Monthly Archives: July 2019

July in Review

The Site

I wasted a perfectly good rant about the new WordPress.com mobile app and its many flaws in last month’s review post, tacking it on to the end of an already sufficient ramble, so this month I’m going to write about search engine traffic.

As I note in every anniversary post, the vast majority of traffic that lands here comes via search engines, and the lions share of that comes from Google.

Google also wishes me a happy birthday, something I find oddly disturbing

Bing, in second place, provides 3% of the search engine traffic and all other search engines combined… Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, Yandex, Baidu, AOL, MyWay… total up to 2%, which leaves Google with 95%.

Basically, when Google doesn’t show me, traffic takes a hit.  When they changed their parameters in early 2013, traffic here was cut in half and has been trending down ever since.  And, for whatever reason, traffic from Google has been way down over the last few months.

Until the Darkpaw Games thing from Daybreak came up and the blackout hit EVE Online null sec.  Then there was a sudden pop in search engine related traffic, which the Google console tells me was drive by the search terms “Darkpaw Games,” “EverQuest 3,” and “Battle Clinic.”  The latter was the old site that used to host a kill board alternative to ZKillboard.   “Battle Clinic” only lasted for a couple of days, but “Darkpaw” and “EverQuest 3” just keep on going.

And, you can see down below in the most popular posts section, that the post about Darkpaw Games led the way.  We’re not back to 2012 levels of traffic… or even 2016 levels of traffic… but it was interesting to see some search terms suddenly take off.

One Year Ago

I built my daughter her first Windows PC.  It was so cute!

Amazon was giving Prime members a free copy of Pillars of Eternity.

The annual Steam Summer Sale came to a close.  I reviewed what I purchased, or almost purchased, as well as some of the stats that Valve provided.

I was on again with my Leuthilspar Tales from TorilMUD., this time writing about the Sylvan Glades zone, which was something of a disappointment.

In Minecraft there was the Aquatic Update.  It wasn’t all smooth sailing and I ended up downloading our world and batch updating it before uploading it again.  And then I was off to find a warm ocean.

I was back in World of Warcraft and finishing up some Legion stuff and getting on with the lead-in for Battle for Azeroth.  I went over some of what Legion did for us, then the 8.0 update hit and I had to get used to new stuff with BFA.

There was also a Kickstarter campaign for Stay Awhile and Listen – Vol. II, about the development of the Diablo series.  Kickstarters for books tend to work out pretty well.

I had a summary of Abyssal Pocket stats that CCP Fozzie presented at EVE Down Under.  We also got an update that removed wagering on duels, killed off the dread “Fozzie Claws,” and fixed some Abyssal deadspace bugs.

I also noted the tenth anniversary of the EVE Blog Pack, a group I have been kicked out of more than once.

Also turning ten was DOTLAN EVE Maps.

Out in Null Sec space, Mordus Angels folded up shop and Circle of Two moved into their space in Fade.  This was enough to rouse the Imperium, previously content to let SIGs and Squads harass the north, to roll up on Fade and drop a Keepstar on the doorstep.  We went immediately after the CO2 Keepstar in DW-T2I, but were thwarted when it turned out we didn’t know how cyno jammers worked.  But we were there for the long haul.

Anyway, we had a distraction down south, where PanFam was going after TEST.  They blew up a TEST Keepstar and TEST responded by just dropping another one.  That one lived.  Meanwhile the PanFam fleet was trapped in bubbles cover where they would login.

PanFam did escape a couple days later.  Also, there was the alliance tournament.  That was all in a summary post.

And then we were killing Keepstars in Aeschee and Kinakka.  No end of destruction in New Eden.

Finally, Blaugust was almost upon us, and it was set to be a combo of Blaugust and the NBI, a festival of blogging.

Five Years Ago

There was a site put up by eBay about game return on investment.  Unsurprisingly, it indicated that used games are a deal in that regard, so you should go buy some on eBay.

There was the passing of yet another Steam Summer Sale.

SOE forgot to pay their domain name registration.  Meanwhile, Landmark was available for a deep discount after the Steam Summer Sale, leading to speculation about its future.

SuperData Research was listing out the Top Subscription MMOs while not defining what they really meant by the term.

Anarchy Online introduced a PLEX-like currency, GRACE.

The community manager for LOTRO was busy telling raiders and PvMP players that they weren’t getting any new content because they added up to less than 10% of the player population.

finished up Pokemon Y on the 3DS.

In my attempt at the loremaster achievement in WoW I ran through Desolace, Feralas, and Thousand Needles one week, Felwood and Un’goro Crater the next.  Then it was Winterspring, Swamp of Sorrows, and the Blasted Lands, the Cape of Stranglethorn, and the final bit of the Eastern Kingdoms.  I was on a roll.

in EVE Online we were commuting to Delve, where maybe there was going to be a war, and chasing Brave Newbies around (then getting pipe bombed) when there wasn’t anything going on.  That was back when we owned Delve.  Fights went on sporadically for a while and many a Rupture was sacrificed simply try a fresh doctrine.  So many Ruptures.  Apocs did better.

