Monday, May 31, 2021

What Is The Burning Crusade Classic's Pull On EVE?

Over the weekend I realized something strange happening with the PLEX market in The Forge. The ISK value of PLEX traded in the region had not exceeded 3 trillion ISK in a single day since 17 May, which followed a 24-hour PLEX sale that occurred on 16 May. Lower trading activity is common after a PLEX sale, but not for two weeks.

The ISK value of PLEX sold reached a low for the year

Before exploring other reasons like shifting markets to explain the decline, I checked the player activity recorded on EVE-Offline.

The PCU reached lows for 2021 over the last two weeks

For months, Tranquility saw peak concurrent users exceed 30,000 accounts every day. Beginning on 19 May, that changed as the PCU failed to exceed 30,000 nine out of twelve days. I had to read Wilhelm's last war update to confirm, but Sunday's high of 29,898 players logged in was the first time PCU failed to exceed 30 thousand on a Sunday since the beginning of the current great null sec war that began in the beginning of July 2020.

The date of the decline in both PLEX value traded and peak concurrent users happened around 18 May. What else happened on 18 May? The Great Escape launched. But would the changes to warp nullification and warp core stabilizers really cause thousands of players to stop logging into EVE? As we saw with Hurricane Hilmar in 2019, players need an alternative game to flee to in order to turn disgruntlement into a natural disaster. In August 2019, WoW Classic launched as players realized Blackout would not end after one month.

The pre-patch for TBC Classic launched on 18 May

EVE's The Great Escape was not the only game update to appear on 18 May. Blizzard launched the pre-expansion update for The Burning Crusade Classic on the same date. I have a suspicion that Blizzard launching TBC Classic servers is drawing players away. I also expect the actual launch of the expansion tomorrow to noticeably drop activity in EVE for the next few weeks. At that point, a recovery within the next few months doesn't look promising. EVE traditionally sees less activity starting in mid-July with players coming back to the game starting in October.

The good news is that player discontent is way lower today than in August 2019. Still, when the Dark Portal opens tomorrow, we have to watch to see how many people wander through a wormhole and into Outland. I'd wager the number will be noticeable.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Stargate Trailblazers Event: The Irgrus To Pakhshi Gate

The Stargate Trailblazers event currently ongoing in EVE Online is the lore explanation for the addition of four new stargates. They are:

  • Tash-Murkon (Saminer) to Stain (F7-ICZ) for the Amarr Empire
  • Placid (Kenninck) to Solitude (Eggheron) for the Gallente Federation
  • Metropolis (Irgrus) to Genesis (Pakhshi) for the Minmatar Republic
  • The Forge (Hykkota) to Genesis (Ahbazon) for the Caldari State

Of the four, the Irgrus to Pakhshi gate under construction by the Minmatar Republic seems the gate that doesn't belong with the others. The first oddity is that both ends of the gate fall in high sec systems. The second is that the gate doesn't shorten transit times between trade hubs. Rens is 15 jumps away from Irgrus and Hek is 16. But what the new gate lacks in a convenient location it makes up for in safety.

The soon-to-be revised map of Metropolis

The Minmatar Republic has two high sec routes to other empires. The first runs from Heimatar through the Ammatar Mandate (Derelik) to the Amarrian region of Derelik. The high security route from Rens to the system of Amarr in Domain runs 21 jumps. The route is fairly safe, with only a stretch of 5 systems with a security rating of 0.6 in Devoid to traverse.

High sec routes to move goods from the Republic to Dodixie

The second route to other empires requires using the Bei-Colelie gate. For two NPC empires supposedly friendly to each other, they seem unable to coordinate on security. In non-role playing terms, the area between the two empires is a gankers paradise. The shortest routes from the Minmatar trade hubs of Hek (8 jumps) and Rens (14 jumps) to Dodixie require passing though 6 systems, including Hek, with a security level of 0.5. Haulers can reduce the number of ganking systems down to 3, but that is as good as they can do. Avoiding the extra systems adds 9 jumps to a trip from Rens to Dodixie and 11 jumps to trip between Hek and the Gallente trade hub.

With the new jump gate in place, travel between the Minmatar trade hubs and Dodixie can run in relative safety. Not counting Hek itself, ships will only have to enter one 0.6 security system, Josekorn. The new Rens-Dodixie route will run 21 jumps and the Hek-Dodixie route will run 22. 

Map obtained from r/eve

Researching the possible impact of the gate led me to wonder if the new gate will have an impact on what is known as EVE Online's Silk Road. What was dubbed as Silk Road 2.0 links trade in a 50 jump route linking the five major trade hubs in New Eden. That is, if one can call the two Minmatar trade hubs major when compared to the trade hubs in the other three empires. I wonder how many haulers will add seven jumps and skip Rens in order to bypass the potentially dangerous 7 system stretch from Balle in Sinq Laison to Hek in Metropolis. 

I'm sure the other gates each have a story to tell about how they will impact the game. Some of those ways players may even determine ahead of time. What I am going to look for, though, is whether the balance of trade between the two Minmatar hubs shifts in any way.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Stargate Trailblazers Event - Better With Friends

Last night I took part in the first day of the latest event in EVE Online, the Stargate Trailblazers event. Despite a poor choice of ships, I managed to have some fun by grouping up with other players. Gee, MMO game play is better with others? Who knew?

Daily login rewards

The first thing that greeted me was the inevitable login rewards. I found the rewards well thought out. On day 1, players receive the Mining Blitz Expedition Frigates Expert System. With the package, Alpha players can participate in using expedition frigates like the Endurance and Prospect. The seven boosters granted to Omega players (and three to Alpha players) over days 1 through 4 aid in mining and last for four hours. Too bad they are use on redeem, or a lot of players would try to sell them. Also, the mining boosters expire in 7 days, so use them or lose them.

Can't miss there is an event going on

In my mind I thought the event might be based on the old Resource Wars features based on mining expedition sites. But I didn't realize CCP would populate the old loyalty point stores as well. Sure enough, they did. I decided to check on the SKIN collection.

