Friday, August 29, 2014

Random Vacation Thoughts

I'm coming to the end of my vacation.  While I really don't have any coherent story to tell, I've run across a few things I want to note in just a random post.

1.  Final Fantasy XIV is cool - Admittedly, I'm only a 14 level conjurer still, but leveling my crafting classes looks like a lot less of a grind than in other games.  FFXIV has crafting quests like EverQuest 2 that I can run instead of just mindlessly grinding out items.  I like that a lot.  For crafting, I'm up to level 11 in botany, level 12 in carpentry, and level 8 in leatherworking.  I'll need to make a full post about the game some time.

2.  Muddling through EVE - I haven't played as much EVE as I thought I would.  But on the bright side, I've started up my factory planet again using the surplus I'd built up over the past few months.  Now I just need to remember my complete PI setup.  I've also built up my pool of loyalty points to keep stocked up on faction missiles.  I just need to start mining some kernite. 

Did I mention I finally lost my stealth bomber to a rat?  I need to get a replacement ship.  I haven't decided yet.  But since I completed training the last of my racial cruiser skills up to five, I have a wide selection of ships to chose from.  Do I stick with stealth bombers, move up to Force Recon ships (I love the Bellicose hull), or buy a Tengu?

3.  Braces about to come off - When I went off and had my mid-life crisis, instead of doing the normal things, I started playing video games and got braces.  Yesterday I got some good news.  The orthodontist for the first time talked about timing when I can get the braces taken off.  I can have the stupid things off in 2-3 months if all goes well.  Even with a setback, I should have the braces off before Fanfest next year.  I'm not sure about going to Fanfest again, but if I do so, I don't have to worry about braces.

However, the rubber bands are back in my mouth.  Ugh.  I'll try not to let any discomfort from the braces leak into my writing.

4.  Reality intruding - I'm not sure how much "reality" actually exists in the whole Quinnspiracy controversy I read in one of The Mittani's Traffic Control articles Tuesday.  Whenever I hear of a battle between the "social justice warriors" and the "men's rights activists", I just want to close the browser and walk away.  But I went ahead and spent a couple of hours researching the subject.  And no, I'm not posting what I found.  I feel cleaner when I visit botting and hacking forums.  Just because I made myself dumber with what I read doesn't mean I have to inflict the same pain on everyone else.

I only bring this up in light of what was revealed happened in Rotherham.  I keep reading about a "rape culture" on U.S. universities.  These people presided over a real rape culture.  Stories like this are part of the reason I stopped my old political blogging and turned to video games.

Look, I know that people are engaged in a culture war and video games are now an accepted part of the culture.  That doesn't mean I have to like people bringing their politics into my virtual worlds.  I play these games in order to escape from reality for an hour or two.  Unless we're trying to blow up each others internet pixels, can't we all just get along?  In game, of course.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back To The Future Part 2?

Last night I stopped by Big Country's EVE-Radio talk show for an hour or so and wound up talking about both SOMERblink 2014 and, surprisingly enough, ISBoxer.  Yes, apparently 2013 was such a good year in EVE history that we need to revisit all the issues.

I don't blame anyone on the show for bringing up the subject as ISBoxer keeps getting talked about in the community.  But if anyone just starts shouting, "It's against the EULA!", I'm just going to whip out the link to EVE's Third Party Policies and quote this paragraph:
"We do not endorse or condone the use of any third party applications or other software that modifies the client or otherwise confers an unfair benefit to players. We may, in our discretion, tolerate the use of applications or other software that simply enhance player enjoyment in a way that maintains fair gameplay. For instance, the use of programs that provide in-game overlays (Mumble, Teamspeak) and the multiboxing application is not something we plan to actively police at this time. However, if any third party application or other software is used to gain any unfair advantage, or for purposes beyond its intended use, or if the application or other software violates other parts of the EULA, we may fully enforce our rights to prohibit such use, including player bans. Please use such third party applications or other software at your own risk." [emphasis mine]
The multiboxing application is ISBoxer.  I also highlighted the last sentence as a reminder to ISBoxer users that CCP can change its mind about ISBoxer at any time.  Basically, this paragraph basically states that CCP will allow players to use ISBoxer as long as they don't act like major dicks when using the software.  At a certain point, banning ISBoxer could prove a better business decision that allowing the use of software that, in a dev blog from 2013, was described as "powerful enough to count as 'client modification' if used for that purpose."

