Friday, February 27, 2015

Back In Space

For the first time in over a week I actually logged into EVE last night. My part is finished in the whole CSM election process so I can just sit back, log in, and relax. I didn't say undock, because I'm flying around Great Wildlands and until either my cargo hold fills up or another exit to Thera pops up, I'm not going back to Empire space. I only have an estimated 35 million ISK in goods right now, but the main purpose is to bookmark the area, not just pillage everything I can get my hands on.

I should briefly mention yesterday's o7 Show. Unlike last year, we should have most, if not all, of the dev blogs that will impact Fanfest out before everyone shows up in Reykjavik. However, that will impact the CSM election. After all, what is any sane player going to do, read a 7,400 word dev blog written by CCP Fozzie or research who to vote for amongst 75 candidates? My bet is reading the words of a dev named after a muppet instead of looking into the backgrounds of a group a lot of player think of as muppets. But, that means I should have a more relaxing Fanfest.

But back to space. We are now wardecced! That's right, our exploration alliance, Eve-Scout Enclave, is defending against the awesomely named Hodor vs Groot Battle Rap corporation. I guess the 6-man high sec wardec corp wanted a tougher challege.  After all, it's not everyday someone can fight an alliance with an ISK efficiency rating as awesome as ours. For those wishing they could have an ISK efficiency rating like ours, the secret is easy. Just poke your nose everywhere.  And I do mean, as our killboard shows, everywhere.

I'd write about the truly awe-inspiring fleet doctrine our leadership came up with, but until we use it, the composition remains firmly under wraps. But I hope someone records the action, because I'll enjoy the action. Unfortunately, I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere and can't even jump to a fresh clone to take part in the conflict. But I'm confident the alliance will hit our attackers like no one's ever hit them before.

If our attackers don't surrender from sheer shock at the brilliance of our theory crafters, I'll probably report more on the war next week.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ISBoxer, Another Ninja Edit, And A Correction

'...when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'
- Sherlock Holmes, The Blanched Soldier

Sometimes, facts that we all think we know aren't true. For example, the input broadcasting and input multiplexing bans in EVE Online. Everyone knows that CCP began banning players for input broadcasting and input multiplexing on 1 January 2015. That means that CCP changed the rules and that input broadcasting was allowed before that, right? So then, how could CCP Falcon go on EVE Radio's GRN Show on 25 January and state that nothing in the EULA had changed?

Humor me for a moment or two and assume that CCP Falcon is absolutely correct in his statement. That means that input broadcasting has always violated the EULA. Now, I know what some people are thinking. Impossible, right? If CCP had allowed users of ISBoxer to violate the EULA, that means that CCP had given ISBoxers special treatment for a long time. Well, that special treatment, and CCP apparently trying to hide the fact that they had given ISBoxer users special treatment, has led to the mess surrounding the current enforcement of the EULA where ISBoxer is concerned.

The origins of the current situation go back to the beginning of 2013. Team Security began to ramp up its automatic detection system at the beginning of March. A few weeks earlier, on 18 February 2013, CCP performed a ninja edit on a forum post that Lavish Software used to promote its advanced multiboxing software, ISBoxer. Following a flurry of discussion in the EVE community, CCP issued a dev blog and a new addition to the EVE Online Rules of Conduct, the Third Party Policies page. In the new policies page, CCP referred to something called "the multiboxing application" in the Client Modification section of the Third Party Policies. CCP defined client modification as software that violates Sections 6A2, 6A3, and 9C of the EVE Online EULA. The actual quote at the time read:
"We do not endorse or condone the use of any third party applications or other software that modifies the client or otherwise confers an unfair benefit to players. We may, in our discretion, tolerate the use of applications or other software that simply enhance player enjoyment in a way that maintains fair gameplay. For instance, the use of programs that provide in-game overlays (Mumble, Teamspeak) and the multiboxing application is not something we plan to actively police at this time. However, if any third party application or other software is used to gain any unfair advantage, or for purposes beyond its intended use, or if the application or other software violates other parts of the EULA, we may fully enforce our rights to prohibit such use, including player bans. Please use such third party applications or other software at your own risk."
Now, was "the multiboxing application" ISBoxer? The debate at the time the Third Party Policies were created would indicate yes. But we have a more recent statement from a member of Team Security. In the Team Security presentation at the CSM 9 Summer Summit in Reykjavik, the CSM asked about ISBoxer. CCP Peligro's response indicated that, indeed, CCP considered ISBoxer client modification.
"The software is used for all kinds of nefarious things, not just multi-boxing. We’re banning RMT’s and botters because that’s more detrimental to the game world. Client Modification is another big thing, and ISBoxer in particular is a powerful framework for this purpose." (page 102)

A Recommendation from the OwnedCore forums

CCP Peligro also put a link to the Third Party Policies page into the minutes to help explain CCP's stance on ISBoxer. I think I can safely state that "the multiboxing application" referred to in the Third Party Policies was indeed ISBoxer.

So, the situation on 24 November 2014 was that CCP considered the use of ISBoxer as client modification as users could use the software to violate sections 6A2, 6A3, and 9C of the EULA. However, CCP would not actively police the use of ISBoxer, although the game company reserved the right to do so at a later date.

That later date was 25 November 2014.  As far as I can tell, CCP made a ninja edit to the Third Party Policies to remove the words "and the multiboxing application".  I can't tell for sure because I didn't notice until the following week, blogging about the change on 1 December.

The words underlined in red were removed on 25 November 2014
The change to the Third Party Policies was buried under the news of CCP Falcon's forum post defining the terms input input automation, input broadcasting, and input multiplexing. CCP Falcon's post was designed, I believe, to clarify Section 6A3 of the EULA. Instead, almost no one realized the real news is that ISBoxer users were losing their immunity from prosecution under the client modification sections of the EULA.

This is the point in the story in which I have to admit my mistakes. I was drawn in by CCP Falcon's post as well and thought that the changes only applied to Section 6A3, because that was the section that CCP Falcon directly addressed.  But after thinking about the situation, I now realize I was wrong in my assumption that ISBoxer users would only have to obey Section 6A3 and could still safely ignore Section 6A2 and Section 9C. By removing the phrase "and the multiboxing application", CCP was now stating that ISBoxer users need to follow all three sections of the EULA.

Let me make the following point very clear. CCP did not ban input broadcasting and input multiplexing on 1 January 2015.  Those practices always violated the EULA. What CCP did was, in a very sneaky fashion, remove ISBoxers' immunity from punishment for violating the EULA. CCP Falcon's post didn't announce a change in the EULA; his post attempted to clarify exactly what Section 6A3 allowed and prohibited.

CCP's effort to clarify Section 6A3 continued in December with the publication of a Team Security dev blog on 19 December. CCP Grimmi addressed many of the workarounds ISBoxer users were advocating on the EVE Online forums with the following section:
Refresher Course - Macro Use
During discussions about the input multiplexing and broadcasting issue on forums and in tickets, we have noticed a frequent misunderstanding we would like to take this opportunity to address.  Any use of macros to interact with the game world is prohibited by EULA now, and has always been. The EULA clearly stipulates:
A. Specifically Restricted Conduct
3. You may not use your own or any third-party software, macros or other stored rapid keystrokes or other patterns of play that facilitate acquisition of items, currency, objects, character attributes, rank or status at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play. You may not rewrite or modify the user interface or otherwise manipulate data in any way to acquire items, currency, objects, character attributes or beneficial actions not actually acquired or achieved in the Game. [emphasis mine]
The part I emphasized is important, because many people believe, even after CCP Grimmi's dev post, that a macro is allowed if the macro only performs one action inside the client. That is not the case. CCP Grimmi clearly indicates that, "Any use of macros to interact with the game world is prohibited by EULA now, and has always been."  That sentence means that if the macro only has one step that interacts with the game world, then the entire macro violates the EULA.

But even following the dev blog, I still believed that Section 9C of the EULA did not apply to ISBoxer users. I still like my reasoning on why that section shouldn't apply, but I now believe I was wrong.

