If the current centralized organization of the sandbox stays the same, EVE is doomed.
The key to the current situation in EVE is to look at the disease, not the symptoms. The massive failure of the titan bridge is just a symptom. Inflation due to PLEX is a symptom. Market monopolization through polarized wealth accumulation (read: moon goo) is a symptom. Empty nullsec is a symptom.
The disease is this: the sandbox is just too damn big because it fails to be accessible. It simply takes too much real time and too many players to take and hold nullsec. It is far too easy to keep everybody docked in Empire by controlling a very few bottlenecks. It is far too easy to project forces that completely out-scale most enemies. Essentially, the player base never got big enough to take advantage of the scale of the universe.
Directly below is an analogy for those who would benefit from a greatly summarized timeline of the situation so that it’s easy to fully understand the effect of my proposed solution without using too many veteran references.
If you believe you already have a good understanding of the state of EVE today and how it happened, skip to the end of the quote.
Let’s imagine there is a massive property owned by the school district (3km radius) with a central structure that functions as schoolhouse-grocery-hardware store combination building. Kids earn money to buy food, tools and toys as they voluntarily participate in structured activities (missions) and join clubs to learn from each other (corps). The lessons teach them to build things that they then price and put on the shelf at their nearest commissary window (market). There is a fenced playground area outside where the recess monitors (CONCORD) keep an eye on things, but there are a few corners where they can’t really keep kids from roughhousing a bit (low sec). The rest of the property is divided up into many sand piles (systems) connected by specific paths (gates) that restrict movement. Lastly, all over the place are plants that grow stuffs (celestial resources) that can be used to build things. These plants vary in availability and quality of their stuffs from one sand pile to another.
So, when school first opened, lots of kids stuck around the schoolhouse and took classes, joined clubs, assembled simple widgets, and generally just got things going. Soon, the adventuresome kids learned to secure the stuffs (resources) that were out in the area that the recess monitors didn’t bother with and beat up and chased off anybody that came near their plants. By taking the sand piles and building their own shelters, they made their own special places to protect their plants and it was cool. Soon, however, some of these clubs made groups that got surprisingly big and became super-bullies who learnt that they could own bunches of the sand piles and associated plants if they just kept the routes locked down (regional bottlenecks). Unfortunately, a lot of the younger kids at the school couldn’t spend enough time away from home to make enough money to pay off or fight off the super-bullies so they settled with just playing in the fenced area (carebears). Some of these kids got older and eventually joined the super-bullies and paid schoolyard tolls (rent) so that they could make more money by picking low-lying stuffs in vast areas of tree-filled empty sand piles (nullbears). This made it nearly impossible for a new club to get into the unfenced sand piles at all. They were forced to either become friends with or paying off the super-bullies. This left the administration (CCP) sad because almost no one was graduating into playing in the greatest portion of the sandbox. So, they tried to fix it.
They introduced a new set of plans and tools at the school so that kids could more easily move in the back field sand piles, and could jump around from one area to another without the bother of the pathways. This took the form of super-expensive helicopters (titans). Administration assumed that the huge cost would assure there would never be very many helicopters. They were wrong. Eventually, helicopters popped up everywhere, but only in the hands of the super-bullies who owned the good trees and had cornered all the profitable zones. Not much later, the super-bullies figured out they could just fly big groups of kindergarteners (blob) wherever there was a fight and all they had to give them were sticks and a sweet treat. Now, they didn’t even need to hang out at their trees. They just gave little sticks to the candy-fueled babies and flew out huge groups of them whenever their trees were threatened by enterprising groups of middle-school club members. They even found that a lot of the babies would actually volunteer to hang out and play little recess games and report when the middle-school kids were messing around near the good plants. The middle-school kids got so constantly bashed by the big swarm of stick carrying kindergarteners that they stopped trying to take any sand piles at all, and the vast majority of the plants on the sand piles have remained unused.
At around the same time, the administration tried to make it easier for older kids who had less time to spend at the school. They let parents pay for stuff with money that came from outside the school (PLEX). This did get a lot of kids back in the school, but it just made everything more expensive and that money still ended up in the hands of the bullies that own the best brick-fruit trees and didn’t care what anything cost anyway. So, that only aggravated the problem, though it did put a lot of money in the school budget (which they’ve been spending on new schools, and enough fixing this one).
