Surplus Is Not the Problem: Suggestions For CCP

2021-01-21

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.

Hero Moments

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.

Bank Heist

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.

Cloaky Camping

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.

Capitals

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.

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Comments

  • Rammel Kas

    You give micro$not gangs too much credit if you call anything below 50 ships “mid size pvp” if I have to be brutally honest… from a null perspective.

    January 21, 2021 at 10:25 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    Accumulation of resources is an inescapable feature of MMOs, which by design allow players to create money and stuff out of nothing. CCP can’t seem to comprehend this. Most MMOs enable players to earn as much currency and stuff as they want as a reward for actively engaging in PVE rather than punishing them by nerfing everything they like to do. (Spoiler alert: those games work just fine without CCP’s Keynesian obsession with finely-tinkered economic perfection).

    If CCP spent more time fixing PVE so that it was actually fun (as the article describes) and less time playing God with an economy, then players might be more willing to accept a little tinkering here and there with payouts and resources. But when the PVE stinks on ice AND pays out nothing AND leads to rewards that are nerfed into oblivion, that math no work.

    January 21, 2021 at 10:43 AM
  • Firstly, great article. Secondly, thank you for your kind words.

    CCP seems to be so focused on the economy, they’re forgetting about the gameplay. If everyone is poor and miserable, or rich and miserable, it doesn’t matter. They’re all still miserable.

    January 21, 2021 at 11:52 AM
    • Undeadenemy Alizabeth

      Thank you for writing an article where the analogies went up and down like an E4 doing pushups!

      January 22, 2021 at 4:35 PM
  • Baal

    GOLIATH MINING FIELD – Won’t work
    Larger alliances with massive capital fleets will be almost immune to disruptions unless
    another alliance with an equal or larger cap fleet steps in. Just imagine your little 30 man cruiser fleet being jumped by 100 titans.

    BANK HEIST – No need to change.
    I personally use the system for forcing locals to PvP. It’s an even better
    bonus that they cannot drop caps on me. When we can attack the main bank, I see a lot of isk being drained from large alliances. Smaller groups can really do damage with
    raiding parties.

    CITADEL REINFORCEMENT REBALANCE – I like this one
    Saving a structure should be half the battle. If you care, get out there an repair the damage. It would also help in limiting structure sprawl. If an alliance does not have the man power to repair their structures, don’t anchor it.

    JUMP PORTAL REBALANCE – Nope
    Same issue with cap fleet sizes. There may be a shit tone of supers in the game, but they belong to a hand full of alliances. This change would screw small gangs over.

    CLOAKY CAMPING – They should put a timer on the module.
    20 mins of cloaking and you have to be around to start the timer again or get scanned down and killed. No more afk cloaky shit.

    January 21, 2021 at 9:01 PM
  • Nate Hunter

    The problem with cloaky campers isn’t the cloak, its the cyno and that the only way to keep safe from cloaky campers is to track the other ships and keep eyes on them. 15 cloaked lokis isn’t really a problem because you know they’re there and can plan accordingly. The cloaked bomber with a cyno is a huge issue because you don’t know if he’s alone, has two friends or has 100 friends.

    I like the bank heist idea but i don’t see why we have to siphon player effort to give it value. Why can’t The Great Wildlands spawn a heist event that’ll dish out 100b in the drop. Also the drop doesn’t always have to be straight isk, CCP could put materials in the containers too.

    January 21, 2021 at 9:25 PM
    • Undeadenemy Nate Hunter

      Great response Nate. Regarding the Bank Heist mechanic, the idea there was that once a week or a month players would be carrying around a supremely valuable container that also happens to put their location on the map and in space. People would need to either attack or escort that player to make sure the cash falls into the “right” hands. This gets people out in space.

      January 22, 2021 at 4:50 PM
    • Agreed: cloaking ships were never a problem in the past before titan and blackops proliferation. Recon ships doing recon ship things are balanced combatants (strong on ewar, but with poor lock-times, anemic damage output, and mediocre tanks). T3C recons would be fine without the nullifier attribute– more combat capable than a recon ship for sure, but also more expensive, just as squishy, and worse at ewar. The biggest problem with nullsec PvE isn’t cloaks or traditional recon-y ships, it’s blackops bridges and bombers. Bombers are a fucking balance joke and need to be shot in the back of the head. No more 70-man polarized bomber hotdrops fragging carriers in three vollies– that shit’s ridiculous and it’s basically obsoleted ratting almost entirely. If bombers and T3Cs could no longer be bridged, there are tons of ratting setups that would become viable again and would provide more interesting targets in space for more traditional hunters. I miss the days of lurking around space trying to kill ratting battleships and marauders in nano-cruisers, but that kind of stuff is never going to happen again as long as we all live under the omnipresent threat of 50 bombers being flug on us at any moment.

      January 22, 2021 at 7:47 PM
  • Alaric Faelen

    Rather than a time limit for cloaks, I would rather see cloaks require an expensive fuel. For one it’s another product to produce and market. Secondly, there can be a new skill for reducing the fuel usage. Third, it’s a true lost asset as it gets used and therefore an isk sink (even if not a huge one by itself).

    Just putting an arbitrary timer on it lacks gameplay and adds nothing to the game. People will just fill a cargohold full of nanite and barely have to change the way we currently camp.
    Make it a fuel so someone has to produce it, move it, markets stock it, it becomes part of an alliance’s supply list when they deploy.
    It makes it much harder to just stick an alt halfway across the galaxy. The camper must either move to get more fuel (and get it from where deep in enemy sov?) or someone risk delivering it.

    January 22, 2021 at 3:20 AM
  • Crakachunky

    Certain consumables deemed perishable and reduce in quantity after changing hands over time if not used (expressed as half-life). Would it be beneficial for this to also affect items on market? Could be a sink for oversaturated supply while also creating demand.

    Daily warehouse charges for storage over x volume with gradually increasing charge per m3 up to y ISK. Not to affect items on market.

    Ships and mods rust if money isn’t spent every now and then on repairs. Reduction in performance based on severity of neglect including being broken but never lost.

    All negatives stopped if owning character becomes inactive after x days.

    January 22, 2021 at 6:44 PM