Monday, July 31, 2023

Too Early To Get Excited About Dawntrail

On Friday, Final Fantasy XIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida announced the next expansion for the game, Dawntrail. The 7.0 content drop will occur sometime in Summer of 2024. Hopefully early in the summer. Yoshi-P's words, not snark coming from myself.

Final Fantasy XIV breaks down its expansion announcements into three phases, thus giving the staff subjects to talk about at the three company sponsored Fanfest events in Las Vegas, London, and Tokoyo. So, for example, players learned that two more combat jobs will appear in Dawntrail. a melee DPS and a caster DPS. But we don't know what the jobs are yet, although Yoshi-P's Mutant Ninja Teenage Turtles tee-shirt did provide a clue to one. The developers will announce the first class in London in October and the second in Tokoyo in February.

That steady drip of information over the course of 6-8 months probably helps build up interest. Players like myself will struggle to complete the content they wish to finish before the launch of the next expansion 10-12 months away. For example, why do I care about new jobs when I have only levelled 4 out of 21 jobs to the maximum level of 90? And as Archanist splits into two jobs (Summoner and Scholar), I really have only levelled 3 out of 20. At this rate, I'll never catch up.

Don't get me wrong, the idea of travelling to the New World is fascinating. But as we found out on Saturday, Zero somehow made it to The First. Does that mean Y'shtola was able to travel worlds also? Is everyone's favorite cat girl going to find Runar again and live happily ever after? Future plans are nice, but I still have questions about the Endwalker 6.x storyline I want answered in patches 6.5 and 6.55.

One last example. Yoshi-P teased some sort of Island Sanctuary quality-of-life feature coming in Dawntrail since Island Sanctuary is so popular. But before I can move on, there is the little matter of levelling my Island Sanctuary to the maximum level in 6.5 and turning my island into a passively generating source of exotic dyes and Hi-Cordial gathering potions. I've already achieved "The Wolf of Easy Street" title, I foresee one more I just have to have before the next expansion.

Yes, the fact that we have an expansion announced for next summer is good. But I still have a lot of content to get through before then. A lot of the content I probably won't finish. If anyone wants to see excitement, talk to me after Tokoyo Fanfest. Until then, I'm too busy to get excited about something 10-12 months down the road.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Another Game, Another Second Decade

Later today the Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest in Las Vegas will kick off with Yoshi-P's keynote address. During not only the North American Fanfest but also the ones in London and Tokoyo before the launch of the 7.0 expansion. During all these events I expect to hear about plans for FFXIV's second decade.

FFXIV is not the first game I will hear plans for a second decade of existence. In 2013 I attended EVE Online's Fanfest where CCP's leadership tried to lay out plans for the second decade. I was in the audience when Hilmar and his leadership team presented CCP's hopes and dreams for the next 10 years. 

Looking back, CCP had some big dreams. DUST 514 was still a year in the future and would integrate PC and console players into a single universe. PC and console players in the same game world? No way, right? Well, as long as Microsoft isn't involved.

The second decade of EVE didn't work so well. DUST 514 only lasted three years (May 2013-May 2016) and virtual reality games set in the EVE universe limped along until 2022. The game went into a modified free-to-play format that in my opinion is just a glorified free trial. And in 2018, the company was sold to South Korean video game studio Pearl Abyss. At this point, EVE sees less than half the record peak concurrent user count of 65,303 players set on the 10th anniversary every day.

Needless to say, the idea of a second decade fills me with trepidation for the future of FFXIV. MMORPGs just don't continue growing after 10 years, which FFXIV does next month. Unlike EVE, Final Fantasy XIV is a theme park game that pretty much lives and dies with the game's writing. Also, the game benefitted from Blizzard and World of Warcraft pretty much shitting its bed and freeing people to go play other games. That many players searching for a new home is a once in a generation event that Square Enix should not expect to see again for at least a decade. 

The next two days will show a window into Yoshi-P's plans for the future. Hopefully I don't get the same feeling as I left Iceland 10 years ago. At the bus station waiting for the trip to the airport, I asked some EVE players if they felt we had just been fed a load of manure. They told me yes, which confirmed I wasn't going crazy. Hopefully FFXIV players won't feel the same way after the world Fanfest tour finishes in February.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The FFXIV North American Fanfest 2023 Schedule

Tomorrow begins the two-day Fanfest for Final Fantasy XIV in Las Vegas. Square Enix will stream the event live both on YouTube (Friday and Saturday links) and Twitch. Compared to an EVE Online Fanfest the content is a little sparse, but compares more favorably to one of the EVE Vegas events I attended in the pre-COVID days. Of course, unlike CCP whose home country speaks English, Square Enix has to provide translations for the Japanese developers.

The two events most will want to see are the first sessions of the day. The events both run from 10am - 11:30am Pacific time (5pm - 6:30pm UTC). On Friday, FFXIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida (aka Yoshi-P) will give the keynote address. The description states Yoshi-P will announce the latest updates to the game.

