Make PvE Great Again

2021-04-24

The one thing almost the entire player base of EVE online can agree on is that PVE is generally a boring stale grind. I started playing EVE in 2010 and have tried many things for various lengths of time; missions, mining, wormholes, PI, moon farming, industry, trading, etc. I never tried exploration until very recently. Most of my EVE history involved piracy, null and sov warfare, along with a stint of espionage, F1 pushing, and anom ratting. In 2017 I completely burned out and “won” EVE for the next 3 years. Recently, I came back to EVE and wanted to find a totally new career that I hadn’t tried before.

In exploration I found a nearly perfect mix of PvE and PvP. Not quite as nail- biting and surprise-sex inducing as WH raiding, but still just enough tension that at any moment while you’re sneaking around hacking cans, if you’re not paying attention, you might find yourself being hunted. And on the flip side, you can also play the hunter should the opportunity arise. When I started exploration I lost A LOT. Mistakes are a great teacher, and because I was a ret-vet and had more ISK than sense, some of my early losses are downright embarrassing.

“Some of them want to abuse you . . .”

Even now, although I haven’t had a loss in a little while, I still have close calls regularly. Recently, I was almost caught on a gate by a Sabre. He saw me warp off another gate and followed me to the gate I had warped toward. I was bouncing off a nearby celestial and d-scanning the out-gate first. He jumped through it before I hit scan, so I didn’t see him. Thinking the coast was clear, I jumped through the gate. As soon as I did he popped his bubble. I did the MWD+Cloak move to get out. In turn, he tried to ram me and popped a second bubble, trapping me further. He got within 1000 meters from decloaking me – and he would have, but I had already aligned in a different direction toward a nearby belt. Finally, I got out of his bubble and warped away. That sort of encounter is what makes EVE Online so great. I very well might have lost my ship. Or he might have been surprised when I fought back, downed my drugs, overheated everything and killed him instead (unlikely, but hey, I can dream, can’t I?). More likely he would have had 10 friends jump in to get on the killmail! The point is, this kind of encounter makes the game exciting. It’s why we play EVE.

“Some of them want to be abused . . .”

A few days earlier I had the opportunity to be the hunter. I jumped into a system along my route and saw two other players in local and on d-scan – a Heron and some Sisters Core Scan Probes. I launched my scan probes and warped to a celestial. I could see that one of the pilots was in Fraternity (red to me), while the other belonged to the local sov-holding alliance. As I scanned down the first signature, I checked zkill to see how my potential prey might be fit. The first sig was a Level 1 Relic. There were several more to scan but I warped cloaked to the relic site just in case. And low and behold there he was; a Fraternity Heron, hacking cans. It would take too long to slow-boat to him, so I saved the location of an object relatively near him, warped off and warped back. My hands were shaking. How many times had I done this, only to have my prey warp off before I could lock him? Maybe three out of every four attempts, my prey would escape before my decloak timer would allow me to get a lock, and more often than that they would abandon the system as soon as they saw me probing. But this time was different. I was 14km away from him and closing, cloaked. He was busily hacking a can. He’d had every chance. A new red in local, my probes on d-scan. Yet here he still was. At 7km I decloaked and started spamming ctrl-click to lock him, pre-activating scram and web as soon as I started locking on. Got him! I launched my drones and watched him melt.

I’ve heard people (including myself in the midst of frustration) complain that the rewards are not good enough in relation to the dangers (probably after getting ganked), or, on the other hand, that the rewards are too good and it’s too safe (probably after failing a gank). My suggestions have nothing to do with difficulty level. I think the dangers and rewards seem balanced enough. I am here to talk about some ideas I’ve had to make exploration even more engaging, interactive, and addictive. Some of these ideas might be harder to implement than others. I’m not a programmer and I don’t play one on the internet, so take them for what they are worth.

Increase Unpredictability

Unpredictability is one of the things I’ve come to love about exploring. I’m not a cherry-picker, so I usually don’t scan cans (waste of a good mid-slot imo). I love that sometimes the Red-Core can is empty, while the Green-Core can has some good loot. I love that some sites yield very little, just a few million, and the same site in another system might yield much, much more.  I love that I can go an hour or more flying from system to system and finding only wormholes and combat sites, and end up nearly empty-handed one day, and the next day I needlejack into a system stacked with relic sites or a nice Sleeper or Ghost site and I take in a big haul in an hour.

