Monday, January 31, 2022

The End Of RMT Sales Monitoring

The day finally came. With the end of 2021 I stopped monitoring illicit ISK sales on the grey market site Player Auctions. After compiling a data base based on user reviews from January 2017 to December 2021, I think I have enough data to draw some conclusions and make pretty graphs. The one below is an example.

Do I think grey market sales have really declined 50% over the past year. No. Player Auctions has a much bigger competitor that has evolved over the past 5 years. Today, the site (which I won't name) boasts between 2 and 3 times the number of sellers as PA. Sellers on Player Auctions also have lost access to popular payment processors, such as PayPal and Alipay, for receiving funds for their sales.

What made Player Auctions unique was the ability to browse user reviews without a PA account. Following the irrelevance of independent ISK selling web sites in 2013-2014, I needed a source for price data. Player Auctions filled that role for years. But especially during 2021, the site was a shadow of its former glory, with the last major seller leaving at the end of October.

Five years is a long enough time to establish a good data set. For the last month, I have enjoyed not looking at sales data. Quite frankly, the story hasn't changed much. I took a quick look and the amount of ISK sold in January has risen from 24.7 billion ISK per day, which is up 9.3% from December's daily average of 22.6 billion ISK. When a change of 2 billion ISK makes that big of a difference, I need to find another source of data.

So goodbye daily monitoring. The next task is to take the gathered information and see if it proves or disproves my theories about RMT sales and the effect of PLEX on the grey/black market. In the meantime, I'm taking all the time I used to monitor the markets and am playing EVE instead.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Reconsidering The Daily Omega Rewards

Back in April 2020, the developers of EVE Online added daily login rewards as a standard feature. At the time, I wasn't a big fan due to the login rewards. Also, the feature felt like a cheap way to recover daily active user (DAU) and monthly active user (MAU) numbers following the disastrous Chaos Era of 2019. With Pearl Abyss Chief Financial Officer Cho Seok-woo telling investors the following month that Pearl Abyss was actively involved in EVE development to improve the number of EVE players, I was pretty turned off with the feature.

Fast forward to today. After a year or so of only playing EVE for the events, I decided to start playing semi-seriously. One of the things I like to do is mine. But mining in EVE is not like gathering in Final Fantasy XIV. In FFXIV, I can gather everything, sell on the market, and feel good. Over the first three weeks of January, I tried doing the same thing in EVE. When I received the ISK, I just felt meh.

I then looked in my redeem queue and saw some blueprint copies. The main ships I fly are Minmatar and ORE. I have almost no ships from the other factions. But I do have the blueprints for plenty of frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. So why not use the things CCP gives me?

From the daily login rewards

One of the interesting parts of the login reward is that the blueprint copies are fully researched. Not only that, but each BPC has two runs for twice the fun. For maximum efficiency, I plan on manufacturing the ships in low sec, where the manufacturing price is usually lower. At the end of mining, I'd rather have a ship hull than some extra ISK in my wallet.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like having to use boosters by redeeming them from the queue. Only having 7 days to use them is a turnoff. I also find the temporary SKINs annoying. Why apply them except to unclutter the redemption queue, especially if I don't even fly the ship. But I'm starting to come around on the blueprint rewards. Not only can I save those for use weeks down the road, but they help with the desire to return to mining.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Trying To Understand Mining Residue

I've returned to playing EVE Online in a semi-serious manner. Last year I pretty much only played during events. In 2021 I ranked in the top 5% in the number of events in which I participated and in the top 8% in number of event points earned. This year I am operating PI on four planets with plans to eventually expand.

Another sign I'm taking the game semi-seriously is mining. So far I have mined 166 thousand cubic meters of ore, which is 50% greater than the amount I harvested in all of 2021. I knew intellectually about the residue (or waste) mechanic introduced in December, but I didn't understand why the devs introduced something so complex at a time the skills were simplified. In the patch, the skills to mine and process the 19 regular flavors of ore were reduced down to 6.