Meanwhile the Crius expansion hit New Eden, making industry better… it did get better, right?

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw Time Locked Progression server, the vote to unlock the Underfoot expansion failed, making it the second expansion ever to get voted down, the first being Gates of Discord nearly two years before.

With that I was wondering what other MMOs might go for the retro nostalgia server thing.  Not WoW, I was sure of that at the time.

I was also on about housing in MMOs, what has really worked for me and what has fallen flat and why.  This included some projection as to what garrisons might end up being in WoW.

Our epic game of Civilization V saw expansionism and direct conflict with the Aztec empire.

Ten Years Ago

I won a contest.  Granted, all I got was a T-shirt.  But that was probably more than you got.  And it was due to a video game.

Mythic announced a version of Warhammer Online for the Mac.  Not sure that helped anything at all.

I was, as usual, asking silly questions like why does Tetris gets faster.  Okay, it was an analogy, but it was still silly.

Oh, and then there was the horse.  Remember the $10 horse?  I did a poll about it and everything.  Boy, that seems like small potatoes these days.  I mean, that was a cash shop game selling a horse for $10.  Now WoW and EQ2 will sell you mounts that cost much more.

Gary Gannon announced that GAX Online was going to close in August, bringing to an end that experiment in gamer community building.

I asked what people considered cheating in an MMO.  It included another poll.  I was doing polls that July.

I did a parody of Tipa’s Daily Blog Roll feature.  That is some pretty rich stuff in hindsight.

In EVE Online I got another step closer to mining perfection.  I was also fiddling around with a fit for a Dominix.

In World of Warcraft the instance group hit Violet Hold and Gundrak, but couldn’t get the team together for Halls of Stone, so went back and did some Burning Crusade heroics just for kicks.

Then the instance group took a run at Onyxia.  The old school Onyxia.  She’s since been remade.

My daughter somehow got to Dalaran at level 16… without having the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

And even as we were doing all that, we were starting to mull over what we should do once we were level 80 with no new expansion in sight.  It only took us a year to try another game.  At about that time, my hunter alt hit level 80.

I also dredged up the old Alamo Teechs U 2 Play Druid post from the WoW forums.  Philosophical question:  Would Alamo have posted that if RealID had forced him to use his real name?

And, finally, my daughter was trying to get me to help her make WoW videos to post on YouTube.

Twenty Years Ago

Billy Mitchell got the first perfect score in Pac-Man, though his record has since been expunged due to accusations about cheating.

Forty Years Ago

The Sony Walkman was introduced and portable music has not been the same since.  A pair of classmates of mine had a father went to Japan on business regularly and who brought them each one of the brand new devices back from one of his trips.  Those were the first two I ever saw.

I think I still have a late 80s/early 90s model with dual tape decks and recording capability sitting in a drawer somewhere.  But now my phone does all that and more.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Is Darkpaw Games the New Future of EverQuest?
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. EVE Online Summer Season of Skill Points
  6. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  7. Local to be Blacked Out in Null Sec Soon
  8. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  9. Pondering all these Free Skill Points
  10. Null Sec Blackout to be Maintained Indefinitely
  11. Hilmar and the Chaos Era of EVE Online
  12. How do you solve a problem like the Drifters?

Search Terms of the Month

stuck in wow waterfall
[They’re trying to move to agile, but it takes time]

eve online starter pack 250k skill points or one million
[One million]

what does everquest get in god expansion
[ummm?]

eve where to find missions
[See, the UI is fail]

eve online untraceable bot
[you wish]

Game Time from ManicTime

Definitely more titles on the list this month.  Still, when it comes down to it I played EVE Online a lot and then everything else a little bit.

  1. EVE Online – 60.34%
  2. Dota Underlords – 11.99%
  3. Defense Grid – 6.97%
  4. StarCraft – 6.73%
  5. RimWorld – 4.97%
  6. World of Warcraft – 3.75%
  7. Civilization V – 2.35%
  8. Age of Empires 2 – 1.48%
  9. GTA V – 1.43%

Age of Empires 2

We have been talking about AOE2 at the office some of late, which got me to launch the game and see if I could still manage something of a build order.  My ability to focus on multiple things at once has diminished significantly in the last 20 years or so.

Civilization V

I mentioned last month that I got out Civ V largely because the Steam summer sale events rewarded you for playing games that had achievements.  I am not great at Steam achievements, but Civ V is the game where I have earned the most.  It didn’t do me any good though, the Team Corgi still won.

Defense Grid

As with Civ V, I got out Defense Grid largely because of the Steam summer sale event.  However, Defense Grid is still a great tower defense game and, while I have “won” the game, it remains full of achievements I have yet to unlock and modes I have yet to beat.

