Monday, September 30, 2013

StarSceeam's Betrayal

One of the many benefits of being the Saviour of Highsec is that I get reports of good news happening all across empire space.


I was delighted to hear from Agent Nerfbat Aldent, who passionately enforces the Code in the Verge Vendor region.


After StarSceeam's Mackinaw was destroyed by Nerfbat and Agent dcomcnfg, StarSceeam contacted Nerfbat and demanded an explanation. Little did he know, Nerfbat was already typing up one for him.


Possibly because his ship had just been destroyed, StarSceeam was already hostile. Nerfbat is an Agent of the New Order. That means he's a professional. He kept his cool.


StarSceeam is a carebear. That means he had greater difficulty keeping his cool.


It didn't take long for StarSceeam to issue his first threat. He had kill rights, and he would use them. It's unknown if he said that in Mine Teck's voice or not.


Nerfbat didn't see StarSceeam as his enemy. He saw him as a lost sheep and a potential friend.


StarSceeam was adamant. He would not pay for a mining permit, ever. Never ever ever.


After a few minutes of talking to Nerfbat, however, StarSceeam began to change his mind. It's like I always say: Our wallets are filled with the isk of miners who said they would "never" pay.


StarSceeam was interested in getting reimbursed for his loss. Nerfbat pointed out that the New Order doesn't do business with Code violators. He would need to turn his life around before reimbursement officer Ophidia Black would even speak to him.


StarSceeam relented, and paid his dues. But with a name like StarSceeam, you know it's only a matter of time before he betrays you.


In a fit of madness, StarSceeam attempted some kind of coup d'├ętat against the New Order. CONCORD wasn't having it. Thus, we learn what the deal was with the Raven on yesterday's "Kills of the Week" post.


There's no reason not to post the killmail again, though. It's a lovely sight.


Instead of pledging loyalty to me, StarSceeam used his bio to express his rage. I'm still hopeful that StarSceeam can be reformed. If he sends the New Order any more money, though, I'll nevertheless keep my eye on him for signs of betrayal.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kills of the Week

We've got a lot of ground to cover this week, so let's get right to it. Here are some highlights from the week of September 22nd @ 00:00 EVEtime through September 28th @ 23:59 EVEtime.



We'll hear more about the charming Mr. StarSceeam later on, but it's enough to say that he lost a tech II fitted Raven when he tried to attack Agent Wrecks Alabel's industrial ship. Agent CONCORD Police Commander was happy to assist with this kill.



Earlier this month, FUNGER lost a Retriever worth a whopping 1.4 billion isk. Agents loyalanon and Sophia Soprano were responsible. loyalanon recently hooked up with the esteemed NEW ORDER DEATH DEALERS corp, and was happy to share some interesting kills from earlier this year:



Live by the Aoede, die by the Aoede. Monoace Stark's 2.2 billion isk Mackinaw was killed by Agent loyalanon and friends. loyalanon informs us that this wasn't the only time Monoace Stark lost a 2+ billion isk Mackinaw; the Aoedes were sold back to him so he could lose another. Ouch!



Saya Trossi reminded us why we love killing Orcas so much. She lost an 894 million isk Orca thanks to the courage of Agents Zane Arnolles, Dr Wiwwy, Lenda Shinhwa, xxBLACK SKULLxx 929, John XIII, Janine Frost, Agent 057, Krochglansin Sahkspier, Boarat Saagdiyev, Caldari Citizen80081355, and jipjipjip beepbop. The Orca had a few shield modules. That's fine, but you can't fool our Agents with that nonsense. This Orca was distinctly anti-tanked for maximum cargo space. It's 2013, people, get with it.



The Raven wasn't the only Caldari battleship inexplicably suicided by a carebear this past week. Karji Tseran lost a Scorpion Navy Issue worth 753 million isk after opening fire on Agent Inquisitor Reyalstob. Once more, Agent CONCORD Police Commander was on hand to instruct the carebear about aggression mechanics. Yikes.



