Friday, December 27, 2019

Loot Boxes In The UK At The End Of 2019

With the reintroduction of gambling in EVE Online, catching up on the sentiment in the United Kingdom towards gambling in video games is once again relevant to the space game. Back in 2016, the issue was skins gambling. In 2017, the concern shifted to the massive introduction of loot boxes by big game publishers into live service games. As we head into 2020, a look back at some of the activity in the UK over the second half of 2019 is a good idea.

The subject flared up in July when the UK Gambling Commission's program director, made a very unpopular statement at a hearing of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
In an evidence session with the digital, media, culture and sport select committee, which is examining links between gaming and gambling, the UK’s betting regulator said it had “significant concerns” about products such as skins and loot boxes. Skins are in-game items that can be won in the game, such as weapons, outfits or particular football players, while loot boxes invite players to pay a certain amount for a mystery reward.

Such products are not defined as gambling under English law, due to the fact that the in-game items cannot be exchanged for cash within the game, despite the fact they can be bought and traded with real money on other sites and acquiring them may involve an element of chance akin to placing a bet.

The Gambling Commission’s programme director, Brad Enright, said it was “constrained by the current legislation”, although it was prepared to regulate such products if the law were changed.
When regulators state they cannot do what politicians want them to do, the response is a push to change the law. In September, the DCMS committee issued a report recommending the regulation of loot boxes under gambling law. The report's summary specifically addressed loot boxes.
Loot box mechanics were found to be integral to major games companies’ revenues, with further evidence that they facilitated profits from problem gamblers. The Report found current gambling legislation that excludes loot boxes because they do not meet the regulatory definition failed to adequately reflect people's real-world experiences of spending in games. Loot boxes that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance should be considered games of chance played for money’s worth and regulated by the Gambling Act.

Evidence from gamers highlighted the loot box mechanics in Electronic Arts's FIFA series with one gamer disclosing spending of up to £1000 a year.

The Report calls for loot boxes that contain the element of chance not to be sold to children playing games and instead be earned through in-game credits. In the absence of research on potential harms caused by exposing children to gambling, it calls for the precautionary principle to apply. In addition, better labelling should ensure that games containing loot boxes carry parental advisories or descriptors outlining that they feature gambling content.

  • The Government should bring forward regulations under section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 in the next parliamentary session to specify that loot boxes are a game of chance. If it determines not to regulate loot boxes under the Act at this time, the Government should produce a paper clearly stating the reasons why it does not consider loot boxes paid for with real-world currency to be a game of chance played for money's worth.
  • UK Government should advise PEGI to apply the existing 'gambling' content labelling, and corresponding age limits, to games containing loot boxes that can be purchased for real-world money and do not reveal their contents before purchase.

A presentation that seemed to leave an impact on the committee concerning loot boxes was a presentation from the 2018 4C International Game Developers Conference in Prague from Dr. Ben Lewis-Evans, a user experience researcher at Epic Games. He discussed some of the thinking behind the loot boxes. The presentation is available on YouTube and embedded above.

In October 2019, the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England issued a report, "Gaming the System", that focused on how the way game companies monetize games affects children. On the summary page, the following recommendations were listed.
  • Bringing financial harm within the scope of the Government’s forthcoming online harms legislation. Developers and platforms should not enable children to progress within a game by spending money and spending should be limited to items which are not linked to performance.
  • All games which allow players to spend money should include features for players to track their historic spend, and there should be maximum daily spend limits introduced in all games which feature in-game spending and turned on by default for children.
  • The Government should take immediate action to amend the definition of gaming in section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 to regulate loot boxes as gambling.
  • The Government’s age appropriate design code must include provisions on nudge techniques and detrimental use of data, as proposed in the draft code.
  • Games that are distributed online should be subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system, just as physical games are. There should be a requirement for an additional warning to be displayed for games which facilitate in-game spending. The Government should consult on whether age ratings of all games should be moderated pre-release, just as physical games are.
  • Online games should be a key focus of digital citizenship lessons in schools, rather than lessons focusing exclusively on social media. Teachers involved in the delivery of these lessons should be familiar with how key online games that are popular with children work.
With a general election scheduled for 12 December 2019, the issue came to the fore as one the top officials must address. Needless to say, all the political parties came down on the side of saving the children from gambling. The Conservative Party of Boris Johnson specifically mentioned loot boxes in its election manifesto.
Also, given how the online world is moving, the Gambling Act is increasingly becoming an analogue law in a digital age. We will review it, with a particular focus on tackling issues around loot boxes and credit card misuse. (p 20) [emphasis in the original]
On 19 December, Queen Elizabeth gave the Queen's Speech to open parliament. In the background briefing notes, loot boxes and gambling were placed in the Online Harms section.
The Government will carry out a review of the Gambling Act, with a particular focus on tackling issues around online loot boxes and credit card misuse (p. 59).
My understanding is that the Open Harms plan has cross-party support. So while Brexit will get all of the attention, those who follow video game news will have to see what happens with legislation concerning loot boxes and other forms of gambling in online video games. If additional studies, such as the one published by the Royal Society for the Protection of Health the day after the Queen's Speech is any indication, the issue will not go away anytime soon.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Fallout 76: What A Mess

I'm not a fan of the Fallout franchise. I did try Fallout 3, but first person shooters are not a genre of gaming I enjoy. But when I heard people demanding the ability to mod the new game, I knew to stay far away. Allowing modding of an online game like Fallout 76 like a single-player game was asking for trouble. Seriously, who thinks giving hackers permission to explore the insides of your game is a good idea? Even before the game launched, Bethesda was warned the game was extremely vulnerable to hacking.

A year later, hackers are on the verge of killing Fallout 76. A hack that allows players to add NPCs from Fallout 4 to the world also causes havoc in PvP. Perhaps worse, the same hack allows real money traders to duplicate items. A hack which, if not currently live will go live in the very near future involves stealing inventory items from other players.
There's a new hack in Fallout 76 that gives those who use it the ability to steal items out of your inventory. The hackers are not able to touch your caps, scrip, access to various locations and stash box/scrap box items. Person to person trading is also still safe.

Items you should be scared of losing to the exploit are your weapons, armour and everything else you've got in your inventory. The Pip-Boy can be stolen using the new hack as well as it technically is an item in your inventory. The hacker can steal your items if he/she comes within render distance to you. 
Regular readers of The Nosy Gamer know people can make a lot of money selling virtual goods and currency for real world money. Some can even make a living. I'm always amazed when gaming journalists don't already know. Sometimes I think editors give new writers real money trading assignments to teach them RMT is not a benign activity.

Of course, everyone's amazed when I tell them real money trading is alive and well in Fallout 76. Most people assume the game is so unpopular the small population cannot support a robust secondary market. A new writer at Eurogamer, Emma Kent, provided some reporting, talking to item sellers. Ms. Kent managed to interview one of the largest sellers of Fallout 76 items.
Martin, meanwhile, said he's never been banned. He estimates 80 per cent of his stock is duped (something he says is due to a spate of mass duping crazes previously flooding the market - claiming he's only been involved in later "more controlled duping"), and he's managed to avoid hitting the weight cap by spreading his inventory over 12 PSN accounts and 70 different Fallout 76 characters.

