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.

Friday, June 8, 2018

I'll Get To Abyssal Space Eventually

At Fanfest, I had a conversation with CCP Fozzie where I told him I probably wouldn’t participate in the Abyssal space content for the first couple of months. At the time, I though all my attention would focus on building CONCORD ships, with the Marshal at the top of the list. I still haven’t run a site on Tranquility, but not because I’m busy mining in low security space. I’m currently taking an online introductory Python class offered by MIT. I’m getting all the solutions and received a perfect score on the mid-term, but the coursework is taking up more time than expected.

Having real life get in the way of gaming probably will help in the end. I planned for the lack of time, which is one of the reasons I chose to jump into Elder Scrolls Online instead of trying out Bless Online. From all reports, Neowiz tried to copy Funcon’s launch of Anarchy Online. Apparently, the launch of Bless went over so well, Guild Wars 2 experienced a massive influx of new players.

I felt pretty smug about the choice until I heard Zenimax slipped spyware into ESO. The game company claimed they never activated the code, but why was the code in the client in the first place? From what I heard, the code performed a location tracking function. But what else did it do? EVE has had a geo-tracking function based on IP address for years designed to let players know if someone else had accessed their accounts. The IP addresses are available to players in Account Management. I wonder what else was in the spyware.

That returns me to EVE. My EVE related activities have fallen into three main types. The first is updating my CSM Wire site for the election running through downtime next Monday. I wish candidates would stop moving between corps and alliances. After CCP announces the results, I’ll reconfigure the site to reflect the makeup of the CSM and turn my attention towards other things until next year.

The second is the continues monitoring of the black market and botting. The ban wave that began on 23 May was amusing to watch as CCP began deleting the characters involved in market botting. My monitoring activities require recording the price of PLEX, skill injectors, and skill extractors, and that routine changed with the end of the CREST and XML APIs. I had used a third-party site that allowed me to do a quick copy/paste into my spreadsheet, but the site changed and no longer offers the information I need. After asking around, I now just log into a trade alt in The Forge and record the daily market data from the game client. Maybe when I finish my coding class, I’ll play around with the ESI and save myself a few clicks each day.

First recorded deletion of market bots

My final type of EVE activity maybe doesn’t really qualify as a real EVE activity. When I get a block of an hour or so of free time, I hop on Singularity and lose ships running tier 2 Abyssal sites. I’m convinced the sites have gotten harder since I first started running them. I can run the tier 1 sites just fine in a tech 1 cruiser. But I would really like to be able to complete a tier 2 site. I may give up and just borrow a fit or two and see how they do. Those pairs of Triglavian ships are tough.

I eventually will have time to play video games again. I only have two more weeks left in my programming course. I also traditionally take a couple of weeks to a month playing another MMO a lot after the CSM election season. But given what a chore I find playing ESO, I may cancel my sub and just play EVE. The whole spyware drama makes that choice a lot easier. But tonight I don't have any coursework to do, so perhaps I'll finally run some data sites and get some filaments for when I have time to dive into Abyssal deadspace.

Friday, June 1, 2018

CSM 13 Elections - A Collection Of Interviews

The election to populate EVE Online's 13th Council of Stellar Management will take place starting next week on 4 June, ending on 11 June. For those interested, I collected some information about the candidates on a Google site called CSM Wire. Each candidate has a page, with the links running down the left-hand site of the site.

I know that some people enjoy listening to podcasters doing interviews with the candidates. This year, 18 of the 48 candidates appeared on at least one of EVE Online's many podcasts to talk about the election. Since a lot of people like listening to podcasts, I thought I'd also post the list here.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Punkturis Wins!

I don't normally dive into real world politics on the blog, but an election took place on Saturday I thought might interest EVE Online players. Iceland held its municipal elections, and in the capital city of Reykjavik, the Independence Party led the way by winning 8 seats.

Why should EVE players care? Because in Iceland, the voters vote for a political party's list of candidates, which are then distributed proportionally. And the sixth candidate on the list of the Independence Party was Katrín Atladóttir.

"In their natural habitat, programmers are nocturnal creatures that prefer to be left undisturbed"

Katrín Atladóttir is better known to EVE players as CCP Punkturis. Katrin's last day at CCP was 30 April, or a few weeks before the election. Following on the heels of CCP Seagull announcing she was leaving CCP on 26 April, some decided that CCP was doomed and everyone was leaving a sinking ship. But for Katrin, a new career in politics awaits. Now, her new office is in Reykjavik's city hall.

