Friday, May 30, 2014

I Need A New Ship

Last night while working on some spreadsheets trying to figure out the next product to produce a thought hit me.  I need a new ship.  I don't want a new ship.  I need a new ship.  As in one I currently don't have.  Why?  Mordu's Legion is snooping around and capsuleers will want to hunt them down.  CCP Rise explained in his latest dev blog:
"One of the things about Mordu’s Legion that we are most excited about is the method by which the ships can be acquired.  As usual, Mordu’s Legion LP stores will have them on offer, but we are also going to be adding some new Legion patrols to asteroid belts across all of low security space.  Like other pirate faction commanders, these spawns will be fairly rare. Unlike other factions, Mordu’s Legion belt patrols will have 100% chance of dropping a blueprint for one of the new ships. This should make searching for Mordu’s Legion patrols an exciting and rewarding activity, and because it happens in low sec, we expect that it will also lead to an increase in player combat--which is always fantastic.  A small note: there will be other Mordu’s Legion NPCs associated with some other new content in Kronos, but only the ones spawning in asteroid belts will drop BPCs for the Garmur, Orthrus and Barghest."

This is both a threat and an opportunity.  The threat is increased visits from other pilots while I'm mining in belts.  I hope that translates into less visits from others while I'm ice mining, but I'll have to wait and see.  Sometimes people don't get the message, which is too bad, because I did.  The message is: if I want to seize the opportunity, Rosewalker will need to upgrade from his stealth bomber.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

When Is Manufacturing Worth It

I'll admit that when I set up CSM Wire to start tracking the activities of EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management, I didn't expect to learn as much about the game itself as I am.  The latest case involves how the serious manufacturers in EVE either price things or determine whether a product is worth manufacturing at all.  CCP Greyscale created a thread asking for feedback on his plans to adjust blueprint data.  In a post later on after CSM members Steve Ronuken and mynnna gave some feedback, CCP Greyscale posted some of his economic assumptions.  Among them:
"In the case of invention and these blueprint numbers, it's that third point [changes in per-product pricing having a substantial change on the total money being spent on that product] that I am most concerned about; while a moderate increase in end-to-end production times should allow more producers into the market (a good thing), if the supply changes too much there is a high risk of demand changing in unpredictable ways too. My intuition is that an increase of 20-40% in build times is healthy, but above 50% is probably risky. I'm very open to discussion on these numbers though :)"
Normally I wouldn't even know such a thread existed because I hate the EVE Online forums because ... gaming forum.  But tracking Steve's posts, I learned an interesting tidbit.  He wrote
"Increasing build times will directly impact on module pricing, as serious manufacturers don't look at profit on a percentage basis, but instead on an isk/hr level, with a baseline of what isk/hr they'll accept as viable."
That was interesting, because I'm not a serious manufacturer.  I rarely use all 11 manufacturing slots I have on my one industrial character.  I'm more a hobbyist who turns to manufacturing as a way to turn loyalty points or planetary interaction products into items that are worth a lot more.  Or you can look at my efforts as role play as, except for selling liquid oxygen, I don't want to just pillage low sec of natural resources for profit.  I want to take those resources and turn them into something more valuable for sale in low.  Even selling liquid oxygen fits in as locally-sourced fuel is a lot better than having to transport the fuel into low.  Now if I could just keep it in stock... but I digress.

I've always looked at my efforts on a percentage profit basis.  But Steve explained how he decides on whether an item is worth making:
"I take all the material costs (including an average invention material cost) and subtract that from the sale price. I then divide that by the number of hours needed to make the thing. If the total build time is below 24 hours, I normalize the time to 24 hours (As I'm generally logging in once per day.)

"If that doesn't beat (in general) 100,000 isk per hour, it's not worth making.

"So, for an Expanded Cargohold II (it's a go-to example for me.) current material cost is around 148,000 at jita sell prices (the only real way to price things, except possibly components.) The invention cost is around 75,000 per unit.

"Current sell price is around 510,000.

"This leaves a profit of around 287,000 per unit. As I can only make 10 per day, per slot, I multiply the profit by 10, then divide it by 24 to get the isk/hr which is around 120,000 isk/hr.

"If the build time went up by a factor of four, the price would have to go up by around 200,000 for it to remain a viable product for me to make."
So if I've done the math correctly, the minimum profit that an industrial character should make in sales per month is 72 million ISK, or 216 million ISK for an account with 3 characters manufacturing.  In these days of over 700 million ISK PLEX, that's not enough to PLEX an account, so I expect a lot of manufacturers are looking for items with even higher profit margins.

EDIT - As Gavin pointed out in the comments, I only calculated for a slot, not a character. The actual numbers are 792 million ISK for a character and almost 2.4 billion ISK for an account. 

But that leaves a ray of hope for the beginning or casual manufacturer, doesn't it?  The big boys are out trying to make major profits, leaving the smaller, less profitable items to us.  I don't mind, as I see myself as a small entrepreneur trying to eek out a living in low security space.  Besides, I don't PLEX my accounts, so my living requirements are a lot lower.  I guess that makes me low maintenance.  But I also can deal in items without having to worry about competition from people much more serious than I.  Now I just need to make sure I don't upset the traders who can squash me like a bug.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wildstar: Not So Serious Business

One of the sayings from EVE Online players is that "Spaceships are serious business."  But sometimes I want to just relax and not worry about impending doom.  And no, that does not mean high sec mining.  I want to do something fun in a light-hearted environment.  Which reminds me, I need to hurry up and pre-order Wildstar.

I do have a serious reason for wanting to play Wildstar.  The adoption of the PLEX model, along with explaining that the CREDD helps fight illicit RMT is reason enough to subscribe.  Not to use CREDD, because I've never used PLEX.  I'm interested in how effective the feature is if implemented at launch.  But Carbine is injecting some serious Loony-Toons style humor into the game is a definite bonus.

The developers do like having fun, as not only their trailers but their dev streams show.  I don't get the feeling I got with Elder Scrolls Online that all was not right with the game.  I played both the ESO and Wildstar betas and liked them both.  Okay, I didn't get ESO right off the bat and the game did make me nauseous (physically, not emotionally).  But Zenimax keeping ESO under wraps so long set off alarm bells.  Not only did Carbine open up Wildstar way in advance for open beta weekends, but allowed a lot of Twitch streamers to stream the game during closed beta as well.  The Carbine approach is much more like SOE's approach with Landmark and EverQuest Next, except with more comedy.

Honestly, I don't know if Wildstar will satisfy or turn into a 90-day wonder for me like Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Or a 6-month game like Guild Wars 2.  Given my history of quitting MMORPGs once I hit level cap, I seriously doubt that Wildstar will hold as much attraction for me as EVE Online.  But Wildstar has the potential to fill a niche in my gaming life, so I'll give the game a shot.  I just need to remember to order the game when I get home.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 25 May 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 25 May 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 37.1 6,5870.0
22Guild Wars 217.03,025+7.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.21,641-10.4
46Final Fantasy XIV5.91,056+6.8
54Elder Scrolls Online5.6997-8.0
75EVE Online4.7841-17.3
912Metin 23.6637+68.5
12--Maple Story2.3397+98.5
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 17,767

The Memorial Day weekend in the United States witnessed something unusual.  On Sunday, the Xfire community spent almost the same time playing the top MMORPGs as it did the week before.  The 28 hour (-0.2%) drop in time spent playing these games was led by the end of Wildstar's open beta period while increased interest in Metin 2 (+259 hours) and Guild Wars 2 (+205 hours) almost made up for the loss.  Replacing Wildstar on the list was Maple Story, making its first appearance in The Digital Dozen since late January.

