Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back In Space

After spending a week and a half writing and researching stories about the Eve News 24 botting exposé I was ready to stop writing and get back into space.  So last night I hopped in a Cheetah and started exploring.

I decided to try something new and use 7 probes instead of 5.  I might need some practice because I did not find it any faster to scan down sites using more drones.  Fifteen minutes to scan down three sites isn't very good.  For my purposes of just getting back into the swing of things I'll take it because I found a Ransacked Angel Ship Graveyard, a Provisional Angel Outpost and a Large Crokite, Dark Ochre and Gneiss Deposit.  Oh yeah!

The Ransacked Angel Ship Graveyard is a magnetometric site with six containers to salvage.  I got some tech 2 salvage out of one container, which of course spawned some Angel NPCs.  But that is okay because I was using a Jaguar to salvage with my Bellicose flying overwatch and I dispatched the rats in short order.  The calculator built into the cargo hold showed I collected over 20 million ISK in salvage and drops after I cleaned up the wrecks on the field.  Not bad.

When I was probing down sites I thought the Provisional Angel Outpost would serve as a nice testing ground for my Bellicose.  Populated with elite frigates, destroyers, cruisers with two battlecruisers in the second room I thought I might get some nice drops.  But the gravimetric site was too good to pass up.

A Large Crokite, Dark Ochre and Gneiss Deposit means exactly that.  I really need to move my mining alt into low sec and start using it because I only managed to mine all of the Crokite.  But that is a lot of Crokite.  Refined, that amount of ore produced 7,962 units of nocxium, 7,962 of trit and 15,942 of zydrine.  Of course, with the length of time I spent mining because I only used a Procurer I received several visits from the Angel Cartel.  I didn't keep a careful count but I received at least another million in ISK in bounties and a couple of million in salvage and drops.  What, you didn't think I wasn't going to clean up my mess, did you?

While I was flying around having fun I thought about bringing out some other ships to make the process go faster.  I thought about making a Probe but I don't think the 5% bonuses to codebreaker, analyzer and salvager cycle times is worth giving up the fire power and survivability that a Jaguar offers when I get jumped when I trigger a spawn.  Besides, the Jaguar is just so much fun.

Another ship I'm thinking of bringing out is a Retriever.  I want to stay with the tech 1 mining ships because I don't want to attract attention.  I usually operate in faction warfare systems, which means I usually see a couple of FW pilots in the system with me.  A Procurer isn't worth the time to track down, but a Skiff or Mackinaw?  Someone might take a shot, especially with a Mack.  But if I might get away with flying a Retriever if I only use the ship in gravimetric sites.  I would still use the Procurer for any belt mining I do.

I also could use a Viator.  The Prowler is great but the cargo capacity, especially when rigged for agility and speed like I have, means I have to make a couple of trips whenever I need to transport kernite for a level 4 story line agent.  The agent usually asks for 8,000 units, or 9,600 m3 of ore.  I'm really tempted to start belt-mining for kernite and just stock the stations with the stuff.  Or maybe I get a blockade runner that can actually carry that much.

I should add that there is a corporation that operates in low sec that makes sure all pilots don't stay up too late and gets their sleep.  They are called The Tuskers.  I hear that if you don't go to bed on time they make your ship explode.  First I saw one but I went back for one last load of ore.  Once I saw the second show up, I docked and logged.  While the Procurer has paid for itself many times over, I'm not quite ready to lose it yet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - Too Long, Didn't Read

Reading a piece like Eve News 24's recent botting exposé, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An exposé on Botting within Eve Online’s biggest Coalition," is a mind numbing experience.  At 7,300 words, of which 6,100 words consist of chat logs, I sometimes felt my eyes would bleed.  My attempt to understand what Eve News 24 published led to a series of five posts totaling 7,200 words.  For those who have read everything, I salute you.  For those who haven't I am writing this sixth and final post to summarize my finding plus add in a few facts that emerged during the almost two weeks I've spent writing the posts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 29 January 2013

This Week's Rankings:  The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 27 January 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 37.9 26,745-13.1
22Guild Wars 219.914,041-5.7
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.77,543-8.4
55Eve Online4.63,217-6.7
66Planetside 24.02,809-0.8
87Lord of the Rings Online3.32,341-16.9
911Metin 22.92,067+32.5
109The War Z2.92,057-9.4
1110APB: Reloaded2.31,631-10.1
12--Star Trek Online1.91,371-2.2
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 92,543
After a month of stability the Xfire community saw its interest in MMORPGs drop as members spent 8.6% less time playing the genre as it did the week before.  Only two games, Metin 2 (+32.5%) and Aion (+4.1%) saw playtime rise while the biggest percentage losers were Maple Story (-17.5%), Lord of the Rings Online (-16.9%) and World of Warcraft (-13.1%).

A Bad Hotfix?  With free-to-play games like Maple Story and Lord of the Rings Online a drop in hours usually signals the end of an event or deal, but what happened with World of Warcraft?  Patch 5.1 received a hotfix on 22 January to change that nerfed bosses in the heroic version of Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring and adjusted trinket burst damage.  Did making the content easier backfire on Blizzard or are students just returning to college after the winter break?

Use It Or Lose It.  The big jump in playtime for Metin 2 is possibly due to Visa closing the Playspan website.  This was the last weekend for people to spend their codes purchased from the site as the last day for redemption is 31 January.

Permanent Ban.  The other game that saw a rise in play Sunday was Aion.  Massively reports that Aion is facing a "scourge" of 3rd party kinah-sellers and they are constantly spamming the chat channels trying to sell their goods.  In an effort to combat the RMT operators NCSoft banned all IP addresses from China on 23 January as a way to combat the practice.  
Many within the industry believe that the presence of RMT harms a game and costs the companies money.  In 2006 Indiana University's Dr. Edward Castronova calculated that RMT cost game companies $1.50 per user per month.  Part of the lost cost is players leaving a game because they cannot handle the excessive RMT spam in chat channels.  Can we use the Xfire numbers to confirm if the IP address ban is effective in drawing players into the game?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - Eve News 24

The first four posts of this series analyzing the Eve News 24 article, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An exposé on Botting within Eve Online’s biggest Coalition, focused on the reporting done by the authors of the exposé.  But I also see issues with the editing and editorial decisions surrounding the article as well.  I believe that if these shortcomings were corrected that Eve News 24 would have produced a much stronger exposé.  People still would have criticized EN24 because the reality is that botting and 3rd party RMT are as much weapons that players use against one another as those violations of the EULA are a problem for CCP's business.  In this post I'll examine some of these shortcomings and how EN24 could have presented the information in a more effective manner.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - CCP

The Eve News 24 article, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An exposé on Botting within Eve Online’s biggest Coalition,(1)" has a lot of players upset because they believe they were unfairly painted with the bot brush.  Others are perhaps upset for having activities made public they wish had remained hidden in the shadows.  But today's post will look at the other target of the EN24 article, CCP.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - Tribal Band and Pandemic Legion

In this post of the series analyzing the Eve News 24 article, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An Exposé on Botting Within Eve Online’s Biggest Coalition," I finish looking at the last of the allegations of wrongdoing by players.  In yesterday's post I examined the extensive charges leveled against the Tribal Band corporation Blood and Sand.  Today's post covers the last two corporations, Infinite Covenant and Fallen Nova as well as allegations that Pandemic Legion voice comms are used by a player for selling ISK.

