Friday, August 31, 2012

High Sec Station Nerf Incoming

Sometimes one can tell about the biases of a news site or blog by clicking on the hyper-links embedded in a story and reading the source material.  The latest case involves and an article on faction warfare. is owned and operated by people heavily invested in Eve Online's null sec warfare first and general player vs player combat second.  High sec in general and high sec carebears in particular are looked down upon.  I think this article, while I really enjoyed Endie's writing, shows that bias.

What shows the bias?  The fact that he did not discuss one of the biggest nuggets of news in CCP Ytterbium's post, the planned nerf of high sec stations.

  • A: Indeed we do. This topic brought quite an internal discussion, and while this most likely won't be part of a Factional Warfare iteration, we do want to have a look at reducing high-security stations effectiveness to make other areas of space more interesting. Some examples could be reducing refining rates, increasing ISK payment to install jobs. Nothing is set in stone as this is not planned for the immediate future however. Another good idea we noticed here was to tie high-security tax with the war performance of its related Factional Warfare Militia. So if, by example, the Caldari Militia are losing the war in Factional Warfare, all taxes in Caldari State high-security space could go up to support the war effort.
I have expected a move like this for quite some time, which is why I am currently making the adjustment to low sec life.  I should also add I do not expect to see this occur in the Winter expansion as CCP has bigger fish to fry, such as fixing faction warfare.

I would like to add that in this case bias is not really a bad term.  Endie's article focused on faction warfare, and as CCP Ytterbium stated in his post the high sec station nerf is not a part of any faction warfare revamp.  Keeping an article focused is actually a sign of a good writer.  Also, Endie is the managing editor (I hope I got the title right) of and he does have to think about future content. has posted 6 articles today so he might save the high sec news as weekend filler.

Still, passing over the news does show a bias in what considers important.  That's why clicking on the hyper-link is important.  In Eve, gather all the information possible.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abandoning High Sec Planetary Interaction

My intention to move to Eve Online's low security space became more serious last night as I decided to shut down my 15 planetary interaction colonies scattered throughout Minmatar and Ammatar high sec space.  That means spending a lot of time this weekend picking up the final products and dismantling the colonies I've worked for over a year now.  But I won't miss them.

When I began my involvement with the planetary interaction mini-game, the feature was new and a great way to pick up a nice chunk of ISK for relatively little risk and effort.  I still recommend PI as a way for a player addicted to losing frigates and cruisers in PvP to get the cash to buy replacement ships.  Or, as I did, to afford the materials to buy the materials to build myself tech 2 ships as well as the more expensive skill books and tech 2 modules off the market.

Planetary interaction is basically a puzzle game.  Even with the help of Eve University's planetary interaction guide the feature can provide hours and hours of entertainment first in trying to understand how it works and then figuring out what to build.  I was pretty happy for months just coming home from work and spending 15 minutes a night maintaining my colonies and taking my products to Rens once a week.  Good times.

But a few months ago I lost that desire to just go out, make ISK and collect ships.  I blame Fanfest.  While I'm still in my own personal corporation I realized on my pilgrimage to Reykjavik that Eve is more about what a player does with what he collects more than about the collecting itself.  While exploring low sec previously a goal for something I should do, after Fanfest spending time in low sec was something I wanted to do.

After Fanfest, planetary interaction was an anchor keeping me in high sec.  The money was too good to pass up as I built up a nest egg to cushion myself against the inevitable losses I will sustain by living in low sec.  But then a funny thing happened.  Riverini picked up The Nosy Gamer for syndication by Eve News 24 and a rather large infusion of ISK from writing came into my wallet.  I've spent a lot of money on mining barges, but I can afford to lose a few Procurers and even a combat ship or two now.

Last night the final piece fell into place for me.  Instead of doing my PI maintenance, I hopped into a Hound and a Procurer and started mining at a belt.  One feature of the Procurer I didn't realize before is that I can fill up the ore hold in less than 12 minutes.  So I can mine a low sec ore, fill up the cargo hold and feel like I accomplished something, like not losing my ship doing something foolhardy, in about the same time I took to take care of my PI colonies.  Then I hopped in a Cheetah, scanned down a magnetometric site and picked up about 10 million ISK in salvage materials.  The mining and running the site probably took about 30 minutes.  More importantly, I had a lot more fun than just clicking on and moving extractor heads.

So this weekend I probably won't spend that much time in low sec.  Instead I'll close up one more chapter in my Eve life so I can move on to the next.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WoW Is Not Dead Yet

Over the weekend a tidal wave called Guild Wars 2 hit the MMO scene and garnered great headlines.  Looking at the numbers from Xfire an MMO not made by Blizzard sat atop the rankings for the first time in years.  But does that mean that Guild Wars 2 is the fabled WoW killer?

Perhaps in the future, but not now.  Last weekend was the head-start weekend for those who pre-ordered the game and ArenaNet announced that they sold over 1 million copies before the launch date.  While impressive, that number is still dwarfed by the 9.1 million subscribers Activision Blizzard claimed on their latest earnings report.  So despite GW2 having more than 60% more time played by the Xfire community on Sunday than World of Warcraft, the Blizzard game is still the 800-pound gorilla in the room.  And with the release of Mists of Pandaria on 25 September, look for WoW to regain its position at the top of the Xfire charts as well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 28 August 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 August 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
1--Guild Wars 2 50.0 79,622--
21World of Warcraft30.748,913-1.6
32Star Wars: The Old Republic3.96,245-16.3
54Eve Online2.23,512-9.6
69Metin 22.13,306+31.3
75Lord of the Rings Online1.72,754-10.0
88APB: Reloaded1.62,574-1.2
910Need For Speed World1.32,056+7.5
1011Maple Story1.21,881-0.8
117The Secret World1.21,835-34.1
1212Star Trek Online1.01,558-12.8
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 189,576

Sunday saw the most time spent playing MMORPGs by the Xfire community since mid-April as Guild Wars 2 stormed past World of Warcraft and seized the number one spot in The Digital Dozen.   Overall players spent 62.9% more time playing MMORPGs than they did the previous Sunday.  The biggest losers of players (besides the original Guild Wars) in percentage terms were The Secret World (-34.1%), Star Wars: The Old Republic (-16.3%) and Star Trek Online (-12.8%).  Two games managed to buck the GW2 tidal wave: Metin 2 (+31.3%) recovering from a bad previous week and Need For Speed World (+7.5%).

Today is the Guild Wars 2 launch:   Despite the gaudy numbers, the scary thing for other game developers and publishers is that this weekend was just the early launch for those who pre-ordered GW2.  The official launch of the game is today.

Weathering the storm:  Guild Wars 2 vaulted over World of Warcraft, leaving Blizzard looking up at another MMORPG for the first time in years.  But don't blame Blizzard as they pulled out all the stops in order to retain their players including today's Mists of Pandaria pre-patch that will allow all players to play all races, even if they have not purchased the relevant expansion.  The Blizzard push worked as WoW only saw its playtime decrease by 1.6%.  But what about next weekend when everyone can play GW2?  That is the real test, at least until MoP comes out on 25 September.

A change in format:  This week I added a column to the table to show the percentage change in the number of hours played compared to the previous Sunday.  With all the developer vs developer action occurring this summer, having the ability to see at a glance what the effects are is an overdue change.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My First Gravimetric Site

I finished running the Wildfire level 4 epic arc on Saturday and shifted my focus back on low sec armed with a set of 10 RSS Core Scanner Probes.  Of course, one doesn't just run out and do something in low sec.  Okay, I don't just run out and do something in low sec.  I spent the evening buying equipment and moving stuff into a nice out-of-the-way station that I picked out a couple of months ago.

Sunday morning came along and I hopped into a Cheetah and did a little exploring.  Yesterday was the first time I used probes in low sec and for a few minutes I thought I was in over my head.  The system only had one signature that I barely picked up and even when I reduced the search radius down to .5 AU I still was only able to identify the signature as a gravimetric site and then only with a signal strength of 47%.  I was only using 5 probes and thought I would have to go back to the station and get more, if not purchase implants, but when I reduced the radius to .25 AU I received 100% strength.

