Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Grumpy About Triglavian Skills

I looked at the skill queue on my main character and liked what I saw.

Six more skills and I'd have Mastery V in all sub-cap ships in EVE Online. January 2020 was going to be a good month. But then I remembered, CCP added those damn Triglavians.

I totally neglected the new Triglavian skills. I can sit in a frigate, but can't run a disintegrator. The only skills I have I picked up running Abyssal sites, and quite frankly, I got a little tired of that. I'll have to pick some up when I get back from EVE North and get the PI colonies up and running again.

When CCP introduces new things to EVE, I'm usually pretty late to jumping on the bandwagon. I have no desire to fly Triglavian ships, at least for now. Maybe I'll find a reason in a year or two. Mostly, the whole collecting skills at this point is for completionist reasons, as the only ships I fly are either Minmatar, Sisters of EVE, or ORE. Well, and occasionally the Arbitrator.

I guess I should welcome the requirement to learn the skills of our new tripartite overlords. I can delay the time I have to make the decision to either stop training on my main or start learning capital ship skills a few months longer. Because as much as I don't fly Gallente ships, I'll fly capitals even less.

Monday, June 17, 2019

My Schedule For EVE North

With the CSM elections out of the way, the next big event on my EVE calendar is EVE North. Held in Toronto on the weekend of 22-23 June, the substitute on the schedule for the yearly event in Reykjavik isn't nearly as big. Then again, as the expansion of a player-run get together, any such expectations are a bit silly. Still, CCP may surprise with some news as it begins the development cycle leading to the next expansion, probably sometime in November. Needless to say, I will plan my schedule in Toronto accordingly.

First is the pre-convention activities. I always try to get into town for these events a couple of days early, and this trip is no different. I arrive on Thursday evening and hope to settle in for a day of walking around Toronto on Friday. I might meet up with people, although I'll have to refrain from drinking Thursday night due to some medications I'm taking. But the prescription runs out in time for me to drink with everyone on Friday.

Saturday is the big day and I might just camp in the Soco Ballroom. The welcoming ceremony and EVE Keynote are basically mandatory. Depending on the description of the "EVE Development Variety Hour", I may take a two-hour lunch. I will return in time for the player presentations running from 1400 - 1630. The Triglavian lore presentation and the New Eden Report's Year in Review are the highlights, but the "Alone in New Eden" presentation has an intriguing title.

The only mandatory session on Sunday is the one at 1000, "Player Experience - Support, Security & Community". I'm not sure exactly what to expect, although I hope a couple of interesting graphs and charts are included. I think the next session I'll attend is "State of Roleplaying". I'm not really sure the AMA at 1300 is worth giving up my two-hour lunch. And, of course, the closing ceremony.

Not really a big weekend. A few hours listening to presentations and 4 days catching up with people I usually only interact with over the internet. But I can use the break, plus I should pick up a couple of topics to write about.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Catching Up On The EVE Story

I'm a little behind the times on the lore of EVE Online. Not the player created history. The story of the empires that sets the background for New Eden. So I thought looking at the latest news article posted on 7 June and comment on the goings-on of our NPC overlords.

New Triglavian Strategy Emerges As Collective Establishes "Minor Conduits"

Yulai, Genesis – A new phase in the Triglavian invasion has developed in the last few days, with it becoming clear that the appearance of sites of space-time distortion across invasion zones is an effort to establish persistent "conduits" from Abyssal Deadspace into New Eden's known space. Triglavian messages heralding the appearance of the conduits were received by a number of capsuleers. CONCORD has designated the sites as "Minor Conduit" locations but the Triglavian Collective are maintaining significant forces at these sites, while continuing to roam across the systems within the invasion zones.
The implementation of Triglavian invasions continues apace. I really like how CCP is conducting the rollout. First, the events are building up gradually, giving the implantation of the conduct a live event feel, although without the live actors present. Second, CCP isn't just handing all the information out to players. Don't get me wrong, I like knowing what's about to hit us on Tranquility. But MMORPGs probably need to retain some sense of mystery. Finally, the phased rollout allows CCP to test each portion of the new content before deploying the next portion. I like hiding technical requirements like that.
Sansha's Nation Launch Incursion in Fabas Constellation; Widespread Landings in Nasreri System

Nasreri, Genesis – New Sansha's Nation incursion operations in the Fabas constellation have included major landings on the third and fourth planets of the Nasreri system. Reports indicate that major cities and colonies on those planets have been raided by True Slave forces and large numbers of people have been carried off in Sansha's Nation vessels. Civil defense has been overwhelmed in the face of what appears to be an opportunistic attack while CONCORD and Amarr forces redeploy in response to Triglavaian invasion fleet movements.
A reminder that just because CCP added Triglavian invasions that Sansha's Nation incursions are still present. What I really need to do is watch for times when invasions and incursions overlap. Sansha's Nation events stick to constellations while I've seen Triglavian invasions cross region boundaries. I want to see what happens if the two types of events overlap, especially since the Triglavians announced they don't care much for the slavers.

Blood Raider Attack on Matar Staged from FOBs in Evannater Constellation; Atgur Mining Operations Also Raided

Matar, Pator – The coast of Mikramurka on Matar has been struck by a vicious assault by the Blood Raider Covenant, with the seaport of Sundsele especially badly hit according to reports. The Blood Raider strike force is believed to have staged out of forward operating bases in the Evannater constellation. Mining installations in the Atgur system have also been struck by the Blood Raiders, with the cultist pirates apparently taking advantage of mobilization and redeployment movements of local Republic Fleet elements.

If Triglavians and the forces of Sansha Kuvakei aren't enough, the Blood Raiders decided to remind everyone they are still around with an attack on the Minmatar homeworld. Oh, and while they are at it, why not attack a system in a high sec island as well? I am bugged a little bit by this, because the Minmatar Republic is the home of the Angel Cartel. To add insult to injury, the Guardian Angels, a division of the Angel Cartel, provides security to the Serpentis Corporation. More Angel content please!
Upwell Consortium Announces Small Arms Contract with AEGIS

Yulai, Genesis – Upwell Consortium Chairman Yani Sar Arteu expressed delight today, as he shook hands with Provost Marshal Kasiha Valkanir, the head of CONCORD’s AEGIS division, at a gathering of defense contractors in Yulai. Shortly after their first time meeting in person the two signed an indefinite contract that marked Upwell Consortium as a supplier of armaments for the spacelane and installation security division.
If Project Nova were still in the news, I'd speculate that CCP's FPS in development was introducing new weapons. Instead, I wonder if this bit of news is intended as foreshadowing for some cool new weaponry coming to the game this fall.

In Other News

Royal Heir Arim Ardishapur Holding Audience for Local Dignitaries at Governor's Palace in Tanoo

Tanoo is a system in the Ammatar Mandate, which is overseen by the Ardishapur family. The system is also 4 jumps from the main trade hub of the Minmatar Republic, Rens. A good place for an incident, if CCP decides one is needed.

Military Governor Takes Command of Defense Operations in Patrie Constellation

To be honest, I don't know the significance of the constellation in Essence. Local flavoring to indicate tensions are up everywhere?

