Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Emerging Conduits: Stumbling Into Content

I suspect that those who don't follow the EVE news are happier people. Even happier are those in high security space. Except for the occasional Burn Jita, not much really bad happens. Ah, that life seems wonderful. No worrying about what Hilmar and Berger (CCP Burger, the creative director for EVE) were up to in a sauna in Finland. Blissfully unaware of the antics of The Mittani and the other null sec oligarchs. Someone whose enjoyment of the game isn't sucked out of them faster than a fully faction fit Bhaalgorn can drain the capacitor from an Atron by the toxicity of the EVE Online sub-Reddit.

I know, I know. I chose to become a blogger. Overall, the good has far outweighed the bad. But the recent hurricane coverage has taken a toll. So much data, so little time. I found a refuge from the storm in Final Fantasy XIV, but between blogging an the online class I'm taking, playing video games at all just doesn't happen during the week.

Last Wednesday night, with the post about Hurricane Hilmar published and my classwork complete, I decided to log into EVE Online. At a minimum, I needed to update the clients on both my computers, since I did not log in on patch day. When I logged in as Rosewalker, I found myself in a high sec station, sitting in a Vagabond. So I undocked with the intent of trying to find a group of recon Triglavians to shoot.

When I undocked, I looked down at my scanner and saw an Emerging Conduit at the top of the list. I didn't need to go hunting. I had a whole bunch in system with me.

I felt fairly confident in my Vagabond. I used it to run tier 3 abyssal sites. Plus, I heard the Triglavian ships did not scram, so if things got really scary, I could hit the assault damage control unit and warp out. For some reason, I decided to use Hornet IIs instead of Warrior IIs as my drone of choice. So with a questionable drone choice and Republic Fleet Fusion M loaded in my autocannons, off I went.

I landed in the site and wondered where all the Triglavians were. Then a dark portal formed and out came the Triglavians. As one might expect, the Triglavians came out in three waves. The first was easy enough to brush aside. The second was a bit tougher as Triglavian destroyer damage is nothing to sneeze at.

In between waves, I took the opportunity to salvage. The last time I was out, I had fit a Salvager II in the  utility slot instead of the nosferatu I fit when running Abyssal sites in order to ease any cap pressure. I was still salvaging when the third wave hit me.

The third wave can bring some serious pain, especially if one just sits there and lets the damage ramp up. Safety tip: don't let a Zoya's Vedmark and a support gang of 9 frigates and destroyers get in range. I wound up warping off. I then warped back, finished the remaining Triglavians, and began cleaning up the wrecks.

I discovered four important things about the sites in that first run. First, the NPCs drop red loot, which means looting the field is a must. The second was that half the value of the site was in the salvage. Third, the site contains an ore named Talassonite, which contains nocxium, zydrine, and megacyte. Finally, shortly after I completed the site, a new Emerging Conduit spawned and the one I disappared from scan. A site that a player could infinitely chain that has ore containing higher end minterals like nocxium, zydrine and megacyte? Okay. If the developers are incentivizing me into spending most of my time in high sec, I'm not going to fight want they clearly want me to do anymore.

With the next site, I decided to bring along a mobile tractor unit and log in Wandering Rose to salvage the wrecks in a Noctis. I also made a change in tactics. Instead of sitting stationary, I decided to dart into range, align to a station, and kite the Triglavians. On the third wave, I decided to pick off all the support ships and leave Zoya's Vedmark for last. The plan almost worked like a charm. The third wave, instead of making me warp off, didn't even get to half shields. I only had one issue. The Zoya's Vedmark warped off instead.

So I cleaned up the field, scooped  the MTU to my cargo hold, and dropped the loot off in the station. One more site for the night. I did everything the way I think will happen in the future. Warped into the site. Waited for the dark warp point to appear and then the Triglavians to appear. Dropped the MTU and darted into range of the NPCs. Started kiting and picking off the NPCs. On the third wave, warp off due to the extreme damage inflicted and to reset the Triglavian weapons. Warp back in and finish off the third wave. Clean up the field.

I did learn one final, important fact about the Emerging Conduits. After finishing up the last site, I warped back to the bookmark I made for the second site (I always bookmark my MTUs after dropping them). The asteroid belt was gone. Important safety tip: if you want to mine the talassonite in one of the new sites, always leave at least one ship in the site after all the NPCs are destroyed.

I had to experience mining talassonite, so on Sunday, I went back and logged in my little high sec mining fleet members who fly an Orca and two Skiffs. The fleet hanger and ore hold in the Orca, combined with the 15,000 m3 ore holds in each of the Skiffs, comes out to a nice round number of 250,000 m3. So I mined until all the space was filled. For those interested, I didn't come close to mining the belt out.

Due to talassonite taking up 16 m3 each, I only came away with 15,624 units of ore. I then took the ore to an NPC station for reprocessing. My return rate was 75.6%, which is pretty good for an NPC station in high sec. The minerals received were:

  • Megacyte - 1,534 units
  • Nocxium - 53,812 units
  • Tritanium - 1,486,917 units
  • Zydrine - 9,558 units

A ridiculously low amount for a Rorqual pilot, but I was happy to receive that type of higher end minerals in high sec.

After the mining session, I looked through my blueprints and found my 10-run Porpoise blueprint copy. I went nuts mining enough to build my Nestor and Marshal. With these new sites, a Porpoise will be a breeze. And with the mineral requirements for a Porpoise, I may post next Wednesday about my brand new ship.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The End Of The Blackout: Hurricane Hilmar Moves Back Out To Sea

I woke up Saturday to news that CCP would lift the imposition of delayed local today in null security space today. CCP chose not to delay its plans.
On July 5, we announced the local blackout for nullsec, which then came into effect on July 12.

This temporarily switched local chat over to delayed mode across nullsec space so that both chat and the intelligence service that it provides behaved the same as wormhole space.

Over the course of the blackout we’ve seen some substantial changes in player behavior and a massive impact on those we believe to be suspected of botting. The duration of the blackout wasn’t specified in order to allow us to gather information without a hard deadline for concluding it.

After 66 days, the blackout of local chat in nullsec will come to an end during downtime today, September 16 and local will return to immediate mode with full population counts and member lists.

The blackout has given us an incredible amount of insight in terms of player behavior, sentiment and ability to adapt to rapid short notice changes. This will help to better inform us on where to take the direction of New Eden in future.
Hurricane Hilmar didn't impact my game play directly. I don't play in null sec, and I don't buy RMT tokens like PLEX and skill injectors. A huge drop in players that affects the economic viability of keeping the servers running? I start to care.

I probably should wait for the September data to roll in before making any judgments. But I do feel we have enough data in now to make one conclusion. CCP let the situation go on too long. Given the way CCP introduced delayed local, I was sure the feature was a one month experiment ending with the release of the August patch on 13 August. When I saw the numbers, particularly for the PLEX market in The Forge, I thought for sure the developers would flip the switch and restore local. I was wrong.


As Ripard Teg's chart shows, the drop in average concurrent users took place after the August patch. Perhaps the decision makers looked at the data, didn't see a drop in Omega accounts or ACU, and decided they would continue the feature. Then the floor dropped out from under them.

Of course, I'm assuming what CCP's data showed them, as they have a lot more data than I do. I can only work with what is publicly available. The next real look we get at activity, outside looking at the PLEX market in The Forge, is 1 October when the final activity numbers for September appear on Dotlan.

Activity through 15 September. Source: Dotlan Maps
While the September MER will not have a lot of data for the mid-month change in local, the Dotlan data will provide some sort of rough approximation for the effect on player activity.