Friday, May 25, 2018

EVE Online's Unique Selling Point: Inventory Space

CCP did not design EVE Online with the free-to-play business model in mind. Playing other MMORPGs always reminds me of EVE’s unique selling point. The feature that makes EVE unique is not its player-run economy, time-based training system, harsh death penalty, or single-shard nature. No, other games have many, if not all, of those features. Instead, what makes EVE unique is the nearly unlimited inventory space for each character. I don’t know of any game that allows players to hoard as many items as EVE. With the fall of the subscription system for MMORPGs, I doubt we ever will again.

The inspiration for this post is my third attempt to play Elder Scrolls Online. Most level-based games have a dead spot about half-way toward the level cap, as if one team of designers started building the game from level 1 upwards while a second team builds the game from the level cap down. Someplace in the middle is a dead spot where the two teams meet and don’t quite mesh the content together smoothly. A player just must grind through with the hopes the game is not the second coming of Age of Conan and the blight that occurred after leaving Tortage. Unfortunately, in ESO I hit the dead spot around level 8 and have yet to get past level 16. In my current playthrough, I am at level 12 and am ready to throw my keyboard out the window.

Perhaps my biggest pain point in the latest attempt to hit level 50 is lack of inventory space. At level 8, I not only had full bags, but a full bank as well. I desperately needed to make some bags, but I didn’t have the ability. Since I fully intend to hit level 50, even if it kills me, I broke down and spent $40 for a three-month subscription.

Paying money makes life so much easier in ESO. The first benefit is subscribers (called ESO Plus membership) receive double the bank space as those who just choose to buy the game and not subscribe. The difference between 70 and 140 bank slots is huge. On top of that, subscribers get access to a special bag that holds all of a character’s crafting materials. My bank situation went from using all 70 slots to only using 14 out of 140 inventory slots. I’m used to paying for extra bank slots with real money, but I never experienced such a change in a game like I did when I subscribed to ESO on Saturday.

The purchase of inventory space, a staple of games with cash shops, is unneeded in EVE. Players can store 1000 stacks of items in any station. But that is just the beginning. Players can then purchase containers, place them in the station, and then fill up the containers with additional items up to the volume capacity of the containers. Notice I stated items above. Ships do not count as items and have their own storage space. I assume that the capacity is 1000 ships, although I have never run into the cap.

Did I mention that, unlike most games, players in EVE do not access a global inventory system? While inconvenient if the shiny module wanted for a ship fit is 60 systems away, EVE's inventory system means players can store 1000 stacks of items in each stations. As an example of how much inventory space is available to new players, let's use the system of Lustrevik. Located two jumps away from one of the Minmatar starter systems in the Heimatar region, the system is home to 9 NPC-owned stations. Nine stations represents 9000 inventory slots, not including ship storage. And if 9000 inventory slots is not enough, a player can travel to the next door system of Eystur which contains 6 NPC-owned stations and an additional 6000 inventory slots. And did I mention that I have yet to run into a stacking limit for things like ore and minerals? Those used to limits of 100 or 200 item stacks will find the ability to have a stack contain one million items mind blowing.

EVE Online is a pack rat's dream game. While most games force a constant need for inventory management on players, CCP took that worry away. Instead of trying to keep space open for the next shiny drop, players in EVE have the challenge of trying to keep track of all their stuff. I wish I could find another game with the same design mindset, but I don't think modern business models will ever again allow for the discarding of such a basic source of sales from players. Which, to my mind, is a shame.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Rewards Of Reaching Level 500 In Project Discovery

On Saturday I finally reached level 500 in Project Discovery, EVE Online’s mini-game involving searching for exoplanets in the real universe. I have not used any of the blueprint copies given out as rewards for taking part in the citizen science project, but now is a good time to review if the journey was worth the rewards.

First, how much effort did I put into reaching level 500? I didn’t keep close track of time but looking at my wallet transactions shows I spent approximately 115 hours over the course of 156 days, or an average of 45 minutes a day. Overall, I managed to do over 4 levels an hour. I guess I should add that for at least the last 400 levels I received the maximum reward for each pattern evaluated due to my accuracy rate. When I reached level 500, my accuracy rating was 99%. I would expect the effort to take longer with lower ratings.

The rewards for playing Project Discovery fall in three principal areas. The first type is the ISK reward received for evaluating a pattern. These rewards are based on the player’s accuracy rating, with a maximum payout of 99,000 ISK for a player with a rating a little over 98%. The reward is deposited into the player’s wallet every 5 minutes. At level 500, I had collected a total just over 1.5 billion ISK in Project Discovery rewards.

The second type of reward occurs with the completion of each level. For the first 24 levels, players receive an Exoplanets SKIN, with the reward increasing to 2 SKINs per level at level 26. Exoplanet SKINs exist for each ship built by the four main NPC factions (Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, Minmatar). Overall, I received 975 SKINs (227 unique) worth 560 million ISK at the time I completed level 500 according to the price evaluator in my hanger.

Project Discovery also grants rewards for reaching certain levels. These rewards range from clothing (including a hat) to CONCORD ship skins to 1-run BPCs for the Pacifier, Enforcer, and Marshal. The clothing only was valued at 44 million ISK. The Pacifier and Enforcer SKINs rewarded for reaching levels 75 and 150 only were worth 9 million ISK. The blueprint copies of the Pacifier (125 million ISK) and Enforcer (275 million ISK) brought in more, but weren't amazing. The big money is the Marshal BPC. Looking on the contract market, the blueprint copy brings in a little over 7 billion ISK.

I don't plan on liquidating everything I acquired from playing the Project Discovery mini-game. My next steps are to inject the SKINs into my two main characters and then work on building the CONCORD ships. But I figured that people solely interested in ISK might want to know the possible rewards for reaching level 500. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Catching Up On Things

Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Okay, sometimes playing video games takes precedence over writing. But writing about video games requires playing them, right? Still, real life does get in the way. Instead of composing four or five posts, this post will have to do.

The real-world project, apart from work, which will cut into my gaming time is I decided to get serious about learning Python. I signed up for an online course that is part of a three-course series that leads to a certificate that will look good on my resume/CV/LinkedIn page. My hobbies often spur me to learn about subjects I then translate into work skills. Why not do it one more time?

One doesn’t need to know a scripting language to do the types of economic analysis seen on the blog, though. My latest EVE-related project involves creating my own price indexes to help evaluate changes CCP makes to the game. On Saturday I finally created a Google sheet that recreates the Consumer Price Index found in some of the older Monthly Economic Reports. I tried using the MER released in April, but the file was missing information about tech 3 items. Now I just need to learn how to make decent looking graphs in one of the Google programs, so I don’t need to export the results into Excel.

I hear a lot of hype surrounding a game coming to Steam this month called Bless Online. Not seeing the game released yet, and wanting to play something with a humanoid avatar, I decided to update a game I hadn’t played in two years, Elder Scrolls Online. For some reason I woke up at 3:30am Sunday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I created a new character and started playing. I think I played 4-5 hours, which I never did before. I heard the game changed over the years, and so far, I think for the better. I’m still on the newbie island, and every time I create a character, I never reach level 20. With my goals in EVE, the same fate likely awaits my new character as well.

Returning to EVE, I forgot about the big 15th year anniversary. Hard to believe with the latest event putting a beacon in every system I travel through, but after awhile all beacons look alike. I only managed to fill my Procurer’s ore hold with hedbergite once before company arrived in system Saturday night. The rest of the time I spent playing Project Discovery. I’m currently on pace to reach my goal of obtaining the Marshall blueprint copy before the launch of Into the Abyss on 29 May.

Finally, I did a little work on my CSM Google site, CSMWire, adding the latest interviews of Xenuria, Mawderator, and Sullen Decimus conducted by Kael Decadence of The Mind Clash Podcast. Just in time, too, as CCP Guard a dev blog announcing the dates of the CSM 13 election as 4-11 June. CCP Guard was kind enough to link to CSM Wire in the dev blog, which means I should see some traffic coming soon. I also need to watch social media and the official forums for candidate activity for the next month, so I know when to update the site.

Hopefully I can tear myself away from the class work and play some video games. Last night I did all the homework for the week, but I discovered I enjoyed working with python. I may need to resist the urge to race ahead so I can work on other things.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Outside Abyssal Space, Life Continues

A lot of people seem intrigued by the new Abyssal deadspace zones CCP is introducing to EVE Online in the Into the Abyss expansion coming on 29 May. Perhaps the reason is the DDoS attacks last week only hit Tranquility, so players went and took a peak at what is on the test cluster. Or maybe the usual suspects just like to whine about change. I try to keep an open mind, which is why I will test on Singularity over the coming weeks. I did run a site Sunday night. If we learn more from failure than success, I am a lot smarter player now than before.