I'm not sure exactly what Yoshi-P will discuss in the keynote as Saturday's opening session is Letter from the Producer LIVE Part LXXVIII. These letters are also focus on the updates, both past and future, for the game. We can hope that Yoshi-P will show any upcoming gear sets on a projector and won't hold up sheets of paper to the crowd.

Below is the full schedule as listed on the Lodestone.

(All times are Pacific Time)

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   


Join Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida as he takes to the stage to announce the latest updates coming to FINAL FANTASY XIV.

Presenter: Naoki Yoshida
Languages: English/Japanese

11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.   

Opening Ceremony

The attending guests from the FINAL FANTASY XIV Development and Operations teams arrive to greet attendees and kick off the show.

Presenter: Matt Hilton
Languages: English/Japanese

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.   

A Realm Revisited

In celebration of the upcoming 10th anniversary, the North American Community team looks back at impactful updates made to FINAL FANTASY XIV over the years. From grandiose moments to community memes, enjoy this walk down memory lane with us.

Presenters: Aya Montoya, Danielle Grafft
Language: English

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.   

Beginning from the End: The Annotated Endwalker

Join members of the development team as they look back on the creation of Endwalker.

Presenters: Naoki Yoshida, Natsuko Ishikawa
Languages: English/Japanese

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.   

Glamoured to Life - Cosplay Walk

We’ve invited cosplayers of all skill levels to strut their stuff on stage for everyone to see! Come enjoy the pageantry and dedication on display!

Presenters: Aya Montoya, Danielle Grafft
Language: English

7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.   

Piano Performance (concerts are not broadcast)

Reminisce on past adventures and enjoy the mesmerizing melodies of FFXIV in this piano concert performed by Keiko. To ensure that all attendees can enjoy the concert without distraction, video or audio recording during the performance is strictly prohibited.

Presenters: Masayoshi Soken, Matt Hilton
Language: English/Japanese

(All times are Pacific Time)

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   

Letter from the Producer LIVE Part LXXVIII

Join Yoshi-P as he discusses the latest information in this installment of the Letter from the Producer LIVE from Fan Festival!

Presenters: Naoki Yoshida, Toshio Murouchi
Language: English/Japanese

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.   

Crystalline Conflict Regional Championship 2023 North America

Four semifinalist teams bring the excitement to the main stage of Fan Festival to battle it out and see who claims the North American champion title!

Presenters: Naoki Yoshida, Aya Montoya, Brian Ricardo, Frosty
Language: English

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.   

Speaking the Language of Creation

English Localization Lead Kate Cwynar offers a glimpse behind the scenes into how the team uses language to give life to FFXIV's myriad realms, and the key role of collaboration in bringing Endwalker’s expansive story to global audiences. Also, Koji Fox will be there for some reason.

Presenters: Kate Cwynar, Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, Matt Hilton
Language: English

7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.   

THE PRIMALS Live in Concert (concerts are not broadcast)

Jam out to exhilarating tracks and relive your moments of triumph in this explosive live performance by everyone’s favorite FINAL FANTASY XIV band, THE PRIMALS! To ensure that all attendees can enjoy the concert without distraction, video or audio recording during the performance is strictly prohibited.

Language: English/Japanese

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Final Fantasy XIV Summer Sale: 2023

Square Enix has a cash shop and is not afraid to use it. Yesterday began the annual summer sale with the added bonus of introducing new items for the North America Fanfest this weekend. The sale will continue through 16 August, introducing just a little bit of FOMO. But the FOMO is the normal kind involving a sale, not that the items will disappear from the cash shop. All previously released Moonfire Faire items are 30% off from the sale. New items will receive a 10% discount until the end of the summer sale.

What are the new items? First is an account-wide mount, the Garlond GL-IS. The mount is a motorcycle with a side car, thus allowing a friend to ride along. Of course, Alpha is sitting in the side car already, so your friend will have to sit on the back. The sale price is $33.30 which is a little pricy for my tastes. 

The next item is a new emote, the Advent of Light. A combination of a dragoon attack and a superhero movie, an emote I'm not sure I'd ever use. The sale price is $6.30, regular price $7.00.

Next up is a new set of cheer emotes. The first set was connected to the Songbirds, an NPC girl band. The new set of three emotes provides new colors to use when cheering on your favorite in-game bard group or club DJ. Each emote purchased separately costs $1.80 sale price or $4.50 for the pack. For anyone involved in the club scene, these emotes are probably a required purchase.

