Monthly Archives: July 2021

July in Review

The Site

There has been some discussion of the summer slump that EVE Online has been in, with the peak concurrent user numbers taking a dive over the last month or so.  There are several theories and lots of possible influences on that number, not the least of which is that it is summer and pandemic restrictions have been relaxed so some people just want to go on vacation after 15 months stuck at home.

EVE Online gets the focus here because they let people see their online numbers all the time and there is a site dedicated to tracking them.  Other games are less forthcoming with these sorts of stats, which makes it look like it might just be a New Eden problem.

Looking at my own blog stats however, I see a similar trend when it comes to pages view when I bring up the week by week stats.

Weekly page views – May – July 2021

The current week is a little low due to the measurement being from Monday to Sunday, but you can see the trend down from May to July, which lines up pretty well with the weekly peak concurrent user number I have been tracking in my weekly World War Bee updates.

This is not to say that CCP doesn’t have other problems, but it feels like there is a bit of a slump in interest in video games after more than a year of people binging on them.

One Year Ago

The 2020 Steam Summer Sale finished up.  I bought some things.

In TorilMUD, aging was abolished.

SSG was compensating people for outages in Lord of the Rings Online.

Minecraft gave us the Nether Update.  I went out and found a crimson forest in the nether.

I was reflecting on Diablo II at its twenty year anniversary.  We didn’t know for sure there would be a remaster at that point.

Blizzard was getting us more details about the Shadowlands beta and launch.

In WoW Classic the instance group was finishing up Zul’Farrak and then meandering about Maraudon, which we finished up on our second run.

Blizzard was banning botters in classic while getting ready to open up the Ahn’Qiraj war effort event.  As part of the anti-botting effort they were limiting the number of instances players could spawn in a day, but we were at least getting some extra bag slots.

CCP cancelled their San Diego player event as Covid did not look to be going away any time soon.

I also resigned myself to the fact that, despite past promises, CCP was going to keep selling skill points in EVE Online.  (I’d feel better if they stopped being so dumb about it.)

In game we saw the launch of the Zenith Quadrant, the first part which was a small update to command ships, and an official capsuleer cemetery at Molea.  The June MER showed that mining was shifting to high sec after the resource changes.

But the bulk of my posts in July were about the opening of World War Bee, which I am just going to list out rather than try to create a paragraph narrative:

Five Years Ago

Pokemon Go was everywhere after it launched.  Everywhere.

I listed out the NBI Class of 2016.  I haven’t gone to check how many survived the year.

Daybreak turned off the last PlanetSide server and the game was gone… though it lingered on the server status page for a while.

Daybreak did launch a pair of special event servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  I was keen enough to go earn the special mount on the EQII server.

There was strange news for Turbine as their parent company, Warner Brothers, announced that they were transitioning into a mobile app development studio.  We wondered what that meant for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

In Minecraft I was tinkering with maps and night renders while Aaron created a huge map room in game.

In World of Warcraft I managed to unlock flying in Draenor.  Just in time too, as the 7.0 patch was already pre-loading.  Soon the garrison gold mine would be turned off.  And then it hit, bringing new features.

In EVE Online the Casino War was winding down.  There was a Keepstar to chase, the alleged hellcamp, and some sovereignty exchanges in Pure Blind.  That wasn’t really going anywhere though.  We killed four titans in Okagaiken and blew up a CSAA just to show we were still fighting.  But in the end we admitted defeat and began packing for our trek to greener pastures.

Our destination was Delve, ever the region that calls to Goons.  But first we had to get through Rakapas.  I was there for a bit before I ended up soloing my carrier down to our staging in Sakht, accruing the maximum about of jump fatigue possible.

I also hit 160 million skill points while the Blog Banter spoke of malaise.

Ten Years Ago

Google+ was already starting to become annoying. (At the end of that post I also link out to an article that predicts that social media in general, and Facebook specifically, will start to fade by 2014.)

I tried Civ World, the Facebook interpretation of the classic Civilization series of games.  I didn’t like it.

In EVE Online, the results of the emergency CSM Incarna summit were released with CCP basically saying, “Ooops.”

I hit level 50 in LOTRO, got into Eregion, and actually saw the door into Moria.   Only a couple of years had passed since I bought the expansion. Gaff was ahead of me, as usual.   Meanwhile, Isengard was in beta, but nobody was supposed to talk about it.

Getting lost… rules.

EA, BioWare, and their new Origin service got together and combined my accounts without bothering to mention they were doing it in advance.  Just another day at EA as I understand it.  Customers come behind their own convenience.  Still, I was interested in their authenticator and how it stacked up against others.

Speaking of authenticators, SOE made one available as well that looked just like the Blizzard model.  But they cannot be swapped, one for the other.  I got the official line from VASCO on that.

And on the EverQuest II front, they announced that they were going to revamp Freeport, which I took as a waste of time.  (Plus, of course, Qeynos got shoved off until later.)  I am still not convinced that either revamp was worth the effort of the time spent downloading the assets.  But I am not sure Beastlords were either.  They seemed pretty broken when they launched.

The instance group wrapped up our last adventure in EverQuest II Extended.  There were a number of ways the game wasn’t right for us.  It wasn’t just the ugly mounts.

The pending closure of Star Wars Galaxies led to interest (and concerns) about SWG emulation.

But PlanetSide 2 news was coming.

I started playing Need for Speed: World, a driving MMO.  It wasn’t a bad game with the right music playing.

Zynga helped reveal the two faces of Tobold.

And World of Warplanes was announced, which got me wondering if this might not be a spiritual successor to Air Warrior of old. [The answer to that was “no.”]

Fifteen Years Ago

Twitter launched.  This blog has been entirely part of the Twitter era.

Microsoft was talking about a device to challenge the iPod and denying they would ship an XBox 360 with an HD DVD drive.  Being on the mark half the time is pretty good for them.

EA was trying to retain people by giving out more stock options and revising under water options while Take-Two Interactive was being investigated over stock grant shenanigans.

The ESA announced they were downsizing their yearly E3 conference.

The Civ IV – Warlords, the first expansion for the title, came out on Windows,

Twenty-Five Years Ago

The perhaps unfortunately named (and all the more so given the current scandal) CUC International purchased Blizzard Entertainment parent Davidson & Associates and Sierra Online, which became the heart of the new CUC Software.  The company later became Cedant Software, Havas Interactive, and eventually Vivendi Games.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. California Explores Gaming Power Usage
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. LOTRO Launches the Shadowfax and Treebeard Legendary Servers
  9. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  10. On Immersion
  11. The End of Scarcity Foreseen in EVE Online in Q4 2021
  12. The Fraternity Alliance Update and the Direction of the War

Search Terms of the Month

is imperiume tech stock the one that bill gates called the holy grail
[Google says “no”]

how to get to the scarlet desert eq
[I actually have a whole post about that]

sylvanas x anduin wordpress
[The math doesn’t add up]

minecraft warm biome near cold biome
[I have screenshots of an ice biome taken from a desert biome]

Game Time from ManicTime

I came into the month working pretty hard on WoW Classic, or at least alts there.  Then the war started heating up a bit in New Eden and I tried a playing a few other titles.