Infinite Covenant - Having looked into what Horus has stated for more hours than I like to admit I have come to the conclusion that I don't trust him.  If another source does not verify what he says, I tend to disregard it.  The only statement against Infinite Covenant was the following from Horus:
"Another bot corp is Infinite Covenant. 2 year ago I was botting in venal together with a german guy. He is one of biggest EVE botters and is in Infinite Covenant, he run all theyr [sic] supercap production and was all funded by bots."
Throughout the years of supplying EN24 with information Horus has never shied away from naming names.  No names this time?  I would disregard this allegation until more proof is offered.

Fallen Nova - Fallen Nova is an interesting case.  Not only is the corporation accused of botting, but also of being a Pandemic Legion alt corp that had infiltrated Tribal Band.  Looking at the corporation on Eve Who shows an average security status of 4.0 which probably indicates a lot of ratting occurring.  The source stated that one member, Quisarious, was the alt of a Pandemic Legion member.  The source did lose credibility when stating that he was told by Triget that Pandemic Legion put alt botting corps into all alliances as an additional source of income.  I know that PL has a good intelligence network but I would think that a member of OTEC would not need to bot.  The information is probably questionable as earlier in the article Fallen Nova was described as "allegedly a 16 member Pandemic Legion sleeping cell corp within Tribal Band."  Once again I would not accuse Fallen Nova of botting without a lot more information.

Pandemic Legion Facilitating RMT - Perhaps the most inflammatory charge based on very little evidence is that a Pandemic Legion Jabber channel is used to conduct sales of RMT ISK.  Perhaps the source is correct; since the source is not Horus the information is more believable.  Of the three allegations, this one is the most credible, but that is a very low bar to clear.

Conclusion - Most of the article was devoted to the activities of Montolio and Blood and Sand.  I think that the authors of the article figured that they would gain so much credibility with those charges that people would consider all charges as valid.  Did the article present enough information to trigger an investigation by CCP to look into possible wrongdoing?  Probably, especially if the name of the alleged German botter in Infinite Covenant were handed over.  But was enough information presented for me to feel confident of the information?  No.

UPDATE 24 January 2013 - I neglected to publish a statement from Tribal Band leader Triget that I referenced in yestereday's post.  Here is Triget's reply to my request for a statement on the EN24 story that I received on Sunday.
"Botting has been actively discouraged in TRIBE. As much as being elite pvpers is anathema to our alliance, being botters and renters is the other against which we define ourselves. I have standing orders to awox any botter detected so long as it can be proven. Each of these corps have particular circumstances that effect their game play, in particular, Fallen Nova is ANZAC and Blood and Sand are EU (IT). When asked, they contribute. Incov's participation in the alliance is unquestioned. I only go by solid proof, not crazed accusations by eve's most well known botter that your news site is now heavily affiliated with. This is a disgruntled ex-coalition member playing you for his own ends. You should be more careful in who you chose to associate with."
In the interests of full disclosure I ended my syndication agreement with EN24 on 6 January and my last article was published on 4 January.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - Blood and Sand

The next two posts(1) in the series analyzing the Eve News 24 article, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An Exposé on Botting Within Eve Online’s Biggest Coalition", will examine the charges that one of the members of the Honey Badger Coalition, Tribal Band, either tolerates or approves of botting within the alliance.  The article went further and stated that Triget, the executor of Tribal Band, has given botting corporations special dispensation from participating in alliance/coalition fleets because of the amount of ISK they contribute to the alliance.  One of the sources used by Eve News 24 claims that he received some of the information from conversations held with Triget.

When contacted for this story Triget denied all allegations of wrongdoing.  So unlike the interplay between Horus and Montolio in which the main point of dispute is whether Montolio would have turned in the ISK if he had successfully scammed Horus, we have a he said/she said situation in which all facts are up for dispute.  Who should we believe?  A closer look at the allegations leveled against the three corporations accused of botting, Blood and Sand, Fallen Nova and Infinite Covenant, may reveal some answers.  This second post of the series will examine the mainly Italian corporation Blood and Sand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 22 January 2013

This Week's Rankings:  The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 20 January 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.1 30,791-3.0
22Guild Wars 219.414,897-1.1
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.78,234-3.7
55Eve Online4.53,449-6.0
66Planetside 23.72,832-3.5
77Lord of the Rings Online3.72,818+1.7
98The War Z3.02,270+3.7
1110Metin 22.01,560-16.1
1211Maple Story1.91,482-19.1
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 101,286
The Xfire community continued its consistent interest in MMORPGs with the amount of hours played Sunday only decreasing by 0.4% compared to the previous week.  The games showing a surge of interest from the Xfire community were Tera (+25.0%) and APB: Reloaded (+13.2%) while the games showing the biggest drop-offs were Maple Story (-19.1%) and Metin 2 (-16.1%).

Examining An Expansion - With Eve Online's Retribution expansion receiving rave reviews among players now is a good time to compare the Xfire numbers vs. actual player numbers to see how well Xfire does in representing trends.

According to Xfire Eve Online experienced a huge jump right after the launch of Retribution and then interest dropped over Christmas and then slowly grew again.  Overall growth was good.

The reality of the monitoring of actual player behavior shows something a bit different.  Xfire was correct in catching the initial surge in player interest, a decline for a week, and then a gradual increase.  But the Xfire numbers did not show that activity in-game actually increased and is significantly higher than it was the first week after launch.
Does this mean that the Xfire numbers are useless?  Not at all.  Just use them to look at trends or as alerts that something possibly happened to a game.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - Horus and Montolio

Three weeks ago Eve News 24 ran an article that created quite a stir titled "The Honey Botter Coalition – An exposé on Botting within Eve Online’s biggest Coalition."  The article is in keeping with Eve News 24's tradition of running botting and 3rd party RMT stories with an editorial bias that botting and 3rd party RMT is bad and players should not engage in those activities.  In EN24's latest effort riverini, Darius and Mino Noud made five charges:

1.  Honey Badger Coalition chief Montolio attempted to get large amounts of ISK from Horus to allow The Jagged Alliance to remain in the Honey Badger Coalition.

2.  The HBC allows known botting corporations to operate in Tribal Band and that Tribal Band receives significant funding from botting activities.  Horus made a secondary accusation that TEST was receiving some of that income.

3.  One of the Tribal Band corporations contains a Questor bot developer.

4.  That a member of Pandemic Legion is involved in ISK selling and that he uses a PL jabber channel to conduct business.

