Occupancy Sovereignty Outline

One more quick one tonight, just to make sure I get it done.

With my latest post over on TMC, I really ought to get all the details I’ve been throwing around my head and occasionally at other people down on paper. A good way to start, though, would be to just sketch out the very basic skeleton. So, without further adieu:

  • Do whatever to the capture mechanics themselves. While the specifics absolutely matter, from a generic perspective it seems obvious that usage & occupancy will interact with them in some way as to make a highly occupied system more resistant to capture. On one end of the spectrum you’ve got the system touted by Endie and others, where usage literally is the sovereignty, and on the other end you’ve got it merely playing a role. I prefer it merely playing a role. Since this is just a skeleton post though, pretend that the Dominion mechanics stay in place largely as-is, with a few tweaks. The important tweak is a massive nerf to the EHP of the structures involved, we’ll revisit why (even though it’s probably obvious) later.
  • Revamp existing anomalies, other pve content and mining. This isn’t actually strictly necessary, but is a really good idea. My feeling is that any system in nullsec should have a basic standard of livability when at level 5 roughly similar to what you get out of a level 5 system with -1.0 sec now. Not TOTALLY even – better truesec already has a mining edge by virtue of their grav sites spawning the +5% and +10% ores and ice sites spawning more and better ice. Extending that concept to ratting, then, if you imagine that chain-farming sanctums and havens is worth 100m isk/hr, then lower end sites like Ports and such ought to come in around 80-90m/hr. At the base level (what I consider to be the current level 5) anywhere in nullsec ought to be undeniably worth living in, without making everything quite so homogenous as to remove reason to lust after better space. This is sort of what Greyscale tried to do back in 2012, but he badly missed the mark. More on that in the next point. One minor aside – Endie’s proposal uses missions, which I don’t like. However, they do alleviate UI based complications (eg finding one open anomaly amongst twenty in a busy system), and they oblige the users of space to move about that space instead of sitting tight in one system chaining sites. Both concepts are definitely worth incorporating, even if a purely mission based system isn’t.
  • Extend the military and industry indices out a number of levels. For the sake of argument just imagine they now go up to 25, and at successively higher levels you unlock new and interesting things. More solo content, more group content (especially more group content.) Incursion magnets? How about a Comet attractor…finally a way to implement “ring mining?” Use your imagination. Critical here is that the quality of what you can unlock is affected by the truesec of the system far moreso than in the base five levels, to the point where certain things are flat out unavailable in lower quality systems. Significant disparities at that point are more acceptable, since there’s a reasonable “base standard of living” everywhere. “We definitely make more than if we stayed in highsec so we’re okay here…but man, the Comet Array our neighbors are able to install is awesome, and one day we’ll take it from them!”
  • Leveling the indices up increases the usage needed to maintain any given system as well as the usage to raise the level further based on (at the very minimum) the total number of levels within your sov. Each extra system you want to raise is that much more difficult to maintain as a result. The equation to figure the usage for any given system at any given level would have some kind of exponential form.
  • Only usage by the sovholder counts towards the indices; unaffiliated usage does nothing at best, actually harms your levels at worst. This is critical as a check against the idea of splitting an alliance up and having each sub-alliance (“Goonswarm One”, “Goonswarm Two”, etc) take a portion of a much larger area of space. While it doesn’t prevent it outright, well… I happen to remember the drama and other problems Goons had way back in the day, before Sovereignty (the skill) existed and we had to form Goonfleet and Goonwaffe, and that was just living in Syndicate with nothing really at stake. If an alliance tried to segregate its members lest they damage their notional alliancemates’ space, well… the results wouldn’t be pretty. I do think there’s room here for treaties to allow shared usage without it being gamebreaking, but the why & how are details so we’ll leave them for now.
  • Moving on to the Strategic index, which also brings us back to capture mechanics. Link the strategic index into the other two indices, and extend it out to level 25 as well. It’ll progress up the levels naturally overtime just as it does now, but the expressed level would be capped by some combo of the other two levels. As moving up the strategic index would unlock all the upgrades it offers now as well as new stuff, including system defensive bonuses and the like – getting some of that lost EHP back – the effect is that an unused system would be very easy to take.
  • It would be preferable to have most or all of the new structures and upgrades accessible via the improved indices implemented as stand-alone structures that can be attacked/disabled/hacked/etc, breaking the infrastructure within the system out into discrete targets. Difficulty to take them down would be anything but flat – high value upgrades would generally be harder to take down than low value ones, and if there are multiple means of affecting them (there should be!) then the damage caused by each mechanism should be in line with the time & difficulty of doing it. This would be a tricky balance to hit – the idea is you want people to be active in defending their space, lest roamers be allowed to muck about with their infrastructure, but you don’t want a primarily USTZ alliance to have to spend the first hour of their primetime cleaning up the mess made by their EUTZ neighbors while they were all at work and vice versa.
  • And finally – do away with sov costs entirely. Yeah, you heard me right. No I’m not going to justify it now – it’s novel and a complete departure from almost every other suggestion I’ve seen, so I want to throw it out there undefended and see what kind of conversation it sparks.

