Friday, 24 March 2017

CCP Aurum backtrack, Postouvin, and further small guy oppression

Good news for common sense this week. CCP's Team Size Matters, the team responsible for phasing out Aurum decided that taxing the majority of accounts 100% to prop up the PLEX price for the few and to wipe off CCP's balance sheet liabilities without honouring them was perhaps a bad idea. So now they are proposing that accounts with less than 1000 Aurum will be refunded in PLEX. Just not straightaway.  This is a massive improvement, but there are problems still with this approach. As I said before, tinkering around with currencies results in plenty of unintended consequences. Precisely what that PLEX will be worth by the time the Aurum poor accounts are reimbursed is an open question.

In other news, CCP's Team Five O released a couple of structure Dev Blog's : THE ADVANCING WORLD OF UPWELL STRUCTURES and INTRODUCING UPWELL REFINERIES. There is quite a lot digest there but Kirith Kodachi does a decent analysis on EN24 here. The takeaway for me is that the solo casuals and small corporations are being stuffed again. Lowsec and Hisec are also being punished by ongoing developer indifference. Eve may be more profitable than it has ever been but the activity slope continues its journey south. Continually mugging independent players is not going to improve matters.

More positively, I was induced to log in for the first time in ages. This was due entirely due to the Kyonoke Plague Outbreak. I am always a sucker for Eve lore so I took a trip to Postouvin where the Society of Conscious Thought are setting up a Keepstar for the purpose of  researching the plague and to hopefully find a cure. CCP are also running an event at Fanfest that will in someway be connected to this site so I am genuinely curious to see how this will develop. Postouvin is an isolated pocket of Hisec so care is needed passing through Low and Nullsec. I took the direct route and used an Ares Interceptor which slipped passed a small and probably drunk gate camp without issue. I came across Marc726 in Postouvin and he as ever describes the scene and background perfectly  He puts my clumsy screenshots to shame:

Spot the Ares competition
Final note before I sign off. I am really surprised how much tax my HiSec POCO's have pulled in while I have been away. The neoliberal economic model of generating income from non productive assets is alive and well in New Eden. But given where the real world now is, it is beginning to look a bit dated don't you think? Probably a post in there somewhere. Another day perhaps.

Friday, 17 March 2017

RIP AURUM (announces CSM to their friends. Two days before CCP Dev Blog)

Well it was almost a well kept secret. Yes, the  PLEX CHANGES ON THE WAY! Dev Blog was announced yesterday along with the accompanying video below:

This was preceded by a spike in PLEX prices so it's not unreasonable to suspect there was a leak. I am sure the very useful CSM (as they keep telling us) will be mounting a full investigation in order to justify your vote. They should have enough ISK by now to afford one. Hell, I will even help them start with this Jita PLEX price history:

OK, with that fantasy out of the way, what is the impact of this change? Firstly AURUM - the currency you buy things from the New Eden Store with is being abolished. Secondly, PLEX is going to be made more granular and will be able to be used in the same way AURUM currently is. So much simpler then and this is the line CCP are pushing. Anyone with 1000+ AURUM will have their balance converted into PLEX. Anyone with less than 1000 AURUM will lose it if they don't spend it.

This of course stinks for those impacted and this might be the majority of accounts. CCP's rationale is they don't want the market flooded with PLEX. Now there are a number of established ways you can avoid this. Just give players game time for example. But no, CCP has decided to tax the poorest accounts by 100% to subsidize the richer accounts by keeping the value of their PLEX stock up. A healthy reminder if I needed it on why I stopped playing Eve.

However, if you put the inequitable transition to one side, the change on a day to day basis is not that disruptive to the game. Like Skill Extractors, this is a stepping stone to some other change. Quite what that might be is unknown at the moment. Well I say that but you could ask the people who bought PLEX off the market a couple of days ago. They might have an idea. My tinfoil would be Beta, Delta clones and Weekly game passes but that is pure speculation but it is not unreasonable to think that Team Size Matters hunt for revenue generation continues unabated.

Longer term I think there is a problem. In the real world, debasing a currency doesn't end well. In this post Bretton Woods era currency is backed by a promise. The ability of a country to deliver on that promise helps determine the strength of the currency. The Venezuelan Bolivar is not strong and the country has an inflation rate of 62%. The Kuwaiti has inflation of 3% and has one of the strongest currencies. So when CCP shy's away from a (in game) currency undertaking or devalues its currencies in some way then at some point the trust in those currencies falls. And tinkering with the currencies is becoming a habit for CCP. 

