Sunday, July 16, 2017

How Much Trade can LS/HS Player Hubs Capture? My Test at Owning a Market Hub (pt.2 in my Citadel/EC Series)

In my first post in this series about Citadels/ECs, I covered broad statistics about their usage, ownership, and proliferation. The findings of that post were simple: 1) There's a ton of them piling up in HS/LS, 2) even more in NS/WHs, 3) many of them are inactive, and 4) the current 3-timer system stifles most conflict and needs change.

In this post I am going to get more specific (and interesting?) and talk about player market hubs. I'm also going to cover an experiment I've done over the past few months that attempts to test just how much of a market player hubs can capture, and how profitable they (theoretically) could be for both trade and tax. The experiment is not about making isk but capturing trade away from NPC hubs and seeing if a market hub obviously  owned by 1 player will create any conflict. (More on the latter in pt.3 of this series.)

Market Hubs

This is the important part about the new structures, right? Except for low tax industry, market hubs are where all the money is made in the new structures--not just in market taxes, but in having a market hub where you and your alts get low/no tax. Before we can talk about the market hubs included in the sample we have to set out some basic metrics for comparing player hubs them to NPC systems/stations. Here's how I think about the hub tier list in EVE:

Jita is in a class of its own, to be fair, and can't really be compared to another other hub NPC or player. The next most active market hubs are "S"-tier. They mostly do not allow player hubs to be built in system and are in roughly the top-five or top-ten on the station trading rank. Many players do their primary trading at S tier hubs like Dodixie and Amarr, for instance. Just in terms of number of orders, the biggest player hubs just barely reach S-tier, if at all. By amount of isk traded the hubs in Perimeter do, but that's just in virtue of the amount of PLEX and Injectors traded there, not total ships and equipment. A few null sec player hubs reach S tier but none of them are currently public. Trading in null hubs is, of course, super profitable, but requires a character in the respective alliance.

The A-tier set of hubs represents the top 5-30 or so trading hubs in game by volume, isk totals, and number of orders. These are hubs where regional traders often thrive and see good movement on orders with decent margins. Probably only a half-dozen player hubs currently (May-July 2017) reach A to low-S tier trade levels: The hubs in Perimeter, Maurasi and other hubs 1-2 jumps from Jita, a few hubs one jump from Amarr, and a few null hubs. Most of these systems can house player markets, though, and represent a significant space in which player hubs could, if stocked, take a large portion of the isk traded. Player hubs in such systems stand to potentially capture much more by players if dedicated traders moved in.

What I would call B-tier hubs represent roughly the top 20-150 NPC hubs. They are active areas of regional trade like mission hubs, FW and LS hubs, and regional bottlenecks, and often have high margins but, depending on the goods, lower velocity. There are about 30-50 player hubs that could be included in this category based on number of orders and volume. What I would call C-tier hubs are basically everywhere else, and profit depends on a highly case by case basis.

How Much Trade can Player Hubs Capture?

What is valuable about player market hubs, of course, is that they have significantly less taxes than NPC hubs, and theoretically no taxes such as if you own the structure. Before player hubs, serious traders would grind (or pay for someone else to grind) their NPC standings up to above 8-9.0 in order to get 1-2% lower taxes. Even just 1% lower taxes adds up in the long run. If you list 100b of items in an NPC hub in a month, dropping a few percent of the taxes can save you a few billion. Moving to a player hub with, say, zero or 0.1% tax likewise ends up saving a few extra billion a month if your volumes and margins stay the same. Considering that some top traders list trillions of isk of items a month, a few percent savings ends up meaning a great deal.

I'm not really a serious trader--more of a lazy one--but I do like efficiency. Switching to player hubs with 1% tax or less saves me roughly 1-2b isk a month in taxes currently, and theoretically could save me upwards of 5b in taxes or more if I only traded out of low tax hubs during max trade months. The difficulty, though, is attracting as many buyers as the nearby NPC hubs.
Market Hub Experiment

Goal: Own a HS market hub as a solo player and capture, with other player hubs, as much of the
           system and regional trade as possible with the amount of orders I can field
Secondary Goals: Create conflict?
Time Investment: Restocking and updating orders only once a week (specifically: on Saturday or Sunday I watch DeLoneWolf's EVE talk episode on youtube, and during this hour or so I am able to update most of the orders.)
Start Date: Mid-April
End Date: Whenever it gets destroyed or whenever I get sick of updating orders

If you can capture the majority of trade in a system or region, more traders will sell at your hub, and more buyers will buy, more builders will build, and so on. There's a "snowball" effect, in that there seems to be a critical mass of orders that prompt a lot of people to switch to buying from a player hub. Because of the ability to get little to no tax, most player hubs are focused on "offshore" markets for RMT goods--PLEX, injectors, etc. However, hubs are slowly capturing more non-RMT goods trade. In June, for yet another month in a row, player hubs managed to capture around 1.0% more brokers fees compared to the previous month: 

If the trend continues, player hubs will capture 20% of brokers fees by early 2018.

I chose an odd region to set up a hub--Verge Vendor, and the system of Jufvitte. I've only ever traded a few select items in this region, but I thought it would be an interesting place for a hub because 1) there is no central market hub, 2) there's already some player hubs which capture a lot of trade, 3) EVE UNI and some other active groups live nearby, 4) I roam the LS part of VV and often roam north to Horde space from this area. However, VV is not a great place to trade if your goal is to make isk. Market activity in the region is overall very low, but my goal in setting up a hub is to capture trade and see if it creates conflict, not really to make great isk. The other important factor is that I cannot update orders more than once per week, so a slower trade region works better for my goal.  

In regional hubs, the ability for players to hit "buy all" and shop at one location matters sometimes more than the prices. More players will buy a 10-20% higher isk Rail/Blaster Comet fit in FW LS if they can hit "buy all" at a station, as opposed to saving a few million isk at most by having to fly all over for the items. The same can be said for mining ships, haulers, and so on.

As a result, I use one character's 300 total orders to sell essential ships and equipment at basically Jita prices in my player hub, along with another set of 100 orders or so that actually make me isk. The idea is that in order for players to buy my one item 20% over Jita prices, I need to incentivize shopping at a player hub by selling all the other modules they need in the same place and at low prices.

