Friday, October 12, 2018

Updated Thoughts On War Declarations

One of the big issues, if not the biggest issue, coming out of the first CSM 13 summit in Reykjavik was the state of the war declaration system in EVE Online. In my blog post on Tuesday, I pointed out two key passages from the summit minutes. I'll repeat them here.
"In the EVE Leadership meeting the CSM was presented with numbers resulting from research into the state of war declarations in EVE and those numbers quite starkly showed how asymmetric the situation is, and how war declarations allow a small number of players to negatively affect a huge number of people, with low risk. These numbers may be discussed further by CCP at a later date."

"CCP Larrikin pulls up activity data for players of corporations that have wars declared against them and it shows considerable activity drops in all activities during the war. They also show that the low activity continues after the war ends. Brisc Rubal noted that the numbers here were so stark, it would justify immediately removing war decs as a mechanic and promising a fix after the fact.  The CSM in general were surprised at how stark the numbers were and noted it was clear this mechanic was having a significant impact on player recruitment and retention."
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject. The mechanic is such a long-running, open sore on the game that I broke down three years ago and worked out a different system. I think my proposal is a bit too complex and would take up too much development time to implement, but I still like some of the core assumptions I made. Instead of attempting to come up with a brand new proposal, here are some core concepts I'd like to see in a War Declarations 2.0 system.

General theory - In the current system, war dec corps and alliances tend to camp certain systems. The war dec play style reminds me of street gangs standing on the corner more than anything else.  So mold the new system around years' worth of demonstrated behavior. If the system elevates our current street gangs into mafioso running protection rackets, so much the better.

Limited geographic scope - The current war dec system never made much sense to me in a lore perspective. An Amarrian corporation could bribe CONCORD to allow it to fight Matari corporations inside the Minmatar Republic? Madness. At the very least, a new war dec system should not allow war declarations to extend past an empire's borders. If players want cross-border conflict, they need to declare two war decs.

I also believe in internal conflict within each empire, with competing regional interests competing with each other. We have that with the Amarrian royal houses, Minmatar's tribal structure, the competition betwen the Caldari mega-corporations, and whatever is happening in Gallente space. To reflect that conflict, I would like to see war decs limited to a single region.

The war dec flag - In keeping with the spirit of player groups fighting over space, ownership of a structure like a citadel or refinery in the region of space the war dec occurs in should be a requirement for participating in a war dec. Don't want to become involved in a war dec? Don't put up a structure. Simple, right?

Added incentives and costs. In my original 2015 proposal, I had corporations paying NPCs for immunity. Since I now would like structures as a requirement, let's make everyone's life easier and impose a tax instead. Impose a special 1% tax on all bounties and mission rewards in high sec. Once a month, distribute that tax to the owners of citadels in high sec. But split the tax revenue based on the system the taxes are collected and the location of citadels.

For example, Lanngisi is a mission hub for running level 4 Sisters of EVE missions. In a given month, perhaps 4 billion ISK in special taxes are collected. If two corporations owned structures in Lanngisi that month, then each of the corporations would receive 2 billion ISK.

Costs of war decs. The cost of a war dec would remain as is, despite the fact the amount of high sec systems affected by a war dec is reduced from 23 Empire regions down to 1. The change would have the effect of tripling the cost of war decs targeting the systems surrounding Jita, as Sobaseki is located in Lonetrek and Muvolailen in The Citadel. Assuming, of course, that the defending corporation/alliance has structures in all three regions in order to allow the attacker to declar war in all three regions.

Ending of the war. Wars should end in one of five ways.

1. One side loses all structures in the region.
2. One side surrenders to the other.
3. One side disbands.
4. The attacker fails to kill a ship during the week AND fails to either reinforce or destroy one of the defenders structures.
5. The attacker fails to renew the war declaration.

Failure to perform penalties for the attacker. One of the problems with the current war declaration system is that the wolves thin the sheep herd way too much for long term stability of the game. War is serious business, and the consequences of launching a thoughtless war should reflect that. My inspiration comes from the cult classic The Warriors and what happens to Luther and the Rogues in response to Luther's killing of Cyrus and failure to pin the deed on The Warriors.

Honest failure has a price. But if the failure is a result of issuing troll war decs? Well, CONCORD and the empires have memories. Here are the penalties for poor or lazy performance during a war dec for the aggressor I would like to see in a new war dec system.

1. Failure of the aggressor to kill a ship, reinforce a structure, or kill a structure results in the loss of the ability to issue new war declarations for one week, with the penalties being cumulative. So, for example, if a corporation declares 10 wars, but fails to kill a ship in three of the wars, the corporation (or alliance) would be banned from issuing war decs for three weeks. If, the following week, the aggressor fails to get kills in 2 of the remaining 7 wars, two additional weeks would be added to the total, meaning the corporation could not declare new wars for 4 more weeks.

2. The attacker disbanding the corp or alliance results in each individual member picking up a one week inability to declare war declarations, which transfers to the new corp/alliance which then accepts the player's membership application. Also, if the disbanding corp/alliance had an existing ban on it for making war decs, that amount also transfers with the player. However, that amount is not cumulative. For example, if a player leaves a corp due to disbandment, and the corp has a 1 week ban on declaring war, then if joining a corp with a 2-week ban, there would be no additional penalty to the accepting corp.

3. There is no penalty for surrendering. The defending corp/alliance would probably accept a shortened period of war. No sense in creating mechanics that would artificially extend the fight. Plus, if the attacking corp wants to pay the defending corp money to avoid one of the above penalties, that seems fair to me..

Limits on war declarations. I wouldn't put a limit on war declarations if the above suggestions were put in place. The penalties and geographic limits to war decs are designed to naturally discourage the widespread issuing of war declarations. If a corporation declares 100 wars, and in 50 the aggressor fails to kill a single ship, that's basically a one year ban on declaring new wars, transferable to a new accepting corp/alliance. I think that's disincentive enough to keep the war decs limited in number.

I like my original idea from 2015 better, but can one make a business case for something that complex? I think implementing this simpler outline would be easier, but with the existing legacy code, who knows? Still, I've now thrown my two cents into the discussion. Let's see if CCP announces anything about war decs at EVE Vegas.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The CSM 13 One-Coat Summit Minutes Part III: War Declarations

"Before suggesting change, one should have a rationale for making said change. My reason is simple. When the optimum solution for a plurality, if not an outright majority, of players when faced with a war dec is to either disband their player organization, leave their current corporation, or just not log into the game for seven days, then the game system is broken. The mark of a poorly designed game feature in an MMORPG is one that discourages or otherwise hampers social bonding. Industry-wide, the biggest indicator that a player will stay engaged, or in EVE's case subscribed, for a long period is having friends to play with. Those social bonds make leaving a game more difficult."

- The Nosy Gamer, "High Sec War Decs The Chicago Way", 28 December 2015

The discussion of war declarations in EVE Online during the CSM 13 Summer Summit extended across the fourth and fifth sessions. The fourth session was dedicated to a discussion of what is wrong with the war declaration system while the startling statistics players are talking about occurred in the following session on the economy.

Here is the passage from the minutes garnering all the headlines:
"CCP Larrikin pulls up activity data for players of corporations that have wars declared against them and it shows considerable activity drops in all activities during the war. They also show that the low activity continues after the war ends. Brisc Rubal noted that the numbers here were so stark, it would justify immediately removing war decs as a mechanic and promising a fix after the fact.  The CSM in general were surprised at how stark the numbers were and noted it was clear this mechanic was having a significant impact on player recruitment and retention."
In the actual session on war declarations, CCP let the CSM give their take on the mechanic before giving their ideas on how to fix the feature. We don't know much about CCP's ideas, apart from CCP Guard's idea of creating a giant mosh pit of combat or tying war decs to structures, but the CSM was not shy about giving their opinions.

I should add that in the Executive Leadership session, the CSM had heard that the situation concerning war declarations was bad.
"In the EVE Leadership meeting the CSM was presented with numbers resulting from research into the state of war declarations in EVE and those numbers quite starkly showed how asymmetric the situation is, and how war declarations allow a small number of players to negatively affect a huge number of people, with low risk. These numbers may be discussed further by CCP at a later date." 
First, the views of various members of the CSM about the current mechanics.