The result was a pleasant surprise: an average spodumain, crokite and dark ochre site.  A surprise because I didn't think I'd find a site containing spodumain so I hadn't trained spodumain processing past I.  D'oh!

To explain the excitement over the find, here is a list of what is refined from each ore:
Spodumain (per 250 units refined)
Megacyte: 140
Pyerite: 410
Tritanium: 3190

Crokite (per 250 units refined)
Nocxium: 331
Tritanium: 331
Zydrine: 663

Dark Ochre (per 400 units refined)
Nocxium: 500
Tritanium: 250
Zydrine: 250
That's right, lots of high-end minerals.  The challenge was to mine all of the minerals without losing a ship.

In the end, I didn't really have much of a problem.  The Procurer has two advantages that outweigh the ship's low mining yield.  The first is that the ship is cheap and I don't think too many pilots want to go out of their way to kill one.  The second is that the tank I put on it was sufficient to stand up to the pounding from an NPC battleship.

I also had one additional advantage: I was also sitting in the site in a Hound.  I think two pilots thought about going after my mining barge.  One of them stayed in the system for what seemed ten minutes before leaving.  The other had actually launched Sisters' probes and I think found the site but then moved on. 

He was actually quite pleasant to talk to.  He came back a few hours later.  He saw the mining barge but I think he was a bit nervous about engaging since he didn't know where my second pilot was.  I think he went around to all of the stations looking but he told me he was watching me mine.  He also told me that I needed to be more careful because he could have killed me anytime he wanted.

I'm not so sure about that.  If he didn't come in stealthed, then I could see him enter grid and I'd be able to warp off.  Procurers are that agile, especially when I fit mine with agility rigs and Nanofiber Internal Structure IIs.  And if he did come in stealthed, then I had a bomber of my own on overwatch to at least scare him off and let me escape.  And if the torpedoes didn't get him, the Hobgoblin IIs would have let him know he was in a fight even if I lost.

But we didn't come to blows and I was able to peacefully mine.  Well peacefully when the Angel Cartel wasn't trying to kill me.  But they never ran me off.  Instead I managed to collect over 4.5 million ISK in bounties and an estimated 6.4 million ISK in drops.  No salvage, though.  I didn't put a salvage mod on my bomber.

How about the mining?  The quick little mining excursion turned into an all day event.  While the cost of the minerals I gained wasn't anything to brag about, I now have a nice cache of high end minerals to build items with.  If I'm going to move to low sec, I probably need to have the capability to make some things for myself without having to run to high sec all the time.  Like tech 1 ships and ammunition?  Definitely ammunition.

I should close with what I came away with from my mining efforts since the Evelopedia currently does not have a list of what ore is located in an average spodumain, crokite and dark ochre site.

One day's mining
The only item missing is the 249 units of crystalline crokite I mined since 250 units are required for mining.

I don't think I would ever mine out a gravimetric site solo again.  Next time I'll cherry-pick the rarer ones and leave the rest for other people.  But for a first effort, I'm pretty happy about how the whole day turned out.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another Reason To Mine In Low Sec

While doing the Wildfire level 4 epic arc I ran across another reason to do low sec mining: nocxium.  Ore containing nocxium is found in high sec, but only in regions controlled by the Amarr and Caldari and their associated vassals like the Ammatar.  Sure, pyroxeres only yields a trace amount of the valuable mineral, but as long as a pilot does not have to evade the faction police mining some is pretty risk-free.  My problem is that I'm a Minmatar pilot aiming to get the Tempest Fleet Issue blueprint copy from an agent, which requires getting my Minmatar faction standings up to 9.9.  Think I can avoid getting in trouble with the Amarr Navy while doing that?  Me neither.

Mining in low sec solves that problem.  Actually mining in low sec solves the foolishness of mining in high sec unless I'm really bored, but that's a different subject.  Minmatar low security space has a wonderful rock called hedbergite that yields 708 isogen, 354 nocxium, 290 pyerite and 32 zydrine per 500 units refined.  A lot better than the 11 units of nocxium that pyroxeres yields.  The zydrine come in handy because I've developed a fondness for torpedoes since I started ratting in a Hound.  I have a quirk going back to my EverQuest 2 days that I like to manufacture my own ammunition.  If I start purchasing a second set of ammunition blueprints for use in low sec I'll probably stay in low sec more.

I'm sure some people will say I'm foolish to mine in low sec.  Not profitable enough, I'm told.  But I'm not doing this for the money.  I just am curious to find out if living the live of the low sec carebear is actually possible given the current rules set.  If Sugar Kyle can run high sec incursions and Mabrick move to a wormhole, I surely can give low sec living a go.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Answering Comments On The War On Bots

Yesterday I received some good comments to my post, "CCP's War On Bots: Don't Get Cocky".  I thought I would go ahead and respond to a few of them.

Powers wrote:  "I am pretty sure they are getting banned due to virtual machine usage. That seems to be the common denominator from a lot of your summaries that you've posted."

One of the factors of getting banned is virtual machine usage and I am pretty sure that virtual machine usage flags an account for closer inspection, if not plays a major factor in the detection algorithm.  But other factors that all the botting forums seem to agree on is length of time spent logged in and how the bot acts while logged in.  CCP Stillman told the CSM at the Spring Summit that Team Security uses a combination of technical and behavioral detections when evaluating whether a player is a bot (p. 146).  That seems borne out by the stories I've read over the past year.

One item of interest is that I believe this commenter is the Powers that is a moderator over on  Will we see a in-depth look at botting and illicit RMT on in the near future?  I hope so because on Eve News 24 we only get to read syndicated blogs covering the subject.  I want to see a real high-quality piece written about botting and the illicit RMT trade.  As the explains:
"There are other news sites for Eve, too, but the level of quality tends to be awful.  With a few exceptions, articles tend to be scrawled in a patois only vaguely related to any written language known to man, while desperation for content means that badly-disguised sock-puppet pieces explaining the links between Test Alliance and the Knights Templar appear with alarming regularity.  Syndicated blogs tend to be of mixed quality at best, and bias is not just tolerated but celebrated."
Gevlon wrote:   "The 'sentiment among botters that if you bot you will eventually get caught.' worries me. It means that they know that they'll get banned but it still worth to them, assuming they can protect their main account. Simply the bot punishments are rather bot costs that one pays for profit. Botting won't stop until being caught = being utterly destroyed."

When I first started covering the War On Bots™ I considered calling the feature "The Shadow War".  I still may because that is what Team Security on one side and the bot developers and illicit RMT sites are waging: a war in the shadows.  I don't have figures to back this up, but I get the impression over the past year that the more casual users of bots have decided that botting is not worth risking the penalties that CCP Sreegs has imposed.  This means the opinions of the hardcore are more prevalent.

For those who don't know, Gevlon is the proprietor of The Greedy Goblin.  I'm not sure how goblinish his conclusion is that botting will not stop until being caught means being utterly destroyed.  I don't think wide-spread botting will truly disappear until two things occur.  The first is tht the illicit RMT shops conclude that selling ISK in Eve is not profitable.  Some sites, most notably IGE, have stopped selling ISK.  The second is when null sec alliances stop engaging in or encouraging botting.  I know of one botting forum that allows the advertisement of renting space in null sec to botters.  As long as alliances believe that botting can help them in their sov wars, I don't see the bots in null sec systems going away any time soon.

Anonymous wrote:  "nice writeup.  would be curious to see if the increase in bans of bots has any impact on economy yet?  Alas, with CCP holding numbers close to the chest I doubt we'll ever know :("

 I think this passage from the CSM Spring Summit notes may answer this question.
"Finally, prices began to fall when Burn Jita started, then stabilized during Hulkageddon.  Hulkageddon appears to have stopped a natural fall in prices by reducing supply, but at the same  time, between Escalation and Inferno, mining activity dropped in all sectors of space. The CSM had many theories to explain the changes in mining activity and prices.

