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:


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).