Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fanfest 2018: Reflections

Sitting in the press room CCP set up in the Harpa is a reminder that Fanfest is not just an event for players to gather from all over the world to discuss serious internet spaceship business. Fanfest also gives CCP the opportunity to tell the world their upcoming plans not only for EVE Online, but other products as well. Fanfest 2018 was my seventh event. Thanks to Matterall, the host of Talking in Stations, I got to see a side of the event I never thought I’d see.

From an outsider’s perspective, EVE is a fascinating, but complicated game. Most of the journalists who attend Fanfest write with a non-EVE audience in mind. Players who have spent years playing EVE find trying to make EVE comprehensible to non-players a challenge. For every Brendan Drain, Steve Messner, and Lee Yancy writing about video games, there are others who do a parachute drop into a game convention and write the basic story about the business side of CCP. The “EVE media” fills an important niche in writing up the facts and player stories that the mainstream gaming media outlets don’t want to cover, even if the writers on the ground do.

Embedding with the gaming press also gave me a new appreciation for some of the work that goes on behind the scenes at an event like Fanfest. CCP Grendel’s team had to set up the press area and keep it staffed and stocked with drinks and meals so the journalists could stay on site and work, but also help arrange the time for each journalist to make their lives as easy as possible. Oh, and try to make the event journalists will want to come back and cover next year.

Moving on, I think the October layoffs hurt the event. A few things stood out. Did anyone notice that Hilmar didn’t sound quite right at times when he was on stage? People reported that the teleprompter malfunctioned at times. I think he still did better than some professional politicians I could name, but the effort probably came off as distracted.

The end of the keynote, and the replaying of the trailer, also came off a bit weird. Normally, CCP plays the trailer, the crowd erupts at the end, and the trailer runs again. This year, the trailer just played twice in a row.

Some things just ran differently due to CCP’s reduced staff levels. A team of volunteers lead by EVE Vegas veteran Greygal handled checking in attendees. I think the extended check-in period as compared to EVE Vegas really helped. I know that last October, between the horrible elevators at The Linq and trying to process everyone is such a short period of time through a confusing maze of lines, I got a little frustrated.

One thing I can’t comment on is the EVE TV coverage. I was on-site, so I couldn’t watch. I heard that the presenters this year were all players. For those wondering where CCP Mimic was, I can report she was very visibly pregnant. CCP Guard, on the other hand, was just running around like a maniac.

One tidbit I noticed was the presence of CCP Fozzie and CCP Larrikin everywhere I went. I attended two disparate roundtables, Lowsec/Faction Warfare and Markets, and both were present. CCP Quant recently left CCP and Larrikin took his place running the monthly economic report. Either CCP is short staffed, or CCP Larrikin is moving up the ladder. I hope the latter is the case, as Larrikin seems like a good guy.

One of the things people who go to Fanfest talk about is the chance to talk with the developers. Between writing the blog and attending the convention of seven years, I really do get to talk to a few devs. Then again, developers are people too who like talking with a whole bunch of people who appreciate their work. CCP Nomad stands out for this, as he bought me a beer after we abandoned attempting to get into the Tweetfleet karaoke event, even though he had no idea who I was.

I got the chance to talk with devs as varied as CCP Peligro, CCP Masterplan, and CCP Fozzie. Oh, and I didn’t get to talk with CCP Grimmi, but I did get to say hi as the Party at the Top of the World ended. Did you know he wrote or co-wrote some of Permaband’s songs? If you look closely at the footage, you can see him playing bass guitar.

I also got to see a couple of former devs. I met a ribbon-and-pin festooned Grideris, the community developer formerly known as CCP Logibro, at the final bar on the pub crawl. I didn’t go on the pub crawl, but the group I was with ate dinner there and stuck around all night. Have I mentioned I’m still puzzled as to why they let Grideris go? Six months after the layoffs, the move seems pretty short-sighted if you ask me, but what do I know?

The big name I got to talk with for quite a bit was the former CCP Quant. I found out last year he was a fan of the blog from when he was a player. We talked about a few things, with the others at the table, who just happened to be market traders, also asking questions. CCP Quant also gave me some advice on calculating price indexes, as I hope to include some in future economic analysis posts. The last I saw of Quant, a wild Seagull had swooped in and carried him off to the middle of town.

Now, to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The Triglavian Collective. The concept of putting in a tech testbed on Tranquility scares me just a bit. First, what happens if players don’t flock to the Abyssal complexes? Will CCP abandon the effort? I hope not, but I have a couple of concerns that could lead to players not running the content.

The first is the risk factor associated with running the sites. My concern isn’t the potential difficulty of running procedurally-generated sites facing off against challenging NPCs, all the while racing the clock to kill the boss before the pocket of Abyssal space collapses. I’m worried about the risk that players will pose as players emerge from the sites back into k-space. Here are some of the questions I have.

The first is, when players emerge, will they emerge on the beacon created by using the filament? Or will the players emerge within a sphere around the site. And if in a sphere, how big is the sphere? I can foresee exiting a site turning into walking into a gate camp, complete with a swarm of drones to decloak players using a ship with a covert ops cloak like a Stratios.

The second is selling the new transformed modules. Players cannot sell the new items on the market since so many sets of stats falling under the same item name will exist. Instead, the items will have to use the contract system. The big question is whether contract system will prove adequate to handle the sale of the new modules when Into the Abyss launches on 29 May.

At this point, I am not concerned with the ability of large null sec organizations to organize in the most efficient way to farm the sites. Large, well organized organizations can min/max anything. One of the selling points of the Abyssal space complexes is that CCP designed the content for short (15 minute) play sessions. What I hope to see is the casual players whom CCP designed the content for interested in engaging with the content. I just didn’t get enough information in Reykjavik to make an informed prediction. Reading the upcoming dev blogs and running the content on Singularity is key.

Finally, I’d like to mention one of the big reasons for attending these events: the players I meet. I won’t name them, mostly because I’d forget so many names. But also, because I talked to so many people, some of them might get blamed if I get something terribly wrong. Just figure that when I write about EVE, all mistakes are my own.

One of the big advantages of Fanfest over EVE Vegas is the more international flavor of the event. Besides the ever-present residents of the UK, I talked with players from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia. When I went on the tour of the south shore of Iceland, I even partnered up with someone from the Isle of Man. I have the feeling I forgot a couple of countries, although I don’t think Russian game journalists count.

As someone who pretty much plays the game solo, the opportunity to interact with so many players of different play styles helps keep me from developing a provincial point of view. I had the opportunity to rub shoulders from null sec alliance leaders to line members. I don’t think I ran into too many low sec players, but I heard about the upcoming changes in Into the Abyss from high sec players looking for more challenging solo content. I also heard from market traders and industrialists whose point of view I frequently overlook as I play. I have to admit my attitude towards the new Abyssal space content became more positive in the days after the keynote, even though almost everyone I talked to voiced a concern or two.

This blog post concludes my coverage of Fanfest 2018. EVE will feel the ripples from the events and presentations in the weeks to come as CCP posts dev blogs to let the players know more details about how Abyssal space and other new features will work. From a personal standpoint, I'll treasure my memories and can't wait to go back to that volcanic rock in the North Atlantic in 2020.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fanfest 2018: Answers

Prior to heading out to Fanfest, I came up with somequestions I hoped to find the answers to while in Iceland. I figured now that I’m back in the States, I should record the answers.

1. What is coming in the summer expansion? I think I surprised some people at Fanfest by stating the expansion would come out on 29 May. Anyone who follows CCP’s release schedule would know, however. But enough about my Sherlock Holmes impression. What is in the expansion, Into the Abyss?

