Monday, November 11, 2019

The Pearl Abyss Q3 2019 Investors Call

On Friday (Thursday night in North America), Pearl Abyss held a conference call to discuss its earnings report for the third quarter. For EVE players, the idea of having a look at the possible financial ramifications of the game decisions made during the summer of 2019 is a novel idea. For myself, I tend to think the success (or failure) of CCP's parent company could also have ramifications on New Eden. Plus, I find some of the things Pearl Abyss is doing very fascinating.

One subject I find myself disagreeing with the talking heads on the talk shows is the degree to which Pearl Abyss has or has not influenced the development of EVE over the last year. While I agree that as long as CCP keeps pulling in steady financial numbers PA will remain fairly hands-off, we have seen some evidence of PA's influence already.

Listening to the call a few times brought home that thought. When addressing investors, Pearl Abyss concentrates on the acquisition and retention of users and technology advancements that help in achieving both goals. For example, in the third quarter, PA worked to make Black Desert available on Steam in Southeast Asia to attract new users. At the same time, PA is working to ensure that the game is updated on the same day across platforms and regions to satisfy their "core user base."

(As a quick aside, listening to this section of the call, I couldn't help but think of the development resource split of 80% towards new players (acquisition) and 20% to the "EVE Core". EVE Core is a term first disclosed in the EVE Vegas keynote.)

Speaking of satisfying the core user base, PA usually includes a few measures it is taking to keep existing users happy. EVE received its first mention on the call for the Invasion Tour. As another example of player outreach, PA is also reached out to Black Desert Mobile players with subsidized clan dinners.

I also must mention PA likes to push the narrative that it is a very technologically forward-thinking company. While the next Aether Wars test will likely receive attention on the Q4 2019 call, PA did mention making BDO available as a demo on Microsoft's Project xCloud. The mention of Microsoft caught my attention, as Microsoft is a new partner, along with Steam, for the next Aether Wars test.

Another theme on these calls is diversification. Basically, PA wants investors to know they are diversifying across platform, as they don't know which market will become the most profitable in the long run. Over the past year, PA's revenues from console sales have jumped from non-existent to making up 12% of operating revenue. PC sales, probably due to the acquisition of CCP, has risen from 23% to 31% year-over-year.

Of interest to EVE players is the performance of the EVE IP during the third quarter. I would say the game performed well, registering only a 2% drop in revenue. The drop down to ₩14.6 billion is still ₩100 million more than the revenue for Q1. The PA leadership on the call spent time defending the 12.8% drop in revenue quarter-over-quarter. The investor analysts seemed happy with the EVE IP's performance. In fairness to Black Desert, PA did state the company had to defer revenue from the third quarter to Q4, which should make the yearly financial numbers look better.

On the Q2 investors call, PA announced mentioned three games in development. On Friday's call, PA revealed more details. The official name of the former Project K is Plan 8. The game developed under the leadership of Counterstrike create Minh Le, is described as a "Exosuit MMO Shooter." DokeV, formerly known as Project V, is a "collectible MMORPG for all ages." Read teen friendly. Crimson Desert, a title the analysts tried unsuccessfully to get details about in August, is described as a "epic-fantasy open-world MMORPG." On the call, Pearl Abyss stated that Crimson Desert would become the new flagship MMORPG for PA.

All of these games will debut at G-STAR, South Korea's biggest annual game trade show, on Thursday, 14 November. In addition, PA will announce Shadow Arena, a stand-alone battle royale game set in the Black Desert universe. A closed beta is planned for 21-24 November.

Pearl Abyss also mentioned existing content the company will expand upon. Black Desert's new expansion, Drieghan, launches on Thursday. In December Black Desert Mobile will expand globally, reportedly on the 12th. The deferred revenue mentioned earlier in the call is probably related to pre-orders for BDM. EVE was not left out of the announcements, with the Korean localized client available on Thursday as well.

In August, the investor analysts focused in on the unnamed game revealed as Crimson Desert. On Friday, the analysts concentrated on information about EVE: Echoes. One of the analysts had a question about the term "open beta testing" and whether that meant the game was commercially available and bringing in revenue. The PA leadership had to confirm that the open beta was a true open beta and not a marketing gimmick.

