Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teams are really cool

Patch day today and I'm excited. I am doing some hauling to restock my markets as well as some casual exploration but I'm fixated on the teams system. It's unlike anything I've seen in a game, like a virtual ebay system, and even though I don't do much industry I am fascinated by the information the team bidding offers.

I sort the teams chartering selection by current highest bid. The highest bid right now is for 300m (!) with over 2 days left. It is for manufacturing capital class – titans – freighters – supercarriers. The bid location is for T-AKQZ. I look up where that is—wow, the middle of no where, a systems owned by The Kadeshi. I guess that means they probably want to build titans and supers etc., out there. Not surprising, I guess, but a cool bit of public info the teams chartering provides.

High sec bids are winning quite a few of the highest current bids. Some of the same systems re-appear a lot. I see some of my trade areas winning a few bids! I don't know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. Good, maybe, because it will mean the markets there will grow, will see more buyers as well as sellers. Maybe bad, though, because it might mean more local competition.

It looks like one or a few people went through and put a bid on almost every team for Sakenta—very close to Jita. Not a bad idea. But then maybe a bad idea if it draws too much industry and raises the taxes too high etc. The industrialists who hate uncertainty are probably going crazy. Then again, some or all of them probably already know how to game the system in ways that would go far over my head. But, in short, only a few hours into Crius and an impressive amount of isk is being thrown at the teams.

The starmap has new info--a tab for industry! It was really only briefly mentioned in a dev blog but it is pretty huge. After my nerdgasms I check out the new info. Jobs Started in the Last 24 Hours: As one might expect, virtually all the industry is in high sec. It is interesting to see all the locations where people do industry. New player systems and mission hubs are comparable to major trade hubs in terms of jobs, which I didn't expect. It is hard to find low sec systems with any jobs in the last 24 hours. The few that stand out are areas where large groups live—some systems in Placid, for instance. There are only a few minor blips in null, particularly around Providence. It will be interesting to see if the blobs of activity spread out more—most are clustered around the Forge currently, no surprise there.

The Systems Cost Index should be very valuable. The Forge is painted with red blobs, with costs mostly .06 or higher. Genesis and Aridia are looking especially low-cost for most activities. Should builders set up a POS or should one be a traveling industrialist? I have no idea but I enjoy ignorantly speculating. 

Of course, what I'm really is: will Crius will bring any conflict-drivers? How will the market actually react--will prices go up generally, down, or stay the same? I look forward to seeing what develops from Crius in the coming weeks. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Month of Amarr Faction War

About a month ago now I posted about my PVP “dry spell” of sorts. Since then, I've joined an Amarr faction war corp with the goal of pvping in an area of space I've never really visited—pretty much the entirety of Minmatar/Amarr low sec. A month in and I'm having a blast.

So far, I've found this area of space quite welcoming for the solo PVPer, if subject to more fluctuations in activity than areas like Placid and Black Rise. Avoiding only Amamake, I've found more solo fights and less blobs than back in Gallente/Caldari space, while also a bit more periods of complete inactivity. I typically don't have much stomach for faction war—too many targets I can't shoot. Amarr FW is especially bizarre, in that some groups will consider you an awoxer if you shoot lore-friendly targets like CVA (the only Amarr RP group I happen to know). The farmers are also a constant annoyance. Some farmers, contrary to perception, are not new players, but alts of PVP characters in FW. As I recall from stints in Gallente FW, some players strongly disliked other FW players who killed Caldari farmers, as some of those farmers were Gallente alts making isk on their second account. I wish FW were more of a FFA—or at least that there was a pirate based militia that did not punish killing members of one's own militia—as it isn't in my personality to do things like kill friendlies, spy, or do other sorts of meta-gaming, yet I also can't stand seeing purples in local. As much as I want to like FW, this is essentially why I've spent the majority of the past year as a pirate.

It has been a month of learning and firsts:

I've learned just how common stealth bombers are in faction war space when that faction is at T3/T4, and I've learned just how expensive some of them can be, with 100-200m fits quite common. I'm still working on my skills for killing these farmers in stealth bombers.

In my quest to solo at least once in every combat-capable ship in EVE, I've just about completed the Amarr destroyers and Amarr T1 frigates, with only a few ships left to lose. I've learned a lot about how versatile lasers are in their tracking and range, as well as how frequently ships like the tormentor are underestimated.On the whole, I'm up to around 70 kills total in the tormentor.