I don't know why CCP has not come down like a ton of bricks on those ISBoxers who continue to violate the EULA. Perhaps Team Security cannot tell who they should ban and who they should not. In my experience covering CCP's War on Bots and Illicit RMT, they have operated on the side of caution when banning players. That does not mean they have never banned the wrong people, just that they've let a lot of botters go who later bragged about the experience on various forums. But I am still seeing users of ISBoxer post videos in which they clearly violate the policy against using macros playing EVE.

Since we are in CSM election season, I have to add that I am glad that the CSM brought up the subject of ISBoxer during the summer summit. Part of the reason that CCP created the CSM was to assure the player base that CCP was not playing favorites among the players. The situation that existed before 1 January 2015 was that one class of players, the users of ISBoxer, were given preferential treatment over the rest of EVE players.  CCP stated in their policies that ISBoxers were allowed to violate sections of the EULA related to client modification that would see non-ISBoxer users receive 30-day and permanent bans for violating the same rules. If the CSM is more than a consumer focus group or player lobbyists, then the members of the CSM had to involve themselves in this situation. Overseeing developer favoritism is in the CSM's DNA.

One of the most ironic parts of the whole controversy is that CCP spelled out in the Third Party Policies the conditions that ISBoxer users could keep their special privilege.
"However, if any third party application or other software is used to gain any unfair advantage, or for purposes beyond its intended use, or if the application or other software violates other parts of the EULA, we may fully enforce our rights to prohibit such use, including player bans. Please use such third party applications or other software at your own risk."
To use technical language to summarize this section, CCP told ISBoxer users to not act like dicks. If ISBoxer users had done that, then CCP would have had an argument to present to the CSM to allow unrestricted use of ISBoxer to continue.  Instead, the arguments of the CSM members concerned about the use of ISBoxer carried more weight.

Perhaps having covered CCP's War on Bots and Illicit RMT for over three years gives me a different perspective on the situation. I'm not worried that CCP has not yet dropped the banhammer on some of the loudest proponents of using ISBoxer to violate the EULA. Not all users of ISBoxer use the software in that fashion. At this point, I'd hate to see those bad apples force CCP to ban any application using Inner Space. While the bot fighter in me would love to see that occur, I realize that using ISBoxer doesn't automatically mean that a player is violating the EULA. So I'll settle for CCP telling all the players in the sandbox they all have to follow the same rules. No more special snowflakes.

Now, I'm not happy with the way CCP used a ninja edit to change the policy. I believe that CCP should have just forthrightly stated that they were invoking their rights to revoke ISBoxer users' special exemption from having to follow certain sections of the EULA. If they had done so, perhaps this whole issue would have died down months ago. But, what's done is done. I'm interested to see how CCP will handle the mess they created by first giving a class of players special exemptions from following the EULA and then trying to sneak revoking that privilege.

But, please everyone. Stop saying that CCP just banned input broadcasting. You're diving me crazy. The practice has violated the EULA for years!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The CSM X Election Begins Today

Today is the start of the election for the 10th Council of Stellar Management.  The election will run through 10 March, with the results announced at Fanfest in March.  As part of the celebration that the CSM made it to a 10th iteration, CCP is giving away a 10-run blueprint copy for the Council Diplomatic Shuttle, a decommissioned, disarmed Pacifier-class CONCORD frigate for all paying accounts active today.  Everyone who votes will get a 10 trinkets, one for each of the CSMs containing the names of each serving member.

I have to admit, I'm really tired right now, and compared to a lot of people I hardly did any work. The page I built for the election on my Google site is complete for every candidate and I will only need to update it with the latest information.

Unless something totally wacky occurs, this is my final CSM post until the results are revealed at Fanfest.  Judging by my traffic statistics, a lot of people are rejoicing at that announcement.  But sometimes a subject is worth writing about, even if a lot of people turn away.

Let me just conclude this year's coverage with a statement from CCP Leeloo's dev blog:
So you’re asking yourself “Why should I care?”...
The CSM is a key part of the interaction between players of EVE Online and the EVE development team.
The delegates that YOU choose in this election will be attending two multiple day summits here at CCP headquarters in Reykjavík, Iceland, and will have open and direct access to the developers and work to improve and expand EVE Online throughout the year alongside the EVE Development team.
This means that your votes count and can be the deciding factor in which feature proposals, concerns, ideas and feedback items are brought to the development team for action.
Voting in the CSM elections allows you to select the candidate that best suits your playstyle and helps ensure that you get the best representation possible during communications with CCP.
Like any good political election, the candidates are varied and represent the wide spectrum of interests that EVE players have, so you should be able to find several that mirror your own EVE experiences.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Nosy Gamer Endorsements For CSM X

"Someone who knows players and can work with people without dissolving into crazy sauce is important."
Sugar Kyle, CSM 9 delegate

Finally.  After months of coverage, the election for EVE Online's 10th Council of Stellar Management begins tomorrow.  After creating a Google site that contains as much candidate information as I could muster and appearing on 7 candidate analysis shows with the Cap Stable crew, I only have one final thing to do.  That's right, give my recommendations on who to vote for.

Before I begin, I just want to state something.  First, thanks to all the candidates, especially the ones who did the Cap Stable interviews and/or filled out the Just For Crits survey/interview.  I know that in my role as a talking head I threw some grenades around, but it's easy for the talking heads to do that.  Running for office is a much harder task, and with only one voice interview taking place, the pressure was on.  Very few of the people running are professional talkers.  I know sometimes I had problems getting my sentences out.  Trying to do it under pressure?  Thanks for making the effort and getting out there in front of the voting public.

Next, my list is basically for those outside of null sec.  The null sec powers have their lists and their organization and will most likely win 6-9 seats.  My list is to help decide the remaining seats.  For example, recommending for people in Empire space or wormholes to vote for Sion Kumitomo is a waste of a vote.  As the top candidate on the Goonswarm Federation ballot, he is one of the few locks in this election.  So don't expect to see any null sec candidates on my list.  With that disclaimer out of the way, let's begin.

1.  Sugar Kyle.  Sugar Kyle tops my recommended list for the second year in a row.  I'd seen her in action at Fanfest in 2013 and knew that the devs would not intimidate her.  I also knew that she could make a calm, reasoned argument, and eventually the change she proposed made its way into the game.  Not bad for just a player attending Fanfest.

I highly recommend her for reelection, as she is acknowledged as one of, if not the, hardest workers on CSM 9.  She is also the top low sec candidate, who during her term also managed to move from a small alliance in the backwater region of Molden Heath to Snuff Box.  In addition to moving her low sec market, she became a capital manufacturer, thus expanding on her knowledge of the game.  With that type of in-game growth in addition to her heavy workload and massive binders she always seems to carry around filled with player input to give to the devs, and the constant flow of information she posts on her blog, I can feel confident that I'm voting for a candidate who will perform in CSM X.

2.  Mike Azariah.  Every time a CSM election rolls around, two things happen.  One, Mike Azariah runs.  The other?  I endorse him.  For the 6th year in a row, I am endorsing Mike for a seat on the CSM.  Despite a good performance over the past year, I questioned whether I should endorse him.  After the Trebor Daehdoow experience of having someone server four terms, do I really want someone else to serve even three?

After looking at the other candidates, I did not see anyone else running that would serve the incursion and high sec carebear communities nearly as well as Mike.  So I'm recommending that everyone vote for Mike one more time so we can enjoy another year of repeated podcast and internet radio hotdrops and forum posts as he does his patented job of community outreach, with the seemingly mandatory goodie for the incursion community.  I'm sure the techs in Iceland dread dealing with his ever present technical gremlins, though.  But this is that last time, Mike.  You hear me?  The last time!

3.  Steve Ronuken.  I normally don't like specialists on CSM.  I like people like Sugar Kyle who has a lot of experience doing many things, also she's played in low sec her entire career.  But Steve is different.  His specialty, third party development, potentially affects every player in EVE.

On a CSM that blew up near the end with complaints of communication problems between CCP and CSM, Steve did not have that issue.  Apparently, his partnership with CCP Foxfour on the development of the CREST API has really helped the third party developer community.  Combine that with his knowledge of industry and Steve was one of the most productive member of CSM 9.  With no other candidate having Steve's qualifications in both 3rd party development and industry, Steve's presence on CSM X is almost required for the continued success of the CSM experiment.

