Since the Dominion expansion, one of the best ways to earn ISK in EVE Online has been through the harvesting of materials mined on planets, and manufactured into valuable materials. CCP has announced some major changes to the way this works, and it is having serious repercussions on the market. This guide is a look at the upcoming changes and some observations about the effects on the market.
One of the best things about EVE Online is that it actually allows players to conquer, develop, and destroy areas of the game world in a meaningful fashion. Letting players change the game world is still fairly rare in MMOs (how many even let you open a private store?) while no other mainstream MMO has the single-server model that gives EVE market events the same weight (though Diablo III will surely change this).
How Planets Work
The basics of planetary interaction as they are now: a player builds a command center on the planet surface and spiders out a network of harvesters, factories, and storage containers, then jets the resulting goods off-world to a customs office floating in orbit. There is also a less-used option to send small quantities of goods into orbit via rocket, bypassing the customs office but limiting the amounts moved.
Changes To Planets
The second major change is that the corporation that owns the newly rebuilt customs offices will be able to levy a tax on materials that pass through it. These taxes will be in lieu of the ones currently charged, though high-sec customs will still continue charging taxes.
There are also some minor changes:
- The bandwidth of the connections between planetary structures will be multiplied by five.
- The tax rate in high-sec space will be doubled.
- Customs office owners will be able to deny access to corporations that they don't like. This could potentially be very important in low-sec and NPC null-sec, though it is more likely that the owner would rather collect taxes.
Finally, players will be able to attack and blow up customs offices located outside of high-sec. They will not be able to get any loot from so doing, but could conceivably do this in order to set up their own customs office for taxes or to deny their enemy the ability to produce local planetary goods.
For EVE Planet Users
This will have immediate ramifications for players that rely on planets. Here are some possible scenarios:
Players that live in high-security space can expect to pay more taxes on their goods, resulting in a reduced competitiveness with established planetary setups based elsewhere. These changes will likely push at least some people out of low-sec, as well, who will move to high-sec and increase competition for the better planets. Plasma and storm, I'm looking at you.
There are a surprising amount of people that capitalize on planets in low-sec. If you can fly a blockade runner and are used to moving around hostile space, it is not hard to run your planets from afar, and just go pick up goods once a week. Immediately following these changes going live, there will be no customs offices in low-sec. That means that in order to continue as they were, players will need to either build and install their own or wait for someone else to do so. The taxes coming off these are lucrative, and it is likely that there will not be much fighting over them at first, except in areas adjacent to high-sec or near where lots of players are living. Over time, things will settle down and most decent planets will have customs offices built, and players will likely have to pay slightly higher taxes than in high-sec. Since the planets in low-sec are the richest in the game, this will probably still be worth it.
For "ninja" planetary interaction users basing out of space that they do not own and cannot defend, this will be bad news. Alliances guard their territory pretty jealously, and it is unlikely that most of them will let outsiders use their planets. That said, the incomes gained from taxes will likely not be enough to warrant alliances messing with NPC null-sec. That means that customs offices built there will likely be left alone for a long time, possibly accruing decent passive income. I'm daydreaming about setting up my own little null-sec planet-taxing empire. There has never been a better time to live in NPC null-sec.
There is no population in EVE more dependent on planets than players that live in wormholes. Entire corporations work together to fuel their starbases to allow them to refit their ships, store loot, and generally be productive. Getting fuel for those starbases from high-sec is a pain in the butt, and it is better to generate the fuel locally as much as possible. After the changes, these corporations are going to need to spend a lot of ISK on customs offices (perhaps 150mil per planet) in order to keep using their solar system. These customs will be targeted by corporations trying to invade that wormhole system, far more than in other areas of EVE, due to their great utility to the defenders. I feel bad for you guys!
Immediate EVE Market Ramifications
Since then, all of the advanced commodities (the highest, most expensive form of planetary goods) have been bought out, along with the rarer goods used to make them. This is especially troubling because the new customs offices will require these goods as ingredients. Expect customs offices to cost hundreds of millions of ISK extra, for the first few weeks after they are introduced. This scarcity will lead to still further market shortages. The only consolation is that a ton of people are hoarding their planetary materials until after the changes, and they will stabilize and eventually crash the market.
Other things: the much-coveted robotics commodity soared to 100,000 ISK per unit, before plummeting most of the way back to earth. Oxides were bought completely out, as were synthetic synapses. Speculators and market manipulators are playing planet-made commodities like an organ, and most starbase-owners are not going to like the song.
Secondary EVE Market Ramifications
Once things settle down and most planets get customs offices on them, the market will still look quite different. Adding up-front investment costs, hurting solo planet-users ability to capitalize on unclaimed space, introducing unpredictable tax rates, and allowing players to blow up offices and disrupt supply -- well, these all translate to higher prices.
Higher prices on planetary goods (and difficulty in developing wormholes) means higher tech three prices. It also means that the cost of harvesting moon minerals will go up, the cost of which will be passed on to the tech two consumers. The tech two market has generally proven very resistant to market changes, with only the biggest game changes actually causing a price spike. Based on what we know now, I am willing to bet a 10% increase in cost for all tech two ships and modules, though there is no telling whether this will hold steady after CCP nerfs technetium (as it seems certain to do).
For players looking to invest in the market, you are spinning a revolver and holding it to your head. There is no telling how many starbase owners are going to shut down their operations in the face of escalating costs, nor how many commodities have been hoarded to the point where they will crash immediately after patch day. Be careful.
Keeping The EVE Market Fresh
Overall, these changes are for the best. One of the great things about EVE is that players can own things and profit from them, and also that we can compete for the right to do so. Sure, the market is going to be in chaos for a little while. But that's part of what keeps things interesting. Total stability would make for a very boring game, and people get rich off these changes. This actually lets players "own" and derive revenue from portions of NPC space in low-sec and NPC null-sec, which is something that the game has needed for a long, long time. In short, great changes CCP. Keep it coming!