Tuesday, June 12, 2012

OTEC and Null Sec

I watched the development of the OTEC cartel (Organization of Technetium Exporting Corporations) with a little concern for my wallet and a lot of interest for Eve politics. The apparent goal of OTEC is to price fix at a high profit this fundamental component of tech II production while providing mutual support to ensure each member's source of Technetium is protected from outside influence.

So far since its announcement in late April they have succeeded in doing just that.
Can you see where OTEC started?
I see this development as a natural step of Null Sec's political evolution. Alliance leaders, like any business quickly become addicted to easy sources of income and this leads them to realize that cooperation is often more profitable than competition with other entities in their market. There is a reason that governments have laws to prevent monopolies and oligarchies in markets in their nations: competition is good for the consumer, not the producer (in the short term anyways). The main issue is that prices are kept higher to maximize profit at the cost of the consumer, but a secondary problem "in the real world" is that companies with cartels like this are less likely to invest in innovation for competitive advantage and are more likely to collude to maintain the status quo.

However, in Eve there is no chance at technological innovation. We can have process innovation (e.g. 3rd party tools to monitor POS towers and keep track of silo levels) and organizational innovation (e.g. better social structures to mine the moons more efficiently and protect them) but we can't have technology innovation (e.g. a new source of technetium or a new material to replace it) without CCP changing the game, much like they did to make Technetium the One Ring of moon materials a couple years ago (replacing Promethium and Dysprosium as the top dogs).

There has been a lot of talk out of Reykjavik about how having certain areas of the cluster more rich than others is a conflict driver for promoting wars. Like King of the Hill, the kids at the bottom work hard to push the guys at the top off in a never ending cycle, right? The problem is with Technetium is that the current kings of the hill stopped fighting each other and are getting fat and strong off the top of the hill, leaving the kids at the bottom to be forced to throw occasional snowballs instead of an ineffectual climb up to simply get a snow face wash.

Technetium will be nerfed, its only a matter of time. Its been longer than I expected for sure; I predicted it being addressed in Crucible and was sorely mistaken. But the fact is that while it may have been a great conflict driver and possibly responsible for the fall of the Northern Coalition, it is no longer doing so and is in fact doing the exact opposite as evidenced by OTEC.

How will CCP address this? Ring mining to introduce a non-alliance active source for moon materials has been discussed and something I'm very in favour for. Rebalancing moon materials so that the other R64s are as valuable as Technetium has been mentioned. Overhauling moon mining completely has been suggested. But right now, we don't know which of these options CCP is most likely to do.

Time will tell. In the meantime, expect your ship prices to continue to look like this:
I leave it as an exercise to the reader to compare with the Technetium chart above.


  1. Anonymous10:31 am

    I'd have thought that the immediate short term solution is just to introduce a new form of alchemy.

    That will solve the immediate problem and give them time to develop a proper implementation on the moon mining overhaul/revamp/replacement.

  2. Anonymous10:55 am

    A Veldspar to Moon Goo Alchemists Stone ? Yes :D

  3. The problem I have with Alchemy is that it still is a POS based source of Technetium. I agree it would be a nice quick fix but I'd prefer a longer fix involving ring mining.

  4. Allow moon mining in wormholes, that could remove the OTEC monopolies as any small w/h corp could supply the market without being under pressure with having fixed pos's in null.

  5. However large well defended POS in wormhole space are harder to attack than in null sec. A more easily defended passive income source is not what we need :/ I'd only allowing moon mining in wormhole space if the whole thing was changed from a POS mechanic to requiring ships with pilots to do the mining!

  6. CCP could potentially screw with the SOV balance as well, albeit indirectly. Look at the costs for maintaining SOV vs the passive income currently provided from moon mining and/or renters.

    If the ring mining requires a certain amount of effort, we could potentially see alliances, even big ones shrink the number of systems that have SOV because of costs alone.

    Dependant on the amount of effort required, it may also become increasingly difficult to stockpile.

    1. That is a high handed solution. During fanfest Greyscale made a comment that he could "fix" nullsec with one simple change, but it would kill the game. His fix, massively extend the amount of time in flight to get from point A to point B. The massive ramp amount of power able to be brought to bare would be reduced if it took hours to get it there.

      Your solution isn't the 20 pound sledgehammer that his example was, but its still trying to hammer away at a broken system to put it back in true.

      The problem with Nullsec is there has never been a true idea of what it is or should be. For the first 7 years of Eve if CCP had a cool idea, they tossed it into Nullsec. Jump Drives, Capitals, Super Capitals, Cyno Jammers, Jump Bridges, Bubbles, Bombs, Sov, Outposts, the lists goes on and on.

      Then a few years ago CCP stopped and took a breath to look at what they'd built, and then tried to get a handle on it by releasing Dominion. A wildly underwhelming rework of 0.0 that spawned more problems than it fixed. They tried to deploy a hammer to fix the problem.

      What Nullsec needs is a ground up rework with a unified goal. With some of those features being on the chopping block, and new features needing to be written whole cloth to pickup the slack.

