Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bringing down an RMT empire

It's hard to miss the recent mass uprising against Somer Blink.  Nearly every blog has covered it and a new thread pops up on the EVE-O forums pretty much hourly.  If you're not aware, here's a quick rundown and an update on where we are now.

CCP and Somer
With EVE Vegas, CCP wanted to give out ships to the community.  Rather than do so though any system they set up, they went to a group within the community, Somer Blink.  Somer Blink is an EVE gambling site, where players can take part in microlotteries.  CCP chose to allow Somer to distribute the prizes alongside their lotteries.  Now this alone is not such a bad thing, groups within EVE have participated in events before and Somer did put their own isk into EVE Vegas.

The problem arose however when some members of the community question why they needed to sign up for a Somer account to be eligible for the prizes, and questions around the legitimacy of Somer, with CCP posting a claim Somer that are proven by history to be legit.

Now I'm going to be clear.  I've never been a fan of Somer, and I've always been a believer that they have been running scams, shills and RMT in the background.  So with this I could fully understand why there were complaints.  Here were CCP claiming Somer have always been legit, with no evidence to suggest this was really the case.  At this point the community started pushing pretty hard on Somer and CCP for clarification on what appeared to be an official endorsement.

From rumour to realism
With the community practically in a frenzy and CCP running damage control full steam, more and more rumours of Somer RMTing and scamming were appearing.  And this is where it turned.  Under this level of scrutiny, people suddenly started to realise that Somer have in fact been openly RMTing.  On their site, they link to Markee Dragon for players to purchase GTCs with themselves as an affiliate (see image).

Attached to the purchase, they offer credit for their site which can easily be converted back to isk, and in return they receive their affiliate fee.  Now all of the blogs have broken this down in one way or another, but FunkyBacon has a description with a handy picture which you can see here.

Following the announcement of Somer's RMT scandal, the community started to call on CCP to clarify the legality of the scheme.  With no action being taken and no announcements being made, people started to replicate it.  And that brings us up to now.

CCP seems to react
One of the players starting up their own scheme in protest was Katarina Reid.  She set up a shattered crystal affiliate link, and began to offer isk rewards for buying ETC through her link. This began on 24th October, and up until now she has made $660 though affiliation.  She kept a thread open on the EVE-O forums, which you can see here.  By keeping the thread up to date with her profit, she quite literally threw it in CCPs face, demanding action be taken.  And that action appears to have started.
Today (29/10/13) Katarina posted in one of the theads about this subject on the EVE-O forums with the following:
Not sure if im allowed to link the letter given to resellers but it says to stop players trading ingame items for cash. ETC + bonus items may not be direclty or indirectly traded by the buyer for isk. EULA says cant sell ingame stuff for cash. 10 days for reseller to stop it or else.
And that appears to be that.  As of this moment CCP have not officially come forward to state anything, but it appears that they have made the decision to put an end to this particular type of venture.  Now sure enough, CCP could be shutting down all other attempts to do this, but leaving Somer open for business, but that's highly unlikely.  With the community so unstable, it would be a bad move to further push the community away.  As far as we can see, Somer have 10 days to cease RMT activity, or they will be forced to stop.  I eagerly await the CCP response.

The aftermath
Now going forward, if Somer has to comply, this is a pretty big hit to Somer's income.  Even the most conservative of estimates puts Somer at around $4000/month from affiliate fees, so that's a pretty big hit.  You also have to look at how Somer will be feeling after that hit.  The community has pushed for this change, so it's likely Somer will hold a certain level of resentment towards the community for doing so.  Whether blinks will continue to run and whether Somer will continue to pay out is anyone's guess.

Personally, if I had a balance with Somer I'd play it safe by playing my credit to isk as efficiently as possibly, and cashing out.  If Somer get stopped or choose to stop, there are no rules that force them to cash out players outstanding balances, and with the high number of accounts they have registered, it's unlikely they will be willing to.
So my advice? Cash out, now.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Heating up Ice Mining

With the Odyssey expansion came the resource rebalancing.  This was a shake up of mining in general making some parts easier, some parts harder and generally spreading it out to give a better balance between the high end and low end.  Notably, gravimetric sites which previously required scanning can now be warped to without scanning, null sec space generates higher levels of ore the lower the sec status of the system goes, and high sec ice mining was overhauled.
This post is about the high sec ice mining.

How it was pre-Odyssey
Prior to Odyssey, ice mining was simple.  You travelled to one of the ice belts local to you, easily located on dotlan, and you started to chew though the near-infinite ice asteroids.  These would take thousands of man hours to empty, and they respawned daily.  I've never heard of one being cleared.
Due to the sheer size of the rocks, and the fact that ice is the only source of fuel for a POS, mining ice fields in large numbers for hours on end was quite a profitable venture for an activity that could be performed near AFK.  You could dump a bunch of miners and a hauler in a belt and mine ice all day long while playing a console game or getting on with some work.

The Odyssey shake up
With Odyssey, CCP decided that they wanted to reduce the amount of ice available in high sec to around 80% of the ice that is needed by players, enforcing a requirement for players to seek out ice outside of high sec.  They also wanted to speed up ice mining, reducing cycle times to make a little more bearable for the active player.
To do this they replaced all ice belts with anomalies accessible from the probe scanner without probes, like the new style gravimetric sites in null.  To balance out the regions, they also removed ice belts from a few systems.  The new sites are considerably smaller, offering only a couple of thousand ice blocks.  These can be mined out in a few hours by a relatively small group (or as recently shown, destroyed in under 20 minutes by a 100 man multiboxed mining fleet).  Once completely empty, they trigger a timer and are respawned exactly 4 hours later, in the same system but in a different location.

