Tuesday, 6 December 2011

What is a Micro Transaction?

To save further argument, any time I refer to a “micro transaction” what I mean is exactly and only any system designed to allow micro payments with no per-transaction fee. A micro payment is a purchase that involves less real world currency than about one hour's worth of an average salary for the purchaser's country.

Update: Better terminology is “micro payment” for the tiny monetary transactions, and “virtual goods” for the things you buy through an in-game store. I had previously equated “micro transaction” with “micro payment” exclusively.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Currency Cycle - Balancing the Economy Pt 3

In economics, there is the concept of Monetary Velocity. This concept is basically a measure of how many times a particular unit of currency is used in an economy, and can be illustrated by this story:

Imagine a small country town. There is a pub, a hotel, a butcher, a baker, a whitegoods store, the businesses currently owe each other various amounts for various goods and services. A visitor comes to town and rents a room from the hotel for a couple of nights, for $100. The hotelier uses that money to pay her debt to the baker, who pays his debt to the butcher, who pays her debt to the whitegoods store, and so on down the line. That $100 has effectively paid off $500 worth of debts: this cycle of payments can keep going as long as the person the money is being transferred to still has outstanding debts to pay greater than $100.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Aside: Micro-transactions and NeX

First let me get something out of the way: from my point of view, the Noble Exchange is not a "micro transaction" store. If you are going to mention "micro transactions" in any argument about the NeX, you are not then allowed to complain about the extreme prices of NeX items. Second, I don't believe the NeX is implemented properly. Third, I believe that not only is there enough room for one NeX, there is room for many similar stores.

To me, the NeX represents a PLEX sink. I believe there is a way that CCP can have a PLEX sink, sell "power" items, and still keep the majority of the player base happy. How? Read on!

Aside: Microtransactions for Dust Bunnies

Here's a brief aside while I figure out what the heck I'm going to waffle on about for part 3 of the economy balancing screed.

Dust 514 is coming, and we know CCP wants to finance it using micro transactions. How will micro transactions work for Dust 514? People who have been playing EVE for a significant period of time already know that EVE has micro transactions already. Unlike Turbine games which have "Turbine Points" which behave independently of "gold", EVE has ISK† which is bought through trading game time. You pay your money, (stuff happens), you get your ISK.

How do Dust Bunnies buy new shinies? How do they receive their shinies? How do you supply a mercenary unit operating in null sec? How do you deploy a mercenary unit? Read on for my idle thoughts on these questions.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Faucets, Sinks & Pumps - Balancing the Economy pt 2

In ecology, we have the concept of the water cycle. The short version is: water evaporates from the ocean, condenses into clouds, the clouds get too heavy (or hit a mountain, etc) and fall out of the sky as rain. The rain flows downhill, starting as trickles here and there, gathering into creeks, flowing into streams, then rivers, then eventually flowing out to the ocean, where it once again evaporates.

In EVE Online we have an “ISK cycle”. There is no huge pool of ISK from which some evaporates, but we do have ISK faucets in the form of CONCORD bounties on NPCs, insurance for ships destroyed, etc: faucets are like rainfall, where the ground is the EVE economy and the rain is the ISK. There are ISK sinks in the form of sales taxes, broker fees, alliance sovereignty fees, loyalty point stores, etc: sinks are like the ocean: the fresh water flows out there and is never seen by the land again.

Making ISK - Balancing the Economy

In the virtual world of EVE Online, the economists and policy makers have the advantage of being able to manipulate the world such that the economy will work, rather than trying to manipulate the economy so the world will work.

Warning: in this post, I present a bunch of assumptions in the guise of an information dump, and then ask a question. I'm looking for some interaction with other people who are paying attention to various perceived problems in the economy.

But back to the scheduled programme…

The basic ISK cycle from an individual pilot's perspective is this: earn ISK, spend ISK. When it comes to the "earn ISK" side of the cycle, some people will look for ways to make ISK from the things that they enjoy doing. Other people will engage in the activity which returns the greatest ISK for the time spent acquiring it, in order to have ISK to spend on the activities that they enjoy doing. Except for people ganking hisec mission runners, it tends to be difficult to make ISK via PvP.