For the market hub, I used an Azbel and also set up manufacturing and research at basically no tax--and partly to have a more vulnerable hub to, again, try to create conflict. EVE UNI has a campus one jump away and the region has rookie/career agent system, so I partly wanted the industry available to them or people building for them in mind. I set up the market hub at .2% tax consistent with other hubs in the region, then later lowered it just .1%. Other market hub owners were not supportive of the tax rate getting lowered even more. I don't make much isk off the taxes (maybe 50m a month?) and the fuel comes out to something like 1b a month--but, again, I am saving around 1b in taxes that I would be paying if I traded out of an NPC hub.

You can see the exact day I put up the hub. I do research BPOs there, but I usually forget about them for days or weeks, so it is interesting to see the industry side actually getting used.

There's another reason I chose this system/region to set up a solo market hub--there was already a market hub in system which has had a stable 1500 sell orders for most of 2017. While I could afford to inject a bunch of SP into alts to get to that many orders myself, my bottleneck is time to play EVE.

In total, then, the other player hub has 1500 orders and my hub ("Market and Industry" below) has around 500 out of the total (sell) 3000 orders in system. That puts player hubs at around 2/3rds of the sell order numbers in system. So I am kind of cheating in my experiment, given that another player hub is capturing far more of the trade in the system/region than I am can.

Profits / Times orders were updated:
April: 7.3b / 4 updates
May: 6.42b / 4 updates
June: 5.53b / 3 updates

So with around 500 orders updating only once a week (and missing a week in June) the hub made on average 6.4b a month. Profit has been declining largely due to the drop in activity in game. In terms of time spent, that's around 700m per hour, but I was also multitasking (hauling goods on a second account and listening to EVE Talk). The other player hub in system updated orders much more frequently than I did, so I would estimate that they made at least (if not decently more) 3x the amount of isk given they had around 3x the orders. If that player hub was just one person trading on many accounts, that's a good 15-18b isk a month at least (granted with considerably more time invested each month). How much more profitable would player hubs be in regions that are not terrible for trade?

My market hub was just a small solo experiment in a region bad for trade but convenient for me at the time in game. Ratting in a super, multiboxing 50 rorquals in Delve, or aggressively station trading in Jita are more profitable--insanely more. But those activities just don't fit my super casual playstyle.

Last up in this series--and really the entire point of it--covers Citadels/ECs as conflict generators. Market hubs owned by solo or small groups are all over. They generate isk, but what about any conflict? And if not, why?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Statistics on Citadel, EC, and Market Hub Use and Ownership (and a small study)

tl;dr : over the past few months I've been collecting info on Citadel/EC use and their impact on the economy and conflicts in EVE. In short:
  • Players are using market hubs in almost all regions and collecting around 12% of trade, but largely in RMT (PLEX, Injectors, and Extractors) buying and selling, with market hubs capturing an added 1% more trade each month
  • However, when well-stocked, some regional market hubs have been able to capture over 50% of system trade volume in LS/HS systems
  • A significant number of market hub owners in HS (outside markets near Jita/Amarr) are small groups or solo players, and probably highly vulnerable to destruction by small groups and up
  • Based on a small random study I did, probably at least 10-20% of structures in HS are abandoned/inactive during the past month (of April), as a conservative estimate
  • There's very little incentive to destroy Citadels/ECs (except for strategic purposes especially in NS/WHs) and as a result very, very few die in LS and HS and, as a result, abandoned/inactive ones are piling up extremely quickly
  • As a result, CCP should probably reduce the number of timers on Astras and Raitarus (except those in HS?) to only 2, like wormholes--or they should remove/nerf asset safety. Or both.
~ Don't read further unless you like words or are super interested in Citadel/EC usage statistics  ~

Citadels have now been in EVE for one year (the Citadel expansion having been released on April 27th, 2016). Engineering Complexes are newer, at only 6 months, but nearly already even more prolific. These new structure have completely shaken up the meta of living in space and generating content--and in some ways not for the good. I am interested in the stats for these structures: How much are they being used? How often are they being destroyed? Who owns them? Are they generating conflict, or stifling it? Do they make much money--and if so, who is making that isk?

Some of this info is fairly public--such as the number of new structured destroyed on zkill. First, then, we are going to look at stats CCP released at fanfest on new structure use. Second, we are going to look at the fantastic data compiled on Adam4EVE's structure statistics page. However, some of it is hard, if not impossible for mere players to acquire. For instance, ownership of structure and data on non-public Citadels and ECs.To try and get an overall picture that might answer some of these more interesting questions, I did a semi-random study on Citadel/EC use specifically in high security space.

Before I talk about the methodology and results, it is worth looking over the stats CCP shared about structure use during fanfest:

In terms of total structures online, a few things stand out to me. Raitarus are quickly becoming more popular than Astrahuses and should probably overtake them in total numbers in 4-6 months, and likewise for Azbels compared to Fortizars. Yet there is a surprising number of Fortizars online. At roughly 15b a piece, you are looking at a base value of over 18 trillion isk in just Fortizars in space as of March. Keep in mind that one of CCP's original goals was to make these new structures worth having, for almost every player or play style. Given the sheer number online thus far I would say they have succeeded (more on this later).

Networks of Citadels are increasingly common, especially as a way of safely moving capitals and jump freighters across the map. CCP has in the past voiced displeasure at how safely cynos work on Citadels, as well as with how overpowered tethering is (more on this later).

These numbers are probably to be expected. Citadels are super popular everywhere except LS, but even there they are fairly common. These numbers do not reflect where Citadels/ECs are destroyed, though. On any given day the majority of Citadels and ECs are destroyed in null, followed by wormhole space and LS, followed by HS last. The average in wormholes is roughly 1.2 per system, though obviously not evenly distributed (however, I've been hard pressed to find many wormholes without an Astrahaus in them lately).

So when we compare the number of structures online to the number destroyed thus far, do we get a balanced split? The cost and commitment of destroying these structures is in almost every case (barring trade hubs in systems like Perimeter) not at all worth it outside of WH space. An enemy Astrahus in null is a headache for attackers but a powerful staging platform for attackers or harassers. In many cases, all a staging Astrahus needs is a clone bay to perfectly function as a staging or move OP Citadel, making them even less worth being destroyed and less costly to deploy.

