Saturday, January 6, 2018

Part 3 in Why Upwell Structures are Terrible: Destroying Citadels/ECs for Profit? and Why They Stifle Content


Destroying Citadels/ECs for Profit, and Why They Stifle Content (pt.3 in my Upwell structures series)

Can you make decent isk destroying Citadels and ECs? Can you use them, as aggressor or owner, to create conflict for solo and small gang players? Do Upwell structures in general create or stifle content? I'll answer these questions here, but tl;dr: Kind of but not really worth it, and Kind of but not really worth it, and yes they stifle content but things might soon be getting better with Structures 2.0.

My posts in this series have covered stats on the usage and proliferation of new the structures, and some light testing and studies into profit potential for solo players. What I care about much more, though, is whether Upwell structures create interesting content. Are they fun to use? Are they fun and rewarding to attack and destroy or defend and save? Upwell structures have been in development for over 2 years. The release of Citadels, then ECs, then Refineries, has occupied a large portion of dev time during that span. One would hope that such time-consuming and potentially game-changing content would provide enjoyable gameplay for both owners and attackers. What, ultimately, do we want from the new structures? I think, from the perspective of everyone from solo players to large blocs, Upwell structures should be:

1) A place to live and stage, scalable from the solo player to the largest coalition.
2) A replacement to all of the functionality of starbases (and more), in a much easier to use, visually impressive, enjoyable package.
3) A source of conflict that is enjoyable for both attackers and defenders and rewards active, intelligent gameplay.

So far, I think, 1 and 2 have largely been satisfied, but 3 is massively lacking. Citadels and Engineering Complexes have been one of the main sources of "conflict stifling" over the past year. Why? Outside of creating a trade monopoly in Perimeter or hoping for a good loot drop in a Wormhole, there's little reward for destroying them given the power of asset safety. By the end of 2018 it is likely we will see some regions (e.g., Delve) with a Keepstar in a majority of systems, for instance. While some of the first keepstars destroyed created some of the largest fights in the game's history, the novelty has largely faded, making it hard to get excited these days about the prospect of grinding down structures--let alone hundreds (or thousands) spread throughout a region.

More significantly, though, conflict over the new Upwell structures is extremely binary. Either they are in a state of invulnerability--in which case they are an unassailable, offensively powerful, yet a perfectly safe harbor for friendly pilots and assets--or they are briefly vulnerable, in which case they can be assaulted for an intensely "fun" set of 3 timers spaced over a week, during a timezone set by the owner, spent grinding down a structure (sometimes, in cases of medium structures, worth less than 1b isk) which will provide little to no profit upon destruction and is little to no inconvenience to replace.

Fortunately, CCP has said they have heard player complaints. There is a large and rare consensus in the community about the problems with new structures--on the forums, blogs, in game, in groups, and on reddit, etc. The 3 periods of timers, the damage caps, the proliferation, the perfect safety of tethering, timezone tanking, all on top of asset safety, combine to make a disappointing game mechanic that has stifled conflict over the past few years and only gets worse as they proliferate. CCP's plan in "Upwell Structures 2.0" as announced at 2017's EVE Vegas and previewed at eve.updates answers some of the player complaints and some of my own personal issues. However, I will wait to post on the changes when CCP releases dev blogs, as the scheduled release date is not until the first quarter (or later) of 2018. Everything I say about destroying Upwell structures for profit--or conflict--here will only be more relevant when structures are more vulnerable especially when inactive.
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A Year of Killing Structures Solo/with Alts: The Results

A single player can certainly destroy any Upwell structure, given enough time or alts, especially when the owners are either inactive in EVE or not interested in defending the structure. How easy is it? How many are inactive? What kind of profit can players make destroying them? And what kind of interesting conflict can be created from attacking structures that are not owned by inactive groups?



