Sunday, December 27, 2020

Cloud Imperium Games 2019 Financial Statement

On Christmas Eve's Eve, Cloud Imperium Games released a financial statement covering the year 2019. Now, some might find wonder if the maker of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 has something to hide. For purposes of this post, who cares? We have information and perhaps most importantly, graphs. So let's dig in.

First, the report is not a formal financial report. The numbers are dumbed down for the average person to read. Hopefully that includes the folks in the r/StarCitizen sub-Reddit, but only time will tell. In the words of CIG's Chief Financial Officer Simon Elms:

It is that time of year again to set out our Accounting for the 2019 Financial Year, adopting the same format as prior years and following the same simple cost accounting rules. This means without the requisite formats and disclosures required in our financial statements and without revenue recognition adjustments or intellectual property amortization entries.

The aim of the Accounting continues to be simplicity and understandability for the average reader, showing “income,” net of sales taxes, as invoiced or accrued, and costs as incurred, adding capital expenditure as “spent.”

But using the numbers our auditors have reviewed and verified as part of their audit work relating to this financial year.

Perhaps now is a good time to explain what a capital expenditure (CapEx) is. According to Investopedia:

Capital expenditures (CapEx) are funds used by a company to acquire, upgrade, and maintain physical assets such as property, plants, buildings, technology, or equipment. CapEx is often used to undertake new projects or investments by a company. Making capital expenditures on fixed assets can include repairing a roof, purchasing a piece of equipment, or building a new factory. This type of financial outlay is also made by companies to maintain or increase the scope of their operations.

What CIG is doing sounds like the company is trying to make accounting practices designed to satisfy tax laws more understandable. Going back to the Investopedia article, the difference between capital and operational expenditures is:

Capital expenditure should not be confused with operating expenses (OpEx). Operating expenses are shorter-term expenses required to meet the ongoing operational costs of running a business. Unlike capital expenditures, operating expenses can be fully deducted on the company's taxes in the same year in which the expenses occur.

In terms of accounting, an expense is considered to be CapEx when the asset is a newly purchased capital asset or an investment that has a life of more than one year, or which improves the useful life of an existing capital asset. If, however, the expense is one that maintains the asset at its current condition, such as a repair, the cost is typically deducted fully in the year the expense is incurred.

With an explanation of CapEx out of the way, the next subject is Cloud Imperium's overview of 2019. I'll quote the section in full:

The 2019 accounting shows Cloud Imperium continued on its growth path with another record-breaking year for new customers and community engagement. The additional security afforded by the minority investment received in 2018 allowed the group to plan and invest more for the future with a much needed upgrade of its UK offices and the acquisition of a minority stake in Turbulent Inc, Star Citizen’s Online and Publishing platform partner, to further strengthen and secure that relationship. 2019 saw an increase in the “nuts and bolts” infrastructure of the business to accommodate the planned growth, and a step up in the Community and Marketing operations, particularly in the UK, with a very successful CitizenCon being held there this year.

Towards the end of the year, the 2018 investors exercised their pre-agreed option to extend their investment, adding a further $17.25M to the Group’s reserves to pave the way for further expansion and funds to market and promote the ground-breaking projects we are undertaking.

Financial documents often tend to put the best spin possible on a company. Before examining negatives, though, looking at the positives is in order. After all, CIG did have a record-breaking year for income generation.

Source: Cloud Imperium Games, captured 26 Dec 20

Overall, Cloud Imperium Games raised $60.7 million in 2019, a 24.1% increase over 2018. The amount brought in by pledges increased by 26%, from $37.8 million to $47.4 million. CIG defines the "Pledges/Counter" amount as:

This line is taken directly from our daily published Funding Stats Counter, showing the net receipts from our backers and customers. However due to exchange differences and small items that are not included in the counter, such as collected shipping costs on physical goods, the counter does not completely represent all revenue received. Other than subscriptions (referred below) these differences are included in the final income line, to give an accurate representation of total revenue received.

CIG raised an additional $13 million in subscriptions, partnerships with hardware and software vendors, sponsorship income, currency exchange differences, and other items.

The unspoken part of CIG's financial report is the rate at which the company burns through its funding.

Source: Cloud Imperium Games, captured 26 Dec 20

CIG described the above chart as follows:

This represents capital expenditure in areas such as hardware and software, fixtures, fittings, office refurbishment and build out. It is heavily influenced by staff numbers and hardware renewals as well as server upgrades and other infrastructure costs required for the efficient deployment of the game.

Whilst this is capital in nature, it is included in this accounting as it represents an outlay for the materials required to develop and publish the game. Since the total capital expenditure amount is included here, we do not list the depreciation portion of such expenditure subsequently in the cost.

Combining the information from the income and spending charts leads to some conclusions that CIG and/or Star Citizen fans may not like.

CIG's spending continues to outstrip funding. In 2019, CIG increased spending by 25.4%, up to $70.4 million. In 2018, CIG's spending exceeded revenue by $7.2 million. In 2019, the difference expanded to $9.7 million. So the record income could not keep up with the record outgoes.

The fans no longer totally fund the project. Through the end of 2019, CIG had raised $260.8 million in pledges (game & ship sales) and an additional $18.1 million in subscriptions. The $278.9 million from fans fell $38.3 million short of the $319.9 million CIG spent on developing and marketing Star Citizen and Squadron 42 through the end of last year. 

CIG is reliant on outside investors to complete the project. Pledges and subscriptions were not CIG's only source of income. When adding in all other sources excluding outside investors, CIG raised $317.2 million during its first 7 years of existence. As mentioned previously, CIG has spent $319.9 million through the end of 2019. What is keeping CIG in the black at this point is the combined investment of $63.25 million into CIG by Clive and Keith Calder. Presumably, CIG used $2.7 million of the Calder's funds to keep the Star Citizen/Squadron 42 project running in 2019.

