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 https://www.eve-scout.com. Search for your system and then sort by "Jumps". You can also view current connections on a map of New Eden by visiting https://www.eve-scout.com/thera/map

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 EVE-Scout.com. 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.