Friday, March 23, 2018

It's Fanfest Season Again

Wow, time flies! In a little over two weeks time I head to the airport for my seventh trip to Iceland to attend CCP's annual Fanfest held in the Harpa. Over the last few years, Fanfest served as the event that ended frantic days of CSM coverage and recharged my game playing batteries. This year, though, I expect to have a bit of a working vacation, as we don't learn the final candidate list until the event.
Fanfest starts affecting all facets of my life. For instance, I need to file my tax returns because I don't plan on returning until after April 15th. I also need to check all my electronics. I might buy a new laptop or tablet that is lighter than my current model. Plus, my current laptop cannot run EVE. I may need to send some mail to people while in Reykjavik. Did I mention I need a haircut?

This year I plan on doing a little sightseeing. I really need to go on a tour of the south coast of Iceland, probably on Tuesday. I see that I can also visit a lava tunnel in a 3-hour tour. Fortunately I don't need to make a decision now, but I have options besides EVE-related events.

Once again I intend on picking up the pace of my blogging while in Iceland, even if the posts don't involve more than a picture or two. I hope to meet new and interesting people and learn a few things some people will want to read about. But now I have to return to the real world and put thoughts of far away places away until tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2018

CSM 13 Election: Explaining The Single Transferable Vote

Starting with the election of the 8th Council of Stellar Management, CCP has used a modified version of the Wright single transferable vote system (STV) to conduct all elections. Before 2013, CSM elections were conducted using widely used First Past the Post (FPTP) system. Players would cast votes for a single candidate per account, with the 14 candidates receiving the most votes becoming either members of the CSM going to the summits in Reykjavik or serving as alternates. A simple to understand way of conducting an election.

The design of the single transferable vote system aims to elect candidates who are more representative of the players who vote in the election. For some background about STV, I'll turn to UK-Engage, a company that provides voting services to both public and private organizations:
"The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a form of proportional representation voting system which uses preferential voting, usually in multi-member constituencies. Candidates don’t need a majority of votes to be elected; all they require is a known ‘quota’, or share of the votes, determined by dividing the number of valid votes cast by the number of positions to be filled, plus one..."

"Under STV, an elector has a single vote that is expressed by ranking the candidates in preference from ‘1’ until the elector cannot choose between the remaining candidates. As the count proceeds and candidates are either elected or eliminated, this vote can be transferred to other candidates according to the voter’s stated preferences. In a Single Transferable Voting system very few votes are wasted; unlike other voting systems, particularly First Past the Post, where the votes of all but the winning candidate are wasted."

"STV is arguably a much more representative and inclusive voting system as it gives voters more choice than any other system. This choice puts more power in the hands of voters, rather than the political parties: under other voting systems political parties can more easily determine who is elected. Under STV some would say that an elected representative is much more accountable to the electorate than to their party superiors."
UK-Engage also listed several advantages and disadvantages to the single transferable vote system. Distilling the lists down to those that apply to EVE, they are:

  • Under STV fewer votes are ‘wasted’ In other words, losing candidates receive fewer votes and run-away winners receive only the votes needed for victory. This means that most voters can identify a representative that they personally helped to elect
  • When voters can rank candidates, the most disliked candidate cannot win, as they are unlikely to pick up second, third and lower-preference votes.
  • By encouraging candidates to seek first, as well as lower-preference votes, STV removes the need for tactical voting. Tactical voting is when a voter supports another candidate more strongly than their sincere preference to prevent an undesirable outcome.

  • A system allowing voters to rank candidates is prone to behavior termed ‘donkey voting’, where voters vote for candidates in the order they appear on the ballot. CCP fights against donkey voting by randomizing the candidate list for each vote.
Explaining how the Wright STV system works is a little challenging. Instead of confusing the issue, I will post an explanation from Wikipedia, followed by an example based on a CSM election. First, the explanation:

"The system uses the optional Droop quota (the integer value of the total number of votes divided by one more than the number of vacant positions plus one) and the Gregory method of weighted surplus transfer value of the vote in calculating a candidate's surplus transfer value which is then multiplied by the value of each vote received by the candidates whose votes are to be redistributed, as is the case in the Western Australian upper-house elections.

"Unlike the Western Australian upper-house electoral system, the Wright System uses a reiterative counting process that differs from the Meek's method as an alternative to the method of segmentation and distribution of excluded candidates' votes.

"On every exclusion of a candidate from the count the counting of the ballot is reset and all valid votes are redistributed to candidates remaining in the count initially at full value.

"In each iteration of the count, votes are first distributed according to the voter's first available preference, with each vote assigned a value of one and the total number of votes tabulated for each candidate and the quota calculated on the value of the total number of valid votes using the Droop quota method.

"Any candidate that has a total value equal or greater than the quota is provisionally declared elected and their surplus value distributed according to the voter's nominated subsequent preference. If the number of vacancies are filled on the first distribution the results of the election are declared with all provisionally declared candidates being declared the winner of the election.

"If the number of candidates provisionally declared elected is less than the number of vacancies and all candidates' surplus votes have been distributed then the candidate with the lowest value of votes is excluded from the count. The ballot is reset and the process of redistribution restarted with ballot papers being redistributed again according to the voters next available preference allocated to any continuing candidate. This process repeats itself until all vacancies are filled in a single count without the need for any further exclusions.

"The Wright System takes into account optional preferential voting in that any votes that do not express a valid preference for a continuing candidate are set aside without-value and the quota is recalculated on each iteration of the count following the distribution of the first available preference. Votes that exhaust as a result of a candidate's surplus transfer are set aside with the value associated with the transfer in which they exhausted."
Confused? I was when CCP first announced the use of STV in 2013, the dev blog instructed players to visit Wikipedia for an explanation. I needed an example before I truly understood how the algorithm worked. Having covered five CSM elections using the STV, I think I can do a little better than the generic mechanical explanation. In the below example, I will not only go through the mechanics, but introduce some of the situations that occur in a CSM election.

Example Election

In our example election, 8 candidates are vying for 4 seats. We can divide the candidates into 3 security zones, each with their own political dynamics.