CIG will need to raise at least $150 million to $200 million more from the end of 2020 to complete Star Citizen and Squadron 42. I tend to underestimate CIG's spending on the Star Citizen project. At the end of the first quarter of 2020, I estimated that CIG had spent almost $320 million, a figure that CIG reached at the end of 2019. If the 2019 gross burn rate of almost $6 million/month remains constant, CIG will spend between $210-$220 million in the years 2020-2022, assuming the game launches at the end of 2022. But with the November announcement that CIG & Turbulent are launching a new studio to support Star Citizen, the burn rate is likely to increase.

Source: RobertsSpaceIndistries.Com captured on 26 Dec 20

Besides the need to raise staggering amounts of money to complete the games under development, does the financial information published by CIG tell the reader anything useful going forward? Nothing solid, I'm afraid. With the pledge amount in 2020 at approximately $70 million, any type of cost containment puts CIG in much better financial shape. But the question going forward is whether CIG can hold expenses down while continuing to raise large amounts of money from players. But we won't know the answer to that question until CIG publishes 2020 financial data at the end of 2021.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Travelling Through A Bad Neighborhood

December has not been a good month for me in real life. Escaping into video games doing mindless tasks helps get my mind off things. When I mean mindless, I mean something that takes very little attention. I started extracting one of my alts from Triglavian space and I stopped someplace in XIX space. I had a little trouble concentrating.

Monday night I decided to get my alt back home to Heimatar. I logged into the game in the system of V-4DBR in Detorid. 

The Way Home

I started with the idea of using wormholes to get home. The system had a signature, so I probed it down and found a wormhole. I jumped in, bookmarked the hole, and flew off and established a bookmark. Easy peasy. Then I looked up the wormhole name in Dotlan, J145510. Another first for me in EVE. I'd never been in a Class 6 wormhole before. I didn't know they'd open directly to k-space. 

I started probing down signatures and found two wormholes, including the one I'd entered the system through. So I warped to the unknown wormhole ... and it wasn't there. I guess the owners were doing a little cleanup. Knowing the inhabitants were actually busy and alert, I decided to go back to Detorid. On my way out of the hole, I took a screenshot to record the activity. 

Back to k-space

Two Tempests and a Naglfar. Plus whatever cloaky strategic cruisers were providing support. Leaving the hole was probably wise, especially since my ship had no weapons.

Next, I went looking for signatures and jumped into B-5UFY. The only signature in system was a relic site. Normally I would have ran the site, but I wanted to get done that night. The next system, PQRE-W, didn't contain any sigs.

At this time, I was two jumps out of Wicked Creek and decided to find out just how empty null sec really is. So, in empty systems, I jumped gate to gate. In systems with another pilot, I went ahead and would bounce to a belt before jumping through.

The trip was pretty uneventful. I only saw one ship, and Ares, on a gate. The Gallente interceptor decloaked first and was aligned and warping off by the time I dropped my cloak. I did see Tank CEO fly through a system after I bounced to a belt. Tank CEO is a legendary figure from the beginning of EVE who had a classic, carebear encounter. Selecting the shortest route didn't run me into any obvious problems, although I did adjust my route to avoid R-3FBU in Scalding Pass. I didn't want to run into anyone from Warlords of the Deep. Some might remember the alliance from Alliance Tournament XIII, where they were stripped of the title due to collusion with Camel Empire.

Overall, an interesting way to spend a couple of hours, even if all I did was fly home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The October 2020 Monthly Economic Report

Trying to write about EVE Online's monthly economic report is a bit of a challenge. The posts can read very much alike after a few months. I didn't produce one last month due to that problem. But the end of 2020 has some similarities with the second half of 2019. 

In 2019, a massive nerf to null sec PvE preceded the launch of WoW Classic in August 2019. The slowdown in activity as players returned to the classic game not only helped slow revenue growth for the third quarter but led to a 16.4% decline in quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) revenue in the fourth quarter of 2019 as well. In 2020, nerfs to null sec income such as the Dynamic Bounty System, the updated Encounter Surveillance System are too new to show up in the statistics, though the effects of the ore/mineral redistribution are now visible. And delays in software releases meant that the new WoW expansion Shadowlands didn't release until last week. To top off the comparison, one of the most anticipated games of the past two years, Cyberpunk 2077, goes live on 10 December.

First, let's look at the money supply. In the past, I've just looked at the change. October's 1.4% increase doesn't necessarily mean players face inflationary pressure. A more accurate indicator of inflation due to CCP's monetary policy is the amount of ISK per character or ISK per actual player. But what the fluctuations in New Eden's money supply can show is player engagement.

The key statistic determining whether the money supply increases or decreases over the course of a month is the active ISK delta. The formula is:

Active ISK Delta = (ISK on characters returning to EVE) - (ISK on characters leaving EVE) - (ISK removed from characters by CCP)

When a large amount of players leave EVE without a corresponding number of players returning to EVE, the ISK supply decreases. When players are satisfied with the game, less ISK leaves the game and the ISK supply rises. And when a major event like an expansion or some other significant content drop occurs, current players stay, former players return, and the value of the active ISK delta is a positive number, thus expanding the money supply more than just the normal faucet vs sink calculation.

One other fact about the active ISK delta is relevant to the following analysis. An account is considered inactive for purposes of the money supply if the player does not log it in for 30 consecutive days. So, for example, if a player left EVE to play WoW: Shadowlands, the player won't count as leaving the game until December.