However, there are some things that are predictable. Data sites are predictably poor. I avoid level I and II sites completely, and often only do the level III and IV sites if they are Ghost or Sleeper sites. The data sites aren’t any more or less difficult to scan down or hack than the relic sites, so because they are generally poor, people tend to avoid them. I love the Ghost and Sleeper sites, as they range from sometimes relatively poor to very rich indeed (I have had Standard Sleepers that yielded around 20 mil and others yield 250mil!). That unpredictability is what keeps me going. When will I find that next 250mill Sleeper Cache? Or the next High Grade Implant BPC in a ghost site? But Standard Data Sites are predictable–predictably poor. It wouldn’t take much to fix this problem. My suggestion? Increase the variety of and frequency of T2 BPC drops, and provide a small chance for a red can to contain a nice faction-appropriate BPC (anything from faction ammo on the low end up to faction ship or Module BPCs on the high end – increasing in rarity as you go up). That simple change would make these sites worth running and shouldn’t be game breaking as long as the drops are relatively rare.

Another suggestion: Make hackable cans resilient to cargo scanning. I’m not saying immune (although maybe some cans are close to immune or the resilience is variable from 0% to 99% – even more unpredictability!) but rather that when cargo-scanning a can, you can’t be sure if you are seeing the full contents. This will accomplish a few things. First, it will disincentivize cherry picking, but also it will make some sites, notably sleeper and ghost sites, a bit more challenging. I use cargo scanners primarily for sleeper and ghost sites, where I know I can only hack one can with any degree of safety. I need to quickly find the most hack-worthy can. Making these cans somewhat resilient to cargo scanners adds a bit of uncertainty to the mix that I would certainly be welcome.

When it comes to missions, anoms and other PvE, players know exactly what to expect. Their ship fits are precisely tuned to most efficiently take on a specific anomaly. Add just a bit of uncertainty – not enough to kill a pilot who’s paying attention, but just enough to keep things interesting; that will not only make exploring sites more engaging and interesting, but also make botting much harder.

Increase Variety

This final suggestion is a bit more involved, but could be an absolute game changer. As a single shard sand-box game with notoriously substandard PvE content, much of the draw of EVE online is due to player-generated content. This final suggestion is for CCP to take player-generated content to the next level, by creating a toolkit for Players to construct PvE sites and even missions and mission arcs. Player generated PvE content could breathe new life into EVE online. This could be done with either an in-game or out-of-client utility that could construct exploration sites or missions within a given set of parameters. Like ships and ship fitting, the parameters are adjusted by CCP to ensure balance in the game; yet it is up to the players to construct the layout, contents, challenges, dangers and narratives of the sites themselves. This gives players another avenue to contribute to the health of the sandbox by supplying the game with an endless stream of fresh content.

Player-crafted sites and missions could expire over time, making room for new ones created by the player-base. This suggestion solves the single largest issue of EVE’s notoriously stale PvE by taking that burden off of CCP, and releasing it to the unlimited creative potential of the EVE player base.  This will allow CCP to focus energy on more important things, like quality of life fixes and . . . spaceships. Plenty of players, myself (a former D&D Dungeon Master) would absolutely delight in creating this content voluntarily for other players to enjoy.

I have no idea how hard such a utility would be to create and implement, but it would sure beat Walking in Stations, or centralized coordinated events and “hunts” as these are not what EVE has traditionally been about. EVE has always been a sandbox where the most compelling game play is player generated. PvE in EVE should be no different. Exploration is compelling to me because unlike many other forms of PvE content, it is relatively unpredictable, which keeps it fresh. I think EVE could have a whole new renaissance with the addition of the ability to generate a continuous stream of fresh player-created PvE content. Hopefully, enough players, the CSM, and CCP would also agree.

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Comments

  • Plebble

    I had a thought about PVE recently: If PVE was popular/fun, we would find ourselves with a blue donut very quickly, as the majority of players would not want PVP to interfere with their PVE.

