Make Depletion Great Again

Dirk MacGirk 2017-06-09

CCP Fozzie, on behalf of Team Five-O, recently announced changes coming to excavator drones and nullsec ore anomalies spawned by upgraded infrastructure hubs. Both proposals are aimed at mitigating perceived imbalances in the mineral market, since the introduction of excavator drones, and the proliferation of Rorqual mining throughout nullsec. The reduction in drone speed and mining yield for excavators is yet another nerf to excavators, following the reductions in overall yield passes in January and March. However, the change to the respawn rates for anomalies is a novel approach that is long overdue.


Hammering the Rorqual, Round Three

Although the focus of this article is on the change to nullsec ore cluster anomalies, let’s briefly address the Excavator nerf. Let me be upfront and state that I am biased against the very existence of a capital mining vessel. A capital mining support vessel is fine even one with limited mining capacity (yield = 1 exhumer) since it will be on grid to provide boosts and other support capabilities, but never a capital-class ship, where the primary focus becomes its mining power. Exhumers have provided more than enough supply over the years, and at no time has demand outstripped supply, or become a bottleneck that drove inflation in mineral prices. Even after drone alloys and gun mining were eliminated, and module compression was killed by a reduction in reprocessing yields, manufacturers managed to adequately source materials, and we continued to witness the proliferation of super capitals and capitals. EVE’s economy didn’t require this type of ship. Nullsec self-sufficiency be damned.


I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Abraham Maslow


As for the Excavator nerfs, the first one was entirely warranted. The mining capability of up to 5 exhumers was obviously overpowered. The second nerf was also acceptable. I’ll suspend my bias for a moment, because the fact is, that they chose to make a super miner. Given the cost of the ship, and more importantly the Excavator drones, a yield of 2 to 2.5 exhumers is reasonable. However, the change to ore anomalies should have also been implemented at this time. Ship nerfs alone are too often the path of least effort, but they do make sense in many situations when there aren’t other levers to pull. In the case of balancing for resources and the impact on the economy, the developers are afforded more options. They could look at the entire supply and demand equation more holistically, but that takes effort. However, it was implemented at that time, and here we are. As a result, the third yield nerf to Excavators, coming on June 13th, seems ill-timed. It may still be necessary, but it would be a more enlightened decision if based on data derived from the change to ore anomaly respawn rates.

The nerf to the speed of Excavators is completely unnecessary. If the yield is the issue, then just go after yield. Speed plays into yield, but in this case, the speed reduction is more aligned with increasing the risk to Excavators. Given the absurd cost of these, now dramatically weakened drones, the hit to speed is unnecessary. Again, the yield is the real issue so go after yield. And rather than tweaking the raw yield number, maybe the option should be to either reduce the number of Excavators from 5 to 4 or perhaps even 5 to 3 and then adjust yield accordingly. At least then the value proposition starts to get a little more reasonable. A Rorqual locked into industrial mode is already at risk, and if it is going to die, then those pricey Excavators are going to die along with it. Dumpstering their capability, while simultaneously putting them at higher risk, is just salt in the wound.


Depletion Isn’t New, Just a Forgotten Tool

For those too young to remember, there was a time before Infrastructure Hubs and Ore Prospecting Array upgrades. Depletion related to asteroid mining existed in EVE since asteroid belts were introduced. Until the Dominion expansion in December 2009, asteroid mining occurred almost exclusively in the same static asteroid belts that exist today throughout k-space (hisec/lowsec/nullsec). While there are also randomly occurring anomalies in lowsec and nullsec, these small one-off deposits are subject to both rarity and depletion. Even in wormhole space, ore mining anomalies have been subject to depletion since wormholes were introduced in the Apocrypha expansion in March 2009. Ice harvesting was an outlier, in that depletion was not a factor, until the Odyssey expansion in June 2013 when static ice belts, with virtually unlimited quantities, were replaced by ice anomalies with limited quantities and subject to a 4-hour respawn timer.

