Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodbye 2016!

I think a lot of people will agree with the sentiment that happiness is viewing 2016 in the rear view mirror. I won't go on about real life; I think enough people outside gaming have already done so. Instead I'll take a quick look at gaming, or at least what has seeped into my awareness.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Speed Kills: Paper Vs Actual Damage

One part of EVE I don't think the New Player Experience teaches new Minmatar pilots are all the factors that reduce the amount of damage artillery and autocannon do compared to the amount listed in the fitting tool. I did one of the COSMOS missions in my Rupture yesterday and experienced the variation first hand. As an experienced player I had fun playing with the variables and experimenting with the way I flew my ship to maximize the damage I dealt. I never realized how much I could increase the damage from a set of artillery just by turning off my afterburner. Or how turning on my afterburner could really increase my damage output.

Confused? Math is involved, but the Eve University wiki does a good job of explaining two concepts, tranversal velocity and angular velocity. First, an explanation of transversal velocity:
Transversal velocity in EVE describes the speed at which an object moves perpendicular to you, i.e. its orbital velocity. In other words, it is a metric used to describe the sideways movement of you and an object relative to one another. To get an sense of what this means, below is a list of some examples.

A high transversal velocity occurs when:

  • Two ships orbit one another at the same speed in opposite directions (maximal transversal)
  • One ship orbits a stationary ship
  • One ship flies "north" and the other flies "east/west" with respect to one another
A low transversal velocity occurs when:
  • Two ships fly directly away or toward one another (zero transversal)
  • Two ships fly perfectly parallel to one another at the same speed (zero transversal)
  • One ship chases the other ship
The transversal velocity is computed by subtracting the two velocity vectors (i.e. both magnitude and direction) from one another, and then finding the length of the vector. This differs from angular velocity (below) in that it is not affected by the distance between both objects.
My Rupture is set up to kite NPCs at a distance. Artillery doesn't have the best tracking, which means a smaller, fast ship is harder to hit. A way to maximize the damage is to reduce the transversal velocity by getting the NPC to directly follow the ship. I discovered that frigates were difficult if not impossible to hit if flying perpendicular to the NPCs flight path (or "crossing the T" in naval parlance) at full speed. But once I turned off the afterburner, I started hitting the frigates trying to close in. Just that reduction in speed lowered the transversal enough to allow me to start blapping NPCs.

The second concept is angular velocity:
Angular velocity describes in EVE the speed at which you and an object rotate around each other. It is measured in radians per second, with π (3.14) radians equal to 180 degrees. For example, if you have an angular velocity at 6.283 rad/sec, then you are orbiting a full circle every second (since 6.283 = 2 * PI). Angular velocity has a very important relationship with transversal velocity. 

People often debate between using either transversal or angular velocity in an overview setup. Both variables display similar information; however, angular velocity is much more useful in practice, due to its use in turret to-hit calculations. It essentially allows for an easy comparison between your (or your opponent's) turret's tracking speed and the angular velocity. If the angular velocity is greater then the turret's tracking speed, you'll begin to miss, but having a smaller angular velocity than the turret's tracking speed means maximizing the hit chance. 
I did warn that math was involved.

Basically, the above passage indicates that the effects of transversal velocity are minimized by distance. The farther away the ships are, the lower the angular velocity. Or in simpler terms, bigger ships can't hit small ships if they get close enough. Or small ships get easier to hit by bigger ships the farther away they are, at least until the falloff modifier overtakes the velocity modifier.

I should add one qualifier about the angular velocity information. Due to a change in April, the module information no longer lists the turret's tracking speed. I see a number listed as "Turret Tracking", but have no idea how it relates to any of the information listed in the overview. I just try to kite the NPC's and let the principles about angular and transversal velocities take care of themselves. Or, in other words, I fly by feel and experience.

The important takeaway is that the damage in a fitting tool is the maximum possible, not what one will obtain in space. Good flying and proper fitting can make a ship perform near those levels. In other words, EVE isn't just about the skills in your head, but the skills at the keyboard as well.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A PvE Rupture For Alphas And Omegas

One of the interesting parts of playing an Alpha clone in EVE is ship fitting. I can find a lot of existing fits using skills all trained to level 5, but Alphas can never have those skills without paying a subscription. I'm not the greatest, but the chance to play around and then immediately test on a low skill character is fun.

Monday, December 19, 2016

So I Bought An Oculus Rift

My schedule over the weekend changed a bit for a couple of reasons. The first was due to the bitter cold yesterday that pushed all my activities to Saturday. The other was I picked up an Oculus Rift.

I have a Gear VR, and the Oculus Rift is definitely an upgrade. About the only drawback are the cables running from the headset to the computer. With a Gear VR, the Samsung phone fits in the headset, allowing freedom of movement. Another drawback is that my video card only has one HMDI port and no VGA port. I thought I needed to go back to Best Buy, but I finally found an adapter. I still intend to go back and pick up a real cable as a permanent solution, though.

The store didn't have any of the Touch controllers, which is probably good for my wallet. Not only because I did not spend an extra $200, but because all the cool new games seem to require the new controller. I'll probably get a set next year, but that depends on the games compatible with the Xbox One controller.

I know a lot of people complained about having an Xbox One controller come with the Oculus Rift because they already owned an Xbox. As someone who has never owned an Xbox console, the inclusion saved me some money. The one thing I feared is that my unfamiliarity with the controller would hamper using the system. So far, the games I played only use a couple of buttons and/or triggers, although I did forget the buttons on one of the games after just 24 hours.

I found the headset itself light and comfortable. Well, once I started playing anyway. The straps do get a bit distracting until the headset settles in, but I normally don't notice once I start playing. I should add I played for up to 90 minutes with no soreness in my neck or head. The sound system also works well, which helps with the emersion into the game worlds. I started looking for audio experiences like Oculus has available for the Gear VR. I didn't find one, but maybe looking through the store is easier at the keyboard instead of while wearing the headset.

As for the games, I only played two this weekend. The first was Lucky's Tale, a cute little VR platformer that comes with the Oculus Rift. The point of view sometimes is awkward, but after I got used to the angle, I came to appreciate it. The character you control, a fox, is also pretty cute. I'm someone who generally shies away from platformers, but I enjoyed clearing the first chapter of the game.

The other game I played is one I own on the Gear VR, EVE: Gunjack. At $9.99, I think the game is a good buy. Gunjack reminds me a bit of Galaga, with an EVE flavor. I know, power-ups in a game in New Eden? But the game works, especially with familar weapons like smart bombs, lasers, and missiles. As one might expect when comparing a game running on a smart phone vs a computer, the graphics are a lot better on the Oculus Rift. I also like the simple control system that only uses the two triggers plus the X button.

After the first couple of days, I'm happy with my purchase of the Oculus Rift. I still need to explore the store and find apps and games I like, but at least the gear itself works okay. I may write about my VR experiences in the future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Killing Dagan As A Minmatar Alpha Clone

I think everyone has low level NPCs they remember because they posed a significant roadblock to advancing through the game. In World of Warcraft, that character was Hogger, a level 8 gnoll. In EVE, the roadblock was a rogue member of the Society of Conscious Thought, Dagan. Dagan is the end boss of the Sisters of EVE level 1 epic arc. Capturing Dagan gives a nice standings boost to one faction every three months. But the first time I ran into Dagan while flying a Rifter, he scarred me for life. Normally I go back and take care of him while flying a Vagabond. But my brand new Alpha clone doesn't have the luxury of flying any type of cruiser, much less a HAC. Worse, she needed the ISK.

I decided not to try the epic arc until I could fly a well fit destroyer. Three weeks into the Alpha experience, I could finally fly the Thrasher I earned from a career agent well. The fit I used in the battle against Dagan is below.

[Thrasher, Thumper]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II

1MN Y-S8 Compact Afterburner
Medium Azeotropic Restrained Shield Extender
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster

150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
150mm Light Carbine Repeating Cannon I
Salvager I

Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Projectile Collision Accelerator I 
In the low slots, I used a Damage Control II for the bonuses to shields, armor, and hull, as the Thrasher really needs some help with the tank. I also used a gyrostabilizer because I knew I needed to throw as much damage at Dagan as possible. I started the arc with a tech 1 meta module and only fit the tech 2 version on the last day as I finished training Weapons Upgrade IV.

