Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Bad Year For New MMOs

EVE Online is getting a lot of press recently for its massive battles and player wars.  But I can't help but wonder what the coverage would look like on the gaming sites if the game publishers were coming out with massive AAA titles this year.  From what I can tell, the biggest so far this year is Neverwinter, which is based on Dungeons and Dragons.  Last year, August brought Guild Wars 2.  This year?  According to Amazon we'll see the rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV although we'll probably not find out officially until 8 August.

We may not even see a AAA game released during the Christmas season.  The Elder Scrolls Online isn't scheduled for release until Q2 next year.  After watching the Wildstar show on Gamebreaker I doubt we'll see Carbine launch the game this year.  And I really doubt that John Smedley is going to announce that EverQuest Next will launch this year at SOE Live tomorrow.

Of course, that just gives CCP and its players even more time to influence the future of the genre.  EVE influencing other companies?  Smedley apparently has bought into the whole "emergent gameplay" theory and we see EVE's influence on Planetside 2.  This year the buzzword among developers is "sandbox".  I keep reading about how all these new games will have sandbox elements.  At last year's SOE Live Smedley even stated that EverQuest Next would be the "largest sandbox MMO" ever created.

But until these other games launch and we can see if they live up to expectations, the gaming press will need content to fill up their web pages for those all so precious hits.  And if the gaming press actually winds up covering the actions of gamers instead of game companies, is it surprising that the mainstream media follows?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 30 July 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 28 July 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.6 15,600+2.3
22Guild Wars 218.77,194+5.7
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.03,835+10.1
44EVE Online5.42,078-3.4
911APB: Reloaded2.71,046+23.4
1012Metin 22.5959+16.8
11--Maple Story2.5942+36.1
1210Lord of the Rings Online2.4928+8.3
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 38,440

Sunday saw the Xfire community take a greater interest in MMORPGs, with the first increase in the amount of time spent playing the most popular games in 5 weeks.  The 3.8% increase was led in percentage terms by Maple Story (+36.1%), APB:Reloaded (+23.4%) and Metin 2 (+16.8%).  The only game to suffer a large decline was Aion (-15%).

Return of the Gree - Star Wars: The Old Republic saw a 10.1% increase in playtime by the Xfire community Sunday as Bioware brought back the Gree.  From 23 July to 6 August the ancient Gree starship returns to Ilum bringing a new speeder for players to earn.

Arresting the slide - Perfect World stopped the slide that Neverwinter was making down the list with a weekend of added boxes that could drop while adventuring in the game.  The promotion ran from Friday to Monday and saw Xfire members play the game 11% more on Sunday than the week before.

The Two Week Pulse - Guild Wars 2 continued its roller coaster ride, this time upwards, with the release of Cutthroat Politics on the 23rd.  Players presumably get to vote on the future storyline of the Living World, with the choices between war hero Ellen Kiel and Black Lion trader Evon Gnashblade.  Just to make the contest interesting, players can perform tasks to get more than one vote.  We'll see if such an incentive can break the recent string of down ticks on week's without a content patch.

Monday, July 29, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: Odyssey Changes

On Friday CCP sent out an interesting graphic on its official Eve Online account.

A drop in auto-detection bans
I was a bit surprised that CCP would promote a drop in botting bans.  Usually game companies only promote ban waves. CCP Stillman soon clarified what players should take away from the graphic along with another, more detailed graph.

The automatic bot detection numbers for 2013 so far

I've long maintained that just catching bots isn't enough.  When CCP Sreegs first appeared at Fanfest 2011 one of his goals was to make botting and RMT unattractive.  If you give someone less incentive to do something, you get less of that activity.  And in the end I want to see less of the activity, not just see gaudy numbers for Team Security.  If CCP Stillman is correct, the developers are getting into the anti-botting/anti-RMT act.

But are the design changes really making an impact.  Botters on the forums I visit see Odyssey as an opportunity to get low sec ores without having to visit low sec.  But the botting community isn't just one big community and I'm visiting the forums of the more advanced bots.  Judging by the amount of tears on the official forums, I'd say that ice botters were definitely impacted.

Caution, ISBoxer At Work

If the official forums are reliable, then the ice sites don't stay active for very long before players drain the ice away.  If a site only stays up for 30 minutes, its hard for a bot to remain active long enough to be detected.  The more advanced bots whose forums I visit have worked this out, but for the personal bots?  I bet the reports of pods attempting to ice mine have gone way down over the past two months.

The null sec ratting changes are harder to judge.  Sure, the changes to add scramblers to the really good null sec ratting sites potentially gives bots fits, but many bots already had ways to prioritize which rats to kill first.  Needless to say, the tears generated were poor

My guess is that the feature that really impacted null sec ratting were the changes to moon goo and the wars those spawned.  Bots dock up with neutrals in the system, and I'm pretty sure that the rival parties are attempting to disrupt the ISK generating activities of their enemies.  I know that Noir Mercenary Group deployed to Delve in order to shut down the activites of TEST renters.  I'm sure that similar campaigns are currently underway against the renters/carebears of all the warring parties.  So before evaluating the claims that the ratting changes made an impact against ratting bots, I'd like to see a slowdown, if not end, to the wars to see what the bot banning activity looks like during peacetime.

Some people will argue that CCP should not make design decisions to take botting and RMT into account.  I disagree and hope to see more efforts from the game designers, even if not incredibly successful.  After all, every little bit helps.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Activision Blizzard's Great Escape

Ahead of today's Activision Blizzard's conference call came some momentous news.  No, not that World of Warcraft had lost another 600 thousand subscriptions in the second quarter, bringing the total down to 7.7 million.  The big news was that the company plus and outside investment group was purchasing back most of the controlling interest that Vivendi owned in the U.S. gaming giant.  From the Guardian...
"Video game publisher Activision Blizzard has announced a deal to buy itself back from French media giant Vivendi. The company, responsible for hits such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, will purchase 429 million shares for $5.83bn. 

"Concurrently, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and co-chairman Brian Kelly have formed ASAC II LP, an investment vehicle through which they will purchase 172 million company shares for approximately $2.34bn in cash, or $13.60 per share. This will make it the largest Activision shareholder, and the arrangement includes $100m personally invested by Kotick and Kelly. 

"Included in the same investor group is Tencent, the powerful Chinese investment company that runs social networks, internet service providers and online gaming portals in China."
While the story I've told in my few blog posts on the subject is of a financially struggling media conglomerate raiding a successful gaming company's corporate wallet, one could justifiably argue today's financial activity ends Activision's raid on Vivendi that netted it the big prize of World of Warcraft.  From the USA Today coverage of the buy out...
"Activision and Vivendi announced their merger back in 2008 and the company became Activision Blizzard. 'Our successful combination with Blizzard Entertainment five years ago brought together some of the best creative and business talent in the industry and some of the most beloved entertainment franchises in the world, including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft,' [Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby] Kotick said. 'Since that time, we have generated over $5.4 billion in operating cash flow and returned more than $4 billion of that to shareholders via buybacks and dividends. We are grateful for Vivendi's partnership through this period, and we look forward to their continued support.'"
According to the Activision Blizzard press release, the company will fund its portion of the transaction with $1.2 billion in funds located in the U.S. and take on $4.6 billion in new debt.  Gamasutra reported that on this morning's conference call that Tencent will not have a representative on the Activision Blizzard board and will act strictly as a passive investor.  Tencent was involved with Activision Blizzard's distribution of Call of Duty in China, so the Chinese company already had a financial interest in seeing the U.S. game company do well.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Looking For Podcasts

I decided to finally update my blog rolls of feeds for podcasts.  I have two.  One for EVE podcasts and one for non-EVE gaming podcasts.  About the only link between the two is Cap Stable, which is run by players in EVE who belong to the guild that formed around Scott Johnson's The Instance World of Warcraft podcast.

