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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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quadruple nerf

I have four EVE accounts, two of which I pay for with subscriptions, two with PLEXes.  That means in order to keep playing EVE the way I'm used to, I need a continuous income of a billion ISK per month.(1)  My main income source is manufacturing, but with what's going on with the market in the last several weeks, making that billion has been a lot more difficult.  I find ratting in Syndicate is a waste of time.  So I've been supplementing my manufacturing income with exploration and the occasional incursion.

Besides, the latter's been a good way to keep up with how the Escalation patch is affecting incursion-runners.

And I'm glad I have been, because I'm learning a lot.  Ironically, Escalation's effect on incursions is turning out to be a CCP record: a quadruple nerf.
  • Vanguard payouts are reduced 10% (nerf #1); and,
  • Vanguard spawns are no longer blitzable (nerf #2).  In addition,
  • Either because of this, because CCP adjusted it, or both, Sansha influence increases faster in constellations than it did before; so,
  • Because Sansha influence is higher, player DPS and resistances are lower; so,
  • All incursion sites are slower to run than they were before (nerf #3); and,
  • Because Sansha influence rises so rapidly, often HQ sites can't be run at all (nerf #4).
Let's start with Sansha influence, because that's impacting just about everything.

Sansha incursions have a little influence bar that shows and regulates how much players are impacted by the incursion when they enter sites in an incursion constellation.  At "100% red" -- full Sansha influence -- player DPS and resistances are greatly reduced from normal.  At "100% blue" -- no Sansha influence -- player DPS and resistances are unchanged from normal.  Before the Escalation patch, it was extremely common for players to rapidly smite the Sansha influence bar from 100% red to 100% blue in a matter of hours.  Even when I was running incursions pretty regularly last summer, I don't think I ever saw Sansha influence in a high-sec incursion of higher than 20% red or so.

The higher the Sansha influence is, the harder incursion sites are to run primarily because player DPS is reduced.  However, some sites -- notably HQ sites such as True Creation Research Centers -- become impossible to run because player resistances are also reduced.  There's enough alpha in a TCRC to volley player ships off the field if Sansha influence is high enough, regardless of the number of logi brought into the site.  As a result, to even make multiple HQ sites possible to run, someone needs to go out and run a large number of Vanguard sites to drive Sansha influence down.  However, as I said, either players are running markedly fewer Vanguards or CCP tweaked the rate at which Sansha influence rises (probably both).

Doing a HQ site reduces Sansha influence in the constellation by about 4%.  Doing an Assault reduces it about 2%.  Doing a VG reduces it by a small amount, probably around 0.33%.  But Sansha influence continuously rises by about 1% every five minutes or so, or about 15% per hour.  If there is an HQ fleet running, that will hold down half of that.  The rest must be held down by Assault and Vanguard fleets.

Ironically these days, there often aren't enough.  This is particularly true on weekdays and during USTZ.  As a result, where prior to Escalation it was uncommon to see any red in the Sansha influence bar, today it's quite common for the influence bar to hover at around 20 or 25% red.  Again if this is the case, incursion income is reduced due to reduced player DPS.  Only if the armor and shield public incursion channels cooperate or compete in the same high-sec incursion is it easy to keep the influence bar at 0% red.

All of this is having two other interesting effects as well.  First, the Sansha mother ship site only appears if the Sansha influence actually reaches 0%.  It doesn't have to stay there, but it has to be pushed there at some point during the incursion.  If the mom site never appears, then it cannot be run and incursion-runners don't receive their LP rewards.  Prior to Escalation, getting the influence bar to 0% was trivial.  In at least two cases since Escalation, it's been a point of worry whether it would be done at all for a given high-sec incursion.  Quite a change!

Second, incursion fleet griefing, a tactic which had been on the decline for the last part of 2011 and the first part of 2012, is back on the rise.  The more difficult Vanguard sites combined with the higher Sansha influence (and the impact this has on player resists) are making it much easier for griefer Logistics pilots to abandon fleets to their deaths.

No doubt, many of you reading this are saying "good!" to yourselves over and over again.  Incursion runners have less ISK?  Good!  Incursion sites can't be blitzed?  Good!  Incursions are harder?  Good!  And sure, that's a fair opinion.  I understand why you might hold it.  Still, it's having two chilling effects on the EVE economy at large that are contributing to the "May gray" I mentioned yesterday.

