Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Towards Hard Currency in EVE

I've watched these "blog banter" things for a while.  I have not been inspired to join.  I am not much of a joiner.  I thought the same of this recent one -- too diffuse -- but then I read Stabs' take on it.  Which kind of set me off in a related direction.  The question I am interested in is this one: "if you were EVE's new Executive Producer, where would you take the game?"

I would take as my road map EVE's crazed "reality", and try to make it make more sense.  There are a lot things that don't make sense; from among them all I am picking one in particular, the flux of in-game money.  Because markets are central to the game, and ISK mediate the markets, any unrealistic source or sink of ISK creates a situation in the game that is untenable from a "realism" point of view.  Of course, "realism" is weak tea.  Games should be fun first and realistic second, or third, or eighth.  But still I find that the connection between "realism" and fun is surprisingly strong.

So, as new Executive Producer for EVE, my goal for EVE is a completely player-run economy.  I define "completely player run" as follows: there are no ISK payments of any kind made by NPCs, and no ISK payments of any kind made to NPCs.  It's time for a truly hard currency in EVE.  An ISK that is neither created, nor destroyed.

Here's a very interesting listing of all (most?) source and sinks in EVE.  (Notice the astounding amounts spent on blue loot.  Thanks, highsec, for subsidizing my easy lifestyle.)  Let's look at ISK sources and sinks and what I plan to do to get rid of them.

Blue loot.  Currently, there are two areas of EVE that are heavily subsidized by ISK injection: wspace, and null.  (ISK are sunk mostly in highsec, as fees and taxes.)  Wspace is subsidized via blue loot, which is sold at fixed prices to NPCs.  Null is subsidized by bounties.  So, for blue loot, make it be an input to the manufacture of something.  Obvious choices are T3 BPCs, but it might also be used in a variety of other ways.  Or, just get rid of it.  Perhaps replace it with other things of use.  Minerals, even.

Bounties.  Currently, Concord pays ISK bounties.  This is modestly credible in empire.  It makes no sense at all in null.  And even in empire, it really does not make much sense given that Concord is militarily ubiquitous and all-powerful.  Abolish bounties.  To make up for them, increase the salvage and loot gained from NPC wrecks.  This has several nice properties.  First, it makes NPC ships more like PC ships; ideally one should not be able to tell the difference, but we just don't have AIs that good.  Still, that is the ideal.  Second, via reprocessing, loot would create a large source of minerals out in null, thereby inspiring local manufacture and an economy that is not based on unrealistic ISK-transfer from highsec.  Third, just as in wspace, requiring salvaging and looting would place weak, gankable ships out in space for people to gank.  Content is created relative to the current situation.  No longer can you print ISK aligned at all times, warping upon seeing any non-blue in local.

Empire Station Services.  Manufacturing slots, research slots, offices.  Currently, these are quite cheap if they are available at all.  Privatize them.  On a per-slot basis, allow ownership by individuals or corps.  Ownership would be gained via auction for initial slot sales and for slots repossessed.  Once owned, the owner sets the price of use.  Ownership by unsubscribed players is an issue: if allowed, slots may be lost over time.  So, implement some sort of repossession mechanic.  Player owners of station services automatically auction them off after five months of unsubscription.

Empire Station Markets.  The market in each station counts as a service.  It should be privately owned just like any other.  All ISK in "taxes" goes to the owner.  However, because there is only one market per station, disallow the owner from setting tax rates.  The current tax rates are applied; thus trade costs neither more nor less than now (and all those Trade skills do not lose or gain value).  The Goons Inc welcome you to highsec, indeed.

Skillbooks.  Currently these are bought from NPC stations.  Make them player-created, as follows.  When you have a skill at level V, there is a new way you can invest skill points in that skill: writing skillbooks.  Each kind of skillbook takes a variable investment in writing time.  During this time, you cannot train any skill: your "study time" is being used instead to write books.  We have a ballpark figure for how much ISK training time is worth, namely: the price of a PLEX for 720 hours.  Therefore, we can calibrate how long it should take to write a skillbook.  For example, consider a skillbook that currently sells for 1m ISK.  With PLEX at 600m ISK, an hour of skilling costs 833k ISK.  Thus, on a character that is subscribed only for the purpose of writing skills, one should be able to write a 1m ISK skillbook in roughly an hour.  If exactly a hour, then there is a good profit margin built in.  We might set it at 2 hours, under the assumption that the ability to back-convert from subscription cost (which allows many things beyond writing skillbooks) into ISK is not a 1:1 conversion.

Missioning and LP stores.  Currently, missions pay ISK.  Convert it over completely to LP.  Same deal for LP stores.  Remove ISK costs for items, making them purely LP and/or items.

Insurance.  Outside of highsec, ship insurance is absolutely absurd.  In highsec, it is merely ridiculous.  Do away with it.  If people want to fly cheaper hulls, they have the power to do so.

