Monday 30 April 2012

Eve: London pubmeet, a report

I went to CCP's Eve pubmeet at the Loose Cannon in the City of London on Friday. It was attended by CCP Guard, CCP Soundwave and CCP Unifex so thanks to them for coming along.

It was very friendly. I was fully in mingle/socialiser mode and went around chatting to people. If you're reading this because I met you there then welcome!

I met people from Red v Blue, The Initiative, Goons, -A-, PC Gamer's corp, a chap who only plays on SiSi, two wonderful professional corp robbers and some dastardly pirates whose corp name I've forgotten. A good mix of people but perhaps slightly confirming my theory that pvpers are more extrovert than Empire carebears.

It was extremely well attended. I'd guess there were close to 200 players there and it certainly surprised Unifex who had thought there would only be around 50. It looked like just about everyone got chatting, there weren't many people who didn't start talking to their neighbour at random. Also people were pretty upfront, I didn't get a sense that people were being guarded with important OpSec secrets.

There was a talk from Unifex followed by brief talks from Soundwave and Guard. It was a little hard to hear and the Q&A session that followed was almost impossible to hear. Which was a shame because I actually asked Soundwave to comment on ring mining but couldn't really hear the answer. The gist I got (which I confirmed afterwards with other people) is that ring mining is definitely coming, will be in either in Inferno (due May 22nd) or in the Winter expansion. Ring mining is an alternative method of collecting moon goo by mining it in ships from planetary rings. I'd guess they will be new ship types and new sites which may mean that Winter is more likely than Summer for this feature. That would also make development sense as Inferno is meant to be war-themed so adding a major industrial feature might be better done the patch after.

I got some swag. A free drinks ticket, a Quafe shoulder bag and a DUST beta key. Thanks very much for those! Now I guess I have to buy a Playstation 3.

Someone was also handing out a piece of paper advertising a meetup group:

Support a London Internet Spaceship regular (once per 3 months) meeting by joining the group at

I've used meetup before for a D&D group, it's quite a good method to arrange this kind of thing. I've registered my interest and if you're interested go along and help get this started.

Friday 27 April 2012

Eve: it's kicked off at Jita!

Thought I'd check quickly to see whether any action has happened at Jita before turning in tonight.

In the last few minutes the Moar Tears killboard on Dotlan has begun filling up with casualties as Noir and Moar Tears fight Goonswarm Federation. According to random Local spam Goons are losing so far. Of course it's just the first wave, it's not even Friday yet in most of America.

They will claw their way to our freighters over our dead bodies (might be the motto of the brave defenders of high sec). 1981 in Local, Time Dilation Factor 39%.

I have 16 Tornados gank-fitted and ready to sell on contract at extortionate prices once the market runs out and a low sp disposable alt ready to salvage and steal loot.

But now for bed, should be some wrecks around in the morning.

I'll also be going to the pubmeet in London tomorrow night where 3 of CCP's finest will be getting drunk and spilling secrets (hopefully).

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Eve: The Technetium Cartel

In Eve there are three levels of technology, named not very originally Tech 1, Tech 2, and Tech 3. For most even moderately experienced players Tech 2 is the standard.

Tech 2 items are made partly from moon minerals which are uniquely owned by large alliances in null sec and deep low sec. (For all intents and purposes the low sec element can be disregarded as a separate factor since most valuable low sec moons are owned by major null sec spaceholders).

Since the Dominion patch there has been a bottleneck mineral: Technetium. It's quite simply used in too many blueprints for its availability and relative to its limited availability. Technetium moons (or tech moons) spawn only in the North West corner of the nullsec map with some few in neighbouring low sec areas. Most of this area is now owned by the Goon-dominated Clusterfuck coalition.

And today their leader, The Mittani, announced a Technetium Cartel.

Is this real or is this a troll?

I've been debating this very matter for the last few days on the Eve O market forums with some of the resident Goons. I argued there was a cartel but that they were forcing prices high and that the universe was over-stocked with Tech. I now think I was wrong. There is a cartel but they've been expanding into a shrinking supply.

Market luminary Akita T, generally regarded as one of the best player analysts on the forum, had this to say:

Nomad I: This is shocking [:o] But what is the reason?

Akita T: The Dominion expansion, winter of 2009.
It took this long to burn through the vast majority of old stockpiles.

Note that this still could be wrong and perhaps there are more stocks than he realises. However he did the original analysis when the Dominion patch came out that first caused Tech to start spiking almost three years ago in a post called Technetium: The sky's the limit.

It also means that the Goons who have been trolling the forum saying that Tech is on its way up were right all along. As Moorcock once wrote the truth can be the subtlest lie of all.