Mobilization of Kaalakiota's Home Guard and Lai Dai Protection Services in Minnen

Another constellation-wide mobilization, this time in the Caldari State region of Lonetrek.

Tribal Council Meeting to Consider Special Powers for Sanmatar Maleatu Shakor

Given the recent attack on the Minmatar homeworld in addition to the Triglavian invasion, granting additional power to the Minmatar leader is not entirely unexpected.

Accusations of Jovian Interference and Collaboration with Triglavians Directed at SOCT

Think some people aren't wondering why the powerful CONCORD are not dealing with the Triglavians?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Packing Up Elder Scrolls Online

With the CSM election underway. I'm just about ready to fly pixilated spaceships in virtual space once again. When covering an election, so much time is usually spent on doing research and updating websites that I spend very little time playing EVE. This year was a little different, as I spent most of my free time playing Elder Scrolls Online instead of EVE.

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to finish the base ESO game and reach 300 veteran points on a character. I actually managed to finish the Morrowind expansion and my healing templar has over 350 veteran points. I've maxed out all crafting professions except jewelcrafting. And I give myself a pass on jewelcrafting as the profession was not included in the original game. In short, I've reached the goals I set for myself when I took up ESO last May.

Perhaps I'm getting sentimental in my old age, but I don't want to just drop my character in the middle of nowhere. Instead, I'm going to mothball the character on the off-chance I want to play the game in the future. And since the game technically doesn't require an ESO Plus subscription, I can keep my crafting research queues filled learning those 9th traits I never got to. For EVE players, think alpha skill queues.

I have probably leaving my character in the best shape of any character I've ever played. She has a big mansion in Wayrest, the capital of the Daggerfall Covenant. In the mansion are 5 crates with 210 slots of inventory space. I still need to put in the crafting stations to do research so I can just log in and log out to update my research queues.

I also did some spring cleaning of my inventory. The ESO Plus subscription doubles inventory and bank space, so I made sure I was using less than half of each. I'm not sure how the mount inventory capacity works, so I may wind up with 115 inventory slots on my character instead of 85 once the subscription ends. If so, I could drop in from time to time to do things, as 115 slots is plenty, as long as I don't pick up a lot of crafting materials.

Oh, crafting materials. The biggest benefit to the ESO Plus subscription is the crafting bag. The only way I can see to replace the crafting bag is to create numerous mules, spend gold to increase their carry capacity, and then swap between them often. Since I only intend to keep my research queues filled, a totally unnecessary effort. But if I ever come back to play, and don't want to pay for ESO Plus, a viable strategy.

My subscription ends Thursday, so I need to purchase the crafting stations, write down some notes on where I left off, and then concentrate on EVE once more. I think I might even write a review of the game. After a rocky start, I came to like Tamriel. But not enough to make ESO my permanent home game.

Monday, June 10, 2019

CSM 14 Voting Starts Today

Barring any controversies over the next week, I can relax and begin enjoying EVE again. The elections for the 14th Council of Stellar Management begin today and run through 17 June. The link to vote is buried a bit on the community site, but you can find it here. The link is probably on the launcher, but I had to leave for work before voting began. Dunk Dinkle provided a handy how-to guide on how to vote.

For those who are just beginning to notice the election and don't know anything about the candidates, I created a Google site with information from the last 5 CSM elections. The one for this week's election is here.

Once again, the podcast/streaming community has covered the election with a series of interviews. Between 3-time CSM member Jin'taan and Talking in Stations, 31 interviews were conducted with 23 of the 44 candidates in the race. One of the candidates Jin'taan interviewed did not make the final ballot, which is one of the pitfalls of having to conduct interviews before the ballot is announced. On my site, I had to delete 16 candidate pages this year. Yes, that many people were either rejected or decided not to run after all. I hear the number was even greater as not all potential candidates posted their intentions on the official forums.

In addition to Jin'taan and his one-man operation, I'd like to give a special shout out to MacCloud, the technical wizard who produces Talking in Stations. He stayed up all Saturday night to ensure that the remaining CSM interviews, including three conducted on Saturday, were posted to the internet on Sunday. A lot of people forget (or don't know) about all the work behind the scenes required to bring a podcast to life.

I'll have a couple of final posts once the election results are announced at EVE North, but for now, I'm finished with the CSM election coverage for this year. I do have a final question, though. What kind of turnout do you expect for this year's election? If you could take my Twitter poll, I'd appreciate it. The poll will run until downtime on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Thoughts On The CSM 14 Election One Week Before Voting Begins

With 6 days remaining until the Council of Stellar Management elections begin next Monday. I think I am all CSM'd out for this year. I still have to check for updates on the forums, although I think the odds of any additional candidates creating a new threads in the CSM Campaign section of the forums ranges from slim to none. Both Jin'taan and Talking In Stations have additional interviews due out this week. Between the two, 9 out of the 44 candidates have interviews posted so far. I need to keep listening, as some candidates have foot-in-mouth disease. For example, don't say, "I don't care if CCP sells bullets that do a little more damage, frankly. I don't see that as completely destabilizing the game." Wargaming removed gold ammo from World of Tanks for a very good reason. If a game publisher wants to attract players, a reputation for pay-to-win items like gold ammo is counter-productive to that goal.

I also am hearing some big talk from some of the null sec blocs about how they plan to win seats. Legacy is an interesting case study. No candidate backed by Brave Collective leadership has ever lost a CSM race. In Dunk Dinkle, Brave once again has a very strong candidate. Conversely, Test Alliance Please Ignore has never had a candidate win a seat. Last year, Creecher Virpio would have ended the drought but not for some meta-gaming by members of Pandemic Legion. Will Vily break the curse?

Another question is the fate of two incumbents, Sort Dragon and Killah Bee. Last year, the pair benefited greatly from the disqualification of Pandemic Horde's chosen candidate during the application process. With not only the leader of the Horde, Gobbins, running, but Aegaeonos and Arqui Nurbs as well, I don't think Killah Bee can count on help from those quarters. Sort Dragon has the additional handicap of fighing against PanFam at this time, so a big chunk of his support from last year is unavailable for his run for a fifth term on CSM.

The other question is whether high sec, low sec, or wormhole space can elect a representative. High sec's best hope is incumbent Steve Ronuken, who is running to win for a sixth time. Three-time CSM member Mike Azariah is also running, with Lorelei Ierendi, a candidate who's come close with a few strong showings, a dark horse candidate. Low sec only has one candidate, Matthew Dust, lists faction warfare amongst his current credentials to rally around. In contrast, wormholers have several candidates running. If the wormhole community can get together and vote for all 6 at the top of their tickets, in whatever order they choose, a chance exists for w-space to sneak a candidate on. The question is, can the residents of spooky space find that unity of purpose as they did in the CSM 8 election?

One other observation. I won't write an endorsement post or announce who I've voting for until after the election, if then. Like I said at the top of the post, I'm all CSM'd out, and I still have several interviews to listen to. Two more weeks until I leave for EVE North in Toronto and this whole election is over. I think I'll drink to that.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Quick Look At The Agency 3.0

Another expansion, another yawn. Usually when we get an expansion, my gameplay gets nerfed more than buffed. The more I watched and read, the more nervous I became.

