Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gallente Victor: Thoughts on the 2nd Warzone Sweep in 2 Years.

Congratulations are in order for the Gallente Militia. This is the second time I've seen the warzone get swept like this. Last time worked much the same, except without the Caldari throwing in the towel. As I recall, Gal Mil only held the whole zone for a day last time as Ev0ke landed up in the northwest and began their march to Eha where they were eventually stopped.

That said, this is looking like the beginning of a long painful drought for the Caldari Militia. Some people have brought up to me, and I would agree, that the current system is a bit too punishing for the side getting the screws put to it. It's something I'll bring up with CCP, though I'm not 100% on a solution yet. What is clear is that there is no incentive to join a side losing as bad as the Caldari are right now. That is bad for player retention on their end, and also for bringing in fresh blood. Only a true Caldari loyalist (Read: RPer), gluttons for punishment, and those too stubborn to back down would see much value in joining or staying with Cal Mil at this point. That is unhealthy not only for the Caldari's ability to remain competitive, but also for the Gallente that rely on decent Caldari numbers for content.

I don't think the pendulum should swing on the nuts of AFK plex farmers, but at the same time, there has to be some value to a player willing to fight for a side on a down swing.

A good part of this Gallente Victory is the also Caldari's inability to work together between corps and alliances. I was there in the meeting when the plan was laid out on which system would get hit in what order, the Gallente FCs and CEOs having full knowledge that none of the groups would move in to help one another hold their space, and would patiently wait their turn for the whole of the Gallente militia to come to them.

In a sense, I'm a bit sad at this victory. I saw flashes of brilliance from the Caldari side during the Okkamon campaign, with large Caldari fleets and several groups working together. There was one night in particular where you guys really brought it, and there were a lot of frustrated words on Gal Mil comms. Had you guys been able to keep it up, the Gallente might never have taken that system, but you didn't, and they did.

I also think there's a marked difference of attitude between the two sides. I remember a few months ago spending 12 hours attacking Enaluri and finally getting it to 28% that first day after losing hundreds of ships. I wanted to put a fist through my monitor that night when the node crashed from something that was happening several systems away, and we logged back in to find the system back down to 0%. We petitioned it of course, but the response was that the tools didn't exist to fix the percentage bar back to where it had been.

We had to start over from scratch, and what happened was that the following day, Gallente numbers swelled as people who had not participated in the offensive at that point, and hadn't really cared, rallied around the FCs and people who'd wasted their time and ISK the previous day, because "fuck that shit".

That's the real difference I see between the militias. When the Gallente get a bad turn, they seem to rally together tighter than before, and try harder. If someones home system comes under attack it's basically a guarantee that almost every major corp and alliance will be there to help in the defense. Help is asked for, and it's given without a second thought because each of us knows that those guys will be there for us when it's our turn to get shit on.

The Caldari could learn something from that, but it won't be easy. The Gallente core groups have the advantage that comes with flying together for years at this point, while the Caldari have gone through a lot of turnover in that time. If you were to look at the Gallente corps and alliances that bashed the final iHub in January of 2013, a lot of the same flags were flying in August of 2014. On the Caldari side, I don't think more than Templis and the Russians around OMS still remain from the 2013 Campaign.

In closing, while I will happily look at ways to incentivize a losing side to keep fighting (and take suggestions) to bring these ideas to CCP's attention, I also think the Caldari have some work to do in their own house. Any changes that could be made that would affect all sides equally at this point still won't save you guys from yourselves, and your inability/unwillingness to work together.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SOMERtime BBQ, Now with More Sauce

Shortly after my update last night was done, SOMERblink's PLEX buyback promotion hit the skids. Somer posted a bit of a bitter message on his website, and I smiled for the first time all day. His words were not the words of someone interested  in making things right, rather he drew his sword, then lashed back at CCP and the VP of sales it would appear he manipulated into giving the go-ahead for his latest RMT cashout scheme.

Based on Somer's reaction, my advice to the community last night on twitter was to cash out of Blink before Somer tried to pull an Eve Bank and hit the exit running.

This morning the CSM had another alarm clock meeting with CCP. The picture of what happened is getting quite clear at this point. What you don't need an NDA to know was actually posted up by Somer himself where he linked his proposal to CCP, and CCP's VP of sales e-mail response to him. Where Somer hung himself on this was where he said:
Blink provides no extra ISK or bonus Blink credit for buying through the link. - Somer
Now I can't speak for CCP on this, but the way I see it, offering to buy PLEX back from only people who buy from you at a price substantially above market looks to me like extra ISK in thanks for dropping a little RL $$ in your pocket. Making it retroactive for almost a year saw PLEX prices in Jita yesterday rise from 785 to over 800 million as a result of what I assume were people snapping up PLEX on the market to cash out on what Somer said he owed them.