Some players are claiming that ISBoxer users are acting like major dicks.  But calling someone names is not going to sway CCP.  At this point, considering some of the things I've heard, name calling will have me trolling people by quoting CCP's public statements and policies.  What I'd like to see are some questions asked and answered.  Here are mine.

1.  Are ISBoxer users monopolizing content?  I've seen the screenshots of the massive ISBoxer-powered ice mining fleets.  I also heard Mike Azariah state on BC's show that he doesn't like seeing big fleets of Nighthawks monopolizing some incursion sites.  Are there other examples?  And are these just isolated cases or widespread problems?

2.  How does the game need to change to accomodate the capabilities of ISBoxer?  If CCP is going to allow players to use software as powerful as ISBoxer, what mechanics do CCP need to change to make the game fairer for those who don't use ISBoxer?  I know that cloaked ships need to decloak others again to counter the ISBoxer bomber meta.  CCP already changed the way ice belts act; do they need to iterate on that?  I'm honestly curious because I don't see a lot of ISBoxer fleets in low sec.

3.  Is the objective to have more actual players, or increase accounts?  Ideally, having more players should increase the number of accounts.  I've gotten the impression over the last year that CCP would like to cut back on the number of alt accounts people have.  However, people running large numbers of ISBoxer accounts goes against that impression.  So when push comes to shove when making design decisions, does CCP want to cater to the largest amount of players possible or just treat all accounts equally?

4.  How many people actually use ISBoxer?  Are people blowing the whole ISBoxer issue way out of proportion?  Or is this a growing thing?  One thing that could turn people off from trying EVE is if the game gets a reputation as needing additional paid software in order to compete.  Since the ISBoxer extension runs in the EVE memory space, CCP could set up some monitoring to check to see just how widespread the use of the multiboxing software really is.  If anything, such monitoring will freak out bot developers, which is always a good thing.

5.  What is the effect of ISBoxer on the PLEX market?  I think everyone assumes that ISBoxer users PLEX all of their accounts.  I wonder what effect that has on the price of PLEX.  Has an assumed increase in the use of ISBoxer driven up the PLEX market?  If so, is the effect quantifiable?  Perhaps a more interesting question related to my third question is: If ISBoxer users go away, will the price of PLEX drop enough so that all the people who had to cancel accounts because they could no longer afford the price be able to reactivate those accounts?  If the answer to that question is yes, then the loss of ISBoxer accounts wouldn't really affect CCP's bottom line.

I'll admit, I don't know the answers.  What I do know is that I'm getting tired of hearing the same complaints month after month.  Worse, I keep reading the same really bad arguments month after month.  If people are going to complain about ISBoxer, at least do so intelligently and bring something new to the table.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 25 August 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 24 August 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft43.26,796-1.6
22Guild Wars 214.12,223+2.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.21,925+50.6
44Final Fantasy XIV6.0939+10.1
55EVE Online4.9776+10.2
911Lord of the Rings Online2.4371+11.1
1212Elder Scrolls Online1.7 273-9.6
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,732

With the summer almost over and school about to start, the Xfire community headed back to their keyboards.  On Sunday, Xfire members spent 4.4% more time logged into their 12 favorite MMORPGs than the week before.  The game that drove the surge was Star Wars: The Old Republic (+647 hours) while World of Warcraft (-113 hours) and Tera (-111 hours) saw the biggest drops in interest).

Player Housing Is Popular - Star Wars: The Old Republic launched its Galactic Strongholds expansion for subscribers last Tuesday.  Not only did Bioware introduce player housing, but guild housing both on planets and in massive ships.  In addition, the Conquest system was introduced to give players in guilds an extra incentive to log in and participate in group activities.

New Content and Old Players - Patch 2.35 for Final Fantasy XIV launched on 18 August offering new beast quests, colored plumage for chocobo companions among the highlights.  Square Enix also began an event Friday to welcome players back to FFXIV.  Players who unsubbed are eligible to log back into the game for free until 1 September.

