Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Trains Keep Moving

Honestly, sometimes I feel excited about EVE Online, and sometimes I don't. For example, yesterday I saw CCP Paradox post the new stats for the Pacifier and Enforcer on the Test Server Feedback section of the official forums.

Today’s update included some further changes, most notably includes a first set of changes to the Pacifier and Enforcer and updating the Covert Cyno deployables industry requirements and skill to anchor.

Pacifier

  • PG increased to 60
  • 1 Extra High Slot
  • Max Velocity increased to 340
  • Increased both max turret/launcher hardpoints to 4

Enforcer:

  • PG increased to 1150
  • 1 Extra High Slot
  • Max velocity increased to 190
  • Added Drone capability: Capacity 25m3 and Bandwidth at 25Mbit/s

Increased both max turret/launcher hardpoints to 5

Changes are still in progress and may be updated.

Yes, I own 2 Pacifiers, 2 Enforcers, 2 Pacifier blueprint copies, and an Enforcer BPC. Just the announcement of the changes inspired me to start playing Project Discovery again to try to pick up a couple of more BPCs. But I think I'm in the minority on that. Still, Op Success for CCP!

On the other hand, every time I see numbers I start getting concerned. The latest instance was my last visit to The Ancient Gaming Noob. He had a really good analysis of the May Monthly Economic Report up currently. But his weekly update of the war kind of got me down when I got down to the weekly PCU counts.

I'm going to jump the gun by a week making the following comparison. On 5 July 2020, the first full day of the war, the number of peak concurrent users was 38,838. The PCU peaked at 40,359 on 18 October. At that point, the numbers started to decline until the PCU reached 33,758 on 16 May. From the beginning of the war to week 45, the PCU had fallen by 5080.

In the following 6 weeks, the PCU dropped from 33,758 down to 25,661 this past Sunday. I know PCU is not the best metric for measuring activity, but the number of average concurrent users has dropped by around 5000 accounts during the same time. 

Shadowbringers is 60% off again as part of the Summer Steam Sale

With the war winding down, I can't help but think players are wandering off to do other things. Perhaps the timing is coincidental, but the rapid decline began the week Blizzard launched the pre-patch for The Burning Crusade Classic. The following week saw Square Enix, perhaps in an effort to pick off disgruntled WoW players, offering 60% off Shadowbringers from 25 May to 9 June. Then ZeniMax launched its Blackwood expansion for Elder Scrolls Online on 1 June, the same day Blizzard opened up the TBC Classic servers. And who knows what the effect of today's Patch 9.1 for Retail WoW will be.

The healthiest thing I can do is totally ignore the EVE subreddit. That's doable. But I keep poking my head out to look at the activity numbers. I can't help myself. Looking at the activity is like looking at a looming train wreck. I just hope the trains can stop in time.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Fun Facts About The CSM 16 Election Results

The election results for EVE Online's 16th Council of Stellar Management came out on Monday. I know, people really aren't interested in the CSM, especially with a lot of people shouting the sky is falling. But the election deserves one final look. Hopefully people will find something interesting.

Turnout increased. This year's 38,086 votes cast in the election represents a 5.4% increase over last year's 36,120. Overall, the CSM 16 election had the fifth most voters in CSM history. The top five voter turnout elections are:

  1. CSM 7 (2012): 59,109 votes
  2. CSM 8 (2013): 49,702 votes
  3. CSM 6 (2011): 49,096 votes
  4. CSM 5 (2010): 39,433 votes
  5. CSM 16 (2021): 38,086 votes
Filling out the ballot. For the first time since CSM elections switched to the single transferrable vote format, a majority of ballots cast had votes for the maximum number of candidates. A record 20,446 ballots were completely filled out in 2021, representing 53.7% of the ballots cast. Below is a list of the percentages of completely filled out ballots going back to CSM 8.

CSM 08 - 33.8%
CSM 09 - 33.8%
CSM 10 - 30.0%
CSM 11 - 27.5%
CSM 12 - 30.4%
CSM 13 - 38.3%
CSM 14 - 47.1%
CSM 15 - 40.6%
CSM 16 - 53.7%

Incumbents win. One of the reasons CCP instituted term limits to begin next year was due to the power of incumbency. If a player has a strong organization behind him, victory is almost assured. This year, 7 of the 8 members running for reelection won. The only incumbent to lose was Phantomite, who was eliminated in the 27th round with 720 votes.

The top 10 after round 1. I hear people ask if the candidates in the lead after round 1 ever wind up losing. The top 11 candidates at the end of round 1 were:

  1. Merkelchen - met quota
  2. Gobbins - met quota
  3. Innominate - met quota
  4. Kenneth Feld - 3282
  5. Brisc Rubal - 3084
  6. Vily - 2515
  7. I Beast - 2449
  8. progodlegend - 1859
  9. Uriel Paradisi Anteovnuecci - 1163
  10. Mike Azariah - 1115
  11. Suitonia - 1054

Uriel wound up eliminated in round 34 while Suitonia reached the quota in the 34th round of 36 total rounds. With Arsia Elkin only receiving 2241 votes when eliminated in the final round, effectively 7 of the 10 winners were decided by the end of the first round.

The 1000/2000 rule in CSM elections still holds mostly true. When people used to ask whether or not they had a shot at winning a seat on the CSM, I asked two questions. First, could they garner 1000 first place votes. The second, did they have a path to 2000 total votes. If the answer to both is yes, then the candidate is a serious contender.

The rule held true again this year. Arsia Elkin came close to breaking the rule, but only received 978 initial first place votes. The three candidates in the nine CSM elections to break the rule were Nathan Jameson (1616/2430) and Banlish (1213/2173) in the CSM 8 election and Sort Dragon (1500/2321) in 2019.

Voting Blocs. In this year's election, there were nine combinations of votes that occurred over 400 times. These 9 tickets accounted for 34.8% of the votes cast. One of the tickets did not come the major null sec blocs. I am not sure if Northern Coalition. and Pandemic Legion had separate tickets, so I listed them separately.

