Thursday, April 30, 2015

Training To Fly A Stratios

I admit I'm a bit strange. When I mined in low sec, I did so in a Procurer and with neutrals in system. I fly in fleets hunting down war targets armed only with festival launchers and ECM.  I like the hacking mini-game. So when I say I want to train to fly a Stratios, I'm referring to what skills to inject into the queue.

I'm not saying that I am not lacking skills. Currently I'm training for tech 2 heavy and sentry drones. As more proof I'm a strange EVE player, I've never used sentry drones. Never. I've always flown either shield-tanked Minmatar or shield-tanked ORE ships. While Procurers rely on drones, the drone bandwidth pretty much limits the ship to using light drones.

Now, see my problem? The Stratios is an armor-tanked drone boat that ideally uses lasers. I, on the other hand, have always flown shield-tanked, Minmatar ships fitting either projectile weapons or missiles. Drones were something I used to handle NPC frigates and cruisers while I concentrated my main weapons on bigger ships. I may have the skills to fly a Stratios effectively against NPCs, but I don't have the experience I'd really like when flying such an expensive ship.

So, if I want to spend a few days getting used to armor tanking in a cruiser, what should I use? I came up with three possibilities: Vexor, Omen, or Arbitrator.

The Vexor seems like a good ship to learn how to use drones. The drone bandwidth is a bit smaller than the Stratios', but like the Sisters cruiser has 4 turrent hardpoints. Both ships also have 10% per level drone bonuses. One other factor in favor of using the Vexor is that the SoE ships share the same armor resist profiles as Gallente ships. I could probably learn a lot about using different types of drones, but I also want to learn about cap use.

The Omen, on the other hand, looks like a nice, sturdy ship. Capable of fitting 5 turret slots, the Amarr cruiser lacks the drone bonuses of the Vexor. But, I would learn armor tanking in a laser ship, something I possibly did running an Amarr character through the old tutorial. Maybe. I probably need to practice that.

The most intriguing possibility is the Arbitrator. Yes, I know, the ship is an electronics warfare cruiser, but that never stopped me from running low sec sites in a Bellicose.  The ship receives the same drone bonuses as the Stratios, but with 2 less turrets. The Arbitrator doesn't receive armor bonuses like the Sisters cruiser, but doesn't have that huge Gallente explosive armor resistance hole either. One big disadvantage that the Arbitrator has is that its drone bandwidth is half that of the Stratios.

What to choose? The Vexor seems like the strongest choice, especially if I decide to take a hit to my cargo capacity and fit autocannons or artillery to the Stratios instead of lasers. That seems to cut against the design of the ship as a self-sufficient long rage exploration ship, however. The other choice is the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator may seem sub-optimal, but if I can handle running level 2 missions and sites in an Arbitrator, I shouldn't have a problem flying a Stratios, right?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Sleepy Patch Day

Yesterday CCP released the Mosaic patch for EVE Online. As is usually the case, I didn't really have an eventful time as I spent my time playing in the desolate reaches of Great Wildlands. But I do have to say I noticed some of the features.

The first thing I did after downloading the patch, as regular readers may have guessed, is put two-factor authentication on all my accounts. For me, after my experience both Wildstar and Guild Wars 2, sticking Google Authenticator onto the accounts is a no-brainer. In Wildstar, Carbine didn't institute two-factor authentication until the actual launch date, not at the beginning of early access. When I discovered that 2FA was an option, I just played that day and planned to download and use Google Authenticator the next day. Big mistake, because before I could log on again, my account was hacked.

In GW2, I used email as a second layer of protection for my account. But the last time I tried to log into that game to take a quick screenshot, I discovered botters/RMTers had hacked my account and my account was banned. Oh well, wasn't playing that game anyway, so I didn't even bother to try to retrieve my account. Just another example of how the illicit RMT trade costs game publishers customers and possibly money, because I'm pretty sure I would have purchased the expansion. Now? Why bother?

I'll just add one more thing about Google Authenticator. Make sure you print out the backup codes. Especially for those going to EVE Vegas and may wind up going to a pool party. The instructions are pretty clear on how to move the app from one phone to the next, but if your phone decides to go swimming, the backup codes will come in handy.

Once I logged in, I received a pleasant surprise. Aura said hello. However, Aura is a bloodthirsty AI and wanted me to start shooting things. Even if I wanted to hunt down some Circadian Seekers for some of that material needed to produce Entosis links, I was exploring in a Cheetah. No guns. So I closed the window and Aura went away. As I probed and hacked sites, I would receive notifications that I had completed certain opportunities. But no voice notification from Aura. Was she sulking?1

A last look around a completed relic site
One thing I didn't try was probing with the new map. Quite frankly, I didn't even think to do so. When probing, I just pressed the button that brings up the map. I logged back in later to see if I was using the old or new map for probing and now have the new map stuck in the probing window. While my corpmates are reporting issues when a site shows up as split signatures and are moving back to the old map, I probably should use the new map a few times just to see what the issues are for myself. That is, if the issues weren't fixed with the updates I noticed load when I fired up the client after downtime.

Hey, I don't fly Gallente
I probably should add something about the new ship skins, named, approximately enough, Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings (SKIN). I have a bunch of giveaway ships that I never bothered to redeem. Looks like I don't have to worry, as they appear to have transformed into the appropriate SKINs.

Overall, a pretty uneventful night. But uneventful is okay. Sometimes I just want to spend some time scanning and play the hacking mini-game. I'm getting pretty good at the game too, not losing any cans and failing a hacking attempt only once. So, let's call Mosaic a tentative win as we look forward to the big release featuring the null sec sovereignty capture revamp in June.


1. I don't actually expect CCP to put voice notifications for opportunities into the game. Voice acting is expensive.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not The Target Audience

Today, Mosaic launched and with it came Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings. I know a lot of people are chomping at the bit to purchase SKINs for their ships, but I'm not one of them.  A surprising admission to make given that I normally fly with the camera zoomed in on my ship. But why wouldn't I want paint my ship something new?

Well, I looked at the list in the latest dev blog and nothing shouted out to me, "You must buy this NOW!" CCP is starting out by offering SKINs for tech 1 ships, with the exceptions of new SKINs for Skiffs and Hulks to go along with the existing skin for the Mackinaw. If I buy a SKIN, I want to buy one for a ship I fly a lot. Those, unfortunately, are the Cheetah, Prowler, Hound, Prospect, and Procurer. None of those currently have SKINs available in the cash shop.

Notice a trend among the ships I fly? They almost all fit covert ops cloaks. And when I'm uncloaked, I'm usually too busy doing other things, like playing the hacking mini-game, to pay attention to how nice my ship looks. I do admit, however, that if I ever do get around to getting a Stratios, the Stratios Sanctuary Issue SKIN would look amazing.

Just because I wouldn't purchase anything from the current selection doesn't mean I think that SKINs and the cash shop are horrible and need to die in a fire. I may not like the current selection, but that doesn't mean I won't like some of the tech 2 selections in the future. A Quafe Prowler would look pretty awesome.

