefer the EVE Online model where the players, not the game developer, acts as the house.   Amidst all of the intrigue and player theft that EVE is known for has developed a healthy (or unhealthy depending on your moral views) gambling culture.  For those interested in lotteries SOMERblink is perhaps the most well-known having given out over 750 trillion ISK in cash and prizes throughout the years.  Those interested in using their in-game currency to play poker can head over to EVE Online Hold'em where players have wagered over 175 trillion ISK since the fall of 2007.  Players don't have to go to the big sites to play as EVE Radio DJs frequently run lotteries or other contests for cash and prizes.

Gambling in CCP's New Eden universe also extends to eSports.  Sure, EVE is not a player in the professional eSports scene, but that doesn't stop players from betting on PvP competitions such as the CCP-run Alliance Tournament or the monthly tournaments run by the Syndicate Competitive League.  I don't have links to those running betting pools on the tournaments but I did see mention of it while watching the latest SCL tournament over the weekend.  One of the more amusing things is that SOMERblink has sponsored both the SCL tournaments but also the last CCP-run tournament, The New Eden Open.  Think of the meta for that for a moment.  A player-run gambling house sponsoring events that players will gamble on.  What a concept!

The amazing thing in light of all of the lockbox shenanigans going on in other games is that CCP isn't really involved with the whole gambling scene.  I won't try to tell anyone that CCP doesn't make some money off gambling as players can purchase PLEX and convert them into gambling stakes.  But for the most part CCP's main involvement is ensuring that any gambling organization is not a front for RMT sites looking to launder money and goods.  Well, and hosting or helping to host tournaments.  But all things considered I'd rather see the type of environment that CCP has created than the lockbox mentality that has captured the imagination of so many other game companies.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spreadsheets: EVE's Secret To Success?

I'm beginning to wonder if the reason for EVE's uniquely sustained growth is the spreadsheet.  No, not the spreadsheets that make up the UI, but the Excel type of spreadsheet.  I'm coming to that realization due to an experiment I'm running related to Odyssey.  I want to know if the payout for exploration is better or worse after the changes.  So with that in mind I have recorded all of my exploration activities (or at least the drops/bounties) this month.  And since I was recording that, I decided to record everything.  So far I have two weeks' worth of activities in a Google doc spreadsheet.

Ever hear of something called the observer effect?   The observer effect, according to Wikipedia, "is a form of reactivity in which a researcher's cognitive bias causes them to unconsciously influence the participants of an experiment."  In this case I'm both the researcher and the participant of the experiment.  And after two weeks, I can tell that recording my activities has changed my behavior while playing EVE.  I'm actually playing more.

I'm finding that I'm going through a checklist of things to do that I used to only follow subconsciously.  First, I do my exploration, which so far this month has basically meant scanning down and running radar sites.  If I have a lot of time left over I either do a level 3 security mission or a level 4 distribution mission or three.  I try to time the missions so I can end the night filling up my Procurer with an ore bay or two of ore at a local belt, shooting and salvaging rats along the way.

Before the experiment I might run a site, look at the clock and think I need some sleep.  Now, I look at my spreadsheet, think "I haven't mined yet," and run out to a belt for 12 more minutes and get a load of ore.  I signed up with Raptr a couple of months ago and should really check this at the end of the month along with all the other data I'm collecting on my activities.

But this has me thinking.  EVE players, if they stick with the game long enough, always seem to wind up creating spreadsheets for everything.  How much does recording behavior reinforce doing that behavior in the game?  And once the behavior is recorded, how much of an incentive is that to continue to either match or exceed the previously accomplished results?  I know that PvPers have their killboards.  Carebears usually wind up with spreadsheets.

After realizing that, I thought about all the spreadsheets I created for all the other MMORPGs I've played throughout the years.  I've made one.  In EverQuest 2 I had an arrow manufacturing business so I recorded all of my sales plus any purchases I made for raw materials.  I haven't made a single spreadsheet for any other game.  Of course, the game play in those games hasn't required one.  Those games are quite simple.  Find the quest giver, do quest, receive bacon.  Except for EQ2, I haven't played a game in which the economy has required a careful accounting of assets to succeed.

