Thursday, September 30, 2021

Explaining The Removal Of HQ Materials In Endwalker

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

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

HQ Items Unobtainable After the Release of Patch 6.0

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

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

Unobtainable HQ Items Held in Possession at Launch of 6.0

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

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

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

Miscellaneous Adjustments to HQ Items

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The New Skills UI Received A Patch

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 27, 2021

EVE Online Is Recovering After The War

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Star Citizen The Movie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The August 2021 Monthly Economic Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 17, 2021

Diary Of An Alt Paladin - Levels 40 to 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posing with my squadron in The Stone Vigil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Paladin's Valor Set

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

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Star Citizen To See Server Wipe In Alpha 3.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

Diary Of An Alt Paladin - Levels 30 to 40

I have to admit I'm still having trouble playing a paladin in Final Fantasy XIV. Perhaps the issue is I'm trying to just use the keyboard for the first time in my 16 years of playing MMORPGs. 

The journey from levels 30 to 40 took 5 days. I use the term "days" loosely, because I spent less than an hour a night playing as a paladin. What follows is my diary from the journey from level 30 to level 40.

Day 7.    I had a brief time to play due to downtime for a patch, so my goal for the day was to complete the level 30 guardian and first paladin job quests. I arrived at the Guardian's Guild and Mylla told me Aldis was arrested for plotting to kill the Sultana using poison. For those leveling an alt class, that sounds familiar, doesn't it? She sent me out to the Sepulchre in Southern Thanalan to find the evidence to clear Aldis' name. While going through the area, I discovered I wasn't tough enough to take on 4 NPCs at once. But I eventually found the evidence.

I then travelled to Highbridge in Eastern Thanalan with the evidence to prove Aldis' innocence. In another bit of foreshadowing, the priest in charge didn't care. So with Mylla arriving as backup, I entered the final duty and defeated the bad guys. At the end, the bad guy took a leap off a ledge.

For the first paladin quest, the Guardian's Guild receptionist sent me off to find Jenlyns on the Hustings Strip. He is the head paladin and a bit of a pretentious jerk. At least, that was my first impression. In order to prove my worth, I had to light a brazier and fight an undead mob. Afterwards I met a mysterious paladin who gave me a crystal to give to Jenlyns. Turns out he's a traitor and Jenlyns didn't take his involvement too well.

I ended the day still at level 30 needing 45,000 experience points to reach level 31.

Day 8.    I started the day by joining the leveling roulette. I wound up in the Bowl of Embers (Normal) and dinged level 31. I pretty much did all the new player things I should remember not to do like forget to turn on tank stance and not eat food. But I did manage to turn the boss away from the party once I had everything finally turned on.

I wanted to do another dungeon so I queued for the duty roulette again and wound up doing Haukke Manor. I didn't get a bonus for doing so but I not only achieved level 32, but was only 11,000 experience points from level 33. While I remembered to turn on tank stance at the beginning, I forgot where the Shield Lob ability was so wound up charging into mobs in order to gain aggro. I also tried to stun bosses when they were not interruptible.

Instead of entering the duty roulette again, I decided to work on my hunting log because I didn't need much experience to hit level 33. Plus, I could work on the Challenge Log. The first Bosom Buddies challenge only requires killing 20 enemies with my companion. The mobs on my list to kill were:

  • 4 Floating Eyes in Central Shroud
  • 3 Adamantoise in South Shroud
  • 3 Mamool Ja Sophists & 3 Uragnites in Upper La Nosca

The Floating Eyes are found right outside Haukke Manor, the duty I had just finished. With that entry quickly checked off, I travelled to Camp Tranquil to kill Adamantoise. Since the Levemete in Camp Tranquil had a quest named Adamantoise Tears, I thought I could do the levequest and fulfill the Hunting Log entry at the same time. Turns out the Hunting Log doesn't work that way. However, the levequest led me straight to an area with a lot of Adamantoise, which made things a little easier.

As happens quite often, while working on the levequest, a FATE spawned on top of me. Completing the FATE saw me reach level 33. I wasn't paying attention, but when I turned in the levelquest, I earned the achievement "Uphill Battle II", which is earned for completing 50 unique battlecraft levequests.

I then travelled to Upper La Nosca to kill the mobs on my list there. Once again I stumbled across a FATE which helped with another 14,820 experience points. Since I reached level 33 during my journey, I went to the Sagolii Desert in Southern Thanalan to kill Sandworms to complete the level 33 entry in the Hunting Log. With the task complete, I returned to back home to gear up to take on the newest dungeon I unlocked, Brayflox's Longstop.