  • Simple Ores - Veldspar, Scordite, Pyroxeres, Plagioclase
  • Coherent Ores - Omber, Kernite, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite
  • Variegated Ores - Gneiss, Ochre, Crokite
  • Complex Ores - Bistot, Arkonor, Spodumain
  • Abyssal Ores - Talassonite, Rakovene, Bezdnacine
  • Mercoxit - Mercoxit

Twitch streamer and long time lore expert Ashterothi pointed out on Twitter the new types of mining crystals as an example of added complexity. Going back to the patch notes, the devs added three different types of mining crystals.

  • Type A is low yield, low waste
  • Type B is high yield, higher waste
  • Type C is very low yield, very high waste

For completeness sake, the attributes of the mining crystals are below.

What left me puzzled was what in the crystal and skill changes required the inclusion of a residue or waste mechanic. For the Type A and Type B crystals, the devs could have based making choices on the cost or rate of wear on the crystal. A residue factor wasn't required. For me, the rationale led to the purpose of the Type C crystals. But I couldn't figure out the purpose of a crystal that basically didn't mine ore. Fortunately Urziel, a null sec resident, stepped in.

I don't mine in null sec, so I missed the connection. One of the pain points in null sec is having to mine ore players think is worthless. I remember back in the day ochre was the ore players don't want to waste time on. I guess today the excess ore is crokite. But with the point, the residue system, or at least the design, makes more sense.

I see three benefits from the new feature. The first is wasting less of players' time. Sites in null sec only respawn once the existing site is fully mined out. Mining a lot of unwanted ore in order to mine the good stuff isn't a desirable design. Allowing players to destroy asteroids faster than regular mining is a feature, not a bug. The faster the site is mined out, the faster a respawn occurrs.

Next is preventing, or at least slowing down, the creation of stockpiles. Over the course of the last year, the devs stated numerous times they wanted to draw down all the existing stockpiles. By allowing players to destroy much of the unwanted ore, the developers hopefully don't have to worry about existing stockpiles when they make a change in the future.

Finally, the change hopefully makes pricing on the market more sane by lessening or preventing gluts of ores and minerals. Ore turned into residue cannot appear on the markets, thus allowing miners to charge higher prices. In addition, by making anomalies faster to mine out, the amount of the good ore mined should increase. Not only will that make miners happy, but the increased amounts mined should lower costs on the market. At least, that's my theory.

I'll admit the above is just my personal explanation for the mining changes and introduction of mining residue. The developers may have a completely different rationale for the changes. Also, game system changes often work differently once they come into contact with EVE players. But the important part for me is that the devs had a half-way decent plan. One I think is a bit too complicated, but at least I can wrap my head around the changes.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Latest Sales Plans And Infrastructure Expansion For Final Fantasy XIV

On the Primal data center, queue times to log into Final Fantasy XIV have returned to just about normal over the last week. From friends I have on other worlds, cross-realm travel is even possible before 9pm Pacific again, although congestion still occurs. But Square Enix can't continue to not sell the game. This morning's Lodestone announcement of an all worlds maintenance from January 24, 2022 8:00 p.m. to January 25, 2022 2:00 a.m. (PST) is a sign of things to come.

Last week, FFXIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida sent out an update on Square Enix' plans for 2022. On Tuesday, sales of FFXIV will resume with the resumption of the Home World Transfer service on Wednesday. The transfer service will be open to all players, not just those transferring to the Oceanian Data Center.

The Oceanian Data Center? That's right, Square Enix is opening up a new data center containing 5 worlds. Square Enix is waiving the transfer fee for those players, primarily in Australia and New Zealand, looking for a less laggy play experience. The move will also hopefully free up space on the Japanese and North American worlds for additional players. Square Enix created an informational post listing all the perks of transferring to Materia, the name of the Oceanic data center here.

