Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bargain basement

Fair warning: this is a long post.  These days, I don't seem to write other kinds.  ;-)

As promised, I want to talk a little more about yesterday's Team BFF devblog, because I think one change in it is going to have far-reaching effects well beyond its placement hidden in what appears on the surface to be another very minor change in a long list of them.  Here's the big change that's hiding among the little ones:
  • As a part of the "equal value space makes this game boring" initiative, we've changed the way anomalies work. The quality of anomalies will depend on the systems truesec - the better the truesec, the better the spawns. CCP Greyscale is writing a blog on this exact change, coming soonTM
OK, now granted, until the CCP Greyscale blog comes out, what follows is probably more speculation than fact.  Still, the presence of CCP Greyscale (rather than another dev) behind this one is slightly suspicious.  Greyscale, you'll recall, featured prominently in part 3 of the December 2010 CSM Summit.

EDIT (25/Mar/2011): Greyscale's blog is out.  And it's worse than my worst imaginings.  Havens and Sanctums for -0.1 and -0.2 space are gone.  Every prediction in the rest of this blog post is going to come true, and it's going to come true faster than I can imagine.  Read on.

On Scrapheap and the EVE-O forums, there's an obscure meme called "Malcanis's Law", named after its creator.  Malcanis's Law states that "Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of 'new players', that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."  From here on out, there's going to be a Jester's Corrolary to Malcanis's Law, which states "Any mechanics change to sovereignty will ultimately benefit larger alliances at the expense of smaller alliances."

I don't think CCP has made a change to the sovereignty mechanics in the last three years that hasn't backfired massively.  At first blush, for a pair of reasons, I predict this change will be no exception.

Remember, Dominion changed sovereignty mechanics, allowing sov-holding alliances to upgrade their space, and in so doing, make the space more valuable.  The intended effect was to encourage sov-holding alliances to draw more Empire-dwellers into 0.0 with the promise of the income from these upgraded systems.  Before Dominion, there were areas of EVE 0.0 that were considered more valuable (Delve, for instance), and areas of EVE that were considered less valuable (most of NC space, for instance).  This was because of the inherent value of the moons in that space, plus a much more minor factor that took into account the types of rats in that space and the commonality of valuable sanctums where those rats could be easily farmed.  Population density in these less valuable regions was remarkably low.  Prior to Dominion, there were whole swaths of 0.0 that you could fly through without seeing a soul.

With the advent of Dominion, the previously minor factor has quickly become the tail that wags the dog.  While moon income is certainly still extremely valuable, with the rush of industrialists, carebears, and bots into 0.0 following Dominion, "moon goo" has taken a back seat to ratting income.  On paper, Dominion met its intended goal in this regard: every part of 0.0 was just as valuable as every other part, and even previously "unwanted" areas of 0.0 space became war zones, notably Catch and Providence.  Before Dominion, those two regions were considered near-valueless and those that lived there were left to their own devices as sov-holding alliances fought over more valuable regions.  Post-Dominion, Catch-Provi turned into a bloodbath.

That was good news, though.  More conflict is always a positive for the EVE economy.

The bad news is with this massive influx of ratting income, the specter of inflation threatened the very same EVE economy.  EVE's economy is partially based on the number of ISK "faucets" and "sinks".  The former pump "free ISK" into the economy -- ISK that appears "out of thin air", rather than ISK that is produced through the profitable work of a capsuleer.  Examples are ratting income and mission rewards.  The latter take ISK out of the economy; the ISK disappears rather than being transferred to another capsuleer's wallet.  Examples are ISK paid to LP stores... and sovereignty bills.  Dr. EyjoG, EVE's resident economist, has been alarmed by the growing number of ISK faucets in the game and has been agitating for more than a year now to reduce their number.  You can read more about his concerns in the 3Q 2010 Quarterly Economic Newsletter.

