Thursday, August 31, 2023

Singularity Is Not For Player Testing Anymore

For years and years EVE Online players could hop on the Singularity test server and test out the latest changes to the game. While a test server provided by MMORPG developers is supposed to help test the games, often times players use access to such servers to mine game data to gain advantages or just brag that they know what is coming next. CCP has long wanted to restrict player knowledge of new content until a patch is deployed to Tranquility. Yesterday CCP Arcade made an announcement about future player use of Singularity.

Back in July we posted that Singularity would remain inaccessible throughout July and August and that we would provide a further update as September approaches. We’re now ready to update you on the plans for Singularity test server.

For the foreseeable future Singularity will only be open during specific testing windows rather than being always accessible. The aim is to focus testing on work-in-progress features rather than general access to all content. We will announce testing windows prominently via news articles or forums, socials, and other EVE community channels.

Currently, players who participate in organized mass tests on Singularity are rewarded with skill points on Singularity, we recognize that if the server is inaccessible then this would diminish this type of reward. We are discussing what other rewards could be used to incentivize participation in tests.

These days Singularity is mostly used to test deployments and architecture changes. Often bugs that are reported by players on Singularity have already found their way onto Tranquility. The hope is that by focusing testing on new features we can limit the number of bugs that reach Tranquility.

We don’t foresee this change severely impacting the ability for players to data mine changes when they are deployed to Singularity, but it should hopefully ensure that once a change is deployed to Singularity it is closer to a finished state and has already been put into context via dev blogs, news items etc.

Not every game has a publicly accessible test server. Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 both do not have public test servers. Pearl Abyss' Black Desert Online opened up a test server in April 2022. The theory is that public test servers allow players to find bugs and make the game on the live servers less buggy. I played my first MMORPG, World of Warcraft, back in 2005. Let's just say I'm not convinced.

Of course, I have my tinfoil hat theory on why the extremely limited access to Singularity. Back in March CCP announced a $40 million round of funding for a new blockchain MMORPG, code-named Project Awakening. From the initial coverage of the game, the game is basically EVE Online utilizing blockchain tech. Something those outside the EVE community might not know is that the Singluarity test shard was used for testing both the versions of EVE running on the Tranquility and Chinese Serenity live shards. If CCP did not have the resources to run separate testing environments for two version of EVE, why would anyone thing CCP had enough money to spin up an additional test cluster for Project Awakening?

While $40 million is a good deal of money, CCP cannot rely on any financial backing from Pearl Abyss to progress the project. That money needs to last unless Hilmar can scrounge up enough interest in Project Awakening. Any cost savings is a requirement. 

Now, I don't know anything aside from the financial information published by Pearl Abyss and CCP. I also know EVE players would rise up and complain about losing access to Singularity to a blockchain game. Don't underestimate the power of EVE players. The complaining about CCP attempting to add NFTs into EVE resulted in Hilmar backing down from the plan. But if my tin foil theory is true, perhaps we will hear more about Project Awakening soon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Rising And The Power Of Friendship

I completed The Rising event in Final Fantasy XIV on Sunday. For the second year in a row I helped Kipih Jakkya's little brother Nhagi'a become an adventurer. Or at least, a better adventurer. But the story also addressed the desire of some players to want to do everything themselves. No, no help needed for them. Part of the story revolves around Nhagi'a's desire to be strong and independent and never needing help, just like the player. 

The Warrior of Light doesn't need any help? Ha! Sometimes I think FFXIV is build around the power of friendship. The trope was described last year on GameRant:

Primarily featured in the shōnen genre, the power of friendship trope allows characters to exceed their limits and defeat their enemies no matter how unbeatable they are set up in a series to be. This gift of invincibility is given mostly to the main characters of a series and progresses the plot in a fashion favorable to the good guys in the story. Whether it be Naruto in the Naruto franchise, Tanjiro in the Demon Slayer franchise, or Natsu in the Fairy Tail franchise, these shōnen protagonists are a head above the rest and rely on the power of friendship to save the day.

Perhaps a newer player might believe the Warrior of Light is a one-man (or one-woman) wrecking machine, and by the end of each expansion they are. But to accomplish anything great, the player relies on their friends in the Scions of the Seventh Dawn plus some additional friends made along the way. In my opinion, the game reaches peak friendship at the end of Shadowbringers 5.0 and the defeat of FFXIV's greatest villian, Emet-Selch. The Warrior of Light still needs friends to save the universe in Endwalker, but the meme is most powerful in the final trial of the base Shadowbringers expansion.