Sayra Noak'h of the tengu hehe corporation was spotted in my territory. Reportedly, she was conducting herself in a bot-aspirant manner. Despite Sayra's corp name, the New Order always gets the last laugh. Agents 412nv Yaken, Sophia Soprano, and loyalanon rode to the rescue and put her 769 million isk strategic cruiser down for good. That's one less Tengu to trouble the good citizens of highsec.



Carebears, hide your implants. Agent D400 is back in town and ready to enforce the Code. This week, SirOldenburg's pod was the most expensive sacrificed in the name of the law. Over 2.2 billion isk was lost. Most of the implants were Nomads. That's fitting. Without the Code, a highsec EVE player has nothing to ground him; he is adrift and without purpose. But those who follow the Code need not wander the face of empire space as nomads. They have a home in the New Order.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On the Beat in Kamio, Part 2

Previously, on MinerBumping... A group of Agents encounted alexhunter seyah mining ice without a permit. After they destroyed his ship, he began cycling rapidly through the stages of miner grief. Our heroes encouraged alexhunter to give up carebearism and to start living as a man.


The first step in alexhunter's rehabilitation was to make him aware of the Code. This is really something alexhunter should have taken care of for himself before he started playing EVE, but it's never too late.


alexhunter claimed innocence on a technicality: Because his ice harvesters hadn't finished a cycle before he was killed, he never mined any ice.


...But the Agents of the New Order are not so easily fooled.


According to the killmail, one unit of White Glaze was sitting inside the Retriever's ore hold. alexhunter was guilty as sin.


When Agent Ryan Gooseling shot down yet another of alexhunter's excuses, alexhunter suddenly realized he wasn't having fun anymore.


alexhunter hit rock bottom. He needed the Code, desperately. Thank goodness for MinerBumping. The Code is only a click away. The New Order would have had much more difficulty spreading the word before the internet.


The miner confessed his shortcomings. That's fine. No highsec miner is perfect--that's what Agents are for.


As alexhunter began to read about the New Order on MinerBumping, his eyes began to open. Slowly, but some movement is better than none.


Unlike most miners who claim to be "new players", alexhunter hadn't been playing EVE for several years. Had he been playing for a day or two? A couple weeks, maybe? No, he started playing over two months ago. That's pretty new by carebear standards. They take a long time to master the basics.


Reflexively, alexhunter came up with the idea that it's against the ToS to bump a miner. Like all space lawyers, he was absolutely confident of this, despite the fact that he believed himself to be new and unaware of things. However, our Agents are very experienced in dealing with this kind of nonsense, and they were able to get him to change his mind within seconds.


With nowhere else to go, alexhunter threatened to appeal the matter to higher authorities: His alliance, and me.


By day's end, our Agents were not yet able to convince alexhunter to become a proper EVE player. Still sore about losing his Retriever (and losing the argument), he vowed revenge. Does alexhunter truly have powerful friends, and even "powers" of his own? Only time will tell.

...Time just told. "No" on both counts!

Friday, September 27, 2013

On the Beat in Kamio, Part 1

In the old "Mission: Impossible" TV series, every episode began with the team leader reviewing the dossiers of each agent.


...The same thing happens whenever Agents of the New Order work together.


Seasoned Agent Lord Mandelor got a small crew of Knights together and prepared to bring justice to the Kamio system.


Natalei, the scout, detected illegal mining operations underway in the ice anomaly. Not yet vulnerable to faction police, the young Catalyst pilots moved into position.


The miner, alexhunter seyah, convoed the team leader. Protip: If you have to ask, "is there a problem, officer?", there probably is a problem.


alexhunter's bio suggested that he understood, to some extent, that it was unwise to mine AFK. However, he showed his true colors when he began yellowboxing the Catalysts. Only carebears give the carebear stare.


After careful consideration, Lord Mandelor sentenced alexhunter to death. The locals were stunned.


The antimatter bullets began to fly. alexhunter became mute, but the other miners reflected on the virtues of the New Order. Airon Taiyou, who invented the "bio bumper sticker" a year ago, still mines in Kamio and is still happy with his permit purchase, which was recently renewed.


When the dust settled, the Knights of the Order emerged victorious once more.


