Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On Gaming and Gambling

The Belgium Gaming Commission don't like loot boxes in games:

Belgium says loot boxes are gambling, wants them banned in EuropeBy Andy Chalk
The Minister of Justice says the mix of gaming and gambling is "dangerous."

Last week, Belgium's Gaming Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into whether the loot boxes available for purchase in games like Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2 constitute a form of gambling. Today, VTM News reported that the ruling is in, and the answer is yes.
The Google translation is a little sloppy, as usual, but the message is clear enough. "The mixing of money and addiction is gambling," the Gaming Commission declared. Belgium's Minister of Justice Koen Geens also weighed in, saying, "Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child."
Geens, according to the report, wants to ban in-game purchases outright (correction: if you don't know exactly what you're purchasing), and not just in Belgium: He said the process will take time, "because we have to go to Europe. We will certainly try to ban it." 

I'm not surprised.

In the evolution from buying games to the future of gaming, loot boxes on the micro transaction branch is a particular odious beast fraught with danger and legal technicalities that are finally coming home to roost.

Addiction is a terrible thing. It always starts off slow and in control and fun and harmless, and before you know it you are doing things and sneaking things and lying and going broke because of it. Gambling addiction is especially dangerous because there are no outward physical deterioration from partaking in it unlike alcohol or illegal drugs.

Loot boxes are themselves not intrinsically bad regardless of what they carry inside them, be it merely cosmetic items (like in Overwatch) or actual advantages for power or progression (like Star Wars Battlefront II that sparked this debate, or Heroes of the Storm in which you can get characters unlocked or experience boosters). The problem comes when the game allows you to buy loot boxes with real money instead of spending the money directly on the items you want; sometimes it's a trade off of spending X dollars for a rare item or same amount of money for so many loot boxes in hopes of getting a epic or legendary item, but some games simply close off the direct buy route and funnel all micro transactions into want is essentially a lottery.

Some people are just more inclined to become caught in the gambling addiction web. Sure there are lots of people that "know their limits and play within it" but there is enough people where the rush of a big payoff in a loot box chemically alters the brain to desire that feeling again. It's a chemical dependency and it sucks and it's easy to give into and hard to resist. "Just one more time..."

This is particularly dangerous for children and young adults who are just as susceptible to the possibility of addiction without the maturity to recognize the dangers and accept the risks, and these groups are the main consumers of these games where loot boxes are present.

I'm not arguing for the complete removal of all loot boxes as I believe that is unreasonable and will not work in the long run. I think we should acknowledge the gambling aspect of the mechanic and treat it as such. I also think protesting vigorously when a game comes out that abuses said mechanic is the right course of action, as witnessed in the backlash against EA's efforts in the Star Wars game.

Most importantly, we need to understand that game creators have the right to make money and that at the same time game players have the right to not be preyed upon with underhanded practices designed to exploit human psychological and physiological weaknesses. There is a healthy balance there and its important for both sides (producers and consumers) to find it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Project Vulcan - Audit Time Approacheth

The 6 month audit cycle for Project Vulcan Phase IV is upon us once more!

I've been putting it off while the heat of Lifeblood and mass producing Athanors was in full swing but we've settled down a lot now so I can start gathering all the inventory and pricing it all out.

I have no idea how much the corporation value has increased since May as sales and margins were depressed over the summer, but the uptick of selling 20 Athanors at profit margins ranging from 100 to 2 billion ISK each should boost that number considerably.

Expect the audit to be complete next week.

Monday, November 06, 2017

With One Hand Tied Behind My Back

Last night I organized a fleet of kitchen sink armour cruisers (with logi) and went on a roam to find some trouble, when half way through the fleet we get reports of a Caldari Militia Athanor refinery anchoring in Asakai. We burn over there with 6 minutes left in its vulnerable period and start putting firepower into the structure.

Just as an enemy fleet arrives to drive us off, we succeed and waltz off field.