"Bethesda has never interfered with any real life currency trading ... simply because they couldn't care less," he added. "Bethesda is a multi-million company who I assume does not consider from my perspective sellers who are selling items and somewhat promoting their game."
The numbers that Martin pulled in rivals, if not exceeds, those of the top sellers on EVE Online's black market.
While Martin has noticed a gradual decrease in demand for items, he says it's still an extremely profitable industry - claiming he's sold weapons anywhere from £10-£500 each, making a total of $55k (£41.8k) in the 10 months since he started selling the items. "I consider myself the most successful 'individual' seller on the entirety of the platform and I say this as I have spoken to other competing sellers from all platforms," Martin added.
Sometimes I think I need to revisit the subject of RMT, given all the new examples of the harm real money trading does to online games. Admittedly, Kent wrote her Eurogamer article before the inventory theft hack became public knowledge, but this paragraph is either pretty cynical or pretty naive.
Of course, the Fallout 76 sellers were probably never going to argue against their own interests - but they did make a fair point about RMT. Given the, um, buzz around Fallout 76 has now calmed down, it wouldn't make sense for Bethesda or Zenimax to really crack down - and from the sounds of it, the most public duping methods have been patched out, and the demand for items is slowly decreasing. So long as people aren't using mass duping methods to produce the weapons - which upsets the game balance and has been blamed for destabilising servers - it at least seems relatively harmless (if obviously pay to win).
This afternoon, Bethesda addressed the issue on the Fallout 76 sub-reddit.
Hi everyone,

We are investigating reports of a PC-only exploit that could be abused by cheaters, which may have resulted in a few players losing items that their characters had equipped. We have been actively working toward a solution for this and have a fix that we are currently evaluating for release today.

While we’ve determined that only a small number of characters have been negatively affected, we are taking this very seriously and resolving this is currently our top priority.

We would like to apologize to those of you who were impacted by this exploit. We want to make this right, and we are currently looking into ways we may be able to compensate you. If you believe you have been affected, please let us know by submitting a ticket to our Customer Support team.

As mentioned above, this issue only affects PC, and we are currently planning to bring the PC version of the game offline today to release a fix. We will let you know as soon as we are ready to begin

Thank you very much.
Hopefully Bethesda found the code vulnerability and players can play on Christmas without worry. But problems like those described above will eventually kill a game.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My First Wormhole Relic Site On An Alpha Pilot

Sometimes I just need to get away from talk of gambling and economic reports and just fly around New Eden. Really, I'm still pissed that CCP decided to put the new raffle system in a release named Free Market. And what's up with also releasing something called Kicking Over Castles at the same time? So, when I wasn't finishing up my R course, I hopped on my characters and played EVE.

For some reason, I thought using a Hurricane to run Emerging Conduits was a good idea. Maybe a shield-tanked battlecruiser would work, but the armor-tanked Hurricane I tried to make work struggled. I need to go back to my Vagabond and see how much the improvements to medium auto-cannons help. It's possible that with the added DPS, I won't have to warp out of every other site.

When I wasn't working out how to fly an armor-tanked Hurricane, I hopped on my Signal Cartel character and did a little exploring. In the first session, I looked at Dotlan and saw I was close to Providence. I thought to myself, "Why not?" So off I went.

Did I mention my Signal Cartel character is an alpha? That's right. I flew around in a 1 million skill point character though an area that has seen better days. Thankfully whoever put up the interdiction bubbles left them untended, so I got to practice extracting myself from the situation. While Providence has a reputation of being a bit friendlier than normal, seeing an interceptor on a gate as I warp to the next location is a bit nerve racking.

I safely arrived in my destination constellation an did a little probing. I found the entrance to a C5 wormhole and went in. I played around a bit, then realized two things. The first was that I was kind of sleepy and wasn't going to play much longer. The second was that even if I found a relic or data site, the NPCs would eat me alive. I needed to find a C1, C2, or C3 wormhole. Those are easier to find in high sec. I think.

As I said, the time was late so I exited the wormhole to go back to my high sec station. When I emerged back in known space, one of the locals asked if I had just come from Thera. I told him no, and then began my journey home. I only ran across one gate camp on the way back. Looking back, my reactions were kind of funny. First, I saw two Rattlesnakes on grid and thought, "No dumb Rattlesnakes can catch me!" I decloaked and aligned for the next gate. Then I had the bright idea to scroll down. That's when I saw all the cruisers. Oh well. They let me through.

My second session of the weekend had me thinking of moving locations. With all the presents from CCP, I needed to find a place to store them. I undocked to probe down a few relic sites, keeping in the back of my mind the desire to escape the station I was in. I figured travelling via wormhole was a lot safer than scooting through Amarr or Uedama.

The first site I attempted to probe down was a Sansha relic site. The difference between a max skill alpha and max skill omega was readily apparent. A site I could probe down with just a little difficulty with my main I could only reach 94% with on my alpha. The next site was a wormhole. I jumped through and, much to my surprise, I found myself in Thera.

That's right. If I had checked, I would have seen I was in a system with an entrance to Thera. But truthfully, I was more concerned with practicing my probing. Since I was already on the website, I decided to check if any exits led to where I base the rest of my characters. Sure enough, an exit to a low sec system would place me only five jumps away. But the board indicated the exit would collapse in less than four hours. Now, instead of just jumping to the bookmark, I decided to probe down the exit. I really needed the practice. I bit to my surprise, the wormhole still existed and I jumped through to low sec. A few minutes later and I was at my new high sec base.

Why would I want to base out of high sec. Time, really. I figure my chances of finding a lower-class wormhole with sites I could run would increase if I was in high sec. My next session bore that out.

On Saturday night, I probed down a C2 wormhole. After making sure Allison was engaged, I jumped into the wormhole. An occupied wormhole.

Well, I think the wormhole was occupied. I saw player-owned customs offices and a citadel. But no one appeared in local. Of course, unlike Jita, people who live in wormholes don't like to clutter up local with mindless chit-chat. Which is too bad, because I wanted to chat with the cloaked Proteus pilot I knew was just in scram range of me, ready to pounce. He wasn't in local, and I didn't see him uncloaked, but he was there. Trust me.

I knew the wormhole had to hold a relic site. I had no doubt at all. But I needed to shake this cloaky Proteus who thought he was clever and fooling a new player. Ha! I did what any half-competent explorer would do and decided to create a midpoint bookmark. After making sure to bookmark my original entry point, I warped to a planet, creating a bookmark about half-way to my destination. Then I immediately doubled back to my newly created bookmark. To make things interesting, I then lit the afterburners and turned on my two ECCM modules. The technique wouldn't save me from a dedicated probing pilot in a dedicated probing ship, but the measures should defeat the efforts of a casual day tripper. Or any alpha character like myself.

The wormhole only contained five signatures, including my entry point. I decided to probe the signatures until I identified what type they were, and then complete the scan if I found either another wormhole or a relic or data site. All the time Allison was reminding me to use my directional scanner.

As an aside, I know that Allison is probably programmed to give a reminder after a set amount of time. But at one point, I had just hit the d-scan when she reminded me again. I actually said out loud, "I just did!" Besides, d-scan will not detect a cloaky Proteus.

Then it happened. I found the cloaky Proteus. Well, I didn't actually find him, but I found an Angel's relic site. Where else would a cloaky Proteus sit? Considering I had to fiddle with my probes at .25 AU in order to get a 100% result, Mr. Proteus Pilot had plenty of warning. But you only live once, so I warped to the relic site.

I landed and got to work. The site held six hackable containers. I tried to follow the rule of sixes and managed to hack four of them. I lost a fifth when hacking the final node. Four out of six on an alpha isn't bad. Just a warning, though. The second time you fail the hack, the can explodes. Fortunately, my ship took no damage.

After clearing the site, I looked at my haul. 22.9 million ISK. Then I looked at my ship. The fitting window valued my ship at 788,000 ISK. In other words, I was carrying loot worth 29 times the value of my ship. I looked at the time and decided I needed to go to sleep, so I exited the wormhole and docked up for the night.