Not All Patches Are Created Equal - One game that didn't benefit from a patch Sunday was Tera.   Despite adding in the "Blast from the Past" system so max level players can run older dungeons with lower level players, many Xfire players switched from Tera to other games.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vacation And Final Fantasy XIV

I'm on vacation this week, which means I have some time to play some video games as I'm not heading anyplace.  I probably won't make lengthy posts here either, which means I have no graph porn planned.  No, I'm just going to try to keep my market orders stocked up, try to revive my nanite repair paste activity again, and play Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV?  What happened to Wildstar?  Honestly, once I got to level 16, I just lost interest, so I unsubbed my account, although I still have some time left.  Also, someone at work who doesn't play MMOs got hooked on the game and sent me a referral code.  The code doesn't do anything unless I subscribe past the 30 days that comes with the download, but he could get a chocobo mount if I do wind up subscribing.  Besides, whether looking at Xfire or Raptr, FFXIV is one of the most popular MMORPGs and I haven't given the game a try. 

I was a little dubious about playing the game because I've heard how grindy games from Asia are, so I checked the game out a little more than I normally would.  First, I wanted to make sure the game runs well on my computer, as Wildstar really doesn't.  I downloaded the benchmarking software Square Enix provides and the game looked beautiful just using the standard desktop settings.  I also get around 55-60 fps at that setting.  I added a couple of graphical settings that drops the performance down to 35 fps, but as that is the performance I'm used to when playing most games, I'm keeping it.

Next, I did a little research and the job system looks intriguing.  While not as flexible as the skill-based system in EVE or The Secret World,  I like the fact I can theoretically level up all classes on one character.  Since I wanted to play a healer, I rolled a conjuror.  I'm not sure if I want to play a White Mage or a Scholar, but I understand that White Mages usually want a skill Archanists have at level 34, I can do both if I play long enough.

The game looks good, and the class system is different from what I've found in most western games.  But how does it play?  I am currently a level 10 conjurer so I haven't played enough to really tell.  But on the first night, I played until 1:30am and yesterday I wound up playing until I got sleepy and my character died for the first time.

I don't want to lead anyone on about FFXIV.  I still haven't purchased a subscription as I'm waiting to see whether the game grinds to a halt around level 15-20 or so.  I hope not, because I'm enjoying the world right now and I would like to see how everything turns out.

Friday, August 22, 2014

P2P Is Pay To Pad ... Your Killboard

Love Squad in Pasta Syndicate is at it again.  This time Saburo Ogami is ganking an alt flying a Bestower full of Khumaaks repeatedly in Hek.  They are common as dirt in Metropolis, but pretty rare in Jita, especially after someone buys up all the stock and sees the price climb to 899,666.97 ISK just four days ago.  The price has lowered back down to 399,999.99 ISK but that is still inflating the calculated server values of the items.  Or was, until about 30 minutes ago.

The pilot, Muhammad Imam, is 9 days old.  If I didn't know better, I'd say that Saburo was trying to grief Muhammad out of the game, because as of this writing he's ganked Muhammad 10 times.

As I was writing this, the value of Muhammad's killmails today dropped from 18.5 billion ISK down to 557 million ISK.  Apparently, either the system is self-correcting, or due to today's extended downtime the prices didn't get updated as quickly as they usually do.  But from where I'm sitting, it looks like Saburo was attempting to do a little market manipulation to pad his killboard stats.  Either that, or he was taking advantage of someone elses.  Still, I guess adding 2.5 billion ISK in kills to your killboard will make a pilot look a lot better.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

SOMERblink 2014: Final Verdict

Less than 72 hours after CCP's investigation into the controversy over SOMERblink's latest promotion began, CCP Falcon created a new forum thread with the results.  I'll just post the core of the opening post:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SOMERblink 2014: Closing The Doors

Last night just before midnight EVE time, the following statement was posted on SOMERblink:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SOMERblink 2014: Not So Fast

Matters are moving quickly in the case of SOMERblink's latest promotion.  The CSM contacted CCP about the matter at 2am Reykjavik time and received an immediate response from CCP Falcon, EVE Online's community manager, and CCP Leeloo, CCP's liaison with the CSM.  After putting in a 22-hour day, CCP Falcon gave an update on the forums that included this paragraph:
"Given the sheer size of the investigation that we’ll be undertaking, this is going to take some time, as a lot of ISK and assets have changed hands. While some temporary action has been taken in order to keep a handle on the situation, any outcome of an investigation is still to be determined, and I can’t give any further information regarding the process while it’s ongoing."
One of those actions apparently was to tell SOMERblink to stop their promotion.  SOMERblink's site was updated with the following:

As seen on SOMERblink on 18 August 2014
The first of the two hyperlinks contains an email exchange between Somerset Mahm and Lisa Bell-Cabrera, Vice-President in charge of Global Sales for CCP.  Posting that exchange violates point 18 of the EVE Online Terms of Service:
18.  You may not publish private communications from CCP, their agents or representatives or EVE Online volunteers without authorization.
I'm pretty sure CCP did not give permission to post that, so Somerset Mahm is subject to some sort of punishment from CCP.  While the contents of the email exchange are flying around the forums, I'll take the prudent course and not quote from the emails directly.  I'll just characterize the exchange as Somerset was anxious to get his authorization to proceed.  He became impatient with the speed with which the legal department was working and she gave her approval via email.  Interestingly, that was back in April.  The promotion was originally supposed to debut 1 May.

The second hyperlink is for the actual proposal for the promotion.  Apparently affiliate promotions are sent to CCP's legal department for approval.  Here is how CSM delegate DJ FunkyBacon described the document:

The justification for the promotion was very interesting:
"Justification: Blink provides no extra ISK or bonus Blink credit for buying through the link. Instead, we make it easy to sell your PLEX and get your ISK quickly, no matter where you are-- no Jita alt required. This is a service, in keeping with CCP's new guidelines that ETC affiliate link rewards should be service-oriented."

The description of the proposal given to CCP
Selling PLEX in Jita as a service?  Okay, I can understand that.  A very useful service for those deep in w-space.  But the paragraph begins, "Blink provides no extra ISK buying though the link."  That is true.  The extra ISK in the promotion would come from the sale.  Indeed, in point 1 of the workflow, the proposal flat out states that, "... we guarantee we'll give you the best price."

PLEX sales in Jita, 9-17 August 2014

In the proposal, Somerset stated he would give the people who purchased PLEX through his referral link the best price.  But I don't think people really understood what "best price" was.  To add to the confusion, he did not define how he would calculate that best price.  To some, the offer of 830 million ISK for a PLEX on Sunday was the best offer.  But considering that the most expensive PLEX sold for 794 million ISK in Jita on Sunday, some might consider the additional 35 million ISK "extra".

These are some of the basic facts I found yesterday.  I actually intended to wait until Wednesday to write another post on the subject, but the changes on the SOMERblink website were too significant to pass up.  Besides, with the new information available, I couldn't sleep until this post was finished.  Hopefully, other bloggers and news sites will fill in the blanks with some more detailed analysis throughout the day as more information becomes available out of CCP headquarters in Reykjavik.

The Digital Dozen: 19 August 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 10 August 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft45.86,909+2.8
22Guild Wars 214.32,162-2.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.51,278-14.9
44Final Fantasy XIV5.7853-7.1
55EVE Online4.7704+1.9
1111Lord of the Rings Online2.2334-7.2
1210Elder Scrolls Online2.0 302-36.0
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,073

For the fifth time of the last six Sundays, the amount of time Xfire players collectively spent playing MMORPGs fell between 15,000 and 16,000 hours.   Sunday's 2.8% decline in time played was led by Star Wars: The Old Republic (-223 hours) while games seeing the biggest gains was World of Warcraft (+189 hours) and Neverwinter (+181 hours).

Three More Months - Last Thursday, Blizzard announced the release date for World of Warcraft's next expansion, Warlords of Draenor.  Apparently, the news of new content, even three month's away, has members of the Xfire community excited, as the amount of time spent playing WoW increased by 2.8%.

Tyranny of Dragons - Neverwinter vaulted back onto the list after a one week absence on the strength of the release of Tyranny of Dragons on Thursday.  The game's fourth module introduced a new class, the Scourge Warlock, as well as the new Dragonborn race.

New Kids Off The Block?  Both Elder Scrolls Online (-170 hours) and Wildstar (-196 hours) continued their fall in popularity amongst Xfire members on Sunday.  The two newest AAA subscription games are in danger of falling off the list within the next month, although a lack of competitors may wind up allowing the two to stay.  Perhaps more worryingly for the two games is I could not find a ready event that would explain the big drops in interest this week.

