Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The cold harsh reality of space

For a long time, I was the epitome of what is wrong with some EVE players.

I played alone (I even formed a one-man corp to put up a tower in hisec).

I ran missions.

I mined Scordite in hisec

I avoided losec like it was a pile of rancid meat.

Nullsec wasn't even in my vocabulary.

I was, as is hinted in the title of my blog, the penultimate carebear.

Things change, or they should, if you keep playing EVE. Because eventually, those tasks in EVE become so mind-numblingly boring, you will do almost anything to avoid them. I took the easy road out of Carebear hell - I joined a corp that was friendly to training folks for PvP. But this blog post isn't about me.

EVE has always been marketed as a sandbox. A game where anyone can impact any part of the game, independently or with friends. Some of the greatest marketing stories about EVE involve the actions of one person bringing about world-shaking events. And there is a growing movement to destroy the sandbox.

If you thought "Goonswarm" when you read that last line, you are actually part of the problem. If you thought "entitled whiners" then you are not. If you don't like what category I just put you in, you might want to stop reading this post now.

EVE is a game that, in every way but two, pits players against each other for everything. The obvious PvP I will only mention in passing - combat. If you buy or sell on the market, you are playing against others. If you build or invent ships or modules, you are playing against other players. If you mine (in some hisec systems) you play against others on an intermittent basis, since the belts can be mined dry. If you explore, you play against others. There are only two places in EVE you don't compete with others directly - mission running and ice mining.

However, these activities are not (and should not) be risk free. EVE is a sandbox. EVE is a multi-player game, and because it is these things, there should always be competition. Missions (and ice fields) are always there, with no competition. You can't go to an agent and be told "Sorry, I have no more missions today." You can't mine a hisec ice field dry. And therein lies the problem (and, perhaps, the answer). Below I line out proposals to change both of those activities. In my opinion (which is wrong at least 50% of the time) these proposals are better for EVE as a sandbox.

Ice Mining

  • Ice should not be a limitless commodity. The sliding scale of value -> security should apply to ice just as it does to minerals, missions, rats, and any other PvE activity in EVE.
  • There should be at least 3 tiers of ice in each type, with variable quantities of refined materials in each type.
  • Ice tiers should also change in block size. HiSec ice should have the largest blocks (in m3) with the fewest refined commodities, losec ice should be smaller, with more material per block, and nullsec blocks should be smaller still, with even more materials per block.
  • Ice fields should be smaller, and it should be possible to mine a field dry with a dedicated fleet, within a short amount of time. I don't know the exact numbers, but the amount of ice in a belt should be reduced so that a well managed squad (9 Mackinaws and an Orca) can clear a field of ice in about 4 hours. Of course, ice would respawn at downtime, just as it does today.
  • Ice fields should be added to gravimetric sites. This would allow people to find and exploit small quantities of ice anywhere, and provide a tiny amount of additional security when attempting to harvest ice in LoSec or Null. Personally, I'm a fan of all mining being done from gravimetric sites, or all minerals except Veldspar being limited to gravimetric sites (and a higher frequency of spawns than exist today).
  • A new rig should be introduced to further reduce cycle time: Ice Harvesting Optimization Rig I and II. A fully trained Mackinaw pilot with a fully T2 rigged and fitted ship, should be able to run a complete cycle in 3 minutes or less. This, in conjunction with the volume changes of ice blocks in losec and null, will help reduce the risk while mining. A full cycle would still be required to acquire a block of ice (per Harvesting module). Ideally, this ship (in nullsec) could pull as much (or more) ice as a Cargo-rigged Mack in Hisec in the same amount of time.
Ice Harvesting is the most mind-numbing activity I have seen or done in EVE, which means it is the easiest to script for botting 23.5/7. These changes, as a whole, reduce the raw income potential of risk-free botting in HiSec. Ice Fields would run dry, so the bots would run out of easily scripted targets. The massive reduction in cycle time (in conjunction with the reduction in hold size) would make LoSec and Nullsec ice harvesting slightly more viable (but still the riskiest PvE activity in ISK/hr for those areas). Moving ice to gravimetric sites would provide small opportunity to have low-risk higher-income ice mining.