One of the phrases I dread to hear from the devs is, "We're updating The Agency." Ever since CCP moved the agent finder from stations and moved it to The Agency, I grew to despise the feature. After all, why do I need to see more than 12 agents at a time, right? That just means a player needs to refine the search parameters. Oh well, at least they didn't ask, "You do have a smart phone, don't you?"

Look, I realize that EVE is a complex game and new players need all the help they can get. I also appreciate the ability to keep The Agency from automatically popping up every time I log into a character. But the "Progressive Disclosure" tech promises an increase in clicks to find things.

The dev blog did promise some hopeful improvements.
  • Larger space for content results
  • Remembering your last filters for each content type
  • The return of the 'Agent Finder' advanced agent search
  • Bookmark any content pages to bypass the page tree with a single click
The dev blog also filled me with dread. I thought CCP was about to give hunters another huge jump in intelligence, this time when hunting explorers. The description sounded bad.
Combat Anomalies
In this section you can see all systems containing Combat Anomalies, filter them based on location and security status, then see the number of Combat Anomalies that exist within those systems. For systems that are within one jump, you can also see the type & name of the Combat Anomaly. We feel that this increased transparency will encourage bewildered players to travel outside of their system if there are no anomalies present in the current system.

Cosmic Signatures
In the Cosmic Signatures page, we will be making a big change to how Capsuleers will be exploring New Eden. The main change here is the visibility of the number of available signatures in all systems. For the system you are currently in, you will be able to view the signature IDs as normal. We are aware of the implications of this change and will monitor the effect on New Eden and the Exploration career, with the possibility of balancing and tweaking in the future.
Coming on the fifth anniversary of the Odyssey expansion which hurt low sec mining by replacing gravitational sites, which required probing down, with today's always visible in the interface ore sites, I was not looking forward to even more intel given to hunters on a silver platter.

The day of the expansion, I got home, fixed dinner, did some perusal of the black market, the usual thing. Then I logged into EVE on my main and jump cloned from my Abyssal clone to my exploration clone, hopped in my trusty Cheetah, and took off for Ingunn to start doing a little fact-finding.

The first thing I discovered was The Agency has a well-designed home page. Hopefully new players find the layout as intuitive as I did. Players can access the home page at anytime by either clicking on The Agency icon in the upper-left hand corner, or the word "Home" in the path, also in the upper left-corner of the window.

In general, I like the ability to find pages without having to do the normal hunt through menus EVE is famous for. The tabs at the top struck me immediately as a major improvement for navigation. The ability to create bookmarks to my favorite pages is a godsend. And perhaps most importantly, the toggle to open the page automatically upon login is in the lower-right hand corner of the home page. The devs did not hide the option in some obscure location in the general settings window.

My biggest pet peeve with The Agency was the agent finder functionality. The original version could only display 12 agents, which is pretty meager. Yes, the previous version did have additional filters to limit the search results. In my opinion, though, the options weren't well laid out and sometimes limiting a search down to 12 results or less just isn't possible.

The search that really set me off when CCP first introduced The Agency was when I was researching mining agents. The old agent finder worked great when I researched mining agents two years ago. When I decided to revisit the subject using The Agency, I found the 12 agent limit very annoying. I still can't display all the level 4 Gallente mining agents at the same time, but at least I can see all the level 4 agents in low sec. More importantly, I can see all 17 agents in Placid when I use the region filter. One of these days, I really need to visit Intaki.

One of my big concerns was the intelligence hunters would receive. The way the combat anomalies and cosmic signatures were described in the dev blog, players could see the number of sites half-way across the cluster. All a player would wanted to check for exploration activity was to watch for the number of sites to decrease. Conversely, players could watch for wormholes appearing in systems by noticing an increase in the number of unknown signatures.

At least for the first night, the system didn't work quite as advertised. Players still received the more detailed information in their current system plus any adjacent system. But starting two jumps away, the anomaly and signature counts were always one. Among the benefits of testing in low sec are the plentiful number of unrun sites with which to test these features.

Of course, I saved the most awesome and wonderful addition for last. Tool tips. Yes, I know that the Eve University wiki is a wonderful thing. But having information just a mouse hover away is wonderful. Just knowing where to find a particular type of ore is very useful. Now imagine trying to find the right type of planets for Planetary Interaction. The EVE University wiki is still a great resource for what to do once a player has found the desired planets. But one obstacle to PI for me was always finding the planets I wanted in the first place.

I do have one request for CCP if anyone in Iceland reads this post. Could you please let us know if you see an uptick in people running the Epic Arcs? The fact that the starting agents for the arcs is so easy to see know I'm sure will probably result in more people running the content. Or perhaps more players grinding the reputation to run the missions arcs. Either way, I hope the accessibility leads to more people running the content.

I'll admit, when I logged into the game to check out The Agency, I fully expected to hate the feature. At this point, I like the changes I've seen. I just hope that some of the things I saw were not bugs and that once everything is fixed, I'll like the new UI feature less. But as for now, I don't have any complaints about The Agency. But I do reserve the right to change my mind.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Nosy Gamer's Quick And Dirty Guide To CSM 14 Candidates

The election for EVE Online's 14th Council of Stellar Management will begin on Monday, 10 June and run for a week. A lot of people will tell players to make sure they fill out all 10 slots on their ballots, even though voters are only required to pick one. The reason given is to "maximize the power" of the ballot. Below is a video explaining how a single transferable vote system works.

But picking 10 candidates, especially for those not in large null sec blocs, can take up a lot of valuable time players would rather spend playing EVE. In an effort to make the decision making a little faster, I put together a guide with brief descriptions of each candidate, with most of the information coming from a candidate's campaign post on the EVE Online forums and self-descriptions on the official candidates page.

This guide is divided into the security bands (high, low, null, and w-space), with the order determined by the number of candidates coming from each area of space. I tried to display the candidates in alphabetical order as much as possible. In null sec, I divided the candidates into their coalitions, and then their alliances.

If a candidate looks interesting, clicking on the candidate's name will open up that candidate's page on CSM Wire, the Google site I set up to help people research candidates. Hopefully, this will help.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Achievement Unlocked: Elder Scrolls Online - Morrowind

Spring is usually the time I lessen my activity in EVE Online. Covering the Council of Stellar Management elections and maintaining CSM Wire does that. But for the first time in over 9 years of playing EVE, I've taken an extended break from the game. Usually Fanfest reenergizes me every April, but this year CCP decided to cancel the Icelandic event in favor of one in Toronto in June. So while I still look into EVE's black market and update CSM Wire and follow the election plus all the other news, I haven't undocked in a couple of months.

Instead, I've played Elder Scrolls Online. On Sunday I managed to complete the main story of the Morrowind expansion. I also collected all the skyshards in the zone. Not only did I collect the skyshards, but I completed all delves (single-player dungeons) and the two public dungeons (rated for 4 players) as well. There are still some notable sites to visit, and I still need to run the Halls of Fabrication at least once, but effectively, I consider the expansion finished.

I've done enough in Morrowind, I think
I have a couple things to note about my experience running through the expansion. First, I really enjoyed the quest stories. The zone story about helping the god Vivec regain his power was enjoyable. I also liked the story of two slaves, Sun-in-Shadows and Eoki. One decides she wants to move up the power structure in House Telvanni, the people who owned the pair. The other just wants to leave and start a new life. I need to do some research to see if different decisions would affect the outcome, but I don't see how my character would have chosen differently.

