Calling out Sugar Kyle on booster contraband status

I struggle with writing anything coherent about things I don’t care about much, or have little stake in. However, there are a couple niche areas of the game that I value very highly. For the past year that now includes all things boosters (combat drugs, not the off grid kind). The harvesting, production and black market sales of these in game items, and the fact that a game has mechanics to allow for virtual “dealing” has increased my immersion and enjoyment of Eve Online. It’s a career path in Eve that is deceptively easy to get into, but has great depth once you progress through it. Backroom chats, covert mining, complex (unintuitive) lowsec production, PvE and diplomacy all play a role. It also makes use of the contract system beyond alliance pre-fit ships and firesales. Harvesting materials even gives a tangible reason for pilots to venture out into nullsec for something other than a sov grind (#contentcreation).

In my last post before letting this blog fade away, Fanfest had just occurred. I noticed in a lowsec roundtable recap that booster contraband status was mentioned as being something that should be changed, specifically removing contraband status outright. At the time a few corp mates and I approached Sugar Kyle to point out that there would be collateral damage if contraband status is removed and boosters are easily moved around. A dialogue was briefly opened and discussion occurred before fading away during the summer lull. Bigger things such as Aegis sov were still being hammered out.

As seen in this post it appears removing contraband status for boosters is still on Sugar Kyle’s to-do list. I’d like to publicly reopen the discussion on changing these mechanics and voice my opposition to the removal of contraband status.

I want to preemptively state that any readers thinking that I’m arguing from a position of self preservation and fighting change are absolutely correct. However, boosters aren’t exactly big business when factoring in overhead and removing contraband status would mean more sales and more money to current sellers. Anyone in booster production knows that selling product is the big bottleneck in the business. This post by Charlinda Akheteru, a newcomer to booster production, illustrates the struggles of finding customers for a new producer on the market.

While I’m arguing against removing contraband status, I do welcome a change of mechanics. Many ideas have been floated around in the past: the ability for players to act as customs agents, more complex AI on customs NPCs (addition of Drifter chasing AI), cargo bay scan strength mechanic to add fitting decisions for ships wanting to move contraband (and the removal of complete scan immunity on blockade runners), a more dynamic and complex fining mechanic that doesn’t pull from the regional market and allows the use of force to escape customs officers. Anything that’s a change to the system is preferable to gutting the contraband mechanic with no replacement.

The current system as it stands is not very sexy, but it does one thing correctly. It has spurred the creation of a black market of items that are often, but not exclusively, bought and sold through face to face interaction between buyers and sellers without the buffer of market orders in NPC stations. I simply cannot support the homogenization of boosters into the general market simply so players can buy and use them as easily as ammunition, no matter how lucrative it could make boosters.

The argument that the current mechanics are broken or unusable doesn’t hold water. There are whole corps that have made a living selling boosters black market style. The biggest crime of the mechanics is that they are opaque, vaguely defined and hard to understand. That pretty much explains the vast majority of Eve, and is something that can be changed without scrapping the mechanics.

Sugar Kyle is one of my favorite personalities within the community and has been a great CSM. I’m not thrilled to be so vehemently opposed to a cause that she has championed but I truly believe she is missing the mark here. The short term gain of ‘boosters for everyone!’ is negated by the dispersing of niche communities and markets that are healthy for the game. Communities that I have been a part of for a year and have vested interest in keeping healthy.

-Zenshift

PS- Any reader that has a comment about this please feel free to evemail the character Zenshift in game. If you’re interested in purchasing boosters, join Narcotics channel in game.

 

 

 

 

 

Se7en Months

Well, it has been a little over 7(!) months since I last made a post about Eve. I’m sure all one of my readers thought this blog had long since died. That one person would be correct. However, I’m a little bit like herpes… I keep coming back when you least expect it.

My absence from writing has not been due to quitting the game. I’ve continued to play Eve, mostly in a trading the most lazy way possible kind of style. Booster demand declined and then increased sharply in the last couple of months so I also did some dealing on the side. You won’t find doom and gloom posting about the decline of the login numbers here but the summer lull did feel stronger and lasted longer than in previous years. It’s a damn shame but I’ve seen the player count crest over 30k in recent weeks so perhaps that a sign things are bouncing back.