  • WoW Classic – 51.04%
  • EVE Online – 24.36%
  • RimWorld – 12.44%
  • Flashing Lights – 4.64%
  • MMO Tycoon 2 – 4.51%
  • World of Warcraft – 1.06%
  • New World – 0.95%

EVE Online

Lots of little things going on in New Eden, but the war itself wasn’t very exciting.  PAPI decided to take the summer off at one point, then changes their minds and now are coming back for a final try to take our capitol.  They’ve only had a Keepstar next door since November.

New World

So yeah, I pre-ordered and have played a tiny bit in the beta.  Things have changed a lot since I was in one of the early betas a couple of years back at this point.  I am not sure I am happy with the direction the game took.  But more on all of that at a later date.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go Fest was the big deal this month.  My wife and I did a lot of that.  But the climb from 40 to 50… that’s a lot of xp.  To get from level 47 to level 48 you need 21 million xp, which is more than levels 1-40 combined.  You need to be pretty hard core for that, and yet I met a level 50 player during the event.  In talking to him, he just does everything I do, just a lot more often.  For example, he has caught almost 400K Pokemon, while my total is about 18K.

Level: 41 (69% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 654 (+8) caught, 677 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Heracross would finish my Johto Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

RimWorld

With the coming of the Ideology update for the game, I bought it and gave it a try.  I will no doubt have some words to write about what changed, but in general it is an easy game to sink back into even with the updates.

Steam Games

As I noted, I bought a few titles during the Steam Summer Sale.  You can see I’ve played them a bit in the Game Time section this post.  I plan to write something about each of them.  But plans often fall by the wayside.  I thought I would have a post up about at least one of them by this point, and yet here we are.

World of Warcraft

It was a bit more than the usual routine for retail WoW this month.  I did the Darkmoon Faire quests, but then I spent some time with pet battles when they had the bonus event running.  Still, over all, I didn’t spend much more than an hour with the game.

WoW Classic

I went into July strong on Burning Crusade Classic.  Or, at least the vanilla content as re-worked by the Burning Crusade updates.  I leveled my rogue from 21 to 37 while working on crafting and some other things.  And then the giant harassment scandal blew up at Blizz and, while my subscription hasn’t lapsed yet and our group is still playing a bit… we have paid for the privileged… we’re also discussing what we ought to do.

Coming Up

August means we will be getting some Q2 2021 financial reports.  Activision Blizzard should be interesting because it ought to give some insight into what the end of the lockdown in many places has meant to video games.

When it comes to WoW specifically the 9.1 patch came out at the very end of Q2, so the impact of that and the flow of players from retail WoW into FFXIV won’t be reflected until Q3 results.  And Q3… well, now that the state of California is after Activision Blizzard for creating and abetting a hostile workplace, I can only see things getting worse for the company.  They’re just another Riot and all their words about diversity and inclusiveness were just BS.  If you needed an actual example of virtue signalling… trying to ride on a popular wave that you don’t really care about… this might be it.  The question time for the Q2 call should be lit.

Then there is EVE Online.  August is traditionally a slow month for CCP as it is the nicest weather all year in Iceland, so they tend to emulate the French and go on vacation if possible.  But World War Bee still… rages?  I am not sure it has “raged” at all in the last six months.  But PAPI has promised an all out assault on the Imperium capitol, so maybe the rage will return to space, rather than hanging out in r/eve.

And, of course, it is the start of Blaugust, the annual blogging celebration.  It is not too late to join in.  There will be more about that tomorrow.

Friday Bullet Points Vying for Medals

The Olympics are going on right now in Tokyo.  They’re a year late and the local population isn’t happy about having a bunch of strangers show up when we’re still in a pandemic, but if I turn on live TV… which I hadn’t done since January 6th… and find the NBC channel, there they are.

I saw some sort of skateboarding event, and I was surprised to find that women’s softball made a return to the games because the US women’s team is so dominant that they removed it as an event, so I am not sure what changed there.

Anyway, I have some “not quite a full post” items again, so I figure I will make them vie for medals as well.  Who will win the coveted Friday Bullet Points gold medal?

  • Blizzard Continues to Blow Up

After last weeks lawsuit and the company’s “nothing was broken and we’ve fixed it in any case” response, names from Blizzard’s past, including Morhaime, Metzen, and Street, popped up with minor mea culpas about their failings which both stirred things up and served as a counterpoint to Fran Townsend’s statement, which drew on her nearly four months of experience with the company to reject the results of the two year investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

While more hostile workplace workplace stories continued to pop up about the company, many current employees… the people who have to put up with much of the bad environment that senior management and HR have allowed to fester… were very unhappy with both Ms. Townsend’s and the company’s response to the lawsuit.  Word was that work at the company had pretty much ground to a halt.  Around two thousand current employees signed a petition and a walkout was staged to protest the company’s response to the lawsuit and to demand that they fix the company’s toxic culture and roll back some of their more oppressive policies.

This got Bobby Kotick to finally release a statement apologizing for the tone deaf nature of the company’s response to the lawsuit along with a promise to do better, which included hiring a law firm to make sure any accusations were taken seriously.  And then somebody pointed out that the firm they hired was the same firm that Amazon uses to break unionization movements in their ranks and it all seemed like just more of the company trying to protect itself from its employees.  Employees getting organized makes management panic.

And then even more stories showed up, this time fueled by the social media accounts of male staffers who seemed quite unashamed about their behavior.  More just keeps showing up.

At least the WoW Team started removing mentions of former Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi, who the company admitted was fired last year due to his behavior.

There’s a new field marshal in town… at least in retail

Meanwhile, institutional investors are mulling over a lawsuit about all of this.  Yes, you do have a fiduciary responsibility to not run a company like a frat house until the government sues you.

Medal Status:  Disqualified for doping… as in the place is run by dopes.

  • California has Standards

I was trying to figure out why a post I wrote early last year about a state of California sponsored study in to video game related power usage was blowing up in my stats earlier this week when MMO Fallout pointed to an article over at The Register about how Dell won’t ship certain computer configurations to California.  This caused a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth and headlines about gaming PCs being banned California.  How will gamers in the golden state survive?

The reality was a bit more nuanced.  Actually, The Register article was nuanced, but a lot of the follow on seems to be more fearmongering than reality.

The restriction isn’t even on peak power consumption, but how much power a configuration consumes when it is idle.  And it has nothing to do with building your own.  You can order your parts and put them together however you like.  Dell and other builders can figure this out.

Medal Status: 80 Plus Bronze score

  • Neverwinter Embraces Bards

The Bard class is one of those MMORPG things that, when done right, can be magical.  Bards in EverQuest, for example, were incredible, and all the more so because players figured out how to push them beyond their expected limits.

Sing “heal” dammit!

So when I saw that the next Neverwinter expansion included a bard class, I was immediately interested.  I haven’t touched the game in years and I doubt that will change, but I am curious about how bards will work out.  Their promo reads:

A versatile adventurer, the bard commands the power of song to be a powerful healer or a stylish combatant. Regardless of their path, it is a bard’s ability to perform that determines how far they can go

Seems in tune, but I will wait for the reviews.  The game is also undergoing a level squish, always a daring venture.  I wonder if the effort that goes into it will be worth the reward.