    Change my Mind

    April 24, 2021 at 8:14 AM
    • Guilford Australis Plebble

      It’s a false dichotomy. One man’s PVE is another man’s PVP content. Before CCP killed ratting and mining, supercarriers and carriers died in huge numbers every single day all over nullsec. Solo hunters could feast on Ishtars and Gilas all day long. Rorquals died all over Delve, every day.

      All of that PVP content is gone now that CCP decided to assassinate ratting and mining. We get lengthy Reddit threads now from former whalers – guys who used to be able to go out and kill two supercarriers, three carriers, and a couple Rorquals every single afternoon – boasting that after weeks of stalking this one guy in a ratting Thanatos, they finally managed to kill one $2B carrier.

      Incidentally, PVE stinks on ice right now and we *still* have a blue donut – the biggest and bluest one in EVE history.

      April 24, 2021 at 11:15 AM
      • Alaric Faelen Guilford Australis

        100% right about CCP killing content.
        Carrier ratting was a big isk faucet, but it was also the only way capitals died in any real numbers outside of hell wars. One guy in a carrier was content for an entire fleet of roamers, whalers, and rescue fleets. We ran fleets every hour or so looking to bash carriers- and if they were more useful for PvE, supers.
        From the perspective of the ‘little guy’ it was great. I could make a lot of isk in my own carrier, basically avoiding a PvE grind– but I also went out all the time on roams looking for carriers and rorqs. The only reason I ever trained for or owned a Blops was whaling from a wormhole.
        But CCP decided that they wanted more omega accounts to run cynos, so as a solo player my ability to fly a capital basically evaporated with the ‘safe cyno’, and my roaming content dropped because krabbing isn’t worth it any more.

        I don’t know why CCP thinks that not being able to afford things in the game is somehow good for content. Especially since their PvE content is notoriously bad to begin with.

        April 24, 2021 at 5:10 PM
    • Novartis Plebble

      not a chance. Chaos is the nature of sandbox game. You can’t tell everyone to blue everyone else. There would always be those lone guy, the low/hisec corp that would just strike each other, bash each other, or do whatever other thing they want. Some of them might even realize, they can’t be like the giant coalition of nullbloc, hence they go to null, doing incursion on null sov for the content only. Getting their own sov might be just a bonus for them. Let’s just face it, PVP and PVE is one same circle. PVE give in the ISK faucet, and PVP is the ISK sink, bigger faucet means people has more ISK to spend, means more people ready to risk going pvp since it’s faster to get ISK back in the event you lose your ship through pvp. Problem is the past nerf of ccp is tightening the ISK faucet, not enlarging the ISK sink. More variablity, means that the ISK faucet is bigger. CCP only need to make sure they got big enough ISK sink to match the ISK faucet to keep their value in check

      April 24, 2021 at 4:22 PM
      • Garreth Vlox Novartis

        “You can’t tell everyone to blue everyone else. There would always be those lone guy, the low/hisec corp that would just strike each other, bash each other, or do whatever other thing they want.”

        And that guy/his corp will get run the fuck over by the blue donut who wants what he/she is chasing. This is the reality of EVE that CCP refuses to accept. They need to stop trying to nerf larger groups out of existence as all that ever does is hit the little guy harder, just make the game fun to play again, the PVE easy to access and the isk easy to accumulate, the pvp everyone wants will come with easy money access.

        April 25, 2021 at 9:29 PM
    • As long as PvE generates space money and people want that space money, there’s going to be a huge contingent of players + bots who just want to rat in peace. I don’t think anybody has ever “enjoyed” EVE PvE, yet there are always people lining up to farm in uncontested regions. Even now with PvE rewards being lower than ever, 90% of space is still full of bots and Chinese-speaking gold-farmers. As long as there are wealthy westerners willing to pay real money one way or the other in order to bypass the grind, there will be huge numbers of people who only want to do max-risk-aversion PvE.

      April 24, 2021 at 7:55 PM
    • Plebble Plebble

      After reading a bunch of replies, my mind has been changed. Thanks for the good arguments, I enjoyed reading them.

