EvE’s Economy – Presentation at FanFest 09

I’ve been watching the various videos that CCP is publishing during EvE FanFest this week. In particular, their economy session was the most interesting to me; It was mostly focusing on the effect of their ‘Unholy Rage’ banning program, implemented in late June.

First, the video link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSgVeU7e9tU

I focus here on the first half of the video, regarding their economy model – a closed system. You put real money in (either US$ or Euro) and, no matter what you do, no actual money comes out to individuals (aka ‘cashing out’). This was generating some interest in what is known as RMT (Real Money Transactions); The video discusses it well, but in essence someone pays real money for in-game ‘goods’ (in Eve’s case, usually the in-game currency known as ISK). This, by CCP’s TOS and EULA, is illegal because (as above) they don’t want money going out.

So, in addition to the normal ‘waves of banning’ that every ‘closed’ MMO tries to do, CCP came out with an in-game commodity known as the PLEX – Pilot License EXtension. Each PLEX gives you 30 days of game time when redeemed, and are generated by converting a GTC (game time card/code). They are sold within the normal in-game market, which meant that players themselves negotiate the (ISK) price of PLEX over time; The only difference from other in-game commodities is that you cannot transport them (making PLEX trading applicable to the region-level only, instead of the entire universe).

I find this to be a very refreshing solution to the ‘gold farming‘ problem that plagues every currency-based MMO (rampant farming and grinding were the main reasons I never liked WoW and other PvP MMO systems). That problem is also why I was so attracted to Uru (pure story, no need for money) and Second Life (they gave up and tied themselves to RMT directly – but charged users in US$ on both sides of each transaction).

The PLEX setup has not been around for very long (less than a year), so I’m not willing to discuss yet its overall impact. But (after its own speculation bubble and crash) it appears to be having the desired effect. More interesting questions still abound, such as: Can you buy the *outside* services (related to EvE, but not in-game) generated by players for real-life currency?

I do think that its worth watching though, and am still keeping an eye on developments related to PLEX.

–TSK

TCF 2009 / InfraRed, part 2

Last weekend was the Trenton Computer Fair (with its 4th annual IT Conference on the Friday before). In short, the weekend summarized to ‘feh.’

Quick summary by points:

– IT conference was cool, just like last year. Wish I could have stayed longer, but despite leaving ‘work’ early (to drive down in time) I just could not stay the entire time like last year. This may have been in part due to being careful with caffeine and other stimulants over the weekend. [Note to self – bring a bag lunch for Friday from now on.]

– The storied ‘flea market’ of past years has now officially fizzled; It was easily 1/10th its former glory, probably smaller. I almost left right then, in utter disgust, but still wanted to listen to some of the seminars.

– First seminar was regarding the use of virtual worlds by those with disabilities. It was very cool, and I got a laugh out of the opening statement by the presenter: “When I held this in Cali, there were 200 people in attendance.” At the time I was the only one there, and my response: “You’re too far away from the NYC Metro area, which would have generated more interest.” Others did walk in eventually, and as I had more experience in SL than the presenter did, I ended up (again) fielding questions from the other attendees. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to create something that can be printed and handed out when I go to things like this…

– The other presentation was ‘Should You Upgrade to Windows 7?’ And the answer was a firm ‘maybe.’ The number one reasons were ‘more secure’ and ‘the Vista/7 core is more refined for stability and speed now.’ One great note was: “The number one reason Vista did not do well initially was the total lack of driver support – both 32 and 64 bit.” I had to agree with that, as I remember quite well the big uproar when XP was coming out – the drivers were going from 16 to 32 bit, so everything needed a re-write. The same has to occur here (in the name of security), but it was not communicated well (and I think M$ has started to learn about doing this correctly now, as people really *are* voting with their wallets this time).

Anyway, I did not need convincing, but it was good to hear the arguments and be reminded of Windows’ history; We (the PC world) have grown complacent overall, and things like Conficker are the current results of that. I really think Jobs/Apple has the opportunity of a lifetime to gain market share, by releasing OS X for ‘normal’ PCs this year. Too bad it won’t happen (and yes, I’ve heard of ways to get around the problem – that’s for another post).

—–

And that, in short, was TCF. The most annoying thing about the weekend was a complete lack of IrDA adapters anywhere (and, again, a number of people had no clue what I was talking about). So I gave up a few hours ago, fired up Amazon, and got an adapter that was reported as working great with my F55 (not Polar’s, since it cost 3x more than this one). If it works, I’ll get another as a spare. And I still need to get Windows re-installed on the Sager, but I’ve discovered the pains of using a 4800 RPM notebook disk…

/salute
–TSK

Two Anniversaries

This weekend, for most, marks one year since the MO:UL@Gametap shutdown. The past week I’ve been drawn more to this same (Easter) weekend two years ago.

