THE ICE MUST FLOW...

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To paraphrase the great science fiction author, Frank Herbert: He who controls the ice, controls the universe. And so it seems that CCP Soundwave would like the role of ice to be in EVE Online.

In an interview last month, he said:

“We’re going to be tinkering around with minerals. Personally I’d like to see some changes to ice, for example. There’s a lot of interesting opportunities there. I think ice is very underplayed as a very tactical resource... it should essentially be the oil of Eve Online. It would be good if it was something that people thought about instead of something you get from endless mining barges in Empire that may or may not be piloted by people.”

Indeed, the Odyssey expansion will include changes to ice mining which will limit its supply. CCP Fozzie estimates that the amount of available ice in high security space will cover about 80 percent of the current demand in the game, thus forcing more players to mine for ice in low-sec and null-sec space. In addition, permanent ice belts will disappear, and be replaced as randomly-located in-system anomalies.

As an ice miner, I applaud the forthcoming changes to ice mining in Odyssey. Moving them from fixed belts with virtually endless supply to anomalies that respawn in different locations, four hours after their depletion, will make automated mining by AFK botters more difficult, at least.

I detest bots, especially the obvious ones doing their all-day extractions in ice belts. The most blatant example that I have seen personally was an ice miner who was ganked by a couple of Catalysts - they left the pod intact on purpose, I think, to make a point. The pod sat there for two minutes, then warped off to a station - and then warped back to the original position in the ice belt, where it stayed for another four minutes, before warping back to the same station again. Back and forth went the little, obviously macro-operated, mindless pod, while everyone raged about it in Local chat.  A few even thanked the gankers for exposing the bot. Everyone in system sent a petition to CCP about that particular botter, and I never saw him online again.

The fact that I will have to do a little more work to find ice belt anomalies, and compete for them with other miners, does not bother me in the least. It will make what is arguably the most boring activity in all of EVE into something a bit more interesting. And that is a good thing.

As a Tech II manufacturer in high sec, my ice mining needs are relatively low - I only have one small POS tower to fuel, so I should be able to do that even with the more limited supply available. I will need a relatively paltry 7,500 blocks of fuel per month, which means that at my skill levels, I will need to solo mine ice for about ten hours per month, more or less, to get the quantities of products I need to make the required fuel - and that will leave me with a lot of extra hydrogen isotopes and liquid ozone left over to sell in the market. Totally do-able.

So, let Odyssey come, I say, with all of its changes to ice mining. I welcome it.

However, as someone who makes most of his ISK from sales of Tech II manufactured items, I get concerned when I hear CCP Soundwave talk about moving all ice mining to low-sec and null-sec - and even more concerned when a recently elected CSM member - one of the two permanent seat holders, no less - agrees with that opinion. In one of his recent blog posts, Ripard Teg says:

"I might annoy some players by saying this, but I'm coming increasingly to the opinion... that Soundwave might have a point.  Why not move ice mining to low- and null-sec?  Yes, it would double or maybe even triple the price of isotopes.  But unless I miss my guess, this is one of the few cases where the bulk of that expense would fall firmly on those most able to afford it.  High-sec players don't need a lot of isotopes.  Yes, it would drive up the cost of T2 manufacturing right across New Eden, but as I've covered before, high-sec players don't use a lot of the output of T2 manufacturing.  While high-sec players buy the occasional T2 ship or module, they don't lose very many of them.  It's mostly null-sec players actually consuming T2 ships and modules so the increase in prices would mostly fall on them."
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At Fanfest, I had the pleasure of meeting Ripard Teg briefly. He's a good guy and a knowledgeable EVE player, and I voted for him enthusiastically. I thought he'd be a reliable and reasonable balance to the nullsec-bloc representatives. I may have been wrong.

First, I disagree that high-sec players don't buy or use T2 modules and ships - in fact, I would bet that the majority of T2 modules and ships are found in empire space, but only CCP could tell us that for sure.

I do agree that null-sec players consume T2 items at a higher rate than high-sec players - but this is why Tech II manufacturing in high-sec is such a good thing. Even with the coming changes in Odyssey designed to make it easier to conduct manufacturing in 0.0, it will still be difficult to do all that is needed, especially for Tech II items. That is why small-scale Tech II manufacturing operators can enjoy modest success in high-sec. We have a ready market for our wares in null-sec players, who in turn supply us with the Tech II components made possible by their moon goo mining operations. It's a balanced, symbiotic market relationship.

Another erroneous assumption is that the amount of Tech II manufacturing in high-sec would continue at the same levels, despite a dramatic increase in the risk or expense level to maintain those operations. Instead, I am certain that if ice mining were restricted only to low-sec and null-sec, then Tech II manufacturing in high-sec space would simply disappear.

The pending changes in Odyssey might encourage me to go to low-sec to experiment with ice mining there, but I suspect that the risk-reward ratio will not be worth it. If that was my only option, then I doubt I could mine enough ice to keep my little research POS operating consistently, and I also doubt I could afford to buy a supply on the open market and still make a consistently high profit margin. I suspect I would be forced to stop manufacturing, and find some other way to earn an income in EVE.

And failing that, I'd probably consider dropping out of the game. For without a reliable source of ISK, which also matches your tolerance for risk, you really can't play EVE very well, or for very long.

For this reason, I am somewhat confident that CCP will not make the mistake of moving ice out of high-sec space, completely. To do so would run the risk of scaring off a significant portion of its largest customer base: those inventors and manufacturers who reside primarily in empire.

However, I am now very aware of the sword-rattling of CCP Soundwave, who seems intent on destroying the entrepreneurs of high-sec Tech II manufacturing. And I am somewhat alarmed about some of the surprising allies that he might now find on CSM8. For that reason, I am ice mining like crazy, in a mad dash to build up a cache of fuel blocks, to hoard in anticipation of the possible assault.

I sincerely hope it never becomes necessary to use this.

Fly safe! o7