Let's answer the second question: How many structures are inactive in various regions of space? This is hard to answer, for one, because structures do not display their activity unless they are public and have services modules online or offline. In the study I did a while back while involved recording and tracking structures in 50 random HS systems, though, I initially found that around 10-20% of public structures with services modules remained inactive for a period of over a month. However, my later follow up 6 months later found that in all 50 systems I randomly picked, the amount of total player structures went from 198 to over 550 in a matter of 6 months, and of those 550, around 250 were public but lacked any online services modules. This does not automatically indicate that these structures are abandoned, but it does indicate that structures are rapidly polluting space and that many of them are not being used.

The best way to answer whether structures are abandoned or whether the owners will bother defending them is simply to attack them. So that's what I started doing in mid-2017. However, first, a very big caveat: The only reason I was able to destroy these structures is because I was working from home during this time in my life, and hence had a flexible schedule. Working form home meant that a timer at 6AM, 11AM, 5PM, or 11PM were all usually doable. HOWEVER, and obviously, for the vast majority of EVE players many such timers would be impossible to meet. Since no longer working from home, the only structures I can even feasibly destroy are those vulnerable from 7PM to around 11PM US timezones. This problem is called "timezone tanking:" Most of EVE's playerbase are adult professionals with families, friends, or other obligations, and cannot set aside 3 1-2 hour periods at random times per week (often AUTZ) just to attack some boring structure.

The huge problem of timezone tanking aside, over the past year as a solo player (sometimes using 1-2 alts) I have destroyed the following:



The skills amount to something like 70b isk in structures and structure rigs and modules destroyed. I kept rough track of how much I looted. M structures dropped on average 60m in salvage, the 3 large dropped around 700m each. Structures only occasionally had modules fitted, which only occasionally dropped. There was, due to asset safety, no other loot. In total, I made 6.5b isk, partly due to a few expensive service modules dropping (i.e., a market hub).

However, due to the 3 timer system in HS, all of these structures required 2 war dec periods to destroy, so 100m isk total. That's around 1.6b in war dec fees for the lot, bringing the net total down to around 4.9b isk. (This does not include ammo spent, but void and tech 2 torpedoes are relatively cheap.) Just to be clear, I actually lost isk on almost all of the M class structures. Only a few had sufficient modules fitted (and dropped) to make a profit.

In sum, it is completely a waste of time and isk to destroy any structure in the M class, even if the owners left EVE years ago. This is, in my opinion, terrible game design in a sandbox. For L class structures, it is almost nearly a waste of time to destroy them. Given that I risked around 2-3b on the field against L structures, it is in no way worth the pay out. Again, given that conflict drives all forms of content in EVE--even purely afk PVE like mining--this is bad for the playerbase as a whole.

 Ships Used

So long as you reach the minimum damage threshold for pausing the reinforcement timer, there is really no ship requirement for destroying structures.

The deciding factor is firstly whether the structure is active. If they are actively manned and defended, specialized fits will be needed to tank the incoming damage and neut pressure, if possible. I have a marauder fit that is specialized for fighting defended structures, and can tank and DPS any M class structure (just barely surviving a maximally well-fit Astra). It is not really worth it.

I am not going to give the exact marauder fits, for one because structure defenses are among the areas CCP might be changing in the "Structures 2.0" release, and because they are highly situational. I have only used them on 3 occasions. Suffice to say, the marauder fits assume that the pilot of the structure has maximally and optimally fit their structure--using neuts, anti-sub cap missiles, and full ewar mids, and so on. To combat the neut pressure, I use high-grade implants and have a neutral alt bring in links and cap boosters. Of course, this is an extremely risky tactic. The marauder is/can be scrammed and webbed by the structure. If the owner brings in friends--alts or fellow corp mates or mercenaries--the marauder is likely dead. However, in cases where I am engaging a structure owned by a corporation with a single or very few members, it is "fun" to risk a ship that is likely worth two to three times the value of the structure being attacked. However, because of this isk disparity it is really not worth it. In general, if your goal is to destroy structures for isk or clean-up as a solo player, it is simply not worth targeting actively defended structures. The amount you have to risk is pointless when there are hundreds if not thousands of inactive structures across space.