Part of the reason for having a cash shop is to pull in money over time, not as a single one time influx of cash. Even without the prospect of player-designed corporation and alliance SKINs, the art department has a lot of material to play with. With the new release cadence, players can probably expect to see a few more SKINs added every five weeks or so. Even though I may only buy a few if I buy any at all, I'm still look forward to seeing all the new look ships as I travel around EVE.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Is EVE Twitch Streamers And Illicit RMT A Thing?

Apparently, the next controversy-to-be in EVE Online is Twitch streamers conducting real money trading. What?! Since watching illicit RMT activity in EVE is a staple of the blog, I thought I'd take a quick look at the subject.

First, what is real money trading? I define the term as the exchange of the exchange of virtual goods, including in-game currency, and services for real world currency. My definition is all-inclusive, which is why I'll often use the terms "secondary RMT market" or "illicit RMT" when referring to real money trading that violates the rules of a game publisher. Most people who use the acronym without such qualifiers are referring to illicit RMT.

Next, does making real life money from streaming EVE Online on Twitch violate any prohibitions on conducting RMT? The answer is no. CCP's "Monetization Of Videos Policy" page states:
"We are pleased to formally announce that YES, you are welcome to upload your game-related videos so long as the videos are freely available to everyone (i.e., there is no charge, subscription, or 'premium access' fee required to view them). Additionally, you may monetize your videos by way of YouTube’s 'partner program', Google’s Adsense program, or any similar advertising revenue sharing model, provided the third-party advertisements do not interfere with a viewer’s access to the video. You may not, however, use any EVE or DUST 514 videos to advertise products you are selling unless you are an authorized CCP distributor (and even then, you may only sell authorized CCP products)."
As Twitch's subscription feature qualifies as a "similar advertising revenue sharing model" to YouTube's, it qualifies.  But, if I read the Twitch policy correctly, Twitch is a little more restrictive as to who can monetize their content than YouTube. The standards for Twitch partners to qualify to put the subscription button on their channel are:

  • 500+ average concurrent viewers (sustained viewership, not a one-time peak)
  • 5 million non-promotional viewer minutes per month
  • Regular schedule of at least 3 broadcasts per week on average
  • Content that closely follows our Terms of Service and DMCA Guidelines -- community standing is of paramount importance to our Partnership Team when conducting candidate evaluations

Okay, so an incentive exists for a form of RMT to occur. A streamer who charges $4.99/month can earn nearly $5000/month or $60,000/year with 1000 subscriptions. A streamer can conduct givaways in order to attract enough viewers to meet the Twitch guidelines and qualify to become a Twitch partner. While a direct quid pro quo (i.e. giving out 200 million ISK for each subscription) clearly violates the EVE Online EULA, what about subscriber-only drawings?

Since the EVE community doesn't have that many Twitch streamers who are Twitch partners, let's look at TMC. None of TMC's streaming content on either Twitch or YouTube is behind a paywall, so they clearly follow CCP's stated video monetization policy. The only time they come close to the edge is when they give out in-game items (i.e. ships) in subscriber-only giveaways. But even then, non-subscribers are not shut out of winning ships as, at least on the Meta show, they also have giveaways that do not require paying money to TMC during the same stream.

I am not going to pretend I know all of the ins-and-outs of CCP's policy concerning Twitch streaming. Considering that the policy page directs streamers to contact CCP's legal department directly with questions suggests that a lot of policies exist that the general public do not know about. However, I will suggest that people streaming EVE on Twitch is good for CCP. Why? Because that's free advertising for the game.

During the uproar about Nintendo's partner program at the beginning of 2015, YouTuber boogie2988 explained the benefits that content creators such as Twitch streamers and YouTubers bring to game publishers.

One of the reasons that I endorsed Chance Ravinne's candidacy for CSM 10 was that I was unsure of CCP's policy concerning YouTube and Twitch and wanted someone with some experience in that field available to provide input into any policies CCP may put into place over the coming year. However, I do not endorse CCP paying YouTubers to play their games.

So, I do not think that players are using Twitch as a medium to conduct illicit RMT. Since, to my knowledge, the closest any have come is giving away in-game items in contests or drawings, Twitch streamers are possibly engaged in using virtual goods and currency to create real life money through means other than direct trading. But, at least in the case of EVE, CCP doesn't seem to have a problem with that, which removes the tag "illicit RMT" from that activity.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Weekly Scope Video Turns Into A Live Event

So once again CCP published a new The Scope news video today. This time, they threw in a twist. A live broadcast, ending with the Drifters attacking the station seeking to stop an autopsy on a captured Drifter.

The Drifters lost multiple (4-5?) battleships while only killing 10 capsuleer ships (1 Malediction, 1 Claw, 2 Crusaders, 2 Imperial Slicers, 1 Cormorant, 1 Thrasher, 1 Atron, and 2 Veletors).

The CONCORD Bureau and the Yulai Graveyard
Despite some initial reports indicating that the Drifters had heavily damaged a station, the only visible damage to any infrastructure remains the still unrepaired CONCORD Bureau station.

Stories appearing in the videos new scroll included:

Just a couple of comments about the stories. Glad to see CFC's, er, I mean, The Imperium's foray into roleplaying is recognized in a video. Also, that the silence from Empress Jamyl is intentional and not because CCP is ignoring the storyline. However, don't lump the Absolute Defiance wardec into the roleplay category (unless I missed something). They didn't seem that type of alliance when we reached out and hugged them a few weeks ago.

The story of Propel Dynamics losing three jump freighters to the Angel Cartel could go a couple of ways. Is it a simple theft of the super kerr-induced nanocoating (SKIN) technology and the Angel Cartel will begin selling the technology in the very near future? Or does the theft have something to do with The Sanctuary? After all, Propel Dynamics is one of the corporations that helped build the Astero-, Stratios-, and Nestor-class Sisters of EVE ships.

Finally, after watching the video, does anyone doubt that the Inner Circle will soon up the DED threat level for the Drifters?

Correction: The original version of this post stated that the Drifters managed to severely damage the CONCORD Bureau station. This is incorrect. The station was originally damaged in an attack by the Thukker Elders in YC110.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The WoW Token And EVE Online's New Players

I've written a few posts about the WoW Token, Blizzard's version of PLEX. But why should people who play EVE care about what happens in World of Warcraft? One obvious reason is new players. Ever since the influx following the release of the This is EVE trailer, players have worked to welcome new players into EVE. As events over the past few months have shown, many think "weaponized newbros" could play a huge part in the new sovereignty capture mechanics coming to null sec in June.

But what does the ability of WoW players to purchase game time with in-game gold have to do with new players in EVE and possibly null sec warfare? This:

Accounts banned for buying illicit ISK on the black market
A high percentage of accounts banned for purchasing ISK are new accounts up to 3 months old. Many of these players come from other games where purchasing in-game currency, while not condoned, doesn't come with the penalties such offenses carry in EVE. Worse, some players figure out that they can purchase PLEX to sell for ISK, but then go to shady websites instead of going to their EVE account management page or to an authorized PLEX reseller to purchase their PLEX.