Finally we get to in-game music for player apartments and island sanctuaries. The first is the Eorzean Symphony Orchestrion Roll Set. The set of five rolls goes for $13.50 on-sale with a regular price of $15.00 beginning on 17 August. The five rolls comprising the set are:

  • Shadowbringers (Orchestral Version) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • Endcaller (Orchestral Version) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • Your Answer (Orchestral Version) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • Close in the Distance (Orchestral Version) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • The Final Day (Orchestral Version) Orchestrion Roll / 1

The other music set, Pulse Orchestrion Roll Set II, is another set of five orchestrion rolls taken from the IRL Pulse remix album. Priced the same as the Eorzean Symphony Orchestrion Roll Set, the set includes:
  • Unbreakable (Pulse) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • Equilibrium (Pulse) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • Beauty's Wicked Wiles (Pulse) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • I Am the Sea (Pulse) Orchestrion Roll / 1
  • A Long Fall (Pulse) Orchestrion Roll / 1
Of the two, I really want to add the Eorzean Symphony Orchestrion Roll Set to my in-game music collection. I usually balk at a $15 price tag, but somehow $13.50 feels better even though the discount is only 10%.

Finally the two items from last year's Moonlight Faire, the Summer Sunset Attire and Authentic Summer Bonfire are available for $5 each. I grabbed both items during last year's event and if you have any interest in getting one or both, the items are of high quality. With the advent of using outdoor items on island sanctuaries, the bonfire would make a good addition.

Going through the offerings, I might drop $18 on the sale for the cheer emote set and a music set, which seems crazy when I step back and think about what I'm about to do. I mean, that's almost what EVE Online charges for one month of game play. But when I like a game where the items are valuable to me, I don't mind shelling out a couple of dollars to make my world just a little more comfortable.

Monday, July 24, 2023

The Shadow War And What The Gallente Did Not Get

A recurring theme throughout the years in EVE Online is that the developers set up a live event with pre-ordained results. The latest example involves The Shadow War and the Interstellar Shipcaster. What's a shipcaster?

The interstellar shipcaster is a one-way rapid deployment mechanism designed to move capsuleers from their faction's HQ star system closer to the FW warzone. This system is exclusive to FW and serves to help players access FW systems more easily, while also creating new opportunities for both combat pilots and industrialists alike.

The shipcaster networks operate independently of other gate systems, and assuming each empire is able to follow in the footsteps of the Caldari, there will be one shipcaster complex for each empire located in their respective HQ system.

  • Mehatoor (Amarr)
  • Onnamon (Caldari)
  • Intaki (Gallente)
  • Amo (Minmatar)

CCP's plans encountered a slight glitch. The Gallente failed to build their shipcaster before the launch of the Viridian expansion. Some players, or at least posters on the EVE Online sub-Reddit, were upset that the Gallente were allowed to finish construction of the shipcaster after the launch of the new expansion. But given the capabilities of the new feature, could the developers really allow the Gallente not to have their own shipcaster?

In Viridian patch 2023-07-13.1 we saw the penalty Gallente factional warfare players received for not finishing on time.

Full industry services and office slots have been added to the stations in empire war HQ systems that were built during the Shadow War.

  • Onnamon VI, Black Rock - Caldari Navy Anchorage
  • Mehatoor III, Devoid - Amarr Navy Anchorage
  • Amo III, Metropolis - Republic Fleet Anchorage
What are full industry services? I took a look at Amo III to see what services were available.

What full services in a station looks like

The Gallente system of Intaki already had six stations, the most of any of the systems housing shipcasters. But in a twist of fate, none of the stations have factories. Is the inability to build items in the system a disadvantage? Possibly.

Anyway, Gallente slowness in not completing the event did wind up leaving a mark, however small, on New Eden. For some, the penalty is not enough, if those critics even know about the consequences. But sometimes, developers do have to take gameplay considerations like balance between factions into account. Giving one faction a big disadvantage is not good. But is withholding a station from one of the four sides enough?

Saturday, July 22, 2023

A New Destroyer For The Angel Cartel

The timeline involving the Guri Malakim in EVE Online took another step forward with the latest news article published yesterday. The Angel Cartel is receiving a new destroyer.

As pilots continue to feverishly seek out and piece together Guristas design data, reports of fragmentary ship designs now being recovered from high-ranking Angel Cartel operatives illustrate an ongoing high-priority Salvation Angels initiative concurrent with Guristas efforts already underway.

Given the equal parts played by these underworld elements in the Guri Malakim raids this past May which saw the extraction of ancient data and technology from derelict Jove Observatories across the cluster, there can be little question that some manner of shared ambition has compelled the Guristas and the Cartel to pursue new designs.