Dota Underlords

On Steam but not related to the Steam sale, I ended up trying one of the titles in the new genre of the month, auto battlers.  It is in early access, so it is free and changing and in need to tightening down.  But it remains oddly compelling.  Also, once I was losing badly, so walked away to answer the door to come back and find I had won the four rounds unattended. It is strange like that.

EVE Online

What didn’t happen in EVE Online this month?  Triglavians, Drifters, the null sec blackout, skill point handouts, crazy talk from the CEO, and a proposed tax increase.  The Chaos Era is upon us.  I spent a lot of time writing about EVE Online, though I did manage to log in for long enough to go on a few ops as well.

Grand Theft Auto V

This was my one Steam Summer Sale purchase.  After starting off in the tutorial for a bit, I decided that this was the sort of game where I needed a chunk of time and the right mood in order to get into it.  Sometimes that works out.  But then there is the Valkyria Chronicles, about which I said the same thing.  Steam says I played 9 minutes of that back in 2015.  Haven’t hit the right mood yet I guess.

Pokemon Go

Had a good month here, with my wife and I getting to run around to find Team Rocket Pokestops.  I have a post about that brewing.  I also added a bunch of friends by posting my friend code on Twitter in order to satisfy one of the special task requirements.  Now I keep running out of gifts to give them.

Level: 36 (+0 but so very close to 37)
Pokedex status: 432 (+7) caught, 457 (+4) seen
Pokemon I want: Luxray, which was my daughter’s favorite Pokemon back in the day
Current buddy: Bronzor

RimWorld

RimWorld remains my go-to quiet time want to play and listen to a podcast or audio book game.  It is also a game you play over the long term and one that is pretty easy to pick up after you have been away for a bit.  I still have a post brewing about it, and with a need to post every day next month I will probably get to that in August.

StarCraft

I bought the StarCraft Cartooned graphics pack.  I didn’t need it.  I don’t play that much StarCraft.  But it was very cute and the Carbots team gets some of the money.  That is about the only financial support they’re going to get from me, but at least they got that.  And I did end up playing through the campaign some again, so I got some use out of it.

World of Warcraft

A slow month for me in WoW as the play percentage above shows.  We got the Rise of Azshara update and I pretty much fell off the horse when it came to Azeroth.  I think that was mostly made up of me doing Darkmoon Faire stuff.  But maybe it was time for a breather before WoW Classic.

Coming Up

August seems to be shaping up as a busy time.

First, there is Blaugust.  I know Bel’s calendar say that this whole week is “Prep Week,” and that some people have posted about it already, but I don’t start in on Blaugust until it is actually August.  You will get my contribution towards prep week tomorrow.

The Chaos Era looks to carry on in EVE Online.  We will see if Hilmar’s forecast of weekly disruptions or CCP Falcon’s desire for a dystopian hellscape of an internet spaceship game comes to pass.  Meanwhile the null sec blackout and the free skill point dispensing continues unabated.

SynCaine and my daughter’s boyfriend have both suggested I try Riot’s Teamfight Tactics as an alternative to Dota Underlords.  Both have said TFT is better, simpler, shorter, or whatever.  However, both of them have played a lot of League of Legends, from whence the TFT units come, so that might be swaying them.  Still, I may give it a try.

But the biggest thing of all coming up in August is WoW Classic.  I expect it to be crazy crowded with long queues and the usual launch circus.  Once that hits it will likely overshadow most other topics for at least a week.

Summer Movie League – The Lion and Hollywood

Week eight of our Fantasy Movie League has come and gone.  I am in a day earlier than usual for this post because I already have the usual month in review post slated for tomorrow and in the probably vain hope that if I post a day earlier less people will forget to pick.

This week we saw Disney expected to dominate the box office again with The Lion King, while Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was set to open for a different audience.

There didn’t seem an obvious anchor, so I started off the week with what I considered a safe pick, 2x Saturday The Lion King, because it was still expected to be big enough to be worth splitting across three days.

I bounced back and forth between that and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but was not convinced that a long, R-rated QT film was going to break out despite the glowing reviews it was getting.  There are few things Hollywood loves more than itself, so the buzz felt like it could be as much about that as anything.  By the time the Thursday lock hit, I was back on The Lion King as I started.

And then Friday morning rolled around and showed Hollywood doing very well, so I quickly changed all of my unlocked picks to be to anchor on 1x Hollywood and 2x Spider-man, which did better than The Lion King as an anchor.  As the weekend bore on Hollywood seemed to be the winning anchor, with both Saturday and Sunday estimates going that way.

Of the people who picked this week, and only seven of us got our picks in on time, four went with Hollywood as an anchor while three went with The Lion King.

