Monday, August 17, 2015

Getting Started in T2 Manufacturing

As readers of my blog might remember, I spent a lot of time months back training up a tech 2 manufacturing character. I had read at the time that while trading was a good way of making ISK, manufacturing will scale better.

Now, to be fair, I wasn't putting enough time into trading to make scalability a deciding factor. However, regional trading was growing boring and there was too much competition in station trading to make it worthwhile for me.

I decided to move my manufacturing character out to a system away from the major trade hubs. For some time now I've wanted to seed a non-major market and explore the benefits and disadvantages of doing so. Obviously, less supply means prices can be higher, however less demand can drive prices down or not drive sales at all.

I fired up the trusty IPH tool and ran a few calculations. Not surprisingly, the sales to volume ratios were less than complete for this non-major region in the game. I generally take the SVR to give me some indication of demand in a given region and confirm it from the market window in game. I picked a couple of items that I thought would sell well and seemed to have demand and sent my freighter to a hub to purchase everything I needed.

An important note here is that I only chose items that could be built from components. I thought about doing the raw materials approach but there is a limited supply of minerals on the local market and I didn't want to spend a bunch of time manufacturing the components necessary to build whatever it was that I was building. Plus I didn't want to get into hauling and refining ores.

While my freighter was on the long journey back from the trade hub, I went and gathered the blueprints that I needed and started copying them. One important thing to know about T2 production is that you need lots of blueprint copies (BPCs). I quickly found that I was able to fill up all of my slots running copying jobs, and soon after that I was filling my slots with invention jobs. The number of slots you have is one of the biggest limiting factors to a single character doing tech 2 production. It is not surprising to me that people train up alts that have the sole purpose of being "copy monkeys" - copying blueprints so that the highly trained manufacturing alt can focus on invention and production.

Eventually, I had all my T2 BPCs and all of the components from my trade hub run. I started building the T2 items and listed them on the market. The first thing I noticed is that there were a couple others building what seemed to be the same items as me. I believe that these individuals probably also used IPH and the SVR to select items, as it seemed that we were competing in similar zones. One person in particular had a habit of undercutting in 0.03-0.05 ISK increments, which meant that I could tell that I was likely competing with the same person in different areas.

The second thing that I noticed was that it was easy to miss out on a day of the low price but high volume items like drones, for example, if you were undercut and didn't notice or weren't online to update your sell orders. Things like drones sold pretty well, usually in batches of 5 to 10 at a time, however the profits are low in absolute terms. I was starting to get flashbacks of when I was doing trading where certain items were profitable (i.e.: 20% or more) but the absolute amount of profit was too low to account for the effort it took to maintain. However, the things that have higher profit are also the things that sell slower (if at all).

After a couple of weeks of selling everything I had originally planned on selling, I ended up with about half a billion in profit. Not too bad considering I was only updating my orders maybe twice a day, before and after work, with a little more effort on weekends. I also came away with some valuable lessons, like keep track of what you planned to manufacture, because it's easy to forget what you want to make when you're faced with an hangar full of tons of manufacturing components.

With all of these lessons in mind, I sent my freighter alt back to a trade hub to pick up more supplies with some different items in mind. I'm going to see how these items sell compared to my previous ones to see if I can edge out more profit. I have also been considering renting an office in the station that I base out of so that I could limit the amount of trading between characters I do, and also would make having a copy whore much easier to manage in the future if I want to do that.

All in all, my first serious attempt at T2 manufacturing has been a success and I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks as I try to determine what items to make to maximize my profits.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Problems With Citadels

Asset Safety

IMO - making Eve more safe is not a good idea in w-space nor anywhere else in the game. POSes are not safe and the POS replacement should not be safe either. If you put your assets into your Citadel, they should be very vulnerable. If you want the advantages, you have to put something on the line and it isn't just the cost of the structure, it's the cost of everything you've chosen to store inside. This serves the dual purpose of giving players a strong incentive to defend their assets.

