Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Updating the Blog Links

While in Las Vegas, I not only attended Wilhelm Arcturus' presentation, "Blogging New Eden", but got to hang out with him as well.  For those not aware, he is one of the most prolific bloggers writing about EVE Online and his blog, The Ancient Gaming Noob, is not even dedicated to EVE. And he's been at it for a very long time. Whereas I've been lucky to write two blog posts a week over the last two years, Wilhelm cranks out almost one every day.

I'm trying to increase my output since I switched my phone service to an unlimited data plan (and saved $25/month!) and use the phone as a mobile hotspot. But Wilhelm's presentation highlighting the decline of the original EVE Blogpack got me to thinking about updating the links on the blog. If I really want to know what people are thinking, I need to have someplace to see what's happening.

Apparently someone slipped something into the drinking supply, because the day after Wilhelm's presentation, Blagpuss wrote a post about how many new bloggers attracted by Blaugust had stuck with blogging. We can't credit Wilhelm, though. Gevlon posted about looking for new writers to add to his blog roll. The number of people attracted to blogging by Blaugust and stopped closely aligned with the dropout rate from the EVE Blog Pack. The retention rate of bloggers seems similar to the retention rate of new players in EVE Online.

In an age of web sites needing to adapt to mobile devices, blog rolls seem a bit old-fashioned. Combined with feed readers, I imagine not that many people actually visit the blog to see any work I put into curating the lists. So for a couple of years I let the lists go older and staler. A couple of nights ago I updated the feeds to something that makes the feeds look half-way cared for.

Maybe sometime in the future I'll wax on about the benefits of blogging. As the internet consolidates, the old networks of blogs fell by the wayside. Too bad, really, given how some of the tech giants act. I've deleted the Facebook account associated with the blog because I just couldn't abide by what I saw happening in Zuckerburg's playground. I can't do the same for Alphabet as my technical needs are too closely bound to Google. As long as I keep everything gaming related, though, I should have no issues.

Monday, October 29, 2018

EVE Vegas Day 1 - The EVE Online Keynote

The second presentation of day 1 of EVE Vegas was the EVE Keynote, presented by CCP community manager CCP Falcon, creative director CCP Burger, and game developer CCP Rise. After the last few events, I didn't really expect to hear anything surprising. I was wrong.

CCP Falcon started off the presentation with a review of the past year and a preview of the next. Of the items I noted was that the development of Upwell structures is almost at a point where they are feature compatible to the old player-owned structures (POS). Once the navigation structures are in place, CCP can retire POS.  In other structure related news, in the first 9 months of 2018, players had destroyed 6032 citadels, 5216 refineries, and 3155 engineering complexes valued at 26.7 trillion ISK. I'll be on the lookout for some journalist out on the web reporting that players destroyed over $300,000 in structures. Don't ask me what the actual figure is, I have no idea.

The next big issue addressed was game performance. CCP is looking to move more services off of the main server cluster and onto different servers. I was too busy taking notes to look around and see the audience reaction. The initial effort to move the in-game chat channels hasn't worked that well. CCP has also experimented with shutting off parts of the bounty system during a large fight to view the effect on performance. No details were given, but I think a large percentage of players would not mind if CCP removed the feature entirely. CCP Falcon also announced that work on a 64-bit client for EVE is almost complete and players should have it in early 2019. Finally, on the hardware side, CCP has purchased 6 new blades, which means Tranquility will have 40 additional nodes to use for load balancing purposes.

CCP Falcon also gave an update on the situation in China. Serenity is still off-line as the hand-off from TianCity to NetEase is very ambitious. By ambitious, CCP is rolling the Ascension, Lifeblood, and Into The Abyss expansions, plus all the updates, into the relaunch of the Chinese shard. The goal moving forward is to keep Serenity only one release behind Tranquility.

CCP Burger presented next. The first topic concerned Fast Logistical Expansion, or FLEX, structures. The new structures are small, quick to anchor structures that provide a single service and deployable within the weapons range of other structures. The first 3 FLEX structures coming in the November release are cyno jammers, cyno beacons, and jump gates. Perhaps more importantly, the Upwell structures will have achieved feature parity with the old POS system.