In the mid-slots, I fit a meta afterburner along with a medium shield extender and a Medium Ancillary Shield Booster. I used the Medium Ancillary Shield Booster because I had cap issues when using a normal shield booster. The cap boosters for the module were cheap and small, so why not?

I used 150mm autocannon instead of trying to squeeze in 200mm autocannon on the theory that the smaller weapons track better, so would apply more of their paper DPS in an actual fight. In the utility high, I threw in a Salvager I because I needed to loot everything for the money.

The rigs I think are pretty standard. The Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer plugged the EM hole in the shields, the Core Defense Field Extender provided more shields, and the Project Collision Accelerator increased my DPS.

I carried the three types of short range ammunition in my cargohold, switching out depending on the NPCs I faced. Instead of trying to determine what faction needed which type of damage, I developed an easier way. It the NPC ship had a golden or blue background, I loaded EMP S. If the background was green, I loaded Phased Plasma S. And if the background was red or rust colored, I used Fusion S. The colors of the ammunition even matched the background colors of the NPCs. The only NPC that didn't fit the pattern was Dagan, as he flew an SoCT cruiser. For him, I used Phased Plasma S, as I figured he needed to die in a fire.

The actual battle was somewhat anti-climatic. Dagan had three wingmen, each flying a different faction's ship requiring different ammunition. What I did was pretty basic. I decided to fly under Dagan's guns and while orbiting the cruiser take out the frigates his wingmen flew. I took some damage in the beginning, but once I started orbiting Dagan at 1000 meters, I no longer needed to worry about the cruiser's weapons. Then all I had to do is pick off the frigates. One that was accomplished, I just orbited Dagan, firing all the time until he exploded.

Dagan taking armor damage

I did the entire 50 mission arc in approximately 10 hours spread over 6 days. Even after deducting for costs like skill books I needed to learn to fly a cruiser, my wallet still wound up 20 million ISK richer after I finished selling all my salvage. I'm not at the point of trying to PvP in faction warfare, but I am in a place I can start trying to hack data and relic sites in low sec. I currently have 33.5 million ISK and my Probe fit only costs 1.1 million ISK to replace. Time to start earning some money, because high sec simply doesn't offer a path to riches.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Newest Rumor Of A Sale Of CCP Games

We almost survived 2016 without a financial controversy concerning CCP. Until Friday, that is, when Bloomberg brought up the possibility of an impending sale of the Icelandic game company to an unnamed buyer:
CCP hf, the Icelandic game developer that created the cult classic Eve Online game, is exploring strategic options including a sale of the business after receiving interest from potential bidders, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The closely held company’s owners, which include European investor Novator Partners LLP, U.S. investment fund General Catalyst Partners LLC and venture capitalist New Enterprise Associates Inc., are discussing whether or not to proceed with a sale, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. A sale of CCP could value the business at as much as 900 million euros ($955 million), the people said.
Through the first few read throughs of the article, I couldn't quite believe the numbers in the article. Was CCP really valued at $300 million in November 2015? Are prospective buyers actually offering up to $955 million? The figures sounded like person or persons unknown spreading misinformation about CCP to a gullible press.

So does the Bloomberg story have any basis of fact? I figured the easiest way to determine the validity of the story was to look at the valuation of CCP the parties used when New Enterprise Associates and Novator Partners gave CCP $30 million USD. But in looking back, I realized the story involves more than just a simple calculation.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rummaging Through The Wreckage

One of the interesting things of playing a new alpha clone is encountering problems that a 150 million skill point character can easily sweep away. I encountered one of those situations while attempting to complete a level 1 COSMOS mission this week. The agent, Tzumi Pokkolen with the Poksu Mineral Group, wanted 2 Sleeper Foundation Blocks. I had an autocannon-fit Thrasher. Easy, right?

Tzumi sent me to the neighboring system of Inder and its Contested Minmatar Military Depot Complex. I needed to enter the Ancient Wreckage dungeon and hack containers with a Relic Analyzer until I found the two items required. Oh, and the NPCs respawn fairly quickly. But an autocannon Thrasher can put out a lot of damage, so no problem. Or so I thought.

The plan almost worked to perfection. I rushed in, blapping the ships rather quickly. Even the cruisers. Did I mention the cruisers? Anyway, I managed to clear an area and hack a can. Then I started on another, and the alarms started going off. My tank started to break and I warped off with only one block in my cargo hold. I made three additional attempts, but each time the NPCs forced me to warp off.

Okay, so the NPCs had the range advantage on me, and I didn't have a strong enough tank. Time to change strategy. Instead of brawling, I would snipe away from a distance. I didn't have enough skills to shoehorn artillery into the Thrasher, so I loaded up my skill queue with missile skills and bought a Talwar.

The missile destroyer worked almost as advertised. With an armor tank featuring a reactive armor hardener and a tech 2 armor repairer, I just needed to plink away at range and then rush in to hack the cans. I think the plan would have worked if I could fit a microwarpdrive instead of an afterburner. As it was, the NPCs couldn't make me warp off, but they would make me back off right before I could begin the hack.

I played that game for 30-40 minutes before a Rupture warped in, asking if I needed a hand. Yes I did! He pretty much drew aggro expect for a group of four frigates that respawned between me and him. Four frigates I could handle, and I found the block in the first can I hacked. I thanked the Rupture pilot in local and warped off.

If I played on one of my main characters, I would fly into the room in something like a Stratios, drop a flight of drones, and hack to my heart's content. But on a new character, I don't have the luxury of overpowering the content. On an alpha character, I don't even have the option of changing to another faction's ships. Perhaps one day my alpha character will own a ship capable of holding up under the pressure and able to hack all the cans. But until then, I need to find a more productive activity. The COSMOS missions are tough.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Nearing A Decision

Tomorrow marks the end of the third week of the age of Ascension in EVE Online. More importantly on a personal level, I'm coming up on a decision about the future of my alpha character, Krasiva Pesen.

Krasiva began as an experiment into the viability of playing an alpha clone. Except for the half-speed training, I haven't experienced much of a difference from normal play. But the half-speed training is starting to come into play. When some of the level 3 skills take 14 hours to train and level 4 skills are taking, in some cases, 5-9 days to train, the training is painful. The good feeling of learning a couple of skills a day will soon end. I'm currently training level 1-2 missile skills, then the cruiser skills, but after that, the progression really slows down. With only 850,000 skill points and 15 million ISK, Krasiva is still a very young character. But at the three week mark, I need to decide if I should end the experiment and return to my accounts I currently pay for.

That's the rub, at least for people with paid accounts. Our accounts still train, but how long do we pay for them without playing on them? For myself, a natural decision point occurs in two weeks. Currently on my third account, I have a character that finishes the training necessary to run a data core farm, then she goes on to another area of study. The account also has an empty character slot. The perfect time to begin a new character.

One thing I learned about myself with my alpha clone experiment is that I'm ready to begin a new character. But I don't like the limits of the alpha clone, especially the reduced speed training. I like to log in and see the list of skills I trained. With my main characters on training paths learning 20 day skills, I forgot how much I missed hearing Aura say "skill training complete".

So do I continue with the alpha clone, start up a new omega clone, or go back to playing my main characters? Krasiva faces a challenge I need to complete, so I will put off a decision until then. But if I have everything figured out, I complete that challenge tonight.

Right now, I'm leaning toward returning to my paid accounts. Playing on an alpha account is fun, but if I'm paying $33 a month for a game, I want to play the full game and not the reduced version the alpha account represents.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, a plan just doesn't come together. Case in point, my plans for my alpha character. At first, everything worked great. The new NPE, which I'm now learning to call Inception, the career agents, and then the grind to 1.0 standings with the Minmatar Republic in order to run level 2 missions with the Minmatar. All of this leading up to running through the COSMOS missions. The prospect of getting faction blueprint copies had visions of ISK dancing through my head.

The first obstacle I encountered involved trying to get a mission from a level 2 agent. I received the brushoff.

