Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Not So Quick Thoughts About the EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

I started writing this piece Saturday morning, after spending Friday night grabbing screenshots. I just finished writing up my views on the keynote presentation at EVE Vegas. I know the post is late. Sometimes, however, I need to get my thoughts written up on the blog. Hopefully, I still came up with something relevant.

Friday, October 25, 2019

News Drops Before The EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

CCP managed to drop some news before the beginning of the convention today. The biggest news, of course, is the announcement that EVE: Echoes will enter beta in December.
GUANGZHOU, China and REYKJAVÍK, Iceland – Oct. 24, 2019 – NetEase Games and CCP Games today announced that the open beta for EVE Echoes, the authentic EVE Online experience for mobile devices, will go live this December. Developed by NetEase Games in conjunction with CCP Games, EVE Echoes was unveiled last year and will be available to demo for the first time at EVE Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend.

In celebration of the open beta announcement, new assets, an official website, and social media channels are now live for EVE Echoes.

Venture into the depths of space with official gameplay footage here:

“We’re very excited for the first public outing of EVE Echoes, the next revolutionary step in mobile MMO gaming,” said Hilmar V. Petursson, CEO of CCP Games. “I can’t wait to see the reaction from our core PC players, who will no doubt recognize the unparalleled scale and sophisticated gameplay of EVE Online’s virtual world running through the veins of EVE Echoes.”

“CCP Games is a pioneer in space MMOs, and will make its mark on the industry even further by expanding the EVE experience to mobile with EVE Echoes,” said Ethan Wang, Vice President of NetEase, Inc. “Combining CCP’s leadership in game design with our NeoX game engine and leadership in game publishing will no doubt create a spacefaring sandbox MMO for mobile devices unlike anything seen before.”

EVE Echoes brings the vast, interstellar EVE universe from PC to the palm of your hand. Built using NetEase Games’ proprietary NeoX graphics engine, EVE Echoes stays true to CCP’s hallmark EVE Online design principles and immerses pilots in beautiful starry skies and across boundless star fields. Pilots must collect resources, manufacture items, and explore thousands of uncharted planets to write their own history in pursuit of galactic glory. A realistic social system enables players to join and lead corporations, form coalitions, capture rival territories, engage in intergalactic combat, and much more across thousands of planetary systems.
I know, copy/pasting press releases is a bad practice. Pearl Abyss purchased CCP Games for the EVE Online IP and EVE: Echoes is the first chance for the investment to pay off for the South Korean game company. I passed up a chance to sign up for a hands-on demonstration yesterday, mainly because I didn't know my schedule for Saturday. Although I don't play mobile games, I should attend one of the 30-minute demonstrations so I can report first-hand on how the game feels.

The next biggest news is CCP will release the Korean-language client for EVE Online on 14 November, the first day of the giant G-STAR 2019 conference. Making a Korean-language client once CCP Games was purchased by Peal Abyss seemed a foregone conclusion. Announcing the launch of the client at G-STAR indicates some sort of marketing push will occur in association with the announcement.

One thing I can confidently say is that those who choose to just look at the daily peak concurrent user (PCU) count will probably not notice a difference. The effect of any Korean player influx will occur during the slow, Australian time zone. An influx of 20,000 new Korean accounts could result in a rise of up to 3,000 accounts in the daily average concurrent user (ACU) number. That many new players could also result in time-zone tanking becoming a much less viable strategy.

The next set of noteworthy news is the announcement of the replacement for the Crimson Harvest this year. Gone is the tale of Bloody Omar and The Blood Raiders. Last year's event began on 23 October and ran for two weeks. This year, CCP chose to go with a much less lore-friendly title, EVE's Halloweeen Horrors. The event introduces as yet undisclosed changes to combat interceptors.
Beware of roaming wolf packs at Halloween! An upgrade to Combat Interceptors in EVE Online means more damage, more fittings and more reason to jump into these ships for some Trick or Treat action!
In a first I can recall, the holiday event will have a dedicated PvP component.
This Halloween it will definitely pay to undock and go on a spine-chilling rampage as there will be a shocking PVP event from 11:00 UTC on 29 October to 11:00 UTC on 5 November. Tune in to the EVE Vegas live stream on Twitch for more details!
Or course, the event has a daily log-in component as well.
From 11:00 UTC on 28 October to 11:00 UTC on 3 November, every pilot that logs into the game will receive rewards that range from free Skill Points to limited SKINs. We promise that there is nothing to be afraid of.
No word if the current daily skill points for NPC kills event will continue to run.