The second question concerned a sticky subject, licensing of EVE: Echoes within the People's Republic of China. The EVE IP would undoubtedly bring in more revenue if the Serenity cluster could reopen. The same is true for EVE: Echoes. Government approval for the mobile game would bring in increased income, and more investment interest, if Pearl Abysss can garner the appropriate permits to operate the game in China. I'm sure the question will arise on the next call in some form.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Change To The Ansiblex Jump Gate Change

At EVE Vegas, we learned that in the Beat Around the Boosh content drop, Ansiblex Jump Gates would receive a anchoring restriction of 500 kilometers from other structures. However, any existing gate could remain in place and still function. Today CCP changed their minds.

When I first heard of the plan to grandfather in any jump gates that fell within 500 km of any other structure, I thought that couldn't last. From a technical standpoint, the situation would get messy. Imagine having to keep track of exempt structures in a database table somewhere. Then, during downtime, run a script to determine which ones were destroyed or otherwise no longer qualified for the special treatment. On top of everything else, QA would have to test each release for years to make sure no new feature broke the grandfathered placement.

Along a similar vein, imagine CCP trying to run a script that would automatically move existing gates 500 km from other structures. What is worse for an alliance logistics team?

  1. CCP moves the jump gates out of range of a citadel's weapons, then the logistics team has to visit each gate to make sure the gate is properly placed. If not properly placed, the logisticians then have to unanchor the gate and place it in a different location.
  2. The logistics team moves each gate to its proper location. The logisticians unanchor the gates under the cover of the citadel's weapons.
I honestly don't know. I've never done null sec logistics. Either way, the process sounds painful.

From a gameplay perspective, I don't really have an opinion. I do think that making the change announced via Twitter will help on the technical end. From my perspective, the change to Ansiblex Jump Gate anchoring distances will cause enough drama. No need to possibly continue the drama for years to come.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Not So Quick Thoughts About the EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

I started writing this piece Saturday morning, after spending Friday night grabbing screenshots. I just finished writing up my views on the keynote presentation at EVE Vegas. I know the post is late. Sometimes, however, I need to get my thoughts written up on the blog. Hopefully, I still came up with something relevant.

Friday, October 25, 2019

News Drops Before The EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

CCP managed to drop some news before the beginning of the convention today. The biggest news, of course, is the announcement that EVE: Echoes will enter beta in December.
GUANGZHOU, China and REYKJAVÍK, Iceland – Oct. 24, 2019 – NetEase Games and CCP Games today announced that the open beta for EVE Echoes, the authentic EVE Online experience for mobile devices, will go live this December. Developed by NetEase Games in conjunction with CCP Games, EVE Echoes was unveiled last year and will be available to demo for the first time at EVE Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend.

In celebration of the open beta announcement, new assets, an official website, and social media channels are now live for EVE Echoes.

Venture into the depths of space with official gameplay footage here:

“We’re very excited for the first public outing of EVE Echoes, the next revolutionary step in mobile MMO gaming,” said Hilmar V. Petursson, CEO of CCP Games. “I can’t wait to see the reaction from our core PC players, who will no doubt recognize the unparalleled scale and sophisticated gameplay of EVE Online’s virtual world running through the veins of EVE Echoes.”

“CCP Games is a pioneer in space MMOs, and will make its mark on the industry even further by expanding the EVE experience to mobile with EVE Echoes,” said Ethan Wang, Vice President of NetEase, Inc. “Combining CCP’s leadership in game design with our NeoX game engine and leadership in game publishing will no doubt create a spacefaring sandbox MMO for mobile devices unlike anything seen before.”

