Sunday, June 21, 2015

CCP Weighs in on Twitch Streaming "Giveaways"

There's been some buzzing going on around Eve Media circles this week. With the recent resolution of the drama over at IWantISK, the topic has turned to a practice some twitch streamers have been turning to with increasing frequency. In a nutshell, certain streamers have been conducting "giveaways" of in game items, sometimes only to paying subscribers, and sometimes to anyone, but if you're a paying subscriber or have donated to them on patreon, you'll get an enhanced chance of winning something.

Let's Start With a History Lesson

There seems to be confusion among some streamers as to whether such practices constitute RMT. I popped on DJ Big Country's "Open Comms Show" this past week to see if I might be able to lend some clarity, being involved peripherally in the SOMERblink 1 scandal, and in the thick of SOMERblink 2.

Graphic I made illustrating SOMERblink's RMT
scheme back in 2013.
In the first instance, Somer was giving away 200 million ISK worth of "Blink Credit" to those who purchased a plex through his affiliate link to Markee Dragon. Blink credit wasn't an actual in-game item, it was akin to tickets for the gambling site, and gave players only a chance to win something. There was an, albeit laundered, source of real money being funneled to SOMERblink through the exchange of in game items of value, but CCP was in a tough spot when this was pointed out because certain Riot Devs who were working for CCP at the time had endorsed the site publicly as a legitimate service.

Once this particular RMT loophole was exposed, several players began to take advantage of it to cash out. CCP was again in a tough spot. It would be difficult to ban these players for RMT since they were exploiting the same loophole that a legitimately endorsed SOMERblink had been doing for years, but at the same time they couldn't allow every player with a few hundred billion ISK to cash out and walk away with tens of thousands of dollars. A cease and desist order was issued, and the loophole was closed.

As we all know, the second time SOMERblink tried to cash out ended badly for the site. He basically got "permission" to run a promotion from a member of the marketing team that wasn't familiar with crafty RMT schemes by presenting his proposal in a deceptive manner. When he was called on it by people who knew better, he decided to plaster CCP communications on his site without their permission in an attempt to defend himself, and then got banned and had his assets seized. I think officially he was banned for the communication leaks. Al Capone also went down for tax evasion. End result was the same.

Fast Forward to the Present

With the advent of monetization for people who play games on streams, it's inevitable that the line is going to be tested as to what constitutes RMT while streamers attempt to maximize revenues. My personal smell test for RMT is fairly simple:
Are you trading in game items, a chance at in game items, or giving an advantage to win in game items above and beyond others to people who hand you actual real life money? If there is a direct, or somewhat re-directed flow of cash and ISK, you've got some form of RMT.
Using what SOMERblink has taught us in the past, this would also include a situation where players purchase goods or services from a 3rd party and it's the 3rd party that is paying you.

Eve Radio is a prime example of how to do it "right". They accept donations and have a premium listener program. Paying money into either one does not grant those supporters any advantage on winning any contest where in-game assets are involved. Premium supporters ARE entered into a drawing every month for a free game on Steam, but that is not an in-game item or ISK.

By the same note, a twitch streamer could go onto CCP's shop and purchase (for real money) one of those insanely overpriced hoodies for $90. They could sell raffle tickets for that hoodie at $10 a pop on their stream and "give it away" to the lucky winner after 15 tickets are sold. Completely legit, though you might want to check with your country's gambling laws first.

In the above case we've got real world goods being exchanged for real world cash. Once actual money is exchanged and a Nyx changes ownership this would be RMT in some form or other. We could argue the rights and wrongs of RMT all day, but I'm not here to discuss the morality of it today, just pointing out what it is for those who seem confused.

Official CCP Response?

