Monday, October 2, 2023

CIG Sold $5.1 Million In Goods In September 2023

In September, Cloud Imperium Games, makers of Star Citizen and Squadron 42, earned $5.1 million in sales according to a fan-maintained spreadsheet that tracks sales. The total was $72,000, or 1.5%, more than the sales recorded in September 2022. For the third quarter of 2023, ClG recorded $12.4 million in sales, a 22% decrease from the $15.9 million in sales in Q3 2022. Overall, CIG's sales total for 2023 so far is $66.1 million, a 11.5% decrease from the first nine months of 2022's total of $74.6 million.

Overall, CIG has raised $687.8 million from confirmed sources (the funding page & the 2021 financial report). The income breaks down as follows:

  • Sales/Pledges: $605.8 million (through 30 September 2023)
  • Subscriptions: $27.8 million (through 31 December 2021)
  • All other sources: $54.2 million (through 31 December 2021)

In addition, CIG received $63.25 million in investor funding in 2018 and 2019, bringing the total confirmed funding of the project up to $751 million.

I have to make a mention about my data sources. The CCU website stopped updating sometime in the middle of last week, approximately when the API I had been using also stopped working. I managed to find another spreadsheet to use from reading the Star Citizen Data Community channel. 

With the launch of patch 3.20 on 19 September CIG launched another ship sale in addition to the Pirates Week event. While stopping a 5-month streak of declining year-over-year sales decline, I do wonder if some sales surrounding October's Citizen Con were just pushed forward to September.

Friday, September 29, 2023

What CIG's Latest Financial Filings Reveal About The Turbulent Purchase

Over the past 10 days, Cloud Imperium Games, the developers of Star Citizen and Squadron 42, filed two documents with Companies House in the UK. The documents cover actions taken months ago, but I believe are still of interest in order to understand CIG's finances. 

The first document, filed on 21 September, covers 1-3 July 2023. 

The addition of 30 thousand shares doesn't seem like a big deal. After all, following the 10:1 share split back in October, 11.7 million shares were split among 8 share holders. While the nominal valuation of the shares was £36.58, we know that the cash valuation of the company in 2018 was $496 million. If the valuation holds today, these shares were worth between $1.2 million and $1.3 million. A nice little sum of money.

Given the timing of the share allocation, the shares were likely part CIG's purchase of Turbulent. Monday's filing of the confirmation statement of current shareholders provided additional evidence.

The last two shareholders on the list, Marc Beaudet and Benoit Beausejour, were the co-founders of Turbulent. A year ago, Beaudet and Beausejour both possessed 1170 shares. After the share split they were up to 11700. Spitting the newly printed shares and splitting them between the Turbulent founders gave each 26760 shares.

Now, we still don't know the details of the Turbulent sale to CIG. But we now know each of the founders received an additional $600,000 in ownership shares in CIG. We also know one additional detail. The rest of the transaction to purchase the Montreal studio involved the use of either the investment money obtained from the Calders or money from the sale of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 goods.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Navigating A Change To FFXIV's Inventory

I am about to disclose a dirty little secret that a lot of people, based on the evidence, will not believe. Video game companies make video games to make money. Sure, the way some video game companies act could lead an objective observer to believe otherwise. Even Naoki Yoshida, the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV, wants his game to make a profit. The difference is that when it comes to MMORPGs, Yoshi-P often is playing 4D chess while others are playing Russian roulette. I want to look at one such decision coming in Endwalker patch 6.5.

Yoshi-P (right) looking much better than Xbox head Phil Spencer

No, this post is not about FFXIV becoming available on the Xbox, with testing beginning next week. Instead I want to discuss a potentially bigger decision I highlighted at the end of Tuesday's post. 
Ability to store optional items in the armoire
In a few games like EVE Online, inventory space is plentiful and cheap. To blow everyone else's minds away, EVE players have a base of 15,000 inventory slots, not including ships, in the game's main trade hub of Jita. But in other games, the purchase of inventory slots is part of the business model.

Let's take Guild Wars 2 as an example. Each character has up to 5 inventory slots. Using 32-slot bags, that makes a maximum of 160 inventory slots. But, players can purchase 9 bag-slot extensions for a total of 3600 gems. One can buy 4000 gems for $50, so getting another 288 inventory slots costs $45 if a player can fill all the bag expansion slots with 32-slot bags.

Now to return to Final Fantasy XIV. The basic number of inventory slots a player receives in the game is 1475.
  • Personal inventory - 140 slots
  • Armoury chest - 415 slots
  • Chocobo saddlebag - 70 slots
  • 2 Retainers - 350 slots total.
  • Glamour Dresser - 400 armor/clothing items
  • Apartment Storeroom - 100 indoor housing items
Players who are able to obtain a mansion receive an additional 300 indoor and 40 outdoor housing storage slots.