      For Example. Jump Bridges need to go. I love the things, I wish I could jump bridge network all of Eve. And I'll readily admit that I'd rage a bit if they did go away. But I also know they never ever ever should have been added to the game in the first place. But if Jump Bridges go, the life of logistics pilots is made 100 times harder, and something needs to fill that hole while not being able to be used as a force multiplier. So a new feature.

    2. Why is it a high handed solution?

      While I agree it could be difficult to get the balance right there is not much gained in keeping the status quo.

      At the heart of it is this: currently the massive income from r64s and 32s enables alliances to do pretty much what ever they want from war decs to purchasing POS fuel and SOV payments etc etc.

      Sure there are some checks and balances, but when something like OTEC comes along, those are effectively neutralised. The only thing keeping one alliance in check is, or at least was, another alliance.

      Remove the passive income. Make them work for the iskes like everyone else has to. There should also be a much greater risk for that level of income as well.

      Putting the onus on active mining and pilots as opposed to plonking a large POS in place and stronting it to the hilt would add a level of dynamism that is currently missing.

    3. Playing with Sov balance costs. Back in Dominion CCP looked into just that. Part of the code for it is probably already written since back then CCP didn't announce features till well past the planning stages. But ultimately it didn't survive contact with the playerbase. Officially it was cut because, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Placing artificial costs on sov to shrink the number of systems an alliance is able to control is not sandbox-y.". Unofficially, if you started looking for CCP posts in forums the issue, it was cut because no one could figure out a balance and it a huge exploit waiting to happen.

      To be clear, I am not against removing passive income. I'm not against looking for ways to limit the influence a single power block can have on the game.

      I am against magic bullet solutions when the problems that plague 0.0 go far beyond the price of Technetium. OTEC is a symptom of a much larger problem. Fix the larger problem and OTEC will take care of itself, simply fixing Technetium is tossing a bandaid on a symptom.

    4. Ah, but you already have an arbitrary and fixed cost for SOV. What I'm advocating is a change to the method by which its funded.

      Right now, moon goo gets sold SOV gets paid. Apart from some logistics and fuelling the POS (and the odd bit of defense) not much else happens.

      It also means a small, cap heavy alliance has a greater than proportional footprint.

      If you want a true representation of an alliance and its participation levels, make the change. If they can keep up a massive area of SOV, then all power to them.

      An alliance just wanting fights and nothing else would have some hard decisions to make.

      Make the changes. Then SOV will truly be an isk sink and we'll see who can adapt and who will fade away.

    5. Okay, I think I misunderstood what you were saying. You're advocating to obliquely changing SOV cost by changing the income stream for alliances from Moon Goo mined passively with towers to Ring Goo actively mined by players. The alliance will have less money to pay for thier SOV bills because the alliance itself will have less real income. To this I point to pre-nerf drone region.

      But before that, I am for Ring Mining, all this below is just conjecture on my part, backed up by some historical in game usage of systems by players and alliances. Just saying that now before I go into theory crafting of why I don't think it'll have the impact you think it will.

      Drone region was ISK poor, and they had no problem paying their SOV bills. Their income stream was very different than OTEC's, but it wasn't limited to how fast a harvester could extract moon goo. It was only limited by player avarice. Drone region made money by providing a service to greedy but ultimately lazy players. A player more than able to haul their alloy to Empire and sell for a fair market price, or, they could sell to the alliance for a slightly under market price and not have to worry about the logistics of getting goods to empire or the worry of being popped. The alliance took care of it for them. Now, there are no numbers for how much the drone alliances made from the difference between what they bought the alloy at off players and what they sold it for in Empire, but it was enough to fund hiring PL to help them kick the old OTEC(NC) out of the north.

      I think if we move to Ring Mining we'll see something very similar to the old drone region setup throughout Null. Personally I'm for this, because I thought Drone region was the only part of Null that actually worked(mostly). But I don't think it'll make the alliances poor enough to start giving up SOV. They stand to make massive profits if they work the system right.

  7. The moonmining in wh space would make an interesting debate. The difficulty in hauling out the produce/ more techgoo to drop the market ...

  8. Anonymous9:49 pm

    does anyone else remember an announcement about a plan for moon goo to be available to mine in ships in belts (I think they were intended to be hidden belts).
    If they appeared in lowsec in a lower quantity it could really throw a spanner in the large alliances isk machines and make lowsec more attractive.

  9. jump bridges help to defend space as ppl can get a fleet together in 1 location and not spread over the region in there ratting ship , so will just safe up and wait for invaders to leave instead. But could be cool if hauler ships couldnt use the JB's so may be need a escort to move around

    Technetium will always be a problem until CCP sort it out. the problem is with rich areas in eve is that most ppl dont profit from owning them. only the lucky CORPS at the top of the alliance that do. some of the money may filter down in there corp but thats it. so most ppl dont care about how rich a region is, but how good the ratting is and prefer to stay were there use to