Friday, August 21, 2009

EVE Online unleashes Unholy Rage on in-game currency traders - Ars Technica

CCP, the developer behind the popular online title EVE Online, hates players who hope to profit in real money from its game. Those who buy and sell ISK, the game's currency, are not only exploiting the game, but unbalancing play. That's why the company decided to go drastic: a program they called "Unholy Rage," whereby 6,200 paying accounts were banned at once. The results from the mass-banning of all those real-money traders were more dramatic than anyone expected.

Einar Hreiðarsson, one of EVE's lead GM's, was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule at Gamescom this week in Germany to explain exactly why CCP finds real-money trading so distasteful.

"RMT operators take up a lot of server power. They use macros to run missions, rat (grind PvE) and mine 23/7. This adversely affects other players’ chances of making a simulated living as all sweet-spots for this sort of activity are totally overrun with RMT-type users," he explained to Ars. Prices for mission-related items are adversely affected as well, which hurts regular players. Then there's the criminal element.

"Practically all credit card fraud we suffer stems from the RMT element which uses stolen credit cards to register expendable accounts that they know we will ban as soon as they start using them, e.g. accounts used to spam ISK sale adverts and such." Further, almost all hacking problems involve accounts being cleaned out by ISK sellers. The game suffers, credit card fraud becomes an issue, and accounts are hi-jacked. Something had to be done, and "Unholy Rage" was what they named CCP's response.

"We must address this in the manner of the FDIC, not the SWAT"

For weeks they studied the behavior and effects these real-money traders had on the game, and then they struck. During scheduled maintenance, over 6,000 accounts were banned. Hreiðarsson assures us that the methods were sound, and the bannings went off with surgical precision. "We are quite confident that false positives are practically non-existent, but we examine all requests for review," he explained. "So far less than a dozen have been found to be false positives." The project is ongoing, and so far CCP has banned approximately 9,000 accounts.

What they found was these real-money traders were not only soaking up in-game, virtual assets as well as hacking accounts, but also taking way more than their fair share of server cycles. The result was dramatic.


"Now, that is a beautiful graph if I ever saw one," CCP wrote on its official blog. "While the number of accounts banned in the opening phase of the operation constituted around 2 percent of the total active registered accounts, the CPU per user usage was cut by a good 30 percent." This is great news for legitimate players. "That is a whole lot of CPU for the rest of you to play with, people."

Areas that used to be heavily traveled by bot-controlled players are now easier for real players to visit. Systems that used to be controlled by the RMT players are now open for business. "Another great improvement is that space is now suddenly full of belts of oversized asteroids that were previously sucked up by hoards of macro miners of the RMT persuasion," CCP wrote. "Regular players are now starting to see mining as a viable means of making some ISK and they are moving in to take over the business." Now that the mafia has been kicked out, legitimate players and corporations can turn an honest profit in once-overrun systems.

The dust is settling, and they'll be back

Where there's money to be made, real money, in trading in-game currency, there will always be crafty people trying to profit. Fortunately for CCP, they've hired the talent and the brain-power to continually fight the good fight.

"They keep trying to sneak back, but in the end it’s all about the money and we simply follow that to find our guys," Hreiðarsson said to Ars. "Not only do we have a Doctor of Economics and a crack team of data gurus to analyze the problem, as well as able and willing developers to cater to our every need, we also have dedicated enforcers of published policy on this matter."

EVE Online is a game of high drama and intricate economies, and for at least a short while the skies are going to be a little safer for players to legitimately fight and mine and swindle each other and defend what's theirs. "Unholy Rage" was a success, with more server power for the real players and rich veins of ore now available for anyone who wants to make a career out of mining.

Back in Iceland, the men and women at CCP are busy crunching numbers, keeping an eye on trading, and getting ready for the next attack on those who seek to illegally profit from their game. "We try to stay out of the players’ way as much as we can. As long as they adhere to local law and our EULA/TOS, we really don’t find cause to meddle in their affairs," Hreiðarsson stressed.

"However, real-money trading and most of the activity involved with it is against our published policy, and even international law in the case of credit card fraud," he warned. "That is really where we draw the line—keep it in-game." CCP keeps proving that the only thing more tenacious than real-money traders are the people keeping the game clean.

I haven't played EVE Online for a few months now, but reading this article made me smile. Glad to see CCP taking a stand and laying the smack down. I hope they can keep it up =)

Posted via web from tvstravis's posterous

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Serenity - Battle of One HQ

A great Serenity video mashup done by my friend Joe. Definitely give it a watch

Posted via web from tvstravis's posterous

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The weather is beginning to turn for the better, and this time I believe it is for good. That being said, it didn't help much yesterday when I drove 250 miles to Detroit for a Tigers game. It was just a comedy of errors yesterday.

