Friday, 30 November 2012

Eve: a notion of how CCP might fix null sec

I'd like to conclude my so far rather gloomy series of posts about null sec with something more positive. First off, I'd like to say I'm very impressed with CCP, with their awareness of the game issues and their conscientious and thorough approach to iteration. I once played a MMO (Star Wars Galaxies) where the Live team wanted the game to be a different game and played other games in their off-time. It's why it died. I'm now playing Eve where the devs play it when they're not being paid to and where they get their ideas from the community not from (better) rival games.

So Eve is in good hands and is very healthy. Maybe we won't see something much like my idea but we will see something and it will be pretty good.

So how can we fix null sec? First, let's look at what's good about it and what's bad about it.

The good:
- it's fun. It's very exciting to paint the map in your alliance's colours, to undertake massive and difficult conquest of space.
- it's social. It's a communal exercise where it's very hard to solo, you have to group to be effective. (There are exceptions and Eve has plenty of outlets for solo players).
- in some ways the rise of the coalitions is a vindication of Eve's awesome sovereign gameplay.
- it drives the rest of Eve. The destruction of ships and structures in massive null sec pvp provides markets for the builders and traders, keeps rewards high for those who earn loyalty points in Faction War or mission running and is where the high level ships produced from wormholes go to die.

The bad:
- the main issue is that possibly the end is within sight. As I talked about last time we could see an all-blue (non-aggression) null sec simply because expanding your circle of allies is the natural and most effective method of playing the game. So people want to win and because we want to win we risk causing the game to stagnate as an unintended consequence.
- another problem is that the rest of the game is economically dependent on the null sec fighting. Eve has a rare MMO mechanic of destroyable ships which makes it unique and is the reason it appeals to its niche. No other mainstream MMO has so rich an economy or such a fun crafting game and the reason is that the demand is perpetually renewed because ships get blown up. Few other MMOs allow you to risk so much in one throw or ruin another person's day so thoroughly.
- null sec industry is non-functional. People just bring stuff in from Jita. Even null sec mining is barely better than high sec mining.
- it's too small. It may once have seemed epic and vast but the game grew in player numbers continuously from 2003 to 2010 and space has been further shrunk by the efficiency of jump drive using pilots. It's not just the introduction of the capital ships, its their development as players have skilled their characters up and developed alt-based strategies that allow them to move their ships across great chains of jumps.

(I deliberately don't include two oft cited null sec issues as bad. Lag isn't bad now that we have time dilation. And structure grinding is about where it should be so people don't lose their hard-won space too quickly or too trivially).

My solution:

In brief: More space.

In detail:  Deep space sensors across Empire space begin to pick up strange and giant artifacts out beyond the furthest reaches of a number of solar systems. Exploration teams discover vast alien pillars, previously undetectable but now beaming a faint signal. Is this some kind of unknowable invitation? Engineers examining the objects conclude they are some kind of non-operational alien stargates built on a scale never before seen in New Eden. Where they go is beyond anyone's ability to guess. But it does seem as if they could, with sufficient resource investment, be made operational...

This would be an expansion (in both senses of the word) in stages. The first stage is rendering the Cosmic Starways operational. My idea for this is borrowed from World of Warcraft where for the Ahn'Qiraj raid instances each world had to first make a vast communal effort. You'd hand in resources and receive rewards, worthwhile enough that people would feel motivated to do it for the reward even if they didn't give two hoots about opening up what lay beyond. So there would be a Cosmic Starway in each Empire constellation and any player can fly up to one, interact with a Sisters of Eve agent there, and hand in resources and get LP in return. Sisters of Eve LP or LP for some special store, doesn't really matter. This of course would be a useful asset sink.

Opening a gateway should take the entire server weeks or months. There's no harm in making this a really big effort, it makes it feel more epic and sinks more assets.

Each gateway leads to an area of Orion-space, a new null sec zone. Functioning more or less as current null sec except with one crucial difference: the distances (in Light Years) are much bigger. Where a six cyno chain in the current game might let you jump 50 systems in Orion-space you'd travel more like 10. Jump drives are mainly useful for letting you appear in a different place in a system than the obvious entrance rather than letting you move super-fast across regions. In particular the Cosmic Starway that leads in from Empire is hundreds of AU long, meaning that no jumps from anywhere else in Eve are possible. Orion-space does not connect to wormhole space.

