Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Business Fatigue

I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks playing Guild Wars 2. As in, I reached level 36 last night on a brand new sylvari necromancer. I needed to dock up and run around a world in an avatar instead of a ship.

I think the problem is too much of the business side of EVE is reaching into the game a little faster than I like. The first thing that got to me was the PLEX vault. I know, I know, just ignore the thing. But those numbers are so annoying. The solution is simple, really. I need to extract my pilots from their current locations, fly to high sec and stash the damned things in a station. Out of sight, out of mind.

Surprisingly Irritating
The next irritant was the introduction of the small skill injectors. On the face of the feature, I should have no problems. I personally never use skill injectors. I have a quirk that just sees paying money to advance in a game as bad. I don't buy experience point potions in other games. When playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I took my dislike of XP boosters so far that I didn't even use the ones the game gave out as mission rewards. I do eat food in Guild Wars 2, but if I want an added bonus by eating food, I'm stuck with also receiving a 10% XP buff. At least the buff is only for experience gained by killing mobs.




I even understand the reasoning for the the move. By making skill injectors that hold 100,000 skill points, new characters have an easier time of earning money to boost their skill point gains. Also, lower priced skill injectors are enticing to new players thinking of buying power in the game. A new player may not consider an extra $20 purchase to by 500 PLEX a wise investment. But throwing $5 or $10 at a new game? I know I have done so for a promising game if I need extra bank slots.

What really has me shaking my head is that CCP is expanding the skill injector feature while not fixing a major bug that is ripe for exploitation. While at Fanfest, I heard a rumor about a ghost training exploit. I didn't say anything on the blog because a section of the Terms of Service states:
23. You may not exploit any bug in EVE Online to gain an unfair advantage over other players. You may not communicate the existence of any exploitable bug to others directly or through a public forum. Bugs should be reported through the bug reporting tool on our website.
I won't go into any more details because while the users on Reddit can go wild breaking the EULA and ToS, CCP knows my accounts and I still want to play EVE. I'll just say I don't think CCP should have introduced the small skill injectors until the exploit was closed.

Once I get the disbelief out of my system I'll log in for a nice long mining session. But CCP ... FIX. YOUR. GAME.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Price Of PLEX - An Unexpected Development

The past week was another reminder for why I don't play the markets in EVE Online. Instead, I sat on my hands and made 440 million ISK.


I thought when the conversion from aurum to the new PLEX occurred, the ISK price would go down. Why? Because I thought everyone would race out to cash in their new found wealth. The increased supply would drive down the price. If I sold immediately, I could watch the price drop and then pick the PLEX up at a lower price while making a small profit. Between the 2 PLEX I already owned plus the free aurum sitting on my accounts, I have over 2700 PLEX.

Instead, I did nothing. And the price rose from 1,247 million ISK per one month of game time on 8 May to 1,347 million yesterday.


I'll conclude with the possible effect on the price of illicit RMT. Despite the price increase for two month's game time from $17.495 per month to $18.177 per month that occurred on 9 May, the price of game time still fell 4.2% (60 cents) over the course of the first half of the month. Market forces may eventually relent, but at $13.70/billion ISK in The Forge, some ISK sellers will soon see sales fall unless they lower prices.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

EVE's Opening Cinematic Videos

With the launch of the 119.5 today, EVE Online receives the fourth opening cinematic video in the games 14 year history. Given that I had a little bit of trouble finding all of them, I thought I'd make a post including all four, just so I can find them again.

Original Cinematic: 6 May 2003


Apocrypha Expansion: 10 March 2009


Odyssey Expansion: 4 June 2013


Release 119.5: 9 May 2017


Just a couple of notes. First, CCP seems to flip between wanting to feature the background story and focusing on the new player. The first and third cinematics introduce players to the lore while the second and fourth focus on the potential of the player. Next, CCP did need to make a new opening since the old one included references to DUST 514. Finally, despite the technical excellence, the new opening video is my least favorite of the four. Really, how can any video compete with Angry CONCORD Guy in the cinematic that CCP just replaced?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Illicit Real Money Trading In EVE Online's Alpha State

One of the truisms of MMORPGs is if a game introduces a free-to-play element, gold sellers will come to try to make a profit. EVE Online is no exception. The illicit RMT markets exploded as ISK sellers tried to keep up with the increased demand that began with the launch of the Ascension expansion on 15 November 2016.



Once again I will use information collected from Player Auctions, a site that hosts virtual currency sellers for many games. I record the transactions on the site as best as I can and even post tears when CCP catches the buyers. While not making up the majority of sales on the secondary RMT market, the site is still substantial enough to give some idea of the trends among the ISK sellers.

In the first three months of 2017, sales boomed on the illicit markets for ISK and skill injectors. The U.S. dollar value of sales increased almost 83% from Q1 2016 to Q1 2017. The below graph breaks down the sales by month instead of by quarter.


Notice the contribution of skill injectors to the gross sales numbers on the secondary market? I don't believe the love of skill injectors is just confined to the buyers on PA. Players who roam from one F2P experience to the next are noted for wanting to level up quickly, which is why most cash shops offer experience point boosts. In EVE, the only experience boost available is the skill injector.


The above chart shows the steady growth of skill injector sales while the sale of ISK is relatively seasonal. Even with the introduction of the alpha clone F2P system, ISK sales on PA rose less than 10% in Q1 2017 compared to Q1 2016. The big difference was skill injector sales. In the first three months of 2017, the number of skill injectors sold exceeded the number of billions of ISK sold. While ISK still brings in more money, I think skill injectors have supplanted PLEX as the second biggest thing sold.

One of the reasons for making the post now instead of earlier is that everything in this post may become outdated. One week from today the changes to PLEX and the cash shop go live. I am eager to see the effect of the new PLEX on the market. I also want to see if the change will also bring about more people getting caught buying the item on the black market. People tend to want to purchase the new shiny and I suspect PLEX are a little easier to track than other virtual objects and currency.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Buyers' Remorse


I first made my mark in EVE Online by publishing the tears of botters I found on their forums. Amazingly enough, people like reading about bad things happening to botters. But as the years went by and CCP became more adept at banning bot users, the bot developers started restricting and deleting posts that made their code look less than appealing. I still posted tears, but only on Twitter, not on the blog.

I do like RMT tears, though. I looked in my screenshot folder where I keep all the tears I collect from Player Auctions and I think I have enough to do a long-overdue post. Player Auctions is a site where people go to buy ISK, gold, plat, gil, and lots of other virtual currency and items found in online video games. The satisfaction ratings are a bit inflated and don't reflect how often sellers and buyers get caught by CCP. Keep reading to see the entries I captured before the sellers could bribe upset buyers into changing their reviews.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Getting Sidetracked

Ever since getting back home after Fanfest, real life has kept me busy. I finally got to spend a little time last night doing some research on where to find mining mission agent hubs in New Eden. I define mining mission agent hubs as systems containing 3 or more agents of a certain level. Ideally, the agents would all belong to the same corporation in order to build up loyalty points. Why disperse your efforts when trying to get those sweet, sweet implants that give a 5% bonus to mining or ice harvesting yield, right?

A funny thing happened during my search. I noticed a few anomalies. For example, why is Aldilur, a system in Metropolis 3 jumps from both a rookie system and a career agent system, a super hub? The Minmatar Mining Corporation has 3 level 1, 4 level 2, 6 level 3, and 5 level 4 mining agents in the system. Sure, the system has a 0.9 security rating which means the payout is much less than in other trade hubs, but a dedicated miner never has to leave the system except to go to Rens to sell loyalty store items and perhaps veldspar.

The corporations from the Gallente Federation are more spread out, with five systems containing three or more level 4 mining agents. Curiously, one of those systems is Ingunn, in the Minmatar region of Heimatar. A product of the Minmatar Mining Corporation's effective monopoly? Perhaps even more curious is Astral Mining Inc.'s presence in Annancale. The Gallente mining corp has 9 level 4 and 4 level 3 agents in the low sec system only two jumps from Intaki.