The SKIN selection from the Minnie LP store

I don't know if the SKINs are bind on acquire, but at least they are permanent. Given everything else I experienced, I'd wager they are.

EDIT: CCP Fozzie has confirmed the SKINs in the loyalty point store are not auto-injected, so they can be traded on the market.

The Agency page is looking useful

I have to admit The Agency is growing on me. CCP put together on the page the fleet finder option next to the event panel. I have to admit, I only briefly glanced at the EVE Academy page and didn't find much to offer for this event. But just getting me easily to the Stargate Trailblazers information without having to look outside the client is a big improvement over the old days when I started playing.

My progress after the first day

Players get earn a total of eight prizes, six of the event mining boosters and two of the regular event boosters. Once again, the mining boosters expire 7 days after claiming the booster from the event page.

The event page also has the vital information as to where to go to participate in the event. For those wondering, the event takes place in the two constellations the new gates will bridge. Those systems are:
  • Tash-Murkon (Saminer) to Stain (F7-ICZ) for the Amarr Empire
  • Placid (Kenninck) to Solitude (Eggheron) for the Gallente Federation
  • Metropolis (Irgrus) to Genesis (Pakhshi) for the Minmitar Republic
  • The Forge (Hykkota) to Genesis (Ahbazon) for the Caldari State
The full text description from the event page is below.
Welcome to Stargate Trailblazers

The four empires of New Eden are each embarking on projects to build new stargate connections to advance their interests. They are offering capsuleers an opportunity for wealth and permanent renown if they will assist with collecting raw materials for these gates:

Tash-Murkon (Saminer) to Stain (F7-ICZ) for the Amarr Empire
Placid (Kenninck) to Solitude (Eggheron) for the Gallente Federation
Metropolis (Irgrus) to Genesis (Pakhshi) for the Minmitar Republic
The Forge (Hykkota) to Genesis (Ahbazon) for the Caldari State

All previous standings and empire ship class access restrictions have been removed from the entry acceleration gates to the empire Mining Expedition sties to ensure that any capsuleer can assist in the building of these stargates.

Capsuleers are requested to mine ore for and defend Orcas in Mining Expeditions within the constellations where the stargates are being built. The difficulty of the sites grows between the different Mining Expeditions. They are, in ascending order of difficulty: Limited, Minor, Standard, Major, and Critical Mining Expeditions.

Once the construction of the stargates has been complete, a monument will be placed by each stargate naming the capsuleers and capsuleer corporations that provided the most assistance for ...
In my client, the last line was cut off. I hope it wasn't important.

I decided to help out the Minmatar Republic so I headed out to the Panorad constellation in Metropolis in a Prospect. I don't think anyone really visits the area which is probably why the Minmatar Republic is building a gate into CONCORD's home constellation.

Site requirements and restrictions, from EVE University Wiki

When I got to the area, I decided to try a Limited Mining Expedition first. Of course, not knowing the ship restrictions, I couldn't get in. Now for my first real complaint about the event. When I approached the gate, I started the event timer even though I couldn't enter the site. Luckily, the Limited sites weren't very popular.

I initially went into three Minor Mining Expedition sites by myself. I failed to collect enough ore in my first attempt, was chased out with my armor on fire my second, and finally completed the site on my third with four seconds to spare.

The rewards from completing my first site.

About this time a pilot in an Endurance decided that working together in a fleet was better than trying to work separately and we formed a small gang of two. To say two frigates is better than one is an understatement. We finished up our first Minor site in 4:03, which earned up extra rewards.

First reward when fleeted up

At this point, I want to recommend to people that they fly an Endurance if possible. Yes, the Prospect gets a 100% role bonus to mining yield as well as a 5% bonus to mining yield per level of Expedition Frigate skill trained. But the Endurance just has such a better tank. The Endurance has 300 more base shield hit points than the Prospect as well as 4 mid-slots vs the Prospect's 3. The Endurance also gets a 4% bonus to all shield resistances per level vs the Prospect's bonus of 5% reduction in ship signature radius per level. As much as I love speed and signature tanking in my Prospect, the Endurance pilot told me he didn't really have to worry about his tank from the rats. Combine that with the 300% ore mining yield bonus and the Endurance was having an easier time running the content than I was.

The Endurance also brings one additional trait to the table: drones. The Endurance was a drone capacity of 30 m3 and a drone bandwidth of 15 Mbit/sec. In English, it means the Endurance can carry two flights of 3 light drones. One of the flights the Endurance pilot carried consisted of light shield repair drones. So when I'd get stuck on a rock, he'd go ahead and pop the repair drones on me. While the drones don't heal that much, when I speed tanked properly, they worked wonders.

When we ran out of Minor sites, the Endurance pilot wondered if we could successfully run a Standard Mining Expedition. You only live once, right? So into a Standard we went. I'm not sure if any DPS pilots helped us the first time, but we completed the site.

Completing the first Standard site

Overall we succeeded in completing four sites together, two Minor sites and two Standard sites. Looking at my transactions shows just how beneficial teaming up with another player was.

Journal entries during my night out

I managed to finish one site stumbling about by myself, and four sites in about 30 minutes flying around with someone. Two of those sites I wouldn't have had a prayer of finishing by myself.

Overall, I liked the event. I do want to try fitting an Endurance and seeing how the other expedition frigate performs solo. I'd also like to see how the Venture performs in a Limited site. I remember running a Limited site back in 2017 but forgot what the experience feels like. I do have to hurry, though. The event ends at downtime on 1 June.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Council of Stellar Management Elections: Historical Turnout And Winning Margins

The candidates for the election of the Council of Stellar Management 16 are now official. I don't plan to cover the election as much as I have in the past. But I think some of the people who will cover the event might like a little historical information from someone who covered the elections for years. In this post, I'll look back at the previous 15 elections and list the turnouts for each election as well as the minimum vote to win a position on the player council that helps advise CCP on the game they play.

CSM 1 through CSM 4

CSM only had 6 month terms in the first four iterations. Players elected 9 regular delegates with 5 alternates using the first past the post voting system. During this period of EVE's history, the subscription numbers were public, so we know what the percentage turnout was.

