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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eighty-eight Tons of Fun

Thanks to TESO, it's been nearly a month since I did anything significant in Kerbal Space Program (KSP.) That ended this week. It was time to take on an asteroid redirect mission! In line with KSP community sensibilities, here's a photo gallery detailing how the mission went.

[gallery ids="2401,2402,2403,2404,2405,2406,2407,2408,2409,2410,2411,2412,2413,2414,2415,2416,2417,2418"]

I encourage anyone unfamiliar with the NASA asteroid initiative program and wah it really wants to do, to read about it on their Asteroid Initiative web site: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/initiative/. It really is something we need to do. The more we know about asteroids, the lower the risk of inheriting the dinosaur's legacy. Thanks for reading my blog and looking at my gallery. :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

You Still Have My Attention CCP... and a Prize Pool!

EDIT 5/2/2014: CCP announced during the EVE Online keynote address the Kronos expansion is scheduled for release on June 3, 2014. I will no longer accept pool entries for the PLEX prize. Now we wait to see if that is, in fact, the date it launches!



Here's what we know so far.


  • CCP has a vision to revitalize EVE Online.

  • Realization of this vision will take 2 to 4 years (it's been a year since last Fanfest so -1 year.)

  • This vision has been described as Farms and Fields.

  • This vision includes allowing players to build stargates and have more direct control over New Eden.

  • To realize this vision, there needs to be an overhaul of the entire industry system.

  • Industry pervades almost all aspects of EVE Online in one way or another, so changing it will have ramifications for all players.



It's easy to make a quasi-biased somewhat intuitive leap of logic here. All this will benefit experienced players like me more than others. That is, in fact, what I rather overtly implied in my post , Building Better Worlds for Whom? I do not recant my opinion. But I read something in the latest dev blog, and it's got me intrigued.

"The first is intended to act as a "pull," giving people a reason to come together and build in the same space, and the second allows players to do so in a more organic way. Counteracting this will be pricing that rises in line with activity, acting as a "push" to incentivize people to spread out. Carefully balancing these two forces gives industrial players another decision to make, and having the values be both continuous and varying over time (on the scale of weeks and months) creates a decision that 1) has an interesting range of options; and 2) has the potential to change over time."



When I read the specifics above this quote, I came to the same conclusion. It really could do this. It adds a complexity to running a business in EVE Online that is very real. RL companies have to decide where it's best to build new manufacturing facilities all the time. They have to weigh things like worker education, taxes, wage laws, etc. This is similar thinking, and ought to provide more interesting industrial gameplay - at higher experience levels.

There's the grind for me. It really doesn't do anything for the new bro, with the exception perhaps of raising the entry barrier for industrial gameplay. That said, it does leave them mining. In the overall scheme of things, between the lines of what we know so far, mining could be considered the entry-level position of industry. And in the barge rebalancing, CCP did make them a lot more survival which helps new bros stay in industry.

You know what else has me intrigued? This thing called Teams, which is evidently what the last dev blog will be about. I am curious to know if teams will allow for specialists within the industry professions. Will characters be able to become an expert miner, or expert researcher? Would that expertise become a marketable skill? I suppose that all depends on what the bonuses, or lack thereof, will be for team play.

We should know tomorrow. CCP is pushing all these dev blogs out before Fanfest. That way they will be free to discuss the changes in detail, drop more hints about what the future will bring, get us all excited over the oooooos and the aaaaaaaahs, and give us the actual date we can expect to see the industry revamp go live. I expect the date will be early to mid June. I should run a pool...

Right. Let's do it. The prize is a month of EVE Online in the form of a PLEX contracted to the winner's character by Mabrick. Here's what you must predict. On what date will the industry revamp go live?

Here are the rules.


  • Only one guess per person because there are only so many dates available.

  • The announced date at Fanfest is not the date you're guessing. What you are guessing about is the actual date the revamp goes live; best laid plans of mice and men and all that. We won't know a winner until after everyone's client is patched.

  • Leave your guess in the comments section of this post along with the name of the character who will receive the prize. If you want to be extra certain I understand who gets the prize, link your EVE Gate page like this: https://gate.eveonline.com/Profile/Mabrick.

  • First person to have guessed the correct date according to GMT will win. If two or more people guess the same date, only the first person to choose that date according to the GMT date/time stamp of the comment wins. In other words, don't pick a date someone else has already claimed!

  • If no one gets the correct date, I'll give the prize to the closest date. If two people are equally close (as in they straddle the actual date) the prize goes to the first person to have recorded their guess as above.

  • The pool ends when CCP announces their planned date. Any guesses made after the announcement (according to the GMT date/time stamp of the comment) will not count. The announcement does not have to be an official announcement. If the date slips, the pool ends and we wait for the actual revamp to go live. I have the Fanfest live HD stream so I will know. I will have weeks to weed out anyone who doesn't make the cutoff.

  • Members of the CSM are not eligible. Sorry, you may have insider information. And for gods' sake, don't violate your NDA for the sake of a silly PLEX.



Good luck!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tanking Along in TESO

Last night I hit level 20 in The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO.) I am currently running around Stormhaven saving High King Emeric and his nobles from the nightmares of the Supernal Dreamers. I saved the abbey, and redeemed one Duke, but unfortunately I could not save Lady Lakana. I am fairly certain I've completed all the quests west of Wayrest and have slain two of the three known Omens - the Omen of Fear and the Omen of Blood. I really like the way Zenimax has done the instances here. They are fought in the dreams of the people I am trying to save. That's all sorts of Sci-fi/Fantasy cool!

Here's some of this weekend's gameplay. Be sure to click on the first picture and read the descriptions for my comments. I've plenty of observations about the game so far, and several of them are tagged to the picture that illustrates my point. ;-)

[gallery link="file" type="rectangular" ids="2373,2372,2371,2370,2369"]

You know, I've been reading a lot of negative things about TESO lately. I even read the (slightly) negative post Jester made about it. Frankly, I see a lot of jumping on the bandwagon going on - not that I think Jester is doing that. That isn't my point. My point is this. I've only run into TWO, count them, TWO bugs in the 64 hours I've played TESO. You can check my Raptr profile to confirm the hours played. The biggest bug I ran into was the killing Faolchu in the past during the Nameless Soldier quest in Daggerfall. That was very annoying to be sure, as I had to log of and on repeatedly to find an instance where the Faolchu would actually spawn. The second bug I've encountered was Saturday. It was the endless attacking character bug. All that did was break my immersion.

You know, when I can play 64 hours and only run into TWO bugs, I cannot call this even close to the buggiest game I've ever played. I can easily say that LOTR Online was worse; not because there were more bugs, but because it was much, much smaller area. TESO is huge in comparison, and I'm only into my third region. I can agree the TESO devs need to fix these bugs. I also agree they need to make it a priority, perhaps their #1 priority (though I would really love to see the bot mobs at bosses killed off.) But this game is so big, and the bugs are far in between in my experience. Perhaps I've been fortunate. Still, I can't help but feel Zenimax is getting a bum deal from the reviewers.

Here's the basic problem I actually see coming out of all the reviews I've read (and I've read dozens of them, thanks Google Alerts!) There are two types of critic drawn to TESO. There are the MMO players, and there are the Skyrim players. I say Skyrim because it's the last of the stand-alone Elder Scroll sagas.

For the hardcore MMO player, and that's anyone writing a review IMO, TESO is not World of Warcraft (WoW.) They want WoW. Actually, they want better than WoW. And they expect that from a game a year in beta and just released? Get real. WoW was no better than TESO when it was first released. It was just as buggy. I know, I played WoW back then. WoW has had how long to get better? And I'll tell you one thing, the quest writing in TESO puts WoW to shame. I don't mean what your character has to do (though I could support that position,) I mean the writing itself. The dialog is witty. It's far more than just, "go kill ten bandits." It actually tells a story. Does WoW do that now? How about it Ancient Gaming Noob? You play WoW the most of all those I follow. Does WoW have story lines?

The second type of player attracted to TESO is the Skyrim player, and they are the worse reviewers IMO. They seemed to think TESO would be just like Skyrim, and there would not be thousands of other players running around all over the place and lag would never exist. It makes me wonder what they thought Massively Multiplayer Online means. Perhaps they didn't bother to find out that's what the acronym MMO stands for. Do us all a favor, go back to Skyrim. It's a perfect game for your type of malcontent.

What I'd really like to start seeing more of, though there have been a few to be certain, are reviews of TESO that discuss its merits as they stand on their own. Bug issues are certainly fair game in that, but they need to take scope into consideration. I also see little in the way of reviews for the PvP area, Cryodiil. There's this nice 4.75 hour video of a raid made last week, but not much in the way of critique. All I've read is to wait until you're at least level ##. The number seems to vary from article to article.

