Thursday, March 26, 2015

Burn Down For What?

It's been a long time since I've blogged, and a lot of things have been happening with CCP and Eve Online, and lots of new features are visible over the horizon, including a long overdue rewrite of the Sovereignty System, and with it, destructible stations along with a large, open question:

What should happen to player assets in ruined stations?

The ideal design should minimize gimmicks, create opportunities for meaningful emergent gameplay, and create as little hassle for any players returning to Eve Online as possible. To that end, I propose that destructible stations take the form of no-services free-ports; a ruined hulk that anyone can dock with, but contains no station services, no market, and no offices.

For players returning to Eve Online after an extended away period, the freeport model holds significant appeal, without implementing a free ride to highsec for player assets. It would be worthwhile to give players an incentive to go out and recover anything that was previously locked up and inaccessible; I suspect that there's no shortage of former players who are staying away from the game because of what they lost access to. It seems likely that a massive, scorched-earth purge would begin when this mechanic was introduced. Tying in an invitation to return, along with a noted incentive to recover what's rightfully theirs, could be an excellent marketing point for the game.

Even without services, a station serves one other function that is not provided by any other thing in Eve: a secure staging and rallying point for friends, allies, and acquaintances to form up and undock from. This is something that should remain available beyond NPC facilities, and is a valuable part of the strategic landscape. By leaving the ability to dock, it'll be possible for players to eke out a new type of living in the wastelands of ruined stations.

A ruined station is an opportunity to rebuild. Giving players the power to rebuild a ruined station gives an objective to the transients who make use of the facility.

I've never been the most imaginative player of Eve Online. I imagine that the more creative sorts could think of all sorts of innovative and exciting ways to take advantage of these proposed mechanics. Free-form game mechanics have always been a great way to tell unique and exciting stories. Who wouldn't love to see a few more?

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Post Where I Complain About Brawling

<Kaeda> CCP want us to only brawl it seems!

In this day and age, it's an assessment that's pretty hard to disagree with; there aren't that many ways to kite inside 150 kilometers in the current meta. If someone brings a lot of interceptors in a response fleet, you're probably going to get caught, and you're probably going to die. If the other guy brings neutralizers, you can't stick around without becoming cap dead. If anyone brings an overheating tech 1 cruiser, you're probably going to get slingshotted and hard tackled. As soon as the Ishtars show up, you'd better leave, or sentry drones are going to turn your ship into a jagged pile of scrap. If you're in a fast ship, there's no such thing as "out of sentry range."

The metagame is an always evolving thing, but the small group's comeuppance to superior numbers, the ease of coordinating a smaller force when you need to escape, has been eroding especially hard as of late. After the various changes to cruisers and battlecruisers, it stopped being practical or cost effective to fly a roaming gang of Hurricanes or Drakes, while none of the other battlecruisers had a comparably respectable mix of solid damage projection, health, and maneuverability to begin with. Then came the Battleship revision, which dramatically increased the cost of fielding the ships, and put long ranged energy neutralizers into every battleship fleet's tool-chest. The addition of Microjumpdrives made hard scrambling an absolute necessity for keeping any battleship pinned down, forcing engagements to be ever closer. Then came the warp drive changes, which, combined with the bubble immunity and enormous warp acceleration and deceleration capabilities of interceptors, crippled the relative mobility of any ship bigger than a blowfly.

In a lot of respects, I think this sucks.

Some of my favorite memories in Eve were the flights of opportunity between battleships, battlecruisers, and kiting fights against numerically superior adversaries where your wits and your carefully executed warps were the tightrope between victory and disaster. All of these changes have made the game even more sensitive to superior numbers, and has generally served to kick anyone who can't bring a comparable number of ships to the fight in the face. ISK, pilot skill, and skill points can't buy your way out of hard tackle if you don't have enough pilots for a good mix of support and damage boats, and nothing larger than a cruiser has a chance of disengaging if you're facing a superior force without three system's advanced notice. When walking into another alliance's home field advantage, when just about every group has access to a Titan, insurmountable ambush can happen with alarming regularity.

The classic response is to adapt or die, and as always, that's what will happen. Still, do the margins need to be this tight?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

How Many Dominixes?

It's no secret to any diligent miners that the values of each ore per cubic meter has become a little bit screwy over the past few months.

Who expected Hedbergite to become the most valuable standard rock in the game?
Chart source: from December 21, 2013

Despite CCP Rise's intentions to restore the value of mining in nullsec, success seems to have eluded him; nullsec ores are less valuable than ever before. What might be driving such a curious development? Lets take a look at what the Dominix, and what goes into building one.

Material efficiency level 100

Thanks to the potency of sentry drones, the addition of Micro Jump Drives, and their relatively low cost, the Dominix has become a major doctrine ship for many alliances, and a reasonably effective choice for mission runners. At a mineral cost of approximately 167 million ISK, it is affordable, and expendable. The Dominix is an easy and solid choice for a comparison baseline.

