Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Casino War: First Defection

Today the first major defection from The Imperium occurred as Circle-of-Two reset all of the members of the coalition. From the announcement on Reddit:
"For years now we (CO2) have been loyal towards the CFC (Imperium). We, as an alliance, have for a large part never been seen as a full member by GSF. As a result we've never been treated nor represented as such. The basis of the coalition -it being a meritocracy -became an affront over time.

"In the same timespan the list of grievances grew. I will not go into detail as the people involved know full well whom and what I'm talking about. They can mostly be summed up as GSF taking care of their interests and at the same time blatantly disregarding the coalition policies they claim to uphold.

"Plenty of times Goons (Corps Diplomatique in particular) showed a total lack of consideration - we remained silent. Corporations were poached from us, disregarding coalition procedures. The Goonswarm director responsible is still sitting in his chair - we remained silent. Blacklisted corporations were recruited by allies - unblacklisted because it suited them - we remained silent. We were not okay with messing with Provi's sov - we remained silent. The Viceroy plan was just ridiculous - we remained silent.

"Exactly 5 months ago Sion threatened to expel Circle-Of-Two from the coalition. In very clear terms we were ordered to fall in line or suffer the consequences. We choose the latter and informed our members that expulsion was imminent from that point on.

"We continued to do what good allies are supposed to do; help where assistance was needed. At the same time we did what we think an alliance should do; take care of our members, try to grow and better ourselves.

"We had, separate from Goons, made plans to defend Tribute and Vale together with The Bastion and Get Off My Lawn. All it took was a candlelit dinner with Mittens for The Bastion and Lawn to completely abandon Vale and leave CO2 alone to defend Tribute. The whole time other Imperium alliances were called to Saranen, while we were not even informed of such movements or how they would relate in regards to the defense of Tribute.

"Over the past few months it has become increasingly clear that we have served (only) as a meatshield. Circle-Of-Two is NOT a meatshield. We will not stand as the wall that defends Deklein from the angry hordes for the benefit of Goons. We will no longer subject our pilots to the indecency of watching their hard work burn while Goons sit in their ivory tower. We will no longer stand as an unequal partner in The Imperium. For the good of our members we will be separating ourselves from The Imperium with a full and complete reset of all Imperium member alliances as of 2016.03.29 at 00:01 EVE Time.

~CO2 Leadership
Both TMC and EveNews24 covered the news. The EN24 piece was just a copy of official statements. The TMC piece, as befitting a news site that publicly announced a pro-Imperium bias, also attacked the actions of Circle-Of-Two. I'll let readers click on the links and make their own judgments.

A quick look at the map of Vale of the Silent might suggest why CO2 leadership was a bit upset with the developing situation. In The Mittani's announcement on Saturday, he addressed the futures of both The Bastion and Get Off My Lawn. But he did not address the status of the third sov holding alliance in the region, Circle-Of-Two. Another point I wonder about is the ability of the main Imperium force stationed in the Lonetrek system of Saranen to come to the aid of forces in Tribute. Did CO2's leadership have a legitimate worry that the rest of the coalition planned to allow CO2 to fight alone? I honestly cannot answer the question.

Now the Imperium is in a bit of a jam. Yesterday, it effectively lost half of Tribute. If CO2 actively cooperates with the anti-Imperium forces, a lot of the grind that The Mittani is counting on to deter the loose-knit coalition against him gets a lot shorter.

I should add that the defection of CO2 is not the only major problem facing the Imperium. However, that story will have to wait until another day.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Casino War: Didn't Want That Region Anyway

Today the Imperium announced they are abandoning Vale of the Silent.

Both The Bastion and Get Off My Lawn will retire their main fighting force to the Imperium staging system of Saranen, a low sec station in Lonetrek one jump out of Pure Blind.

The main purpose of the post is to post two maps of Vale of the Silent for my own records.

The first map shows the sovereignty situation approximately 15 minutes after The Mittani announced the withdrawal on The Meta Show. Test Alliance Please Ignore attacked The Bastion from the south-west corner of the map while Pandemic Legion advanced against LAWN in the north-east corner of the region.