In the Caldari State, all of the level 3 and 4 mining mission hubs are located in high sec. Is that a product of corporate caution? Or were Poksu Mineral Group and Caldari Steel able to sway the Caldari government into providing additional security for their operations?

On the flip side, the two level 3 and 4 Amarr mining mission hub systems of Mamet and Ziriert are both located in 0.1 security systems located 2 jumps from Providence. If the two adjacent systems are treated as one, the hub has a total of 15 level 4 and 8 level 3 agents. The question I had when first looking at the hub is, why did Imperial Armaments and Zoar and Sons split the area. Imperial Armaments has 7 level 4 and 4 level 3 agents while Zoar and Sons has 8 level 4 and 4 level 3 agents in the area.

I know, I know. I'm just supposed to mine and obtain loyalty points. The agents were probably distributed via a random draw. Still, inquiring minds want to know why the cluster is laid out this way.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Purchasing Power

A lot of players become upset when they see battles in EVE Online referred to in terms of real world currency lost. The gaming press are not the only ones who make the conversion. In the dev blog discussing the battle of B-R5RB during the Halloween War in January 2014, CCP quoted a real world value to the ships lost in the battle of between $300,000-$330,000 USD.

Those upset with such real world valuations don't want people to think that players actually spend that kind of money purchasing ships. While the ships in that battle perhaps were not all purchased with real world cash, many were. Collectively, EVE players spend millions of pounds, dollars, and euros each year purchasing ISK in order to buy ships and fittings.


In 2016, players exchanged 1.4 quadrillion ISK for game time in the form of PLEX in The Forge, the region containing EVE's main trade hub of Jita. To put the sum in perspective, the combined losses for both sides in the battle of B-R5RB totalled 11 trillion ISK.

Of course, the figures usually reported in the gaming press for EVE battles use the rates players pay to purchase PLEX from either CCP or an authorized PLEX reseller. As in all popular MMORPGs, a black market developed around EVE. I don't think anyone knows the true size of the illicit ISK trade, but I track a popular RMT site, Player Auctions, to get some sort of idea. In 2016, I recorded 3883 unique transactions involving 34.7 trillion ISK sold for an estimated $250,000 USD. While the total includes 117 individuals or groups who sold ISK to at least one player during the year, the numbers below are in no way inclusive of all, or even most, illicit RMT activity surrounding EVE.


For the purpose of this post, I wanted to find out just how many capital and supercapital players buy using illicitly obtained ISK. I asked around and the consensus was that dreadnaughts, carriers, and fax machines each sell for around 2 billion ISK. That information didn't help as the median amount of ISK purchased in a black market deal on PA was 5 billion ISK in 2016. I did find out that supercarriers cost around 20 billion and titans around 75 billion. In 2016, I recorded 29 transactions involving 75 billion ISK or more and 253 where between 21 and 74 billion ISK exchanged hands. That potentially is a lot of supers.

Perhaps I spend too much time looking at real money trading, both the type sanctioned by game companies and the black market type, to blink twice at these types of numbers. The major saving grace for EVE is that the power purchased by players opening up their wallets is temporary, as the game's harsh death penalty can see $50 explode in the blink of an eye. One can purchase a lot of power in New Eden with real world cash. Just don't expect to keep it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

CSM Elections: Just Say No To Weighted Voting

Perhaps the saltiest of the defeated candidates in the 12th Council of Stellar Management election is Sullen Decimus. Sullen is an incumbent from CSM 11 who would have not won a seat on the council if CCP had reduced the size of the CSM from 14 seats down to 10 last year. Needless to say, his not winning this year came as no surprise. However, Sullen claims the reason he lost was not lack of support, but due to the single transferrable vote system used in CSM elections. He maintains that CSM should use a different system, the weighted vote.

In a weighted vote system, players would cast their votes for ten candidates, with each vote receiving a value depending on the position of the vote. For example, the candidate at the top of a voter's ballot would receive 10 points, the second candidate 9 points, and so on down the line with the candidate at the bottom receiving 1 point.

Players outside of null security space already claim that the voting system is rigged in favor of the large null sec blocs. Sullen's proposal looks to rig the voting in favor of his coalition, the Imperium. I ran the CSM 11 election using a weighted system, and the results are in the table below.

Candidates on the Goonswarm ballot in blue
Using a weighted system in the election results in three changes to the makeup of CSM 11. Out are Bobmon (Pandemic Legion), Nash Kadavr (Pandemic Legion), and Fafer (Northern Coalition.). A weighted vote system would have replaced the historical winners with Goonswarm Federation's Chiimera and Wyld along with Annexe from Tactical Narcotics Team.

The disparity in favor of the largest null sec alliance/coalition using a weighted vote system vs. the single transferrable vote is even greater than appearances first suggest. In a weighted voting system, the vaunted Goonswarm ballot would have helped elect 9 candidates in the CSM 11 election. In the actual results, only 6 candidates from the Goon ballot won seats. But of those 6 candidates, two candidates, The Judge and Kyle Aparthos, received no trickle down support from the Goon ballot. A third candidate, Xenuria, was so popular that he used less than 50 votes of the trickle down to hit quota. Xenuria actually needed no support from the Goon ballot to win, which is a good thing for Sullen or the candidate from The Bastion would not have won last year either.

So, looking back at the CSM 11 election, the system proposed by Sullen Decimus, a member of The Imperium, would have resulted in the official Goonswarm ballot contributing to the victory of 9 members of the Imperium. Using the single transferrable vote system, the official GSF ballot only contributed to 3 Imperium members winning seats. Perhaps to someone sitting in Delve, such a result seems fair. I'm pretty sure the rest of New Eden would disagree.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fanfest 2017: CSM Elections And The Nature Of High Security Space

Fanfest is over, but I wanted to write one final post before leaving Reykjavik this afternoon. I attended the CSM Panel on Saturday and heard an explanation for the poor performance of high sec candidates that, upon reflection, was obvious. Basically, the nature of high security space itself makes electing a representative from the security band much harder than the other areas of space.

Winning a seat on the Council of Stellar Management in the single-transferable vote era requires organization, preferably a really big organization. Gone are the days when a 1200-1400 member corporation like Eve University could field a candidate with a high degree of confidence of success. As far as I can recall, Eve University stopped fielding official candidates after CSM 7, the last election which used first-past-the-post voting. In general, null sec can support the largest player groups while high sec groups don't get as large.

One of the reasons high sec groups don't become as large as null sec alliances is income generation. The design of the game is that null sec generates more income than low sec, which in turn generates more income than high sec. Wormholes are an entirely different kettle of fish that only Bob understands. We are seeing that hierarchy play out today as some of the larger low sec alliances face the decision of either disbanding or moving to null sec in order to generate enough income to survive. Remember, the bigger the group a player belongs to, the better the chance of victory.

Perhaps the second major reason limiting the growth of high sec alliances is the war declaration mechanic. When a corp or alliance reaches a certain size, high sec war dec groups begin hitting the growing corp. If the corp consists of mission runners and/or miners, the results are seldom in doubt. The best responses for a high sec carebear corp when facing a war dec is to either 1) leave for low sec, null sec, or w-space, 2) disband the corp and recreate immediately, or 3) not log in for a week. In any of the scenarios, growth either suffers or the corp pulls out of high security space altogether.

Can a high sec candidate win? Yes. But winning requires a lot more organizing and diplomatic skill than in null sec. Residents of 0.0 can rightfully say that they already put in the hard organizational work. But null sec alliances create solid organizations to achieve their in-game goals. High sec residents don't need such elaborate organizations to perform their day-to-day activities. Unlike null sec alliances, most high sec groups would require an additional level of organization to successfully compete. The question is, do high sec residents think that the CSM is worth the extra effort. All signs point to no.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fanfest 2017 - CSM 12 Election Results

Today's Friday, which means a jam-packed schedule. However, I should make a couple of comments about the results of the CSM 12 election.