Some players have a major goal each month of earning enough ISK to pay for their PLEX, and thus the major driver to their ISK-earning activities is to find a way to make the most ISK possible for the time that they invest in the ISK-making activity. When it comes to "press button, receive ISK", the stand-out obvious candidate activity is participating in hisec incursions.

Here are the rewards for hisec incursions: participating in a group activity with a bunch of folks who just want to shoot the breeze, earning in the order of 100M ISK/hr, and being able to fly pimped out PvE ships without keeping one eye on local and the other on D-scan†. Incursions in hisec are a primarily social activity, which also happen to generate a copious volume of ISK.

Here are the rewards for null sec incursions: participating in a group activity with a bunch of folks who are keeping a paranoid eye on local, intel channels, D-scan and alliance voice comms; earning in the order of 150M ISK/hr at peak productivity, being able to fly pimped out PvE ships if they have a dozen alts watching the systems three jumps in any direction; and waiting for the inevitable CTA to drive off an enemy roaming gang.

My experience with nullsec belt ratting was that a poorly fit Drake could pull in about 60M ISK/hr in a -0.8 system while there were no reds for three systems away, no CTAs, and no alliance members competing for the spawns. The moment there are reds reported in intel, the only option is to warp to a safe (either dock in a station or warp to the safety of a POS bubble). Hanging about in a belt to kill just one more rat would result in a rat scramming you for long enough that the enemy gang will be in your belt, sending you home to your medical clone. The usual breakdown of my time in null sec was about 40% ratting, 40% safed-up due to roaming gangs bigger than any defence fleet we could muster, and 20% of the time being part of a roaming gang myself.

So for the average Jo in null sec trying to grind ISK for that PLEX or a supply of PvP ships each month, their income from incursions will end up being closer to 50M/hr on average if they stick to it. Put yourself in that position: wouldn't you be driven to find the most effective way to fund your subscription or ship supply? As a nullsec resident in this situation, what do you do? Do you hang about in null sec, spending 40% of your time parked and idle watching the minutes of your play time roll past while you're being unproductive, or do you head to hisec where you can safely and reliably make 100M ISK/hr for as long as you can keep your eyes open and mouse buttons clicking?

It turns out that a significant number of null sec residents hit the hisec incursion trail (if people like Zagdul are to be believed, and if the people I routinely fly incursions with are any indication of the general population of incursion runners).

What happens from the rest of null sec's point of view? A small percentage (significant number, we're talking hundreds of pilots, but a small percentage of all null sec) of pilots disappear from your region. Instead of having, say, a reliable 50 in local, your little section of space ends up having only 40 in local - and the ones who disappeared are the ones who were least worried about losing ships. The concentration of risk-averse null bears has increased because the people who are willing to lose ships are off restoring their ship replacement fund. So there are fewer roams, there is less motivation to intercept interlopers. Your patch just doesn't seem as interesting any more.

So you log out. And the number of online players in your home patch of null sec plummets. Nullsec goes stale. People unsubscribe. EVE dies. All this because hisec incursions are far more profitable than any ISK-making activity in null sec.

What can be done to bring those ISK-grinding folks back to null sec? Does anything need to be done?

† is is an accepted truth of EVE Online that living in null sec requires at least three eyes.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

On The Forums Today

Here's an interesting one: Hints an tips for CQ Flatscreen video conversion. The useful advice doesn't stop there: check out the thread "A ship for all your scanning needs".

Sunday, 13 November 2011

This issue is a little behind, I've been busy playing the game instead of being a forum warrior. Complaints may be directed to /dev/null :)

Missions & NPCs

Mission runners use playbooks to complete missions, and get terribly upset when the playbooks aren't available. People still want to fly Drakes in L4 missions.

Faction/Corp/Agent standings are math, and math is hard:

  • https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=32263
  • https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=32373

Wormhole rats still surprise new explorers. As far as Incursions go, the question with the OTA is: bring a bigger boat, or spend time hacking arrays?