At the end of 2009, the model shifted in nullsec. The Dominion expansion introduced, among other things, the Infrastructure Hub and Ore Prospecting Array upgrades, which allowed for the spawning of new asteroid cluster anomalies. Each of the five upgrades corresponded to five increasingly larger ore anomalies, based on increasing levels of mining activity within the system. The more significant change, that came with the introduction of the ore anomalies, was the abandonment of depletion altogether. In effect, these anomalies are limitless, without regard to the aggregate mining capacity brought to bear.

Mind you, this has been an issue since the ore anomalies were introduced in late 2009. These bottomless anomalies, coupled with an influx of cheap (350m ISK) PLEX-fueled multi-boxing alts, helped create a structural oversupply of high-end minerals like Megacyte and Zydrine, especially Zydrine. As time went on though, the ores found in these anomalies were rebalanced by adding more low-end minerals (2013 & 2015), while generally maintaining the high ends. The reason was to partially bolster the profitability of nullsec ores, which had taken a tremendous beating, but also to create a better distribution of refined minerals, more closely aligned to manufacturing needs. In other words, to help promote more self-sufficiency for nullsec producers. The point here is, that this was all before a capital mining vessel was anything more than a wet dream.

These anomalies were not built with something like the Rorqual in mind. How the limitless nature of nullsec ore anomalies wasn’t considered, when brainstorming the revamped Rorqual, is beyond me. If it was considered, I don’t see how the initial rollout of the Excavators could have ever allowed 5 exhumers of yield, let alone 2.5. It simply makes no sense, but here we are.



The Make Depletion Great Again Ore Anomaly Act of YC 119

The idea behind respawn timers is sound. Depletion is a great mechanic, not because it works as an artificial supply constraint, but because it makes sense ecologically and economically. The exploitation of natural resources should result in depletion. Normally, asteroids would be considered a non-renewable resource, but since this is a game we can’t treat them that way. We won’t be developing a Peak Ore Theory anytime soon and see declining output that forces the miners of New Eden, to seek out less economical, unconventional sources of supply. Eh, who knows, maybe we will. But I’m optimistic and believe that technology will emerge, that allows us to do something like fracking barren planets #DrillBabyDrill. Whoa, sorry, I got carried away there.

Respawn timers are also a positive mechanism because they place a limiting factor on the large-scale exploitation of a single source. I fully recognise that nullsec has been pushing towards higher levels of population density and smaller geographic footprints, as part of adapting to Aegis sovereignty. However, the population density needs to make some sense. I would bet, that the population density associated with ratters, in a given system, probably makes reasonable sense, in most areas. Overpopulate, and ratters get testy, and someone eventually gets e-punched in the mouth. When it comes to miners though, especially those with reasonable etiquette or organisation, the density can become excessive, because rinse and repeat spawning allows for who knows how many miners to blob a system.

Based on the math related to the upcoming (June 13) Excavator and anomaly change, of which I think this is a good example, it appears as though 11-15 Rorquals can efficiently operate in a fully upgraded system at any given time. Any nullsec system, because you know, these anomalies are basically generic. I think that is more Rorqual miners than carrier-ratters in a fully upgraded high-end system. Regardless, 11-15 Rorquals is a good number, so far as density is concerned. If you have more than that operating simultaneously, you have choices. Sov holders, big and small, have choices. Make better use of your space, acquire more through content-laden aggression, or don’t. Renters have choices, like uh, rent harder, or don’t. But thinking you can pack miners into a system, like economic refugees into a one-bedroom apartment, isn’t reasonable. Sorry, but CCP Fire Marshall says no.


