Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eyes on the horizon: part 2

I also have some thoughts on the various changes to 0.0 gameplay that CCP is considering.

In recent CSM meetings, it’s been made clear that CCP is considering making several changes to 0.0 game mechanics, all geared towards making 0.0 more accessible to smaller, independent alliances.  First, a bit of a history lesson: this philosophy isn’t new for CCP.  The Dominion expansion, released about a year and a half ago, was the first attempt at this.  Before Dominion, sovereignty warfare revolved around tower spamming.  Resources were limited, so alliances controlled vast areas of space in order to provide larger ratting grounds for their members.  With Dominion, CCP introduced the current sovereignty mechanics.  They introduced infrastructure hubs (ihubs), which were meant to allow an alliance to install upgrades (military and industrial) that would enable a single system to support more players.  It also evened the playing field a little by making a system’s profitability less dependent on its trusec.  This served the dual purpose of attracting smaller alliances to 0.0 while making it so that larger alliances didn’t need to control as much space to keep their members happy.  They also introduced sovereignty bills, which were based on the specific upgrades installed in the system’s ihub (some upgrades cost much more than other upgrades).  The scaled sovereignty billing system was meant to make it hugely expensive to hold sov over vast areas of space.  To those ends, CCP was successful, but what developed wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.

Larger alliances decreased their number of sovereign systems, but that didn’t prevent them from exercising their influence over vast regions of space.  Large power blocs developed the habit of leaving several systems within their sphere of influence unclaimed, but exploiting the system’s resources nonetheless.  In fact, CCP failed to eliminate one of the main motivating factors for holding large amounts of space: moon materials.  For anyone that isn’t aware, most major alliances rely on moon-mining for the bulk of the finances.  In short, the more high-end moons you control, the more money you have.  The more space you control, the more high-end moons you control.  Nevertheless, in many cases, smaller alliances were attracted to 0.0, but only in the form of renters and pets.  CCP failed to realize that the new sovereignty mechanics would not prevent larger alliances from maintaining control over large areas, regardless of how much sovereignty they actually held in that area.

And here we are, a year later.  Coalitions are king, and it’s rare for any alliance to succeed in 0.0 without being a member of one of the major power blocs.  The suggestions that have been thrown around to remedy the situation all involve making logistics more difficult in 0.0.  The two most prominent suggestions are eliminating jump bridges and severely nerfing the jump range of capital ships.  The idea behind the former is that jump bridges allow large coalitions, such as the Northern Coalition, to exist.  With access to the NC jump bridge network, I can travel from Fountain to Geminate in less than 20 minutes.  Fountain and Geminate are on completely different sides of the map.  Without this jump bridge network, it’s very difficult to live in one region while fighting in another.  Nerfing the jump ranges of capital ships follows the same idea.  If capital ships have shorter jump ranges, it limits the area over which an alliance can project its power.  I can’t say that the reasoning is wrong here, but what I can say is that these two suggestions, if implemented, will have a huge impact on life in 0.0, particularly for those that make their homes in regions like Branch, Tenal, Cobalt Edge, Period Basis, and other regions of 0.0 that are very far from empire space.  Many of these regions require a route through other conquerable 0.0 regions in order to make logistics work, which makes logistics impossible without “blueing” their neighbors.

If these changes are implemented, residents in these remote 0.0 regions will either have to be blue with everyone that they can practically fight, or they’ll have to rely exclusively on local industry.  The implication of this is that they will have little, if any, T2 items at their disposal.  T2 items are produced from various combinations of moon materials, which are not distributed evenly among all the regions.  Technetium, for example, is found in large abundance in the North while being almost non-existent in the South.  Alliances that live in 0.0 regions don’t have access to many T2 items without importing either the T2 items themselves or the moon materials necessary to build those T2 items.  For alliances that live in remote 0.0, importing and exporting goods would be almost impossible.  The same principle applies to meta 1-4 items, as these items are only dropped by pirate NPCs, and no 0.0 region has every variety of pirate NPC.  A resident of Period Basis would have a very hard time finding meta level shield upgrades to fit on their drake or raven.  Likewise, a resident of Branch would have a very hard time getting their hands on meta level armor hardeners.  EVE is very much a global economy, and making logistics more difficult only places unreasonable limitations on what pilots in 0.0 can fly.

There are ways around the limitations of a global economy.  For example, CCP could distribute moon materials evenly among the 0.0 regions, which would allow an alliance to produce every T2 item locally.  Concurrently, they could allow pirate NPC anomalies and complexes to spawn randomly throughout all 0.0, instead of relegating NPC pirates to specific regions. This would distribute meta level items to all 0.0 regions.  However, both of these changes, combined with the changes to jump bridges and capital ship jump ranges, would completely change the face of 0.0, and for a while things would be very chaotic.  Coalitions would dissolve and remote 0.0 regions would be thrown into a “dark age” of sorts, where the alliances that live in these areas would either be forced to slowly adjust to the importance of having a strong industrial backbone, or be forced to move out.

Personally, I don’t think that the changes to 0.0 are all that necessary.  I think that too often people jump to the “nerf-it” solution when they find something they don’t like.  I think solutions could be found if you just use your imagination.  For example, what about adding to low-sec?  How about changing low-sec so that the alliances that enjoy small-gang warfare can hold a kind of pseudo-sovereignty in low-sec systems in the same way that pirate cartels hold influence over small areas of space?  This way, 0.0 could be left to the coalition empires for those that enjoy that, and lowsec could be the realm of the small-gang pvper.  It’s not perfect, but at least it’s interesting.

We have yet to really see what the future holds for 0.0.  Everyone has their own ideas of what EVE should be like, but really, the only ideas that seem to matter are the dev ideas.  Only CCP has the power to change the game mechanics to fit their vision of what EVE should be.  But don’t be too disappointed, that power is only an illusion.  As the past has shown, whenever CCP changes the game mechanics in an attempt to influence the way people play their game, it doesn’t quite turn out the way they want it to.  After all, EVE is a sandbox, and in a sandbox you can manipulate game mechanics, but you can’t manipulate the way people interact with one another.

Eyes on the horizon: part 1

I know, I’m a bit late to the topic, but I’ve had plenty of time to think, and I want to share my thoughts on the 0.0 political situation.

First, ever since it became clear that the IT bloc wouldn’t survive, there has been much speculation on what the 0.0 landscape will be like with half of the 0.0 map being blue.  There are plenty of people claiming that it will ruin the game.  To that, I can only ask, “Ruin it for who?”  It’s always been the position of the “losers” to complain that they don’t like the way the game is being played.  All you have to do is visit the forums and read the numerous threads from miners complaining about can-flipping or hulkageddon, or the highsec nooblet corporations complaining about constant griefer wardecs.  The “winners” always respond, “stop complaining about people not playing the game the way you do.”  That’s a fair response, but now the tables have turned… somewhat.  The carebears have their 0.0 empire, and the small-gang – ‘leet – pvpers are severely outnumbered.  Frankly, with the way sovereignty mechanics work, what did you expect to happen?  In this context, complaining that the NC is going to ruin the game is a bit ridiculous.  Get over it.  Personally, I don’t really care.  I live in Fountain.  All I need to do is travel a few jumps into Delve or Querious to find all the targets I’ll ever want.  I suppose I might feel a bit different if I lived in Tenal or Branch.  And for all those complaining that the sov map isn’t going to change.  So what? Other than the rare occasions when you actually get a fight out of your enemy, sov warfare is all about shooting at stations and ihubs for hours on end.  I’d rather roam.  Anyway, that’s really all I have to say about that.