Thursday, October 25, 2012

By the numbers, fanboy style

     Fanboys, gotta love 'em . . . mostly.  They're certainly good for PR and CCP isn't going to be breaking any radio silence to correct the more rabid and optimistic mathematicians and accountants in the player base.

     The fanboys I'm referring to are the ones that mention that Eve has numbers ranging anywhere from 200,000 players up to 400,000 players.  Apparently differentiating between "accounts" and actual "people" is a rather pointless endeavour.  Another optimistic example is the people who talk about how ~60,000 players voted in the election!!  Again though, people don't seem to be overly concerned about the difference between an "account" and an actual skin bag, filled with mostly water.  AKA, a "person".

     My thinking about the numbers worked sort of backwards, in time, that is.  In doing my usual listening-to-podcasts thing while doing the despicable mining-thing, I listened to the latest Crossing Zebras podcast and they had their new Gentleman's Agreement alliance CEO on with them.  He was talking about his alliance size and what his recruiting plan was.  He mentioned that he has over 1500 CHARACTERS in his alliance, but he figures he actually only has about 300 players.  300 people.  That's pretty amazing, but not surprising, to me, anyway.  As one of those multi-account dudes myself, I slowly saw/realized that multiple accounts allow you to more easily play Eve.  More accounts allow one to accomplish more, not only with parallel training, but making exponentially more isk.  At some point the income vs account curve might flatten out, but at what point that is, I don't know.  I do know that more accounts means you HAVE to play more, or enough to fund all those accounts, especially with regards to using PLEX.

     So anyways, working backwards, from the recent podcast; the CSM 7 election.  So there were 59,109 votes cast by "eligible voters" says CCP.  That right there, is some pure bullshit spinnery.  "Eligible voters" my ass.  In plain English, 59,109 ACCOUNTS voted.  Some important stats, thinks I, are the fact that the average account age is 2.89 years.  Anyway, time to strap on my tinfoil hat here. . .

     Older accounts, older (likely) players, and also likely aware of the meta game's influence as well as a number of the issues being addressed by the candidates, in all sec areas of the game.  Last time CCP did a quarterly report of what the account numbers were for each zone, null netted something like 12% of the active accounts.  How accurate that number is now is anyone's guess, but at 2011 published numbers by CCP, they claimed 325,000 accounts, and that's what MMO data still says too.  That might have been optimistic on CCP's part and was definitely before all the banned bot and rmt accounts, but they say the voter turnout was 16.63%, so that's still around the 355K accounts level.  We'll run with that for now.  So possibly around 45,000 accounts are being operated in null out of the total subscriber-ship.  That's a big number if you consider them all to be people, but at GAA's ratio, that's only about 10,000 (or fewer) real players in null.  How many null PLAYERS actually voted?  With a 60k total vote, a large list of candidates and so many null sec players getting so many of those 60k votes, what is the REAL player vote?  30,000 players?  20K?  Less?  I wouldn't be surprised if the real number of players voting was in the 15 to 20k range, but that's just me.

     Now at an advertised active account level of around 350,000, again, how many real people does that actually represent?  Not everyone has 55 accounts like a certain indy guy I know, or the ratio is as lopsided as the GAA's, but I bet there are a shit load of players with at least 2 accounts, and likely a very large number with 3 to 5.  Not being a statistician, I wonder if there are enough players with multiple accounts to bring the accounts to players ratio up  to 2:1?  Maybe even between 2 and 3:1?  So really, maybe around 150,000 actual players?  Less?  I seriously doubt there are 200,000 players (excluding the Chinese servers who apparently have about 100k accounts.)  CCP knows exactly what the ratio is, but you can bet their ass, your ass, or your cat's ass they won't tell.  Encouraging their customers both commercially and technically (via the software) to operate more than one account is a smart business move.  More bucks per player.  It's also a bad move, especially when the subscription numbers are mostly stagnant or when they pull a bonehead update and piss players off.  In good times, each player is worth multiples, but in bad times, every player that leaves takes multiple accounts' revenue with them too.

