Thursday, October 31, 2013

Running Away Is Serious Business

This week I'm on vacation from work, but staying home.  I meant to do some errands around the house and get some quality time in space grinding Sisters of EVE loyalty points doing some distribution missions in low sec.  Besides the loyalty points, I think getting both my pilots up to 8.0 so they have jump clone access with the Sisters is a good long term investment.  Something about the way the lore is heading tells me so.

Because of covering the SOMERblink mess I didn't get a chance to get into space until last night. This new area of space I'm in has one constellation that holds a pretty active Australian PvP corporation.  So when a mission would take me into their space, things would get interesting.

Remember all of those bookmarks I wrote about making?  Very handy, especially when undocking from a station and a non-flashy red ship is waiting outside.  Instant warp-off bookmarks FTW!

I think they should put up a sign reading, "If you enter this space, you agree to play with us."  But that's okay, I'm good at running.  I had a Zealot try to catch up to my Prowler.  With Rubicon that's insanity but until then very doable.  He was persistent, but I lost him when I did an immediate uncloak/warp/recloak upon landing on a gate.  I don't think he knew which way I went.

Of course, the constellation only had one way out and sitting on the gate was a Broadsword plus another ship.  That woke me up.  Heavy interdictors in low sec mean they have the infinite point script.  That doesn't bother me too much because I rely on speed, agility, bookmarks, and my cloak to get out of tight spots, not warp core stabilizers.  But the Broadsword meant these guys were serious and all those other ships were just waiting around until he tackled something.

After slipping past the Broadsword, he complimented me on getting recloaked so fast and we started talking.  The pilot was an American who had joined up and we had a nice conversation.  The important thing I took out of it was that pilots of cloaky ships are getting sloppy in low sec.  He told me that a lot of pilots just aren't cloaking very fast, which means he can catch them.

I ended the talk because I needed to log off for the night.  I might have stayed on a bit longer but I didn't feel like testing these guys.  They reacted pretty quickly once they realized I had entered their constellation.  Worse, they knew they were trying to catch a blockade runner and they were confident enough to think they could do it.  And from talking to the Broadsword pilot, they have success catching cloaky ships.

These Australians also aren't a gate camp at a low sec entry system looking for people bumbling into their lair, either.  Those gate camps don't bother me, until the Broadswords start showing up (and why is the Broadsword popping up everywhere I go?).  I have had a good chance to observe these guys in action.  They tend to go about their normal business and then when an intruder enters, they try to pounce.

No one's caught me in my Prowler yet.  I know someone will, but part of the game is not getting caught.  And not getting caught also involves not going into a situation where a group of pilots is waiting for me.  Being a low sec carebear may mean I'm crazy, but I'd like to think I'm not THAT stupid.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SOMERblink: Headshot

I think that things are starting to settle down on the SOMERblink ISK for GTC sales front.  At 14:21 EVE time yesterday Katarina Reid, the player who CCP was allowing to run an ISK for GTC referral system on the EVE Online forums, made the following post:


Not sure if im allowed to link the letter given to resellers but it says to stop players trading ingame items for cash. ETC + bonus items may not be direclty or indirectly traded by the buyer for isk. EULA says cant sell ingame stuff for cash. 10 days for reseller to stop it or else.

You can still support me for no reward when you buy your ETC's here

$660 made for me
377 sale of ETC's
$13,195 for CCP
188b given out
The letter apparently was shown to her by an employee at Markee Dragon, although Katarina didn't post the letter for fear of violating the EULA/ToS.  Good move as I think publishing violates point 18 of the EVE Online Terms of Service.  Also, when asked why he was ending the sale immediately, he replied, "Don't want to annoy GM's anymore and after 10 days it's a breach of reseller agreement. So I will shut it down now. I made my point."

UPDATE:  I've been informed by Marcus Eikenberry, the owner of Markee Dragon, that no one at Markee Dragon showed Katarina the letter.  After Mr. Eikenberry pointed this out, I reread Katarina's post and realized that it could also indicate she was contacted by Shattered Crystal, with whom she is an affiliate.  Shattered Crystal would have a definite interest in making sure that Katarina stopped giving out ISK for GTC referrals.  The link to Markee Dragon came from another post Katarina wrote in a different thread.

Also, in fairness, I think I should post the relevant part of Mr. Eikenberry's email:
"Your latest article you state that an employee at Markee Dragon provided the letter.  This is not correct.  Our employees have not seen the letter and we have not shared it with anyone.  Their source is someone else.

"I just want to make that very clear because the privacy of our business partners and customers is very important to us.  This would be a violation of trust and it would violate our privacy policy.   We would never share anything like this."

UPDATE 2: Katarina seems to have confirmed that she received the information from Shattered Crystal in this post.

I can confirm that Katarina's view of the letter is correct because a copy of the letter was in my inbox when I woke up Tuesday.  I received it from one of my many new contacts I've established while covering this story.  I can't quote from it due to the ToS.  However, I think I can safely state that the exact bonus scheme that SOMERblink uses was described as violating the EVE Online EULA, specifically Section 6B.

One important thing I think Katarina left out is that while the GTC resellers have 10 days to get their player affiliates in line, the letter did not state how long the player sites have to comply.  So I would think that websites would want to work quickly to comply.

One site which also ran an ISK for GTC referral system is EVE-GAMES.NET.  The site is an affiliate of BattleClinic Deep Space Supply.  The site quickly updated, stating, "We have discontinued the Time Code Bonus at the request of CCP." new GTC referral page
I don't know of others except for SOMERblink.  As of 0800 EVE time today SOMERblink was still advertising their BlinkCredit promotion for purchasing game time codes from Markee Dragon on the site.