Day 9.    I didn't have a lot of time to play, but wanted to reach level 35. Instead of using the duty roulette, I decided to use my squadron and run command missions. I had two dungeons I still had not tanked, The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak and Brayflox's Longstop.

In The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak, I had issues getting initial aggro on the mobs, and then holding onto it once I had it. In the dungeon I learned that spamming my one AoE ability was necessary. I also reached level 34 and was more than halfway to level 35.

In Brayflox's Longstop, I really learned to love command missions. In command missions, I get all the loot. So in addition to reaching level 35, I received upgrades to level 34 for all my gear except for the belt.

Day 10.    I started out the night doing the level 35 paladin quest. Jenlyns sent me to Outer La Noscea to do the light the brazier and kill a few mobs thing. The quest didn't even have a proper cutscene. However, I received Oath Mastery and Sheltron. I figure if I learn how to read boss abilities better, Sheltron will make me a lot harder to kill.

Since I was only 18,000 experience away from level 36, I did a couple of entries in the Hunting Log to push me to the next level.

At this point, I was trying to not use the mouse to click on abilities, so I re-ran Brayflox's Longstop as a command mission as practice. I finished the dungeon at level 37.

Day 11.    I started off the session tired and just wanted to relax and get to level 38. Then I'd look for some better gear to do the next dungeon that opened up, Cutter's Cry. I was backsliding in my play, forgetting to turn tank stance on and not getting the mobs to face correctly for the melee DPS. But I did finish at level 38 with a new ability, Sentinel. Another damage mitigation spell was welcome.

I found myself 95,000 experience points from level 39 so decided to complete the level 4 entries in the Hunting Log. I ran into another FATE and wound up leveling due to the experience gain in the Completion Log for completing 5 FATEs. 

I completed the section of the Hunting Log in Outer La Noscea. The zone still had two quest givers so I did a little cleanup and finished up the last regular quests. I now was less than 200,000 experience points from level 40.

I should have logged off, but reaching a level with a round number was too tempting. I ran Brayflox's Longstop to end the night. I died to the last boss because I tried an experiment of starting off the fight by pulling the boss to one of the edges. Not a good idea, since the strategy is to kite the boss around the area. But I did finish the night at level 40.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A Nocturne For Heroes: The Crossover Event With FFXV Returns

Yesterday Square Enix announced the dates for the return of the Final Fantasy XIV/Final Fantasy XV crossover event. Starting Monday, 13 September at 1:00 am PDT and running through to Monday, 18 October at 7:59am PDT, players can find Kipih Jakkya in Ul'dah and help her with her next article for The Raven. I think Square Enix made a good choice in using Kipih as the quest NPC in this year's The Rising event so she is a familiar face when running A Nocturne For Heroes.

The event even features a nice trailer from 2019.

Yes, the event looks like a rerun of the event from 2019. But is that such a bad thing? With so many new players in FFXIV over the last two years recycling the event helps fill the content hole left by Endwalker not releasing until November. Square Enix is also making the event replayable through the use of the Seasonal Event Replay feature. The feature is available to those who completed the event in 2019 or those who complete the event this year and wish to replay again.

To participate in the event, a player must meet two criteria.
  1. Have a character with a combat job at level 50.
  2. Complete the main scenario quest "The Ultimate Weapon"
Cynics might note the requirements might note that some players may spend real world money to reach the requirements. The cost of a skip to level 70 is $25 USD and to the end of the main scenario of A Realm Reborn is $11.

I'm not sure that players would want to pay up to $36 to do the event, but the rewards may tempt people. 

First, completing the quest chain will grant players the Lucian Prince's set, which is not only available for both sexes, but is dyable as well. The quest rewards are:
  • The Man in Black: Lucian Prince's Fingerless Glove
  • In the Dark of Night: Lucian Prince's Bottoms
  • Messenger of the Winds: Lucian Prince's Jacket, Lucian Prince's Boots
Players using the replay feature cannot get the rewards again.

Those wanting to get some of the rewards will need to hit the Manderville Gold Saucer and start playing games. Three of the items are purchased from the redemption counter. They are:
  • Regalia Type-G (mount) - 200,000 MGP
  • Noctis Lucis Caelum Card (Triple Triad) - 200,000 MGP
  • Modern Aesthetics - Lucian Looks - 20,000 MGP
The notable MGP reward is the Regalia mount from FFXV. The car was the first 4-seat mount in FFXIV and is not available in the cash shop. Unlike items in the seasonal events, prizes in crossover events don't wind up for sale. A good strategy to make the crossover events for popular when they do reemerge. 