And yet, despite all this space, players always want more, especially where the items are related to glamour. FFXIV rents out NPCs called retainers for $2 per month, with a maximum of 7 retainers. Each retainer can hold 175 inventory slots. Personally, I rent 6 retainers for a total of 1050 slots.

How in the world can Yoshi-P  get away with renting inventory slots? Because retainers do more than hold items. With the proper care, retainers do timed tasks called ventures that can enrich their character. My 8 retainers bring in around 230,000 gil, not including all the items I use to make items to sell. Also, each retainer can list 20 items at a time. I don't use all my sales slots, but I routinely have over 70 items up for sale at any one time.

Up until now, I have not mentioned the armoire. The armoire is a storage space for unique items. The items range from rewards from seasonal events to veteran rewards to artifact armor obtained during A Realm Reborn. In patch 6.5, the armoire will expand to "optional items". What are optional items? Armor, weapons, clothing, and jewelry purchased from the cash shop. And items in the armoire are usable in the game's glamour system.

Peering into FFXIV's fashion and social seen from the outside, one might not believe that fashionistas wouldn't have enough space. I know when I first started playing I couldn't fathom running out of inventory space myself. But unlike what I understand about the transmog system in World of Warcraft, the player must have an item in inventory to transfer the look to the gear a character wears. And there are websites that collect fashion ideas.

By now, a reader might get the idea that Yoshi-P by giving away inventory space is not really giving away potential sales. By allowing the armoire to hold cash shop items, the hard core fashionistas will never have to worry about not having enough inventory space to buy the latest outfit. So the money lost by players shedding one or two retainers will be recovered in increased cash shop sales. And if the equipment in Dawntrail looks good enough, people may find they still need all the inventory space after all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

FFXIV Producer's Live Letter 79

Last week CCP held its EVE Fanfest event in Reykjavik, Iceland. The announcements were good, but not good enough to entice me to make EVE Online my main game again. Right now my MMORPG home is Final Fantasy XIV. Over the weekend, FFXIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida (aka Yoshi-P) delivered a Producer's Live Letter from the Tokoyo Games Show to remind me why I made the switch back in 2020.

First, the basics. Patch 6.5 will come out next Tuesday, on 3 October. The 6.55 patch will come out in mid-January 2024, probably on 16 January. I am assuming that date as the Japan Fanfest will run from 7-8 January so I don't think the patch will release on the 9th. Creative Business Unit III is also releasing a patch 6.51 sometime after the London Fanfest. At least, that's my guess, although I'm not sure Yoshi-P will wait until after 21-22 October.

The final steps in the MSQ are divided between Patch 6.5 and Patch 6.55, meaning the Endwalker quests will last until January for the most eager players.

And then we get to the main side story content. The Splendorous Tools quests for crafters and gatherers will conclude in Patch 6.51 with players earning what I believe are the best-in-slot tools that should last through the Dawntrail expansion until patch 7.1. The Tataru Grand Endeavor, Somehow Further Hildibrand Adventures, and The Further Hildibrand Weapons quests will conclude in Patch 6.55. The tribal alliance quests also return in Patch 6.55 with the Endwalker Tribal Alliance Quests.

Growing Light will also present players with a lot of multi-player content. In patch 6.5, CBU3 is adding:

  • The Lunar Subterrane: 4-character dungeon
  • The Abyssal Fracture: 8-character trial
  • The Abyssal Fracture (Savage): 8-character trial
  • Myths of the Realm Part 3 - Thaleia: 24-character raid
  • The Singularity Reactor (Unreal): 8-character trial
  • Aloalo Island: 1-4 character Variant Dungeon
  • Aloalo Island: 4-character Criterion Dungeon
In addition, duty support is added for the final 3 MSQ dungeons in Stormblood:
  • The Drowned City of Skalla
  • The Burn
  • The Ghimlyt Dark
With these dungeons finally converted, all MSQ dungeons through to the end of Endwalker have duty support enabled.

PvP is also receiving upgrades in Patch 6.5. Most of the adjustments are to the Crystalline Conflict UI, so I don't know enough to judge how good the changes are. I do know CBU3 is introducing a new map, The Red Sands, for the beginning of Season 5 at the start of patch 6.51.

Of course, what is an Endwalker patch without an upgrade to Island Sanctuaries? In other words, more of everything. I'm guessing the island level cap will increase to 20. I'm not exactly sure where the new gathering area will appear, but with the promise of lots of crops, animals, and structures, the land will have to appear someplace. Plus, a new trade mission type, Felicitous Favors, will probably be granted by the Felicitous Feline. If the tasks require active effort, I'm not going to do them. I already have too much to do on my "relaxing" island already.

And yes, I am showing the slide for the FFXIV x Fall Guys collaboration, if only to prove I did not make just a ridiculous idea up. FFXIV doesn't have collision detection, so perhaps CBU3 will modify the effects from chocobo racing to the new event type. Hopefully we learn more about the mechanics at London Fanfest.