The centerpiece is the introduction of content for the Triglavian Domain. The Triglavians live in a different type of space called Abyssal space (hence the name of the expansion). For now, players can only access Abyssal space using Tech 1, Tech 2, and pirate or navy cruisers. To enter Abyssal space, players will need to use a filament to create a gateway between the two types of space. To make things interesting, players will have to exit Abyssal space from the same point.

The complexes within Abyssal space will consist of three procedurally generated rooms, with the final room containing a boss and phat loot such as skill books, blue print copies, and filaments that lead into deeper layers within Abyssal space with better loot. Players can also obtain living organisms that can transform the stats of a limited group of items, such as shield extenders/armor plates, shield boosters/armor repairers, propulsion modules, and electronic like scrams, webs, and neuts. The stats can either increase tremendously, turn the object into a pile of scrap metal, or fall somewhere in between.

I want to warn everyone that not only is the Triglavian content still in development, but that the whole area of content is a technological testbed existing on Tranquility. People with a long memory may remember CCP introduced Walking in Stations to players in the lead-up to the Incarna expansion in 2011 as a work under development. I really hope events transpire a bit differently this time.

I guess I should add one important feature of the new modules created by the transformation process. Due to the tremendous amount of combinations of statistics possible, the new modules will not appear on the market. Look for the items in contracts. Did I mention that potential purchasers cannot see the stats of the items in the contract? Yeah. Expect lots of scamming to occur until some trusted third-party sellers emerge. Hopefully, CCP will make changes to the contract system quickly, or I don’t see great adoption of the feature, at least not initially.

Update: CCP Fozzie says people will be able to see module statistics in the contracts.

A second major piece of news is that the conversion of player-built and conquerable stations to faction Fortizars will finally occur on 5 June. After that date, Pandemic Legion will probably depart Providence, allowing Provibloc to come back to the region. Whether PanFam will strip the region of all the faction Fortizars or sell them back to Provibloc is currently a matter of speculation.

Before leaving the topic, I need to mention the change that will most affect players immediately after launch day. The planetary interaction user interface is receiving over 40 quality-of-life improvements to reduce the amount of clicking. Into the Abyss may go down in EVE history as the expansion that fixed PI.

2. Any advancements in the NPC AI? As mentioned above, Abyssal space is a tech testbed. Expect the Triglavians, Drifters, Sleepers, and rogue drones present in the complexes to behave a bit differently that the existing NPCs on Tranquility. CCP warned that three-way fights between Triglavians, Drifters, and players will occur. We won’t know the full scope of the changes until they appear on the Singularity test cluster in the upcoming weeks. Also, expect changes to the content in the following releases on 3 July and 7 August. Players will undoubtedly find a way to make the content a bit easier than CCP would like.

3. What is the status of Project Discovery? We didn’t really receive a status on Project Discovery at Fanfest. No news about new citizen science projects leads me to believe that the current search for exoplanets will continue for the medium-term (6-12 months) future. I expect the content to remain relevant with the lore at least until the developers finish up the replacements for system cyno jammers and jump bridges, if not player-built star gates themselves. More importantly from my perspective, players will continue to earn CONCORD ship blueprint copies.

4. Who’s running for CSM? From what I heard, some 57 players applied to run for positions on the CSM, of which 48 successfully navigated the application form and will appear on the ballot. Shenanigans are already occurring, but I will leave news about that for future posts.

5. What is the status of Project Foundation? This has me scratching my head. According to the press handlers, Project Foundation was indeed the development name for the mobile game, EVE: War of Ascension. I didn’t go to the roundtable, but I hung around with someone who was addicted to the beta version released to Fanfest attendees. But I still want to know why the name change from Project Aurora to Project Foundation.

6. What is the status of Project Nova? According to CCP’s CEO Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson’s presentation during the opening ceremony, Project Nova should release in months, not years. CCP did not show any gameplay footage, but players could sign up for news and access to the game on a website. Is a 2018, or even a Spring 2019 release possible?

7. Does the unnamed MMORPG under development exist? Nothing was said during the opening ceremony or the keynote, although I hear a game is in the initial stages of development.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fanfest 2018: The Opening Ceremony And Andrew Groen

The first day of Fanfest is in the books. First, a couple of general observations. Having a little advanced knowledge freely handed out by CCP is strange. Access to the press room where I can store my laptop and coat helps a lot. The press also got to sit up on the 4th floor balcony. I’m not so sure that was as much as to give the members of the fourth estate a good view as much as to make sure they don’t get in the way of the players who’ve journeyed to see the presentations.

Since I picked up my press badge on Monday, I could bypass the check-in and proceed directly to the press room for the briefing at 9:30am. Besides getting a heads-up on what CCP considered the highlights of the convention, we received a link to download the press packet. That’s right, no grabbing screenshots from the VOD this year.

A little before 11am CCP Grendel and his crew shuffled us off to the main hall for the opening ceremonies. We got to see the end of the practice session, which answered one of my long-standing questions: why do the doors always open late?

At the opening session, we saw the usual banter between CCP Guard and a streamer, with Bjorn Bee replacing Manic Velocity as the player presenter this year. The first bit of interesting news was that Andrew Groen is writing a second book and his Kickstarter campaign launched Thursday morning.
About 45 minutes into the presentation, Hilmar made his entrance to talk a little about what was going on with CCP. He started off by giving an update on the Serenity server. The future looks promising for a continued presence of EVE in China. Whether CCP retains its partnership with TienCity remains to be seen.

Next, Hilmar addressed the state of virtual reality gaming at CCP. He stated that CCP will continue to support Valkyrie, Sparc, and Gunjack, but that the market is not big enough to support continued development of new titles.

After the update about VR, Hilmar moved on to two games originally discussed at EVE Vegas: Project Aurora and Project Nova. The mobile game, as first reported by Venture Beat, was renamed from Project Aurora to EVE: War of Ascension. The game picked up a publisher, Kongregate, and players could download the latest version of the game and play in Harpa. I don’t recall Hilmar giving a release date, but the Venture Beat article indicated a 2018 release.

Hilmar began the segment about CCP’s first person shooters with a mention of DUST 514. He then moved on to discuss Project Nova. Hilmar reiterated that the game would be a PC-based game that does not connect to EVE Online. A piece of information CCP has communicated over time, but still news to people who don’t follow CCP closely. Hilmar also displayed a link to sign up for access to the game. In possibly the biggest news of the opening ceremonies, Hilmar announced the game would launch in months, not years. I expect the game to release sometime in 2018.

The next presentation of interest to EVE players was Andrew Groen’s announcement of his next book, Empires of EVE: Volume 2. The book is a direct sequel of Volume 1, picking up after the fall of Band of Brothers and ending in 2016. The good news for those awaiting the book is that Andrew says the book is already halfway done, with EVE screenshots provided by Razorien.

The Kickstarter for the book launched on Thursday and he found out from the audience at the end of the presentation that the $12,500 goal had already been reached. An hour after he left the stage, the amount had surpassed $30,000.

After attending the keynote and drinking a lot afterward, I decided not to publish my thoughts about the content right now. I think to fairly judge the keynote, I need to attend the Triglavian Domain and Ship and Modules sessions today and the Structures presentation tomorrow. Notably, we were told in the press briefing those were can't miss sessions. But the fact I'm not excited following the keynote is an indication I'm not really excited. Also, the audience response was really muted compared to past years.

I have to end the post because I have to get ready for the Triglavian Domain presentation, so I have to wrap up the post now. I'll try to write something coherent tonight as I don't plan on going on the pub crawl. Buses and Brennivin don't mix.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fanfest 2018: Last Thoughts Before The Show Begins

I'm about to leave the hotel to go to the Harpa and attend the press briefing. Ever wonder how all those articles about events at conventions are published so quickly? The press gets a briefing and then a few hours to write their stories. The press briefing for Fanfest begins at 9:30am and the keynote takes place from 1700-1800. Expect articles to appear either during the keynote or right after the presentation finishes.

