Header art by AnuranonthecoucH
First, I want to thank CCP for doing an analysis of the game’s ecosystem at large. I also want to thank Sophia ‘Alizibeth’ S for the excellent, drill instructor style ass-chewing of said analysis. It managed to be both personal and practical, elevated and low brow, snobbish (bringing Immanuel Kant to internet spaceships, really?), but also brutally vaudevillian. In other words, it followed the cadence of intensive counseling sessions in a way that only someone with first-hand experience could have achieved. It was the best piece of writing I’ve read all year, and will be the bar to meet going forward. Which, by the way, means the piece works on something like four different dimensions of analysis at the same time. Bravo.
One other thing before I get started. If you take nothing else away from this piece let this be it: World War Bee happened in spite of CCP, not because of CCP. That autarky thing is baloney.
Please Allow Me to Insert Myself
In case it isn’t obvious to people who have never served, the purpose of any ethical ass-chewing is to make the target of said instruction better for having received it. Anything that does not make the individual, unit, etc, better serves no purpose. Let me now attempt to provide a clear path forward for EVE Online and our community that might help us grow as we creep toward a second decade and beyond.
If we are to reinvigorate the EVE Online player base, we will need to ensure that the mechanics of the game are engaging, and give people a reason to log in beyond skill points and loot crates.The root problems with the EVE ecosystem need to be solved: applying a bandage will just bring more pain further down the road.
In game design, we have the concept of a “hero” piece, an expensive piece of geometry that is only used once, usually to catch the eye or as a center of attention for an area. Designers generally avoid having too many of these, as they are expensive and time-consuming to build. The EVE equivalent would be a “hero moment” and unlike in design, the mechanics should encourage as many of these as possible. Killing that supercarrier? Hero moment. Your buddy fending off 15 destroyers through proper use of his rorqual? Hero moment. Operation Enho? Hero moment. PAPI’s slaughter at M2? Hero moment.
These moments aren’t just combat related either. Installing a capital construction job and popping it out when it’s finished. Both hero moments. Making your first billion, your 10th, your 100th? Hero moments. Buying or constructing your first station? Hero moment. Starting and growing a corporation,making friends, successes, failures, real life deaths, births, marriages, job offers from people you otherwise would have never met? Hero moments. Successes and failures, tragedies and triumphs, order and chaos, these are all hero moments.
Hero moments are what we all talk about. It’s how we convince our friends to try out this life-consuming hobby we all pretend to hate but actually love. It’s what the news covers. EVE needs hero moments to survive and grow. EVE isn’t a game; it’s a terrarium. I think we all want that terrarium to thrive for years and generations to come. We need to build mechanics that encourage thriving. We need people to log in, and undock, and preferably not just when the big fights happen.
Embrace the Soak, Instead of the Suck
The problem with EVE’s ecosystem isn’t that there is too much stuff, but that the stuff doesn’t much exit the game out the other end. Currently, the mechanics encourage hoarding, but don’t provide enough ways for people to take things away. Artificially creating scarcity on some kind of cycle, making it difficult or impossible for players to rub two cents together, and then praying that what remains gets annihilated in some kind of conflict is not sustainable or wise. It discourages people from playing the game and it encourages people to go do something else instead.
CCP should embrace the soak. There is nothing wrong with a player who flies 16 Rorquals. That player is a highly-engaged player. That player is a delicious target for other players. That is a player who buys lots of PLEX or pays a large subscription every month. That player encourages others to play.
Every suggestion below is one that follows a strategy of embracing the soak, reducing idle or lazy mechanics, rewarding active mechanics, and balances large scales against small. It makes it easy to get started, and rewards people for doing so, but the closer you come to the apex, the harder you have to work to stay there.
To quote the Red Queen: “Around here, you have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place.” This is the paradigm CCP should embrace, because it balances itself.
Think Outside the Box – Some Suggestions
Goliath Mining Field
Every region (including NPC regions in nullsec and lowsec) has 1-2 “Goliath” mining field anomalies that need to be scanned down. We’re talking several orders of magnitude larger than the largest ore anomaly under the old (non-nerfed) farms and fields paradigm. To give an idea of what I’m talking about, imagine a field so large that it would take 200-300 Rorquals 12-24 hours to completely mine out. The anomaly would also have some useful, yet annoying, smaller ores inside it (like the ones that have exploding gas) that need to be mined by laser rather than excavator drone. When the site is completely mined out or despawns, another spawns in the region within a few hours (or instantly, take your pick.). If you’ve ever seen a video of a carcass at the bottom of the ocean, you get the idea.
These mining fields would serve the purpose of feeding the vast war machines of large bloc alliances, while also moving around the region, requiring relocation/redeployment of defense resources in order to keep production flowing. Depending on the geography, it may also require the redeployment of super capital umbrellas on a daily basis in order to ensure proper response in a crisis. A well organized alliance would benefit from the availability of all the resources they would need (up to a point) fairly locally, while also checking that with an upper limit and a greater emphasis on defense resources.
The new ESS system creates an opportunity for some really cool gameplay mechanics that could facilitate small to midsize PvP. Rather than (or maybe in addition to) simply warping into a bubble and attempting to steal the money, imagine if an enterprising individual or group could instead attempt a much larger heist. The details could vary, but maybe again, one or two of these opportunities per region, with a potential payout of tens or hundreds of billions of ISK. The heist mechanic would become available maybe once a week, or month, with massive quantities of ISK being placed into it from the region’s ratting. The money would represent the tax payout of the corporations doing the ratting, or a minimum of 10%, whichever is greater.
