Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Unforced Error

Now I'm starting to get ... irritated. CCP Falcon published a news item yesterday that left me scratching my head. He attempted to explain the process that went into the distribution of the CONCORD ships to Fanfest attendees. Let me go through the article and discuss the items that don't really make sense.
"This is the first mass distribution of rewards of this size and value that we’ve undertaken since the introduction of Alpha accounts with EVE Online: Ascension, and in retrospect it’s now very clear to us that methods of distribution that have worked successfully for us in the past are no longer viable." 
Blaming any issue on the introduction of alpha accounts makes no sense. I received my ships with no problems. In fact, the only problem I had was receiving three sets of ships instead of one. But as CCP Falcon explained later on, that was a feature, not a bug. The only issues I heard of involved people who did not receive ships on all of their accounts due to using different emails on accounts and those, like CSM members and fansite owners, who did not receive their tickets through Eventbrite. In the first case, this year was the first in my six visits to Reykjavik in which attendees received complementary digital items on multiple accounts. That change was not due to the introduction of alphas. In the case of those who did not pay for their tickets, I watch almost every year as at least one fan site owner has difficult with tickets. Once again, a problem one cannot blame on alphas.
"The intention with this distribution of hulls was to offer a thank you to all those who made what is, for many, a long and expensive journey and a sizeable commitment to come visit Iceland for Fanfest 2017.

"Given the delay between Fanfest and the distribution of the hulls, and the fact that these hulls will soon be available more widely, these were awarded on a per account basis as a bit of an extra thank you for the wait that occurred before they were gifted."
What delay? According to the information on the Updates site in December, no delay in the handout of the CONCORD ships to Fanfest attendees occurred.

CONCORD ship information captured on 12 December 2016
On 12 December, the information on CCP's website stated that the Pacifier and Enforcer, "will be distributed after Fanfest 2017, in a summer release." Honestly, I did not expect to receive the ships until August. According to the information available when I purchased my Fanfest ticket, the earliest attendees should expect to receive the ships was June. We received the ships in June.

The second part of the promotion, that attendees receive the ships before the rest of the game, explained why the ships were given out in June.
"The Pacifier and Enforcer, in blueprint copy form, are due to become part of the tiered rewards structure for the second phase of Project Discovery, which is focused around Exoplanets and is scheduled to ship as part of the July 2017 release."
From everything I can tell from reading CCP Falcon's article, everything worked mechanically with the process of distributing the ships. CCP also met all timelines given to Fanfest attendees for when the ships would hit their redemption queues. The only issue involved the handing out of ships based on the number of accounts instead of the historical practice of handing out one set of digital gifts per ticket purchased.
"Unfortunately, entirely on our part, an oversight that did happen was a lack of clarity surrounding the extent that the current issues with Ghost Training would affect their distribution. The community was very fast to point this out and without a doubt, this has been a very direct and fast learning experience for us in this new era where open access to New Eden is now a reality."
If CCP had just distributed the promotional ships as advertised, a lot of player complaints would never have seen the light of day. Or, in other words, CCP would have happier players if they just had done what they said they would do.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Ghost Of Somer

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

I saw something on Twitter yesterday I couldn't believe. I went to the news channel on the EVE community and confirmed the information. CCP, to use a technical term, fucked up.

The announcement involved the handout of the Pacifier and Enforcer to attendees of Fanfest 2017. CCP Falcon confirmed that the error was intentional.
We’re happy to announce that the Pacifier and Enforcer class CONCORD hulls have now been distributed as part of the Fanfest 2017 ticket purchase rewards.
Those pilots who bought their Fanfest 2017 tickets before 2017/01/01 have been gifted:
  • 1x Enforcer class Recon Cruiser
  • 1x Pacifier class Covert Ops Frigate
Those pilots who bought their Fanfest tickets after 2016/12/31 have been gifted:
  • 1x Pacifier class Covert Ops Frigate
These ships should now be in your redeeming system, one package of ships for each account registered to your email address. [emphasis mine]
Seriously, one set for each account? In the past, CCP gave out one set of gifts to attendees of Fanfest and EVE Vegas to the account used to sign up for the event. I think I qualify as a valid source as I have attended 6 Fanfests and 2 EVE Vegas events. In the interests of full disclosure, I attended Fanfest 2017 and have 3 paid accounts that share the same email address. That's right, I received 3 Pacifiers and 3 Enforcers. Honestly, that's fucked up.

I didn't feel too guilty, because I know my three accounts were on the low end for Fanfest attendees. People who attend Fanfest are a bit passionate about EVE and have a lot of accounts. Think of all the cyno alts, scouts, market, industry, and PI alts out there along with freighter alts and I probably fell within the bottom quartile. And if a player let a number of subscriptions expire, that's okay, as those counted as alpha accounts and received ships too.

