Friday, March 13, 2015

FozzieSov, FozzieTime and Concurrent Highsec Parity

It's been a long time since I've been excited about EVE, and as a consequence, it's been a long time since I've written about EVE. Phoebe got close to making me excited, I saw the potential for change, but it just wasn't enough. FozzieSov on the other hand has gotten me very excited about EVE.

Fozzie recentlyreleased a request for feedback about the new system, and if you haven't already responded, you really should. Be warned though, the survey site has a 90 minute timer! If you need to make a longer response than that allows, be sure to type your answers out in a separate document and copy paste them in.

This survey and its prompts really forced me to sit down and think about my concerns for the new system. Overall, I'm pretty positive about it, but there are a couple glaring concerns, let's dig in.

FozzieSov's Timezone Mechanics have really worried a fair number of people. For the purposes of this blog, we'll call the new timezone mechanic FozzieTime. FozzieTime introduces several concerns, some of the most vocalized being centered around aussies being unable to take sov.

I'm not going to say that aussies won't have issues taking sov, but I think this isn't too big a deal. It is my understanding that right now people fear that aussies won't be able to find content as a result of FozzieTime. I think that's wrong. Players have historically repositioned themselves in game to congregate where content is found. We can look back and see evidence of this in the great dog piles of old; BoB War One, BoB War Two, DRF vs NC and more recently in Goonswarm Vs TEST 'we're just here for good fights' and the Halloween War.

If we take the notion of players moving around for content as fact, then it is safe to say that players will shuffle themselves into whatever configuration ensures content. This means that people playing in the AU timezones will likely want to be neighbors with those playing in China, India, Japan and Vladivostok Russia. This conclusion is drawn from the way timezones wrap the world. If you take a look at the map below, you can quickly determine where in the world you'll want your adversaries to be from to ensure content.

This means that over time we should expect to see nullsec reshaping itself to have adversaries within overlapping timezones relatively nearby. The specifics of this are hard to pin down. However, given the relative ease of taking sov and the difficulties of holding it I would expect to see empires contract such that appropriate adversaries can be found in less than fifteen jumps.

There are also concerns about the difficulty of holding sovereignty under the FozzieSov system. The relative difficulty of retaining sov demands that players congregate in smaller areas of space. This need to centralize combined with the timezone specialization created by FozzieTime means that there will be a vastly increased number of simultaneously active players in a given system. This introduces what we'll call the Concurrent Highsec Parity problem.

In between PVP encounters, players like to build up their isk, they also like to minimize their risk and maximize their isk. In nullsec, this most commonly takes the form of running anomolies. However the current system has a relative concurrency cap. This is a deep issue, so stick with me.

Nullsec isking for the average player has to compete with all other forms of isking. The general measure of isking is isk/hour, and while everyone has different numbers, nullsec isking is generally considered to be on-par or below highsec isking for the average player. That is, nullsec isking is generally considered to be at or below highsec parity. It is important to note that not all anomolies are created equal and not all systems spawn the same number of anomolies. Currently, a nullsec system may be in one of five 'security bands'. Each security band spawns different numbers of sites and different types of sites. These spawns are further influenced by the military index and the associated upgrades.

Depending on ship type and location, different sites will pay out the highest isk/hour. However it is generally agreed that fully upgraded systems in the bottom two bands (0.0 to -0.4) are capable of supporting between one and three concurrent ratters at highsec parity. Meanwhile a fully upgraded system in the top band (-0.9 to -1.0) is generally considered to be able to support between 8 and 15 concurrent ratters at or above highsec parity. It is important to note that if you exceed the maximum number of concurrent ratters everyone's isk/hour goes down. This is because there aren't enough of the optimal sites to go around, so players have to use less optimal sites or race each other to claim a site. Put enough concurrent ratters in a system and everyone's isk/hour sinks below highsec parity.

Currently, nullsec alliance ratters spread out across the alliance's space to avoid this problem. As you can see in the map of Deklein below, there are ratters active all across the region. Imagine what would happen if you tried to cram them all in a single constellation.

While there are a lot of nifty design elements at work in the current anomoly system, when you combined FozzieSov with it, you have a problem. As stated earlier, FozzieSov makes alliances want to minimize and centralize their space, then fill it with as many pilots as possible. FozzieTime makes alliances want to have all those people online in the same four hour chunk of time. When those pilots aren't fighting, they'll be isking and that means lots of concurrent ratters in very few systems. As discussed above, that will force everyone's isk/hour below highsec parity. This will in turn see players going back to highsec claiming the isk was better there.

This poses a significant issue to FozzieSov as it will reduce the number of players in nullsec. As you can imagine, this runs counter to CCP's stated goal of increasing the nullsecpopulation.

