Friday, February 26, 2021

A Clarification Label For Star Citizen

When surfing around social media sites over the last few months, I've seen notes about certain topics. From the use of masks and other news about the COVID-19 pandemic to various news about the U.S. presidential election, users are directed to information that might contradict the contents of whatever is in your browser. Today, though, I spotted my first clarification note about a video game.

While reading the weekly review of Star Citizen on MassivelyOP, I was a bit shocked to see a note at the bottom of the article.


Longtime MMORPG gamers will know that Star Citizen was originally Kickstarted for over $2M back in 2012 with a planned launch for 2014. As of 2021, it still lingers in an incomplete but playable alpha, having raised around $350M from gamers over years of continuing crowdfunding and sales of in-game ships and other assets. It is currently the highest-crowdfunded video game ever and has endured both indefatigable loyalty from advocates and immense skepticism from critics. A co-developed single-player title, Squadron 42, has also been repeatedly delayed.

Well done to whoever made the decision to include the note. I'll be interested to see if this is a permanent add-on to Star Citizen articles on MassivelyOP in the future.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Pearl Abyss' Final Purchase Price For CCP Games: $225 Million

On 6 September 2018, Pearl Abyss announced the purchase of CCP Games for the reported sum of $425 million. The $425 million figure included a cash settlement plus incentive bonuses for performance after the sale. The website mbl.is provided coverage on a page that worked with Google Translate. The final purchase price after performance bonuses? $225 million.

The purchase price that the South Korean game company Pearl Abyss pays for CCP decreases by 47% from what it could amount to - from 425 million US dollars, equivalent to more than 54 billion ISK, to 225 million dollars, almost 29 billion ISK. This is stated in a news item in Viðskiptablaðið today.

The reason is that performance-related criteria in the operation did not work. Pearl Abyss bought CCP in 2018 and 225 million dollars were paid out immediately, but 200 million dollars were conditional on CCP's results in 2019 and 2020. It was reported in Morgunblaðið a year ago that the owners will be from the performance-related payment for 2019, that is 100 million dala.

In my reading of the situation, the peformance goals were not just monetary ones. At the time the sale was announced, CCP had three games in development. The big one was Project Nova, an first person shooter set in the EVE universe. Also under development was the mobile game under development with PlayRaven, EVE: War of Ascension. An augmented reality game, EVE: Infinite Galaxy, was under development by the giant Chinese game developer NetEase. None of the three games reached the market, although Project NovaEVE: War of Ascension did make appearances at EVE conventions. CCP did continue working with NetEase, releasing a regular mobile game, EVE Echoes, in August 2020.

I would even go so far as state CCP's failure to complete development of Project Nova hurt Pearl Abyss financially. When the Korean company purchased CCP, the game release schedule looked like this...

2019 - Black Desert Mobile, BDO migrating to consoles.
2020 - Project Nova
2021 - Crimson Desert
2022 - DokeV
2023 - Plan 8

Without a major release last year, Pearl Abyss' revenue dropped 8.8% (₩47 billion) in 2020. Also, without the presence of a major game, investors are pressing PA about how they will maintain and grow revenue until Crimson Desert launches sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. Pressure is even growing on the company's release schedule for DokeV and Plan 8, much less Crimson Desert.


Given what we know now, up to $200 million in performance bonuses was a worthwhile offer. Since the earnings call on 16 February, the value of Pearl Abyss stock has declined by 21.7%. While still 85.7% over the company's 52-week low, the drop in revenue hurt expectations. Imagine the stock's value if PA had rising revenue.

I don't want to dismiss any revenue goal. I imagine that Pearl Abyss was expecting the EVE IP to deliver the revenue it received in 2020 in 2019. Then, Project Nova would launch in 2020 and total EVE revenue would far exceed last year's ₩73.6 billion ($63.2 million). But for a publicly traded company like Pearl Abyss, I have to believe delivering games is just as important as delivering revenue. And Pearl Abyss didn't receive three games it thought it had purchased.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Bastions Of War - An EVE PvE Update

When I read the news article on Tuesday's game update, I had to go back and look at the description of the Reign Quadrant.

Achieve tactical supremacy and victory in New Eden with EVE Online's new Quadrant "Reign", the first in 2021! Launching a new year of Quadrants after 2020's successful introduction of themed content for EVE, Reign brings with it exciting new updates to fleets and travel, continuous balance and meta changes, plus returning events such as the Guardian's Gala and The Hunt.

Well, the marauder update is definitely a meta change.