Is it a coincidence that the two games I've played for over a year, EVE (almost 4 years) and EQ2 (3+ years) are the two games I made spreadsheets in?  I think if a game can get players so involved that they are recording their activities someplace that the game has a good chance to have a high retention rate.  Other things like player organizations (i.e. guilds and corporations) are very important too, but anything that gets players to immerse themselves into the virtual world is a good thing from a game developer's perspective.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 14 May 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 12 May 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 35.0 19,362-4.9
22Guild Wars 216.69,170+2.8
43Star Wars: The Old Republic10.15,572+0.0
54EVE Online4.72,592-11.3
87Planetside 22.61,424-15.3
98Lord of the Rings Online2.41,315-9.0
1011Ragnarok Online 22.21,203+24.7
11--Need For Speed World1.81,016+28.8
12--Metin 21.7950+17.3
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 55,285

Volatility was the word of the day Sunday as the Xfire community spent 14.7% more time playing the twelve most popular MMORPGs compared to the previous week.  Three games, Maple Story (-30.5%), APB: Reloaded (-22.4%) and Runescape (-11.0%) experienced large declines and dropped off the list.  The games making the list this week were the newly released Neverwinter and two returning games, Need For Speed World (+28.8%) and Metin 2 (+17.3).

Overlooked - With all the press surrounding new games like Neverwinter and Elder Scrolls Online, Ragnarok Online 2 snuck up on me unobserved.  The sequel to the original game created by GRAVITY that debuted in North America in June 2003, Ragnarok Online 2 should have appeared on The Digital Dozen list last week and that post was updated with the correct information yesterday.

RO2 may have legs although with some of the big name games still due to make appearances this year I expect RO2 to remain in the bottom half of the list.  Still, the games current position at the top of Steam's Free To Play list should help.

D&D Revisited - Perfect World released Neverwinter, its new game based on the D&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting last week.  The launch was a success with the game debuting at #3 on The Digital Dozen.  The question now is will a F2P model at launch along with a more popular setting lead to more success than Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online.

Birthday Hangovers - Two games that celebrated birthdays, CCP's EVE Online and Nexon's Maple Story, experienced big declines last week.  EVE Online, after setting a new PCU record the previous week, saw a decline of 11.3%.  Maple Story experienced an even bigger decline on the second weekend of its month-long 8th anniversary celebration at 30.5%.  The unusual part of the story is that Saturday was the actual 8th anniversary of the game.  I guess a party really can't last for a month.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Concurrency Numbers: In Chribba We Trust

I have to admit that if there is one CCP employee I don't trust it is CCP's Chief Marketing Officer David Reid.  I'm in good company among those who follow the MMORPG industry and not just Eve Online.  I think the "Tabula Rasa is triple A and here to stay" interview with Massively a couple of months before NCSoft announced the game was closing will stick with a lot of people for a long time.  I don't hold the claim that RIFT took 600,000 players from WoW in 2011 against Reid against him (too seriously) but it does show a tendency towards hyperbole.  So when he announced at Fanfest in his CCP Presents! appearance that the Tranquility + DUST numbers had set a PCU record for a single game shard but wasn't going to release the number or the date, I thought, "Here we go again."

Of course, CCP Pokthulhu does have to contend with the different culture at CCP compared to his previous stints at NCSoft and Trion.  CCP is one of the most open companies in the industry in providing user numbers.  More specifically, CCP provides the concurrency numbers not only when players log in but through an API for enterprising web developers and other programmers.

Those who read the blog know that my preferred source for player concurrency is  Run by Chribba, reading the source code of the page provides data for Tranquility going back to 2006.  In fact, the dates and numbers I used in my latest post listing all the days where the PCU exceeded 60,000 (except for the latest record) came from asking Chribba for the information. 

