A History of (my) Money

A Note: As I wrote this, I realized it’s not so much “A History of My Money” as it is “A History of What I’ve Done in Eve”. Even ‘back in the day’ when I logged in and PvPed a lot more than I do now, splashing about in the economic and meta side of the game has always been my real interest, and it is perhaps failure to fully appreciate that that accounts for my handful of burnouts over my career.

Every now and then I get asked about how I made all my isk. Most recently, that came in the form of “mynnna, did you amass your wealth reasonably gradually, or was it one big score that capitalised you and facilitated all the bigger plays?”

“Some of both” doesn’t say very much, and since talking about yourself is always fun, why not?

My net value in-game hovers right around two trillion isk, overwhelmingly concentrated in a pile of assets in Jita 4-4. That doesn’t include characters, which are worth another 500b isk even valued merely at PLEX value (divide the value of a PLEX by the SP you can train in a month and that’s a sensible if simplified minimum character value.) Most of that is moon minerals that I’m still waiting on for eventual appreciation in value, and if I hold them long enough for them to go where I expect, that number climbs to more like three and a half to four trillion. Sounds like a big number, and certainly is, but one thing to keep in mind – I’m far from the richest person in EVE. The most visible candidate for that title is probably Somer Mahm, operator of Somer Blink. If Somer’s personal take of the nearly two quadrillion isk the operation prominently claims winners have taken home is even just 1%, that’s twenty trillion isk. And, with the average margin on each and every paid Blink rarely sitting lower than 20-25%, there’s every reason to believe it’s higher. Then again, so much of those winnings are in the form of credit that just gets wagered again, and of course there are all the promos, freebies, and *cough* “giveaways”. Nevertheless, there’s ample money and even more assets floating around New Eden, and consequently there are fortunes out there that dwarf mine. The difference is that for the most part, they’re not so public about it.

But I digress. One of the things that’d probably be most surprising to people is how relatively little time it took for me to amass what I do have. While I’ve played since early 2006, the vast bulk of my fortune has only really come in just the past year. The short answer to the original question would be something like “I didn’t really make money very well at all at first, then I started amassing it reasonably gradually, and then it exploded as a result of a tremendous succession of big scores.”

The long answer is, well, longer. I started playing in March of 2006 and for much of the rest of the year was actually pretty alarmingly carebeary, taking advantage of the mining and ratting in Syndicate to claw my way to the ability to farm the Intaki Space Police agent in that constellation. Back then, those agents gave out offers for Snake Implants, so if you were lucky enough to get one (there was no LP store then, just random periodic “missions” where you traded LP for whatever you were offered) it was quite a boon. Despite losing my first ever Snake Omega to a gatecamping pirate in a sniping battleship in lowsec (for I had no instas) I managed to make and retain perhaps a billion isk. To the modern “average goon” that’s pocket change, but at the time it was quite a hefty fortune. By the end of our accidental invasion of XZH, though, I was basically flat broke, as were most goons. Even if we’d had the alliance-wide capacity to do SRP, the notion was an exceedingly foreign one in EVE at large at the time; even if it hadn’t been, Remedial (the CEO of the era) was a staunch free market libertarian type who would have scoffed at such an idea anyway.

After XZH, of course, there was Band of Brothers. “There are no goons, goodbye” and all that drivel. I actually simply got my hands on new mission equipment and moved up to Poitot (something something named system) and got a little money back, in between hilarious antics involving mass newbie ship swarms with gimmicky names. After BoB declared victory and departed, we moved to Scalding Pass, blah blah blah a lot of history goes here. Over the next year and a half or so I dabbled in various things – ratting, the Serpentis agents in Curse, even my first of a handful of forays into Industry – needless to say, building battleships deep in nullsec before Jump Freighters existed was sort of like industry hardcore mode, and 40-50 hulls a week was an impressive number. Still, my predilection towards flying and occasionally losing expensively fit Vagabonds while harassing Lokta Volterra and other foes meant I largely lived hand to mouth, never really building up much of a reserve.

At some point mid-2008, after running one exploration complex to learn the system and coming out with a few hundred million isk, I decide to try my hand at station trading. It wasn’t nearly so crowded a profession as it is today and finding items with generous margins was often trivial. Over the next six months, that isk turned into 18 billion. A modest success, but more than I’d ever made before, to be sure. Then I quit, burned out over EVE and something else, and – sure I’d never come back – gave most of it away.

Just a few months later, BoB was disbanded, and I resubbed along with many others. Before long I was back to station trading. However, after my previous relative fortune, I found fooling around with a scant few billion isk decidedly unsatisfying, so I decided to short circuit the process. I launched a bond offering, looking for 50 billion isk at a 10% return. Rather unlike bond offerings in the Market Discussions forum (a practice that is, these days, all but dead thanks to one scam after another) Goons are largely trusting of other Goons, and I’d never been shy about talking about my previous successes. One more helpful factor is that Goons were (and still are) lazy, and so will jump at any way of easy isk. Letting someone else make isk for you, of course, is the easiest way possible. In just a couple of days, I had my 50 billion isk, and very quickly hit the opposite problem – it’s actually quite a bit of work to keep 50b isk active, at least when you’re limited to generic margin trading. Which, I was – back then I was quite a bit less knowledgeable about the markets, so “trade across the margin” was it. Fortunately, a different opportunity presented itself – faction arbitage. Goons might be lazy, but the average line member is nonetheless a prolific ratter, something usually visible on Dotlan. That includes exploration, too. Back then, however, we lacked the shipping services we have today, so imports and exports to and from Empire was a lot harder. And once you got your faction loot there, you had to deal with contracts to sell it. Contracts couldn’t be easily adjusted, didn’t last all that long, and so no one else wanted to deal with them, either. “Dump to buy orders” wasn’t an option, because what buy contracts did exist were tremendous lowballs priced at half or less the sale value of the item. It seemed like a niche. I purchased a Jump Freighter and opened up shop. Sure enough, it was smashingly popular. To goons, getting 80-85% of market value instantly and without hassle beat the hell out of trying to get it sold themselves, and before long the venture had consumed most of my capital. Profits were good, and I all but neglected other trade in Jita in favor of lucrative market seeding in Delve. Alas, juggling school and EVE once again burned me out, and not long before Dominion, I very messily closed shop, liquidated my assets and paid off investors. In my haste I wasn’t overly concerned with wealth preservation for myself, and so was left with nothing but a few billion isk and a modest pile of a Neodymium and Technetium that, prompted by a brief but oddly informative devblog, I’d bought on a whim. Unfortunately, I sold them both (latter especially, of course) much too early, preferring to simply hold cash during my break from the game.