4.  Chance Ravinne.  At the beginning of the CSM election season, I determined I would put a new player in the fourth position on my endorsement list.  I know a lot of people find it hard to believe, but EVE's steep learning curve makes someone who has played for a year still a new player.  Fortunately, the choice among the new players was relatively easy.  While Suzy RC Mudstone is an attractive candidate, his position in the CFC means 1) he's a null sec player and 2) probably needs another year of seasoning in order to get the support needed to win a seat.  That leaves Suzy's running mate and torpedo deliveryman Chance Ravinne as my new player selection.

Despite the introduction, I think that Chance is actually a better candidate than Suzy.  In his interview and some of the other research I did, Chance knows his limitations and plays to his strengths.  Those strengths include a real world marketing background and perhaps more importantly, a knowledge of how YouTube content creation works.  At a time in which the CSM is providing a wider scope of advice, Chance's YouTube experience could help CCP develop a program with interacting with YouTubers.  I also think his insights as a new player could help Team Pirate Unicorns develop the new Opportunity system.  The fact that I've recently joined Mynxee's Signal Cartel that helps keep Eve-Scout up to date and operates out of Thera also helps me feel more favorably disposed toward the torpedeo deliveryman.

5.  corbexx.  How could I possibly put corbexx all the way down at number 5?  Quite frankly, because as far and away the best wormhole candidate, the wormhole community should rally around the incumbant and easily reelect him.  To any wormhole resident reading this, place corbexx number one on your list.

Basically, I don't expect corbexx to need my vote, but he's done such a good job it seems a crime to leave him off my list.  In a year in which wormholes didn't really seem headed for any major revamps not already vetted by CSM 8, corbexx put in the work to prove to CCP that income in the lower classes of wormholes (C1-C4) needed improvement.  In addition, he opened up new avenues of communications between the CSM and the wormhole community.  He even stepped outside the wormhole community in joining Sugar Kyle in her scheduled monthly talks on the Eve University Mumble server.  Oh, and along with Mike Azariah, became involved with clothing in the Nex store.  All in all, an impressive performance deserving of a second term on the CSM.

6.  Bam Stroker.  I know, I said no null sec candidates.  But having lived in low sec within jump range of Fortress Amamake for so long, I have a hard time picturing the nomads of Pandemic Legion as just a null sec alliance.  Also, the main reason for selecting Bam in the 6th slot is not for his combat experience.

Bam is probably most known for his work on EVE Down Under, the largest player-run EVE gathering now that CCP has taken over EVE Vegas.  In addition, Bam has tirelessly promoted player gatherings throughout Australia.  But what intrigued me the most in his Cap Stable interview was his concept of extending the out of game community he has worked on into the game as well.  I liked some of his ideas and think CCP might want to give some of them a try.

In addition to his broad concepts of community both within and outside the client, Bam does have the null sec experience that will come in handy when the discussions turn to null sec sovereignty revamp. Bam's breadth of knowledge gives him a clear advantage over the other highly thought of community candidate, Jayne Fillon.  After losing in the CSM 8 election, Jayne took the wrong lesson from his defeat and actually narrowed his field of interests, which was already too narrow in my view.  That decision I think will cost Jayne a seat in this election as well.

Honorable mentions - While I don't put null sec candidates on my slate of candidates, I do want to point out three additional candidates.  The first is Endie, who will most likely receive the #2 spot on the GSF ballot.  His "I don't want to sit on a rotting throne" comment will probably go down in CSM history.  The second candidate, Manfred Sideous, is probably a lock for a seat as well.  CCP has already consulted with him on the null sec changes on an informal basis.  Quite frankly, elect both Endie and Manny, make them sign the NDA, and milk them both for everything possible.  However, don't put them in front of the six candidates above.  Endie and Manny are already going to win.

The last candidate is Xander Phoena.  For everything that people have said about Xander lately, one thing that people have never said is that he doesn't keep his promises.  He vowed to communicate with players and he did.  He said he'd work to get the minutes out on time, and his 3 sessions of the summer summit written were second only to the nine output by Sugar Kyle.  And he did promise to bring the ISBoxer issue up, and the Team Security session at the summer summit seems dominated by the subject.  So if you want to throw Xander at the end of the list, I won't object.

What about the rest of the slots?  Who cares?  Voting for someone you really don't support is the true waste of a vote.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Is Transparency The New Minmatar Broom Closet?

The Cap Stable crew has just about finished their coverage of the CSM X election, and I participated in the final two analysis shows recorded last night.  As part of the preparation for the shows, I listened to the Cap Stable interview of Thoric Frosthammer.  Ugh.  Fortunately, he's an endorsed CFC candidate, so if elected he hopefully will have the good sense to follow along with Sion Kumitomo and Endie.  Even so, ugh!

While enduring the circular logic that says that Endie's vision for null sec is wrong1, Thoric was asked about the issue that has risen to the top of the election meta, transparency.  Listening to Thoric, I soon became convinced that he was just mouthing the words given to him my Sion.  He clearly didn't understand Sion's position, because during the interview he began preparing his retreat behind the NDA, and the voting hasn't even begun.

Now, I'm from Chicago, and transparency is a word that goo-goos (good government types) use.  In my experience, goo-goos are either naive or trying to hide something.  Not that I object to the naive types trying to do good, because I enjoy watching a politician taking a good perp walk as much as the next guy.  In fact, when I was in Bulgaria, I was told that's what makes America great; our crooked politicians have a good chance of winding up in prison.  And during my 50 years on this planet, 5 of the 8 elected governors of Illinois have visited the jail house.

I do have to wonder, though.  Do I really want transparency?  I'm reminded back to 2011, when a lot of EVE Online players wanted what was eventually dubbed "Walking in Stations".  CCP basically spent 18 months developing WiS gameplay while relegating the spaceship game to the sidelines.  If WiS had come out fully functional with compelling gameplay, then I believe that we'd have a much healthier EVE today.  Instead, we got a broom closet in a Minmatar station.  Even if your current location was a Gallente station.

Having gone through that experience once with EVE, do I want to see the CSM divert resources, namely the time of the unpaid volunteers who advise CCP, to activities not related to improving the internet spaceship game?  We don't even really know what transparency would look like in the CSM setting, especially with CCP, rightly in my opinion, worried about protecting proprietary business information.  Whatever transparency means, someone is going to have to work on the process of giving information to players.  I'm betting that means someone on the CSM will have to divert time away from looking at internet spaceships.

Perhaps if I believed that transparency would result in members of the CSM doing a better job I might jump on the goo-goo bandwagon.  But I don't.  Transparency is only good at election time, and if a CSM member doesn't run for re-election, then really, who cares?  For now, I think the process works fairly well in governing what, in effect, are 14 volunteer positions.  If we get 7 active members, we're doing good.  What I don't want to see, however, is the CSM getting shoved into a Minmatar broom closet.


1.  For the record, I liked Endie's Cap Stable interview.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The CSM X Election: You Can't Spell Surprise Without CCP Rise

In U.S. presidential politics, an unexpected event that occurs in the closing days of an election is called an "October surprise", due to the timing of the election in November.  In EVE Online, the elections don't occur in a fixed month, so we don't have a handy phrase to use when an unexpected event happens at the end of the CSM election campaign season.  But with the meta heavily favoring espousing revamping EVE's new player experience (NPE), CCP Rise dropped a bombshell.

The development team that CCP Rise works on, Team Pirate Unicorns, has worked on revamping the NPE for at least a year, as their efforts first emerged at Fanfest last year.  And yesterday, CCP Rise published a dev blog with an update, less than a week before the election.  Here are some of the highlights:

I like the theory behind the new "Opportunities" system.  Take away the linear, themepark style experience new players currently don't enjoy and replace it with a system that allows the player to progress in a way the player chooses.  No more getting stuck on a mission.  No more having to find one particular agent in a station.  Just go wherever you want and do whatever you want.  Of course, if Team Pirate Unicorns had decided to get rid of Aura, they would have seen players shooting monuments in Jita.  Good thing they decided to keep her around.

