Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Cloud Imperium Games Acquires $17.25 Million In Additional Outside Funding

Is Chris Roberts about to lose control of another video game studio?

In December 2000, Chris Roberts walked away from Digital Anvil while the game Freelancer was under development. According to a Eurogamer article:
In the wake of the collapse of Digital Anvil, co-founder and soon-to-be-former CEO Chris Roberts has spoken about his decision to leave the company he founded just four years ago. As we suspected, the company's troubles were down to "wanting to develop not only hugely ambitious games, but too many hugely ambitious games", leaving the company's finances stretched after four years without a single game being released - the sole title to emerge with the Digital Anvil name on it was actually mostly developed by a small British company.

Having left the monolithic corporate world that is Electronic Arts almost five years ago to found Digital Anvil in the first place, it is somewhat ironic that his dream development studio is now being taken over by the monolithic corporate world that is Microsoft, and Roberts has confirmed that his decision to leave the company is simply because he has no desire to find himself in the same situation again.
Microsoft eventually published a scaled-down version of Roberts' dream in March 2003.

On Friday, Cloud Imperium Games announced another round of outside investment of $17.25 million into CIG.
March 27, 2020 – Today, Cloud Imperium announced that existing investors – the Calder Family Office, Snoot Entertainment, and ITG Investment – have exercised a one-time option to purchase further shares in the company. The share prices reflect a discounted option price for existing shareholders that was pre-negotiated at the time of the initial investment in 2018. There were no changes to the Board composition as a result of this transaction. Chris Roberts continues to maintain full control of the Board and Group.
From Cloud Imperium Financials for 2018
Combined with an initial investment of $46 million by Clive and Keith Calder in 2018, CIG has now raised $63.25 million in outside funding. Additionally, as of 1600 UTC on 31 March 2020, CIG had raised $275.4 million in crowdfunding sources such as game and ship purchases. According to the Cloud Imperium Financials post for 2018 released in December 2019, CIG had also raised $43.2 million through subscriptions and other sources through the end of 2018. That is a confirmed total of $381.8 million raised to create and market Squadron 42 and Star Citizen, which does not include the other categories totals for 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.

From Cloud Imperium Financials for 2018
One might think that $380 million is enough for Roberts to finish the project. But if the burn rate displayed for 2018 continues to today, I have my doubts. Through the end of 2018, CIG had spent $249.5 million. If the rate of spending in 2018 continued, CIG has spent almost $320 million on development and marketing costs though the end of the first quarter. If the burn rate settled back down to 2017 levels, we are still looking at spending of around $310 million.

Star Citizen and Squadron 42, depending if the pair are released as one or two games, are on pace to be in the top 10, if not the most expensive, video games ever made. Crowdfunding, no matter how successful, is not enough to get the development of the project completed.  Looking back, I think what I wrote back in December 2018 in the wake of the initial outside investment still holds true.
In the long run, I think having outside investors is probably a good thing for backers of Star Citizen and CIG. The picture spelled out by the financial report is of a company that had outstripped its main source of income and only had 2-3 months of financial reserves when the new influx of money arrived. Despite the record amounts of money raised by CIG from fans, Chris Roberts had spent all of that money and was chewing through the reserve generated by side deals and currency valuations. If CIG can hold to its production schedule, the game still has a chance. Honestly compels me to point out that Roberts' history for the past 20-odd years indicates he cannot stick to a schedule. Failure to produce, however, means more outside investment and eventually Roberts losing control of the company. Roberts' detractors will argue that he has aimed for a buyout the entire time.

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Slight Change To The Moon Mining Changes

One of the problems with looking at the monthly economic reports are I never really know if CCP considers the situation good or not. For example, CCP has worked diligently on reducing the amount of resources collected in the game over the past year. Last month, the New Eden economy recorded only 28.6 trillion ISK worth of ore mined outside wormhole space. Year-over-year that is a reduction of 47.6%.