EVE Echoes brings the vast, interstellar EVE universe from PC to the palm of your hand. Built using NetEase Games’ proprietary NeoX graphics engine, EVE Echoes stays true to CCP’s hallmark EVE Online design principles and immerses pilots in beautiful starry skies and across boundless star fields. Pilots must collect resources, manufacture items, and explore thousands of uncharted planets to write their own history in pursuit of galactic glory. A realistic social system enables players to join and lead corporations, form coalitions, capture rival territories, engage in intergalactic combat, and much more across thousands of planetary systems.
I know, copy/pasting press releases is a bad practice. Pearl Abyss purchased CCP Games for the EVE Online IP and EVE: Echoes is the first chance for the investment to pay off for the South Korean game company. I passed up a chance to sign up for a hands-on demonstration yesterday, mainly because I didn't know my schedule for Saturday. Although I don't play mobile games, I should attend one of the 30-minute demonstrations so I can report first-hand on how the game feels.

The next biggest news is CCP will release the Korean-language client for EVE Online on 14 November, the first day of the giant G-STAR 2019 conference. Making a Korean-language client once CCP Games was purchased by Peal Abyss seemed a foregone conclusion. Announcing the launch of the client at G-STAR indicates some sort of marketing push will occur in association with the announcement.

One thing I can confidently say is that those who choose to just look at the daily peak concurrent user (PCU) count will probably not notice a difference. The effect of any Korean player influx will occur during the slow, Australian time zone. An influx of 20,000 new Korean accounts could result in a rise of up to 3,000 accounts in the daily average concurrent user (ACU) number. That many new players could also result in time-zone tanking becoming a much less viable strategy.

The next set of noteworthy news is the announcement of the replacement for the Crimson Harvest this year. Gone is the tale of Bloody Omar and The Blood Raiders. Last year's event began on 23 October and ran for two weeks. This year, CCP chose to go with a much less lore-friendly title, EVE's Halloweeen Horrors. The event introduces as yet undisclosed changes to combat interceptors.
Beware of roaming wolf packs at Halloween! An upgrade to Combat Interceptors in EVE Online means more damage, more fittings and more reason to jump into these ships for some Trick or Treat action!
In a first I can recall, the holiday event will have a dedicated PvP component.
This Halloween it will definitely pay to undock and go on a spine-chilling rampage as there will be a shocking PVP event from 11:00 UTC on 29 October to 11:00 UTC on 5 November. Tune in to the EVE Vegas live stream on Twitch for more details!
Or course, the event has a daily log-in component as well.
From 11:00 UTC on 28 October to 11:00 UTC on 3 November, every pilot that logs into the game will receive rewards that range from free Skill Points to limited SKINs. We promise that there is nothing to be afraid of.
No word if the current daily skill points for NPC kills event will continue to run.

In a few hours EVE Vegas officially begins. I'll try to write up as much news as I can. I do have the disadvantage of being on-site, so I may wind up watching the VOD from CCP's Twitch channel to see what I missed.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Story Of 2019 So Far

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how data can tell a story. I began writing this post flying toward a key point in the story of New Eden: Las Vegas, Nevada. What I encounter this weekend will play a critical role in how the story turns out.

The origins of the story stretch back to late 2018 and January 2019. CCP, recognizing economic problems in the virtual word of its flagship game, EVE Online, began a series of changes to the game world to reign in the issues before they tore the game apart. Change is a part of any MMORPG. Developers are constantly assessing the state of their games and implementing new features and altering existing ones. Players typically call these things expansions, buffs, and nerfs.

Into this story comes a man. Someone who was around at the start of the in-game universe. As his company grew, he became distracted from the world he helped create chasing other dreams. But in October, the studio he ran was sold and his focus narrowed. He returned to the world he helped create. For purposes of the current story of New Eden, let’s call him Odin.

To the residents of a virtual world, the developers are gods. They have the power to turn piles of junk into gold, and beloved forms of game play into horror shows not worth engaging in anymore. In New Eden, the gods saw the amount of virtual currency flowing into the economy and declared it bad. Beginning in February, the developers began to take steps to reduce the flow of wealth into the game.

Also, in February Odin began making his presence known. He was back, and not pleased with what he saw. In addition to the faucets and sinks being too far out of balance, he saw stagnation in an important area of the universe, null security space. As he put it, the developers needed to stir up the sandbox, because the players had solved the game and "the sand in the sandbox has turned into cement."