Looking at the active ISK delta really shows the difference between a major null sec war and 2019's Blackout. With both the war and Blackout beginning in July, August was the first month players leaving the game would impact the money supply. In August 2020, the active ISK delta was -15.3 trillion ISK, compared to the -43.1 trillion figure in August 2019. Overall, the average active ISK delta from August - October 2020 was -18.3 trillion ISK. During the same three months in 2019, the average was -44.5 trillion ISK. By itself, this metric would lead me to believe players were more satisfied with EVE in 2020 than with the version on Tranquility in the summer and early autumn of 2019.

Anyone reading the monthly economic report should take away that something happened to mining in October. The full history economic indicies graph (see above) shows that the mining price index (MPI) hit an all-time high in October. But I find interpreting the indices a little easier when I look at the ISK values inside the indices.

The value of the mineral price index jumped 44.7%, from 10.9 trillion ISK to 16.1 trillion ISK. One should remember that a jump in value does not mean the amount mined increased 44.7% as well. According to another part of the MER, mining increased far less.

Looking at the regional data (minus Triglavian space), the value of the ore mined in known space rose from 27.3 trillion ISK to 28.7 trillion ISK. The 5.1% increase doesn't quite match up with the increase recorded in the MPI.

Where the mining is occurring is more intriguing than the amount. The value of null sec mining declined 6.1% (down from 13.2 trillion ISK to 12.4 trillion ISK). That decline, however, was more than offset by an increase of 2.2 trillion ISK in Empire space. I can't help but wonder how much of the increase was a result of null sec empires mining for isogen & nocxium in low sec.

Looking at the mineral and ore data reminded me of a statement from a dev blog in March.
"As announced recently, New Eden is entering a period where resource distribution is being re-balanced. It has been decided, in cooperation with the CSM, to give an update on how and why this decision was made. As detailed above, it was concluded that the economy of EVE is in an unsustainable state. A healthy economic environment where players can find opportunities by making interesting choices is the goal. One of the key pillars of EVE is that loss has meaning and a state is being reached where loss is not meaningful anymore for veteran players."
The ore and mineral data from October 2019 & October 2020 show the progress CCP made in making loss more meaningful. The value in the ore mined year-over-year remained similar, with 29.8 trillion ISK in ore mine in October 2019 and 28.7 trillion ISK in ore mined in October 2020. However, the value of the MPI rose from 5.3 trillion ISK in October 2019 to 16.1 trillion ISK in October 2020. One key piece of information to note is that the EVE economy still was feeling the effects of Blackout and the loss of players last October.

Finally, New Eden is showing the first signs of inflation on the markets. While the value of the goods that make up the Consumer Price Index (CPI) decreased for the fifth consecutive month, the CPI index rose for the second month. Since August, the CPI has risen from approximately 91 to 95 while the value of the goods in the index declined by 2.7% in the same period. 

However, that decline includes the real money trading (RMT) tokens such as skill injectors & extractors. For purposes of evaluating the in-game economy, I have argued for years that those items should not count toward the CPI. When those items are removed from the calculations, the value of the goods in the Consumer Price Index actually rose 3.8% compared to September. Or to put the matter another way, the decline in the value of the RMT tokens sold is obscuring the effects of the resource distribution changes.

At the end of the day, I think the data shows that EVE Online is in better shape to handle the launch of a major new game than it was in August 2019. I do reserve the right to change my mind when CCP releases the November MER. At that point, we will have a better idea what the impact of the additional nerfs introduced in November had on players. Because with the November release of WoW: Shadowlands and the 10 December release of Cyberpunk 2077, players will leave the game. The question, though, is how many?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Is EVE Online About To See A Player Drop?

We are now rolling into the season when game companies start dropping significant game updates onto the market. I just can't help but think that CCP should think about coming up with a big expansion-type drop instead of the steady supply of changes the Icelandic studio prefers. Sure, the developers implemented the Dynamic Bounty System and revamped the Encounter Surveillance System a couple of weeks ago. Also, CCP put out a new Pulse video with a lot of little stuff coming out Tuesday.

But Tuesday is also the release date for World of Warcraft's next expansion, Shadowlands. Last year, when WoW Classic launched, EVE was in the middle of Blackout. Now, following a couple of changes in EVE design to limit player income, WoW is launching an expansion. If history is any judge, a major WoW release closely following a PvE nerf to null sec does not bode well for activity on Tranquility.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Input Broadcasting To Be Banned In World Of Warcraft

I heard about some news in World of Warcraft I had to comment on. Activision-Blizzard is banning input broadcasting software.

As World of Warcraft has evolved, our policies have also evolved to support the health of the game and the needs of the players. We’ve examined the use of third-party input broadcasting software, which allows a single keystroke or action to be automatically mirrored to multiple game clients, and we've seen an increasingly negative impact to the game as this software is used to support botting and automated gameplay. The use of input broadcasting software that mirrors keystrokes to multiple WoW game clients will soon be considered an actionable offense. We believe this policy is in the best interests of the game and the community.

We will soon begin issuing warnings to all players who are detected using input broadcasting software to mirror commands to multiple accounts at the same time (often used for multi-boxing). With these warnings, we intend to notify players that they should not use this software while playing World of Warcraft. Soon thereafter, the warnings will escalate to account actions, which can include suspension and, if necessary, permanent closure of the player's World of Warcraft account(s). We strongly advise you to cease using this type of software immediately to maintain uninterrupted access to World of Warcraft.

Thank you for your understanding.

I think the key is the mention of "third-party input broadcasting software". Five to seven years ago, EVE underwent its own controversy surrounding input broadcasting. A programming engine called Inner Space that powered the powerful EVE bot called Questor also powered a popular multi-boxing program called ISBoxer. In fact, ISBoxer was a demonstration program to show the capabilities of Inner Space. Eventually, CCP wound up banning input broadcasting, but not the ISBoxer program itself.