Unsubscribed Players.  These are probably among the larger ISK-sinks in EVE.  A guy comes into the game, earns a pile of ISK, and then quits.  To handle the situation, accounts not subscribed for six months automatically convert their ISK into commodities.  The preferred commodity is PLEX, which will be bought from sell orders at Jita, paying no more than 105% of the game's current average price.  If there is not enough ISK to buy PLEX, no further buying happens for another six months.  After that, the account buys tritanium automatically using the same algorithm.  After another six months, all remaining ISK is discarded.


  1. Stop giving them ideas. CCP, blue loot isn't broken, it is just fine the way it is. [Stares at Von]

  2. You said something about games being fun? When the mood hits me, I will play a game of Dust. A big buffer tank, a shotgun, and suicidal tendencies make for some good fun. I would love it if my eve characters could launch my Dust character into an eve ship. Have the guy with the ship run a small Dust map. Fight your way through ship defenses to disable the ship or try to pod him before he hits the eject/self destruct button. Fun. I would also like to see Valkyrie integration, but really not sure where that could fit.

  3. I like your ideas but I'm having trouble understandind the reason for them. I may have read the wrong stabbed post? I personally feel Eve already focuses too much on making Isk. Let's say we have a friend who is an average halo enthusiast. I want him to have fun and I'd like to break even on any Isk I give him. Dust might be an option at some point in the future, if I weren't in a wormhole. I guess my point is that I feel the people who enjoy torturing themselves with market PvP and manufacturing already have that, but less technical fun in Eve comes with the cost of not fun things for many people.

  4. Could you write more on the "why" a player run economy is good? Doesn't this require making jobs that people don't want to do?
    For example, Station Services. Does someone play a mini-game to repair items and you pay for that? Making a mini-game tedious so that it has value to others seems like bad game design.

  5. Hiljah, good questions. I am not completely sure myself on the connection between a better game and hard currency. I just feel it rather inarticulately. Player ownership is good because... I want players controlling New Eden. And that is good because... "realism". Players have the right incentive -- profit -- to do things like price manufacturing slots properly. No algorithm that CCP can write can do that. So part of this is about EVE's amazing AIs. Harness those suckers and make them work.

    Beyond the amazing AI angle, though, I still think there is something else related to "realism" here. I think one thing here is that at least some people notice stuff that does not make sense, and it bugs us. So, i.e., I find the blue-loot mechanic somewhat more believable than Concord's bounties in null. But in both cases, I am left scratching my head saying "that does not make sense". Then I combine that with another thing that does not make sense: when you kill a player, you usually get quite decent loot. Whereas when you kill any non-wspace NPC, you typically get crap. So, an obvious solution appears, where I kill two "unrealism" birds with one stone.

    I am certainly not proposing that players actually do anything tedious like a minigame for repair. I mean that rather than "Concord" or some NPC corp abstraction getting the money from running the repair service, a player does. Here "own" is a pure investment; there's no work involved beyond setting a rate for repair services. Similarly for much of what I am talking about. I.e., writing skillbooks. It's not tedious; you sacrifice your ability to train and get bacon.

  6. And here I thought my phone wasn't posting. Can you tell I was bored? I love your ideas. I just imagine CCP's reaction to "more realism" and cringe. Maybe someone said, "Hey this 'hacking' thing isn't very realistic" or "I want to be able to interact with planets." I think Sugar's latest posts (Market PvP and Hauling) is a great example of the ups and downs of realism.

    What I was trying to say with the Dust comments, was: I want them to use your ideas, but I want my ideas first.
    I thought of another one. What if turrets could be player controlled. I've never used a POS gun, but maybe like that, except the player could be on a free account like how Dust is free to play. Dust players can already train turret control, so it isn't a big stretch. I know those people could go play a different game for their type of fun, but I want them to play this game because I want to play with them, while still having my type of fun. This is where someone says it isn't possible, because of computers or cost or something, someone who hates fun.

  7. I agree about CCP. I can certainly fault CCP for weird ideas, and very little grasp of realism. (Their new moon-siphons are a good case in point.) So, yeah, generally I don't want them monkeying with the game. And certainly players are just as capable as CCP is of coming up with bad, tedious, and/or "unrealistic" ideas. OTOH, if nobody ever throws ideas like this out there, then CCP has only their own ideas to work from.

  8. God, Plex will go through the roof and beyond when it becomes the default store of value.

  9. Nony, I think what you are worried about is already the case. PLEX are used as a store of value now, exactly because they are harder than ISK. Or at least, I know that I use them to store value. It seems likely that many players have noticed the same thing. PLEX are always rising in ISK.

    A hard ISK will be a better store of value than PLEX. PLEX can be created and destroyed by player action. My proposed ISK are fixed. And of course ISK are also vastly superior money compared to everything in the game. As such, I expect the reverse of your concern. PLEX will be de-monetized, leading to a modest decline in their value as people like me unload them for ISK.