Without trying to spoil the story of the event, I think Yoshi-P was trying to portray another message as well. As much as Creative Business Unit 3 has tried to make the game as solo friendly as possible, players still need to group up to complete the 8-character trials (and the Crystal Tower raid series) in order to reach the end of the story. Don't give up just because playing with others is necessary; the journey is worth doing so. And that's about as far as I can go without absolutely spoiling the story of the event.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Jovian Stargates Were Found

CCP announced the search for hidden Jovian stargates, known as Operation Epiphany, last Tuesday. I really hope the devs didn't expect the activity to last a long time, because by Saturday players located all four gates. The efforts were led by Fraternity. and the Arataka Research Corp. Fraternity. pilots in the Winter Co. Research Group discovered gates in Turnur, a low sec system in Metropolis and G-0Q86 in Curse. Pilots crediting ARC for their open source data approach discovered hidden gates in Alsavoinon in low sec Placid and H-PA29 in Venal.

CCP is really pulling out all the stops in supporting the current live event arc as a new Scope video launched on Saturday as well.

At a ceremony at a Society of Conscious Thought station in the Venal system of FDZ4-A, the video appears to show the pilots involved in discovering the hidden gates receiving their rewards. A nice touch on the part of the video maker.

The video also laid out what is next for players as New Eden progresses through the story arc. During the ceremony, Elder Mentor Matshi Raish of the SoCT stated:

Preliminary findings from a survey of the first gate to be found indicater it has probably been recently reconnected with its destination system. However, it is clearly in a locked state and is almost certainly under control of a network rooted through its connection, likely at some central location. 

We speculate that the controlling location is that referred to by the name Zarzakh. This name appears to be an ancient Amar word meaning "at the edge". But it is currently unclear what this may refer to. We believe that the Deathless is controlling the state of this gate and any others that exist from this Zarzakh location. 

Rest assured that every effort will be made to gain further understanding of this remarkable discovery and make sure that the opportunities and knowledge it brings will be used to the benefit of all of New Eden. 

While the Society is made up of a bunch of idealists who the Jove made their heirs, the rest of the cluster had different ideas. Below are some selected items taken from the scroll bar at the bottom of the video.

  • CONCORD warns of intelligence indicating large increase in pirate activity in militia warzones.
  • SOCT specialists warn of high probability of local gravitational instabilities if ancient stargates activate
  • Likely control of gates by Deathless Circle and pirate allies increases speculation on intent of criminal network
  • Capsuleer alliances reported establishing citadels close to stargate despite SOCT warnings.
  • Large Guristas fleet movements detected in Venal region following capsuleer discovery of Jovian stargate in H-PA29.
  • Caldari State chief executive panel reported considering offensive to take Alsavoinon from Federation control.
  • Angel comabt wings mobilizing across Cartel territory in Curse region after discovery of stargate in G-0Q86.
  • Fears grow in Floseswin of new Amarr Empire effort to invade Eugidi Constellation due to presence of Jovian gate.
  • EDENCOM chiefs and DED officers meet with CONCORD Inner Circle as alarm raised that stargates pose new invasion threat.

With less than a month to go until Fanfest 2023 in Reykjavik, I think I know some of what CCP will present to players during the convention.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Happy 10th Anniversary Final Fantasy XIV

Sunday marks the official10th anniversary of the current iteration of Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn. According to Wikipedia, the game launched on 27 August 2013. We don't talk about the original 1.0 version that launched on 30 September 2010. That game was so bad FFXIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida literally killed it with fire and started over.

On Sunday at 12:00am Pacific Time, Creative Business Unit 3 will launch two events celebrating the anniversary. The first is the traditional The Rising event. Running from Sunday until the beginning of patch 6.5 sometime in the first half of October, players can meet up with Kipih Jakkya (Uldah, Steps of Nald, X:10.1, Y:8.7) a reporter who covered the end of FFXIV 1.0 for this year's event. The Rising usually breaks the 4th wall of the story and Yoshi-P conveys some sort of message to the players from inside the game.

From The Rising 2022

This year players will receive The Rising Phoenix mount where the player actually becomes The Phoenix. In addition, I understand a mini-game is also available with 2 orchestral rolls from the game. Finally, players who participate in the event will receive a poster from the first The Rising event.

The other event, The Moogle  is traditionally run before a major patch but is synced up with The Rising this year. The event currency, Irregular Tomestones of Tenfold Pageantry, is increased for each of the raids, trials, and duties run this year, with CBU3 giving out the most (14) for running the following content:

  • Euphrosyne (Level 90 raid)
  • The Tower at Paradigm's Breach (Level 80 raid)
  • The Orbonne Monastery (Level 70 raid)
  • Dun Scaith (Level 60 raid)
  • The Praetorium (Level 50 dungeon)

Pretty standard stuff, I think. But the items available might draw some interest. To begin with, getting the 10th anniversary frame kit for your character portrait. For 10 tokens getting it is almost a no-brainer. For emotes, I think any role player who entered the game during Shadowbringers or Endwalker will want to grab the Insufficient Petticoats and Excessive Petticoats emotes. Those are the ones that make characters shiver and fan themselves.