Aryth: "Aryth says it's too cheap. The cost needs to scale based on duration, the issue is the workaround here would be to move to a new corp and declare the war again at the lower price."

Brisc Rubal: "Brisc Rubal goes on to say that other games have war mechanics to offer PVP but eve is such a pvp centric game that this mechanic has become a niche mechanic which lies outside of the intended original design. He feels that this is not a mechanic which anyone would be happy with removing altogether, however it needs to become something that is useful and not just a means of griefing. Giving victory conditions to both sides. giving them both an incentive to fight is something which needs to trigger the end of the war."

Innominate: "Innominate says the issue with War Decs is they can't be removed completely due to the high sec structures. Having war decs limited to corps with structures and adding victory conditions would be one way. Opting out completely would mean the corporations would only exist as a social structure."

Jin'taan: "Jin'taan goes on to say that some entities do not necessarily want to use the war mechanic to camp station and catch people off guard. They would want to see more emergent game play associated with it, which the current system doesn't offer. Jin'taan also doesn't want to see 100 man corps with hulks being invulnerable to any form of attack through inability to war dec them or super safe high sec."

Next, what members of the CSM would, or would not, like to see in a revamped war dec system:

Aryth: "Aryth brings up a king of the hill scenario as a new war mechanic."

Brisc Rubal: "Brisc Rubal speculates that the war mechanics are heavily tilted towards the attacker and CCP Fozzie says this is indeed the case. Brisc Rubal doesn't expect any version of it to ever become fully even. He asks if the ratio being closer would be a favorable goal for a new system."

Innominate: "An example is mentioned: An industrial player undocks from Jita and gets attacked by 5 war deccers and their logi alts. This makes Innominate point out that assistance from those who are not party to the war needs to be addressed."

"Innominate feels a great wardec is two groups of equal sizes fighting and not playing 'deaggressing games'."

Jin'taan: "Jin'taan mentions war objectives which can be achieved"

"Jin'taan suggests a goal being ships killed. This encourages docking and The Judge is curious to know what kind of community this would spawn."

"Jin'taan suggests a propaganda structure to be deployed on other structures to declare war, the structure would be expensive and be worth destroying, clustering them together would also mean that they gain attention and would be destroyed by null blocs."

Sort Dragon: "Sort Dragon brings up an invulnerability of some kind to avoid a permadec, such as paying a fee of some kind. He feels that there never comes a point where newbro corporations can catch their breath after an initial war before the next war comes along."

"Sort Dragon mentions the idea of using propaganda structures as a means of ending the war in the form of a victory condition to end the war."

Sutonia: "Suitonia feels that it needs to be tied more to structures, and that there currently there is no real way to retaliate against a corp that war decs you."

While getting the recorded thoughts of the members of the CSM is worthwhile, I believe CCP's thoughts are critical. First, CCP Fozzie's summation of the situation around war declarations, with details following.
"CCP Fozzie goes on to clarify that the metrics for the current system clearly show that it's in a state that CCP is not happy with. The current system is extremely skewed in the favor of aggressors. There is also the fact that people involved in wars will simply not play whilst the war is ongoing. They also want to see a scenario where the defenders who may not normally be interested in wars would engage in them as they see a clear scenario where they can get a victory condition and end it."
All of the concern for making a change in war declarations for new players, at least in CCP's eyes, falls under Malcanis' Law, "Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of ‘new players’, that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."
"Lebowski brings up the data which shows that it's not actually a lot of brand new players that are being war decced, because they are not worth declaring war on most likely. Typically it´s more established corporations that get hit once they are big enough to be a target. This does however still affect new players such as in Karmafleet, Brave Newbies and so on indirectly through which corporations are being decced."
The CSM countered with the claim that CCP should analyze the players affected by the war decs, not the corporations.

So what is CCP planning to do to fix the war declaration system? The information falls under the infamous Non-Disclosure Agreement. Probably a good move, because I am sure CCP came up with some pretty hideous ideas in addition to practical ones. CCP created the Council of Stellar Management for situations like this one. Hopefully the CSM will keep CCP from falling too far into a bear trap.

Monday, October 8, 2018

CCP's War On Illicit ISK - The eBay Hockey Stick

Just a quick detour away from the CSM summit minutes now that I have some secondary (aka black) market numbers in for the third quarter. Sometime in Q3, probably in July, eBay stopped allowing people to sell virtual items from video games on the site.

Aspector asked whether the move had an effect on the price of ISK. As far as I can tell, the ban on eBay just meant that sellers shifted to other platforms. The crooked hockey stick in the graph above is a result of the move, with the volume of sales jumping in the third quarter of 2018.

The virtual currency site Player Auctions was a beneficiary of the crackdown on sales on eBay. As the chart above shows, sales declined in the third quarter of 2017, reflecting the traditional decline in activity in EVE during the summer. If I am correct about when the purge on eBay began, that means sales on Player Auctions jumped from 2,806 billion ISK in June to 5,499.4 billion ISK in September, a 96% increase. Normally I would compare the same period in 2017, but the massive sell-off ahead of the bans related to ghost training at the end of June 2017 really distorts the picture.

Just to make sure that a crazy price shift didn't create the increased demand, let's look at the price of a billion ISK. In 2017, the price of ISK rose by $0.60/billion ISK, or 11.6% from July to September, with a decrease in sales of 6.6%. In 2018, the price of ISK dropped 15.1% in the same period, with and increase in sales of 51.7%. Doesn't sound quite right, does it?

I then calculated the price elasticity of demand. The price elasticity formula indicates the expected rise in the demand of a product for a 1% decrease in price. All else being equal, in 2017 a 1% decrease in price of 1 billion ISK resulted in a 0.63% increase in demand. In 2018, on the other hand, a 1% decrease in price produced an increase of 2.5% in sales. In 2017, ISK was very inelastic. In 2018, very elastic. Even assuming that a 1% decrease in price normally resulted in a 1% increase in sales, that leaves other factors causing the other 60-70% in increased sales. The major factor was the ending of RMT sales on eBay.

I'm not sure exactly what caused eBay to begin enforcing their terms of service concerning virtual item sales connected to video games again. I can say two things, though. The first is that the price of black market ISK wasn't as affected as much as where ISK sellers hawk their wares. The second is I no longer have a good (or even mediocre) sense of how big the RMT market concerning EVE Online is anymore. Removing such a large platform for RMT sales really screws up my existing calculations.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The CSM 13 One-Coat Summit Minutes Part II: Abyssal Deadspace Status And Plans

The second session of the CSM summit, "EVE Leadership Team", basically had no minutes recorded, so I will instead review the third session about Abyssal Deadspace. The two CCP employees who show up in the minutes are Creative Director CCP Burger and game designer CCP Rise. As in the first post in the series, I will rearrange the order of the subjects discussed in the session to fit my personal sense of order.

The big question is about the adoption rate for Abyssal sites. CCP is happy with the numbers currently running the sites but would like to see the numbers increase further. Players who run the sites on a regular basis are "healthier customers", with behavior metrics showing a dramatic increase in several important areas. This in spite of player criticism of the risk vs reward balance.

One other experiment was mentioned, turning off the suspect flag for tier 4 and 5 sites. Since the CSM seemed extremely interested in the results, I'll just copy/paste from the summit minutes.
"CSM starts by asking how turning off the suspect timer affected the activity in abyssal sites, it resulted in a considerable increase but also was around the time of the Secrets of The Abyss event so hard to accurately differentiate. CCP Rise shows the CSM some metrics but it is noted the event is probably the bigger cause for the spike in activity rather than the suspect timer. A survey shows that the suspect flag was low on the list of reasons not to run them. The more common response was difficulty and cost for fits. Rewards versus investment was also a large factor factor."
CCP Rise disclosed that the difficutly of running tier 4 and 5 sites is about right, but he is looking into opening up the lower tier sites to newer players. CCP is looking into giving fits and fitting advice to new players, although Jin'tan has a concern about fits for lower level sites not being visible.

On the other hand, adoption of Abyssal technology by players is falling behind hopes or expectations. Precursor (aka Triglavian) ships are used less than CCP Rise wants. The upcoming changes to the Damavik (giving it a third mid-slot) is one response to the situation. The ships are also more expensive than CCP Rise would like.

