This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective in rebuttal to the assertion that high sec is killing EVE. Or something.
First off, I haven’t been playing that much EVE in past week or so due to doing family stuff and what not, so sorry for the gap since last entry. Now, to the topic of the day.
Poetic Stanziel is one of the bloggers in my regular reading rotation, like many others seem to I find he posts some interesting stuff and quite often stuff I really don’t agree with. But hey, its good to hear a different perspective to your own. I find that Poetic goes through phases where he hammers away at a particular topic for awhile before moving on to something else (EVE University, CSM voting reform, Susan Black/Late Nite Alliance…). The current mini-obsession is high sec, and he has been lingering awhile longer than usual on this over the course of Inferno/Retribution with barge changes/crimewatch 2.0 and so forth.
Interestingly, he has two view points on the subject of high sec safety. New players must be protected, but everyone else has it too damned easy. Rewards are high, risk while already low is being systematically eliminated by CCP pandering to the carebears. If you haven’t already go read for yourself here and here, they aren’t too long. I’m mostly responding to the second part, and will probably expend more words in the process. ;)
So, 2003-2007 were (allegedly) the golden age of EVE’s ‘ecosystem’ and null sec. Poetic wasn’t there himself, but I was. I was also a null sec dweller for most of that period and for years after too. Now, I agree that null sec is lacking at least some of the excitement it had back then, if you are a regular reader you will already know that I decided to opt out of null sec last summer and have returned to being a low-sec guy. But I’m not back in empire because I can make more ISK there, and I don’t blame the state of null sec on high sec being ‘too safe’ or even more lucrative than it used to be. I think that high sec has always been a little too lucrative, by how much fluctuates as the game evolves. The important point is that this is nothing new.
I do not buy in to the idea that Crimewatch 2.0 has made high sec significantly safer than it was before, or that the mining barge buff turns anyone off null sec mining (tougher barges are a boost to all miners). But combine them with all the other little changes and it adds up to…. Well, I still don’t think that high sec is significantly safer now than it was in 2003-2007. Yes barges are tougher now, but we also have more effective ganking ships (the Tornado). Sure can flipping is dead, but there is always another scam to be discovered (the new dueling mechanic for example). If someone really wants to suicide gank you, they still can.
There is an argument I do buy in to – you can make more ISK in high sec now than you could previously, I’m thinking of Incursions as a high-level gameplay example there. It is content that even post-nerf provides a very respectable ISK per hour payout that attracts experienced players flying top-end ships. There is also Planetary Interaction which probably doesn’t do enough to encourage players to take a bit more risk by venturing into low sec, but does provide an extra income source (but is much more profitable in null…).
On the other hand however, since 2007 null sec has gained anomalies which provide a constant, predictable and lucrative source of ratting bounties, far greater than belt ratting ever did. The problem here for roamers is that anom ratters often work in groups while belt ratting was a solo activity. But hey, there’s change all over and the pendulum has swung both ways over the years.
So, let’s assume that 2007 marked the end of the golden age for null sec and the beginning of a player shift towards high sec – why might that be? There are a number of factors and frankly few of them are much to do with high sec itself.
In December 2005, we had the Red Moon Rising expansion which added Carriers, Motherships (now Super Carriers) and Titans (Dreads & Freighters were in the previous expansion). By the following November, and my first Fanfest, numbers of capital ships were rising quickly but there were still only a handful of Titans out there. Band of Brothers were at war with Ascendent Frontier and trying to kill the other side’s Titan. I sat on a rountable which discussed CCP’s new idea for these things called Jump Bridges they wanted to put in. There was less than 15 people at that table and a bunch of us expressed our doubts.
By the end of 2007 (as I recall) Jump Bridges were a thing and springing up everywhere. Titans were also getting increasingly common. At some point Jump Freighters turned up. The sov system was changed to add invulnerable ‘Capital’ systems at which point super capital proliferation went through the roof as hundreds of the things were being built in almost total safety. Why do I keep talking about Jump Bridges, Jump Freighters and Titans you may be asking?
Back in the ancient mists of time, in a Providence region that had no stations whatsoever, two rolplaying alliances built one each. CVA were first, and soon after Ushra’Khan built Unity Station in 9UY4-H. I was quite heavily involved in making that happen and we did it in a time before Jump Bridges or Jump Freighters, and without a Titan to help move all the minerals. We used POS corp hangers and stock-piled the minerals and materials over a period of days and weeks. We flew T1 industrials (there was no T2 version) back and forth repeatedly until we finally got it all together. Today, a single player (plus a couple of cyno alts) can achieve the same in a fraction of the time with much less risk. Bridges, JF’s and Titans make mass-importation of goods from high sec staggeringly easy compared to how it used to be.
When it is that difficult to move materials between high sec and null, it becomes far more preferable to acquire the resources locally, and that means people mining in null sec. I put it to you, dear reader; the reason why most of the mining happens in high sec has more to do with the fact that the market is found in high sec. Why pay a premium for Tritanium to null sec miners if you can get bulk discount prices by shipping it in from hi sec? Why buy more expensive, locally produced, mods in null if you can bring it in from high sec for less? Why then would you mine or build stuff in null if no-one is going to buy it in any quantity?
The safety of high sec is not the issue afflicting null sec industry. The ease of shopping there is. Unfortunately, CCP are in a tight spot when addressing this issue as any move to nerf (let alone remove) jump bridges or capital ship logistics is seen as an attack on player convenience and is therefore (understandably) resisted. Good luck with that one CCP. ;)
But there are, of course, more reasons than mere ISK or ample market stocking in play. Since 2007 null sec politics have become increasingly power bloc centric, alliances have become larger and the little guys increasingly find it tougher to break into null sec without shackling themselves to an existing super power. The meta game is well advanced and has in the past couple of years at least been dominated by Goonswarm, their CFC powerbase and more recently their best friends forever and not-so-little-brother the HBC (point of interest, the DRF coalition has been defunct over a year now, what real threat has the CFC faced since?). The player politics of null sec have become increasingly stagnant and uninspiring. Null sec needs a damned good war and a fracturing of the existing blocs.
I learned an interesting little fact the other week from CCP Guard at the London meet. There are more players on trial accounts now than at any other time in EVE’s decade long history. There was a massive spike in sign ups (and conversions to subscriptions) following the Battle of Asakai (Goons derped a Titan into low sec, shit got real and all the things exploded). It is conflict that drives interest in EVE and big things going boom does wonders for the game, I introduced two new players to EVE on the back of that battle.
What drove the carnage at Asakai? Goons and PL tried really hard to kill each other’s super capital fleet against the backdrop of a recent will-they won’t-they build up to a war that wasn’t. Had that war happened, had that comfortable yet dull status quo shattered, we would all be watching or directly involved in the sort of widespread warfare and uncertainity that characterised those years of nostalgia. Null sec does not need to be made more lucrative to draw players in, it needs to be made more interesting.
That will not be achieved by making hi sec less safe, I believe that will only end up harming the newer players and annoying the rest. But perhaps it could be achieved by returning some of the challenge, diversity and uncertainity to null sec.