For 50 tomes, three mounts are available: Fae Gwiber from The Dancing Plague (Extreme), The Big Shell available for Skybuilders' Scrips, and the Tyrannosaur mount from Eureka.

For 30 tomes, all six of the wolf mounts from the Stormblood Extreme trials are available. Collect all 6 and I understand a seventh becomes available. Don't need a wolf mount? Both pieces of the toad costume also cost 30 tomes.

For this event the devs even were thoughtful enough to make available six earrings for 1 tome each along with the traditional light show available for that price.

Overall, I think I'll have a bit of fun trying to collect up the emotes I mentioned above along with another wolf mount or two. I even might try to get the Fae Gwiber if I have enough time and tomes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Pearl Abyss Mid-Q3 2023 News For Investors

We are a little over halfway through the third quarter of 2023 so I thought would take a little time to highlight a few events I think will show up on Pearl Abyss Q3 2023 earnings call. With the company's stock price falling 18% since the Q2 2023 earnings call on 10 August, I thought now is a good time to look at news that might interest investors.

Pearl Abyss' stock price still up 14.5% for 2023

Going back to the beginning of the quarter, CCP Games announced the renewal of its agreement with NetEase to publish EVE Online in China. 

REYKJAVÍK, Iceland – July 5, 2023 – CCP Games, the renowned creator of the iconic sci-fi spacefaring MMORPG EVE Online, is pleased to announce the renewal of its publishing license with NetEase Games, a leading international developer and publisher. This agreement reaffirms NetEase Games' role as the exclusive publishing partner for EVE Online in China, ensuring a seamless gaming experience for Chinese players.

Over the past five years, NetEase Games and CCP Games have witnessed the remarkable achievements of EVE Online in the Chinese gaming market, captivating players with its expansive universe and immersive gameplay. With this renewed partnership, the stage is set for an even more exciting chapter in the game’s history. It solidifies the commitment of both companies to delivering exceptional gameplay, enhancing the player experience, and fostering a thriving community.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with NetEase Games and build upon the success we have achieved together,” said Bing Xi, General Manager of CCP Games' Shanghai studio. “The renewal of our publishing license represents a new era for EVE Online in China, and we are committed to delivering unforgettable experiences and further engaging our passionate player base.”

If the agreement works like most typical agreements in China, the extension ensures Chinese players will have the ability to play behind the Great Firewall until October 2028. More importantly for investors, EVE will not see revenue drop precipitously down to 2019 levels for the foreseeable future.

Next comes an event the investment analysts have asked for years. A new gameplay trailer for Crimson Desert was unveiled at GamesCom yesterday.

While some gaming websites gushed over the video, apparently the footage did not impress investors. The stock price fell over 14% in today's trading.

Finally, a little more bad news for the quarter. New Black Desert Online content for consoles suffered a delay extending into the fourth quarter. (h/t MassivelyOP)

A lot of our Console Adventurers and Community have been wondering about the next content update schedule - especially Maegu Awakening and Mythical Horse updates. So, we would like to take some time to address the current situation and agenda through this GM Note.

The Land of the Morning Light update released on Black Desert Console this past July 26 (Wed). Previously we mentioned this region features new content providing more cutscene-oriented storylines and unique combat styles. In order to provide the best gameplay environment, ample time and continuous optimization work is needed.

To keep our promise to deliver content as quickly as possible, the team has been working diligently. However, judging by our current pace, we expect the optimization period to continue through September.

Hence, we regret to inform you that our planned release timeline for the content in question has been delayed.

We plan to release Maegu Awakening and Mythical Horse updates as soon as our team feels that the optimization process has reached the appropriate levels. Our current target is the maintenance on October 4 (Wed).

I think most can understand the disappointment in not getting cool new mounts. But the Maegu Awakening refers to one of the two advanced sets of skill sets available to the new Maegu class at level 56. That's right, BDO's console version has a gimped version of its newest class. News that might, but not necessarily will, lead to decreased revenue for the third quarter.

Hopefully this quick recap of Pearl Abyss news over the past 7 weeks or so is interesting. For those involved in EVE Online, the health of the company that purchased CCP Games in 2019 is of interest.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

EVE Operation: Epiphany

When CCP decides to go through the trouble of conducting a multi-month live event, they tend to try to make the event memorable. From the introduction of incursions making Sansha Kuvakei a household name to the Triglavians stealing systems to create Pochven, these events tend to make even the most die-hard null sec resident sit up and take notice. The current story arc has already brought fast travel to factional warfare. Now, CCP will send players on a potentially lucrative hunt for star gates.