As we regroup we see that the Caldari controlled Reitsato system is vulnerable so we decide to bash the infrastructure hub.

Soon after we started we got reports of our old foe Templis CALSF forming up a fleet to fight us, and later they undocked in a standard Caracal / Osprey fleet and started moving our direction.

I knew our kitchen sink fleet despite having logi support was undergunned in mostly short ranged weapons to take on the current apex cruiser doctrine, but allies from Spaceship Bebop alliance reshipped into some Oracles and after much debate I decided to try to take the fight against my more conservative gut instinct.

As the fight loomed, problems surfaced. The 5 Oracles from BEBOP were not in fleet and not on comms, making coordinating with them difficult. I didn't want to take the fight on the I-hub grid but getting the message clearly to the Oracle pilots was not working fast enough and I did not want to be the one to leave them hanging in the wind.

Templis arrived on grid and I made the call to dive in, hoping the firepower of our blasters and lasers would overwhelm the reps of the Ospreys. It did not.

Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sunset Period

EVE Valkyrie creator CCP is pulling out of VR with major layoffs
CCP Games is closing two studios and moving away from virtual reality, one of its main focal points for the last few years. The Iceland-based company will close its branch in Atlanta and sell the one in Newcastle as part of a round of layoffs, leaving the studios in London, Reykjavík, and Shanghai. The Iceland Monitor reports that today’s cuts will affect around 100 employees worldwide; CCP says that it’s providing relocation opportunities or severance packages to anyone who’s affected.
CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson calls the changes “tough, but important.” CCP will continue to run its flagship title EVE Online with no changes, and it is continuing with two previously announced projects: a multiplayer PC shooter called Project Nova and a free-to-play mobile game called Project Aurora, which is being developed by external studio PlayRaven. It will also maintain support for its existing VR titles, including the sci-fi sports game Sparc and EVE Valkyrie, which was recently updated to a VR-optional title called EVE Valkyrie – Warzone.

First of all, my heart goes out to the employees whose lives just got shattered by being let go. I've been laid off before and it was terrible. I hope all those affected find new jobs quickly.

Secondly, I feel that this move indicates a retrenching of the company and despite their assurances that EVE Online itself will suffer no changes, I can't help but feel that is not true. Both CCP Manifest and CCP Logibro were affected by the layoffs and both were instrumental to supporting the EVE community and well liked.

CCP Falcon posted this on the forums:

Hey guys,
Just a quick follow up to this, given that there are questions about EVE, and the future.
Obviously this is a really difficult day for CCP, and it’s been super tough to see a lot of our friends and colleagues end their journey with CCP.
With regards to EVE, it’s kind of bittersweet that this puts us in a more solid position going forward, as a lot more focus is back on EVE Online, its services and all the technology and support around it.
The EVE Online development team was not impacted at all by these changes, and remains the same size, working toward the same goals and features that have already been announced.
We still have very big plans for EVE Online, and everything we’ve announced, plus more, is still going ahead, so there shouldn’t be any concerns from our pilots in that respect.
There’ll be more information about other projects, studios and suchlike in the coming days, and there’s also communication going out soon to the Valkyrie community too that has further information.
This does not make me feel better to be honest. Even if the development team itself was not impacted directly, there will be follow on indirect impacts as the work the laid off employees had gets farmed out to remaining employees, or dropped altogether. Will alliance tournaments be affected? Live events? Council of Stellar Management? Fan site and events support? All of these are considered non-development activities but how many of them will continue going forward? And by whom?

In the end, I feel this move is not only an abandonment of VR technologies, but an acknowledgement that EVE Online's heyday is truly over. The hordes of Alpha players to power EVE into a new stratosphere of concurrency numbers did not appear like the Host of Rohan at the battle of Minas Tirith. We are definitely in the Sunset Period of EVE Online.