Okay, it took three tries, but I finally found a relic site in a wormhole and hacked the site. Now that I think I figured out the secret, I just need to find the time to play and practice. But since I found my main characters, I can hand off the loot to my market character to sell in Dodixie. Or maybe somewhere else. I haven't decided yet.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

EVE Online's Stormy 3rd Quarter

The Pearl Abyss investors call on 8 November basically ended the stream of data those outside CCP would receive for the third quarter of 2019. Designated "The Chaos Era" by CCP, the summer of 2019 was dominated by an event officially called "Blackout" and some wags labeled Hurricane Hilmar, CCP's design decisions were controversial with their effects of shaking up the game world. While most of the EVE commentariat and denizens on social media have moved on, I thought a look back at New Eden's stormy summer was in order.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Star Citizen Has Raised How Much?

Star Citizen is in the news once again. On the positive side, the latest ship sale pushed player funding for the game over $250 million USD.

Star Citizen Funding Page As Seen on 5 December 2019
On the negative side, at least for Cloud Imperium Games, the BBC produced technology show Click is broadcasting an episode on Star Citizen:
Click investigates why there has been continued delays in bringing $250m crowd funded video game Star Citizen from Gameplay [sic] testing to market.
Now, $250 million is an amazing number. Going back to when Chris Roberts began the current Star Citizen project in late 2011/early 2012, the $200 million Bioware reportedly spent producing Star Wars: The Old Republic was considered a massive amount of money. But the crowd funding is not all the money raised by Chris Roberts and Cloud Imperium Games.

In December 2018, CIG released financial information to the public after receiving $46 million in private funding designated to market Squadron 42 & Star Citizen.

Cloud Imperium Games income, 2012-2017
In the first 5 years of operations, CIG had collected an additional $11.2 million in subscriptions. CIG also raised an additional $10.3 million in "other income", defined as:
Income from incentives, sponsors, licensing and partnerships. This also includes timing differences and bookings for exchange rate differences between the standard rates used for the counter and actual exchange rates received.
So through today, CIG has raised at least $274.7 million. But we don't know how much CIG raised in subscriptions and other inomce. Given that in both 2016 and 2017 CIG raised $8.8 million for both categories, I think a reasonable estimate through the end of 2019 is an additional $17.6 million. Prorating that amount gives us an estimate of $16.9 million raised for the period January 2018 - November 2019.

Raising $291 million is a fairly impressive amount. Add in the $46 million in private funding and Cloud Imperium as raised an estimated $337 million to create and market Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. And given the beta for Squadron 42 was pushed back another 3 months to Q3 2020, I anticipate that by the time the first game launches, the funding raised will approach $400 million.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Next Step To EVE's Holy Grail

When I first started playing EVE Online in 2009, downtime lasted an hour every day, from 1100-1200 UTC. On 1 November 2010, downtime officially was reduced to 30 minutes. On 11 May 2016, the daily downtime for the Tranquility server was halved again to 15 minutes. Today, downtime typically lasts 4-5 minutes. And tomorrow, EVE will have no downtime.
Downtime today is not like downtime was a few years ago when it was usually up to an hour, enough time for a long lunch, including dessert. These days Tranquility's auto-reboot on weekends takes approximately 4 minutes and 20-40 seconds, just enough for a quick cup of tea. But it is still an inconvenience since you must time your activities to be at a safe place at 11:00 UTC. Downtime waits for no one.

Therefore, for the first time in the more than six thousand days of EVE Online, there will be no downtime on Wednesday, 4 December! We will begin the first 48 hour run ever of EVE at 11 o'clock on Tuesday 3 December and end it on Thursday, 5 December.
In a time honored IT practice, CCP plans to shut off a feature (the daily reboot) and see what breaks.
First, let’s take a step back and look at the reasons why we have downtime in the first place:
  • We have excessive memory consumption and lack of clean-up in certain areas, and we don't necessarily refresh cache since the daily reboot will take care of it all.
  • We still have daily database jobs that run during downtime.
  • There are certain things that must be done regularly, and it is most convenient to do them during startup when there are no players online.
This is our dirty laundry. We have documented all the things we know that can go wrong. Then there are the things we don't know about and testing is the only way to find out…

Eliminating downtime is a goal CCP has pursued for a long time. Back in the 2010 dev blog announcing the reduction of downtime down to 15 minutes, CCP Hunter (yes, that CCP Hunter), wrote:
What has been done to reduce downtime?

In the old days, systems in EVE Online were built on the fact that there was daily downtime. In the last few years no new code has been produced that relies on downtime and a great deal of work has been done in removing old dependencies on downtime. You could say that we are still paying for past sins.

In addition to this we have worked on the cluster shutdown procedure and startup procedure so that the cluster goes down and up faster.

What does the future hold, when will the daily downtime go away?

As a part of the Carbon initiative, cluster management is being re-architected. It is our goal that sometime in the not too distant future, EVE Online will have no daily downtime. How awesome will that be!
I put the above in to show that Pearl Abyss is not responsible for the concern about downtime. I can't help but point out that downtime currently occurs at 2000 (8pm) in Seoul. Also, with the launch of the Korean language client in November, the Australian/East Asia time zone is noticeably growing. However, CCP isn't totally comfortable with moving downtime to before the AUTZ begins their playtime.
The first instinct would be to say that downtime should be at 7 o'clock when the online population is the lowest. This is the "Pacific Downtime"; after the American play session and before the Asian play session...

There is more than can be read from these graphs such as that CPU usage overnight and at 7 o'clock, during the lowest population, is quite high, so activity per player is high during the American play session. Americans also play longer into the night than, say, Europeans. Shortening the American play session at the tail end with the "Pacific Downtime" is, therefore, not the right choice.
The dev blog suggests that downtime could move from 1100 UTC to 0930 UTC (1830 in Seoul), which might play into some laws about excessive playing in South Korea. But for now, CCP wants to try to move to only having downtime once every 48 hours. Tomorrow's cancelled downtime is the first step toward accomplishing a long dreamed of goal.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Quick Thoughts On The Hypernet Relay, Gambling's Return To EVE Online

On Wednesday, CCP published a news article announcing the Hypernet Relay, part of the Free Market release coming to the live servers on 10 December. Despite the name of the release, the feature has nothing to do with trade. Instead, gambling in the form of micro-raffles has returned to EVE Online. From the article:
Entrepreneurial capsuleers,

Today there is great excitement in introducing an entertaining new trade network coming to EVE Online called the HyperNet Relay, available for you to try out on the Singularity test server right now. As with Shareable Bookmarks – a highly requested feature that has now been delivered – the HyperNet Relay aims to answer frequent requests for the return of raffle activities that were once hugely popular in the EVE community.

The HyperNet Relay is an enjoyable new method of selling items where almost anything can be traded at any time, from anywhere, and by anyone.
I have to admit I'm a bit irritated at the whole thing. Especially the use of the term "trade" when "raffle" is more appropriate. But I will try to put aside any ill-will caused by the news dropping the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and publish some answers to questions that keep popping up. Plus some thoughts. First, mechanics.

How will the raffles, er HyperNet Offers work? The raffles will work like the item raffles that used to run on Somerblink or I Want ISK. From the news article:
The process begins by buying HyperCores from the New Eden Store or from the regional market, and the amount required is based on the total value of what the player wants to offer on the HyperNet Relay. The item being offered for trade must be a single item (no stacks) and be located in a normal station (not a structure).

Any item being sold will be represented as a HyperNet Offer. These offers contain a series of HyperNodes that can be purchased individually or in bulk. The player will then set the number of corresponding HyperNodes that will be made available to interested parties and a price per HyperNode.

Once all the HyperNodes have been sold for any given offer, everyone will see which single HyperNode is selected at random and who subsequently receives the item. Even the purchase of HyperNodes will be visible to those viewing the HyperNet Relay, creating a social experience that occurs in real time. Any item that a player claims will be placed in their item hangar in the location where the offer was created, to be picked up at any time.

