Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The in-game economic effect of the ban on gambling sites in Eve Online

Last week the Eve Online community received the rather sensational news that in-game gambling would be banned as from next month. To TMC this was a vindication of their recently-discovered principles against corrupting the innocent youth of our online community (and may have had something to do with losing all their space to a casino-funded war). At Crossing Zebras editor-in-chief Niden was initially appalled but then Dunk chimed in with a more common sense reponse.




A lot has been said about the loss of sponsorship from various community sites but so far not much thought has been expressed about the rather seismic changes to the economic paradigm that generated all that spare revenue.

Here's my theory: gambling players generally pay for their gambles by selling plex.

Not entirely, no doubt there are some exceptions but the ways people grind cash in this game are long, a little tedious and intensely focused around isk per hour optimisation. If you spend 10 hours ratting at 100m isk/hour it's not economically rational to gamble it away and ratters and miners are highly steered towards economic rationality. If you trade on the markets why gamble on a third party site and lose when your main gameplay is gambling in Eve and winning?

However if you're cash rich and just want to make long boring waits on a titan or black ops bridger more exciting then splash some dollars pounds or euros and have a better time while you're waiting for content.

Next we know that gambling revenues have been huge, so large that the biggest richest coalition in nullsec was steamrolled by the economic power of the IWI bankers.

So a lot of "whales" are now no longer able to play the way they like to.


These players will respond in several ways. Some will alt tab or use a second monitor to entertain themselves during those times they would have been gambling. Some will buy the plexes and use them in-game to lose expensively fit soloing ships to gate camps. Some will just carry on playing an Eve that seems a bit duller but proves a lot cheaper. Some may leave entirely.

So we will see a lot less players selling plex.

In addition the launch of Eve's new free to play system will bring a lot of players, particularly teenagers, drawn by the idea that they can join for free and earn enough isk to subscribe. Overwhelmingly the free players will not be plex buyers (if they had the money they'd be subscribers) but an additional pressure on the plex supply.

Plexes are going to get expensive.

Another effect is that there will be more players in space.

As people seek isk in-game by running missions and anoms, mining etc and they're in many cases not all that experienced we're going to find tons of targets on our roams and hotdrops. I specialise in FCing small fast roaming gangs and I can't wait!

Puff... sub runs out in 3 hours.... puff.... puff


I think as a game design point CCP needs to find a method for whales to spend their money that isn't skins. Skins are only entertaining to a point, once you have a good collection you stop caring about new ones and the novelties worn off, people very rarely comment on other people's skin. (The exception seems to be my blue Nightmare which always attracts comments when Waffles fly our Dreamfleet comp).

What do you guys think the economic fallout from the Eula changes will be?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Waffle supporter's guide to the AT

Hi!

Do you like Waffles?


This year, in Alliance Tournament XIV, Waffles begin our quest with a truly tough game against the excellent Tuskers.

The AT schedule is here.

Player calculated brackets here.

Waffles are match 9 in the second system so we should be playing at 14.40 on Saturday 1st October against Tuskers.

If we win we will play another match on Saturday at 19.00 against the winner of Rote Kapelle v Dreamfleet.

If we win that we play next at 19.40 on Sunday 2nd October against the best team from MC., Castabouts, Brothers in Arms or Paisti.

If we beat Tuskers then lose to Rote/Dream, we play the winner of #63 which will probably be RONIN v Free Gates at 17.00 on Sunday 2nd October. Winning that would make us play again that same evening at 20.00 against the winner of the second best team from MC., Castabouts, Brothers in Arms or Paisti versus the third best of End of Life, Agony, PIXEL, and Templis.

If we lose to Tuskers we play the loser of Dream Fleet v Rote Kapelle at 13.20 on Sunday 2nd October.

Winning that would see us play the second best team from RONIN, Red v Blue, Samurai Soul'd Out, Free Gates Coalition at 16.20 on Sunday 2nd October.