I expect something big to come out of Fanfest, just based on the number of journalists running around. Yesterday's tinfoil is about as far as I intend to go until after the keynote, though. I should add a CSM candidate is pushing around a list of CSM candidates. I have refrained from publishing the link as the information has changed since I first saw it 36-48 hours before the information appeared on the EVE Online sub-Reddit. Who knows if the information will change again. At this point, I could wait for the official announcement. I will say if the list is correct, I only see 6 seats up for grabs, with 4 seats pretty much locked up.

Time to walk over to the Harpa now. If you can catch the live stream, I'd suggest doing so. I have the feeling those watching the stream will have a better sense of what is happening than those of us here on the ground.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fanfest 2018: Is The Schedule A Lie?

I got back to my hotel after a nice lunch and started browsing the internet. Within a few minutes, I found something that had me growling, "Grr CCP!" Jason Wilson of Venture Beat published a story about Project Aurora:
"Eve Online launched back in for PC in 2003, and it’s found a dedicated audience who wants to fly spaceships and deal with the intergalactic politics of megacorps. It even branched into VR with Eve: Valkyrie. But it’s never been small enough to hold in your hand. That’s changing thanks to a new partnership with Kongregate and PlayRaven: Project Aurora is now Eve: War of Ascension, a new MMO for iOS and Android devices coming later this year." [emphasis mine]
Now, according to the Fanfest 2018 schedule, CCP was renaming Project Aurora to Project Foundation, a name CCP submitted for a U.S trademark on 21 December, 2017. The event team even scheduled a round table for Friday from 1500-1600.

Screenshot captured 11 April 2018
So what is the truth? Did Wilson get the story wrong, or was CCP attempting to hide a big reveal during the keynote on Thursday?

I went with CCP's public story, even modifying last Friday's post with the information from the schedule. But renaming Project Aurora to Project Foundation never felt right, somehow. This is what I wrote back in January:
"The possibility exists that the trademark is for a service that would replace the late Eve Gate portal. Or perhaps CCP is developing a portal that will link all of CCP's games together, similar to Activision/Blizzard's Still, with the gaming press speculating about whether CCP has a new MMORPG under development, an informed bet is that Project Foundation is the name of the new game. The name does follow CCP's naming convention for games under development."
An alternate theory does exist. The original company CCP contracted with couldn't develop the game, so Kongregate stepped in and took it's place. Would that necessitate acquiring a new trademark? Possibly.

So now I really do want to hear more about this Project Foundation. Were my first instincts correct? Or is there a bit of turmoil going on behind the scenes making the first mobile game based on the EVE Online IP?

Fanfest 2018: A Sense of Scale

On Tuesday, I took a little break from internet spaceships and took a 10-hour tour along the south shore of Iceland. I was once told one has to visit Iceland to truly understand EVE. What I took away from the tour is the sheer scale of the landmarks and physical features of Iceland. People have noted that Icelanders tend to think and dream big. Here's a few pictures that show some of the inspirations for such dreams.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fanfest 2018: Checking In And A Little RMT News

I made it to Reykjavik and my hotel safe and sound. I didn’t buy any alcohol from the duty-free shop, just a giant candy bar which I used to keep myself awake long enough to record ISK prices on the black market. I think that CCP may have taken a large enforcement action this week which didn’t make itself felt until yesterday.

Player Auction ISK prices, 1 January - 8 April 2018

I don’t know if the general price hike I saw when I got to the hotel really was action by CCP or if a cartel formed that got together to do a little price fixing because profits really declined over the past 4-6 weeks. If I run into CCP Peligro, I’ll try to ask.

After taking a nap, I went over to the Harpa to pick up my badge and swag bag. As I got closer, I saw Iceland’s new cash crop: construction cranes.

Construction Cranes Everywhere
When CCP Falcon posted about construction keeping the parade from happening, he wasn’t kidding. The construction in Reykjavik has almost reached the Harpa, with the bus stop in front of the facility already blocked off.

This year, the early registration is only at the Harpa. Unlike past years, the temperature was a balmy 43F when I walked over with little wind. Not only paradise compared to past years, but a whole 10 freedom degrees warmer than Chicago.

Greygal In Charge

When I got to the table around 1600, there was no waiting. I didn’t expect much of an issue on a low traffic day like Monday. This year, Greygal and her team of player volunteers is handling check-in. I asked if she was glad for the extra days of check-ins to work out the kinks in the system. Unsurprisingly, she said yes. I’m pretty sure by the time most of the people come to check into Fanfest, the process will run a lot smoother than what I experienced at EVE Vegas.\

Of course, no event is complete without receiving a little swag. In addition to the traditional Fanfest t-shirt, CCP is handing out a star chart of the sky over Reykjavik the night EVE Online launched. I also received the Rifter USB hub that came with the Collectors Edition. I guess CCP had a bunch extra. In an environmentally-friendly move, this year’s bag is cloth instead of paper, with the Fanfest 2018 logo. I usually just throw the paper bags out, but I might keep this year’s bag.

Some of the contents of the swag bag
As you can see from the photo above, I have a media badge this year. Matterall from Talking in Stations fame was kind enough to let me have one offered to him by CCP. I’m not sure exactly what extra access I get apart from leaving my things in the press area and an invitation to a dinner Wednesday night. I’ll try to take advantage of the access, though.

I don’t thing this post was entirely coherent, but then again neither am I right now. I’m still suffering a little jet lag. I hope to have that problem taken care of by tomorrow.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Setting Off For Fanfest, Foreshadowing, And Sad Tidings

I'm about to leave for the airport and should wind up at the hotel taking a nap in about 12 hours. But before I go off, I thought I'd post a couple of items of interest.

The first is the appearance of a "Triglavian medium." The roleplay description from The Discourse calls the ship a "Singularity Cruiser." For those who want to know more, CCP Burger is giving a presentation from 1200-1300 EVE time on Friday. My personal belief is that the Triglavian Domain will feature prominently in the summer expansion.

The second item is a bit of a sad note. CCP Quant no longer works at CCP.

CCP Quant left a going away post on the official forums.

Hi guys,
Back in January I resigned from my position as Data Scientist at CCP, and now I’ve worked my notice. It’s been 6 years since I joined CCP and I can honestly say that EVE’s awesome player-base was a large factor in me staying for this long. Having played EVE so long, and sharing your passion for EVE Online has definitely made my job easier, but also in many ways harder.

I’ve tried unsuccessfully explaining to my friends and family how it feels to work for a video game company with so many passionate players, not to mention their unending love for graphs and data. Some of whom you get to meet at player gatherings, present to them on stage (clothed or not), be a guest on their tv/radio shows, and just be able to play a role in this awesome community. I’ve made some good friends amongst you guys, and am really going to miss you. A special love to my pub-crawling teams and every one of you I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to! Maybe I’ll see some of you one last time on fanfest this year, as a player.

Also, worry not for I have left the Monthly Economic Report in the good hands of CCP Larrikin!

-Ex-CCP Quant

Maybe I'll run into Quant at Fanfest and I'll get to tell him in person, but he'll be missed.