I've also scored my first solo kills in the lowly punisher, the ship everyone seems willing to fight. With the recent boost to the punisher's powergrid, you can now fit crazy combinations like a 400mm plate, an ancillary armor rep, and a small nosferatu all at once. Kiters love to attempt to warp into a plex on top of a punisher, and the nos helps it avoid typical counters such as neuting ships, double-neuting-firetails included (it's a thing).

I've also learned just how strong neutralizers are, particularly neut-bonused ships like the dragoon. The dragoon is, well, insane, so long as someone fights it. I've come to like the 400mm plate version with three neuts and a microwarp drive personally. This ship has led me to many fantastic fights, including my first daredevil kill ever and my second ever worm kill, not to mention the joy of killing a player with only 17 losses to 1k+ kills in one.

Among other firsts include my first solo worm kill, my first experience flying the rifter (I'm only a decade or so too late here!), my first successful solo fight against a remote-rep gang, my first solo kill of a HAC, and my first kill of an Orca, solo to boot—that's a lot of my EVE-virginities taken in one month!

Up next month are the Minmatar T1 frigates and then some of the remaining T1 frigs I haven't seriously flown.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Monthly Ship Kills in 2013 and 2014 - Another Look

The Nosy Gamer posted some analysis of ship kills in low sec in the first half of 2013 and 2014. His post is well worth the read, but I found it rather limited. So, I looked a bit more at the monthly ship kills in null and low in 2013 and 2014. Monthly totals are hard to analyze, given how much variation exists in monthly activities year by year in a game as big as EVE, but the numbers indicate a few things about the health of the game and the amount of content—in terms of ship kills—occurring in game. (For more metrics of player activities, such as jumps and NPC kills, see my original post.)

First, though, I will just recap the points I made in my original post, since it was pretty much too long:

1) The drop in the ACU over the past few months is of course a bad sign—I don't think anyone thinks otherwise. However, I argued, looked at in isolation it paints a much more negative picture of the state of EVE than it does when paired with other statistics, and the drop admits of many explanations, from regression toward the mean to the drop in alt accounts (as opposed to the game simply all of a sudden being terrible!). Of course, if you want to revel in pessimism about EVE, feel free to just look at the drop in the ACU in isolation.

2) Looked at as a whole, in terms of a few types of player activities, 2014 is decent compared to 2013, and in some ways better. So, the idea that EVE is in a spiral of stagnation is a bit overblown, even if there are real problems with new player retention as well as a growing problem of alt retention. [E.g., "The stagnation in null sec is killing the game CCP, and its really starting to show. You're running out of time," is probably one such exaggeration about the poor state of null--see more below.]

That said, let's look at the monthly ship kills in the first half of 2013 compared with 2014 thus far, starting this time with null sec:

While perhaps not killing supers as fast as many of us would like, null sec ain't doing that bad in terms of ship kills by month compared to 2013. Jan-Mar was modestly better than 2013. The decline in the ACU occurs primarily from April to June, 2014, yet May remained better in terms of ship kills than it was in 2013, with June only 2k kills less. And remember, in May of 2013 there was, on May 5th, a record-breaking 65,303 concurrent users online. Make of these numbers what you will--maybe it is just due to HERO. whelping a huge amount of cheap ships? What matters is that people are undocked, exploding ships, and doing it a bit more than in that record-breaking year of 2013. So, regardless of the ACU and the serious hurdles facing EVE etc., things are not as bad as the drop in the ACU suggests. 

Let's turn to monthly ship kills in low sec in 2013 and 2014 (I've included 2012 for reference here):

There are two noticeable things worth pointing out. First, the first four months of 2014 kicked the crap out of 2013 in terms of low sec ship kills--and, remember, 2013 was by most accounts one of the best years for the game by most statistical metrics. In fact, there was over 100,000 more ship kills in low sec in 2014 than in 2013 in February and just about in March as well. However the rest of 2014 goes, that's a huge accomplishment for low sec and something every low sec PVPer should be proud of. Then, of course, the drop in the ACU catches up to low sec, and we see a drop in ship kills, putting May and June a bit behind 2013. Keep in mind that Brave Newbies--a massive source of players and content--largely moved to null in March, roughly the same time we see the drop in ship kills in low sec. So, it's likely that the Brave's move from Barl to (largely) null has drawn activity from low sec and into null. Most PVPers probably knew this already, though.