5.  CCP is either unable or unwilling to ban the biggest botters and RMT operators in Eve Online.
Some in the Eve community believe this coverage is colored by an editorial bias against his in-game foes like Goonswarm Federation and Test Alliance Please Ignore.  So instead of coming out immediately and posting about the scandal, I took my time and did some research into the piece to try to discover whether EN24's critics or supporters were correct.

I came up with more information that I thought so I am dividing this latest look into botting at the alliance level into multiple sections.  This first part will look at the sources used in the EN24 article and the first two points concerning whether the leadership of the HBC tolerates botting and looks to violations of the EULA to help fund the coalition's activities.  The second part will look at the accusations of Tribal Band's involvement in large-scale botting operations.  The third part will examine the conflict that erupted between Eve News 24 and CCP Sreegs following the publication of the article.  The final installment will look at some areas that I think Eve News 24 can improve upon when covering issues like this in the future.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Back Home

After a successful 8 day campaign working for the Brutor Tribe I returned to low sec.  Having run a maximum of 4 missions a day I could see why pilots like to remain in the safety of high sec.  In addition to raising my standings with the holders of the main Minmatar trade station in Rens from 4.3 to 6.8 I picked up 181 million ISK in bounties and mission rewards and 198 million ISK in salvage and drops.  Not bad for someone who only played between 30 minutes and 2 hours a play session.

But high sec just feels wrong somehow so I left most of the big stuff behind and flew back to Metropolis low sec.  Sure, I left all my expensive ships in high but they are big and slow and I have a need for speed.  I guess that is part of being Minmatar.

So what did I do my first day back?  Pulled out the Cheetah and sent out the probes.  I found two signatures, a wormhole and a small dark ochre and gneiss deposit.  A gravimetric site?  I don't find those often so out came the Procurer and Hound and off to work I went.

As usually happens when I mine, the system went from containing no one but my pilots in it to having visitors.  Last night my visitors were a little different from the usual run of faction warfare members fighting over the system.  Those I can pretty much ignore because they stick to the FW plexes.  No, these were pilots in 2-3 man corps with security status of 5.5 and 9.5.  They also were flying some nice ships, a Cynabal and a Tengu.  But with the potential opposition sitting in different corps, I think they were more concerned with each other than with a mere Procurer.  But I was constantly hitting the directional scanner just in case I was wrong.

I think I did interrupt some station games they were playing.  One time after dropping off a load of ore I left the station to see the Cynabal sitting 3,600 meters away.  I didn't wait to see if he was friendly; I just hit Shift-Spacebar to stop my ship and docked immediately.  I looked in the station's guest list and saw one of the pilots.  I threw caution to the wind since the Procurer has already paid for itself many times over at this point and undocked.  Seeing no one on grid I did something dumb and instead of warping to an instaundock point I warped to my bookmark in the grav site.  Actually, that isn't as silly as first appears because the warp path took me back through the station so I remained in docking range.

I also ran right into a Tengu.  I think both of us were surprised as my ship slowed down and then realigned.  The Tengu didn't chase, probably not wishing to take fire from the station guns.  So first day back and I'm bumping into pirate faction and tech 3 ships.  The system definitely got busier when I was away.

The players decided not to shoot at me but the Angel Cartel was a different story.  Once I got back to my mining spot an Angel War General and his elite cruiser escort decided they wanted a mining barge snack.  Wandering Rose in the Procurer and Rosewalker in the Hound proceeded to play ping-pong with the two NPC pirates.  With Wandering Rose's Hobgoblin IIs in pursuit the two ships decided to chase the Hound.  Rosewalker managed to destroy the cruiser and get the battleship into half-armor before having to warp off grid due to excessive damage to the shields.  But he did the job as he lured the NPC 42km away from the Procurer.

Normally I probably would have docked both ships at this point but with the other players showing no signs of wanting to play I left Wandering Rose sitting with her strip miners on and warped the Hound back on grid.  Once the battleship got within 13 km I sprung the trap and pointed him.  Why point an NPC?  Because these War Generals have a disturbing habit of warping off and I wasn't going to let this one get away.  I didn't see the explosion but the 800,000 ISK plus salvage showed I killed him.

After the excitement I finished mining all of the ochre in the site, which was 1,100 units of onyx ochre, 900 units of obsidian ochre and 2,200 units of dark ochre.  Refined that produced 6,675 units of nocxium, 3,339 units of tritanium and 3,339 units of zydrine.  According to the values shown in station that is about 7,480,000 ISK worth of minerals.  In addition, I collected 1,825,000 ISK in bounties and collected up approximately 3.1 million ISK in salvage and drops.  For between 60-90 minutes of work people in the other areas of the game would look down on this and tell me I wasted my time.  But between the excitement at the station and the constant use of the directional scanner while I was mining to track people who clearly like to kill others I had a good time.  It was nice to be back.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: CCP Seagull Connecting The Dots

The CSM December 2012 Summit Minutes came out yesterday and a look at the topic list shows no presentation by CCP Sreegs or anyone from his team.  Yes, the shadow war I call the War on Bots™ continues although in this case I'm not sure CCP actually knows the potential implications of some of their moves when they make them.  For example, take the discussion about lurkers.  I found this paragraph fascinating.
"Kelduum asked why CCP found it challenging to tell whether the one person with 5 characters and 5 accounts in his own corporation was actually just a single person. Seagull explained that right now, the focus was on tracking accounts and characters, but not necessarily humans. Identifying unique humans that are being added to the community would be essential going forward, as Seagull didn’t feel comfortable working under the illusion that increased character participation in an activity or increased subscriber count actually meant that they were gaining new customers as a business. Unifex reiterated that this was an absolutely critical problem to solve in the near future, and that their analytics team was actively researching the number of human users in particular. Seagull added that CCP needs better tools for examining cancelled accounts, for example – which could represent either players quitting the game entirely, or people still playing the game but reducing their accounts." (p. 10)
From everything I knew about how Eve Online worked I knew this was the case.  Is this because Kelduum isn't too bright or because I've visited botting forums way too often and read how botters operate?  From what I've seen the only time CCP attempts to link multiple accounts to a single player is when Team Security is trying to ban all of a botter's or ISK seller's accounts.

So what is the impact on the War on Bots™?  From this answer I assume that a team completely separate from Team Security is going to build a database linking accounts to actual people.  I think that should prove an interesting exercise since many of the lurkers CCP Seagull talked about in the session are botting accounts and botters and ISK sellers already go to great lengths to hide the links between their multiple accounts.  I'm assuming that Team Security will have access to the information CCP Seagull's analytics team produces, which may make investigations into bad behavior run faster as a lot of the legwork of tracking accounts will already be done.

I have one more pleasant thought.  Botters like to make accounts with the same name and just add a number at the end, like Bot1, Bot2, etc.  A lot of players wonder why CCP just doesn't look at names and use that to track and ban botters.  The question I'd like to know is if someone makes accounts with sequential names and totally different personal information (like email addresses, home addresses, even credit cards) will that throw up red flags to the analytics team?  And if they see that will they then alert CCP Sreegs of the security threat?  I say security threat because not only could that indicate bot use but possible credit card fraud, with the associated charge backs coming out of CCP's corporate wallet.  If that happens then Team Security just received some reinforcements in the War on Bots™.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where's My Headset?