Monday, August 18, 2014

SOMERBlink: Party Like It's 2013

I have to hand it to the folks who run SOMERBlink. They are an imaginative crew over there.  Up until last November, SOMERBlink ran a promotion that used the GTC authorized resellers agreement to exchange ISK for real world cash.  That was shut down on 7 November last year.  However, given the way SOMERBlink cashed out before the deadline, I'm only slightly surprised that news of another scheme has emerged on Reddit.

The new promotion is a bit different than the old one which was eventually declared a violation of the EULA and no longer covered by the GTC authorized resellers agreement.  Here are the steps:
  1. Purchase PLEX at Markee Dragon using SOMERblink's referral link.
  2. Enter the receipt from Markee Dragon and receive a "PLEX Credit" for each PLEX purchased.
  3. Redeem the PLEX Credit to sell to SOMERblink PLEX at a very favorable rate.  Yesterday, the price posted on SOMERblink was 830 million ISK/PLEX.  The average price of a PLEX sold in Jita on 16 August was 785 million ISK.
At first glance, the major difference is that a player is not given 200 million ISK worth of "Blink Credits" for purchasing using the referral link.  Instead, the player is given, at yesterday's rates, 45 million ISK per PLEX purchased.  According to what I found on the website, the player is not required to turn this ISK into Blink credits to use to play.

Whether the PLEX is sold to SOMERblink for Blink credits or hard, cold ISK, was unclear.  One person who was in the in-game channel indicated the ISK goes right back into a person's Blink account.  The sentence that leads me to believe that Blink credits are not involved is, "No waiting for your PLEX to sell-- get ISK fast so you can play Eve."  Not play blinks.  Play EVE.

However, let's assume I'm wrong and this is purchased for Blink credit.  As we learned last year, SOMERblink's payout is approximately 80%.  That means that the 830 million payout for a PLEX actually costs SOMERblink 644 million ISK, a profit of about 140 million ISK/PLEX.

The truth is probably someplace in the middle.  A person could just take the cash and run, but a lot, if not most, of the people will turn around and put the ISK back into their Blink accounts.  But either way, people are buying through SOMERblink instead of another site because of the incentive of in-game cash.

I am going to assume that what SOMERblink posted about CCP approving the promotion is accurate.  What I am not going to assume at this point is why CCP approved of the promotion.  Maybe in a couple of days when more facts come out I'll post an update.  Or provide some more background information if things start getting really out of control.  Or do some math.  I'd really love for this whole situation to come to a conclusion before Wednesday.  I'm tired of writing about SOMERblink.  But CCP better come up with a good explanation of what's going on.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Bucket Of Ice

A lot of players like to think that EVE Online is all about collecting buckets of tears.  But the bucket I've carried around lately is filled with ice, and I need to start thinking about where I empty the contents.

The latest example concerns the new level 4 missions.  On Monday, CCP Seagull published a dev blog about the upcoming Hyperion release.  In the blog, she mentioned a new type of level 4 mission:
"Take on a single, powerful enemy using fitting skills and combat tactics in new optional level 4 missions for frigate size ships that will be available from all security agents in Empire space. An upcoming dev blog will present the new missions."
Immediately after the dev blog was published, CSM member Xander Phoena was on Twitter touting how great these missions were and how many ships players would lose because of the level of difficulty.  Now, I realize that getting new PvE content is a big deal, but sometimes I get a little selfish and think about how I play.  For me, I don't do security missions, which is what CCP Seagull's description made the new content sound like.  Also, I thought the missions were designed for more than one player, which is not a problem since I usually dual-box security missions on the rare occasions I do them.  Although, looking back, I probably have not done a combat mission of any type since I finished my big Minmatar faction grind back in December.  If I exclude COSMOS, storyline, and epic arc combat missions, I probably have not done a combat mission (i.e. a regular security mission) in over a year.  So I Tweeted out that I probably wouldn't do them.

Afterwards, I kind of felt bad about that.  I can understand Xander's excitement.  CSM members get a lot of grief about the state of the game and helping push out (I'm assuming the CSM was involved in internal testing) new PvE content shows that CCP is listening to the player base and, by extension, the CSM.  I probably should have waited for the more detailed dev blog was published, even if Xander couldn't contain himself.