     No doubt CCP realizes that there are some very clever numbers dudes in the player base, and that's why they stopped publishing the quarterly reports.  Having the extra power in the customer's hands is bad enough (especially when they multi-boxing), but giving them the numbers so they might be able to actually calculate their advantage, well, that just moves CCP from the position of driving the cart, to pulling the cart.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pay to win, CCP, A-OK!

     With DUST nearly ready to come out of the oven (supposedly), and its future reliance on RMT for CCP income, I got to thinking about pay to win.

     I've always been of the opinion that pay to win was already in the game, and was easy to see and use from the first few days of me playing Eve.  I'm talking about PLEX.  You can train skill points at the same rate as the next guy, but if neither of you has earned enough ISK to buy the item/module/ship you'd like to or need to, the person who can buy a PLEX will get a jump start that the other poorer player might not be able to afford.  If you both can train cybernetics skill up to be able to use level 5 implants, but neither can afford them, the player who can sell a couple PLEX for the ISK to buy the set will get, and keep, a permanent advantage over the player who had to grind out the ISK, in-game, the hard way.  At any rate, I found it curious how so many people lost their shit when rumours of special boats and "golden" ammo were floating around.  Curiously limited scope of view, they had, thought I.

     So, what got me thinking was a while ago when CCP had 100 wicked awesome video cards that they were "giving away" for 20 PLEX each, to the first 100 people that showed up.  This is from well back in the spring, so no news flash here, but I have a "life" (TM) so often some of the meta content/bullshit gets back-burnered til more off-peak mental load times arrive.  So anyway, for 20 PLEX, or a little over $300, you could have gotten one of these ~$250 (retail) video cards if you jumped at the offer in the less than 2 minutes it took to sell them out.  It's also important to keep in mind that no company is going to pay, or going to be required to pay, full price from a video card company when they take 100 of them.  So how much did CCP pay for the cards?  $200?  $150?  Less?  Cleverness on the part of CCP to accept PLEX that players have bought off them, watch as the PLEX prices raised for a period of time as 2000 PLEX were removed from the game, their price in isk rose, which sucked even more isk out of Eve than the amount used to buy the PLEX for the video cards, and then make a tidy profit on the video cards that they got from the manufacturer for a (probably) huge discount in the first place.  So, rich players can convert ISK/PLEX into a video card without breaking a sweat, , not to mention CCP selling even more PLEX to fill the hole left by the 2000 used for the video cards.  If that's not pay to win, I don't know what is.

     Then, there was the alliance tournament.  Again, PLEX was the currency of choice instead of ISK because CCP said it's "just easier to manage and allows us to create some revenue to fund this and future tournaments".  Players pay the bill to run the tournament . . for the players, but not all the players, only the ones who could pony up at least 10 PLEX for the first 32 auction slots, and then another 10 PLEX for the last 32 random draw slots.  640 PLEX guaranteed, ~$10,000 US, and word is/was, that there were some pretty epic bids by the richest alliances to guarantee their slots.  1,000+ PLEX is likely a more accurate guess as to how many were bid or used for tournament slots.  Maybe considerably more than that.  Likely considerably more.  Soaks up a lot of that ISK in an ISK-flooded economy and CCP gets paid twice.  Once when the PLEX were bought, and the 2nd time when new PLEX were bought to replace the ones burnt up for the tournament.  CCP could have accepted ISK in lieu of PLEX, but ISK isn't worth shit to CCP when they can get the players, the rich ones, to cough up $150+ per team.  So, really, could any alliance have entered, or just the ones with the money to pay to win?

     Now, there's the New Eden Open tournament.  Again, PLEX are the entrance currency.  LOTS of PLEX.  This time it's 20 PLEX for the minimum bid, so like $300 per team, more expensive than the last one, but in the end, the absolute minimum of PLEX down the pipe, taken out of the game, is 640.  I think it would be very safe to assume that with $10,0000 in prizes, bids will be even more epic than tournament ten.  That's at LEAST $10,000 US that the players will take out of the game economy and gave BACK to CCP.  Huge ISK sink for the richest players in Eve, good for CCP sopping up more ISK from the game, getting funded by their own customers, twice, like before, and the anti "golden ammo" crowd aren't saying a word.