An In-game Holiday - Guild Wars 2 sparked increased interest in the Xfire community with the launch of the Festival of the Four Winds last Tuesday.  The patch continues the Living Story as the Zephyrites have returned to support Lion's Arch and the Queen has reopened the Crown Pavilion to show her support for the recovering port city.  Or, in other words, players wishing to experience the content don't have all the time in the world to do so.

Winter Is Coming - Metin 2 usually does not generate much press, but last Tuesday Gameforge released Update 2.2, Dungeon Nemere´s Watchtower.  The content is apparently a hit as Xfire members who played Metin 2 spent an average of 6 hours logged into the game.  Of course, the excitement will wane, so I'm interested to see how long the PvP-centric game will remain on the list.

The Continuing Saga - While other games had bigger declines, all eyes are on Elder Scrolls Online and its shaky launch.  Last week saw the launch of patch 1.1.2 and the introduction of Craiglorn.  Usually new content results in a rise in play time, but ESO experienced an 8% drop in playtime by Xfire members.  Any difficulties with the patch, however, were overwhelmed in the mainstream gaming press by the news that Zenimax has left open the possibility that ESO will not launch on consoles this year.  Pretty bad news for a game with such a popular IP.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Implants And Skill Hardwiring For Mining/Hauling

Last Thursday I wrote a little post about an adventure I had ice mining.  I made a comment about having the implants of a blockade runner.  That's a bit of a misnomer, as I only have skill hardwiring that gives me benefits for hauling, not implants.  I just lump anything that I stick in my head as an implant.  Probably a bad habit.

What is the difference?  Implants give bonuses to your attributes (intelligence, perception, charisma, willpower, and memory) and skill hardwirings do not.  While all the skill hardwirings give bonuses to activities, only some of the attribute enhancers, referred to as pirate implants, do so.  Each clone has 10 slots for implants, with slots 1-5 dedicated to the attribute enhancers and slots 6-10 dedicated to skill hardwirings.

With the basics out of the way, I want to look at the implants and hardwirings I might want to use once Kronos goes live.  First, the implants.  I've got plenty of +4 implants rattling around the various stations, so losing a clone wouldn't hurt in that regard.  But getting a set of pirate implants is a much bigger deal.  The ones that would interest me are the Ascendency and Nomad sets.

The Ascendency is interesting because of the warp speed bonuses the implants grant.  According to the UniWiki, the Ascendency set provides a 53.6% increase in warp speed while the low-grade set provides 33.8%.  In Kronos, the high-grade set will see the attribute bonus raise from +3 to +4 and the low-grade increases from +2 to +3.  Higher warp speeds?  Not only for the blockade runner, but for the Procurer as well.  A set of mid-grade Ascendency implants combined with a WS-615 hardwiring in slot 6 would give the Procurer a warp speed of 4.4 AU/sec, or almost as fast as a destroyer (4.5 AU/sec unbonused). 

Where things get really amusing is the effect on deep space transports.  With the fleet hangar providing 50,000 m3 of cargo room, I could see someone fitting a Mastodon with 2 Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I rigs.  With them?  The Mastodon, with just the WS-615 hardwiring, will have a warp speed of 5.35 AU/sec.  That's faster than a regular frigate.  The mid-grade set increases warp speed to 6.76 AU/sec and the high-grade increases the speed to 7.15 AU/sec.  That means a Mastodon (or any other DST) could outrun everything except interceptors and covert ops frigates.  Assuming, of course, that someone flying a blockade runner does little to nothing to improve its warp speed.

Most pilots, however, will either try to maximize cargo capacity, defense, or alignment.  For example, in addition to the 62,500 m3 fleet hanger with Transport Ship V, the Mastodon's regular cargohold can expand out to 15,727 m3 by using tech 1 rigs and filling all the low slots with Expanded Cargohold IIs.  In those cases, the ship could have a warp speed of 4.8 AU/sec with a set of low-grad Ascendency implants and 5.1 AU/sec with the high-grade set.

The only thing that gives me pause is the price.  If I can't find and build the damn things myself, I probably won't use them.  Finding and building a set is called content and something to do.  A challenge.  Buying a set?  No thanks.  I'm getting along fine with what I have.  But after hearing from Neville Smit how great the Ascendency set is for flying freighters, I'd pay the money gladly if I step up to that class of ship.

The next set is the low-grade Nomad.  The current set reduces agility by 26.94% and the new low-grade Nomad set will reduce agility by -17.4%.  What does that mean in practical terms?  For my standard Procurer setup, and also using the EM-705 hardwiring, my align time would decrease from 6.7 down to 4.9 seconds.  With the proper fit, the align time on the Mastodon would get down to the 9-10 second range.  Is that worth the price?  If the Ascendency set isn't worth plunking down ISK, then the Nomad is definitely a solid "No."

How about the hardwirings?  For slot 6 I currently use the Eifyr and Co. 'Rogue' Warp Drive Speed' WS-615 and Eifyr and Co. 'Rogue' Evasive Maneuvering EM-705 in slot 7.  I like the 15% warp speed and 5% agility bonuses and recommend both highly.  If price is a factor, get a lesser hardwiring.  The WS-613 and EM-703 will definitely help.  For slot 8, the Inherent Implants 'Noble' Mechanic series, with its bonus to hull hit points is intriguing.  For those piloting deep space transports (especially the Impel and Occator), Orcas, freighters and jump freighters, the hardwiring will help.  But since I plan on continuing to refine my own ore after the industry changes go live, I'm looking at eventually getting the Zainou 'Beancounter' Refining RX-804.  Of course, I'll probably get another clone to put that one in, because Wandering Rose will fly around in a Mastodon and an Orca on occasion.

Slot 9 I'll leave empty.  Combat pilots will find lots to love, but as a miner and hauler?  Not too much.  Slot 10 is very interesting.  The Mining Foreman Mindlink, which I own, would go in a dedicated clone and only come out to fly an Orca.  That's it.  Also in slot 10 is the Inherent Implants 'Yeti' Ice Harvesting series implants.  I only ice mine an hour or two a week when I have a good week, but every little reduction of cycle time helps.  Another one to look at is the Inherent Implants 'Highwall' Mining Upgrades series, which reduces the CPU penalties of using mining upgrade modules.  I don't have issues with CPU, but others might need to use one.

After visiting Singularity and looking at the changes currently on the test shard, I'm not very excited about the changes to the pirate implants.  If I upgrade my clone at all, I'll add hardwirings in slots 8 and 10.  But at this point I'm not sure I really want to do that either.  Maybe once the industry changes appear on Tranquility in July.  So I'll just keep saving my money and get something nice, like a ship or some blueprints, instead.

Friday, May 23, 2014

What Were CSM 8's Five Biggest Accomplishments?

The title to this post isn't a troll.  I actually thought of the question while listening to Crossing Zebras #43.  Xander was talking with Tyrant Scorn of the Legacy of a Capsuleer podcast and Jadecougar of the EVE Overheated podcast about the poor turnout for the recent CSM 9 elections.  All three men have extensive experience interviewing and/or holding debates with CSM candidates so their perspective was interesting to listen to.  Perhaps the most important point made was that telling people to vote for something is not enough; people need to have something to vote for.

