Monday, December 28, 2015

High Sec War Decs The Chicago Way

I normally do not engage in attempting to redesign major game systems in games. After all, who wants to read the rantings of a player about a feature he or she does not like? I usually try to write posts that interest me, and frankly, I prefer reading bad fan fiction to articles with ideas that will never reach a game server.

So why change now? In November, the subject of the month in EVE Online was war decs. With people ranging from The Marmite Collective's Tora Bushido to MassivelyOP's Brendan Drain speculating on the future design of the war declaration system. I think most players think the current system is, to put it nicely, a bit dysfunctional. With CCP planning to introduce citadels into the game before Fanfest in April 2016, now is an appropriate time to consider changes to the war declaration system in high security space.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Why The Pessimism About CSM?

I was a part of CSM Watch's panel that took a look at the activities of CSM 10 and opined about the future of the Council of Stellar Management as an institution. I understand that some people didn't like our comments, in particular some members of the CSM. I know that looking at an institution from the outside can lead to misunderstanding what is really going on within the body due to not knowing all the facts.

But I think we had a reason for some of our pessimism. Three of us, Lanctharus, Lockefox, and myself, attended the CSM Roundtable held at EVE Vegas, and Lanctharus posted an audio recording of the event. I transcribed appoximately 5 minutes of the recording. The transcript is not exact as I took out the "uh","ah", and other fillers to make the statements more readable. The three people who's words follow are CSM members Sion Kumitomo, Mike Azariah, and CCP's CSM Coordinator, CCP Leeloo:
Sion Kumitomo: So, it’s been really interesting about that. We had a lot of really good forward momentum on fixing a lot of that stuff at the last summit. We had a really good winter summit. I’m sorry, fall, summer, whatever summit. It was really productive, really good. A lot of really good things done. And then a lot of stuff just all got smashed into tiny little bits. There was a huge NDA breach on either the CSM or a certain member or members of the [unintelligible] and it obliterated all kinds of trust. Like, we are borderline not functional as an organization right now because, when you don’t have that trust, people don’t actually have the freedom to talk to a developer to talk to you about this stuff.

Seriously. We’ve had internally with the CSM a number of people who are like, “Yeah, why bother? We should just all resign.” And I don’t mean like one person. I don’t mean that. We’ve also had internal discussions about why even have a CSM. Like, I wasn’t joking when I was talking to Mike about this. The CSM has a huge amount of potential, but this lady and this gentleman down there do an amazing job on what they can do. They have a lot of support that they don’t have that they need from their management. And we need to be better as CSM members.

So, to answer your question, I don’t regret it [running for CSM], but I do have a lot of regrets about how this has gone on and at this point I don’t know if it’s even salvageable. There’s a lot of what we can’t even do anymore. Because if you have a developer literally -- so this is Larrikin’s first really big announcement, right? -- like, how do you walk into a room, look somebody in the eye, and say I just literally ruined your announcement at your first time in Vegas.  Like, how could you do that? And it doesn’t even have anything to do with the NDA. It’s just a matter of how you comport yourself as a person. But that all bleeds through.

So we as a CSM have not handled this well. Either we will or we won’t, and if we don’t there’s even odds that the CSM doesn’t exist next year.

Mike Azariah: I said a long time ago during one of the campaigns that it takes one “oh shit” to ruin all the “attaboys” that you’ve gotten, and we’re at an “oh shit”. So whether we survive it and start stacking up the “attaboys” again is -- I’m willing to keep trying the rest of this term and I hope others, some of you guys will run and stack them up. But “oh shit” moments happen and they really leave a lot darker stain than any accomplishment to do in the meantime or prior to.

CCP Leeloo: Yeah, I’m going to answer that. Internally in CCP a lot of developers see CSM as a whole even though they are elected individuals. And sometimes the action of one person affect the whole council. So if you have one person who accidentally tweeted something and the developers then don’t want to interact with the whole of the council because the actions of one person will affect the reputation of the council as a whole. And there is very little we can do from our side to mitigate the damage. 

I confirmed with Lanctharus, who had a much better view of the proceedings, that Leeloo was referring to a tweet sent out by Jayne Fillon. I believe the tweet concerned the capital rebalancing. According to Lanctharus, CCP Leeloo shot Jayne a look while describing the incident. I should also note that the event occurred before Manfred Sideous was removed from CSM 10 for an unspecified infraction. The speculated reason is for an NDA infraction involving the release of information about the upcoming capital ship changes.

So yes, we came at the subject from a rather negative point of view. But if most of the news we hear about the CSM is negative, especially when that view is coming from CSM members themselves, then how are we supposed to react?

Monday, December 21, 2015

CCP's Office Shuffle, Year End Edition

A story I watched over the course of 2015 is the status of CCP's offices. Closing offices, like closing servers, is a sign of weakness for a game company. In 2014, CCP closed the San Francisco office in August and lost two "C" level executives, Chief Marketing Officer David Reid and Chief Financial Officer Joe Gallo. In 2015, CCP had three non-negotiable leases up for renewal, in Iceland (July), the UK (July), and China (October). So since I wrote about the issue throughout the year, I thought I should write one final post looking back at the year.

CCP Offices At The Beginning Of The Year

Reykjavik - CCP's world headquarters and the home of the EVE Online development team, I don't think anyone really expected a move from its current home in 2015. Yet, CCP managed to make some news with an announcement that the company would move to the science park currently under development on the campus of the University of Iceland. At a signing ceremony in June, CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson stated:
"With these plans is to begin a new chapter in the activities of CCP in Iceland, where we foresee further strengthen our successful cooperation with the academic and creative industries in this country. Ahead are exciting times for the company and I am convinced that great opportunities are implied in the cooperation and development plans envisaged in the Science Park Vatnsmýrin development activities, research and innovation."
As of the time of this post, I do not have a date for the move to the new facilities.

United Kingdom - In April, CCP officially transferred the headquarters of its U.K. operations from its Slough office 20 miles outside of London to the Newcastle studio in Gateshead. I believe the Slough location was probably just an office, if not a post office box. But CCP will have a second address in the U.K. again soon, as the press release announcing the hiring of Maria Sayans as the new Chief Customer Officer included the information that she would oversee the opening of a new London office.

Shanghai - No news came out of China in 2015 on the real estate front. which probably means that the studio did not move. Closing the facility doesn't seem likely as CCP Shanghai is not only the home of the DUST 514 development team, but the virtual reality developers who created EVE: Gunjack as well. With CCP banking so heavily on virtual reality, I don't see the game maker discarding such an asset.

Atlanta - According to CCP's financial documents, no leases were set to expire until November 2022, but the sale of White Wolf to Paradox in October brought the Atlanta facility to the forefront of my attention. But the days of CCP Atlanta only housing White Wolf and some assorted staff like CCP Manifest ended sometime last year. Atlanta is the home of CCP's VR Labs, which was announced at Fanfest in March. CCP Manifest tweeted out on 2 November that the Atlanta office would remain open.

Okay, so not the most scintillating of posts. As a blogger who is not chasing hits, I can come back to a subject and do a follow-up. Some stories do deserve them, even when they do not contain bad news. Then again, maybe that is when stories deserve a follow-up post the most.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Man In The Mirror

Sometimes things happen that I have to write about. When someone gives me a juicy softball like Sion Kumitomo served up on TMC today, I can't help but take a swing.

Don't worry, I won't do an imitation of James315 analyzing that proposal, although I probably could. Instead, I will try to limit myself to a piece of tinfoil he threw out that caught my attention since it touches a subject that interests me. No, not RMT. Get your minds out of the gutter. The subject involves how CCP will act once the studio has multiple games in front of players. Sorry DUST players, but until CCP moves your game onto a next gen console or onto PC,  DUST doesn't count.

Let's stipulate that Sion is absolutely correct about the following statement from his TMC article:
"What follows is the complete and unedited reform proposal I sent to CCP back in August that was subsequently discussed at the fall summit. It received near-unanimous support from the CSM, and was endorsed by CCP Seagull and CCP Falcon to be put into action during this term. Then it was killed. No other reform proposals have been offered:"
I do appreciate the subtlety of Sion's setup for his proposal, but he inserted a couple of assumptions that he leaves readers to fill in the answers.  The first unasked question is, "Why was it killed?" The second unasked question is, "Who is high enough placed to overrule CCP Seagull and CCP Falcon?" The unspoken argument is that Sion's proposal is good, but higher ups didn't want to see Sion's idea implemented. But why?