The launch of the Data Center Travel System should debut in a 6.1x patch. I believe that indicates a launch of the service sometime in April or May. The four key points of the feature highlighted were:

  • Players will be able to visit Worlds in other logical data centers within the same physical data center.
  • Players will not be able to visit Worlds in other regions/physical data centers.
  • Though cross-region travel is technically possible, implementation is still under consideration.
  • Travel is initiated not while logged into the game, but from the character selection screen.

In order to increase capacity in Japan, Square Enix needs to reconfigure each logical data center so they all hold 8 worlds. Currently, each Japanese data center contains 10 or 11 worlds. The reconfiguration is expected to increase the number of possible simultaneous logins by at least 50,000 players. The work is scheduled for July 2022.

We believe that—taking into account the floor space of the data center where the servers are physically housed and the current semiconductor shortage—this will be the fastest and most efficient method for large-scale expansion. In terms of community maintenance, this will involve a partial regrouping of Worlds, which we understand will cause a great deal of inconvenience to players using the Japanese Data Center. We intend to do everything in our power to mitigate this by implementing data center transfer and through use of the Home World Transfer service. We offer our sincere apologies in advance for any trouble this will cause, and appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Square Enix plans to expand the North American data center to match Japan's, moving from 3 logical data centers containing 24 worlds up to 4 logical data centers with 32 worlds. The first four worlds are scheduled to come online in August 2022, with the other 4 added during the spring or summer of 2023. The company is considering adding additional worlds for the release of the next expansion (Patch 7.0).

The eight worlds per logical data center configuration is also coming to the European Data Centers. Europe will see the addition of 12 worlds. Currently, Europe has two logical data centers, each with 6 worlds. In July, Square Enix plans to add 4 new worlds, 2 each to Chaos and Light. The creation of a new data center with 8 worlds is planned, but no date was given.

I'll provide an update next week on my experiences with login and world transfer queues to see how well Yoshida's planning worked. While he didn't do the planning himself, we all know if things go poorly he'll claim all the blame.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Microsoft To Buy Activision-Blizzard For $68.7 Billion

Microsoft is set to add another giant MMORPG to its portfolio of games with this morning's news the software giant is buying Activision-Blizzard. The maker of the XBox published a press release this morning. I'll post the beginning of the release below.

REDMOND, Wash. and Santa Monica, Calif. – Jan. 18, 2022 – With three billion people actively playing games today, and fueled by a new generation steeped in the joys of interactive entertainment, gaming is now the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment. Today, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI), a leader in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher. This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.

Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard’s net cash. When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The planned acquisition includes iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios like “Warcraft,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch,” “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush,” in addition to global eSports activities through Major League Gaming. The company has studios around the word with nearly 10,000 employees.

Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all.”

“Players everywhere love Activision Blizzard games, and we believe the creative teams have their best work in front of them,” said Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming. “Together we will build a future where people can play the games they want, virtually anywhere they want.”

“For more than 30 years our incredibly talented teams have created some of the most successful games,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard. “The combination of Activision Blizzard’s world-class talent and extraordinary franchises with Microsoft’s technology, distribution, access to talent, ambitious vision and shared commitment to gaming and inclusion will help ensure our continued success in an increasingly competitive industry.”

Mobile is the largest segment in gaming, with nearly 95% of all players globally enjoying games on mobile. Through great teams and great technology, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will empower players to enjoy the most-immersive franchises, like “Halo” and “Warcraft,” virtually anywhere they want. And with games like “Candy Crush,” Activision Blizzard´s mobile business represents a significant presence and opportunity for Microsoft in this fast-growing segment.

The acquisition also bolsters Microsoft’s Game Pass portfolio with plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into Game Pass, which has reached a new milestone of over 25 million subscribers. With Activision Blizzard’s nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries and three billion-dollar franchises, this acquisition will make Game Pass one of the most compelling and diverse lineups of gaming content in the industry. Upon close, Microsoft will have 30 internal game development studios, along with additional publishing and esports production capabilities.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review and Activision Blizzard’s shareholder approval. The deal is expected to close in fiscal year 2023 and will be accretive to non-GAAP earnings per share upon close. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.