As part of the process, players have to believe that the Council of Stellar Management actually matters.  I believe the body matters or I would not run a website dedicated to following the CSM.  But what do others think?  What were the five biggest accomplishments of CSM 8?  Coming up with that answer could help explain why turnout is so low.

Xander has already responded with a post of his own.  I recommend reading the post if for no other reason that he lays out a pretty good way to judge the performance of CSMs.  But Xander is someone who kept a close eye on CSM 8, including interviewing members every month.  I've also heard from others who actually do keep watch and comment on the events in New Eden that they couldn't come up with five accomplishments.  So instead of answering the question myself, I'll throw it out to everyone.  What were CSM 8's five biggest accomplishments?  Let me know in the comments (or write about it on your blog) because I'm really interested to know.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another Ice Mining Adventure

One thing I can say about ice mining is that it is never boring.

On Tuesday I went out ice mining because I had sold out my stock of liquid ozone.  The situation looked favorable.  The ice site had respawned out of d-scan range of two of the three star gates in system, with the third gate over 5 AU from the site.  More importantly, I had celestials all around, meaning mining aligned was possible.  Perfect!

Rosewalker scouted the site in his Hound, setting up a corporation bookmark at his perch and reported that the system was empty of ships.  Wandering Rose then jumped into system, docked up and switched to her Procurer.  After she warped to a nice chunk of glare crust and started mining, the situation changed.  Local got busy.

I'll mine with neutrals in system.  But when I see a Tengu on d-scan, that changes the equation just a bit.  So Wandering Rose finished the cycle and warped back to the station with only 1000 m3 of ice, leaving Rosewalker to quietly observe the situation.  Let's just say that was wise, as the PvPers were feeling frisky, although they hadn't scored any kills at the time.

After local died down, I resumed mining.  One of the problems with ice mining is that the only way you get ice is if the ice harvester completes the cycle.  That's why I preferr Procurer's and Skiff's in low sec, they finish their cycles much faster.  But to improve that speed, I have to fit an ice harvester upgrade in the lows.  That means either giving up tank (Damage Control II) or agility (nanofiber).  With no guarantee the PvPers wouldn't return, I chose to go with align time over tank.

Not a problem, except that four rats, two of them cruiser class, spawned while Wandering Rose was mining.  That's right, she was chased off by rats.  Did I mention I hate the Angel Cartel?  But their victory was short-lived as Rosewalker warped in and finished off the rats.  But that's when the PvPers reappeared so he cloaked up after observing a Machariel on d-scan.  Apparently I wasn't the only one as pilots from Calamitous-Intent and Merrill's Marauders dispatched a cyno-fit Ibis who tried to get close to the pirate battleship.  I didn't see the combat but did see the pod warp to station.  After that, local died down again.

I then took the opportunity to mine in piece, actually succeeding in filling up the ore hold with 12,000 m3 of sweet, sweet glare crust.  But as I started to warp away, four more rats appeared in the site.  Four rats just meant four more targets for Rosewalker, and he proceeded to dispach the Angels and returned to his perch overlooking the ice site.

Now, one thing about dead rats is that they leave wrecks.  Not only are these wrecks very convenient for pilots who want to warp in and do violence to my poor Procurer, but not worth spending a torp or two to destroy.  So when Wandering Rose warped back into the site, she launched drones and proceeded to start cleaning up the site.  But she didn't get far.  Remember that Ibis that was popped earlier?  The pilot reshipped into a Vexor Navy Issue and decided he wanted to meet Wandering Rose.

But Wandering Rose is rather picky, and someone flying a faction cruiser in a factional warfare system isn't really that impressive.  Except for the firepower.  Of course, the firepower isn't that impressive if the ship lands 56 km away.  Especially since she had swapped out the nanofiber for a Damage Control II after the embarrassing incident with the Angel Cartel earlier. The lack of agility didn't matter as she was already aligned to a distant customs office.  The VNI landing so far away gave her plenty of time to retrieve her drones and warp off.

Apparently, the hint was too subtle and the VNI gave chase.  But Wandering Rose isn't your average ice miner.  Her other ship is a Prowler, and she has the implants to fly it properly.  Holding a 3.45 AU to 3 AU warp speed advantage, she easily landed first and aligned for the station to dock up.  To his credit, the VNI pilot did manage to land on grid, but I don't know how close as the faction cruiser was just coming out of warp as Wandering Rose warped away.

Meanwhile, Rosewalker remained at his perch overlooking the ice site, waiting for the inevitable.  Sure enough, the VNI pilot came back to the belt and appeared to make a bookmark, awaiting Wandering Rose to return.  Once that happened, I decided to wrap up the operation for the night.  Twenty units of glare crust refines to 10,000 units of liquid ozone.  Enough to justify making the trip to Bosena.  So I refined the ice and moved out of the system.

As things turned out, I probably wouldn't have done too much more mining anyway.  The PvPers returned, shots were fired and ships exploded.  I didn't want to show up on any kill mails anyway.

Turning to market PvP, I decided to not price aggressively.  My stockpile of liquid ozone depleted while I attended Fanfest, so I just matched the low price of 600 ISK/unit in the station in Bosena.  I figured I'd just build up my stockpile and have a sell order out just in case.  Imagine my surprise yesterday when I returned home and found all 10,000 units of liquid ozone sold.  Time to do some more mining.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A New Project: CSM Wire

If someone tells me I can't find out about something I'm interested in, I'll often try to find out anyway.  I'm kind of nosy that way.  So when I kept reading that the only way to really tell what EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management is doing is to read the minutes of their summits with CCP, that was like throwing a red cape in front of a bull.  Really?  Hasn't anyone heard of Kremlinology?  With all the information on the internet know-a-days, players have to have some clues, right?

So on the theory that keeping track of the CSM isn't that hard if the information is properly organized, I created a web site, CSM Watch.  I built it using Google Sites so CSM Watch is pretty basic right now.  Currently I have RSS feeds for the blogs of each of the CSM members who maintain one.  For purposes of blogs, Xander Phoena's CSM updates he publishes on Crossing Zebras is included in this section.  I also have RSS feeds for the two podcasts that have CSM members as hosts, Crossing Zebras and Declarations of War.

The big section for me, however, are the RSS feeds I've installed from the EVE Online forums.  That's a feature I really wanted to include, as I hate wading through the EVE-O forums.  The feature is a little wonky (meh, Google) but in the few days I've had the site up and running I've found following the activities of the CSM very informative.  For example, this morning I found out that any connections from known space to C6 wormholes are the result of a bug that's been in place for five years.  So in addition to figuring out what the CSM is doing, I think I'll learn a lot more about EVE in the process.

Of course, if I want to use the site for any serious research, I do need to keep track of the information it provides.  So I've also included a section called news in which I write little blurbs about the activities of the CSM.  Sort of like a wire service, complete with an RSS feed.  I did have to do something tricky to get the feed into the blog, though.  I'll have to document that sometime.

The site is still a work in progress, but I'm already seeing results.  Searching on the term "freighters" shows me some of the activities surrounding the freighter and jump freighter changes.  Yes, the search functionality actually works.  I don't have tags like a blog, but I think the search functionality will work adequately instead.

