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

1 comment:

  1. You can add Yahyerer to that list. Nobel HG-1008s for everyone \o/