Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts On Eve's Player Owned Customs Office

A lot of players are upset over the introduction of player-owned customs offices (POCO) to replace the existing customs offices used in Eve Online's planetary interaction feature.  I'm late jumping onto the subject because I wanted to think about the subject after the shock of the tax increases wore off.  Hopefully I can provide a little insight from a little different perspective.

Who called the assessors office?  The way that CCP raised taxes on planetary interaction products reminded me of the property tax bill on my home.  My taxes are based not only on the cumulative tax rate assessed by the many taxing districts my home falls in but the assessed value of my home.  For example, this year my tax rates didn't go up, by the value of my house was reassessed.  Ouch!  Fortunately my housing association went to work and the value was adjusted downward.  But something tells me CCP won't adjust the assessed values of planetary interaction products.

The new insurance?
  For the longest time, the price of minerals was tied to insurance payouts due to the practice of insurance fraud.  Will the prices of PI goods evenually stabilize at the assessed product values used to determine the import and export taxes?  Or will the prices serve as a floor unless some nullsec alliance decides to play market games like the Goons currrently are with blue ice?  As a reminder, here are the values:
  • Advanced Commodities: 1,350,000.00 ISK
  • Specialized Commodities: 70,000.00 ISK
  • Refined Commodities: 9,000.00 ISK
  • Basic commodities: 500.00 ISK
  • Planet Resources: 5.00 ISK
Improving Null Sec:  Going back to the Nullsec Development: Design Goals devblog back in August, the POCO meets several of the design goals that CCP is looking to implement in improving null sec.

Industry:  The introduction of POCOs allows the production of planetary interaction goods at much cheaper rates than in highsec.  This meets several of the goals set out in the devblog:
  • Geared towards T2
    • Our current proposal is that hisec is for volume T1 goods, lowsec will be for meta/faction gear eventually, nullsec is for T2, and wormholes are for T3
  • Lucrative
    • Building T2 modules/ships in nullsec should be a good way to make a lot of money. There are many inherent drawbacks in doing industry in nullsec and we need to balance out these hidden costs.
  • Requires investment
    • Again, we want the real wealth-generation machines to require people to settle down and spend some money, because it encourages concentration of effort and makes for interesting targets to attack or defend.
  • Accessible to all in small volumes
    • Anyone should be able to build enough bits and bobs to support a reasonably frugal lifestyle, anywhere in nullsec. This allows small groups to feel self-sufficient provided they're all prepared to work for it, while still encouraging specialization efficiency for larger groups.
Small Combat:  I'm a highsec carebear, but from everything I've heard and read, much of nullsec combat revolves around shooting and defending structures.  The relatively small (10 million hit point) POCOs should be structures that can quickly be put into structure.  I think POCOs help meet two design goals:
  • Objectives and incentives
    • Smaller fleets moving through enemy space should always have something to do, and doing that something should make them feel like they've achieved something worthwhile even if they didn't get any actual fights. This means having things to do that are both satisfying and deliver some kind of long-term value (ideally things with tangible ISK-relative value as well as intangible strategic value) to offset the opportunity cost of a roam. We want people out PvPing, and if they're thinking "I wish I'd stayed at home and run missions" then something is wrong.
  • Disrupt, not destroy
    • When interfering with infrastructure, smaller fleets should as a rule be causing damage that can be brought back to its pre-damage state in a short timeframe, and without costing that much money. A single small-scale roam is not a large investment, and it should not require a large investment to undo the damage. A sustained harassment campaign should be possible to disrupt activities for longer periods, if the harasser puts in the hours to do so.
Smallholding:  I think POCOs arguably meet all the goals for CCP has for small-scale infrastructure, but two goals stand out:
  • Accessible
    • Pretty much anyone with a little seed capital (~10m ISK) should be able to establish some small, semi-permanent presence in nullsec. Not everyone wants to get involved in nullsec, but every player that feels even a slight interest but never quite takes the plunge represents a failure of design that we should fix.
  • Mostly self-sufficient
    • For non-trivial investments, the day-to-day running of operations in smallholdings should be more-or-less self-sufficient. Something akin to a bi-weekly supply run (bi-weekly because then the investment gives you a "weekend off" every other weekend, which is rewarding) is desirable for a number of reasons - adds interaction, creates weaknesses, removes the need for high-value manufacturing in smallholdings, and prevents players from feeling totally isolated - but it should not be a massive amount of work, nor should it be that often. Smallholdings should make players feel like intrepid pioneers, living off the land of the frontier and hoping the bi-weekly mail coach gets through safely.
Kill InterBus!  CCP couldn't just remove all of the customs offices because lots of industrialists had colonies in null, low, and wormhole space.  But they could give everyone an incentive to do structure shoots.  That's right, they gave the existing offices who promptly instituted a tax that is greater than the launch costs in highsec.  I wonder how many merc contracts were issued to kill the InterBus offices.

My plans:  Having nearly a week to think about the PI changes, how have I changed the way I play?  First, I've abandoned trying to make P3 products.  Right now I am just making P2 products on single planets.  Eventually I may try to run a factory planet that imports P1 products to make P3 goods.  But for now I'll just set up my colonies to run for as long as possible without my having to enter the interface and then pick up the goods once a week.  For me, I'm making more money than I was two weeks ago due to the increase in prices.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy PI and I think it's in a very healthy state. The new taxes were something of a shock (especially to those of us paying 17%) but I put up my first two POCOs to replace the Interbus ones yesterday.

    The overall price spike in planetary materials is what softens the blow, especially as I'm fairly convinced it will continue to go up. If we have massive nullsec war consuming structures at a rate not sustainable by the alliances' own production then the prices of things like SBUs will rocket. No one is going to want to see a campaign involving thousands of ships fail because they ran out of blockade units. (Equally buying up stocks may be a defensive tactic worth considering).