Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Beginning My Worker Empire In Black Desert Online

The purchase of CCP Games by Pearl Abyss led to an immediate uproar over how the Korean game maker would turn EVE Online into a pay-to-win dystopia, filled with doomsday weapons powered with PLEX, special mutaplasmids purchased from the cash shop, and SKINs with bonuses similar to hardwiring. Okay, I made up those examples, because the whining I read wasn't that imaginative. But apparently Pearl Abyss' flagship game, Black Desert Online, doesn't have the best reputation, so of course I had to see for myself.

One of the similarities between EVE and BDO is the desire of players to make money passively. The difference is how much each studio catered to the desires of their respective player bases. EVE does have passive income generation such as planetary interaction and AFK ratting in Vexors and the ever present Vexor Navy Issue. But the devs also tried to reign in other passive game play, most notably changing moon mining from a passive to an active feature last year. In BDO, the thought process is totally different. Won't play a game infested with fishing bots? No problem. BDO supports AFK fishing natively. But the feature I ran across had an interesting name: worker empires. So I started to create one.

This post is not a how-to guide. I found plenty searching on YouTube as well as on Google. I just wanted to record some thoughts as I begin the journey down the rabbit hole. So let's begin.

First, I needed to gather something called contribution points. Those come from doing quests. The more quests I do, the more points I receive. At level 25, I've received 18 points. The second is gathering something called energy, although I've seen the feature called "vigor" in guides. Energy is required to do things like actively gather resources and hire workers. Energy is generated at a rate of 1 point every 3 minutes, or double that rate if your character is sleeping in a bed. Currently, my energy pool is 35 points. So if I wanted to, I could wake up on a Saturday morning, do a lot of gathering, use up all my energy, then go out and do my weekly grocery shopping and come back to a character with a full energy pool.

The contribution points allow me to do things like purchase buildings in towns and pay for access to resource nodes. The nearest I can describe what happens is that each node accessed becomes part of a network, and workers travel along the network's paths. In the towns and cities of BDO, one can purchase housing, warehouses, and specialty buildings. The workers bring the resources from the nodes to the warehouses, where the player picks up the raw materials and either crafts or sells the materials to the market.

The nice part about workers is they continue to work unsupervised as long as controlling player is logged into the game. Well, and kept happy. What makes workers happy? Beer! So one of the first steps in my worker empire is to gather the ingredients for beer. Beer is made from any grain, including potatoes. Is potato beer a thing in Korea? So when I started off my worker empire, I hired three workers, 2 humans and a goblin. I started off with the goblin mining iron, one human chopping down ash trees, and the other human gathering potatoes. After a couple of days, my goblin has reached level 11 and both humans are level 12. The human gathering potatoes could keep up with the beer making needs for three workers, but I need more if I want to expand.

Last night I took a break from EVE and worked on getting more contribution points. I now have 4 unused points and am 5% away from a fifth. I figure a few more quests and I can go out and get additional worker lodging, warehouse space, and access to another potato node. My need for beer will decrease for a couple of days as my goblin takes a promotion test. What that does I have no idea, but sounded like something I should do.

I get the impression I am not playing the game right. Instead of racing to the level cap and then working on the life skills, I am slowly building my worker empire as I level. That's okay, because end game in BDO doesn't sound that exciting anyway. Besides, I think trying to figure out how to keep my pets fed is more important in the short term is a lot more important than dreams of level 60 anyway.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Rogue Swarm Turkey Shoot

In EVE Online, I am currently doing the Rogue Swarm Alert event. In high sec. I know, I know, I said I would never do that again. But between leveling up my horse in Elder Scrolls Online and establishing a worker empire in Black Desert Online, I didn't feel like wandering out to low sec to run the sites. Without trying to dodge other players, the content isn't much of a challenge.

Sure, if I went out in my traditional Arbitrator or switched it up to a Rupture or Stabber, the content would give me some difficulty. But the latest iteration of the Rogue Swarm event requires both a data analyzer and a salvager to get the most loot and points. So I went with a ship that provides a different type of challenge: a Vagabond.

No, I am not on drugs. I wait until after I finish playing before taking my cough syrup. But a Vagabond lacks a hacking bonus, and I'm using a clone without a hacking implant. Usually hacking a high sec site is no challenge. I've actually failed a couple of hacks.

That said, the Vagabond I'm flying is the same one I use to run Abyssal sites with two differences. The first is I put a Salvager II in the utility high slot. The second is I replace the afterburner with a Data Analyzer II. Unlike Abyssal sites, I can pretty much tank whatever gets thrown my way, so I don't need a prop module. And to save a little money, I use regular Phased Plasma M instead of the faction Republic Fleet ammunition.

The sites follow a predictable rhythm. First, I warp in at zero and launch drones. While my drones attack the three or four NPCs initially present in the site, I hack the disabled drone battleship. I usually take my time with the puzzle, because I'm not worried about any DPS coming in. By the time I finiish, the drones usually are working on the last NPC.

