Friday, December 29, 2017

The Yoiul Festival Event: A Value Proposition

On Sunday I finished scanning all of the lowsec moons in Metropolis. But I've come to a standstill due to chasing the nearest shiny. I can't blame Project Discovery, even though I'm now up to level 95. Instead, I'm running the Rogue Drone sites scooping up cerebral accelerators.

I look at special events as a way to increase the amount of skill points I have. But until I watched a YouTube video, I didn't realize how much of a value running sites and collecting the accelerators really is. The video was made by a new YouTuber named Shipwreck Jones. He did a little math and determined how many skill points a character could gain over 30 days using accelerators.

From Arms Race Event 2017
I never tried to figure out how many skill points I received from using accelerators. 777,600 for 30 days is pretty good. Then I decided to figure out how many skill injectors I would need to collect in order to get 30 days of additional benefits. Depending on the amount of skill points a character has determines the amount of points a skill injector grants the character.

  • 0 to 5 million Skill Points at time of use = 500.000 unallocated Skill Points
  • 5-50 million Skill Points at time of use = 400.000 unallocated Skill Points
  • 50-80 million Skill Points at time of use = 300.000 unallocated Skill Points
  • 80 million or more Skill Points at time of use = 150.000 unallocated Skill Points

Converting those amounts to skill injectors, using accelerators for 30 days results in the following amount of skill injectors.

  • 0 to 5 million SP = 1.56 large skill injectors
  • 5 to 50 million SP = 1.94 large skill injectors
  • 50 to 80 million SP = 2.59 large skill injectors
  • over 80 million SP = 5.18 large skill injectors

Finally, the question everyone wants to know. How big is the benefit in ISK? Instead of figuring out the sale price for each accelerator, I took the average price of a large skill injector in The Forge yesterday (809,412,999.86 ISK) to determine how much one would have to pay.

  • 0 to 5 million SP = 1,262,684,279.78 ISK
  • 5 to 50 million SP = 1,570,261,219.73 ISK
  • 50 to 80 million SP = 2,096,379,669.64 ISK
  • over 80 million SP = 4,192,759,339.27 ISK

At yesterday's prices, the skill points I would acquire by collecting 45 accelerators by running the event sites would cost approximately 12.6 trillion ISK if I wanted to use large skill injectors to get the same amount of skill points for my three characters. While the drops from the Arms Race event were abysmal, the Yoiul Festival event that runs until 9 January is much better. I completed the event (400 points) on two characters last night, one in high sec and one in low sec. I figure the average drop rate between the security bands was 50%, which means I averaged 3 accelerators per hour. So 12.6 billion ISK for 15 hours of work? Kind of hard to pass up 280 million ISK ticks.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Some Strange Logic For An Award

Sometimes, reading an article in the gaming press leaves me scratching my head. The latest example comes from Massively Overpowered. The publication awarded its "Biggest MMO Industry Blunder of 2017 Award" to CCP for the Icelandic game company's pullback on making virtual reality games and the accompanying layoffs, particularly of the community team. If that was the biggest blunder, then the MMORPG industry had a terrific year. Just as an aside, the MMORPG industry did not have that good of a year.

I have plenty of candidates for worse moves. The readers' pick for the award went to Gazillion and all the bad moves the company made that resulted in the shutdown of not only Marvel Heroes, but the company itself. I would throw in Sandbox Interactive's decision to sell in-game currency as part of the package to play Albion Online as another blunder. The move made the game a prime target for hackers and credit card fraud and most likely led to hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses. When Sandbox tried to clean up the fall-out, the game experienced DDoS attacks, further exasperating the launch situation by making the servers unplayable for hours at a time. The latest drama surrounding Star Citizen maker Cloud Imperium Games and Crytek may prove the biggest of the decade, but those decisions began in 2015 or 2016 and the fallout won't hit until 2018 at the earliest.

With a list of a few alternatives out of the way, I have to say I find the logic behind MassivelyOP's decision a bit unusual. I will dismiss the arguments of Brendan Drain, MassivelyOP's EVE Online columnist. He has a history of overhyping EVE compared to the rest of the industry. The highs are always higher than they really are, and the lows are never that low. Instead, I want to concentrate on the reasons given by writer Eliot Lefebvre and MassivelyOP Editor-In-Chief Brianna Royce for handing CCP the award. I will quote them in their entirety:
Eliot Lefebvre: "CCP Games and the Incredible Layoffs and Shutdowns. I spend a fair amount of time making fun of Jagex, chiefly because Jagex makes RuneScape but falls down horribly when trying to make anything else. CCP Games is like a version of Jagex that apparently can’t even manage making its one game at this point. Gutting the EVE Online community team to the point of killing community events indicates that there’s a whole lot of disconnect going on at the most fundamental level. On some level, this is a 'blunder' that predates 2017. Heavy investment in VR was a dumb idea when it first happened. But the chickens came home to roost this year, and so here we are."

