Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 22 July 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 20 July 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft43.18,116+25.3
22Guild Wars 213.52,538+23.9
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.61,620+18.2
44Final Fantasy XIV6.61,234+15.9
66EVE Online4.2795-5.1
1012Lord of the Rings Online2.7512+73.0
129Elder Scrolls Online1.7324-25.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 18,826

Sunday saw the Xfire community return to playing its favorite MMORPGs following the end of the World Cup.  The 20.7% increase in the time spent logged into these games was lead by World of Warcraft (+1641 hours) while only two games, Elder Scrolls Online (-113 hours) and EVE Online (-43 hours) saw a decline in interest.  Neverwinter fell off the list, replaced by RIFT.

The World Cup Effect - I've made a lot out of the decline of the decline in the Xfire numbers this year, but now that the World Cup is over, did the numbers bounce back?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Sunday witnessed Xfire members spending 20.7% more time playing MMORPGs than the weekend before.  Comparing Sunday with 8 June, the last Sunday before the beginning of the World Cup, also finds a favorable comparison.  From that date, the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its favorite MMORPGs only declined by 1%.  Compared to the huge declines earlier this year, that is a victory.

But What Happened In WoW? - A big question I was unable to answer concerns the king of MMORPGs, World of Warcraft.  I was unable to find a reason for the 25.3% increase in playtime.  The increase appears driven by the amount of time playing WoW.  Players spent 5.8 hours logged in.  Did players watch so much World Cup that they were catching up on lost time?

Are ESO Players Steamed? - Despite having a reported 772,374 subscribers in June, Elder Scrolls Online is at the bottom of the Digital Dozen this week.  Is this just another sign of the weakness of Xfire?  On Thursday, Zenimax made ESO available for sale on Steam.  I always figured the numbers would drop once ESO was released for console, but I never considered that Bethesda would release the game on Steam.  I guess that many players who play their games through Steam wouldn't bother to put on another tracking source like Xfire or Raptr.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tear Fueled Ambition

Normally, the only tears I'm associated with are those I collect from botters and those engaging in buying and selling virtual currency.

ISK buyer tears
But the amount of tears on the forums and in the comment sections of the blogs I read are getting a bit much.  I guess I could take the complainers at face value and believe that a casual manufacturer like me is doomed and that I need to find something else to do in EVE.  Then again, I find it hard to take the complaints of people who will have it so good compared to me after Crius is deployed yesterday very seriously.

Really, folks in high sec, don't expect much sympathy from someone in low sec.  High sec industrialists will have access to teams, which should give them an advantage over a casual low sec manufacturer like myself.  The only advantage I'll have over the high sec industrialist is their belief that low sec players are just in the game for them to exploit, which should still allow a member of the Cult of Reasonable Prices to operate in low sec markets. 

Well, that and the fact I'm willing to bust through a gate camp or two.  Just remember, high sec industrialists.  Forget anything I've written about PvP in low sec declining.  Listen to people like Niden and FunkyBacon.   That post Rixx made about his video card dying?  IT'S A TRAP!!! If you jump into low sec, you will die. Niden, Funky, and Rixx are waiting for you on the other side of that gate.  If they aren't, then someone from one of their alliances is.  Better to just not come into low sec at all.

All right, that last paragraph was a little over the top.  But I think I made my point.  I and low sec carebears like me have to evade and escape from people like Niden, Funky, and Rixx in order to operate.  That right there limits my effectiveness compared to the high sec industrialist.  Teams and having CONCORD protect high sec POS just add to the attraction of operating in high sec.

I seriously considered moving back to high sec.  Quite frankly, with the changes coming tomorrow, staying in low sec is pretty stupid.  But a low sec base is more convenient for my faction ammunition business.  Most of the cost of that is the time I take acquiring loyalty points, not manufacturing. 

