Monday, August 30, 2021

The Rising 2021 - My First Experience

I have played Final Fantasy XIV for two years now, but only recently did I start paying attention to the seasonal events. I wasn't high enough level to participate back in 2019, and last year I still had the attitude that the seasonal events didn't matter. Sometime in the past year I decided to at least do what I do in EVE Online and at least check out every event.

Seasonal events in FFXIV usually don't take a lot of time to complete the basic game play, so I went to Ul'dah to participate in this year's edition of The Rising. One of the nice things about events in FFXIV is that they are always a little different from previous years, down to the event rewards. The rewards for the current event, a parasol with a meteor pattern and some fireworks, weren't exciting, but parasols don't take up inventory space so why not?

The quest begins with a reporter from The Raven asking for help in tracking down a story. Our first stop was visiting the Quicksand and Momodi.

Momodi saw someone up to something involving the Alchemists' Guild. So off I went to visit Severian. Anyone who's leveled alchemist knows Severian doesn't like working, so I wasn't surprised when he redirected us to Deitrich. He told me that the guild had performed a task involving the lilies for a "nomadic minstrel gentleman". So I went to find Kipih and tell her the news.

We then went and tracked down the Wandering Minstrel. Players who raid know him as the person who turns normal and hard raids into extreme and savage content. Kipih asked her questions and found out he planned to distribute bundles of potpourri to everyone during The Rising celebration.

Of course, we were roped into distributing the potpourri. Kipih had the bright idea of going to the Quicksand to hand out the packets to a wider audience. While handing out the packets, I got to hear various memories of the day the server shut down.

After awhile, Momodi came up and took the remainder of the potpourri. We then returned to the Wandering Minstrel. We talked about our experiences both told to us during the day and some personal stories.

The Wandering Minstrel then shared his latest composition. As he did so, the Echo hit, sending me to another place to meet an unusual person.

Turns out the Wandering Minstrel is the personification of director and producer of FFXIV, Naoki Yoshida.

I've never encountered such a scene in a video game before. Here is the entirety of Yoshi-P's message:

It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Naoki Yoshida, and you have my most heartfelt thanks for gracing this world with your presence, and your deeds of surpassing courage and valor.

On a day such as today, I hope you will forgive me a brief bout of nostalgia.

It has been an entire decade since I first came to this world. I was a stranger here, a traveler in a troubled land, and the quest for its salvation consumed my every moment.

Countless trials were met and overcome, and the world not only survived -- it flourished. This victory we owe to those who persevered alongside us: to those who explored and nurtured and loved this realm as much as we. Yes, it is you of whom I speak. Of our indomitable adventurers.

Ten years is a long time, yes, but for me the number holds no special significance. It is simply a count of the passage of days.

Success, however, would not have come without that accumulation of daily effort, and that is what makes it a milestone worth marking. Thank you for staying the course with us these many years.

I will keep making plans for this world for the foreseeable future. It has become a part of my life, and to see it grow is an adventure in itself. Rest well, Warrior of Light, for a grand convergence of events approaches. May the road upon which you must embark become the greatest of all journeys. Until we meet again, my friend.

After the scene ended and the Wandering Minstrel finished his song, Kipih left. Then the Wandering Minstrel completed the song with verses dedicated to the player. I'm sure folks in the community will pour over the words looking for hidden meaning.

Scarred by the falling of fiery stars, the land is reborn with new life.

God-slayer struck by an echoing roar, heavens ring with the promise of strife.

Beast and man, both, seek freedom or death in bloody inferno untamed.

By unbroken hopes, from a sky long undimmed shall the darknewss of eld be reclaimed.

A merciless gale, an unending road, if this be the path we are fated,

Then pray be our dawn in the rift betwixt worlds, your soul's splendid light unabated.

Afterwards I had to check on what the parasol looked like.

Nearby was a stage with the Wandering Minstrel sitting on a ledge. Player bards would climb up and perform. I climbed up with the Wandering Minstrel to take a screenshot.

Finally, I used the stage as a background to show off the last gift item.

I have to say that I'm glad I took the 15 minutes to run through the quest. While long term players are used to the event, I found The Rising a lot more satisfying than other celebrations of a game's launch that I have experienced in the past.

EDIT 30 August 2021: Apparently the reporter in the quest has a long history dating back to FFXIV 1.0.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Diary Of An Alt Paladin - Levels 1 to 16

Play Final Fantasy XIV long enough and character progression leads to learning additional jobs. After leveling Scholar to 80, I decided to add the Paladin job to my character. Yes, the Endwalker trailer featuring a Paladin totally influenced the decision. I also played a paladin in Vanilla WoW and Everquest 2. But in 16 years of playing MMORPGs, I had never tanked a dungeon.

Leveling up a third job does present some challenges. With my first job, White Mage, I could just run the main story quest line. When levelling Scholar, I relied on running beast tribe quests from 60 to 80. For the third job, I think I need to rely on activities outside my comfort zone. Tanking dungeons definitely fits that description.

I’m keeping a diary of my journey from a new Gladiator to a level 80 Paladin. After a few days I decided to bundle the entries into sections that readers may find useful. This first post covers the three days I took to reach level 16. Please remember I’m writing as a character who has already finished the MSQ.

Day 1. Before heading to the Gladiator’s Hall in Ul’dah, I prepared for the change from a level 80 healer to a level 1 tank. I dug out my beginner’s Mi’qote gear to avoid having to run around the city in my small clothes once I accepted the first quest. I also put on the Brand-new Ring obtained from completing the tutorial from The Smith and Menphina’s Earring from pre-ordering Endwalker. Both add a 30% experience boost. The Brand-new Ring gives the bonus up to level 30 and Menphina’s Earring continues up to level 80. Combined with the Armoury Bonus of 100% up to level 70 and 50% from 71 to 80 and leveling should go fast.