The second map contains the activity defense modifiers (ADM) for each station. The reason for saving the maps is I wonder how the situation will shake out. How long will evidence of The Imperium's presence remain? After TEST captures the space it desires, will The Money Badgers open up the rest of Vale to small alliances and turn the region into a big thunderdome similar to Cloud Ring? The future of null sec is uncertain at this point. One thing I do know is that we will still have our eyes fixed on the north of New Eden when Fanfest and the Citadel release come around in April.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Quick Production Tip

Sometimes rummaging through the journal and inventory can provide ideas for what to do next in EVE. Last week I decided to visit all of my research agents and faced a question: why was I farming Gallentean Spaceship Engineering datacores? I then went through my ship inventory and realized I only had one Prospect. One Prospect? Unbelievable! Especially since I had 6 Prospect blueprint copies sitting in a station. I needed to build some expedition frigates.

Now for the tip. Instead of just buying the components off the market, I decided to purchase the ingredients and make them myself. Why? The simplest explanation is that I like doing things the hard way sometimes. But I made a silly mistake. I put my blueprints into cargo containers to organize them, but my organizational skills were a bit off. Some of the components wound up in one cargo container, and some in another, and the materials were in a third. Needless to say, when trying to build an item remotely, the interface only lets the builder select one location, so I could not begin the run remotely. Sure, flying nine jumps to the station to rearrange my inventory isn't a major hardship, but I did have to fly through some busy systems. Fortunately, everyone is busy with the Easter content, so the only ships I saw belonged to NPCs.

I also discovered the reason for acquiring the Gallentean Spaceship Engineering datacores: expedition frigates. Researching expedition frigate blueprints requires a Venture blueprint copy, 2 Gallentean Spaceship Engineering datacores, and 2 Laser Physics datacores. Did I mention I do not have any Endurance-class ice mining frigates? So I put 10 blueprints in the queue, and at a 42% chance of success, hope to get 4 Endurance blueprint copies I can use to build my own ships.

I know, industry isn't very exciting. I do like the puzzle game, though, as I try to figure out the best way to build items in the game. I also do have a plan for all the ships I am building. One must always have a plan while playing EVE. Now, if figuring out how to execute the plan didn't require so much research and outside the client thought. But if I really wanted something mindless, I'd play a first-person shooter, right?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Would You Pay $800 For 1 Million Skill Points?

Last night I sent out a tweet about a guy who purchased 200 skill injectors and a 167 million skill point pilot for $1,450 sometime yesterday. The guy created his account on Player Auctions on Sunday and immediately started making purchases.

Details of the Dreigoth account on Player Auctions

Imagine my surprise when one of my corpmates, Ned Thomas, sent me a link to a kill mail of a guy named Dreigoth who lost a Mammoth in Inaro carrying 198 skill injectors. The comments on the killmail assumed an RMT operation in which the RMTer destroys the ship of an alt in order to see if the objects in the cargohold drop. I never understand why anyone believes that, but a lot of players do. In this instance, no laundering of the skill injectors took place. Dreigoth was the buyer, spending $800 USD on the skill injectors.

Details of Dreigoth's loss mail
Ned wished that we had proof that Dreigoth had purchased the skill injectors before the loss of the Mammoth. So I did a little more digging and found another review.

Figuring out the date/time of the review
I found the list of reviews for the seller, with Dreigoth's account listed as the most recent buyer. Doing a little math, I determined that the review was posted on Player Auctions at 0934 EVE time on 21 March. The time of the kill mail? 1754 on 21 March. Either Dreigoth spent $1450 on the black market, or he is the victim of an incredible set of coincidences.

I'm still curious as to the whereabouts of the character Dreigoth purchased. I'll post the image I downloaded of the character below.

As far as I know, Dreigoth still has his $650 character. But as for his skill injectors? Looks like he got to use 2 out of the 200 he purchased. So I have a question. Would you pay $800 for 1 million skill points?

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Casino War: Post-TISHU

I'll admit I am not an expert on null sec sovereignty warfare. In my limited understanding, two items are critical in waging war in the Aegis sov system: the activity defense modifier and infrastructure hubs, which impact the ADM.

Unfortunately, neither of New Eden's two major news websites are unbiased reporters of events., often referred to as TMC, originated from Goonswarm Federation and is run by the head of The Imperium, The Mittani. With the posting of The Imperium's black eagle on the website, TMC has declared its bias. The other, Eve News 24, receives a large part of its operating budget from two sponsors involved on the other side of the conflict, the gambling site and the Twitch streamer 1ronBank. The editor-in-chief of EN24, Bobmon, in an interview with CSM Watch revealed that he personally intervened with CCP on behalf of when Team Security blacklisted the gambling website from EVE Online's in-game browser. I'd say that EN24's coverage leans toward the anti-Imperium forces.