This move, of course, was instigated by the news that Voices From The Void will soon shut down production and the fate of the EVE Pod Pack, which is tied to the podcast, is uncertain after the end of August.  Unlike Mat Westhorpe/Seismic Stan when he gave up the EVE Blog Banters and Marc Scaurus when he handed over control of EveBloggers and The EVE Podpack to Cyberin, I know of no plans to hand the EVE Podpack off to anyone.

Perhaps that's not needed as EveBloggers also has a RSS feed of the latest podcasts also.  But in the meantime I also want to update all of my listening lists as well.  At the beginning of The Nosy Gamer I covered gaming podcasts and while I don't listen to them as much as I used to I still listen to them occasionally.  So if anyone knows of any good podcasts that update on a regular basis that I don't have in my blog rolls to the sides of the blog could you please let me know in the comments?  The podcast doesn't have to be an EVE podcast.  I'm actually looking for good EQNext podcasts as well as any Wildstar podcasts floating around the internet.  So let me know what I'm missing, because it seems I'm always missing something.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vivendi Not As Greedy As Anticipated

A couple of weeks ago speculation was rampant that Vivendi was about to raid the coffers of Activision/Blizzard to the tune of $US 5 billion.  I wrote a little piece documenting some of Vivendi's financial difficulties and linking the possible raid to some of Blizzard's cash shop ideas for World of Warcraft.  Since then, the speculation has firmed up and the WoW keeps making announcements and moves.

First from the Vivendi side. The predictions of Vivendi's actions were looking at doomsday scenarios based on the French company's financial difficulties.  Up until 9 July Vivendi could not force Activision/Blizzard to pay out a special dividend without the approval of a special three-person panel who were not willing to grant that permission.  VentureBeat reported on 8 July:
"'Vivendi cannot compel a dividend without the consent of two of the three independent directors,' Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note to investors in May. 'We believe such assent has not been forthcoming. In our view, Vivendi has approached Activision about levering up its balance sheet and paying a large dividend, and Activision has likely balked at the idea. We believe that Activision management prefers not to be financially constrained, and paying out a large dividend after incurring a high debt balance would limit Activision’s ability to grow its business going forward.'

"One possible scenario would have Vivendi forcing Activision to borrow around $5 billion dollars. The publisher already has around $4 billion on hand. Vivendi would then, in this scenario, force Activision to pay out a one-time dividend of $8.5 billion, which would leave the game maker with $500 million to make games and inject $5.2 billion of cash directly into Vivendi’s balance sheet."
Instead of grabbing over $5 billion, the latest speculation is that Vivendi is only looking for $2 billion.  That would require a special dividend of over $3 billion in total, which is under Activision/Blizzard's reported $4.3 billion cash on hand.  But that will still force the U.S. game maker to borrow money due to U.S. tax laws.
"'We believe Activision’s management prefers to use cash to buy back stock but it may not have a choice,' Sterne Agee Arvind Bhatia says. 'Activision had $4.3B in cash on its balance sheet, including $2.7B held overseas and $1.6B in the U.S. Since repatriating cash held overseas would trigger tax obligations, we believe ATVI will likely take on debt in the amount of at least $1.5B.'"
With this type of financial hit on the near term horizon plus a reported desire to buy back shares to escape Vivendi, the motivation to maximize profits on World of Warcraft becomes clear.  However, Blizzard hasn't quite perfected the art of the cash shop.  Recently players began to rage over $15 helms.  On Legendary Episode 135 on, the hosts even reported that players are getting kicked out of pick-up raid groups for wearing one of the expensive hats.  The players have not reached $70 monocle rage yet, but Blizzard needs to learn the cash shop game a lot faster than I think they planned on or anyone expected if they want to withstand the capital pressure Vivendi is putting on Activision/Blizzard's corporate wallet.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 23 July 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 21 July 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.2 15,257-6.1
22Guild Wars 218.46,807-9.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.43,483-11.8
44EVE Online5.82,150-11.0
9--The Secret World2.5913+83.0
1011Lord of the Rings Online2.3857-11.8
11--APB: Reloaded2.3848+32.9
12--Metin 22.2821+9.8
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 37,025

Summer continues to take its toll on the amount of time the Xfire community plays MMORPGs.  Sunday's 8.7% decline in the amount of time playing the most popular games was led in percentage terms by Planetside 2 (-46.6%), Firefall (-28.8%) and Neverwinter (-18%).  Games bucking the negative trend included The Secret World (+83%), APB: Reloaded (+32.9%) and Aion (+17.9%).

Steam Powered? - I'm not sure, but I think the Steam Summer Sale helped power The Secret World into The Digital Dozen for the first time since the first Sunday of 2013.  The Funcom game made Issue #7 available to all players on 12 July but didn't see an increase in playtime on the 14th.  The only reason I'm unsure is that I think I saw the game on sale but don't remember with 100% certainty.

Pay To Win? - For only the second time since the game launched on 20 November has Planetside 2 failed to make the list, seeing a massive 46.6% decline in play time.  But unlike 23 December, Sunday's decline was most likely a result of plans to introduce what many players consider pay-to-win items in the cash shop.  After much player outrage, SOE chose to not implement implants with the upcoming Game Update 13.  The implants would have granted players in-game buffs for real world cash, a concept that went against SOE's promises of cosmetic-only items for sale in the cash shop.  I have the feeling that a lot of players were still upset, even after SOE President John Smedley announced the items would not launch with GU13.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lazy Days

Summer's here and in Chicago that means one or two long hot spells during the season.  We had our first one last week, with four days over 93 F.  The weather didn't really feel that bad but I didn't want to do too much.  All those games I bought on the Steam sale?  Unplayed.  Logging into EVE?  Only to set my skills queue and to mine ice.  Looking back I guess mining ice makes sense when it's hot outside.  EVE is real after all.

The weather broke over the weekend but I still didn't feel like doing much.  For that I blame CCP.  Last weekend was the first weekend of Alliance Tournament XI and except for when I ran out to the post office on Saturday I watched all the matches.  Of course, I missed the Verge of Collapse comeback against Outbreak. but those are the breaks.  Watching on the Roku gave me better picture quality than watching on either of my computers.  The only problem was that the stream would sometimes stop on the Roku and I've have to fiddle a little bit.  That's not due to anything CCP did.  I think it's a Twitch thing or an issue with the Roku app.

I didn't just watch the tournament, though.  I also did my courier missions.  In addition to needing the loyalty points for my ammo business I'm back to working on my goal of 9.9 standings with the Minmatar Republic so I can get the 2-run Tempest Fleet Issue BPC.  I'm now up to 9.07, just .13 away from having enough standings to get the 2-run Stabber Fleet Issue.  If I keep doing the courier missions while watching the tournament I'll reach that goal.