More mining nerfs are incoming in April. Last month, CCP announced moon mining changes that would reduce the amount mined even further. The plan was to remove all basic ore types from all moons. That changed today. In the latest dev blog, CCP announced that pyerite and mexallon will still be found in some R4 moon ores.

So while I still want to know what CCP considers a good level of mining, I think I can say we're almost reached the goal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Cut Scenes, A Million Gil, And An Almost Perfect Look

Over the past week I spent a lot of time watching cut scenes in Final Fantasy XIV. On Thursday, I finished up the main scenario story quests from patch 2.0, otherwise known as the base game of A Realm Reborn. Sometimes you just want to knock out the content. My free company has a group that on Thursdays runs old content to help members catch up to current content. They run the content unsynced, which means they don't level down to the dungeon content. I got to witness first hand what 3 level 80 characters can do to the two most difficult dungeons in ARR, Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium. Basically, unless a gimmick mechanic got in their way, they flattened everything in their path like it didn't exist.

The only thing they couldn't flatten were the cut scenes. Too many people running the dungeons for the first time were forced to skip the cut scenes in the two dungeons by players who had run the content before, so Square Enix made the footage non-skippable. After running through the dungeons, I saw why. The Praetorium had 36 minutes of cut scenes. By the end of the night, I wanted to bash my head into my keyboard. The scenes weren't that great.

The main players in the series
In contrast, I spent Friday night and most of Saturday and Sunday running through the level 50 Hildibrand Quests. Gentleman inspector Hildibrand and his trusty assistant Nashu Mhakaracca bring a lot of levity after a large dose of serious content. The Hildibrand quests remind me of the Pink Panther movies, with doses of Austin Powers and the old Warner Bros. Loony Tunes cartoons thrown in. The fact that Nashu looks a lot like my character didn't hurt.

My character Skitane on the left, Nashu on the right.
The quest line wasn't all fun and games. I had to run three trials: Battle on the Big Bridge, The Dragon's Neck, and Battle in the Big Keep. I ran into a hitch with The Dragon's Neck. I thought I was doing well with a item level of 74. But to enter the trial required an iLevel of 80. Fortunately, level 52 jewelry isn't expensive and I upgraded all mine to iLevel 115. I wound up with an iLevel of 98, which is enough to get into any AAR content.

At the end, the rewards weren't spectacular. I received the dress outfit Nashu is wearing in the screenshot above as well as a mini-Hildibrand minion. During the course of the series, I also learned the Manderville dance. But the real reward was the quality of the content itself. Given what's going on in the world, with my ability to leave the house limited, I really needed the distraction.

The coat cost 150,000 gil
One of the reasons I was able to upgrade my gear quickly is the market activity I initiated a couple of weeks ago. Over the course of the last two weeks, my wealth has grown from 250,000 gil to over 1 million gil. I didn't just sit on the money saving either. I've spent money on everything from new weapons to new crafting and gathering gear. I even spent 150,000 gil on a piece of glamour gear.

Almost perfect
Speaking of glamour, I almost received another score of 100 on the Fashion Report. The theme was based around a night gown. I didn't have the correct night gown, so I went to the Gold Saucer and picked up an Ishgardian Gown dyed show white to get the proper look. But I only scored 99 out of 100. To score 100 I needed to dye the gown pure white. But pure white dye is a cash shop item and I couldn't pull the trigger on spending real money on dye. Of course, since I already have the title of "Fashion Leader" I didn't need the extra point. If I didn't already have the title? Well, I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

Over the next week I need to continue to explore some of the systems I unlocked once I finished the patch 2.0 main scenario quests. I have an increasing number of NPCs I control as well a bunch of crafting content to learn. Plus, I still need to continue my march toward the Heavensward content. Only 86 quests to go.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Plans On Covering The CSM Election This Year

Every year since 2015, I have run a Google site with information on the candidates running in that year's election to fill EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management. I've decided not to do so in 2020.