Also, in the third decade of the 21st century, can a major operator of an MMORPG go without talking about server and technology upgrades? These topics seem a continuing topic with Yoshi-P.

In this case, North America gets to play around on the realms in the cloud for the testing. If the test works, I am sure the player base will clamor for more inventory space, at least for glamour.

And finally, a list of notable features that didn't fall neatly into any of the above categories:
  • New Custom Deliveries: Margrat
  • New consecutive aetherial reduction function for collectables
  • Green dot indicators on newly logged fish in the Fish Guide
  • Ability to store optional items in the armoire
  • Option to sort teleport destinations by expansion
  • New reward for obtaining all trial mounts in the 6.x patch series
  • Item level restrictions for Duty Roulette: Alliance based on level
  • EXP and Allagan tomestone rewards for each alliance raid adjusted according to difficulty and time required for completion
I highlighted the ability to store optional items in the armoire because I need to explain the importance of the change in a stand-alone post. Let's just say Yoshi-P just greatly expaned the amount of storage long-time players will have once patch 6.5 is deployed. I expect sales of glamour items in the cash shop to experience a bump shortly afterwards.

We get another data dump on what is coming up in the future of FFXIV in less than two weeks at London Fanfest.  But for a point patch, I think Creative Business Unit 3 is delivering a lot of content. Probably not enough to satisfy a significant number of players, including streamers, but a lot of content all the same.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Fun Facts About EVE Online's CSM 18 Election

Besides the benefits of getting together with friends who play a niche internet spaceship game, EVE Fanfest also announces the results of the Council of Stellar Management election. I normally compose a couple of posts about the results of the election. But since Wilhelm over on The Ancient Gaming Noob did such a good job of covering the news, I'll just post the fun article. That's right, what are the fun facts coming out of the CSM 18 election.

1. Not record turnout. The possibility exists that the turnout rate was the highest in history, but this year's 47,155 votes cast only gets the CSM 18 election into the top 5 elections of all time. The top 5 elections with votes cast were:
  1. CSM 7 (2012): 59,109
  2. CSM 8 (2013): 49,702
  3. CSM 6 (2011): 49,096
  4. CSM 18 (2023): 47,155
  5. CSM 5 (2010): 39,433
The turnout increase over the CSM 17 of 16,341 votes cast (53%) also did not set a record. That record was set by the CSM 5 election. In 2010, the voting increased by 18,275 votes, an 86.4% increase over the CSM 4 election. The CSM 5 election was notable because CSM 5 was the first body elected to a one year term.

2. Losing with big numbers. In the CSM 18 election three candidates: Dujek Oneye (1484), Arhont Sibirskii (1480), and Torvald Uruz (1032) lost despite being listed as the first choice on over 1000 ballots. But CSM 8, in the first year of CSM using single-transferrable voting, had 6 such candidates. The list of previous candidates accomplishing this dubious achievement is:

1678 - Greene Lee
1616 - Nathan Jameson
1525 - Psychotic Monk
1487 - Corebloodbrothers 
1286 - Steve Ronuken
1213 - Banlish

CSM 10
1099 - UAxDEATH

CSM 12
1291 - Sort Dragon

CSM 13
1091 - ExookiZ

CSM 14
1500 - Sort Dragon

3. The 1000/2000 rule. I have a general rule of thumb about CSM elections. If a candidate can get 1000 first choice votes and over 2000 votes overall, the candidate will probably win. Dujek Oneye (1484/2916) and Torvald Uruz (1032/2220) are the fourth and fifth candidates to violate the rule. The other three were Nathan Jameson (1616/2430) and Banlish (1213/2173) in CSM 8 and Sort Dragon (1500/2321) in CSM 14.

4. Weakness in the Imperium ballot. I have said for years that in the STV voting system, larger turnout hurts the big null sec blocs. The null sec alliances always maximize their voting power. Only when a lot of non-null players vote is their power diminished.

A quick look at the voting file confirmed this belief. As usual, the official Imperium ballot had the most votes. But the candidate occupying the third spot on the ballot, Kontan Rekor, only received 300 votes, exiting the election simulation in the 11th round. The only other time someone in the top three spots of the Imperium/CFC ballot failed to win a CSM seat was Banlish, the candidate in the second position on the ballot, in the first STV election in 2013.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The EVE Fanfest 2023 Keynote Address

With all the usual suspects writing about the EVE Fanfest keynote address, I feel I need to bring something different to the table. After watching the presentation twice, I think I found the proper angle. That's right, how will the presentation appeal to our overlords in Pearl Abyss' headquarters in Anyang, South Korea? Perhaps more importantly, how can the C-Suite spin the news coming out of Fanfest in the best possible light to cover up the assumption Crimson Desert will miss its Q4 2023 release date. The next Pearl Abyss earnings presentation should occur in the first full week of November, six weeks away.