Why courier missions?  Because they go really fast and the only way to raise my Minmatar standings is storyline missions.  Well, except for doing the level 4 epic arc once every three months.  And for completing the COSMOS missions I haven't done yet.  And for turning in tags.  But the only way that can be repeated over and over is storyline missions.  The other reason, of course, is that once a match starts, I can dock up and watch.  Or I just watch the time and don't start another mission if a match is about to begin.  Yes, I try to practice safe flying.

I should add that I'm not the only one feeling lazy.  Over the past two Sundays the PCU on Tranquility has only reached 50,600.  The only week lower this year was the weekend of the DDoS attack.  I'm not sure if that is because participation rates in the big war in Fountain are going down or if everyone just taking a break.  The average PCU does traditionally go down in July and August.

Maybe I'll have something good to write about this week.  After today the weather forecast calls for below average temperatures for the rest of the month.  I might actually do something exciting or think of something interesting with my mind not melting from the heat.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Day Of Darkness And Icelandic History

Ever wonder where some of the lore for EVE Online comes from.  I was surfing the net earlier this week and came across an event in Icelandic history that may correlate to what the Minmatar call "The Day of Darkness," the first contact between the Minmatar and the Amarr.  Being a kind, peace-loving folk, the Amarr scouted out the Minmatar and then struck during the course of a severe storm on the main continent of Matar.  What followed fuels the animosity of the Minmatar towards the Amarr to this day:
"With the storm and military attacks over, the Amarr deployed six massive slave vessels  to different planets in Pator, and scooped up the survivors. The colonies on Belogor, Varkal, and Kulheim were completely depopulated during this raid. On Huggar and Syld, the colonies lost over half their populations, while on Matar, the Minmatar put up a fierce resistance on the surface. However, having known no large-scale warfare for centuries, and with their infrastructure in shambles as a result of both the storm and the precision of the Amarr military strikes, they were unable to prevent the Amarr from enslaving hundreds of millions on Matar alone. This was the largest of the slave raids that would continue for the next millennium that would see the enslavement of hundreds of millions more." 

While not as severe, Iceland suffered raids launched from a far away empire.  In 1627, pirates based on the Barbary Coast led by the Dutchman Murat Reis launched a month-long series of raids now known as the Turkish Abductions.  The first group attacked the fishing village of Grindavík, managing to capture some salted fish, a few hides, 12 fishermen and 3 Danes who were in the area.  While departing the scene, the leader of this group managed to capture a Danish merchant ship through means of a false flag operation.  The group then attacked the seat of the Danish governor in Bessastaðir, but were repulsed before setting foot on dry land by the local fortifications and a hastily assembled group of lancers.  They then returned to their home port of Salé where they sold their captives into slavery.

The second group had more success in finding loot.  Raiding the fjords in Southeastern Iceland, the pirates spent a week capturing livestock, silver and other goods, and 110 Icelanders.  In the course of the raids a Danish merchant ship was also sunk.  Facing strong headwinds north of Fáskrúðsfjörðu, they turned around and sailed along the south coast of the island.  On 16 July the pirates found Vestmannaeyjar, a group of islands and home of a village with the same name.  For three days the raids continued with 34 villagers killed and 234 taken captive and eventually sold into slavery in the Ottomon Empire.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Thought About The Ice Mining Changes

I wandered into the EVE Online official forums looking for information about a titan kill that Chribba tweeted.  Instead I ran into more anti-ISBoxer threads, this time about someone running 50 Mackinaws mining ice in Agal.

Reading the thread didn't make me want to rage and suicide gank miners.  Instead I thought back to the changes in ice mining.  Here's a reminder from CCP Fozzie's dev blog for those who think mining ice is not worth the effort.
"When Odyssey is released, the current static (and massive) ice belts spread throughout space will be removed from the game, and replaced by a series of Ore Anomalies that will spawn and respawn only in systems that previously contained the aforementioned static ice belts. These belts will respawn in exactly the same system four hours after they are completed, to ensure that players from all time zones will be able to partake in ice harvesting and enjoy the spoils. The amount of ice found in these sites will be tuned to ensure that most, but not all, of the ice needs of the New Eden cluster can be provided by high security belts. At our current numbers, the maximum supply of ice from highsec (assuming that each belt is mined out completely five times a day) would provide approximately 80% of the game's ice needs, ensuring that at least some of the ice mining must be undertaken in lower security space. For context, this means that highsec will still be a large exporter of ice products, being able to generate eight times the volume of isotopes used by highsec control towers.

"To counterbalance this reduction in ice supply and to provide a slightly more rapid gratification from the activity of ice harvesting, we will also be reducing the cycle time of all ice harvesters by 50%, which will result in a doubling of ice yield over time.

"With the exception of some systems in the territories of the Amarr Empire, Khanid Kingdom, and Ammatar Mandate, all systems that currently contain ice belts will have at least one instance of these new Ice Anomalies. Some systems, mostly those that currently contain two or three ice belts, will contain multiple instances of the Ice Anomalies. A full list of Amarrian highsec systems that will contain these new anomalies can be found in our companion blog, so that players can determine if their home will still have ice after the patch." [emphasis mine]
When these changes were announced, many thought they were put in place to combat botters, a very worthy goal.  However, I looked at the system and thought the change wouldn't stop a dedicated botter at all.  According to what I've read on the botting forums, the code was a challenge but the new obstacle not very high.

With a couple of months to think and observe the situation play out, I've now come to realize the move doesn't combat botting directly.  Instead, it combats the effects of botting on the economy.  In the previous resource gathering system, the only limit on the amount of ice a bot could harvest was the fear of detection and bans by Team Security, with suicide gankers the cost of doing business.  Now, with ice belts no longer endless, the possible negative effects that botters can have on the market for what CCP Soundwave envisions as "the oil of New Eden" is to some extent mitigated.

Of course, with that change now comes a competition over resources.  When I first started playing EVE, the complaint was about bots munching on all the rocks, leaving none for US time zone players.  Now the target of high sec anger is single players using advanced multi-boxing software coming in and shoveling the ice into ore bays before the independent guy can get in more than a cycle or two.  But that's a problem for another post that I want to wait on to write.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 16 July 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 14 July 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.1 16,225-8.4
22Guild Wars 218.67,533+9.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.73,950-21.7
45EVE Online6.02,416+9.3
79Planetside 23.81,523+6.4
1111Lord of the Rings Online2.4972+0.1
1210Maple Story1.9780-31.1
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 40,546

Summer's here and the Xfire community apparently found sunshine more enticing than playing MMORPGs with Sunday seeing a 7.9% decline in the time spent playing the most popular games in the genre as compared to the Sunday before.  Six games, including Star Trek Online which fell off the list, saw declines of over 20% in playtime.  Two games, EVE Online (+9.3%) and Guild Wars 2 (+9%) did manage to bounce back strong after the holiday weekend in the U.S.

Steamed? - One contributing factor to the decline in play was possibly the Steam Summer Getaway Sale that began on 11 July.  I say possibly because of the drop in activity I witnessed on EVE Online's main server Tranquility along with Twitter traffic.  However, the Xfire community bucked that trend and playtime in EVE increased 9.3%.  So take that for what it's worth.