That was the first time that I did a successful village takeover in Travian (this was on a server before the Gold system – or even a US server – existed). Wandering back to that game, I realize I still have good memories of Travian too, despite my problem with playing any type of MMO. I earned another new group of friends, and also had a chance to show to myself that I again can step up and lead (first within the local alliance, and then within the meta-alliance at endgame level). I just wish I can participate more in such things without getting so overboard about it; Not just in money, but in time…

Still, despite that, I did have fun. I got to see the Eder D’Uru project in SL for the first time, and am very impressed how far they’ve gotten. In particular, the heek table; I remember the original, which was coded in Telador and was functional shortly before the island was shutdown for other uses. One great quote on CyanChat regarding the project – can’t remember who at this point, sorry – mentioned how much respect they had for Cyan’s work, after having to use SL’s scripting system (a ‘joy’ that I experienced quite a bit myself ;-).

The meeting in There was mostly to chat; I didn’t mind, since it was still a chance to relax and meet folks I’ve not spoken to as far back as Mysterium 08. Plus, I was desperately in need of sleep by that point.

In all, a good weekend. And one where we, as a community, were able to come together despite how scattered we are right now. To repeat my toast earlier in CC:

*raises mug* To the Community.

[*One* community, I may now add – ‘fah uru’ I believe, which if so is fitting…]

/salute
–TSK

Pics Link

Current location of images I’ve made public (and easily reachable):

http://sungak.net/zenpic/

For those on the main page (*waves at Dad*) its under ‘Misc’ in my links area (top of left sidebar).

TODO: Need to move the old Telador archive there (from its old location, that is not easily found by search robots), and do some minor cleanup of what I already moved into the image browser. Also need to create a watermark that the software will integrate into viewed images. And good grief, get a current pic of my SL avatar up there!

I also need to archive and shutdown the IC site (T_S_Journal), as I specified a while ago there. But I just spent last night going over the Medicare-related docs and forms that came in for my mother, and my head is reeling a bit.

–TSK

Pics Test

Just some old pics from my regular walking route (and testing some new stuff on the site).

Hoboken-070308

Within the gallery are a few pics that may interest SL Sailing folks; In particular some signs with info about the original New York Yacht Club (home of the Americas Cup). The building next to the actual sign appears setup to hold canoes, but has been empty since it was built.

–TSK

Yep, I’m Still Alive…

… And can ya guess what I’ve been playing lately? ;-)

Actually, it really was Portal until a short while ago. I made the mistake of downloading the demo of Bejeweled Twist (which, a few days later, I unlocked for the full version). I now have versions of the regular HL games that work with my current monitor resolution; And with steam’s version of the Blue Shift hi-def pack enabled, even third-party mods look nicer. It’s made me wonder why I didn’t get involved with Steam sooner.

Much like Uru, actually….

I’ve heard the news of course – Seemed like every other MystBlogs post talked about it for the weekend. And I first got word of it myself last Sat, through an announcement sent through the Steam community group ‘Uru Rocks.’ Still letting the news sit with me, and seeing what followup news comes from Cyan. I may post a response via an article to GoMe, or contribute to someone else’s ‘reaction request.’ Dunno yet, but whatever I eventually say it will be mirrored here.

The more interesting news is that I’ve begun to poke about with the Mysterium Committee, to see if I can help in any capacity. More on that once I get acclimated to the idea of helping others in larger scales again (something I stopped doing when I initially got disillusioned with Second Life – mid-2006 I think).

Work, of course, has been ‘interesting’ (Financial Sector, remember?). I’m half-tempted to tear down my earlier ‘relax’ post, since that looks rather lame now, but I still have my job – which, unnervingly, means something right now. 2009 is on-track to be even more interesting (which I’ll have to stop discussing now, as we once again hit my personal ‘ethics’ line which I refuse to cross).

*sigh* Ah well, I suppose we’ll just have to see what the future brings us all, eh? Lets hope its for the better…

/salute
–TSK

Findings on Recent SL Issues (1.20 v 1.19 & earlier)

Well, purely by accident I’ve discovered a primary factor in my high-CPU usage. It was unbelievably simple – Dual Monitors.

