Monday, November 24, 2014

Trading in Thera: Part I - The Plan

[Back to some less negative, more contentful posting!]
I am a PVPer at heart, but I love many other aspects of EVE as well--perhaps none more so than logistics and regional trading. Logistics and trading are, for me, one and the same: I hate updating market orders, so my trading is largely based on buying in places like Jita and Amarr and transporting the goods to remote hubs in high sec, low sec, and sometimes null. The profit is made largely in the logistics--moving the goods--especially since large-scale movement of goods in high security space has gotten a bit harder due to increases in freighter ganking (and a bit more expensive if shipping via redfrog), which creates for opportunistic players like myself. Come Rhea, I will be doing "logistics+trading" in Thera as well.

The introduction of Thera, a wormhole system with four fully functional stations, opens up some huge potential trade opportunities. It is difficult to predict just how popular Thera will be over the long-term, but it is likely that at least one station in Thera will make it into the top 20 trade hubs, along side some of the biggest null sec hubs. The market in Thera will be starting from scratch, something that has not happened in EVE in an NPC station in a very long time. In this series of posts, I am going to describe my plan and progress trading in Thera. I don't expect to trade in Thera as a full-time project, but something on the side, in addition to my existing markets, partly to make a bit of isk but mostly for the fun of it (and given that, I am happy to share my plan and progress and hope other players new to trading will find some useful ideas here). I expect to make pennies in isk compared to what some players make. But, I enjoy the challenging logistics in and of itself. For the new player, Thera provides what is likely the single best new trading opportunity to the game in years.

Some traders might do "station" trading in Thera, but part of the beauty of Thera for a regional trader like myself is that, unlike Jita or other high sec hubs, players won't generally be bringing their goods to Thera to sell like they do in Jita. Thera is stocked with asteroid belts, but I'm pretty sure the only miners that are going to be out are going to be bait (or, about to be dead). So, when I talk about trading in Thera, I am mostly talking about the logistics of getting goods to Thera.

Part I: The Plan (and some early preparation)

Here's some of what we know about stations in Thera thus far: There will be four, and all four will have full station services, from clones to industry. All four stations are Sisters of EVE, and (I'm assuming) the market fees in these stations will be based on Sisters of EVE standings. The many wormhole connections to k-space found in Thera will admit freighters.

And the dictor undocks in 2..1...
In preparation, ideally one will want to get high standings with SOE, to lower market costs. That's optional (and also based on the assumption that the stations in the system have their fees tied to SOE standings in the usual way etc.--I tested this recently and confirmed it but anything can change by patch day) but lately I've been working on standings for my trade alts anyway. I'm also doing a lot of thinking about what to trade in Thera (see more below). Besides that, and some skill training, there's not much concrete preparation I am doing. 

There's going to be two phases to setting up a market in Thera. The first, on release day (Dec. 9th) or shortly therefore, involves getting to Thera in the first place. Then, once settled, the main work is going to be getting goods to Thera. In this post, I am going to talk about my plan at a general level.

Phase 1: Release Day

On release day, December 9th, my first task is going to be searching for a connection to Thera. As a solo player, this is going to be tough, as it means lots and lots of scanning until I find a connection. The dev blog says Thera will be "much more connected to K-space than to W-space," so finding a connection via HS/LS/NS will likely be the best option. It is unlikely I will be among the first to Thera, unless I get lucky, but it doesn't matter. That first jump into Thera will be risky, since it is likely that k-space connections into Thera will be camped on the Thera-side, especially early on. For this reason, I plan to search for connections to Thera largely in backwater LS. On release day, if Thera has a k-space connection that is, say, a few jumps from Jita, it is likely this entrance will be camped by the first PVP visitors to the system, whereas a connection to some backwater LS region has a better change of being clear (and lasting longer, due to less ships jumping in/out).

Fast forward to when I find a connection to Thera. Here's the plan: I am going to move an alt into the system and set up jump clones (likely in all 4 stations) and do basic tasks like setting up dozens of bookmarks, including dozens of instant undocks and instant docking bookmarks for all of the stations obviously. This alt will be a trading alt who is also able to fly interceptors and has decent scanning skills. Why interceptors? I expect at least a few PVP groups to move to Thera and attempt to claim one of the stations as their own, and so I expect all four stations to be, more or less, permanently camped. Anchorable bubbles cannot be deployed in Thera, but I expect plenty of interdictors and HICs camping undocks and HS wormholes. The bubble immunity and potential 2 second align time of interceptors makes them perfect for "safe" travel in Thera, though interdiction nullified T3s would work well, too. Set up safe spots, throw a probe launcher on the interceptor, and you have a very capable scout.

The regular job of this character who lives in Thera will be to keep the orders somewhat updated, but, mainly, to scan for k-space connections. It will be much easier to find HS/LS/NS connections from inside of Thera than to try to find them out in k-space, obviously. On release day (and the days following), the first, main task will be stocking Thera. That raises three questions: What to sell in Thera? And where to sell? And how to get those goods to Thera in the first place?

Where to sell
Given that all four stations have the same services, it is an open question whether one station will become the "central" market hub, or whether all four stations will compete. It may, in fact, be worthwhile trading in the "second" hub of Thera, since there will be less competition and if one station becomes the "Thera 4-4" it will be heavily camped, which will, in turn, push players toward shopping else where. So, I am actually considering trading in all four stations. We'll see.

Getting Goods In
What I predict will happen in Thera mostly by early 2015, after the dust has settled, is that a number of permanent PVP groups will move in--perhaps some former wormhole corps, perhaps a few traditional LS pirate corps, and so on. I expect each of these groups to do most of their own logistics, and they have a decisive advantage in making billions in Thera. If a group lives in Thera and is large enough to control the main market station as well as the HS wormhole connections available, they will be able to bring in freighters relatively easily (relatively) and stock the market in bulk.