I'll try to post more than normal during my trip. For now, I have to pack up my laptop and head to the airport.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Questions Going Into Fanfest 2018

I land in Reykjavik Monday to attend my seventh Fanfest. Over the past two years the quality of the event went down as the organizers tried to make Fanfest more like EVE Vegas. Having travelled to Las Vegas three times for the “North American Fanfest,” I can state I liked the 2012-2015 era Fanfests much more than any of the EVE Vegas’ I’ve attended. The older events featured the debut of a lot of information destined for the upcoming summer expansions as well as longer term plans. Admittedly, those longer-term plans often either failed to materialize or disappointed when finally introduced. But the parade of developer presentations introducing upcoming content meant I didn’t have many blank slots in my schedule. Last year, I think I only attended a handful of events after the keynotes Thursday evening. If I had attended for the first time in either 2016 or 2017, I probably would not have made a second trip.

I have hopes this year’s event will see a return to its pre-2016 form. The latest content drops on Tranquility, despite having a major impact on game play, were mostly quality of life fixes. The EVE chattering class and gaming media alike really have no idea what will emerge from Reykjavik in a week’s time. I know I don’t have much of an idea. So instead of trying to present a preview of Fanfest 2018, I’ll just mention what news I hope to see everyone talking about afterwards.

EVE Online

CCP’s flagship game EVE Online should have the most stage time, even if the game doesn’t provide the biggest headlines. I just made a prediction, but I foresee the gaming media setting aside the future of a 15-year-old game in favor of the new shiny. The EVE chattering classes will no doubt disagree with the gaming media, with limited one-way sniping to follow. But enough with the predictions.

What is coming in the summer expansion? Last year, CCP stated it would continue with its five-week development cycle but would group new content into expansions when doing so made sense. With the dearth of news about truly new content over the past several months, I have the feeling CCP will announce a named expansion for this summer, launching on 29 May. The big question? What features will we see? Or am I giving CCP too much credit for its ability to keep secrets?

Any advancements in the NPC AI? Every time CCP introduces a new race (Sleepers, Drifters) or new PvE content (NPC mining fleets, pirate Sotoyos, Resource Wars), the artificial intelligence driving the NPCs takes a step up. With the latest lore storyline seeming to introduce a new race/NPC faction, the Triglavian Domain, I’m anxious to see what advancements has in store for us in the short-to-medium term future.

What is the status of Project Discovery? The latest iteration of Project Discovery, the search for exoplanets, is approaching the one year mark. CCP and MMOS have given updates throughout the year, but to see a presentation on whether players discovered a real world exoplanet. I also want to hear the future of Project Discovery. Will players keep searching for exoplanets or has MMOS presented CCP with a new citizen science project suitable for inclusion into EVE Online? The answer is kind of important, as Project Discovery is the source of player-flyable CONCORD ships. I’m sure market traders, at the very least, want to know.

Who’s running for CSM? CCP Guard tweeted out that 52 players submitted applications to run in the upcoming election for the 13th Council of Stellar Management. So far, only 23 potential candidates have posted a campaign thread on the official EVE Online forums. Not only do I want to know so I can start doing a little analysis, but I need to know so I can update my election site.

Other CCP News

Project Foundation. Introduced to the world as Project Aurora in October at EVE Vegas, Project Foundation is a mobile game CCP partnered with [INSERT COMPANY NAME] to develop based on EVE. I played an alpha version of the game at EVE Vegas in October. The battery usage alone led me to uninstall the game before the convention ended. Will CCP announce the release of the game at Fanfest? Or will CCP test the game at a second player event?

Project Nova. Project Nova is the code name for the FPS game CCP partnered with Sumo Digital to develop as the successor to DUST 514. Sumo Digital is also the company that purchased CCP’s VR development studio in Newcastle. CCP created a little buzz recently by sending out a survey to former DUST 514 players asking about Project Nova. I would not be surprised if CCP introduced some gameplay footage from the game.

The unnamed MMORPG. Players have noticed job postings from CCP indicating that the company is developing a new MMORPG using the Unreal Engine 4. When I saw the Project Foundation trademark in January, I hoped the name was related to the new game. At this point in time, I would just like a confirmation if a new game is under development.

CCP Falcon published a dev blog with more information about Fanfest yesterday. The schedule of events doesn’t excite me. Hopefully, my questions aren’t too ambitious.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In Search Of A New Mining Spot

My gameplay in EVE Online the past few nights focused on two things: Project Discovery and finding a new low sec mining system. Project Discovery is one of those nice to do things as I slowly inch my way toward earning a Marshal blueprint copy. Due to my cerebral accelerator addition, I won’t have the BPC before Fanfest, but I should before the Memorial Day’s weekend at the end of May. Looking at the material requirements for the CONCORD battleship leads to the necessity of finding a new low sec mining system sooner rather than later.

Marshal Building Materials

My current system has all the requirements I look for in a low sec mining system. Either a single station, or combination of stations, that provide a base 50% refining efficiency as well as a factory to build items with the refined ore. With high enough standings, NPCs don’t charge for refining ore and manufacturing costs are greatly reduced.  Factor in the lower system cost indexes typically found in low sec versus those found in high security space and I much prefer building things in low.

I prefer to mine in a system with a 0.1 or 0.2 security status as the ore is much better, especially in Minmatar and Caldari space. Part of my rationale for mining in low sec is the availability of ore in the asteroid belts that provides nocxium and zydrene. In Minmatar and Caldari space, the ore providing those minerals is hedbergite, which I prefer over the hemorphite found in Amar and Gallente systems due to the higher concentration of isogen found in the ore. But don’t feel sorry for the largest two NPC empires as 0.3 and 0.4 systems in Amar and Gallente space contain jaspet. As a Minmatar loyalist, I get irritated sometimes when I think about how kernite, the ore added to Minmatar 0.3 and 0.4 systems to make them more valuable, appears in Amar 0.5-0.7 high sec systems. Grrr CCP!

The reason for looking for a second low sec mining system is the real reason I should say, “Grrr CCP!” The same NPC factions I maintain good standings with to use their manufacturing and refining facilities also happen to send out mining fleets. The NPCs like to mine around their stations, especially the ones containing factories. The fact they do makes total sense as I also like to mine around their factory stations. Unfortunately for me, the NPCs operate in the EU time zone and I live in the US. When I go out every so often to check to see if the NPCs saved me some rocks, I often see the Angel Cartel sitting in space with nothing else around except the warp-in beacon. Without the backdrop of an asteroid belt, the NPC pirates look a little silly.

Using Dotlan helps to find suitable systems. The in-game map might work, but after 8 ½ years of playing EVE, I still don’t know how to use CCP’s product. Besides, after CCP nerfed the agent finder functionality, Dotlan is a much more reliable source of finding agents in a distant region. I narrowed down my areas of interest down to four systems based on my criteria along with additional information like the traffic flowing through the systems. New Eden has many more, but I already had some familiarly with the systems so had some idea of the geography.

I woke up a couple hours before downtime Tuesday morning and did a little sightseeing. I made sure I had a few options for refining, both from NPC stations and some local refineries who might take in a wandering stranger for a little bit of ISK. I checked on basic items like the distance of the asteroid belts to stargates. Citadels make the terrain potentially a little more hazardous, but no risk, no reward.

Out of the four systems, I had a mining ship and some gear in two of them. So of course, I chose one where I had no presence, not even a fedo. I once thought about establishing some planetary interaction colonies in the area, so that option is also available if I decide I hate myself that much. And if I’m feeling lazy, I might even do some ninja mining in the local wormholes.

I will need to set up a second low sec factory station. My existing base is conveniently located close to a lot of things besides asteroids, so moving out still doesn’t make much sense. Or maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to move a massive amount of minerals. I still have a few details to work out, but for now I think I will find myself spending a lot more time in low sec, especially after I return from Fanfest.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Allure Of Skill Points In EVE Online

Is the pursuit of skill points, not ISK, the root of all evil in EVE Online? Ever since the introduction of skill extractors and skill injectors in February 2016, one can make a compelling case the answer is yes. I don’t refer just to the explosion in the growth of the black market as players try to stretch the contents of their real-life wallets farther to purchase the most valuable commodity in New Eden. Ship balance changes lead to charges of bait-and-switch tactics on the part of CCP as many players shell out real world bucks in a quest to train to fly whichever ship is flavor of the month, only to see the ship eventually nerfed. We’ve even witnessed instances of unscrupulous corporation and alliance leaders pressuring new players into purchasing skill injectors off the local market they stock in order to make in-game wealth for themselves.