I'll skip the parts on The Agency and the new activity tracker to get to the elephant in the room: war declarations. Yes, CCP Burger went there, telling the audience that the war declaration system is broken and "needs lots of love." Even though CCP Burger was basically preaching to the choir, brought out some statistics to back up the claim.

The first was that 5 corporations declared 50% of all war decs. CCP Burger also backed up the claims of "elite PvP" by disclosing those 5 corporations recorded 105 kills per loss. And a statistic that backs up what I've said for years is that only 4% of wardecs result in the defender registering a kill. But, the wars become bloodier if the defender owns a structure, with the number of kills in a war increasing from .034 kills per war to 1.655 kpw.

Those wishing to see war declarations ripped out of EVE entirely will be disappointed, however. Ripping out the system just transfers all the problems to other game systems, so some form of war dec system will remain. CCP plans to alter the war declaration system in two phases. In the first phase in December, a requirement for the presence of Upwell structures will come into play. The final implementation is scheduled for sometime in the first half of 2019.

Skipping past the upcoming event in December featuring atmospheric flight, up next was CCP Rise to talk about Abyssal deadspace and the Triglavians. The feature worked well, but had a high barrier to entry as most players running the Abyssal sites have played for over 5 years. While the deadspace sites have a reputation for difficulty, 97% of players going into the sites come out the other end. Still, that's a much higher death rate than missions, in which fewer than 1% of players die.

As part of making the content more accessible to lower skilled characters, CCP is introducing multi-player sites. The new content will allow three players flying frigates to run the sites, with the drops scaling up to make running the sites worthwhile.

Finally, CCP is introducing PvP to Abyssal deadspace. The possibility will exist to enter a special dungeon that leads to an octagonal arena where players can fight over special loot. Two players will enter, but only one leave.

In terms of ships, CCP Rise announced that the Triglavian's will receive four new ships, including the first tech 2 pirate ship. The new destroyer sounds like a kiting ship. Looking at my notes, I just wrote down that the new battlecruiser should be nasty. Rounding out the Triglavian ship line are tech 1 and tech 2 logistics cruisers utilizing the same ramp up mechanics for repairing that the Triglavians use for dealing damage.

Those are the highlights from the EVE Keynote address at EVE Vegas this year.  The presentations on the last two days were spent fleshing out the information provided on the first day. The post is a bit late due to my playing EVE too much since getting home from the gathering. So that's a good sign of how I feel about the game now, right?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Trion Purchased By Gamigo

I got back from Las Vegas last night and finally feel human again after scarfing down some Taco Bell for lunch. I fully intended to start my write-up of the EVE Keynote from EVE Vegas but decided to do a little web surfing first. I stopped by The Ancient Gaming Noob and, "Holy Cow!", Trion Worlds was purchased by Gamigo. All reports indicate over 80% layoffs as a result, as Gamigo immediately cut all but 25 members of Trion's workforce.

At this point I recommend reading Wilhelm's excellent piece on the buyout. He did the deep dive into the financial structure of Gamigo so I don't have to. I am going to copy/paste a required financial discloser release because I found something interesting. Your mileage may vary.

Disclosure of an inside information acc. to Article 17 MAR of the Regulation (EU) No 596/2014

gamigo AG: acquisition of Trion Worlds games company to further strengthen its market-position in the games market.

Hamburg, October 22, 2018:
gamigo AG ("gamigo Bond" WKN: A2NBH2 / ISIN: SE0011614445) has acquired major assets from Trion Worlds Inc. Trion Worlds is a leading US gaming company with offices in Redwood City (California) and Austin (Texas) and has as publisher and developer of online and console MMO-games, well-known games such as Rift, Defiance, Trove and ArcheAge in it's portfolio. The assets of the company have been acquired by gamigo's subsidiary Golden Gate Games Inc., via an "Assignment for the Benefit of the Creditors" process, in which the buyer only buys those assets, with which he wishes to continue the business.