That just about covers the basics. Yes, I consider several multi-sentence points to be “the basics”, is there a problem with that?

There is one other major aspect that has to be treated as well. If one of the goals of an occupancy system is to make leaving your space a considered choice, usage is one half of that coin. Power projection is the other, primarily projection involving cynos (if an occupancy system succeeds in prompting coalitions to break up & generally shrinks the amount of space any single alliance holds, jump bridges are even less of a factor than they already aren’t.) There are three basic avenues, any or all of which could do the trick. The most obvious is restricting mobility, anything from cooldowns to shorter ranges to the nuclear option of forcing them to take gates and re-imagining jump drives as a tactical (rather than strategic) movement ability – an MJD writ large, if you will. There’s also the option of redefining their role, which primarily involves looking at carriers and supercarriers; Dreads are already reasonably well balanced within the meta due to their niche and high vulnerability, and even Titans are arguably in an okay place. Finally, redefining the capture mechanics could significantly limit the usefulness of capital power projection, seeing as their most important role (aside from deterrence) is rapid grinding of EHP bricks.

 

Goddamn, over 1300 words for a skeleton. An outline. A summary. Frightning, ain’t it? But with this out there, it ought to encourage me to put in the effort to flesh it out.

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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.

Dumbing EVE Down

EVE is a complex game. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind about that. It’s something those of us who play it are often proud of; it’s something those who don’t play still know well enough for there to be a longstanding meme about it (to illustrate “longstanding”, just how long has it been since the game has been known as “EVE: The Second Genesis” anyway?) Rather predictably, one result of this is a faction that is against anything they perceive as removing that complexity. “It was hard for me, you’re (dumbing the game down)/(nerfing me) by making it easy for other players!”

That’s a dramatic and rather unfortunate misunderstanding of the value of complexity. Granted, one definition of complexity includes “hard” or “difficult”, but it’s not a necessary component and it’s not where it’s value to a game like EVE comes from. “Hard complexity”, by and large, belongs in a theme park. It’s how a game like World of Warcraft achieves some measure of longevity for it’s content. Raid encounters and boss fights are “complex” in the sense that every player in the raid has multiple things to track and do, all at once, and if any one of them fucks up, the fight punches the whole raid in the dick for it. I remember very well regarding some of those fights as “complex”, but nevertheless, they’re closed-ended problems. There is one solution, one way to win, minimal room for variation. Eventually you’ll get to it, trivializing and eventually obsoleting the content in the process.

Such complexity is all well and good in a theme park. Obsolete content is expected as a normal part of running such a game. In a sandbox like EVE, it’s a problem. We, the players, generate the content, and the systems of the game are there as tools with which to do so. Those systems becoming trivialized, solved problems is a problem itself – it’s not much of a sandbox if there’s only one right choice, is there? As a result, the complexity of those systems is better off as “soft complexity”, a system that defines the problem, but leaves it as open ended as possible.

If done well, a complex system like this is best characterize by the first line out of the Wikipedia article – “Complexity is generally used to characterize something with many parts where those parts interact with each other in multiple ways.” With many parts with multiple interactions between each part you have multiple paths to success, multiple choices to make, and plenty of depth. In other words, you have an open ended problem. This also helps to improve replay value, to make each repeated interaction with the system an engaging and even enjoyable problem to solve, rather than rote repetition of a problem long since solved.