As for now, the big question is whether EVE Online will fully recover from the missteps, or if the game is permanently crippled. I honestly don't know. Which is why we look to the data we have to try to make an informed judgement.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Hurricane Hilmar

chaos

  • 1a: a state of utter confusion. (eg. the blackout caused chaos throughout the city)
  • 1b: a confused mass or mixture (eg. a chaos of television antennas)
  • 2a (often capitalized): a state of things in which chance is supreme. especially : the confused unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct forms — compare COSMOS
  • 2b: the inherent unpredictability in the behavior of a complex natural system (such as the atmosphere, boiling water, or the beating heart)



When I first heard Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, the CEO of CCP Games, use the term "Chaos Era" in an interview with Talking in Stations, my first thought was, "Why is Hilmar referring to the development process of EVE Online in such a negative way?" Only later, when I heard the phrase used by CCP in other places, did I realize the phrase was CCP's new marketing tag line to describe what CCP hope to make players experience.

From this point forward, I will use CCP's marketing phrase as little as possible. What we are witnessing now is a reset of New Eden. What I don't know is whether the disruption occurring is at the level of rerouting the jump gate network so Yulai was no longer the center of the cluster, of if the brain trust at CCP headquarters intends to perform a WoW Cataclysm style change. What I do know is that what EVE Online, particularly sovereign null security space, experienced throughout most of July and throughout August was not a period of mass confusion. The players experienced an event more akin to a natural disaster like a hurricane.


Like a hurricane, people want to know how many people died. Yesterday, Ripard Teg published an activity chart on Reddit. According to the chart, while activity in general declined in July and August, the average concurrent user (ACU) mark hovered at 20,000 characters until the August release hit. If the introduction of Blackout acted like hurricane force winds, the August release was a storm surge. The combination of recon Triglavians wandering outside of invasion zones, a historically high number of bots banned during the month, the realization that Blackout would not end anytime in the foreseeable future, and the launch of WoW Classic on 26 August giving disgruntled players a place to go saw the ACU plummet down to 17,000. Or, in other words, the storm surge possibly caused more damage than the initial cloud wall smashing into civilization.


After counting the human cost, the real-world media usually looks at the economic damage. In August, to my knowledge, two events occurred for the first time in the history of EVE Online. The first was the ISK sinks removed more currency from the EVE economy than the ISK faucets poured in. While the implementation of delayed local in null sec regions received most of the attention, the increases in the maximum sales tax from 2% to 5% and maximum broker fees in NPC stations from 3% to 5% introduced on 1 August played a significant factor as well.

The second event was that bounties, the ISK players receive for killing NPCs, were not the largest ISK faucet. Commodities, which include blue loot from Sleepers (found in wormholes), red loot from Triglavians (25.7% of the commodities total) and Overseer's Personal Effects (14% of the commodities total) exceeded the value of bounties by 2.6 trillion ISK.



Summer normally sees a contraction of the EVE Online economy, and 2019 was no different. Overall, the New Eden economy contracted 14.1% since June, the last full month before Hurricane Hilmar hit, to August. This year's contraction is 38.2% greater than the average contraction of 10.2% between 2016 and 2018.


Another economic casualty many players faced concerned their investments. The main investment a player can make with their unused ISK is investing in PLEX. Traditionally a safe investment almost guaranteed to increase over time, New Eden's main alternative currency took a major tumble over the past two months. On 12 July, the average price of a single PLEX for sale in The Forge was 3,937,688.10. Even then, players cried out that the price of ISK was too damn high. As of 9 September, the price had dropped 15%, down to 3,346,808.00 ISK. Overall, the price of PLEX has dropped 25.5% since 29 March, when the average price hit a high for the year of 4,489,980.00 ISK. Good news for those looking to PLEX their accounts. Bad news for those PvPers who disdain any form of PvE and choose to pay for their ISK using their real life wallets.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes usually bring stories of looters and other types of lawlessness. During the current storm, the authorities are, if not deterring crime, cracking down on the violators. During the month of August, Team Security banned 4,369 accounts for botting-related activities and another 2,454 for RMT-related activities. To put the numbers in perspective, Unholy Rage, the great bot ban of June 2009, banned a little over 6,200 paying accounts. While we don't know the subscription status of last month's bans, Team Security did act against 6,823 accounts.


Hurricane Hilmar is gradually losing its destructive power as the survivors of the storm emerge to play the game. One sign of recovery is that the economy only contracted 2.5% in August. The average July to August contraction over the previous 3 years was 3.1%. That's right, New Eden outperformed the previous years' economic performance despite the troubles.

During major storms, some parts of the economy are affected more than others. One can divide the EVE economy into two parts: the RMT token vs the non-RMT economy


An interesting fact is that CCP does not consider PLEX as part of the regular economy. The most likely explanation is that PLEX, like ISK, is a virtual currency, not an object. The RMT tokens that do count as part of the New Eden economy are:
  • Daily Alpha Injector
  • Large Skill Injector
  • Multiple Pilot Training Certificate
  • Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificate
  • Skill Extractor
  • Small Skill Injector

These 6 items made up 33.9% of the economy in August. When PLEX is included, slightly over 49% of the ISK players spent in the game was on these items.


Looking at just the non-RMT economy (everything else but the RMT tokens), an interesting fact emerges. Take away the tokens, and the economy grew by 3.5% in August instead of contracting by 2.5%. The contraction came purely from players not wishing to buy the RMT tokens with their hard-earned ISK. A troubling trend for the corporation with the biggest stake in the health of the RMT economy: CCP Games.

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

Friday, September 6, 2019

Pavlov's Capsuleer

Classical conditioning (also known as Pavlovian or respondent conditioning) refers to a learning procedure in which a biologically potent stimulus (e.g. food) is paired with a previously neutral stimulus (e.g. a bell). It also refers to the learning process that results from this pairing, through which the neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response (e.g. salivation) that is usually similar to the one elicited by the potent stimulus.
- Wikipedia

By this time in my gaming history, I have played quite a few MMOPRGs to the level cap: Vanilla WoW, Everquest 2 (The Shadow Odyssey), Star Wars: The Old Republic (original), Guild Wars 2 (original), and Elder Scrolls Online (Morrowind). Currently, when I'm not taking online classes or digging through EVE Online data, I'm playing Final Fantasy XIV. All of the games have one thing in common, besides being themepark MMORPGs. They all have an impressive visual and audio effect when a character reaches a new level.

I'm particularly taken with what I see in FFXIV, Square Enix definitely gives new players plenty of opportunities to enjoy the experience. Currently, my conjurer is level 26, my three gathering professions (botanist, mining, fishing) are between levels 16 and 21, and my eight crafting professions (carpenter, blacksmith, armorer, goldsmith, leatherworker, weaver, alchemist and culinarian) are between levels 12 and 18. If I let myself, I would just keep playing FFXIV.

With the audio and visual stimulus comes rewards. At first the rewards come fast and furious. New spells/abilities and access to new gear and content. As players progress through the games, the effects still kick off, but the rewards come farther and farther apart. Pretty soon, a player is hooked and only needs the occasional experience. Classical conditioning at its finest.

Out of all the MMORPGs I've played over the last 15 years, EVE Online is unique in that CCP really didn't put in all the bells and whistles that games like World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 deployed. First, a game without character levels doesn't really lend itself to flashy leveling experiences. CCP created a rather subdued game, and Aura announcing, "Skill training complete," when a character finishes training a new skill isn't the biggest dopamine hit. Yes, I did enjoy the experience when I heard Aura's voice. But in today's game, much of the training experience disappears and veteran players encourage new players to use skill injectors to quickly join them.

