Friday, October 31, 2014

I don't pay to win, I just pay to ... win

The situation is extremely clear: as the definition of "win" is "reaching your goal", if paying real world money gets you closer to your goals, you are paying to win. All the excuses are wrong. The pay-to-win people usually claim that their win is not guaranteed by the payment. It's true, but irrelevant. Just because it's possible to win a soccer game 10 vs 11, bribing the referee to ban one of the opposing team without reason is still cheating. Playing 11 vs 10 is a huge advantage. Just like having gold ammo or being able to spend all your game time on fighting because you bought dozens of replacement ships from $.

The "my real world income is higher than the $1-2/hour I can earn in the game" is wrong for three reasons:
  1. your income is $0.00 while playing a video game. Unless you are an RMT seller, you create absolutely no monetary value. Being more productive while working than while playing is obvious.
  2. if you can earn 50-150M per active playing hour, you are either very newbie, very "just smelling the flowers and watching the scenery"-casual or fail very hard
  3. finding that paying gets you in-game progress easier than playing is an obvious criteria for deciding to pay to win. Saying it loud isn't more of an argument than "I cheat because it's easier to progress this way".
Now the trick in EVE, compared to World of Tanks is that you don't pay the developer to win. In WoT, you buy gold ammo and you can pop enemy tanks like they were tissue paper. In EVE, you buy a PLEX from CCP, but it doesn't make you any stronger. However you can trade it to better players for their power. For example in every month I don't use 9B for my purposes. From this money, I could send another highsec wardeccer after the major CFC alliances for nice kills. Instead, I give that ISK to bad players who pay my subscriptions in return.

The PLEX method - unlike the WoT method - isn't obviously wrong. If Adam sells power to Bob, Cecilia isn't worse off. She is now relatively weaker than Bob, but got equal relative strength compared to Adam. If we ignore the real-money part of the PLEX trade, we get the good old boosting: a good player helps a bad one because he is a friend. However we know that good players aren't a few percent better than average ones but 10-100x. So Adam may have 100B, Cecilia has 1B and Bob has nothing. After paying $30 Bob can buy 1.6B ISK, becoming stronger than Cecilia, while Adam is still much stronger. Of course she could just become as good as the 100B guys, but he doesn't even know where to start. The straightforward methods (mine, rat, mission more or better on her one account) are totally not competitive with PLEX purchases. So for the players who are unable/unwilling to make a jump into multiboxing and/or trading, the only way to win is to pay.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Greed is good once again

Despite being obviously overpowered, the nerf to bombers was changed into a buff. They don't receive penalties, they get new bombs instead. These ships cost about 60M and a dozen of them can exterminate a whole subcap fleet. After the buffs, they'll be able to engage capitals too.

Why CCP moved to an obviously bad design? Because bombers are balanced by the fact that unlike any other ships, a lone bomber is next to useless. It's a glass cannon that needs to kill its targets in a few salvos because it won't have more. But in a properly big (though still mid-sized) gang, it can exterminate fleets much larger than itself. The reason why players fly anything else than bombers is their high skill cap: you can't just put a drunken Goon into a bomber and expect him to live against anything that can shoot back (structures can't).

However if you can fly one bomber properly, you can fly dozens of them using a multiboxer software. A single player flying multiboxed bombers can win against multiple players flying a much more expensive fleet. A multiboxer has a wonderful property: he pays multiple subscriptions to CCP. Even if he PLEX-es those accounts, someone paid for those PLEX-es.

I wrote how I can make dozens of billions without any skill, risk or investment, just by multiboxing mining ships. The nastiest about it: I still can. With other mining multiboxers we can destroy whole markets, taking the income of hundreds of casual missioners, but CCP doesn't stop us, because we feed them with PLEX-es.

I'm afraid CCP decided to move to the pay-to-win way. They are subtle about it, there is no IWIN ship in the item shop. But by getting more and more accounts, you can buy power linearly. The PLEX price is already so high that the one hour in-game income of a solo player can be replaced by paying $1-2. They are better off accepting defeat and buy their ISK. The multiboxed miners were always here, now we see multiboxed incursion fleets and multiboxed AFK ratters. Please note that it's all legal, no botting, client modification or any other nastiness is involved.