The final graph from fanfest is the most interesting. POSes apparently sat at 30% of all player industry in late 2016, but within just 2 months after release ECs had already surpassed that percentage. Since then, ECs have captured roughly 80% of player industry, and Citadels about 2% from the looks of it. "Legacy" industry POSes remain at 10% of player industry (this 10% from POSes probably represents a few LS capital shipyards with Thukker Arrays, which have not been replaced for ECs yet, and some industry POSes in HS that are running final months of jobs). The remaining industry in stations? A large majority of it is in Jita, and in career agent systems. (Career agent systems always have a high number of jobs per hour due to the industry career agents and tutorial.)

Let's look at one more graph, this one from March 2017's economic report:

And here's the April chart for comparison:

With the May chart slowing but still seeing an increase in player hub trade captured:

Though we still see some 90% of the brokers fee going to NPC stations, we also see 10-12%, or 1.3t-1.5t isk, occurring in player hubs. April saw a transfer of another 1% of broker tax to player hubs, and May 0.5%, and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues. We (think we) know (assuming the info is accurate) that market hubs in Perimeter can make around 300b per month in taxes, which is consistent with the economic reports. I would assume player market hubs all around Jita make at least 500b total per month, and hubs around Amarr another 100-200b. There are a few other player hubs in or near other systems, including LS and NS, that probably make another decent chunk of that 1.3t in March and, comparably, other months. This is one of the main questions I set out to get some evidence about: Where are the other player hubs, who owns them, who fights over them (if anyone), and what is the likely trade volume there? The other sources of service fees to players do not even approach the brokers fee even when all combined. Industry tax, clones, reprocessing, etc., together barely reach half of the market hub profit, even with nearly two-thirds of industry fees now going to players, industry is more of an incentive to get other players to use your market hub.

Let's first look at Adam4EVE's statistics on market hubs. Across all of EVE, there are around 450 public or semi-public Market Hubs in game, as of early May, 2017. The earliest ones date back to November, 2016, and the most recent were put up on the day this information was collected. The vast majority of these hubs are in High Security space. As of April, player markets are selling around 20t isk in sell orders and have up around 8t in buys. Interestingly though, a good half of all market hubs have no sell or buy orders at all, and just 10 or so have over 1k sell orders. Large isk buy orders are most popular--of course, meaning buy orders for PLEX and injectors. With few hubs having a large amount of sell orders, it is apparent that not many players have chosen to sell materials, ships, and equipment in player hubs on a large scale, but the overall trends suggest that sell order volume and isk amount are both increasing.

Adam4EVE's data is extremely useful and worth spending hours looking over if you're into that sort of thing (i.e. graphs), but it doesn't tell us some key factors about Citadel/EC market hubs: Who owns them? Are the majors hubs owned by a single cartel or is there evidence smaller groups own them? Do they get destroyed, or attacked, and what kind of isk do hubs outside of the Jita/Amarr areas make? Also, and not just for market hubs, how many structures are likely inactive? A significant amount of market hubs have zero orders--does that mean they are used for other purposes, or have their owners left EVE or taken a long leave?

A Small Study on Citadel/EC Use -

To get some evidence about these questions, I took a semi-random* sample of 50 systems in high security space and searched for all “Upwell” structures in each system (Citadels and Engineering Complexes). I recorded the name of the corp/alliance holding the structure, the number of players in the corp/alliance, and I also recorded whether the structure had any fueled services active (in cases where the structure had such info public, i.e., if the structure itself was public). (I also recorded upcoming vulnerability timers for ~non-scientific purposes~) I researched public databases (zkill and evewho) to see whether the corp/alliances are (plausibly) active or (possibly) inactive. I recorded every market hub and used Adam4EVE's data to record the number of market orders and share of the market volume in the system. Then, I came back to the structures one month later to see if their activity had changed (e.g., to see if structures that had active services still had them).

*About the sample: In order to get interesting results I excluded systems at both ends of the extreme range of high sec systems. I excluded from the sample systems one jump from Amarr and one jump from Jita, like Perimeter—a very special system—because the massive amount of upwell structures would highly skew the final results. I also excluded high sec systems that are in “high sec islands,” i.e. high sec systems that are cut off from the main body of Empire high sec by low security systems, and including Solitude. These systems are less popular but also attract a special type of nomadic player and I did not want this end of the range skewing the sample either. The final sample is basically “your average high sec system," The sample includes everything from systems with less than 5 jumps in the last hour I visited, to a few “mid/high-tier” trade hubs, to systems that border low/null security systems, to mission running hubs, and so on.

The Interesting Results: 

Total Activity/Inactivity, Public/Private:
  • In total, the 50 HS systems contained 198 Citadels/ECs, 
  • 87 of the Citadels/ECs were private, i.e. around 40% give or take some that were temporarily private 
  • Of those that were public, 42 of the 111 public structures had no active services. Of those 42, 25 still did not have active services after one month when I re-checked their status. 
  • Based on the above, a reasonable conservative estimate is that roughly 10-15% of structures in HS are inactive during any given month, and probably a lot higher (by 10-20%).
  • In all the systems sampled, there were only 14 active POSes.
  • In all of the 50 systems sampled, only 2 system lacked any Citadels or Engineering Complexes whatsoever. 
  • The most densely packed system had 18 total Citadels/ECs 
  • One month later, I re-checked all systems, and 52 Citadels/ECs were added and only 2 removed
  • In all 50 of the systems sampled, only 2 Citadels/ECs were destroyed since the Citadel expansion in 2016 to May 2017 (13 months). Both kills seemed to be a purge of inactive structures (no modules fitted).  
  • (A net total of 50 Citadels/ECs added per month would mean these 50 systems would have around 750 Citadels/ECs by 2018, but there's no way to tell how many will be added on average each month.)
Market Hub Activity:
  • In the 50 systems sampled, there were 11 active market hub (6 Forts, 5 Azbels)
  • In all of the systems sampled, only 1 had a market hub (Fortizar or Azbel) owned by a primarily PVP-focused entity (in this case, a null sec group that lived many regions away).
  • 1 group owned 3 market hubs; 1 group owned 2
  • The highest total market share for player hubs in one system (in terms of total number of buy+sell orders) was 45% at the highest point during the study
Future Improvements:

Alright, so what stands out to me is that only a tiny fraction of Citadels/ECs are getting destroyed relatively to the number put up. They are piling up fast and not generating much content at all. Just from the number of decently upvoted and commented R/EVE posts in the past month (May/June) there's a huge amount of dissatisfaction with Citadel/EC timer mechanics at the moment (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). There's lots of proposed solutions but the general consensus is that the mechanics that stifle conflict are either 1) the 3-timer + off-timezone + damage cap system of destruction, or 2) asset safety, or both.

