Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Many Subscriptions Does EVE Online Have In 2015?

Sometimes, subjects come like bolts out of the blue. Take, for instance, EVE Online subscription numbers. CCP stopped releasing the subscription numbers for Tranquility in May 2012. Since then, many players, including myself, have attempted to divine the number. But after a couple of years, the trail grew cold and most lost interest. Which is why last week was so remarkable.

First, ShadowandLight, co-host of the Legacy of a Capsuleer podcast, stated on EVE Radio's TnT show Thursday that "a little birdie" told him that EVE only had 146,000 subscriptions. That number seemed, to state the case mildly, a little unbelievable. Then, incredibly, CCP Leeloo released the following information in a dev blog on Friday:
"Eligible voters cast 36,984 votes, meaning that we have 15% increase since the last year’s election. We have also noticed a 3% turnout increase since last year and it’s a nice trend that we hope to keep for the next election as well."
Mike Azariah, math teacher that he is, wrote a post based on the information released by CCP Leeloo, proving mathematically that the pool of eligible voters, and thus accounts, increased by 14% over the past year. But that doesn't sound right either. We'll blame Mike's mistakes on the fact he's recovering from surgery and his brain's still a little fuzzy. But we do now have numbers to play with.

The basic formula for determining the number of accounts based on election numbers is:

Eligible subscribed accounts = Total votes / turnout %

Since the difference in 2012 between eligible subscribed accounts (greater than 30 days old) and ineligible accounts (less than 30 days old) was less than 2% (5000 accounts) in 2012, I'll assume no difference for this post due to all the assumptions I will make.

Last year, Ripard Teg did an analysis post on the CSM 9 election returns and came up with the useful chart below.

Results    ElectedVoters    Turnout  Enfranchised  US Vote  UK Vote  Rus Vote
CSM 121/May/20082465111.1%64.3%32.8%15.6%4.9% (5th)
CSM 224/Nov/2008201128.6%66.2%34.4%12.8%3.4% (6th)
CSM 328/May/2009278489.7%71.7%37.0%13.1%2.0% (10th)
CSM 402/Dec/2009211587.4%61.4%35.6%11.7%5.2% (5th)
CSM 526/May/20103943312.7%64.0%34.8%12.3%5.7% (4th)
CSM 626/Mar/20114909614.3%68.6%36.2%11.5%8.0% (4th)
CSM 724/Mar/20125910916.6%75.0%37.4%11.2%8.1% (3rd)
CSM 827/Apr/20134970212.2%?85.1%38.0%11.6%5.4% (5th)
CSM 909/May/2014    312948.2%??85.4%40.2%?12.6%?2.9%? (7th)

Ripard determined that the probable number of subscriptions during the CSM 9 election was approximately 380,000. That figure assumed an approximate 5% decline in subscriptions from 2013 to 2014. His logic seemed reasonable at the time and, having reviewed his article, still seems sound.

The important part of Ripard's work was to give a turnout number, 8.2%, I could plug into the formula. CCP Leeloo stated that the turnout for the CSM 10 election was 3% higher than last year. Of course, the 3% figure probably included some rounding. To make the math easier, I'll assume that turnout increased from between 2.6% and 3.4%. If I plug the low, high, and mid-point figures into the forumla, I get the following possible subscription numbers (rounded to the nearest thousand):

  • Low (10.8% turnout) - 342,000
  • Mid (11.2% turnout) - 330,000
  • High (11.6% turnout) - 319,000

As a reality check, the average percentage turnout for the first nine CSM elections was 11.2%. So an estimated 11.2% turnout for the CSM 10 election is totally within the realm of possibility.

Now, I don't want anyone to thing that everything is humming along smoothly, because even the mid-point figure represents an 18% decline in the number of subscriptions over the past 2 years.

As the last graph from shows, EVE Online most likely is back to the level of subscriptions it had back in 2010.

What about the figure of 146,000 subscriptions sited by ShadowandLight? I think someone is trolling him, playing on the fact that Shadow has claimed that the number of EVE subscriptions has severely declined ever since the beginning of the input broadcasting/ISBoxer controversy started back in November. The figure given fits so well into Shadow's world view that he didn't even think to question its validity.

Let's apply the smell test to the information "leaked" to Shadow. If true, then the turnout for the CSM 10 election was 25.3%. Does anyone think that figure is realistic? I can't find the chart Ripard created yesterday, but if the number is indeed that low, then given the information released by CCP Leeloo, EVE Online gained subscribers over the past year, not lose them like the figures show.

But the biggest strike against the 146,000 subscriber number comes from While Chribba no longer provides his famous average concurrent user graph, I was able to make graph below.

While I don't like using the peak concurrent user numbers since it basically excludes attempting to look at participation in the Australian time zone, the PCU went from approximately 56,000 around the time of Fanfest 2013 to around 43,000 on Sunday. The 23% decrease in players in space correlates fairly closely to the 18% drop in subscriptions using Ripard's calculations from last year plus the information provided by CCP Leeloo give. The 146,000 subscription figure represents a drop of approximately 64% in subscriptions over two years. I just don't see the PCU numbers supporting such a claim.

Perhaps I'm a bit unusual. In my work on writing about botting and illicit RMT, I rarely have official figures to rely upon. Sure, CCP provides the figures two or three times a year, and other companies will sporadically provide information when they conduct a major operation. So I go out and dig up my own. I'm not some media type that sits back and expects the authorities to spoon-feed me the information. And when the subject is the number of subscriptions, companies other than Blizzard rarely publish that information. So, we get to do math instead.