I do have to say that the new burner missions don't sound bad.  Players will need to at least fit tackle and prop mods like they would in a PvP environment.  I suspect that sensor dampeners will come into play as well for the kiting NPCs.  Perhaps more importantly, the missions are part of the regular security mission pool.  The descriptions of the NPCs make the missions sound more like storyline missions, but adding the missions to the regular mix shows that CCP is updating existing content and not just making a new class of mission.

So even though the new content doesn't fit my play style, I'm glad to see CCP add the new missions.  And in the future, I'll try to think before I tweet.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Game Of Organizations

In yesterday's post, I posited that EVE Online is not a player versus player (PvP) game, but a game that contains PvP.  I presented some statistics and concluded that I could not call a game in which an average player in a 3 hour play session doesn't die or kill another player a PvP game.  A lot of people who play EVE disagree with me, arguing that I ignored other areas of player conflict.  Fair enough.  But I was thinking of how a non-EVE gamer would perceive the game.  Given the statistics, I doubt the outsider would think that EVE is a PvP game, just one that has PvP in it.

But with all the criticism I've read, the one thing no one asked is: how would I describe the game?  Dark Age of Camelot's Realm vs. Realm model is a good place to begin, but EVE's players are a lot more fractured than the three realms in DAoC.  If EVE were a fantasy game, I would describe the game as a Guild vs. Guild game.  Since EVE players hate the term guild, however, my preferred description is the Game of Organizations.  If I have to use the world "versus" (I think it's some sort of law), then I would describe EVE as an OvO (organization vs. organization) game.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is EVE A PvP Game?

A couple of weeks ago, Mike Azariah asked an interesting question on Twitter...

He followed that up with a blog post last week with his opinion and asking for others to try to sum up what type of game EVE is in one or two sentences.  I think answering the first question, whether EVE Online is a PvP game, or a game that has PvP as a part of it, goes a long way in determining how people look at EVE.

Perhaps not surprisingly, as someone who has appeared on four killmails over the past three years (two kills, two deaths), I believe that EVE is a science-fiction world simulator that uses PvP as the driving force for its economic model, and not a PvP game.  But is that opinion just formed from my unusual playstyle?  I don't think so. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 12 August 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 10 August 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft43.36,720+9.1
22Guild Wars 214.32,220-7.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.71,501+10.4
45Final Fantasy XIV5.9918+15.2
54EVE Online4.5691-19.0
1012Elder Scrolls Online3.0472+72.9
1110Lord of the Rings Online2.3360-23.4
12--APB: Reloaded1.7 262+26.6
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,505

Sunday witnessed a small uptick in the time Xfire members spent playing their favorite MMORPGs.  The 2.9% increase in the hours spent playing these games were led by World of Warcraft (+563 hours) while Guild Wars 2 saw the biggest decline (-183 hours).

A Valorous Weekend - World of Warcraft saw an increase of 9.1% in the time spent by Xfire members in Azeroth.  Over the weekend, Blizzard handed out a buff to players that granted them an increase in the rate of acquiring Valor Points by 100%.  Apparently the offer was popular, at least with the Xfire community.

TOR Is Infectious - Star Wars: The Old Republic saw a spike in activity as Bioware held another Rakghoul Resurgence event.  The event which started on 5 August and ran until today, first ran in 2013.

Is The Third Time The Charm? - Elder Scrolls Online saw Update 3 launch last Tuesday.  The update introduced the dye system as well as improvements in the guild system.  While the percentage increase is inflated due to the decline in the size of the Xfire community, the game did manage to not fall out of the list this week.  I haven't heard any major complaints about this update like I had the other two, so perhaps ESO has hit bottom and will stablize at this point.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Catching A Break

We now know that wormhole space will receive the major focus of CCP's attention in the Hyperion release.  Good.  That will give me time to catch my breath for a bit.  Two more months will help me adapt to the current rule set.

For a long time, an expansion would come out and the way I played EVE Online wasn't really impacted.  Sure, a change in one area of the game affects the whole game, but I didn't really notice.  But Odyssey came along and I stopped running exploration sites.  I also pretty much gave up on the new ore sites as well.  I know that CCP Fozzie stated at Fanfest 2013 that the risk of mining in the ore sites was balanced against the rewards as long as the miner stayed aligned, but I decided to mainly stick to the belts.  Which was probably a good thing in the long run, because in Kronos CCP nerfed mining while aligned in a Procurer in order to satisfy high sec miners.  After trying mining in my newly nerfed Procurer for two weeks, I docked up and haven't mined in low sec since mid- to late June.

