Testing Independence

On June 30th, I am stepping down from my post as Director of Education for EVE University, and will be leaving the corp to pursue the next phase of my career in New Eden.

This is the second time I have done this.

There and Back Again

In the summer of 2009, when I first started playing EVE Online, I flailed around for a couple of weeks until I heard about this great place for new players, EVE University. I joined immediately, thinking I'd be there for a few months to learn the basics and then move on. But that's not what happened. Instead, E-UNI taught me what EVE Online is really all about. It's not just about fittings and ships and modules and mining and building and fights - it's much more about finding your place in a community. The people in E-UNI are there to share knowledge and help each other succeed, and I enjoyed that so much that I ended up staying - eventually rising to the role of Director. E-UNI became my "home" in New Eden.

I wanted to try some new things, though, so in the summer of 2012, I joined the Griffin Capsuleers. My three years in E-UNI were a great experience, but being in a new corp gave me the opportunity to be more independent. I sampled low-sec and poked into a few wormholes. I dabbled in manufacturing and organized massive mining ops. It was a lower key, more laid back and relaxed way to play EVE Online, free from the responsibilities of being a director in a large corporation. I loved it.

But sixteen months ago, I got a message from Azmodeus Valar, CEO of E-UNI, asking me to rejoin the corp. The Education Department - essential to E-UNI's core mission - needed help. Flattered, I agreed - and soon found myself once again in the position of Director of Education.

I've written about being a director in a large corp before, and so I will not dwell on the positives and negatives here again. Suffice it to say that it is rewarding, but also very demanding. Unfortunately, Real Life sometimes gets in the way, and I've recently taken on some new responsibilities that will limit my time in EVE Online. After some introspection, I've come to the conclusion that I can't give the time to conduct my E-UNI director duties at the level that would satisfy me.

Fortunately, we have some very capable staff people in E-UNI ready to step up and carry on the mission, so I'm comfortable with pulling away now. And so, once again, I am leaving E-UNI to try some new things elsewhere in New Eden. One of those things is mastering the expected changes coming to research and manufacturing.

We Live in Interesting Times

With the imminent arrival of the Crius expansion on July 22nd, I have become fascinated with the extensive changes to industry that are forthcoming. Crius will transform everything about research, invention and manufacturing, and will radically alter how things get made, shipped and sold in EVE Online. I've been trying to read and absorb everything I can about the planned revamp, and I must admit, there is so much change coming that it is very difficult to absorb it all.

Other observers of EVE Online have done a far better job evaluating the potential impact of the Crius industry changes than I could, so I refer interested readers to these resources, with my hearty endorsement:

I can understand why the developers at CCP Games, especially CCP Greyscale, decided to delay the implementation of the industry changes, which were originally scheduled for the last expansion, Kronos. It was a wise decision, as they have used the time to continue to tweak and improve aspects of the industry overhaul.

Many EVE Online industrialists, including myself, have speculated about who will win and who will lose as a result of the coming industry changes. Certainly, null-sec will benefit the most, but perhaps not to the degree that some think. The pendulum of favor is definitely swinging towards 0.0 space, but it does not appear to me to be as dramatic a swing as I first thought.

My initial analysis also led me to the conclusion that industry in low-sec was getting slammed hard, but subsequent changes have addressed that concern. Now it appears that low-sec industry will not only maintain its viability, but will also enjoy some special advantages commensurate with the higher-risk environment.

One question that remains in my mind is: can high-sec industrialists still earn respectable returns, or will increased competition from null-sec and low-sec erode profits so much that it no longer makes sense? My initial analysis tells me that it will still be possible for high-sec manufacturers to earn ISK by building Tech II items, though the profits will likely be lower than they are now. What I don't know for certain is the degree that margins will drop - and I don't think anyone, including CCP Games, knows for sure either. I would not be surprised to see margins on many Tech II modules decrease by 80 percent or more - and in some cases, it may be impossible to compete at all with lower-cost manufacturers in 0.0 or low-sec.

High-sec industry will be protected somewhat by the significant expense of shipping goods, which should counter-balance the expected lower production costs in lower security space. In general, I expect to see items built in each region of space to be sold locally, and compete in local markets. However, the economy of New Eden is remarkably efficient, and I anticipate that after Crius, it will take only a short while for prices to adjust and find new equilibrium levels. What those levels will ultimately be is the key question, and no one really knows that answer with certainty.

Let the Experiment Begin

I have therefore decided to initiate an experiment - an attempt to be a successful independent industrialist in high-sec, under the new Crius infrastructure. This may prove to be a fruitless pursuit, but it should be interesting and informative to test the viability of manufacturing as a mostly solo pursuit in high sec space, after the introduction of the extensive revamp.

Under the new industry system, to be introduced with Crius on July 22nd, I suspect that I may need more than one POS tower to compete effectively as a high-sec independent manufacturer.

Under the new industry system, to be introduced with Crius on July 22nd, I suspect that I may need more than one POS tower to compete effectively as a high-sec independent manufacturer.

Currently, I make a reliable amount of ISK each month as a casual high sec inventor and manufacturer of Tech II modules. As a very low-effort, part-time activity, I earn profits of about 150-200 million per week, more or less, by making and selling Tech II modules. I use an alt to conduct invention in a Player-Owned Starbase (POS), and manufacture items in public station facilities. This is more than enough to fund my activities in EVE Online, though not enough to PLEX all my accounts. If I was especially diligent and invested sufficient time to maximize my operations, I calculate that I could earn more than enough to play all my accounts for free - but the effort involved is far more than casual, and I simply don't want to commit to the continuous attention required.

After Crius, in order to maintain the same level of earnings, I think I may have to operate multiple POS towers, in order to maximize the benefit of improved efficiency from using the same types of facilities in the same tower. I expect that I will want to move my manufacturing to a POS, instead of using NPC stations, as well, to reap lower cost advantages.

The potential impact of teams is a wild card, and I'll be very interested to see how they affect costs in actual practice. Clearly, the changes that Crius will bring will favor organized groups of players over individuals, and that will hold true especially in high-sec. I would not be surprised to see ad hoc groups of independent manufacturers come together to bid on teams for mutual operations in the same system, in order to share the benefit there.

In short, I am making preparations to test the viability of high-sec industry as an income source for independent, casual manufacturers. Starting July 22nd, I will report regularly on my findings in this blog. I may fail utterly, but it should be fun to find out if I will.

Fly safe! o7