I can't find the proof, but I believe the unnamed destroyer will be the first new non-limited Angel Cartel ship created by the developers since the launch of EVE in 2003. At the very least, the first ship added since the introduction of the Dramiel, Cynabal, and Machariel. Looking at the existing ships, I believe the new ship will have bonuses much like the Thrasher and Catalyst. My guess is the bonuses will wind up similar to the below:

  • Gallente Cruiser bonuses (per skill level):
    • 7.5% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret damage
  • Minmatar Cruiser bonuses (per skill level):
    • 10% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret tracking speed
  • Role Bonus:
    • 75% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret optimal range
    • 25% bonus to warp speed and warp acceleration

With two major pirate factions down, a destroyer for the Serpentis is obvious from the lore. I just wonder how CCP will introduce new ships for the Blood Raiders and Sansha's Nation.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Council Of Stellar Management Expands To 12 Seats

Yesterday CCP announced the next election and rules changes for the 18th Council of Stellar Management. The key dates for the election season are:

  • 1-15 August – Candidate submissions open
  • 2-18 August – Application processing
  • 23 August – Live candidate announcement
  • 23 August – 3 September – Campaign period
  • 4 September – 11 September – Voting period
  • 21 September – CSM 18 Announcement, live at Fanfest

The campaign takes on a bit more importance due to a change in the structure of the CSM.

With the return of expansions to EVE Online we can now plan even farther ahead for EVE's development, and this means we can better predict what kind of expertise would be useful to have on the CSM.

To take advantage of this, for CSM 18 we will expand the size of the CSM from 10 to 12 seats. 10 members will be directly elected as usual using the same campaign and voting process that the CSM has operated on for years.

Then, from the candidates who finished in the 11th to 20th positions, CCP will select two to join the 10 elected members, forming the new 12-member CSM 18.

Our selection will be based primarily on what areas of knowledge we perceive to be most valuable in the coming term based on our plans for EVE development. Operationally, there will be no distinction made between the 10 elected and 2 appointed members of the CSM.

I am assuming the 11th through 20th positions are the last 10 candidates removed by the single transferrable vote algorithm. I won't say for certain as CCP has two additional options. The first option is to rerun the algorithm for 20 winners instead of 10 and then select two candidates who didn't win. The other option is to remove the winners and rerun the algorithm to get a second set of 10 candidates to chose from. But if CCP makes an election show as they have the past few years, choosing from the last 10 candidates eliminated makes the most sense.

Those last two "subject expert" seats are interesting. One could look at who CCP choses as an indication of the direction EVE Online development will take for the next year or two. Moving away from the possibility of a second "Chaos Era" is probably a good thing. Of course, CCP can simply ignore the CSM and treat everyone as mushrooms.

One point I am curious about is the reaction of those who finish in places 11 to 20 who are not picked to join CSM 18. I rate the odds of at least one of those candidates stating they are a better pick for a seat for X, Y, and Z reasons as rather high. If that happens, those picked by CCP better behave in an exemplary or the experiment with CCP picking members based on development needs will not extend to CSM 19.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

EVE: Viridian Patch 2023-07-13.1 - Homefront Operations Changes

Normally CCP pushes out all regular patches on Tuesdays. The devs decided to push out some balancing of Homefront Operations 30 days after the launch of the Viridian expansion, which fell on last Thursday. The changes are rather meaty, so I figured I'd list them below.

Dread Assault sites - Apparently the developers felt the Dread Assault sites were too easy and buffed the poor NPCs.

  • The charge required for the Dreadnought to enter Siege Mode and fire its lance has been reduced.
  • The total number of lance attacks for the target structure to be destroyed has increased.
  • The duration of the Dreadnought’s Siege Mode - during which it cannot have charge transferred to it - has been reduced to 90 seconds from 300 seconds.
  • The amount of charge neutralized by ‘Focused’ enemies has been increased significantly.
  • The effective hitpoints of ‘Focused’ and dedicated ECM enemies have been reduced.

Emergency Aid sites - A theme throughout the changes is the content doesn't offer enough rewards.

  • Contributing players within Emergency Aid sites will now receive additional rewards when their protection target is kept alive at 5 and 10 minutes.

Suspicious Signal sites - The devs figure the hacking sites need more rewards. Adding an ISK faucet to the sites might raise some eyebrows.

  • The reboot time of arrays within Suspicious Signal sites has been reduced to 90 seconds from 120 seconds.
  • Data fragments can now be looted from hacked arrays within Suspicious Signal sites. These items can be sold to NPC buy orders.
  • Hacking an array within a Suspicious Signal site will have its time until reboot show within the Info Panel.

Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites - I have the feeling players will complain about these changes, especially the AI prioritizing drones.

  • Added additional enemy types that can appear within Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites.
  • Enemies will no longer attack capsules within Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites.
  • Some Sleeper and Rogue Drone enemies within Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites will now target and prioritize drones.

All sites - The changes are a mix of buffs and nerfs, but overall I believe players will like the changes.