By the time Crius and the industry revamp launched two weeks ago I'd become pretty one dimensional, with all of my game play centered around travel and hauling things around.  I loved the warp speed changes in Rubicon and the blockade runner changes in Kronos.  I pretty much took what CCP gave me and ran with it.  If the devs were nerfing mining and exploration and buffing those who run distribution missions, then I was going to run distribution missions.  So I did.

Of course, now that I've written that CCP has buffed distribution missions, I expect a dev to nerf those into oblivion also.  Then I'll have the choice of returning to high sec or leaving the game.  Or ...

Or I can try to use this break until the Oceanus release at the end of September to expand what I do in EVE Online.  I posted my goals for the upcoming year on Friday and hopefully the lull in the changes for what I do will give me the change to institute some of them.  I need to act on what I want to do and stop reacting to CCP.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Five Years In EVE

Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I started my first EVE Online account.  As I do every year, it's time to take a look back at the last twelve months, what I did and didn't accomplish, and make plans for the next year.

In game, I didn't do much.  For the first time, I didn't get in on a kill in a year.  I did manage to lose a another Procurer, but otherwise I had a pretty uneventful year in game.  I did explore a bit in NPC null sec and bookmarked a few constellations in The Great Wildlands.  I basically stopped mining over the past two months following the changes to the Procurer combined with someone trying his best to turn my Procurer into disassociated pixels.  Trying to stay alive got harder, so I switched to doing something less dangerous.  Luckily, I still have a lot of minerals.

I did a deployment to Domain to grind Sisters of EVE loyalty points around the time of Rubicon's launch.  I did a grind to get enough LP for 2 Astero and 2 Stratios.  That was a mistake.  Not only did I wind up not getting either of the ships, but I missed out on the events in my Metropolis low sec home.  Drama must have happened because all of my blues moved away.  I may wind up using some of the LP on implants instead.

How did I do on the goals I set for myself?  Not too bad.

9.9 or Bust! - I finally accomplished a goal I originally set back in 2011.  That's right, I got faction on one character up to 9.9 with the Minmatar and got the 2-run Tempest Fleet Issue BPC.  Along the way I also picked up a 2-run Stabber Fleet Issue BPC and a 2-run Republic Fleet Firetail BPC.  I have a second character than is eligible for another Firetail BPC now, which I should probably pick up before I forget.

Ships - For last year I set a reasonably easy goal for myself.  I wanted to get both of the Minmatar command ships, but if I could only get one, I'd get a Claymore.  That's what I did.  The warp speed changes made battlecruisers too slow and I really don't want to fly anything larger than a cruiser anymore.  But I got the Claymore before that happened.

Also, I am no longer limited to flying Minmatar and ORE ships anymore.  The changes to the Destroyer and Battlecruiser skills guaranteed I would anyway, but I also have the weapons skills for all tech 1 and tech 2 frigates plus the missile skills for Caldari ships up to battlecruiser.  Did I mention I can fly a Falcon now?

I should add I did fail on learning to fly Caldari battleships.  But then again, they are too slow after the warp speed changes, so no big loss.

Industry - I pretty much failed on this one.  All I manufactured last year was ammunition and nanite repair paste.  No modules like I planned.  I have plenty of blueprint copies for both the BPCs found in exploration and tech 2 modules, but I never made anything.  I did make some tech 2 ammunition which I am selling now, but that doesn't really count.

I should add that I did do quite a bit of planetary interaction in low sec over the past twelve months.  I actually shut down my colonies because my production of nanite repair paste was outpacing my sales.  A couple of years ago I thought that customs offices in low sec were death traps.  Now, they are something to approach with care, but nothing really dangerous if done correctly.  I've come a long ways in my attitudes.

Low Sec Missions - I stated I wanted to run a level 4 security mission in low sec.  I failed.  Maybe one of these days, but I got distracted.

That covers the past.  But what about the future?  What do I want to do for the next twelve months?