I think one of the sites, the Rogue Cloning Facility, is already on Tranquility and I'll need to visit one this weekend.  I'm also all in favor of starting new players in space, in a ship, in their own dungeon, to begin the game.  Once they learn how to warp away, they are out of the womb and into the dangerous world of New Eden.

I should copy and paste three main points that I really like from the dev blog:

The core system we are using to drive the NPE is called ‘Opportunities’. Aura (we decided to keep her around) will introduce new players to opportunities in New Eden that they can investigate and complete. Each Opportunity consists of a set of tasks which must be completed to finish the Opportunity. Each task will have some explanation of how it can be completed. Simple.
There’s a couple very important principles in this system that we are working hard to preserve that I want to go over quickly:
NO MORE LINEAR TRACKSFirstly, you can complete opportunities in any order you like and can always see all opportunities available from this tree view (work in progress):

This means no more getting stuck on a step that you can’t figure out until you’re so mad that you give up on EVE forever. It also means you can do the things you’re interested in right away without having to slog through a bunch of steps that you don’t need.
It’s very important to us that you can complete opportunity tasks however you like. For instance, if there is a task in an opportunity to dock at a station, you can dock at any station. This small distinction from the old tutorial means that we no longer have to trust people will find a particular item, location or agent to move forward. Not only does it mean that players have a lot more freedom in how they move through the NPE, but it also means we can provide opportunities to do things like join a fleet, kill another player or go to 0.0 space. In turn, this allows us to introduce a huge range of concepts that are essential to playing EVE but could never be explained in missions without simply having an agent describe them in a giant wall of text (much like this blog is turning out to be).
One of the most fundamental principles for the new NPE is that we want to do less hand-holding. We think players will be more likely to learn, and more likely to have fun if they get to experiment, discover, and even fail as they explore New Eden. As a result, there is deliberately less explanation in the opportunities system than there was in the tutorials. Again, we need to use testing to find out exactly how little explanation we can get away with but our internal testing suggests that we don’t need a lot.

Now, some of what CCP Rise presented will upset some candidates.  I get the feeling that those candidates wanted to double-down on the NPE and make the experience even more story-driven, with others wanting even more walls of text.  But the trend in game development today is to try to get players to naturally learn the game without having to read a lot of text.  Today's generation of MMORPG players don't read quest text.  Reading how the game actually works?  Yeah, right.

Overall, I like how Team Unicorn Pirates is trying to make the NPE and learning how to play EVE more sandboxy.  Making a themepark, ride-on-rails NPE that lasts 2-3 weeks then turning the game into a sandbox would result in a reaction similar to that experienced by Age of Conan players after finishing the Tortage content when AoC launched.  Lots of outrage.  In EVE, the shooting of monuments in Jita would probably soon follow.

Now, how will this affect the election?  Personally, I wasn't a big fan of candidates who made the NPE a central part of their platform.  With the dev blog, voters can now tell if a candidate is thinking along the lines of CCP.  Quite frankly, vote for those candidates, because I think they understand the sandbox better than those who wanted a more linear experience.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Wednesday Night Roam

Sometimes I just have the urge to fly around EVE.  So, after doing the bare minimum on the CSM election coverage front as I could get away with, I headed off to Thera and points unknown.

On the way to the nearest entrance, I saw one of the new unidentified structure sites and had to take a look.  Let's just say, those structures are huge.

An Unidentified Structure

The image above was taken from a distance of 130 km and I still only managed to get 3/4 of the structure into the screenshot.  The site was also in Minmatar high sec, as the nearest entrance to Thera was in high sec and I didn't feel like making an extended trip just to stay in low sec.

Seekers Gonna Seek
I didn't see any battleships, but the Circadian Seekers were hard at work analyzing the beacon at the site.  I'm not sure what they're looking for though, to me, it just looked like a standard navigational beacon.  One of the weirdest parts is that when I approached stealthed, the Seekers warped off as a fleet.  I tried to follow, but my hunting skills apparently are sub-par and I lost them.

After my stop in high sec, I continued to Thera.  KapTaiN KaVerN had Eve-Scout up to date, so I decided to go to the Great Wildlands and poke around that area for awhile.  The exit didn't take me far into the region, but would get me past the seemingly permanent gate camp I witnessed when I did a little exploring in Great Wildlands last year.

I didn't get too far because I decided to resume making bookmarks in the area.  For those not familar with EVE, Great Wildlands is a null sec region entirely controlled by an NPC faction, Thukker Tribe.  Null sec means bubbles.  Some people think bubbles look pretty, but they are a pain to deal with.  One way I do that is make a bunch of bookmarks I can use to try to get around the pesky things.

In my travels, I spotted another unidentified structure site.  I warped to it to see if any Drifter battleships were hanging around.  No luck, just three Circadian Seekers.

A Pretty Backdrop
After the Seekers warped off (they do that a lot), I uncloaked and positioned myself for a screenshot with a distant nebula as a backdrop for the unidentified structure.  The light, however, was diffused by the ever present cloud that hangs around the structures.

By the end of the night, I was in the middle of Great Wildlands, which is the same as saying the middle of nowhere.  So I did something I've never done before.  I logged off in space.  I think the system I'm in is pretty distant so I won't have any issues when I log back in, but who knows?  But if the CSM stuff doesn't start getting crazy again, I can pick up where I stopped making bookmarks.  Making bookmarks.  And I bet you thought EVE Online was about shooting other people.

So This Is What Intentionally Logging Off Looks Like

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Do Goons Role-play?

Sometimes things get a little strange in EVE, especially when the fighting slows down in null sec.  One of the rules of EVE is: a bored Goon is a dangerous Goon.  When the top Goon gets bored, who knows what can occur.

With all of null sec waiting for CCP to announce the next steps in the changes to null sec sovereignty mechanics, The Mittani is looking for ideas to keep his space tribe occupied and happy.  So when I saw this segment on The Meta Show last month, I just shook my head.

I then thought about Burn Jita.  Will the Goons and friends hold a Burn Jita 4, or do they want a change of pace?  Amarr is the second largest trade hub in New Eden.  Not only would installing a new Amarr emperor give an excuse to ravage through Providence, but a reason to hold a Burn Amarr as well.

But that's a totally unrealistic pipe dream, right?  I mean, CCP would almost have to egg the Goons on.  It's not like CCP would watch The Meta Show, think to itself, "Hey Darius JOHNSON and The Mittani have a good idea," and then embed the following into a news article:
"Rumors continue to circulate among the media relating to the wellbeing of Empress Jamyl I, after her abstinence from public appearances since September YC116, with Chamberlain Haromi attending public events in her absence. The long delay in the issue of this decoration, along with its presentation by Grand Admiral Sundara rather than the head of state, as is traditional in the Empire, has left a number of media outlets speculating on the Empress’ whereabouts and wellbeing."
I know that lore enthusiasts are probably looking at this as a sign of the reemergence of The Other and that Empress Jamyl is losing her battle at keeping The Other at bay.  But that could give an enthusiastic role-player an excuse to hold anti-empress feelings.  Or even a bored null sec alliance.

Now, I don't expect the CFC to organize to role-play a part in any possible succession crisis the Amarr Empire may experience in the lore.  The Mittani and his leadership cadre are too instilled with the thrill of realpolitik to settle for anything less.  But the Goon leadership knows the value of providing the rank-and-file content as well.

I know, I know, who wants Providence besides CVA anyway?  So the real questions are, how bored are the Goons and, if the sov revamp doesn't come soon, what will they do next?

EDIT:  After looking at the Drifters' killboard, the Amarr might welcome their new Goon overlords.  Yikes!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

66 Candidates?!

My research into real money trading continues, but we are now hot and heavy into the CSM election season.  In addition to trying to keep up with the CSM interviews that Cap Stable is putting out, others are jumping into the fray.  The latest is an effort by Bellak Hark of the New Eden Media Organization to encapsulate each candidate into a short ad.  As I write this, I noticed I was two videos behind again.  For those trying to cover the CSM election, I think we are in a perpetual state of trying to catch up.