Null security space: In our mythical election, we have three null sec voting blocs. They are:

Goonswarm Federation (GSF) - Goonswarm historically is the electoral powerhouse in CSM elections. In our example, GSF is running two candidates, Aryth and Innominate, winners in both the CSM 11 and CSM 12 elections. The Goon campaign team usually supports other null sec entities, so will finish off their voting slate by supporting candidates from fellow Imperium member The Bastion as well as Brave Collective.

The Bastion - Smaller alliances within the Imperium often attempt to win a seat on the CSM. In our example, The Bastion's Sullen Decimus, a member of CSM 11, will try to win a third seat for the Imperium. The Bastion made a deal with Brave Collective to put his name second on their ballot if The Bastion would do the same for Brave's candidate.

Brave Collective - Brave always seems to win whenever they officially back a candidate in a CSM election. In our example, Brave will run CSM 12 member Yukiko Kami. Brave's voting slate will mirror The Bastion's, except for putting Yukiko in the top slot and moving Sullen down to the second spot.

Wormhole space: The dynamic in wormhole space is a little different than in null sec. Instead of working within established major blocs, wormholers got together and two candidates, Noobman and ExookiZ, rose to the top. The backers of each candidate promised to put the other faction's candidate in the number two slot to ensure at least one wormhole candidate would win. Wormholers didn't care about candidates from k-space, but didn't want to waste the other two slots, so filled them in with Sullen Decimus and Yukiko Kami.

High security space: High sec is a very splintered, unorganized area of EVE. In our mythical election, two candidates representing two very different playstyles will run. They are:

High sec gankers: The high sec ganking community is very loud, very passionate, but very small. To maximize turnout, the famous ganker James315 is running in our election. Since Goonswarm's Ministry of Love often operates with the gankers in high sec, James315 fills the remaining three slots on the ballot with members of the Imperium.

High sec carebears: To say that high sec miners, mission runners, and haulers do not like high sec gankers is an understatement. But the residents of high sec, with the exception of the gankers, are a pretty apathetic lot. The turnout from those who enjoy PvE in high sec is usually very low. Additionally, in our example, they could only come up with two other candidates to vote for: Sullen because he did some mining stuff on CSM 11 and ExookiZ due to giving some presentations at Fanfest.

The Vote

Initial Vote
In our election, 1800 players voted. To calculate the number of votes required to guarantee election, known as the Droop quota, we use the following formula:

(Number of votes cast / number of positions + 1) + 1

The initial quota is 361. The number of votes for each candidate at the beginning of the round is below.

From the audit file

Innominate starts the round in last, but that won't last long. Aryth has 650 votes, which exceeds the quota. Aryth wins the first seat and the extra 289 votes he didn't need fall to the second candidate on the Goonswarm ballot, Innominate. At the end of the round, the tally is:

From the audit file

Since the voting does not have 4 winners, the algorithm removes the candidate with the lowest vote total, Sullen Decimus, and distributes his votes to the number two candidate on The Bastion ballot, Yukiko Kami.

Round 2

Round 2
The number of ballots is still 1800, which means the quota is still 361. The tally for each candidate at the beginning of round 2 is:

Beginning of round 2, from the audit log

Not much happens in the round. Once again, Innominate receives the overflow vote from Aryth to stay in contention for a seat.

End of round 2, from the audit log
Since the voting does not have 4 winners, the candidate with the lowest vote total, ExookiZ, is eliminated and his votes distributed to the number two candidate on the Wormhole #2 ballot, Noobman.

Round 3

Round 3
The number of ballots is still 1800, which means the quota stays at 361. The tally for each candidate at the beginning of round 3 is:

Beginning of round 3, from the audit file
The cooperation between the wormhole candidates worked, with Noobman exceeding the quota in round 3 of the voting simulation. Innominate, as was the case in the first two rounds, receives 289 extra votes from Aryth. With Noobman meeting quota and winning a seat, his 39 excess votes go to Yukiko, allowing him to surpass Lorelei's total. The tally at the end of the round is:

End of round 3, from the audit file
Round 4

Round 4
With the elimination of Lorelei Ierendi in round 3, the high sec carebear voting slate expires, reducing the number of ballots from 1800 down to 1570 votes. The result is a decrease in the quota from 361 down to 315.

Beginning of round 4, from the audit file
The reduction of the quota increases the trickle-down from the candidates who already exceeded the quota. So instead of Innominate receiving 289 of Aryth's excess votes, he receives 335 votes. Yukiko receives more votes from Noobman, increasing his total from 39 to 85 votes. Due to the decreased quota, Innominate exceeds the quota by 20, winning the third seat and passing those votes to Yukiko as well.

The final round, from the audit file
I'm not exactly sure why the algorithm indicates Yukiko had only 314 votes while the actions during the round show Yukiko should have 315 votes. Either way, Yukiko surpasses James315's vote total of 310 and wins the final seat.


Perhaps a game as famous for its complexity as EVE Online should use a complex voting system like the modified Wright single transferable vote for determining the winners of the Council of Stellar Management election. Others may argue that using a single transferable voting system adds needless complexity to an election that historically has low voter turnout. I just wish I didn't need to write a 2100 word essay in order to explain how the voting system works.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The CSM 13 Election Season Begins Monday

What I deem the EVE silly season, known to players who know about the event as the Council of Stellar Management elections, officially kicks off this year on Monday, 19 March. Once again, I plan to cover the event both here on The Nosy Gamer as well as on my election campaign coverage site CSM Wire. But before getting into my planned coverage, I probably need to cover what the heck a CSM is first.

The Council of Stellar Management is a body of 10 players chosen by the EVE player base to “represent” the players to the game’s developers. I used scare quotes because CSM members do not have the same type of power as a legislative body in a Western-style democracy. Think Beijing, not Westminster.

In other words, the CSM does not get to dictate the developmental roadmap of EVE Online. In some respects, the CSM acts as a player focus group, with the development staff bouncing ideas off the members. The most visible sign to the player base are the two summits between CCP and the CSM held every year in Reykjavik, Iceland. The CSM and CCP also hold weekly meetings where they also discuss issues, with the meetings recorded for later viewing by those unable to attend due to real life concerns such as work.