Yes, Team Security is aware they have an awareness problem which is why the final portion of the security presentation at Fanfest focused on awareness. But I'm not sure how effective an awareness campaign will work for new players. Gamers are kind of famous for not reading things, which is why CCP is moving away from the walls of text in the new opportunity system they are designing to introduce new players to New Eden.

That's why World of Warcraft moving to a PLEX-style system is so important. Although the majority of WoW players are just WoW players and not MMORPG fans, WoW is still the biggest western MMORPG on the market today. Once the WoW Token circulates in WoW for a few months, then players who then choose to try EVE will have a greater grasp on the concept. Even better, because the mechanics surrounding the use of the WoW Token are more restrictive than around PLEX, those new players' first instincts will lead them to the account management page to purchase PLEX from CCP and not to go searching out some shady website offering a steep discount.

In effect, the WoW Token will help in new player awareness of the option of buying ISK through the use of PLEX. Sure, in an indirect way, but then again, EVE has always had a reliance on the butterfly effect.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The WoW Token Two Weeks Later

Two weeks ago Blizzard introduced the WoW Token for sale on World of Warcraft's North American realms. A lot of people were surprised at the initial price point of $20 or 30,000 gold. I don't understand why, as the figure fell into line with the price that gold sellers were charging. But what about now? How has the WoW Token market price for gold fared against the prices charged by the sellers of WoW gold?

First, the WoW Token, after a brief climb to 31,218 gold on the first day, settled into a range between 20,000 and 24,500 gold starting on 10 April. That range put the Blizzard-approved price of WoW gold between $24.50-$30.00 USD for 30,000 gold.

When I've discussed CCP's approach in its War on Illicit RMT, I've described the price of PLEX as part of the "top down" element of its strategy to make illicit ISK and PLEX sales as unprofitable as possible. With the introduction of the WoW Token, gold sellers now have to compete directly with Blizzard when selling gold. Worse, from the gold sellers' point of view, they have to offer a substantial discount due to the possiblity of Blizzard catching buyers and taking action against them, such as seizing all of the purchased gold. I call the difference between the official price and the price gold sellers offer the "hazard discount".

WoW gold prices on Earthen Ring (Horde)
So what is the hazard discount needed to entice WoW players to buy illicit gold? In an effort to determine that figure, I surveyed 12 websites that sell WoW gold that I found either through Google Ads or listed on Google. I know that each website is actively competing for gold sales, as each has posted at least 4 price changes over the past two weeks. The graph above displays the lowest, median, and highest prices for 30,000 pieces of WoW gold found on the twelve websites. As a point of comparison, I also graphed the lowest daily sell price for WoW gold purchased using WoW Tokens, converting the U.S. dollar value to the amount required to buy 30,000 gold in order to make the comparison clear.

After looking at two weeks' worth of data, I still can't determine the answer. The price of illicit ISK has fallen the last 12 days. The only price pressure that the WoW Token has put on the gold sellers is existing. But that's enough, because the gold sellers are still attempting to find the sweet spot. Or are they? I get the sense that the gold sellers are losing a considerable amount of business to Blizzard. But are the gold sellers still competing with Blizzard, or are they competing with each other over winning market share of a reduced clientele?

One thing enabling illicit gold prices to continue to decline is that the gold farmers/botters have not decreased their activity. In a thread on the Honorbuddy forums, one gold farmer was complaining that prices offered by wholesalers had declined to $0.12-$0.14 / 1000 gold. From what I gather, that is an extremely low price. The prices are getting low enough that some farmers are getting frustrated.

A disgruntled gold farmer
So far, the WoW gold selling sites have benefitted from a compliant farming/botting community. Even so, the gold sellers will eventually hit the limit to what gold farmers/botters are willing to accept. I believe at that point we will see the price finally stabilize. At that point Blizzard can then ratchet up the pressure on the botters and farmers and convince them that the small amount they are earning isn't worth the hassle and see a lot of them leave the field.

At this point, Blizzard appears well-positioned to knock a lot of RMTers out of the business. But even then, that is only a first step. With less competition, those remaining can sort matters out and create a new price and supply equilibrium.  Remember, the WoW Token, just like PLEX, is not a quick fix to the problem of illicit RMT. But with enough time, Blizzard can hurt the wallets of the gold sellers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Different View Of New Players

One of the more interesting features of EVE Online is the time-based skill learning system. But in terms of attracting new players, the system does have some drawbacks. Some players believe they can never become competitive with experienced players because they can never obtain the same number of skill points.

The usual counter-argument that EVE players use is that not all the skill points are relevant in any PvP encounter. In my case, Wandering Rose's 17.9 million skill points in resource management, 16.2 million SP in science, 4.8 million SP in gunnery, and 3.3 million SP in missiles will do no good if a new player jumps her while she's mining in a Procurer in lowsec. Then again, with my actual experience of mining in lowsec combined with the skill points I've devoted to escapability, I have an excellent chance of warping off before the new player can tackle the mining barge. But the key, for coming out of the encounter with my ship intact, is my experience behind the keyboard. Mining while aligned really doesn't require a lot of skill points, especially since the introduction of the Higgs Anchor rig.

But reading the latest Gentlemen's Club Alliance update on TMC struck home the idea that the view of new players in EVE is different that in other games. One of GClub's basic strategies and principles is to "Remain new bro friendly, and a place where a new bro can learn and thrive." For people looking from the outside of EVE, that has to look weird. GClub is engaged in "end game" null sec conflict. Why would they want the equivalent of a level 1 character in their space guild? After all, they cannot fly space coffins, er, I mean, titans and super carriers. Gentlemen's Club is an aberration, right?

Not really. EVE Online's most successful null sec alliance, Goonswarm Federation, has always recruited and nurtured new players. But, some may argue, the Goons come from the Something Awful forums, so they have a natural incentive to help the people from their community learn EVE. True. But then explain the creation of Karmafleet and opening up membership to all new players in EVE. Markonius Porkbutte, co-founder of Karmafleet, in the TMC interview touched upon the subject of new players in null sec:
"I think on the grand scheme of things, Brave [Collective] awakened a lot of the null blocs and has forced them to realize the power of newbies in their fleets, so I feel much of this is Brave's fault. GSF is merely 'catching up' to the new meta that is slowly unfolding in null."
"In fact, the entire 'pseudo-war' brave had with PL [Pandemic Legion] was really proving that newbies are essential and can serve a well deserved place in nullsec sov warfare."
The aforementioned Pandemic Legion, another of the top powers in EVE, looked to harness the power of "weaponized newbros" by creating their own new player alliance, Pandemic Horde, earlier this month.

What makes the new player so powerful? Electronic warfare. As the Brave Collective and HERO Coalition showed for months against Pandemic Legion, players with fewer than 2 million skill points can neutralize players with over 100 million. But the effective use of electronic warfare doesn't require massed fleets of Mauluses like Brave deployed in Catch. In my own alliance, EvE-Scout Enclave, we employ the "Hugs" doctrine: Griffins equipped with electronic counter-measure modules and festival launchers against the highsec wardeccers who see the alliance as easy prey due to the 1% ISK efficiency listed on our killboard. Our doctrine Griffin is not only fun to fly, but very new player friendly, requiring only minutes to skill into. While we don't want to hurt anyone, if someone wants to pay CONCORD so we have an excuse to shoot snowballs and fireworks, we won't say no.

