Friday, 23 May 2014

Balancing Freighters - why a nerf is very hard to avoid, the rule of three


A quick post about the freighter rebalance:

A lot of folks have called the proposed change a nerf, and with good reason.  These ships *have* been nerfed... but I'm not sure it was avoidable.

First, the goal of CCP was to make these ships more customizable, without significantly boosting their power - they didn't want to see a 500K ehp freighter or one with 3 million cubic metres of cargo.   This seems reasonable.  So a nerf accorss the board was needed to reduced the post-rigged stats.  But what stats?  A freighter has 3 important stats:

- Cargo space
- Tank
- Align time

(There is also warp speed but let's ignore that one for now as I believe the above 3 are more important.  You'll see my argument is still valid with those.)

So in theory, if you had one cargo rig, one tank rig and one agility (ie align time) rig, you would have about the same results as before... but that can't work!  If that was the case, having (using cargo as an example) a ship with 2 cargo rigs would have had a fair bit more of cargo, and 3 cargo rigs would have been massive.  So the only way this was tolerable for CCP was to have the nerf so bad that only by putting 3 rigs in one stat would you exceed previous capacity, at a significant cost to the other 2. 

This design space of "3 stats, 3 slots, don't buff too much" leads to an almost inescapable nerf. 

You can see the thread here:  I'll note that Fozzie wisely chose to go away from rigs and toward low slot modules, and I haven't had time to crunch the numbers yet... but I think the fundamental challenge remains.

Ironically, I'll note that having *less* slots to work with might make balancing easier... 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Industrial Griefing - number crunching

In my last post, I mused if it would be possible to intentionally ramp up installation costs in a system to then ask the local industrialists for "donations" to make you go away.  Let's crunch some numbers and see if this makes sense!

First, we need data.  There are about 7500 systems in EVE, but only 1212 are (based on my research) High-Sec systems.  However, based on a recent Dev Blog, about 85% of jobs are in high sec.  We also know there are about 50 000 industrialists (see here).   A big unknown in this analysis is how "lazy" industrialists are - are they running at 75% capacity?  50%?  95%?  I don't know.  Because of this, I'm just going to assume that everyone involved is equally productive.

If we assume that the average job takes about a day, and that the average industrialist character has a 10 job capacity, this means that about 500 000 jobs are run per day, and of those 425 000 are in highsec.  This results, if the job were spread out evenly, in about 351 jobs per system.... meaning there are about 35 industrialist toons per HS system.  That's not an insignificant number.

The complete job instalation cost equation is quite complex, but I will focus on this part:

Instalation cost  = cost of product * square root of fraction of global work hours.

Here I am again forced to take a short cut, assuming that all jobs have the same number of hours.  Clearly this is not true, but we will have to tolerate the approximation for now.  This means that the formulae can be changed to

Instalation cost  = cost of product * square root of fraction of jobs.  

So let's take our perfectly average system with 35 industrialists.  and do the math.  The cost I calculate is 2.6%... which isn't far off from the 2% cost noted in the dev blog that would happen if all HS jobs were distributed equally - I'm on the right path!

So how much is that?  Well if an industrialist is making simple t2 modules that sell for say, 0.5 million, and he makes 100 per day... that is about 18 million per week.  Of course, people who make larger items may be paying more.  But it doesn't seem that big a cost.  If you were doing t2 manufacturer and an extra 18 millions is going to sink your business... you're doing it wrong!

Of course, an average player may have more than 1 toon doing industry.  For ease of math, let's assume that the average is 3.5 (seems reasonable no?) and thus we have 10 industrialists *players* (not toons) in our very average HS system.  This installation cost is now adding up to 63.7 per week, or about 250 million a month... that is starting to add up isn't it? 

Ok ok, so many numbers... what about the evil griefer?   Well let's say he comes in, 2 accounts, 6 toons, doesn't need a POS and starts building cheap crap to drive up the activity.  It's on a 28 day average, so he's going to have to do this for a while for people to notice.  How much damage can he do?  60 jobs a days, the activity in system goes from 351 to over 400.   The installation cost has gone up to 2.9%... meaning an additional 29 million cost per player.   Incidentally, the busier the system is the smaller the change a small griefer can accomplish.  In a system with 1800 jobs/day, the griever can barely increase the installation cost % by 0.1%

So could someone get small sums from several players to go away?  Sure.  But the amounts are small and this doesn't really seem viable.  Then again, the miner bumpers/gankers of the New Order sell mining permits for 10 millions isk, so perhaps a new form of griefing will indeed be born...

Will I be responsible?  Maybe, but someone else would have thought of it eventually...

P.S. Lastly, I'll take a moment to express my frustration that CCP has *still* not fully released the information about how POSes will work now.  Given this number crunching, I'm not really sure POS industry will be very viable (vs just using a station) in the future...