Anyway, here's my advice to anyone thinking of trying TESO: play it for its own sake. It's not WoW and it's not Skyrim. If you get those thoughts out of your head first, you'll have a much more enjoyable game. And whether or not TESO is ready for prime time is really up to you, and what you make of it. It's been a smashing success for me. It may surprise you.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Game File Management

Time to discuss something non-controversial. If like me you play many games, and like to have them installed even when taking a break from them, sooner or later you will run into hard drive space constraints. It's a fundamental law of hard drives. No matter how large the drive, within about a year it'll be 80% full. That's why last year I bought a new 256 gigabyte (GB) Solid State Drive (SSD) and mode it my new system drive.

But true to the law, a year later I find myself space constrained. This happened when I started playing The Elder Scrolls Online. The install program requires 30 GB of available space. My "new" 256 GB didn't have 30 GB free space remaining. Oops. I removed some older programs and made the space, but it pained me to remove programs I might want to use again. I ended up re-installing some programs into the platter drives. This is an untenable situation, unless I'm willing use the two platter type drives for programs. I am not. Once you load from an SSD, you never go back.

Fortunately for me I still had the 75 GB SSD my system originally shipped with over three years ago. It was the original system drive, and back then it was amply large. Unfortunately, it is no longer large enough (witness 256 GB SSD being 80% full) to hold everything. However, it is more than large enough to be an OS only drive. That would free at least 60 GB on the other SSD for programs. So my plan was hatched. I'd move the OS (Windows 8.1) back to the smaller SSD, reformat the larger SSD and move all my games (and other programs) to it.

The first step in such a process is a daunting one. How do you move your OS to a new drive without having to do a complete re-install? I have no interest in rebuilding my entire configuration. That's worse than any grind you can do in any MMO. Fortunately there is no reason to undertake such a mistake. What you need is a program named Paragon Migrate OS to SSD™ 4.0. You can purchase it here. It is $19.95 and worth every damn cent.

[caption id="attachment_2363" align="aligncenter" width="675"]Migrate OS to SSD Select Screen (post migration obviously) Migrate OS to SSD Select Screen (post migration obviously)[/caption]

It automates the entire process of moving an OS partition from one hard drive to any SSD of sufficient size. All you have to do is select the SSD you wish to move the OS partition to. The software takes care of everything else. It took me less than 15 minutes to migrate my OS partition to the old SSD, after I'd moved all the games off it, which is what I'll cover next. The only "manual" thing I had to do was go into my UEFI BIOS and set the smaller SSD as the primary boot device. That was it. It booted right up and my system configuration was the exact same as it had been on the larger SSD.

Now, about moving those game files. There's a reason I like to use Steam. Steam makes it fracking easy. Ever since steam started allowing multiple install libraries, moving games installed via Steam as been as easy as one, two, three, four.


  1. Create a new Steam folder structure for a library on the new drive. The only path you need create is "\\Program Files (86)\Steam." To do this click on Steam at the top of the Steam client and click Settings, when Settings opens click on Downloads, then click on Steam Folder Libraries. Add a new library at the path you just created as I've done below. You can have as many as you like.

    [caption id="attachment_2348" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Library Creation Steam Library Creation[/caption]

  2. Copy all the folders under "\\Program Files (86)\Steam\SteamApps\" common into the same directory on the receiving drive. That's a copy, not a move.

  3. Once all folders are copied, delete the local files using steam. This will delete the old folders and revert the game to an uninstalled status.

    [caption id="attachment_2347" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Uninstall Steam Uninstall[/caption]

     

  4. Re-install your Steam games into the new library.

    [caption id="attachment_2349" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Re-install Steam Re-install[/caption]



That's it. All your Steam games are now moved to the new drive and Steam has preserves all your configuration settings. Other game managers like Origin can do the same thing. You just need to go into their settings and change the default installation folders. For Origin it's Origin --> Application Settings --> Advanced, but you'll need to create the new folders first.

[caption id="attachment_2352" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Origin Advanced Settings Origin Advanced Settings[/caption]

I've had good luck with games that store user settings on their servers. For example, I have absolutely no problem removing SimCity 2013 and then installing it elsewhere as above. All my settings are on EA's servers. It's no big deal. Perhaps it will be if you play in offline mode all the time, but I don't do that. I've never had an issue with needing a full-time internet connection.

League of Legends is another easy migration. Configurations, logs and screenshots are all left in the original Riot Games folder on the old drive. All you have to do is install the game again and copy those folders to the Riot Games folder in the new location. Also, and very importantly, you need to save your <account name>.properties file (mine is Mabrick1986.properties) in \Riot Games\RADS\projects\lol_air_client\releases.0 .1.17\deploy\preferences. This file contains your Item Set associations and is not saved when the game is uninstalled. You will need to copy this file back into the folder once the re-install is complete.

Other programs pose a bit more of an issue. The process is similar, though the results are not always as good. For instance, you must install EVE Online into an empty folder. I've tried making a copy of the old files in a third location, then uninstalling EVE Online so I can install it in the new location. After it's installed in the new location, I overwrite the install with the copy of the old install I'd saved. That doesn't work, at least it never has for me. I end up re-configuring my overview and video settings regardless. And the option they allow you to un-check to preserve your user settings and cache seems to do absolutely nothing.

[caption id="attachment_2350" align="aligncenter" width="645"]EVE Online Un-install EVE Online Un-install[/caption]

I guess I'm missing something, but it's not important enough for me to pursue further. I can reconfigure my overview in 5 minutes or less now. I've done a time or twelve.

Games like Elder Scrolls Online and Starcraft II you just have to uninstall and re-install in the new location. There aren't many settings to adjust regardless so any effort to save them just adds time to the migration. If you are playing the campaign game in Starcraft II your current progress is saved to Battle.net so you don't have to worry about it. If you are playing in offline mode all I can say is... why? It could be you're on a submarine or something, but Starcraft II really is best when played against others - just saying.

Anyway, I hope this run down on how to migrate your OS and game installations to other drives is helpful. Even with knowing all the tricks, and having done it a few times already, it still took about 8 hours total to complete everything. However, most of that was taken up by just downloading and installing the non-Steam games. In fact, as I post this I am still only 75% of the way through The Elder Scrolls Online re-install. Woof, that is one big install. I hope I don't have to do it again anytime soon. And for those who have stuck with this all the way through, I give you this as payment.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="381"]XKCD - Old Files XKCD - Old Files[/caption]

 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Mantra and the Dogma

We hear this mantra from CCP all the time. It's their justification for all things nerf. It's the glorious promise of every expansion. Yet it's the biggest fallacy in EVE Online. And what's worse, most players believe it's true. They swallow it hook, line and sinker, because it's what they want to hear. It comforts them when their anxieties grow. It embodies the uncertain promise of a better future. But before I tell you why Risk vs Reward is a fallacy, let's define a few terms first.

What is risk? That's the issue at the very heart of the mantra. According to Google's handy-dandy "define risk" search parameter, expanded to get the complete definition, risk is:


  • a situation involving exposure to danger.

  • the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen.

  • a person or thing regarded as likely to turn out well or badly, as specified, in a particular context or respect.

  • a person or thing regarded as a threat or likely source of danger.

  • a possibility of harm or damage against which something is insured.

  • the possibility of financial loss.



What is a fallacy? Again, using Google's handy define parameter expanded, a fallacy is:


  • a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.

  • a failure in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.

  • faulty reasoning; misleading or unsound argument.



I think we all know what a reward is. But just to be thorough, the Google supplied definition is:


  • a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement.

  • a fair return for good or bad behavior.

  • a sum offered for the detection of a criminal, the restoration of lost property, or the giving of information.



So how is the mantra Risk vs Reward a fallacy? It's a fallacy because, for one thing, we've got it ass backwards about who is taking the most risk. Risk is a relative measure. It is not subjective. For example, let's say you have two men making a $10,000 investment on a bona-fide inside tip. One man has $50,000 to his name and the other $1,000,000.  Who takes the most risk? Any bookie will confirm it is the man who stands to lose one out of every five dollars he owns. It is not the man who stands to lose one dollar in a hundred.

Applying that reality to EVE Online, the comparison point is still monetary in nature. The player who flies a 1 mISK ship and only has 5 mISK in his wallet stands to lose far more than the suicide ganker who flies a 1 mISK ship but has 100  mISK in is wallet. By the Risk vs Reward mantra, it should be the poor player who gets the most reward because she is taking the most risk. That logic even holds if the target is a gient freighter with billions of ISK worth of goods in the hold. The freighter is taking the greater risk, not the suicide ganker. But suicide ganking must be allowed if EVE Online according to CCP, if the game is to maintain its "unique" social atmosphere. Furthermore, these ganks take place in high-sec because that's where the lowest risk is for the ganker. CCP's stance on the Risk vs Reward mantra and the suicide gank seems a bit schizophrenic doesn't it?  Google's definition of that disorder is:


  • a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

  • (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.



I believe the general use of the term is entirely appropriate here. It is contradictory to claim more risk brings more reward in EVE Online, while maintaining that losing your ship to a suicide gank just for undocking is proper. If you really believe that, why don't you undock from Jita in a Kronos this weekend and see what happens? What's the matter, don't have a billion ISK to lose?

