Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Industrialist's Wartime Formula

The tl;dr for this article is in dark red below.

The measure of success in a war is whether a belligerent has achieved what they set out to achieve. Possible reasons for fighting war in EVE include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • To gain ISK and/or other tangible goods, through a surrender or ransom offer.
  • To gain ISK and/or other tangible goods from a client who is paying them to fight (mercenaries).
  • To gain territorial rights, e.g. sovereignty of a system in nullsec, or exclusive mining privileges in a certain highsec system.
  • To have fun blowing ships up in honorable combat.
  • To harvest the tears of noncombatants, most notably industrialists.

Consider the motives of suicide gankers as a group -- who are certainly fighting a large-scale war against industrialists in highsec, even if we of the latter group do not acknowledge this.

There is obviously no honorable combat involved in suicide ganking, nor are sovereignty or mineral rights at stake. Moreover, as with most forms of PvP, suicide ganking operates at a financial loss. CODE, for instance, has its own industrial wing to finance its ganking activities. CODE claims to be a for-profit enterprise, and its leader claims that any audit of its finances would indeed show a profit from "permits." These claims may be accepted or not; the fact remains that if James 315 and CODE were to disappear tomorrow, it would mitigate neither the extent of suicide ganking in highsec nor CCP's unwillingness to respond to it in any meaningful way.

The purpose of suicide ganking is to harvest tears. The more tears they harvest, the greater their measure of success.

Even if the gank victim makes no complaint about what has happened to him, the gankers create a response in their own minds by fitting the victim into an archetype, a thought process that, they believe, the victim is going through in his own mind, even if not saying out loud (e.g. "Hah! I'll bet the driver of that Mackinaw feels really butthurt right now!").

Thus, "taking it like a man" has no effect on the epidemic of suicide ganking. It may earn a modicum of respect from the ganker(s), but this is usually meaningless to the industrialist -- and, in my own opinion, would be a badge of dishonor if worn in public. (The same is true of the "mining permits" that some industrialists place in their bios.)

We industrialists did not ask for this war. We would rather not fight it. But in it we are, and fight it we must.

The disadvantage, however, is obvious: while on our industrialist characters, we are not combatants. If we were, we would be out blowing up ships, not building new ones!

It would be an amusing, and altogether appropriate, form of poetic justice if we industrialists as a class were to give up industry and take up combat. For without us, who would build the ships to fight with? Who would copy and invent the blueprints for those ships? Who would harvest the raw materials? The ganking class is a parasite upon the industry class -- and it is noteworthy that the reverse is not true, for the vast majority of manufactured ships in New Eden are surely used for non-ganking purposes.

Unfortunately, the great demand for ships, combined with the vast availability of raw materials, makes it highly unlikely that a sufficient number of industrialists can be induced to go on strike. The economic opportunities are simply too numerous, even when the epidemic of ganking is considered.

However, there is a way by which we might fight the war on our terms.

Consider a possible motivation for combat -- whether in the form of full-scale war or the occasional skirmish -- that we have not considered above:

  • To score points.

This is really a more generalized form of the previous motivation; in the mind of the ganker, tears are points. But there is another, more universal and certainly more objective, way of denominating points: ISK. 

Every time a ship destroys another ship, or is itself destroyed, a killmail is generated in the combat logs of everyone involved. These killmails include an ISK value of what was lost, which is calculated by adding the market value of all assets on the ship lost or destroyed. A high ISK value is more desirable; a Mackinaw is worth more "bragging rights" than a mere Venture, an Orca more than a Mackinaw, and a Charon, with its billion ISK price tag, is one of the most desirable targets of all.

Now consider a fact that most people don't: In the war between gankers and industrialists, CONCORD is on our side. They do not come to kill the industrialists; they come to kill the gankers, and that almost without fail. (The exceptions are when a state of declared war exists between ganker and industrialist, or when an industrialist is stupid enough to aggress a baiter.)

They are by no means the best ally; they are slow to arrive, predictable to a fault, and easily exploitable. But when they are on grid and have decided to kill you, you are dead. Moreover, this predictability and ability to exploit makes them essentially a part of the game environment -- and the game environment itself is as potent a weapon as any other in a game such as EVE.