Open Beta Begins - Red 5 Studio launched the open beta for its new MMOFPS Firefall on 9 July.  The game appears to be a sandbox PvP game that will also be eSports-friendly.  The developers do warn that this is a true open beta.  In an interview with, Red 5 stated that...
"We don't believe that Firefall's open beta is comparable to any other MMO on the market today. We're not rolling out a near-final product; Firefall will have a multi-staged open beta where we plan to make massive changes and improvements. This will be a true beta test; players testing the game will see their feedback implemented throughout each open beta stage. We expect bugs and exploits because that's common in a true beta. As long as players understand where we're at in development, we can overcome those issues."
Breaking A Trend - Usually SOE games will see a decrease in play time after a holiday weekend.  This Sunday Planetside 2 broke that trend, seeing a 6.4% increase in play time.  Whatever changes were recently made are popular, with the game seeing a 21.9% gain in play time over the past two weeks.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Odyssey And My Life In Low Sec

When I was at Fanfest there was some complaining and gnashing of teeth over some of the proposed changes in Odyssey.  I'll admit I was one of those people, especially those changes that potentially affected my ability to mine in low sec.  At one point I even wondered if the changes would drive me back into high sec.  But I don't want to just go off spouting how things are terrible and the world is going to end either.  So I came up with a plan to look at my activities in low sec in the 5 weeks before Odyssey launched on 4 June and the 5 weeks after.  I think those are long enough periods of time to give the changes a fair review.

As part of the review I made a few rules.  I could travel outside of low sec, but all agents I interacted with had to reside in low sec.  I could only mine outside of low sec in wormholes accessed from low sec.   All refining, manufacturing and sales had to occur in low sec stations.  Artificial limitations?  Of course!  But I needed a rule set I could use so I wasn't comparing apples to oranges.  Or, in the case of EVE, low sec to high sec. 

For purposes of this exercise, I divided up my activities into three main areas: exploration, mining/manufacturing, and missions.  I won't address activities like invention and planetary interaction because I did not start doing those until after Odyssey launched.  In each of the sections I'll give a brief description of the activity, the methodology and the amounts of ISK made both pre- and post-launch.

I do have to add that I did notice that I changed the way I played in the weeks prior to the launch of the expansion due to this project.  However, the changes post-expansion launch were in reaction to the game's changes.

Exploration - For purposes of this post, I consider exploration activity any content I have to probe down in order to find.  That means cosmic signatures only.  In Retribution that meant complexes, radar (data) and magnetometric (relic) sites.  In Odyssey I did not run any complexes.

Total Value - Retribution: 495.4 million ISK, Odyssey: 301.7 million ISK.

For Retribution, this total breaks down to 435.2 million ISK in drops and salvage and 60.2 million ISK in bounties.  In Odyssey the entire total of 301.7 million ISK is what was collected from data and relic sites.  The totals for all salvage, loot, and hacked items was determined from the information displayed in the cargo hold's UI.

Radar/Data Sites - In Retribution, I ran 12 radar sites in the final 5 weeks, gaining 158.7 million ISK in drops/salvage and 3.8 million ISK in bounties for an average of 13.5 million ISK per site.  In the first 5 weeks of Odyssey I ran 16 data sites snatching 167.5 million ISK in items from the exploding packs of mini-cans.  That comes out to an average of 10.5 million ISK per site.  These figures do not take into account any blueprints that dropped.

Magnetometric/Relic Sites - In Retribution, I ran 3 magnetometric sites in the expansion's final 5 weeks, netting 48.3 million ISK in drops/salvage and 400 thousand ISK in bounties for an average of 16.2 million ISK per site.  I found relic sites more plentiful in Odyssey, running 13 of the sites and picking up 134.2 million ISK in items.  That's an average of 10.3 million ISK per site.  Once again, these figures do not include blueprints.

Blueprints - One of the reasons I started looking at manufacturing was the number and quality of blueprint copies that I started to acquire.  Here is a listing of what I found:

Cryptic Data Interface - 1 run
Cryptic Tuner Interface - 2 runs
Large Ancillary Armor Repairer - 10 runs
Large Micro Jump Drive - 30 runs
Small Ancillary Shield Booster - 10 runs
Target Spectrum Breaker - 10 runs

Cryptic Data Interface - 10 runs
Cryptic Tuner Interface - 3 runs
Large Ancillary Armor Repairer - 10 runs
Large Micro Jump Drive - 6 runs
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster - 25 runs
Reactive Armor Hardener - 10 runs
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer - 6 runs
Target Spectrum Breaker - 80 runs
X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster - 5 runs

I really should ask if anyone uses the Target Spectrum Breakers.  The difference is also probably in the fact I ran so many more sites.  With the Odyssey system in which the number of sites available to probe down is flashing in front of my face, I always know which systems to stop in or which ones to ignore.  For finding blueprints that's good.

Plexes - Here's a big difference.  In the 5 weeks before Odyssey I ran 3 plexes.  Not a lot, but I gained 284.2 million ISK, divided between 228.2 million ISK in salvage/drops and 56 million ISK in bounties.  In Odyssey?  I didn't run a single plex.  Not that I didn't find any.  But those plex feel a lot more exposed than the pre-Odyssey combat sites did.  Probably because now all someone who is roaming has to do is point the directional scanner at each of the sites that pop up when you enter a system, do a quick scan, and if the roamer finds a juicy target (like someone running a plex) out come the probes.  With any luck the rats don't have you tackled and you can get away.  If not?  Bye-bye mission ship.  Maybe when the traffic dies down, but for right now my region of low sec is just a bit too active to engage in running plexes.

Mining/Manufacturing - I'm not going to try to separate out the asteroid mining from the manufacturing because the way I do things the two are intertwined.  The numbers also don't fully compare because I only did manufacturing and selling items on the market for the last 17 days of Retribution and I did it the first five weeks of Odyssey.  Also, the figures from exploration are not included in any of the figures below.  With that in mind, here's the comparison.

Total sales profits - Retribution: 142.3 million ISK.  Odyssey: 420.5 million ISK.  For Retribution this figure only includes the sale of ammunition.  For Odyssey, the figure includes not only ammunition sales but also the sale of ice products and sec status tags.  I include the sale of sec status tags in mining because the only time I find the tags is in the wrecks of ships that try to kill my Procurer.

My sales in Odyssey break down is:

Sec Status Tags - 197 million ISK
Ammunition - 153.9 million ISK
Ice Products - 69.6 million ISK

As my ammunition sales slowed down as more people get into the system I had to find other products.  Odyssey's introduction of the Tags4Sec feature plus changes to ice mining have more than filled in the gap, but I believe I'll need to diversify even more.

Ore mined - Retribution: 581,765 m3.  Odyssey: 409,512 m3.  One of the things I was afraid of was an inability to mine as easily as before and in part that fear played out.  The traffic of those looking for security status tags forced more caution into my mining routine, although I solved this by 1) moving around the local systems and 2) bluing up an alliance that moved into my home system.  The other reason for the lower amount of mining done is that business slowed down and I didn't need to mine as much.