First view of the Gladiator's Hall

The Gladiator’s Guild is located in Ul’dah. Once I arrived in the city I used the aethernet network to travel to the guildhall. After applying for membership at the desk, I walked over to the guildmaster Mylla to perform the first quest.

The first quest required killing 3 different types of mobs. But for extra leveling goodness, completing the quest results in completing 3 of the first 4 entries in the Hunting Log. I went out the wrong entrance and also killed some Cactuars to complete the top of the target list. By the time I completed the quest objectives, I was only 73 experience points from level 5. So I killed an extra shrew and returned to Mylla to turn in the first quest.

While questing, I received two abilities. 

Fight or Flight (level 2): An instant with a 60 second cooldown that increases physical damage by 25% for 25 seconds.

Riot Blade (level 4): An OGD action that builds off of Fast Blade.

I was able to do the level 5 gladiator quest immediately. Mylla sent me out to intimidate some marauders hanging around the Quicksand. The quest involved using the /me emote, which is something common in FFXIV quests. Eventually I had to deal with someone named Pfarmurl the Driven. That’s when Aldis entered the story, who then dealt with Pfarmurl inside the Quicksand.

Upon returning, Mylla sent me out to deal with some bad guys bothering a merchant. I took care of the bandits, retrieved the stolen goods, and had time to kill another type of mob in the Hunting Log. I also received my first AoE attack, Total Eclipse. 

When I returned to Mylla, I received a Bronze Bastard Sword, a Custom-made Cuirass, and enough experience points to end the day at level 7. I needed to upgrade my armor to level 5 because of some low level gear checks I know exist. So I purchased a Leather Eyepatch, Fingerless Leather Gloves, a Hempen Sarouel, and Altered Thighboots.

Appearance after day 1

Day 2.     The goal for day 2 was to keep working on the Hunting Log and finish the first tier of difficulty. I started wandering around the Black Brush Station in Central Thanalan and stumbled across two FATEs while killing targets in my Hunting Log. By the time I was finished in the area, I reached level 9. At level 8 I received Rampart, a role action with a 90 second cooldown that reduces incoming damage by 20% for 20 seconds.

From there, I scooted over to Western Thanalan to finish up the tier 1 difficulty but still wound up at level 9. To reach level 10, I did a couple of levequests, one of which provided a Viking Sword. The upgrade was most welcome. Reaching level 10 unlocked two new actions:

Shield Bash: An OGC attack that also stuns the target for 6 seconds.

Iron Will: The skill that provides increased enmity generation. The Oath Gauge becomes available to show Iron Will is active.

For the level 10 gladiator quest, Mylla sent me out to Stonesthrow in Central Thanalan to deal with some lancers. The lancers were looking for Aldis. The interesting quirk of the quest is I needed to keep Iron Will active to pull aggro and keep the lancers from killing the healer Mylla sent with me.

As a reward, I received an Ash Macuahuitl (level 10 sword), Bronze Hoplon (level 8 shield), and Leather Jackboots. I also wound up 207 experience points shy of level 11.

I finished up the night in Horizon’s Edge in Western Thanalan. In addition to working on the Hunting Log, I finished up the last two side quests in the village. I received a bracelet from one of them. I wound up the night at level 12.

Day 3.    My goal for the day was to reach level 15 so I could start running dungeons. I travelled to Central Shroud to do levequests and FATES. An important note is make sure who the quest giver is before using the aetheryte. I went to the wrong place. However, I did two FATES, received the challenge log bonus for completing 5 FATES, and reached level 13.

For the grind to level 14 I went back to Horizon to complete three of the entries in the Hunting Log. While at the aetheryte I picked up the four levequests from Totonowa. Two of the quests led me to the west. What happened next was a busy few minutes.

While killing Guillotine Beaks for the Beak to Beak quest, I encountered Scaphites which were the #16 entry in the Hunting Log. Then while killing Scaphites I spotted Thickshells, which were the #13 entry in the log. But on the way to kill the Thickshells, a FATE spawned. So I participated in the FATE. Upon completing the FATE I was free to kill the Thickshells. Before I could leave the area to do another levequest, another FATE appeared. Completing the second FATE resulted in reaching level 14.

After the flurry of activity, completing the other three levequests seemed anti-climatic. But upon turning in the last quest, I was level 15 and headed back to Ul’dah.

I had two final goals for the day. The first was to complete all the tank tutorials from The Smith. I found the tutorials helpful, although admittedly I did them for the free upgraded items. One of the tutorials required using Shield Lob, which is granted by doing the level 15 gladiator quest. So off to the Gladiators Guild I went.

Mylla sent me off to Eastern Thanalan to rescue a wounded guildmate. On the way, I ran across Tuco-tucos and Myotragus Billies, two entries in the Hunting Log. Killing those mobs put me at level 16.

The second half of the quest led to a fight between Aldis and Mylla and my going to the Quicksand with Aldis. We wound up in a bar fight, with assassins failing to kill Aldis again. One of the interesting bits of information in the quest is that Gerald, the drunken blacksmith who makes all the relic weapons, made Aldis’ sword. But I received Shield Lob.

After the quest I went back to The Smith and finished up the tutorials. I got some good things, but I didn’t get Brand New Hands. I didn’t want to start using glamour plates yet, so I wound up buying the Plundered gear set off the market for 26 gil for a better look. I also bought a Bronze Scutum and Plundered Plate Belt to finish off my set. I was ready to start running dungeons.

Gear at the end of day 3

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Align To Gate: Another Revamp To EVE Online's New Player Experience

Yesterday CCP released changes to the skill training interface and New Player Experience under the umbrella title of "Align to Gate!". While the main article does not state so, both the dev blogs for the news skills plan feature and new tutorial will come to Tranquility in the September release.

The first change, the introduction of Skill Plans, will affect new players and veterans alike. CCP explained the Skill Plan feature as follows:

With the Skill Plans feature, you will be able to build a list of skills without needing to buy and inject them first. A Skill Plan is an ordered list of skill levels with specific goals, which you can create and keep track of to follow your training.