What? I don't have the standings? But no, that is not the message the agents give when the issue is insufficient standing. This is.

Dalkar Kersos is a level 3 agent, so the message made sense. But getting rejected by a level 2 agent? I still can't figure out the problem.

Then the problems got a little worse. I gave up on these agents and went to the Sanctum Psychosis in Lanngisi. I received a 3-run blueprint copy of a 250mm 'Jolt' artillery cannon. That's when I discovered alphas cannot manufacture any of these meta modules, as they require omega clone skills. What's worse is I can only create one contract at a time. So even selling the BPC is difficult.

I really thought I had an alternative way to make ISK that would immerse me into the lore at the same time. Looks like I need to come up with another plan.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Weeks Of Alpha

Two weeks ago I created a new Alpha account to try out the new content introduced in the latest EVE Online expansion, Ascension. I even recorded most of my play sessions and put the videos up on YouTube, although I failed to record my commentary in about half the videos. Oops! But I wanted a record to look back on. I recorded about 17 hours of game play, which didn't include a couple of market trips and some theory crafting using the new fitting tool. I think overall I spent around 20 hours so far playing on the account.

I think I have enough experience to write reasonably intelligently about my trip through the new New Player Experience, the career agents, and a few hours of play after completing the introduction to EVE. As part of the experiment, I attempted to play as much like a new player as possible. No transfer of funds from my main accounts. No skill point bonuses from using one of my referral links. Admittedly, I did use some of my knowledge about the game, but I don't think it influenced me too much. Then again, I had a much easier time getting through the exploration career agent than I had in the past.

First, a word about character creation. I rushed through the process, yet still spent 15-20 minutes creating my character. EVE's character creator is a marvel even after 5 years. I just wish we could walk out the Captain's Quarters door. I still have a dream that one day CCP will convert our characters to Unreal Engine 4 and introduce some sort of avatar gameplay to EVE. I have to do a little research, but I believe that a player's choice of schools might matter. Okay, I need to do a lot of research on that.

Next, the big addition to the game. the new New Player Experience. At Fanfest this year, we learned that over half the people who try EVE don't last two hours. How long did the NPE last? Two hours. If the goal was to get players to last longer than two hours, the NPE should have done the job. While I didn't have any difficulty, I heard many players did. Those difficulties could have resulted in the low numbers of players completing the NPE. According to CCP Turtle power on the o7 Show Sunday, over 30,000 players had completed the NPE. An impressive number, until one realizes that players created over 162,000 new characters between 15-23 November.

Personally, I liked the voice acting, although at times I thought the dialog a bit corny. The alternating use of the faction fleet commander and Aura was effective from keeping the instructions from droning on in a single voice. A single voice has the problem of becoming monotonous. The bouncing back and forth not only between the two main characters, but the Sisters of EVE scientist as well, helped keep my attention on the instructions. By the end of the NPE, I think new players master the basic skills much better than with the previous iterations of the NPE. The main problem I have is that the quality of the content really drops once the new player starts running through the career agents.

The career agents. I have to say that the optimum order of doing the career agent chain is to do the industry and business agents first, then the military and exploration agents, with the advanced military agent last. Both the business and industry agents have missions that require manufacturing items, which can take up to 4 hours for a single batch of items to complete. During my run through, I spent eight hours with the career agents, so the content exists to fill up the space. Unfortunately, I saved the business and industry agents for last. Spoiler alert: don't do what I did.

After 10 hours of play, I went free-style and started doing the highest level missions I could: distribution missions. Hey, at least I wasn't mining, which some horrible people tell new players to do. I didn't do too bad either. I did sixteen level 3 missions in a little over an hour and made approximately 1.9 million ISK and 2300 loyalty points. More importantly, I managed to get a faction storyline mission. I did have to mine in a Venture for 20 minutes, but the +3 learning implant I received sold for 7.5 million ISK in Rens. On top of that, my standings with the Minmatar Republic is now 0.98, which means I have almost unlocked all the level 2 agents in all of the Minmatar NPC corporations. Not too bad.

For comparison, I also ran level 1 security missions for an hour. I completed two, gaining 400,000 ISK in bounties and mission rewards, 223 loyalty points, and 500,000 ISK in salvage and drops. This hour of level 1 missions is the reason I'm so excited about unlocking all of those level 2 agents.

Finally, I did a little exploring in a Probe in high sec. I managed to complete one data site with little problem, but I only received about 800,000 ISK in items. I did find a combat site and tried to run it in a Rifter. I need a lot more skills, or a Thrasher. I will say, though, that I had fun, even though most of what I scanned down were wormholes. The Probe served me well. Then again, I do have a little experience probing things down.

I also have to say I enjoyed the process of putting ship fittings together that a 700,000 skill point character can fly. The new in-game fitting tool is fantastic and I wish it existed when I first started playing. I managed to put together a good Wreathe fit, pretty good Probe and Venture fits, a passable PvE fit for a Rifter, and an acceptable beginner's fit for a Slasher. I also have a Thrasher that I will learn to fly today, but I won't have the fittings for a few more days yet.

After two weeks, I have 11.7 million ISK in my wallet with another 11.7 million in fitted & unfitted ships and miscellaneous items in my hanger. I still have not only the Sisters of EVE epic arc to do, but the Minmatar COSMOS missions as well. I also can join factional warfare if I pick up the pace of my ISK making. I've never farmed FW missions. Maybe I should begin. I also have a couple of ideas for something to do that I've never done on my main characters. Or maybe I'll start running Sisters of EVE missions and try to get some of those sweet SOE loyalty points. Those are usually worth something, even if I cannot fly the ships.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from my experience is, despite the seeming limitations of the alpha skillset, that after 20 hours I still have so much content I can explore. The big question is, do I want to? I have three paid accounts and I just spent the last two weeks spending all my play time on a free account. Seriously, I really don't have that much time in my life.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fitting My Wreathe For My Alpha Clone

I finally finished running the career agents on my alpha clone character and asked myself the question, what next? The last career agent in the last mission offered the helpful advice to look for an agent like him. So I clicked on the "Agent Finder" button and the game presented me with a box that looked something like this:

That's right, I saw two level three agents. Level three agents are better than level one agents, right? Who wants to do stupid level one security missions when I can do level three distribution missions? Besides, the career agents gave me two Wreathes. What's the number one rule of EVE? Don't fly what you cannot afford to lose. I can afford to lose a Wreathe, because I already have a backup. So with the helpful prodding of CCP, I prepared to do distribution missions.

Judging by my blog statistics, I was not the only one thinking that way. since the launch of Ascension, I receive a lot of hits on my "Mastering The Wreathe" post every day. So why not use my own work to start the fitting process?

[Wreathe, Moving Van]
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I

10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner
Medium Shield Extender I
Medium Shield Extender I
Thermal Dissipation Amplifier I
EM Ward Amplifier I

Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I
I couldn't go crazy because I only had 6.7 million ISK and a little under 600,000 skill points to work with. Also, in the spirit of the alpha experience (and that pyfa was giving bad numbers), I'm using the numbers from the in-game fitting tool. At an estimated worth of 2.7 million ISK, I think I built a nice little fit.

I left the high slots empty because, expect perhaps a Salvager I, the ship really doesn't require anything in the highs. The low slots are set up for optimal performance for level 3 distribution missions. If I recall correctly, no level 3 Minmatar distribution mission requires more than 4,200 m3 of cargo space, and the fit above will hold 4,939 m3. The fit also makes use of 3 of the 4 Expanded Cargohold Is I received as mission rewards from the career agents. I also picked up one of the inertial stabilizers somewhere along the line, so I only needed to purchase one additional stabilizer.

The mid slots show an effort to maximize the tank of the Wreathe. The meta afterburner is used instead of a micro-warp drive (MWD) in order to fit larger modules. The Wreathe has a major shield resistance hole for electromagnetic (EM) damage, so I purchased an EM Ward Amplifier I. The Thremal Dissipation Amplifier I is present in the fit due to the prevalence of the Catalyst in suicide gank fleets. For my industrial ships, I try to defend against the thermal/kinetic damage the Caldari ships produce.

