As a premise, I assume CCP wants Eve to be a game that rewards the intelligent, aware, and careful risk-taker, while allowing human nature to punish the stupid, the lazy, and the ignorant. Miners often complain that gankers are overpowered, when – if they had spent any time in null-sec, they would have learned the aligning tactics that would keep them safe if a half-dozen Catalysts warp into their belt. Wardecced corps complain about denial of service as a result, but fitting their ships with basic PvP in mind would allow them to make a choice other than to dock up and hide.
The issue isn’t so much that they complain about the inconvenience, but rather that their minds don’t immediately recognize the easy methods of mitigating these inconveniences. Quite simply, they never learned them. And why not? Because they were comfortable enough in high-sec to never have needed to travel into low or null, where necessity would teach them these tricks.
That, my friends, is the problem. High-sec is too comfortable; it’s too easy to make a comfortable living running level 4 missions in high-sec. That results in two- and three-year-old characters who don’t understand how to handle themselves in PvP – in a PvP game.
I’m not saying players shouldn’t be allowed to do industry, mining, missions, or trading. I’m saying you shouldn’t be able to make enough isk in high-sec to pay for PLEX each month while still holding down a full-time RL job. It shouldn’t be that profitable. Otherwise, we get the status quo: many players learning nothing, gaining the highest rewards without risk.
People will only accept risk if the reward is sufficient to justify it. Right now, it simply isn’t. While CCP is eliminating “tiers” with their ships, they cannot apply this same principle to play styles. Tiericide for ships ensures that everyone can play any play style they choose. Tiericide for play styles themselves keeps people in high-sec.
Why should CCP care about this? The more risky play styles result in increased losses, and increased losses result in more PLEX sales. Null-sec is stagnant, especially in the recent months in which TEST lost half its membership, a strong, worthwhile fight is hard to come by, and small gangs are dying. Remember: large fleet losses are paid by alliance reimbursement, which has no interaction with PLEX. Only small-gang and solo PvP, travel, and losses result in hits to individual wallets.
CCP should be very concerned at the loss of small-gang warfare. A lot of these players solely PvP, and very rarely rat. They sustain themselves off of other accounts, loot, and bounties (though they’re pitiful). These are exactly the type of customers CCP wants.
But how would I go about improving the risk/reward ratio in Eve? Here are a few modifiers I’d change. Keep in mind the rules I stated in my intro... I'm suggesting equation and modifier changes requires little-to-no CCP development time (other than testing).
Mission locations should be changed so level 4 missions and agents only occur in deep low-sec (at least 2-3 jumps from high-sec). Level 3 missions should be located in shallow low-sec, with agent locations in high-sec and those low-sec systems (same as mission). Technical change: adjust location of some agents, ownership of some stations, and modifier on mission spawn systems (from, say, 0.6-0.5 to 0.3-0.2).
Requiring the highest mission runners to enter low-sec will bring life back to this region, while still offering the protection of gate guns and sec status decreases. This should give pirate corps a shot in the arm. I predict we’d see a drop in level-4 mission running for a couple weeks, until mission players realize they need this riskier mission income.
A side effect of this change would be a vast decrease in pimped-out mission ships. High-sec players would have to learn to fly what they can afford to lose and understand the importance of the value vs. cost relationship in a way high-sec mission runners don’t currently. This will reduce the value of null-sec mission loot, particularly modules like the Pithum A-Type Medium Shield Booster and Pithum A-Type Adaptive Invulnerability Field (800 mil and 1.6 bil respectively at present). Keep this in mind for later.
The argument against this one will be, “Why are you forcing people who just want to run missions to PvP?” I’m not; I’m forcing people who want to get rich to accept some risk. You say you have no goal but to mission? I present you with level 1 and level 2 missions. All the dopamine rush of completing a task, none of the risk. I’ve never known a rich person in real life who didn’t take risks; why should a multiplayer sandbox game be any different?
+5% and +10% ores should be removed entirely, base ore yields should be reduced 20%, and replaced with standardized ores: standard value in high-sec, 125% of standard value in low, and 200% of standard value in null. Refined mineral sizes should also be decreased significantly, allowing easier transport. Mining barges should be much slower to align than they are now. Technical change: all of these are modifiers that can be tweaked: incidence rates, yields per ore, etc.
Mining in null yields targets for small gangs. By reducing the yields, miners will either be flushed into low or null, or accept and absorb the reduced yields. I recognize that many miners will simply plug on as they always have; that’s fine. But this change would give an advantage to those willing to venture deeper into unfriendly territory, secure in the knowledge that the reduced size of refined minerals means they can ship their goods in a cloaky transport that much more easily. This will create targets, both if miners and mineral transports… and when a mineral transport is caught, as rarely happens for a smart pilot, the killers will actually be able to scoop some of the cargo as loot. Likewise, the slower align time will make mining barges who don’t know how to stay aligned into scrap, providing content for everyone.
The argument against this change is that it’ll raise prices across the board. I doubt this very much, since it’ll also allow null-sec and low-sec to generate quite a bit of ore, some of which will be shipped to high-sec. The rest would be used for the next adjustment.
Retribution included changes to boost the number of station industry slots in null-sec, and this is a good change, but we also need a reduction in job length for null-sec station and POS industry, too, perhaps 25%. It’s easily justifiable, too… Ishukone isn’t going to make it’s fastest, most efficient factory slots available for the public while they plug along with rotting assembly lines, but a null-sec alliance servicing its own alliance members should give access to the best lines.
I would also introduce POS modules that can modify various functions; an Industrial Optimizer that would reduce job times by a further 25%, for instance. That specialization would come with a cost, though: for every one you onlined, you’d be crowding out something else in your POS. As an added kicker, these POS modules wouldn’t be anchorable in high-sec (they can’t be limited to null, since this would put them only in reach of sov-holding alliances, who are often reluctant to give POS management rights to line members).
I know the least about incursions, but I can tell you that high-sec incursions should exist for no purpose but to teach pilots the basics of incursion fighting. Incursions are a good way to learn countering of neutralizers, webs, scrams, and other ewar in a way other high-sec PvE simply cannot provide. But remaining in the safety of high-sec shouldn’t be a viable option.
I would argue for a good mix between low-sec, sov null-sec, and NPC null-sec for incursions, with a heavy preference for NPC null. Right now, NPC null is a good model for the type of null-sec I hope to see, and a good first step might be to shift some (but not all) of the sov null-sec incursions to NPC null as a way of building more traffic and getting people accustomed to null-sec warfare, and only after several months move them back to sov null-sec. PvE-ers have to crawl before they can walk.
SummaryThe purpose of these changes is to incentivize, but not mandate, travel into low- and null-sec. CCP should allow for each play style to exist in each area of space, but not equally in all areas of space. Isk-making and Ship-breaking should be heavily favored in null-sec’s favor, with low-sec as a happy medium between risk and reward.
One thing is certain: Eve exists and prospers based on its conflict, not it’s PvE. There are dozens of games that offer more engaging PvE, and Eve cannot successfully compete on that alone. All PvE should exist as a gateway to Eve’s basic premise: that you can do anything you want, without forgetting it’s basic business model premise: that players must be incentivized into a domino-effect of engagement, starting with one activity and being drawn in, through connections and progression, to other activities, the mix of which can only be found in Eve.
That’s how Eve will survive.