Once the battleship is hacked, the loot NPC, a battleship-sized drone, appears. At this time, I hit orbit at 2,500 meters and let my Hobgoblin IIs chew on the boss while I pick off the incoming waves with 220mm Autocannon IIs. If I'm lucky, the small fast drones show up. I consider the small, fast drones a positive since they count toward the NPC kills that provide event points. If the frigates and smaller drones get close enough I cannot track them, I then use my drones to kill the NPCs while I finish off the boss.

I would do better loot-wise if I traveled a few jumps into low sec. One of these days I'll fit out a Huginn to run one of these events in low security space. I'd think a PvP fit ship with a 60% web bonus might provide some entertainment. Well, it would if I actually knew how to PvP. But for now, I'm just trying to collect all the event prizes. I currently have over 800 points, which means I own all four of the battleship SKINs. I figure two more nights of grinding will get me to 1100 points and the blueprint crate at the end of the event. Then I can go back to running Abyssal sites.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Will Mordu's Legion Be Recruiting At EVE Vegas?

Since the Battle of Caldari Prime 5 years ago, Mordu's Legion had kept the peace on the Caldari homeword in the middle of Gallente space. But mercenary groups, like living organisms, grow and evolve. Since the titanic battle that saw the first mass use of cloned ground forces, Mordu's Legion had joined up with The Upwell Consortium in the construction of the massive space structures that dominate space today. Upwell's salesmanship, along with capsuleers' success at destroying many of the structures, placed a demand for manpower that even a group like The Legion (often referred to as "The Best Legion" in the halls of power) found hard to meet. On  14 September, that strain manifested itself in the non-renewal of the contract with Ishukone Corporation and Material Acquisition keeping the peace on Caldari Prime. But that led to a basic question. With the proliferation of Upwell structures around New Eden, where would The Legion find the manpower to meet its obligations?

While writing lore is fun, I'm probably best known for analytical pieces, not fiction. Sometimes though, lore and business combine to reveal a surprise. Perhaps I've spent too much time studying the recent acquistion of CCP Games by the Korean game studio Pearl Abyss, but Friday's news article about Mordu's Legion preparing to depart Caldari Prime led to what I thought was an obvious question: are we about to receive news about Project Nova at EVE Vegas next month?

Project Nova is CCP's successor game to DUST 514, a first-person shooter set in the EVE Online universe. Caldari Prime has a place in the lore of ground soldiers in New Eden, with the first massive battle serving as a promotional event at a game convention in March 2013. Why not believe that the movement of Mordu's Legion indicates potential news about a new CCP project? This October is shaping up as a blockbuster month for CCP Games.

The biggest news, of course, is that the purchase of CCP will be finalized 12 October, one week before the start of EVE Vegas. The player meet was already the biggest EVE Vegas ever. Now the event takes on bigger significance as the EVE community presumably get to meet our new Korean overlords for the first time.

The news from China should also turn some heads. Not only is NetEase taking over from TianCity in October, but will launch the new Serenity server with an updated version of EVE. I'm not sure which version, but with a name like EVE Online: Rise of the Clones, watch for Alpha clones to make their first appearance in China. But NetEase is not just the new publisher for EVE Online in China. The gaming giant is also working on a new augmented reality game set in the EVE universe, EVE: Infinite Galaxy. News reports indicate the beta will launch in October, just in time for EVE Vegas.

Of course, not all news comes out of the Far East. Last year, CCP introduced Project Aurora as the new mobile game set in New Eden and even allowed attendees to try out an alpha version of the game. Work has progressed since then, with CCP giving the game a new name, EVE: War of Ascension, at Fanfest. Will CCP & PlayRaven announce a launch date at the keynote? I would not doubt it.

Given the event, could we even hear about CCP's new MMO currently under development that will use the Unreal 4 engine? If one wants to make a good first impression, I'd think so. But the news I think would bring down the house would be an announcement that CCP was opening Project Nova up for beta, with those who had already signed up for news getting first crack at the invites. Far fetched? In interviews at Fanfest, Hilmar stated that the game was months, not years, away from being available to players. I assume that meeans beta, so why not make the announcement at EVE Vegas?

Friday, September 7, 2018

CCP Games Sold To Pearl Abyss

The long march is almost over. From the death of Harry Weller in November 2016, the first trial balloon in December 2016, the announcement of no Fanfest in the Harpa in 2019 in April, and the sale of the Newcastle studio and move away from virtual reality games in November 2017, the signs were present. Yesterday, CCP turned rumor into fact. Crowd Control Productions is no longer an independent games studio:
SEOUL - September 6, 2018 - Today, Black Desert Online developer Pearl Abyss announced that it will acquire CCP Games, the creators of popular spaceship MMORPG EVE Online. The deal outlines that CCP Games will continue to operate independently as a developer with studios in Reykjavik, London and Shanghai, while integrating the company’s extensive development and publishing expertise into Pearl Abyss’ operations for all current and future projects.