The problem
Now don't get me wrong, ice mining is an absolute dream compared to what it was, and the changes made are a vast improvement over the old system.  But there is a new problem, and that is competition.  Prior to Odyssey there was no competition as there was no limit to ice.  If 100 people turned up and started to mine ice alongside you, you would still never run out of ice to mine, and that was bad!  Competition is a good thing!  It allows for healthy fluctuations in pricing, and allows some people to profit and others to lose out.  Competition is good for EVE and it's economy.
So with the new system competition has been added, and that's good, but what behaviour is that competition rewarding?  Due to the way the ice belts respawn, in the same system, exactly 4 hours after completion, the people that are most rewarded are the people that can be there when the belt is cleared, then alarm clock for 4 hours later (or bots, who can watch the system and instantly warp to the site when it appears).
Now is this really the type of miner that should be rewarded?  Surely the miners that should be rewarded are the ones willing to put the work in to mining, not just the time, but that are willing to make mining their EVE career.

The solution
And that's where the idea for a solution comes in.  And it's fairly simple.  Randomise the respawn locations.  Rather than making ice sites appear in set systems, allow them to respawn in any 0.5-0.7 system in the region of space the ice is linked to.  So you mine out a Caldari ice site and 4 hours later, the belt respawns in a random system in Caldari space.  This simple change would mean miners would be rewarded not for sitting in a single system munching through ice, but instead for hunting it down.  It's great to make a whole heap of isk from an opportunity handed to you on a silver platter, and I write this post while mining ice in a fresh site, but it really is way too easy to be seriously competitive.
Note that other changes could also be implemented alongside this.  With belts being random, the volume and quality of ice could be varied based on security status, with 0.7s receiving fewer asteroids while 0.5s receive a couple of rare ice asteroids.  This would not only produce more benefits for mining in the riskier space but it would naturally form variations in supply, where some days sites in may not appear in a 0.5 at all, while on other days they may only appear there.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

EVE Meta Evolution - The siege bomber

Since the fountain war, I've seen many people putting the siege bomber (a bombless bomber, designed to shoot structures) in a bad light.  To most, the use of a siege bomber is a sign of poverty and is bad for morale.  I don't believe that to be true.  I think the siege bomber is a remarkable meta evolution, and should be considered a staple of any structure grinding alliance.  Aside from their benefits below, they look pretty amazing when you see a full fleet in action.

But what about dreadnoughts?
It's true, that for sieging structures, the dreadnought s the ideal ship. A good dreadnought can put out around 14,000 dps, while a siege bomber puts out around 700 DPS.   This means a dreadnought is the equivalent of at least 20 bombers.  But dreadnoughts do have some drawbacks.

Firstly, to reach their DPS, a dreadnought must use a siege module.  This locks the dreadnought in place for 5 minutes, making it unable to move, warp or jump.  This puts the fleet at risk.  A group of sieged dreadnoughts is a pretty juicy target for groups like PL or BL who can drop capital fleets on them with ease.  A fleet of dreadnoughts alone would not survive that encounter so they would require a subpcap fleet and a capital fleet on standby in case they run into trouble.  It's likely you wouldn't get a chance to form up mid battle, so this means gathering a subcap fleet, sitting them on a titan, just in case.  You want to talk morale?  Try dumping a fleet itching for PvP on a titan, then packing it up if nobody attacks the dreadnought fleet after hours of sitting around while the dreadnoughts are grinding structures lightyears away.

There is of course the subject of cost which falls into the same category.  10 dreads is going to set you back at least 20b, while a fleet of 200 bombers is only 8b.  Combined with the fact that bombers can scatter at the first sign of trouble and cloak up, it makes a fleet of dreadnoughts a lot more appealing to aggressors than a fleet of siege bombers.

A dreadnought fleet also requires a good FC, who can take responsibility for leading capitals and react appropriately to incoming enemies and intel.  Throwing a new FC into leading a dreadnought fleet is a sure-fire way to get them dunked.
Conversely, nearly anyone can lead a bomber fleet, and it's a good way to train your FCs in a real scenario rather than a training ground.  All of the normal procedures need to be followed and the group is large, but since a siege fleet is not capable of combat, scattering and cloaking is all that is required should the fleet come under attack.

Finally, a siege bomber takes nearly no skills.  Anyone can train into a siege bomber in fairly short time, and all you need to do is lock the given target and cycle your launchers, then scatter if told to.

Are siege bombers all that good?
They can be, and I'm of the strong opinion that they should be used wherever possible.  The downside to them is that they are not always possible.  Towers must be declawed (have all guns and ECM taken out) prior to a siege fleet engaging, since a siege bomber is unable to tank the guns even for a short time.  They also can't be used if you are going to have opposition, as they are unable to fight and would need to flee when engaged.

They do also need their own support fleet, however it's considerably smaller.  You need a black ops battleship and a covert cyno pilot to bridge you to your destination (you can take gates if you want, but you MUST scout well, as a pipebomb will vaporise your siege bombers) as well as a couple of covert ops haulers: one to bring fuel for the battleship and another to bring torpedos (you will use a LOT of them).

Hopefully this post goes some way to explaining the rationale behind the siege bomber fleet and highlights the benefits of it over capital fleets.

If you want to try in out for yourself, you just need a bomber, with a cloak, torpedo launchers, ballistic control systems and damage rigs.  Yep, it's that simple.  Here's a basic fit you can tweak to your hearts content.

[Hound, Siege Bomber Blank]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
[empty med slot]
[empty med slot]

Torpedo Launcher II, Nova Rage Torpedo
Torpedo Launcher II, Nova Rage Torpedo
Torpedo Launcher II, Nova Rage Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
[empty high slot]

Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I

Enjoy the sieging!