I saw a message floating around on Slack that CCP Leeloo had confirmed that 66 candidates had properly submitted their paperwork and passed the required Internal Affairs background check ... so far.  The submission period ended on Sunday, so I imagine CCP will release the official candidate list as scheduled on 23 February.  I typed in the date, but I could have just as easily said next Monday.  The election begins next Wednesday and runs two weeks, ending Tuesday, 10 March.

Since the official candidate list doesn't come out until two days before the election, any pundit who waits until then to begin to evaluate candidates because they, "don't want to waste my time," needs to put that attitude aside and start doing their research.  Lots of people have already put out good content and I'm trying to collect it all at the Google stie, CSM Wire, I set up to store all the CSM information I've collected on the election.  In addition to Bellak's videos, I've collected the interviews, campaign posts, and social media contacts for each candidate.  But, if the information about the number of candidates is true, I'm missing at least 14 candidates that I will need to post Monday night.  And no, I am not taking off work to do the updates; I'm using my days off to go to Fanfest.

I'll have some thoughts on the entire election coverage process after the election ends.  But for now, everyone is scrambling to meet the hard deadline of the beginning of the election.  I believe the Cap Stable guys finished up recording the last interview, so "all" they need to do is edit and post them, plus do a huge final analysis show on Sunday.  Jakob over at Jakob's Eve Checklist will finish his analysis shortly thereafter.  Bellak is hoping to finish by then, but he told me each video takes two hours to produce.  And I know the redoubtable Rhavas is furiously gathering information for his annual look at the candidates over on Interstellar Privateer.

But 66 candidates?  I don't think anyone expected that many.  This year is stretching the resources of those covering the election, although we hopefully haven't seen all the pundits come out yet.  I can't wait to see how the whole thing turns out.

Monday, February 16, 2015


This is the time of year I try to explain what the Council of Stellar Management is and why EVE Online players should care enough to vote in the upcoming election.  As CCP states on the CSM community page, "The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council who represent the views of the members of the EVE Online community to CCP."  A pretty vanilla description.  But what does that mean in real terms?

First, the CSM serves as a consumer focus group that, if used properly, gives feedback on proposed additions and/or changes to EVE.  The members of the CSM sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that states the members will not discuss the sensitive information CCP shares with the member for 5 years after the date the member leaves the CSM.  Not only are up to 10 members flown out twice a year for meetings at CCP headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss ideas and problems in person (with others attending via teleconference), but CCP schedules weekly meetings (barring holidays) with the CSM as well.  Recently, CCP gave members of the CSM access to its Confluence system (think a better, more useful version of Sharepoint) used to document development so the CSM can keep up with the new 10-releases a year development schedule.  The CSM also has access to the game developers through several dedicated Skype channels.

Some may figure that such a focus group is a waste of time and that CCP can meet any feedback requirement through the use of surveys sent to players.  While such quantitative research is valuable, companies also routinely conduct qualitative research in the forms of such activities as face-to-face interviewing and focus groups.  According to the Marketing Research Association, approximately 70% of all consumer research dollars are earmarked for qualitative research, with almost all Fortune 500 companies conducting such research.

But the council is not just a consumer focus group.  In many ways, the CSM acts as a lobbying body that, instead of trying to influence legislation, attempts to alert the game developers to either problems that need fixing or to new ideas.  When acting in its lobbying role, the CSM attempts to filter out the noise to pick out the good ideas and present those ideas to the devs.  Oftentimes, pointing to ideas from the player base is more effective than stating that a member has an idea.  Sometimes CSM members present their own research in order to make a point.  As part of the lobbying role, CSM members will report back to the player base in many ways in order to let players know how their efforts are proceeding.  Sometimes, though, the answers are covered by the NDA.

These functions are fine, some critics will argue, but the CSM is next-to-worthless because the body is dominated by the null sec blocs.  But is this true?  On the current CSM, only five members are from null sec blocs, and some may argue that Provibloc is not really a major power bloc.  Five out of fourteen members?  That doesn't sound like domination to me.  However, in the past the number was much greater.

What CCP wants in input from the "enablers and instigators" of EVE Online.  When CCP Seagull, now the Executive Producer for EVE Online, took over as Senior Producer for EVE in 2013, she stated she wanted to develop in ways to cater to these types of players:
"There are some people who make things work - they pre-fit ships for a fleet op, they run mega-spreadsheets for the industry production lines needed to equip the war effort, build tools to manage a corporation or command large fleets. Their activities enable others to have fun in EVE. And then there are some people who instigate big plans that others can help realize. Whether in null, low or high sec, the dreams and ambitions of these people inspire others with purpose.
"We will start working to give the 'Enablers' better tools, and to make sure 'Instigators' have cool and worthwhile ways to make an impact on the EVE universe when they inspire others to join them. We believe that helping these two archetypes achieve their own goals is the best way to have the sandbox of EVE thrive - by supporting them in creating their own exciting plans and schemes that people can be excited to join both when they arrive fresh out of a starter system or when they are looking for the next adventure in their ongoing EVE career.
"Giving third party developers better tools and more powerful access through CREST will be a big part of making life better for 'Enablers'."
When looking at the makeup of past CSMs, these two types of players tend to dominate in the elections.  The question then becomes, what is the best method for selecting the players who will advise the CSM?  Due to some past developer misconduct, just selecting players based on expertise is problematic.  In order to avoid charges of favoritism, CCP decided to hold elections.

In 2013, CCP switched to a modified Wright Single Transferable Vote system for the election.  The STV, while more complicated than the First Past The Post method used in most U.S. elections, has some advantages.  First, with over 50 candidates fighting for 14 positions, no primary or run-off elections are required.  Keeping player interest in one election is much easier than trying to hold two elections.  Next, the STV rewards those candidates who are organized with other players and player groups.  The null sec power blocs benefit from their inherent organization while players from smaller groups can form temporary alliances for political benefit.  Finally, because the system allows for second choices, the STV produces a set of winning candidates more in tune with the views of those who voted.

Finally, no article on the CSM and why players should vote is complete without addressing the issue of the "do-nothing" candidate.  The dual roles of the CSM as a consumer focus group and lobbyist produces two types of CSM member.  The first falls within the focus group type, who is a knowledgeable player who sees his purpose as helping guide CCP's development from his personal knowledge the reason he was elected.  That view of the position conflicts with that of the lobbyist, who sees the position as communicating with the player base and using the information to influence design decisions.  Of course, some members just don't show up rarely, if at all.

Most often, the CSM is made up of a mixture of the two types.  But that is one of the reasons why voting in the CSM elections is important.  Do you want a more activist CSM who tries to communicate with the player base, or do you want people with supreme confidence in their own skill and knowledge who will quietly provide advice to the devs?  The choice begins on 25 February.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Familiar Face On YouTube

With the closing of applications to run for CSM 10 two days away, I thought I'd look back to last year at someone who doesn't want to run again.  Of the five candidates I picked to vote for, only one, DNSBLACK, didn't win.  But I don't think he's too sad about it.  He told me after last year's election that members of his alliance didn't want him to win because they didn't want him to disappear off into CSM land.  And recently he sent me a message stating he's glad he doesn't have to follow the NDA.  That would kill him.

One hallmark of DNSBLACK's campaign last year was the series of YouTube videos he did to explain his positions on issues.  Looks like he was bitten by the YouTube bug, because he's coming out with a series of videos on gaming in general.  He sent me the first one and I thought it was pretty good.

One thing about DNSBLACK is that he usually brings a lot of passion to whatever he does, and his first video is no exception.  He's also building a website and, while it's still under construction, I'm glad to see he's also uploading videos to Vimeo.  I'm not saying that YouTube sometime's goes crazy with the DMCA takedowns, but not relying on YouTube on his personal site is probably a good idea.

Oh, if you haven't watched the video yet, spoiler alert: no spaceships.  The video is just some observations about gaming and culture, and I expect the other 9 videos he's planning to follow in that vein.  But that's okay.  Sometimes we all need a reminder that life is more than work and flying around in internet spaceships.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Divided Attention

Last night I decided I would log into EVE no matter what.  Which basically meant, screw the CSM coverage, although I did listen to Ashterothi's interview while moving some product to market.  My main business is selling ammunition, mainly short-range faction projectile ammunition and missiles for battlecruiser and smaller ships.  In low sec, speed counts, so I don't bother stocking ammunition for battleship-class weapons.  I really needed to do some restocking as I had let the amount of my sell orders creep down to 90 million ISK.  Not good.