Back in the convo, alexhunter demanded an explanation. He got one, but he didn't listen to it. He vowed revenge. Lord Mandelor invited his fellow Agents into the convo.


alexhunter was dizzy with rage. Within seconds, he admitted that he didn't have a battleship after all. Just as quickly, he denied that he was "really" a highsec miner.


Our heroes sought to raise a true EVE player out of the ashes of the dead Retriever. Was there any hope for alexhunter?

To be continued...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

CCP Audits SOMER Blink, Gives Them Free Stuff, Praises Their Level of 'Trust' and 'Virtue'

Hey, are you ready for another big CCP controversy? I know, I know, we just had one. I'll give you a few minutes to compose yourself. In the meantime, gaze upon this portrait of me, and draw strength from it:


Better? Good. From this point forward, I am assuming all readers are ready to get mad at CCP again.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the ToS changes, which outlaw some forms of scamming. After further investigation, I learned that the new rules were much worse than I originally thought, so I followed up with an article for TheMittani.com. As I explained in both posts, one of the biggest problems with the new anti-scamming rules is that they could require CCP to get into the auditing business. CCP would need to investigate in-game enterprises to determine whether they are, in fact, scams. Needless to say, this is a can of worms that CCP had good reason to avoid--which they did, until now.

The optimists among us believed that CCP couldn't really have meant what the GMs were saying, and that CCP would never actually take it upon themselves to audit spaceship IPOs and the like. The pessimists feared otherwise. Now the speculation, both optimistic and pessimistic, can end. CCP has announced that it already plunged into the auditing game, in the worst possible way.


THE RARE SHIPS

Back in May, someone on EVE-O suggested that CCP could boost participation for EVE live events by offering rare ships as prizes. After all, incredibly valuable limited-issue ships are awarded as prizes to the winners of the Alliance Tournaments. But CCP Goliath, speaking only for himself, explained why he thought it would be a bad idea to expand that to live events:
"My personal take on it is this (note, this is not something we have discussed within the team): Events should be their own reward, but there are certain events that render a large impact on people and for these I do think there should be some kind of memento... Seriously, we won't be bringing back the old unique ships for events. We might give other stuff away that is interesting, but no Guardian Vexor, Opux Luxury Yacht, Fedthron, Impoc, SIR, etc, etc."
Goliath opposed bringing back ships like the Guardian Vexor, because their value comes from their rarity. There are only a few Guardian Vexors in the game. Some ships are even more rare: There are no Gold Magnates in the game. The Gold Magnate was awarded to the winner of a tournament years ago, and was destroyed. It's part of the history of the game.

Then CCP Navigator entered the picture. Navigator is EVE's "Community Manager". You might remember him from such classic debacles as the Mintchip fiasco, which took place earlier this year. If your memory still needs refreshing, enjoy this screencapture, taken before the CCP Mintchip threadnought (including the CCP Dev replies contained therein) was deleted:


Navigator apparently disagreed with Goliath, and announced that CCP would re-issue certain rare ships, including more Guardian Vexors. They would even bring back the extinct Gold Magnate. Is this a bad idea? Many people think so. In the wake of the controversy, CCP reversed course, saying that they would replace the Gold Magnate and Guardian Vexor prizes with new unique ships. If it ended there, however, it would merely have sparked a disagreement about how rare a rare spaceship should be. A ruckus, sure, but not a publicity nightmare. So CCP decided to take things one step further. CCP decided to give the ships to SOMER Blink.


SOMER BLINK

You've probably heard of SOMER Blink, but just in case you haven't, I'll give you a quick explanation of who they are and what they do. SOMER Blink is a corporation that runs an in-game EVE lottery. Lots of lotteries, actually; they constantly run multiple micro-lotteries that finish within a few minutes each. EVE players give isk to SOMER in exchange for SOMER credit, which they can use to buy tickets in the lotteries. If they have a winning ticket, they can claim the prize. Regardless of who wins the prize, SOMER takes a sizable chunk of the money (its "rake"), which it keeps as profit.