     Word was, one of the CCP devs said that all the PLEX that were confiscated from the banned RMT and macro/bot accounts were going to be put back into the economy.  No number was put on the PLEX that have been confiscated, nor was there any mention of how CCP was going to put the PLEX back into the economy.  Now, the new word is that confiscated PLEX will be given away in the tournament.  Not back to the general customer base who would appreciate the extra PLEX reducing the cost of the ever climbing PLEX prices due to the FW ISK fountain-fuck-up, pumping out more ISK than every high sec incursion in the game ever did.  So the richest players are the ones with the highest chance of getting some PLEX back who can use them or sell them at inflated prices due to the high PLEX demand.  Pay to win?

     Now, CCP says that the PLEX entry fees are also to help pay for the logistics and costs of setting up and running the tournament.  Well, the way they're doing it, yeah, it'll piss a bunch of money up against the wall, but rest assured, CCP will make out like bandits just like they did with the $300 they were charging for the video cards they got for less than $250.  Considering that the MINIMUM amount of money players will pay CCP to enter their tournament is $10,000, there are very simple ways for CCP to cut costs if they really want to, and it won't compromise tournament coverage.

     They don't need commentators to be taken to Iceland.  CCP needs to Google existing tech like Skype and USB video cameras.  Plug a Skype conference call and video feed into their little alliance tournament screen and no one needs to be IN Iceland.  The software and studio are set up, but all that's needed is to plug the audio and video into the tournament display and their job is done.  They can rent their "studio" out to the Icelandic shopping channel or something.  The cost of the tourney is reduced, more people can enter and/or entrance fees can be dropped to include non-rich alliances.

     So, are the players dumber than chickens that they don't see the pay to win?  Or is the anti-pay-to-win crowd silent because the common rabble are kept in their place?  If pay-to-win is modest and accessible by almost all the player base, apparently, Eve players lost, and will lose, their shit.  BUT, if pay-to-win is only accessible by a small minority of the richest players and alliances in the game, apparently, pay-to-win is A-OK.  I guess CCP and the "right kind" of players understand that when everyone is super, no one is super, and that, like in real life, is not acceptable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On the chin . .

     I'm not talking about a snappy upper cut, or a piston-like jab straight up the pipe.  No, no.  This is related to my mining libations and searching out pod casts, starting at the old ones and working my way to the present.  What was on the chin was the Mittens' "special sauce" and who's chin it was on was the 4 guys doing the War and Peace version of the Lost in Eve fanfest episode.  Like I said, I go back and start from the earliest ones I can find :)

     Now I am far from immune when it comes to conspiracy theories and general tinfoil hattery, but the tinfoil hats being passed around at Lost in Eve on that particular day are far and above what I could come up with. Mainly because I am not a raging fanboy of mittens.

     Jade, one of the hosts, was adamant that the whole mittens-gate incident was to be placed entirely on the shoulders of anyone at CCP who didn't baby sit the adults sitting behind the table.  I can understand that because apparently Jade is one of the few (or only one) that knows that all the (drunk) people behind the table were actually children under the legal age of consent.  Uhh, ok.  In later episodes, I think he  may have softened his stance a little, but it was still pretty hard-core pro-Alex.

     FrFrmPukin, one of the guest hosts, and apparently a little liquored-up, had a far more sinister theory.  he was pretty much convinced that "Theonewhoshallnotbenamed" concocted a Machiavellian plot to bring about the downfall of the mighty Mittens, whereby the "subject" would send a sad Eve mail to another member of the goons, apparently knowing full well that said correspondence would eventually end up in the hands of an inebriated Alex, days later at fanfest, where Alex would fall prey to his own hubris and call for anyone present to try to get the Eve mail author to commit suicide.  In Pukin's words, the clever "victim" "used Alex against himself".  That was pretty much the pinnacle of ANY tinfoil hat theory that I've ever heard in Eve, or probably anywhere.  It was/is fucking out there.