Links to election results

CSM 5 through CSM 7

In the next three elections, CSM terms were extended to one year. For CSM 5 & 6, players elected 9 regular delegates with 5 alternates using the first past the post voting system. For CSM 7, all 14 members were considered full members, although only the top 7 members were flown to Reykjavik. Some members did attend the summit meetings via Lync. In the below chart, I left the old CSM 5 & 6 rules in for CSM 7 for comparison purposes.

Links to election results

CSM 8 through CSM 11

In the next four elections, the CSM was chosen via a new system, a modified Wright single transferable vote (STV). Also, due to the mechanics of the voting system, players were no longer able to vote but abstain.

Links to election results

CSM 12 through CSM 15

Beginning with CSM 12, the size of the CSM was reduced from 14 members down to 10. The change was made so that all members of the Council of Stellar Management would fly out to Reykjavik for the twice annual summits.

Links to election results

Monday, May 24, 2021

The April 2021 Monthly Economic Report: Faucets And The Dynamic Bounty System

The April 2021 Monthly Economic Report (MER) was notable due to some of the data and charts consisting of March data. CCP Larrikin updated the data files, but one notable chart containing commodity information was still missing. Fortunately, the data files allow for the creation of custom charts.

Data from RegionalStats.csv, January 2018 to April 2021

Looking at the data from the regional statistics file, we see the amount of ISK collected from bounties has declined from 55.8 trillion ISK in October 2020 down to 27.2 trillion in April. A 50% decrease in bounties is draconian, right? But one chart makes the decline appear even worse.

Faucets and Sinks from the April 2021 MER

The ISK Sinks and Faucets chart readily displays how the data in the MER has changed over the last 6 months. While the regional data displays players collecting 27.2 trillion ISK in bounties, the ISK Sinks and Faucets chart only displays 21.1 trillion ISK in bounty prizes distributed. A 62.2% decrease seems disastrous. Unless one remembers a major change that occurred in November.

In November 2020, CCP introduced the Dynamic Bounty System. A part of the scarcity push, the DBS works as follows:

Every solar system will now have an ever-changing bounty multiplier that is applied to any bounty payout earned in the system. As an example, if the solar system multiplier is at 110% and you kill a pirate that has 100,000 ISK bounty, the payout will now be 110,000 ISK. However, some of that will be captured by the revamped Encounter Surveillance System (ESS), which you will hear more about next week.

This multiplier will always be visible via the starmap so that you can locate high-value solar systems in which to hunt pirates.

This multiplier will get adjusted constantly based on what’s happening in the solar system:

  • Excessive ratting? Multiplier goes down
  • High level of player combat and death? Multiplier goes up
  • Empty system? Multiplier stabilizes at an equilibrium value.

Of course there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to set the rate of change, but the three points above are all you need to effectively plan your bounty hunting activities.

In November, the ESS Main Bank Autopayment category was added to the MER. If the ESS entry is added to the bounty prize amount, we see a total of 29.8 trillion ISK. The difference between the data files is still in the trillions, but not as drastic as appears at first glance. Also in November, players in null sec could no longer avoid the ESS

From commodity_sinks_and_faucets_over_time.xls, April 2021 MER

Players in MMORPGs will move to different areas of play if their favored play is nerfed. In EVE, players began engaging more with wormholes and Triglavian content. The trend is visible looking at the value of the top commodities in April. 

From October 2020 to April the value of the commodities increased 16.9%, from 30.7 trillion ISK to 35.9 trillion ISK. The two commodities that increased most were Sleeper Components and Triglavian Data. The amount of blue loot from wormholes increased nearly 25%, from 16.4 trillion ISK in October up to 20.4 trillion ISK in April. Triglavian Data, sometimes referred to as red loot, increased from 4.4 trillion ISK up to 6.6 trillion ISK over the same amount of time.

Data from RegionalStats.csv, January 2018 to April 2021

One final factor to consider is the the current war in null sec. Despite the fact that bounties in Delve dropped from 4.1 trillion ISK in June 2020 to 1.7 trillion ISK in October 2020, overall bounty generation in New Eden increased 1.6 trillion ISK over the same time. After the introduction of the dynamic bounty system, Delve saw bounty revenue decrease from 1.7 trillion ISK down to 540 billion ISK last month. In absolute terms, the decrease in Delve only made up 4.2% of the decrease in bounties in the entire game during the time.

Overall, April's  ISK faucet of of 97.4 trillion ISK was only slightly below March's 101.4 trillion ISK when averaged at a per day rate. But I'm not sure if CCP is satisfied with the result. In October 2020, the ISK faucets totaled 113 trillion ISK. Is a 400 billion ISK decline in the ISK faucet enough? If not, what is next on CCP's nerf list, wormholes or the Sansha incursions?

Friday, May 21, 2021

A Look At Faction Warp Scramblers

With Tuesday's changes to warp core stabilizers, three became a magic number. The only ships with a potential warp core strength greater than 2 when fitting a WCS module are the Venture and the four deep space transports. Fitting a warp core stabilizer gives those ships a warp care strength of 4. When I read the change, I thought we might see more ships fitting a scrambler and a disruptor. Then I started hearing people mention faction warp scramblers.

Faction warp scramblers are one of those modules that immediately brings to mind EVE law #1, "Don't fly what you cannot afford to lose." Sure, only fitting one module opens up a mid slot. But for how much?

A list of the scramblers with a +3 warp core strength

EVE has nine different types of faction warp scramblers. I divide them into two types, those which are purchasable from a loyalty point store, and those that only drop from NPCs.  The five that only drop are:

  • Dark Blood Warp Scrambler
  • Domination Warp Scrambler
  • Dread Guristas Warp Scrambler
  • Shadow Serpentis Warp Scrambler
  • True Sansha Warp Scrambler

The Dark Blood, Domination, and True Sansha versions each have a base range of 11.25 km. The Dread Guristas version has a range of 10 km and Shadow Serpentis Warp Scrambler has a range of 10.5 km. Compared to the Warp Scrambler II's base range of 9 km, not only do the faction versions have 1 extra warp scramble point, but have extra range as well.