How much will the HyperCores cost? We currently do not know. Just that PLEX is required since the item is in the New Eden Store.

How many tickets can be sold for a raffle? Currently, the version on Singularity shows 8, 16, 48, and 512.

How long will a raffle last before expiring? Three days.

What happens if a raffle expires without all tickets, er, HyperNodes, purchased? The ISK used to purchase the tickets is refunded and CCP keeps the HyperCores used to pay for the raffle.

Can players who create raffles purchase tickets in their own raffles? Yes.

Can players create private raffles? Yes.

Next some general questions and statements that make me want to slam my head into my desk. But as that might ruin the recent surgery I endured, I'll just post my thoughts here instead.

Why did CCP ban gambling in 2016? I wrote a 2700 word post back in October 2016 with a detailed explanation for those interested in a lot of the juicy details. Looking back, I would point to 3 reasons:

  1. Involvement in real money trading. The casinos were always watched closely for RMT activity. The organization which saw the most public involvement was I WANT ISK. In the first half of 2015, CCP blacklisted the site from EVE's in-game browser due to RMT activity. In January 2016, 12 IWI bankers were banned for RMT activity. And at the end, major figures involved with IWI were banned and trillions of ISK seized from individual bankers.
  2. The power of the casinos. Most of the casinos settled for staying relatively low-key. I WANT ISK, on the other hand, showed what someone willing to use the power that comes from an income of trillions of ISK per month could do to the sandbox. In addition to funding the start of The Casino War (aka World War Bee) and paying most of the combatants, IWI, or bankers working independently, are rumored to have purchased enough votes to put a representative on the CSM. The fact that an organization believed by CCP's security team to be involved in RMT could pay to put someone on the CSM must have shook up some people in Reykjavik.
  3. The launch the free-to-play alpha option. The ban occurred right before the introduction of  Alpha clones. Combining the RMT/cheating headaches associated with a F2P  launch with the RMT headaches involved with monitoring the casinos was probably a bit much.

CCP really banned player-run gambling so they could take over all gambling. This one makes me wonder if people follow the news. The people who made the decision to ban gambling in 2016 no longer work at CCP. In addition, CCP was purchased by Pearl Abyss in 2018, with the acquisition finalized in October 2018.

Somerblink was shut down for RMT. False, mostly. When Somerblink's ISK laundering scheme (one shared by nearly all the casinos operating at the time) in November 2013, Somerset Mahm was not banned. He was banned in August 2014 for other violations.
The Concerns

Our investigation uncovered a number of concerns. For privacy and other reasons, we will not discuss them all. However, we want to comment on three key issues.

First, the promotion could be applied to facilitate the exchange of real-world money for ISK (it’s indirect, but such transactions usually are). If the promotion were used in this manner, it would be a violation of EVE Online’s EULA and Terms of Service. We will not comment on whether any such violation actually occurred. However, this potential did raise a red flag.

Second, SOMER Blink advertised the promotion as being “approved by CCP.” But SOMER Blink never had permission from CCP to make such a statement, which misled our players, and is no different than someone pretending to be an authorized representative of CCP (look at paragraph 8 of our Terms of Service). This is a serious violation because it undermines the safety and security of EVE.

CCP was involved in discussions with SOMER Blink to address our concerns about their products, which included several different ideas for promotions, but none of them had been fully authorized by a CCP representative (notably the legal department). The promotion in question was similar to one SOMER Blink had suggested (the “PLEX Buyer’s Club”), but the promotion had been altered before enacted. SOMER Blink certainly had no basis to assert the live promotion was “approved by CCP.”

Finally, following our investigation, CCP tried to resolve our concerns directly with SOMER Blink’s founder. In response, the founder published private communications from CCP without authorization. This violates our EULA and Terms of Service (see paragraph 18 of our Terms of Service).

Our Response

We cherish and protect the freedom of our players and the creative ways people interact in EVE. But we also have an obligation to make the game environment safe and secure for everyone.

We believe the actions of SOMER Blink overstepped the bounds of fair play.

After careful consideration and consultation with CSM9, who have displayed an outstanding level of support in assisting with this issue, CCP has taken the decision to permanently ban the founder of SOMER Blink from EVE Online across all accounts, with immediate effect. This is due to multiple violations of our EULA and Terms of Service.

Following the promotion, CCP no longer regards SOMER Blink as a fair or legitimate service within the EVE Community. We are unable to provide reimbursements as per section 1.3 of our reimbursement policy, so it’s good to see that SOMER Blink is shutting down in a controlled and stable manner, and that players will be able to withdraw their ISK and / or assets.

While we will be monitoring this closely, we have no intention of interfering with the process, as we feel that allowing players to be able to have their assets and/or ISK returned by SOMER Blink will is an important part of bringing this situation to a solid resolution.
Does the new feature violate gambling laws in some countries? Yes. My understanding is that players from some countries will not have access to the new feature. I expect CCP to post a final dev blog before the feature goes live on 10 December that will include this information.

Will CCP have to change the rating of EVE Online due to the addition of gambling? No. According to information on the PEGI site, games with gambling can be rated PEGI 12, 16, or 18. EVE Online is currently rated PEGI 12 and T for Teen by the ESRB.

Will the addition of gambling lead to more activity on the black market? Probably yes. The biggest boost to ISK sellers in the last few years was the introduction of skill injectors. I don't expect the new gambling system to have quite the impact, but I do expect increased sales of ISK on the black market as gamblers look for cheap ISK to gamble with.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Probes Now Optional In Thera

A lot of wormhole players claim Thera is not a wormhole. The latest release for EVE Online yesterday, Invasion Chapter 2, will help reinforce the belief. With the implementation of shared bookmarks, EVE-Scout, the parent alliance of Signal Cartel, has added to its Thera services.

Public EVE-Scout Thera Bookmarks

Probes are now optional* when visiting Thera! EVE-Scout is now publishing bookmarks for all entries and exits for Thera.

To access bookmarks:
  • Join the "EVE-Scout" in-game channel.
  • Click on the "EVE-Scout \\ Thera" link in the channel MOTD.
  • Click the "Connect" button in the "Connect to Folder" window.
  • Bookmarks will now be listed under "EVE-Scout \\ Thera" when you right-click in space.
To find the nearest connection to Thera visit Search for your system and then sort by "Jumps". You can also view current connections on a map of New Eden by visiting

December will mark 5 years of service in Thera. We are excited to bring more value with our Shared Bookmarks. Next time you are looking for a shortcut consider using Thera.

If you find our service helpful consider donating to "EVE-Scout" corporation in-game. Donations support our dedicated scouts and make our Thera service possible.

* EVE-Scout makes no guarantees for your safe passage through Thera with or without probes.
I will put in a caveat that someone may have rolled the wormhole you wish to traverse since the wormhole was posted to But thanks to the shared bookmark system, players hopefully won't get trapped anymore. Well, unless they get camped into one of the stations.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

RIP Brad McQuaid

Brad McQuaid, once considered one of the giants in the MMORPG field for his work on EverQuest, died Monday night. The news was posted on the Pantheon forums yesterday.
It is with deep regret and profound sadness that we share that Brad McQuaid, Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Realms passed away in his home last night.

Brad was a visionary, a mentor, an artist, a trailblazer, a friend, a husband, a father. He touched thousands of lives with his dreams and concepts. He changed the landscape of video games forever. He will be deeply missed and forever remembered in life and in Pantheon.

Thank you, Brad, for bringing us together through your worlds. Rest in peace, Aradune.