With all of the tears flowing from high sec, I figure I'll do something really stupid.  That's right, I'm going to double-down on low.  Can a casual industrialist not only survive, but thrive, in low sec operating against the high sec industrialists and all of the advantages they'll enjoy once Crius goes live.  The only way to really know is to try, right?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Butterfly Effect In EVE: Bloggers And Data

I realize that Friday's traditionally are reserved for flaming other bloggers, not praising them.  But Gevlon did a nice piece of quantitative analysis today using data from the past 18 months from Dotlan and came up with some interesting conclusions.  I would say that even Goons wouldn't argue too much with the post.  Of course, Goons are Goons and the post was written by Gevlon, so insults would fly.  That's just the nature of EVE at this point.

That got me to thinking about how Gevlon came to write that post.  He credits my Wednesday post for giving him the idea, but I started gathering data in response to a post by Sven over at EVE Lost and Found, "The State of EVE – Some Player Activity Statistics".  I thought he may have uncovered some data (I didn't realize Dotlan stored data back to 2010) that would validate a theory I have.  Turns out he didn't, but I learned something.  And a hat tip to Sugar Kyle for pointing out his blog to me.  I've added it to my blogroll.

He, in turn, was inspired to write his post due to the reaction to my post using the average concurrent users mark to note historical events in New Eden from the launch of Retribution up to the launch of Kronos.  I think the doom and gloom was getting to him.  Interestingly enough, though, he credits my post explaining how to pull the average concurrent user information from EVE Offline as the true start.  What really makes things interesting is that I wrote that piece partly in response to another post of Gevlon's, although I had considered posting the instructions for some time.  Gevlon's post just spurred me to action.  Gevlon then took the instructions and updated his post with some more cool analytic work in a way I hadn't considered before.

Just to allay fears that Gevlon and I sit in a little echo chamber discussing the merits of quantitative vs qualitative analysis, I should bring Niden into this post.  Niden's post took ideas from Sven's post (i.e. the ships killed projection for low sec in 2014 is pretty obvious) and pruned them down to concentrating on PvP.  Niden tends to focus on PvP, while I try to look at all aspects of low sec.  Then again, I'm a carebear living in low sec, so that's where my biases lay.  But I think that both Niden and I agree that low sec is a more lively place than before.  I think we just analyze the data differently.  Also, I'm a bit leery of using projections as no one really knows when CCP will choose to shake up the ant farm.

I probably should conclude this post with a chart I came up with when Blog Banter 52 was still a thing back in January.  Just because the ACU is declining doesn't mean I think subscriptions are also.

I have other reasons to believe that.  Just relying on the ACU?  Kind of weak.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stories I'd Like To Read

One reason I've stuck around EVE Online as long as I have is the sheer scope of the game.  Even playing for almost five years, I still don't know a lot of the game.  That wealth of content available is a reason why players who finally "get" EVE stick around so long.  People who get tired of one type of game play don't have to leave their friends behind; they just find another aspect of the game.  A great example is those tired of the null sec sov grind moving to low sec for a different style of play.

With so many possibilities offered to players, the stories available to write about are equally numerous.  Whether the story involves doing research and analysis or just going out and writing about experiences playing the game, EVE has something for just about everyone.  Except elves.  No elves here.  Sorry.1

I do some writing about EVE, but I don't have time to delve into all of the subjects I'd like.  I was thinking about this last night as Wildstar kept lagging on me and my ghost was stuck in the netherworld.  What stories about EVE would I like to see the news sites or other bloggers cover? 

What about Sean Decker? - On 2 July of last year, Sean Decker was hired by CCP as the new Senior Vice President of Product Development.  Think he's had a busy year?  We always seem to read about CCP when they have problems.  But the one year anniversary of his hire seems like a good time to reflect back on what's happened with CCP and figure out if the company as a whole is in better shape.  Is the doom and gloom we keep hearing about really warranted?  Or is CCP just like a freighter that takes a long time to align and warp off in the right direction?

