Monday, May 6, 2013

Wait, did we just get "Farms and Fields?"

TL;DR: Yes.

After reading the most recent re-balancing notes and devblogs, it's hard not to notice that a few points seem to have a strong correlation with one another. Specifically, the fact that battleship build costs are going up, moon goo income is going WAY down, and that rocks commonly found in large quantities in null are getting a SIGNIFICANT mineral increase. Let's connect the dots with a more finely-tipped pen.

For those not up to snuff on the serious business of nullsec, it is important to point out that battleships are the staple of any sov-holding nullsec alliance. Bashing around in a 100-man Drake or AHAC fleet is one thing; when things get real, the battleships hit the field. Rokhs, Panic-geddons, Sentry Domis, Fleet Tempests, Alpha-Maels and others have all seen and continue to see serious fleet use in sov warfare, with new doctrines being theorycrafted every day. Billions of ISK can be invested (or wasted, depending on your perspective) in a single fight's worth of SRP. And that doesn't look likely to change any time soon. Even after the ship re-balance and subsequent build cost adjustment the application won't change. It's just going to be much more expensive.

In the time of the Technetium dynasty, fielding (and whelping) ISK-intensive fleets has been only of passing concern to large blocs. Flotillas comprised entirely of Navy Geddons and Fleet Tempests in fact, have become de rigueur. Now that the golden goose is being sterilized, however, that's set to change. SRP programs are already being adjusted. Even Shadoo has been caught foreshadowing a more austere future for one of the most financially auspicious alliances in the game. Of course, he's probably talking about capital and super expenditures, but the point holds. Belts will be noticeably tighter around nullsec for a little while. If only nullsec industry were viable, there might be a way to salvage the situation and keep the big boys in their chromed-out BBs and 22" rims a little while longer.

But, soft! What light from yonder starbase window breaks? It is the arcing electricity that is compelling a drastic increase in nullsec starbase manufacturing capacity to life. It is the gleam of asteroids that are now teeming with everything an organized alliance needs to become self-sustaining, all while keeping the cost of fielding fleets down to a sustainable level.  And here is where we begin to see the silhouette of the farm and field rise up in the distance.

"Farms and fields" was a concept that was actually proposed years ago, but the reason it has yet to exist in nullsec to this point is actually twofold. The fields were generally not worth cultivating, and the farms didn't have the capacity to convert the harvest into enough marketable output to make the effort worthwhile in the first place. With one master stroke of the dev brush, both asteroid belts and stations will be receiving a massive boost to low-end ore content and manufacturing capacity respectively, effectively ending the highsec monopoly on nullsec production lines. Nullsec industry will gain the wherewithal to self-actualize.

Now granted, there is still a hurdle to overcome here. Barring shifts in supply and demand curves brought about by the new content, the changes to nullsec industry don't do anything to change the build cost of a ship. Minerals are still going to cost x, BPCs are still going to cost y, production runs are still going to equal z. And as long as you're paying for every last input required to produce a ship, you're right. Your costs aren't going to change. Null blocs are going to be in a different situation, and here's why.

Even with the best farms and fields, and I mean the very best; the most productive farms, and the infinite-yield fields, you're not getting anything out of them without farmers. And nullsec blocs are positively lousy with farmers. Farmers who will insist until they are blue in the face and their forum access has been revoked that no nullsec alliance can exist without a solid industrial core. Come Odyssey, they will finally get the chance to prove it.

But will they? 

Farmers are a funny breed. They won't so much as look at the Mackinaw in the hangar until they have calculated precisely the ISK/hour value of doing so, but they will man their barges for 12 hours a day for the sake of allegiance. They are people who won't sell you one unit of Tritanium under Jita prices on the open market, but who will open their silos to their alliances as easily as Ali Baba whispered "Open Sesame,"  all in the name of the Greater Good. Farmers gonna farm and a little appreciation from the host alliance is like fertilizer in the soil to your average nullsec indy pilot. The bloom is on.

Taking it all together, we see now on the horizon a field worth cultivating, a farm capable of managing and supporting its throughput, and motivation for the farmers to man the combines and get-to-reaping. "Farms and fields" has arrived and with it, a new age for nullsec. 

Through the strength of their subsidization programs, the null blocs will be carried to victory on the shoulders of the farmers. On the rising tide of nullsec industry, the sovereign fleet sails into the future.

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