The same mechanics that make the Griffin ideal in EvE-Scout Enclave's Hugs fleets should make the Griffin, and thus new players, valuable once FozzieSov is released on 2 June. In FozzieSov, sovereignty turns into a game of capture the node, much like the battlegrounds in World of Warcraft. But in WoW, does anyone imagine that a level 11 character, even twinked out, could defend a node from a level 100 character? The idea is so preposterous that Blizzard does not even allow for the situation to occur, gating battlegrounds based on level.

In EVE, with the new sovereignty mechanics however, a two-day old player with less than 1 million skill points in a ship that costs less than 1 million ISK has a good chance of frustrating a five-year veteran with 100 million skill points flying a ship which, when fitted with an Entosis mod, will probably cost close to 100 million ISK, if not more. The new player's chances of success go up based on the index levels in the system. And new players can also contribute to raising these indexes, although from my vantage point outside of null sec, the only method appears to consist of mining. Ugh!

Hopefully, when CCP is revamping the index system, they consider ways that new players can contribute to raising and maintaining the index levels. I also hope that new players will have other ways of making ISK than mining or following older players and salvaging the wrecks. They shouldn't make tons of ISK, but they should have the ability to make a little extra cash to keep them in ships so they don't have to depend on the availability of other corp/alliance members to provide them with content either.

I don't really expect EVE's skill point system to appeal to everyone. Some people just have to have the top "end game" gear, and have to have it fairly quickly. EVE is not that type of game. But for those who want to participate in some of the null sec warfare that hits the media, CCP is making the game more new player friendly. More importantly, important players in the game are taking note.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Another Look At EVE Online Subscription Numbers In 2015

As we approach EVE Online's 12th anniversary, the speculation continues about the game's subscription numbers. Admittedly, I contributed to the guessing game with a post three weeks ago speculating on what the subscription numbers1 were as of Fanfest based on the CSM election results dev blog. My post was a response to others who were touting divergent subscription numbers. While CSM member Mike Azariah was touting growth in the subscription numbers, ShadowandLight from the Legacy of a Capsuleer podcast was participating in (if not trying to start) a nasty whisper campaign, stating on EVE Radio on 26 March that an "inside source" told him that EVE was down to "146,000 subs."2 When I took all of the best information available, I came up with a subscription range of 319,000 to 342,000 on Tranquility.

The topic has also fascinated the writers at Massively Overpowered, the reincarnation of the site that closed in February. Brendan Drain wrote the second article on the site looking into the numbers provided by my post. While his numbers fall within the upper range of my estimation, we both come to the conclusion that the number of subscriptions has fallen 18% over the past two years.

While I only attempted to ascertain the basic facts on the subscription numbers, Drain put the numbers into perspective by attempting to compare what I had calculated and comparing the result to the industry as a whole. He pointed to a study done by SuperData, a company that provides "market intelligence covering the market for free-to-play gaming, digital console, mobile, PC downloadable, streaming media and eSports." The study, titled "MMO Market Report 2015", predicts that revenue for pay-to-play (subscription) games will fall to $2.3 billion this year, a 17.9% decline from the $2.8 billion earned by P2P games in 2013.

Comparing revenue and subscriptions is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. For example, dual and multiple character training, both introduced in 2013, had the potential of both reducing the number of subscriptions and increasing revenue. Other changes, like the institution of jump fatigue in the Phoebe release, possibly resulted in subscription losses not related in any way to a player's preference for free-to-play games over P2P games. But Drain's main point is still valid. In a shrinking market for P2P games, seeing a 12-year-old game lose subscriptions due to potential new players preferring F2P games over P2P games is expected. Seeing growth in such a market environment is remarkable.

In my opinion, CCP ended what I call the cult of the growing subscription in June 2013 when dual character training was introduced in Odyssey. In the era in which EVE launched in 2003, most games relied strictly on box sales and subscriptions for revenue, so the subscription number was a useful number for players to see if their game was thriving. After all, why invest in a virtual world that is in danger of closing? But in the modern age, with even subscription games having in-game cash shops and offering other services as micro-transactions, we can no longer judge a game studio's, or even a game's, health based strictly on the number of subscribers. For that, we know need to become accountants and peruse the quarterly, semi-annual, and annual financial statements of game companies, providing we have such access. CCP's financial statement for 2014 is due out soon and I'm anxious to dig into those numbers.


1. Some will say that accounts paid for using PLEX are not really subscriptions. For those people, replace the word subscriptions with the term "paid accounts", as paid accounts over 30 days old make up the voter pool in CSM elections.

2. ShadowandLight has since admitted he didn't know what the number he was spreading around actually meant, which leads me to believe he was just throwing mud around and hoping something would stick.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Lore Behind EVE's New Ship Skins

To say The Scope news video on CCP released on YouTube today was a bit surprising I think is an understatement. We now know the origins of the Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings, or SKINS. Would you believe Serpentis technology designed for smuggling operations? The main story of the video tells the story of the Caldari Navy capturing a Serpentis Rhea-class jump freighter, the Seeadler.

Other stories of note in the news scroll:

Imperial Armaments continue to deny research into antikythera element is for the purposes of weaponization.

CONCORD re-opens independant political organization identity registration after one year delay due to Inner Circle debates on interstellar political relevance of capsuleer entities.

Caldari Navy reports significant increase in Guristas pirate activity in Pure Blind and Lonetrek with military experts citing seizure of [SPC] Seeadler as probably cause. Narcotics and combat boosters to the value of 65 billion ISK destroyed by Caldari Navy after seizure from [SPC] Seeadler on April 1st.

Legion of xXDeathXx loses significant ground in Geminate as sovereignty drops in seven systems.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

About That 80 GB Download

I received an email from Zenimax offering me access to Elder Scrolls Online this weekend because I participated in the beta. Now that the game is buy-to-play, the thought did interest me, although the game is $60. Given my experience of the game making me nauseous, that price tag was enough to drive me off.

Another item designed to drive me off was the size of the download mentioned in the email: 80 GB. Yikes! Did I really want to download an 80 GB game? Heck, I might not even have time to play ESO, what with the war with Noob Farmers in EVE and the double XP week in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Double-XP week? That's right, from today until the 22nd, SWTOR is holding a double-XP week. With a level 39 currently on Hoth, would I really want to divert time away from leveling my agent to the level cap?

Then, fate jumped in. I was laid off yesterday, although my official last day isn't for two weeks. But, I left the building for the last time yesterday. So, while I wait for a bunch of paperwork to process (including recommendation letters), I have some time to kill. I'll do the traditional things, like cleaning the house, updating my resume, etc., but I really don't feel like doing much right now. Working in the same job for 18 years will do that.

Now, I'm not in any financial crunch to get a job right away, although that is my preference. I'm getting a 26-week severance package, so except for purchasing my own health insurance, nothing really changes for me through the end of October. Then again, if I can quickly get a job, I'll definitely have the money to go to Fanfest next year, plus pay off a good chunk of my remaining mortgage, with a couple thousand left over to get a top-of-the-line gaming rig. But that's if everything goes perfectly.