For players who enjoy PvP, the kill report, frequently referred to as kill mails by older players, seems to serve as the reward that keeps players happy. These players will do the most boring things, such as gate camping and POS bashing, if they know they will get their names on a kill report.

From listening to null sec players, one of the problems with the current Aegis sovereignty system is how boring the entosis system is. If the mechanic is anything like capturing plex in factional warfare, I don't know why people engage in sov warfare. One of the fixes I've seen throughout the past few years is to allow players to shoot the control points and generate kill reports for succeeding. There are those kill reports popping up again.

Until the last few years, PvE players had no comparable mechanic. Some would say, EVE still doesn't, as the Opportunites system was meant to replace the tutorial, not supplement it. I think the Opportunities system has a greater effect on new players than us old-timers. But even then, in FFXIV, I have a hunting log that provides me experience points. EVE players only receive ISK. I guess I can't blame CCP for not offering experience points, though. With the advent of skill extractors and injectors, players would figure out how to game the system if CCP offered a big enough skill point award.

If CCP's classical conditioning consists of "explode enemy player ship, receive kill report," then CCP has a problem. New players are most likely found floating around high sec with no chance to kill another player. Back at Fanfest 2015, CCP Rise famously gave a presentation in which he stated players who die in their first two weeks stick around longer. The questions I have are:

1. Is the retention rate higher for those who receive kill reports (or show up as a killer) vs those who only receive loss mails?

2. How do those two groups compare to those who don't receive loss mails at all?

Monday, September 2, 2019

The EVE Online Blackout: August, The First Full Month

You don't have the data to make a judgment on the effects of blackout. I don't either. CCP does.

August was the first full month of Blackout in EVE Online. Blackout, the introduction of the wormhole-style delayed local chat system in null sec systems, is blamed for a decrease in activity in null sec. Others claim a decrease in player vs environment activity is good, because null sec was intended as a player vs player zone. These same players claim that PvE activity has increased and gotten better since the introduction of Blackout on 12 July.

Players are scrambling to come up with data to judge the effects of Blackout. While the data available to players is not as comprehensive as that held internally by CCP, we have access to quite a bit of data. Among the key performance indicators players can access is the ratting and player ship kills available on Dotlan. As I did last month, I will look at the numbers from the previous month, the first full month of Blackout.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The End Of EVE Vegas

Last week I finally decided to go to EVE Vegas and picked up a ticket. Between buying the ticket for the event and booking my hotel and flight reservations, CCP announced the move of the event to San Diego in 2020.
One of the largest changes we’ll be making to the events roster in 2020 will be how we choose to focus on North American events.

Visiting Toronto for EVE North was incredible, and there are a whole myriad of events in the United States that are springing up in support of internet spaceships.

We want to visit more of North America so that we can reach out to more of our US and Canadian player base, so for 2020 we’ll be transitioning away from Las Vegas and heading to another city in the US.

EVE Vegas has been an incredible ride. It kicked off more than a decade ago as a fantastic player created and hosted event which saw developers arrive on the scene and start attending in 2013 – more than a dozen of us in fact!

Since then, it’s grown year on year consistently and we’re confident that EVE Vegas 2019 is going to be the biggest and best yet!

That said, what we’ve seen with the World Tour is that we’re able to meet much more players by visiting more locations. We’ve been bringing the beauty of an EVE event to more players than ever, and we’ve also had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of various EVE communities. We want to keep that theme going, so it’s time to switch things up, and we’ve decided to make a hop right over to the west coast and host in San Diego for our 2020 North American event.

We’ll be going for a different vibe of course, given that we’re going to the south west of the US. There’s a heavy density of EVE players in the area, so we’re expecting something awesome.
Mine is possibly a minority opinion, but I find Las Vegas a very depressing city. I imagine out in the Gallente Federation is a planet (or fifty) similar to Vegas. Places with a thin veneer of flash covering a pretty seedy reality. If I can give a pro tip, don't go out onto the strip before 10 am. Give the locals time to clean up the mess. Walking around at 6 am is not pretty.

Knowing this year's event is possibly the last hosted by CCP in the Mojave Desert, I might enjoy the experience more. While I will probably skip the pub crawl, I'll have to go to the event held at Caesar's Palace in Omnia. I mean, how can I pass up what may be Permaband's final North American concert? The band is coming back together, with CCP Guard making an appearance on stage.

Of course, my enjoyment may increase because I'm staying at the Flamingo this year instead of The Linq. Friends don't let friends stay at The Linq. Honestly, the worst hotel I've ever stayed at. Even worse than the Motel 6 outside Columbus, Ohio. Then again, I liked staying at that motel when I would go to Origins.

I mentioned that 2019 is the last CCP-sponsored EVE Vegas. But the event was created by Goons, and they have no intention of letting EVE's presence disappear. I couldn't image Goons not going to Vegas at least once a year.
Now, I can't end this post without mentioning a very good conspiracy theory laid out by Wilhelm Arcturus from The Ancient Gaming Noob.


I have to admit, when I heard the news the event was moving to San Diego, my first reaction was to look up Pearl Abyss' SoCal office. But I don't think Pearl Abyss would purchase Daybreak. Pearl Abyss is into fully exploiting the intellectual properties it owns. I'm not sure how the IPs owned by Daybreak would fit in with PA's plans, especially as the game company is developing new IPs. Planetside 2 would conflict with Project K, while the Everquest franchise would compete directly with Black Desert Online. Still, the only reason I can see for holding the convention in San Diego is so everyone can visit the USS Midway museum and the attendees can boast of boarding a real carrier.

Still, I have to admit that Wilhelm is much better with his predictions than I am, so who knows? Pearl Abyss did mention player meets as a way of improving player engagement on the latest investor call. However, I think the real reason is sticking a bunch of techo-vikings in the middle of a desert just isn't natural. Except for next year's event in Moscow, I think every event will occur in a city with a major port.

I think I can say this is my last visit to Las Vegas. I've attended every EVE Vegas CCP has run. The reason for going is the people I know and meet at the events. If it was only for the city? Wouldn't do it.

Monday, August 26, 2019

A Quick Look At The EVE Online Security Report For July 2019

As the implementation of delayed local in null sec, otherwise known as The Blackout, is in its second month, now is a good time to take a quick look at the monthly security report for July.


In preparation for appearing on Talking in Stations yesterday, I created a graph to show the amount of July bans compared to the monthly average for the first half of 2019. The raw numbers provided in the dev blog went pretty much as expected.

In the category of account hacking, the 58.8% decline in accounts CCP locked down because of hacking declined 58.8% in July compared to the average for the first half. CCP spent time during the first half of 2019 providing tools to help players make their accounts safer from attack. But reminding players of account security, especially in the age of the skill extractor that makes even very old accounts valuable, is probably the security team's top priority. The dev blog pointed out the importance of account security once again:
We cannot stress this enough – we know how much effort goes into character development in EVE Online, and it’s worth the extra login step to protect your accounts from abuse and damage.

Protect it all. Enable two factor authentication on all your EVE accounts, and on the email accounts that are verified against them.

Most hacking cases that we deal with don’t originate from a simple password breach on an EVE Online account – they occur when a player’s email account is hacked, and a password reset request is sent to the email address, which then gives access to your characters and assets.

You can help keep your accounts secure by using 2FA on both your email and your EVE Online account and reduce the risk of becoming a victim of account hacking.

For extra security, you can also make sure you use a mobile authentication token to keep code generation on your mobile device and away from your email accounts.