The standard ganking ship is the Catalyst, a Gallente destroyer. The fitting for a ganking Catalyst is also fairly standardized; there are minor variations from pilot to pilot, but from studying recent killboard records, I calculate the average value of a professional-grade "Gankalyst" at 10.6 million ISK.

Now consider a few mining barge setups:

Retriever: Ice Harvester II x2, Civilian Shield Booster, Ice Harvester Upgrade II x2, Medium Processor Overclocking Unit I. A killmail for this barge.

The victim here lost 43.9 million ISK to a pair of Catalysts, which we can estimate to have a 21.2 million ISK combined value. A clear net loss for the industrialist -- at least when you look at the ships alone, a point we'll address presently.

But look at this guy's setup. Except for a Civilian Shield Booster, he made absolutely no concession to defense. He could not possibly have survived until his ally, CONCORD, showed up to destroy the gankers. Moreover, his gankers certainly knew that it would take only two Catalysts to defeat him -- indeed, they might have managed it with one.

Retriever: Ice Harvester I x2, Ice Harvester Upgrade I x3, Medium Core Defense Field Extender I x2. A killmail for this barge.

Still not a great setup, but what a difference a couple of rigs make -- the gankers felt that they needed four Catalysts to take him down. Or perhaps there were simply four pilots who wanted in on the tears. Either way, the gankers lost an estimated 42.4 million ISK, to the miner's 40.8 million. A small loss for the gankers; not really significant in the larger scheme, but not nothing.

Procurer: Ice Harvester II, Adaptive Invulnerability Field I x2, Medium Shield Extender I, Thermic Dissipation Field I, Ice Harvester Upgrade I, Damage Control I, Medium Ice Harvester Accelerator, Medium Core Defense Field Extender I x2.

This ship is flown by one of my alts -- one with few skill points, and most of those dedicated to increasing yield -- and I cannot show you a killmail for the ship, because it has never yet been ganked.

While ganking Skiffs and Procurers is not completely unknown, most gankers will happily pass them up for easier, more vulnerable targets. In a sense, therefore, my Procurer's net score against the gankers is infinite. But that won't wash; an infinite score points to a meaningless metric. So how can we fix that?

We fix it by considering that the Procurer has pulled in enough ice to pay for itself; any ISK it makes after that is a net profit.

Profit is the metric we seek. Recall the opening thesis of this article: The measure of success in a war is whether a belligerent has achieved what they set out to achieve.

Profit is our standard of victory. They measure tears; we measure ISK.

So here, in classical Fight Club format, is the Industrialist's Wartime Formula:

  • Take the total value of the profit your ship has pulled in over its lifetime, A.
  • Add the estimated market value of the ships that committed suicide in ganking you, B.
  • Subtract the total value of your own ship and all its components and cargo, including the estimated value of the working time you have lost before replacing the ship, C.
  • A + B - C = X
  • If X is greater than zero, you win, and the gankers lose.

By this metric, all of my mining ships have already won any gank that might be made on it, unless I either leave a stack of PLEX inside one of its cargo holds for some reason, or allow the gank to demoralize me to such an extent that I hide in the station for hours or days.

One might ask, since the formula is profit-oriented, is it proper to count the gankers' loss as profit? Ordinarily not, but remember that this is a wartime formula. Five catalysts which take down your ship is about 53 million ISK which the gankers cannot use to harvest any more tears, or for any other purpose at all. They have lost 53 million ISK of purchasing power. In an us-versus-them situation, that absolutely does matter.

Note that this formula exists only to measure an individual combatant's success or failure in the war. Measuring who is winning and losing the overall war -- which would involve a census of all industrialists and gankers in the game, their overall profit from other sources, and many other factors -- is an exercise I leave for the reader. (Yes, that's a joke.)

But that's how we fight the war.

* * * * * *

Please note that nothing in this article should be read as nullifying or mitigating any point that I make in my first article. Ganking is, and will always remain, bullying. Indeed, the war between bully and victim has existed for all of recorded history, and longer. It is unlikely that this more general war will ever be won or lost, barring a significant evolution of the species.

But I hope, in a future article, to suggest a solution whereby the war on gankers in EVE might be won, once and for all.