In a few hours EVE Vegas officially begins. I'll try to write up as much news as I can. I do have the disadvantage of being on-site, so I may wind up watching the VOD from CCP's Twitch channel to see what I missed.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Story Of 2019 So Far

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how data can tell a story. I began writing this post flying toward a key point in the story of New Eden: Las Vegas, Nevada. What I encounter this weekend will play a critical role in how the story turns out.

The origins of the story stretch back to late 2018 and January 2019. CCP, recognizing economic problems in the virtual word of its flagship game, EVE Online, began a series of changes to the game world to reign in the issues before they tore the game apart. Change is a part of any MMORPG. Developers are constantly assessing the state of their games and implementing new features and altering existing ones. Players typically call these things expansions, buffs, and nerfs.

Into this story comes a man. Someone who was around at the start of the in-game universe. As his company grew, he became distracted from the world he helped create chasing other dreams. But in October, the studio he ran was sold and his focus narrowed. He returned to the world he helped create. For purposes of the current story of New Eden, let’s call him Odin.

To the residents of a virtual world, the developers are gods. They have the power to turn piles of junk into gold, and beloved forms of game play into horror shows not worth engaging in anymore. In New Eden, the gods saw the amount of virtual currency flowing into the economy and declared it bad. Beginning in February, the developers began to take steps to reduce the flow of wealth into the game.

Also, in February Odin began making his presence known. He was back, and not pleased with what he saw. In addition to the faucets and sinks being too far out of balance, he saw stagnation in an important area of the universe, null security space. As he put it, the developers needed to stir up the sandbox, because the players had solved the game and "the sand in the sandbox has turned into cement."

On 28 May, CCP deployed the Invasion expansion onto Tranquility. The gods deployed the new content, while containing bugs, in such a way that each phase of the new content corresponded with lore points. Pauses to fix the bugs before deploying the next phase were built into the continuing story of the Triglavians. This content for high sec, and later low sec, was a welcome addition to EVE’s overall lackluster PvE content.

Hubris can afflict even the gods. After the careful rollout of the Triglavian invasion content, the developers rushed out content involving the Drifters to add the residents of null sec to the new state of the universe. Odin declared the beginning of “The Chaos Era.” Odin saw that part of the problem in New Eden was the early acquisition of knowledge and the greatest of the gods determined to limit any foreshadowing as much as possible.

The denizens of null sec, from the most powerful autocrat to the lowliest line member, decried the state of the Drifter content. The new release was bug-ridden, and after an initial scare, was more nuisance than something to fear. Not a good omen for the future.

In July, the gods decided to change one of the immutable laws of null sec: the way the local chat channels work. Starting on 12 July, the local chat channels acted as those in wormholes space. Instead of immediately showing when a player entered a system, players only appear when typing into the chat window. In a lore announcement of the feature to the players, the god described the length of the change as “indefinitely”. For which, I assumed the gods would evaluate the effects of the changes and, if the conditions warranted, revert the changes on the next scheduled release on 13 August.

Somewhere Loki is smiling, because the bit of chaos Odin intended to insert into null sec didn’t work well. Player versus environment activity immediately took a nosedive in null sec. PvP activity, after a relatively brief period of rising, also witnessed eclines as well. And yet, Odin and the other gods did not reset the local chat channels to their conditions on 11 July. The gods changed the world again on 13 August, and the chat system remained the same. What could have been a one-month experiment that didn’t do particularly well turned into a natural disaster of historic proportions.

As one of New Eden’s most powerful autocrats, The Mittani, once observed, EVE is ultimately a democracy. One in which players vote with their feet. In New Eden, horrible corporation or alliance leaders cannot make players stay with their organizations. Likewise, the gods of New Eden cannot make players log into their game. Unfortunately for CCP, the gods of another virtual realm, those of Activision-Blizzard, planned on opening a new, long-awaited universe called WoW Classic.

On 26 August, the number of players logging into New Eden drastically declined as dissatisfied players now had a place to which to flee. The decline continued until the gods relented and restored local chat channel functionality to null sec on 16 September.

Players are not machines that return automatically when the gods flip a switch. As of yet, player activity has not returned to June levels. PvE activity, as measured by NPC kills recorded by Dotlan, reached that level this past weekend. New Eden may see that level reached for a full month in November. PvP activity, on the other hand, has continued to decline since the return of local chat to normal. So far in October (through 23 October), player-flown ships are exploding 29.5% less often in null sec and 19% less often in low sec as compared to June.

I began writing this post over 30,000 feet above the surface of the earth. I finish, sitting just a few yards away from the stage where the story of the gods of New Eden will continue. Will CCP present a vision and content that will inspire their players and see the game climb to the levels of last year? Or will Odin continue acting on the theory that restricting the information flow to players is the best course of action for EVE Online? Sometimes, the faithful require a sign from the gods to continue their belief. We will see if the gods of New Eden agree.

