Monday, February 20, 2017

A Closer Look At The Nestor

Sometimes I think I don't appreciate the efforts the developers at CCP spend designing the ships they put into EVE Online. I normally fly the same set of ships, but last week finally completed building my Nestor. Flying the Nestor reminds me of a Swiss Army knife: very versatile, but perhaps not great at any one task.

One of the problems with the ship is that CCP tried to fit a square peg into a round hole. Designating the Sisters of EVE as a "pirate" faction doesn't quite fit the lore. Sure, the Sisters do a lot of underhanded things, some of which probably falls into the category of evil. But pirates don't often make a habit of rescuing people or manning refugee centers.

Since each pirate faction has a battleship, what type of ship would fit in with a group more likely to perform search and rescue work than become involved in massive fights? I would argue that the Nestor is more of a command ship than a battleship. Most battleships' mass comes in around 100 million kilograms. The Nestor, at only 20 million kilograms, masses half-again the amount of the average command ship.

What does a command ship for a fleet of exploration vessels that most often operate in multiple systems look like? Command bursts obviously do not work. Instead, we see the jack-of-all trades, master of none approach. Below is the in-game description of the Nestor:
"This was one of the first vessels the Sisters of EVE made available to capsuleers. It had been under development by the Sanctuary corporation, whose interest in exploration includes not only search & rescue operations but also a constant inquiry into the nature of the EVE Gate. Thanks to the Sisters' efforts and the Sanctuary's particular expertise, the Nestor is an agile, tenacious ship that aptly adheres to the mantra of both rescuers and explorers: Stay safe, stay hidden, and use every tool at your disposal.

"It is particularly adept at venturing into dangerous territories, not merely in recovering whatever may be of interest but also in being able to safely bring it back. Its engines have alternate power sources that come into play should any of its cargo - for which it has plenty of room - cause serious interference with internal systems. Its weaponry runs best on renewable sources, an ideal for a ship that doesn't know how long it'll be in deep space. Its carapace is extremely well armored for a ship this agile, and covered in sensors capable of letting its crew track a myriad of different organic signatures. The crew itself is safely protected from any number of transmittable ailments from rescues and other unexpected passengers, thanks to special quarantine bays that are conveniently located near jettisonable openings.

"The Sanctuary corporation poured uncountable resources into making the cloaking technology developed for the Stratios fit the Nestor, but were eventually forced to concede that it was impossible. The effort was not without benefit though, as part of their work focused on reducing the Nestor's mass enough that it could make its way into unexplored territories that might've been hazardous to bulkier vessels. This paid off by affording the Nestor unmatched access to wormhole space, and meant that the embedded miniature rescue vessel on the ship's hull could be relegated to a decommissioned role. With covert function off the table, the Sanctuary turned their eyes on logistics and now the Nestor serves as one of the best support platforms in New Eden."
As the description above indicates, the Nestor handles three main roles. The first is a combat role. The ship receives bonuses to drone hitpoints and damage as well as armor resistances and large energy turret optimal range. With both Gallente and Amarr battleship skills trained to 5, the Nestor's drones can dish out and take 50% more damage while receiving a 20% across the board boost to armor resistances. While the Nestor does not have a tech 2 resistance profile, a pilot who specializes in armor tanking can achieve an omni-tank of 60-65%.

The SoE salesperson who put together the ship description overstated the effectiveness of the Nestor's logistics capabilities just a little. The short optimal range of the remote armor reps is more suited to the old-school practice of warping off-grid to a location to receive repairs than the modern practice of receiving on-grid reps. Combine that with a working, if small, ship maintenance bay, and the Nestor can serve as a mobile repair base that removed the necessity of carrying around a mobile depot to make equipment changes.

The third function is one people laugh at: exploration. If one thinks of the Nestor as a battlecruiser hull instead of a battleship, the function isn't as laughable. The 50% role bonus the Nestor receives to core and combat scanner probe strength is the same that covert ops frigates receive for training the Covert Ops skill to 5. The ship also receives the same +10 bonus to relic and analyzer virus strength as covert ops frigates. I created a fit that might serve well. Admittedly, my skills almost all level 5 for the fit, so your results may differ.

Below are two fittings I played around with on Tranquility over the past few days. I did a little role playing with the fits, as the description states the Nestor does not know how long a mission will last. Since a mission could last a month or two, I decided to not fit any modules that required consumables to work. So I stayed away from tech 2 crystals, cap boosters, and nanite paste.