I've commented before on how circular incursion ISK tends to be.  Full-time incursion runners spend their ISK on faction or pirate battleships, or tech 3 ships.  They run more sites.  Then they spend the resulting money on faction modules, earn more money, and upgrade to dead-space modules.  In the process, a ton of ISK is produced and then flows into the EVE economy.  With the exception of a few over-priced True Sansha modules, though, this money isn't going to other incursion-runners.  It's going to players who are making those faction and pirate battleships possible though tags and pirate missions, respectively from faction warfare and either low- or null-sec.  The higher-end dead-space modules of course come from null-sec.  As a result most of the ISK from the "ISK faucet" -- though it goes directly to incursion-runners -- spends very little time in their wallets before finding its way into the wallets of faction warfare, low- and null-sec players.

The resulting slowing of incursion fleets is slowing down this flow of ISK, too.  The result has been reduced prices for faction and dead-space modules.  We can now track the prices of these modules on the market and those prices are going down, down, down.  Granted, some of this is due to the reduction or elimination of scams from the contract market.  But some is also reduced demand for the modules themselves.  That isn't hurting incursion-runners.

Second, the Sansha influence bar is so aggressive now that it's nearly impossible to be an independent incursion-runner.  Before Escalation, an "unclaimed" high-sec incursion(2) would soon find its influence bar pushed down by fleets not brought together in the two public incursion channels.  These days, the much higher Sansha influence makes that difficult or impossible.  The independent fleets soon find it's worth their time to move to the constellation where one or the other public channel are working to take advantage of the reduced Sansha influence (and the higher DPS and player resists this provides).  This has, in essence, put more power into the hands of FCs in these channels.  Ironically, this is not unlike the effect the 2010 sanctum/haven nerf had on smaller independent null-sec alliances.  That nerf crippled or killed most small independent sov-holding alliances.  This nerf is doing the same to the independent incursion-runner.

So overall, has the quadruple nerf been too harsh?  It's too early to say.  The incursion-runners would certainly say "yes", no doubt about that.  Still, you can see the fleets compensating for the new normal week by week.  Income will never get back to a pre-Escalation state, but all the nerfs and changes will probably become more manageable than they are today.  It'll be a topic I'll want to revisit in a few more months before I decide on an answer myself.

Aiden Mourn over at finders & keepers is one of the gleeful EVE players saying "good!" about all this.  Very ironically, though, he thinks that frustrated incursion-runners are going to fall back to doing level 4 missions.  That's a ridiculous notion, but I'll talk about why in a day or two.(3)  It's another factor having an impact on the "May gray".

(1) This is before the cost of ships, ammo, boosters, and paste is considered.
(2) Each of the two public incursion channels "claims" one high-sec incursion.  If there are three high-sec incursions at a given moment, one will therefore be "unclaimed".
(3) Those that have been keeping track can probably guess, though...


  1. It's worth mentioning that the contract interface was modified to sort by price (cheapest first) by default, rather than sorting by contract age (oldest first) in a recent patch.

    So apart from the addition of faction modules to the market, there are other explanations for the plummeting average price of faction and deadspace modules (esp. Sisters launchers, which used to sell like hotcakes at 60M ISK each). Sisters launchers aren't needed for Incursions, so they are a decent reference point for changes that affect all faction/deadspace module, as opposed to those modules whose price is primarily impacted by Incursion runners.

    1. But can't you convert CONCORD LP to SoE and thus buy Sisters items easily?

      That would go a long way towards tanking the price.

    2. Yes, but remember that CONCORD LPs are converted at an 80% or so exchange rate. That's steep enough that many incursion-runners would rather just cash out their LPs with CONCORD

  2. The market help prices to go down since a sell order can be adjusted every 5 minutes. Buy orders might help too... I doubt contract buy orders were that commonly used compare to market buy orders.

    If you want to compare, nightmare price to mineral prices to see if it's going down quicker. Faction BS have been on the market for more than a year.

  3. Good, good, good, very good. I'm a bit incredulous though, :CCP: finally doing something right? Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Otherwise, I think they didn't go nearly far enough. I'm with Gevlon on this one, remove completely incursions, L4s and T2 miners from hisec. You want money and pimpin' ships? Welcome to the hood, bitch.

    Actually on a second thought, T2 miners in hisec are fine. Leave those be, we need miners in hisec. Yeah, especially if you're looking for additional sources of income, the ice belts are magnificent this time of year.