First, we need to look at the DICE connection. If Sion is correct about someone overruling both CCP Falcon and CCP Seagull about accepting his proposal for retasking the CSM, I believe the logical suspect is Senior Vice President of Product Development Sean Decker, who reports directly to CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson.  When Decker moved from Stockholm-based DICE to CCP, many, including myself, believed the reason was his expertise as the head of Electronic Arts' Free4Play group. But he also had experience overseeing multiple game studios. For those unfamiliar with Decker, here is how the press release announcing his hiring described him:
"'Sean’s extensive experience in the games industry will be extremely valuable for us as we enter the second decade of the EVE Universe,' said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP.  "The next few years will be the most important in the company’s history, as we build on the launch of DUST 514, expand EVE Online, continue development of World of Darkness, and kick start our efforts in mobile gaming.'

"Prior to his time leading EA’s 'Play4Free' group, Decker served as vice president and general manager at DICE, where he oversaw the Battlefield and Mirror’s Edge franchises, and at EA’s Los Angeles studio, where he directed the Medal of Honor and Command & Conquer franchises."
Not too long after his hiring, CCP made the decision to close down World of Darkness, so I don't think anyone can hold the failure of that project against him. About that same time, EVE: Valkyrie started picking up momentum. Who did CCP choose to lead the effort for the studio's first foray into virtual reality? Another veteran of DICE, Owen O'Brien. The September 2013 press release announcing his hiring described O'Brien thus:
"O'Brien joins CCP following a long career at the award-winning game development studio DICE in Stockholm, Sweden, owned by publisher Electronic Arts. At DICE, O'Brien led production of the critically acclaimed game Mirror’s Edge, which was heralded for its creativity and groundbreaking take on the first-person action genre.

"'I worked with Owen for many years at DICE,' said Sean Decker, senior vice president of production at CCP. 'His experience bringing Mirror’s Edge to market will be invaluable as we work to make virtual reality an actual reality for gamers worldwide.'"
Fast forward two years. Not only has O'Brien produced a highly anticipated came that will come bundled with the Oculus Rift pre-orders, but CCP released another virtual reality game, EVE: Gunjack, for the Gear VR. I would imagine both Decker's and O'Brien's stock is riding pretty high within CCP right about now. Due to CCP's efforts in the realm of virtual reality, CCP managed to pull in $30 million in venture capital money to continue to fund additional VR development. Now is the time to introduce the final member of the DICE connection.

On 8 December, CCP announced the hiring of Maria Sayans as the new Chief Customer Officer. According to the press release:
"In her role of CCO, Sayans will focus on the company’s total relationship with its customers, overseeing CCP’s Marketing, Sales, Web Development, and Customer Services teams in Reykjavik, Shanghai, Atlanta, and Newcastle.

"Sayans comes to CCP from Electronic Arts (EA), where she spent 14 years in a variety of key marketing leadership roles.  Most recently Sayans was senior director of marketing at EA’s DICE studio, where she oversaw the global marketing efforts for the Battlefield and Mirror’s Edge franchises."
Having successfully overseen the development of Valkyrie that could make CCP a studio with two major games, Decker reached out to another familar face to help promote and run the game post-launch. Given that his moves have worked out so far, I feel hopeful for the future of the game maker.

I realize the history lesson is nice, but what does the DICE connection have to do with Sion's proposal for restructuring the CSM? From watching Sayans' presentation at D.I.C.E. in Barcelona this September, she seems to prefer surveys and focus groups over feedback from forums. Focus groups? Isn't that what CCP is trying to do now, most notably with a capital ship focus group?

If I can try to put the pieces together, Sion's proposal had the members of the CSM acting like unpaid employees working on putting together focus groups. I am not a mind reader, but I have enough experience to know that a new boss likes to come in and do things their own way. I'm pretty sure that Sayans had a system that worked at DICE and probably wants to institute the same system across all of CCP's games, including EVE. I think I'll go out on a limb and state that she would rather get the opinions of players on the games rather than putting them to work organizing other players.

So, what is the future of the CSM? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that Sion's proposal is not the answer. What I really want to see is the first dev blog from Sayans (aka CCP Denebola) to find out what the future has in store.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The CSM: No Place To Go But Up

Last night I did something a bit bizarre. Instead of doing something sensible like playing EVE Online, Dragomon Hunter, or EVE: Gunjack, I watched the Republican debate. Madness, right? But this is the beginning of the election season, and not just in the United States.

Yes, the election for the 11th Council of Stellar Management is just a few months away. What the next CSM will look like and how they function is up in the air right now. From accounts coming from some CSM members, the relationship between the CSM and CCP is horribly broken. For those who have some time to listen to some background, click on the below hyperlink:


Following the removal of Manfred Sidious from the CSM in November for unspecified reasons, trust between CCP and the CSM as a whole seems non-existent, although some individual members may still have good relations with individual developers.

Today's post wasn't sparked by U.S. politics, however. Instead, I saw a tweet from CSM member Cagali Cagali that led to a series of others.




Has the CSM hit rock bottom? If not, they don't have far to go. But the next election cycle could prove interesting. After all, CCP has a new Chief Customer Officer, Maria Sayans. I really would like to see what the freshly minted CCP Denebola has in mind for the future of the CSM.


Monday, December 14, 2015

An ISK Seller Sings On Reddit

While much of the r/eve sub-Reddit was going on about Endie, Bat Country, and Blawrf McTaggart, I actually made a rare visit due to a thread created by an illicit ISK seller who supposedly has left the game. I found a couple of answers to questions of interest.


One answer I don't hear used often concerns account hacking and credit card fraud. Those engaged in the practices want the ability to dump their ill-gotten gains quickly. If a game doesn't have a huge market for illicit game currency, then why bother hacking the game accounts? If the market is small, then those committing credit card fraud won't have the ability to launder large amounts of real life cash. I know, some hackers will hack just for the challenge or the lulz. But taking away some of the incentives does help protect against the ill-intentioned.


From monitoring various ISK selling websites, I have a fair idea of how much someone can make selling ISK. The fact that this seller was essentially working a part-time job of probably 15-25 hours a week, making $300 USD might not appeal to a lot of people in the U.S. But in some countries, $300/week is a lot of money.


The final answer, to a question about why he stopped, is a bit illuminating. So much so that I'll repeat it again:
"I lost interest in playing and coupled with the drop in price for ISK, it really stopped being worth it."
CCP's goal, as I've stated several times over the years, isn't to catch and ban every person engaged in illicit RMT and its associated activities. The goal is to convince people that selling EVE Online currency is just not worth the effort. For one former player who posted on r/eve yesterday, that was certainly the case.

Friday, December 11, 2015

EVE: Valkyrie To Ship With The Oculus Rift

If one ignores the drama coming out of the "EVE community," CCP has had a really good past 30 days. On November 10th, CCP announced that EVE: Gunjack would launch as a first day title of Samsung's Gear VR. CCP followed that up two days later with the reveal that venture capitalists New Enterprise Associates and Novator Partners LLP were investing $30 million USD into CCP to fund the development of virtual reality games. Then on Tuesday CCP announced the hire of Maria Sayans from DICE to oversee "the company’s total relationship with its customers, overseeing CCP’s Marketing, Sales, Web Development, and Customer Services teams in Reykjavik, Shanghai, Atlanta, and Newcastle." Coming from EA and having worked on the marketing side of the Battlefield 4 launch, CCP probably hired someone who won't turn and run at the sight of the posting on Reddit.

But the news got a little better yesterday. Oculus announced that EVE: Valkyrie will ship with every pre-ordered Oculus Rift. That is a big deal. Not only will CCP make some nice money off the deal, but EVE: Valkyrie will get a lot of exposure. I'm pretty sure people will want to try the game at least once. If the game is as popular with the general public as with the EVE players who have attended various events over the past two years, Valkyrie could wind up as the "killer app" for the Oculus Rift. And with Valkyrie also slated to appear on the PS4 when Sony's VR headset comes out sometime next year, CCP may have a hit on its hands.

