A Pioneering Dream

2022-01-28

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.

Endgame Abundance

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!

But…

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.

The Frontier

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.

Move!

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.

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Comments

  • chthulan

    Absolutely this ^^. I play in 39P. I enjoy the familiarity of knowing who I’m sharing space with, also all my stuff is here. My indy alt makes stuff here.

    Going somewhere else is hazardous and not worth the risk, since CCP’s mega-nerfs to ratting. I sold my Nyx after it had sat unused in the hangar for months.

    So making stuff from PI is now my sole income stream. I can’t Plex my accounts from that income, and PI isn’t exactly engaging – it’s more of a chore.

    So now I find myself wondering why I should bother staying in Eve at all.

    The sole reason I do is because I’m making things that help maintain the alliance. And that’s not down to CCP, it’s because this is home. But CCP sure isn’t encouraging me to stay.

    January 28, 2022 at 9:26 AM
    • Lrrp chthulan

      Like you, I wonder if I will stay. Rat bounties in 39p are half to a third of what they used to be. And I’m using a BS, not a Supercap. Might as well run level 4’s in highsec. My Rorq. sits collecting dust and I notified Eve to change my acct from yearly automatic renewal to notify me.

      In the past they begged us to populate null, now it’s like they don’t want us there. Stagnation? How is there going to be wars when no one can afford to fight them. How much stagnation is going on right now?

      January 28, 2022 at 3:31 PM
  • Sunorc1776

    I couldn’t agree more. CCP wants to push battleship ratting everywhere. I have always seen battleships as being the high sec ratting ships… well mission running ships. Null sec is supposed to be about capitals. It’s even in the game mechanics. “Want to fly capitals?, move to low sec or null sec. CCP has striped the rorqual of any real ability to mine so it’s back to using the same ships that are used in high sec. CCP strips capitals of ratting ability so it’s back to sub caps for that as well. Want to group up for some safety? CCP says no. CCP wants to see ships exploding yet have also trashed any real method to produce ships in the numbers we would need to be able to replace those lost. “Ships are ammo” NOPE, now most capitals are dust collectors or used as suitcases to move replaceable ships for fights. Eve used to be the supreme game for fun now it’s just like the diet coke or decaffeinated coffee of games… Diet Eve Online/Unleaded Eve Online.

    January 28, 2022 at 7:46 PM
    • chthulan Sunorc1776

      Does CCP read this, do we think, or are we whistling into the wind?

      January 29, 2022 at 10:02 AM
      • Sunorc1776 chthulan

        It’s a small to no chance that CCP reads this. That’s too bad because they would actually get a feel for how people are feeling about the way Eve has been going for the last couple years.

        January 30, 2022 at 12:39 AM
    • Battleship ratting is fine, as long as you can make money doing it. Battleship ratting is actually a fantastic ecosystem choice, since it creates small-scale content for PvP, whereas capital / supercapital PvE creates maximum risk-averse behavior as people go to great lengths to ensure they can’t be killed. Battleship ratting is a sweet spot IMO. It just won’t work if you’re out there flinging 500m ISK battleships at sites in exchange for 30m isk / hr.

      Cruiser ratting (VNI, T3C, etc) was fucking cancer because you literally cannot hunt or kill those ships– they’re just so slippery that any bots or active players will escape 99% of the time. They couldn’t effectively be hunted. Supercap ratting was similar: you couldn’t effectively hunt many of them because most people were smart enough to rat exclusively under an umbrella. Sometimes you’d kill a dumb person, but it would still take a big group of players and one really dumb super owner to make it happen: not something that would provide consistent content for your average 5-man roaming gang out of lowsec.

      January 31, 2022 at 3:08 AM
      • Sunorc1776 Ganthrithor

        I don’t see a reason for anyone to make themselves content for small gangs roaming out of low sec or anywhere else for that matter. Null sec should a place for capital isk income opportunities such as ratting and mining. In null sec the players create the safety for such activities. CCP should not be making null sec less valuable.

        February 1, 2022 at 4:23 PM
        • I kind of don’t disagree, but this would also require an entire re-jiggering of the ship meta to work– otherwise you’ll just end up with invulnerable supercaps ratting fat stacks all day (again).

          February 1, 2022 at 10:06 PM
          • Sunorc1776 Ganthrithor

            I don’t think small roaming groups should be able to smash a capital but I also don’t think anything in the game should be untouchable. Bombers Bar figured it out pretty well. That is the point. Players should be able to sort out how to make things go pop not CCP. If something has become overpowered is when CCP needs to step in and make a change, and only then.