The Imperium (6496)
Merkelchen, Innominate, Brisc Rubal, Baculus Orden, Broodin, Angry Mustache, Micromancer, Xenuria, Suitonia, I Beast

Pandemic Horde (1782)
Gobbins, progodlegend, Kenneth Feld, RonUSMC, Phantomite, Vily, Arsia, Elkin, Uriel Paradisi Anteovnuecci, Reicher514, Seddow

Winter Coalition (1068)
Kenneth Feld, Rich Richman, progodlegend, Gobbins, Seddow, Vily, Phantomite, Arsia Elkin, Angry Mustache, Maldavius

Test Alliance Please Ignore (796)
Vily, progodlegend, RonUSMC, Gobbins, Phantomite, Arsia Elkin

I Beast (772)
I Beast

Non-null (765)
Uriel Paradisi Anteovnuecci, DutchGunner, Baculus Orden, Dr Spodumain, I Beast

The Initiative. (628)

Brisc Rubal, Innominate, I Beast, Suitonia, Mark Resurrectus, teddy Gbyc, Broodin, Phantomite, Mike Azariah, Arsia Elkin

Northern Coalition./Pandemic Legion (519)
Kenneth Feld, progodlegend, Gobbins, RonUSMC, Phantomite, Arsia Elkin

Northern Coalition./Pandemic Legion 2? (441)
Kenneth Feld, progodlegend, Gobbins, RonUSMC, Vily, Uriel Paradisi Anteovnuecci, Reicher514, Mike Azariah

A lot of players in coalitions don't vote the full ticket. The total count of votes that matched the top 3 spots of each ticket were:

  • The Imperium - 7144
  • Pandemic Horde - 2410
  • Test Alliance Please Ignore - 1655
  • Northern Coalition./Pandemic Legion - 1418
  • Winter Coalition - 1205
  • Non-null - 837
  • The Initiative. - 789

When using the top 3 criteria, 40.6% of the votes cast matched one of the seven combinations. Including I Beast's 772 independent votes, the total increases to 42.6% of the vote.

Strong Imperium turnout. What a difference a year makes for Imperium turnout. In 2020, Innominate didn't reach quota until round 29 (out of 30 rounds) and Brisc had to win on his own. This year, Innominate reached quota in round one and Brisc received a trickle down of 706 votes. Combined with the 2171 initial first place votes Brisc received, The Imperium had guaranteed winning three seats early in the process. 

The Imperium vote then trickled down to Suitonia beginning with 47 votes in round 20. By round 34, the trickle from Brisc Rubal reached 824 votes and pushed Suitonia across the finish line.

In raw numbers, the amount of votes cast for the official Imperium ballot increased 57.9%, from 4115 ballots in CSM 15 to 6496 for CSM 16. Using the top 3 comparison, the turnout only increased 51.7%, from 4690 ballots matching the top 3 slots of the official Imperium ballot compared to 7114 this year.

Progodlegend the show stopper. PAPI went with a strategy to attempt to elect Vily, Gobbins, and Kenneth Feld, with progodlegend hopefully winning based on the vote from Brave Collective combined with the trickle from the three main candidates. The strategy worked, but with progodlegend not meeting quota, the trickle from five major coalition tickets ended with him.

How was Chinese turnout? With none of Winter Coalition's original candidates passing CCP's screening process, a question arose whether the members of Winter Coalition would turn out. Using the top 3 vote comparison between last year's turnout and this year's, Winter Coalition turnout fell by 26.3%. If I expand the criteria to include the 470 ballots that only marked Maria Taylor last year, the decline was 42.8%.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Ship And Graphics Changes Coming To Singularity

Yesterday I posted about how the lack of major content drops are helping to fuel the current drop in players logged onto Tranquility. About 30 minutes later, CCP Paradox posted about the next patch's content, "Hunter's Boon", on the official forums.

Capsuleers,

Today you will begin seeing changes from our next update “Hunter’s Boon” appear on Singularity, and further changes and updates will roll out daily for the next two weeks.

This update is focused on following up on several of our recent updates with adjustments based largely on your feedback. This update is still in development so expect regular changes over the coming weeks. Here are some of the larger components we plan to include:

  • Adding a covert cyno beacon deployable:
    • The mobile cyno beacon has been a success and we want to expand on the concept by adding a covert version. This one will come with a larger price tag but allows hunters to drop a covert cyno without needing a covert hunting ship. We hope this is an exciting tool for hunters. Tuning will definitely be necessary on activation time and ehp to get this in the ideal place.
  • Adding a booster to extend the stabilized period after cloaking:
    • Overall we’re very happy with the effect that mobile observatories have had on AFK cloaking and cloaking in general but we know that for certain ops a longer hidden duration would be very beneficial so we’re adding this booster as an option for those purposes. The price will be high to ensure that any observatory costs from defenders are more than equaled by immunity from cloaking attackers.
  • Removing strategic cruiser skill loss:
    • We love the idea of skill loss as an ultimate penalty in the game but don’t think this isolated one-off implementation on this single ship is the right place. It has been a long discussed topic in the community, and we’ve decided to finally remove the skill loss from T3 cruisers.
  • Scan resolution penalty reduction for fleet interceptors:
    • This is an obvious improvement for the nullification release that has been consistently requested
  • Balance adjustments for the Pacifier and Enforcer:
    • Updates here would have perhaps fit much better into our last release ‘Enter the Portal’ but for time purposes we postponed them until our next release (this one!).

Again more details will emerge over the next weeks, so please keep checking on Singularity and providing feedback on them. We appreciate all your help in tuning the last several patches and look forward to your input on the above changes!

Fly safe!
I don't know enough about covert ship operations to know how useful a covert cyno beacon deployable might prove. The booster to extend the stabilized period after cloaking I think might come in handy during long battles for bomber wings and streamers of fights. Removing the skill point loss will, if it doesn't encourage me to buy a T3C, takes away an excuse for not injecting skill points immediately. And the final two items I don't have an opinion about yet.