To make life a little easier, with recent changes it’s also now possible to use one authentication token linked to all your accounts. You can check out more about this change in this devblog, which was also linked earlier in this report.
Next up are the bot bans. The 62.5% drop in bans for botting is pretty consistent with the data seen both in the monthly economic report and on Dotlan.
We’re happy to report that in terms of the blackout, it seems to have hit botters harder than we expected, and of course it’s made it a lot easier for legitimate pilots who’ve taken up the sport of bot hunting to get out there and surprise these scumbags with direct attacks on their infrastructure.

Ironically, the Drifter assault on nullsec also highlighted several areas where botting was occurring, and the Drifters themselves managed to get in on a few kills that were later revealed to be botters.

Over the coming months, we’ll continue to work with the development team and the community to look at what we can do to make life even more difficult for these guys going forward.
While bot developers try to keep news of bans off their forums, with something as big as The Blackout, that is not always possible.

Seen on a botting forum, 13 July 2019

Seen on a botting forum, 28 July 2019

Finally came the news of an increase in bans for those involved in real money trading. With all the grumbling of players threatening to leave the game, the 20.4% increase in bans for RMT over the average for the first six months is an indicator many players are in the process of cashing out of the game. I did see a decrease in sellers on the popular gold/plat/gil/ISK selling site Player Auctions, along with a 10% increase in prices, which indicated some sort of ban wave occurred. I'll have to write another post after the August numbers are in before I can determine whether the increase in bans is a result of players cashing out, or an increased emphasis on RMT in July.

A monthly security report is probably required in today's gaming market. The fact that I get some additional content to write about is totally irrelevant. The insights we may gain into the effects of The Blackout, on the other hand, are totally worth it.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Bounties In The July 2019 Monthly Economic Report

The July 2019 monthly economic report (MER) came out today and I thought I'd point out a couple of items.


The first is the drop in the amount of bounties collected by players. Dotlan suggested such a drop, but the MER confirms the picture painted by Dotlan's data. From June to July, bounties decreased 39.6%, from 48.2 trillion ISK to 29.1 trillion ISK. Given the trends in August, a total bounties collected total ranging from 21.8 - 23.3 trillion ISK is the number I expect to see in the next MER.

Now for the outrageous predictions. Not only do I expect the game's sinks to exceed the faucets, but I think commodities have a good chance of exceeding bounties as the top isk faucet in New Eden next month. When CCP Rise stated in an interview last week on Talking in Stations that CCP had the faucet/sink issue under control, he wasn't blowing smoke to confuse anyone. I think, at least for now, the faucets and sinks are balanced.

I also want to point out one other fact kind of buried in the MER. Not all PvE is equal. An outsider looking at the statistics for July on Dotlan might believe that most PvE activity occurs in high sec. Or at least a lot more in high sec than in null sec. Below are the top 10 regions in the game in July for NPC kills.


Only three of the top ten regions in killing NPCs -- Delve, Esoteria, and Branch -- were located in null sec. However, when the value of the NPCs is considered, a different picture emerges.


The top 10 regions in NPC value killed were all located in null sec. The above regions combined to collect 52.9% of all NPC bounties in July. Still players killing NPCs. Just not as many as before.

I thought we'd see numbers like the ones above when CCP announced the imposition of delayed local in null sec. That CCP has not backed down from the move, considering the drop in activity these and other numbers in the MER indicate shows the developers are not trying to grab a cheap buck with their latest changes. But we won't know the real world financial cost to the Icelandic studio of the moves until the next Pearl Abyss investors call which should take place sometime in November.

Monday, August 19, 2019

CCP Rise On Why Make The Cyno Change

I have to admit the "Chaos Era" in EVE Online, like most major changes, is passing me by. But the complaints from the null sec whales are so loud I can here them all the way out in Heimatar. The latest outrage concerns the upcoming changes to the capital ship bridging mechanic. 

Talking in Stations broadcast an interview with CCP Rise, a senior game designer on EVE Online discussing the upcoming changes to the game. I figured I'd at least get one answer about the changes posted to the blog, namely, why? What follows below is a cleaned-up transcript of one of the first questions in the interview. I took out some of the verbal missteps, such as the use of the word "like", in order not to trigger Brisc if he happens upon this blog post.

Brisc Rubal: Starting in the September release, cynos will only be able to be fitted on recon ships and Black Ops battleships. That's a major change in the game. One of the big questions we've been hearing from a lot of people, what's the design goal with this change? What kind of behavior are you hoping to alter by making a change this big?

CCP Rise: There's a few different pieces to it. I've actually been thinking about the best way to talk about this because it has goals coming from a few different directions. One of them that's actually really important is just that cynos on their own have been in this really inflexible place where we don't have the usual leverage to balance them. They are sort of separate from the way balance works in a lot of other areas. If you think of other powerful, really powerful abilities to influence large scale fights -- influence small scale fights -- something like dictor bubbles for instance. They're class-confined, they're expensive, they have a clear set of levers and trade-offs that we can use to find a good place for them in balance.

Cynos don't have that. Cynos have been, for some reason, even though its one of the most powerful abilities we can give a ship, they have complete free reign to use whatever cost risk they want and whatever survivability and sort of tactical application they want. So, things like using interceptors is possible. Things using titans or FAX that can't be killed is possible. And that's just super problematic. I've been talking with people at player events or internally for years and years about how this is an issue. So that's one thing. Is just get them into a sensible place that looks like how we have other powerful abilities in the game balance. That's a big goal.

Second thing, which is something we talked about more in the post, is that part of "Chaos Era" and part of the current strategy is just be more disruptive. Especially for supercap umbrellas, especially for capital game play in general. Make it harder, give better risk/reward trade-offs, make it more dynamic.

Cynos are a huge piece of that. There could have been tons of options for that goal on its own. That's a big thing I'm seeing in feedback. If you just wanted to hit the response time for capitals to PvEers, there would have been other alternatives. That's actually totally true, and we considered a lot of those. But then the last goal, or the last big area goal, is what Hilmar talked about with you guys a ton the last time he was on here. I'm just going to take the opportunity to read his direct quote, which is:

"We want you on your toes. We want you to feel like the blanket is being pulled out from under your feet every single week. Your heart rate is going up. You need to take stress medicine to keep focused."

While that didn't on its own drive -- that's not why we made a change to cynos -- but that's why we chose a really extreme solution. Is that the overall strategic goal right now is to lean towards bigger changes, lean towards more disruption. And so, with all those combined, we wind up with this change.

And as far as behavior we expect to change, that's another whole complicated question. There's parts of it are pretty easy to anticipate. The simplest one is that we don't want Rorquals to be able to cyno freely a fleet in to defend them anytime they are attacked. It's pretty obvious that won't be possible now. You'll either have to have an alt there that is vulnerable to being killed, or a friend. Hopefully not an alt. So that behavior definitely changes.

But when you start talking about how escalations work, or how logistics work, it's much harder to say exactly what will happen or what we expect or want. I think mostly we want a shifting meta where people have to solve these problems and where we have new things we have to figure out and fix afterwards. 
I may transcribe one or two more of CCP Rise's answers to some of the questions asked. I thought the interview with CCP Rise was better and more informative than the one conducted with Hilmar back in July. Given some of what I'm reading and hearing, I think I may want to do so just so I have something to link back to.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Novator Partners, Hilmar Pétursson Invest In Lockwood Publishing

I thought with the sale of CCP Games to Pearl Abyss, I was finished writing about Novator Partners. The English private corporation, owned by Iceland's richest man, Thor Bjorgolfsson, specializes in telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and financial services.  Novator was also the largest investor in CCP Games, with the Icelandic game company being one of the few assets Thor retained following his bankruptcy as a result of his role in the Icelandic banking collapse in 2008.