Marauders, which are Tech II versions of New Eden’s Battleship class vessels, have gotten a boost to their damage dealing might through changes to their unique Bastion module. This mod now doubles the rate of fire for all large weapons while active, making them an even more formidable element on the battlefield.

There are further changes too that have been shaped with input from the EVE community! As part of this update, the Vargur sees its 5% bonus to large projectile rate of fire changed to a 7.5% bonus to large projectile damage. In addition, the Kronos gets its capacitor capacity increased to 8000 GJ and its capacitor recharge time reduced to 17 mins 30 secs. Also as part of this update going live, the Paladin will have its 5% Amarr Battleship skill bonus to capacitor capacity replaced with a 10% reduction in capacitor need for Large Energy Turret activation per Amarr Battleship skill level.

Bastion duration has also decreased to 30 seconds, reducing Marauders’ commitment to a single position alongside their newfound power!

I guess the Golem didn't need any additional buff other than the one the entire ship class received.

When I first heard of the changes, I thought, "CCP is buffing PvE boats?" That led to going back to another dev blog and pulling up an interesting graphic and statement.

It is clearly understood and acknowledged that many players are faced with reduced income and some radical changes to what they have become accustomed to in New Eden. To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.

Listening to the talk shows has me thinking that CCP sees marauders as the replacement of dreads and carriers for PvE in null sec and wormholes. One thing I would need to research is the build costs and materials needed for marauders, dreadnaughts, and carriers. Are marauders now a more cost-effective platform with the added firepower and changes to the bastion module? I don't know.

Here are the changes directly affecting marauders from the patch notes:

Bastion Module I:

  • Bastion now increases the rate of fire for all large weapons by 50% (100% DPS increase)
  • Bastion duration reduced from 60s to 30s

All Marauders class ships:

  • Lock range increased by 30%
  • Sensor strength increased by 9

Vargur:

  • 5% bonus to large projectile rate of fire changed to 7.5% large projectile damage

Paladin:

  • Amarr Battleship bonus to Capacitor Capacity changed to 10% reduction in Large Energy Turret capacitor need

Kronos:

  • Capacitor Capacity increased to 8000 GJ
  • Capacitor Recharge rate reduced to 17m and 30s

I've thought about getting a Vargur in the past, but I really got away from flying battleships. The ships are just too slow. But maybe I need to save up a little and pick one up. I have the funds to buy one now, but as the first rule of EVE states, "Don't fly anything you can't afford to lose." I need a cushion first.

Monday, February 22, 2021

FFXIV: Natsuko Ishikawa Is Back For Endwalker

I'm a little late, but the news is still noteworthy. In an interview with Fanbyte, Final Fantasy XIV director Naoki Yoshida revealed that Natsuko Ishikawa is returning to the game as the lead writer for the next expansion, Endwalker. This is, to use a technical term, good news.

To those who don't know, Ishikawa was the lead writer for Shadowbringers. I don't think I will get much argument by stating that the story of the last two unsundered Ascians, Emet-Selch & Elidibus, is the best FFXIV expansion to date. Defeating the two most dangerous antagonists players face in the story deserved to be an epic experience, and Iskikawa's storytelling delivered.

Endwalker is the conclusion to the saga of Hydaelyn and Zodiark. I don't expect the conclusion to equal the climax, but something at least as good as Heavensward is possible. But before hearing the news that Natsuko Ishikawa is the lead writer for the expansion, I had grave doubts. If Emet-Selch & Elidibus were fantastic villains, then the antagonists for Endwalker are the complete opposite.

The first of Endwalker's villians, Zenos yae Glavus, was the main antagonist of Stormblood. I absolutely hated the character. He is a one-dimensional character. After going through the Stormblood story, fighting him at the end felt so disappointing and empty. For me, he is the main reason for ranking Stormblood the worst expansion. And we have to put up with him again in Endwalker? Ugh!

The new bad guy, Fandaniel, doesn't fill me with hope either. I found this description on a fan wiki:

Fandaniel is flamboyant, whimsical, and impulsive. Unlike the other Ascians, Fandaniel is not loyal to Zodiark and states no interest in restoring the world as it was before the sundering. In fact, his goal of the Source’s total annihilation puts him at direct odds with the rest of his brethren. Fandaniel appears loyal, if not sycophantic, toward Zenos and is eager to help the Garlean prince in his "hunt" for the Warrior of Light as it correlates to his desire to spread chaos.

An erratic and sadistic nihilist with a flare for theatrics, Fandaniel wishes nothing more than for all of the inhabitants of the Source to die and is more than willing to die in the effort. In fact, it's his goal to die once he achieves in his mission in restarting the Final Days, a stark contrast to how his fellow Ascians cling to life.

