As Dr.EyjoG has remarked in the past, one of the differences between the EVE economy and real-life economies is the inability for the participants - that's you lot - to work around inefficiencies with genuine product innovation. In a real-world economy, shortages and bottlenecks drive R&D teams to find new and better ways of doing things. If oil prices rise, people start looking harder for reliable alternative energy sources, and the higher prices go the harder people look.
Because we're not (yet) at the point where this can be done in EVE, we as developers have to step in occasionally and do the job instead. This happened in a big way two years ago when we added the invention mechanics - essentially an innovation that allowed you all to bypass the T2 production bottleneck imposed by the limited supply of BPOs.
Under invention, T2 BPOs still have significant value, but players who don't have the good fortune or good business acumen to own an original blueprint can still compete in the market, and this competition has increased availability and driven prices down.
However, there's rarely such a thing as a perfect supply chain, and in opening the floodgates at the manufacturing stage, we increased demand for raw materials, which also have limitations on maximum supply in a way which closely mirrors the original situation with T2 BPOs. With player numbers rising and increasing numbers of players reaching the skill levels needed to use more advanced T2 gear, the pressure on certain key raw materials has steadily increased.
In particular, two rare moon minerals - dysprosium and (to a lesser extent) promethium - are becoming ever-more expensive as increased demand puts pressure on a limited supply. This is likely to become an increasingly large issue as time goes on, with prices for these minerals continuing to rise due to demand, and the increased price being passed on to the consumer of the final product.
If you think this is sounding remarkably similar to the original situation with T2 BPOs, you're not alone! In order to head this problem off at the pass before it becomes critical, we're implementing some new mechanics with similar goals to invention - take the load off the limited resources while preserving a good chunk of their values - but this time with moon minerals rather than blueprints.
So how will this work? We've created six new reactions which allow you to create key intermediate materials without relying on the rarest moon minerals. This isn't, of course, an efficient process! Each rare mineral has been assigned a more common counterpart, which can be used in the place of the rare mineral in these new reactions at a ratio of 20:1, which roughly approximates the difference in moon count between the rare mineral and the common mineral in each case.
Let's take ferrofluid as an example. Currently it takes 100 hafnium and 100 dysprosium to make 200 ferrofluid. With the new reaction, you'll take 100 hafnium and 100 cadmium to make 1 unrefined ferrofluid, which can then be refined down to give 10 ferrofluid and 95 hafnium. The final ratios at the end of the process see you using 100 cadmium and 5 hafnium to create 10 ferrofluid, per cycle. The proportion of hafnium stays the same, but the amount of cadmium is 20 times the amount of dysprosium you'd normally use per unit, and it takes ten times longer to make 1000 units of ferrogel.
The four pairings are cadmium/dysprosium, vanadium/thulium, chromium/promethium and platinum/neodymium. The final output of each of the reactions will be ten units per cycle, and the common mineral always replaces the mineral at a 20:1 ratio.
This will allow the moon mineral market to take some of the strain off dysprosium and promethium moons in particular while also preserving their value. If oil prices stay low, the incentive to develop and deploy alternative energy sources diminishes. In the same way, market prices of the commoner materials and the cost of mining and reacting them will create dynamic minimum values for intermediate materials created through this process, which gives owners of rare moons the ability to undercut these values and maintain a hold on the market in situations where supply can keep up with demand. Where demand outstrips supply, these reactions will allow the market to try and adjust itself to cope.
We're hopeful that this change will fit in cleanly as the "other half" of the invention mechanic, and we will of course have the good doctor monitor the situation so we can react to changes down the road.