The gamigo group has acquired the majority of the assets, including the platform, takes over employees to operate the business and gets the full publishing rights of the games. The IP's of the Trion Worlds games have been acquired by gamigo's sister company Padmapani GmbH and are made available for gamigo group, worldwide and exclusive.

It is expected that the Trion Worlds acquisition will add on gamigo group level revenues of at least USD 18 million in 2019. Depending on the speed and success of restructuring and integration, management expects an additional EBITDA of USD 1 to 4 million, based on unlocking substantial synergies and economies of scale as proven in numerous acquisitions before.

The full purchase price amounts to a low USD two-digit million amount (including possible earn-outs).

About gamigo AG:
Since its foundation in 2000, gamigo has developed into one of the leading publishers of free-to-play online and mobile games in Europe and North America. In total, the gamigo Group employs more than 250 employees at its headquarter in Hamburg and branches in Berlin, Münster, Darmstadt, Cologne (Germany), Warsaw (Poland), Istanbul (Turkey), Chicago (USA) and Seoul (Korea). The company's core portfolio includes successful gaming titles such as Aura Kingdom, Desert Operations, Dragon's Prophet, Echo of Soul, Fiesta Online, Goal One, Last Chaos, Shaiya and Twin Saga. gamigo grows via organic growth as well as through acquisitions and has made over 20 acquisitions since 2013, including games, media and technology companies as well as individual game assets.


This release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by the management of gamigo AG or its affiliated companies. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of gamigo AG and its affiliated companies and the estimates given here. Neither gamigo AG nor its affiliated companies assume any liability to update these forward- looking statements or to adapt them to future events or developments.
Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to look up what "Assignment for the Benefit of the Creditors" actually meant. I wound up landing on the blog of a bankruptcy lawyer from California. The Gamigo purchase wasn't due to ansy investors. Instead, Trion flat out couldn't pay its bills. An Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors is the state version of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, perhaps better known as liquidation.
ABCs are a state law, rather than a federal law, concept.  They have been used in California for almost a hundred years.

In an ABC the business hires someone to liquidate the assets and distribute the proceeds to the creditors.  The business assigns the assets to that person for that purpose.  The assignee then serves as a sort of private “Chapter 7” Trustee, and has a fiduciary obligation to maximize the liquidation proceeds.

One fundamental difference between Chapter 7 liquidation and an ABC is that an ABC usually does not involve any court – state or federal.  The result is that an ABC is a more streamlined process that takes less time to complete than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Thus, while the net effect is frequently the same in both processes:  the business is liquidated and ceases to exist, the time involved can be significantly less in an ABC.

Another difference is that in a Chapter 7 the creditors have very little, if any, input in the process, whereas in an ABC the creditors have to agree to the results beforehand for the process to succeed.
The other bit of information was the purchase price. We actually have a recent sale with which to compare the Trion sale. Less than two weeks ago, on 12 October, the sale of CCP Games to Pearl Abyss finalized. In that transaction, Pearl Abyss agreed to pay $225 million upfront, with up to an additional $200 million in deferred performance-based payouts. The potential $425 million deal is in start contrast to the "low USD two-digit million amount (including possible earn-outs)" quoted in the financial release announcing the buyout of Trion.

In truth, I did not play Trion games, so I can't really claim an emotional attachment to the game company. I played Rift at launch but never made it to level 25, and Defiance up to maybe level 10. But I do remember Scott Hartsman from his time working on Everquest 2 and wish him luck wherever he winds up, although I hear that is not a popular sentiment at the present time.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

EVE Vegas Day 1 - CCP Presents

I can happily say the first day of EVE Vegas surprised me, and in a good way. I wasn't sure how much the purchase of CCP Games by Pearl Abyss would affect the Icelandic company. Seven days after the purchase became official, the answer is, not much. At least so far.