Analogy over. Whew. That summarizes the current state of EVE and how it developed.
Will suddenly pulling the titan bridge fix it? Nope. All the kids will just leave and no one will be left in the sandbox with nobody to shoot at.
Would altering bridging fuel requirements fix it? Hell no. It would just leave the bridge in the hands of those who have all the stashed ISK.
Will moving and/or re-distributing moon goo fix it? No. The big money has secured such an advantageous financial position they can’t be shaken and would just adapt.
“Well, what might the fix be?” you should be thinking.
Break up nullsec with islands of empire space. It is totally sad, but I also believe it is absolutely necessary.
I believe the solution should take the form of NPC sponsored pathways into deep space “colonies”.
Steal whatever the Sansha are doing to invade Empire and give it to the four races, thereby making the change logical and the storyline consistent. Empire space needs to expand out into constellation sized pockets all over the universe with large divisions of nullsec between and no titan bridge.
I believe it would also need to be accompanied by a rapid means to move jump clones and single sub-capitals via NPC sources only; a job for all the ignored logistical NPC corporations. Make these new “colonization missions” and “supply missions” adaptive thereby rewarding active players with a constant stream of active content that moves as colonial expansion does. Require distribution contracts to move NPC assets into place. Use mining mission in neighboring nullsec to amass raw materials for NPC fabrication efforts. Allow this accumulation to be actively trackable by players. Cause supply and demand rules to apply artificially thereby moving player effort to quieter areas of the colonies which would promote players to go wherever the money is best. Isn’t this why you have an economist and team?
Build these colonies with a combination of game mechanics from incursions and factional warfare. Heck, you could use player missions of all types as a means to establish NPC stations divided amongst the different service corporation that exist now – again, logically adapting content and structure which is already in place
These colonies should require constant player defense but provide an incentive superior to traditional Empire rewards and in scale with the risks, similar to how incursion rewards scale. Balance would be the key and the colonies would need to be permanent, though adapting their size and scope should fluctuate. Keeping the colony expansion at a reasonable rate and limiting the available resources would be a fabulous engine for dynamic use of all the player skill sets and starter professions. The only risk would be that Empire would significantly empty out. Good! It might also cause serious market deflation with the new massive influx of raw materials. Again, good! Finally it would be within budget to take risks with ships and many carebears would feel risk averse and finally grow testicles. It would create many areas of conflict accessible to all levels of players, similar to old gate only combat scenarios but without the requirement to dedicate huge portions of real life time just to get there and the attached risk of losing all that effort in less than 30 seconds once you do arrive on the battlefield. We would finally have pockets from which many small player run empires could grow.
It would also make it both necessary and worthwhile to conduct industry all over the universe, not just in Empire. We would return to PvP combat forces escorting mining and hauling fleets out to gather resources and establish field operations, but much more commonly and at a very different scale. EVE needs a massive nullsec population, and this is the only way I can see to make it fit.
The net result would be moving a lot of high sec effort out into nullsec. This is the part of the equation that has never been cracked. We need localized, fun, small scale PvP conflict regularly, not as an exception.
As attractive as large fleet fights might be in trailers and as a concept, it is proving to be impractical as a primary objective. The numbers of players have never been there to support it. Large fleet engagements should be a natural escalation from small, local conflict created by players who have a vested interest in the fate of their space. No more straight to big fleet fights full of noobs who are just fighting over things owned by cooperatives whose leadership hardly log in. Only when nullsec is divided between huge populations of active, permanent player residents will large fleet fights happen spontaneously.
There is no silver bullet, single issue, or quick fix, yet the tools already exist to enact a repair. Think about it. Player tasked imperialism and colonization. Make nullsec accessible and profitable, and subscriptions will grow. Keep putting band-aids on this badly organized map and it will continue to wither away.
I believe CCP is the only organization in gaming history that has the ability and balls to enact this kind of change effectively. We know you have the money for it.
Again, If the current centralized organization of the sandbox stays the same, EVE is doomed.
o7 – Brian Oakland