The decision was a long time coming. As the election rules kept changing to favor representatives from the null sec alliances, I asked myself, "Why keep updating the site?" In 2018, I only did so because of CCP Guard. While at Fanfest in 2017, CCP Guard was asking people what he could do to help people better publicize the election. I gave him some feedback and for the CSM 13 election, he implemented the changes. How could I not run the site after he committed to doing a lot more work?

Last year I was totally disillusioned with the CSM voting process. With only a 10-member council, the null sec alliances were guaranteed to dominate the body. But before the voting, CCP Guard left the company, leaving CCP Dopamine to carry on as the CSM liaison. I figured that while I didn't have a major presence, every little bit helps. So, I operated during the CSM 14 election as well.

At this point of the year, we usually have some sort of CSM buzz in the air. Checking out the CSM section of the official forums shows no new posts in the CSM Campaigns section. Since I always relied on the official forums as my primary information source for updating the site, I really can't do anything. Assuming I wanted to. Plus, we have no information about a future election anyway.

In the future, I plan on just allowing the selection process to occur and maybe writing about the result. Doing what I did in the past was at times a full time job. I'm going to leave that to others. Besides, according to my traffic reports, very few people visited the site last year anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Almost Finished With Patch 2.0

I'm almost finished with the Seventh Umbral Era Quests. Those are the original level 1-50 quests released in Patch 2.0. I finished the last of the level 49 quests this weekend. I only have to run two 8-character raids, Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium, to finish out the chain.

One of the interesting parts of reaching this point in the game is that my white mage job along with all gathering and crafting classes are over level 50. Given that after running The Praetorium I will still have 100 quests to complete before reaching the Heavensward expansion content, I definitely will have an easier time of things than the people who ran the quests back in the original ARR release.

Winning the armorer's contest

Speaking of over level 50, I finished the last 3 level 50 crafting quests this weekend. The armorer's quest showed an overconfident person unable to learn from others. The blacksmith's quest was a cliffhanger of sorts that sets up the class' Heavensward expansion story. And the alchemist story? I didn't really expect that.

Riding a hoarhound
I also managed to finish grinding in the Gold Saucer for the Fenrir mount. One million MGP. The motion riding the mount is funny, but looks pretty cool. Now that I have the mount, I can pick up an item or two every week.

What's next besides the 100 quest grind to Heavensward? NPCs! I'm doing fairly well with my retainers, with over 500,000 gil to my name after a good week of sales. My next task is to reach second lieutenant in my grand company so I can get access to adventurer squadrons. At a certain point, the NPCs become advanced enough so I can run dungeons with them. Not only do I hear doing so is very profitable, but also is a great way to level up secondary jobs. I might even use the system to level up another healing job, the scholar.

A new gathering outfit
Finally, I also unlocked all the items in the Gold Saucer boutique. I can't show any off, because I didn't have enough MGP to buy anything after purchasing the mount. I finished with another 90 point effort in the Fashion Report. The key piece of the outfit was the New World Jacket, dyed Kobold Brown, along with my trusty Extreme Survival Slops dyed the same color. I chose the Anemos Hat and Expeditioner's Moccasins dyed Snow White. Usually I put all the clothing items in the glamour plate, but I bought a pair of Archaeoskin Gloves of Gathering, which allowed me to give my three gathering retainers level 55 gloves. Not only do I think I look good, but I increased my earning potential at the same time.

That's all for now. Hopefully I don't tear my hair out trying to heal PUGs. As the dungeons get more complex, I have the feeling I'm going to run into some pretty impatient types. But I'm getting closer to Heavensward.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

CCP Gets Permission From The CCP To Reopen In China

EVE Online is going back to China! Back in July 2018, Tiancity announced it was parting ways with CCP, with the operation of the Serenity shard ending on 30 September 2018. Due to Chinese law, CCP needed to find a new Chinese partner to continue operating the Chinese servers. On 31 July 2018, CCP announced that Netease would take over the operation of Serenity on 1 October. So far, so good.