[Nestor, PvE Nestor]

Damage Control II
Reactive Armor Hardener
Large Armor Repairer II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Drone Damage Amplifier II

Omnidirectional Tracking Link II
Large Micro Jump Drive
Target Painter II
Cap Recharger II
Large Cap Battery II
100MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner

Mega Pulse Laser II, Ultraviolet L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Ultraviolet L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Ultraviolet L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Ultraviolet L
Large Remote Armor Repairer II
Drone Link Augmentor II
Drone Link Augmentor II

Large Anti-Explosive Pump I
Large Ancillary Current Router I
Large Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I

Bouncer II x5
Berserker II x5
Valkyrie II x5
Valkyrie II x5
Warrior II x5
Warrior II x5
Vespa EC-600 x5
Vespa EC-600 x5

The fit above is similar to my first attempt to theorycraft a Nestor fit back in October. In the high slots, I replaced one of the Mega Pulse Laser IIs with a Large Remote Armor Repairer II. I added the remote rep module in order to repair my drones. A couple of times my drones returned to my ship in structure so I figured I needed a way to repair them. The move also had the side benefit of requiring only one Large Ancillary Current Router I rig instead of the two I originally fit. The two Drone Link Augmentor IIs give a drone control range of 108km, which is useful for a module I stuck in my mid slots.

In the mids, I replaced the Tracking Computer II with a Cap Recharger II. I kept the micro jump drive for the mobility around the grid and well as the afterburner. The Large Micro Jump Drive sends a ship 100 km away from a ship's current location. With the drone control range provided by the two drone links in the high slots, hopefully using the MJD will not result in the loss of controlling any deployed drones.

Before continuing, I should say one thing about prop mods. The Nestor, in my opinion, requires one. The first time I ran a site in a Nestor, I thought I was using an oversized prop mod. That's a function of the ship's low mass. The 100MN afterburner eventually gets the ship up to 358 m/sec, but the ship handles like a pig. Without the prop mod on, the ship aligns in 6.55 seconds, which is 1.5 seconds faster than my Cyclone.

The lows I think are pretty vanilla, with a Damage Control II, Reactive Armor Hardener, Large Armor Repairer II, and 3 Drone Damage Amplifier II. When using Bouncer IIs, which I did due to the Guardian Gala, my drone damage, at least on paper, was 569 DPS. I'd like to think I apply most of the damage due to the presence of the Target Painter II and Omnidirectional Tracking Link II in the mids.

The rigs are expensive so have to work with both my fits. The Large Anti-Explosive Pump I is present to plug the explosive damage hole in my armor. The Large Ancillary Current Router I is present to allow the use of 4 Mega Pulse Laser IIs. The lasers are primarily used to draw aggro from the NPCs and I found 4 lasers and a target painter get the job done. Three lasers don't work quite so well. The Large Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I is what really gives the Nestor that command ship feel. The warp speed rig increases the speed of the battleship from 2.5 AU/sec to 3.0 AU/sec, the same as a command ship.

[Nestor, Hacking Nestor]

Damage Control II
Reactive Armor Hardener
Large Armor Repairer II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Inertial Stabilizers II
Inertial Stabilizers II

Relic Analyzer II
Data Analyzer II
Target Spectrum Breaker
Cap Recharger II
Large Cap Battery II
500MN Cold-Gas Enduring Microwarpdrive

Mega Pulse Laser II, Standard L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Standard L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Standard L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Standard L
Drone Link Augmentor II
Sisters Core Probe Launcher, Sisters Core Scanner Probe
Improved Cloaking Device II

Large Anti-Explosive Pump I
Large Ancillary Current Router I
Large Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I

Bouncer II x5
Berserker II x5
Valkyrie II x5
Valkyrie II x5
Warrior II x5
Warrior II x5
Vespa EC-600 x5
Vespa EC-600 x5

The hacking fit is pretty basic. In the high slots, I removed the remote armor repper and one of the Drone Link Augmentor IIs in order to fit a Sisters Core Probe Launcher and a cloak. With a sensor strength of 113 points, the ship should easily probe down any signature in high sec or low sec. The cloak is for the adventurous set willing to take a chance in more dangerous space.

In the mid slots, I left in the Cap Recharger II and Large Cap Battery II and changed the rest. The relic and data analyzers are just about mandatory for a hacking fit, while I swapped out the afterburner for a microwarpdrive in order to zip quickly between the cans.  The Target Spectrum Breaker is for those leaving high sec.

Removing the three drone damage mods in the lows and replacing them with a Nanofiber Internal Structure II and 2 Inertial Stabilizers IIs makes a significant difference. The align time drops down to 3.94 seconds while the maximum speed increases to 1300 m/sec.

All of the figures above did not use skill hardwiring. For example, using an Eifyr and Co. 'Rogue' Warp Drive Speed WS-615 in slot 6 increases the ship's warp speed from 3.0 AU/sec to 3.45 AU/sec. Trust me, the difference is really noticeable. But playing around with what you stick in your clone, especially with the really expensive skill wirings like the WS-615, is a personal preference.