Monday, March 30, 2015

CCP's War On Bots: Post Fanfest Blues

Sometimes I don't feel like blogging. Of course, after not playing video games while in Iceland, I had to make up for lost time. Between a double XP weekend in Star Wars: The Old Republic and a hugs fleet on Saturday against our latest war target, my time was pretty much taken up. So I hope no one minds if I just copy and paste some posts from a botting forum.

I actually created picture files, because this set of forums, for the Eve Pilot series of bots, is open to the public to view.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thoughts On The CSM 10 Election Results

I haven't touched on the results of the election for the Council of Stellar Management yet. While the raw results and audit logs are now available (sorry, I don't have the link), I haven't had time to do any analysis that way. So instead, I'll just give some quick thoughts on the winners.

Sugar Kyle (Permanent Seat) - Sugar getting re-elected, sure. But with as much as Sugar hates the campaign season, this happening ...
Round beginning - 3 candidates remain
21583 votes, 7195 quota
Initial talley: 
9080 "Sugar Kyle" 
6275 "Sion Kumitomo" 
6228 "Manfred Sideous"
Actions:  Elected: "Sugar Kyle" 
Transfer from "Sugar Kyle":   
Votes: 9080.000000, Factor: 0.207599, Excess: 1885.000000   
1242.273128 votes to Exhausted   
457.548458 votes to "Manfred Sideous"   
185.178414 votes to "Sion Kumitomo" 
Elimination: "Sion Kumitomo" with 6460.178414 votes

... I honestly didn't see it coming. But she deserved the win. I don't expect Sugar to burn out, although she may not finish out the term if certain people keep screwing around. I don't think CCP allows people to serve from a jail cell. But, as long as she's able to keep her self-control, I expect she'll continue to do an outstanding job.

Manfred Sidious (Permanent Seat) - I'm glad that Manny won a permanent seat, because he'd definitely get an invitation to attend both summits anyway. I don't expect him to have as high a profile as Sugar, but I expect a lot of the EVE media will want him as a guest, so his visibility may become even higher than now. I should also add that having Manny under an NDA so they can ask him everything should help CCP with the changes in sovereignty system a lot.

Sion Kumitomo - With the White Paper up for review, I expect Sion to have an outlet for his organizational expertise. I'm also interested to see what results of his calls for greater transparency.

Chance Ravinne - Chance was the best of the new players running and should bring an interesting point of view to CSM. I just hope he isn't the typical marketing guy, ready to market anything. EVE still needs some polish before hitting the mainstream market. Like, ending the stagnation of the current state of null and making structures not resemble instruments of torture. But I expect EVE to reach that point either at the end of this year or the beginning of next. If Chance can help with good advice on how to position CCP properly, then I'll take that as a win.

corbexx - Leaving aside the silliness of parking his main in Goonswarm while he enjoys playing EVE on his alts, I expect corbexx will continue to do a stellar job representing wormhole space, even while most of CCP concentrates on null. I should add, that stunt was one of the best ways of declaring he's not running for a third term that I've seen.

Sort Dragon - The good news is he has a huge potential for improving upon his performance in CSM 8. The bad news is that's because he was, for all intents and purposes, a no show. Quite frankly, I'm expecting nothing out of Sort Dragon, so anything he contributes is an unexpected bonus.

corebloodbrothers - corebloodbrothers was quietly effective in CSM 9 and I don't expect that to change in CSM 10. Don't expect anything flashing, but with changes to null coming, we may hear more from him publicly.

Mike Azariah - I expect Mike to continue what he's does best; act as a gadfly and obtaining one last big benefit for the incursion community. I do hope that, as he's announced he won't run for CSM 11, that he helps groom someone from the high sec carebear community to take his place. The most obvious candidate is Lorelei Ierendi, who came in 15th in this year's election and I believe Mike has contact with.

Cagali Cagali - Can Cagali balance the demands of  CSM with his responsibilities in Brave? I'm not so sure now given the recent leadership turmoil in HERO. Cagali is someone to definitely watch in CSM 10.

Steve Ronuken - I consider Steve an industrialist, with no regard to security band. Given the election results, Steve may wind up the third most important voice, behind Manny and Endie, on the sov revamp. That's because of the importance of the industrial index to defending systems. The industrial index currently only takes mining into account. CCP plans to expand the activities that make up the industrial index in the very near future and I expect Steve to offer significant input on that change. Oh, and he'll keep doing his thing working with CCP Foxfour, which is kind of important, too.

Gorga - I lump Gorga in with Sort Dragon. A clear bloc candidate. If he does anything, I'll consider that a bonus.

Jayne Fillon - After only a week, I really, really regret that Bam Stroker wasn't elected instead. Jayne is a very specialized, PvP-centric character with an NPSI background. He doesn't really offer a whole lot to CCP. I don't want to go into his behavior during the first week after the election. Quite frankly, he's left me shaking my head in disbelief. Maybe he'll settle down once he signs the NDA and sees how the CSM actually functions. But if he doesn't get his head out of his ass, he'll quickly become irrelevant.

Thoric Frosthammer - I'm going to reserve my judgement about Thoric. Quite frankly, since he ran on the same ticket as Sion and Endie, he's naturally going to look like a weak link. Ask me about Thoric again once the Summer Summit rolls around

Endie - Everything I said about Manfred Sideous applies to Endie. The voters made a great choice in electing Endie.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Post-Fanfest Goals And Projects

Fanfest is an event that always re-energizes me for the year ahead. Combine that with having the foresight to join Signal Cartel as soon as I saw Mynxee recruiting and I'm feeling better about EVE than I have in a long time. I have to echo Marc Scaurus' comments about the great community that the leadership of EVE-Scout Enclave has created.