Unlike a normal focus group, the CSM maintains in contact with the developers year-round (or at least when the office isn’t vacant due to the staff going on holiday). In addition to text chat, the CSM has access to the developers’ Confluence, CCP’s internal wiki.

Where the term representative comes closer to the ideal of a representative body is when the CSM interacts with the players. The members of the CSM often act as a communications conduit between CCP and the players, explaining actions in ways that CCP’s messaging sometimes sugarcoats. Members also reach out to the player base looking for feedback on certain areas that CCP may explore in the future.

The members of the CSM are elected to a one-year term in an election based on a modified Wright single transferable vote system. Players with a subscribed account (aka Omega accounts) may vote for up to 10 candidates, with an algorithm determining the winners. Players can cast as many votes as they have subscribed accounts. Theoretically, a player running a 100 account skill point farm could vote 100 times.

This year, CCP changed the timeline of the election. Instead of holding the election in February or March and announcing the results at Fanfest, the official kick-off of the campaign begins at Fanfest with the announcement of the candidates. The application period only runs for five days, from 19-23 March. Firm dates for the election itself are not available, but the announced time frame is sometime in late April or May. Afterwards, the CSM will onboard during the traditionally quiet summer season when the CCP staff are off on holiday.

My planned coverage on the blog is to try to explain some of the details around the election. For example, the single transferable vote is pretty complex and a turnoff to a lot of people. As for CSM Wire, I will only include those candidates who post in the campaign thread on the official forums until the official candidate list is announced at Fanfest. Since the instructions to candidates suggests making a post, I hope candidates start posting as soon as they apply and don't wait until the Fanfest announcement. I currently don't plan on updating the site while I am in Reykjavik with new candidate pages. Deleting a page is easy. Creating pages takes some time, and I'd rather spend that time running around Iceland and talking to people I only get to see once a year.

Currently, 7 candidates have posted campaign threads, with several current CSM members yet to publicly declare. I expect to see a lot more people running this year, as many candidates are working behind the scenes trying to gather support. To everyone running, good luck!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Guardian's Gala 2018: An After Event Report

With the end of the Guardian's Gala event I thought I would try something a little different. Normally most people, including myself, give previews of the events. Hardly anyone ever looks back at the event. After getting one character up to the 700 point prize and another up to the 500 point prize, I think I can provide a valid perspective on the event.

First, an overall opinion. The Guardian's Gala event was not designed for newer players (or at least, newer players who had not purchased skill injectors). With the changes to the Alpha skill set and the ships they can now fly, sufficiently skilled Alpha characters could run the sites. I think their best choices were shield-based ships like the Drake and Cyclone, with the Gila a viable option for returning players with the skills. I’m not sure how many new Alpha characters have the skills to fly the Gila well.

I used a Claymore, a Minmatar command ship, to run the sites. I chose the Claymore because, in addition to the ship’s inherent tech 2 resist profile, the ship gives bonuses to both missile rate-of-fire and active tanking. I also chose to fit two command burst modules to enhance the ship’s defenses. While the event NPCs never broke through my shields into armor, I did go through a fair amount of command burst charges and Cap Booster 400s powering my Xtra-Large Ancillary Shield booster. I also did not lose a drone during the event, with my drone repair costs totaling under 50,000 ISK. To end the breakdown of consumables, I used approximately 50,000 Nova heavy missiles. I chose to go with the tech 1 missiles because at the beginning of the event I made the determination that the event was not worth using tech 2 or faction missiles to complete. I might have used tech 2 missiles if I ran any sites in low security space, if only to clear the sites faster to avoid interlopers attempting to kill me.

Now for a couple of details I did not learn from my testing on Singularity. First, warping into the sites at 50km and then aligning at speed to a celestial produced an interesting response from the NPCs. The frigates would warp to a perch and then warp down on top of my ship. The cruisers, on the other hand, would start to slow boat toward my ship.  If I could fire fast enough, I could kill the initial cruisers in the site before the frigates could reach me to apply webs. Next, I found out that when the loot ships appeared on grid within 100km, the best course of action was to turn around and close the range, as the ships would not leave grid to bounce closer. Turning around also gave me a chance to kill more frigates, which upped the number of event NPCs I could kill in each site. The last change involved other players warping into the site. The player closest to the structure would gain the most aggro to the NPCs. At first, I would enter the sites at 100km to make the NPCs have to travel farther on the theory that would mitigate the amount of damage I took. That plan worked but left me vulnerable to having a site swiped. The move to warping in at 50km was an effort to counter the stealing gameplay.

CCP also instituted a couple of balance changes to the event sites. The most noticeable occurred on the third day of the event. Once the boss ship with the loot was defeated, the NPCs would pack up and leave the site. Before the change, the NPCs would continue to web the ship down and try to kill you. The change to the NPCs giving up and warping off was very welcome and led to quicker completion of the sites.

The next area to look at is the event prizes. The event gave players prizes for reaching 100, 300, 500, and 700 event points. The minimum number of sites one could run to get to the 700 points was 42, or three per day if one logged in every day of the event. I thought the prizes for the first three plateaus were appropriate for the level of work. At 100 points was a new type of firework, which was also a drop. I wound up with 5900 of the fireworks. At 300 points, CCP rewarded players with an advanced skill accelerator with granted players a +12 bonus to all learning attributes for 24 hours (48 hours if the character trained Biology V). These advanced accelerators, along with the standard accelerators that only provide a +10 bonus to all learning attributes, also dropped during the event. The premier reward was a new type of implant that gave a +5% boost to web range. These implants dropped in the VIP rooms, which only spawned outside of high sec. For high sec players, the only chance to get one of these implants was to reach 500 event points.

The 700 point reward, a 72-hour accelerator that granted a +10 bonus to all learning attributes (144 hours with Biology V), I felt was optional. In high sec, the drop rate was about 2%, so if one dropped, the final reward was a bonus for either an alt or selling on the market. If CCP wanted a prize that people wouldn't feel required to grind towards and burn themselves out, I believe they succeeded.

One of the most popular questions about events like the Guardian's Gala is whether the rewards make the event worth running. Over the course of the event, I completed 92 event sites in approximately 15 hours. I consumed a little over 10 million ISK worth of command charges, cap charges, and heavy missiles during the two weeks of the event. Those are the costs. Now for the rewards.