A rival god helping Vivec
Second, I know that voice acting is expensive, but I really appreciate all the voice acting in Morrowind. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and just skip through quest text, but I appreciate how the scenes play out and needing to watch the interaction between the NPCs and listen to the dialog in important parts that don't display text. Yes, it is commonly done in other places like the group dungeons, but I still get a kick out of the experience.

Third, I noticed I was running around with a lot of under level 30 characters. My level 50 healing templar with 333 veteran points wasn't able to solo the Nchuleftingth public dungeon, but I was able to duo most of the content teaming up with a level 19 character (who I think was a warden). The fact that a much lower level character has that type of performance I think says a lot of positive things about Elder Scrolls Online.

I just noticed, I let my food run out
In general achievements, I managed to reach level 50 in enchanting, leaving only jewelry crafting as the only crafting profession I am not at max level at. I'm currently at level 28 and the completionist in me wants to unlock the Master Crafter achievement and buy the banner proclaiming myself a master crafter. I also spent 107,000 gold to buy the Witchmother's Potent Brew recipe. Although I understand a better food exists, most posts seem to feel that Witchmother's Potent Brew gives the best bang for the buck. And now I can make the stuff myself. That combined with a three stat food I can make that I use for open world leveling means I'm self-sustaining as long as I keep doing the crafting writs.

Reaching max level in enchanting

Early access for the Elsweyr expansion on PC began yesterday, with a new intro screen asking players if they wanted to buy the expansion. I plan to play the expansions in chronological order, which means the next one I play is Summerset. But I won't blaze through the next ESO expansions because EVE Online's Invasion expansion launches next Tuesday. I need to start flying around New Eden again. But if Summerset and Elsweyr are the same quality as Morrowind, I'll definitely play through them.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Analyzing The CSM 13 Election Round By Round

As someone who has analyzed the single transferable voting (STV) system used in EVE Online's elections to determine the members of the Council of Stellar Management since its institution in 2013, the discussion of the complicated voting system is sometimes exasperating. Last year, I wrote a post with an example of how the STV works. In an effort to decrease my readership, this year, I'll go one step further. I'll give an analysis of last year's election which resulted in the election of the "GSM", so nicknamed for the prevalence of members of The Imperium on the council.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Rental Alliances In EVE Online: A Unique Solution To An RMT Problem

Last week's publication of the "Pie Chart of Shame" publicized something I thought was common knowledge: botting and illicit real money trading (RMT) operations love rental alliances. For a nominal fee, the botter/ISK seller gets access to systems in null security space in which to rat or mine. According to the price list for the 4500 character rental alliance Rate My Ticks, prices to rent a system range from 1 billion ISK/month to 11.5 billion ISK/month. In return, players who own the space promise not to shoot the bots farming the space to stock EVE's secondary (aka black) markets. If the owner of the space is powerful enough, not only do the botters gain protection from the system's owners, but protection from neutrals and enemies as well. Such protection is not limited to local defense forces. The botters also gain access to intelligence networks which the botters can incorporate into their botting software. Well, depending on the sophistication of the software used, at any rate.

For the serious RMT operation, null sec offers two major advantages over operating bots in high sec. The first is profit. Even systems null sec players consider garbage produce more wealth than bottable content in high sec. The second advantage is a lower probability to players reporting the bots to CCP. In high sec, especially around the main trade hubs, the likelihood of reports goes up due to the higher levels of traffic found in Empire space. In contrast, rental alliances in null sec are often found in remote systems not normally visited. Higher profits combined with lower probabilities of facing the banhammer are a powerful combination.

Back when I first started researching the negative effects of real money trading on MMORPGs, one of the issues identified was the monopolization of content. Professionals would want to maximize profits and so would compete with players for the most lucrative spots. But even amateurs using bots could deny resources to those playing the game as intended. For example, when I started playing EVE in 2009, I continuously hear how bots stripped the belts around Jita clean of ore. Not only did that deprive players from the US time zone content in that area, but helped depress the value of minerals to the point ship insurance served as the effective floor on mineral prices. Little did I know at the time that gun mining in the Drone Lands contributed heavily to the situation.

Rental alliances, in effect, are a very kludgy, emergent solution to the monopolization of resources problem. Yes, RMT operations, including botting, still cause issues with the economy. But the problem is moved out of the way of most players. If the bots are not showing up in the faces of players, then players don't complain as much. Out of sight, out of mind.

Of course, kludges eventually cause long-term problems. To use an EVE example, think about the POS code. Some poor programming practices resulted in the necessity of creating the Upwell structure system in order to tear the POS code completely out of the game. The effort has taken years and probably cost millions of dollars, euros, or pounds.

I'm not sure exactly what kicked off the move by CCP to publicly crack down on botting and RMT operations in rental alliances. I know that CCP Peligro for years has noted the prevalence of cheaters hiding in rental alliances, violating the EULA. But as I've watched the black market price of ISK rise nearly 20% over the past two months, even in the face of the declining real-world price of ISK purchased through CCP & The Forge, I've just silently smiled, waiting to see the sustainability of the latest effort.

Friday, May 10, 2019

CCP's War On Bots: Name And Shame

On Tuesday, CCP Peligro hit social media and tweeted about the latest bot bans. The unusual part? The naming and shaming of alliances. Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere is the rental alliance for Goonswarm Federation and Fraternity. Treasury I believe is the rental alliance of Fraternity.. With a combined membership of 2024 as of 9 May, CCP Peligro banned approximately 30% of both organizations. A pretty big hit.

Elo Knight, the well-known mercenary fleet commander who moved his corporation into Fraternity., asked CCP Peligro to extend the naming and shaming. The reply probably surprised everyone.

Team Security has pointed out for years that rental alliances are home to large amounts of botters. At Fanfest 2015, the security team pointed out the fact, but didn't name and shame.

From Team Security presentation at Fanfest 2015
At the time, the big 4 rental alliances were Shadow of xXDEATHxx, Northern Associates., Brothers of Tangra, and Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere. I don't have any inside knowledge about the chart (because I didn't ask), but I've always believed the three alliances who were home to 63% off all banned accounts during that 10 month period were Shadow of xXDEATHxx, Northern Associates., and Brothers of Tangra.

While I want to wait for the 2019 list to come out, the all-time list provided by CCP Peligro produced two names of interest because the alliances are so new. The first, Fraternity. Treasury, is listed as having 5% of the bans of the top 25 alliances home to the worst offenders in EVE history. [COINS] only sprung into existence on 11 November 2017. The second, Pan-Intergalatic Business Community, was formed a little over a year ago on 16 April 2018. The currently 6450 member alliance came in tied for 11th place with 3%.

I think we are witnessing a resurgence of aggressiveness from CCP in regards to anti-bot and anti-RMT operations. From 2010 to 2015, CCP always gave a security presentation. That was reduced to a roundtable in 2016 and nothing since. In addition to the increased number of security dev blogs this year, CCP Peligro is a bit more active on social media as well.