The growth of a black market site following the introduction of skill point sales
I thought I successfully escaped the skill point trap. I had no desire to extract any skill points from any of my characters. Some day in the medium-scale future, players will miss all those extracted skill points spent on a fit CCP nerfs into the ground.

Profiting from the changes by establishing a zombie farm also held no attraction. More politely called skill point farms, the zombie farmer creates accounts specifically to extract skill points from the characters to sell on the market. A very Blood Raider type of activity, but my characters are Minmatar and we have different religious rites. Besides, maintaining a sizable farm (some farms have over 100 characters) reminds me too much of planetary interaction. Sure, the activities are profitable, but I’d rather fly around in space.

Zombie farmers found themselves the stars of two controversies that placed CCP in a bad light in 2017. The first was the fiasco at Fanfest 2016 involving CONCORD ships. Last year’s event featured a giveaway to attendees of two player-flyable CONCORD ships a few months before the ships appeared as prizes in Project Discovery. Instead of giving the prize ships away one per event ticket, as per the previous practice, attendees received one shipper account tied to the email address of the account linked to the ticket. Once the news broke about the change in the giveaway, outrage broke out, especially as some of the larger scale zombie farmers started selling their ships on the markets making hundreds of billions in ISK.

Another, darker piece of news emerged from Reykjavik that impacted the zombie farmers. Since the introduction of alpha clones in November 2016, an exploit called “ghost training” emerged that ensnared people who just left the game and had no idea their skill points continued to accrue. When CCP asked for the skill points back, some of the farmers had to liquidate ships and modules, often at extremely unfavorable rates, to clear their accounts. The extent of the use of ghost training by real money trading operations became apparent in June 2017 when ISK sellers began dumping ISK onto the black market to salvage some of the value of their inventory before CCP confiscated their accounts.

The Ghost Training Dump-off of 2017

I thought I had beat the skill point trap. I didn’t find myself with the headaches associated with the riches zombie farmers made in selling skill injectors. And with all my characters with over 80 million skill points, spending 700-800 million ISK on a skill injector for 150,000 skill points provided no temptation at all. I was home free. Or so I thought.

Most MMORPGs run holiday events based around PvE, with EVE Online an exception to the rule for most of its existence. Over the past two years CCP jumped on the bandwagon, slowly working out the reward mix of SKINs, faction gear, and cerebral accelerators we know today. Cerebral accelerators, for those unfamiliar with EVE, are a type of experience point potion that works for between 1 and 6 days, depending on the type of accelerator and the character’s skill level in Biology. Did I mention the accelerator works while the character is offline?

I found myself hooked on cerebral accelerators once I discovered that I could get over 750,000 skill points by consuming the skill buffing items that dropped during each two-week event. I didn’t just get enough accelerators for one character. Not me. I ran the event sites until I had enough for all three of the characters I actively train. Almost 2.3 million skill points per event.

I told myself the events were fun. I used the excuse that the sites provided fresh PvE content I could do in low sec. For a couple of events, the excuses resembled reality. I had a character run sites exclusively in high sec, and the other in low sec. I compared the drop rates to see exactly the rewards CCP thought it had to offer players to venture into low sec. I had the situation under control, or so I thought.

The reality of the situation became all too plain in February during the Guardian’s Gala event. CCP introduced an NPC behavior new to seasonal/holiday events, if not to null sec PvE. The Guardian Angels in the event sites, when too far from player ships, would warp to a ping and then warp on top of the player ship. The basic tech 1 cruisers I liked to run the sites in no longer worked and I upgraded to a command ship, the Claymore. The necessity of upgrading to a more expensive ship also led me to spend the entire two weeks the event ran in high sec.

How far I had fallen didn’t strike me until Sunday night. The grind in the current event, The Hunt, became longer as the number of sites needed to run every day to reach the 700-point prize, a 3-day cerebral accelerator, rose from three during Guardian’s Gala up to five. The sheer tank on the Rattlesnakes the boss NPCs fly in The Hunt meant once again abandoning my trusty Arbitrator for a Claymore. For six days I shared the Claymore between my two main characters. When I looked in my shared cargo container holding the loot, I saw the value of the drops listed at over 2 billion ISK. But I didn’t focus on a number I’d never reached before doing PvE in EVE. I checked to see if I had enough accelerators to last until 24 April, when the next release hits, the current batch of accelerators expires, and presumably CCP launches the next event. Yes, I had enough accelerators, but they weren’t all the advanced type that gave +12 to all learning attributes instead of +10.

I’d become a skill point junkie. Looking back, I realized I’d put aside some of my plans to pursue my need for skill points. My dream of mapping all the low sec moons in the Minmatar Republic came to a screeching halt after finishing the region of Metropolis. I likely would have completed one of the other Matari regions by now if I didn’t become diverted. Progress in my quest to obtain the Marshal, the CONCORD battleship available by reaching level 500 in Project Discovery, slowed down significantly. I haven’t even reached level 400 yet. Most importantly, however, is my years-long dream of establishing bases throughout New Eden that I can clone-jump to, depending on what I wish to do each night. I have a nice little network of stocked stations in Heimatar and Metropolis, but I want to expand my little operation into other empires. Finding a new low sec system in which to mine and setting up shop in the Gallente COSMOS constellation are my current priorities.

Instead of chasing the opportunities in New Eden, I instead made the pursuit of skill points the centerpiece of my time spent playing EVE. I could feel the desire to play ebb as the grind became more of a grind I had to do instead of a fun activity to kill 10-20 minutes I couldn’t spend doing something more involved in space. So, I just stopped and haven’t run a site since.

Am I done with running event sites forever? Hardly. The payouts are way too lucrative to give up entirely. What I need to do is treat running the seasonal event sites like I treat mining. High sec mining is a boring and tedious activity that I only engage in when I must. Solo low sec mining gives the activity a little spice as planning, situational awareness, and a little piloting skill come into play. In the future, I’ll try to restrict my event running to low sec, if only to keep turning my mind into a bowl full of mush.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bless Online - Pay To PvE

One of the subjects that often swirls around the EVE media around the time of the elections for the Council of Stellar Management is war decs. The war declaration system provides a way for player groups in EVE Online to place a PvP tag on each other, so they can fight in high security space or avoid gate and station guns in low security space. The slight twist compared to other MMORPGs is that the tagging in the vast majority of cases is non-consensual. The situation often leads to entire groups of players just not logging into EVE for a week at a time. A game system that encourages players not to log into the game is sub-optimal and in need of change. Yet, that is the state of affairs in EVE today.

While many believe that the war dec system is an affront to those who prefer player verses environment play, another system currently is Asia debuts in North America and Europe this spring.  Bless Online, a PvP-centric title once eagerly awaited in the West, will limp onto Steam in May. I could go into details such as the game failing in South Korea or how during the western localization process the number of classes dropped from 8 down to 5. Instead, I will focus on the business model of the game and its direct impact on those who do not like to PvP.

Neowiz, the developers of Bless Online, last week announced the game will be a buy-to-play game with a cash shop. Pretty basic stuff. One of the items, however, quickly grabbed my interest and I did a quick search of the internet to make sure the information was correct. Part of the business model is to make players pay real life money if they wish immunity from PvP.