I should add one important note about the shield tank in this fit. I chose to use shield resistance amplifiers instead of a shield hardener because in case of a gank, the player doesn't need to remember to turn the tank on. The tank is running full out the entire time. All a player needs to do is crash the gate and jump back through to safety, assuming no bumping or tackle is applied by the ganking force.

For rigs, I only filled one of the three slots with a Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I. With only 6.7 million ISK, the 1.7 million ISK cost of buying one took a big chunk out of my wallet. But just adding one increased my warp speed from 4.5 AU/second to 5.4 AU/second, giving the Minmatar hauler a warp speed just a shade slower than an assault frigate (5.5 AU/second). Eventually I will fill all three rig slots, although I may only install one more warp speed rig.

[Wreathe, **Moving Van]
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I

10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner
Large F-S9 Regolith Compact Shield Extender
Kinetic Deflection Amplifier I
Thermal Dissipation Amplifier I
EM Ward Amplifier I

Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I
Surprisingly enough, one large meta shield extender gives more protection than two basic medium shield extenders. With the slot freed up by using a large shield extender, I added a Kinetic Deflection Amplifier I. I added the module specifically to counter damage from Catalysts.

As an experiment, I ran level 3 distribution missions for one hour using the first fit in this post. Okay, the fit I used only had one inertial stabilizer and four expanded cargoholds, which means for my experiment I ran a sub-optimal fit. The results, however, pleased me.

In a 60 minute time frame, I completed 13 missions. If I run three more missions, I am eligible to receive a faction storyline mission that not only increases my faction standings, but also potentially gives a big payday, like a +3 learning implant, which are selling for over 9 million ISK in Jita. Of course, I could get a level 3 security mission that I can't run, but those are the breaks.

For those 13 missions, I received 1.6 million ISK and 1993 loyalty points. For new players, or those unfamiliar with EVE, loyalty points are a type of secondary currency used to purchase powerful items. The items are not bind on pickup, meaning that the player can turnaround and sell the items on the regular market for ISK, often for a tidy profit.

The above screenshot shows the types of skill hardwirings I can purchase after just one hour of running distribution missions. I can get a full set of Poteque "Prospector" implants that improve all aspects of using probes by 2%.

I don't know if people are doing better in other ways. I highly suspect exploration, especially that done in dangerous space, is much more profitable, both in ISK/hour and fun/hour terms. I do think, though, that I prefer distribution missions to hours of mining.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Harry Weller, RIP

A member of CCP's board of directors, Harry Weller, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep Saturday night at the age of 46. A married father of two sons, Mr. Weller is a former Navy FA-18 pilot and Duke University graduate who obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1998. Weller headed up the East Coast practice for New Enterprise Associates, one of the largest venture capitalist companies in the world. According to The Wall Street Journal, Weller was an incredibly successful investor who had appeared on Forbes magazine's "Midas List" nine times, including last year's.
According to NEA, Mr. Weller at the time of his death was a board member on at least 13 of the firm’s portfolio companies. Those included software-building platform Appian, enterprise security firm Barkly and foreign language education app Duolingo.

Among past investments by Mr. Weller were an early bet on daily-deals provider Groupon and on software specialists Add This and Eloqua, both of which were acquired by Oracle Corp.; and Cvent, now owned by Vista Equity Partners.

He is listed as a co-founder of eeGeo, a 3-D mapping software company based in Scotland, according to PitchBook Data Inc. He served as president of FabricLock Inc., an NEA-backed startup in Chevy Chase, Md.
Weller appeared on the radar of EVE Online players last November when CCP announced a $30 million investment led by NEA into CCP for the development of virtual games. I think at the time people wondered what interested a large outfit like NEA in a relatively small game developer in Iceland. An article on Weller's death that appeared on Washington Business Journal might shed some light:
When Appian Inc. CEO Matt Calkins first met Harry Weller, he left behind a copy of the board game he made, Sekigahara, about the unification of Japan — not expecting it to do any more than make a great bookend on a shelf.

But to his surprise Weller, general partner for New Enterprise Associates, played it that following weekend and called Calkins back that Monday to talk about it. A techie and a gamer, Weller couldn't help but be interested in military history, having flown jets in the Navy before becoming a venture capitalist — and, as Weller had told Calkins, he wanted to design his own game.

“He used to predict that we'd write a game together someday,” Calkins wrote in a LinkedIn post after Weller’s unexpected death Saturday night. "He wanted my advice on a design he was writing this summer, WWII in the Pacific, I think. I never saw it."
Most of the articles that dive into Weller's death reference a Facebook post by TrackMaven CEO Allen Gannett. I'll focus on a part of the post that the business writers pass over but may explain some things to long time players familiar with CCP and its CEO, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson:
I first met Harry when I was 21. A mutual friend had suggested we meet as we were starting to think about raising our Series A.

As a young, gay CEO, institutional investors were intimidating as a concept. I didn’t look like the enterprise software CEOs I read about. My hair wasn’t gray. My hobbies definitely did not include golf. To make it worse, this was not any institutional investor, this was THE Harry Weller. The guy who ran the east coast for the largest venture fund in the world. To say I overprepared would be putting it mildly.

When Harry met me in our conference room, I was a nervous mess. All I wanted to do was impress him. Which metrics should I talk about? Should I jump into a demo? I plugged my computer into the television, and, in a oh-so-cruel twist of fate, the song 22 by Taylor Swift came blasting through the TV speakers.

Blood rushed to my face. I am terrible at raising money.

Anxious that I had just embarrassed my way out of any chance of raising a Series A, I avoided any eye contact. How could I have left that on Spotify? Why do I even listen to this stuff?

Then, I heard a laugh.

Harry thought it was funny. I hadn’t known the guy for more than five minutes, but this was my first peak into what Harry was truly like. It wasn’t what you looked like, talked like, or did in your free time. He was all about ideas. He was all about execution.

Harry was eager for me to continue.

I maybe got four minutes into the demo at which point Harry cut me off.

Slightly startled, Harry started to pitch me on all the reasons why we had to work together.

This pitch meeting I had prepared so much for quickly turned into Harry pitching me. Within a matter of minutes, Harry had decided that we were going to work together. He was going to will it into the universe.
I don't think that a staid venture capitalist would invest in what one might describe as a "unique" game company located on an island in the North Atlantic run by a bunch of internet space Vikings. The picture of Weller emerging after his death is of someone who is anything but staid.

What Weller's death will mean for CCP is anyone's guess. But apparently Weller's faith in CCP was warranted, as Hilmar announced at DICE Europe that CCP was on pace to recover the initial $30 million it had invested in virtual reality games by the end of 2016 or early 2017. CCP is still using the funds obtained from NEA and others to continue development of other games like Project Arena.

Monday, November 21, 2016

EMP S And The New Player Experience

I am still running my alpha character through the career agents. I decided to do two yesterday, the exploration and business lines of missions. The exploration went a little better than expected. I guess all that practice probing down anomalies while in Signal Cartel paid off. But when I got to the last mission of the business line, I wound up rage quitting for 10-15 minutes.

Why the rage? The agent handed me a 200-run EMP S blueprint copy and asked for 5,000 rounds of ammunition. Oh, and I had to make the ammunition myself. What?!

First, let me back up a bit. Throughout both the new New Player Experience and the career agents, players are guided to use EMP S ammunition. That doesn't even make sense, given that the main NPCs new players fight belong to the Angel Cartel. EMP S is a type of ammunition that does 75% of its damage using electromagnetic (EM) damage. The Angel Cartel is most vulnerable to explosive, followed by kinetic, damage. The rounds that players should use against the Angel Cartel are Fusion S, which consists of 83% explosive damage, with kinetic damage making up the remainder. EMP ammunition works great against the Amarr Navy, but new players don't run into the Amarr.

Logically, by the time I am asked to manufacture ammunition, the agent should ask me to create Fusion S, not EMP S, rounds. The manufacture of Fusion S rounds requires isogen, pyerite, and tritanium. Isogen is found in omber and kernite. In Minmatar space, omber is found in any 0.6 security system and below while kernite is found in 0.4 systems and below. Given that information, a new player should stumble upon isogen-bearing ore. Even if the player manages to wander out of the Minmatar Republic into either the Ammatar Mandate (Derelik) or the Amarr Empire (Devoid), once the new player enters a 0.6 security system, all the new player needs to do is warp to a belt in a Venture, fill up the ore hold, and return to base. Simple.

