Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beating The Heat - June Econ Report

CCP Quant continues to deliver the economic data.  June data released last week, and though summer is traditionally quiet, let's see if the data bears that out.  We did release our own market summary for the o7 show, but Quant's numbers released a good week after that show

ISK Velocity

As I said in last month's review, ISK velocity is the first stat I jump to.  I have this hope that ISK velocity will be useful in building better PLEX forecasts, and it's a good market activity metric to pair against PVP numbers.  Now with the benefit of hindsight, it's a little easier to draw the correlation between ISK velocity and PLEX direction.  With things cooling to a new normal level, I'm looking forward to tempering expectations a little better going forward.

When it comes to PLEX's record slide over the spring, it's useful to picture ISK velocity and PLEX prices together.  February had skill trading release, March/April had World War Bee, May had Citadels.  In this historic period of cash demand, PLEX (like gold) acts as an easy way to get at that liquidity.  With big door-busting features calmed down for the summer, I'm happy to see ISK velocity staying strong (~0.7) vs pre-skill-trading levels.

Small Note for the stats nerds: Quant's report uses a bi-directional 30d moving average to calculate ISK velocity.  I would rather use one that only looks backwards.  Will probably tweak the stat slightly going forward, which will take us out of alignment with Quant's official charts.

When it comes to activity statistics, I'm actually surprised how well June did in aggregate.  Though we're seeing a general cooling, we're actually above the points I originally spitballed.  Specifically, the slight uptick in value destroyed is interesting.  I'm not ready to pin this entirely on the new event/opportunity system, but these are positive first metrics for a contentious feature.

Citadel Math

Though the general statistics look good, Citadels are weird.  We can't yet track them in our stats (though recent updates have cleared up the API blindspot) and a wild west of bug-or-feature has made it hard to get a solid hand around Citadels in the long term.

Rhivre has been the authority when it comes to citadels.  Specifically, she brought up that the June Faucet/Sink graph looked particularly light.  Quant has responded that Citadel data should be in the report.

The sinks retracted a lot more than many originally expected.  Also, the big dip in Active ISK Delta (money leaving the system because of account lapse) is mildly troubling.  Though April/May proved to be record setting in terms of ISK sinks, June returns us back to the ~45T level.  Half because blueprint outlays (citadels) have tapered off, and half because a chunk of broker fees are now going to players in Citadels rather than being properly destroyed.  

Citadels remain a big topic in many market channels.  Specific recent highlights are things like a 0% fee Citadel dropping near Jita, and Hek not being in the citadel exclusion list.  Also, though there are some big bugs out there (Citadel timers are immune to TiDi), the strategic value of these structures is coming into focus.  We stand by the current advice that summer is the time to lock in positions.  There are a lot of set pieces that should make the fall very interesting when activity picks up.

The Rest Of The Summer

Coming into late July/August, things should be very quiet.  It's a heavy vacation season, and CCP has historically been very quiet in August.  General activity is staying well stoked given the traditional retraction, and it will be up to CCP to keep that fire stoked with activities.  Again, it's my strong advice that this is the time to grind up that cash, stash away those cheap PLEX, and generally recuperate ahead of the fall.  Many signals are pointing to an interesting season coming up and Alliance Tournament and EVE Vegas should get the hype trains moving.

Meanwhile, at ProsperHQ, we're still chugging away on our tool revamp.  Work starts in earnest this week on our data backend, and goals to get you all access to our data continues roughly on schedule.  Once a few more pieces come together, expect a "state of Prosper" blog in the next few weeks! 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reading the Tea Leaves - May Econ Report

Props to CCP Quant sticking to a pretty reliable reporting schedule; May's Monthly Economic Report has been released!  I know the report can be a little sparse for the general reader, so let's walk through it.  Also, if you're interested in the specific stats, go check out Quant's EVE Vegas talk:

What does Lockefox Look For In These Reports?

re-crunched version from original
I like to jump straight to ISK velocity first thing. It has quickly become my favorite stat as an effective short-hand for "heat" or "energy" in the economic system. Also, when paired against PLEX, it helps complete the picture of cash-ISK supply/demand; proving out the demand side of the equation.

Personally, I've found the period since YC118.2 launched (skill trading) constantly surprising. With one feature, ISK velocities were doubled, and though it would be easy to think that it was just a flash, indicators have remained incredibly strong for several months. I continue to expect precipitous falls in each economic report, and I am surprised every month by just how much activity is out there.

To be an armchair-developer for a moment: ISK velocity stands as the primary indicator I would grade releases and development progress on. Where PVP activity is a decent waterline for some balance changes, World War Bee proves that can be a fickle line to balance against. PCU numbers are another popular open metric, but tend to be extremely noisy and seasonal, and less useful in the long run due to larger trends. ISK Velocity shows more directly cluster-wide activity and patch-performance.

Furthermore, it's a useful metric to explain some of the unprecedented PLEX performance since the start of the year. Looking at total cash supply, it’s very strange to see a protracted period of cash-decline. These coffers will need to be replaced, and though prices may be weak right now, PLEX should rise as balance sheets move back into the black.

What's Special About May's Report

The second piece of the econ reports I jump to is the faucet/sink accounting. A lot of armchair-developers like to wield faucet/sink mechanics haphazardly in their F&I ravings, and disregard the complexity of monetary policy. And though I have my own opinions about some faucets, CCP Quant's reports show balances moving in good directions while using sneakier and less mechanically direct methods than I would have originally considered.

April and May's reports show a couple of interesting trends.