Today CCP published a news post titled "EVE Operation: Epiphany". The article started by providing a brief recap of the story so far and a setup for the next event.

Following the disruption of Guri Malakim activity surrounding ancient Jovian sites by capsuleers earlier this year and the still-ongoing recovery of fragmentary destroyer schematics from Angel and Guristas commanders, corrupted fragments containing structural data for what appears to be a Jove stargate have begun to circulate, marked with an enigmatic emblem.

Simultaneously, footage has emerged of both Cartel commando Rafik Zohar and Caldari Navy defector Esri Hakuzosu meeting with an unknown representative. The footage, showing the representative offering an invitation from the mysterious figure known only as the Deathless, has begun to spread across GalNet:

I just want to say, the video shows the potential of what Walking in Stations could have been. Or at least, why what we received back in 2011 in the form of the Minmatar resulted in so much disappointment.

Next comes the task. Find the new star gates by looting Guristas and Angel Commander wrecks. Oh, and did I mention Jove Observatories are involved? Here is a description for the Eve University Wiki of what players can expect.

The observatories can be interacted with by using Entosis Link on them. After each entosis cycle a Gleaned Information item is added to ship inventory. This item contains fragments of observation logs from the time when the structure was still operational.

Entosising observatories is not completely safe activity. The entosis link will prevent the ship from warping away for the duration of the cycle (5 minutes for t1, 2 minutes for t2). The observatory may seem quiet but Autothysian Lancers check on it regularly. If you are unlucky a wandering Drifter cruiser or Drifter battleship may also come. It is believed that the Drifter cruisers and battleships are more common when the system has active unidentified wormhole in it.

That's right, Drifter battleships. I know I keep far away from them as they are amongst the most dangerous NPCs in the game. CCP knows that a high risk activity deserves high rewards.

Of course, this is no small undertaking, capsuleers, and for that reason there are handsome rewards on the line. As this is of utmost importance, the Society of Conscious Thought, led by Elder Mentor Matshi Raish, is offering the first pilot or group to unveil each gate an impressive reward of 50 billion ISK! Those who are successful in deciphering the fragmented records, and discovering the location of a Jovian stargate, should evemail Matshi Raish directly with the name of the relevant star system in the title. The evemail should include an outline of the solution path and a shared location folder containing a bookmark for the discovered stargate. The race is on, pilots, so don’t wait around – be the first to find those gates, have your name forever etched into EVE’s history, and reap the impressive monetary rewards.

I believe we are now officially on the road to the next expansion sometime in the 4th quarter. With the latest twist in the story arc, I believe we will see some sort of expansion of the EVE universe. The question is, where will these new gates take us?

Monday, August 21, 2023

Why I Prefer MMORPGs

One of the reasons I don't write about single player video games is the simple fact I don't play them. After a co-worker first introduced me to World of Warcraft in 2005, I was hooked on MMORPGs. After leaving Vanilla WoW after my guild kicked me for my inability to raid, I stopped playing for a month and have stayed subscribed to one game or another since June 2006. Currently I am subscribed to two, Final Fantasy XIV and EVE Online. For me, MMORPGs have two advantages over single-player games: cost and community.

Even playing subscription-based games, I've always found MMORPGs a good value for my money. Take, for example, joining a bowling league back before COVID. The weekly fees and purchasing/renting equipment far exceeded the monthly subscription fee for a game. And as for single player games? When I first stated playing, single player games cost between $40-$50 for a new title. How much time did those games last back then? Probably less than the 20-30 hours a week I spend when I really get caught up in any of the MMORPGs I've played over the last 18 years or so. I know the XBox PC Game Pass only costs $9.99/month, but I never did get into console games. Maybe I should give the service a chance, but with all the subscriptions I have already, both in and out of gaming, I really don't want to add one more.

The other factor is community. Just knowing other players are in the game universe makes a difference. Sure, if I use a service like Steam, I can share my in-game accomplishments with the world. But in an MMORPG, I can do the same with one of those stupid titles floating over my head. Or by the gear I'm wearing. Or by owning my own place and letting others share access to see what I've built.

Perhaps the biggest difference are game economies. In the few single-player games I've attempted to play over the years, the economy is something I can manipulate. In an MMORPG with a good economy I'm actually dealing with humans. Yes, MMORPG economies are also subject to manipulation. But the human element leads, at least for me, to enough variation to not get boring.

Perhaps most importantly, interaction with humans makes the game feel like a world. Whether the interaction is talking to strangers in EVE coordinating actions during a seasonal event or parading through Ul'dah in FFXIV celebrating my free company's 10th anniversary, I know other people are with me. Which brings up a question. Shouldn't games bring people together? If a sport like bowling can, why not video games?