Monday, October 21, 2019

EVE Vegas 2019: A Change In The Schedule

One subject we usually don't hear about at EVE Vegas is security. We might hear about a major ban discussed amongst players, but official word is usually pretty scarce. I personally suspect members of Team Security have misbehaved in the past, but this year, CCP Peligro is blaming Steven Tyler.
I understand the sentiments about Las Vegas completely. I'm looking forward to not travelling to the city next year.

But, CCP has changed the schedule for this year's event. The name of the first event on Sunday was changed from EVE Economics and Analytics to Data & Botting. The description, however, has not changed.
Join CCP Larrikin, creator and curator of the Monthly Economic Report, for a look at the economy of New Eden and a dive into some of the data that makes New Eden the living, breathing world that it is.
CCP Peligro did tweet out a teaser on Wednesday.
I intended to go to CCP Larrikin's presentation anyway. With the new change, though, accidentally oversleeping is now not an option. I also need to prepare a few things, just in case Larrikin doesn't present us any cool graphs.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Warp Speed Changes

Seriously CCP? A special patch to implement warp speed changes to cruisers, battlecruisers, and battleships instead of putting the changes in the regularly scheduled patch on 8 October?

Perhaps I should give CCP the benefit of the doubt. If the developers had to deploy a patch to fix/mitigate the deep safe spot bug, maybe they accidentally left the warp speed changes in the build. But this is smelling like CCP trying to advance the narrative of the so-called "Chaos Era" by instituting a change in the middle of the month, just as they did in September.

Whatever the reason, I should note the changes.
Every Cruiser, Battlecruiser and Battleship now warps faster than before. Ship Warp Speed attributes have been increased for the following Ship Groups:
  • Cruiser increased to 4 (was 3)
  • T2 Cruiser increased to 4.5 (was 3.3)
  • Battlecruiser increased to 3.5 (was 2.7)
  • T2 Battlecruiser increased to 4 (was 3)
  • Battleship increased to 3 (was 2)
  • T2 Battleship increased to 3.5 (was 2.2)
Travelling via autopilot will also be faster now with the warp in distance changed from 15km to 10km.
Military experts have determined that using auto-pilot is, to use a technical term, A TRAP!!! Please don't do it.

I guess I shouldn't complain about all these ships I used to outrun in my Procurer with the aid of warp speed and agility implants becoming much faster than the 3.28 AU/sec I travel in warp. Judging by the numbers, the hunters need all the help they can get.

Since the lifting of the blackout on 16 September, ship losses have continued to decline in both null and low security space. The average number of ships killed each day in the first half of October declined 11.2% in null sec and 4.9% in low sec as compared to the first half of September.

Looking at the statistics, I have to wonder if the cyno changes really had that big an impact on the amount of PvP occurring in New Eden.  The end of the blackout definitely provided more targets in space.

The amount of NPCs killed in null sec has tripled from 1-15 October compared to 1-15 September. More targets in space means more player ships dying, right? I'll have to ask some PvP types at EVE Vegas why the number of ship exploding in space is declining instead.

I won't complain too much about CCP making the job of hunting me in a low sec belt mining in a Procurer easier. With the recent changes in Triglavian content, I pretty much mine exclusively in high sec now. These changes are just another reminder to not go back into dangerous space.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

EVE Vegas 2019: My Tentative Schedule

The final EVE Vegas is next week. Say what you will about the smaller community team, but they published the convention schedule over a week in advance, which is way faster than I'm used to. As I usually do when given the chance, I'll peruse the document and pick out the presentations I will attend.

Thursday, October 24

18:00 - Open Comms. As usual, the Open Comms show is planning on streaming on-site. With a new venue comes new rules. Hopefully, the crew doesn't get kicked out of wherever they stream from.

Friday, October 25

16:00 - Welcome to EVE Vegas. The official opening of the convention. Pretty much a must-see for those planning to actually attend events and not just party all weekend. With CCP Falcon stuck in Iceland, CCP Dopamine and CCP Convict will assume the hosting duties. Don't screw up guys.

17:00 - EVE Keynote. CCP's Creative Director for EVE Online, CCP Burger, will host the keynote presentation, "where we'll take a look at the past and present of New Eden, and maybe even a little glimpse into the future." While the second presentation, what CCP presents during this hour could determine how many people pay attention to the rest of the scheduled content.

18:00 - EVE Core Gameplay Update. This presentation fills me with a touch of dread. Not because CCP Rise doesn't know his stuff (he does), but because of the description of the event.
CCP Rise discusses ships, modules, structures and much more in this talk focused on EVE’s core gameplay for established players.
Watch the official forums and EVE sub-Reddit explode after this presentation. I don't have a prediction whether the explosion will consist of glitter or fissile material, but I'm sure the figure "20%" will appear often.

