Header art by Cryo Huren
Regular readers of INN may have seen some of the articles I wrote in the past covering the state of the game, and the types of changes it needed to see in order to avoid the catastrophic changes CCP has introduced over the last year or two. I would say that I hate to tell you “I told you so,” but I don’t. I fucking told you so.
Now, facing dwindling player numbers, even Yahoo News is predicting a second “Summer of Rage”. While CCP has introduced some welcome changes, and some unexpected, albeit interesting ones, these neither go far enough nor really address anything close to the root causes at play. Now, with World War Bee 2 grinding itself into a stalemate, these root issues have well and truly reared their heads.
A Quick Review
To save you, dear reader, some time, I’ll quickly cover what has been my thesis for the past few years: the problems of EVE come from the intersection of Citadels, Rorquals, Capital Mechanics, EHP, and Skill Injectors. I’ll repeat the important part: it’s the intersection of these mechanics that is the problem, not any one of those taken alone. With the exception of capital mechanics and their EHP, none of the other items were a problem. Quite the opposite in fact; those other items drove engagement with the game and were a boon, not just to the player base, but to CCP itself in the form of more subscriptions.
Skill injectors allowed anyone with ISK, or real money, to create brand new capital pilots from scratch. Rorquals ensured a steady flow of ISK to those who could protect them. Citadels provided places to store these assets with a level of safety never before seen in the game, and Capital mechanics and their EHP ensured an unsustainable level of survivability for these proliferating assets. The result was an algae bloom of Titans and Supercarriers.
What Should Have Happened
It was neither skill injectors, nor farms and fields, that caused the bloom; it was the mechanics of Citadels and Supercaps which broke the risk/reward ratios and outright demanded conservative play with these apex assets. To be clear, I am NOT advocating for a return to the “coffin” days of supers, nor am I suggesting that they should become paperweights. Quite the opposite.
The proper answer is three-fold:
- Resources, resources everywhere. I think of an old story I heard awhile back about a village that lives near a gold-spewing volcano. Every day they all go out and pick up nuggets off the ground.
- Slash capital EHP while simultaneously dialing up their firepower, application, and gang support utility. Awesomely badass, fairly easy to destroy, and reasonable to replace for those with the proper infrastructure and motivation.
- Make people repair their own Citadels and occasionally replace parts. Dump the stupid vulnerability timers. POS mechanics worked fine for years. There was never a need to reinvent that particular wheel in order to bring space homes to the masses.
The Politics of Envy
There’s a certain type of pilot out there that I’m sure most, if not all of you, have encountered: the “Angry Small Guy.” Maybe a better way of putting it is the “Jealous Small Guy.” Presumably, this person lives in lowsec and either flies solo or in a small group. Truth be told, that’s just my impression of this pilot, and the reality is that the cliche probably involves a lot of other demographics.
No offense to my lowsec pirating capsuleers; I don’t really blame you for this. I figure you guys have just been out doing your thing the same way you always have.
No, the person I’m talking about is the one who either hasn’t taken the time to study the mechanics, or hasn’t had much firsthand experience engaging with them. The pilots I’m talking about are the ones that seem perpetually pissed off that their 10-man cruiser gang wasn’t able to kill a rorqual in the center of some nullbloc’s capital umbrella, as if it’s even remotely reasonable for them to expect success under those conditions. They can’t see past the Rorqual they failed to kill. As a result they thought making nullsec production practically worthless would make them happy. For whatever reason, these people could never attain the type of success they saw others enjoy; so, since they couldn’t do it, neither should anybody else.
Maybe it never occurred to them that the answer may lie in making the mechanics more accessible to them, rather than destroying them for everyone else. Instead of being upset about the amount of pizza on the table, maybe the answer was to make more pizza for everyone.
Unfortunately, CCP listened to these people rather than doing their own analysis. Rather than look for root causes, CCP targeted symptoms, and has spent the last two years systematically killing off some of the most engaging mechanics in the game. I told you so.
It Could Have Been So Beautiful
Imagine a world where M2 and B-R aren’t twice a decade events but a regular occurrence. Imagine an EVE where the types of fights Rooks and Kings used to showcase were common. Imagine your lowsec group being able to at least dent the infrastructure of large groups because they can’t be bothered to send a repping party over every time you decide to ring one of their citadel’s doorbells. Imagine being a Titan pilot with 128 150mm Railgun IIs shredding a gang of Cormorants and then being shredded by 40 Nagas. Imagine that Titan pilot rage-quitting for the day, then dusting himself off and building another one over the next few weeks and doing the same thing again.