Random Thoughts

  • Some will try to compare an endless resource faucet, like nullsec ore anomalies, to the rapidly respawning ratting anomalies, that also came with the Dominion expansion. While I am not arguing, that there may be an issue related to ISK faucets in the game, this is a weak comparison. Ratting anomalies do not adapt to a limitless number of participants, as do the current mining anomalies. Running them too quickly becomes self-defeating in terms of ISK efficiency. The more ratters/DPS, either working together or individually within a given system, will eventually outpace the respawn rate of the high-quality sites, in even the highest quality systems. Not so with mining as it stands today. The more miners, the more ore. Rinse and repeat all day, erryday. ISK faucets may indeed be excessive. There may, in fact, be too much ISK flowing into the system and pushing up PLEX prices. Fine, fix those too then. But even if that is the case, it is not a reason, to ignore resource faucets, capable of sustaining an unlimited number of participants.
  • I was planning on making the case that yield nerfs and timers were completely unnecessary. “Just let the free market decide.” Let mineral supplies build to unsustainable levels, and drive prices into the space dirt. But I know government intervention is the best option for us all, by way of regulations and administrative dictates. OK kidding. I actually do think that under a different set of circumstances, that developer intervention should be more limited. However, given the changes in 2013 and 2015, that made the nullsec ores more balanced, in the name of “self-sufficiency”, letting Rorquals run wild, in unlimited capacity anomalies, would destroy mining in other parts of space, namely hisec. As much fun as that would have been, I just couldn’t tackle the awful narrative of nullsec self-sufficiency and anti-globalism in the same article.
  • One final comment on the combined nerfs to Excavators and changes to anomalies: quit whining about some nefarious CCP cash grab (good dev name by the way), that tricked you into buying up skill injectors, before pulling the rug out. Early adopters always run a risk of buying a product that isn’t fully baked. Early adoption in EVE is always a risky gambit, but in most cases, that risk tends to be offset by reward skewed to the upside. The Rorqual and Excavators fit that bill. Nobody forced anyone to juice up and inject into 1 or 20 Rorqual pilots. You did it because you were smart enough to see an advantage and get in quickly. What differentiates this situation from other forms of reversals by the developer is, that the purchase of skill points and hardware was an investment designed to generate income. Assuming you took advantage of the situation, after plunking down your big investment, you earned your ISK back and then some. That is a far cry from injecting into a non-money making ship, and then having a change make it all worthless to you. Regardless of when you got in, there will still be good income to make even after this change.

Overall, the changes to yield and anomaly respawn timers are reasonable changes, but the timing of the yield nerf should perhaps be delayed, to get good data from the anomaly change. The drone speed nerf is unnecessary and excessive, but more importantly, CCP needs to review the risk and costs associated with Excavators, because 4.5 billion ISK or more for 5 Excavators is completely obscene. Finally, if further changes need to occur because aggregate supply is still beyond acceptable bounds, as the recent devpost indicated might be necessary, hopefully, CCP doesn’t just target the ship, but looks at the bigger picture. There are more levers they can pull, on both the supply and demand side of the equation, that may be even more beneficial to the economy.

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  • Caleb Ayrania

    Where is MAH Royalties!! 🙂

    June 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm
    • Jump Clone Caleb Ayrania

      Let me undock my Federation Navy Isk Printer and you’ll get lots of those.

      June 10, 2017 at 5:01 am
  • Pew Pew

    Very nice point that scarce resources cause conflict = content. I think there’s a lot more CCP could do with this.

    June 9, 2017 at 5:17 pm
    • Dirk MacGirk Pew Pew

      It is a tough balance between players wanting to feel like they have a home and don;t need to fight all the time, and then the ability to overexploit unlimited resources. Overexploitation is fine, so long as it has consequences. And hopefully in a game, those consequences cause you to go take from someone else, or run dry

      June 9, 2017 at 6:14 pm
      • CarlGustav Dirk MacGirk

        Well ccp could mess with the systems true sec

        If a system is dead then it lowers if it’s used a lot then it. Get higher (worse). Say the true sec us updated every week sooner or later the shitplaces in eve is very interesting and the golden places today is hellholes. This would cause migration and war as the security factor would weight in.

        Still if ccp does this then they should consider adding a high slot jumpdrive module to citadels so we move with our structures.