Saturday, October 26

11:00 - The EVE Friendship Machine. I'm picking CCP Ghost's presentation over Kyle Saltz' Providence, NRDS, Culture, and Conflict.
Everyone knows that the best ship is Friendship. Join CCP Ghost as we take a dive into the data surrounding player behavour, and what makes the greatest community in online gaming tick.
CCP Ghost's presentation should provide a good window into CCP's view of how the game operates.

12:00 - The EVE Variety Hour. CCP Paradox and his preview of "what the EVE Development Team are currently working on, and what's in the pipeline for the near future!" gets the nod over Greygal's Anyone Can FC, Even You! Sorry Greygal, but you drew some pretty heavy counter-programming in CCP Paradox. The EVE Friendship Machine Roundtable finished a distant third. I generally don't like roundtables.

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - EVE Echoes, An Update! I pretty much have to attend the presentation on the new EVE mobile game under development with Netease. Those wishing to hobnob with such luminaries as Open Comm's Dreydan and the space pope, Max Singularity, will probably find them in the other presentation at 1400, Bigger Than Thera: Imaging M87's Supermassive Black Hole. The EVE Variety Hour Roundtable is the third event offered during the time slot.

15:00 - Return to the Moon. Speaking of Max Singularity, he is presenting at 1500.
An overview of the current outlook for America’s plan to return to the Moon. Including plans using the SLS Rockets, Orion Capsule, commercial partners, and the new Lunar orbiting space station known as “Gateway”.
Poor CCP Filipp. His presentation, DirectX 12 - Past, Present, And Future!, received a bad draw. CCP Rise's EVE Core Gameplay Update Roundtable rounds out the offerings in this slot.

16:00 - The Glorious CCP AMA - EVE Vegas Edition. I have the feeling I may head up to my room for a nap after The Space Pope's presentation. But if I do go to a presentation at 16:00, I'll wind up attending the AMA. ISD Tipene's talk, Eleven Years A Volunteer I'll leave to others.

Sunday, October 27

11:00 - EVE Economics and Analytics. Whoever puts the schedules together really hates the economics guys. At EVE Vegas, CCP Larrikin gets the job of presenting on a Sunday morning after the big party. Apparently, a lot of people are on call, as CCP Tuxford and CCP Chimichanga give a talk on Putting the Internet in Internet Spaceships. Despite what the schedule indicates, the presenters work for CCP and are not players. CCP Filipp & CCP Vertex round out the time slot with the Direct X 12 Roundtable.

12:00 - A History of EVE's Most Popular Ships & Doctrines. The first time slot without a CCP presentation, I'm leaning toward attending Elise Randolph's talk.
EVE Online has a robust player-made history, but what was it like the be a capsuleer back then? From Cavalry Ravens to Caracals, we'll be looking at just that! The history of EVE through the lens of the most popular ships at the time, and the circumstances that allowed them to have such prolific success.
However, my old alliance leader Johnny Splunk is giving a presentation called Too Many FCs that has me intrigued.
How many capsuleers does it take to undock? Learn about a new experience where you can crew a ship with other players. Will you cooperate or lead a mutiny?
Rounding out the surprisingly strong time slot is the Putting the Internet in Internet Spaceships Roundtable with CCP Tuxford and CCP Chimichanga.

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Art of EVE. Looking at the description, the Art Department's presentation, given by CCP Myrkur and CCP BlueScreen, looks like a can't miss event.
Join the Audio and Graphics team as we have a closer look at the visuals of EVE Online, from spaceships and visual effects to character art, and everything in between. We'll be looking at recently released content as well as what we have upcoming in the near future. Finally we might have a peek at some ongoing R&D projects developing within art, too!
Brave's Dunk Dinkle will give a presentation, How to Lead Without Being a CEO Part Deux, a follow-up to his successful presentation from last year. And finally, CCP Ghost and CCP Larriken will host the final round table of the weekend, EVE Economics and Analytics Roundtable.

15:00 - Mildly Interesting Things & Such. The convention winds down with newly hired community developer CCP Convict describing what he found while rummaging through CCP's records. For those interesting in tournaments, the Invasion Tournament Finals - EVE Vegas will occur during this time slot as well.

16:00 - Closing Ceremonies

I have to say, for the first time in years, I will attend a CCP-run event where I can see myself sitting in presentations all day. While not a fan of Las Vegas, I'm looking forward to the final EVE Vegas. Now, if CCP will give us some good news to get excited about.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hurricane Hilmar: Why Look At The Numbers

Over the past three months or so, I spent way too much time looking at EVE Online data trying to determine the impact of the so-called "Chaos Era" and, up until now, it's major feature, Hurricane Hilmar. Officially, the institution of wormhole-style delayed local was called Blackout, but looking at the effects of the feature reminded me more of a natural disaster than something that caused players to run around New Eden like chickens with their heads cut off.