Fortunately the tone of events usually isn't important. A good thing as I do not believe CCP Games' CEO  Hilmar Veigar Pétursson received the warmest welcome. Hilmar has some unusual views about virtual worlds being more important that the real world and some of that did creep into his presentation. But I think more of that occurred due to Hilmar addressing some topics the hard core players attending Fanfest may not have wanted to hear.

Recent technology focuses

For example, Hilmar touched on CCP's VR gaming history, which ended last year. What players may not want to hear is that Valkyrie turned a profit and Gunjack was so successful it spawned a sequel and a special edition for the PlayStation. The discussion about the Friendship Machine fell into Hilmar's overarching theme of virtual worlds being as significant as the real world. The mention of artificial intelligence also fell into the same bucket. And Quasar? I think in the beginning most players equated the system, if they thought about it at all, as a cause of failures of the chat system. 

The big concern, of course, was Project Awakening. Players held a revolt to keep blockchain technology and play-to-earn out of EVE Online. In the closest as to what blockchain technology had to offer, Hilmar stated:
In this project we're leaning very heavily into third party development and we aim to invent a new more inclusive business model around these kind of things and these are takaways from our journey so far.
All we basically learned is that CCP was working on the project with $40 million in outside funding. 

But for our overlords in Anyang, Hilmar's opening presented good news the C-Suite could share with investors. Despite the age of the game, CCP was upgrading the Carbon engine to Python 3. Quasar, the cloud component of the game's infrastructure, is allowing interesting new features like integration with Excel. Technological advancement is a favorite story Pearl Abyss likes to tell investors. And, of course, progress in CCP's venture into blockchain technology.

Perhaps the most significant portion of the keynote for our overlords in Anyang was presented by CCP Orca (aka Eyrún Jónsdóttir, Vice-President of Publishing at CCP Games). While Pearl Abyss struggles to finish development of Crimson Desert, CCP announced two new game projects and an expansion in games not named EVE Online for the rest of 2023. First, CCP is partnering with Titan Forge to create a strategy board game set in the EVE universe. The Kickstarter page already has over 5000 followers.

Next comes an expansion for EVE: Echoes, CCP's first mobile game. Echoes just had an expansion in August adding Cobalt Edge to the mobile universe. But CCP mentioned Echoes would also see advanced black ops battleships, so is another region on the way?

The final non-EVE Online news was the introduction of a new 4x strategy game due out in the final quarter of 2023 in selected regions of the world. The game is called EVE: Galaxy Conquest. Initially available on Android and iPhones, the game will eventually receive a PC port. While still in pre-Alpha, the game will undergo a public test sometime in at the end of 2023. Sign-ups are now available.

Other talking points CCP Orca announced that might appear in a Pearl Abyss earnings call Power Point deck included:

  • Members of the EVE Partner Program get advanced access to Singularity and Twitch drops.
  • Next year's 20th Alliance Tournament will be the biggest yet.
  • EVE's crowd sourced science content, Project Discovery, is switching focus from COVID-19 to cancer research in 2024.
  • PLEX for Good is becoming a permanent fixture and players can contribute whenever they feel like contributing.

A big concern for the Pearl Abyss leadership, of course, is the continued sustainability of EVE Online itself. I always get the feeling that both the C-Suite and investors are puzzled how EVE just keeps going and going like the Energizer bunny. Can EVE maintain player interest?

The world will find out on 14 November with the launch of the Havoc expansion. In a first for EVE, players have the opportunity to align with one of two pirate factions, the Angel Cartel and the Guristas. A new system, Zarzakh will become a pirate haven under the rule of The Deathless. As a demonstration of what is currently in the game, CCP broadcast the activation of Zarzakh's jump gates live during the keynote and performed a brief tour of the system. With his own shipcaster to fling players toward the front lines of factional warfare, New Eden is about to become more interesting.

The aim of the pirates will be to enter factional warfare space and engage in the new feature we call pirate insurgencies. Those capsuleers that are aligned with one of the pirate factions can participate in insurgencies by completing objectives that will reward them with new loyalty points. Successful completion of objectives will also increase corruption in the system which means the rules of play in that system will be altered. Pirate aligned capsuleers will also have in their disposal a new pirate station within the war zones to use as their base. 

Those who choose to oppose the pirates will have a chance to disrupt pirate activities by successfully completing their objectives first and increasing the suppression in systems. That will also trigger new effects and rules within the system. 

The new pirate group is not just about PvP. The Deathless Circle, Angel Cartel, and Guristas will also need aid from players to conduct their research. At the beginning, this aid will give participating players early access to the new Mamba and Mekubal-class pirate destroyers. In addition, the new Deathless Circle loyalty point store will provide New Eden with the new Alligator and Khizriel pirate battlecruisers. 

The final piece of pirate news was perhaps the biggest of all. The long-awaited Angel Cartel titan will make its debut in Havoc.

While potentially very attractive to players, Pearl Abyss gives a preference to moves that will attract new players to its games. The potential growth provides talking points to give to the investor analysts on the calls. In a presentation following the new pirate gameplay, CCP Rattati introduced EVE: Vanguard.