Also, where I mined was different as well.  In the run-up to Odyssey I mined 372,245 m3 of ore from asteroid belts and 209,520 m3 from grav sites.  After Odyssey, I mined 192,000 m3 from asteroid belts, 207,000 m3 from ice ore sites, and 10,512 m3 from wormholes.  I avoided the ore sites that contained null sec ore because they were either too picked over by other miners or too many people were around so the threat level was too high.

Because people are interested in how much time I take to do things (i.e. ISK/hr), I fill up my Procurer an average of 5 times an hour when I do long mining stints.  That means I spent approximately 9.7 hours mining before Odyssey launched and 6.8 hours in the 5 weeks after the expansion.

I should add one other change in Odyssey that made ice mining even more dangerous.  The ice belts are shorter now.  Before Odyssey the belts were over 200 km long and one could try to run the length of a belt by staying aligned and switching targets.  Not anymore.  I tried that tactic and ran out of ice.  That means if a miner wishes to go back to the station with a full ore bay he must make at least one change of direction to align to a new celestial.  Each time a miner has to do that a chance for a cloaky ship to tackle the miner occurs.  Fortunately I haven't run into anyone in a cloaky who wants to snag a Procurer.  Well, not since May anyway.

NPC combat - One of the things I do to pass the time mining is kill rats.  In the last 5 weeks of Retribution I picked up 40.3 million ISK in drops/salvage and 10.7 million in bounties.  I did a lot better in Odyssey.  In addition to the 197 million in ISK made from selling sec status tags, I pulled in another 2.3 million ISK in drops/salvage and 6.4 million in bounties.

Missions - Retribution: 94 missions totaling 143.8 million ISK.  Odyssey: 88 missions for 90 million ISK.  Not much of a difference in the number of missions.  The big difference was that I wound up doing a lot of level 3 courier missions trying to get by Boundless Creations standings up on Rosewalker.  Not a lot to say since Odyssey didn't alter the mission system.  But as missions were the third major element of my game play I needed to include it.

For those interested in time, I kind of take my time doing distribution missions, which is mostly the only missions I run.  I average 7 missions an hour.  I really should work on getting faster.  Pre-Odyssey I ran 84 distribution missions and in the first five weeks of Odyssey I ran 83.  So that comes out to 12 hours of missions in the periods both pre- and post-launch.  Pretty consistent.

Conclusion - Low sec did not become an unlivable wasteland with the coming of Odyssey, although some would argue it had reached that state long ago.  At first glance the new exploration site system is a nerf in economic terms, but one could argue that is because I have failed to adapt to the system properly.  I need to look at the way I play and how I can take advantage of the system.  I began that examination in June but I still have a lot of work to do.

For those willing to scout out the activities of the locals and make friends with those who won't see creating a NAP as a sign of weakness, mining is not dead in low sec.  In fact, with the addition of Tags4Sec and the ice distribution changes, I found mining a more profitable activity.  If I had relaxed my rules about where I could sell my ice products, I would have made a lot more ISK.  While liquid oxygen is profitable in low, no one seems to want heavy water.

I still have some issues with some of the changes.  The two biggest are exposing all the cosmic anomalies to pilots as they jump into a system and the length of the ice belts.  Forget the added danger (real or perceived) in the ore sites.  While convenient for making the quick trip into a wormhole for ninja mining, the feature takes away some of the exploration experience.  Part of exploration is discovering what is "out there".  The system in Odyssey is now more like going to stores to check out the sales.  And the length of ice belts means that, for practical purposes, staying aligned is a lot harder.  Gone are the days of just lining up for a run along the length of the ice belt.  Either warp off with a partially empty ore hold or take the risk and align to another celestial. 

I know, I know, HTFU.  If I buy insurance, I can recoup the price of my Procurer with less than an hour's worth of ice mining.  Given the amount I made in the first five weeks of Odyssey I can afford to lose a Procurer or five.  So I don't plan on moving out of low sec any time soon.  I may shift some activities to high sec because I'm still skittish about running security missions in low sec, but that's not the fault of the changes in Odyssey.  And I do need to start selling in the Minmatar trade hubs of Rens and Hek.  I worked hard enough to get the standings with the NPC corps and need to take advantage of that.

So, as a final thought, the changes in Odyssey made me change my game play and partake of another area of game play.  Something tells me that was CCP's intention all along.

Friday, July 12, 2013

In Eve Online, Crafting Is Serious Business

A thought struck me after watching The Mittani, Marc Scaraus and Darius JOHNSON on their new show Wednesday.  While industrialists in null sec are no more important now than before the launch of Odyssey, changes in industry are extremely important.

If someone who plays MMOs asks me what caused all of the fighting we are witnessing in EVE, I would say that CCP added two new crafting materials and changed the material requirements on a whole bunch of crafting recipes.  That's right.  The trillions of ISK lost (which someone will convert to real world currency), the tens of thousands of man-hours worth of work destroyed, all the propaganda videos created and bad posting on forums, were caused by changes to the crafting system.

At the beginning of the conflict, The Mittani stated that the invasion of Fountain was about the moons and wealth:
"Tonight we are invading Fountain. But we are not going to bother with stating a grievance or demonizing the defender - We are doing it because we need the region and its moons for our people and our friends."
I wonder how many MMORPG game developers look at EVE with jealously in their hearts.  Most of those developers are looking at ways to create content fast enough to satisfy their players.  ArenaNet has even gone to an insanely fast two-week deployment cycle for adding content to Guild Wars 2.  But "all" CCP had to do was devote a small team of developers, probably supported by the economics team, and jiggle some numbers around.  Hard, difficult work to do properly?  Yes.  But compared to what other studios are doing, pretty cost-effective.

Of course, CCP can do this because of all the work done over the previous 10 years building a player-run economy.  Some game developers look at a game's economy and its crafting system as an afterthought.  In EVE Online, crafting is serious business and CCP is reaping the rewards.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Deflating The Balloon

My experiment looking into the effect of the Odyessy expansion into the way I play EVE Online ended at downtime on Tuesday.  I just have to go through the statistics gathered over the last 10 weeks plus my notes and blog posts and write the post.

I think the end is part of the reason I'm feeling a bit blah when I log in now.  Having a purpose when playing EVE is definitely a factor in having fun.  Over the past month I couldn't even concentrate on another game because I had things I wanted to do in EVE.  I'd estimate that before the experiment I played 10-15 hours a week and over the last 10 weeks I averaged 15-20 hours.

One thing I realized is that a more mercantile low sec lifestyle means not shutting down activities in high sec.  Two examples spring to mind.  One is that while I can slowly sell all the liquid oxygen I care to mine in Molden Heath (which admittedly isn't all that much) heavy water just doesn't sell.  I need to go to the high sec trade hubs for that.  The second is datacore farming.  I didn't use a level 4 agent because he is based in Amo, a .5 system in Metropolis.  That's about to change.  I also have a couple of level 2 agents in Eram I might send my alts to visit now that the artificial restrictions I placed on myself are lifted.  My little network of low sec research agents is nice, but they don't offer everything I need.