For 1), I think the solution is fairly uncontroversial. Citadels/ECs should use wormhole timer mechanics. 2 timers, back to back. Maybe Citadels/ECs in HS should retain the 3-timer system, and maybe Keepstars as well? Those are fringe cases, though. It shouldn't take 3-timers, in Aussie timezones with damage caps, across an entire week to destroy a single, undefended, 550m isk (R) / 950m isk (A) structure. Period.

For 2), In my opinion based on destroying Citadels/ECs solo and in groups (more on this in future posts), removing asset safety entirely would be justifiable, but perhaps too extreme. It would push too many players away from using Citadels/ECs (a bad thing) and toward NPC stations, driving players back to the safety of NPC space. However, even if asset safety stays outside of wormholes, more can be done to increase the incentive for players to destroy Citadels/ECs, and primarily: increase the salvage amounts, espeically relative to rigs, and/or make blueprints in build part of the drop/destroyed loot table. Base salvage should be increased, and if rigs are fit, salvaging should drop substantially more based on the material requirements for rigs added in. If something like 40-50% of base material costs dropped in salvage, destroying inactive structures would at least have a small isk incentive. Blueprints in use in the structure would make destroying industrial structures much like destroying labs/arrays in POSes, adding in the same risk/reward as the legacy system.

Phew, that was a lot of words. Upcoming (shorter!) posts in this series include my experiment in setting up a market hub as a solo player, and my experience destroying Citadels/ECs for potential profit (obviously, there isn't any) or fights (not much either!).

Friday, June 9, 2017

That feel when you think CCP is making necessary (but lazy) changes yet the community is going insane

So, I've been in the process of doing a super long study into Citadel/EC usage statistics for a post here. It has taken we way too long. That post is almost done, but I wanted to chime on the current, can-only-be-described-as shit-storm on R/EVE (and the forums, not that people really visit them nowadays).

CCP has made a number of necessary changes to EVE in the past week. Certainly not ideal changes to the underlying problems, but necessary, given how deep some of the problems go; and expedient, given that they did not require much dev time. Lazy is how I would describe the "fixes."

First, CCP once again nerfed Rorqual mining, and this time nerfed the spawn rate of mining anoms. Let's be fair, anyone who objectively looks at the mineral markets and the amount being mined in certain regions would agree that a fix was needed to keep the economy healthy. In my opinion (similar to EVE Prosper's) the problem with Rorqual mining was not cheap minerals (that's fairly win-win except for newbros), but the scaling. Any activity in EVE that can be done semi-AFK is going to be open for abuse and should probably be made more active.

CCP Soundwave (rip) once called for a war on passive isk. Sadly he left and the current tenure of EVE devs decided to release a capital mining ship that mines just as passively as mining barges. Anything that can be done passively to make isk will be exploited to the maximum extent by players running as many accounts as their computer can handle. A better fix to the Rorqual would have been to keep the mining levels at their original released level, but to make Excavators like Fighters, requiring actively clicking at least a few times every minute to mine (and shouldn't all mining require or at least involve active gameplay to get maximum isk? One would think). Multiboxing more than 1 Rorqual should have been humanly impossible from the start. Instead, we got players naturally running 10+ Rorqs while still watching Netflicks, and as a result CCP implemented a necessary but self-induced nerf to their mining amount and mining anom spawn rate. Lazy is the best word I can use to describe this change.

Second, CCP nerfed Fighter damage, and made it more likely NPCs will shoot fighters. As a solo PVPer I think Fighers apply far too well to BS and lower targets, but their DPS when applying is probably OK. There's virtually no sig tanking their DPS (even in an AB Succubus), and that destroys the line between capitals and sub-caps. Nerfing Fighter DPS in my view is once again a lazy fix to a problem that requires changing. The problem of course is that EVE's primary isk sink (NPC bounties) is absolutely out of control.

The isk facuet graph is the main one people are pointing to to indicate the problem of null sec anoms. Bounty prizes have completely outpaced every other isk facuet and isk sink in game. However, there's a more important graph.

Money supply is more important than pure isk sinks. After all, if 100% of the isk from sinks was being destroyed, there would be no issue how much isk was entering the game. Instead, money supply is the issue. And money supply has absolutely skyrocketed and is only speeding up.

What does high liquid isk do to the game? First off, it raises PLEX and injector prices. Why? People who have a lot of liquid isk need a place to park that isk. Having 100b+ in your wallet is both dangerous and stupid. Dangerous because of the possibilities you misclick an order or contract and lose billions to a scam. Stupid because isk sitting in your wallet makes zero profit. Historically, players "park" isk in PLEX and, now, injectors. They are one of the few goods on the market that sees real inflation. T1, T2, T3 ships and modules have not seen virtually any inflation in the 6 years I've played. Neither has almost any other good expect PLEX and, now, injectors. So the smart thing to do--and indeed the only non-super-speculative thing to do--with hundreds of billions of isk, is to park it in PLEX.

I parked 200b isk in PLEX when it was sub-1b about a year ago, and another 100b in injectors when they dropped below 575m (lol) in November 2016. As expected, both rose, and I sold off stocks of both to make a mindlessly easy 100b in profit or so. When PLEX and injectors are at a 1 year low, give or take, I'll probably start to park 400-500b in them, repeating the cycle once again.

High PLEX and injector prices are not necessarily bad for the game. Look at it from this perspective: the higher PLEX goes, the more a measly 15 bucks will get you in game. Most people don't feel that way. High prices are bad for the players who view PLEXing their account via in-game earnings as essential to their playstyle--and, if R/EVE is any sign of how the playerbase views high PLEX prices, players freak the hell out when PLEX goes higher. It also creates a bad perception for new players. Making 1m isk an hour mining in a venture seems much less significant when PLEX is at 2b compared to when it is sub-1b, even if, realistically, new players would be better off not trying to PLEX their account with isk for a long time.

