Monday, 29 April 2013

So what's happening with ice?

Among the big resource shake-ups revealed at Fanfest were the changes to ice distribution in the New Eden universe.

Next we turn our attention to mining of a cooler kind. Ice mining provides the materials used to fuel New Eden’s thousands of Starbases, and the movements of massive capital fleets across the stars. These materials play a crucial role in EVE’s economy, but the mechanics around ice harvesting have not created a dynamic or interesting feature until now. New Eden currently enjoys a massive oversupply of ice, which stifles competition and emergent gameplay with the notable exception of a few specific organized ice interdictions performed by some very ambitious players. At current levels of ice product usage, all of the ice needed for the entire game could be provided by only four ice belts (one of each ice type). We at CCP want ice harvesting to be a lucrative activity that encourages players to relocate and compete for a piece of the pie. However we also must be careful not to cause the price of isotopes to rise beyond the means of most Starbase operators. We put a lot of thought into how we would walk this tightrope, and we believe we have found a strong solution.

When Odyssey is released, the current static (and massive) ice belts spread throughout space will be removed from the game, and replaced by a series of Ore Anomalies that will spawn and respawn only in systems that previously contained the aforementioned static ice belts. These belts will respawn in exactly the same system four hours after they are completed, to ensure that players from all time zones will be able to partake in ice harvesting and enjoy the spoils. The amount of ice found in these sites will be tuned to ensure that most, but not all, of the ice needs of the New Eden cluster can be provided by high security belts. At our current numbers, the maximum supply of ice from highsec (assuming that each belt is mined out completely five times a day) would provide approximately 80% of the game's ice needs, ensuring that at least some of the ice mining must be undertaken in lower security space. For context, this means that highsec will still be a large exporter of ice products, being able to generate eight times the volume of isotopes used by highsec control towers.

To counterbalance this reduction in ice supply and to provide a slightly more rapid gratification from the activity of ice harvesting, we will also be reducing the cycle time of all ice harvesters by 50%, which will result in a doubling of ice yield over time.

With the exception of some systems in the territories of the Amarr Empire, Khanid Kingdom, and Ammatar Mandate, all systems that currently contain ice belts will have at least one instance of these new Ice Anomalies. Some systems, mostly those that currently contain two or three ice belts, will contain multiple instances of the Ice Anomalies. A full list of Amarrian highsec systems that will contain these new anomalies can be found in our companion blog, so that players can determine if their home will still have ice after the patch.

Combined, these changes are designed to make ice harvesting a valuable activity that players will engage in both cooperative and competitive gameplay to benefit from. We will be watching the results of these changes on the EVE market and on player activity very closely following release, and we may make tweaks to the respawn rate or ice composition of the new sites as needed in order to ensure a balanced feature that provides for the ice product needs of the game.
Further details are given here.

We were told that the amount of ice coming from high sec will be approximately 80% of what the market needs.There are some problems with the 80% figure. First not all isotopes are equally wanted. Caldari towers are popular for their high cpu, minmatar have the best combat towers and Gallente have the biggest silos. If we use the market information for the Goon hub at VFK as a guide we can see that the market uses the following isotopes in a week:
Oxygen Isotopes 4.28 billion isk
Helium Isotopes 2.49 billion isk
Nitrogen Isotopes 2.24 billion isk
Hydrogen Isotopes 1.56 billion isk

Looking at Jita volumes for the first week of the month:
Oxygen Isotopes  706 million units
Helium Isotopes  590 million units
Nitrogen Isotopes  1,229 million units
Hydrogen Isotopes  271 million units

There's also an uneven distribution of safe belts. Gallente, whose section of the Empire contains a great many low sec systems only has 17 high sec ice systems, 2 of which are cut off from the rest of high sec by dangerous space. Amarr has much more, even with the patch reducing the number there will still be 24 high sec Amarr ice systems.

So if the 80% figure is right for each different ice types that implies different size icicles in each faction's space. Minmatar will have smaller icicles quickly mined out, Caldari will have large icicles that will produce a larger amount of ice (80% of 1229 million per week if we take the first week in April as typical volume).

If on the other hand it isn't separated by faction then we will see Minmatar and Amarr over-supplied and Gallente and Caldari seriously under-supplied. (Amarr for example would need to find 590 million units from 24 systems compared to Gallente which would need to find 706 million units from 15 usable systems).

(Note that Jita trade volumes, especially now when the market is volatile, do not necessarily reflect the actual use volumes as much trade is speculators gambling. Still it's the best stat I have available to me).

The next question is will players mine the full 80%? Well there will be a strong incentive to. If you're mining ice now for a fraction more effort (clicking Analyse on your scanner) you can mine more valuable ice at double harvesting speed after the patch. So let's presume the motivation is sufficient.