So, by this metric, the ACU is indeed being felt in low sec PVP activity in May and June, but don't let this overshadow the fact that overall 2014 has been a good year for low sec, with the downward trend relative to 2013 only coming in the past two months.

Finally, let's combine these graphs and see what low plus null looks like for 2014:

The first four months of 2014, in terms of ship kills in low plus null, were significantly better than in 2013, no doubt about that. A downward trend exists in both months in April, but it hit 2014 a bit harder. The downward trend in May and June in 2014, though, is not that bad--only a difference of some 20k kills in May and 40k kills in June. All of this suggests that the state of EVE in 2014 is a lot more complex than simple analyses portray. It also suggests that the drop in the ACU is worse, overall, than the drop in certain player activities such as ship kills--so far at least.

Even if the rest of 2014 continues the downward trend, I'm still impressed with how well it has gone so far (never forget regression to the mean!). What most of us know, though, is that the next 6 months are pretty important for EVE. How will player activity fare in the next 6 months? Will the new release model help the ACU? Will we see CCP make changes that improve both new player retention and alt account retention? However, don't forget that the players, not CCP, have the most control over the state of EVE. So I think I am going to stop thinking about ~numbers~ and start exploding stuff now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Investing 100 Billion Isk – An Experiment

Unfortunately, I don't have 100 billion isk to invest—yet. However, last Saturday I started an experiment: IF I did have 100b isk and wanted to make profit by investing in items I predict will increase in price over the next few months, how would I spend that isk?

If you like spreadsheets, isk, or the market, you might want to give this a try, too! Or at least tell me where I went horribly wrong!

As my previous posts about market trading have indicated, my market will be “complete” when my trader reaches a stable 300 sell orders. Tycoon V is finally complete, and I have researched enough to decide what items to add to my trading roster, so in a week or two I will be “done.” Of course, the items I sell constantly change, but I at least will no longer be using the profit from trading—10 billion last month—to invest back into regional markets. Yet I don't want profit to simply build up in my wallet. I have future plans for what to do with all this isk I don't really need (helping new players and flying expensive ships, mostly!), but I'd like to keep investing what I make and, ideally, turn a profit.

So I am going to enter the new world of long-term market investments, which means getting into the spooky world of market speculation. And the first rule of market speculation is: don't talk about your speculations, else you ruin any profit you might obtain. So, the first thing I am going to do is break that rule and talk about what I would and, in some cases, likely will invest in.

This style of trading fits my goals perfectly, as I currently do not have much extra time to devote to the game. I would rather PVP or play with friends than manage more orders. Apparently, for most players who make long-term investments, long-term investment simply means buying PLEX and holding on to them. I would like to be a little more creative—and, perhaps, take a bit more of a risk. To get some experience investing, I've spent a while researching the market and how future changes to the game might drive certain prices up. And I've decided to do a little experiment. I'm pretending that I have 100b isk to invest. Last Saturday morning, I “bought” 100b isk worth of goods off the market in Jita and put the data into a spreadsheet. My goal? I have until December of 2014 to (attempt to) turn a profit on these items. I can sell them at any time, but I have to at least pretend like it is the real thing—so no mulligans, etc. First, I will explain some caveats about how my method here differs from how I actually would / will invest when the time comes. Then, I will look at what items I decided to (pretend to) buy and offer my reasoning behind the choices. 

So, first, the caveats:

1) I bought straight from sell orders in Jita. In the future when I actually do make investments, I likely won't ever do this because on some of the items below the buy order price is far lower than what I paid.

2) I plan to sell straight to buy orders in Jita. However, when I am doing the real thing, I may not necessarily do this--I may, for instance, ship these items out to other market hubs and sell them there. I figure, though, that if I can make a profit buying from sell orders and selling to buy order in Jita, I can make a profit doing the real thing.