Medal Status: Silver tongued

  • Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons Expansion

ArenaNet has announced the target launch date for the next Guild Wars 2 expansion.  Called End of Dragons, it should be arrive in February of 2022.

But we get to end them, right?

As with Neverwinter, I don’t really pay much mind to GW2, but an expansion is worthy of note and Bhagpuss says it will even include fishing.  Sounds interesting.

Medal Status: Golden dragon scale of hope

  • Crimson Desert Mirage

Meanwhile Pearl Abyss, known for Black Desert Online and, to a lesser extent, their ownership of CCP and EVE Online, announced this week that their next bit title, Crimson Desert, has been delayed indefinitely.

The desert is implied I think

While Peal Abyss has other titles in the pipeline, Crimson Desert has been the big focus, so its delay may impact how the company does on the market.

Medal Status: Did not finish

Which Games Hand Out Cash in the MMORPG Space?

I mention in Tuesday’s post about the Grand Heist update for EVE Online that CCP had launched a new login campaign that included an ISK reward for Omega accounts.

Grand Heist Login Rewards

Universal basic income arrives in New Eden!

This got a lot of attention and the usual suspects were quick to call out anybody who seemed to be complaining about it, to the point that there were literally more threads started complaining about people complaining than there were actual complaints in /r/eve.

But there was a lot of “WTF?” in the air all the same.  This was in part because CCP has spent the last couple of years turning down ISK faucets in the game and generally nerfing income, which makes them suddenly handing out ISK a bit… strange.

I mean, I think we all can agree that it was an abrupt change of direction without having to dig into the “why” aspect of the whole thing.

In addition, at least for me, the whole thing was kind of strange because I cannot recall any MMORPG that I have ever played that had a daily login reward that just straight up handed you the basic in-game currency.

I have been given cash shop cash, vouchers, gear, cosmetics, pets, mounts, toys, vendor trash, companions, and all sorts of other game related items.  But the main in-game currency?  Never.

CCP, which has been doing login rewards for a couple of years now, both in ongoing daily and special event related forms, has been pretty stringent on not even giving you something that could be sold in game for cash.  They have over the years made so that most items they give out are consumed on redemption.  You can’t trade that SKIN from the event, so you better redeem it on the right character!  And the items that are not are generally of little value.  I mean, I am sure somebody has found a way to make some ISK off of those 5 run Tech I blueprints that we keep getting handed, but I haven’t.  I generally stick them in my cargo to add to the flavor of my loss mails.

So with this I wondered, for example, if WoW has ever just given me some gold?  Has EverQuest or EverQuest II ever handed me some platinum coins for just logging in?  I don’t think so.

The closest I can come is LOTRO and their daily hobbit presents, which sometimes hands you a pile of coins that you can bring to the vendor for in-game currency.  And they still aren’t just handing you some actual currency, just something you can sell to an NPC.

But my horizons are pretty narrow these days.  Among the many legitimate complaints you can make about this blog is the fact that I am still playing mostly the same games… and sometimes even the same content… that I was writing about nearly fifteen years back.

So maybe this is a thing that just hasn’t landed in the few titles I spend time with yet.

And thus I ask the question: Is this a thing in your MMORPG?  Do you get handed in-game currency in the titles you play?

Somebody has to have seen this.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bhagpuss?

Inquiring minds want to know.

As for the “why” of things, CCP is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and stashed away on a volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic.  We can guess, but I’ve heard from former devs is that CCP is so isolated from the rest of the industry that they end up arriving at various points more due to accidental circumstance than by design, even in an industry where this often seems to be the norm.

So some will say it is because of the sagging player count or the shrinking economy or to cover for the fact that the company will be mostly on vacation for the next month or that Pearl Abyss made them do it.  But it could as well be their form of the rainbow covenant, the sign to all of us that the economic starvation era is really coming to an end.

Anyway, we’ll see where things head.

Immersion in Middle-Earth

I set myself an ambitious goal.  I was all up in arms about immersion once again and, having had that blinding flash of the obvious association between immersion and enjoyment of certain titles, figures I could explore some past titles to see if that could pinpoint what makes for an immersive experience for me.

The danger here is that what is immersive can easily be confused with things I just like… and thus things that prevent or break immersion must be things I simply don’t like… and so the whole thing might just devolve into things I have praised or groused about in the past.

And “confused” probably draws too dark of a line between likes and immersion.  They are at a minimum fellow travelers.  But I know I can find cases where things I do not always enjoy and up in the mix of immersion as well.  The rather nebulous concept of “grind” fits in there.  Grinding mobs for a quest or just for xp can be bad… except when it is not.  Sometimes it is just what you need, and easy repetitive task that lets you fall into the rhythm of the game and your character.

Anyway, with all that and more in mind I thought I might take a stab at what I consider up front to be an easier title with which to pin down my immersion factors.

And the winner is Lord of the Rings Online.

Straight out of the gate the lore of the game is something I had been immersed in for nearly 30 years before it launched.  I was Book of Lost Tales and other bits and pieces published by Christopher Tolkien deep into it.  I used to knock out The Hobbit on a Sunday afternoon if I had nothing else going on and would re-read the main trilogy every two or three years.

So I was already sold on the idea… though that can be a hazard if the company doesn’t deliver.  But Turbine did deliver.  LOTRO might not be the most unique or well built MMORPG, but it looked and felt like Third Age Middle-earth to me.  The landscape, the buildings, even the stars at night are all amazing.

As well, the integration of the player into the story was done very well.  That was something I was worried about before playing the game.  One of my early posts on the blog, less than two weeks after I started, was a bit of fretting about how Turbine would handle LOTRO and lore.

But parallel path of the player through the tale, where you are handling important side tasks and occasionally crossing paths with the fellowship, is done with such care that it has never caused me much concern.

Knowing the lore and being predisposed to go along with it helped me get in the zone with the game.  There were certainly problems, especially early on.  The usual problems of running back and forth too much or perhaps spending too much time on the bear/boar/wolf circuit were pain points.  And the UI itself, with odd and sometimes indecipherable icons for skills and attacks… again, I have a post about some of that… were among my gripes.  But at least you got a lot of bag space up front, so inventory management wasn’t an immediate struggle.

Even the kind of goofy take on crafting, where you pick a vocation that gets you a basket of three trade skills plus the related harvesting was at least a slightly different take on things, though it could become something of an unpleasant grind on its own after not too long into the game.

So I found fun and interest and immersion to some degree on our first pass through, and immersion seemed to grown as I returned to LOTRO various times over the years.  I have mentioned before that having knowledge of the game when you come back to start from scratch helps things along and makes me feel more the champion of the free peoples.

To this end there are a string of zones that I enjoy running through again and again.  The starter zones not so much… I’m not really a fan of the Shire, quaint though it be… but once I am headed towards Bree I am very much engaged in the game and the story and the tale of my character.  Bree and the Old Forest and Midgewater Marshes and the Lone Lands and Evendim are my happy path, where I fall under the spell of the game, where I can feel myself get lost in the experience.

Things taper off a bit for me in the Trollshaws and in the Misty Mountains, and I have never been much on either Forochel or Angmar, the former being weighed down by so much running back and forth while the latter is just a bit too grim for my tastes.  But I still can carry on and find the zone through those and on into Moria.