The results for the week looked like this:

  1. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $78,670,869
  2. Joanie’s Joint – $74,238,403
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $74,164,982
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $70,680,359
  5. Too Orangey For Crows – $70,010,961
  6. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $69,797,719
  7. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $68,964,454
  8. Conical Effort – $64,618,622
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – $35,905,264
  10. Goat Water Picture Palace – $19,178,404

Even with Hollywood being a requirement of the perfect pick, for our league the rankings were mixed together, with less than $10 million between first and seventh place.  The clincher was the best and worst performers, Annabelle Creation and The Farewell respectively, which each brought $2 million more per screen with them.

Hamster won the week, boosted by three screens of Annabelle followed by Joanie who had two screens of The Farewell.  SynCaine, in third place, was the outlier anchor, with one screen of The Lion King and then four screens of Toy Story 4 as his anchor.

The bottom three on the list did not pick, though Conical Effort got a bit of luck in that his pick from last week rolled over and wasn’t completely out of the ballpark.  It was good that The Lion King remained split across three days.

That left the overall season scores looking like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $790,780,136
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – $743,627,126
  3. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $712,874,832
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $701,614,990
  5. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $698,207,783
  6. Joanie’s Joint – $661,988,708
  7. Conical Effort – $658,395,093
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $605,167,976
  9. Goat Water Picture Palace – $545,631,866
  10. grannanj’s Cineplex – $514,738,873

Despite having the worst actual pick of the week, I maintained my lead, though Bhagpuss closed the gap a bit.  Hamster pulled out in front in the race for third place with their win this week.  Two weeks of not picking have put Goat and Grannanj well behind the pack.

The alternate scoring is also changing up some:

  1. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – 57
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – 53
  3. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – 49
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 43
  5. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 43
  6. Goat Water Picture Palace – 43
  7. Conical Effort – 33
  8. Joanie’s Joint – 32
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – 32
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 27

Because the alternate scoring dampens the effect of big wins and losses, I’m just four points ahead of Bhagpuss, a gap that could be closed in a single week, while Goat is still mid-pack, in a 3-way tie for fourth place, even after two weeks missing picks.

So that is the way things rounded out for week eight, which means that we are off to week nine.

The week nine lineup is:

  1. Lion King – $572
  2. Hobbs & Shaw FRI – $483
  3. Hobbs & Shaw SAT – $353
  4. Hobbs & Shaw SUN – $284
  5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – $276
  6. Spider-man: Far From Home – $108
  7. Toy Story 4 – $97
  8. The Farewell – $53
  9. Yesterday – $42
  10. Crawl – $34
  11. Aladdin – $30
  12. Annabelle Comes Home – $13
  13. Stuber – $10
  14. Avengers: Endgame – $9
  15. The Secret Life of Pets 2 – $9

This week the only thing to drop off the list was Midsommar, while the one new addition was Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

I was probably premature is saying that The Lion King was the last blockbuster in the season because we have a Fast & Furious movie here.  The problem for me, which may apply elsewhere, is that it has been billed as just Hobbs & Shaw various places, which didn’t spark any recognition.

Still, this spin-off from the main F&F story, featuring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, with Idris Elba as the villain, is slated to make around $90 million this coming weekend according to Box Office Pro, enough for the film to be split across the three days.

That leaves The Lion King as the most expensive pick, as it is expected to do better than any single day of Hobbs & Shaw, though Friday will be close.  That leaves a lot of variety in anchoring options.

My main question is how strong will Hobbs & Shaw really be?  I must be the wrong demographic because I cannot recall seeing any ads or trailers for this, and this summer I have been waist deep in ads for stuff like Stuber or the upcoming Angry Birds 2 movie.  So has there been enough build-up to support a $90 million weekend?  An early studio forecast had it at only $60 million.  Is just being related to F&F good enough for a 50% in the forecast?  Will this be another failure to meet expectations?

My Monday night lineup was 1x The Lion King, 1x Hobbs & Shaw Saturday, 1x Aladdin, and 5x The Secret Life of Pets, that last because it feels like it ought to have fallen off the list, so even at a $9 price it seems likely to be the worst performer, and we all love that $2 million bonus.  That seems like a safe-ish lineup.

But if Hobbs & Shaw is getting more hype than I have seen… are they running ads on League of Legends Twitch or some other place I never venture… then Friday could be a day worth picking.  Friday, Saturday, and then some filler… and we have lots of cheap filler this week… would be  strong.

Anyway, whatever you pick, pick soon.  Don’t forget to pick this week.  This could be the last big weekend, as there is nothing else on the long range forecast for the season expected to bring in more than $20 million.  It will be all The Lion King as anchor after this.

Tax Increase in New Eden

CCP will, at times, let the lore drive changes in the game, or at least pretend to do so.  The local chat blackout in null sec and its indefinite duration was pitched as a Secure Commerce Commission directive to preserve the supplies of “Quantum-Entangled 4-Helium” which are, within the game, said to power the “liquid router network” on which com channels rely.

