Cherrypicking is the worst thing in EVE Online. This is a rant, so hold on to your analysers. The method of using a cargo scanner during exploration is a despicable act – it has repercussions that spread far further than just causing rage to other explorers. For those of you who are unaware, relic and data sites consist of between three and seven boxes, depending on which part of space you are exploring. Some terrible people out there will use a cargo scanner to determine which boxes contain the best loot, hack only those boxes, and then leave the rest. The result: a half-finished site with one hour left until it despawns.
As a part-time resident of Stain, I have found that cherry picking is rife. Explorers venture into the region, find relic sites, cargo scan them, find those juicy delicious Intact Armor Plates and leave. If you are unfortunate enough to be “behind” one of these terrible people, you spend your whole play time finding half-eaten relics, reducing your profit and fun per hour substantially. But there are number of second- and third-order effects that make this annoying gameplay not just bad for other explorers, but bad for everyone.
Probably the worst people in the world
We sit, at present, in the time of scarcity; miners are having a tough time of it. Ore prices have gone up and this has an effect on every ship in the game. In addition, the recent changes to production have added levels of complexity to building that are still causing waves amongst industrialists. These changes are based on a number of smaller modules, from a variety of sources, being required for production – these of course include relic and data loot. CCP will have calculated the number of sites completed in order to quantify how many resources are needed to, for example, build a battleship. When a cherry picker takes only the Intact Armor Plates and leaves the Fried Interface Circuits, those items decrease in number, increase in value, and thus the cost is passed on in terms of a more costly ship or module.
Cherrypickers are also content deniers. Everyone wants to be safe, and exploration can be a risky business, especially in wormhole space. You don’t want to stay in a site too long, as the risk of being found and killed increases with every passing minute. All forms of gameplay must have risk – simply scanning down a site, scanning boxes from distance, then picking the best loot is arguably not enough time for a hunter to pounce and kill you. Which in turn means fewer hunters engaging in their chosen gameplay.
More content for all!
I am drawn to CCP Rise’s comments about the creation of natural content being the primary aim of Team Talos. Surely, cherrypicking is against that mantra. The game needs explorers to be out there exploring. They need to be at risk and also they need to be rewarded for taking on that risk. A well trained explorer will clear a site in five-or-so minutes, sometimes netting 100mil in loot, sometimes less than 5mil. This is the inherent randomness that makes exploration enjoyable. However, there is nothing enjoyable about finding a number of half-eaten sites in a row, giving you <10mil in loot for an hour’s work. That will discourage explorers, and with fewer explorers, the cost of goods will go up, which drives up the cost of ships, etc.
What can be done?
So, what can be done? My editor-in-chief has told me that my first proposal was a bit extreme. I had suggested, “the use of a cargo scanner on a relic site will have a 1:5 chance of deleting your account.” So here are some serious suggestions to make this cherrypicking method not worthwhile.
First, the Cargo Scanner requires only CPU Management I – no mention of the Survey skill. Survey itself doesn’t apply or scale to the use of the module, only the speed of scanning. There is no increase in accuracy for Survey V. This would be my first proposal: an increase in scan power per level. For example: at Survey I you have a 20% chance of successfully scanning a relic. Failure will either give you a zero result or “Unknown Item.” At Survey V you have a 100% chance of scanning a box, but the difficulty of the site will still offer RNG results. Meaning, if you want to guarantee you get the best loot and not leave any behind, you have to finish the site. Further, a Cargo Scan should count as a hack attempt, leaving you only one remaining.
Second, exploration does need a few tweaks. It can be a great ISK maker, and is a superb activity for new players to get out there and gain experience. It also is a brilliant way of introducing players to wormhole space and the risks within it. But data and relic sites are too similar in their execution – even defended data and relics in wormhole space are mechanically identical. Let’s keep data sites the same; they already have scalability as more experienced explorers can take on Covert or Sleeper sites. It’s relics that need a change.
A Change to Relics
Why not have relic sites be a sequence of hacks? This is an ancient remnant of a long-lost civilisation. You can’t just roll in with your fancy scanner and pick the place apart. You think Indiana Jones just parachuted into Egypt and yoinked the Ark of the Covenant? No, he had to assemble the pieces together first. Let’s have relics as a series of boxes that must be completed in sequence. Each one reveals another box and so on. The RNG for loot should remain the same. If you got a big payout on your third box you could just leave – but the player will always want to risk continuing to unlock that “ruin” at the end of the site. If CCP wants to throw in some manual piloting into this, it would rock. Flying first person through a destroyed space station would be amazing.
Third, the number of Covert sites and Sleeper sites needs to be increased. As full-time explorers will know, these are really hard to discover. What is meant to be exciting gameplay is often just over in a second, while taking days to discover. Sleeper sites in particular, which sit within deadspace pockets, are very engaging. They are hard, requiring fits, knowledge and intelligence. The rewards are worth it, but the risk is balanced, as any hunter will have to enter the pocket to catch you – there just needs to be more of them.
Rant over. Let’s get more explorers doing sites, because they are great ISK and great fun. Let’s not ruin other players’ gameplay through this annoying, despicable act of cherrypicking. Let’s not ruin the industry changes because CCP haven’t considered unfinished sites in their math. But most of all, let’s make small changes to keep exploration one of the most interesting and scalable content-providing professions in the game.