And then somewhere, between Moria and Mirkwood my immersion fades and the game feels like a labor, the story doesn’t capture me and all the quests become like a weight dragging me down.

Mirkwood might explain it.  It is a dark and uninspired area into which you get thrown.  I’ve been through Moria well enough a few times now, but Mirkwood is truly an impenetrable forest in my way.

So I roll up any number of characters and get to level 40 and can be quite pleased.  I can push on and still enjoy myself.  But there is a limit beyond which there is no joy, no immersion, just grind.

It is tempting to blame Siege of Mirkwood, it being a blameworthy expansion, but even Mines of Moria, the epic underground adventure, begins to wear on me.  There is a temptation in me to revert to my “no good expansions” stance.  It is handy to reach for the idea that the initial crafted experience, the base world of any MMORPG, is a solid experience and only besmirched by trying to tack on a sequel.

I’ve played that tune any number of times, and it does have a ring of truth to it at times, especially with titles like Rift.  Changes in philosophy, new features piled on the game, attempts to be both true to the game and yet provide a new experience… to both player and developer, the latter who may chafe even more that the former at having to do the same old thing over and over again… must necessarily dilute from the original focus.

Expect, of course, I can find exceptions to the rule.  For every Storm Legion departure from the core tenets of a title there is a Ruins of Kunark that is a much needed seasoning that enhances an already delicious meal.

But as much as I might like to blame the torpor of Mirkwood and the darkness of Moria, I’ve boosted some characters past those locations.  I have tried my shot at Rohan a couple of times as well and failed, and I am told that Riders of Rohan was not a bad experience.

And here is where I risk sounding as though I am simply going to blame the failure of immersion on a feature I have complained about in the past.  Yes, I am going to lay this on legendary items.

I know, I know, the elevator speech for legendary items is pretty awesome.  I know I went in as a true believer when it came time.  You pick up a weapon that will grow with you, the potential of which you will unlock as you adventure with it.

That is truly the stuff of legends.  Arthur and Excalibur.  Aragorn and Anduril.  Even Bilbo and Sting are pairings many of us wished to emulate in our D&D campaigns or online adventures.  Strider doesn’t hand off his family sword to the nearest shop keeper the moment he finds something a bit shinier or with a slightly better stat.  No, he and the weapon are one and they fight together.

Unfortunately, Turbine screwed that idea up pretty badly and then proceeded to double down on it repeatedly… since late 2008.  Seriously, that is when Mines of Moria launched and as a feature it has just gotten worse and worse.

Let’s start with the basic problem, the immersion killed for me, which is that your legendary item is a needy baby constantly crying for attention.  At times it feels like you can’t get through half a dozen mobs before an alert pops up that it has leveled up and you have new points to apply.   And then there is the need to go back to camp to reforge it, which doesn’t happen as often, but still comes about way more frequently than it ought to.

And then, add on top of the constant nag that is your legendary, you then end up abandoning it down the road for the inevitable upgrade from a new expansion or update.  We are Aragorn abandoning Anduril every ten levels rather than every other level.

I used to think that maybe the whole thing was just a bad idea, that we shouldn’t level up weapons, that it is a flawed mechanic that should be avoided.  Then Blizzard did the legendary weapon thing with the Legion expansion and it was freaking brilliant.  And they even had a bunch of the same things I hated with LOTRO legendaries, like having to go back to town to upgrade it, but somehow made it work.  It was great.  Legion might be the last great WoW expansion.

And Blizzard had the good sense to not try to drag that on into the next expansion.  I mean, I was sad to leave Ashbringer behind and I missed the skills it enabled and the looks you could unlock with it, but it was probably for the best. (I’d seriously consider a WoW Legion Classic server I guess, just to do that again.)

So there it is.  Legendary items.

I mean sure, there are other things.  The monetization can pull me out of the game.  Having a “buy your way through this with some mithril coins!” mechanic does not jibe well with immersion.  But the mithril coin thing doesn’t show up constantly when I am out in the field questing.

I can get through escorting Sara Oakheart and running up and down the lengths of Forochel and people with crappy non-RP names and avoid a good chunk of the monetization by playing on the Legedary servers.  But even when I boosted past Mirkwood into Rohan the first thing in my face was the freaking legendary weapon and the need to do whatever.

There are literally a lot of things that people complain about when it comes to LOTRO that I can overlook like the stiff character models, the indecipherable iconography, the skirmishes, the dull housing, and how grindy crafting becomes as you move forward in levels.  But legendary items… that just kills it for me.

And I am not the only one complaining about them.  I remained amazed that first Turbine and then SSG not only kept rolling on with a system like that for more than a dozen years, but have only now conceded that maybe they ought to look into giving it a rework.

Anyway, after that reconnaissance by text of LOTRO, what are the take aways?  What makes for good immersion and what fails me on that front?

Immersion pluses

  • Familiar lore
  • Good adaptation of the lore to the game
  • Feeling of place within the game
  • Mechanics are familiar but not identical to other fantasy MMORPGs
  • Familiarity with the game
  • Well done landscape that feels like Middle-earth

Immersion minuses

  • Legendary items (primary)
  • Monetization (somewhat avoidable)
  • Poor content mid-game (Mirkwood)
  • Poor iconography
  • Lack of large monitor support (my 34″ monitor specifically)

In the end, LOTRO remains a game I have been happy enough to go back and play multiple times… at least the original content.  It is a game where I have often found immersion, traveling through the game, both as confidently as a ranger and as lost as a neophyte, depending on where I am.  (I don’t get lot in the Old Forest anymore.)

So this post was a bit of a gimme.  I already had strong feelings about what draws me to the game and what has pushed me away.  With this post I have set something of a baseline.  The question is, where do I go next?  Do I pick another fantasy title and compare immersion points, or do I try another direction and see if a very different game shares points of intersection?

CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online

As expected, CCP’s final update for July, named The Grand Heist, went live today.  It brought with it the long awaited ESS reserve bank keys, allowing players access to ~20 trillion ISK that has been piling up and inaccessible since the introduction of the mandatory ESS structures last November.

The Grand yet Slow Heist

In a surprising move, CCP also decided to straight up hand players ISK.  But I’ll get to that in a bit, first the reserve bank thing.

The reserve bank keys are now available in low sec sites that need to be scanned down.  The keys are available in four “flavors” with two variations.  The flavor is which quadrant of space they are useful in, the break down being:

  • SW: Feythabolis, Impass, Delve, Period Basis, Querious, Catch, Esoteria, Paragon Soul, Providence, and Stain
  • SE: Geminate, Curse, Detorid, Great Wildlands, Immensea, Insmother, Omist, Scalding Pass, Tenerifis, and Wicked Creek
  • NE: Cobalt Edge, Etherium Reach, The Kalevala Expanse, Malpais, Oasa, Outer Passage, Perrigen Falls, The Spire, Vale of the Silent, and Cache
  • NW: Branch, Deklein, Pure Blind, Tenal, Tribute, Venal, Cloud Ring, Fade, Fountain, Outer Ring, and Syndicate

The variations are the durations,15 and 45 minutes, which is how long the key in question allows you to siphon encrypted bonds from the reserve bank.  As with the main bank, the payout is in bonds that need to be turned into an NPC in order to convert them to ISK.  So the robber can get robbed trying to cash in.