There is usable advice out there about how to break into the world of trading. Speaking of which, Emkayu Goffish has a series of blog entries dealing with trading and raising startup capital.


There are all manner of useful tips for wannabe pirates.

Apparently Goons have upset too many new players with their "recruitment" scam.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hardcore vs Casual

I had a bit of a rant all over one of SynCaine's blog entries. This leads me to wonder, what makes a "hardcore" gamer? What makes a "casual" gamer?

I humbly suggest that "hardcore" simply means "takes the game more seriously than I do," while "casual" means "doesn't take the game as seriously as I do."

As an example, "everyone knows" that guy whose game is focussed on ISK/hr minmaxing in PvE. That's the guy who has tables indicating the bounties, rewards and completion times for each mission offered by the available agents. That's the guy who has a bunch of agents right next to each other, farming missions for hours a day. That's the guy who declines the missions that aren't as profitable (i.e.: drone missions, anti-faction missions, "Duo of Death", "Buzz Kill", "The Anomaly"), has calculated exactly which ship and fitting is best for each mission, and even has fittings saved for "Nightmare - Worlds Collide - Blood vs Angel", "Golem - Worlds Collide - Serp vs Guristas", "Stabber - Recon (3 of 3)".

Then there's the casual guy. He's got a -1.5 security status because he's usually too lazy to repair his sec standing after low sec roams (or hisec ganks). Today he'll be on for an hour running incursions. Tomorrow he'll be on for a couple of hours "roaming low sec" (which actually means station spinning in a fleet of 8 people while chewing fat and quaffing a brew or three), one day you'll catch him mining ("because I'm bored"), and some days he just doesn't log in at all.

What about you? What is the difference between hardcore and casual? Is there a meaningful dichotomy (or continuum) there, or are these just terms bandied about by people who wish they could formalise the difference between "us" and "them"?

On The Forums Today

Aura will not re-issue lost tutorial items. Some tutorial missions are accompanied by tutorials which spawn items required by those missions. If a tutorial is skipped or disabled, that item will not be spawned.

Many missions require the fetching of an item, but are marked as completed when the item is dropped. I wonder if these completion triggers could be adjusted to be more like the new revision of "Cargo Delivery" where the trigger is the looting of an item.

Another suggestion about moving belts to grav sites. The interesting suggestion here is playing tutorial videos on CQ screen (e.g.: the probing tutorial).

Lowsec: some discussion about exploration, and a question about finding a region of lowsec in which to look for frigate fights.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

On The Forums Today

I'm trying something new. I tend to spend more time on the forums than in game, so here's some stuff of interest in the forums today for those of you who don't want to wade through the dross:
Some of those links will be worth following. Let me know if this was helpful. I'm only following a few forums at the moment (of note, I never even open COAD, it's not worth reading).

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Rinn of Mara

I wasn't always called "Mara Rinn". My original name is about fifteen syllables long and roughly translates to "First born of the chief of the people of the sand who count the stars as their footholds." It sounds grand, but you have to realise that my tribe was more of a family group, about 80 people in a nomadic trading caravan. The nicest sounding syllable in my name is the second last, "rinn" - it's part of the word for "use as a foothold," and my nickname meant "little steps".

My family (or tribe, call it what you will) regularly ran the circuit of Molden Heath. We'd buy fish here, vines there, rhizomes at the next stop. Just the usual stuff that traders did. It was a wonderful life, but things went off the rails at my group's Voluval ceremony. For everyone else the ceremony itself was a wonderful time. For me it was horrible, my mark was a series of chain links up my back, interpreted by the seer as indicating I was to be bound into slavery. My parents were of course distressed, but they tried to find ways of explaining how this would be a good thing - perhaps it wasn't slavery but some other bondage such as taking vows in the priesthood.

There wasn't much time to ponder it though, as half way through the next day, just as we jumped into Osvetur, we were raided by slavers. My last memory of my parents was seeing the slaver hounds ripping their throats open while they were trying to hide me. To this day, when I see slaver hounds I can still hear my parents' screams being silenced by the murderous animals.