Second, though, the higher liquid isk gets, the more EVE suffers from what I would call the "Planetside problem." The Planetside problem is that equipment, ships, and guns are trivially cheap, but there's no reason to log in to fight.Some back of the napkin math I did suggested that Goons could lose around 75 fleet fit Machs (and pre-spawn-nerf prices) a day and still be turning a profit from Rorqual mining and carrier ratting. 

Instead of putting a respawn timer on mineral sites--which do not directly add isk to the economy--why didn't CCP add respawn timers to ratting anoms, which add the majority of isk to the game? Running out of Sanctums and Havens in your system would mean having to move (gasp) to another system that you haven't depleted. It would mean players would have to (gasp) spread out and maybe move systems once and a while in order to keep ratting the best sites. CCP is once again, in my opinion, using a lazy fix to a deep problem. It won't hold. Players will switch to multiboxing rattlesnakes or super-boxed VNIs. I don't expect the isk faucet graph to go down relatively to average players logged in during the summer. Yes, it will slow down, because less people will be playing, but the Fighter nerf is only going to push some players to farming anoms with other ships.

Overall, I feel I'm in an awkward position. I think CCP is trying to fix some real problems in the game and economy, but doing so in completely lazy and lacking ways that ultimately won't fix the problems. On the other hand, the shit-storm players are raising on reddit is focused almost entirely on the fact that CCP is making any changes whatsoever to null mining and anom isk. Both sides are being intellectually lazy and going by knee-jerks reactions.

If you've been around EVE and R/EVE long enough, you'll know some of the posters there haven't played EVE in years, and others play R/EVE a lot more than the spaceship pewpew game the rest of us play on a weekly basis. If I were CCP I'd ignore them and pay attention to the feedback offered by the CSM and the quantitative data available, and I'd sure as hell try to create more long-term and sustainable solutions to the economic problems EVE is facing. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Finding and Destroying POSes for ISK in Low and Null while doing Exploration (and a review of the POS-Phase out plan)

Way back in 2014 I stumbled upon an offline POS in high sec, owned by a corporation that, by the looks of it, had long since gone inactive. Being new to POSes, wardecs, and structures altogether, I decided to see what would happen if I declared war and attempted to blow up the structures. I learned a ton, and actually made a bit of isk, and in the process I started one of many side-hobbies I have in EVE involving combining traditional exploration with hunting for offline POSes.

I also had this silly completionist goal of visiting every system in EVE at least once, a goal that combined well with doing exploration sites and looking everywhere for POSes. Fast forward a year or so, and I had visited every system in High Sec at least once, and made many tens of billions on loot found from destroying starbase modules like Ship Maintence Arrays, Laboratories, Assembly Arrays, and even Reprocessing and Compression Arrays packed for of ore/minerals. I learned a ton about the game in the process, listened to probably 20+ audiobooks doing this casual exploration, and amassed over 1k kills on my Stratios I used for the activity. This activity also caught on, and I learned of many players who had even better success than I did at destroying POSes. (For example, check this group out: Mischief Managed. They were finding and destroying so many offline POS mods for a few months that I basically couldn't find any. I have no idea how they found so many, so quickly, and over such a large area.)

When I ran out of systems in High Sec to visit, naturally enough I've moved to searching and exploring Low Sec and now Null in 2016 and on. This actually works well, because that's where I PVP most anyway. I created a POS Mods dscan tab and started using it in every system as I roamed different regions. I was surprised to find quite a few offline POSes to pop just from checking dscan. One day passing through Heydieles, for instance, I noticed the moon mining POSes had gone offline--all 13 of them.

 This is likely going to be even more common over the next 6 months, partly because POSes tend to go offline during the "summer slumps" in EVE, but more so because CCP has announced some of the penultimate plans for phasing out old POSes. I'll talk about that more at the end. In this case, I fortunately had a 1k DPS Hecate nearby to quickly pop all of these moon mining structures. My hauler only collected around 500m in moon goo, so it wasn't really worth it. I expect in many cases owners of large-scale moon mining operations will simply let their farms go inactive, rather than undertaking the massive hassle of collective all of the remaining goo and modules. 

In other cases in LS/NS I've made a bit more isk in my finds, putting me closer to 100b isk made from the activity (not that it is great isk per hour, keep in mind!). This SMA dropped a few hundred million close to an NPC null station, and my "jackpot" so far was around a billion isk in capital blueprints and materials from this offline cap production POS:

 Here is my super-sophisticated map and checklist of regions I have now fully visited: 
HS and LS are fully covered, but I still have many small patches in many NS regions left to go. I think I will tackle that during the "summer slump" when action dies down elsewhere. Maybe I will find a few more final offline POSes to give this playstyle a final sendoff for me before POSes are removed. But this side-hobby I've had in EVE is largely at an end.

So what of the future? CCP has announced plans for phasing out structures: In May, starbase production module BPOs will no longer be seeded, and in August POSes will no longer give such bonuses to industry. Moon mining, reactors, and refineries will be disabled when the new Refinery Upwell structures are released sometime in winter of 2017, probably November. According to graphs released by CCP at fanfest, we've already seen a massive decline in the number of POSes used for industry (more on this in a future post).

The first few weeks when the new Refineries are added and the old are disabled is going to make for a very interesting scramble across LS/NS to re-establish moon mining operations, and potentially for new and smaller parties to get involved. (Some solo/small group players like Delonewolf have plans to try out a Refinery. I may give one a go as well.) I think it could mark a shake-up in LS. Potentially, it could allow for many smaller and some more industry-focused groups to carve out a piece of LS moons. Potentially, too, it could mark a transition of the Big Blue groups in LS to adopt a renter-style model of moon mining. I don't see Shadow Cartel doing much mining, but I do see them considering outsourcing the mining operations to a new style of LS renters.

