Thursday, 1 March 2012

Industry - Refine and Manufacture

Have you ever tried refining using a POS refinery? It's a pain in the arse. Have you ever used the refinery in a station belonging to an empire navy? 50% base refine rate. Have you ever used the refinery in a station belonging to a mining corporation? 30% base refine rate.

(part of my series on industry)

From Scarcity, Value

What happens when you have ubiquitous access to items or services? Have a look in the real world: which is more readily accessible, Macdonalds or The Oak Room? K-Mart or Gucci? The ubiquitous location is usually the one aiming to serve in volume, while the scarce resource tends to serve in quality or simply trades on its exclusive nature.

Now look at the world of EVE Online: a great many stations around the place, run by various NPC organisations, and think about the services that they provide. Some of those services have value: I'll pick on refineries in particular here.

A mission runner might collect a mountain of various bits and bobs while running missions — little things like weapon modules, ammunition — which at some point they might sell to the highest bidder, or reprocess into minerals from which to produce ammunition for more mission-running. For many mission runners, this is a "no-brainer" decision: they already have the minerals in their hangar, and the unrealised value of those minerals that could be realised by selling them to someone doesn't make up for the very real value of having more ammunition appear in the hangar without the mission-runner having to make a specific cargo hauling run to bring that ammunition to the station.

So for the mission runner, there's a very simple choice to make: the refinery is right there (refineries in hisec are like Macdonalds in real life: you'll find them just about everywhere). Sure, there are losses, but the losses are tiny compared to the effort of shipping the modules out to market and bringing ammunition home. The mission-runner's hip pocket nerve is finely attuned to the sound of ISK not flowing into their wallet when the mission-runner is logged in but running missions.

Now what if the refinery at the mission runner's home station was of lower quality, or simply wasn't there at all? Would the mission runner simply use the lower quality refinery and continue business as normal? Would they move their loot to the more efficient refinery and continue to manufacture their own ammunition? Would the effort of moving stuff to the efficient refinery be enough to push the mission-runner to buy their ammo from the market? Perhaps the mission-runner will contract the goods over to their industrial alt who has the appropriate skills and implants to make the reprocessing much more efficient.

What about manufacturers and miners? These people are already pretty clued-in when it comes to refineries. Many of the industrial types that I know will run missions for a particular NPC corporation in order to get access to tax-free refining and low sales tax for the market.  I'm sure the industrialists of EVE will cope with a little reshuffle.

Refineries: from Garbage, Value

As you head out to the far reaches of null sec, the stations become fewer and further between. Miners start having to rely on POSes to gather their ore for shipment via freighter to a refinery. There are refinery modules available for POSes, but they're crap. They take a long time to process stuff — the wiki says three hours, I've never used one to verify this BECAUSE NOONE USES THEM — and they can't do better than 75% efficiency. At that level of wastefulness and wait time, you're better off hauling your ore across the other side of the galaxy with a jump freighter (especially considering just how much ore you'll mine in that three hours). It just doesn't make sense. People living in wormhole space will use POS refineries as a last resort. More often than not they will stuff an Orca full of ore, ship that out to hisec, and ship back the complete manufactured item that they're after (for example, ammunition).

The presence of a refinery array at a POS in contemporary EVE is an indication of just how desperate the owners are to not travel some great distance to refine their ore or smelt modules.

What if POS refineries would take less time to process their contents? What if the refineries allowed skills and implants to boost the efficiency? At present the POS users I've spoken to just dismiss refineries out of hand because they are so badly implemented. Would remote mining teams make use of POS refineries that take a half hour instead of three hours, and are capable of giving an appropriately trained and implanted capsuleer 0% waste?

On that point, would it make sense to add refine times to NPC station refineries? What if your refining job had to go on a queue? Imagine if you had a few million veldspar to refine — this might take twenty to thirty minutes normally, but someone else happens to have a few tens of millions of units to refine. Your job will be queued until tomorrow morning, will you wait? Or will you ship that stuff out to a different location to be refined? Would you pay someone to take your load of stuff to that other station so you could refine it?

Should player outpost refineries be as good as, better or worse than upgraded POS refineries? To my mind, having POSes being the focus for industry is better. POSes provide targets for the "farms and fields" concept of null sec. Sure, you need a fleet of 30 or more battleships to take a large POS down in a timely manner, and you'll probably be facing a fleet of PL capitals if you bring any capitals of your own to the party. But that's the way null sec works.

Sadly, I have more questions than answers in this episode. But I do believe that improving the quality of POS refineries would make a change for the better to null sec industry.

Buy it! Use it! Click it! Click it! Click it! Click it! … Now upgrade it!

When it comes to manufacturing and other POS jobs, the complaint I hear most frequently is the RSI-inducing click-fest that is involved. As an example, if you are in a station and wish to submit research jobs to a POS in that system, you must select "This Solarsystem" every time, in order to pull up the list of labs available for this research job. I find this annoying.

How would you alter the manufacturing, research and invention UIs to make life easier?

I know for starters that I'd love to have "slots" that I can leave open like a palette or an empty  chocolate box, which I could then drag jobs into. So if I pull up the list of ME research slots available to me from wherever I am right now, I could just drag my BPOs into those slots, adjust the ME level that I want researched, click the button and have all those jobs submitted.

Same deal for manufacturing: pull up an assembly line, dump in the BP. The "chocolate tray" reconfigures itself to show the materials required for this manufacturing run: a big bucket for tritanium, a smaller bucket for pyerite, etc. Each bucket would be labelled (e.g.: with a ghosted icon of the actual thing I need to put in that bucket), with the "submit" button sending the job off to get built. It would be just like working on a Foxconn assembly line!

Heck, most of the time I'd be happy if I could simply show only and all the free ME labs at the POS I've chosen. Most of the time I end up clicking through all the labs just to find the first empty slot. I don't care which lab it's in, they all have the same duration modifier (which means the duration modifier is redundant).

Open up Science & Industry interface, tell it "I want to do some ME research". Then it could ask me for the BP I want researched. So there's my BP sitting in the tray. The UI then tells me "here are the facilities you can use to research this BP which have available labs" and I then get to make the meaningless choice of which facility (i.e.: NPC station, player outpost or POS that has at least one lab of the appropriate type free) I wish to use.

And why don't I get a notification of some kind when my jobs are finished? Not all manufacturers & researchers are OCD types who set alarms on their iPhones to remind them of in-game job completions.

Why can't I start jobs from my personal hangar and have them delivered back there?

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