Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The ISK Conundrum

There have been a couple of debates amongst the Everati on the subject of ISK. The suggestion being there is too much swilling about New Eden and this could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. Now, if there is one thing that differentiates Eve from any other game then it is the economy. ISK plays its part as the primary medium of exchange and defines the value of most things in Eve. It also has a secondary but no less important role (to some) as a measure of player performance. ISK earnt per hour, Kill/Loss ISK ratio are examples. Get on the wrong side of those measures and prepare to be publically humiliated, be it a dumb trade, a blingy ratter or an inadvisable cargo. 

I goes without saying therefore, but I will say it anyway, to play Eve you need to acquire ISK. To acquire ISK you need to do something ISK worthy. As we all know, ISK acquisition is relatively easy for a player and gets even easier over time. It is quite hard to be ISK poor despite what Jita Local might tell you. I don't have the figures, but what does seem to be apparent is that players aren't short of ISK. I have a few billion and I can afford most things but doubt I would be anywhere close to the top 25% in terms of wealth. 

But do I have too much ISK? Arguably yes. Most of my wealth is liquid with only a small percentage of it committed to trading orders and stock. This is hardly the best way to leverage the ISK I have. But then my income covers my current and planned outgoings. Anything I might lose has already been replaced as I have a certain amount redundancy built into the way I operate. I don't fly something expensive (for me) until I have already purchased a duplicate replacement. I tend to assume something is lost the moment I undock it. Even then, only a small percentage is wrapped up in the ships I fly. My Blockade Runners are the most expensive followed by the Astero at around 70 million ISK. Actually, I am more likely to fly an Interceptor (or Echelon) rather than an Astero these days at a cost of around 20 million. I could fly a Stratios because I have the skills and the cash. But it wouldn't add much more to my game apart from some Sister's of Eve bling. So I have more than enough ISK, and if things got tough I could easily ramp up the ISK making activities further to cover the shortfall. But is that bad for the game? Well on one level certainly not. I take more risks - building a POS and moving away from hiSec because I have a financial parachute should I need it. In the end however, these activities just make even more ISK. Not that I am complaining, all ISK is welcome, but I don't actually need it to have fun. 

So why might it be bad for the game? Well I have made a number of untested assumptions and generalisations. Consider the "ISK acquisition is easy" statement. Established players like ourselves are a self selecting sample of opinion. If we have played Eve for a couple of years then obviously we know how to make ISK. A different perspective might come from the players who haven't cracked the ISK making recipe. These are the ones who don't play Eve any more because Eve without ISK isn't fun. These are perhaps the players we made a killing out of in the market. Our ease at making ISK may well result of other players struggling to make there way.

Now I am not saying we should make Eve easier. I am just suggesting there is more to this than finding ways to bring the multiple Titan owning trillionare who refuses to log on down to size. If there is an issue with ISK, it is not the accumulation of it that is the problem. It is the failure to deploy it to any purpose once you have it. I think there are two aspects to this. Firstly, ISK as a performance measure drives behaviour. Winning the ISK war is seen as important for example. It doesn't matter that you can afford to lose something expensive but it does matter if you lose something more valuable than your enemy looses. The reputational damage caused by refusing a fight seems less than humiliation of losing  to a less expensive armed opponent. Weaponised boredom makes sense from that perspective.

The second aspect is there isn't much you can do with one's excess ISK capital. Hiring mercenaries, donating to a good cause or buying plex or skins are the obvious things that come to mind (have you seen the price of plex?), but it would be nice if there was something more tangible. Amarr war bonds to support the navy against the drifter menace for example. Maybe not. But where there is a problem there are always opportunities. Perhaps CCP are thinking up something as we speak. I hope so.


  1. A very good read and i agree with you. I only need the ISK I have to cover what I loss, and making ISK for someone of my vintage in the game, is rather simple. I log in to enjoy the game, by participating in its various activies, and don't measure my success by the growth of my wallet.

    1. Thank you. I enjoyed your post too. It has some resonances with my next one. This could get circular.

    2. That has been my crie de coeur for a decade now. On the one hand, I desire that aspects of the structure game be accessible to freshly minted players as part of their path to success, or at least to content. On the other hand, nothing drives conflict quite like plutocracy.

      There isn't nearly enough competition in the markets. If more production was enabled by structures, and only player corporations could field them, then the option to force others out by off market means could be quite viable.

      I very much like the idea of inventing meta from built items. Via structures would be even better. Opportunities for obtaining scarce invention consumables could be injected almost anywhere in the game, perhaps even with the aim of making individual constellations uniquely valuable for the commodities only they can provide.

      I like the idea of giving individual player fewer market slots, but allowing them to use them on a per citadel basis. If you really like buying and selling, you have to setup trade routes rather plowing even more capital into marginal product lines of oversaturated hubs.

      I'm weary of fighting random fleets, or hunting people for the particular ship they fly. I don't care to spy on their comms anymore. I just want to fight people who have an economic incentive to protect their interests, no matter what corner of New Eden plays host to us.


    3. @eritheía You raise some interesting points. I certainly think structures could be part of the answer. But not how they are currently envisaged (unless I missed something). My thinking is more around being a space gypsy or shanty-town inhabitant that operates despite sovereignty - not because of sovereignty. This would provide competition (and therefore content) of a sort with unofficial black markets for example but with the trade off that it would improve a system's index perhaps.