There is also a rather interesting conclusion to be made here as well. With the current anomoly system, FozzieSov will actually create a relatively rigid maximum alliance size. That is it will be difficult for alliances to sustain numbers that exceed their space's maximum concurrent ratter at highsec parity limit. This of course runs counter to FozzieSov's stated desire not to enforce some arbitrarylimit on the number of friends or allies you can have. (Goal #3, Paragraph 3)

FozzieSov obviously intends to contract empires, and I think that's a very admirable goal. However constricting the player count at the same time is a very unwelcome change. To get around this, FozzieSov needs to include a solution to the Concurrent Highsec Parity problem.

Solving Concurrent Highsec Parity

As with everything, we need to take a deep look at the system before we change it. The Concurrent Highsec Parity problem results from FozzieSov forcing players together and the Anomoly system forcing people to spread out.

We know from Fozzie's blogs that CCP wants more people in nullsec and that they don't want to force arbitrary limits on the players. What we don't know is whether CCP wants the players to have to spread out for isking. For the purposes of this discussion, let's look at the current system and contrast it against the apparent effects of the new system. First off, let's look at the influence map, specifically the top left corner.

Given the changes FozzieSov brings to the table, I think it's safe to say that the monolithic Goonswarm Federation owning one and a half to two regions is not desired. It appears to me that FozzieSov is intended to reshape the map to look more like Tribute & Vale of the Silent, with six alliances in them.

If we take this to be fact, then I think it is safe to say that CCP wants alliances to have to spread out a bit, but not beyond a few constellations.

This conclusion forces us to acknowledge that systems shouldn't have an infinite concurrent highsec parity limit. If they did, there would be little to no incentive for players to expand. It is worth noting that Concurrent Highsec Parity is very good at inciting players to move and expand. We can see it at work in every well populated nullsec region in the game today. It doesn't actually limit the number of players in a system, and it doesn't abruptly stop players from doing things. Since this exists in the game, I think it's fair to say that CCP actually wants to retain it. This assumption could even be backed up by Fozzie stating that nullsec income is fine. (Phase 3, first quote box)

Moving forward with this assumption, what are the dials that can be turned to increase or decrease the number of players anoming happily?

Option One
  • Increase the amount of isk in all anomolies so that more types of sites provide income at or above highsec parity. This would definitely raise the number of concurrent ratters at or above highsec parity. CCP also has a lot of tools available to increase the amount of isk in an anomoly, my preferred method for this would to add LP as opposed to higher bounties, 'blue loot', salvage or better drops.

Option Two
  • Increase the number of high end anomolies being spawned. With more anomolies, more players can rat at or above highsec parity. This wouldn't change the isk/hour of any given pilot beyond what is currently expected.

Option Three
  • Do both One & Two

You'll notice that there are really only a few solutions here. Yet CCP still has a number of options when it comes to exact implementation.

We are left with one glaring question though. We know how to change the maximum number of concurrent ratters at high sec parity, but we don't know what we want that number to look like.

So really, the question here isn't how or what do we do to fix this problem. The question is how many players do we want to rat in a single system? We of course have to be aware that the answer to this question will impact how far alliances spread.

If I had to pick a number, I would say the ideal minimum is ten. I say ten because that would allow an active, but small corp to make its home in a single nullsec system without problem. The maximum should be based on system rarity. That is, we know that systems with lower security are rarer, so the number of concurrent ratters at or above highsec parity should increase as security goes down. Perhaps with a multiplicative effect?

This will provide an incentive at the alliance leadership level to fight for lower sec space. More members in a smaller space makes it easier to defend and more easily manage logistics.

While history has shown that leadership motivation is all that is needed to make alliances do things, it is worth noting that there is an opportunity here to help drive more people into nullsec. If the average isk/hour was always above highsec parity, even in the first and second security bands, there would be more incentive for the average player to move to nullsec. I would advocate adding a new ihub upgrade that adds LP to rat kill payouts.

There are many ways to make an LP system work. But the core goal is to add more isk for anom rats without impacting other parts of EVE while still requiring extra player work somewhere.

I think making these changes would help craft EVE's nullsec into a much more vibrant community.

On a more personal note

Discussing the value of adding more isk reminds me of when the drone lands were first added. There was all kinds of consternation about the logistics problems of shipping loot to highsec. Yet as soon as word got out about the billions in Zydrine being shipped back, EVERYONE ran to check it out. It was literally the only thing people were talking about. I recall my first GSC was worth something like 800 million. It was a true gold rush, and it got players out into those new regions like you wouldn't believe.

That kind of environment is where I'd like to see EVE going. A place where nullsec is the promised land. Yeah, you get your shit pushed in constantly, but damn if you aren't still getting rich doing it!