Something I failed to notice during testing on Singularity is that the "boss" NPCs granted bounties. The Guardian Angels battlecruiser paid 250,000 ISK while the battleship paid 400,000 ISK. Surprisingly, the battleships appeared 57.6% of the time. All told, I received 31,100,000 ISK in bounties during the event. Obviously, the bounties are present just to recoup ammunition costs.

The drops are where the real ISK is made. The boss NPCs dropped four types of items in high sec: 30-minute stat boosters, fireworks, SKINs, and learning accelerators. I didn't keep track of the booster drops, as I don't use them and didn't think about doing an after-event post until the Guardian's Gala completed. I'm going to estimate a 40% drop rate, as I seemed to receive either a booster or an accelerator with each event site completed. I received 5900 of the new Angels Arisen firework for a 64% drop rate. Fireworks, while cool, don't provide too much ISK.

Ship SKINs (or Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings) do bring in some ISK when not just activated for personal use. I received 55 unique SKINs and 88 total SKINs. At this point, I wonder if I just misplaced 4 SKINs as what I have currently listed is a 95.6% drop rate.

I'm not sure why some of the icons are different. Perhaps they were added for this year's event. But when adding the value listed above to the bounties for completing sites, the ISK/hour was only 14 million ISK/hour.

Before moving on to accelerators, I want to mention the implants that dropped in the VIP rooms. Players running the event only in high sec had access to the 5% web boost implant available as the 500 point reward. Yesterday, the implant sold for an average of 53 million ISK. That pushed my ISK/hour up to 21 million ISK/hour.

Skill points are the most valuable commodity in EVE, so the fact that the learning accelerators bring in the most ISK should not come as a surprise. I received 55 standard (+10 bonus) and advanced (+12 bonus) accelerators for a 59.8% drop rate. I also received 2 of the 72-hour Serpentis accelerators for a 2.1% drop rate. Add in the 2 advanced accelerators and 1 Serpentis accelerator I received as event rewards, and I had a lot of accelerators.

I am currently consuming my remaining advanced accelerators and plan to finish my advanced training period by consuming the Serpentis accelerators at the end. I wound up selling 15 of the standard accelerators to buy orders in Rens for 11.5 million ISK each. The additional 172 million ISK pushed my ISK/hour up to 32.5 million ISK/hour.

The additional boost to my training is the real reason I run these events. Keeping characters training with skill boosters throughout the period nets over 750,000 skill points. I am doing that for two characters, with a third joining about 10 days into the event. Since all my characters currently training are over 80 million skill points, I would have to purchase 5 large skill injectors in order to get 750,000 skill points. I figure that over all three characters I will receive approximately 13 large skill injectors worth of points. Buying 13 large skill injectors in Jita would cost 10.5 billion ISK using yesterday's average price of 808 million ISK. I don't know of too many activities in EVE where I can get that type of cash for only 15 hours of work.

For myself, I find events like the Guardian's Gala worth the time reward wise. I will say I was sick of running the sites by the end. After the fascination with the challenge of the new NPC behavior wore off, a PvE grind is a PvE grind, no matter what game I play. For the next event, though, I need to limit my ambitions. Getting all the skill points possible is hard to resist.

Friday, March 2, 2018

CCP's War On Bots and Illicit RMT: Fast And Furious Dev Blogging

"The damage the bots do is not to the game’s economy, it is their visibility and the perception that CCP isn’t doing anything about them that causes hurt. The developers know there will always be some bots to combat - 'No game has ever completely gotten rid of this problem,' CCP Guard says. 'We think of it more like a war of attrition.' Even so, CCP need to convey that they /are/ fighting them and that players who report bots are helping to clear the game of RMTs."

One of the major challenges to covering CCP's War On Bots and Illicit RMT is detecting ban waves. CCP didn't make a big deal out of them. In January, I had the surreal experience of watching a major anti-RMT/botting operation unfolding while at the same time the EVE Online sub-reddit, official forums, and even the gaming media exploded about CCP's inaction against botting. Apparently, CCP has changed its strategy, offering up the security team for interview with outlets like Kotaku and PCGamersN. CCP Guard, CCP Peligro, and CCP Grimmi even showed up on the Talking in Stations podcast to talk about their efforts.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Brief History Of CCP's War On Bots And Illicit RMT: 2009-2017

EVE Online once again is experiencing a period in which a significant portion of its player base is riled up about the subject of botting. From what I can tell, the origin for the latest round of bot awareness is the troubles on the Serenity server and the migration of Chinese players to the main Tranquility shard. A post from November 2017 on the EVE Online sub-Reddit, "The era of the Chinese empire: Fraternity taking all the outposts!", summed up some of those concerns. Below are some highlights.

badfcmath: There's growing concerns with Serenity (EVE's Chinese server), both in the stability of the company maintaining it and the inflated PLEX prices which many attribute to unchecked botting (think DRF renters but bigger). This is why we have seen many folks joining Tranquility, and the return of the divine Wind Spirits.

NeoExmachina: so are you denying that there's much more botting on the chinese server than on TQ even though it's economically provable?
Or that in China it is a legit job modell to farm ingame currency in MMO's for companies which then sell it?
Not saying that every chinese person is involved in RMT, but the assumption that there will be an influx of RMT with people from serenity migrating to TQ is not unjustified.

orici-andria: I will agree with you if this conversation starts 10 years ago but now things are quite different.

So called "gold farmer " groups are shrinking in china.simply because as economical grows more ppl tend to pay in game to enjoy the content than rmt.any decent daytime job earns more than that.u can check the skillinjector price curve since we came here.we are more like consumers than providers.

And botting in serenity is more complicated since some historical facts involved.but it is not as simple as "rmt ". Firstly the operation company failed to do its fucking job .they got sued by group of botters whose accounts were banned and hilariously the company lost the case this was a very bad signals to botters and ordinary players.