So you don’t get all the reserve bank, but a steady payout for every minute that you and your crew sit in the ESS, up to the duration of your key.  The payout apparently ramps up over time, with a potential peak payout of 150 million ISK per minute.  That is some decent ISK, though it is still going to be a while before the current 20 trillion ISK is drained.

As I noted previously, some alliances have already nationalized some of their reserve banks, declaring that their output will go into the general funds to support the organization and its programs, like SRP.  Those not nationalized will likely still be harvested by the local residents.

In addition, the ESS structures and UI got a complete overhaul.  The small percentage of capsuleers than actually end up in an ESS will no doubt appreciate the new visuals.

Further details about the ESS update are linked at the end of the post.

But that is not all the update brings.  CCP seems to be all about the ISK at the moment, which seems a bit odd after the panic of the starvation economy and trying to make us all poor over the last year or so.  In order to celebrate the Grand Heist CCP is handing out ISK as login rewards for Omega clones.

Grand Heist Login Rewards

That is hard to see unless you enlarge it, but if an Omega account logs in for six days they will get rewards of 10, 15, 25, 40, 60, and finally 85 million ISK.  Not bonds or other items of value, but straight up in-game currency totaling up to 235 million ISK.

Handing out in-game currency as a daily login reward is pretty common with free to play mobile games, but I cannot recall an MMORPG giving out cash like this.  And this isn’t even an trivial amount.  For a lot of players, myself included, 235 million ISK is a useful sum.  I won’t be resubscribing any accounts to collect it, but I will certainly be sure to log in my subscribed accounts to gather this ISK largess.

But wait, that’s not all!

CCP is also trying to stimulate the economy by declaring something of a tax holiday, reducing sales tax and broker’s fees by 50% for the next three months.  So selling will net you more profit on the market between now and the end of October.

Both the ISK handout and the tax holiday are unprecedented in the history of the game.  CCP not too long ago went through a phase of raising taxes, again due to concerns about too much ISK coming into the economy.  Now they’re giving away ISK and reducing taxes.  It is almost as though they are reacting to something.  Can we be bribed to log in with ISK?

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see if there is a blip in the July or August MERs that line up to these two things.

The update is live in the game now.  Information is available at the following locations:

Addendum:

I now have a screen shot (thanks to Reddit) to prove the keys exits.

The info for a 45 minute SW key

Go forth and heist I guess.

55 Weeks of World War Bee

The week was largely spent speculating about what big plan PAPI was set to announce come Saturday… to the point that I was half convinced that PAPI made the pre-announcement to see if Reddit could come up with a plan for them.  So many posts.

The Fraternity alliance meeting early in the week suggested the point was going to be to end the war in the next 60 days, though after the announcement it seemed more like Fraternity gave notice that if WWB wasn’t wound down in that time they might move on to other tasks… like assailing the Tranquility Trading Tower in Perimeter.

When the announcement came on Saturday it managed to be both exciting and disappointing in one blow.  Yes, PAPI was going to go all-in on taking 1DQ.  Yes, capitals, supers, and titans were mentioned.  The possibility of headline grabbing giant battles was waved before us as PAPI seemed ready to pay the price to break into the O-EIMK constellation.

Only we would have to wait a week before any of that could get under way.  The previous message from PAPI was that they were taking the summer off so they need a week to get people re-subscribed and their ships back in T5ZI-S.  So we’re back to PAPI moves op.

To be fair PAPI won’t be idle for a week.  They have things to do, like cleaning up NPC Delve, from which the GSF BlackOps SIG has been making its presence felt.  But waiting a week to get ready also gives the Imperium a week to get ready as well.

Still, maybe something exciting will happen come week 57 of the war.  Maybe August will be the war’s final crescendo.  But what happens if PAPI doesn’t win in time?  Do they disband and go home?  Do groups like Fraternity leave while other try to carry on?  Does TEST look for some space as far from the Imperium as possible?

One Year Ago

PanFam and Fraternity were pushing into Fountain while TEST was being pushed back out of Period Basis.

Legacy then swept into the eastern half of Querioues, notably the the part most distant from the gate connection to Catch where they had set up their staging at the start of the war and where they actually lived.

In my Week 3 update I was covering multiple active fronts and noting how the PCU was climbing.  How things change.

The June MER showed mineral prices sagging a bit and CCP gave use a new monument in Molea, making the cemetery there a permanent feature.

Delve Front

The strategic situation in the region remained unchanged.  Roll the same map I’ve been using for three months now.

O-EIMK Constellation – July 25, 2021

The Imperium did take advantage of PAPI’s state of torpor to continue with hot drops as well as setting timers, shooting bubbles, killing a couple of structures, and generally reminding the enemy that we are not so contained as they might believe.

PAPI did rise to the occasion now and then and skirmishes were had, so not every kill mail was a gank or uncontested.  The Delve campaign report shows an uptick in losses, with the total once again passing the half trillion ISK mark.

Delve Campaign – Week 55

With people coming back that number should keep trending up.

Other Theaters

In Feythabolis Red Alliance is still holding on to two systems, having lost two more ihubs to the Warriors of the Blood God.

Feythabolis – July 25, 2021

Re Alliance’s holding in Impass remain intact, though that may be the next target.

And in Catch Dracarys and Siege Green look to be in a stalemate in the southwest of the region, on the route to Querious.  Dracarys is pushing on Siege Green but took back no additional ihubs over the week.

Catch – July 25, 2021

In Catch Dreadbomb Alliance scooped up the remaining unclaimed ihubs save for that one on the way to Impass.

There were also reports of war adjacent fighting going on in Fountain around the J5A-IX system, while Snuffed Out opened up their campaign against Fraternity which led to a dread brawl.

I expect that other theaters will be static while PAPI works on assembling for their final assault on the Imperium… at least if they manage to get everybody on board and focused.

My Participation

I hit a minor milestone in my EVE Online career, getting on my 5,000th kill mail.  It was, rather unspectacularly, a Mobile Large War Disruptor II, one of about 40 we shot in PAPI’s staging system while they sat around and watched one afternoon.  Our Harpy fleet was mostly unhindered. (Overall I think we blew up about 400 PAPI large bubbles alone last week.)

Harpies in T5Zi killing bubbles

I had mentioned before that it was low key goal of mine to hit 5K before my 15th anniversary playing the game.  5K isn’t a particularly impressive number.  There is a player in Fraternity who has nearly 74K kills, with more than 9K of them coming in the last 90 days, and they’re not even at the top of the list.  But 5K is a nice round number and, now that I have made it, I can go back to flying logi more often.

Aside from harassing PAPI bubbles, when the big announcement came on Saturday I was out in a fleet with Asher to entosis a couple of TEST systems in Delve… multiple groups went out to hit ihubs so that they would get a bunch of notifications during their alliance meeting.  There were a few clashes along the way, but mostly it was the first time I had flown a Tengu since the nullification nerf and the removal of skill point loss.

Tengus waiting for the blackops trip

Fortunately I didn’t lose my ship, so I didn’t have to test that last change.  I did get to try out the interdiction module when I jumped through a gate as instructed, only to be waved off when it was too late, arriving in the middle of a hostile gate camp.  I was able to trigger it, align, cloak, and warp off safely, though my pulse had increased noticeably  when I loaded grid.

