A week ago, I was decisively elected CSM.
I ran a campaign grounded my Eve background and balance ideas. In my CSM bid I had more concrete ideas than any other campaign this year. But even in that document, I admit that CSM members seldom get their concrete ideas inside the game; this is particularly true when these ideas involve conflicts of interest among players. So today, I want to sketch some principles instead, which have been themes that I kept defending in the past and during the campaign. Even if there are multiple ways to implement these principles, we can at least find common ground in principles and begin working from there.
I got elected without bloc vote support. Even supporting major ballots did not have me at #1 position; yet, my #1 votes were enough to get me elected. The election results should show that a good portion of Eve players is behind these principles. They used their judgments and conscience to put me on top of their list, and I ran with these ideas; this legitimized (or should legitimize) the principles pursued during the campaign in the eyes of CCP, other CSM members, and the rest of the Eve community. So I hope the community, particularly nullsec PvE’ers find it in themselves to respect that this is what we are bringing to the table and that without drastic measures involving their playstyles this game cannot be sustained for years to come.
So here are the main principles I and my constituents strongly believe in.
The “asset acquisition” gameplay that null line members are typically put inside simply isn’t enough to sustain healthy amount of players playing the game. It has an expiration date. When players gets all assets and accounts they want, they stop farming to acquire more. What’s important is giving these players conditions which they can sustainably interact with other players with these assets, and lose them at a macroeconomically healthy rate.
Let me be clear. This point is my most important bottom line. During my CSM tenure, I will judge every proposal with my projection of whether it will cause more explosions or not. And this will override every other consideration.
If we need more explosions, then Eve needs to be more dangerous. Particularly nullsec, because it is the space in Eve that’s supposed to be inherently dangerous. Last few years has seen methods to make null a dangerous place take major blows. Many such activities are dwindling or dead. Station games are gone due to tethering; bubble-trapping is gone due to structure spam; capital hunting is unrewarding, inaccessible and costly due to the proliferation of supercap umbrellas. Solo blops is at the brink of death. Small gangs face either huge capital blobs or vast empty spaces of VNI botlands. Even dreadbombing in most active umbrella regions was almost dying until we in DPCI revived it a bit in Delve.
As nullsec hunters, people making Eve more dangerous, we have seen CCP hit time and again to our playstyles with mechanical nerfs. We can’t jam fighters, “wear out fatigue” of defending fleets due to the ansiblex gates, can’t fit as much tank to our T3C covert hunters, can’t use jump bridge travel to catch targets, can’t engage with moon mining fleets under citadel protection. Our subcap playstyles were invalidated during the transition from drone carriers to light fighters, and with proliferation after that. Even the highly niche Excavator booshing took two hits, first with 250 to 500 range increase, then with m3 increase. And I can keep counting many more developments here.
Unfortunately, most of these things happened in an unintended “collateral damage” way. As I argued during my campaign, part of the reason was that no insider knowledge about these methods was represented in CSM. We are not at all saying that no positive changes happened. There has been plenty of mechanical improvements as well. But overall the invalidation of our playstyles left many PvP oriented entities bleeding members, or otherwise disbanding. One last example was SkillU.
It pains us to see that the trend continues. With “mooring” for example, being able to bump/kill afk titans/supers off-tether will be no more. With each specific way of killing things in null being invalidated, the game becomes safer, playstyles die, players leave. This is a case of organic stagnation. As a CSM member, one of my priorities will be stopping and reversing this trend.
Sometimes we get asked, “what about the linemembers’ suffering when they lose ships”?
A deeply inherent mechanic in Eve is that PvE income motivates risk-taking activity (e.g. undocking in nullsec/wormholes to farm), and then this creates PvP interaction. The more rewarding a solar system is, the riskier it is supposed to be. Each Rorqual, carrier, supercapital dying is a reason for fleets of tens, and at times hundreds of players to play that night. 5 or 10 such targets a month keeps many players subbing for another month. So the utilitarian calculation of whether a ship dying is beneficial for the overall game is decisive. Farmers farm for ISK. Hunters hunt for content. And the ecosystem continues. All this is why, the safer the game becomes, the more severe the organic stagnation it experiences.