Personally, I think the description gives Fandaniel too much credit. He reminds me so much of Zenos. Finishing the story with two such poorly written villains would be such a disappointment.

Knowing that Ishikawa is the lead writer gives me hope. I doubt she can salvage such an established character as Zenos, but I have hope for Fandaniel. Hopefully we kill Zenos before travelling to the moon. I really hope whatever is on the moon is far bigger than the two known villains we are to face.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Guardian's Gala 2021 - Day 7 - Cut Short

 And on the seventh day of Guardian's Gala, I won the event.


I finished receiving the 7 login rewards and wanted to finish up getting the last two participation rewards. All I needed was 65 points. Each Gala exploration site gives 15 points, so I needed to run 5 sites, right? Wrong.

I alluded to finding a possible exploit on day 4 of the event. At the time, I had only seen a description of the exploit on the EVE Online sub-Reddit. But now Imperium News has also published the exploit. Since I don't want anything more to do with Guardian's Gala this year, I went ahead and turned 15 points into 65.

I probed down and entered a site to get 5 points. I then hacked a can to get 10 more points. Upon hacking the can, the challenge changed back to "Enter a site". So I warped to a nearby structure and warped back to the site, receiving 5 points. Rinse and repeat until I got 65 points. Event over.

The only thing left to do now is cash in my loot. I have to dip into low sec to sell off the Overseer's Personal Effects that dropped. Then I have to take the regular drops to a trade hub and sell them there. One thing I don't have to worry about is everything I received from the redeem queue. Anything from the redeem queue is applied to the character that claims the item. That goes for the SKINs as well as the skill points.

Since Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings (SKINs) were introduced to the game in 2015, I have not applied a single one to a character. At least, knowingly. Apparently, I've applied 17.

I don't know how long the Skins tab has existed in the character sheet, but I think I'll start applying SKINs to characters just to get rid of a lot of clutter. The only reason for not applying the SKINs was to keep track of them. With the SKINs tab, that reason went away.

I probably have one more blog post to write in my coverage of the 2021 edition of Guardian's Gala. But I'm done with the content. All I have now is the clean up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Guardian's Gala 2021 - Days 5 & 6 - Cargo Space

I didn't write a day 5 summary as I spent most of my time writing up the Pearl Abyss Earnings Call. But not much really happened. After day 6, I have 135 points.


On Monday, I found a Gala Network Support Site sitting in a low sec system in Molden Heath. Tuesday, I found another one in a high sec system in Heimatar. Normally I enjoy wandering around hacking data and relic sites. But for the event, I am looking for specific sites. Ones, I should add, that are not that plentiful. 

The last two days I also encountered another irritating development. I hauled away over 120 m3 from each site. Given my Cheetah only has a cargo capacity of 200 m3, I have to drop my loot at a station to make sure I don't have to warp out of a site only halfway emptied. If the effort just to find a site is a net negative to participating in the event, then having to dump my cargo makes the effect worse. That is real reason for stopping after running one site each night.

The funny thing is, the first night I did the exploration challenge, I was able to fit the loot from 2 1/2 sites into my cargo hold. Now, each site fills up over 60% of my storage. Did CCP change the loot drops, or did I just get lucky that first night?

I'm going to try to wrap up the event tonight. The event runs through downtime on 23 February, but I think 7 days is enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Pearl Abyss Q4 2020 Earnings Call

Pearl Abyss held a call for investors covering its fourth quarter 2020 & full year 2020 financial results on Tuesday. One economic point Pearl Abyss brought up in the call was the strengthening value of the South Korean won (KRW) vs global currencies in the fourth quarter. Left unsaid was a callout about the U.S. dollar, which fell 6.9% against the won in Q4. While in better shape, the euro did fall 2.5% against the won in the same period. When converting KRW to USD in this post, I will use the historical exchange rates found on xe.com.

In 2020, operating revenue decline by 8.8%, or ₩47 billion, compared to 2019. On the positive side, PA's operating profit rose ₩6 billion (4%) over the same period as the company's operating profit margin increased from 28% to 32%.


Q4 2020 was not a good quarter for Pearl Abyss financially. Revenue fell by ₩14 billion (11.9%) quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) and ₩16.8 billion compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. As might be expected with the growing strength of the won vs major western currencies like the dollar & euro, the largest loss of revenue occurred in North America and Europe. Revenue in the western countries fell 15.9% QoQ, from ₩52.9 billion ($45.3 million) down to ₩44.5 billion ($40.9 million). Year-over-year figures painted a brighter picture, as revenue grew from ₩42.1 billion to ₩44.5 billion (5.7%).