First, the issue of relevance will assuredly come up as the players elected a null sec dominated body when CCP is working on an expansion focusing on empire space. We have 8 null sec representatives, 1 wormhole rep (who people here in Reykjavik keep telling me is not really a wormhole rep), and a 3rd party dev/industry candidate who does not fall into any security band. Expect CCP to look outside the CSM quite a bit for advice and feedback.

Next, the low turnout of 31,274 was still a 28.6% increase over last year's 22,345. I thought that the low turnout would help Sort Dragon, but Vince Draken's renter-supported campaign won instead. Brave Collective once again displayed electoral muscle by getting Yukiko Kami onto the CSM. When Brave backs a candidate, the candidate wins. On the other end of the spectrum, Pandemic Horde's Kalbuir Skirate lost. At this point, Pandemic Horde's electoral performance reminds me of TEST's.

I have to wrap up the post in order to make the first presentation. I'll just close with the thought I can't wait to see the vote files released in order to see exactly what happened.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fanfest 2017: The Schedule

Fanfest officially begins today and in a couple of hours I will attend my first event. As I normally do, I go through the events and make a list of the presentations I plan to attend.

Thursday

12:00 - 12:30: Kyonoke Inquest SitRep - The first session of the ARG concerning the inquiry of the Kyonoke Plague. I really do need to check it out at least once. Jin'taan produced an introductory video on the story.



17:00 - 18:00: Opening Ceremony - The first presentation of the convention.

18:00 - 19:00: EVE Online Keynote - One of the surprising notes of the convention is the lack of a CCP Keynote presentation. Will we see other products mentioned in the EVE Keynote? The first presentation guaranteed to produce tears as the CSM election results are announced. I also expect some tears to flow from some of the upcoming changes. That reminds me; I need to purchase one of those Lacrimx bottles.

19:00 - 20:00: Kyonoke Inquest Vote - The ARG continues.


Friday

10:30 - 11:00: Kyonoke Inquest SitRep - The ARG continues.

11:00 - 12:00: More to Trading Than 0.01 - I probably need to learn something about trading. The description reads:

"A look into methods that differ from the 0.01 ISKing in Jita 4-4 that you might usually associate with trading, and a few obscure mechanics that had the potential to generate a lot of profit before they were patched out or deprecated."

12:00 - 13:00: Game Design Panel - Honestly, I may just skip this block of time and eat lunch. The session is pretty much a Q&A. I usually don't like those.

13:00 - 14:00: Project Discovery - Exoplanets - The next scientific crowdsourcing effort under the Project Discovery label concerns the search for exoplanets. Professor Michel Mayor will give a presentation on the subject.

14:00 - 15:00: The Discourse, Live! - "Join Makoto Priano and the crew of The Discourse will take the stage at Fanfest to give insight into how to produce media for EVE Online." Below is the latest example of their work.



15:00 - 16:00: EVE Graphics & VFX - "Join the VFX Artists from Team Trilambda as we take a look at the major GFX features of the last year, how they were made, plus problems and solutions during development."

16:00 - 17:00: Structures - How can I not go to this one? The description follows:

"With the next generation of Upwell structures arriving this year, now is the time to start talking about what tools Upwell Consortium engineers have in the pipeline for capsuleers."

17:00 - 18:00: Phenomenon Presents - Another must see presentation, as "Team Phenomenon presents the future of PvE through new technology."

18:00 - 19:00: Kyonoke Inquest Vote - The ARG continues.


Saturday

10:30 - 11:00: Kyonoke Inquest SitRep - The ARG continues.

11:00 - 12:00: New Player Experience - CCP Ghost lays out the future for the New Player Experience. Another must see presentation.

12:00 - 13:00: CSM Panel - How can I not go to this one?

13:00 - 14:00: Lowsec, FW & Crimewatch Roundtable - I usually don't go to roundtables, so I may wind up eating lunch or participating in the ARG.

14:00 - 15:00: Economy Roundtable - Once again, I usually don't go to roundtables, but CCP Quant is running this session.

15:00 - 16:00: Lunch break

16:00 - 17:00: The Physics of New Eden - A Max Singularity presentation!

"Join Max Singularity as he delves into the physics behind his guest chapter 'Passage of Knowledge' in the new 'Frigates of EVE' book coming this summer!"

17:00 - 18:00: Kyonoke Inquest Vote - The end of the ARG.

18:00 - 19:00: Closing Ceremony.

20:00 - 01:00: Party At The Top Of The World.






Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fanfest 2017: RMT Intrigue

A short post, as I slept past noon today, putting me back on Chicago time. For those wondering what my RMT research entails, most of my time is gathering raw transaction information from Player Auctions.

For those interested in numbers, I recorded 4276 transactions involving the sale of either ISK, skill injectors, or PLEX in 2016. So far in first 94 days of 2017, I've recorded 2083. My data is only final through 5 March, however. Even so, I think I can state that the introduction of a free-to-play element to EVE Online brought with it a big increase in illicit RMT activity. For those who follow real money trading throughout the gaming industry, the fact that RMT is up after the introduction of F2P is no surprise. I just happen to have some numbers to back up that belief.

I am not the only one tracking illicit RMT within the EVE universe, and I talked with a couple of them last night. Some can lay out cases involving market transactions that look dodgy as hell. Others just see incongruities in the market and wonder if the black market is responsible somehow. Basically, I'm talking to people who are a lot smarter than I am but lack the out-of-game component to the transactions I possess.

Tracking down information on the illicit RMT trade doesn't involve travelling to exotic locations like Reykjavik to meet face-to-face with like-minded souls in dimly lit bars. Nora's is pretty well lit. Like real world intelligence collection, I do a lot of unglamorous grinding. But sometimes I do get to learn a bit more of what is going on in the world of EVE RMT. After last night I have a better idea of what analysis I need to do and the types of information I can blog about that would help some of these people understand what they are seeing. I also probably need to take a couple hours here while the wind is still howling and dig through the data and follow-up on a lead. I think a major ISK seller could soon go out of business, if it's not busy closing shop even as I post this piece, and I'd like to know if I'm right about which shop is involved.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fanfest 2017: The Calm Before The Storm

Today is the day a lot of people will show up for Fanfest, which means the relative peace is about to end. Last night was pretty mellow as I stopped by Nora's for a beer or three. I wound up starting off the drinking session talking to a couple of the regulars about various things, like where to see the Northern lights, what you can and can't say to women about their appearance, and what constitutes doctoring photographs. You know, the important stuff in life. The one gentleman can do some amazing stuff with digital photography with the software on his laptop.

Not CCP Seagull
I then spent the time talking to a bunch of EVE players who either were in Eve University or had flown with the Uni in the past. Oh, and CCP Logibro was there too. Some people were complaining about things he has no control over, so I decided to complain about things with which he is involved, namely the CSM. Okay, I only complained about the election process and the lack of time before candidates are announced and the start of balloting. Somehow the conversation turned to who I thought had won the election. Since CCP Logibro knows who won, a very interesting experience. Either my analysis was accurate, or I never want to play poker with the man, as he kept a straight face throughout.

As usual, the weather had changed while I was in Nora's, with a pretty heavy snow falling. However, I still made my way to Hlolla's for a sub and then trudged uphill to the hotel. I had planned to just do a little RMT research and then get some sleep. Instead, I saw a tweet about the Mind Clash podcast recording, went to watch on Twitch, and then was pulled into Discord and made an appearance. I didn't manage to get to sleep until 4:30.

This morning was not too unusual for Reykjavik. After breakfast, I decided to go down to the shoreline and shoot some pictures with my new camera. Two blocks later, the snow started falling pretty heavily. At that point, I turned around to put on some boots and then walk to a store and buy a hat. When I exited the hotel, the snow had stopped. I then walked to 66 North and bought a hat. In the few minutes that activity took, the sun came out. I then walked back to the hotel to pickup my camera and headed to the pedestrian path that runs along the shore.