With the design changes of bombers it seems CCP wants to extend this policy towards PvP: you can buy PvP power by getting more accounts. Soon we'll see other ships being multiboxed and then the casual, new or simply solo player have no place left in New Eden.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

About PLEX prices

PLEX-prices - as usual - keep rising, the current price is a new record.
The interesting thing is the constantly decreasing volume. While there are always conspiracy theories about secret cabals controlling the PLEX price, the reason is less arcane. It's also proven that there is no significant PLEX hoarding: CCP is legally bound to list them as "deferred income" (coupons) on its balance sheet, so we know for sure that the amount of unused PLEX isn't growing.

You could see that average concurrent logins are weakly correlated to nullsec activities but strongly to highsec activities. This means that if less players log in, they are missing from highsec, not nullsec. Highsec is typical place for casual and new players while nullsec is usually filled with hardcore.

Being good in the game means that the price of the PLEX, even at its peak is pocket change to you. Someone who operate suicide dreads can surely afford to play for free. So the PLEX consumers are here to stay, creating a rigid demand.

The PLEX producers are the bad, new and casual players whose number is decreasing. Their main income source is PLEX creation. It's somewhat natural: unless you heavily multibox or trade, your EVE income is $1-2/hour with the current PLEX prices. So for these players creating PLEX is an obvious choice. This does not contradict my earlier claims that they are bad players: they should trade or multibox. And this statement also doesn't contradict with my even earlier statement that "multibox or fail" is a horrible design and will kill EVE.

So as the amount of casual players drop, the amount of PLEX production decreases, and decreased supply meeting with rigid demand means runaway prices. The prices will keep rising until:
  • They become unaffordable for the lighter farmers, like solo-L4 missioners and random ratters. As they quit or accept that they have to pay, they stop being PLEX consumers.
  • CCP focuses on casual and newbie content instead of iterating on hardcore content and attract more casuals and newbies. As they produce PLEX-es, the supply increases.

PS: I've found a wonderful feature: you can block whole alliances, so you can be safe from trolling and convobombing of hostiles.

PS2: Look! Another wonderful battle report!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Conqueror of Orgrimmar - after 2 weeks

As you might heard, I'm playing WoW again after a year of hiatus due to the automatic group finder feature that allow finding team members at any time.

Using this feature I killed Garrosh Heroic (the endboss on the second highest difficulty) and claimed the heirloom war staff. I also have 551 item level, only 2 less than available from this difficulty.

While it looks awesome, it's not. I returned two weeks ago, with ilvl 497. I got most of my gear by being AFK. Literally. I went to Tol Barad, the World PvP zone from the previous expansion, which is now abandoned by everyone and AFK-ed to receive 450 honor per "battle". From that I got ilvl 550 PvP gear, which is almost as good as PvE gear of the same level. 6 of my items are still PvP gear. I got two from the new 5-man instance, the rest from my only one heroic raid, using the now endlessly available bonus roll tokens. During my two weeks time I collected 70 epic pieces that now wait in my bank for the disenchanting NPC in the garrison to come.

But the really interesting thing comes from the WoWprogress stats:
They found 840K active characters who killed any bosses on the second highest difficulty. Blizzard reported 7.4M total active accounts. Players who raided on one char did the same on alts too. 70% of the guilds that killed one boss also killed the endboss, if we assume the same for players, we can conclude that somewhere around 400K (5% of total) players reached what I've reached. While the game was indeed nerfed hard now, in preparation to the next expansion, the opportunity to grab kills is out for them too, and we see no jump on the graphs since the pre-expansion patch is out. Yet most players didn't take on the opportunity. So it's surprisingly easy to get into the top 5% of WoW players.

I have a theory for that, but that will need further examination. No, it's not "95% of the players are morons and slackers".

Monday, October 27, 2014

Laugh, ignore, copy

I started the GRR project at the end of 2014 January to fight the CFC, the largest coalition in EVE. The nicest commentary I got for it was "at least it's creating content". Practically no one supported it. The Goons were all over in laughter and trolling since my approach was "obviously" wrong: I wanted to fight a nullsec alliance in highsec. Then I supported "useless NPC trash" instead of their "real enemies".