Secondly large alliances support botting to gain advantage over their enemies thus hundreds of supers were built with help of bots.those who didn't support botting had to face a dilemma whether got crushed by those supers that shouldn't be in this game or just do the same build fleet with "high technology ".and then all hell break loose. then botting followed by RMT is publicly acceptable even the RnK dude in this thread publicly support botting in chinese forum. And their leader-chairman of PIBC told corp CEO to buy isk from RMTer if they had not enough isk to pay alliance-tax.

Believe it or not we are those who hate rmt and botting.simply because we have seen what hell was like in EVE

RNK_Fu1crum: When botting become half-allow in Serenity, it would become necessary to half-allow your alliance member to run it. Just imagine what would happen if CCP half-allow people to run them if you don't do it you will be blobed and there is no way to fight back. It's operating company's duty to ban BOTs when they decide to allow it, there is only so much we can do. As the attitude against BOTs,, this thread could show more than enough of my opinion.(One of major company BOTs announced to shut down, I post a thread to celebrate.) But unfortunately, that's toxic we have to drink to keep us alive nowadays. It's more like the nuclear weapon, it would end the world someday, but if you refuse to have it, your world would end today. :(((

The concern continued to grow as the Chinese presence increased. In the aftermath of the destruction of 8 botting Nyx in Omist in January, the head of the Imperium special interest group The Reavers, Asher Elias, wrote the following:
"If CCP cannot catch a blatantly incompetent botter doing an action that is impossible for one person to do (ratting in 10 Nyxes in different systems at the same time) while they do so for over a year, how many more sophisticated bots are slipping through the cracks? Especially with the recent influx of Chinese players who came from a server notorious for botting, what assurances do the long-time EVE players have that their effort put into raising ISK won’t be dwarfed by another person who is playing dirty pool? Lastly, and most worryingly, how much evidence does the average player have to see that their honest efforts are being nullified by the most inept cheaters that CCP seems resolved to ignore and take their account fees before they decide that they have to join the race to the bottom so as not to be put terribly behind the baseline of success?"
Writing about botting and illicit real money trading in EVE Online for close to seven years perhaps gives me a jaded view on the subject. Or maybe the time I started playing EVE, six weeks after the launch of Unholy Rage, CCP's first major anti-RMT/botting operation. Perhaps a little history lesson is in order.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guardian's Gala 2018: A Scouting Report

Today the second iteration of the Guardian's Gala event hits EVE Online's live servers. As per my usual practice, I logged onto the Singularity test server to make sure my Arbitrator could successfully run the event sites. I was unsuccessful after several attempts. I like using tech 1 cruisers to run the seasonal events, but for the Guardian's Gala I plan to upship to battlecruisers or even command ships. Below is a scouting report from Singularity which might shed some light on the situation.

The event description seems innocuous enough:
"The Serpentis Corporation has enjoyed celebrating its links with underworld business partners and New Eden's most fearsome criminal gangs for many years. The Guardian's Gala is, above all, an exaltation of its deep relationship with the Angel Cartel, particularly the Guardian Angels division that act as protectors and enforcers for the Serpentis and their illegal drugs industry.

"These gala events celebrating the longstanding and close relationship between the Serpentis and the Guardian Angels make a tempting target for law enforcement. Crashing this party is sure to stir up a reaction from Serpentis and Angels alike! Freelancers working for The Agency are certain to profit from successful raids against the Guardian's Gala!"
The event drops the usual mix of a new line of SKINs, cerebral accelerators, and combat boosters. One important point. The NPCs give no bounties. Also, I salvaged the wrecks from two sites, and aside from the event loot drops, the salvage was worth about 1 million ISK per site. But, as the CSM minutes revealed, while the event site itself is reused from last year, the NPC ships are new. Given that the Guardian Angels are the division of the Angel Cartel that developed the Dramiel, Cynabal, and Machariel, that means an event with a little higher level of difficulty.

WARNING: The below description is for the regular event sites. If you enter the VIP sites, the Guardian Angels will call in a carrier for support. Avoid these sites if flying dolo.

Now down to practical matters. First off, the Guardian Angels are flying Angel Cartel ships, not Serpentis, so plan accordingly. Angel Cartel ships are vulnerable to explosive/kinetic damage, with the key damage type explosive. Angel Cartel ships also deal explosive/kinetic damage. After having a bit of a worrying experience with a Cyclone with 70% explosive resists, I highly recommend getting that figure over 75%, with 80% the goal. I did most of my initial scouting of the sites in a heavy missile Damnation with 89% shield resists and 90% armor resists against explosive damage.

Not only are the Guardian Angels flying new ships, but they are also using new tactics. The NPC fleet composition consists of frigates who orbit within 5 km and apply webs. I found that the NPC fleet commander kept a swarm of frigates around my ship at all times, and I rarely had as few as two webs applied to my ship at any time. The cruisers are artillery fit, taking advantage of the frigate tackle to say out of close range weapons. I found that they attempted to remain approximately 24 km away. To complete the site in high sec required destroying either a battlecruiser or battleship. The battlecruiser would stay at 18 km while the battleship would stay at 40 km. Did I mention the battleship was labeled as a Bachariel? That's right, we get to face an NPC Machariel, except with fleet support.

The event NPCs also have another tactic that may disconcert some players. They will fleet warp to a ping and then land on top of your ship. Kiting is not going to happen. At one point I attempted to use a micro jump drive to gain some space and the NPCs just warped to a ping and back down on top of my ship. No picking off frigates as they race in to apply tackle in the Guardian's Gala event sites. The tactic is how the NPCs can keep tackle applied continuously.

How did I complete the sites? Since I don't have a Gila on Tranquility, I chose battlecruiser hulls firing heavy missiles. Drone use is problematic, as the NPCs do like to fire on drones, and they will split their fire. A Gila's 500% damage and hit point bonus applied to Valkyrie medium drones will do well, but for other ships, drone management is key. As for projectile weapons, autocannon on a battlecruiser don't have the range to effectively deal with cruisers or hit the battleship. Artillery, on the other hand, won't hit the frigates. The only weapon system that can reliably hit all the targets is heavy missiles.

For the initial warp-in to the site, I chose to land 70 km from the beacon. The distance forces the NPC fleet to warp to a ping, giving me time to align to a celestial and make sure all hardeners are active and the afterburner is lit. The tactic not only allows for a warp-off if the damage is too great, but in low sec allows for a fast getaway in case someone else jumps into the site.