Mission Running
Beyond the intervention of ninja-salvagers and mission-griefers, mission running in EVE is the other big lonely activity in EVE. You don't need friends to run missions through level 4, and you can (usually) do them completely unmolested for hours on end. Recent changes with the Orca has negatively impacted the small amount of PvP in mission running, so I'd like to look at this from a different perspective. Competition is at the heart of this proposal.
  • Each agent should have a limited number of missions/hr to distribute. The number of missions should be inverse to the quality of the agent, so L1 agents have 4x more missions than L4 agents.
  • A mission is "reserved" after a player accepts it. If a player declines a mission, it remains in the pool that agent has for that hour. If a player fails a mission within the first hour, it returns to the pool for that hour.
  • The missions/hr do not "rollover" - each hour the number of missions is reset whether all of them were used in the previous hour or not.
  • Agents without missions can "suggest" agents that still have missions available, within their own corporation and mission type. A player can "reserve" that mission if they so desire, then fly to the recommended system to run the mission. This reservation is good for 60 minutes only, after which the mission is released to the local mission running population.
A nerf to L4 mission running? Yeah, sort of. There are 661 L4 Security agents across EVE. If each one of these had only 20 missions per hour, that's still a pool of over 12,000 L4 missions per hour. Of course, a decent number of those are in LoSec or Null, so let's just drop 1/4 which leaves only 9,000 L4 missions per hour available. That's one L4 mission for every 4-5 players in EVE on an average hour. That means you may need to move about to get a mission, and there would be competition for the best agents. This is a nerf designed to add the smallest flavor of PvP to mission running - you are competing against the other mission runners for the limited number of resources (missions) every hour.

EVE is a sandbox. Competition against others is at the heart of this sandbox. These two humble proposals would bring the nature of PvP competition to two of the most risk-free activities in EVE, without actually increasing the risk to assets.


  1. Excellent suggestions there; I support this initiative.

  2. I disagree. I think you're kidding yourself if you think that what's broken in this game is the fact that there are two areas that are 'pvp-ish' free. Ganking is a full time job on ice belts - goons aside. CCP is taking the right step, I think, refocusing on fixing what is clearly messed up. To start screwing around with other things now is a mistake.

    One of the biggest problems I see with your suggestions is that depending on your time zone - this would really eat into your ability to mine ice or do level 4's - those who are on closer to downtime would have a distinct advantage over those players who don't get on until much later in the day. This would cost CCP subscription. Ultimately that would hurt the game.

    Fix faction warfare. Fix null-sec and wh space. Fix POS's. Stay the path that CCP is on for now. Little things like the 'loot all' button and the ship rebalancing - these are what we need most now.

    Making life harder for people 'even the isolationist carebear' is a mistake - making it easier to survive, so that you can go out and do the other activities, like PVP - that is where CCP will succeed.

    But if you want to discuss something like Ice Mining being a problem - why not eliminate ice altogether? There is the idea of the 'POS Pellet' that would finally make that idiotic planetary interaction far more worthwhile. Take the PI stuff, make a pellet. Why bother with the isotopes? For the ships that need isotopes for other things - make a 'jump portal' pellet etc. Basically it takes one boring aspect of the game (ice mining) and substitutes it with an equally boring (Planetary Interaction) but the difference is of course that the PI can be set and forgotten. Whereas the ice mining you have to have an accout logged in... oh wait, I see why that won't work (And for a moment I thought I might actually be onto something) - lost subscriptions... Hate to say it, but anything that threatens subscriptions is a bad idea...

  3. Well, I think you missed a few details. First of all, no-where do I claim this is "all that is broken" with EVE. I do claim that it *is* broken though.

    Secondly, missions reset hourly. So downtime is irrelevant. Missing the top of the hour in a specific system might be a problem though.

    I don't disagree with the need to fix Faction War. Nullsec is being worked on as we speak, POSses have been tweaked (since this post) and are still in process.

    But Ice Mining is one of the most boring and mindless things that has to be done in EVE. And L4 missions are one of the two largest sources of raw, virtually risk-free ISK in EVE.

    And racial fuel (including isotopes) for capital ships and towers makes sense for these huge objects and ships.

  4. A few comments:
    - Mining in Eve is an utterly broken concept and I'd rather resources be devoted into reworking it. I'd like to see it go the direction of Minecraft [much explanation will be required if we go into that] or of the X universe.
    - Its worth mentioning that a huge portion of mission running is in fact a PVP action. Potentially, mission running is entirely a PVP activity if you're missioning in the "wrong" areas of space. LP doesn't convert itself directly to ISK, afterall. ;-)
    - Your core observation about missions is that they're somewhat devoid of PVP, and this is largely true. Your suggestion doesn't really do anything to address your core concern and so I'm not really in favor of it. I think I'd rather see missions in high sec become more like pirate missions and more based around LP and tag conversion than raw bounties.