            February 2, 2022 at 1:45 PM
          • See this is what I mean with the whole ship meta being rotten, though: bomber mechanics are 100000% toxic a/f to the ecosystem. The existence of bomber drops basically renders PvE in anything smaller than a supercapital ship impractical, since they can instantly appear essentially anywhere at any time and do enough DPS to frag a capital ship in a few seconds. Literally you can be ratting in a carrier with your own recon alt on grid *and* a rescue fleet on standby, and your carrier will still be dead before you can cyno a fax onto grid. Just the time required to switch fleets, light a cyno, and have someone jump to that cyno is too long. And that’s for a capital ship– anything smaller than that, forget it: It’s going to die probably in a single torp volley.

            Bonus points for bomber gangs also not being practical or worthwhile to bait. Forty bombers bridge through a cyno and local spikes or a bunch of ships decloak around them? The bombers just cloak and warp off before anything can do anything to them. Maybe a bomber or two get sniped off? Who cares– the attacker just loses like 30-40m/ship on a handful of dead bombers. Meanwhile, they’ve been rolling around all night fragging capital after capital. Bombers are dumb.

            February 3, 2022 at 12:32 AM
          • Sunorc1776 Ganthrithor

            The point I was making about Bombers Bar was that the Eve player base know how to do things that are just amazing, or we figure out crazy things.

            The real problem I think is that the rules of a game shouldn’t change on a monthly basis. Instead of forcing players to spread out into unused systems by taking earned bounty they should make doing so worthy.

            As a solution have something develop in unused systems that make people want to test their luck. I would say that less rats appearing in over ratted systems and more rats in under used systems would do the trick. As for mining, do the same thing except ore count and ore density that changes. If a system hasn’t been used in months allow more valuable rats and or rarer ore to spawn.

            February 3, 2022 at 12:26 PM
  • Guilford Australis

    Let me preface this by saying I know this is an unpopular opinion. It’s just an observation.

    CCP and MMO players in general are moving in opposite directions. MMO gaming has been moving toward more accessible, enjoyable, and rewarding content – even in PVP oriented games. CCP initially went along with that trend by making PVE much more rewarding while not doing anything in particular to make PVP more difficult. (Before the bitter, ragey monkeys of the Church of Small Gang start squealing about that statement, I might point out that small gangs, wormholers, and bomber fleets routinely fought small gangs and killed ratting supercapitals and Rorquals even under supercap umbrellas before the meganerf train of the past few years. I did it many times.).

    But sometime about four years ago, CCP decided to turn back the clock and undo all of their adaptations to the changing landscape of MMO gaming. So now the newer players they want to attract are used to more rewarding mechanics like they’ve experienced in recent years, not antiquated mechanics circa 2012… or 2006. It doesn’t help that CCP thinks Dr. Who is a big pop culture icon among these newer, generally younger players, which is roughly akin to Square Enix saying “You know what would bring tons of new players to FFXIV? We gotta do a Power Rangers crossover! Hell yeah! That stuff’s all the rage with these rowdy youngsters, these rapscallions who would be playing FFXIV if they weren’t spending all day hanging out down at the 7-Eleven begging old men to buy ’em some Lucky Strikes and a six-pack of Schlitz Malt Liquor.” It’s a joke. It’s so hilariously tone-deaf and out of touch.

    The point is that if CCP wants to ignore all the things that make other MMOs popular with players newer to the genre, they will alienate a huge number of potential new players. If they want to roll back the features of EVE to antiquity in an effort to attract a Hard Ass Elite Hardcore audience, which would be a small number of players, then they’ll get a small number of subscribers. That math ain’t hard. Big or small. Give the average MMO player a rewarding experience, and you get big logins. Screw them over repeatedly by refusing them literally anything they want – while repeatedly taking away things they liked that were already in the game – and you get small logins.

    January 28, 2022 at 8:50 PM
    • Garreth Vlox Guilford Australis

      “this is an unpopular opinion.”

      I don’t think this is true at all, I think this opinion is shared widely among eve players the majority of which never post on the forums, reddit or anywhere else. The problem is the screeching minority demanding that CCP ruin the game for anyone who doesn’t play exactly the same way they do.

      January 29, 2022 at 7:10 PM
      • Actually CCP are actively fucking everybody right now. Just like with their dumber-than-rocks blackout experiment, we’re seeing that Elite PvP types lose out right along side krabbers when CCP nerfs income into the ground.