Fact is, new players risk more every day in EVE Online than any veteran ever risks. Industrialists moving goods in freighters risk more in ISK than their PvP brethren in most instances. New bros risk their entire ability to just play the game. They undock in shit-fit mining barges because that's all they can afford. When they lose it to a player with far more experience and resources, they are ridiculed and made fun of. But it doesn't change the fact they are the brave ones, not the l33t PVPers who blow them up. And what does CCP do to reward them? Not a damn thing, except tell them to find a group to play with for protection. That changes nothing. The noob is still poor and risking most of what he owns just to play the game. So tell me again how EVE Online rewards risk taking?

Let's move beyond new bros, freighters and suicide ganking. What about the big null-sec alliances? Who took the most risk at B-R5RB? Wikipedia has a good summary of the entire battle, including ship losses. Those summaries don't show how many ships both sides had in total before that battle, which would normally be necessary to determine who took the most risk. But fortunately Titans were committed, and there are so few of those, and they are so resource intensive to build, it's a fair assumption that each side committed what they had. To do less would give the opposing side an unacceptable advantage. That's the nature of weapons of mass destruction. When you launch an all out nuclear assault, you launch everything you have and hope it's enough to stop the other side. Looking at the Titan counts alone, the CFC had 143 Titans and N3 72. Guess who took the most risk? Guess who got the reward? Of course, if N3 had prevailed they would have gotten the reward. That's the nature of PvP. And they really had no choice but to fight. They were the defender. Those who risk most seldom, if ever, get the reward. That's life. The strong prey on the weak because there is little risk in doing so. It's the way of the world.

In that way EVE Online truly is real. Even if CCP could mitigate the risk to non-PvPer, they would not. Truth is, the only place they can dictate risk is in PvE content, where they directly control the risk level the rats pose. But EVE Online is not touted as a PvE mecca; far from it. No, everything I've written above is not the biggest reason Risk vs Reward is a fallacy. EVE Online is a PvP game, where player driven content is the holy grail, and CCP encourages every depredation. Encouraging that depredation is CCP's dogma, and its mantra flies in the face of it. That's the biggest reason Risk vs Reward is a fallacy.

CCP has been and always will be intensely PvP oriented. That is simple truth. The mantra is an excuse. It's one CCP invented to mollify gamers like me. It's the false promise that if we just work hard enough, our efforts will be rewarded. It's a lie. CCP has no intention of rewarding non-PvP play styles. Non-PvP is treated as merely a means to an end - nothing more. When everyone starts to concentrate on non-PvP gameplay, and the play style grows in popularity, CCP changes the playing field. That's what the PI changes did. They bound PI to PvP according to CCP's dogma: the principle game elements must have "actual gameplay" attached to it. "Actual gameplay" is a euphemism for PvP if you hadn't gotten that by now. The PI change penalized players who only wanted to play PI. CCP's dogma demanded it. Now Building a Better Future seeks to bind all Industry to "actual gameplay." The future is clear. The only way any effort will see reward is if it conforms to CCP's dogma.

Unfortunately the mantra forces the devs to concentrate on a carrot and stick approach in the vain hope CCP can coerce players into changing their preferred play style. They unfailingly seem to believe the mantra will do this. It seems to blind them to the fact failure to comply as a player means all your futures end - or perhaps they're counting on it. If you won't participate in "actual gameplay," there's the door... or you can have what's behind door #2 if you're willing to participate just a little. Can you blame the devs? Nope. It's just another bus to Abilene.

But the incompatibility between mantra and dogma is causing conflict within the community as a whole. Most of the threadnaughts generated by recent developer blogs arise from basic player misconceptions revolving around Risk vs Reward. It's the fullest manifestation of the dichotomy generated between dogma and mantra. To be certain, the conflict has always existed, but after 10 years it should be settled. EVE Online is a PvP game. Sadly Risk vs Reward befuddle those who want to believe they have a place in this game when their chosen play style does not contribute to the dogmatic reality of "actual gameplay."  Only "actual gameplay" gets rewarded in EVE Online. When the mantra fails to encompass that simple truth it becomes a lie of omission and leads to false hope.

That said, let's dispense with the fallacies and deceits. Let's get past the conceit Risk vs Reward is what EVE Online is all about. PvP is what the game is all about, and in that the strong will always subjugate the weak. Own it CCP. Don't ever forget that fact players. And to both, don't let the mantra fool you. Those who risk the most usually get a kick in the teeth. Throw Risk vs Reward into the dustbin of poorly conceived notions and move on. The sooner that happens, the sooner the threadnaughts end, and those who still want to play the game will realize their futures in an environment they fully comprehend and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rule of Acquisition 45

Rule of Acquisition 45 says, "Expand or die." With all due respect to the Grand Nagus, that's not entirely correct. It should say, "Expand or fade away." I say this because of an EVE mail I received in response to my last post.

I just read your blog "Building Better Worlds for Whom?". I wanted to send you a message to let you know that I agree with almost everything you said in it and I liked the blog. I hope the devs read it but I'm fairly certain that they have their minds made up.

The one thing that I do take issue with is your comments centered around companies needing growth and outside investment. I think the perpetual growth model has gotten this world in the mess that it's in and venture capital has ruined pretty much everything it's touched.

I remember back when CCP passed the 300K subscribers mark. At $15 per month that's 4.5 million dollars per month. If you can't provide a fun game to play for 4.5 million dollars per month you have a problem.

I've seen too many games die chasing after millions of subscribers when they could have lasted long-term with hundreds of thousands.


Let's discuss economics 101; specifically inflation and time value of money. For those who already understand this, you may want to stop now. Here's the tl;dr of this post if that's the case. If CCP doesn't increase revenue, they actually lose money over time. Their operating and development capital will continuously shrink until they can no longer give players the enhancements they want. At that point, players will lose interest and subscriptions will begin to fall, further exacerbating the loss in currency value with a loss in revenue. After that, it's an economic death spiral.

Eve Online is just over a decade old. For most of that time, subscriptions to EVE Online increased at more than comfortable rates. Over that last few years, non-Chinese subscriptions have flattened. The vast majority of subscription growth in the last few years came from the Chinese server, which everyone knows runs separate from the rest of EVE Online. But for the purposes of this post, I'll use the total numbers. I'll also make one more assumption. I will assume everyone pays $15 a month for EVE Online, and $15 has always been the price of a subscription. So let's did in.

How much revenue does CCP get for EVE Online subscriptions? That's a fairly easy thing to calculate given the assumptions I outlined in the paragraph above. The amount CCP brings in monthly is equal to the number of subscriptions multiplied by the cost of the subscription. If there are 500,000 subscriptions costing $15 a month CCP's monthly income is 500,000 * $15 = $7.5 million. That's a lot of money.

Now, let's imagine that 10 years ago CCP had half a million subscribers. What would they have made at $15 a subscription? You'd be correct if you said $7.5 million dollars. You'd also be wrong. There has been a decade of inflation over the last 10 years. Even during the Great Recession of 2009 there was at least 1% inflation worldwide. Otherwise they could have called it a second Great Depression. That did not happen. Now, anyone who's had college economics knows what I'm going to ask next. How much in today's dollars would $7.5 million be worth? Fortunately there are plenty of web sites on the Internet that will calculate the time value of money for us. I picked this one just because. Here's the result.

$7,500,000.00 in 2003 had the same buying power as $9,519,112.77 in 2013.
Annual inflation over this period was 2.41%.


Now, I know CCP didn't have 500k subscribers in 2003. This is a thought exercise. Let's assume they did. If they had that many on 2003, and they sunk all of that $7.5 million into EVE Online development, they would now, today, need to spend $9,519,112.77 to match what they did back then. That's an increase of 21.2%. If you equate that to subscriptions, there would now have to be 606,056 subscriptions to EVE Online to match the buying power of 500,000 subscriptions 10 years ago. That is certainly not the case.

Now I know a lot of you are now thinking, "but there has been positive growth in subscriptions for most of the past 10 years. CCP is making more money now, and doesn't have a time loss of value issue." Do you know that for a fact? Let's find out, and since graphs are alway cool, I've done a couple to illustrate whether CCP has an inflation problem.

Here's a graph of EVE Online subscriptions taken off Wikipedia.org:

[caption id="attachment_2310" align="aligncenter" width="800"]EVE Online: Active Subscribers Worldwide EVE Online: Active Subscribers Worldwide[/caption]

I've snipped it out so the image includes the number of subscribers for each year. I'll be using those numbers to replace the 500k subscription assumption above. The $15 a month charge per subscription assumption I will keep. Next is a graph of how much money those subscriptions brought in, per month, adjusted for inflation since 2003. In other words, the amounts I'll show aren't the actual number of dollars paid to CCP, but the value of what they got after inflation took its toll on the amount.