As a sign of how bad at Eve I am, this weekend I couldn't find my headset.  I have a solo style and usually just multi-box, which is how I got my last two kill mails.  The last time I used voice comms in a game was back when I flew in Eve University.  But I had two reasons for digging them out.  First is I know a DUST bunny at work and who knows if I'll need them now.  The second is some advice I read about The Secret World.

I don't remember the blogger, but he or she stated that The Secret World is a much better game with the sound on.  Games have sound?  Who knew?  So I resolved to turn off the tv, close down the podcasts and just let the sounds of The Secret World wash over me.  I put on my headphones and ran around the world, visiting London among other places to do an investigation mission.

Once I got my equipment working and all the drivers updated I realized what I was missing.  First, the sound is in stereo and the sounds are synced up to make it sound like they are coming from one direction or another.  For example when I walked between two Templars walking toward Temple Hall I heard the one on my right make a snide comment as I walked past.  The police sirens wafting occasionally in the background to make the place a more modern urban feel.  And the buzz of the bees as I exited the city into Agartha set the mood for the transition to another location a lot better than the explosion of yellow does alone.

I have to say that the sounds associated with combat are also good.  The sounds of zombies devouring dead bodies on the other side of a car lets players know where the danger is.  The sound of spent brass tinkling on the ground after firing a three-round burst from my assault rifle is a nice touch.  However I could use without the squishing sound when a zombie attacks me; it is kind of creepy.  But I do like hearing that final wisp of air leaving a zombie's body when I kill one.

I do have to give Funcom credit for their use of music as well.  When travelling the music doesn't get in the way of hearing your own footsteps along the road or crows cawing in the distance.  During a battle the music builds with the intensity of the fight giving the feel of something epic since fighting five zombies at once should give some sense of accomplishment.  Overall I think the choice and use of music is well done.

I know that Eve has sound.  From the bopm of my 1400mm howitzers firing to Aura saying "Warp drive active" to the soundtrack Eve has some memorable sounds.  But The Secret World goes to a whole different level in using sound to help immerse players into its world.  I used to just worry about the gameplay and the visuals but now I'll have to listen to a game before turning the volume down to pay attention to other things.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 15 January 2013

This Week's Rankings:  The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 13 January 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.6 31,730-1.9
22Guild Wars 219.315,068+0.2
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.98,550-3.1
55Eve Online4.73,670+5.6
67Planetside 23.82,934+9.6
76Lord of the Rings Online3.52,770+2.5
89The War Z2.82,189+3.8
108Metin 22.41,859-17.5
1111Maple Story2.31,833+11.2
1212APB: Reloaded2.01,603-2.0
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 101,699
The time the Xfire community seems to have found a steady level of time spent playing MMORPGs as the time spent Sunday only increased by 0.3% over the previous week.  The game making the biggest splash was Tera which saw its time played increase by 188.3% while two game, The Secret World (-18.2%) and Metin 2 (-17.5%) experienced the biggest drops in interest.

Eight is Enough - Tera made a huge jump in popularity, leaping back into the Digital Dozen after an absence of 24 weeks on the strength of first a price drop of the box price down to $5 on Amazon on 4 January and the announcement on 9 January of the game going free-to-play in February.  If the game doesn't go F2P until an unannounced date in February why the sudden interest of jumping into the game now?  Because if players purchase the game before the launch of F2P then they receive Founder status.  The biggest difference between Founders and those who purchase a subscription after the game goes F2P is that Founders get eight character slots on each server and non-Founders only receive 2, with the option to purchase more.  Were people taking advantage of the free trial to see if they want to take advantage?  Or did people look at the Amazon price and figure that $5 for purchasing all the character slots was a good deal and start playing now?

If it weren't for bad luck... - Funcom can't seem to catch a break with the timing of The Secret World.  First at launch they did fairly well until the tidal wave Guild Wars 2 launched 6 weeks after TSW.  Next TSW went buy-to-play and started showed up on the list 3 of the 4 weeks following that move.  Now En Masse made its move with Tera and The Secret World is dropping out of sight again.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Celebrating The New Year With An RMT Sweep

Trying to track CCP's Team Security and its anti-RMT activities outside of dev blogs is a challenge.  One method is from reading botting forums but that method is drying up as botters are either learning to HTFU and not cry or forum administrators are mopping up the tears and deleting posts.  I believe the effects of CCP's efforts, however, are discernible by watching the 3rd party(1) ISK market.

My method of tracking the price of 3rd party ISK involves using the listing of web sites selling in-game currency found at MMOBUX.  While this list does not contain many of the more popular ISK selling sites the list does contain many of the major players in the global 3rd party RMT market.  If the prices seem high, that represents the fact that these sites have more overhead than Joe Caldari who is selling ISK on a forum for $14/billion.

So what does my index of 3rd party ISK selling sites tell me?  Something really hit the supply of ISK available to the 3rd party gold sellers recently.  Either a lot of new people have entered the game who have never heard of PLEX, something is up in null sec involving someone with deep pockets or CCP Sreegs' merry band is busy showing the rest of the MMO industry how to fight bots and RMT.  Trust me, some of the other companies need help.  Given the research I've done this weekend, I think the answer is Team Security is up to its old tricks.

The numbers themselves don't look drastic at first look.  While the price of ISK purchased in The Forge (i.e. Jita) market has remained basically flat the median price of 1 billion ISK sold by 29 3rd party ISK selling sites rose by 6.7%.  What this represents is that the discount someone would receive in purchasing 3rd party ISK has declined from 27.5% down to 22.9% in a fairly short time.  As CCP Sreegs stated at Fanfest 2011 his objective is to make botting and RMT unprofitable enough that people do not want to engage in those activities.  I do not know what the discount percentage is that is required to keep players purchasing 3rd party ISK but shrinking the percentage is one of CCP Sreegs' goals.

I'm pretty sure that what I see is part of an anti-RMT operation that began at the end of October but Team Security apparently disrupted the operations of some of those supplying ISK to the 3rd party sites in the days following Christmas and then again in the latter part of last week.  Since 23 December eight web sites have increased their prices an average of 25.1% and over the past few days six companies raised prices by 20.4%.

When evaluating whether a company is actually selling ISK I look at what I call "The Jita Line"(2).  Having watched the market for the past three months I think that some companies just list a currency for a very high price just to say they sell currency in all the major MMORPGs but really don't get any business because most buyers of in-game currency will find a cheaper seller.  In the case of Eve Online the seller most companies have to contend with is CCP itself.  For examples let's look at two Hong Kong-based web sites, Koala Credits and MMOGA. 

I wrote about Koala Credits in November when the site stopped selling ISK for two weeks.  Apparently the site's ISK supply was fragile because last week Koala Credits raised its price 42% to $34.07.  That is almost $3 above the Jita Line.  In effect the company can buy PLEX from CCP, sell it on the market, then give it to their buyer.