3) Almost all the items I (pretend) bought--and almost all the items I will in the future actually buy--can also be used on my characters. This is a "fall back" strategy for my trading. For instance, the most obvious case in PLEX. I (pretend) bought a few PLEX. If there really is a market bubble--as some traders think--and the PLEX prices will sooner or later completely collapse, such that I can in no way make a profit on them, then I will happily apply the PLEXes to my accounts and write off the investment as isk well spent, not lost. This applies, to a lesser extent, to most of the items I bought. If they don't increase in price, I could use some of the stock of each myself.

4) Some of the purchases below--had I actually made them--would have made a noticeable impact on the market. Buying 2-10 billion isk worth of a single item is a not insignificant movement on the market (I will point this out in some cases below). So, my investments, if actual, would likely have made a change in the market. Hopefully when I do the real thing this will only help me, not hurt me.

5) No regrets! What will inevitably happen with this experiment is one of two things: If I made bad investments, I will be happy that it wasn't for real. On the other hand, if I made good investments, I will kick myself for not selling off some assets and doing it for real. So, I am going to try hard to have zero regrets, no matter what, as this is ultimately just for fun.

That said, here are the items, the quantities, and the prices (the prices are all rounded up):

Category 1: MHAs. I spent a small portion of the 100b on MHAs. If you look at the 6 month average, it is painfully flat. However, as of Crius moons in .4 systems can now mined. As this post on EVE Manufacturing explains, this will, at best, only result in something like a 6.5% increase in available moons. This was a speculative investment, but my fallback here is that if the price doesn't increase, I can ship these MHAs out to local areas and sell them for slightly higher, making up my investment that way. This is the only POS item I invested in even though much is changing with Crius--I simply don't know enough about the changes to make wise investments.

Category 2: Logistics. Some of the logistics ships are currently a bit low in price, so I made a few purchases (again, pretended to...). With how frequently they go up and down, it seems like it will be easy to at least break even at some point. However, if a large war ever heats up again, demand may bump their price up a bit as well.

Category 3: Recon Ships. A general rule with the market seems to be that if a ship is going to be rebalanced, even if that ship is not buffed, it will likely rise in price from increased demand. Well, Recon ships are sooner or later going to be rebalanced, and given how underpowered some of them are in the current meta, the prices will likely go up--so I assume!

Category 4: Limited edition items. Next, I invested a decent chunk of isk into limited edition but frequently used items--geno implants, leopards, and geckos. Ironically, Von Keigai at Deep in EVE just posted about investing in geckos! As he points out, these investments are risky given that CCP could add more supply at any time. It is unlikely more of these items will be added to game before the winter holidays of 2014, hence why one of my goals with this experiment is to "sell" the items off before December 2014. Until then, these items are all likely going to increase in price. In fact, look at the price I got the Leopards for: 75 for 63 million each, rounded up, Saturday morning. Now look at what they are as of July 15: 71-72m in Jita with, to be honest, a limited supply at those prices across New Eden. Things are looking good so far here.

Category 5: PLEX. Obligatory PLEX investment. I don't want to rely on PLEX investments--presumably there's isk to be made elsewhere, too.

Category 6: Three Nestors. This is probably the worst investment on the spreadsheet, considering they are already overpriced! Had I gotten them from buy orders, I could have picked 3 up for around 1.2b sooner or later as well. However, I just have this feeling, deep down, that CCP Fozzie can't sleep knowing that this ship is so terrible, and that he will one day make it useful...

Category 7: Bombers. Just a bit of investment into bombers, as their prices are decently low. If a null sec war picked up, I expect there prices to spike, at which point I can make a small profit. On the other hand, I could use all 170 bombers for crazy bombing runs...

Category 8: Strategic Cruisers. Finally, strat cruisers. Another very risk investment. Their prices inch lower every few weeks. Someday, they will be rebalanced. I didn't spend much here, because who knows when those changes will come--or what they will look like (or even whether they will cause a increase in prices, as I sort of think a lot of people have invested into SCs).