The unrestricted planning of your character development is only one of the reasons for this feature. Another reason for its inception is to enable players to share lists of skills with each other. It is often difficult even for seasoned players to pick the right skills for their goals, and the number of player-made lists of skills on the forums and wikis is evidence of that, as well as the dedication of the creators of third party tools like EVEMon. Now, the possibility of sharing and interacting with such plans in the EVE client has been opened up. You will be able to share any Skill Plan in a chat, EVE Mail, corp bulletin, etc., just as you can share ship fittings. You will even be able to leave a link to a corresponding Skill Plan in a ship fitting description.

Every one of your characters will be able to save up to ten Personal Skill Plans that you will be able to track, edit, and share with your friends (or your alts!).

You will be able to start - or continue - training a plan by moving its contents to your training queue with one click of a button. Similarly, the buying of all missing skill books and application of unallocated skill points will be able possible with one click, for each individual skill or for all of them.

The user interface will also change.

Skills can be seen as the primary progression system in EVE Online, and are an important element for new players to understand. As such, it is important to ensure that they are more prominent in the game, so with the introduction of the Skill Plans feature, the skills window will be changing as well. The skills window will be removed from the character sheet panel and be given a new, fully separate window, accessible directly from the NeoCom. It will be divided into two main sections: Skill Plans and Skill Catalogue. While the first section will contain the whole interface related to Skill Plans, the other one will show all skills and the level you have trained for each, similar to how the current skills panel does. If you don't plan on interacting with the Skill Plans, they won't be in your way and you will be able to train skills as you do today. One thing worth mentioning is that there will be a return to the horizontal arrangement between the skills catalogue and the training queue. Your requests for this have been noted, and the hope is that the new skills screen will be easy and enjoyable to use.

Perhaps the big news are the changes coming to the training queue in September. The maximum number of skills one can place into the training queue will increase from 50 to 150. Perhaps bigger, Alpha players will no longer face the restriction of only allowing the addition of skills that would start training within the next 24 hours.

When I tried using the new interface during the new tutorial, I had a lot of problems. I managed to train something applying skill points, but the problem may have been a bug. On the new character, I found the new system confusing. When I switched to an existing character, I needed a few minutes to figure out the system. I did not find the interface user friendly, but I've played EVE Online for 12 years. The system is really different than what CCP has done before. New players may not have as many problems as I had.

The other dev blog concerned what CCP is calling the AIR New Player Experience. AIR is the acronym for Association for Interdisciplinary Research and has its own backstory. The dev blog listed these features as improvements over the old system.

  • More immersive experiences and faster iteration: All of the content in the AIR NPE is built through a brand new nodegraph editor, meaning that every single battle, direction, player activation, proximity trigger etc. is visually mapped in a nodegraph editor that can be monitored live while playing through the new content. This means considerably better tracking, quicker and clearer iteration capabilities, and in time, a bank of templates that can speed up the process of building new content, and overall a much better development environment to create new dungeons, fleets fights, or simply any interesting scenario that requires any scripting in the game.

  • More dynamic visuals: One of the key elements required to create a modern new player journey is increased cinematic power. To put greater focus on scenes, enemies, ships or landmarks, or heighten the drama, action points or set pieces, brand new cinematic camera tools have been developed. Action scenes now take on a much more dynamic life while the beauty of New Eden has a chance to truly shine. The power of the weapons systems and the grandness of ships and fleets can be displayed more prominently and with greater diversity.

  • Gradual UI reveal: The UI in EVE is a lot to take in, so to begin with players will get maximum exposure to space with no UI elements. Those UI elements are then gradually revealed as the story progresses, anchoring each section of the player's display in contextual story beats.

  • Improved UI highlighting: UI highlighting works. It always scores well with new players and has made a big difference cutting through the clutter and improving direction. Now, UI highlighting can blink, take on more colors, have more versatile placements and clearer guidance in many forms.

  • An integrated intro video: A new intro video will ground players in the story while highlighting the rich and vibrant tapestry of EVE Online's many possibilities. New video scenes integrated into the gameplay showcase the boarding of your new ship. The video will be officially released with the feature, but savvy players will get a sneak peek at the work in progress during testing on Singularity.

  • Beautiful visuals: Several art assets were built for the AIR NPE with the aim of making it the most beautiful and immersive experience possible. This includes several assets such as a massive station wreck, new types of explosions, background, ship SKINs, and more.
Excluding first-person shooters, the AIR NPE is the worst new player experience/tutorial I have encountered in a video game, and that's taking into account the bugs in the current iteration. That includes Perpetuum and all previous iterations of the EVE Online NPE I've played. Yes, even the version that stuck me in space, threw me a Rubix Cube, and said "Go fuck yourself".

My biggest complaint is I encountered two or three spots where I just sat in space wondering what I was supposed to do. One of the spots of inactivity occurred because the tutorial ships did not originally appear on my overview. Thankfully CCP utilized the gradual UI reveal because I wound up clicking on everything I could trying to do something. Early on, the NPC fleet commander was going to warp the fleet, including me, into warp. But I still don't know if I needed to click on the NPC and select align to in order to trigger the fleet warp, or if I just needed to wait. I eventually warped.

A big complaint I have is the lock time for the Astero I was given. Locking a frigate should not take 15 seconds. Even worse, locking a battleship shouldn't take 10 seconds. 

The pacing of the dialog between the NPCs and Aura was poor. At one point, I thought the game bugged out, but I just needed to wait longer. I understand some text windows are on a timer to ensure players don't click through all the instructions, but some of the pauses are too long.

I do have one final complaint. In the final battle with two battleships, the new player in an Astero only takes fire from the battleships. The battleships took so long to kill me. Then, when I was podded, I was podded by the battleships. Getting podded took way too long.