The situation became interesting as on 6 September, Pearl Abyss announced its purchase of CCP. The Chinese and South Koreans don't always get along. In a tit-for-tat in August 2018 involving the U.S. announcing the deployment of a THAAD missile battery to South Korea, China stopped issuing licenses for new South Korean mobile games. Needless to say, the reopening of Serenity became tied up in geopolitics.

That ended today, as Crowd Control Productions (CCP) announced that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had finally approved CCP's partnership with Netease to operate Serenity.
March 12, 2020 – Reykjavík, Iceland - CCP Games, the Icelandic creators of the in-depth and uniquely player-driven spacefaring MMO game EVE Online, are pleased to announce that EVE Online has been authorized to operate in the People’s Republic of China, in partnership with publisher and distributor NetEase Games.

For close to two decades, EVE Online has brought people together from all over the world into the vast universe of New Eden. Available in China since 2006 and gaining numerous players through its distinctive graphical style and innovative gameplay, EVE Online will soon be open to millions of new and returning Chinese capsuleers taking flight to chart their path forward across the stars.

EVE Online will launch in China soon, with the development teams at NetEase Games and CCP Games currently making final adjustments and optimisations to the game before it goes into Open Beta.

“We are very happy to start the next chapter of our journey with EVE Online in China,” said CCP Games CEO Hilmar V. Pétursson. “It started when we visited ChinaJoy in 2005, showing our game to Chinese gamers for the first time. Since the initial release of EVE Online in China in May 2006 we have been energized by the passion and dedication that Chinese players have shown, inspiring us to embrace all the great developments we have seen both in Chinese science-fiction and Chinese science reality.”

"While China is the biggest nation in the world and Iceland is one of the smallest nations in the world, we have met kindreds spirits and made friends throughout our decades together,” Hilmar continued. “It's with great pride and honor that, together with our friends at NetEase, we bring our spaceship adventure game to the biggest gaming market in the world - the best version of EVE Online we have ever delivered!"

“All of us in Iceland have been following the journey of CCP Games and EVE Online since CCP Games’ foundation here in Reykjavík in 1997", said Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Industry and Innovation. “We are excited to follow this next chapter in EVE’s long history and I want to congratulate CCP Games and NetEase. Partnerships like this one are very important in fostering innovation and sustainable economic growth.”
The inclusion of Iceland's Minister of Industry and Innovation is an interesting development given the Chinese desire to join the race to exploit the mineral wealth at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. Chinese investment has slowly increased over the years.
Chinese investment constituted almost six percent of Iceland’s average gross domestic product for the five years covered by the CNA study [2012-2017]. That investment has created economic dependence on the Chinese while giving China access to Iceland’s politicians, scientific facilities, geothermal energy expertise, and telecommunications infrastructure. Chinese investment accelerated following the 2008 global financial crisis, when Iceland was particularly vulnerable economically.

In 2011, Chinese businessman Huang Nubo tried to buy land in northeast Iceland for a golf resort, a dubious venture given Iceland’s climate. Indeed, my interviews with Icelandic officials revealed a worry that the real intent was to build a Chinese-controlled airfield or port. Iceland’s Interior Minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, was subject to tremendous political pressure to allow the deal, according to my interviews. The Icelandic economy needed an injection of capital, and everyone from the prime minister on down saw the real-estate deal as an easy win. Jonasson ultimately rejected the deal because it did not comply with Icelandic law, and he worried about the purchase’s geopolitical implications. (Click here for a more detailed account of his thinking.) Despite this setback, Chinese entities have persisted in their attempts to buy into Iceland’s economy.

Iceland was open to Chinese investment to the point that one of the rationales for Iceland’s 2011 Arctic strategy was to increase cooperation with China, according to my discussion in 2015 with Ossur Skarphedinsson, the foreign minister at the time the strategy was published. According to Skarphedinsson, Chinese investment would help the economy and could be used as geopolitical leverage with the European Union and the United States.

