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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Know-nothings

It's been almost a year now since the end of the quarter for the last public QEN.

I bring this up because the simple fact is that at this point, we know almost nothing about the state of the ISK faucet-sink relationship in EVE Online.  The last QEN was based on data before incursions got started.  It was based on data prior to the Sanctum/Haven nerf in April.  It was published before the NC fell, before the DRF took over half of space, before the current CSM took their positions.

The last QEN is ancient history.  At this point, we have no hard data on what's going on with ISK faucets and sinks in EVE, and it seems likely that that data is not going to be shared with us in the future.  Other than occasional useless market profiles, Dr EyjoG and team may as well have been part of the lay-off for all the visible good they're doing EVE's players.

But, presumably, they're off somewhere doing something or other, because today, CCP Greyscale put out another devblog about null-sec anomalies.  In it, he states that the Sanctum/Haven nerf in March/April was:
...a bigger nerf, to more people, than we had assumed they would be. We're not happy with the way they've turned out, so we're making some changes to address some of the problems.
But we're not told what the "problems" were from CCP's perspective, either.  We're only given a hint: they wanted to nerf null-sec anomalies "without driving substantial depopulation of large areas of space."  Whoops.

Way back in March, I wrote a post called "Bargain basement" about this even before the full scope of this nerf became public.  In it, I made two predictions:
  • that null-sec as a whole would stagnate, driving day-to-day conflict out of worthless regions of null; and,
  • that small sov-holding alliances were going to end up getting smashed or pushed aside by the larger players, or would see their members abandon them to join these larger players.
You can successfully argue the first prediction either way, I think.  Maybe I was right.  Or maybe the prediction was made irrelevant by what happened to the NC.  I'll leave that question "to the student", as my professors used to say.  As to the second prediction, Blake over at K162space and I are eventually going to do a joint post on how this went for the small alliances.  It'd be done already if the last month hadn't been so freakishly busy around here.  ;-)  For now, all I will say is: watch this space.

One thing is very clear, though: at the time a lot of us were predicting these things, Greyscale made fun of us and our supposedly poor "models of nullsec causality."  Now that he's "not happy" and has come around to our way of thinking, I'm going to chalk this mistake up to the same CCP arrogance that brought us Fearless and :awesome: and hope it stays in the past where it belongs.  But before I do, I have to get one message for Greyscale off my chest: "Phhbbbbbbbbt."

Thanks.  I do feel better, actually.  ;-)

Anyway, let's turn our attention to the change itself.  Anyone who is familiar with null-sec anomalies is probably familiar with this "chart" that describes the ten levels of null-sec anomalies (from worst to best):
Burrow < Hideaway < Refuge < Den < Yard < Rally Point < Port < Hub < Haven < Sanctum
I don't claim to be a ratting expert.  It was fairly rare that I would rat when I lived in Pure Blind, and I almost never ratted in Scalding Pass.  Still, I did enough of it that I'm familiar with it.  Let's look at Sanctums first.  There are two types, the so-called "station Sanctum" and the so-called "ring Sanctum".  Both are currently worth between 25 and 35 million ISK if you complete them on your own, something that's quite achievable in a solid L4 missioning ship or the equivalent.  When I would rat, I would dual-box Sanctums with a Tengu and Nighthawk, each assigned a flight of five fighters from a safed-up carrier.  Doing it this way, I could finish a ring Sanctum in nine or ten minutes.  Station Sanctums took longer.  Overall, if I really really pushed, I could make about 125 million ISK/hour solo if all I did were Sanctums (which was rare).  There were also two types of Havens, worth 25 million per site.  In actual practice, I'd end up mixing Sanctums with the one type of Haven I liked.  I could pull in about 100-110 million ISK/hour doing this.

I didn't do this very often, because it was stressful... more stressful than PvP, at least for me.  ;-)

If you couldn't do Sanctums or Havens, though, the bottom dropped out.  The Hidden Hub, the best type of Hub site, was only worth about 9 million ISK.  Basic Hubs were worth about 6, and Forlorn Hubs weren't worth doing at all.  Rather than doing a Forlorn Hub, you'd do a Forsaken Rally Point, which was actually worth more than most Ports.  In any case, if you were forced into these lower end sites, you could expect your ratting income to be cut by about two-thirds, if not more (since assigned fighters weren't as useful in these lower-end sites).  In short, you could make more with most Empire means of PvE than you could with any null-sec anomaly that wasn't a Sanctum or Haven.

So, when Sanctums and Havens were nerfed out of existence in many parts of 0.0, ratting pretty much stopped.  And then, of course, high-sec incursions came along and put any null-sec region that didn't have a Sanctum or a Haven out of the PvE business.  Hell, even Goons seem to primarily use incursions for their PvE, and they own some of the most Sanctum/Haven-rich space there is.

And that's where we are today.

It's tempting to look at Greyscale's new blog and dismiss it as "Great.  The rich are just going to get richer.  Nice job there, Greyscale.  I'll go out and invade Goonswarm or the DRF so I can have Sanctums and Havens again right now.  NOT."  Still, if you read it closely, there's some good news there, and it's kind of obscurely hidden in the second to last paragraph:
It's reasonably non-trivial to estimate true ISK/hour numbers for sites, given the wide range of setups that players use to tackle them. We can however look at some straightforward stats like the average ISK:EHP ratio. The best site currently on TQ, the better of the two Sanctum sites, has (in the Angel variant, for precision) an ISK:EHP ratio of 97. The top six Angel sites now all have an ISK:EHP ratio of 90 or better, and the next four are all above 70.
What this seems to be saying is that Sanctums, Havens, and the first Forlorn and Hidden Hubs will now have similar values from the stand-point of opponent EHP versus reward.  If that's the case, it seems to imply that if you take a pair of Tengus into Hidden Hub, you'll make similar ISK/hour that you would in a Haven.  It also seems to imply that the remaining Hubs, the Ports, and the Rally Points, will provide about 75% of that pay-out or a bit more.  If that's the case, then that's encouraging.  The anomalies in the area I'm living now are total and utter crap, but after the 29th, I'll make some time to undock and try out the new ones.  And who knows, with improved Sanctums and Havens, maybe Goonswarm will do the same up in Dek and leave some low-sec incursions for other people.  ;-)

For now, though, I stick to my position that incursions are the only PvE in EVE that is working properly.  I would somewhat reduce the frequency of high-sec incursions and increase the frequency of low-sec ones, but that's something I should expand upon in another blog post.

32 comments:

  1. Hindsight seems to favor the anomaly nerf disparaging crowd, but I whole heartedly disagree with your conclusion; due to the volume of liquid ISK they generate in safe space, Incursions are game breakers, not "working properly."

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  2. Why do you feel that Wormhole PVE content is not working properly?

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  3. Wormhole PvE is off to a great start, but is far too repetitive. And this is coming from someone whose PvE for the last six months has been incursions. ;-)

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  4. I feel Greyscale's first post in the accompanying thread warrants a mention. I'll just regurgitate it here;

    "Also, a couple of things I'm expecting people to ask about that I want to clear up in advance:


    First, this blog was entirely my idea; the original implementation was badly designed and I have no problem admitting that. We make mistakes, we learn from them, and we do things better next time around.

    Second, yes, there was a huge angry forum thread for the first blog and I ignored it. That was also a mistake (obviously, in retrospect). This happened partly because I was too focused on looking for reasoned critiques to appreciate the significance of the huge outburst that it generated, but mainly because I've been increasingly withdrawn from the forums for the last year or two. It's a pretty draining experience reading page after page after page of angry posts, about all kinds of topics but all ultimately driven by the same core concerns of abandonment and neglect, and agreeing with those concerns, and not being able to do much of anything about it. As a result, I've been avoiding listening to the forums and focusing on doing the best work I can, but the former occasionally precludes the latter. On the bright side, it feels like the mood on the forums has been improving hugely in the last month or two, and I'm making an effort to read and post more as a result. Whether or not this is a good thing is of course a matter of personal opinion ;)"

    In fairness to Greyscale, the endless incessant bitching and whining on the forums can drive me to drink, and I'm a player, not a dev. :P

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  5. @liangnuren, With exception of Blue Items which are rare, majority of stuff in wormholes isn't ISK Faucet.

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  6. Re: PVE content and repetitiveness.

    What we really need is for CCP to grab a couple of code monkeys and have them sit down and write a proper procedural content generator.

    I'm not sure there's even all that much to it. There's no terrain in space, so all* we're really talking about is a saneish LCO placement algorithm and randomised spawn tables.

    *I say "all", but PCG is rather tricky conceptually and the sort of problem where unintended consequences and the elusive degenerative edge cases haunt your nightmares. What I mean is it's relatively trivial next to your average roguelike.

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  7. If I had my way, all PvE content in EVE would mimic PvP in some way. For instance, incursion staging sites should be a single PvP-fit rat cruiser or BC that attempts to scram, neut, and laser you into oblivion.

    You can kite him, you can passive fit and missile him down, or you can NOS him, or you can apply any other valid PvP tactic to win. If you win, you get a million or so ISK. Make those staging sites worth doing AND educational.

    I think VGs are for the most part great the way they are, but the payouts need to be reduced some. ASs and HQs are quite good the way they are.

    Meanwhile, null-sec anomalies would pay more, BUT more of the rats in them would tackle your ass. Either bring friends into the anom, or if a roaming gang comes into your system, no insta-warping off and cloaking. You can have the ISK, but the number of ratting losses should go up and ratting AFK should be a ticket for more or less unavoidable death.

    I really need to write a PvE-focused post. ;-)

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  8. When it comes to ISK Faucet/Sink it seems that CCP has decided to completely ignore Dr. Eyjog. With increasing the rewards of Sanctums, the flood of ISK streaming out incursions and Custom offices for PI going to player owned and therefore that ISK Sink becoming ISK Transfer or nothing at all in ISK Department, it seems many ISK Sinks are removed. Skillbooks/BPOs/Office Rental fees are extremely minor. Sov related stuff seems to be about only major ISK Sink Bill that is "large" and consistent.

    Is CCP going to ever consistently release market data in CSV form they promised?

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  9. To be honest, I admire the approach of putting changes on TQ and letting them cook for awhile to see how things turn out in actual gameplay. Equally, I admire the admission that the change didn't quite hit the target and that adjustments are needed. It keeps things lively. I realize this doesn't sit well with people trying to find some stable analytical platform from which to make their short and long term plans. Oh well...I'm a fan of lots of randomness in the universe.

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  10. @Rabbit: we don't know how "minor" skillbook/BPO sales are in terms of a sink. CCP has never released that data. However, sov payments IS relatively minor: two trillion ISK per quarter, according to the 3Q2010 QEN.

    The LP store was the biggest sink, with >10T sunk in 3Q. Transaction taxes and station broker fees were tied for second with about 3.5T. Sov was 4th.

    But again, we don't know how much skillbooks and BPOs sink. I suspect that it *dwarfs* the 10T/quarter for LP store purchases, but I also suspect it's been steadily trending downward for the last year at least. I am without hard data. It's one of the reasons this blog post is called what it is. ;-)

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  11. I can't believe I just read a comment about eve using roguelike in the same context. Something tells me you prefer python or lua.

    (python myself)

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  12. Fiarly certain the Forsaken Hub was my favourite hub, due to having no frigates to annoy my Tengu with.

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  13. I don't think that dual-boxing counts as soloing. Having a second account means doing double.

    I run site in a C2 wormhole when I have time and it brings around 60mil/hour (counting the killing and salvaging).

    The restriction: I need to scan the wormhole down, it needs to be safe, I need to not get killed, I need to have time and I'm not even sure if there's any sites available to be done.


    I'm fine if some sites give good isk/hour, but I feel like they should be restricted in some other way. For exemple, Incursion give good isk/hour, but only a limited number is available per week, which means player have to do other lower income activities after the incursions are gone.
    This would balance the isk faucet and satisfy people's hunger for high income job.

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  14. 100% agreement with you Jester: incursions are too easy ISK, anomalies were nerfed far too hard without any consultation with the player base (not even the CSM), PVE should mimic PVP as much as possible, more rats should tackle, Incursion Staging encounters should be harder (I'd suggest somewhere between L3/L4 missions in difficulty).

    I'd also like to see all existing PVE content upgraded to use sleeper/incursion AI. The same type of encounter, same story, but number and type of ships rebalanced so that by L3 missions you're dealing with tackle on a regular basis, NPCs don't have infinite cap, etc.

    As for Carole Pivarnik, you said you were leaving! You just can't help yourself can you? :P

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  15. @Mara: I'm gone! Honest! Except from Jester's blog...I'm the Ghost of Jester's Blog...muahahaha!

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  16. rogue-like, of course, referring to a style of text-graphcis adventure game such as "Dungeion", "Amulet of Yendor", or "netback".

    More recently, random dungeons have been part of the selling point of Diablo, Diablo II, Diablo III and Torchlight. This raises the "replay ability" of the game since you don't end up running the same dungeon over and over again.

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  17. @Carole I won't deny it is peculiarly comforting to see you around though =)

    Anyhow, apologies to Jester, this is a blog not a speakeasy!

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  18. Why, Why, can't you just leave hisec alone? If there are not enough losec incursions then that is fine increase them but leave the hisec ones alone. BTW as someone who runs a fair number of incursions most of the fleets that I fly in have a very large percentage of low/nullsec pilots looking for safe isk

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  19. @Anon2134: You've just hit on exactly WHY more incursioning should be pushed into low-sec. These are pilots that are more than capable of handling themselves there and they can train the more nervous pure high-sec bears at the same time.

    I should know. I'm one of them. I was on MANY of the low-sec incursion fleets that BTL ever did... until they stopped doing them.

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  20. CCP broke the PvE content with Dominion. Back in the days my former alliance CEO came back from Fanfest before it was introduced (and he got a little showcase there and numbers): everyone will be farming these anoms and it will end bad. And it did. Way too much isk could be made way too easy and it hit the market and industry in many different ways. After every alliance with SOV had established their systems it was just insane. People to be able to make a cpl billions each week easy and safe. My personal average was 150mil/h with no risk at all. Belt ratting died, so did basically PvP vs PvE ships in 0.0. Many small gank player still try to get their fix but it still does not work: PvE guys are in a fleet with 10 or more and keep farming in mostly HQ systems, the one or the other afk cloaker does not matter under a cyno jammer and black ops are easy food for a fleet of HACs doing Sanctums.

    The slow alliances or newer players seriously got spanked with the anom nerf but the old players did not bother while sitting on 30 or more billion ISK.

    I still think that is why we do not see any QEN anymore: it would show how broken the economy is cause of the original anom mechanic.

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  21. 2/3rds of ISK from Havens/Sanctums comes from 10/10 escalations, so tweaking ISK/EHP is fairly pointless (maybe one of 30 escalates, if it does you get 1-1.5 bil from 10/10, meanwhile you get about 800 mil from those 30 Havens)

    Meanwhile Forsaken Hubs escalate to expeditions (Dread gurista fleet point etc) that are hassle to run (3 stages; may lead to dangerous space) and bring maybe 500 mil on average.

    So Hubs will not be remotely coparable to Havens even after the fix.

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  22. Am I the only one who worries is a little because it is again 1) an approach which banks on CCP monitoring and iterating (with which they have a wonderful track record) and 2) a non creative (tweaking) approach (low resource cost) rather than a structural approach on game design that introduces new and more flexible systems that demonstrate lessons learned from previous systems.

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  23. Great post. A quick comment on Sleepers, I know that many sites can be soloed but eventually one will get jumped which is a lot less likely in places with local channel. Therefore most WH corps put up teams to run the sigs, reducing the individual ISK / Hour but making it safer for everyone.

    I guess, I don't buy into the ISK / Hour calculation. The real metrics should be (fun in game) / hour. Many WH dwellers prefer to make less isk but run ops with their mates over mindlessly farming content for ISK alone.

    Sleeper AI is a good start but the fact that the sites have published triggers gets old after a while. I never understood why MMORPGs (not just EVE) don't have randomizers in the composition of NPCs and their abilities. It can not be that hard to do? That btw, would go a long way to make missions more interesting as well....

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  24. Jester re your response to @Anon2134, why is it that lo/nullsec players seem to think that "pure high-sec bears" want to go to losec or nullsec? There are many hisec players that are very happy in hisec, but the classic lo/nullsec seems to constantly want to nerf hisec "so that more players will move from hisec" Why? Most hisec players don't want to. We are very happy where we are, we mission, we mine, we run incursions, hell we even get a cheap thrill now and then by wormhole diving...as @Anon2134 says leave hisec alone...fix losec/nullsec instead. If you want more incursions in losec then get them but leave my toys alone!

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  25. @Anon1241: It's all connected. High-sec bears have a massive impact on non-high-sec players. An easy example are Federation Navy Stasis Webifiers. They're intended for PvP players. But because of incursion-runners, prices on them have skyrocketed out of control, and now most PvP players can't afford them.

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  26. @the whiney "pls leave me a lil corner of the 'Verse to myself, pls!!!" anonymii:
    Agreed with Jester. Basically this is what I hear as the #1 argument from true hisec bears:
    "I just wanna mine/mission/trade/courier/whatever in peace...can't you just leave me alone in my lil corner of the game???"
    To that, we say (and RIGHTLY so): FUCK. NO.
    The REASON we say "fuck no" is, as Jester pointed out, your actions, even in "your own lil corner", affect the rest of us -- that's kind of the idea of MMOs (which, by and large, most fail at). Just a refresher for those not around in the First Days of MMO: the MM part stands for Massively Multiplayer. Note the word MultiPLAYER, NOT "Multiclient".
    The idea of these games is that yes, they REQUIRE multiple people working together to truly "succeed"... and that one group of players has an impact on the rest. EVE is probably the first MMO in recent years (at least that's reached a decent level of popularity/notoriety) to get that concept even marginally right.
    So really, a hisec bear arguing to me that "can't you just leave me in my own lil corner???" ... all I can say to that is if you truly desire an asocial gaming experience, perhaps you should consider a single-player game. Or, hell, at least move to an unpopulated area...otherwise, yes, you have to share the sandbox, and not everybody wants to build the same castle as you. Many will enjoy reaping your tears for not playing the same way you think they should.

    Here's another compelling reason to completely dismiss any and all arguments from pure hisec bears:
    Most of us writing these blogs/forum posts, sharing ideas, have lived in hisec. We're very familiar with the mechanics and "daily life" there. However, that is where your knowledge, anonwhineybears, comes to a SCREECHING halt. "Ohshit, that's a .4 system gate, better not go! Hell I oughta get out of this .5, the .5 is yellow, so it must be dangerous too!"
    The rest of us, not only are we familiar with hisec, but low and at least NPC null, if not full out Sov null.

    Therefore, anonwhineybears, your opinion is based upon a limited knowledgebase and EXTREMELY limited experience of one aspect of the game. How can you speak to what lowsec needs if you may have ONCE made a sweaty-palmed jump through an empty .4 system, taking a shortcut or sightseeing detour? How can you possibly have knowledge and experience that qualifies you to write word fucking one contradicting the proven knowledge & experience of those who've lived in hisec and later moved to low or nullsec and established themselves there? Do kindly explain me that.

    That, or, STFU/HTFU.

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  27. @ Jester & Hong.

    I am curious. I've seen various statements over the years on "stuff" which high sec / bears do, but a lot less specific statements on how their (in)actions have effect on others / other groups.

    No, don't reach for that gun :P Yes, EVE is interconnected, and that is pretty much why it functions (behavioral catalyst).

    But what I would like to see, is examples, data, etc. How do the actions of group types, and where, affect those of others, and how.

    I sincerely wonder if CCP has any research on that these days. I remember they had a bit of a study on it some long years ago, and the results of that when shared at a fanfest raised quite a few eyebrows (one of the conclusions was, for example, that because they could not correlate a visible relation between null sec characters across accounts and high sec characters ergo the two were seperate).

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  28. Anonymous: you askin me to prove a negative? Right, great argument tactic that. ;-)

    I think my argument stands on its own merits.

    However, I think my argument also makes a secondary argument that again, stands on its own merits: If you take the MM, "Massively Multiplayer" at face value -- alt accounts defeat that purpose. By allowing one player to "simulate" multiple players working together, you're obviating the "multiplayer" aspect of the game.

    Nobody'd argue against Mal Reynolds being a "lone wolf renegade" type character -- but even he needs a crew, and the occasional outside helping hand.

    Again, you can CHOOSE to strike out on your own, but you will of course not be nearly as successful as those who can work together and bring different talents and abilities to the team...
    And again, if you want an asocial gaming experience, there're plenty of space-based single-player games out there.

    Otherwise, acting like the proverbial Eric Cartman, "Screw you guys, I'm goin to hisec!" will end up with you regarded in about the same light.

    I really don't know how clearer that idea can be. It doesn't require math or statistics, just a small application of uncommon sense.

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  29. No, I'm asking for concrete examples, interaction flows if you will, between general high sec "bear" activities and activities elsewhere in the universe.

    We're aware that (for example) null sec organisations, and individuals, engage in so called "sourcing" actions in high sec. Think isotopes, think minerals (compressed).

    In that example, the question is whether that is an interaction with roots in so called "buying power" (null sec buys in bulk regardless of identity of source) or "distributed sourcing" (where null sec takes in what secondary accounts located in high sec collect / provide).

    Over the past years though, that is a debate which has gotten majorly lost in its own myths. Hence why perhaps it is a better idea to compile a list of activities where there is identifiable interaction between the null sec and high sec player types. With that, I'm sure plenty bloggers could get to work to figure out the extent of such relations, and whether (alt accounts point) we perhaps can observe trends where (as CCP seemed to think at Fanfest) the more complex / larger the organisation is in nullsec the more likely they "feed" from their own instruments in highsec (with, as the Dev pointed out at FF only raw materials being at times something pulled in from the general supply from non affiliated parties in high sec).

    CCP's economist unfortunately declined to answer the question to what extent the identifiable "bear" types of accounts in high sec create their own (mostly disconnected) behavioral niche in the game.

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  30. Simple "interaction flows" have already been identified:

    The ease and safety of mining in hisec means that AFK players are actively pushing the value of Veldspar, Scordite, Plagioclase, Pyroxeres, Kernite and Omber down. It is not worth mining Veldspar in null sec because the time is far better spent mining Arkonor/Bistot/Crokite, and simply importing the rest in jump freighters full of 425mm Railguns (or whatever module provides the best compression for the required mineral proportions).

    The ease and safety of running min-maxed fitted ships in Incursions in hisec means that everybody wants the best module in each slot: Federation Navy webifiers, 'Umbra' ECM modules, Caldari Navy PDU, Caldari Navy BCU, Imperial Navy Heat sinks. The fact that Incursion runners have prodigious incomes means that they will (and do) pay exceedingly high prices for these modules.

    Even the solo mission runner has an impact — for example the guy who spends all his time running missions for Sisters of EVE is impacting the market for Sisters probes and probe launchers, which impacts the availability of these items in null sec for the purposes of probing down enemies in "safe" spots.

    Any "solo" activity in hisec impacts the market in some way, which impacts the entire game.

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  31. As for the assumption that some hisec people will go to low/null if given the opportunity? That's correct. The catch is the conversion rate. If you have, for example, 700 people online in BTL Pub doing nothing and being bored, and you suggest running a lowsec incursion, you'll get about 7 people volunteering to come along, while 693 people suddenly realise that they could take this opportunity to schlep their Orca around hisec collecting various hangars-full of junk to sell or reprocess.

    Nevertheless, there are actually people in hisec who want to dip their toes in low and null, but just need a firm hand and a calm voice to guide them.

    Some care bears are 100% averse to risk. Others are willing to take the risk as long as it's not them that loses a ship. Others are willing to take the risk for the sake of having fun.

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