Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The o\ Show Recap Part II: Clone Costs and Escape Pod... Escapes.

Welcome to part 2 of my blog coverage of last weekend's The o\ Show on Eve Radio. Yesterday I went over the first half of the show discussing Awoxing, wardecs and new Player Retention. Today we'll go over the second half covering clone costs, death penalties, and escape pod mechanics. If you would like to view the entire broadcast for yourself, it can be viewed on twitch HERE.

Now we come to the very thing that inspired The o\ Show, the removal of clone costs. Many people have looked at me askew over this. Why would I be in support of a "death tax"? People with a lot of skill points pay a LOT of money to replace a clone, and it deters older players in nullsec from flying cheap disposable ships that cost a fraction of their pods.

Live polling on the show revealed that, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of our audience was in favor of the removal of clone costs. Charlie, who is a member of Brave Newbies was especially vocal in his support of this change.

As my present main was created in January of 2005, I am keenly aware of these clone costs. Without my FW discount, a replacement clone for me costs around 45 million ISK, but as I fly in lowsec, this is not an issue, much as it isn't an issue for anyone in lowsec that flies around with over a billion ISK of implants in their heads. Even a single 3% implant costs more than the vast majority of pilot's clones that are flying around in space right now.

If the cost of a clone is not a big deal for people flying in lowsec, but is a huge deal for people in nullsec who are by and large hugely in favor of this change, what gives? The answer is likely to be found in the risks involved.

Using my lowsec alliance as an example, of our nearly 55,000 kills, 5,400 of those are escape pods, just a hair under 10%. We've also lost slightly over 18,000 ships, of which just over 2100 of those were escape pods, or around 12%. Just a cursory glance at numbers for large nullsec groups like Goonswarm Federation (29.6% of kills are pods, and 27.6% of losses) and Northern Coalition. (23.8% of kills, 30.9% of losses) reveals the start of the issue here. No one will be shocked to know that pilots are far more likely to lose a pod in nullsec than in Lowsec, but even these numbers are misleading.

Since a 50% ratio of pods killed vs ships would mean basically a 100% chance of pod death on ship destruction, a 30% ratio of pod losses should equate roughly to a 60% chance of losing a pod once your ship goes down. I will freely admit that the math might be a little more complicated than it seems at first glance though, and does not take into account that some losses these groups incur are in lowsec and highsec. With that in mind the actual % chance of pod death while in nullsec is likely much higher than these numbers can account for, I just don't have access to the data.

While the number for my lowsec alliance are a bit more accurate for our area of space (since we hardly ever have cause to leave it) another thing to consider is that people who fly more expensive pods in lowsec are far less likely to lose them than the 10% ratio would suggest. For myself, I lose approximately 1 pod for every 30 ships I lose. Flying with a billion ISK plugged into my head, you can imagine I've gotten quite adept at spamming the warp button once I realize a fight is lost. Sometimes my ship goes down too fast to react, lag happens, or Santo Trafficante (lowsec pirate specializing in escape pod destruction, nearly 60% of his 18,000 kills are pods) sees me warp off and is waiting for me when I land, but aside from that, I have a very good chance of getting my pod back home.

Interestingly, the same people attending the o\ Show that were hugely in support of getting rid of clone costs, also voted in a 2-1 ratio that Escape pods having such a low rate of survival in nullsec is a larger problem than clones costing money. Even Charlie, our most vocal supporter of the change was given pause when asked the same question.

Here's my problem with this change: Clone costs are being lauded as a dumb mechanic, a death tax that serves no purpose than to cost people money. People risk the ship, they lose that, and then they lose their pod as an added bonus. This change, it is said, will encourage more people to risk PVP in nullsec. The fact is that this change doesn't encourage risk, it removes it.

People that wouldn't risk a 30 million ISK pod before the change are not likely to risk taking out a HAC or T3 cruiser after the change any more than they were before it. They may "risk" flying in a t1 frigate or destroyer after the change.

For a 5 million SP pilot in Brave Newbies, losing a clone means a cost of 175 thousand isk, which to my veteran eyes seems awfully paltry. In fact, to exceed a clone cost of even 1 million ISK one must purchase a clone that holds over 25 million SP, and is still less than the cost of the fully T1 fit derptron we throw away by the dozen in lowsec.

For a guy like me with a main that's nearly 10 years old, nullsec would ABSOLUTELY be a pain in the ass. At 45 million ISK a pop, and better than 60% chance of losing it, pods start to add up. Putting that in perspective, and looking at the fact that clone costs are a non consideration in areas of space where escape is more likely, is the issue at hand the fact that clones cost money, or is it that losing your escape pod is nearly a guarantee in nullsec if you lose your ship?

People say that there are no interesting choices when it comes to clones. You must purchase one that will hold all of SP, and this is true. They don't really do much else except hold your implants. In lowsec we have a choice. When I lose my ship, I have to weigh out the cost of my clone versus the convenience of instant travel home via the pod express.