During that break, of course, Goonswarm famously dropped sovereignty in Delve and was disbanded by Karttoon shortly after. The alliance moved to Syndicate and then to eventually to Deklein. Tyrannis lands, along with it one of the largest single patch events the game has ever seen – the implementation of Planetary Interaction. A whole slew of previously NPC seeded goods were converted to player produced items… yet left on the market for some time. Dozens of goons and many other players besides made enormous investments, buying up those items for a small fraction of their brand new production cost. Guidance Systems are probably the most famous of them, and there are still multi-million unit stockpiles out in the wild even to this day. Alas, I was absent for this, still unsubbed, and so missed out on the opportunity for an overnight tenfold increase of my fortune. I came back sometime between Incursion and Incarna, promptly restarted the faction business (supplementing the 25 billion or so I had with another 30b isk bond that filled even faster than the first), and ran that for over a year. Goonswarm had, by then, recovered nicely from its trials after Delve and customers were abundant. Before long I had all the capital I needed to maintain operations, pay off the bond, and do other things, so I started looking around for other opportunities. Sure that CCP would fix R64s someday I started picking up Thulium, for example. No one had any idea when CCP might fix moons, but at less than 2,000 isk per unit, it seemed like a steal – a long term lotto ticket, if you will. There was money to be made on other events as well, of course.

Early in 2012 it came out that CCP would be adding all faction, deadspace and officer items to the market. Knowing full well that margin traders would drive buy and sell prices together and kill my business model (why sell to me for 80-85% when you could use the shipping services we then had to send it to Jita and dump for 90%+), I closed down the operation and unloaded my remaining loot. I was able to fully cash out well before the patch, though some other faction dealers were not quite so lucky. (Incidentally, I’d come close to figuring out that trick but was unknowingly crippled by my preference for setting contracts to one week expiration – the trick relied on absolute age and so required a two week duration to work. Kwark still paid handsomely for his own stock, though, and so I made good money flipping modules from Goon mission runners who had an odd, almost robotic level of output. Don’t ask, don’t tell.)  He took a large bath on his vast holdings. Infused with a surplus of cash, I set about getting more involved in the market. But I’d learned a lot over the past year or so and so got more into advanced trading and investment techniques, things that offered larger returns over longer timeframes and so took less effort, rather than simple margin trading. I did stumble onto this hilarious oversight just a few days before the thread was posted, and decided to buy up as much as I could, refine it, and then file a petition to let CCP know and sell after it was fixed. I was beat to the punch on the last part, but not putting almost a third of my isk into the books. As it turns out, CCP took it seriously enough to do a quick patch on a Sunday, quite a novel event even if it was as simple as temporarily removing the item from the market. A couple days later they reseeded it, but it refined into a few units of Tritanium at that point. Even then I know a few people who lost their shirts by not refining immediately. Indecisiveness rarely pays off when it comes to speculation.In any case, though, Pax Amarria was a one-shot thing, so I needed other things to do. Fortunately, as it turns out, I’d found them two weeks previous.

It’s a not-at-all kept secret that CCP’s “Chaos” test server can be connected to by anyone. You can’t log into it, but you can patch a client, and then use “Reverence” to sift through the data files and see what’s changed. These days CCP is quite a bit cagier about what they put there, and has been known to outright troll the players, but it wasn’t always the case. Early in March, I found, via a publicly posted “diff” (a differential change log) by Sarmatiko, the changes from that day. They included Rogue Drone rats getting bounties. The implications were rather obvious – the longstanding mineral fountain that were the Drone Regions were about to get hit with a nerfbat. Like most people, I assumed that the drone alloys overproduced high ends, and so their removal would cause them to spike. It was, in hindsight, an awfully shortsighted assumption. The mass production of Supercapitals with minerals sourced from those very alloys wasn’t exactly a secret, after all, and how could that be possible unless the alloys offered a relatively balanced mineral basket? Still, early knowledge via the Chaos leak meant I hit high ends hard, and well ahead of most other people, and it wouldn’t be long before my oversight would be corrected.

Around this time I actually took the time to acknowledge that Twitter existed and the #tweetfleet tag was a thing. It didn’t take me long to find the (now defunct) twitter feed of CCP Diagoras, and no time at all past that to become a big fan. Diagoras was part of CCP’s Research and Statistics team, among other things, and so each and every day tweeted things he found in the course of his work. The twitter feed is a wealth of information, some of it interesting from a trivia perspective, and some of it invaluable data providing a look into the guts of New Eden’s economy with a detail that’s never been seen since, and certainly never will be again – CCP knows better, these days. Given the upcoming changes, one set of tweets relating to the amount of minerals obtained through any sort of refining was obviously of interest. On first glance, they seemed to confirm my assumption. A few days later, though, that assumption flew out the window thanks to this set of tweets, which provided average mining volumes for February. When taken together, it was possible to roughly estimate where minerals from refining were actually coming from – mining, or non-mining sources? As it turned out, the data showed that those “non-mining sources”, the largest of which were the drone alloys, may have been providing as much as 40% of the game’s Zydrine and Megacyte, but also provided 60% of the Tritanium, Mexallon and Isogen and a whopping 70% of the game’s Pyerite and Nocxium.

Already I’d been planning to take my profit and move into low ends in anticipation of upcoming demand from Tiericide, as by then it was known that the initiative would involve adjusting build costs. Needless to say the revelation about what was really oversupplied sealed the deal and aside from a brief excursion to the edge of the sandbox, focused on shifting the bulk of my cash into low ends. While it turned out that high ends rose on that very same tiericide demand, taking the profit early to buy low ends was the right choice. I sold out into the mid-summer peak and profited handsomely, rebought after the hysteria and chaos diminished a bit, and split between building a relatively modest amount of cruisers and selling minerals to everyone else doing the same for Retribution. Rinse and repeat for Battlecruisers in Retribution 1.1, though those minerals were supplemented by the gains realized from a largely overlooked change involving scan probes and containers. It was all NPC seeded up until Retribution, and CCP decided to make them player built and seeded blueprints. As it turns out in the initial pass, though, they’d flubbed something – I want to say it was one of the containers, but I can’t remember for sure – and given it a dramatically higher mineral value than its current NPC value. And, they could be bought in infinite supply. The value was obvious, but fortunately I bided my time. Why tip CCP off? This proved to be a good thing, as just before the patch they caught and fixed the mistake. Scrambling to find something else to do with the isk I’d freed up, myself and a collaborator instead hit nearly every NPC sell of Gaze Survey Probe in the game, up until we’d bought enough to increase the price (many NPC commodities fluctuate in price based on buy and sell volume). As a humorous aside, some poor sap didn’t wait, and for all we know is still in possession of tens of thousands of overpriced containers a jump or two from Jita. Whoops.

Of course, well before all of that, but only a couple months after OTEC was announced (sidenote: OTEC was a complete sham, or more correctly, a hilarious and trolly name for a what was really little more than a NAP with other Technetium owners. The undersupply that drove the massive price spike was completely natural) came this trivial little devblog. Then brand new developer CCP Fozzie was taking a stab at the broken-ass state of moon minerals in EVE and seemed intent on doing it right. The first crack was introducing Alchemy, of course, but it seemed as though another rebalance of moon mineral inputs, much like the one that had broken things in the first place, was inevitable. If it weren’t obvious enough, the devblog even acknowledged that. As a result, I minimized (relatively speaking) my investments into Battlecruisers and Battleships and instead started acquiring more R64s. This time, I assumed, CCP would get it right.