Vanguard is a first-person shooter module that links small scale ground fighting with the actions of fleets of space ships in war zones. But more importantly, unlike the mid-2010's console shooter DUST 514, Vanguard is actually a part of EVE Online. From a gameplay standpoint, Vanguard is played on PC, not consoles, thus allowing players to move from flying spaceships to shooting rifles easily. At this time, EVE Online characters are unable to move to the FPS module. Currently we do not know if spaceship characters and ground fighting characters can share the same account.

Vanguard is built on Unreal Engine 5 for the game engine and Quasar for the networking software. Many Fanfest watchers observed how fortunate CCP was in not choosing to use the Unity game engine. While not mentioned in the keynote, I assume CCP eventually will port all EVE Online characters from Carbon to UE5 to allow for the closer socialization and association between players Pearl Abyss likes to brag about.

Vanguard currently is in a pre-alpha state. But unlike the effort around Crimson Desert, CCP has set up a website for players to sign up for testing. The first public test event is scheduled for December 2023. From comments about the combat demonstration shown during the keynote, the module is in pretty good shape, at least graphically. If all goes well, EVE Online will Soon™ attract a different demographic, FPS players, to the 20 year-old game. 

Some quality of life features will also appear in Havoc that probably will go unnoticed by our overlords in Anyang. The two biggest are the ability of logi pilots to appear on killmails and set up automatic SRP payments to pilots. Other features include the ability to log the LP and Evermark payments of individual pilots. While not as sexy as other changes, they will help the players who run and manage the player organizations Pearl Abyss wants investors to know they treasure.

Overall, the keynote presentation gave me hope for the future of EVE. I was worried that CCP had lost any spark of innovation and was determined to settle on questionable practices like NFTs and blatant developer/publisher RMT to keep sales figures at a mediocre level. But since abandoning blockchain hopium for EVE and switching back to the twice-a-year expansion model, I'm seeing more imagination involved in developing game systems. I'm hoping the execution matches the plans and EVE can see a resurgence in popularity in its third decade.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Deathless Circle: EVE Online's Newest Pirate Faction

While attendees travelled to Reykjavik to attend EVE Fanfest on Tuesday, CCP released a new Scope video. If the venue isn't themed after the new Deathless Circle pirate faction, the company will have missed a PR opportunity.

Previously CCP had populated the game universe with things like blueprints ahead of an expansion to allow for players to hit the ground running where new ships or skills were concerned. I'd never heard of putting in geographic features before.

The new system, Zarzakh

The latest patch notes had this to say about the new content:

  • The four ancient Jovian stargates located in the Alsavoinon, G-0Q86, H-PA29, and Turnur systems appear to have connected with their stargate pairs at their destination location. This system has been assigned a system name that was discovered by capsuleers during the investigation: Zarzakh. The system is now viewable on the map.

  • Although the stargates have registered their navigation data with the New Eden fluid router network, and additional information about the system has become available, the stargates remain in a locked state, preventing access to capsuleer traffic.

We also learned that Zarzakh is in a new region, Vasna Zakh. But for now, the system information is probably more interesting, because I don't think we've ever encountered a black hole in New Eden before.

Zarzakh is a system cloaked in the dust, gas and assorted other bits of matter that are being drawn towards the black hole known as "Point of No Return" to most of New Eden, and "Duzna Kah" to the Amarr. The location of Zarzakh places it deep in the void of Divinity's Edge, or "Yasna Zakh", and somewhat notably essentially at the center of the New Eden cluster by virtue of the astronomical co-ordinate system used by CONCORD. Given this system was proposed by the Jove in the early days of CONCORD, it is suggestive that the dominating features of Zarzakh are the ancient Jovian gates and the ancient Jovian outpost known as "The Fulcrum". 

Zarzakh's star has been gravitationally captured by a black hole and is slowly orbiting closer and closer to its eventual merger with the mass singularity. This event will take place many years in the future but the effects of orbiting in the relatively near vicinity of a black hole are already being felt in the form of intense and volatile gravitational tidal forces exerted by the singularity. As the star is within the outer edges of the matter accretion disc of the black hole, the instability is further contributed to by the fluctuations in mass density within the cloud. The local system environment here is harsh and unforgiving to say the least.

Apparently the black hole has eaten all the planets, as the only system entries are the four stargates and the Jovian outpost. It does appear the outpost is equipped with enough services to satisfy the average player.

The Deathless Circle also has some information populated inside the game.
The Deathless Circle emerged from the shadows of New Eden's criminal underworld as a new power among the major pirate factions in YC125, with their occupation and control of the abandoned Jovian outpost system of "Zarzakh" posing a new challenge to the forces of law and order. Following years of rumor and suspicion as to the activities of the mysterious figure known as "The Deathless", the Circle has come into clear focus as a coalition of criminals, pirates, and renegades from across New Eden, though principally involving members of Caldari and Minmatar organized crime groups. The dark underbelly of Caldari society's network of crime families and so-called "disassociated", combined with the reach of Thukker gangsters and smugglers provides the Deathless Circle with a potent reservoir of talent and resources. 