Imagine bloc wars that are all about maintaining higher production and better logistical chains than their opponents, rather than a slow methodical roll of structure bashes that each take 8 hours and often go nowhere. Imagine mechanics that put pilots in space doing things, and all the myriad of “interactions” that would cause.
Well, here we are. It’s been two years and the most egregious things in the game are still more or less as they were. The only difference is the chance of the have-nots getting there are practically nil. There’s little point in mass Rorqual mining, and as such there’s little point in whaling fleets. And because of those two things, there’s also little point in umbrella standing fleets. Now most of the nullsec power is camped next door to each other, entrenched, each side waiting for their high commands to call for another 4-8 hour tidi fest.
Just a random guess here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and state that there’s probably about 20 people in the whole game who are having the time of their lives with this state of affairs. Everybody else is just along for the ride. Instead of the mechanics engaging everyone at all levels, the mechanics engage large alliance leaders and their bloc FCs, while everyone else just hopes the SRP holds up and they don’t need to log in the middle of a battle.
I hate to trash CCP so much. I feel like we’re a pretty vicious player base to entertain. But the little buffs here and there don’t go nearly far enough to put the buffed items in their proper places, and the root causes of all this trouble remain unaddressed. The focus on what is basically matchmaking in the form of Abyssal Battlegrounds also concerns me. EVE is a sandbox, and the mechanics should reflect that. While it’s all well and good that players have these options, I worry that CCP is just hedging its bets against problems they really have no idea how to solve.
It’s Not That Hard
Fixing this game for real isn’t that difficult. CCP should ensure that the mechanics reward committed pilots doing things in space. Alter or remove mechanics that encourage ship spinning or hugging Citadels. If you get people out in space, they’ll bump into each other, and interesting things will happen. Bring capitals into line with the other ship classes, while ensuring they have the firepower and utility to make pilots glad they own them. Fix the damn economy. Nobody wants to be hemming and hawing over the price of a Dominix.
Keep adding interesting new mechanics to underperforming ship classes, and give them the buffs they need to carve out a respectable niche. Overdo it first, then tune quickly (like within a month or two), instead of meekly throwing crumbs and leaving it for years. When overlapping mechanics cause stagnation, figure out the root causes and fix that shit rather than addressing symptoms (looking at you Munnins and Bombers). Ensure the progression curve looks like an actual bell curve rather than a diagonal line, with high-end play difficult to maintain, and mid-level play being almost impossible NOT to maintain (as long as you actually play, that is).
Finally, take a good hard look at your mechanics. If they encourage conservative, non-committal play (looking at you titan bridging, Citadel Tether, Citadel Auto-Repair, and High-Sec Incursions, to name a few) either give that mechanic the axe entirely, or else modify it to put pilots in harm’s way. By all means reward the efforts, but make sure the mechanics push players toward higher risk.
Speaking of highsec, it’s supposed to be for noobs, war-decers, and traders. Now, take a look at the population of lowsec and NPC null and tell me the progression curve isn’t jacked up. Multiply the rewards for lowsec by 10 and NPC null by 50 if you have to, but for God’s sake get people out of the NPC corps and out from under CONCORD.
I’m not saying this to make the game more punishing. I just think there should be no question as to where a pilot should be headed if they want to get rich, and these should unquestionably be home to the majority of the unaligned players. If you want to play alone, or just take it easy mindlessly farming; or if you want to live on the bottom half of the bell curve, that’s fine and dandy, but that shouldn’t be the way large portions of the player populace survive. If CCP wants to buff highsec, at least do it in a way that makes people shootable.
EVE Could be So Much Better
There are a hundred other things we could talk about, but we can’t cover it all in a single sitting. Just know that EVE could be way healthier than it is now, and it’s player base could be growing. What we need is a system of “easy-come, easy-go,” and instead we have “hard-to-come-by” and “hard-to-lose.” Riches and glory should be abundant for those who are willing to put in a modicum of work and reasonable risk. Treating symptoms instead of root causes, and looking at the game through every lens except the mechanical lens, got us to where we are.
Alas, when I said that Capital EHP needed to be nerfed and their firepower and utility buffed in exchange, capital and subcap pilots alike were incredulous, and none of them had the imagination to picture how a proper rebalance would make things better for both groups. When I said that Rorquals not only solved the longstanding “mining is boring” problem but also drove engagement for producers, consumers, attackers and defenders. Everyone was too busy being jealous of null blocs to listen. When I said Citadel mechanics were stupid and contributing to unsustainable supercap growth, people complained about not wanting to put their FAX out for half an hour to rep the damn things. And when I said that it was either this or stand by for a more needlessly punishing and boring game, nobody believed me.
Well here we are . . . and yes, I told you so.