SOMERblink GTC referral page @ 2013.10.30 0754
Of course, just because one player site can change quickly doesn't mean all of them can.  Perhaps SOMERblink's web designer is only available on to work on the site on weekends.  So players should give SOMERblink a little time to get things straightened out.  Something tells me a lot of eyes will stare at that page in the coming 10 days.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 29 October 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 43.4 15,302-3.6
22Guild Wars 215.35,411-10.1
33Final Fantasy XIV10.23,607-4.3
44Star Wars: The Old Republic9.73,409-1.4
55EVE Online5.31,869+15.4
87Lord of the Rings Online2.5864-22.6
9--APB: Reloaded1.9657+16.9
109Planetside 21.8631-5.4
1110Infestation: Survivor Stories1.7609-4.4
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 35,263

Sunday saw the 5th decline in time the Xfire community has spent playing MMORPGs over the past 6 weeks.  Games experiencing the biggest declines were Guild Wars 2 (-606 hours) and World of Warcraft (-573 hours) while APB: Reloaded (+16.9%), RIFT (+15.8%), and EVE Online (+15.4%) experienced the largest percentage increases in playtime.  Overall, the genre experienced a 3.3% decline in the time the Xfire community spent playing the 12 most popular games.

And Then There Were Three - After 90 weeks in The Digital Dozen, Aion fell off the list after experiencing a 15.7% decline in play on Sunday.  The game had seemed in good shape but following the end of the month-long celebration of its 4th anniversary the numbers started to plummet.  Aion was one of four games that had stayed continuously in the rankings since the first Digital Dozen list was published.  The only three games remaining that can make that claim are World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and EVE Online.

Also Dropping Off The List - Aion was not the only game that fell out of The Digital Dozen for the first time.  Cryptic's Neverwinter also fell off the list for the first time since launch.  The game managed to stay on the list for 24 weeks.

Celebrating Steam - RIFT experienced a 15.8% increase in playtime Sunday as Trion ran a promotion to celebrate the game's return to Steam.  From 25 October to 1 November all players receive 20% boosts to all XP and currency earned plus 160% XP potions and raid 1 rings are available in the cash shop.

Monday, October 28, 2013

SOMERblink, A SOMER Clone, And GTCs

When writing about illicit real money transactions (RMT) I know I will get some things right and other things wrong.  But I really thought I had read the EVE Online End Users License Agreement (EULA) and Terms of Service (ToS) correctly last Monday.  Both DNSBlack's and SOMERblink's model of converting in-game assets and currency for real world cash were clearly RMT unsactioned by CCP.  How could I get that wrong?  Everyone from FunkyBacon to James315 have pointed it out before I wrote about SOMERblink's model.  But as events over the past week showed, I did.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Someone We Should Feel Sorry For

While many have followed the SOMERblink saga, notorious gud Tweeter wartzilla reminded us of what's important.

That's right, what about the poor slob that has to put up with all the abuse.  In EVE Online, that job falls to the men and women of CONCORD's Directive Enforcement Department.  When Goonswarm decides to burn Jita, who do you think is asked to put out the fire?  The Caldari Navy?  Please, get serious.  Or who has to handle the complains when The New Order decides to teach a miner how to tank his ship using a practical exercise?  Sure, teaching people not to use smartbombs in high sec sounds like a fun job, but look who you deal with all the way out to lowsec.

So the next time you think about pulling the trigger in high security space, please, think of the poor people in those ships that have to reduce your shiny ship to slag and just say no.

From the latest Freebooted video about Rubicon

Thursday, October 24, 2013

First Poll: Is SOMERblink Conducting RMT

If you visit the blog for the rest of the month instead of using an RSS feed you'll see my first ever Nosy Gamer poll question.

Do you believe that SOMERblink is engaged in RMT? If so, what should CCP do?

I've also embedded the question in this post for those who are using some sort of feed reader.  I don't know if it will actually work, though.

As always with internet polls of this nature, the results are completely unscientific.  I don't want people to think the all internet polls are bad, because they can be good if standards and best practices (and honest sample selection) are followed.  But this one is just to see what people who visit the blog think.

Also, apologies if this post loads a bit slow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Slippery Slope

Okay, so after opening my eyes and actually seeing that SOMERblink engages in RMT activity, I would think that sometime before the end of the year that CCP would seize the assets of the Cognative Distortion alliance and permanently ban the alliance executor, Somerset Mahm.  With GTC seller Markee Dragon having sold over 1 million EVE time codes, it is entirely conceivable that SOMERblink has made over $100,000 as an affiliate. That $100,000 figure I gave represents slightly over 57,000 time codes sold over two years.  Is it possible that SOMERblink has referred an average of 1,200 GTC sales a month to Markee Dragon over the past two years?  While I have no hard sales figures, I can believe that 5% of Markee Dragon's sales have come from SOMERblink.

UPDATE: 27 October 2013 -The link to the article on the CCP site, as well as a video put out by Markee Dragon himself, both refer to Markee Dragon as having sold over 1 million GTC.  But a source indicates that the 1 million is the number of GTC sold by Marcus Eikenberry the person, not Markee Dragon the website.  This seems to be confirmed by a story Mr. Eikenberry told in a video about helping to fund Goonswarm's wars.  I'm pretty sure he was referring to Goonswarm during the Great War, when Mr. Eikenberry was still with Shattered Crystal.

Also, a source at Shattered Crystal revealed that during SOMERblink's first 32 months, when it was an affiliate of Shattered Crystal, that SOMERblink received approximately $135,000 for GTC referrals.

But will that happen?  That entirely depends on CCP's relationship with SOMERblink.  The most important part of that relationship, at least for this argument, is what was Somerset Mahm told was allowable when first starting the enterprise.  If Somerset Mahm was told that this GTC for ISK scheme was allowable, I don't see how CCP can enact punitive measures for past actions. If that is the case, I think the most that could happen is for SOMERblink to stop the RMT offer.

