Rorqual Changes Arrive Today

Jack Mellish 2017-03-14

Another nerf to the Rorqual is arriving today; reducing its mining productivity by a further 25%. I’ve been Theory-crafting the possible ramifications on null-sec industry and I think the nerf may have the exact opposite effect of CCPs intended goal.

When the new Rorqual was initially introduced it had a mining capability equivalent to multiboxing around 5 hulks. This was swiftly reduced by 1/3 after it was found to be too profitable. Now the Rorqual is being hit by the nerf-hammer yet again, reducing it to an effectiveness of around 2-2.5 hulks consistently mining. (These are all rough estimates, as drone travel times and the utility of its massive cargo hold are difficult to factor in perfectly, but take 2.5 as a generous baseline).

What is CCP Trying to Do?

Two factors drove this nerf. First, the huge slump in mineral prices which are making most other forms of mining unprofitable. This has significantly damaged the traditional pathway people go through to get into industry. (Start in a venture, move onto barges, and finally up to the industrial capitals, making things as you go). It has made the earlier stages unprofitable compared to missions or ratting, which have fixed bounty payments. Now it is often older players who previously had no interest in mining or industry with built up capital who are consuming huge numbers of injectors to throw out Rorqual miners to supplement their income.

A squeeze on the profitability of industry is in the long term unhealthy for the game. It discourages new players from taking up that aspect of the game, and when other forms of money-making become more popular and fair-weather miners/industrialists exit the economy there may be less players willing to do production, reducing the supply of items and harming the stability of the market.

Rorqual with industrial core activated. Image by Razorien

The second factor is the huge production numbers coming out of Delve for the past few months. The Imperium have set up a huge mining and production operation in Delve, and it is cranking out super-capitals at an alarming rate. The region is nearly completely self-sufficient, and its huge production numbers don’t seem to be flooding out of the region back to the high-sec trade-hubs. Delve is mining more than the Forge and has a production value not far behind, outpacing most other null-sec regions by somewhere between 20 and 200 times the total production. This near limitless war-machine could have some extreme effects on any upcoming null-sec conflict, not to mention the wider eve economy if all these ships and modules were to suddenly enter the market. Rorqual mining has been most prolifically used by the Imperium and we can see the effects in the mining and production numbers.

As such, we can assume CCP was intending two things with the Rorqual nerf: to stem the fall in mineral prices and to reduce the extremely disproportionate production values coming out of Delve and a few other null-sec regions.

Will These Changes Affect Rorqual Use?

The changes to the Rorqual mean that you can achieve a similar mining productivity with the use of three Mackinaws. Injecting three fresh accounts into these exhumers, along with the ships and modules themselves is cheaper than properly fitting one Rorqual, not to mention the cost of injecting the skills necessary to fly the Rorqual. It was CCPs intended goal that the Rorqual be a single support ship for a fleet of exhumers and barges, but with such a disproportionate mining capability, it saw the ship replace barges altogether.

So, will these changes see exhumers and mining barges return as the standard tool for miners? The short answer – no.

While it may be less costly to have three accounts flying in exhumers than one account in a Rorqual, the limitation on multibox mining is how many accounts a player (and their PC) can manage. Individual players can currently be found operating fleets of ten or more Rorquals, and it is not feasible for the same person to be running a fleet of thirty or so mackinaws, particularly when hauling has to be accounted for. This means that as long as the Rorqual remains more economically viable than an exhumer it will always displace them as the tool of choice in null-sec.

Even worse, reducing the profitability may be counter-productive to balancing those null-sec groups who disproportionately use Rorqual mining. While a Rorqual might be on paper a riskier asset to field than the equivalent number of barges (which cost less than a single excavator drone) the PANIC module means that if your null-sec group can provide a permanent 24/7 defensive force which is sizeable enough to defeat any roaming gang, as we see in Delve, then the Rorqual is actually a safer option than the equivalent exhumers which can be quickly destroyed. No well-prepared Imperium miner is going to lose their Rorquals unless there is a massive failure of communication.