      April 25, 2021 at 8:56 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    Exploration is probably in the best place it’s ever been owing to filaments. Meanwhile, ratting and mining are worse than ever, and they were terrible even before resource shortages owing to CCP’s endless nerf-train of the VNI, carriers, fighters, bounties, anomaly spawns, Rorquals, ore distribution, and… well, everything else in EVE.

    Ironically, exploration has improved only because of the convenience of filaments – not because CCP actually changed anything about the sites themselves. The only PVE content CCP cares about anymore is Triglavian stuff.

    I quit PVE a long time ago. It’s just not worth it to me.

    April 24, 2021 at 1:11 PM
  • Declan Andresen

    Honestly, I think this deserves much more recognition. If any CSM or CCP employee sees this, they should take this under consideration. I particularly like the idea of faction BPCs possibly dropping from Data Sites as well as the idea of player created PVE sites. This would be AMAZING!

    April 24, 2021 at 1:54 PM
  • Alaric Faelen

    1) decouple specific pirate factions from specific space. — easiest fix to do. Make all anoms and encounters random factions. No more min/max because only one type of rat/damage/ewar exists in certain areas.

    2) create events/story where pirate factions work and fleet up together. Angels and Guristas team up for example combining damage types and ewar. These could just be anoms with mixed fleets.

    3) less mob based PvE- credit where it’s due, CCP has been doing this with Abyssals and Burners. More PvE where losing your ship is a common occurrence means people will be less averse to risking losses in PvP.

    4) adaptive PvE that responds to what you bring into it. Like capital escalations in W-space, instead of a strict tier system for PvE, just have a more generic ‘mission’ such as ‘patrol this deadspace pocket’ but that reacts to the ship(s) you take thru the acceleration gate.
    5) ‘third party’ PvE that allows for fleet roles other than DPS. For example missions where you fly logi or boost for an AI fleet battle.

    6) ‘third party’ PvE where AI factions call for assistance, perhaps in local. For example an AI mining fleet comes under attack by pirate rats. You can warp in to assist either side with corresponding rewards and penalties.

    7) more escalation content. PvE chains are more interesting and encourage travel to complete them.

    8) more branching and choice based PvE. Not everything can be an epic arc, but organizing things like missions so they offer a bit more agency than stand alone chores would go a long way.

    9) randomize triggers in anoms/sigs and missions. Another very simple fix to add variety.
    10) randomize AI fleet comps in anoms/sigs and missions. Use some kind of math to determine a range of ship ‘levels’ appropriate for the content then create a list of random AI that adds up to that number.

    Also, I would make more PvE loot illegal in empire space. That would encourage high sec PvP and bring about the rise of ‘smuggler’ as a hauling type and perhaps some kind of player that hunts them. Have modules/rigs that allow any ship to smuggle small amounts of stuff with some percentage chance of being detected and criminally flagged, or add clandestine cargo bays to specific hauling ships. Link detection chance to system security so that the best smuggling routes are thru the lowest sec level possible. That would also encourage players to do their building in low sec to avoid smuggling at all.

    April 24, 2021 at 2:17 PM
  • Garreth Vlox

    they don’t even need to make it great again, just less of a dumpster fire then spent the last year turning it into.

    April 25, 2021 at 4:32 AM
  • Garreth Vlox

    “I am under the impression CCP is determined to save the economy at any cost.”

    How by throwing it on the bonfire? All their changes to “save” the economy have had the opposite effect. Every change they have made has decreased the availability of isk while increasing the cost of literally everything in the game. If they think this is “saving” the economy the only people they are saving are the ones with a decades worth of stuff piled up in their hanger…

    April 25, 2021 at 4:35 AM
    • Alaric Faelen Garreth Vlox

      For one, it’s whack-a-mole. We used to all farm Forsaken Hubs and Havens in blinged out Tengu’s. Only the very top few rich guys ever ratted with a carrier. Then CCP decided that was too much isk and nerfed the T3C’s into the dirt. So we all just moved up to carriers. Then the super rich could even PvE with supers. Now CCP wants to whack the capital mole. A dog chasing it’s tail makes more headway.

