Header Art by Cryo Huren
With the recent changes and the uproar from them, it is clear many players are questioning CCP’s ability to make healthy changes to the game. In this article, we are going to go through a couple of CCP’s recent flubs of game design, and why they were flubs. First, lets discuss how CCP changes player behavior by game design.
What is, is. What ought, is often not.
EVE Online PvP is highly competitive. This is especially the case in areas such as nullsec and lowsec where organizations attempt to control territory, where mistakes, such as the second M2-XFE battle, can cost many trillions of ISK worth of damages. So, organizations must constantly remain competitive to survive and thrive.
One of the complaints during the ‘Era of Abundance’ was that the major organizations wouldn’t invade each other. Many blamed the leaders of the organizations and the people within them for the stagnation of content. Rather than going grr Mittani, grr Gobbins, grr Vily, let’s ask why.
The Era of Abundance’s endgame consisted of Rorquals and supercarriers protected beneath a protected ‘supercapital umbrella’. Without this umbrella, it was suicide to attempt Rorqual mining or Super Capital ratting. Considering that splitting your forces is generally a terrible idea, this ‘endgame’ removed the option of deploying for content and optimal krabbing at the same time. At the time, no other forms of income compared (even remotely) to supercarrier ratting and Rorqual mining, and if you wanted to keep a leg up on your rivals, you krabbed super hard. Due to the nature of supercapital umbrellas, to invade one’s adversaries one had to suspend nearly all income generation.
To put this into perspective, in February 2019 Delve produced approximately 22 trillion ISK in mining and ratting. A few months later, the Imperium invaded the region of Tribute and burned 4.2 trillion isk to the ground. This came at the cost of income; during that war, Delve made a measly 1.7 trillion ISK during the campaign. For the opportunity cost of approximately 20.3 trillion ISK, the Imperium set out to destroy 4 trillion ISK of PanFam’s structures. This represents a great financial disincentive for invasion. For anyone wishing for a lively nullsec, this is terrible game design.
A Core Mechanic of Game Design: Incentives
Now, I must give CCP credit here. They have realized this, at least to some extent, and are currently in the process of shifting the krabbing meta heavily towards subcap ratting and mining. After a considerable amount of buffs to the income, they are also keeping the whale hunting playstyle to some extent with the new CRAB sites. So, kudos to them!
There are currently two mechanics that worry me greatly now. They are Bounty Risk Modifier (BRM), and the new waste/residue mechanic. Both have shown me that CCP are looking at the problems from bad perspectives, and I am not the only one worried about them. But the core reason I am worried is because both mechanics punish the player for playing the game. I will discuss waste in my next article, so stay tuned, but let us start with a tragedy.
Have You Heard of the Tragedy of BRM?
The fact that BRM can go way below 100% is punishing people that want to have a home in nullsec, and it is bad for the game. Instead of nerfing the base bounty for ships, CCP decided to punish people for having a home. Take for example Karmafleet, who typically live in 39P-1J. It is where many of them log in, undock, see their friends, and spend time. They work together to protect each other. This is the friendship machine at work in a Massive Multiplayer Online game. Karmafleet is not the only one that does this. In my experience, smaller groups will often try to stay together in a system or a pocket too. This is a great thing, and the fact that CCP is actively punishing it – well, it’s beyond stupid.
But it gets people to spread out!
This is true, but ever so slightly. The truth is that the birds won’t go too far from the nest unless they have a good reason. At a certain point, most people I talk or listen to make a switch, moving to other income sources to bypass this mechanic. I personally switched to tech 2 production, importing, and running abyssals in highsec for my pew-pew kicks.
So, since there are alternative sources of income, the best solution for CCP to make this system work is to incentivize people into moving, as opposed to punishing them for standing still. But the problem is, CCP appear to be looking from the perspective of punishing people for not spreading out or living in safe space, as opposed to incentivizing them to move. Now, CCP can call the players whiney all they like, but the reality is that people are not moving (unless they are evicted) much, because the incentive just isn’t there.
The Cycle of Decay
The absolute biggest issue with BRM is that it is self-defeating. By punishing people for ratting too much in the system, fewer and fewer people rat in the system. This makes it even more difficult for the BRM to recover as ships are not being destroyed and it will very slowly recover on its own if no one rats. This rate is only a couple percent a day. So if a system falls to 50%, it will take a very long time of no ratting for it to be a viable source of income.
This also affects the Encounter Surveillance System mechanics, because there will be not only no ships for hostiles to potentially kill, but also no bank to rob either. When the bottom percentage is really low and the recovery rate is really slow, CCP have sadly killed two birds with one stone.
I live in the western United States and one of the big things out here is pioneers. Much like the pilgrims, they sought a new home to call theirs. We can see some examples of this in EVE Online, with recently evicted refugees such as Brave Collectiv trying to carve out a life in Pure Blind. But what doesn’t exist is a monetary incentive. In many cases, the whispers of gold were enough for many people to uproot and take their wagons west.
There is a playstyle in this game that desperately needs some love. They are the pioneers. Examples of these are like the folks who moved into Tribute after the Imperium burned it to the ground. New groups looking to grow roots in underutilized space. The people who brave the wild west of nullsec to rat and mine. This playstyle is dangerous and currently not that rewarding. But with BRM, CCP have the tools to change that.
Now, ask yourself, my dear reader. What percentage would you be willing to take, in order to give up the safety of home and brave the frontiers? What percentage would drive you to leave the borders of your empire? Everyone has their price. For me, and I imagine most people, the more difficult it is to get, the higher the modifier would need to be. It is for this reason that CCP needs to either make the cap on BRM incredibly high or remove it all together.
If CCP were to remove the cap or greatly increase it, each system would eventually reach the value threshold for people are to move to that system. And if the value gets really high, it might convince large entities to uproot and move as well, at the very least temporarily. Since it is dangerous to move, more ships will die as a result. Granted, not at a pace that would outstrip the income, because most people are not stupid, but there is another risk and another reward.
*ominous music plays* INFLATION
No worries here, as CCP have the tools to prevent this within the BRM. CCP can change the rate at which BRM increases, and the amount gained from people losing their ships. The dials already exist: all CCP need to do is find the right setting. CCP also have the power to lower the base bounty of ships if it really is too much of an issue, and add a cap when they get a better feel for it.
Where are we?
CCP have really messed up and really missed an opportunity with BRM. While CCP are shifting towards a healthier subcap krabbing meta, there are still huge fundamental issues in nullsec. CCP need to address all of this to create a healthy nullsec where people are in ships, in space, and moving actively, without punishing people who want a home to live with their friends. We’re looking for a meta that encourages players to venture to the frontiers.