MMOGA apparently just wishes to not have to worry about accepting orders.  The company that claims German roots raised prices 12.3% just after Christmas and then last week raised the price 18.3%, putting the price of its ISK $1.41 over the Jita Line.  I don't think that price is enough to justify the same tactics available to Koala Credits.

Can I state with 100% certainty that these price increases are a direct result of actions taken by CCP?  No.  But if they are not, then someone is buying an extremely large amount of 3rd party ISK.


(1) - I am switching my terminology from "illicit" to "3rd party" when describing RMT currency because in some countries like South Korea selling game currency is illegal.

(2) - The Jita line price is calculated by using the purchase price of 2 PLEX for $34.99 instead of 1 PLEX for $19.99 since to purchase 1 billion ISK a player needs to purchase 2 PLEX.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blog Banter 43 - The Nosy Gamer Awards

At the turn of the year in meatspace, award season starts to spin up. Across the general media, folk are encouraged to look to their peers and recognise excellence and inspiration from the previous year.

For the past two years I have attempted to do the same for EVE by distributing imaginary Free Boot Awards to an eclectic assortment of community luminaries. This year I thought it might be nice to expand the concept.

For Blog Banter 43 I would like to invite every participant to nominate their peers for whatever awards you think they deserve. Let's start the year with some EVE-flavoured altruism and celebrate the best and the worst of us, the funniest or the most bizarre, the most heroic of the most tragic of the past year. They could be corpmates, adversaries, bloggers, podcasters, developers, journalists or inanimate objects. Go nuts.

There's only one rule: no narcissism allowed (so step away from that mirror and resist the urge to nominate yourself).

Other than that, if it's great, let's celebrate.

Banter On.

- Seismic Stan, Keeper of the Blog Banters
In all my time writing about Eve I've never participated in one of Seismic Stan's Blog Banters.  But since the subject for this month is to celebrate others I thought I'd go ahead and jump in.  Some of my picks may surprise because I look at things sort of sideways to the Eve universe.  So am I thinking outside the box or just clueless?  Let's find out.

The Darwin Award - The Live Streaming Botter.  Some people apparently do not believe that botting in Eve is against any rules.  One of those foolish people decided to live stream his game play while he was working on the code for his bot.  Not only was he banned but he also lost his job working at Eve Hold'em.

Best Blog To Show Someone Who Doesn't Play Eve - Eve Travel, Mark726.  If you haven't read Mark's blog, do it.  While Eve is known for the skullduggery of its players Mark brings out the hidden beauty along with some history that could appear to even the most hardened Star Trek fan.

Most Entertaining Blog - A Missioneer In Eve, Mike Azariah.  I love the Eve fiction/out of character lesson posts that Mike brings to us on a weekly basis.  An honorable mention goes to Sugar Kyle's Low Sec Lifestyle for her take on a pirate's life in the Minmatar Republic.

Most Influential Blog - Jester's Trek, Ripard Teg.  If someone can name a more prolific Eve blogger with more well thought out posts, please let me know.  Love him or hate him, he does get the conversation and ideas flowing.  An honorable mention goes to Rixx Javix' Eveoganda and his campaign to return the frill to the Vagabond.

Best Talk Show/Podcast - DJ Wiggles, Eve Radio.  In 2012 Eve Radio tried an experiment with three four audio streams which created opportunities for talk show hosts to emerge.  DJ Wiggles emerged with the strongest talk show of the pack with a quality that pulled it ahead of the podcasts that get a chance to edit their shows.

Best Talk Show Event/Podcast Episode - DJ FunkyBacon, Eve Radio.  DJ FunkyBacon completes Eve Radio's sweep of the audio categories of my awards for one of his shows covering the aftermath of Panelgate. The show in question featured The Mittani and columnist Brendan Drain discussing Drain's column in which he described The Mittani's actions as cyberbullying.  For those interested in the direct confrontation between the two it is posted on Soundcloud.

Best CSM Member - Hans Jagerblitzen.  I don't follow the CSM that closely but between everything that happened with faction warfare and the energy he has displayed over the course of the year, Hans is my pick for best CSM member.  I don't usually visit the forums where all of the serious CSM discussions traditionally occur but I see Hans everywhere I normally pay attention.  Without Hans' presence in new media I would definitely qualify as a low information voter when the next election is held.

Best Eve Developer - CCP Stillman.  In a year in which CCP Fozzie led a massive and highly popular ship balancing effort and CCP Veritas continued to do stellar work in the war on lag plus revamp the tournament UI, I chose CCP Stillman for some of the less glamorous work he does in the War on Bots.  During 2012 the automatic bot detection program continued to improve to the point that bots often do not run in space for more than 6-8 hours a day.  Of course some may not appreciate his work as he was the developer who delivered the message at Eve Vegas that Team Security would begin looking into the involvement of alliance leadership in illicit RMT operations.  But Trion's recent problem when they let their staff take time off for the holidays and returned to find RIFT overrun with bots.  CCP Stillman went on vacation during the same time and I didn't see an increase in bots in Eve.  His automation works.

Most Valuable Player - The Mittani.  Is there really any other choice?  The leader of the CFC, his efforts to keep his troops engaged between offenses gobbling up null sec resulted in such events as the Gallente ice interdiction, Burn Jita and the perpetual Hulkageddon.  The creation of OTEC forced CCP to make changes in alchemy in order to break the cartel that was pushing the price of  technetium to record highs.  But perhaps more importantly is his decision to maintain a culture which seeks allies not renters to live in his coalition's space.  People usually try to copy success and with the HBC following The Mittani's lead the role and expectations of those wishing to live in null sec may have changed for a very long time.

[Update: 13 January 2013] - Here are some of the other posts from those participating in Blog Banter 43.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tis The Season To Exploit And Bot

A lot of people see Eve Online as a game filled with bad people who do bad things.  When thinking of these evil acts people look at things like scamming and unconsensual PvP.  Regular readers of my blog know I define actions a little differently.  I look at things like botting, 3rd party RMT and exploits as the really bad acts.  Looking at the first days of 2013 shows evidence that bad people don't just play Eve.

The first example comes from The Secret World.  Funcom held a Mayan zombie apocalypse event to celebrate the move to a buy-to-play model and the coming end of the world.  As part of the event the top 1000 scoring players would receive a title and the top 100 would receive an in-game pet.  On 7 January that planned changed due to some players discovering a way to "exploit the mechanics and reach impossible amounts of points which in turn alters the rankings to unrealistic results."  In this example of players exploiting game mechanics all that was at stake were some titles and pets.  Funcom resolved the situation by giving all players the title and pet.