I have to say that I think CCP had a pretty good year in 2015, despite the declining peak concurrent user numbers in EVE. I think they set their financial house in order, although I always worry about hubris popping up and spoiling things. But I was really impressed with their work in the VR realm. Between Fanfest and EVE Vegas I got the chance to experience all of CCP's games and tech demos. Quite frankly, the two least impressive of those experiences were Gunjack and Valkyrie. So I'm feeling pretty good about CCP's future prospects right now. Hopefully, I'm not looking at the world through rose colored glasses.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Is A Chief Customer Officer?

I got home last night and found out that CCP had hired another high level executive from Electonic Arts' DICE studio in Sweden. In the interest of completeness, I will post the press release below:


Maria Sayans Joins CCP as Chief Customer Officer

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND – December 8, 2015 – CCP Games, a leading independent game developer, today announced it has hired Maria Sayans as its Chief Customer Officer (CCO), a newly created position.  In her role of CCO, Sayans will focus on the company’s total relationship with its customers, overseeing CCP’s Marketing, Sales, Web Development, and Customer Services teams in Reykjavik, Shanghai, Atlanta, and Newcastle.

Sayans comes to CCP from Electronic Arts (EA), where she spent 14 years in a variety of key marketing leadership roles.  Most recently Sayans was senior director of marketing at EA’s DICE studio, where she oversaw the global marketing efforts for the Battlefield and Mirror’s Edge franchises. 



“As we embark on this new chapter in CCP’s story, it’s really important to us to further build on the fantastic relationship we’ve built with our customers,” said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP.  “Maria will help us unify our communications across teams and studios so we can better enable our players to realize their wildest dreams.”

Prior to her time at EA, Sayans was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company.

Sayans joins CCP as the company prepares for several high-profile game launches, including EVE: Valkyrie, the multiplayer virtual reality (VR) spaceship combat game that has quickly become the most anticipated title for the launch of both the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR headsets, and EVE Online: Citadel, the next massive expansion to EVE Online, set for release in the first quarter of 2016.

Sayans will soon help open CCP’s London office, and will report directly to CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson.

“I can’t think of a better place to be a part of the VR revolution than CCP,” said Sayans.  “The company’s early leadership in VR and pioneering status in online gaming is quickly translating into real results and we aim to build on and extend that in the coming years.”
Yes, I even included the picture from the press release. How horrible! You'd think I was a video game journalist or something. But since I'm not a video game journalist, I guess I need to provide some additional value to the post.

First, what is a Chief Customer Officer? I have no idea what Hilmar is thinking. But if I am correct, CCP Manifest and CCP Falcon have a new boss. Actually, according to Sayans' LinkedIn account, she started working for CCP in November, so she possibly is not that new.

Next, I think that Sayans' may know the craziness she is walking into with CCP. Perhaps that is why she will work out of London. What leads me to this conclusion? This screenshot from the YouTube video sensation from 2009, HTFU.


The redhead is Elisabet Gretarsdottir, who currently works as the Marketing Director on Live Services at DICE. Any chance Sayans talked with the former CCP Darth Beta about CCP?

Of course, that familiarity works both ways. Back in 2013, CCP hired Sean Decker from DICE as its new Senior Vice President of Product Development. If I have my timelines correct, Sayans started as a Senior Marketing Director at DICE in 2010, so Sayans and Decker may have worked together for a few years. Also, I hear that Nordic game developers are a little bit cliquish, so hiring someone else from a Swedish game studio makes sense, even if they are not Nordic.

So far, the few articles published by gaming-related sites have just regurgitated CCP's press release. I'm also not sure if the EVE media will do more than that. But after reading the press release and a couple of the articles, I wanted to know what Sayans thought about her job. More importantly, I wanted to hear her opinions. So I started searching YouTube for videos. After looking for a couple of minutes, I found a recording of a talk she gave at D.I.C.E. 2015 in Barcelona in September. I recommend watching the whole thing.



I found a few things interesting, and not just the quote, "It's about the glorious chaos of all out war." Sayans was the person in charge of the global marketing effort for Battlefield 4, a game that I understand did not have the smoothest of launches. Her answers to the question, "How do you regain trust?" sounds hauntingly familiar to those who remember some of CCP's bigger screw-ups.

One observation that caught my attention was that DICE relied too much on the forums for feedback and that a better system was needed. The solution that DICE came up with was the Net Promoter Score. Here is how Wikipedia describes the tool:
"The Net Promoter Score, itself, is calculated based on responses to a single question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale.

"Those who respond with a score of 9 or 10 are called Promoters, and are considered likely to exhibit value-creating behaviors, such as buying more, remaining customers for longer, and making more positive referrals to other potential customers. Those who respond with a score of 0 to 6 are labeled Detractors, and they are believed to be less likely to exhibit the value-creating behaviors. Responses of 7 and 8 are labeled Passives, and their behavior falls in the middle of Promoters and Detractors. The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. For purposes of calculating a Net Promoter Score, Passives count towards the total number of respondents, but do not directly affect the overall net score.

"Companies are encouraged to follow the likelihood to recommend question with an open-ended request for elaboration, soliciting the reasons for a customer's rating of that company or product. These reasons can then be provided to front-line employees and management teams for follow-up action. Local office branch managers at Charles Schwab Corporation, for example, call back customers to engage them in a discussion about the feedback they provided through the NPS survey process, solve problems, and learn more so they can coach account representatives."
If Sayans brings the same approach to CCP, EVE players could expect to see a lot of surveys in their inboxes in the near future. I would expect to see a lot of simple surveys at the beginning, with the surveys getting more complex over time.

Another feature that she discussed was DICE's Game Changers program. Game Changers sounds a lot like CCP's idea for selecting players as part of focus groups and getting their input. DICE would have a group of 90 or so players involved in the program and every so often bring 20-30 players into their studios for 2 days in order to get feedback. Or one could look at the effort as a hand-picked version of the Council of Stellar Management, since CCP is already flying a group of players into Reykjavik a couple of times a year for consultations.  Did Sayans' experience overseeing programs like Game Changers help her get the job at CCP? From the outside looking in, I would have to say yes.

Switching back to business, I found the bit about opening CCP's London office a bit interesting. Back in April, CCP moved the headquarters of its U.K. operations from Slough, 20 miles from downtown London, to its studio in Newcastle. Now, CCP presumably will open an office in a more expensive location in London. I hope this isn't a case of "see money, spend money." CCP has gotten into trouble with that type of thinking in the past. I've written favorably a few times this year about CCP's financial moves. I hope they stay within a reasonable budget.

One final thought. I concentrated on the effect that Sayans may have on EVE. But CCP has one virtual reality game launched and another that will launch as soon as the consumer version of the Oculus Rift is ready for sale. And let's not forget about DUST. Sayans' plate is full with everything going on in the New Eden universe.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What's In A Patch Name?


One of the more unusual decisions CCP made over the past two years is retaining the practice of naming every point release following the decision to move to a 5-6 week release cycle in June 2014. I always thought that naming each point release needlessly raised expectations. No matter how much CCP stated that these were not expansions, some people didn't care and complained loudly when a release was not chock-full of content.

Perhaps my background before playing EVE gave me an understanding on what CCP was doing with the faster release cycle. I played Everquest 2 for over 3 years before playing EVE. When I started playing, we received a content patch, called a Live Update (later, Game Update) every month. That lasted for 2 years or so. Sometimes the updates were major, sometimes little more than bug fixes. For example, Game Update 41 was the Frostfell, or Christmas holiday, patch for 2007.

The numbering system for updates did not halt when SOE released an expansion for EQ2. For example, the 2007 expansion, Rise of Kunark, was Game Update 40 while The Shadow Odyssey, the 2008 expansion, was Game Update 50. I think the numbering system stopped a few years ago, but I think I made my point. Use a numbering system for all updates and give expansions names.

Apparently, CCP is thinking along those same lines. Looking at the patch notes for tomorrow's point release, the description only states "Patch Notes For December Release." What a dull name. Okay, using a number isn't really much better. But what should CCP do instead?