If CCP told Somerset Mahm that the GTC for ISK scheme was allowable, it would not be the first time that CCP had told players to do something that violates the EULA and/or ToS.  Anyone remember the cache scraping controversy?  Yes, cache scraping is not allowed, but because a dev many years ago told players cache scraping was okay (and CCP subsequently put in features to make cache scraping easier), CCP is not enforcing that portion of the EULA.  Here is the statement from CCP Peligro concerning the use of cache scraping...
"After consulting with CCP Legal and Team Security, we are not prepared to amend the EULA at this time to address your concerns. However, your comments are good ones, and we will consider incorporating them with the next scheduled update to the EULA (expected this fall, 2013).

"In the meantime, CCP confirms that we will only impose penalties on cache scraping if used in connection with other illegal activities in the game (i.e., botting). We will not take action against cache scraping for other uses."
The same holds true for the use of ISBoxer.  Anyone remember this statement by CCP Stillman concerning section 9c of the EULA?
"Some of the multiboxing software out there is powerful enough to count as “client modification” if used for that purpose."
That's a direct reference to ISBoxer.  But because devs had ruled that the use of ISBoxer was okay, or at least that people wouldn't recieve a ban for using it in the past, that CCP would not enforce this part of the EULA concerning ISBoxer.  The funny thing is that someone who is detected running a bot using Inner Space is not banned for botting, but permanently banned for client modification.  Using Inner Space to run ISBoxer, however, isn't currently a bannable offense even though the same client modification is performed.

Let's take a look at CCP Stillman's entire statement on the ISBoxer question...
"This extends to multiboxing software. Some of the multiboxing software out there is powerful enough to count as “client modification” if used for that purpose. Our stance on third-party software is that we do not endorse such software as we have no control over what it does. As such, we can’t say that multiboxing software isn’t against our EULA. But the same goes in this case, that unless we determine that people are doing things beyond “multiboxing”, we will not be taking any action. We only care about the instances where people are messing with our process for the purposes of cheating, and running multiple clients at the same time is not in violation of our EULA in and of itself unless it involves trial accounts."
So as you can see, CCP has set precedents over the past year allowing players to break the EULA as long as they don't do "bad things".  Of course, I maintain that RMT is a bad thing.  But the precedent exists for CCP to rule that what SOMERblink is doing does not qualify as bad and to allow it.  I think that would be a huge mistake, but the player base has spoken loud enough on other issues to force a bending of the rules.  What's to keep CCP from doing the same in the case of SOMERblink?

UPDATE: 24 October 2013 - Darius JOHNSON (the former CCP Sreegs) left this comment on Facebook that's relevant.
""So as you can see, CCP has set precedents over the past year allowing players to break the EULA as long as they don't do "bad things"." - Correction... VERY junior members of CCP have gone on record in the past year and prior to that regarding EULA violations. In most cases VERY junior members of a company don't get to decide which portions of their legal contracts a company is going to honor." 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 22 October 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 43.5 15,875+7.8
22Guild Wars 216.56,017+11.9
33Final Fantasy XIV10.33,768-2.7
44Star Wars: The Old Republic9.53,457+3.6
55EVE Online4.41,619+2.1
77Lord of the Rings Online2.51,117+30.8
99Planetside 21.8667-2.1
10--Infestation: Survivor Stories1.7637+76.0
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 36,469

Sunday saw the end of a four week slide in the Xfire community's interest in MMORPGs.  In a week that saw a 6.8% increase in the time spent playing the 12 most popular games, only 2 games experienced a decline in interest.  In addition to big increases in the top two games, World of Warcraft (1,148 hours) and Guild Wars 2 (641 hours), two other games experienced big increases in percentage terms, Infestation: Survivor Stories (+76%) and Lord of the Rings Online (+30.8%).

The Game That Won't Die - Fittingly, Infestation: Survivor Stories is a game about killing zombies.  Why?  The game formerly known as The War Z has experienced horrible Steam launches, account and system hacks as well as losing a copyright infringement suit but has managed to make it into the Digital Dozen one more time.  I wasn't able to figure out what caused the big jump in interest, but I do see that that game is back on Steam.  Does being on Steam negate a Metacritic score of 20?  Looks like the answer to that question is yes.

Boosting Interest - Turbine decided to ramp up interest in the next Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Helm's Deep, by granting an XP boost.  Not for a weekend, but for a full month.  That's right, starting on 18 October all the way to launch on 17 November, players will receive a 100% XP boost to help get them to the level cap.  Looks like a lot of players are returning to take advantage of the offer.

Celebrating Halloween - Is the increased interest in both World of Warcraft (+7.8%) and Guild Wars 2 (+11.9%) related to Halloween?  Of course!  On 15 October ArenaNet launched the Blood and Madness event in GW2 while Blizzard launched Hallow's End three days later.  GW2 received and extra boost as ArenaNet held a one-day only 40% off sale on Sunday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Raffles And RMT

I really wanted to avoid the entire SOMER Blink controversy.  So apart from a few links to the writings of others I've pretty much stayed away from the subject.  Until now.  DNSBlack, the leader of Dirt Nap Squad, came up with a post on the EVE Online forums claiming he came up with a method to conduct real money transfers without violating the Eve Online End Users License Agreement (EULA) and Terms of Service (ToS).

Here's the opening post of the thread.
1. I am looking for a 3rd party wholesale GTC seller.

2. I would like to discuss the terms on splitting your profit with me to raffle off some of my in game assets.

3. I will also would like to offer my character to raffle once all my assets are gone. We will follow all CCP rules for transfer once the raffle is over.

4. 1 Black credit for the raffle will be given out for every GTC bought on your site. You can hold the raffle once 1000 GTC have been sold. If players would like to buy a ticket in game it will cost 1 plex and you can have them contract it to you.

5. This practice has been ok'd and does not break the EULA according to CCP.

I am doing this to re-capture some of my money I have spent on EVE over the last 7 years and look for another game to play. This is not a joke and CCP has left me no choice. I suggest that everyone of you look to sell your stuff in this manner before CCP cracks down.