CCP revealed Oddyssey at PAX East in late March, 2013, and needless to say, someone screwed up. It was still a month and a half to the expansion, and yet they showed off a slide like this? Despite the mistaken inclusion of Titanium rather than Thulium, the implication was extremely clear and made me very happy to be sitting on my cache of R64s. The Ice miner was a little more cryptic, yet just as telling in its own way. It offered no clue as to what CCP had planned, yet thanks to the nature of ice at the time – massive, literally infinite asteroids that could be mined by dozens of miners all day without exhausting – its value was in the crater. What could they possibly do to drive it lower? The most important factor in effective market speculation is getting in first, and so on the basis of that logic, I quickly and decidedly prematurely sold out of all of my tiericide Battlecruisers for a modest profit and dropped a pile of money on isotopes. That decision was vindicated a week or so later, when another Chaos leak showed ice belts vanishing from the game as static objects, and vindicated again by CCP Soundwave, who said in an interview I think ice is very underplayed as a very tactical resource. Like it should essentially be the oil of Eve Online… It would be good if it was something that people thought about instead of something you get from endless mining barges in Empire that may or may not be piloted by people.

Indeed.

Fast forward a bit, Fanfest confirms everything, Odyssey is deployed a little less than a month later, and the markets all go apeshit. The rest is basically history. Of course, by that time I’d already taken office on CSM8, which put a damper on my normal speculative market play. I’ve occupied myself since then by slowly liquidating investments and investing them into other things, mostly still underpriced moongoos, and riding the price cycles inherent to advanced reaction products – the reaction farm operators of the game tend towards a herd instinct, which results in inevitable cycles of crashes and spikes in their outputs. Presumably I can afford to be patient, and yet I’m getting bored. And so, instead of reinvesting as I liquidate, I’m getting out into other things. Market manipulations, industry, whatever. Still, the bulk of my wealth is bundled up in a pile of R64s sixty million units high, none of which have a name starting with “D” – I sold that all long ago. And so, most of my plans and schemes simply have to wait, as I don’t have the liquid cash to pursue them all. At least not yet.

Perhaps that’s for the better, though. I’d hate to incite all my planned chaos all at once.

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Crius Economic Chaos

With the patch notes for Crius released, basically everyone who isn’t living under a rock knows the general nature of the patch (as an aside apparently a lot of people live under a rock, because the comments thread is full of brand new complaining, by which I mean the same old complaints being remade). “We changed all the Industry” is a fairly easy concept to wrap ones head around. So what moves, where, and why?

Manufactured Goods

tl;dr: Expect a base price rise of 3-4% or more.

If players build it, expect it to rise by at least 3-4% on average for Tech I and anywhere from half again more to double that for Tech II. Why? All the shiny new fees, of course! There’s ample room even in highsec for people to spread out (see this post for details; an astonishing amount of highsec sees no Industry use at all and with generally shorter research times post-patch there’ll be plenty of space to spread out there too) and plenty of people will no doubt chase the lowest possible production costs as possible.

However (contrary to what some of the aforementioned complainers believe) the system is not intended to force anyone to move. It is merely intended to create choices about when and if and where to move that are deeper and more meaningful than “as close to Jita as possible with empty build slots.” Simply not moving, however, is a valid choice, so much so that if it proves to not be favorable enough, CCP has a system in the wings called “Legacy” (see the bottom of the teams devblog for a brief explanation) to help bolster the option.

If “not moving” is an option, then a sizable number of players will exercise that option, spreading out some but then for the most part staying put. Those players either through numerical quantity or average size of their operation or both, will account for a large fraction if not outright majority of manufactured goods. If margins render them unprofitable, they don’t build, and the item(s) in question run out of stock, rising in price until it’s profitable again.  Smaller producers or those more willing to move will realize higher returns, while the lazier types will skate along at some level of modestly profitable. And if this system sounds implausible, it’s mechanically very similar to both moongoo & alchemy, and the existing interplay between Invention and Tech II BPOs. So, what scant few people who very vocally threatened to quit over the changes may or may not come back (but they won’t embarrass themselves by admitting they were wrong), most of them didn’t actually follow through to begin with, and life will go on.

Tech II Markets

tl;dr: Chaos?

I’ll revisit this again a little later in this post, but the times involved for Invention are getting messed with pretty considerably. Invention will now only require one copy of a BPC regardless and then copy times are considerably lower on top of that, which marginalizes that aspect of the process. Invention times have also changed, though there’s more variety there, and build times have as well, again, more variety. The net effect is that some things have a longer overall time to market (copy time + invention time + build time) and some things have a shorter one. It’s actually very much up in the air how this will affect prices, though. In theory shorter overall time to market would increase supply, and the opposite would be true for a longer time to market. But in practice, players already have dead time between jobs – the time between a job finishing and the player waking up, or getting home from work, for example. I’m not sure how big of an effect this will really have as a result.

Capital Ships

tl;dr: TANSTAAFL

These are worth touching on specifically.If Highsec was easymode for regular industry, than Lowsec was easymode for Capital industry. Much like building in nullsec, a lowsec capital builder has to import their minerals in compressed form, but unlike the nullsec builder, they can do it to a station with both a refinery and production slots, eliminating a lot of the pain in the ass hauling from Minmatar to Amarr outpost. When the first wave of industry changes were announced – refining changes in particular, and later the 5% ME bonus for an Amarr Outpost – there were suddenly quite a lot of complaints. The 20% improved refine yield alone would have given nullsec builders an effectively indomitable edge over those in lowsec, and that 5% ME bonus would apply twice (components, then the capitals themselves) to seal the deal. Recognizing both these specific complaints and that Lowsec was a bit left out in the industry department (almost all the inconvenience but none of the perks of nullsec with almost none of the convenience of highsec), CCP went ahead and implemented the Thukker Component Array. Combine its 10% reduction in materials with a high end refining array for a 54% base refine, and some – but not all – of the gap is closed.

Of course, it’s a POS module, which means running and maintaining a POS, which can be attacked and destroyed, plus the other extra hassle. No more jumping to a station and building right there. CCP addressed the complaints, but in a very TANSTAAFL way, and I suppose it remains to be seen how many lowsec builders will bother to continue. If a lot of the current crop quit, then expect shortages and rising prices.

One other market these things will touch, though, are Jump Freighters. The array allows the building of advanced capital components as well. And those things are tiny compared to regular capital components. Using a jump freighter to get in and out wouldn’t be hard at all, short runs would minimize risk if it were attacked, and a 10% ME bonus is a pretty damn huge deal. Combine with access to an upgraded Amarr outpost for the ME bonus there and the benefit of a good team and, well… it’s a lot of work, but anyone doing it would have a huge price advantage, at least.

About those Tech II BPOs…

tl;dr: Get owned.

I wrote about this some time ago, while the changes were all still in development. As explained then, the biggest deal here is rebasing Invention to produce positive ME blueprints. That annihilates a huge majority of the advantage BPOs have over invented BPCs. Instead of being perfect or near-perfect while the BPCs require anywhere from 120% to 150% of perfect material requirements, the gap can now be as low as 6-8%. Of course, that edge plus no need to spend money on invention means that BPOs will remain profitable…just 70-90% less profitable than they are currently, turning the already ridiculous 5-15 year ROIs often demanded for them into utterly outlandish multi-decade ROIs. It’s no wonder BPOs are proving so hard to sell all of the sudden. While this may lead to a severe price adjustment, that’d also require current holders to take one hell of a haircut on their stocks. We’ll see what happens but it seems probable that whoever holds them now will be the last “greater fool”.