So, with exploration on my mind, and how my playing reflects in my blogging, what does the future have in store? First, I have a couple of personal goals. The first is that I'd like to record 50 Thera exits in Tripwire in a month. A totally achievable goal considering I did 6 last night. I think I'm getting better at picking out the wormholes just based on the size of the signature alone. The other is to collect 1 billion ISK worth of items from data and relic sites in a month. That could prove a touch harder due to all of the other things I want to do. But, I have to have some challenging goals, right?

Next, I really need to work on fitting ships, and writing posts about them. Would you believe that I still don't own an Astero or a Stratios? Those are fast becoming our signature ships (and probably the reason we collect war decs). Instead, I run around in my old, cheap Cheetah. I had fun writing my "Mastering the Wreathe" post. I'm thinking about doing the same with the Probe/Cheetah and possibly the Heron/Buzzard as well. I also think a review of my Prospect fitting is in order in light of my experiences flitting around New Eden via Thera.

I also have a couple of projects I want to undertake that I'd definitely blog about. The first is related to fitting ships and the progression of fits as players learn new skills. I'd like to collect the signature strength data for various sites in high and low sec. Sure, obtaining a 120 point probe strength is ideal, but new players, or experienced players jumping into exploration for the first time, can't get that right away. If someone has already produced a guide I'd promote that, but otherwise I have some ideas I tossed around with EVE University's Seamus Donahue.

The next project is to get into researching intelligence gathering in EVE. One of the reasons our corp and alliance has a sub 1% ISK efficiency on our killboard is that we tend to run towards the sound of gunfire instead of away from it. Not very bright considering we are an NPHI alliance, but as I've written before, we poke our noses everywhere. Exploring the various ways to find the fighting will help gather more interesting war photography. Of course, others may find the whole process useful for avoiding conflict. I'm going to start with the Broad Intel 101 class session from the EVE University Class Library and then branch out from there.

Finally, I'm still going to write about real money trading. I have a post about activity in the first quarter of 2015 planned for mid-April. Since Team Security did such a good job of wrecking the way I detected a lot of their major anti-bot/anti-RMT actions, I think I need to actually stick my nose into further analysis of the EVE economy. I really need a way to track the inflation rate.

Think I have enough to do until Fanfest 2016? I think so. And for anyone who doesn't play EVE, I should add I've played for 5 1/2 years now and still haven't scratched the surface of this sci-fi world simulator. I have a lot of exploring left to do.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Back To NPHI

After a very long day travel day on Monday due to snow in Chicago, I finally got to log back into EVE Online yesterday. Don't ask for my thoughts on Scylla, because I haven't the faintest clue beyond the "download on demand" client. I guess the client is nice, and I didn't have any problems with the cache thingy it performed. One day I'll need to look further into exactly how the cache works, but today is not that day.

While I was stuck in the airport in Boston, I found out that Signal Cartel had begun using out of corp alts in our battles with our newest war target, Absolute Defiance. Unlike our other current war target, Pursuit of Happiness, they seem befuddled by our superior understanding of EVE combat.

Battle footage from Amarr
While at Fanfest, I tried to convince a pilot from Pandemic Legion that while PL theory crafters like Manfred Sideous are good, that Signal Cartel has the best fleet doctrine in EVE. I realized that while we have a cool name, the Hugs Fleet, we didn't have an acronym to use to describe our style.

Apparently, our alliance leadership realized the need, because yesterday Mynxee sent out our latest propaganda, er, I mean, information graphic on Twitter.
I don't want everyone to think that Signal Cartel is all about hunting down war targets delivering hugs. We still keep up to date with the latest information about wormhole connections into and out of Thera. I spent a relaxing time probing down exits and entering them into Tripwire last night. I probably should have spent some time running data and relic sites, but I just wasn't in the mood for that much activity.

However, some members of the corp were busy demonstrating why a guy who writes a blog called The Nosy Gamer might feel at home in Signal Cartel. One, Ishtar Komarova, spent some time in Fountain poking around the war zone and posted his pics on Reddit. He's gotten a pretty good reception. I really liked this reply...
"Stop making Eve look fun, it's bad for CFC morale."
Honestly, that's not our intention. The Eve-Scount Enclave is completely neutral and are an NPHI alliance. But don't expect us to stop having fun because we like sticking our noses into places others might not want us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Top Down, Bottom Up, Get Out

On Saturday, I participated in Team Security's Fanfest presentation. People seemed to like my part, but I didn't, because I forgot so much. Then again, I didn't go up with a sheet of paper and just start reading. If I had, my portion would have sounded something like this:

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Quick Note On ISBoxer From The Road

I'm writing this post from a hotel room in Boston. I'm almost home from Fanfest but had to make a couple of comments based on a thread on the Dual-Boxing forums.

First, no one on Team Security was trying to fool or mislead anyone. As people know by now, I participated in Team Security's presentation at Fanfest. I was present in a couple of meetings going over the presentation and they were trying to explain the policy as clearly as possible. And at least one user gets what CCP was attempting to convey.

Part 1 of 2
Part 2 of 2
I'm not sure he got everything exactly correct, such as the use of dashboards he mentioned in his following post. Like I said, I'm on the road and need to review the presentation for any last minute clarifications. I was sort of distracted during CCP Random's portion of the session.

Quite frankly, after reading not only the Dual-Boxer thread, but the talk of suing CCP on the EVE Online forums, I'm not sure I really want to address this issue anymore. I really only became involved with ISBoxer due to Questor using an Inner Space extension to help keep the black market supplied with ISK. Lucas Kell may have the right idea about how to approach the issue at this point.

I have more than enough topics to discuss from this Fanfest without having to discuss ISBoxer anymore. If I do come back to the issue, I may use CCP's handling of the matter as a case study on things game companies should and should not do in relation to enforcing their EULAs. Or maybe I'll do something completely insane and jump into the middle of the issue one more time. Perhaps I should wait until I'm back home and have gotten some sleep.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Biggest Takeaway From The EVE Keynote

I woke up this morning with the sun shining through the curtains of my room for the first time this Fanfest. Clear skies for the eclipse? I guess sometimes a plan does actually work.

At the peak of the eclipse

As we learned on the first day of Fanfest, the plans to hold the event during the eclipse this year were laid by the old, pre-Incarna CCP. The bunch that had grandiose plans that often came out of the oven half-baked. See also, Incarna.

But not all the ideas that came from CCP were bad, or even done poorly. I think one of the main things that players wanted was for CCP to carry-through on their plans and do ALL of them well. If something didn't work right, fix it, don't just leave a mess. Over the past few years, CCP has spent a lot of time and effort fixing and cleaning up their systems and code.

I sat in the front row during the EVE keynote yesterday. I think some people were underwhelmed by the content in the keynote. The biggest news for many is the introduction of the new structure system, but we won't hear more about that until the session on Saturday at 1300. But for me, the biggest takaway from the keynote is that, at least for the EVE Online team, the swagger is back.

I think the swagger shows the most on the technical side. According to CCP Seagull, the six week release cycle is now too slow and CCP will release minor features in-between the major release points. For years, MMORPG players pointed to Blizzard as a company that would not release anything until the game was ready. CCP is aiming to gain the reputation as a company that releases content as soon as it's ready.

In addition, CCP plans to implement technology in the near future that will bring the company back on par with the latest innovations in the industry. Things like the "download on demand" feature for the EVE client, two-factor authentication using Google Authenticator, and the option to download high resolution images are all good technical steps that should make new players feel like they are playing a current generation video game, not one that launched 12 years ago.

I should add one additional note that is probably the most important factor of all. EVE Online is one of the few MMORPGs left that relies on the subscription model. At this point in time with the developments in the industry, perhaps I'll soon call CCP's business model "The EVE model", since even Blizzard is moving WoW to the PLEX model. But as part of that model, CCP is looking to continuously update the game. If players see that they are receiving fixes and new content every month, I imagine that players will find paying the monthly subscription more palatable.

I guess, as an EVE player, finding the monetary aspect of the keynote was inevitable. I'll probably continue on with that analysis in the near future after hearing all the presentations. But for now, I need to run back to Harpa and more presentations.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Graph To Think About

With the start of Fanfest less than two hours away as I type this post, I thought I'd take a chance to either look really smart or look like a complete economic fool. Here's a graph of the price of PLEX sold in Jita over the past 13 months.

The price of PLEX sold in Jita, 1 Feb 2014 - 18 March 2015
The current 13-month trend line shows continued growth. However, the price of PLEX has basically plateaued around the 800 million ISK mark so far in 2015. Looking at the graph, I think the market reached the plateau at the end of July or beginning of August and the only reason people don't realize the fact is due to the speculation bubble that occurred from mid-October to mid-December.

Admittedly, I look at the PLEX market a little differently than others. I don't look at the ISK value of PLEX. I look at the real-world currency value of purchasing EVE's virtual currency in 1 billion ISK lots. I also am monitoring the black market, or secondary RMT market to use a scholarly term, so I also am looking at additional factors and events that could influence the primary market.

Personally, I think the trend has shifted. I can't wait until Friday to see if I'm right.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fanfest 2015: Presentations of Interest

An easy post for any blogger here in Reykjavik to write is one on which Fanfest events we intend to attend. I have taken the Golden Circle tour twice and I recommend it to anyone who comes to attend Fanfest. The pub crawl? I'm getting too old for that. So this year, my post is just about the presentations I plan to attend.

I know that a lot of people make a big deal about attending the round tables. Quite frankly, I usually find them a waste of time, so I only go if none of the main rooms have an event I want to attend. Well, except for the Security one, but I have a special interest in that subject.

So here are the presentations I tentatively plan on attending this year...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fanfest 2015: Scattered Thoughts After An Ill-Timed Nap

What makes me think I play too much EVE Online? Not the 3 accounts I maintain or that I'm back in Reykjavik for the fourth time to attend Fanfest. No, the fact that when I woke up during the flight to Iceland and saw on the little monitor on the seat in front of me that the aircraft was 317 km from Keflavik, my first thought was, "Good, we're on grid."

I'm writing this at 4 am local because my internal time clock is still messed up. I actually work up at 12:30 am, which is my normal time for recording RMT activity. The wind was howling and the time was late, so I didn't try going out. That's right, I missed a night of drinking in Iceland. But that's okay, I needed to recover from the trip. With my braces situation this year, I wound up not eating for about 24 hours. I also didn't drink enough water.

I've attended more cons than I can remember now, and one thing I've learned is the importance of remaining hydrated. I normally buy a couple of large bottles of water every day as a reminder, but with the wind this morning I just drank tap water all morning. Oh, and eating Kit Kats. Normally, eating chocolate is something I avoid, but the quick energy boost helps. Plus, Kit Kats are made by Nestle outside North America, so they taste better.

I did wander outside to poke my nose into a protest that some pro-EU forces held in the square outside Nora's and the English Pub. Apparently, the new government decided on Thursday to withdraw Iceland's application for full membership in the European Union.

View of the demonstration outside Nora's

I didn't get a violent vibe from the crowd as I did on a business trip to Bulgaria a few years ago, but I couldn't help but notice the police circulating around the edge of the crowd. Not to say they are some big boys (and girls), but I figured discretion is the better part of valor and stayed at the edge of the crowd. Sorry, but I'm here to have fun, not wind up in the hospital, in jail, or both.