[caption id="attachment_2312" align="aligncenter" width="800"]EVE Online Revenue Adjusted for Inflation EVE Online Revenue Adjusted for Inflation[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2320" align="alignright" width="580"]ST:TOS Doomsday Machine ST:TOS Doomsday Machine[/caption]

That's quite a gap growing there. I kinda reminds me of the image to the right. I think anyone can see that's not good. But, it is still growth. However, let's look into the future. Let's assume CCP has attracted all the gamers who enjoy gritty, in your face, hard as hell, PvP action. Let's assume they will not have any more Chinese servers bolstering their official subscription numbers. What's the revenue of the next ten years look like? To understand that, we need to predict future inflation, and that's impossible (for me, though there are some really cool economic models out there... sorry, tangent.) Fortunately we can look at the last decade and make a fairly good assumption about what inflation will do. Inflation will remain about the same. The calculator I choose showed inflation to be 2.41% on average over the past decade. Let's use that average for the next 10 years and see where CCP's revenues are if subscriptions remain flat, shall we?

 

[caption id="attachment_2314" align="aligncenter" width="800"]EVE Online Projected and Adjusted Revenue through 2023 EVE Online Projected and Adjusted Revenue through 2023[/caption]

Let's look at it a different way. What is the investment per subscription CCP made on a given expansion? For me the best expansion ever was Apocrypha, released on March 10, 2009. That was when wormholes first appeared for those who need the reference. In 2008, the year that paid for that expansion (and the year I started playing EVE Online,) CCP brought in $36 million if you take the $15 monthly subscription fee as gospel. If all that revenue went into the expansion, that was a $180 value to each subscription. If they spent that amount of money on an expansion today, because of inflation the value per subscription would only be $162, regardless of the number of subscriptions. How long before players start to feel they aren't getting enough return value for their money?

One last thing I'd like to ask. Who pays $15 a month to play this game? I don't.

This has been a fairly rudimentary look at why growth and expansion is necessary for any company to survive. There are many more variables one could look at, most of them negative, but the gist of the issue is over time money loses value. This is why we put retirement investments into 401k plans and not mason jars. I agree with the capsuleer who emailed me when she pointed out there's a problem if CCP can't provide a fun game for $4.5 million. Next year they won't have $4.5 million if the status quo maintains. They'll only have $4.5 million times 0.9759%. And each year thereafter it becomes less. Without growth or expansion to offset inflationary loss, investments in the game dwindle, until eventually it won't be enough to give players what they want. Then the players will move on. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel when that starts to happen, and it flickers with the red glow of a bonfire, not the steady brightness of award night.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Building Better Worlds for Whom?

I've been at Norwescon 37 all weekend, but that doesn't mean I didn't read the dev blog Building Better Worlds before I left. It doesn't mean I haven't thought about it constantly since last Monday. It doesn't mean I haven't read Jester's initial post on the subject here, or Eve Hermits post on the subject here, or much more importantly, K162's posts on it, herehere and here. As I see it, Jester means well and is a very knowledgeable EVE Online player with the inside track on these changes, though he can't talk about it. But he's a PvP player first and foremost. He himself has admitted he uses industry and PvE to pay for his PvP habit like so many multi-account players. EVE Hermit is also a knowledgeable player who actually concentrates on industrial matters first and doesn't just pursue it in an Alt capacity to support his PvP. But when it comes to things industrial, my personal go-to blog is K162. That's what corporation industry is all about. They do it right in my opinion, so I pay close attention to anything written there.

What K162 tells me is to pay attention to Douglas Adams: don't panic. This industrial revamp is nothing to go all Yosemite Sam over. In fact, it really shouldn't be all that much of a surprise to anyone who's been following CCP's dev blogs and interviews over the past several expansions. For those who need it spelled out, they put it right at the very start of the Building Better Worlds post. The summer industrial revamp (it really isn't an expansion unless you count it as foundation for a later expansion) adhere to policies CCP has been following for quite some time.


  1. Any industry feature must have an actual gameplay attached to it in order to exist

  2. Any industry feature must be balanced around our risk versus reward philosophy

  3. Any industry feature must be easily understandable and visible to our player base



These are not things they invented just for the industrial revamp. There was never any doubt in my mind they would apply to such a redesign, if such a redesign were to ever happen. Now the cat's out of the bag, I'm not shocked by it. From and EVE Online industrialist perspective, there's nothing wrong and there is actually quite a bit right about it.

But it is wrong nonetheless. It's all about that first item above. Who determines what "actual gameplay" is? CCP is probably the only game company who takes it upon themselves to make that decision. I don't mean that they allow certain gameplay and disallow other gameplay. They are not so blatant about. They do, however, favor certain gameplay over others and that is writ large on this revamp.

That said, it's obvious I'm concerned with the direction CCP seems to be going overall. I prefer one of the gameplay styles CCP does not favor. You see, I evidently have committed the horrible sin of not generating player content. The same goes for EVE Hermit. He too will suffer for this revamp along with every other casual industrialist in EVE Online. This revamp isn't about making industry better for us. It sends an ultimatum. Play our way and don't expect any sympathy from us when you can't make any ISK to continue playing this game. This is our game and we say what is a good gameplay and what is not.

A couple of weeks ago I received an in-game message from one of my readers. He had a very specific question for me. I want to share that question and my response because it outlines my overarching concerns about EVE Online. Here's the question.

A while back you had a post about how Eve was not able to keep the new subs that came from the huge super cap battle. I was a bit confused because a short time later CCP released a dev blog indicating a large number of people had continued past their trial. Then I read Jester's post indicating the same. Jester wrote that his numbers could be off simply because an insufficient amount of time had passed since the event. I look at the numbers now and it appears there was a peak, but now it's gone.

What's your take on this? Did CCP gain a bunch of new subs, then lose them or do you think there was a net gain for CCP?

I'd also love to hear any thoughts you have on the future of Eve. I always considered Jester an optimist, but recently he's had some negative blogs about the future of Eve. What's your take here as well. Oh, and today we get a survey that focuses on PVP? That has to mean something.


These questions are precisely what I've been asking myself for well over a year. I've thought a lot about EVE Online not from a gameplay perspective, but from a gamer perspective. My concerns for EVE Online are not about the gameplay as my answer to the questions asked above illustrates.

I play a lot of different games. I've played EVE Online longer than any of them. That speaks to its allure even to people like me who don't particularly enjoy PvP. That said, I know I am not the average gamer in this world. The average gamer will not devote hours and hours a session to get somewhere - to unlock achievements if you would. That's where I believe EVE Online is weak. There is not much you can do in the game in a 30 minute stretch. I can go through an entire League of Legends game in 30 minutes. The same goes with Starcraft II. In The Elder Scrolls Online, my latest addiction, I can do something worthwhile in 30 minutes any day of the week.

When large events like B-R happen, people read about it and think, "Wow, I want to be a part of that!" So they subscribe. They may even understand that EVE is hard, that it has a very steep learning curve. Most gamers aren't afraid of steep learning curves. It's what we do after all. But when these new player find out it can take three hours just to reach a very small goal, they often realize they can't devote that sort of time to the game.

The other thing they want is to keep those achievements they've earned. In most MMOs, that's a foregone fact. You earn special armor in TESO, you keep it. No one can take it from you. In EVE Online, that's certainly not true. You can't dare undock in a pimped out ship because there is always a suicide ganker lurking nearby who feels that since they can't have it you can't have it. Instead, the only achievement system we have is the killmail system and that is too easily gamed. It makes no distinction between noobs and veterans on the killmail, so most PvPers would rather go after a noob. In fact, that may be the only PvP that lasts less than 30 minutes. Even PvPers can't spent hour after hour trying to get the "good fight."

That in a nutshell is what I meant about B-R not being able to give CCP a permanent increase in subscribers. There is no long-term reward in the game for those with only 30 minutes every other day to commit. And people with those time constraints are a vast majority of all the potential gamers who might want to try EVE Online. I think CCP already has those of us who can and will spend hours upon hours trying to "get somewhere."

And that is why EVE Online is not dying. It could probably go on like this for years. But EVE Online is also not growing. That is my biggest concern. In our world, companies who don't show year after year growth do not get the investments they need to expand. Lack of expansion means even less business interest in the company. It is not EVE Online I fear will die, it's the company that writes it. If CCP goes under, our game ends - period.

I believe CCP understands this. That is why we have DUST 514 and now EVE Valkyrie. That's expansion of the company. That brings interest and investment. But DUST 514 didn't pan out as much as CCP likely needed. EVE Valkyrie was absolutely (IMO) a god send. It likely really saved their bacon. I believed that even more strongly after their writeoffs of last year. The only reason you keep something on the books like obsoleted code is to pad them. Padding the books means nothing good in the business world, nothing at all.


This was obviously written before the World of Darkness announcement. That announcement only heightens my concern. The last paragraph is billed as something positive, but is it really?

Although this was a tough decision that affects our friends and family, uniting the company behind the EVE Universe will put us in a stronger position moving forward, and we are more committed than ever to solidify EVE as the biggest gaming universe in the world.


Here's another view of that statement: all their eggs are in one basket now. With this revamp and its bent toward group play, you can surmise they only like white eggs. That is horrendously frightening from my gamer point of view.