A more serious situation arose during Guild Wars 2's Wintersday holiday event.  On 3 January Massively described the exploit.
"Players were able to use a single high-level snowflake, a Black Lion salvage kit, and a bit of metal to generate effectively limitless globs of ectoplasm (which are kind of a cornerstone of the economy, as they're used in the majority of high-end items). The exploit was closed, but not before an apparently large number of people took advantage of it."
Many players are upset with the permanent bans issued by ArenaNet but this is not the first big exploit encountered in the game.  Back in August over 3,000 players were permanently banned for using an exploit for crafting high-level weapons “one thousandth of their normal price.”  ArenaNet relented and reduced many of the bans down to 72 hours but apparently the event did not deter many from taking similar actions over the holidays.

In the wake of major botting problems in addition to the previous exploit ArenaNet is taking a hard line with violators.  ArenaNet Support Liason Gaile Gray issued the following statement on the GW2 forums:
"I’ve seen the numbers, and the damage to the economy could have been substantial, if the exploit wasn’t closed down and if these people were allowed to use their ill-gotten gains. People whose accounts were terminated were the worst offenders. I’m talking a lot of ill-gotten gains that posed a significant potential impact on the economy.

"Any time you take one thing and can make two, and then four, and then sixteen… ya gotta know that’s just wrong. (I won’t quibble on the odds, but overall, that form of doubling was not outside the realm of possibility.) And to perform that action hundreds and hundreds of times? That’s call 'exploitation,' and that’s against the User Agreement, the Rules of Conduct, and all that is holy.

"I know the OP will disagree. But we’ve been more than kind, in the past, and everyone needs to own up to his/her errors and recognize: We all are part of the game economy, and those who exploit it are hurting the rest of us.

"Exploit closed.
"Worst offenders terminated.
"That’s what has to happen to make things right for all of us."
Another company taking a hard-line with exploiters and botters is Sony Online Entertainment in its new MMOFPS Planetside 2.  SOE CEO John Smedley had already declared war on cheaters using aimbots and other hacks.  Yesterday morning a patch was finally released that fixed the Sunderer crash exploit.  Apparently while SOE staff took some time off during the holidays the hackers ran wild, causing players to disconnect within certain areas.  Now that the development staff is back in the office, Planetside 2 Creative Director Matt Higby tweeted “As a side note, we have log evidence for players who were causing it and will be banning.”

Finally, another company that let its guard down during the holidays was Trion.  Included in yesterday's RIFT 2.1 Hotfix 2 patch notes was this introduction:
"While we were out for the holidays, there was a marked rise in both fishing and onslaught farming bots. We know that the vast majority of you are responsible, upstanding, and incredibly attractive Telaran citizens, but we do need to take a moment to remind everyone that automating play is a violation of the terms of service that will be acted upon.

"As of today, we’ve already shut down a few thousand accounts over the recent rise in fishing botting, and we’ve begun removing gains from others in places of extreme bot use. A good number of these botters were brought in, as is often the case, on stolen credit cards and fraudulent Rift purchases.

"That said, some folks do innocently use keyboard-assistance software while they’re at their computer. We’ve gone out of our way to make sure that differently-abled gamers are able to use the assist software that they need.

"Unfortunately, for the next week or two, until the bot situation gets back under control, use of this software may intentionally be randomly unreliable, up to causing random disconnects. We ask that you please refrain from using keyboard automation software in the meanwhile."
For those new to the dark underworld of MMORPGs, the references to stolen credit cards and fraudulent game purchases indicates that Trion busted a lot of gold farmers and/or bot accounts utilizing botting software.  The fact that the developers needed to state they need weeks to solve the situation and that those with physical ailments are affected point to some of the negative side effects that people just don't think about when discussing the subject of botting and illicit RMT.

One principle that I see when looking at botting and the illicit RMT business not just in Eve Online but in all games is that as long as players are willing to break the rules that the underworld will thrive.  This past Christmas season showed that RMTers have a lot of fertile ground to worth in.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Forcast Calls For Cyclones

Does CCP read my blog?  On Friday I wrote about needing to change the ships I fly (Hurricane and Maelstrom) and four days later CCP Fozzie comes out with a post on the Eve Online forums about the initial tiericide changes to battlecruisers.  But CCP Fozzie obviously likes me and doesn't want me to fly a Drake because he is turning the Cyclone into a missile boat.  Yay!

Admittedly I use battlecruisers a little differently than most.  Battlecruisers can run one gang link and in the doctrine I'm putting together for running missions I use that link to augment the resists of the DPS ship (usually a battleship) in my two-ship gangs.  The Hurricane I currently use is fit with autocannons and orbits the Maelstrom soaking up incoming fire while taking care of anything that gets within 15 km of the battleship.  I think with the change to the new Cyclone I can still fit the gang link with a nos and take care of any tacklers with heavy assault missiles.  I remember when I first flew a Cyclone that the ship could soak up some damage with an active shield repair.  I wonder if the same will hold true after the changes.

I am looking forward to the changes to the Cyclone for another reason.  Up until now I hesitated on purchasing a battlecruiser BPO.  Did I get the Hurricane for every day use or the Cyclone to possibly build command ships?  Now the decision is easy.  I get the Cyclone BPO because even if I don't manufacture command ships I can still manufacture ships that I fly on a regular basis.  I'm pretty sure that once the Hurricane is nerfed that I'll fly Cyclones for the forseeable future.

I have to admit this does change my skill planning.  My battlecruiser pilot cannot use missiles right now but by the time the next expansion hits she'll have all the skills needed to use tech 2 missile bays.  One embarrassing skill I found that all my pilots lack is Cybernetics V.  I really never thought about the usefulness of implants for industrial uses but I plan on making up for that now.  Something about having a lot of unused loyalty points sitting in my journal just has me wanting to spend them.

Am I running around with rose-colored glasses?  Perhaps.  But I'm starting to like missiles and with all the mixed armament ships turning into missile platforms I see a bright future ahead.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 8 January 2013

This Week's Rankings:  The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 6 January 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.4 32,352+6.6
22Guild Wars 219.215,035-0.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.38,819+3.9
56Eve Online4.43,474+4.4
67Lord of the Rings Online3.52,702-12.6
74Planetside 23.42,677-21.8
8T9Metin 22.92,253+16.0
98The War Z2.72,109-19.8
1011The Secret World2.21,688-5.1
11T9Maple Story2.11,648-15.2
1212APB: Reloaded2.11,635-4.4
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 101,417
The year 2013 began steadily for the Xfire community as the amount of hours spent playing MMORPGs on Sunday increased by 1.2% over the last Sunday of 2012.  The games leading the list in percentage gained were Metin 2 (16%) and Aion (10.5%) while the games seeing the largest drops were Planetside 2 (-21.8%) and The War Z (-19.8%).

Bad Press Catching Up?  Is the bad press over the Steam debacle finally catching up to The War Z?  Over the past two weeks the number of hours played by the Xfire community has plummeted by 29.4%.  This is not the first time the game has seen declining numbers as the number of hours played dropped 45% from 4 November to 2 December last year so the most recent drop is possibly the result of a game in beta needing additional work.