Those are my experimental investments--for now! I may add more items as I research--and, soon enough, I will be doing this ~for reals~

Friday, July 11, 2014

The State of EVE – Some Player Activity Statistics

By some accounts, EVE is not in good shape. Some people are worried about the recent drop in player subscriptions and a drop in concurrent online users, specifically, and others are worried about perceived "stagnation" in various parts of the game, such as null sec. The Nosy Gamer kicked off most of the recent discussions about the state of EVE with his post, first, covering the average number of players online, and then in his more detailed looks at those numbers, the latter of which got picked up by The Mitanni.com

Episode 45 of the Crossing Zebras Podcast is a good example of the doom-and-gloom response these numbers have generated for some (surprising since, by their own admission, the guests on the episode haven't been playing much EVE lately--but not for lack of content, they explain, as their null alliances have had frequent OPs lately, which they have simply not wanted to participate in because they are not big or newsworthy. Rather, my perception is that these guests are the sort of players who at least currently wait for content to generate, not the type to create it for themselves or others).

But player subscription numbers, online users, and personal assessments of the state of the game (or null sec, etc.) are not the fully story. What about player activity? What about spaceship content? 60,000 players logged in at one time--a number surpassed a few times in 2013--is mostly irrelevant if those players are in station and not engaged in any actual gameplay and if they deem no activities worth pursuing besides skill training. Is there any way to gauge player activity? 

In what follows, I cobble together some stats taken from Dotlan--stats on ship kills, NPC kills, and jumps, by type of space. I compare 2012 with 2013, and then I compare 2013 with the first half of 2014 projected over the rest of the year (I'll explain this more below). 2013 saw massive improvements in every category on 2012, as many players would expect, but 2014 does not appear to be such a bad year after all--at least thus far. In fact, low sec and, to an extent, null sec, seem better than 2013 in terms of player activity. Obviously the numbers are limited, and ignore important fine-grained details such as the fact that the first 3 months of 2014 were likely better in most categories than the next 3 months, consistent with the numbers on average concurrent users. Nonetheless, they paint a fairly positive picture of the state of EVE.

2012-2013: Ship kills, NPC kills, and jumps by region

To recap the past few years, 2012 saw the release of Inferno and Retribution. EVE was on an upward trend after CCP had learned valuable lessons from Incarna etc. etc., with development focusing on fundamental gameplay mechanics, particularly just getting people out into space. 2013 continued this trend with Odyssey and Rubicon, while also started to lay the groundwork for future big features. 2013 is often considered one of, if not the best year for the game, with player subscriptions reaching all time highs among other news-worthy statistics, such as largest battles (by player count) and most players logged in at one time, not to mention the complete revitalization of low sec, etc.

With the first half of 2014 came Kronos, which I predicted would be a fantastic expansion for thehealth of low security space. Kronos marked the end of the traditional expansion cycle (for now at least), preparing the way for the last half of 2014 to bring four separate releases—Crius in July, Hyperion (Sep), Oceanus (Nov), and Phoebe (Dec). However, the first half of 2014 also experienced a decline in subscription numbers. Let's start by looking at how 2012 compared to 2013:

Alas, no graphs, but what's important is pretty clearly communicated in the changes from 2012 to 2013. Start with ship kills. 2012 was a good year compared to the years prior, yet 2013 blew it out of the water. High sec and null sec both saw a small increase in ships killed, but low security space (literally) exploded. In 2012 and, really, ever year prior, if you wanted fights your best bet was to avoid or pass right through low sec and head into null, which even in 2012 saw quite a bit more action. From 2013 on, though, that fundamentally changed, with low sec not only completely overtaking null in ships killed, but edging closer to high sec than null ever did. Wormhole space also saw a decent increase in kills, hurray! These numbers, though, aren't surprising. Retribution and Odyssey both did more for the state of low sec than any expansion before them--and probably more than every expansion together. Rubicon helped, too, but also helped null with the warp speed changes and interceptors specifically.

I also included total ship kills in the top ten systems to see if the increases in ship kills were due to popular systems getting (much) more popular, or if the fighting was more spread out. It turns out that the top systems in every type of space improved, becoming much more active specifically in low sec, but not enough to account for the total changes in ship kills. I also checked the top low sec systems relative to the total ship kills in low sec. I excepted the rapid growth of Brave Newbies would concentrate PVP in low sec more than it was in 2012, but it turned out that the top systems in low sec still only accounted for a little over 5% of the total low sec PVP--a fantastic sign of the health of low sec I think, as it suggests that the activity remained spread out.