The elite of the Deathless Circle's espionage and research groups are also evidently drawn from across New Eden, though with obvious connections to those operating in the shadows of the Caldari and Minmatar counter-economies. The crowning achievement of the Deathless Circle is the discovery of Zarzakh and its occupation of the ancient Jovian outpost that has come to be called "The Fulcrum". With the entire resources of a Jovian megastructure at their disposal, it is difficult to gauge the limits of what the Deathless and his organization may achieve in the future.
The Deathless Circle is made up of 4 corporations. The list of organizations confirm the theory of the Caldari/Minmatar nature of the Deathless Circle. Two of the corporations seem combat focused.

The Deathless Wraiths
The Deathless Wraiths are the elite infiltration, espionage, and smuggling wing of the Deathless Circle. With members drawn from among the earliest associates of the Deathless, and an emphasis on all the arts and crafts of space navigation and combat, the Wraiths also function as the main command and combat group of the Circle. 

In common with many pirate organizations in New Eden, the Wraiths are by no means the only group in the Circle that carries out the tasks it specializes in but they are generally considered the tip of the spear when it comes to espionage and technology "acquisition" operations. While the Wraiths are deferred to on many issues, the true leadership of the Deathless Circle resides with the Deathless and his closest advisors and most trusted operatives.
Hrada-Oki Caravan
In the past, the renegade Hrada-Oki Caravan was considered to be little more than a pirate fleet preying on anyone unfortunate enough to cross their winding path through the stars. While this view contains an element of truth, for the Hrada-Oki have certainly carried out colony raids and taken ships for plunder in their time, the reality is that they are primarily hard-headed pragmatists with a strong emphasis on the practicalities of survival in deep space. While this has meant putting their interests before those of others on many occasions, it has inculcated in them a deep communal sense of loyalty and an admiration for prowess in any skill useful for living in space. They disdain the Minmatar Republic and consider the Thukker Tribe's leadership to be fools. 

With deep links to Thukker organized crime and other so-called "clanner" renegades of Thukker society, such as the infamous Seykal Clan, the Hrada-Oki have long been a target of Republic and CONCORD law-enforcement agencies. With the emergence of the Deathless Circle and its membership of the organization, the Hrada-Oki Caravan has definitively declared itself an outlaw group beyond the pale of Republic and tribal law.
The other two corporations are more focused on research, development, and logistics.

Deathless Custodians
The Deathless Custodians are the primary engineering and logistics wing of the Deathless Circle, and notably are responsible for the maintenance, expansion, and defense of the ancient Jovian outpost known as "The Fulcrum". The Custodians have their own research and development group focused on the Fulcrum, Jovian stargates, and other notable sites in the Zarzakh system, but also work closely with the other divisions of the Deathless Circle. 

While their most cutting-edge research and deepest delvings into the technological treasure-house that is the Fulcrum are closely guarded from prying eyes, the Custodians are rumored to be working on projects to expand the capabilities of the Fulcrum, develop new spaceship technologies, and even on advanced cloning techniques. If there is any truth to these whispers it would seem that the power of the Deathless Circle is set to grow even further.

Satori-Horigu Epistemics
Quietly founded many years ago with an injection of untraceable capital, the Caldari corporate origins of Satori-Horigu Epistemics would seem to make it an unusual addition to a coalition of smugglers and mercenaries. The corporation was recruited to the Deathless Circle for its long-standing expertise in advanced faster-than-light propulsion and communication technologies, accepting readily given the irresistible prospect of access to rare and ancient Jovian technology. 

Named with an old Raata "concept phrase" meaning "razor of deep understanding" or alternatively "waking blade", Satori-Horigu Epistemics is a corporation with diverse membership and has always emphasized free-movement of technology and information for whoever is willing to pay the right price, regardless of national affiliations.
A look at corporation standings is very interesting. The Deathless Circle has neutral standings with every NPC corporation in New Eden. Perhaps more importantly, my standings with the pirate faction starts at +2.0. That means every player should have the standings to run level 1 missions for the Deathless Circle and get to level 2 rather quickly. Also, players will not have to worry about ruining standings with the Deathless Circle by running missions for agents of other NPC corporations.