I am having fun flying around in my Nestor running the Guardian Gala sites and collecting SKINs despite the fact I own no Gallente ships. One can't get the most out of a Nestor in high sec, though, as the combat sites one can probe down are restricted to cruiser-sized hulls and smaller. I just wish the ships weren't so expensive so that taking them into dangerous space made more sense. Yes, the Nestor can do a lot of things well, but more specialized ships can do them at least as well if not better and at a much cheaper cost. The ship is also very skill intensive to fly well. I personally wouldn't undock in something as expensive as a Nestor without having excellent skills. Still, for the veteran with a huge wallet wanting something new, a Nestor is an interesting ship to fly.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Achievement Unlocked: The Great White Battleship

In the middle of trying to keep up with the increasing number of candidates, I squeezed in some time to do a little mining in low sec over the weekend. I figured I needed to mine between four and six loads of hedbergite in order to get enough zydrine to finish making a Nestor.

As much as I've complained in the past about changes in low sec negatively impacting mining, I'd like to go over the changes I use whenever I mine in low sec. The big changes were the Higgs Anchor Rig, bookmarks visible in space, and adding a second mining turret to the Procurer.

The Higgs Anchor Rig, contrary to popular opinion, is not a rig designed to roll wormholes.  With the launch of Kronos in June 2014, Procurers received an increase in its base speed from 90 m/sec to 160 m/sec in order to combat the practice of miner bumping in high sec. In high sec, the tactic to prevent ganking is to remain in constant motion by orbiting an asteroid. But what works in high security space does not work in low. In low sec, the way to survive is to mine while aligned to a distant celestial object or bookmark. That way, when a hostile ship lands on grid, the miner can click one button and instantly warp off.

The problem with the speed increase is that mining while aligned required more changes in direction in order to remain in range of an asteroid or block of ice. The more changes in direction required, the more vulnerable a mining ship is, especially to cloaky bombers who have no decloak delay. By putting a Higgs Anchor Rig on my Procurer, I only have to change direction once to remain within mining range of an asteroid. An additional effect is that the Higgs Anchor Rig also makes a ship more agile, and thus quicker to align, than a regular Low Friction Nozzle Joints rig.

The change to the UI that allowed bookmarks to appear in space forever changed the way I mine. I try to have at least four points surrounding an asteroid belt to which I can align. Where celestial objects like planets, moons, other asteroid belts and stations are lacking, I make a bookmark to which I can warp. I also make a bookmark either above or below the belt that I can use to warp to in order to select the point in the belt I wish to enter.

The best part of bookmarks is the ability to either right-click on the bookmark and leave the "warp to zero" option up or use the radial menu to warp to the bookmark. Then all I have to do is click on the warp option to warp away. The expansion of the grid to a radius of thousands of kilometers in the spring of 2016 provides more warning time than ever before. Perfect for hanging around an asteroid belt for a mining cycle longer than is really prudent.

The final change involved changing the number of mining turrets on the Procurer from one to two. Yes, that means some increased costs as I need more mining crystals, but reducing the amount of micromanagement is well worth the cost. I probably love the change as much as Covetor/Hulk pilots hated losing a mining turret. Combined with the slower speed caused by the addition of the Higgs Anchor, I often can lock two asteroids, start up the strip miners, and not have to worry until the ore hold is full. Such a situation never happened when I only had one mining turret. In a dangerous environment like low sec, the less time spent managing my strip miners is more time I can spend paying attention to potential threats.

All three factors came into play yesterday while finishing up my mining of hedbergite. I was aligned to a bookmark, peacefully mining away. A member of SOLAR FLEET jumped into system, but given the distance the asteroid belt was to the system's jump gates, I knew he couldn't pick me up using the directional scanner. So I kept mining. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about my strip miners because I had selected a couple of big rocks. All I had to do was watch to see if a ship warped onto grid. Sure enough, a Hecate (the Gallente tech 3 tactical destroyer) showed up on grid about 50 km away. I hit the warp button and flew away to a bookmark on grid. I then calmly selected my station and warped away with about 1/3 of my ore hold empty. And once I was safely docked, I got the shakes.

After the Russian departed the system, I wound up finishing up my mining for the day in another belt I had bookmarked. Low and behold, I found another feature I like. A gang of Thukker Mix Skiffs quietly mining away. Since my standings with Thukker Mix are 7.95, I decided to join them. The only bad part of the experience is that I was so nervous about getting jumped that I forgot about trying to take a screenshot of myself mining with the NPCs. Perhaps next time.