Winning that would see us play again on the Sunday, at 19.40 against the winner of  second best of End of Life, Agony, PIXEL, and Templis versus third best from MC., Castabouts, Brothers in Arms or Paisti.

We'll hopefully have a busy weekend and may even survive into Day 3 on Saturday 8th October. I know we'll do our very best, in gladiatorial tradition, to entertain you with our blood.

Catch it on Eve_NT Twitch this weekend and wish us luck. If you want to bet Eve-Bet offers a pretty decent service here. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Eve_NT - after action report

Eve_NT occurred last weekend.

Friday


I drove up on the Friday, allowing plenty of time which was just as well because the M1 motorway sucks on a Friday. I stayed in the Holiday Inn at Castle Bridge Road and happened on it by luck just as I was entering Nottingham and wondering where to go. I had a brief nap then got a cab into town.

Antenna has a foyer area, a large bar room and upstairs some smaller rooms. I spent most of my time in the big room.



Friday night I tried to find my corp mate White Orchid but he wasn't there yet. Still at least I was in possibly the only bar in town where I could walk up to groups of strangers asking "White Orchid?" and not get thumped.

I did meet a whole host of Eve players from GalMil, Corvus from CalMil, from Provi, from the Rekking Crew and the tourminati including Bei, Nashh and Suitonia. I was also delighted to find several Pandemic Horde members there including some of their leading tournament players Catatonic Dawn, Taston Thorne and Brett Thomas Thomas.

We received some bling for turning up - I got a rather snazzy Eve_NT T-shirt a voucher for a plex and a voucher for 100m isk eve-bet credit.

There was an idea to get people playing boardgames but despite the best efforts of the genial Tiberius Stargazer I don't think anyone did, preferring to chat about Eve.

Rules and ship fits for the next day's tournament were announced: it was to be pirate cruiser plus either navy ewar frigate or assault frigate to make a team of two. All the standard ships of those classes were available and the fits were T2 with T1 drones.

I called it a night so I'd be well rested for the next day.

Saturday


Despite the early night I overslept, waking just after 11am. I took the time to get cleaned up and feel fresh then got a cab in. It's probably walking distance for most people but I have a minor disability.

I met White Orchid who's great fun and we promptly started plotting and planning for the tourney. I looked for my playing partner but didn't find him.

We were up third and took Ashimmu and Retribution against Vigilant and - I think - Enyo. We warped  in at 30 and I misplayed the match start. I underestimated the Vigi's burst speed. I moved sideways with MWD unheated while the Vigi rushed me. I didn't get my first web on until he was at 15km (my web range was 26km) and failed to stop him from coasting into his web range and once he got me webbed my pulse lasers would be no match for his blasters. My poor playing partner, Abraxas, who was new to pvp and who I'd tried to quickly help but only confused more was still trying to figure out how to lock up the bad guys when I told him I was dead and we'd lost. It's a short and brutal format very suitable for resolving large numbers of competitive matches.

White Orchid was up next and he won to the sound of my loud cheering, carrying the honor of Waffles forward to the next round.

The tournament was displayed really well with a large screen and several smaller screens and we spent the next hour or so watching matches. White Orchid got eliminated in round 2 despite the removal of the oppressive Vigilant from the format. (I maintain that Gallente rush is beatable - it's very strong however against anything less than perfect piloting).

I had missed the first of the small  room presentations  (from CCP) but went upstairs to see the CSM presentation. For the most part it didn't tell us anything we don't already know: the CSM communicates with CCP on various platforms, the current group is less dysfunctional than previous groups, PL is good at heckling). I did get a very interesting answer when I asked about Alpha clone players. Jin'taan doesn't consider them his constituency and isn't planning to reach out to them or represent them other than by responding to forum posts on the CSM section of the Eve O forums. Doesn't seem terribly democratic - imagine Alpha representation will be an issue in the future.