     Cypher, Pukin's sidekick, was basically a parrot, and added little content of any style or source.  Maybe that's his role, Pukin's Ed McMahon.

     Later, Rundle shows up, and his theory is that no one could ever be that down and lonely that they would blurt out very personal things to complete strangers, and that the whole mail thing was nothing more than an effort to save his mining barges . . . with . . the mail message coming AFTER everything had been exploded. ?  The whole sad Eve mail thing was just a big troll.  Maybe Rundle sees himself as a ruff, tuff rugby playin' dude, and I guess he's been "lucky" enough to never have met people who have had epic fails in their lives (for one reason or another) and end up clinging onto things, as an anchor, that less traumatized people would find very strange.  That being the case, maybe he's a lucky guy.  Maybe.

     I haven't really listened to enough of Pukin or Cyph3r to get an angle on them, but the stances taken by Rundle and Jade are pretty surprising considering that they come across as fairly intelligent and informed dudes.  Maybe Mittens' aura was running extra strong that day and managing to manipulate minds from thousands of miles away.  It certainly surprised me, even well after the fact.  Well up on the weird-shit-o-meter.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Galactic Tome of Comparitives

     "The problem is, the risk vs reward is all fucked up!"  

     How many times a day to we read that on some forum or blog, or hear someone whining about it on a podcast?  Pretty much fucking daily with very little expenditure of effort.  What I'd like to know, is where this wonderful, universal table that shows all the different types of risky game play in Eve, and what you can expect to get out of it.  Who has it?  Who wrote it?  Every time I hear someone say that little phrase, it reminds me of how fucking clueless the people saying it really are.  Eve the drones at CCP.

     So how do I know that the "risk vs reward" crowd are full of shit?  A couple obvious reasons.

     First, there's always a ton of whiners crying that people won't leave high sec, or won't go to null or low, (or any other activity or play style in Eve that they think is "winning" faster than them) because the risk vs reward is too high.  So, what the player stands to lose is much greater than what they will gain.  That's complete horseshit because there are thousands of people that have already done that.  They've moved.  So, obviously, their/that assessment is full of shit and the risk vs reward "rule" excuse is busted.

     Second, for me, I don't really give a shit about risk vs reward.  I play games for fun, to relax.  I have a "life".  I have a job.  I'm not looking for more stress, more work, or another job.  If I feel like mining or running missions, and only have a short period of time to waste on a game once a day, once a week or once a month, why would I want to add the complication of pvp or more complicated or lengthy types of play to that?  Answer is, right now, I won't.  Worm holes, COSMOS missions, incursions (again), pvp runs in low and null?  All of those require more time and energy than I am prepared, able or interested in spending right now on Eve.  If that's my Eve state of mind, guaranteed other players think the same.  It has fuck all to do with risk.  That's not to say that others might have more of a concern over losing some electronic pixels, but it's far from the major motivating factor controlling player behaviour that the lizard brains would have all of Eve believing.

     The rallying cry of the players wanting change in the "rules" basically has fuck all to do with anything other than making people play the way they want them to play.  The "sandbox" is only the sandbox if the lizard brain crowd says it is, and that means playing "their way".  Risk vs reward has no meaning outside your own personal set of rules, and it never will.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Smooth criminal

     Whilst doing my despicable mining thing, I was listening to some tunes and some podcasts.  Through a series of semi-related clicks and links, I ended up at the old Eve Radio episode where Riverini was on with the Mittani as part of the debates for CSM 7.  First time I'd actually listened to it.

     First, regardless of what you think of Riverini or his ideas, I give him full props for going one on one with another candidate for the CSM chair.  I give him even more props for doing it in a language which he obviously hasn't mastered, and even more impressively, going head to head with mittens.  Mittens could no doubt make a a person look like an idiot even if they were fluent in English.  Now, whether Riverini is that big of a fan of Eve, thinks his communication skills are up to the task, or a combination of those and other factors, it still took stones to request the debate.  Of course, going back to relevant threads on the Eve O brain drain, the mouth breathers focused on his accent.  Not a surprise from the goon derps and their mental ilk.