Brianna Royce: "I don’t even play EVE Online anymore and I’m horrified at the way CCP dumped the entire community team over its VR misjudgments while telling the press and the players that everything was fine, situation normal – that EVE Online wouldn’t be affected. Any studio that truly believes — or thinks we’re dumb enough to believe — that a game of EVE Online’s magnitude (and frankly, toxicity level) will be just fine without a solid global community team is in trouble indeed. Seems like we’re in a 'killing the goose that lays the golden egg' situation with the Reykjavik company."
The "Virtual Reality is overrated" meme is strong with MassivelyOP. In CCP's case, is the charge justified? As a potential negative, CCP's quest for investment cash led to the venture capitalist firm New Enterprise Associates as an investor in the company. I think many people familiar with the MMORPG industry will look at Columbus Nova's takeover of Sony Online Entertainment as an indication that the involvement of venture capitalist firms is always bad for a game studio. A mitigating factor was the involvement of Novator Partners, a company that already was the largest investor in CCP before the injection of cash for VR development.

To consider CCP's entry into the VR games market a failure, CCP must have lost a lot of money on VR development, right? Not so fast. In an interview with Rolling Stone in March, CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson stated that the company had broken even on EVE: Valkyrie. Combined with the success of Gunjack and Gunjack 2, once the Newcastle studio is sold to pay back the venture capitalists, CCP should walk away with a profit from its adventures developing VR games.

One can legitimately hold the position, as many of the writers at MassivelyOP do, that the future of virtual reality is bleak. In that case, the withdrawal from VR is a good thing, right? Apparently not. Which has me confused.

Now on to the decision to gut the EVE Online community development team, which really is the basis for MassivelyOP giving the award to CCP. The move seems really strange. The biggest head scratcher was the release of CCP Logibro, especially since soon after the layoffs CCP posted a job opening for a community developer for Project NOVA. Project NOVA is CCP's second attempt to build an FPS set in the EVE Online universe. CCP Logibro was a member of the community team for CCP's first game, DUST 514. Given his extensive experience as a community developer, plus the multiple roles he fulfilled with EVE, one can only assume he was caught up in some sort of numbers game. The role seemed made for Logibro.

Will gutting the community development team have a major negative impact on EVE? History says no. CCP seems to conduct employee layoffs every three years (2011, 2014, 2017), and every three years the community team gets hit hard. I expect CCP to do what it always does and slowly build the community team back up to strength.

Given the rationales given by the MassivelpOP writers as well as EVE's history, calling CCP's withdrawal from VR development and the release of the community team the "Industry's Biggest Blunder" seems a bit overblown. Should CCP's actions made the list of items for readers to vote on? Definitely. But given how damaging some of the other events on the list were, I don't see how CCP "wins" the award.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Shift In Focus

With all the mining growth in low sec, one might think I'd find myself in the middle of the action. Nope. The introduction of NPC mining operations kind of killed off belt mining in my favorite spots. By the time I get home from work, the NPCs have already stripped out the belts. Of course, that means I can further adapt to the situation or give up and do something else. Given all the efforts by CCP over the years to make mining in low sec more difficult, I'll admit defeat and go do something else. At least for now.

If I do want to mine in low sec, I need to find places the NPC mining operations don't visit. I figure, why not pester the moon mining operations? So when CCP announced the redistribution of moon minerals, I set a goal to scan every low sec moon in the Minmatar Republic. I kind of miscounted the number of moons. Originally, I believed the number was 2960. The actual number of moons in the Minmatar Republic is 4617. I overproduced the number of moon probes I thought I would need, but with the new number, I'm still 400 probes short.

