I Told You So

2021-07-14

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.

What Happened

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Aftermath

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.

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Comments

  • Guilford Australis

    I’d add Fozziesov to the list of core problems. It’s a set of horrible mechanics that (1) give massive defense benefits, which discourages war, but also (2) enable massive cowardice on the part of attackers, as seen when Gobbins admitted to his own alliance that he’s unwilling to do *anything* to advance his slow-motion war until he’s nuked an I-Hub, held the system for 35 days, and installed a cyno jammer.

    July 14, 2021 at 10:37 AM
    • Undeadenemy Guilford Australis

      Ya not a fan of FozzieSov myself, though I can’t really blame it for the strategy used by PAPI. Cyno jammers or a lack thereof have long been a large part of the war strategy for taking regions.

      When Goodfellas lost Deklein to Tau Ceti Federation (more than a decade ago), the final blow in a long siege was Triumvirate backstabbing Goodfellas and tearing a hole in their jammer network thus allowing large amounts of TCF capitals to pour into a vulnerable system. The roles were reversed in this example, but there you go.

      Reason it doesn’t go into this article is because it’s outside the thesis of scarcity/plenty and the Rorqual/Citadel/Injector/Capital EHP quadfecta which caused CCP to make changes which have made the game less fun for large portions of the players. The main takeaway being that all CCP had to do was fix capitals and citadels, and scarcity would never have been needed.

      July 14, 2021 at 6:54 PM
      • HerpMcGurt Undeadenemy

        > all CCP had to do was fix capitals and citadels

        What do you think they should have done in that regard specifically?

        July 17, 2021 at 5:51 AM
        • Undeadenemy HerpMcGurt

          I have an article that answers your question in depth, but the short version is they should have massively decreased their EHP to bring them closer into line with the progression of the other ships in the game. As it stands now, capital and especially super capital EHP shoots up exponentially compared to the more linear progression of subcapitals.

          In return for a substantial EHP nerf, I advocate they become faster, more agile, and get a significant boost to their ability to project damage. Additionally, some new features to further differentiate them from other ship types would be good.

          The idea is that their cost remains the same, EHP goes way down, damage projection goes way up. If you make them badass enough and give them enough utility, people will drop them. The result will be they die much more often, and the game doesn’t stagnate due to capital overpopulation. This would negate the need for anything like scarcity.

          I covered this in more depth here:
          https://imperium.news/the-elephant-in-the-room-capital-ships/

          July 17, 2021 at 11:43 AM
          • HerpMcGurt Undeadenemy

            Yeah, I had similar thoughts myself about the order of magnitude jumps in hit points between battleships and capitals. No other MMO would have done it this way, since it obviously throws the balance way off.

            July 17, 2021 at 6:40 PM
          • Undeadenemy HerpMcGurt

            There are also certain things that just straight up stop working properly at those kinds of insane numbers. For example, pre-nerf Leviathan shield HP could be pushed so high that passive regen could make it practically unkillable in TiDI situation. It’s been a minute since I saw the post explaining things, but I believe it was an NC pilot on Reddit who demonstrated this.

            July 17, 2021 at 10:11 PM
    • HerpMcGurt Guilford Australis

      The game encourages squatting, not dynamic and frequent changes of territory as would be the ideal in a PvP game. Player citadels are unlimited dumps for resources, ships and items. This means given enough time and energy, a group can make their system basically impregnable like Goons has with 1DQ. The attacker cannot possibly bring enough offense to bear in a situation where an entity has built-up nearly unlimited resources over many years. When basically all the other players in nullsec can’t dislodge what amounts to a single (albeit strong) alliance from a handful of systems, you know something is terribly broken with the fundamental game mechanics. Goons want to tell you that this is due to PAPI’s incompetence and their skill and cohesion, but the real problems have to do with broken game systems that CCP never bothered to try and fix.

      July 17, 2021 at 5:45 AM
  • Sirhan Blixt

    This would be a (more) complete analysis if you did not succumb to a common fallacy with your talk of “haves” and “have-nots”: that somehow the “haves” were gifted with their advantages or otherwise had opportunities not available to “have-nots.”

    No Great Nullsec Empire emerged fully-formed from the forehead of a Mittani or Noraus or Gobbins. They had to be built up from nothing, from literally ten guys in cruisers. You could argue that “have-nots” don’t have the meta-game advantage of an identity outside of the game. You’d be fucking wrong, but you could argue that. TEST is a prominent example of a group with a cultural identity outside the game that very much started out as “have-nots”.

    Given time and patience, anybody can build up a Great Nullsec Empire. They just have to do the work. And if they can’t do the work or don’t want to take the time, nothing within the game is stopping them from joining up with an existing nullsec bloc. Even some Imperium alliances open-recruit now.

    It’s those players considering themselves “have-nots” who expect to be gifted as “haves” without doing any work that make the most of the distinction, and who are the loudest voices bawling at CCP for yet another pound of flesh from the established nullsec blocs to wash down the ones they’ve already been handed.