     Second, the DJ, Funky Bacon, I thought, was an asshole.  As a supposed big shot in player driven Eve media, he certainly showed his juvenile mentality with the snide remarks and snorts at Riverini's accent and pronunciation.  So much for a responsible and unbiased host.  I certainly don't feel like I missed anything intelligent by not tuning in to any of his other shows.  I wonder how many other languages he speaks, because he certainly has his own problems with basic English.  Again, props to Riverini for stepping into the deep end.  Fail for the funky loser running the thing.

     Third, as per the title, the Mittani is a smooth criminal.  Intelligent, articulate and no one, I think, that the average schmuck would like to get into a war of words with.  Props to him too for being smooth and respectful to Riverini.  It's not at all a surprise, after hearing him speak, to understand why he can lead thousands of mouth breathers around by the nose.  He could have been a jeering dickhead like the host, but he didn't lower himself to that level.  His answers were clever, smooth and succinct, which was in stark contrast to the Riverini struggling with English.  Aside from the stark difference in quality between mittens' and riverini's answers, Mittens also had a huge advantage when it came ot questions involving the function and role of not only the CSM but also of the chairman.  I would tend to agree that communication skills are probably the most important aspects of being the chair, and in that respect, Riverini was/is obviously lacking.

     A guy like mittens could do some amazing things for the BENEFIT of Eve, and I'm not talking about great lawlz while ganking hundreds of unarmed toons, or any other method of fucking with the greater Eve player base.  I'm talking about his obvious management skills to make Eve an attractive game to people/gamers that AREN'T assholes and griefers.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Jester vs the CSM

     Whilst clicking around the pod-verse, I came across the pod cast that was hosted by Alekseyev, where he, Seleene and Hans were going head to head/toe to toe with good ol' Jester.  Episode 33 of the pod cast.

     Interestingly, and I'm not sure why my brain works this way, but I always have rather . . . pronounced expectations when it comes to voices and faces of people I haven't met yet.  I figured Alek would have a Russian accent, Hans a German one, and Jester would be a late 20's to early 30's dude with a slightly higher pitched voice.  Seleene, I had no pre-loaded expectations.  In fact, Alek was the one with the high, nasally voice, Hans had a pleasant voice along with Seleene, and Jester was older with a deeper voice.  At any rate, all the "revelations" were interesting and didn't detract from the podcast.

     The meeting between the 4 was certainly energetic and not exactly un-confrontational.  the 3 CSMers were certainly on the defensive based on Jester's critique of their efforts, so on the podcast, they turned that into offense.  It certainly seemed to me like 3 on 1, but then, Eve IS about blobs too, yes?  :)

     Not as many topics were covered by either side as planned, but they certainly took their time on communications, or lack thereof, from the CSM.  Concessions were made on both sides for certain topics and it made me smile when at one point Alek immediately shot down Jester's suggestion that his alliance was one of the premier PVP alliances in-game.  The episode was very entertaining and neither left me more or less impressed with Jester, who I think managed to hold his own quite adroitly.  Of the three CSMs, Alek was definitely the most butt-hurt and defensive over Jester's blog posts.  Seleene sounded smooth and controlled, and Hans was very impressive with his ability to debate.  All who voted for him have spent their vote wisely, I think.  Unfortunately, not finding out much about him prior to the election, I was not one of his supporters, but I am now.

     As I said, Jester didn't gain or loose any points with me.  One thing I do think now though, after hearing him, is that he is much better at writing his thoughts, than speaking them off the cuff.  Even before though, if jester ever ran for CSM, I wouldn't vote for him.  He is well known enough by the players, and more importantly by the CSM, that he doesn't need to be on the CSM.  I think the level of detail and research he goes into has given him enough credibility that he can make his thoughts known and voice heard, and would have quite nearly the same influence on CCP, but would never have to worry about the NDA muzzle from them.  It's well worth a listen.