The next presentation was by RocketX on the operations of the Rekking Crew. They live in Derelik and track down and kill supers. Victims of their own success they've tried branching out to do different things including an AT ship hunt that bagged a Fiend and a partnership with a Molden Heath alliance which gave them opportunities to respond to batphone requests. They've never lost a fight involving supers and have killed 100 supers. Impressive stuff. Equally impressive was the Pikachu costume Rocket wore to give his talk.

I skipped the next talk (on Valkyrie by General Stargazer). I also declined to check out a games room they had with Gunjack and Valkyrie in. I'm mildly interested but was in more of an Eve mood.

I went downstairs and watched the quarter finals of the tournament. Got something to eat - a Halloumi sandwich. I didn't know what Halloumi was but it's cheese and was served with chilli sauce in kebab style with little skewers. Pretty tasty.

I met more Eve players including a bunch from Zebra Corp who had been in The Bastion at the same time as me, some guys from Blades of Grass with whom I shared Hero Coalition roots and some people I shoot at in low sec. It's a small universe when one is a much-travelled space whore.

I was also working on and discussing an idea I have for a new player friendly tournament experience and it was good to get feedback - some of it supportive, some strongly opposed.

The tournament narrowed to 2 close fought semis with some really excellent piloting on display.

Then there were some charity things. All day long Nashh's wife had been patiently selling raffle tickets for a charity that is working to build a nature sanctuary in Montserrat. That raised nearly £1000 so Nashh offered 10 plexes to whoever bought the ticket taking it to £1000. I tried to game it and was one ticket off, seeing the person in front of me buy two tickets, miss out, then buy two more and win the ten plex.

There was a charity auction. An odd looking device that seems to be part lamp part air freshener and which looks like it was stolen from a Doctor Who set was sold for some absurd number of plex in a fiercely competitive auction. The proceeds will go to Care 4 Kids.

Meanwhile Brett Thomas Thomas had been clearing up on some of the various Beat the Master video game challenges that were dotted around the venue, swaggering up to our table 18 plex richer and with a huge grin.

The tournament resumed and the team with 2 guys from Lumpy won in a meta now dominated by Cynabals. They were then split up, given the dubious assistance of random very drunk CSMers and Rhiload triumphed to the delight of his temporary team mate Jin'taan who showed what a master politician he is by milking the credit despite dying in the first fifteen seconds.

Next was an exhibition match players v CCP which allowed Bei and Nashh the chance to show what good players they are.

At this point in the evening the music got louder and I was feeling the effect of 4 bottles of Magners so I decided to say my goodbyes. I got into a good conversation with CCP Goliath who did his best to convince me to go to Iceland (and I'm tempted) and who was supportive of my idea for a grass roots tournament.

The last person I said bye to was Nashh who really was everywhere this weekend and did a great job as organiser.

Sunday


There was a breakfast meet in a video games bar but I chose to get an early start on my journey home instead, making very good time on the empty roads of pre-6am M1.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Home again!

One aspect of flying with a serious group is that sometimes it's best not to talk too much. Waffles has been on away from home and I've waited till we got back to start talking about it in public.

Waffles has been on deployment for a couple of months, moving to help shore up Stainwagon against the Vanguard coalition. We were hired by a mystery client (I'm not being evasive - I don't know) and fought besides Infamous and Soviet Union against Triumvirate initially, although they were reinforced by Xdeath who deployed south to help them and FCON who bandwagoned on to the winning side.

Although we made a decent fight of it for a couple of weeks we were overwhelmed by the other side's numbers once they had all their pieces in place. Our staging system was headshot and we extricated very smoothly. Our allies coped with losing rather less well with Infamous falling apart in a storm of bitterness which has been well documented on reddit.

The campaign included some glorious strat ops with us passing 100 in fleet (pretty good for a 350 person corp), some stealthy entosising and a lot of roams. I fc-ed a few fleets, generally successfully except for a nanocruiser fleet where I bit off more than I should have and suffered a few expensive losses trying to out-fly a much bigger fleet. I also aided other FCs with anchoring and stuff like that.