With no losses for the week my total remains as:

  • Ares interceptor – 18
  • Malediction interceptor – 7
  • Drake battle cruiser – 7
  • Atron entosis frigate – 6
  • Cormorant destroyer – 5
  • Purifier stealth bomber – 5
  • Crusader interceptor – 5
  • Rokh battleship – 5
  • Scimitar T2 logi – 5
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 4
  • Jackdaw destroyer – 4
  • Guardian T2 logi – 2
  • Scalpel T2 logi frigate – 2
  • Scythe T1 logi – 1
  • Raven battleship – 1
  • Crucifier ECM frigate – 1
  • Gnosis battlecruiser – 1
  • Bifrost command destroyer – 1
  • Hurricane battle cruiser – 1
  • Sigil entosis industrial – 1
  • Mobile Small Warp Disruptor I – 1

Other Items

We got a July Update from CCP that announced the end of the starvation economy… some time in Q4.  It is good that there is now a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and we assume it isn’t an oncoming train, but CCP wasn’t forthcoming with details and we know they still want to keep the economy in check, so celebrations were muted.

Meanwhile, though the June MER, which was posted last week, showed mineral prices coming down, there was concern about morphite prices, critical to production, the supply of which seemed to be drying up, keeping the price of it rising rather even as production continued falling.

Focus returned to the Tranquility Trading Consortium, the shared venture between Pandemic Horde, TEST, and the Imperium.  It has long been called out as an oddity of the war that this agreement has held while PH and TEST have been attacking the Imperium.  The explanation has been that the deal is too lucrative to all the parties to let the war mess it up.

Now Fraternity has announced their plan to set up a competing trading outpost in Oijanen, a low sec system adjacent to their holdings, to get a cut of the easy sales tax money.

Meanwhile, The Mittani explained on the special Friday night edition of The Meta Show that the Imperium isn’t really a partner in the TTC deal.  Rather, we get a 20% cut to not make trouble.  So there isn’t any reason for the Imperium to leave, and if PH and TEST kick us out then we will go log in all the alpha clones we stashed in Jita and Perimeter back when the trading outpost situation was being contested.  That would be very bad for business, and would be all the more so with a competing venture coming online.

The TTC deal cannot last forever, but it will be interesting to see who finally breaks it knowing that it will all three members a lot of ISK.

Hy Wanto of Snuffed Out posted a long essay to Reddit about the problems with citadel game play which came with endorsements from other null sec luminaries, and even got a serious follow on post.  At least one person at CCP wasn’t interested however.

Somebody posted the manual for the Black Hand, the GSF spy organization.

On the PCU front, as I noted yesterday, the PAPI announcement at least had the effect of pulling the week’s peak user count up above the 25K mark for the first time in four weeks.  Big battles, should they come to pass, will help on that front as well.  But there is still more going on than just a slow war to keep the PCU down.

  • Day 1 – 38,838
  • Week 1 – 37,034
  • Week 2 – 34,799
  • Week 3 – 34,692
  • Week 4 – 35,583
  • Week 5 – 35,479
  • Week 6 – 34,974
  • Week 7 – 38,299
  • Week 8 – 35,650
  • Week 9 – 35,075
  • Week 10 – 35,812
  • Week 11 – 35,165
  • Week 12 – 36,671
  • Week 13 – 35,618
  • Week 14 – 39,681
  • Week 15 – 40,359
  • Week 16 – 36,642
  • Week 17 – 37,695
  • Week 18 – 36,632
  • Week 19 – 35,816 (Saturday)
  • Week 20 – 37,628 (Saturday)
  • Week 21 – 34,888
  • Week 22 – 33,264
  • Week 23 – 33,149
  • Week 24 – 32,807 (Saturday)
  • Week 25 – 31,611
  • Week 26 – 39,667 (Saturday)
  • Week 27 – 34,989 (Saturday)
  • Week 28 – 34,713
  • Week 29 – 35,996
  • Week 30 – 38,323
  • Week 31 – 38,167
  • Week 32 – 37,259
  • Week 33 – 35,886 (Saturday)
  • Week 34 – 35,626
  • Week 35 – 35,379
  • Week 36 – 35,085
  • Week 37 – 34,394
  • Week 38 – 36,319
  • Week 39 – 35,597 (Saturday)
  • Week 40 – 35,384 (Saturday)
  • Week 41 – 33,708
  • Week 42 – 33,521
  • Week 43 – 33,731
  • Week 44 – 33,742 (Saturday)
  • Week 45 – 33,758
  • Week 46 – 31,768
  • Week 47 – 29,898
  • Week 48 – 31,462 (Monday)
  • Week 49 – 27,914
  • Week 50 – 26,045
  • Week 51 – 25,661
  • Week 52 – 24,262
  • Week 53 – 24,290
  • Week 54 – 24,922
  • Week 55 – 26,259 (Saturday)

Related

PAPI All In to Win the War in Four Weeks

But they need a week to get ready… after waiting a week to make the announcement… after spending nearly three months with us bottled up in the O-EIMK Constellation… more than a year since the war kicked off.

There are days when it feels like they never really had a plan for the war.

Anyway, with a week’s notice for the announcement, when the time came it was the Imperium that seemed most invested, with more than 2,200 capsuleers logged into the capital system of 1DQ1-A and a few hundred more watching the back door of the O-EIMK Constellation in 3-DMQT, a gate away in T5ZI-S PAPI fell about a thousand behind the Imperium total.

O-EIMK Constellation – The focus of the war

Still, the announcement, spread across multiple PAPI alliances at 19:30 UTC yesterday, was at least enough to pull the peak concurrent player count above 25K for the first time in four weeks, with the numbers capping at 26,259 at just after 20:00 UTC.

The announcement time

That will make week 55 of the war the first real uptick, bringing it back above the week 50 peak, though still more than 1,500 players shy of week 49’s 27,914 peak.

Rumor is that Fraternity, which made a strong statement earlier in the week, was the force behind the announcement as it is alleged that they threatened to leave the coalition if there was not a serious effort to end the war.

In the TEST alliance meeting Progodlegend said that they would be going all in on defeating the Imperium, using capitals, supers, and titans to break down the defenses and take the Imperium’s final null sec defensive position.

The week’s delay is to get everybody resubscribed and back into T5ZI-S after Progodlegend previously said that PAPI was taking the rest of the summer off.  They also plan to use that time to try and contain Imperium harassment efforts coming out of NPC Delve, where they claim to have a thousand warp disruption bubbles ready to deploy.  They will need to defend those bubbles however, as Goons do love to shoot things that do not shoot back.

So that was the big announcement.  It looks like we will have at least another week of skirmishes and harassment before they get together the forces to begin the assault in earnest.  Progodleged asked that people give the effort four weeks once it started, that being their estimate as to how long it will take to grind Goons down under the weight of their attack.

How it will actually play out remains to be seen.

The June MER Shows Industry Still in a Slide in EVE Online

We got the Monthly Economic Report for June on Thursday and it once again gives us some insight into both how CCP’s economic starvation plan is going as well as the quiet nature of World War Bee since PAPI gave up trying to attack the Imperium and tried to settle for containment.