I guess I should add this note. Just like EVE, always scout ahead, even while you're travelling. I was told the rally was scheduled on short notice, meaning that, if possible, people should read the local news of the destination country while travelling. I had no excuse for not knowing as Logan airport has free wi-fi. If I make a list of things to do when travelling to Fanfest, I'll remember to put this on the list. While I consider Reykjavik much safer than Chicago, even high-sec has gankers,

Also, just a quick note about RMT. Apparently the increase in demand for ISK I saw on Player Auctions in February was just a temporary spike. With the first two weeks of March in the books, sales volume dropped back to December levels. I half-expect the rate to fall back down to January's level, although I don't know how the news out of Fanfest will play out. In that, I guess I'm like the market gurus.

Speaking of market gurus, I'm at the point in my monitoring of black market ISK where I need to start monitoring more than PLEX. I think the introduction of the new Minmatar Tech 3 Tactical Destroyer caused the spike, but I'm not sure. I usually watch, or at least listen to, Lockfox's EVE Prosper show, but I may need to start taking notes. I also need to start paying more attention to null sec. I need to do so anyway now that I'm in Signal Cartel, but my RMT monitoring makes doing so a bit more important.

I don't know just how much I'll blog during this week in Iceland. I just may travel around taking pictures and posting those instead of writing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Quick Thoughts Before I Hit The Road

I'm in the middle of doing laundry, but I thought I'd throw out some thoughts.

The streaming schedule for Fanfest on Twitch is now up. Looks like the Team Security presentation is on live at 1500 EVE time (that's GMT for those who don't play EVE). Fittingly, it is the last presentation shown on EVE TV before the closing ceremonies this year. Don't let all those null sec pubbies fool you, the null sec revamp is not the most important thing CCP will talk about!

Also, the closing event is not called "CCP Presents!" on the schedule this year. In before people start speculating if that means CCP is announcing it was sold. Pretty sure the answer is no, although that would explain why Riot has hired away so many CCP employees. Okay, enough feeding the trolls.

Mynxee has sent out some tweets this morning that are pretty good...
If PvP combat is not your thing and you just like poking around everywhere exploring the galaxy, think about joining the Signal Cartel. More information is available in our recruitment thread on the EVE Online forums. And yes, I'm unironically sending people to the forums.

I thought about posting a checklist for those travelling to Fanfest, but I'm lazy. So instead I'll link Sindel Pellion's lists from both 2013 and 2014. Some good advice in both. Maybe I'll compile a list for next year.

Speaking of checklists, I have to continue down the one on my notepad. The paper kind, not the one on a computer. So the next post will probably come from sunny/rainy/snowy Reykjavik next week.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fanfest 2015: There's ISK, And Then There's ISK

I have to admit, I'm a bit more excited about purchasing products at the Fanfest store this year. Not just because of some of the selections, but due to the change in the exchange rate for the U.S. dollar and the Icelandic krona (ISK). Last year at the beginning of Fanfest, the exchange rate according to Oanda was 112.35 ISK to the dollar. Yesterday, the rate was 136.73 ISK to the dollar.

I could use some more glasses
Did I mention that Iceland is rather expensive? But with the strengthening U.S. dollar over the past year, going out to dinner or barhopping just got a lot less expensive.

Of course, that put the thought into my head, what about the Europeans coming to Fanfest? So I gathered a little historical data and made some charts. Everyone loves charts, right?

Now's the time to travel for Americans
Good news for people travelling in from the U.K. and Switzerland, bad news for those using the Euro. But what's that at the end? The Interstellar Kredit? Well, since CCP mentioned something last year about buying beer with PLEX, I thought I'd include EVE Online's in-game currency to the chart as well. Surprisingly enough, New Eden's ISK is holding its value against the dollar as well, if not a little better, than the more highly regarded British pound and Swiss franc.

I then decided to take a look at my RMT research. I started tracking the value of ISK at Player Auctions in the wake of CCP Falcon's input broadcasting forum post on 1 December to see what effect the post would have on not only the price of PLEX in Jita, but the price of illicit ISK sold on the secondary market as well. So why not make a chart showing the change from 1 December to yesterday?

That was a surprise
Once again, the U.S. dollar outperformed all terrestrial currencies. But what about virtual currency? In that case, New Eden ISK did what the euro, pound, franc and krona failed to do: gain value. So theoretically, paying with ISK seems a good deal. Too bad that's considered RMT and Team Security would start issuing bans. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fanfest 2015: Weather Alert

I read a lot on how a lot of people are jealous of those of us going to Fanfest. But with the latest weather news coming out of Iceland, I think a lot of people who live in warmer climates are probably rethinking those thoughts.

CCP published an announcement to all Fanfest attendees reminding them that Iceland can have bad weather. Having had first-hand experience with the weather in the past, I can say the problem isn't so much the cold itself, it's the mitigating circumstances. For one, in Chicago, we have a dry cold. In Reykjavik, sitting on the ocean as it does, the cold is a damp cold. Secondly, the wind can really whip around. I have a picture of myself somewhere standing in front of the Harpa with the wind blowing the legs of my jeans to the side like a flag. With the weather this year, I'm glad that check-in for Fanfest will last all week. I realize that the check-in lines go really quickly, but standing out in that wind? No thanks.

I'm not too worried, as I still have my water-proof jacket from 2013. The jacket proved a bit warm by the weekend, but when the snow fell early that week I could throw on a couple of layers and I was fine. Looking at Chicago's forecast for Saturday, I think I can wear my winter coat on the way to O'Hare, so that means I can throw the lighter jacket in my luggage. Throw in my hat, scarf, and gloves and I should have no problems with the weather.

However, for those from warmer climates (which during the winter usually includes Iceland), don't forget to dress warmly! Even CCP Guard thinks it's cold.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winding Down

The weather reports coming from Iceland indicate this was a good week not to hold Fanfest, but I'm ready for a vacation anyway. I think I'm about set, although I need to make an unscheduled stop at the orthodontist to get something fixed before I leave for the airport on Saturday. While some people choose to stay a couple days after Fanfest, I've found I like going a couple of days early and watch how Reykjavik changes as EVE players slowly make their presence felt. This year, I'm glad that I've left some extra travel time both before and after Fanfest.