  • The minimum amount a player must contribute to be rewarded within a site has been increased.
  • The respawn time for enemies within all sites has been greatly increased.
  • Rebalanced the energy neutralization amount inflicted by combat NPCs within all relevant sites. Notably, cruiser NPCs have had their values significantly reduced.
  • The orbit ranges of enemies within all sites have been adjusted to better match their weapon ranges.
  • Conversations within all sites have been reworked:
    • If the site is ongoing, instructions on how to complete it now appear when arriving within the area containing the acceleration gate. A more concise reminder is given when arriving within the main combat area.
    • If the site is complete, players will be informed of its state when arriving within the area containing the acceleration gate.
The developers also fixed a few bugs.

  • Fixed an issue causing the Info Panel objective information to appear with incorrect or missing values.
  • The items delivered counter in the Info Panel will now update correctly when depositing multiple items simultaneously within Raid sites.
  • Added ‘Focused’ to the names of enemies which use energy neutralizers within Minmatar Dread Assault sites.
  • Fixed various typos.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Where To Find New Content In FFXIV's Patch 6.45

Today Creative Business Unit III launched patch 6.45 for Final Fantasy XIV. I can't do a batch of posts like I did for EVE Online's Viridian expansion because the patch notes are not released until the servers go down in order to install the new content. But I have a little time before I have to perform my real world job, so I decided to look up how to access all the new content available in 6.45.

First, the Hildibrand quest line continues with two new quests. The quest giver is Delion located in Radz-at-Han (X:11.4 Y:11.5). The required quest to play the new quests is Generational Bonding.

Most level 90 players probably want to complete the Hildibrand quests in order to obtain the latest version of the Manderville weapons. The first quest is A Spirited Reforging, obtained from Gerolt in Radz-at-Han (X:12.0 Y:7.1). The required quests to advance are "Well-oiled" and "Not from Around Here."

The Splendorous Tools quests continue with The Joy of Zoi, obtainable from Grenoldt in The Crystarium (X:10.5 Y:7.7). The required quest to do the new content is An Adaptive Tool.

Blue Mages receive some love in 6.45 with a rise in level cap from 70 to 80. The new Blue Mage job series begins with Martyn in Ul'dah - Steps of Thal (X:12.5 Y:13.0). The requirements are completing the main scenario quest Reflections in Crystal and the job quest A Future in Blue.

CBU III added a new variant dungeon, Mononoke Aware. Access to the 1-4 player level 90 dungeon is obtained from Shallow Moor in Old Sharlayan (X:12.0 Y:13.3). In order to access the dungeon, players must first complete the main scenario quest Endwalker, and have also spoken with the NPC Osmon in Old Sharlayan (X:11.9 Y:13.3).

The new criterion dungeon is Another Mount Rokkon. The dungeon is unlocked by completing the sidequest Mononoke Aware and talking to Osmon in Old Sharlayan (X:11.9 Y:13.3). Players can register to enter criterion dungeons via the V&C Dungeon.

A savage version of Another Mount Rokkon was also added. Unlocking the savage version of the criterion dungeon requires completing the normal version and then talking to Osmon in Old Sharlayan (X:11.9 Y:13.3).

The turn-in point for tokens and items found in Mononoke Aware, Another Mount Rokkon, and Another Mount Rokkon (Savage) is Trisassant in Old Sharlayan (X:11.9 Y:13.3).

Hopefully this list will be helpful over the next few weeks as players shuffle around doing the new content.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Final Fantasy XIV's Steady Release Cadence

Sometimes I'm amused how surprised people are about when the next release for a game will come out. For example, in 2018 CCP had such a set release cycle that I knew that the release date for the Into The Abyss expansion was 29 May 2018 as soon as the content patch was announced. I had a press pass for Fanfest that year and had access to the press room. I got a little credit for knowing what I was talking about as I told a table full of real games journalists the date before they went to a briefing by CCP announcing the date. Of course, those not covering the game on a regular basis wouldn't know a detail like that. To them, I appeared to have an inside source.

Fast forward five years. Some Final Fantasy XIV creators expressed surprise that the release date for the next content drop, patch 6.45, is tomorrow. A couple of them sounded like they expected the release in 2-3 weeks. The producer and director of FFXIV, Naoki Yoshida, had announced that patches would release every four months, with the .5 patches released half-way through a patch's lifespan. So off to the calendar I went to check if Creative Business Unit III was on-schedule.

A quick Google search confirmed patch 6.4 launched on Tuesday, 23 May 2023. Counting back from tomorrow, that was 8 weeks, or right on time. At this point I began to see a source for confusion. If one thinks about every two calendar months, one could have expected a release date for patch 6.4 of 25 July, which is next week. In all honesty, if I had thought about predicting the date, I probably would have chose next week as well.

But can I predict when patch 6.5 will release? I probably give a date plus or minus one week. Eight weeks from tomorrow is 12 September. But, Yoshi-P said he was going to give the staff a week off during the summer. I believe that will be Obon week in mid-August. A travel site provided the following information about Obon.

Obon (お盆) is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors, whose spirits are believed to temporarily return to this world in order to visit their relatives during Obon.

Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.

Obon is observed around the 15th day of the 7th month of the year, which is July according to the solar calendar; however, it roughly corresponds to August according to the formerly used lunar calendar. As a result, Obon is observed mainly from August 13 to 16, although in some areas it is also observed in mid July.

With that information, I'll push my estimate to 19 September, but a release date one week later, on 26 September, would not surprise me. And I'll wait to see how much of Obon I can see in this year's All Saints Wake seasonal fare. Looking back, I can see a bit of Obon in last year's event.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Cloud Imperium Games Purchases Turbulent

On Thursday Cloud Imperium Games completed its acquisition of Montreal-based Turbulent. The companies issues a joint press release.

LOS ANGELES and MONTREAL – July 13, 2023 – Cloud Imperium Group (CIG) today announced that it has fully acquired Turbulent, a leading Montreal-based studio, after successfully working together for nearly 11 years. The two companies have collaborated since 2012 on the ongoing evolution of Star Citizen, the iconic massively multiplayer AAA video game currently in development, with the world-record in crowdfunding, with more than $580 million raised since October 2012.

Today’s announcement completes a long-term and fruitful joining of the companies, with CIG announcing in 2020 that it had acquired a 25% shareholder stake in Turbulent. The addition of the studio reflects CIG’s strong presence in the bustling games community in Canada, with offices in Montreal and Toronto. CIG also has global studios in Los Angeles, Austin, Frankfurt, and Manchester, and now has over 1,100 employees around the world working on its ambitious projects.

“We enthusiastically welcome Turbulent to our family of studios, as an integral part of our Star Citizen development,” said CEO and founder of CIG, Chris Roberts. “Fundamentally, we recognize the shared cultural values and passions between our two companies, which have helped create a natural synergy and development pipeline for our joint projects over the past decade.”

Turbulent’s existing projects will continue as planned and its team of 189 employees will remain in place. The studio’s management team of Benoit Beauséjour (CTO), Marc Beaudet (CEO), Claire Buffet (VP Strategy & Creation), and Guillaume Voghel (Development Director) in Montreal will continue to run the studio. In addition, Beausejour and Beaudet will become CIG shareholders and join the CIG executive group as Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President, Studios Operations, respectively.

“After more than a decade of shared success, it was only natural that the next step be to join forces,” said Benoit Beauséjour, co-founder of Turbulent. “The Montreal and Quebec gaming and tech industry benefit from this transaction, which serves to reaffirm the depth of talent to be found here. And we will benefit from the expertise of a huge global network of CIG talent while our studio team will now be able to work on projects that are international in scope.”

“Benoit and Marc have been great partners since the very first days of our crowdfunding campaign and have been an integral part of all our successes these past 12 years, from supporting our crowdfunding campaign, to developing our e-commerce platform, to building our marketing and platform infrastructure, and now to actively contributing to the development of our games,” further said Roberts of CIG. “As we approach some of our biggest milestones to date, we’ve never felt better equipped to realize the unprecedented ambition of Star Citizen and Squadron 42. We are on a unique journey and the Turbulent team have been with us every step of the way, sharing our relentless passion for making the best game universe ever. We could not be happier to welcome them to our CIG family of studios!“

Back in November I noted that Cloud Imperium Games had conducted a 10:1 stock split in October 2022. I speculated the split could mean a wide range of options, from preparing for additional outside investment into CIG to giving out shares to employees as additional compensation. With Turbulent co-founders Marc Beaudet and Benoit Beauséjour becoming shareholders in CIG as part of the deal, the stock split now looks like an effort to also expand the amount of shares available to give Beaudet & Beauséjour as part of the deal.

From CIG's 2021 Group of Company Accounts,
(Turbulent was the only associate company)

We don't know the details of the sale, but we have a very rough idea of the value. Back in December 2019 CIG engaged in a stock swap with Turbulent, acquiring 25% ownership of Turbulent. As of December 2021, CIG carried the value of its holdings in Turbulent as £826,657. We can then speculate that the value of acquiring the remaining 75% was approximately £2.5 million, or $US 3.3 million at yesterday's conversion rate. Given the prices of transactions involving video game studios, the value seems rather small. Undervaluing assets might serve as a tax avoidance technique.

We won't know how much of the transaction occurred via trading shares in CIG and how much in a cash exchange. But the amount of shares that Beaudet & Beauséjour receive should become public knowledge in the next 6 to 12 months. 

CIG Shareholders as of September 2020

One of the more amusing parts of the press release was the statement that Beaudet & Beauséjour would become shareholders. As seen in the list above, the Turbulent co-founders became shareholders during the first transaction in which CIG acquired partial ownership in Turbulent back in 2020.