We’ve all had some time to digest Eve Vegas and the long awaited reveal of Citadels and the capital rebalance. The details were too thin for me to pop anything more than a nerd semi as I watched the VoDs but things do look promising. I find it funny that my dream of running a player owned market may one day be a reality. Also, 700bil for an XL bpo so save your pennies.

RvB closed, sort of. That’s a shame although I suspect it will be revived. Several have stated this is a further sign of the troubled times the Eve community finds itself in. I attribute it more to the existence of large scale null newbie training entities, consolidating NPSI communities and simply that the RvB concept had a shelf life that has expired. Either way, RIP… for now

My track record doesn’t show it but I enjoy writing about Eve. I’ll catch ya’ll soon.

-Zen

Loss and Legality

You’re sitting in your trusty Golem. Multiple scrams and webs from the pirate gang that has just landed are preventing you from making an escape. Backup is on the way but the shield boosts aren’t going to hold. Even faction fit, your tank is breaking. I know what you’re thinking; “why, oh why, didn’t I take the blue pill?” 

Combat Boosters – don’t get caught in space without them

I haven’t been particularly busy in EVE. Despite limited playtime, I’ve had a string of poor decisions and mistakes lead to significant (for me) losses in the past few days. I’ll chalk it up to being punch drunk from all the information hitting the players from Fanfest coverage. I’ll also say I was being stupid and EVE punishes stupidity. Harshly. And effectively.

The first loss was an easily preventable death to a lowsec chokepoint smartbomb camp. I was deep in lowsec with a trader and indy character and hopped into an unfit Venture to make my way back to highsec. The route was clear most of the way but as soon as I hit a chokepoint system I should have exercised more caution. It was Friday after all. Instead I ignored sanity and bumbled my way to the next gate. As soon as I saw the Rokhs on grid I knew that was it. About 5 seconds later my character was waking up in a fresh clone, minus a full HG Ascendancy set and handful of high end indy implants. About 3.5 billion ISK gone up in smoke, in one of the dumbest ways possible.

I took the loss in stride, linked the killmail in corp to chuckling and a few winces and moved on to my next bout of stupidity. This second loss is quite tame in comparison, only 1.4 million ISK. It occurred on a highsec gate in a 0.5 system. The last gate before I was safely in lowsec (weird thought I know) and I wouldn’t have to worry about being caught with my cargo of Strong Blue Pill Boosters. Relaxing too soon, I misclicked, looked away from the screen and gave the local customs official long enough to get a scan off. As the warning screen came up, prompting me to take the fine, I worried if this was going to completely ruin my courier contract. Thankfully the mechanics for fines pull from regional market data. There was no Strong Blue Pill on the market so the decision was easy; take a 1.4 million ISK fine and fly the last two jumps to finish the deal.

Obviously, being caught dead to rights like that, I should have had a much tougher decision on my hands. Either taking a massive fine or lose the Boosters the boosters and start the whole deal over, essentially giving away stock for free. The customs and contraband system in EVE is unfinished and clunky. Quite frankly it barely functions at all and it’s embarrassing to admit I got caught.

Since reading Sugar Kyle’s non-FW Lowsec Roundtable transcript (say that 5 times fast) and in light of this recent run in with the mechanic, I have been thinking about some of the statements made. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the proposal for removing the legality system and contraband status until something new is thought up. I’ve actually spoken to Sugar briefly on this subject in the past as it’s something she is wanting to take on as part of her platform for lowsec.

Unfortunately, I completely disagree with removing contraband status “just because” and leaving Boosters to be just like 100,000 other in-game items, hauled with freighters around highsec with no consequences. While it’s not a particularly interesting set of mechanics and feels unfinished, what the current system does right is promoting a niche black market, adding some variation to the game. It would be a shame to see that niche whitewashed and Boosters become yet another commodity seeded from Jita with jump freighters, alongside cruise missiles, drones and, occasionally, an exotic dancer or two.