On 28 May, CCP deployed the Invasion expansion onto Tranquility. The gods deployed the new content, while containing bugs, in such a way that each phase of the new content corresponded with lore points. Pauses to fix the bugs before deploying the next phase were built into the continuing story of the Triglavians. This content for high sec, and later low sec, was a welcome addition to EVE’s overall lackluster PvE content.

Hubris can afflict even the gods. After the careful rollout of the Triglavian invasion content, the developers rushed out content involving the Drifters to add the residents of null sec to the new state of the universe. Odin declared the beginning of “The Chaos Era.” Odin saw that part of the problem in New Eden was the early acquisition of knowledge and the greatest of the gods determined to limit any foreshadowing as much as possible.

The denizens of null sec, from the most powerful autocrat to the lowliest line member, decried the state of the Drifter content. The new release was bug-ridden, and after an initial scare, was more nuisance than something to fear. Not a good omen for the future.

In July, the gods decided to change one of the immutable laws of null sec: the way the local chat channels work. Starting on 12 July, the local chat channels acted as those in wormholes space. Instead of immediately showing when a player entered a system, players only appear when typing into the chat window. In a lore announcement of the feature to the players, the god described the length of the change as “indefinitely”. For which, I assumed the gods would evaluate the effects of the changes and, if the conditions warranted, revert the changes on the next scheduled release on 13 August.

Somewhere Loki is smiling, because the bit of chaos Odin intended to insert into null sec didn’t work well. Player versus environment activity immediately took a nosedive in null sec. PvP activity, after a relatively brief period of rising, also witnessed eclines as well. And yet, Odin and the other gods did not reset the local chat channels to their conditions on 11 July. The gods changed the world again on 13 August, and the chat system remained the same. What could have been a one-month experiment that didn’t do particularly well turned into a natural disaster of historic proportions.

As one of New Eden’s most powerful autocrats, The Mittani, once observed, EVE is ultimately a democracy. One in which players vote with their feet. In New Eden, horrible corporation or alliance leaders cannot make players stay with their organizations. Likewise, the gods of New Eden cannot make players log into their game. Unfortunately for CCP, the gods of another virtual realm, those of Activision-Blizzard, planned on opening a new, long-awaited universe called WoW Classic.

On 26 August, the number of players logging into New Eden drastically declined as dissatisfied players now had a place to which to flee. The decline continued until the gods relented and restored local chat channel functionality to null sec on 16 September.

Players are not machines that return automatically when the gods flip a switch. As of yet, player activity has not returned to June levels. PvE activity, as measured by NPC kills recorded by Dotlan, reached that level this past weekend. New Eden may see that level reached for a full month in November. PvP activity, on the other hand, has continued to decline since the return of local chat to normal. So far in October (through 23 October), player-flown ships are exploding 29.5% less often in null sec and 19% less often in low sec as compared to June.

I began writing this post over 30,000 feet above the surface of the earth. I finish, sitting just a few yards away from the stage where the story of the gods of New Eden will continue. Will CCP present a vision and content that will inspire their players and see the game climb to the levels of last year? Or will Odin continue acting on the theory that restricting the information flow to players is the best course of action for EVE Online? Sometimes, the faithful require a sign from the gods to continue their belief. We will see if the gods of New Eden agree.

Monday, October 21, 2019

EVE Vegas 2019: A Change In The Schedule

One subject we usually don't hear about at EVE Vegas is security. We might hear about a major ban discussed amongst players, but official word is usually pretty scarce. I personally suspect members of Team Security have misbehaved in the past, but this year, CCP Peligro is blaming Steven Tyler.
I understand the sentiments about Las Vegas completely. I'm looking forward to not travelling to the city next year.

But, CCP has changed the schedule for this year's event. The name of the first event on Sunday was changed from EVE Economics and Analytics to Data & Botting. The description, however, has not changed.
Join CCP Larrikin, creator and curator of the Monthly Economic Report, for a look at the economy of New Eden and a dive into some of the data that makes New Eden the living, breathing world that it is.
CCP Peligro did tweet out a teaser on Wednesday.
I intended to go to CCP Larrikin's presentation anyway. With the new change, though, accidentally oversleeping is now not an option. I also need to prepare a few things, just in case Larrikin doesn't present us any cool graphs.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Warp Speed Changes

Seriously CCP? A special patch to implement warp speed changes to cruisers, battlecruisers, and battleships instead of putting the changes in the regularly scheduled patch on 8 October?

