Introducing Resource Wars
A new and interesting dev blog has come down the pipe for the upcoming “Life Blood” expansion. The teasers alluded to mining and pirate incursion type event sites in hi-sec. This dev blog gives a bit more insight into these so called, “Mining Expeditions.”
So, the first obvious question is just what do we know and what do we have to go on? The first facts are that these will be combined mining and combat sites and there will be advanced AI NPC’s involved with both the retrieval of resources aspect and the pirates attacking the sites.
The next interesting tid-bit, the one that is causing all the stir, is that these sites will be behind acceleration gates and will have limited access numbers. I’ll say that again. Only a specific, and presumably fairly low, number of people can be in a site at a time. Clearly there are some significant concerns about this fact, and I will go into some of them in detail a little further down.
The final important bit is the potential rewards. There wasn’t much in terms of granular information here. First, the ore is expected to be high end valuable ore that isn’t normally available to Hi-Sec miners, including a new asteroid type. So, for those who are brave enough to attempt to mine under pirate fire this could be valuable in that regard. Here is the catch however, all that special ore, it will be unrefinable by normal means. Instead you have to move it to the in-site haulers, at which point it earns you LP points. The dev blog just doesn’t say if its by delivery to the freighter or only if the freighter then makes it out, but indications right now are that LP is earned when the site is completed.
Next there are LP rewards themselves. There is the expected skins and such that have become a mainstay of event loot, but there is also an interesting newbro-friendly tiered ship program that I feel has some potential and bears watching.
The idea is that as part of these events you can get a hull and modules to fit a “properly” fitted T1 ship. It is supposed to give a plan as to why the fit works and why to fit that way. If those guides are any good, this could be a game changer to many young pilots taking their first trips out.
Next there is a mechanic to then upgrade to higher tiered ships and fittings as the player moves along.
Access and Access
Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for. The access problems.
Let’s start with the easy if obscure one first. To go to these sites, you must have security status that allows you in Hi-Sec.
Next, to get access to the sites you must have faction status.
That’s right, to get access to the most valuable, high end sites, you must have status either with the newly-introduced faction corp that owns the sites, by running the lower-tier sites.
Right off the bat, this makes it hard for PVP and gankers to really participate. Those ner-do-wells tend to have very poor security status in the first place (a byproduct of shooting people in the face). Next this segment of the player base is highly allergic to the pursuit of grinding faction status. So the odds of any but the most persistent of whale hunters being willing to get into the top end sites, well its low.
Then there is the question of instanced safe mining.
With a set number of people allowed in, there is some very real concern that EVE players will game the system to make these resource sites gank-free zones for bot aspirancy. One of the example situations being where a single player with an army of bots fills up the entire site so no gankers can come in and then mines in peace until the whole instance is stripped bare. Another is where evil griefers fill the site up with interceptors and don’t allow any miners in. And so on. CCP Affinity has said in the official forums thread, that the usual means of bypassing acceleration gates should still be in effect. So that should help mitigate some if not all of the worries of the gank community as well.
In answer to the question of, “How is this not a step on the path towards a gank-free Hi-Sec?” CSM member Suitonia also had the following to say on the Reddit thread.
“The sites will prevent more than X players going inside, this was a concern we mentioned during the CSM summit when this was revealed to us, but you will at least be able to gank people at the acceleration gates, and enter the site with them and kill them inside if it’s not at full capacity. The sites were said to have a limited life span (10 mins~) and have a time down so you can’t use them to hide in for extended periods of time, and they pop up randomly, so they aren’t something you can just sit in 1 system and do you need to fly around space (where you can get killed on gates). As long as they get the rewards right, I think it’ll be acceptable.
I know it’s not as open and sandbox design as the rest of eve, but I think content like this is what highsec needs to help player retention, having easy entry level structured group content that maybe gets players talking together, grouping up, and socializing is what is going to get those players to join groups together and stick around with the game. It’s also a good way to recruit and help newbros for more veteran players who also can run the sites alongside them. It’s better than grinding level 2 missions endlessly until they quit.