        CCP have been focusing on the wrong end of the equation: they’re trying to stop inflation by making money / resources scarce. What they need to do is to let players kill each other again. Nonconsensual PvP has almost been removed from EVE entirely at this point due to repeated systems changes. CCP need to stop catering to the risk-averse– coddling them with tethers and travelceptors and instanced content– and start putting the brutality back into their game.

        CCP need to take a page from Escape from Tarkov’s book: there should be tons of rewards for getting out into the gameworld of EVE online– so many that if you could safe-farm them you’d quickly become absurdly rich. They key to balance is making sure that getting those things is really fucking dangerous: death should be a constant friend in EVE. You die so often in Tarkov, but the game is balanced so that if you take your foot off the PvP gas pedal for a few raids, you can reasonably quickly earn back your losses. But you don’t get to farm in safety: you’ll also die ratting around, it’s just less-frequently than when you’re looking for PvP. EVE needs similar mechanics.

        Right now EVE doesn’t reward any of the right behaviors: it actively pushes players to avoid each other (a behavior that the game now enables) or not log in at all instead of encouraging healthy competition over space-stuff. It’s a disaster.

        January 31, 2022 at 3:05 AM
        • Garreth Vlox Ganthrithor

          “CCP have been focusing on the wrong end of the equation: they’re trying to stop inflation by making money / resources scarce. What they need to do is to let players kill each other again. ”

          I agree they are doing everything they are attempting the wrong way, but the bigger issues is that they are doing the wrong things the wrong way as well. Focusing on reducing the money supply will not acheive any of their goals of fostering ease of access for new players, increasing ships in space, or creating pvp opportunities resulting in lost ships, regardless of how they go about doing it. The harder/longer you make it to get money to afford ships the less willing people are going to be to risk those ships.

          “CCP need to stop catering to the risk-averse– coddling them with tethers and travelceptors and instanced content– and start putting the brutality back into their game.”

          I’ve pretty much given up on CCP understanding their mistakes because they keep demonstrating the issue isn’t even just that anymore, it’s a complete inability of their dev team to understand how their existing game works and how changes will affect that those existing mechanics.Take for example the travelceptors you mentioned. When they were put in the game players told them this is stupid, people will make these instawarp transports and there will be almost nothing you can do to stop them short of a fleet of disco BS’s sitting on a gate insta popping them when they enter/leave warp. CCP ignored this feedback and we proceeded to not just have unkillable travel ceptors, but also almost unkillable harrasment fleets that were capable of killing just about anything they decided they wanted to kill if they had enough numbers. Fast forward a year or two and CCP decides “no more warping through bubbles unless you fit this stupid mod that gimps your fit because that makes it fair”… demonstrating that they never understood the issue wasn’t the tradeoff since you had to gimp the existing instatravel/battle ceptors anyway, the issue was almost uncatchable instawarping ships EXISTING int he first place. And adding a mod that allows you to go back to being an instawarping uncatchable ship to counter the nerf to remove instawarping uncatchable ships is just fucking stupid.

          February 1, 2022 at 8:38 PM
          • Yeah, they don’t seem to understand how people make decisions. Lol, remember when they said they were going to “do an experiment” to see if nullified ceptors were overpowered, and they took nullification off the combat ceptors and overnight they went from ~30m isk ships to 7m isk and became rarer to see in space than supercaps? And then CCP’s conclusion was, “nullification is fine” and they left it that way for literally years after? Yeah, CCP are pretty out of touch.

            I don’t think I’ve played since they re-did nullification, but their “fix” sounded stupid as fuck. Their whole ship meta is trash because they don’t seem to understand that ship capabilities need to scale with size, not money spent. You can’t have a ship meta focused on tiny, super-fast ships in a game with a 1Hz simulation tick-rate and horrific network latency.

            I remember a few fights during the big war thing last year where it ended up being fleets of insta-warp ships fighting each other and the “fights” just degenerated into both fleets warping past each other for thirty minutes while literally nothing happened. GG CCP.

            February 1, 2022 at 10:12 PM
          • Garreth Vlox Ganthrithor

            “and they took nullification off the combat ceptors and overnight they went from ~30m isk ships to 7m isk and became rarer to see in space than supercaps? ”

            And we literally just flipped and started using the other ceptors with instawarp speed fits. CCP doesn’t know how to manage their game because they don’t play it.

            February 4, 2022 at 3:03 AM