Curtailed travel times have the following effects:
- discourages blobbing. A large empire needs to not concentrate all its force in one place because it will be unable to quickly move to help other frontiers if it does so.
- encourages local industry. It's better to make stuff locally than to bring it from Jita.
- encourages political diversity. It's much harder for a coalition or two to dominate everywhere.
- encourages exploration and small scale ventures. You can find a corner of the universe where it might take months before anyone even notices you, much less attacks you.
- encourages ganking as so much more trade is moving in convoys rather than virtually ungankable jump freighters.
- encourages racial homogeneity as it will be hard to get isotopes that aren't native to the region.

Economic notes: Orion-space should not be an exporter to the rest of Eve. There's always a temptation to sell a new feature to the player base by filling it with shinies, this area really doesn't need that. Its inaccessibility is its Unique Selling Point. By the same token anything Orion space can't make locally will be rarely seen. T3 Cruisers would have to be brought in from Empire in Freighter convoys through stargates because those materials aren't available. Amarr type regions (the equivalents of Delve) would be full of Amarr capitals because it would be so hard to run ships that require "foreign" fuel.

Political notes: Orion-space will attract people to nullsec who feels marginalised by the current Eve political situation. Most people don't want to have to become a Goon in order to not get your home kicked in. A new patchwork quilt of rival alliances should emerge, much like early days of Eve. Initially whoever can take and hold the entrance system from the first Cosmic Starway built will have an amazing influence - they'll be gatekeepers to the entire zone. However no one will be able to stop the community from handing in resources for LP across Empire and so the other Starways will gradually get opened allowing more access points. Orion-space would make a great alternatives for alliances that lose in conventional null. Instead of moving to Empire they could come here - an exciting option instead of a dull one.

Afterword: however CCP solve the issue of null sec stagnation I'm sure it will be good and surprising. Eve is in good hands.


  1. Uh what?? More EMPTY space? Null is the largest desert that ever existed.

    We don't need MORE space, we need a way to allow players to USE the hundreds of empty systems the large Alliances own but don't do squat with.

    CCP and many players in EvE have been batting around ways of driving Empire players, Hi & Lo, down to Null... but as long as only a few massive Alliances own the majority of system in null (or more, which I agree is inevitable) unless you are willing to play THEIR game, yer out.

    "No, we're sorry but it's join us and become one of the happy faceless masses, one of the Goony Drones and play OUR way or stick to Empire..."

    And not everyone wants to be one small powerless member of a powerless corp (sm, med or lrg) inna massive Alliance (with some power) which is blue to, and beholden to, a truly massive (powerful) coalition.

    I and my corpmates don't EVER want that, that's why HBHI is a W-Space corp and our Alliance is one of convenience because it keeps us in contact with our friends ingame. No, I will NEVER live in nor play in null as long as the only way to do so is to give up autonomy... and free will. We are beholden to NO man... and many... MANY players feel exactly the same way.

    EVE is a GAME, I play it to something other than what I do IRL, IE be a small cog in a vast machine... powerless over so much that takes place around me. In EVE "I" can be powerful, as an Individual. I can be Rich, and I MEAN RICH like I never will be IRL... I can be IMMORTAL, and fly SPACEHIPS!!! Now why in the hell would I want to subordinate myself to ANYONE??? I have to do that every day at work out 'here', damned if I'm gonna pay $15 US a month to do it inna game. Period.

    More space? No... give the rest of us access to the wide open deserts in Null. The ONLY change needed to fix null is...

    "Proof of Residence". PoR means you LIVE there, not you anchored a 'thing' there or nearby and then leave never to return unless the 'thing' is attacked.

    No... get rid of the current Sov system and replace it with something the server can track easy as pie... your corp/Alliance/whatever bases out of there and LIVES there, full time and then and only then is it 'yours', otherwise the rule of the day is:

    "Move your fleet, lose your seat." Period.

    And before anyone trolls in with the easy "But, but, but... 'lives there full time??' What do you mean? You mean I can NEVER LEAVE that systems?? OH EFF THAT!!" no, the details of a mechanic for PoR could be hammered out easy... base it on a total of where you log off most, number of ships you have in station(s) insystem, etc., etc. ...

