Tag Archives: Blockchain

Quote of the Day – This is Not Why VR has Stalled

That being said, it is worth pointing out that the world of VR currently lacks several elements of the metaverse that experts believe are key to the growth of this nascent market. For example, most VR-centric games today come without a blockchain framework; feature a poorly designed economic setup; lack tangible incentives; or have shoddy gameplay mechanics. As a result, they have small, limited user bases, a problem that has been compounded by problems of poor graphics, lack of upgradability, and low scalability.

-Adam Bem, Why the lack of metaverse integration in today’s VR ecosystem needs to be addressed

Every once in a while I think that maybe VentureBeat has decided that it doesn’t serve the best long term interests of their brand to basically run paid advertisements for Web3, blockchain, crypto, NFT scams.

Not really about Blaugust, but why not throw in a reminder about it all the same?

I mean, after their Metaverse 2 conference earlier this year, it seemed like the hosts, in summing up, ended up somewhat skeptical of the whole crypto angle while speakers like Raph Koster brought a sense of reality to a topic that tends to live somewhere between wishful thinking and full on pipe dreams.

But that is just me forgetting that VentureBeat isn’t really interested in journalism as much as cashing in on trends and making a quick buck today without a thought for tomorrow.  They have consistently and repeatedly treated all of the crypto garbage with unquestioning seriousness, never asking anybody ever a difficult question.  That isn’t any sort journalism, that is just paid advertising.

Anyway, that leads us to the quote at the top of this post, which is truly a gem.

I would certainly agree that VR has not taken off as some… like VentureBeat… thought it would more than half a decade back.  There are lots of problems, including price, expense to develop games, motion sickness, and the whole need to strap a monitor to your face that blots out the real world.

We heard just last week that Meta’s Reality Labs division, which includes Oculus and their whole metaverse plan, is losing around a billion dollars a month for the company.  It is a testament to how much Meta milks out of Facebook and Instagram targeted advertising that they can afford to lose about as much cash on Zuckerberg’s Facebook Horizon VR wet dream every month as World of Warcraft was bringing in annually during its peak.

That isn’t even enough money to get John Carmack to buy into Meta’s legless metaverse vision.

And into this mix comes Adam Bem, COO and co-founder of Victoria VR, who tells us that the reason that VR metaverse isn’t taking off is because it lacks parasitic, rent-seeking crypto integration.

Because, when you get down to it, that is the essence of blockchain and crypto.  Even if you could get past all the scams, theft, and other shady behavior, even if you could see blockchain working as intended on its best day ever, you would see its real goal is just to be a tax on digital transactions, adding no value whatsoever.

There is absolutely nothing that proponents of blockchain and crypto claim for the technology that can’t already be done better, faster, cheaper, more securely, and with less environmental destruction.  100% true.

As such, it would probably not surprise you to learn that Victoria VR, Adam Bem’s company, is putting itself forward as a developer who is going to create a blockchain, pay to earn, VR based metaverse.

You know, the thing that John Carmack is skeptical of even with a billion dollar a month burn rate.  Oh, wait, Carmack left out the blockchain!  No wonder he hasn’t succeeded!

You should take a minute to go look at the Victora VR web site, because it is the most anodyne, check all the possible boxes, no concrete details provided piece of work I have seen in a while.  The whitepaper they have available on their site is entirely about monetization, because that is the most important aspect of video game design.  Even when they superficially dip their toes into things like quests for a page and a half, it is simply about how that will introduce players to more ways to spend money.

It is monetization all the way down.

I have to imagine that this what making an MMO looks like to people who have never made an MMO.  Or a video game of any kind.  It is all generic, hand waving, high level terms and no proof that their team has the technical ability to bring anything like what they are promising into reality, virtual or otherwise.

As somebody who has followed online gaming since the 80s, and 3D virtual worlds since the late 90s… likely before Adam Bem was even born… you get a sense of who has the ability to pull something like this off and who is just blowing smoke… and Victoria VR clearly cannot pull off anything of the sort.

Minecraft Says No to NFTs

…blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our Minecraft client and server applications nor may they be utilized to create NFTs associated with any in-game content, including worlds, skins, persona items, or other mods.

-Company blog post Minecraft and NFTs

NFTs have been the scam of choice for crypto enthusiasts in 2022.  They have been up and hyped and then have crashed and generally fallen out of favor, but there is always somebody out there looking to find a new sucker to bilk with a rug pull scam.  These schemes never fully go away and NFTs are just another variation of the Greater Fool Theory.

But the last couple of months have been so bad for crypto and blockchain… look at the headlines from my mail bag post last Sunday… that one might assume that we’re past the whole thing as a mainstream scam and the need for companies to take a stand… or, in some cases, walk back previous flirtations with the technology.

I mean, we have established over the last 20 years that if Lord British is all in on some fad or bubble, then it is already over, and he has jumped on the crypto scam train.

So I was a bit surprised to see Mojang come out with an official blog post announcing their stance on NFTs, crypto, and blockchain with regards to Minecraft.

The Wild update is the latest version as of this writing

As they quote up at the top of the post indicates, they are not down with it.  That part was not at all a surprise, it was more the timing that got me.  I feel like they could have come to a conclusion on this at least four or five months ago.  I mean even VentureBeat, a site that gave crypto uncritical, promotional coverage for months was, by late January, starting to seem at least a bit skeptical.

But everybody works at their own pace.

The post is fairly straightforward, with some marvelously simple descriptions as to how this might all be a scam.  This paragraph alone is such a gem that I want to have it written out as an illuminated text, have it framed, and put it up on my wall:

We are also concerned that some third-party NFTs may not be reliable and may end up costing players who buy them. Some third-party NFT implementations are also entirely dependent on blockchain technology and may require an asset manager who might disappear without notice. There have also been instances where NFTs were sold at artificially or fraudulently inflated prices.

May not be reliable!  Might disappear without notice!   Artificially or fraudulently inflated prices!

Do tell!

Part of me wants to believe that they had to think over the word “blockchain” carefully, the humble block being the basic component of the game.  Eventually they had to make a decision though.

Anyway, if you were thinking about some venture to combine blockchain and Minecraft… maybe don’t try it.  The company might be late to the party on this, but they have taken a stand against blockchain and all that goes with it.