My own pic, actually a sunrise.
Is EVE dying? No, I wouldn't go that far. But its not thriving anymore.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lifeblood Is Live

The age of Player Owned Starbase moon mining and reactions is over. Long live refineries!

Actually, I hope refineries are not long lived. I hope they die a lot. Because this guy is build Athanor Refineries and it's good for business if they keep dying.

Speaking of business, I've got a lot invested in Athanor production. I had previously purchased materials for 10 Athanor builds but I added another 5 builds to the queue after I got 7 orders for them in the weeks leading to the expansion. In order to minimize time to delivery I decided to bite the bullet and purchase two Athanor Blue print originals which takes up almost all the remaining capital the corporation had available.

In other words, I've invested ~15 billion ISK in materials to build Athanors, and 11 billion ISK for the blueprints. Do I expect to earn more than 26 billion ISK in return? Definitely. Once the initial rush is over I'll research one of the Athanor BPO to reduce build time and then sell the other one for minimal loss after that, recovering about 5 billion. The 15 Athanors I build will pull in at minimum 20 billion ISK I estimate, and at that point we are almost breaking even. Long term, we'll make our ISK back, but how long will it take?

Each Athanor build takes 3 days and 5 hours. Say 3.5 days to account for times I can't get them out and next one into the oven right away. With two lines going, it will take ~25 days to build the first 15, so say a month to sell them all assuming demand continues to remain strong.

Also, I have an audit coming up in November, but I might wait until later in the month to clear the baffles of all these structures for the most accurate picture of how we are doing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Assault Frigates and the Proposed New Module

I've mentioned recently how assault frigates and cruisers have been squeezed out of the meta.

At EVE Vegas CCP devs announced that they are going to do a balance pass on Assault Frigates and Assault Cruisers, and as part of that pass they will introduce a new module that can only fit on these classes of ships, an Assault Damage Control. This new low slot module is like a normal damage control module with less resist bonuses, but can be activated to give 20 seconds of super resists with a long cooldown (how long is unknown at this time).

The concept is to try and make the frigates a viable option for heavy tackle in fleets (i.e. tackle that can get in close and scram/web to allow rest of fleet to pile on, as opposed to interceptors that usually only point from a distance and do not slow the target down) and to make assault cruisers more viable as a mid range fleet ship more capable of resisting initial enemy fire and to catch logistics repping in time.

Read more details from this article by Jin'tann.

Ashterothi has a quick audio editorial (~5 min) on the topic and he thinks that this concept is not a great idea because it's just another variation on the burst tank as popularized by Auxiliary Shield Boosters and Auxiliary Armour Repairers. In fact, since this module will fit will on the ships and operate at the same time as the repair modules it will exacerbate the issue with a super burst tank.

I can't speak to how this module will impact larger scale combat in fleets except to say that it might improve the lot of HACs versus T3 Strategic Cruisers or it might not work out if enemy fleets are smart enough to force an activation of the module on a target and then switch off it for 20 seconds only to come back while its cooldown is active.

But in low sec, these modules are going to be a pain in my ass if the enemy has them.

Tech 3 Destroyers are already a deadly opponent with the combination of speed, tank, and damage, but at least these machines are hampered by being excluded from Small faction warfare plexes. Assault Frigates with super tanks are going to be able to crash a small plex, activate the ADCU, and push the position more so than any contemporary frigates or destroyers that can fit in the small plex. I predict the current small plex champions, Cormorants and Algoses, will get replaced quickly by assault frigates.

On the other hand, small gang fighting in roams will be very interesting in low sec with these ships as they will act as durable scout / bait / tackle for long enough for the rest of the fleet to arrive. Hell, it may even help to make the Ishkur a viable alternative to the double-rep Incursus I'm so fond of.

Regardless, I'm pleased CCP is looking into these ship classes and look forward to trying them out once they receive some attention.

P.S. I've been radio silent the past few weeks due to a project at work eating all my free time. Its finally letting up.

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