"CCP Dr.EyjoG expressed his awareness of concerns about inflation, and that it might price T1 ships and components out of the reach of younger players. However, he noted that EVE is a sandbox game, and the systems are functioning, so for now he is just watching to see how things play out.

"CCP Dr.EyjoG : When you put it all together (game changes, wars, player events, banning of bots, etc.), you can say we had a perfect storm."  (pp 160-161)
Mabrick wrote:  "Thanks for the update! It's truly fascinating stuff to ponder.  As for your comment about CCP taking the low hanging fruit, there is another interpretation: CCP reduced the noise to signal ratio. By getting rid of the easy stuff, it makes more clear how the hard stuff is working. That's difficult to ascertain when you are sifting through reams and reams of 'intelligence.' Now with the easy stuff gone, what is left is bullion rather than gold dust if you follow the metaphor."

That comment makes a lot of sense.  I used the term "low hanging fruit" because that is what I read in the CSM Spring Summit minutes (p. 149).  I think we will see a lot more information revealed by CCP Stillman at Eve Vegas in October.

Anonymous wrote:  "I do not call this a success. These people are a few private botters, which do not cause any harm to the economy. The true damage is done by the large bot-networks using the ISK to RMT or finance empires such as SOLAR.  They stay under cover, even though EVERYONE in EVE knows what they are doing."

A few private botters?  Try hundreds, if not thousands of accounts over the past year.  According to the CSM Summit minutes, before Fanfest Team Security had been banning 1,400 accounts every ten days (p. 146).  Either CCP was going after the large alliances or there were more than just "a few" private botters.  Trust me, just from reading the botting forums there were more than just a few casual botters.

And isn't SOLAR a Russian alliance?  I thought the whole "Russians are the only botters in Eve" meme went out the window at Fanfest when it was disclosed that the largest amount of botting occurred in space controlled by the CFC.

I should add an explanation about the jab about the high quality of writing at  The level of writing really is pretty high.  But as I am one of those syndicated bloggers that appears on Eve News 24 from time to time, I just couldn't help returning fire just once.  I still do want to read a piece over on that site about botting.  I'd like to hear the null sec view of the subject.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CCP's War On Bots: Don't Get Cocky

"Great, kid.  Don't get cocky."
- Han Solo
Last Saturday’s CSM Town Hall meeting touched on many subjects important to the Eve community.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, security in general and the war on bots and the illicit ISK trade in particular was not one of them.  I can think of a lot of reasons that the CSM didn’t discuss security issues.  Perhaps CCP Sreegs is about to come out with a security blog giving everyone an update on events since the Spring Summit.  Maybe, unlike real world politicians, the CSM actually cares and understands about operational security and doesn’t want to give the bad guys any actionable intelligence.  Or perhaps the CSM looks at Team Security’s success so far and believes the War on Bots is essentially over and CCP won.

Browsing the botting forums I get the sense that the shock and awe of CCP Sreegs’ spring offensive has worn off as botters have figured out the behavioral parameters of Team Security’s detection algorithm.  Or maybe not.  Here are some recent forum posts.

5 August 12

LoPhatMelk (Eve Miner) - "Well that didn't take long... I've used this bot maybe a week to two weeks and already both accounts are banned. Pretty conservative use with safe boting practices, good thing I only paid for 1 month trial of this bot..."

markbt (Eve Miner) - "Also received today a ban, a new character, just two weeks. The bot worked 8 hours a day with three breaks ... Assets confiscated when a ban for macros? I had assets more than 15kkk ("

LoPhatMelk (Eve Miner) - "Yea I'm negative 220kk between my 2 accounts... which is BS because I know I didn't make that much when botting..."

10 August 12

Armadillo11 (Questor) - "Been banned on my 3 accounts for 14 days, only 1 was used for botting though.  Ran it for 12-23h (shouldn't have, i know..)."

15 August 12

Sollo (Eve Trader) - "This is about the 3rd time I've been banned. My first char was banned twice for macro use even though I use custom timers and delays. Custom log off times that i change daily with more than 10-12 hours of bot downtime. And I don't trade high volume items. Maybe items that sell 3 or 4 a day at the most on average. After the first char had been banned twice I created a new account new VM machine the works with even slower bot speed using all custom delays and timers and changing them daily. Lasted about a week before it received a ban."

Also, remember all the talk about how the mining ship changes that came out in Inferno 1.2 on 8 August were a boon to bots?  The changes caught at least one botter by surprise...

18-19 August 12

justaminer (Eve Miner) - "Wait, what? Did something happen that made Hulks worse than retrievers? I still mine using several clients in a fleet (all hulks, not using jetcans) and all hulks."

ComalDave (Eve Miner) - "Retrievers now have a large ore hold that takes 30 minutes to fill. Hulks have a small ore hold that takes 7 minutes to fill. The Retriever spends more time mining and less time travelling back and forth from the station. Mining vessels are no longer made out of tissue paper and tin foil so it is much safer to mine now."

justaminer (Eve Miner) - "How long has this been true for?"

meloncholy (Eve Miner) - "Almost 2 weeks ago."

I wonder how much money I would make if I could write a bot to read Eve patch notes for botters?  But the mining barge changes seem to be a big hit with the botting community.  Well, those that know about the changes anyway.

But while bot users are stumbling around making me laugh, bot developers are getting their acts together and fighting back.  With the use of VMWare flagging botters for attention, a new application, Red Guard, is becoming popular with some botters looking to protect their main account when CCP catches botting activity on other accounts.  Perhaps more importantly the bot devs have managed to obtain some of the code CCP is using to detect python injection.  One bot dev posted the code and suggested countermeasures on the Public Demands forums.  The post on the Public Demands led to this amusing exchange on the Questor forums:

9 August 12

Da_Teach (Questor dev) - "So far its only half-assed checks, but I'm sure that'll change."

aziz001 - "so for now better stop using Q or not? i know we are always in danger, but seems now we are more in danger than early?"

Da_Teach (Questor dev) - "Yes, you are all going to get banned, once your banned, CCP will call up your internet provider and get you disconnected and CCP will claim your first born baby."  

"Or, if your scared about getting banned, you shouldn't be botting in the first place..."

I wasn't aware that CCP Sreegs had changed the penalties for botting, but I often see the sentiment among botters that if you bot you will eventually get caught.  The other important piece of information from this exchange is that Team Security is now making efforts to go after bots using python injection and that one prominent bot developer expects that effort to become more sophisticated over time.

I think Team Security has finished picking the low-hanging fruit in the War on Bots™ and are now going after harder stuff.  The current efforts have generally suppressed bot use from 23 hours a day down to 8-10 with built-in breaks during that time.  Now CCP Sreegs' strategy appears to have moved onto detecting injection bots, a long time irritant to CCP.  Of course, that is harder to do and Team Security will suffer setbacks because bot developers will not just sit back and let CCP take their income stream from them.  But at least now we know the battle has commenced.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 21 August 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 19 August 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 58.0 49,698
22Star Wars: The Old Republic8.77,461
44Eve Online4.53,884
57Lord of the Rings Online3.63,061
610Guild Wars3.42,915
78The Secret World3.22,785
86APB: Reloaded3.02,606
95Metin 22.92,518
1011Need For Speed World2.21,912
119Maple Story2.21,897
1212Star Trek Online2.11,786
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 116,389

Last week was a bad week for playing MMORPGs in the Xfire community Sunday with the overall time playing games in the genre fell by 9.4% over the previous week.  Percentage wise the biggest gainers in time played were Guild Wars (+28.1%) and Aion (+9.9%).  In the games seeing losses World of Warcraft saw a bigger decrease in hours played (5,298) than any other MMORPG besides Star Wars: The Old Republic saw hours played.