    Anyone can take a few minutes and come up with a number of metrics you could use to prove system 'x' is the system corp 'Y' lives in... Proof of Ownership BY Residency. Will the players try to circumvent it and abuse and misuse any PoR mechanic dreamed up? Of course... it's EvE. =]

    No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!! No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!! No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!! No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!! No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!! (come on join us!!) No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!! No more Absentee Owners in EvE!!!... =]

    1. The issue isn't that space is not being used. The issue is that people can stop you using it.

      There are tons of empty systems but if you set up shop there without doing the diplomatic side you'll be kicked out pronto. Even though those systems are not needed by the people who can project force there they can stop anyone else operating there.

      Now many of the null sec resources are unique (moon goo, officer mods) so those who control the space have an interest in preventing people from exploiting those resources.

      If people can control space they will stop other people using it even if they don't want to exploit its resources themselves.

    2. You jut made my point. Not about the change in mechanic, but the SHY something needs to be done to open null to others...

      "If people can control space they will stop other people using it even if they don't want to exploit its resources themselves."

      THIS should not be allowed. I get it, and I don't have an answer... but to me, THIS is the biggest problem in null.

  2. As a future expansion I like this idea a great deal. I'd refine the location of these new gateways though. I'd find some way in lore to place them into a faction warfare system. That would make them directly contestable and not easily controlled by null-sec alliances. Hell, make a planetary power requirement (nothing in sapce could be THAT big right?) and use Dust Bunnies to secure it. That might avoid the one potential flaw I see in your concept. The gateways would be a bottleneck. Like highwaymen of old, the Goons might managed to take control of them. Your entire plan of a place for the unwanted/unwilling would not work unless you paid a Goon toll. Then they might blast you anyway for the lulz.

    1. The bottlenecks are deliberate, as is the gradual opening of more entrances. We want conflict.

      Also it might be hard for old guard powers like Goons and PL to project force without being able to cyno in. It's more likely that someone ejected from null sec might up stakes and move to take control, would be pretty interesting I think.

  3. Want to make EVE space bigger? make cynos for in-system jumps only.

    That's right - force all ships to use existing gates. Sucks to be black-ops, but I'm sure we can give those few pilots new things to do with t2 battleships.

    Travel across EVE will suck for capitals. TOO FREAKIN' BAD. I fly dreads and carrier, I know it will suck. But capital ships are meant to be slow to move, but punch like a truck. Something is wrong with the game if a capital, in one jump, can travel faster than a speed fit frigate.

    want to hot drop a ship, well get in system first.

    1. I think there would be too much drama if you drastically nerfed existing null which is why I want to see a parallel system.

  4. LOL.. much drama may be exactly what's needed. Things are getting too blue down there in redville... =]

    1. CCP doesn't want Summer of Rage style drama with multiple account cancellations even if the rest of us do :)

  5. I prefer my version, which is close on concept :P
    EVE : New World

    With a constructible nullsec (you create your own stargate and all, projects lots of people talked about) on another plane reachable only by womrhole space, and so completly separated from current nullsec, you can have another zone which would be extremaly hard to be fused with the current one on political game.

    Nullsec is about numbers, and womrhole gameplay doesn't allow numbers, so a nullsec coalition couldn't cross to another nullsec zone if he need to go though wormhole first. Make it so you can't jump clone from one to the other side and it should works.
    Current powerblocs could help the "new world" alliances, but they couldn't control them past the starting time if the level design is well done.

    These new regions could have some effect like some wh space, which would make these different from each others.
    Adding new space also allow devs to change some rules if they want, like limiting super use by making cyno explode after too many ships use it or something like that.

    You could make this space with smaller constellations and regions, so that it can be used by smaller entities, and have less empty space.
    Your idea of pretty big distance could works here between region, so that capital projection is limited.
    Given this place would be pretty hard to reach, it should be a bit more interesting ISK wise than normal nullsec, beein between null and wh.

    Of course, like your version, this idea has a pretty big flaw ; it would be extremly costy for CCP to develop, as it would takes lots of time, but it could be an apocryphia 2, and I really think it would be worthwhile.

    1. That sounds awesome, I'd be excited if that was the Winter 2013 Expansion!