In addition to our war front we also picked on Provi and the Volition Cult a fair bit, culminating with  the spectacular explosion of a VOLT Fortizar.

We've also been practicing our Alliance Tournament setups extensively.


I really like entosis ops but not many in Waffles do so the general mood is one of euphoria as we jump our carriers the long boring route  back home.

Black Rise is about to become very bloody.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Brexit: how Game of Thrones can help explain what just happened

There's a very interesting series of Youtube videos that teach leadership using Game of Thrones examples. Here's his take on the persuasive leader: Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is effective because he finds out what people care about then offers it to them.



The outstanding persuaders of the Brexit campaign were Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Rupert Murdoch. 2 ex-public school very rich men and a billionaire.

The notable persuaded demographic was the "Left Behind." In this video Matthew Goodwin explains who these disenfranchised voters are and why they are drawn to the radical Right. Briefly these are older blue collar working men who lack the skills for a modern career.

The interesting thing about the Leave campaign is how effectively they offered British people, particularly the disenfranchised Left Behind group, what they wanted. The key themes are "ordinary British people" v foreigners, skillfully muddling fear of radical Islamic murderers with immigration from ordinary European citizens; "taking back control" - a key theme in the lives of the economically disadvantaged Left Behind; and support for the NHS - a primary concern for older voters. And a strong appeal to patriotism which saw Leave supporters decking themselves in Union Jacks or England flags, conflating the referendum with the football tournament that's happening just now.

And as for Murdoch along with reasons to vote Leave he gives the British people Game of Thrones and the Premier League - the man knows precisely what people want.

Now let's go back to the Game of Thrones videos. This one is about how the Starks always manage to make people to betray them. They never pay attention to what other people want and take it for granted that other people will respond the way they do.



And this runs so very true for the Remain campaign. They offered dry economic facts and statistics which might be persuasive to a Westminster technocrat but are unappealing to a population that has been bullshitted with statistics for decades. They reminded people how well the economy is doing which might be appealing to politicians driving their Range Rovers around London but has no appeal to Leave voters some of whom have said in interviews that they chose Leave because they don't see how things can possibly get any worse. Remember over half a million Britons use Food Banks.

The people who fronted the Remain side were awful. Cameron and Osborne who are associated with the austerity that has made so many voters feel poorer. Corbyn's heart wasn't in it. Rich businessmen urging people to vote In was disastrous because those people symbolise the winners and losers situation that the Left Behind feel they're in. The Bosses were asking the Workers to support the status quo. Both sides were led by very wealthy men - one side downplayed that and appeared relatable and ordinary; one side smugged about how prosperous economic union was making them and showed the voters graphs.

However.

Chaos is a ladder.



The one positive to come out of this fiasco is that the information politicians need to build us a better country, so that in time we can repair the damage we just did to the rest of the world, has been brought into sharp relief. It's a wake up call for politicians, activists and ordinary citizens who want to influence policy - find out what people want and how to offer it to them. It's actually a good thing that the losers of the last few decades have had a chance to say "Hey! We're not happy.". This MP gets it. Let this be the last time someone talks to their MP then thinks

You know nothing, Jon Snow.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

What's next for the North?

One of the burning questions for many Eve players is: Is the War over?

For The Imperium the answer is no, although some elements of the coalition have quietly ended the war on their own terms with 4 alliances having left, numerous corps and a steady bleed of about 250 individuals a week from the main Goon alliance.

Ratting statistics from CCP Quant and Croda show that ratting activity is back to pre-war levels which perhaps suggests that a number of the displaced Goons have found discreet ways to rat, perhaps using a Horde or Test alt to continue working the same space as before while maintaining a loyal Goon pvper in their lemonade factory hideout.

For the attackers however the war is over. Sure people will form to fight Goons and will form to defend space or assets  but the notion that we are at war is no longer true. Both KillahBee (PL) and Gobbins (PH) have stated that they consider the war over and as for Waffles we left the war zone over a month ago.