I guess that's why I spent so much time looking at the data. Yes, I got quite a few blog posts out of the situation. The data can tell a story. The problem is the data can tell any story if a person is willing to torture the numbers enough.
Any forum warrior or Reddit shit poster can spout off about what he/she thinks about CCP's actions. What I hopefully did over the past few months is collect the data readily available to players and connect the dots in such a way to provide some context to the whole situation. I doubt I imparted any wisdom in the coverage of Hurricane Hilmar. After all, stating CCP needs a strong winter expansion I think is pretty self-evident. Even those who disagree privately probably would look forward to more and better content.

Another reason for exploring and writing about the data was selfish. I never looked into the economy of EVE as closely as during the time the hurricane ravaged across null sec. I think I know a little better what to look for the the marco economy of New Eden. Of course, people don't make ISK off the macro economy. But who knows? Maybe one day I can earn some ISK off this blogging thing.

The third reason for diving into the data is that CCP really did make Hurricane Hilmar the focus of EVE for that last few months. As someone who doesn't play in null sec, the only angle I could find to write about the subject was the numbers. After choosing the angle, I just needed to describe what I saw in the data, not why null sec residents reacted they way they did.

The final reason for writing all the articles is that I really couldn't believe that CCP was doing what the numbers showed me. The more I stared at the numbers and discussed them with others, the more I fell into disbelief. Frankly, the fact that the blackout did not end on 13 August left me dumbfounded. After the logical date for reverting local back to normal passed, I kept staring at the trends in the data as if I were viewing a train wreck in real time.

Having started the trip down the rabbit hole, I can't stop yet. I still need to document the recovery, as well as finally look into why CCP made the changes that led to such a drastic drop in player activity. I also have to write a post about the biggest statistic of all: CCP's revenue during Hurricane Hilmar. I can't write that post until the Pearl Abyss investors call for the third quarter, which I believe will occur sometime around 8 November if history is any guide. Hopefully CCP will come announce cool new content at EVE Vegas next week that will knock talk of statistics to the back pages of EVE media. No matter what, though, I need to finish what I started, no matter what I find.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Hurricane Hilmar, The September MER, And Economic History

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.

- The Nosy Gamer, "Hurricane Hilmar", 11 September 2019

The monthly economic report for September came out Friday and I am still scrambling to catch up. I published a look at the NPC and player kill data for known space on Saturday, then spent most of the rest of the weekend either looking at data or finishing up my online class. Not a lot of time for playing video games, but a lot of time considering the EVE Online economy.

Two of CCP's goals are reducing the money supply and bringing the faucets and sinks into balance. In September, the money supply shrank another 4.3%, from 1,288 trillion ISK down to 1,232.8 trillion ISK. Going back to the end of June, the amount of ISK in the New Eden economy shrank 122.6 trillion, a 9% reduction during the so-called "Chaos Era".

Bounties, for the second month in a row, remained the second largest ISK faucet behind commodities. The gap, however, shrank to 354 billion ISK as commodity income fell nearly 3.2 trillion ISK, or 13.4% in September. Most of the decrease occurred in wormholes, as income in that area of space fell by over 2 trillion ISK. Overall, ISK faucets fell another 9% in September. Between June and September, the amount of ISK flowing into the game on a monthly basis dropped by 31.8%.

In September, currency sinks slowed down even faster than faucets. August saw an increase in taxes and fees that players apparently partially mitigated by training the Accounting and Broker Relations skills, which also received boosts two months ago. Still, the 19% reduction in taxes and broker fees collected was not all players training up their market skills. Overall, ISK faucets removed 18.3% less ISK in September than the month before. Going back to the beginning of summer, players payed 10% less in taxes and fees in

Looking at the summary data Friday was an "Oh, shit!" moment. In a month that historically sees relative stability (an average -0.2% decline from 2016-2018), the New Eden economy contracted by 12.6% in September 2019. All the racket readers may hear in the background are talking heads moving goalposts.

With Hurricane Hilmar (the institution of delayed, wormhole-style local in null security space) over on 16 September, the time came to look at the damage to the economy. From June to September, the economy had shrunk by 24.9%. The average during the summers of 2016-2018 was a decline of 10.3%. A decline so large I started wondering about the worst economic quarters in EVE history.

The third quarter of 2019, a period dominated by Hurricane Hilmar, was the sixth quarter going back to 2004 which experienced an economic contraction greater than 10%. Of the six quarters, four had experienced a quarter with over 50% growth immediately preceding the decline. The top three declines in quarterly economic activity were all related to Upwell structures.