So now I have a new task: weaving high sec and low sec together into a sustainable lifestyle.  I still have the core low-sec activities of mining, hacking, planetary interaction and courier missions that I think are crazy to do in high sec.  But I've found a couple of holes in the routine that I think high sec can fill.  So that's my next goal I'll work on over the next few months.  Besides, the whole high sec/low sec/null sec divide is such a theme park concept.  Time to think like I'm actually playing in a sandbox.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vivendi Looking For Phat Loot

Activision Blizzard is at the top of the gaming world.  With games like World of Warcraft and the Call of Duty series, one would think that gaming giant doesn't have a financial care in the world.  Sure, WoW has seen the number of subscribers dipping down to 8.3 million after a 1.3 million subscriber loss in the first quarter.  But Activision Blizzard's next gen MMORPG, code-named Titan, was delayed until at least 2016 indicating that the gaming giant figured that WoW still had a few good year's left in it.  And with the Financial Times indicating that Activision Blizzard has $US 4.6 billion in the bank, one would think Titan is not needed right away.

But while Activision Blizzard is in good shape, the same is not true for Vivendi.  Vivendi is important because it owns 61% of Activsion Blizzard's stock.  That same Financial Times article indicates the French telecom and media company is not in great shape and is rated BBB with a negative outlook by Standard and Poors.  The BBB rating is the second lowest credit rating.  According to the article Vivendi is trying to restructure its business by selling off its telecommunications businesses and build around its content companies like Universal Music, the home of Justin Bieber and Rihanna.

But things aren't going so well, as the company had a negative balance sheet of $US 16.8 billion at the end of Q1.  The company is also apparently having some difficulties selling off its telecommunications assets.  On Wedesday Vivendi sold 750 million euros in corporate bonds for the purpose of refinancing bonds maturing in 2014.

Some are speculating that Vivendi is about to use some boardroom maneuvering to get some of Activision Blizzard's money.  Joystiq reported on 8 July:
"Financially strapped conglomerate Vivendi wasn't able to sell off its controlling interest in Activision Blizzard, but it's looking to get money out of the $4.4 billion cash and asset-flush publisher through other means. The Financial Times (via Reuters) reports Vivendi will try some boardroom maneuvers to obtain a massive payout.

"Coincidentally, the play Vivendi is reportedly trying to pull off is nearly identical to a theory published by Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter in May. And it goes a little something like this: July 9 (tomorrow) is the five-year closing date of the $18 billion Activision and Vivendi merger, which means Vivendi will have the ability to nominate a majority of Activision's board of directors. After that, the board could take out a mega loan, and initiate a dividend (a standard payment given to shareholders).

"'Borrowing of $5 billion would permit a dividend of $8.5 billion. As the holder of 61 percent of Activision's common stock at March 31, 2013, we estimate Vivendi would receive approximately $5.2 billion in cash, easing its mounting debt concerns,' wrote Pachter."

The Reuters report explained why Vivendi could not force such borrowing earlier:
"Current rules [that expired 9 June] require Vivendi to secure the support of Activision's independent directors ahead of any dividend payment that takes the division's net debt above $400 million.

"But as these rules expire on Tuesday, Vivendi would be able to gear up Activision's balance sheet and force the payout of a special dividend without the approval of independent directors."

In the Financial Times article, another possibility emerged.  Some analysts believe that Vivendi could use the thread of a leveraged dividend as a threat that would lead Activision Blizzard to respond with a tender offer for part of Vivendi's stake in the company at above-market prices.  However, don't expect Vivendi to give up controlling interest in the game's company as Reuters reports that Vivendi plans to group Brazillian telecom unit GVT, Universal Music Group, Activision Blizzard and pay-TV provider Canal Plus into a new Vivendi media group, with efforts to sell of GVT to occur later.

News of Vivendi's grab into the Activision Blizzard cookie jar puts the recent disclosure of plans to introduce an in-game cash shop to World of Warcraft in a new light.  The move isn't necessarily due to World of Warcraft performing poorly.  Instead, the move to sell convenience items to Asian gamers and pets to Western gamers looks like a move to refill the war chest because Vivendi is not doing well and looks like it has put Activision Blizzard on its raid schedule.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Digital Dozen - 9 July 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 7 July 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.3 17,738-1.7
22Guild Wars 215.76,910-2.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.55,046-6.9
54EVE Online5.02,211-12.0
99Planetside 23.31,432+14.7
1012Maple Story2.61,132+20.0
1110Lord of the Rings Online2.2971-20.3
1211Star Trek Online2.2959-2.1
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 44,029
While this week saw another small drop in the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing the most popular MMORPGs Sunday, individual games saw greater volatility in popularity.  The overall 2% week-to-week decline was led in percentage terms by Aion (-22.5%), Lord of the Rings Online (-20.3%) and EVE Online (-12%).  Partially offsetting the decline was increased interest in Tera (+26.1%), Maple Story (+20%) and Planetside 2 (+14.7%).

Three's Enough - While SOE is famous for its U.S. holiday specials (see Planetside 2's 14.7% increase) EA/Bioware tried to take it to another level with three consecutive double XP weekends for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The gimmick grew old and the last of the 3 weekends saw playtime in the Xfire community decline by 6.9%.  Overall the promotion was a success, with the amount of hours spent playing 12% higher than on 16 June, the last normal weekend.  To put SWTOR's success in perspective, over the same period the time spent playing games listed on The Digital Dozen decline by 2.9%.  The question is whether the players will continue playing during the summer months.

Double Your Fun - Tera provided a twist on the double XP weekend theme Sunday with a double-drop weekend.  That's right, all dungeons saw the drop rates double, except on the Tempest Reach and Mount Tyrannas shards, which won a participation contest and had all the drop rates triple.  As with SWTOR I'm interested to see the Xfire numbers next Sunday.

No Deals, No Love?  Aion, Lord of the Rings Online, and EVE Online had two things in common this weekend.  First, they didn't offer specials over the U.S. holiday weekend.  Second, they all experienced double-digit declines in playtime Sunday.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Of the three games, the studio I expect is most concerned is NCSoft.  Aion 4.0 was released on 26 June and such a big drop less than two weeks after the launch of the expansion usually is not a good sign.  Aion is probably the one game to watch next week to see if the Xfire community returns.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Watching EVE Online With The Roku

Over the long weekend I finally cancelled my satellite TV service and bought a Roku to put in my home office.  For those unfamiliar with the Roku, it basically turns your internet connection into a cable TV service, albeit with a lot less choice.  Then again, I didn't really watch a lot of TV anyway, which made satellite TV a waste of money.

So after setting up my initial channels like Hulu Plus, Pandora and the BBC, I started looking for a way to watch Twitch on my television using my Roku.  The Alliance Tournament is due to start on 20 July and in past years I've found that trying to watch the tourney and play EVE at the same time just didn't work.  I figure that streaming the tourney on my TV is a better option.

I think I found a solution.  Called Unofficial Twitch, the Roku application allows a viewer to watch correctly configured Twitch streams.  I was unable to view's Twitch stream, but much to my delight Mad Ani's Twitch stream works just fine.  So I spent long stretches of the weekend with Mad Ani's music providing some background noise and every so often I'd look over.  I saw Black Legion pile into the CFC's staging system of B-DBYQ on Saturday and a CFC Caracal fleet playing games with a Nulli Secunda/NCDot Muninn fleet on Sunday.  Good stuff.

I should add that at 720p (I have an old TV) the stream looks really good, although sometimes it looks like it reverts to 360p for brief periods.  And occasionally the stream does stop and a loading screen pops up, but that's quickly solved by clicking on the up arrow on the remote and then hitting the "OK" button to select play.  That issue is probably a result of my internet connection and nothing to do with Twitch.