First, I woke up late. I wanted to be on the road by 8am, well, I woke up at 8:12. So, once I fueled up, got a Mt. Dew for the road, it was 8:40ish by the time I actually got on the road. At first everything was smooth, until about Saginaw, when the rain started to come down. That was when my windshield wipers decided that once I turned them on for mist, they were just going to stay on. For the rest of the trip, whether it was raining or not.

I made really good time getting down state, and Picked up my friend Patti just after noon, and off to the park we went. When we found parking, I tried putting my iPod in the glove box of my car. Well, that wasn't going to happen, because the glove box opened, but then wouldn't close. So fine, I just decided to take the thing with me. Ok, can't have anything else happen right?

Wrong! We get to the gate, and I hand over the ticket. Now, I bought the tickets on, and printed them out from home. Well, one of the tickets printed out just fine, and the other? No barcode or number on it. All the relevant information was on it, except the barcode. There was simply the word "barcode" printed in it's place. This meant we had to head over to the stadium box office and get it sorted out. Well, we did, and finally made our way in, and found our seats.

Now, the seats were really nice. The "Tiger's Den" is a great section, with wooden deck chairs with pads, and plenty of leg room. Plus a small table in between, and a wait staff. So yeah, we were doing good, getting ready for the tarp to come off the field, and just as Patti was saying "let's get a beer", the announcement came. The game was postponed due to rain. So great. Well, at least they will honor the tickets when they eventually reschedule the game. If I can make it down for that game. We'll have to wait and see on that one.

And so, after hanging out at Patti's for a bit, I made the 4 hour drive home. And that was that, 8 hours of driving, 0 hours of Tigers game. Oh well, I did have a good lunch in Greektown, and I'll be heading back down sometime soon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Play Ball!; or, The Start of Baseball Season

Spring has kind of arrived here in northern Michigan. And by that I mean that you can see grass (not just snow), and the temperature is slowly climbing above the freezing mark.

That being the case, it also means we have entered my favorite time of year. That would of course be Baseball season. I am something of a rarity these days, a rabid baseball fan in a time when everyone is a football fan. Don't get me wrong, I like football, and certainly watch plenty of it during the fall, but my first love is still baseball.

I will watch most any game when it's on TV, or listen to them on the radio, but at heart, I am a Detroit Tigers fan. They've been my team since I was just a 3 year old and they won the World Series in 1984. I grew up with guys like Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammel and Kirk Gibson. Then the early 90's and Cecil Fielder, Travis Fryman, Bill Gullickson, and Mickey Tettleton. Whether the team is good or not doesn't stop me from watching, and following them.

This year's team is a bit of a conundrum for me. On one hand, I'm looking forward to watching them this year. To see Miguel Cabrera with a year in the AL under his belt, Brandon Inge getting to play a full season at third base, and the hopeful bounce back of the pitching staff. Which is where the problem is. The pitching staff is a bit of a mystery. Justin Verlander needs to return to his form from 2006-07, instead of the man masquerading in his place in 2008. Will Jeremy Bonderman ever live up to his potential? And let's not even start on Dontrell Willis and his Anxiety disorder. But, I am still hopeful that they can turn it around.

The bullpen will also be an interesting thing to watch. Can Brandon Lyon be a solid piece? I have my reservations about Fernando Rodney ever getting the command of his pitches to be effective. And 2006's wunderkid Joel Zumaya needs to stay healthy and be able to utilize his 103 mph fastball, as well as fully develop something off speed.

All in all, I'm remaining positive about this years Tigers team. Especially given the wide open nature of the American League Central Division. All 5 teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division. Expect quite a few posts this summer about baseball in general, and the Tigers specifically. I'm looking forward to a good season.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tweets Ahoy!; or, Twitter isn't really that new folks...

There has recently been a rash of stories, and segments involving Twitter all over the news. In the past couple of months, every major news channel has had at least one mention of the website during a broadcast. Or have used it to "crowd-source", and/or reach out to their viewers in a new way. Even ESPN had an article involving Twitter in the past few days, as well as nearly an entire hour on the radio program "All Night" with Jason Smith on ESPN radio.

All this exposure for twitter is a bit of a double edged sword. See, here's why I think this. I started using twitter about a year and a half ago. I thought I was one of the Johnny-come-latelys to the party, having heard about it a few months before that, but signed up on Jaiku first. In the end, I joined twitter because the community was so much better there. Sure, the site was constantly down, and holy unreliable, but yet I stuck with it because the people were there.

