So yesterday CCP Ytterbium put up a Reddit post in order to get feedback about some of the administrative mechanics of Citadels that included some proposed changes to the taxes and broker fees charged at both Citadels and NPC stations and it looks like I’ve been triggered again. I wrote at least a half dozen of the more than 1,100 comments on the thread, and I do believe that for the second time in my Eve career I threatened to quit Eve. For the intervening 19 hours I have been thinking about the proposed taxes change as well as read comments on both the Eve Forums feedback post as well as the Reddit thread, and it occurs to me that I actually needed to write a blog post to approach the matter with a level head. It seems to me that many of the comments on the Eve Forums post are too uncritical, and many of the comments on the Reddit thread seemed to be missing the true impact of the changes, including my own. Here I’d like to provide a more reasoned analysis and explanation.
So starting with some observations, parameters of analysis if you will, we can start with the fact that the Eve player base is a bit myopic in thinking and reacting to change. We can see from Fozziesov that what was from a reasonable standpoint a proper introduction of a significant mechanic, starting with meeting requests, the introduction proper, and the relatively slow and graduated tweaking of the mechanic until hit hits its intended mark, ended up stealing a lot of its thunder in terms of positive reception by the players, who ended up being a bit staid in their ways and critical of the change. The mechanic actually did good, but it isn’t necessarily remembered as such in the community’s collective memory. In my posts I usually blame the older players for these kinds of reactions. As a three year player, I am certainly no newbro, but normally don’t see myself as having the same outlook as many 10-year bittervets. However, as a player who is heavily invested in trade and the markets, I have to examine myself to ensure that I am not just resisting change for the sake of it because I am set in my ways.
The next observation pertains to the volume of activity and Eve experience that this change will affect. What I am trying to get at is, if you flip a coin four times, the change that it will come up heads all four times is not great, but certainly possible. However, if you flip it 10,000 times, you can be pretty sure that somewhere around 5,000 times it will be heads and 5,000 times it will be tails. With a change like this, where thousands of players will be affected, the change will have to be extremely intense to get the entire Eve community to shift to Citadels vs. NPC stations. Given that there will be innumerable unknowns in this operation that affects the entirety of Eve, it is extremely doubtful that a simple change will outright kill NPC stations or force all traders into Citadels unless the change is extremely pronounced, specifically designed force an activity. Further, as the comments in other threads have pointed out, making a prediction such as “Mittens will own the new Jita” are actually very hard to make, as we just don’t know whether Goon hatred will prevent such an effort or if Goon might will be able to ensure its occurrence. The same can be said for any speculated player activity pertaining to the base function of the Eve market. Saying such a thing is definitely in the realm of the guys in tinfoil hats. Would Chribba actually be able to pull off being the new Jita Meister? We really don’t know.
A subsequent observation is that the proposed changes are conceptually centered around the economic viability of the Citadels. While I do see ensuring competitiveness is a good reason to make them, they do need to be recognized as having further impact. Concerning the taxes, they should also be recognized in terms of their general improvement or damage to the Eve experience. Do they create meaningful choice and add dynamics to the economic landscape? Or do they damage it, but in an acceptable way in order to facilitate the use of Citadels? Or are they just bad news? Here I’d like to propose that a change to the tax system (including the broker fees) actually has a lot of potential to provide meaningful choice for economically minded players, which I will discuss below. And many of us are aware that much discussion has taken place in the past concerning the lament that in the minds of many players, Jita is really the only place to do business. Crius successfully dealt with the sad phenomenon of most of Eve industry taking place a few jumps from Jita. Others have wanted to liven up ancillary hub activity, while overall we recognize that Jita provides a necessary picture of base prices where Eve’s innate system of regional averages doesn’t quite do the trick. Because of this, Jita lives. However, can a solution be found that increases economic variety and opportunity? I think changes to the tax system can indeed create opportunity for savvy economists without killing Jita’s benefits outright. This issue goes far beyond giving Citadel owners a bit of revenue. We might just be on to something good.