Still, it is not necessarily wrong for CCP to feel this way. At the con Saturday I was talking to a friend, Tanaku Green, about EVE Online and more specifically DUST 514. He is not an EVE Online player. He is, in fact, a Blizzard Boy - no offense intended. But he is absolutely fascinated by the idea of being able to affect the EVE Online universe from the first person shooter console game that is DUST 514. And guess what: you can do that in a 30 minute gaming session. You can help make a difference even if you have limited play time - like the 99.9% of gamers who don't play EVE Online.

Of course, there is risk in tieing your company to one product and then narrowing supported gameplay to large-scale operations. We'd like to think of EVE Online, DUST 514, and EVE: Valkyrie as separate products. That is not entirely true. One universe means one core development process. They are all tentacles on the same octopus. Shoot the Octopus between the eyes with a spear gun and all the tentacles curl up lifeless. Octopi have a highly efficient body plan, but it's not the most redundant ever evolved.

But hey, what do you expect from a company whose #2 guiding principle on an industrial revamp is all about risk versus reward? They're putting your money where their mouth is. Just don't forget game developers are not immortal like capsuleers. The only game developers who look to be immortal at this point in history are Sid Meier and Chris Roberts. I think many EVE Online players are already familiar with Star Citizen. As a go it alone sort of gamer I know I am. How many of you know the next Civilization, due out this fall, is called Civilization Beyond Earth? Follow the link for Sid Meier above and watch the trailer folks - O M G. It's not MMO, but it supports up to 8-player games and it's C I V I L I Z A T I O N  I N  S P A C E. You know, I don't know any EVE Online PvPers who see this as competition, but believe this gamer when he says... this is competition. It's competition for my time and my money. Never forget there are far more of my type of gamer out there than those who are die-hard PvPers. Knowledgeable individuals like Doctor Nick Yee have shown this.

To all those PvPers who may have just read that and thought to themselves (or yelled at the monitor,) "Then go play another game you pubbie!" ...that's my point. There are folks who will do just that. They will walk away from EVE Online over this. They are in love with the space aspect of the game, not the PvP aspect of the game. They want blinged out ships, not questionable killmail lists. Sooner or later they tire of being suicide ganked undocking from Jita, and they go play elsewhere. That hurts EVE Online because in a game with only 500,000 subscriptions every real person counts. And this PvP or DIAF attitude eliminates real players, not just accounts.

There is one thing CCP could throw into this revamp that would make me not care about the nerfing done to high-sec time-limited gameplay. Just make it impossible to blow another ship up in high-sec unless it's an agreed upon duel or a war dec. That's it. Make it impossible to suicide gank anyone who chooses to stay in an NPC corporation and pay for bling with real money. If they pay for it, they should be allowed to keep it. That's what gamers of that ilk expect.

As for suicide gankers, if they want to shoot other players, force them to go to low-sec or null-sec too do it. If CCP is truly serious about their risk philosophy, then they must stop suicide ganking - and that means Burn Jita too. There is no risk in it for those that do it. I know. I was a member of an alliance with a suicide-gank wing for nearly a year. I remember well their laughs about blowing up stupid carebears in high-sec. If you don't do this CCP, then you'll only confirm your bias. So how about it? Do you have the guts to end suicide ganking in high-sec once and for all? Will you prove you are as willing to take your low-risk no-reward philosophy and apply it to so-called PvPers as readily as you apply it to players who prefer to live and work in high-sec for legitimate time constraint reasons?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Something I'd Like to See in KSP

This video was released yesterday by SpaceX.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UjWqQPWmsY?rel=0&w=1280&h=720]

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="503"]Destination Moon Destination Moon[/caption]

We players of Kerbal Space Program (KSP) know Squad developers are working diligently on an economic model for Kerbal Space Program. One of the things I'd love to see is researchable reuse technology to decrease the cost of launches. We are all familiar with the solid rocket boosters NASA used for decades with the Space Shuttle. They were reusable, after a fashion. I've heard various scientists and experts at various time discuss this and the consensus was the boosters, though reusable, did not really save as much money as one might think. Not nearly as much as most estimations. Some say the claims were more political than reality. I don't know if that's true or not. I am sure I could go about gathering data on expenditures, compare that with non-reusable booster costs and come up with my own conclusions. The information is public record after all. But I'm not actually interested in spending that much effort on something that is now history.

What I am interested in digging into is this F9R technology SpaceX is working on. It's fascinating and seems so damn retro when you look at old films like Destination Moon. My experiences with KSP tells me you shouldn't spend extra fuel lifting excess fuel out of a gravity well - if you follow my meaning. But fuel is also cheap. If the thrust to weight (TWR) of the rocket is sufficiently high to allow extra fuel for a controlled landing of the booster... why not do it? The booster no doubt costs a lot more than the extra fuel. And building such a booster in KSP today is more than possible. You just have to put some LT-2 landing struts as well as an RC-L01 Remote Guidance Unit on a Rockomax booster and you've got enough computer to land it safely. I suppose the real question is whether or not that'll be something Squad embraces when we finally get the Career Mode economic module. I certainly hope so.

Friday, April 18, 2014

First Full Set of Armor, Finally

[caption id="attachment_2287" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Lion Guard Armor - Full Set Lion Guard Armor - Full Set[/caption]

I had some down time between panels this afternoon and got in an hour of TESO. I've finally made it to 15th level and can now wear the entire set of Lion Guard Armor I earned two levels ago. I actually have a pair of greaves that give a better armor class, but frankly I love the look of a complete set and will take the 11 point hit. Besides, I make those black tights look absolutely smashing. ;-)

One thing I wish ZeniMax would have done was give a little extra bonus to having an entire set. It wouldn't have to be much, perhaps just a bit fast stamina recovery for having it all because it's made to work together. Unfortuantely all I get for having completed the main quest line in Glenumbra is a better look. I'll take it, but I'd really like ZeniMax to consider the other as well... after they get the bug fixes done of course.

I could leave Glenumbra now. I've got the first quest to take me outside Daggerfall's region. But I am going to stick around and find the five Skyshards I've not yet found. There's no reason to leave extra skill points on the table as it were. I'm turning into quite the tanky healer. Between spells, shield charge and puncture I can take most adversaries down before they even have a chance to swing. But, I can alway be better. So I'll seek out the remain Skyshards and then I'll take my leave. Until then, good hunting!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vintage Video Game

Found this tucked away in a corner at Norwescon 37. Haven't played it in decades. Hit the leaderboard on my first game. Awesome!

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="971"]Juno First Vintage Video Game[/caption]

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Checking In to Check Out

I've completed my CSM9 ballot. Go me.

[caption id="attachment_2273" align="aligncenter" width="733"]CSM9 Vote Registered CSM9 Vote Registered[/caption]

Unlike others, I have no recommendations or endorsements. We all know who's going to be elected for certain, and where the remaining slots will probably fall out. I simply went through Vote Match and picked those 14 that most closely matched my likes and dislikes. For any interested to know, here's how that fell out.

[caption id="attachment_2272" align="aligncenter" width="800"]CSM9 Picks CSM9 Picks[/caption]

It occurs that I've voted for Mike every single time. :) I voted for riverini because we have a past and it's my way of saying thanks! Alas, that doesn't mean it wasn't last place. He didn't fill out the Vote Match profile so I have no way to know if we actually agree on things. :/

Second to lastly - CCP... you have my attention in spades. I need to look at Building Better Worlds more closely before I run off at the keyboard, but DAMN this UI is a thing of beauty.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Proposed Manufacturing UI Proposed Manufacturing UI[/caption]

Lastly, I am going on vacation for the next week. My posts, if they happen at all, will be as sporadic as my online game play will be. I am going to Norwescon 37. I'll say hello to Michael Moorcock for y'all. With any luck, I'll get to have a drink with Seanan McGuire. Nothing like that you pervs. We have a mutual friend. The con actually looks to have an excellent gaming schedule too. Table top may be old school, but it's fun as Red Dwarf. Maybe I'll take some pics and post them. Maybe I'll be too busy playing. I'm not going to commit either way. :-P

Also, DFTBA. :D

Cheers!

 

BB55: Famous or Infamous

Last Blog Banter we talked about heroes in EVE Online. The followup to that topic has been provided by Wilhelm aka The Ancient Gaming Noob:

Write about somebody who is "space famous" and why you hate/admire them, somebody who isn't space famous but you think should be or will be, or discuss space fame in general, what it means, and how people end up so famous.


I'd like to add another take on the subject, is there a cost of being famous in EVE and if so, is it worth the price?





This may get a little OOC. You are warned.

I'm not space famous, not really. I certainly don't have the following of Rixx Javix or Jester. But I have been in the limelight, thanks to the most space famous capsuleer of all. There are those who tell me, perhaps not every day but often enough, they love my blog. I've been asked advice because of what I write. I've been treated with contempt because of what I write. I've learned a few small things about fame because of it.