So what does this mean for Eve players:

Most but not all Tech 2 ships and modules are going to get more expensive. For example the Tech 2 ammo I make contains Fullerides which are made of Technetium. This of course is in the context of and to some extent masked by the general inflation that is part of Escalation to Inferno.

If you have liquid isk then Technetium and the various refined products it makes should be solid short term investments. You can probably spend 1b now and cash out for 1.25b next week.

If you manufacture T2 material you should stock up today.

We've found out something very interesting about stockpiles in Eve. That this one mineral was overstocked enough in 2009 that the stockpiles have taken three years to run out. This is a caution for people gambling on the minerals market at the moment. Just because less Morphite is being produced doesn't mean the market will be short of Morphite any time soon as long as speculators feel it's worth their while selling.

Note at some point Tech will be nerfed as it's too strong at the moment but the Goons have a lot of influence on Eve policy-making so it may take some while.

Monday 23 April 2012

Extroversion, introversion, autism

Although I don't really blog about it most of the time I'm an absolutely voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy novels. I read over 100 a year. It's not often I read one and think I want to talk about that on my blog.

I certainly wasn't expecting any discussion points to arise from an Elizabeth Moon novel. I like Moon very much. She's an ex-US Marine officer turned writer and she writes unashamed heroic space opera. It's sometimes a bit didactic, it feels like she's telling the reader, as if we were young recruits, when it's ok to feel violent and that we don't have to be ashamed but for all that very enjoyable stuff. At least that's what the first 10 or so books were like.

It was unexpected therefore to pick up a Moon novel, Speed of Dark, and discover a mature and sensitive look at life through the perspective of an autistic person.

Living a vicarious life through the lens of an autistic person was an experience that while fascinating made me feel rather uncomfortable. The hero, Lou, has a perception of normal people that is somewhat cliched. For example he thinks we all know telepathically when we like each other and when we are liked. (And you can see why he might think that as something of an outsider looking in).

Only sometimes I was left thinking I'm not like the "normal" person, I'm like the autistic person. I love patterns and numbers and spreadsheets for instance.

It also got me thinking about autism as a spectrum disorder. I think in some ways autism is and it isn't a spectrum disorder. It's true that everyone has autistic elements if we roughly define those as social awkwardness and a liking for patterns. However being put on the special bus with the other window lickers is not a spectrum - you're on that bus or you ain't.

All of this got me thinking about the Eve community.

I think that, broadly speaking, there are two main types of Eve player: introvert high sec carebears and extrovert dangerous space pvpers. Like autism there is a spectrum here with people varying a lot in degree between these extremes. But like autism there are definite cut-off points. you're either on that bus or you ain't.

I also think these two communities are absolutely terrible at understanding each other. To the miner who just wants to zone out watching pretty space lasers (possibly while getting stoned) it is obvious that he has a right to pursue happiness in his own way. To the jostling, noisy, extrovert he's doing something obviously dull and it's doing him a favour to shake him out of it. And hay! if he doesn't like it he can convo you and talk to you about it (which of course you'll immediately rush off to share with the rest of the internet).

Case in point the CSM. Introverts don't care about the CSM. They're off doing their own thing, possibly hoping no one descends on them and screws them up. They don't want to interact with the Goons or whoever is playing the CSM game. So attempts to get them to vote are ignored. However CSM is brilliant for extroverts because it gives them the power to change Eve. "Hey devs, let us run in and annoy those introverts, you know they love it really!" And of course the introverts don't reply.

I feel that the ideal of Eve is that is should be a game for both types of player. Indeed for the whole spectrum of us, from introverts like me who never stop chatting on our blogs to extroverts like Mittens who is too shy and timid to ever log in.

And that's not something that will come about simply by listening to what the extroverts have to say. There are a great many Eve players who aren't enfranchised or represented by the CSM or the forum rabble or the spectacular player-driven content but who still love the game.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Eve Online: The extraordinary shakeup in the economy

Eve has experienced a significant increase in the supply of money over the last year and a half. Players have optimised Incursion running into a very effective isk stream, anomalies pay out lots of bounty money despite a nerf.

Now the obvious option to deal with an increase like this is to fight a rearguard action, desperately nerfing the tactics and opportunities players discover to try to keep people poor. That's unattractive in a game for several reasons.

A much cleverer option is to increase the value of goods. So while everyone may have lots of money if goods become expensive it evens out.

This is the route Eve is going to take in the run-up to DUST. Mineral prices are going to increase for three main reasons - drones will have bounties not compounds, meta 0 modules will be removed as rat loot and a much more vigorous campaign against botters and RMTers has begun. Any one of these changes will send ripples through the economy, all three at once is an extraordinary shakeup.