Probably doesn’t help that the natural time to do even more to Tech II BPOs is alongside the Invention changes, which CCP will be starting on next…

Speaking of Moongoo…

tl;dr: Moongoo consumption is going to rise by several percent at a minimum.

Crius is actually a pretty damn big deal for moongoo consumption and prices, but since it’s not in a big splashy obvious way like Odyssey was, I haven’t seen it discussed much.

First thing’s first, the easy one to grasp. From the patch notes, “Most Tech I materials have been removed from Tech II blueprints.” Innocuous enough on its own; we need to delve into this post from CCP Ytterbium to clarify it. Long story short, those same materials are being replaced with Tech II materials of roughly equal value. Note, the Tech I being removed is just “extra” Tech I, such as the raw mineral content found in most Tech II ammos. The base item requirement remains, however. I don’t think the Crius SDE with these changes is out yet, so I can’t quantify the scope in detail… but here’s a short list of some of the things that have Tech I materials being replaced.

Actually, here’s a short list of things that don’t have extra Tech I materials. That’s easier.

  • Tech II Launchers
  • Some Tech II ships, but not all. For example, the Ishtar, Zealot, Cerberus and Vagabond have one mineral or another, but the Deimos, Sacrilege, Eagle and Muninn do not.
  • Tech II Drones

And… that’s it. It’s hardly an exhaustive search, and I’m not actually certain if everything that has extra materials to remove is also having them replaced. On an item to item basis it’s a relatively small change, with the replaced materials topping out around 10-15% of build value for Tech II ammo, and closer to 3-5% for various affected modules. But the sheer scope of items it touches makes the overall effect fairly significant.

On top of THAT are the aforementioned changes relating to Invention rebasing. Simply changing all Invention to produce positive ME blueprints would have resulted in a catastrophic drop in moongoo usage, so CCP adjusted the base material requirements upwards by 50%. What’s that do?

Current ME % of Current Perfect Crius ME % of Current Perfect
-4 150% 2 147.0%
-3 140% 3 145.5%
-2 130% 4 144.0%
-1 120% 5 142.5%
PERFECT 100% PERFECT 135%

Given that choices with respect to decryptors will be shaking up a bit as a result of the patch we can’t really definitively say “What’s most commonly built at ME-1 will be ME5 post-patch”. But regardless, almost no matter how you cut it, the net result of this change is that Tech II items will get a bit more expensive to build…especially those built from Tech II BPOs, as illustrated by the “PERFECT” row, which highlights the whole “get owned T2 BPO owners” thing.

Next up, a bit more of an abstract change. Blueprints in general underwent fairly sweeping changes to a variety of stats – most relevantly to this subject copy, invention and Tech II build times. If you feel like digging through a couple dozen pages, the thread on the topic can be found here. The short version, though, is that the overall time to market (copy + invent + build time) is up for some items, down for others. “Down” is the direction of choice for most if not all modules as well as several classes of ships. This has the most nebulous effect on moongoo usage, though, because it only means that there is potential, for the given existing population of builders, to make more stuff in a given amount of time.

And finally, the completely unquantifiable (for now) – how many people quit industry? How many people try it out, and how many of those stick with it? All factors that could affect usage.

Sticking to the quantifiables, though, my own estimates run anywhere from a 3% to 20% increase in moongoo consumption, varying from goo to goo and by what variables you pick.

Oh yeah, and those newly mineable lowsec moons? Not very relevant. There are about 170,000 moons ingame that can be mined currently. Roughly 11,200 moons in 0.4 will become mineable. That’s a 6% increase. However, lowsec regions tend to have about a third as many moons as an analagous nullsec region (that is, Aridia and Delve are the two most R64 rich lowsec and nullsec regions, respectively, and Aridia has about a third as many as Delve), so it’s reasonable to assume a 2% increase, instead.

Minerals

tl;dr: Probably down, mostly.

Minerals are in kind of an odd place right now. Go back as far as Tiericide and as that initiative progressed, demand for minerals got higher and higher as ships were built en masse by the thousands ahead of time… and then as each class was completed, they were removed from global mineral demand due to the glut of now underpriced ships. Mineral prices plummeted, but for the most part leveled out back around last October… and then, varying by mineral, either promptly spiked again or did not, as demand picked back up, but also as the new global mineral ratios took hold. Odyssey brought with it massive buffs to nullsec ore composition that left Mexallon undersupplied compared to other minerals. As things moved into the winter we hit the normal and expected peak mineral prices… and now back around May or June, they started falling, some quite hard. While a summer slump is a normal part of what used to be the regular mineral price cycle, I’m honestly not sure if that’s what’s going on here or if something else is at play.

Either way, though, two expectations.

  • Overall, minerals continue to fall and settle lower than they otherwise would have. If they’re back in the normal summer/winter cycle then they’ll rise again later in the year,  but not as high as they would have, either. The assumption is that POS and outpost refinery facilities see extensive use, increasing the gamewide mineral supply.
  • One or more minerals will set its own trend. As I mentioned before, Mexallon had a nice rise due to Odyssey, but Crius is adding Mexallon, Pyerite and Nocxium to Arkonor, Bistot and Crokite, respectively. If I had the cash to speculate I’d probably look at Isogen as a buy, but it’s hard to say. Long time players will remember how drone alloys suppressed mineral prices across the table, after all, and it’s possible (though admittedly unlikely) that supply increases enough to outstrip demand due to superior refines.

Ice

tl;dr: Man who even knows.

Couple of factors for the ice markets, really. On one hand we’ve got the increased jump fuel consumption for jump drives, undeniably an increase in consumption. There’s also the removal of standings requirements to anchor a POS in highsec, opening up of previously restricted space in highsec, and some portion of those 11000 moons in 0.4 that might be worth mining. On the other hand, one of the primary driving factors behind highsec POS use was research slot congestion – copying, material and time. Slots are going away, though, so POS use is down to the strength of the bonuses, and… whether that’s enough or not is a crapshoot. My thinking would lean towards “no” with Invention being the exception, but regardless, we’ll see some kind of drop in overall POS usage. Determining what that actually means for overall ice consumption is beyond me, though, as I just don’t have the information needed to make that kind of estimate.

One other interesting twist here is that the build time for fuel blocks is tripling. While I’ve no doubt that long term the market will settle out and more production capacity will move in to continue to meet demand, in the short term it’s very liable to cause supply issues. Markets will just run out, prices will spike, people will rush to build blocks for quick profit, spiking ice products as a result, the block market floods, etc. I’d expect a couple cycles of that before stability.

Miscellanea

There are various other smaller markets likely to see upheaval as a result of Crius. Decryptors come to mind – changing Invention to yield positive ME will generally put far more emphasis on decryptors that improve TE and/or BPC runs, though if you’re looking to speculate that train long since left the station. Anything else I’ve forgotten, well, probably doesn’t matter.

Inflation Revisited

First, a preface: I haven’t written anything in a week or so. Real life exploded in a mildly dramatastic way. Welp.