If the sale is approved by the several governments involved, Microsoft would own not only World of Warcraft, but also Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76. Microsoft's purchase of ZeniMax Media, the previous owner of the latter two games, was finalized in March 2021. I should add the ZeniMax deal took 6 months to finalize (it was announced in September 2020).

In 2014, Microsoft purchased Mojang, the studio that created Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. In that case, the deal was announced in September and finalized in November. Then again, Mojang was a much smaller company based in Sweden, not the United States. I expect the finalization of the sale to extend to the 6 month range, if not longer.

While a lot of people will obsess over the fate of Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, I'm not concerned. He's set for life whatever happens. The latest information I could find shows he owns about 4.3 million Activision-Blizzard shares and is worth $8 billion. Besides, the CEO of the company purchased usually sticks around for a set amount of time. 

I also want to point out two sentences that may concern some people.

This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse...

“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft.

I don't think I took the sentences out of context when I combined the two. Does this mean NFTs in WoW confirmed? With companies like Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Pearl Abyss jumping into the NFT/metaverse pool, is it a surprise that Microsoft would want to follow suit?

Monday, January 17, 2022

Playing The Interstellar Convergence: The EVE Online x Doctor Who Crossover Event

On Thursday EVE Online began the 18-day crossover event between the EVE Online and Doctor Who universes. I began playing on Thursday and through four days amassed 325 event points. Since I have a little experience with the event, I thought I'd post my initial thoughts.

Progress through Sunday night

The concept of the event is simple. Players explore and hack into special relic sites to find clues in the form of building material and blueprints. The clues are put together using industry to create filaments. The filaments are then used to travel to exploration pockets, where more clues are found. Eventually we encounter the Daleks and combat will occur, but I haven't progressed that far. I'm currently searching for clues to access the third level of exploration pocket. 

The sites don't just drop blueprints and building material. They also drop Peculiar Data Collections which sell for 10,000 ISK each to NPC buy orders on the market. The cans players hack can also drop Doctor Who themed items like sonic screwdrivers (Inactive Sonic Multitool) and jelly babies (Bag of Gelatinized Confectionary). I also found cerebral accelerators to speed up training.

Through four days, I have not had the opportunity to engage in combat with the Daleks. I hear the combat occurs in an arena, with players able to instantly travel to the other side by crossing the arena border. I do know that access to the arena is limited to tech 1, non-faction cruisers.

The challenges found in The Agency provide additional structure to the event. In addition to providing points to obtain prizes, the challenges encourage players to place items up for sale on the market. Not only does that provide a reminder to new players to get some ISK, but helps jump start an event-based economy.

I have to mention the technical difficulties I encountered along the way. On Thursday, a certain material required to build Curious filaments, which provide access to the first level of exploration pockets, did not drop in the game. The only source for the item was from event packs sold in the game's cash shop. The issue was resolved with a patch.

On Friday, an issue arose with the challenges. The challenges did not auto refresh, so only three challenges could be played. The bug was fixed at downtime with a patch.

On Saturday I experienced a very painful bug. I created an Enigmatic filament, but did not receive credit for completing a challenge. What I discovered is that using a blueprint where the items and output both point to a container does not count. Learn from my mistake. Make sure that all manufacture of items points to your item hangar.

Would I recommend participating in the event? Depends on the player. Anyone who really likes the probing and hacking mini-games should definitely participate. Other players, however, may find the content very grindy. I have described the event as "a bit of a slog". Also, I think brand new players will find the content very challenging at higher levels, which could add frustration to the grind.