EVE Online nerds harder

Yes, I know that just yesterday CCP announced that scarcity would be ending at some point in Q4 2021.  But Q4 is more than a month away and nobody said changes would hit on October 1st, so we have go to war with the economy we have, not the economy we might want.  Or something like that.  It is time again time to take a look at the numbers that CCP provides, imperfect though they be.

Production

I’ll start with production, the focus of the MER since the big industry changes hit in April, and the red line on the chart that represents how much is being produced in New Eden.

June 2021 – Production vs Destruction vs Mined

Production continued its decline since the peak right before the change, which represented producers attempting to get some inexpensive builds done before the rug was pulled out from under them.  The slope isn’t as steep as it was April, or even May, but the trend is still downward.

That chart also shows destroyed (blue) and mined (yellow) in decline as well, no doubt in part due to battleships and capital ships being so much more expensive to build that people are even more reluctant to risk them, which in turn help keep production trending downward.

The top regions for production were:

  1. The Forge – 16.75
  2. Delve – 8.59 trillion
  3. The Citadel – 6.63 trillion
  4. Lonetrek – 6.09 trillion
  5. Fade – 4.47 trillion
  6. Vale of the Silent – 4.34 trillion
  7. Sinq Laison – 3.79 trillion
  8. Domain – 2.76 trillion
  9. Malpais – 2.30 trillion
  10. Querious – 2.28 trillion

All of the top ten save for Fade were down from May, and Fade only broke even.  Overall production amounted to 88.87 trillion ISK in value, down 27 trillion from May and 80 trillion from April.

Destruction

Since it is tied in with production, I’ll move on to destruction.  That ships and modules are destroyed is what gives EVE Online a viable economy, it makes industry a useful path in New Eden, and it was down.

The top regions for destruction in June were:

  1. The Forge – 1.76 trillion
  2. Delve – 1.63 trillion
  3. The Citadel – 1.62 trillion
  4. Lonetrek – 1.43 trillion
  5. Vale of the Silent – 1.16 trillion
  6. Querious – 1.08 trillion
  7. Genesis – 959 billion
  8. Sinq Laison 944 billion
  9. Pochven – 738 billion
  10. Metropolis – 715 billion

High sec regions around Jita, The Forge, The Citadel, and Lonetrek, resumed their peacetime position of dominance when it came to destruction.  Delve came in second, there allegedly being a war going on there, but it rang in 400 billion less than the June 2020 MER, which was the last pre-war look at destruction.

The one surprise, at least to mean, is to see Pochven on the list.  Hidden away from most of New Eden and requiring a rep grind to be a viable place to earn ISK, there are clearly a few people fighting over that particular street corner.  Also, CCP has managed to drop if from the data before.

Total destruction for June totaled up to 27.65 trillion ISK in value, down 5 trillion ISK from May, but way down from the 45.67 trillion ISK destroyed in the June 2020 MER.  The regions around Jita have been especially slack when compared to that time.  The trend is down.

Mining

The third leg of the economic engine of New Eden, mining represents raw material demand needed for production and, with demand slackening, mineral prices continued their descent from the all time high in April when producers were bidding up supply to get those last jobs building.

June 2021 – Economic Indices

The drop wasn’t as steep in June, and there has been some rise in specific minerals like morphite, but the trend is following production and destruction.  With asteroid yields having been nerfed and prices descending, less people will likely undock to mine… unless they’re high sec Orca bots.

For June the top ten regions for mining were:

  1. Vale of the Silent – 1.98 trillion
  2. Domain – 1.24 trillion
  3. The Forge – 1.16 trillion
  4. Metropolis – 828 billion
  5. Insmother – 668 billion
  6. Sinq Laison – 657 billion
  7. Malpais – 612 billion
  8. Everyshore – 584 billion
  9. Genesis – 579 billion
  10. Lonetrek – 565 billion

Fraternity, determined to be an economic power, tops the list with Vale of the Silent, one of their newly conquered regions.  Malpais, a PanFam region, was the other null sec region to make the list this month, the rest being high sec space.

Total amount mined was valued at 24.45 trillion ISK, down almost 6 trillion ISK from May.

ISK Faucets

Where people get their cash money in New Eden.  As expected commodities remained the top ISK faucet, a situation unchanged since the final round of NPC bounty nerfs that came with the ESS and variable bounty rates.

June 2021 – Faucet end of the chart big chart

That said, both commodities and NPC bounties were down from May, while incursion payouts remained about on par with the previous month.  The simple answer seems to be that there was less ISK earning activity going on in June.

The sinks over time chart seems to bear that out, with commodities and bounties in decline.

June 2021 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

Looking just at commodities we can see where the drop occurred.

June 2021 – Top Commodity Items Over Time

Sleep components, which represent the wormhole space ISK faucet, look to be down a little, but Triglavian data, which are the rewards from Abyssal Deadspace runs, look to have fallen off a cliff from a peak in May, likely representing the bulk of the decline.

For NPC bounties the top ten regions were:

  1. Vale of the Silent – 2.13 trillion (Fraternity)
  2. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.09 trillion (PanFam)
  3. Insmother – 1.05 trillion (FI.RE)
  4. Tenal – 1.01 trillion (Fraternity)
  5. Esoteria – 989 billion (Army of Mango)
  6. Tribute – 982 billion (Fraternity)
  7. Branch – 961 billion (Fraternity)
  8. Querious – 925 billion (Legacy & 3rd parties)
  9. Delve – 849 billion (Legacy)
  10. Malpais – 827 billion (PanFam)

I decided to drop the “PandaFam” title that I picked up from Jin’taan a year back as it is becoming clear that Fraternity is vying to be a major power in its own right, which we can see in their ratting operations.  PanFam is still making some money back home while the war smoulders on the other side of null sec, but Fraternity is trying to bank a serious war chest… and they haven’t been spending it on World War Bee.

Total bounties were 26.33 trillion across New Eden, down 3 trillion ISK from May.

Trade

The measure of how much is being bought and sold, which is driven by everything above.  Total trade was valued at 489 trillion ISK in value, was down from the 598 trillion ISK in trade done in May.  That is nearly a 20% dip.

The top ten regions for trade were:

  1. The Forge – 354 trillion (Jita)
  2. Domain – 42 trillion (Amarr)
  3. Sinq Laison – 14.48 trillion (Dodixie)
  4. Lonetrek – 11.69 trillion (Caldari high sec)
  5. Delve – 11.62 trillion (Imperium/PAPI)
  6. Metropolis – 7.85 trillion (Hek)
  7. Heimatar – 6.49 trillion (Rens)
  8. The Citadel – 4.45 trillion (Caldari high sec)
  9. Essence – 3.83 trillion (Gallente High Sec)
  10. Vale of the Silent – 3.63 trillion (Fraternity)

While many of the larger trade hubs were down, with Jita representing 68 trillion ISK of the total decline in June, some of the smaller high sec regions like Lonetrek and The Citadel were actually up a bit.  Not a significant amount in the face of the June fall off clearly, but not ever region was down.

And so it goes with New Eden, where the other metric that seems to be tracking down along with the economy is the online player count as measured over at EVE Offline.

June 2021 – One Year Online Count

The question is of course whether it is the economic starvation plan that is driving down the player count, or is the player count down because the economy… mining, ratting, production, and destruction… is in a down turn.