CCP also made a change on the Singularity test shard to visuals.
On 23 June, the Singularity test server will play host to a significant new visual update, including:
  • Shader adjustments
  • New lighting changes
  • The colors of New Eden becoming brighter and deeper
  • Gradients smoothing out and highlights being better represented.
These changes are part of an ongoing commitment to improving the foundation of EVE, and setting the game up for a thriving third decade. By deleting the gray coloring, these upgrades will bring New Eden to life like never before.

The team is currently in the process of adjusting and fine tuning, and that’s where you come in. So please go ahead and hop onto Singularity at some point after 23 June, have a look around, and submit your feedback. With your help, let's keep EVE at the vanguard of graphical excellence!

More on all of this later - but for now, please log in and share your discovery with us, by taking screenshots, comparing the visuals, and so forth!
Honestly, if I didn't know changes were made, I wouldn't have noticed them. But I took screenshots and I can see them quite clearly. The only difference in the graphics settings is I have anti-aliasing turned on on Tranquility and off on Singularity. Here is a comparison from inside a Caldari station.


I like the darker tones inside the station we currently have. The new graphics in the station look a little washed out to me. I also undocked for some screen shots. I made a comparison of the view as I left the station.


Since I was sightseeing, I travelled to the local storm planet. I think the storms that pop up are great.


Of course, I had to grab screenshots of the sun.


For some reason I couldn't get duplicate screenshots of the celestial objects. I think I've provided enough examples for people to get the idea of how the graphics will change in the upcoming Hunter's Boon patch coming to Tranquility in July. 

CCP is definitely sticking with their SaaS model with EVE Online development. They really don't have a choice. I also think they are implementing the model well. A lot of players may not like the content provided, but CCP is delivering on a monthly basis. I just don't see anything spectacular that would bring players back into the game right now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

EVE Online's Great Decline Of 2021

A few weeks ago I pointed out how user counts began to decline in EVE Online at the time the pre-patch for The Burning Crusade hit the WoW Classic servers. At the time, I wasn't expecting as much of a dip as we've seen over the past month. While the number displayed on EVE-Offline.com is not precise, the average concurrent user count has dropped 3000 to 4000 accounts over the past month.

A graph is worth 10 tons of salt

Yesterday, Ripard Teg posted a new set of concurrency graphs to his archive site that displays the drop in starker terms. Also, according to Ripard's graph, the decline is closer to 5000 accounts logged in at once.

The last time EVE players witnessed a drop like the one occurring now happened in the three weeks after the launch of the World of Warcraft Classic servers in August 2019. The widespread disgruntlement with Blackout greased the skids for many players to wind up in Azeroth. Combine the migration with the traditional summer slump and EVE witnessed a decline of over 20% of players logged in at any one time. 

From Jester's Trek archive: ACU for 2019

Are we witnessing something similar in 2021? I think so. History never repeats itself exactly, but I believe four factors will result in a continuing decline over the summer.


A post-lockdown summer. I think everyone expects a lot less video game playing over the next few months as local and national lockdown measures designed to combat the COVID pandemic are gradually lifted. Choosing to stay indoors and play games is one thing. Not having a choice in the matter? People will go out just to go out.

The question for EVE is, was the beginning of the traditional summer slump moved up from mid-July to mid-May? If not and we still have a big summer slump ahead of us, the servers are going to feel mighty empty.


Lack of a big content update. EVE Online is not the only game experiencing a drop in players right now. The game called Retail WoW is also experiencing another migration from Azeroth to Final Fantasy XIV. While I don't play WoW, I can say from personal experience that the login queue has gotten longer in recent weeks. Bad for logging in, but good for dungeon queues.

The long content drought, now over 7 months, is about to end. Blizzard will launch Patch 9.1 next week. I expect players will flock back to WoW in order to experience the new content, although the new raid won't launch until 6 July.

The effectiveness of EVE's summer expansions

Unlike Blizzard, CCP releases patches and new or revised content on a monthly basis. In the past, players would receive expansions in May or June. Those expansions, if they didn't increase activity over their lifetimes, at least held off the inevitable summer slump for a month or two. But beginning in the summer of 2014, CCP switched to a Software as a Service model that pumped out updates every month instead of twice a year. While good for justifying players' subscriptions, the monthly updates don't have the pull of the old expansions.

Competition. If players are unsatisfied with a game, they'll vote with their wallets and find another game. The 2019 migration from EVE to WoW Classic during the Blackout period wasn't a unique experience. On the backend of the Summer of Rage, Tranquility witnessed a drop of 2000 average concurrent players upon the release of Skyrim in November 2011.

Is EVE Online facing competition? I decided to look at the black market. The gold/plat/gil sellers will flock to the games with the most action. According to the virtual game currency site Player Auctions, the top 5 most popular games today are:
  1. World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic
  2. Final Fantasy XIV
  3. RuneScape - Old School
  4. League of Legends
  5. Elder Scrolls Online
I think we can ignore Old School Runescape and LoL for this analysis. Those games are always at or near the top of the list. Final Fantasy XIV is hot now due to the WoW migration but won't see a major content drop until Endwalker launches in November. Still, for bored players, FFXIV is a valid option. 

From Jester's Trek archive, ACU for 2021 so far

But the games currently on the move are The Burning Crusade Classic and Elder Scrolls Online. I don't believe the decline in EVE beginning on the same day the pre-patch for TBC Classic dropped on the WoW Classic servers is a coincidence. On 1 June, both TBC Classic and Elder Scroll Online's Blackwood expansion went live. And with WoW's Patch 9.1 launching next week, the decline will probably continue.

War. Many EVE players may find the final factor surprising, but major null sec wars have a tendency to decrease the number of players logged in at the conclusion of the conflicts. For the first example, we travel back to 2011. The massive drop in ACU the year is known for did not begin with the Summer of Rage. The drop began with the destruction of the old Northern Coalition at the hands of the Drone Region Forces (aka Drone Russian Forces) in March. By the time the Incarna expansion launched at the end of June, the ACU had declined by 5000 accounts.