Where we were taken after that, I don't know. I remember being introduced to vitoc at the Caldari Navy Assembly plant in Tsuguwa, where I was also introduced to my new life as "crew" on a Drake class battlecruiser, "Freedom's Shield". You don't think about irony much as a slave. You just think about staying alive.

My service aboard that hell lasted the best part of ten years, long after I was due to receive my rank tattoos and accept responsibility for running the trade caravan under my father's wise supervision. I didn't have a trade caravan to run, but somehow managed to find some friends amongst the slaves on board. We did our best to keep the captain's ship in good order, and through our work the captain and his battlecruiser saw many commendations for the various trivial acts of policing, counter-insurgency and escort duties that we performed. This captain was performing trivial duties as a result of his religious beliefs — he had married an Amarr woman and converted to her faith. His superiors apparently thought that he was no longer as efficient as he used to be, so he was granted lighter duties.

Over time we got to hear that there was a new class of people rising in New Eden. Apparently the Jove had gifted the Caldari with new technology that would allow humans to control their ships with thoughts instead of verbal commands. The bridge crew of "Freedom's Shield" were excited, because capsuleer ships would ensure fewer bridge crews would come into the line of fire. Command was excited because capsuleer ships would reduce the manpower required to run a ship of this size to one pilot and a handful of slaves. No longer would captains have to worry about getting their crews home alive. Understandably, this left the slaves feeling a little disappointed.

I have to detour a little here to explain about Vitoc. You see, in planetary environments it's easy enough to keep control of slaves by having guards and slaver hounds and all manner of tools of persuasion, coercion, and outright torture. In space, there's not much in terms of space for slave handlers, so the Amarr and Caldari resort to other means of controlling their slaves. The slaves are injected with a biological toxin and then require regular doses of an antidote (Vitoc) in order to keep the victim alive. Thus on a spaceship the only slave controller needed is the guy who supplies the Vitoc. Death from the Vitoc method is particularly horrendous, and most spaceship captains will make a point of letting at least one slave die on a regular basis just to remind the remaining slaves of the fate in store for them. Dying from (lack of) Vitoc involves massive organ failure, terrible amounts of pain, leading to the body thrashing around wildly, screaming in pain until it eventually destroys itself from the inside. If you're a well-to-do captain on a battlecruiser you might leave the task of discipline to someone else on the ship, and you might be well insulated from the horror of Vitoc death. Without the antidote, the slave will die in about one and a half days, with the terminal effects only being felt (and displayed) in the last hour. Now back to the story.

Now it turns out that our captain had a brother who knew someone who knew someone — you know the story. The Caldari Navy was looking for volunteers for their experimental capsuleer program. Our good captain thought it was his God-given duty to place his life on the line for his State (his duty, of course, nothing to do with realising his naval career had dead-ended, and deciding that he wasn't going to spend the rest of his life commanding a mere battlecruiser). Through means fair and foul, the captain was transferred to the experimental operations division, and we found ourselves in Piekura.

For those of you unfamiliar with the life of a capsuleer I have to point out that first, we are immortal. Second, we are immortal only because we cannot die again. You see, the implants and neural linkages that make up the capsuleer's interface to their capsule (and thus, their spaceship) are far too intricate to be surgically implanted into any host. So what happens instead is that a clone body is grown (I use "grown" loosely) from the capsuleer's DNA around the neural linkages, and the capsuleer's mind is transferred into that fresh, clean body. The process of transference for a non-implanted body is irreversibly destructive. That is to say, the process of transferring your mind into the capsuleer body kills you. Everything that made up your personality is copied across and rebooted. Once the transfer is complete though, you are capable of transferring to another body essentially at whim. Capsuleers will often have multiple bodies ready to transfer their minds into, specially maintained as part of a "jump clone" program. There's more to the capsuleer story than that, but I'll leave the rest for another time.