In my nine years of writing about MMORPGs on The Nosy Gamer, I don’t recall ever seeing the Pay-to-PvE model implemented before. I imagine the model resembles boiling a frog by slowly raising the temperature of the water in the pot. At the lowest levels, players will run around in zones worry free. Once past the newbie zones, players can obtain a consumable which grants some sort of PvE flag that lasts a limited amount of time, like 10-15 minutes. Players obtain the consumable either from the cash shop or a source in the game. Finally, once the player reaches the level cap, the PvE buff is only available through the cash shop.

I can’t honestly state the idea of players paying to exempt themselves from PvP shocks me. A couple of years ago I came up with an idea for changing the war dec system that allowed players and corporations to pay a fee to an NPC that would grant immunity from war decs within a certain area. Knowing EVE players, a small percentage of the player base would wind up paying for war dec immunity by whipping out their credit cards and purchasing PLEX to turn into ISK.

I should add that CCP does charge players a fee of 11% on all bounties and mission rewards for staying in NPC corporations are immune from war decs. Still, the chutzpah of the developers at Neowiz charging players for the ability to engage in uninterrupted PvE in a PvP-centric game is astounding. In the case of EVE, players just receive a reduced ISK payout for PvE activity. I much prefer a system in which a corporation could somehow immunize itself from war decs by not building structures than by purchasing immunity with real world money. But what do I know? Maybe charging players to engage in PvE is the new normal. And perhaps pigs can fly.

Friday, March 23, 2018

It's Fanfest Season Again

Wow, time flies! In a little over two weeks time I head to the airport for my seventh trip to Iceland to attend CCP's annual Fanfest held in the Harpa. Over the last few years, Fanfest served as the event that ended frantic days of CSM coverage and recharged my game playing batteries. This year, though, I expect to have a bit of a working vacation, as we don't learn the final candidate list until the event.
Fanfest starts affecting all facets of my life. For instance, I need to file my tax returns because I don't plan on returning until after April 15th. I also need to check all my electronics. I might buy a new laptop or tablet that is lighter than my current model. Plus, my current laptop cannot run EVE. I may need to send some mail to people while in Reykjavik. Did I mention I need a haircut?

This year I plan on doing a little sightseeing. I really need to go on a tour of the south coast of Iceland, probably on Tuesday. I see that I can also visit a lava tunnel in a 3-hour tour. Fortunately I don't need to make a decision now, but I have options besides EVE-related events.

Once again I intend on picking up the pace of my blogging while in Iceland, even if the posts don't involve more than a picture or two. I hope to meet new and interesting people and learn a few things some people will want to read about. But now I have to return to the real world and put thoughts of far away places away until tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2018

CSM 13 Election: Explaining The Single Transferable Vote

Starting with the election of the 8th Council of Stellar Management, CCP has used a modified version of the Wright single transferable vote system (STV) to conduct all elections. Before 2013, CSM elections were conducted using widely used First Past the Post (FPTP) system. Players would cast votes for a single candidate per account, with the 14 candidates receiving the most votes becoming either members of the CSM going to the summits in Reykjavik or serving as alternates. A simple to understand way of conducting an election.

The design of the single transferable vote system aims to elect candidates who are more representative of the players who vote in the election. For some background about STV, I'll turn to UK-Engage, a company that provides voting services to both public and private organizations:
"The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a form of proportional representation voting system which uses preferential voting, usually in multi-member constituencies. Candidates don’t need a majority of votes to be elected; all they require is a known ‘quota’, or share of the votes, determined by dividing the number of valid votes cast by the number of positions to be filled, plus one..."

"Under STV, an elector has a single vote that is expressed by ranking the candidates in preference from ‘1’ until the elector cannot choose between the remaining candidates. As the count proceeds and candidates are either elected or eliminated, this vote can be transferred to other candidates according to the voter’s stated preferences. In a Single Transferable Voting system very few votes are wasted; unlike other voting systems, particularly First Past the Post, where the votes of all but the winning candidate are wasted."

"STV is arguably a much more representative and inclusive voting system as it gives voters more choice than any other system. This choice puts more power in the hands of voters, rather than the political parties: under other voting systems political parties can more easily determine who is elected. Under STV some would say that an elected representative is much more accountable to the electorate than to their party superiors."
UK-Engage also listed several advantages and disadvantages to the single transferable vote system. Distilling the lists down to those that apply to EVE, they are:

  • Under STV fewer votes are ‘wasted’ In other words, losing candidates receive fewer votes and run-away winners receive only the votes needed for victory. This means that most voters can identify a representative that they personally helped to elect
  • When voters can rank candidates, the most disliked candidate cannot win, as they are unlikely to pick up second, third and lower-preference votes.
  • By encouraging candidates to seek first, as well as lower-preference votes, STV removes the need for tactical voting. Tactical voting is when a voter supports another candidate more strongly than their sincere preference to prevent an undesirable outcome.

  • A system allowing voters to rank candidates is prone to behavior termed ‘donkey voting’, where voters vote for candidates in the order they appear on the ballot. CCP fights against donkey voting by randomizing the candidate list for each vote.
Explaining how the Wright STV system works is a little challenging. Instead of confusing the issue, I will post an explanation from Wikipedia, followed by an example based on a CSM election. First, the explanation:

"The system uses the optional Droop quota (the integer value of the total number of votes divided by one more than the number of vacant positions plus one) and the Gregory method of weighted surplus transfer value of the vote in calculating a candidate's surplus transfer value which is then multiplied by the value of each vote received by the candidates whose votes are to be redistributed, as is the case in the Western Australian upper-house elections.

"Unlike the Western Australian upper-house electoral system, the Wright System uses a reiterative counting process that differs from the Meek's method as an alternative to the method of segmentation and distribution of excluded candidates' votes.

"On every exclusion of a candidate from the count the counting of the ballot is reset and all valid votes are redistributed to candidates remaining in the count initially at full value.

"In each iteration of the count, votes are first distributed according to the voter's first available preference, with each vote assigned a value of one and the total number of votes tabulated for each candidate and the quota calculated on the value of the total number of valid votes using the Droop quota method.

"Any candidate that has a total value equal or greater than the quota is provisionally declared elected and their surplus value distributed according to the voter's nominated subsequent preference. If the number of vacancies are filled on the first distribution the results of the election are declared with all provisionally declared candidates being declared the winner of the election.

"If the number of candidates provisionally declared elected is less than the number of vacancies and all candidates' surplus votes have been distributed then the candidate with the lowest value of votes is excluded from the count. The ballot is reset and the process of redistribution restarted with ballot papers being redistributed again according to the voters next available preference allocated to any continuing candidate. This process repeats itself until all vacancies are filled in a single count without the need for any further exclusions.

"The Wright System takes into account optional preferential voting in that any votes that do not express a valid preference for a continuing candidate are set aside without-value and the quota is recalculated on each iteration of the count following the distribution of the first available preference. Votes that exhaust as a result of a candidate's surplus transfer are set aside with the value associated with the transfer in which they exhausted."
Confused? I was when CCP first announced the use of STV in 2013, the dev blog instructed players to visit Wikipedia for an explanation. I needed an example before I truly understood how the algorithm worked. Having covered five CSM elections using the STV, I think I can do a little better than the generic mechanical explanation. In the below example, I will not only go through the mechanics, but introduce some of the situations that occur in a CSM election.

Example Election

In our example election, 8 candidates are vying for 4 seats. We can divide the candidates into 3 security zones, each with their own political dynamics.