Based on what CCP has said, I think we can expect POSes to be fully removed sometime in 2018--maybe summer or maybe winter. However, I think the main conflict drivers/content creating changes will be:

1. The completely new way in which groups will have to run moon mining, and

2. The conversion of outposts to faction Citadels. I think this could lead to a bunch of local wars across null in the weeks before the winter expansion, and could make for some super interesting content if large groups decide they want ownership of some or many of the faction Citadels.

The switch to Upwell structures means the burden is on them now--and not POSes--to provide a lot of content, and due to the long and off-timezone timers they are unfortunately not creating a lot of content. Many questions were asked about this at fanfest and CCP voiced some disfavor with how punishing the 3-timer, off-timezone system for structures is at the moment. A huge amount of conflict could be created if structures had slightly better self-defenses but, say, one less timer.

I am currently doing a small study on Citadel ownership and activity using data I am gathering myself. In upcoming posts I am going to talk about their current vulnerabilities, destroying them solo, and stuff like that, and later in the winter I will post more about the potential for solo or small groups to make use of the new refineries.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Market Trading in EVE Ascension (or: grinding past 500b, setting new goals, maximizing efficiency, and some ideas for Alpha trading)

The last time I posted about market trading, the Citadel expansion had recently been released and offshore Citadel markets were already helping drive down the prices of PLEX and injectors. PLEX in early June, 2016, had fallen to an incredible 850m isk:

Daily SP rewards were implemented (remember when EVE had dailies?), offering around 300k SP a month if the played logged in every day to collect the reward, which put some downward pressure on the injector market while also lowering demand due to being an additional way to gain SP. Since then (over the last 8 months) PLEX prices slowly climbed back up to over 1.2b in November, and have since plateaued at 1.05b.

In spite of the massive economic changes that EVE has seen over the past few years--skill trading, Citadel markets, free-to-play, and so on--PLEX still follows a predictable path. However, PLEX is not where I've made most of my isk over the past few years, and I've only bought when it has dropped below 900m or so. Instead, injectors have made up around 40% of my trading profit over the past year.

Buy them low--ideally sub-600m--and sell them high--ideally over 650m. Since I do regional trading, incorporating injectors into my casual market took little added effort. The last time I posted specifically about my market trading gameplay was March 2016, the first month seeing skill injectors in game. I hit a record 33b isk in profit that month--on one character and just 300 market orders. Where do I stand now? Here's a really vague chart of the profit. This only includes my main trading alt--it doesn't include trade on second or third alts that I occasionally add, nor does it include special projects I've done, such as Thera trade, or more recently Alpha clone trading.

March 2016 was a proof-of-concept: How much isk could I make with just 300 orders? Turns out, I made about 105m isk for every 1 order. However, my goal in EVE isn't to make as much isk as possible. My goal is simply to have as much fun playing EVE when I log in as possible. Isk value is relative: Is 100m isk a lot per month? 1b? 10b? 100b? It depends entirely on your playstyle. However, time is (largely) not relative: Every player only has, at most, 23.5 hours a day to play EVE. We might all have different playstyles and we might all value isk differently, but an hour for me is just as long as an hour for you, and we all have an upper-limit on how much time we can play (and for many of us, obviously, it is far lower than 23.5 hours a day! Or even 23.5 hours a month!).

That all said, my goal since I started trading has not been to make as much isk as possible. Instead, my goal over the past 3 years has been: Make as much isk in as little as is time possible. So, while my average isk per month has not substantially changed over the past few years, the time I spend to make that isk has drastically plummeted. In 2014, I estimate I made around 300m isk per hour spent maintaining my regional markets, or around 10 hours per 3b isk, or around 30+ hours a month to maintain my 10b monthly average during this year. That's actually quite a lot of time spent, even if it is better than many other activities in EVE--especially if you compare it to what good station traders make. It took me time to find items to trade; it took me time to find where to sell the items; it took me time to haul the items in low amounts since I did not yet have the best ways of hauling available; it took me time to list the items--and so on.

Fast forward to the past 5 months (since July-August, when I was unable to log in much). I have continued to average over 10b isk a month trading (on my one main character). However, I've also kept track of how much time I've spent to make this isk maintaining my market and occasionally station trading in Jita: Around 4-5 hours per week (usually split into 2 2-hour play sessions per week). So, I make around 700m isk per hour spent trading (maintaining markets) now. My profits have largely not increased, but my efficiency has. And since I largely value my time more than I value my isk, that's the improvement I like to see.

In total now, this means I've passed the 500-600b isk mark. About 450b of that is from trade on my main trader, but around 100b or more of that is from destroying offline POSes (another update about this coming soon!), and then around 50b isk or so from exploration.

Finally, I've started a side-project since the release of Alpha clones. Can you make decent isk doing trade on Alphas only? They are very limited in total market orders, making regional and station trade fairly painful, and you can only have one Alpha logged in at once. However, there are two ways I've made over 2b isk in a month with Alpha trade.

The first involves using 3+ Alpha traders and taking advantage of limited edition items. Remember back when CCP released the Sunesis? I set up low regional buy orders on 3 Alpha clones in distant regions (Solitude, Syndicate, Placid, Stain, Curse, etc.). I managed to get a few dozen Sunesi(?) for less than 20m isk, and resell them for around 40m in the following week. The most time consuming part of this, though, was hauling the Sunesi. Instead, I decided to simply relist them a month later in the same regions for 3x the price, and have sold a few this way. So, my first tip for Alpha clone trading is to use your small order amount to trade in limited edition items. This is relatively time consuming and I much more so recommend a second method.

The second way I've done Alpha clone trading is buy selling high value, slow-moving items in null sec markets. 
1. Join a large null sec group that trains new players, such as Karmafleet, Horde, Brave, or Test. This is a great idea for Alpha players anyway, since joining such groups is often the best way to learn EVE.
2. Once you have your first billion or so isk (I know this step isn't very practical, but you can easily make 1-2b isk in such groups doing anoms in a VNI or running data/relic sites in your null region). Start buying high value items in Jita that are not listed in your local null sec market. Don't price gouge, because your alliance will hate you, and also because you will either get undercut or not see sales.
3. Repeat step 2 until you hit your order limit, then consider going Omega and getting better trading skills, or adding another Alpha into the alliance for more market orders.