Last Friday I caved in and bought a 24″ monitor as an upgrade to my two existing LCD workhorses – a Dell 20″ widescreen and a Dell 19″ – which were still doing OK but had intermittent problems due to age (and both had flaws when I got them anyway). Getting to the store in question that evening is another story, but I’ll just say it took 4x longer than it should have (at least I had fun dealing with the car’s nav again)…

As for this monitor, other than two stuck pixels it appears to be running happily (which is more than I could say for the two its replacing anyway). I’ll give it another week before going for the rebate that went with it.

So, of course, the first thing I did after calibrating it for my use was to fire up Second Life. The first couple of tries was problematic, as I was still tweaking the monitor for my eyes. But when I was *really* ready, I fired up the Task Manager and started recording CPU history.

Result? Originally, I was using an average of 25-30% CPU when in background (TaskMan or some other app displaying) and over 40% CPU when it was active. This is on a Quad-Core, so it was spread amongst the various cores, but this does not sound right to me; Upgrading the video card did not help either. But dropping back to one monitor dropped the CPU use to reasonable levels – 9-10% idle and 20% or so in foreground – despite having *more* screen space available. This is now directly on-par with Craig’s system, which is using the same CPU, monitor size, and class of video card (he has an original 8800 series). So, scratch one problem; However, this is an issue that Michi Lumin has been talking about since 2005 – I’d have thought this was fixed by now!

As for memory, it appears that a couple issue IDs on LL’s P-Jira summaries this (I will update this post with the IDs later). One discussed the OpenGL Vertex Buffers (which apparently is buggy atm); That should be turned off. The second outlined a memory leak related to high amounts of memory set aside for video card pre-buffering; The workaround (as presented by Nicholaz) was to keep the card memory setting (in the ‘Advanced’ submenu) to 256 or less. This makes rezzing and texture resolving slower, but I can go for very long amounts of time without crashing again.

So, for now, I’ve got SL working again to a point that I could be a regular again – *if* I’m willing to be a regular again. Like dealing with MO:RE and the Age Building stuff, I now have RL things in priority, so my online time is rather throttled nowadays. We shall see… ;-)

–TSK

Popping my Head Up

I had no intent of not writing a RSS-able entry in the past two months; In fact I’ve been tweaking away at the site now and then, its just not in areas that will be noticed much by sites like MystBlogs. :p

Anyway, the obligatory ‘what’s been going on since April’ post:

-> The Slug (NSLU2-Debian), he be toast again (shortly after my last post, ironically). I’m fed up with the rather convoluted way that I have to connect to it, so I’m looking at just getting the smallest entry-PC you can get (about $200 at MicroCenter) and dump Debian on it. Maybe dual-boot it with OpenSolaris. :)

-> New video card: nVidia 8800 GT from Palit. Despite the iffy reviews that came out of NewEgg, its looking good so far. Only problem now is that I no longer have any inhibitions to add mods for Oblivion…

-> Continuing the overclock: I’m up to 3.0 Ghz on the Q6600 (that’s 375×8) and stable; Rolling back the HSF to the stock one helped with that, as well as replacement exhaust fans on the case. I will update the PC page at some point, but in most respects now my system specs match Craig’s.

-> Back on SL, heavily: After two months in There, of all things a golf tourney in SL gets me involved again. I’m fiddling with sailing a bit more too, and exploring why the durn Viewers like to crash so much (I think that’s been mostly solved as of yesterday – more testing to do).

-> planning for vacation and Mysterium: I had planned to goto Boston for Mysterium before I heard about Wolfie’s death. Now I will definitely be there, perhaps trying to make a ‘boffer safe’ Riven dagger as a demo (need materials from James – perhaps while at DexCon – or visit an appropriate store). Making a sheath for this could get complicated…

-> My health: Don’t worry, good news here. :) I’ve been experimenting with something called ‘colloidal silver’ (which, according to the FDA, I’m not allowed to explain what it does – I’m NOT kidding!). Things are progressing well, and I may bring samples of the stuff as well as the generator I use to make it.

-> Blue Belt: Last and definitely not least, I earned my Blue Belt at Tiger’s (around late April). This was despite the sore wrist going into the testing period, but I just dealt with it and endured. I really should start getting pics for this…

*Reviews the above* Ya know, even if the new MO were available today, I still don’t think I could join atm. It’s just too busy in my life. We’ll see once the servers are up again.

/salute
–TSK

SL Forum Facelift – Hidden Comments, Part 2

Right, on to Part 2 (more detailed comments regarding Off-Topic Discussion, and Moderating) as posted in their forum. Not much discussion occurred between my first post and now, so will give it a few more days before summarizing.