        June 9, 2017 at 8:02 pm
        • Dirk MacGirk CarlGustav

          I had coffee in my mouth when I got to the last line. Did you just suggest a Citadel jump drive so we can jump our cities in the sky to other systems? That would be amazing but sounds like a long shot. And that is one of the problems with nullsec. Some players want to sit on one place forever and build a home that becomes an empire. Anything you would do to create a need for migration and conflict would disrupt that. The path we’re on with Citadels is about building infrastructure and staying for as long as possible.

          June 9, 2017 at 8:12 pm
          • Jump Clone Dirk MacGirk

            Not considering the problems of the citadels rigs; CCP might consider to introduce a game-designed unfitting, unanchoring, moving, re-anchoring & refitting process for citadels. It would prolly be more expensive to design it than to implement it

            June 10, 2017 at 4:49 am
      • Jump Clone Dirk MacGirk

        Not so long ago I used to fight for some of the remote ends of Stain for one very simple reason : easier access to Ice. It was fun, sound, subtle and good gameplay. Competing for resources can be fun, especially when you have various opportunities to consider to reach your current goals : either mining by yourself, or buying from some local mining corp, or buying for some alliance, or protecting dedicated miners, etc.. . Only static situations are boring

        June 10, 2017 at 4:45 am
      • God, I’ve been making this argument for almost ten years now.

        I still feel like the game worked better back in the mid-late 2000’s when resources were dramatically more limited in terms of availability. Obviously it also drove nullsec population density much lower (it used to be that a single system could only support a handful of ratters– one or two in most places, sometimes one or two more in exceptional ones), but the game was a lot more interesting when it contained superior and inferior space, and groups competed aggressively for the good bits. There’s a reason you had such long-running, hateful grudge-matches back then rather than the current collection of bored blocs looking for mostly-consensual “content” and quitting the second the going gets difficult. There are no consequences for failure (or meaningful reward for success, other than bragging rights) when resource availability is isotropic.

        June 10, 2017 at 6:02 am
  • Messiah Complex

    ” Let me be upfront and state that I am biased against the very existence of a capital mining vessel.”

    Let me be upfront and state that I am, too, for reasons that should have been obvious the moment the idea was conceived.

    June 9, 2017 at 6:53 pm
    • Dirk MacGirk Messiah Complex

      but you know, we always gotta have bigger and better because waaah “end game” or “self-sufficiency” or some other bogus reason. When really it’s just about always wanting “more”.

      June 9, 2017 at 7:32 pm
  • CK

    Downtime renewal of ore belts was nixed because it really did lock out certain time zones of players. The long timers, and starting the timing at belt depletion, will lead to instances of the same thing for anyone not controlling a half a region or more. Really, the best fix for a lot of the problems in eve would be to limit the number of open clients you can have. I know it will never happen, but it would fix most of these issues.

    June 9, 2017 at 7:00 pm
    • Dirk MacGirk CK

      Downtime renewal continues to exist in static ore belts, such as the those that continue to be mined in hisec and rumor has it some people mine in lowsec. They also continue to exist in nullsec with downtime renewal twice a week, but nobody uses those after they get the first mining ore anomaly to spawn. If any cycle timer is an issue, then what does that say to hisec/lowsec? Maybe we should just go back to those in general, and change the replenishment cycles. Though I doubt miners want that either.

      You are right that any form of respawn timer can create issues related to time zones, but nowhere near the same as downtime respawns. I’m not saying a player may login and always be able to find their favorite belt. I’m also not saying that is a bad thing. Pack a system full of miners and they are going to have to find a way to work together in some way, or miners will need to find another system. There is no right that all belts will be available to you, which is no different than having a right to all of the Sanctums when ratting. If this creates not only an element of depletion, but also scarcity, that is not a bad thing.. Because both are healthy for the whole, but perhaps not for the individual on demand.

      And you’re right, they won’t limit the number of active clients. I wish they would outlaw the screen management apps as well, but that isn’t going to happen either. And you know players are probably still making use of VFx and other things like macros that probably violate the EULA.

      June 9, 2017 at 8:01 pm
  • CarlGustav

    I like what you are saying
    I Also think the excavator drones are to expensive.
    I think price tag should offset the income.