The next example comes from The Fountain War. While the war is best known for The Battle of 6VDT-H, we should not forget the aftermath. In the approximately 6 weeks following Test Alliance Please Ignore's announcement of its withdrawal to low sec, the average number of accounts logged into EVE fell by 4000. Fortunately, the Rubicon expansion was two months away to help draw people back into the game.

The final example comes from The Halloween War of 2013-2014. I think most people will find the aftermath of The Halloween War surprising. The war is best known for The Battle of B-R5RB, the most destructive clash of titans until The Battle of M2-XFE on 30 December 2020. So many current players credit the battle for drawing them into EVE. But the end of The Halloween War saw the typical drop in players logged into the game. Nine weeks after The Battle of B-R5RB. the ACU had dropped by 7000 accounts. Unlike after The Fountain War, CCP had no big expansion to draw people back to the game, as Kronos was the first of the small monthly patches.

What does that history mean for today? Currently most of the large null sec powers are engaged in a war that has dragged on for nearly a year. Unless PAPI comes up with a masterstroke of war, or The Imperium commits a blunder for the ages, the stalemate around the O-EIMK constellation in Delve will continue for months. How long until the current war is declared over? And once over, how many of the participants will leave for fresher gameplay?

The TL,DR. I've compiled a lot of information, but what does it mean? Why is the Tranquility server cluster suffering such a drop in activity? 

Simply put, the content CCP delivers each month is not compelling enough to combat the natural seasonal pull away from EVE. The massive summer expansions that used to keep players at their keyboards a few weeks longer don't exist anymore. And the competition is not just limited to the weather. What do players find more compelling? Changes to gameplay found in The Great Escape and Enter the Portal? Or the thought of logging into the latest journey to World of Warcraft's past, The Burning Crusade Classic? What is more enticing, going out and doing something government lockdowns have prevented for the last 18 months, or beating your head once again into the opposition in southwestern Delve? If the war is stalemated or over, why stick around instead of going out to a favorite spot in the real world?

I think the answers are fairly obvious. Unfortunately I don't see the trend ending anytime soon. Historic trends should see activity increasing again in late September or early October. I really hope the numbers don't decrease too much more.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Council Of Stellar Management 16 Election Results

Today CCP announced the results of the election for the 16th edition of the Council of Stellar Management. The 38,066 votes cast was a 5.4% increase over last year's election. Only one candidate running for re-election, Phantomite, lost. As expected, 7 of the 10 winning candidates come from the null sec blocs. The winning candidates, and the round of the simulation they clinched victory, are below.

  • Merkelchen (1)
  • Gobbins (1)
  • Innominate (1)
  • Brisc Rubal (20)
  • Kenneth Feld (26)
  • I Beast (33)
  • Suitonia (34)
  • Vily (36)
  • progodlegend (36)
  • Mike Azariah (36)

Merkelchen and Gobbins, as the top of the tickets of the two largest blocs, won on initial first place votes. The final two candidates to win a seat, progodlegend and Mike Azariah, did not reach quota. 

For those wondering, the final wormhold candidate, Mark Resurrectus, was eliminated in round 35 of the simulation. The last candidate eliminated, Arsia Elkin, lost by 350 votes. Arsia is a Minmatar/EDENCOM roleplayer who appears on Talking in Stations.

I can't really say I'm surprised at who won. I was surprised at the power of The Imperium's ballot effort this year, as Brisc Rubal received a meaningful trickle down effect for the first time in his three campaigns. The trickle even reached Suitonia, the 9th candidate on The Imperium ballot, in significant numbers.

I'm sure that someone in null sec will try to use the results to chest beat about their coalition being better than the other. PAPI managed to get 4 members on the CSM to The Imperium's 3. Here is a breakdown of the winners by alliance.

  • Goonswarm Federation - 2
  • Test Alliance Please Ignore - 2
  • Pandemic Horde - 1
  • Pandemic Legion - 1
  • The Initiative. - 1
  • WE FORM V0LTA - 1
  • Worst Alliance Ever - 1
  • No Alliance - 1

I'll dig into the data later to see if I can spot any trends. But for now, the election is over. Let the complaining on Reddit and the forums begin.

Friday, June 18, 2021

I'll Pass On Federation Day

I have to admit I've never paid much attention to the Gallente Federation's Federation Day events. To tell the truth, except for the Intaki, I don't care much for the Gallente. No, I'm not Caldari. My main characters are Matari. Over the years, CCP has made the Gallente more friendly to the Minmatar people. When I started playing back in 2009, the Gallente didn't allow folks of Minmatar descent to hold office at the Federation level. One might even say Matari citizens in the Gallente Federation were considered second-class citizens, fit only for manual labor and military service.

I decided to give the event a shot. Since I'd helped build the Irgrus-Pakhshi gate in the previous event, I made my way to Gallente space via that route.

Project Discovery Phase Two Monument in Pakhshi

I decided to stop and visit the Project Discovery monument in Pakhshi. A pretty impressive bit of work by the art department. I liked the boundary set by radio telescopes surrounding a station projecting a solar system. After taking several screenshots, I moved on.

Pakhshi contains a number of regional gates. My destination was Renyn in the Crux constellation of Essence. The Crux constellation was one of four constellations listed as having the Mining Blitz sites.

The Mining Blitz sites are not really compelling gameplay. I did them in the Stargate Trailblazer's event and stopped when I had enough loyalty points for a complete Minmatar outfit. When I reached Renyn, I docked in the top station to see what the Gallente outfits looked like.

Not much different from the Minmatar version

I wasn't that impressed. I like the color, but the outfit basically is a different colored version of the Minmatar outfit with Gallente patches. I didn't feel like spending hours grinding for something that really is only seen in character portraits anyway. The other items in the LP store were SKINs for Gallente ships. I don't fly Gallente ships, so I took a pass on the event.

As for the other events, I don't have an interest in visiting the parades. I guess maybe I should just for the screenshots, but I have better things to do. One of those better things doesn't involve the Abyssal Proving Grounds. I guess people into arena combat might enjoy the 2v2v2 event made up of teams consisting of a cruiser and an assault frigate, but I'm not one of those players. The three new monuments spotlighted in the article are of interest, but since two of them are in dangerous space, I'll just wait until the crowd dies down. I'm not in any hurry to see them.