Should an Off-Topic section be brought back? Heck Yes. But there are caveats that go with the suggestion (some of this will reference my earlier master post):

-> In a publicly-viewable forum (Guests), the OT section should not be available. Again, this is to keep things friendly to the Search Spiders. Verified and above should be able to see it, though I feel that there should be an option to squelch access to it if you’re not at all interested.

[I’d like to point out here that getting to Verified status only takes the purchase of US$1 worth of L$ from the LindeX exchange site. I understand that there are barriers to even this, but I just noticed that Verified PayPal users can now link their account (which IMHO may be safer than leaving CC info with LL). Also, anyone who decided to undergo that interesting and amusing ‘Age Verification’ thing *should* be considered as Verified for the sake of forum access.]

-> The OT section should be either very lightly moderated, or not moderated at all (this assumes my earlier point, which hides the forum to Guests). However, the REST of the forum is strictly moderated (or as close to that as possible). This is going to meld into the Moderation comments, stay with me here.

My reasoning behind this is straightforward – As has been mentioned multiple times here, we’re going to have these discussions *regardless* of an OT section occurring or not. Lets put it back, but with controls and clearly defined rules both for regular and OT sections. However, strict moderation will either require more Linden staff or some sort of assistance elsewhere.

An excellent example of a vB forum implementing some of this is the Notebook Forums: [url]http://www.notebookforums.com/index.php?index[/url]

Guests will notice that OT is marked Private and not available. I have an account there, and can see OT when I’m in (currently browsing a US economy thread). [Side note – they appear to have gone through an overhaul much like what’s discussed here, and is looking the better for it. Their Rules thread/post is VERY strict and is not what I’d recommend here (due to lack of staff), but could be adapted.]

—–

OK, my feelings on Moderation (please don’t shoot me ).

I do think external moderation can work; Y’all did not have an issue with some of us ResMods during the initial couple months (I will make no comment as to my own success; Go look at my post history and decide for yourself – and it would be nice to hear counter-feedback from those who were not around back then). However, there will be a bit of give-and-take in order to allow this:

-> External Mods should preferably be *external* (i.e. outside contractors) with no SL accounts at all. This may not be possible due to the way this forum integrates, so alternatively hand out Linden accounts with no SL login capability or create a new ‘last name’ for this purpose that still has no SL login possible. If they did have accounts prior to this, they would need to submit to temp or permanent ban during their tenure as mod.

-> Barring that, an existing ‘Resi’ *waves to Torley if still watching* can be nominated to help. However, he/she will need to submit full RL data including address, etc (like what is submitted for the Age Verification) and possibly accept whatever additional vetting is required for a MG person to interact on the TG.

[I originally had the option for your avatar (and any of those linked to your IPs) both banned and deleted from the database; Discussing it with a friend of mine (who some may remember as Racer Plisskin, also retired) made me remove this based on issues with creating problems in the Asset DB. I include it here for completeness and expansion/discussion on keeping the Mod from ‘conflicts of interest’ with the world being discussed around them. Also, if its not blatently obvious, I’m quite willing to submit to this despite the sacrifices involved and my deep ties here.]

-> Oh, one last thing – we’ve unofficially had Moderation by Residents as far back as Beta. After all, who’s ‘Nada Epoch’ in the Scripting Library forum? And the old Groups forums had the ‘creator’ of that group also be the Mod for it. We know its possible, and it did work well in those instances, so it should not be an issue to re-work it when done carefully.

—–

Though I did not intend to discuss banning, I touched on some of it above, so my thoughts:

-> I will not – and cannot – discuss existing bans in place due to certain ‘conflicts of interest’ created from an early (and possibly ongoing) program around the permaban system. You’ll need to poke Robin or perhaps Andrew for more info – ask about ‘Resident Review.’

-> I agree with the earlier mention of having a forum ban not mean an SL ban – but an SL ban should include the forums (though the read-only sections would still be available as a ‘Guest’ if that’s enabled). I also agree that it should be tiered into via multiple suspensions – perhaps two weeks, then 4, then 8, then permanent.

—–=====—–

OK, that’s pretty much the remainder of my overall comments on this subject. From here on I will answer questions (If I can) and otherwise probably fade back onto my weblog until I hear anything different over here.

Robin and Kat – Again, best of luck to both of you, and forward my thanks again to Torley for keeping me sane during the ResMod attempt.

SL Forum Facelift – Hidden Comments, Part 1

Linden Research’s Robin Harper posted on their official weblog that it’s time to re-work their internal forum. Link on the *weblog* here.