EVE Online is a space-based, persistent world MMO game, developed by CCP’s Reykjavik studio. The game first launched in 2003 and has since gained recognition for its scale and complexity with regards to player interactions in EVE’s single, shared game world. EVE Online is one of the most critically-acclaimed MMORPG intellectual properties (IPs) in North America and Europe, and one of the most extensive works of science fiction in the world.

Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung stated, “We are thrilled to have CCP Games join our team as Black Desert Online continues to branch out globally. CCP is a seasoned publisher with over 15 years of digital distribution experience and know-how. They have done an incredible job of engaging and maintaining their playerbase, which we aim to learn from and hope to integrate natively into Pearl Abyss’ general practices across all our games. I am confident CCP’s reputable IP and expertise in global publishing will help reaffirm our company’s dedication to developing and servicing the world’s best MMORPGs.”

“I have been seriously impressed with what Pearl Abyss has achieved ever since I first visited their website for Black Desert Online and subsequently became an avid player of the game,” said CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. “Pearl Abyss is a fast-growing company with lots to offer in terms of technology, capability and vision. I believe our two companies have a lot to learn from each other. We are very excited to join forces with them and achieve great new heights for our companies, our games and – above all - our players.”

Birgir Már Ragnarsson of Novator Partners and Chairman of CCP commented, “As lead investor in CCP for over 13 years alongside General Catalyst and NEA, we’ve seen CCP go from being a few dozen people strong to employing hundreds all over the world, with an ever-increasing customer base and multiple titles. CEO Hilmar V. Pétursson and his dedicated team have built a company that Novator and its partners are proud to hand over to Pearl Abyss and we wish them the best of luck in their future ventures.”

Pearl Abyss first launched its open-world MMORPG, Black Desert Online, in Korea in 2014. The game has received critical acclaim for its advanced graphics, seamless world, large-scale castle sieges and action-based combat system. Since Pearl Abyss’ initial public offering in 2017, the company has worked to secure competitive global IPs, such as EVE Online, through strategic investments and M&A activity.

Pearl Abyss saw record-high sales in the first half of 2018, following the launch of Black Desert Mobile in Korea. The company is looking forward to another strong year in 2019 with EVE Online and the upcoming global launch of Black Desert Mobile.

Deutsche Bank is acting as financial advisor to Pearl Abyss, and Kim & Chang is providing legal counsel. The Raine Group is acting as financial advisor to CCP Games, and White & Case LLP and LOGOS are providing legal counsel.
For some reason, people wonder about my thoughts on the subject. I gave some of them on an impromptu show Matterall ran yesterday, but I should probably give a hot take on the blog.

First, I think a lot of people are worried about Pearl Abyss introducing pay-to-win elements to EVE Online. I've heard others assure people that Pearl Abyss has done their due diligence and know that the EVE player base would never stand for that. The purveyors of that line of thinking point to the Summer of Rage as proof. My thought is that Monoclegate was 7 years ago and the EVE player base's attitudes toward paying for advantage (or convenience) has changed drastically over that time. Pearl Abyss probably did their research, saw that EVE players gladly accept things like paying real world cash for ISK and skill points, and thought, we can do business here. That said, I think as long as CCP meets certain financial goals, Pearl Abyss will not meddle with EVE Online. Besides, EVE Online, at least the game, is not a top reason Pearl Abyss purchased CCP.

Personally, I think one of the big attractions is CCP's upcoming games, the first person shooter Project Nova and the mobile games Project Aurora (developed by PlayRaven) and Project Galaxy (developed by NetEase). Pearl Abyss is basically buying three new games without having to pay much of the development costs. I think the mobile games are a big draw for the South Korean company, as Pearl Abyss ported its flagship game Black Desert Online to mobile devices on 28 February of this year in Korea and will introduce the mobile game in the west sometime in Q1 of 2019. Given the success of Black Desert Mobile in South Korea, Pearl Abyss is probably anticipating similar success with mobile games set in the EVE Online universe.

The other outstanding reason for Pearl Abyss to purchase CCP Games is one most western players will overlook: access to the Chinese market. In addition to working with CCP to develop Project Galaxy, Netease will take over running EVE Online's Serenity server in October. CCP's long history of working in China not only helps in navigating the laws concerning foreign-owned games, but may help in avoiding the ban on new South Korean mobile games entering the Chinese market. Iceland, on the other hand, is a country with which the People's Republic wants to have good relations. In fact, China and Iceland signed a $250 million deal in March to provide China with geothermal technology. At this point in time, an Icelandic game studio probably has an advantage over a South Korean company in accessing the lucrative Chinese mobile gaming market.

Those are my initial thoughts on the sale. I tried not to speculate too much and hopefully following the links may prove as interesting as this post. The sale should be final on 12 October, one week before the start of EVE Vegas. I'm going to the event again this year and I'll have my pen & paper out again taking notes at what should prove a very interesting keynote address.