I wish I could compose a 1500 word post extolling the virtues of the event. But honestly, not all events are for everyone. At the beginning of the season, CCP stated each of the four NPC empires would have an event. I'm actually looking forward to the Minmatar event. The Gallente? I'm not really a big fan.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Enter The Portal: An Update To Black Ops

CCP continues to work on gameplay involving cloaky ships in EVE Online. Following last week's introduction of Mobile Observatories, the developers announced changes coming to Black Ops battleships and Covert Ops frigates. Oh, and Votron Projectors are seeing the number of targets they can hit increase from 5 to 10. But who really cares about EDENCOM ships that can't cloak?

I'm not sure how much the changes will alter how Black Ops battleships are used. The big change is a group jump mechanic, where if the battleship jumps with the group of ships instead of bridging them to a remote location, the battleship uses less fuel. To entice players into jumping the battleship along with the rest of the ships, Black Ops ships will receive some mostly offensive buffs. I found the descriptions of the buffs a little confusing, so I'll list them below with a little modification.

Black Ops Battleships

  • New Group Jump available for all Black Ops battleships
  • 650% bonus to ship max velocity when using Cloaking Devices moved to a Role Bonus.

Redeemer:
  • Large Energy Turret rate of fire bonus increased from 5% to 10% per Amarr battlship skill level
  • Added 10% bonus to Energy Nosferatu and Energy Neutralizer drain amount per Black Ops skill level
  • Capacitor Capacity increased from 5312 to 5912
Sin:
  • Large Hybrid Turret damage bonus increased from 5% to 10% per Gallente battleship skill level
  • Removed 5% ship inertia bonus and increased base Ship Inertia Modifier by 25%
  • Added 10% bonus to logistics drone transfer amount per Black Ops skill level
  • Added 7.5% bonus to drone tracking and optimal range per Black Ops skill level
Panther:
  • Large Projectile Turret damage bonus increased from 5% to 10% per Minmatar battleship skill level
  • Removed 5% ship velocity bonus and increased base Ship Max Velocity by 25%
  • Added 7.5% bonus to Large Projectile Turret tracking speed per Black Ops skill level
  • Added 7.5% bonus to Large Projectile Turret falloff range per Black Ops skill level
Widow:
  • Rapid Heavy, Cruise, and Torpedo rate of fire bonus increased from 5% to 7.5% per Caldari battleship skill level
  • ECM Target Jammer strength increased from 30% to 40% per Black Ops skill level
  • Added 4% bonus to shield resistances per Black Ops skill level

Marshal:
  • Large Hybrid Turret damage bonus increased from 5% to 10%
  • Large Projectile Turret damage bonus increased from 5% to 10%
  • Large Energy Turret damage bonus increased from 5% to 10%
  • Rapid Heavy, Cruise, and Torpedo rate of fire bonus increased from 5% to 10%
In The Great Escape update, Covert Ops frigates received the ability to fit the Warp Nullification Module, which gave the class the ability to ignore bubbles (aka Warp Disruption Fields) for a limited time. But not all the Covert Ops frigates have three high slots in order to take advantage of the change. The Helios, with 5 mid-slots, only had two high slots. With the change, Covert Ops frigates need 3 high slots to fit a probe launcher, Covert Ops Cloak, and the new module. The obvious answer was to add a slot to all the Covert Ops frigates, which is what CCP did.

The developers also made a couple of other changes, which are listed below.

Covert Ops Frigates
  • All Covert Ops exploration frigate combat bonuses have been removed
  • Added -15% capacitor need to initiate warp per racial frigate skill level
Helios:
  • Added 5% bonus to cloaked velocity per Caldari Frigate skill level
  • High slots increased by 1
Anathema:
  • Added 5% bonus to scan deviation per Amarr Frigate skill level
  • Low slots increased by 1
Buzzard:
  • Added 5% bonus to scan deviation per Gallente Frigate skill level
  • Low slots increased by 1
Cheetah:
  • Added 5% bonus to cloaked velocity per Minmatar Frigate skill level
  • Low slots increased by 1
I personally fly a Cheetah. The additional cloaked speed combined with an extra low slot will help me scoot around making bookmarks with neutrals in system. With the scan deviation buff, the Anathema and Buzzard may see additional duty trying to probe down AFK cloakers after the ships are decloaked by the mobile observatories. The Helios may have lost some utility as a surprise combat ship when it lost its weapon bonus.

I waited to write this post until after the weekend. Apparently the initial update to Singularity had some things a little different than what was in the dev blog. But I went on the test server and now the text matches the server. I don't have much experience with Black Ops apart from building a Marshal. But I don't think the changes will hurt my sneaking around low sec in my Cheetah.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The CSM 16 Election: Bloc Ballots

Since the elections for EVE Online's player council began utilizing the modified Wright single-transferrable vote system in 2013, the biggest indicator of electoral success is placement on bloc ballots. Normally, a bloc ballot is synonymous with the major null sec coalitions. But not always. Given that over the last 7 elections receiving 2500 total votes guarantees a win, wormhole and low sec groups that band together can realistically hope to get one member on the CSM. 

If turnout doesn't increase dramatically this year, I think I can comfortably predict several of the winners. Yes, organization matters a lot. Here are the people I think should win based on placement on the ballots of the major null sec coalitions.

Merkelchen - Historically, first place on The Imperium's ballot is an automatic win. That shouldn't change this year.

Gobbins - The head of Pandemic Horde is naturally at the top of the Pandemic Horde ballot. With almost 21,926 members, getting a 10% turnout should ensure victory.

Innominate - Historically, the candidate in the #2 slot on The Imperium's ballot wins. Unless turnout increases dramatically, Innominate should win one more time.

Kenneth Feld - Over the years, Pandemic Legion has overperformed in CSM elections. But if Fraternity. & Winter Coalition turn out to vote close to their levels last year, Kenneth Feld should win. While Northern Coalition. and Pandemic Legion are not normally considered large factors in CSM elections, the combination along with even lukewarm support from Winter Co. membership should ensure reelection.