The NPE did have some good points. The gradual reveal of the UI was a good idea. I liked the explanation of electronic warfare and how jamming works. Aura was amusing. But some of the good parts, like the new art assets, were pushed into the background because the frustration I felt with trying to comprehend the mechanics. 

Honestly, the only reason I completed the NPE was to write this blog post. Even then, I almost quit the game twice. If I were trying out a new game with no intention of blogging about the experience, and I ran into a first five minutes this bad, I would just uninstall the game.

I wish I had a better opinion of the latest efforts. But after playing through the NPE and the skill training changes on Singularity, I'm not a big fan. I'd prefer CCP take another month to polish the features and release both features in October. Something tells me that's not an option, so I'll just keep my fingers crossed and hope the developers only need a week or two to iron out the issues before the September release.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Square Enix Closes The Aether Data Center To New Character Creation

Final Fantasy XIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida penned another update regarding server capacity issues released during the just completed patch 5.58 hotfix maintenance. The expansion of the server capacity for North American data center servers failed to alleviate the problem for the Aether data center.

As of the Patch 5.58 Hotfix maintenance, all Worlds on the Aether Data Center have been classified as Congested. Despite expanding the maximum capacity as much as possible and closely monitoring the situation, the number of logins for each World have constantly remained at full capacity, which led to us taking this course of action.

This means players will be unable to create new characters on any World on the Aether Data Center until this classification is lifted. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this will cause for those of you who were looking forward to embarking on adventures with friends.

Were the number of characters to increase any further, it could result in login queues taking up to several hours, which is why we needed to take this approach. In the meantime, we kindly request that you consider creating a character on a World within the Primal or Crystal Data Centers, though we’re aware that they are currently quite congested as well.

Once again, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this will cause for our players on the North American Data Centers.

The eight worlds affected are:

  • Adamantoise
  • Cactuar
  • Faerie
  • Gilgamesh
  • Jenova
  • Midgardsormr
  • Sargatanas
  • Siren
The Aether Data Center is where most of the influx of WoW streamers who recently started playing FFXIV such as Asmongold, Rich Campbell, and the Limit raid team.

Work also continues to fix login issues on the European data centers.

During the Patch 5.58 Hotfix maintenance scheduled for August 24, we will be changing the operating system settings for the server configuration of the European Data Centers, and the login cap will be increased once we have confirmed stability post-maintenance. Furthermore, in late September, we are also planning to replace some of our equipment with high-performance machines to further increase the cap.

We’ve observed considerable levels of congestion on the European Data Centers over the past few weeks, especially during weekends. Though login queues have been quite long, please rest assured that they are working properly. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we ask that you continue to wait for your turn to log in should you encounter a queue.

The world-wide semiconductor shortage continues to play havoc with Square Enix' efforts to build up server capacity. With Endwalker's release now less than three months away, I'm starting to grow a little concerned about whether the servers will hold up to the demand.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Rising - Celebrating The 8th Anniversary Of Final Fantasy XIV's Rebirth

On Friday Square Enix announced the next in-game event in Final Fantasy XIV, The Rising. The event, running from 27 August to 9 September, celebrates the launch of A Realm Reborn on 27 August 2013. This year's event is rather sparse, with a reward of a parasol with a meteor symbol and special fireworks. I blame the COVID lockdown restrictions.

The Rising isn't notable for the in-game content. Instead, the fact that FFXIV even exists following the initial disastrous launch in September 2010 is remarkable.  With the Endwalker expansion three months away, the game will reach a new peak 8 years after the relaunch.

What game reaches a peak after 8 years? Maybe some of the sports franchise games if one doesn't count each year's edition as separate games. League of Legends experienced a large spurt of growth in 2017, eight years after launch. But in its genre, the only one I can think of is EVE Online, which debuted in 2003. After 8 years, EVE suffered a dip with the Summer of Rage in 2011, but came back to post a peak of 500,000 subscriptions in the first half of 2013.

World of Warcraft can boast about being much more popular after 8 years than FFXIV is currently. By the time Mists of Pandaria launched in 2012, though, the game's popularity was already on the decline. WoW peaked during Wrath of the Lich King with the decline beginning with the Cataclysm expansion in 2010.

I'll wind up doing the event quests like I do with all the seasonal events. I like the quests and want to see what the developers come up with to celebrate 8 years of FFXIV. But I'll also celebrate a remarkable achievement in the gaming world.

Friday, August 20, 2021

July 2021 Monthly Economic Report: What Is Redeemed ISK Token?

In Wednesday's post about EVE Online's July 2021 Monthly Economic Report, I misinterpreted one of the ISK faucet line items, the Redeemed ISK Token. I did some more research on the subject and found some interesting, at least to me, information. Today's post should correct the mistake I made in my earlier post.

First, the Redeemed ISK Token category has nothing to do with the ESS system. While The Grand Heist promised to open up the reserve banks in the Encounter Surveillance System on 27 July, bugs prevented the full acquisition of the keys to the bank. Besides, the SCC Encrypted Bonds players acquire from the banks are already found in the MER under the Commodities category.

Players stole 260 billion ISK from ESS banks in July 2021

What does the Redeemed ISK Token represent? According to what I found, ISK redeemed from the in-game redemption queue. Many people speculated that was the case. Some said the category was brand new and inserted in July. I found the line item going back to February 2021. But someone let me know the category has been in the data files going back to November 2019.

The history of the category goes back to 5 November 2019

My quest in doing research was to find some type of CCP documentation explaining the definition of the Redeemed ISK Token. I think I succeeded. In patch notes for 2019-11-05.1, CCP noted a change connected to the New Player Experience:

New Player Experience:

  • A portion of new capsuleers will start experiencing a preliminary version of a login campaign, complete with minor rewards. 

The first entry for the Redeemed ISK Token was on 5 November 2019, the day of the patch. I think that is as close as I'll get to a definition from CCP outside of someone making an explicit statement on the subject.