According to published reports, Novator is back in the gaming business. Lockwood Publishing, makers of the social mobile game Avakin Life, recently completed a round of investment funding which disclosed some interesting investors. In addition to Novator, CCP Games' current CEO, Hilmar Pétursson, also invested in the company. According to Gameindustry.biz, Former Unity CEO and co-founder David Helgason was also named at chairman of the board. Pocketgamer.biz reported that Helgason invested additional money on top of his initial investment made in 2017.

What is Avakin Life? From the little I know, it looks like Second Life. The description on the Avakin Life website:
Avakin life is free to play 3D mobile app with a huge online virtual community where you can customise your avatar with the hottest fashion trends and hairstyles, make friends, chat, customise your own apartments, visit amazing social spots, listen to your favourite music and own the dance floor with hundreds of dances and poses right at your fingertips!
I was looking for a video to explain Avakin Life more. I think the video for the official Avakin Life YouTube channel might explain the game best.


I'm not advertising the game, as I not only do my best to avoid all things Facebook, but urge everyone else to do the same. But I do think that the largest institutional and individual shareholders in CCP Games before the sale to Pearl Abyss, a studio known for producing a hardcore sandbox MMORPG, putting their money into a studio that produces a social, Second Life-type game is quite amusing. Then again, with over 1 million daily average users, I can't really blame them.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Making EVE A More Dangerous Place - August 2019 Edition

Once again, CCP is shaking up the sandbox we call EVE Online. Some may call the recent round of changes "The Chaos Era", but that's just marketing talk. I'd call the moves a correction for some changes made over the course of time. Every so often, MMORPG developers evaluate the direction of a game and nerf some things. EVE is no different. What some players may consider different is that the devs are bringing change to all parts of the game.

High sec experienced a change Tuesday with the introduction of Triglavian recon ships roaming outside of invasion zones in high sec. Fortunately for high sec dwellers, Triglavian recon ships are not the same as the tech 2 cruisers capsuleers fly.

Damaviks are Triglavian frigates for those unfamiliar with the terminology. The two plain recon ships will bring DPS while the others are set up for logistics (Renewing), energy neutralization (Starving), and sensor damping (Blinding). Just be careful because, unlike normal belt rats, the Triglavian AI will target drones if the ship does not present a big enough threat. But with no Anchoring Recons present, players are free to just warp off. Assuming they are not AFK.

Triglavians Ate My Drones
Apparently, botters are not happy the Triglavians like to attack drones. The above post was from a disgruntled Orca botter who, while he didn't lose his ship to the Triglavians, lost all his drones as the bot released combat drones in order to take care of the threat. The Triglavian recon ships basically ate his drones for breakfast. Now, he refuses to undock and bot until the bot maker releases a new version that handles the situation. But is that any reason to call the Triglavians names?

Also on Tuesday, CCP Rise announced on Twitter a change long requested by players in factional warfare.

Back in the Into The Abyss expansion in May 2018, CCP removed the ability of ships fit with warp core stabilizers to enter factional warfare complexes. Those pilots wishing to have the effect of the WCS would then fly the Venture, which has a built-in +2 bonus to warp core strength. Instead of nerfing the ship's bonuses, CCP is making a change next month to the ship's ability to capture FW complexes. Hopefully, we will find out in CCP Rise's interview on Talking In Stations if the change will lock the Venture out of complexes. I imagine not, as large FW complexes do not have acceleration gates.

The final bit of news affects both low and null security space. I imagine null sec will see the biggest change in everyday game play. CCP Rise posted yesterday on the official forums:
This September we are planning two large changes for Cynosural Fields:
  • Cynosural Field Generator I can only be fit by Force Recon Ships and Black Ops Battleships (note: these classes can still fit covert cynos)
  • Jump Freighters can jump to Covert Cynosural Fields
During this era of chaos we are eager to introduce new challenges for veteran pilots while working towards a deeper and more balanced capital meta. Historically, cynos have been extremely flexible. They can be used on flocks of alts at nearly no risk or used by the largest and strongest ships in the game. With few options for cyno disruption, capital response time and power has grown to the point that it’s oppressing activity. This change will make it more complex and demanding to get capitals to the field quickly and give more strategic options for those wishing to disrupt capital response.

While most of the impact from this change is on combat, we are sensitive to the effect on Jump Freighters and logistics overall. Jump Freighters will be allowed to use Covert Cynos which can be activated by cheaper hulls like Covert Ops Frigates. This may need further attention and we will be watching this area very closely.

Fly safe o/
I wouldn't consider the cyno change an element of chaos so much as fixing a problem introduced in the expansion of the Alpha skill set in December 2017. In addition to giving free-to-play characters the ability to fly battlecruisers and battleships and train into pirate faction ships, CCP made what I consider a mistake. The change of the level of CPU Management an Alpha could use from level 4 to level 5 meant Alpha characters could now fit a Cynosural Field Generator I.

Oh good. Free cyno alts for everyone. Yes, CCP set up a system that prevented Alpha and Omega accounts from running on the same computer. I've even accidentally tested the feature. However, the feature doesn't work if a player uses multiple computers. VPNs anyone? Considering how often, and for how long, the problem has appeared on the EVE Online sub-Reddit, I think I'm safe mentioning the exploit. Also, since it is an exploit, DON'T DO IT!

UPDATE: Alphas cannot train Cynosural Field Theory. All the change meant was that you didn't need to be subscribed in order to train CPU Management to 5.

Perhaps I'm a bit too cynical. The change does give Force Recons and Black Ops battleships a required role, especially in null sec. After all, the blackout gave a boost to Combat Recon ships, so why not give a couple of other ship classes some love? I'm not sure how much the change will affect Rorquals. Sure, they won't fit cynos themselves, but with the panic module timer, can a group get the proper ship into position to light a cyno in time to save the huge ship if it comes under attack?

Some would say a nerf to the Rorqual's abiltiy to protect itself by lighting its own cyno would help correct another problem. When the ship was massively buffed in the Ascension expansion (which also introduced Alpha accounts) in November 2016, many players pointed out how overpowered the Rorqual became. CCP has steadily nerfed the ship ever since.

I guess I should also mention that the price of cyno ships will go up tremendously, as tech 2 cruisers and battleships are not cheap. Expect cargo transportation prices to go up accordingly.

The above are just my thoughts on the current and upcoming changes. I thought I should put my thoughts down now as Matterall is interviewing CCP Rise today for the Talking in Stations podcast, with the release probably tomorrow. This way, we can see how wrong (or right) I really am before hearing the official answers to everyone's questions.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

EVE Online Financial Performance In Relation To Other Games

A long-standing meme amongst EVE Online players is that EVE is dying. But a funny thing happened when Pearl Abyss purchased CCP. We now get to see how well the EVE IP is performing financially. Since Pearl Abyss breaks out financial information by intellectual property, we get to see how well (or poorly) EVE Online is doing, at least until the mobile game EVE: Echoes launches.
Q2 2019 earnings from the NCSoft

I saw Jason Winter, a games journalist who currently writes for, among other places, MMOBomb.com, tweeting about the revenues for Guild Wars 2 and EVE. I've followed Jason's work since his Gamebreaker days and thought I'd take his idea in a slightly different direction. Instead of comparing casual vs hard core games, how about revenue generated by games run by two Korean companies.

I took all of the NCSoft games, with the exception of Lineage, and converted their revenue from the Korean won to the U.S. dollar. That might give some idea of the health of EVE, right?