So if you are a third party seller of GTC please send me a eve mail with your percentage offer let the bidding begin.
An obvious attempt to sell a character for real life cash.  No legitimate GTC seller would risk becoming involved with this scheme as it would jeopardize their working relationship with CCP.  This probably led to this post.
Two Step better yet

1. I just sold a GTC to a guy for $2500.00 I gave him 2500 black credits.

2. I just sold another guy a GTC for $17.00 and gave him 2 black credits

3. Both of these guys used the black credits and bought tickets to my charcter [sic] raffle.

4. I all ready held the drawing and the winner will be announced soon.

5. I will be starting the legal transfer on the charcter [sic] form today.

6. Thank you CCP I made $ 2502 dollars enjoy your 30.00 dollars.

7. I did this with no website.
So an admission of someone conducting RMT, if the events posted really happened.  So why such a public method of leaving the game?  After all, CCP's standard response is permanently banning the RMTer (DNSBlack, which since he's allegedly leaving the game probably doesn't bother him) and seizing all the stuff, which in this case I would expect would include the character named DNSBlack.

The answer is surprising.  DNSBlack maintains that the method is totally allowed by the EULA and ToS and for proof, look at how CCP allows SOMERblink to operate.  He received much backing for this stance.  But is this correct?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Harder Than It Looks

This is not a political blog, but watching the roll-out in the United States of the Obamacare health insurance exchanges reminds me of the launch of a new MMORPG.  I don't say that to denigrate any game company because I don't think any MMORPG, including Anarchy Online, has had a launch this bad.  For those not following the story, here's a few articles.

Assessing the Exchanges
Software Expert on Exchanges: Without New Management, Project Is Doomed
‘Tech Experts: Health Exchange Site Needs Total Overhaul’
Design Firm Wipes Website of References to Work on

Admittedly these are all from National Review, a conservative publication, but that's just because I was too lazy to scour the web looking for MSM articles.  The links in the stories have some of those.  Besides, the focus of this post isn't about the wisdom of Obamacare.  I want to point out how good of a job game companies do on a day-to-day basis.

Think about it.  The U.S. government spent a reported $634 million on the website and it had a hard time even creating accounts at launch.  Even Star Wars: The Old Republic only spent $200-$250 million and not only could you create an account to play, it has some pretty good voice acting!  Admittedly, over the past 14 months both Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn had to stop digital sales after launch due to demand, but that's because they just didn't have enough servers built.  All across the political spectrum of the U.S. media outlets are reporting that the design and coding of the exchanges left a lot to be desired.

Just from reading the coverage over the past 3 weeks I'm convinced that the policy makers thought that building a website as massive as Obamacare was easy.  Hey, Blizzard had 12 million players (when the law was passed) and the target insurance market is about 16 million.  All that's needed is throw money at the problem, and the government has a lot of that.  Easy, right?

Watching the technical train wreck makes me realize how easy companies like Blizzard, CCP, ArenaNet, NCSoft and SOE make running an incredibly complicated software project look.  Sure, we complain about bugs and lag and exploits, but I've never had an instance where I couldn't create an account and log into a game I'd just purchased.  I've read people complain about a lack of QA on game forums, but the Obamacare exchanges are giving me a greater appreciation of just how much goes right in order for us to play our games.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is Neverwinter Worth Continuing?

My little free-to-play experiment with Neverwinter has just about come to an end.  I'm at level 37 and trying to keep enough bag space free is a bit annoying.  Neverwinter is a good enough game that I normally wouldn't mind spending the $10 for a 24-slot bag.  I've played and enjoyed the game enough that $10 for the time spent so far is a bargain, especially compared to going out to a movie.  But I have to think ahead, and do I really want to keep playing?

Here's the dilemma.  I'm actually only playing Neverwinter until one of the big games comes out.  SOE (the other SOE, Sony Online Entertainment) is scheduled to make an announcement next month about EverQuest Next Landmark, another free-to-play game.  Since F2P games get rather expensive, I can only afford to become really invested in one at a time.  If SOE is not launching Landmark until February, I can go ahead with Neverwinter.  Maybe.

I have a dirty little secret.  I bought a lot of games on the Steam Summer Sale and barely played any of them.  I think I've played the tutorial of Rome: Total War and installed the Medieval: Total War and that's about it.  The game I'm interested in playing, though, is Kerbal Space Program.  I saw Seismic Stan streaming it on his Twitch channel and think I need to at least install the game and read through the manual. Since I don't want to take away from any of my EVE time, that means pushing Neverwinter to the side a bit.

But do I want to put Neverwinter in a box?  I'm at a point where the astral diamond grind is starting to hit.  For those who don't play, astral diamonds are an alternate currency used to purchase certain things from vendors as well as the currency used in the auction house.  For instance, to upgrade my companion, I need 300,000 astral diamonds.  If I purchase the virtual currency from Cryptic, the current exchange rate makes that worth about $8.  But do I want to purchase power in a game for real money?  I haven't done that in any game, including EVE, and I don't plan to now.  Which means a time based grind with the leadership profession.  Well that and logging into the game a couple of times a day, hitting Ctrl-I, and logging immediately back out.  Not very fun.  But I'm stubborn enough to do it.  Ok, if Neverwinter were my main game, I'm stubborn enough to do it.  But it's not.  Which is why I ask the question before I really start the grind.

If you start seeing posts about Kerbal Space Program and another game I like, Tropico 4, you'll know the answer is no.  I'm still making bookmarks in my new area of operations in EVE so I'll have a few more hours to ponder the question.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Submarine Game

EVE Online is well known as a "spreadsheets in space" game, but what about its physics engine?  Some will argue the engine doesn't truly represent space but is more attuned to a submarine simulation.  That's okay because I've realized I'm flying around New Eden like I'm in a World War II era diesel boat.