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Nosy Gamer In The News

The title of this article is probably a little grandiose. I sometimes get a mention or two over on MassivelyOP, mainly for my financial posts about Star Citizen and Pearl Abyss. But yesterday I learned one of my articles appeared in a video produced by a YouTuber with 300 thousand subscribers, so I thought I'd mark the occasion with a blog post.

But before noting the video reference, I thought I'd shout out to MassivelyOP Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and her article on Pearl Abyss' Q2 2023 Earnings call. She often includes a bit from my posts on the subject in hers, but I think she was extra inspired last Thursday. I'm a bit jealous I didn't come up with the title, "Pearl Abyss Q2 2023: EVE surges, Black Desert stumbles, Crimson Desert hedges". Also, I saw enough small details in the piece to know she didn't just copy information off the presentation power-point or crib extra information from my post. I saw a couple of details she would have learned from either finding a transcript of the call or actually listening. So a nice job by Bree and I'm not just saying that because she linked my my post.

A fortnight ago MassivelyOP's Chris Neal included some information from my monthly recap of CIG's funding in an update on Star Citizen's funding. I think Chris' article might have led to my showing up in an ObsidianAnt video.

The video, When Devs Go TOO FAR - Star Citizen Community in MELTDOWN, goes into the latest meltdown over changes to access to the public test universe (PTU). But ObsidianAnt expanded on the initial cause and brought in a bunch of other factors. One of those factors is the amount of money Cloud Imperium Games has raised in an effort to make the games (Star Citizen and Squadron 42). And that's where The Nosy Gamer appears.

Okay, the mention was brief (from 10 minutes ot 10:04 in the video), but the blog showed up an entire 4 seconds. Much better, ObsidianAnt linked to the blog post in the description of the video. I'll call that a win.

Every so often I get to see my writing, or links to a post, in surprising places on the Internet. This time I just had to make a note to myself by mentioning the fact on the blog.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

EVE Online Goes Pay For Twitch Views

After Pearl Abyss' poor financial showing in the second quarter, the company needs some good news. EVE Online provided some good news on the latest earnings call with revenue up 14.8% over the second quarter of 2022. With Black Desert continuing to decline and the C-Suite opening up the possibility of the launch of Crimson Desert slipping another calendar year, the braintrust in Anyang needs EVE to continue offering good news.

The Alliance Tournament in the Q2 2023 presentation

Which is why I believe viewership for this year's Alliance Tournament is down. Honestly, I didn't realize the event had already started. Then again, the event really isn't watchable on Twitch. If I want to watch health bars moving, I can hop on my White Mage job in Final Fantasy XIV and heal a dungeon or raid. The experience is pretty much the same except playing a game instead of watching is more fun.

But Pearl Abyss needs to continue the theory the executives give the investment analysts that with proper attention a game can last 20 years. After all, CCP is doing a pretty good job with EVE, right? And one of the metrics Pearl Abyss believes in is Twitch viewership. Declining viewership means the game is in decline. CCP better not let that happen or that annoying guy from Goldman Sachs will bring the slippage up on the next call. Hey, you know it's true.

So for the first time, CCP is offering Twitch drops. According to Twitch, a Twitch drop is

Our new Drops campaigns are a new and fun way to get in-game loot by watching your favorite channels on Twitch! If the channel is participating in a new Drops system campaign, you will see a message at the top of chat about the Drop campaign and how to earn rewards.

Drops are unlocked by watching any participating channel for the amount of time set by the game developer to earn a reward. Once you complete the time requirement, you will be able to claim the reward. You can only gain progress toward a reward on one channel at a time. Some Drops rewards will require you to earn and claim a previous reward before you are able to earn progress toward that reward. You can check on the progress you have earned towards any reward by going to your Drops Inventory page. From this page you will also be able to claim any Drops rewards that you did not claim while watching the channel.

CCP offered the following instructions on how to access Twitch drops.

  • Step 1: Login to your EVE Account from our special Twitch page
  • Step 2: Click ‘Link Twitch’
  • Step 3: Head to Twitch, login, and/or confirm the authorization to link your EVE and Twitch Accounts
  • Step 4: With the account linking confirmed, you can watch content on the official CCPTV Twitch channel, before claiming your rewards via Twitch’s ‘Drops & Rewards’ section
  • Step 5: Head back to your EVE account, and your rewards will be ready and waiting for you in the Redeeming section

The "watch content on the official CCPTV Twitch channel" is what really caught my attention. I thought that the drops were used as a lure to convince streamers to stream a company's game. Twitch drops usually mean higher viewerships. But at least for now, CCP is looking to boost its own Twitch channel. By implication, that means boost viewership for the Alliance Tournament. After all, have to keep the investors happy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

EVE: Viridian - Subjects People Read

Back in June when CCP released the patch notes for EVE Online's Viridian expansion, I did something a little unusual. Instead of just writing a review of the upcoming features, I combined the patch notes with some additional information and wrote a post for each major subject. Two months later I thought I'd look at my blog statistics and see which subjects were the most popular.