So to start with, for those who don’t know, the current system involves market transactions including a base sales tax of 1.5% and base broker fees of 1.0% when the market is used. This is reduced to 0.75% sales tax and 0.75% broker fees with Accounting 5 and Broker Relations 5. This is then reduced to 0.75% sales tax and 0.185% broker fees with 10 standing with the NPC station’s faction and corporation. Standings modify the broker fees but not the sales tax. Getting perfect standings is a horrific grind. Many traders get insanely high corporation standings for a station, but near perfect faction standings are extremely rare. Traders who don’t bother with the grind can still be quite competitive. It’s actually something of a luxury for the most advanced of players to enjoy a tiny perk for undertaking getting standings that senior players often decide to do just because they have reached their zenith and just want to keep progressing out of general boredom.
Moving from ground rules and basic information to my own intention and preference, I would like to see robust use of Citadels in highsec for economic purposes, but I myself personally want to continue to use stations and be able to compete. Therefore I am willing to complete an agonizing grind in order to protect my play style. I personally don’t want my money going to some N+1 player or group that is going to use my money to blow me up. However, I would like to see Jita take a hit and more player owned hubs appear in space, with players having more choices and options for money-making and more highsec content generated with people popping Citadels to gain economic advantage. Highsec wars will be taking a hit with the new watchlist changes. However, the wars that will be taking a hit will be the low quality, low effort wars centered around random deccing just to get kills off of AFK Retrievers. Wars centered around identifiable political goals in highsec are a beautiful thing and great content. However, such goals are quite rare, essentially being limited to POCO control in a general sense. Controlling industrial production to affect system cost indexes are another use of wars, but such play is extremely advanced and quite rare. Without moon mining, wars over POSes are often simply limited to getting a juicy kill mail off a fat POS. So having wars over lucrative Citadels does seems like a phenomenal content generator for highsec. I personally love the idea. However, as mentioned, my own personal hang ups cause me to view this content as something I want to steer clear of. I want to keep working out of NPC stations. I do think, however, keeping NPC stations viable for those who are willing to undertake a grind is a good option. I think making NPC stations significantly preferable to Citadels for those rare players willing to undergo an utterly sickening grind like actually getting 9.9 faction standings on a trader toon is a doable option. The operative term here is ‘significantly preferable’. Nobody should be forced into such an undertaking simply to compete.
Having said all above, this post is really about broker fees. It seems pretty clear from reading everyone’s comments that the Citadels not having office limitations is great, and the proposed reprocessing mechanic is perfectly fine. Increasing the cost of using jump clones is also fine, but 5 million per jump is pretty steep. There, we might look at a higher cost of creating jump clones but a lower cost of using jump clones. This mechanic can be pondered and tweaked without much ado. Likewise, sales taxes are currently 1.5% modifiable to 0.75% and they are proposed to move to 2.5% modifiable to 1.25% with skills. So prices in Eve will increase by 0.5% and one of Eve’s ISK sinks will increase by a tiny amount, a good thing, and Citadel owners will get some income stream. This seems fine to me as well. The real issue is the large proposed broker fee at the NPC stations, which makes Citadel vs. Citadel vs. NPC station a real dynamic that can have significant changes to how economists and traders do business. Believe it or not, despite my rant on the Reddit, I like this opportunity to shake things up. But where is the sweet spot? We really should not concentrate here on ensuring expected income generation for Citadels. We should be concentrating on Citadel owners having enough room to provide variety of benefit to users from other Citadel owners in order to stimulate highsec content and ensuring a proper balance between Citadels and stations in order to preserve player choice of play style.