All of us at Visionary Realms offer our deepest condolences to Brad’s family and during this most difficult time, we kindly ask that you respect the privacy of Brad’s family.
McQuaid's fall from the pantheon of top MMORPG developers occurred with the development and lanuch of Vanguard. My only experience with a Brad McQuaid project was Vanguard. I went out and bought a new computer and intended to leave EQ2 to play the new game. When the new computer couldn't run Vanguard, I returned to EQ2 and found the computer ran the game wonderfully.

I wasn't the only player to have issues running Vanguard. Articles and videos abound describing the decline and fall of McQuaid's studio, and subsequently the game. Those events colored the views of potential players and I believe led to the failure of the Pantheon Kickstarter effort. The game then received enough funding in 2017 to continue development.

People getting into the MMORPG genre today may only know McQuaid from his efforts of the last 10 years. But back at the end of the 20th century and beginning of this one, he was a giant.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Quick November Update

I was cruising to my goal of 100 blog posts this year when I caught whatever is going around the office and felt like death for a couple of weeks. I felt so bad, I didn't even play video games for about 5 days. Perhaps worse, my computer class has sat idle since the end of EVE Vegas. As the blog ideas piled up, I realized I won't get to all of them. Think of this as a catch-up post.

In EVE, I started a new alpha account and am now a member of Signal Cartel again. For this, blame Johnny Splunk and CCP Ghost. Johnny and I were talking before Ghost's presentation at EVE Vegas and Johnny suggested I join Signal again. Then listening to CCP Ghost, joining Signal Cartel seemed like a great idea. So afterwards I ran into Johnny and we talked some more. He suggested joining as an alpha character to see that cloaks are just crutches.

So far, I've run through the tutorial and career agents. For any new players thinking of joining Signal Cartel, please do the tutorial and career agents first. Signal Cartel is perpetually war decked. I managed to fit up a Heron with one of Johnny's fits. Now I need to get to a backwater system where the war deckers never go. The next time I can log in with any time to play, I'll probe down a wormhole and escape to safety.

In Final Fantasy 14, I didn't play for about 2 weeks. When I logged in again, I found Square Enix had standardized the skills for the crafting classes. Which meant redoing all my skill bars. That's okay. I think I like new setup better.

Out of the eight crafting professions, I completed the level 20 quests for five of them. I also managed to level my botany skills to level 27, meaning I need to do the botany level 25 quest as well.

One the blogging front, I haven't published the October Dotlan numbers for player deaths and NPC kills. I intend to do a comprehensive look at activity in the 3rd quarter which will include the Dotlan information, PLEX & skill injector sales as well as data from the monthly economic report. I will also include information from the latest Pearl Abyss investors' call. The post is turning into a monster and I will need to do some editing to keep it down to a decent length.

Hopefully blogging will resume at a semi-regular pace again. For now, I need to drink more orange juice and get some rest. Staying up to watch the Pearl Abyss presentation at G-STAR probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but I did get a kick out of it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Titan Ratting RIP?

The Beat Around The Boosh patch launched today. Perhaps most widely known for the nerf to Micro Jump Field Generators, I was most intrigued with the change to one of the doomsday weapons for titans, the Bosonic Field Generator (aka the boson). The area of effect weapon had its signature resolution increased from 2000 to 10,000. I don't know exactly the effect on PvP engagements, but I figured the change would greatly impact PvE activity.

I had heard of titan ratting, and knew the boson made the activity go very quickly. I decided to find a video showing a titan hard at work making ISK.

Just looking at the video makes titan ratting seem very lucrative. One blast with the bosun took out every wave of NPCs in the site. I think the only reason for shooting the first wave was to allow the doomsday weapon to finish recharging.

Now, after the patch? RonUSMC steamed an effort to run a Haven and the results were quite different.

If titan ratting is truly nonviable, then what happens to income generation in null sec? Of course, CCP probably wants to see the end of titan ratting as part of their campaign to reduce the wealth inequality of the top 20% holding all the ISK. I'm interested to see the effects on the money supply when the November monthly economic report comes out next month.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Pearl Abyss Q3 2019 Investors Call

On Friday (Thursday night in North America), Pearl Abyss held a conference call to discuss its earnings report for the third quarter. For EVE players, the idea of having a look at the possible financial ramifications of the game decisions made during the summer of 2019 is a novel idea. For myself, I tend to think the success (or failure) of CCP's parent company could also have ramifications on New Eden. Plus, I find some of the things Pearl Abyss is doing very fascinating.

One subject I find myself disagreeing with the talking heads on the talk shows is the degree to which Pearl Abyss has or has not influenced the development of EVE over the last year. While I agree that as long as CCP keeps pulling in steady financial numbers PA will remain fairly hands-off, we have seen some evidence of PA's influence already.

Listening to the call a few times brought home that thought. When addressing investors, Pearl Abyss concentrates on the acquisition and retention of users and technology advancements that help in achieving both goals. For example, in the third quarter, PA worked to make Black Desert available on Steam in Southeast Asia to attract new users. At the same time, PA is working to ensure that the game is updated on the same day across platforms and regions to satisfy their "core user base."

(As a quick aside, listening to this section of the call, I couldn't help but think of the development resource split of 80% towards new players (acquisition) and 20% to the "EVE Core". EVE Core is a term first disclosed in the EVE Vegas keynote.)

Speaking of satisfying the core user base, PA usually includes a few measures it is taking to keep existing users happy. EVE received its first mention on the call for the Invasion Tour. As another example of player outreach, PA is also reached out to Black Desert Mobile players with subsidized clan dinners.

I also must mention PA likes to push the narrative that it is a very technologically forward-thinking company. While the next Aether Wars test will likely receive attention on the Q4 2019 call, PA did mention making BDO available as a demo on Microsoft's Project xCloud. The mention of Microsoft caught my attention, as Microsoft is a new partner, along with Steam, for the next Aether Wars test.

Another theme on these calls is diversification. Basically, PA wants investors to know they are diversifying across platform, as they don't know which market will become the most profitable in the long run. Over the past year, PA's revenues from console sales have jumped from non-existent to making up 12% of operating revenue. PC sales, probably due to the acquisition of CCP, has risen from 23% to 31% year-over-year.

Of interest to EVE players is the performance of the EVE IP during the third quarter. I would say the game performed well, registering only a 2% drop in revenue. The drop down to ₩14.6 billion is still ₩100 million more than the revenue for Q1. The PA leadership on the call spent time defending the 12.8% drop in revenue quarter-over-quarter. The investor analysts seemed happy with the EVE IP's performance. In fairness to Black Desert, PA did state the company had to defer revenue from the third quarter to Q4, which should make the yearly financial numbers look better.

On the Q2 investors call, PA announced mentioned three games in development. On Friday's call, PA revealed more details. The official name of the former Project K is Plan 8. The game developed under the leadership of Counterstrike create Minh Le, is described as a "Exosuit MMO Shooter." DokeV, formerly known as Project V, is a "collectible MMORPG for all ages." Read teen friendly. Crimson Desert, a title the analysts tried unsuccessfully to get details about in August, is described as a "epic-fantasy open-world MMORPG." On the call, Pearl Abyss stated that Crimson Desert would become the new flagship MMORPG for PA.

All of these games will debut at G-STAR, South Korea's biggest annual game trade show, on Thursday, 14 November. In addition, PA will announce Shadow Arena, a stand-alone battle royale game set in the Black Desert universe. A closed beta is planned for 21-24 November.

Pearl Abyss also mentioned existing content the company will expand upon. Black Desert's new expansion, Drieghan, launches on Thursday. In December Black Desert Mobile will expand globally, reportedly on the 12th. The deferred revenue mentioned earlier in the call is probably related to pre-orders for BDM. EVE was not left out of the announcements, with the Korean localized client available on Thursday as well.