CCP Burger asked if Abyssal modules are used in fleet fights. The CSM replied no, giving several reasons. The Judge pointed out that alliances almost never include Abyssal modules in their reimbursement programs. Killah Bee stated that fleet commanders prefer ships in their fleets have uniform fits so they know the capabilities of their fleets. Sort Dragon also noted that Monitors, the special ship developed for fleet commanders, tend to use Abyssal modules more than any other ship in fleets. The consensus of the CSM is that Abyssal modules work well in small gangs, but won't change the meta used in the clashes of the major alliances anytime soon.

Possibly one of the biggest questions concerning the Triglavian content concerns the uses of mutaplasmids. CCP Rise asked about creating a new ship mutaplasmid and the CSM thought that a good idea. The CSM also asked about the most frequently mutated modules. While the minutes don't mention which ones, we do know the tech 2 varieties and the most commonly rolled. Finally, the discussion on the subject turned on what to do with bad rolls. Options ranged from reprocessing to recycling them to obtain some type of residue one could turn into a currency or loyalty points.

Nosy's take: I've run the Abyssal sites, even losing a Vagabond in the process. I don't have much to add to the conversation, except to note that if the Triglavian technology ever becomes accessible on a massive scale, we will see the major null sec alliances take a greater interest in the subject. For now, I'm happy that the feature is working well and CCP plans to iterate on Abyssal deadspace sites.

Update 6 October 2018 - Jin'taan had ideas about co-op play in Abyssal sites. At the G-Fleet meet, CCP Cognac announced that co-op play involving 3 frigates is now on the Duality server.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The CSM 13 One-Coat Summit Minutes Part I: Summit Welcome

Yes, I am blatantly ripping off Dirk MacGirk's description of the CSM 13 Summer Summit since CCP Guard gave the minutes the wrong title. The minutes are now out and I plan to review all 53 pages while I sit on the train commuting back and forth from work. As I get older, I find writing about something gets the topic stuck in my brain. Since I land in Las Vegas in two weeks, I probably need to hurry up and write so I can get the most out of my opportunity to bug the developers.

For these summit minutes, I will go through and give a summary and my thoughts on each section. Don't worry, I will break up the review into multiple blog posts. With that disclaimer out of the way, let's begin.

Summit Welcome -  Our representatives on our internet spaceship council seemed eager to get to work as the initial meet-and-greet session turned to business. The minutes went in chronological order as good minutes should, but I'll list the contents in order of importance. Your judgement may differ.

First, the CSM believes that the game needs incremental changes rather than Jesus features at this time. Sort Dragon and Jin'taan both argued for incremental changes over new large features, with Brisc reminding people that CCP can work on both at the same time. Suitonia chimed in with recently added small changes such as the HAC and AF balance changes and the Muninn change that were well received.

Nosy's take. CCP is an Agile shop and should, with enough resources, have the ability to work on both. However, working on an MMORPG like that is relatively difficult. I wouldn't have used Wizards of the Coast as an example, as Jin'taan did of multiple teams. I would go with ArenaNet's three teams that worked on the 1st season of the living story. As I recall, they pretty much burned themselves out. However, I don't think ArenaNet was an Agile shop at the time.

Second in importance, in my eyes, were the priorities the CSM entered the summit with. They were:
  • Server Stability
  • War Decs
  • Devs playing EVE
  • Bounty system
I'll include some of the chatter surrounding the subject of lag, as the issue was of paramount importance to our elected representatives...
"Sort Dragon talks about the lag in the game and conflicting ideas about what the cause is. The cloud is brought up and what services could be brought into the cloud to take load off TQ. There is some chatter about which teams are involved in this topic, and who would be in the meeting specifically about server stability. The talk moves over to distinguishing lag, client issues, crashes and fleet fight system performance as these issues are varied and can be caused by different scenarios. The tether system is brought up as a potential cause of the performance issues in flights."
The bounty system seems a strange topic to make a priority, until one thinks about the affect the system has on large fleet fights. Sort Dragon asked if CCP could just remove the feature altogether. An appeal was also made to the affect receiving a bounty has on new players, but that sounded like Malcanis' Law coming into play.

Other topics related to new players were providing an improved default overview for new players and a warning about putting too much into a hauler. The CSM argued that the current default overview was inadequate to complete the tutorial. As for the hauler, keeping a brand new player from getting all his belongings wiped out in a high sec gank is not optimum for player retention.

At the bottom of my priority list of subjects discussed in the opening session of the summit involved client issues. Sort Dragon asked about localized clients, specifically whether a Chinese client would become available to players on Tranquility. He also asked about other languages, specifically Japanese and Spanish. Jin'taan also brought up the subject of allowing limited modification of the client itself. Given the history of players hacking the client to do nefarious things like make themselves not appear in local, I'm not sure how much acceptance of the idea inside CCP would gain.

Nosy's take. Very interesting. One has to take into account the dominant representation on CSM 13 of the major null sec alliances when looking at the priorities. The overarching goal of CSM going into the summit was server stability. I would consider the bounty system as part of the server stability issue, as the system puts extra loads on the servers during large scale fights. The issue of developers playing their own game, or lack thereof, is an old theory on why some things never get fixed, or the wrong solution is implemented. But the war dec system? That's definitely looks like a high sec issue. However, I understand that Crimewatch also affects server performance in big fights. Perhaps I'm to cynical, but that might have something to do with the interest amongst some members of the CSM.

This concludes my review of the minutes of the first session of the summit. Reviewing all of the minutes promises to take several blog posts. I figure by the time I finish the summit will have faded from the headlines in the EVE media. But I figure I should still put in the effort to understand what CCP may intend for the future.

Monday, October 1, 2018

When Test Worlds Collide

CCP Falcon put out a little article today that had some big news. The first little bomb EVE's community manager dropped is that CCP will run the Serenity server. I thought NetEase would have to either host the Chinese cluster themselves or find a third party company to provide the service. Apparently not.

Another change that will impact players more directly is that the Singularity test cluster will host both changes for the Serenity cluster as well as the Tranquility cluster on which the rest of the world plays. CCP Falcon explained the details of the move.
"One of the key aims of our partnership with NetEase is to ensure that Tranquility and Serenity stay as close to parity as possible in terms of content, and we aim to be in a position where Serenity is either running the same release as Tranquility or is one release behind.

"This means that as of today, with preparations for the re-launch of EVE China, Singularity will begin to host content destined for either, or both servers.

"This will include SKINs, localization and monetization features that are destined only for Serenity, along with changes to the client that are required to comply with Chinese law. Changes to the launcher and client that need to be made because of Chinese law will however only be active in the Serenity packaged version of EVE."
I'm not sure, but I think the Chinese government has to approve any software upgrades in video games to make sure they conform to approved standards. One standout example was the delay of the release of Wrath of the Lich King to the Chinese servers until Blizzard could remove all traces of skeletons. But maybe CCP has some connections.

I'm looking forward to my next trip to Singularity, if only to see some of the SKINs TianCity sold in lieu of implementing Alpha clones. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is the whining coming from r/eve. I think CCP Falcon ended his news article with a huge dose of sarcasm.
"As always, the EVE community is renowned for its level headedness when changes are ported to Singularity for testing, and we expect that our pilots will understand that Singularity is a test environment, and that not everything that is tested there makes it to our live game environment!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Beginning My Worker Empire In Black Desert Online

The purchase of CCP Games by Pearl Abyss led to an immediate uproar over how the Korean game maker would turn EVE Online into a pay-to-win dystopia, filled with doomsday weapons powered with PLEX, special mutaplasmids purchased from the cash shop, and SKINs with bonuses similar to hardwiring. Okay, I made up those examples, because the whining I read wasn't that imaginative. But apparently Pearl Abyss' flagship game, Black Desert Online, doesn't have the best reputation, so of course I had to see for myself.

One of the similarities between EVE and BDO is the desire of players to make money passively. The difference is how much each studio catered to the desires of their respective player bases. EVE does have passive income generation such as planetary interaction and AFK ratting in Vexors and the ever present Vexor Navy Issue. But the devs also tried to reign in other passive game play, most notably changing moon mining from a passive to an active feature last year. In BDO, the thought process is totally different. Won't play a game infested with fishing bots? No problem. BDO supports AFK fishing natively. But the feature I ran across had an interesting name: worker empires. So I started to create one.