I probably could have saved myself a million ISK in fees if I had built the Nestor in low sec. But I chickened out and moved the processed zydrine to a station in high sec and built the Sisters battleship there. I then completed the plan by purchasing a Damnation to fly alongside the Nestor and provide boosts. Now I only have to buy the fittings for the two ships and my quest is complete. I'm now the proud owner of a Nestor.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

CSM 12 Election: Never Go Full Kanye

Shots were fired yesterday in the CSM 12 election. Surprisingly, not by a candidate, but by a CSM 11 member who is not running for re-election. Apparently Mr Hyde113 does not like rhiload Feron-drake, the creator of the zKill series of YouTube videos. How much? So much he left this post in rhiload's campaign thread.:
As an outgoing member of CSM 11 who, along with Gorski, primarily focused on mechanics, balance, and small gang/solo issues, I must voice my strong opposition to the candidacy of rhiload, and urge those voters who care about these issues to instead back Suitonia, who is vastly more experienced and qualified, to fulfil this role on CSM 12. With the reduction in the number of CSM seats this year from 14 to 10, it is important that 'non-bloc' entities like the small gang/solo community further concentrate their top votes behind serious candidates that can bring a depth of understanding and experience to CCP on these topics, rather than wasting them on charlatans such as rhiload.

The success and popularity of rhiload's meme video series 'Zkill Guides' this year is undoubtedly impressive and has at long last brought a particular style of comedy video popular in other games to EVE. However, this success should not be misinterpreted as an indicator of his knowledge or experience on the topics of balance and small gang/solo PVP, but rather just as a showing of his ability to entertain and satirise. Unfortunately for him, neither of these skills are valuable or necessary in the role of a CSM member and would actually would detract from the hard work CSM 11 did to restore productive and serious relations with CCP by trivialising important discussions on balance topics.

Despite his comparisons to me in regards to garnering a CSM candidacy backing from videomaking success, I respectfully disagree with this false equivalency. I would instead draw comparisons between rhiload and CSM 10 member WingspannTT (Chance Ravinne) who demonstrated how youtube popularity without any substance to back it up, makes for a hollow and useless CSM member. Although I certainly encourage his continued content creation which brings a smile to many-an-EVE player, I want to warn prospective voters on the dangers of letting rhiload's comedic success propel him above his station.

Having spent many hours and days over the past year working with CCP to have game balance taken as an issue seriously, I cannot in good conscious allow an EVE youtube comedian to get away with exploiting his recent popularity to masquerade as an expert on a topic he is not qualified to speak on.

*I understand that rhiload may take this as a personal insult, however, I only voice this opposition because I care about this game and these topics, and have too much respect for the CSM-CCP relationship to allow a meme candidate to detract from the serious work of the council. I do not know him personally and am sure he's a nice person and dedicated player.
I'm not sure what set Mr Hyde113 off. Did rhiload's announcement video ruffle some feathers? Here's a screenshot that may not have gone over too well.

The figure displayed is Mr Hyde113
I'll also include the entire video below so you can judge for yourself.

Sometimes I think members of the CSM live in an isolated bubble. For instance, I believe a lot of posters found the following quote amusing:
"With the reduction in the number of CSM seats this year from 14 to 10, it is important that 'non-bloc' entities like the small gang/solo community further concentrate their top votes behind serious candidates that can bring a depth of understanding and experience to CCP on these topics, rather than wasting them on charlatans such as rhiload."
So here is Mr Hyde113, a member of Pandemic Legion, telling people to not vote for a member of a small, 80-character corporation, TURN LEFT, in favor of someone who belongs to Goonswarm Federation, the biggest alliance in the game. On the face of it, an absolutely ridiculous argument. Out of all those involved, the only one not a member of a major null sec bloc is rhiload. And with the number of candidates currently announced, people are going to look at labels like what alliance a candidate belongs to and use that as one of their first filters.

I kind of feel sorry for Suitonia. He has the handicap of running as a candidate in Goonswarm Federation without the benefit of appearing at the top of the Goon ballot. Now he has Mr Hyde113 pissing off voters looking to vote for a solo/small gang candidate to NOT vote for Suitonia. Will Mr Hyde's unintentional sabotage of Suitonia matter? We'll find out when the votes are announced at Fanfest in April.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Douglas And Rigby Plead Guilty To Running An Illegal FIFA Gambling Site

Back in September I wrote about Craig Douglas and Dylan Rigby, two men who made history as the first people charged with running an unlicensed gambling site connected to a video game. Yesterday, they made history again as they both pled guilty to the charges. According to the BBC:
The men ran a website called FUT Galaxy that let players transfer virtual currency out of the Fifa 17 video game, and use it to bet on real-life football games.

Winnings could then be transferred back in to the Fifa 17 video game.