The spikes on the graph starting on 28 July 2020 are related to events around the Abyssal Proving Grounds. The first event ran from 16-28 July. A coincidence? While not listed, finishing on the leaderboard did bring rewards.

The rewards for reaching the leaderboard in an event in Quadrant 3 will include a set of unique ship SKINs. These SKINs will only be accessible by reaching the top 100 in one of the Proving Ground events during Quadrant 3 2020. This means that if you see one of these skins being sported in space you can know you’re looking at a top competitor in one of the Quadrant 3 2020 Proving Ground events. In addition to the unique skins that will be shared by all the Quadrant 3 events, there will also be specific rewards for those on the leaderboards of each event, and those rewards will change from event to event. These rewards are in addition to the loot from both the Triglavian cache and the wrecks of opposing ships that will be available to the winners of each individual Proving Grounds fight!

The last spike on 20 July? The last Proving Grounds event ran from 16-20 July.

The Great Heist giveaway ran from 27 July to 2 August

In order to show the effect of the ISK handed out during The Grand Heist, I created a separate bar chart for the period of 26-31 July. The Grand Heist gave out the following ISK rewards.
  • Day 1: 10 million ISK
  • Day 2: 15 million ISK
  • Day 3: 25 million ISK
  • Day 4: 40 million ISK
  • Day 5: 60 million ISK
  • Day 6: 85 million ISK
To give some context to how much CCP handed out in the last 5 days of July, in the period from 5 November 2019 to 26 July 2021, the total amount of ISK redeemed was 335.2 billion ISK. From 27-31 July, the total was 9.37 trillion ISK.

Hopefully, besides correcting a mistake I made in Wednesday's post, I've alerted people to two things to look for in the August monthly economic report. First, expect a very high number for the Redeemed ISK Token category. The event ran into August and the highest single day payout wasn't until 1 August. The other is the Commodities line item should increase by a few trillion ISK due to the update in the ESS mechanics allowing for the robbing of the reserve banks. According to one dev blog, the amount could rise by 20 trillion ISK.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A Look At The July 2021 Monthly Economic Report

After a second quarter that featured the siege of the O-EIMK constellation in Delve, EVE Online witnessed a surge of activity as line members in null sec alliances returned to the game to participate in a climatic battle. In the second quarter of 2021 (April thru June), New Eden witnessed the least amount of damage since the introduction of Alpha clones in November 2016. Did activity pick up in July?

In Q2 2021, New Eden dished out under 100 trillion ISK in damage.

The first indicator of increased player engagement was the amount of the Active ISK Delta. The AID is the measure of how much ISK enters or leaves the economy due to players leaving or returning to the game. The AID also takes into account GM actions against rules breakers.

In June, the Active ISK Delta showed a net 67.8 trillion ISK leaving the game due to players not logging into their accounts for at least 30 days. In July, the figure fell to only 16.2 trillion ISK departing the game. A figure that low is an indicator players are returning to the game.

While the Active ISK Delta showed improvement, that doesn't necessarily translate to increased output for the economy. We need to know when players started coming back into the game. The money supply data typically shows that.

The data shows a dramatic increase in the money supply occurred beginning on 27 July. From 27 July until 9 August, the money supply rose by 5.6%. Notably, two events occurred. On 25 July PAPI alliances held townhall meetings telling their line members to prepare for a major attack on the Imperium's stronghold in Delve. Then on 27 July CCP launched The Grand Heist. One of the highlights of the event was a handout trickled out over 5 days of a maximum of 235 million ISK to players with Omega accounts. 

With the knowledge that the event handout artificially increased the money supply, let's looks at some of the measurable activity.

Destruction overall declined 2.5% in July. Not bad performance for a July. The stalemate in Delve helped contribute to destruction only declining 1.3% compared to June in null sec. But the level of destruction in New Eden is the lowest since the introduction of Alpha accounts in November 2016. Compared to the first month of the current war, destruction is down 25.2% in known space and 28.1% in null sec. Perhaps the most telling data point is that compared to the last month of peace in June 2020, destruction is down 40.9% outside wormholes, but only 33.9% in null sec.

The value of production also declined in July, but only by 2%. The two percent decline was the same in both empire space and null sec. While some might claim the industry changes in April are the reason for the decline, the trend line for production has declined since the first month of the war. Year-over-year, production declined 39.1%.

Looking at the regional bounty statistics doesn't seem so relevant with the introduction of the breakout of the ESS banks, so I'll refer to CCP's bar chart instead. Commodities rose 8.8% from 32 trillion ISK in June to 34.8 trillion ISK in July. Bounties declined by 4.6% from 19.4 trillion ISK down to 18.5 trillion ISK. The big category is Redeemed ISK tokens, which I believe come from robbing the ESS banks. The amount changed from 21.6 billion ISK in June to 9.4 trillion ISK in July. The regular ESS Main Bank payment remained steady at 8.1 trillion ISK.

Added: The reason I believe the tokens are somehow related to the ESS banks is the introduction the reserve bank robbing mechanic with The Grand Heist on 27 July. As far as I can tell, the ISK Redeem Tokens category was added to the MER in February 2021. I guess we'll see when the August MER is released next month.

Added 20 August 2021: The tokens are not related to the ESS banks. They are related to The Grand Heist daily rewards. I've written a full explanation here.

The value of the ore mined in July declined 15.6% compared to June, which is the first indicator of a larger than normal drop in activity. According to the data, the mineral price index rose during July. Still, even with today's higher prices, the value of ore mined in July 2021 is 29.7% less than in July 2020.

In line with mining activity, the value of products measured by all the price indices declined by 16.4% month-over-month in June.  But more worrisome is that the 377.4 trillion ISK value in July is the lowest since February 2016 when skill extractors and large skill injectors were added to the game. In February 2016, the value of the indicies was 358.1 trillion ISK. Year-over-year, the value of the economy declined 24.3%.