Last Monday Chribba provided a new feature with the launch of Uprising; concurrency numbers for DUST 514.  I'm really interested to see what the numbers are beginning on Tuesday when the game officially launches.  So far the record is 4,662 set on 6 May.  But perhaps more importantly is I have an independent source of information about concurrency in DUST.  A lot of people are going to throw out numbers about the success of DUST.  But having Chribba providing concurrency numbers for DUST 514 means we have an honest and reliable source of information to check some of the claims, whether those claims are on the forums or in an official press release.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Odyssey May Mean For The War On Bots

I've played around on Singularity, read the dev blogs, and even talked with CCP Stillman at Fanfest about Team Security's current efforts.  I still don't know what the future holds for The War on Bots but I have a few thoughts.

First, ice bots.  People are cheering the end of ice bots because they are now in anomalies instead of belts.  I still wonder at the fact that people would even bot ice considering how little profit it brought in.  If someone's paying a license fee to use bot software (and they do), then they are doing something far more profitable like mining in asteroid belts.  But I usually only deal with the top end botting software, so maybe all the bots people complain about are homemade.  After all, currently a mining bot would only perform very simple tasks.

So what's the future?  The good news is that the move from belts to anomalies will definitely kill the less sophisticated bots.  The bad news is that the increased profits will attract the attention of bot makers who actually have a clue.  The barrier to entry in this club is the scanner.  If a bot dev can read the scanner, I see no problem getting the bot to the ice.  From there getting the bot to mine is just like asteroid mining except the bot dev doesn't have to worry about changing out crystals.

The big problem for botters is that ice is no longer infinite.  That means trying to scan down the anomalies as soon as they respawn.  That will probably lead to an increase in detection and bans by Team Security offset by those who give up on botting ice.

EDIT:  I found a response from the developer of the Eve Pilot bots:

Slav2 (9 May 2013) -  "CCP bored that players prone to write petitions if they see ice miner bot, and found a way to hide these bots in anomalies.  Some home made delay based ice mining bots macros will be broken of cause, that is good for profy botters. "

In a related topic, I wonder how long high sec grav, er, I mean ore sites, will last.  If a bot can detect ice anomalies, then the software can now ore anomalies and get some better grades of ore.  I just wonder how long it will take for a bot dev to implement that feature.

Next comes the radial menus.  I think that those have the potential to cause OCR bots problems.  However, while running around SiSi I didn't see a need to use them, to that handicap will come at a future date.

Finally comes the elephant in the room: Inner Space.  I know that people claim that Inner Space, or more specifically ISBoxer, does not violate the EVE Eula or ToS.  But Lavish Software on its wiki actually lists such behavior as a feature...
"Memory Modification - A memory modification service allows Inner Space and extensions to easily and safely modify the memory of the host process. An extension can also provide a memory protection service, which protects memory modifications from any detection by the host." 
That not only describes a violation of the EVE Eula and ToS but also why so many bot developers across so many games find Inner Space such a valuable development platform.  But as long as ISBoxer remains a semi-legitimate software that doesn't attract bans by CCP, then Team Security can only automatically detect and ban Inner Space extensions known to run bots or contain game-breaking code like an autopilot warp-to-zero hack.  I can actually see Lavish Software making more money off EVE than it currently does due to the need for more sophisticated bots.  All a bot maker needs to do is create a new extension that CCP doesn't know about and the bot then only needs to worry about behavioral detection.

I really want to see how CCP handles the situation, especially since CCP is so resistant to application developers making real life money off of EVE.  The fact that Lavish Software is allowed to make thousands of dollars off of EVE every year with software that violates the EULA/ToS is strange.

I hope this post doesn't depress anyone looking for bot tears.  When Odyssey hits Tranquility I'll look a the reaction in the botting community but I really don't expect to find many, if any, tears.  I just hope I'm not reporting on bot laughter.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Low Sec Ice Mining In Odyssey

I may have questions about the changes that will make belt mining in low sec more dangerous, but I definitely approve the changes occurring to the ice belts.  CCP Fozzie posted the following description of the new ice anomalies on the forums yesterday:
2500 units of standard racial ice.