Anyway, at the request of a topic submission, I’m going to revisit an old topic here, and tackle the topic with updated information. The question:

I was recently having The Inflation Discussion, and I’m afraid I didn’t do well presenting the usual counterarguments. Those I was arguing with Just Know that there has been a lot of inflation because, well… because battleships are twice as expensive as they were in 2010. They then went after the usual targets of incursions (not a significant source of payouts compared to nullsec rat bounties) and FW (which increases money velocity but that’s about it) as sources of inflation, and I know the counterarguments are out there. I would be very interested in seeing an extension of your classic “inflation actually follows rebalancing” graph since 2012. I don’t know if the data or existing graphs are available out there, but it’s one of my more favorite graphs on this topic. Unfortunately, all the recent targets for “causing inflation” are things which were added after that graph ends.

–Ranamar

To spare you the need to go back and read the previous two articles, I have a longstanding hypothesis on inflation – defined as most people tend to think of it as the increase in cost of goods over time, usually due to increasing money supply. That hypothesis is simply that inflation due to growing money supply isn’t really a thing in EVE, or if it is, it’s drowned out by inflation (and deflation) brought on by mechanics changes – in other words, changes to supply & demand.

First thing’s first, a bit about what the market indices actually are. There are four of them – Mineral Price Index (MPI), Primary Producer Price Index (PPPI), Secondary Producer Price Index (SPPI), and Consumer Price Index (CPI), and they each track the relative price index of a bundle of goods. The Mineral index is just what it sounds like, tracking the price change in minerals. Taking things out of order (it will make more sense that way), the CPI is anything and everything consumed in the game – ships, modules, implants, etc. It also, in what is I believe a fairly recent development, seems to include PLEX. The SPPI is made up of components and materials used directly in creation of items in the CPI – components of all kinds, salvage, etc. And finally, the PPPI in turn is made up of items used to build things in the SPI, which means it’s primarily comprised of moon materials (raws for sure, I assume intermediate and advanced materials as well), though it’d include Tech III inputs and probably some other stuff that’s escaping me right now as well.

The most recent information on the indices, alas, is only available in graph form, and was found in a devblog looking at the economic impact of the battle of B-R5. As with the last time, I’ve gone ahead and marked this one up.


Up to about the end of 2006, I don’t have much a clue. I’d only barely started playing, info is scarce, so who knows. I will point out that Level 4 missions were introduced in mid-2005, which makes for a humorous correlation to whatever caused that enormous drop on the PPPI. The more likely explanation, though, is that the Cold War expansion increased reaction outputs, monkeyed around with reaction cycle times, lowered fuel consumption for POS slightly, and added in the fuel bonus from sovereignty. It also added outposts, creating far more convenient staging areas for mining moons (and, for that matter, regular minerals) in nullsec. While chatting with Ranamar a bit, he also pointed out that Dreadnaughts were introduced in that same expansion, offering previously unheard of jump drive based logistics capacity, making the movement of moon materials much simpler. So it’s a hypothesis, but unfortunately one that came after marking up my graph.

Towards the end of 2006 is when things start to get interesting. Invention was introduced in Revelations I, though it took a few patches before they got things right.  In context, “got things right” meant tuning the availability of invention materials. That explains the precipitous drop in the PPI; and the CPI followed (albeit more slowly) as invention became more widespread and the old Tech II cartels were broken. Revelations I also introduced the drone regions, and the drone rats there dropped alloys that refined into minerals, rather than giving a bounty when destroyed. The increasing population in the drone regions helped push minerals down continually until mid 2010, when meta 0 loot drops were removed from the game.

Moving on forward. Thanks to invention, consumption of moon materials skyrockets, turning certain moons into “supermoons”. That prompted the introduction of Alchemy in late 2008 and, well… oops? Not necessarily. While I had originally attributed the resulting spike to Alchemy driving up its own inputs, Ranamar pointed out something else – the old Ferrogel duping exploit was discovered (technically, rediscovered) by CCP around that same time. No doubt the dupers were keeping the price of anything they produced suppressed, so their elimination allowed the market to spike in a big way. A year later, Tech II build requirements were messed with, laying the seeds for the rise of Technetium. That’s plainly visible in the PPPI through mid 2012.

Fast forward to mid 2010 and the release of Tyrannis. Tyrannis brought with it Planetary Interaction, which meant taking many formerly NPC seeded goods and subjecting them to the whims of player creation. The effects speak for themselves. Something to note here is that I think that the wiki’s explanation of indices is a little misleading with respect to PI. The raw planetary materials that you extract may be PPPI items, but P1 through P4 materials are made from those raws and used in all manner of other things. That makes them secondary items, and explains that green cliff. Meanwhile, every other index continues to rise with only brief interruption as the removal of Meta 0 loot and upward march of Technetium ripples through the economy. The spike in mineral prices culminated with the simultaneous removal of drone alloys, Hulkageddon V, and the start of Tiericide.

Last time I wrote about this, that’s where we ended. It’s been awhile. At this point we’ve pretty cleanly explained why the battleship mentioned in the question costs twice as much now as in 2010 – minerals are hell of a lot more expensive! Still, two more years of price changes to explain.

For starters, the Technetium nerf in mid-2012, which is rather obvious on the graph and led to a sharp decline in the PPPI. That drop is only just starting to turn around. Meanwhile, mineral prices stay high for quite some time, thanks to vastly heightened demand due to Tiericide. That slacked off in July 2012 with Retribution 1.1 and Battlecruisers, however, and dropped off even harder with the release of Odyssey and the completion of Tiericide. With virtually every Tech I ship having been built ahead of time in massive quantities, the market was glutted for months.

In the past six months, however, the mineral markets have largely turned around. With the surplus hulls finally cleared out (for the most part), mineral demand returned in a big way, and is only continuing to go up. Meanwhile, R64s are slowly but surely creeping upward as stockpiles are depleted and demand continues to rise. Combine with Alchemy & Metamaterials driving demand for lower end moon minerals, and the PPPI is slowly rising as well.

And in the future? Who knows! The biggest thing to watch are the tweaks to invention in Crius. CCP will be rebasing invention to yield positive, rather than negative, ME numbers on blueprints, and adjusting material requirements accordingly. On top of that, they’re playing around with numbers for copy times, invention times and build times, adjusting them to yield a less click intensive process. That’s liable to increase demand for moongoo, and doesn’t even get much into whatever is planned for a proper revamp post-Crius.

One last note – as mentioned earlier, the CPI includes PLEX. This annoys me to some degree. Here’s why:

One was PLEX prices, which rose by only 1% but weighed a whopping 24% in the index.

Needless to say, that’s kind of a distorting effect. And to make matters worse, unlike everything else, PLEX prices do react, and react significantly, to “all the usual suspects”, though perhaps not quite in the way or for the reasons many expect. More on that one in an article I wrote a few weeks back.
And that, for now, is that!

Death to Tech II BPOs

Sensationalist title? Read on, then decide.

I can’t be assed to go out and look, but I suspect that since approximately “forever” (defined as in this case as “whenever Invention was implemented” anyway) CCP has been saying they’ll do something about Tech II BPOs. This occurred most recently at Fanfest and has started off a slew of panicked sales, matched by many vehement denials from the owners… as well as a few hilarious but misplaced and hastily dropped accusations of impropriety. A spate of trolling from fellows of yours truly eventually prompted this post from CCP Eterne.