First, bringing back named expansions, announced back in September, is a good move. I also like the plan for releasing expansions, listed in the dev blog:
"But we will also bring back expansions. What's then the difference between a release and an expansion in this hybrid form? First, an expansion will be a set of big, connected features that both make impactful change on EVE, and make a statement about what kind of game EVE is. Second, there won't be a fixed number of them per year, but rather we will announce when we have one in the making and what the main features are. While we will have a timeframe in mind for the release of the expansion and tell you about it, the exact date won’t be pinned down until we are confident that the state of all the connected features are in a good place."
What about the point releases? CCP never used a numbering system before, always relying on the names of the expansions. I think that is part of the reason the point releases continued to receive names: simple inertia. So why not use a combination of the year and the number of the point release for the year? But, don't use the real world year. Use the in-game year. So the first point release of 2016 would be either YC118.1.0 or just 118.1.0. An alternate naming convention might include the month instead of a counter, so a point release in June would have the designation YC118.06.00. I actually prefer the alternate naming scheme, but figure some would not like to see gaps when months skip.

I realize that a naming convention for a game's point releases seems like a minor thing. But I was so tired of listening to people complaining about "expansions" that didn't have any content I just wanted to turn off all social media, podcasts, and blogs. Maybe if CCP uses a naming convention that people understand some of the whining will go away.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Another EVE Online Player Murdered

Yesterday I heard that an EVE Online player, Robert "Photon Torpedo" Adams, was one of 14 people murdered in a terrorist attack, this time in San Bernardino, California. Apparently, the only reason the death toll was not worse was that an improvised explosive device crafted by the terrorists failed to detonate.

Perhaps the most famous EVE Online player killed in a terrorist attack was Sean "Vile Rat" Smith, an information management officer with the U.S. State Department who died in the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, on 11 September 2012.

Robert is survived by his wife Summer and daughter Savannah. A GoFundMe page is set up to help the family.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fairness And Thinking Before Flaming

I recently listened to a podcast and thought that I heard someone say something incredibly stupid. But, I waited before turning on the flamethrower. As I slept on the quote, and thought about what was said a little more deeply, I came to the conclusion that the quote was not a misstatement. The person obviously meant what he said.

From what I know of the person, the quote reflected his real life political opinions. The individual in question would, if pressed, stand 100% behind the beliefs revealed by the quote. He would probably state that anyone who didn't believe the way he does is a horrible person.

At what point do I just trash an idea for a post? The Nosy Gamer is a blog about video games, and unless writing about either the in-game political antics of EVE Online players or issues that specifically affect video game players, I try to avoid politics. I don't really want to get into a ideological fight on the blog. I do that way too often on Twitter as it is.

Some may say my stance on real money trading and associated in-game behavior is a stance based on my real life values. I believe that the same rules that apply to the new player mining in an asteroid belt in his shiny new Venture should also apply to the most jaded of null sec alliance leaders. And vice-versa. I rather suspect some people are tired of the rules lawyering posts I occasionally write whenever a controversy erupts in the EVE community.

I do think that many people share my belief in treating everyone as equally as possible. The biggest example in my mind is the controversy that surrounded the EVE Online gambling website SOMERblink in October 2013. Despite openly violating the EVE Online EULA, SOMERblink was allowed to conduct business because, as an affiliate of MarkeeDragon.com, Somerset Mahm fell under the EVE Time Code Bazaar Rules which overrode the EULA. The controversy finally ended when CCP informed all of the Game Time Code (now PLEX) resellers that their player affiliates must follow the EULA, although not before SOMERblink held a firesale to milk the every last drop out of its ISK laundering scheme.

Getting back to the subject of a podcaster's sincere political beliefs reflecting in his attitudes in a video game, I'm not sure if I will use the quote. I'm tempted to just move on. If I do wind up using the quote, I need to make sure I use the quote properly. Going negative and just attacking a person is often counterproductive. I'd rather try to go for some sort of positive change, or express a positive ideal to strive for. But as I said before, I may just let the whole idea drop as I'm not sure if the potential payout is worth the effort.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Kickstarter War: The Beginning Of Phase Two

Something tells me that not everything is going well with the Imperium's plans in The Kickstarter War. Phase two, the retribution raids against the Imperium's tormentors, appears to have begun on 26 November with the destruction of 2 POS in the Black Rise system of Villasen and a POS belonging to the Cooperative Black Market corporation in Alamel in the Placid region.


If the situation in Cloud Ring is stabilized, I'd hate to see what the Imperium considers complete chaos. Over the next two days, reinforcement timers will end for three stations. Brave Collective will have to begin defending two stations, in YI-8ZM and TN-T7T, within a 90 minute period on Tuesday. SpaceMonkey's Alliance sees the timer on its station in O-ZXUV end in the early morning hours on Wednesday. The wildcard is Exodus. [LOLGF], which dropped a Territorial Claim Unit in the system of F7C-H0 on Sunday. One of the better small gang PvP organizations in New Eden, Exodus. has the distinction of having 3 top three finishes in the Alliance Tournament over the past four years. I could see LOLGF farming SMA for a very long time in Cloud Ring.


The Imperium has conducted offensive operations in the low security space of the Black Rise and Placid regions of the Caldari/Gallente factional warfare zone. Over the four-day span of 26-29 November, Imperium forces destroyed 18 POS in Black Rise and 7 POS in Placid. 

In Black Rise, 17 of the 18 POS destroyed resided in the north-western constellation of Urpiken. As stated in the recent State of the Goonion on 19 November, the Imperium struck at alliances that have fought Imperium forces and are probably a thorn in the Imperium's side. The list of losses by alliance are:
  • WAFFLES. - 6
  • Snuffed Out - 3
  • Pandemic Legion - 2
  • Project.Mayhem. - 1
  • Spaceship Bebop - 1
  • The Bloc - 1
  • Unaffiliated corps - 4

Of the POS I could connect to destroyed moon harvesting arrays, 5 were equipped to mine R16 moons.



The activity in Placid is puzzling, given the stated goals of The Mittani in the latest SOTG. First, let's take a look at the list of those losing POS to the Imperium:
  • Lestat's Clan (corp) - 4
  • Intercom. - 2
  • Cooperative Black Market (corp) - 1

Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not believe that any of the three entities listed above posed an existential threat or had a history of conflict with the Imperium. What's weirder is of the five POS which I could associate with a destroyed moon harvesting array, the moons were classed as:
  • Platinum (R16) - 1
  • Tritanium (R8) - 2
  • Evaporite Deposits - 2

The Evaporite Deposits was so surprising that I actually probed the moons myself in order to ensure the accuracy of the reports. I'm not sure what surprised me more, that the Imperium attacked the POS or that Lestat's Clan was moon mining the gas by itself in the first place.

I do have one more anomaly that stuck out at me. Six of the seven POS destroyed were in the system of Mantenault, with the seventh in Alamel. I am not a internet spaceship strategist, but I found the fact that all six of the POS destroyed in Mantenault were parked next to moons orbiting the ninth planet in the system interesting. Perhaps someone could let me know if that is a standard practice in null sec warfare.

Finally, I have to admire the pluck of the 19-member Lestat's Clan. I visited the four moons where the Imperium destroyed POS around Mantenault IX on Saturday and Lestat's Clan had place four new small POS. Two of the POS located by a R16 and R8 moon were reinforced, but two of the POS were sitting unmolested. Not much of a speed bump, but when outnumbered 2000 to 1, at least they showed they will not go down without some struggle to maintain their position.

I doubt I will continue to do daily reports of the Imperium's punative expedition into low sec. Apparently the Imperium will soon announce a "viceroyalty" scheme that will effectively end phase 2 of The Kickstarter War. Whether the new conflicts that arise when the Imperium tries to impose galaxy-wide rule is declared a part of The Kickstarter War is a question for the future.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Kickstarter War: The End Of Phase One?

Usually when a writer ends a title of an article or post with a question, the author usually has an answer in mind. But I honestly don't know if the Imperium has accomplished all of its phase one goals in The Kickstarter War. The situation in Querious, caused by the displacement of Pandemic Horde from Cloud Ring, has stabilized, with Pandemic Horde entrenched in A2-V27 and now fighting over the neighboring system of T8H-66 with The Methodical Alliance. TMA also appears to have DARKNESS. enchroaching on its western borders, but that is a conflict outside the scope of this series.


In Cloud Ring, I don't know the status of Brave Collective's relationship with the Imperium. A sovereignty fight is apparently going on, with both sides reinforcing each other's structures. One interesting observation is that except for the first day of the conflict, the Imperium has left the Brave capital system of YI-8ZM alone. In return, Brave has not attempted to interfere with Goonswarm Federation's [CONDI] ownership of the outposts in W-4NUU and O-IVNH. At this point, I don't know who reinforced the SpaceMonkey's Alliance outpost in O-ZXUV. The fifth outpost in the war zone, in TN-T7T, is currently in freeport status.