Null security space: In our mythical election, we have three null sec voting blocs. They are:

Goonswarm Federation (GSF) - Goonswarm historically is the electoral powerhouse in CSM elections. In our example, GSF is running two candidates, Aryth and Innominate, winners in both the CSM 11 and CSM 12 elections. The Goon campaign team usually supports other null sec entities, so will finish off their voting slate by supporting candidates from fellow Imperium member The Bastion as well as Brave Collective.

The Bastion - Smaller alliances within the Imperium often attempt to win a seat on the CSM. In our example, The Bastion's Sullen Decimus, a member of CSM 11, will try to win a third seat for the Imperium. The Bastion made a deal with Brave Collective to put his name second on their ballot if The Bastion would do the same for Brave's candidate.

Brave Collective - Brave always seems to win whenever they officially back a candidate in a CSM election. In our example, Brave will run CSM 12 member Yukiko Kami. Brave's voting slate will mirror The Bastion's, except for putting Yukiko in the top slot and moving Sullen down to the second spot.

Wormhole space: The dynamic in wormhole space is a little different than in null sec. Instead of working within established major blocs, wormholers got together and two candidates, Noobman and ExookiZ, rose to the top. The backers of each candidate promised to put the other faction's candidate in the number two slot to ensure at least one wormhole candidate would win. Wormholers didn't care about candidates from k-space, but didn't want to waste the other two slots, so filled them in with Sullen Decimus and Yukiko Kami.

High security space: High sec is a very splintered, unorganized area of EVE. In our mythical election, two candidates representing two very different playstyles will run. They are:

High sec gankers: The high sec ganking community is very loud, very passionate, but very small. To maximize turnout, the famous ganker James315 is running in our election. Since Goonswarm's Ministry of Love often operates with the gankers in high sec, James315 fills the remaining three slots on the ballot with members of the Imperium.

High sec carebears: To say that high sec miners, mission runners, and haulers do not like high sec gankers is an understatement. But the residents of high sec, with the exception of the gankers, are a pretty apathetic lot. The turnout from those who enjoy PvE in high sec is usually very low. Additionally, in our example, they could only come up with two other candidates to vote for: Sullen because he did some mining stuff on CSM 11 and ExookiZ due to giving some presentations at Fanfest.

The Vote

Initial Vote
In our election, 1800 players voted. To calculate the number of votes required to guarantee election, known as the Droop quota, we use the following formula:

(Number of votes cast / number of positions + 1) + 1

The initial quota is 361. The number of votes for each candidate at the beginning of the round is below.

From the audit file

Innominate starts the round in last, but that won't last long. Aryth has 650 votes, which exceeds the quota. Aryth wins the first seat and the extra 289 votes he didn't need fall to the second candidate on the Goonswarm ballot, Innominate. At the end of the round, the tally is:

From the audit file

Since the voting does not have 4 winners, the algorithm removes the candidate with the lowest vote total, Sullen Decimus, and distributes his votes to the number two candidate on The Bastion ballot, Yukiko Kami.

Round 2

Round 2
The number of ballots is still 1800, which means the quota is still 361. The tally for each candidate at the beginning of round 2 is:

Beginning of round 2, from the audit log

Not much happens in the round. Once again, Innominate receives the overflow vote from Aryth to stay in contention for a seat.

End of round 2, from the audit log
Since the voting does not have 4 winners, the candidate with the lowest vote total, ExookiZ, is eliminated and his votes distributed to the number two candidate on the Wormhole #2 ballot, Noobman.

Round 3

Round 3
The number of ballots is still 1800, which means the quota stays at 361. The tally for each candidate at the beginning of round 3 is:

Beginning of round 3, from the audit file
The cooperation between the wormhole candidates worked, with Noobman exceeding the quota in round 3 of the voting simulation. Innominate, as was the case in the first two rounds, receives 289 extra votes from Aryth. With Noobman meeting quota and winning a seat, his 39 excess votes go to Yukiko, allowing him to surpass Lorelei's total. The tally at the end of the round is:

End of round 3, from the audit file
Round 4

Round 4
With the elimination of Lorelei Ierendi in round 3, the high sec carebear voting slate expires, reducing the number of ballots from 1800 down to 1570 votes. The result is a decrease in the quota from 361 down to 315.

Beginning of round 4, from the audit file
The reduction of the quota increases the trickle-down from the candidates who already exceeded the quota. So instead of Innominate receiving 289 of Aryth's excess votes, he receives 335 votes. Yukiko receives more votes from Noobman, increasing his total from 39 to 85 votes. Due to the decreased quota, Innominate exceeds the quota by 20, winning the third seat and passing those votes to Yukiko as well.

The final round, from the audit file
I'm not exactly sure why the algorithm indicates Yukiko had only 314 votes while the actions during the round show Yukiko should have 315 votes. Either way, Yukiko surpasses James315's vote total of 310 and wins the final seat.


Perhaps a game as famous for its complexity as EVE Online should use a complex voting system like the modified Wright single transferable vote for determining the winners of the Council of Stellar Management election. Others may argue that using a single transferable voting system adds needless complexity to an election that historically has low voter turnout. I just wish I didn't need to write a 2100 word essay in order to explain how the voting system works.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The CSM 13 Election Season Begins Monday

What I deem the EVE silly season, known to players who know about the event as the Council of Stellar Management elections, officially kicks off this year on Monday, 19 March. Once again, I plan to cover the event both here on The Nosy Gamer as well as on my election campaign coverage site CSM Wire. But before getting into my planned coverage, I probably need to cover what the heck a CSM is first.

The Council of Stellar Management is a body of 10 players chosen by the EVE player base to “represent” the players to the game’s developers. I used scare quotes because CSM members do not have the same type of power as a legislative body in a Western-style democracy. Think Beijing, not Westminster.

In other words, the CSM does not get to dictate the developmental roadmap of EVE Online. In some respects, the CSM acts as a player focus group, with the development staff bouncing ideas off the members. The most visible sign to the player base are the two summits between CCP and the CSM held every year in Reykjavik, Iceland. The CSM and CCP also hold weekly meetings where they also discuss issues, with the meetings recorded for later viewing by those unable to attend due to real life concerns such as work.

Unlike a normal focus group, the CSM maintains in contact with the developers year-round (or at least when the office isn’t vacant due to the staff going on holiday). In addition to text chat, the CSM has access to the developers’ Confluence, CCP’s internal wiki.

Where the term representative comes closer to the ideal of a representative body is when the CSM interacts with the players. The members of the CSM often act as a communications conduit between CCP and the players, explaining actions in ways that CCP’s messaging sometimes sugarcoats. Members also reach out to the player base looking for feedback on certain areas that CCP may explore in the future.

The members of the CSM are elected to a one-year term in an election based on a modified Wright single transferable vote system. Players with a subscribed account (aka Omega accounts) may vote for up to 10 candidates, with an algorithm determining the winners. Players can cast as many votes as they have subscribed accounts. Theoretically, a player running a 100 account skill point farm could vote 100 times.

This year, CCP changed the timeline of the election. Instead of holding the election in February or March and announcing the results at Fanfest, the official kick-off of the campaign begins at Fanfest with the announcement of the candidates. The application period only runs for five days, from 19-23 March. Firm dates for the election itself are not available, but the announced time frame is sometime in late April or May. Afterwards, the CSM will onboard during the traditionally quiet summer season when the CCP staff are off on holiday.

My planned coverage on the blog is to try to explain some of the details around the election. For example, the single transferable vote is pretty complex and a turnoff to a lot of people. As for CSM Wire, I will only include those candidates who post in the campaign thread on the official forums until the official candidate list is announced at Fanfest. Since the instructions to candidates suggests making a post, I hope candidates start posting as soon as they apply and don't wait until the Fanfest announcement. I currently don't plan on updating the site while I am in Reykjavik with new candidate pages. Deleting a page is easy. Creating pages takes some time, and I'd rather spend that time running around Iceland and talking to people I only get to see once a year.

