Friday, October 2, 2020

Resource Redistribution And Low Sec - 2020 Edition

Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade


When Dirk MacGirk poked me Friday morning alerting me to the latest dev blog, Resource Distribution Update, I had a sense of dread. Was CCP really trying to fix low sec again? I'd already left low sec due to years of low sec mining nerfs combined with the introduction of high end minerals in high sec in association with the Triglavian story line. Mining in high sec was so superior to low sec that I finally gave up on low sec and moved back to high sec. Considering I once wrote a post titled "Adapt or High Sec", moving back under the umbrella of CONCORD was a bitter pill to swallow. When the DDoS attacks at the end of January and beginning of February hit, I lost the habit of logging into EVE. I still follow the New Eden economy, RMT activity, and the metagame, but when playing games, most of my time was spent logged into Final Fantasy XIV.

I wanted to take a dispassionate look at the matter, but I had trouble getting into the proper state of mind. I spent the first day after reading the dev blog ranting and railing against the changes. Then I started to hear and read criticism from the PvP crowd from low sec. Given that many of the nerfs I'd experienced over the years were intended to placate those players, I was once again extremely irritated. Hopefully the following analysis will come across as thoughtful and not emotional.

The core of the changes in the resource distribution update was the announcement of the changes of the composition of ores and the restriction of certain ores to certain security bands of space. Furthermore, the distribution of the ores would ensure that no security band was self-sufficient in minerals. 

To implement the redistribution, CCP plans on making the following changes to asteroid belts.

High Security
  • All variations of Omber and Kernite will be removed from Hisec asteroid belts.
Low Security
  • All variations of Veldspar, Scordite and Plagioclase will be removed from Lowsec asteroid belts.
  • The quantity of all variations of Pyroxeres and Kernite will be reduced by 75%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Hemorphite and Hedbergite will be increased by 400%.
Null Security
  • All variations of Scordite, Plagioclase, Omber, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite, Gneiss, Dark Ochre, and Crokite will be removed from Nullsec asteroid belts.
  • The quantity of all variations of Kernite will be reduced by 75%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Bistot will be reduced by 70%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Arkonor will be reduced by 50%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Mercoxit will be reduced by 90%.
In addition, ore anomalies are, for the most part, receiving nerfs if not outright deletion from the game.

High Security
  • All Ore Anomalies will be removed from Hisec systems.
Low Security
  • Certain Ore Anomalies will be removed from Lowsec systems.
  • The quantity of all variations of Gneiss and Dark Ochre in all Lowsec Ore Anomalies will be increased by 300%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Crokite in all Lowsec Ore Anomalies will be increased by 9900%.
  • The following ores and their variations will be removed from Wormhole Anomalies:
  • Veldspar, Scordite, Plagioclase, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite, Dark Ochre, Crokite, Mercoxit, Spodumain.

The more I looked at CCP's plans, the more I began to believe the changes were more based on economic theory and philosophy and less on the data. The resource distribution update begins with the following observation:
A healthy economic environment where players can find opportunities by making interesting choices is the goal. One of the key pillars of EVE is that loss has meaning and a state is being reached where loss is not meaningful anymore for veteran players. It is imperative, both for EVE's success and for the well-being of its inhabitants, that the economy resides within a healthy state
I think CCP isn't thrilled with the ship replacement programs each of the major null sec blocs run and maintain. Players can go out and lose ships and not worry about replacing them as long as they fit the ship the approved way. But I don't think CCP is just referring to individual players. I believe the developers are also concerned about the economic capability of alliances and coalitions as well. The mention of the term "autarky" in the March dev blog reminds me of what The Imperium has built in Delve.

So what is autarky? The following description is taken from Investopedia.
An autarky refers to the state of self-reliance, and it typically is applied to an economic system or nation characterized by self-sufficiency and limited trade. The definition of autarky comes from the Greek—autos, meaning "self" and arkein, meaning "to be strong enough, to suffice." Fully autarkic states are those with closed economies and without any sources of external support, trade or aid.

A related term, "autarky price," refers to the cost of a good in an autarkic state. International commodity trade takes place in part as a result of differences in autarky prices between countries or areas.
I've never lived in sovereign null sec, but the concept of autarky price reminds me of the difference in the prices in Delve verses the rest of New Eden I hear about on the talk shows. The Investopedia article continues on with an explanation I believe the developers hold.
Autarky is an extreme form of economic nationalism and protectionism. Autarky was first questioned by economist Adam Smith, and then David Ricardo. Smith suggested that countries should engage in free trade and specialize in goods they have an absolute advantage in producing, in order to generate more wealth. Ricardo amended that slightly, saying that countries should also produce goods in which they have a comparative advantage. Free trade and globalization have been seen as superior economic courses of action, generally speaking, and so, autarky involving the elimination of foreign trade has proved unsuccessful, and has become more of a utopian ideal.
By granting each security band advantages in the production of certain vital minerals, CCP is encouraging trade between several points throughout the game and not just between one or two trade hubs and deep space. More activity, whether in mining or transportation, should result in more killmails. The fact that, theoretically, the macroeconomy should structurally improve as well is a nice bonus.

The idea of assigning each security band an economic niche is not new. Back in August 2011, CCP published two dev blogs concerning the future development of null sec. The second dev blog, Nullsec Development: Design Goals, contained the  idea that some minerals would be unique to null sec.
Nullsec should be the only place we're injecting (at least some of the) ices, zydrine, megacyte and morphite into the game. This ensures that nullsec mining retains a unique value proposition, and guarantees that mining time for these types is priced according the risk and effort involved in nullsec extraction.
However, the theory back in 2011 was that null sec industry should be 99% self-sufficient by volume.
People building things in nullsec should only need to travel to empire (or more than a couple of regions across nullsec) for low-volume supplies. This requires that industrialists have a ready supply of low-end minerals available nearby in nullsec, without breaking other systems or goals. (Likely means some way of mining low-ends in a massively more rapid manner compared to current tools.)
If null sec has to import all its tritanium, the days of minimizing imports is over.