    1. You miss the point by a large margin Steel, if people don't want to go to low/null/wormholes and they can't make the money they want from high-sec to enjoy the game, they are simply going to leave.
      Then you have all the people who took their incursion money and put it towards PvP ships/plexes and either leaving the game or far less pvp for them, or well t1 cruiser/frig pvp(t2 are getting stupid in price).
      On the isk/hour you have to at least double if not triple the time to make the same amount of isk on average.

    2. You could not be more right Steel.

      Way too many ISK fountains in Hi-Sec, far too easy to live the high life in complete safety, while people in Wormholes, 0.0 and low-sec have to scrape by under constant threat of death.

    3. @Ed - utterly ridiculous. You might as well argue that CCP should just give everyone in high sec an allowance just for playing.

      There are many other ways to make ISK, even in high sec. If some Incursion runners leave the game just because making ISK got a little bit tougher for them, then - boo hoo - good riddance and go back to playing WoW.

  4. Good indeed, for my wallet.
    Until CCP figures out how to properly run their game it´s the perfect time for a break, a yearlong one. Unsubed.

    1. Good bye. We won't miss you. Loser.

  5. I also vote "good"!

    I don't mind Incursions paying well, but they were just too damn easy and too quickly run.

    It really did not make much sense, given the big buildup that CCP did prior to release of Incursions. The Sanshas were supposed to be bad ass invaders - requiring a combined effort of many, many capsuleers to defeat - yet they were quickly reduced to the status of ISK grinding - almost as bad as mining rocks or running L4s AFK.

    So, I don't read this as a nerf to Incursions - I see this as a much needed buff to the Sanshas.

    BTW, Jester - sometimes I think you focus too much on the ISK and not on fact that PVE is supposed to be challenging. :)

    1. Remember: EVE is a sandbox. This means -- by definition -- that not everyone wants to play EVE the way you play EVE.

      Second thing: I invite anyone who thinks incursions aren't challenging to run four TCRCs in a row as a logi. I've ratted in 0.0, done C4 and C5 wormhole sites, soloed L4s and L5s, and routinely soloed some of the hardest exploration sites in New Eden (the last two mostly with multiple characters, of course). You can trust me when I say this: incursions are the hardest PvE there is in this game.

      All that said, most often the ISK is the means to an end, not an end itself. There certainly are people whose goal in the sandbox IS the ISK. But most people want ISK to do something else. PvE in EVE is often challenging, but it's never fun. As a result, I focus on the ISK because if one is forced into EVE PvE, one would like it to be over as soon as possible. ;-)

    2. @Jester -

      No one forces you to PVE for ISK. You choose to do so because (a) you want to buy (and lose) expensive toys, (b) you want the convenience of multiple accounts, and (c) you don't want to pay for it all with RL cash.

      The idea that you "need" to make 2B ISK per month, in order to play EVE is a rather absurd concept - like saying that you need a $20,000 set of golf clubs in order to play golf.

      Read your response to Gevlon back to yourself a few times, and compare it to the ISK:fun ratio when you first started playing the game. You might find something isn't quite right....

  6. Well, I don't really see all this doom and gloom you're speaking about. I haven't exactly run a lot of incursions, but I have run a ton recently, and my income hasn't been bad. In a Valhalla Project fleet, we managed to run 2 HQ sites in about an hour 30 minutes, and that was when the influence bar was going from 85% at the beginning to 65 at the end.

    Maybe I just wasn't one of the 'spoiled children', but this really doesn't seem too bad to me. HQ's are more fun than vanguards, and once we get the neuting battleships down, it's all fun banter between the 40-odd pilots. I dunno, just my point of view.

    1. I agree with you. The primary benefit to incursions is that it's a social experience, which is a huge positive.

      It's in CCP's best interests to reward players that participate in social experiences. Their own research says that if players find a social experience to participate in, their likelihood of staying subbed increases markedly.

      In that sense, CCP should be encouraging players to join HQ fleets and the Escalation nerfs did that. It's just worrisome because if TVP can't run HQs because the influence is too high, then the social experience is broken.

    2. Actually, this is the part that I think you have backwards Jester. TVP is able to run at high levels of influence and are able compensate probably easier than the VG and AS fleets. We've actually been able to run 2 HQ fleets concurrently far more often than pre-patch. But as you show, even 2 HQ fleets is not enough to both move and hold the bar at high influence levels. I would suggest it's far more that the VG's aren't able to run at high influence than the AS/HQ's...at least on the shields side. Sure, a HQ system with 5 TCRC's and 100% influence is a huge block...but even that can be run with overloaded fleet comp.