  1. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Homefront Operations (402 views)

  2. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Marauders and Battleships (393 views)

  3. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Ecosystem and Industry Changes (232 views)

  4. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Broker and Job Installation Fees (160 views)

  5. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Lancer Dreadnaughts (128 views)

  6. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Corporate Loyalty Points and SKINR (125 views)

  7. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Corporation Projects and AIR Opportunities (121 views)

  8. EVE:Viridian Patch Notes: Graphics (105 views)

I have a couple of observations. The first is, no matter how much certain players insist EVE Online is a PvP game, the post receiving the most traffic concerned the newest PvE content, Homefront Operations. Coming in a close second were the changes to battleships and their tech 2 variants, Marauders. The ships received changes designed with PvP combat in mind, but I wonder how much the ships were affected in the money-making PvE content. Perhaps the ships needed a balance pass to work better with the new Homefront Operations.

The next two most popular articles concerned industry and the general economy. Not unexpected as one of the main selling points of the game is the player-run economy. Everyone needs ISK and reading the patch notes is usually a good way to make the funds necessary to fund activities in New Eden.

The next three articles basically drew the same number of views. Barely leading the way was the article about the new ship class, the tech 2 Lancer Dreadnaughts. I kind of wondered how the article would do as tech 2 dreadnaughts are sexy. I have the feeling a lot more people created content around the Lancer Dreadnaughts. The next two posts concerned corporations. Leadership in player organizations is important and I'm guessing the subject doesn't really affect most people. Or, perhaps more accurately, the normal line member doesn't think the subject of those two sections affects them.

Finally, the list ends with graphics. I did post the article on the day of the launch, which may have suppressed interest. But I've found graphics sounds good, then everyone sees the improvements in the game and aren't interested in learning about the fine details.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Historic Drop In The Active ISK Delta In July 2023

I really need to get back to monitoring the monthly economic reports for EVE Online. I became discouraged due to the poor quality of some of the data, but one statistic I found reliable was the Active ISK Delta. The Active ISK Delta is the amount of in-game currency entering or leaving the game due to players either leaving or returning to New Eden. In July, the amount hit triple-digit trillions for the first time in my records going back to December 2017.

So much ISK left the game

Please capsuleers, remain calm. Such a drop does not mean everyone is leaving the game. As proof I present Jester's latest average concurrent users chart. The ACU shows the number of users logged in at any one time is still up around 12% over the same time last year.

No, July did not see a mass exodus of active players

So why the massive drop in the Active ISK Delta last month? I haven't heard of a massive ban wave, so cross that possibility off the list. People returning to the game to check out the Viridian expansion and then leaving is probably part of the reason. In November 2022 I fully credit the Uprising expansion for the 74.5 trillion ISK rise in the Active ISK Delta. The following month saw the Active ISK Delta fall to -63.6 trillion ISK. 

However, we didn't see a positive Active ISK Delta in June 2023 when Viridian launched. I credit that to the marketing campaign surrounding the 20th anniversary celebration and getting one's character name on the monument in Reykjavik. 
To have your character’s name engraved on the monumental expansion, make sure to have an active Omega account on 6 May 2023 (in any time zone), and your character with the highest amount of Skill Points will forever stand alongside the legends of New Eden. If you're already among those immortalized on the monument, your loyalty for also being an Omega pilot on 6 May 2023 will be additionally honored with a prestigious titan chevron icon on the monument.
Those who unsubscribed shortly after the 6 May deadline counted toward the -34.2 trillion Active ISK Delta in June, thus hiding another source of good statistical news for EVE in June. I have a feeling that those who stuck around to try out Viridian and then left contributed to last month's possible record Active ISK Delta. I will have to continue digging through the records to determine if any month surpassed last month's mark of -107.1 trillion ISK. But for now, I'll stand by the claim that a 6-year low for a 20 year old game is historic.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Pearl Abyss Q2 2023 Earnings Call

On Tuesday morning Seoul time, Pearl Abyss held its earnings call for the second quarter of 2023. The South Korean video game maker posted revenues of ₩78.4 billion ($59.6 million). The amount was an 8.6% decline from the first quarter of 2023 and a year-over-year (YoY) drop of 16.6% compared to Q2 2022.