3000 units of standard racial ice
400 units of Glare Crust

Nullsec with weak truesec (0.0 to -0.5):
3000 units of improved racial ice
400 units of Glare Crust
500 units of Dark Glitter
200 units of Gelidus

Nullsec with strong truesec (-0.5 to -1.0):
3500 units of improved racial ice
400 units of Glare Crust
1000 units of Dark Glitter
300 units of Gelidus
250 units of Krystallos
Sure, null sec is receiving a lot of love, but jealously of someone else's gains is rather silly.  I'd rather concentrate on the changes in my area of space.  Let's review what the current belts hold broken down by security bands:
  • 0.4 - infinite supply of racial ice
  • 0.2-0.3 - infinite supply of racial ice and Glare Crust
  • 0.1 - infinite supply of racial ice, Glare Crust and Dark Glitter
What?  Low sec is losing Dark Glitter and I'm not complaining?  Don't worry, CCP is not paying me to shut up.  I am just looking at geography.  Take the Minmatar Republic as an example.  The Matari have 15 low sec ice belts broken down by the following security bands:
  • 0.4 - 5 systems
  • 0.2-0.3 - 9 systems
  • 0.1 - 1 system
So in my area of space one-third of the ice belts are receiving an ice buff and one is receiving a nerf.  But is that belt, located in Todifrauan, really receiving a nerf?  When the increase to ice mining speed (aka the AFK ice mining nerf) is taken into account, I don't think so.  For that, we need to look at the products refined from the different types of ore:
Dark Glitter
  • Heavy Water - 500 units
  • Liquid Ozone - 1000 units
  • Strontium Clathrates - 50 units

Glare Crust
  • Heavy Water - 1000 units
  • Liquid Ozone - 500 units
  • Strontium Clathrates - 25 units
In Odyssey ice miners can mine 2 units of Glare Crust in the same time as they can currently mine 1 unit of Dark Glitter.  So in terms of time ice miners will actually mine more ice products, even in the one ice field that contained Dark Glitter, after the expansion hits Tranquility.

I also have to add I'm really happy that CCP is giving some love to the belts in the .4 systems.  Currently I don't see a reason for mining in a .4 ice belt except for convenience.  Those belts hold the same ice as found in high sec.  Why mine in the riskier low sec when the same reward is found in high sec?  To my way of thinking CCP effectively increased the number of belts players will mine ice in Minmatar low sec from 10 to 15.  That is, if anyone mining ice will brave low sec.

So will people brave the dangers of low sec to mine ice?  I don't know about those in high sec but ice is looking much more attractive, especially if the price of ice goes up as expected due to scarcity.  Ice belts should be safer than regular asteroid belts as the Tags4Sec rats will not spawn in the anomalies.  Also, the cycle times are much faster now.  I logged onto Singularity yesterday and took a spin in a Procurer fitted with an Ice Harvester II, Ice Harvester Upgrade II and Medium Ice Harvester Accelerator I.  With the changes on the test server I was able to mine one block of ice every 50 seconds.  Can I stay aligned for 10 minutes while the ore bay on my Procurer fills?  I don't see why not.  Instead of drudgery ice mining is possibly something I can do to fill a quick 10 minutes at the end of a night if I finish all my other activities early.

I'm still not exactly happy about the free-for-all the asteroid belts are going to turn into with the rush to farm tags for security status.  But if the reward is going to show up in ice mining because CCP figures attracting miners to belts is a lost cause, then I'll play along and see how players adapt to the new rules

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What's Up With Torpedo Manufacturing?

Those of you following the blog know about my determination (some might claim stubbornness) to not let the changes coming with EVE Online's Odyssey expansion drive me out of low sec.  Part of that is securing my ammunition supply.  One of my quirks when I play MMORPGs is that I like to make my own ammunition and EVE is no different.  My habit in low sec up until know is to go to the asteroid belts when I have a few minutes and mine.  That way whenever I am getting low I can just pop a blueprint into a production line and 13 hours later I have plenty of ammunition.