In the opening session, "Opening Ceremonies and CCP Presents", CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson laid out the near future of CCP and its line of upcoming games. Hilmar stated that the "partnership" put CCP in "a super strong position" going forward. The punctuation in the previous sentence are not meant as scare quotes, just words we may want to review six months from now. Hilmar also stated that CCP is scrutinizing its development process and won't publish games until they are ready.

As for new games, the next 12 to 18 months should see CCP make the gaming news frequently. The beta for EVE China continues, which CCP expanded on in the EVE keynote. NetEase also is far enough along in the development of its New Eden-based mobile game that it dropped the code name Project Galaxy and announced the final name of EVE: Echoes. As expected, Echoes will not interact with either Tranquility or Serenity but will launch with an Android version. Up until now, we had only heard of an Apple product release. Also, from the presentation, I am not sure if NetEase has dropped the ARG component from the game. All the reporting prior to EVE Vegas suggests the answer is no.

In a bit of news that will probably fly under the radar, CCP has taken control of further development of EVE: War of Ascension from PlayRaven and will finish development of the title in CCP's London studio. Hilmar announced that Phase 1 of the beta is complete and that the game is expected to launch sometime in 2019.

Perhaps the biggest news from CCP Presents was the news that the invite-only alpha for Project Nova will launch in November, with an alpha build available for EVE Vegas attendees to play on Saturday and Sunday. The game has two modes. The first, Onslaught, mimics New Eden as players battle the forces of Sansha's Nation during incursions in an attempt to save the population from a fate worse than death. The other mode, Hijack, involved an attacker trying to install their own pilot in the cockpit of a ship and defenders trying to eliminate the breach. While no launch date was given, I expect a finished product sometime in 2020.

I originally planned to combine both presentations into one blog post, but the EVE Keynote presented by CCP Falcon, CCP Burger, and CCP Rise really needs a dedicated post. But I'll give you a hint of how I felt about the keynote.

Friday, October 19, 2018

My EVE Vegas 2018 Schedule

As I normally do at a player meet-up like EVE Vegas, I've looked at the schedule and determined the which presentations I want to see. I fully expect, like most years, that I will fail to stick to the plan. But once again I'll post what I originally plan on observing.

Friday - All the big news coming out of EVE Vegas this year will come from today's presentations. Today's presentations could be delayed due to CCP's equipment getting caught up in U.S. Customs.

14:00 PDT/21:00 EVE: Opening Ceremonies and CCP Presents. Anyone looking for news about Project Nova (the FPS followup to DUST: 514), EVE: War of Ascension (the mobile game who's alpha debuted at EVE Vegas 2017), Project Galaxy (the ARG being developed by NetEase for the iPhone), and the undisclosed MMO utilizing the Unreal 4 engine should definitely make sure to watch the first presentation.

16:00 PDT/23:00 EVE: EVE Online Keynote. The scheduled speakers are creative director CCP Burger, community manager CCP Falcon, and game designer CCP Rise. I expect to hear about the final phase of the implementation of Upwell structures and the final removal of POS from the game. I also expect to hear more about developments in PvE, especially Abyssal sites. I also expect to hear some mention of news about UI changes like The Agency as well as the activity tracker.

Saturday - Tomorrow has good, but not critical to see content. Also, with two presentations in each slot, I managed to fill up all the slots with something to watch. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, some of us do come to Las Vegas for the EVE content? Why come to such a depressing place otherwise?

11:00 PDT/18:00 EVE: Upwell Structures: The Future. I fully expect CCP Lebowski to tell us the end game of the Upwell structures development roadmap. Also, given some of the way citadels have affected New Eden, we may see details of upcoming balance changes. A possibility also exists that CCP Lebowski could let us know of future plans involving NPC owned structures and stations.

12:00 PDT/19:00 EVE: The Continuum of War: 2016-2018. Matterall (I know Matterall, btw) will give the followup to his EVE Vegas 2017 presentation, this time covering major null sec conflicts from The Casino War to today.

14:00 PDT/21:00 EVE: Project Nova: The Future. CCP Rattati will present "an in depth look at the future of Project Nova, the game play, and the aspirations for a first person shooter set in New Eden." I don't play first person shooters, but as the presentation pertains to some of the biggest news coming out of EVE Vegas, I'll just pick up a quick slice of pizza and not take an extended lunch.