In August, the investor analysts focused in on the unnamed game revealed as Crimson Desert. On Friday, the analysts concentrated on information about EVE: Echoes. One of the analysts had a question about the term "open beta testing" and whether that meant the game was commercially available and bringing in revenue. The PA leadership had to confirm that the open beta was a true open beta and not a marketing gimmick.

The second question concerned a sticky subject, licensing of EVE: Echoes within the People's Republic of China. The EVE IP would undoubtedly bring in more revenue if the Serenity cluster could reopen. The same is true for EVE: Echoes. Government approval for the mobile game would bring in increased income, and more investment interest, if Pearl Abysss can garner the appropriate permits to operate the game in China. I'm sure the question will arise on the next call in some form.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Change To The Ansiblex Jump Gate Change

At EVE Vegas, we learned that in the Beat Around the Boosh content drop, Ansiblex Jump Gates would receive a anchoring restriction of 500 kilometers from other structures. However, any existing gate could remain in place and still function. Today CCP changed their minds.

When I first heard of the plan to grandfather in any jump gates that fell within 500 km of any other structure, I thought that couldn't last. From a technical standpoint, the situation would get messy. Imagine having to keep track of exempt structures in a database table somewhere. Then, during downtime, run a script to determine which ones were destroyed or otherwise no longer qualified for the special treatment. On top of everything else, QA would have to test each release for years to make sure no new feature broke the grandfathered placement.

Along a similar vein, imagine CCP trying to run a script that would automatically move existing gates 500 km from other structures. What is worse for an alliance logistics team?

  1. CCP moves the jump gates out of range of a citadel's weapons, then the logistics team has to visit each gate to make sure the gate is properly placed. If not properly placed, the logisticians then have to unanchor the gate and place it in a different location.
  2. The logistics team moves each gate to its proper location. The logisticians unanchor the gates under the cover of the citadel's weapons.
I honestly don't know. I've never done null sec logistics. Either way, the process sounds painful.

From a gameplay perspective, I don't really have an opinion. I do think that making the change announced via Twitter will help on the technical end. From my perspective, the change to Ansiblex Jump Gate anchoring distances will cause enough drama. No need to possibly continue the drama for years to come.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Not So Quick Thoughts About the EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

I started writing this piece Saturday morning, after spending Friday night grabbing screenshots. I just finished writing up my views on the keynote presentation at EVE Vegas. I know the post is late. Sometimes, however, I need to get my thoughts written up on the blog. Hopefully, I still came up with something relevant.

Friday, October 25, 2019

News Drops Before The EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

CCP managed to drop some news before the beginning of the convention today. The biggest news, of course, is the announcement that EVE: Echoes will enter beta in December.
GUANGZHOU, China and REYKJAVÍK, Iceland – Oct. 24, 2019 – NetEase Games and CCP Games today announced that the open beta for EVE Echoes, the authentic EVE Online experience for mobile devices, will go live this December. Developed by NetEase Games in conjunction with CCP Games, EVE Echoes was unveiled last year and will be available to demo for the first time at EVE Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend.

In celebration of the open beta announcement, new assets, an official website, and social media channels are now live for EVE Echoes.

Venture into the depths of space with official gameplay footage here:

“We’re very excited for the first public outing of EVE Echoes, the next revolutionary step in mobile MMO gaming,” said Hilmar V. Petursson, CEO of CCP Games. “I can’t wait to see the reaction from our core PC players, who will no doubt recognize the unparalleled scale and sophisticated gameplay of EVE Online’s virtual world running through the veins of EVE Echoes.”

“CCP Games is a pioneer in space MMOs, and will make its mark on the industry even further by expanding the EVE experience to mobile with EVE Echoes,” said Ethan Wang, Vice President of NetEase, Inc. “Combining CCP’s leadership in game design with our NeoX game engine and leadership in game publishing will no doubt create a spacefaring sandbox MMO for mobile devices unlike anything seen before.”

EVE Echoes brings the vast, interstellar EVE universe from PC to the palm of your hand. Built using NetEase Games’ proprietary NeoX graphics engine, EVE Echoes stays true to CCP’s hallmark EVE Online design principles and immerses pilots in beautiful starry skies and across boundless star fields. Pilots must collect resources, manufacture items, and explore thousands of uncharted planets to write their own history in pursuit of galactic glory. A realistic social system enables players to join and lead corporations, form coalitions, capture rival territories, engage in intergalactic combat, and much more across thousands of planetary systems.
I know, copy/pasting press releases is a bad practice. Pearl Abyss purchased CCP Games for the EVE Online IP and EVE: Echoes is the first chance for the investment to pay off for the South Korean game company. I passed up a chance to sign up for a hands-on demonstration yesterday, mainly because I didn't know my schedule for Saturday. Although I don't play mobile games, I should attend one of the 30-minute demonstrations so I can report first-hand on how the game feels.

The next biggest news is CCP will release the Korean-language client for EVE Online on 14 November, the first day of the giant G-STAR 2019 conference. Making a Korean-language client once CCP Games was purchased by Peal Abyss seemed a foregone conclusion. Announcing the launch of the client at G-STAR indicates some sort of marketing push will occur in association with the announcement.

One thing I can confidently say is that those who choose to just look at the daily peak concurrent user (PCU) count will probably not notice a difference. The effect of any Korean player influx will occur during the slow, Australian time zone. An influx of 20,000 new Korean accounts could result in a rise of up to 3,000 accounts in the daily average concurrent user (ACU) number. That many new players could also result in time-zone tanking becoming a much less viable strategy.

The next set of noteworthy news is the announcement of the replacement for the Crimson Harvest this year. Gone is the tale of Bloody Omar and The Blood Raiders. Last year's event began on 23 October and ran for two weeks. This year, CCP chose to go with a much less lore-friendly title, EVE's Halloweeen Horrors. The event introduces as yet undisclosed changes to combat interceptors.
Beware of roaming wolf packs at Halloween! An upgrade to Combat Interceptors in EVE Online means more damage, more fittings and more reason to jump into these ships for some Trick or Treat action!
In a first I can recall, the holiday event will have a dedicated PvP component.
This Halloween it will definitely pay to undock and go on a spine-chilling rampage as there will be a shocking PVP event from 11:00 UTC on 29 October to 11:00 UTC on 5 November. Tune in to the EVE Vegas live stream on Twitch for more details!
Or course, the event has a daily log-in component as well.
From 11:00 UTC on 28 October to 11:00 UTC on 3 November, every pilot that logs into the game will receive rewards that range from free Skill Points to limited SKINs. We promise that there is nothing to be afraid of.
No word if the current daily skill points for NPC kills event will continue to run.

In a few hours EVE Vegas officially begins. I'll try to write up as much news as I can. I do have the disadvantage of being on-site, so I may wind up watching the VOD from CCP's Twitch channel to see what I missed.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Story Of 2019 So Far

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how data can tell a story. I began writing this post flying toward a key point in the story of New Eden: Las Vegas, Nevada. What I encounter this weekend will play a critical role in how the story turns out.

The origins of the story stretch back to late 2018 and January 2019. CCP, recognizing economic problems in the virtual word of its flagship game, EVE Online, began a series of changes to the game world to reign in the issues before they tore the game apart. Change is a part of any MMORPG. Developers are constantly assessing the state of their games and implementing new features and altering existing ones. Players typically call these things expansions, buffs, and nerfs.

Into this story comes a man. Someone who was around at the start of the in-game universe. As his company grew, he became distracted from the world he helped create chasing other dreams. But in October, the studio he ran was sold and his focus narrowed. He returned to the world he helped create. For purposes of the current story of New Eden, let’s call him Odin.