First, as Quant pointed out in April's report, it's the first time we've really seen a net-negative balance sheet here; and May continues that trend. And second, the the amount of cash in the Active ISK Delta is particularly high given the launch of the brave-new-world of Citadels. This is probably due to some amount of summer slump, and a healthy amount of fallout from WWB winding down. I'll be interested to see just where Active ISK Delta goes in the longer term.

It’s tempting to read the nearly 2 Trillion ISK shortfall as a bad omen, but if you zoom in on the production numbers, you'll see where all that ISK went: Citadels

It's hard to talk about how much impact Citadels will have in the long run yet. I think we need one more month of statistics before we can really see the entire citadel picture solidify. Pair that with the blind-spot the CREST/XML API's have for tracking citadels, and it is extremely difficult to do independent analysis of their rollout.

Other Trends

I find it interesting pairing the general kill statistics vs ISK velocity. We see a weak correlation during the YC118.3 spike around WWB, but ISK velocities remained strong until the end of May despite a retraction of PVP activity. Though I expect PVP numbers to stay weak over the summer, the general activity statistics should remain strong.

If I were to peer into my crystal ball for the summer, I would hope we're heading toward a period of stability. Skill Trading, WWB, and Citadels moved so much liquid ISK around, and destroyed a good amount of that cash and material, that I would think many need a period of reprieve to recover from the hangover. Also, the destruction rate for citadels is higher than I expected, so we should still see a somewhat higher clip for material consumption.

I originally pointed at PLEX and figured we would start slowly swinging the balance back, as people move to refill their coffers, but sales and general instability have dropped the price again from 900M to 850M. I do expect a hot fall/winter after this summer, so it would be an excellent chance to recuperate and prepare for new changes and territory battles in the most valuable pieces of space.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Skill Point Trading - Follow Up

I posted two weeks ago a forecast on the brainmeat market, and I wanted to review those predictions and talk about where I see the market, as well as some hits and misses.

Extractor AUR Prices

Though I am somewhat upset about the specifics about the AUR/$/PLEX prices, we hit the targets on Extractors right on the head.  I would have preferred if injectors were closer to 5/PLEX rather than the 4/PLEX we hit, but especially with generous sales directly during February I think the extractor market is exactly where it should be considering.

I was a little fuzzy after the specific packages were announced whether we'd hit closer to the 800AUR or 900AUR levels, but it looks like an 800AUR equivalency with PLEX is a decent place to peg the price to.  Now, it's worth mentioning that the PLEX conversion rate and the $->AUR rate are not the same dollar-for-dollar.  Especially under the current sale, directly buying AUR results in a bonus 1000AUR vs PLEX.

I do find it frustrating as a customer that my $20 or $100 can yield such wildly different returns, and that those returns are not all strictly transmutable.  But this is a core design of the AUR system where it's hard to go both ways between ISK<->AUR instead having to go through middle items that may have wildly different returns.  I'd very much rather see a more direct path between ISK<->AUR<->PLEX so that the $->ISK rates were simple for customers.  But I seriously doubt CCP and I will ever see eye-to-eye on this case.

Injector Prices

Injectors have me very worried.  In the entire lead up, I had expected that ISK/SP would be discounted vs the PLEX rate.  This would provide a negative-feedback-loop vs PLEX and would preserve the balance between Character Bazaar and Injectors.  Even CCP Quant's Bazaar Analysis pointed to this discount trend.

This positive valuation has me very concerned.  Simply put: this makes EVE free-to-play if you sell off your SP.  I think this leads to a lot of instability, since it will drive a positive-feedback-loop on PLEX demand without any sort of negative counterbalance to keep the system in balance.  Left unchecked, we could see a situation where MPCT + Extractors on all 3 slots of an account could actually net a positive return.  Whereas, if ISK/SP is discounted vs the PLEX-rate, it gives deep discounts to utility characters without making them free outright.

Now, over the course of writing this, the injector market has dipped a couple times under that parity line.  And I will be keeping a very close eye on the market over the coming days.  This heat might just be a factor of novelty, and a steady state may take a couple weeks to settle down.

Other Markets

Other markets are actually kind of hilarious.  I expected people to want to trade in Injectors/Extractors, but I didn't expect large markets to liquidate to change positions.  PLEX was particularly interesting because the volumes traded to jump on the AUR bandwagon drove actual traded volumes crazy minimal impact to the total orders on the market.

With net trade up so high, I expect there to be a lot of good trading to jump in on for the next week outside of the SP trade, with an opportunity to jump on the Injector/Extractor market coming by the end of the month.  

Though this hasn't stopped some people from going completely nutso:
Speaking as a pilot with a 200M+ main, and over 500M SP between all his characters, I don't think there's going to be many drives for "perfect" characters over the 200M mark.  There is glory in being first or second, but there's precious little utility in having a truly perfect character.  It will be interesting to hear CCP Quant's official report, but I expect that most consumers are in the first penalty bracket from 5-50M SP once we get to the 30d mark.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How I Data Science - Hunting For Trends

Long time friend Blake at has been pumping out some really exciting work around NPC-kill rates.  He recently poked me about taking that raw data forward to something with more teeth, and after futzing with it for about an hour, came out with some interesting data.

His inquiry reminded me of a common question I receive: How do I get into data science?  So, this blog is going to be a bit more long/technical than the recent fare.  We're going to walk step-by-step through the investigation process and I'll try to illustrate what I see as we go along.  The readouts were generated using JMP, only because it's faster to use than R.  This entire process can be done in R, and I can revisit with more specific R samples if its requested.

Let's take a look: