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.