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Industry change - perhaps a new type of extortion/scam?


So, apparently the 0-14% "tax" will be a system wide effect.  I had assumed that if Joe in POS A is running his small POS red hot he would  have paid more tax than Bob in his POS one moon over barely doing anything, but nope, they will all pay the same "tax" (this 0-14% value is now called the base installation cost).

This has all sorts of implications and strange effects, and really has to be thought about.  I'm not quite sure that it makes sense - using the example as before, why does Joe's action in his POS affect Bob?  They aren't competing for limited resources in an NPC station or anything like that.   It's also troubling that the POS costs haven't been ironed out yet.  It makes this feel rush and poorly thought out.  And poorly thought out systems in EVE have a history of having interesting things happen to them.

So... besides a zealous manufacturer ruining it for everyone else, what could happen?

Well, suppose I start flying around looking for system with low-ish installation costs. I find one with a few POSes that look to be active.  I dock in station, and start manufacturing *tons* of crap.  I don't really care about a profit here, as long as I'm breaking even I'm fine.  The in system activity is driven up and after a while the installation costs start going up sharply. Then I contact all those POS owners and tell them "listen, I'm having a grand old time making a gazillion tech 1 50 mm plate here, but I figured that perhaps it's cramping your style.  If you wouldn't mind paying me a small fee to cover my moving away expenses, I'll be on my way".

... and then you move to the next system over and start again.

I don't plan on doing this, and I'm not sure if it's even possible... but I did want to claim being the first to think of it ;)   Seriously though, if there is *any way* to game this system, it is guaranteed that someone will.

This is EVE, after all.

Friday, 25 April 2014

A quick commentary about the industrial changes, how it may impact the economy and the CSM

I've been reading a lot about the upcoming changes to industry.  Some of these changes are good for everyone (updated UI, RAM damage, extra materials), some are clearly benefiting null sec over highsec (superior refining) and some are still unknown (how will slot-less POS work?).  4 more dev blogs are coming up.

Some people are panicking (this is par for the course). The anxieties are because people fear high sec industry will no longer be viable.  I'm waiting for more details to form an opinion.  It is certainly true that high-sec industry used to have a big edge over Null, and this was a problem.  Did CCP over-correct?  Maybe.

Nosy Gamer has pointed out that the CSM members are, instead of putting out the flames, are fanning them with ill advised commentary.  For example, Jester (whom I normally really enjoy reading), claimed that it made more sense that Null sec was more profitable than High sec because it was like the low level vs high level areas of an MMO.   This argument is silly.  In those type of WoW-like MMOs, high level areas are more dangerous and more profitable because there are bigger monsters - dragons are more dangerous (and more lucrative to kill) than goblins.  Eve doesn't have monsters - well there are rats, but who cares, it's the PLAYERS who are the real foes.

Meanwhile mynnna made an economical argument that Nosy poked some serious holes in.  Mynnna argued that the cargo requirements to ship all the goods manufactured in Null back to highsec would be onerous.  Nosy pointed out that this capacity exists as the reverse trade is already occurring. This point is very thought provoking.

Generally speaking, high sec is where things are built (at the moment) and null where things are destroyed. Stuff is built in high sec, shipped (at fairly low cost) to Jita, where it it purchased and shipped (at higher costs) to null, where it is used and destroyed.

Now if you have a significant null industry, why would you ship stuff to Jita only to ship it back to null? It makes no sense. A central market hub will no longer be so crucial. What will happen is the rise of semi-stable Null trading hubs - nothing like Jita of course, but perhaps as big as say, Hek.

The difference between these  new null-sec trading hubs and the highsec hubs we know and love will be stability (due to war) and access. Right now anyone can go to Jita, or Rens or whatever. However, the PL trade hub won't be accessible by SOLAR members (and vice versa). The only reason Jita will persist - and it will be a shadow of its former self - is as a central "trade regulator" - if DCII are 400 K in the SOLAR hub and 800 K in the PL hub, there will be a movement of goods, and having a central market hub will still facilitate this type of trade since a SOLAR member can't just travel to PL space to sell his wares.   Jita may also be a central market place for compressed ore, which will be shipped to nullsec for refining.

These changes won't happen overnight.  It will take many months before these new hubs emerge (if they do).  We still don't have all the information. But changes are definitely coming.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

High sec POS warfare - a short note

In my previous post, I mused about how the changes to POS standings may change the nature of POS warfare in highsec.  In brief, I believe that POS will become more desirable (both in looting content and utility), but that at the same time POS will be easier to move and there should be more free slots.

But there is a change I failed to mention, one that has happened already.

