Friday, January 25, 2013

Farms and Fields: Pointy Haired Bosses

I still haven't stopped laughing over the minutes from the Winter CSM summit.  Especially the nullsec bits. Heaven help me, but I do love a good puppet show.  

The best bit was the lords of nullsec and their hangers-on stepping up one by one to say how awful it is in nullsec, how broken nullsec is, and how nobody wants to go to nullsec because it's so hard to make the Iskies. And how, oh how, can they possibly get those lazy and risk-averse carebears to come out to dreary, awful, broken (did we mention it was broken) and dangerous nullsec given the status quo?

You'd think nullsec was the nerdy frat-house on campus and couldn't get anyone to join 'cause all those cool highsec frat houses were giving away free sex and cocaine at their rush parties. Meanwhile poor nullsec house was stuck serving fruit-punch and two-day-old sushi.

I swear, musical themes from La Bohème must have been swelling in the background as the blue doughnut's proxies (BDPs) warbled as one from the 'Farms and Fields' songbook, held forth on nullsec's terrible state and prophesied darkly 'pon the consequences of CCP inaction.  Of course, in a later session UAxDEATH sneers that a trillion ISK as mere pocket change for a nullsec alliance (at which you could practically hear Alekseyev Karrde's jaw hit the floor).

Ah, the poor, lonely, rich boys of nullsec.  It just breaks the heart, doesn't it?

The TLDR of the BDPs' demands, as expressed in the CSM minutes and in the forums, amounts to this:  Change mining and manufacturing mechanics across New Eden so that these activities are far more efficient in sovereign nullsec than in empire or NPC nullsec.  Which is to say they want the baseline cost of manufacturing a given ship or module in empire to be higher.

Yeah, that's right. The BDP wants you to pay more for ships and modules. No, really.  Twocores/Mynnna even put it in print.  

Why? Well, according to the BDP, they want you to pay more for ships and modules so they can have economic independence from the cruel tyranny of Jita.  Of course, nobody's twisting the BD's collective arm to buy and sell at Jita.  And, if markets provide any indication, nullsec absolutely loves to shop at Jita.  However, the BDPs hold that, despite nullsec's near monopoly on high end manufacturing inputs, there is simply no way they can possibly develop industrial capacity within their domains that will compete on a price basis with empire imports given the present mechanics.  No way.  It's just not economically feasible.  


Despite all the BDP sturm und drang at the CSM summit and in the forums, developing a nullsec industrial infrastructure competitive with highsec imports is perfectly achievable with the current mechanics. Is it harder than having CCP hand you the wherewithal on a silver platter? Of course. But none of the changes the BDPs are lobbying for are required to get it done. As I pointed out in Comparative Advantages, back in July:
"If [nullsec's] economic ministers are truly interested in developing the farms and fields paradigm, building up nullsec's industrial capacity must become the primary focus of their efforts.  That will take some clever thinking on their part and require an incentives program geared toward creation rather than merely destruction."
I have done industry in nullsec. I know the difficulties involved, and know how nullsec alliances can overcome them.  Like as not, there are a large number of forward thinking industrialists, some in nullsec,  who could point the way as well. And, happily, you don't have to take my word for it.  As a reader recently pointed out, an article posted on Goonswarm's own propaganda outlet demonstrated that the lords of nullsec on CCP's Serenity server have overcome the industrial problem that has Twocores/Mynnna and the rest of the nullsec brain-trust throwing up their hands in despair. 

I suppose it's possible that Serenity's lords of nullsec have out-thought their Tranquility brethren or are simply better managers.  And it is certainly possible that I am just infinitely smarter than the combined talents of the GoonSwarm Federation Economic Cabal; the self-proclaimed 'foremost authority on Eve Online economics and game play'.  Or perhaps the lords of BD nullsec simply lack the energy for enterprise, preferring a free hand-out from CCP to rolling their sleeves up and doing some honest mental heavy lifting.