- islador

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Alexa Virinenkov - Two

Yvonne Legrand

I was trapped the minute I boarded this vessel! I should have known! Alexa was a powerful man in his youth and power does not come to idiots. Though you can wipe a mind of it's memories, hopes and dreams, removing the spark of brilliance is not an easy affair. “Legrand, what do you want us to do? Should we open fire?” “You don't stand a chance now that he has you fully tackled Michel, signal the fleet, they aren't but a minute away.” “But Captain, what about you?” “I am done, the ship is your's Michel.” I transmitted through my implant as I raised my blaster to the bottom of my chin. Michel was a competent second in command, he would know what to do. Then I pulled the trigger.

Alexa Virinenkov

I removed oxygen from the room's life support mixture and just as she started to feel the effects Yvonne lifted her blaster and blew her head into dust. With that blast the only clue to my life before was obliterated, scattered across my ship in atomic form. My suit slowly began to return to it's normal state as I cursed to myself for not acting sooner, nearly forgetting to return the room's atmospheric settings to normal. I stumbled back towards my capsule as the ship informed me of scans showing more federation vessels in warp to our location. Fourteen AU and closing fast. Hostile contact in thirty seven seconds. I ordered my ship to align out to the nearest celestial as Yvonne's vessel sprung to life, unleashing a vicious salvo of blaster fire scrambling my ship's warp drive.

Thankfully he'd acted too soon, had he waited longer he might have survived long enough for his fleet to arrive. A single volley put that ship to rest among the stars as I climbed into my capsule. Immersed in fluid but not yet connected I forced the ship into warp against multiple safety warnings.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why no Stock Market?

We've all heard about the attempts to create a corporate stock market in EVE, none have succeeded. The closest thing in the game right now is the BSAC exchange run by Block Ukx and it's closing. During it's operation I understand it to have functioned as a commodities speculation market, not a corporate stock exchange though. So lets talk about the reasons why a true corporate stock exchange has never sprung up in eve.

The biggest reason is that corporation shares have no method of secure transfer, after that we have concerns over valuation and assumptions that there is no need for a corporate stock exchange in EVE.

As it stands today in EVE, shares themselves are a very odd item. They reside solely in the wallet, a corporate share does not sit in a hangar, it cannot be put on market, traded or auctioned via contracts. All corporations start out with one thousand shares, these shares may be given to other players or corporations. It is possible to hold a vote to create new shares, expel a member, lock/unlock BPOs, select a new CEO and cast a general vote, which are similar to free form contacts of old. This distinct lack of secure transfer capacity makes the share system useless despite it's other strengths.

While judging a corporation's value can be difficult, there are several ways to weed out those that would be of no benefit. In EVE, corporation's can be founded by anyone with the skill “Corporation Management” trained to level one. Corporations can generally be defined as one of three types, alt corps, casual corps and hardcore corps.

An alt corp is a corp comprised of alts for griefing, spying, POS gunning, war dec'ing, or any number of other activities. They were used heavily for war dec'ing back when wars were cheap and for POS gunning back when POSes determined sovereignty.

A casual corp is a corporation usually comprised of friends or individuals with loosely the same interests. Casual corps are quite prevalent in high sec and are usually spread out with little cliques of active players flying together. Casual corps can be broadly defined as corporations that lack dedicated organization and highly motivated leadership.

A hardcore corp is a separate beast entirely. Hardcore corps can be found primarily in nullsec and lowsec, though there are some highly organized incursion and war dec corps in high sec. Hardcore corps are often lead by motivated individuals with a skill for 'herding cats'. They're highly organized, sometimes to their own detriment and are usually well centralized. They're the ones who measure their mining ops by millions of m3, project super capitals across regions and shift markets with their wealth. Hardcore corps can be broadly defined as the movers and shakers of EVE.

Two out of three of these groups would likely not be of any value simply due to the nature of their operations. Hardcore corporations on the other hand would be of tremendous value to investors as they possess the potential to accomplish great things.

While one could argue that there is no demand for a stock exchange simply by the fact none currently exists within the game, one must remember what drove the creation of stock exchanges to begin with; A need for capital. You need only look at the Market Discussions section of the EVE Online Forums to see this need for capital. On any given day in Market Discussions you will see bond offerings. Some are collateralized with a trusted third party such as Somer, others are banking solely on their past ventures. Average bonds range between five and ten billion isk, though on some days you will see bonds as high as fifty or even a hundred billion isk.

These bonds can range from individuals looking to expand market operations to those trying to start capital production projects. They commonly offer between five and fifteen percent interest and prices anywhere from a hundred million isk to two billion isk per bond. A strong etiquette and culture of disclosure has sprung up around these bonds with scrupulous and enterprising individuals able to obtain huge amounts of capital over night. This is all possible despite the risks inherent in entrusting huge volumes of isk to individuals with no possible repercussions beyond perhaps a large bounty should the isk go unrepaid.

The very existence of these large scale public bond measures, and the culture that has sprung up around them invalidates the notion that a stock exchange would go unused within EVE. All that is missing is a secure transfer method.

Special thanks to monolithdigital of reddit for providing the prompt for this post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Alexa Virinenkov


My name is Alexa Virinenkov and I am a capsuleer.

Ever wonder why everyone starts out in some school? It's not because they wanted to, it's because they had to. Whats worse is that no one remembers the lost years. You wake up in your capsule, a message waiting, flashing in, I guess, in your eyes. It tells you about your ship, how to undock, how to load your cargo bay, all those good things. That is your ship, your cheap pathetic ship, not some nice caring friends. Thats your ship telling you how to go be useful again, telling you the basics. It tells you these things because that school of yours, it's wiped your memory.

I woke up, same as you and everyone else, I relearned how to do everything. How to fly my ship, how to endure combat, how to use the weapons, I relearned it all. I was successful, my wallet stacked ten digits out. Then as I flew through the vastness of null security space I came face to face with something I didn't think I would ever see out there. My own corpse, with the words “Federation Navy” emblazoned along the bicep.

I'd never been to XD-T0V before, why was my corpse out here? Why was my corpse labeled with a military tattoo from the Federation? I graduated from their school only 8 months ago, I was never in the navy! It couldn't have been my corpse, but the scans all proved it, even the implant configuration. No two capsuleers have the same one, something about the way the brain forms in utero and changes during adolescence. They'd taught us that in school, I'd always thought it was a bit odd back then.

That corpse got me thinking, had someone moved it out here? Scooped it up back in lowsec, thawed it, tattooed it, then re jetisoned it? Why would anyone do that? I started reading up on the local pirates. Guristas aren't known for mutilating or collecting bodies like the Blood Raiders are. It couldn't have been them, my friend Onigashi who flys with them even confirmed that it isn't their style. Why would they start now?

This mystery plagued me for several years as I traveled the space lanes. On a few occasions I'd heard stories in the group channels about other capsuleers who'd also found their corpses in strange places. Most had just assumed they didn't remember it thanks to an out of date clone or something. I've only been podded three times though, and I remember each and everyone of them, burned into my psyche like a laser burns through hull plating. Up to date clones are to thank for that.

One day in my travels, a pleasant day by most accounts, I ran across an unusually large military detachment from the Federation. A young captain by the name of Yvonne Legrand opened a chat with me and started asking me how I'd been. I quickly searched my contacts, I had no record of this young woman. I queried the public databases on her and found she was barely 40 years old, I was only 30, and only 5 years out of the academy. She wasn't old enough to have been an instructor, nor was she even a capsuleer so that ruled that out. Who was this woman? I quickly answered that I was fine and that business was good. She asked me if I was still in the same business and I responded with yes hoping that she would elaborate on her question.

“Ah, well how about we make this private, may I board your ship?” Yvonne said, “You may, would you like to do this in space or a station?” I responded, to which she simply said “You know how observant stations are, better we do this elsewhere.” “I have a safe spot we can use, 40 AU from anything, follow me.” I said and we took off to my safe spot. I still had no idea who this woman was or what my old business was, but she was sure as hell going to tell me!

As her cruiser landed at the safe spot pulling along side my battleship I quickly loaded my guns for high alpha Void L and told the ship to slowly rotate the guns into position to fire on her vessel but to do so without targeting. A little used sub function that would take the better part of fifteen minutes without the feedback of active targeting.

A small craft ejected from the cruiser, no larger then a small drone and headed for my ship's maintenance personnel boarding doors. It would appear she was coming alone, that craft couldn't hold more then her. I prepared my body suit and the neural links, then disembarked the capsule to greet her in person. Wireless neural linking isn't as reliable or as fast as connecting yourself directly to the capsule, but it would let me fight off a cruiser, or in this case ransom one. I disembarked the capsule and suited up, completing final connectivity checks as I walked towards the boarding bays. She was waiting in the bay for my authorization to enter the enter the ship, I gave it.

“I hadn't expected to see you in person Alexa, what prompted this?” “It's been so long Yvonne, I thought an in person meeting was appropriate.” I replied as I ushered her towards an entertainment room on the starboard side of my Megathron's bridge. We could clearly see her Federation Navy Thorax floating eight kilometers off my bow, but my guns were quite out of view. “Take a seat, let us chat of the old days.” I said to Yvonne as I gestured towards the bar in front of the windows. She sat as I walked towards the bar and started mixing a Gin N Tonic for myself. “Would you like a drink?” “Yes, a Vodka and Quafe would be delightful Alexa.” Silence filled the room as I mixed our drinks.