I would be remiss if I didn't add in a bit more analysis. CCP Peligro becoming more vocal comes at an interesting time. I am currently working on a story about CCP's "Top-down, bottom-up" approach to the War on Illicit RMT.

Hazard Discount - The money saved by buying on the black market vs from CCP

The top-down pressure of the price of PLEX is definitely impacting the price of black market ISK. From July 2015 to April 2019, the average USD price of 1 billion ISK sold has dropped 51%. During the same period of time, the price sold on the multi-game gold selling site Player Auctions has dropped 50.5%. Just from market pressure alone, profits for ISK sellers are probably down 50%.

But with decreased prices, the professional ISK sellers become more sensitive to the bottom-up pressure of bans. Bans usually result not only in reduced supply, but lost assets as well. With the hazard discount current at the $4/billion mark, ISK sellers really don't have that much room to increase prices to try to make up for losses incurred from bans. The fact that CCP is making noise about ramping up the pressure on botters could lead to some interesting developments on the black market.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Achievement Unlocked: Elder Scrolls Online Base Game

Over the weekend, I think I reached the point where I believe I can claim I have completed the basic, no DLC/expansion version of Elder Scrolls Online. I finished up the last of the faction storylines, the one for the Ebonheart Pact, to finish up the Caldwell's Gold quest. Combine that with finishing up the Mage Guild's quest line over the weekend, and I think I've completed the major story arcs of the base game. In addition, I think I hit the level cap back when ESO first launched. As of last night, I had 303 veterans points. I believe that after the conversion of veteran levels to veteran points, the highest effective level was 160 points, which is the maximum item level.

So what next? I've dabbled in the Clockwork City DLC pack and wasn't impressed. So for me, on to Morrowind! I can divide the MMORPGs I've played into 3 categories. The first is EVE Online, which doesn't have a built-in end point. The second consists of World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I reached the level cap in all three games but didn't have any desire to complete expansions. Well, that's not exactly true for GW2 and SW:TOR. I bought the expansions, started playing, and then asked myself, "Why am I doing this to myself?" The third category up until now consists of Everquest 2. In EQ2, I went ahead and completed all the expansions up through The Shadow Odyssey, which at the time was the current expansion. When I finally left EQ2, I was max level (80) with max alternate achievement points and a character at maximum level in all crafting skills.

Currently, I am at level 47 in enchanting and level 24 in jewelcrafting. All other crafting professions are currently at the level cap of 50. I also might want to go a step beyond EQ2 and run all the dungeons on normal mode. The last time I checked, I had run 16 unique dungeons. I'm not sure about going for the veteran points cap of 810. That seems a long ways away, even with 3 expansions to play through.

I do plan on changing my ESO Plus subscription plan from 3-month to 1-month, though. I'm not really sure how much the expansions will engage me. Is ESO more like GW2 and SW:TOR, or will I find the expansions as enjoyable as EQ2's? Also, I hear the call of space again. I understand the Gallente need some help in empire space. Oh, and that running a Tristan through rental space in null is probably a good idea. But I'll at least stay active in ESO, and least for the next month or so.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Council Of Stellar Management Elections Coming June 10-17

With The Briscident behind them, the Council of Stellar Management now moves on to the next event on the calendar: elections. In a dev blog yesterday, CCP Dopamine announce the election schedule and how to apply to run. Here is the basic timeline.

  • April 30 - May 12: Candidacy application period
  • May 13-17: Processing applications
  • May 25: Approved candidates announced at EVE Down Under
  • May 25 - June 7: Official campaign period.
  • June 10-17: Voting occurs
  • June 22: Winners announced at EVE North
The requirements basically have not changed from last year. The only difference is a statement specifying that all personal data will be handled in accordance with European data protection and processing laws:

Important disclaimer from CCP: We will be strict about incorrectly filed or incomplete submissions and reject applications that don’t meet our standards. The rules are very clear, but if you are unsure about anything regarding the process, we are happy to answer any questions. However, once the submission is sent there is no turning back, so it is imperative to get it right. 

To be eligible for the CSM, applicants must meet the following requirements:
  • Your account must be older than 60 days at the time candidacy applications close.
  • Characters on both Alpha and Omega accounts are eligible to run. 
  • You must have a history of honoring the EULA and the Terms of Service. We will screen every applicant thoroughly and EULA/TOS violations on your record can result in a rejected application.
  • Your account must have updated and correct information at the time of your application. This includes; your real life name, correct date of birth and the same email you use to submit your application. To view and edit this information go to the account management website.
  • Candidates must have reached 18 years of age. If the legal adult age in your home country (the age at which you have the legal capacity to enter into a contract) is higher than 18, that number applies instead.
  • As an applicant, you must consent to provide your personal details to CCP, including your real name and a copy of your passport. CCP needs to affirm your real life identity for NDA contract purposes and the ability to travel to summits in Iceland is a key function of the CSM. 
  • If you do not currently have a valid passport, we will accept a picture/scan of a valid and approved passport application accompanied with a picture of your driver‘s license.
  • You must consent to sharing your country of origin with the EVE Community and having it displayed on the EVE Online website. You will not be required to share any other personal information with the EVE community.
  • If you are running as an "alt" and you control a character that has a reputation in the EVE universe, CCP may require you to run under that identity at its full discretion.
As I've done for every election starting with CSM 10, I will provide candidate information on my CSM Wire Google site. I've upgraded the site and CSM Wire should show up better in mobile devices now. I might even get fancy and get a domain. Probably not, but the current URL annoys me enough. The site is still under construction, but I'll keep a list of candidates up to date. As of an hour before I posted this, we had 17 announced candidates.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Is The May Expansion Moving To June?

Back in February, I tried to predict the timing of the next expansion for EVE Online based on the studio's Agile development cycle. A funny thing happened on the way my predicted date of 28 May 2019. CCP switched from a five to four week release cycle and I didn't notice. Meaning, just based on the normal production schedule, a May expansion should come out on 7 May, three weeks earlier than predicted.

A release date of next Tuesday would really have made next week exciting. Ka-bam, EVE Russia on Saturday! Ka-pow, the 16th anniversary celebration of EVE's launch on Monday! And then, for the grand finale, expansion launches on Tuesday! Woo hoo! Only one problem with that scheduled dream week. I haven't heard any hype about a May expansion recently, and the Updates website doesn't show information about a May release, much less an expansion.

No updates for May on the Updates page as of 1200 29 April 2019
I have to admit, I'm not terribly heartbroken about the prospect of no expansion on 7 May. The next scheduled release after that is 4 June, or one week after my predicted date. When CCP started rolling out their plans, I thought they were ambitious, so the crew in Iceland taking an extra week on the content is a good move in my eyes. Also I like the new public relations path this opens up for CCP.

First, CCP announces the name of the new expansion Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia. Given the history of the Russians in EVE Online, a very nice move if the scenario plays out like I envision. Combined with the 16th anniversary of the game on the following Monday, releasing the name of the expansion at EVE Russia might ensure wider press coverage. Next, CCP takes the opportunity to spotlight and publicize the finalized version of the expansion at EVE Down Under in Sydney from 23-26 May. A lot of players probably have not kept up with the news throughout the months so a summary of the contents of an expansion would create a buzz. Did I mention Streamfleet is broadcasting all the events on the World Invasion tour? So players will have the ability to watch the news for themselves, either live or later via VOD or YouTube.