There are currently no immediate plans to remove T2 BPOs from the game.

I’ve bolded the relevant qualifiers there, because “no immediate plans to remove” certainly does not mean “no immediate plans to nerf.” Quite the opposite, CCP Greyscale seems to have them squarely in his crosshairs.

First thing’s first is this post, which is quite long, so I’ve quoted the relevant part below.

We are currently of a mind to shift invented BPCs so they have positive (or at worst 0) ME and TE figures. This a) prevents the removal of extra materials giving invention an extra-hard kick, and in particular b) prevents every invented T2 item from requiring two of the relevant T1 items (due to always rounding up materials). This will probably put all invented BPCs in the 1-5% ME/2-10% TE range, with decryptors adjusted to match. We may adjust T2 build costs upwards across the board to put the net T2 resource usage roughly where it is currently, so we don’t end up nerfing the demand for T2 components. (This obviously also serves to close the gap somewhat between invention and T2 BPOs; this is not a goal here but it’s an acceptable side-effect.)

It’s easy to read that and go “It’s just a nice buff to invention, how does that nerf Tech II BPOs”, so I’ll explain. The first thing to keep in mind is that one point of negative ME is a much bigger penalty than one point of positive ME is a gain. In fact, each point increases waste by 10% of the base build value; by comparison, getting a BPO to its perfect research level only saves 10% total. Nevertheless, the throughput of a Tech II BPO or even every single Tech II BPO of a given type is extremely limited, and so despite the cost advantage, Invention dictates the price on most things.

To illustrate, consider a Zealot. At ME0 the build cost is about 112m isk; with a month of research, that’s 104.5m isk. Another month to ME10 buys another million isk in savings, which is a bit hard to justify. The optimal invention cost, on the other hand, is either 130m isk (one run, ME-1) or 135m isk (two runs, ME-2) depending on Decryptor choice. Jita sale price, on the other hand, is 148m isk at time of writing. That considerable profit margin is where a Tech II derives its value… though it’s worth noting that the collective delusion that they’d always go up means that when they do get sold, the asking price is on the wrong side of farcical. The last Zealot BPO offered for sale was part of a 179 BPO collection and was clearly posted as a dickwaving thing – the seller turned down every single offer, including a 160b isk (around 13 years of profit) bid for the Zealot print.

But I digress. With Greyscale’s proposal, those invented blueprints would no longer come out at ME-1 or ME-2, but ME3 or ME2, with a build cost falling between 105m-106m isk. Throw in 4-8m isk for the Invention materials themselves and round the result of to 115m isk, because round numbers are fun. It should be obvious here that Zealot prices would fall, with 125-130m being a safe bet. That doesn’t change the inventors profit margins all that much, but the profit the BPO holder is making on each run suddenly dropped by almost half.

Astute observers may note I ignored both the material changes Greyscale referenced and the material changes already promised in the Research devblog. This is to keep the explanation simple, but I’ve checked the numbers with those changes and the outcome is basically the same. And, besides, other less tangible factors such as a shift in decryptor preferences (that +9 run decryptor looks real nice when it no longer obliges you to build at ME-6, which may or may not explain the recent rise in demand for them) and easier access to research facilities may well push the price down even further by increasing supply to the market.

So that’s strike one. It is worth noting, however, that it’s a change which largely affects ships. Most modules are unaffected, either because they use so few components and materials that the difference between ME-4 and ME100 is negligible, or because invention time is so “lossy” that the market is constantly undersupplied. What do I mean by lossy? Invention jobs for many modules run in just a few hours. If you plug in jobs before you go to work, you’re missing the vast majority of your potential output during the day; likewise when you sleep or do anything but regularly babysit the jobs. Once you’ve got the print its not so bad, since even frigate modules take hours to build and the prints start at ten runs. The Invention process itself is the bottleneck, and it’s why Heat Sink IIs sell for 840k when the cost to invent & build at ME-4 is around 460k. Same for 1MN MWD II (1.7m invent & build, 2.4m sale), Wasp II (738k vs an even 1m), and so on.

But don’t worry, Greyscale’s out for those BPOs as well. As detailed in this post, he’s thinking about increasing the max run counts on invented BPOs, and scaling up the length of the job to match. Numbers (and I suppose “even happening at all”) are still up in the air, but nevertheless, the effect would be to diminish the lost time factor in Invention, which would increase overall throughput and bring prices down.

And all this, strictly speaking, is before we’ve even gotten to actual Invention reworks; according to the first Industry devblog, those “are pushed to be done next in line, mainly for fall and/or winter.” Makes a lot more sense why BPO owners are rushing to sell now, doesn’t it?

Data Based Contempt

A recent post from Jester, which was a nice bit of populist Greyscale bashing even as he embraced the changes, has a ton of comments that rather nicely encompass some of the reactions to what people know so far about the upcoming industry expansion. TL;DR: “Nullsec is going to take over everything, fuck this, I quit.”

So here’s the short version on rebuking that. The devblog on all this mentioned right off the bat just how many characters use industry on the daily basis – right around fifty thousand. If you read that, and your reaction was not “wow, that’s an awfully large number, there’s no way enough production can happen in nullsec to support that” but rather to skip through the blog, take it all in, fly into a melodramatic rage and threaten to quit unless all the advantages were returned back to you… well, great. Get out. You won’t be missed, and your less hysterical peers will be happy to pick up your slack, and profits.

I could stop here, and almost feel silly having written everything below this line before doubling back to do an intro that encapsulates the issue nicely. Still, I went off on a bit of a rant on Twitter about why this wouldn’t happen, throwing out some numbers, coined the title, and some people asked for a post. The short version is that “what’s built in EVE” totals tens of thousands of production days per day.

HOW MUCH STUFF GETS BUILT

CCP is generally pretty shy about giving out statistics and numbers, these days, but that wasn’t always the case. There are devblogs floating around with various what gets built numbers, but our prime source is the now-defunct Twitter feed of CCP Diagoras. While the numbers are often a couple years old, that’s fine… the game’s grown since then. Things have also been nerfed, or buffed, but I’m going to not attempt to ‘correct’ them.

With the source in mind, here’s everything I can find on how much stuff that can be built in highsec – and thus mostly is, these days – actually is built per day.

Hulls
378 Covops
47 Electronic Attack Ships
440 Assault Frigates
643 Stealth Bomber, 504 Interceptor and 1280 Covops Cloaks
A generic statistic, but 9400 Tech I and 1950 Tech II frigates
220 Logistics
263 HAC, though it’s undoubtedly the Ishtar coming in #1 these days
315 Tech III Cruiser
Around 245 Battlecruisers (all classes)
About 1450 Battleships (counting only the Tech I)
42 Marauders
15 Blackops Battleships per day (note that this was well before the buff that exploded their popularity)
53 Freighter and just under 7 Jump Freighter

Ammo, Drones and Stuff
29.5m Cruise Missiles and 4.5m Torpedoes
28,300 Trauma Fury Heavy Missile, which gives some insight into how much of a Tech II ammo is built in general when popular.
42 million Trauma Heavy Missile
324 million rounds of ammo, collectively
11,400 ECM Drones of various types
30,200 Hobgoblin I and 15,220 Hammerhead I
11,300 Hobgoblin II
158,000 drones.
14,800 Interdiction Probe
A little over 27,000 scanner probes of all types
960 anchored bubbles, of which the majority (496) were small. Exercise to the reader to decide how much that’s risen given the proliferation of renters since that tweet.