Somer's entire proposal reeked of a sleezy sales job, deliberately deceptive as to what his intentions were, and tailor made for an audience with limited knowledge of the actual game Eve and its economy. It's also telling that he seems to have avoided the Community team on this, where his proposal likely would have found its way to the trash bin faster than a Doritos bag in the hands of a fat kid.

Based off the e-mail chain posted by Somer, it also appears that Markee Dragon has had his hands in this, and Somer was trying to cover Markee's ass almost as much as his own in seeking approval for this RMT run. Markee himself is no stranger to RMT, and has a deep seeded history in it going all the way back to Ultima Online. He may have cleaned up his act since those days, but I refuse to believe he doesn't recognize an RMT scheme when he sees it, especially one as blatant as this one.

So where does this leave us at this point? I'm absolutely of the opinion that Somer is in breech of the EULA and TOS. His "approval" from CCP means jack shit. His proposal for this promotion was deliberately misleading as to what his actual intentions were. He knew what he was doing from the start, and put a house of cards in place to attempt to cover his ass from the inevitable community backlash that would result from this, a house of cards that has gone up like flash paper thanks to his own revealing of both his proposal, and the VP of Sale's response.

While Somerset Mahm is a player in eve, Markee Dragon is an official CCP business partner, and PLEX resellers are governed by a different set of rules than players. He could also play the plausible deniability card, stating that he took what I did from Somer's proposal and didn't realize Somer was actually going to give the ISK bonus as an above-market exclusive buyback.

If this was my call to make (and fortunately for Somer it's not) I'd see SOMERblink burned down epic BBQ style for this. This guy has gotten so many breaks at this point it almost makes me sick. This latest incident is a nose thumbing not only at the community, but also a nice little teabagging for CCP in the process. This is the sort of person you make an example of for others to understand that this is not how to conduct business.

Sadly, as of this evening, it looks like Somerset Mahm has chosen seppuku over the possibility of a public execution:
Hey friends,

Thanks for all the years of Blink that we've spent together. It's been a long four years-- some of it longer than others!
Unfortunately, as of today, Blink is going to go on extended-- perhaps indefinite-- hiatus. CCP has gone back on everything they said several months ago, and the resulting environment is so hostile that it's not one we want to try to operate in, if CCP throws us under the bus.
If you have prizes waiting, they will be fulfilled. You can claim prizes as normal. Bonk tickets have been refunded to your account balance. We will begin refunding all account balances of people that have played in the last 6 months, starting with balances over 10 million ISK. As always, we're not in the business of stealing your money. 
It's been an absolute pleasure to meet many of you, through Blink, Eve, and our lotteries channel. Thank you for the experience.
Smart play on his part returning the ISK to people, assuming he follows through on it. That will at least ensure some goodwill from his customers if he ever figures out how to run an Eve business without resorting to RMT. I'd like to think this will be the end of it, but Somer strikes me as the dramatic sort. While a quiet fade into the night would be preferable for all those involved at this point, one can only hope he provides us a little more rope to hang him with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SOMER Updates

This one's going to be a very short posting today, but an update none the less. The CSM's day started pretty damn early today for those of us in North America having to alarm clock into a meeting first thing this morning. I suspect CCP's community team was up long before we were, and some of them are still working long into the night as I'm typing these words.

Due to NDA constraints, I can't tell you anything that's been discussed with us today, but I am happy at this point with the effort that is going into getting this situation resolved. Those people at CCP we have been in contact with today are taking this seriously.

CCP Falcon has given a preliminary statement to the community and I urge all of you to read it, as it's the most official detail available in the open right now. Keep your eye on that space for further updates as this situation progresses.

Given the size of this situation, patience from the community will be a virtue. I understand that people are mad, but this is going to take more than a day or 2 to resolve. By all means, weigh in and make your voice heard, but do try to be civil about it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Breaking: SOMERgate 2014

EDIT: I got some confusing info from a user on twitter. While I made sure to include wording such as "if so and so is correct" to avoid presenting the info as solid fact, the claim of that user has been called out as misinformed on several fronts. I've put a strike through on the affected part of this post.

At this point I don't have a ton of details. What is known thus far came initially from THIS reddit thread, and there has been a lot of back and forth over Twitter as to exactly what is going on.

On the surface, it looks like SOMERblink is at it again with another crazy masked RMT scheme. Their last one ended in a sort of implosion of public angst, and was shut down by CCP in no uncertain terms. This latest one was apparently "vetted and approved" by CCP.