A couple of final points about the acquisition. The first concerns the appointment of Benoit Beauséjour as CIG's Chief Technology Officer and Marc Beaudet as Senior Vice President, Studios Operations. Those appointments may do more to get Star Citizen launched than any other move CIG can make. I am very skeptical, to put it nicely, about Chris Roberts and his team to manage the project correctly. Getting competent leadership through this sale is a major plus.

The final point is shedding the final pretense that all money raised through sales goes to game development. We've seen the payment of dividends to shareholders back in 2020. Now we see the purchase of a studio yesterday. At the very least, trying to determine how much money was spent on game development and how much on other things is becoming more complicated.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

A New Pirate Destroyer Coming To EVE

Yesterday CCP published a news article teasing the introduction of a new ship in EVE Online.

In the wake of the Empires’ shadow war, Guri Malakim raids centered on pilfering ancient technology, and the recent notice of new market interests among certain pirate factions, capsuleer sources are now reporting the recovery of what appear to be classified Guristas ship development documents from the wreckage of high-ranking Guristas commanders across the cluster:

Tantalizing as they may be on their own, the unguarded spread of these documents among the ranks of the Guristas alongside other recent events hints at a much deeper potential purpose; whatever may have compelled the creation of these designs, it is certain that their discovery represents only the first step on the path to illuminating far larger ambitions taking shape somewhere in the shrouded corners of New Eden.

Whatever comes next is yours to discover, capsuleers; venture out in search of secrets hidden among the stars and piece together the pathway to the next chapter in New Eden's history.

The video accompanying the article apparently is a ship based on the Corax hull. At least, the fragments of the ship visible on the recording appears based on the Caldari missile boat and has the word "Corax" pop up once or twice about half-way through the clip.

I know that the Guri Malakim are a group within the Angel Cartel, but the Cartel usually builds ships for the Serpentis, not the Guristas. The Guri Malakim appeared during the 20th anniversary event but gave off a Serpentis feel with boosts to turrets, not missiles.

The question I have is, which pirate faction is getting a new destroyer? Is it the Guristas, as their ships are based on Caldari hulls? Is it the Serpentis, as the Angel Cartel builds ships for their allied faction? Is the long neglected Angel Cartel getting a new ship hull? My guess is the Guristas with their newly discovered link to a faction of the Angel Cartel and known information fragments suggest.

One exciting possibility exists. If CCP is adding a destroyer to the Guristas ship line, does that mean the developers are planning to fill out the ship lines of the Guristas, Serpentis, and Blood Raiders to match the Triglavian ship line? If so, then we can expect battlecruisers in addition to destroyers appearing in New Eden over the next year or two. Oh well, I guess the devs will do anything and use any excuse to avoid creating Angel Cartel dreadnaughts.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Thoughts While Crafting Best In Slot Gear

I spent the weekend working on crafting the Indagator's crafting set in Final Fantasy XIV. I did not finish although I got really far. I finished up the five accessory (aka right side) items, gathered most of the remaining materials I needed to make the tools and spent 14,000 gil to purchase the rest, and created 123 out of the 128 component materials needed to create the 16 tools.

One of the interesting aspects of crafting in FFXIV is that the maker of items is stamped on gear and even items (although I didn't check on stackable items made by more than one player). When other players inspect my gear, I want them to see I made everything myself. Is that name really worth the 10+ hours I'll spend gathering and crafting to create both the Indagator's crafting and gathering sets? Couldn't I just purchase the gear for a few million gil?

Yes I could. In some ways, the gathering and crafting gear in FFXIV reminds me of those sketchy games that include so much grind that players give up and pull out their credit cards to purchase items or progress. I see two big differences between those games and a game like FFXIV. First, players cannot just go the cash shop and purchase the gear. Square Enix does not just spawn the item out of thin air to sell. Some player needs to create the item for another player to purchase. 

The second is that, as long as players follow the terms of service, no real world currencies are involved in any transactions surrounding the creation and ownership of the gear. If the process of creating the gear is too burdensome, players exchange gil with each other. Square Enix never becomes involved. 

I did have one additional thought pop up during my long crafting sessions. These long grinds are why player-run economies can work. If players are willing to pay large amounts of in-game currencies to avoid rather complex activities, then those that like crafting will have activities to do when they run out of making items for themselves. The cycle works better in games with a lot of gear destruction like EVE Online, but the principle remains the same.

Sometime during the week I'll finish up making the actual items and then turn to melding materia to the 26 items to make the most effective gear possible. After that I get to start crafting iLevel 630 white mage gear with requires the Indagator's crafting set to create. Sure, I could spend a couple million gil to buy the items off the market board, but then the gear wouldn't have my name stamped on it.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

A Quick Look At The Active ISK Delta

CCP published the monthly economic report for June 2023 for EVE Online on Monday. I haven't really paid much attention lately but June was special. The Viridian expansion launched in June so one might expect a much lower amount of ISK leaving the game due to players leaving the game. The technical term for this phenomenon is the Active ISK Delta. If the number is negative, players leaving the game left with more ISK in their wallets than those returning to the game. In rare cases in which players mass return to the game, the number is positive. I decided to take a look back over the last 18 months to see how the traditional largest currency sink in any MMORPG looked in EVE.

