CCP recently announced that the Upwell 2.0 changes first described at EVE Vegas, will go live on February 13. This sparked a number of discussions between the players and the devs, and has caused further iteration on the original plans. As part of the continuing conversation, INN sat down with CCP Fozzie to ask some questions about Upwell 2.0, and structures generally.
INN: One of the most discussed aspects of the devblog was the GTFO. It has since been stated in an update post that this is being looked at again and may be removed, or only function in High-sec. Were you expecting this level of discussion around the module, and do you have any update on how it will be implemented?
CCP Fozzie: Since you sent us these questions we’ve announced that we are removing the Standup GTFO from the plan for the Upwell 2.0 release. We were seeing some very valid concerns raised from the community around the GTFO module and very large fights with high server load, and we weren’t seeing all that much interest in the module expressed by players in other areas of the game.
We weren’t expecting this level of discussion around the module, but we do know that whenever we announce proposals this big there will be a chance that the community will catch something we missed and let us know their concerns. Nobody is better than EVE players at finding the flaws and weaknesses in a mechanic, and there’s no substitute for getting ideas in front of the community as early as possible and reading through their feedback.
INN: The consensus opinion says Citadels are too strong. It’s too hard to attack them. At the same time, Citadel fighters are often considered useless. All of that is anecdotal, based on people’s impressions of their own experience. What does the data say? How often are citadels attacked? How often are they defended? When they get attacked, is there a clear trend visible in the data that says, ‘you need to have X more attacking power than the defending power’?
CCP Fozzie: There are two major ways we approach answering a question like whether current Citadel strength is appropriate. One is to look at data as you suggest here. Our data does clearly show that Citadels are dying in large numbers but that those deaths tend to be frontloaded into the initial hull repair timer after anchoring. This is what led us to set the leveling out of structure death rates between anchoring and online structures as one of our initial goals for the Upwell 2.0 designs. We have shelved one potential idea for working towards that goal (the 5-minute fitting period) but the increased vulnerability of online structures also works towards that goal so we are planning to see how these changes impact the death rates in different stages of the structure “lifecycle” and then re-evaluating from there.
The other major way we approach answering these questions is to see what the players using and attacking these structures think. Listening to the players who write on the forums, talk to the CSM, or publish articles on websites such as yours are all great ways to hear from the most engaged players. We also make heavy use of email surveys, since surveys can reach segments of the player base that might not make their voice heard through the louder communication channels.
INN: Upwell 2.0 is going to define warfare in New Eden for the foreseeable future. What are CCP’s goals for warfare in EVE, and how do the various structures fit into those goals? Has the intention for where Citadels, Engineering Complexes, Refineries, and so on fit into the strategic picture – whether in null, low, or high-sec, k-space or wormholes – changed at all as CCP’s gotten a look at how people have used them?
CCP Fozzie: The primary goal for warfare in EVE is to provide tools for players to use in cooperation or competition. Whenever players are rewarded for putting their ships or structures in harm’s way it provides opportunities for memorable encounters with each other. CCP doesn’t want to be in the position of prescribing how players go to war, since one of the things that makes EVE so special is the freedom for players to approach conflict their own way and come up with approaches that we never would have imagined ourselves.
Although the intention for Upwell Structures hasn’t changed, the mechanics and systems for these structures have absolutely changed as we watch what players do with them and hear what players tell us about them. That collected player experience is how we’ve been able to develop the planned changes for Upwell 2.0.
INN: There are concerns among players that the increase in locking range will impact what is currently the most viable tactic to assaulting an online structure (long range Titans + faxes). The concerns are that this will reduce the potential for large scale battles. Is this something CCP are concerned about, or are there new combat tactics you expect to see emerging?
CCP Fozzie: Long range attacks against structures using Force Auxiliaries outside their lock ranges is a very clever innovation, partially driven by the fact that structure anti-capital weapons are a bit too strong in their current versions. When the CSM raised concerns about this tactic we gave it some more thought and agreed that it was a bit too effective at avoiding structure defenses since structures can’t move themselves to counter it.
Our hope is that an increase in structure lock ranges combined with a reduction in the strength of structure anti-capital weapons will lead to a more interesting scenario for both sides.