I suppose we’ll see once CCP thinks we’ve suffered enough economic privation.

As usual, more charts and all the MER data is available for download from the dev blog.

The End of Scarcity Foreseen in EVE Online in Q4 2021

Or should that be Q4 of YC123?

CCP dropped a July Update post on us earlier today.

An update… because July I guess

They don’t do regular monthly updates, so the suspicious part of my mind thinks this is really the “we’re all on vacation in August” update to get us a last up note before the company goes into light hibernation until some time in September.

And much of the update could be categorized as “reminding us about things we already knew.”  There is a lot of self-congratulation about updates so far this year and an insistence that they have been listening to the community… at least over the last few weeks.  As they say, “odd flex” but whatever.

So the post includes a tour of 2021 from Quantum Cores to the return of the Alliance Tournament.  They did get some things done in 2021 so far.

Then there are the two future items.  The first is the releasing of the reserve bank keys, which we’re all pretty sure will be this Tuesday, so file that under “things we already knew” as well I suppose.

And then there is the economy.  This is the news that everybody has been waiting for… and it manages to be at once both exciting and disappointing.

Scarcity firmly ends in Q4 2021

-July Status Update

That’s exciting.  I don’t know if that means October 1st or December 31st, but at least we have a target of sorts at which point CCP plans to ease the economic squeeze they have had the New Eden economy under for over a year.  CCP marks the start of this with the redistribution phase, which is certainly where things kicked in hard, but they had been after mining and ratting with the nerf bat for at least a year before that.

They even have some bullet points as to what they are looking into:

  • Increased quantity of all resources across New Eden
  • Introduction of moon goo and gas compression
  • A balance pass for all mining ships
  • Additional specialized holds for gas and ice
  • Rework of the industrial index including greater choice over the distribution of resources

That all sounds good, and if you want resources broken out by regions then moon goo and gas compression are essential to make transportation viable, because right now it is a huge pain in the ass.

There is also a mention of ratting in the post, with a pass on anomalies expected:

Later this year will see planned updates for existing Nullsec anomalies, including the addition of capital anomalies. A new high reward Nullsec PvE feature to get capitals back into space to trigger exciting player escalations is also being worked on. As mentioned before, you will get more detail and discussion on these topics as their release draws closer.

Once again, sounds cool in theory.

What this all lacks is any detail.  There is no sense of how far CCP really plans to go in relaxing the restrictions on resource harvesting.  And they haven’t renounced their flawed tenants of economic interdependence.  We’ve been beaten so hard by the scarcity stick that it is tough to trust that things will get much better, and anybody that thinks we’re headed back to the “good old days” is destined for disappointment.

So color me, and probably many others, a bit hesitant to cheer too hard after the long haul of privation.

I am happy that CCP is looking to dial back scarcity and that they’ve actually take a moment to communicate with the player base in a more general fashion, and I certainly hope CCP has a real plan to get capital ships to undock again, because everybody loves blowing them up.  Whether they can walk the line between keeping the economy in check and getting back to expensive ships blowing up is to be determined.

Related:

Friday Bullet Points from a Leading Smoke Exporter

Fires have begun burning on the west coast of the US as predicted, thanks to droughts, record heat, and dry lighting strikes.  But the smoke from the fires, which in past years has settled in on top of the SF Bay Area where I live, has decided that it too wants to travel this summer and has been hazing up sunsets back east.  So while we’re sending out smoke I thought I would cover another set of things that I didn’t want to work up a full post around.

  • Blizzard Blows Up

Already foundering for being unable to bring home a win with retail WoW and the 9.1 update, causing many players to head for Final Fantasy XIV, the company took another body blow this week when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the Activision Blizzard for creating a hostile work environment.  While Activision got most of the headlines, the complaint is full of examples of how Blizzard specifically let a wide range of egregious behavior go unchecked and failed to respond to complaints.

Singled out in the complaint was Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi, who had been with the company since 2004 and who had left quietly last summer.  He is referenced in WoW in a number of places, including as Field Marshal Afrasiabi out in front of Stormwind.

Welcome to Stormwind baby!

The disturbing nature of the issues detailed in the complaint was topped by the company’s response to the suit.  With the Blitzchung affair they didn’t seem to know what to say, but this time around they lashed out immediately (text at the end of this post) at the state agency, decrying government overreach and complaining about unaccountable State bureaucrats driving companies from the state, very much politically motivated talking points.

Otherwise the company statement claimed that while some of the things detailed may have been true in the past, the company is all better now, everything is fine, and nobody needs to be held accountable for anything.  They want to have it both ways, saying both that the state is wrong and that they’ve fixed everything in any case.  It is usually better if your statements don’t tend to contradict each other.

Any adult that has worked for a big company knows that corporate culture doesn’t change quickly.  It takes a lot of effort, and the word is that the company hasn’t gone there yet.  That references to Afrasiabi remain in the game is a testament to the lack of progress they have made.  And the internet is compiling testimonials about the company’s problems.

Anyway, the Q3 2021 Activision Blizzard financial report ought to be a real charmer after this.  Massively OP, in their coverage, rehashed the litany of problems the company has been facing in recent years.  It ain’t pretty.

  • A New World Beta

Amazon’s MMO New World went into what is supposed to be a final, pre-launch beta this week.  I don’t think they’ll yank the game back from the precipice this time around, but you never know.  I have been interested in the game and was in one of the big early NDA protected test runs a couple of years back

Just how new is it at this point?

I liked what I saw back then… it seemed like what H1Z1 ought to have been before they went all-in on battle royale, but I guess John Smedley being at Amazon Games now might explain that.  I did not pre-order, so no beta invite for me, but Bhagpuss seemed happy with how things looked.

The one thing that seems to be dominating the press coverage is a problem where high end video cards seem to be failing in the beta.  We’ll see how that works out.

  • EverQuest and the Ghost Collector’s Editions Past

EverQuest pretty much lives on nostalgia, with their retro and special servers keeping a good portion of their players invested in a $15 a month subscription.  But they have to farm the live servers as well, so they get an expansion every year an a cash shop that is always looking for something new to sell.  Now they are trying to farm a bit of nostalgia from the live server players by offering a pack that features items from the collector’s editions of no longer available expansions.

Missed out? Fear not!  But act fast or you WILL MISS OUT!  AGAIN!

For just 7,999 in Daybreak Cash, which is about $80 in real world cash depending on your purchase quantities, a selection of no longer available items can be made available to you.  It is like nostalgia for fear of missing out!

  • Path of Exile Expedition

I have something of a checkered past with Path of Exile.  On paper I should enjoy it, and I am always into it when I start out.  But something… network performance, bugs, no knowing what to do next… always seems to stymie me.  But I think about it every time the offer up a new expansion, and one if launching today.

Play the Expedition Expansion Today

This one is interesting in that Grinding Gears Games has decided to try and roll back player gear and power in an attempt to revitalize the feel of the game and to give it an overall more satisfying experience.  But it is always a risky move, taking power away from players.  Destructiod’s headline about the expansion is an illustration of that risk:

Path of Exile is nerfing everything, and players are unhappy

We shall see how it plays out I suppose, but a power reset might be a good time to jump back in.  Maybe? I took a look at the patch notes, which are a freaking book, but can’t tell either way.