Vily - Test Alliance Please Ignore finally figured out how to elect a member to the Council of Stellar Management when Vily ran in 2019. I'm still wary of stating publicly that a TEST member will win, especially since Legacy Coalition is attempting to get two of its leaders onto the CSM. With only 16,908 members, is TEST disciplined enough to push Vily to victory. I'll go ahead and say yes.

Progodlegend - Unlike TEST, Brave Collective is very good when voting for CSM. I actually feel better about putting Progodlegend on the list than Vily. Progod is #2 on the Pandemic Horde ballot, which might mean he has a higher vote total than Vily at the end of the first round of the simulation. If I put Vily on this list, then I need to put Progodlegend as well. But I feel really uneasy posting that two members of TEST will win seats.

Brisc Rubal - Brisc is the one candidate not high up on a bloc ballot who I will list as winning, but he may not reach the quota this year. Yes, third place on The Imperium's ballot basically means nothing, especially if the candidacy of Baculus Orden means less players voting the strict Imperium ballot. Still, he's shown that having the vote of his alliance (The Initiative.) along with broad popularity can lead to victory. Brisc has won twice, and I won't predict he doesn't win a third time.

The other three seats - Honestly, I have no idea. Usually a streamer or YouTuber will win a seat. The best bet in that case is I Beast, also known as Lussy Lou. As for wormholers and low sec residents, I have no idea. When wormholers are in agreement, they can get a member on. So I'd say one member comes from either area of the game. High sec might get one player on the Council. This year's favorite is Mike Azeriah

Of course, outright vote buying can upend everything. If the turnout for the CSM 16 election is 40,000, then a player buying 3650 votes will win. For an election with a 30,000 voter turnout, the number of votes required decreases down to 2750 to ensure victory. With the existence of skill point farms, vote buying is a legitimate option for the game's very rich.

The Ballots - Below are the lists of ballots I've compiled. Maybe next year, the voting lists will come in handy for evaluating the prospects for candidates for CSM 17.

The Imperium

  1. Merkelchen
  2. Innominate
  3. Brisc Rubal
  4. Baculus Orden
  5. Broodin
  6. Angry Mustache
  7. Micromancer
  8. Xenuria
  9. Suitonia
  10. I Beast

Pandemic Horde

  1. Gobbins
  2. Progodlegend
  3. Kenneth Feld
  4. RonUSMC
  5. Phantomite
  6. Vily
  7. Arsia Elkin
  8. Uriel Paradisi Anteovnuecci
  9. Reicher514
  10. Seddow

Test Alliance Please Ignore

  1. Vily
  2. Progodlegend
  3. RonUSMC
  4. Gobbins
  5. Phantomite
  6. Arsia Elkin

Fraternity./Winter Coalition

  1. Kenneth Feld
  2. Rich Richman
  3. Progodlegend
  4. Gobbins
  5. Seddow
  6. Vily
  7. Phantomite
  8. Arsia Elkin
  9. Angry Mustache
  10. Maldavius

Brave Collective

  1. Progodlegend
  2. Vily
  3. RonUSMC
  4. Gobbins
  5. Juris Doctor
  6. Mark Ressurrectus
  7. Kenneth Feld
  8. Angry Mustache
  9. Arisa Elkin
  10. Seddow

Northern Coalition./Pandemic Legion

  1. Kenneth Feld
  2. Progodlegend
  3. Gobbins
  4. RonUSMC
  5. Phantomite
  6. Arsia Elkin

Rekking Crew

  1. Seddow
  2. White 0rchid
  3. Phantomite
  4. Suitonia
  5. I Beast
  6. Gobbins
  7. Kenneth Field
  8. Vily
  9. Rixx Javix
  10. Dr Spodumain

Stribog Clade (Pochven/Triglavian)

  1. Maldavius
  2. Brisc Rubal
  3. Xeromus Plague
  4. Micromancer
  5. Broodin
  6. Uriel Paradisi Anteovnuecci

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Is Final Fantasy XIV Really More Popular Than World Of Warcraft?

I watch a lot of videos about video games and I get the feeling a lot of players are disgruntled about the state of Retail World of Warcraft. From what I gather, Patch 9.1 won't go live until July, or even August. That's a content drought of 8 months. Additionally, I hear a lot of discontent around Torghast. I don't really understand why, but I get the feeling "conduits" is a dirty word. I first became aware of the discontent after an interview WoW's lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas did with Preach Gaming. Watching the usually reserved Bellular go off on the game woke me up.

With a lot of WoW content creators trying out Final Fantasy XIV I thought we were just seeing a short-term fad that would end with the next patch. Then I watched a video that claimed that FFXIV is now more popular than WoW. I had to track down the claim.

MMO Populations Most Played MMOs - as seen on 9 Jun 21

The site is MMO Populations. I had to search the site, but I found a comment on how they arrived at their lists.

By combining online social activity, sentiment tracking, public statistics, rankings and more MMO Populations estimates the total subscribers, players and active daily players for the top MMOs.

But for what it's worth, FFXIV comes in with 2.48 million active players in May compared to Retail WoW's 2.19 million active players. But WoW Classic also had 1.7 million active players. The WoW Classic number will morph into TBC Classic next month as players were able to start playing the classic version of WoW's first expansion on 1 June. 

Of interest to me when checking the numbers was the number of active players in EVE Online. The 324 thousand listed seems a bit high to me. Then again, the bigger games like WoW and Final Fantasy XIV probably have more data to work with.

If FFXIV truly is the top MMORPG, I don't expect the status to last. Not only is WoW's patch 9.1 due out soon, but Endwalker doesn't come out until November. The population inevitably will decrease until then. But if some players get a kick out of the thought that WoW is no longer the top dog, I won't kick too much sand on their dreams.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Thoughts On The CSM 16 Election: June 8-15, 2021

The election for EVE Online's 16th Council of Stellar Management began today and runs though downtime (1100 UTC) on 15 June. Over the past 2 years I've stepped away from covering the CSM, but I thought I'd give some thoughts in a post in case anyone cares.