So on the surface and with that in mind, this change makes total sense.  The lower the true-sec, the higher the value of the rats that you find there.  It also makes sense in terms of EVE's overall structure.  In high-sec, you get frigate rats.  In low-sec, you get cruiser rats.  And in 0.0, you get battleship rats.  0.0 "truesec" refers to the actual true value of the space in question.  It starts at -0.01 (the "worst" 0.0) and goes all the way down to -1.00 (the "best" 0.0).  So it would make total sense that you should get more valuable rats in a -1.00 system than you would in a -0.01 system.  By reducing the value of rats in -0.01 systems, you reduce the game's overall value of rat bounties, and you slow the biggest faucet in the game, making Dr. EyjoG happy.

So as I said, this change makes total sense.  Except for the minor detail that we've already been down this road, and we've seen where it goes.  It creates space that is not worth fighting for and space that is worth fighting for, and concentrates the conflict into the latter regions.  That is going to hurt the overall EVE economy with the resulting reduction in conflict-driven economic growth.  Which of the two is going to have the bigger impact: the positive of reducing the bounty faucet?  Or the negative of reducing overall conflict in EVE Online?  We'll have to see, but I think it's going to be the latter.

So that's the first reason why this change is going to backfire massively: because there are regions of 0.0 space that are clearly worse than other regions.  Over time, we're going to see conflict move back out of these regions since they're no longer going to be worth the ISK it will cost to conquer them.  My own alliance, Get Off My Lawn, lives in such a region, Pure Blind.  Other than a single -0.45 system, every conquerable system in Pure Blind is -0.25 or higher.  Providence is arguably even worse.  That's why, pre-Dominion, it was considered not worth fighting for.  Pure Blind will still retain a cachet because of the presence of Technetium moons there.

Let's get to the second reason this change is going to backfire massively.

The really interesting question that hasn't been answered yet: will it cost less to hold sov in these less valuable regions?  After all, the people that live there are going to be bringing in less ratting income.  The space is -- overall -- worth less than more valuable regions.  Therefore, it should cost less to hold it.  But if you reduce the sovereignty cost (which is a sink, remember), you reduce the positive impact of slowing the faucet.  If you're reducing a sink while reducing a faucet, what was the point to reducing the faucet?  So my guess is that no, sov cost is going to continue to be a constant regardless of truesec.

And that's going to royally screw small sov-holding alliances and greatly benefit large sov-holding alliances.  See Jester's Corrolary, et. al.

Once this change gets put into place, we're going to see a massive migration of toons, corps, and alliances out of these less valuable regions and into the more valuable regions.  Who is going to end up holding these more valuable regions?  The largest alliances, of course.  For the same sov costs, they're going to hold the more valuable space for their own membership.  If a small alliances manages to capture or be given a valuable truesec constellation, you can shortly expect them to be pushed out of that constellation in favor of their larger neighbors.  It will be interesting to see, for instance, if Fatal Ascension (1963 members) is permitted to keep the Minotaur constellation in Fountain that they were recently given (average truesec, -0.50) in favor of Test Alliance (5500 members), which owns the nearby Manticore and Pegasus constellations (average truesec, -0.09).

The D-AWFI constellation in Deklein is arguably going to become the most valuable real estate in New Eden (average truesec, -0.88).  The "worst" truesec in this constellation is -0.73, and it also possesses a -0.95, -0.98, and -1.00 system, all concentrated in an easily-defensible pipe.  Owner?  Goonswarm.  Good luck to anyone who wants to try taking it away.  ;-)  In the NC, there's going to be a close examination of the constellations being held by the various guests in the Vale of the Silent, Tribute, and Geminate regions.  Once that examination is over, I suspect there's going to be some shuffling of ownership.  A constellation to watch in that last region is V1G-63 (average truesec, -0.61), now owned by Stella Polaris. (877 members).

And as the smaller alliances are pushed to less and less valuable space, while still being expected to pay the very same sovereignty costs for that space, I think you can expect to see corps in these small alliances decide to cast their lot in with the bigger alliances instead.  At the same time, you'll also see the smaller alliances shrink as individual members wonder why they're doing anomalies in a -0.16 system when the next alliance over owns a -0.85...