Perhaps I should give CCP the benefit of the doubt. If the developers had to deploy a patch to fix/mitigate the deep safe spot bug, maybe they accidentally left the warp speed changes in the build. But this is smelling like CCP trying to advance the narrative of the so-called "Chaos Era" by instituting a change in the middle of the month, just as they did in September.

Whatever the reason, I should note the changes.
Every Cruiser, Battlecruiser and Battleship now warps faster than before. Ship Warp Speed attributes have been increased for the following Ship Groups:
  • Cruiser increased to 4 (was 3)
  • T2 Cruiser increased to 4.5 (was 3.3)
  • Battlecruiser increased to 3.5 (was 2.7)
  • T2 Battlecruiser increased to 4 (was 3)
  • Battleship increased to 3 (was 2)
  • T2 Battleship increased to 3.5 (was 2.2)
Travelling via autopilot will also be faster now with the warp in distance changed from 15km to 10km.
Military experts have determined that using auto-pilot is, to use a technical term, A TRAP!!! Please don't do it.

I guess I shouldn't complain about all these ships I used to outrun in my Procurer with the aid of warp speed and agility implants becoming much faster than the 3.28 AU/sec I travel in warp. Judging by the numbers, the hunters need all the help they can get.

Since the lifting of the blackout on 16 September, ship losses have continued to decline in both null and low security space. The average number of ships killed each day in the first half of October declined 11.2% in null sec and 4.9% in low sec as compared to the first half of September.

Looking at the statistics, I have to wonder if the cyno changes really had that big an impact on the amount of PvP occurring in New Eden.  The end of the blackout definitely provided more targets in space.

The amount of NPCs killed in null sec has tripled from 1-15 October compared to 1-15 September. More targets in space means more player ships dying, right? I'll have to ask some PvP types at EVE Vegas why the number of ship exploding in space is declining instead.

I won't complain too much about CCP making the job of hunting me in a low sec belt mining in a Procurer easier. With the recent changes in Triglavian content, I pretty much mine exclusively in high sec now. These changes are just another reminder to not go back into dangerous space.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

EVE Vegas 2019: My Tentative Schedule

The final EVE Vegas is next week. Say what you will about the smaller community team, but they published the convention schedule over a week in advance, which is way faster than I'm used to. As I usually do when given the chance, I'll peruse the document and pick out the presentations I will attend.

Thursday, October 24

18:00 - Open Comms. As usual, the Open Comms show is planning on streaming on-site. With a new venue comes new rules. Hopefully, the crew doesn't get kicked out of wherever they stream from.

Friday, October 25

16:00 - Welcome to EVE Vegas. The official opening of the convention. Pretty much a must-see for those planning to actually attend events and not just party all weekend. With CCP Falcon stuck in Iceland, CCP Dopamine and CCP Convict will assume the hosting duties. Don't screw up guys.

17:00 - EVE Keynote. CCP's Creative Director for EVE Online, CCP Burger, will host the keynote presentation, "where we'll take a look at the past and present of New Eden, and maybe even a little glimpse into the future." While the second presentation, what CCP presents during this hour could determine how many people pay attention to the rest of the scheduled content.

18:00 - EVE Core Gameplay Update. This presentation fills me with a touch of dread. Not because CCP Rise doesn't know his stuff (he does), but because of the description of the event.
CCP Rise discusses ships, modules, structures and much more in this talk focused on EVE’s core gameplay for established players.
Watch the official forums and EVE sub-Reddit explode after this presentation. I don't have a prediction whether the explosion will consist of glitter or fissile material, but I'm sure the figure "20%" will appear often.

Saturday, October 26

11:00 - The EVE Friendship Machine. I'm picking CCP Ghost's presentation over Kyle Saltz' Providence, NRDS, Culture, and Conflict.
Everyone knows that the best ship is Friendship. Join CCP Ghost as we take a dive into the data surrounding player behavour, and what makes the greatest community in online gaming tick.
CCP Ghost's presentation should provide a good window into CCP's view of how the game operates.