The event will also provide six orchestrion rolls with music from FFXV. The rolls are acquired by turning in Unidentified Magitek obtained from a level 50 FATE, Like Clockwork, in Central Thanalan.

I personally don't think I need the full month to get all the prizes, but I have 7 million MGP already. The only thing I'm worried about is finding space in my glamour dresser for the new gear set.

Monday, September 6, 2021

No Downtime For Tranquility On September 9th

With the war in Delve over and each side on opposite ends of the New Eden cluster, the EVE Online developers are free to experiment with technical changes. One such experiment will occur on Thursday as for the second time CCP will not perform the daily server reboot. The first time CCP did so was on 4 December 2019 in order to see what broke.

CCP Explorer posted a dev blog outlining the objectives of this week's test.

  • Verify the fixes made for the issues discovered in the previous experiment in the live production environment
  • Verify that no other code/features have regressed since last time and in general look for further issues
  • Observe memory usage
  • Verify that our technology platform (which you will hear more about later) is not making any downtime assumptions

In 2019, CCP noted three categories of issues associated with skipping downtime. The first centered on those systems built around the existence of downtime. Items like structures not finishing 24 hour timers and corporations not joining Faction Warfare as well as asteroid belts not respawning.

The second issue was time desynchronization of the servers. I'll quote CCP Explorer's explanation.

The time desynchronization was a known issue, but last time we were observing whether players noticed at the end of day #2. The target for time desynchronization is a maximum of ±0.5 seconds. But with newer hardware, we had been observing an end-of-run desynchronization of 2.25 seconds and - predictably - 4.5 seconds at the end of day #2 in the first no-downtime experiment in 2019.

Players started to notice once the desynchronization was above 3 seconds, mostly by noting what felt like module lag or delay when their client and the node hosting their solar system disagreed significantly about when modules were cycling. Time desynchronization is now normally within ±1/100 of a second, well within the maximum of ±0.5 seconds.

The final issue involves memory issues on the server. Once again, CCP Explorer explained.

Tranquility has always been memory hungry. For better performance, then, we have always opted for pre-computing values & processing data and storing the results for later reference rather than re-computing those values again later. As an example, the Brain in a Box and Dogma Rewrite projects in 2015 were all about computing and storing skills and their effects (i.e., the characters' brains) and transferring the computed results between solar systems instead of re-computing the brains on each entry to a new solar system. We also never clean up any memory, as the cluster node memory is reset every day anyway, which is a reliance on a daily reboot (note: we of course don't clear our DB cache memory or our Redis cache memory, but the main simulation cache memory is cleared in the reboot in each downtime).

The most memory-hungry nodes in the Tranquility cluster, the Character Services nodes that store those brains I mentioned above (among other things), were at 75% memory pressure at the end of day #2 last time, which is just below our operating tolerance of 80%. We might be able to run Tranquility for 3 days (and perhaps 7 hours more) if we were to run the cluster to a "first-node-at 100% memory usage" state, given those 2019 numbers. In 2019, the day #1 memory pressure was at 55%, but these days it is around 35% and so we want to rebase our observations.

Now, we get to the exciting part. Not having downtime Thursday is a test of new technology, not just of fixing bugs.

No-downtime is a long-term goal and all our technological advances aim towards that. We have been working for a few years now on a micro-service and message bus technology platform for EVE, and started using that platform for a number of features. We now want to observe how that ecosystem holds up with no downtime of the primary game cluster, making sure no assumptions have been made about a daily downtime. [emphasis mine]

When I started playing EVE in 2009, the daily downtime ran for one hour. On 1 November 2010, the official daily downtime was reduced to 30 minutes. The official downtime period was halved again on 11 May 2016. And as CCP Explorer noted in today's dev blog, the current average daily downtime has been under 5 minutes since December 2019. Maybe the dream of no daily downtime will soon come true.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Diary Of An Alt Paladin - Levels 16 to 30

In a post last week, I started documenting the leveling experience of a third job, paladin, in Final Fantasy XIV. Over three days, I managed to start at level 1 as a gladiator and reach a point I could start running dungeons at level 16. Three days later I reached level 30 and the ability to become a paladin. What follows is my trip to level 30.