I passed her her drink and sat down on the stool opposite her, gently sipping at mine. She looked me over, “You look different Alexa.” “How so?” I inquired. “You look... less burdened, happier.” “Yet you look the same, stressed. How is it a Federation Navy Captain has the authority to randomly visit with friends from years gone by?” I asked her. “Oh Alexa...” she said as her hand slipped beneath the bar. “You don't remember do you?”

As the last of her question rolled off her tongue I solidified my body suit, freezing me in my position but also rendering myself impervious to most small arms and sealing me off from the environment of the room. “No Yvonne, I don't, but you're going to tell me.” I said as my ship unleashed a salvo into her cruiser ripping through it's armor, numbers flashing in my mind as the lock timer ticked down. She jumped to her feet and sprinted for the door, muttering under her breath. Lock complete, two stasis webifiers and the warp scrambler sprang to life ensnaring the enemy vessel, another volley ripping through the last of it's armor. Yvonne tried the door but found it locked, my trap had worked flawlessly. “Now Yvonne, what do you know?” I yelled, my voice amplified by the room's speakers, my anger so strong my voice leaked through the suit and into the ship itself.

She whipped out a blaster and pointed it square at me, evidently unaware of my suit's new properties, “Let me and my men go! Or there won't be an atom left of you to clone.”. “Fine, shoot me.” I said as I ordered the ship to fire a single gun into the tackled vessel, 25% hull damage. She didn't disappoint, she shot me in the knee, but to her dismay the suit absorbed the blast as though it were nothing. “Now, do I have to kill your friends and knock you out with nerve gas, or are you going to tell me what I need to know?”  

All Hail CCP 'Fixer of Bad' Fozzie

CCP Fozzie has been one of the most impressive devs CCP has had in a long time. He is doing amazing things for the game, primarily through his tiericide project. Today though, Fozzie stepped on a land mine. He nerfed triage capitals by accident, by making it so that gang links no longer effected the remote repair modules. His stated reason for it was also completely wrong.

But, like the impressive dev he is, Fozzie didn't get mad, he didn't stop talking. He went and checked his work.

Then he told us what he found, explained his reasoning behind the change in the first place, and promised to fix it as soon as possible. For this I applaud CCP Fozzie. Especially since half my corp has been working on getting into gang links and triage capitals and that change was crushing to read about.

Let us all rejoice in the awesome that is CCP 'Fixer of Bad' Fozzie.

Lets Talk Money

While I have been running Sadistica for only a few months, I have been looking for corps strong enough to help me found an alliance for about a year and a half now. In the past I have done this by sitting in whatever alliance's public channel I was in at the time and asking tough questions. Those tough questions would usually be answered because many people in an alliance's public channel seem to believe that anyone wearing the alliance tags MUST be a recruitment officer. Other times I've simply built a rapport with various CEOs or directors through daily interaction and then started asking probing questions.

When I say tough questions I don't mean things like “How much isk do you have in your wallet?” or “Can I f*** your mom?”. I mean questions like 'How many pilots does your corp field on an average roam?”, I then check the killboard stats and call bullshit if their stated numbers don't represent historical numbers. Questions like “You claim to have capitals, can you show me their fits?”, this question is difficult to answer by any except the most organized of corps as they're often the only ones with a unified capital doctrine and thus fittings on hand to show me.

Then there is my favorite question, and incidentally the impetus for this blog, “How does your corp make it's money?”. This question is almost always answered with “Well we do a little missioning, sometimes some mining” or “We run anomolies and incursion in HS” depending on whether I'm talking to a highsec corp or a nullsec corp. What makes this question interesting is that it instantly tells me whether the person in question, usually the CEO, has any concept of corp isk.

After the young CEO/director has finished explaining how they make their money I often correct them with “I was more interested in how your corporation, as an entity, makes its isk, not how your members do. Can you explain that a bit more for me?”. Sometimes they don't answer and just leave, but usually they answer with something along the lines of “Well we have a 5% tax rate... We have mining ops occasionally where everything goes to the corp...”. So the corporation's income comes from 5% of any bounties/agent rewards/concord rewards over 50,000 isk, and slave labor. This means that any capital expenses incurred by the corporation, be it a space rental bill, the cost of a POS to live out of, or the monthly fuel needed to run that POS will likely be covered by the personal isk of the corporation's leaders. This is a bad thing, strong corporations are not just strong militarily, they're strong economically. Should they not be, when things start going bad, ISK will quickly become a very potent drama llama. So lets talk about money.

Types of Money
There are three main types of isk and two main types of income sources.