The path to Harpa
I managed to take some pretty good shots while the sun still shone. Of course, the weather doesn't stay the same for long and I decided to head back to the hotel and write this short blog. By now, some of the people who arrived this morning may have checked into their hotels and possibly even taken a nap. I plan on roaming around bumping into more people. Or maybe I'll just get lunch. In Reykjavik, anything could happen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fanfest 2017: Travel Day

Sunday was a travel day as I headed to Fanfest. Up until I left for the airport, everything went according to plan except for one little detail. I could not lock my suitcase. The little metal loops had broken and would no longer accommodate a lock. Luckily, I still had an old suitcase that had a broken handle that no longer extends I could use. Hey, one makes do.

Getting to the airport was a breeze. As in, what is usually about a 50-60 minute ride only took 35 minutes. Apparently by placing exceedingly high tolls along a 6 mile stretch of road, the state of Illinois made travel to the airport much faster for those willing to pay. I guess no poors allowed.

I wanted to time my arrival for approximately when the baggage check-in opened, but instead was the first one on the scene. Not wanting to just stand around, I found a seat and watched as people trickled into the line. I took a couple of pictures and then around 3:30 joined the queue.

The line formed early
Did I mention pictures? In addition to my phone camera, I bought a new digital camera that cost more than $35. It cost quite a bit more, but in fairness I did get $115 off. Hopefully I manage to get some good shots. I would have taken some pictures of the plane, but the windows in the waiting area were frosted. Kind of weird, especially as Icelandair has some of their aircraft painted with some nice color-schemes. CCP might want to consider hiring the designer to create some SKINs.

I'll admit this year was not as eventful waiting at the gate as previously. Last year, nine people from Tweetfleet showed up on the flight, along with CCP Manifest and Andrew Groen. I didn't know anyone and honestly didn't try to find the spaceship nerds. The closest I came was at the check-in when I talked with the guy at the counter about EVE. He's tried to play a couple of times, but never really gotten into the game. I told him a little about Fanfest and that the biggest flood of nerds would come through on Monday.

The flight itself was uneventful. Well, I guess some people might consider 30 minutes of turbulence an event, but I barely noticed. I tried to sleep for once on the flight out to Iceland, but the best I managed was a semi-slumber. Still, that's better than I usually do.

My current state is sitting in the lobby of the hotel, waiting until 2pm for check-in to begin. Since I reserved a single room, they can't fit me in. So I went over and ate breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe before writing this post.

I guess I should add one last thing. I always enjoy travelling to Europe because Kit Kats are made by Nestle, not Hershey. Yes, the chocolate is better, plus the variations are much greater than in the States. I just tried the Chunky Cookie Dough and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Return To Lowsec

I keep reading and listening to people say lowsec is dying. Apparently, if big groups with shiny and expensive toys can't live in the security band, then the area will soon become a desolate, barren area populated by tech 1 cruisers, the Frigate Menace™, and scavengers picking through the scraps CCP leaves as the developers cater to the null sec cartels. Did someone say scavengers?

I spent most of the last 6-8 months mostly in high security space, with a little time spent mining in low and null, acquiring a Nestor. I thought about making ISK grinding out and selling a Nestor a month, but that idea died with the crashing market for pirate battleships. So since the next item on my list of things to do is learn how to fly recons in totally ridiculous ways (i.e. doing PvE), I think a return to low sec is warranted.

If I return to lowsec, I'll have more on my mind than using recons to run the combat sites. I will, of course, mine. I have a crazy, impractical, long-range idea of getting excellent standings with all of the NPC corps that send out mining fleets.

From the Ascension patch notes
I already have the standings with the Minmatar Mining Corporation and Thukker Mix, but the Vherokior Tribe doesn't have mining agents. That's where the recons come into the picture, if I don't decide to just run distribution missions for a couple of days.

I think the new shiny CCP is dangling in front of players to entice them into mining in low sec is moon mining. Good! Hopefully that idea will distract the elite PvPers of low sec into concentrating on moons and leave the belts alone as not worth the effort. What's a sexier kill mail, a Procurer or a Rorqual? Oh, who am I kidding? I don't foresee a lot of moon mining occurring in lowsec.

If I am going to carebear it up in low sec, I'll need to do two other things. The first is run mining missions. I did a little research last night and lowsec has some nice level 4 mining agent hubs. The biggest one I found so far has 9 agents in one system. I could make some serious ISK long term in that system. The second is set up planetary interaction colonies again. I don't think I've done PI in over two years, maybe even three. But I think I'll need the extra money living in low.

I'll firm up my plans once I get back home from Fanfest. I might even learn some things that could help while in Reykjavik. But since Lowsec is Dying™, I probably picked the right time to return.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fanfest Travel Tips: 2017 Edition

Next Monday I arrive in Iceland for eight days and seven nights of fun in the middle of the North Atlantic. Well, for what I hope is fun, anyway. I also intend on doing a little bit of blogging, even if I only post photos.

I am going through all the steps I normally go through when preparing for a trip overseas. This weekend marks my 11th trip since 2017. I have most of the required actions memorized by now, but sometimes making a list helps prevent forgetting the little things that turn into headaches if forgotten.

First, inform all the institutions you interact with that you are leaving the country. In my case, those are the post office, my bank, and my phone service. The U.S. Post Office has a nice form one can fill out in less than a minute. Banks have a tendency to not allow foreign transactions unless notified in advance, and my bank is no exception. Fortunately, I got my credit cards approved for use in Iceland at the same time I paid some of the bills that come due while I'm away. As for my phone service, that's not really a factor if one buys a SIM card from the local wireless provider in Iceland, which I believe is available in the airport. However, my phone provider allows me to use my current data package abroad, although I have to pay a $10 fee each day I use it. Still, having 24 GB available is more than I'll use and means I won't have to worry about the data cap.

Next, print out all paperwork needed to travel from home to the hotel in Reykjavik. Icelandair requires a printed version of the e-Ticket passengers receive via email. If one purchases Flybus tickets for the ride between Keflavik and Reykjavik in advance, Flybus requires printed proof of purchase as well. I also normally print out the hotel reservations, just in case.

The next subject is a big one: electronics. I normally bring a laptop, smartphone, Kindle Fire, and camera to Fanfest. Based on my experience from last year, I am also bringing an external battery to recharge my smartphone. If I did not plan to blog and do some RMT research-related tasks, I would leave the laptop at home.

The most important fact for those coming from the U.S. and U.K. is that Iceland uses the Type F socket, which is also is usable with Type C and E plugs as well. For everything except my laptop, I use a Yubi Power 4-port power station to keep everything charged. Normally in hotel rooms spare outlets are at a premium so I like the option of charging four devices with only one charger. For my laptop, I actually own a cord that plugs into the laptop's power converter instead of just using an plug adapter. I prefer the tighter connection into the wall socket, plus the price was low enough I didn't mind.

For those lugging around a laptop, I highly recommend making sure your laptop has all OS updates installed before heading to Iceland. Getting hit with an update in an airport is not my idea of fun. In addition, make sure all programs like TeamSpeak, Mumble, and Discord are up-to-date as well.

For the first time traveller, I have one tip that doesn't seem important, but is. Clean up your home before leaving for the airport. Make sure to take out the garbage. Check the refrigerator for food that may spoil while you're away. Do the dishes. Make your bed. Not just throw the covers over the bed, actually make the bed, hospital corners and all.

I didn't think making the bed was really that important until the one trip where I had to leave at o'dark thirty. I just hurriedly threw the covers over the bed because I was in a rush. After a few days of maid service, coming back to an unmade bed was a bit of a downer.

One final tip. I didn't mention anything about exchanging money to the local currency, the Icelandic Krona (ISK). Iceland pretty much runs on plastic except for the city buses, and even then some of the outlying hotels hand out passes to their guests. I have a credit card that doesn't charge foreign exchange fees, so last year I just used that and had no issues.

I'm sure I forgot some things, but I have enough practice packing for these trips that I just do some things automatically. Hopefully those travelling to Fanfest for the first time will find something useful. Who knows, some of the information concerning products may actually come not too late.

EDIT 1 April 2017: Here's what I forgot. Make sure you can still close and lock your luggage. Good thing I only needed one suitcase.