Let’s say that they put a 5% broker fee on the NPC stations. This would mean that just getting Broker Relations 5 would have you paying 4.75%. That’s a lot. If you get corp standings to 5, a fairly easy grind, they’ll be 3.89%. That’s still quite a lot. If you get corporation standings to 10, a very painful grind, you’ll still be paying 3.18%. If you add faction standings to 5, an incredible grind for a trader, you’ll be looking at 1.93%. Now we are starting to see some reduction, but MAN that will be a grind. If you take your faction standing up to 10, and I don’t know if anyone in Eve has ever done this, you’re looking at 1.17%. That’s certainly in competition range, but that grind would make the annals of history. Remember Broadcast for Reps? We don’t want Eve players contemplating suicide to compete. It seems to me like 1.2% to compete would be something reasonable. Remember, being able to compete should not require the grind of all grinds. Accomplishing such a feat should result in a significant advantage of an NPC station. Citadel owners will already be getting some nice income from increased sales taxes, reprocessing, office fees. These other variables also provide Citadel owners opportunities to compete with each other by providing diverse benefits. Some will provide offices for free. Others will provide varied reprocessing benefits. Giving Citadel owners less room for competition via offering different broker fees will still allow for their competition and provide an opportunity for nut job players like me to choose NPC stations. If we do still want to allow the broker fee amount to affect Citadel vs. Citadel competition, though, we do have the opportunity to adjust the Broker Relations skill bonus in order to lessen the impact of the standings grind. Further, this can be an opportunity to make the grind more realistic. Nobody will contemplate getting faction standings to 10 for a trader. However, many will contemplate getting corporation standings to 10. This will also provide opportunities for traders to specialize for various hubs. So changing the ratio of benefit between faction and corporation standings is also an option.
From here there is nothing left to do but tweak. The developers and Eve community are welcome to tweak to their hearts delight and offer all kinds of suggestions. Rather than turn this post into a book doing all my thinking here in typing, I’ll just offer my suggestion based on the following principles. Concerning the issue of skills vs. standings, skills are a sensitive issue. When invention changes were going through, I pointed out that it’s silly that there’s basically no reason to get science skills to 5 because the 1/2% invention change and trivial time reductions simply aren’t worth it. CCP came back with a comment about pressure for max skills. In that context, they were certainly right. If a situation were created requiring max science skills for competitiveness, Eve would have been done a great disservice. As it stands, for a trader, Broker Relations and Accounting are considered like PG and CPU Management. You just have to have them to even begin, really. For better or for worse, that’s just the way it is. They aren’t short trains like PG and CPU Management either. However, it’s just two skills, and the players seem fine with it. I actually see increasing the significance of Broker Relations 5 as acceptable. Since faction standings for traders is really a horrific ordeal that results in dual mission runner/traders, I actually propose reducing the significance of faction standings in the broker fee formula, making corporation standings more of a factor. So with these principles in mind, I would like to suggest that base broker fee for an NPC station be 4% and the bonus for Broker Relations be upped to 10% per skill level, overall reducing the competition between NPC stations and reversing the role of faction and corporation standings so that their role in determining broker fees is expressed as e^((0.04*faction standing)+(0.1*corporation standing)). This would mean that a trader with no faction standing and 5 corporation standing would pay a 2.12% broker fee. A slight grind necessary to compete with Citadels from an NPC station. With a significant grind and 10 corporation standings, a trader specialized for a specific station would pay 1.29% in broker fees. A Citadel owner would have to all but give up charging anything for broker fees to have an edge and this trader would not have to worry about having his rates changed on him or getting evicted. That to me, is a significant advantage for an NPC station trader that would come at quite a grind. Jita will live on, but players will have options.
So there’s my analysis. I’ve popped my mood stabilizers and am no longer triggered. In the end, I actually like the broker fee issue as a content creator for highsec and additional variety for the highsec economic landscape. I’m not gonna rage quit, so you can’t haz my stuff. I’m not satisfied with the initial proposal in Ytterbium’s post, but I’ve offered some constructive feedback. I hope this helps the player community get a grasp on what is going on here.