The calm before the storm:  With Guild Wars 2 releasing on 28 August and Blizzard just announcing they are deploying the big pre-Mists of Pandaria patch on the same day, I wonder just how big an effect those two games will have on other games.  Was this week's drop just a long delayed summertime lull or are we seeing people drop their subs in favor of playing Guild Wars 2?

Another patch doesn't keep player interest:  One noticeable trend this summer is that a game releases a patch, players log in to check out the new content, then the next week all the players don't return.  Eve Online's saw all the gains seen last week wiped out as the CCP offering returned to the level of play seen on 5 August.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Preparing For Wildfire

"Two things I've learnt lately.  One -- don't get jammed.  And two... Stationary ships don't react well to fourteen hundreds."

- John Rourke, Clear Skies 2
This weekend I decided to play in high sec instead of exploring low sec.  But that doesn't mean I'm abandoning my goals in low sec.  That's because I worked on doing the Minmatar level 4 epic arc, Wildfire.  I mentioned in my goals for this year that the level 4 epic arc mission gave both a nice boost in Minmatar faction standings plus the RSS Core Scanner Probe, which has a greater scanning strength than the Sisters Core Scanner Probe but at the cost of having 1/4 the flight time.

Preparing to do Wildfire also gave me a chance to work on ship fittings, another goal I have for the year.  I like my fit for my command Hurricane but I've never liked what I came up with for my Maelstrom.  When I bought my first Maelstrom I came up with this fitting.

My first effort

I don't remember exactly how I came up with this fit.  I think I went to Scrapheap Challenge and tried to adapt an auto-cannon fit into a long-range artillery fit.  But a year-and-a-half later I've learned a lot more skills so I decided to do a little theory crafting and revamp the fit.  I came up with this fit.

My Wildfire Fit
I had a couple of criteria for this fit.  First, I wanted to fit 1400mm Howitzer Artillery IIs.  I've always wanted to use them ever since the first time I watched Clear Skies.  Next, I wanted to fire out to my maximum range using the close range ammunition.  I almost accomplished that with a maximum range of 92 km including falloff by fitting a Tracking Enhancer II.  I also wanted a much tougher buffer tank just in case anyone ever decided to gank me in high-sec.  I'm not sure why they would because the most bling I put on my ships is tech 2 fittings, but this is Eve.  I definitely accomplished that.  I don't have a cap booster but this ship is designed to fight from distance, with drones and the command Hurricane providing close-in anti-frigate and anti-cruiser support.  Using the afterburner to dictate distance from the heavy ships should allow me to just pulse my shield booster.

Because Wildfire leads players on a journey through the Minmatar Republic and Ammatar space, I decided to use my Orca as a mobile base.  If the ships don't fit in the ship maintenance hanger I'm not taking them.  So in addition to the Maelstrom which doesn't fit in an Orca, I'm taking the command Hurricane, my salvaging Thrasher, a cargo Probe and a Cheetah.  In other words, nothing I either don't have at least two of or a ship I can't afford to replace.  I'm leaving the Noctis behind which means salvaging will take a bit longer, but I'd rather do that than make multiple trips between systems shuttling ships back and forth.

Hopefully by this time next week I will have completed the mission chain and returned to low-sec.  I have a couple of new ideas I want to try out and maybe having those faction probes will help out a bit.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Space Noob Ate My Post

Last night I made the mistake of reading Mord Fiddle's latest post.  Why was reading Mord a mistake?  Because he introduced me to a blog called Diaries of a Space Noob.  I love reading and listening to new Eve players discuss their experiences.  Diaries of a Space Noob is a player's journal of playing Eve.  Not a pod pilot, but the actual player, including taking days off for real life events.

Diaries of a Space Noob is really good.  In some ways too good as I read all 61 posts last night.  He hooked me in with this passage from day 41.
"Back in the home system, chilling out and grinding some rock. There is another miner here and Rob reckons he is a bot. After Rob pokes him a bit with a battlecruiser I'm inclined to agree. The miner simply goes about his business. Either he is the coolest customer ever, or he is a bot. A bot is an automated player run by someone grinding out money in the game to sell on to other players outside it. They skew the economy and generally make things difficult for everyone else. There is a bit of chat in Local about it which Rob ignores and can flips the miner, dropping the loot as a free for all so he can claim it back. The miner ignores it. Bot. Soon after he this he warps out of system as the belt becomes crowded with us all having a look. Now I have to go look up on how to deal with bots. This is my system and no gold farming idiot is going to mess it up. It’s odd how it has become home. This is where I try to make it back to at the end of the day. This is where I’d rather be mining, despite some possibilities of greater rocks down in the neighbouring 0.5 system. Home. In space in a game? Weird."
So while I didn't really log in and play or write my planned post I did find another good blog.  He's good enough I added him to my Eve blogroll and I'm looking forward to reading his future adventures.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

CSM Town Hall Saturday And Security Questions

This Saturday, 18 August, the Council of Stellar Management will hold another town hall meeting at 1800 GMT on Eve Radio.  I've heard that Eve Radio will make a podcast available for download for those who can't listen live.  The podcast is also useful for people like bloggers to skip to the juicy parts and replay them to get quotes.

The CSM created a forum thread for people to put questions into.  I probably need to put my questions together and get them submitted.  But what to ask about?  The War on Bots™, of course!  So here are some questions I'd like answered.  Some of them the CSM may not have answers for but hopefully some of the information was given in CCP Sreegs' presentation.
  1. Why is fighting against botters and the illicit RMT trade important?
  2. Are the illicit RMT accounts that were banned mostly paid for with PLEX or cash?
  3. How big was the drop when accounts banned for botting could no longer transfer characters? (p. 146)
  4. Were the figures about RMT accounts in the minutes just subscriptions or did they include trial accounts? (p. 148)
  5. What is a disabled account? (p. 148)
  6. There is no six.
  7. Do those using injection bots receive permanent bans? (p. 149)
  8. How much effort does the CSM think CCP should put into making or retrofitting content to make writing botting code more difficult?
Okay, so this list is probably more appropriate for a Security dev blog.  But since the CSM received a briefing a couple of months ago, they might have some of the answers I'm looking for.  Now I just need to paste these into the forums.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Mittani's New Venture

"Mainly ’cause Mittens ain’t a bitter vet.  He is beyond that.  Dunno what ta call the ones who get that far but they are legends in their own minds.  Half of them don’t even bother piloting anymore.  They move and shake on an entirely other level than we poor immortals.  He is not playin' the same game we is, and that is what sometimes worries me."

The Mittani has led a storied career in Eve Online but I've always thought he was aiming for something higher.  Over the course of my seven years playing MMORPGs I witnessed many players, bloggers, podcasters and games journalists move toward their ultimate goal: a job with a studio in the games industry.  Observing The Mittani I always thought he desired the status of the godhood many give to developers without becoming absorbed by the collective that are studios like Blizzard, SOE and EA.  From being quoted by the BBC over his role in the disbanding of the Band of Brothers to becoming the first player to speak at GDC to a successful long-running column on Ten Ton Hammer The Mittani made his mark as one of the most famous, if not notorious, players in the MMO world.