Yes, I know, this is what you've been waiting for. I could, after all, talk about what is, and is not RMT until I'm blue, but it doesn't mean much because Eve isn't my game, and I don't make the rules. Long time friend and compatriot at Eve Radio, DJ Wiggles, one upped me on this one and had the clever idea of asking CCP what they thought, then went over the response with Nosy Gamer on Wiggles' new Mini Podcast, New Eden Update, this past Friday.
Hi just dropping you guys a petition as the topic came up on my radio show I do each week on Eve-Radio and the question was "what is the legal standpoint of player created sites doing giveaways for in game items" this is in regards to player/fan sites giving either a) subscribers (via Twitch/Pateron/etc.) an extra chance at winning the items in game or b) a subscriber only give away that they can win in game items. -DJ Wiggles
Simple, direct. Wish I'd have thought of it first. Now, normally we're not allowed to share CCP responses to petitions except in extremely rare cases. One of those instances would be when the GM in question gives permission. Emphasis mine:
CCP's policy on monetization of videos can be read at the following website:

While the exact scenario you mentioned isn't explicitly covered in the above policy, it sounds too close to RMT for us to sanction. My take on this is that it's essentially not really a "giveaway" if the user has to pay real money in some fashion (subscription, donations) to be eligible, that sounds more like RMT than an actual giveaway.

My advice to Twitch/Youtube users would be to stick to advertisement monetization instead of tying giveaways into donations. Those that want to do giveaways are welcome to do so as long as any viewer is eligible and no payment in real life currency is asked for.

You are welcome to share this with your listeners.

Best regards,
Lead GM Lelouch
CCP Customer Support | EVE Online | DUST 514
GM Lelouch was careful to use the terms "My take" and "My advice" in his response for those who want to split hairs. That would make the above statement something slightly less than official CCP policy. That also doesn't mean it's ok to go out and start selling dollar tickets to your next Twitch Giveaway either. If a streamer is petitioned, the GMs will just have to make the call, possibly with input from team security, as to whether you're engaging in RMT or not. That's not a gamble I'd take with my Eve account.

Also, that official policy isn't written on a stone tablet, and it can change fairly easily. Should a specific streamer get petitioned, it very well may come down to GM interpretation of RMT. If this becomes and epidemic, I would expect the official rules will eventually be amended to clear up any "confusion".

At the very least, what we have at the moment are some instances of RMT. Illicit RMT? In some cases, perhaps. Unsanctioned RMT? Well, without a direct CCP endorsement as what happened with SOMERblink in 2013, ANY form of RMT, illicit or not, is unsanctioned. It's just a question of how far people get before the hammer drops. *MY* advice to streamers is to be very careful with these giveaways. I wouldn't allow money and in game items to brush up against one another, no matter how cleverly you think you've disguised it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

FW Pilots and the Null Sec Bubble Dilema

The other day I published a piece about a couple of topics near and dear to my heart in Eve lately, and one of those topics mentioned a certain development style that has taken CCP by storm in the last year or so: Delete Key Game Development. It is the removal of features or functionality in the game client in an attempt to fix issues or improve the experience.

Images today from
Industry teams not working the way they were envisioned? Remove them, stating the possibility to revisit and fix them properly later. Clone costs too high for nullsec/WH veterans to justify flying cheap ships? Get rid of them. Bombers able to probe and warp to targets too quickly? Remove a bunch of fleet warp mechanics!

I know I come off as if this is a terrible way to do things, and in some cases it can be. Present issues aside, however, deletion of some game functionality could have a positive effect.

While still a lowsec resident, I'm no longer a part of Factional Warfare. I still communicate with a few old friends in the business, and one concern that has come up is an issue that complicates things considerably for FW groups wanting to play in Null space.

While it would be cool to be able to take the credit for the following, I can't. The issues were raised initially towards the end of CSM9's term by a group of concerned FW citizens and presented to CCP. I know Sugar Kyle has brought this to CCP's attention once or twice over the course of CSMX's term, but there appears to be little traction being made thus far, so it might be time for a spotlight.


Bubbles are a big part of combat in null sec, and for a FW group, deploying bubbles in nullsec can be a tricky endeavor.

Any member of your own militia that wanders into a bubble you deploy counts as an act of aggression, and comes with a lovely standings hit. That's bad. Worse is if any of those guys lose their pods in the scuffle, because a bad standings hit gets multiplied several times over. Losing a single rank in FW comes with a nasty faction hit to the empire you fly for, one that can't be regained by simply ranking up again. Half a dozen pod kills can net SEVERAL demotions, causing standing hits so severe they can get you, your corp, and even your alliance kicked from FW. Aside from the prospect of losing several billion ISK in implants, this is pretty big on the list of why FW groups often avoid nullsec.

There is some real hope in that there is a relatively easy solution to this problem, and it doesn't even involve making any changes to bubbles.

