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.