EVE vs NCSoft (minus Lineage)
Yes, EVE only beats Aion in revenue for the first half of 2019. But I can't help but think if CCP and NetEase had managed to get Serenity up and running in China again, EVE would actually beat Guild Wars 2's performance. If anyone had said that, outside of China, EVE was performing financially as well as GW2, would anyone have believed that statement?

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Pearl Abyss Q2 2019 Investors Call

In Pearl Abyss' Quarter 2 investors call held Friday morning, the developer of Black Desert Online announced record revenues for the second consecutive quarter. Operating profit jumped 212.6% in Q2 over Q1, and 3.8% over Q2 2018. Net profit also jumped 266% quarter-over-quarter, but fell 1.1% compared to Q2 2018.


Pearl Abyss credited a couple of developments for their increased revenue. In May, the company took over direct publishing of Black Desert Online in Korea. Since taking over the publishing duties, the number of daily users from Korea has doubled. The company also mentioned the introduction of the Shai class as another reason.

On mobile, Pearl Abyss continues to see greater penetration into the Japanese market, which apparently is unusual for a Korean mobile game. One of the analysts on the call questioned the strength of the game in South Korea, but PA claimed steady revenue from the game and that any slippage in game rankings is due to new games jumping up upon initial hype.

The jump in profits came from two main sources. The first was the drop off in advertising by 49% in Q2 as Q1 saw marketing pushes for Black Desert Mobile in Japan and the introduction of Black Desert Online on the XBox One. The second was in labor expenses. While employee headcount increased to 1,074 in Q2, the first quarter saw the payout of ₩ 9.4 billion ($775,000) in incentive payments. While not reporting on the number of employees at CCP as they had the past two quarters, PA reported that 635 of their employees are actual game developers and not support personal. In reply to an analyst's question, PA indicated they planned to continue to hire additional staff.


Pearl Abyss also reported growth in all IPs. EVE Online saw an increase of 3% in revenues over Q1, growing by ₩400 million ($330,000). When Pearl Abyss looks at their business, they do so by intellectual property. If everything goes according to plan, EVE Online will see its revenue added to by the upcoming mobile game EVE Echoes. The status of the Singularity server in China was not addressed. According to one of the analysts on the call, NetEase is putting a lot of effort into getting Echoes published.

Pearl Abyss also mentioned EVE: Aether Wars a few times during the call. Currently, PA is interested in game engine development, with all it's upcoming games using a newer engine than the one that runs Black Desert Online. PA not only indicated it liked CCP's efforts with Hadean to improve, but if successful could lead to a spin-off game. PA also left the impression it would like to use the technology in all its upcoming games.

EVE Echoes is not the only game under development for one of the existing IPs. Pearl Abyss also plans on introducing a battle royale game, Shadow Arena, to the market. The company stated it would show game play for the title sometime this year. In a related note, PA is also bringing BDO to the Playstation 4 on 23 August. PA claimed that sales of the PS4 version are up 30% over the XBox One version at the same time in the launch schedule.

Pearl Abyss has three yet unnamed IPs that the analysts were very interested to learn more about. The first is Project K, an online shooter under development led by a team headed by Counterstrike creator Minh Le. The next is Project V, a game described as a casual title.


The third IP is new and had all the analysts on the call asking questions. All Pearl Abyss would acknowledge is it is an online role playing game. While CCP has job openings listed for an unnamed MMO, the impression left from the call is that Pearl Abyss is developing its own engine and not making a move to Unreal Engine 4.

For all three projects, Pearl Abyss declined to give more details than those already announced. PA indicated they would announce more details when the projects were closer to launch.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The EVE Online Blackout: PLEX Trading In The Forge

So far, I've looked at ratting activity in regions held by the game's major powers and overall kill numbers to evaluate how the implementation of delayed local in null sec has affected EVE Online. At the end of the day, CCP is a business and needs to make money. While players do not have access to financial information concerning the game outside the quarterly Pearl Abyss investor calls, we do have access to player-to-player trading information concerning CCP's main real money trading currency: the PLEX.


The PLEX, or 30 Day CONCORD License Extension, is a virtual currency sold by CCP and authorized third-party PLEX resellers that is redeemable for items such as Omega game time, multiple character training, and items such as SKINs and skill extractors from the in-game New Eden Store. Players may also choose to trade the item on the in-game markets for EVE's main currency, the Interstellar Kredit. Since a lot of players choose to purchase ISK with their real life wallets instead of playing the game to obtain ISK, we can get a sense of direction of PLEX sales. Are they going up? Or are they going down?


A look at the amount of ISK players are using to purchase PLEX from other players might lend the idea that CCP is making a lot more money from PLEX sales in 2019 vs 2018. Apart from January, players have visited The Forge, the location of New Eden's main trade hub, and traded more ISK for PLEX every month.

But looking at the amount of ISK traded is deceiving. Looking at the amount of PLEX traded, one sees large drop-offs in the daily amount of PLEX traded for ISK. Since players are handing over real world currency to CCP for PLEX, one can infer, but not conclusively state, CCP is not making as much money from microtransactions like PLEX sales in 2019 as it did in 2018.

One of the problems facing CCP is the devaluation of the ISK against both the U.S. dollar and the euro. In the chart above, while the units are labeled in USD, the exact same figures apply to the euro.
Theoretically, as players become older, they want to buy bigger toys to play with. Or, in the case of EVE, bigger ships with fancier fittings. But if the price of ISK, after converting from PLEX, is a lot less, CCP doesn't make as much money, even if the player is purchasing more ISK on the in-game markets than before. In May, we saw the ISK fall in value 32.8% compared to May 2018.

Following the launch of the Invasion expansion and follow-up changes to EVE, the ISK in July had rebounded 13% in value against both the dollar and euro. However, in the same time, the daily amount of PLEX traded in The Forge dropped by 5.9%. From May to July 2018, the PLEX amount traded stayed flat.

Of course, CCP conducted a large amount of sales in 2018 leading up to the sale of CCP to Pearl Abyss in September 2018. The sales stopped shortly thereafter. So we may need to wait until September to see the true effects of the Invasion expansion and the null sec communications blackout. Assuming, of course, CCP doesn't rescind the blackout in the next major software release.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The EVE Online Blackout: Player Activity June vs July

I'll admit that some of the claims made by CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson and CCP's Senior Community Manager CCP Falcon in the interview on the Talking in Stations podcast left me scratching my head. My first look at activity was how major player blocs were affected in 5 major regions. In particular, I looked at ratting numbers. With the arrival of August, I now have the numbers for July. After reviewing the data, I think my previous judgments on the effects of the changes to local in null sec were a bit too pessimistic.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Taxman Cometh

I know that CCP would like everyone to use the phrase "Chaos Era", but I don't see the chaos yet. Plus, if the development of EVE goes sideways over the next few months, players may begin using the term to describe the developers and not the game. In order to avoid the low-hanging fruit, I'll practice using more descriptive, but wordier, terminology.

One change that is long overdue is an increase in taxes in New Eden. Before getting into some history, first let's look at the lore. Leading up to the announced change, Triglavian invasions of high sec had led to a shortage of Quantum-Entangled 4-Helium to run the FTL communications network and talk of InnerBus ceasing operations into null sec. CONCORD held an emergency summit over the weekend and decided it needed more money.
Yulai, Genesis – Substantially increased tax and broker fees are to be levied on interstellar market transactions by the Secure Commerce Commission, following today's passage in the CONCORD Assembly of the "New Eden Defense Fund Act YC121" (NEDFA). SCC markets will see base transaction tax increase from 2.00% to 5.00%, while the base brokerage fee will rise from 3.00% to 5.00%.