To put it simply, all that needs to be removed from the game to solve this dilemma is NPC standings hits for aggression in Null Sec and WH space. Of course, that would mean that FW groups could engage "friendlies" at will in null security space and wormholes with no consequences to their standings, but after talking with several people still in FW, no one seems to see this as being an issue. After all, there are no FW objectives in null sec or WH space, just a few good fights, and maybe a chance to try out Fozzie Sov, something that would be very difficult with the way standings hits currently work.

Monday, June 15, 2015

IWantRMT plus Proposed Fleet Warp Changes

Hello friends! It's been an interesting last few days in Eve. It's also been a couple of months since the last blog post, but really there hasn't been much to say that couldn't be tackled on the weekly radio show.


Before I get to the meat of today's posting, I think it's only fair to touch on the IWantISK situation. I've known about the site for some time, but haven't really cared one way or another. My primary form of gambling in Eve is in PVP, and that loses me enough money these days without the benefit of FW LP to make up losses. I had a brief stint at EOHPoker, lost a few hundred million, and came to the determination that I suck at Poker. I also tried betting on some AT matches on Eve Bet lost some money there too. Basically, gambling is bad for me.

Eve's meta is kind of unique in the land of modern day MMO's. I don't know of any sites where you can bet your WoW gold playing poker or bet on real life sporting events, nor where it can be used to gamble on lotteries for in game items run by players. In fact, off the top of my head I can't think of ANY other MMO that allows this, which is kind of a pity, because I suspect there are a lot of people paying subs right now in Eve that may not be if it weren't for the meta game.

So that brings us to the temptation that hits guys like Somerset Mahm when their meta game gets a little too good, and they start seeing opportunities to turn it into real money. IWantISK has apparently been doing well, and when the site was black listed from the in game browser a while back, it was fairly obvious that something was afoot. Supporters of the site were calling for calm, the guy that runs it was asking why, and anyone with a level head on their shoulders had a pretty good feeling someone, or more than one person got caught with their hands in the RMT cookie jar.

So much shit was posted in the wake of the black listing, it's hard to separate the bullshit from anything that might have been substantiated, but we've come away with 2 facts at this point. 1: Some of the bankers for IWantISK were dirty. 2: the more the IWantISK guy opens his mouth to speak, the more I'm convinced he's either a clueless idiot, or he knows more than he's let on.

The thing that eats me on this stuff is just how unnecessary it all is. EOHpoker and Eve-Bet have been operating for years without this stuff happening. Maybe they're not raking it in to the point where the temptation is too great to pass up, or they're just honest dudes trying to make money in game creatively, I don't know. One thing I do know is that you might gamble and do ok, but if you keep playing long enough, the house always wins. In this case, it looks like the house is CCP, and they've called in their chips.

Nosy did a great writeup on what he's collected to date. If you don't know him, he's THE guy when it comes to blogging about RMT stuff in Eve, and should be on your reading list.

Lazy Game Development Part Deux

Over the last couple months I've been working hard to curb my inner bittervet. I got out of FW, I've been playing Eve more, and I've been having fun doing it. I've even had some positive things to say about CCP and Eve on the weekly Eve Radio Show! I'd been making some real progress, then someone brought the o7 show from this past week to my attention and I think I'm having a relapse.

When I saw the fleet warp change announcement on the o7 show my initial reaction was "WTF?!" The more I've read about it since and come to figure out exactly what is changing, I'm even more confused. Warping your fleet to 0 or range on a stargate or celestial or fleet member is fine, but it's lazy piloting to fleet warp to a bookmarked tactical? Are you effing kidding me?

I have linked the relevant section of the show below, it should start right when the fleet warp discussion begins. 

 "We want to encourage more specialized play!" In a word, bullshit. I kept waiting for a Feel, Felt, Found sales pitch somewhere in there which thankfully never came.

I will admit that I'm a little out of touch where large nullsec fights are concerned. I typically fly in small to medium gangs, hardly ever more than 20 people. We rarely probe, but when we do, we always send a cloaked guy in first because if someone is sitting there aligned we NEED to make sure our tackle lands at the right range with as little time to get away as possible.

We do, however, maintain an extensive list of tacticals in many of the systems we routinely operate in. Gate perches, off grid pounces, instant dock and undock bookmarks are a few examples.