The Inevitable Slide - Planetside 2 has come back down to earth six weeks after launch, falling below Aion, Eve Online and Lord of the Rings Online.  PS2 continues the trend from 2012 of all new games seeing large decreases with a drop of 52.3% since the first Sunday after launch on 25 November.

Monday, January 7, 2013

What's This Level 4 Mission Thing?

Hello, my name's Noizy and I'm horrible at Eve Online.

Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way I can now tell my tales of high sec mission running this weekend.  I'm working on my Brutor Tribe standings and the best way to raise them is to run level 4 security missions in Metropolis or Heimatar.  So I found a system with two level 4 agents, moved in my ships and a load of ammunition and went to work.

I've talked about finding new ships to mission in but that would mean shopping and playing with new fits and I just want to get the standings grind over.  So over the course of about 6-7 hours over the weekend I ran six security missions and one storyline mission.  The good news is that I somehow didn't lose any ships.  What makes me a horrible player is I didn't really realize how nice the payouts for running level 4 security missions are.

I always have periods when I run security missions for a month or so but I just ran them to kill time.  If I really wanted to grind standings I would run courier missions.  As far as making money my big money makers over the past two years were first planetary interaction and then, since June, my syndication deal with Eve News 24.  Mining?  Mission running?  I didn't do them unless I was bored.

I was a little surprised at how much I made.  For mission rewards and time bonuses I received 9.8 million ISK.  Not bad.  But the big money is in bounties.  I received 45.4 million ISK for killing NPCs.  I just added 55.2 million ISK to the money supply.

Did I state that the big money was is bounties?  Not from what I saw.  Since I'm bad at Eve I actually flew a Noctis into the sites when I finished and cleaned up the mess I made.  According to the automatic calculations in my Noctis' cargo hold I collected a total of 68.2 million in meta items and salvage.  I usually just keep the salvage for making rigs later but still, 123.4 million ISK for running a weekend's worth of missions?  Okay, maybe I need to learn how the game actually works.

Just to show how bad I am at Eve, once I finish my standings grind I'm going to head back to low sec.  Flying around high sec feels strange now and I just want to get back to all my nicely bookmarked low sec systems.  The only difference is now I have a monetary goal to shoot for when I'm playing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Time For A Change

I need to get standings with Brutor Tribe and Boundless Creations because they own the stations that are the focus of the Rens and Hek trade hubs and I really need to improve them if I want to do any serious business.  Boundless Creations I can run missions for in low sec but for Brutor Tribe they only hand out security missions and the only level 4 low sec missions are in Amamake.  Since I don't have a death wish I flew off to a high-sec system (ugh!) and asked an agent for a mission.  When the missions did not involve the Angel Cartel I just logged off.  I couldn't bear to even be bothered to change my resists.

This morning I had a revelation.  I've been using the same ships (a Maelstrom/Hurricane combination) for almost 2 years.  No wonder I hate security missions.  I need a change.

So what do I change to?  I've discovered running around low sec in a Bellicose that I love missiles.  I love them so much that I even have an NPC station set up as a missile production facility.  So that seems a given.  I've come up with two possible combinations.

The first combination is Drake/Drake.  With the advice from CCP to train both Destroyers and Battlecruisers to V I can fly all the races battlecruisers but I only have the skills outside Minmatar ships to fly the Drake.  That combination uses a lot of missiles but I don't mind mining an hour or two a week in low sec to keep the supply up.  Also, with the new UI, does that mean the NPCs will focus fire on one or split their fire?  Maybe I should find out.

The second combination keeps me firmly and safely encased in duct tape: Typhoon/Claymore.  Why those two?  While Retribution may have nerfed I think torpedoes received a buff.  So I could go with either a torp 'Phoon or a cruise missile 'Phoon.  I'll need to pick up the blueprints for cruise missiles if I go with the second option.  And why the Claymore?  One, I like the three gang links it can run.  And two I hear the ship has a pretty good tank.  That is important with the changes to the UI.  I envision that I could use the Typhoon to pick off long-range targets and set the Claymore as a decoy to draw off fire from the 'Phoon.  And if anything small gets close the Claymore can take care of that with autocannons.  Using drones with the current AI is something I only want to do with care.

I can always get some level 1 and 2 missions in low sec and run those also and I actually intend on doing so this year.  I'm thinking of running a Jaguar or the new destroyer in level 1s and the Bellicose in level 2s.  Maybe I'll get brave and run a Vagabond in level 3s.  But I really do need change because when talking to agents makes me want to log off that's a bad sign.  Especially when CCP won't let us kill agents who make us unhappy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Don't Petition Blues

So why do new players quit Eve Online?  Jump into low sec and lose a ship to a gate camp?  Mining is SO boring?  CCP Sreegs takes all their money and leaves red numbers in their wallets?  Okay, me thinking about players receiving a punishment for buying illicit ISK isn't a big surprise.  So what took me down the rabbit hole this time?

My journey started by going to a very gloomly place, the official Eve Online forums.  Due to the recent botting exposé published on Eve News 24 I was reading the threads (mostly locked) about the article when I ran into a thread in which Goonswarm Federation's Andski was posting some interesting arguments.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I'm A Blogger Jim, Not A Reporter

When I started The Nosy Gamer I thought I was just starting a nice little blog about MMORPGs.  I've had a long run so far and as usually happens things change.  I moved from EverQuest 2 to Eve Online and somehow I became interested in botting and the RMT trade in our video games.  Bloggers require information to work with and for some reason botting isn't really covered.  Or I should say, wasn't a couple of years ago when I first became interested in the subject.  I could probably start a new category of posts called "The Global War On Bots" or "The RMT Blues" with the news I'm finding, most recently concerning Guild Wars 2.

That lack of information meant I had to search out my own.  Yes, bloggers usually are not reporters and the vast majority have no training in the field.  The closest I can claim is my stint in the Army working in intelligence.  By the end of my military days I was not only working with raw intelligence but producing intelligence summaries.  So armed with that experience I went out and found information that interested me and wrote about it here.

Fast forward two years since a series of news articles on Eve News 24 hooked me on the subject.  Riverini and company published a new exposé about botting in TEST.  Given the subject and that the story was put together by the EN24 staff and not a syndicated blogger like myself I think anyone who regularly reads the blog expects me to comment on the situation.  I promise not to disappoint anyone.  But I do need a couple more days to research some things.

What do I need to research?  Here is where the blogger vs. reporter issue comes up.  A reporter, at least in the idealized American tradition, will go out, find out the facts and then write them up for an editor to review before publication.  As a blogger, I don't have an editor and on this subject I'm not known for my impartiality.  Fortunately as a blogger impartiality is optional.  But accuracy and getting the facts correct is important for a blogger's credibility so I try to do the best I can.

I also want to state that while the EN24 article concentrated on botting operations apparently approved, or at least tolerated, within the null sec alliances, I see a lot more stories hidden away just waiting for me to write.  A couple of stories may even contradict some of what is written in the exposé.  I've discussed the article with Riverini and I think he and I may have some different views on some of the specifics of the botting/RMT scene.  He has the contacts in null and my information is from different sources including analysis attempting to derive metrics on CCP Sreegs' efforts.