So with any luck the Alliance Tournament stream will be Roku compatible and I can keep using the set-up I'm using for Mad Ani's stream.  I think the probability is high since I was able to see Seismic Stan's on Sunday when he was playing around with live streaming on Twitch.
Gameskinny's Mat Westhorpe Live Streaming EVE
So for anyone interested, the link to get the app is

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Administrative Note About The Nosy Gamer's Association With EveBlogs.Net

I'm writing this rare Sunday post due to the latest drama occurring in the Eve blogosphere.  While the action is intriguing, I need to address a couple of things that occurred yesterday before refilling my popcorn bowl.

The first is the appearance of links to blog posts of mine appearing on

Those look familiar

I found out last night when reading the comments of my Wednesday post that I had been added to  My blog post in no way was a request for inclusion in Alexia Morgan's new venture and I never contacted him for such inclusion.

This fact is important to point out in the wake of Winterblink's interview with Alexia published yesterday.  Here's the statement that made me put down the popcorn bowl, wash the butter off my fingers and start typing:
"But a number of bloggers are talking about the same thing. The controversy is real and seems to enrage them. It’s not beneficial to me to try and bring a community together by enraging them. So the ‘change of focus’ is to, put it bluntly, tell them to go screw themselves. If they want to remain independent, they can. If they want to struggle against the concept of community, they can. If they think creating ‘competition’ amongst various community sites or blogs is a good thing, they’re entitled to their opinions. What’s left for me to do is simply focus on those that want to be in the community and support the community. Those that don’t, so be it.

"However, I’m pondering on whether or not I should allow independent bloggers to use Eve Blogs Network to promote their blogs if they’re adamantly against the idea. If you’re an independent blogger wanting to have your blog listed on a community portal, I think it’s a bit ripe to sign up to have your blog updates presented on the portal, and then start blogging about your resistance to the concept of community and a community portal.
"So the change of focus is going to take all this into consideration as I move forward. Community is community – those that don’t support it, well, you’re obviously not into community and shouldn’t be part of it. Rotten apples, and all that. I’ll instead focus on those that do support it and want to be part of it."

Once again, I need to state I did not sign up for  In fact, I concluded Wednesday's post with the following paragraph.
"Well, Alexia has the site up and running.  I don't have to worry about this because, since I'm not an EVE blogger, I couldn't participant even if I wanted to.  Which I don't.  I think anyone joining it for the purposes of blogging is making a poor long term decision.  The Eve blogosphere has seen hosting sites before go out of business overnight with no warning.  But I linked it anyway because I can always be wrong.  Besides, since I have no dog in this fight, I can just grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show."
And yet, feeling the way he does, Alexia added this "rotten apple" to his site anyway.  Very strange.

I have contacted Alexia and asked to be removed from his site.  I have received a reply stating that will occur.  Hopefully this ends my involvement in the drama and I can get back to my popcorn bowl and enjoy the show.

EDIT:  Apparently Alexia has decided to keep me linked to his site.

EDIT 2  (15 July 2013):  It looks like I am off the site now. I'm not going to make any more comments about it and hopefully this is the last I ever write about

Friday, July 5, 2013

Decker And Lessons Learned

“I have a feeling that a rather pronounced enthusiasm for nickel-and-diming might have caused a slightly more elevated level of dissatisfaction with customers”

Electronic Arts.  Is there a game company currently more vilified than the company voted the worst company in America by The Consumerist for the last two years?  The Penny Arcade Report's Ben Kuchera summed up the feelings of many gamers about the gaming giant back in April:
"Can you remember the last EA title that you truly loved? Can you remember the last interview you read about that game where a developer was allowed to explain their passion for the game? Bonus points will be awarded if it wasn't a Bioware-developed game.
"EA has become a company that releases mediocre products created by faceless teams. There is no real vision at work, no grand design. Just the idea that free-to-play games and microtransactions are the wave of the future, or at least they better be, because none of the company’s $60 boxed releases are finding much success with either critics or gamers. Lord knows that the latest Madden game will do well, but that’s only because gamers don’t have a choice if they want an official NFL title. FIFA will also likely remain a hit in the global market. So they have that going for them. Which is nice.
"Until EA stops sucking the blood out of games in order to make uninspiring sequels, or at least until they begin caring about how much gamers hate their lack of respect for our money and intelligence, this is going to continue. We don’t hate them because we’re homophobes, we hate them because they destroy companies we love. We hate them because they release poor games. We hate them because they claim our hate doesn’t matter as long as we give them our money."
So when CCP announced the hiring of Sean Decker as Senior Vice President of Product Development, I knew that a threadnaught was brewing.  If anything would raise the hackles of EVE players, hiring the former head of EA's Free4Play group would do it.  Especially since one of the first quotes from him that started circulating was one from last November, "I see the world as a micro-transaction."  I'll admit my first reaction was, "What's Hilmar thinking?"  Well, the language is cleaned up because what I originally thought is not workplace safe, but the question remains.  Didn't Hilmar learn anything from the Monoclegate two years ago?

After doing a little digging around, I believe Hilmar hired Decker exactly because of what occurred during the Summer of Rage.  I admit that I haven't searched all the EVE blogs, but has anyone gone back and looked at Hilmar's dev blog in which he apologized to the EVE community?  I felt better after reading it again.

CCP HellBunnie aka Sean Decker
First, I think players fear that Decker will bring the perceived EA mindset of "screw the players, they'll play whatever we give them."  I think that Hilmar will resist the mindset that believes that he knows better than everyone else and that the players will just happily hand over their money no matter what.
"Somewhere along the way, I began taking success for granted. As hubris set in, I became less inclined to listen to pleas for caution. Red flags raised by very smart people both at CCP and in the community went unheeded because of my stubborn refusal to allow adversity to gain purchase on our plans. Mistakes, even when they were acknowledged, often went unanalyzed, leaving the door open for them to be repeated.

"You have spoken, loudly and clearly, with your words and with your actions. And there were definitely moments in recent history when I wish I would have listened more and taken a different path.