If the expansion really does come out on 4 June, the new content would come out on the 6th anniversary of the Odyssey expansion. While not one of my favorite expansions, I imagine the coincidence (if that's what it is) could play as a look back at the journey the game has taken in it's second decade of existence. I can see two tie-ins between the upcoming expansion and Odyssey.

Just looking back at the trailer for Odyssey, we see the story of capsuleers searching down the unknown. With the latest expansion, we'll get to see the latest in what the explorers have found in Abyssal space. Or maybe we'll see what's found us. I've added the video from November's Onslaught expansion below to show what is currently in the game.

The other running theme is structures. The Odyssey expansion was the last major revamp of the old POS system before CCP decided to rip out the old code and institute a new, modern system. First announced in the spring of 2015, the last of the old POS code may finally hit the recycle bin with the expansion. If so, I hope CCP films a Viking burial ceremony for the long-standing code.

Personally, I hope the expansion doesn't launch until late May or early June. Perhaps I am engaging in wishful thinking, but I really like the idea of expansions for MMORPGs launched in June. Giving the developers an extra month to work on the content (or 1 week longer than my original estimate) is just icing on the cake.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Briscident: Exoneration

"Neither Brisc Rubal nor the other players implicated in this incident breached CCP’s confidentiality, the terms of the Non-Disclosure Agreement, or used privileged information to obtain an in-game advantage."
Earlier today, CCP released a dev blog totally exonerating CSM member Brisc Rubal and two alliance mates, Pandoralica and Dark Shines. I personally am glad to know that Brisc did not abuse the trust given to him with his election to the CSM. Let me record the contents of the announcement below, just in case something happens to the dev blog:
Dear Citizens of New Eden,

Following on from our statement on April 17, we have completed our review of the Brisc Rubal investigation and determined that our initial findings were incorrect. Neither Brisc Rubal nor the other players implicated in this incident breached CCP’s confidentiality, the terms of the Non-Disclosure Agreement, or used privileged information to obtain an in-game advantage.

We made a mistake here and we offer our formal apologies. First, to Brisc Rubal and the two other players involved, both for making the allegations and for the disturbance and stress caused by the way in which we handled this situation. Second, for not collaborating with due care with the members of CSM 13, who have acted responsibly throughout. Lastly, we owe our sincere apology to the EVE community for this error. We take full responsibility for any confusion and mistrust caused by our initial assessment of the situation.

After reviewing our assessment of the information on which these allegations were based and having spoken repeatedly with everyone involved, it’s now clear that our initial actions were based on unsubstantiated assumptions. While we were motivated by a desire to protect the working relationship between the CSM and the EVE Development Team with all due speed, had we taken the time to review the information with greater scrutiny, this incident could have been resolved without the disruption that has since occurred.

We aim to make it up to all concerned. Right now, we are in the process of restoring access to the EVE Online accounts of all three affected players, returning any confiscated assets and providing rectification as appropriate. We will work to set this right and will be making changes to our procedures and policies to ensure this kind of situation does not reoccur.

Thank you for your understanding.
Honestly, I figured if Brisc had committed a breach of the NDA he signed, the breach was totally accidental. I was also a little irritated to discover CCP had not adequately investigated the matter before taking punitive steps against the INIT 3. I thought that the procedures included a reference to Internal Affairs to double-check on all charges. I guess not, which is strange since CSM members are supposed to receive the same type of attention CCP employees receive. At least, that's what I've gathered over my years covering the player-elected group.

In the wake of the decision, Brisc decided to resign from the CSM. I collected a few statements he issued today on Twitter.

For those wondering, Open Comms is on the Imperium News Network Twitch channel at 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific Friday, or 0100 EVE time on Saturday. I'm sure Dreydan will have an appropriate opening for the show.

In closing, I do have a few other questions I'd love to know the answers to, but I know I'll never find out. Which, is appropriate. We've seen enough information flying around, and much of it was wrong. We don't need any more.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

ESO Needs A Research Queue

Having played EVE Online for nearly a decade, I appreciate some of the simple things. One of the greatest innovations CCP made to the game was the skill queue. When the game launched in 2003, characters could only train one skill at a time. No queuing another skill to start immediately upon completion of the learning of the first skill. This led to trying to time the end of a skill's training time during a player's normal play time or setting an alarm clock to wake up in the middle of the night to start the next skill. Yes, every skill point mattered, even in 2003.

By the time I started playing in 2009, the mechanics had changed a little. CCP had instituted a 24 hour skill queue, meaning that as long as a character had less than 24 hours of skills training, additional skills could be added. No more waking up in the middle of the night to maintain an EVE account.

If not for changes to jump drive ranges and the introduction of jump fatigue, the Phoebe release in November 2014 would have gone down in EVE histaory as the introduction of the 50-skill queue. Gone were the days of players needing to check their skill queues every day (or every week). I personally made a skill queue 2 1/2 years long. Of course, once Alpha clones were introduced, the 50-skill queue was reserved for Omega accounts while Alphas received the old 24-hour skill queue.

Elder Scrolls Online has its own version of time-based skill training in the crafting system. In the base game, some of the best gear was crafted, like the Kagrenac's Hope armor set I'm working on now. Each piece of crafted gear has an innate ability, or trait, that a player can add to the piece during the crafting process. In order to create the crafted set gear, a player needs to know how to create gear with a certain number of traits. The Kagrenac's Hope gear requires the knowledge of 8 traits for each piece of gear, while the Torug's Pact set (which I use for my weapons) only requires the knowledge of 3 traits.

To learn a trait, the player has to do two things. First, obtain a piece of gear with the desired trait. Second, go to a crafting station and research the trait. The researching process destroys the item (so don't research an item you wish to use) and then requires a wait. How long a wait? Much like EVE, the training time depends on how many traits the character already knows how to craft into a weapon.

For the first 3 traits, the base training time in days scales exponentially using the following formula...
2 n-2

... where n is the number of traits already known on the piece of gear. So the first trait takes .25 days, or 6 hours to train, while the 9th trait takes 64 days to train.

Zenimax did provide a few ways to reduce the time. Each crafting profession has a passive skill line that not only allows the researching of multiple items, but shortens the research time as well. The final level of the skill prevents research times from exceeding 30 days, which is a welcome skill when researching the 9th and final trait on gear.

Now, in true free-to-play fashion, Elder Scrolls Online provides plenty of ways to speed up the research times using real life currency. The first involves the ESO Plus optional subscription. In addition to all the other perks, having an ESO Plus subscription speeds up research times by 10%.
The next items are research scrolls. Zenimax gives out scrolls with the daily rewards to get people hooked. I hear that the Master Writ merchants sell 1 day scrolls also. But the other way to get the scrolls, and the really powerful scrolls, is to visit the cash shop. In the cash shop, a player can purchase scrolls that will reduce the training time by 7 or 15 days for all items being researched in a single profession. The 15 day scrolls cost 5000 crowns, or 50 more than a player gets for a three-month ESO Plus subscription. Yes, in addition to the 10% reduction of researching time, ESO Plus members also get crowns to purchase time reductions. Did I mention the ESO Plus subscription is worth getting?