Friday, March 24, 2017

CSM 12 Election: Last Minute Endorsements

The voting for the 12th Council of Stellar Management ends on Monday at 0000 UTC. While historically most players vote in the first 2-3 days, voting sees a spike on the final day. So for those who want to vote but don't want to scroll through 64 candidates, I'll go through the candidates I voted for on my three accounts.



1. Roedyn - Roedyn tops my list for two reasons. The first is that I like the idea of the 3 candidate "High Sec Bloc". If one of the members of the High Sec Bloc, Roedyn, commander aze, or Toxic Yaken, win a seat, then we may see more teamwork from people outside of null sec in the future.

The second reason is that Roedyn knows a lot about markets and trading. He used to write a market column for Eve-NT and also did quite well for those who gave him ISK to invest. Roedyn is also involved in attacking citadels in high sec, which gives him a unique perspective compared to those used to dealing with the huge structures in more dangerous areas of space. From everything I can see, structure development will still matter greatly on the roadmap over the next year.

2. commander aze - I like candidates who grow, and over the past few years commander aze really grew in terms of EVE. His campaign this year reminds me of Mike Azariah's run in 2013 when he finally won a seat for CSM 8.

Successful CSM members need to have a varied background, and commander aze qualifies on that score. Currently he runs an alliance out of a C2 wormhole with a large high sec presence due to the new players he recruits. Introducing new and Alpha players who cannot use cloaking devices to wormhole life is thinking way outside the box. Commander aze also is involved in NPSI fleets as a Spectre Fleet FC and the captain of last year's Spectre Fleet alliance tournament team.

3. Toxic Yaken - Toxic Yaken is the third member of the High Sec Bloc who recently joined a smaller null sec alliance. While he has not displayed the variety of a Roedyn or commander aze, his work on the Wardec Project shows his ability to reach out to players with different play styles than his. He may lose votes as his background is as a high sec wardeccer and a ganker.

4. Scylus Black - Scylus is a player involved in the Caldari militia since 2012. He served as the former CEO of CCDM and was the former alliance Executor of Templis CALSF. When I look at low sec candidates, I want to see ones who actually live in the security band and don't just cruise though looking to PvP. Scylus Black fits the bill and probably has a good chance of winning a seat on the CSM.

5. Erika Mizune - Erika is someone who is a null sec candidate who is more involved in industry and jump freighter logistics rather than PvP. She would have won a seat on CSM 11 except that when the election was rerun after Apothne dropped out for health reasons, she dropped from 13th to 15th. Once again, I figure that industry will matter in the next year and that Erika will have the opportunity to regularly contribute.

6. Djavin Novienta - Djavin is a self-described high sec carebear in EVE University. He won me over with his interview with Matterall on Talking in Stations. Djavin fulfills support roles within EVE University including recruiting and as a wiki curator. Sometime soon the corp and alliance tools will finally see upgrades and I think Djavin will provide valuable feedback in that area. I also like the perspective that a high sec carebear will bring to the council.

7. White 0rchid - White 0rchid is a low sec candidate in WAFFLES. who also has experience in EVE University. The quality that led me to put White 0rchid on the list was his developer skills, which could come in handy.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunsetting Aurum And Questions About PLEX

On Thursday, CCP announced changes to the 30 Day Pilot's License Extension (PLEX), EVE Online's signature item for converting real world currency into Interstellar Kredits (ISK), the in-game currency.



The main points of the current proposal are:

  • PLEX will convert 1 PLEX into 500 PLEX.
  • A new account-wide storage container, the PLEX Vault, will hold PLEX.
  • The New Eden Store will use PLEX for transactions instead of Aurum.
  • Aurum will no longer exist.
  • The conversion rate for Aurum to the new PLEX is 7 AUR to 1 PLEX.
  • CCP will not convert amounts of Aurum 1000 and under into PLEX.

Following the announcement, a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories started flooding the usual places like Reddit and various fansites. Since I have a little knowledge about the subject, I thought I would address some of the issues and questions emerging from the EVE community.

What is the real world value of 1 Aurum? $0.005 USD, or one-half of one U.S. cent.

One of the problems that I see with the valuation of Aurum against a real world currency like the U.S. dollar is that people take the most expensive cost to purchase an item like PLEX or Aurum and use that as the conversion rate. In the case of PLEX, people will use the $19.99 price for a single PLEX instead of using the price CCP charges for purchasing 2 or more PLEX, which is $17.495 per PLEX. The $19.99 price is a premium price for purchasing an odd amount, not the regular price. When using the regular price, the USD to Aurum conversion rate is $0.004998 per Aurum, ($17.495 / 3500 AUR) which rounds up to $0.005/AUR, or one-half of one U.S. cent.

The same figure is obtained when using the prices listed when purchasing Aurum with U.S. dollars directly. Using the $9.99 for 2000 Aurum option, the USD to Aurum conversion rate is $0.004995 per Aurum, which rounds up to $0.005/AUR. When performing the same calculation using the $24.99 and $49.99 packages, the conversion still rounds up to $0.005/AUR.

How much ISK is 1 Aurum worth? 288,444.44 ISK, based on Jita market prices on 18 March 2017.

One major logical problem I see is that people attempt to convert Aurum into ISK using PLEX. The problem is that while players can convert PLEX into 3500 Aurum, the reverse is not true. The New Eden Store contains 3 items one can describe as RMT tokens: skill extractors, Multiple Pilot Training Certificates, and Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificates. While skill extractors are the least costly item of the three on the market, the fact that skill extractors trade in the thousands each day while the others trade from 20-40 per day make the skill extractor the item I would use to perform the calculation.

Skill extractors come in three packages: 1 for 1000 AUR, 5 for 4500 AUR, and 10 for 8000 AUR. I used the 5 for 4500 package when making the conversion.

For those interested in the Aurum to ISK conversions using the other tokens, they are:

Multiple Pilot Training Certificate - 321,312.66 ISK/AUR
Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificate - 348,251.00 ISK/AUR


Why split PLEX into 500? Why value 1 PLEX = 7 Aurum? A lot of people consider 500 and 7 very odd numbers that don't make sense. But if one takes into account CCP's historical preference to buy game time in blocks of 60 days, the numbers make more sense.

Players can currently convert 2 PLEX into 7000 Aurum. What's a nice round number? 1000. To get to the round number of 1000, CCP has to make each new-style PLEX worth 7 Aurum. After that, each old-style PLEX converts into 500 new-style PLEX.

Why won't players with Aurum balances of 1000 or less have their Aurum converted into the new-style PLEX? The official answer given on the dev blog is:
"A large portion of the total Aurum stockpile is in small balances left over from past giveaways and by not converting those small balances we mitigate risk of oversupply in the PLEX market."
But why only convert Aurum balances of 1001 and up? Why not convert balances of 1000? The answer apparently is that 1001 is divisible by 7 (143.0) while 1000 is not (142.857).

The figure 1001 appears strange for two reasons. First, one can purchase RMT tokens such as skill extractors and Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificates using 1000 AUR. If a player had the ability to purchase RMT tokens before the changes, one would think the player should receive RMT tokens (PLEX) after the change. The other reason is that CCP offers a package of 900 AUR for $4.99. If the concern is unused Aurum from previous givaways, what about untouched Aurum from a purchase from the Aurum store?

If CCP asked me for advice, I would recommend a cutoff of 700 AUR to reimburse. A figure of 700 addresses the previous promotional givaway concerns, especially with the recent givaway of 300 AUR in December. In addition, 700 AUR would convert to 100 new-style PLEX, which is a nice round number. If 700 AUR is too low, then a cut-off of 900 AUR is more reasonable than 1001.

Will we see prices go up? Yes, but not across the board.

CCP has stated that anything that costs 1 PLEX now will still cost 1 PLEX after the conversion. So that means no price increase for things like the Multi-Pilot Training Certificate and 30 days of game time. A question exists about character transfers, as CCP offers the service for $20 or 2 PLEX. Hopefully the charge will remain at $20 or 1000 PLEX.