But that isn't the sum total of my experience. I'm nobody really famous mind you. My only claim to fame was a long, long time ago. But it made me a big fish in a small pond, so to speak. I became known as, "that guy who <insert accomplishment here.>" You see, I still don't want to just come straight out and say it. Humility, and knowing the whole story, prevent me from blowing my own trumpet. Unfortuantely it's something other people, well intentioned as they were, loved to pull out at gatherings and say, "hey, did you know he <insert accomplishment here?>" Then I'd blush and stammer and wish I were anywhere else. I've very strong emotional baggage tied to <insert accomplishment here.> It makes me very, very uncomfortable to discuss it with people who don't really know me, and that means all of you for all intents.

For the longest time I worked very hard to keep my personal identity and my gaming identity separate and secret. I didn't want people from either side of that fence to know about the other side. It wasn't always acceptable to be a gamer. At best it was seen as a total waste of time. At worst it brought into question my "maturity." "Maturity" was very important in my former occupation. The cool of being a gamer didn't come around until midlife for me. Yet I was still very hesitant to let the two worlds mix until recently. I felt it'd be oil and water at best. At worst, the oil might be on fire when it hit the water.

If you don't grok what I'm talking about, here's an example. I used to do medieval re-creation. You know, where you put on armor and hit each other with sticks. (Now THAT's PvP!) Anyway, the son of one of my martial instructors had recently returned from a tour in Iraq. He'd been in Baghdad, patrolling Sadr City. He'd been promoted to squad leader early in his deployment for the worst possible reason, if you follow my meaning. Anyway, we were palling around between fights one day and I inadvertently mentioned <insert accomplishment here.> I liked to have died when this recent combat vet began to praise me, loudly, for what I'd done. Like it even compared to what he'd done. Something he would not talk about except to say that's where he'd been the last year.

It's odd, but the only good analogy I've ever found for the way I feel about <insert accomplishment here> are combat vets like him. You know, you can tell a real combat vet by the way they NEVER talk about it. I've run into people who claimed to have done this or that in our recent conflicts. I can tell you to a man and woman they likely did no such thing. They might have been there, but the likelihood of them being the hero they claim to be is hooey.

So why tell you all this? Because I was gobsmacked by what I see as an insouciant lead-in paragraph to this blog banter. "We talked about heroes in EVE Online," followed by, "discuss how people end up so famous." [1] In my experience, heroes never seek fame. It's the last thing they want. Every time they hear, "here's the hero," it reminds them of things they'd just as soon expunge from their brains with steel wool. Perhaps they have fame thrust upon them, but they don't want it. How many times have you heard a firefighter or paramedic say, "I was just doing my job," after pulling a child from a fire or a wrecked vehicle? The answer is, "all the time."

So how does that work in a game? It doesn't. It's a game. Real life and death isn't a game, but we don't have real life and death in EVE Online. We are immortal. It's odd, but I now think about the previous blog banter and wonder if there can ever be real heroes in EVE Online. Is The Mitanni a hero? Only to those who idol-worship him, but they've made an error of definition (more on that in a bit.) Okay, that's too harsh. Goonswarm looks up to him a lot, but they don't idol-worship him. Do they? Nevermind. Moving on. Is Gevlon famous? Well, yes, in certain circles he's quite famous. In the rest he's infamous. The same is true of The Mittani. But I do not see them as heroes any more than I see myself as a hero.

There is a far better real world example for how a person becomes famous in EVE Online, or anywhere else. Just look at all the famous (or infamous) people the media tabloids just love to write about. To practically a person, none of them are heroes by the definition I've outlined above. Yet all of them are famous or infamous as society judges it. It's so obvious to me how a person becomes famous either in RL or in EVE Online: be outrageous, self-promoting, vocal, passionate about your place in the world order, and even a little narcissistic. Those traits aren't wrong. But none of those attributes would I ever assign to a hero.

Perhaps those traits are the price of being famous. But I think they're a red herring. The real price you pay is being snared by those with an error of definition. They are the ones looking for heroes to worship, for role models. They often confuse those seeking fame with heroes. They'll put you on a pedestal. Then they'll expect you to act like a hero. But you can't, because you'd walk away from fame if you were. And that's why the famous always let us down. We think of them as heroes. We expect them to be better than we are. But they are just as flawed as us. We just choose to believe otherwise, until they fail to live up to our unreasonable expectations of them. From the heights of that pedestal the fall can be painful. Just ask Tiger Woods, or The Mittani.

Still, in the all and all I think The Mittani would say it was worth the price. It earns him a living now, and he's helped others further their goals as writers. I don't know if any other EVE Online players can claim that distinction (riverini? Chribba? Somerset Mahm?) but I know of a fair number of other gamers who can. They have all found fame, and that fame lead to rewards. It's basically a matter of perseverance and luck; mostly perseverance. Also, an unabashed drive to blow one's own horn doesn't hurt. Oh, and you must play the part others want you to play. That last bit is very important. Just ask Jester. His post on the Bonus Round  got Erotica 1 banned. I'm certain that hurt his street cred both with other capsuleers and with CCP. Yet I had the same stance and it hurt me not at all. It was the role I was expected to play. Those who held me in contempt before my posts on the subject still do. But I will confide, I picked up a healthy dose of new readers because of it. Most of them don't play EVE Online. I'm good with that. I'm fairly certain Jester got the horns. All because it wasn't his prescribed role to call Erotica 1's actions reprehensible.

Yeah, that's got to be the real price the famous pay. To become a slave to the role into which they've been slotted. The longer their fame lasts, the more confined they become. It's like a prison cell where more bars are added every month reducing the area you have to walk around. I suppose the trick is to make it a gilded cage, where you get to say what you want without fear of hacking off those who put you there. In that regard, I think Rixx got the formula right. The same might be said for Sindel, and even Nosy. Nosy is famous after all. He's the guy with the inside line on all things RMT. There are many others, and they all play their role. Most enjoy it, so long as the don't want to expand beyond the role they've been typecast into. The trick is to pick the role you like most, stick with it, and hope your feelings about it don't change later.

But there are times when a role gets twisted into something different. Then you just have release control to the will of the masses and go with it. Have a look at Roc Weiler. Is his blog about EVE Online, or physical fitness/self-improvement? The truth is, EVE Online led to where he is today, but one article in a major publication changed his assigned role forever. Kudos to him for rolling with it. Had he not done so, he would have continued to eke out a readership blogging about EVE Online, but I doubt he'd have 1,809 followers listed on his front page like today. That's fame! Now he just has to keep those abs tight, and hope he doesn't get tired of the constant diet and exercise. Oh, and stay away from out of character activities, like shoving Big Macs in your face. Cell phone camera's are everywhere Roc! ;)

 

[1] Edited for clarity of point.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Killing Angof (Spoiler Alert!)

I don't normally do this, but I was so damn happy with the end of this quest line I just can't resist. One of the things I'm really enjoying about The Elder Scrolls Online is the way quests build on each other. It's so... Elder Scrolls. :D

The main quest line in Glenumbra is no different. I guess it really starts with saving the Wyrd Tree, and then continues with defeating Faolchu in Camlorn. It then moves on to Faolchu's master, Angof the Gravesinger. None of these fights are easy, and there are many side quests you need to complete as well to get "all the goodies." I actually had the easiest time with Faolchu. My learning curve was steepest with saving the Wyrd Tree. By the time I got to Angof, I fairly well understood how ZeniMax has designed these one person bosses.

To avoid the massive damage of their primary attack, there is a protection area you must get to. If you fail, you die. The protection areas are different in nature from boss to boss. I'll let you figure out how they're different. Just telling you to get to them or die is enough. You can't defeat the boss without them unless you are way over level.

But with Angof, it actually wasn't enough. ZeniMax didn't lie when they said the boss monsters would be tough and require players to do more than just barrel in and start hacking. That is so true. I won't tell you how many attempts it took to get this one right, but I will tell you there is a one in the number and it's the highest number. :P

So, without further adieu, here is Killing Angof for your enjoyment.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJYMcLy4zMw?rel=0&w=1280&h=960]

This is the last step in getting the Lion Guard armor set. I was so excited to get the final piece, and so crushed I had two more levels to go before I could wear it. :( I did this at level 12 and completion bumped me to 13. I would so recommend you wait until level 14 at least. It's a really tough fight, the toughest I've had. Don't let this two minutes of calculated mayhem fool you.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

EVE Online Economy versus TESO Economy

ZeniMax, the developer of The Elder Scrolls Online, had an interesting tweet just before the weekend started. I saw it, but didn't really know what to think of it. Here's the tweet.

https://twitter.com/TESOnline/status/454337651722964992

Here we have a game developer not only supporting, but advertising a third party auction site for in-game items. This isn't really all that surprising. I know 3rd party sites have existed for a long time. Sites whose only purpose is to facilitate the sell of in-game items for game currency. In many games I've played these sites are tacitly approved so long as they don't cross the line into RMT territory. But ZeniMax has gone beyond tacit approval. They've actually sponsored the site lending spiritual capital if not hard cash. And I don't think this tweet was an afterthought either. The first TESO bot bans were handed out on Friday. Tell the players about a legitimate way to trade, then the next day ban those who facilitate cheating. That's a pointed message.