What is next?  Media mogul.  I saw on Twitter that The Mittani is now working with a site called, believe it or not, The Mittani Dot Com.  The site promises to compete with Eve News 24.
"Welcome to your numbered, collector’s first edition of, a gaming site with a particular focus on Eve Online.  Our goal is to create a combination of news and commentary for you that is both up-to-date and insightful, and one which combines old-fashioned fact-checking with a broad range of contributors in order to provide an authoritative source of updates for Eve Online and everything that interests Eve Online players.  We have by far the largest team working on any Eve-related site - currently over twenty people both behind the scenes and producing content, and we hope that that breadth of talent will show in the quality of what you read."
The site looks slick and The Mittani and friends definitely have some good content up to lure readers in.  Will establish itself as the high-brow alternative to the tabloid Eve News 24? More importantly, will have a soul or will the site just become a soulless corporate type of place soaking up hits and ad revenue from Google Ads?  I hope the site is successful because I love the community of bloggers, podcasters, radio stations and newsites surrounding Eve.  Having competing news sites up and running before the influx of DUST players arrive would make the world feel more real and alive and perhaps help retain those players longer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 12 August 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 12 August 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 59.2 54,996
22Star Wars: The Old Republic8.37,693
45Eve Online4.84,432
56Metin 23.93,605
68APB: Reloaded3.22,955
77Lord of the Rings Online3.22,952
84The Secret World3.12,852
911Maple Story2.72,485
109Guild Wars2.42,276
1112Need For Speed World2.32,148
1210Star Trek Online2.01,827
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 128,495
The number of hours spent playing MMORPGs by the Xfire community stayed stable again this Sunday, only increasing by .4% over the previous week.  Big percentage gains by Maple Story (+18.7%), Eve Online (+14.4%) and APB: Reloaded were offset by a huge decline in play of The Secret World (-38.6%).

In The Shadow - Following Funcom's one-month celebration in The Secret World two weekends ago, the number of hours played declined by 38.6% this past Sunday.  Since 8 July, the amount of hours played has fallen by 52.5%.  I can't help but wonder if Star Wars: The Old Republic's announcement of going free-to-play has set expectations that The Secret World will soon go free-to-play as well.

Funcom came out with an investor release discussing their financial expectations for the game.  One player with a financial background came out with his own analysis of how the game is doing.  We will find out more with Funcom's next scheduled release of information on 28 August.
Carebears In Space -  Eve Online saw a 14.4% increase in hours played following the release of the Inferno 1.2 patch.  While Eve has a reputation as a cutthroat player vs. player game, Inferno patch 1.2 featured a revamp of the game's mining barges.  Will a patch aimed at carebears retain more long term interest than one aimed at combat?

Monday, August 13, 2012

First Mining Foray Into Low-Sec

After a busy two days following the release Inferno 1.2 on Wednesday, I finally logged into the game early Saturday morning Eve time to finally fly my first non-cloaky ship into low-sec since I was in Eve University.  With the changes to mining ships (now I guess just called barges) I really wanted to try my hand at mining in low-sec.  I don't like mining in high-sec even though that is where all the big money is for small operations like mine.  So add in the tension of sitting in a fairly defenseless ship waiting for someone to drop by for a visit and trying to avoid becoming another victim in someone's kill report and low-sec mining sounded like fun.

My ship of choice for this first effort was the Procurer.  Why the Procurer instead of the Skiff I was raving about a couple of weeks ago?  First, Gevlin from SpaceMonkey's Alliance left a comment that a nice cheap Procurer should suffice for mining in low-sec before giving some advice on to mine in a Skiff.  The second reason is the sharp increase in the cost of the new mining ships once the patch hit.  I bought mine early but still only bought one Skiff compared to two Procurers.  On the theory of fly what you can afford to lose I chose discretion over valor and smuggled a Procurer into low-sec.

Smuggling the ship in was easy.  The mining barges are 3,750 m3 packaged and fits in the small cargo hold of my Prowler.  Throw in the fittings and I made the trip to the sleepy out of the way system I scoped out a few weeks ago easily.  After fitting the ship I was ready to begin the operation.

Belt mining in low-sec involves more than just flying out to a belt and shooting rocks.  First, a security team needs to scout out the belt looking for pirates, either the NPC or human kind.  I didn't see any players in the belt so I just had to deal with the Angel Cartel.  Did I mention I don't like the Angel Cartel?  So while doing an activity I really don't like I got to kill Angels.  Cool!

My security "team" was Rosewalker in a Hound.  I'm getting better at ratting in belts so once killing the Angel battleship and accompanying frigate Wandering Rose flew into the belt and bookmarked a really good location inside the belt.  From there came the waiting game.  Where would the attacks come from?  I did pretty well in picking my system and except for a guy triple-boxing a Rifter/Incursus/Griffin gang I wasn't too worried about players once I spotted the operational patterns.  A lot of neutral pilots just flew on through without stopping.  The real presence thoughout the day was Nulli Secunda doing the faction warfare thing.  A Procurer wasn't worth wasting their time killing.

With players not interested in my little operation, I just needed to worry about the Angel Cartel.  They seemed to spawn every 10-15 minutes or so.  If only frigates showed up, I would unleash my flight of Hobgoblin Is, which did surprisingly well against one group of four frigates I fought once.  They were so busy trying to kill me they totally ignored the drones.  I guess someone forgot to tell the NPCs about the new specs on the mining ships.  If heavy ships showed up like battlecruisers and battleships I warped the Procurer back to the station and let the Hound take care of business.

That's right, I didn't stay mining the entire time.  In fact, one time when returning to the belt after delivering a load to the station three Angel battlecruisers spawned 40 km from my bookmark while I was in warp.  Thankfully Procurers are really agile and I landed and jumped back faster than they could lock me up.  My mining session ended when three battlecruisers and two frigates spawned.  Since the Cartel wanted the belt so badly I left the field to them.

I did learn a few lessons from my first day of mining in low-sec.  First, the only reason that low-sec mining will bring more money into my wallet than high-sec mining is that I hate high-sec mining.  For those concerned with maximizing yield, either stay in high-sec or move out to null.  The second is that the Procurer is a tough little ship.  If I had a flight of Hobgoblin IIs instead of the tech 1 variant I probably could have taken on cruisers and below.  I've corrected my lack of advanced Gallente drone skills and have the tech 2 drones in the station ready for the next time I go mining.  The third is that I need a ship with a salvager on-site to clean up all the wrecks.  I got some nice loot but salvage always helps.  I can probably fit a salvager on my Hound and then just on-line the module once I begin looting.

Will I take a Procurer out again?  Why not?  The whole process was more engaging and I wound up with a log of minerals I can't get out of Minmatar high-sec.   I probably won't mine at a belt again which means I need to brush up on my exploration skills and perhaps even buy some better equipment.  Is now the time I can justify purchasing a Loki?  I definitely need to start researching what types of defenses I will find in gravimetric sites.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pondering The Penalties

I just had a thought after sleeping on what I read on the botting forums and reading the comments left by the developer of the Red Guard software that attempts to protect unscrupulous holders of Eve accounts from hardware detection.  What is the penalty for using that type of software?  Yesterday I quoted a user of the Eve Pilot bot who stated that he was going to use Red Guard and hoped it did not result in a permanent ban.

I went to the Eve Online community site and looked up the posted "Suspension and Ban Policy" page and found this:

An immediate permanent ban of an account may result from attempting to or successfully:
    a. Interfering with the performance of the EVE Online servers or web site.
  • b.Defrauding another player of his account through use of misinformation or impersonating an EVE Online official. NOTE: No employee of CCP or one of its authorized representatives will ever ask for your password. Should someone claiming to be a CCP associate request your password, don’t give it. Instead, notify the support team immediately by sending an in-game petition or by using the “Ask a question” form on our support website.  Please retain all related documentation in the event it is needed during a possible investigation.
  • c. Deciphering, hacking into or interfering with any transmissions to or from the EVE Online servers or web site.
  • d. Engaging in any activity that increases the difficulty and/or expense of CCP in maintaining the EVE Online client, server, web site or other services.
  • e. Obtaining unauthorized access to another’s EVE Online account or account information
Okay, spoofing the hardware signature falls under the permanent ban category.   I also read some concern on the Questor forums about the EULA.  Especially Section 7D:
"You agree that CCP may remotely monitor your Game hardware solely for the purpose of establishing whether in playing the Game and accessing the System you are using software created or approved by CCP, or whether you are using unauthorized software created by you or a third party in contravention of Section 6."
So when Eve players log into the game, they give CCP Sreegs and Team Security free reign to search if certain programs used by botters are running.  Interesting.