Personal Isk & its Sources
Personal isk is owned by an individual. As the main type of player in EVE, an individual has the most isk making options available to them. They can get it by ratting, mining, missioning, PI, incursioning, anoming, station trading, import/export, the list goes on. There are dozens of possible income sources for an individual, and thus dozens of ways to acquire personal isk.

Corporate Isk & its Sources
Corporate isk is owned by a corporation. Corporations are the second main type of player in EVE, I say this because corporations are controlled by players, not NPCs. Corporations however have surprisingly few income sources. They are: Corporate Tax, POCO Tax, Station Tax/Fees, Moon Mining and Moon Reactions. I am aware of no other income sources that either expressly require having a corporation to do, or expressly dump into the corporate wallets.

Alliance Isk & its Sources
Alliance isk is owned by an alliance. Alliances are the third main type of players in EVE. I say this because alliances are controlled by their executor corporation which is in turn controlled by players. An alliance has two income sources: Station Taxes and Fees. I say this because you must have an alliance to own sov which is a requirement to owning a station. I am aware of no other income sources that explicitly require an alliance.

Types of Income Sources
Above I have broken down the types of isk and the income sources associated with those types of isk. It should be blatantly obvious that nearly all of them require at least a single player's time to collect the isk. These are active income sources. Active income sources are larger then passive income sources in both isk collected and number available.

There are a few exceptions though, Corporate Tax, POCO Tax, Station Tax and Station Fees do not require a player to collect. A player must still do something to generate the tax or fees, but the collection is passive. These are the only passive income sources in the game that I am aware of. Passive income sources are individually smaller then active sources, but scale infinitely and do not incur managerial overhead.

Why ISK Separation Matters
In EVE, when you start to expand as a group, a common breaking point is finance. For a simple example, lets talk about POSes. As of this post, a large caldari tower burns 40 blocks of fuel an hour, there are 24 hours in a day, and 28 days will represent our 'month', the blocks themselves are around 12,500 isk a unit. So a month of fuel costs 12,500 * (40*24*28) = 336,000,000 isk/month. The tower itself is about 280 million, and the gear, depending on what you're doing is between 50 and 150m. These fuel costs are about the same for all large towers, but gear can be as expensive as a billion isk for a full deathstar, or as cheap as 30 mil for a basic moon mining tower.

So lets say you're setting up a single tower for your corporation to live in, you want a large deathstar so you 'can stay safe'. That tower is going to cost you between 750m and a billion isk depending on how you plan to fit it out. It is then going to require you to feed it 336m a month in fuel. Not too bad right? What if it explodes? Now you're buying it all over again. What if you want to 'be safe' in another system? Another billion isk down the drain and another 336m a month. What about a mining/reaction network? 500M for towers here, 300m over there, a fuel bill in the billions, and oh look! Seed reaction material is going to cost you 750m too!

This will very quickly become a strain on a corporation's leadership. Strained leadership quickly become burnt out leadership who don't login anymore. Separating out personal isk and corporate isk allows these strains to be spread more evenly.

Should there be a fight among core leadership, when one leaves, they may be inclined to take expensive assets under the guise of “I paid for this!”. This hurts everyone in the corp as critical assets are now no longer available. Separating out corp isk and personal isk reduces this incentive so long as you keep unpaid debts at a minimum.

Separating Corp and Personal Isk
Separating corporate isk can be a difficult task in an established corporation. So lets discuss creating new systems that will allow isk to be separated out over time. We will once again use the POSes as an example.

Lets say your corporation is looking to move out to nullsec and rent space with Rebel Alliance of New Eden. The system you want is going to cost you 1b/month. The system you're looking to rent does not have a station, so you'll need a POS to live out of. So your initial capital requirements are going to be 1b for rent, 750m for the POS + Gear and 336m for the POS'es fuel. Excluding moving expenditures, you're looking at just under two billion isk to move out to nullsec. Your corp doesn't have any isk of it's own, but your membership is chomping at the bit and are offering up isk to get the job done. Lets solve this problem by implementing a simple bond measure.

A Bond Measure in Action
Assumption: The corp will generate more isk in tax then it takes to pay the monthly bills.

A simple way to implement bonds in EVE is to determine the amount of isk you need to raise, in this case two billion, and then determine the individual bond share prices, lets use 100m. Now we can sell 20 bonds and raise the capital. If you issue out 20 corporate shares you have a simple way to tell how much debt the corp is in and to whom that debt is owed.

So, John Galliger buys 5 shares, the CEO of the corp buys 10 and Alexi Varennikov buys 5. The CEO then uses the 'Give shares' mechanic to give 5 to John, 5 to Alexi and 10 to himself. All corporations start with 1000 shares, so these shares are inconsequential in volume and do not represent a threat to the CEO's position so long as he is active. They do however offer an excellent way to keep track of debt, as the CEO can now look at the shareholder's window and see exactly how many shares each person owns, including himself.