I've posted about my bookmark efforts before.  If stealth is the equivalent of sailing submerged, then I only surface when absolutely necessary (after a gate jump or undocking from a station) or when I want to make best speed (traveling to the spot I want to make a bookmark).  When traveling on the surface I'm constantly on the lookout for other ships and aircraft (probes) looking to hunt me down.  Some areas even have a lot of activity that force me to change my actions.

Over the weekend scouting my new area of operations and making bookmarks I came across one system under the effective control of an Australian PvP corp.  I think I found their headquarters because I needed three attempts to make an instant undocking bookmark at one station.  In my first attempt at making the bookmark I was too slow to stealth my Cheetah when two ships landed on grid at the station.  I wanted to keep going and finish the bookmark but the Aussies had other ideas.  One of them jumped 180 km in front of me and then turned around and started backtracking to the station.  At the rate of closure I could tell he wasn't using a prop mod.  That told me he was hunting me as he didn't want to zoom past me and let me recloak before he could get a lock on my Cheetah.  When the range closed to 120 km I decided he was serious and warped off to one of my other bookmarks.  I hung around in system for a few minutes, then decided I didn't want to play anymore and left the system.

The second attempt was interesting.  I landed on grid and saw a noob ship parked outside the station that lit a cyno.  I decided that the Aussies would probably concentrate on that station and quickly created my instadock bookmarks at the other two stations in system.  I went back to the station and saw the noob ship still in front of the station.  Normally a cyno alt wouldn't bother me, but in an unarmed Cheetah with no instant undocking bookmark created I decided to leave the station for the next day.  I succeeded the next day because I revisited the system during the off-hours for the Australian time zone.

So far I've just scouted around.  I guess if this really was a World War II game my activities would consist of scouting beaches ahead of an amphibious invasion.  If I really wanted to take the analogy further I could start flying my Hound and torpedo an industrial or two.  I had a couple of chances to get a kill mail if I was in a ship with weapons.  I've always wondered how a force recon ship like a Rapier would do in a raiding situation. 

Then I thought about Rubicon and the Stratios.  That ship has the potential to fill a hunter-killer role.  The scarier thought is that I like to mine in low sec.  Usually I can get my Procurer away from a single ship with the timely intervention of Rosewalker uncloaking in a Hound and firing a few torpedoes.  Will that strategy work against the Stratios?  Or will the Stratios have enough tank to brush the firepower of a Hound aside.  If not, will players mistakenly think the Stratios has that much tank?  Either way Rubicon will make low sec mining just a little more dangerous.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 15 October 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 43.1 14,727-5.2
22Guild Wars 215.75,376-10.5
33Final Fantasy XIV11.33,871-13.1
44Star Wars: The Old Republic9.83,338+4.2
55EVE Online4.61,586+1.1
78Lord of the Rings Online2.5854+1.2
99Planetside 22.0681+6.4
12--Metin 21.5502+24.0
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 34,144

Sunday saw a fourth consecutive week in interest by the Xfire community in playing MMORPGs.  The 5.4% decline in time spent playing the most popular games in the genre was lead by players turning away from the most popular games, World of Warcraft (-827 hours), Guild Wars 2 (-629 hours) and Final Fantasy XIV (-584 hours).  The last 9 games did manage to cushion the decline as they saw their playtime increase by a total of 3%.

A Last Hurrah? - While almost all the games appear to have suffered in popularity due to the launch of Grand Theft Auto V/Grand Theft Auto Online, Planetside 2 bounced back nicely Sunday, experiencing a 6.4% increase in playtime from the Xfire community.  But is this just a last hurrah before the launch of Battlefield 4 on 29 October?  I figure that all games will receive a hit, but PS2 is extremely susceptible as it is the only FPS listed in the Digital Dozen.  Watching the performance of PS2 over the coming weeks could give an indication of the effect on all the games in a few weeks time.

Space! - EA/Bioware announced last week that its upcoming expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic is free.  Sure, free-to-play players will get access to the expansion up to 2 months after subscribers, but could the excitement over a vastly improved space combat system help drive interest even higher?  We'll see.

Time For An Expansion? - For a time ArenaNet's frenetic two-week delivery cycle of new content for Guild Wars 2 managed to keep interest high.  But is the recent decline a sign that the Living Story is not enough to maintain player interest through a cycle of new games like GTA 5?  Does GW2 need an expansion or is the nature of the game such that GW2 players are the new WoW tourist?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Remembering Eve University

I spent almost all my time in EVE Online this weekend making bookmarks in my new low sec area of operations.  For everyone wondering, yes desire is driven my not only Rubicon but where I think the game is going.  If I'm right I'll be expanding my network of bookmarks past these initial 4 constellations to some pretty cool places that I've wanted to revisit since I last saw them when I was in Eve University 4 years ago.  I've got a good start with two constellations with the full set of initial bookmarks made and the other two with all stations having the bookmarks made that allow me to instantly warp off after undocking.  If I keep at the task I can begin with activity people consider more fun sometime next week.

Yesterday I was listening to Eve Radio and reading the in-game chat channel listening to people disparage Eve University telling people it was a bad place to go learn how to PvP.  Something about the Uni being too risk adverse.  Defenders piped in that the Uni is a place to learn the basics.  I kept quiet because I just wanted to ask how butt-hurt he was that the Unistas didn't provide him with easy kills.

Perhaps things have changed since I left Eve University but I didn't feel like we were risk adverse.  Admittedly that is a matter of perception.  Someone who has only played a month, with two weeks of that wardeced, is going to feel a different level of risk than someone who has had two years to learn skills and acquire a war chest that allows him to lose 50 frigates without batting an eye.  Part of the reason I created a second account and Wandering Rose was to make ISK and put Rosewalker through school.

