Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

It's the economy, stupid

Most patches hold some serious economy loophole. Several people made trillions speculating on price swings. The Tech moons became extremely valuable despite not intended. Incursions were introduced in a way that was way overly profitable. FW was updated into an LP printing machine until fixed. Now, in an incompetent (or Goon-inspired) attempt to drive people to player-controlled citadels, CCP is planning to allow all the broker fees of highsec trading (rivaling total ratter income) to fall into the hands of a coalition. Why? Because the economy is considered secondary after "ship pew-pew".

This is dangerously dumb, despite most players would agree. Why? Because agree or not, economy affects them seriously, as learned by SMA recently. Just because a PvP-er says "i dun care lol", it doesn't mean he is more immune to the economy as miners who want to be left alone are immune to CODE. Bad economy changes can make whole areas of EVE redundant while drive players to another areas where they appear only as annoyance. Remember the stabbed plexers! When players can't afford their usual stuff because someone didn't design the economy properly, they are more likely to quit than because of and unbalanced ship. The latter case they just use the "cancer" ship. When drone assist was broken, the game was still playable, just a bit shallow. (Ishtars, Domis and carriers) Same for earlier Drake dominance. Was it good? No, but it wasn't game-breaking. FW cashouts and now the citadel nonsense is.

Another problem is the effects of an economy mistake are permanent, while a ship design mistake is not. If Svipuls are overpowered and you lose your Wolf, you'll live. If the income source of your enemy is overpowered, you get evicted and even worse, your enemy will still be way more rich than you long after the original mistake was patched.

What most don't seem to understand is that the level of income of others in a competitive game is compelling to players. If everyone can afford a Rifter, you'll be fine in your Rifter. If your opponent can afford links, Falcon, logi, you are just a feeder in the same ship. This leads to "grind more" which leads to burnout. Sure, the players could just "learn to play", but exactly because economy is not the game focus, this isn't appealing to them. They came for spaceship combat and not for monopoly. So unless the economy is solid, they'll be losing the spaceship combat game and then rather quit than learn exploiting the economy.

Unless CCP understands that keeping the economy healthy is more important than the next item tiericide, the next "cool ship", the balance between T3 destroyers or the effect doomsdays, they going to keep losing customers who whine over the "bad PvE". In reality their problem isn't the PvE, but the fact that they must do it extensively to remain competitive with those who learned the economy game.

This is why you shouldn't extract common sense.


Anonymous said...

There is an issue with your thinking... you seem to think (and correct me if i'm wrong) that CCP should invest more development effort in the economy than dealing with tiericide, balancing, and doomsday effects.

The problem is that the developers in charge of balancing, tiericide and doomsday effects are not economy experts. Just because you can develop code or make changes to graphics doesn't mean you are qualified to monkey with the economy. Further, throwing more resources at a problem is often counter intuitively less productive (the network effect on communications, the more people you have working on a problem the more the lines of communication grow...exponentially. It also can lead to "design by committee" which is a bad idea).

CCP had it right when they had an economist on the books. One guy, who looked over the health of the economy and made recommendations to the various development teams about the impact their changes would have...

So no, it's not a case of refocusing efforts on the economy. Doing so would probably be worse than the reality you describe. Instead it means making a couple of key hires who are actually qualified to understand these impacts and giving them the final say on changes to things which could impact the economy.

maxim said...

This is kind of neither here, nor there.

A more interesting thing to consider would be how to both keep player-owned highsec markets (and therefore have players that are orders of magnitude more rich than anyone who doesn't own a successful market) and still have a healthy economy. How would you achieve that goal as a game designer?

This problem is the reason players in games are never given actual control of the marketplace beyond the ability to come and show their wares. Solving this problem will result in a minor revolution in game economy design.

And then there is an even more interesting question. How can you move Eve in the direction of "healthy economy" if you are just a player in the sandbox?
Specific questions:
Do you have to let Goons have their new Jita? Can you prevent it somehow? Gevlon is trying to construct a message that can then be amplified to reach the ears of gamedesigners, but are there other methods? Preventing the citadel's construction? Preventing people from choosing to shop in it? Preventing people who choose to shop in it from actually shopping in it?

What can be done after Goons construct their "new Jita" and attract people to it? What would it take to provide / promote / defend the competing marketplace to Goon's new-Jita citadel? Can it be done after "new-Jita" is already on the map?