Like I mentioned above, the site is still a work in progress.  If anyone wants to let me know what I need to include or change, please let me know in the comments.  I'm not an expert with Google Sites, but I see areas for improvement so I'm sure others will as well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 20 May 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 18 May 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 37.0 6,587-10.7
22Guild Wars 215.82,820-2.7
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.31,832-9.6
44Elder Scrolls Online6.11,084-30.2
55EVE Online5.71,017-1.2
66Final Fantasy XIV5.6989+1.8
12--Metin 22.1378+15.2
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 17,795

As the number of players in the Xfire community playing MMORPGs continues to decline, the percentage declines in the time spent playing the most popular games continues to grow.  On Sunday, the Xfire community spent 11% fewer hours playing those games than the week before. Topping the list was World of Warcraft which witnessed a decline of 788 hours played compared to the Sunday before.  The one game that saw a triple-digit increase was Neverwinter (+155 hours), which jumped back into the Digital Dozen after a one week absence.

A New Module - Neverwinter vaulted back into the Digital Dozen following the release of Module 3: Curse of Icewind Dale.  The module introduced new PvE and PvP content for players as well as the expected new cash store items.  Cryptic is trying to build on the increased traffic and announced that the next module, Tyranny of Dragons, will launch on 14 August.

The Drop-Off Begins - Usually new subscription games will experience a decline in play sometime around 30 days after launch due to players not liking a game enough to pay for a second month.  Elder Scrolls Online could turn into a textbook example of such a game.  With the array of problems faced by players during the first month, the Xfire community started to abandon the game early.  The granting of 5 extra days brought interest back, but Sunday saw a 30.2% decrease in the amount of time Xfire members spent in ESO.  I'm not sure if anything big is coming in the near future to keep more people from abandoning the game.  We'll find out soon enough.

The End of Beta - Wildstar ended its 10-day open beta with a bit of a thud, with Xfire members spending only half the time playing the game as they did the week before.  The game begins early access on 31 May, with the full launch on 3 June.  I think the game has the potential to beat Elder Scrolls Online in popularity after the first month as I hear the Carbine's product is more polished than the Zenimax game.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Prowlers and Mastodons, Oh My!

On Saturday, CCP Fozzie released some more posts on the Features and Ideas section of the EVE Online forums.  While the proposed changes to freighters and jump freighters are generating plenty of aggro, I'm more interested in the blockade runner and deep space transport changes.  Yes, jump freighters are very valuable for moving goods around low sec, but I don't own one, so I really can't discuss them intelligently.  But I do own Prowlers and a Mastodon.

First, the Prowler.  I love my Prowlers so much my two main pilots both own one.  Except for the increase in mass, I don't see a downside.  The change of the useless shield booster bonus to a 5% warp speed bonus per level of Transport Ships will boost the warp speed from 6 AU up to 7.5 AU if the skill is trained to 5.  With 2 Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I rigs and a 15% warp speed implant, the warp speed of a Prowler will increase from 9.9 AU to 12.4 AU with Transport Ships trained to 5.

At the same time, the cargo capacity of the Prowler is raised tremendously.  Not only will I no longer need cargo rigs to do all the distribution missions, but with cargo rigs the Prowler can now transport packaged cruisers.  One of the changes for all blockade runners is they will all have 2 high slots and over 10,000 m3 in cargo capacity when using tech 1 rigs.  This should help transporting cargo in wormholes, as all blockade runners can fit a cloak and probes.  But the Prowler, with gaining a third low slot, will see the maximum cargo capacity jump from 6604 m3 up to 9068 m3 without using cargo rigs in Kronos.  Exceeding the 9000 m3 threshold is important, because that means the Prowler will have the ability to carry a third giant secure cargo container.  When including the cargo containers, that boosts the maximum cargo capacity from 8404 m3 to 11,768 m3.  That last is important because often the storyline missions ask for kernite to complete.  Moving the ore around just got in exchange for a +4 learning implant just got easier.

The point where everyone thinks the Prowler is nerfed is with the alignment time.  The alignment time actually goes down slightly with the change, from the current base of 7.62 seconds down to 7.57 seconds.  In basic terms, the changes to mass and alignment cancel each other out.  But Minmatar pilots are used to having the most agile ships around, but that is no longer the case.  The Gallente Viator is receiving a big buff, with the align time dropping from 8.5 seconds down to 7.49 seconds.  I'm not sure how much that difference makes in reality, but even parity between the two ships makes a lot of pilots angry.

The deep space transports, on the other hand, needed a lot of love.  CCP Fozzie explained the plan for the class.
"These ships have been largely overshadowed by Orcas and high capacity T1 haulers for heavy duty hauling, and of course they cannot compete with the amazing evasion abilities of Blockade Runners.

"So our plan for revamping them is to give them a strong and stable carrying capacity in the form of a large fleet hangar. Besides creating interesting options for group play, this fleet hangar does not pressure a pilot into fitting rigs or expanded cargoholds for max carrying capacity.

"The fleet hangar is intended to make DSTs a viable choice for many hauling situations, and allowed us to then add a series of options to the DST defensive toolbox. We know that once people start using a ship it will be inevitable that they get into bad situations with them and that it can be immensely fun gameplay to escape a dangerous situation when you have no guarantee of survival. For this purpose we have provided the Deep Space Transports with defensive tools that are much less consistent than the covert cloak on the Blockade Runners but that are powerful nonetheless.

"The key new addition is a role bonus that doubles the benefits from overheating tanking modules and propulsion modules. This means that Deep Space Transports can have obscene tanks for short periods of time and gain strong bursts of mobility, especially useful for fighting your way back to a stargate (or for playing bait).

"They are also gaining the ability to use the new Medium Micro Jump Drive modules for extra escape and bubble evasion options."
For me, the big change is the fleet hangar.  With Transport Ships trained to 5, deep space transports have as much cargo capacity as the specialized tech 1 industrials Epithal (PI), Kryos (minerals), Miasmos (ore), and Hoarder (ammunition and charges).  So in addition to the greater survivability, the deep space transports can do the work of 4 tech 1 specialized ships.  How about the align time?  My math isn't solid, but I think with max skills, 2 Inertia Stabilizers II and 2 Nanofiber Internal Structure II along with a 5% agility implant that the Mastodon will have similar (10-11 second) align times as the Miasmos fit I came up with to move ore around low sec (8-9 seconds).  I am not planning on filling the lows with warp core stabilizers because any serious gate camp will have plenty of points, if not a HIC with an infinite point.  Since the Mastodon can also do the MWD+Cloak trick after the second high slot is added, the big concern for me is whether the value of the cargo is worth the risk of a tech 2 ship.

Overall, I'm happy with the changes to the Prowler.  Not only don't I have to worry about cargo sizes for distribution missions, but I can complete the missions much faster.  Also, making runs back and forth to Bosena, Hek, and Rens won't take as long.  The Mastodon?  The ship is undoubtedly improved, but I don't know if the improvement will lure me to take the ship into low sec.  But if I have any runs to make in high sec, I'll definitely use the Mastodon over a tech 1 industrial.

Friday, May 16, 2014

2014 Not Going According To Plan

After a very quiet 2013, people were excited about the content coming out for 2014.  Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar, Destiny, and the next World of Warcraft expansion had many gamers drooling.  Throw in SOE's Landmark that will lead into EverQuest Next (hopefully in 2015) and 2014 promised to captivate fans of MMOs.

Yeah, about that.  So far, 2014 isn't such a great year.  Let's kick off with CCP.  The Icelandic game company announced the closing of World of Darkness before the game ever got out of alpha.  Then, at Fanfest two weeks ago, DUST 514 players were dismayed at the news that was released about Project Legion and the future of their game.  Listening to the High Drag podcast last night, I heard Council of Planetary Mangement member Hans Jagerblitzen throw the marketing department under the bus for the situation.  Go ahead and listen to the first hour of the episode for an insider's take on the situation.  In comparison, the decision to go to a 6-week development cycle for EVE Online is great news.  The fact that CCP is holding back the industry changes for one release shows the devs are serious about not releasing unready and untested features.