It does not make sense to introduce more safety to the game. Clearly people are willing to risk their most expensive assets in POses as it is right now. Players don't need any incentive to use Citadels. If the benefits aren't worth the risk, people shouldn't use them.

Vulnerability and Reinforcement

With regards to vulnerability windows, I think it's a poor design choice. CCP has listened too much to whiners who want to control the safety of their structures. POSes, as they stand right now, can be attacked any time of day. Citadels, as announced, can only be attacked during certain windows and you won't even know when that is unless you're on grid when it happens. This is a problem for two reasons:

1. In k-space, you can easily go back and check a Citadel every day, multiple times per day. The system is static and can easily be accessed. In w-space, you can't. You have to dedicate an alt to sit in there for a week to figure out when their vulnerability window is.

2. Vulnerability windows don't make much sense. I would rather have more control over when your Citadel comes out of reinforcement (so if you're attacked in your non-main TZ you have the opportunity to defend in your strong TZ). People should be able to attack you whenever they want.

My next issue is with regards to how long the reinforcement period lasts. As it stands, reinforcement can easily last for a week or longer. This simply will not work for w-space. A w-space siege (that is contested by the residents) currently can take a full weekend to pull off (Friday through Sunday). It is necessary to have 24/7 control over all of the wormholes leading in and out to have a successful siege take place. Part of the reason we can get this done is because the reinforcement timers are 24-36 hours - not multiple days. Yes, it's boring, but at least you can dedicate one weekend to it and be finished.

The Citadel system can be manipulated to drag out your reinforcement over many days or even a week. It is not feasible to maintain control over a wormhole system for that long as people will simply not skip work/ school for a whole week to maintain 24/7 hole control, and if you don't maintain hole control then the defender simply can resupply and get pilots back into the system (something that isn't possible if podded out with hole control). This might make more sense in k-space where borders are always constant and you can always find your way back, but it does not work for w-space.

Citadel Defense

Finally, our new Citadels have these lovely guns and such on them - but they don't automatically respond to hostile targets on grid? This is silly. One of the nice things about a POS is that a lone or unorganized attacker is thwarted by the presence of guns and ewar on my POS. I can be down the chain and my POS will shoo away the annoying troll trying to shoot my POS for fun. (Obviously, a serious attacker could handle what my POS could throw at him.)

With the proposed system, Citadels won't actively defend themselves. Instead, you'll have to have someone manually gun the defenses. This means that choosing to leave my Citadel and go down the chain somewhere actually means I'm leaving my Citadel open to attack. What does that mean? During my vulnerability window, if I leave my Citadel I need to ensure that either someone or someone's alt is left behind to man the guns and watch out for attackers. This is not fun game play.

In fact, this is nonsensical. My behemoth of a Citadel should be smart enough to defend itself from hostiles on grid, just like POSes do. A single pilot trying to troll us and entosis our Citadel should be blapped by the Citadel. An organized group of people should be able to withstand the guns (by using logi, etc) and entosis our Citadel.

I have no problem if an organized group comes along while I'm not there and is able to tank my Citadel's guns while entosising. I do have a problem if a lone guy in a frigate can start a whole reinforcement cycle while my friends and I are doing some PvP down the chain somewhere. Come on, CCP.

Additionally, the aggressiveness of your Citadel (or other structure) should be tweakable. If you want a freeport or live in high sec, you probably don't want your Citadel blapping every neutral who lands on grid. If you're in w-space (or anywhere else) and you don't want neutrals near your Citadel, it should defend against them.

Final Thoughts

I like the overall idea of these new structures. I can see them standing in as a replacement for stations in the long run and I will be excited to see industrialists opening up market stations where anyone and everyone is free to dock.

I do think, however, that CCP needs to take a long hard look at whether or not their designs fit in with the culture that is EVE. To be blunt, making things safer is a poor direction to take. Citadels and other structures need to be high risk, high reward.