The leader of the Deathless Circle is the mysterious figure known as The Deathless. They were introduced to the game in August 2023 giving out an invitation to find 4 ancient Jovian stargates. The reward was an eye-opening 50 billion ISK for each gate found

The reward teased that The Deathless would become a major figure in the New Eden story. Showing up with an ancient Jovian outpost in a previously unknown region of space before the next expansion and while players made the pilgrimage to Reykjavik confirms we will face The Deathless for some time to come.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The 10th Anniversary Moogle Trove: Kamuy of the Nine Tails

One of the mounts not listed on the list of prizes for Final Fantasy XIV's 10th Anniversary Moogle Trove event is the Kamuy of the Nine Tails. The legendary kamuy is obtained by completing the quest A Lone Wolf No More. The prerequisite for getting the quest is to obtain seven kamuy from seven Extreme trials in Stormblood:

  1. Reveling Kamuy from The Pool of Tribute (Extreme)
  2. Blissful Kamuy from Emanation (Extreme)
  3. Legendary Kamuy from The Minstrel's Ballad: Shinryu's Domain
  4. Auspicious Kamuy from The Jade Stoa (Extreme)
  5. Lunar Kamuy from Minstrel's Ballad: Tsukuyomi's Pain
  6. Euphonious Kamuy from Hells' Kier (Extreme)
  7. Hallowed Kamuy from The Wreath of Snakes (Extreme)
All seven mounts are available for 30 event tomestones each during the event. To get 210 tomestones only required doing the end raids from Heavensward, Stormblood, Shadowbringers, or Endwalker or The Praetorium dungeon from A Realm Reborn. Since I already had the Blissful Kamuy, I only needed 180 tomestones.

The seven kamuy

I'm not really sure how to feel about getting the mounts this way. Yes, Yoshi-P basically said "come and get them" by placing them on the prize list. And yes, the Extreme trials became old content with the launch of Shadowbringers in July 2019, which was right before I created my FFXIV account. But I didn't earn the mounts the way the developers originally intended.

Flying over my island on the Kamuy of the Nine Tails

I did earn my mount, though. Perhaps too easily, but I obtained the mounts by running the content with other people. In an MMORPG, that has to count for something, right?

Monday, September 18, 2023

Plans On Watching The EVE Fanfest 2023 Live Stream

From 2012 to 2018 I made the pilgrimage every year to Reykjavik, Iceland to attend the EVE Fanfest event held in the city's Harpa Concert Hall and Convention Center. Since my trip was cancelled in 2020 due to the response to the COVID pandemic, I have not returned. But that doesn't mean my interest in the event has diminished. I plan on watching the festivities on the Twitch stream this year. As I do every year, here are my thoughts on the schedule.

The Live Steam Schedule: All Times UTC


1000 - Welcome Ceremony - I've always thought of the welcome ceremony as an opportunity to set expectations, take care of housekeeping, and wait for stragglers from the drinking of the previous night to filter in. Since I live in a UTC -5 time zone, I might skip the session.

1030 - 20 Years of Capsuleer Data - While I would prefer to see the data since the previous Fanfest, or better yet a more in-depth look at economic data, I understand the desire for the session. After all, a game only turns 20 once, right? A worthwhile session to watch, but I'll catch it later on the VOD.

1130 - The James Webb Telescope: From First Light to New Planets - Given the recent news about the James Webb Telescope and how the images it has captured has turned the world view of astrophysicists upside down, I might wake up a little early and catch this session live. Apparently the science isn't settled after all. Plus, the session blends nicely into the next event.

1230 - What Has Project Discovery Discovered? - I have spent so many hours playing all three versions of Project Discovery. I really want to know the results, especially from some real life experts. For me, a must see.

1330 - Predicting Behavior in Conflict: Game Theory and EVE Online - A player presentation, I don't know much beyond the title. Plus, since I am working on Friday, I'll have to catch the session on replay.

1500 - EVE Keynote - The EVE Keynote is must see Twitch. If the session holds true to history, Hilmar and his leadership team will discuss the year that was and plans for the next year. The only reason I won't watch the session is work. I plan to have the stream on in the background and then watch the stream after the work day is complete. Also, I expect the session to last at least 90 minutes as Hilmar will probably discuss other subjects than EVE.


1000 - The Building Blocks of New Eden - I suspect the session is a developer talking about ... something. The title is intriguing. Not intriguing enough to wake up at 5am to watch, but enough I'll watch the session on the VOD on Saturday.

1100 - Art of EVE - The art team's traditional presentation. EVE is such a pretty game and the art team deserves the time to show off. With all the graphical upgrades occurring, we may even see some news come out of the presentation this year.

1230 - EVE [REDACTED] - I suspect this is the presentation discussing the upcoming 4th quarter 2023 expansion. At least, I hope so. If we hear about Project Awakening instead, people will riot. Which might not be such a good idea as some of those Reykjavik police officers are huge. In order to avoid an international incident, I really hope this is expansion news.

1400 - EVE's Place in the MMO Multiverse - A presentation by Andrew Groen, the author of two history books covering the EVE's null sec wars. If you don't play EVE, still a presentation to watch.

1500 - Real Life Skill Training With EVE - Honestly, how EVE applies to real life is an old topic. I know Hilmar loves the idea, but I think I'll check out on this one.