    July 14, 2021 at 8:11 PM
    • Every in-game empire is built from social skills, not game skills. This is true of any game in which player groups can influence the game. No game mechanic change will provide a path to a player empire.

      July 14, 2021 at 8:28 PM
    • HerpMcGurt Sirhan Blixt

      > They had to be built up from nothing, from literally ten guys in cruisers.

      This has not been the general case for over a decade. New alliances and corporations are formed from blocks of players jumping from dying groups to ones that are more active and growing, hence the players who moved over from the Chinese server, and bringing a lot of preexisting assets with them. The days of small groups slowly growing into big powers or large groups coming from outside websites like reddit or something awful and working their way up from the bottom are basically over.

      July 17, 2021 at 5:37 AM
      • Sirhan Blixt HerpMcGurt

        Again, you are stuck in 2010 here.

        That only makes sense if you completely disregard the rest of the paragraph that the quoted sentence begins … which your rebuttal is essentially a restatement of.

        This has not been the general case in Eve for over a decade.

        Once again, this makes sense if you completely disregard TEST as an example, and fail to consider where “blocks of existing veteran players” come from.

        The thesis stands: if you want a Huge Nullsec Empire, you have to do the work, the Politics of Envy — to borrow Undeadenemy’s excellent framing — notwithstanding. Either build it up from … whatever … or join an existing nullsec bloc.

        July 21, 2021 at 7:07 PM
    • Undeadenemy Sirhan Blixt

      Thank you for your criticism, but I think you misunderstood what I was driving at with the Haves/Have nots. My point was entirely based on how the politics of envy drives players on Reddit to complain about things they don’t understand, and how in recent history CCP seems to erroneously be listening to them rather than addressing root causes in ways that don’t just boil down to taking things away from the player base.

      I’m saying the same thing you are in the last paragraph, but I have to disagree calling a spade a spade somehow diminishes my argument. Anyone who looks at this stuff for any length of time can see what’s driving the people screaming for nerfs, and generally, it isn’t some in depth analysis of what exactly caused something to be out of balance, nor does it seem to matter whether said thing actually is out of balance in the first place.

      July 17, 2021 at 9:50 AM
  • HerpMcGurt

    I like your sentiments but CCP does not have the capability to do what you have described here. The chickens have come home to roost from years of mismanagement and neglect. They have never been a company that carefully thinks through how new mechanics will impact the game and how all the different systems interact with each other. Eve has evolved from design by accretion, meaning there was never a master plan being followed with a long-term roadmap. It has just been one thing or another bolted on randomly because someone thought they had a cool idea, regardless of whether or not it actually fit in well with the overall goals of the game. That means systems have been introduced with little thought to their overall impact on the game world, and CCP is always (very) slow to implement changes when systemic problems are identified. This is a huge problem for a sandbox game where different mechanics can interact with each other in unexpected (though not necessarily unpredictable) ways and basically break the game more-or-less permanently.

    I also think the way the large scale meta has evolved for fights between big blocs is just dumb and unenjoyable. Giant blobs with hundreds of stationary ships absolutely should be punished by powerful AoE weapons, giving players incentive to spread out and fight more tactically. Fights for citadels should not be based on asinine and boring armor timers but some kind of mechanic which spreads people out so they aren’t stuck together like a ball of mud, maybe simultaneous control of several different grids.

    But CCP is not going to do any of this. They are going to continue with their ham-fisted attempts to “fix” the economy when the problems run deeper than this into the core mechanics of the game, which mostly discourage people from actually playing it in a way that is enjoyable and engaging. If Eve is a sandbox, then at this point it is half-filled with cat poop.

    July 17, 2021 at 5:33 AM
  • Noob

    The contention that CCP listens to little ole losec pirate more than the massive null blocs that own the CSM, and when there is actual evidence CCP listens to null blocs, rather than the rampant speculation and strawmen you presented, is absolutely fvcking asinine.

    July 17, 2021 at 1:30 PM
    • Sirhan Blixt Noob

      Except for all of the times when that has been precisely demonstrated to be the case. But continue …

      July 21, 2021 at 7:12 PM
  • Elisa Motta

    I’m 40: the game is a tedious never-ending grind. Also, if TEN people grouping up can’t have their fun and stick it up to “conservative” tethered capital pilots, this is a major design flaw in the game. It has nothing to do with haves vs have-nots: CCP will have more subscriptions when reasonable expectations are met.

    There are many reasons why someone won’t join a major alliance: there’s a lot of stupid drama involved, not to mention having to take orders from random mouth-breathers instead of enjoying the game freely.

    July 19, 2021 at 1:24 AM
    • Sirhan Blixt Elisa Motta

      Your expectations are not reasonable, for the reasons already cited. Maybe you should adjust either your expectations or your playstyle rather than concocting elaborate fantasies about how you’re going to make “conserative” capital pilots play the game the way you want it to be played.

      July 21, 2021 at 7:10 PM