Now CCP is going the same way with a tax increase.

Last week a CCP posted an in-game news report in which CONCORD proposed the establishment of a “New Eden Defense Fund” in order to raise funds for in order to support the resistance to the Triglavian invasion.

This was followed today by a news report that the CONCORD Assembly had passed the resolution to raise taxes, specifically:

Substantially increased tax and broker fees are to be levied on interstellar market transactions by the Secure Commerce Commission, following today’s passage in the CONCORD Assembly of the “New Eden Defense Fund Act YC121” (NEDFA). SCC markets will see base transaction tax increase from 2.00% to 5.00%, while the base brokerage fee will rise from 3.00% to 5.00%.

Because of the Triglavians you will now be paying more in taxes on the items you sell in New Eden.

And you’ll be defending New Eden all the more so now

Over at INN Rhivre wrote a post calling the first post a sign that a tax hike was coming, though she suggested that her conclusion might just be tinfoil.  But it turned out to be anything but.

In New Eden the broker’s fee and transaction tax come out of the seller’s take, so expect seller’s to boost prices to reflect the increased cut CONCORD plans to take.

The transaction tax will hit everybody.  That is the fee collected on every market sale in NPC stations and player owned Upwell structures.  Boosting from a base of 2% to 5% is a big markup.  At least Accounting, the skill you can train to reduce the transaction tax… because of course there is a skill to do that… lowers the rate by percentage.  With the tax change there will also be an update to the Accounting skill.

With each level of Accounting you have trained reduces the tax by 11%, so those of us with Accounting V trained up get a 55% reduction so will see the fee go from 1% to 2.25%.  If you are a seller in New Eden and do not have Accounting V yet, this might be something to invest those free skill points into.

The broker’s fee side of this will hit those trading in NPC stations, so it will be more of a Jita tax.  Player owned Upwell structures set their own broker’s fee. (So far at least.) The primary way that player hubs like the Tranquility Trading Tower Keepstar in Perimeter lures sellers… at least sellers of PLEX and skill injectors… away from Jita is with lower broker’s fees.

Now the Perimeter market will have an even larger advantage over Jita.

The Broker Relations skill, which can reduce the the broker’s fee in NPC stations (but not at player owned structures), is not as generous as the Accounting skill.  Currently the Broker Relations reduces the broker’s fee by .1% per level trained, so that Broker Relations V knocks off .5%. With the proposed change CCP wants to make that a .3% change per level, boosting the reduction with Broker Relations V to 1.5%.

With the broker’s fee going from 3% to 5%, those of us with Broker Relations V will see a drop from 2.5% to 3.5%.  That should pull some additional ISK out of the economy.

(The EVE University Wiki has more on market related skills as they stand before this proposed change)

And pulling ISK out of the economy seems to be the likely goal of CCP.  In the monthly economic report, the transaction tax and broker’s fees are the two largest ISK sinks in New Eden.  Together in June they pulled about 21.5 trillion ISK out of the New Eden economy.

June 2019 – Sinks and Faucets chart

That amount was approximately one third of the total amount removed from the economy in June.

This should make for a couple of interesting monthly economic reports in the coming months.  When the July MER comes out we will see the effect of the local blackout in null sec, which ought to have an impact on NPC bounties, by far the largest ISK faucet.  And, presuming this tax change is implemented soon (it will be live on the test server tomorrow), the August MER ought to see a boost in the amount of ISK removed via these two sinks.

Also of interest will be the breakdown of where broker’s fees end up.  In the June MER, 78% of broker’s fees were collected in NPC stations, thus were taken out of the game, while 22% were collected in player owned Upwell structures and thus stayed in the economy and were simply put into the pockets of the structure owners.

June 2019 Broker’s Fee Split

If all else remains equal, that balance should tip more towards the NPC side of the equation.  But if the tax drives people to sell in player owned structures, it could very well move the other way. (And no, I don’t know why neither of those numbers, or their total, match the broker’s fee number on the sinks chart.)

All things to keep an eye on in the upcoming reports.

In the mean time, you and I and everybody else will likely soon be paying more for our market transactions.  Whether or not this is part of Hilmar’s “Chaos Era” updates has not been indicated.

Related items:

Hilmar and the Chaos Era of EVE Online

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

-Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight

Talking in Stations released a show on Friday focused on the null sec blackout featuring CCP Hilmar Veigar Petursson, along with EVE Community Manager CCP Falcon and EVE Online Brand Manager CCP Goodfella, and it is a show people will be talking about for quite a while.

Local is now delayed in null sec

It is also a bit of a frustrating show to which to listen as the TiS staff basically failed to challenge their guests on anything in even the most mild fashion.  The tone is set in the first few minutes when, after Matterall asks about the effect of the blackout of local in null sec, Hilmar says that activity is up in the game, saying that the MAU and DAU numbers for July are at their highest point in the last five years.