So, last night, I just decided to download ESO, play Flappy Titan, and listen to the latest episode of Crossing Zebras. And this weekend I'll just try to relax and lose myself in trying out a new video game along with a couple of old ones. And cleaning the house. Can't forget cleaning the house.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time To Reread The Empyrean Age

"Goonswarm 2015: We are not here to ruin your game, but to ~enhance your immersion~"
The Mittani

Yesterday TMC published the latest Goonswarm Federation Alliance Update. Not very much news was proclaimed, really. Just that the name of the coalition was changing from the Cluster Fuck Coalition to The Imperium. And that the coalition will withdraw from Fountain and Cloud Ring before the new sovereignty system hits Tranquility on 2 June. Oh, and Get Off My Lawn and The Bastion will occupy Vale of the Silent while Executive Outcomes moves to Branch. I suspect that means that the GSF's rental alliance, Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere , will soon disband to make room for the regular members of the coalition.

But for me, the big news is the The Imperium's first campaign:
"The first act of our new Imperium: we formally declare our undying loyalty to the True Emperor of Amarr: Maximilian Singularity VI, First of His Name. Anyone in New Eden declaring for the False Empress Jamyl will be violently disabused of their heresy and their territory forfeit. Until the CONCORD-protected zones declare for the True Emperor, we'll have to content ourselves with enforcing the True Emperor's truth across Providence the moment that Fozziesov goes live. We grant Providence the opportunity to reflect upon their sins and seek redemption by bending the knee, just as I have." 
Sure, The Mittani and his leadership team plan to use Providence as a testing ground for evaluating new tactics in sovereignty warfare. But the way The Mittani has couched his coalition's actions almost forces CVA to put up a fight. Sure, Empress Jamyl violated the doctrine of Sacred Flesh and had herself cloned in order to survive the defeat of her champion during the Succession Trials. But Maximilian Singularity VI, First of His Name, is not one of the heirs of the five royal houses.

Of course, The Mittani, or more likely his diplomatic corp operating in Maximilian's name, could argue that the Sarum family has forfeited its place to rule the Amarr Empire, much like what happened to the Khanid Family after Garkeh Khanid refused to commit Shathol'Syn following the ascension of Heideran Kador to the throne in 22762 AD. Just as the Tash-Murkon family replaced the Khanid, so could one argue that the house of Singularity should replace the Sarum.

Does anyone think that CVA will meekly stand back and watch The Mittani place a successor onto the Amarr throne? Even if CVA buys into the legal precedent that if a heir of an Amarr royal house fails to commit Shathol'Syn, then the house is stripped of its royal titles, I would expect that they would want to place one of their own on the throne. At that point, I can foresee an "Amarrian" civil war, with CVA encouraged to persevere by the realistic belief that Goonswarm will eventually tire of the war and move on to bigger and better things.

Quite frankly, I hope both sides fight just to see how CCP handles the situation. The possibilities for future The Scope news updates is endless. But in the meantime, once I finish my current book, I think I'll reread The Empyrean Age and Templar One again. Something tells me I may need to brush up on my Amarrian lore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Locator Agents

Our second war with Absolute Defiance ended, but a new war started with Noob Farmers began at 0109 EVE time today. That means another corporation is paying CONCORD for Eve-Scout Enclave to deliver hugs in high sec. But unlike Absolute Defiance, Noob Farmers appears to move around some. So the question is, how can we ensure the delivery of the hugs Noob Farmers so desperately needs in a timely manner?

The answer is fairly simple. Locator agents. Locator agents are agents that not only give out missions, but can track down players as long as they are not located in a wormhole. The better the standings a player has with certain NPC corporations, the better the quality of the agent available. That's right, doing PvE in order to increase standings can help in PvP situations, especially war decs.

All players have access to the basic level 1 locator agents. These agents can instantly locate a player in the same system and locate a player in the same constellation withing 1 minute. If the player is in a station, the agent will even disclose the station the player is docked in. However, the location the agent gives is the player's location when the search began. Not a great difference for level 1 agents, but a factor in the better quality agents.

The agent does charge for the information, but will name the price before disclosing the location. In the case of the level 1 agent, the agent will ask for 1,000 ISK if the player you are searching for is in the system or 5,000 ISK if the player in in the same constellation. Just obtaining the price from the agent can tell a player some information. If the player is not located within the constellation, then the agent tells you that the agent is outside the area and does not charge for the information.

Level 2 locator agents are better than level 1 agents due to the fact the level 2 agent can search the entire region, not just the constellation. Level 2 locator agents, just like mission agents, require a standing with the corporation or faction of 1.0 Like a level 1 agent, a level 2 agent can locate a player within the same system instantly and within the same constellation within 1 minute. But the level 2 agent can find a player within the same region within 8 minutes. The required payouts are 5,000 ISK if the player is located within the same system, 10,000 ISK if the player is in the same constellation, and 25,000 ISK if the player is within the same region. If the player is located outside the region, the agent informs you the player is out of the search area and does not charge you for that information.

One final attribute I have not touched on is the cooldown period in which you can ask an agent to search for a second player (or the same player a second time). Both level 1 and level 2 agents have a 5 minute cooldown period. However, that is only if you pay ISK to find the location of a player. See the loophole in the system? But I'm not sure how often someone would cycle through 20 players to see which ones are in the system, especially since local is available to do that. Perhaps finding players in the same constellation is more useful.

Level 3 locator agents are available with corporate or faction standings of 3.0. Level 3 agents not only can find players located anywhere outside of wormholes, but can find players in the same constellation or region faster than the lower level agents. Level 3 agents can find players within the same constellation within 30 seconds, the same region in 4 minutes, and anywhere else in 8 minutes. However, the agent asks for 10,000 ISK if the player is in the same system, 25,000 ISK if the player is in the same constellation, 50,000 ISK if the player is in the same region, and 100,000 ISK if the player is outside the current region. The cooldown to reuse the agent, at 15 minutes, is also greater than the lower level agents.

Finally, the level 4 agent becomes available with corporate or faction standings of 5.0. The search times drop to 20 seconds if the player is in the same constellation, 2 minutes if in the same region, and 4 minutes located outside the region. The offset is the increased cooldown time (30 minutes) and the increased costs (25,000 ISK / 50,000 ISK / 100,000 ISK / 250,000 ISK).

For those just starting out, getting access to level 2 agents isn't that hard. Just train the Connections and Diplomacy skills to improve standings and the Social skill to improve standings gain. Then again, saying that gaining standings for myself is easy. Both Rosewalker and Wandering Rose have access to all the Minmatar and Gallente level 4 location agents. I also have an alt that has access to all the Caldari level 4 agents and is only 0.15 away from having access to all of the level 4 Amarr agents as well.

I will add that I got a lot of faction standings from running COSMOS missions. So if you really want to go on a standings grind, I'd suggest training Social up to 5, then run the COSMOS missions while you train Connections. Just getting standings up to 3 with one faction will help a great deal. Plus, unless you are only interested in PvP, high standings unlocks so much in EVE.