Is there any way to flip the gametable by challenging some underlying assumptions?
For example, there is a commonly held assumption that a single hub the best way to do things. What forces in the game (individual players / player groups / player demographics) would be interested in having more different trading hubs in highsec?
What other commonly held assumptions are there? Can these be challenged?

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: but some can be fired and economy experts can be hired.

@Maxim: I'm not sure it's possible to have a "balanced" economy in a non-economy game, since most players just don't care, so they are easy preys. It's like EVE is pretty balanced PvP-wise, yet many players don't care and fly completely stupid fits and die to gankers. Then cry. The difference is that a third party has no reason to care a miner gank. If someone "ganks" others in the economy game, he becomes so rich that he can then crush a third-party.

New Jita will be owned by SOMEONE (likely Goons, but it's irrelevant) and that someone will be the most powerful entity in EVE FOREVER (at least until fixed and a few years till the ISK runs out). In an economy-focused game it wouldn't be a problem as people would just "blueball" them, avoiding New Jita. In EVE they'll keep feeding them forever. Only the designers can stop it.

Single hub is NOT the best way to do things. It's the best way for people who don't care about the economy and just want to do all shopping at one place, their losses be damned.

S Riojas said...

A better idea would be to simply remove broker fees from the game or keep it at a flat % that goes to nowhere at NPC locations or the owner of the Citadel. I think you are right in that the potential for "one trade hub to rule them all" situation is not a pretty one. I would hope that there would be sufficient numbers of players who detest the idea of an annoying, immature group of players sucking off the economic teat broker fees could potentially provide to get together and raze any such citadel down, but that would take a lot of work and a lot of greased palms in high sec.

Now... if one could attack a citadel without invoking a criminal flag, just a suspect flag, death by a thousand cuts from NPC corp players would be fun to see.

Vincent said...

It's hard to stop patch note speculations... Changes have to be made ingame to keep thing interesting, there will always be a "day zero" when changes have to be announced.

But for the broker fee, I agree... why 5%, why not 4 or 3% ? I'd like to see some math why it needs to be 5%. But CCP will never be honest about the reasons they do that

Bobbins said...

@Anonymous 03.36
Its all about the economy. The thing that defined eve was that every loss cost you. Take that away and you just have a pew pew game which lets face it in a lot of respects it ain't that good.
Its eve loss should be meaningful, loss should cost you, it should upset you and if it doesn't something is seriously wrong.

Raziel Walker said...

You make billions every day on the market, I don't care because I am not interested in playing the market.
I see people farming easy ISK in FW and incursions and almost get burned out because the activities I enjoy are not as profitable.

I am surprised by price difference between skill extractors/injectors. If this keeps up I might just turn into a SP farmer as it is among the easiest ways to make ISK.

maxim said...

I haven't used the word "balanced" anywhere :). Perfect balance is, as a matter of fact, usually not healthy. At the very least, you want a dynamic balance that is always imperfect in some way, but shifts once too many people start abusing the imperfection. Finding said balance is one of the reasons game designers get paid the big bucks :D

The big problem with single player-owned market hub is that it seems to be simply a dominant strategy that has no real weaknesses (so no way to punish the people for relying on it). However, is it really so? Maybe this dominance is an illusion?

What is the advantage of multi-hub system in terms of game economy? Imagine that such a system already exists, would the people who now shop in single hub for convenience use that system, or opt to stay in New Jita? If they would (and they would, if multi-hub system is truly better) - how many of them would make that choice?

Another way to consider this:
How much power exactly would the owners of New Jita have? What would they be able to actually use their power for? F/ex how would them having a lot of ISK stop, say, MoA? Being able to SRP losses is not really the answer, because that won't last for any significant amount of time: at the very least, the more ships MoA destroys, the more ships will be demanded by the economy, the more expensive will the ships and materials become.

And that's not taking into account the pure ISK inflation that will inevitably follow the reduction of effectiveness of old Jita as a money sink (which will hurt PvE way more than it will hurt PvP, because PvP operates on % effectiveness).

Anonymous said...

"but some can be fired and economy experts can be hired."

So your answer is to sack hard working people and hire people to push your own particular barrow? Labour laws may actually prevent just sacking people because an internet person said that they should have less people of one particular type and more of another.

The point is, throwing 10, 20, 100 people at the "economy" as a problem would likely make the problem WORSE. They need a few key hires. Not necessarily developers but certainly in the decision making chain. They don't need to divert resources from art or balance or coding up game mechanics and funnel that money into hiring lots of economists (goodness...trying to find just 2 economists who agree with one and other would be nearly impossible).