To the residents of a virtual world, the developers are gods. They have the power to turn piles of junk into gold, and beloved forms of game play into horror shows not worth engaging in anymore. In New Eden, the gods saw the amount of virtual currency flowing into the economy and declared it bad. Beginning in February, the developers began to take steps to reduce the flow of wealth into the game.

Also, in February Odin began making his presence known. He was back, and not pleased with what he saw. In addition to the faucets and sinks being too far out of balance, he saw stagnation in an important area of the universe, null security space. As he put it, the developers needed to stir up the sandbox, because the players had solved the game and "the sand in the sandbox has turned into cement."

On 28 May, CCP deployed the Invasion expansion onto Tranquility. The gods deployed the new content, while containing bugs, in such a way that each phase of the new content corresponded with lore points. Pauses to fix the bugs before deploying the next phase were built into the continuing story of the Triglavians. This content for high sec, and later low sec, was a welcome addition to EVE’s overall lackluster PvE content.

Hubris can afflict even the gods. After the careful rollout of the Triglavian invasion content, the developers rushed out content involving the Drifters to add the residents of null sec to the new state of the universe. Odin declared the beginning of “The Chaos Era.” Odin saw that part of the problem in New Eden was the early acquisition of knowledge and the greatest of the gods determined to limit any foreshadowing as much as possible.

The denizens of null sec, from the most powerful autocrat to the lowliest line member, decried the state of the Drifter content. The new release was bug-ridden, and after an initial scare, was more nuisance than something to fear. Not a good omen for the future.

In July, the gods decided to change one of the immutable laws of null sec: the way the local chat channels work. Starting on 12 July, the local chat channels acted as those in wormholes space. Instead of immediately showing when a player entered a system, players only appear when typing into the chat window. In a lore announcement of the feature to the players, the god described the length of the change as “indefinitely”. For which, I assumed the gods would evaluate the effects of the changes and, if the conditions warranted, revert the changes on the next scheduled release on 13 August.

Somewhere Loki is smiling, because the bit of chaos Odin intended to insert into null sec didn’t work well. Player versus environment activity immediately took a nosedive in null sec. PvP activity, after a relatively brief period of rising, also witnessed eclines as well. And yet, Odin and the other gods did not reset the local chat channels to their conditions on 11 July. The gods changed the world again on 13 August, and the chat system remained the same. What could have been a one-month experiment that didn’t do particularly well turned into a natural disaster of historic proportions.

As one of New Eden’s most powerful autocrats, The Mittani, once observed, EVE is ultimately a democracy. One in which players vote with their feet. In New Eden, horrible corporation or alliance leaders cannot make players stay with their organizations. Likewise, the gods of New Eden cannot make players log into their game. Unfortunately for CCP, the gods of another virtual realm, those of Activision-Blizzard, planned on opening a new, long-awaited universe called WoW Classic.

On 26 August, the number of players logging into New Eden drastically declined as dissatisfied players now had a place to which to flee. The decline continued until the gods relented and restored local chat channel functionality to null sec on 16 September.

Players are not machines that return automatically when the gods flip a switch. As of yet, player activity has not returned to June levels. PvE activity, as measured by NPC kills recorded by Dotlan, reached that level this past weekend. New Eden may see that level reached for a full month in November. PvP activity, on the other hand, has continued to decline since the return of local chat to normal. So far in October (through 23 October), player-flown ships are exploding 29.5% less often in null sec and 19% less often in low sec as compared to June.

I began writing this post over 30,000 feet above the surface of the earth. I finish, sitting just a few yards away from the stage where the story of the gods of New Eden will continue. Will CCP present a vision and content that will inspire their players and see the game climb to the levels of last year? Or will Odin continue acting on the theory that restricting the information flow to players is the best course of action for EVE Online? Sometimes, the faithful require a sign from the gods to continue their belief. We will see if the gods of New Eden agree.

Monday, October 21, 2019

EVE Vegas 2019: A Change In The Schedule

One subject we usually don't hear about at EVE Vegas is security. We might hear about a major ban discussed amongst players, but official word is usually pretty scarce. I personally suspect members of Team Security have misbehaved in the past, but this year, CCP Peligro is blaming Steven Tyler.
I understand the sentiments about Las Vegas completely. I'm looking forward to not travelling to the city next year.

But, CCP has changed the schedule for this year's event. The name of the first event on Sunday was changed from EVE Economics and Analytics to Data & Botting. The description, however, has not changed.
Join CCP Larrikin, creator and curator of the Monthly Economic Report, for a look at the economy of New Eden and a dive into some of the data that makes New Eden the living, breathing world that it is.
CCP Peligro did tweet out a teaser on Wednesday.
I intended to go to CCP Larrikin's presentation anyway. With the new change, though, accidentally oversleeping is now not an option. I also need to prepare a few things, just in case Larrikin doesn't present us any cool graphs.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Warp Speed Changes

Seriously CCP? A special patch to implement warp speed changes to cruisers, battlecruisers, and battleships instead of putting the changes in the regularly scheduled patch on 8 October?

Perhaps I should give CCP the benefit of the doubt. If the developers had to deploy a patch to fix/mitigate the deep safe spot bug, maybe they accidentally left the warp speed changes in the build. But this is smelling like CCP trying to advance the narrative of the so-called "Chaos Era" by instituting a change in the middle of the month, just as they did in September.

Whatever the reason, I should note the changes.
Every Cruiser, Battlecruiser and Battleship now warps faster than before. Ship Warp Speed attributes have been increased for the following Ship Groups:
  • Cruiser increased to 4 (was 3)
  • T2 Cruiser increased to 4.5 (was 3.3)
  • Battlecruiser increased to 3.5 (was 2.7)
  • T2 Battlecruiser increased to 4 (was 3)
  • Battleship increased to 3 (was 2)
  • T2 Battleship increased to 3.5 (was 2.2)
Travelling via autopilot will also be faster now with the warp in distance changed from 15km to 10km.
Military experts have determined that using auto-pilot is, to use a technical term, A TRAP!!! Please don't do it.

I guess I shouldn't complain about all these ships I used to outrun in my Procurer with the aid of warp speed and agility implants becoming much faster than the 3.28 AU/sec I travel in warp. Judging by the numbers, the hunters need all the help they can get.

Since the lifting of the blackout on 16 September, ship losses have continued to decline in both null and low security space. The average number of ships killed each day in the first half of October declined 11.2% in null sec and 4.9% in low sec as compared to the first half of September.

Looking at the statistics, I have to wonder if the cyno changes really had that big an impact on the amount of PvP occurring in New Eden.  The end of the blackout definitely provided more targets in space.

The amount of NPCs killed in null sec has tripled from 1-15 October compared to 1-15 September. More targets in space means more player ships dying, right? I'll have to ask some PvP types at EVE Vegas why the number of ship exploding in space is declining instead.

I won't complain too much about CCP making the job of hunting me in a low sec belt mining in a Procurer easier. With the recent changes in Triglavian content, I pretty much mine exclusively in high sec now. These changes are just another reminder to not go back into dangerous space.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

EVE Vegas 2019: My Tentative Schedule

The final EVE Vegas is next week. Say what you will about the smaller community team, but they published the convention schedule over a week in advance, which is way faster than I'm used to. As I usually do when given the chance, I'll peruse the document and pick out the presentations I will attend.

Thursday, October 24

18:00 - Open Comms. As usual, the Open Comms show is planning on streaming on-site. With a new venue comes new rules. Hopefully, the crew doesn't get kicked out of wherever they stream from.

Friday, October 25

16:00 - Welcome to EVE Vegas. The official opening of the convention. Pretty much a must-see for those planning to actually attend events and not just party all weekend. With CCP Falcon stuck in Iceland, CCP Dopamine and CCP Convict will assume the hosting duties. Don't screw up guys.