Hopefully this explanation helps a little bit in understanding how locator agents work. And who knows. Perhaps one day you can provide the intelligence required to hug a war target.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Checking The Price Of Illicit WoW Gold

Last week, the big news in the MMORPG genre was Blizzard's introduction of the WoW Token, a PLEX-like in-game object, into World of Warcraft. News outlets like VentureBeat, PC Gamer, and Eurogamer covered the obvious first-day story, the huge drop in the value of the WoW Token. While some articles have mentioned the problem in passing, an article on tried to address the influence of illicit RMT on the cost of the WoW Token.

I think that my biggest complaint about the TMC piece actually revolves around the source used for obtaining the prices of WoW gold on the secondary RMT market. Because he used WOW Gold Rates, the author of the piece came away with a bit of a distorted picture of the price of illicitly marketed WoW gold. That price colored the rest of his piece and may have led him to judge Blizzard more harshly than the game company deserved.

The prices listed for 12 April 2015 seem a bit high
Looking for review sites of virtual currency sellers is good and shows that a writer is making an effort to look for an authority with expertise in the field. I did the same thing when I first started out, using MMOBUX as a source until I grew confident enough in my knowledge of the ISK market to branch out on my own. But among the interesting tidbits I've collected over the course of writing about secondary RMT markets is that a lot of old, outdated RMT-related websites are lying around waiting for an eager researcher to trip over them. Apparently, WoW Gold Rates is one of those sites.

Whenever I look at a virtual currency seller, the first thing I check is that the site is still in business. I guess that's a result of watching so many ISK sellers quietly leave the market without turning off the lights. So I did the same with the WoW gold seller review site and checked out the prices for the Horde-side market on the Earthen Ring realm. I think the results would surprise the author.

Of the seven gold shops listed, GameGoody and MySuperSales are no longer in existence. Another, OffGamers, is not a WoW gold seller. The closest the website comes to selling WoW gold is offering 60-day WoW game time cards. A fourth seller, IGE, no longer directly sells WoW gold. The site IGE redirects buyers to currently sells WoW gold at $18.99 / 30,000 gold, or almost 78% less than is listed at WoW Gold Rates. As for the other three shops that actually do sell WoW gold, MOGS sells for 41.2% less, Bank of WoW 66.0% less, and Guy4Game sells for 68.5% cheaper than is listed on WoW Gold Rates. No wonder the author of the TMC piece thought that Blizzard was really trying to undercut the illicit gold sellers; his source was using outdated information.

I've pointed out why the source the author of the TMC piece used was bad and how someone could check the validity of the information. But what should a writer who is interested in the subject do to find out the price of virtual currencies on the secondary market?

For those looking to quickly gather up a set of prices, I'd suggest either MMOBUX or Player Auctions. MMOBUX makes a good starting place and even has history graphs, although I would advise clicking on each of the shops to make sure they are still active. Player Auctions is more a marketplace of several sellers, but for those games that don't have a lot of websites selling their in-game currency, then Player Auctions is the next best place. The downside is publicizing those places and driving gold buyers to those shops. Something a small blog like The Nosy Gamer can do, but something a site with a lot more traffic like TMC might want to shy away from.

The other way is a method I used with ISK sellers and am now establishing for monitoring the secondary RMT market for World of Warcraft.  I established my own index of gold/ISK sellers and recorded their prices every Sunday. Or, in the case of WoW, daily, at least for now. The selection criteria is simple. In the case of WoW, I used the search term "buy WoW gold" and recorded the links of all the websites I found that showed up in Google Ads. I only got ten, so I added four more from the search. I missed a couple of the cheaper sites and picked up one clunker, but I think I can drop two of the sites and have a pretty good index going forward.

I realize that not a lot of people write about real money trading to the extent that I do. I don't want to discourage anyone from writing about the subject, either. Let's just say that I urge anyone writing about the subject to go in with eyes wide open. Oh, and that I think bloggers may have an easier time. After all, we're not really under any time constraints. We can take our time and really develop the story. I may actually have one ready on changes in the price of illicit WoW gold in a couple of weeks. My editor doesn't mind waiting.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Drifters, The RSS, And Eifyr, Oh My!

Sometimes, a subject calls out for a post. Today's example is the latest video from The Scope, covering HERO's withdrawal from Catch and the conflict between N3 and the CFC in the Fountain/Delve area of operations.

For me, the news scroll is often more interesting than the main storyline the narrator of the video reads. Let's look at those stories:

Yes, seeing up to the minute references to factional warfare in the video (the flips of Saidusairos and Arnstur occurred on Thursday) was a nice tip of the hat to low sec. But the last story really peaked my interest. Arlek is a 1.0 system in Metropolis equidistant (at least in terms of jumps) between the two major trade hubs of the Minmatar Republic, Rens and Hek.

I found the location where the engagement took place interesting. Elgoi is the home system for Eifyr and Co., major backers of Dr. Hilen Tukoss' work on the Arek'Jaalan Project. In fact, Site One of the Arek'Jaalan Project is located in the next-door system of Eram. Is this small reference another piece of the Arek'Jaalan project storyline playing out? I thought last month's story of Zainou Biotech finally getting around to stripping Dr. Tukoss of his Caldari corporate citizenship a bit weird, since I presumed they had done that shortly after his defection to Eifyr and Co. years ago. But as a stepping stone to keep the storyline moving and in the back of people's minds, creating the story was a nice touch.

One other interesting fact about Eifyr and Co. The Minmatar corporation, rumored to have links to the underworld booster rings, is also a player in w-space research:
"The widespread emergence of unstable wormholes and the technological possibilities opened by these phenomena is the most recent opportunity seized by Kolvil Eifyr's remarkable corporation. Eifyr and Co.'s expertise in chemical reactor technology was swiftly adapted to the newly emerging polymers derived from wormhole space gas clouds. Additionally, Sleeper technology became a particular interest of the corporation. Today, Eifyr and Co. acquires Sleeper-related data in a variety of forms primarily from capsuleers, who encounter the ancient civilization’s drone guardians in wormhole space."
Perhaps I'm reading too much into the situation, but why are units of the Republic's Security Services, and not mainline fleet units, battling the Drifters? Forgive me if I'm suspicious, but the RSS has strong links to the New Eden underworld. With Eifyr and Co.'s shady reputation, is something going on?

Since I've come this far, let me put my tinfoil hat on firmly and go deep down the rabbit hole. Eifyr and Co. along with another corporation mentioned in the video, Propel Dynamics, are among two of the five corporations that have their corporate logos plastered on the Sisters of EVE Astero-, Stratios-, and Nestor-class ships. We may have a clue of what the mysterious ship may feature based on Propel Dynamics' history:
"Propel Dynamics was founded by the team that discovered the first functional warp drive for short jumps within a system. Though it has never managed to live up to its early expectation the company has always turned out innovative and interesting designs that have driven the field of propulsion forward."
With the Minmatar clashing with the Drifters in the headquarters system of one SoE ally and another SoE ally working on a mysterious ship, are we about to see the lore explode? I don't think so. With CCP about to release major changes to sovereignty mechanics in June, I don't think CCP would want to step on the possibly epic stories that players are about to create. However, stringing out the story the rest of the year will give those who don't live and breathe null sec politics something to watch as CCP positions players to create their own stargates, hopefully sometime in 2016.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Daybreak And H1Z1 Hackers

I haven't felt well all week and planned to not blog today. Then somone sent me a video from Daybreak Games (formerly SOE) in which a lot of employees read letters from hackers asking to have bans reversed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the video. And then ChYph3r, who runs, tweeted this screenshot:

Hey, these aren't EVE-related tears, but when you get right down to it, botting, hacking, and RMT tears are the best tears, no matter what the game.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Global War On Illicit RMT: Blizzard Slams Honorbuddy

A lot of people think that the introduction of the WoW Token alone will bring an end to gold sellers in World of Warcraft. Ha! If ending the selling of black market virtual currency in MMORPGs was that easy, CCP would have ended the practice in EVE Online years ago when it introduced PLEX.