In lowsec, we're lucky because the stuff we bookmark tends to not move around, and I have few enough people I fly with that if I can remember how to copy my bookmark sets, I'll only have to copy a couple hundred BMs to pass around. It'll be a complete pain in the ass, but maybe not as bad as a null FC that would need to pass them around to a few hundred people.

There was a time when the mass copying of bookmarks had a really negative effect on the server performance, which is how we ended up with warp to 0 (warping to something used to land you 15k away, our autopilot is a legacy of that system). If this ends up becoming a thing again for fleet ops, I'm wondering if CCP has considered whether this will rear it's ugly head again.

That all aside, I don't even want to think about the guys in WH space. From the rumblings I'm hearing, if this change goes through, CCP is hitting those guys with the big purple dong. Fortunately, CCP has come out and said they'll look into ways to not screw WH guys over quite so much, but that also reeks of "Wow, we only thought of the one area of the game we were trying to make more 'interesting' and didn't even consider what that would mean to you guys over there." Here's an idea: Mention something like this to your CSM first, and consider the WH guy's feedback before the "Big Announcement"

So, what exactly is CCP trying to fix with this change? Well, they've talked about flying "mostly afk" and warping fleets to probe results (specifically bombers?). Bookmarks it seems weren't the real target, but got caught in the collateral damage category because you can bookmark your scan results. I'm not buying the mostly afk thing, because if that was the case it would make more sense to remove the entire fleet warp mechanic... of course maybe they wanted to, but then thought the tsunami of tears would be too strong and decided to baby step this instead.

That being said, lazy here begets lazy. It strikes me as an FC that if a bomb drop was a legitimate concern of mine, I'd spread my fleet out a little bit. Maybe a tweak to the explosion size of a bomb is in order if fleets are getting hit too easily?

Further, in a non stealth bomber situation, fleet warping your interceptors and tackle with the bulk of a fleet seems kind of dumb, since all ships will warp at the speed of the slowest ship in the fleet warp. Maybe by wing or squad, but then wouldn't you need a prober in every squad or wing leader position to pull this off? Surely no FC would warp an entire mixed fleet at battleship speed right?

So again, I'm a little confused.

If the issue is warping a fleet onto a probed target and the speed at which that can be accomplished, why aren't we tweaking probing? The most likely reason I can come up with is the coding behind it, and the fact that it's easier to remove functionality from the client than edit existing code. In a nutshell, that means looking for the fastest, easiest way to tackle a problem and determining whether any collateral damage is worth it. That's why the teams feature got pulled from industry, too much of a pain to fix vs just removing them entirely. You may also recall a certain heated incident during my term on the CSM last year where removing intra-corp aggression entirely came up at the summer summit, followed by a complete removal of clone costs with "plans" to replace the risk with something else later down the road that I don't think we'll ever see. Pluck, pluck, pluck, meaningful changes made to the game with the Delete key.

This wasn't brought up on the o7 show, but another casualty of this change is the time honored tactic of inviting someone undocking to your fleet, and if they accept, fleet warping them to a nice, good old fashioned, passionate ass whupping at an insta a few hundred km off the undock. Recalling a few.... impassioned discussions I've had with one of the people present for this change's unveiling, I would not be surprised if the protection of "players who don't fully understand game mechanics" getting taken advantage of (ie: noobs and/or dumbasses in capital or other blingy ships) did not come into play at all here.

In Summary

There are a few issues going on here, and looking at the proposed change from the angles I just don't see what's being "fixed" outweighing what's getting broken. I don't think CCP Fozzie and Larrikin are telling the whole story. This seems like a poorly thought out change, or a change for the sake of change. There's no quality of life improvement, nor does it make the game any more fun or intuitive.

One could argue that it would make the game harder for some people, which in itself might not be terrible, but I'm grasping at air when I look at the given "reason" for the change being "We want transfer more responsibility for the success of a fleet from its FC to its members." Fozzie has stated that he feels this is a good outcome for bomber fleets, but the bigger picture makes this look like a change meant to kill a fly with a bazooka. There is far too much collateral damage if the act of fleet warping itself is not the perceived issue.

And that brings us back to a modus operandi that seems to have taken increased hold at CCP over the last few years: putting more emphasis on getting things done the easy way, not necessarily the right way.

The changes to POSs and space structures appear to be an exception to this, and I have to say I'm very excited for what I've seen so far on that front, but I'm still left shaking my head with some of these "Delete key" changes.