I know that a lot of Eve players don't like the fact that CCP Sreegs believes in only handing out 14 day bans to first time botters.  But if those first time botters are using the wrong type of software, those bans may turn out to be permanent.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CCP's War On Bots: Hardware Bans

"Two Step stated that he’s pretty sure he’s heard of CCP recording a digital fingerprint of each computer, from botting forums."

CSM Spring 2012 Summit Minutes, p. 148

I was looking for some tears from botters over the changes to mining ships when I found something much more interesting over on the Eve Pilot/Eve Miner forums:

6 August 2012

LoPhatMelk:  "I'm trying to setup a new trial account after ban, so far all I get is waiting for account to be verified. I think there is some type of mini ban happening as soon as I log in. I have tried changing my system HW ID (not MAC), no luck there. I'm attempting to reload eve after wiping the install dirs. The only thing I found that slightly worked was when I created a new account and started up a fresh VMware guest of Win7. which had a fresh install of EO worked... Until I loaded that account up onto my reg system then it got the flag also. Any help you guys can give on how to get a trial account up and running with active ban would be appreciated."

Slav2 (Eve Pilot developer):  "Never heard that CCP start to ban accounts by hardware besides if you spam about ISKS sales in game or have connection to RMT accounts ... 

"p.s. One of my trial accounts was banned as soon as I created first character because I used shared (first found in google) VPN. Not every VPN is good, if you share VPN with other botters or ISK spammers this will make you banned very soon ... Frequent change of external IP will lead to ban also."

LoPhatMelk:  "Thank you very much for the info Slav2. Yes after more testing it seems they are infact mini-banning by eve fingerprint. I have no idea if this will ever get lifted after ban is off or not. Hopefully RG does not get me perma banned, I wanted to try to use a trial account to regain some money while I wait for the 2 weeks to go by."

I don't know how much of a secret this is, but Two Step was correct about the digital fingerprinting.  Slav2 documented the information that is uploaded by the Eve client when players log in and I have a copy of the list sitting on my laptop.  Looking at the list I see information about Eve client settings as well as hardware and operating system settings.  The information is consistent with what is in the EULA:
Section 9D - CCP may from time to time update or otherwise modify the Software electronically. You hereby grant CCP permission to: (i) extract hardware system profile data from your computer; (ii) extract information from your computer's file directories pertaining to the Game and your ability to access the System; (iii) download to your computer content and Game files and any data related to the operation of the Game. The foregoing applies to any computer from which you log into the System using your Account. [emphasis mine]
What is useful in debugging problems and allowing CCP to know what platforms to support also has the capability to identify people logging into Eve.  In this case, CCP Sreegs has had a smart programmer put into place a system that will automatically prevent someone with an active ban from creating another account. 

Of course, the botters have come up with a workaround, but I feel uncomfortable posting it since the detection system is used to keep more than botters and the illicit RMT crowd from entering Eve.  While the people I customarily write about know this information, I expect someone who was banned for griefing in Eve may not know the solution.  And if someone acts badly enough in Eve to get banned, I definitely don't want to help that person sneak back into the game.

I don't know how long ago CCP Sreegs put this system into place, but I like the fact someone can't just create a new account while doing their time for a botting ban.  The more botters are inconvenienced the more likely they hopefully are to stop and change their ways.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Three Years In Eve

Today marks the 3-year anniversary of the day I started playing Eve Online.  Time to look back at the past year's events and set new goals for the upcoming year.  While Fanfest was great for reviving my interest in the game, these anniversaries help me focus on what I would like to do for the following year.

So what have I accomplished over the last year?  In game, not much of interest, really.  Besides chasing or abandoning the goals I set last year, I just flew around and admired the sights.  In what is becoming a tradition, I lost my most expensive combat ship at Christmas again but when I looked back on the events I saw the random number generator was kind to me and generated an interesting PvE storyline.  Weird, right?

Most of the really interesting things that happened occurred out of the game.  The events started when I made the pilgrimage to Reykjavik and attended Fanfest in March.  What an experience!  Iceland is a beautiful country and as an English speaker I felt comfortable running around town.  The event itself was great and made even more memorable when CCP Sreegs mentioned The Nosy Gamer in the Security presentation.  I met a lot of people and found out second hand about life in null sec.  I know that the Alliance panel will probably leave a negative impression in many minds, but DNSBlack is a really good guy and I can see why people want to fly in Dirt Nap Squad.  And The Mittani, as I found out on the pub crawl with the devs, isn't a ~horrible~ person when he doesn't have his evil space despot hat on.  After Fanfest I'm convinced that The Mittani is the greatest role player in Eve.

The Nosy Gamer itself became part of my Eve game play following Fanfest after CCP Sreegs pointed to the blog in a forum post answering those requesting botter tears.  Following that I actually made the Eve Blog Pack, the feed at the Eve Online Bloggers Portal and syndication on Eve News 24.  I think I did have an impact on the discussion sometimes, especially with my coverage of the troubles botters had after the introduction of the unified inventory system.  The nice stack of ISK I've made in the arrangement with EN24 isn't too bad either.

So how did I do with the goals I set last August?

Cool ships:  I was doing pretty well in my goal to obtain every Minmatar sub-capital ship except for the Panther and the faction ships until Crucible.  Once the Tornado was introduced, I lost the interest in collecting ships.  I just don't like the new tier 3 battlecruiser and having such an expensive ship just sitting in a hanger just killed the thrill.  I'd rather buy a Scythe Fleet Issue.  Needless to say, I failed with this goal, especially since I took the money I was going to use to purchase a Tempest and started buying mining ships in anticipation of Inferno 1.2.

Manufacturing:  Another area I had mixed success.  I succeeded in setting up the infrastructure to start doing tech 2 manufacturing but then OTEC happened and tech 2 industry became unviable in high-sec.  I did do a lot of material research on blueprints, including all of the tech 1 Minmatar frigates and cruisers.  I also completed setting up my datacore mining operation, which of course was nerfed in Inferno.  I wound up doing a lot of preparation work but didn't put anything on the market.  Some would call that a failure.  I'm calling it an investment in the future.

Wandering Rose:  When I set my training goals for Wandering Rose last year I wondered if my goals were too ambitious.  The answer was yes.  The first goal was to get her Elite Core Competency certificate.  I have one more skill to learn and I'll have the goal complete by the end of the month.  The second goal of learning leadership skills so she can fly command ships is complete.  I only learned the advanced leadership skills to IV so I cannot use tech 2 gang links or mind links, but I reached my goals for the year.  The final goal was to improve her industrial and trade skills.  That I accomplished, although I didn't complete the qualifications for all the Minmatar starter profession certificates to elite.  I just had more important things to learn than Marketing V. 

Get out of my comfort zone:  Given the way Eve is developing, I'd like to bring this quote from last year's post back.
"I've gotten really comfortable in Heimatar and Metropolis.  I don't need to leave the Minmatar Republic, but I probably need to spend more time in low-sec.  The way the game is developing high-sec is going to receive a series of nerfs over the next year and I need to get over my fear of space where people shoot at you."
I felt that way about CCP's vision for the game back then and I feel that way today.   But I'm starting to get sidetracked into a discussion of the future and this section is about the past.

I've definitely spent a lot of time in low-sec over the past few months and even uncloaked and shot at rats in belts.  However, I still haven't flown around in ships that can't cloak.  And I failed to go into wormhole space.  But I think I succeeded in getting out of my comfort zone.

Role play:  Total fail!  I didn't even try.

The Year Ahead

Most of my goals for the next 12 months will all fall under one overarching theme: move out of high-sec.  Currently my plan is to establish myself in low-sec, but I don't want to rule out the possibility of moving to 0.0 or w-space if the right opportunity presents itself.  To accomplish this I play on doing the following:

Ships:  I really need to get a strategic cruiser.  I will definitely pick up a Loki in the next few weeks.   For Wandering Rose she'll start learning Gallente skills so she can fly a Viator.  While I love the Prowler (the true "I Win" button in Eve), I'll need a blockade runner with the capability to transport packaged cruisers.  This is a change in focus from previous years when I was just collecting ships.  Now I want ships that will serve a purpose.