Here is where, in the back of my head, I am yelling, “Ask if that is because of the Season of Skills event, which required people to login daily to get free skill points!”  What we got instead was Carnaeros basically holding Hilmar’s coat, nicely explaining that those terms meant “Monthly Active Users” and “Daily Active Users” and then letting Hilmar carry on as though the blackout was all that went on in July.

I get that this is sort of the style of TiS.  Matterall is a nice guy and likes to create a space where everybody on the show gets their turn to speak without being interrupted.  (Imagine the same interview on the Open Comms Show, where Dirk and Rahne would be shouting over each other to try to respond.)  This is, perhaps, how you get guests like Hilmar, by having a reputation of encouraging your guests to speak by giving them easy questions and letting them go their own way.  But given what was said by Hilmar and Falcon, it made for an unsatisfying listening experience as my brain kept coming up with follow up questions to expand or clarify or nail down what was really being said.

And a lot was said on the show, which I am sure people will be digesting and examining and writing or speaking about for weeks to come.   I have things I want to pick apart from the show and, as I noted on Twitter, I could make a months worth of “Quote of the Day” posts out of it.  This could be a watershed moment for the game, the announcement of some drastic changes coming to EVE Online.

Or it might have been the online equivalent of a late night drunken dorm room discussion in college, a metaphorical circle jerk of “wouldn’t it be great…” sort of ideas.

So my first question out of the gate is how seriously should we take this interview?

I don’t even know who CCP Goodfella is, and that he is the brand manager makes it likely we can discount pretty much any ideas he espouses… not that I can recall anything he said.  Sorry man.

CCP Falcon is the Community Manager, which puts him in the thick of things with the players. But, by his own admission, he is not part of the design and development loop.  I had a post with a quote from him on Friday around a reply he put on Reddit about what he would do about capital ships.  He made it clear down the way that he has his own opinions about the game, which he can freely express, but which are not necessarily the official line of CCP.

So when Falcon is on about his dystopian hellscape vision of EVE Online, he often prefaces it with “If it were up to me,” a solid indication that it is not.  The problem is that this tends to blur the line between when he is speaking for the company and when he is speaking for himself, as most people will only remember what he said and not how he prefaced it.  Is it his opinion or CCP’s that people who don’t like risk when they mine should go back to high sec?

And then there is Hilmar.  He was involved in the development of the game, wrote code and was part of the design team and has been CEO at CCP since 2004.  While Pearl Abyss now owns CCP, he is still the boss on the ground in Iceland, so when he says something it gets some weight.

But how much weight does it get… or should it even get?

He had been absent from the game for quite a stretch, making a big deal about returning and trying out Planetary Interaction and finding the UI for it abysmal.  The CEO complains, a dev blog appears, and changes go in.

He has said that he had been playing in wormhole space lately and now we have the local chat blackout in null sec.  This is a change that has been talked about for years, but the CEO goes and plays in WH space and suddenly it happens.

Now he says he is playing faction warfare, so I guess that is good news for somebody I hope.  Maybe FW will get some love… or maybe some FW mechanic will get stuffed into null sec.

Of course, he was also the voice of CCP during the Incarna fiasco where he manifested some J. Allen Brack level arrogance in telling the players that the company knew better what they wanted when it came to the cash shop while dismissing people who wanted the hangar view of their ship back rather than the resource hungry captain’s quarter or the metaphorically disastrous locked door, continuing to denigrate it as “ship spinning” even as they said they would return the feature in some form.

After that Hilmar declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over and CCP started updating and iterating on features they had launched then neglected.

I am also a bit skeptical of Hilmar’s relationship with how things have worked out in the past.  One of his big talking points during the show was making the game easier for new players but harder for veterans.  Malcanis says that anything you do for new players tends to benefit vets even more so, while we have clearly seen that making things difficult for veterans tends to just lock them into their position, with the changes essentially turning into barriers that keep newer players out.

If he is talking about a better NPE… a topic about which I have another post brewing… that is one thing.  But beyond that how do you help new players?  And does the planned Chaos Era help the new player retention issue that CCP went on about at EVE North?

So, does Hilmar saying something mean it is going to happen?  Not that what he is saying is good or bad, but is he the final word?  Does this represent consensus in the development team or just voicing his own opinions?  Is the Chaos Era about to begin in New Eden?  Will there be a dev blog?  Hilmar said that there are a lot of destabilizing things that will show up in the coming weeks.  So maybe it is already a done deal?

I don’t know.  We’ll probably have to wait and see and evaluate what we get.

Related material:

 

SuperData June Numbers see the Return of WoW

As we near the end of July SuperData Research has their monthly digital revenue chart for June available, so it is time to take a look at that.