The value of the goods measured by the Consumer Price Index decreased the same percentage as the drop in the value of mined ore from June to July: 15.6%. Year-over-year, the value of the CPI decreased 22.6%. Compared to the month before the major null sec war began, the CPI value decreased 30.4%.

Since the analysis is making comparisons to the pre-skill point trading economy, looking at the CPI without the accessories category is in order. Without accounting for skill injectors and extractors and the other items, the value of the CPI declined by 17%, showing the RMT tokens were not responsible for the month-over-month decline.  However, the 17.4% year-over-year decline in the value is less than the 22.6% year-over-year decrease when the RMT tokens are included.

Removing the accessories category from the total economy reduces the value measured by all the indices to 300.2 trillion ISK. The last time the economy was smaller was back in December 2015 when the value was 299.1 trillion ISK.

When I began looking at the data, I thought I would like what I found. I thought the data would show a small decline in activity consistent with historical seasonal trends. But as I dug deeper into the files, a picture emerged of an EVE that is not performing well. Hopefully the end of the siege warfare in Delve will allow the economy to perform above the levels usually seen in August.

Monday, August 16, 2021

An Update In Final Fantasy XIV

I'm bad about writing about game anniversaries and missed my two-year anniversary in Final Fantasy XIV last month. I have a couple of things to write about my last few weeks in the game.

First, the massive influx of WoW refugees is having a couple of unexpected effects. Yes, longer login queues were pretty much going to happen. But for the first time, I faced queue times for some of the events in the Manderville Gold Saucer. The first time that happened I thought I had disconnected at first. The other is the amount of gil I am making on the market. The last two weeks I've sold 1 million gil worth of food. When including all the gil from my retainers rewards as well as everything else I sell, I'm pulling in around 1.8 million gil each week. A couple of months ago, that number was down around 700,000 gil. I know have over 23 million gil sitting on my character.

I'm almost finished with all of the beast tribe quests. The only ones I have left to complete are with the dwarves and qitari. I will complete those by the weekend. I currently have all the beast tribe mounts, which was one of my goals. I should probably write a post about the mounts.

Another accomplishment I finished Thursday was acquiring the top Anima weapon for white mages. The Anima weapons come from the Heavensward expansion and are basically used for glamour. Although, for players who are still playing on a trial account, the Lux weapons are best in slot. I also completed the Zodiac weapon questline for level 50 weapons, so I'm half-way to getting all the relic weapons. For those who want long grinds for 

Finally, I reached level 80 on my scholar and summoner Saturday. Honestly, I have no idea how to play the summoner as I was interested in the scholar. Even then, I probably wouldn't play scholar without a lot of practice using the Trust system. I basically used the beast tribe quests to level the job. The next job I choose to level needs to be one I want to take into dungeons.

I should write more about my experiences in FFXIV. I find myself writing about a lot of negative things. Sure, the implosion of Blizzard Entertainment is noteworthy, and the troubles of Pearl Abyss will likely effect EVE. But I really need to write about when I have fun in games.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Pearl Abyss Q2 2021 Earnings Call

Yesterday Pearl Abyss held a conference call to discuss its Q2 2021 earnings report with investors. The financial results were less than stellar.

A steady decline

For the fifth consecutive quarter, Pearl Abyss recorded a quarter-over-quarter decline in revenue. The ₩88.5 billion ($76.5 million) in operating revenue represented a decline of 12.3% compared to the first quarter of 2021 and a year-over-year decline of 32.8%. The operating loss of ₩6 billion is the first time Pearl Abyss has reported a loss on a conference call. Pearl Abyss lists earnings presentations covering financial periods going back to Q1 2017.

Revenue for the last year broken down by category

From the questions asked by the analysts on the call, the game with the largest decline in revenue was Black Desert Mobile. The information on the call only broke the revenue sources down by intellectual property, region, and platform. Despite not breaking down revenue by game, the information does point to Black Desert Mobile.

The big decline was in the Black Desert IP. Revenue for the IP fell down to ₩69.3 billion, or $59.9 million. The result was a drop of 16.4% quarter-over-quarter and a decline of 37.8% year-over-year. Pearl Abyss did report that revenue from North America and Europe from self-publishing was still low due accounting rules. The company could only recognize 64% of Black Desert Online sales in the second quarter. The CFO stated he hoped all sales would be fully recognized in Q4.

One big piece of news Pearl Abyss told investors was that it had received a license on 28 June to operate Black Desert Mobile in China. Pearl Abyss is partnering with iDreamSky, a large Tencent-backed company. PA also stated it is attempting to obtain a license to operate Black Desert Online in China as well.

The EVE IP (EVE Online & EVE Echoes) recorded a 2.8% increase in revenue compared to the first quarter of 2021. The ₩18.1 billion ($15.6 million) earned still represented a 4.2% decline in revenue compared to the second quarter of 2020. 

The upcoming highlights for Q3 are very sparse.

On the EVE Echoes front, Pearl Abyss told investors the mobile game launched in China on 5 August. The company told investors it had 6 million pre-orders and 1 million users on the first day, with the app store revenue ranking reaching 25th place.

Platform revenue after converting percentages to won.

Looking at revenue by platform gives an indication of how much Black Desert Mobile has fallen over the past year. In the PC games category, revenue increased by 6.6% compared to Q1 2021, although it did suffer a year-over-year decline of 1%. Mobile revenue, on the other hand, fell by 42% from Q1 to last quarter. Compared to the second quarter of 2020, mobile revenue fell by 62.6%. 

Besides BDM, the other big topic the analysts on the call wanted to discuss was the future of Crimson Desert. While denying a lengthy delay in the launch of Crimson Desert, the company did confirm the game will launch before two other games in development, DokeV and Plan 8. Presumably that means the launch of the other two games will be delayed as well.

Overall, not a good quarter for Pearl Abyss. But if the price of stock is any indication, investors had already factored the news into the price. The call took place before the market open and the price closed down 0.73% to ₩68,100.