ISBoxer is once again in the center of an input broadcasting controversy. According to a post on the Dual Boxer forums, the maker of ISBoxer and Inner Space stated that Blizzard was looking specifically for his software.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Pearl Abyss Q3 2020 Earnings Call

Yesterday Pearl Abyss held its earnings results presentation for the third quarter of 2020. Logging onto the call, my big concern was how the EVE IP, especially EVE Echoes, did in the third quarter. After skimming over the presentation, my next question was, "What happened to Black Desert?" The third question became the main concern of the financial analysts on the call: Crimson Desert.

First, a look at Pearl Abyss' overall revenue. Right off the bat the numbers don't look strong. Revenue declined 10.2% compared to the second quarter of 2020 and 11.7% from Q3 2019. Converted to U.S. dollars, Pearl Abyss experienced a drop of $12 million from the second quarter. The operating profit declined almost $10 million, or 20%, from the previous quarter. One bright spot was the net profit increasing 17.8%, or $3.8 million quarter over quarter, although that did represent a decline of 43.6% compared to the same quarter in 2019.

With the release of EVE Echoes in August and a full quarter of operations in China, the EVE IP figured to generate increased revenue. The ₩21.3 billion ($19.1 million) earned in the third quarter represents a 12.7% ($2.1 million) increase over the second quarter and 45.9% ($6 million) year-over-year increase. Pearl Abyss stated on the call the increases were due to an increase of 30% spent by "royal core users" and an increase in revenue from China. The term "royal core users" seems a translation problem and probably references a return of players in Omega status paying subscriptions.

The major news is that revenue dropped for the Black Desert by 13.7% quarter-over-quarter and 19.4% year-over-year. Pearl Abyss gave two main reasons for the decline. The first is a seasonal reason. Just as EVE traditionally has a third quarter decline, so does Black Desert. The other reason is a decline in console sales. Black Desert Online released on consoles in August 2019 and thus sales spiked during Q3 2019. PA announced that PC sales increased by 11% year-over-year in the third quarter. The company's leadership believes that sales will pick up again with the release of the next generation of consoles at the end of 2020.

A question came up from one of the analysts on the call about whether Pearl Abyss is planning on self-publishing in North America and Europe in the future. PA has moved over the last year or two to self-publish games in Asia and has had some financial success in doing so. The leadership on the call noted that they are considering the option and that publishing contracts are set to expire in 2021. In a related note, Pearl Abyss also noted they have begun to sell their games in retail stores and not just digitally. The distribution in brick and mortar stores sounds a bit chaotic record-keeping wise, but sales were described as "quite good."

Besides the financial performance of Black Desert, the topic the analysts on the call seemed most interested in was Crimson Desert. Perhaps in a sign that production of the game is going well, Pearl Abyss answered several questions.

Crimson Desert is still on track for a Q4 2021 release, as the studio has over 100 developers working on the game. PA believes the game will do better financially than BDO due to lessons learned in creating Black Desert, the use of a new game engine, and a better storyline. One of the reasons for the optimism is that PA is creating Crimson Desert from the ground up to launch on both the PC and consoles. Black Desert was originally created for the PC and was ported over to consoles four years later. Thus, players will find things like the UI less clunky on both platforms.

Players will get a chance to learn more about Crimson Desert at an upcoming event in December. While PA deflected the analysts questions about the event, Pearl Abyss did confirm that the event would feature a reveal of in-game play.

One concern about Crimson Desert is that PA will not commit to cross-platform play between consoles and PC. While games like Elder Scrolls Online also do not support cross-platform play, industry leader Final Fantasy XIV does. Can a game proclaiming itself the best in the MMORPG genre fail to have cross-platform play in 2021? Time will tell.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Poking Around Raravoss

On Sunday, in addition to running a Crimson Harvest site, I decided to do a little sightseeing. I have an alt logged off in the Triglavian system of Raravoss so I logged in and poked around.

The first thing I did was warp to the sun. The Triglavian thingy was still doing the Triglavian magic that transported the system into the region of Pochven. I noticed a mobile tractor unit at 0 to the sun. I was still trying to figure out why someone left it there when a small Triglavian NPC gang warped on top of the structure. I was 100 km away, but I didn't know if my presence had triggered the Triglavians into arriving. Since I was flying a Cheetah, I decided the safe play was to warp to a planet.

Looking at my overview, I saw a line for the inactivated Sasiekko gate. Needless to say, I had to see what remained after the shift in the cluster. The picture was mostly Triglavian red with 4 disintergrators stationed around the structure. I guess moving the disintergrators was more trouble than it was worth.

Next, I decided to return to the sun and take a look at the Dazh Porevitium Transmuter. The info tab sounds as impressive as the structure itself.
The construction of these vast structures is clearly a key goal of this phase of the Triglavian Collective's invasion campaign. EDENCOM intelligence has assessed thse huge arrays with their central structure as stellar harvesting installations capable of delving profoundly into the stars they are orbiting.

The clear intent of the unimaginable spatio-temporal manipulations these structures are undertaking is to harvest certain resources, and in doing so completely transoform the nature of the star itelf. This assessment has been implicitly confirmed by this type of installation's repeating monitor signals containing the deciphered term <<Dazh Porevitium Transmuter>>

While these structures initially carry out limited probing and sampling, the power and reach of the harvester escalates tremendously as an array of zero-point mass-energy entanglers is constructed around the core harvester. Barely understood Triglavian techniques that had hitherto seemed a mere scientific curiosity will surely have dire consequences for any star system where their full capability is achieved.