Some items will undoubtedly increase in price. Good candidates include skill extractors and Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificates increasing from $5.00 (1000 AUR) to $5.25 (150 PLEX) in price. Also, the prices of some SKINs in the cash shop may slightly increase in price. On the other hand, some of the older SKINs may decrease in price. Many of those SKINs currently list for 250 AUR. Listing those SKINs at 35 PLEX after the change would represent a small decrease.

Why did CCP create the PLEX Vault? On Saturday, CCP Rise appeared on Talking in Stations to discuss the upcoming changes in PLEX and Aurum. While safe movement of PLEX will occur, the major reason appears technical in nature. CCP needs to convert an object in the game client into a currency in the New Eden Store. The item changes state in the PLEX Vault. The Aurum listed in the New Eden Store is account wide, so the PLEX Vault is account wide.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Blizzard's Legal Team Not Tired Of Winning Against Bossland Yet

The year 2017 is a very bad year so far in the courtroom for Bossland GmbH, maker of the Honorbuddy bot for World of Warcraft and many other bots. Blizzard's legal team had suffered setbacks in the past in German courts, but the tide has turned recently. On this side of the Atlantic, Blizzard is about to win a virtually uncontested case against the German bot maker in California. At the same time, the concept of End User License Agreements and Terms of Service may gain more legal weight.

Bossland's losing streak began 6 October 2016 when the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled that that the use of the basic game for the purposes of the programming of the bots is not covered by the rights granted to the acquirer of the game. On 12 January 2017, the BGH further ruled that the decision of the Court of Appeals that the sale of such bots is contrary to the Unfair Competition Act (UWG). Felix Hilgert, writing for the German website Online.Spiele.Recht, offered this analysis of the decision:
In the judgment at first instance on this dispute, the Landgericht Hamburg distinguished between general conditions of business in the actual case and mere "rules of play", which the provider of a game could unilaterally establish and modify without having to be contractually agreed with the players. There are quite a number of arguments for such an approach .

In the second instance, the Court of Appeals had left open the question as to whether there was a real difference between the GTC and the "rules of play".

However, the BGH now finds clear words. In any event, if the "rules of the game" - as in the present case - are designed as restrictions on the granted license for the use of the software and the provider has a right of termination in the case of infringement, they should also be in the GTC and should be effective in accordance with the General rules are included in the contract and must be subject to a content check at the standards of the GTC law.

...

According to this decision of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) "game rules" must be regarded as a GTC in any case if they restrict the actual possible use of the game legally and give the provider binding sanctions. Such rules must therefore also be accepted by the players as other GTCs. However, this is sufficient if this is done within the scope of account registration.

If the use of bots is prohibited in the game rules, this is effective and also leads to injunctions against third parties, which offer such bots for the on-line game.
The case is now heading for the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG), where the bot maker's lawyers will argue that the rulings infringe upon both Bossland and its managing director's fundamental rights under the Grundgesetz, or German constitution, specifically Articles 3 and 12.

In the United States, Blizzard filed a federal lawsuit, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. v. Bossland GMBH et al, in the Central District of California on 1 July 2016. Bossland counted on dismissing the case due to a lack of jurisdiction of the court. Bossland published its rationale back in July 2016:
US courts in general think they can decide about the future of anyone, however even they have regulations. There are few ways how a company could be sued in the US. One of them are the "Long-arm Statutes", and Blizzard surely tried it the following among other writings:

(d) Defendants have entered into, and continue to enter into, hundreds or thousands of contracts with individuals in the United States and in the State of California,

(e) Defendants employ or engage individuals residing within the United States to create, code, develop, test, and support the Bossland Hacks;

(f) Defendants contract with numerous entities located in the United States and the State of California in connection with their business. This includes,
for example, domain name registries, hosting or content delivery services, and credit card processors and merchant banks; and

(g) Defendants distribute the Bossland Hacks via content delivery networks and servers located in the United States and the State of California.

That is tactically excellent, if it just where true, to make the "Long-arm Statutes" to work. But none of that is true and all of that is very vague, perfectly made for the court to believe. Neither we have employees in the US or in California, nor do we host our websites and download portals in the US. And we never used CDN, our french servers can handle it very well. But nice try.

Then there is the „Tag Jurisdiction“ based on U.S. Supreme Court im Fall Pennoyer v. Neff (1878). As you can see, this one is pretty old, for it to work, the person in interest must be in the state or country where he is to be sued. Best known case here is  Burnham v. Superior Court of California from 1990.

And of course, if the company has its residence in the US. But we for sure have no residence there yet. Anyhow, lets assume such a lawsuit passes the court and a company gets sued in the US, that would lead to payments of Punitive Damages. Everyone knows the MDY case and the Ceiling Fan cases, one for $6M, the other one for $7M in Punitive Damages. However, according to EU law, such an judgement would be not acccredited in the EU. The Ordre public clause is written in n § 328 Abs. 1 Nr. 4 ZPO, Art. 27 Nr. 1 EuGVÜ and Art. 34 Nr. 1 EuGVVO.
The presiding judge on the case, Judge David O. Carter, disagreed and denied Bossland's motion to dismiss due to lack of jurisdiction on 25 January. After some additional legal moves, Bossland defaulted the case on 16 February. On Monday (13 March), Blizzard submitted an entry of default judgement against the German bot maker.

A reading of Blizzard's motion for a default judgement is interesting. Blizzard maintains that Bossland committed three areas of illegal acts:

  • Bossland distributed and actively encouraged the use of software which, when used by the end user, creates a derivative work of one or more of the Blizzard Games. Bossland also encouraged and facilitated acts of copyright infringement by its freelance contractors and software developers. This conduct constitutes secondary copyright infringement.
  • Bossland created and distributed computer files designed to circumvent and bypass access controls put into place by Blizzard. This conduct violates Section 1201 of the DMCA.
  • Bossland, with knowledge that others had entered into valid and binding contracts with Blizzard, encouraged those people to engage in conduct that plainly violated those contracts 

Bossland's sins were violating copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the World of Warcraft EULA. Violating a game EULA is against the law? In Blizzard Entm't Inc. v Ceiling Fan Software LLC, a federal court in California in 2013 ruled against the makers of the Pocket Gnome and Shadow Bot World of Warcraft bots to the tune of $7 million:
The publisher originally filed suit in December 2011 against Ceiling Fan, a company that developed two bots — Pocket Gnome and Shadow Bot — allowing World of Warcraft players to automate aspects of the game. Using bots is a violation of the World of Warcraft end-user license agreement and its terms of use.

The court agreed with Blizzard's contention that the bots constituted tortious interference with contractual relations under California law. That is, Ceiling Fan knowingly sold software that was a violation of World of Warcraft's terms of use, which is a legal contract between World of Warcraft players and Blizzard.
To confirm that an uneducated gaming journalist didn't get the legal facts wrong, Federal District Judge James V. Selna wrote in his decision:
In order to play WoW,3 a user must agree to two separate contracts, the “World of Warcraft End User License Agreement” (“EULA”) and the “Terms of Use” (“ToU”). ( Id. ¶ 28.) Both the EULA and the ToU prohibit players from using “cheats, automation software (bots), hacks, mods, or any other unauthorized third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience.”4 ( Id. ¶ 29.)
3. In a procedure that has become familiar to the vast majority of internet users, installation of WoW software requires assent to the EULA and ToU via a dialog box that conditions installation of the software upon the user's mouse click indicating acceptance of the software provider's terms. ( See Rice Decl. ¶¶ 28–31.) Access to game play requires such assent. ( Id. ¶ 31.)
4. Various versions of the EULA and the ToU have been used, but all versions used since at least October 2007 have contained this prohibition. (Rice Decl. Ex. 2.)
The reference to encouraging people to violate contracts in Blizzard's arguments against Bossland probably are directly related to California law related to tortious interference with contractual relations. Judge Selna spelled out the criteria for determining such an offense:
In California, “[t]he elements ... for intentional interference with contractual relations are (1) a valid contract between plaintiff and a third party; (2) defendant's knowledge of this contract; (3) defendant's intentional acts designed to induce a breach of disruption of the contractual relationship; (4) actual breach or disruption of the contractual relationship; and (5) resulting damage.”
Judging by the description above, any effort to sell products in contravention of a game's EULA probably violates California state law.