I only ran one site because life doesn’t stop on Tranquility, the only shard that counts. I have goals to achieve, deadlines to meet, and ships to build. My overarching goal is to get myself back to playing mostly in low sec, although I may wind up doing some ninja mining in w-space to meet my shipbuilding goals. I completed one of my key goals, access to a second low sec factory station. Access is probably the wrong word. To minimize build costs, I only build in NPC factory stations in which I have standings with the NPC corp of 6.67 or greater. I performed the standings grind in 8 days by running mining missions in low sec. I know, apart from the Loki that dropped in to try to gank me, pretty boring stuff. As a bonus, I did pull in over 160 thousand loyalty points, two +4 learning implants, and some intelligence on the residents of the area.

With the factory situation set, my next step was setting up pings in the new mining system. I’m a little less risk averse in my old age and now use an interceptor to set up perches and other points so I can stay aligned while I mine. While the bookmarks I have around each system work well so far, I need to set up one or two more using the interceptor around each asteroid belt, then I can settle down and bookmark cosmic signatures for additional spots. Give me a couple of months and I’ll have a home-field edge when avoiding a gank attempt.

Of course, mining is pointless if I don’t have a use for all the ore I mine. I usually come up with a ridiculous battleship to build, and this year’s effort is constructing a Marshal.  Technically I began the project in early December, but the plan was to have a CONCORD battleship sitting in my hanger by the end of 2018. I’m a little ahead of my goal as Wandering Rose is currently at level 458 in Project Discovery, only 42 levels away from receiving the blueprint copy. The last time I checked, she had earned over 1.1 billion ISK in Project Discovery rewards which should pay not only for the tech 2 materials needed to build the battleship, but hopefully the Pacifier and Enforcer as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I probably will spend more than a few hours on Singularity over the next few weeks, and perhaps even months, researching the new Triglavian content and its evolution. But for now, I have a few billion ISK worth of ships to build and I want to finish up that task before diving into the new content.

Friday, April 27, 2018

CCP Seagull Flies Away And Weirdness At Daybreak Games

CCP released the new Abyssal Deadspace content on Singularity yesterday. Instead of joining in on the fun, two stories are distracting me.

The first story is the news that EVE Online's Executive Producer, Andie Nordgren, is leaving CCP to return to Sweden and work for Unity Technologies.

Nordgren announced on the official forums she will leave the company sometime in June, so I still have time to write a proper post before she leaves. I'll just note that Nordgren's initial job with CCP involved working with Carbon and the Core Technology Group and she leaves to work on the Unity game engine. For those interested in Nordgren's background before becoming EVE's Executive Producer, I wrote a little piece back in 2014.

Going from sadness to madness, what is going on with Daybreak Games? Starting from the premise that Daybreak Games is under threat of US sanctions against Russia due to the company's ownership by Columbus Nova, a subsidiary of the Renova Group owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, the situation got weird. A spokesperson for Daybreak told MassivelyOP Tuesday that Columbus Nova never owned Daybreak, and that years of press releases and privacy policy statements players agreed to were incorrect.

On Thursday, Daybreak laid off an estimated 70 employees as reported that Daybreak ownership was shopping the studio around for sale. The report singled out Intrepid Studios as a serious suitor. As a former EQ2 player, I plan on following the story.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Abyssal Deadspace:

CCP has not published a dev blog about how Abyssal space will work, but we know three basic mechanics I believe will heavily influence the acceptance rate of the content.
  1. Players must exit from Abyssal space at the same place they enter.
  2. While in Abyssal space, local does not function.
  3. Other players can probe down the exit.

From a science-fiction and lore standpoint, the mechanics make perfect sense. When opening a gate into another type of space, of course you need to use the same gate back. Also, if wormholes are detectable with probes, then so should this other type of space. So far, so good.

From a game mechanics standpoint, the situation resembles jumping from high sec to low sec with a blinged-out ship without bothering to scout the other side. If necessary, I can dual-box, letting my leadership/industrial character fly a Stratios through the content while my main sits outside cloaked up in a Falcon. But I think the purpose of Abyssal space is to provide new, dynamic PvE content to casual players. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone has two or more Omega accounts.

Comparing the exiting of Abyssal space to jumping into a gate camp gives some parameters to test on Singularity once the feature appears on the test server. Here are the factors I plan on investigating.

1. Where can a player use a filament to open a deadspace site? I heard from other attendees at Fanfest that some of the restrictions on where a player can use a filament are still up in the air. CCP stated that players can run the sites in any system, but I highly doubt CCP will not issue restrictions on where players can open an entrance to Abyssal space within a system. I assume sites cannot use filaments near citadels, NPC stations, and star gates. My question is whether will restrict filament use to within 4 AU of a planet. If so, then probing down exits to Abyssal deadspace pockets in a system becomes much easier.