A billion ISK dead CFC later they went into ignoring me. My forum topics got a few very busy Goon commenters. Their favorite word was "irrelevant". They took every opportunity to inform me that I do nothing and the by-the-time two trillion ISK of dead CFC does nothing, either because it's reimbursed (so the member had no loss) or because it's not reimbursed (so the alliance had no loss). The obvious problem with this logic somehow eluded them.

And now, look at this! The leader of the Goons calls his minions to do what? Join the "reavers", a group that is "tasked during war time to deploy into the enemies rear areas to be partisans". Sounds like Mordus Angels to me. Where else should busy little Goons join? For "the total devastation of any who oppose us, the Ministry of Love has been on an absolute rampage annihilating jump freighters". Yep, Goons are asked to go to highsec to wage wars on their enemies. Maybe the directorate didn't get the memo that these are irrelevant.

People consider the usual way the "good one". They consider everyone who disagrees with the "proven path" and idiot. Maybe because most of those who deviate it are idiots. I have no doubt that the initial laughing trolls were honestly sure that I'm just another lunatic. But then numerical results started to roll in. This convinced the leadership that my plan works. The random trolls got bored, so they directed the forum squad to start demotivating me with the "irrelevant" speech, with no avail, because I was always reinforced by better and better numbers. So finally they openly endorsed my ways and they became the new "proven path".

So dear readers, don't fear to deviate the "proven path" and ignore those who laugh. Just make sure you have numerical data to verify your ideas and don't afraid to pull the plug on the ideas that don't work.

Since Goons now follow my advice, let me remind them one that can save them from battles like this. Don't let the obvious kill take all your attention, give some to this too!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend minipost: 9 years of EVE

When Burni invited me to a conversation and I checked his employment history, I got excited. I was facing a 9 and a half years old veteran. Someone who seen the heyday of BoB. Someone who've been here before the Goons. His only corporation was the NPC corp, which could mean only two things: he is a master trader, or a front alt covering some old, important fellow.

I couldn't wait to hear his proposal:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coming soon: dual renting

People making bets about the future of Nullsec after Phoebe agree in one thing: the rental empires will fall. This is most probably true. However they implicitly assume that renting itself will fall and renters have to run. This is completely wrong.

Pirates and other small PvP groups are not the competitors of renters. Renters do PvE, mostly ratting. Pirates don't really want to rat. Chasing away ratters without ratting yourself is just dumb: the income from the rats in your land will be gained by no one. Renters have no loyalty to the landlord as we saw PBLRD members running to B0T or NA for better service. They are ready to pay to anyone who guarantees them the ability to rat in peace. Currently these are the big coalitions.

Currently the strategic and tactical control are the same. If you own Sov, then - using jump bridges and bridging titans - you are able to drop an overwhelming force on anyone who is messing in your land. Pirates live by hit-and-run. Renters don't have to fear them as long as they watch local. The pirates cannot reasonably attack structures because the landlord shows up with a supercap blob or 500 subcaps.

After Phoebe the strategic and tactical control will split. The regional power will still hold the Sov as it can still deploy and grind down everything in a week while stomping on any attempt from the locals to fight. However they will have to deploy to do so, at the cost of not being anywhere else. This means that outside of such deployments, the local pirates are free to plant their towers and siege renters. If the Sov holder scrambles whatever members they have locally, the pirates would likely beat them up. This creates an awkward dual-power situation: both the formal Sov-holder and the local pirates are owning the same land.

If both "owners" are rational, they both ask for a limited rent from the renter. The sum of the two rents should be around the current rent. The renter needs the blessing of both of them to continue operation. Without the blessing of the Sov-holder they can't dock in stations or get system upgrades. Without the blessing of the local pirates, they can't hold towers or stay in space.

In most cases, this will not happen at first. The landlords will be reluctant to acknowledge that they lost tactical control and can no longer demand full rent. The pirates will likely approach with an "I just want the World burn". This can lead to an initial exodus from some regions. An empty land where no one does PvE is good for no one. The Sov-holder will realize that lower rent is better than no rent, while the pirates will realize that having income is better than no income while having blue ratters at least attract random roamers that they can kill, while empty space attracts no one. So after the initial hiccups, the rates of this dual-renting will be accepted and renters will continue ratting as they always did.

PS: YA0 is still a wonderful place for a Goon to fly to.

Subscribe to the goblinish wisdom