The review of station ownership brings up a second interesting point. The GSF owns two stations but is allowing others to plant Territorial Claim Units in those systems. In the case of W-4NUU, that seemed like a division of effort between allies. The Goons would take the station while SMA would clean up Pandemic Horde's other sovereignty structures. But O-IVNH left me scratching my head. Why leave a WAFFLES. [NOMAD] TCU up in the system? I thought the whole purpose of phase one was to erase Pandemic Horde. and WAFFLES. from the region.

So what is the thinking of the Imperium leadership? The obvious answer is that The Mittani and the Imperium leadership team want to make SMA look a little more capable than they really are. Perhaps we will find out more tomorrow when The Mittani goes on the air with The Meta Show on the TMC Twitch channel. What is disclosed on that show tomorrow will determine how I cover this conflict in the future.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Kickstarter War: The Land Rush

Today's update basically covers 18 hours of the war in both Cloud Ring and in Querious.


First, in Cloud Ring, one begins to wonder if the Imperium is working for Brave Collective. Yesterday afternoon the Imperium finished kicking the last trace of Pandemic Horde [REKTD] out of the Tinnimerci constellation and SpaceMonkey's Alliance [SMA] placed Territorial Control Units in the systems of W-4NUU and 6-4V20.



But the land grab went no farther as Brave Collective placed their own TCUs in the systems of 8R-RTB, OU-X3P, O-0HW8, and  Q-UA3C. The only sovereignty structure currently reinforced in the constellation is the SpaceMonkey's Alliance TCU in 6-4V20. That structure becomes attackable on Friday at 0145.


In the Balenne constellation, evidence appears that the Imperium is trying to take the systems on the cheap. While Brave dropped TCUs in three systems (1-NW2G, FD53-H, F7C-H0), the Imperium has not bothered to reinforce the WAFFLES. [NOMAD] TCU in O-IVNH. The Imperium will probably concentrate on seizing the outpost, TCU, and iHub from Pandemic Horde in TN-T7T first, as all three structures began the day in reinforce mode. But I find the fact that the Imperium has to prioritize its efforts interesting.

Finally, The Pride of Persia alliance [1488] will probably blink off the sovereignty map when its TCU comes out of reinforced mode on Saturday.


Finally in Querious, the sovereignty fighting is almost over, barring another flare-up. None of the structures in the constellation of H-6HGD is under attack as Pandemic Horde firms up its control over the system of A2-V27. The only scheduled action in The Methodical Alliance [TMA] space is over the freeported outpost in L-6BE1, where the window for contesting for control of the station began shortly before the publication of this post.

Depending on the diplomatic situation between the Imperium and Brave, the war is about to go to phase 2, which involves the Imperium fighting in low security space. I'm not sure how to cover that, as the only low sec maps concern factional warfare. If anyone knows of a timer board for structures or another way to track the fighting, please leave the information in the comments.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Kickstarter War: Tinnimerci Cleared

Due to intervening events, I wasn't able to post until mid-day today, so the events basically cover days 5 and half of day 6 of the war. Also, I learned from Xander Phoena of Crossing Zebras that the name of the Pandemic Horde, WAFFLES., and Pandemic Legion is the PanFam. He's in the news for telling people a lot more than that right now, though.


The news out of Cloud Ring is that the Imperium is about to clear the Tinnimerci constellation of all PanFam sovereignty structures. Goonswarm Federation captured the station in W-4NUU yesterday and as I type this has the Pandemic Horde [REKTD] Territorial Claim Unit down to 45% from its initial starting point of 60%. With Imperium forces actively attacking the structure, the only question remaining is if the Goons will place their own TCU and Infrastructure Hub in the system.

In other news, the Pride of Palestine's TCU was destroyed in OU-X3P at 0413 today, leaving Brave Collective with the only other alliance with control of any sovereignty in Tinnimerci. Will the Imperium allow Brave to maintain control of what apparently is Brave's capital system? With an Activity Defense Modifier of 6.0, we probably won't know until tomorrow at the earliest.

In the constellation of Balenne, the map is a bit deceiving. While showing the destruction of the WAFFLES. [NOMAD] TCU in the system of FD53-H, the map hides the progess Imperium forces made attacking NOMAD outposts over the past 30 hours. SpaceMonkey's Alliance [SMA]seized control of the outpost in O-ZXUV while the WAFFLES. TCU, which determines what shows up on the map, is still reinforced. And in O-IVNH, the system is currently Freeported and the attack window opened at 1257 EVE time.

Pandemic Horde still maintains control of the station system of TN-T7T in Balenne, but perhaps not for long. All three REKTD-owned sovereignty structures (TCU, iHUB, and outpost) were reinforced yesterday and the attack window opens tomorrow. Depending on progress against WAFFLES. infrastructure today, the Imperium could concentrate eliminating the existential threat of Pandemic Horde in Cloud Ring tomorrow.

One amusing side note before leaving the Balenne constellation. The name of the SMA outpost in O-ZXUV is "BUY MY BOOK". Take that for what you will.


In Querious, the only real action that occurred yesterday was fighing in L-6BE1 as the Pandemic Horde station in the system flipped to Freeport status. If the killboard is any indication, The Methodical Alliance [TMA] did not do the flipping. Defending Pandemic Horde and Northern Army forces were defeated by DARKNESS.. With the next event window for capture of the station opening up tomorrow, the question of who comes out on top is up in the air.

In the constellation of H-6HGD, the hotspot is the station system of A2-V27. While no timers expired yesterday, Dotlan shows that over the past 24 hours over 150 ships and 75 pods died in the system. In action today, the Pandemic Horde and friends managed to save PH's Infrastructure Hub. The timers for the TCU and outpost in A2-V27 as well as for the TMA iHub in 0-WT2D will end later today.

That's the wrap up for the news over the past 30 hours or so. While the fighting in Querius will probably continue for some time, the Imperium should wrap up, or nearly wrap up, the fighting in Cloud Ring in time for The Mittani to declare victory on The Meta Show on Saturday. After that, New Eden will need to wait and see what the Imperium brain trust has in store next.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Kickstarter War: Day 4

I begin to wonder if war weariness has struck the Imperium already. Or perhaps boredom. On Sunday Imperium forces decided to travel to the Geminate region to battle NCdot. A quick look at the map of New Eden may explain my statement.


Geminate is 4 regions away from Cloud Ring, the Imperium's main theatre of operations. But even if the Imperium line grunts continue to chase after squirrels, victory in Cloud Ring seems almost certain. Let's look at the happenings from yesterday and the early morning hours of today.


In Cloud Ring, the Imperium is coming closer to purging the constellation of Tinnimerci of all Pandemic Horde and WAFFLES. forces. WAFFLES. lost sovereignty over the system of O-0HW8 while in W-4NUU, Imperium forces reinforced Pandemic Horde's Territorial Claim Unit and placed the station into Freeport mode. Brave Collective, on the other hand, has no sovereignty structures reinforced as of 0400 this morning. The question now is whether the Imperium will allow Brave to keep the system. Since the system apparently is Brave's capital system, the Imperium may want to bypass the system.

One interesting tidbit is that The-Culture [-T C-] appears to have reinforced the I Whip My Slaves Back and Forth [J4LP] station in MJYW-3. Since the existential threat of the Pandemic Horde, Northern Army, and friends torwards not only the Imperium but J4LP was one of the casus belli listed in The Mittani's State of the Goonion on 19 November, I wonder if the Imperium will extend its actions toward purging The-Culture from the region as well.

In Balenne, the Imperium managed to place the WAFFLES. controlled stations in O-IVNH and O-ZXUV into freeport mode. The WAFFLES. TCUs in 1-NW2G, FD53-H, and F7C-H0 are also reinforced and vulnerable for destruction today. Interestingly enough, the pressure was eased on Pandemic Horde's sovereignty structures in TN-T7T and none are in a reinforced state.


The fighting in the north of Querious is particularly interesting. Pandemic Horde and friends, knowing about the upcoming Imperium punitive raid in Cloud Ring, moved to the space of The Methodical Alliance to take up residence. PH somehow managed to aquire possession of the Gallente outpost in the otherwise TMA-owned system of L-6BE1. Whether they can keep the station is another story, as the station is reinforced and fighting can commence a few hours after this post is published.