Next, I concentrate on removing damage, namely the cruisers. Yes, the webs increase the incoming damage. The heavy missiles always target the cruisers unless frigates are the only remaining target. Any drones I deploy always attack frigates. Finally, once the boss NPC (either battlecruiser or battleship in high sec) lands in range, direct the heavy missiles onto the battlecruiser/battleship. Once the boss ship is destroyed, the site is complete. However, the NPCs do not despawn immediately, even if you warp out of the site after killing the boss. Since the boss NPC has the good loot (i.e. SKINs, cerebral accelerators, etc), I fight my way to the wreck. At this point, the site is complete, so no more reinforcements arrive.

A warning about warping out of the site. When running a site solo, and if a player warps off while the boss ship is on grid, upon returning, the boss ship will no longer appear on grid. The boss ship will appear again after fighting through more ships. Also, warping out of a completed site could result in the wreck with all of the event loot despawning. As an experiment, I warped out of a site after killing the battlecruiser boss ship and then warped back. The wreck was still present, but I landed 190 km from the wreck. Warping within the site is not possible, so I attempted to warp out of the site and then back in at a closer distance. All the NPC ships and wrecks were still present except one, the wreck with the good loot. However, killing all the NPCs makes the station despawn and you can safely warp out and collect the loot.

As usual, I will share a couple of the fits I tested over the weekend. The first is a permatank Drake.

The Drake is probably the battlecruiser with the strongest tank. Having experienced the DPS output by the event NPCs, I wanted a strong tank. With my skills almost all at level 5, I developed a shield tank with 87.4% resist against explosive damage and 83% resists against kinetic damage while maintaining a passive shield recharge rate of 380 effective hit points per second.

The tank begins in the mid slots, with 2 Large Shield Extender IIs providing a large shield buffer with an Adaptive Invulnerability Field II, Explosive Deflection Amplifier II, and Kinetic Deflection Amplifier I providing resist bonuses. A large buffer helps provide more passive shield regeneration, as modules like shield power relays work on a percentage basis when adding hit points to the tank. The mid slots are completed with a 10MN Afterburner II for the necessary propulsion required to complete the site.

The low slots are also mainly dedicated to the tank. The Shield Power Relay IIs help power the passive shield regeneration while the Damage Control II adds both resists to the shields along with a boost to hull hit points in case things go south. The final low slot is filled with a Ballistic Control System II to add a little boost to the ship's missile DPS.

Of the 7 high slots, 6 are filled with Heavy Missile Launcher IIs. During my testing, I used explosive missiles instead of kinetic, with which the Drake receives a 10% damage bonus per level. The seventh is fit with a Shield Command Burst II firing Shield Harmonizing charges for an extra 11% boost to all shield resists.

The rigs are dedicated to the tank, with a Medium Core Defense Field Extender I providing buffer and 2 Medium Core Defense Field Purger Is providing additional shield regeneration.

Finally, the drone bay is filled with 5 Warrior IIs. When running the sites, I never used them. The heavy missiles did fine by themselves, even firing non-bonused missiles.

The second battlecruiser was an XLSB Cyclone. The fit takes advantage of the Cyclone's active shield boosting bonus (37.5% at Minmatar Battlecruiser 5) to run a smaller buffer with a much smaller signature than the Drake. The resists are not as good as the Drake's (79.2% explosive/75% kinetic) but the ship runs the sites well, with the extra 82 m/s speed useful when cleaning up the field after the boss ship is destroyed.

Like the Drake, the tank begins in the mid slots with an X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster. The module gives the ship its name. When combined with the Ionic Field Accelerator I as well as the Cyclone's native bonuses, the XLSB can repair 1205 effective hit points per second. When running the module, I can usually get two repair bursts off before the 60-second reload cycle kicks in. During testing, though, I never hit armor.

The mid slots are filled out by 2 Adaptive Invulnerability Field IIs for resists and a 10MN Y-S8 Compact Afterburner. Both the Ionic Field Accelerator I and the afterburner were used instead of the tech 2 versions due to fitting restrictions.

The lows are a mixed bag. I use 3 Ballistic Control System IIs in order to get comparable dps with the Drake. A Damage Control II is included because every little bit helps to increase the shield tank's resist profile. Finally, a Co-Processor II is fit to provide needed CPU.

The high slots are reserved for 5 Heavy Missile Launcher IIs for damage and a Shield Command Burst II loaded with Shield Harmonizing charges to increase the resists in the tank. I left one slot empty not only due to fitting issues but because I really didn't have anything to put in the second utility slot.

The rigs are fit with a Medium Core Defense Field Extender I to provide a little bit of a shield buffer and a Medium Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I for additional thermal protection. I normally fly with an omni-tank, but I replaced the usual EM Ward II I fit in the mids with a second Adaptive Invulnerability Field II because I found I needed to get my explosive resists up to 75%. A Medium Processor Overclocking Unit I to provide more CPU rounds out the rigs.

Finally, the drone bay is filled out with 10 Warrior IIs. I do use the drones to quickly attack a frigate and then quickly retreat back to the ship when an opportunity to remove a web presents itself.

That concludes my look at the Guardians Gala event for 2018. Of course, CCP may have made last minute changes. What I do predict is a lot of tears flowing from players who find a much harder event than they are used to. I suspect the event was designed for old players flying solo and newer players flying with friends. Whatever you do, fly carefully.

Friday, February 9, 2018

CCP's War On Bots: Nyx Bot Math

I often say that one of the best places to find information about botting and illicit RMT is the EVE Online sub-Reddit. Unfortunately, sometimes sorting the wheat from the chaff is difficult. For instance, the income numbers for the botted Nyx supercarriers destroyed in Omist last month seem a little on the sensational side. For example, in the initial Reddit thread on 11 January, SvaraEir (quoted in the PCGamer article linked above) posted an estimated monthly income of between 1.1 trillion and 2.6 trillion ISK. Those numbers surprised me considering other posts of his I read, but everyone picked up on the higher figure.