    And a 8-9b hull should mine in the speed of 2-3 hulks. (1b bling fit).

    if I was gong to revamp rorqals
    I would do the following

    1. Lower price on excavator drones
    2. Lower excavator drone harvesting to match 1 hulk approx.
    3. Create a capital mining module that allow the Rorq to focus some kind of mini game that can mine equal to 0.5-2 hulks depending on how good your at it.

    This would make solo rorquals better and multiboxer worse.

    I think active playing should be rewarded and multi boxing mostly afking should be worse.

    June 9, 2017 at 7:57 pm
    • Dirk MacGirk CarlGustav

      1 and 2 are easy to agree with. And I like 3 because it makes it more active and less likely to multi-box for the added yield. The only problem is they won’t limit multi-boxing so that will still be the choice for many (most?) over mini games.

      June 9, 2017 at 8:03 pm
      • CarlGustav Dirk MacGirk

        It limits multiboxers to half yeld over an activ player.

        Now I know some mining multiboxers not on grand scale but still mining is a ask activity and I used to mine in hs when on fleets in nullsec.

        June 9, 2017 at 8:07 pm
  • Dust Merc

    If NPCS in Nul sec had capital mining fleets they would compete for the rich Nul sec ore then Nul alliances would have to earn that ore by fighting the NPC Capital miners and their support fleets

    June 10, 2017 at 1:04 am
    • Hower Nightingale Dust Merc

      Why don’t we let them generate killmails, too? Then it is essentially Providence , but in every belt.

      June 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm
  • Dust Merc

    There would be less ore coming out of Nul sec to tank the market.And Capital mining ships could be left alone for nerfs

    June 10, 2017 at 1:06 am
  • Worlds Smuggest

    I think it is somewhat disingenuous to claim that this spread will cause much in terms of resource conflict.

    The only thing these changes have had is that the desire for 7th security band systems will be even higher but ultimately not the overall driver of ore generation. A stealth bomber can now shit on excavators alone with little trouble, and do so with impunity. You’ll need more than one or two systems upgraded with with ore prospecting 5, but we’ll see how big of an impact moon mining changes make in that regard.

    I dunno, I do not see any point in further nerfing the rorqual, but the mining anom changes I think are long overdue.

    June 10, 2017 at 3:13 am
    • Jump Clone Worlds Smuggest

      Maybe the whole point of self-sufficiency is NS was to remove the need for the fat cats to access to High Sec trade hubs, which was probably a good idea. From that point of view, help the Imperium and other groups to feel self-sufficient required to let them build (useless) stocks as huge as needed. Now, these stocks are probably fat enough, so, global yield can be lowered to other influx objectives.

      June 10, 2017 at 5:06 am
  • Jump Clone

    One of the soundest articles abt Eve I’ve ever read. Could someone please pyrograph it on Hilmar’s left hand ?

    June 10, 2017 at 4:37 am
  • You know I take a few months off doing podcasts/Radio etc and the shit hits the fan. At least my partner in crime Dirk can make sure its all calmed over the facts and truth get out there.

    Not that anyone cares about my points or what ever but hey MAKE (Insert Random Eve Thing) Great Again

    June 10, 2017 at 3:53 pm
  • Lrrp

    “quit whining about some nefarious CCP cash grab (good dev name by the
    way), that tricked you into buying up skill injectors, before pulling
    the rug out. Early adopters always run a risk of buying a product that
    isn’t fully baked.” Dirk
    I’ve learned a long time ago (perhaps before many of you started playing) not to buy buy up the latest greatest thing CCP has added to the game. At one time I thought that CCP were a bunch of idiots for not being able to see what was going to happen. Then I came to the conclusion that CCP knew exactly what they were doing. A good way to seed future changes under the guise of trying to improve the game. So I’ll wait a couple of cycles to see how the fantasy changes hold up. Instead of being pissed off I now get to be smug and silently laugh at the those that vent at CCP’s perfidy and rage quit.

    June 12, 2017 at 3:23 pm