I've criticized Blizzard for having a lax ban policy in the past, especially when compared to CCP. However, with the introduction of the WoW Token, which should have the top down effect of putting a cap on how much black market gold sellers can charge, I wondered about Blizzard's efforts at trying to choke off the flow of gold at the farming/botting level.

Things have changed. When I clicked on the link to visit the "penalty volcano", I discovered the link redirected me to a new page created on 1 April.  I followed the links on the page to Blizzard's new "Exploitation Policy". I call the policy new as the page shows a last modified date of 3 April.  Nowhere do I see any references to lengths of bans.

I then went to the forums for the Honorbuddy bot looking for reactions to the news of the release of the WoW Token. Honorbuddy is famous as Blizzard paid €650,000 in 2013 in order to halt the sale of the bot in Germany. Instead of finding a lot of talk about the new item, I found a lot of reports of bans.

According to what I read, a tripwire event occurred on 19 March. A tripwire event in one, like an update to the Warden anti-bot software, that causes all of the bots in operation to immediately shut down. Apparently, the emergency shutdown didn't work as many botters were banned for six months for their (supposedly) first offense. Six months for a first offense? Well, apparently, as you'll soon read, creating new accounts is quite easy.

Did I type "soon read"? Yes I did. I found some quality botter and RMTer tears on the Honorbuddy forums. Since the operator of the forums was kind enough to leave the forums open to the public, I thought I'd go ahead and share some of the feedback Honorbuddy botters left. Remember, the term "Abuse of the Economy" is the reason Blizzard gives for banning a player for conducting black market RMT. Also, I'm going to copy the posts "as is", complete with all spelling, punctuation, and grammer mistakes.

22 March

wesleysniper - "Summary : 5 accounts and 5 expansions bought from not from that cheap battlechest link. all safe. applied codes and got 90 level boosts. paladin tank / hunter / shaman / druid and holy priest for the sake of looking normal.all of them have crafted items bought from AH or some 665 BOE items again for the sake of looking normal and casual. 

"Lately i've been experimenting with 5 boosted chars. i leveled them up to 100 and sic them to wod normal dungeons. they barely made it 2 weeks straight in wod dungeons - and barely pay off their costs. this morning all of them are banned with the total of 100k gold which is made in 2-3 days ( and yes very very low gph overall )

"i dont know you all but from this moment on botting with honorbuddy is finished for me. and i dont know the plans of the developers or programmers but their product is compromised big time. 

"you cant level your toons / cant send them to BGs / cant send them to Dungeons / no solo dungeons / no grindings so whats the use of hb ? and from what i understand is you just dont neccessarily be reported to a GM cos ppl get banned in their garrisons. so its something else. 

"Can someone from programmers / developers side care to eleborate a little bit more of events happening lately because we'Re paid customers and i feel like we're deliberetely kept in the dark for the sake of not losing customers..

"Anyways TL : DR i'm shutting down my operations for sometime. me and my friend have lost more then 60 accounts in 1-2 weeks time and its not worth it anymore."

27 March

misterneko - "Yeah, another vanilla account banned. I use legit HB key, Millz/Kingwow2 of store, and still got the hammer. Seems 6 month is the standart. This is real..."

narusu - "I got the ban hammer pretty hard today a few hours ago. I had lost a few last week but the final 7 all went down at the same time today. All exploitation of economy. Seems a common thread today especially on US. I made an account to post this because i thought everyone should know the frequency of bans on US is high. Some of my accounts were 7-9 days old... ALL were online during trip wire event....o.O."

Note: this user lost 13 out of 13 accounts.

30 March

AlexCosmos - "My 6 trial acc was closed for goldselling. OMG, blizz are crazy? how can i sell anything on trial?"

31 March

dragonbuddy - "mule banned overnight, then set my 5/5 dungeon buddy and 1/1 anzul Gundrak too who is a separate account farm while i goto shops for 1hr,come back all banned. old school perma banned, all for bots as per usual letter."

Macatho - "Used WoD Trial on 5 accounts that had been without game time for months, they ran for 2-3 days then they got banned when they were off line. I'm seriously starting to question how to bot nowadays, botting for profit is just increasingly difficult."

1 April

Malice213 - "Only two soldiers left...and they are going to go dark until the game is worth playing again."

Note: The user had 11 of 13 accounts banned.

2 April

HBL0V3 - "42/42 eu accounts banned today abuse of eco"

3 April

233286 - "Not here the fill in a usual report, just stating that over the past 2 days I lost 34 account.
First lost 15 due to Eco exploiting, few hours later I checked and another 10 on EU were banned aswell for automated software.

"Next day I started off making 5 new raf accounts and had 4 left overs who I ran through instances (note: they did not run the same instances). These 4 accounts where banned the same day in about 2 hours. Other 5 who ran on other VM where still intact. They got 85, next morning set them up, banned after 3/4 hours.

"Now this was over the last 2 days, I have lost alot more but these went out with enough profit so I usually do not care to post. Now suddenly I am getting targetted hard? Or something else I have no idea.
<2 computers.="" different="" each="" ip="" mac="" modems="" multiple="" running="" vm="">

"That is it for me for a while. Will cooldown alittle and start again."

happyfriet - "Was trying to figure out what to do in WoD because of all the heat atm, so I made 3 WoD accounts, each on 1 pc with it's own IP.

"All 3 were doing (self-made) profiles after dinging level 100.

"Aaaand their gone... fml - they weren't connected in ANY way nor involved in gold selling.

"Ir pissed yo."

Mario27 - "i gues i was to greedy i already had botted 10 classes to 100 it was weird that i even came this far normally i was banned at questing lvl 15 and i dont get a 6 month or anything my bans are permantly evrytime with no Suspension i dont get that why but i was bored with the game anyways if i played for 1 hour i was done i play more on my ps4 then wow now those days wel that was it for me with wow i might come back onetime when the wow token comes out but then i wont be botting again"

v1go - "12/12 eu accounts banned today abuse of eco. 100 lvl, private grind profiles."

6 April

masterwow - "My main acc got banned last week, got a perma ban then i apealed and nothing they insist on perma ban, i never got any suspensions on that acc before, i dont know what to do!"

milouchoa - "I just get banned in my first attempt to sell gold. It was only 50k gold but they caught me. I´m trying to revert the ban, but I have no hope."