The pirate forward operating bases also mentioned in the expansion will also go a good way to getting PUG groups together, and give more reasons for corporation/alliances and social groups to exist in highsec, which means they get organized and hopefully make the move to low/null/wh.”
Personally, I believe that Suitonia is right on the money. Eve has recognized that there needs to be more done to train and retain new players. The NPE was a first step, but it was largely more of the same old welcome to space and now go figure out the game by yourself. Nothing to force you to meet people and form the bonds which we all know is what keeps people around.
While there are several things here that could be concerning, I feel that the random nature, short duration and the choke points are a good step to add some player driven risk into these event encounters. On great Reddit comment suggested that in addition to an IN gate, the addition of an OUT gate would also go a long way towards adding risk. By not allowing direct warp outs, it makes the pirates (NPC or players) in the sites much more dangerous and it gives a choke point where players, potentially loaded with valuable ore need to egress and can potentially be ambushed. It is like having hole control in WH space when you are trying to evac. To get the good out you need someone holding the gate.
Success is going to be a tricky math equation. First making the sites desirable to run, both in terms of reward and safety, by the normal risk averse HiSec dwellers is going to be a tall order. Next, making them risky enough to keep with the whole EVE is cold and dark theme and have PVP players able to impact and interdict these events with the afore mentioned restrictions will also be difficult. Finding just the right balance will be the key, along with adding in sufficient randomness and the AI balance, is going to be a real trick, but one that could really represent a paradigm shift for Eve and be a shot in the arm to player retention.
Fleshing Out the Story
But enough about the mechanics. I am much more interested in the lore potential here. Those of you who follow me know that I think that Eve’s lore is a much maligned and underutilized potential resource to CCP and players to tell better stories. And between you and me, there is a LOT of lore here to really unpack and dig into.
First the site themselves. These sites, from a lore perspective, are not new at all. The EVE back story is littered with references to the vast economic power and abundance of the different empires. For example, in the back story of the first Titans and the formation of the ORE faction, there are references to stripping entire planets and finding moon-sized ochre rocks in private sites. And really it makes sense, the economic potential of countless billions of inhabited words and space stations is a fantastic economy. But therein lies one of the hardest disbeliefs to suspend in all of EVE.
Where does all this wealth go?
From an outside the lore standpoint, the capsuleer input to such an enormous intergalactic economy would be miniscule. Thus, it would be impossible to really sell the idea that the economy is player driven at all. Instead it would be just like any other MMO and would be controlled and exist outside of player input.
Frankly, that is boring. The EVE economy is much more interesting by being able to be controlled.
And then there is the question of CCP’s ability to (ethically or not) use the trope of the factions’ influence to interact with that same economy to get different market outcomes. Ignoring the few times where CCP has injected plex into the economy, it has been mentioned by players in the various forums that it would be a powerful tool for CCP, in the name of the factions, to contribute to the otherwise player-based economic systems.
Then again, by adding those levers to the game that CCP can then pull to shift values around, it could be very tempting to use and abuse.
Next there is the question of how did the factions hide the sites and keep greedy miners out for all this time? And more importantly, why are they allowing us in now?
Both questions have no answers, either from the Dev blog or the lore that I am aware of. They are secret because they are secret. And you can’t go there, or scan them, or find them because they are secret. To me this is a bit disappointing, but understandable. However, now that they do exist. I want more on why they are now something that can be scanned down and found. And more importantly, I want to know why are the factions sharing these sites with us now?
Perhaps it isn’t a tip of the hat to my fall of HiSec scenario. But it could be.
Really there aren’t any. This is, after all, a Dev blog giving us just the first details. There will be storms of speculation and angry gnashing of teeth. But those will settle down, or flare up, as more information is forth coming. I think there is some real potential here. Both as a player retention mechanic for a segment that really needs it, and in terms of putting down foundational lore for the health of the Eve story.
Remember folks this is a role-playing game at the end of the day. We have been given one of the greatest video game canvases of all time. It is up to us all to draw, doodle, and spray blood across it to write our own stories and tell them to each other. Nothing more and nothing less. Try to consider this as a new color of paint to use on that canvas.