At 45 million ISK, I am very unlikely to prefer taking the pod express over making 10 or 15 jumps back to my home station. If given the choice of making the trip manually or taking it for free however, I'm much more likely to sit back, activate self destruct, and hope that someone comes along to pop me before the timer runs out to save even more time! As a lowsec PVPer, I really don't WANT my victim to sit still in their pod and type in local "Pod pls" just before the self destruct notification goes off. In nullsec there should be some incentive for self preservation as well.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that the present mechanic is not in need of improvement. It is in need of an overhaul. For one, loss of skill points AND money is definitely too harsh. While I've never lost SP because I forgot to upgrade my clone, I know i am in the minority there. Getting rid of the SP penalty is definitely a good idea. For another, something needs to be done to give "escape" pods a chance to actually escape in nullsec.

Bubble immunity is one idea on the table. I've heard the cries that this would make pods "impossible" to catch in nullsec. In lowsec we have no such tools to catch pods and yet we kill plenty. Some folks, like Santo Trafficante, have made careers out of catching and destroying large numbers of very expensive pods. This change alone would be far more likely to encourage people in nullsec to fly with much more expensive pods, than removing clone costs entirely will. Surely pod deaths will go down, but would ISK destroyed from pod deaths go down with it? For my fellow PVPers, would you rather nail 1 pod with a billion in implants plugged in it's head or 30 empties?

For those vehemently opposed to bubble immunity for pods, what about a decent base speed for them that would allow them to burn out of a bubble given a short time if no one in a small ship were there to pick them off? Changing base speed might also affect align time slightly, giving fast lockers more of a chance to catch pods.

These are just two options among many to help increase the chance of a pod escaping conflict in nullsec, and bringing a small choice back into space combat: Is the cost of death worth the convenience of instant travel back to base? Sometimes the negative consequences of an action ARE the incentive not to let it happen, and an instinct for self preservation isn't a bad thing.


  1. So from what you're saying, the problem isn't that the clones are becoming free, it's that clones are coupled with skillpoints AND location. If that coupling were removed such that there were perhaps no skillpoint loss, but a cost of ISK-per jump to home station when podded that would suit you? (since you're analogy breaks down if you are in your home system, as podding and warping to station take the same amount of time)

    1. What I'm trying to say, is that the 1st issue is that escape pods need a reasonable chance to escape destruction, even in nullsec. After that, yes, there needs to be SOME sort of penalty for losing your pod, even if it's empty, to encourage a little self preservation.

    2. For the first, there are a lot of possibilities, IF they are implemented. You could buy upgrades for a Pod with cost proportional to the abilities. For example (maybe implant slots 11-15?)
      bubble immunity (high cost)
      higher top speed (low cost)
      faster warp speed (mid cost)
      99% resistance to one damage type (mid cost, non-stackable, useful for avoiding smartbombs)

      For the second, I'm not sure I agree with you. As you mentioned when you likened death taxes in other games, it is generally repairing armor, which in this case would be buying new implants. Why have a cost associated with a pod that doesn't give you any abilities? As your polls said, most people fly with implants to boost their abilities. If some are willing to have no implant-boosted abilities, why should they have a penalty? Like other games, if you decide to not equip armor, dying doesn't cost anything (though you die fast if you don't, just like not having good implants). The only point I can see here is that you don't like the free teleport back, which I understand but I don't see an easy way to fix that (currently), especially with the jump nerfs necessitating deathclone jumping removal.

  2. It would cut down on lag to have no pods at all. If anything, I think ejecting should be an option pilots take before their ship destructs.. especially T3 pilots.

  3. For a very short period of time I lived in NPC Stain which was a huge pain because the statin we were in didn't have medical facilities. This meant that updating the clone had to be done in a hostile station.

    When risking a pod I never looked at clone costs since implant costs was what made a pod expensive. Only when facing selfdestruct versus piloting was clone cost ever an issue in deciding.

    The only thing I was worried about is the fact that this removes 4% of the isk sink from the game, but if CCP is not worried about this I centrainly don't have to either.

  4. A knock-on effect of fewer pod kills would be that implant costs would likely go down (less demand to replace implants and a static supply) ... I like the bubble-immunity also, because bubbles are (generally) not used in high-sec.

  5. As a nul sec guy I would venture that idea where you spam the warp button is great, but 99% of the time, when a nul sec player losses a ship, they're in a bubble, kinda hard to warp, and lots more time to lock and kill for the adversary.

  6. Also take into account that in w-space if your pod gets out of the fight chances are that you will need to selfdestruct because there is no scanner left to get you out... .

    1. Seconding the fact that getting Podded in W-space is likely, and a deterrent to pvp, especially with a HIC on the field and a fight at 0 on a WH.

      Scanning, etc. Yeah, that can happen - but I've been podded more in home system defense than anywhere else. So, I'd say HIC bubbles are a major factor there.