From the Q2 2023 PA Investors Presentation

A bigger issue than declining revenues was the profits turned to losses again. In Q2, Pearl Abyss experienced an operating loss of ₩14.1 billion ($10.7 million) and net loss of ₩4.4 billion ($3.3 million) for the months of April, May, and June. For the first half of 2023, Pearl Abyss posted an operating loss of ₩13 billion ($9.9 million) but was in the black with a net profit of ₩5 billion ($3.8 million). The second quarter of the year was also the second time in the last 3 quarters Pearl Abyss has posted a net loss. In Q4 2022 the South Korean company posted a loss of ₩100.3 billion ($73.8 million).

The executives on the call explained the losses were caused by two factors. The lesser reason seemed caused by the time of year. This is the third year in a row Pearl Abyss has experienced an operating loss in the second quarter. In 2021, Pearl Abyss experienced a Q2 operating loss of ₩6 billion ($5.3 million) and in Q2 2022 the company lost another ₩4.2 billion ($3.3 million). 

The biggest reason the executives claimed, however, was the stiff competition Black Desert Online faced on consoles and Black Desert Mobile experienced on mobile devices. Despite the Land of the Morning Light expansion, a new class (Maegu) on consoles and a new zone (Everfrost) and class (Guardian) on mobile, sales dropped in the second quarter by 16.3%, down to ₩56.5 billion ($42.9 million). Year-over-year, Black Desert IP sales dropped 24%.

From the Q2 2023 PA Investors Presentation

The bright spot for Pearl Abyss was the financial performance of the EVE IP. Sales for the quarter clocked in at ₩20.2 billion ($15.4 million), a 19.5% increase over the first quarter of 2023 and a 14.8% increase year-over-year increase. The only other quarter the EVE IP brought in over ₩20 billion in revenue while owned by Pearl Abyss was the third quarter of 2020 when the game brought in ₩21.3 billion. Even taking into account the devaluation of the won vs the dollar, revenue in April, May, and June equaled the total posted in the last quarter of 2021 when talk of NFTs and play-to-earn mechanics were first uttered by CCP leadership.

When asked why EVE and its Viridian expansion was able to succeed in an environment where Black Desert struggled, the Pearl Abyss executives said that EVE did not face any competition. Perhaps the statement did not translate well, but the feeling expressed was that EVE had an easy time and its success shouldn't have been a surprise.

Once again, the investment analysts on the call wanted to know about the future of Pearl Abyss' two new intellectual properties, Crimson Desert and DokeV. While Crimson Desert is not only supposed to launch in the second half of 2023 but show game footage at GamesCon, the analysts sounded a bit skeptical. When asked point blank whether Crimson Desert would launch in 2023, the executives hedged in their answer and stated they would do their best to ensure the game launched as soon as possible. The launch date slipping into 2024 seems a distinct possibility.

Finally, the rumors about core development staff for DokeV leaving Pearl Abyss back in 2022 still has an analyst from JPMorgan concerned. At least, I could not find any other negative stories about the game floating around the English-language gaming press. The executives said that they were concentrating on finishing up Crimson Desert and they expected that since DokeV and Crimson Desert would share the same game engine, DokeV would be developed fairly quickly.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

EVE: Viridian - Plans For Factional Warfare & Secondary Currencies Plus Homefront Operations Fixes

Today CCP issued two things of note. The first was a patch dedicated to fixing some defects in Homefront Operations. The second is a blog featuring upcoming changes to factional warfare and Evermark trading. I'll address the second topic first.

Restructure the victory point totals for sites. 

Smaller sites were disproportionally awarding Victory Points when compared to larger sites. Battlefield sites, which often act as major conflict drivers and require significantly more organization and risk, didn’t feel rewarding and oftentimes there were just too many sites in a system which led to avoiding conflict rather than seeking it out. Smaller sites should always be an option, but we also want to properly reward those pilots and groups who are willing to risk more. As such, we’ve restructured the Victory Points payouts such that the larger sites are more accurately represented. For Battlefield sites in particular we increased the Victory Points gained from 500 to 2,000, so when you have those chaotic skirmishes they’ll be that much more rewarding.

Restructure overall site distribution.

To correct what has become a somewhat predictable meta, with the ubiquity of Navy ships for small sites in particular being a key target, a substantially increased ratio of ADV sites opens the door for many more Pirate faction and Tech II ships to enter the fray, bringing far more color to the FW ecosystem. Taking a navy ship should still be an option, it just shouldn’t be the only option.

Adjust spawn rates of Listening Outposts and Propaganda Billboards.

...while these produced significant engagement and some incredible fights early on, their use has petered out over time – largely we understand due to cost. To address concerns and the current low supply, the spawn rate of Operations Center sites across FW space has been doubled!