So I went through the usual routine of seeing which orders had expired and then purchasing my faction ammo from the loyalty point stores.  After seeing that would only push my sell orders up to 200 million ISK, I broke down and started moving the last of my PI products to the customs office of my factory planet to make some more nanite repair paste.  I still have about 10 days worth of material to process,  I don't really like planetary interaction, but if all I have to do is travel to one planet, that's not such a big deal.  The paste will come in handy if I decide to eventually break down and purchase a Stratios.  If not, I can use the shot in the wallet selling that much paste will bring.

After taking care of the boring business of business, I swapped over to Rosewalker and headed to Thera.  One of the nice things about selling ammunition is that I don't have to go out and run the data and relic sites looking for cash.  I'm free to do other things, like probe down exits.

Looking at EvE-Scout, I saw that no one had updated the list for 4 hours, which meant a lot of undiscovered exits just calling my name.  I couldn't resist the call, if only because Bob might become upset.  After Bob started making volcanoes erupt after the changes to wormhole jump spawn distance were announced, I figured I didn't want to chance not having a place to land when I go to Fanfest in 4 weeks.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of probing down the exits.  I wrote down the signatures that weren't listed on Eve-Scout, ignored those that did, and started going down the list.  In order to report an exit, I have to jump through the wormhole and record the signature and type of the wormhole leading into Thera.  That means when I jump back in, the list refreshes with all the signatures I had previously ignored.  Right now I'm using a notepad (with real paper, not the free program), but I may want to start using a spreadsheet to record my progress in the future.

I managed to find and report five exits to all four types of space.  I also made my first stop in Scalding Pass.  One of these days I really need to do a little more exploring in null sec, but I was on a roll and a lot of exits needed probing down.

I stayed up too late, but hey, I had fun.  Now I just need to figure out Mumble so I can stay in contact with the corp while running around making money on my alts.  Yes, voice comms are just like math.  They're both hard unless you practice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

CSM Election Thoughts Going Into The Homestretch

The CSM election season is in full swing, with 53 candidates making campaign posts in the CSM campaign section of the EVE Online forums.  How do I know?  Because I've made 53 pages for CSM Wire, which you can access by clicking on the CSM Wire button underneath the title of the blog.  But even that is understating the number of potential candidates.  In an interview done with Cap Stable, CCP Leeloo stated that approximately 100 players had submitted applications to run in the CSM 10 election that begins on 25 February.

One hundred candidates?  Probably not.  Apparently, about a third of the applicants are not submitting scans of their passports.  That will knock the number down to maybe 70.  That's still a lot, though.

I think that the schedule that CCP Leeloo laid out really will play havoc with the plans of the "EVE media".  I think a lot of people didn't want to waste time on joke candidates so didn't want to begin their coverage until after the official list came out.  But with CCP Leeloo announcing the list is coming out on 23 February, that just leaves two days for them to do analysis.   Sure, the voting takes place from 25 February to 10 March, but I expect the majority of the voting to take place on the first day.  That means those candidates who made an effort to publicize themselves early will have a huge advantage.  Unless, of course, a candidate is relying on a bloc in which people just hand out a link to use to vote the straight party line.  In that case, no publicity is needed.

I should add one other fact.  The campaign thread is full of English speaking candidates, with a few candidates from France and Germany sprinkled in.  Where are the Russians?  Probably on their own forums organizing themselves.  I expect that in CSM 10, unlike the current body, CCP Leeloo will not be the only Russian in the CSM Skype channels.

We still have two weeks to go until the election starts and I'm already tired.  As one of the talking heads appearing on the Cap Stable CSM X analysis shows, I've listened to all the interviews the Cap Stable crew have published.  I think the total right now is 24, along with the interview with CCP Leeloo and CCP Falcon and 4 analysis shows.  That doesn't include an additional 15 interviews they have either planned or are in the process of editing.  For those candidates who have not scheduled an interview yet, sorry.  The Cap Stable crew stopped taking interview requests last Friday.  For those who think that's not fair, Cap Stable put out their first call for candidates to request an interview on 1 December and published the first interview with Borat Guereen on 29 December.  If a candidate wasn't organized enough to put in a request before that, well, maybe next year.

Oh, and my hats off to the Cap Stable crew.  I'll probably give them a shout out once or twice more before the whole process concludes.  They, along with Marc Scaurus on Just For Crits, have produced the most information in the form of interviews that we have today.

Notice I didn't concentrate on the candidates themselves?  You can get some of my views by listening to the analysis shows, but I'm so caught up in the process of pumping out information, even in the limited role I play, that I haven't taken time to really evaluate all the candidates.  Perhaps that's a post I can make on the 24th.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Buyer Beware

Today's post doesn't quite belong in the Rabbit Hole category, but the subject is still RMT.  I monitor the Player Auctions RMT trading site to try to get an indication of what is happening in the secondary ISK market.  Secondary ISK market is a nice way to describe black market RMT activity and I normally try to use more academic terms.  But I've noticed a trend that I'd like to note now.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a trend toward larger bulk purchases as the price of ISK has lowered closer to $9 USD per billion ISK.  I don't recall seeing as many purchases of 20 billion ISK or more as I have in the past month.  I even saw a single individual purchase of 100 billion ISK.  Either a lot more fighting is occurring between alliances with horrible ship replacement programs, or the sources of cheaper ISK are drying up and the RMT sites still selling ISK are using Player Auctions as a source of ISK.  If the latter is true, that is good news, as shops buying ISK at $9.50 USD per billion and selling at $13 USD per billion are definitely seeing reduced profits.

But at the same time, those reduced prices are also available to the average player.  And with the price of ISK in Jita hovering around the $21.50 - $22.00 USD per billion mark, the allure of that cheap, cheap ISK is probably tempting, especially to new players.

I'm beginning to think that CCP should hire Rixx Javix to produce a series of videos on the evils of buying ISK.  Since in the EVE Online lore capsuleers are sometimes referred to as "eggers", I've wondered how Rixx would remake the classic "This is your brain on drugs" series.

But cheap ISK isn't the only danger to new players.  That realization hit me when Ubisoft started revoking game codes for games like Far Cry 4 because EA sold a lot of game codes to people who used stolen credit cards and then resold the codes to outlets like Kinguin and G2A.  A lot of gamers were upset that something they purchased was taken away with no refund.  But in real life, does anyone really expect to keep stolen property if the police show up at the door?

Game companies have to deal with credit card fraud, and CCP is no exception.  As such, purchasing PLEX from a source other than CCP or an authorized time code reseller entails some risk.  I'd really question any site other than Amazon that sells PLEX for less than the cost of a month's subscription, especially if the price is in U.S. dollars.  That smells of credit card fraud and I'd steer clear of such a "deal".  If the seller insists on making the exchange in-game, run away.  That is a definite sign of activity that CCP will issue bans for.

Personally, I don't buy game currency, even using approved methods like PLEX.  I even still have the 2 PLEX i obtained through the mystery code from the two copies of the Collector's Edition I purchased and won.  But for those who have to buy ISK, please be careful, do your research, and make sure to follow all of the rules.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Is Ten Coherence Worth?

I didn't have a lot of time to play video games this weekend, but I did manage to undock my Cheetah and sneak into Great Wildlands to do a little exploring.  An exit opened up in Thera to a rather remote area so I probed the wormhole down and set out to see what I could find.

In the first system, I came across a relic site.  Cool, my first null sec exploration site.  Not so cool, these are a little tougher than those in low sec.  I managed to get two out of the three cans I tried, and abandoned the fourth when an Astero decloaked.  I buzzed around a couple of other systems without finding anything I wanted to try, then headed back to Thera.

I wondered if I just needed to get better at the mini-game or if I also needed to upgrade my ship.  My Cheetah works wonderfully in low sec, but do I need something better for null?  I did a little research and wondered if I needed a covert ops frigate with five mid-slots instead of four.