The quarter with the largest contraction, Q1 2019, immediately followed the Onslaught expansion in November 2018 that introduced three new Upwell structures: the Ansiblex Jump Gate, Pharolux Cyno Beacon, and Tenebrex Cyno Jammer. The resulting massive infrastructure spending by the major null sec alliances in Q4 2018 resulted in a massive decline in economic activity in the first three months of 2019. The next largest decline, 36.7% in Q1 2018, followed the Lifeblood expansion released at the end of October 2017. The fourth quarter of 2017 witnessed the introduction of active moon mining, with refineries required for fracking operations to extract moon minerals. Once again, a massive infrastructure operation saw a decline in the economy after the frenetic activity to replace corp and alliance level income ended. The final Upwell-related decline occurred in Q4 2016. The Citadel expansion in April 2016 introduced Astrahus, Fortizar, and Keepstar Upwell structures to the game, and players began a massive effort to replace their existing POS.

The fifth largest quarterly contraction, the second quarter of 2016, was also a response to new content added to EVE in the previous quarter. In Februrary 2016, CCP not only introduced the skill trading system, but also seeded the Force Auxiliary skills for all races as well as the skill books for Light & Support Fighter skills.

The last quarter with a double-digit contraction in economic activity, Q4 2009, is somewhat of a mystery. Not only was the quarter the only one on the list that followed a quarter that also had an economic decline, but the quarter was part of EVE Online's first recession. The closest I can come to an explanation is the length of time between the two expansions in 2009. The first, Apocrypha, introduced wormholes to the game on 10 March 2009. The second, Dominion, replaced the old POS-based sovereignty system in null sec on 1 December. Perhaps, with the release of the news of the system change on 9 September, the null sec powers of the time delayed their fighting until the new sov system was in place.

Returning to the present day, what influenced the 15.5% contraction in the quarter just passed? The recent Invasion expansion launched on 28 May only resulted in a 1.1% increase in the economy in the second quarter. Indeed, if all RMT tokens (Daily Alpha Injectors, Large Skill Injectors, Multiple Pilot Training Certificates, Pilot's Body Resculpt Certificates, Skill Extractors, and Small Skill Injectors) are removed from consideration, the economy in the second quarter actually contracted by 1%. The simplest explanation is the content in the form of Hurricane Hilmar drove the lower economic activity.

What is going to happen in October? I doubt we will see growth matching the average of the three years, if only because The Crimson Harvest had such an outsized impact in 2018. A 2% expansion in October would prove a good outcome. My only concern about such a move is the weakness in the market for the RMT tokens. If The Crimson Harvest event comes back in the next week, the numbers would go much higher. In other words, I honestly don't know. CCP currently is doing its best to keep players in the dark about what to expect in the future. This month, reading the economic data does not help shed light.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The EVE Online Blackout: September, The Curtain Lifts

September saw CCP lift the Blackout on null sec communications on the 16th of the month. Looking at the data is a bit of a problem as cynosural field changes arrived with the 9 September release. Still, the start of October is the first time we get to assess the damage done by Hurricane Hilmar and see how EVE players begin to recover from the developer-created disaster. With the early release of the monthly economic report for September yesterday, here's a rare Saturday post looking at the number of NPC and player-flown ships destroyed last month. Hopefully, the numbers below will serve as a useful supplement to all the economic analysis sure to pour out of the EVE media over the next few days.

NPC Deaths

First, a look at the top 10 regions in New Eden for NPC kills.

Data Source: Dotlan Maps

Even with normal local available for half the month, we can see more ratting activity in null sec. Deklein and Cobalt Edge joined Delve in the top 10 regions with the most NPC kills. Perhaps more notable was the 41.9% drop in NPCs killed in Delve in September. We will need to wait for the release of the September MER to see if The Imperium shifted its focus toward mining.

The daily average of NPCs destroyed by players possibly met the expectations of a lot of players. The number of NPCs in high security space decreased and the amount in null sec increased. What I think many players will find surprising is the size of the changes. In September, players killed nearly 936,000 fewer NPCs in high sec as compared to the month before. The corresponding increase in null security space was just short of 178,000 NPCs per day.

When comparing the statistics from 2019 vs the average number of NPCs killed from 2016-2018, the numbers were a lot worse. In the previous three years, the number of NPCs killed in all three security bands increased at least 14% from August to September, In 2019, the number of NPCs killed in high sec fell by 24.1% instead. While null sec did see an increase in ratting activity, the increase was only 40% that of the average of the three previous years.