According to its own statistics, SOMER has run over 5 million micro-lotteries, with over a quadrillion in total prizes. If true, SOMER has earned hundreds of trillions of isk, making them the wealthiest EVE organization of all time. They make the great nullsec power blocs look poor by comparison. And that's just assuming SOMER, unlike other in-game lotteries, never scammed. Even without any trickery, they can make massive piles of isk.

In addition to in-game riches, SOMER is also the most successful EVE RMT operation of all time. For the most part, RMT is against the rules, and anyone who gets caught selling isk for real money gets permabanned. The distinction between RMT and PLEX is that RMT cuts CCP out of the transaction. But SOMER created an indirect form of RMT that allows CCP to get its "cut". You can purchase game time (GTCs) from CCP, or from certain authorized retailers, such as Amazon.com. SOMER's website allows players to click a referral link to buy GTCs from one of these retailers. The retailer then pays SOMER with real-world money. To encourage players to click its referral link, SOMER rewards them with SOMER credit.

Since players can redeem the credit for in-game isk, the the money-to-isk cycle is complete: SOMER gets money for the referral, and players get isk from SOMER--if they use their credits to win something. Meanwhile, CCP gets its piece of the action from the authorized retailer. No one knows just how much real money SOMER has made over the years through this process, but CCP is aware of the process and has approved it.

The reason for SOMER's success comes down to automation. Because players purchase SOMER credit, which is not an in-game item, all of the lotteries can be run through their website. The buying of tickets, the determination of who wins, and the distribution of winnings is all done automatically. It's a botter's dream; macro-miners and market bots don't know what they're missing. This setup would get SOMER banned for botting, except for one thing: When a player decides to cash out his out-of-game credits, someone in SOMER has to log into EVE and deliver the in-game isk manually. There's just enough player involvement to keep it legal.

Due to its success, SOMER Blink has always been the subject of controversy. Some say that they scam, using shill accounts that win the lotteries more frequently than they ought to. SOMER's defenders point to the fact that its business structure would enable it to make huge sums of money anyway, so why cheat?

No one outside of SOMER knows whether they cheat, or if they have used shill accounts in the past. SOMER's business model does rely on filling up all those millions of micro-lotteries around the clock, so there is some incentive to keep the lotteries active with shills. This would have been especially true in the early days, before SOMER became famous. Recall, for example, how Reddit's founders originally got their site rolling by using hundreds of fake profiles to submit and upvote content.

Actually, it's not true that only SOMER knows if they've cheated or not. CCP knows, too, or so they claim.


CCP GIVES SOMER FREE STUFF

CCP Navigator posted an explanation for why CCP is giving SOMER the rare ships. (Again, the Gold Magnate and Guardian Vexors have been replaced with new rare ships.) His post is worth reading all the way through, but I'll give you the highlights, along with my commentary.

First of all, I want to clarify my assertion that CCP is "giving" these ships to SOMER. It's clear that CCP expects SOMER to award the ships as prizes in a lottery or series of lotteries. It's not clear how big a "rake" SOMER will get (which will amount to free isk given to SOMER by CCP), or whether SOMER gets direct custody of the ships before they're awarded. However, CCP Navigator admits that SOMER holds all the cards:
"Q6. So how can you be assured that SOMER Blink won't just make sure all of this goes to their alts?

A6. I can't. Once again we go back to the trust issue. Having worked with SOMER for some time now I asked myself, 'Could they game this so they gets the cool stuff?' Yep, they absolutely could. 'Can we prevent it?' No, we absolutely can't."
So, yes, by CCP's own admission, it's up to SOMER whether they want to keep these incredibly rare, valuable ships for themselves, and there's nothing CCP can do to stop them. For all you scammers and legitimate businessmen out there, wouldn't you like this kind of treatment from CCP?

Members of the CSM have confirmed that once again, not only were they not given a say in this decision, they weren't even notified of it. I thought the CSM was supposed to be part of the whole "community relations" department, but whatever. CSM member mynnna had this to say:
"For my part, I know the EULA forbids players from implying favor of CCP, I have trouble imagining that there isn't a similar rule forbidding CCP employees from showing favor towards certain players, and, well... handing an organization ships to give away in a for-profit lottery sounds a lot like favor to me."
The spawning of unique in-game items and arbitrarily handing them to one group instead of anyone else--that rings a few bells to those of us who played EVE back in 2007. This raises the question of why SOMER Blink was granted the privilege. That's where this whole thing gets worse. Can of worms, meet can opener.