SuperData Research Top 10 – June 2019

On the PC end of the chart some things stayed the same when compared to April and May.  Basically the top five titles remained in the same order.  The “LDFCF” remains solid.  Repetition is dull though, so the interesting part is slots 6-10.

World of Tanks, which seems to live in the 6-8 range, popped up one place to 6th as sales of Total War: Subsided.

In 7th position we have the return of World of Warcraft… or World of Warcraft West… what ever that means in the reporting sense.

WoW had gone missing from the chart in April and May, helping to cement speculation that the Battle for Azeroth expansion had been less than a success with the player base.  Even from where I sit it is hard to deny that mistakes were made.  But for June it is back.

Was that because the long awaited 8.2 patch and the ability to unlock flying in the expansion had finally arrived?  Did the approach of WoW Classic and the load tests get people to re-up?  Or did Blizz fiddle the numbers in April and May so that other titles from its stable would get attention?  One notable thing about those two charts is that WoW went away and Hearthstone appeared one month and Overwatch the next.  Blizz controls the data that is released on revenues, so this could have been an attempt to show they are not still just a one product company.  Or maybe not.

In 8th place if newcomer FIFA Online 3, followed by perennial bottom of the list contender DOTA 2, and Roblox, which pops onto the list every now and then, taking 10th place.

And, to quickly summarize, Fortnite and FIFA 19 maintained their spots at the top of the console chart, with GTA V continuing to place mid-pack (expect it to pop next month with the new casino update for online), while Pokemon Go, with anniversary celebrations kicking off in June, made it to 2nd on the Mobile end, up from 7th, while Candy Crush Saga fell from 2nd last month to 4th in June.

Basically I want to get back to PC topics and bring up an Overwatch revenue tweet from SuperData earlier this week that gave us the revenue build up for the game over its three years since launch.

Overwatch in-game spending

Leaving aside box sales, which I am sure followed the usual pattern of an early spike followed by a low rumble afterwards, Overwatch has successfully crossed the billion dollar mark.  That is a hell of an achievement.  It is interesting to see the PC side lead the console side by what looks like a ratio of 3 to 1.  I wonder if that also happens to represent the breakout of the player base.

But I am also reminded that WoW had multiple consecutive billion dollar revenue years over its life and, were Blizz to break out the numbers, I would bet that it is still good for more than half that much revenue during an expansion year and not a ton less for an off year.  The subscription model is still pretty good when you can make it work.  Or, if you don’t want to go that route, you might need to sell champions like League of Legends, which still surpasses a billion annually selling those and skins.

Again, Overwatch is a big success, but you can kind of see why it only makes the SuperData chart on rare occasions.  It stands among giants.

On to other things… like the NPD chart for June.  As always, the NPD chart combines PC and console titles, covers US domestic sales only, and is both retail and digital, but both categories are not available for everything on the list, as noted below.

  1. Super Mario Maker 2*
  2. Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled
  3. Mortal Kombat 11
  4. Grand Theft Auto V
  5. Minecraft
  6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  7. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  8. NBA 2K19
  9. Mario Kart 8*
  10. Days Gone

*No digital data

The thing to note this month is how bizarrely different the two sets of charts are.   We can discount the digital titles that NPD does not appear to be getting data from, which is pretty much the entire PC column.   The only overlap is GTA V, NBA 2K19, and Days Gone, all like from console sales, and they aren’t even ranked in the same order.

Meanwhile, SuperData is clearly not getting data from Nintendo or, if they are, then digital sales are not as big on the Switch as they are on other consoles.  But the Switch is definitely on its own plane of existence.  Maybe they’re what is keeping GameStop alive these days.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions League of Legends fell off the list completely, with the top spot taken over by Fortnite, followed by Grand Theft Auto V.  The rest of the list included CS:GO, Overwatch, and MinecraftDOTA 2 also fell off the list this month.  Social media impressions do not correspond to sales, but are a measure of how much hype and talk games are getting on the various social media services.

Finally, news items included with the SuperData monthly report:

  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has one of the best launches in genre history. We estimate Crash Team Racing sold 552,000 digital units worldwide in June despite launching late into the month, marking the second-best launch month of any racing game on console, behind Ubisoft’s The Crew 2 in 2018. Digital sales were likely boosted by the above-average download rates seen so far this year but also point to the sustained popularity of the Crash Bandicoot IP.
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege‘s player base is as strong as ever. June was Rainbow Six‘s best month for Monthly Active Users and sixth-best month for in-game spending on the back of the Operation Phantom Sight update, despite the title being well into its fourth year. Total in-game revenue rose to $36.8 million across console and PC in June, an increase of 50% from May and 9% from June of last year.
  • Overwatch surpasses $1 billion from in-game spending. Blizzard’s MOBA shooter became the 64th game on either console, PC or mobile to generate over $1 billion from in-game content alone. Overwatch is also Activision Blizzard’s sixth IP to hit this mark, after World of WarcraftCall of DutyDestinyCandy Crush and Hearthstone.
  • Publishers are experimenting more with steep discounts. As the free-to-play business model continues to take mindshare in the industry, publishers seem more open to significantly lowering unit prices for catalogue AAA franchises in order to expand the player base. EA’s Sims 4 and Take-Two’s NBA2K19, two franchises that benefit immensely from add-on content purchases, both saw huge spikes in unit sales after prices were brought down below $5.