Inertia is a powerful force however and it's unlikely that PL will want to undertake the onerous chore of moving until after Alliance Tournament season which is expected to start any day now.

Nonetheless the forces holding The Imperium down will slowly lift and.... well, what will hppen next?

It will depend on Goon leadership - their choice will set the location and some of the participants for the next war. I  think it will be a reconquest of Deklein, the toughest option and the richest prize. If Goons were willing to settle for a lesser region surely they would have already deployed to take it.

The difficulty here is that the conquerors are in many cases now rather entrenched. If Deklein is attacked then the regions in front of it - Pure Blind and Fade - are likely to be attacked or to support Deklein anyway and regions further back - Branch Tribute and Vale contain ex-MBC members who have everything to lose if Goons can re-establish themselves as sov-holders. This is the rough force composition:

Deklein: Guardians of the Galaxy (approx 10k pilots).

Fade: Pandemic Horde (10k), French Brave (400).

Pure Blind: PBC (1k), MOA (1800), NC. (2750).

With the Imperium now at about 25k that means numbers are even against the residents of the regions directly in the path of a Deklein invasion.

So even if PL leave the Goons won't have a huge advantage, even against the locals now living there.

Let's add in the residents of ex-Imperium space nearby:

Branch Out of Sight (750).

Tribute: OSS (1350), MC. (800), CO2 (3500)

Vale: Test (7k)

This means even if the nomadic alliances leave, let's include MC. and NC. too the Imperium is still significantly out-numbered just by the new locals. I think this means the only chance Goons could have to win is if they use their supercap fleet and if they started doing that PL would be back before you could say "third party."

Something pretty seismic needs to happen for Goons to get back into the game and it's not simply waiting for PL to get bored, that alone isn't enough. A Goon/Test axis would make it interesting but it's time for the Goons' famous corps diplomatique to shine.

Meanwhile the future of nullsec is stalemate, until something game-changing happens like The Imperium going south or hiring PL as mercs or something even more unexpected. But I honestly think Goons will still be in Saranen at Christmas.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

An Eve for everyone: #1 the New Player Experience

In my last blog post I voiced a strongly worded objection to Neville Smit's influential Occupy New Eden post.

Let me be clear: I disagree with the method, not the goals. The Monoclegate player riots of 2011 saw CCP lay off 150 staff, saw alarmist articles about the company's over-extended financial position and a threat from The Mittani to take his people to a different game. Eve could have closed. Player rebellion is a nuclear option and one that once started is impossible to control.

But Neville's goals?

Broadly they're based, I think, on the feeling that CCP  has experienced some kind of "regulatory capture" where the influence and political shrewdness of the nullsec alliances has placed their concerns front and centre, to the detriment of the 85% of us who inhabit other parts of the sandbox.

I'm going to write a short series of articles exploring how we can make an Eve for everyone, no playstyle left behind.

Today: the New Player Experience.

So I started a new character and responded to what I saw on screen. I clicked through the opportunities until I got stuck. I got stuck at the opportunity that wants me to fit a low slot module. I didn't have a low slot module. I had been given no information about where I could get one. I couldn't progress to the next set of opportunities until I solved this one.

I decided to try killing a couple of rats to see if they dropped a module then realised I had no information about where the rats actually live. In games like Wow you walk out of town and the rats are just there. In Eve you undock and it's just you and a couple of other newbies there.

I "cheated" and used prior knowledge to warp to a combat anomaly where I killed several rats without getting a low slot module. So I "cheated" again and bought an armour repper off the market.

This is concerning.This is a clickout point, a point where an internet user loses interest, gives up and clicks away or alt tabs and does something else. Giving new people a task that appears to be essential but which is not solvable is disastrous.

With the opportunities chain unfinished I next went off to do Career Agents. In fact I'd forgotten how to find them and was told by helpful people in Rookie Help Chat to press F12.

These are clickout points 2 &3.

