Friday, October 22, 2021

Spook Fest 2021

With one month until Endwalker, I'm doing pretty well in Final Fantasy XIV. I'm not doing most of the raid content or Bozja, but I did finish the Copied Factory and gotten the 2B glamour gear. I'm earning over 1 million gil every week on my market sales and retainer rewards. I'm working on a DIY project to set up an apartment in Lavender Beds. Housing is fascinating in FFXIV and I've seen nice designs using less than 100 items. I think I can tweak some in order to make a cozy place to log off in.

With business going well, I have some time to hit the social scene. Of course, coming from EVE, there's no way I'd actually enjoy myself in a video game. Nope. Impossible. I'm just visiting Eorzea's night clubs "for science". After all, I can't write about something without doing research, right?

Hard at work doing research (found on a club's Discord server)

The weekend brings a major event on the social calendar on the North American data centers: Spook Fest.

The announcement going around Discord

The name that stuck out to me was DJ Mannmade, who will perform on my data center. I watched the Preach Gaming stream when he went to the opening of a FFXIV night club on one of the EU servers. One of the craziest things is that 17 venues, including 8 from my data center, got together to sponsor the event. 

One of the amazing things about the social scene is the prevalence of web pages for each venue and a lot of events. The community uses a site called Carrd. Clicking on the link for the event gives a list of the clubs and Twitch DJ's performing, along with a bard group doing an after-party on my world.

I will probably get down to the business aspect of FFXIV's social scene and how certain companies (I'm looking at you CCP) screwed up and left a lot of money on the table by failing to implement what Yoshi-P and Square Enix did in FFXIV. But for this weekend, I'm just going to partake of the event and have a good time. For, you know, science.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Tax Holiday Is Over In EVE Online

Today CCP ended the tax holiday in EVE Online. Of course, the devs didn't just revert the sales tax and broker fees in NPC stations. A few changes were made.

In the Grand Heist release, the base Sales Tax and Brokers Fee in NPC stations were each cut in half, going from 5.0% to 2.5%. In place of the previous numbers, taxes will be changing to the following structure:

Base Unmodified Taxes:

  • Sales Tax: 2.5% -> 8.0% (Previously 5.0%)
  • Brokers Fee: 2.5% -> 3.0% (Previously 5.0%)
  • Total Taxes: 5.0% -> 11.0% (Previously 10.0%)

Minimum Taxes (Modified by Skills, Standings, etc.):

  • Sales Tax: 1.125% -> 3.6% (Previously 2.25%)
  • Brokers Fee: 0.5% -> 1.0% (Previously 3.0%)
  • Total Taxes: 1.625% -> 4.6% (Previously 5.25%)

This change shifts a higher percentage of the tax division toward the sales tax instead of on the order placement, permanently reducing the cost-pressure associated with listing orders by moving the cost into the sales tax taken out upon purchase by another player.

If I were cynical, I'd say that the push of funds is an effort to cater to people buying ISK through the PLEX system. 

Just for fun, I looked up the changes implemented during the Blackout in the summer of 2019. 

Changes to sales taxes and broker fees:

  1. Maximum Sales Tax increase from 2% to 5%.
  2. Minimum Sales Tax increase from 1% to 2.25%.
  3. Maximum Brokers Fee increase for NPC stations from 3% to 5%.
  4. Double the total maximum taxation from 5% to 10%.
  5. Increased total minimum taxation on NPC structures from 3% to 5.25%.
  6. Increase the minimum taxation on player owned structures by 125% from 1% to 2.25%.

Changes to tax associated skills:

  • Accounting – Increase in reduction of sales tax from 10% per level to 11% per level.
  • Brokers Relations – Increase in reduction of costs associated with setting up a market order from 0.1% per level to 0.3% per level.

The total benefit from skills will increase from 2% (current benefit) to 4.75%, which translates to a total tax reduction (including standings benefits) of 47.5% instead of the current 40%.

Since the pre-Blackout era two years ago, the taxes at NPC stations have changes as follows:

Base unmodified taxes:

  • Sales Tax: 2% -> 8%
  • Brokers Fee: no change at 3%
  • Total Taxes: 5% -> 11%

Minimum Taxes (Modified by Skills, Standings, etc.):

  • Sales Tax: 1% -> 3.6%
  • Broker Fee: 2% -> 1%
  • Total Taxes: 3% -> 4.6%

I'm not sure how much of a benefit to the economy the overall tax hike is in increasing the ISK sinks. I also don't know enough to know the impact on citadel owners who use their structures as market hubs. But I assume the taxes serve as a cap on what players can charge in citadels. The next few days listening to the talking heads in the EVE media on the subject should prove interesting, if not enlightening.

Monday, October 18, 2021

CCP To Upgrade The Tranquility Server Soon

I was going to let today go without a post. Some of the shenanigans going on in the video game world are a bit depressing and I had a pretty good weekend. Then CCP Explorer tweeted out some amazing news.

I can't wait to read the dev blog, which should be coming Soon™. Usually the trademark indicates don't hold your breath, but technical dev blogs are usually a hit with EVE players. Combined with Quasar, I wonder what the performance boost Tranquility will receive after everything is put into effect. Although, as I think veterans know, EVE players will soon figure out the new limit by inviting their 5000 closest friends to a party to discover the answer.

Friday, October 15, 2021

New World And The Impact On EVE

We are now two weeks after the launch of New World. So far, the release from Amazon Game Studios is holding up, with Steam Charts showing over 550,000 players logged in yesterday. I think holding the game up to the over 900,000 logged in users on launch day is unfair, as a lot of those players were stuck in 25,000 person queues.

New World logged in players as seen on 15 Oct 2021

I normally disregard SteamCharts, but as Amazon is selling Steam codes for the game, I'll assume most players are accessing the game through Steam. In the case of New World, SteamCharts may act like a version of EVE's

I was inspired to write this post because over the last seven days the second most popular article on The Nosy Gamer was EVE Online's Great Decline of 2021. I have the feeling people think any lower activity in EVE is due to some huge decline of players leaving for New World. Let me insert Ripard Teg's updated average concurrent user graph below.

Tranquility ACU from October 2020 to September 2021

The big decline occurred due to the war in Delve becoming a siege of The Imperium's last constellation and players leaving for better content either in other games or real life. Following the final anti-climatic battle and TEST's subsequent withdrawal to the opposite side of the cluster, activity was struggling to get back to pre-war norms.

ACU over the last week declined

EVE Offline is showing the average concurrent user mark lowering again down to 19,000. But we've seen fluxuations like that over the last month or two. The question is whether we will see another positive increase in the near future.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

EVE Online Has A New Mac Client

I watch a lot of YouTube videos about video games. One that caught my attention was one by Josh Strife Hayes reviewing reasons why people stop playing MMORPGs. One of those reasons is players not able to install the game without problems or going through a complicated process. CCP removed one of those types of speedbumps in today's patch with a new fully native Mac client.

Reading the patch notes, the transition from Wine to the native Mac client should be fairly painless. But the new Mac client is still not perfect. Besides needing to rebind some keys, I saw two other things of note:

  • SpaceMouse is supported on the Intel Native Mac Client, but is currently unsupported on M1 based systems.
  • As previously communicated, the "Personal Skill Plans" feature and the Recommendations feature are currently not supported on the native Mac client. These will be supported in a future update. Certified Skill Plans and regular skill training are working as expected.

I'm not sure if the client automatically throttling framerates if the video card starts getting too hot is considered a negative by some people. I'd think it a positive, but I'm not a Mac user.

Accompanying the new client is a new login event with some attractive rewards. In addition to new SKINs for the Tristan, Vexor, and Dominix, a new booster is available.

The original Quafe Zero gives a +5% speed and +5% scan resolution buff. The new Quafe Zero Green Apple gives a +5% agility and +5% capacitor recharge rate. On the downside, the booster is automatically applied when redeemed. Yes, I understand that people would game the system and create hundreds, if not thousands, of new accounts in order to obtain Quafe Zero Green Apple if the item was not apply on acquire. But I really would like to have some in storage for a special occasion.

On the upside, Alpha accounts get two of the boosters while Omega accounts get between 7 and 9 if they redeem the rewards all five days. The 10,000 skill points for Omega players is nice, especially for newer players.

I did find the item description amusing. I didn't show it in the above graphic, but there is extremely fine print at the bottom of the text box. Curious, I managed to track down the text from the Quafe Zero description. I'm pretty sure the description applies to the new booster as well:

Quafe Zero is a product of the Quafe Company. Quafe does not condone the use of boosters or other illicit substances. The Quafe Company disavows responsibility for any side effects caused by consuming Sleeper technology.

Warning: Quafe Zero is designed for capsuleer use only. Side effects experienced by non-capsuleers include but are not limited to dizziness, blindness, nausea, internal hemorrhaging, IBS, sleepwalking, amnesia, sexual deviancy, vision changes, acute epidermal sloughing, partial or total loss of motor control, and minor skin rash.

Overall, I'm glad to see CCP continuing to upgrade EVE's technology, whether the change is to the client or Tranquility's network layer. Hopefully, by removing a road bump to playing the game, EVE might pick up a few more players to sustain the game's population.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Final Fantasy XIV Music Scene Is Serious Business

After spending last week looking at EVE Online data and trying to decipher the new network framework, I needed to take a break from serious spaceship business. The solution was diving into the world of music in Final Fantasy XIV.

My list of instruments

On Saturday, I hit level 30 as an archer. Completing the initial bard quest and talking to an NPC in Gridania unlocked performance mode. I was surprised at how much unlocked. I expected to have to grind levels to unlock the various instruments. Instead, all the instruments became available at level 30. I should note the developers did not provide different models for all the instruments. For example, the violin and cello have the same instrument, just different notes. But I was happy.

Need better UI placement

The performance user interface is pretty simple. The basic keys are QUERTY, with the shift key making the notes one octave higher and the control key one octave lower.  Pretty simple, although I might want to change keybinds later on. But I found the sheet music for "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and managed to play an acceptable version of the song fairly quickly.

Next, I went online looking for sheet music for Final Fantasy music. Turns out the sub-Reddit for FFXIV has a list of songs with the notes to play. I managed to play a bad version of the Kugane Theme on the violin. While I need practice, I did manage to hit all the notes in order, if not with the correct length.

If a company creates a music system, wanting to play in public naturally follows. The players in FFXIV took the concept one step further and created venues for bands. Contrary to popular belief, not all role playing is of the erotic type. I can't lie, though. If ERP is your thing, it is easy enough to find.

I'm not sure which is taken more seriously in MMORPGs, EVE's internet spaceships or FFXIV's club and roleplaying scene. Given that I think EVE players were hoping for a serious business club scene when Incarna released in 2011, I have to give the nod to FFXIV. Especially after visiting The Rose Hall.

On Friday, someone in FC chat mentioned that a club called The Rose Hall over on Excalibur, a world on the Primal data center. In addition to the standard Twitter account, the venue has a Twitch page and even a Discord server which they use to conduct giveaways. For role players, they have a full alcohol bar with snacks. For the high rollers, VIP box seats are on off to the sides of the stage. We're talking 1 million gil for a party of up to six as well as a personal bartender, free bottle service and unlimited food and drink for your party for an additional 500,000 gil. For a comparison, I make between 750,000 and 1.5 million gil per week. I guess I'm almost wealthy enough to be a high end role player!

The cheap seats aren't bad either

In addition to all the above, I found out The Songbirds were playing the venue on Sunday. The original Songbirds group was a girl band introduced with the Little Ladies' Day event in 2016. As such, some of the emotes and clothing is purchasable from the Mog Station.

The player group founded in 2018 is a little bigger than the original 3 member NPC girl group. Of course, since music is serious business, The Songbirds have the full array of social media accounts, including Twitter, Twitch, Instagram, and the ever present Discord server. I already was a follower of the Twich channel and wanted to see the group play in person. When I mentioned in FC chat the Songbirds were playing at The Rose Hall, a couple of people were interested. A few of us wandered over to the venue for the show.

Peaking into the main hall

I wish I had taken screenshots of the bar. The entrances to the stage and seating area is on each side of the bar. I ran around a bit and for a minute I got the feeling I had when peeking into some of the presentations at Fanfest in Harpa. In other words, a very immersive experience.

I spent most of the first set to the left of the stage until I spotted Rain on the other side. I ran around to where he was for the last few songs before intermission. Yes, they had an intermission. The Songbirds wound up playing I think 2 1/2 hours including the intermission. I saw a couple of the group members at the bar engaging with the bartenders. I'm assuming free drinks were part of the contract for playing.

Standing at the front edge of the stage

I haven't mentioned the music yet. The music last night was all video game music. With franchises like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hears, and Nier, bards in Final Fantasy XIV have a lot of music they can play from Square Enix games. A good thing too, because technically players are not supposed to play music from outside the game. I haven't looked into the matter, but I'm assuming all Square Enix music is fair game for FFXIV's bards since the company presumably has the copyrights to the tunes. The Songbirds did sneak in a couple of Guild Wars 2 songs plus a special dedication for all the WoW refugees in the crowd.

A view from the stage

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to The Rose Hall. The venue was great even if I'm not really a role player and didn't partake of the refreshments. Seeing the Songbirds up close is a lot different than watching them on Twitch. I'm also glad I got to experience some of the mechanics behind the music before I went to the show. I fully intend on following up on the music scene whenever I need a break from other game play. I just need to up my glamour game, as clubbing in FFXIV is serious business.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The September 2021 Monthly Economic Report: Ship Losses

Yesterday CCP published the monthly economic report for September. On the plus side, the MER came out two weeks earlier than normal. The only problem is Period Basis is missing from the RegionalStats.csv file. I rely on that file for a lot of the graphs I run. I couldn't really start running my scripts last night. I'm still hoping CCP releases an updated version.

The missing region gave me an opportunity to look at data I've neglected up until now. That's right, the MER has a file containing ship kills named kill_dump.csv. So today, I'll look at the ships players most frequently kill.

Looking at the top 10 list of ships, my first thought was, "Are we playing Destroyers Online?" Half the ships on the list are destroyers, while a sixth is a tactical destroyer. I personally don't like destroyers, but after seeing the list, I'd advise new players to aim for training into a destroyer if they wish to PvP.

The top of the list is headed by two non-combat ships popular with both new and Alpha players. The Venture is the first ship players can fly that specializes in mining. The Heron is the best tech 1 frigate to use for running data and relic sites until a player can afford to fly the Astero.

The final two ships are the Vexor, a tech 1 Gallente cruiser with drone bonuses and the Sabre, the premier interdictor in EVE.

When discussing destruction, the MER usually references ISK values, not ship hulls. At the top of the list is the Loki. A tech 3 strategic cruiser, 914.8 billion ISK worth of the ships died in September. Another T3C, the Tengu, came in at number 5 on the list.

The next two ships are drone boats. The Gila is a Gurista faction cruiser with a massive bonus to medium combat drones that is a go-to ship for events and Abyssal sites. The Ishtar is the tech 2 version of the Vexor listed as the number 5 ship on the first list. The ship as a role bonus of fitting Assault Damage Controls, making the ship more survivable in combat.

The number 4 ship was the Rorqual. With 786.5 billion ISK destroyed, the ship draws combat to it.

The six through nine slots are filled with battleship hulls. The Vargur (6), Golem (7), and Paladin (9) are Marauders, the tech 2 version of battleships and used for running PvE content. Coming in at number 8 is the Praxis, the Society of Conscious Thought battleship that is given away for free by CCP at special events. I'm honestly surprised so many Praxis are still flying around.

The final ship on the list is the Revelation. I wonder if the ability to participate in structure bashes without needing to expend ammunition puts the ship in harm's way more than other dreadnoughts.

Looking at the ship hulls killed by ship type, I didn't see very much unexpected. The top six positions are filled with tech 1 ships while the bottom four consist of tech 2 and tech 3 ships. I was a little surprised that battleships ranked as high as sixth until I saw that 37% of the battleships killed were Praxis. Players don't need to worry about April's industry changes if the ships are already pre-built by CCP.

The battleship wound up leading all ship types is value lost with nearly 3.4 trillion ISK lost. Four ships accounts for over half of the amount: Praxis (629.9 billion ISK), Machariel (468.6 billion ISK), Rattlesnake (378.7 billion ISK) and Nestor (296.3 billion ISK).

The cruiser came in second place based on the number of Gilas players lost. The 859 billion ISK worth of the ships made up 32% of cruiser losses.

I expected to see Heavy Assault Cruisers on the list. What I didn't expect to see was the domination of the Ishtar on the list of HACs. The Ishtar made up 50.6% of the value of all HAC losses. 

The final category I want to comment on are the frigates. Yes, the value of frigates that died exceeded that of supercarriers. But the top two ships in value lost were the Astero (361.3 billion ISK) and the Heron (112.2 billion ISK). Those two ships made up 42.6% of the value of all frigates lost in September.

Reviewing the monthly economic report is a habit at this point and sometimes gets old and feels stale. Looking at different types of data is fun, especially since I haven't looked at data like this since the days of the Quarterly Economic Reports when Dr. Eyjo was still as CCP. Hopefully looking at the ship loss data in the MER will do enough until CCP can rerun the data to include Period Basis.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Quasar: Updating EVE Online's Network Layer

Despite providing features players wanted, sometimes for years, a lot of complaining about the new skills UI in EVE Online occurred on places like the EVE sub-Reddit.  A frequent request was to make the new user interface optional. If the latest dev blog is any indication, CCP will not provide a toggle setting. The developers have a new tool, Quasar, and they intend on proceeding full speed ahead.

Quasar is the newest iteration of the networking layer of Tranquility. CCP has been hampered by the use of Stackless Python and its limit of performing one task at a time. EVE initially used. CCP explained the issue when the company switched from using StacklessIO to CarbonIO in 2011.

Bottom line: Code written in Stackless Python can only execute as fast as your fastest CPU core can go. A 4 or 8 CPU big-iron server will burn up a single CPU and leave the others idle, unless we span more nodes to harness the other CPUs, which works well for a lot of the logic in EVE which is stateless or only mildly reliant on shared state but presents challenges in logic which is heavily reliant on shared state, such as space simulation and walking around space stations.

This is not a problem as long as a single CPU can handle your load, and for sane uses of Python this is true. I shouldn't have to tell you that we are hitting the point at which a single CPU can't process a large fleet fight, despite the work of teams like Gridlock in squeezing out every drop of optimization that they can. CPUs are not getting any faster. They are getting more cache, fatter busses and better pipelines, but not really any faster at doing what EVE needs done. The way of the near (and perhaps far) future is to 'go wide' and run on multiple CPUs simultaneously.

The introduction of CarbonIO allowed for the implementation of time dilation which allows for the world record fights for which EVE is famous. The situation, while improved, still needed work. CCP needed a better way to work around Python's Global Interpreter Lock (GIL), the gatekeeper that only allows Python to perform one task at a time.

CCP's effort was codenamed Project Sanguine. This week's dev blog gave an example of one of the events the developers need to consider and improve upon.

The first form of Project Sanguine emerged with ESI and the first iteration of EVE Portal in late 2016. Through these projects, a new paradigm was established within the server architecture of EVE Online: a message bus. From this new escape hatch, the bottlenecks associated with the GIL were rediscovered, but with a clearer picture of their expensive manifestations: message routing, serialization, and transmission. If one ship fires one laser in the middle of 1000 ships, that’s 1000 messages which need to be sent immediately all over the globe. The simulation must address that message to 1000 destinations as a copy (message routing), convert that data to a wire format (serialization), and then send the data over the wire (transmission). In most cases, CarbonIO has been addressing each of those issues, but within the custody of the GIL. CarbonIO has served EVE Online well for quite some time, but much has changed on the turbulent seas of the internets since 2011.

CCP has introduced features in the last five years designed to have a smaller footprint on the Tranquility infrastructure and databases. Features like the Activity Tracker, Opportunities, and Abyssal Proving Grounds leaderboards fell under the Project Sanguine framework. But the features still needed to interact with Tranquility through the CarbonIO and the GIL. With Quasar, Skill Plans do not have to interact with the GIL at all.

Over the years players have noted the single-threaded nature of Python and wanted the developers to rewrite the EVE code base to take advantage of the growth of cores on servers. A total rewrite is not going to happen. But with the introduction of Quasar, CCP has begun the process to update EVE to run into a third decade. As the dev blog noted:

Work continues on clearing the table by refurbishing many old services which provides two vectors of momentum: build up more foundational capabilities for Quasar in terms of manipulating more than just Skill Plans in the universe, and normalize ancient systems to pave the way for faster iteration.

What does that mean for the average Capsuleer? More opportunities to expose more powerful features across more mediums.

The idea of publishing simulation data through Quasar has also been toyed with…but that might take a minute.

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Look At Dotlan Data For September 2021

September was the first full month after hostilities ceased in Delve and the forces from the coalition formerly known as PAPI withdrew in disorder. I think the smart set believes the September monthly economic report will show a strengthening economy. I'm not so sure, just because of seasonal effects. As I'm want to do, I visited Dotlan and downloaded the NPC kill and ship loss data to get a preview of what to expect when CCP publishes the MER later this month.

As expected, the number of player-owned ships exploding each day fell 8.1% from August to September as the amount of player vs player combat returned to normal. But historically ship losses in null sec decline from August to September. In the period from 2017 to 2019, the average decline was 5.5%. Overall, null sec experienced 2.9% more ship losses in September 2021 compared to the average for September from 2017 to 2019.

In high sec, while the raw number of ships players lost declined in September compared to August, when comparing the daily average the number of ships lost actually went up by 22 ships per day. While year-over-year the amount of ships exploding in high sec declined by 23.4%, the 290,497 ships players lost still exceeded the 2017-2019 average by 16.1%.

The same phenomenon experienced in high sec also occurred in low security space. The graph shows a decline in ships players lost in September, but when the losses are averaged per day, ship losses actually rose by 2.1%. But unlike high sec, the figure fell short of the 2017-2019 average by 2.3%.

Perhaps the biggest news is the number of NPCs players killed in null sec in September. The daily average rose 8.4% from August to September. Since July, the daily average of NPCs players killed in null sec rose by 26.4%. The end of the war had an impact, but not as much as one might believe. The average number of NPCs destroyed from 2017 to 2019 increased from August to September by 11.9%. The increase in 2021 was below the seasonal average. To make a discussion of ratting in null sec even more interesting, the number of NPCs killed was 29.7% less than the three year average for September from 2017-2019. In the case of null sec ratting, people can take the data and use it to justify multiple positions.

The situation in high sec, in comparison, is in better shape. The number of NPCs killed in September was 7.8% higher than the average in 2017-2019. The 11% increase in NPCs killed from August to September ran directly against the slight negative trend established from 2017 to 2019.

Finally, the number of NPCs killed daily in low sec increased 85.3% from August to September. The increase is most likely associated with the Researching the Rogues event running from 23 September to downtime today.

Overall I think the PvP situation is back to normal in EVE Online. PvE, on the other hand, is still suffering from the scarcity era. But the Dotlan data only provides information about ship hulls, whether player or NPC. The upcoming monthly economic report will put game world financial information to those numbers. As of the time of publication of this post, I expect a slight increase in the numbers in the September MER.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Star Citizen Begins October With $387.5 Million Raised

Cloud Imperium Games' march toward $400 million raised from players to create Star Citizen and Squadron 42 continued in September. Today the funding stats page reached $387.5 million. To put the figure in perspective, the only video game developers spent more to create and release was Red Dead Redemption 2, with a cost of between $379 million and $550 million

Overall, CIG has raised $507.1 million since 2012 according to information published by the company. In addition to the funding page, the below list includes information from the 2019 financials report.

  • Pledges/Counter (thru Sep 2021) - $387.5 million
  • Subscriptions (thru Dec 2019) - $18.1 million
  • Other Income (thru Dec 2019) - $38.3 million
  • Outside Investment (thru Dec 2019) - $63.25 million

The total raised in September was $4.7 million. The amount should rise in October as CitizenCon happens on 9 October. The sales of virtual goods surrounding the event should raise the amount raised to at least $10 million.

I follow a few Star Citizen content creators and the upcoming inventory and medical system updates make me wonder if the game is truly moving towards a full loot, free-for-all PvP game. If CitizenCon confirms that direction, then I wonder how that will impact future funding. After all, a lot more people will refuse to even look at a game like that than will be attracted.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Explaining The Removal Of HQ Materials In Endwalker

During the recent Live Letter two weeks ago, Final Fantasy XIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida disclosed a change to high quality items in the upcoming Endwalker expansion. Basically, the developers were reducing the number of high quality items in the game. Yesterday the changes were posed to The Lodestone.

In order to reduce inventory bloat, the following adjustments will be made in Patch 6.0.

HQ Items Unobtainable After the Release of Patch 6.0

  • Items gathered via botany, mining, and fishing
  • Materials dropped by enemies
  • Materials obtained via tomestone and scrip exchange
  • Non-craftable materials obtained from certain content

Equipment and crafted items (including intermediary materials such as iron ingots) will continue to be obtainable as HQ items.

Unobtainable HQ Items Held in Possession at Launch of 6.0

HQ items affected by this change that have been acquired prior to Patch 6.0 will remain in player inventories.

Please note that these items will be “HQ” in name only, as they will not increase crafting quality nor provide any bonuses upon delivery for leves, Grand Company delivery missions, company projects, Crystarium Deliveries, etc.

Furthermore, these items cannot be traded or bought/sold via the market board.

Miscellaneous Adjustments to HQ Items

In accordance with the above changes, botanist, miner, and fisher attributes and actions that affect gathering yield will be adjusted. In addition, quests, challenge log objectives, and achievements which require HQ items to be gathered for completion will be adjusted as necessary.

Any affected HQ items can be traded and sold on the market board by manually setting the quality of the items to NQ.

Judging by some of the things I've seen the developers do, I don't doubt the game needs the server space. Not only will removing the high quality crafting material save space on the market board, but in inventories as well. How much? I looked through my retainers' inventory and found 221 stacks of high quality crafting materials. The changes in Endwalker won't free up that many slots as I don't have the normal quality equivalents for all those items. 

I do have some concerns about the affect on newer crafters. Having high quality items available made my life easier when doing the crafting quests. Also, the items came in handy when obtaining my Skybuilders' Needle. Will making the crafting quests harder result in more people just buying items off the market? 

Overall, I think most players will find the change positive just due to the inventory issues we may face in Endwalker. If I can get an extra 100-150 slots just by turning a lot of my crafting materials into normal quality, I can go ahead and do the clicks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The New Skills UI Received A Patch

Yesterday CCP published a patch to address issues with the new Skills user interface in EVE Online.


  • Improved the wording of tooltips for Skill Plans, Skill Catalogue, and Certified Skill Plans.
  • Improved the hover-over tooltips in the Skill Catalogue to include more information.

  • Fixed an issue that caused the editing of a Skill Plan to behave incorrectly in rare cases.
  • Fixed an issue that could prevent users from interacting with the Skill Planner window by moving it off-screen.
  • Fixed an issue that caused the links in the Personal Skill Plan to not be highlighted correctly.
  • Fixed the order of skills in the Omega Miner Certified Skill Plan.
  • Fixed an issue that caused Total Skill Points in the Skill Catalogue not to update correctly.

One of the amazing things about the skills changes is how the reaction to the user interface totally overrode all the other changes, some of which were on players wish lists for years. The Alpha skill queue is now the same as the Omega skill queue. The overall number of skills players can queue rose from 50 to 150. Players can now share skill plans they or their corporation make with other players in the client. CCP created Certified Skill Plans for new players to use. The developers even tried to rearrange the UI to make players happy.
The skills window will be removed from the character sheet panel and be given a new, fully separate window, accessible directly from the NeoCom. It will be divided into two main sections: Skill Plans and Skill Catalogue. While the first section will contain the whole interface related to Skill Plans, the other one will show all skills and the level you have trained for each, similar to how the current skills panel does. If you don't plan on interacting with the Skill Plans, they won't be in your way and you will be able to train skills as you do today. One thing worth mentioning is that there will be a return to the horizontal arrangement between the skills catalogue and the training queue. Your requests for this have been noted, and the hope is that the new skills screen will be easy and enjoyable to use. Be sure to give us your feedback on the new interface changes! (emphasis mine)
To my eyes, the changes that still bug me are the times listed in the training queue and the lack of seeing how many skill points are required to obtain one level of a skill.

The times displayed in the training queue seem chosen for formatting purposes. The two most significant time units are displayed in a right-justified field. While this helps with formatting when adjusting the size of the UI, seeing 5d 23h is different from the 5d 23h 33m 16s I've looked at for years. But if I really want to see the seconds tick down, I can see that during the last hour the skill trains.

As for the displaying the number of skill points needed for a single skill level instead of training the skill completely to level 5, I don't really have an issue. I'm just used to seeing the number. However, considering players can get skill points from sources other than the skill training queue, I can imagine a significant number of players would like to micromanage which skills receive skill points from their unused skill point pool. 

Honestly, except what I mentioned above, I don't have a problem with the new user interface. I imagine the UI will receive a few more minor tweaks. I hear the skill categories use English to sort by and that needs to change for non-English EVE clients. But given I maybe check my skill queue once every month or two due to the existing skill queue length, the changes don't really affect me.

Monday, September 27, 2021

EVE Online Is Recovering After The War

Over the weekend I thought I'd run a couple of data sites in the new Researching the Rogues event in EVE Online this weekend. I went through my normal route looking for sites through both high and low security space and didn't find any. Worse, low sec was pretty busy. I went through one gate and found two Worms on the other side. The Gurista faction frigates are formidable at the best of times. Uncloaked in an unarmed Cheetah covert ops frigate? Fortunately they were interested in PvE. Plus, I'm still pretty good and cloaking and zooming off a gate.

My trip was a reminder that Brave Collective has moved into Geminate and will probably roam around Minmatar low sec looking for content. Of course, Psychotic Tendencies. are currently fighting Brave's efforts to move into the F-ZNNG constellation which opens into both Metropolis and The Forge. Maybe Brave will get busy protecting their new space. But for now, I expect them to roam around looking for the elusive fun per hour.

One hopeful sign of recovery was that the peak concurrent number of users exceeded 30,000 on both Saturday and Sunday. Over the last 7 days the average number of concurrent users increased up to 21,000 according to EVE-Offline. The line on the graph had dropped down to 20,000 earlier in September, but yesterday's PCU of 31,630 helped lift the average. 

I docked up in a station I hope will give me some options as to where to go tonight to find one of the event data sites. I'm curious to see what drops when I hack a couple of cans. I may wind up in null sec just because I think people are coming to low sec for better drops. But with the war over, I'm starting to see some signs the game is getting better just flying around in space.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Star Citizen The Movie?

Another day, another Star Citizen kerfluffle. I swear, the news wouldn't flare up so much if Cloud Imperium Games hadn't already secured over $500 million in funding for Star Citizen and its single player game Squadron 42. The latest rumor is that CIG is developing a third game, Theaters of War. Massively OP reported on the rumor.

Assuming this rumor holds any truth, it would appear that the scope of Theaters has changed. A leaked list of games for GeForce has among them Theaters of War (found in lines 1915 and 1916 of the GitHub link or with a search for “Theaters”). The prevailing assumption is that a game mode wouldn’t get its own separate database listing, particularly since Star Citizen and Squadron 42 each have their own database listings as well. This list of games has many players assuming that Theaters of War is now being turned into its own standalone title and is being released to PC and console, owing to the fact that Theaters of War has two listings.

I figured I'd let everyone online go crazy on forums and Reddit and look elsewhere for proof of CIG using money designated for Star Citizen/Squadron 42 development on a third game. Instead, I searched trademarks listed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office

After a little internet detective work, I searched on the company that files trademarks associated with the game, Cloud Imperium Rights LLC. I found 22 live trademarks, of which one was dead. What caught my interest was that five of them did not have a registration number, meaning processing the request was not complete.

For the original task, finding any new trademarks for Theaters of War, I found none associated with Cloud Imperium Games or their lawyer John Paul Oleksiuk. As far as the new entries were concerned, if CIG comes up with new artwork for their logos, that would require a new trademark. But I clicked the entries just to see what popped up.

For example, entry 88342406 concerns Squadron 42 and what I assume is a new logo. In the description of the goods and services of the product, there were two entries.

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Downloadable video game software; downloadable computer games software; downloadable electronic publications in the nature of newsletters, journals, magazines and instructional user guides in the field of combat, strategy and role playing games provided on-line from databases for the Internet; motion picture films featuring action, comedies, and dramas about a fictional universe; downloadable motion pictures and television shows featuring action, comedies, and dramas about a fictional universe; downloadable video recordings featuring action, comedies, and dramas about a fictional universe

IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Film and video production; film distribution; video distribution in the field of science fiction; production and distribution of motion pictures; production and distribution of television shows and movies

I figure CIG came up with a new logo for the marketing campaign and want to protect it prior to release of the game. The fact the trademark was filed on 15 March 2019 and published for opposition on 29 October 2019 and is still ongoing has me wondering why the process is taking so long. Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary.

What really caught my eye were the top three entries. They were all filed the same day, 20 April 2020. Below is a screen capture of the one for Star Citizen.

In the Goods and Services field for all three trademarks, no mention of video games. Instead, the entries were all about motion pictures and television shows.

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Motion picture films featuring action, comedies, and dramas about a fictional universe; downloadable motion pictures and television shows featuring action, comedies, and dramas about a fictional universe; downloadable videos featuring action, comedies, and dramas about a fictional universe

IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Film and video production and distribution for entertainment purposes; production and distribution of motion pictures; production and distribution of television shows and movies

Then I looked at prior registrations. Sure enough, the original trademark covered video games.

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer games software; video game software. FIRST USE: 20130800. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20130800

IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Entertainment provided via the Internet, namely, providing online massively multi-player video games; on-line entertainment services in the nature of online computer game tournaments; providing on-line information in the field of computer gaming entertainment. FIRST USE: 20130800. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20130800

Trademarks don't expire unless unused, but I think I understand why the new trademark application to what appears an existing trademark. No, despite Chris Roberts' reported history of using money designated to fund game development to make movies, I don't think he's making a Star Citizen movie. I think CIG is worried about fans making their own films using trademarked game logos. For example, the below 15 minute short video from 2018 starts out by showing the Star Citizen logo.

Having reviewed Chris Roberts' history, I'm sure he would love to make a full-blown Star Citizen movie. But for now, I think the company's lawyers are looking to restricting fan films, or at least the use of CIG's trademarks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The August 2021 Monthly Economic Report

August 2021 was the last month of significant conflict in Delve in the great null sec war of 2020-2021. With EVE now in the midst of its traditional seasonal low point of the year, now is a good time to look at the state of the EVE economy using the latest monthly economic report.

The summary found on the ISK Sinks and Faucets chart shows the money supply grew by 5.4% in the month of August. Of note is that faucets funneled almost twice as much ISK into the game economy as the sinks were able to extract. A major cause of the increase was 16.5 trillion ISK CCP distributed to players in a promotion that ran from 27 July to 3 August. The sudden faucet made up 14.4% of all ISK faucets last month.

Another interesting bit of information was the 16.3 trillion ISK Active ISK Delta. CCP defines the Active ISK Delta as "The net effect of ISK coming and going with player accounts, including all GM actions." A positive value indicates that more players returned to EVE than left the game. August was also the first month EVE experienced a positive Active ISK Delta since April 2020. Presumably the major cause was the anti-climatic battle at the beginning of August in Delve and the subsequent retreat that led players to log in to evacuate their belongings.

Speaking of fighting, the value of the destruction in null sec increased by 39% in August, from 14.6 trillion ISK in July to 20.3 trillion ISK last month. Year-over-year, destruction in null sec actually decreased by 2.9%. The increase in destruction was not just limited to null sec. In empire space (high and low sec), destruction increased by 3.1 trillion ISK, or 24.6%.

Trying to piece together PvE income in null sec is harder now that ratting falls in three categories: Bounty Prizes, Commodity (Market), and ESS Main Bank Autopayment. In August, the amount came up to 36.5 trillion ISK, up 22.5% from July's 29.8 trillion ISK.

Mining in null sec also picked up in August, making up 1.2 trillion ISK of the 1.4 trillion ISK increase in the value of ore mined last month. Year-over-year, the value of ore mined in null sec was down 17.5% compared to August 2020.

Production in New Eden rose in August, rising 10.3% from July's low of 85.2 trillion ISK. EVE's industrialist are still not producing at full capacity, with last month's production down 34.3% compared to August 2020.

When looking at the size of the New Eden economy as measured by the value of the four major economic indices, the economy grew 3.5% in August. The growth was not strong, especially as the July total was the lowest in 5 1/2 years. Last month's total of 390.7 trillion was still 18% lower than the value of the indices in August 2020.

Finally, the value of the goods in the Consumer Price Index rose 4.7% from July to August. Of the 14.3 trillion ISK increase, the RMT tokens (skill injectors, skill extractors, multiple character training certificates) only accounted for 900 billion of the amount. Year-over-year, however, the value of the CPI decreased by 14.7%.

What the August MER showed was an economy still struggling despite an injection of 25.9 trillion ISK into the economy in late July and early August by CCP. Historically, August is a slow month in EVE, but even for August the numbers are down. If the average concurrent user numbers are any type of indication, players should see the economy perform fairly similar to August's activity in September.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Diary Of An Alt Paladin - Levels 40 to 50

I finished levelling an alt job, Paladin, to from level 40 to level 50 and managed to reach level 51 in four play sessions. As I approached level 50 I spent a little more time playing as a paladin and less doing other things. Still, none of my sessions lasted more than 2 hours.

If the journey from level 30 to 40 was an adventure figuring out the new paladin skills, levels 40 to 50 pretty much involved doing the same thing each day. As the days passed, I started writing less and less as I didn't really do anything special or interesting. The new features for leveling, such as The Hunt, came into play in Heavensward. I stopped at the first paladin job quest which started at level 50. Below is my record of achieving the last 10 levels in A Realm Reborn.

Day 12.    I started off the session buying a set of armor off the market board before I headed off to do the level 40 paladin job quest. I figured the level 34 armor I was wearing might wind up being a little undergeared going forward.

The level 40 quest wound up with Jenlyns sending me to Eastern Thanalan to light another brazier and kill some NPCs. An unmemorable quest but I did receive Prominence, giving me an AoE damage rotation as well as a single target rotation.

I was tired so I figured I would just do command missions with my squadron. Turns out I was a bit more tired than I thought. First, I accidentally selected Halatali and ran the low level dungeon. I recovered a bit, running Brayflox's Longstop one last time. I fumbled around a bit, but left the dungeon at level 41.

At level 41 I could finally run The Stone Vigil. The dungeon is located in the Coerthas Central Highlands and drops Isgardian items. In addition to the upgrades, I wanted the Vigil armor set as a glamour set. Veterans might understand why.

Posing with my squadron in The Stone Vigil

On my first run, I handled the bosses well but died to mobs along the way. I jumped from level 41 to level 43 and decided to run The Stone Vigil one more time. I finished at level 44 but died to two of the three bosses. I only needed the Vigil Vambraces to complete the armor set, but logged out for the night.

Day 13.    I started off with a dilemma. I could do Dzemael Darkhold, but just needed the Vigil Vambraces to complete my glamour set. I decided instead to just work on the Hunting Log so I didn't fall too far behind.

Completing the log through level 45 took me to Western La Noscea, East Shroud, and Revenant's Toll. While in Western La Noscea I had to visit the Isles of Umbra. I had left one quest unfinished on the island, so I completed that also.

I had two entries to complete in Mor Dhona and ran across a rather large FATE boss I couldn't solo. A black mage was also in the area and looked like he wanted to kill the boss also. I decided to just see what happened and started tanking the boss. The black mage joined in and the boss went down.

At that point I was only 80,000 experience points away from level 45 and decided to run The Stone Vigil one more time. A night's rest did me good as my third run through the dungeon resulted in no deaths. The last piece of armor from the set also dropped. Not only did I reach level 46, but my squadron NPC conjurer reached level 52 and archanist hit 53.

I ended the night travelling to Ul'dah and talking with Jenlyns. He gave me the level 45 paladin quest which required traveling around to four braziers, killing 2 mobs at each one, and retrieving a piece of armor.

With that task done, Jenlyns arranged a parley with Solkzagyl the bad guy of our story in the Sagolii Desert. Of course, Jenlyns then turns on me, accuses me of evil things, and a party attempts to kill me. That didn't work and I defeated the party, including Jenlyns. At that point, an archer tried to kill Jenlyns who was saved by Solkzagyl. Turns out Solkzagyl wasn't the bad guy after all. 

I wound up getting four level 50 armor pieces wearable by level 45s.

  1. Gallant Coronet
  2. Gallant Gauntlets
  3. Gallant Cuisses
  4. Gallant Sollerets

In addition, I received the ability Cover, which allows paladins to take all damage intended for another party member for 12 seconds.

Day 14.    I started off the day looking for a piece of glamour that drops in Dzemael Darkhold. I entered the dungeon with my squadron and, as it turns out, not wearing my best armor. I left the dungeon with my ego bruised, no glamour item, but level 47. I equipped myself properly and emerged without dying ... and the glamour item. I really didn't want to run the dungeon a third time so I checked the market board to see if the item was available. Not only was it available, but only cost 159 gil.

I decided to do one more command mission in the newly unlocked dungeon The Aurum Vale. New players usually have difficulty with the first room getting to the first boss, and I was no different. I managed not to die to any of the bosses, but did die 4 times along the way. I need more practice pulling mobs packed together.

With the last dungeon run, I dinged 49 and logged out for the night.

Day 15.    Only needing 300 thousand experience points to reach level 50, the smart ways to start out the night would have involved either joining the duty roulette or running The Aurum Vale again as a command mission with my squadron. Instead, I chose to complete my Hunting Log.

Now, this may sound a little crazy, but doing the level 46-50 entries requires going to 6 separate regions. One of the benefits to so much travel was the opportunity to stumble across FATEs. Completing four FATEs and receiving the Challenge Log bonus helped me reach level 50.

With level 50 achieved, I only needed to complete the paladin quest to unlock my level 50 abilities. Off to Ul'dah I went. I met Jenlyns in his usual place and he described a crazy idea to face down Monetarist assassins alone outside Snowcloak in Coerthas Central Highlands. Solkzagyl and I help out Jenlyns and the Monetarists were defeated. The story ends with Jenlyns still in charge of the paladins in Ul'dah. And I wound up with my final ability, Hallowed Ground. I also received the Gallant Surcoat to complete that set, and the Valor Armor Coffer, which is a iLevel 90 set.

The Paladin's Valor Set

I wound up doing The Aurum Vale to level to 51 and then the Heavensward level 50 paladin quest. I also bought a better set of armor to adventure in the expansion. But the ARR leveling experience was over.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Star Citizen To See Server Wipe In Alpha 3.15

The inevitable will soon happen in Star Citizen. When Alpha 3.15 is deployed live, a server wipe will occur. An explanation was posted to the official Star Citizen forums yesterday.

That’s right, the time has finally come. Back when we introduced Long Term Persistence in Alpha 3.8.2, we communicated that database wipes would happen, potentially even on a quarterly basis. Fortunately though, we have not had to do a full wipe even once in the last 18 months. Until now. So, let’s talk about what this means, why it's important, and how often you can expect wipes in the future.

As of 3.15, Long Term Persistence (LTP) is broken up into three distinct parts: Items, Wallet (aUEC), and Reputation. Going forward, we will be able to wipe specific parts of LTP individually as needed (for example, wiping Reputation while leaving Wallet and Items intact). This level of flexibility will allow us to do necessary wipes while minimizing the impact on the community.

With this update, all three pillars of data will be wiped, which actually has quite a few benefits. First, Reputation has undergone its first tuning pass since its launch in Alpha 3.13, which will necessitate progress being wiped in order to implement. Second, there’s a few account-related issues/bugs that some players have been unable to resolve with character resets or workarounds, and this wipe will assist in remedying those issues.

Third, and most important of all, players have been accumulating wealth in the persistent universe with no economic sinks to balance it. While Selling and other sinks are being developed, it's extremely helpful for designers to have additional data on how players acquire and spend money. Putting players at a level playing field would provide this data, and this will be exceedingly important as Death of a Spaceman, Full Persistence, Server Meshing and other key pillar technologies come online. As those milestones approach, you can expect for additional wipes as necessary, mostly for similar reasoning listed above.

The primary reason for the wipe, however, is the upcoming changes to how items and inventory work in Star Citizen. The entire system for items has been reworked from the ground up as we make a large step towards a fully physicalized universe. Tune in to Inside Star Citizen tomorrow to learn more.

Of course, in the event of any LTP wipe, all of your account attributed items (purchases, subscriber flair, rewards, etc.) are safe.

Lastly, we know that many of you dedicated yourself to the CDF to help defend Stanton in recent XenoThreat attacks. We’re also aware that many of you took full advantage of this heroic and lucrative opportunity, and don’t want you to feel it was for naught. For this reason, we’re currently exploring the feasibility of awarding aUEC post-wipe to those who participated in the event. Stay tuned for more details on that front and we’ll see you in the ‘verse!

Star Citizen is still in alpha so server wipes will happen. With years of alpha development still to come, anyone playing Star Citizen should prepare for losing items obtained purely in-game periodically. As long as all the items purchased with real world money are retained correctly, everything is good. But I expect some people who bought into the game thinking they would not experience server wipes to complain loudly.

I wonder if the server wipe will increase revenue for Cloud Imperium Games. Purchasing ships from the pledge store ensures that players will always have their ships and not have to start over when a server wipe occurs. Revenue was going to rise naturally due to upcoming events like CitizenCon which usually feature ship sales. Given the culture surrounding the game, I wonder if even more people will take the plunge to spend hundreds of dollars to buy their favorite ships to ensure their experience is never interrupted.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

EVE Online's Latest New Player Experience Is Live On Tranquility

Yesterday CCP released the latest version of its New Player Experience (NPE) onto the live Tranquility shard yesterday. I was less than impressed with the feature when initially introduced to the Singularity test shard three weeks ago. I ran through the tutorial again yesterday to see how much the experienced improved over the last three weeks.

The first improvement is the initial video introducing the tutorial. When I tried the feature on Singularity, CCP used a placeholder video. I rather liked the live video. I thought it gave a little bit of entertaining background for why a player is sitting in space in a pod. For the NPE to work, the devs need to get the player engaged quickly. I think the video does a good job of that. The Gateway - Quadrant 3 trailer is pretty much made up of the tutorial introduction video.

An observation I made back in August is that I thought having a pre-existing overview set-up might have made my experience worse. For yesterday's session, I used an old alpha account I had lying around with a character using the default overview. I went ahead and created a new character and the guides pointing around worked a lot better.

I also really like the use of the slowly emerging EVE user interface. When I started playing I found the UI pretty overwhelming, so I liked the presentation of the UI to new players. A welcome side effect is by revealing the elements slowing, a new player has less of a chance of screwing up the pre-programmed tutorial script.

One big improvement I saw in the live version of the tutorial is the timing in the interactions between the NPCs talking to the new player. I think the tutorial only had one moment where I sat moving in space for more than 10 seconds without some sort of audio or visual stimulus to keep me focused on the activity at hand.

I thought having the player get into a damaged ship shortly after the cutscene was a nice touch. Not only was shipping into the damaged Astero a chance to show off the graphical battle damage, but provided a link to the exploding station the player just escaped.  Once again, providing a chance at immersion. Also, the tutorial proceeded to show the new player the ability of ships to repair other ships in space. Who knows, playing a space priest could appeal to some players.

One part I thought was weak was the fleet warp. I don't know if a new player would understand why he went into warp by not touching any buttons or keys.

Following the fleet warp was the battle to protect the fleet of civilian ships. During this time, the new player hopefully learns the three steps to engage with an enemy.