My list of candidates. If anyone wants advice on who to vote for, I'd list these three candidates, who are all current members of the CSM:

  1. Mike Azariah, The Scope
  2. Kenneth Feld, Pandemic Legion
  3. Brisc Rubal, The Initiative.

Mike Azariah is the only high-sec based player with a chance to win a seat on CSM. He runs a service, which he calls The Magic School Bus, that gives out ships to new players in rookie systems. The Magic School Bus is not an election gimmick, as he began running around high sec distributing ships after his first run on the CSM. Besides that, he's just a good guy in real life. I've voted for him every year he's been on the ballot.

Kenneth Feld is the industrial candidate CCP needs to listen to, especially as they continue to make adjustments to the economy. From the reports I've heard, Kenneth is an effective advocate and probably kept the developers from making a lot of mistakes. The CSM is effectively a focus group designed to keep CCP from making mistakes. Hopefully Kenneth will be around for the upcoming year to continue trying to keep CCP from making too many mistakes.

Brisc Rubal is the titan-owning line member with serious interpersonal skills. A Washington lobbyist and politician in real life, Brisc knows how to work with CCP. While third on the official Imperium ballot, in his two previous CSM wins, Brisc hasn't needed the official ballot support. If for no other reason, a vote for Brisc keeps my ballots counting toward the quota.

Ballots? Players can vote more than once? Yes. Players can cast a vote for each Omega account they own. However, the account must be active for at least 60 days before voting. When voting on multiple accounts, your selections are saved from the first account that votes, saving a player time.

How does the voting system work? It's ... complicated. I wrote a post back in 2018 explaining the system.

You only listed 3 candidates. Can't you vote for 10? Players can vote for up to 10 candidates. But who has time to research 47 candidates to pick 10? Also, why vote for someone just to fill up the number of slots?

Aren't you wasting your vote if you don't vote for 10 candidates? The wasted vote claim is my pet peeve about the single transferrable vote system used in CSM elections. A strain of thought exists that maintains that if someone votes for a losing candidate, that is a wasted vote. 

For those still concerned about wasted votes. In the age of the 10 member CSM, the official Imperium ballot trickle has never positively impacted below the 6th candidate on the ballot. I think that is a pretty fair standard to set for yourself to avoid feeling guilty. Some people have other theories, like first vote for all the wormhole candidates, and then all the low sec, small gang candidates. In those cases, voting for more than 6 makes sense. But the important thing is, don't feel pressured to vote for all 10 slots if you don't want to. It's okay not to.

The origin of "the wasted vote". In 2012 and 2013, "wasted votes" was a meme following the "Wizard Hat" incident at Fanfest 2012 at the Alliance panel involving The Mittani. Without going into the details, the deal worked out between CCP and The Mittani involved the top Goon not serving on CSM 7. The big problem was, The Mittani received over 10,000 votes, or over 20% of the votes cast. As EVE players tend to do, the fact was thrown in everyone's face whenever the CSM was brought up for the next year.

Perhaps coincidentally, in 2013 CSM elections switched from first-past-the-post to using a modified version of the Wright single transferrable vote method. Theoretically, with the STV method, over 90% of participating players should vote for a winning candidate.

Has a candidate ever withdrawn or been removed after voting begins? Yes. In the CSM 11 election, Apothne had to withdraw due to a serious health condition after voting finished but before CCP announced the results. The election algorithm was rerun without Apothne, with Kyle Aparthos and Nashh Kadavr winning seats and Erika Mizune losing instead of winning. And in the CSM 13 election, Creecher Virpio was removed during the voting period due to chat logs with objectionable language surfacing. 

Why vote? Goons are just going to win all the seats anyway. The Imperium is good, but they are not that good. If the turnout this year is similar to last year's, The Imperium will wind up with three winning candidates: Merkelchen, Innominate, and Brisc Rubal. And the only reason for The Imperium winning three seats is Brisc Rubal's personal popularity. The vote trickle mechanic Brisc received last year from the official Imperium ballot was 94 votes in round 29. Brisc began receiving enough votes to win in round 24. In a twist of fate, Brisc reached the vote quota to win due to trickle down votes from Mike Azariah in round 30.

The Imperium, and its predecessor the CFC, used to inflate their effectiveness by putting candidates that were going to win anyway on their official ballot. For the CSM 16 election, the powers-that-be decided to abandon that strategy. I think some people might receive a rude awakening.

Why vote? The null sec blocs will win all the seats anyway. Not true. Last year three non-null sec candidates won.

  • Mike Azariah
  • Phantomite
  • Torvald Uruz

Finally, voting from within the client, kind of!  Excuse the graphics spam, but I'm a little excited about the way CCP is publicizing the election within the client. First, at the login screen players are greeted with a 7-day election event that gives out 5 days of rewards.

Once inside the game, a splash screen appears publicizing the election.

Clicking on the splash screen directs the player to the voting page. You may have to log into the page (I voted before logging into EVE), but voting is pretty easy this year.

The nice part is, if players don't click on the splash screen to vote, they can do so by clicking on the pane on The Agency.

Pearl Abyss will be watching. One final observation to finish the post. Pearl Abyss will be watching. If the turnout is high, expect them to tout the turnout not only on the next earnings call, but in their monthly investors newsletter as well. In a time of declining activity, both the normal summer seasonal slump as well as the launch of The Burning Crusade Classic, a high turnout could convince Pearl Abyss it doesn't need to stick their fingers into EVE any more than they are now.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Star Citizen Hits $30 Million Raised For 2021

The Star Citizen money machine keeps marching on. The latest event was Invictus Launch Week 2951 which ran from 20 May to 1 June. The annual event allows players to try out ships they don't own as well as purchase new ships. As of the time I pushed the publish button, the Star Citizen funding page reads over $371 million.

From BoredGamer

I wondered how financially successful the event turned out for Cloud Imperium Games, but didn't have the historical information to figure out the answer. Thankfully a Star Citizen streamer, BoredGamer, put out a video on the subject. 