Day 4.    I started the day with access to the first two dungeon, Sastasha and The Tam-Tara Deepcroft. If I were just interested in levelling I would have entered the Duty Roulette for the extra rewards. Instead, I queued up for Sastasha. In 20 minutes I went from level 16 up to level 19 and received three equipment upgrades.

  • Plundered Falchion
  • Warded Round Shield
  • Dawn Wristguards

Equipping the gear raised my gear score from 14 to 16. I then spent 62 gil in mats and crafted a Brass Ring. I'm an omni-crafter and have a two command macro that results in all items for level 70 and below turning out as high quality.

I also received the level 18 tank ability Interject.

The group was experienced and wound up running ahead of me a lot. I also found positioning the mobs correctly was harder than it appears. I also forgot about Shield Lob, which meant I just ran into groups of mobs to draw their attention.

My next dungeon was Tam-Tara Deepcroft. Even without signing up for the Duty Roulette, I finished the dungeon at level 22. I didn't receive any item upgrades but did receive another damage reduction ability, Reprisal.

By running the first two dungeons, I gained enough experience to unlock two new duties, Copperbell Mines and Halatali. Copperbell Mines is the first dungeon I can run with my squadron. But I finished off the night by completing the level 20 gladiator quest.

I went to the Gladiators Guild and Mylla sent me to the Coffer & Coffin in Central Thanalan. Once again, I tripped over experience point opportunities. While investigating the area, I ran into giant tortoises, which after killing left me with only the level 19 and 20 entries in the Hunting Log to complete. A FATE also regularly spawns outside the Coffer & Coffin so I participated in the event when it spawned.

Upon finishing everything outside the Coffer & Coffin, I zipped back to Ul'dah to witness Mylla and Aldis have another fight. Afterwards Mylla and I travelled to the Silver Bazaar in Western Thanalan to take care of business. Things didn't go so well story-wise as we ran into the bad guy for the Gladiator quest. The quest wound up not giving me an equipment upgrade, so I took the money.

I finished up the night by going to the quartermaster for The Order of the Twin Adder and purchasing a Serpent Private’s Sword and a Serpent Private’s Sash for use at level 23.

Day 5.    Sitting at level 22, I didn't want to get too far behind on the Hunting Log so I started off by finishing off the second tier of mobs. After killing the required number of Vandalous Imps, Rotting Nobels, and Bloated Bogies, I found myself 1700 experience points short of level 23. Since I had upgrades available if I levelled, I travelled to Western Thanalan and killed 4 Lead Coblyns. While I was there, I also participated in a FATE.

With the new gear, I queued up for Copperbell Mines. I felt a little under geared but only died to the blob mechanic. I even did a couple of two group pulls. Overall, not a bad run which resulted in reaching level 24.

I only needed 3,000 experience points to reach level 25 and the next Gladiator quest. A quick trip to South Shroud to kill Kedtraps and Overgrown Offerings for the Hunting Log. Then off to talk to Mylla again.

The level 25 quest wasn't really eventful. I had to defeat an ambush, then go out with Aldis and kill one of the assassins sent to kill him. The rewards included my first piece of heavy armor, which is extremely ugly. Thankfully the glamour system exists. After creating a glamour, I logged off for the night.

My first tanking glamour

Day 6.    I had not tanked Halatali or The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak, so I tried queueing for Halatali. After six minutes I became impatient and signed up for the Duty Roulette, quickly finding myself in Sastasha again. I forgot to turn on tank stance at the beginning, which may have led the Dancer in the group to just start pulling mobs ahead of me. So I spent the time grabbing aggro off the Dancer and tanking that way.

I wound up leaving the group at level 27 and added Rage of Halone, a level 26 ability, to my rotation. I was also three challenges away from receiving 10,000 gil from the challenge log. The challenges were:

  • Complete 5 dungeons
  • Vote 5 times in player commendation
  • Do 5 FATES

Since the challenges also award a fair bit of experience, I decided to finish the three challenges. I signed up for Halatali again, and this time I didn't have to wait long. The party was full of sprouts running the dungeon for the first time. One of the DPS decided either I was moving too slow or just didn't know better and kept attacking everything before I could get in range of the pack of mobs. Remapping my keys to fit all the abilities onto my action bars right before the fight didn't help either. The run was hectic, but I felt better about my ability to pull and hold aggro afterwards.