The fighting in the north-eastern constellation of H-6HGD, while perhaps not involving large numbers of ships, appears more interesting than that going on in Cloud Ring. Pandemic Horde and friends are attempting to destroy the TMA Infrastructure Hubs in the constellation. Yesterday, TMA saved their iHub in A3-LOG but lost the one in T8H-66. The iHub in 0-WT2D was put into reinforced mode yesterday and will become vulnerable to attack on Wednesday at 23:48 EVE time.

The entryway into low sec, A2-V27, continues to see action, although should enjoy a period of calm today. In action yesterday, Pandemic Horde and friends managed to put the system's outpost into Freeport mode, but also saw its own TCU and iHub reinforced by TMA and their friends. Those timers all allow for fighting on Wednesday.

The Methodical Alliance may have picked up two allies. Pilots for both DARKNESS. [DARK.] and Short Bus Syndicate [TARD] are listed on kill reports fighting the PH coalition in H-6HGD. DARK. is a 2280 member alliance led by Sort Dragon, who has an interesting resume. He led the Honey Badger Coalition before the Fountain War which is the subject of the book a Kickstarter effort is trying to fund for best-selling author Jeff Edwards to write. Also, in the battle of B-R5RB, the ability of his Titan to tank the incoming fire of the PL/N3 forces was the turning point in that battle, as the CFC/RUS fleet managed to destroy 5 PL/N3 titans during that time. I am under the impression that Pandemic Legion does not like Sort Dragon. possibly due to his behavior at Fanfest in 2013.

As we go into day 5 of the war, we can see how the conflict has spread. The Imperium pushed into Cloud Ring, causing Pandemic Horde to seek a new home in Querious. The conflict could erupt from the northern section of Querious as Pandemic Legion once again faces the prospect (perhaps eagerly) of locking horns with Sort Dragon and DARKNESS.. At the same time, war could come to the Yrton constellation of Cloud Ring as The-Culture pokes at Imperium ally J4LP.

I honestly don't see the war continuing over a month, but I don't live in null sec so the possibility exists I'm completely wrong. But the war is interesting enough I actually abandoned my recent pattern of only posting three days a week. Hopefully people will enjoy reading about a small conflict in EVE.


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Kickstarter War: Day 3

After three days of "war", some might say the Imperium is not winning fast enough in Cloud Ring. But enough of old, historical propaganda. I'm not sure to put down the current results to overconfidence or the traditional "Goons are bad at the beginning of wars" theme that applies so often. So let's look at what happened yesterday.


In the constellation of Tinnimerci, Pandemic Horde lost control of four systems: 6-4V20, 8R-RTB, Q-UA3C, and OU-X3P. Perhaps somewhat comically, the 10-man alliance The Pride of Palestine [1488] put up a Territorial Claim Unit in OU-X3P and controls the system until one of the warring parties decides to take it back.

In another surprise, not everything is going the Imperium's way in W-4NUU. The station was placed in Freeport mode and the Infrastructure Hub destroyed, but the TCU is back in the invulnerable state. We'll have to wait until the major news sites post stories about the fighting, but Dotlan indicates over 100 ships on both sides were destroyed in the fighting.

To round out the situation in Tinnimerci, the WAFFLES. TCU in O-0HW8 is currently in reinforced and faces destruction early in the morning.

The action in Balenne constellation, located in the south-east portion of Cloud Ring, appears to have taken a back seat to that in neighboring Tinnimerci. Only one system, 77-KDQ, changed hands, with The Pride of Palestine planting another TCU on the map. WAFFLES. TCUs in the systems of F7C-H0 and FD53-H both returned to the invulnerable state, although Imperium forces did destroy at least 2 WAFFLES. POS towers and associated modules before departing. In addition, Imperium forces put the station in O-ZXUV into Freeport mode. In the other two station systems in the constellation, the WAFFLES.-owned station and TCU in O-IVNH and the Pandemic Horde station, TCU, and iHUB all come out of reinforcement and are vulnerable to attack on Monday.

In other news, Pandemic Horde, backed up by Pandemic Legion and Northern Army [NARM], NCDot's new player alliance, continue to advance in Querious against The Methodical Alliance [TMA]. Pandemic Horde placed both a TCU and iHub in A2-V27 as well as reinforced the TMA iHubs in A3-LOG and T8H-66. In addition, the TMA station in A2-V27 was put into reinforce mode.

A second front in the TMA/PH war opened as somehow Pandemic Horde acquired control of the Gallente Outpost in L-6BE1 on the western edge of TMA's space. The station is reinforced and vulnerable to attack on Tuesday at 16:11 EVE time.

I don't think what effectively is a punitive raid will really evolve into a full-fledged war, no matter what I title my blog posts. But I am interested in what effects the ripples will produce as displaced groups start moving around New Eden.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Kickstarter War - Day 2

Today is day 2 of the Imperium's war to crush out the existential threat represented by Pandemic Horde, WAFFLES., and a whole host of other smaller alliances. I'm looking at the balance of forces and then remember The Mittani's history as a third party broker for titan sales.



Anyway, as of 1400 today, all sovereignty structures owned by Pandemic Horde, WAFFLES., and Brave Collective in Cloud Ring are in reinforcement. That means that once the reinforcement period is over, the Imperium can commence its attack to destroy them in the case of Territorial Control Units and Infrastructure Hubs, or force the stations into Freeport mode. Stations first go through a period in which they are open to everyone before an alliance can capture the station. The Freeport mode is an indicator that perhaps defending players should get their assets out of the station.

The fight over the systems is not very fierce. Brave has offered opposition in the form of Cormorant fleets in their station system of YI-8ZM as well as the Pandemic Horde controlled system of 6-4V20.

Pandemic Horde apparently is not allowing the Imperium to distract it from conducting offensive operations in Querious. In the system of A2-V27, owned by The Methodical Alliance [TMA], kill reports indicate a large amount of Pandemic Horde activity. While the Gallente Outpost in the system is still firmly in TMA control, both the TCU and iHub were placed into the reinforced state. The iHub will come out of reinforcement at 20:38 today, while the TCU comes out at 21:10.

One last thought. I thought Pandemic Horde was fighting SMA, not TMA. D'oh!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Angry Imperium Guy Is Angry

So now the Imperium plans on acting like the Roman Empire of old and conduct punitive raids against the barbarians on its borders. At least, that's the feeling I got from listening to The Mittani's latest State of the Goonion address last night.

The goals, at a strategic level, are simple. Chase all potential threats out of Cloud Ring and then pursue them into low sec. Let's look at the situation in Cloud Ring as of 0600 on 20 November.


The main players in the region who will become embroiled in the conflict are:

I Whip My Slaves Back and Forth [J4LP] - A former member of the Imperium and still friendly to the coalition. The name of the 530 member alliance comes from its roots in the Amarr militia. J4LP currently controls the north and north-west of the region.

Space Monkey's Alliance [SMA] - The second largest alliance in the Imperium with 5456 members, SMA controls the Assilot constellation in the north-east portion of the region.

WAFFLES. [N0MAD] - The 235 member alliance is the feeder alliance for Pandemic Legion. The 7 systems and 2 stations WAFFLES. owns in Cloud Ring is the totality of its holdings in sovereign null sec.

Pandemic Horde [REKTD] - A new player alliance founded by Pandemic Legion. The 6 systems and 2 stations Pandemic Horde own in Cloud Ring is the totality of its holdings in sovereign null sec. With 2219 members, Pandemic Horde makes up for the lack of skills of its members with raw numbers.

Brave Collective [BRAVE] - At one time Brave Collective was famous as the largest new player organization in New Eden. But after its eviction from Catch and a change in leadership that kicked all of the inactive players, the alliance is down to 2 systems, 1 station, and 732 members.

In the south-west constellation of Yrton is a collection of small alliances undoubtedly hoping that the Imperium will ignore them.

Image from Dotlan maps

In the constellation of Tinnimerci, Imperium forces were thwarted in their plans to immediately attack the system of W-4NUU as Pandemic Horde changed the vulnerability timer in the system to the Australian time zone. While probably only delaying the inevitable, the change does delay the Imperium unexpectedly. The Imperium did manage to reinforce the Territorial Claim Units (TCU) in 8R-RTB, Q-UA3C, and OU-X3P, as well as both the TCU and Infrastructure Hub (iHub) in 6-4V20. While TCUs are little more than flags to let others know who owns a system, an iHub allows an alliance to install upgrades that improve the value of a system. The system of W-4 contains a station as well as an iHub and TCU, making the system a very valuable prize as the Imperium begins its efforts to purge the region of any threats.