    3. Well, Jester, that was exactly my point. We were able to run HQ sites at around 85% and sure, it took a lil' longer but we didn't lose anybody and it was still fun. We were actually running two HQ's at the same time because so many people wanted in.

  7. Maybe this will encourage more folk to go make their isk in wormholes. It was ridiculous that you could make more isk in highsec than in wormholes with the logistic difficulties and risks involved. I suspect that the balance between incursions and sleepers is still wrong, and still favours risk free incursions too much.

    Maybe we'll see more people in WH or low sec after this, I hope so as they're both withering away to a slow death at the moment.

    1. Doubtful... As someone else pointed out above, you can't push people to low or null, nor can you coax, cajole, or "bribe" them if they truly don't want to go. They'll just leave, which is "bad for CCP", but on the upside, EVE needs more ISK sinks and ISK in the wallets of deleted chars and unsubbed accounts is effectively "sunk", so at least there's that small balance.

      I think the only real nerf incursions needed was a reduction in number and frequency. Let a day or two lapse between the death of one incursion and the spawning of the next. After all, Sansha's gotta be running low on mommyships and losing steam fast... At least if you take "story" into account (I know, CCP doesn't, but still...).

    2. @Hong, this is #2 speaking.
      I am surprised you are so reasonable with you post this time and find hardly anything wrong with what you were saying. Wow...

    3. #2: I'm always reasonable. I may be immodest most times, but I'm always "reasonable". Just because someone feels vehemently about a subject does not make them "unreasonable", especially if they can provide _reasons_ for the vehemence of their feelings. ;-)
      Someday you'll come to understand that. Til then, keep on trollin. ;-)

  8. This game needs less low risk high reward. Forget the hisec AI farmers and nullbears though. Where are the long needed lowsec changes? I don't care about bringing in bears to lowsec. I want the people who already live there to be able to make ends meet without having to resort to alt accounts.

  9. Strangely I find it very hard to find any sympathy for incursion runners. HTFU and adapt?

  10. I'm surprised you having trouble making a single billion a month with manufacturing. I make 700M from it and it's really-really a side business with terrible skills (Production Eff 4, Mass prodction 4, 9ME/0PE BPs), which I only started to make my blog less one-sided. I produce simple T1 ships from BPOs. Most people ignore them despite it's good money, need no datacores, invention and such. Just minerals and BPOs.

    Also, if you have ISK problems, you can always haul. With your PvP experience it shouldn't be hard to haul from low or NPC null to Jita. Implants, pirate-sold or pirate LP skillbooks, insignias can be collected from dumb mission runners and sold for 2x in Jita.

    Finally: try low/nullsec PI. No investment needed, just mine Autotrophs, Ionic solutions, Felsic magma, refine it to P1 and sell it on Jita. About 3M/day/plant, with 5 plants that's 450M/month.

    About incursions: the main problem with them is that they create ISK and no product, so mostly just contributed to the inflation. Nerfing them was necessary, though re-balancing would have been better: less ISK payouts, more drops, better salvage.

    1. Well, I should have specified that I only want to spend two hours or so per day on the manufacturing side. Over the last 18 months, I've made about 2 billion/month, which is enough for two PLEXes, a couple of replacement ships lost in PvP, and maybe one new non-replacement ship per month.

      The worry comes up because that average is dropping the last six weeks; I may or may not make a billion ISK this month from manufacturing.

      At 2 billion ISK in a month, I make about 33 million ISK/hour from manufacturing. If it drops much lower than that, I could make better ISK from L4s, but see above about EVE PvE being bad. ;-)

    2. I doubt you will ever make better ISK from L4s anymore. The Meta 0 loot nerf made it very unappealing now, because my Noctis is hardly ever gets even half full anymore from looting. With the market in the toilet and L4s loot nerfed, I have started to look for income elsewhere.

    3. I see your problem now. For me it's easy to manufacture 1 jump away from Jita (or Jita itself, just not 4/4) as I live on 4/4. You live in low/null so it's a long way to babysit it.

      Low/null PI maybe has less time demand, a properly set up mine (with a launchpad and a storage, both linked to half of the basic facilities) can run for almost a week without visit. You can restart the extractor daily from afar. When the storages are full, one char docks with an industrial, another char escort him with a PvP ship and you can transport them to highsec. An Itheron V full of industrial fibers worth 50M.