At the end of the Halatali run I found myself at level 29, 134 thousand experience points from level 30. I decided to finish off the level 21-30 entries in the Hunting Log. Doing so just in bonuses would earn me 79,300 experience points. Also, I had that challenge log xp bonus if I ran into a FATE. I wound up participating in 2 FATEs while working on the Hunting Log. When the last Sabotender died, I was a level 30 gladiator ready to become a paladin.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Star Citizen Ends August 2021 With $382 Million Raised

The Cloud Imperium Games fund raising machine keeps generating millions of dollars each month to develop Star Citizen and Squadron 42. According to the company's fundraising page, CIG raised approximately $4.5 million in August 2021.

The RSI fundraising page as seen on 1 September 2021

Unless some horrible news comes out about Chris Roberts, CIG's total amount raised through game package purchases and ship sales will reach over $400 million by the end of the year. When other income sources, including outside investors, are included, when the financial statement for 2021 is released at the end of 2022, reporters will see over $500 million raised.

At this point in time, I have no intention to play either Star Citizen or Squadron 42. My interest is drawn to the project purely due to the amount of money involved. First, just how much can CIG raise? Can Chris Roberts and the team hit $1 billion before Star Citizen reaches an official launch date? And finally, imagine the huge amount of RMT activity that will hit the game upon launch. I foresee a huge mess for CIG. How can I pass up the opportunity to cover possibly the biggest RMT event in the history of gaming?

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Looking At Dotlan Data For August 2021

All the talking heads in the EVE media love to discuss the monthly economic report. But the first available data for a month is found on the popular EVE map website Dotlan. With the PAPI super coalition and Legacy coalition broken up and in full retreat to the other side of the cluster, I thought I'd use the date available on Dotlan to see what happened in August.

The first is a look at the number of player-owned ships destroyed in null sec. The data shows the COVID lockdown effect as players flocked to play EVE in March and April of 2020 due to the worldwide COVID lockdowns. Using the first three years of the Alpha era as a baseline, ship deaths in null sec remained above the 2017-2019 average from March 2020 to March 2021. Ship deaths dropped below the three year average from April 2021 to June 2021. In August, the destruction once again exceeded the 2017-2019 average by increasing 15.9% compared to July.

The story about players killing NPCs in null sec is different. Over the last 20 months, the only months that exceeded the average number of NPCs killed in 2017-2019 were July through September 2020. The big drop in NPCs killed occurred in November and December with the introduction of the Dynamic Bounties System and changes to the Encounter Surveillance System on 10 November 2020. Of course, the war moving closer to Delve may have also influenced the decline.

In August, the number of NPCs killed in null sec increased by 16.5%. With the Imperium no longer having to worry about most of the major alliances camped in Delve and Querious, how much higher will the number grow?

In high sec, a similar pattern emerged. In March and April 2020 ship deaths dramatically increased in high security space. The ship losses continued beating the 2017-2019 average until January 2021. But the numbers exceeded the average from February to May, dipping below the average in June and July. In August, the number of kills rose by 14.9% to inch ahead of the average once again.

A common claim is that null sec players have moved their income generation to high sec. If so, the number of NPCs destroyed doesn't back up the narrative. November and December 2020 did not show an increase in NPCs killed in high sec to correspond to the massive drop in NPC kills in null sec. The number of NPC kills dropped below the 2017-2019 average in June and, despite an 11.8% increase in August, remain below the average.

Looking at the data for low sec shows just how badly the region had fallen. In January 2020, the number of player ships destroyed was 34.5% less than the average ships killed in the same month in the period 2017 to 2019. The March 2020 surge only brought low sec back to the average. The security band did top the average in April, May, and June, but slid under again with the start of the war in July 2020. In August 2021, the number of player ships destroyed increased by 14.9% but still trail the baseline 2017-2019 average by 13.5%. A figure that doesn't sound good until compared to the numbers in January 2020.

Last and arguably least is the data around players killing NPCs in low sec. But a strange thing happened. While the beginning of 2020 roughly followed the pattern experienced by ships dying, 2021 saw NPC kills exceed the baseline average beginning in February 2021. August extended the streak to 7 months in a row with a 3% rise compared to June.

Graph courtesy of Jester's Trek

With the numbers shown by Dotlan, one would expect a big downturn in player activity in June and July, with an fairly big uptick in August. According to the latest average concurrent user graph published by Ripard Teg yesterday, that is what happened. The ACU rose from 17,000 through much of July to over 20,000 users throughout August. The data indicates the increase occurred throughout known space (wormhole and Pochven data is unavailable), although not so much in low sec.