This post is not a how-to guide. I found plenty searching on YouTube as well as on Google. I just wanted to record some thoughts as I begin the journey down the rabbit hole. So let's begin.

First, I needed to gather something called contribution points. Those come from doing quests. The more quests I do, the more points I receive. At level 25, I've received 18 points. The second is gathering something called energy, although I've seen the feature called "vigor" in guides. Energy is required to do things like actively gather resources and hire workers. Energy is generated at a rate of 1 point every 3 minutes, or double that rate if your character is sleeping in a bed. Currently, my energy pool is 35 points. So if I wanted to, I could wake up on a Saturday morning, do a lot of gathering, use up all my energy, then go out and do my weekly grocery shopping and come back to a character with a full energy pool.

The contribution points allow me to do things like purchase buildings in towns and pay for access to resource nodes. The nearest I can describe what happens is that each node accessed becomes part of a network, and workers travel along the network's paths. In the towns and cities of BDO, one can purchase housing, warehouses, and specialty buildings. The workers bring the resources from the nodes to the warehouses, where the player picks up the raw materials and either crafts or sells the materials to the market.

The nice part about workers is they continue to work unsupervised as long as controlling player is logged into the game. Well, and kept happy. What makes workers happy? Beer! So one of the first steps in my worker empire is to gather the ingredients for beer. Beer is made from any grain, including potatoes. Is potato beer a thing in Korea? So when I started off my worker empire, I hired three workers, 2 humans and a goblin. I started off with the goblin mining iron, one human chopping down ash trees, and the other human gathering potatoes. After a couple of days, my goblin has reached level 11 and both humans are level 12. The human gathering potatoes could keep up with the beer making needs for three workers, but I need more if I want to expand.

Last night I took a break from EVE and worked on getting more contribution points. I now have 4 unused points and am 5% away from a fifth. I figure a few more quests and I can go out and get additional worker lodging, warehouse space, and access to another potato node. My need for beer will decrease for a couple of days as my goblin takes a promotion test. What that does I have no idea, but sounded like something I should do.

I get the impression I am not playing the game right. Instead of racing to the level cap and then working on the life skills, I am slowly building my worker empire as I level. That's okay, because end game in BDO doesn't sound that exciting anyway. Besides, I think trying to figure out how to keep my pets fed is more important in the short term is a lot more important than dreams of level 60 anyway.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Rogue Swarm Turkey Shoot

In EVE Online, I am currently doing the Rogue Swarm Alert event. In high sec. I know, I know, I said I would never do that again. But between leveling up my horse in Elder Scrolls Online and establishing a worker empire in Black Desert Online, I didn't feel like wandering out to low sec to run the sites. Without trying to dodge other players, the content isn't much of a challenge.

Sure, if I went out in my traditional Arbitrator or switched it up to a Rupture or Stabber, the content would give me some difficulty. But the latest iteration of the Rogue Swarm event requires both a data analyzer and a salvager to get the most loot and points. So I went with a ship that provides a different type of challenge: a Vagabond.

No, I am not on drugs. I wait until after I finish playing before taking my cough syrup. But a Vagabond lacks a hacking bonus, and I'm using a clone without a hacking implant. Usually hacking a high sec site is no challenge. I've actually failed a couple of hacks.

That said, the Vagabond I'm flying is the same one I use to run Abyssal sites with two differences. The first is I put a Salvager II in the utility high slot. The second is I replace the afterburner with a Data Analyzer II. Unlike Abyssal sites, I can pretty much tank whatever gets thrown my way, so I don't need a prop module. And to save a little money, I use regular Phased Plasma M instead of the faction Republic Fleet ammunition.

The sites follow a predictable rhythm. First, I warp in at zero and launch drones. While my drones attack the three or four NPCs initially present in the site, I hack the disabled drone battleship. I usually take my time with the puzzle, because I'm not worried about any DPS coming in. By the time I finiish, the drones usually are working on the last NPC.

Once the battleship is hacked, the loot NPC, a battleship-sized drone, appears. At this time, I hit orbit at 2,500 meters and let my Hobgoblin IIs chew on the boss while I pick off the incoming waves with 220mm Autocannon IIs. If I'm lucky, the small fast drones show up. I consider the small, fast drones a positive since they count toward the NPC kills that provide event points. If the frigates and smaller drones get close enough I cannot track them, I then use my drones to kill the NPCs while I finish off the boss.

I would do better loot-wise if I traveled a few jumps into low sec. One of these days I'll fit out a Huginn to run one of these events in low security space. I'd think a PvP fit ship with a 60% web bonus might provide some entertainment. Well, it would if I actually knew how to PvP. But for now, I'm just trying to collect all the event prizes. I currently have over 800 points, which means I own all four of the battleship SKINs. I figure two more nights of grinding will get me to 1100 points and the blueprint crate at the end of the event. Then I can go back to running Abyssal sites.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Will Mordu's Legion Be Recruiting At EVE Vegas?

Since the Battle of Caldari Prime 5 years ago, Mordu's Legion had kept the peace on the Caldari homeword in the middle of Gallente space. But mercenary groups, like living organisms, grow and evolve. Since the titanic battle that saw the first mass use of cloned ground forces, Mordu's Legion had joined up with The Upwell Consortium in the construction of the massive space structures that dominate space today. Upwell's salesmanship, along with capsuleers' success at destroying many of the structures, placed a demand for manpower that even a group like The Legion (often referred to as "The Best Legion" in the halls of power) found hard to meet. On  14 September, that strain manifested itself in the non-renewal of the contract with Ishukone Corporation and Material Acquisition keeping the peace on Caldari Prime. But that led to a basic question. With the proliferation of Upwell structures around New Eden, where would The Legion find the manpower to meet its obligations?

While writing lore is fun, I'm probably best known for analytical pieces, not fiction. Sometimes though, lore and business combine to reveal a surprise. Perhaps I've spent too much time studying the recent acquistion of CCP Games by the Korean game studio Pearl Abyss, but Friday's news article about Mordu's Legion preparing to depart Caldari Prime led to what I thought was an obvious question: are we about to receive news about Project Nova at EVE Vegas next month?

Project Nova is CCP's successor game to DUST 514, a first-person shooter set in the EVE Online universe. Caldari Prime has a place in the lore of ground soldiers in New Eden, with the first massive battle serving as a promotional event at a game convention in March 2013. Why not believe that the movement of Mordu's Legion indicates potential news about a new CCP project? This October is shaping up as a blockbuster month for CCP Games.

The biggest news, of course, is that the purchase of CCP will be finalized 12 October, one week before the start of EVE Vegas. The player meet was already the biggest EVE Vegas ever. Now the event takes on bigger significance as the EVE community presumably get to meet our new Korean overlords for the first time.

The news from China should also turn some heads. Not only is NetEase taking over from TianCity in October, but will launch the new Serenity server with an updated version of EVE. I'm not sure which version, but with a name like EVE Online: Rise of the Clones, watch for Alpha clones to make their first appearance in China. But NetEase is not just the new publisher for EVE Online in China. The gaming giant is also working on a new augmented reality game set in the EVE universe, EVE: Infinite Galaxy. News reports indicate the beta will launch in October, just in time for EVE Vegas.

Of course, not all news comes out of the Far East. Last year, CCP introduced Project Aurora as the new mobile game set in New Eden and even allowed attendees to try out an alpha version of the game. Work has progressed since then, with CCP giving the game a new name, EVE: War of Ascension, at Fanfest. Will CCP & PlayRaven announce a launch date at the keynote? I would not doubt it.

Given the event, could we even hear about CCP's new MMO currently under development that will use the Unreal 4 engine? If one wants to make a good first impression, I'd think so. But the news I think would bring down the house would be an announcement that CCP was opening Project Nova up for beta, with those who had already signed up for news getting first crack at the invites. Far fetched? In interviews at Fanfest, Hilmar stated that the game was months, not years, away from being available to players. I assume that meeans beta, so why not make the announcement at EVE Vegas?

Friday, September 7, 2018

CCP Games Sold To Pearl Abyss

The long march is almost over. From the death of Harry Weller in November 2016, the first trial balloon in December 2016, the announcement of no Fanfest in the Harpa in 2019 in April, and the sale of the Newcastle studio and move away from virtual reality games in November 2017, the signs were present. Yesterday, CCP turned rumor into fact. Crowd Control Productions is no longer an independent games studio:
SEOUL - September 6, 2018 - Today, Black Desert Online developer Pearl Abyss announced that it will acquire CCP Games, the creators of popular spaceship MMORPG EVE Online. The deal outlines that CCP Games will continue to operate independently as a developer with studios in Reykjavik, London and Shanghai, while integrating the company’s extensive development and publishing expertise into Pearl Abyss’ operations for all current and future projects.

EVE Online is a space-based, persistent world MMO game, developed by CCP’s Reykjavik studio. The game first launched in 2003 and has since gained recognition for its scale and complexity with regards to player interactions in EVE’s single, shared game world. EVE Online is one of the most critically-acclaimed MMORPG intellectual properties (IPs) in North America and Europe, and one of the most extensive works of science fiction in the world.

Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung stated, “We are thrilled to have CCP Games join our team as Black Desert Online continues to branch out globally. CCP is a seasoned publisher with over 15 years of digital distribution experience and know-how. They have done an incredible job of engaging and maintaining their playerbase, which we aim to learn from and hope to integrate natively into Pearl Abyss’ general practices across all our games. I am confident CCP’s reputable IP and expertise in global publishing will help reaffirm our company’s dedication to developing and servicing the world’s best MMORPGs.”

“I have been seriously impressed with what Pearl Abyss has achieved ever since I first visited their website for Black Desert Online and subsequently became an avid player of the game,” said CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. “Pearl Abyss is a fast-growing company with lots to offer in terms of technology, capability and vision. I believe our two companies have a lot to learn from each other. We are very excited to join forces with them and achieve great new heights for our companies, our games and – above all - our players.”

Birgir Már Ragnarsson of Novator Partners and Chairman of CCP commented, “As lead investor in CCP for over 13 years alongside General Catalyst and NEA, we’ve seen CCP go from being a few dozen people strong to employing hundreds all over the world, with an ever-increasing customer base and multiple titles. CEO Hilmar V. Pétursson and his dedicated team have built a company that Novator and its partners are proud to hand over to Pearl Abyss and we wish them the best of luck in their future ventures.”

Pearl Abyss first launched its open-world MMORPG, Black Desert Online, in Korea in 2014. The game has received critical acclaim for its advanced graphics, seamless world, large-scale castle sieges and action-based combat system. Since Pearl Abyss’ initial public offering in 2017, the company has worked to secure competitive global IPs, such as EVE Online, through strategic investments and M&A activity.

Pearl Abyss saw record-high sales in the first half of 2018, following the launch of Black Desert Mobile in Korea. The company is looking forward to another strong year in 2019 with EVE Online and the upcoming global launch of Black Desert Mobile.

Deutsche Bank is acting as financial advisor to Pearl Abyss, and Kim & Chang is providing legal counsel. The Raine Group is acting as financial advisor to CCP Games, and White & Case LLP and LOGOS are providing legal counsel.
For some reason, people wonder about my thoughts on the subject. I gave some of them on an impromptu show Matterall ran yesterday, but I should probably give a hot take on the blog.

First, I think a lot of people are worried about Pearl Abyss introducing pay-to-win elements to EVE Online. I've heard others assure people that Pearl Abyss has done their due diligence and know that the EVE player base would never stand for that. The purveyors of that line of thinking point to the Summer of Rage as proof. My thought is that Monoclegate was 7 years ago and the EVE player base's attitudes toward paying for advantage (or convenience) has changed drastically over that time. Pearl Abyss probably did their research, saw that EVE players gladly accept things like paying real world cash for ISK and skill points, and thought, we can do business here. That said, I think as long as CCP meets certain financial goals, Pearl Abyss will not meddle with EVE Online. Besides, EVE Online, at least the game, is not a top reason Pearl Abyss purchased CCP.

Personally, I think one of the big attractions is CCP's upcoming games, the first person shooter Project Nova and the mobile games Project Aurora (developed by PlayRaven) and Project Galaxy (developed by NetEase). Pearl Abyss is basically buying three new games without having to pay much of the development costs. I think the mobile games are a big draw for the South Korean company, as Pearl Abyss ported its flagship game Black Desert Online to mobile devices on 28 February of this year in Korea and will introduce the mobile game in the west sometime in Q1 of 2019. Given the success of Black Desert Mobile in South Korea, Pearl Abyss is probably anticipating similar success with mobile games set in the EVE Online universe.

The other outstanding reason for Pearl Abyss to purchase CCP Games is one most western players will overlook: access to the Chinese market. In addition to working with CCP to develop Project Galaxy, Netease will take over running EVE Online's Serenity server in October. CCP's long history of working in China not only helps in navigating the laws concerning foreign-owned games, but may help in avoiding the ban on new South Korean mobile games entering the Chinese market. Iceland, on the other hand, is a country with which the People's Republic wants to have good relations. In fact, China and Iceland signed a $250 million deal in March to provide China with geothermal technology. At this point in time, an Icelandic game studio probably has an advantage over a South Korean company in accessing the lucrative Chinese mobile gaming market.

Those are my initial thoughts on the sale. I tried not to speculate too much and hopefully following the links may prove as interesting as this post. The sale should be final on 12 October, one week before the start of EVE Vegas. I'm going to the event again this year and I'll have my pen & paper out again taking notes at what should prove a very interesting keynote address.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Into The Abyss I Finally Go

In a week in which CCP has dumped several botters, including a titan, in the high sec system of Yulai as part of the GM Week activities, I decided to dive into the Abyssal Deadspace sites. I don't consider waiting three months after the introduction of the Triglavians of the Into The Abyss expansion too long. I'm just fashionably late.

Last week a new event, Secrets of the Abyss, launched. With the ability to get exclusive Triglavian SKINs and mutaplasmids for ancillary modules as well as skill boosters, now was the time to begin running the new content. None of my testing fits on Singularity could handle tier 3 sites, so I found a Vagabond fit online, downgraded a couple of modules to tech 2, and went shopping.

My Vagabond fit
For the first time, I shelled out the ISK for faction modules and ammunition. I didn't have to spend as much as first appears. When I looked in my journal, I discovered I had 83,000 Thukker loyalty points, so I went to the nearest Thukker station instead of a market hub. I also retrieved large amounts of faction ammunition left over from my sales effort in Bosena. Plus, I had some of the tech 2 modules and an implant sitting around my hangars. Once I gathered everything together, I went to work.

I looked on the market and decided buying filaments off the market was not for me. However, I did have 3 Calm filaments (tier 1) from when CCP handed them out with the introduction of Abyssal sites. I also found one in a data site, so I had four filaments with which to start.

The first weekend's loot
Over the weekend (Friday to Sunday), I ran 20 Abyssal deadspace sites. My initial 4 filaments turned into a cache of 5 Calm (tier 1) filaments, 5 Agitated (tier 2) filaments, 2 Fierce (tier 3) filaments, and 1 Raging (tier 4) filament. I had to look up what Traglavian Survey Databases were. The databases are a trade good one can sell to NPCs at CONCORD and DED stations for 100,000 ISK each. For those unfamiliar with selling to NPC buy orders, look for entries that have over 90 days remaining. I think some people have decided to make a little money by offering 70% in regions without NPC sell orders.

One of the big questions about Abyssal sites when the new content launched was whether the content was worth doing. I did 13 tier 1, 4 tier 2, and 3 tier 3 sites in approximately 4 hours. If the valuation in the UI is close to accurate, I made about 100 million ISK per hour, even taking into account the faction ammunition used and drones lost.

Points after 20 sites
The live event is pretty well put together. If a player just does one Calm and one Agitated site, the player is rewarded with a 24 hour booster (48 hours if Biology V is trained) that grants +12 to all learning attributes. I believe that doing one Calm, one Agitated, and one Fierce site each day guarantees 60 points for the Delve into the Abyss rewards, 15 points for entering the three sites, puts additional points for clearing each room and killing NPCs. Given that I managed to get 528 points running 20 sites, I'm pretty sure that just running those three sites each day will get a player 1000 points total. Just remember that at the end of each room to collect the points earned so you receive additional tasks to earn even more points.

So far, I like the Abyssal content. The artwork is fantastic, the terrain meaningful, and the fights unpredictable. Which is good because that makes the live event more enjoyable. I might not think so after 100 sites, but I find myself wanting to do more. Perhaps when the event is over, I can take the time saved from not clicking buttons on the event UI to take some screenshots. The sites really are that good.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Daily Attraction Of Elder Scrolls Online

A funny thing happens when EVE Online's Alliance Tournament runs each year. I spend so much time watching EVE that I don't want to play the game. Instead, I play a game where, if I get distracted watching a match and die, the penalty isn't so great. Over the past month or so, I've played a game on my bucket list, Elder Scrolls Online. I'm not really thrilled with either the combat or the questing in the game, but as a major MMORPG, I thought I should try to add ESO to the list of games in which I reached max level. Currently, the list includes Vanilla WoW, Everquest 2 (The Shadow Odyssey expansion) as well as the original versions of Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2. I probably would have quit ESO for the third time if not for the daily content.

The big daily task that drew me into the game was training my mount. Every 20 hours, for the low, low cost of 250 gold, I can add either 1% to my horse's speed or stamina, up to 60%. Or if I don't want that, I can add 1 slot to my bag space, up to 60 slots. Of course, players can purchase riding lessons with real money to improve their mounts faster, but as a gateway drug, tending to a horse and watching him grow up is every effective.

The second task isn't really a task at all. Every day starting at midnight UTC (aka EVE time), players who log in (or are already logged in) get a reward. Rewards range from experience scrolls, potions and poisons, soul gems, riding lessons, and lock boxes. That's right, lock boxes. Luckily, gambling is not something I'm interested in. But the other prizes come in handy.

The third set of features involves crafting. I can do up to three crafting writs each day which not only helps level my skills but gives me resources to craft with as well. Speaking of resources, each day NPC hirelings can go out and send players crafting materials. I only have the skills for clothing and enchanting hirelings now, but as a staff user, will eventually do the same for woodworking.

All of the above, however, only mitigates the problems I have with the combat and questing. Leveling just by questing or grinding just isn't a fun way to play. But each day, players can earn about 3/4 of a level plus get some nice prizes just for queueing up and running a random dungeon. As a healing templar, I just need to follow the tank around for about 10 minutes and spam some area of effect heals along with a couple of single target heals. Not only do I get the daily reward, but my gear is pretty good. My restoration staff is purple, all my light armor is part of a set (and blue) along with my jewelry, and the only green gear is one piece of medium armor and one piece of heavy armor that each give me an 8% experience boost on each kill. Added to the 8% experience boost my staff grants, let's just say I'm not worried about leveling my character anymore.

I'm currently level 28, and given the rate I'm playing, may even reach level 31 by the end of the weekend. Of course, with the finals of the Alliance Tournament this weekend, I will probably start playing a lot of EVE again starting next weekend. But I can probably take at least 10-15 minutes out of my day to progress a little in ESO.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

CCP and Tiancity Part Ways

Today, or yesterday for those in North America, Tiancity announced it would end operating EVE Online's Serenity cluster on 30 September. According to the announcement, CCP and Tiancity agreed to end Tiancity's contract to run EVE Online in the People's Republic of China, but Tiancity agreed to continue operating the game until a replacement company was found. Apparently, a new, unnamed operator is ready to take over running Serenity. 

When I first heard of the change, I also heard that Serenity had not received any updates in nearly two years. A quick look on Eve-Offline showed Serenity was still running version 14.08, which I believe was the version before the introduction of Alpha clones and a new business model. In a dev blog published today, CCP referenced the change.
"EVE Online: Ascension, which first launched on Tranquility in November 2016, saw the introduction of the most significant changes in the history of EVE Online. It certainly changed the wat [sic] that our pilots play EVE and we’ve been thrilled with the effect it’s had on the landscape of New Eden.

"Nevertheless, we understand that the Chinese market may be quite different, so we will not hastily launch it on Serenity until we find the correct way in which to do so.

"Meanwhile, on the corporate level, by seeing the significant potential for positive change that this expansion may have on Serenity and its community, we have been investigating how best to update or business roadmap for the Chinese market.

"After evaluating options, and speaking with potential Chinese business partners, we finally made the difficult decision to move on. After supportive and considerate negotiations with Tiancity, we both agreed to draw our partnership to a close, but to keep Serenity running as normal until we are ready to take EVE in China to the next level."
The history of EVE Online in the PRC is a little rocky. In 2006, CCP contracted with Optic Communications to operate EVE in China. In July 2007, Optic was acquired by CDC Games, a "pioneer of the 'free-to-play, pay for merchandise' model for online games in China." CDC Games continued running EVE until the end of 2011. A dev blog in December 2012 described the end of CCP's relationship with CDC.
"In 2011, our licensing agreement with CDC, which had at that time acquired Optic Communications, was going to expire in July. After careful evaluation, the overall business performance of our partnership and EVE Online in China, we decided that shifting to a new partner would be the right move for EVE. Even though in the end we made the hard decision to not extend the license with CDC, we were really thankful for their hard work to launch EVE Online in China, and their contribution to its growth during its inception years. The operation team worked to the last moment on the day of April 1st, 2012, when we temporarily closed the server cluster for the transition."
In truth, CCP's search for a new operator was forced by CDC Corporation, the parent company of CDC Games, filing for bankruptcy protection in October 2011. The company went out of business on 19 December 2012.

CCP announced the partnership with Tiancity in February 2012, relaunching the game in the PRC on 11 December 2012. Hopefully with the current change in game operators, EVE players in China will not have to wait 8 1/2 months to play the game.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

CCP's War on Bots and Illicit RMT Since Fanfest

Apparently, CCP's War On Botting and Illicit RMT has now moved to the EVE Online sub-Reddit. ISK sellers and botters have long used Reddit as a platform to either create negative feedback against CCP during ban waves or to advertise their wares. For example, in the face of reduced sales due to CCP conducting sales during the holiday season last December, a post went up on 14 December decrying how CCP ignores botting and illicit real money transactions. That post led to a huge spike of sales on Player Auctions, a well-known RMT site, with over 500 billion ISK sold the same day the post appeared.

Last Friday, another post, Confession of a botmaker, went up. The post is a member of a well-worn archetype: a long-term botting/ISK selling insider tells a story of how he made trillions of ISK without getting caught. And on 14-15 July, sales of ISK on Player Auctions increased, with buyers submitting reviews associated with 330 billion ISK in sales, or double the average daily amount sold in July up to that point. But then on the 16th, CCP Falcon posted on r/eve about an upcoming security dev blog. On the 18th, the security team delivered, announcing the following number of bans since February:

  • 8771 account bans for RMT related activities since February
  • 4250 account bans for botting related activities since February
  • 5377 account bans for account hacking since February

Arguing that CCP is not paying any attention to botting and ISK selling is rather difficult when the security team is banning over 4000 accounts every month.

Getting the ban numbers helps fill in the picture of what happened concerning the black market. For example, from the day after Fanfest to 15 July, the 7-day moving average for the price of ISK on Player Auctions rose from $4.32/billion to $6.00/billion, an increase of 38.9%. How much was due to CCP actions vs. the actions of players impacting the activities of bots? The ban numbers suggests the enforcement activity played a large role.

The first major security-related event concerned the implementation of a check of user credentials against the Pwned Passwords database of compromised passwords. The move toward warning players about compromised credentials is part of the efforts, along with encouraging two-factor authentication, to reduce the hacking of accounts.

The first post indicating CCP deletes market bots 
Perhaps the most satisfying news came in late May, as a major ban wave hit Tranquility. What made the ban wave different was the treatment of market bots. The botting forums initially were confused, but CCP Peligro made an announcement on Twitter.

The last major event I know of possibly is related to the ban wave that began on 23 May. A Reddit post on 13 June revealed several Chinese corporations, including those in Goonswarm Federation, Test Alliance Please Ignore, Ranger Regiment and Fraternity all suffered massive bans. According to the post, one corporation in Goonswarm had over 200 billion ISK removed from its corporation wallet.