Compared to last year, Fleet Week brought in $1.2 million less this year than in 2020. The figure is a little misleading, because CIG limited sales of the newest ships. I take that as a sign CIG isn't doing badly for money.


Through the end of May, BoredGamer showed funding had slowed from 2020's $34.1 million down to $30 million this year. I have to wonder if expecting CIG to raise another $79 million in ship sales in 2021 as it did last year was ever realistic. When CIG releases it's 2020 financial numbers in December, we may see the company raised $100 million from all sources last year. I hope raising that much money put CIG is a good place financially. If so, then averaging $6 million is ship sales through the first 5 months should keep up with the day-to-day expenses.

We won't really know until December, but anyone thinking CIG will run out of money probably has a long wait. Still, I don't believe the company has enough money to fund them through 2025, so expect the money machine to roll on.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Final Thoughts On The Stargate Trailblazers Event

I originally planned to write my final thoughts on the Stargate Trailblazers event today. CCP extended the event two days, until downtime tomorrow, so I still might run a few more sites just to get up to 500 points. I don't think running three more Standard sites solo will really alter my thoughts on the event, so let's begin. My perspective is as a pilot who only mined and did not shoot the NPCs.

7 NPC Orcas away from 500 points

The content is designed for groups. I don't think I can stress this enough. I was able to run the Minor and Standard sites solo in an Endurance. I also completed a Minor site solo in a sig/speed tanking Prospect. I should add that the character I used has trained all relevant skills to fly expedition frigates up to level 5 plus uses an Inherent Implants 'Highwall' Mining MX-1005, which gives an additional 5% to mining yield. Even with all those advantages, I needed to use the mining yield boosters obtained from the event to comfortably complete sites.

The character cap. Each site has a character cap for good reasons. For example, when doing a site in low sec or null, players could just warp in some alts to make the site invulnerable to attack. But the caps can also cause problems for pre-made groups. My last fleet ended when the other pilot I was flying with activated the acceleration gate. He went in and I remained behind. He wound up joining the fleet in the site and I said goodbye.

I wonder if CCP could make the payout dependent on the number of pilots in the site. Too many and the payout gets really low. Then again, I do like that the payout is the same for everyone in the site. I'm not sure I'd want the devs to change that.

The content is very clicky and repetitive. I am one of those players who uses the mouse instead of keybinds for most actions. Due to the small size of most of the asteroids, I was clicking off the mining module after about 10-12 seconds flying the Endurance and a little longer when flying the Prospect, due to using 2 Miner IIs. I know watching the leaderboard that people can dual-box the content, but I didn't even try.

The rewards are not compelling. The Stargate Trailblazers event gave out four types of rewards. The first were boosters. Except for a couple of randomized boosters in Agency Support Drop containers, all the boosters were limited time mining boosts. I like the idea of using event rewards to make participating further in the event easier. However, the bind on redeem aspect reduces the value.

The Rifter Republic Fleet Ordinance SKIN

The next two types of rewards are gained from the loyalty store. Completing the sites grants players loyalty points for the local faction's corporate store. The first of the LP store item categories was Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings (SKINs). The SKINs are limited to tech 1 ships. The SKINs, at least for Republic Fleet Ordinance, look okay. The SKINs were not appealing due to the fact I don't really fly tech 1 ships anymore, combined with SKINs not exciting me in the first place.

Decked out in Republic Ordinance gear

The other type of loyalty point store item is clothing. Unless Walking in Stations returns to EVE in the future, clothing only really matters when creating a portrait for use in chat channels. While I went ahead and purchased the Republic Stargate Crew Top, Republic Stargate Crew Pants, and Republic Stargate Crew Shoes, only the top will be seen by other players. In a future event, I might try to obtain the Ordinance Jacket for 50,000 LP, but I really don't like the Officer Jacket, especially for 70,000 LP.

My new portrait

I have to say, the new portrait I took after purchasing the gear helped make running the event worthwhile. I think the color combination along with the background looks good.

The last type of reward was ISK. According to my wallet, I completed 39 sites for a total of 166 million ISK. That total would have been higher if I completed more sites with other players. As far as I could tell, running a site solo guarantees the minimum reward. I did receive bonus amounts when fleeted with others because we could complete the sites so much faster. Figuring in the 25 million ISK I spent in the loyalty point store and approximately 5 million ISK I spent on fitting out my Endurance, and I came out with 135 million ISK more than I started with.

Where do you turn in loyalty points? I pointed out last week that The Agency is growing on me. But given some of the complaints I saw, I think some people don't know some of the finer points of the UI. The big question was, "Where do I turn in my loyalty points?" I can see how that could be a problem.


If players know the name of the NPC corporation (like Republic Fleet Ordinance), all they have to do is go to the Loyalty Points tab in the wallet and find the corp. A nice feature CCP added when the devs did the wallet revamp is the UI shows the nearest station with a loyalty point store. Even nicer is the ability to right-click on the station and set auto-pilot to show the route.

Now, I probably was fortunate in my choice of gate area. I picked Minmatar stations to operate from, so the loyalty point tab showed my the name of the NPC corporation I was working for. I didn't see the name anywhere else. A slight problem that hopefully CCP will highlight in the future.

The length of the event. I realize the Stargate Trailblazers was in many ways a live test. Still, the initial event length was much too short. I would hazard to guess that many people were turned off at the brief time and decided not to bother. CCP wound up extending the length of the event by 48 hours.

Final conclusion. I wouldn't call my experience over the last few days engaging with the Stargate Trailblazers event fun. Satisfying is probably a better term. I managed to get all of the rewards, both from the event timeline and well as the LP store, that I wanted. Well, the ones I felt were obtainable during the event.

Who is the content really for? I'd say people who are into cosmetic items (clothing and SKINs) as well as people who wanted to try to get their names on an in-game item (the gates). In other words, completionists. All others probably should stay away.

Perhaps the bigger question is, would I take part in a future event based on the old Resource Wars sites. I would at least take part in one more. As CCP Fozzie tweeted out last Tuesday, CCP plans on basing more events on the content. The gameplay in Stargate Trailblazers was interesting enough for me to look at what the developers come up with in the future.