I probably do need to include Star Wars: The Old Republic in the mix.  With recent news from Lucasfilm, the story in SW:TOR is no longer canon, but that hopefully is just a minor road bump.  The same with the delay in launching Galactic Strongholds.  That decision hopefully falls within the same category as CCP's decision to delay the launch of the industry changes in EVE.  Not launching an incomplete feature is always a good decision.

As for Elder Scrolls Online.  Ugh!  What a bad first month.  From major infestations of botting and RMT to the inability of people to group, the launch was pretty bad.  So bad that the release of the console version was delayed for six months.  Zenimax needs to fix the PC version before porting the game to consoles.  I only played one weekend in beta, but others have reviewed the game and found it wanting.

World of Warcraft players are currently suffering with the longest period of no new content in the game's ten year history.  I think players were hoping that Warlords of Draenor would release sometime in June or July, but Blizzard put out a release date of no later than December 20.  With Blizzcon not until November, does anyone now expect an expansion release sooner than 6 months?

Destiny, an MMO for the console, appears to become a PS4-first game.  For those who dumped on CCP's decision to work with Sony, Activision and Bungie are leaning that way also.  Something tells me that players were not expecting that.

Wildstar is showing signs of exceeding Carbine's player interest.  I've heard that during the weekend betas that the servers would frequently become overloaded.  That doesn't concern me because beta is where things like actual load is tested.  But the name reservation system broke down and Carbine had to hand out goodies as compensation.  Sure, the system is not actually part of the game, but I'm hoping it is not a sign of things to come.  Then again, having too many players isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So far, 2014 is not showing a vast improvement on 2013.  However, the year still has seven months to go, so perhaps I haven't given games enough time.  But so far, I'd say the year is a little disappointing.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Greed Is Bad

Overconfidence and greed.  A deadly combination that led to the death of my second Procurer in low sec last night.  Instead of following the procedures I'd developed for staying alive, I started chasing after a possible hundreds of thousands of ISK and instead lost millions.

I went ice mining last night where I probably shouldn't.  The ice site had spawned 1.2 AU from two star gates.  To make matters worse, the ice site only had celestial objects on one side, making it virtually impossible to mine while aligned, so I didn't even try.  And shortly after I started mining, a neutral Tengu came into system.

All of those, though, were just contributing factors.  The real cause is that I popped four rats and, instead of destroying the wrecks, decided for some strange reason that collecting the loot was a good idea.  In case anyone doesn't know, collecting the loot in a mining barge while mining in low sec is generally a bad idea.  I normally just destroy the wrecks with my drones as soon as the combat is done.

When I'm mining the 12th unit of ice to fill my ore hold, I'm usually fully aligned to the station where I'm going to drop the ice off, bad site location or good.  But because I got greedy, I was moving toward one of the wrecks.  So instead of just clicking on the dock button and escaping, I was fumbling around to get a celestial to warp off too and was tackled.  Needless to say, the Procurer died.  I escaped with my pod, but I'm not sure if he was distracted by my Hound appearing or if he just decided not to take the sec hit, since his security status was 1.3.  I think the latter was the case because I was really fumbling around with my mouse and keyboard.

I talked with Hamster Too, the pilot of the Tengu, about what happened during the fight, if you can call what we had a fight.  I didn't even scratch his paint because I couldn't get my drones pointed in the right direction and my stealth bomber showed up late.  He's a pretty cool dude and so we agreed that he'd scoop my drones and loot the wreck and after that he'd just run his site and I could continue mining.  He didn't pick up everything, though.  He left the mining crystals that dropped as well as the 12 units of ice that I'd gathered.  So I got my ice after all!

I then mined another ore hold full of ice, and while my new Procurer was in the station a Tristan showed up in the ice site.  I'm not about to lose 2 ships in one day, so I just refined the ice I had, said goodbye to local, and made a delivery of 12,000 units of liquid ozone to Bosena for sale.  As of downtime, I'd already sold 1,000 units.

I had a little more of an adventure than I liked, but I can't say I was bored.  But next time, I'll stick to the basics and not chase after every .01 ISK.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Tool Tips

I listened to BigCountry's show on EVE Radio last night and heard Dirk MacGirk admit to getting a little "bitter vet" since he's started reading the EVE Online forums.  Well, duh!  Reading any game's forums is a bad thing to do because they are generally so toxic. I usually tell players not to visit any forum.  Yet, I do it anyway.

The latest outrage is the new set of tool tips released yesterday.  Reading the posts, this change was the worst thing since the Star Wars: Galaxies NGE (although not as bad as UO's Trammel) and would result in players shooting monuments in Jita in a few days at the latest.  Given the outrage on the official forums, I figured that the new tool tips were causing troubles for OCR bots. Visiting the H-Bot forums showed I was right...

13 May 2014
olaf:  "there is a prob when ship is aligning to bm and new baloon tooltip show with speed ..."

H-BOT (forum admin):  "Attention! The new baloon [sic] tooltip shown when the mouse hovers an item in overview can cover crucial parts of your drones window and cause problems to H-Bot (if drones window is positioned on the left of your overview). Leave some space between drones and overview to avoid such problems." 

Causes Bots Problems

I'm gathering that the last bit of advice is also useful for real players to know.  I would not have run into the issue, though, because I've moved everything away from the left of the overview so the icons for the ships I've targeted will show up there instead.

When I got home, I had a full night ahead of me as I had neglected my industry and needed to catch up.  I'm happy to report that I didn't notice any new tool tips getting in the way of creating manufacturing jobs, renewing the gathering on my planetary interaction colonies, gathering the materials from the customs offices, transporting my goods into Bosena, or creating sell orders.

I'll admit I did not run any data or relic sites last night, but that was only because, due to bad luck, I only scanned down wormholes and combat sites.  I would have run the combat sites, but the time was getting late and there were neutrals in system.  They were faction warfare dudes, so where I would have risked a Cheetah in a data site or a Procurer in a belt, I wasn't about to risk a Cyclone in a DED site.  Why tempt anyone?

Tool Tip Combined With The Radial Menu

One thing I was a bit concerned about was groups of celestial objects.  The ones that appear so close together in space that they stack.  After a brief search I found a cluster and was pleasantly surprised.  Not only are the letters easier to read (no more text getting washed out by the sun) but I now have a wider area to place my cursor in order to pull up the radial menu.  Before, I had to click on the icon.  Now, I can select anywhere along the object's line.  Very cool addition.

I still need to find a data or relic site to run and mine in a belt, but given what I've seen so far, I don't expect to have any issues.  I might even travel to high sec just to run a level 4 security mission (ugh!) just to exhaust all possibilities of problems.  Sometimes people complain just to complain.  Others will complain anytime something changes.  But for now, I have nothing to complain about and some things to like.  Looks like the feature is a win for me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 13 May 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 11 May 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 36.9 7,375-0.8
22Guild Wars 214.52,899-10.7
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.12,027-18.0
44Elder Scrolls Online7.81,552-10.0
57EVE Online5.11,029+14.6
65Final Fantasy XIV4.9972-11.1
11--Lord of the Rings Online2.3462+43.5
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 19,988

The slow decline for Xfire continued Sunday, with members spending 2% less time playing its favorite MMORPGs than the weekend before.  The games leading the downward slide were Star Wars: The Old Republic (-444 hours) and Guild Wars 2 (-347 hours) while Wildstar lead the the game's seeing more interest with an increase of 566 hours.