Related:

Return of the Mail Bag as Crypto Crashes and Atari Turns 50

I am back once more with some subject lines from the old blog email address… not the one that has been current for the last seven years, but the old one that seems to be stuck on a lot of PR related mailing lists.  I wonder how many times that address has been sold.

One thing that surprised me a bit was the fact that Atari turned 50 last month and there was only a single email hawking something based on that anniversary.

  • 50th Anniversary XP Cartridge Drop

It turns out a company calling themselves Atari XP has the license to remake special collectible Atari 2600 cartridges.  For the 50th anniversary Missile Command was up for sale.

The cartridge lights up

For just $99.99 you get this deluxe package that includes:

  • Premium 50th Anniversary game box with a cutout that allows you to see the front of the cartridge
  • A newly manufactured Atari 2600 cartridge with custom artwork and an acrylic top that lights up when being played
  • Full-color instruction manual
  • Hard enamel collectible pin with black nickel plating
  • Polyester blend, twill-woven embroidered collectible patch
  • Custom acrylic cartridge stand

I guess you have to have an Atari 2600 console to use it, unless you just want it as a collectible.  There is also an Adventure version of this collection available, though the Yar’s Revenge and Saboteur cartridges have sold out.

Meanwhile, as was the case back in January, the majority of the email subject lines seem to be focused on crypto, NFTs, and Web3, though there are at least a few in the mix that indicate that all might not be well in the world. (Though they almost always recommend now is the time to buy in the body of the email.)

  • Don’t Call It A Comeback – Rapping Crypto-Meme Creator Rito Rhymes Says Crypto Will Bounce Back
  • How Celsius Filing Bankruptcy Marks a Larger Problem With High Profile Cryptocurrencies
  • Top Surgeon Makes the Cut as a Musician on a Mission to Combat Gun Violence
  • As Bitcoin Collapses Crypto Traders Are Liquidating
  • World’s First Solar-Powered Bluetooth Headset
  • Souq Raises $3M, Supports Web3 Gaming Amidst Growing DeFi Adoption
  • Tesla Expected to Report $440M Impairment on its Bitcoin Stock
  • Company of Heroes 3 is available for Pre-Order
  • New TV Series Exposes The Myth of Teacup Pigs
  • Path to Enlightenment Explained in Zen Rohatsu
  • Ryu Games Announces Two New Games from Ulti Arena Launching on Flame, Its “Steam for Web3” Platform
  • Could ‘Unknown Factors’ in Schools Stop Active Shooters in Their Tracks?
  • California Dead Last In US Sports Betting Index
  • Why Companies Are Putting a Halt Crypto Withdrawals During a Market Crash
  • 42% of Coinbase assets in Q1’22 are in Bitcoin
  • Will the Real Estate Boom Cool Down, Heat Up, or Stay Steady this Summer?
  • What is GameFi, and why are regulators treating it as a legitimate form of finance?
  • How to Become a Gaming Influencer – Tips from CEO of leading gaming influencer agency [x5]
  • America’s BTC Hashrate Share Surged 358% to stand at 38% in early 2022
  • 32% of all Social media Crypto Frauds are committed on Instagram
  • This Rapping Crypto Influencer Just Dropped His First Meme Song
  • How eBay Could Monitor and Control NFT Transactions
  • Denuvo by Irdeto launches Denuvo SecureDLC, the industry’s first solution to protect downloadable content against piracy
  • Global Video Gaming Base Crosses 3 Billion
  • Souq Raises $3M to Redefine Web3 Gaming Amidst Recession
  • NASEF MENAcraft: international exchange program uses Minecraft
  • John O’Hurley’s (“Seinfeld”) Launches Tech Company to ‘Authenticate All Real Humans’
  • Interview Billionaire Gamer CEO Building Out the Metaverse
  • The US has more Fintech Unicorns than the next 20 Countries Combined
  • Apple’s $2.5 billion move into sports streaming with MLS deal signals a changing landscape for media rights
  • The carbon footprint of mining a single BTC transaction is 22X that of Gold
  • The Future is Here, and She’s a Lovely Stranger Named Frankie
  • Tencent’s $32.2B Gaming revenue is the highest for a public company
  • Scams on the Rise During the Increased Reputation of Crypto
  • Microsoft is plotting a CTV sneak attack
  • Fortnite & The Office (US) are 2 of the fastest growing fandoms in the last 5 years
  • Turkey leads the world with its 85% Mobile banking adoption rate
  • The most cosplayed anime characters confirms the world loves Naruto
  • Ryu Games Announces Flame “Steam for Web3”
  • New Game/Metaverse on Blockchain
  • Misconceptions About the Metaverse
  • First Ever Rhyme NFTs minted by Crypto Rapper
  • Dogecoin Founder Agrees w/ NFT Artist About Decentralization on Blockchains
  • The Meta Daisies ignite rock in the metaverse, in a world-first
  • Music in the Metaverse and the Future Concert Experience

This isn’t a full list from January when I last posted.  These are just from the last month.  And some of them showed up multiple times, though I only used a subject line once.  I did put a [5x] on the one about becoming an influencer, because that one showed up five times since mid-June.

This American NFT

Sometimes the beams get crossed.

I listen to podcasts, but not very many gaming related ones anymore.  That was something from the 2006 to 2009, after which it faded for me.

I still listen to podcasts, though I am not sure they are what we would have called podcasts 15 years ago.  Basically, every radio show now offers an recorded version of their show for listeners, and so I listen to a number of what are essentially professionally produced shows that just happened to be available via iTunes.  Are those really podcasts?  That word evokes a raw, amateur era of the format for me, but I suppose it is the medium and not the quality that counts.

Anyway, one that I listen to regularly is This American Life, which I have listened to since some point back in the 90s, back when I had to commute and just seemed to spend a lot more time in my car listening to the radio.

This American Life

Then I stopped driving so much… and then the show ended up on iTunes so I can listen to it at my leisure at home.

This week’s show, The Reluctant Explorer, was an odd one because it actually involved something I’ve written about before, NFTs.

In it, the creator of what is now accounted to be some of the first NFTs with the site PixelMap.io back in 2016, is convinced to bring his site back up and change the pricing because there is now a big market for NFTs.