Quote of the Day – Death to Faxes and Other Capital Ideas

I just fundamentally don’t like force aux hulls. My view would be to delete them, give the logistics role and triage role back to carriers, then refund any SP that was wasted into force aux training.

-CCP Falcon, Comment on the Obsolescence of Capitals Reddit thread

The state of capital ships, a hot topic for both null sec and low sec, has been under a lot of discussion recently.  Last weekend I had a quote from Arrendis over at INN on the state of null sec that led him to advocate for a serious change to titans.

Since then we have had posts from Jin’taan, over at INN, and Suitonia, at his blog, about capital ships, their current state, and where they should head.  And, while Force Auxiliaries come up as an issue, only Falcon has declared for their deletion and a return to a time when the humble carrier had that role.

Why would you ever think there are too many faxes?

Honestly, I think a reversion to the pre-fax state of the game might be one of the more viable ideas.  I don’t think CCP even has to refund any skill points since carriers and faxes both use the same skills.

But why stop there?  If we’re going to revert things that haven’t worked out well, lets get rid of the fighter mechanic as well and return to carriers as over-sized drone boats.  Super carriers can have their old fighter-bombers back and both supers and carriers can return to a simpler time.

Anyway, as noted, CCP Falcon has the most extreme plan of the group, save for maybe the Arrendis “just blow them up” option for titans.  But don’t fret that just because CCP Falcon says something about game mechanics that this is now the official plan for the game.  He isn’t a game designer, so his opinion on this is just that, an opinion.

CCP Falcon is certainly not entertaining any completely crazy ideas.  Somebody opened a thread on the official forums when the Drifters started hitting null sec structures wanting confirmation that CCP was essentially building up to a massive player wipe to reboot the game.  That gives us a second quote for this post:

No.

Wiping out almost seventeen years of player history would be the stupidest thing ever.

There’s no plan to “reset EVE”.

Thread closed.

-CCP Falcon, thread in the EVE Online forums

There is little worse you can do than flush the long term investment your customers have made in your game down the toilet.  Those worrying that this might happen are simply borrowing trouble, while those wishing for don’t care for the health of the game as much as they think they do.

Planned VNI Nerf Hits By Surprise

Back in June at EVE North one of the things that CCP announced that they had in the works was a planned nerf of the Vexor Navy Issue, the ubiquitous ratting ride across all of null sec.  Nosy Gamer has a summary of CCP’s EVE North statements.

The Glacial Drift SKIN on a VNI

A dev blog followed that up up last week with more details as to how the VNI problem would be addressed.

The problem itself is that a single hull had become generally accepted as the right answer for null sec anomaly ratting to the point that it is rare to see anything else.  The hull was also usable by Alpha clones, meaning that disposable accounts could be used to snuffle up ratting ISK, and if the account was run by a bot, caught and banned, the perpetrator could just roll up a new account and start over.

The approach to taking on the VNI scourge was two-fold.

First, to change the VNI to make it more of a railgun platform by adding in bonuses for that while reducing the drone control bandwidth so it couldn’t field the full flight of heavy drones it had before.

Second, to reduce drone skills available to Alpha clones so that it is more difficult to AFK rat with drones.  Those changes were:

  • Reducing Heavy Drone Operation from level IV to level III
  • Reducing Medium Drone Operation from level V to level IV
  • Reducing Drone Interfacing from level IV to level III

The VNI would remain a decent ship, just not for unattended ratting, and especially not for Alpha clones.

That was what was under discussion per the dev blog, which came out last week.  However, people logged in today to find that the VNI and Alpha clone changes had been applied without much in the way of notice.  The update was appended to the June release patch notes.

This move was unexpected for two reasons.

First, CCP generally saves these sorts of changes for monthly updates.  They get announced, mulled over in the forums for a couple of weeks, get a final dev blog, and become part of the release.  They generally don’t just show up randomly on a Thursday unannounced.

Second, there was a feeling that that CCP wouldn’t bother with the VNI nerf until the local channel blackout in null sec had run for a while.  Part of the appeal of the blackout to many in null sec was going out and blowing up VNIs.  Why make them even more scarce when they are such appealing targets?

But there we go.  The nerf hit today and people were surprised.  CCP moves in mysterious was.  I heard that earlier today CCP Falcon blew off a scheduled meeting with CSM9.