Player behaviour will be rewarded differently and players will switch to different activities in response to changes in profitability:

Mining: much more lucrative and less bot competition. The true value of minerals is likely to be obscured in the short to medium term by massive stockpiles. This is similar to the economics of Guidance Systems but in this case affecting all minerals. So not only will mining become immediately more profitable but it will then see a slow ramp after the most eager speculators cash in as long term investors gradually relinquish their stockpiles.

Mission running: we'll see a shift from blitzing missions to salvaging and looting. This may encourage more group mission running.

Ratting: more players will loot and salvage their rats provided there are buyers in their area of space. This will be a real opportunity for entrepreneurial traders to establish supply sources.

War: wars of conquest should become easier because it's harder to replace ships. People who lose fights will be that much more discouraged because their ships seem expensive and replacing them may seem unattractive ("I'm not spending 500 million on a Maelstrom that will get blown up in less that a day!")

High sec griefing: will become a much more target rich environment and this will be one of the few areas of play where the gap between insurance payouts and ship costs doesn't matter. For most players as mineral price rises, as ship prices rise, they will get less money back when they lose the ship because insurance, even if adjusted, will tend to lag behind inflating ship prices. However suicide gankers lose it all anyway. On the other hand the sheer price of ships may be a deterrent. Of course blowing someone's ship up when the perception is that ships are hard to replace may become more fun to these players because it will have more effect on the person behind the keyboard. On balance I think this will continue to increase even though it's more expensive to replace suicided ships.

Ships: people may shift from Tech 1 ships to Tech 3 particularly, and to a lesser extent Tech 2. T3 ships are mainly made of wormhole stuff and that isn't affected. So the price of a Tengu will stay about the same while everything else gets more expensive.

Ammunition: basic ammo will get more expensive and faction ammo will get cheaper.

Traders: traders will make huge profits over the next month or so. If I only double my net wealth I'll be disappointed. The challenge for me is liquidating a large amount of assets held over several accounts and many regions and forms.

Loyalty points: loyalty point value is going down as people will run more missions and incursions to pay for their stuff. Expect to see cheaper implants, faction ammo and faction ships.

Rigs|: more salvaging, fewer new ships sold. Rig price will fall hard.

PI products: planet goo is in a decline and it will continue to decline. It was over-speculated and large stockpiles are being slowly sold off. Also by its nature once someone has a PI setup, even if something else becomes more profitable, they keep their PI going and do that other thing as well. PI products will get cheaper until DUST introduces orbital platforms that are made of these products.

Boosters - these may get more widely used as it becomes more important not to lose your ships. I think we'll see slight increase in demand.

Rich bitter vets - their isk wealth will be reduced by the overall increase in prices. Of course their stockpiles may become more valuable and if they trade actively they can make a killing.

So overall, how will this change player behaviour? Mission runners will have to do more missions and may switch from blitzing missions to looting them. |Same for ratters. Incursion runners don't really have an option to loot, they'll simply have to do more. Miners will make much more money and we'll see more of them. Nullsec alliances may start trying to set up and run mining operations but this will be quite hard to do as these operations are so easy to gank. Wormhole corps may mine grav sites but again, very easy to gank. It's simply too tedious to always be checking d-scan for hours and hours while mining.

Will we see a surge of violence? I think so, it's such a good opportunity to really mess people up if you can pressure them while they're feeling the pinch.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Shadowrun Returns... or does it?

Shadowrun was one of the great tabletop role-playing games of the nineties. A stylish game set in the near future, it combined Matrix-like cyberspace elements with a gun fanatic's wet dream of a selection of ordnance and topped it all off with a hardbitten cynical Blade Runner style setting. Oh and some people have mutated into Elves, Orks and Dragons too.

Shadowrun's appeal was that it felt modern but was still fantastic. Problems were contemporary in nature, usually dealing with some kind of industrial espionage. If you wanted a gun, you picked your shooter from a proper catalogue. If you couldn't get in through the door you could try hacking. Also there was magic, an interesting system with Magicians, Shamans and Adepts. The game has a strong cultural influence from Native American history and folklore.

The game is still running as a RPG and is still quietly popular but it's never quite made a good transition to video gaming. There were 3 modest console releases (and a fourth one cancelled) and a PC/Xbox 360 release in 2007 which was priced too high and flopped.

Out of that fiasco the game's creator, Jordan Weisman, managed to negotiate a deal with Microsoft who now own his game and he's starting up a kickstarter project. You can see details here. They need $400k by 29th April to go ahead and they're just over $250k raised so far.

[Update 5.4.12. They've now made it. Well done them and thanks to any of you readers who supported the project.]