There are several ways to defend a POS.  Of course, the most desirable is a large fleet to crush your foe... but that's not always available.  However, a POS is not easy to destroy and its innate defences can be improved .  One is to have so many hardeners on that the POS has so much effective HP it's just not worth the time to blow up.  Another is the "death star"method, where your POS is bristling with firepower (something that works best with a gunner manning the guns, the gun AI isn't very clever).  The last one though is the "dickstar" method - have your POS field so much ECM that it's just impossible to establish a lock on it. (see here)

The "pure" dickstar method doesn't work anymore in highsec, as it has a new counter:  the Marauder.  In bastion mode, marauders are immune to ewar... so all that ECM will be gleefully ignored as the marauder fleet pound your POS to scrap metal.

However, marauders aren't necessarily the be all end all of pos-bashing ships, as they themselves have a counter.  When a marauder goes in bastion mode, it stops moving.  POS can field capital ship guns*. These guns are useless vs moving target, but can track an immobile marauder no problem... which tends to hurt if you have enough guns.

This doesn't mean that ECM can't be a part of your POS defence strategy. But you can no longer rely uniquely on it, as it can easily be countered.

*POS gun sizes are weird.  Unless this changed very recently, small POS guns are medium sized, medium guns are large sized, and large guns are capital sized... and capital sized guns won't be able to track subcaps at all, making them quite inefficient in high sec... but having a few at hands to shoot at marauders might be a good idea.  Remember you just have to anchor them, you don't have to turn all of them on at once.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

POS standing changes: meaning for war and industry

As some of you may know, CCP has announced a major revamp to industry.

Industry in EVE is a critical function.  I would go as far as to say that with no industry, there is no EVE.  It's a key step in the great "creation destruction" cycle.  And industry really needed attention.  So much so that it will need more than one expansion to get it done!  (note how invention and POS management won't be touched).

These changes have been announced and discussed  in more than one venue and I'm sure there are several more out there, since it's so fundamental. 

I would like to humbly focus on a single change: the standing requirements for POS, and its impact on both industry and war.

Currently, there are standing requirements to install a POS in high sec (and low sec too I think?).  The higher the sec status, the higher the standing requirement. In 0.8 and higher, POS could not be installed, period. 

Under the new regime, there will be no standing requirements.  You want to install a POS in 0.9 Amarr space and the Amarr space has never heard of you?  No problem!

I'm in favour of these changes.  There will be more room for POS than there are now - and POS are about to become more important for high sec industry.  It also provides more flexibility to industrial corps.  But these changes *will* have consequences, some of them perhaps unintended.

First of all, I predict there will be more POS in use.  This will lead to an increase in the price of towers, associated equipment, and POS fuel, leading to an increase in ice prices.  In the medium term, a number of these new POSes will be abandoned, creating opportunities for scavengers.

The cancelation of standing requirements should make industrial corps more willing to accept new members, as said members won't mess up the standings.  However, this may be cancelled by the changes in BPO handling, making them more vulnerable to insider thefts.  Time will tell.

I think though the biggest changes will be in corp mobility.  Many small corps have to jump through hoops to deal with standing issues to intall their POSes.  Once in place,  moving becomes a huge hassle.  The removal of the standing requirements will make it easier for a corp to move. 

This increased mobility will have a serious impact on high-sec war.  Small corps that are wardeced and do not wish to fight might simply pick everything up and leave.  Demand for POS-clearing services and standing grinding services will fall sharply, putting certain types of mercenaries - and certain types of scammers! - out of business.  On the other hand, stealing someone's moon will also be easier as replacing a destroyed POS with another will have one less hurdle to overcome.   Still, with the increased flexibility for corps and the vast supply of empty moonspots about to be released, POS warfare in highsec will certainly diminish. 

Lastly, one note of caution for industrialists.  While I think we can all be happy at the prospect of easier industry (I really am looking forward to the new UI and am intrigued by the "teams" concept), there is a caveat.  The current challenges with industry (especially T2 manufacture) keeps away many players.  Easier industry  means more industrialists, more supply and less profits.  Also, easier industry means less time spent clicking etc.  For some of us this will mean proportionally less time grinding and more time clicking.  For others, with more time will come more production.  Someone managing 2 accounts may now get a third to take advantage of this extra time to make more modules or drones or whatnots.  Again, increased supply will mean reduced prices and less profit.  Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Battle of Aldrat

Each year, RvB declares war vs Eve University (a corporation that teaches new eve players.  I find them a bit too formal for my tastes, but they are really good for the game IMO, helping players overcome EVE's steep learning curve. Check out their wiki, it's a great resource!).  We declare war vs EveUni mainly for fun, but also to test ourselves vs a group with larger numbers.  Frequently we have the number advantage, but not in this case.  Also, it gives us a chance to form "Purple" - Reds and Blues uniting vs a common foe.