Excavator Drone. Image by Razorien

However, mining under a massive defence fleet is not the only way Rorquals are used. Many smaller alliances utilize single Rorquals in untraveled systems, not expecting to defend them if attacked, simply hoping to recoup the losses with increased mining productivity. It is smaller groups like this who will be hit the hardest by the Rorqual nerf, as the reduction in mining yield means it will take more hours of mining to cover the cost of any losses, making the Rorqual a riskier proposition for them. Further nerfs to the Rorqual may result in production becoming even more difficult for alliances who don’t have the large-scale infrastructure to defend their mining operations, further concentrating null-sec production capacity in the larger, more organized groups like The Imperium.

But What About Mineral Prices?

Mineral prices have slumped thanks to excess supply flooding the market after the revamped Rorqual was introduced, but I fear that nerfing the Rorqual will fail to stop the consistently falling prices. The problem may lie in the mineral distribution inside ores. Ore anomalies are no longer being targeted for the most valuable ores, but are being strip-mined of every asteroid to respawn the anomaly and restart the process. At the moment there are certain bottlenecks in the mineral market. The composition of minerals found in each null-sec anomaly are out of balance with the minerals necessary for the most popular types of null-sec production. As such there are usually surplus minerals left over after the industrial process which are of no use to industrialists. These minerals are the ones taking a nose-dive on the market at the moment, whereas the minerals that serve as a bottleneck in the production process have seen more modest decreases in their value. This is to be expected when we look at the monthly economic report numbers, and see that much of the raw mining value is not exiting the regions they are being produced in.

As long as there are minerals that are essentially useless (on aggregate) to industrialists their price will continue to fall as production ramps up during peace-time. The floor on the prices of these minerals won’t be reached until it becomes unprofitable in fuel (and risk) to transport these minerals from null-sec to Jita. Nerfing the Rorqual will do nothing to halt this decline in prices as long as it is still profitable to use Rorquals to strip mine belts.

While the Rorqual certainly needs a rebalance to deal with the significant effect it has had on the in-game economy, these current half-measures are unlikely to deal with any of the issues the revamp has caused. Unless CCP is willing to have a complete re-look at the Rorqual, reducing its productivity may only make worse the problems CCP is trying to tackle.

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Comments

  • Rhivre

    There has been a lot of noise about this rebalance, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I know people who invested in Excavator Drones have been offloading them quite heavily.

    March 14, 2017 at 7:23 am
  • Bill Bones

    It all boils down to how EVE rewards n+1. Anything done to reward the small guy will be more profitable to the big guy who can n+1 that reward. Thus what is balanced for 1 miner is broken for 5,000 miners, and vice-versa, once it is balanced for 5,000 miners, the 1 guy is up of shit creek without a paddle.

    It used to be better balanced when the rewards for mining in null were smallish compared to other activites in null and the rewards for mining in highsec were comparatively larger, so null imported low-rewarding minerals from highsec. Now that null can mine all the minerals it needs, things are fucked up both for null and high, but hey: surely this is what CCP envisioned.

    March 14, 2017 at 7:50 am
    • phuzz Bill Bones

      Or to look at it another way, CCP might have had (lets say) ten developers looking at the balancing, and how much of an impact the Rorq would have.
      The players had *many more* than ten people, all scheming for ways to make the most ISK possible. n+1 again, see?

      March 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm
  • Pew Pew

    “The Imperium have set up a huge mining and production operation in Delve, and it is cranking out super-capitals at an alarming rate. The region is nearly completely self-sufficient, and its huge production numbers don’t seem to be flooding out of the region back to the high-sec trade-hubs.”

    made me think of this

    goo.gl/lYqgrN

    March 14, 2017 at 8:17 am
  • Matterall

    Nice looking Images Razorien – sweet!