So our dear captain, bless his deeply religious socks, had not properly studied the capsuleer program — there was talk of "godflesh" and clones and heirs. I had offered to review the paperwork for him (because he was, of course, too important to be burdened with such trivialities), and by the time we arrived at Zainou Biotech in Piekura had already learned all there was to know. I pointed out to the captain that the process of transference was — essentially — suicide: the brain of the capsuleer is destructively scanned, and the body is euthanised after the process is completed (if necessary). I also suggested (perhaps a little sensationalised) that the process was still experimental, and would he be able to face God knowing that he had thrown his life away in the pursuit of vainglory? The captain agreed of course, and I was able to talk him into demanding my services as a guinea pig for this experiment. After all, if something went wrong and a slave was killed, who would care? Noone thought about the consequences of a spaceship slave being transferred successfully into a capsuleer clone.

I don't remember the process itself. Have you ever had an operation (to graft skin back onto a limb burned in a missile misfire, for example) and tried to count to ten when the anaesthetist has put you under? I remember sitting on a chair surrounded by transference equipment, the anaesthetist starting the injection. I remember counting one … two … three … an intense pain welled up from within me, then there was a jolt as if the world was twisting itself to pieces, then blackness, and then I was opening my eyes and counting … nine … ten. I was in a bath of goo and feeling peculiarly happy.

The captain appeared before me, visibly distraught, wanting to know if I was okay. Not knowing what he was talking about, and immediately realising he must have seen something go horribly wrong, I told him not to worry about it too much and that I would forget all about it in time. He instructed me to collect my corpse, and proceeded to vomit into the bath that I was lying in.

Now this may seem peculiar to you, but in ten years I had never seen my Voluval mark. It was on my back, and in ten years I hadn't thought of it at all other than acknowledging that my fate was, indeed, to be chained in slavery. As I collected my corpse, I saw my mark for the first and last time. It wasn't a chain at all, but a series of circles up my spine, exactly where the neural interface links are located in my clone bodies. If only I could tell my parents!

I wept. I wept tears of grief and mourning for the loss of my parents, tears of joy that I would be able to serve the family in ways we would never have dreamed of, and tears of sadness that they had died thinking I was to be a slave, not knowing that my fate was far more interesting. The disinterested research aide tried to comfort me with some words along the line of, "just think of it as an old pair of shoes that don't fit anymore." What he wouldn't have known was that the old skin didn't fit anymore because it was bound by vitoc and most likely died biologically from the vitoc rather than the euthanising drugs. I smiled, happily aware that noone had poisoned my new clone with vitoc, knowing that even if they tried I would not be bound by a physical body any more.

Noone wanted to be involved in a project involving a slave being made a capsuleer, so the remainder of the project went deep underground. The slaves and bridge crew were transferred elsewehere, the ship itself was written off and its armaments removed. For weeks I lived as a machine - treated with no more dignity than a refrigerator - in a dark recess of the station as the battlecruiser was retrofitted to accept my capsule. Eventually the retrofit was complete, and a set of navigation trials was planned in the neighbouring lowsec system of Mara where noone would notice us.

The next day, the captain took his capsuleer-piloted ship out for a trial run. There was noone else on board, just the captain and his pilot. He didn't speak to me, the horror of what had happened during the transference was obviously weighing heavily on his mind, the presence of the capsuleer egg in the command deck serving as an unwelcome reminder of the horror of transference.

We jumped to Mara. We completed the trials. Then before returning to Caldari-controlled space, I ejected from the battlecruiser and left, travelling through space in the warp-capable capsule, with blissful disregard for anyone or anything around me.

And that is how I chose my name. Mara was my first foothold in my climb to the freedom of the stars, as a Vherokhior with no family, my point of origin no longer being the sands of some long forgotten world but the system in which I emancipated myself. I am Mara Rinn, capsuleer, unbound.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Welcome Aboard

This is the blog of Mara Rinn, capsuleer. Please observe the labels/tags: OOC posts are "Out of Character", posts not tagged OOC are "In Character". There will be a mixture of the two styles, so pay attention :)