The intrinsic value of PLEX isn't what it was two years ago. Back then a PLEX (or a sub) provided not only game time but the only way (ignoring the character bazaar) to get Skill Points. While you can still use game time to accrue Skill Points, it is not the only way to get them now. Skill Injectors and Alpha Clones can also do this. So if your need as a player is primarily Skill Points, then game time is not necessary. Consequently PLEX through CCP's actions has less intrinsic worth than it used to have.

Also, the liquidation of AURUM into PLEX is going to unleash a lot of locked up PLEX onto the market. A market is based on scarcity and PLEX is going to be less scarce. It is likely then that the Aurum you bought is going to be worth less in ISK than you thought once it is exchanged for PLEX.

Putting this altogether, the dilution of PLEX and CCP's willingness to cancel a promise of value and you have the prerequisites for  a significant PLEX price fall. Of course, CCP can always intervene in the market but there comes a point as in 2008 and real life quantitative easing where it ceases to work.

That point is determined by the final factor: player confidence in the currency. That is harder to determine. A diamond is just a bit of squished carbon but tell that to Mrs Kong. So I could be wrong. But if I was playing, I wouldn't be hoarding PLEX.  Afterall, can you think of a real life converged currency and which wasn't underwritten by a promise? I'm sure the Greeks can.

P.S. PLEX Vault? Carebear that I am I still fail to see the need for this. Pretty disappointing really.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Schrödinger's CSM

Got that? Great. So now it is empirically obvious that the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), which by the way is neither a council, stellar nor manages anything, is the retirement home for the Eve undead aka bittervets, delusional opportunists and endgamers. Why? OK

Obviously, if Schrödinger was still alive you could imagine him playing Eve. I mean the mentality that considers putting a cat in a steel box (non consensually I might add) with poison, a hammer, a radioactive source and a Geiger counter tells you there is something of New Eden about the man. 

As if this cruelty wasn't enough his "thought" experiment went on. When the radioactive source emits whatever it emits (cats don't care about such things I would imagine) the Geiger counter dutifully picks this up and informs the hammer to smash the poison container, which in turn releases the poison that kills the poor moggy. Artistic but perhaps a tad over engineered.

The point being radioactive decay is random so there is no way of knowing when the cute kitten will meet its grisly end. The cat's existential state is unknown until you open the box and are greeted by the smell. The cat can be thought of as both alive and dead at the same time until it is observed. The act of observing the cat changes its state.

Which brings me to the CSM. What observations can we make. Well none obviously because of the Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they all loyally sign. The NDA is the steel box in CCP's faux democracy thought experiment. Sure, they will tell you that lots of useful things were discussed and concerns raised. But when you ask for real information about important stuff (i.e. not yet another tedious rebalance)  then the fountain of knowledge dries up with the NDA being the cited cause. So no means of observation and the CSM have a valid reason for not being accountable to their voters. Ergo, an undead zombie cat of an organisation

Now there are good reasons why CCP won't tell us stuff. They don't need a CSM to not tell us stuff though. They are quite capable of doing that themselves. That hardly adds value. And actually we don't need the CSM to not tell us stuff either. A point the player base collectively told them last year:

That's right. Only 22345 accounts (less people because of multiple accounts) voted for people to not tell us stuff last year. With the CSM summit coming up it looks like taking it to the next level and will not be telling us LIVE!

Of course, the CSM would say from within their steel box that I am missing the point and they are doing an excellent job helping CCP get things right. But CCP haven't been getting things right. Player activity went off a cliff with the Citadels Expansion (but no changes since so zero impact CSM). Pay to Win Omega, while implemented well, is looking like a dead cat bounce (mixing metaphors I know):

The initial honeymoon in attracting FTP new players is over and those figures are heading south too:

If this is excellent work, I would hate to see bad work. CCP have played the only card they had in their back pocket (FTP) at the expense of broader game development. It hasn't gone terribly but it hasn't worked. Maybe I am wrong (but I can't open to box to know) but something smells not excellent.

Of course, some of the CSM do occasionally reach out for information. They are not bad people. But they are not professionals either and it can go badly wrong when it isn't conducted well as this poor guy found out. CCP should be doing this assuming they are actually interested in this sort of feedback.

Fundamentally, the CSM was only good for the entertainment value it provided with all the backbiting and other tomfoolery.This year it hasn't even provided that and has become about as fun as paying inflated brokers fees. There is no justifiable reason for the CSM to exist now. There is no function that it does that couldn't be done by other established and likely more effective means. The CSM might not be dead but it is not alive either. Don't vote for it. It is time for both CCP and us the players to grow up and stop pissing around with pretend politics if we really want Eve to survive