I'm glad that CCP has decided to publish the dev blogs on the next phase of the sov revamp early instead of during the week of Fanfest. Last year I was trying to digest the dev blogs and enjoy my vacation at the same time. Yes, listening to Neville Smit read dev blogs in the hotel lobby to everyone was cool, but I'm ready for a different experience this year.

I guess I need this Fanfest to recharge my batteries. With the whole ISBoxer situation combined with the CSM election, I feel drained right now. But the election over today and Lord's Servant hopefully getting through to ISBoxer users, hopefully I can just relax next week. Except for the situation with my braces, I think I'm ready. My new adapter cord for my new laptop arrived in the mail yesterday, so I'm set on that front. The only thing left to do, really, is print out my itinerary, do laundry on Friday and pack my suitcase.

Well, I also have to take care of a couple of things at work, since my backup was laid off since the last time I took an extended vacation.  But even that's just about done. Then I can shut my brain down for a couple of days and actually relax. I'm really looking forward to visiting the Celtic Cross again.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cleaning Up The Leftovers

Sometimes when playing games, I decide to veer off in a new direction. That's what I did when I joined Signal Cartel. Roaming the galaxy, hunting down Thera exits, and going on Hugs fleets are all fun things. But I still have unfinished business to take care of. What do I do with my alts?

My alts are optimized for an entirely different style of play. For over a year I've sold faction ammuntion, which involves a little mining and a lot of missions. Fortunately, my chosen way of acquiring loyalty points involves doing lots of courier missions in blockade runners in low sec, with a splash of mining missions in low sec. Those skills translate well into other areas of space as long as I remember to account for bubbles.

I think one of my alts, Wandering Rose, is ready for the switch. She can fly a Prospect pretty well and her scanning skills, with Astrometric Acquisition, Astrometric Pinpointing, and Astrometric Rangefinding all trained to 4, are decent. All I need to do is pick up a mobile depot and I can range into null sec via Thera to pick up some high ends, then bring them back to station to turn the good blueprints Rosewalker finds into salable items. Maybe I'll even start doing a little gas harvesting. I hear that can make some good ISK.

I also need to switch my production over to exploration ships and equipment. Wandering Rose's current standings with the Sisters of EVE corporation sits at 9.8, which means I probably should set up shop in an SoE station. Well, sell from one, at least. Living in high sec is just too creepy. How can anyone live in systems with so many people around? I'm telling you, it's unnatural.

The only things left to decide what to do with are my existing store in Bosena and my PI colonies. I've basically already abandoned both, with my store in Bosena only having 35 million ISK in sell orders up now. I guess the decision is whether to try to stock it back up. I think not.

Perhaps I should just convert my PI into something really low maintenance that I don't have to pay much attention to. But that seems like more work than I really want to do. I've never really liked planetary interaction. The feature tends to tie one to an area and I don't feel like getting tied down. I just want to fly around, enjoy the scenery, and pick up some semi-phat loot.

Friday, March 6, 2015

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: A Delayed Increase

I finished compiling the statistics for Player Actions and the Jita PLEX market for February last night. Let's just say the results were interesting, but expected. Bear with me, because I don't have any nice graphs or bar charts. Those will come sometime in April when I write up my comparison posts between Q1 2014 and Q1 2015.

The bad news is, that the sales of ISK from sellers on Player Auctions jumped from 717 billion ISK in February 2014 to 1485 billion ISK in February 2015. I don't track PA on a continuous basis, but that's the largest amount of ISK I've tracked of the 9 full months I've tracked since the beginning of 2013. In comparison, the amount of ISK sold only increased in January year-over-year from 1130 billion ISK in 2014 to 1224 billion ISK in 2015.

So why the increase in February? Shouldn't the change in ban policy for purchasing ISK decreased ISK sales? Or did the message even get out into the community? People coming from games like WoW probably don't realize that in EVE, players get banned for 7 days for a first-time ISK purchasing offense. Maybe Rixx and Sindel should have included getting caught with botted ISK in their "Dumb Ways To Die" parody.

Now, with that much in sales, I would at least hope that the price went up during the month like I've seen previously. Didn't happen this time. The average price of 1 billion ISK sold dropped from $11.34 USD in January down to $10.80 USD in February. Evidently, supply is not an issue, although the ban policy change probably contributed to the dropping price. And if the volume of sales had remained steady, I would attribute the drop in price to CCP's revised enforcement rules.

I do have one theory as to why so much ISK has entered the secondary ISK market. However, I don't want to voice it at this time, as I need to wade through the muck of some forums to try to correlate sales spikes/price drops with events I think I remember seeing. Also, I want to see the March data. Oh, do I want to see the March data! I'll probably need to extend the monitoring into April, which is something I hadn't planned on.

Also, I want to see what comes out of the Security presentation at Fanfest. I may find out that Team Security is doing sneaky stuff and I'm wearing a tinfoil hat. I hope so. But until then, I'll have to dig into some forums and take really careful notes. Ugh!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Old Habits

I've played EVE Online for over 5 years and I still find myself playing in ways influenced by the way I played EverQuest 2.  Last night an exit popped out into Promised Land so I decided to take a quick excursion to the EVE Gate. Since I was in the area, I decided to start making bookmarks and probing down sites to make a little ISK.