China and Iceland signed a bilateral energy accord in 2012 and a free trade agreement the following year. In 2015, Chinese automaker Geely invested in an Icelandic methane company, and the Chinese government funded a northern lights research facility in 2016. The two countries inked a $250 million deal in 2018 to provide China with geothermal expertise. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, reached a deal with Icelandic mobile phone companies to test 5G technology in February 2019. Because of these investments, Iceland cannot blatantly disregard Chinese preferences without significant economic risk.
I noted at the time of the sale that Pearl Abyss could have purchased CCP due to China's interest in Iceland economically. That influence could very well have come into play today. We will see if this approval will lead to approval for the mobile version of EVE currently under development by Netease & CCP.

Normally, I wouldn't bring up all the geopolitical ramifications when writing about a video game. But I think EVE players might find that political plotting involving the New Eden universe isn't confined to what we see on our computer screens.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Little Ladies Day, Mounts, And The Fashion Report

I paused my effort to finish all the level 50 crafting classes for a simple reason: inventory. I ran out and worked on freeing up space. But as inventory issues are not really entertaining, I'll post about more interesting things.

International Women's Day was Sunday, and Final Fantasy XIV celebrated with an event named "Little Ladies Day". The event, like every FFXIV event I've partaken in, is rather cute. In the middle of the celebration, a report comes in of a sad little girl. Since that is not allowed, you go out and help search for her. Upon finding her, you discover that she's sad because, while she's allowed out and about, her friend is stuck in the children's ward of a hospital. The rest of the event is dedicated to bringing joy to the children in the hospital.

The Princess's Peach Corsage is the perfect head piece for a non-battle look

From what I can tell, the rewards weren't as big this year compared to the past.  The Princess's Peach Corsage is nice. More importantly, it is dyeable. For those who don't like headgear, the corsage is nice. The other prize, a monocle? Yes, a monocle is too soon. At least I didn't have to pay $69 for one.

All conjurers can get a sparkle unicorn
Now for a mount update. I am still on pace to get Fenrir, the hoarhound mount. I am only 175,000 MGP away, which is about two weeks of casino grinding away. But someone let me know I could have a unicorn. Yes, I missed the level 30 conjurer quest that grants unicorns. So, I picked up the quest, teleported to the zone with the objective, and cast Cure on a unicorn. Took less than 5 minutes. The unicorn even sparkles. At least I didn't need to spend $25 to get one.

Scoring a 94 on the Fashion Report
Finally, the big money-maker for my mount, the Fashion Report. I kept my streak of scoring over 90 points alive, but I needed to use cash shop items to do so. Fortunately, I had already purchased the items back when I discovered the glamour system a couple of months ago.

For the body slot, I crafted a Uraeus Coat. I looked into making Patrician's Gloves for the hands, but wound up using the Songbird Gloves from the 2017 Little Ladies Day event, now found on the Mog Station. Something about the gloves being level 50 and I wanted to do the Fashion Report with my white mage job. Since I don't PvP, I had no shot at the legs, so I used the Songbird Skirt. I also am too low level for the ear slot, so I just went with what I had on. In the head slot, I went with the Little Ladies Day theme and used the new Princess's Peach Corsage, dyed white. Finally, since I was already using cash shop items, I finished off the look with the Far Eastern Beauty's Boots. I scored a 94 with the setup, meaning I should unlock the rest of the items in the Gold Saucer Boutique next week.

Working on my inventory issues
For the week ahead, I need to continue working on my inventory issues, change my character's outfit to something a little less revealing (and with better dyes), and work on my crafting quests. Oh, and level my white mage job. I hit 49 last night and need to get to level 50 to do the final patch 2.0 content.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Materia Changes And A Crafting Update.