Battleships have long since lost their status as the mainline benchmark for conflict in null security space. The proliferation of super capitals, the evolution of ship capabilities, and the development of new strategies have made Archons one of the most adaptable, capable, and viable tools in an alliance's arsenal. As a capital ship, it's also much less affordable than a Battleship.

ME 100 on components and ship blueprints
A quick glance will tell you that an Archon's material cost is approximately five times that of a Dominix. Looking closer, the actual consumption ratios contain some interesting variations.

Rounded to three decimal places

The numbers are most interesting indeed. Each Archon contains 4.951 Dominixes worth of Tritanium, 5.173 Dominixes worth of Pyerite, a whopping 6.568 Dominixes worth of Mexallon, a comparatively meager 4.514 Dominixes worth of Isogen, 5.134 Dominixes worth of Nocxium, a paltry 4.028 Dominixes worth of Zydrine, and 4.734 Dominixes worth of Megacyte.

The value of mineral bearing ores reflects these disparities to some degree. Nocxium, Mexallon, Pyerite, and even Tritanium bearing ores have enjoyed growing value over the years, while rocks particularly heavy in Isogen and Zydrine at the expense of others have plummeted.

Capitals aren't the end of the story; let's consider the Aeon.

Though far from a complete analysis, these numbers are certainly suggestive; if we want to see an increase in the value of ores in null security space, some significant changes may be in order across a potentially broad spectrum of the game. The balance of battleships, capitals, and super capitals, the distribution of ores in space, the abundance of minerals within each cubic meter of ore, the capabilities of capital ships, the capabilities of battleships; all of these and more could have an influence on the miner's preferred finds and the builder's bottom line.

Where do we go from here? That's up to CCP's designers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shouldn't we be able to read this?

After ten years and a Little Things initiative, you'd think this particular user interface issue would have been fixed by now. Oh well, as the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Attention Problem

A matter of long contention between PVE and PVP pilots has been the matter of highsec suicide ganking. Between justifications and opinions sit a series of facts. Some of these facts are well known and paid attention to by many participants in the ongoing discussion; others receive less attention than they perhaps deserve. The pertinent data is as follows:

  • The amount of firepower needed to destroy any vessel can be measured in multiples of Catalysts
  • The EHP of a mining ship is hard pressed to exceed 15 Catalyst Equivalent
  • The window of time needed for Catalyst Pilots to successfully perform a suicide gank is less than a minute
  • Mining is an activity whose rewards do not scale for looking at the screen more than once every 15 to 30 minutes.

The latter point is, I think, the largest source of problems. Suicide ganking, taken on its own, remains fundamentally sound as, in a majority of cases, it is easily mitigated by paying attention to one's surroundings. Conversely, mining is designed in such a way that it is very difficult to hold the players attention for an extended period of time. However, all players are vulnerable if they look away for even a brief period of time. It is very easy to look away from your computer for 5 minutes and find yourself looking at 5 minutes worth of ore, or to find yourself waking up in a new clone, never realizing you were in danger until the threat has already come and gone.

Never a fun entry for the log book.
The problem is not one of people who want to fight and people who don’t, it’s one of rewards for vigilance; it takes much more effort to be vigilant than it does to pay attention to the task of mining. The easiest solution to this problem is to create a reward for paying more attention to the ore you're harvesting.

There is no hard and fast rule about which form an increased reward for mining should take. It could involve a constant set of adjustments to compensate for yield, or it could be a mini-game where you pick your way through various rocks to extract the more valuable ores hidden within an asteroid’s bulk composition. Whatever design might be settled on, it simply needs to reward players for paying attention without overwhelming them.

If miners are given a good incentive to pay attention to the contents of their screen, they will be much more likely to see when hostiles are on the prowl and to make it to safety, bringing a semblance of balance back to a game whose debates and focus have become centralized on suicide ganks and ever rising hitpoint buffers.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A New Spin on Ship's Crew

An average ship's compliment of Crew.
Click for full size.
A ship’s crew is a precious commodity, and it’s never truly made
sense to me that they should be a free asset when you assemble a ship. While it makes sense that there are countless qualified (or cheaply qualified) personnel floating around in Empire Space to satisfy the insatiable demand for new crew, the comparatively undeveloped and savage wilds of null security space make this seem less reasonable. Fortunately, we already have Planetary Interaction, which can quickly satisfy the body problem from a lore standpoint, while creating a target for DUST bunnies.

I propose adding a spacecraft crew qualification academy mechanic for habitable (or colonized) planets in null security space, accessed through planetary interaction, located in outpost constellations, to be fought over by DUST 514’s mercenaries. Without academies, there won’t be enough qualified personnel to assemble spaceships that are packaged, forcing players to assemble their ships in NPC stations, or capture and/or construct additional training facilities in their outpost constellations.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Proposal for a Game of Outposts

I’d like to transform the rules of outpost ownership from their current state: with the exception of one Castle Constellation in each region, I propose changing an outpost owner’s abilities from full access control, to setting docking fees, service fees, and tax rates. In the majority of cases, it would no longer be possible to deny docking rights in null security space.