The High Sec Moon Rush - I know that people have written and posted about the upcoming rush to acquire moons in 0.8 and 0.9 systems in high sec once Crius launches next week.  But I'd love to see pieces analyzing who really made the move.  Are any big corporations or alliances trying to stake a claim on a constellation?  Or will ownership of these new high sec POS trickle down to the little guy?

Also, I'd love to read the stories of the people building and using POS for the first time.  Their hopes and dreams followed by the reality of actually running a POS.  Crius is supposed to open up industry to newer players and I'd love to read if CCP's design goals are working.

Of course, EVE does have a problem with abandoned POS.  Hopefully someone will document the stories (and business arrangements) of those who see a profit in serving as the clean up crew as well.

The Low Sec Moon Rush - Land (or in EVE's case, moon) grabs aren't just reserved for high sec.  The empires are also losing control in low sec, with a seemingly minor math change opening up the moons in 0.4 systems for exploitation.  Stories have circulated about the great null sec alliances have already grabbed up all the good moons already.

Is that really true?  I'm guessing yes, although I don't know how many resources such an effort takes.  Perhaps someone will write about the effort to scan down all of these moons.  Or just the moons in a single system.  Even better, I hope someone writes about going out and setting up a moon mining operation for the first time.  Analysis pieces are great, but actually reading about someone's experiences are good too.

I also don't think I've read about how the issue of power projection affects low sec in any great detail.  I think a lot of low sec residents just take it for granted that the big null sec alliances will come in with their huge cap fleets and take what they want.  I'd love to read the argument that power projection isn't just a concern for null sec.

Of course, people may have already written about some of these issues and I just missed the articles and blog posts.  Then again, perhaps conditions have changed and some of these articles need updating.  I just see a few big subjects coming up just waiting for someone to write about them.  Perhaps out of all of this we'll see emerge the next big EVE blogger.  And if someone is already writing about these things, let me know in the comments.  I really want to read those stories.


1.  Not sorry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Game Of Graphs: What's Happening In Low Sec?

EVE players are known for their love of graphs and charts.  My post from last Monday that used a graph of the average concurrent users matched up with in-game events proved pretty popular and created some discussions.  But one of the talking points I've read in a couple of places leaves me a bit puzzled.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 15 July 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 13 July 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft41.56,475-6.0
22Guild Wars 213.12,049+0.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.81,371-25.5
45Final Fantasy XIV6.81,065+2.6
66EVE Online5.4838+0.5
911Elder Scrolls Online2.8437+41.0
12--Lord of the Rings Online1.9296+24.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,600

The final match of the World Cup saw the Xfire community turn to their television screens one last time until 2018.  On Sunday, its members spent 6.4% fewer hours playing MMORPGs than the week before.  Star Wars: The Old Republic witnessed the biggest decline (-469 hours) while Elder Scrolls Online witnessed a resurgence, leading all games with increased playtime with 127 hours.  Vindictus ended its two-week run in the Digital Dozen, replaced by Lord of the Rings Online.

TOR Is Not Dying - Despite leading all games on the list with a 469 hour drop in time played by Xfire members, a 25.5% decline is not a sign that Star Wars: The Old Republic fans are finally turning away from the game.  A decline like Sunday's is natural following a double XP event like the one Bioware held from 1-7 July.  The next expansion, Galactic Strongholds, is expected to launch this October, with subscriber early access beginning on 19 August.

Wildstar Is Not Dying - Despite the number of hours Xfire members spend playing Wildstar declining every week since launch, Wildstar is not dying.  Other sites like Raptr are not showing this behavior.  However, the decline is another example that MMORPGs have difficulty maintaining their initial audience.  The question now remains whether Carbine's planned monthly content patches will eventually stop the decline while the game is still on the list.