I have a ship goal not related to moving out of high-sec.  I want to learn how to fit my ships better.  As part of the goal I'll take all of the Minmatar combat ships I own, fit them and then run a couple of missions or maybe exploration sites to see how they perform.  I might even post the fits so people can laugh at them offer some constructive criticism.

Skills:  I need to learn more support skills.  In addition to the general defense and electronic warfare skills I need to learn the exploration skills like Archaelogy, Hacking, Salvaging and all of the Astrometric skills to V.  I have the training queue already set through December 2013 so this goal should be safe barring a disaster like getting podded after forgetting to update my clone.

Industry:  I think I have done enough researching of blueprints that I can finally begin the manufacturing plan I originally wanted to implement a few months ago.  The plan won't be that profitable, but hopefully will pay for expanding my collection of blueprints.  Also, I might try building and selling in low-sec.  The revamped mining ships will help as I won't need to transport raw materials through low-sec gate camps.  Also, while others will say I'm stupid for ignoring the opportunity costs, having the ability to acquire most of my own raw materials will help shield against price fluctuations on the market.  Besides, this is Eve.  Always have a plan B.

I am also on track to complete a two-year goal I set for myself last year to aquire the blueprint copies for and manufacture the Republic Fleet Firetail, Stabber Fleet Issue and Tempest Fleet Issue.  I want to acquire the blueprints from the agent so I need to continue grinding Minmatar faction standings.  Currently I am up to 8.3, almost enough to obtain the Firetail bpc.

Exploration:  I will get serious about exploration this year.  I have the skills in the queue and almost have the money to buy the Loki and maintain a sufficient cash reserve.  I will also look into implants.  The new mining ships will help give me additional incentive to do so.  I also will look into running missions for the Sisters of EVE.  My standings with the Sisters are now over 5 which means I can do level 4 missions.  While grinding the LP might mean an extended stay in high-sec, the scanning gear is worth it.  Oh, and the Minmatar level 4 epic arc gives some nice scanning probes at the end in addition to a nice bounce in standings.

Blitzing missions:  I need to learn how to blitz missions.  I know that should be easy, especially with the use of EVE-Survival, but I never assume that a skill is easily picked up.  I've heard several null-sec veterans say they have trouble with missions.  I have the same problem when I don't run combat missions for a couple of months.

Too much?  Last year I set a lot of goals and knew that I wouldn't accomplish all of them.  This year I think I've scaled back and made my goals more focused.  One thing I'm sure of is that I'll have a memorable 12 months to write about next August.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 7 August 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 5 August 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 58.6 55,316
22Star Wars: The Old Republic8.58,025
44The Secret World4.94,642
54Eve Online4.13,873
66Metin 23.73,395
77Lord of the Rings Online3.02,853
88APB: Reloaded2.82,604
99Guild Wars2.42,291
1011Star Trek Online2.22,105
1112Maple Story2.22,093
1210Need For Speed World2.22,080
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 128,046
Last Sunday showed an unusual level of constancy in the amount of hours spent playing MMORPGs by the Xfire community with only a drop of 37 hours played over the previous Sunday.  The big gainer percentage-wise was The Secret World which saw its one-month anniversary attract 9% more playtime.  Sunday was a bad day for driving games as Need For Speed World (-13%) and APB: Reloaded (-11.7%) led the way for the losers.

How To Pay:  With many in the gaming media and blogs shouting how EA/Bioware's decision to turn Star Wars: The Old Republic into a free-to-play game I thought I'd list the payment methods for each of the games in The Digital Dozen to see which finanical models are most popular.
  1. World of Warcraft:  Box/Digital sales + monthly subscription.
  2. Star Wars: The Old Republic:  Box/Digital sales + month subscription until November, then box/digital sale + hybrid model (subscription optional)
  3. Aion:  Free-to-play + cash shop
  4. The Secret World:  Box/Digital sales + monthly subscription
  5. Eve Online:  Digital sales + monthly subscription (payable with in-game currency)
  6. Metin 2:  Free-to-play + cash shop
  7. Lord of the Rings Online:   Free-to-play + hybrid model (subscription optional + cash shop)
  8. APB: Reloaded:  Free-to-play + cash shop
  9. Guild Wars:  Box/Digital sales + cash shop
  10. Star Trek Online:  Free-to-play + hybrid model (subscription optional + cash shop)
  11. Maple Story:  Free-to-play + cash shop
  12. Need For Speed World:  Free-to-play + cash shop

Monday, August 6, 2012

CSM's Security Briefing From The Spring 2012 Summit

Often news concerning CCP's shadow war with botters and those involved in the illicit RMT trade takes weeks if not months to reach the outside world.  The information provided to CSM 7 at the CSM Spring Summit held 31 May - 1 June has taken two months to emerge.  While others can debate the reasons why the CSM minutes took so long to produce and approve, I'm more interested in what the minutes tell us about the progress of the conflict from CCP's perspective.

Before I continue, please remember that the information is two months old and that any figures that were presented to the CSM probably covered the period 26 February 2012 to 30 May 2012.

The goals of CCP Sreegs' strategy remain the same as he stated at Fanfest last year.  For those engaged in the illicit RMT trade and selling botting software he wants to make the business unprofitable.  For Eve players who bot or purchase illicit ISK, the goal is to convince them to stop and switch to legitimate means.  CCP saw success in changing player behavior by preventing players from transferring characters on accounts caught botting and seizing any illicitly obtained ISK.

The methods used to detect bots are, quite rightly, a closely held secret, however CCP Stillman revealed that the detection system uses a combination of behavioral and technical detections.  CCP Sreegs also revealed that information submitted using the "Report Bot" button is fed directly into the automated detection system.  Botters have wondered exactly how the detection system works and many are convinced that CCP has no automated detection system and just depend on other players using the "Report Bot" feature.  Apparently both camps in the debate are at least partially correct.

So how effective is CCP Sreegs' strategy and Team Security's efforts?  On the botting front, the automatic detection system was spotting 1,400 accounts every ten days.  In the weeks leading up to the Summit, that number was down to less than 10 accounts every ten days.  If anyone wants to know why I haven't posted more botting tears lately, that is the reason. 

On the illicit RMT front, the numbers sound impressive.  From the beginning of the anti-RMT push in mid-March to the Summit, 1705 accounts were banned for illicit RMT activities.  Of those, 1,354 accounts were less than a year old, indicating that many of the accounts were recently created.  The 192 accounts 500 days or older banned probably included many players trying to cash out of Eve.

The sheer amount of ISK and assets seized from the illicit RMT operations was breathtaking.   A total of 1.1 trillion ISK is cash and 4 trillion ISK in assets were seized in the space of about 2 months.  At the average sale price in Jita on 31 May, that comes out to be 10,808 PLEX, or over $189,000.  That would definitely help explain the rise in the price of illicit ISK in May.

The numbers concerning ISK buyers were a bit confusing, but I think broke out like this.  Of the 767 accounts caught purchasing ISK, 208 went on to purchase a total of 1621 PLEX legitimately after their illicit ISK was confiscated.  That is over $28,000 worth of PLEX.  Of the accounts, 63 cancelled their subscriptions while 330 accounts still have an ISK amount in the red.  I haven't figured out what a "disabled account" is, but 191 of the accounts caught are disabled.

Of course, given the havoc that the unified inventory change wrecked on bots and some bots were still not fixed by the time the summit began, the question came up about making it impossible to create a bot that would work in the game.  CCP Sreegs replied, "If our goal was eradication of the capacity for someone to automate process, then we will fail, it’s a waste of our time and someone is always going to do it."  While I would like to see CCP make bot developers work harder, history in the MMO industry suggests that CCP Sreegs is correct.  The most famous example of a developer who continued to try to make a game resistant to bots that I know of is Jagex with Runescape.  They kept trying, and failing, to break bots and in October 2011 wound up banning over 7.7 million accounts, 1.5 million of them in a single day.

