What's wrong with Top-down Income?

One of the biggest shifts in design philosophy we've seen at CCP in the last few years is the opposition to any and all forms of top-down income. We've seen multiple understandable but misguided attempts to snuff out rental programs, however more recently we've seen the removal of POS-based moon mining. Enough has been said on the folly of modern structure mechanics, I'm interested exclusively in the financial aspect of moon mining and the affect it has on local politics.

When I want to discuss big ideas I'll usually talk about the big picture. Anecdotal evidence is a pet peeve of mines, but I think in this case it makes for a good case study to look at what we've been up to in Adversity since leaving PL around the same time. For those unfamiliar with us beyond our reputation, Adversity is an intensely USTZ corp of around 20 active members with a strong focus on alts and force multipliers to stay competitive. Throughout the years members have used a variety of semi-independent ISK making methods and we've always promoted perhaps even relied on that independence at times, but it was always supported by consistent corp-level income. When times were good this meant things like super subsidies, ship caches and full SRP, when times were bad it still kept structures fueled and markets stocked.

As a corp exclusively interested in PVP our endless search is for groups of similar weight class to fight, usually this has meant larger but less experienced groups. Interesting fights are worth more to us than any moon or system but ultimately we do need some level of income to operate, certainly well above average on a per-member basis. In years past money moons would serve a dual purpose, firstly as a meaningful objective we could attack to force a response from the defender, secondly as a temporary income source for the time we owned it. Not long ago, a couple constellations of moons in Syndicate or any other low sec region could easily be 20-30B/month. Nothing crazy by today's standards, but more than enough to cover our operational costs.

Since leaving PL we've been deployed to the following arenas:

  • South Venal to harass Tribute/Vale out the gate
  • NPC Geminate to harass Geminate/Vale
  • North Venal to harass Tenal/Branch
  • Western Black Rise to attack Cloud Ring
  • Metroplis Low Sec to help our friends fight a small coalition of low sec groups
  • Back to Tenal with a greater focus on Branch this time
  • Kador Low Sec to attack locals

Those aren't rapid or forward deployments, that's "everyone pack up all your shit we're leaving" every 2-3 months for over a year. It requires a lot of work, but it's a lot fun, it's largely how we operated before PL, and I don't think anyone in the corp would have it any other way.

The problem lies in the economics of it. In years past, at least 3 of those deployments would have netted us some level of corp income. Not a lot, nothing egregious, but enough to cover staging costs and possibly some of our losses. Since the introduction of active moon mining we're left with no real options on that front. Most of our costs are covered by the corp's richer members essentially donating to the cause. On top of this, the very people who would be PVEing to create wealth to fund these activities are virtually always the ones doing most of the leg work to execute them, a complaint echo'd by FC's from nearly every alliance regardless of size. This forces something of an unreasonable time commitment on content creators.

I'm not worried about Adversity, we'll be fine. But I do often see things that could have been pulled off had we the resources, and I see how many other groups that used to operate in similar fashions who've been forced to take up permanent residence of an area and became a shadow of their former selves in the process.

To go back to the bigger picture, I understand what this decision was supposed to achieve. The idea was that CCP wanted to see more players in space generating conflict and loosen the grip of of the game's true political movers and shakers on resources, yet I feel an honest evaluation of the situation reveals exactly the opposite has occurred. Large and highly organised groups such as Goons and TEST have grown from strength to strength in this paradigm as their strong focus on group-supported ISK making has dramatically increased since the introduction of Rorquals. Meanwhile smaller groups such as TISHU, Snuffed Out, Black Legion, even most larger Faction Warfare groups have been forced to either broker deals with these larger groups to ensure safe farming/renter protection, or see their only institutional level income source disapear.

The NPC-level reponse to this argument would of course be that I need to "adapt". I've considered this extensively, I understand what that would entail and it's not a game I'm particularly interested in playing. Some might say this is a healther direction for the game. I could likely respect if not agree with this argument were it for my failure to see what this playstyle was replaced with. Active moon mining does not add a new playstyle. It's not even a new activity nor is it even a new twist on an existing one, it's the exact same scheduled mining operations that high sec and renter corporations have been doing for years, just within defensive range of a structure and with better yields. Not to mention the clear effect this has had on the T2 market with most hulls jumping 30-50% in price compared to what they were 18 months ago.

I think CCP need to take another look at this. Be it some kind of partial collection mechanic, paying NPC miners a cut, or whatever. I'm not really fussed, but there needs to some way that PVP focussed groups can operate without having to dramatically morph their playstyle to cater to players that would otherwise be their targets.