I decided to find out the availability of the modules, so I visited Fuzzworks last night and looked up the prices and quantity available on all markets. Below were the prices and quantities for the first group of scramblers.

  • Dark Blood Warp Scrambler - 79 on market, 120,000,000 ISK lowest sell/110,000,000 ISK highest buy

  • Domination Warp Scrambler - 79 on market, 110,000,000 ISK lowest sell/110,000,000 ISK highest buy

  • Dread Guristas Warp Scrambler - 92 on market, 60,710,000 ISK lowest sell/57,780,000 ISK highest buy (not including one in Solitude listed for 49 million ISK)

  • Shadow Serpentis Warp Scrambler - 75 on market, 67,000,000 ISK lowest sell/65,000,000 ISK highest buy

  • True Sansha Warp Scrambler - 75 on market, 120,000,000 ISK lowest sell/117,100,000 ISK highest buy

The price seems linked to range of the module, but I'm not positive. I usually don't buy PvP modules that cost more than my Cheetah.

The four flavors of faction warp scramblers available from loyalty point stores are:

  • Caldari Navy Warp Scrambler (base range 10 km)
  • Federation Navy Warp Scrambler (base range 10.5 km)
  • Khanid Navy Warp Scrambler (base range 10 km)
  • Republic Fleet Warp Scrambler (base range 11.25 km)

What stuck me immediately is that the Amarr Navy doesn't have a faction version of the warp scrambler. That function is filled by the Khanid Navy. However, Khanid is a little out of the way from the usual trade lanes.

The cost of the modules in the loyalty point stores differ greatly. Not only in loyalty points and ISK, but in insignias required as well.

  • Caldari Navy Warp Scrambler - 14,000 LP, 5.6 million ISK, 38 Federation Navy Captain Insignia I, 61 Federation Navy Major Insignia I

  • Federation Navy Warp Scrambler - 80,000 LP, 32 million ISK, 1 Caldari Navy Commodore Insignia I, 10 Caldari Navy Admiral Insignia I. 5 Caldari Navy Vice-Admiral Insignia I

  • Khanid Navy Warp Scrambler - 14,000 LP, 5.6 million ISK, 38 Republic Fleet Captain Insignia I, 61 Republic Fleet High Captain Insignia I

  • Republic Fleet Warp Scrambler - 80,000 LP, 32 million ISK, 70 x Imperial Navy Colonel Insignia I, 43 x Federation Navy Fleet Major Insignia I

What about manufacturing the modules. Usually, players can purchase 5-run blueprint copies from the loyalty store. When researching the prices of the BPCs, I discovered the game doesn't have blueprints for the Federation Navy Warp Scrambler.

A list of warp scrambler blueprints

Also, while the game lists a blueprint for the Khanid Navy Warp Scrambler, I did not find one offered in the Khanid loyalty point stores. The cost of the two BPCs for the remaining modules are:

  • Caldari Navy Warp Scrambler BPC, 5 runs - 42,000 LP, 16.8 million ISK, 111 Federation Navy Fleet Captain Insignia I, 185 Federation Navy Fleet Major Insignia I

  • Republic Fleet Warp Scrambler BPC, 5 runs - 240,000 LP, 48 million ISK, 128 Imperial Navy Major Insignia I, 211 Imperial Navy Colonel Insignia I

Given the acquisition costs of each of the modules from the loyalty point stores, I wasn't surprised to see Caldari Navy Warp Scramblers were the most popular of the four types when I searched the markets. In order of quantity available for purchase:

  • Caldari Navy Warp Scrambler - 306 on market, 61,340,000 ISK lowest sell/56,260,000 ISK highest buy

  • Republic Fleet Warp Scrambler - 139 on market, 109,600,000 ISK lowest sell/101,000,000 ISK highest buy

  • Federation Navy Warp Scrambler - 18 on market, 117,600,000 ISK lowest sell/86,800,000 ISK highest buy

  • Khanid Navy Warp Scrambler - 2 on market, lowest sell price was 135 million ISK.

I have to admit my biggest worry travelling through low sec is running into a gate camp with a sensor boosted heavy interdictor fitted with an infinite point. In those cases, 10 warp core stabilizers wouldn't help. As a result, I really only fit WCS if I had nothing else to put in my low slots. I'm not worried about someone fitting a faction warp scrambler. 

I also think a lot of PvP pilots won't worry about the possibility of running into a ship fitting a warp core stabilizer. They will be looking for other pilots looking for a fight. In those situations, neither side will fit WCS and a single disruptor will suffice to keep the opponent from warping off.

I can see all those tech 1 industrial pilots used to zipping in and out of low sec not feeling as comfortable running cargo now. Since the odds of surviving a surprise meeting decreased a few days ago, the pilots will need to recalculate the risk versus reward for their activities. Hopefully we don't see any unintended consequences in the economy.

Finally, do I think we are going to see a wild upswing in players purchasing faction warp scramblers. Not really. The modules are pretty expensive. A slow uptake in usage is possible, though. Although, if we see a movement complaining about the price, CCP might make acquiring faction warp scramblers easier. I hope not, though. I'd like to see how the new environment plays out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Eve Online's Great Escape - Nullification And Warp Core Stabilizer Changes

I didn't write about the upcoming changes to interdiction nullification and warp core stabilizers over the last week because the features kept changing. Unexpectedly, CCP pushed the changes live today with patch 2021-05-18.1. Since I now apparently fly nullification-capable ships, I thought I'd comment on the situation.

First off, CCP removed the passive ship hull ability of interdiction nullification from fleet interceptors, strategic cruisers, and the Victorieux Luxury Yacht. Shuttles were granted built-in nullification to give players outside empire space a travel option that negates bubbles.

The tech 2 version (as seen on patch day)

The developers transferred nullification from hulls to active modules. CCP created four:

  • Interdiction Nullifier I
  • Compact Interdiction Nullifier
  • Restrained Interdiction Nullifier
  • Interdiction Nullifier II

The negative attributes, such as the -50% drone bandwidth, targeting range, and scan resolution penalties, apply at all times. The nullification benefit only applies when the module is activated. Interdiction nullifiers are a high slot module. The module was originally a low slot item but was changed due to player feedback pointing out fitting the module in a low slot would adversely affect armor-tanking ships.