What we don't know however is how effective miner ganking and miner bumping and other harassment tactics will be. It's quite possible that null sec interests like the Goons might pay incentives to high sec griefers to go annoy miners in one specific faction of space. In any event focusing on one faction makes sense as it puts more stress and pressure on the people trying to mine there.

It's also possible that due to neglect, happenstance or timezone some systems won't be mined, especially high sec islands surrounded by low sec space.

So what will happen in null and low sec?

In low sec ice mining is going to be tiny. Low sec is so aggressively patrolled by pvpers that it's unlikely that many people will be able to set up ice mining operations. You would need to both be a pirate and a miner, a rarity, plus you'd need to feel safe enough from the predations of your neighbours and the mockery of your peers to be able to go out in the Mack.

Null sec mining is big business. However null sec miners will be receiving a considerable boost in the form of changes to the composition of the rocks they typically mine. In order for them to switch to ice they would have to make more isk/hour mining ice than mining ore. Ice is quite bulky so in order for them to mine ice for export the ice price would have to cover freight costs of around 37.5 isk per isotope. (It's 250isk -300isk per cubic metre to move stuff to Jita from where I live). It can be compressed and export costs will be less if this is done.

Null sec mining could become quite significant as it can be done relatively safely, allows Rorqual boosts (which are better than the boosts from the high sec boosting ship, the Orca), and has a richer variant (eg Enriched Clear Icicle rather than Clear Icicle).

There's little incentive for alliances to encourage mining as it's not taxable and, unlike ratting, the skills that make you a better miner don't make you a better pvper. It's also quite easy to interdict by afk cloaking.

What this means is that ice is likely to be far less dependable in supply. If ice runs out bad things happen - capitals can't jump, towers go offline and jump bridges stop working. In other words people WILL buy ice at almost any price. So the incentives for playing the market, buying ice when the price is low then interdicting supply in an organised way will be very high for null sec alliances.

I'm predicting the Goons will launch a third Gallente Ice interdiction on June 4th.

(Or maybe I'm just trying to sell you over-priced Oxytopes).


  1. Low and nullsec mining isn't that risked by PvP-ers as you think. A Retriever costs like 30M and with the numbers shown in the devblogs they can earn their price in an hour in low and null. So you can mine with hostiles in local, and just write down the losses of Retrievers.

    1. Yes you can, or even better a Venture which is specifically designed for ninja mining. A lot of players are very uncomfortable with danger.

      I really doubt we'll see many people mining in low sec. Even though it's probably safer in some ways than mining on minerbumper turf.

      Also most low sec residents know their neighbourhood intimately and will suss out repeated visitors. So I don't think ninja mining in hostile space will be economically significant.

    2. I was under the impression only barges could mine ice, not ventures. Which, if true, would make it that much harder to mine ice in low.

    3. You're quite right, I stand corrected. Thanks!

  2. Internet ate my post.

    But there is also some fair bit of Ice also sold regionally in numerous regions to supply the regions locals. Pale in comparison to any the big market hubs but those also adds up. All the ice I use and buy get bought primarily locally and in areas of the regions I know where to get it from vs the big market hubs.

    However dwindling supplies on local regional markets will make the coming Ice Storm interesting.

    1. I think that's only true to a limited extent. I've speculated a few times by buying Gallente ice in Gallente space and not moving it. It always sells, even in low sec - eventually. Empire freight is pretty cheap.

  3. Me still being fairly new I have a limited view of the Eve universe, so forgive my ignorance. From my perspective a little shake up from time to time is most likely a good thing. People get comfy when things don't change, and when people get comfy they get bored. Granted some times when things change, people get frustrated and people quit, so I'm sure it's a fine line.

    With a 50% reduction in ice harvesting time, in theory people could mine more ice faster, but it all depends on how much ice spawns in a single anomaly. I'm curious to see the effects of this change will have. Maybe there will be fewer POS' throughout the universe as a result.

    In addition to all the ice changes, I think they should include random ice anomalies that spawn across the eve universe that don't respawn every 4 hours. Maybe .5% of the systems get a random ice anomaly daily and disappear daily even if they are not fully mined.

    1. Shake up's great. I guess I dived straight into this is what may happen without really expressing that. I'm in Test, can mine unlimited Amarr and Gallente ice in our space and may even help organise an interdiction to make myself scrooge mcduck pools of isk.

      Just because I'm trying to be impartial and analytical doesn't mean I'm not having fun :)

  4. Not sure who posted first (it might have been you?); but I too see a huge bottleneck in caldari isotopes.

    Based on your numbers above, I might get ready to put up some minmatar towers (once the prices settle down)

    1. Wait a bit. It may be that the ice is adjusted racially ie high sec produces 80% of each race's current consumption. Which would make Minmatar ice a very small volume and easily interdicted resource.