With EMP S rounds, the instructions are misleading. EMP S requires nocxium, not isogen, to build. The agent helpfully tells the new player that nocxium is found in pyroxeres (0.9 security and below), jaspet (0.4 security), hemorphite (0.2 security) and hedbergite (0.2 security). The only problem is, of the four ore types, only hedbergite is found in the Minmatar Republic. So what can happen is that the new player, thinking he only has to go to a 0.9 system, goes to belts looking for pyroxeres. How much time is the new player going to spend looking? I don't know. The problem is worse if the player goes into low sec looking for jaspet. Not only will the player not find the jaspet, but might wind up on the wrong side of a kill mail.

In a best case scenario, a true new player may have heard that mining is cancer and never do it. In that case, the player goes to the nearest market, buys the materials, and produces the 5,000 rounds that way. In the worst case, the player wastes a lot of time looking for ore in places the ore does not exist, gets frustrated, and rage quits the session.

I, on the other hand, am not a new player. After realizing my character only had 5 million ISK, I hopped on Dotlan and found that Jask, in Derelik, was the nearest source of nocxium. So I headed out that way and filled my Venture's ore hold with viscous pyroxeres, and returned to the station. Did you know manufacturing 5,000 rounds of EMP S takes almost four hours? So I started the process, logged off, ate dinner, took a nap, and listened to a podcast. I logged back in with one minute left on the job. Once the job completed, I opened up a conversation with the agent, hit the compete button, and received a Wreathe plus 206,000 ISK as a bonus for completing the mission within the allotted time. I then logged back out.

Seriously, 4 hours? Okay, I get to use the remaining 150 runs on the blueprint copy, but the ammunition is the wrong type to use against the local NPC pirates. I know this suggestion is too late, but CCP needs to change the ammo type to Fusion S and reduce the amount of ammunition required to produce from 5,000 down to perhaps 1,000.

On Thursday, I wrote about how unexcited I was about the new NPE directing me to the career agents. The experience with the final business mission is worse than I remembered. Hopefully CCP does a fix before doing a marketing blitz to attract new players to the game. A four hour AFK mission? Ugh!

Friday, November 18, 2016

EVE: Ascension Early Numbers Are Encouraging

Usually, the move of an established MMORPG to some sort of freemium or free-to-play business model results in an initial surge of new players flooding into a game. So far, all indications available to the public show that EVE Online is experiencing the same phenomenon over the first three days of the introduction of the Alpha and Omega clone sets.

The source of the following information is Chribba's According to the site, EVE's Tranquility shard has seen over 10,000 characters created in a single day six times. Those dates are:

16-Nov-16: 26,543
17-Nov-16: 19,463
15-Nov-16: 17,815
06-May-16: 14,157
30-Jan-14: 11,696
20-Aug-16: 10,109

Note that the top three dates are the first three dates of the Ascension expansion. But the list also shows that a lot of character creation does not necessarily result in long term concurrent usage, as two more of the top six character creation dates also occurred during 2016.

But the number of players online is up. Here are the peak concurrent usage numbers over the past four days.

14-Nov-16: 29,117
15-Nov-16: 36,620
16-Nov-16: 38,221
17-Nov-16: 39,496

Anecdotally, I can report from the numbers in Rookie Chat, which is made up of all characters online less than 30 days old, that new characters seem to make up 10-15% of all logged in characters. This, to use a technical term, is a good thing.

Personally, on Sunday I expect the PCU number to exceed the mark for 2015 (45,637) and exceed 50,000 for the first time since around March 2014. The question is whether CCP has improved the new player experience enough so that a sizable portion of the players stick around.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is That All I Get?

I finished up the new New Player Experience last night. I jumped through a stargate for the first time, visited a couple of sites outside the new player system, and returned via pod express. At the end of the session, I was left with one thought. Meh.

I only had two major problems with the second half of the content. The first involved the use of the autopilot. No. Just no. Friends don't let friends use the autopilot. Yes, the autopilot feature is very valuable in picking out a course to a destination. But please, don't make players have to push the auto button in order to advance to the next step. At one point, one of the tool tips completely covered the autopilot button and I had to scramble to figure out how to move the UI element to the top of the screen in order to push the button. Ugh!

The second is the use of the redeem feature when I received new items from the fleet commander. Look, I realize that with the conversion to a freemium model, acquainting new players with how to redeem their purchases from the cash shop is important. But players really shouldn't get used to the fact that their mission rewards come from the same place as their cash shop purchases. Please, don't blur the lines.

Not that the second half of the two hour experience didn't have its moments. The fight where I tackled a carrier was cool (although I should have used a scram). The visit to the Asterhaus and the subsequent fly through the Minmatar fleet had me rubber necking like a new player. And I have to admit flying into the final fight was pretty cool. The sight of a Drifter battleship slowly disintegrating and finally exploding below me was great. And this final part of the fight is pretty epic. The video should begin at the 1:00:00 mark and lasts 2 1/2 minutes. (Warning: strong language involved and is not safe for work).

The "meh" thought occurred because of the message Aura delivered when I woke up back in the station. The fleet commander left me a Venture, a Rifter blueprint, and the advice to go to the career agents. The career agents? Ugh! What a buzz kill!

The real problem I have is that we had two hours of voice-acted content and players are now sent to the career agents. That's a pretty big drop in the quality of the content. I really hope that players don't look at that and have a "Tortage" moment where they feel they are the victims of a bait and switch. The good thing CCP has going for them is that most of the players who may object aren't paying for the game, so they may stick around anyways. Hopefully by then the new players will have learned that the real game is played with other players. Still, I can see where players could think differently.

I plan on continuing documenting the adventures of my new alpha clone character. I just have the feeling the next few sessions won't have the attraction that these first two had.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My New Alpha Character

A lot of people created alpha characters yesterday. How many? Possibly a record number.

Of course, a lot of veterans curious about the feature created free accounts to try out the new New Player Experience and how alpha clones work. I know I did.

The process of creating an account was easy enough. I didn't have to worry about downloading the client, so I just filled out the information, verified my email address, attached my Google Authenticator app to the account, and away I went.  I should add that I'm glad that CCP allows players to use 2-factor authentication on free accounts. Not all publishers do. I wish I could apply 2FA to my Star Wars: The Old Republic account, but I guess EA/Bioware believes security is for paying customers.

The character creation process is pretty much as I remembered it. EVE has one of the most detailed character creators around. Even relatively rushing through the experience, I still spent 20 minutes creating my character. Too bad we can't leave the studio apartments we stay in when docked up. I hope one day CCP will redo avatar gameplay in Unreal Engine 4, but that's just wishful thinking.

I created a female Sebiestor Tinkerer. Yes, I went hard mode with the Minmatar, although I hear some people think the Amarr are worse off. I originally wanted to create a male character, but I fell in love with the name and gave in. I have a back story floating around my mind for my character. If I had created a male character, I would have chosen the Rebel ancestory. I need to write the idea down. I think I may actually have a good story.

Upon hitting finalize, I was immediately thrown into the tutorial, with a voice actor playing Fleet Commander Valdari giving me the background of my current situation in space. Also, my introduction to Aura. I don't think the voice of Aura is bad in the tutorial, but the words flow too fast when she says "warp drive active."

As I stumbled through the first part of the tutorial, I have to admit I liked the text that floated in space designed to show elements necessary to completing the tutorial easier. Except, that is, when the text covered up my capacitor and hit points. That was annoying. Especially when I'm into half-armor. Or at least, I think I was at half-armor. I couldn't tell because the UI element was in the way.

Having gone though the old NPE which was walls of text, I think the voice acting does a much better job of transmitting information. I do have to say I wish the instructions came just a tad faster the first couple of times I fought against the NPCs.

As I running through the tutorial, I was a bit concerned that my Reaper wound up with an armor tank while the skills an alpha clone can train are weighted very heavily toward shield tanking. Upon reflection, the tutorial is not just for alpha clones and Minmatar ships often can fit both an armor or a shield tank. Still, I can see where alpha players may run into some confusion.