Image from Dotlan maps
In Balenne, Imperium forces ignored the Pandemic Horde-controlled station system of TN-T7T and reinforced the TCUs of three WAFFLES. systems, 1-NW2G, F7C-H0, and 77-KDQ.

According to a post on Reddit, Pandemic Horde successfully evacuated all its assets from Cloud Ring, with the fleet that began the night in W-4 taking a wormhole route to Delve. But the post does not address what WAFFLES. plans to do. I also do not know what the Imperium intends for Brave's holdings in YI-8ZM. My guess, though, is that the Imperium will clear out both Balenne and Tinnimerci before diving into the low sec areas of Black Rise and Placid.

Oh, and one other note of interest, if true. Apparently one of Goonswarm's top fleet commanders, Vily, has quit the GSF and joined TEST Alliance Please Ignore.

The Mittani seems to have his heart set on wading into the Caldari-Gallente factional warfare war zone. He also appears to throw a significant portion of the Imperium's war chest into a low sec campaign. Perhaps he needs a war in order to keep the line grunts happy.

That's the update for now. Depending on how the fighting goes, I may try to keep up with short posts every day. The Mittani is promising his people a long hard fight, but I'm not really sure how long the average line member will keep derping around in low sec. Also, with that much of the Imperium's power deployed away from the homeland, will other groups start testing the home defense fleets? Something tells me that the renters in Pure Blind will start screaming for help within a month. But that's why we watch the fights and don't just determine the outcome in a blog post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Buyer Behavior In September

With six weeks to go until the end of the year, I think I finally have the timing for these posts straightened out. For those new to the blog, my current research project into real money trading in MMORPGs takes a look at the behavior of the buyers of illicit ISK using data collected from Player Auctions, a large and popular site for purchasing virtual currency for many online games. Due to EVE Online's one shard design, keeping track of sales is much easier than for games like World of Warcraft. With data collection for the third quarter of 2015 finished, let's look at some of the results. Today's post will focus on September.

A big price drop in September
September really saw a big drop in the price of ISK on both the Jita and black markets. While the price on the black market no longer drops at a 1 for 1 rate, the 11.6% drop in the price of 1 billion ISK sold on Player Auctions was not far under the 13.4% price drop recorded in The Forge. But the amount of ISK actually sold showed how players felt in September. While the amount of ISK sold by the stores on PA increased a modest 5.6%, the amount of ISK traded for game time in Jita soared by 16.3%. Overall, the real world value of ISK sold on PA dropped by 8.9% in September compared to August.

Sellers in flux
The top stores selling ISK on Player Auctions started to turn over in September, with two of the three top stores falling into the "All Other" category. The one remaining seller, Store B, saw its market share drop from 28% in August down to 12% in September. Even though Store A only had $100 USD in sales in September, that store led all sellers on Player Auctions in Q3 with 977 billion ISK sold in confirmed sales totalling over $8,100 USD.

The top seller, Store E, had buyer-reviewed sales of 385 billion ISK, and then disappeared. I don't know if CCP banned the seller or if the seller was cashing out and his subscription ran out. Store F is a mid-tier seller who almost quadrupled his sales from August to September.

The little fish are beginning to stay away
One statistic I am keeping a close eye on is the percentage of buyers who only purchase 1 or 2 billion ISK in a sale. Those sales directly compete with CCP's two PLEX packages and I wonder if buyers will turn toward buying PLEX instead of black market ISK as the hazard discount narrows. September was perhaps a tipping point, as only 22.4% of sales were for 2 billion ISK or less, down from August's 29.7%. Overall, the median amount purchased in a transaction on PA rose from 5 billion ISK up to 6 billion ISK.

The whales dominate
While I look at the guppies, the whales continue to dominate the market. The increase in the amount of ISK sold to those buying more than 25 billion ISK in a single purchase is the reason for the growth in the market. One question I have is will a single supplier establish himself as a wholesaler? Wholesalers dominated the market during the third quarter, with Stores A and E selling a combined 1.4 trillion in ISK for $10,600 USD over the three months. But with both shops out of business, someone is bound to pick up the slack.

A shift over time
The final bar chart for this month's installment of the series looks at the hazard discount paid for each of the 400 reviews of sales during the third quarter. The decline in the amount buyers saved by purchasing ISK on the black market versus buying from CCP between August and September was just short of stunning. In August, 64% of transactions resulted in buyers saving $8 USD or more. In September, that figure flipped, with 65.6% of transactions only giving the buyer a discount of $7 or less. Compared to the beginning of the quarter, that September figure is shocking, as only 8.4% of transactions in July resulted in a hazard discount of under $7.

That's all for this month. What happened in October? I already disclosed last week that CCP tracked down and disrupted a major illicit RMT operation. But how did that affect the black market? I'll write about that next month.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Even I Will Feel The Change

When I was at EVE Vegas last month, I was not that impressed with CCP Seagull's keynote address. I gave my reasons in a post from the site, but basically I didn't feel anything mentioned would really affect me. But this weekend I saw how change will creep into my game play over the next few months.

First, I started using the beta version of the new probe interface. I scanned down and recorded 10-12 exits from Thera over the weekend and the interface is now basically as easy to use as the current probing UI. The biggest change I noticed from the initial beta version was the full screen option allows windows to lay on top of the probing UI, which addressed my biggest concern. The other significant change I noticed was the ability to deselect objects that will show up on in the map. I use the mouse to reposition my probes and getting rid of certain objects really made that task easier.

I know that a lot of people are excited about binding keys to actions. CSM member Chance Ravinne even made a video lauding the key mapping. I tried using the keys, but given a choice between the mouse and the keyboard for doing a series of tasks, I usually choose the mouse. I honestly don't understand why he has so much trouble using the mouse to reposition the scan radius of his probes. I find a small mouse movement much faster than pressing so many keys. Then again, he probably thinks not using the keyboard whenever possible is insane. Different strokes for different folks.

I do have to add one comment about the d-scan cone that appears on the probing map. Yes, I wish the cone were a different color. But I use the cone for a different purpose than making directional scanning easier. When posting exits/entrances to Thera on Eve-Scout.com, I have to find the incoming signature. Sometimes I can just look at the probing map and determine the signature I need. Other times, I need to launch probes and find my location. But either way, that d-scan cone nicely points at my ship, making it easier to locate. Don't laugh. I wear bifocals now, so anything that allows me not to have to wear them all the time is a positive in my book.

My time probing down exits ended Sunday when I jumped from Thera into Branch a few seconds before a Typhoon jumped into Thera and collapsed the hole behind me. No need to worry, even though I found myself deep within FCON territory. I just scanned down a couple of wormholes and 4 systems later I found myself in Aridia and only a few jumps away from my extensive network of bookmarked systems.

About those bookmarks. I learned from watching the Amarr Championships over the weekend that CCP is making grids much bigger. How much bigger? CCP Claymore stated the size currently on the Singularity test cluster increased from 250 km to 7,800 km. While making larger grids will, in my opinion, improve game play, I will no longer have any off-grid perches. While not a big deal for the cloaky ships I usually fly, moving my Procurers around will get a bit more dangerous until I make new bookmarks. Looks like the new citadels will affect me after all.

Normally when changes to the game occur, I just continue playing as normal and don't worry about the changes. With the upcoming expansion coming in a few months, however, I won't have to chase the new shinies. The new shinies will chase me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

CCP Gets A New Investor

Last night I worked pretty late and didn't feel well, but when I read the story in Variety about CCP receiving $30 million USD in funding to help develop virtual reality games, I knew I had to at least throw something together for today's post. To start with, here is CCP's press release about the story:

CCP GAMES RAISES $30 MILLION TO BOLSTER VIRTUAL REALITY DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS

Funding from NEA and Novator Partners LLP Will Strengthen CCP’s Growing Slate of VR Initiatives

12 Nov 2015 – Reykjavik, Iceland – Privately held CCP Games, the leader in virtual reality immersive technology, today announced that it has raised $30 million to bolster the development of virtual reality (VR) content. New Enterprise Associates led the investment, with participation from private equity firm Novator Partners LLP.