Next to the transmuter is an object called a Dazh Liminality Locus. 
While this structure appears to be a variant of the Triglavian Collective's stellar observatory and accelerator structures, the activity centered on this installation clearly represents an escalation in the Triglavian campaign of invasion. A notable aspect of the structure is the extremely high signalling traffic that has been detected emanating from it. While most of this traffic is highly encrypted, a complex repeating broadcast that appears to be a becon or monitor signal of some kind has been partially deciphered. The contents of the signal include the term <<Dazh Liminality Locus>> and also refer to <<Xordaxh Chislov Zvemokorg noemata>>.

As with similar Triglavian installations there are clear signs that local space-time conduit technology is being used to "reach into" the core of the star to manipulate it in some way. It is considered highly probable that such activity is a prelude to stellar harvesting operations and a major invasion effort by the Triglavians.
After poking around Triglavian tech for awhile, I decided to look at the mining opportunities. 

I only saw three mining anomalies on the scanner divided into two types: Ubiquitous Miner Ore & Internal Bezdnac Ore sites. The Ubiquitous site sounded boring so I warped to the Internal Bezdnac Ore site. I only saw one type of ore, spodumain. 

One can probably find the missing minerals needed for industry in the Ubiquitous sites. I honestly think CCP is hoping a new player civilization forms and builds itself up in the new Triglavian region. Can you imagine a Keepstar in the region?

Before logging off, I decided I needed to look at one of the new Triglavian gates. So off I went to the Niarja gate. Once again, someone had left a mobile tractor unit near the gate. The purpose for all the MTUs became apparant as I witnessed a Triglavian NPC fleet stomping on a EDENCOM NPC fleet. Even if no one is in the system, the Trigs and EDENCOM fight their war, with someone scooping up the loot.

Afterwards I went back to my safe spot and logged off for the day. I eventually need to extract my alt from the region, but until then I have a way to observe any changes CCP might make in the future.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Yo-Kai Watch Event - 2020 Edition

I finished the last patch of Stormblood, A Requiem for Heroes, last night.  Before proceeding to the Shadowbringers content, I figured I should write about the Yo-kai Watch event currently underway in Final Fantasy XIV. The Yo-kai Watch event, which is running until the release of patch 5.4 in early December, is a cross-promotional event with the game Yo-kai Watch last run in 2017. With no guarantees of the event ever returning, I knew I had to complete the event now or perhaps never have access to the rewards.

The fabulous Miss Kaiyoko Star, known for publishing the solutions to the weekly fashion reports, produced the below infographic that contains all the information needed to complete the event.

I had a couple of thoughts. First, the Yo-kai Watch event was a grindfest, especially if you needed to get all 17 minions. Just to get all the minions required 49 tokens. Then, to get all the weapons required 165 tokens. Running a minimum of 214 FATES requires a lot of running around. Trust me, the drop rate wasn't 100%. I'm going to guess I ran at least 500 FATES.

Part of the reason for the low drop rate was trying to participate in the FATEs in the first place. After awhile, regions would become flooded with players. I think the drop chance was related to damage done, but I'm not sure.

One move by Square Enix that made the grind easier was the introduction of flying in the original ARR zones in patch 5.3. Newer players were put at a disadvantage, but for veterans, moving around so fast eliminated some of the tedium of racing across the map for a newly spawned FATE. Of course, sometimes players killed the FATES so fast some waiting occurred. Either that, or players would go to another region, thus concentrating players even more.

I quite like the three mounts I received for completing the event. The first mount, Whisper-go, is obtained by acquiring 13 of the 17 Yo-kai minions. The mount is one of the smaller ones I've seen and I look like I'm in a race care if I pan in close enough. The small size also makes the mount feel like it is travelling super-fast as well. I attribute it to the small size and trying to keep up with the much larger mounts.

The second mount is the Whisper-a-go-go. Acquired by getting 13 of the 17 Yo-kai Watch weapons, the mount does indeed glow in the dark. The tiny version of Jibanyan hanging onto the left side of the cockpit also looks good when flying around during the day.

The Jibanyan Couch is acquired by acquiring all 17 Yo-kai Watch weapons. Players taking advantage of the free play up to level 60 can't get the mount as getting 2 of the weapons requires the Stormblood expansion. The Jibanyan Couch has the same fast flying feeling as the other two mounts, with the added benefits of being able to stretch out my legs. I personally love the Jibanyan Couch mount and switch between the mount and the Whipser-a-go-go exclusively now. 

Should players do the Yo-Kai Watch event? Completionists definitely should, especially with six weeks to go. People who also need to farm grand company seals should as well. I was able to purchase about a month's worth of ventures to power my retainer farm. I've probably made 1 million gil from the materials and coins earned from assigned tasks. I'll also add that parts of the level 50 relic weapon process require running FATES to get drops. Running the Yo-Kai event doesn't interfere with those drops.

Personally I enjoyed the event. Yes, spending too much time running FATES does get tedious. But the minions are cute, the weapons fit in the Armorie so don't take up long-term storage, and the mounts are my favorites in the game so far. Plus, I felt like I accomplished something. So would I do the event again, knowing now what I didn't know before. Definitely yes.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Stargate Closures Have Begun ... In Null Sec

The fireworks began a day earlier than expected as the GE-8JV/V-3YG7 gate in Catch shut down after downtime today.

We will have to see how widespread the closures are. For those wondering if CCP is including null sec in the Triglavian storyline fun, the answer is yes. Now to check high and low sec, as the gate closures for the final liminal sites in those two security bands was expected to take place tomorrow.

UPDATE 1330 UTC: The M-OEE8/Taisy gate in Tribute has shut down.