    March 14, 2017 at 8:27 am
  • Lrrp

    So I wonder how many people bought a Rorq. when they became a hugely profitable mining machine? True to form, CCP makes something interesting and useful only to pull the plug a year later. Seriously, does CCP have a clue as to what they are doing

    when they implement something. Do they not see the end result of their initial actions? Or are they the classic tease, unbuttoning a few buttons on their top, waiting until your boner appears and then mannishly laugh and walk away. This is one of the reasons I left the game…the never ending balancing of the game. I mean after 15 years you would think they would know how to balance the game.

    March 14, 2017 at 1:07 pm
    • Rhivre Lrrp

      I know quite a few people who injected double digit characters from start up to Rorq

      March 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm
      • Sylphinja the Dark Rose Rhivre

        That’s because CCP didn’t think far ahead enough about Rorqual in terms on mining power going from zero to hero in a single patch.

        You could get Rorquals dirt cheap for sub2BIL pre-change, now the price has risen. Also, a Rorqual killmail was in the 2bil category, now it’s in 12.

        March 15, 2017 at 2:50 pm
        • pervertparade Sylphinja the Dark Rose

          Or maybe they DID think about it.

          “If we introduce the revamped Rorqual with balanced stats then most players would whine about risking multibillion assets for a modest increase in yield. So instead we’ll make this thing initially overpowered. That will encourage people to use it, and the flood of minerals will kickstart local manufacturing in remote areas. Once people understand the potential of the ship, we’ll revert to the original proposal (i.e. balanced stats). Hopefully the economy won’t get too badly damaged by the Rorqual honeymoon. And meanwhile CCP will get a few bucks via Skill Extractor sales from people flocking towards the new flavor of the month.”

          March 15, 2017 at 3:44 pm
    • Lekly Lrrp

      This is actually a common thing in games. New releases are often overpowered and require some balancing (like new characters in LoL). It is better for a company to release something overpowered so that people are hyped about it than underpowered and underwhelmed.

      March 14, 2017 at 4:04 pm
  • Interesting article.

    I don’t think CCP thinks about the different short, medium and long term changes in player behaviour.

    While the Rorqual was a beast of a miner and more so if you scale it up, it also added 8B Isk per ship that was undocked and doing what it should. This meant there were farmers in fields that could be attacked by small/medium – all right large organised gangs that “created content”, or at least prompted a required response to those willing to undock and use such ships.

    Replacing one rorqual with three exhumers for the same productivity but at the cost of a single extractor drone won’t do anything to effect the mineral supply but it will mean more characters out ploughing their fields but at a much lower Isk value than before. Managing three exhumer pilots for one person is also easier than two rorquals due to the range of their mining lasers. Plus they can carry combat drones and have the support of a fax pilot or two just like the rorquals had.

    I’m not sure if hunting exhumers in null sec has the same appeal as hunting rorquals or booshing away excavator drones, but I guess it’s more about catching whatever you can by any means available.

    March 14, 2017 at 3:37 pm
  • Matterall

    Good read!

    March 14, 2017 at 5:11 pm
  • Alot

    Oh

    <..>

    Disqus is back. I assume there a limited number of them seeing as the return of this one came just after the disappearance of a discus from one of my last two webcomics -.-

    Always interesting to get an industrialists view – especially on impactful topics. The problem with industry is that knowledge equates more directly (and predictably) to power then in any other element of the game – so the more impactful an industrial insight is likely to be, the more likely the industrial will just shut up about it and cash in for as long as it lasts.

    The only oversight I see in this article is what happens when the mining behemoths are taken to their inevitable extremes. Its not about the difference between a Rorqual
    and a fleet of multi-boxed exhumers. Its a question of what happens when someone decides to multi-box Rorquals in a relatively safe environment.

    March 14, 2017 at 9:36 pm
  • Erick Asmock

    Great read!

    It is terrible when NS doesn’t need HS miners. Terrible I tell you.

    March 14, 2017 at 9:53 pm
  • chuck

    So how many plex did ccp sell before they decided rorqs were overpowered? I find it really hard to believe they didn’t see this coming from the start

    March 15, 2017 at 4:45 am