That’s the benefit of such a system, the good complexity, if you will. The pitfalls, by contrast, invoke the classic dictionary definition of the word in my mind, something along the lines of “a part of something that is complicated or hard to understand.” There’s that word “hard” again. Lots of parts, lots of choices, sure. But the choices are poorly explained, or their interactions & mechanics badly documented (if at all), or the UI is clumsy. Worse yet, most of the choices could be redundant, either duplicates of one another, or perhaps, despite the attempts to be open ended, there’s only a few good choices after all. Collectively, that’s bad complexity. And, while there isn’t all that much actual “hard complexity” in EVE, the game is chock full of this “bad” complexity.

While there’s not all that much in the way of “hard complexity” in EVE, the game is chock full of “bad” complexity. That, I feel, is a large part of where the reputation comes from of the “learning cliff”, and is in turn part of what drives new players off. A well implemented “soft-complex” system is going to have a learning curve that starts shallow and ramps up into a steeper and much longer slope. Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master is perhaps a bit overly idealized, but not all that far off either. And still people cling to hard complexity, or bad complexity as some lousy facsimile for difficulty. If that leads them to complain about attempts to fix it, quit because they think it’s dumbing the game down or that newcomers should have to deal with the lousy system just because they did… fuck ’em, they won’t be missed. Retaining more new players is more important than keeping them around.

Besides, no one who blusters in public about quitting actually does it.

This topic deserves an example, and given CCP’s primary focus for the next major release, it seems only fitting that that example be industry. I’ll stick with Tech I industry for now, just to keep the length here under control – Invention is a whole other beast unto itself.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Disclaimer: I did not pick the topic just so I could use that tagline.

The basic mechanics of Tech I industry are pretty straightforward. Take minerals, combine with blueprint, get product. The blueprint itself tells you everything necessary for a job, plus information on improving the blueprint via research.

The good complexity here basically ends at “what do I build”. There’s not all that much in the way of bad complexity, though. Research isn’t really clearly explained, and the UI leaves much to be desired. Most of the problems stem from complexity that should exist not being there. Where you build should matter, but it’s got no effect on labor cost and shipping is so cheap that “as close to the hub as possible” is the usual choice. How it’s built should matter, but all you can do there is to use a bonused facility or research your blueprints, and that’s just a cost or speed factor. There’s no way to experiment or tinker as in the crafting systems of some other games, so no “(Player)’s Modified 425mm Railgun I.”

Happily, much of this will be addressed by Crius. Teams and scaling build fees will give plenty to think about for where you build – they’re your good complexity. The new UI is solid (though still seems to have a few bugs) and the filters do a pretty good job of letting you manage the information that defines your vast array of available choices. Given large blueprint collections (which someone may well keep in multiple locations to optimize production based on teams), hundreds of systems and potentially thousands of available teams, that’s a very good thing. There’s probably some more that could be done in the discoverability area, but even just what’s in Crius is a big step in that regard. Despite all the new choices and resulting complexity, explaining them should be pretty easy:

  • Systems with more activity will tend to have a higher cost to install jobs.
  • Teams offer bonuses to time or material cost for things you build, but they must be paid, increasing job install cost.
  • Special facilities – POS and Outposts – can offer additional benefits.

Am I missing something? Taken at a sufficiently high level, I don’t really think so, and it’s not too hard to drill down to finer detail with just a couple more lines. In other words, if we’re after an open-ended soft-complex system with industry, “objective achieved”, or at the very least a damn good start.

One last factor, something you could consider as a “still missing”. I said earlier that the only real source of choice in Tech I industry was “what to build”. And – credit to Lockefox for making this point – Tech I build times are such that it can be a stretch to call that a choice. The demand in Jita for any given Tech I ship can be satisfied by just 3-4 characters building 24/7. It’s even worse for modules. Once you can use Tech II, there’s no reason to ever fit Tech I again, and even when you can’t use Tech II there’s almost always a Meta module that’s actually cheaper.

Compare that to something like Ishtars. The daily movement in Jita takes at least twenty characters to supply based on build time alone, a number that only climbs when slot-hours for research and invention are factored in. If Tech I build times were lengthened somewhat, the choice of “what to build” – which, even with everything new in Crius, is still the predominant choice in industry – becomes more meaningful. There would certainly be interesting ripple effects, though “no reason to use Tech I once…” remains a problem. Both of those, however, I’ll have to revisit another day, in another topic.

Like the general topic? Let me know – I’ll probably make a series out of it.

A Dogmatic Future

This last Fanfest was the first one I’ve ever been to, and one thought that occurred to me was man, I wish roundtables were recorded, because occasionally some neat shit comes out in them.