At the basic donation of $15 you get a copy of the game plus a PC wallpaper. $15 for a half-decent Shadowrun game would be an absolute snip, it really is one of the most interesting settings for a game ever written. And there's every reason to think it will be a good game because Weisman is heavily involved and writing a lot of it and they'll have a freedom as a small indie that they didn't get when they were at Microsoft.

Let's hope it comes out. And if it does come out, remember:

Shoot Straight. Conserve Ammo. And Never Cut a Deal With A Dragon.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Is Eve heading for a Trammel?

The word Trammel has enormous force with a certain section of the online gaming community.

Ultima Online was one of the first MMOs, arguably the first mainstream one. It was pretty popular. It had a very open ruleset as the developers made it without really knowing what to expect from their players. They had MUDs to look at and Richard Bartle had already developed his famous theory of player types but they didn't know if what happened in MUDs would happen in a 3D setting. They had earlier graphical MMOs to look at but the population in those was very small so it was hard to draw sociological conclusions from the way players behaved in them. So they went into the project wondering what they would find if they made a virtual world that was as unrestricted as possible, a sandbox full of possibilities. What they found was this:

Wolves eat sheep.

That trend, the intersection of the killer player type with the other player types dominated the game experience. Imagine you log on, chat with a friend, buy something from a crafter, admire some shiny armour on a very advanced player then get ganked robbed and corpse camped. You've met a socialiser, an explorer, an achiever and a killer, one each of the 4 Bartle types. Which one defines your experience of the game? The killer.

Now at first people put up with it but then a game came out where the sheep were safe from wolves and masses of players moved over. So in order to save Ultima Online the developers introduced the Trammel expansion, introducing safe play areas for people. And the word has been a curse in the mouths of aggressive pvpers ever since.

In Eve Online the sheep are guarded by a game mechanic of punishment. You're not actually safe in high sec but if you get killed so does your attacker. This is a loose deterrent to pvp that has worked very well so far for the game. High sec is generally safe but each player is likely to have an occasional moment of drama that keeps the heart racing and the game interesting. Sometimes people are very upset to be victimised in "safe space" but it's infrequent enough that the mechanic has worked to satisfy both sheep and wolves.

But maybe that's going to change.

There's been a growing interest in messing with people in high sec. Increasingly Eve corps have been interested in fighting people who don't want to fight. My impression is that pre-Goons people generally saw end game as big nullsec empires which is consensual pvp. And it's not just the Goons - Suddenly Ninjas have promoted ninja salvaging techniques, many corps do can flipping and camp gates around Jita to suicide gank afk haulers. There are two major alliances that just war dec as many corps as possible and camp Jita in the hope some targets will turn up. And of course there's Hulkaggedon, a festival of wolves ganking sheep.

It's escalating.

The Mittani, furious at making a tit of himself over a highsec carebear, seems driven to disrupt highsec. He seems to view nullseccers as a much lesser evil than anonymous high sec carebears. He's been banned for 30 days but will come back on 28th April spearheading a Burn Jita campaign. He and his admiring followers want to cause as much disruption to the carebear high sec playstyle as possible.

So what if they win?

What if they manage to begin the process of shutting down high sec carebearing?

CCP will look at the sub numbers and if they're sharply falling because carebears can no longer play as they want they may institute a Trammel. Make high sec totally safe. I don't see how they could do any different - they want Eve to be a game that allows multiple playstyles, not a game that only supports Killers.

Of course it's possible that a war on high sec will be so interesting it will increase sub numbers in which case it will make business sense to allow the carebears to gradually be replaced by hardcore pvpers. But how long will it be interesting to grief the sheep if the sheep all leave? This happened in Ultima and basically when the sheep all go the bottom rank of wolves become the new sheep and everyone ganks them mercilessly until they quit and then the next rank of wolves become the new sheep.

How feasible is it to shut down high sec? I would say that under the current mechanics it's very feasible. Disposable gank ships are very cheap and nullsec alliances are very rich. If they really went for it they could probably keep their entire player base in suiciding Tornados and Catalysts for several months. If they're organised and loot and salvage the wrecks to sell off for more suicide boats it could almost be self-sustaining, especially if they get some lucky big loot drops.

And of course if sheep leave then there's less sheep. If 100 sheep ganked a day it doesn't matter much if there's 20000 sheep but it's a pretty big deal if there are only 2000. There's a point at which a consistent number of ganks sustained over a long period will thin the sheep out. And of course new players would tend to want to be the killers not the victims.

To add to the complexity of the situation, the player council is likely to support and facilitate the suicide gankers rather than the victims as the hardcore veteran players who run for and vote in the council tend to be pvpers/killers.

I predict a Trammel for Eve in 2013. Areas where players are untouchable.