With the upcoming changes I foresee using a lot more ammunition.  That's not so bad except CCP at the same time is theoretically making belt mining more dangerous with the addition of the Tags4Sec feature.  If everything works as intended a lot more PvPers will hang around low-sec belts.  I figure I'll see more than my fair share of action as I only like mining in 0.1 and 0.2 security systems unless the mechanic doesn't tie into system security.  So on the assumption that I'll need to mine smarter in order to maintain my chosen way of life I began to catalog what ore I need to mine in order to produces various types of ammunition.  I started small, only researching the close range projectile ammunition and missiles used by sub-capital class ships.

I received a surprise when I got to torpedoes.  Except for Nova torpedoes, all torpedoes require megacyte to manufacture.  That doesn't really affect me since I fly Hounds and I prefer Novas because of the explosive damage bonus I receive.  Also, explosion damage is the preferred damage to deal to Angel Cartel rats, the ones that inhabit the systems I fly in. 

But why do the other three require megacyte?  Megacyte is only found in Arkonor, Bistot, and Spodumain.  Except for the rare occasions that Spodumain appears in a grav site in low, the mineral is only available in null security space.  Are torpedoes considered too powerful to use in Empire space so this was a mechanism to control their use?  Is their a role-play reason related to the Minmatar uprising against the Amarr that resulted in the Matari coming up with a new method of manufacturing torps?  Did someone at CCP make a mistake and forget to put the megacyte build component into the Nova blueprint?  Or did a game designer just flub the materials many years ago and broke with what seems a design decision to make all standard sub-capital ammunition manufacturable using ore mined in Empire?  I'll probably never find out, but I can ask.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Digital Dozen - 7 May 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 5 May 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Update 13 May 2013 - Due to a data entry error, Ragnarok Online 2 was mistakenly left off the list.  The game debuted at #11 on the list following its western launch and placement on Steam.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.9 20,370-7.3
22Guild Wars 217.98,918-6.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.25,565-9.6
45EVE Online5.92,924+11.7
78Planetside 23.41,682+14.0
87Lord of the Rings Online2.91,445-8.8
99APB: Reloaded2.41,208+9.4
11--Ragnarok Online 21.9965--
12--Maple Story1.9929+72.3
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 49,796

The Xfire community experienced what is becoming a near average decline of 6.6% in the time spent playing the twelve most popular MMORPGs on Sunday.  Games experiencing the biggest declines in percentage terms were Age of Wushu (-39.6%), Need for Speed World (-24.6%) and Aion (-14.2%).  The games gaining the most playtime were Maple Story (+72.3%), Mabinogi (+28%) and Planetside 2 (+14%).

Resurgent Games - Two games managed to crack The Digital Dozen after long absences.  Maple Story made its first appearance on the list in 15 weeks as players began a month-long celebration of the game's 8th anniversary.  Mabinogi is making its first appearance since November and strongest showing ever as a three-week event starring characters from Maple Story began on 1 May.

Anniversary Celebration - Maple Story is not the only game benefiting from an anniversary celebration.  EVE Online's 10th anniversary was yesterday and on Sunday a successful effort was made to break the 2-year-old peak concurrent user record.  A new record of 65,303 was set amidst great rejoicing.

The effort resulted in EVE's highest Digital Dozen score and its highest ranking since a 4th place result on 21 August 2012.

What happened to Age of Wushu?  I suspect that as the Xfire community is basically from the west that this eastern import is experiencing a culture clash.  I'll just post this conclusion from a review from PC Gamer...
"Age of Wushu can be fun, but that's only if you stay with the game after the initial tortuous two hours tutorial. Even later, however, it's easy to get discouraged by the repetitive nature of quests and unclear game systems. Therefore, this MMORPG restricts itself only to big fans of Chinese culture who are willing to learn a lot, or to vehement players of this genre who like maxing their Hunting and Cooking skills while setting up the most profitable stalls. Age of Wushu has a lot to learn from its older, distant cousin World of Warcraft, and if Snail Games' production were as accessible and streamlined as Blizzard's, many more would flock to this free-to-play, climatic kung-fu adventure."