Industry - Yes, this is at the top of the list.  I definitely want to start selling modules.  With the changes to the industry interface manufacturing is a lot easier.  And if I'm making things, that will get me mining again.  Mining in low sec is interesting.  Currently, I keep between 300-350 million ISK in sell orders on the market.  I wonder if I could get that up around 750 million ISK, not including ships.  Something to shoot for.

As part of the effort, I want to establish a good datacore farm.  I want the ability to use level 4 R&D agents for all major factions.  I'm almost there, but then I also need to get my third character trained to work with the agents.  Currently she has a very limited number of science skills trained to level 4.  That I want to change.  A farm with 15 level 4 agents is the goal by the end of the year. 

I also want to get my PI colonies back online.  I think I can work part-time on making nanite control paste, but I should have enough capacity to support a tech 2 building plan as well.  I just have to figure out the best way to do that.

I also might start selling in a high sec system.  I've had that idea for a couple of years.  Perhaps this is the time.  But that's a really optional goal that I probably won't do.  But I'll list it here for extra credit.

Exploration - I'm making this a separate category from industry, although I think exploration is related.  I basically stopped doing exploration following the changes in Odyssey.  I'd like to get back to doing it an hour or two a week.  Now that the loot spew mechanic is gone, perhaps I won't get shot at as much.  No one got me, but I did escape in half structure once.

Expand Into Molden Heath (a tiny bit) - My main characters are both Vherokior, which means their tribal home is in Molden Heath.  I already sell in the low sec market in Bosena.  Perhaps this is the year I improve my standings with my home tribe.  The climb from 4.08 to 6.67 isn't that high.  Any new activity apart from the standings grind in the region is a bonus.

Ships - I always have to have a section on ships.  This year on Wandering Rose I want her to learn the skills to fly a Prospect so I can take her out and do some mercoxit mining in NPC null sec.  For Rosewalker, I not only want him to finish learning to fly all the battleships for the non-Minmatar factions (including learning the weapons), but I'd like to see him gain the highest level of mastery in all logistics ships.

What ships do I actually want to acquire?  I want the Astero and Stratios from the Sisters of EVE, and all of the recon ships.  Oh, and a Scimitar.  That is not going to happen, but I can dream, right?

After last year's modest targets, I've put together a rather longer list for the upcoming year.  I know I'm not going to achieve all of my goals, but if I ever feel a little bored, I have this list to fall back on.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

About Those Rumors About Google Buying Twitch TV...

I'll have to admit I'm trying to spend a little more time in EVE these days.  That means less time blogging.  But I do watch a lot of YouTube videos about video games, Gamebreaker TV when a new episode of a show pops up, and a couple of Twitch streams when something interesting catches my eye.  So let's just say the latest news about Twitch caught my eye.  Let me just quote the piece from PC Gamer's Hayden Dingman:

Well, if YouTube/Google did actually solidify its purchase of last week, it certainly didn't take long for things to change at the notoriously laissez-faire (one-eyed, one-horned, flying) purple streaming giant. 

Twitch, which in the past has been very lax when it came to copyright enforcement, is now scanning archived stream videos for infringing content with the help of a company called Audible Magic—infringing content including in-game music. Like, for instance, any of the radio music in Fallout 3. Valve's own official videos of the recent Dota 2 tournament The International were briefly silenced for containing music from—wait for it—Dota 2.

This Audible Magic software is pretty strict, as it even flagged a Twitch TV show.

The whole show isn't muted, just a 30 minute block that probably contained a video game clip.

Now, none of this is news to me.  Google is pretty strict on YouTube about copyrighted music and other content.  Violations can result in not just a portion of a video muted, but a person's whole YouTube channel taken down.  The rule for YouTube is: don't play the audio from video games.

That advice is kind of hard for Twitch streamers to accept, since the reason they are on Twitch is to stream video games.  But I guess a lot of streamers don't just stream the game music, but the music they listen to while playing.  Or, like Mad Ani used to do, he'd just put up the stream and a playlist and walk off for hours at a time.  I have the feeling it's the Mad Ani's of the world that have brought the wrath of the music industry down on Twitch, YouTube, etc.

Copyright-free music does exist for streamers to use and people are passing the information around now.

I just hope that CCP has made sure for the Alliance Tournament that, if they have submitted any EVE music for copyright protection, that they've cleared its use with Twitch.  Hopefully they don't have a Valve moment.