I joined the Uni a few months after it made the move from Korsiki to Aldrat and before the changes to NPC taxes that made the Uni an attractive tax haven.  Back then the attitude was that people declared war on the Uni looking for easy kills of newbies.  Since picking on new players was fun, the objective of any war the Uni conducted was to make the war as miserable for the aggressors as possible.  That meant no cheap kills that would give the enemy any fun.  A decisive victory was making the aggressor withdraw the wardec before 7 days were up.  And we did it too.  I imagine getting station camped by 50 newbies, many of whom were flying Griffins (not a lot of people flying ships larger than a cruiser back the) was not fun.

Another thing I learned is that if you wait long enough, you can get payback in Eve.  In May 2009 Seppuku Warriors and Dynaverse declared war on Eve University and destroyed the Uni POS in Korsiki.  In November, during one of the wars where we were station camping an aggressor, a scout from Division 6 (the Uni wormhole group) found a wormhole housing two Dynaverse POS.  Guess what we did?  That's right, took them out.  We took one of the POS out to replace the one Dynaverse helped destroy 6 months previously.  Payback's a bitch, and when I was in the Uni the leadership kept a list of who deserved payback. 

Of course, things may have changed.  But I do remember the lessons learned four years ago.  That's one of the reasons I'm thinking about taking my new pilot into the Uni.  Just to see for myself.

Friday, October 11, 2013

All Your Bookmarks R Belong To Us

After a crazy couple of days in meatspace I got to spend some quality time in EVE Online last night.  No scandal.  No son of scandal.  Or any scandal you can think of.  No people arguing about the scandals.  And, as the Congress critters in the U.S. would say, people revising and extending their remarks.

I just wanted to get away from everything.  Some people do so by letting their cats kill everythingOthers by stocking a market and then tackling all the things.  Me, I just like flying around.  So after updating the queue on my new pilot, I turned to the serious business of making bookmarks.

Making bookmarks is sort of like EVE in general.  Long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of excitement.  Just what the doctor ordered. I'd already made my initial set of bookmarks for the entry system into low sec.  Time to probe deeper and really immerse myself.

I've written about this before but some people have asked questions about how I do this.  First, the ship.  I usually use a micro warp drive fit Cheetah with a top speed of 3.3km/second.  I know that I can finish a lot faster if I use an interceptor, but making bookmarks isn't just about making bookmarks.  Among my personal rules for EVE, one of the most important is: if you're only doing one thing at a time, you're doing it wrong.  So while I'm making bookmarks I'm also collecting intelligence about the neighborhood I'm setting up in.  Getting to know the neighborhood can give a player a home-field advantage if done correctly.

Next is what bookmarks do I create.  My first pass is setting up insta-undocks so I can get away from ships trying to camp me in a station, followed by observation bookmarks of the stations and of the stargates.  After that, I do a lot of exploring and make another set based on the locations of the anomalies I find.  If I'm going to really live in a system and mine I also will make bookmarks at the asteroid belts I can use to bounce my Procurer from one end of a belt to another.  If I live in a system long enough, I have a lot of bookmarks.  And good luck catching me, especially since I prefer cloaky ships.  I'm really excited about that new SoE cruiser even if I do have to wait until next summer to fly it correctly.

Did I forget to mention how wide an area I bookmark?  I'll bookmark my home constellation plus the adjacent constellations.  In the case of my current area of operations that's 4 constellations with around 24 systems.  A lot of bookmarks and a lot of exploring.  But EVE is all about trying to get every advantage possible.  And since I'm not an expert PvPer, I work hard at avoiding conflict.  Besides, creating bookmarks gives me a good excuse to just fly around, relax and enjoy the scenery.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Religious Revival In New Eden?

In this time of corruption, currently embodied by the scandal involving the security apparatus of a Caldari megacorp, is it any wonder that many capsuleers are turning towards religion?  Aside from the recent growth of the population in Amarr, pilots are flocking to another religious organization, the Sisters of EVE.  So much so that the Sisters had to issue a communique from their headquarters in Pure Blind.  
X-7OMU – The Sisters of EVE are temporarily raising the security clearance of two of their agents in response to increased capsuleer demand for high-stakes tasks. Mekamireki Fedas in Apanake and Kiljavas Yaskasen in Lanngisi are being, raised from their current “level two” clearance to “level four”. These two agents are also being moved from their current Distribution division to Security.

“Both Mekamireki and Kiljavas are exceptional agents,” said Chief of Staff Titrutolf Haluarin. “They have proven their worth to us for years. Recently we have found more and more people want to help the Sisters fight threats to innocent people across the cluster. Unfortunately, we haven't had the infrastructure to find missions for them. With Mek and Kil taking on those duties, we are confident we can fill the need.”

According to Halaurin, these clearance changes are currently temporary, but it is possible one posting will become permanent. “We do still need these two in their Distribution positions, but we are having others pick up the slack temporarily. We think that eventually the additional swell of support will fade away. However, if demand is high enough it is possible one of the two will retain their clearance level. This will be based on their performance in their new role, the number of people who utilize them, and other factors.”
Of course, some may raise their eyebrows at the Sisters working with pod pilots as rumor has it that a powerful faction within the Sisters finds the capsuleer penchant for inflicting "collateral damage", to put it mildly, extremely distasteful.  But the Sisters are also known for a policy of strict neutrality, only running afoul of the Amarr as both place religious significance to the EVE Gate

Perhaps with the recent groundswell of interest the Sisters will try to enlist the capsuleers in an active role in finding and unlocking the mysteries of the EVE Gate.  The Sisters already supply favored capsuleers with advanced scanning equipment.  Would they go so far as to increase their support to supplying ships?  Supply capsuleers ships?  That's crazy talk!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 8 October 2013

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

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 43.0 15,540-5.5
22Guild Wars 216.66,005-9.2
33Final Fantasy XIV12.34,455-14.0
44Star Wars: The Old Republic8.93,204-8.8
55EVE Online4.31,569-10.3
89Lord of the Rings Online2.3844+8.9
97Planetside 21.8640-31.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 36,110

Another Sunday, another week of falling interest in MMORPGs by the Xfire community.  Sunday saw a decline in playtime of 8.4% compared to the previous Sunday.  Almost all games saw declines, with the games seeing the biggest percentage declines were Planetside 2 (-31.9%), Need For Speed World (-22.9%), and Final Fantasy XIV (-14%).