Next, CCP expanded the list of nullification capable ships. The following 7 classes can fit the new nullification modules.

  • Interceptors
  • Blockade Runners
  • Deep Space Transports
  • Tech I Industrials
  • Covert Ops Frigates
  • Victorieux Luxury Yacht
  • Strategic Cruisers

In addition to the combat ships, CCP granted nullification ability to tech 1 and tech 2 cargo carriers as well as to combat interceptors and the four covert ops frigates. The original proposal included all tech 1 and faction frigates as well as stealth bombers. CCP dropped the stealth bomber change in the first round of changes on Singularity and frigates lost the ability due to the escape frigate feature in battleships in the final round.

Where is the nullification text? (as seen on patch day)

I want to comment on one last detail about nullification. According to the patch notes, shuttles now have interdictions nullification baked into the hull. But the trait is not listed in the information window.

The tech 1 WCS (as seen on patch day)

The second part of the changes involve the much-maligned (by hunters) warp core stabilizer. CCP described the changes:

Warp Core Stabilizers

Warp Core Stabilizers have now been converted to an active module, where they must be activated to increase the strength of your ship's warp core. Moving forward, you can only fit one warp core stabliizer to your ship at any time. Those ships that are currently fit with more than one of these modules will need to unfit them from their ship.

In addition to this change, when the module is online the ship's drone bandwidth will be reduced by 50%

The original proposal gave warp core stabilizers a -3 to warp scramble strength, but in the first round of changes on Singularity the value was reduced to -2.

For haulers, especially those performing corp and alliance logistics functions in null sec, I suspect many will see the WCS change as a nerf. Tech 1 industrial ships will only have a maximum warp scramble strength of -2 with the change. Before, they could fill up their low slots with warp core stabilizers to protect themselves from gate camps. Now, the ships are vulnerable to hard tackles by ships only fitting one scram and one point. The situation is better for deep space transport pilots. The inherent -2 warp scrambler strength gives the ship class a possibility of a total of -4 strength. Solo pilots attempting a tackle will require 2 scrams and a point in order to prevent a DST fitting a WCS from warping off.

I suspect the developers might see the reduction in maximum warp scramble strength a fair trade-off for granting haulers interdiction nullification capability. In null sec, wormhole space and Pochven, the argument might even hold water. What about low sec, where bubbles do not work? While I personally only had one ship fitting with multiple WCS, many pilots do rely on the module to move goods around the security band. For them, I can imagine they logged into the game and started shouting at their monitors. 

The change to warp core stabilizers might have its greatest effects on AFK ratting play in null sec. Adding a penalty to drone bandwidth definitely nerfs the use of drone boats like the Gila. I suspect Caldari shield missile ships using auto-targeting missiles will come back into vogue.

I should add another possible side effect of the warp core scramble change: harvesting. With Coveters only having one low slot, the change actually increases the maximum warp scramble strength. Procurers have two low slots and Retrievers three. So the only mining barge negatively affected flying through dangerous space is the Retriever. But the tech 2 exhumers all have three low slots, so they all receive a nerf to their maximum warp scramble strength. But when actually mining, I doubt many pilots fit a full rack of WCS in their low slots.

My Prospect fit now has an empty slot

My final WCS thought concerns gas harvesting. Given greater importance with the changes to building large ships (battleships, capitals, and supercapitals), how will the change affect players huffing gas? My guess is, not that much. The two ships I imagine most players will use are the Venture and Prospect. The Venture, with a built-in warp core strength of +2, requires a ship or ships with 2 scrams and a point to keep from escaping, assuming the pilot fits a WCS in the first place. For the Prospect, I found I only really needed 2, since I used the other two low slots to aid in speed/signature tanking. With one module giving me the previous strength of two, I have to decide how best to modify my fit.

Overall, I don't know what to think of these changes. I have no clue how the nullification changes will work out, since I not only mainly fly in empire space, but mainly fly cov op frigates, mining ships, blockade runners, and deep space transports. Wait, I'm still thinking of the olden times of two days ago. I now have increased capabilities if I want them. But I think I'm in the minority. I guess everyone will find out as we continue on into the Foundation Quadrant.

Monday, May 17, 2021

FFXIV Fanfest 2021 Keynote - More Endwalker Reveals

On Friday night in the U.S., Square Enix began its two-day Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest 2021. I'll just write about the keynote address, as that is the only part I watched all the way through. In my experience with game fanfests, the keynote is where the most information is revealed.

As opposed to events held by CCP, Square Enix opened up this year's online event with the full trailer for the Endwalker expansion. I imagine the lore hounds will pour over the lyrics to the soundtrack for days searching for clues.

After the trailer finished, producer and director of FFXIV Naoki Yoshida (aka Yoshi-P) walked down to the stage dressed as the latest job being introduced in Endwalker, the Reaper. The first, the healing job Sage, was introduced last month.

Yoshi-P & Koji Fox as Reaper and Avatar (Art by u/takomunch)

The Reaper is the second new job in Endwalker. A melee DPS class, the Reaper uses a two-handed scythe and can call sort of avatar from the void during battle. A sub-class of the Dragoon, players start the job at level 70 in Ul'dah. While Yoshi-P suggested logging out in the city before the launch of Endwalker, I suspect the zone will experience plenty of lag the first day or two.

The expansions of the Hydaelyn/Zodiark saga

Going into Fanfest, Square Enix had revealed the story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark would end with 6.0, with the patch releases afterward beginning a new story. The sub-title of the expansion, "A New Dawn", harkens back to A Realm Reborn's full title, "Sunrise Over A Realm Reborn". 