I expected this sooner or later, and I'm relieved to see it is sooner. I can't speak to the efficacy of ZeniMax's anti-botting campaign, but at least they seem to have one. That's more than can be said for a lot of new games, especially those that are free to pay. I've always been a staunch believer in, "you get what you pay for." No, none of this is surprising.

What I find surprising is this statement about the TESO economy by gameplay designer Nick Konkle in an interview with Shoddy Cast.

"You don't necessarily want to do a global auction house for a game with one giant server because that generally leads to all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices. A lot of times that can trivialize the game. You cannot have a healthy economy when there are no restrictions on getting the best stuff in the game."


Whoa, really? The very first thing that leaped into my mine was EVE Online of course. I wasn't the only one who thought that either by some of the comments I perused. Obviously EVE Online has a giant server. It may be the most giant server of any game company. I don't know for fact. But it's certainly very large. But obviously that has not led to, "all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices."  Quite to the contrary, the best stuff is almost prohibitively expensive to all but the richest capsuleers. And some things are really only affordable to large corporations and alliances - you know, like Titans.

So what is the difference in ZeniMax's game versus CCP's game? Why do they feel they have to handle a mega-server economy so differently? That's a very interesting question. Let's have a discussion about it. Here's what I think to get things rolling.

In EVE Online, it takes a long time and many, many resources to build a Titan. As for individual items, Officer drops are rare. Rare enough they don't flood the market. Also, items in EVE Online are destructible. The only destruction I've found in TESO is to sell things back to a merchant. Even then you can buy it back within a certain amount of time, so the item really isn't destroyed. I've checked. Things I sold days earlier were still available on the buy-back list. That certainly is NOT the way EVE Online works. That's what preventing the "no restrictions" issue (see last sentence in quote above) means in EVE Online. Not limiting who can sell the items, as TESO does with Guild owned stores allowed only in PvP keeps. In EVE Online, the item drop is restricted. In TESO, it's the player's opportunity to sell that's restricted. TBH, I prefer the EVE Online method. But I've precious little experience in the TESO method.

So, which would you prefer, and why?

Friday, April 11, 2014

YouTube Live Versus Twitch.tv

Over the past several weeks I've been testing two live streaming providers. Everyone knows about Twitch.tv. It is THE de facto leader in-game play streaming. But it isn't the only option. Recently Google began a live streaming service through YouTube. As I already have a YouTube account setup for videos I've done previously utilizing Fraps, I wanted to see how YouTube Live compared to Twitch.tv. The final result of the comparison actually surprised me and not for a reason I would have ever guessed. But I'm not going to tell you about that until the end. No tl;dr for you my dear reader, or your little dog! Muwhahahahahahaha. >:D

Since this is a blog post about live streaming, I'd be remiss to not mention how you live stream. Let's do a quick side jaunt into that arena. The first thing you can do, which is relatively simple, is see whether or not the game you want to play supports streaming as a built-in function of the game. For example, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag allows you to stream your game play directly to Twitch.tv by simply giving it your Twitch.tv stream key. But, this only streams one game, and most of us play many games and want to stream them all.

That's where Open Broadcast Software (OBS) comes in. OBS is a free application that will allow you to stream anything running on your computer. You don't even have to stream games. You can stream tutorials on how to set up OBS. Here's a really decent one from gotembro. Now that I've supplied that link, I don't have to tell you how to do it. That's good, because that isn't the point of this post. However, I do want to point out a couple of things he doesn't mention. The one that I find most glaring is that you can't use "Monitor Capture" or "Window Capture" to stream all games. For example, let's go back to Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. With that specific game you must use "Game Capture." And what's more, you have to run OBS in administrator mode to do it. OBS will warn you about that if you attempt to stream a game that requires administrator mode, but it's a pain in the you know what to shut down and restart everything. So point #2 is to just run OBS as an administrator from the launch icon. That'll avoid the issue altogether. There's your "pro" tip of the day. ;-)

So in that tutorial, gotembro covers how you get your Stream Key from Twitch.tv and where to input it into OBS. YouTube Live is a little different, but not all that different. But first, you'll have to request Live Streaming for your YouTube account. Go to your YouTube Account Settings Overview page. Under Additional Features, there is an option to "View additional features." Click that link.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="425"]View additional features on YouTube account. View additional features on YouTube account.[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="258"]YouTube Additional Features Page YouTube Additional Features Page[/caption]

Once you are in Additional Features, you will see a list of features available to you in the lower half of the display. Live events is one of them.

Mine currently shows a green dot for a status. That means it's turned on. Before it is turned on, it will be a button that says "Enable" just like Monetization currently has above. Just click that button. In no time at all you should have a confirmation live streaming is active on your account. Once it is active, you will have a Live Events item under your Video Manager settings.

Clicking on that item shows a list of scheduled broadcasts and the "New live event" button (see below and to the left.) It is possible with YouTube Live to schedule broadcasts ahead of time and then advertise the place (your channel) and time of the broadcast automatically via Google and any other social media to which YouTube supports direct connects. This is not something I've seen in this exact manner with Twitch.tv. You can advertise the time of your next broadcast to be certain, and there are connections to social media to make it easier, but you can't stack them one after the other like a T.V. listing and provide that list to your viewers in quite this way. I find it more functional. You also get reports on your stream by way of Google Analytics, as well as complete tie in to all your other Google services. It's more an environment than a monolithic broadcasting island.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="428"]YouTube Live Events YouTube Live Events[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="282"]OSB Broadcast Settings OSB Broadcast Settings[/caption]

But let's get back to streaming using OBS. There is a significant difference between how Twitch.tv allows streaming from a 3rd party program and how YouTube does it. With Twitch.tv you get one stream key. That key will work "forever" - or at least a long time. With YouTube, every single Live event has its own unique key. That unique key must be put into the OBS Broadcast Settings each time. It's more hassle than Twitch.tv with it's single key.

It's only a few extra key strokes to do the copy/paste, but it also keeps you from just clicking "Start Streaming" in OBS to get going. YouTube requires more planning. In fact, it requires considerable more planning because it verifies the quality of the stream before it actually allows you so send it out. After clicking on the New Live Event button, you get the set up screen shown below to the left.

On this screen you want to look at the bottom first. See the two types of stream you can do? You must choose "Custom" is you are going to stream a game via OBS (or any other software.) The "Quick" option is only for Google Hangouts and it only works with webcams. Going up the page, the next section is where you set your advertisement options and who can see the stream. Above that you have your standard tag and description section. At the top, you have the title and the date and time field. You do not need to add an end time, but the option is there nonetheless. The start time does not have to be in the future. If you want to "immediately" stream, set the start time to some time in the past. Your stream will already be "in progress" as far as YouTube is concerned when you get to the next screen. Oh, and the Advanced Settings tab is just your standard YouTube video Advanced Settings tab you've always used. It's now time to create the event, starting with the most important configuration page of all.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="379"]Setting Up YouTube Live Encoding Setting Up YouTube Live Encoding[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="421"]Create a New Live Event Create a New Live Event[/caption]

The next page in the event creation sets up your encoder settings. This is where you tell YouTube Live what your streaming software is. Google promotes Wirecast and supports the Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) directly. But it also supports any "Other Encoders" that adhere to the YouTube Live standard, such as OBS. At this point you select the ingestion bandwidth most suitable to your Internet connection speed and then select "Other Encoders." Have a look at the "Recommended settings" in item #1. Configure OBS to match. You should only have to do this once. It won't change again. Below that you see the "Stream Name." That is the same thing as your Twitch.tv Stream Key. That is the thing that changes for every broadcast. Just copy and paste that "Stream Name" into the OSB "Play Path/Stream Key" field. Once you've done that, click on "Save changes" at the top right corner of the page. Then click "Live Control Room" to go there.

If you have not started your stream yet, you will see a warning at the top of your Live Control Room page. To make the warning go away, all you need to do is start your stream in OBS. You will then get a page that looks like the one to the right. In the middle of that page you will get a real-time evaluation of your stream quality.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="377"]Live Control Room - Oops Live Control Room - Oops[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="383"]Live Control Room - Good Live Control Room - Good[/caption]

This is YouTube Live's version of Twitch.tv's Dashboard. However, you are not yet live. You are in "Preview" mode. This is where you make certain your stream is actually good.

To preview your stream before committing to it, click the "Sync to preview player" option if available. Then click on "Preview."  YouTube will prepare the stream and then switch you to the "Preview Stream" page. If you could not select the "Sync to preview player" before, do so now. Then click on the play button in the center of your "Preview" video at the bottom. You should then see your stream in the "Preview" player. Verify your stream status is still good. When you are satisfied all is well, click on the "Start Streaming" button at the top.

You'll get a couple more messages from YouTube and then you'll be live. You can see a duration timer at the top as well as a view other new statistics like "Peak Concurrent" viewers. The "Analytics" tab gives you even more detailed information. You can also click the "View on Watch Page" option at the top of the page to see your stream as a viewer would see it. To get back to the Live Control Room just click on the Analytics option under the stream window.

