Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fixing Null-Sec Pt. 1: Sweetening the Pot

Many people decry the filth and horse poop being suggested in the Eve-O forums as a pubbie wasteland, but they ignore the larger issue: a landslide of Eve characters and many Eve players choose to live, die, and regenerate solely within high-sec.  This is a problem for Eve as a whole.  A society that doesn’t encourage its children to leave the cradle finds itself incapable of going about any serious business.

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.


The 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.


  1. Everybody with a blog thinks they can build a better mousetrap. Don't worry about hghsec. Adapt to the mechanics of null. Requires effort, but all things are already possible.

    1. I completely agree, and I continue to PvP in null. My concern isn't about the mechanics of null as much as it's with pushing "null potential" subscribers to take the plunge to increase the activity. As you said, everyone with a blog talks about improving null-sec. That's a pretty clear sign that we have a problem on our hands.

    2. Actually, it's a sign that folks will always want to adjust the sandbox more to their liking. That's the thing. It is a sandbox concept in which the game experience should be molded more by what the player does with the tools given than by how the designer adjusts it to changing desires. It's ok that CCP encourages player input, but it's their responsibility to deliver simply a neutral sandbox and ours to make something out of it.

  2. 1 Missions
    "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."
    So, there will now be more people in lowsec looking for mission runners, who will be taking 20+ minutes to do a mission and can be scanned down and tackled in a minute then killed by a gang of pirates. Practically no one would continue doing this. Gate guns would certainly be no help since you would be in a mission site for most of the time. also as soon as anyone scanned down your mission site it would become impossible to finish for ages since you would have to somehow finish the mission with a gang looking out and waiting for you. or decline and kill your standings.

    "Requiring the highest mission runners"
    L5s are already in lowsec I believe...

    Also requiring noobs to venture into a now pirate infested and probably perma gatecamped lowsec to make any decent money while they build up assets and skills and experience is a great way to ensure 90% of them leave after losing everything.

    I believe since the changes to null ore yields null mining should be significantly more valuable than it used to.

    Now we're going in the right direction. Buff Null, don't nerf HS

    Yeah i really don't know why anyone would do this in null, they'd have to increase the rewards a lot before it made it worth the risk of having to fight off sansha and a pirate fleet at the same time. Unless you're Rooks and Kings :P
    Maybe a solution could be to make the sansha switch aggro to any fleet that warps in.

    The problem you have to address here is the "Neutral/Red in local, Dock/POS up" syndrome.
    You seem to want to encourage roaming PvE killing fleets in null/low. and since anything that does this will discourage PvEers you have a problem.

  3. " A lot of these players solely PvP, and very rarely rat. They sustain themselves off of other accounts..."
    What, pray tell, are they doing on these 'other accounts'? I'll tell you what, the same stuff you would destroy with your other changes! making the changes you suggest would likely, in my opinion:
    1. drop subs by 25%
    2. create a large blue donut, safer than hisec, where people in the 'right' alliance do all the content and everyone else gets blown up in shit fit ships cause the couldn't afford better.
    The only thing holding people back from null is the ISK investment. PvP needs to be a way to make ISK. I believe the problem lies in the fact that folks are forced to do Things they don't want to in order to do the stuff your do want to.

  4. I got intersted in joining a null corp a few years ago when I was scratching out a living running missions. After the nerf of null plexes I hinestly do not believe ccp has any intentions of enticing pve'ers into low or null anytime soon.