Old Sharlayan

The city hub for Endwalker is Old Sharlayan. Viewers of the stream learned that Final Fantasy XIV originally planned to have six starting cities, not three. When Yoshi-P took over the game, he maintained the original three cities. The three omitted cities were Ishgard, Ala Mhigo, and Old Sharlayan. Okay, Ala Mhigo isn't much of a city. But unlike Mythic's Warhammer Online, all the planned starting cities eventually made it into the game.

Other new regions revealed were the subterranean region of Labyrinthos, the city-state of Radz-at-Han on the island of Thavnair, Garlemald, and Mare Lamentorum on the moon.

Fourchenault facing down Y'shtola

The most intriguing character being introduced in Endwalker probably is Fourchenault Leveilleur. The father of Alphinaud and Alisaie, the trailer shows Fourchenault opposing the plans of the Scions. The conflict between father and children is one to watch.

Other characters and a race of note is the The Magus Sisters from Final Fantasy IV and the Loporrits. With the story presumably ending on the moon, the Loporrits will populate the final zones.

While Square Enix is done introducing new playable races to Eorzea, they did have some unfinished business to conclude. Male Viera will make their first appearance in Endwalker. Female Hrothgar are scheduled for sometime after, but when is not known. Still, neither race can wear hats.

I think the final big news was the reveal of the name of the alliance raid: Myths of the Realm. The deities that players get to chose from that make no difference finally make their appearance outside wedding ceremonies. Will the players' choices finally matter?

In-game items available

Now for the business news. The expansion launches on 23 November 2021, with early access on the 19th. The physical collector's edition explanation was rather complicated, but Square Enix has already sold out, so no more worries on that score. Pre-ordering the digital or standard editions will grant two in-game items available immediately. The first is the Palom minion, the companion to the Porom minion available in the collector's editions. Going along with the moon theme, both Palom and Porom were characters from Final Fantasy IV. To top things off, a new piece of jewelry, Menphina's Earring, gives a 30% experience bonus when leveling any job under level 80.

The final bit of news was celebrated by all the Australians streaming the event. Oceania will receive its own data center sometime before 6.1. Besides making FFXIV more playable for folks in Australia, the new infrastructure is a sign that while the current story is ending, Square Enix has no plans to abandon Final Fantasy XIV

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Pearl Abyss Q1 2021 Earnings Call

On Wednesday morning in Korea (Tuesday in North America), Pearl Abyss held its earnings call for the first quarter of 2021. Overall, Pearl Abyss' operating revenue fell ₩4.7 billion ($4.2 million), or 4.5% from the previous quarter. Year over year, the South Korean game company saw revenue fall 24.2%.

The financial situation was complicated by the company taking over the publishing of Black Desert Online from Kakao in North America and Europe in February. On the call, Pearl Abyss disclosed that while bringing in ₩20 billion from the North American and European markets from 25 February to 31 March, the company could only recognize 46% of that revenue on its books. The company expects the numbers to return to normal in the second quarter.

For the fourth consecutive quarter, the Black Desert IP recorded a drop in revenue. While the 1.8% decrease from Q3 may seem minor, year-over-year Black Desert has experienced a quarterly revenue drop of 30.1%. The EVE IP experienced a drop of 7.9% compared to the previous quarter. Pearl Abyss attributed the drop to "slightly weaker mobile revenue." On the positive side, EVE Online and EVE Echoes still recorded a 23.1% increase in revenue compared to Q1 2020.

EVE Echoes is not the only mobile game doing poorly. Once again, financial analysts brought up the poor performance of Black Desert Mobile. Converting the percentages of revenue by platform to actual won amounts shows why the analysts are so concerned. Doing so shows quarterly mobile game revenue has dropped by almost 50% since the first quarter of 2020. In contrast, PC-based revenue is up 14.6% over the same time.

While Pearl Abyss plans on launching EVE Echoes in China sometime during the second quarter, Black Desert Mobile doesn't really seem to have much on offer over the next few months. The Kunoichi class was introduced on 27 April.

Performing the same calculations show Pearl Abyss' plan to increase revenue in North America and Europe by self-publishing Black Desert Online in those regions is working. Revenue for Q1 increased 13% compared to the final quarter of 2020. The region showing the biggest weakness for Pearl Abyss is Asia. Revenue from the region was down 20% quarter-over-quarter. 

The final interesting part of the earnings call concerned upcoming games. Early on the call, Pearl Abyss mentioned CCP's London studio is working on a "sci-fi multiplayer shooter". No other information was disclosed. The other point of interest was when the release period for Crimson Desert was stated as "by 2022." The language change from stating definitively in Q4 2021 caused some concern among the analysts on the call. Pearl Abyss did mention the studio would provide more information on the game, including a release date, at events during the summer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Blizzard Bans All Input Broadcasting In World Of Warcraft

I'm a little late with the news, but Activision-Blizzard announced on 5 May 2021 a ban to all input broadcasting in World of Warcraft.

On November 3, 2020, we posted an update to our policy for input broadcasting software, and soon thereafter, we began taking action against accounts found to be using third party software to automatically mirror keystrokes to multiple game clients. We find that, like full automation of play, multiple-account mirroring disturbs the gameplay experience for the vast majority of players who control a single account at a time.

We will now additionally prohibit the use of all software and hardware mechanisms to mirror commands to multiple World of Warcraft accounts at the same time, or to automate or streamline multi-boxing in any way. Players found to be in violation of this policy are subject to account actions. These actions can include warnings, account suspensions and, if necessary, permanent closure of the player’s World of Warcraft account(s), as activities which effectively replicate automated gameplay are contrary to the terms and conditions of the Blizzard End-User License Agreement (EULA).

We urge all players to cease using any means of mirroring gameplay across multiple WoW accounts immediately, in order to maintain uninterrupted access to World of Warcraft.

Whether players use hardware or software to send keystrokes to multiple accounts doesn't matter anymore. The move should make enforcement much easier. Instead of having to use technical means to determine whether a player is violating the rules, all a GM now has to do is see whether the actions of multiple characters are synchronized.

Joe "Lax" Thaler, the creator of the ISBoxer multi-boxing software, wrote on the forums on 6 May:

Realistically, they were already banning for the things they are describing in this updated policy.