Currently, 7 candidates have posted campaign threads, with several current CSM members yet to publicly declare. I expect to see a lot more people running this year, as many candidates are working behind the scenes trying to gather support. To everyone running, good luck!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Guardian's Gala 2018: An After Event Report

With the end of the Guardian's Gala event I thought I would try something a little different. Normally most people, including myself, give previews of the events. Hardly anyone ever looks back at the event. After getting one character up to the 700 point prize and another up to the 500 point prize, I think I can provide a valid perspective on the event.

First, an overall opinion. The Guardian's Gala event was not designed for newer players (or at least, newer players who had not purchased skill injectors). With the changes to the Alpha skill set and the ships they can now fly, sufficiently skilled Alpha characters could run the sites. I think their best choices were shield-based ships like the Drake and Cyclone, with the Gila a viable option for returning players with the skills. I’m not sure how many new Alpha characters have the skills to fly the Gila well.

I used a Claymore, a Minmatar command ship, to run the sites. I chose the Claymore because, in addition to the ship’s inherent tech 2 resist profile, the ship gives bonuses to both missile rate-of-fire and active tanking. I also chose to fit two command burst modules to enhance the ship’s defenses. While the event NPCs never broke through my shields into armor, I did go through a fair amount of command burst charges and Cap Booster 400s powering my Xtra-Large Ancillary Shield booster. I also did not lose a drone during the event, with my drone repair costs totaling under 50,000 ISK. To end the breakdown of consumables, I used approximately 50,000 Nova heavy missiles. I chose to go with the tech 1 missiles because at the beginning of the event I made the determination that the event was not worth using tech 2 or faction missiles to complete. I might have used tech 2 missiles if I ran any sites in low security space, if only to clear the sites faster to avoid interlopers attempting to kill me.

Now for a couple of details I did not learn from my testing on Singularity. First, warping into the sites at 50km and then aligning at speed to a celestial produced an interesting response from the NPCs. The frigates would warp to a perch and then warp down on top of my ship. The cruisers, on the other hand, would start to slow boat toward my ship.  If I could fire fast enough, I could kill the initial cruisers in the site before the frigates could reach me to apply webs. Next, I found out that when the loot ships appeared on grid within 100km, the best course of action was to turn around and close the range, as the ships would not leave grid to bounce closer. Turning around also gave me a chance to kill more frigates, which upped the number of event NPCs I could kill in each site. The last change involved other players warping into the site. The player closest to the structure would gain the most aggro to the NPCs. At first, I would enter the sites at 100km to make the NPCs have to travel farther on the theory that would mitigate the amount of damage I took. That plan worked but left me vulnerable to having a site swiped. The move to warping in at 50km was an effort to counter the stealing gameplay.

CCP also instituted a couple of balance changes to the event sites. The most noticeable occurred on the third day of the event. Once the boss ship with the loot was defeated, the NPCs would pack up and leave the site. Before the change, the NPCs would continue to web the ship down and try to kill you. The change to the NPCs giving up and warping off was very welcome and led to quicker completion of the sites.

The next area to look at is the event prizes. The event gave players prizes for reaching 100, 300, 500, and 700 event points. The minimum number of sites one could run to get to the 700 points was 42, or three per day if one logged in every day of the event. I thought the prizes for the first three plateaus were appropriate for the level of work. At 100 points was a new type of firework, which was also a drop. I wound up with 5900 of the fireworks. At 300 points, CCP rewarded players with an advanced skill accelerator with granted players a +12 bonus to all learning attributes for 24 hours (48 hours if the character trained Biology V). These advanced accelerators, along with the standard accelerators that only provide a +10 bonus to all learning attributes, also dropped during the event. The premier reward was a new type of implant that gave a +5% boost to web range. These implants dropped in the VIP rooms, which only spawned outside of high sec. For high sec players, the only chance to get one of these implants was to reach 500 event points.

The 700 point reward, a 72-hour accelerator that granted a +10 bonus to all learning attributes (144 hours with Biology V), I felt was optional. In high sec, the drop rate was about 2%, so if one dropped, the final reward was a bonus for either an alt or selling on the market. If CCP wanted a prize that people wouldn't feel required to grind towards and burn themselves out, I believe they succeeded.

One of the most popular questions about events like the Guardian's Gala is whether the rewards make the event worth running. Over the course of the event, I completed 92 event sites in approximately 15 hours. I consumed a little over 10 million ISK worth of command charges, cap charges, and heavy missiles during the two weeks of the event. Those are the costs. Now for the rewards.

Something I failed to notice during testing on Singularity is that the "boss" NPCs granted bounties. The Guardian Angels battlecruiser paid 250,000 ISK while the battleship paid 400,000 ISK. Surprisingly, the battleships appeared 57.6% of the time. All told, I received 31,100,000 ISK in bounties during the event. Obviously, the bounties are present just to recoup ammunition costs.

The drops are where the real ISK is made. The boss NPCs dropped four types of items in high sec: 30-minute stat boosters, fireworks, SKINs, and learning accelerators. I didn't keep track of the booster drops, as I don't use them and didn't think about doing an after-event post until the Guardian's Gala completed. I'm going to estimate a 40% drop rate, as I seemed to receive either a booster or an accelerator with each event site completed. I received 5900 of the new Angels Arisen firework for a 64% drop rate. Fireworks, while cool, don't provide too much ISK.

Ship SKINs (or Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings) do bring in some ISK when not just activated for personal use. I received 55 unique SKINs and 88 total SKINs. At this point, I wonder if I just misplaced 4 SKINs as what I have currently listed is a 95.6% drop rate.

I'm not sure why some of the icons are different. Perhaps they were added for this year's event. But when adding the value listed above to the bounties for completing sites, the ISK/hour was only 14 million ISK/hour.

Before moving on to accelerators, I want to mention the implants that dropped in the VIP rooms. Players running the event only in high sec had access to the 5% web boost implant available as the 500 point reward. Yesterday, the implant sold for an average of 53 million ISK. That pushed my ISK/hour up to 21 million ISK/hour.

Skill points are the most valuable commodity in EVE, so the fact that the learning accelerators bring in the most ISK should not come as a surprise. I received 55 standard (+10 bonus) and advanced (+12 bonus) accelerators for a 59.8% drop rate. I also received 2 of the 72-hour Serpentis accelerators for a 2.1% drop rate. Add in the 2 advanced accelerators and 1 Serpentis accelerator I received as event rewards, and I had a lot of accelerators.

I am currently consuming my remaining advanced accelerators and plan to finish my advanced training period by consuming the Serpentis accelerators at the end. I wound up selling 15 of the standard accelerators to buy orders in Rens for 11.5 million ISK each. The additional 172 million ISK pushed my ISK/hour up to 32.5 million ISK/hour.

The additional boost to my training is the real reason I run these events. Keeping characters training with skill boosters throughout the period nets over 750,000 skill points. I am doing that for two characters, with a third joining about 10 days into the event. Since all my characters currently training are over 80 million skill points, I would have to purchase 5 large skill injectors in order to get 750,000 skill points. I figure that over all three characters I will receive approximately 13 large skill injectors worth of points. Buying 13 large skill injectors in Jita would cost 10.5 billion ISK using yesterday's average price of 808 million ISK. I don't know of too many activities in EVE where I can get that type of cash for only 15 hours of work.

For myself, I find events like the Guardian's Gala worth the time reward wise. I will say I was sick of running the sites by the end. After the fascination with the challenge of the new NPC behavior wore off, a PvE grind is a PvE grind, no matter what game I play. For the next event, though, I need to limit my ambitions. Getting all the skill points possible is hard to resist.