Now, I don't believe that the price hike seen on the black market are solely due to the actions of CCP's security team. Widespread warfare targeting rental alliances can keep ISK sellers from restocking their stores with freshly botted money. Also, outside events like Russia's war on the Telegram Messenger service can disrupt players (and bots) from reaching CCP's servers. But CCP has taken significant action against botters, hackers and ISK sellers since the end of Fanfest and I hope the efforts continue under the new executive producer.

Friday, July 13, 2018

My Boring EVE Life

One of these days I will start writing about cool stuff again. But for now, I’m just chronicling my EVE-related activities. For some reason, my coding project is taking up quite a bit of my free time, but I think I have the most urgent part complete.

Over the weekend, I managed to figure out how to download market information using the ESI and then storing it into a file. My first query involved downloading all the information for tech 3 subsystems. Since the introduction of the new subsystems in July 2017, I only have a couple of more weeks to play around downloading the entire dataset. For now, the only things I need to do are code in a start and stop date and then I’ll be able to start doing a few other things with the ESI, like maybe trying to figure out how to insert the data directly into a database.

Why collect the data in the first place? Over the last few months I wanted to play with consumer price indexes in EVE. Looking at the PLEX and black market RMT data, I thought creating my own price index points would shed some light on economics in MMORPGs. The subject I am most interested is what does the conversion of a game to a hybrid payment model do to the in-game economy. My only problem was that the tech 3 subsystem data was missing. I just solved that obstacle. I just hope I haven’t forgotten everything I learned about the CPI. Hopefully I took good notes.

In New Eden itself, I have continued my practice of ignoring Abyssal space and so far, the latest live event. I think I will wind up partaking in the event, though, if the SKINs are those Chainbreaker Khumaak SKINs I saw in the shop. Of course, I have so many SKINs from playing Project Discovery and I still haven’t injected a single one. I guess dressing up my ships isn’t a high priority. Which reminds me. I need to wash my Stratios. The ship looks like a slightly toasted marshmallow.

I still haven’t built a CONCORD ship as my factional warfare experiment continues. The new character I created for factional warfare is almost two weeks old and been in the militia since 4 July. I have to say that so far, a new character, at least in the Minmatar (and probably Gallente) militia, can pull in some nice ISK, even only running one or two plexes a night. I started out with 3 Slashers (2 properly fit) and 600,000 ISK on 4 July. Nine days later, I still have my original Slashers plus an additional two I purchased early Thursday morning. With over 52 million ISK still in my wallet, I can afford more. The only reason I haven’t bought them is the pain of moving the ships around. At this point in the experiment, I don’t want to bring in my main characters who can fly Orcas and Mastodons. Let’s just say that transporting mass amounts of cargo in a Wreathe is a pain.
I now have proper fittings for all five Slashers, although I only learned Mechanics IV, the skill required to fit Damage Control IIs, while I was sleeping last night. I was waiting on that skill to complete before trying to fight someone. Besides the improved tank, the self-imposed requirement allowed me time to amass a bankroll.

Did I just suggest I wanted to partake in PvP? While the money is good, plexing sucks. A few times I wondered if I should log into my main mining character because sitting in a complex is so boring and no one was roaming through. I guess I shouldn’t say no one. I saw quite a few Minmatar militia pilots and a few Gallente militia pilots. I even spotted a couple of Amarr pilots. They don’t seem to hang around very long, at least in the nice quiet neighborhood I patrol. I did wind up scooping a corpse in a complex.

I think what I need to do is start paying closer attention to the status of the war zone. I think getting involved in a fight over a structure might be interesting. I watch the militia chat and check the control board in the factional warfare tab to see where the action is. I’m still at the stage of trying to build up a nest egg and a stash of ships so losing a ship or two won’t hurt. But I think I’m almost at the point I can get a little more adventurous.

As for other activities, I don’t think I did any low sec mining over the past week. I’m thinking of doing a little ninja mining in a wormhole. I did run a couple of data and relic sites, but I even have spent the time probing down wormholes as well as combat and gas sites I don’t run just for the practice. Right now, I just need to decide whether I want to enter wormholes that lead into low sec or go for ones I can enter from high sec. The low sec option just feels right for some reason.

Friday, July 6, 2018

I Joined Factional Warfare

I finally did it. I succumbed to the dark side and joined factional warfare. Perhaps I hang out in the wrong places, but I got a little sick of some of what I was hearing. “Factional warfare needs fixing!” “Why doesn’t CCP do more to direct new players to factional warfare?!” Well, duh! But I don’t have direct experience with factional warfare. Sure, I did a lot of PvE activity in factional warfare space until the NPCs drove me out, but apart from joining a factional warfare player corporation in 2010, I didn’t have any hands-on experience. Mostly because I don’t like PvP that doesn’t involve shooting fireworks at bewildered PvP pilots in high security space. That’s hilarious.

So, this past weekend, I decided to start a little experiment. I created a new character on my 3rd Omega account dedicated to factional warfare. I realize that even though I’m horrible at PvP, my almost 9 years of playing EVE give me some advantages that don’t go away with stepping into a new character. I also probably conducted a lot more research into how to start out as a new player in factional warfare than the average new player would perform.

I decided for the experiment I would try to follow the natural path of a new player not associated with an outside group, at least until I entered one of the militias. That meant playing through the voice-acted new player experience. I probably should have selected a different race, but once again I rolled up a Minmatar pilot. While I selected a new bloodline, I also chose Republic University for my education, meaning I entered New Eden in the Embod area.

Selecting Minmatar did allow me to compare the current iteration of the New Player Experience to the last time I played through. The NPE is still a bit slow, but I can see where CCP fixed some of the old areas that caused new players problems. The big improvement was the specific mention of the importance of keeping skills in training and giving the player both the Minmatar Frigate and Minmatar Destroyer skill books to do so. That’s right, characters don’t begin with racial frigate skills anymore.

Characters also don’t leave the beginning tutorial with a lot of materials. After the final battle resulted in the destruction of my Rifter and pod, my ship hanger only held a Reaper-class corvette (aka “the rookie ship”) and a Venture-class mining frigate. The last time I ran the tutorial, I got a new Rifter. This time, a one-run Rifter blueprint copy. I guess if a player really wants to jump the rails, he can go mine a new Rifter.

I also received advice to go to either Resource Wars or the career agents. Sending a new player to Resource Wars in a Venture is just mean. Fortunately, at least in my opinion, the presentation slants players to the career agents, so off I flew to Embod.

I won’t go into the career agent missions except to mention, do all of them. Yes, I know there are 45, but the rewards are worth doing, especially if the plan is not to transfer ISK from another character and not to buy PLEX. I’ll just remind people to do the business agent first, so when items are under construction the player can do one of the other mission lines. After completing the career agent missions, I had 7.5 million ISK in my wallet and the following ships in my hangar:
1 x Rifter
1 x Slasher
1 x Burst
1 x Probe
1 x Reaper
2 x Wreathe
3 x Venture
At this point, the pretending to be a new player ended, as I had to figure out what to do next. First, I took inventory of my skills and decided to purchase 1.2 million ISK worth of skill books. In addition to picking up some of the associated skills to improve my gunnery, I picked up some missile and armor skill books. I figure at one point I will want to fly a Breacher, so why not pick up the books now?

Next came picking out the ship to fly. The Rifter seems like an obvious armor tanking ship and the New Player Experience basically encourages new Minmatar players to shield tank. The Slasher, on the other hand, with a 4-4-2 slot layout, looked more like a shield tanking ship. So off I went looking for a fit.

I did a search of places like YouTube and various forums but didn’t see a fit I liked. Searching for loss mails on zkillboard let me to the Slasher meta. I downgraded a couple of modules due to cost and/or skill requirements and decided I was ready to go shopping.

I was able to buy 2 fully-fitted Slashers to go out and try to earn some ISK so I could afford to lose a ship. I think bought a couple more skill books, bringing the grand total in my wallet down to 600,000 ISK. I could always earn some money playing Project Discovery, but the whole purpose of the exercise is to see if a new player (or at least a new character) can jump into factional warfare and survive. Did I mention preferably without mining?