We play this game to build our dreams and wreck others’. If you remove the latter from the equation, then Eve is no different than Farmville. So null linemembers and leaders should understand that PvE’rs dying is an inherent part of nullsec lifestyle.
When we argue that certain parts in nullsec are too safe, people point out that it is the player organization that enables that safety. Our argument here is that even in regions with the best of organization, there needs to be a minimal amount of risk inherent to null PvE. Secondly, the response doesn’t take into account how low the standards are for individual PvE’rs to survive in umbrella regions. Right now all that’s expected from a nullsec PvE capital is not being afk and lighting a cyno. The entry level to not dying in nullsec for individual players should be higher.
The most determinant mechanic providing the low entry point to riskless farming in null to individual players is umbrella mechanics. There needs to be viable counters to cynoes, in the form that if a ship is inhibited, the mechanics actually force defending fleets to warp instead of directly bridging inside the intervention range (e.g. 400 km). As of right now, mobile cynosural inhibitors are too weak to accomplish that.
Many nullseccers argue that CCP and game mechanics have nothing to do with people’s motivation of coming together and organizing to be safe, and to conduct Eve activity. We agree with that this is indeed a real motivation. We disagree with that it can’t be balanced. Wormholes are great examples in which big blue donuts are discouraged hard. They prove that with right mechanics this game can have a meta where blue donuts are smaller. So we need to think hard about the mechanics.
Particularly, we think the combination of infinite spawning anomalies and umbrella mechanics create today’s situation of “stagnant wars”, in which one side has twice the amount of pilots/ships/capitals and triple the speed to replace them. Eve needs even wars, in which FCs and leaders are able to take actual risks to duke it out on the battlefield with their most expensive armadas. Or else major wars from now on will turn out to be structure bash festivals and nothing more. That is unexciting and uninteresting.
To fix the blue donut, we need to look behind what happens in wars and who blues who. In particular, we need to look at mechanics under which people join alliances and grow their assets. And that is mainly about farm and safety mechanics, and not at all about on-grid skills of alliance FC’s or social allure of alliances.
Up until injectors capitals were tools which it took time and ingame effort to get inside. Injectors lifted the minimum time barrier to access them. Rorquals reduced the amount of player hours to replace them. The typical nullsec player can farm a titan in under 80 hours or less. Macroeconomically, that’s nothing compared to what it was in the past. Cost and accessibility has always been a balancing factor when it comes to ship capabilities. AT ships for example, are overpowered but extremely costly, thus preventing them from being an Eve balance issue. Capitals too had privileges that were previously justified by cost and accessibility.
Think about it. We have this nice balanced ship progression system from frigate to battleship. The rule of thumb here is that bigger ships have more EHP and damage. Smaller ships have better speed and application. But suddenly the rule breaks when it comes to capitals. They are faster cross-regional travelers because of jump drives. Carriers lock faster due to NSA’s, apply better due to fighters, have better ongrid speed due to fighters. Capitals also have other special abilities such as doomsdays, ewar fighters, phenomena generators and so on.
All these abilities were previously justified due to cost. A couple of rare titans bosoning gates is fun to watch and interesting game play. When it is hundreds of titans defending a single region with the same method, it suddenly becomes too oppressive. This is why we argue that there needs to be drastic balance efforts to bridge the gap between capital ships and subcapitals to retain the viability and meaningfulness of subcapital playstyles.
Unfortunately, many of the above changes are being made without regard to their effect to the Eve ecosystem. In many occasions, CCP and CSM used “slogan justifications”, such as “Ansiblex needs to be like Eve gates”, or “Citadels need to completely replace POS functionality”, to implement these. What we forget here is that if we wanted new structures exactly like the previous ones, then we wouldn’t need new structures. As CCP implements structures in all the different (than POS) ways that benefit their owners, and ‘fixes’ all the ways in which they don’t replace the POS functionality, we end up with a safer Eve. One can find a “slogan” that sounds prima facie reasonable for a lot of bad proposals. The metric we should use to judge proposals should be whether they create more meaningful interaction and gameplay between players or not, and not slogans that do not in itself mean anything.