      Finally, you can consolidate your accounts, deleting some unused characters and moving the used ones to two or three accounts.

    4. @Jester - if you are spending 2 hours per day, on manufacturing, or PVE, just to grind ISK, then you are wasting your time.

      You can work part-time at McDonalds, or any other minimum wage job, earn RL cash and convert it to 5x as much ISK as you are making now.

      For crying out loud, you can probably make more ISK by just putting up a few ads up on your blog, with the traffic you get these days.

      So, why, why, why are you grinding ISK???? You don't live in China or a third-world country.

  11. I think this is a good direction. All ISK grind should be much harder. Lets get a system like this for null, or just use this same system. Remove belt officers, put them in null incursions. Wh's would be much better if they had random waves of roaming sleepers, instead of static spawns.

    If you want easy, mine, if you want to use a gun and make billions, lets make it at least hard enough that you cant fall asleep doing it.

  12. Making content harder will always put the smaller, less organized groups at a disadvantage, no?

    Also, don't you believe the backlash of the market speculations which supposedly happened before the Escalation Patch, Burn Jita and Hulkageddon might have something to to with the "may gray"?

  13. Given that Jester is opening the post by stating how difficult it has become for him to not pay real money to play the game, I suspect one major achievement consists in making money.

    Some posters go the same route to argue why the change is bad : less isk.

    Isn't there a significant portion of players who pays hard currency (not isk) for a game that has challenging PvE content ? Is EVE's goal to get rich in-game ?

    1. I have no problem paying real money for a product I enjoy. That's why two of my accounts are paid for directly with real money. And trust me, my RL income is such that I could easily pay for all four accounts with RL money if I wished. Still, as it stands, I'm paying CCP $400 U.S. a year for a video game. If I switched to RL money for all of my accounts, that'd be $750 U.S. per year. Even if your RL income is good, that's a lot for one video game. ;-)

    2. @Jester - it is probably not that much, if you divide the annual cost by the number of hours you play per year.

      You'll probably find that you spend less, per hour, on Eve Online than you have spent on many PC or console games, or on a movie at the cinema.

    3. Hey dont be a dildo, just strip on the weekends to help pay for those subscriptions. If you do well enough, maybe hilmar will through a convention there and help give you some support.

  14. I'm sure the adaptation process is still underway. I just invested 3bil in incursion ships for 2 toons but CCP's been stepping true lately so I'll trust them on this nerf for now. No doubt something had to be done, incursions were throwing the risk/reward ration out of balance.

  15. Good recap Jester. I posted much the same on the feedback request thread by CCP Soundwave last week, but seeing independent confirmation is nice. HQ and the occasional AS fleets remain able to compensate for the Influence. The VG's just don't get run, creating this self-perpetuating cycle.


    It's all well and good to nerf VG's...but this is having what appears to be unintended consequences. The Valhalla Project is still picking people up, but much of that's coming at the expense of either the VG fleets who, as you pointed out, TVP itself relies on to 'hold the bar' and/or Armor communities that need their pilots to hold the bar in the Armor-focused Incursions.

    I'm glad to see that CCP did recognize that perhaps the Incursion changes didn't go quite as intended...and that they're soliciting feedback for further iterations. But as you suggest, it's not quite a the 'hair on fire' point yet.


  16. they hit it with a baseball bat a couple of times...then ran over it with a tank a bit.....and when they checked it was still breathing so they shot it...."its dead Jim"

    atm 6 incursions are up and only one is at 44% sansha effective.

    If they wait 2 or 3 months to fix this I am sorry it will be too late and players will have moved on. You would think CCP would be like most actual engineers.....oh look the plane is too nose heavy and is diving at the ground....lets do a small adjustment and see what happens.....but no lets put all the weight and the tail...that should work....omg the plane stalled now and crashed. DUH

    1. most actual engineers would calculate to find the correct amount, at least to a reasonable level of accuracy. The problem here, is that we are trying to change human player behavior. There is no standard model for it, so making changes remains a rather tricky thing, done more by instinct than by hard numbers. Especially, when you consider that even doing nothing, the behavior may change !

  17. Man look at all the haters... Eve is a Sandbox game... ppl do whatever they like... if you dont like it no one is forcing you to play it... too bad i dont have a bucket to collect all the hater tears about highsec living... Btw: NICE Article very interesting!


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