Add an anti-bot measure.

While it may be true that not every character reported may be engaged in illegal gameplay, we also agree that the notion of earning income while risking very little stands in contradiction to the spirit of Factional Warfare as a whole. Rearguard systems were designed to provide tactical objectives, not low-risk LP generation; to realign toward their intended purpose, the Loyalty Point multiplier for Rearguard systems has been reduced from 0.5 to 0.01 – drastically reducing the amount of LP yielded while preserving tactical value.

Donating loyalty points.

...with the August release, players can now donate their Loyalty Points to any non-NPC corporation, bringing you even more freedom of choice in trading your hard-earned LP.

Donating Evermarks.

Building a strong foundation for the EverMark framework is essential as we continue working toward bringing capsuleers new ways to express themselves, and as a step in that direction, supplementing the existing system of individual EM income being matched 1:1 in the corporation wallet, you can now also donate your personal EverMarks directly to your corporation or alliance executor – empowering your groups to keep its outrageous structure SKINs in space that much longer.

And finally, the defect changes in Homefront Operations included in today's patch.

  • A payout will now be given after mining out the last asteroid within Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites.

  • Drifter battleships within Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites will now warp off if the site is fully mined out.

  • Fixed various issues which could cause transmissions and Info Panel objectives within Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites to give incorrect information if entered after completion.

  • Unmined asteroids within abandoned Abyssal Artifact Recovery sites will now be despawned immediately after cleanup starts.

  • Fixed an issue which could cause the asteroid within Metaliminal Meteoroid sites to fail to spawn.

  • The 'Activate Acceleration Gate' Info Panel objective will no longer appear when entering a site that is completed.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Up To Spec

My old PC I bought to play games using the Oculus Rift is finally outdated for my gaming purposes. New games require more capability and the updates to older games is requiring upgraded hardware as well. When my condo flooded and forced me into a hotel at the end of February, I was able to purchase a nice laptop on sale that fortunately will run the games I'm interested in, EVE Online and Final Fantasy XIV, for a few years into the future.

My PC was struggling to run EVE so I went over to the Can You Run It website and checked out how my laptop compared to the recommended settings.

I checked and my drivers are up to date

Oh, that explained some things. The shaders and dedicated video RAM weren't up to recommended specifications on my PC. And I think my CPU speed may be down as well. I wasn't able to move back in until Thursday and haven't set up my tower yet. No wonder my laptop works so much better than my PC.

At the North American Fanfest, Yoshi-P announced that the PC specifications were increasing, giving players 10-12 months time to upgrade their computers. The current recommended specifications allowed me to run the game very well.

Endwalker recommended spec

But with the graphical upgrades coming in Dawntrail, the recommended system specifications also changed.

Dawntrail minimum and recommended spec

My laptop meets the recommended, but not my PC.

Just for giggles, I decided to look up the Star Citizen recommended specification. According to CIG, if your PC is set up for the recommended specifications for EVE or FFXIV, you will run Star Citizen pretty well.

I chuckled, because from everything I've heard and seen, Star Citizen requires at least 32 GB of memory and 64 GB is recommended.

For now I can play my games on my laptop, knowing I won't need to upgrade for a couple of years. But while I'm buying items for my place, I might as well buy a new tower that will last quite a few years into the future. And as for my current PC, I can still use it to run all my Python scripts.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Cloud Imperium Games Records $4.4 Million In Sales In July 2023

In July, Cloud Imperium Games, makers of Star Citizen and Squadron 42, earned $4.4 million in sales according to a API used by a fan-created website that tracks sales. The total was a 26.4% year-over-year decrease in sales compared to July 2022's $5.9 million in sales. So far in 2023, CIG has recorded $58 million in sales, a 10.2% decline compared to the first seven months of 2022's $64.7 million.

Overall, CIG has raised $679.9 million from confirmed sources (the funding page & the 2021 financial report). The income breaks down as follows:

  • Sales/Pledges: $597.9 million (through 31 July 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 $743.2 million.

The big financial news from was the purchase of Turbulent in mid-July. The Montreal-based company has a long history with Cloud Imperium Games and has performed everything from web-based services at the beginning of CIG's history to in-game development today.

In other news, patch 3.20 is in Evocati testing. At one point last year information coming out of the company indicated that patch 4.0 and server meshing would occur and eliminate the possibility of deploying a patch 3.20. At this point, talk exists of a patch 3.21. Whether the delay in the implementation of server meshing is affecting CIG's revenue is speculation.

And finally, Squadron 42 is still no longer for sale on the cash shop. At this point one has to wonder just how much money did Squadron 42 sales contribute to CIG's income stream.