Improving 0.0 industry (the reason POS changes are being so aggressively pushed by the BDPs) is certainly worth talking about. However, speaking based on experience, the primary problem with industry in nullsec is mismanagement, not game mechanics. Nullsec is what its owners make of it.  If the BDP truly wants to develop an industrial infrastructure, they have it in their hands to do so.  Nullsec management hasn't made a serious effort at optimizing their space for industry with the tools at hand.  I see no reason to reward their lack of initiative with new special advantages for nullsec.  Nullsec has plenty of advantages as it is.

Some folk can't be happy unless they're holding *all* the toys. 

But, let's be charitable. Let's assume the BD lords of nullsec and their proxies know they can produce competitive ships and modules given the right policies (Industrial optimization, open carebear immigration, low use fees to incent industrial activity, etc.).  Let's assume they know that independence from Jita is theirs to grasp without any, (or only modest) changes to game mechanics. Why then, are they insisting the economic playing field must be tilted to their absolute advantage over both highsec and lowsec.  Why are they so anxious to push up the cost of cartoon spaceships.

Here's a possibility:

In the Economic section of the December CSM summit meeting, UAxDEATH states that Technetium can be nerfed if the desired 'Farms and Fields' changes replaces that income stream. None of the other BDPs record any objection to this statement.  This speaks volumes to revenue yields the lords of nullsec expect from 'Farms and Fields'.  Reading elsewhere in the minutes and the forums it is evident that 'Farms and Fields' is expected to provide nullsec alliances with a new large-bore stream of revenues from taxes on industrial activities. 

In other words, you need to pay more for your ships and modules so the BD alliances can get more tax revenues.   

Perhaps we should discuss that next.


  1. It's been my experience that the problem with null industry is that most of the movers and shakers want nothing to do with industry - and hence don't want to do anything other than the easy thing of jump freighter logistics - and the vast majority of the industrialists in null are still thinking in terms of highsec (i.e they want max profits for themselves instead of making their alliance prosper by having less dependence on highsec). It almost seems like the effort of living in null has sapped the mental energy from the long-time leadership cadre. That, coupled with knee-jerk reactions to any ideas offered up from those new to null and you get perpetuation of the status quo.

    Sad, really.

  2. Regarding the Chinese server as a road map to "farms and fields" you are ignoring the cultural element. The author points out that in Chinese culture (at least in Eve/Serenity) that loyalty and stability are valued almost as much or even more than competence. The reverse is true on Tranquility.

    An interesting experience would be to inject a hardcore PVP alliance into Serenity and see how things evolve. Think of it like a mutation or having a apex predator moving into a new area. Would they run rampant through null sec and engender changes in the locals already living there? Would they die off due to lack of an industrial base.

    My point is that an alliance playing like a Chinese alliance on Tranquility may not be an evolutionary stable equilibrium--i.e. it may not survive.

    1. You're assuming a lot of facts not in evidence. Beyond Serenity nullsec residents valuing stability and loyalty your position depends largely on assumption.

      In point of fact the same loyalty and stability you fault in Serenity nullsec has come the way of things on Tranquility. Sov wars are forbidden and all PvP in nullsec must follow 'controlled PvP' rules. Note that the recent supercarrier battle that had everyone raving occurred in lowsec, not nullsec. Sov was never at stake.

      The CFC and HBC are presently enforcing NullsecDisney on Tranquility. Disloyalty and instability will not be tolerated.

      Welcome, comrade, to the new order.

  3. 1. I am not faulting stability/loyalty, just noting it is different than on Tranquility where back stabbing and paranoia are the order of the day.

    2. Sov wars aren't forbidden, the last build up to one fizzled out due to back room negotiations...well back room with a window open many of us could peek in through.

    3. The CFC and the HBC aren't the only power blocks in Null and there is nothing to say their relationship can't change (get better, worse, or even not change). Not that long ago people were talking about the DRF hegemony, but that is now gone...completely. What we currently see on the sov map will one day pass into Eve history and folklore.