One practice that I've heard many explorers perform is using a cargo scanner to determine the contents of containers and leave them if the contents are not valuable enough. That just offends the sensibilities I learned in my three years of playing EQ2 to no end. In EQ2, in the basic zones and zones from the earlier expansions, resource nodes would spawn in the same places, but the node types would change. I was taught that good players should clear cut the nodes when possible, that way gatherers would always have something worthwhile to harvest. Inconsiderate players (and bots) would cherry pick what they wanted, leaving vast fields of bushes, the least valuable resource. Then someone would have to clear cut the area and then wait for the resource nodes to respawn in order to get something good.

That's right, I'm one of those weird people who will clear all of the containers in data or relic sites so that new sites will spawn. I guess some might call that good resource management. I call it self-interest. I'm finding myself more and more staying in an areas for 2-3 days, which means I don't want a site hanging around full of worthless junk. I want a chance at something better. So, if I'm alone in the system, I'll go ahead and play the mini-game. Containers holding little to nothing of value are really easy to do anyway.

The hanging around an area for two or three days is something new for me. For years before playing EVE, first WoW and then EQ2 had conditioned me to always return to the inn or house in order to gain the rest XP bonus. The term "rest XP" is a lie, as both games actually impose a penalty to experience gain if a player plays the game too much. In EVE, with its real time based skill point gain system, I don't have to worry about that. But until recently, I always made sure I docked up before logging off.

Why do that in EVE? No good reason, especially living in low sec like I did, and still do a lot of the time. I think joining the Signal Cartel finally broke me of the habit. Our home station is in Thera and, if not camped, then probably a spy from Verge of Collapse has our bookmarks and can sit on out insta-undock points and wait for us to land on grid for them. Also, I'm finding myself a long way away from the nearest station. For instance, last night I logged off 5 jumps away from the nearest station. I don't like to think about how far away from a station I was when operating in the middle of Great Wildlands. When I went to join the war fleet, I couldn't just pop into Thera. I had to travel a long way just in order to get to a station so I could clone jump into a clean clone.

I probably won't give up the clear-cutting habit, as I still see where I can gain a benefit on an extended exploration trip to a constellation or region. But that whole logging off in a station every night? I'm giving that up. After all, creating distant safe spots in Thera is easy, and now that I'm in Signal Cartel, I'm sticking my nose into places others rarely go. Once I get into a place, I'm going to stick around awhile.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Combat Mining In Our Future?

I've now read CCP Fozzie's dev blog on phase 2 of the great sov revamp and I thought I'd have nothing to add to the discussion. After all, I don't play the null sec sov game and still prefer low sec when I'm not scanning down exits in Thera. But then something caught my eye: the Industrial Index.

Reading through the defensive bonuses section of the dev blog, I saw that both ratting and mining will provide bonuses that will increase the capture times for an enemy trying to seize an iHub, TCU, or station. The standing defense forces can rat in a system to raise the Military Index, but the Industrial Index is modified by the amount mined. Does this mean that mining fleets will need to accompany invasion fleets into the war zone? Depends on how CCP Fozzie's mechanics work once the details are launched. As a general overview, he presented the following:
"Just like in the current Sovereignty system, the Military Index is obtained by killing NPCs in the system and the Industrial Index is obtained by mining in the system. The Strategic Index, which is currently tied to the lifetime of the TCU structure, will be tied to the lifetime of the IHub instead.
"The bonus provided by the Military and Industrial indices are 150% stronger than those provided by equivalent levels of the Strategic Index. This is intentionally designed to provide a larger incentive for active occupancy than for simple duration of system control.
"This defensive bonus will apply to all Sovereignty structures that have a current owner and are in a star system with any indices above 0, as well as Command Nodes for those structures (no matter what system the Command Nodes are physically located).
"The basic mechanics of the Entosis Link remain the same (no benefit beyond the first module, two opposing modules pause all capture) but when anyone other than the owner of the base structure is making capture progress that progress will be slower."
Does each alliance in a system have its own system index and own defensive bonus? Or does all activity from any source contribute to an overall system index and defensive bonus. If the latter, what does that do to the defenders incentive to keep living in the system once the attacker seizes one of the three sovereignty structures. By continuing to rat and mine in the system, the task of retaking a structure from an aggressor becomes much harder, as the attacker receives the bonuses generated by the defender's activities. Should activity by the defender really benefit the attacker in a conflict?

I know that a lot of players do not want to form up for a ratting or mining fleet in order to help protect a system. Perhaps such a mechanic even makes sense in role play terms. After all, what owner of a mining barge in his right mind is going to intentionally fly into harm's way? If a battle is in progress, creating mechanics that discourages carebear activities makes sense.

Then again, if each alliance involved has its own indexes, that could open up some interesting strategic possibilities. Pilots from both sides could attempt to rat in order to not only replace their losses but help in the war effort as well. Locally mined ore could get turned into locally produced ammunition if someone sets up a POS or a station is available. Plus, as people keep telling me, more ships in space means more opportunities for conflict.

As I stated at the beginning of the post, I don't play the null sec sov game. But I'm interested in which way CCP goes in relation to system indexes and defensive bonuses. Perhaps combat mining will become a new profession in EVE.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Suicide By Team Security

I think the end game is fast approaching for what is now clearly CCP's attempts to curtail the use and abuse of the ISBoxer advanced multiboxing software within EVE Online. Of course, close is a relative term, but I think yesterday's announcement by Blizzard of the introduction of WoW Tokens into World of Warcraft in patch 6.1.2 will give many current users of ISBoxer a destination to which they can retreat. But until that day arrives, I expect to continue to see some pretty amazing things come out of the ISBoxer community.

The latest came from a user who goes by Mog2 on the forums and Verisimili in EVE. He published the below video on 7 February showing what he believed was a EULA-compliant set-up.

