Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On supercapital inflation

A post over at wotlankor got me thinking about supercap inflation. It's something everyone has noticed over the last few couple years but not an issue I have a particular position on. For one thing, I want a titan; for another, the NC has the largest capital fleet in the game so it doesn't affect me.

Supercapital inflation refers to the increasing prevalance of supercapitals in our internet spaceship game. Back in the day, major wars were started over the rumor that somebody was building a titan. Today it's not uncommon to see dozens of supercapitals on one grid.

So what caused this? Moon gold production hasn't changed. Mineral and T1 ship prices have been dead stable since the post-apocrypha deflation period. My theory is that while the amount of isk items cost has remained steady the actual value of isk has declined as the money supply increased. Isk floods into the game from rat bounties and mission rewards while it never leaves the economy in meaningful amounts. We can find evidence for this by going back 5 years to the famous GHSC heist, at which time 30 billion isk was valued at $16,500. Today 30 billion is worth almost exactly $1,650 and is chump change to any major alliance. My suspicion is that with the money supply increasing but mineral prices remaining stable, it becomes trivial for high earners - moon gold empires, T2 blueprint owners, savvy traders, manufacturers, even high-rolling carebears like myself - to accrue enough money for supercapitals.

Assuming that we want to fix supercapital inflation, one option would be to stabilize the amount of isk in the game. New, must-have NPC commodities could remove isk from the economy but would be against the eve philosophy of a player-run economy. Removal of rat bounties would stop isk from entering the game, but since most players depend on this for income the economy would collapse overnight.

Another option would be to change the price of supercapitals. A one-time increase in build cost would have the same problems as the current system, but - assuming I'm on the right track - if build cost became a dynamic value based on the current isk supply divided by the isk supply when the first titans were built, supercapital construction could be made permanently challenging even for large alliances.

It's a ridiculous idea of course; most likely supers will just become so common that people stop caring, like happened with capitals. But it would work to stop supercap inflation. It could even be applied to normal capitals, taking us back to a time when a few dozen capitals would be an important strategic resource.


  1. A minor note.

    It doesn't matter how much ISK one must trade for a SuperCarrier: If it takes the same amount of effort to build one you'll get the same number built even if you reduce the amount of ISK in the economy (all other things being equal). The price tag is just going to be lower if you reduce the ISK supply.

    The important change is not how much ISK flows into the economy, but the ease with which resources are gathered and turned into products. "Back in the day" we didn't have mining barges or Level 4 missions or drone space (things that produce minerals) or jump freighters or titan bridges (things that make Supercap production easier).

  2. Hm.


    You're completely right. My pet theory was that an increasing money supply allowed certain people to accrue disproportionate amounts of wealth (as one such person, I still think this is a factor) but increased productivity would be a more direct (thus, superior) explanation. For mineral prices to remain stable or decrease during what must be a period of inflation there has to be an increase in supply, but as somebody who started playing in late 2007, with rorquals and exhumers already in game, I didn't connect these directly.

    This also presents another way to solve the problem: Kill all the miners.

  3. Isn't inflation reported in the eve quarterly economic report? If I remember correctly, inflation is pretty low in eve and CCP have kept it in check.

    For inflation to be present things have to cost more, which isn't really the case for nearly anything. Supers have increased in price a bit but that's because of the incredible demand right now.

  4. Inflation in the QEN is measured by the price of items. However, if you compare isk to, say, dollars, we find that one dollar buys 10 times more isk now than it did 5 years ago. This can be explained by an increase in mineral supply, as described by Lake; other things being equal-ish, if the amount of minerals produced increases by a factor of 10 in the same period that the game experiences 10 fold inflation, mineral prices will remain constant.

  5. Re: Anonymous

    Dr. E' is out of his gourd with his perception of inflation. He's far too tied to strict real world definitions and offers little insight into what's really going on in EVE's economy.

    If he simply flipped around and looked at wages instead of valuing a basket of items he'd have a far more useful metric to discuss. Instead of just arguing about the definition of "inflation".

    That is, how much ISK/hr earning potential does the average pilot have? This number has certainly changed dramatically over the years (as you noted in the original post). I care little that the price tag on the Punisher has remained unchanged if I can earn many tens of times more ISK in the same amount of time and everyone's flying a Nyx.

  6. (I'm 'Anonymous' btw, I didn't notice the non-anonymous posting option before)

    From wikipedia on inflation:

    "inflation is an erosion in the purchasing power of money".

    Therefore, Eve is not experiencing inflation, but in fact deflation.

    Rising 'wages' i.e. increased income from ratting/missioning, which are the only actual source of money in the game, would actually be equivalent to a rising 'standard of living' (lol?)

    So purely in economic terms, Eve is experiencing deflation, but a drastic rise in GDP in real terms, and probably a rising per capita GDP and certainly an increasing median GDP, due to moon nerfs and other 'redistribution of wealth' stuff so essentially I think more people have more money and the richest have less money.

    However, that's not what the actual blog was talking about, he was talking about 'supercapital inflation'. A weird term if you think about it, since a supercap essentially has a fixed 'combat' value (ignoring the buff that essentially deflated it i.e. increase its value?)

    At the end of the day though, since the 'standard of living' in Eve has increased, everyone has supercaps. I tend to think an increased 'standard of living' is a good thing, but I think it's a bad thing that supercaps essentially have a gazillion HP and do a zillion dps, and now that more people have them it's kind of wrecking the game for everyone who doesn't have a supercap.

    I wonder, though, if we will approach equilibrium when there aren't enough accounts available to garage the supercaps and people get bored, or maybe camping CSMAs becomes too easy, or something along those lines. I think it's unlikely.

    TL;DR - I think titans are in a good place right now, but supercarriers need a nerf.