    As for assuming things, I'm merely pointing out a missed point, the cultural differences between the two servers and then noting that what maybe a viable strategy on one server may not transition to the other. Think of it as an ecological system where the players can try different strategies. While a strategy might work for awhile, a "mutation" (i.e. adoption of a new strategy) may displace the current dominant strategy. Case in point: IRC. According to this article,

    IRC had some similarities to the Chinese alliance, but when a change in their environment occured--the drone alloy nerf--things didn't last long for IRC when they encountered one of the more common alliances on Tranquility. In other words, one of the predator alliances wiped out a non-predatory alliance.

    When I read the articles about Farms and Fields that is how I saw the issue. Changing the environment so that there can be a healthy "eco-system". Not just to make stupid dumb peasants that PvPers can "put to the sword". That latter vision would never last long no matter what you did to null sec from a care bear/industry stand point.

    I've done POS work in null (and low sec) and it is crushingly boring stuff. A POS revamp that makes null sec industry more vialble, and also ways to lure pilots into belts, anomalies, and other activities might make roaming more fun...but not just offensive roaming, but also defensive. If you have a PvP alliance, call it XYZ, that sees benefits to expanding its industrial base in null and that provides more targets in their systems for other PvP alliances, then XYZ may not have to look far for targets and fights. Instead of having to go 20, 30 or more jumps to find a few kills (if that), you might have a gang or gang(s) running around your space. You fleet up and go out and engage them. And XYZ can return the favor as well. If they chase off the hostile gang(s) in their space, then they can head to a neighbors.

    Also, being more self-sufficient might reduce the need to blue up. Anyone who lives in Period Basis has a strong incentive to be friends with the people in Querious or Delve. Make it so you don't need a couple of mid-points in Delve/Querious and some of the old NIPs, NAPs, and outright blue standings, might go away or be substantially weakened.

    Of course, at the same time whack technetium/moon goo with the nerf bat...maybe several times.

    1. Steve -

      1) You assume stability/loyalty is different on Tranquility. But you don't know it.

      Back-stabbing and paranoia were high art in China back when Northern Europe was making tools out of flint. If you think a mere sixty year dance with communism have dulled the Chinese's ability to engage in such shadow play, think again.

      2) Under current CFC HBC agreements, Sov warfare is forbidden. The negotiations you describe was Montolia, the head of Test Alliance Please Ignore, being removed in a coup because he attempted to break the non-invasion pact and engage in sov warfare. Forbidden doesn't mean it can't be done. It means you'll be dealt with harshly if you try.

      3) At the moment, CFC and HBC are the only power blocks that matter. Any other nullsec alliances and coalition exist in nullsec at CFC and HBC's sufferance.

      Farms and Fields and controlled PvP is CFC's attempt to avoid the same fate as the DRF. Will they? Depends on whether they can change the culture of nullsec to end the sov wars and focus their attention on economic wars with empire and non-Sov PVP. Stay tuned.

      If sov nullsec space is optimized for industry given the existing tools, there's no reason indy players can't prosper in nullsec. It'll still be boring, but that's mining for you ;) But that's not what the CFC wants.

      The idea that more industry in nullsec will benefit small gangs is problematic at best. Industry will always be located well away from the action. As you well know, quiet is good for buisness. Fighting is bad for business. No indy player is going to locate infrastructure or inventory someplace where hostile gangs are an ongoing threat.

      Self-sufficiency doesn't provide any disincentives to bluing up. One could make the opposite case, in fact. In either event deep nullsec entities without access to empire will be at a disadvantage if not outright risk. Note that in their Farms and Fields articles in, the CFC authors/proxies were clear that access to empire was of critical importance to them even if independence from Jita could be achieved.

      Want big PvP in sov nullsec again? Just eliminate supercaps and make sov infrastructure easier to kill. Do that and nullsec will see some serious 'red in tooth and claw' PvP.