15:00 PDT/22:00 EVE: Ships and Balance. CCP Rise will talk about upcoming plans for ships. I don't expect anything earth-shattering, but then again I don't fly in null sec. The presentation may disrupt the PvP meta and shape the market for months to come.

16:00 PDT/23:00 EVE: Blogging New Eden. Wilhelm Arcturus of The Ancient Gaming Noob will make the case for blogging in the age of social media. Blogging? Who does that? (I know Wilhem, btw).

16:30 PDT/23:30 EVE: Multiple Accounts = EVE On Steroids. People have poked me, joking I have to watch this one. The description is:
"Alts don't just have to be mules, cynos, and eyes. We'll discuss how to create a viable gang with multiple characters, multiply the effectiveness of a larger fleet, and accelerate income generation."

Sunday - I'm a bit torn about the final day of EVE Vegas. Is it filler because for many Sunday is getaway day plus Sunday morning may resemble the zombie apocalypse? Still, I plan to attend the following.

11:00 PDT/18:00 EVE: Introducing the Activity Tracker/CSM Roundtable. I really want to see a preview of the new activity tracker, but at the same time want to see what shenanigans the CSM are up to.

12:00 PDT/19:00 EVE: How To Lead Without Being CEO. Brave's Dunk Dinkle gives "A brief talk on leadership, when you are not CEO or officially in charge of the group.  How to step up and help without relying on rank or screaming at people."

I'll probably take an extended lunch and come back for the 3pm presentation.

15:00 PDT/22:00 EVE: Events and The Agency. The final content presentation by CCP, I am not a big fan of The Agency, but I do like the live events, so I will definitely show up to this presentation.

17:00 PDT/midnight EVE: Closing Ceremonies. The closing ceremonies don't often have a lot of news, but the dates of upcoming events like next year's Eastern North America and EVE Vegas may be debuted.

That's it for now. I need to go out and get a pad of paper and some orange juice before the presentations begin. I may even blog over the weekend, depending on how exciting the presentations are over the next few days.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

In Las Vegas Again

I arrived last night in Las Vegas for my 4th EVE Vegas. Four years. The place is still pretty depressing, especially in the early morning light before the wreckage is cleaned up to start a new day, but I'm here for the EVE nerds, not the high-rolling Vegas lifestyle. As I sit in my room before 8am, sipping on a Starbucks venti latte and typing this post, I can say things are going 100% better than last year.

First, the ride from the airport. Last year, I took a shuttle bus from the airport to The Linq, the casino I'm staying at. What is a 10-15 minute trip by taxi turned into a 45-minute ride. So this year, I spent a little extra and spent the money on a cab. Yes, I spent a bit more, but the time saved was worth it. I think an industrialist would call that an opportunity cost.

Next, the room. Or perhaps more critically, my room's location. Last year, I had to take the elevators farthest from the check-in desk and casino. This year, I'm in district 1, using the elevator bank closest to the check-in desk. I suspect I won't have the same aggravating issues getting to and from my room.

Speaking of aggravating, last year I couldn't get a cell phone signal in The Linq. If I wanted to use my phone, I needed to step outside the building. Not this year. Last night when I checked while sitting at the main bar, I got a strong signal. I'm not going to try to log into the local wifi. I have an unlimited data plan now, so I'll just use that.

I almost matched my alcohol consumption from last year in my first night in 2018. My normal standards, my two beers isn't a tremendous amount to drink. But last year, I only drank a couple of shots of Tito's at the Open Comms show broadcast on Thursday night and 3 drinks at the party at Drai's. I'm well on my way to excceding that mark.

Speaking of Open Comms, I made it down to 3535, the main bar in The Linq, and ran into Dreydan and Dirk & Mrs. MacGirk, as well as a host of others like RoAnnon and Random McNally. Dirk might not remember seeing me, as he looked like he'd been drinking all day. Last year, the place was packed and I never ordered a drink. I kind of expect as the rest of the EVE Vegas crowd rolls in, the same will be the case as trying to get the attention of a bartender gets a little difficult.