So far, I have finished scanning moons in 45 of the 104 low sec systems in the Minmatar Republic, and a little over 2000 moons. I think I can share a couple of observations. The first is the frequency of the types of moons I've found. They are:

  • R64: 0.8%
  • R32: 2.1%
  • R16: 8.9%
  • R8: 11.2%
  • Gas: 77%

The second is that, at least in the parts of the Minmatar Republic I've scanned so far, I don't see a whole lot of moon mining going on. In my journeys I've run across only 35 refineries set up at the moon mining beacons. Even taking into account that scanning 2000 moons took approximately 8 weeks to accomplish and the numbers are undoubtedly different, I don't think that much mining is going on. Still, compared to the previous state of mining in low sec, that represents a big bump. I just don't know if the amount of moon minerals coming out of these systems is at the same level as before the moon mineral redistribution.

For my new activity, I decided to continue the unorthodox exploration route and start playing the Project Discovery content. If I was discovering the contents of moons in the game world, why not help trying to find exoplanets in the real world?

The content does get a little addictive, which explains why I'm writing about this topic and not some other, juicier subjects this week. Truthfully, I'm just playing video games a little too much to write. The ISK rewards aren't the greatest for a veteran player. Last night I played for an hour and received approximately 8.5 million ISK after corp taxes.

The big rewards, though, are obtained by leveling up. Upon reaching a new level, players receive a loot crate with an Exoplanet SKIN. At level 25, the number of SKINs in a crate increases to 2. Also, starting at level 25, players receive rewards every 25 levels. The rewards are 2 pieces of clothing (one male, one female), a blueprint copy to produce a CONCORD ship, or a SKIN for the CONCORD ship. Rinse and repeat. Eventually, the Marshal, the CONCORD battleship given away to those who attended both Fanfest and EVE Vegas, will appear as a reward.

I expect my gameplay will consist in large part of sitting in a station for the next 2-3 months as I continue to pile up the ship skins. When not playing Project Discovery, I will continue my moon mapping project. For now, my goal is to finish both before next Fanfest so I'm ready for the next big thing CCP plans for EVE Online.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

So That's Why CCP Called The Event Arms Race

I thought I'd write a quick little post about the Arms Race event that went live on EVE Online's Tranquility server yesterday. I highly recommend to everyone who is poor (at least by veteran standards) like me to run the sites. I also think anyone who has an Alpha account only trained up to cruisers should also run the sites for the rewards.

The event rewards I think are very well thought out. They are:
  • 60 points - Racial battlecruiser + racial battlecruiser skill book
  • 120 points - Daily Alpha Injector (50,000 skill points)
  • 180 points - Racial battleship + racial battleship skill book
The event is designed to quickly get existing Alpha players into more powerful ships. Since the skill point cap prior to Tuesday's release was approximately 4.3 million skill points, Alpha players still have 600,000 or so skill points they can train for free. What better way than to train additional skills for getting into a battlecruiser?

I ran sites in both low sec and high security space last night on two different characters. The event points earned didn't change. Running one site netted 48 points and three sites the 72 points shown in the screenshot above. Which means an Alpha player can begin running level 3 (and some level 4) combat missions in high sec fairly quickly. I don't live in null, but I'm pretty sure a battlecruiser would come in handy when ratting, especially for those who didn't choose to create Gallente characters and fly Vexors and Vexor Navy Issues. 

I am kicking myself for not creating an Alpha character for each race. I have three Omega characters who can run the sites, plus one Minmatar Alpha. I think I can get all four up to 180 event points and get four battleship hulls. Currently, I only own three: a Nestor, a Maelstrom, and a Typhoon. So in the space of seven days, I can more than double the number of battleship hulls I own. I do like my Minmatar ships, but right about now I which I had a Caldari and Gallente pilot that could take advantage of the event.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Quick Takes On The Arms Race Release

Today is the launch of Arms Race, the name of EVE Online's December release. I didn't do much prep on Singularity except to ensure my Arbitrator fit will work for the Arms Race event sites. Instead, I spent most of my time in New Eden scanning moons in my quest to create a resource map of all the low sec systems in the Minmatar Republic. To date, I completed scanning 41 systems with over 1800 moons. I think I miscounted the number of moons and will need to do some more mining.

Given the lack of time on Singularity (and the fact that the patch notes didn't come out until this morning), I'll just give a few quick takes on the new release based on the features found on the Updates page.

Expanded Alpha Skillset: Arms Race sees the Alpha clone concept move from an extended trial to a legitimate free-to-play option. Tech 2, Tech 3, and capital ships are still behind a paywall, but the removal of the racial ship lock along with the addition of 15 million more skill points of skills, including Tech 2 small and medium weapons will make the Alpha clone a more viable option when playing EVE. The ability to use a new type of skill injector, the Daily Alpha Injector, once a day gives Alpha players an alternative to subscribing in order to gain skill points after they reach 5 million skill points. I saw a lot of commentary saying that creating skill points "out of thin air" breaks the basic tenants of EVE. In my opinion, CCP did that when the introduced skill point extractors and injectors in February 2016 and began selling permanent power to players. Compared to that event, the introduction of the Daily Alpha Injector is, to use a technical term, a nothing-burger.

Arms Race Event: Looking at the patch notes, the Arms Race release will see two events. The first is the Arms Race, which will run from December 5-12. With such a limited time, players will race to get some pretty awesome skill injectors (+12 to all attributes instead of +10) along with augmented drone BPCs. I don't have details on the Yoiul Festival event except that it begins on 19 December. I didn't run the event last year.

Pirate Forward Operating Base Improvements: Apparently, players didn't interact with the FOBs enough as CCP posted:
Changes to Pirate Forward operating bases with the Arms Race release will see capsuleers take on an elevated threat, with more FOBs spawning after this release that are easier to find and engage with.
Expect Guristas and Blood Raiders NPCs to become more numerous and, perhaps more importantly, more annoying. I may have to take a break from moon probing to observe the new behavior.

New Empire Selection: CCP is rolling out a revamp to the New Player experience.
After extensive testing during fall of 2017, the new Empire Selection system with overhauled visuals and information will be released to all accounts with this release, with every new character created from this release forward benefitting from the changes!
I wanted to view the changes before now, but with CCP performing A/B testing, I decided to wait. Looks like I'll need to run another character through the tutorial.

Resource Wars - New Role & Balancing - I lost interest in the Resource Wars feature shortly after the launch of Lifeblood. Since I don't really have an opinion, I'll add the description found on the Updates page and the relevant entries from the patch notes.
With the Arms Race release, Resource Wars will see the introduction of a new role that allows capsuleers to fly as a support pilot, earning rewards by providing remote logistics to fellow capsuleers, and vessels from the empire that they’re supporting.

In addition to this, there’ll be some balance passes made on several aspects of Resource Wars for this release, including the addition of new rewards and some changes to their costs.
  • Logistics pilots are now eligible for Resource Wars rewards. This also applies to logistics drone users.
  • All level 5 Critical sites have been tweaked and rebalanced
  • All pirate cruisers will now target miners more often
  • Added some new reward crates to the LP stores
  • Added some new sound effects
  • Various formatting improvements made to Show Info window for Resource Wars beacons.
  • Added text feedback to Resource Wars when attempting to open a hauler that is out of range.
Jump Drive & Jump Fuel Adjustments - Honestly, the change doesn't affect me unless I resume ice mining. So instead of opining on something I know nothing about, here's the information from the patch notes.
Following on from the reductions in isotope volume and moon material volume released in Lifeblood last month, several changes have been made with the intention of increasing the economic friction associated with capital ship deployments and jump freighter hauling, stimulating the ice product markets, improving the balance of ice product consumption, facilitating the easier trade of high value reacted intermediate materials for T2 production and somewhat reducing the pain that can be caused by heavy jump drive usage and high stacked jump fatigue values. The changes are as follows:

Jump Drives:
  • +56% fuel use by Black Ops Battleships
  • +100% fuel use by other ship-based jump drives
  • Reduction of the maximum jump fatigue cap by 20%
  • Further reduction in isotope volume by 40% (to 0.03m3)
  • +20% increase in jump freighter fuel bay volumes

Fuel Blocks
  • Doubling the amount of liquid ozone required to build all four block types (from 167 to 350 per batch)
  • Small tweaks to the heavy water and isotope consumption as well primarily to round off the numbers and make math easier for people (167 -> 170 water and 444 -> 450 isotopes)
  • 80% reduction in the volume of all non-alchemy T2 intermediate materials (everything other than the “unrefined” stuff)

T2 intermediate materials
  • 80% reduction in the volume of all non-alchemy T2 intermediate materials (everything other than the “unrefined” stuff)