But crucially, the Fifa virtual currency can also be sold on an online black market, giving the virtual coins real world value, like casino chips.

Similar betting websites connected to other video games also exist, and news site Bloomberg has suggested the market is worth billions of pounds.

Douglas, 32, from Ferndown, Dorset, admitted a charge of being an officer of a firm that provided facilities for gambling without an operating licence, and a further offence relating to the advertising of unlawful gambling.

Rigby, 33, from Colchester, Essex, pleaded guilty to two charges connected to the provision of facilities for gambling, and a third offence linked to advertising illegal gambling. [emphasis mine]
According to the BBC, the men did not break the law because they offered gamblers real life currency directly, because they didn't. The U.K. Gambling Commission didn't charge the pair because EA allows players to exchange virtual currency for real world cash, because it doesn't. Douglas and Rigby face jail time because of the existence of a secondary market dealing in FIFA 17 coins. To the British authorities, the fact that the sale of the coins for real currency broke the terms of service didn't matter. Due to the presence of the secondary market, FIFA 16 coins were considered "money's worth", and thus Douglas and Rigby needed to follow the gambling laws.

For those unfamiliar with the case, I suggest going back and reading my original post on the matter. With the latest development, I think I may have the law in the U.K. figured out.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The CSM 12 Election: Shrinking The Council From 14 To 10

After an extremely slow start to the Council of Stellar Management 12 election season, we finally reached 31 candidates with posts on the CSM Campaigns section of the EVE Online forums. As of midnight Monday EVE time, 4 of the 14 incumbents (Bobmon, Jin'taan, Steve Ronuken, and Xenuria) had created campaign threads.

The big news CCP released Friday was a reduction in the size of the CSM from 14 members down to 10. From the latest CCP announcement:
The size of the CSM has not been static and has changed several times. The current number of delegates is 14. When that number was first implemented, half the council consisted of alternates. Another change saw all 14 become full members with CCP committing to flying 7 members to attend on-site summits. During the last two summits we’ve invited all members to attend in person as a temporary measure to strengthen the CSM. We’ve now discussed future arrangements both internally, and with CSM 11, and we’ve decided to reduce the number of members to 10, all of which will be invited to summits.
I think everyone's minds started to ponder how does the change affect getting elected to the council. According to the wiki page that CCP points people to in order to understand the single transferable voting system used in CSM elections, "Systematically lowering the number of representatives from a given district directly benefits larger parties at the expense of smaller ones."

The chart above shows the vote totals plus the minimum number of votes needed to win a seat for all the elections in the one-year term era of the CSM. The numbers above are a bit confusing because they include elections using both first-past-the-post and single transferable vote systems. First-past-the-post is they voting system, "in which voters are required to indicate on the ballot the candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives more votes than any other candidate wins." So in the CSM 5, 6, and 7 elections, if a candidate received 1004, 921, and 1282 votes respectively, the candidate won.

In a single transferable vote election, candidates win if they reach the Droop quota. The Droop quota is explained on Wikipedia.
Sources differ as to the exact formula for the Droop quota. As used in the Republic of Ireland the formula is usually written:

  • Total valid poll = Total number of valid (unspoilt) votes cast in an election.
  • Seats = total number of seats to be filled in the election.

(The extra parentheses, while not strictly necessary from a mathematical standpoint, are often included in order to make the formula seem less ambiguous to non-mathematicians—if calculated out of sequence, an incorrect result would be arrived at, producing an incorrect quota.) It is important to use the Total Valid Poll, which is arrived at by subtracting the spoiled and invalid votes from the total poll.
The Droop quota is the smallest number that guarantees that no more candidates can reach the quota than the number of seats available to be filled. This gives the Droop quota the special property that it is the smallest integral quota which guarantees that the number of candidates able to reach this quota cannot exceed the number of seats. In a single winner election, in which STV becomes the same as instant-runoff voting, the Droop quota becomes a simple integral majority quota–that is, it will be equal to an absolute majority of votes.
While in theory every STV election should see the right number of candidates elected through reaching the quota, in practice many voters may only vote for a small proportion of the candidates on the ballot paper, such as only those candidates from one party, or even only one candidate. Those votes are known as 'NTs', or 'non transferable votes', and the effect of their removal from the total valid poll may be to reduce the total number of votes available to such an extent that the last candidate left in a race may not actually have enough votes to reach the quota. Nevertheless, in reality, as no other candidate may mathematically be able to overtake them as the candidate nearest to the quota, they may in such circumstances be deemed elected "without reaching the quota". The quota is in fact constructed to ensure that it is mathematically impossible for candidates to achieve the quota beyond the number of available seats.
As the entry in Wikipedia explains, not all winning candidates in CSM elections reach the quota. For example, last year the following winning candidates failed to reach the quota of 1491 votes:

  • Bobmon - 1152 votes
  • Sullen Decimus - 1034 votes
  • Nashh Kadavr - 1001 votes
  • Kyle Aparthos - 993 votes
  • Fafer - 964 votes

I ran the code for a 10-member election and the following candidates would have won:

  • Innominate
  • NoobMan
  • Jin'taan
  • The Judge
  • Bobmon
  • Xenuria
  • Mr Hyde113
  • Gorski Car
  • Aryth
  • Steve Ronuken

Of the 10 winning candidates, three would not have reached the 10-member election quota of 2033:

  • Xenuria - 1702 votes
  • Jin'taan - 1683 votes
  • Bobmon - 1209 votes

For those interested, Erika Mizune was the last candidate eliminated in both the 10 and 14 member elections. She also would have secured a seat on CSM 11 if Apothne had not dropped out due to health reasons.

So what does the reduction of the number of members on the Council of Stellar Management mean for the election? Expect the big blocs to dominate even more than they do currently. The domination is not guaranteed; the best example of a major alliance failing to elect a member onto the CSM is TEST. Also, a huge turnout would negate the advantages the big blocs possess. The lower the turnout, the more organization matters.

Perhaps the most important stat is the increased number of votes a candidate needs in order to win. For CSM 11, the last winning candidate would have required 25.4% more support in a 10-candidate election than in the 14-candidate election that actually took place. The application period still has 11 more days to go, but I have to wonder if anyone can break through the lock the major groups in EVE should have on the CSM.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Illicit RMT In EVE Online: How Much?!

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: how big is illicit real money trading in EVE Online? So I set forth to find out. In the past I have monitored a site that traffics in virtual currencies named Player Auctions. The website is kind of famous, although possibly not so much at the present time. In addition to appearing in the past in publications like the New York Times and Washington Post, academic researchers also use data from Player Auctions. In one instance, Indiana University's Professor Edward Castronova observed character sales on the site showing that players in Everquest valued male avatars more than female avatars (actual study here).

For my study, I recorded every transaction involving the sale of ISK I observed from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. I also recorded every transaction I observed involving the sale of skill injectors from 27 February 2016 to 31 December 2016. The numbers are lower than the actual totals as I know I missed many transactions. I'd like to think I did not miss more than 10% of the transactions, but I cannot confirm the number.

Over the course of 2016, I recorded 3,830 ISK sales by 117 unique sellers totaling just over 36 trillion ISK. I also observed 1,307 sales involving skill injectors totaling 19,376 injectors. With +5 learning implants and the proper skill plan, that comes out to approximately 425 years of character training. The total sales amount of the transactions in U.S. dollars almost reached $348,000. Throw in PLEX, character, and item sales and the value of sales on Player Auctions probably reached the $400,000 figure.

While those numbers are high, I'd like to put them into perspective by comparing them to the activity within the New Eden economy. In the region of The Forge, home of the game's main trade hub in Jita, players traded 1.419 quadrillion (1,419 trillion) ISK for game time. Basically, the sale of skill injectors is only 2.5% of the total ISK players exchange in Jita for game time on CCP's approved market.

The numbers surrounding the purchase of skill injectors is even more lopsided in favor of players following the games EULA and Terms of Service. Players traded 2,252,185 skill injectors in The Forge in 2016. That means that over 100 times more skill injectors were sold in the approved in-game market than were sold on Player Auctions.

While big, Player Auctions does not consist of the entire illicit RMT market. I would say that the site makes up a significant portion of sales. How much? I have always believed that the illicit RMT market surrounding EVE is about $2 million to $2.5 million. If Player Auctions handles 15%-20% of sales, then my estimate is reasonable.

Now that I have my data, I plan on doing analysis and post my work on the blog. I'm also working on covering the Council of Stellar Management election, so the graph porn may not occur right away. I do have a couple of ideas floating around in my head for posts I hope will interest people besides myself. With any luck, I'll have a few written before I head off to Fanfest.

Monday, January 30, 2017

What I Look For In A CSM Candidate

On Friday, the second CSM 11 summit will end and the application period to run for CSM 12 will begin. Upon the end of the summit, the incumbent members running will make their intentions known and we'll have some idea of the size of the field for the next council. Now comes the next question: how do you judge the candidates?

First, I try to judge a candidate's character. Members of the CSM need to work with CCP developers. Perhaps more importantly, members of the CSM need to not drive off CCP developers with really bad behavior. If the devs don't want to work with the CSM due to one or two asshats, that reduces the effectiveness of the CSM as a body.