I only actually made it to a couple of round tables, but one of them was the second ship balancing round table. It fits the bill, though. There was definitely some neat shit, and it’s neat shit that only about fifty players (if that) heard, that I’ve not really seen commented on anywhere else.

First thing’s first – Dogma. If you’re not aware, Dogma is the system in the game that handles your ship, its attributes, and how your skills modify those attributes. You’d think this is a simple and straightforward task. Take number, multiply number, viola! But as it turns out, it’s something more like this:

Yes, to my slight shame, I used to play WoW.

CCP Veritas gave a more in-depth explanation during his presentation at Fanfest, which was recorded and is available here. The part about Dogma is at 37:40, but really, take the time to watch the whole thing.

If you’ve watched the presentation, you might be wondering how, exactly, Dogma relates to ship balancing. In hindsight, it’s actually really obvious. Veritas even obliquely references it in the presentation, talking about how they want to “make the system more flexible for Game Design” and how “adding to their attributes table is something they’d like to do.” But I wasn’t at the Gridlock presentation, so it wasn’t until that ship balancing session that it all clicked together.

First thing’s first. When asked “What is your vision for Titans?” CCP Fozzie answered “To find a vision for Titans.” We’ll come back to that one.

From another player, “If you could snap your fingers and fix Command Ships and gang bonuses, what would your ideal solution be?” A likely direction, at least, apparently a module that generates a point-blank AOE effect, applying a temporary buff to any ship in gang. The boost would persist if you moved out of range, but you’d have to get back in to refresh it.

Unfortunately, it seems, such a thing isn’t really technically feasible. At least, not right now. Echoing what Veritas had said, Fozzie went on to note that it might be possible after Team Gridlock finishes the Dogma rewrite.

If you think about it, that’s not that surprising. Gang bonuses are nothing but a stat change after all, exactly what Dogma handles. Given how CCP Veritas cited session changes (during which all your stats have to be recalculated) as one huge factor in server load, it might not be entirely accurate to say that it’s technically infeasible. A more plausible scenario features CCP Fozzie proposing this mechanic, only to be told by Veritas (after he’d finished hyperventilating) that he would murder him in his sleep if he tried to implement it now.

If gang bonuses are just a beneficial stat change, then effects like webs are obviously negative ones. This is how Supercarrier and Titan balancing comes into play. If the Dogma re-write opens up more and new ways to apply stats, we’ve got a whole new realm to work within for those. What if instead of guns and a Doomsday, a Titan fielded giant targeted AOE webs instead?

Just an example, probably a bad one, and one very much born of thinking inside the box to boot. It’s easy to imagine the upsides for the purposes of supercapital balancing, though. Perhaps the largest is such an ability could easily be made to be stacking penalized. That would address what’s always been the largest difficulty in balancing them (“How do we do this without making 50 of them together too good? What about 100? 200?”) That in turn does something about the ever widening power gap between established and existing alliances and the currently mythical “newcomer little guy”. Such bonuses would also likely mandate the use of a support fleet of some kind, which is probably a desirable outcome as well.

Basically, if you’ve been wondering what’s been taking CCP so long to rebalance gang bonuses and Supercapitals, this might just be the answer.

There’s one last upside here as well. One complaint cropping up more and more lately (though still not too often, to be fair) is that as we add more and more ships to the game, they’re just crammed into the same niches, where they either obsolete their competition or are instantly useless. A bit melodramatic and generally incorrect, but there certainly is a kernel of truth there. Just think of the Mordus ships – the Garmur instantly compared to the Crow, the Orthrus to, well, any of your favorite skirmish ships, the Barghest to the Machariel. Given a limited number of roles to work with, it’s not all that surprising. But if – when? – the Dogma rewrite lets the game designers go off in completely new directions, create entirely new roles or radically redefine old ones? Well then – sky’s the limit.

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?

Interceptors – Quick Thoughts

It’s been a long day, so here’s a quick topic to chew on.

Like it or love it the new role bonus for Interceptors – bubble immunity, in case you’ve been living under a rock – is probably here to stay.