I looked around and decided that the Helios looked like a good ship with which to do a little theory crafting.  I wanted a fit that would give me the same or better probing capability while increasing my hacking ability.  So I came up with the below fit:

An attempt at a Helios fit
NOTE: Replace the Scoped Survey Scanner with a Cargo Scanner II.

The fit does what I required.  The Scan Rangefinding Array II and AR-810 skill hardwiring gives me 2 points greater scan strength when using Sisters Core Probes compared to my current Cheetah fit (which doesn't use hardwirings) while at the same time giving me 10 more coherence when playing the hacking mini-game.  The fit can even scale down for lower skillpoint pilots to use.  Explorers having difficulties with the fit due to CPU can downgrade to a simple Sisters Core Probe Launcher and if power grid is an issue a pilot can replace one of the low slots (preferably the WCS) with a power grid module.

But is the cost worth it?  The AR-810 hardwiring that gives a 10% boost to scan strength is 79,375 LP and 79,375,000 ISK in the loyalty points store.  That means the one hardwiring will cost more than twice as much as my ship.  As I sat pondering the question, another thought popped into my head.  Why not just keep the Cheetah and plug in an EY-1005 hardwiring to add 5 coherence?  Those only cost 10,875 LP and 10,875,000 ISK in the loyalty points store.

A Cheaper Option
NOTE: Replace the Scoped Survey Scanner with a Cargo Scanner II

After playing around, I'm not sure purchasing the Helios is worth the cost.  While the Helios is easier to fit for a little more capability, I've got the skills to fit the Cheetah now.  Besides, I'm a Minmatar pilot and if I can keep flying my Cheetah I will.  Now, I just need to learn how to play the hacking mini-game better.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Put One On The Board

On Saturday, I joined Signal Cartel, a member corp of the EvE-Scout Enclave alliance.  One of the services that the EvE-Scout Enclave provides to New Eden is a listing on EvE-Scout of all the wormholes into and out of Thera.  Thera is unique, not only for having a name, but as the only wormhole system that has stations.  Stations attract capsuleers and so we go out and try to make accessing the stations just a little easier.

Of course, members to a new corporation want to contribute, and the most visible way is to help maintain the list.  So yesterday I set out to actually probe down and submit an exit to EvE-Scout.

I'm new to wormholes, so veterans of w-space will probably laugh at my technique.  Because I wanted to find a new exit, I first needed to purge my scan results of all the known exits.  The only way I knew to do that was to just go down the list of exits on EvE-Scout and ignore the results for each signal.  That left me with only 4 signatures to scan down.  None of them were wormholes.

Disappointed?  A little.  But that just meant I could do a little sightseeing while I waited for a new signature to spawn.  So I finished scanning down an ore site and took a look.

Sleepers Never Sleep
Yeah. Occupied with Sleepers.  Wormholes are a little bit tougher than low sec belts.  Unlike their Circadian Seeker cousins, they didn't notice my cloaked Cheetah, so I took the opportunity to take a couple of screenshots and exit the site.

Our Home Station
Did I mention that Thera is a beautiful place?  Well, in a creepy sort of way.  After leaving the Sleepers, I headed to our home station to watch some frigates wandering around.  I think an Ares was making bookmarks around the station.  After figuring that no one was actively trying to search out cloaked ships, I got close enough to get within vision distance of our home station and get a screenshot with planet 12 offering the backdrop.

With no new signatures appearing on scan, I headed to the Epicenter.  Yes, another site protected by Sleepers, but very pretty all the same.  I imagine that the wormhole in the screenshot above had something to do with the devastation in Thera.  Then again, with a site name like Epicenter, that's an easy assumption to make.

Finally, a new signature appeared.  I quickly probed it down and found a new exit.  I jumped to within 100 km of the signature and calmly (yeah, right) wrote down the signature name and wormhole type while crawling to 150 km so I could complete the warp to the wormhole.  I probably should figure out a better way, but the travel gives me time to make my notes.

A Pretty Site From Sovereign Null Sec
I then jumped though and found myself in The Kalevala Expanse and Shadow of xXDeathXx space.  No problems, though because I was the only one in the system.  So I completed gathering the information needed for entry into Tripwire, entered it into the intel channel, and poked Mynxee asking what happens next.  I didn't need to worry, though. Helios Anduath had already seen and submitted the site.  That's why you keep the intel channel clear.  If the tab only flashes with important information, then people will act on it quickly.

With my self-appointed goal complete, I then headed back to my low sec station.  I did half a data site on the way, but then for some reason I couldn't click on my overview.  So I just abandoned the rest of the site and docked up at the nearest station.  Turns out my anti-virus had updated.  I figured Bob was giving me a hint so I just stayed logged out.

All in all, a pretty satisfying night.  Now I just need to get even more adventurous and start exploring null sec space.  Hopefully the Russians won't mind.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Greater Clarification On ISBoxer

Over the past 2-3 months, users of the multiboxing software ISBoxer have scrambled to understand how CCP would begin enforcing the EULA beginning on 1 January 2015.  For some, the rules seemed pretty clear.  But those people didn't tend to use ISBoxer.  ISBoxers themselves tended to divide into three groups: those who wanted to do everything possible to skirt the input broadcast ban, those who planned on playing it safe and not use any feature that strayed close to breaking the EULA, and those who just used ISBoxer for windows and computer resource management.

Those wanting to play fast and loose with the EULA received a rude surprise on the official EVE Online forums yesterday.  Someone on an alt account published a letter from CCP Peligro (Eve Search link here). In the letter, CCP Peligro wrote:
"The key part is really this one: '2. You may not use your own or third-party software to modify any content appearing within the Game environment or change how the Game is played.'
"Whether input broadcasting is used, video 'overlays' or other features are used does not really matter. These are third party programs which change the way the game is played. This also includes round robin."
An ISBoxer user who had received a 30-day ban reported on the ISBoxer forums of receiving similar correspondence.  Joe Thaler, the creator of ISBoxer, made the following post last night on the ISBoxer forums in response to the banned player's quoting of CCP Peligro:
"Sorry, what Peligro stated is nothing new. With regards to being reported, that's exactly what I told people in November -- anyone with multiple accounts is a suspect, and other players have the motivation to report you just as they will do any other underhanded trick.

"You quoted a specific part of what he said, but left out part of the code of conduct which was also explained more than a year ago in a dev blog that specifically covered multiboxing software.
'We do not endorse or condone the use of player-made software or any other third party applications or software that confers an unfair benefit to players. We may, in our discretion, tolerate the use of applications or other software that simply enhance player enjoyment in a way that maintains fair gameplay. However, if any third party application or other software is used to gain any unfair advantage, or is used for purposes beyond its intended use, or if the application or other software violates other parts of the EULA, we may fully enforce our rights to prohibit such use, including player bans. Please use player-made or other third party software at your own risk.'
"They have to say this because he did not specifically tell you not to use any of those features. In fact he made that clear at the end when he said it 'does not really matter'
Anyway, the only thing Peilgro was really trying to say, is 'With regards to 'round robin' or other features of specific third party programs; We will not authorize or otherwise sanction the use of any third party software. The End User License Agreement and Terms of Service are clear on this subject', the rest is fluff.

"It's like I said before. Look guys, if you don't want to get banned, don't try to find dubious ways around the rules. They ban Input Broadcasting, so all these guys think they're just going to work around it by setting up round-robin or programmable keyboards and whatnot and the reality is, CCP and other players cannot reliably determine the difference between any of those methods. Other players generally don't care one way or another, and CCP doesn't want to get into the nitty gritty of the subtle differences or technical cleverness of your setup and why you're so great for out-smarting them.