While the core empires supported the New Eden Defense Fund Act's goals, they were keen to arrive at a means of raising the funds that would spread the load across the New Eden economy and focused on interstellar trade taxes as a means to achieve this. Welcoming the passage of the NEDFA legislation, the DED's Star Marshal Kjersidur Elladall was again keen to emphasize that funding for capsuleer loyalty programs and improved training will be maintained due to the contributions to New Eden's defense of capsuleer fighters.

Capsuleer efforts in the struggle against the Triglavians have been acknowledged with preferential tax and brokerage levels made possible through skilled accounting and the continuing benefit of collecting broker fees when operating Upwell structures. Improvements to the SCC tax code will allow efficient accounting and brokerage negotiations to gain improved savings relative to the increased base tax and fess. However, minimum tax and brokerage fees will still be above levels currently achievable through skilled accountancy and good relations with market operators.
I have to admit getting a chuckle out of the last sentence of the main article.
The Scope understands that the SCC will run market stability simulations imminently and plans to implement the new tax and brokerage fee regime within days.
That's lore-speak for, "We've put the changes on the test server and plan to roll them out with the next content release," which I believe is 13 August.

While CCP hit us with the stick of tax increases, the lore team earlier had teased players with the prospect of receiving goodies as well.
AEGIS Provost Marshal Kasiha Valkanir reiterated in her statements to the Assembly the importance of survival technology for military personnel, advocating augmentation and personality backup wherever feasible. The DED's Star Marshal Kjersidur Elladall emphasized the importance of continuing to support capsuleer efforts through loyalty programs and support for accelerated training for those combating threats such as the Triglavians and Drifters.
I'm not really sure that the implementation of tax increases, combined with a new loyalty point store that may include cerebral accelerators, constitutes chaos. CCP Ytterbium floated the idea of higher taxes in NPC stations back in 2016.
Market: markets currently have two taxes, transaction's tax, applied for sold items, and broker's fee for non immediate orders, which are set at 1.5% and 1% respectively. To create an environment more competitive for Citadels, we plan on increasing the transaction tax to 2.5% and the broker's fee to 5-6%. Players trading in citadels will still receive the transaction tax, but the broker's fee will be at the complete discretion of the owner. To avoid confusion for the owner, the broker relations skill will not affect player set broker's fee in Citadels.
Those changes never took place, thus resulting in a decrease in EVE's ISK sinks as trade moved from NPC stations to the new player-owned citadels. CCP didn't go as far as the original trial balloon, but they came close.
Changes to sales taxes and broker fees:
  • Maximum Sales Tax increase from 2% to 5%.
  • Minimum Sales Tax increase from 1% to 2.25%.
  • Maximum Brokers Fee increase for NPC stations from 3% to 5%.
  • Double the total maximum taxation from 5% to 10%.
  • Increased total minimum taxation on NPC structures from 3% to 5.25%.
  • Increase the minimum taxation on player owned structures by 125% from 1% to 2.25%.
At the same time, the tax associated skills Accounting and Broker Relations are receiving buffs.
Changes to tax associated skills:
  • Accounting – Increase in reduction of sales tax from 10% per level to 11% per level.
  • Brokers Relations – Increase in reduction of costs associated with setting up a market order from 0.1% per level to 0.3% per level.
The total benefit from skills will increase from 2% (current benefit) to 4.75%, which translates to a total tax reduction (including standings benefits) of 47.5% instead of the current 40%.
While many on the forums are decrying the fact the changes will shift trade to player-run stations, those using masses of Alpha accounts to conduct trading may see the biggest hits. Alpha characters can only train Broker Relations to level 2. Accounting? Training the Accounting skill requires Trade IV, and Alpha characters can only train the skill to 3.

I have the feeling that CCP has had a change of heart concerning Alpha accounts in general, and the expansion of Alpha clone skills back in November 2017 in particular. In addition to moves like limiting Alpha accounts to level 3 and under missions, CCP nerfed the Alpha drone skill set while rebalancing the Vexor Navy Issue to discourage the cruiser's use as an AFK ratting platform.
We are also planning a set of targeted changes to somewhat reduce the levels of drone skills available to alpha clones. These changes are focused on our ongoing anti-botting efforts, since large scale parallelized farming of nullsec anomalies with alpha clones is a popular tactic among botters. Our planned changes to the alpha clone skill caps are:
  • Reducing Heavy Drone Operation from level IV to level III
  • Reducing Medium Drone Operation from level V to level IV
  • Reducing Drone Interfacing from level IV to level III
After these changes alpha clone characters will still be able to use drones quite effectively, but their total damage per second will be reduced compared to its current levels. Alpha clones will also no longer have access to Tech Two and 'Augmented' medium drones, although they will still be able to use Navy Faction and 'Integrated' medium drones.
Just as changes like blackout and the VNI rebalance affected botters in null sec, I can't help but think the tax changes will affect market bots in Jita, especially those utilizing throw-a-way Alpha accounts.

I'm still not convinced that a "Chaos Age" has come to EVE Online. When we are talking about long-discussed issues like taxes and fees in the Citadel era, I don't see anything radical happening in New Eden. All I see is the developers attempting to correct problems in the economy, just like they've talked about for awhile now. We are just seeing the results of those efforts.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Another Look At Blackout Maps - 3 Weeks In



I have to admit, the Talking in Stations interview with CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson, CCP's Senior Community Manager CCP Falcon, and CCP Goodfella, Senior Brand Manager of EVE Online, left me scratching my head almost immediately. According to Hilmar, EVE Online had experienced it's best daily active user (DAU) and monthly active user (MAU) in five years. But when I looked at Eve-Offline.net, I saw that the average number of users had declined from 22,000 during June down to 20,000 over the last two weeks. Something isn't quite right.

Everyone seems to jump on the PvP activity bandwagon with the communications blackout. The impression I get is, if you like to PvE, "Suck it up, buttercup. Harden the fuck up, or go back to high sec." And that impression isn't just from players. I was left with the impression that PvE players don't really count.

I shouldn't really take too much offense. I don't live in null sec, after all. But I was interested in how blackout affected PvE, since Hilmar ducked the question when asked about the subject near the beginning of the interview. What follows is a look at five regions owned by major coalitions: Dead Coalition, Legacy, Winter, PanFam, and the Imperium. On 7 July, the final Sunday before the blackout began, players killed over 2 million NPCs in these five regions. What I found might surprise some people.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Low Effort Day

Yesterday I went in for a surgery to take care of a sinus problem. Apparently I max'd when I should have min'd and I'm out of work until next Tuesday. The doctor prescribing a narcotic kind of lends to not going into work.

I wasn't really in shape to sit in a chair until late last night. But I had an incentive to log into EVE. Not just log into the client to receive the final cerebral accelerator from the first 7 day givaway, but to do the first day of Skilling Spree as well.

I have three accounts with characters I want to advance. The problem is, I don't fly a lot of combat ships. The first pilot I logged into, Rosewalker, usually splits his time between Stratios and Cheetahs, depending on how I feel. Fortunately, I was in the Sisters' cruiser, so I could just go out and kill one rat and receive 10,000 skill points. I flew over to a system that usually is quiet, warped to a belt, dropped a flight of sentries, and dropped two cruiser rats within a minute. Flew back. Easy peasy.

Next, I logged into Wandering Rose. I was going to swap over from her Procurer to the Stiletto I use to create bookmarks and pop a rat in a belt. Only one problem. No ammunition. So I hopped into the third ship in the station, a Prowler, and went to pick up a ship in high sec. Also, to transfer a ship to my third account.

The Jaguar is a ship I love to fly, and I had one in the station. I hopped in the Thukker-designed ship and went looking for rats to shoot, not only for Wandering Rose, but for the third account as well. An abandoned mining complex was in the system, and I found it full of targets. A Jaguar is more than a match for a handful of high sec rats, but I only killed one because I needed targets for my third account.

I logged in the last account and planned to transfer over an Arbitrator to use. Only one problem. Wandering Rose didn't have an Arbitrator in the station. Also, the event my non-combat account received was to kill five rats to collect 25,000 skill points.

I thought to myself, "Isn't the Skiff a better drone boat anyway?" Not only does the Skiff have bonused drones (50% bonus to drone damage and hit points), but a battleship-class tank as well. So I just undocked the Skiff, warped to the site, and allowed the rats to try to gank me. Stupid NPCs. The fact the combat occurred in a mining related site was an amusing end to my play session.

I'm feeling better today, but I'm still not sure I want to do much more in EVE than get my skill points over the next couple of days. Something about not wanting to lose a ship while under the influence. Although, if I pick my fights right, I shouldn't lose my ship to any rats. Killing a rat in low sec though? What can go wrong?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

EVE Online's NPC News Update For Mid-July 2019

CCP published another news post on the ongoing NPC activity in EVE Online Monday. As CCP intends to surprise players with changes here and there, the patch notes are not always complete. The empire storylines hopefully will fill in the blanks. The main focus of Monday's news: "... the Secure Commerce Commission takes extraordinary measures in response to pressure from Drifter assaults and the continuing Triglavian invasions."

SCC Confirms Limits on Nullsec Bandwidth to be "Maintained Indefinitely" Despite Fall in Drifter Assaults

The SCC has reiterated that its primary concern is to maintain the "integrity and sustainability of the fluid router network for strategic and essential communications" and noted QE 4-He resupply logistics have been put under serious and continuous strain by the Triglavian invasions. Sources within the SCC have revealed that the Triglavian attacks began to seriously affect resupply missions once the so-called "major conduits" phase of the invasion campaign began. Since the Triglavian World Arks began to spearhead the assaults, there have even been attacks on stockpiles of QE 4-Helium.

"The Drifter attacks in nullsec came close to being the tipping point for the imposition of bandwidth limits but it wasn't until we lost an entire QE 4-He production facility to a Triglavian assault that the SCC decided to act. We've since lost some other stockpiles but the DED have stepped up fleet presence at all the critical locations," said one source in conversation with Ret Gloriaxx of the Scope's Galactic Hour with Ret Gloriaxx.
So the Drifters were not the cause of the downgrading of the communications network in null security space. They just pushed the issue to the brink. The real cause are those damned Triglavians. Capsuleers need to go after those guys. If there were only some way to encourage players to participate.

AEGIS Estimates Fatalities from Triglavian Planetary and Station Raiding at "Several Hundred Thousands"

Yulai, Genesis — AEGIS Provost Marshal Kasiha Valkanir released estimates of fatal casualties running into "several hundred thousands" due to Triglavian raiding of planets, stations and other orbital bodies, at a press conference held this morning at DED Headquarters in Yulai. Collated in the course of AEGIS operations supporting, and in some cases providing, defense of stations and orbital bodies, the figures reflect the relatively successful outcomes of most orbital defensive efforts.

Questioned on the remarkably low fatality figures, Provost Marshal Valkanir conceded that "Triglavian assaults on static targets are typically aimed at specific objectives and not at inflicting high levels of casualties." Provost Valkanir went on to say, "The best assessment of AEGIS, and indeed the DED as a whole, is that Triglavian operations on planets, moons, stations, and other orbitals, are primarily focused on intelligence-gathering efforts. This does include some degree of seizing property and personnel, presumably for analysis and, in the latter case, interrogation." The Provost Marshal also confirmed that Triglavian forces attacking orbitals have included so-called "rogue drones" apparently operating under their command.

Wait, I thought the Triglavians hated the Rogue Drones. The Drone Regions, introduced in Revelations, contain no NPC-owned space but are populated by the Rogue Drones. If the Triglavians pop up in null sec in general, and the Drone Regions in particular, the environmental factors null sec residents have to face just got a lot smarter.

CONCORD Revises Casualty Estimates of Drifter Attacks in Outer Regions After SAR Missions

Drifter attacks on non-capsuleer installations appear to have preferentially targeted resource extraction colonies and facilities of various types, while secondarily mounting attacks on communications and logistics infrastructure. CONCORD has noted that it appears Drifter assaults on nullsec colonies generally stripped all resources from the target before entirely destroying the associated installations. In most cases, fatalities were total, resulting in the high numbers of dead. CONCORD has not confirmed or denied reports that in some cases there is a near total absence of corpses or biomass residue remaining amidst the destroyed infrastructure.

While there will be some relief that the death toll was not so high as first thought, the grim reality is that there has been a vast loss of life due to the Drifter attacks. While CONCORD refuses to comment or speculate beyond the facts, it has not been lost on some commentators, the Scope's Galactic Hour with Ret Gloriaxx among them, that the Triglavians have been comparatively restrained in contrast to the inhuman ruthlessness displayed by the Drifters.

The casualty count was reduced from over 10 billion dead to just over 1 billion. Still, if players are going to deal with either invading faction, the Triglavians are the most likely bet.

The other items in the news update were:

  • Confusion and Disputes Arise Over Arrests of Mikramurka Defense Officials by Matar Planetary Security
  • Federal Intelligence Office Refuses to Discuss Semiki Intrusion in Open Senate Session; Requests Closed Meeting
  • Lord Ardishapur Hails Defeat of Triglavians and Blood Raider Assaults in Mandate by Ammatar Fleet and Capsuleers
  • Caille Rogue Drone Cultural Exchange Society Vows to Continue Outreach Efforts Despite Firebombing and Intimidation
  • Intaki Syndicate to Hold Summit Meeting Discussing Nullsec FTL Comms with ORE, Thukker Tribe and "Strategic Partners"
  • Calsif Shadekior Breaks Speed Record for Solo Warp Flight from Pator to Lustrevik; Vherokior Tribe Celebrates

Of these news items, I think the most significant is the meeting between ORE, Thukker Tribe, and "Strategic Partners". I'm pretty sure this is a reference to the null sec regions "controlled" by NPC factions. The list includes:


Will we see different rules for local in sovereignty null sec vs NPC null? And might those rules extend to NPC corporations that do not own full regions like Blood Raiders, The Society of Conscious Thought, and The Sisters of EVE? And if the NPC groups manage to hang onto their communications, will CCP make the technology available to players?

The next story of interest concerns the Semiki incident. That is the system the Arataka Research Consortium operates from. The system has turned into somewhat of a test bed, so I'm interested to see what happens next, if anything.

The next story has me puzzled. What is going on with the Caille Rogue Drone Cultural Exchange Society? I have the feeling the Rogue Drones will take on at least a supporting role in the main Triglavian storyline. Or is this another player group getting props from CCP, like ARC?

Finally, Calsif Shadekior breaking a warp speed record is nice as someone who plays Mimatar from the Vherokior Tribe. But are we perhaps seeing a hint of a new, speedy shuttle or a special rig or module? I'd suggest a new type of implant, but I think that is wishful thinking.

Actually, I expect a lot of this post is wishful thinking. But from everything I've heard his year, CCP wants players to speculate. No more perfect knowledge of what's about to happen next.