I think the Eve News 24 staff is on a roll and I can just sit back in an analyst role for a change.  Hopefully another news site will decide to join in the fun.  I'd really like to see a lot of facts floating around that I don't need to dig up.  I'm lazy that way.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 2012 Final Rankings

This week I look back on 2012 and the popularity of MMORPGs as played by the Xfire community.  Instead of just taking the total hours played I took the Digital Dozen score for each week and averaged them together.  If a game was not among the top 12 games it received no score for the week.  The average score is listed after the name of the game.

I should add that because The Digital Dozen began in February the first five Sundays of the year are not included in the rankings.  I have noted where this would have affected a game's ranking.

Those looking for the normal weekly rankings can find them at the bottom of the post.

1.  World Of Warcraft: 48.4

Weeks Ranked: 48
Developer: Activision/Blizzard
Publisher:  Activision/Blizzard

World of Warcraft continued to dominate the MMORPG scene in 2012 but the game showed signs of weakness with the successful launch of Guild Wars 2.  WoW actually trailed GW2 for five weeks until the launch of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.  But with a subscription base of over 10 million expect WoW to continue to lead all western MMORPGs for the foreseeable future.

2.  Guild Wars 2: 13.6

Weeks Ranked:  22
Developer:  ArenaNet
Publisher:  NCSoft

The only game on the list that launched in 2012, Guild Wars 2 and its buy-to-play model took the gaming world by storm when it launched in August, topping the Digital Dozen for most of September.  The long awaited sequel succeeded in the same situation where EverQuest 2 failed.  With no end game gear progression grind, a level system that means that players cannot just outlevel a zone and three server PvP ArenaNet's design will influence future game design.

3.  Star Wars: The Old Republic: 10.8

Weeks Ranked:  48
Developer:  Bioware
Publisher:  Electronic Arts

If The Digital Dozen had begun in January Star Wars: The Old Republic likely would have claimed the number 2 slot in this year-end list.  It is hard to believe that a game that probably had 500,000 - 700,000 subscribers nine months after launch is considered a failure, but that is the reality.  With Electronic Arts implying that Need For Speed World was a more important title to the financial health of the company during an investor call, the leadership of Bioware retiring and server merges critics had more than their opinions to justify the charge.  The game switched to a free-to-play model that many consider poorly thought out and overly punishing to F2P players.  EA/Bioware look to have an interesting year ahead of them.

4.  Aion: 5.0

Weeks Ranked:  48
Developer:  NCSoft
Publisher:  NCSoft

Korean exports to the western market usually do not perform well and Aion struggled as a subscription game.  A change to the free-to-play model in March gave the game a boost that carried it over its nearest competitor Eve Online and the number four position.  But by the end of the year the NCSoft product had lost its lead and the question remains if the F2P model will carry the game throughout 2013.

5.  Eve Online: 3.8

Weeks Ranked:  48
Developer:  CCP
Publisher:  CCP

The top sandbox MMORPG of 2012 Eve Online continues to defy gravity as a relaunch in China saw the sci-fi game end the year with 450,000 subscriptions.  In The Digital Dozen rankings the Icelandic game just chugged along as a steady performer from week to week.  The question CCP faces in 2013 is whether the link to the console shooter DUST 514 will lead to another increase in popularity in the game's 10th year.

6.  Metin 2: 2.8

Weeks Ranked:  48
Developer:  YMIR Entertainment
Publisher:  Gameforge

Another Korean export to the western market, the game is a PvP game featuring a 3-faction war and a harsh death penalty when compared to most other games that includes experience point loss and the dropping of items when defeated.  The game was a solid performer during most of the year but began to slump in December.  The question remains if the game can maintain its popularity with the wave of new games due in 2013.

7.  APB: Reloaded: 2.5

Weeks Ranked:  48
Developer:  Reloaded Productions
Publisher:  GamersFirst

APB: Reloaded's performance this year as the Xfire community's top driving MMO is extraordinary considering its history.  The game shut down in 2010 when RealTime Worlds declared for bankruptcy and was picked up and reopened by Reloaded Productions as a free-to-play game.  The game never approached the top of the rankings but its steady performance made it one of six games that stayed on The Digital Dozen for all 48 weeks this year.

8.  Lord Of The Rings Online: 2.3

Weeks Ranked: 40
Developer:  Turbine
Publisher:  Turbine

The game based on the works of J.R.R Tolkien encountered a rough June and July when it frequently failed to make The Digital Dozen but the game made a strong comeback in the fourth quarter as the Xfire community jumped into the Riders of Rohan expansion.  Some are questioning the longevity of the game as some of the recent cash shop decisions have faced some criticism.

9.  Guild Wars: 1.7

Weeks Ranked:  30
Developer:  ArenaNet
Publisher: NCSoft

Guild Wars 2 may have benefited from the success of the original Guild Wars.  The game remained popular enough at the beginning of 2012 that it found itself ranked 9th overall despite not appearing on The Digital Dozen rankings for the final 18 Sundays of the year.  The future of the game remains uncertain but its days as one of the most popular MMORPGs in the Xfire community are over.

10.  Need For Speed World: 1.6

Weeks Ranked:  42
Developer:  Quicklime Games/EA Singapore
Publisher:  Electronic Arts

The second EA entry on the list spent most of the year near the bottom of the list before falling off entirely for the last 4 Sundays of December.  Another driving game that launched in 2010 the EA offering has experienced problems remaining ranked as new games enter the market.

11.  Star Trek Online: 1.4

Weeks Ranked:  38
Developer:  Cryptic Studios
Publisher:  Atari

Another game based on a popular IP, Star Trek Online's switch to the free-to-play model briefly made the game more popular than Eve Online amonst the Xfire community early in the year.  That attraction was short-lived and the Cryptic Studios' game has now missed appearing on The Digital Dozen 6 of the last 10 weeks.

12.  Maple Story: 1.4

Weeks Ranked:  35
Developer:  Wiznet
Publisher:  Nexon

Maple Story is another game whose ranking was affected by The Digital Dozen starting in February.  If the rankings had begun in January the game would have outperformed Star Trek Online.  As it was, Maple Story needed a strong December to beat out Tera for the final position on the year-end list.  The game experienced issues in December 2011 when hackers accessed the personal information of 13 million Maple Story accounts and then in January when the game experienced severe issues following a patch.  Is the game ready for a rebound a year after its big problems?

This Week's Rankings:  The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 30 December 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 39.3 30,336+4.9
22Guild Wars 219.615,158+0.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.08,487+1.2
44Planetside 24.43,423-18.5
65Eve Online4.33,328+1.4
78Lord of the Rings Online4.03,090+6.1
87The War Z3.42,630-15.9
T99Maple Story2.51,943-10.0
T910Metin 22.51,943-6.1
11--The Secret World2.31,779+16.6
1212APB: Reloaded2.21,710-3.6
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 101,120