I will mention that the hot EVE topic so far was the war declaration system. While I don't expect to hear any news about war declarations in the CCP presentations this weekend, I do figure to hear some rumors. Plus, I expect to talk about the subject a lot more in the days to come.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Obstacles To Just Ripping The War Declaration System Out Of EVE Online

"Sort Dragon wants to take a step back and not worry as much about the mechanic specifics but rather what the next steps involved in this change. CCP Fozzie says that at this point they are waiting for a more detailed request from the senior management to see what the business goal is in this case, but are still investigating the potential mechanic changes."
"CCP Larrikin pulls up activity data for players of corporations that have wars declared against them and it shows considerable activity drops in all activities during the war. They also show that the low activity continues after the war ends. Brisc Rubal noted that the numbers here were so stark, it would justify immediately removing war decs as a mechanic and promising a fix after the fact. The CSM in general were surprised at how stark the numbers were and noted it was clear this mechanic was having a significant impact on player recruitment and retention."

A reading of the latest CSM summit minutes suggests CCP has a strong business case for not just revamping the war declaration system, but removing the feature entirely. Last week I gave my views on what the outlines of a revamped system should look like. But what if CCP decides to just get rid of the entire system? From a game play perspective, CCP cannot just rip the system out and implement a fix in a few months because of player-owned structures. Doing so would not only cause structure proliferation issues, but also lock in advantages players could take advantage of. CCP would need to do a little modification to New Eden to make high security space mechanics make more sense in a universe without war decs. Here are some points CCP needs to address if removing the war declaration system.

What is the purpose of high sec? I don't know what the original design document for EVE specified, but in a world without war decs, high security space would serve as a low intensity zone that would serve as an area for new players to try out the game, veteran players to return to if they burn out of playing in more dangerous portions of space but don't want to quit the game, and a neutral place to facilitate trade between warring factions. I believe that at one point CCP considered high sec a training ground for everything activity, including PvP. If the war declaration system is scrapped, that function would shift to low sec, possibly requiring development in that area of space as well.

High sec should still hold dangers. Removing the war declaration system should not result in the total absence of player-vs-player interaction in space. Suicide ganking should still exist, along with activities like ninja looting that result in players receiving suspect flags.

If CCP gets rid of war decs, the devs need to replace the danger with some new iterations of their advanced AI fleets. Adding additional NPC activity in high sec can help solve issues in a better way than relying on the current war dec corps and alliances.

Let NPCs clean up unused structures. The big argument in favor of keeping the war declaration system is the presence of player-owned structures. Some structures will necessarily need to revert to NPC control, but not all. For structures like citadels, refineries, and engineering complexes, players can still own them. In place of players destroying the old ones, though, let gangs of NPCs sweep though high sec attacking structures. I don't really care if the NPCs only attack unpowered structures or also make life interesting for citadel owners. I don't care if the structures are destroyed under cover of a Sansha incursion or if faction navies scour a region looking for deadbeats to makes examples of. I just want to see what the AI can do.

Return high sec POCOs to NPC control. If CCP removes war decs, then some corporations will receive a huge benefits by locking in changes. A big example are player-owned customs offices. Unlike other stuructures, POCOs require no upkeep. If the war dec system is removed, then CCP needs to also take away POCOs in high sec and hand them over to the faction navies.

Remove high sec moon mining. I have to admit, I never liked the idea of allowing moon mining in high sec. The removal of the war declaration system would almost necessitate removing moon mining from the security band. The only reason for not removing moon mining is if powerful NPC fleets would contest the existence of the refineries.

Sounds like a much easier task, doesn't it? Remove a couple of features and add some NPCs that could provide not only additional life, but more PvE content to high sec. Plus, according to the data collected, increase profits at the same time. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Updated Thoughts On War Declarations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 1, 2018

When Test Worlds Collide

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

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

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

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

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