Sunday 2 October 2011

Eve Online: End of an Ice Age?

Another interesting week in Eve.

The Goons have decided to strangle the production of an obscure fuel so that they can make large profits while upsetting a lot of other players - both very much in keeping with their stated Alliance aims.

The Ancient Gaming Noob reported it a couple of days ago and the Gallente Ice Interdiction is proceeding according to plan. Jita Oxygen Isotopes price is up from 400 a couple of days ago to 800 with a high point of 5000.03. Yesterday evening it was 1300. I sold some of mine for 1200 and some for 1000.

The detailed version of the plan is explained by Mittani but in simpler form this is how it works. Most asteroid belts have minerals but a small amount have ice, great big icebergs in space. These can be mined by players. Each of the 4 Empire powers have their own racial ice type that is found in their space and in nearby nullsec. No ice is found in W-space.

The Goons are trying to prevent anyone from mining Gallente ice in quantity. While some ice belts are in unfriendly nullsec even these can be interdicted by an afk cloaker. But nullsec ice is not significant to the market. The main concentration of effort is on 17 high sec Gallente systems.

Part of the strength of this move comes from the nature of ice mining. The gameplay is that you turn your lasers on and about 6-10 minutes later you find a couple of blocks of ice in your hold. Depending on your mining style you may click and drag it at that point. (I ice mine with a cargo expanded ship and just dock it when it's full). It requires no more attention than at most a glance and a drag n drop once every 10 minutes or so. It is essentially an afk playstyle, it's like watching paint dry.

Because no one pays attention when mining ice this makes the people who do it very vulnerable to gankers. What's more many ice miners are bots anyway.

It's perfectly feasible to gank people in high sec with a cheap insured ship. If you ferry ships out to a safe spot you can even do this with a character with negative 10 security status (nominally a game feature to stop people ganking infinitely, clearly not quite working as intended). It's the kind of gameplay that, like so much of Eve, has a lot of built-in downtime in this case partly because you have to wait out a 15 minute timer after each gank.

It seems perfectly feasible to me that Goons can keep this up practically forever. Even if they're fighting in nullsec on one account they can have an alt account or two locking down the ice belts in high sec. Out of 7000 players in their alliance they need just 17 to park an alt at each belt to watch for miners.  The only thing that might stop them is getting bored. And even if the Goons get bored someone else might gank the ice miners.

This means the fuel they are interdicted will rocket in price. I happened to have some on expensive sell orders, they've already been snapped up making me 1.5 billion isk. (The equivalent of about 4 months free game time).

Every commodity in Eve is extensively stockpiled as a general rule of thumb. So even if they completely stop supplies reaching the market it will still take a while to completely run out. But the price has already rocketed.

So how many kills have there been?

Well the Goonfleet killboard is here: It doesn't have a total but it credits the top ten killers with 174 kills. Over 75% are Mackinaws, a fitted Mackinaw was about 180m before this started (the price is soaring). So about 200 kills from Goonfleet plus more from allies not shown on that killboard (like Test Alliance).

That may only be the tip of the iceberg (ho ho!) however. In Deninard, an ice system in high sec Gallente, there have been 525 Ship Kills and 42 Pod kills in the last 24 hours. That's just one system out of 17! Brapelille has seen the deaths of 511 player ships and 22 pods.

A poster on Kugutsumen estimated it takes about 30 hours of ice mining for a Mackinaw to pay for itself. If the life expectancy of a Mack dips below 30 hours we can expect to see people stopping mining. Once some Macks stop the life expectancy of the brave few who continue decreases so with a little effort we could soon hit a point where just about no one mines ice in Gallente high sec and the few who try are almost instantly killed by hordes of bored gankers with nothing to gank.

Can the ice supply be replaced? Well stockpilers may be liquidating their stockpiles now as the price has already tripled. The Drone russians have access to nullsec Blue Ice, as of course do the Goons and their allies. Both I think can be expected to mine and sell. It is however relatively easy to interdict. Take a stealth bomber alt to an ice system and sit there cloaked. No one will mine and if they do you get a free kill. The miners aren't really defensible as it's so boring an activity. No one's going to sit there all day in a combat ship on the chance that the neutral in system is going to have a go at an ice miner.

To add to the intrigue Goons are using their position on the CSM and their influence with the development team to try to get ice further restricted. After some talk of removing it from high sec completely the devs are looking at depletable icebergs, at belts that can be exhausted.

So what lessons can be learned?

First there's probably a very good investment opportunity in Oxygen Isotopes even at the inflated Jita price. Some speculators are cashing in but it's very likely that it will keep going up. It may not seem true in the short term if a lot of people cash in but stockpiles are finite and many Oxytope consumers are locked into that fuel type (supercap pilots and Gallente POS managers).