He becomes very wealthy, very quickly… but is suspicious of the people who prompted him to jump into the market and whether or not he was used.  Despite now being independently wealthy, it is down the rabbit hole to find out who was behind all of this, who really made out on the deal.

It is an interesting tale with some nice, simple explanations of NFTs and examples of how new examples on the market make money for some people, and how late comers almost always lose.

There isn’t a pro/con result at the end of the show.  Ira Glass is just there to help tell the story and draw together relevant details, which includes consultation with lawyers about what is going on.  But, right now, there aren’t laws or legal precedent to cover a lot of what is happening in crypto.

If there is a message in the whole thing, it is that NFTs don’t seem so bad, as long as you come out ahead and can convince yourself that everybody knew going in that it was a pump and dump scheme.

The Trainwreck of 21st Century Lord British

Once, long ago in the history of the blog, I wrote a post about how people seemed to be picking on Richard “Lord British” Garriot de Cayeux, largely because the fashion at the time seemed to be to use the silly space suit picture of him whenever he came up in a news cycle.

#winning

Of course, he seemed to be headed towards self-parody with his own photographic choices, like this image used on his Portalarium site

The first image from Portalarium

I cannot explain that moment of sympathy.  It certainly evaporated quickly enough when just a few months later I wrote a post with the title The Madness of Lord British.

There was a lot going on in that post, with lots of links out (some dead, you may need the Wayback machine to find them) to his dubious behavior, strange ventures, and odd ideas, including comparing himself to Tolkien or declaring consoles dead or how he was even back then running his company remotely with some sort of wheelie robot video presence.

It was also the kickoff point for his “ultimate RPG,” something he went on about for some time, trying to wheedle permission to use the Ultima brand from EA by saying nice things about them in the press (but not by, you know, actually talking to EA, who were busy tarnishing the Ultima brand with some garbage called Ultima Forever.)

Then he tried to get into bed with Zynga because Farmville and Facebook games were in the middle of imploding.  He eventually left that behind and jumped onto Kickstarter and used that trend to fund Shroud of the Avatar based largely on his reputation, work, and goodwill left over from the Ultima series of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Kickstarter was a success in that it met its funding goal, but as we knew even then, for a project trying to be an MMO that is just a marketing campaign, a publicity stunt to try and bring in more funding from other sources.

There was an attempt to emulate Star Citizen‘s successful ongoing crowdfunding by selling virtual land and castles as well as actual blood and other Lord British related items.  That was modestly successful at best.

Shroud of the Avatar did eventually “ship” in March of 2018 after some time as an “early access” title, however it was rough to the point of primitive for a game in the second decade of the 21st century, a strange mixture of awkward design and poor aesthetics, that I described as “retroist hobbyism” for lack of a better term when I was playing it.

It wasn’t a failure, but it also wasn’t what many people expected or wanted to play.  Lord British walked away from the title before it was done, transferring it to Catnip Games, though it wasn’t really clear he was all that in involved for quite a while before that.  It carries on as a dubious, low key title, a disappointment to many who expected a revival of the Ultima series, with a small and defensive team trying to eke out a living from the title and its connection to Garriott.

When Lord British walked away from his then flailing “ultimate RPG” I figured that was his last hurrah.  As I commented elsewhere:

This is a man who had the wealth and status to rest on his laurels, consult, speak on panels, and otherwise be a developer emeritus of great regard.

He made video games, got rich and famous doing that, got even richer by selling out to EA, lived in a castle, and got to be a space tourist. He could have called it a day 20 years ago and just spent his time being Lord British for fans now and then and we would have envied him, we would have aspired to be him.

But, as with pro sports stars, if something has basically been your whole life, it is hard to walk away.  So he has carried on, trying to recreate the success of his youth and living off of the reputation that gained him.

And that has been his downfall.  I have no idea what he is like in person, but his public persona has been one of self aggrandizement… he set himself up as the “father of the online gaming industry” at AGDC in 2004 back when he was promoting Tabula Rasa, much to the chagrin of Mark Jacobs and others who had online titles in production long before people like Raph Koster helped make Ultima Online a thing.

He has a history of badmouthing EA for all the problems that occurred after he got richer by selling Origin Systems to them. (Except when he was briefly praising them.)  And he also blames NCsoft and the people there for the failure of Tabula Rasa. (There was an Ultima 8 and Tabula Rasa double blame feature.)

He believes he is the best game designer around, calling the ones he worked with in the past “lazy”  (remember, that includes Raph Koster), and takes all the credit for anything he has touched.  He only made an exception for Chris Roberts when it comes to game designers, and that was clearly because he wanted to draft off of Star Citizen‘s crowdfunding success, a cringe worthy “notice me senpai!” moment.

And all along the way he has been a font of bad advice.  He has a history of grabbing onto a trend in gaming and telling people that is the best way forward just as it tanks.

Still, I foolishly thought he was done, so was both surprised because of that… but not surprised because of his history… when I saw the announcement yesterday that he had thrown his hat into the ring and declared he is making a blockchain MMO.

This is doubly ironic in that this follows on UbiSoft backing away from its NFT schemes and CCP declaring that NFT stands for “Not For Tranquility” when it comes to EVE Online.  Even as gamers are pushing back hard against crypto monetization and studios are realizing that they are alienating their core customer base by attempting to embrace it, Richard “Lord British” Garriott de Cayeux has decided to open his mouth wide and piss straight into the wind.

Words fail me.

Well, except for expletives.  I had plenty of those.

I have, for the last 20 years, found a way to excuse everything he has done based on fond memories of games he coded himself back in the 1980s.

No more.

This is the most contemptible, tone deaf, obvious cash grab in an industry long accused of cash grabs.  This raises the bar on cash grabs.  For years to come I predict I will be saying, “Sure, this move by X was bad, but was it as bad as the Lord British blockchain MMO?”

I am not a fan of Star Citizen, but this announcement has made Chris Robert palatable by comparison.  I don’t believe CR will ever be able to deliver on all, or even most, of the promises he has made, but he is selling a dream and has something tangible in alpha and has managed not to get bored and wander off mid-project.  If you were to ask me if you should buy a spaceship in Star Citizen or give money to Lord British, I’d say knock yourself out with the spaceship.