Wait, back up; you want to do what? Why!? 


In broad strokes, Eve Online is a game of creation and destruction; on an individual level, a majority of players prefer as little overlap between these two states as possible. Players prefer to make their money in safe places, either in high-sec where attackers can’t get away with it, or in secluded places, where there isn’t anyone to attack them. When players aren’t in the clear to make money, there is tension. When there’s tension, there’s desertion and instability. When there’s desertion and instability, there’s the possibility of failure cascade, and in the vast majority of cases, it is not in a corporation’s or alliance’s interests to implode on itself. There is a great deal of incentive for an alliance to possess a large buffer zone of sparsely populated space.

Players living in null security space go where they aren’t likely to be found; the best defense against hostility is to give hostile entities nothing to shoot. Players mitigate risks further by fitting cloaks, staying near starbases, and staying in station systems. When you’re on the prowl in nullsec, and the targets of opportunity make themselves safe, there’s very little incentive to stick around; it’s a long trip home, and would-be targets have all the time in the world to make a bigger fleet or to ignore the threat entirely. In highsec and lowsec, there is always the option to dock, no matter who you are. It’s no coincidence that you find a lot more people in most low security systems than null security systems; when you’re looking for targets and the targets decide to ignore you, the docking managers in lowsec aren’t going to say “no.”

I want to see null security space become more like low security space. 

The burden of maintaining territory should fall on the shoulders of those who would make use of that space. The average null security system should be filled with players fighting or working to make a living, not a vacuous expanse controlled by a blob of supercapitals, thrown at anyone eyeing the multitude of vacant bastions. In lowsec, you are only ever truly in control of a situation when you’re there to control it. Low Security Space is a vibrant and dynamic place, so long as there is someone able and willing to fight; all you need is proximity and permission. I want null security space to work more in the same way. Players living around each other will fight each other; Empire building and warfare are the purposes of 0.0 space, but there does not seem to be enough battle to satisfy its denizens.

Nullsec power blocks, such as Pandemic Legion, Goonswarm and Northern Coalition., have been dropping their capital fleets on small groups in low security space because that’s where they can find action. This is not the place where this kind of activity should be taking place; low security space, which does not allow interdiction spheres, anchored bubbles, doomsdays, or bombing runs, was not designed as an arena for super capital slugfests. Yet, lowsec boasts the record for the largest capital engagement in history because there, there is action; a commodity that’s hard to find in large swathes of null security space.


Full control isn’t always a bad thing. 


Giving players full control of docking and service access isn’t always a bad thing; players like to own castles. Area denial is a potent power, but it’s the type of control that is better as the exception, rather than the rule. Each region in 0.0 space should have a capacity for one “Castle Constellation,” where one alliance can exercise full control over it. Full control of the assembly lines, refineries, and offices is an excellent reward for holding a seat of power, and that seat of power is a worthy reason to war with another alliance.


Farms and Fields? We already have Outposts. 


Much as Planetary Customs Offices supply a means for bottom up income, the Outpost is the perfect tool for supplying bottom up income for alliances. With their low construction bill, Outposts are common and capable of fulfilling that role; the one caveat is the excessive ownership costs for that role, but that’s not hard to change. Through control of rental rates, refining taxes, and docking fees, there’s a great deal of opportunity to make a buck from the daily activities of people living in your stations. The dynamics of the relationship an occupant has with the owner could be friendly, with low rates, low taxes, or devoid of fees entirely, or perhaps hostile, with maxed out taxes and docking fees that make it prohibitively expensive to harass someone for an extended period of time without taking the station from them.

When players have the right to dock, even when the owners are hostile to them, new opportunities are presented for industrious players to make a buck. A player can supply goods and services to alliances without having to negotiate in advance (while having the opportunity to do so for preferable rates). Perhaps the most intriguing outcome, a player could afford to subside entirely out of an outpost, unbound from NPC controlled territories. For the threat of denied access, and a potential lack of outbound transportation, it’s unwise to leave anything in an outpost that you can’t afford to lose. Changing these rules of the game will rewrite the storage policies of corporations, alliances, and individuals everywhere – for the better.


In conclusion 


It’s past time to give players the proximity and long term station access they need to turn null security space, and the sovereignty game therein, into a battleground for all sizes of organizations, rather than relying on super-coalitions to create conflict. Null security space needs the liveliness of multiple hostile groups living under one roof. Right now, the game’s incentives are so backwards that many PVPers would rather live in low security space for the action, than fight for the limited ground available to make a name for one’s self in null security space; it’s too easy for someone bigger to simply give someone the boot. Likewise, null security space is often so empty that it’s safer to make a living there than in lowsec. Denying control of docking services could transform, null security space into the environment I think it should be; target rich, busy, and eternally at war within each region’s borders.

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