Modules
Nearly 5,000 Damage Control II
4300 Gyrostabilizer II, surprisingly beating out Ballistic Control System IIs
Over 40,000 425mm Railgun I, though that’s for compression… figure those go away.
62,300 Tech III Subsystems
4900 Expanded Cargohold II

Miscellaneous
13.5m Fuel Blocks, though with 2.8m of them in nullsec and 1.61m of them in W-Space, the actual count would be more like 9.11m units.

This devblog has an additional series of numbers which are generalized but nevertheless useful. Convert them into hourly numbers and we get:
495 Shuttles
9400 Tech I frigates and 1940 Tech II Frigates
2640 Tech I Cruisers, 811 Tech II Cruisers, and 315 Tech III Cruisers
2530 Tech I Battlecruisers and a paltry 96 Command Ships
2050 Tech I Industrials, 163 Tech II Industrials
1420 Destroyers, and an additional 154 Interdictors
1450 Tech I Battleships, 57 Tech II
712 Tech I Mining Barge, 288 Exhumers

Plenty of stuff missing here as well, such as “almost every module.” No matter, we’ll work with what we’ve got. For Tech I ships assume PE5, for Tech II a generous PE-1, with the Tech I ship removed from the build time for the Tech II.

That winds up being 9,021 days worth of production per day churned out, as it happens, just for the hulls. And since we’re pretending everything is going to be in nullsec now, throw in as many as three Supercarriers and two Titans, as well as 65 carriers, 22 Dreadnaughts and 6 Rorquals a day. There’s another five thousand or so production days per day.

Ammo adds, collectively, around six thousand days (and that’s assuming all ammo built in the game is Tech I), drones around 440 days (ditto). We haven’t even tried to account for modules yet and we’re up to almost twenty thousand production-days per day. Speaking of modules, how long do you suppose it takes to build the fit for, say, a CFC “Baltec” Megathron? 2 days, 9 hours, if we assume PE0. That’s 17 times longer than the hull itself. Make the (absurdly incorrect, I will grant) assumption that every Tech I ship built also has a set of Tech II modules built at a similar time ratio, and you’ve got a ballpark for modules: over 25,000 production-days per day.

That’s pure supposition, though, so we’ll just focus on the hulls, ammo and drones. What’s it take to move all of this product that’s supposedly moving to nullsec?

THE LOGISTICS

Moving the finished products for all the subcap hulls above is 283,018,000m3. That’s 717 trips per day in a max skill Rhea, roughly one every two minutes, all day, every day. If your typical trip is two jumps as mine is, that’s 30k isotopes per round trip, about 21.5m units per day or roughly a quarter of what was mined around this time in 2011 assuming nothing but Rheas… of course, that quantity was before CCP nuked ice in highsec and changed the mechanics. 21.5b isk a day of fuel, though considering the product being moved is at least 600 billion isk in value, that’s not really all that much.

Incidentally, it’s fortunate that slots are going away, seeing as occupying 18,000 slots 24/7 to build everything but supercaps might actually be more build slots than nullsec has, total.

Let’s Talk People

All these numbers are great, but how many characters are actually involved in industry? Putting that another way, just to remind you of who I’m ridiculing here, how many characters are the whiners & lunatics claiming will have to move out to null?

One could argue that since one character is good for ten-production days per day, as they’ve got ten slots. Thus, a mere two thousand characters can build every hull, round of ammo and drone in EVE, if they keep their slots active 24/7. Given the unwillingness or inability to stop and think, some of the hysterics might even try to claim this is a trivial feat, so as to make their position seem more plausible.

Unfortunately for them, there is plenty of evidence that far more characters than that are involved in industry. Hell, Tech II BPO owner count alone suggests that’s a silly idea. And of course, that last devblog that was mentioned earlier.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENS THEN

Simple. Plenty of industry continues to happen in highsec. In nullsec, alliances fighting on home turf or with access to the infrastructure to make it worthwhile will build some of what they need, most notably battleships. On a non-official level, industrialists willing to build in nullsec find their profit margins considerably larger. Some who consider themselves market savvy might even try to use that to control their niche in the market. Some may even succeed, especially in particularly small niches. On the other hand, attempts to take down & control markets will be opposed by traders in Empire, who will see the undercut markets as a profit center. By and large, life will go on as it always has, minus, perhaps, the few mewling quims who actually follow through on their threats to quit.

Eh. Nah, we won’t be so lucky as that. Almost no one actually follows through.

Note: This post is written in the full knowledge of every devblog yet to be posted. None of them change a damn thing I wrote here.

A Speculative Thought Process

bs builds

Just the first batch, there, 54 units per print. I’ll be doing 648 of each of those, except for the Scorpion; I’m only building half as many of those. I don’t know the exact numbers on the mineral changes yet and don’t actually care, because I’m reasonably confident I can profit regardless or, in the very worst case, not lose money. I figured it might be fun to explain why, though.

THE OPPORTUNITY

Everyone knows that previous tiericide efforts have also resulted in fairly significant changes to the mineral requirements of the ships in question – if you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock. What we don’t know (yet) is what that change will be for battleships. But, we can guess. Take a look at the image in this devblog (direct link). Note how battleships are grouped, though also note that as of earlier today, the Tempest ought to be down on the Attack line, as it had its classification changed. In any case, it’s fair to assume that all Combat battleships will have the same cost, and all Attack battleships will have the same cost – this has been a constant throughout tiericide.

From this, we get a couple of scenarios.

SCENARIO ONE, AKA “THE BEST CASE”
In this scenario, both Combat and Attack battleships have material costs balanced up near the current Tier 3 value, and Disruption (aka the Scorpion) to 80-90% of Tier 3. Build anything that’s currently Tier 1 or Tier 2 and you make out like a bandit, turning 100% or more profit on the Tier 1 and 30-50% or so on Tier 2, depending on what they actually aim for in the Tier 3 price range.

SCENARIO TWO, AKA “BATTLECRUISERS REDUX”
In this scenario, Combat and Attack battleships split prices, similar (but opposite) to the way that battlecruisers did. Combat battleships all cluster up around Tier 3 prices, and Attack stay around or perhaps a little above current Tier 2 prices. Disruption likely lands up around Tier 2 as well. Speculation results are a little more mixed here. As in the first scenario, the Apocalypse & Raven would be up 30-50%, and the Dominix more than doubles. On the other hand, the gain for the other Tier 1 battleships is much lower, though still a healthy 70-90%. The Tempest and Megathron, however, would be losers, yielding no return at all.

SCENARIO THREE, AKA “HAHA LETS SCREW OVER PRODUCERS”
This is the worst case scenario. The Combat line actually gets normalized to what is currently Tier 2 production costs. That’s right, the current Tier 3 battleships actually get cheaper to build. The Attack and Disruption lines are equalized to that level as well. If we’re feeling especially cruel, those lines equalize to the current Tier 1 cost instead. Even in this scenario, though, you don’t lose by sticking to building Tier 1, and outside the “especially cruel” scenario there is still a healthy 70-90% gains.