12:00 - The EVE Variety Hour. CCP Paradox and his preview of "what the EVE Development Team are currently working on, and what's in the pipeline for the near future!" gets the nod over Greygal's Anyone Can FC, Even You! Sorry Greygal, but you drew some pretty heavy counter-programming in CCP Paradox. The EVE Friendship Machine Roundtable finished a distant third. I generally don't like roundtables.

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - EVE Echoes, An Update! I pretty much have to attend the presentation on the new EVE mobile game under development with Netease. Those wishing to hobnob with such luminaries as Open Comm's Dreydan and the space pope, Max Singularity, will probably find them in the other presentation at 1400, Bigger Than Thera: Imaging M87's Supermassive Black Hole. The EVE Variety Hour Roundtable is the third event offered during the time slot.

15:00 - Return to the Moon. Speaking of Max Singularity, he is presenting at 1500.
An overview of the current outlook for America’s plan to return to the Moon. Including plans using the SLS Rockets, Orion Capsule, commercial partners, and the new Lunar orbiting space station known as “Gateway”.
Poor CCP Filipp. His presentation, DirectX 12 - Past, Present, And Future!, received a bad draw. CCP Rise's EVE Core Gameplay Update Roundtable rounds out the offerings in this slot.

16:00 - The Glorious CCP AMA - EVE Vegas Edition. I have the feeling I may head up to my room for a nap after The Space Pope's presentation. But if I do go to a presentation at 16:00, I'll wind up attending the AMA. ISD Tipene's talk, Eleven Years A Volunteer I'll leave to others.

Sunday, October 27

11:00 - EVE Economics and Analytics. Whoever puts the schedules together really hates the economics guys. At EVE Vegas, CCP Larrikin gets the job of presenting on a Sunday morning after the big party. Apparently, a lot of people are on call, as CCP Tuxford and CCP Chimichanga give a talk on Putting the Internet in Internet Spaceships. Despite what the schedule indicates, the presenters work for CCP and are not players. CCP Filipp & CCP Vertex round out the time slot with the Direct X 12 Roundtable.

12:00 - A History of EVE's Most Popular Ships & Doctrines. The first time slot without a CCP presentation, I'm leaning toward attending Elise Randolph's talk.
EVE Online has a robust player-made history, but what was it like the be a capsuleer back then? From Cavalry Ravens to Caracals, we'll be looking at just that! The history of EVE through the lens of the most popular ships at the time, and the circumstances that allowed them to have such prolific success.
However, my old alliance leader Johnny Splunk is giving a presentation called Too Many FCs that has me intrigued.
How many capsuleers does it take to undock? Learn about a new experience where you can crew a ship with other players. Will you cooperate or lead a mutiny?
Rounding out the surprisingly strong time slot is the Putting the Internet in Internet Spaceships Roundtable with CCP Tuxford and CCP Chimichanga.

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Art of EVE. Looking at the description, the Art Department's presentation, given by CCP Myrkur and CCP BlueScreen, looks like a can't miss event.
Join the Audio and Graphics team as we have a closer look at the visuals of EVE Online, from spaceships and visual effects to character art, and everything in between. We'll be looking at recently released content as well as what we have upcoming in the near future. Finally we might have a peek at some ongoing R&D projects developing within art, too!
Brave's Dunk Dinkle will give a presentation, How to Lead Without Being a CEO Part Deux, a follow-up to his successful presentation from last year. And finally, CCP Ghost and CCP Larriken will host the final round table of the weekend, EVE Economics and Analytics Roundtable.

15:00 - Mildly Interesting Things & Such. The convention winds down with newly hired community developer CCP Convict describing what he found while rummaging through CCP's records. For those interesting in tournaments, the Invasion Tournament Finals - EVE Vegas will occur during this time slot as well.