UPDATE 1345 UTC: Famed explorer Katia Sae is reporting on an Amar Navy mobilization in Sasiekko at the Raravoss gate. Sounds like Signal Cartel is mobilizing to check out the activity. Raravoss was the first system to reach final liminality.

UPDATE 1355 UTC: The D-GTMI/F9E-KX gate in Providence is down. I don't think any strategic gates have been affected yet, but I don't play in null sec.

UPDATE 1410 UTC: The YZ-LQL/75FA-Z gate in Fountain has shut down.

UPDATE 1420 UTC: It appears the gate shutdowns in null sec are not related to the past presence of storms.

UPDATE 1430 UTC: The P3EN-E/Obe gate in Vale of the Silent is down.

UPDATE 1500 UTC: The first high sec gate, Agil/Hishai gate in Khanid, has shut down.

UPDATE 1505 UTC: Signal Cartel is moving into the Triglavian controlled systems in order to provide their signature rescue services.
UPDATE 1515 UTC: The Republic Fleet is forming up on the Republic Fleet Mobilizing on Ansen/Krirald gate in Metropolis. Ansen & Krirald are low sec systems.

Also, Reload is reporting that the Agil/Hishai gate in Khanid is coming back online.
UPDATE 1915 UTC: It appears what is happening is that when a gate goes down, the gate gets rebooted and comes back online. This looks like gates will go down until downtime, but that is just speculation.

UPDATE 1930 UTC: This is a bit late, but we know the name of the new Triglavian region: Pochven.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Resource Redistribution And Low Sec - 2020 Edition

Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade


When Dirk MacGirk poked me Friday morning alerting me to the latest dev blog, Resource Distribution Update, I had a sense of dread. Was CCP really trying to fix low sec again? I'd already left low sec due to years of low sec mining nerfs combined with the introduction of high end minerals in high sec in association with the Triglavian story line. Mining in high sec was so superior to low sec that I finally gave up on low sec and moved back to high sec. Considering I once wrote a post titled "Adapt or High Sec", moving back under the umbrella of CONCORD was a bitter pill to swallow. When the DDoS attacks at the end of January and beginning of February hit, I lost the habit of logging into EVE. I still follow the New Eden economy, RMT activity, and the metagame, but when playing games, most of my time was spent logged into Final Fantasy XIV.

I wanted to take a dispassionate look at the matter, but I had trouble getting into the proper state of mind. I spent the first day after reading the dev blog ranting and railing against the changes. Then I started to hear and read criticism from the PvP crowd from low sec. Given that many of the nerfs I'd experienced over the years were intended to placate those players, I was once again extremely irritated. Hopefully the following analysis will come across as thoughtful and not emotional.

The core of the changes in the resource distribution update was the announcement of the changes of the composition of ores and the restriction of certain ores to certain security bands of space. Furthermore, the distribution of the ores would ensure that no security band was self-sufficient in minerals. 

To implement the redistribution, CCP plans on making the following changes to asteroid belts.

High Security
  • All variations of Omber and Kernite will be removed from Hisec asteroid belts.
Low Security
  • All variations of Veldspar, Scordite and Plagioclase will be removed from Lowsec asteroid belts.
  • The quantity of all variations of Pyroxeres and Kernite will be reduced by 75%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Hemorphite and Hedbergite will be increased by 400%.
Null Security
  • All variations of Scordite, Plagioclase, Omber, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite, Gneiss, Dark Ochre, and Crokite will be removed from Nullsec asteroid belts.
  • The quantity of all variations of Kernite will be reduced by 75%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Bistot will be reduced by 70%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Arkonor will be reduced by 50%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Mercoxit will be reduced by 90%.
In addition, ore anomalies are, for the most part, receiving nerfs if not outright deletion from the game.

High Security
  • All Ore Anomalies will be removed from Hisec systems.
Low Security
  • Certain Ore Anomalies will be removed from Lowsec systems.
  • The quantity of all variations of Gneiss and Dark Ochre in all Lowsec Ore Anomalies will be increased by 300%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Crokite in all Lowsec Ore Anomalies will be increased by 9900%.
  • The following ores and their variations will be removed from Wormhole Anomalies:
  • Veldspar, Scordite, Plagioclase, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite, Dark Ochre, Crokite, Mercoxit, Spodumain.

The more I looked at CCP's plans, the more I began to believe the changes were more based on economic theory and philosophy and less on the data. The resource distribution update begins with the following observation:
A healthy economic environment where players can find opportunities by making interesting choices is the goal. One of the key pillars of EVE is that loss has meaning and a state is being reached where loss is not meaningful anymore for veteran players. It is imperative, both for EVE's success and for the well-being of its inhabitants, that the economy resides within a healthy state
I think CCP isn't thrilled with the ship replacement programs each of the major null sec blocs run and maintain. Players can go out and lose ships and not worry about replacing them as long as they fit the ship the approved way. But I don't think CCP is just referring to individual players. I believe the developers are also concerned about the economic capability of alliances and coalitions as well. The mention of the term "autarky" in the March dev blog reminds me of what The Imperium has built in Delve.

So what is autarky? The following description is taken from Investopedia.
An autarky refers to the state of self-reliance, and it typically is applied to an economic system or nation characterized by self-sufficiency and limited trade. The definition of autarky comes from the Greek—autos, meaning "self" and arkein, meaning "to be strong enough, to suffice." Fully autarkic states are those with closed economies and without any sources of external support, trade or aid.