ESO Is Not Dying - Despite the huge percentage gain this week, the raw number of hour increase in the Xfire community's play time (+127 hours) wasn't that big this week.  But an increase in time 3 months after launch with no obvious cause is possibly a good sign.  Has Elder Scrolls Online finally reached its base number of players?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lowering The Fear Factor

Sometimes real life gets in the way of playing games.  That's bad for a game like Wildstar, in which player advancement depends on playing the game.  Not so bad for an EVE player because CCP set up a skill system that doesn't require playing to advance your character or, perhaps more importantly, characters.  Given the nature of EVE, that also allows for time to watch a little of what's happening in the EVE community.

I guess the big news is The Mittani is back to writing, and not just his inspiring speeches to his alliance.  In his typical fashion, he stirred the pot Saturday by calling for protected newbie starting areas and eliminating high sec awoxxing.  A lot of players in the comments went one step further than a protected zone and thought of making the tutorial a computer simulation.  That fits in with the lore, but I don't think accomplishes one of The Mittani's (and CCP's goals) with the New Player Experience.  That goal is to take some of the fear of losing a ship or a pod away from new players.

Now, fear of loss is a wonderful thing in EVE.  I think that fear contributes to the adrenalin rush that players experience in PvP.  Has anyone experienced that type of rush in any other video game?  I know I haven't.  After a fight in which I actually walked away with a kill mail, I was shaking for 10 minutes afterwards.  Sometimes I still get a touch of the shakes after busting through a gate camp or escaping from someone who thought my Procurer was an easy kill.

But, fear of loss is bad when a player gives into that fear and won't venture into dangerous space.  I have no problem with a player making a rational choice, like choosing to run level 4 security missions in high sec instead of low.  Then again, if a player has a blockade runner, especially after warp speed changes in Rubicon and rebalance pass in Kronos, is doing level 4 distribution missions in high sec instead of low, that possibly is fear coming through.  Then again, I did take the time to create instaundock bookmarks for stations in several constellations, so maybe I'm the one who's crazy after all.

I think, though, that most people look at the issue of fear in whether players will join in PvP.  A lot of players don't want to lose something that they've worked hard to acquire.  In most games, dying at the hands of an NPC or another player only means repair costs, not a loss of gear.  A player will only lose the gear when it is no longer valuable through either selling it or a mechanic like transmutation or salvaging.  To a player used to playing other MMORPGs, losing gear and getting nothing in return not only hurts, but is weird.

Looking at The Mittani's proposal, a player would get a taste of loss.  Lose a ship?  No big deal.  Get podded?  So what?  In both cases, the player was rewarded, not punished.  Sometimes dying isn't so bad.  And if the player managed to kill another player's ship or pod, then that's a success too.  But if that happened in a simulator, a big part of the experience, loss, goes away.

Eliminating high sec awoxxing is also about the fear of loss.  But instead of addressing the fear of loss in a new player, the target is the fear of loss residing in the mind of a corporation CEO.  With greater responsibility comes the chance of greater loss.  Does a high sec CEO want to risk allowing an awoxxer into his corporation and wind up with a friend losing his Orca, Tengu, or blinged out Vindicator?  Safer just to not allow that new player into the corporation at all.  After all, awoxxers will create a clean account to get around any background checks.  And if someone is going to propose a change that hurts espionage in EVE, I highly doubt the former head of the Goonswarm Intelligence Agency is the one to do so. 

The change I think The Mittani has in mind is simple.  Make CONCORD intercede in high sec if a corpmate makes an agressive action. I do see a problem with that, however.  The old tactic of webbing a corpmate's freighter for faster travel would go away.  Would that also make MiniLuv's freighter ganking operations go smoother?  I don't know.  Besides, I'm sure other methods exist to eliminate the practice.

Looking at the details, however, I don't think was The Mittani's purpose in his article.  I think he just wanted to set goals.  How the goals become reality in EVE is up to CCP.  Assuming, of course, that CCP agrees.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wildstar's Bot War: A New Incentive

Wildstar has had a bit of a problem with botting and hacked accounts since launch.  In a strange twist I'd never heard of in any other game, Wildstar's Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney told players on 1 July that between 50% and 70% of all accounts Carbine had banned for botting were hacked.1  Apparently, because Carbine has players use their email addresses as their login, hackers can purchase lists of passwords and try those, hoping that users have reused their passwords from other games or websites.