Grand Theft Player - So what caused such a decline in play time?  The best best is the launch of Grand Theft Auto Online last Tuesday.  While Xfire does not measure game consoles, Raptr does and this was the time Raptr members spent playing the top five games over the past week:
  • Grand Theft Auto V (360) - 2,165,644 hours
  • Terraria (PC) - 342,051 hours
  • DOTA 2 (PC) - 286,754 hours
  • World of Warcraft (PC) - 176,594 hours
  • Final Fantasy XIV (PC) - 173,060 hours
Overall, since the launch of Grand Theft Auto V on 17 September the amount of time the Xfire community has spent playing MMORPGs listed in The Digital Dozen has dropped 15%.

The End Of A Story - Runescape bucked the trend Sunday by launching Birthright of the Dwarves, the final installment of the Rise of the Red Axe series.  The end does give out some nice level 60 weapons, which probably explains the rush.  That and the Jagex website does not state how long the quests will remain on the servers.

Data Updated - As a side note, the Xfire and Digital Dozen data is now updated through last Sunday.  The data goes back to the beginning of Feburary 2012, with the original 12 games having some data reaching back to 1 January 2012.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A (Not So) Surprising Comparison

The Eveosphere seems obsessed with a topic about whether CCP should give out ships to community site, and what sites deserve them.  I think I'll stay out of this conversation for at least two more days if I write about the drama at all.  Instead I want to address something that CCP Fozzie said on Wiggles' show on EVE Radio last Wednesday.  DJ BigCountry asked how scared is CCP of Star Citizen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Side Project

When I got home last night I started playing with my skill queue to train to fly the new SOE ships in Rubicon.  Having lofty ideas is great, but once you start training, alea iacta est.1  As I was moving the skills around, the realization hit me that I wasn't going to abandon my Cheetah for the Astero and that even pushing my training I wouldn't have the skills to really fly the Stratios well until May.  I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't go back to my original skill plan which would mean not flying the Stratios until sometime in 2015.

On the bright side, that means the urgency to amass Sisters loyalty points is gone.  Without another grind to perform I can concentrate on my side project of developing a frigate/destroyer/cruiser PvP pilot on my third account.  The training on the last of the pilots on that account finishes today.  When I get home I can begin the process of moving the characters on that account to my two main accounts and create a new pilot.

The question is, what race to create?  I know that race really isn't important in the long run, but for an alt I have to consider the logistics.  First, the starting region does determine the gear the new pilot gets from the tutorials.  Next, Minmatar is really tempting.  Not only would learning the ins and outs of Matari small ship PvP help with my main accounts but I've already built the infrastructure to support myself with Minmatar equipment and ships.  I just started the process of researching Gallente ships last night.  Or do I want to create an Amarr (ugh!) pilot and learn cap management?  Decisions, decisions.

Of course, having a PvP pilot means actually targeting other people.  Notice I said targeting?  I plan on learning the tackling/logistics/ewar thing.  Learning how to counter the tactics of others requires learning those tactics yourself.  Learning how to do things, at least more me, means learning from my mistakes.  Which brings me back to the logistics of replacing my losses.  See how everything fits together?

I guess I really should wait until Rubicon launches and write about the experience of a new player in a new expansion.  But if I'm not going to drop everything to get the new shiny ships, then why should I wait to make a new shiny pilot?  In the sandbox, if you're not playing on your terms and your schedule, you're doing it wrong..


1.  The die is cast.  With CCP naming the winter expansion Rubicon, anyone blogging about EVE is required to use the phrase at least once.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

One Goal Down, What's Next?

Over the weekend I accomplished my top goal for my fourth year in EVE Online.  That's right, I got my Minmatar faction standings up to 9.9 and am now the proud owner of a 2-run blueprint copy of the Tempest Fleet Issue battleship.  So what's next?

Looking down my list of goals I think that the Rubicon expansion is going to play hell with my plans.  Then again, maybe not.  Take for instance, my ship goals.  The goals were to purchase both Minmatar command ships and to fly something else besides Minmatar and ORE ships.  I'm well on my way there, as the proud owner of a Claymore.  But I think I have to change my plans to fly all of the Caldari sub-capital ships (minus the T2 battleships).  Despite all the complaining on the forums (I read the first twenty-three pages of this thread) I still want to get the new SOE ships.  If anything, the intention for the SOE cruiser, the Stratios, to have the ability to run 6/10 DED complexes probably means I'd fulfill my goal of running a level 4 security mission in low sec.  That's a win.  But as the SOE ships are Amarr/Gallente hybrids, I need to start training those skills.  Fortunately due to the Destroyer and Battlecruiser skill changes I've already trained both racial frigate skills to IV and racial cruiser skills to III.   I also have my armor tanking skills up to the elite level on the old certificate system.  But lasers?  Ugh!  All the cool kids play with autocannons and missiles.

One more thing about the SOE ships.  They will only have the exploration bonuses of the T1 racial exploration frigates.  I've already maxed out my hacking skills, but all of my scanning skills are at IV.  On Rosewalker, my main exploration pilot, those were next on the list.  I may have to change the skill plan to learn the Amarr and Gallente skills first.

For industry, I wanted to expand my sales line from faction ammunition to modules.  The easiest course of action is if I could make a living out of selling items I manufacture from the blueprints I find exploring.  I did learn one thing from Odyssey.  I need to move out of the faction warfare area I currently live in.  Not because of the fierce FW warriors.  No, because all those FW complexes crowd out the exploration sites I make a living on.  If all the sites didn't auto-magically appear in the on-board scanner as I traveled about I never would have known.