I want to start out today's Final Fantasy XIV post with the changes introduced in patch 5.2 involving materia. I like them. The big change was extracting materia from fully spiritbound gear no longer destroys the piece. The spirtbound level just is reset down to 1%. What that means is if I like a piece of gear, I can essentially use it over and over to generate materia. I think I'll most likely use the regenerative property with my crafting and gathering jewelry. I can really use the materia to boost up my retainers' equipment.

The other big change is all that is required to meld materia to equipment is to have a crafting class of a level equal to or higher than the piece of equipment being modified. Before, the crafting class mattered. Now? Not so much. Plus, no swapping around to the proper crafting class.

Speaking of crafting, I finished five of the eight level 50 crafting quests. The crafting tools are really nice looking, especially the leatherworker's tool.

I like the cutting board and the holders for thread. I like the boots, and not just for looks. Not only do all the level 50 crafting boots give +27 control, but +3 to craftsmanship as well. Every little bit helps.

The carpenter tool, Ullikummi, is huge. When I first saw it, I thought I'd clicked on a shield by mistake.

Chantico, the level 50 culinary tool, is possibly the least impressive of the tools. Although it is a nice cutting board. The boots aren't that impressive, but I decided not to dye them.

The next tool is Urcaguary, the tool awarded for completing the Goldsmith quest. The tool looks better with the animation. Still, the boots are cool once I applied soot black dye.

The final tool is Clotho. I really like the spinning wheel, and the boots are nice also. The coat in all of the shots is the Archaeoskin Jackcoat of Crafting that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Yes, the coat looks sharp, but also has +105 craftsmanship.

Finally is the mount update. As of last night, I'm less than 330,000 MGP from getting my mount. I figure maybe in 3 weeks I can buy it. I managed to score 96 in the Fashion Report, earning 66,000 MGP when including the 10% bonus buff my free company runs on Saturdays.

The screenshot above received a score of 95 because I used a brown dye on the coat instead of black.I didn't really like the outfit, although I did come up with one innovation. I'm wearing the Miqo'te Gloves in order to cover up the forearms of the Toadskin Jerkin. But overall, I'm looking forward to the upcoming Fashion Report this weekend and wearing a new outfit.

For now, though, I'm looking on how to earn money on the market, finishing up the level 50 crafting quests, and leveling my white mage job to level 50.

Monday, March 2, 2020

EVE Fanfest 2020 Cancelled

I'm not going to Iceland after all. On Friday, the first case of coronavirus was announced. A few hours later CCP announced the cancellation of Fanfest. I received the following email at 1703 UTC from Eventbright.
In light of the recent and ongoing global developments surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we have taken the decision to cancel this year’s Fanfest event in Reykjavik, Iceland.

It is with a heavy heart that we make this decision, and we know this news will be disappointing to our wonderful community, but we feel absolutely compelled to follow the most responsible course of action and prioritize the safety and well-being of our attendees, our staff and of course the general Icelandic public.

We realize that the situation a month from now could be very different, but the way events are developing both globally and in Iceland’s neighboring countries, an in-depth and serious review has made it clear that this is a necessary step to take.

We wanted to get this information to you as swiftly as possible in order to allow you to make the necessary changes to any travel or accommodation arrangements that you may have made. The process of refunding the cost of EVE Fanfest 2020 event tickets for attendees has begun.

We will be providing further details over the course of the next few weeks, so pleasekeep an eye on all EVE Online social media channels for these updates.

Fly safe, Capsuleers.
At 2133, I received another email from Eventbright, letting me know my refund was being processed and I should receive the money in my account within 7 business days. I've also applied for a refund from Icelandair.

The caution will probably benefit me in the long run. I'm still under treatment for a sinus and allergy problem that may require surgery later in the year. I do a fair bit of coughing, which in this travel environment is probably not a good thing. I'd probably get swept up into some sort of testing process and miss the trip anyway. Or get stuck in Reykjavik. At this point, 300 people are under quarantine in Iceland, with three confirmed cases. Probably better to sit at home and play video games.