This again goes to the highly binary and limited content involved in Upwell structure mechanics. If you bring enough logistics, the structure is essentially powerless to do anything and will not kill a single ship in its defense, let alone prevent its own death. If you lack sufficient logistics, your ships on grid will simply die one by one. This means that for large groups, killing structures is a tedious and boring grind (unless a defense fleet is formed to protect it, which is often rare), and has near zero risk, whereas for small groups who cannot meet the logistics requirements for risk-free PVP, it is a highly risky venture that is rarely worth it--yet another set of reasons why Upwell structures stifle content for groups both large and small.

If the structure is probably inactive or undefended, there are a number of ships I have used. The key is to maximize DPS per isk spent. It is theoretically possible to fit an officer fit polarized Vindicator that gets upwards of 2.8k DPS, but not isk efficient for the DPS gained. These are the following fits I have used that are highly isk-to-DPS efficient (and that I also have the max skills for):

Gank Catalyst - 600 DPS for 10m isk


If I want to speed things up and use a third account, I put a secondary gank character in a DPS Catalyst. 600 DPS for around 10m isk is hard to beat, even if it does require reloading every so often.

The Polarized Hecate - 1,050 DPS for less than 100m


The Polarcat is one of, if not the cheapest ship that can reach 1k DPS (especially since I still have a stack of Hecates left over from when they were 30m isk in Jita). In addition, it takes very little time to train relative to other high DPS ships. Switch to prop mode and get an instant 2 second align in case things get hairy.

The Polarized Talos - 1,900 DPS for around 200m


The price of polarized large blasters varies quite a bit, but the polar Talos can run as cheap as 200m isk total. Use some augmented hobgoblins and you can easily reach 1.9k DPS on a ship that is no big deal to lose. 

The Polarized Torp Rattlesnake - 2,200 DPS for less than 1b



An alt that has torpedo and drone skills can use a Rattle and reach well over 2k DPS. This is my secondary alt's main ship for inactive structure bashing. Augmented Ogres do almost 1k DPS by themselves, and don't have to be reloaded.

The Polarized Vindicator - 2,500 DPS for less than 1b


For the really max DPS for reasonable isk (sub-1b) work, I use a polarized Vindicator, at 2.5k DPS without bling.

This ship selection is by no means exhaustive or even truly optimized. It fits my character skills and my playstyle. For instance, all of these ships require reloading. I do not fully afk structure bash, as that is simply begging to die. All three alts combined (Polarcat + Rattle + Vindi) gives me over 5k DPS for less than 2b isk on the grid. 5k+ DPS just about reaches the damage cap of M structures which reinforces them in 20-30 minutes depending on the M structure. For L structures this puts the timers at around 60+ minutes for an Azbel and 90+ for a Fortizar. If I truly want to afk bash, I switch an alt to an afk VNI that does around 800 DPS for less than 100m isk, but this takes a few hours per M timer. However, you only need 500 DPS or so to pause the timers of M structures, compared to around 1.5k for L class.

Total time for each class of structure is difficult to truly calculate and varies based on what ship and alt combinations I use. For maximal time efficiency, not including travel time to the structure, Raitaru's can take as little as 1 hour total over the course of the week / 3 timers, while Fortizars can take theoretically as little as around 5 hours total. More realistically, I don't always use multiple alts, I am not always on top of reloading right away, and travel time adds 10-20 minutes on both ends. Destroying a Fortizar using all 3 accounts realistically is a 7-8 hour project over the course of a week of 3 timers. This is, yet again, a complete waste of time and reiterates just how terrible these mechanics are for the average EVE player who, in fact, has a life outside the game. Let's hope CCP changes these mechanics at a deep level, making inactive structures easier to destroy and making them more fun to use and attack/defend. Otherwise 2018 will see more Upwell structures in space than players in the game.

4 comments:

  1. Polarized stealth bombers and polarized pulse vni with ogres also works fine as of dps/isk/skillpoints.

    And yes, the citadel system do narrow a lot of pvp situations.

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  2. With the Dev Blog just released on Friday and the uproar on Reddit over GTFO modules...how has this changed your view thus far?

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