Monday, August 19, 2013

Bottoms Up

When the Goons announced that they (read: the greater CFC) would be renting out space I was flabbergasted as that was one of the distinguishing marks of some CFC propaganda: "we're not weak slumlords, we are a coalition of the willing that work together and the weak are not welcome". Not to mention the years of scamming people trying to get into Goonswarm itself or its space.

In an analysis piece at Jester's Trek Ripard Teg looks at the reason for this game changing move and wonders if this is a good thing or not:
Now in practice, this hasn't mattered since Dominion was released in late 2009, and the reason -- ironically enough -- was the moons themselves. In a lot of ways, they acted as control rods for the nuclear reactor of a large sov alliance. We refer to "the north" as a unit because that's where the tech moons tended to be clumped and for the longest time a single coalition held "the north." That single coalition has changed over the years but the natural boundaries have not. Alliances in that area took the valuable moons, and then humans being human and because we like clean endings and round numbers, tried to establish buffer zones at the regional borders. Once those borders were established, the alliances behind them tended not to stray too far from home because few alliances could project power across a wide enough sphere to both launch invasions far from home and protect the moons held there.
But now those moons aren't worth as much, are they?
Alliances used to measure their budgets based on the number of moons they held but as I established yesterday, that's unlikely to be a thing for much longer. Alliances will probably be a bit more casual about losing moons knowing full well that individual moons here and there probably aren't going to be fought over to the extent that they have been, they won't be defended quite so vigorously, and they'll therefore be easier to take back when needed. To a large extent, EVE has lost a conflict driver... a pretty big conflict driver.

But if they're successful, the "big blue doughnut" has a chance of becoming much more fact than fiction. As I said, rental income scales very well and the eventual war between the CFC and N3 seems inevitable at this point. If the CFC starts conquering new regions in the south, they could find themselves once again in control of nearly unlimited wealth... wealth that the graph above shows would dwarf their previous fortunes made on the tech throne. And more importantly, wealth that would be even easier to maintain.
Without the natural control rods holding back the growth of sov and sitting on an easily scalable income source, it might be very tempting for the CFC (or N3, should they start winning the war) to just expand... and expand... and expand some more.
Did things just get better or worse?

Sorry for quoting so much but I wanted to make sure the context is clear of his post. To summarize, moon income has dropped in the Odyssey environment and the R64 moons conquered in Fountain, the casus belli for the conflict with TEST alliance, has proven insufficient for the addiction that is Space Communism. Ripard's concern is that the income from holding space and renting it out dwarfs that of moon income and, according to Ripard, scales well such that he envisions a coalition possibly growing and growing to encompass more and more space.

I've always had an issue with moon mining. Despite being a resource that has to be gathered, the fact that its gathered by a few specialized trusted people in an alliance/coalition in a secure facility that requires significant force to attack, with a reinforcement timer to allow defenders to rally. Entire coalitions of thousands of pilots were held up financially by the work of a fraction of the number of pilots in very secure working environments. After all, how many times did you see killmails for moon goo being moved from null sec to market? Moon POSes and jump freighters made it impossible to interdict that gravy train.

The resulting financial model is a Top-Down where for all intents and purposes the value of the moon goo is injected directly into alliance coffers and then filters down to the base via sov bills, jump bridges, and ship replacement programs. And only coalition warfare could sufficiently threaten it in any meaningful way.

Renting is completely different. The typical structure is that the pilots of the renting alliance work the "fields", i.e. belts and anomalies, to make ISK and a portion of that is collected via taxes or fees by the corporation, of which a portion (or all) is diverted to the renter alliance, which then pays a fee to the renting alliance. This bottom up model means that ISK is generated low on the pyramid by the pilots and has to filter up to the top before it filters back down as alliance activities.

I like this model better for several reasons.

First of all, more space being used. Instead of swathes of empty systems sitting idle because no one really needs to rat or mine to generate ISK there, the renters will put those "ghetto" systems to work and increase null sec population density. And what does increased population density mean? MORE TARGETS!

And not just an increase of targets for hostile entities, but in increase in vulnerable targets. Renters, as a generalization, tend to be less plugged into intel channels, have lower average PvP skills, and tend to be less attentive overall. Unlike reinforcing a moon, a small force can roam through a constellation and look for targets that they can kill and escape before the local policing alliance can respond.