These are just some of the ban reports that weren't just filling out a questionnaire. Some of the numbers are quite surprising, given the scale I'm used to in EVE. But given the scale of botting and RMT in WoW, Blizzard has a lot of work ahead of it if it wants to make the WoW Token truly effective in fighting illicit RMT.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The WoW Token Arrives Today

Yesterday, Blizzard announced that they planned to launch the introduction of the WoW Token, its version of EVE Online's PLEX ... today. Well, at lest in the Americas region (North America, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand). Tokens will cost $20 USD/$25 AUD in the in-game cash shop and Blizzard will set the initial auction house price to 30,000 gold. The WoW Token will operate in a region-wide, not realm-wide, market. Blizzard has also placed an initial limit of allowing players to purchase 10 WoW Tokens within a 30-day period.

The price point that Blizzard set reflects the real world price that players have already assigned to WoW gold purchased on the black market.

Black market prices on Earthen Ring, Horde, 6 April 2015
The graphic above lists the prices that shops on Player Auctions were offering for 30,000 gold on Monday. Except for one shop that is already barely below Blizzard's initial price, these black market shops are all at least 15% over Blizzard's initial price.

One major difference between EVE's PLEX and Blizzard's WoW Token is that in the Blizzard model, players do not necessarily trade the WoW Token for gold on a contract basis like they would a weapon or flask. An interview lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas did with Venture Beat in March revealed a slight twist:
"One interesting note is that no matter when or how big the movement in the market is, sellers and buyers will always be guaranteed to get the price they saw. If a seller posts a token and the market moves downward before a buyer picks it up, the purchaser will pay the cheaper price — but the seller will still get the higher gold price they were quoted when listing the token. The same thing will happen in reverse: If a buyer pays more gold for the token than the seller was promised, the seller will still get paid the lower price.
"'Potentially there are small amounts of gold that are being created, but also destroyed,” Hazzikostas said. “It’s about security and certainty, and it all evens out.'"
Between these price guarantees along with the inability to trade or resell a token once purchased from the auction house, Blizzard hopes to avoid the WoW Token becoming the investment vehicle that PLEX became in the EVE economy.

From an RMT standpoint, Blizzard appears well-positioned to cause the sellers of black market gold some problems. With the rules around the sale and possession of the WoW Token, the item should never become a viable product for sale unless the RMT shop resorts to credit card fraud. Also, the initial price point should force gold sellers to, at least initially, lower prices in order to attract sales. Even if the price of the WoW Token falls to 25,000 gold, that still equates to a $24 USD/30,000 gold rate, which still matches or beats the price of the major gold sellers on Player Auctions. I personally believe that gold sellers will need to beat the price offered by purchasing the token by 30-40% in order to generate a high level of sales. Such a drop in the price of black market gold would definitely hurt the wallets of the professionals.

However, just like PLEX in EVE, the WoW Token will not, by itself, end gold selling in World of Warcraft. By putting a cap on what gold sellers can charge, though, the WoW Token can contribute to marginal RMT operations going out of business. But, that outcome depends on the actions of WoW players. Will those who wish to purchase gold turn to an approved method, or will they continue dealing with the black market sellers?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Fanfest 2015 Security Presentation: Organization And Rules

CCP released the Fanfest 2015 presentations onto its YouTube channel last week. I was interested in watching the Security presentation because I was so nervous during the presentation that I didn't remember exactly what was said. I knew from meetings what everyone planned to present, but things always change from what is planned vs what is actually said. Given the structure of the talk, I'll make two posts, with today's post covering the first part of the presentation given by the InfoSec members of Team Security.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The April Fools' Day o7 Show

I watched yesterday's o7 Show at home on the Twitch recording and found a couple of interesting things. First, CCP Guard definitely changed since I saw him at Fanfest.

Next up, I found out I passed up a chance at making an appearance on the o7 Show. In a segment called "How Do You Say It???", various people who attended Fanfest were asked to try to pronounce some of the words from EVE. When I was approached, I ducked because I had a hard enough time speaking with my braces on, especially rubber-banded shut like they were that day. Oh well, I lost my shot at fame and fortune.

Of course, what's an o7 Show without a community roundup. Highlighted was a player gathering in Finland that occurred during Fanfest. CCP Guard and CCP Mimic also pointed out that over 400 tickets for EVE Vegas were sold in the first couple of weeks. Hendrick Tallardar produced a video, The o7 Report, that reviewed null sec news, NPSI activity, and titan kills.

CCP Fozzie came on to talk about planned changes, which is always kind of dangerous on April Fool's Day. But players should receive a lot of goodies (with a couple of nerfs) on 28 April. First, the new ship skins will make their first appearance on Tranquility, with the skins available for testing on Singularity now.

Null sec will see a lot of changes, with iHub and iHub upgrades receiving size reductions so deep space transports can deploy them. Also, the players will begin manufacturing the structures at that time.

Next, null sec mining will receive changes whose details will emerge in a dev blog scheduled for publication next week. The big changes are the revamping of the mineral ratios of existing ores and the doubling of the amounts of megacyte and zydrine required for almost all blueprints.

Also, the Entosis module will make its appearance on Tranquility so that players can stock up before the new sov capture mechanics take effect on 3 June. The Entosis modules will consume strontium plus add mass to ships. CCP Fozzie created a thread in the Features and Ideas section of the forums for players to give more feedback.

We will also see ship balance changes at the end of April. Battlecruisers will receive a warp speed increase up to 2.7 AU and command ships an increase up to 3 AU. Also, warp rigs will impose a signature radius penalty instead of the current CPU penalty in order to make using the warp rigs less painful. Tech 3 destroyers will lose a significant amount of power grid, become slower and less agile, and see an increase in the materials required to build the ships.

In other changes, the corporate user interface will receive a make-over, the garage door cyno tactic will come to an end, and 2 new burner missions from the Serpentis and Blood Raiders designed for cruisers will make their debut.

Finally, the show ended with an interview with Kira Tsukimoto of Brave Newbies and The Neocom Podcast and a celebrity match between Jayne Fillon vs Gorski Car. For those who placed bets on the match, Gorski didn't throw the fight.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holding Fire

Some readers of the blog may know about allegations floating around the EVE sub-reddit linking a gambling website with a major black market shop on Player Auctions. I've read the opening posts of both threads and, to say the least, I'm not impressed. The accuser has offered no proof of the connection between the gambling website and the ISK seller. None. So little proof, in fact, that I won't even bother linking to the Reddit posts.

The accuser's story has enough holes that I believe that one of two things is occurring. The first is that the accuser is a disgruntled customer of the gambling website. The second is that the accuser works for a rival RMT shop. The shop on Player Auctions the accuser is listing is the biggest ISK seller on Player Auctions. A ban wave would definitely help its competitors.

The accuser stated he has submitted a ticket with Team Security about the matter. Perhaps he saved all the really good evidence for the ticket. But whether or not the allegations against the gambling site are true, I really hope we see a ban wave emerge from this situation, because that shop on Player Auctions sells a lot of ISK. But I won't disclose just how much until a ban wave hits. Hey, I need something new to include in that post, right?