A series of posts made by Reddit user nubicci on 2 February left me shaking my head.

nubicci - Yea, but in the meantime, the dude is making 8000$ per month.

If ccp is even doing what you assume, which would be the best case scenario.

Sadly I believe that the reality is a lot darker, and ccp just doesn't care, because in 15 years of playing this game, if I learned anything is to always expect the worst from the company that makes it.

And I have to say that Ive yet to be dissapointed.

nubicci - 10 nyx bots make 2 trill+ per month.

Russian isk buyers pay 3.5-4$ per bil on most rmt websites.

Even is ccp is using the guy as bait, (which I really doubt lol) he still makes money, and rmt'ers (resellers) who specialize in selling mmo currencies are prepared for it, and them losing throwaway chars to ccp bans, is part of a cost in rmt operations.

These people don't play the game, they just resell ingame currencies, so ccp cannot hurt them in any way that they didn't already expect.

The only person who gets hurt is the players that play fair, and people who buy isk from resellers.

JeronicaEVEIs that using 250m+ ticks?

nubicci300m per hour per nyx

I just have to question some of nubicci's facts. For instance, at the time nubicci typed his posts, the Nyx botter was in no position to bot. Of the 8 Nyx bots who died, 6 had already biomassed. The status of the characters was:

  • DLS (CEO of Ukranian Soviet Socialistic Republic) - Last killboard entry - 14 January.
  • WsD - Joined P I R A T on 14 January. Currently active in the Jita area.
  • Alexa Shepard - Biomassed
  • Dorithur VII - Biomassed
  • iskbear - Biomassed
  • Jessie Wind - Biomassed
  • Solci - Biomassed
  • terokrit - Biomassed

In addition, Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic lost its rental space in Omist when the corporation was kicked from Kids With Guns Alliance on 25 January. According to zKillboard, Kids With Guns Alliance began destroying Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic infrastructure on 26 January. The alliance also began to failscade with the news of the loss of the Nyx bots, going from over 80 members on 14 January down to 46 this morning.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the botter had a backup bot farm and is busily botting away with supercarriers in another remote null sec constellation. Is a figure of 2 trillion ISK/month a realistic amount? Fortunately, CCP Quant publishes a monthly economic report. Since January had way too many interruptions. looking at the December Monthly Economic Report might shed some light on the matter.

According to the December MER, players collected 1.567 trillion ISK in NPC bounties in Omist in December 2017. The 2 trillion ISK/month figure is not only high, but not possible given the statistics supplied by CCP. Even the 1.1 trillion ISK/month estimate seems high. Kids With Guns Alliance has 2300 members. Would a 2300 character rental alliance really only pull in 450 billion ISK over the course of a month? That doesn't really seem probable.

So how much does someone running 10 botting Nyx make in a month? To answer the question, I need to explain my math. The first assumption involves how long the botter runs the bots. In a Reddit thread discussing a group of possible botting Rattlesnakes in RO-AIQ, SvaraEir made the following observation about botter behavior:
"Just because I personally know that system, I can say yes; he shows up to turn it on usually between 0300-0900 (6-10h a day, but closer to the lower end of that, and taking at least a couple days off here and there every week is how most botters avoid being completely fucking obvious)."
Botters don't just stick to those guidelines to avoid appearing as obvious botters in local. In 2011-2012, CCP instituted an automatic bot detection system that resulted in botters having to end the practice of 23/7 botting. I'm not sure why SvaraEir didn't use these assumptions when calculating how much 10 botting Nyx make in a month, but they track closely with advice I've seen on botting forums, so I will use them. For a 30 day month, I'll assume each bot runs 8 hours a day for 22 of the 30 days in the month. According to these assumptions, I will use 176 hours per bot, or 1760 botting hours for the amount of time. Those people claiming the over 2 trillion ISK/month figure use 7200 botting hours.

Next comes how much a bot makes per tick. A tick is EVE terminology for how often players are paid for the bounties they collect from the game for killing NPCs. The figure is currently 20 minutes, so three ticks is the equivalent of one hour. I will use nubicci's figure of 100 million ISK/tick, or 300 million ISK per hour.

Using any information from nubicci at first glance seems dubious, which is why I went in search for corroborating sources. I found one in an article on INN. Noted Goonswarm FC Asher Elias also estimated that the Nyx bots were making 100 million ISK ticks.

The math at this stage is fairly simple. The number of hours the bot runs multiplied by the ISK/hour gives the amount of ISK earned in a month. The result is 528 billion ISK in a single month.

I'm still not sure that amount is correct. As Asher pointed out in his article, the bot software used by the Nyx botter wasn't very good. The truth is, finding a commercial EVE bot that can handle the new fighter mechanics is between hard and impossible. Now that we have an example showing that bots can control fighter squadrons, expect to see some emerge onto the market by the end of the year at the latest. But until then, I have to assume that the Nyx bot isn't nearly as efficient as a human. So for the bottom end of the range, I will go on the assumption that the bot is potentially only 60% as efficient as a human. With that assumption, the low end of the range the botter could make in a month is 316.8 billion ISK. If I do a little rounding, the botter's income was approximately between 320-530 billion ISK per month.

Now comes the fun part of writing this post, because I get to say, "I told you so." For years, I heard people, mainly from null sec, complain about high sec because that was where they believed all the botting occurred. When asked, I would always say the majority of the botting in EVE Online occurred in null sec. I held that opinion for two reasons. The first is that null sec is where the money is. The second is that botters are less likely to have players report them in null sec than in high sec. The fact that I read this type of logic on the botting forums helped solidify my thinking on the subject.

I know that while 320-530 billion ISK is not as sexy of a headline as 2 trillion ISK, even the lower amount I calculated is not insignificant. I could point out that the lower estimated range made up 20%-33% of all NPC bounties collected in Omist in December 2017. I could discuss how the botter could afford to purchase a keepstar in a month. Or point out the small to mid size supercapital fleet (depending on your definition) that would fund. The ISK could even purchase a large, if not full 255 ship, faction battleship fleet. But I think those comparisons don't quite display the potential impact of an active 10 Nyx botting fleet on the EVE economy.