"My best guess is that a player who doesnt like you reported you, CCP looked at you briefly and saw that you were doing things fast while multiboxing, and decided to temporarily ban you. This is backed up by our conversation."
Now, I'm not sure Thaler is correct about how the bans are dished out, and he doesn't sound all that sure either.  I found the following from the forum alt on the EVE Online forums interesting:
"My discussion with them continues. And I'm also learning about their little spy method and how it works. Quite simple and effective, to the point where if you get caught using the software, you can't deny using it after they even tell you what version of the software you're using. LOL"
From covering some of the botting ban waves, I know that CCP can tell if someone is using an Inner Space extension like ISBoxer.  In fact, during the Summer Summit, the minutes showed that CCP kept track of ISBoxer users and recorded their activity.  So the possibility exists that CCP learned a lot about the software.  Enough to detect everything?  Well, I believe in KISS: keep it simple, stupid.  The EULA states the following:
"You may not use your own or any third-party software, macros or other stored rapid keystrokes or other patterns of play that facilitate acquisition of items, currency, objects, character attributes, rank or status at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play."
If input broadcasting is considered operating at "an accelerated rate," and violates the EULA, then any other software solution that works just as fast as input broadcasting probably violates the EULA as well.  Hopefully with this information leaking out, people will wise up and stop doing things that get them banned.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A New Beginning

I knew I was starting to get a bit bored last week when I started wanting to probe down mission runners in high sec after watching a JonnyPew video of him cleaning up after people who carelessly leave mobile tractor units scattered around.  Using combat probes outside high sec is usually considered an unfriendly act, but probing down and removing abandoned MTUs would help keep New Eden clean.

So I was in an exploring state of mind when I saw someone advertising on Twitter for a new corp she had just formed.  The corp is headquartered out of Thera and is a member of the EvE-Scout Enclave alliance.  Me in a wormhole?  I'm pretty risk averse and wormholes are pretty dangerous.  I mean, they have bubbles and Sleepers.  But they don't have AFK cloakers, so I guess wormholes are safer than null sec.  But they lead to null sec where the AFK cloakers live.

But, I was about to start probing down high sec mission runners.  Ugh!  Besides, with Mynxee running the corp, I wouldn't have to worry about corp and alliance chat becoming a horrible place.  I liked the corp credo and figured that probing down exits and posting the information to EvE-Scout is a lot better than finding clueless mission runners.  However, as I discovered last night, probing down new exits takes a lot of skill.  Eran Mintor is fast!

So I applied and was accepted pretty quickly.  In addition to getting used to operating in Thera, I stuck Transport Ships V at the top of my skill queue.  From reading all the posts on the corp forums, we'll need some people used to moving things in dangerous space.  Okay, most of my experience took place in low sec, but I already have Mastery V in all Minmatar sub-cap haulers and just need to top off Transport Ships to get the maximum out of the tech 2 variants.

I also need to take a look at the other things I'm doing and figure out exactly how I'm going to change the way I play EVE.  I'm moving back into the exploration game as my main activity, but that doesn't mean I'll abandon creating things.  And I also need to convince that old pirate Mynxee that PvP isn't just about shooting people.  I'm risk averse, but at least I don't need the crutch of guns and missiles to visit dangerous places.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Rabbit Hole - Looking At Snapshots of EVE's PLEX Market

When I began this series, I wanted to maintain a more general look at the role of real money trading in Massively Multi-player Online Games (MOGs) and avoid looking specifically at my main game, EVE Online.  But with the rising popularity of the PLEX model in the industry, no look at RMT is complete without at least one look at CCP's system for exchanging game time for real world cash.  I am engaged in a long term project gathering data related to PLEX, so I figured I would share some of the results of that work today.  I hope everyone likes bar graphs.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Turning Criticism Into Excuses

Looking in from the outside, DJ FunkyBacon apparently was not the most hard-working member of the ninth Council of Stellar Management.  As the only originally elected member of CSM 9 still sitting on the player council not to have contributed to the production of the Summer Summit minutes, to argue otherwise is almost laughable.  Which, from my perspective as someone who endorsed his candidacy last year, is something I wish I did not have to admit.

What led DJ FunkyBacon to defend his honor over the weekend wasn't his lack of transcription production.  Neither was it that his name is never mentioned as a hard working or productive member of CSM 9 in all the interviews I hear.  Apparently, those supporters he values don't care about things like that.  What they did care about was that he did not bother to participate in a dev blog in which 7 of the 14 members of CSM 9 gave their thoughts about their experience over the course of the term.

I realize that "bother" is kind of a loaded term, but that is the word DJ FunkyBacon used in his blog post.  To put the word into further context, here is exactly what he posted:
"I can't speak for the other 6, but for myself, I've been so disillusioned with the entire process this year that I didn't bother. It's simply not worth it, and the amount of fucks I have left aren't enough to go through the effort to write something to hand to CCP so they can 'clean it up' and drop it on an official dev blog that might get as much traffic as my blog when I don't write anything new for 3 months."
Then, though his initial post he then proceeded to echo many of points of criticism that Sion contributed to the guest dev post that caused Funky to write his CSM 9 review post in the first place.  All I can say is, if Sion's words were "cleaned up", then I wonder what the first draft looked like?  All sarcasm aside, I think the dev blog shows the difference between the two critics of the current CSM process.  Sion continued the fight to make CSM function while Funky gave up on the process sometime by November at the latest, and arguably as early as September when he chose not to contribute to the minutes production process.

Funky stated in his latest blog post today that no one called him out on any of his facts.  While doing so is hard due to the NDA, I'll dispute one assertion the Funky made.  He stated:
"For 2 weeks per year, during the summits, the CSM matters."
Of course, when I hear about efforts like Sugar Kyle's work on PvE little things and corbexx' successful effort to convince CCP to give some love to the lower-class wormholes, I begin to doubt assertions like that.

He then went on to complain about the lack of communication between CCP and CSM.  A valid concern brought up by several members of the CSM, not only in the guest dev blog Funky didn't feel like contributing to, but in many interviews and blog posts since.  A concern so great, in fact, that the issue was addressed in the first session of the Winter Summit.  In that session, CCP granted the CSM access to Confluence, its internal development wiki.  When I listened to Sion's Cap Stable interview, he seemed, if not happy, then satisfied that CCP was moving in the right direction to address the communications issues.  Apparently, Funky is not so easy to mollify.

Or perhaps Funky, having given up on the CSM process months ago, only paid attention to what interested him during the summit and skipped the rest.  That might explain why, in his second post, he believed that the CSM's use of Confluence was an NDA'd matter.  I may have fallen under the spell of that evil Goon Sion, but I couldn't help but think of Funky as I listened to Sion's interview yesterday.  One particular point came to mind when I reread Funky's second post.  Sion stated that many CSM members hide behind the NDA more than CCP does.  Is Funky one of those members?  Funky's slip sure gives that appearance.

I just want to address one last point that makes me feel a little better about my CSM 9 endorsements.  At least I placed both Sugar Kyle and Mike Azariah ahead of DJ Funky Bacon.  I thought, going into the election, that he had the same attitude as those two.  The following passage from Funky's first post shows I was wrong:
"Between the summer summit and the release of the minutes, I bashed my face into a proverbial brick wall to get a compromise on the highsec awox nerf and got nowhere. Minutes were released, myself and others wrote some blogs about the issue, and a bit of backlash hit. A couple weeks later I joined CCP Fozzie on DJ Big Country's show on Eve Radio where it was FINALLY revealed that CCP was considering making intra corp aggression a toggle. I wanted to scream in frustration because I'd been advocating that for months at that point, and to think I could have skipped 2 months of frustration and just jumped on the issue when the minutes went public was the last straw. The fact is, CCP might hear what the CSM has to say, but they heed the community mob."
Having watched Sugar Kyle and Mike Azariah in action, those two worthies would have exclaimed, "Yes!", checked the matter off on their to-do lists, and gone off to find another dragon to fight.  Okay, they probably would have grumbled, but I think CCP has to worry when EVE players stop grumbling.  But EVE is a target-rich environment and I know both of them have notebooks full of input from players to address.  From my position on the outside looking in, Funky got disgusted and quit on the process even though he got what he wanted.  Not something I want to see from a candidate I endorsed.

Now, I could continue dumping on Funky, because he sure gave me enough softballs to hit.  But when you point at someone, you usually point 4 fingers (or 3 fingers and a thumb) at yourself.  Hey, I told people that DJ FunkyBacon was a good person to vote for.  I don't know how much my endorsement was worth, but he did get elected.  By all accounts, the most charitable thing I can say about his term as a member of the CSM is that he was not a standout performer.  So for this CSM election, I need to take more care in vetting the candidates and make better recommendations.