The next confirmed date on the legal calendar is 10 April, when Judge Carter will hold a hearing on the default judgement against Bossland. Blizzard's years-long legal effort against Bossland is reaching the end game, both in the U.S. and in Germany. Given the pace of the legal system in both countries, the cases could go another year, depending on appeals. However, Blizzard once again looks to have the upper hand over a bot maker.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The New Probing UI: CCP Doesn't Hate Smokers After All

Ever wonder why Asian games rely so heavily on point-and-click movement systems? Smoking. Asian gamers will spend a lot of time in internet cafes, using the mouse to grind out mobs with one hand while smoking with the other.

I stopped smoking 15 years ago, but I've always preferred using the mouse exclusively when given the chance. Between the use of the WASD keys for movement and years of crafting in Everquest 2, my left hand tends to get tired and sore after a few hours of playing a normal game. One of the benefits for me of playing EVE is the ability to just use the mouse and peck the function keys every so often. I guess that makes me an honorary smoker.

One of my favorite features in EVE is exploration and the probing mini-game. Before heading off to the Singularity test server Sunday to look at the feature myself, I had heard everyone gush at all the shortcuts CCP had added. "Great," I thought to myself. "Will I need to start using the keyboard in order to probe down sites?"

On Sunday, I scanned down a few signatures and didn't like the experience. In fact, I was so disgusted I didn't write a post for Monday. But last night, in preparation for writing this post, I discovered that some of the things I found so irritating during Sunday's play session were either awkward mechanics or outright bugs.


The first bit of trouble I had with the new probing user interface was that the map toggle button does not show up automatically. On Sunday, I thought I would have to use the F9 key to toggle between the map and regular space. But last night, I discovered how to make the toggle button appear. Initially, the probe scanner window is docked in the map. While the window is docked in the map, the map toggle button will not appear.

The solution is to display the system map in any mode except fullscreen. Then, click on the square in the upper right-hand corner of the probe scanner window to undock the window. Place the window in the desired location, then make the map fullscreen. Presto, the map functions similarly to the old map and you can toggle the map on and off using one click of the mouse.

For years I always had the probe scanner window sitting in the lower right hand corner of the screen, with the ship information wheel in the middle bottom. I have the feeling whoever designed the changes plays with these two pieces of the UI at the top of the screen. The buttons to launch probes, resize the probes' search areas, and the Analyze button are all at the bottom of the probe scanner window. In a move that may have some players swearing, the recall active probes button is now where the Analyze button formerly resided. I can see some players' muscle memory recalling probes right as they were about to resolve the signature.

Instead of buttons across the top of the window, the new UI contains information about the probes. In addition to the probes' status, players can now see their probe strength, scan deviation, and scan duration.

One new feature not shown in the graphic is the ability to shift the point of view from the system plane to directly over the system plane by double-clicking the mouse. I think the feature will alleviate an issue I had with rotating the view in very large systems with probe size diameters under 1 AU. In those cases, rotating the view more than 90 degrees was awkward. I'll need a lot more experience once the feature is deployed on Tranquility to see if the situation improves.

Having spent a couple of hours playing with the system, I think I have a good handle on how to probe without using the keyboard. The graphic for the new UI shows my results of probing down a Superior Sleeper Cache. First, I positioned the probes around the signature and pressed the Analyze button. I then positioned the probes around the resulting point and clicked on the Probe Size slider. The search radius can be adjusted by either clicking to the right or left of the current size, dragging the slider to the desired size, or, if the slider is clicked on and is the active window element, using the mouse wheel. Once the desired size is reached, click on the Analyze button. Rinse and repeat until the signature reaches 100%. I did have to use the button to reposition the individual probes closer together, but that was also necessary with the old system. And honestly, if I had used Sisters gear instead of regular gear, I wouldn't have had to do that.

Once I discovered how to only use the mouse to probe down anomalies, I fell in love with exploration. Despite what I had heard coming out of the CSM summit, I don't feel the new UI puts button smashers like me at a disadvantage. I'll just need to develop new muscle memory and perhaps play with my window layout. And hopefully when the changes hit Serenity, all the smokers will feel the same way.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The CSM 12 Election As Research: Length Of Survey

Yesterday, I compared EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management election to an online survey. If the CSM is a focus group that has signed non-disclosure agreements, then why not extend the market research theme to include the methodology used to select the body's members?

In my previous post on the subject, I stated that the election was basically a one question online survey. What I didn't discuss was the complexity of the question. Unfortunately, the question isn't, "What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?" Instead, CCP asks players to choose up to 10 candidates out of a list of 64 and then rank them in order of preference. Looked at another way, voters are asked 65 questions. The first 64 questions are yes/no questions, asking if a candidate should sit on the CSM. The 65th question is, "Please rank your choices in order of preference".

Sixty-five questions in an online survey? That's a problem. According to a study conducted by Survey Monkey, the maker of one of the most used online survey solutions, surveys that take longer than 7-8 minutes to complete see increased abandon rates ranging from 5% to 20%. The Survey Monkey research also found the number of questions asked also matters:
"Can we always assume that longer surveys contain less thorough answers? Not always, since it depends on the type of survey, the audience, and the relationship of respondents to surveyor, among other factors. However, data shows that the longer a survey is, the less time respondents spend answering each question. For surveys longer than 30 questions, the average amount of time respondents spend on each question is nearly half of that compared to on surveys with less than 30 questions."
So how do these two facts apply to the CSM elections. First, the sheer number of candidates guarantees a lower participation rate. Even if a voter only takes 60 seconds to consider each candidate, that still means that the voting process will take over an hour. People looking at the list of candidates may just throw their hands up in the air and say that voting is just too time consuming.

The second is that a large percentage of those who do read about all the candidates will likely race through the list in order to get back to playing the game. A perfectly understandable reaction. The amount of time one would need to research all the candidates leaves players willing to take suggestions from others that a player trusts. In terms of time management, voting with a pre-made link makes a whole lot of sense. Of course, that's how bloc voting is sustained. Did I mention that due to the voting blocs, many players believe their vote will have no impact, thus driving down turnout?

I am sure I missed a few other drawbacks of the number of candidates on the ballot. But in market research terms, a successful survey is usually both short and simple, two things we cannot say about the ballot in the current election.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The CSM 12 Election As Research

One of the common descriptions of EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management is as a focus group. If I may use Wikipedia as a source...
"A focus group is a small, but demographically diverse group of people whose reactions are studied especially in market research or political analysis in guided or open discussions about a new product or something else to determine the reactions that can be expected from a larger population. It is a form of qualitative research consisting of interviews in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. During this process, the researcher either takes notes or records the vital points he or she is getting from the group. Researchers should select members of the focus group carefully for effective and authoritative responses."
Kind of sounds like the two yearly CSM summits, doesn't it? For the current topic, I want to concentrate on the last sentence in the passage from Wikipedia. How does CCP select their focus group? In a typical, EVE Online game design move, CCP throws caution to the wind and lets the players decide and sees what happens.

The result is the annual CSM election. In effect, CCP conducts a one question online survey asking its customers who should participate in the focus group. By allowing the players to choose the members themselves, the developers can avoid charges of favoritism. Well, perhaps minimize the charges. The composition of the group itself could lead CCP to modify its development plans. What happens if two wormhole candidates or two lowsec candidates win? Is that a sign that the players in those areas of the game are disenchanted and may need some attention to avoid subscription losses?

If we look at the CSM election as a market research exercise instead of a political election, some of the numbers look quite different. In the real world, a turnout of 12.5% for an election is horrible. But according to SurveyGizmo, a company that makes market research software, the average response rate for surveys distributed to external audiences such as customers is 10-15%. For the years in which we have data, the participation rate in CSM elections falls within that range.

