As planned, I dropped from EVE University yesterday. It feels weird, being on my own in New Eden. I was used to being able to strike up a casual conversation in corp chat anytime I wanted. Now I see only myself in corp chat - and perhaps one of my alts if I'm multi-boxing. And talking to oneself through alter egos is unsatisfying - trust me on this.
Getting Ready for Crius Industry
I have begun planning for my solo high-sec industry experiment. The first order of business was to select a system that would be suitable for research and manufacturing jobs. Once Crius is live on July 22nd, costs will scale relative to the number of jobs running in a system - the more jobs, the higher the cost. A previous dev blog said this cost could be up to 15 percent higher than current costs in an NPC station, but I am curious to see how it actually plays out in practice.
I've considered two general lines of thinking about where to place one's operations in order to minimize production costs after the Crius update. One idea is to operate in a remote system with no station facilities, and maximizing the stacking of POS structures (and therefore, use large towers). This should minimize build costs due to lower system industrial activity, as well as maximize advantages of lower costs from the use of multiple POS structures of the same type.
The other approach is to base operations in systems with multiple NPC station production facilities, in hopes that the higher activity scaling costs will be offset by a more frequent use of teams, which improve efficiencies in a system, but whose services must be procured by being the highest bidder.
I suspect that serious high-sec manufacturers will opt for the first approach, and specialize production of certain items by using large towers stacked with the same structure types to reap maximum cost reduction bonuses. Using this approach, each would be specialized to a particular function (e.g., copying/invention) or to single item production (modules, ships, drones, etc.) Specialization of each POS will be the key to success.
The downside to this approach is the big cost to keep those large towers fueled. And to maximize profits, they will have to be kept operating constantly. This will not appeal to players who prefer more casual solo or small group playstyles.
Alternatively, using NPC station facilities and/or smaller POS towers in "general purpose" configurations - running a variety of different structures - looks to me to be much less efficient under the Crius changes, and therefore much less profitable. That is, unless they are based in a system which wins a high number of bids for efficiency-raising teams. I am very uncertain how feasible this approach will be, as I expect that competition for teams will be fierce. However, that will depend on the available supply, which won't be known for certain until Crius is actually deployed. If teams are plentiful and relatively easy to hire, then this method could work.
Competing with Wal-Mart
Based on my initial calculations, however, things are looking bleak for casual, small scale manufacturers in high-sec. It's like the small independent shop owner in town trying to compete with the new giant Wal-Mart down the street. There's no way for small generalists to win consistently against the larger-scale and more efficient operations that will be used by serious specialists.
Even knowing this, I am going to start my experiment with a small POS tower with three research labs, and will rely on NPC station facilities for manufacturing. That is a common configuration used by many casual solo industry players in high-sec, and one I relied upon for many months when I first got into Tech II module manufacturing. I am eager to see how viable this old approach will be in Crius - and what kind of profit margins it will produce.
It's going to be interesting to see if there is still room for the small independent general producer in EVE Online after July 22nd, or if New Eden will become dominated by the large-scale Wal-Mart style efficiency specialists. If I were a betting man, I'd say that the latter is more likely. We shall see soon enough.
Fly safe! o7