Of even bigger concern is the drop in mobile gaming revenue. Mobile games in total accounted for a ₩10.3 billion drop in income from Q3 (₩51.7 billion, $44.2 million) to Q4 (₩41.4 billion, $38.0 million). A 19.9% drop in revenue represents a lot more than the rising strength of the won. The imposition of stricter lockdowns in many parts of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Q4 is probably another major cause of the decline. In the pre-COVID world of Q4 2019, mobile games made up 54% of PA's revenue. In Q4 2020, that had declined down to 40%. The resulting 36.2% decline in YoY revenue (₩23.5 billion) was more than PC and console products could make up.


A breakdown of Pearl Abyss' two IPs shows both experienced double-digit revenue percentage losses quarter-over-quarter. Black Desert fell by 12.3%, from ₩96.4 billion ($82.3 million) to ₩84.4 billion ($77.5 million). Meanwhile, the EVE IP declined 10.3%, from ₩21.3 billion ($18.2 million) to ₩19.1 billion ($17.5 million). The big difference between the two franchises were the year-over-year numbers. Black Desert experienced a revenue drop of 21.7% while EVE revenue increased 54%.

Overall in 2020, Black Desert brought in ₩410 billion ($349 million) in 2020, a 14% decrease from 2019's total of ₩477.3 billion ($410.6 million). EVE did slightly better, relatively speaking. CCP improved upon its 2019 revenue total of ₩56.4 billion ($48.5 million) by 30.5%, earning ₩73.6 billion ($63.2 million) for the year.


Upcoming for 2021, Pearl Abyss is looking to improve PvP in Black Desert. For PC and consoles, PA is looking to what sounds like 10-character pre-made parties to go into PvP areas. For Black Desert Mobile, that game will soon receive its biggest PvP upgrade patch. Pearl Abyss will also begin self-publishing Black Desert Online in North America and Europe beginning 25 February. PA expects self-publishing will result in greater revenue growth as the NA/EU region accounts for 50% of BDO accounts.

For EVE, PA would like to expand into the Asian market, and pointed to the December introduction of a Japanese client as part of the effort. Players can expect a greater effort to introduce content attractive to Asian players into the game in the upcoming year. Earlier this month, Pearl Abyss received a license from the Chinese government to operate EVE Echoes in China and is working quickly to launch the game in the world's largest mobile games market.

Pearl Abyss also spoke more about Crimson Desert. Listeners were told that PA planned on concentrating on single-player console games. For those who don't know, Crimson Desert is a planned single-player game with a multi-players option and not an MMORPG.  Two upcoming games, DokeV and Plan 8, are still on schedule to launch in 2022 and 2023, respectively. 

The analysts on the call seemed particularly worried about Pearl Abyss' ability to publish its upcoming games as scheduled. Once again, an analyst asked about the timing of the launch of Crimson Desert. Pearl Abyss assured the analyst that the company was devoting all its resources to ensuring Crimson Desert launches in Q4 2021. But that assurance then brought a question about how the effort of launching Crimson Desert will affect the timed launches of other games in the pipeline. This concern by investors into PA launching games on-time will hopefully not result in games launching before fully ready.

Those are the highlights of the call as I saw them. Hopefully the information will come in handy as Pearl Abyss moves forward into 2021.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Guardian's Gala 2021 - Day 4 - Finding Success

What a difference a day makes!


I had only managed to acquire 25 points through the first three days by trying to kill the Serpentis and Guardian Angels. Sunday, I earned 80 points by sneaking up on them and hacking their sites.

The process for finding a Gala Network Support Site is fairly straightforward. Fly into a system. If the system has cosmic anomalies, launch probes. Only probe down data sites. The Gala Network Support Site is the name players are looking for. If another name shows up, move on.

The challenge is finding a system with a site in it. I found one in the 15th system I flew through. Then I found three others in the same system. For those who don't know, EVE's site spawning mechanics have a tendency to dump all the sites in one system in a constellation. If you know where those systems are, you can rack up a lot of points in a hurry.

I wound up having to fly back to my home station in order to redeem my prizes in the right place. I received the Rifter Amaranthine Mantle SKIN and the Agency Support Drop. The contents of the drop are randomized. I wound up with a booster with a speed bonus.


Overall, I was averaging about 5-6 million ISK per site in drops. The four sites I found were in high sec. Half my route was in low sec, where I did not find any sites. I didn't make it to null sec, as I filled up my cargo hold a couple of jumps away.