Carbine has pushed 2-factor authentication pretty hard since early access.  Wildstar displays Google Authenticator as the default choice, although I understand the use of WinAuth is also supported.  Personally, unless you make a fresh email account for playing Wildstar, I'd choose to use an authenticator.

Carbine offers an incentive package for players to sign up for 2-factor authentication.  At launch, the package included:
  • A 2% experience boost to Experience, Renown, and Prestige that allows you to out-level those people whose accounts remain hacker bait.
  • A Cybernetic Eyepatch costume item to commemorate your victory over the bad guys. It also improves depth perception.
  • The title Certifiably Certified so you can provide official proof to your guild mates that you have earned access to the bank.
Notice the subtle hint to players to make sure all of your guildmates are using an authenticator?  Almost EVE-like in its attempt to reduce corp guild theft.

On Wednesday, Carbine sweetened the pot by offering a free mount for using an authenticator.

The Retroblade Mount For Using 2-Factor Authentication

I don't have stats on the mount because my main is only level 12 and players cannot use mounts until level 15.  I also don't know how much a mount is.  I heard 10 gold, but I don't know if that is just for the mount or to purchase the skill as well.  But if that reduces the cost of getting a mount, then Carbine with this gift will also remove an incentive for purchasing gold on the secondary RMT market as well as getting players to secure their accounts.  Nicely played, Carbine!


1.  I'm not saying Wildstar is the first game this has happened in.  Just that Carbine is the first company I've read state this.  The usual culprit is credit card fraud.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Building A New Base

Yesterday I posted about needing a second base of operations, preferably in low sec.  That was the practical side of me writing.  But the next question I ask myself is: how do I go about doing that?  I could just go to a trade hub and buy the ships and modules.  I don't feel space poor and I can comfortably spend 1 billion ISK on the effort.  But as much as EVE is a spaceship shopping simulator, I have other ideas.

With the industry revamp in Crius less than two weeks away, why not just build as much as possible?  Except for possibly a Blackbird BPO, I have all the other ship blueprints needed at least researched up to ME 10, with many researched up to TE 10 as well. Some of them, I even have copies made already.  I'd have to check, but I think I have Hound, Cheetah, and Prowler blueprint copies in a hanger someplace.

Modules are the bigger challenge.  Not because they are difficult to make, but deciding which ones I need.  I know, I know, just make all the things.  But I usually like to make things I actually use, or might use.  Which explains why I have a couple of Damage Control II blueprint copies already made, but no tech 2 laser crystals (or whatever you call those things). 

For those wondering about the title, I have no plans to build a POS.  For my small operation, I don't see the need.  Besides, CCP does not have any POS festival launcher modules.  How can anyone have a low sec POS without the ability to shoot fireworks or snowballs?  I'm sure that's just an oversight that CCP will fix in an upcoming POS revamp.

I should add that building all my ships fits in with the role play element I've built around my corporation.  Right now, the corporation is just a one system operation specializing in faction ammunition.  Why not update the story with an expansion of its product line as well?  As soon as I finish building, I'll want to continue using by blueprints to sell things.  If I have enough fun, maybe I'll stop mining and buy minerals off the market.  Probably not, though.  I don't think I'll expand my operations that much.

Those are just a couple of quick thoughts on what I might do.  Part of EVE is not only deciding your own goals, but figuring out one of the many alternatives that sound like the most fun.  I know a lot of people won't think that building things is fun, but EVE allows a lot of types of players in the sandbox.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Can't Believe I'm Seriously Considering This Move

Back in episode 76 of the Declarations of War podcasts, the crew discussed the results of a poll asking about the changes to low sec that came with Kronos.  Former CSM representative and Noir. Mercenary Group head Alekseyev Karrde expressed surprise that any resident of low sec would want to move out of low sec as a result of the changes.  I'm not, as I'm one of those people considering moving out.