I do need to add a note about RMT, both the sanctioned type found on the markets and in-game cash shop as well as the black market type that gets players banned. PLEX prices rising to 3.5 million would not surprise me. A rise in PLEX price should result in lower prices on the black market. I think the black market sellers are already feeling a squeeze and some may decide to go to a game with larger profits. I am also a bit concerned about botting. From what I can tell from looking at killboards, Vexor Navy Issues are a very popular ship for botters. Now that Alphas have access to battleships, will we see a return of the Raven to botting fleets? Ravens were a staple of bot farms when I first started playing, but saw a drop in popularity in favor of Tengus when CCP became more effective in banning bots. I wonder if the meta will return to 2009.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Reevaluating The Hazard Discount: 2017 Edition

At Fanfest in March 2015 I went on stage and introduced the concept of the hazard discount. The hazard discount is the amount of a price reduction ISK sellers must offer buyers relative to the price of ISK purchased through CCP-approved means in order to entice those buyers into risking CCP banning all of their accounts. At the time, the range of the hazard discount was $10-$12 USD per billion ISK. But as time passed, the nature of the hazard discount changed. I put together a few graphs and charts to demonstrate how.

The first graph shows the average price of 1 billion ISK sold on the gold selling site Player Auctions across three years. I use Player Auctions not only because the data is available at a transaction level, but due to the sheer volume of ISK sold by over one hundred sellers each year through the site. In 2017, I expect over 45 trillion (45,000 billion) ISK to pass through the site. The reason to show the graph is to demonstrate that as time passes, the value of the EVE Online Interstellar Kredit versus the U.S. dollar consistently decreases, forcing the ISK sellers to work harder and harder to make the same amount of profit.

The second graph shows the hazard discount in the third quarter for the years 2015-2017. The numbers from year to year were very inconsistent. Were the numbers in 2016 so high because of casinos? As much as claiming casinos pumping cheap ISK into the black market would advance some groups' narratives, I believe a more fundamental change occurred during 2016.

But before discussing 2016, a significant event took place in the spring of 2015. The price of 1 billion ISK in The Forge fell below $20 when converted from ISK to U.S. dollars. In August 2015, I theorized:
"My current working theory is that in April, the price of ISK not only fell within the middle of the hazard discount, but also was 50% cheaper than ISK purchased in Jita. That 50% off is a powerful mental influence to get people to buy things. I believe that instead of looking for a $10/billion discount, black market ISK buyers will now look for 50% off. Quite frankly, ISK sellers can no longer afford to undercut the Jita price by $10/billion."

As the second bar graph shows, I was wrong about the hazard discount not going over $10 again. Looking at the hazard discount as a percentage instead of a fixed price does make the hazard discounts in that graph seem to make more sense. The hazard discounts in 2017 were only a couple percentage points higher than those in 2016. I could maintain that made sense as the secondary markets were still attempting to raise prices following the great fire sale in June 2017 due to CCP cracking down on users of the ghost training exploit. The main point left to explain is the 12 point gap between the hazard discount in 2015 vs the hazard discount in 2016.

When looking for a 12 point increase in the hazard discount, the first quarter of 2016 stands out like a sore thumb. From July 2015 to February 2016, the hazard discount hovered between 40%-50%. The hazard discount percentage jumped from 44.5% in Feburary 2016 to 57.6% in March 2016 and has basically, excluding June 2017 due to CCP's crackdown on the ghost training exploit, hovered between 52% and 63% ever since.

What event occurred in February that caused the increase? The introduction of the selling of skill points. For the first time in EVE's history, CCP sold power that other players could not destroy, and players jumped at the chance to seize some of that power for themselves. The change affected the secondary markets as well as markets in The Forge, with Player Auctions seeing the real world value of ISK sold nearly tripling between January 2016 and March 2016. The introduction of skill point injectors breathed fresh life into the secondary markets, which we continue to see to the present day. To that we can now add a depressing factor on the profits of the ISK sellers in the form of an expectation of lower prices for their goods than existed prior to 9 February 2016.

I will add one final graph to illustrate a point. While the hazard discount fell below 60% in September 2017, an unusual event pushed the discount lower. On 1 September, the prices rose $0.50 - $0.60 USD. Not just for ISK purchased, but the price offered by most of the ISK sellers on Player Auctions. I don't know why, but the cause does not look like action taken by CCP. I don't know if a popular payment system used by ISK sellers raised their fees or if farmers unionized and told the retailers who sell to players that they were raising their prices. Perhaps the major sellers got together and decided to engage in some cartel practices. What I do know is that major players in the ISK trade are feeling some sort of bottom up pricing pressure in addition to the top down pressure imposed by the price of PLEX.