Since I won't have such advantages, I plan to do most of my logistics in two ships: blockade runners, and, at certain times, in deep space transports. I posted here a long time ago about common fits for these ships. Blockade runners will be the "safest" means of getting goods into Thera, but severely limiting what I can bring in.

What to Sell
Well, just about everything. Exactly when the servers go live on patch day, the market in Thera will be empty of player orders--an idea I find fascinating. That means everything needs to be stocked in the market. Obviously some goods will not be very competitive in Thera, such as POS modules, given that they cannot be used in the system. In my trading in the system, I am going to stick to what I call"General perishables and dry goods" at first. This means stuff that players will frequently run out of--ammo, drones, charges, and so on. As the market settles, I may back out of these goods. My plan is not to compete with the locals who largely control the system, though, but to fill in gaps. This is, really, most of what I currently do in HS/LS/NS trading. I may eventually move to trading bulkier goods using a DST, which will make for some fun jumps into Thera.

Phase 2 involves running the market, which will be a bit more difficult than my usual markets. I plan to post my progress--what's been successful and what's been unsuccessful--after a week or so into the project once Rhea is out. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are New Systems Good for EVE?

The dev blog covering some of the details of the new wormhole systems--particularly, Thera--is now out.

Content in EVE, unlike in most other games, is not usually handed to you. Particularly with PVP content, you need to go out and find other players and get them--willingly or not--to pew pew. This is one of the best unique features of EVE, but it is also a risk. Content depends on other players.

But what if there are no other players around? Many MMOs would work decently well as a solo, offline game. Not EVE.

Just about every day, EVE's server population drops to below 25-20k. Those happen to be some of the times I frequently am able to play. Of those 20k players, a decent portion are docked in stations, maybe afk but it doesn't matter. Of those players in space, some are afk. Finding fights during these times--solo, small gang, or fleet--is extremely difficult. It is boring, and discouraging. It often involves hours of just warping around, only to get a fight that is decidedly not a good fight. After an hour just looking for someone in space, visiting "PVP hubs" and being the only person in local, you take fights that are really not worth it, just to have something to do. When you add in slower warp speed changes for bigger ships, longer and more grueling logistics especially after Phoebe, and so on, this means EVE--already a slow game--gets even slower when less people are online.

An obvious solution is: don't look for PVP when the server population is low, PVP when it is high. However, what if 20-25k becomes closer to the norm? Or what about the players that can't play during peak server time?

What does this have to do with the new wormhole systems? Thera has the prospect of bringing lots of players together into one system (sort of like BNI draws PVPers of all sorts to their area, where ever they go). Having a central hub for PVP should make finding fights a bit easier at times. I am extremely excited both to PVP in Thera and possibly to trade there as well. However, it also means that, if EVE does not get more players, there will simply be less people elsewhere. Finding fights outside of Thera has the potential to get even harder.

What EVE needs more than 100 new systems is 10,000 new players. New systems might bring in more players--hopefully they will. But it is a double-edged sword: If the new systems bring more players to the game, the game is doubly improved. If, however, these new systems don't bring in more players, that has the potential to mean EVE has the same number of people just spread out in more systems--more empty systems, more time spent going gate, to gate, to gate, to gate, etc.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Market Milesteones - 5 months over 10b isk

It has been a while since I've updated about my trading income and current goals. In the last update, back in August, I updated about my first year of trading. Tracking my total profit has become a lot harder, but also less of a concern. Here's the basic results, with the numbers in isk in millions from trade:

August ended up being my best month for trading, reaching 15 billion. My activity declined in September and October, and I started a few new projects, but I still reached over 10b per month. That puts me at over 100b in total profit, with the bulk of that obviously coming much more recently (looking back, those first seven months were painfully slow! Fortunately, 1b isk was a lot to me at the time, and trading was a side project to exploration). Here's what I am working on currently:
  • As I posted about here, a side project I've been engaged in for the past 3 months involves destroying abandoned POS modules, such as labs and assembly arrays. Finding them is difficult, and with limited play-time I am lucky to find 1 a week, but they have the potential to net a massive amount of isk. Thus far, I've reached nearly 20b isk in drops--blueprints, ships, and materials--from this project, though it has slowed considerably (this income is not reflected on the above graph). I also continue to do casual exploration, and that provides a surprising amount of isk these days.
  • As a direct result of the POS-clearing-project, I was able to dabble quite a bit in industry via the fully researched blueprints I found. I've since added a few items to my regional markets that I produce, adding roughly 10-20% profit over buying from Jita prices on these items. A considerable amount of my profit in August and September went into industry. However, I don't really track my industry profits (they are not reflected on the above graph, for instance), and I couldn't even ballpark what I've made besides saying a few extra percent on some items. It was more a learning experience than anything.
  • In terms of my trading, before Phoebe hit I did a massive review of all the items I trade, removing around 50 items and adding another small market I trade at instead. I've also increased my market at Simela by roughly 100 orders, a project you can read about here. This is a very slow market that doesn't need frequent updating, so adding orders does not add much extra time for me.
  • Since my markets are mostly done growing in size (number of orders, frequency of updates, etc.), I've poured most of the profit into long-term investments. My trading is not constrained by good items to trade--there are thousands!--but by play time.

Monday, November 3, 2014

'Twas the night before Phoebe...

Twas the night before Phoebe, when all through the region
Not a spaceship was flying, not even P-Legion
The supers were logged in their caches with care,
In hopes that a capital brawl would soon be there;
The pilots were nestled all snug in their pods,
While visions of dead titans was dreamt by these gods;
And Mittens in his onesie, and miners their ore,
Had settled their brains, for a long winter's war...

May Phoebe bring us endless war and destruction--cheers!