I did manage to finish the industry section that results in the construction of a civilian data analyzer. The industry section contained two improvements over the old NPE industry line. First, instead of getting sent out to an asteroid belt to mine, the fleet commander told me the fastest way to get the minerals was to raid a den of pirates. The second, and more important improvement, was that while the data analyzer was under construction, the voice acting kept me occupied until the item was ready. Under the old NPE, players were basically told to go get something to drink, or maybe even get a sandwich, as manufacturing would take awhile.

I stopped at the point in which I needed to use a jump gate for the first time. The activities from the end of character creation to when I finished the last activity in the starter system took a little under one hour. In my opinion, that is pretty good pacing. Also, the tutorial presented a natural break point to return to real life.

So far, I like the tutorial. From what I've heard, the tutorial runs between 5-10 hours in length. I only want to spend an hour or so each day playing on my alpha account, so I think I'll finish the tutorial sometime this weekend.

Oh, and the crazy idea I alluded to in yesterday's post? I streamed the session to YouTube so I could have a copy live. The video, for anyone who really wants to see me stumble around, is below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ascension Issues With Email Verification And Two Factor Authentication

With the switch to a freemium business model, CCP needed to increase security to protect user accounts from hackers looking to make some money by draining all your skill points and taking all your money and stuff. Looks like the effort has not gone smoothly. CCP already has a helpdesk article up to help with the transition. I've copy/pasted the current article below:

We've seen a few different issues arise following the Ascension launch and a massive rise in ticket creation so in an attempt to get to as many players as possible, as soon as possible, we have created this article and will keep it updated with new issues that arise.
If your issue does not apply to any of the below mentioned issues, please create a ticket regarding the issue you experience.

Email Verification and Two Factor Authentication

  • All EVE accounts now require Email Verification. This is not optional and customer support can not disable it. However, pinning the account in the launcher and selecting to not ask for codes on the computer again should have the verification only happen once per computer.
  • Following the launch all accounts were also forced through the Two Factor Code Authenticator. Although this was intended the messaging surrounding this caused some understandable confusion. The requirement here is simply that all EVE accounts have verified emails. This secures accounts in such a way that if access is attempted through unrecognized devices, log in locations or similar, a code required to log in will be sent to the email registered to the account.
  • A point of confusion is the fact that even after going through this process, the Account Management page still lists the Two Factor Authentication as being "Disabled". When it technically is not. It can however be "Enabled" by sending a new verification code.
  • So for now, players will have to both verify their email and go through the Two Factor Authentication step to log in (both to the client and the Account Management page).
  • We are working on getting the messaging fixed and for the Account Management page to accurately depict accounts as having Two Factor Authentication "Enabled" when having gone through this process.
  • Keep in mind that the Two Factor Authenticator, which requires you to log in with a code sent to an app or email each time is still optional.
  • For each account you'll only have to go through the email verification and code verification process once.
Not receiving the verification code
  • Please check your spam/junk/trash folders. Or other sub folders of your email to make sure the verification email is not being filtered there.
  • Please do not re-initiate / re-send the verification code multiple times. You might have to wait for a short moment for the code to arrive. If you request a second code before the first has been used, the first one will become disabled. Also be aware that the Two factor code will only remain valid for 10 minutes.
  • If you're still not getting the code please create a ticket we'll assist further.

Localized Launchers / Clients

  • If you are using a localized version of the EVE launcher, and for some reason unable to log in. Please switch over to the English version and try again.
  • If you are using the English version of the EVE launcher, and for some reason unable to log in. Please reset the launcher to Default.
Lost access to email.
  • If this applies you will have to create a ticket. However, this issue will also require us to go through an ownership verification process, so please provide us with required user details (Full Name, Date of Birth, Old Email, Billing Address, and other payment information) to speed up the ticket processing.

Again, if none of the above points properly address your issue, please don't hesitate to file a ticket.

Ascension Day

Today is the day when EVE Online goes freemium. Well, a lot of other things are happening, like turning fleet boosts into a more active activity, the introduction of new industrial structures and ships, a balance pass for tech 3 destroyers, and the use of a cool new fitting simulator. But mainly, the expansion is all about the introduction of alpha and omega clones and the ability to play EVE without paying a subscription.

I am looking forward to starting up an alpha account. My quest for the Nestor is a grind. I'm almost done, but I don't want to mine anymore. Add in the horrible election and salty aftermath and I haven't really felt like playing anything, much less EVE.

I think I've decided which race to play on a new alpha account. People ask why I don't just create one of each race. The answer is simple. When I play an MMORPG, I want to develop my character. That means playing the game and living through the experiences. Just letting a character sit around gathering skill points isn't as satisfying.

I also want to do some things I haven't done in 7 years of playing EVE. Like PvP. Okay, I ran in fleets when I was in Eve University, but that was over six years ago. I hear that the new New Player Experience will push players to join factional warfare. One thing I have never done is run FW plexes. I hear it is quite lucrative. I'm also under the impression that if I fit a ship for PvP while running a plex that I can catch some people by surprise. In other words, I'd have a chance to win a fight. Probably never happen, but the Cubs did win the World Series this year.

Also, starting an alpha clone could prove a walk down memory lane. Perhaps I shouldn't try to relive the days when I began EVE, but I'd like to try. At the very least, starting over with an alpha account will give me something to blog about. I also have a crazy idea, but I'll save that for tomorrow if I actually go through with it.

I'll just close with an amusing fact I found in the patch notes. The new NPC mining operations will most often occur around selected stations owned by NPC corporations. Each of the three empires have three designated NPC corporations, but I found the Minmatar selection puzzling. The Minmatar Mining Corporation makes sense as the MMC is the main Minmatar NPC mining corp. Thukker Mix is reasonable if one forgets that the NPC corp is part of the Thukker Tribe, an independent faction from the Minmatar Republic. The third? The Vherokior Tribe. Huh? To me, that makes no sense. Then again, both of my main characters are Vherokior, and have done quite a bit of mining. I still think the choice is weird, though.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Look At RMT Before Ascension

Usually when a game adds a free-to-play element, the RMT crowd makes an appearance. Or, more accurately, increases its presence. With the next expansion, Ascension, launching tomorrow, now is a good time to access the activity of the ISK and skill point sellers.

Using data collected from the multi-game website Player Auctions, one can see that the price of secondary (aka black) market ISK has remained fairly stable throughout 2016. Even in May through July when the hazard discount (the difference in price between ISK purchased in Jita vs that purchased from an ISK seller) exceeded $11.50, the secondary market didn't see sellers attempt to jack up prices. The market had just enough competition to keep the sellers, except for one or two established sellers, competing for market share.

One interesting development is the emerging standard that since the introduction of skill point injectors in February, the standard hazard discount is above 50%. With the introduction of alpha clones, I believe a fresh influx of PLEX is about to enter the market, raising the value of the New Eden ISK vs the U.S. dollar. If I'm wrong and the price of PLEX raises to 1.3 billion ISK ($13.46 USD), I wonder if the ISK sellers will feel the need to lower prices in order to maintain market share.

The volume of sales really peaked in the February and March following the introduction of skill injectors. The big decline starting in April was a bit misleading as skill injectors started hitting the black market. Instead of having to purchase ISK to buy the skill injectors, players could buy the skill injectors directly. When ISK and skill injectors are looked at together, the big decline in sales did not begin until June.

September was an interesting month, at least for the sellers on Player Auctions. I'm not sure why sales jumped so much, especially concerning skill injectors. While I do not have full sales volume numbers for October, the trend right now looks like the numbers will prove slightly less than the sales numbers for August. We may never know, but I wonder if the activity had anything to do with the large-scale RMT operation involving I WANT ISK mentioned in the EULA change dev blog released last month.