1630 - Closing Ceremony - When I attend these EVE events, the closing ceremony is always a bittersweet event. Prizes are handed out, the staff says goodbye, and then we say goodbye to the friends we made over the last few days. I might watch if only to get a rundown from the hosts on the stream of what we watched over the two days of streaming.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Answering FFXIV's 10th Anniversary Survey

Last Friday Square Enix published a link to their 10th anniversary survey for Final Fantasy XIV on the Lodestone. 

As part of A Realm Reborn’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, we will be holding a special survey until Friday, September 22 at 7:59 a.m. (PDT)! Tell us about your main job, what sort of place FFXIV is to you, and other details we would like to hear about your adventures!

Furthermore, we will be releasing a new side story—the featured character will depend on the answers we receive!

* Depending on the responses we receive, the new side story may feature a character whom already appears in a previous side story or the new Tales under the New Moon series.

* Survey answers will serve as a reference for our future endeavors.

Participate in the 10th Anniversary Survey.

Logging into the Lodestone is required to take the survey.

I decided to take the survey and also record the answers here. I'll add question numbers to the questions and give longer answers than I gave in the survey.

Q1. Have you ever played another MMORPG before FFXIV? 

A. Yes

For those new to the blog, in addition to playing EVE Online since 2009 I've played and reached at least the level cap of the original game in World of Warcraft, Everquest II, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, and Elder Scrolls Online. Some of the games I at least got to level 12 in are Black Desert OnlineLord of the Rings Online, VanguardRunes of Magic, Warhammer Online, and Wildstar.

Q2. Have you ever played another game in the FINAL FANTASY series before FFXIV? 

A. No

I recently finished the original version of Final Fantasy but I've played FFXIV since 2019. I created my account on the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's first step on the Moon. I didn't realize how significant that date would be until I saw the Endwalker trailer and heard a little about Final Fantasy IV.

Q3. What led you to start playing FFXIV?

A. Enjoy role-playing games.

This was a single answer multiple choice question. This was the closest answer to reality. If the answer was allowed to be a multi-punch answer, I also would have selected "Enjoy online games".

Q4. What is your main job above all others?

A. White Mage

Feel free to tell us about your choice using the free answer space.

I wanted to play a healer and conjuror was the only option at low levels. That turned into white mage.

I didn't know much about Final Fantasy when I started playing, but I knew that the white mage was an iconic job. While players can also play Scholar, a shield-healing job, the Archanist-class also evolves into Summoner and is a DPS class. I wanted to play as a healer from level 1.

Q5. Which home point do you consider home?

A. Gridania

Feel free to tell us about your choice using the free answer space.

Gridania is where conjurors start and I never saw a reason to leave. Plus, the layout is less confusing and more convenient than the other two starting cities. 

When starting out, the game encourages logging out in certain zones in order to get additional experience. Based on my WoW days I always logged out in the inn in Gridania. Partly because I stuck with White Mage and the class quests (up to level 30) and the job quests (probably until level 55) required talking to NPCs in Gridania. By the time I reached level 60, the habit was set. Plus, even I have a hard time getting lost in Gridania.

Q6. Which mount do you call forth the most?

A. Argos

Feel free to tell us about your choice using the free answer space.

How can you not love a golden dog?

I wrote a brief answer for the questionnaire because of the 500 character limit. For those who don't know, Argos is Venat's familiar and at the end of the Endwalker story it chooses to become your companion. 

Q7. Which minion is always by your side?

A. Magic Broom

Feel free to tell us about your choice using the free answer space.

I usually don't display minions. But when I do, it's usually the magic broom to clean up my area while crafting. I don't want to leave a mess.

I have around 100 minions at this point. A lot of them run around my island. But I really don't get the allure of minions when I'm running around the world. I will pull them out when I'm crafting, though.

Q8. Who or what would you consider your most formidable foe?

A. The Endsinger

I never did figure out how to avoid the crashing planets. I wound up on the floor as the boss died. Sorry, I'm not going back.

Q9. Choose ONE character whom you would like to be featured in a side story.

A. M'naggo

M'naggo is a character from the Stormblood expansion who also is a custom deliveries NPC. But if I had given a little more thought, I would really like to see a story about Azem. Or the Azem who succeeded Venat in the role.

Q10. What sort of place would you describe FFXIV to be?

A. FFXIV is a fantastical apocalyptic world that mixes the modern with the medieval.

I don't think people really realize how dark a world Eorzea really is. We open the story of A Realm Reborn hearing about the Seventh Umbral Calamity and spend the rest of the game through the end of Endwalker 6.0 trying to save the world. But Final Fantasy XIV shows that an apocalyptic era isn't filled only with doom and gloom. Just as all the misery and evil escaped from Pandora's box, the container also contained Hope. So too in Eorzea. Because despite all the horror, evil, and gloom roaming the lands, our heroes, and the player as the Warrior of Light, also provides Hope to the world. And with the Power of Friendship™ fights the good fight until the end.