17:00 - EVE Keynote. CCP's Creative Director for EVE Online, CCP Burger, will host the keynote presentation, "where we'll take a look at the past and present of New Eden, and maybe even a little glimpse into the future." While the second presentation, what CCP presents during this hour could determine how many people pay attention to the rest of the scheduled content.

18:00 - EVE Core Gameplay Update. This presentation fills me with a touch of dread. Not because CCP Rise doesn't know his stuff (he does), but because of the description of the event.
CCP Rise discusses ships, modules, structures and much more in this talk focused on EVE’s core gameplay for established players.
Watch the official forums and EVE sub-Reddit explode after this presentation. I don't have a prediction whether the explosion will consist of glitter or fissile material, but I'm sure the figure "20%" will appear often.

Saturday, October 26

11:00 - The EVE Friendship Machine. I'm picking CCP Ghost's presentation over Kyle Saltz' Providence, NRDS, Culture, and Conflict.
Everyone knows that the best ship is Friendship. Join CCP Ghost as we take a dive into the data surrounding player behavour, and what makes the greatest community in online gaming tick.
CCP Ghost's presentation should provide a good window into CCP's view of how the game operates.

12:00 - The EVE Variety Hour. CCP Paradox and his preview of "what the EVE Development Team are currently working on, and what's in the pipeline for the near future!" gets the nod over Greygal's Anyone Can FC, Even You! Sorry Greygal, but you drew some pretty heavy counter-programming in CCP Paradox. The EVE Friendship Machine Roundtable finished a distant third. I generally don't like roundtables.

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - EVE Echoes, An Update! I pretty much have to attend the presentation on the new EVE mobile game under development with Netease. Those wishing to hobnob with such luminaries as Open Comm's Dreydan and the space pope, Max Singularity, will probably find them in the other presentation at 1400, Bigger Than Thera: Imaging M87's Supermassive Black Hole. The EVE Variety Hour Roundtable is the third event offered during the time slot.

15:00 - Return to the Moon. Speaking of Max Singularity, he is presenting at 1500.
An overview of the current outlook for America’s plan to return to the Moon. Including plans using the SLS Rockets, Orion Capsule, commercial partners, and the new Lunar orbiting space station known as “Gateway”.
Poor CCP Filipp. His presentation, DirectX 12 - Past, Present, And Future!, received a bad draw. CCP Rise's EVE Core Gameplay Update Roundtable rounds out the offerings in this slot.

16:00 - The Glorious CCP AMA - EVE Vegas Edition. I have the feeling I may head up to my room for a nap after The Space Pope's presentation. But if I do go to a presentation at 16:00, I'll wind up attending the AMA. ISD Tipene's talk, Eleven Years A Volunteer I'll leave to others.

Sunday, October 27

11:00 - EVE Economics and Analytics. Whoever puts the schedules together really hates the economics guys. At EVE Vegas, CCP Larrikin gets the job of presenting on a Sunday morning after the big party. Apparently, a lot of people are on call, as CCP Tuxford and CCP Chimichanga give a talk on Putting the Internet in Internet Spaceships. Despite what the schedule indicates, the presenters work for CCP and are not players. CCP Filipp & CCP Vertex round out the time slot with the Direct X 12 Roundtable.

12:00 - A History of EVE's Most Popular Ships & Doctrines. The first time slot without a CCP presentation, I'm leaning toward attending Elise Randolph's talk.
EVE Online has a robust player-made history, but what was it like the be a capsuleer back then? From Cavalry Ravens to Caracals, we'll be looking at just that! The history of EVE through the lens of the most popular ships at the time, and the circumstances that allowed them to have such prolific success.
However, my old alliance leader Johnny Splunk is giving a presentation called Too Many FCs that has me intrigued.
How many capsuleers does it take to undock? Learn about a new experience where you can crew a ship with other players. Will you cooperate or lead a mutiny?
Rounding out the surprisingly strong time slot is the Putting the Internet in Internet Spaceships Roundtable with CCP Tuxford and CCP Chimichanga.

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Art of EVE. Looking at the description, the Art Department's presentation, given by CCP Myrkur and CCP BlueScreen, looks like a can't miss event.
Join the Audio and Graphics team as we have a closer look at the visuals of EVE Online, from spaceships and visual effects to character art, and everything in between. We'll be looking at recently released content as well as what we have upcoming in the near future. Finally we might have a peek at some ongoing R&D projects developing within art, too!
Brave's Dunk Dinkle will give a presentation, How to Lead Without Being a CEO Part Deux, a follow-up to his successful presentation from last year. And finally, CCP Ghost and CCP Larriken will host the final round table of the weekend, EVE Economics and Analytics Roundtable.

15:00 - Mildly Interesting Things & Such. The convention winds down with newly hired community developer CCP Convict describing what he found while rummaging through CCP's records. For those interesting in tournaments, the Invasion Tournament Finals - EVE Vegas will occur during this time slot as well.

16:00 - Closing Ceremonies

I have to say, for the first time in years, I will attend a CCP-run event where I can see myself sitting in presentations all day. While not a fan of Las Vegas, I'm looking forward to the final EVE Vegas. Now, if CCP will give us some good news to get excited about.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hurricane Hilmar: Why Look At The Numbers

Over the past three months or so, I spent way too much time looking at EVE Online data trying to determine the impact of the so-called "Chaos Era" and, up until now, it's major feature, Hurricane Hilmar. Officially, the institution of wormhole-style delayed local was called Blackout, but looking at the effects of the feature reminded me more of a natural disaster than something that caused players to run around New Eden like chickens with their heads cut off.

I guess that's why I spent so much time looking at the data. Yes, I got quite a few blog posts out of the situation. The data can tell a story. The problem is the data can tell any story if a person is willing to torture the numbers enough.
Any forum warrior or Reddit shit poster can spout off about what he/she thinks about CCP's actions. What I hopefully did over the past few months is collect the data readily available to players and connect the dots in such a way to provide some context to the whole situation. I doubt I imparted any wisdom in the coverage of Hurricane Hilmar. After all, stating CCP needs a strong winter expansion I think is pretty self-evident. Even those who disagree privately probably would look forward to more and better content.

Another reason for exploring and writing about the data was selfish. I never looked into the economy of EVE as closely as during the time the hurricane ravaged across null sec. I think I know a little better what to look for the the marco economy of New Eden. Of course, people don't make ISK off the macro economy. But who knows? Maybe one day I can earn some ISK off this blogging thing.

The third reason for diving into the data is that CCP really did make Hurricane Hilmar the focus of EVE for that last few months. As someone who doesn't play in null sec, the only angle I could find to write about the subject was the numbers. After choosing the angle, I just needed to describe what I saw in the data, not why null sec residents reacted they way they did.

The final reason for writing all the articles is that I really couldn't believe that CCP was doing what the numbers showed me. The more I stared at the numbers and discussed them with others, the more I fell into disbelief. Frankly, the fact that the blackout did not end on 13 August left me dumbfounded. After the logical date for reverting local back to normal passed, I kept staring at the trends in the data as if I were viewing a train wreck in real time.

Having started the trip down the rabbit hole, I can't stop yet. I still need to document the recovery, as well as finally look into why CCP made the changes that led to such a drastic drop in player activity. I also have to write a post about the biggest statistic of all: CCP's revenue during Hurricane Hilmar. I can't write that post until the Pearl Abyss investors call for the third quarter, which I believe will occur sometime around 8 November if history is any guide. Hopefully CCP will come announce cool new content at EVE Vegas next week that will knock talk of statistics to the back pages of EVE media. No matter what, though, I need to finish what I started, no matter what I find.