I have to say I like the overall structure of the event. I plan on completing the event just to see what is at the end. Hopefully I get to destroy the Dalek menace and save Gallifrey. I'd also like to find a scarf along the way. I already found some jelly babies.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Progodlegend Steps Down From The Council Of Stellar Management

Long wars in EVE tend to burn players out, especially those in leadership positions. Sitting on the Council of Stellar Management also leads to many players either leaving or reducing their activity in the game. Someone who falls in both groups is Test Alliance Please Ignore's progodlegend. Today, CCP announced his resignation from the CSM.

Civic-minded Capsuleers!

This week, CSM member progodlegend informed CCP of his intentions to resign his seat on CSM 16. This was done entirely by his own volition, and progodlegend resigns his seat in good standing. Given the duration of the term that he has served on, this will count against his term limits should he seek re-election in CSM 17 and beyond.

Based on CSM 16 election results, the next member-elect of CSM 16 is Arsia Elkin. Arsia has accepted the position as CSM 16 Council Member, completed necessary paperwork, attended her first weekly meeting, and is busy working with current members in the onboarding process for her new role. We expect great things from Arisa, and we’re excited to have her extensive knowledge enhance an already impressive CSM squad.

In other CSM related news - you can expect some CSM Summit news & updates soon™ as existing plans for an in-person summit (scheduled for this February) were postponed due to Omicron-related restrictions.

Below is the official resignation from progodlegend. Thank you, progod, for your time on the CSM and we wish you well on the slopes!

Over the next couple of months I will be actively avoiding most of my electronics while I live in the mountains and snowboard for a few months. As such it doesn’t make much sense for me to remain on the CSM. I informed CCP of my decision a few days ago, and as I understand it they will be giving the spot to Arsia. I thought she was an exceptional candidate during the election, and was happy to see her be in a position to take a spot if someone stepped down. I have no doubt she will do very well on the CSM.

I will be checking discord once a day, but otherwise I’ll be out of pocket for a few months. Don’t burn the place down while I’m gone.

When running for CSM 16, Arsia stated she wanted to concentrate on four main areas:

  1. Low Security Sapce/Faction Warfare
  2. Ship/Module Balance
  3. Story/Lore Visibility and Use as Content Generator
  4. New Player Experience

The following description of Arsia is taken from her campaign thread:

I’m predominantly a roleplaying PvPer who has been playing the game for around 11 years. I started the Arsia character (my ‘main’ and first successful character) in mid 2010 after failing to get into the game a few times during some trial accounts spaced out a couple years apart. I started my Eve life as an explorer and ran around high sec and then low sec sort of without many true goals until I got into Faction Warfare (FW) in 2012. I had started the character intending to RP but was mostly quiet and stayed to myself until I started interacting with other RPers in the context of FW.

A little while after getting into Faction Warfare on the Amarr side, I joined PIE (Praetoria Imperialis Excubitoris). Back then I played fairly casually and just logged on and kerfuffled around the warzone a few times a month. To this day I think Eve is a good game to play casually (even if I’m fairly not casual at this point). Over my years I began to develop some FCing capabilities within the context of FW but stayed mostly casual and quiet until the Amarr Succession Trials in 2015. In the Succession Trials I was on Mitara Newelle’s team and we became the Sarum champions, breezing through the preliminaries and had a respectable showing in the tournament, falling short one win of making the finals.

After the tournament I was pretty burnt out from the practice and emotional toll of the whole thing. I played very little in 2016. In 2017 I came back pretty strong in the middle of the year and started streaming. I started to become very not casual at this point. My corp was small and had little to no activity in my timezone most of the time, so I started a weekly semi-public fleet that ended up running every Friday evening until early 2020. My public fleet grew over time and started getting more ambitious. We had a citadels in Sifilar and Sahtogas at times and the public fleet formed to defend it alongside the Amarr RPers in LUMEN and PIE. I also spent some time as a director and co-executor of LUMEN (Khimi Harar) from the character Lyra North-Onren after it was formed because ARC didn’t like the corp SFRIM participating in my fleets because it wanted to remain politically neutral and my fleets were Amarr aligned at the time.