You can't finish the initial opportunities chain without going off  to do something else. I think a lot of people will want to finish what appears to be the tutorial before going off to do a completely different quest chain in a different area of space but in practice you have to. You can't, for example, complete the Fit a scan probe launcher to your ship opportunity when you're in a rookie ship in Duripant with no money. So broken quest chain is one clickout point.

The other is that you need to talk to people. In most other games the chat is where you call people names after you lose, or spam macros or generally crap in. Many people on starting a new game will minimise chat and never look at it again. For the game to require that you proactively ask the right question and then get helped by someone knowledgable is asking a hell of a lot and for many people this will be their clickout point.

On to the Career Agents. I actually think the agents are pretty good as quest chains, my concern is what they teach. After doing all 5 the only clearly viable way to make money appeared to be mining, Eve's dullest profession. Sure there's scanning down sites but most of those will be too tough for a newbie in an Atron, plus scanning is horrible with newbie skills even if you know how to do it. Those sites where with perfect probe positioning and lowest AU but it still won't get better than 99%: more clickout points. There's missions but the Career Agents don't point you to one nor show you how to use the Agent Finder. Plus the pay from missions is awful. I can go afk in the Venture with a day old character and come back to 1 million isk of minerals in the ore hold, why would I do some horrible level 1 mission for 20k? You're also set up with blueprints but so poor you need to do My time is free style mining to use them. One of the saddest things I saw in Rookie Help Chat was "where do I mine Kernite or Jaspet - I need some Nocxium for my  Career Agent quest." Props for the newbie for figuring out so much, and get it together Eve Online that you're giving people missions without the information needed to succeed.

I'll repeat: it's very bad game design if the new player experience game can't be solved without help from other people. Would it hurt to give the nearest systems with those ores in the mission briefing while reminding pilots to consider buying directly from the market? Maybe you could even give limited duration but unlimited "Civilian Ventures" so rookies could go mine in low sec,but get a new ship if they die.

Then I tried pvp. I went into a Novice plex, I got blobbed and killed, rip my poor frigate. The people who killed me convoed me and offered a corp invite so that was pretty nice.

I tried again but got killed 2 jumps in on the gate by a battlecruiser. As a newbie you're easy to tackle even in a frigate because it aligns a little slow.

This is my next clickout point. Although Eve is meant to be a pvp game there's no New Player pvp. Yes I'm aware Suitonia can beat people with 20  day characters but that's a very good pvper with a focused  skill plan. So for most new players the only option here is to join a corp you can't pvp without submitting to a whole host of rules and obligations that goes with joining a player corp. Even FW doesn't solve this - you're still going to be a free kill until someone helps you.

So I searched the recruitment page in the corp window and found a list. My search criteria were fw, new player friendly and low sec. Joined their public channel, asked about joining and they said no because I was too new. Another clickout point.

So then: an Eve for everyone.

I think the NPE is a good example of how the game can go in the  wrong direction if player feedback is collected from the very loud passionate invested communities that attend Fanfest and the other player meets. Ask players at those events about starting Eve and they'll say Eve is awesome , the community is awesome, join a corp. Clearly it isn't awesome, in fact it's deeply flawed for new players and joining a corp is fraught with clickout points - maybe they want intrusive background checks, maybe you have to install software, maybe you have to change playstyle (eg always be on comms and in fleet), maybe someone's rude, maybe someone simply doesn't want to group up. This may be a good case of where "listening to the players" is bad for the game.


CCP Ghost told us about the millions of players who try Eve then immediately leave, my look at the game as new character showed me a bit about why. If you're a blogger and want to add your experience to this discussion roll a new character and tell us about your clickout points. Alternatively for people without blogs just post it on /r/eve or Eve O. Link  it in the comments.

Finally I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our newbie-friendly cousin, Pandemic Horde. To join them click the little speech bubble in the chat window to join a new channel and type Join Horde as the channel name. I don't think  you should have to join a corp to start Eve but should you choose to they're one of the best.