The fact I cannot understand is how CCP can have such a short institutional memory. In October 2013, a giveaway of a special ship, the Ishukone Watch Scorpion, by CCP to the EVE gambling site SOMER Blink created a controversy.
"SOMER Blink is a player-run gambling site, featuring micro lotteries where players buy tickets for a chance to win valuable ships and other in-game assets. The tickets are bought with ISK that players have deposited in the system either directly, or as a result of bonuses that SOMER Blink offers to players who purchase EVE Game Time Codes through SOMER Blink’s affiliate program. By all accounts, a massive amount of ISK has passed through the system, with the site recently celebrating 1 quadrillion in ISK prizes won by players.

"In an email exchange with TMC staff, SOMER Blink second in command Andrev Nox seems to confirm that the leaked mail is real. “CCP has been using the Ishukone Scorpions for community site rewards and ingame event giveaways for a while now, with Blink being neither the first nor the last in that program,“ he writes.

"The special edition battleships are not available to manufacture and are rarely given out by CCP. Eighty-one were given away at FanFest as part of the Charity Poker Tournament and PvP Tournament and added to the game as part of the Odyssey expansion. Another was given out as part of a role-playing event and SOMER Blink was given ten to use as rewards. To date, there have been no other public giveaways of the ship, meaning that SOMER Blink employees' private rewards may account for a quarter of the Scorpions Ishukone Watch in the game. The ships tend to sell for 10-20 billion ISK meaning that the gift was worth 300-600 billion ISK.

"The revelations come on the heels of another controversy surrounding SOMER Blink’s close relationship with CCP. In September, CCP announced and then walked back plans to reintroduce the Golden Magnate ship to the game via a giveaway on SOMER Blink’s site. Previously, only one Golden Magnate had ever been created (it was subsequently destroyed). They similarly had to cancel plans to offer new Guardian Vexors, another limited edition ship rarely seen in game."
In the above case, CCP Manifest explained the Ishukone Watch Scorpion was designed as a promotional ship, much like the pirate rookie ships that CCP occasionally gives out. Likewise, the Pacifier and Enforcer are also promotional ships that players can obtain through some means yet to be announced.

I can justify in my mind CCP giving out one set of ships to Fanfest attendees. If the other 99+% of EVE players who did not travel to Iceland have a chance to earn a ship or three, then Fanfest attendees don't really gain an advantage except for receiving the ships early. But if some people received over 150 of each ship, that's an entirely different situation. Will other players have the opportunity to earn 150 of their own? For some reason I don't think so.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Quick Look At Buying Legitimate Gold In Guild Wars 2

I started playing Guild Wars 2 again 6 weeks ago. The game is a nice break from EVE, which I needed. I normally need a break after the CSM season and GW2 provided the break this year. I rolled up a sylvari necromancer and hit level 74 last night. I fell into a pattern of doing the personal story when I become eligible and then grind crafting materials and level both my character's crafting skills (tailor and jeweler). Rince and repeat until complete. I think I'll have the personal story complete within the next two weeks. After that, I can return to EVE refreshed and with a different perspective on the game.

Guild Wars 2 is a free-to-play game unless you wish to play the latest content. The game then turns into buy-to-play. I purchased the Heart of Thorns sometime last year, so I don't count as a free-to-play player. Still, I found myself spending $20 because I wanted to expand my bank space. Of all the things that F2P and B2P games offer, extra bank space is what I normally pull out the credit card to purchase.

One thing I've never purchased with real world cash is in-game currency. Not even in EVE. Spending money on gold or ISK never made sense to me, and probably never will. The only reason I have over 2700 PLEX is the mystery code from the two copies of the Collector's Edition I own plus all the Aurum CCP gave out over the years that were recently converted to the new-style PLEX. I guess I should add that I won one of my Collector's Editions in a contest, so only 500 of the PLEX I own were a result of any real world purchases.

Like EVE, Guild Wars 2 allows players to convert real world money into in-game currency through the purchase of gems. But to someone who's played EVE for almost 8 years, the GW2 system is a bit bizarre.

Gem Prices In US Dollars
Unlike in EVE, players do not get cheaper prices for purchasing larger amounts of gems. One gem always converts to 1.25 cents, or $0.0125. Therefore, at the purchasing stage, the player has no incentive to purchase larger amounts of gems.

Where the system becomes strange to the EVE player is the actual exchange of gold and gems between players. In EVE, a player posts either a buy or sell order on the market, someone else comes along and fulfills the order, and a direct swap is made. ArenaNet runs their system a little differently.