CCP Sreegs also addressed that authenticators are coming soon, but CCP still needs to work on issues surrounding email verification.  Anti-hacking improvements, mainly concerning the client with process injection is still an issue on CCP's agenda as well, which is another item in the fight against botting.

I should add that some of the CSM members had their own concerns about illicit RMT.  UAxDEATH asked about tracking transactions for currency other than ISK that occur at out of game websites and trying to track down those renting 0.0 systems for real money.  Greene Lee brought up the issue of selling characters for real money.  Two step brought up the point that the New Player Experience should warn people not to buy ISK, at least from anyone but CCP.

For many of the concerns CCP Sreegs had to disappoint the CSM:
"CCP Sreegs says they haven’t really gone after character selling yet, but it is something they’re aware of. If they stumble across a business that also sells characters they’ll ban those characters. He goes on to say that they’re aware of most issues, but he doesn’t have the time to do everything that he wants to. While he’d love to go after people renting systems for real money and selling characters for real money, he just doesn’t have the time currently. Maybe in the future though." (p. 150)
So while Team Security has made a lot of progress this year, they still have a lot to do.  I hope no one told CCP Sreegs this was going to be easy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Procurer's Have A Beautiful Hull

If CCP is looking to attract more miners with the upcoming mining ship changes, they have succeeded with me, at least for a few weeks.  I'm falling in love with the new Skiff, and the Procurer isn't too bad either.  If you are looking for an intelligent discussion on the new mining changes, check out Mabrick's post on how he would change mining ships or listen to Voices from the Void #51 that features CSM 7 Chairman Seleene and Space Monkey Alliance's Gevlin.  For myself, I'm looking for a little excitement.

Excitement while mining?  Yes, because I've found that low-sec makes anything more fun, or at least more nerve-wracking.  I wouldn't want to take the existing mining barges into low-sec because they are too slow and clumsy.  I'm a Minmatar pilot and my ships must have three things: speed, agility, and duct tape.  While ORE builds their ships too well to require duct tape, the Procurer hull brings lots of speed and agility.

I love the Skiff, at least in theory.

My low sec choice for mining

1 x Modulated Strip Miner II

2 x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
1 x Medium Shield Extender II
1 x Upgraded 1MN Microwarpdrive I
1 x Survey Scanner II

1 x Damage Control II
1 x Nanofiber Internal Structure II

1 x Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
1 x Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
With the skills on my industrial pilot this fit gives me a ship I'm looking forward to taking into low-sec to do a little mining.  I haven't figured out the math on how to calculate align times, but aligning and warping off is really quick.  And a 70,000 EHP tank should save me from rats if I mine in a belt.  I have a microwarpdrive because in low-sec getting in range of asteroids quickly is important.  The survey scanner I think is a must have because with a 200% boost to the strip miner an asteroid that normally would take 15 minutes to deplete now takes less than 6.  Keeping track of the size of asteroids is almost as important as keeping track of local and the directional scanner.  Sitting in a low-sec belt for 90 seconds mining a depleted asteroid is, to use a technical term, a bad thing.

The Procurer doesn't look too bad either, especially for a cheap T1 mining barge.

A Procurer is not bad either

1 x Modulated Strip Miner II

1 x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
1 x Medium Shield Extender II
1 x Upgraded 1MN Microwarpdrive I
1 x Survey Scanner II

1 x Damage Control II
1 x Nanofiber Internal Structure II

1 x Medium Low Friction Nozzle Joints I
1 x Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
1 x Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
The Procurer has one less mid-slot but one additional rig slot than the Skiff.  I sacrificed tank for agility so I could escape faster in case unexpected visitors drop by.  Even so I have a respectable 46,000 EHP tank to go along with a 15,000 m3 ore hold.  For my crazy plan to mine in low-sec, the smaller drone bay makes choices harder.  With the Skiff's 50 m3 I can carry a full flight of light combat drones along with a full flight of ECM drones.  What do I do with the Procurer?

I have already purchased one Skiff and two Procurers and am just waiting for the changes to arrive on Tranquility.  In the meantime, I'm training up my defense and navigation skills because I can still make the statistics on the fittings I've shown a lot better.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Disappointed EA Turns Star Wars: The Old Republic Free To Play

"We couldn’t be more pleased with how the diversity of our business allows us to make up for a miss on one franchise with a big hit on another."

- Frank Gibeau, President - EA Labels, Q1 2013 Earnings Conference Call
Electronic Arts held its earnings call for the first quarter of FY 2013 yesterday.  The call explains why Star Wars: The Old Republic is going free-to-play.  The news was not all bad, as EA announced that SW:TOR drove subscriptions, advertising, and other digital revenue up by 69% compared to Q1 2012.  Just about everything else concerning SW:TOR was bad, though.

Of course, everything is not rosy for Electronic Arts as a whole.  Here is how EA's CEO John Riccitiello started off his portion of the presentation to investors:
"EA delivered a solid performance in our first FY13 period, hitting EPS guidance for the quarter.  The EPS loss of $0.41 cents was at the high-end of our guidance and a penny ahead of the  Street consensus. The quarter was marked by a series of puts and takes that reflected the strength and diversity of our business across multiple brands, channels, business models and geographies.

"The disappointing results of Star Wars: The Old Republic were largely offset by a powerful performance from Battlefield 3 Premium service – although revenue-recognition rules will push this very significant EPS driver into our fourth quarter." (p. 2)
Losing 41 cents a share is good?  EA really needed SW:TOR to come through for them.  The results instead were "disappointing".  If I read the numbers right, Ken Barker, EA's Chief Accounting Officer, indicated that SW:TOR is expected to bring into EA's coffers about $55 million less in FY 2013 than originally expected (p. 5). 

Frank Gibeau, quoted at the beginning of the post, spelled out the future of SW:TOR to the investors on the call:
"Although it launched well, subscriptions have been on a declining trajectory and have now slipped below one million. Last year we announced that the breakeven point was roughly 500,000 subscribers. And while we are well above that today, that’s not good enough. The message from players exiting the game is clear – 40 percent say they were turned off by the monthly subscription. And many indicated they would come back if we offered a free-to-play model.

"Our plan now is to pivot and provide a two-tiered pricing plan which will make the game more accessible and grow the audience. The new pricing will go into effect in November.

"The first tier is a Premium Players membership for Star Wars fans who want everything the game has to offer. For $15 a month, Premium Players will receive comprehensive access to the game plus monthly infusions of in-game currency which can be used for boosts, customization and for moving more quickly through each level.

"The second tier is a free-to-play option which allows consumers to experience the first 50 levels at no charge, but with some restrictions on content and advanced player features. Upgrades to the experience can be purchased with in-game currency. Players will move at their own speed and comfort level. If and when they’re ready, they can easily switch to the Premium tier.

"Additionally, we are introducing new pricing next week in North America and Europe. Beginning August 6, Star Wars: The Old Republic will retail for $14.99 – essentially offering the first month free." (p. 7)
Outside of the call we discovered the name of SW:TOR's new executive producer.  The original executive producer, Rich Vogel, left the company on 17 July.  In the Executive Producer's letter to the players on the official forums, we learned his replacement is Jeff Hickman, the original producer for Warhammer Online.

I looked at the options chart between subscribers and free-to-play and I wasn't that impressed.  The first person who responded to the Executive Producer's letter may have said it best:
"F2P till level 50?.  Congrats you've just killed swtor."
SW:TOR is a game that was designed for a player to solo to 50 and enjoy the leveling experience.  Unless EA does something odious like only allow speeders to those who subscribe, I don't really see anyone needing to pay.  Of course, I did subscribe to the game so I'll be getting some of the new cash coins if I ever go back.  Going F2P is an enticement and I did like the stories.  But I just get the feeling that EA will be one of the few companies to screw up the transition to F2P.