I know steps 1-3 are not very enlightening by themselves, so let me give you some examples. Finding good items is 90% of the work. The other 10% of the work is hauling the items, but the best way to do this is to search for high sec wormhole connections to your space (such as while searching for data/relic sites). Injectors are a no-brainer, everyone loves injectors.

Here my alt is selling injectors in two NPC stations--one in Aridia, a common route to Delve and Fountain--and the other in Venal. Selling in your respective alliance's own market hub is an even better option usually. The margins won't be as great but they will move faster, and you will be nearby to update or restock as needed. You can do this with many other items as well: expensive skill books, expensive T2 ships not in supply locally, and so on. Look at your alliance's killboard and pay attention to the expensive stuff that dies. Does it have faction mods, tech 2 rigs, or rare modules fitted? If so, are they in stock in your local hubs? If not, stock them. This works with NPC stations in null and low sec as well. Overall, though, I would recommend exploration for Alphas looking to make isk over any other activity, and trading as just a side-gig.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Favorite Solo PVP Ships/Fits for Null over the Past Year - Assault Frigs, E-WAR Frigs, and Navy Cruisers

This post is a bit late--it covers many ships I flew solo during the glorious days of the Querious fight club (RIP), pre-WWB, and shortly after. However, my past year (or two) of solo PVP in null has amounted to some of the most fun I've ever had in EVE or any game for that matter. Many of the ships I've flown over the past year in null sec for solo PVP are usually considered off-meta, if not out-right broken, such as assault frigates. My experiences with assault frigate solo PVP over the past year has been largely positive--they get a ton of fights and can hold their own against most comparable ship classes minus the pre-nerf Svipul.

On my quest to solo PVP in every non-industrial ship, this past year I finally tackled navy cruisers, assault frigates, and the new navy EWAR frigates. They each have their strengths and weaknesses in the current meta and in solo PVP in general, but navy cruisers are as close to the most versatile and affordable ships for solo PVP (and available for Alpha clones as well). I was lucky enough to find tons of navy cruiser versus navy cruiser 1v1s, such as this nail-bitter:

This was an amazing fight in a hull tanked ENI versus a Zarvox fit SFI, with a blue pill running (as confirmed by the pilot later). The main fit I like for the ENI is a dual medium armor rep, for the decent sustain potential. The plated version and the hull tank version lack sustain in a fight but do a ton of DPS. (Then again, against a blob, having some buffer plus 800+ DPS is exactly what you need to kill something before you die.) The SFI has range control against almost any ship in a 1v1, but at the very end of the fight I managed to pulse my MWD out from 10km and secure a few wrecking shots that ended up winning me the fight. Had the fight started and ended at better ranges for the SFI, a hull tanked ENI stands little chance!

Crispy means a job well-done
Overall, my scoreboard for navy cruisers includes some of my favorite fights in 5 years of EVE, and I am for sure not done flying these ships.

Navy Faction Cruisers (8/8):

Vexor Navy Issue vs. Exequror + Exequror RR Duo
vs. Cerberus
vs. Ishtar
vs. Hawk + Crow + Vexor + Svipul
Exequror Navy Issue vs. Scythe Fleet Issue

Augoror Navy Issue vs. Stabber Fleet Issue
vs. Caracal + Vexor + Onyx
Omen Navy Issue vs. Sabre
~~need more here!~~
Stabber Fleet Issue vs. Svipul + Hookbill

Scythe Fleet Issue vs. Stabber Fleet Issue
vs. Svipul

Caracal Navy Issue vs. Vexor Navy Issue

Osprey Navy Issue vs. Raven
vs. Jackdaw

at about middle age

Oh this Vexor. What a ship. What luck. I've flown the Vexor a few dozen times over the past two years but sometimes avoid it since it will scare away some fights. The average Svipul pilot, in my experience, will readily engage a rupture (and the latter, if fit right, will kill it) and other T1 cruisers, but not usually a Vexor, for instance. And there's few things I like more than killing Svipuls (pre-nerf and post-nerf still), so I hate to scare them off. The Vexor continues to be an incredible ship for solo PVP in both LS and NS, with a variety of possible fits, but because it is commonly viewed as a strong ship it can struggle to find decent fights. I had a few fits I wanted to try out in null sec specifically, so in between navy cruiser losses I flew some T1 versions.

This was a slightly uncommon Vexor fit as well, with dual medium armor reps instead of one plus an ancillary MAR, giving it slightly more sustain in longer fights. (It's EVE though: how often do you get a long drawn out 1v1 or 1v2-5 as opposed to a 1 versus blob where an ancillary rep might at least give you the time to kill something?) Yet this Vexor seemed unkillable even when I tried to kill it.

In addition to a few odd T3D kills, I agreed to a 1v1 against a Dramiel. I was surprised he wanted to fight my Vexor (and he was surprised I had neuts), so when I won I agreed to fight something bigger. He brought out a Vagabond (note: he was shooting Phased Plasma, which may seem like a mistake, but I had a tech 2 explosive rig that gave me the same explosive armor resist as thermal/kin). The quick math I did in my head suggested that if he is XLASB fit I will just barely be able to tank his gun DPS with both reps overheating, and somehow I ended up winning (and maybe what is more surprising is that I did not burn out my reps).

My playstyle when solo is that I can be a touch risk average when I first fly a ship or undock for a roam. Getting that "first kill" of the night is a big psychological barrier for me, and sometimes I feel like I'll never get another kill again when in the midst of a drought. I know if I bring out a ship 3 times and die to 3 consecutive blobs I'm going to be "tilted." So, in this case, having secured a few good kills in this Vexor I was ready to throw it at anything lockable.

In the next fight I roamed to F-I-N-K's former space in Querious and tackled a Skiff. A Skiff alone can match the light drone DPS of a Mrymidon, with the buffer of a battleship. To defend it comes two Caracals, and I decide to let the Skiff go just in hopes of winning a 1v2. As I'm fighting, a griffin lands but fails its ECM cycle--the kind of luck I rarely get! I can barely tank the damage of this one RLML and plus a HAM Caracal and I bleed into structure before killing the first one. The RLML one goes into reload and gives me a window to repair armor to full and kill it. Something strange then happened during the middle of this brawl: the Skiff comes back. It's drone DPS really hurts but the Caracals are dead and my drones are popping the Griffin. All said, Caracal + Caracal + Skiff + Griffin, not bad by my standards.