I knew enough about factional warfare to know one earns loyalty points by staying within proximity of a beacon in a faction warfare complex, usually referred to as a plex. I scouted out a quiet area in which I could run the plexes. I then moved my ships from Embod to my chosen operating area. The move would have gone so much quicker if I had logged in one of my other pilots and loaded up everything in the Orca, but I was trying to relive the new player experience. I’ll just say that I appreciate my Orca and Mastodon a lot more now after my little move op.

Once I finally got everything in place, I clicked on the tab in the station that allowed me to join factional warfare as a member of the Minmatar militia. The actual act of joining was simple, but I spent hours running missions, moving ships, and doing research to get to the point of becoming a member of the Minmatar militia.

I joined on 4 July and in that time I've defensively plexed 5 small complexes and a novice complex. So far I have increased my wallet from 600,000 ISK to 26.9 million ISK in less than 48 hours actual time. I now have enough ISK to afford to lose a couple of ships. The story of how I made my money is a subject for a future post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Looking Under The Cushions

On Saturday I took the final for my online Python class, meaning that I am free to play video games once again. So, what did I spend a large part of my time doing? Trying to load the historical market data CCP Quant posted back in March into a database on my computer. Based on my years of experience, I can tell from the error messages the file contains some lines concatenated together but still displays visually in a text editor as two separate lines. Given I can’t just dump the entire 250 million plus lines into SQL, I have to come up with another solution. I guess that’s why I’m paid the big ISK.

I tried to play Elder Scrolls Online. ESO has a couple of mechanics designed to get players to log in every day. The first is a daily reward just for logging in. Some of the prizes, like the 2-hour experience and stat boost items, are useful. Others, not so much. The second involves making your mount more powerful. Each day, for a nominal fee in gold, players can buff their mount’s speed, stamina, or strength by 1%, up to a maximum of 60% in each category. I guess that’s one way to get someone to log in everyday for 6 months. Perhaps if I found the game more engaging, I would do so. But I’m at level 17 and don’t really have the desire to adventure in Tameriel. Will I give up my quest to 50?

That returns me to EVE. For some reason, I decided to check the journal on one of my characters Sunday. Looking at the research tab, I had a lot of research points earned on 5 agents. I hadn’t visited those agents to pick up datacores in 623 days. Needless to say, I decided to dig the coins out from between the cushions and away I went. According to the display in my cargohold, I picked up 256 million ISK worth of datacores. I then logged onto another character and found he only had three research agents active but hadn’t picked up any datacores in 5 years. Forty-five minutes later I had another 250 million ISK in datacores sitting in the low sec station I use to perform all my invention activity. I stopped the datacore farming activity when I saw the agents on my third character were 30 jumps away. But I did go and pick them up Monday night. Picking up 3 1/2 years worth of datacores from 3 level 4 research agents generated another 345 million ISK in goods.

With all the travel complete, I now have to take stock of what I have and what I can build. I hear heavy assault cruisers are popular with the Abyssal deadspace set. I still need to build my CONCORD ships, so I may have a ninja mining expedition or two planned for a wormhole coming soon. Or maybe I'll just get sidetracked again and start running data and relic sites. I probably need to get focused on a goal, but for now I'm just flying around taking in the sights.

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Final Look At The CSM 13 Election

Last week, CCP announced the results of the election for the 13th Council of Stellar Management. Real life, in the form of illness, interfered with publishing a timely post, but I still needed to write one to look back upon next year.

The year of the incumbent: In 2018, seven of the ten members of CSM 12 chose to run for re-election. All seven won. Here is a list.

Steve Ronuken (5th term)

Sort Dragon (4th term)
Aryth (3rd term)
Innominate (3rd term)
Jin'taan (3rd term)
The Judge (3rd term)
Suitonia (2nd term)

The Imperium Gets Half: A lot of people are freaking out about the fact that The Imperium managed to place five candidates on the CSM. Although the single-transferrable vote system used in the CSM voting favors the large null sec alliances by making sure they don't "waste" any votes, a lot of other factors contributed to the election result. But the domination does lend a handy hook on which to hang all the other themes of the election.
The power of the GSF ballot: The official ballot put out by Goonswarm Federation is the single most powerful force in CSM voting, and the 2018 election continued the trend. The turnout I was able to track in the voting file rose from 4273 ballots cast that contained some combination of the original six candidate slate in 2017 to 6564 ballots that had some combination of the 10 official candidates in 2018. To put the number into perspective, the official Imperium ballot made up 22.6% of all ballots cast in the CSM 13 election. Contrast that with the 22.3% of all ballots that mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy leader Sort Dragon, who won his fourth term this year.
The growth of the Imperium's share of the vote total was greatly enhanced by the coalition's growth as seen in its largest organization, Goonswarm Federation. In January 2017, two months before voting for CSM 12 began, GSF had approximately 21,000 members. When I looked at the beginning of June 2018, the number had swelled to 30,800. Still, the growth of turnout for the official ballot did increase faster than the size of the coalition.
The Creecher Effect: Even with a dominant share of ballots cast, Goonswarm Federation and The Imperium as a whole should only have won 3 seats at most. So, what explains the other two wins? The first involved the controversy and ultimate removal of Creecher Viprio from the ballot during the voting period.
Creecher, the capital director of Test Alliance Please Ignore, is a vociferous proponent of shield-tanked supercapital-class ships. Members of Pandemic Legion, an alliance heavily invested in armor-tanked supercapitals, moved to block Creecher's almost assured spot on the CSM, from which he could argue for improvements in shield capital and supercapital ships. So members of Pandemic Legion did a little digging and found logs on Pastebin showing Creecher using racial epithats in a private chat in-game, a violation of EVE Online's EULA and Terms of Service. Since the conversation occurred using CCP's communication channels, CCP could verify that the logs were not doctored and Creecher was removed from the voting.
As the STV system used in the election is a form of ranked voting, the computer algorithm used to tally the votes just ignored Creecher's votes and produced a list of the winners. The released voting files show that Creecher would have won a spot on the CSM. The candidate who benefited from Creecher's disqualification was The Judge, thus making four members from Goonswarm Federation on CSM 13.
The Ringer: The official Imperium ballot usually looks more impactful than it actually is with the inclusion of extremely strong candidates in the fourth and fifth slots. This year's candidate came out of one of The Imperium's smaller member alliances, The Initiative.. Brisc Rubal, a real-life politician from Virginia who works as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill for a maritime union, threw his hat into the CSM ring and treated the election like the real thing, including a slick, meme-filled advertisement. When the votes were counted, Brisc had 1990 first place ballots at the start of round 1 of the simulation. While not meeting the quota at the time, Brisc's vote total guaranteed victory as the 11th place candidate, Tikktock Tocktikk, only received 1661 votes when he was eliminated in the final round.
Vote buying: Rumor at Fanfest held that The Judge was attempting to buy his way onto CSM 13 by paying skill point farmers to vote for him. The rumors continued up through the end of the election, as a story emerged of The Judge buying approximately 550 votes. Did people have proof that The Judge bought votes? I don't believe so. And the vote total was suspiciously near the total required to knock The Judge into 11th place and award the final seat to Tikktock Tocktikk by 8 votes. However, even if The Judge did purchase that many votes, the rules allowed it.
A very settled election: Unlike last year when Yukiko Kamo skated at or below 10th place in every round, this year's election was basically settled after the first round. At the beginning of round 1, four candidates: Aryth, Sort Dragon, Jin'taan, and Brisc Rubal, had more votes than Tikktock Tocktikk would up with at elimination, thus securing the victory. Three other candidates, Merkelchen, Innominate, and Killah Bee, had guarenteed victory at the end of round one. The other three eventual winners, Suitonia, Steve Ronuken, and The Judge, rounded out the top 10 at the end of round one.
The lack of major voting slates: Apart from The Imperium, the only other major power that seemed to exert any effort to electing people was Guardians of the Galaxy. Due to their preferred candidate not making it to the final ballot, Pandemic Horde wound up voting for the GotG ticket of Sort Dragon and Killah Bee. Voters placed Sort Dragon and Killah Bee at the top of their ballots 1546 times, with the order reversed an additional 110 times. In contrast, the slate of Northern Coalition. of Killah Bee, Malakai Asamov, Sort Dragon, and Winter duFallen only appears 467 times. That's right, the final trickle that Killah Bee received from Sort Dragon of 1320 votes was nearly three times the support he received from his own coalition's official ballot.