He then posted the following:

Verisimili's Challenge
Not exactly the smartest thing in the world to do. I'm not sure, but Verisimili may have even submitted a ticket pointing to this video. At this point, Team Security has to take a look. As I suspected, Verisimili would get banned. On Friday, Verisimili posted the news.
"Well, all 20 of my accounts were banned yesterday for 'Macro Use' while I still had a ticket in about multiboxing. I have not received an email explaining the situation, just a message when I tried to log in. When I do get it, I intend on posting it for everyone's edification.
"In other news, a little birdy sent me a copy of a response they got from CCP about multiboxing. I'm presently negotiating its release to the public; in short, though, I'll say that in CCP's view, anything that you do with ISBoxer or a similar program that makes controlling multiple characters faster than alt tabbing is considered a bannable offense."
If anyone wonders if Verisimili intentionally threw himself in front of Team Security so he would receive a ban, I would say that is certainly possible.  A little later on Friday, he posted the following:
"Thanks for the support guys. I knew when I resubbed in late January that there was a 50-60% chance of getting banned; I wasn't walking into it blind. I figured if I did get banned it'd make it easier to go back to WoW, and if I didn't then I could have fun getting ships blown up "
The posts of another forum poster, thedevilyouknow, indicated Verisimili would receive more than just a 30-day vacation from EVE:
"To clarify, I wasnt unbanned (misuse of the word apologies) The ban ran its course, and my accounts were drained of isk (apparently isboxing is in line with the policy for botting, yay...not like i spent dozens of hours theory crafting, training and practicing)
"mosg i saw that page, my response looks identical in many areas with just a bit extra"
Perhaps at this point I should review the penalties for macro/botting in EVE. Since March 2013, CCP has maintained a two-strike policy for botting, with offenders receiving a 30-day ban for the first offense and a permanent ban for the second. Also, CCP announced in April 2012 that CCP would remove all ISK gained from botting when the ban took effect. In a separate dev blog, CCP also announced that:
"...characters who receive a warning such as this will have the characters locked to the account. This means that once you've received a warning for botting your character transfer privileges have been revoked in perpetuity. This is to prevent people trying to circumvent the rules by recycling accounts."
And as per Section 5B of the EULA, CCP reserves the right to suspend or terminate all of a player's accounts, not just ones involved in an actual breach of the EULA or Terms of Service. Actually, I think cases where CCP does not suspend or terminate all accounts is rather rare. If players are receiving notices from CCP that they are receiving bans for "macro use", then I would expect that all of the player's accounts would receive the bans and the penalties for violating the same sections of the EULA as botters.

I'm not going to feel bad for Verisimili. From reading the forum thread, he sounded like he wanted to "win" EVE, but couldn't quite force himself to unsubscribe. So, much like a man who points a gun at a group of police officers, Verisimili created a video likely to have CCP ban all of his accounts. I'm judging this a case of suicide by Team Security.

Monday, March 2, 2015

We Got Snowballs

I've often said that the risk averse run around EVE armed with guns and missiles. My current corp, Signal Cartel, embodies that sentiment with its SL2 (shoot last, shoot least) doctrine of never initiating combat and when engaged, shooting as little as possible to get away. So imagine our surprise when a high sec corporation, Hodor vs Groot Battle Rap, decided to wardec our alliance in search of good fights. Looking at our killboard, I imagine their idea of a good fight was us dying. A lot.

Well, when your corp CEO is Mynxee, things tend to run a little differently, especially given the collection of pilots she's gathered. Risk averse doesn't exactly describe a group that thinks nothing of sticking their nose EVERYWHERE.  Look at our killboard for proof. Throw in G8keeper as the alliance executor, and things can get strange in a hurry.

Now, no one is ever going to make any corp Mynxee leads dock up for something as insignificant as a wardec. So, after our alliance leadership inviting our war targets to our home station in Thera, they huddled together to craft the perfect fleet doctrine to fit with our credo. Griffins fitted with multi-spectral jammers and festival launchers.

Combat isn't just about selecting the proper color of fireworks to fire. Our leadership pre-positioned a cache of Griffins in k-space one jump from an exit, gathered us up in Thera, and headed us to the top station in Lossa. Locator agents found a war target 11 jumps away.

Johnny Splunk led this first war fleet, teaching the members along the way the hows and whys of flying in a fleet.  If you've seen those videos of the calm and patient fleet commander, that's Johnny. He got us to the system in one piece, warped us around to make safe spots, and then we concentrated on our target.

Our war target, the sybian, undocked in a Vagabond. Armor HAC?! Most of the fleet were new, but I've got pretty good skills, and with an optimal range of 42km and fall-off extending to 75km, I wasn't afraid of any Vagabond. Apparently, he was afraid of 9 Griffins (he'd already killed an Amar frigate).  Then the Hodor and Groot Battle Rap CEO sandy d logged in, and the battle was on.

They undocked in a Vagabond/Hyperion combo, playing station games. We decided the sun was shining too brightly and decided they should fight in the shade. Fireworks filled the space between us. I don't think they were expecting fireworks.

They tried everything. One of our pilots even managed to scoop up a faction drone in a rookie ship before dying a second time. Eventually though, our opponents figured out the counter to our fleet. Marauders. They undoced in a Golem and a Vargur and finally drove us off.  But not before we managed to drop an MTU named with our motto, "Can't Stop The Signal".

I think we needed to leave anyway. We were laughing too much. So we departed in good order back to our temporary base to pick up our ships. The wormhole we had exited Thera from had closed, but Helios Anduath was in Thera probing down exits and found one four jumps away. Clearly, proof that Bob approved of our actions!

I stayed up way too late and lost a ship, but I had fun. I wound up logging off in space after 2am local time. Like I said before, things tend to run differently when Mynxee's in charge. Which is one of the reasons I joined the Signal Cartel in the first place.