16:00 - Closing Ceremonies

I have to say, for the first time in years, I will attend a CCP-run event where I can see myself sitting in presentations all day. While not a fan of Las Vegas, I'm looking forward to the final EVE Vegas. Now, if CCP will give us some good news to get excited about.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hurricane Hilmar: Why Look At The Numbers

Over the past three months or so, I spent way too much time looking at EVE Online data trying to determine the impact of the so-called "Chaos Era" and, up until now, it's major feature, Hurricane Hilmar. Officially, the institution of wormhole-style delayed local was called Blackout, but looking at the effects of the feature reminded me more of a natural disaster than something that caused players to run around New Eden like chickens with their heads cut off.

I guess that's why I spent so much time looking at the data. Yes, I got quite a few blog posts out of the situation. The data can tell a story. The problem is the data can tell any story if a person is willing to torture the numbers enough.
Any forum warrior or Reddit shit poster can spout off about what he/she thinks about CCP's actions. What I hopefully did over the past few months is collect the data readily available to players and connect the dots in such a way to provide some context to the whole situation. I doubt I imparted any wisdom in the coverage of Hurricane Hilmar. After all, stating CCP needs a strong winter expansion I think is pretty self-evident. Even those who disagree privately probably would look forward to more and better content.

Another reason for exploring and writing about the data was selfish. I never looked into the economy of EVE as closely as during the time the hurricane ravaged across null sec. I think I know a little better what to look for the the marco economy of New Eden. Of course, people don't make ISK off the macro economy. But who knows? Maybe one day I can earn some ISK off this blogging thing.

The third reason for diving into the data is that CCP really did make Hurricane Hilmar the focus of EVE for that last few months. As someone who doesn't play in null sec, the only angle I could find to write about the subject was the numbers. After choosing the angle, I just needed to describe what I saw in the data, not why null sec residents reacted they way they did.

The final reason for writing all the articles is that I really couldn't believe that CCP was doing what the numbers showed me. The more I stared at the numbers and discussed them with others, the more I fell into disbelief. Frankly, the fact that the blackout did not end on 13 August left me dumbfounded. After the logical date for reverting local back to normal passed, I kept staring at the trends in the data as if I were viewing a train wreck in real time.

Having started the trip down the rabbit hole, I can't stop yet. I still need to document the recovery, as well as finally look into why CCP made the changes that led to such a drastic drop in player activity. I also have to write a post about the biggest statistic of all: CCP's revenue during Hurricane Hilmar. I can't write that post until the Pearl Abyss investors call for the third quarter, which I believe will occur sometime around 8 November if history is any guide. Hopefully CCP will come announce cool new content at EVE Vegas next week that will knock talk of statistics to the back pages of EVE media. No matter what, though, I need to finish what I started, no matter what I find.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Hurricane Hilmar, The September MER, And Economic History

Based on the last three years, the EVE economy should pick up in September. I have my doubts. Just as people who flee a hurricane often don't return home (think the effect Hurricane Katrina had on the population of New Orleans in 2005), I expect many players won't return to EVE due to the massive disruptions to their game play. I also think problems in the RMT portion of the economy will continue and drag down the overall economy. As for the activities that require flying around in space, I fully expect the number of NPCs killed to drop in September, leading to another drop in the bounty ISK faucet. Perhaps growth and activity rates will return somewhat to normal, but for now, I don't see the situation improving until October.

- The Nosy Gamer, "Hurricane Hilmar", 11 September 2019

The monthly economic report for September came out Friday and I am still scrambling to catch up. I published a look at the NPC and player kill data for known space on Saturday, then spent most of the rest of the weekend either looking at data or finishing up my online class. Not a lot of time for playing video games, but a lot of time considering the EVE Online economy.

Two of CCP's goals are reducing the money supply and bringing the faucets and sinks into balance. In September, the money supply shrank another 4.3%, from 1,288 trillion ISK down to 1,232.8 trillion ISK. Going back to the end of June, the amount of ISK in the New Eden economy shrank 122.6 trillion, a 9% reduction during the so-called "Chaos Era".

Bounties, for the second month in a row, remained the second largest ISK faucet behind commodities. The gap, however, shrank to 354 billion ISK as commodity income fell nearly 3.2 trillion ISK, or 13.4% in September. Most of the decrease occurred in wormholes, as income in that area of space fell by over 2 trillion ISK. Overall, ISK faucets fell another 9% in September. Between June and September, the amount of ISK flowing into the game on a monthly basis dropped by 31.8%.