To end your stream, click on the "Stop Streaming" button at the top of the Live Control Room page. Do not "Stop Streaming" in OBS first. If you do that YouTube Live will freak out. Tell YouTube first, and then you can stop the stream in OBS.

Wow, that was a lot of stuff wasn't it? It's a veritable YouTube Live how to article. It was necessary though. I think most gamers understand the basics of Twitch.tv. I felt it important to put YouTube Live on a semi-equal footing. Thanks for getting this far. Now I can tell you which one I decided to use and why.

For all it's more detailed set up requirements, I had to go with YouTube Live. I like that the streams go directly into my YouTube video channel when done. The hour-long stream I did took an overnight to fully process, but that's a damn sight faster than Twitch.tv. Twitch.tv's recent announcement they would no longer automatically archive streams was a real factor in my not going with them. In fact, not only do you have to specifically turn archiving on, they still will not keep archived videos forever. To make up for this, they allow you to upload to YouTube. But when you do, there is a big hairy warning that videos longer than 15 minutes might fail to upload, so would you like to break the videos into 15 minute segments. That's stupid. I know it has to do more with YouTube limits than Twitch.tv, but that does not change the fact I DO NOT WANT. For the record, I had no issue uploading my 30 minute TESO resource gathering video to YouTube when I said no thank you to the 15 minute splits. But it took over a day for it to get into my channel. The Live Events I recorded on YouTube Live took less than half that time and were twice as big.

But even with Twitch.tv no longer being an automatic "forever" video archive, I was still tempted by the simplicity of their stream now model. As you can see from the above, it takes more than a few minutes to set up a YouTube Live stream. Of course, I haven't tried to set up a forever stream with YouTube Live so I can use just one Stream Name forever. I don't know it YouTube would allow me to do it. But that's for another day. My heart was telling me to go with Twitch.tv because I really liked them.

I'm over that now. You see, I like watching my stream through my Xbox while I'm streaming. I've done that in the past, but I didn't realize it was because of WHEN I was doing it. During "prime time," which is quickly becoming any time, you have to meet Twitch.tv's requirements before they will broadcast your stream. So here's the dirty little secret about Twitch.tv that turned me off of them,

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="964"]Twitch TV Only Serves 300 Top Streamers Twitch TV Only Serves 300 Top Streamers[/caption]

If you read the whole thing via the link I provided, this was originally an Xbox related question. I found it because I couldn't find my channel with the Xbox Twitch.tv app search function. I didn't expect it to appear in the listings you can browse through, I just expected to be able to pull it up directly. I couldn't. It isn't part of the index fed to the Xbox, or any of the other Twitch.tv apps. I've confirmed this is true with the Android app as well. That's chicken shit in my book. It is now obvious to me that unless you're a game company or a very popular streamer (which means you're likely sponsored by a game company,) Twitch.tv isn't interested in you. At least YouTube treats my channel the same as any other schmuck just wanting to share a little fun with his friends without making money doing it. This is the biggest reason I'll be using YouTube Live from now on. If Twitch.tv isn't interested in what I'm about, I'm not all that interested in what they're about. I'm sure that's precisely what they're after. Meh. That said, I still think they are the place to watch gaming tournaments. And one other thing, you can't watch live streams through the YouTube Xbox app at all, at least not yet. I'm hoping that will change. At least you CAN watch YouTube Live via their other apps without Google injecting a limit in how many streams are accessible.

There, now you know why you've started to see more live streams out of me. I needed to settle on whether to use Twitch.tv or YouTube Live. There are obviously pros and cons for each service, and they change according to what you are after. But for now, YouTube Live meets my needs best. But as fast as things change on the streaming front, it looks like I may have to reevaluate all of this in six months. Oh joy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

TESO: Resource Gathering for New Players

For those who are new to The Elder Scrolls Online (Teso,) if can be a little daunting to figure out where one should go to acquire resources. During my last test stream (the reasons for that are mentioned in the video,) I ran a little circuit around Daggerfall explaining the deal on resources. If you are interested in becoming an crafter, this video should assist you in knowing how to go about "efficiently" gathering your resources. Or perhaps it doesn't. It is, however, the method I find most efficient. In the end, we all have to make our own way. I hope this helps you do that. And by seeing it perhaps it will be a bit more understandable.

The first 10 minutes is just about Mabrick the Templar, so skip to the 10 minute mark if you don't want to listen to the personal details. Don't harass me over my character build. It is not the build I will end up with long term. Currently I am putting points into heavy armor for survivability, but at some time in the future I will probably have to respec those points into medium armor. But that's all for a later post. For now, here's the video on resource gathering as a new player.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wnl9X9l0L2U?rel=0&w=1280&h=720]

As for the reason I was streaming, I hope to have that completed and ready tomorrow. Until then, enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's in It for Me?

As many of you currently suspect, I'm taking a bit of a break from EVE Online. There really is only one reason for this hiatus. Some people describe it as burn out. Well, that's not really an apt description as far as I'm concerned. Burn out is what happens when you've been working at something for so long you no longer care if you succeed or fail at it. That really doesn't apply to EVE Online as a game, though I suspect it applies to CSM members. There is no winning or losing an MMO - especially one as open ended as EVE Online. And I still very much care about the future of this game. No, burn out is not the problem.

It took me awhile to decide what the hiatus inducing issue is. I now have a pretty good idea. It was making me sick to my stomach. That's a really unfair thing to say though. There are only a few things about the game making me sick to my stomach. Well, actually there's only one thing making me sick to my stomach, and it really isn't the game itself. It's not a specific person, place or thing either. It's an attitude. A sense of entitlement that really makes me want to vomit. And to be certain, it isn't even a dominant attitude in EVE Online. It's a very small minority of an attitude. It's the attitude that EVE Online is a game and one can do whatever one wants to other players because "it's just a game," even commit transgressions going beyond the confines of common decency and respect for one's fellow human being.

No, this isn't just about Erotica 1. Get over that already. It actually has more to do with those who believe what he did is okay than he himself. And in that, it really means I just got tired of reading all the excuses other people could come up with to defend that sort of unacceptable behavior. It wasn't even that one event alone. It's everything I've experienced in the past six years of playing EVE Online, and the three years I've spent blogging about it. A sort of war weariness if you would. A feeling that no progress was being made, that no progress would ever be made, and that it was just one huge lost cause.

That lost cause feeling is still with me. What's more, I know it's a "wrong" feeling. As I said, this is a minority issue. There are so many wonderful people playing EVE Online - I can't even begin to name them without risking unintentional slights to the remainder. The list of people I really like is far, far longer than the list of people I dislike - or the few I actually despise. FYI, The Mittani is NOT one of them. I actually have a great deal of respect for the man, if not the character. And I don't dislike goons just because they're goons. They make very interesting debate opponents most of the time. No, the one's I dislike/despise I've had personal run-ins with. I'll leave it there.

It just started to seem it was the ones I disliked most, the truly abusive people who wore their characters as an excuse to act poorly, who occupied my every thought about EVE Online. I couldn't shake that preoccupation, and it threatened to invade everything I wrote about the game. You wouldn't believe the number of rant posts I started on this topic and ultimately deleted because they just were not productive. I couldn't let it continue. To let it continue risked a permanent dislike of the game, and that would be completely unfair. The game is not the problem here - at least not totally.

The problem probably has more to do with my wants and desires than the game itself. I do have specific desires for EVE Online I wish CCP would fulfill, and it's got nothing to really do with anything that would benefit me. I just want this game to be something more people want to play; where new players aren't intimidated so much they won't even log in. Is that such a bad thing? But to be the game I want it to be, it has to not be the game it is today. We've hashed this out so many times on this blog and others... I frankly don't want to read it all again. That's a dead end alley with no escape at this juncture. I'm just going to wait and see if anyone will make it a through street by demolishing the wall at the end of it. I figure that might take three years. Who knows except those that are NDA'd within an inch of their legal existence - and maybe not even them.

And speaking of NDA'd persons, it's time to elect another Council of Stellar Management. As in any election, the primary question voters have is, "What's in it for me?" Well, since no one seems to seriously think new players need a risk free zone when they start paying money to play this game, I don't really think there's anything in it for me at this point. No, that's not throwing the whole thing out over one issue, even if it is the biggest issue facing the future growth of this game. I'm still going to vote for CSM candidates. Even if that's only to have the right to bitch later about what they don't do for my "cause."

But you know, this is the ninth CSM we're electing. And I have to ask, has anything really changed? Oh, there have been nips and tucks here and there for which the previous CSMs can claim credit. But there is nothing on the books like the Child Labor laws a century ago, or Social Security was for Depression era workers, or Medicare was to elderly Americans half a century ago. There has been no serious improvement to EVE Online from my admittedly subjective point of view. At its roots it's the same game today as it was when I started playing it six years ago. There are those who think that is a good thing. I differ on that opinion. I'm certain there are more players who agree with me rather than don't. But they are a silent majority, and they seldom say anything. The certainly don't participate in CSM elections. They vote with their feet as the old saying goes. Regardless, go vote for CSM9, especially if you're part of the silent majority. Who knows, you might actually get what you want.

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