Now let's look at NPC kills (Dotlan classifies this as faction kills, which I assume are NPC kills). Interestingly, even though 2013 experienced growth in terms of player subscription as well as massive growth in terms of ship kills, NPC kills on the whole declined in every type of space. I don't know enough about PVE in EVE to explain this, but a few causes standout to me: First and most obviously, players PVP'ed more and PVE'ed less. So these declines are actually a good sign in some ways. Second, some changes would account for less NPCs being killed--specifically, Odyssey removed NPCs in (the old) relic/data sites. I am not sure if this is enough to entirely account for the change.

Finally, what about jumps? Jumps indicate players are traveling in space, regardless of what content they pursue. The number of jumps in high sec stayed almost exactly the same, null declined, while low sec of course grew nicely. The obvious message is that high sec stayed balanced with the new players coming in replacing some older players leaving the game or leaving for low sec. In terms of what areas of the game actually felt that growth from 2012 to 2013, then, it was low sec.

2013-2014: Ship kills, NPC kills, and jumps by region

This much is all likely expected. But what about the transition from 2013 into 2014? We are only 6 months into 2014, and massive changes are on the way both for the game as well as for the way content is introduced to the game, via the 10-release model that replaces the expansion cycle. So, I can only speculate on what the next 6 months will bring. So, my comparisons will assume that the statistics of player activity during the second half of 2014 will be roughly like that of the first. Given the negative assessment some players have about the first half of 2014, this would, presumably, be quite bad indeed. To calculate these projected numbers I simply took the Dotlan stats for the first 6 months of EVE and projected them over the next 6 months (they include the full month of June but not the first week and a half of July), the first column being the previous statistics from 2013, the second the projected 2014 statistics:

The tl;dr version is that the first half of 2014 (and thus the projected state of EVE for the full year) is no where near as bad as some people are describing, at least in terms of player activities in game. Let's look at the comparisons in more detail, starting with ship kills. High sec space and wormhole space both experienced small declines, with high sec ship kills returning closer to its state in 2012. Wormhole space gained so much momentum in 2013, though, that the (projected) -6.66% decline in ship kills only negates a small protion of the gains in 2013. And that's the bad news.

Now for the good news: Low sec, amazingly, is even better in 2014 than in 2013! In fact, low sec comes within  few hundred thousand kills of high sec. Given the amount of ship kills that, historically, occur in high sec, that's pretty crazy and a great sign of how healthy and active low sec is. Now for null: apparently, null does even better in terms of ship kills in 2014 than in 2013. That's a surprise, given that the EVE news sites and blogs rarely go a week without posting about the "stagnation" of null. There is clearly a stagnation of news about content in null (rather a self-fulfilling prophecy for news sites, given that they control this fact) yet not a stagnation of fights. Keep in mind that in March of 2014 Braves Newbies and the HERO. coalition moved largely to null sec, out of low. This helps explain the continued positive growth of ship kills in null sec, and it makes it even more remarkable that ship kills increased in low sec when one of the biggest groups largely left. Total ship kills stay roughly the same, which means people are fighting less in high sec and more and more in low sec and, to an important but lesser extent, in null. So much for the percieved stagnation.

What about the other two categories? They mostly continue the trends of 2013--except for one important case: NPC kills in low sec. While no where near the number of NPC kills in high (which continued to decline), NPC kills in low rose by nearly a quarter in 2014. That means right around 25% more NPCs being killed, which means more people in low sec, in space, killing NPCs of various sorts--that is a pretty massive change. NPC kills also slightly rose in null, likely due to the "cold war" status of the region and the increased use of afk-tars. Interestingly as well, jumps in low sec continued to rise, while jumps in null also reversed the 2012 to 2013 trend and increased modestly.

Some Final Thought: Why the decline in the ACU? 

In sum, 2014 is not a downward spiral of stagnation and despair. In some areas, 2014 saw a decline from 2013 (e.g., NPC kills) but many of these trends were present in the 2012-2013 period and many of them are likely positive signs of the game's health. In fact, however, in terms of player activity, 2014 is in most cases about as good as 2013, and in some cases even better.