CCP takes a dim view of extremist views. The classic case occurred during the CSM 8 elections when Fon Revedhort, a player who not only expressed white supremacist and racist views, but included neo-Nazi songs in his YouTube videos, was not allowed to run. The post by the CSM coordinator at the time, CCP Dolan, explained the reasons:
"Being supporters of free speech and free and open elections, CCP undertook internal debate about whether or not to deny Fon Revedhort’s candidacy for the Council of Stellar Management, careful to take all aspects of the discussion into consideration. It became clear we could not allow him to continue his candidacy past the initial electoral phase. While he is entitled to his personal opinions and to the ability to “roleplay a character” within reason, CCP does require certain standards for those representing the EVE player base which are not met by the views continually expressed by Fon Revedhort. The presence of such a player on the Council of Stellar Management (CSM) would only serve as a distraction to other elected Council members and developers they would work with both virtually and at in-person summits. Furthermore, it would reduce the overall efficacy of the institution itself and harm future iterations of the CSM, which would be counterproductive for each and every player. As such, with the Council being a vital part of our development process and a representation of our players both internally and externally, we have made our decision and removed him from eligibility."
If CCP takes such a dim view of such views, I figure I should when evaluating candidates as well.

The next criteria I have for judging candidates is if they have an agenda. CCP devs can quickly tell when a CSM member is pushing an agenda to benefit himself or his alliance. Those members become ignored and ineffective. A player can have all the knowledge in the world, but without the devs believing the advice the member gives is for the benefit of the game, the member is just taking up space.

Finally comes what many people would probably consider the most important factor, player knowledge. I like candidates who have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. A one-trick pony is okay if CCP plans on working on features related to that candidate's area of interest. But what if that subject is not on the roadmap? For example, someone passionate about fixing wardecs is great, but what if the focus of the next year is null sec and the introduction of player-built stargates? If our wardec expert also knows a lot about high sec other than high sec warfare, then that member can meaningfully contribute to some of the discussions. If not? Then that member will just sit about looking for things to do. Depending on the person, that could prove sub-optimal. Or as The Bible states:
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.
An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends.
Wickedness loves company—and leads others into sin.
Somehow I always think of DariusIII when the subject of idle CSM members up to no good comes up. For those candidates running, DariusIII is a warning, not a guidebook on how to act as a CSM member.

If a candidate can pass these three criteria, then the candidate most likely will serve as a good member of the CSM. I have other areas I look at, but those are aimed toward my biases and designed to rank candidates, not determine if a candidate is not qualified.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Quest For The Great White Battleship - Megacyte

Sometimes I have to choose between blogging and playing video games. Right now I switch between EVE Online and EVE: Gunjack. Even then, I get distracted when I play EVE Online. After the release of the Ascension expansion I spent six weeks playing on an alpha account. I also decided to upgrade my data entry setup for my RMT research, including adding in some additional graphs.

My own illicit RMT graph porn
Top that off with trying to keep track of the CSM this year and I stay busy.

Checking Evemon reminded me of a goal I set myself a few months back. Rosewalker was halfway to learning Amarr Battleship V. Oh yeah, I needed to start mining again in order to build a Nestor. I was down to only needing two more types of minerals, zydrine and megacyte. I decided to go into null sec and mine some arkonor.

NPC null sec really isn't that dangerous when flying a Prospect. Or perhaps the region I chose just doesn't get a lot of traffic. I slipped past the delusionary bubble camp in the entry system and headed deep into null sec in search of a quiet system.

What I found wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I saw a lot more traffic at my destination than I expected. I did find a quiet spot, but about 10 km before an asteroid would have uncloaked me, an interceptor buzzed the belt. I quickly stopped and waited to see what would happen. The interceptor left, followed shortly with a Bantam appearing. After 30 seconds or so, the Bantam lit a cyno and in jumped two carriers, an Archon and a Chimera. I decided to get a closeup of the carriers and that's when I noticed the Astrahus. I switched tabs on my overview and confirmed the presence of the citadel. Just then, another interceptor showed up and destroyed the Bantam. 

Needless to say, I quietly left and warped to the next belt. I spent some time making a couple of bookmarks to use as observation perches and taking a close look at the locals. My first thought was, what's a Provibloc sov holder doing in the middle of NPC null? My second thought was, aren't Provibloc sov holders NRDS?

For those who don't play EVE, NRDS stands for, Not Red, Don't Shoot. Which means if a player isn't at war with the alliance, have a history of shooting other players, or actively shooting them, they won't attack other players. And a 2000+ character alliance that described itself as "an Anti-Priate community of players" had set up multiple Astrahus in the constellation. Woot!