For those wishing to purchase more, the 5500 crown package costs $39.99 when not on sale. For EVE players, that equates to an exchange rate of 5 crowns for 1 PLEX. So, for example, if a dedicated crafter wanted to train a 9th trait on all clothing items when Summerset came out, it would have cost 40,000 crowns for the instant research scrolls. In real life cash, that comes out to $294.92 (7 5,500 crown packs and 1 1,500 crown pack). Assuming, of course, the player had maxed out the passive skills on the character performing the research.

Finally, I get to the inspiration for this post. Elder Scrolls Online really needs a research queue so I can put in all my research. As I often do, I type these posts on the train, and I really just want to log in and start researching the next item. Instead, I have to wait until I get home and waste 6 hours of potential research time. I'm not so far gone that I'd stay home from work just to set my research queue, although I could if I really want to.

I realize that, like with training my mount, logging in to maintain my crafting research queues is a way to keep me engaged with the game. But maybe Zenimax could add a queue to the cash shop? I'd probably buy that.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Briscident: CCP Reopens The Investigation



- Update to announcement that Brisc Rubal was removed from CSM, posted 17 April 2019
On 9 April, Brisc Rubal was removed from the Council of Stellar Management for a breach of the CSM non-disclosure agreement. CCP announced that Brisc revealed confidential information to a strategic-level fleet commander in The Initiative., with the information later falling into the hands of a second strategic-level fleet commander who then profited from the information. From the description provided in the original dev blog, Brisc said something to someone, who then said something to someone else, who then used the information to play the market.

I think those familiar with the situation figured that Brisc probably asked a knowledgeable person in his alliance about some aspect of the game and thought he had done it in a clever enough way to avoid disclosing what CCP's upcoming plans were. The other individuals involved, being clever people themselves, figured out that Brisc was asking about something CCP planned to do in the near-term future and one of them acted upon the information. Nothing malicious, but a bad event all the same.

I was prepared to accept that CCP had done their due diligence, performed a proper investigation, and Brisc just was too clever by half and got burned. Then CCP released the following statement, which I will provide below in full:
"Last week, on April 8 2019, we announced the permanent banning of Brisc Rubal and their ejection from the Council of Stellar Management. We also issued one-year bans to two other players involved in this incident and confiscated their associated in-game assets and ISK.

"Following this statement, we have held further discussions with the affected parties. We have also been conducting an internal review to substantiate the evidence available to us and evaluate our handling of the situation. We intend to share a full follow-up statement next week.

"Transparency, fairness and trust is of utmost importance to us, which is why we’re issuing this brief update while also taking the time to ensure that we conduct a thorough investigation. We understand that there are many questions lingering over the incident, and we want to assure you that we take this matter very seriously. Both the sanctity of the CSM and the relationship we have with our players is of paramount importance to CCP.

"As should be expected, we will issue a full and frank apology for any mistakes for which we are responsible, as well as provide appropriate reparations to those affected by any erroneous actions we’ve taken." (emphasis mine)
I learned a lot of technical language when I served in the Army appropriate to describe what I read in the latest dev blog, but I'll try to keep this to a level a layman can understand. If CCP is going to level charges of real-world misconduct, I would hope they would have conducted an adequate investigation before taking the actions they did. According to the statement, CCP failed to do so.

If I had to guess, the source of the allegations probably led CCP to not look into the situation as closely as they should. Here are the quotes that lead me to believe this is the case.
"To be fully transparent, this misconduct was brought to us by the CSM themselves as an immediate threat to the integrity of the CSM as an institution."
"We would like to take the opportunity to thank CSM 13 for their transparency and their respect for the council as an institution, which was demonstrated by their coming together to condemn this kind of behavior and report it to CCP."
Of course, the involvement of other members of the CSM potentially opens up another can of worms. What if someone decided to weaponize CCP in order to settle some grudges or gain an in-game advantage by taking out important members of The Initiative.'s command team? Yesterday's news opens up that possibility. One that I hope is shut down fairly quickly.

Now, I do need to take note of the people asserting that Pearl Abyss needs to step in and clean up the mess. I think CCP's parent company is a little busy trying to figure out exactly what went wrong with its ban wave that apparently caught up hundreds of innocent players. The situation with cheating in Black Desert Online's Shadow Arena battle royale mode was so bad that Pearl Abyss ended up removing the feature from the game. Remember when Hilmar and CCP's communications team stated one of the reasons Pearl Abyss purchased CCP was the Icelandic studio's experience? We've recently seen Pearl Abyss needs it.

We get another dose of CSM investigative news next week. Hopefully, the next dev blog on the matter is the last. Up until this month, CSM had done nothing to embarrass itself. No matter the outcome of this latest kerfluffle, CSM 13 received a stain that will remain with it forever more.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How Big Is The PLEX Trade In The Forge?

One of the more amusing sights in EVE Online is the conflict between Pandemic Horde and Test Alliance Please Ignore over the citadels in Perimeter. Well, the effort of null sec entities fighting over a high sec system is amusing until one realizes the prize is control of the PLEX trade in New Eden's main trade hub. In the first quarter of 2019, almost 550 trillion ISK worth of PLEX was traded in The Forge, with the citadels playing a huge roll in the sales. Even if a player entity could charge a 0.1% tax on PLEX transactions in The Forge that would amount to nearly 550 billion ISK over a three month period. No wonder TEST plopped down a keepstar in high sec.

The types of numbers the players are fighting over are nearly incomprehensible. According to the information I pulled from the market ESI, over 296,000 months, or nearly 24,700 years, or Omega (aka subscription) time was traded in the first 3 months of 2019. That's almost 3,300 months of Omega time a day, or enough to pay for 100,000 subscriptions every month. I realize that much of the PLEX sold on the market is either flipped or held as an investment, but even 50,000 accounts utilizing PLEX to pay for game time is a lot of accounts paying to play "for free". Also, a lot of people paying for ISK using real life money.

Even when converting the data to time, the numbers are still mind-numbing. So instead, I thought I'd make a few graphs with information gathered from the first three monthly economic reports for 2019 to try to visually show how big the PLEX market in The Forge is compared to the overall New Eden economy.

The first graph shows the value of PLEX sales in ISK vs the monthly growth in the game's money supply. Don't confuse the figure with the Active ISK Delta, which is the amount of ISK entering the game on returning players' accounts subtracted from ISK leaving the game on departing players' accounts. The above graph shows the entire change in the money supply in a month, including the Active ISK Delta. In the first quarter of 2019, the money supply grew 15.8 trillion ISK, or by 1.2%. The value of the PLEX sold in The Forge over the same period of time, 548.6 trillion, was a remarkable, at least to me, 34.6 times the growth in the money supply.

If the PLEX market dwarfs the growth in the money supply, then what about the biggest ISK faucet in the game, bounties. Many players in null sec plop a Vexor Navy Issue down someplace and walk away from the keyboard, letting the ship's drones do the work of making ISK. I doubt the above graph comes as a surprise to null sec players, especially Rorqual pilots, but the amount of ISK earned ratting does not cover all the PLEX traded in The Forge, much less the entire game. Yes, the 225 trillion ISK in bounties in the first three months of 2019 could have covered the losses of 20 battles the size of B-R4RB, but still only was 41% of the value of PLEX traded in The Forge.