The final fight I have goes even better, and would probably be in my favorite 5 fights of all time. I roam to BX2- where Brave had a medium sized corp. They bring a pretty rough group consisting of some tackle, a Caracal, Cynabal, and an arty Mael, but at this point I will fight anything. I manage to pop the tackle Firetail, Caracal, and and Svipul at the sun, freeing me of tackle, but I am getting pounded by both an arty Mael 80km off and an arty Cynabal. I yolo into the Cynabal and get into a close orbit. My drones are dying which is bad news for this fit since it only uses light neutrons in the top rack, but somehow the Cynabal goes down too. I still get the shakes when PVPing and at this point my nerves are shot, but at the gate waiting for me is like the final boss for this Vexor, a Gila.

Such a close fight! Meanwhile my PVE alt was in system ready to do a relic site when I died - no poors!
This was the final fight of probably my best performing single ship in 5 years. I had already lost a ton of cap boosters and drones due to fighting a Cynabal while under arty Mael fire, leaving me with light drones and less than 10 cap boosters to fight this Gila. An impossible fight anyway, but I promised if they fought me at the sun I would not leave system until I died. I had the Gila in structure as you can see from the screenshot, but two things happened at the same time: fraps ran out of disk space, causing my computer to severely lag, and my damage control burned out, reducing my tank severely (and this was just before the passive DCU change--had I had the base 33% resist hull bonus this fight would have been even closer). With all my drones dead, no cap charges left, and just small turrets to fight the Gila, it was a battle against time before I died to the Gila's overwheling DPS. But damn what a fight and what a lucky ship that got me so many great fights! RIP Vexor.

During my time in Querious CCP released navy e-war frigates, a class that turned out to be some of my favorite ships at the level of the frigate menace, even for null sec solo PVP.

The Vigil Fleet Issue is probably my favorite frigate level ship at the moment. With rockets it can do over 200 DPS. Tank runs either a republic fleet MSE for buffer (the easy version of the ship to fly), or a split MASB/SAAR fit like its Breacher cousin. The former is easier to fly while the latter gives more sustain in 1v1 fights (as rare as they are) but the latter is also paper thin and requires better piloting.

Here are some highlights from flying them in null:

Maulus Navy Issue vs. Hawk

Griffin Navy Issue vs. Coercer

Vigil Fleet Issue vs. Republic Fleet Firetail
vs. Sabre
Crucifier Navy Issue vs. Vexor Navy Issue
vs. Taranis

Finally, there's assault frigates. By reddit "CCPLS" thread count alone they are surely the class players think are most in need of a balance pass, but I (mostly) disagree. The major problem with assault frigates was that T3Ds--and the Svipul in particular--did everything assault frigates did only 2x-3x better. However, flying assault frigates successfully simply required not fighting Svipuls! And flying them extremely well requires paying close attention to their tech 2 resist bonuses. Assault frigates are best when matched up with over-confident frigates and destroyers especially when they cannot avoid shooting into your tech 2 resist profile.

And now with the fantastic nerf to T3D versatility, assault frigates are an incredibly strong and under-rated class of ship that pack a lot of damage and a lot of tank--if being a bit too slow. (A 10% buff to assault frigate base speed, in my opinion, is the only balance change they need to be in an ideal but not OP place.)

Perhaps most importantly for solo PVP, assault frigates are widely seen as engageable (because widely seen as weak). This means they will often get tons of fights, and tons of fights you can easily win.

The "Blarpy" (a blaster fit MSE Harpy) got a hidden buff with the change to shield extenders and buff to faction MSEs, giving it a bit more tank along with its nice amount of DPS and making the Blarpy an ever more awesome ship to fly for go-crazy-brawling. It is a great ship to fly when, say, inebriated, as it requires only a few button clicks and a ton of (over)-confidence!

Harpy vs. Jackdaw
vs. Cynabal

The Ishkur is a rare ship in null sec, especially solo. With very low speed and no tank bonus it seems an easy target. Until it scrams you or puts its drones on you, and you realize you are an EM based ship like a Confessor and are completely screwed! The Ishkur is perfect for taking down over-confident kiting Confessors that get too close, or small frigate gangs that primarily shoot EM or Thermal.

Ishkur vs. Myrmidon

The Wolf is a perfect example of CCP's occasionally short-sighted balancing: The Svipul was released as essentially a Wolf that goes at least 50% faster, with at least 50% more damage, and at least 50-100% more tank, plus having a similar range. However, this does not mean the Wolf is a terrible ship, especially now that the Svipul is in a healthier place. The Wolf proved to be one of my favorite ships in Querious for solo PVP due to the fact that it was considered trash, and that its resist profile perfectly matched the NPC damage types in the region, making it great for killing unwary ratters, such as this VNI, as well as this VNI.

No one, to my knowledge, flew the Wolf more effectively during this time than the great solo PVPer Quinten Sarn, and I emulated some of his fits and tactics, such as his resist and sustain-heavy Wolf that is perfect for surprising the stock VNI ratters. However, I also flew the arty Wolf, an extremely rare sight in null sec, and it decent. Not good, but decent enough to win small skirmishes with frigates and destroyers.

Wolf vs. Atron + Kestrel + Corax
vs. Ishkur

I had good fights in all of the other assault frigates as well. They are a ship class that is off-meta but underestimated, and as a result they attract more fights than most other ship classes when flying solo.

Eve online is a game that is fundamentally balanced against solo play, and solo PVP in particular. Solo PVP in EVE Online is like trying to go solo in League of Legends--good luck defending all lanes, etc. Only the best--or, in my case, the most masochistic--can stomach it. And let's be honest: solo PVP in EVE is not somehow about being better than other players (though that certainly helps), but about a dedication to flying your own ship against all odds.

However, it is possible to fight the good fight (by sheer resilience), and that's what makes solo PVP in EVE so rewarding. You will die a lot, and you will struggle to find decent fights, but you will also get amazing fights where you win against all odds, 1 against 1 ship that out classes you, or 1 against 2, or one against 3, or one against 20 where you take out 5 before you die. After almost 6 years in game, it is still the most compelling reason I have to continue playing.