Open Beta Begins - Wildstar launched its open beta last week and Carbine saw the interest from the Xfire community vault it into the middle of The Digital Dozen.  The beta ends next Sunday, which will give some indication of how well the game will do when it launches on 3 June.

Time's Almost Up - The trouble plagued launch of Elder Scrolls Online will see launch day players have to subscribe to the game this week to continue playing.  The extra five days of play time seem to have staunched the bleeding, but are the Xfire numbers high because people like using free stuff?  We'll find out next week.

Turning 11 - EVE Online experienced a nice gain in interest Sunday, spurred on by an in-game event to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the sci-fi sandbox MMORPG.  All players would receive a special edition Gecko superheavy drone for meeting specific targets, such as quantity of ore mined or ships killed.  As part of the celebration, CCP began by giving all players 3, with up to an additional 8 available if all targets were met.  As of this writing, it appears that players will only receive 4 of the 8 possible drones.

Monday, May 12, 2014

First Steps Into Landmark

Over the weekend I dove a bit more into Sony Online Entertainment's new game, Landmark.  A very interesting game so far, even for someone who has less artistic ability than Rixx Javix does in his little finger.  So far, I've just equipped myself adequately to travel to a tier 2 map, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Low Sec Honey-Do List For Kronos

Spring is here, and with the season is coming games I'm looking forward to playing.  My old CEO Kelduum gave me a beta key for Landmark while I was at Fanfest and I've downloaded the game.  The game doesn't have a tutorial, so I'm interested to see how easy it is to learn how to make all the cool stuff I see on Twitter.  I'm also looking forward to Wildstar, which launches on 3 June.  That game is in open beta, but since I'm going to buy the game anyway, I'm not going to spoil the experience for myself.  I'm also interested in what effect CREDD, a PLEX-like object good for game time using in-game currency, will work at launch.

Of course, the game I'll blog the most about is EVE Online and the upcoming Kronos patch on 3 June.  Yes, I called it a patch.  Of course, the patch is expansion-sized since it originally was going to hold the summer expansion, but CCP considers it a patch, so a patch I shall call it.

Anyway, since I'm not sure about the whole industry revamp thingy CCP is doing, I need to actually play through the content in order to judge the effect of the changes, at least on my own game play.  Perhaps some players are savvy enough to tell from the information CCP has released what will happen, but I am not one of those people.  So I came up with a list of things I need to do to properly judge Kronos.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Applications of Grey's Law In New Eden

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

The mindset generated by the New Eden universe can easily lead players into conspiracy thinking.  When "Don't trust anyone" ranks with "Don't fly what you can't afford to lose" as one of the most important rules veterans pass on to new players in EVE Online, one could say that mistrust is built into the DNA of the residents of New Eden.1  Unfortunately for CCP, that way of thinking tends to not only apply to other players, but to the game developer itself.

I'll admit I naturally gravitate to conspiracy thinking.  To combat that, I tend to compensate by researching a topic to find a non-conspiracy explanation.  Sometimes, though, I'll rely on rumor to provide that non-conspiracy reason.

The latest example was the DUST Keynote.  Yes, what happened was bad.  But apparently, the situation was made worse because the public relations aspect wasn't really well-thought out.  First, don't reveal such bad news at your big player gathering.  SOE knew that when it sunset games like The Matrix and Star Wars: Galaxies.  But to make things worse, word at Fanfest is that the CCP marketing department didn't adequately prepare CCP Rouge for how EVE TV covers Fanfest.  The word I heard on-site in the HARPA was that new chief of DUST 514/Legion thought that the DUST 514 round table would be televised so he was going to answer all the questions during that hour.  I heard he was shocked when he found out EVE TV would not televise the question and answer session.  That led to unscheduled appearances by CCP Rouge to try to quell the building outrage.

Quite frankly, I think that the DUST 514 Keynote was CCP's "NGE" moment that will haunt the company with the FPS crowd for years to come.  Not because of any type of deep, dark conspiracy, but just because CCP didn't know how to communicate the changes.

I'll just conclude the discussion of the DUST 514 Keynote address with the two words that immediately popped into my mind when I heard what happened: Tabula Rasa.

The other event that I'm really interested in is the lack of a dev blog about the results of the CSM 9 election.  As I write this, CCP Dolan has still not posted a dev blog almost 5 days after the results were displayed at the CCP Presents session at Fanfest.  The conspiracy theorist will say that the rumored low turnout (I heard only 30,000 when I was in Reykjavik) has led CCP to not publicize the results for various reasons, which they will probably insert in the comments of this post.

But I'm remembering Grey's Law and how it applies in this case.  Over the past year, CCP has shown it is organizationally challenged when dealing with publishing materials associated with the Council of Stellar Management.  First the Summer Summit minutes.  Then the Winter Summit minutes, despite the fact that CCP Logibro2 did a tremendous job in transcribing the sessions and then CSM got the minutes back to CCP for review in record time.  So not getting a dev blog published with official word on the winners for everyone to see just seems par for the course.

I do understand that CCP Leeloo was added to the staff handling the CSM, so perhaps this issue will go away over the term of CSM 9.  But that doesn't help the current situation.  In fact, I'm finding the urge to write something with a little tinfoil in it hard to resist at this point myself.  Rest assured, the tinfoil isn't about the CSM election process.  I've got bigger fish to fry.

I realize that using Grey's Law as a defense isn't really that flattering an argument.  But sometimes bad things happen and I just can't make what I see fit into a rosy scenario.  Sometimes bumbling is the best explanation.3


1.  I would prefer the rule, "Trust, but verify," but given its close association with Ronald Reagan, I doubt it would ever catch on.

2.  I hope I got the name correct.  But in the initial pass of the minutes, CCP reportedly did a really good job in improving the process.

3.  And I swear I'll write about something better tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An Unruly CSM

My last day of vacation was spent mostly taking care of housekeeping.  Unpacking, doing laundry, grocery shopping.  That kind of thing.  In EVE, I restocked my store as much as possible, started my planetary interaction colonies up, and started the production lines working.  I still need to do some ice mining because I'm out of liquid ozone, but not a real serious problem.

Of course, just because I'm having a quiet time doesn't mean nothing is happening in EVE Online.  Our little band of intrepid internet spaceship politicians that makes up the 9th Council of Stellar Management are making some noise before CCP has even published a dev blog announcing the results of the election.

The CSM apparently decided to change the structure of the organization and eliminate officers.  Mike Azariah posted on the forums:
"We of the CSM are considering the shift to internally assigned duties without the titles that go along with them. We will continue to do our tasks and people may step forward as things present themselves. One might take over being the whip for the minutes, another focus on being the liaison to the devs. Me, I have stepped forward as a veteran of the Eve-O forums and will let you know when things are happening.

"Or answer questions.

"I am good at making tinfoil hats. Please do not force me to use that skill.

"This is NOT an attack on any CSM9's worthiness for the position but rather the thinking that we have outgrown the previous structure.