With CCP restoring local in null sec back to normal on 16 September, many players expected an exodus of players from high sec back to null. Looking at the number of NPCs destroyed both before and after the event suggests that did not occur. While the daily average number of rats killed in null sec jumped an average of almost 1.68 million per day, the number of NPCs destroyed by players in high security space only fell a little more than 5,500 per day. Even including low sec, the drop of NPCs killed in empire space decreased by 21,000 per day, or 1/80th the increase in NPC kills in high sec. Clearly, a mass exodus of empire PvE players to null sec causing the increase in activity in the second half of September did not occur.

The individual monthly breakdowns are useful, but the question I get is, "What was the overall effect?" As one might expect, the regions that maintained normal local didn't receive much of an impact. While the event ran, empire space, consisting of the high and low security bans, saw increased activity. But once local was restored to null sec, activity returned to normal levels. In high sec, the average number of NPCs destroyed each day rose by 247 from June to September. Applying the average monthly changes in NPC kills from 2016-2018 to the actual number of NPCs killed in June would have resulted in a 2% drop. Null sec is the opposite. Over the last three years, null sec has averaged a very slight increase in NPC kills between June and September. In 2019, the decrease was 60.3%, or over 3.5 million fewer NPCs killed each day.

Player Ship Deaths

First, a look at the top 10 regions for player ship losses in September.

Data Source: Dotlan Maps

Once again, Detroid was the only null sec region on the list of top 10 regions for ship kills. An interesting development was that with only 1 more player ship loss in Detroid in September, the region jumped from 10th to 5th in the rankings.

If the numbers for NPCs dying were bad, the number of players dying throughout New Eden was a virtual drought. Overall, 5,857 fewer player ships died on average each day in September as compared to August. The decline was spread throughout all three security bands, with nearly 3,200 fewer player ships exploding in high sec, almost 1,100 in low sec, and over 1,500 in null sec. Even accounting for the extra day in August, September still witnessed over 175,000 fewer ships dying in New Eden than the month before.

The results in September also went against the trend of the last three years. Between 2016-2018, ship losses in both null sec and high sec would increase 4.0% to 4.5% with a very slight drop occurring in low sec. Instead, all three security bands experienced double-digit declines, with the drop in high sec reached almost 30%.

A look at ship losses after the end of the blackout might surprise some players. The number of player ship losses decreased outside of high sec in the second half of September. Low sec witnessed a decrease of 4.6% while null sec saw a 6.8% decline in player ships exploding. Apparently, the cyno changes had a bigger negative effect on PvP than changing how local worked in null sec.

The picture of PvP in New Eden during the summer of 2019 was pretty bleak. Not so much for both security bands in empire space. Yes, both high sec (-8.1%) and low security space (-17.9%) saw drops in the frequency player-operated ships disappeared in a blinding flash of light. The dip in the low sec numbers is even greater than the average over the previous three years. But null sec experienced a decline of 22.6% in the average number of players killed in September compared to the beginning of summer (or winter for those in the Southern Hemisphere). Perhaps more concerning, the number of ships exploding actually went down in the second half of September.

Final Analysis

I think the most important takeaway from the Dotlan data on NPC kills and player deaths is that the effects of the two-month implementation of delayed local in null sec will linger for months to come. Just because CCP flips a switch doesn't mean players who left the game due to a feature will return. As we saw with the war declaration system prior to the changes over the past year, players who disengage with EVE often don't come back.

I don't want to go too far beyond what the numbers in this post show. But one aspect I think is important is that null sec PvP took a giant hit with the blackout. I created one last graph to drive home the point.

This post is a quantitative examination of the activity in New Eden in September. Perhaps the quality of the fights players experience improved as the generation of kill mails slowed. From what I can tell, however, after an increase in July, the number of players dying in null sec decreased as the prey increasingly stayed docked up.

Looking into the future, I can safely predict the number of NPCs dying in New Eden will drastically increase, especially in null security space. An increase of 75% is entirely in the realm of possibility, with an outside chance of a doubling of NPCs killed. The number of player ships dying is a different story.

I want to predict that CCP is going to announce a new expansion that will get everyone excited and out in space blowing each other up. With the "Chaos Era" philosophy in play, I don't think that will occur. I'll try to remain positive and say that the number of ships exploding will increase in October but won't increase as much as the average increase from 2016-2018.

So overall, I predict a lot more explosions in October than in September. Now, if CCP will help me out and start up the hype train for an expansion launching on 3 December.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Amarr and Minmatar Militias Unite

Opposing factional warfare sides working together is not unheard of. That said, giving each other control of your low sec factional warfare agent systems I think is a first in EVE Online history.

The following message was posted to both the official EVE Online forums and to the EVE Online sub-Reddit.  I post the message here because I don't want to lose such an extraordinary message. Plus, the effort might prove interesting to non-EVE players.