"I was wrong and I admit it."
Two weeks later CCP had to lay off 20% of its workforce because players stopped talking and started pressing the unsubscribe button.  I think Hilmar learned not to take the players for granted.  I think he also learned a few other lessons.
"In the last months, we’ve taken a hard look at everything, including my leadership. What I can say for now is that we’ve taken action to ensure these mistakes are never repeated. We have reexamined our processes, hired experienced industry professionals for key leadership positions, reassessed our priorities, moved personnel around and, above all else, recognized our limitations." [emphasis mine]
One of the lessons is that if Hilmar doesn't feel that he is getting the results desired that he should go out and hire people who know more than him.  He indicated that in an interview with Massively's Brendan Drain Tuesday:
"Up until now, the responsibility for product development and deciding what direction to take with CCP's growing list of games has fallen to CEO Hilmar himself. With so many games and other items now produced by the studio and interesting connections like the EVE-DUST link, Hilmar felt that a dedicated person was needed solely to handle product development. 'There are a lot of opportunities in connecting those experiences,' he told me. 'Having someone dedicated to that will allow us to take advantage of those opportunities.'"
Sean Decker definitely knows more about the subject than Hilmar.  Ripard Teg, in a great post, listed the positives that Decker brings to CCP:
  • It gets CCP a smart, successful leader in the industry who has a proven track record successfully developing and selling both shooters and free-to-play games.
  • It gets CCP someone who's intimately familiar with development and retention issues in a F2P marketplace open to millions of potential customers.
  • He's both press-savvy and a good communicator, and able to operate well in an environment of games having difficult launches.
  • Frankly, it weakens what is likely to be their strongest competitor going into the holiday season just as that competitor was developing their marketing and launch strategies.
  • Interestingly enough, Sean has a lot of familiarity with nordic personalities and developers.  I assure you this is a thing.
  • It gets CCP someone who's familiar with what game genres are likely to go over well in different markets around the world.
  • It gets CCP someone who's very experienced in tying a lot of fractious development teams together, something it's clear that Hilmar himself was kind of struggling with.
I really think bringing in Decker is more about DUST 514 and World of Darkness than about EVE.  That conviction is strengthened by the information from the press release that Decker will work out of Atlanta and not Reykjavik.  Of course, as DUST 514 ties into EVE Online that doesn't eliminate all of the concern.  But the conclusion of Hilmar's 2011 dev blog leaves me with hope that the lesson of the Summer of Rage has not left his mind.
"We really do have something that no one else has. EVE is still unique in the real and virtual world. This is our vision for her, and we want so badly to take you there. But getting there is not an entitlement. It will take hard work, open communication and, above all else, collaboration with you. The greatest lesson for me is the realization that EVE belongs to you, and we at CCP are just the hosts of your experience. When we channel our passion for EVE constructively, we can make this vision a reality together.

"But enough talk from me. We all know that much quoted phrase, 'It’s not what you say, it’s what you do,' that will make the difference here. From now on, CCP will focus on doing what we say and saying what we do. That is the path to restoring trust and moving forward."
Over the past 18 months with Jon Lander serving as Executive Producer of EVE Online CCP lived up to these statements.   But Decker is walking into a situation in which he not only has a bigger portfolio to worry about but has to overcome the tremendous stigma attached to having served as a top executive at EA.  Hopefully someone warned him that, "It's not what you say, it's what you do," actually means something to CCP's customer base.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Corp Wiki?

Having a new player in corp is really fascinating.  EVE Online has a tremendous amount of information to learn and up until now I didn't think I knew that much.  I'm discovering differently now as I keep answering some not-so-basic questions.  If I don't know the answers I usually remember where to get the information.  So far I've used everything from the Eve University Wiki to Jonny Pew videos to help explain New Eden.

But I'm starting to get to the point where I need to google answers because I just don't remember where I originally found them.  Things like what exactly is required to get perfect refining.  If anything, I need a place to put all of my links so I can go back a year later and get the information.

Then I saw what Sugar Kyle is doing with New Eden Source.  I never considered creating my own wiki before, but what she's put together looks ideal for my purposes.  I just want to create something useful for the corp, like links to people who know what they're talking about.  I'm finding the bulletin feature in the corp interface is good for new stuff, but not so good for historical purposes.  And Google Sites does have one big benefit: it's free as long as I stay within certain limits.

Something tells me if I start a wiki that I'm going to have a little information creep, like adding a section on the MMORPG industry's war on illicit RMT.  But adding things like the EULA and ToS is probably a really good idea anyway.

So on this 4-day weekend of mine I'll probably take a couple of hours and put something together.  I doubt the project will interest anyone but I now see why corporations and alliances create their own wikis.  Trying to keep all the information straight in one's head just doesn't work.

EDIT:  The first thing I need to put on is how to bypass the launcher.  I tried to log in and the input boxes for username and password did not appear.  Ugh!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I'm Glad I'm Not An Eve Blogger Right Now

"Multiple, independent blogs calling themselves a community and using blogrolls and blog rings is really old fashioned. This once-popular method of trying to create a community of individual blogs seems so old-fashioned now, and I believe its' time is over."

Right now I'm glad I'm just someone who writes a lot about EVE Online and not an actual EVE blogger.  Maybe that standing will allow me to hide from the upcoming wars over those who wish to control the traffic and the hits so many pursue.

The current fight is over the status of  The popular aggregator of EVE blogs is down, according to some, because Marc Scaurus, acting at the behest of The Mittani, wishes to drive traffic to  Marc has posted that he has six people willing to take over the site, although I don't know how many of them were aware that the blog feed would break when Google finally killed Google Reader.  Well, I guess some people will believe anything as long as anti-Goon hatred is added to the mix.

I think the big issue is that Marc wants to hand both the reigns of and the EVE Blog Pack to someone with a proven history of sticking with the blogging community.  Alexia Morgan, someone who wishes to become a leader, if not THE leader, doesn't like those conditions.  And I don't blame Alexia, because those conditions excluded Alexia from taking over those duties.

I did a quick background check of Alexia.  That name is associated with a blog, Punishment, that was very active from 4 January 2009 to 10 January 2010, went dark for 17 months until the last six posts were made between 19 May 2011 - 10 September 2011.  Alexia then took another year break from blogging before creating a new blog, Touring New Eden, in November 2012.

In November, Alexia came up with the idea that the EVE blogosphere needed to change.
"Back in.... gee, I don't know - a long time ago! I created to bring together all the Eve Online bloggers under a common banner, so the Eve Online Bloggers Portal came into existence. It successfully aggregated blog posts by all active Eve Online bloggers, as well as podcasts, YouTube videos, and even related images on Flickr.

"It was so successful that it's still recognised today as a leading method of keeping up to date with Eve Online blogs.

"But that was SO 'last decade'.

"Eve blogging is changing, and that's been very obvious to me. It needs to change, it needs to evolve with these changing times we're living in."
Alexia's vision is to create a community site to host all the "blogs".
"All 'blogs', however, will be subdomains of the main community site, to promote the community. Once it's well established, I will probably allow integration of custom domains to be integrated into the community site, so that members can have while still using the features as their backend. But that will be a feature enabled down the road.

"It's a community site, and so it's going to have a very active presence which is likely to require various levels of support. There will be issues with new memberships, with profile and blog setups, or with various site functionality. All issues will need to be resolved in a timely manner. There will need to be moderators of the forums, even administrators of the site to help out with support issues."
And of course, Alexia thought about resistance from bloggers.
"I know there's going to be quite a few current bloggers who are so ingrained into being independent that they're not going to support this with their involvement, but I have to ask - if you really want a community that's going to take us into the next few years, why wouldn't you get involved in helping to build it?

"I can't do it alone, and I don't want to. I can't build a community by myself - that's not what a community is about. I need prominent Eve bloggers - all of them! - to get involved, to move away from their old-fashioned, independent blogs and set up a presence for themselves in this new community site."
The idea didn't get a lot of reaction and seemed to die at the end of November, and with it Alexia's posting.

Well, Alexia has the site up and running.  I don't have to worry about this because, since I'm not an EVE blogger, I couldn't participant even if I wanted to.  Which I don't.  I think anyone joining it for the purposes of blogging is making a poor long term decision.  The Eve blogosphere has seen hosting sites before go out of business overnight with no warning.  But I linked it anyway because I can always be wrong.  Besides, since I have no dog in this fight, I can just grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show.