Pearl Abyss trading history on 11 August 2021

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

EVE Online ACU/PCU Climbs As War Activity Continues

In a major twist on conventional wisdom, player activity in EVE Online is drastically increasing in August.  


Over the last 7 days, the number of average concurrent users on the world shard of Tranquility has risen to 21,000 accounts. A month ago, the figure was down around 17,000.

Ripard Teg has updated his graphs and the upswing began at the end of July as PAPI forces prepared for a final offensive push against The Imperium's stronghold in the O-EIMK constellation. Well, as PAPI line members prepared. As we now know, leadership was preparing for a withdrawal from Delve and "an end to the war."


Now, despite the narrative going around, the war is not yet over. Even if Test Alliance Please Ignore completely implodes, cleanup actions and alliance relocations are still ongoing. For example, while Goonswarm Federation now controls all the infrastructure hubs in Delve, as of now TEST still controls 30 territorial control units and Pandemic Legion another one in the region.

The Dotlan iHub map shows plenty of work still to do

In Querious, The Imperium still has work to do just removing Brave Collective iHubs from the region. As PAPI alliances are removed, Siberian Squad and Dracarys. are moving in.

But iHubs and TCUs are not the only structures The Imperium needs to destroy to fully reclaim its lost regions. The matter of a few trillion ISK worth of citadels still needs to be addressed. Imperium forces destroyed the first two TEST keepstars located in Q-02UL and QC-YX6 a few hours ago.

In addition to the keepstars, by 1800 on 11 August I counted 40 other PAPI citadels destroyed in Delve and Querious. The breakdown is:


Already Replaced. - 3
Pandemic Horde - 3
Test Alliance Please Ignore - 6

Already Replaced. - 4
Pandemic Legion - 1
Test Alliance Please Ignore - 17

Marginis Fortizar
Test Alliance Please Ignore - 1


Test Alliance Please Ignore - 3

Brave Collective - 1
Test Alliance Please Ignore - 2

The big question, of course, is how long will the current phase of the war last? Will the moving around and cleaning up last 2-3 weeks with EVE then experiencing the normal seasonal slump in late August/early September? Or will the end to the trench warfare null sec experienced from May to July see increased player activity for the rest of the year? At the very least, following EVE is a lot more interesting now.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Aegis Sov: Working As Intended

Our realistic goal for the new Sovereignty system is that a very small group of players in virtually any ship types should be able to completely conquer an undefended system with a few ~10-30 minute sessions spread across a few days.

- CCP Fozzie, 3 March 2015

Yesterday the number of concurrent users peaked at 29,953, the most activity since the 31,462 accounts logged in simultaneously on 7 June. But the increase is not a result of the last major assault on the O-EIMK constellation. Instead, the increase is due to the massive evacuation of the former PAPI forces evacuating from Delve and The Imperium's effort to make the withdrawal as painful as possible.

Within hours of the publication of this article, Imperium forces will destroy the final Test Alliance Please Ignore infrastructure hub in the regions of Delve, Querious, Fountain, and Period Basis. Afterwards, I'm assuming that the Brave Collective systems in Querious are next on the list, although The Initiative. is working hard to clean up Fountain. The five remaining Federation Uprising iHubs in the region are reinforced and could all fall tomorrow.

Status of Querious iHubs, 1730 UTC on 9 August 2021

As I watched The Imperium wipe TEST off the map in such a short period of time, I remembered how in the previous sovereignty system alliances that had totally collapsed still held sov on the map months after a conflict ended. I was sure that one of the design goals was to ensure that didn't happen again. Looking back at the rollout of the current Aegis sovereignty system, a dev blog from 2015 showed my memory is not completely faulty.
Goal #3: Minimize the systemic pressure to bring more people or larger ships than would be required to simply defeat your enemies on the field of battle.

One major flaw of the current Dominion Sovereignty system is that the use of structure hitpoint grinding forces players to use huge numbers of players or colossal capital ships to fight over space, even when they would otherwise prefer to work in smaller units. This also creates an artificial floor on the size of alliances or coalitions that can be successful in Sovereignty.

A new Sovereignty system should not attempt to artificially determine the size of groups that can operate within it, either by forcing larger fleets or by forcing smaller ones. Instead, players should be able to work with numbers of friends that they consider appropriate for the situation.

Rather than trying to enforce some arbitrary limit on how many friends or allies you have, this system is simply designed to give organizations and players more freedom to choose the size of coalition that they prefer.

Bringing more players will always have some value, as it will provide advantages in direct fleet combat with your opponents. But a system that allows small numbers of players to conquer space as quickly as larger numbers ensures that if your fleet has the capability to win the fight, you automatically have enough people to take the Sovereignty objectives.

Goal #4: Drastically reduce the time and effort required to conquer undefended space.

Directly following from the goal above, it’s extremely important that we minimize the total player-hours required to take undefended and/or unoccupied space. The large time investment required to grind structure hitpoints under the current system allows alliances to effectively use fallow space as buffer zones and to wear down the will of an opponent through sheer boredom.

With our new system we intend to reach this goal by tying the defense of Sovereignty directly to the actions of players, through both combat fleets during attacks and active residency gameplay in peacetime. Our realistic goal for the new Sovereignty system is that a very small group of players in virtually any ship types should be able to completely conquer an undefended system with a few ~10-30 minute sessions spread across a few days. On the other hand, evicting an alliance that actively uses and defends their space should be a very difficult task indeed, which leads us to the next goal.

When CCP gets back from its summer vacation, the meetings involving losing coalition leaders like Vily, Gobbins, and progodlegend should prove interesting. Hopefully though, they won't complain about a buggy system. Aegis sov worked as intended.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Square Enix Q1 2022 Financial Results

Square Enix released its quarterly financial results yesterday. Due to the company's financial calendar beginning on April 1st, the results are listed as Q1 2022 and not Q2 2021. Confused? I was at first when I opened the pdf file of the presentation. SE also provided a nice press release to accompany the call. I'll reference both documents during the course of this article.