CCP AUDITS SOMER BLINK

If you were paying close attention to that quote from CCP Navigator, you may have had your curiosity piqued by Navigator's reference to "having worked with SOMER for some time". Let's see what else Navigator has to say about SOMER Blink, from the same post:
"SOMER Blink have a history of being trustworthy and honoring every blink played without exception."
Wait, what?

Your eyes do not deceive you. CCP Navigator has just announced that CCP is in the auditing business. There's no more room for discussion about whether SOMER is really a scam, or if they cheat sometimes, or if they've cheated in the past. No shill accounts, no "nudging" the random number generators. SOMER is pure as freshly-driven snow, and you've got that straight from CCP. Now that the old "is SOMER a scam?" controversy is over, does anyone want to play a few blinks?

Before we all give our money to SOMER Blink, let's take a moment to consider the results of Navigator's audit. Remember when I said that SOMER claims to have run over 5 million blinks? Yeah, Navigator went back and audited all five million, apparently, even back from their early days. Don't believe it? Read again what Navigator said: "SOMER Blink have a history of being trustworthy and honoring every blink played without exception." Every blink played without exception. That sure sounds like all five million plus, doesn't it?

Oh, you doubt whether Navigator could know this? Why else would he say that? Of course CCP knows. Who would know better than CCP? They know everything that goes on in EVE. Granted, the blinks are run through a third-party website. But CCP are computer geniuses, so you can trust them to know what they're talking about.

I wonder, which in-game businesses should CCP audit next? Perhaps you need to give permission to CCP before they'll audit you. Surely CCP wouldn't conduct an audit and post the results on EVE-O without your being aware of it.

Let's see what else Navigator has to say about SOMER Blink:
"SOMER Blink have a history of being trustworthy and honoring every blink played without exception. With that level of trust we were looking at ways of expanding on that good will and allowing players to play for some very unique prizes in that trusted environment."
Wait, what?

Why would CCP be interested in expanding on SOMER Blink's good will in the community? Why would they care about promoting SOMER, or helping SOMER in any way? Navigator doesn't say. But he does use the word "trust" a lot. Trust SOMER Blink. Trust them. Do it.
"Q4. So you said earlier that SOMER Blink are trusted. Does that mean CCP is promising they will always deliver?

A4. Not at all. What I am saying is that to date they have been 100% trustful and we expect that will continue."
Once more, how can Navigator, as a representative of CCP, tell us that SOMER Blink has been "100% trustful" to date, without first conducting an audit? The only way I can read his comment is that CCP's audited SOMER Blink's business from start to finish, and that SOMER passed the inspection with flying colors. Oh, but CCP wouldn't promise that SOMER will always deliver--only that SOMER has delivered 100% in the past and that "we expect that will continue".
"'Do I believe they would cheat to win it for themselves?' I genuinely do not believe they will. SOMER Blink have been one of the most philanthropic groups in EVE. It is safe to say that they can buy anything that is for sale and money is no object yet, despite that, everyone I have interacted with there is humble, gracious and honest. I honestly believe that this blast will be fun and fair for all who enter."
More love for SOMER. One thing pops out at me: "SOMER Blink have been one of the most philanthropic groups in EVE." Navigator has an interesting notion of what philanthropy is. SOMER runs a for-profit business. Not only is it the most profitable business in-game, it's also making money out-of-game. It's almost as if Navigator just wants us to really, really likes SOMER for some reason.

In Navigator's follow-up post, the one in which he reversed course on which ships were being given away, he continued:
"Q3. How do we know we can trust Fansites and third parties to operate fairly and independently?