I spent three play sessions over three days mining the arkonor I needed to build a Nestor. Now I just need to mine enough ore to get 8100 units of zydrine. I'm not sure I'm going to do that, though. I have 97,000 units of zydrine sitting in a station in low sec. Do I really want to spend a few more hours mining, especially in low sec? Low sec is getting a bit crowded. But then again, part of the quest to build the Nestor was to acquire everything fresh. I'm really close to the end now, one way or the other. I guess I'll decide what I'll do the next time I log in to play.

Monday, January 23, 2017

CSM Wire - CSM 12 Election Edition

With the arrival of the silly season (aka the Council of Stellar Management election), I spent most of the weekend updating and improving my CSM Wire site. Out with the generic white template, in with pastels. But people don't usually visit the site for the looks.

I built CSM Wire out of a desire to make doing research on the CSM, especially during election season, less painful. I then figured that if I found the information useful, that others covering the CSM elections might also. By adding links to interviews and other content, I hope that anyone interested in voting in the CSM election will find the site useful.

Now that the site is presentable with the basic features I plan to use this season, I figured I would explain what I included on the site.

The Home Page
Along the left side of the website is a list of the declared candidates. Until CCP finalizes the list, I will only create pages for those candidates who have posted in the CSM Campaigns section of the official EVE Online forums. Clicking on a name sends visitors to a candidate's page.

Along the top is a series of buttons with various topics. The "Eligibility And Voting" section lists the rules governing the election. I still need to add an explanation of the single transferrable vote system used in the election.

The CSM 9, CSM 10, and CSM 11 buttons lead to a little history of the CSM. I created the site in 2015 so only the CSM 10 and CSM 11 sections have previous election content.

Information about the current CSM
The CSM 11 page will probably draw some interest as researchers and voters try to figure out how the current members performed. In addition to a link to the CSM 11 election content, the page contains a list of the current members (along with links to their individual pages), the summaries written by Jin'taan, a copy of the first summit meeting's minutes, and an attendance chart. I'd take the attendance chart with a grain of salt as real life does get in the way. I may try to compile a list of the roundtables some of the individual members held, but I can't make a promise about that.

An example of candidate information
Finally comes the information most people will search for, about the candidates themselves. I include the date the character creation date, corp/alliance, and any links to social media and/or outside websites. I also include links to the candidate's listing, EVE Online forum posts, and zKillboard history. Below the above information I link to and copy/paste the candidate's campaign post from the EVE Online forums.

Those are not all the sources of information I use, but do present a very solid base with which to start. Also, if all those sources come up dry, I start to question if the candidate even exists.

I do have to add one more little fact. From experience, I know I will have to prune 10-12 candidates from the site once CCP announces the final list of approved candidates. My problem is that I can't wait until the candidates are approved before creating the pages. I figure I still may need to make 5 or so additional pages once the candidates are announced, but that is a lot better than 35 or 40. Also, I need to have the site up-to-date as quickly as possible. Having the site ready a day or two before the election period doesn't do much good.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Winter War: Stiffening Resistance

Watching the map of Catch, one might get the impression that Stainwagon has retreated to Stain to wait until everyone goes away. To those people, I say take a look at the maps in Impass and Feythabolis. After a few days of disorganization due to the evac from V-3YG7, Stainwagon is once again putting up a fight in the two southern regions.

First, let's take a look at Impass. On Tuesday, Circle-of-Two only had sovereignty over three systems.

In a 72-hour period, CO2 managed to take sovereignty over an additional 8 systems and 2 outposts.

The latest situation map shows that Stainfraggin Coalition forces are still aggressively entosising sovereignty structures, but Stainwagon forces are fighting back by entosising structures of their own in six systems. I am not sure how successful Stainwagon's efforts will prove, as I believe their main defensive effort will take place in Feythabolis.

On Tuesday, SOLAR FLEET's low key effort in southern Feythabolis began to pick up steam. Between Tuesday and today, SOLAR, joined by DRONE WALKERS, made a big push, with DRONE WALKERS dropping intfrastructure hubs in many of SOLAR's systems. The campaign in Feythabolis was conducted a bit differently, concentrating on capturing outposts even if Stainwagon possessed iHubs in the system. 

SOLAR and DW made great strides in securing the pipe between C-PEWN in Esoteria and OKEO-X in Omist. SOLAR now controls 7 of the 10 outposts in the constellations of 3-PC31 and 42-WDG. However, notice all the blue on the map now. Over the course of yesterday, Stainwagon managed to reinforce 3 outposts, 3 TCUs, and 5 iHubs, with the timers coming out on Saturday.

From the posts on r/eve, Stainwagon sounds like it wants to make a final stand in Esoteria, making the attacking forces pay for every system taken on the march to the region. I don't know how many forces the Russian coalition will divert to Impass, but yesterday's activity indicates Stainwagon intends to hold their ground in southern Feythabolis.