I warned about this in November. As I said back then, there is zero difference to other players between you using software or hardware broadcasting. There's no way for a player to make that determination. And I would guess that Blizzard (and particularly random GMs) probably cannot make that determination reliably either. Even if they could, the next question is, do you really think it is worth their time and energy to determine that?

Since November, we've seen random people come to our multiboxing chat rooms (about once a week or so) and claim that they got banned "for using X software" (which many other people use on a daily basis with no issue). Then they show their ban email, and it says "Your fellow players reported you for cheating". When pushed on what they're doing, it's almost exclusively "I was 2x4 herbing, and 'only for 4 hours a day!'" and one recently even says he was hardware broadcasting.

Other players do not like to see "multiboxers" doing "2x4 herbing". They will report you, have no clue if you're using software or hardware, and frankly they never cared in the first place.

I think the latest effort is serious. Thaler is developing a new software program called Joe Multiboxer that does not perform input broadcasting. He thinks his software is safe for now.

They didn't say, so how are we to know what they are banning for exactly? Again, my interpretation is that they were already banning for the behaviors they wanted to ban for. They say multiboxing is allowed. There's no specific reason to believe that they banned Joe Multiboxer yet, but it is unclear what they mean by "streamline in any way", it could literally mean anything.

I will continue to use and develop Joe Multiboxer under the current policy. However, I would advise not using Round-Robin, as that would seem to fall under "streamlining".

The use of multi-boxing software incorporating input broadcasting is a pretty old issue. Most games just outlaw the practice. EVE Online, while not banning the use of the ISBoxer software, banned the problematic features on 1 January 2015. Because of the history of Inner Space,  ISBoxer, and multi-boxing in general, covering a story in WoW is just a follow-up of a formerly hot story in EVE. One, hopefully, that is coming to a conclusion.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Capsuleer Day 2021 - A Nice Beginning

I didn't do much on EVE Online's 18th anniversary. CCP added the Capsuleer Day event and I spent a little time poking around.

I didn't have the stomach for attempting the combat sites. The news article announcing the event claims the sites are tuned for battlecruisers and above. Even so, I think I've only taken a battlecruiser site running once or twice into low sec, and given the tendency of the NPCs to scram in the last event, I took a pass. Wednesday's patch contained an error and in the payouts for the final NPC battleship in the combat sites. Today's patch swapped the payouts of the final NPC battleship for combat sites in high sec and low. While the patch notes didn't give the values, helpful people on Twitter noted that the payouts for defeating the final battleship are now 5 million ISK in high sec and 20 million ISK in low sec.

But, as I noted before, the previous event scared me away from the combat sites. I took my trusty Cheetah into what I hoped was a quiet area of low sec, wondering where were all the anomalies and signatures on the way. I took a closer look and found my filters were still set up to probe down ships and drones. Once I correctly applied the filters ... SO MANY RED DOTS!!!!

One of the few acceptable uses for red dots is in the probing interface. The system I picked was full of signatures. I wound up identifying 2 combat sites, 1 gas site, 1 relic site, and 3 EoM data sites. That's right, 3 event sites in a single system.

The situation got better. When I warped into the first site, I landed 20 km away from the site's hackable container. I didn't make a mistake typing that last sentence. At least in low sec the EoM data sites only have one container. One container means no worrying about people cherry picking containers, leaving sites with only garbage cans to hack. Hack the can, the site despawns to allow new sites to spawn.

Once I completed hacking the first can, I was glad I was flying a Cheetah and not a Probe. I almost failed the hack. With the event data sites only containing one can, of course the can was difficult to hack. But forewarned not to expect an easy time, I successfully hacked the cans in the other two sites on the first attempt as well.

The loot wasn't too shabby. No ISK from a data site, of course, but plenty of Overseer's Personal Effects. I averaged almost 20 million ISK per site just in those items. The drop tables seem to offer either a SKIN or a cerebral accelerator. Another valuable items that dropped were the boosters. I don't know if only armor and shield boosting drugs drop, so I'll have to keep track.

One of the major annoyances from previous events was running out of cargo room. So far, the biggest space hogs are the Overseer's Personal Effects (90 m3) and the fireworks (40 m3). Still, I probably could fit one more site's worth of loot in my ship before having to dock up and unload.

Once docked, I sent my market character off to the nearest hub to put some of the items on the market. I'm trying to restock my orders as I let them fall to under 10 million ISK in value. The ISK was nice, but I really need to work on having consistent income.

I have to say at the end of my first night participating in the event I had fun. I do need to leave a little more time to play, though. I didn't get around to cashing in my Overseer's effects. As is often the case in EVE, I can use the money.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Andrew Groen On Writing Empires Of EVE: Volume 2

Yesterday Andrew Groen announced the launch of public sales of his new book, Empires of EVE: Volume 2 on Twitter. The hardcover version of the book, along with the 2nd edition of Volume 1, will be available on his website on 25 May. The Kindle version is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

But he didn't just send out a tweet. Andrew composed a 14 tweet thread summing up his thoughts about writing the book. I rolled up the thread and you can find the roll-up here. Given that today is the 18th anniversary of the launch of EVE Online, I thought I'd record his thoughts someplace other than Twitter. So with Andrew's permission, enjoy!

Hi friends, I’m pleased to announce that after three years of work Empires of EVE: Volume 2 will be launching May 25! Hardcovers will be through and ebooks on Kindle (pre-order: Bit of a thread to sum up the journey... 1/14

First off, I can’t thank @CCPGames enough for its patience in giving me the space and time to put together a book and a story I’m incredibly proud of. This story means the world to me, and I’m excited for it to be available at last to a wider audience.

In an age of opaque gaming/social media companies, @CCPGames deserves great credit for not only allowing a journalistic documentation of its community’s history, but actively aiding my work, giving me rights permissions, speaking opportunities, and assistance contacting players.

At times I'm critical of the company's choices, and at others the story remembers things that might preferably be forgotten, but in 7 yrs CCP has never tried to influence my writing, edit information, or control the story. It's a unique company with a history to be proud of.