What I described above is a pretty comprehensive revamp of resource harvesting EVE Online. In the interests of brevity, I didn't even include the changes to ice mining and gas harvesting. Making the change three months into a major null sec war could impact the result of the conflict. So why am I hearing so much about low sec?

The first reason is the conclusion of the dev blog. In addition to the reduction of stockpiles (and possibly the reprocessing of junk modules), CCP included the following list of expected effects of the redistribution:
  • More movement in Lowsec - and potentially more destruction
  • Increase of mining ship losses
  • More market transactions for ores/minerals
  • Mineral income from refining items to increase
  • Prices of minerals to change
The first item on the list explicitly states low sec, with the second item a logical extension of the first.

The second cause is the reaction of members of the Council of Stellar Management. One member elected in June, Phantomite, posted the following in a recent blog post.
While a number of CCP staff have expressed interest in what we have to say, we have recieved [sic] absolutely zero indication of the feelings of the people who actually set the schedules for and steer development, which makes this all the more offensive to the players of Eve. We have been offering up a full package of problems and solutions that match what the community has asked for, and CCP has thrown mass active player mining to lowsec with the implication that this is a gift to the area.

Mass mining in lowsec is not possible. Lowsec is NOT sov null.

This displays entirely the wrong attitude, and shows zero awareness of what lowsec is to it’s [sic] residents.
A discussion of what the Council of Stellar Management itself is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, I will earn my blogging license and delve into the changes.

First, the changes could help reestablish the food chain in low sec. Back in 2013, I wrote about how the upcoming changes in the Odyssey expansion could harm the type of activity we see in null sec. By trying to increase activity in the belts with miners, smaller predators would have more targets. And the small predators will attract larger predators. And so on, and so on.

I'm not sure that future high prices for isogen and nocxium will attract large numbers of players to mine in low security space. My personal opinion is we are more likely to see the null sec blocs conducting mining operations than independents in the belts. But low sec, contrary to popular opinion, is not just factional warfare. Ignoring the rest of the systems in the security band is a bad idea. The mining changes at least throw non factional warfare space a bone.

Minerals in a full Procurer Ore Hold, 100% refine rate

The next point concerns the distribution of minerals in the low sec of each empire. Here is the ore composition of the belts I found on the Singularity test cluster this weekend.

Amarr Empire
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hemorphite, Jaspet, Kernite, Pyroxeres
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Jaspet, Kernite, Pyroxeres

Caldari State
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hedbergite, Kernite, Pyroxeres
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Kernite, Pyroxeres

Gallente Federation
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hemorphite, Jaspet, Omber
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Jaspet, Omber

Minmatar Republic (and the Ammatar Mandate)
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hedbergite, Kernite, Omber
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Kernite, Omber

An interesting fact, which hit me while I read the dev blog, is that miners in the Caldari and Minmatar regions will not be able to belt mine nocxium in all low sec regions. In fact, The Citadel will have no nocxium in belts while Heimatar will only have one system containing Hedbergite. The 0.3 & 0.4 security systems in Amarr and Gallente regions will contain Jaspet.

Here is the breakdown of the number of systems in each Caldari and Minmatar region that will provide nocxium in asteroid belts.

Ammatar Mandate
Derelik - 18

Caldari State
Black Rise - 14
Lonetrek - 2
The Citadel - 0
The Forge - 5

Minmatar Republic
Heimatar - 1
Metropolis - 17
Molden Heath - 8

One concern I do have about the regions with limited nocxium ore are the diamond rats. When they were introduced, their habit of immediately mining all the ore in the system forced me to move from one of those systems. I just wonder if the developers took that into consideration when calculating the amount of ore mined in low sec.

Finally, I want to revisit the concept of the food chain and small fish attracting big fish. If CCP wants to fill the low sec fish bowl with miners without the PvPers immediately devouring the miners, they need to provide some safer places to mine. I've found that belts are relatively safe if one pays attention and flies smart, but ore anomalies are death traps. They are a beacon calling out to passing gangs to investigate the site.

My idea to get people used to mining in low sec again is to reintroduce ore signatures back into the game. Removed in the Odyssey expansion in 2013, ore signatures would provide safer places to actually mine with a bit of work. I believe that if EVE can have combat signatures for exploration and PvE, then why not ore signatures too? While clever hunters can pre-probe the sites in order to surprise unwary miners, ore signatures prior to 2013 helped promote mining in low sec. Bringing the sites back would help achieve CCP's goals, if only to allow some mining to occur in a lightly trafficked system.

Now, I would like to say a few things about the plan. I absolutely hate the idea of CCP trying to remove the ability for me to mine all the materials for a ship. I had a sense of accomplishment after building a Nestor back in 2016-2017. CCP clearly thinks my having fun in that way is bad for the game. I also have a fear that the reliance on mining in low sec is going to backfire. Without changes to low sec, such as introducing ore signatures, I see the isogen and nocxium needs of the economy being met by the large null sec blocs conducting massive mining operations in low sec areas. The most obvious example is The Imperium running locus fleets throughout Aridia in order to keep its industrial engine running.

I have one other concern. Logistics. When putting the plan together, did CCP think of all the additional player-hours required to move all the raw materials around under the new rules? Is expanding the transportation capacity even possible?

I'm honestly not sold on the resource redistribution plan. I hope CCP is flexible enough to make changes quickly once the existing stockpiles run out. The plan has to be part of a larger effort to remake and improve not just low sec, but all of EVE. If not, things are going to get really ugly.

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