Monday, May 6, 2013

The End Of The First Decade

Today is the 10th anniversary of the launch of EVE Online.  I could document the activities that occurred yesterday to celebrate the event, but I won't.  EVE is a sandbox game and centering the story around what CCP is doing in-game seems wrong.  The stories of the New Eden universe are popular among people who don't even play EVE because of the players.  Even with the proliferation of players with multiple accounts EVE is made up of the stories of over 100,000 people.  So here's my story of the final weekend of the first decade of the age of the Empyreans.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Celebrating 10 Years With A PCU Record

Sunday saw Eve Online end its first decade of existence by setting a new peak concurrent users record.  The PCU of 65,303, recorded at 1908 GMT/UTC, broke the previous record of 63,170 set in January 2011.  Eve appeared poised to break the record earlier this year when Tranquility experienced a PCU of 60,476 on 3 March but three days later Team Security launched a new detection method targeting specific botting and client-masking software.  That effort contributed to an 8.2% decline in the average weekly concurrent user mark over a two-week period.

Sunday was only the sixth time that the daily PCU has exceeded 60,000 accounts.  Here is a list of the times.
  • 5 May 2013 - 65,303
  • 23 January 2011 - 63,170
  • 30 January 2011 - 62,333
  • 6 February 2011 - 60,782
  • 3 March 2013 - 60,476
  • 6 June 2010 - 60,453

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Plot Thickens

Apart from my time in the Army I have spent my life living and working in the Chicago area.  That leads to an appreciation for some of the finer points of electoral politics, like the importance of voter registration drives at cemeteries.  After all, death should not take away a person's right to vote.  But this post isn't about all the amusing tricks the Daley machine used to stay in power.  This post is about vote handling in an internet spaceship election.

In the past, the election for CSM would end when Hilmar read the results at Fanfest.  We would congratulate the winners, console the losers and life went on.  This year is different as CSM 8 was elected using a single transferable vote (STV) method.  As part of the effort to get player buy-in, CCP stated it would make the actual votes, stripped of any personally identifiable information, available to the public after the election.  The code used to determine the results was also provided to players to check the results.  Total transparency, right?  Except that at the time I write this CCP still has not released the votes.

Do I think that CCP did anything sneaky with the vote to ensure diversity?  No.  But with a STV format I always thought that promising to release the actual votes was always fairly dangerous to the credibility of the process.  I'm sure someone could use the raw data to come up with an analysis that shows that the 14 most popular candidates did not all win a seat.  What makes perfect sense to someone familiar with the STV process could look like an evil conspiracy to someone used to a first past the post system.

In particular I am interested to see how James 315 will twist the data.  I should thank him for his public support of Mike Azariah because without it I doubt he would have won a seat.  But as his shtick is that CCP is catering to high sec carebears and ruining the game, I really want to see how he will use the raw voting data to cover-up his role in electing Mike.

I also would like to see the data, if only to confirm my suspicion that the CFC and HBC voting lists really did guarantee that Kaleb Rysode and Banlish would not receive a seat on the CSM.  This was the first time the null sec blocs had to deal with a STV system and I suspect they did not optimize their voting power.  Of course, I am sure their numbers crunchers are also waiting for the data so they can analyze what went wrong.

I really hope that CCP releases the information soon.  While watching a lot of people in tin foil hats running around is fun, I'm ready to move on.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Adapt Or High Sec

Having identified what I consider a nerf to my play style in low sec, I'm just going to cry, tuck my tail between my legs and return to high sec, right?  Muhahahahaha!  Sure, I'm a carebear, but I'm a stubborn carebear.  Yesterday I wrote a post about my place in the EVE ecosystem of PvP and how the changes affect low sec mining.  Today I'll offer up a cartoon as the way I see myself.

I'm the red fish thinking outside the box.  They are known as pilot fish.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Food Chain

On Saturday I wrote a post wondering if I needed to move back to high sec.  I don't think I did that good a job explaining why I think I may not have a choice.

The comic above describes my place in the EVE ecosystem.  I'm the little yellow fish.