"Questions? Comments? Fire away"
Now, those who are regular readers of the blog know I'm a bit of a stickler for following the rules.  And this unilateral eliminating of the officer positions definitely flies in the face of the CSM White Paper:
"Within seven days of the general election, the Representatives must hold an internal vote to determine Officers: a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Vice-Secretary. If there are two candidates for a position, the winner is determined by a simple majority vote; if there are multiple candidates, then multiple ballots are cast, with each ballot eliminating the candidate with the least number of votes. In the event of a tie between any two candidates, the representative who was elected to the CSM with the highest ranking from the election will cast the tie-breaking vote." [emphasis mine]
In this case, however, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the discomfort of CCP Dolan as he figures out what to do next.  I had a reason for highlighting the first phrase of the above excerpt from the White Paper.  After all, he threw out the rules first.

In the dev blog announcing the election for CSM 9 in March, he wrote:
"Additionally, after discussion with the CSM, we will be adding a new rule regarding the selection of officers. This year we will delay the selection of officers until the first CSM summit. We found that selecting officers immediately after the election meant that people were selected on their reputation instead of their actual contribution to the CSM process."
I wonder if the newly elected CSM would have thought to get rid of the officer positions if CCP Dolan had decided to stick with the procedures in the White Paper.  By not following the rules, he basically stated that having the officers was not important for the first quarter of the CSM.  If the CSM can function that long without officers, then why can't the elected body go the entire year without them?

I really hadn't planned on writing too much about the CSM on the blog.  But the bunch of representatives we elected is showing early on that they could prove difficult to handle.  If so, I might have to write about them more often.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 6 May 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 4 May 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 36.5 7,433-5.1
22Guild Wars 215.93,246-4.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.12,471+49.8
47Elder Scrolls Online8.51,725+114.0
54Final Fantasy XIV5.41,093-10.2
76EVE Online4.4898+5.9
12--Metin 21.8376+8.0
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 20,388
The weekend saw a rise in the interest in the MMORPG genre in the Xfire community.  The 6% increase in the amount of time spent playing the most popular games Sunday was led by Elder Scrolls Online (+919 hours) and Star Wars: The Old Republic (+822 hours).  Games seeing the biggest declines in time played were World of Warcraft (-402 hours) and Guild Wars 2 (-155 hours).  Lord of the Rings Online and RIFT fell off the list Sunday, replaced by Wildstar and Metin 2Wildstar, a game still in beta, made its first appearance while Metin 2 made an appearance in The Digital Dozen for the first time since 13 October.

A Last Chance? - To say that Elder Scrolls Online has experienced a rocky launch is a bit of an understatement.  Broken quests, poor phasing mechanics, numerous other bugs plus a huge infestation of bots and advertising from gold sellers saw the hours played by the Xfire community drop almost 55% between the Sunday after launch (6 April) to last week.  So why such a big change?  Are patches 1.0.6 and 1.0.7 just that great?  Has naming and shaming RMTers on the forums and taking down private chat improved the atmosphere that much?  Or is it the additional 5 days of game time that Zenimax offered to players?  Since that added game time is coming right around the time that players first 30 days would expire, my guess is that gamers are coming back because ... free game time.  The question is whether the game is fixed well enough to convince players to pay for a second month.  We'll find out next week.

Star Wars Day - Non-Star Wars fans may not know, but Sunday was Star Wars Day (May the fourth be with us).  To celebrate, Bioware held a double-XP weekend and gave out the new MT-4T Astromech Droid Mini-Pet to all the players of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Interest in the Xfire community jumped tremendously.  The question is: will they stay there?

Wildstar's Debut - Xfire support for Wildstar began on Saturday.  Carbine has held beta weekends for quite some time now and Sunday the game made its Digital Dozen debut at #11 with 401 hours played.  That number is rather low, with the average time played by players was 2.4 hours.  Just based on this number, a #3 showing behind only WoW and GW2 on the launch weekend is a realistic expectation.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fanfest 2014 - Scattered Final Thoughts

I'm writing this from a hotel in Boston and won't get home until sometime this afternoon.  But I thought I should write down some final impressions of Fanfest 2014.

First, the convention seemed anti-climatic.  I think that was due to two reasons.  The first is the flood of industry dev blogs released right before the convention began.  That drew a lot of interest and then we were just digesting news during the convention.  Usually, part of the energy is learning about new things.  I didn't feel like that was the case this year.

The second reason is the people.  I had a lot more interaction with people before the convention.  Fanfest actually resulted in me toning down the socializing in order to track down news at the HARPA.

I think Fanfest 2014 closes EVE's run of 10 years of steadily climbing subscriptions.  I say that because no one was celebrating the new, higher number of subs.  I'm doubly convinced with the lack of the release of the CSM election results.  Not only is no dev blog published (as of the time I write this) but I looked on the forums and I only saw a player-created thread with the results.  Even when the dev blog is posted, I doubt we will see any data that will allow players to assume the number of subscriptions has increased.

I've stated before that the industry changes were necessary before the vision of s-space beyond the gates we build is possible.  CCP Seagull in the EVE Keynote address spelled out that not only industry, but stations and structures (that includes POS), corporation and alliance structures and roles, and sovereignty and sov warfare all need a revamp before players can begin constructing their own stargates.

I also think that moving to a 6-week release cycle is potentially a good thing.  Not only does that follow what is a growing practice in the industry, but I doubt CCP could implement the needed changes in core systems to enable players to build star gates if they didn't abandon the bi-yearly expansion development cycles.  Of course, CCP needs to adapt to that development cycle like ArenaNet has done with their every 2-week content release schedule.

Speaking of building, I found out at the Vision panel that EVE of Destruction is not just a mixed-martial arts event.  CCP Scarpia, the new lead game designer for EVE, would like to make everything destructible as well constructable.  Since CCP Seagull was sitting right next to him, I'll wager he's not going off on his own.  But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that vision to occur soon.

On the server front, CCP Veritas and Team Gridlock look like they are making progress on improving server performance.  The rewrite of the Dogma code should do that.  With any luck, Team Gridlock will get the code in a state that they can release it onto Tranquility by the end of the year. 

I think the security teams, both InfoSec and Team Security, will get very interesting this year.  The new guy always wants to come in and make their mark.  That means CCP Bugartist, who played EVE for 3 years before getting the job, could start trying to tighten the screws on botters and those selling illicit ISK even more.  Changing the rules so that getting caught buying illicit ISK results in a seven-day ban for a first offense and a permanent ban for the third is a nice start.  I can't wait to watch the presentation on YouTube.  I think I missed a lot by actually watching it in person.

As for EVE: Valkyrie, I don't really care.  I don't like combat flight simulators and that's what Valkyrie is.  But a lot of people do, so I hope CCP is successful with bringing the game to market.  And before anyone asks, I did try the game.

Finally, about DUST 514.  I've watched SOE close down games like The Matrix and Star Wars: Galaxies and the following player gathering in Las Vegas turned into a wake for the game.  I don't know how I would feel to take a trip and get the impression that the game I came to celebrate was now either dead or about to die.  Especially if I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to attend the event.  Not cool.

I had planned to attend the DUST Keynote, but got tied up with the Security roundtable.  That keynote is another session I have to watch.

I know I missed a bunch of other things, but I'll try to get around to writing posts with that information later.  I really can't avoid doing so if I want to write about the industry changes.  But those aren't really specific to Fanfest and I just jotted down the highlights of my experience in Reykjavik this year.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fanfest 2014 - Security First Impressions

I've blown up my schedule for today, as I first decided to try to play EVE:Valkyrie but then became impatient and decided to go back to my hotel until 4pm.  Sorry, but playing a combat flight simulator doesn't have that much appeal that I"m willing to wait an hour to play.