I also believe that this is a good educational for the Unistas - they get a lot of wardecs, but it's frequently by griefers.  RvB gives them a "real" opponent.   So RvB more or less shut down normal activities, we shipped a *massive* amount of ships to Aldrat (personally I sent 17 - I wanted options!) and got ready for war. 

And what a war it was!  It wasn't always "perfect".  On occasion, we didn't have a skilled FC present and vs the larger numbers of EveUni, we suffered a bit.  For instance I took out a t1 frigate fleet (I'm "ok-ish" at FCing).  Our scouts found their fleet, the numbers seemed roughly equal, we engaged... but they had scouts too and warped in reinforcements.  We lost that fight badly.  Oh well, t1 frigs!

In other occasions, we *really* didn't have the numbers.  At this time, we would form smaller roaming strike teams and look for targets of opportunity outside of Aldrat.  We have an FC who specializes in hunting war targets.  I won't name him so he can keep being effective... but he's very entertaining (and quite good too).  See, his wife is often sleeping when he's playing, so he leads with this hoarse whisper, giving the whole affair a unique cloak and dagger feel.  On that roam I decided to take out my Enyo to add punch.  It was my first time flying it in "real" PvP (vs structure bashing) and it was a very potent ship, if challenging to fly (soo little range!).  At one point I engaged a Thorax - look at the damage % I inflicted, the Enyo is a beast!  Other targets of note on that roam were a Talos, a Slicer, a Comet and a 0.5 bill pod.

And speaking of pods, another "fun" aspect of the war was the podding. RvB does not pod in regular Red vs Blue action.  However in this war it was allowed.  This forced me to get better at it... I had an overall success rate of 7/8 roughtly, but I did lose a semi-clean pod to the toon of 100 millions... ouch!

That is when things went "poorly". When they went well... it was glorious.  A doctrine we often used to counter the howling frigate hordes of eve Uni was the Longbow - a fleet built around the cormorant using t2 rails and spike ammo, resulting in a 100 km range!  This is a bit tricky to use - the FC needs to know what he's doing! - but when used well it's very potent, and very fun to be in.  At other time, to counter caracal fleets EveUni fielded, we used feroxes.  Rail feroxes used to be a bit of a joke, but no longer!

All this leads to Thursday, the last evening of the war.  Our spiritual leader, Mangala Solaris, called out for a large armor fleet to blow up an EveUni Poco to make a point.  When we called for the undock, it was an impressive sight.  Well over 20 Domis undocked at once, accompanied by heavy logi support, several other battleships, dozens of battlecruisers etc... about 100 in total.  We headed to the POCO and waited a few minutes for the timer to end, deploying sentries etc.  Mangala asked if we wanted to win, or if we wanted to destroy the POCO - we said it was his call.  This question wasn't rhetorical.  EveUni had a counter for our fleet.  First they dropped a number of suicide destroyers on us at short range.  While we were dealing with that, they put an attack battlecruiser fleet (mostly tornados) fleet in position... and hit us with a second, bigger waive of suicide destroyers.  This tactic, mixed with a bit of EWAR and their superior numbers, resulted in heavy loses on our side.   My dominix *melted*.  But... we did kill the POCO :)

We had a cruiser battle or two following this, then Yngvarr took over Mang for FCing.  Who is this fellow you ask?  Well, after this war I must say he is a Titan among men.  On some days he FCed 6 hours straight!  He also happens to be one of the top pilots on Battlleclinic.  So for this fight, he called for a shield cruisers with rail doctrine, loading caldari lead, all DPS no support.  I hopped in a Thorax.  Eve Uni chose talwars. At this point, both EveUni and RvB had a number of ships left, and not much time remaining on the war.  Everyone decided to go all out.

And Thus Began the Killing

The two fleets danced around each other, exchanging furious fire.  At once point we were killing a talwar ever 5 seconds.  Both sides kept reshipping, sometimes conceding the field for a moment to regroup but always returning to the fight.  I lost 3 thoraxes but kept coming back (at the end I was in a longbow ship and it worked well).  The battle raged for over 2 hours, you can see it here.  If you don't feel like watching 2 hours, the tl,dr is Yngvarr telling us to kiiiilll aaaalll the taaaalwaaars!  I unfortunately missed the end, but I hear there was a massive FFA at one point :)

Last year we stomped Eve Uni.  This year they fought like lions.  The final tally is telling:  isk ratio near 50%,  almost 120 billions destroyed, RvB losing 2400 ships but killing over 4500.  Who won?  All of us I think.  Furious battles, great fleets and fun for everyone.   There was an article about this war on TMC and unfortunately there were a snide comment or two, but they are wrong.  On Thursday, the real action in Eve was not in Nullsec, it was in Aldrat.