The heist money would spawn in an indestructible container which always drops. The container would be at least 600-1000 m3, preventing insta-warpers, cloaking, jumping (including bridging), tether, or docking at any station other than NPC or designated regional capital stations. The ship with the container would also always be warpable by any party, and appear on the overview. If the player with the container logs off, the container drops out of their ship, is warpable, and appears on the overview anywhere in the system. The location of the container should be visible on the in-game map. This should prevent any bullshit trolling tactics. Again, the heist is only accessible between once a week and a month, and only at a particular location per region, with the timer visible and discoverable by any party who happens by.
Organized alliances who want their tax money would have to carry out “BRINKs Armored Truck” runs in order to retrieve the money. The pilot who brings the money to the proper location could then decide to either pay out the money properly (in which case each corporation and player gets their fair share), or steal it for themselves. A pilot would have 5 minutes to decide what to do with the container, after which time the container is ejected from the docking port of the station for anybody to take. The logs for this activity would be available or discoverable. If the heist takes place in an NPC region, the container would need to be brought to a different region. In no case should a container spawn within ten jumps of a station where it can be opened.
The implications of this hot-potato-heist system should be obvious.
Pochven – Subcapital Mecca
I like the idea of Pochven. It’s basically a hybrid between wormholes and K-space. It’s a big circle. Strangely, the event that created it was basically a rigged game between the Triglavians and EDENCOM. EDENCOM should have a counter event where they can open the gates to anyone (just keep the capitals out). I haven’t been in there yet, but if you can anchor citadels in there, get rid of those too. Pochven should be like old-school lowsec mixed with nullsec for subcaps. I, for one, miss station camping, and I abhor people being able to tether up all over the place.
Citadel Reinforcement Rebalance
While citadel reinforcement mechanics are better than they used to be, they still have a big problem: they regenerate to baseline with no work from the defender. This shouldn’t happen. Shield regenerations should require a load of specialized fuel blocks, loaded into a special bay that can only hold enough for one cycle of regeneration, necessitating at least that more blocks be moved from one hanger to the next every time.
Maybe the materials for these blocks could come from new ores. Maybe those new ores could be some of those annoying rocks that only spawn in the new gigantic ore fields. Maybe some of the other components could come from those Empire mining things they released a while back that flopped. Maybe the actual blocks are only manufactured by NPCs who buy the materials from players (ISK sink, NPCs sell the blocks for profit). Maybe tie it to factional warfare, which would give a reason for null alliances to take notice and start making deals with the FW people. Imagine the meta gaming possibilities of null alliances supporting one faction or the other because they need more of one type of component and want to starve their enemies of the other.
Armor timers should require ships to repair like in the old days. A repair cap could be implemented that is the same as the damage cap. Thus, at repair cap, the whole process should take about 30 minutes to complete, but would require more and more ships, depending on the size of the citadel. Yes, it would be slightly annoying, but not very. More importantly, it would require people to be out in space doing things where they could be attacked.
Structure timers could be a hybrid of the first two. They could require input materials (like maybe replacement citadel parts) and some kind of repair job (with its own, longer timer), and use of the remote hull repair module, which as far as I can tell is practically useless in the current meta. Again, a repair cap could ensure that at cap, the active portion of the repair only takes about 30 minutes. Again, a slight chore, but in a way that is healthy for the game.
It should be clear, but in case it isn’t: none of the repair work could be started until after the actual battle timer has resolved itself.
Jump Portal Rebalance
Bridging is an annoying, lazy mechanic (infrastructure jump bridges are fine). With the changes to supercarriers, it is also redundant. It sits 100 players around doing nothing, and sends a couple players out to hunt or get positioned for a drop. If you want to keep it, it needs to change. One option is to require titans to make connections between themselves. This would require a titan in the destination system, which would limit (but not eliminate) the utility of bridging into fights. You want to bridge into a fight? Fine. Put a titan on the field.
What about Black Ops bridging? Still annoying. I prefer giving recons a jump drive. This way hunters could still hunt, Tech 3 Cruisers could infiltrate, lighting covert cynos to bring in Black Ops and Recons. Stealth bombers are too cheap, too fast, and do too much damage to let people drop 200 of them all over the place. Let them walk.
The most thorny issue in the history of EVE Online. The solution is actually simple. Cloaking removes your name from local. Cloaking devices build up heat over the course of an hour. After an hour, they start doing module damage like regular heat does. If a player decloaks, they start dissipating the heat. Dissipating the heat takes five to ten minutes, and balloons the ship’s signature. Players that are halfway paying attention can manage their heat, occasionally decloaking, dissipating heat, being visible, detectable, and vulnerable. Players who are AFK will eventually burn all their modules out, decloak, and be completely vulnerable. Players can still camp, spy, and hunt. What they can’t do is terrorize people all day and night, with no counter-play, while walking the dog across town at the park.
The subject of capitals and what to do with them is a massive topic that deserves its own article. I wrote one for you a while back.
Onward into the Future
This article has gone longer than my editor would prefer, so I’ll close it out here. By no means are the ideas pointed to here the ultimate for how to mold EVE as it approaches its third decade. If you have thoughts, make sure to post them below. I want EVE to be a fun game that has people out in space doing things. We should all want that.
Until next time.