With other celebrities, I might suspect that somebody had just promised them a dump truck full of money to use their name.  But here we have somebody who has had an independent existence of bad ideas over the last two decades, a history that looks like a series of attempts to cash in on his name and whatever the latest trend was.

He has shown us who he is enough times already to know that this is authentically him trying to get back in ahead of another trend hoping to recreate the fame and fortune of his youth.  I am sure he is using somebody else’s money, but I am equally sure he sees glory and riches for himself in this move.  He is not being used, he believes he is using the investors.

Lord British is dead to me from this point forward.  In the hierarchy of people and companies whom I have vowed never to give money to, anything associated with Richard “Lord British” Garriot de Cayeux is now at the top of the list.

Seriously, I am now willing to give EA the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their history with him.  It makes me think of the Churchill quote about the devil:

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

That is where Lord British stands with me today.  He has now shit on his reputation so thoroughly that he is beyond redemption in my eyes.  Everything he has touched since Ultima Online has been a trainwreck.

Other coverage:

CCP Says Blockchain is “Not For Tranquility” for Foreseeable Future

While we remain intrigued by the technology, for us, NFT stands for “Not for Tranquility”. Overall the EVE IP will continue to push the boundaries of digital economies and virtual worlds – and we will continue to explore that outside of TQ.

-CCP Hellmar, dev blog

Pearl Abyss and CCP have been the focus of a minor controversy over their apparent eagerness to embrace blockchain, crypto, and things like NFTs over the past months.

I do want to make it clear that the controversy is entirely of their own making.  You cannot hype up crypto at every quarterly earnings call, introduce NFTs into the alliance tournament, and have the official EVE Online Twitter account retweeting about the CEO meeting with crypto investors about the game and then wonder why people think you’re serious about blockchain and crypto.  This was not some fantasy conspiracy theory dreamed up in the community.  It was absolutely the result of the actions and messaging of Pearl Abyss and CCP.

Hilmar in the middle of the crypto suite

CCP is always specifically mentioned or part of these events, and CCP has but one video game title out there, EVE Online, so the conclusion one jumps to isn’t exactly a huge leap.

So this morning we got a dev blog post from CCP Hellmar, the handle of CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar, who has been out there helping stir up the controversy.  It went as follows”

Blockchain and EVE Online

2022-04-11 – By CCP Hellmar

There has been a lot of speculation around blockchain technology, NFTs and cryptocurrency and what that means for the future of EVE Online, so I wanted to address it.

At CCP, our mission is to have the EVE Universe outlive us all: EVE Forever. One huge part of this is exploring new technologies and new possibilities – something EVE players know that I’m always fascinated by. This philosophy is rooted in EVE Online’s inception; when we created EVE, it was seen as too radical and ambitious, yet here we are about to celebrate EVE’s 19th anniversary.

Many of us at CCP have been following the new frontier that has been developing around blockchains and cryptocurrencies for the past years. We’ve read your feedback and we also see what you see – blockchain tech has both a lot of untapped potential and a lot of work needed before being ready for EVE-scale games.

On that note, we have no plans to add blockchain technology into EVE Online’s global server Tranquility for the foreseeable future. For the coming years development for Tranquility will focus on building exciting new opportunities on top of the robust foundation that has been laid over the past two decades.

While we remain intrigued by the technology, for us, NFT stands for “Not for Tranquility”. Overall the EVE IP will continue to push the boundaries of digital economies and virtual worlds – and we will continue to explore that outside of TQ.

Fanfest is a month out and personally, I’m very excited – It’s been 2.5 years since our last in-person meet, in London during the EVE World Tour. I look forward to seeing many of you in the flesh again and talk about EVE and our future!

CCP Hellmar

The “foreseeable future” is not “never,” but it does at least leave us safe from the scourge of crypto for now.

My prediction from last month, based on the behavior and statements from Pearl Abyss, CCP, and Hilmar in particular, about a coming of a pay to earn announcement at Fanfest seems to have been proven false.  At least it won’t be something blockchain based, if it comes to pass at all, and that makes me happy.

But we also know that statements from CCP have an expatriation date.  We learned that with skill points and how they went from a promise that all skill points in the game would come from players to the current state where skill points generated out of thin air are for sale in the web store.  They boiled the frog slowly, but it ended up cooked all the same.

So the price of a blockchain free New Eden is constant vigilance.  Hilmar didn’t write this up because he’s our pal, he wrote it up because players were getting angry about all of his flirtations with blockchain technology and that seemed to threaten the company’s bottom line.

And that is always the final determination.  If Pearl Abyss and CCP think crypto will hurt their revenue, then they will not bring it into the game, so when they start talking their crypto talk again… and they will… we need to keep letting them know how we feel about it.

Related coverage that does not simply repeat CCP’s statement:

The Bored Ape Victorieux Luxury Yacht Club of New Eden

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

-Maya Angelou

I’ve written a bit about how Pearl Abyss has been talking about embracing blockchain and pay to earn in their quarterly earnings calls.  I have even made a rash prediction that we’ll be getting some sort of pay to earn scheme announcement for EVE Online at Fanfest in early May.

A voice in the wilderness, I know.

But CCP has already toyed with the crypto idea, making NFTs part of the Alliance Tournament back in November.  They were not IN the game, but they were OF the game, and CCP’s slow pace of work means they often look like they have cleverly boiled the frog in hindsight.  This was likely the first step towards crypto in New Eden.

So my eyes have been on EVE Fanfest and what we might expect to see from CCP there.

But then GDC happened up in San Francisco last week, and it was full on “Crypto is the next big thing, jump on board fast!” panels and pronouncements.

The Blockchain Game Alliance – GDC 2022

I am borrowing that image from Jason Scott, who posted it to Twitter.  I hope somebody will put together a score card to see how many of those company’s still exist in five years.

Of course, the Atari logo is in there.  There is no bad idea that the owners of that name won’t jump on.  Likewise UbiSoft, though at least they create games that are popular, making them a stand out on the list.

A bit surprised to see AMD at the top center of that image, but I guess they make good money selling video cards to crypto miners rather than gamers.