I attended first the Security presentation and then the roundtable.  The presentation was rather interesting because we got to see some numbers CCP had not shared in the past.  For example, the automatic bot detection system only accounts for 10%-20% of all bans.  Another is that 1/3 of all accounts that were hacked since January 2013 had purchased ISK from the secondary RMT market (i.e. illicit ISK sellers).  And of course, that newer players (under 100 days old) were more likely to purchase ISK from an illicit ISK site.

If I can throw in a little roleplay into the subject.  The characters banned were broken down by race/bloodline and the Vherokior, at 3%, were second only to the Jin-Mei for race with the lowest percentage of characters banned.  Did I mention that both of my main characters are Vherokior?

The big news, at least for players, is that the punishments for purchasing ISK are changing.  The old policy is that a player gets a warning for a first offense and is banned if caught buying ISK four times.  Under the new policy, the penalties are:
  • 1st offense: 7-day account suspension and removal of all purchased ISK/items.
  • 2nd offense: 21-day account suspension and removal of all purchased ISK/items.
  • 3rd offense: PERMANENT BAN.
Remember that chart shown in the Economics presentation yesterday?  Looks like I'll need to start the monitoring effort back up to see if the new penalties have any effect.

The security roundtable was a bit delayed in starting because people were asking questions during the presentation while the team was giving their talk.  Charlie Eriksen (the player formerly known as CCP Stillman) was there along with three guys in Pandemic Legion shirts, Chribba, and a host of others I didn't recognize. 

The conversation began with a discussion on multi-factor authentication.  I think some in the room were irritated that bringing that to EVE was first discussed back in 2011 and still has not happened.  I really wonder if that will happen before CCP figures out single sign-on (SSO).  Not sure how much influence the security team has in making that happen. 

The second main topic discussed was account sharing.  The way the geo-tracking works, using an automatic system would result in the banning of 25%-30% EVE accounts.  Not good.  I know that people in the room would like to share characters, but EVE is an MMORPG.  That whole sharing thing kind of violates the spirit of the game.  Besides, I can just think of the increased mess that customer support would have to deal with.

One interesting tidbit that came out is that CCP is rethinking its approach to accounts and we will hear more at the EVE keynote in a couple of hours.

The third topic was, of course, bots and RMT.  One player wondered why not just go after the people running level 5 missions and other high value content who don't buy anything and just transfer the ISK to other characters.  One of the PL guys shot back that he's run 30 level 5 missions in a day, does that make him a bot?

This post is just something I dashed off real quick between sessions.  I really need to see the presentation on YouTube in order to get all of the actual numbers.  This is one of those cases in which watching from home was probably better than being in the audience.  CCP has stated that they will come out with a dev blog soon.  I'll need to come out with a more in-depth post as well.

Fanfest 2014 - Day 1

The preliminaries are over and now the real work begins.  That's right, yesterday was the first day of CCP's Fanfest and serious internet spaceship business began.  I didn't do too much social stuff outside of going to dinner with Kelduum and Athanor at the little restaurant that Neville said he didn't want to go to this year.  But as Neville was at the charity dinner, we went anyway.

I stuck to the schedule I set up Tuesday, which meant six sessions.  Here's a quick impression of each presentation.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fanfest 2014 - The Day Before

Yesterday was my fourth day in Reykjavik, so while a lot of people were getting acclimatized to Iceland or excited at the newness, I pretty much relaxed all day.  I had breakfast, wrote for a bit and then went downstairs to join with what is turning into the daily morning EVE chat.  While we were gathered, the final industry dev blog came out.  That resulted in a dramatic reading from Neville Smit, with people interrupting with their opinions.  After reading or listening to all six of the dev blogs I'm not sure that low sec doesn't come out taking the heaviest nerfs, but we still have the Fanfest presentations to attend for additional information.

Afterwards I met Diana Dial of for a bit of lunch.  I grabbed the peanut chicken soup instead of tomato soup because I figured why not try something new.  Let's just say that I liked the conversation a lot more than the soup.  But if I don't try something, how can I say I won't really like it?  Unless it has coconuts in it.  I hate coconuts.

I learned a couple of things talking to Diana.  The recent negative news hasn't hurt her business because of the bitcoin broker she deals with.  "Bitcoin?" I hear you ask.  That's right, going to her site means you can actually pay for your game time using bitcoin.  I think Eve Time Code is the only site offering to take a crypto-currency in exchange for game time codes.  Also, she told me that her business is better when PLEX goes for around 400-500 million ISK.  That's counterintuitive, as I would think that people would more likely purchase when the price of PLEX is at 700 million ISK because players would get more ISK for the real life buck.

Afterwards, I returned to my room and actually went through the schedule to figure out what I want to see.  The schedule doesn't have very many holes in it for me.  I do see that the schedule was rearranged so that the CSM panel is no longer opposite the Industry panel, but I still have no plans to attend the CSM panel.  CCP Dolan so pissed me off at last year's panel that I'll just skip the probable aggravation he'll conjure up.  I have a new rule.  If CCP Dolan is involved, I'm not going.  I'm trying to avoid disrupting the good feeling I've enjoyed since landing in Iceland on Sunday.

I got down to the lobby around 4pm and met up with the group going to the unveiling of the monument.  Among those in the group was Les Johnson.  Les gave a talk at EVE Vegas and so impressed CCP that they invited him to reprise his talk on Saturday.  Les is a science and science-fiction writer who works for NASA.  I talked with Les while we walked to the monument site and learned a few things about technology and what is possible.  While we were walking his wife was trying to track down the location of a one-man show, "How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes."  I hope she found it because I hear the show's pretty good.

Hilmar listening to artist Sigurður Guðmundsson
I'd never attended the unveiling of a statue before.  Not really impressive.  A speech by Hilmar, another by the artist, and a third by the mayor of Reykjavik.  For those not familiar with the history of CCP, Jon Gnarr is a comedian who played the granny in The Danger Game, the game that helped kick off the funding for EVE Online.  Something tells me that what I witnessed is not a typical statue unveiling.  But then again, do Icelanders do anything like the rest of the world?  I think they'd change their ways if they ever discovered they did.

Is giving the mayor a knife really wise?

I definitely didn't dress warm enough for the ceremony.  I had another layer in my room, but the temperature dropped so fast I got fooled.  I think that contributed to a rundown feeling when I got back to the hotel.  Either that or staying up late blogging the night before.  Either way, I thought I'd take a quick nap before going to the Celtic Cross for the Tweetfleet meetup.  Quick nap?  Right.  I woke up at 10pm.  By the time I was up and about, I found a line to get into the bar.  Even with a warmer jacket, I didn't feel like standing in the cold.  I wandered around for a bit and decided to just grab a sub from Hlölla Bátar and go back to the hotel.

Taking a nap wasn't the best thing for trying to sleep at a normal time, so I wound up back down in the lobby talking with Kelduum, Bairfhionn, and Gaylen.  Gaylen and I finally went to our rooms around 1am.  Needless to say, I still wasn't ready for sleep, which resulted in my finishing this blog post before breakfast.

This is probably the last day I publish two blog posts.  The schedule is pretty full and I don't plan on having enough time to write as much as I have in the first part of the week.  I might publish on the weekend since Fanfest is a special occasion, otherwise I'll finish up the Fanfest posts next week.  Of course, the news coming out of Fanfest will provide fodder for posts for weeks to come.