A related term, "autarky price," refers to the cost of a good in an autarkic state. International commodity trade takes place in part as a result of differences in autarky prices between countries or areas.
I've never lived in sovereign null sec, but the concept of autarky price reminds me of the difference in the prices in Delve verses the rest of New Eden I hear about on the talk shows. The Investopedia article continues on with an explanation I believe the developers hold.
Autarky is an extreme form of economic nationalism and protectionism. Autarky was first questioned by economist Adam Smith, and then David Ricardo. Smith suggested that countries should engage in free trade and specialize in goods they have an absolute advantage in producing, in order to generate more wealth. Ricardo amended that slightly, saying that countries should also produce goods in which they have a comparative advantage. Free trade and globalization have been seen as superior economic courses of action, generally speaking, and so, autarky involving the elimination of foreign trade has proved unsuccessful, and has become more of a utopian ideal.
By granting each security band advantages in the production of certain vital minerals, CCP is encouraging trade between several points throughout the game and not just between one or two trade hubs and deep space. More activity, whether in mining or transportation, should result in more killmails. The fact that, theoretically, the macroeconomy should structurally improve as well is a nice bonus.

The idea of assigning each security band an economic niche is not new. Back in August 2011, CCP published two dev blogs concerning the future development of null sec. The second dev blog, Nullsec Development: Design Goals, contained the  idea that some minerals would be unique to null sec.
Nullsec should be the only place we're injecting (at least some of the) ices, zydrine, megacyte and morphite into the game. This ensures that nullsec mining retains a unique value proposition, and guarantees that mining time for these types is priced according the risk and effort involved in nullsec extraction.
However, the theory back in 2011 was that null sec industry should be 99% self-sufficient by volume.
People building things in nullsec should only need to travel to empire (or more than a couple of regions across nullsec) for low-volume supplies. This requires that industrialists have a ready supply of low-end minerals available nearby in nullsec, without breaking other systems or goals. (Likely means some way of mining low-ends in a massively more rapid manner compared to current tools.)
If null sec has to import all its tritanium, the days of minimizing imports is over.

What I described above is a pretty comprehensive revamp of resource harvesting EVE Online. In the interests of brevity, I didn't even include the changes to ice mining and gas harvesting. Making the change three months into a major null sec war could impact the result of the conflict. So why am I hearing so much about low sec?

The first reason is the conclusion of the dev blog. In addition to the reduction of stockpiles (and possibly the reprocessing of junk modules), CCP included the following list of expected effects of the redistribution:
  • More movement in Lowsec - and potentially more destruction
  • Increase of mining ship losses
  • More market transactions for ores/minerals
  • Mineral income from refining items to increase
  • Prices of minerals to change
The first item on the list explicitly states low sec, with the second item a logical extension of the first.

The second cause is the reaction of members of the Council of Stellar Management. One member elected in June, Phantomite, posted the following in a recent blog post.
While a number of CCP staff have expressed interest in what we have to say, we have recieved [sic] absolutely zero indication of the feelings of the people who actually set the schedules for and steer development, which makes this all the more offensive to the players of Eve. We have been offering up a full package of problems and solutions that match what the community has asked for, and CCP has thrown mass active player mining to lowsec with the implication that this is a gift to the area.

Mass mining in lowsec is not possible. Lowsec is NOT sov null.

This displays entirely the wrong attitude, and shows zero awareness of what lowsec is to it’s [sic] residents.
A discussion of what the Council of Stellar Management itself is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, I will earn my blogging license and delve into the changes.

First, the changes could help reestablish the food chain in low sec. Back in 2013, I wrote about how the upcoming changes in the Odyssey expansion could harm the type of activity we see in null sec. By trying to increase activity in the belts with miners, smaller predators would have more targets. And the small predators will attract larger predators. And so on, and so on.

I'm not sure that future high prices for isogen and nocxium will attract large numbers of players to mine in low security space. My personal opinion is we are more likely to see the null sec blocs conducting mining operations than independents in the belts. But low sec, contrary to popular opinion, is not just factional warfare. Ignoring the rest of the systems in the security band is a bad idea. The mining changes at least throw non factional warfare space a bone.

Minerals in a full Procurer Ore Hold, 100% refine rate

The next point concerns the distribution of minerals in the low sec of each empire. Here is the ore composition of the belts I found on the Singularity test cluster this weekend.

Amarr Empire
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hemorphite, Jaspet, Kernite, Pyroxeres
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Jaspet, Kernite, Pyroxeres

Caldari State
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hedbergite, Kernite, Pyroxeres
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Kernite, Pyroxeres

Gallente Federation
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hemorphite, Jaspet, Omber
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Jaspet, Omber

Minmatar Republic (and the Ammatar Mandate)
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hedbergite, Kernite, Omber
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Kernite, Omber

An interesting fact, which hit me while I read the dev blog, is that miners in the Caldari and Minmatar regions will not be able to belt mine nocxium in all low sec regions. In fact, The Citadel will have no nocxium in belts while Heimatar will only have one system containing Hedbergite. The 0.3 & 0.4 security systems in Amarr and Gallente regions will contain Jaspet.

Here is the breakdown of the number of systems in each Caldari and Minmatar region that will provide nocxium in asteroid belts.

Ammatar Mandate
Derelik - 18

Caldari State
Black Rise - 14
Lonetrek - 2
The Citadel - 0
The Forge - 5

Minmatar Republic
Heimatar - 1
Metropolis - 17
Molden Heath - 8

One concern I do have about the regions with limited nocxium ore are the diamond rats. When they were introduced, their habit of immediately mining all the ore in the system forced me to move from one of those systems. I just wonder if the developers took that into consideration when calculating the amount of ore mined in low sec.

Finally, I want to revisit the concept of the food chain and small fish attracting big fish. If CCP wants to fill the low sec fish bowl with miners without the PvPers immediately devouring the miners, they need to provide some safer places to mine. I've found that belts are relatively safe if one pays attention and flies smart, but ore anomalies are death traps. They are a beacon calling out to passing gangs to investigate the site.