That’s not to say that interceptors might not see some balancing. Historically, CCP’s balancing efforts have always hinged on how widely used a ship is relative to similar options. In the case of interceptors, I’d probably lay money that the Crow and Malediction are dominating in that department. While any of the ‘Fleet interceptors’ (defined as such by their bonus to Warp Scrambler and Warp Disruptor range) work just fine in support to gangs large and small, those two are undisputed kings of the interceptor roam. Bubble immune with a fast align time, 30km point and no need to decelerate from their high MWD velocity to apply damage, why wouldn’t they be? Piss poor DPS, sure, but a couple of them working in concert can kill off ratters without much issue and packs of them can handle a lot of other things.

At some point, if I’m right about the usage, they’re going to get revisited. So, here’s some food for thought for a novel approach.

First, split the ‘Combat’ and ‘Fleet’ interceptors a little more broadly. The Tech II specialization or theme of the class is “Mobility”, but that need not mean a class-wide bonus. Fleet interceptors keep the bubble immunity, as it’s an excellent bonus for pursuing fleeing targets and moving about an incumbered battlefield. Combat interceptors, on the other hand, could replace it with a bonus allowing short-range engagement and disengagement at will. The idea would be to differentiate them from Assault Frigates, whose low sig radius and generally robust tank lets them hang in close and pound their target. Imagine, if you will, a bonus that conferred immunity to webs, or scramblers… or both.

Edit: It’s already caused some confusion, so I should point out that when I say “immunity to scramblers” I’m thinking specifically of ignoring the “shuts down MWDs” part, not the warp disruption effect.

Probably a dramatically overpowered example, but you get the idea of the theme.

Second, give the ‘Fleet Interceptor’ role to the Crusader and Raptor, respectively, rather than Malediction & Crow, and given that, change up the other bonuses a little to suit.

The end result would be just a little bit more thought necessary when it comes to choosing your interceptor, especially for roaming.

 

Removing Local Wouldn’t Work

To resolve some puzzled questions I’ve had sent my way, when I speak of removing local, I mean removing the intelligence it provides as well. I’m still in favor of a solution to separate local from intel such as the one put forward by Rhavas back in January.

Marlona Sky is a fellow writer over at themittani.com, and one of his longstanding pet issues is the removal of local. He wrote a little April Fool’s article about it today, and as is always the case when the topic comes up, comments are split (rather rancorously, of course) against and in favor of the idea.

Of course, my opinion is that anyone who thinks it’s a good idea either only roams nullsec looking for kills and PvP, but makes their money elsewhere, or just hasn’t really thought it through… possibly both. I fall into the former category, and while I’d love to pad my killboard with blinded ratters, it ultimately would be a poor change. One of the other factors I always try to think about when musing over ideas is “would this duplicate gameplay found elsewhere?” In this case, the answer is yes – wormholes have no local intel, a fact that people just love to point to as evidence that it would all be okay, things would work out just fine. But, if you answer “yes” to that question, you’d best stop and think, so let’s do that.

Wormholes are a unique environment that drives a unique metagame. The nature of sleeper sites means that you’re running them in groups, in ships that are closer to PvP fit than not. Combine those two factors and you’re more able to defend yourself if attacked. And, those very same sites are very rewarding, yielding several hundred million isk per hour per pilot. Furthermore, the nature of wormholes themselves restrict “casual” roams, and someone able to get at you at any given time might not be able to tomorrow. The impression I frequently get from wormhole dwellers is that, sure, individual groups of roamers might be more dangerous if they let their guard down, but the nature of things means that they may go days without a hostile visit.

Contrast that to nullsec. PvE in nullsec is generally a solo activity, and while it can be done in groups, the ships are usually dedicated PvE setups that fare poorly against PvP fit attackers. Anomalies aren’t anywhere near as rewarding as wormholes, too, and while being able to do it alone is an advantage, there’s no option to group up to make more money. And unlike the ever-shifting wormhole connections, someone, everyone always knows exactly how to get to you, and can get to you any time they want.

So, nuke local and you’re amplifying the risk, with no offset to reward, and in fact the measures players would inevitably take to decrease risk (rat in groups with PvP fits) would only decrease the reward – a double whammy. I’m sure life would continue, but it sure wouldn’t help people want to go to null, nor stay there. Maybe some day in the future, Nullsec will look very different, and the mechanics would allow for a complete absence of local. But maybe they won’t. In fact, I hope they won’t. Wormholes have their own character, their own flavor, and so does nullsec, and I’d prefer it stay that way. I’m not out here to play “Wormholes Writ Large”.