  1. Orbit the ship
  2. Target the ship
  3. Do something to the ship

The first combat encounter involves frigates. Players are instructed to just destroy the ships using the three steps. Next, a cruiser breaks free of the pack and starts heading for the civilian ships. At this point the player is instructed how to use a web to slow down the cruiser while the player fires on and destroys the NPC ship.

The final group involves stopping a battleship. An Astero can't stop a Machariel, but one fit with a jammer can prevent one from doing damage. This was the encounter I really disliked on Singularity because it took so long for the battleships to destroy and pod me. But at the same time the explanation of the jamming mechanics was one of my favorite parts of the tutorial. Fortunetly the devs considerably shortened the destruction of the Astero on the live servers.

One of the nice touches before getting podded was an NPC explaining that for the civilians death is permanent but for capsuleers death is just an inconvenience. Upon the destruction of my pod, the customary death scene and rebirth in a station occurred. 

Upon waking up in my pod, I was given instructions on how to get a corvette, also known as a rookie ship. One criticism I have is the story made receiving a corvette a special tutorial event and not something down-on-their-luck players can do. However, trying to explain the mechanics might take away from the simplicity, so not a big issue for me.

When the tutorial first started to demonstrate how to fit a module into a ship, I thought the sequence was strange. But then I saw the logic. First, the player is instructed to put the module into the ship. The module does not activate because the player does not know the skill to use the module. Then the tutorial guides the player through the process of how to learn the skill using an injector. Along the way the player is exposed to the skill queue and skill plans. But the exposure is very brief. Then again, I think the emphasis was not to bog the player down too much.

Finally the tutorial leads the player to the career agents. Aura talks the player through using The Agency to find the career agents and then set a path to the station where the agents reside. Along the way Aura teaches the player how to undock from a station as well as provide a running commentary as the player travels to the career agent system. The tutorial finally ends when the player accepts the first career agent mission.

Overall, I like this version of the tutorial. The introduction is good, the end links straight into the career agents, and the steps are simple enough to limit errors as players advance through the content. Hopefully CCP will consider the tutorial good and move on to producing other content to aid new players in finding a home in New Eden.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A Quick Look At Broker Fees And PLEX Transactions In EVE Online

Near the end of the fighting in Delve, CCP made a temporary change to market fees and taxes that some voices claimed placed a severe disadvantage to one side of the conflict. The three month deal meant that selling items in NPC stations in Jita was cheaper than using the Tranquility Trading Tower Keepstar in Perimeter. The TTT Keepstar is a player-owned Upwell structure owned by Test Alliance Please Ignore and whose proceeds were divided amongst the major null sec powers. According to public statements made by The Mittani, 20% of revenue went to The Imperium with the other 80% split between the leading powers in PAPI.

Up until the change, which was announced on patch day, the TTT Keepstar had been the preferred place to sell high value items like PLEX. Once the patch went live, the sell orders for PLEX quickly shifted from the TTT Keepstar to the NPC-owned station of Jita 4-4. While we don't have the data for August, I took a look at broker fees and the PLEX market in The Forge to see if I could find anything interesting.

Looking at the amount of ISK players paid in broker fees, transactions appeared to increase with the implementation of real world lockdowns associated with fighting the COVID pandemic. More players in the game should increase market activity and thus market fees. The peak in broker fees collected occurred in May 2020 with 16.4 trillion ISK. From May 2020 to July 2021, the amount of broker fees collected declined 48%, down to 7.9 trillion ISK.

Breaking out the amount of broker fees between players and NPCs shows player-owned stations were not as negatively impacted as NPC stations. From May 2020 to July 2021, NPC brokers fees collected declined 51.8% while players only experienced a 39.5% decline. Going back to February 2020, NPC broker fees collected have decreased 33.2% while the fees pocketed by players increased 39.6%.

What changed in March 2020? On 10 March CCP instituted a Broker Relations patch. The devs made the following changes.
  • Introducing tick size - a limit on price precision when creating/updating an order. An order's price can only be specified with a maximum precision of 4 significant figures.
  • In Upwell structures, the minimum broker fee that can be configured by the structure owner increases from 0% to 1%, adding an ISK sink to these market fees by paying half of this incoming fee to an NPC.
  • Increase the ISK fees that are charged when modifying an order. The fee includes a new additional component, the Relist Charge. This is in addition to the regular Broker Charge that covers the increase between old and new order value.
    • Change the benefits (and name) of the Margin Trading skill - it becomes the Advanced Broker Relations skill. This will now give a reduction in the Relist Charge. The skill's old ability to create a Want-To-Buy order with only partial ISK escrow is removed, so all WTB orders will require 100% escrow to be paid up front.
Some of the increase in broker fees received was a result of CCP forcing some structure owners to actually charge fees. Of interest to those following the war is that the changes did not necessarily enrich the owners of the TTT Keepstar, as they were already charging a 0.5% fee. An increase to 1% with NPCs taking half resulted in no net change.

The Forge is the place in New Eden where PLEX is traded. In August 2021, 77.7% of all PLEX traded in the game were traded in the region. Until the temporary changes went into place on 27 July, the vast majority of those transactions took place in the Tranquility Trading Tower Keepstar. But even before the change, the ISK value was declining. In May 2019, players spent 7 trillion ISK per day buying PLEX. In June 2021, that amount had fallen to 2.7 trillion ISK per day. A 61% decrease in traded ISK value over two years is a fairly big decrease in potential income for large player groups.

Even before the temporary changes in July, the consortium running the TTT Keepstar had to have experienced declining income. The value of PLEX sales in The Forge declined by 34% from June 2020 to June 2021. 

The ISK value of the PLEX traded in The Forge, even with the recent uptick in sales, still falls below the amount sold in the aftermath of Blackout in 2019. But what about the actual amount of PLEX traded? During the course of the war, the amount sold remained fairy stable. From July 2020, the first month of the war, to May 2021, the average amount traded daily only fell 6.1%. The ISK value of the trading fell 11% during the same period. The big drop in trading occurred in June and July when the PAPI alliances told their line members to not worry about the summer and come back to the game in September. The amount of ISK traded in The Forge dropped by 19.2%, or 263 thousand PLEX per day, from May to June. The decline equates to over 15,700 months of game time. The amount of PLEX traded bounced back to May levels in August as the evacuation from Delve commenced.

What did I gather from looking at the data? First, CCP's Broker Relations patch in March 2020 successfully increased the percentage of ISK players collected from broker fees. A strange move in the middle of the Scarcity Era, but a successful move nonetheless. Next, that the COVID lockdown bump really only lasted 2-3 months, returning to normal sometime in August or September 2020. Normal, unfortunately, is below the levels seen prior to Blackout in the third quarter of 2019. Finally, the summer vacation declared by PAPI really hit demand for PLEX hard, with in-game sales declining by almost 20%. The decline in PLEX sales tracked fairly closely with the decline in average concurrent user numbers over the same period.

One question I cannot answer from looking at the data is the future of the TTT Keepstar. We don't know if CCP will make the market changes introduced on 27 July permanent. But for now, we can try to look at the data to make an educated guess.