I'm not a big miner, because in a busy week I would only mine 2 or 3 hours, but I haven't mined any the last couple of weeks.  Part of that is I mined so many minerals in the past that I only really mine to sell lately.  Part of reason is that I have someone who keeps chasing me out of the ice belts.  But the biggest is that the the speed "buff" to the Procurer requires more initial set-up to mine while aligned that I found playing hide-and-seek in the ice belts just isn't fun.

I really do need to move, as the secondary system I had originally marked out for mining has way too many Procurer and Skiff kills in it to make mining feel somewhat safe.  I've picked out a couple of promising systems, but I haven't logged in to start exploring.  Looking at Dolan is nice, but I really need to go in an do a proper scouting trip, complete with making bookmarks, to know if a system is truly suitable.

Right now I just don't feel excited to log into EVE.  Interestingly enough, the industry changes in Crius are a good part of the reason I moved to low sec in the first place.   Back in August 2011, CCP Greyscale put out a dev blog on the design goals for null sec that included these goals for null sec industry:
  • 99% self-sufficient by volume
    • For further discussion. People building things in nullsec should only need to travel to empire (or more than a couple of regions across nullsec) for low-volume supplies. This requires that industrialists have a ready supply of low-end minerals available nearby in nullsec, without breaking other systems or goals. (Likely means some way of mining low-ends in a massively more rapid manner compared to current tools.)
  • Geared towards T2
    • Our current proposal is that hisec is for volume T1 goods, lowsec will be for meta/faction gear eventually, nullsec is for T2, and wormholes are for T3
  • Lucrative
    • Building T2 modules/ships in nullsec should be a good way to make a lot of money. There are many inherent drawbacks in doing industry in nullsec and we need to balance out these hidden costs.
  • Requires investment
    • Again, we want the real wealth-generation machines to require people to settle down and spend some money, because it encourages concentration of effort and makes for interesting targets to attack or defend.
  • Accessible to all in small volumes
    • Anyone should be able to build enough bits and bobs to support a reasonably frugal lifestyle, anywhere in nullsec. This allows small groups to feel self-sufficient provided they're all prepared to work for it, while still encouraging specialization efficiency for larger groups.
After reading CCP Greyscale's words, I knew I needed to move to low sec.  For those who think that Dinsdale's ideas about high sec getting nerfed to benefit null sec are made up out of whole cloth, well, I acted on that same belief a couple of years ago.  But instead of moving to null, I moved to low sec.  I saw the portion stating that low would provide meta and faction gear and was intrigued.  Part of the reason that I deal in faction ammunition stems from the goals I set based on CCP Greyscale's dev blog.

So, in some ways, Crius is the release I've waited for.  But after looking at the current content and rereading Greyscale's words, I'm not sure that low sec industry was really included in the design.  I'm not stating that low sec industry is impossible, because it's not.  But I don't think high sec is going to take the massive hit I originally believed.  Out in the Minmatar Republic, I think high sec may prove the superior place to do business.  In other regions, especially The Forge, low sec may win out.  We'll have to wait and see how players adapt to the new rules set.

Whatever happens, I do have to at least establish a second major base of operation, if not move my operations entirely.  I've got more than enough Procurers to scatter across the stars.  Now I just need to obtain some more ships, with Prowlers, Hounds, Cheetahs and Falcons the first priority.  I also probably need to establish a line of products beyond faction ammunition and ice products.  Not only for something new to do, but to become a bit more self-sufficient as well.

My first choice is a quieter low sec system, and like I mentioned before, I have some candidates picked out already.  But for the first time in a long time, I'm seriously contemplating a move back to high sec.  Such a move would take place not out of frustration, but because such a move is possibly the rational choice to make.

Needless to say, I don't want to move back to high sec.  That is probably contributing to not wanting to log in.  I really don't want to move back.  But I do need a few facts to back up my stubbornness on the matter.  Eventually, I may need to yield to the inevitable.