Continuing with the market research theme, SurveyGizmo came up with five factors that affect survey results, four of which I believe apply to CSM elections. They are:
  • Customer Loyalty: Do the respondents feel a connection to the brand conducting the survey? A high level of loyalty will lead to a higher number of responses.
  • Perceived Benefit: Whether it’s getting early access to results or being entered into a raffle, most respondents need to clearly understand the benefit of completing a survey.
  • Demographics: Some sections of the population are simply more likely to response to survey invitations than others.
  • Survey Distribution: If your audience consists mostly of digital natives, sending out links via social media will net you some good response rates. If you’re surveying retirees, you may want to choose an alternative distribution method.
Customer loyalty is a pretty basic concept. If someone only plays EVE for a couple of hours on the weekend, getting caught up in small changes in the game probably doesn't seem worth the effort. For those who play 3-4 hours a day, sending people to Reykjavik to make sure CCP doesn't mess up the game probably comes pretty high on the list of things to do.

The perceived benefit directly references how a player looks at the CSM. With 64 candidates on the ballot this year, one could spend 3-4 hours just trying to figure out who to vote for. If a player thinks the CSM is just a bunch of self-important nerds who are only running to win a trip to Iceland, the player probably won't take the time to vote. Of course, if the same player is handed a pre-made voting link and told that if he votes that way, he gets credit for participating in a PvP fleet, then the chances of voting go way up. Also, if CCP offers incentives for voting, as occurred in the CSM 10 election, that also raises participation.

Demographics is the major subject every year. Players in null sec vote, players in high sec don't. Players in wormholes and low sec vote when they get pissed off.

Survey distribution in my mind is just the ease with which one can vote. The voting through the launcher is kind of awkward, although better than in the past. Some people don't even look at the launcher when logging in, which depresses the participation rate. If CCP made voting easier, like putting the system inside the client, rates might improve.

The paragraph after the list of factors in the SurveyGizmo article applies directly to the CSM:
"An important participation incentive to survey respondents is that their opinions will be heard and that action will be taken based on their feedback. If respondents believe that participating in a survey will result in real improvements response rates may increase, as will the quality of the feedback."

The same holds true for the CSM. If players believe that picking quality candidates will result in improvements in the game, or at least prevent CCP from doing dumb things, then the participation rate in CSM elections will increase.

I know this post took an off-beat point-of-view of the CSM election process. I thought that perhaps looking at the process from a more business perspective in the form of market research might breathe some fresh life into an old, worn-out topic.

Monday, March 6, 2017

CSM 12: How To Vote And Starting Thoughts

The election for EVE Online's 12th Council of Stellar Management begins today and runs through the 26th. The single transferrable vote process used in the election is complicated, so CCP produced a video on how to vote.




The podcasters, streamers, and bloggers have worked hard to get as much information ready by today because most people vote in the first three days. However, the work does take a toll, at least for me. I've spent so much time trying to put everything together that I don't have a list of endorsements. I read every campaign post, every ballot statement, watched all of the Talking in Stations CSM conversations, and a lot of the content put out by the other podcasts.  But systematically comparing the candidates to each other? Nope.

This year, I am only convinced of one thing: Aryth from Goonswarm Federation will win a seat. Everything else is up in the air. The more votes that are cast, the greater the chaos that will ensue. Or perhaps turnout will once again only reach 22,000 and everything will come out as expected.

I'll probably vote sometime next week after I get a chance to think about things a little more. If anyone is looking for more information on the candidates, I'll suggest visiting my CSM Wire site. Until I figure out who I will vote for, the site has most of the information I've gathered on all 64 candidates.

Friday, March 3, 2017

CSM 12 Election Begins Monday

Monday begins the three week voting period for the 12th Council of Stellar Management. The CSM is a group of players elected by the player-base that gets access to sensitive development material and offers feedback that hopefully leads to good decisions.

According to the rules of the election, people can vote for up to 10 candidates to fill the 10 seats up for grabs. If a voter doesn't have 10 candidates in mind, voting for one is perfectly acceptable. Some will claim that not filling all slots is a waste. Don't listen to them.

But how does one choose a candidate? I created a Google site, CSM Wire, that lists a lot of information about the 64 candidates running this year. The site contains the candidates' ballot statements, EVE Online forum posts announcing their candidacies, and links to media events like podcast appearances and text interviews.

For those that don't want to go to the website, below are all of the podcasts and interviews I've found with content as of about midnight.  I know that EVE_NT will release more of their written interviews today and over the weekend. Also, the second set of Statecraft CSM Debates moderated by JEFFRAIDER will be broadcast on Sunday.



EVE MEDIA/FANSITES

Broadcasts From The Ninveah - Podcasts
Crossing Zebras - Podcasts
Declarations of War - Podcast  -  (Note: Jin'taan is a co-host of the podcast)
EVE Online Podcast (German Language) - Podcast
Talking in Stations - Soundcloud - YouTube - Twitch - 1500 Saturdays
The Mind Clash Podcast - Podcast  -  (Note: Kael Decadence is a co-host of the podcast)
The Open Comms Show - Twitch - 0200 Saturdays


Broadcasts From The Ninveah

Crossing Zebras:
Ashterothi - Interviews

JEFFRAIDER - Statecraft CSM Debates
Episode 34A - Sullen Decimus, Steve Ronuken, Carbon Alabel, Roedyn, Kalen Tsero
Episode 34B - Jonatan Reed, Noobman, Xenuria, White 0rchid, commander aze
Episode 34C - Suitonia, Killah Bee, rhiload Feron-drake, Dancul1001, Toxic Yaken


Declarations of War:

EVE Online Podcast:

Open Comms Show
February 10 - Sullen Decimus, Noobman, Roedyn, Suitonia

TiS Lounge CSM Series - Interviews
bardghost Isu - Soundcloud - YouTube
Bobmon - Soundcloud - YouTube
Capri Sun KraftFoods - Soundcloud - YouTube
Claevyan - Soundcloud - YouTube
commander aze - Soundcloud - YouTube
Djavin Novienta - Soundcloud - YouTube
Eduard Teach - Soundcloud - YouTube
Erika Mizune - Soundcloud - YouTube
Gecko Hareka - Soundcloud - YouTube
HiGive Gudhead - Soundcloud - YouTube
Jin'taan - Soundcloud - YouTube
Jonatan Reed - Soundcloud - YouTube
Jonn Duune - Soundcloud - YouTube
JTClone Ares - Soundcloud -  YouTube
Kalen Tsero - Soundcloud - YouTube
mikal Rotineque - Soundcloud - YouTube
rhiload Feron-drake - Soundcloud - YouTube
Roedyn - Soundcloud - YouTube
Scylus Black - Soundcloud - YouTube
Solidus Obscura - Soundcloud - YouTube
Toxic Yaken - Soundcloud - YouTube
Vincent Eneticum - Soundcloud - YouTube
White 0rchid - Soundcloud - YouTube

The following articles concerning individual candidates have been published.

Crossing Zebras - Cosmo's What You Missed This Week
December 25, 2016 - CapriSunKraftfoods, Erika Mizune, Borat Guereen, Jonn Duune, mikal Rotineque, Rapid Blue
January 9, 2017 - commander aze
January 22, 2017 - Killah Bee, Vince Draken, Arenthor Doran, Roedyn
January 30, 2017 - Suitonia, Dancul1001, Vic Jefferson, Toxic Yaken
February 5, 2017 - Jin'taan, Steve Ronuken, Xenuria, Ariel Rin, Leyanora Varkain, Terandria Starsong
CSM Candidates Roundup 6-12 February - Sort Dragon, The Judge, Sullen Decimus, Vince Draken, Kalbuir Skirate, Fawlty7, rhiload, Kael Decadence, White 0rchid, DJ-Thomas, JTClone Ares, Kalen Tsero, Scylus Black, Jonatan Reed, Lorelei Ierendi, Frezinviper, Djavin Novienta, Brianum, Vincent Eneticum, Lillik Eoner, Gecko Hareka, bardghost Isu, Claevyan
CSM Candidates Roundup 13-17 February - Noobman, Ncc 1709, Carbon Alabel, Stellan Crendraven, Quince Rin

EVE_NT Interviews