Though the first six months of 2023, the total Active ISK Delta was 40 trillion ISK. The number sounds like a lot until compared to 2022. In the first half of last year, a net amount of 201.4 trillion ISK left the New Eden economy from players exiting EVE. Compared to the previous year, last month's loss of 34.2 trillion ISK was 35.7% less than June 2022's Active ISK Delta of 53.2 trillion.

Looking back over the last 18 months, only two months recording a positive Active ISK Delta. The first, November 2022, witnessed the launch of the Uprising expansion. The second, May 2023, was the 20th anniversary of the launch of EVE Online. As part of the celebration, players who were subscribed at any point in May would have their main character's names placed on the EVE monument in Reykjavik. Those whose names were already on the monument would have a chevron placed next to their names.

In comparison, last month's loss of 34.2 trillion from the economy indicates the Viridian expansion wasn't quite as well received as Uprising. At the very least, the expansion was unable to keep players who came back to place their names on the monument around and playing. But on the plus side, the expansion did keep about half the money that came back to New Eden in the economy. That's something, right?

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

EVE: Viridian Received A Lukewarm Reception

On 13 June, CCP released the Viridian expansion for EVE Online. Expansions in MMORPGs are designed to boost interest in a game and, at the very least, encourage lapsed players to log back in to try the game again. Did CCP succeed with Viridian? Let's take a look at some preliminary numbers to find out.

The average number of concurrent users from Jester

After an initial spike to over 20,000 players logged on at any one time, the 7-day average settled back down to follow the 30-day average. The number of players stayed the same over the course of June. While down slightly compared to May, the year-over-year increase of around 12% from June 2022 is still encouraging. Hopefully the increase translates to increased YoY sales on the next Pearl Abyss investors call.

The same trend is visible when looking at the ship explosion numbers on Dotlan. In high security space, the daily number of NPCs destroyed by players decreased 8.1% from May to June, but increased 6.4% compared to June 2022. In null sec, the number of NPCs destroyed rose 9.7% month-over-month, while compared to June 2022, the number increased 44.1% up to 4,875,341 per day. Higher numbers of NPCs exploding at the hands of players often results in increased profits for CCP and Pearl Abyss.

What about low sec? The Uprising expansion looked to strengthen that area of space and to a large degree succeeded. Did Viridian continue the momentum?

The number of player-owned ships exploding in low security spaced dropped from 7,198 per day in May down to 6,834 in June, a 5.1% decrease. But compared to June 2022, the number of ships exploding still increased by 34.1%. The 205,021 player ships lost in low sec represents the 8th consecutive month at least 200,000 player-owned ships exploded in the security band.

With only two weeks of data, long term trends are hard to predict. An observer might expect, however, better numbers than players posted in June. One of the reasons for a late May/early June expansion is to hold off the traditional summer slump for a month or maybe even two. By doing so, more players are hopefully playing as the winter expansion approaches and the number of players increases in the long run. We'll have to see how the strategy plays out throughout the rest of the year.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Cloud Imperium Games Posts $6.8 Million In Sales In June 2023

In June, Cloud Imperium Games, makers of Star Citizen and Squadron 42, earned $6.8 million in sales according to a fan-created website that tracks sales. The total was a 34.1% year-over-year decrease in sales compared to June 2022's $10.3 million in sales. 

For the second quarter of 2023, CIG posted sales of $32.8 million, a 15.4% decrease from 2022's total of $38.7 million. The sales total for the first half of the year, $53.7 million, is down $5 million from the same period of 2022. And for the 12 months running from July 2022 to June 2023, CIG recorded sales of $102.9 million.

Overall, CIG has raised $675.4 million from confirmed sources (the funding page & the 2021 financial report). The income breaks down as follows:

  • Sales/Pledges: $593.4 million (through 30 June 2023)
  • Subscriptions: $27.8 million (through 31 December 2021)
  • All other sources: $54.2 million (through 31 December 2021)

In addition, CIG received $63.25 million in investor funding in 2018 and 2019, bringing the total funding of the project up to $738.6 million.

While a game company posting $53.7 million in sales without a released game would otherwise mark a successful 6 month period, CIG is not just any company. But anyone who thinks the walls are finally closing in on Chris Roberts should think again. In 2021, the company recorded a $6.2 million year-over-year decline in sales before recording a $38.8 million fourth quarter to finish the year up 9.6% over 2020.

Will CIG manage to record a $45-$50 million fourth quarter? Anything is possible, especially since most Star Citizen content creators expect some sort of big announcement at CitizenCon in October. I just can't help but wonder if CIG will experience cash-flow problems in the meantime.