Today will be, we hope, a milestone to avoid the gravestone of our own corner of space.

The majority of Amarr and Minmatar Faction Warfare players agreed through their corps and alliances to lock down low-sec mission agents by swapping ownership of the systems where the latter are. The agreement comes into effect today and diplomacy is still ongoing to add more logos to the document above even at the temporary expanse of some of our RP traditions.

For the context, a FW Matari pilot can’t dock in an Amarr owned system and therefore can’t use the TLF mission agents there. And vice-versa : an FW Amarr capsuleer can’t dock and use 24th Imperial Crusade agents in a Minmatar controlled system. Only will remain the High Sec agents with their lower payout, ending in practice FW missions as an isk printing machine.

This decision doesn’t come lightly as it was our main source of income.

But those missions came at a price :

  • LP obtained through pvp and plexing became worthless market wise because devalued by the amount of LP gained and sold thanks to missions.
  • Faction Warfare was becoming more and more absurd with half of the militias just being pure pve/puller alts switching sides according to the market. The fate of the warzone was decided by the LP market, crashing and recovering : the so-called pendulum.
  • Faction Warfare missions were originally made easier to encourage people to run them in PVP fits and create interactions. Those missions have been since long min/maxed with insta-warp Jackdaws or bombers creating zero content.
  • People just kept leaving Faction Warfare only leaving an alt in both militias. Staying true to your side is a counter-productive strategy at the moment.

This experience will run provisionally for three months to collect data and draw attention to the FW and Low Sec situation.

Deleting missions on the long run is not a shared opinion. Most players want a rework of the missions to integrate them truly in the pvp lifestyle of Low Sec and FW. Waiting for the end of time and this rework, we decided to take the matter in our own hands.

What we are doing is the FW equivalent of asking Null Sec alliances to voluntarily unanchor their keepstars to fight super proliferation. But we will do it.
This decision is just the tip of a cross faction discussion which has been ongoing for months on a FW Discord. You can find this Discord and all the votes there : FW Discord. You are welcome to join it.

See you to pvp in a farmer free warzone we hope,
What metrics could the FW players look at to judge the effect of their efforts? I can think of three. The first is the number of ship killed in low sec. The second is the prices of various items found in the loyalty point stores of the 24th Imperial Crusade and Tribal Liberation Force, the two NPC corporations that supply FW players with items. The final metric is the ISK sink for loyalty point stores found in the monthly economic report.

Three major factors will complicate any such analysis. The first is New Eden's recovery from Hurricane Hilmar. Players will find themselves digging out from that event for months. The second is the changes in which ships can fit cynosural field generators. We really don't know what effect that will have on the amount of PvP in low sec. The third, of course, is that all of the farmers will just go to the Caldari-Gallente war zone and continue their ISK making ways there.

Whether the effort succeeds or fails, I do have to give mad props to those making the effort. Maybe CCP will finally push factional warfare fixes up their priority list. But I doubt it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

An Unusual Announcement

I don't think EVE Online did well in September. The final NPC and ship kill data is now available and I'm making graphs and writing a post about what I see. But before I could start typing, CCP made what I consider an unusual announcement.


We’re super happy to announce that due to popular demand, the Skilling Spree is back!

As of today’s daily downtime, pilots will be able to earn up to 50,000 additional skill points per day by taking part in the Skilling Spree and completing challenges.

Each day, pilots will receive one of three randomly selected challenges at daily downtime that offer either 10,000, 25,000 or 50,000 skill points as a reward for destroying NPC vessels.

If the challenge is completed successfully, the skill points will be rewarded, and the pilot will receive a new challenge at the next daily downtime.

If the challenge is not completed successfully, it will be replaced by another that's randomly selected during the next daily downtime at 11:00 UTC.

Pilots across New Eden are eligible for these challenges regardless of clone state, so there’s never been a better time to lock and load, and head on out into space to earn some extra skill points!
"What is so unusual about the announcement?" you may reasonably ask. This simple announcement of an in-game promotion is missing one standard item: an end date.

If this is another stupid application of "Chaos Era" thinking, making players guess when the feature will expire, I will scream. Another popular event, The Crimson Harvest, usually begins in October. I'm guessing some brilliant soul figures that publishing the end date for this new promotion would tip off when The Crimson Harvest will begin. Can't have that, can we?

Or perhaps someone at CCP wants to run this new "Skilling Spree" for over a month and doesn't want to face a player backlash. One thing I'm fairly sure of is that since CCP Falcon wrote the article, the omission probably wasn't just a mistake. Probably.

Whatever CCP's plans, we'll find out in a few weeks, either through an announcement at EVE Vegas or through the normal course of events. For this announcement, I think CCP is taking the concept of keeping players in the dark just a little too far.