If I move to a more explorer friendly area of low sec and if my skills can compensate for the lower exploration bonuses of the SOE ships, I may not have to go to the backup option of tech 2 manufacturing.  Then again, the SOE ships, especially the Stratios, will make low sec mining even more dangerous than it is today.  But after my false panic over the Odyssey changes killing off my mining activity I'm inclined to wait and see.

I should add in one thing about planetary interaction.  When I first heard about the introduction of POCOs to high sec, I thought that might mean lower taxes for high sec industrialists.  After reading the dev blog where CCP SoniClover announced that high sec industrialists would pay both an NPC and a player tax, I realized I was wrong, although in the future those training the proper skills may wind up seeing a slight reduction.  But that is definitely another reason to re-open and expand my PI operations in low sec.  Time to buy blockade runners for my alts!

So for my goals, I am still on track to make this my most productive and successful year in EVE Online yet.  Of course, Rubicon is still six weeks away and a lot can happen in that time.  But after two months, things are going pretty much according to plan, although some of the details are changing.  Does anyone have a lucky charm I can borrow?  This is New Eden.  Something that can't continue forever, won't.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Final Fantasy XIV RMT Take Down Was Worth How Many PLEX?

I originally thought I was done with the anti-RMT operation Square Enix' ran over the weekend.  Then I logged in yesterday morning and Massively had published an article describing the size of the ban wave.  Following the links to the official notice led to these statistics:
Because we have confirmed the existence of players who are engaging in these illicit activities, we have taken the actions listed below.

- Date: Sep. 12 – Sep. 30, 2013
- Accounts receiving disciplinary action for RMT site advertisements: 6,154 accounts
- Accounts receiving disciplinary action for illicit activity: 156 accounts
- Action Details: Termination from FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn

- Date: Sep. 28, 2013
- Accounts receiving disciplinary action for RMT/illicit activities: 568 accounts
- Action Details: Termination/Temporary suspension from FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn

* Accounts of egregious violators will be terminated.
- Total Frozen Gil: Approximately 367,700 million Gil
* Gil of temporarily suspended accounts will be confiscated.
As someone who doesn't play Final Fantasy XIV, I don't know how much 367.7 billion gil is really worth.  That's not a problem in EVE because we can easily convert ISK into PLEX.  So why not convert gil into PLEX?

The first step is to convert gil to U.S. currency.  That requires visiting the gil selling sites, which I did when I first heard about the ban wave.  I found 14 web sites that sold gil by reading the Google Ads that appeared when I used the search term "buy FFXIV gil".  The median price on 27 September was $11.46 per million gil.  The lowest price offered was $6.77 per million gil.  So let's use those as our price points.  That means that Square Enix seized between $2.5 million to $4.2 million worth of gil at last Friday's grey market prices.

The next step is easy.  I always calculate the price of PLEX as if I were buying a 60-day GTC at full price, or 2 PLEX for $34.99.  That means the value in PLEX is somewhere between 142,800 and 240,000 PLEX.  I could stop there and tell everyone that Square Enix seized gil worth between 11,900 and 20,000 years of EVE Online playtime and call it a day.  Or I could estimate that the value of the gil Square Enix seized was worth an estimated 30-45% of CCP's monthly revenue from subscription fees and PLEX.

But that's no fun.  So as one last comparison I looked up the amount of PLEX sold in September in the four main trade hubs of EVE Online: Jita, Amarr, Dodixie, and Rens.  The total amount of PLEX sold in those regions last month was 117,338.  That means that the amount of gil seized by Square Enix is worth perhaps all of the PLEX transactions for a month at the low end, and twice the amount of PLEX transactions on the high end of my estimate.  That's a lot of RMT going on!
As I said at the beginning of the post I wasn't going to write any more about the FFXIV RMT operation over the weekend.  But looking at the numbers involved I had to try to point out just how big of a business the RMT trade really is.  And remember, the gil involved was just that seized, not the total amount in the gil sellers possession.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 1 October 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 29 September 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.7 16,442-4.5
22Guild Wars 216.86,616-0.9
33Final Fantasy XIV13.15,181-14.3
44Star Wars: The Old Republic8.93,513+14.7
56EVE Online4.41,750+0.2
79Planetside 22.4940+12.6
98Lord of the Rings Online2.0775-13.1
11--Need For Speed World1.8707+22.3
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 39,436

For a second week the Xfire community turned away from playing MMORPGs.  Sunday's 5.2% decline in playtime compared to the week before was led by percentage declines by Aion (-63.3%) and Final Fantasy XIV (-14.3%) along with a 4.5% decline for World of Warcraft.  Games bucking the downward trend were RIFT (+51.7%), Need for Speed World (+22.3%) and Star Wars: The Old Republic (+14.7%).

Melting Wings - Aion experienced a huge 63.3% decline in playtime on the last weekend of its month-long celebration of its 4th anniversary.  The Daeva's Day Event, which included cake buffs, pairs of 7-day wings, and special items for turning in feathers, is still running.  However, the feathers stopped dropping on the 25th which is when I noticed a big drop in log in times.  I guess in a free-to-play game once the shinies stop dropping in one game players look around for another game offering gifts.

Order Now, And Look What Else You Get - Patch 2.4 apparently didn't draw as many people into RIFT as expected, so Trion decided to give out 50% more experience to Patrons (subscribers) this weekend.  For the F2P players, Trion provided a Weekend Warrior bundle for sale in the cash shop to grant Patron status for 3 days so those players could also benefit from the event.  Hey, the plan worked!

Anticipation -  Sunday saw a 14.7% increase in the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing Star Wars: The Old Republic in advance of the scheduled release of Update 2.4: The Dread War today.  Unfortunately the deployment team at Bioware was equally impatient for the content and released it a day early, thus keeping many people from playing Monday.  Even when Bioware looks like it is on a roll they manage to stumble.  Hopefully the slip-up is not a portent of things to come.