The only other thing I can report is the existence of a possible exploit. Due to the EVE Online Terms of Service, I'm going to refrain from discussing the details of the exploit. I'll just note that if I had used the exploit, I would have a lot more than 105 points. I don't know how CCP will react, but they could conceivably take account action, such as issuing suspensions, to those who used it. I don't know if the damage of spreading the details is bad enough for the devs to start issuing bans, buy why take the chance?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Guardian's Gala 2021 - Days 2 and 3 - Loss

I managed to get 10 points yesterday by completing the Gala Gatecrashing challenge.


But the accomplishment came at a price. After spending the second day theory crafting how to improve my Claymore fit, I decided on day 3 to run a site in my Abyssal site running Vagabond instead. The little Minmatar HAC ran through everything like a hot knife through butter. Right up until the end when the Emcee Macharial landed on grid with an NPC Vindicator and four destroyers. I managed to take out the Vindicator and three destroyers. I even got the Macharial down to 1/4 shields. But alas, victory was not in the cards and my poor Vagabond went pop.

I went back to my home station, which was only one jump away, and hopped in my Claymore. The final boss went down fairly quickly with basically no support on the field. I also logged in my industrial character, put her in a Noctis, and looted the field. Overall, I picked up 16 million ISK in bounties and about 20 million in salvage and drops. Nowhere near close to compensating for the loss of my Vagabond.

What did I learn about the Gala sites? First, if you go into one, don't expect to run away. I managed to do that on day 1, but on day 3 I reached a point where so many points and scrams were on the field, it was win or die. I died.

Next, the NPCs really don't like drones. Maybe going into a site with a Rattlesnake is viable, but the NPCs prioritize drones.

Third, CCP does not want people to solo these sites. If I were to go into another site, I would do so either with other players or dual-boxing. I think I could clear a site using a auto-cannon fit Maelstrom combined with my Claymore providing boosts. However, I haven't dual-boxed missions in years. I might need to practice for the upcoming event The Hunt.

Fourth, high sec sites don't pay for crap. Forget about ship losses. The cost of ammo and lost drones would eat up a good portion of the profits. And that requires salvaging. Players going into the sites are looking for something besides an immediate payoff. A long term payoff might exist. I've only completed one site.

CCP did provide an exploration option. My plan for day 4 is to run at least one site. The "Backstage Break-In" challenge requires a data analyzer and a probe scanner. I have a ship or two that qualify. Hopefully I can report back with better news tomorrow.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Guardian's Gala 2021 - Day 1 - Failure

Yesterday I learned what the slashes meant in the challenge descriptions.

The Gala Gatecrashing challenge is composed of 3 parts. The first, worth 5 points, is just entering a site. The second, killing 10 NPCs within a site, was worth 10 points. The final part, also worth 10 points, is killing the final boss in the site. But I failed to do so.

I decided to use my trusty XASB-fit Claymore. As I discovered, a wise choice. However, the ship just didn't have the staying power. I managed to get through the first two waves of NPCs. However, the second wave had two neuting Machariels which drained my capacitor to zero and turned off my hardeners. I went through a lot more cap boosters than I thought I would. Then, in the third wave, every NPC except the boss had scrams and/or points. It was kill all the tackle or lose a very expensive command ship. When I was left with just the boss to face, I was down to two charges in my ancillary shield booster. Since I didn't know what CCP had in store for me, I decided to warp off while I could.

The challenge is stuck on step 3/3 because I had to fly 6 jumps to my base in order to get more cap boosters. By the time I got back, someone else had completed the site. Stuff happens.

So, what went wrong. The first thing is I got greedy. I was carrying around a mobile tractor unit which takes up 100 m3. By cutting down the I really could have used the another set of cap boosters to load  into the XASB.


Next, I think I need to change my tank in two ways. First, I need to change one of my multispectrum shield hardeners to a kinetic shield hardener. Serpentis NPC damage is fairly split between thermal (55%) and kinetic (45%).  Swapping out the hardener would change my resist profile from 86/79 to 83/84. I think it might help, but I'm not sure.

The second tank change is to swap out the Skirmish Command Burst II for a second Shield Command Burst II. While hurting my mobility, I would add another 8% to my raw shield hit points. Given the speed of the NPCs, I'm not outrunning anything anyway.

The final change is to break down and use faction missiles. I use faction ammo in abyssal sites and I need to treat the Guardian Gala sites the same way. Besides, I already have 130K Inferno Heavy Missiles. I just need to give some to an alt to upgrade to the faction version.


So after day 1 I am sitting at 15 points, 35 points away from getting a SKIN. I only attempted one site. I've also collected 350,000 ISK in dropped items. And yet, that was a couple of hours of time. At this point, I'm not feeling very satisfied.