2. Will the Abyssal sites show up as cosmic anomalies, cosmic signatures, or neither in the probe window? As the ease of hunting down Abyssal deadspace zones will influence where, when, and whether PvE players will run the sites, how the beacons appear in the probe scanner window is key. The description of the exit beacon announced at Fanfest highly suggests the sites will not show up as cosmic anomalies. Cosmic anomalies not only automatically identify that classification of site upon a player entering a system, but do not require the use of probes to scan down.

That leaves treating the Abyssal deadspace sites as either cosmic signatures or mission instances. I lean towards believing CCP will choose to see Abyssal space like a wormhole, if only for lore reasons. But I only lean that way, as mechanically Abyssal space will work like receiving a mission from an agent in space. Just as accepting a mission from an agent creates a mission instance, activating a filament will create an instance of Abyssal deadspace. From a development standpoint, if the Abyssal content is a testbed for future changes in EVE PvE, then I think treating the new type of space as a mission site makes more sense. Or in other words, I can see the justification for either way CCP chooses to proceed.

Of the two choices, I think treating the new deadspace sites like wormholes is the way CCP will proceed. Not only for lore reasons, but to satisfy demands to make the new content more dangerous. If CCP treats the Abyssal deadspace sites as a cosmic anomaly, all a hunter or small gang needs to do is fly into a system, record the signatures, and then the next time the hunter enters the system, check for new signatures. Odds are that the new signature will either be a wormhole or an exit from Abyssal space. With a likely target spotted, all the hunters need to do is scan down the new signature. Easy peasy. I can think of a couple of ways to set up Google Sheets or Excel to do the work of picking out the new signature.

3. What is the signature strength required to successfully probe an Abyssal deadspace beacon? I honestly can’t see CCP making the exits from Abyssal space difficult to probe down. That said, CCP also has an interest in seeing a few high-quality modules appear on the contract market (and on killmails) to spur greater user acceptance of the feature. I can see where the higher the tier of filament used to open an entrance, the harder the beacon is to probe for hunters. We already see that with data and relic sites, which are cosmic anomalies, so using the same mechanics makes sense.

4. How long does the beacon remain after a player exits the site? At this point I assume the cloak will hold the standard length of time. The invulnerability cloak is a technical mechanic put in to allow a player to load the grid before having to interact with hostile players. The question is, will anyone camping the exit receive a visual queue that the person running the Abyssal site has exited before the site runner decloaks? The biggest visual queue I can imagine is the exit despawning before the site runner decloaks.

5. Do players in an Abyssal deadspace pocket appear in the system’s local? We know that local will not work in Abyssal space. But will the player running the site still appear in local in k-space? If not, then the player exiting the site will appear in local before uncloaking, giving the hunters a visual cue. Not a definitive cue, but at least a warning to be alert. But if the player running the site does show up in local, then hunters can just ignore empty systems when roaming for content. Either way, local is an intelligence tool useful to the hunter.

6. How far away from the beacon does the player exit? Since players must emerge from Abyssal space where they entered, I wonder if that piece of information presented at Fanfest is literal. If so, then all a hunter must do to keep his prey from cloaking is sit within 1 km of the beacon with a swarm of drones orbiting his ship and the odds of escape without a fight decline by a not insignificant amount. Or will ships reappear in k-space some distance from the beacon? The greater the distance, the greater the chance of escape as the sphere hunters need to cover grows. I can see PvPers lobbying to keep the distance within scram range as low and high security space do not allow the deployment of bubbles. If the same rules governing star gates apply to Abyssal space exits, then the distance will be 10km from the edge of the exit. The question then becomes, how big is the exit?

Conclusion. Since returning from Fanfest, I heard some express surprise that those attending the Fanfest keynote were not ecstatic at the news of the new Triglavian Collective content in the Into the Abyss expansion coming to EVE Online on 29 May. My initial reaction sitting in the audience was extremely negative. Now I just look at the content as jumping into a prepared gate camp. I don’t like doing so in a blockade runner or covert ops frigate, much less a combat ship.

I consider myself pretty risk-averse, but people have told me that a penchant for low sec mining means I don’t qualify as a complete carebear. Still, I like to stack the odds in my favor. I think the big problem with my lack of excitement over the content is that I can’t tell if the odds are for or against escaping the area of the Abyssal space exit with my loot. Why get excited over content I potentially will never run?

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 Pétursson’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.