I expect an increase in illicit RMT activity with the release of Ascension tomorrow. The only question is how much. The data above will help judge the magnitude of the problem.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

EVE Is Real: U.S. Presidential Election Edition

One of the things that drives me nuts about the elections for the Council of Stellar Management is when people claim if your candidate does not win that you have wasted your vote. Such BS! However, because of that type of thinking, we now have single transferrable voting for the CSM. A lot of people tell those voting in CSM elections for the first time that they must fill out all 15 spots on their ballots or they have wasted a vote. My normal reply is that the only wasted vote is one cast for a candidate you don't believe in. That usually results in my voting for less than 5 candidates in a CSM election.

Today I got to put that principle to the test in real life. Both of the major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are horrible candidates who don't belong in the White House. Yet, I'm told I must vote for them. But why waste my vote? So I voted for the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson. I don't agree with him on everything, but then again, no one's perfect.

So during the next CSM election, when you read me proclaiming a wasted vote is one for someone you do not believe in, that's not just me playing the EVE Online meta. That's me stating a real life belief. Because, as we all know, EVE is real.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Comparing The Value Of EVE Gambling Site Shutdowns: I WANT ISK vs SOMERBlink

On Thursday, CCP Quant published the monthly economic report for October. Naturally, many people looked at the report trying to divine the amount of ISK lost by the shutdown of the gambling site I WANT ISK for real money trading activity.

October ISK faucets and sinks
When I first saw the chart, I started playing around with the active ISK delta. The statistic measures the amount of ISK that is added or subtracted from the New Eden money supply due to accounts leaving or returning to the game, plus any GM actions. The removal of ISK from banker and their customers' wallets falls into the GM action category.

A little digging around in the files led to a file named MoneySupply.csv. The file breaks down the changes in the money supply on a daily level. Looking at the top 5 days that saw the biggest drops in the money supply, I saw something interesting:

  1. 20 Aug 2014 - 32.7 trillion ISK
  2. 12 Oct 2016 - 24.8 trillion ISK
  3. 27 Apr 2016 - 11.6 trillion ISK
  4. 13 May 2016 - 10.6 trillion ISK
  5. 24 May 2016 - 6.6 trillion ISK

The last three entries are associated with Citadel, including the launch date of 27 April. The second entry on the list is the date the dev blog announcing the EULA changes was published.

April ISK faucets and sinks
The decline in the ISK supply is probably a result of the seizing of the ISK from those involved with the operation of I WANT ISK plus the ISK sold for cash to other players. To put the amount into perspective, the amount removed from the game on 12 October exceeded the amount of ISK spent on blueprints in April.

So what happened on 20 August 2014? CCP banned Somerset Mahm, the owner of SOMERBlink, for numerous EULA violations.

From Team Security Dev Blog, December 2014
Back in 2014, observers relied on figures released by Team Security to determine actions taken against botters and black marketeers. The above graph published in the dev blog includes assets seized and not just ISK. Back in 2014, I estimated that the Somerset Mahm ban resulted in between 33-41 trillion ISK in currency and assets seized. With the availability of ISK supply data, I now know the ISK portion of the seizure was probably around 32.7 trillion.

When discussing the large numbers involved in the SOMERBlink and I WANT ISK bans, everyone usually wants to discuss real world value. I have enough data available to give both a primary market (PLEX) and a secondary (aka black) market value. Assuming the amounts found in the money supply file is close within plus or minus 500 billion ISK, the number of PLEX, or months of game time, comes out to the following:

  • SOMERBlink - 40,977 PLEX (3415 years of game time)
  • I WANT ISK - 21,528 PLEX (1794 years of game time)

When performing PLEX to USD conversions, I usually use the $34.99/2 PLEX rate. That results in an official real-world price of:

  • SOMERBlink - $716,893 USD
  • I WANT ISK - $376,632 USD

Of course, those are primary market prices, which are unobtainable in the real world. People probably want to know the value on the black market. Assuming that no ISK seller would purchase those huge amounts of ISK, they would need to sell the ISK themselves. Using the monthly rates for the sale of ISK I recorded on Player Auctions ($13/billion in August 2014, $6.75/billion in October 2016), the figures break out as:

  • SOMERBlink - $425,100 USD
  • I WANT ISK - $167,400 USD

I can't go farther with the comparisons unless Team Security releases a chart showing the amount of assets seized for 2016. I can estimate that Somerset Mahm lost 4-5 trillion ISK in assets, including unique ships, but I have no idea the assets seized in the IWI operation.

I should also add one other distinction between the SOMERBlink and I WANT ISK bans. Because Somerset Mahm was banned for non-RMT EULA/ToS violations, the totals only included the ISK and assets on his personal accounts. The ISK in the gambling sites corporate wallets remained in the game and members of SOMERBlink distributed the ISK back to players as part of the shutdown process. The IWI shutdown included removing ISK from a reported 100 players, including bankers and those who purchased dirty ISK. Presumably, all the ISK was removed from the corporate wallet.

No matter how one looks at the situation, the amount of ISK involved is enormous. So too is the temptation to turn all of that ISK into real life cash. Hopefully by doing some conversions to game time, one can see just how big gambling organizations could get before CCP changes the rules next week.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Goodbye BigCountry

Seriously, fuck 2016.

I opened up Twitter on the train yesterday morning and saw the above tweet. At first I didn't want to believe it, but I knew Dirk wouldn't play around with something so serious. Then I read Dirk's piece on Imperium News (the site formerly known as TMC). Stop now and go read it. The rest of this post can wait.

Dirk MacGirk, co-host, Open Comms Show

Those who watched The Open Comms Show knew BigCountry was not in the best of health, but I'm not sure how many knew how sick he truly was. He didn't appear on camera anymore and I knew he was pretty much confined to bed. But reading the news was quite a shock.

Paul "CCP Falcon" Eisley, EVE Universe Community Manager

I first ran into BigCountry's work back in the days when he did a weekend rock show on EVE Radio. That was probably back at the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011. Eventually he started broadcasting two shows a week when he began a talk show in addition to his weekend music show. I wound up searching for an iPhone app in order to catch the talk show on the train.
DJ Wiggles, EVE Radio and

BigCountry was full of big opinions and not afraid to let everyone know them. Some were good, and some were a little out there. Sometimes he got a little bit too excited and had to be reigned in.

Ned "CCP Manifest" Coker, Senior PR and Social Media Lead, CCP Games

As rough around the edges as the big Texan sometimes came across, he also had a big heart when it came to EVE. His mother introduced him to the game and perhaps some of that attitude stuck with him. When he thought something was a scam, he was not afraid to call it out. But when he found something he believed in, he would support it full tilt.

J Mcclain, Best of Us

One of the hallmarks of The Open Comms Show is Tito's Homemade Vodka. Made in Texas, BigCountry discovered the drink that he and Dirk made so popular among some circles in EVE. But as I recall, their massive alcohol consumption was not always so prevalent, especially when the show appeared on EVE Radio. The player-run internet radio station runs on listener contributions and one way that BigCountry and crew raised funds was by drinking for donations.

My first interaction with BC occurred during the first SomerBlink money laundering scandal. BigCountry, in his usual way, was ripping on everyone who said disparaging things about the gambling site. He had a point. A lot of people were saying things without documentation. But I wasn't one of them. I called in to discuss the issue and sent BC some documentation. He still defended Somer, but had to admit I knew what I was talking about. Of course, just because I was right once didn't stop him from telling me I was wrong afterwards. As I said before, BigCountry was never shy about expressing his opinions.

JEFFRAIDER, Twitch streamer and Sniggerdly pilot

BigCountry's journey through EVE ran the gamut, from a member of a Russian renter alliance to the CFC and finally Pandemic Legion. Along the way, his broadcasting activities touched literally thousands of players, if only for a few moments of listening to music back in the days before Pandora and Spotify.

Andie "CCP Seagull" Nordgren, Executive Producer, EVE Online

Honestly, I can't include all the good things people posted about BigCountry. But I can let everyone know about an effort to help BC's family. He left behind a wife, Megan, an eight-year-old daughter Taylor, and a six-year-old son Carson. Dirk set up a Gofundme to help out the family. If anyone would like to make a donation, the link is

Monday, October 31, 2016

Initial Takaways From EVE Vegas

Check-out time at the hotel is in a couple of hours, so now is a good time to take stock of what happened in the conference rooms in Planet Hollywood. 