Screen cap provided as one needs a Sb account to see prices.
The scheme this time around works like this: You go to Somer's site and click their link to buy a PLEX from Markee Dragon. Once the purchase is confirmed, you are granted a "PLEX Credit" which is Somer's promise to buy that PLEX from you. Right now, Jita prices are around 785 million, but Somer will buy them from you with your PLEX credit for 830 Million. A best estimate suggests that Somer's cut of a PLEX sale at Markee Dragon is in excess of 8% of the sale (SOMERblink bailed on Shattered Crystal and switched to Markee Dragon when the bidding war between the 2 resellers hit 8% according to SC)

Assuming 8% of the sale and a PLEX sale price of just 780 million, $35*0.08=$2.80/2=$1.40. 830m-780m=50m actually spent per $1.40. 1 Billion ISK/50 Million=20*1.40 = $28 per Billion ISK.

The lower the sale margin, the better for Somer in this case, so if they are able to sell off their PLEX for the equivalent of 785m ISK they make $31.10 per billion at an 8% commission. Even at $28 per billion, Somer is far outstripping any "honest" ISK selling service (read: the dudes who don't try to hide that they're doing RMT) who are making $11-$13 per billion, and getting both their and their buyers accounts banned left right and center. If you or I buy a pair of PLEX for $35 and sell them on the market for 785 million ISK a pop we are spending about $22.29 for 1b ISK, but this is before the SCC takes their cut.

Bear in mind that if Somer puts that same PLEX up in one of their blinks at a 20% markup, they will also pull in 936m ISK, so really, they're paying nothing except perhaps a little more than if they purchased off the market.

But it gets even better!

Last year's SOMERblink graphic updated!
According to Radamere on Twitter, that 830 Million ISK is put directly into your Blink account, meaning, you are selling a PLEX for Blink credit (something entirely misleading on SOMERblink's site if this is true, as they word it to seem like they are paying out straight ISK). Somer's payout is around 80% on the average, so 830 million in blink credit will generate payouts back to players worth around 644 million ISK. Instead of paying 830 million for an item worth 780, they are paying out the equivalent of 644 million for that same product. Using that logic YOU are paying Somer 136m ISK plus $1.40 from Markee Dragon to take that PLEX off your hands! In other words, I can't give you a $$ per Billion figure since Somer isn't actually spending any ISK on this, you're paying them....twice. (Read: You're getting scammed son)

When one considers the old RMT scheme was paying out 200m in blink credit per GTC sold, and the new one taking IN 136m ISK + $1.40 per PLEX sold, Somer has REALLY put the screws to their customers on this if Radamere is correct.

Whether blink credit or straight ISK payouts, the scheme would be positively brilliant if not for the fact that anyone with half a brain should be able to see that this is still obviously RMT, and should be quite against the spirit of the game, the EULA, and TOS and all that jazz.

Of course, according to SOMERblink's website, "This program has been vetted and approved by CCP." Assuming for a moment that Somer isn't dumb enough to make a false claim about that, I have yet to see anything from CCP endorsing this. If I were a betting man (haha get it?) I would put my ISK on Somer dropping a petition outlining what they wanted to do and getting a response from a GM saying they didn't see anything wrong with it. Since there is no point of reference on Somer's site, and petitions are considered confidential information (you can get banned for a copy/pate of a GM response to a petition even if you don't post it on a CCP service) this seems the most likely scenario.

From a lot of the angry words I'm seeing on the net, there are some hot headed people ready to string up CCP over this scheme for "endorsing" it, but I would urge everyone to stay calm. Why?

1: This scheme is complex, and we don't know how this was explained in the petition (assuming there was one. I have no insider info on this and can't confirm or deny this was even done through petitions). In simple terms, they could have just asked if it was ok to purchase PLEX from players in exchange for Blink credit. It's obviously ok to purchase PLEX from someone for ISK. All of that seems pretty legit except for the part where that PLEX purchase and what looks like a bonus requires a RL cash payment to SOMERblink in order to obtain. Without all the facts presented in a clear fashion, even I would probably give the nod to this. Without the RL purchase requirement, people are just dumb to sell something worth 780m to Somer for the equivalent of 644m. I'd call that a scam, not really RMT, since if Somer wasn't required to get paid RL $$ to sell the PLEX to you in the first place, it's just in-game items being exchanged, and there's nothing wrong with that.

2: Even if the scheme was explained to a CCP employee in the fullest detail, this would not mark the first time in Eve history that some clever player got a GM to tentatively sign off on something, only to have the decision completely reversed upon further review.

Look, there's no way CCP lets this scheme stand, it'll get shut down just like the last one. Ideally, I'd like to see SOMERblink and Markee Dragon get their pee pees slapped for this, because both of them should know better and shouldn't have tried to pull this stunt in the first place. Unfortunately, if someone at CCP did sign off on this (and I doubt that they would if given all the facts) I think the best we can look forward to is a swift and decisive closure to this little loop hole, and another cease and desist order from CCP to its PLEX resellers.

For the CSM's part, while I can't speak for the other members, I don't think anyone is happy about this, and I wouldn't be shocked if you hear or read words from the others as this develops.