The corporation then moves out to their shiny new nullsec home with their POSes in tow and lets the corporation's tax rate fill the wallets. As the wallet crosses 1.4 billion isk the corp will reach break even for the monthly accounting. Any isk above 1.4b can then be used to pay down debt. If the corp makes 2b/month in taxes, and buys 6 shares back from it's investors every month it will be out of debt in a little over three months.

Shares are not items within the game, so there is no secure way to transfer them. For this reason I highly recommend being very selective about who you give/sell them to. A share may be given to any corp or player in the game, but there are no ways to recall or otherwise force a share back into the corporation of origin.

In the above example the CEO is in a different position then the other investors. He owns some of the debt just as they do, and will be repaid just the same as they will. However the CEO must also administrate the entire affair, this will require the CEO to spend his time, a valuable resource in EVE. The CEO's time is not repaid in isk, instead he is paid for his time in power. That is, he will be able to do things with the POS as it is a corporate asset and thus under his control.

Bear in mind, most bonds have an interest rate associated with them to entice investors. The above example does not include this, however tacking on a fixed interest rate or other value is trivial. For example, a 25% term rate would just mean paying the share holder 125m back for every share instead of 100m.

Benefits of Bond Measures
By implementing a bond measure it becomes very simple to keep track of corporate and personal isk, even when it is beneficial for the two to mingle such as detailed above. They also make asset separation easy, as no one individual owns the assets involved. The corporation owns the POS and it's gear, while the individual investors own the debt.

Debt may be repaid at any interval and under any terms.

Bond measures scale aggressively, and can work for providing capital from corporations to alliances, or from players to corporations as demonstrated.

Bond measures do not require any power sharing, that is you do not need to have your investors in positions where they can break things.

Benefits of Separating Isk
Separated isk allows corporations and alliances to be more resilient in the face of external pressures because it will remove a common cause of internal drama.

Separated isk allows for leadership members to be changed out without needing to pay back a past member for the billions they put in. The past leader's debt is logged with the corp already and payments go out as normal. This allows for leadership to be dynamic in the face of burn out and changing circumstances.

Separated isk allows for proper accounting, which will make it easier to audit your corporate or alliance finances and ensure the real world agrees with your spreadsheet projections. This is because it limits reasons for an individual to buy a ship with corp funds and go “Meh, I was owed it anyways”.

Practice good accounting or the drama llama will find you.

All of the above methods are at work within Sadistica. The alliance is executored by the holding corp, the holding corp owes 1b to FELON for founding it, and FELON holds 10 shares of the holding corp for this reason. FELON owes me, it's CEO, 2.2b for seeding various projects, as well as 1b to another member for seeding a different project. Each of those project's profits are used to sustain the project and pay down debt as able. I hold 22 shares of FELON, and the other member holds 8, he bought into a 25% term rate, and will receive 125m/share, where as I bought in at 'CEO's a bitch rates' and will get 100m/share back.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How Lowsec Became Viable

I run Sadistica Alliance. We're a small (~20 man fleets) alliance living full time in lowsec. We live in Yiratal, the center of the Ombil Constellation in Aridia. FELON, the corp I have built with the help of many over the course of the last two years runs the alliance. We are a dictatorship and while I don't have to use it much, I do lead with an iron fist.

This post is not about Sadistica though, this post is about WHAT let us live where we do. There is a common myth about lowsec. The myth that 'there is no money in lowsec!' and that that is why so few people live there. This is often repeated, and for years, it was true. Then, in May of 2011 CCP Molock & Tallest gave lowsec one of the biggest buffs it has ever seen, and I'm pretty certain it was by accident.

The Buff of 2011
CCP Molock and Tallest unified all agent types into 4 basic types, sadly this was a double edged sword because they also changed all agent qualities to 20. 

Agent's rewards have, and are still based on the agent's level, quality and the mission system's security status. However, with all qualities at 20, CCP has effectively removed a multiplier from the equation as it is now a constant variable.

This change still had incredible effects on lowsec. Suddenly you had stations like Yiratal, with FOUR lvl 4 agents, two lvl 3 agents, a lvl 2 AND a storyline agent. They're all over the place! Yiratal, Fageras, Hakisalki, Uphallant (It even has a lvl 5!), Aeschee (A lvl 5 too!), and these are just systems that I remember off the top of my head!

These mutliple agent stations are the single biggest buff lowsec has ever been given. They allow something that was never possible in lowsec before. Centralized Scaling Income.

