The six-week release cycle has given players a lot of change to absorb in a very short period of time. And while many of these changes are excellent, some of the recent changes, including the Aegis damage changes and FozzieSov, reveal an emerging trend within CCP’s rebalancing strategy. And that trend raises some concerns.
First, we had jump fatigue, which had the admirable goal of trying to slow down supercap travel to regionalize Eve and give room for smaller groups to deploy capitals without the ever-present fear of hotdropping. CCP couldn’t reduce apex forces, but they could reduce the mobility of them, a sort of “golden path” strategy. And they achieved their goal, by and large.
But, the way this was done introduced tremendous hassles for players that CCP dismissed with, “Don’t worry, we’ll soon™ be fixing it so you don’t need to do Jita runs”. It introduced annoyance and punished ship classes that were balanced along with those that were not (ie. suitcase carriers, industrial capitals, subcaps). In particular, it crushed the ability of players to stock themselves with subcaps in null-sec, making individual resupplying non-viable in many cases.
Even CCP’s announcement of adjustments to null-sec’s PvE system, while appreciated and certain to result in a higher sustainable population per system, doesn’t really address the value of sovereignty. After all, a person doesn’t need to own a system to take advantage of the extra signatures and anomalies. In fact, there’s no real advantage to a sov owner that an interloper cannot gain, beyond local staging. And the sov owner has the obligation of paying for the upkeep.
Plus, each signature, in particular, will become less and less valuable. After all, it’s not as if CCP is going to suddenly hand out 280 mil Gila blueprints and 1-bil isk Pithum A-Type Adaptive Invulnerability Fields like candy. As supply increases, value of each unit decreases. Note the cost of Pithum A-Types… they used to be 1.8 bil each. CCP is clearly looking at the economic effects of these changes, so anticipate the value of signatures to decline significantly as the supply of them increases.
Some smaller adjustments reveal a troubling trend in CCP’s development strategy as well, such as the Drone Damage Amplifier nerf in Aegis. Some ships are vastly overpowered, particularly the Ishtar and Gila. Instead of reducing damage bonuses for these two ships, though, CCP chose to reduce the DDA bonus to 20%, making it weaker than the bonus missile and turret damage modules grant (Heat Sinks, Ballistic Control Systems, Magnetic Field Stabilizers, and Gyrostabilizers all give a 10.5% rate-of-fire bonus and 10% damage bonus, which results in a 22.9% dps bonus). Certain ships, like the Tristan, had fairly balanced dps, and could be countered by certain comparably priced fits. With this damage reduction, though, their use will be much more limited, to the point that I suspect we won’t see many of them in faction warfare space anymore.
CCP’s intentions and even the types of systems they’re looking at fixing are good, inspired even. They’ve shown an innovative and “outside the box” approach that’s incredibly encouraging, but the application of that thinking is imprecise. Sure, they may only slightly missed the mark, but that slight miss is enough to render whole ship classes useless (assault frigates), create overpowered classes (interceptors), and add obstacles without commensurate benefits (FozzieSov).
As a player who loves Eve, this is incredibly frustrating. I see so much potential and so much value to what CCP is trying to accomplish and 90% of how they’re going about doing it, but that last 10% includes employing a hammer when a scalpel will do.
I see great potential in six-week release cycle, but not for the reasons CCP obviously does (for new players, a year ago CCP changed their release cycle to include smaller releases every six weeks, versus the previous massive expansions every six months). So far, they’ve lived up to their promise to employ baby steps to allow them to confirm that a change is working before inching forward again. But the real benefit of this faster release cycle is in being able to quickly reverse course. We haven’t seen that yet.
We’ve seen a few iterations of changes to the Ishtar, but these have largely fitted into the first category: small changes added one at a time that all serve to achieve the same objective. CCP clearly wants to reduce the effectiveness of the Ishtar for PvP, and they’re taking careful steps in that direction to avoid reducing it to uselessness.
Ah, but what of production teams, I hear you say? That change is really nothing more than removing a new element: “addition of X, removal of X, stasis returned”. I can’t think of an instance where they introduced a new element or mechanic, then removed it in favor of another new mechanic that better solves the original problem. Within CCP’s planning sessions, do their application development proposals include a “Plan B” for major changes? When they’re tinkering with things as critical to the game as sov and jump mechanics, a backup solution is absolutely critical.
For, I have deep concerns about FozzieSov’s success. I predict lots of folks will decide, “No thanks, I can base out of low-sec and enjoy my small gang roams, stomping on all those stupid sov null bums who have to spend all their time ratting and chasing nodes.” Alliances and corporations may be invested in sov null, but will players? They want compelling content; the economics of supercap production and moon goo mining aren’t in their minds, particularly now that jump bridges – the real, tangible benefit they gained from sovereignty – are fractionally useful.
The six-week release cycle provides the means for CCP to quickly step in and adjust mechanics. To be effective, though, the available options must be more dynamic than “revert” or “stand pat”. That Plan B, Plan C, or even Plan D may become critical, and an early implementation of some of the planned carrots that correspond with the stick of FozzieSov could do much to stabilize interest in null-sec post-July 14.
Indeed, it’s very possible that I’m wrong in my fears, FozzieSov will succeed, and CCP will see an influx of new and returning players. If that happens, they’re need to shift gears to provide returning players with support resources (ex. summaries of key changes emailed to players based on when they last subscribed) and accelerate improvements to the new player experience. That’d be a good problem to have and one they can solve effectively, but it’d be a problem requiring address, nonetheless.
But they must be equally prepared for the possibility that five weeks from now null player counts plunge. Alliances may remain motivated to defend their space, but the tedium and soul-siphoning of spending all their time running “Faction Warfare for no LP” may cause their players to leave for more engaging content. Null-sec encapsulates the “big idea” that represents Eve’s unique offering amid the online gaming marketplace. As null-sec goes, so goes the game. Eve isn’t dying, but it is receiving medical care and at risk for a hospital-acquired infection.
The new sovereignty system may be out of balance and cause widespread disinterest after a few weeks’ experience with it, depending on how severely current sov holders are trolled by meaningless entosising (ie. attackers entosising systems purely with the intent of forcing defenders to waste their time capturing nodes, without having any intention of contesting them).
July 14 represents the first big test of whether CCP is willing to use the flexibility they gained as a result of the 6-week release cycle. I believe it can be a success with an agile and ready response plan to deal with all the possible contingencies. That depends upon them having firm, targeted back-up plans ready to implement quickly based on need.
That’s an “if”, though. When they announced the changes, I had faith they could manage it, but I admit my faith has been diminished somewhat. Recently, they’ve chosen to shake the tree instead of picking the apple they want. And that doesn’t bode well for the orchard.