Skip ahead to now, and we see a massive influx of celebrities, athletes, and the like joining twitter. Everyone from Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, to Shaq, have joined and started tweeting. This is all well and good I suppose, as they way I see it, the more the merrier. But, all this attention to Twitter has some calling it a fad, and has led to the mass miss use of the service.

First, let me address the fad angle. It's entirely likely that Twitter is nothing more than a fad, and will die out in a year or so. But, keep in mind that it has been around for quite some time, and unlike some other social networking sites (myspace, facebook, etc.), Twitter opened up the service to let others build widgets and such for any site. You can add your twitter feed to your blog, facebook, myspace, or any other page you want. Meaning that no matter what social network is the next hot network, you can always take your tweets along with you. I personally tie my tweets in to my facebook status messages. That way I can update both at the same time.

As for the miss use of Twitter, well, this happens to any and all websites that get popular enough. Spam happens. Anything that gets enough traffic will eventually have to deal with spam, and spammers. Why? The almighty dollar that's why. Spammers see all that traffic, and think only of the money they could possibly make off it. Thankfully, Twitter is set up in such a way that just because someone wants to read your posts, you don't have to read theirs. There are different levels of involvement, Followers, and Friends. Followers simply see your tweets and that's it. Unless you choose to follow them as well, you don't have to even know about them. Which is nice to keep the amount of spam down.

The other thing is people starting fake Twitter accounts in the name of someone. Like a fake account of a celebrity or athlete, or prominent tech person. For the most part, this is harmless as you can usually tell right away it's a fake, as those who do it tend to either do it for fun and are just having a harmless goof, or THINK they're funny, and are in fact just plain simplistic and sad. Either way, the fake Twitter accounts are kind of silly, and in the end don't get anywhere.

So, as long as there are people on Twitter that I find interesting or are friends of mine, I'll keep tweeting. It's a nice way to communicate, or just get a thought out in the ether for others to digest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the Grift; or, My Review of Confidence

Tonight, I decided to re-watch the film Confidence starring Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, and Dustin Hoffman. 5 years after it's initial release, and in my opinion, the film still holds up. A great script with a wonderful cast, and tight pacing and direction drive this underrated flick.

Confidence came out in 2003, and I really think part of the reason for it's underrated status is a product of timing. The film plays like an R rated version of Ocean's 11, and being just a couple years behind it, I think a lot of people thought it was a copy cat of a movie, and passed on it. Now while I will agree there are similarities between the two, they really are quite different in tone and feel. Ocean's 11 is very glitzy, tongue-in-cheek and Vegas. Confidence is a little grittier, harsher, streetwise. Both are polished, snappy and funny; but while Ocean's does it with a wink and a nod, Confidence does it with more of a wry grin.

A film like this truly relies on everyone involved knowing their roles and playing their parts to perfection. Just like pulling a con, if any one part falls short, the whole thing collapses. This all starts with the writer. Doug Jung crafted a very tight, and well paced script that twists and turns like a mountain road. The dialog is quick and biting, and believable. I was rather surprised when I looked up Doug Jung on IMDB that he hasn't written more movies. A few TV shows, and another movie coming soon, but I would have expected a couple more under his belt given how well written this one was.

James Foley's direction is also spot on. He does a great job of crafting the script in to a film that is very much a con. Realistic and believable, yet upon subsequent viewings, you see the layers to the narrative and the little quirks that can tip you off to the plot twists and turns ever so subtly.

The cast is truly the heart of a film like this. If you can't buy that these people, you can have the greatest script since The Usual Suspects, and it won't matter. Thankfully, that's not the case here. Edward Burns pulls off the cocky grifter as if he's not even trying to. Rachel Weisz is likable as always for me, you're never really sure if she's playing a scene honestly, or as a grift. Paul Giamatti is wonderful as always. I've always like him in any role he's in, but he's at his best when he's wise-cracking and sarcastic. Dustin Hoffman is a bit over the top, but because it's Hoffman, it doesn't feel like it's too much. A lesser actor would have just felt too campy, Hoffman gives off a different vibe. Brain Van Holt is under utilized, which is a bummer for me personally because I really like his work. Donal Logue and Luis Guzman are fun as LA cops on the take, and Andy Garcia is having a blast as a slightly nutty, off kilter special agent. And check out Leland Orser in the beginning of the movie doing his standard yelling and crazy persona. Always fun.

All in all, I feel Confidence stands up to the better known Ocean's 11 in many ways, while still being it's own movie. A strong script, great cast, and tight editing and direction make this one I bring out every so often to re-watch and enjoy

Monday, March 9, 2009

Beers, Basketball, and Blizzards; or, The Weekend at a Glance

Not much to really say for this past weekend. I did manage to drag myself out to the gym Friday for some basketball, followed by one of the worst nights driving my cab yet. 5 hours of work for 4 fares, one of which tossed their lunch in the back of the van. Thankfully, the guys were nice about it (the sober ones) and actually cleaned up the mess for me. After that, I called it a night and went home.

Saturday night was a lot better as far as work went. It was a fairly busy night, and I made some good money, so I can't complain. But that's really all that happened. Well, that, and I watched 4 episodes of "The Pretender" because I'm addicted to that show. Having the whole run on DVD has been nice, as it's very much a serial show that should be watched in order. I'll most likely have a review coming on that series, possibly in parts as it is 4 seasons and almost 90 episodes long. I also have the two tele-movies coming from Netflix, so I can finish the series in it's entirety.

Sunday came, and it was time to attempt my new culinary project. Corned Beef. I bought a seven and a half pound brisket at the local Sam's Club, and made up a brine all on my own. With a recipe courtesy of my cooking patron, Alton Brown. Said brisket is happily pickling away in the chill chest, and next week will be time for sandwiches and Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Then last night, went down to the local watering hole for some birthday beers for Anna. It was a good time. A few friends showed up, others could not make it. Not that I blame them. We had a blizzard that would have kept Jim Cantori off the roads. Honestly, in the span of a few short hours, well over a foot of snow fell, and I'm pretty sure actual dogs and cats were falling along with it. It was bad, so much so that I got stuck in the road attempting to pull in to my own driveway. Not on the side of the road mind you, but in the middle of it, due to the fact that nary a plow truck had gone by.

And today's weather? Sunny, near forty degrees. All the snow is beginning to melt again. Schizophrenia is difficult to cope with. Even more so when it's the weather that is afflicted. Well, I'm off to prepare for the next bout of winter. Because we all know it's not over yet

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Duck Soup; or, A Great Matinee

I'm always trying to have experiences that maybe I've missed in the past, or never had a chance to enjoy. Whether it's a good concert (see my post about the Clutch show) or a classic film that maybe I haven't seen in a while, or ever. It's even better when I can see that film on a big screen, in a theater. Well, this week was an oppurtunity for just such an experience.

The State Theatre showed the classic Marx Bros. film "Duck Soup" as part of their 25 cent matinee feature. Now, I love classic comedies like those from the Marx Bros., Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbot and Costello. So to see Duck Soup at any time is something I'm going to jump on. And to see it at a place like the State, for a quarter, well, 'nuff said.

It was a pretty good turn out to see it, which made me happy to see right away. It's nice to know there are enough people in this town that will come out to see something as great as that, both old and young. And the film still holds up today, in my opinion. Groucho and Chico's lightning fast verbal comedy, and Harpo's great physical schtick are still hilarious.

All in all, it was a great experience, shared with some good friends, and for less than the price of a pack of gum. Looking forward to the next matinee.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I've spent the last few days in the company of a good friend of mine. Wardo, Dubbya, or Justin, depending on who you talk to. Justin and I have been friends for years now, and sadly, he no longer lives here in the good ol' TC. he's finishing up his degree at GVSU, and because of that, we don't get to hang out as much as we used to.

Hanging out with Justin takes me back to a time when we would do nothing but play video games and watch TV, all while eating chinese food and relaxing. Obviously these aren't things we get to do anymore, jobs, college, and "growing up" have taken the fun of youth away from us. But, for a short time, we could jump in the Way-Back machine, and enjoy the finer things in life.

Getting to relax, blow off some steam, and just enjoy a few days of unfettered play time is much needed, and even better when you can do it without leaving home, and saving a bit of money. What's better is that with my current work schedule, I get 3 day weekends (which run Sunday through Tuesday, and I don't start work until evenings on Wednesday) that I am able to do this type of thing more often.

I am looking forward to using this type of schedule to my advantage. I'm getting better about updating this here blog that both of you are reading. As well as working on finally getting some video and audio projects started. I now have sufficient equipment to get things going, certainly not professional gear, but I can at least get a start. For the past few years, I haven't had the means to get even entry level recording gear. I still need a better camera (both video and still), but I have the ability to record decent audio, and will do so starting soon.