The investment will be used to further position the company to drive innovation in VR as the technology begins to transform the entertainment industry.

Harry Weller, General Partner at NEA, has joined CCP’s Board of Directors and Andrew Schoen, also of NEA, will be joining as Deputy Director.

CCP has announced two VR games slated for release in the next eight months: EVE: Valkyrie will launch with the Oculus Rift in spring 2016 and PlayStation VR in the first half of 2016 and is being created at CCP’s Newcastle studio. Gunjack, in development at the company’s Shanghai studio, is scheduled for release on Samsung’s Gear VR platform later this month.
“We believe VR will revolutionize not just videogames, but the wider technology and media industry as a whole,” said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP.  “We were there at the beginning, and this investment will give us strength to maintain our leading development efforts.”

“We’ve been admirers of CCP for quite some time,” said Weller. “Their legacy with EVE Online and early investments in VR have put them in a leadership position, and we want to partner with them to further build on the great platform they have already established.”

CCP Games was founded in 1997 in Reykjavik, Iceland. With the launch of EVE Online in May 2003, CCP established itself as one of the most innovative companies in interactive entertainment, winning numerous awards and receiving critical acclaim worldwide. CCP’s major shareholders include Novator, General Catalyst, and NEA. 

More information about CCP Games can be found at //www.ccpgames.com/

More information about CCP Games’ products (including EVE:Valkyre and Gunjack) can be found at http://www.eve.com/

More information about NEA can be found at http://www.nea.com/

More information about Novator can be found at http://novator.co.uk/

About CCP

CCP is a leading independent game developer and has been praised for its artistry, game design and unique player-driven, infinitely scalable storytelling narratives. CCP is the creator of the critically acclaimed science-fiction game EVE Online (PC/Mac), DUST 514®, a groundbreaking, free-to-play, massively multiplayer online first-person shooter for the PlayStation®3, and Gunjack™, a virtual reality action game for the Samsung Gear VR mobile platform.  The company is currently developing EVE: Valkyrie™, a multiplayer virtual reality spaceship dogfighting shooter for PCs and the PlayStation®4. Founded and headquartered in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1997, CCP is privately held, with additional offices in Atlanta, Newcastle, and Shanghai. For more information, visit www.ccpgames.com.

About New Enterprise Associates  
New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA) is a global venture capital firm focused on helping entrepreneurs build transformational businesses across multiple stages, sectors and geographies. With nearly $17 billion in cumulative committed capital since inception, NEA invests in technology and healthcare companies at all stages in a company's lifecycle, from seed stage through IPO. The firm's long track record of successful investing includes more than 200 portfolio company IPOs and more than 320 acquisitions.www.nea.com.

About Novator Partners LLP

Novator Partners is a London-based investment company led by Thor Bjorgolfsson. Over the last 10 years Novator has completed a significant number of investments in sectors including telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, technology, financial services, clean energy, consumer products and real estate. The Novator team is highly experienced in a wide range of situations - from traditional private equity to special situations including transforming investments for successful exits, and in private and publicly listed companies.
I know, I know. Doing a copy/paste of an entire press release is a bad practice unless I have some additional facts that others aren't releasing. Like I mentioned at the top of the post, I don't feel too good so I'll just pull some stuff out of my notes. Hopefully some will find these items of value.

Over at MassivelyOP, Editor-In-Chief Bree Royce found the fact that two members of NEA will join the CCP Board of Directors significant, so I'll start with a quick look at the board.

To my knowledge, the last time the membership of the board of directors for CCP changed was on 11 April 2013. In response to a gender equity law passed in March 2010, CCP shuffled its board of directors. Removed were Sigurður Ólafsson and Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson. Sigurður, CCP’s former marketing director, was made an alternate member of the board. Vilhjálmur is the Treasurer of the Social Democratic Alliance (first elected to the position in 2011). The Social Democratic Alliance lost half its seats in the 2013 parliamentary elections. Vilhjálmur was replaced as chairman of the board by Birgir Már Ragnarsson, a partner and General Counsel of Novator Partners LLP.

Added were Liv Bergþórsdóttir and Ragna Arnadottir. According to Bloomberg, Liv is Chairman of the Board of WOW Air and the CEO of the telecommunications company Nova. Nova is owned by Novator Partners LLP. Ragna Arnadottir is a former head of The Icelandic Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (2009-2010) and is currently the deputy CEO of Landsvirkjun, the national power company.

Also leaving the board was David P. Fialkow, but he was replaced by another member of General Catalyst Partners, Adam Valkin. General Catalyst Partners lists CCP as one of the investments that Valkin manages. Interestingly enough, Fialkow serves on the board of Verne Global with Birgir Már.

The last member of the board is Stephen “Steve” Wiecks, one of the founders of White Wolf Publishing. Considering the recent sale of White Wolf to Paradox as well as the gender equity law that companies with more than 50 employees have at least 40% of both genders represented on their boards, I presume that Wiecks is no longer on CCP's board of directors. Assuming that Wiecks is out, here is what I believe is the current make-up of CCP's board.

  • Birgir Már Ragnarsson (Chairman) - Partner and General Council, Novator Partners.
  • Ragna Arnadottir (Vice-Chairman) - CEO Landsvirkjun. What I call the government seat on the CCP board.
  • Adam Valkin - Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners.
  • Liv Bergþórsdóttir - CEO Nova, a Novator Partners company.
  • Harry Weller - General Partner, New Enterprise Associates.

As for Andrew Schoen of NEA becoming a deputy director, that's not really a seat on the board. In the past, I have seen those positions described as alternates and they do not appear to count as members of the board for purposes of the gender equity law. When Sigurður Ólafsson was removed from the board in 2013, he was made what was, at the time, described as an alternate director. For my list of alternate, or deputy, directors, I have:


Sorry MassivelyOP, but I think you got one of your facts wrong.

Speaking of investors, how much of a stake does up to $30 million USD get NEA in CCP? First, let's start with a look at the top 10 investors in CCP as of the end of 2013.

  1. NP ehf. - 29.8%
  2. Teno Investments S.Á.R.L. - 23.4%
  3. Sigurd Harðarson - 9.3% (founder of CCP)
  4. Hilmar Veigar Pétursson - 5.2% (CEO)
  5. Matthías Guðmundsson - 3.1%
  6. Meson Holding S.A. - 2.5%
  7. CCP Holding S.Á.R.L. - 2.2%
  8. Guðmundur Kristinsson - 2.1%
  9. Friðrik Örn Haraldsson - 2%
  10. A.C.S. safnreikningur I - 1.7%

I should note that Teno Investments S.Á.R.L. is owned by General Catalyst Partners. GCP is the company that purchased the $20 million USD in convertible bonds CCP issued in 2012. CCP withdrew the bonds from the Icelandic Nasdaq in April 2015. At the time I believed that CCP had somehow paid off the bonds two years early. Instead, did GCP remove the bonds in an effort to shop them to a big investor? Until the next financial statement comes out (and someone obtains it from the Icelandic government office), I will err on the side of caution and say no.

While we don't know the amount of shares purchased by NEA and Novator in the latest deal, we do know how many were offered in 2012. According to CCP's 2012 financial statement, the $20 million in bonds were convertible at $32/share, or for a total of 625,000 shares. As I noted back in May, 625,000 shares would place an investor behind only Novator, Teno Investments (i.e. GCP) and Sigurd Harðarson in terms of the number of shares held. Is it too much of a stretch to believe that NEA is now the third largest shareholder of CCP? Indeed, the wording in the press release seems to indicate this is true.

Like I stated above, I don't really feel that good, so I'll just throw out one last question that some financial wizard can answer. How much money will CCP's virtual reality effort require? The bond buyback and refinance effort in April presumably kicked paying back that $20 million down the road past 2017. CCP also received an undisclosed sum of money in the sale of White Wolf to Paradox. Now CCP raised another $30 million with a stock sale.

I know that CCP is doing good work in the field of virtual reality, as I've experienced almost all of CCP's work in progress at either Fanfest or EVE Vegas. I'm not saying they have impressive work in the pipeline, but the demo of EVE: Gunjack I played at Fanfest was the least impressive bit of software I saw. I really hope the effort pays off. I guess I should feel better knowing that a company like NEA feels money is about to rain down on CCP headquarters in Reykjavik.