In September, currency sinks slowed down even faster than faucets. August saw an increase in taxes and fees that players apparently partially mitigated by training the Accounting and Broker Relations skills, which also received boosts two months ago. Still, the 19% reduction in taxes and broker fees collected was not all players training up their market skills. Overall, ISK faucets removed 18.3% less ISK in September than the month before. Going back to the beginning of summer, players payed 10% less in taxes and fees in

Looking at the summary data Friday was an "Oh, shit!" moment. In a month that historically sees relative stability (an average -0.2% decline from 2016-2018), the New Eden economy contracted by 12.6% in September 2019. All the racket readers may hear in the background are talking heads moving goalposts.

With Hurricane Hilmar (the institution of delayed, wormhole-style local in null security space) over on 16 September, the time came to look at the damage to the economy. From June to September, the economy had shrunk by 24.9%. The average during the summers of 2016-2018 was a decline of 10.3%. A decline so large I started wondering about the worst economic quarters in EVE history.

The third quarter of 2019, a period dominated by Hurricane Hilmar, was the sixth quarter going back to 2004 which experienced an economic contraction greater than 10%. Of the six quarters, four had experienced a quarter with over 50% growth immediately preceding the decline. The top three declines in quarterly economic activity were all related to Upwell structures.

The quarter with the largest contraction, Q1 2019, immediately followed the Onslaught expansion in November 2018 that introduced three new Upwell structures: the Ansiblex Jump Gate, Pharolux Cyno Beacon, and Tenebrex Cyno Jammer. The resulting massive infrastructure spending by the major null sec alliances in Q4 2018 resulted in a massive decline in economic activity in the first three months of 2019. The next largest decline, 36.7% in Q1 2018, followed the Lifeblood expansion released at the end of October 2017. The fourth quarter of 2017 witnessed the introduction of active moon mining, with refineries required for fracking operations to extract moon minerals. Once again, a massive infrastructure operation saw a decline in the economy after the frenetic activity to replace corp and alliance level income ended. The final Upwell-related decline occurred in Q4 2016. The Citadel expansion in April 2016 introduced Astrahus, Fortizar, and Keepstar Upwell structures to the game, and players began a massive effort to replace their existing POS.

The fifth largest quarterly contraction, the second quarter of 2016, was also a response to new content added to EVE in the previous quarter. In Februrary 2016, CCP not only introduced the skill trading system, but also seeded the Force Auxiliary skills for all races as well as the skill books for Light & Support Fighter skills.

The last quarter with a double-digit contraction in economic activity, Q4 2009, is somewhat of a mystery. Not only was the quarter the only one on the list that followed a quarter that also had an economic decline, but the quarter was part of EVE Online's first recession. The closest I can come to an explanation is the length of time between the two expansions in 2009. The first, Apocrypha, introduced wormholes to the game on 10 March 2009. The second, Dominion, replaced the old POS-based sovereignty system in null sec on 1 December. Perhaps, with the release of the news of the system change on 9 September, the null sec powers of the time delayed their fighting until the new sov system was in place.

Returning to the present day, what influenced the 15.5% contraction in the quarter just passed? The recent Invasion expansion launched on 28 May only resulted in a 1.1% increase in the economy in the second quarter. Indeed, if all RMT tokens (Daily Alpha Injectors, Large Skill Injectors, Multiple Pilot Training Certificates, Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificates, Skill Extractors, and Small Skill Injectors) are removed from consideration, the economy in the second quarter actually contracted by 1%. The simplest explanation is the content in the form of Hurricane Hilmar drove the lower economic activity.

What is going to happen in October? I doubt we will see growth matching the average of the three years, if only because The Crimson Harvest had such an outsized impact in 2018. A 2% expansion in October would prove a good outcome. My only concern about such a move is the weakness in the market for the RMT tokens. If The Crimson Harvest event comes back in the next week, the numbers would go much higher. In other words, I honestly don't know. CCP currently is doing its best to keep players in the dark about what to expect in the future. This month, reading the economic data does not help shed light.