      Then CCP said ‘live in your own space’ so we did- and it led to super capital proliferation and a ton of null sec stagnation since we could get a lot richer sitting at home than going to war.
      Now CCP says that is bad and wants to spread out resources- so the players react by just making a blue donut to cuckold high/low sec.

      CCP says there are way too many supers, but then implements changes that guarantee that anyone that already has them will be super risk-averse with them now, while anyone that doesn’t already have a giant fleet of supers is basically screwed from ever competing or breaking into sov. Buy in, maybe- but fighting your way into Eve’s end game is pretty much over.

      April 25, 2021 at 5:34 AM
      • Garreth Vlox Alaric Faelen

        “and Havens in blinged out Tengu’s” The good old days.

        You sum it up perfectly. CCP is doing what they do best, failing to see the big picture, not thinking about the long game, and instead running around making reactionary changes. They aren’t trying to decide what they want the game TO BE, they are trying to force the game NOT TO BE something they have decided is “bad”. This is not how you run game development if you want long term stability and success because it comes across as anti-player since all the devs ever do is follow after players making the new meta and nerf their improvisation attempts into the ground.

        April 25, 2021 at 9:26 PM
        • Alaric Faelen Garreth Vlox

          And that goes back to the feeling that I am punished for success in Eve Online. All I do is follow the meta, usually far behind everyone else. I’m just playing the game CCP makes.
          CCP designs the game, someone figures out how to ‘win’ and we all copy that until CCP swings the nerfbat. It’s never ‘improve PvE’ but always ‘fix a faucet’. Developing via nerf is a miserable experience for the player.
          I’ve said many times that CCP doesn’t know what they want Eve to be other than successful enough to keep their jobs. Every change is a full 180 degree shift from the last ‘fix’.
          I remember when we had twice annual expansions that brought new content along with fixes to the last round of new content. Now Eve seems much more ‘do or die’ all the time. Every ‘fix’ is a massive change to offset some equally massive imbalance (whether real or perceived) or issue that is ‘destroying the game’.

          April 26, 2021 at 6:35 PM
  • Deni'z von Meanace

    Is that ever happen when they rework missions? Or finally remove them from game?

    April 25, 2021 at 11:06 PM
  • Sirhan Blixt

    A big part of this is CCP’s continued delusion that they need to “make it better for the little guy” at the expense of large, established coalitions. And I say: fuck the little guy. I mean, seriously– fuck him. Big, established coalitions weren’t given anything. Not their space. Not sovereignty. Not their ships. All of that was paid for by the coalition members, or fought for when necessary. These big, established coalitions did not spring fully-formed from the forehead of some King of Space — each and every one were painstakingly built up from nothing to what they are today.

    The little guy has the same opportunity to accomplish that that the big, established coalitions did. If somebody else got there first, why is that their problem? The little guy has the same choice that everyone does: if they can’t stand on their own, join with somebody who has.

    But CCP labors under the delusion that this somehow needs to be “balanced.” So they come up with new ways for the little guy to steal content from large, established coalitions. Fozziesov. Siphons — remember those? And now filaments. Yeah, filaments are a great way for nullsec and lowsec pubbies to drag their coattails through the space of a large, established coalition in nullsec with a risk-reducing “escape hatch” mechanism. And when the locals defend themselves, they go cry on r/eve about how “oppressive” it is that large, established coalitions won’t let them faff about their space and shoot their stuff with impunity. Which leads to the cyno nerf, and the boson nerf, and pretty much every other nerf that somehow impacts nullsec dwellers the most.

    “What the fuck are we supposed to do?” is a fair question if you live in nullsec, being followed around by the nerfbat. Yesterday, it was “farms and fields,” building up our space and actually living and working in it. Today they want us to spread out, and don’t even understand the concepts of “building wide” versus “building tall,” or that there is even a distinction.

    Nullsec is not for small-gang PvP. Nullsec is not for the little guy unless those that already live there conjure that it is. You don’t like that? Go fuck yourself. The list of things that large, established coalitions in nullsec owes you has two items on it: fuck and all. You want to do big things in your three-cruiser gang? I hear that lowsec is nice this time of year.

    April 27, 2021 at 8:30 PM