Next there's a busy secondary market in Gallente space selling to both sides. Mackinaws and Brutixes are going to sell very nicely for the next week or two. The cheapest Mackinaw I saw in Essence Region was 199m (usual price about 125m). Likewise for modules and even implants - many miners are getting podded. Be careful supplying Macks though - at some point the market will crash as people realise there's no point undocking one.

Next if you're building a POS or training for capital ships if possible avoid the ones that use Gallente fuel (Gallente control towers, Erebus titan, Anshar jump freighter, Moros Dreadnought, Thanatos carrier, Nyx supercarrier). Fuel will get expensive and may simply not be available at all at times.

There may be knockon effects like a rise in the cost of moon minerals and T2 products but that's less dependable.

It hurts POS managers a lot more than supercap pilots. Most supercap pilots are very rich and all of them are backed by their alliances.

You may be able to ninja salvage in Gallente ice belts. There will be lots of nice dead ships. Be careful though - there will be loads of suicide gankers about!


  1. Makes me want to resub, though sadly I no longer have time for such an intensive game.

    I participated in Hulkageddon a couple years back and even though its shameless griefing, this particular wormhole I scanned down remains my most memorable MMO experience ever, and I've played a lot of them.

    It saddens me that after all these years nobody has been able to successfully recreate EvE's freeform gameplay in a format more friendly to casual play.

  2. Like most of what I read about EVE, this article makes me feel two things. First, it's fascinating that an MMO where such things can happen exists. Second, that I would rather set my head on fire than play EVE. I don't think I have 1/10th the spare time that it would take to prosper there.

  3. I was curious so I paid a visit to Brapelille, which has had a big jump in ship kills, and the ice miners there had a sizable fleet guarding them.

    Someone's taking the Goons seriously.

  4. Haven't been playing all that much over last month, mostly just logging in to do Invention, reset PI and every now and then collect PI and just stockpile it in my hanger, thats about it. I find this all kinda interesting though. Had read about this on TAGN a few days ago and over on Jester Trek a few days ago as well and somewhat forgot about it for most the weekend.

    I might have missed the boat on this or dunno if missed the boat at all if Goons keep this up for some time for making tears. Will have to see. Not really doing much Market stuff atm and just sitting almost 15 Billion ISK. I can't find no cheap Oxygen Isotopes in any region so I figure I go ahead and put up a market order conservatively for several hundred thousand units. If lucky maybe it get filled and can make some profit if this continues with Oxygen Isotopes. Will have to see how this all unfolds.

  5. Re the thing about an ice miner taking 30 hours to pay for itself - surely that depends on the sale price of the ice. As the price goes up, a mining ship pays for itself faster (assuming ship prices stay more or less equal... and while they've gone up temporarily, the supply of ships hasn't been impacted so expect the prices to get driven back down as people compete for the market).

    Eventually, things will either hit an equilibrium where the expected life expectancy of a miner at the new stable ice price equals profit, or the Goon blockade will be so effective that it drives that equilibrium price higher than canyone is prepared to pay, in which case nobody wil mine. Which of the two happens depends on how effective the blockade is... and as the annonymous poster above has already pointed out, if ice is becoming more expensive it becomes worth while to guard the miners even if you have to hire guys to do it in shifts.

  6. @ cdn That video is wonderful. I'm certainly not anti-ganking but as I both gank and ice mine I'm reporting both sides of the struggle.

    @Yeebo I'd invite you to play with me except I tend to play Eve solitary and semi-afk.

    @ Anon if they keep it up it should spark up a bit of fun, on the forums if nowhere else.

    @AD there are subtler ways to profit than simply stockpiling oxytopes. At some point if the interdiction goes well people will start firesaleing Gallente caps. A long term investment strategy around cheap Gallente caps, Gallente buff from CCP and Goons getting bored of ice camping is under consideration.

    @ Tremayne splendid point and one I hadn't thought of. I know some people in nullsec have started seriously pumping out oxytopes as a result of this. It would be quite funny if the miners end up doing well.

  7. The strategy hinges on keeping concord out of the belts. So all anyone anti-gank has to do is try to keep concord in the belts and/or bump goon ice minders out of range from the ice. If the goon ice miners cant be identified then bump everyone. If I cant have it they can have it. If if it only foils a few suicide its still a drain on resources/sec status and if people started to set up simple undock/warp/shootObject macros that can run 24/7 the annoyers will become the annoyed

  8. I think the best strategy though is not to fight them but to join them in their endeavors. If we take the Cloward and Piven approach we can cause so much damage to the market/game that the devs will have to redesign the way it works or risk future waves of imbalance. Use their momentum against them....but I'm not a doctor...just an armchair strategist.

  9. @ Anon both of you have good ideas, I think this is where the player creativity makes sandbox games so fun. There really isn't one answer - any answer can be right if you can get it to work.