INN: Since the introduction of the pirate faction Forward Operating Bases in the Lifeblood patch, we have seen roaming gangs of NPCs spawned by these structures move around space, including moving from system to system, and in some cases these NPCs have been attacking player structures such as Citadels and ECs. Will this behavior persist, and in the world of Citadels 2.0, is it possible that NPCs could actually destroy a low-power structure?
CCP Fozzie: The NPC guardians of Forward Operating Bases will continue to occasionally engage with structures, but we don’t expect they will pose enough of a threat to actually destroy even a low-power structure. These NPCs rarely form in the numbers required to pause structure repair timers, and they do not currently have any knowledge of reinforcement timers so they would not know to show up for the second fight.
NPCs that are empowered to actually destroy structures is an interesting idea but would need to be implemented very carefully to be fun for the players involved.
INN: Keepstars are the largest and most powerful structures in New Eden. With the exception of a notable few (NETC, Sixth Empire) the owners of these structures have a significant capital or supercapital force to defend them. As a result, anyone attacking a Keepstar needs to have a comparable capital or supercapital force. This means any serious attack on a Keepstar has a built-in path of escalation to the kind of player count we saw in 9-4. Has this factored into any of discussions about the combat capabilities and/or mechanics of Keepstars?
CCP Fozzie: Keepstars are such large and valuable structures that it’s completely expected for large crowds to show up on both sides when they are in serious danger. We saw this dynamic when the first online Keepstar died in M-O and we have continued to see it ever since. This dynamic absolutely affects every part of the balance around Keepstar defenses. We are always looking at ways to optimize the game to be able to allow larger and larger fights before the server becomes unresponsive and we are very interested in making future changes to the gameplay mechanics for XL structure fights to help improve the experience in these fights as well.
INN: Is New Eden producing even close to enough PI to build a Palatine Keepstar within the next five years yet?
CCP Fozzie: Yes. However, getting all those items into one organization’s control would be an incredible undertaking. Building a Palatine Keepstar would be an overwhelming task on the verge of impossibility. From our perspective, it’s fine for the Palatine to remain unbuilt indefinitely since it exists as a completely optional goal for our player groups. We actually designed the Palatine with the internal goal of creating an achievement in EVE that any sane person would consider impossible, so that when EVE players inevitably find a way to surpass all our expectations it will be all the more impressive.
INN: Given the pressure on the moon materials market, and by extension, T2 prices since Lifeblood, do you think the introduction of T2 structure modules will further increase this pressure? And do you expect widespread uptake of T2 modules in structures?
CCP Fozzie: T2 structure modules will provide some new demand for moon materials and reaction outputs, but they are a relatively small sink of these materials compared to the existing market for T2 ships, modules, and charges. We will continue keeping a close eye on the T2 economy but we also know that the EVE market is extremely responsive to changes in supply and demand and prices will adjust as necessary.
INN: We’ve seen a lot of interest from groups like Mercenary Coalition, Pandemic Horde, and others in controlling high-sec markets and industry. Null-sec bloc warfare has spilled into high-sec as a result. Bombs and capital ships have formed a lot of the meta around how to attack/defend a citadel in null-sec. Many of the proposed new Citadel weapons that will replace the void bombs are also AoE. How does this affect structure warfare in high-sec? What are the different balancing issues that arise in trying to make the same structures viable, but not indestructible, in both environments, and how has CCP attempted to thread the needle?
CCP Fozzie: The balance between Highsec and other areas of space for structure defenses is indeed a challenging design problem. AoE effects are excellent for creating interesting combat balance in Low/Null/WH space without creating “solopwnmobile” structures, but they are generally not available in Highsec since we really really don’t want to have structures getting accidentally concordokken.
With the new Standup module balance pass and T2 Standup modules in Upwell 2.0 we will be seeing some of the structure single-target anti-subcap damage increased at the expense of single-target anti-capital damage, which should help Highsec structure defenses a bit. We are also interested in investigating other options for the future including looking for AoE effects that can be safely operated in Highsec, or even adding special defensive bonuses for structures that are operated as true freeports. We are very interested in hearing ideas from the community on this topic as well.
As we go forward into the Upwell 2.0 era of EVE online, we know that EVE’s playerbase will come up with creative solutions to problems that no-one even imagines existing yet. Here at INN, we’ll keep an eye out for what those problems and solutions are, and CCP’s reactions to them.