Instead, I will compare the ISK faucet the botter opened up compared to the regions housing the major high sec trade hubs. The lower end of my estimate is a bit higher than the total amount of NPC bounties collected in Domain (316 billion ISK) and Sinq Laison (313 billion ISK) in the month of January. The high end of my calculations is almost the amount of NPC bounties collected in The Forge (582 billion ISK). When the difference in time is accounted for (January has 31 days), the Nyx bot farm only earns 1 billion ISK per day less in NPC bounties than all the players in The Forge combined. In other words, a pretty significant spigot for one player to open.

I know that at the recent CSM 12 summit held in January, CCP Peligro stated that the big source of ISK and skill points on the black market came from accounts accessed due to hacking of other websites. I also realize why CCP would prioritize preventing the hacking of accounts over a major modernization of efforts against botting like we saw in 2011-2013. Still, botting does have a negative impact on not only the economy, but players' perception of the game.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Benefit Of Advertising On R/EVE

Writing about botting and illicit RMT in EVE Online poses a challenge. On the one hand, I don't want to glamorize the practice or advertise for any botmaker or ISK seller. On the other, mentioning a bot or an ISK seller is almost a necessity when covering the subject. A recent example involved my coverage of the recent ban wave in EVE. I used some posts from a botting forum to confirm that CCP had indeed begun a ban wave. I then used sales data from a gaming currency sales site to report the effect on ISK sellers.

I get around the bot naming problem by only naming specific bots in association with bans or a banwave. For some reason, the normal player doesn't want to use a bot if CCP is busy banning its users. As for reporting on black/grey market prices, I settled on Player Auctions. Not only is the site huge and comes up near the top of Google searches, but academics use data from the site when writing about the subject. Combined with the small readership of The Nosy Gamer, my posts don't result in bumps in sales.

However, not everyone is as careful. One of the best places to visit for news on botting, exploits, and RMT is the EVE Online sub-Reddit. Over there, if the posters aren't actually working for an RMT site, then they give out enough information to greatly aid them.

One of the greatest examples occurred in December. A post appeared from a former player who allegedly didn't like RMT because buying ISK off the black/grey market for 18 months ruined the game for him. The opening post was deleted after around 24 hours. The post read pretty much like one of those paid advertisements, including links to RMT sites.

I didn't mention which date in December the post appeared. Let me present a graph with sales data gathered from Player Auctions, as one of the links in the opening post led to the site. Also, in follow-up posts, the poster appears to recommend the largest ISK seller on Player Auctions. See if you can spot the date the post appeared.

If you guessed 14 December, you are correct. The day the post went live was the highest sales date for ISK I saw in the 2 1/2 years I've tracked sales on Player Auctions. The 569 billion ISK sold (and I know I probably missed a transaction or three) beat the previous daily high by over 35%. Advertising ISK selling on r/eve seems to really pay off.

Like I stated before, r/eve is one of the best places to keep tabs on botting and the black/grey RMT markets. I just hope the mods will take a little greater care in not letting people advertise on the sub-Reddit.

Friday, January 26, 2018

How Much Is A Titan Worth In January 2018?

I watched the big Keepstar fight in 9-4RP2 Tuesday on the INN Twitch stream. Matterall and Dirk MacGirk hosted the stream and had a lot of knowledgeable guests like Grath Telkin (Pandemic Legion), Vily (TEST), and Seleene (Mercenary Coalition). One question that frequently came up was how much real life money a titan costs. A lot of long time EVE players don't like the question, as they see the conversion of ISK to U.S. dollars as a marketing ploy by CCP. Worse, when real life money is thrown around, people outside of EVE get the impression that people pay a lot of real world money for a bunch of internet spaceship pixels. In the past, the figure quoted for a titan has reached as high as $7000.

As someone who doesn't play with the big toys like titans and supercarriers as well as closely follows illicit RMT in EVE, I don't have quite the reluctance about talking about the price of ships as other people do. Still, some of the prices quoted out on the internet are a little silly. Also, a few methods exist on how to figure the price, so people can legitimately disagree on the real world price. Let me walk through the methodology of how to come up with the price of a titan.

First, all real world prices for events and ships in EVE are based on the conversion of ISK, the in-game currency, for game time in the form of PLEX. Currently, players can pay for a 30 day subscription (called Omega time by CCP) for 500 PLEX. The average price of a single PLEX is approximately 3.2 million ISK in EVE's main trade hub in The Forge, making a subscription 1.6 billion ISK.

Looking at the loss mails on zKillboard, I am going to use a figure of 80 billion ISK for the price of a titan. Some, like the Avatar, are priced lower, and I hear that the Imperium sells titan hulls for much lower, but 80 billion ISK seems a reasonable figure. So doing the conversion of ISK to game time, a titan is worth 50 months of game time. Put another way, if the owner of a titan sells the ship instead of taking it into battle and losing it (and the ship loss is permanent), the player can play EVE without spending any real money for over 4 years.

At this point, the real life price conversions begin to differ. Some people look at the 50 months of game time and simply multiple the 50 months by the cost of one month of a one month subscription ($14.95). The result is $747.50.

Most, however, will calculate how much real life money a player would spend to purchase the ship with real world currency. One can buy a titan with real life money buy purchasing PLEX from CCP, selling the PLEX for ISK on the in-game markets, and then using the ISK to purchase the ship. However, people can use three packages for performing the calculation.

The first package is the one most frequently used to estimate costs. CCP has a 500 PLEX package that sells for $19.99. Fifty packages (for 50 months of game time) comes to $999.50. Not as expensive as some of the ships in Star Citizen, but an impressive number all the same.

The second package is the one I use for determining the price of ISK when comparing the price of black market ISK to ISK bought using CCP-approved methods. CCP sells a package of 1100 PLEX for $39.99. Using that price, and not removing the extra 200 PLEX, the price of a titan is $919.77. For those who want to spend as little money as possible using different packages, the price slips down to $914.75.

The final package is the one someone wanting to purchase a titan using real world cash would use. The best value is the 2860 PLEX for $99.99 package. Buying 9 packages results in a total price of $899.91.

Typical EVE, right? Four methods, each of which can produce a defensible result. But for those who ask, I have an answer.