It's inspiring to think of what could be achieved if our arrangement was used as a model for using investigative reporting to study the histories of other online spaces and social platforms.

My heartfelt thanks as well to the EVE community for allowing me the privilege of writing their story. None of it would've been possible w/out hundreds of people talking to me abt their experiences. The game is fundamentally interconnected. Every person has a unique perspective.

Sometimes it was an hours-long interview and others it was a chat by the hotdog stand in Reykjavik, a beer in Berlin, a stroopwaffle in Amsterdam, a layover in Toronto, but every person formed my understanding of who the community is and the forces that have shaped it over time.

The question that EVE players ask me most often is "how does EVE compare with other game communities?" I used to write about many different games before starting the EOE project in 2014, and people are often curious to get my perspective on what makes EVE distinct/typical.

I usually answer that EVE is a community of extremes. In its history you'll find the best in humanity, and you'll find the darkness in us too. In the stories that really mattered to players I heard about the friends they genuinely loved and the enemies they genuinely hated.

In large part, what I tried to do with Volume 2 was explain that paradox for myself. If EVE is designed to be a “cold, dark, and harsh world” then why were so many of the people I was meeting warm, bright, and kind? Why do the connections they make mean so much to them?

At the end of two books my conclusion can only be that they are inextricably linked. The darkness of EVE exerts sociological pressure on the core of its communities to come together and tighten their bond. The bleaker the darkness, the brighter the stars shine.

Volume 2 is a story about starships and interstellar internet politics, but to me, it's about a community and a developer that tried - and is still trying - to find balance between those deeply human forces.

Thank you for the most amazing adventure of my life. I started writing this because I believed it was the greatest story in video gaming. Today I believe that more than ever. I can only imagine what it was like for those who lived it.

My love forever to the EVE Online community who taught me not to fear the darkness, and neither to embrace it too closely. Fly safe, my friends. I hope you enjoy the story. (May 25!) 14/14

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Foundation: EVE Online's New Quadrant

EVE Online's latest quadrant, Foundation, officially kicked off yesterday. Beginning back in January 2020, CCP has developed a theme for every quarter, although the formal announcement of Foundation occurred almost half-way through the second calendar quarter. I'll let CCP describe the theme for the coming 3 months.

This next Quadrant ‘Foundation’ aims to celebrate the identity of the four Empires of New Eden, as well as the incredible 18 years that have passed since EVE’s own founding. It represents the pride in the history of these four Empires that have become the cornerstones of New Eden, pride in players’ own accomplishments, and pride in the collective journey that’s propelling EVE toward its third decade.

Furthermore, ‘Foundation’ recognizes the impact that the gift of Capsule technology has provided in extending humanity’s journey through New Eden and beyond, which you can read more about here.

The celebration begins tomorrow on the 18th anniversary of the launch of EVE. Originally a one-day event, this year's version will run from downtime (1100 UTC) tomorrow to downtime on 18 May.

Following Capsuleer Day, CCP plans to highlight each of the four NPC empires. The announcement tries to paint a happy, joyous time coming to all. But after only posting 1 article in the first 116 days of 2021, the World News channel has sprung to life with 13 articles. I'll let you judge if these sound like happy times...

2021-04-27 - Galactic Hour News Roundup: Caldari Protests, Privy Council and Triglavian Occupation

2021-04-27 - BREAKING NEWS: Minmatar Dreadnoughts Launch Orbital Bombardment of Tanoo II

2021-04-27 - BREAKING NEWS: Minmatar Dreadnoughts Attempting Assault on Tanoo II Destroyed

2021-04-28 - Galactic Hour News Roundup: Assault Aftermath, State Diplomacy and Federal Infrastructure

2021-04-29 - BREAKING NEWS: Dreadnoughts Reported Assaulting Girani-Fa III

2021-04-29 - BREAKING NEWS: Dreadnoughts Attacking Girani-Fa III Destroyed in Orbital Battle

2021-04-29 - BREAKING: Empire and Republic Face Off on Borders as Inner Circle Meets

2021-04-30 - Galactic Hour News Roundup: Fragile Peace Holding Despite High Tensions Across New Eden

2021-05-01 - BREAKING: Amarr Dreadnoughts Fire on Floseswin IV with Siege Lasers

2021-05-03 - BREAKING: Explosion Reported at CEP Spire in Landfall City on New Caldari Prime

2021-05-03 - BREAKING: Caldari Dreadnoughts Launch Missile Bombardment of Tierijev IV Gallente Defense Complex

2021-05-03 - BREAKING: Caldari Dreadnoughts Destroyed Over Tierijev IV in Battle to Stop Bombardment.

Of particular note is that the battles reported on occurred in the game and players who could get to the scene fast enough participated. From what I can tell, the quadrant started before CCP let the players know.

Did the announcements for Foundation begin at the start of the calendar quarter? I'll let you decide.

As mentioned in an article released on 1 April, the four Empires will also be embarking on projects to construct new stargates to their territory, and they will be asking the players for help to reshape the map of New Eden. So, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for some highly anticipated Gates coming this Quadrant.

That's right, the announcement of the creation of a low-sec gate to the null sec region of Stain was not an April Fool's prank. The alteration of the jump gate network begun with the creation of the Triglavian region of Pochven continues.

Speaking of Pochven, the region will receive some attention from CCP in the upcoming quadrant. Yesterday's patch addressed one complaint as the developers removed the standings requirements to pass through the loop gates. Although given that the current residents managed to pull 3.1 trillion in Triglavian invasion rewards out of the region in March, I'm not sure how much the current residents will welcome the attention.

CCP also plans to open up the ISK faucets in null sec later Foundation with allowing players to access the ESS reserve banks. In a dev blog in March, players learned ESS reserve banks held over 8 trillion ISK. The amount as assuredly increased since then.

The art team has also been busy, with both the interior of the Jita 4-4 trade hub and Aura receiving graphical upgrades yesterday.

Aside from the typical ship balancing and seasonal in-game events, this is what players can expect to see in EVE Online over the next couple of months. Well, and possibly the end of the current fighting in Delve. But that is player-created content and Foundation only covers the activities of CCP.