Fix the TechnetiumJeg Elsker
It seems every man, his dog, the bloke down the street and the few girls that play Eve have been blogging about the evils of the current Technetium bottleneck and the situation it has created. While I am not an expert and as my previous blogs have mentioned I am definitely not an industrialist, I have been following the Technetium story closely. Here are a few of my thoughts, observations, and opinions on what is unfolding, what we could do about it and why this is a very difficult area to get involved in.
Currently Technetium is required for all T2 production, but can only be gathered by moon mining in the North / North West of New Eden. Historically this has meant a near limitless income stream for those in control of these areas of the map and created alliances that had near limitless ISK to defend those mining operations. Most recently this has created OTEC (Organization of the Technetium Exporting Corporations), effectively causing any attacks on Technetium installations to turn the North blue and defend against any aggressors.
The long and short of this is that we are now in a situation where these moons are held by the OTEC cartel of alliances which is now in total control of technetium and, by proxy, T2 production. The massive cash flow the cartel members has at their disposal means that it is now affecting production of other minerals. The now permanent “Hulkageddon Infinity” is making the once relatively sedate and supposedly ‘safe’ job of mining much more dangerous, while at the same time creating more demand for the materials they are mining. Again, this is something we have covered in significant detail in the past so I won’t dwell on it here.
The problem is that the current way things are setup is ridiculously imbalanced. Once a reasonably organised entity such as OTEC, takes and holds the Technetium, they can, as is currently being demonstrated, create a situation that becomes increasingly impossible to counter. As the price of Technetium goes up T2 production costs spiral, events like Hulkageddon and Burn Jita become more profitable for them, other materials become more expensive and other alliances end up paying larger and larger margins back to the controlling organisation. None of these are factors that really affect the people producing the Technetium since their profit margins simply explode. The system is self-feeding while making a tidy little return to the organisers.
Take this graph (taken from eve-markets.com)
You can see the volume dropping off significantly as OTEC starts its control around the start of May (where that orange line suddenly drops to nothing). More recently you can see the volume drop even more significantly, presumably as the last of the stockpiles are depleted and OTEC gains total control. Its simple market economics – supply is restricted, prices rise. Demand goes up, prices rise. Both happen, prices explode. The current situation basically means that OTEC can really demand whatever they want for Technetium, and anyone wanting to build any T2 equipment has to pay the price.
Eve is a sandbox so why is this a problem? It really depends on how you want to look at this. On the one side you have OTEC and its members generating player events, not entirely altruistic, but content none the less. On the other hand, it seems to be creating a much more peaceful null sec.
So assuming you see this as a problem, and you definitely should since even the leaders of OTEC do, the question is, what can we do about it? There are a suite of different theories on this and I will try and cover the main ones.
Redistribute the moons
CCP could spread the technetium around so more areas have it. I suspect this is the simplest solution for all involved, since the only thing that changes is where Technetium exists. It is the simplest and it is one that I believe won’t improve null from where it is at the moment. By redistributing wealth around the alliances effectively, you would remove a lot of incentive to fight for space. There needs to be bottlenecks and there needs to be the ability for alliances to control resources, markets and production if they have the power to. I think the current system makes it too damned easy to produce and too damned hard to stem production for aggressors.
This is basically adding the ability to get to these moon minerals by mining some celestial body or other with some sort of mining ship. It adds risk to the equation, something that the current system definitely needs. Once you have the infrastructure in place to mine a moon, it becomes an ISK printing press, only requiring materials to be shipped back and forth from trading hubs. Insane profit, minimum risk. I like this idea, however I think it needs to be something that replaces the current system, rather than works alongside it. Why should the man in the mining barge be taking risks when the man running the POS is getting a near free ride in comparison?
Why not change T2 production so that other moons are required instead of Technetium? I am oversimplifying this because I am not personally interested in manufacturing, but as an example lets have it so shield modules perhaps use Technetium, armor maybe Caesium, guns Chromium and missile launchers Platinum. This would spread out demand around New Eden, but leave bottlenecks in place to keep wars rumbling. I’m still not a massive fan of the money for nothing nature of moon mining, but this would certainly level the playing field. I would also go so far as to regionalise each of the moon types in a similar manner to the way Ice or Technetium is already. This sort of regionalisation has a history of causing conflict in the real world and I am confident it would work as well in New Eden.
Deplete the moons, make it more involved
Instead of the infinite producers that they are at the moment, the system could be changed to something more akin to the bastardised system that is planetary interaction. Either have it so that the mining requires very regular maintenance to keep production high or lesser maintenance for a greatly lowered return. Unfortunately, I am not convinced this is any better than the current system. Having the mining arrays require much more regular maintenance would definitely be more work, but when you look at the income from a single bottleneck Technetium moon it is not something of a hardship to have an alt sitting in the POS shield logging in every few hours to tweak things. I think as an idea it’s not without merit, but I struggle to see how this would really fix the Technetium problem beyond making it a little more fiddly.
Deplete the moons and move the resources elsewhere
This idea was one I hadn’t considered, until I noticed it was posted on Eve News 24 here: http://www.evenews24.com/2012/06/15/poetic-discourse-fixing-technetium/
The basic concept is that as you mine a moon, over the course of time, the minerals permanently deplete. As this happens, they begin to start building up in another moon in another adjacent region. Poetic Stanziel suggests that this rotates around New Eden in a clockwise fashion, but that’s really irrelevant. The essence of the idea is that the “Technetium territory” would move around New Eden over time and create conflicts as the various alliances scramble for the new technetium moons. This concept would certainly help create conflict for the resources, however the imbalance would still be there. The underlying problem of Technetium being the single bottleneck would still be an issue and, more importantly, the risk/reward for actually mining a tech moon is still busted.
Or more clearly, the ability to turn other minerals into Technetium. Unless I am missing something I think this would be a pretty dumb road to go down. Introducing the ability to create Technetium from other minerals would fix a lot of issues, but it would also be of no greater benefit to Eve than moon redistribution. It may introduce more complications to the system and the Technetium may be more expensive to produce in this way but it would stifle the need for wars. In case any of you haven’t noticed, Eve is not exactly simple to start with and CCP seem determined to simplify things at the moment.
CCP nerfed anomalies and incursions because the offered far too much Isk with not enough risk. Moon mining is no riskier on a corp or alliance level. Something needs to be done to at the very least fix the Technetium bottleneck, but I also think something needs to be done to fix this risk/reward balance. I don’t have the answers and I don’t think there is a single one in all of this. CCP have some POS changes coming up and it may become more clear what the plans are to fix the Technetium problem when those changes are released.
Until then, Fly safe