Alpha clone state looks promising. CCP wants new players to view the free-to-play, alpha clone state as a viable long-term option. CCP Rise gave a presentation based on his experience running around Tranquility in a character with the alpha clone skillset. Not only did he maintain a 67% kill efficiency, but he could afford to lost 35 ships while doing so. Admittedly, he was a long time player before becoming a developer, so the question is: can a new player with no experience survive and thrive in New Eden? That depends on the New Player Experience (NPE).

The New Player Experience looks promising. CCP Ghost presented a compelling case that the new NPE is a much better experience than the current content. Most current and former players will say that is a low bar to clear. The former Icelandic criminal investigator explained the importance of story to human learning and stepped through the logic of one segment of the NPE. 

Admittedly, I have not run through the NPE on Singularity, opting to wait until Ascension launches on 15 November. I still have a concern about the reaction of new players to the end of the NPE. Will new players feel they are the subject of a bait-and-switch once the voice acting ends and the sandbox begins? I think CCP realizes they need more of a transition, but I doubt a planned part 2 is ready enough for deployment in two weeks. Then again, perhaps that is reason for the one week delay in deploying the expansion. Game companies only get to introduce a free-to-play/freemium option once, so hopefully new players will stick around.

New Eden is getting more populous (and more dangerous). CCP presented some additional information about the increasing capabilities of EVE's artificial intelligence. The mining operations will act as much like players as possible, including DPS anchoring on a fleet commander and logistics (yes, logi!) trying to keep the main NPC fleet between players and themselves. The composition of response fleets will depend on the level of the player threat to the mining fleet. Then again, a player with good standings to the NPC corporation running the mining operation may even receive aid in case of attack from another player.

For the foreseeable future, the old dumb NPCs will co-exist with groups using the improved AI. But I expect that eventually, the new code (which apparently uses less server resources) to squeeze out the older NPCs. 

The Star Citizen vulnerability window is closed. Throughout 2015, I looked at the state of EVE and thought that the launch of Star Citizen could entice a large portion of EVE's player-base away from the game. Originally scheduled to launch in November 2014, the game promised better graphics, a world filled with NPCs that fought like players, and an economy made more vibrant using the actions of NPCs.

EVE Vegas showed that CCP has closed the gap on all of these concerns. The level of art detail in EVE has now reached the level of improved explosions and prettier wrecks. Smart AI is no longer limited to special bad guys like Sansha incursions, Sleepers, and Drifters. Finally, the world, both in the form of NPCs and additional players, will feel more alive than ever. If anything, Star Citizen will suffer in comparison based on the limited number of people who can play together at any one time compared to the hundreds that EVE can currently support. EVE might suffer due to players wanting the space-fighter or FPS ground combat experience, but on most other levels CCP will have caught up to Chris Roberts' vision, as far as I can tell, by the time Star Citizen officially launches in 2018.

Those are just some quick thoughts on the information provided here on the ground in Las Vegas. Now I have to finish packing and check out of the hotel.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Quick Update About Skins Gambling

Last night I made a brief appearance on the Open Comms Show and apparently made some comments in regards to skins gambling I should develop into a full post or two. Some of my comments resulted from my real world belief that established interests lobby for government regulation in order to secure their economic position. One just has to watch the news for how taxi cab companies lobby against Uber and Lyft for examples. Similar regulatory efforts backed by the hotel industry are underway against AirBnB. In EVE, we call this Malcanis' Law.

Where skins gambling, the category of operation that EVE casinos fell into, is concerned, the established real world interests are the brick-and-mortar casinos. If large amounts of money are wagered outside the casinos, the gambling interests have an interest in getting a piece of the action.

Skins gambling, almost if not totally unregulated up until this summer, is such an activity. Up until the legal actions swirling around Valve, one of the leading experts in the field, Chris Grove of Narus Advisors, estimated to grow to become a $20 billion industry in the year 2020. Indeed, one site, CSGOLounge, handled $1 billion in bets in 2016 before Valve began issuing cease-and-desist letters in August. To give some perspective on the amount, in 2014 gambling casinos and other gambling activities run by native Americans generated $26.8 billion. So $20 billion is a lot.

I'm currently in Las Vegas attending the CCP event in Planet Hollywood, so I don't have a lot of time or access to my locally stored reference materials to flesh out the subject with the word count it deserves. Just know that, like EVE itself, a lot of action is occurring below the surface.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A EULA Change Produces Deja Vu All Over Again

"We pay our writers 250 million ISK per article, podcast or video, and 150m for editing. Every article you see on CZ takes between three to ten man hours of work to produce. Outside of that, there is a large amount of administrative work and research that needs to be done, all of which allows us to offer an experience to our readers and listeners that far exceeds what any individual blog might provide."

I should feel really good right now. Professionally, my boss went on paternity leave for three weeks, leaving me in charge. All emergencies handled, the servers didn't melt, and he sounded happy after I debriefed him on what he missed. Which is all good, because my review is coming up. Cha ching!

Outside of work, I land in Las Vegas at 9:10 am Thursday, local time. I'll spend four days talking internet spaceships with people I've met at previous meetups as well as with new people I don't know yet. Perhaps more importantly, I'll get to go to Holsteins and get one of their milkshakes. Yum!

Despite all the positivity in the air, I feel like a cloud has settled over my head. A cloud the likes not seen since the great ISBoxer meltdown of 2014-2015. CCP announced a EULA change taking effect on 8 November that bans EVE gambling sites. And just like with the enforcement of the rules involving input broadcasting and input multiplexing on 1 January 2015, a small segment of the EVE player base is up in arms over CCP's decision.

A feeling of deja vu struck me as I watched my Twitter feed yesterday. First came a post on Crossing Zebras wrapping "EVE media" in the community flag. One argument is that, "it’s time for some of these players that have amassed an incredible wealth to give back to the community." Really? Amassing wealth in a video game leads to social obligations to those who want funds? We play a video game, for Bob's sake. Anyone trying to guilt trip me over having a lot of virtual currency in a video game gets laughed at. Of course, I guess I need to have a lot of ISK first.

The second idea is even worse. The author wants CCP to run its own casino and distribute the profits to worth causes, like EVE media sites. I have to quote one paragraph:
"The rest could be used by CCP to sponsor external sites, like Crossing Zebras or like EN:24, which would be telling the stories of players to the world, act as a source of advertising for the game, as well as holding CCP accountable when they release new game features."
Seriously? Does anyone expect a news site paid for by CCP to criticize CCP? Eve News 24 couldn't even criticize I WANT ISK, a major sponsor, whenever the gambling site fell afoul of the EVE Online EULA. Besides, CCP is ending gambling in part due to a movement among governments to crack down on skins gambling done by third party sites. Is CCP going to risk running afoul of violating those same laws directly? I think not.

A little later, Niden's bleg appeared in my Twitter feed. Perhaps the first post from Crossing Zebras put me in a foul mood. Or perhaps the combination of the bleg combined with Niden's and Nashh Kadavr's appearance on Talking in Stations set me off. But I couldn't help but think of the reaction of ISBoxer users.

In some ways, the reactions of those who profited from the largess of EVE casinos is more egregious than that of hyper-boxers who used input broadcasting and multiplexing. In the case of ISBoxer users, they loudly proclaimed that they brought so much money into EVE that CCP needed to balance the game around them. The EVE media types and other content creators addicted to gambling money not only argue that CCP needs to balance the game around gambling, but the developers also need to take legal risks to allow them to continue their activities. And if CCP insists on banning gambling, then the developers need to replace the lost income somehow, or bad things will happen that will damage the game.

I still remember the months-long fights over the input broadcasting and multiplexing bans. I really don't want to live through another period like that. Something tells me that, since the EVE media has a much greater reach than ISBoxer users, I may not find an escape short of just abandoning all EVE sites.

In the meantime, I should look on the bright side. Holsteins has a special fall milkshake:
"Get your taste of fall at Holsteins with the Pumpkin Pie Bam-Boozled Shake, a pumpkin spice blend of vanilla ice cream, pumpkin vodka, pumpkin pie filling and graham crackers, garnished with vanilla frosting, a candy corn rim, whipped cream and a slide of pumpkin pie."
I can feel my mood improving already.