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: the more expensive things will become, the higher the broker fees will be with the same percentage. Unlike FW nonsense, this can't be inflated. No matter what, the owner of New Jita gets about 20% of the total GDP.

This money doesn't only means PvP SRP. It can mean handout of PLEXes for active F1 pushers. To 20000 of them. You can't beat that.

@Anon: let's not sack hard working coal miners. Ever!

Anonymous said...

The economic update CCP Quant published last fall indicates that only 13.8% of players who login engage in PVP on any given day - and I'm sure a few of those are gank victims who weren't planning to. On the other hand 72.9% use the market. While players and developers seem to be focused on exploding spaceships, the numbers describe a game that is primarily an economic simulation.

As an industrialist, I am concerned about a level playing field - the absolute value of trading frictions is not particularly important. I've also learned that the only significant competition comes from other traders in the same station. Most of the stuff I sell is cheaper elsewhere in the region, sometimes at other stations in the same system. It doesn't matter, my stuff still sells. People will easily pay a 5% or 10% premium for the convenience of one stop shopping. I don't see citadels offering that convenience any time soon.

Luobote Kong said...

I've been saying this since November and the proposals have only got worse since then. Essentially what we have got is an outsourcing deal. CCP is outsourcing player content to the highest bidder. But just to make sure, the deal has been gold plated to ensure the bidder's profit by taxing everyone else who refuse to entertain the deal.

What CCP seem to be assuming is that outsourcing just works because players are better at generating content than they are. That might be true or maybe just that CCP aren't confident in their own abilities, but either way what you can't so with outsourcing is outsource the risk. If the wrong content or no content is generated (as in the examples you used) it is CCP that suffers. And as you point out, when it comes to the economy - and this is a direct intervention in the economy, you cannot roll things back. If it were that easy we wouldn't still be suffering from the fallout of Lehman Brothers. Apart from the smart people of course who got out before it happened.

Anonymous said...

I thought CCP had possibly broken the shackles goons had on the dev team. I was wrong. This is the biggest gift ever given to the goons in a long long list of gifts.

Anonymous said...

You wrote that the new taxes are going to be equal to the old fees+taxes, and estimated that the broker fees will be approximately 20-30T/month. But CCP isn't adding any new ISK faucets, to my knowledge. So upwards of 1/3 of all the ISK created in the game will flow to the owners of the New Jita (or else into an NPC sink).

This actually makes the new change very different than the other examples you list (tech moons, incursions, FW exploits). Rather than adding a broken faucet to the game, CCP is adding a broken transfer mechanism. I think it's going to be game-breaking, and make lots of players very upset when they realize what's happening. I also think the few weeks after the patch (before citadels are up and running as market hubs) are going to be a massive deflationary shock as players continue their old market behavior without realizing the impact of the changes. What a time to be a capsuleer...

Anonymous said...

"@Anon: let's not sack hard working coal miners. Ever!"

Terrible analogy. You are either being deliberately intellectually dishonest, or foolish.. I'm not sure which. We're talking about highly skilled people who make a valuable contribution to the product here, not people who provide an easily replaceable menial job.

Your position seems to be, sack 50 developers, hire 50 economists. I'm stating that this would actually do more harm than good due to the network effect. You don't solve problems by concentrating your man power around a single problem. You'll end up with thousands of lines of communication, and a bunch of people who can talk a lot about the economy but nobody to actual implement their changes.

Gevlon said...

I never said 50. I'd think about 5 or one team.

Anonymous said...

> I never said 50. I'd think about 5 or one team.

and why does that mean people need to be sacked, exactly?

Gevlon said...

Assuming CCP don't have infinite funds, they can't just hire more people. When you propose a change "gimme moar money" isn't useful. I believe redirecting funds from graphics or tiericide to economy would improve EVE greatly. Or in other words: spending $500K on graphics will get less player retention than spending $500K on graphics.

99smite said...

Totally agree with Gevlon!

Feeding broker fees which will be 4-5 times higher than before to a player organisation is just obscene! If this will come down to making effortlessly more money than ALL THE RATTERS combined, CCP will have achieved their goal of ultimate customer trolling.

Gevlon is right to point out that the economy side of EVE is the most important. Every single item can and will be bought or sold at the market! PVErs use ist, PVPers use it, Traders of course and industrialists use it too.

CCP devs have forever invested their time and efforts in aspects of EVE which were just a fraction of the average daily activities. It still is promoted as a pvp game, despite the fact that PVP is one of the smallest activitites compared to other activities, but still...