So what's a blogger to do when all information is shaded one way or the other? Let's go to the maps.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The February Security Dev Blog: ISK Buyer Amnesty Initiative

I know I'm weeks behind the news, but in the security dev blog published on 24 February, CCP announced the "ISK Buyer Amnesty Initiative":

Effective immediately, we are also offering amnesty for ISK buyers who come clean by emailing with actionable evidence of people selling ISK. Such information should include:

  1. What you bought
  2. When you bought it
  3. From whom you bought it
  4. Proof of purchase – we’ll correlate with our own in-game logs. Usually your proof of purchase or receipt will include all of the 3 items above. 
For your honesty and cooperation, which is sincerely appreciated, you will not be banned. Other actions will be determined on a case by case basis.

We want to point out that this is not intended to encourage anyone to go and buy ISK – if you have already then you can come forward with actionable information and receive amnesty as described above. Repeat offenders who have previously utilized the amnesty program will of course not be viewed in such a positive light. 

I admit I am not a big fan of the idea of an amnesty as described in the dev blog. Before stating my reasons, I should first post my thoughts on why CCP may think an amnesty is a good idea.

First, I suspect that Team Security has either amassed a list of hundreds, if not thousands of people who recently purchased ISK from shady sources, or believes it can quickly generate such a list. Why do I believe so poorly of my fellow players? I noted a few weeks ago how PLEX sales skyrocketed with the introduction of skill point trading on 9 February. A lot of players decided to visit shady buyers as well.

As shown in the graph above, the amount of ISK I tracked sold on the virtual currency site Player Auctions almost doubled from January to February. I feel pretty safe in concluding the increase occurred due to players wanting to purchase skill points with real money, but not wanting to pay full price.

How does the introduction of skill point trading give Team Security the ability to find hundreds, if not thousands, of people who purchased ISK from shady sellers? The simplest way is to look at the financial transactions of those who purchased skill injectors. If a player purchases 10 skill injectors and the money came from a character that was biomassed shortly after the transaction, then the possibility exists that the ISK used was dirty. CCP has a lot of big data techniques they can use to find suspicious behavior contained within the logs. Contrary to the longstanding joke, the logs show a lot. Getting players who purchased ISK to turn in their suppliers would aid in refining the search algorithms.

Now, CCP may believe that nothing fundamentally changed in relation to the percentage of players who see the black market as a valid place to purchase ISK. At a quick glace, the amount of ISK traded for game time in The Forge far exceeds that sold by Player Auctions.

I don't have great tools for measuring player adoption of PLEX. One that I use is the ratio of ISK sold on Player Auctions versus that used in The Forge to purchase game time.

According to my measure, the amount spent on ISK on Player Auctions has fallen between 1.6% and 2% since August. For example, although the amount of ISK purchased doubled in February as compared to the month before, the percentage remained constant at 1.6%. If CCP has similar measures, then Team Security is probably searching for a way to increase the aversion to purchasing illicit ISK. A good way might involve turning every buyer of illicit ISK into a potential informer.

I understand the desire to do more to discourage the illicit RMT trade. I just question whether a permanent offer of ISK amnesty is the way to do so. I fear that the real effect will lead people to believe they can just keep buying dirty ISK until caught. I know the language suggests that violators must come forward before getting caught, but I'm afraid that part will become garbled in translation.

In case someone from CCP reads this post, I have three suggestions for the ISK amnesty. The first is to make the amnesty a limited time offer. People tend to react to deadlines. I would give ISK buyers until the end of March to turn themselves in or risk having all the punishments take effect. The second is to spell out consequences concerning skill training for those caught purchasing ISK. For example, ISK buyers should forfeit the ability to use both skill injectors and skill extractors on all accounts. Finally, if someone is caught purchasing dirty ISK to purchase skill injectors, that instead of removing ISK from the player's wallet, to remove the skill points from the player's character instead.

Perhaps I am too hardcore about punishments. But I think CCP may get a better response if they tell players that they could save the skill points in their heads if they turned in the person or company they purchased their ISK from if they act by the end of March.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The February Security Dev Blog: EVE Online, Overlays, and You

For some reason, people want me to analyze the latest dev blog published by Team Security, "Overlays, ISK Buyer Amnesty and Account Security". I refuse to comment on the thread on the EVE Online forums for two reasons. The first is the deleterious effect of visiting the forums may have on my mental health. The second, more serious reason, is I don't want to receive a forum ban, or perhaps even a temporary vacation from EVE. I do read the rules and what follows does break some of the EVE Online forum rules, especially:
22. Posting regarding RMT (Real Money Trading) is prohibited.