So, this isn't exactly the best move in the War on The Blob that I've ever seen.

Or I could be totally wrong.  ;-)  I'd prefer to be wrong, in fact.  I look forward to seeing Jester's Corrolary to Malcanis's Law proven false.

8 comments:

  1. Could the argument be made that varying levels of quality could drive further 0.0 conflict? Alliances owning poorer space would have less incentive to sit back and grow fat off of their fully-upgraded systems, instead of taking more valuable space. In addition, could large coalitions' lack of interest of poorer space create opportunities for smaller groups interested in living out of a few systems?

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  2. I don't see why the tru-sec can't be persistently affected by ratting. That way, overly ratted systems' tru sec would adjust and the NPCs become less valuable. It would encourage migration through systems to find the better rats. There are probably second level consequences that haven't occurred to me (this is an "off the top of my head" idea), such as with chaining mechanics, but in my view everything like that should be fluid. Environment attributes should be able to be influenced by player actions in one direction or another from its default.

    Heck for that matter, I think it would be neat to see low sec/hi sec adjacent systems be able to have their tru sec influenced by player actions even to the degree that it would be possible to change low sec to hi sec and vice versa.

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  3. Jester, I believe you're totally wrong :)

    Dominion's changes to sovereignty did two separate but related things:

    a) concentrated the isk-generating capability of each system due to upgrades
    b) equalised the difference between systems since anomalies replaced belt ratting as the main source of income.

    Concentration eased the pressure on growing alliances to take territory. This was good for small alliances looking for systems to own.

    However, equalisation meant that there no longer was a 'shallow end' of the nullsec pool that budding alliances could take and scrap amongst themselves because nobody serious wanted them; if each system at military index 5 was the same, why hang out in deepest darkest 0.0 when you can rat just as effectively in JEIV-E, and be three gates asway from highsec?

    So, instead of backwater regions like Providence being training grounds for small alliances, it gets steamrolled by an existing alliance.

    Reverting to true-sec affecting system income will, by creating undesirable nullsec systems, foster an ecosystem conducive to smaller, less experienced alliances while the established players fight over the important constellations in deep nullsec.

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  4. If I understand you correctly, you argue that a system with lower ratting outcome cannot have lower upkeep that one with a higher income because that would defeat the purpose of this patch: "If you're reducing a sink while reducing a faucet, what was the point to reducing the faucet?"
    Actually, that's pretty easy. By reducing both the faucet and the sink, you reduce the speed at which money flows, and indirectly the amount of money in circulation, which is there main contributor to inflation.

    Let's say so far, you had a ratting income of 10.00 ISK, and you needed 5.00 ISK (50%) of that for upkeep. That left you with another 5.00 ISK to pump into the player market. Now the patch hits, and your ratting income is reduced to 5 ISK. If they don't reduce the upkeep costs, you just barely break even; the space will become almost worthless. If, however, they reduce the upkeep proportionally (at least roughly by estimations), you'll end up with an upkeep of 50% of your income again, i.e., 2.50 ISK. You end up with 50% profit again, but in absolute numbers, you have less ISK to spend in the play-driven economy. Voila, you just reduced the amount of money that goes into circulation, and thereby inflation.

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  5. @ThePsion5: yes, it's going to drive conflict all right, but only in the short term IMO, as small alliances get pushed out of good space in favor of large alliances.

    @Mynxee: I agree. I spit-balled a little proposal on my Jita Park post that truesec should be based on the number of pilots that pass through that system. The more pilots, the lower the truesec. The theory here would be that the best pirates should favor systems with lots of potential targets. ;-) But CCP would probably freak out at coding a variable truesec system.