Anyway, I am willing to let the market decide winners and losers on this one, as it did when MMOs, Facebook games, and VR were the next big things at GDC in past years.  Just because some new idea is hailed at the conference doesn’t mean it is a good one, and it certainly doesn’t mean everybody who jumps on board with some half baked idea is going to win big.

Out of GDC came a tweet from the account of Eden Holdings about a meeting with CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar being a favorite moment of the conference. 

Hilmar in the middle of the crypto suite

Of course, Eden Holdings is all about crytpo and the metaverse and has a bored ape avatar. (Have you not heard about the Bored Ape Yacht Club?  Lucky you, though that probably makes the title of this post doubly confusing, as it references that and a specific ship in EVE Online that I am almost certain you’ve never heard of.)

Eden Holdings Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

Also mentioned in that tweet as being a part of the meeting was Yield Guild Games, whose profile says the are about Play to Earn, NFTs, and the metaverse.

Yield Guild Games Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

There was also Delphi Digital, an investment firm into advancing the understanding and development of digital assets, that last being shorthand for crypto and NFTs.

Delphi Digital Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

And, finally, there was also BITKRAFT Ventures, another investment firm into Web3, which is another way of saying crypto and the metaverse these days.

BITKRAFT Ventures Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

Quite the little get together, Hilmar and various crypto proponents all huddled in a suite talking about their favorite digital asset fantasies… and how much money it will earn them.

So why am I bringing this up?  Am I stalking Hilmar and his crypto pals?  Am I that obsessed with crypto?

Not really.  The GDC stuff just came through all of the usual gaming media I have been following for years.  I don’t follow any of these accounts on Twitter, except for Hilmar, and he barely tweets anything.  He certainly didn’t have any comments on GDC.

No, this came to my attention because the official CCP EVE Online account retweeted this particular item.  Not the CCP Games corporate account, but the account dedicated to the game EVE Online.

And why do you boost a message about a meeting between the CEO and some crypto investors on that account?  Because crypto is coming to EVE Online maybe? (Edit: The EVE Online twitter account has since undone this retweet.)

Am I reading too much into one retweet?  Probably.  Somebody on the community might just be instructed to retweet anything that mentions Hilmar.  He likes the attention.

But there is that CCP history to deal with, their ongoing experiments with boiling various frogs, and that quote up at the top of the post.  Are they showing us who they are?

The best outcome I can imagine from this is that they might announce another title that is focused on crypto at Fanfest, leaving EVE Online alone to suffer from resource depletion as their new venture follows the path of every new title they have released since 2003.  It will still hurt the company, which will be bad for EVE Online, but at least it might not ruin the game.

The other route, in which they try to bolt crypto and/or play to earn onto EVE Online, ends less well.

EVE Fanfest may be interesting for some of the wrong reasons this year.

Related:

An EVE Online Play to Earn Announcement is Coming at Fanfest

This is a prediction, not a statement of fact.  But it is a prediction based on evidence provided directly by CCP and Pearl Abyss.  That doesn’t mean it is a sure thing, but it seems likely.  Very likely.  And I like to make predictions, so I’ll revisit this post after EVE Fanfest to see how it played out.

To start with, where is this prediction even coming from?

Yes yes, we’ll get to this soon enough…

Well, Pearl Abyss has been talking about blockchain and pay to earn (which I guess is sometimes pay2earn or P2E… so I’ll go with P2E to shorten it) for a while now.  One need only go back to their Q4 2021 earnings call to find them directly saying that blockchain and pay to earn are in their future, with direct reference to CCP and how smart both companies are about running economies in video games.

Given that CCP has exactly ONE video game, EVE Online (NetEase runs EVE Echoes, CCP only gets to advise there and the bigger worry is that CCP will take bad ideas from it), it isn’t exactly hard to guess where CCP’s economic reputation will come into play.

But maybe that was just all for the market.  I mean, EA was out there talking about blockchain and NFTs one quarter, then went somewhat quiet on the whole thing the next.  Gamers have been pushing back on the whole idea.

That is where we get into something a little more concrete.

Back on March 9th CCP introduced a new for cash pack in the web store that would sell players a fully fitted Retriever mining barge.  This made some of the player base angry, and the CSM put out an open letter that very same day asking CCP to remove the pack from the store and to not create any packs like that in the future.

On the evening of March 18th, nine days after the introduction of the pack and the publishing of the letter from the CSM, CCP responded with a reply to the CSM open letter thread and said they were listening to the community and had removed the pack from the web store.

This made me wonder if things like the open letter, the complaints on Reddit, or the Twitch Blackout protest might have swayed CCP.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it did not, or at least it did not have sufficient impact.

First, there is the timing of the post, which not only came after business hours in the US… and coming up to midnight in Iceland… on a Friday, which is when you publish things you hope people won’t read, but it was preceded by nine days of silence on the topic.

And, as it happens, nine days was how long the login event promoting the mining changes ran.  So it is not outside the realm of possibility that the pack was supposed to come down once the event ended in any case.  CCP had a timer on it when they were presenting the pack offer to players after they ran the new mining career agent missions.  So it sure seems like the pack was going away already.

Finally, the response came in the form of a reply to a post, many message into the thread, on the forums, which is also a good way to post something to say you have responded while ensuring few people will ever see it on accident.  Important things get dev blogs.  Even Incarna got dev blogs about the situation.  The forum is reserved for things that are not important to the company.

The evidence suggests that CCP was not listening and did not do anything in response to player outrage or polite CSM requests.  They carried on with the plan and ignored any input, which is a familiar theme for CCP.  Redline XIII probably lost his partner program membership for nothing… well, he kept his self respect, which is not “nothing,” but the influence on CCP seems minimal at best.

CCP wasn’t necessarily lying when they wrote, “We hear your concerns about the Prospector Pack,” but that doesn’t mean that they changed their plan one iota.

I know, cool story bro, but what about this P2E prediction, where did that come from?

It comes straight from the statement that CCP buried in the forums.

One of the topics for Fanfest is a new project that we’re in the middle of developing, that will transform these and any future packs – a paradigm where packs of this type will be supplied by players, ensuring that any ship we offer to new players through sales, will have origins from actual player work in New Eden: Made for new players, by veterans. This feature will also not only supply each ship from the player base but allow the community to influence which ships will be put in these packs.