Posts discussing, linking to, or advertising RMT, including but not limited to the sale of in game items, assets, currency, characters or game accounts for real life money are strictly prohibited.

32. Rumor mongering is prohibited.

Rumor threads and posts which are based off no actual solid information and are designed to either troll or annoy other users will be locked and removed. These kinds of threads and posts are detrimental to the wellbeing and spirit of the EVE Online Community, and can create undue panic among forum users, as well as adding to the workload of our moderators.

I don't believe anything that follows violates point 32, but I'm sure ISD would disagree. See, I just violated another rule:
12. Discussion of forum moderation is prohibited.

The discussion of EVE Online forum moderation actions generally leads to flaming, trolling and baiting of our ISD CCL moderators. As such, this type of discussion is strictly prohibited under the forum rules. If you have questions regarding the actions of a moderator, please file a support ticket under the Community & Forums Category.
Much safer to just write my comments on the blog and avoid all the danger.

Monday, March 7, 2016

CCP Stream Snipes Too

Just a quick post about an amusing incident today. Jezaja from the Giant Secure Container blog posted a video on YouTube of Twitch streamer RedThreatTV receiving a 30-day vacation for all 26 of his accounts for using ISBoxer in a EULA violating way. I watched the video and Mr. Red Threat seemed pretty chill about the whole situation, although the Twitch viewers were a different story.

I was a little more interested in what Mr. Red Threat did to receive the ban. So I looked up the VOD and took a screenshot of the very beginning of the stream.

Using ISBoxer is allowed for simple window management. Using the DXNothing window or other video effects to create a custom client to control two or more accounts is not allowed. CCP announced this was no longer allowed as of 1 January 2015, then clearly spelled out the fact at Fanfest last March. Only two weeks ago, CCP published a security dev blog that stated the following:
"Similarly, overlays using elements from a second or multiple other EVE clients to allow the player to activate modules etc. on those other game instances without switching to the other client windows are clearly in violation of our rules."
The screenshot above is a perfect example of something that is not allowed. Mr. Red Threat, if the banner running through the center of the page is accurate, even knew how he used ISBoxer was dodgy and subjected himself to the risk of receiving bans.

I do want to emphasis a little inconvenient fact. Unlike what was stated by some of the commenters in the Twitch chat, the EULA was not recently updated. The latest security dev blog just reemphasized what is and is not allowed. So hopefully people will begin to read the rules and adjust their game play accordingly.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Casino War: Setting Up The Weekend's Battles

Ten days ago I first took an interest in The Casino War as the AFK forces of Pandemic Horde began to stream into Fade. My first map looked like this:

The situation today is a bit different as SMA is grinding in an effort to maintain their active defense multipliers in order to help stave off another weekend assault on "Fortress Fade."

Last weekend, SMA, along with fellow Imperium alliances Goonswarm Federation and Tactical Narcotics Team, were a perfect 10 for 10 in defending sovereignty structures. But over the last ten days, the anti-Imperium forces whittled away at SMA's defences, lowering the average activity defence modifiers in all four constellations:

  • 7X-X1Y: 4.3 to 3.2
  • UWRZ-2: 4.3 to 3.6
  • VNX-P0: 4.3 to 3.6
  • XFLN-F: 4.0 to 3.2

Switching over to the ADM map we can the modifiers for the defenders and which systems host reinforced sov structures. I have added the timers to the map.

Late Friday night and early Saturday morning, SMA and friends will defend 15 sovereignty structures, including 10 infrastructure hubs, over a 6 hour period. The iHubs are key, as destroying the iHubs will decrease the ADM by 1 in a system. A decrease of one means that an attacker reduces the amount of time needed to entosis a node by 10 minutes. I expect the Imperium to attempt to slam the door on any attack this weekend.

I should add that during last weekend's efforts, the combat in the region basically shut down the PvE needed to maintain the activity defense modifiers. But SMA seems intent on defending their home in Fade. I expect the Imerium to hold the line one more time this weekend. But can SMA's leadership keep their members motivated long enough for Pandemic Horde to get bored with buzzing around Fade and leave for more interesting content? Get out the popcorn because New Eden is about to find out.