Making comparisons between FY2021 and FY2022 numbers were made a bit more difficult due to three accounting changes Square Enix implemented beginning on 1 April 2021. They include recognition of some revenue from digital content on third-party platforms like Steam. Prior to 1 April, SE only counted the net amount received from a customer. Going forward, SE will count the entire customer payment as revenue. The other big change is when a microtransaction is counted as revenue. Before 1 April, a player had to convert the purchase into an in-game item to count. Now, it is based on the expected duration of the item used. I guess SE had an issue with players not immediately redeeming codes.

One item that might surprise MMORPG players is Square Enix is projecting a down financial year for FY2022. Except for net sales (see the accounting changes) and capital expenditures, all the numbers on the balance sheets are declining. Yes, the Endwalker expansion for Final Fantasy XIV comes out in November, but in 2020 the first of the Final Fantasy VII Remake games launched 10 days into the fiscal year. Expecting Endwalker to pull in the numbers of the FFVII game is probably unrealistic.

Just to drive home the point about the impact of FFVII Remake on sales last year, year-over-year the number of games sold (downloads and physical discs) declined almost 50% in Q1 2022.

When the subject is MMORPGs, Square Enix runs two games, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. In the quarter running from April to June, the MMO category brought in $105.3 million to SE. The amount represents a year-over-year increase of 14.9%. The increase is partly due to pre-orders for Endwalker beginning in May. On a live stream in July, FFXIV Director & Producer Naoki Yoshida revealed that pre-orders for the expansion were up over 160% compared to Shadowbringers.

Compared to two years ago, the last full quarter before the release of FFXIV: Shadowbringers, MMO revenue is up 31.8%. Looks like the player hype over Shadowbringers translated to Square Enix' bottom line.

The conventional wisdom concerning game companies and the COVID-19 pandemic is that the lockdown restrictions were good for business. But for Square Enix, the lockdowns resulted in some sections of the company losing money.

The final point is just a statistic I personally found amusing. To give a scale of how big Square Enix is, the company's publication operations in charge of book and other sales made $65.3 million in revenue and had an operating income of $29 million. In 2020, the entire EVE IP (EVE Online and EVE Echoes) posted revenue of $63.2 million.

Investors greeted the news warmly, as today Square Enix stock rose to ¥6410, up 9.95% from the previous day's close of 5830.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Cleanup In Aisle Delve

The Imperium wasted no time in beginning to reclaim Delve. In less than 72 hours after PAPI declared their intention to halt all offensive actions in Delve and withdraw, Imperium pilots created over 140 timers. The iHubs in two systems, PUIG-F and D-3GIQ, already sport Goonswarm Federation infrastructure hubs.

Timers as of 1055 UTC on 5 August 2021

The mass entosis campaign is just not occurring in Delve. Test Alliance Please Ignore structures in Querious and Period Basis as well as nearly 30 systems held by Federation Uprising in Fountain also potentially need defending.

Normally when I see 140 timers set in such a short period of time, I figure maybe 10 structures will flip. But The Imperium has poured out of the O-EIMK constellation with a vengeance. Since PAPI announced its withdrawal, The Imperium has destroyed 27 PAPI-owned jump gates, 21 on 4 August alone.

Ansiblex Jump Gates destroyed by Imperium, 4 August 2021

Also, Imperium forces have destroyed three Tenebrex Cyno Jammers in T5ZI-S and E-VKJV over the last 24 hours.

PAPI cyno jammers destroyed

The destruction of the cyno jammers in the two gateways into the O-EIMK constellation means Imperium capital and supercapital forces will not have to use standard gates to enter the systems. As T5ZI-S is PAPI's main staging system, the situation could get tense over the weekend.

Pandemic Horde evacuation plans

The big question I have is whether The Imperium will allow non-TEST and non-Legacy forces to withdraw unmolested. The rally cry is "TEST in next." The Imperium has spent a lot of effort entosising TEST owned iHubs and territorial control units. One might believe Imperium forces will concentrate on that alliance as long as all others stay out of the way.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

J. Allen Brack Out At Blizzard Entertainment

Yesterday, embattled president of Blizzard Entertainment J.Allen Brack stepped down hours ahead of Activision Blizzard's earnings call for Q2 2021. Brack, who had overseen the number of monthly active users decline from 35 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 down to 26 million MAU in the last quarter, was under fire for a recent lawsuit brought by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing on 20 July. Following the public announcement of the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard stock fell 12.4% from 21 July to 3 August.

The company announced Brack would be replaced by two people, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra. Oneal was the head of Vicarious Visions from April 2016 until the studio was moved into Blizzard Entertainment in January of this year. Vicarious Visions most recently had worked on the remaster of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and the soon to be released Diablo II: Resurrected.

Before moving to work on Blizzard Entertainment's Platform and Technology organizations in 2019, Ybarra had worked for Microsoft for 19 years, the last 10 of that associated with the Xbox. He also is a mythic raider in World of Warcraft, which may come in handy in getting fan acceptance.

One has to wonder how long Brack could have remained president of Blizzard Entertainment even if the California DFEH had not filed its sexual discrimination and harassment suit. Despite the launch of The Burning Crusade Classic on 1 June, the number of monthly active users fell from 27 million down to 26 million. Net revenue for the quarter year-over-year fell 6% despite double-digit year-over-year growth in World of Warcraft revenue.

Blizzard Entertainment is not just World of Warcraft and other games provided disappointments. Hearthstone revenue was lower than predicted due to the latest expansion not launching until yesterday. Also, apparently Overwatch League revenue came in lower than expected in Q2 as well.

Despite all the words spent addressing the situation around the DFEH lawsuit, Brack's departure is more likely related to delivering products on time. The business plan requires delivering games on time. Both Oneal and Yberra have a long history of doing so. Blizzard Entertainment under J. Allen Brack? Not so much.