Centralized Scaling Income
Sounds like something you'd hear about in a macro economics class right? Turns out it isn't, though it should definitely be written into EVE's! Centralized Scaling Income is an isk faucet that is centralized in a single system, and scales to the number of players drinking from it. Centralized Scaling Income is the holy grail of any player group and here is why.

In order to respond to hostiles and stay safe, a group must be centralized. Centralization offers the ability to rapidly respond to dynamic situations, such as PVP. This is why fighting an enemy in their home system is generally considered disadvantageous. 

Sadly, centralization usually means that you don't have enough resources though. In lowsec, the best spawns you get in an asteroid belt are single 950,000 isk battleships, usually no more then 2 for every 5 belts before you start chaining. Chaining can up this to three, maybe four active spawns in the five belts, and the rats respawn approximately every five minutes. This effectively means that a 5 belt system has a max consistent isk/hour ratio of about 45.6m (60/5 * (950,000 * 4) . Of course actually achieving the best possible payout consistently is impossible, and while 45.6m/hour is decent isk; the minute you put two people in those belts the whole thing comes crashing down to 22.8m/hour per pilot. 

So belts don't scale, and neither do anomalies and complexes (Cosmic Signatures). Those are believed to be tied to constellations and regions, with dynamic reseeding that ultimately allocates to less beared in systems, like pipe systems with heavy camps and traffic.

To centralize a player base, the isk source must scale. Missions do this, an infinite number of pilots may pull a mission whenever they want, how ever often they want, and the payout will never be diluted by more people doing it. Excluding of course LP value, but that is a whole different article.

People generally believe that players gravitate towards isk, and that if you want to draw someone somewhere, you need to put a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is entirely true, but there are exceptions and tolerances for every rule. A good example of exceptions are nullsec incursions, they often go completely untouched and despawn despite the double isk payout over highsec incursions. An example of a tolerance is lowsec missioning, they're run frequently in specially built ships because when you're neg 10, its kind of hard to get isk.

These exceptions and tolerances are because there are dozens of other factors surrounding the choices people make with regards to their bearing. Things like perceived safety, barriers to entry, minimum time commitment, required attention level, rate of dilution and the willingness of peers to participate. 

For example, a nullsec vanguard site forces you to stay still in a publicly listed location (perceived safety), to make good isk in them you must field expensive ships en-mass (barriers to entry), travel time and completion time are often in excess of 3 to 4 hours (minimum time commitment), you must be constantly vigilant for hostiles and aware of increased sleeper damage output (attention level) and you must have a ten or twelve man gang (willingness of peers to participate). The one thing nullsec incursions have going for them is that they're scaled to group participation so there is no rate of dilution by bringing your friends with you.

As illustrated above, nullsec incursions simply don't offer the right mix of externalities to build a solid player base around.

Lowsec missions offer slightly better pay out then highsec missions, but they also offer a different combination of externalities. For example, it'd be pretty obvious if a ten man tornado gang is sitting on the undock waiting to volley your mission ship, and you can do something about it! 

To be more accurate, you can do something about that Tornado fleet if you're centralized, and you can centralize because you have a scaling income source with different externalities then are offered elsewhere in eve. The best example of this are multi-agent stations. With a station like Yiratal or Aeschee, you can freely choose your missions and will almost never find yourself blocked by faction kill missions. Sure there is more isk to be had in Faction Warfare and/or Incursions, but the unique combination of high agent count stations and lowsec offer a very unique isk faucet.

This isk faucet may not be the best, but because the few negatives can be mitigated by player action it is possible to build a community around them. A community like Sadistica.

The only reason I was able to base my alliance in lowsec is because I was able to find a centralized scaling income source to rally my pilots around. These income sources are the building blocks of every player group, be it incursion runners in highsec, null bears chipping away at sanctums, miners chewing on veld or the ever common ice belt mackinaw.

Scaling isk faucets are the foundations of society in eve, and everything else, be it station type, services, constellation size, moon goo, or whatever, is ENTIRELY secondary to it. We need to keep these specific kinds of isk faucets around and we need to make sure CCP knows that these faucets are at the core of every group.

No matter how many tech moons your coalition controls, or how good your bot filled SRP program is, at the very least, these faucets are what made it possible for your alliance/coalition to come into existence in the first place.

A little known buff to lowsec made it viable for an alliance to live and grow in lowsec by providing a centralized scaling income source for the first time.

Centralized Scaling Income sources need to become part of CCP's design ethos when trying to design any mechanic intended to support young alliance growth.

Lowsec doesn't need more isk anymore, it just needs the infrastructure to support more growing groups. Infrastructure like stations with cloning or a way for players to provide such critical infrastructure for themselves. 

Note: Submitted to for staff writer position - islador