In addition to roaming, I also got involved with an increasing number of medium sized fights and campaigns around the cluster. Some of them were done with various RP or FW groups working together and some were done with the public fleet and reaching out to friends around the game. But without getting into the specific details of all the various campaigns I’ve been involved in over the years, the main theme of most of my campaigns has been either kerfuffles over RP politics/events or a bunch of smaller groups banding together to fight a bigger group.

In late 2019, after some RP events that went in an in-character forum thread I made started a major war over game world news, I left PIE. After the Triglavian Invasions started, I served as an FC for the EDENCOM side and was involved in many system sieges and fights in low security and liminal invasion systems. Arsia (who had formally defected) joined Electus Matari where I still am now. I am thinking of starting to do semi-public fleets again and working towards new goals now on the Minmatar side of the RP spectrum. Since I’ve joined there’s been quite a few medium to large sized fights in low sec centered around Snuffed Out’s burning of our FW regions or defenses of our structures or allied structures from various groups. Lately, we’ve been practicing for the Anger Games where we’re participating as the team ‘If All Else Fails.’ Additionally, I still regularly stream and am part of the Eve Online Partner Program. I also am a regular Sunday co-host on Talking in Stations. As far as null goes, I consider myself politically neutral in regards to all null security blocs and mostly use it as a playground for roaming. I use wormholes (especially Thera) predominantly for moving around between regions of space quickly. I do have some opinions and experience regarding high security wars.

While I no longer cover the CSM as extensively as I once did, a member resigning is something worth mentioning.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Here Is Why The EVE Online X Doctor Who Crossover Event Looks Bad

Today, released not only the patch notes for today's content drop, but advice for new players on how to prepare for the Doctor Who crossover event. Aside from defect fixes, the patch introduced the following:

Audio:

  • Reworked the music in exploration sites, mostly to avoid two music tracks playing in parallel. As a side effect some sites will now have no music at all.

Skills:

  • Saving shared Skill Plans creates a copy to Personal Skill Plan.

Technical:

  • The support for DirectX 9 has been removed. This means that the EVE client can no longer be started on PCs, which do not support DirectX 11. More details can be found in this dev blog.

User Interface:

  • 🤝 Filaments are now saved as part of ship fitting.
  • 🤝 Added a button to go directly to fitting simulator from the Show Info window of a ship.
  • 🤝 Added the ability to have quick access to adjust fleet formation.
  • Improved Help Pointers

By comparison, the Doctor Who article contains six EVE Academy videos plus a lot of advice I would have loved when I began playing back in 2009. We even received recommendations for the ships to use. For exploration, the ship of choice is the Magnate. For combat, the article recommends four tech 1 cruisers: the Rupture, Omen, Caracal, and Vexor. I don't believe we have any information on the Dalek ships we will need to fight.

By themselves, the above subjects are unremarkable. The problem comes when adding context. Back in November, CCP announced economic changes that would lead to the end of the Scarcity Era. After player feedback from testing on Singularity, many changes were altered or put on hold. As we saw today, none of the economic gameplay issues were addressed in today's patch.

Now, perhaps expecting CCP to revamp their plans in time for a January release is unfair. But the Doctor Who crossover is launching as scheduled on Thursday. I've heard a lot of complaining that what the game needs is more concentration on problems and less on obvious monetization ideas. In a small way, this week's content drops won't help.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

EVE Online, Doctor Who, and The Interstellar Convergence

In my time, I have participated in several cross-over events in Final Fantasy XIV. I did the first Nier: Automata raid to get the 2B glamour set. I completed the Final Fantasy XV event to get the opportunity to purchase the Regalia Type-G mount. Between completing the Stormblood expansion and beginning Shadowbringers, I ground out the Yo-Kai Watch event. Somewhere along the way I ran through The Maiden's Rhaposdy, a cross-over with Final Fantasy XI. I even did the return of the Dragon Quest X event, Breaking Brick Mountains, this summer. So I think I know a little something about cross-over events.

One cross-over I never expected was one from Pearl Abyss' UK-based studio, CCP Games, and BBC Studios, a commercial subsidiary of the BBC Group. I'll copy/paste the press release below:

REYKJAVÍK – January 4, 2022 – CCP Games and BBC Studios have joined forces for EVE Online x Doctor Who, an original crossover event between the beloved action-adventure series Doctor Who and the free-to-play deep space-faring MMO EVE Online. Universes will collide as Capsuleers and Whovians face the Daleks together in massive space battles in EVE Online x Doctor Who starting 13 January until 1 February.

EVE Online is a free-to-play, community-driven spaceship MMO game where players can choose their own path among the stars from countless options, developed by CCP Games in Reykjavik. The game first launched in 2003 and has since gained recognition for its scale, complexity, and the world record-breaking exploits of its online community. EVE Online is one of the most critically acclaimed MMORPG intellectual properties (IPs) in time and space, and one of the most extensive works of science fiction in the world.

“2022 will be off to an (inter)stellar start with EVE Online x Doctor Who,” said Bergur Finnbogason, EVE Online’s Creative Director. “We are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible in EVE Online. Collaborating with BBC Studios gives us the opportunity to pay homage to an iconic series that has inspired us at CCP. We hope you’ll join us in New Eden on January 13 to see what happens when galaxies collide!”

“EVE Online x Doctor Who not only brings two iconic universes together, but also the passionate Whovians with the just-as-passionate pilots of New Eden,” said Kevin Jorge, Senior Producer at BBC Studios, “By bringing the fanbases together, the already massive battles of EVE Online are sure to become even more explosive. Only time will tell if New Eden’s fiercest pilots have what it takes to challenge the might of the Daleks.”

EVE Online x Doctor Who introduces new, Gallifrey-themed space where players will search for artifacts from Doctor Who’s Great Time War. The artifacts will provide players with clues to track down the infamous Daleks and face them in an interstellar battle of the ages. Players who survive the fight will reap unique rewards that they can take back to New Eden. Additionally, a login campaign with skill points and Doctor Who-themed items will be available to all players throughout the duration of the event.

EVE Online x Doctor Who is the first major collaboration for the spaceship MMO, reaching a new milestone in CCP’s journey to expand New Eden’s horizons and welcome fresh players into its storied universe. EVE Online has seen incredible growth over the course of 18 years, reaching more than 24 million active users in 2021. CCP recently overhauled EVE’s new player experience, making it a perfect time for rookie pilots to start their journey in EVE Online.

That's right. An EVE Online/Doctor Who cross-over event. A game famous for not allowing pink spaceships because it would clash with the artistic vision of the designers is now introducing an alien species, the Daleks. CCP posted additional information on its website.

The EVE Online x Doctor Who crossover will take place as an entirely original in-game event, called The Interstellar Convergence. Set before the Time Lords’ 400-year-long conflict with the Daleks, ‘The Last Great Time War ’, this very special EVE event will run for over three weeks until 1 February. The Interstellar Convergence will be unlike any other EVE event before it, introducing a beguiling mystery, a trail of clues, multiple challenges, themed items, and even a vibrant new area of space.

Unearth Doctor Who-related artifacts and use them to track down the Dalek menace. Face off against the infamous evildoers in an interstellar battle of the ages and claim Doctor Who-inspired rewards to take back to New Eden.

To find out more about the threat that is coming to the New Eden star cluster, keep an eye on the EVE Online news page, social channels, and more. There’s much to be learned about how wormhole-like phenomena have been taking ships from New Eden to an unknown area of space littered with wrecks of unknown vessels – and traces of others that have moved on. But what do those traces mean? And what does this have to do with the Daleks? Discover more starting 13 January!

My first thought was, "How much is Pearl Abyss paying the BBC for the tie-in?" My second thought was, "How desperate is the BBC for funds to agree to the tie-in?" While the two intellectual properties are both science fiction titles, the similarities end there. EVE Online is about massive conflicts solved with force, while The Doctor is known for solving problems with his intellect. 

On Monday I posted about Tranquility's poor concurrency numbers and how in 2016 CCP turned to the freemium model to boost its finances. The model in 2022 more than ever ties itself to in-game events. By hosting a cross-promotion with another intellectual property, CCP may fulfill one of Pearl Abyss' long-term goals of attracting new players to it's MMORPG games. I'm not sure how well such an event will work. I'll have to watch the VOD from Ashterothi's live stream on which CCP Fozzie and CCP Swift appeared to give further details of the event.

One concern is the inclusion of NFTs into the event. Not only has Pearl Abyss told investors they are exploring NFTs, but BBC Studios has a history of involvement with NFT-based games as well. BBC Studios teamed with Reality Gaming Group to publish an NFT card game, Doctor Who - Worlds Apart. However, CCP Swift stated on Twitter the event would not include NFTs.

I plan on participating in the event, just to see how it works out. I also intend to watch the concurrency numbers fairly closely to see the popularity of the event. For now, I plan on keeping an open mind until events prove otherwise.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Looking Back At EVE Online's 2021 Concurrency Numbers

I once wrote a blog post commemorating the "Eve is dying!" meme that has existed since shortly after the launch of the game in 2003. Normally, I dismiss such talk as the normal ignorance expected from places like the EVE sub-Reddit. But last year talk from Pearl Abyss' earnings calls began shaking my confidence in the game's future. On the November call, an investment analyst for one of the big firms brought up the subject of turning EVE into a "play-to-earn" game. Don't think the C-suite folks on the call didn't take notice, if such a move was not already in the works. Pearl Abyss also told the analysts on the call that the NFTs introduced in the Alliance Tournament were just the first the Korean company intended to implement into its games.

Ripard Teg's Average Concurrent Users for 2021

While the handwriting is on the wall, the implementation of the changes will take some time. How much time may depend on continued player engagement with EVE. After peaking in late February with around 24,000 average users logged into Tranquility at any one time, activity finished the year with an ACU count of approximately 20,000 users. One can look at the situation as a glass half-full or half-empty. The optimist can look at the numbers and point out that players did come back after the bout of war-weariness during the summer and increased by 17-18%. A pessimist can note the current average concurrent user count is 10% below the numbers seen in the months before the COVID pandemic lockdowns in 2020.

I get a chuckle out of reading the occasional chicken little proclaim on r/eve that the number of players on Tranquility are the lowest since 2006. But one does not need to go back 15 years to see similar numbers to today's. The year 2016 is a much better comparison point.

Ripard Teg's Average Concurrent Users for 2016

From September through November 2016, the ACU was very similar, if not slightly below, the numbers seen today. But on 15 November 2016, CCP played its ace-in-the-hole: the Alpha and Omega freemium business model. CCP, with the introduction of the Chaos Era and Blackout in 2019, almost threw the advantage away two years early. According to the C-Suite executives on the Q1 2020 earnings call, Pearl Abyss stepped in to stabilize and improve the situation.
EVE Online is also maintaining stable performance. EVE Online -- which was known as the most difficult MMO game -- had the most important challenge, which was to motivate the interest of early users. Using Black Desert know-how and experience from EVE Online, many improvements were made. And accordingly, we saw a meaningful increase of new users. EVE Online, which is in its 17th year of launching, shows through many indexes that a well-made MMO game has a very long lifespan value.
Pearl Abyss has soured on MMORPGs, particularly due to the stumbles of Black Desert Mobile. Crimson Desert and DokeV are no longer MMORPGs. The Korean game maker also needs revenue, especially with the launch of Crimson Desert indefinitely delayed. With the player numbers now back to pre-Alpha clone levels after 5 years, I really hoped the studio in Reykjavik could produce an expansion level patch to bring some excitement back to the game. Because if the tide doesn't turn soon, I foresee a future of NFTs and other content current players won't enjoy.