How does the PLEX market in The Forge stack up against all the ISK faucets in EVE? There, the numbers are more comparable, with the PLEX market only 1.5 times the value of all ISK faucets in the first quarter of 2019. The numbers are skewed by the sale at the end of March, which lead to all the consternation about game time becoming unaffordable. In March, the value of PLEX sold in The Forge was 1.8 times the value of all ISK faucets in New Eden.

At this point, I couldn't blame a reader for asking, "Is there anything the PLEX market in The Forge doesn't dwarf?" The big thing, of course, is the total money supply. In January and Feburary, the PLEX trade in The Forge was worth between 12.5% and 13.0% of the money supply. The end of March trade that members of the CSM were upset helped raise that figure to 16.3% in March.

Hopefully, I've explained at least one reason why two major null sec entities would want to war over citadels in high sec. The amount of ISK involved is staggering. Is the trade which is a sanctioned way for players to purchase virtual currency, healthy for the game? I'll leave that up to people who know the economy far better than I?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Top Things Left For Me To Do In Elder Scrolls Online

For the first nine months of playing Elder Scrolls Online, I had to force myself to play the game. But as I hit level 48 and approached the veteran levels, my attitude changed. I started exploring the game more, looking to see what I should accomplish in the final three months I planned to play the game. With approximately one month to go, I figure I will extend my stay in Tamriel another three months. Even then, I'm not sure I'll complete everything I want to do. I figured I'd put my remaining goals here to remind me of what I need to do.

PvE quest lines. I know, I'm still questing in the original game after 11 months. But I decided to do Caldwell's challenge and run through all three faction quest lines. I've completed the Daggerfall Covenant (I play a Breton) and the Aldmeri Dominion stories. Right now, I'm in Stonefells running through the faction story of the Ebonheart Pact. I should have that complete by the end of the current block of subscription time.

That leaves three expansions worth of PvE content to do. From what I gather, each expansion added a zone to the game. Morrowind added Morrowind, Summerset added Summerset Isle, and in June, Elsweyr will add Elsweyr. No, I don't plan on rolling up a warden or necromancer. I'll stick with my trusty healbot templar, thank you very much. But if I'm going to come this far, I might as well go all the way. After all, I did play Everquest 2 up until The Shadow Odyssey, which was the latest expansion up until that point. I think I will wind up doing the same with ESO.

As for the DLC, I've purchased the first four DLC pack from the Crown Store with the crowns I receive for subscribing to ESO Plus. Some of them don't appeal to me, but I think I'll wind up visiting The Imperial City and Orsinium. I'm not so sure about and Dark Brotherhood. But I think if I finish the main quest lines, I can say I've played most of the game.

PvP. Somehow I reached level 3 without ever entering a battleground or arena. I do have two reasons for trying the feature out. The first is the need to get the Aggressive Horn skill for my PvE build. The second, or course, is completeness. If I spend this much time in a game, then I need to at least explore PvP. Besides, alliance war and campaigns sounds interesting.

Gearing Up. Okay, okay, if I go around talking about how I played ESO, I want to at least claim to have worn decent gear. I'm aiming for the beginning gear setup for the Holy Light Templar build on Dottz Gaming. The gear requires a bunch of crafting and some dungeon running to get all the pieces I need. I've already bought the jewelry off a guild broker. I've almost gathered enough wood to make the two Torug's Pact staffs. I should have them made by the end of the weekend.

I also might try to get some good gear to PvP with. I'll have to look at the builds out on the internet to see if anything is compatible with my PvE build. Also, the odds go up if I find PvP worthwhile to play.

Skilling Up. With the One Tramriel patch, levels don't matter too much. The name of the game is skill points and, once level 50 is reached, veteran points. Skill points grant access to combat and crafting abilities. I still need to run some content to qualify for three active combat abilities in my wish list, which means I need six more, including morphs. I also need some more points for crafting. The rest will go into passive skills.

Part of skilling up will involve visiting as many delves as I can. Each delve contains a sky shard. Collect 3 sky shards and a character receives a skill point. Apart from select quests in each main storyline providing skill points, searching the single-player dungeons is the only way to get skill points for a character that has reached level 50.

Obtaining veterans points is pretty much the same thing as leveling. The passive boosts are nice and help a character finally feel powerful sometime around 160. The current veteran point cap is 810, although I'm sure the June expansion will raise that a bit. Will I go for the level cap? Depends on how bad the grind is and if I have accomplished the rest of my goals.

Crafting. Apart from EVE, I normally get into high level crafting in any MMORPG I play seriously. When I left EQ2, I had a max level character for every crafting profession. I may only have one character in ESO, but I'd like to reach level 50 in all crafting professions. I'm at level 50 in provisioning, alchemy, clothier, and woodworking. I am in the 40s in blacksmithing and enchanting, with my jewelry skills down below level 20.

Just like adventuring, crafting in ESO is about more than just a character's level. In order to create high quality weapons and armor sets, chara weacters also need to research and learn traits. For example, the Torug's Pact weapons I want to craft require knowledge of 3 or the 9 possible traits a weapon may possess. The Kagrenac's Hope set, on the other hand, not only requires knowing 8 traits for each piece of equipment, but completing the Fighters' Guild quest line as well. The Armor of the Seducer set I understand is good for PvP, so I may attempt to craft a set of that as well.

One aspect of ESO's crafting system I like is crafting writs. I have collected so much cooking and enchanting material that I can make a quick 1300 gold every time I log in with 5 minutes of work. I understand that once I reach level 50 and have the ability to craft really high quality items that there is a chance to receive master writs. The master writs provide a special currency with which to buy cool stuff, like my own private crafting stations.

Player Housing. Last, but not least, is player housing. Player housing, besides providing a cool place to call home, has two other advantages. The first is additional storage for stuff. So far, I've found the 180 slots in the bank, along with 170 slots in my personal inventory, plus the crafting component bag, sufficient. But one day I may want to just roam around every so often without paying for ESO Plus. I can add some magic boxes (my term) that allows the transfer of items between houses. And additional 360 inventory slots if I get all eight, even with the limitations, should hold me over, especially if I can craft from home.

Homes are also good because quick travel to them from anywhere is free. So if I decided to buy the Breton medium house in Rivenspire, I can travel there for free, then either use the nearby wayshrine or travel to another home. Setting up the logistics like this is something I kind of wish I had done earlier. I would have saved thousands in gold.

Of course, the ultimate reason for buying a home is to have a place to put all my stuff. The crafting stations for me are the ultimate reason for having a home, and the extra storage slots help as well. But what else could I find to display? I never was one to just leave my character standing around a major city. But putting special items on display in my home is something I can see myself doing.

Looking at the above list, I'd say I have a lot to do ahead of myself in ESO. I originally planned to stop playing in May and then switch over to Final Fantasy XIV for the Shadowbringers expansion in July. Instead, I think I'll wind up at least playing through the Morrowind, Summerset, and Elsweyr expansions before leaving Zenimax and moving over to Square Enix. After a rocky start, ESO has grown on me and I'm not quite ready to leave Tamriel yet.