Buying gold using gems

The GW2 Official Wiki describes the mechanics:

The initial interface panel displays standard exchange amounts and how many coins or gems are required for purchase. Click on Buy next to the desired transaction to complete the purchase.
  • Gold coin Gold exchanges include intervals of 1, 10, 50, 100, 250, and custom
  • Gem.png Gem exchanges include intervals of 400, 800, 1200, 2000, and custom
  • Exchange rates are determined by supply and demand from players. Since supply and demand affects the rate, the ratio can shift rapidly depending on market conditions, especially when the Gem Store adds new items.
    • The exchange has a supply of both Gems and Gold. When you trade to the exchange you influence the supply of each. The exchange rate is relative to current supply of each. The price changes geometrically as one pool empties creating a better exchange rate for the low supplied currency. The supplies are contained entirely within the exchange.[1]
    • Due to currency exchange inflation, the value of purchased gems has increased over time. Conversely, the value of in-game gold used to purchase items in the Gem Store has decreased.
  • Transaction fee is a 15% fee for trading gems for gold or vice-versa. For example, exchanging 1 Gold coin gives 85 Silver coin worth of gems while reselling those gems returns only around 72 Silver coin 25 Copper coin, resulting in a net loss of roughly 28%.

In other words, trying to make gold off of the ebbs and flows of the market using gems isn't really viable. In addition, free accounts may only perform gem to gold exchanges. Gold to gem conversions are reserved for those who either purchased the original GW2 or Heart of Thorns expansion.

From http://www.gw2spidy.com/gem
The graph above, from Guild Wars 2 Spidy, shows the large discrepancy between the gold to gems vs the gems to gold exchange rate. The difference in price between buying 100 gems with gold versus selling 100 gems for gold is approximately 10 gold. Needless to say, I don't think people in GW2 engage in some of the same types of market play as happens in EVE concerning PLEX.

I plan on taking a closer look at the Guild Wars 2 cash shop in the near future. First though, I do need to finish up the personal story. I think having the additional experience in GW2 will help perform a more informed comparison between GW2 and EVE's cash shop. Besides, I enjoy playing Guild Wars 2 and I'd like to say I finished the original content for another game.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: The May Ban Wave

A month ago I posted some of the tears I found posted on the illicit RMT site Player Auctions from customers banned by CCP for buying ISK, PLEX, and skill point injectors. But those were just scattered bans in the months of March and April. This month, the tears I captured are different. In May, we have a legitimate ban wave.

The wall of shame
The biggest indicator is the concentrated number of bans. Over the course of 11 days, I found 13 players banned purchasing ISK and skill injectors from 4 different sellers. The bans above are the minimum, as ISK sellers will often bribe upset customers with free ISK in order to either reverse a bad review or not post the negative review in the first place. Also, a lot of buyers don't post reviews, so some dissatisfaction never reaches the public. Finally, PA, while a large site, only makes up a fraction of the grey/black market in EVE Online virtual goods and currency. If the ban wave is truly massive, I only captured a fraction of those caught by CCP's security team.

The other indicator of a wider ban wave is the rising price of ISK and skill injectors. If an enforcement action takes place targeting both customers and the in-game infrastructure of ISK and skill point farmers, prices begin to rise about 2 weeks after the bans begin. Sellers offering the cheapest ISK began raising their prices 10%-20% starting late last week. Theoretically, the price rise possibly was the result of a lowering of the ISK price of PLEX during the same time. But over the past 2-3 days, the cheapest sellers of skill injectors began raising their prices 10%-20%.

Lots of player bans and rising prices. I don't know if the bans are over or if CCP is still rolling up the networks of the illicit ISK and SP sellers. I would like to see a security dev blog come out one of these days just to see what is really happening.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Business Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Price Of PLEX - An Unexpected Development

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

EVE's Opening Cinematic Videos

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

Original Cinematic: 6 May 2003

Apocrypha Expansion: 10 March 2009

Odyssey Expansion: 4 June 2013

Release 119.5: 9 May 2017

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Illicit Real Money Trading In EVE Online's Alpha State

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Buyers' Remorse

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Getting Sidetracked

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Purchasing Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

CSM Elections: Just Say No To Weighted Voting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fanfest 2017 - CSM 12 Election Results

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fanfest 2017: The Schedule

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

15:00 - 16:00: Lunch break

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

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

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

18:00 - 19:00: Closing Ceremony.

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fanfest 2017: RMT Intrigue

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fanfest 2017: The Calm Before The Storm

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fanfest 2017: Travel Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Return To Lowsec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fanfest Travel Tips: 2017 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

CSM 12 Election: Last Minute Endorsements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunsetting Aurum And Questions About PLEX

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

The main points of the current proposal are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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