Since their forum currently is for ‘verified’ members only (you have to, at minimum, have credit card info on-file), I will be reposting my major comments here – and summary of responses, if any, as time goes on – for the sake of the Myst/Uru community. My apologies for the length (and I’m not done yet!) but its a bit of a passionate subject of mine.

–TSK

First of all, a hearty ‘Shorah!’ to Robin, Kat, Travis, Desmond, Strife, and the others who know me from as far back as mid/late 2004 and have still stuck it out here.

I am shocked to discover that it’s been horribly long since I was last here; My old sig mentioned that Myst Online was in Beta stage (~ 16 months later and now its shutdown will be in about a week ). Perhaps its more telling that my interest here fell out shortly after my term as RezMod – something that even today I’ve never talked much about, here or on my site (other than getting more cynical than I was before ). The only reason I’m here now is a passing reference to the forums under the LL weblog RSS feed (which is displayed on a sidebar at my site).

However, feedback is being solicited for something that was once very dear to my heart in SL (especially as someone who works late at night). So here goes, warts and all:

-> An update of the software is very long overdue, and allowing more general features (including BBcode or similar) would be a good idea. If you’re going to stay with paid software though, it might be worth it to give Invision a look – they have interesting features that could be useful here (which I’ll touch on shortly). It is used for many in the Myst/Uru community sites, in particular since they integrate so well with outside sources. Then again, a quick look at the Notebook Forums (running vB 3.6.5) looks more like a portal than a forum, so perhaps you can stick with that after all.

It is EXTREMELY important to have someone keep general maintenance of the forum software itself – primarily to keep up-to-date on possible exploits and test as needed before making the appropriate changes. This is *not* a full-time endeavor (I just did two major WordPress site upgrades – one from scratch – in about 5 hours over two nights). However, I have many a horror story of varying public forums being brought down or otherwise corrupted by someone with a malicious agenda. In this case its a matter of When, not If (putting on my UNIX Admin hat briefly).

—–=====—–

-> Enable read/write access to the forums in a more ‘tiered’ manner (I believe its called Access Groups or something similar – I don’t run a forum); This is to give the ‘best foot forward’ to the world while also allowing some flexibility for the individual. To expand further:

–> Guests (and therefore Search Spiders) should be able to read (at minimum) the Content, Conversation, and Technical Issues sections. Probably also International. These sections may need to have certain subsections hidden to Guests, depending on general usage.

–> Verified members should see the whole forum, and be able to post.

–> Premium/paying members should have the ability to ‘Mute’ or ‘Ignore’ whole sections (like General, if it gets brought back). This gives a tangible value to Premium again (many forum-based portals allow extra perks for paying them, you’d not be alone in this).

It would also allow easy view of the ‘high-end’ members like reps from IBM et al or the Concierge members (perhaps groups and hidden forums for them too?). Alternatively, allow a one-time fee of L$1000 or so for this access (thereby generating a small sink). See the forums on Priuschat.com for an example of the paid system – paying and ‘Sponsor’ members are clearly marked and show their pay level next to posts.

–> TG members should be able to use the same forum; However they’ll have their own, greatly reduced list of subfora (which are NOT seen by MG members) and special ‘approve everything’ forums from MG side (in particular the Scripting Archive) should be available to them for reading only. ‘Graduating’ to MG from the forum side is as simple as changing their group membership, and should be easily automated (and this also allows them to contribute to the benefit of their earlier peers indirectly).

—–=====—–

-> Don’t bother with Ratings of any sort in-forum; They got gamed in SL and they’ll get gamed here, in either direction. In fact, replace direct post counts with text or graphical representations (as most sites have done).

—–=====—–

Regarding General/Rants & Moderation (these two kinda go hand-in-hand):

I, like others here, believe that a General-style forum (more accurately termed ‘Off-Topic’ or ‘Off-World’ or ‘First Life’) is required to draw the venting off to where it belongs – other than the Technical Discussions anyway. However, balancing that with moderation abilities is definitely going to be a challenge (Cybin did his best work there I think, and I never wanted any part of it within the first week).

I’m not yet prepared to add further comments to this portion; Maybe later tonight. However I do think outside moderation will work, if done with forethought (an excellent example of this – despite the occasional drama – occurred on the Myst Online forum of all places).

—–=====—–

Yipes, I’ve been writing for well over an hour now and this is getting into a Gwyneth-sized post. As I said, this is something that was dear to me in SL even before the ResMod project, since it was great to be helping people – or generally chat – when I could not get online.

/salute
–Tim Kimball

[Yes, that’s my real name I’m signing to here. Everyone else knows me online as that name, why not y’all? Besides, I still consider myself a retired resident, despite poking my head in from time to time.]