THE LESSON

The lesson here is one to keep in mind for all speculation and, indeed, all market play, especially when you have incomplete information. Evaluate the possible outcomes, and make your investment such that you minimize risk. In this case, you do that by avoiding the Tier 2 battleships. They’re extremely unlikely to actually lose you money, but there are scenarios in which they don’t make any. The chance of non-return is a risk, and in this case that risk isn’t compensated for by a higher return. Tier 1 battleships, on the other hand, have almost no plausible risk of non-return, and a higher reward to boot.

Of course, it’s never that easy. Cruisers are a great example of this. The upside to the Attack line of cruisers was much smaller than the Support line, and yet Attack cruisers proved to be an excellent investment. Why? Most speculators avoided them, and so they matured faster! Time to return is just as important factor as magnitude of return, after all. So, risks aside, investment into Tier 2 battleships is not necessarily out of the question.

Just to wrap things up, I think the first scenario is the most likely, though the second one can’t be discounted. The explanation for the difference between Attack and Combat battlecruisers was “big guns take bigger superstructures to support” or something along those lines, but no such explanation exists for battleships. More significantly, having everything clustered up around the current Tier 3 prices offers a nice price progression between classes. Cruisers are 8-10m for a hull, Combat battlecruisers are around 50m each. A price of 200m or so for battleships continues that price increase rather nicely.

Econ Chat: Inflation in EVE, Part II

In my last post (hardly worth linking to, since it’s the one below this…) I looked at inflation in EVE; specifically, how inflation as most people think of it (price inflation, eg the increase of the cost of goods, typically as a result of the increase in money supply) is not a noticeable factor in EVE. I wrapped up by writing a bit about monetary inflation (eg, the increase in the money supply, something that is undeniably happening), speculating as to whether it’s actually a problem or not (it needs to happen but if it happens too fast, it probably is), and then posing a question that must be answered before attempting to fix it. That question was, “Where (or with whom) does all the isk from these faucets end up?

First off, why is that question important at all? The answer is that the means of curbing monetary inflation in EVE are to either reduce the faucets, increase the sinks, or both. And, while faucets are easy to identify and adjust as necessary, increasing the sinks in the right place would be a little harder. Thus, you follow the money.

So, first. Where does the money come from? The two definitive primary sources are bounties on rats and payouts from NPC buy orders; Incursions were a very large source once upon a time as well, but we’ve had no data on them since their nerf, so it’s hard to say. Other sources include insurance and mission rewards. Meanwhile, isk leaves the game through (in no particular order) clone expenses, NPC sell orders (especially skillbooks), market fees and taxes, PI fees, and a host of others.

And finally, who does the isk end up with? I’d venture to guess that a significant portion winds up with manufacturers and traders. Manufacturers pay miners for minerals, nullsec alliances for moon minerals, and people performing PI for planetary goods, but in all three cases, players pay it right back to them to buy ships and equipment. Traders grease the wheels in all directions.

Where, then, to make adjustments? A combo of sinks and faucets is best, so as to have a minimal impact in any given area. I’ve had a few ideas for each. Some are new, some are less so.

Faucets

  • Axing bounties is a common proposal; however, care must be taken to ensure the income remains acceptable, and if not, it’s necessary to either look elsewhere or replace some of the lost income with non-faucet sources. Similar caveats apply to Incursion payouts (although it can definitely be argued that they’re too high in Highsec) and Wormhole “bluebooks” (which comprise the majority of the ‘NPC buy order’ faucet)
  • A less common idea: Refactoring mission rewards. Currently, the isk paid out in the form of mission rewards and time bonuses is more or less cancelled out by the cost to redeem that LP in the LP store. Awarding more LP and less isk in L4 missions would get you double the effect, simultaneously reducing a faucet and increasing a sink.
  • Nerf insurance. It’s a contentious proposal. Default insurance at the very least ought to go away, though – the very idea is absurd. I suspect that were default insurance to be eliminated, the insurance program overall would be much closer to isk-neutral.

Sinks

  • The single largest place CCP could increase sinks is manufacturing fees. Manufacturing fees may as well be non-existent; 333 isk per hour, and while that can increase, even the slots in Jita 4-4 are a mere 807 isk per hour to use, plus the default 1000 isk install fee. A frigate costs just a third of a percent of its sale price to build. A cruiser costs just 0.03%, a Tier 2 battlecruiser just .006%, a Tier 2 battleship barely .003%. This translates, gamewide, into roughly a 12b isk per month sink at most (the day referenced in the tweet was a Sunday, so odds are good the job install rate was higher than the daily norm that day.) And yet, imagine if that were a flat rate, calculated as a percentage of the input value for the build job instead. Battleships and battlecruisers account for nearly half of all mineral consumption in EVE1. Factor in Tech II items, and assume that the result is that BS and BC construction accounts for a quarter of that 12b isk per month sink, and then do the math on the resulting sink if the fee were instead a flat quarter of a percent on the value of the inputs. You get a sink of almost 190b isk per month, from just those ship classes. The fees for blueprint research could be similarly set, perhaps a fee per level based on the NPC value of the blueprint itself.
  • Market fees and taxes are already substantial sink. Last January, for example, 1.75 trillion isk was spent on taxes, and just shy of 2 trillion isk on broker fees, of which we can assume 5% or so went to player owned stations. CCP has already increased market taxes in the past, bumping the base rate from 1% to 1.5%. I’d like to see them do it again, but this time to broker fees. This serves a twofold purpose – it increases the sink, but also increases the amount that goes to player owned stations. That’s a valuable goal, since the broker fees earned in those stations are valuable and potentially very large source of bottom up income for the station owners who foster enough development in their space to warrant a market. Although, that said, I’d like those station owners to be able to set that fee as well, just like they can all the other station fees.
  • As mentioned above, replace mission rewards and time bonuses with LP for L4 missions. This has a magnified effect, in that you lower or eliminate a faucet and increase the sink. Suppose for example that 5% of the combined mission reward/time bonus faucet – around 300 billion per month, in other words – were replaced at a 500:1 rate with extra LP instead, adding an additional 600 million LP per month. The LP store charges to redeem LP, upwards of 1000 isk/LP for items such as implants, so that translates back into a 600 billion isk per month sink. The total net change to the balance, then, would be 900 billion isk a month. Tweak the percentage of the reward replaced with LP, and you tweak the size of the sink.

Just a few ideas. More exist. The other, often overlooked aspect of this discussion is, what is our target? The economics involved in determining that exactly are beyond me. However, monetary inflation is necessary to some degree. At the very least, the amount of isk in the game needs to, at a minimum, keep pace with the number of players. Otherwise, players are battling it out for a piece of the pie that is, relatively speaking, shrinking.

And now, rather abruptly, I’ve run out of words. I’m sure this post and the last will change nothing, and all the misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding inflation will continue. But hey, can’t change everything…

 

1: Awhile back I painstakingly collected every reference to ship production I could find and filled in the gaps with careful assumptions based on other information I could find. The result was an estimate of EVE-wide mineral consumption.