My idea to get people used to mining in low sec again is to reintroduce ore signatures back into the game. Removed in the Odyssey expansion in 2013, ore signatures would provide safer places to actually mine with a bit of work. I believe that if EVE can have combat signatures for exploration and PvE, then why not ore signatures too? While clever hunters can pre-probe the sites in order to surprise unwary miners, ore signatures prior to 2013 helped promote mining in low sec. Bringing the sites back would help achieve CCP's goals, if only to allow some mining to occur in a lightly trafficked system.

Now, I would like to say a few things about the plan. I absolutely hate the idea of CCP trying to remove the ability for me to mine all the materials for a ship. I had a sense of accomplishment after building a Nestor back in 2016-2017. CCP clearly thinks my having fun in that way is bad for the game. I also have a fear that the reliance on mining in low sec is going to backfire. Without changes to low sec, such as introducing ore signatures, I see the isogen and nocxium needs of the economy being met by the large null sec blocs conducting massive mining operations in low sec areas. The most obvious example is The Imperium running locus fleets throughout Aridia in order to keep its industrial engine running.

I have one other concern. Logistics. When putting the plan together, did CCP think of all the additional player-hours required to move all the raw materials around under the new rules? Is expanding the transportation capacity even possible?

I'm honestly not sold on the resource redistribution plan. I hope CCP is flexible enough to make changes quickly once the existing stockpiles run out. The plan has to be part of a larger effort to remake and improve not just low sec, but all of EVE. If not, things are going to get really ugly.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The August 2020 Monthly Economic Report

Once again we get to look at the economic data CCP publishes each month. August marked the first full month of the current null sec war. Also, we get to look back at the first full month of Blackout in August 2019. With the latest dev blog on resource redistribution, a look back at August will also give some idea what the end of the Scarcity Phase looks like.

From August 2020 MER

As usual, we need to take a look at New Eden's money supply. During the course of August, the amount of ISK in the game increased by 1.4%, or 18.5 trillion. From 1 January to 31 August, the money supply increased by 70.6 trillion ISK, or 5.6%. In perhaps a sign of the effect of the current null sec war, the Active ISK Delta only decreased by 15.3 trillion ISK during a time players traditionally log off to do other things. Last year at this time, with Blackout in effect, the Active ISK Delta decreased by 43.1 trillion ISK.

To support the idea of greater activity, the value of the destruction outside of wormhole space increased to 38.5 trillion ISK. Perhaps counter-intuitively, only 25% of the increase occurred in null security space, despite the ongoing fighting between the major powers. Also, compared to a year ago, the value of destruction is down by 3% in all of known space and 3.2% in null security space.

In EVE, destruction is supposed to lead to production. Overall, the value of the items produced dropped by 13.3% from 140 trillion ISK in July down to 124.4 trillion ISK in August. The cause of the decrease was production activity returning to normal levels in null sec. The 16.5% drop in the value of production in August follows the 22.6% increase in production value in July 2020. Year-over-year, production value in known space fell by 6% in known space. On a positive note, production value in null sec increased by 5.1% over the same period.

For the second month in a row, the value of the ore mined increased in New Eden. Since June, the monthly value of the ore mined increased by 27.5% in known space (6.6 trillion ISK) and 36.8% (4.3 trillion ISK) in null sec. One of the great questions about mining, though, is the physical volume of ore mined. The monthly economic reports only provide the value of the ore mined.

One constant over the last few months is the amount of bounties collected by players. With well over 90% of bounties collected in null sec, some might figure the null sec war would result in a reduction. The truth is something different, as seen below.

The NPC bounties collected is the biggest difference between the Blackout month of August 2019 and the first full month of the null sec war of 2020. Year-over-year, the value of the bounties collected in null sec tripled, from 15.8 trillion ISK to 49 trillion ISK.

A statistic I track is the value of goods that make up the four indicies in the monthly economic report: Consumer Price Index, Primary Producer Price Index, Secondary Producer Price Index, and Mining Price Index. The value of the indices fell another 4.4% in August, from 498.3 trillion ISK in July down to 476.3 trillion ISK in August. Year-over-year, the value of the four indices has fallen by 21.4%. Economic output is at its lowest point since the post-Blackout month of October 2019.

As I've noted in the past, the New Eden economy is consumer-driven, with the value of goods in the CPI making up 78% of the indices total. The value of the CPI fell another 5% in August and is down 21.6% since August 2019. 

The 4 economic indices from the August 2020 MER

At this point, I think a look at the indices graph from the MER is in order. The Total Economy and Consumer Price Index graphs above only look at the value of the goods in the baskets for each index. They do not factor in changes in prices. So, if activity is stable, and the prices are decreasing, the value of an index should also decrease. 

In the U.S. and many other countries, the change in the Consumer Price Index is a main measurement of inflation. Until told otherwise by CCP, I'll continue to assume the same holds true in the New Eden economy. The website Investopedia defines the consumer price index as follows:
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them. Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living. The CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.
Apart from the Mineral Price Index, the indices show a long term deflationary trend. The CPI has declined every month since January 2020. The Primary Producer Price Index began its decline in May 2020. And the Secondary Producer Price Index has steadily declined since May 2019.

I have to admit, I let the upcoming mineral distribution changes color how I looked at the MER this month. Was the economy shrinking due to less activity or deflation? I think the answer is a mix of the two. I also have to bring up the changes to mark August as the final month of relative sanity for the next few months. I don't know how much the buying frenzy following the dev blog will affect the valuations in the economy in September, much less how the change will impact the October MER. I do know that keeping up to date on the information in the monthly economic reports will wind up clarifying what is happening in EVE Online.