A3. We have worked with a lot of third party sites in the past such as EVE Radio, BIG Lottery and SOMER Blink. These entities (and others of course) have demonstrated a solid history of trust and reliability. As a result, we can verify that they have been straight and true in their dealings and this should be encouraged... We would also like to address the role of SOMER Blink in this change. They have had three years of constantly delivering on every blink, blast and bonk they have organized."
So there you have it. CCP has audited three years of SOMER's business transactions, including "every blink, blast, and bonk" they ever ran. Oh, and apparently they've audited EVE Radio and BIG Lottery, too, and they're totally clean. Amazing how busy CCP has been.

Going back to Navigator's first post, let's find out how you, as someone who isn't part of EVE Radio, BIG Lottery, or SOMER Blink, can get some of CCP's love:
"Q7. So I am a Fansite, can I have a Vexor/Magnate to give away?

A7. Maybe in the future you can but for now we are testing the waters and looking at how players react... Will we always use SOMER Blink? No, we will want to share the love around. You, as a fansite owner and content provider, will need to display a level of trust and virtue way above the norm."
I know what you're thinking: Could CCP give free stuff to the New Order in a future "event"? MinerBumping isn't an official EVE fansite, but it's certainly a content provider. And who can doubt our level of "trust and virtue"? I'm confident that if CCP conducted an audit of the New Order's finances, they would find that our 126,000+ shares (which, like SOMER's credits, are not an in-game item) are handled with a level of trust, trustfulness, and trustworthiness that eclipses even the 5,000,000+ blinks, bonks, and blasts that they inspected for SOMER.

All you scammers and legitimate businessmen out there, take heed. If you want to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, make sure you get audited by CCP and have their official seal of approval planted on your business and/or scam. It's a brand new day in the world of EVE.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Robotnik-Aspirant, Part 4

Previously, on MinerBumping...

In a bold effort to improve the Kino system, I began bumping miners. Rebel Dr Robotnik-x attempted to thwart my bumps by yellowboxing me with his Drake. When that failed, he called for the miners to unite into a resistance movement. However, the resistance fell apart when the miners could not be roused from their bot-aspirant slumber.


Baxter Tsero, one of Robotnik's most outspoken friends, continued to speak ill of the Order. Then, suddenly...


I warped into the next asteroid belt and saw Baxter mining away in his Retriever. It's always a fine thing when I stumble upon the louder rebels.


Correctly fearing that bumps were imminent, Baxter retreated to the station. He would not mine again in my presence.


Meanwhile, Robotnik came to an epiphany: Was the Father of the New Order merely an alt of Agent Bing Bangboom?


The delusion that New Order Agents are merely my alts can be traced back to the early days of the Order. It was a more popular belief back then, since there were fewer Agents.


Robotnik suddenly realized that if Bing and James 315 were the same person, perhaps that person was also responsible for the Code. As he peddled his conspiracy theories, Robotnik faced stiff resistance from the New Order loyalists in local.


Robotnik's embarrassing past came back to haunt him. Though his Drake had been docked for several minutes, he couldn't escape the stain it had left on his career as a rebel leader.


Still dizzy from being bumped, William Ijonen engaged me in conversation about potential expansion themes. CCP's running low on ideas, so why not? More people come to EVE for the New Order than for ship rebalancing.


Robotnik renewed his complaints about Bing. But did he really think he was talking to Bing's alt?


I questioned the rebel miners: Could they criticize the war records of the Knights of the Order, when they themselves had never served highsec?


After some hesitation, Robotnik decided to go all-in on his conspiracy theory: Every single Agent of the New Order, and presumably every Code-compliant miner who pledges loyalty to the Order, are alts of one man. One man with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of accounts!


Grasping for any explanation for the Order's rise--other than the powerful appeal of the Code--the rebel miners gravitated toward denialism. I tried to reason with them. In truth, I do not pay for hundreds, or even dozens of subscriptions. I have only one account. The Agents of the Order are not my alts, nor are the shareholders and countless other supporters of our cause.


In a comment to Part 3 of this series, Robotnik confirmed his belief in the alt theory. It may be stunning to see this level of insanity take hold among the miners in highsec, but consider the perspective of the bot-aspirant: They're used to seeing armies of multi-boxing miners. They're not used to seeing real people work together.

Would Kino be lost forever to the madness of denialism, or could the Saviour of Highsec open their eyes?

To be continued...