This makes the drop in the ACU and, presumably, in player subscriptions all the more surprising. I don't have a fully explanation obviously, but I do have three important pieces to the puzzle:

1) There might be roughly the same number of flesh and blood players in EVE in 2014 as there were in 2013, but less newer players (as evidenced by the drop in high sec ship kills and NPC kills as well as from public numbers) and, notably, less alt accounts, which translates to less alts logged in at the same time or one after another, if only to train skills. The decline in alt accounts is likely due to two factors: The continued increase of PLEX prices, and the new ability to train multiple characters on one account. This has led many people, it seems, to close an alt account or two, but, more importantly, it also signals that EVE has not actually lost very many individual players.

2) Players seem to be doing more when logged in. Player subscriptions are down, and concurrent number of players online are down, but some forms of activity, such as low and null sec ship kills, are up. This suggests that players are spending less time logged while pursuing no content--such as sitting afk in stations. Instead, players seem to be doing more while logged in for less time. This might indicate a positive improvement, that players are able to better maximize the enjoyable parts of the game compared with their play time in 2012 or 2013. 

3) Regression toward the mean. 2013 was, by most accounts, the best year of the game's history. When athletes have a banner year and then experience a decline the following year, thousands of new pages and TV time are spent explaining it in rigorous detail when, in the vast majority of cases, their overall abilities have not declined but their averages have regressed to a more accurate status. That, perhaps, is what is going on with EVE in the decline from 2013-2014 in stats like concurrent users online and new player subscriptions, etc. 2013 was an amazing year, and it is probably too much to expect CCP (or the players who generate content) to surpass or even match that. Instead, it would be much more realistic to hope for a continued, small but lasting growth in important statistics.

And that is roughly what we see thus far in 2014. Low sec is better than ever. So here's hoping CCP can do for the other areas of space what they did for low, because it has been a massive success.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Safe(r) Hauling

In June, my first month making over 10b isk trading, I sold 73 billion isk worth of goods. That means I hauled 73b worth of goods myself, given that I do my own hauling. I've yet to be ganked while moving cargo (at least not since I first started trading and used T1 industrial ships for a brief period, receiving one desperate gank needing two ruptures for a cargo of 110m), though I fully expect to one day see it happen. I titled this post "safer" hauling because there is really no "safety" in EVE--that's why I play the game, after all. I personally enjoy ganking haulers and participating in events like Burn Jita--and think gank-groups like CODE. add interesting content to the game. Even the best tanked ship possible may succumb to a large enough horde of catalysts--if only for the fun and challenge for the catalyst pilots!

So, I thought it might be worthwhile to say a bit about how I haul goods. I use four ships as the task requires:
First, when hauling small amounts of expensive goods, the only sensible option is to use a blockade runner. I don't have anything to add that's not covered in this excellent example of fittings for these ships.

I occasionally--quite rarely--use a freighter. To be frank, there is only one remotely sane* way to fit a freighter:

Three Bulkheads. Why people put anything else on their freighters will always remain a mystery to me, particularly when, looking over the freighter losses on the killboards to groups like CODE., people typically use expanded cargoholds even when they don't need the extra cargo space.

* There are always exceptions, and one exception to this freighter fitting involves using multiple alts to web the freighter into warp quickly.

I typically use an orca to haul large amounts of goods, however. Besides the fact that it is a less-obvious target, why an orca? It makes sense for a number of reasons. First, orcas can field a tank comparable and in some ways greater than a freighter. For instance:

Warps slightly faster, aligns slightly quicker, and has a bit better tank than a freighter--particularly against thermal damage, which happens to be the most common damage type of large ganking groups (via blaster ships like catalysts). (Those two implants are also too cheap not to use when hauling.) 

The significant decrease in cargohold is nonetheless worth it when choosing an orca over a freighter, though, for a second reason. Orcas cost about half as much as a freighter, making them far less costly to use--and far less impressive kills. Though groups like CODE. will (and have increasingly started to) gank anything that comes through their system (the Aufay pipe lately), most players like expensive killmails--it makes the preparation of a fleet of destroyers worthwhile--and making the killmail around 600m less is thus worth the trouble. In general, though, for every freighter lost, you could lose two orcas for roughly the same price.