Which brings us to another point: a concentrated effort to disrupt an alliance's financial backbone has more chances to succeed against a model with many small vulnerable ISK generators than few solidly defended ISK generators. Its simply harder to defend many points at once than fewer.

So, what about scalability? Ripard contends that the moons as alliance/coalition acted as "control rods" and prevented a coalition from growing beyond its natural boundaries, holding up the various incarnations of the coalitions in the north as examples. I'm not one hundred percent convinced by his reasoning. The original Northern Coalition existed prior to Technetium becoming super valuable and the boundaries changed many times over the years. I think the case is that the North is geographically natural zone for common defense, much like a similar zones in Fountain-Delve-Period Basis area in the south and the Dronelands in the east. The moon wealth that concentrated there for the past years has increased that natural zone, but is not solely responsible for it.

Will renting allow the CFC to grow beyond the North and Fountain? Well, renting is not a new concept in Eve and we've never seen a coalition that used renters grow abnormally large, even when its renter alliance grew to become one of the largest alliances in the game at the time (ref: Shadows of xXDeathXx).Granted, the Goon-led CFC is a different beast and if anyone could pull it off, they could.

But I have my doubts. I suspect the new world of landlord will be a hard hat to wear for the goons. Time will tell.


  1. In general this bottom up transfer of isk is better than the moon mining income. But I don't see the point of more targets, yes you will catch some ratting renters this won't be much more and it doesn't last long IMO. Even those renters learn from time to time.

    What I still miss is a reason to defend against roaming gangs. Most of the time they get ignored, people hide in pos and wait until they are gone.
    Sometimes the roaming gang camps a gate in the hope to get a counter fleet forming up, but at the end of the day this just happens because some have fun fighting them and not because the poor renters loose money.

    If CCP invents a mechanic for small gangs to reduce or even steal npc bounties for a longer time than they hang around, you might really get a conflict driver for small gangs, as there is a reason to fight for those living in the system.

    Than, many small entities fighting a big one could steal from the landlords entire region(s) of space and he either has to increase counter fleets or reduce the borders in which he operates.

  2. A way to fight a guerrilla campaign is to disrupt the movement of goods or people. Rail line, pipe line, highways, high tension wires, bridges, ports, shipping lanes of all kinds.

    These distribution system are, well, distributed. While certain areas would be high value areas, the system as a whole tends to be fixed in space and large, in comparison to the easy reach of law enforcement.

    The transfer if ISK, on the other hand, requires no pipeline, no shipping lane. By having the major alliances fill their boots with essentially protection money, there is no infrastructure that is easily disturbed by small gangs. Sure you can frighten renters, but the rent is due at the end of the month regardless of how scary hunting NPCs in the dark may be. And you can't frighten all the renters at one time. And you can't steal the mail to stop the cheques from flowing.

    While we can complain that jump bridges/jump freighters have made the flow of moon goo hard (nearly impossible) to interrupt, there is simply no practical way to interrupt the flow of rent ISK.

    I believe that another solution should be used - in that moon goo is to be transferred similarly to the POCO model used for PI (technically, I believe that moon goo should be planetary goo and simply another form of PI, but that is a different discussion)

    This moon go would be collected by *players* that need to sit way out from a POS shield to load the goo. Vulnerable. Defendable only by other ships.

    Keep moon goo viable (lets not pretend that they aren't valuable!) but make it more vulnerable to small gangs.

    As for interrupting rents, the only thing we can do is lower the value of the neighborhood. There can't be a near limitless supply renters, so a sudden increase in rental space should result in the lowering of rent in generally. Hopefully, the competition in the rental space will result in a rental rate race to the bottom, where the good renters are the sought after goods as opposed to the good space.

    Perhaps CCP may add that mechanism for small gang to interrupt the flow of ISK to the renters, so that the rental space becomes less valuable and hence bad for the landlord - but I don't see it coming. And I'd be afraid that such a mechanism would be no different than hammering on a Ihub.

    We need the EVE equivalent of gang sign. Of boarded up former crack houses. Industrial Blight.


    heh - maybe the value of NPC rats decreases with the number of anchored cans belonging to other corps. Now THAT would be the equivalent of badly spelled graffiti on rail cars and buildings.