I'll keep this blog as my repository for all updates as to what I'm up to, as well as my random brain dumps. So check back, or even better, subscribe. Hopefully I will have better things to write about, and maybe even be entertaining (that's the goal after all)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pure Rock Fury; or, Clutch in Concert

So, last Friday (which was the 20th of February mind you) I went to a concert. Clutch was playing in town for what was I believe the third time or so. Given the size of my hometown, that's saying something. Well, I've missed them each time they've come to town, as well as when I lived in Orlando, and they played at a local club there for 2.5 hours. So, this time, I was going. I took the night off work, and Anna and I made the trek out to The Terminal (formerly Streeters). All I can say is that it was completely worth the $25 per ticket.

There were 3 opening acts, well, 2 really. The third was Clutch's side project "The Bakerton Group". The first act was a metal band called "Red Fang". They were okay, but nothing special. Basically just a bunch of old metal guys, or at least that's how it looked. It was pretty bland metal, and not really worth much more than as an opening act. Don't get me wrong, I give them credit, they're out there touring, doing their thing. It was just not that great.

Act 2 however, was something different, and worth the trip to the concert all by itself. "The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. A three piece bluegrass/blues/rock band that just blew me away. Their energy and showmanship was awesome. Guitar, Washboard, and Drums, and a pretty big sound for such a small band. With songs like "Your Cousin's on Cops" and "Is It the DT's, or the Devil?" I was hooked. Will be buying their work very soon.

Then The Bakerton Group came on. This band is comprised of the same members as that of Clutch, but it's all instrumental, and slightly more blues influenced. Very very good, with nice grooves, and a good flow. I'm definitly looking up their music and going to find some of it.

After about a half hour of The Bakerton Group, the boys took a short break, and then the Clutch set began. Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes later, they ended. And my ass had been kicked. While I was hoping for a couple of songs in particular (Cypress Grove and Big News I respectively), I wasn't surprised to put off that I didn't hear them. After all, Clutch has a library spanning 17 or 18 years of material. But it was an amazing show, lots of great energy, lots of good music, and worth every penny of the admission price.

If you get a chance to see Clutch in concert, do so. It's worth making a road trip, and you won't be disappointed. I know I wasn't.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Juicing in Baseball; or, My final take on the whole thing

Baseball season begins in just a couple of short months, and lately, all the talk is about steroid use again. Most recently, NY Yankees slugging 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez is the focus of the media and bloggers. Now, the one nice thing is he's admitting to taking steroids, which is at least a step up from the likes of Rafael Palmerio, Mark McGwire, or Barry Bonds, who have taken different things, but never admit to doing it. Or won't admit to knowing what they took. A-Rod has said he wasn't sure what he was doing was wrong or not allowed, which we all know is a joke. He knew what he was doing, and now is on damage control. He did admit to taking performance enhancing drugs, but not until after Sports Illustrated outed him in an article. Granted, the drug test which his positive result came from was supposed to be anonymous, but he still did it, and after he got his hand caught in the cookie jar, he admits to it.

If you look at him over the years, he doesn't have all the classic signs of steroid use. His body didn't drastically change, Ala Jose Canseco or Barry Bonds. But not all steroids are the same, and while I haven't done a lot of research, I'm pretty sure there are steroids that can help build lean muscle, and what not. But also remember, that the point of steroids isn't to build muscle by taking them, it allows you to work out harder, and recover from your workouts faster to get back to it the next day. Which is why a guy like Roger Clemens could have the insane workout routines they do. And why he's linked to 'roids.

But if you think that Rodriguez is the only one, or that somehow baseball has all but eliminated steroid use in it's younger players, don't kid yourself. If tomorrow I found out Craig Counsell (who is listed at 170lbs, and that's being generous, he's probably closer to 160) was using 'roids, it wouldn't surprise me at all. It's the way it is today, I don't condone it, I would think I could resist using it if I were in that situation, but at the end of the day, these guys are playing a sport for entertainment purposes. I'll still watch, and maybe that makes me a sucker, but that's how it is. Hopefully with increased testing and monitoring, steroid use can be taken out of the game, but until then, I'll just be waiting for opening day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm Back; or, Time to Get Back in to Blogging

Well, after a long lay off, I think it's time to start up my blogging again. Not that anyone reads it or anything, but I still feel the need to post.

A lot has happened since my last post, and yet nothing has really changed. I'm still in the process of getting my lazy ass back to school, however the PTB's are seeing to making that a difficult proposition. I am getting closer however, and I hope that within the next year, I am able to start school and get on with my education.

In the meantime, I am working as a cabbie, keeping my head above water. I recently bought a new MacBook, and that was a great purchase for me. I can now start working on some audio/video projects I've had in my head for a while now. I don't want to talk about them just yet, because every time I do that, I end up not finishing them, and I'd rather have a finished product to tell you all about first.

So less talk, more rock.