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
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.