    @Serpentine Logic: Yeah, but don't your comments just prove Jester's Corrolary to be fact? I completely agree with your comments about Dominion. Dominion did more to screw over small sov-holding alliances than any other change to the EVE sov mechanics. My own former small alliance (Gentlemen's Club) got pushed out of sov 0.0 and fail-cascaded as a direct result of the Dominion changes. And I agree that Provi is once again going to be relegated to the shallow end of the pool as this new change gets made. The difference is that in the intervening time, the big alliances have become much more open to accepting lower SP toons, combating the blob by having blobs themselves. So I think a lot of pilots that would normally join small sov-holding alliances with crappy space are going to join big sov-holding alliances with much better space instead. *That's* why I think this change is going to screw over small alliances yet again.

    What you're going to see back in Provi and other low-value regions are small sov-holding alliances serving niche markets, like role-players and starter merc alliances. CVA is going to be VERY happy when this change is complete.

    @Anon0145: Yep, possible. I think it remains to be seen. Again, making sov costs variable is a lot of extra coding for the devs working on this, extra coding that I would bet money they're not going to do.

    Great comments! :-)

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  6. The problem with GC was that Mya was the only one with enough personal charisma not to force a failscade out of simple interpersonal frictions. So, Mya took a break and things immediately went to shit.

    I had a lot of fun times in GC - I remember one time we were having an alliance director's meeting and I was all "Hold on, I gotta blow this dude up...". LOL. Good times... I think everyone in my corp loved it then. :)

    But then we moved to Scalding Pass and stopped being lowsec/NPC 0.0 pirates. That's when things started to fail, IMO - though I know they went on for some time. And that's also when I decided to cut and run - the sov 0.0 blobs just aren't for me. Hopefully I left on the best of terms (<3 Mya).

    Uh, and on to your actual post: I agree that it will make for large alliances having the best space. That is a natural - and desired - outcome. I disagree that large alliances are going to waste a ton of time conquering all the "terrible" 0.0 space though.

    Would Providence have fallen if it was still regarded as crap? Yes, I think it would. That campaign, as far as I could tell, was never about the space itself.

    Will this destabilize massive coalitions as people decide that they'd like better space? I don't know. I don't think so. At this point it's like a huge gang with tons of peer pressure... 0.0 alliances are trivially able to project power all the way across the map with virtually no effort. I think I agree that there'll be some owner swapping though.

    But I do think it'll reintroduce the "shallow end of the pool" of nullsec sov.

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  7. I believe the issue is with this change, the small alliances will only ever be small alliances.

    take into consideration the amount of time and effort of many to begin supercap production on any meaningful scale.

    reducing the ability for high truesec 0.0 to raise money at competitive levels means that in the time it took to make a titan in providence, the people in delve made 4. it has been shown before in many "eve" changing wars, that the collective ability for a group to challenge another is tied directly to isk generation.

    see the everyone vs. bob war 2... given the disparity of isk generation it took something in the order of 10 to 1 pilot odds to equal a 1 to 1 isk generation ratio (and thus an even tilted war).

    with this change in place, the only wars i see are the boring "north vs south" wars we've been seeing over and over again for the last 6 years. 30,000 players all pissed off their grid wont load when there are 2,000 people trying to fight in the same system.

    small alliances will be forced to join the blob to be competitive. and if you're not trying to be competitive.. whats the point.

    my 2 isk of course =]

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  8. to add to what ThePsion5 said; CCP has a mechanic currently in place that could possibly be adapted for this situation, the Sanshas Incursions. basically take the mechanic that deals with how their influence affects players ability to basically do anything combat related, and change it to affect truesec status, say you find a -0.83 sec system and start ratting, sure 1 person may not have much impact on it, but say suddenly 25 more people join you, running anomalies, plexes, and belt ratting, after about a day or so suddenly that system is now a -0.75, a couple more day and it -0.58, but at the same time, a system that was a -0.27 sec at the start was completely ignored and has risen to a -0.64 system. so basically there'd never be a static truesec system, people will have to move around some, or maybe SOV upgrades could play a role in affecting it too

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