Finally, since Kronos, I've started using deep space transports on some occasions. Their price is on the decline now, and I am really excited about their potential. For one, the fleet hangar can hold a little over 60,000m3, allowing it to carry a battleship--a feat even the orca above can't do. Here is one fit I've been using:

The Pith B-type thermic field is only 4m and the explosive version 18m. The ship is slow to align and warp compared to its blockade runner cousin but much faster compared to the orca. DSTs get a bonus to overheating, which is where these ships really shine. Against thermal damage, the above fit jumps to an insane 1.1m EHP:

Obviously, the smart thing to do is bring thrashers instead of catalysts for this ship (or throw in a cruiser with a bunch of medium neuts). I am sure there are smarter ways to fit these ships, but for my purposes at least, the above is more than enough. Whatever you do, though, don't fit your DST like this. 

Those are the ships I usually use. The how and when of hauling, though, is even more important than the fit. First, and partly aided by my strange schedule, I haul at off-hours, when server population is quite low. Second, avoiding afk-hauling is a must, especially when hauling at prime time and while carrying expensive goods. As I make more isk and when it is the middle of the night US time, I am increasingly willing to auto-pilot with an empty cargohold. A loss mail is inevitable, but I consider it just another transaction tax.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Market Milestones - 10b in one month

The end of June brought to close another month of trading--my best month yet by leaps and bounds. In May I reached a record of 8b isk in profit, while in June I smashed that and made a little over10b isk, roughly 338m a day. Total number of orders stands at 250, and total sell order amount is at 47b isk. Here's what my income has looked like (in millions of isk) since I began tracking the data (exploration profit is averaged over three periods due to the vast fluctuation in profit, as described in my past posts about income in exploration):

I'm looking forward to what July will bring, as it will mark a full year of trading. I should reach a full 300 orders by the end of August, with sell orders around 60b given the items I plan to add to the market. After that--who knows! I likely won't add more trading characters, so my profits will likely be put into longer term investments. PLEX seems to be the common choice, but this sort of highly long-term trading will be a completely new world for me.

As I've described in previous posts, my trading methods are a little peculiar. Here are some of the distinctives:
  • First and perhaps foremost, I trade on only one character. Many established traders (who, understandably, make many times more than I do) have numerous alts for trading, sometimes upwards of a few dozen characters dispersed throughout the trade hubs of New Eden. My goal for this trader is to reach and maintain a stable 300 sell orders and it is unlikely I will expand to more characters. This is partly because, as this very helpful post at MarketsforIsk explains, when you have only a finite and stable amount of play time, eventually your “Return on capital employed” will hit a wall. At that point, given that you cannot play for longer periods of time, you can find better trade hubs or better items to sell, but that's about it. For me, 300 items is close to my optimal number of orders, particularly since I am constantly changing hubs and changing items I'm selling based on trends and preferences etc. 

  • I do my own shipping. Many traders—for good reason—contract their shipping to organizations like Red Frog. Transport adds a large time sink, as well as added risk since groups like CODE. have increasingly started targeting freighters regardless of content. I am partly helped here by the fact that I sometimes work at home and can do semi-mindless tasks like hauling without much interference. This character also functions as a casual explorer, occasional combat scanner/scout, and rarely as a link alt—she is spread quite thin currently.
  • I update orders usually only a few times a week, and never more than once a day. 

  • I buy straight from sell orders in major trade hubs or even locally. I hate updating orders and I hate buy orders, so I avoid both as much as I can. As a result...

  • I don't aim at certain profit margins—such as 10-20 percent per item—but at movement relative to the margins. So, I sometimes make only 1-5 percent profit on items, which is fine if the items are moving.

  • As my slowly progressing series on trading explains, I trade in fairly predictable items at fairly predictable locations—like trading ammo at mission hubs. EVE is a game which rewards knowledge, and many traders are by far the most knowledgeable players about the market trends in EVE, which they exploit for impressive profit. Me, I'm still pretty new, I don't know too much about the game compared to others, I don't speculate about the market, and I make a lot of mistakes. As a mostly solo PVPer and casual explorer, I simply sell the items I am familiar with, the sort of thing a month old character could do—and, to my surprise, it has worked for me. 

  • I don't use spreadsheets to track my trading. I use EVE Profit and, I'm rather embarrassed to say, I simply jot down what I need to restock in a notepad document in the EVE client when items sell. Like many other peculiarities of my trading habits, this is largely due to keeping things as simple as possible—lest EVE start to feel like a job.