That isn’t exactly a “Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick” level of admission, but it does set some parameters.

There will be an announcement at Fanfest.  At least that is an easy read.

There will also be more packs.  Again, evidence that CCP was not listening at all, they refer to future packs.  Now, they soften that with the word “any,” as if to put some doubt behind the idea that there will absolutely be future packs, but the whole paragraph is a non-sequitor if there is no plan for future packs, so you can safely cross out “any.”  There will be more such packs.

But these new packs will have the contents supplied by players.  And you know what players aren’t going to do?  They aren’t going to build and fit ships for free.  CCP will need some way to incentivize players to build ships and modules and whatever, or it simply isn’t going to happen.

The best way would be to put up buy contracts for specific hulls and modules so that the ships in the packs would come from the player economy and not be created out of thin air.

Even if the contracts reward just ISK, that still completes the loop for a pay to earn scheme.

But I hear you ask, “Isn’t that how the EVE economy works anyway?  What makes this different?”

To start with, rather than producing hulls and modules out of thing air, it will be for ISK, which is how it works in the game already.  But CCP will be opening up their own special ISK faucet to make the program go.  That is new.

And, of course, CCP will turn around and sell the hulls and modules, along with some skill points and PLEX added in of course, for real world money.  So even if you aren’t earning real world money, you do get a sense that this hull or that module has a cash value.

Now, that is the simplest version of their proposal I can imagine, and as a P2E scheme it only rises above mining ore and selling it on the market because CCP is going to then sell it to other players for cash.  It becomes an RMT transaction, which sort of gets it in the ballpark.  And it has an impact on the player economy.  If, as an example, CCP decides that it is going to make another Retriever pack from player stocks, so sets a buy price of 50 million ISK, that is the new price for that hull.  Why would you sell one for less if CCP might pay you that much.  And CCP’s price always has to be higher than the market price, or why would you sell to them?

The thing is, that is just my guess, and my most simple, straight path, easiest to implement one at that.  CCP may not do that, probably won’t do that.

CCP may not pay out in ISK, but in PLEX, which has closer to real world value.  You can buy PLEX for cash in-game or via the web store, and it can be turned into game time or a second training queue or buy things from the in-game store such as skill extractors or hypercores.

I think if CCP pays out in PLEX, then we’re safely into P2E territory.

But what if the plan is for something beyond ISK or PLEX?

As I stated before, I have no idea what the plan really is, but we still have the Pearl Abyss statements I linked to above where they seem all in on blockchain and P2E.

I certainly don’t think CCP is going to pay out in real world cash.  The first rule of business is to never give the customer their money back except as a last resort.  But letting players earn some sort of cryto currency, which they could roll up on their own, that has a theoretical real world value, they could go there.

It might even work… for a while.

The key problem with P2E with crypto is that supply eventually outstrips demand.  As we have seen with Axie, if the money seems at all reasonable, people will swarm in to make some and the market eventually crashes because there are not enough customers to absorb the boost in production.

With some sort of buy order mechanism acting as a limiter on supply, it can be metered out to fit the existing demand.

Of course, solving that one problem… and I won’t claim it actually solves the problem, it merely mitigates it somewhat… will still lead to the whole thing modifying player behavior elsewhere.  Humans get really weird when money comes into play.  I’ve lost a billion ISK ship before, and it stung, but I still undocked it and put it in harms way knowing the possible outcome.  But if I had put down $20 of real world cash for it, would I be so cavalier?  How about if I could trade that hull for some crypto?  It would change my perception of the risk.

Anyway, that is all speculation.  I am not making any sort of prediction down to that level of detail.  But it certainly sounds like we will be getting some sort of P2E announcement at EVE Fanfest… in Iceland… in front of a hall filled with the games most ardent fans.

I do hope they will stream it live, because I want to tune in and watch that in real time.  I expect it to be a real, “No sir… they’re saying Boo-urns” sort of moment.

Related:

Pearl Abyss Promises a Blockchain Economy while CCP Prepares for EVE Fanfest

A couple of things dropped for EVE Online yesterday.

First up was the Pearl Abyss Q4 2021 earnings call.  The company recorded a bump in overall revenue, though that bump had little to do with video games.  Revenue on the gaming front was down some in Q4, which is never a good sign, that generally being a high point for many titles with people having time to play and most titles running holiday events.

This is all covered in greater detail over at The Nosy Gamer, but I do want to pick a quote from the end of his post, in reference to the “play to earn” idea that the crypto bros have been pushing so hard.  Pearl Abyss has bought into that and foresees greater profits with crypto, finishing up that thought with:

We will shortly communicate with you in different stages about what we are currently preparing for. Our company and CCP Games both have operated MMOs for a long time and we do have the knowhow to maintain and manage a sustainable economic system. So we are confident we can create a stable blockchain ecosystem.

Leaving aside skepticism about CCP’s hamfisted, war ending manipulation of the New Eden economy and the myriad of issues that rightfully hound the flawed to the bone blockchain concepts (a presentation given at Stanford on that if you’re interested in more on that), it is readily apparent to anybody paying attention that even blockchain focused companies can’t create a stable blockchain ecosystem.

Bitcoin, which doesn’t suffer from the rampant theft, rug pulls, and scams of Ethereum and its smart contract brethren, isn’t a viable financial instrument due to wild fluctuations in price and service costs and slow transaction times, unless you really need to secrecy it provides and are willing to pay the premium required.  Everything else is worse than Bitcoin when it comes to stability, so how to you build an stable in-game blockchain ecosystem on top of that?

Hint:  You don’t.

Talk about not being able to read the room.  Have they not seen how badly this has gone for Ubisoft or how even EA is backing away from the crypto idea?

Now, I’ll grant that PA hasn’t actually done much on the crytpo front, so it isn’t like I expect it to be in EVE Online next week.  But they do keep talking about it, as does Hilmar, they keep bringing up CCP when they are talking about it, there was that NFT “experiment” during the Alliance Tournament, and it isn’t like CCP has some other game besides EVE Online right now that has any value, much less an actual economy.  There is still time to walk away from this very dumb idea, so maybe cooler heads will prevail.

We shall see.

Then, as part of the run up to EVE Fanfest, CCP did a live stream to announce things the are working on between now and then, followed by a dev blog to sum up/clarify what was mumbled or misstated on the stream.  Seriously, former CCP Dev Carneros pitched them softballs from a list of obviously prepared points and the CCP team seemed quite unprepared to speak coherently to about half of what was brought up.  CCP Swifts enthusiasm can only carry you so far.  It was not their finest hour.

We’re on a road to somewhere…

The highlights were:

  • Mystery Mining Adventure

Now that they have re-created a long career climb to mining perfection again via mechanics like waste, they’re going to introduce a new player experience to put people on that path.  One career agent made redundant, only five more to go?

  • Orbital Warzone

CCP is going to make player owned customs offices (POCOs) harder to defend in order to try and spark some conflict on that front.

  • Another Graphical Update

Literally their words, copied from the dev blog, and not me being snarky.  We’re moving closer to being able to create reflecto-porn on spaceships.  Not quite there yet, but you’ll be able to see structures and explosions reflected in that shiny Amarr gold trim.

  • Together We Compress

They are trying really hard to make it seem like you need to play the Guardians Gala event in order for them to unlock compression, but they are putting it on the test server tomorrow, so that seems like an empty threat.  This version of compression is not supposed to be as bad as mindbogglingly awful first run they put on the test server back in December, but we won’t really know until it lands there.  Some details:

  • Compression becomes a more social ability. The Industrial Command Ships (Rorqual, Orca and Porpoise) are getting new modules, which will enable all nearby fleet-mates to instantly compress their own materials.
    • This remote compression will be available at long ranges – over 200 km is possible.
  • As frequently requested, Gas and Moon Ore resources will become compressible, using these new modules.
  • The Porpoise will be able to compress Gas and Asteroid Ore, and both the Orca and Rorqual will be able to compress all resources – Gas, Ice, Asteroid Ore, and Moon Ore.
  • Compression will continue to be loss-less.
  • The capacity of Jet-cans will be doubled to make it easier for high-volume miners and haulers to work together more efficiently.

We’ll see how it looks soon I guess.

  • The Glorious Battleship

Having pushed the price of even basic battleship hulls past the 300 million ISK mark with last April’s industry changes (and don’t get me started on the price of faction battleships), CCP has decided to run with that and try to make them worth the extra ISK.  To get there they plan a role bonus that will make armor plates 50% more effective, shield extenders 100% more effective, as well as making it easier to fit an MJD when you fly one.  We’ll see if this has any impact on the PvP combat meta, but I bet it makes mission running in battleships a lot easier.  The joys of balancing PvP and PvE.

  • Crab Season Approaches

They want more capital ships to undock, but won’t make them cheaper, so they are making the CRAB beacons, introduced back in October, cost less.  You need to undock a capital ship to use one, so there you go, more capitals undocking.

  • Bolstered Bulkheads

CCP is going to roll back the nerf to capital resistance modules that landed with the Surgical Strike update in April of 2020 by half.  That and the industry updates of April of 2021 made people dock up their capital ships.  Never mind carrots, we’re now just happy that CCP is hitting us with 50% less stick.

  • Rorqual Hotdrop

Rorquals are getting a conduit jump ability akin to what blackops battleships got last June, allowing them to jump a small fleet.  CCP envisions people taking a very expensive capital mining platform on “mining adventures” with this change.  I nominate this as a candidate for and “unexpected outcomes” award when players get their hands on it.

  • Blueprint Changes

CCP would like people to use dreadnoughts and are thinking about maybe changing the blueprints so they don’t cast 8 billion ISK to build and fit, but they haven’t actually committed to that.  Still, after many months of players going on about this problem, it is nice to hear CCP at least acknowledge that the issue won’t go away by insisting producers will eventually step into line with their grand economic plan.

  • Structure Changes

We have complained about Upwell structures enough that CCP feels obliged to do something.  They haven’t said what, just that it is on the list.

  • No More Quadrants

They couldn’t keep that theme going, so they’re giving up the idea.  The New Dawn age of permanent scarcity quadrant was the last one of those.  They’ll get into their new plan at Fanfest.  As the banner says, a new era approaches.

And then there was a push for Fanfest.  I am wondering how that is shaping up, as early bird tickets, which used to be limited in supply and generally disappeared quickly, were still being mentioned right up to the last day they were available.

Anyway, that is my roundup.  No doubt you can detect some cynicism on my part, though I will say that I think CCP’s two years of “all stick, no carrot” handling of the game warrants a bit of that.  Add in Pearl Abyss and Hilmar talking crypto and CCP removing that presentation about World War Bee I mentioned last week from the press site, and I feel like cynicism is still on the mark right now.

Related items:

It’s the End of the Metaverse as we Know It

It certainly feels that people talking about “the metaverse” have taken the universality aspect of of the “meta” prefix a bit too literally as the word “metaverse” is rapidly approaching the state where it means whatever the speaker thinks it mean in that moment.

Of course, we’ve been down that path before.  I remember when “MMO” meant a game with specific characteristics, like hundreds of people in a shared space.  Now it pretty much means any online game where six or more people can interact in some way.

There is the grand purist metaverse vision which says, as Bhagpuss so astutely put it, if there is more than one then it isn’t the metaverse.  That is the online ideal of sort, the place of Snow Crash and Ready Player One, where everybody goes or has a presence… though if you’ve read either, the actual real worlds they exist in are dystopian nightmares, so no wonder everybody is so keen to strap into their VR gear and get away from it all.

We’re probably never going to get there… or I hope we’re not… though we certainly seem to working hard on making the real world something to escape.

But this past week VentureBeat hosted a Summit on the whole Metaverse idea.

VentureBeat presents

It was preceded by a Facebook gaming summit… now Meta, but we still know who they really are… which has moved big towards the whole metaverse idea despite some skepticism within their own ranks, which I  covered previously.  While technically not directly part of the metaverse event, it covered a lot of the same ground, so it might well be counted as day zero of the whole thing.

Facebook has been on the metaverse idea for a while, as this now more than two year old trailer for their Horizon product indicates. (For some reason this ad was making the rounds this week as though it was new.)

At that point they were very much locked into the idea that VR would be the domain for the metaverse.  Also, legs were clearly not a thing.

However, on the first day of the summit, which was all Facebook, I listened to somebody from from the Oculus group tell the audience that the metaverse would need to be on every device, phones, tablets, laptops, consoles, as well as VR.

The same person also mentioned that when he joined Oculus, before they were acquired, everybody who signed on was given a copy of Ready Player One, which is somewhat telling I suppose.  In Snow Crash the metaverse seemed more like something the dispersed internet evolved into.  In Ready Player One it is run by an evil corporation.  So I guess they were already on board with being bought by Facebook before it happened.

A more disturbing trend to me has been the union of the concept of the metaverse and the crypto blockchain NFT demographic.  This has nothing to do with video games and everything to do with money.  Venture capitalists have found they can extract money from a crypto investment much faster than a traditional startup so have been pumping and dumping to their heart’s content.

Essentially, the word “metaverse” has become shorthand for “NFT vehicle”  for some so, while the Oculus guy didn’t mention them, Facebook is all in on the idea, while other speakers, such as Brendan Greene of PlayerUnknown fame, who helped establish the battle royale genre, spoke about his new project, Project Artemis, a world sized metaverse, which will be on board with the NFT train.

Because somehow over the objection of the developers who actually have to do the work, execs and finance people have seemingly embraced the NFT idea as the way to move assets between games in order to create a single metaverse out of everybody’s own pocket virtual world.

However, I will say that, for the most part, the summit wasn’t over-hyped on the whole crypto NFT thing.  There were certainly crypto proponents on the schedule and who sessions were about how this is going to be great once more people jump on the bandwagon.  But there was also some recognition that NFTs needed to win people over, something that had not happened yet, though I did hear one speaker go on about how if gamers weren’t going to get on board with NFTs then they would just find another demographic, leaving gamers behind.

I am not sure who else they are going to get to buy into it… well, I have a guess… but Ubisoft, which has literally bought into NFTs, is certainly finding gamers unwilling to invest in NFTs.  They feel that gamers just “don’t understand,” which is the most common crypto scammer talking point around.  We like to point out how bad Activision and EA are, but Ubisoft is literally the worst and has been for more than 20 years.

Honestly though, while I signed up for the whole event, I would guess that I checked in on maybe half of the sessions, and some of them weren’t all that interesting.  There was, for example, a pleasant man from Helsinki speaking about industrial applications for VR and the metaverse and I just took my headphones off and went on with something else.

The only session I was completely in for was the one featuring Raph Koster, who got the last 20 minute speaking slot at the end of the whole thing.  I teased him about that on Twitter, though he spun it as getting the last word.  Still, they gave some guy 30 minutes earlier in the day to talk some nonsense about The Matrix and promote his book, so I was feeling a little defensive of Raph’s place in the order of things.

But I need not have fretted even a bit.  Raph came in strong with that last session, with a short slide deck, which made him stand out from most of the presentations.  He was there to talk about how we even get to a metaverse, where you’re able to move from one world to another across vendors, a issue he framed as a social problem.  There are standards to be agreed upon and rights and ownership and all sorts of things that need to be sorted out before we start thinking about walking between WoW and Fortnite, which seemed to be the interoperability metaphor of the conference.

Many of the issues that need to be resolved have been under discussion for ages at this point.

He didn’t come up with any specific answers, but blockchain and crypto did not enter into it his talk, those not being solutions to any of the current problems facing the metaverse.

I did stick around for the post-game summary by the GameBeat staff, who were cool on the NFT idea, which surprised me a bit since their parent, VentureBeat, seems keen to cover all things crypto.  But, then their audience is more investors and VCs, and crypto is what investors want to head about now.  You have to give your audience what they want, even if they want garbage I suppose.

The whole thing is up on YouTube on VentureBeat’s channel if you are interested.

As noted, Raph is at the end of day two if you want to watch his 20 minutes. (Also, seeing Raph live, Playable Worlds might want to update the promo pic they use of him, which must be from 2006 given how much gray hair he has now.  Why not play up his age and experience rather than trying to keep him looking forever 35?)

The site also did decent summaries of some of the sessions on their site, which are a little more detailed that the presentations.  I’ll link to a few of the more interesting ones:

Those last two are interesting for specific definitions of the word, like if you want to hear the crypto side of things try to rationalize why the metaverse needs them.  I think that quote about leaving gamers behind is in that last session.

Not everything at the event was worth hearing, but it was the place to be if you wanted some insight into what the people… mostly money people… want to hear about.  The GamesBeat team kept things going, though occasionally the slipped up a bit.  I think they were about done with the event when this poll popped up.

Yes? No? Both? Neither?

So it goes.

And, while we’re on the topic of the metaverse, interoperability, and NFTs, I figure I should toss in a video that cam up last week.  It is 30 minutes of a developer going through the issues, one by one, about how NFTs don’t solve any of the problems that need to be solved for the metaverse.  It is just shy of 30 minutes, but it is pretty to the point.

I’ve seen all these points before, but it is nice to have them summed up in one video.  He also has a follow up video because the crypto bros came after him with the whole “but we want to be able own/trade independent of the developer” scenario, which he also picks apart pretty well.

However, if you really want to dig into the NFT/crypto thing and have two hours to spare, I highly recommend this video from Folding Ideas.

It is essentially a documentary look into where cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and NFTs came from, what they really are, how badly designed they really are, who is making money on them, and how the scam really works.  Spoiler:  It is all based on the greater fool theory.

I don’t think there was a lot shockingly new to me in that video, except for the cost, and the variability of cost, of blockchain transactions, which would make the whole thing a non-starter for any legitimate enterprise.

Seriously, you would have to be insane to use crypto for your business unless it is a scam.  Any CEO of a legitimate company that says they are seriously considering NFTs is throwing out a buzzword to boost their stock price or doesn’t understand how they actually work… though you cannot rule out both being the answer.

Anyway, the video did nicely tie together a lot of different threads and I felt it was well worth the time, so much so that I listened to it twice. (While doing some quests in EQII.)  Hat tip to Massively OP for linking to this video.

Addendum: If you prefer the written word to a two hour video, then there is David Rosenthal’s Stanford talk that he reproduced on his blog, which gets down into the details of crypto and how it goes so very wrong.