Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Textures and Terrains

"Oh Sugar, how are you going to fix low sec?"
"Dearest, I do not yet know. However, be secure in understanding that I will make bad ideas until I, or someone else, creates a good one."
Knowing something needs to be fixed and being able to fix it are two different things. The essential nature of low sec is not truely broken, in my opinion. It is undefined. The lack of definition leaves it floating a bit off to the side. When looking to define it we have to ask what it is.

What we call low sec is low security empire space. It is owned by the empires and is, to some degree, touched by Concord. Molden Heath for instance contains the most Concord stations of any region in the game. The fact that the empires hold sway has to be brought into account. Lore is a very useful tool to create with.

First, I started to look at some of the difference between Faction Warfare low sec and non-Faction Warfare low sec as actual areas of the game. I've never been a fan of turning all of low sec into faction warfare space. In faction warfare the empires are fighting along their boarder lines. I believe that Faction Warfare should exist along the lines of the empire as this territory is struggled over. It is a land of moving armies and bleak shattered landscapes. It is a warzone and should feel that way with air that tastes of burning hopes and raw violence.

However, away from that it is sensible that the warzone eventually ends and normal, poorly secured space forms. In fact, I think the interaction between non-faction warfare low sec and zero security space should be explored a bit more strongly. Without the militias patrolling the merge between the two becomes a bit more unformed and slippery. It would create a more natural flow as space changes and in general give space more character which gives players more areas that fit them to settle into.

Low sec has fighting. The opinion of the quality of those fights may vary from one person to another but the spaceship violance is notable. One of the things we are struggling with is adding non-fighting content to low sec. There is a delicate balance. This is not null security space but it is not high sec. Low sec must keep its danger. It cannot be safe to do anything anywhere inside of it. That is where the struggle is created. What makes an industrialist want to be in a situation where they are in danger all of the time? This isn't about those that thirst for combat, for they will seek it out. Some of this is just going to be the person. There is no amount of honey that can sweeten danger for some pilots. That is fine. We account for that pilot from our planning because we cannot create what that pilot wants. That must be acknowledged so that plans are not over run by trying to cater to everyone. The purpose of verity is to create choice not a singular super food. To create it we will destroy everything else and replicate what we already have. High sec.

Instead, people need to have a reason to travel and a reason to defend. Last year I was reading a lot of thoughts and comments on territory. It also follows the basic conversation about sovereign null sec where Alliances may hold vast swaths of unused space. People need a reason to be in the space that they are in. This reason can be strategic, commerce, interesting, or whatever else pops to the mind. In low sec, an area that is somewhat neglected but not quite free, what would bring people to it.

I like to use the vision of Oases. A place of prosperity inside of a bleak landscape. It is not large enough for a huge society to grow around it. I think that movement in and out of low sec is a key to its nature instead of a static state. However, we have few enough Oases now. Most are in the form of security missions or interesting access points in and out of a region. But, for the industrialist, how does one form an Oasis where they are willing to put assets out while feeling that they have some chance to defend them as well? With it being low sec the system cannot be locked down. But, if people are out in space watching and being careful they may feel that they can be productive in space. And I ask this because often people ask about things such as mining in low sec and I have to ask, "Are low secs belts just for decoration or do we want people to use them?" And some people do use them (I stare at Nosy Gamer here) but, the vast majority are untouched asteroid fields.

Enter my (bad?) idea for the day. I lost my phone when this sprang to mind. I do not know if that affects the quality of anything. I did find the phone but as I searched for it my mind was wandering productively. I thought about something I was explaining to a person about our home system was the neck of a pocket (before I realized that my phone has gone awol). That pocket was once home to a Kelts Alliance. The idea of pockets is an interesting one and a common way to have a bit more comfort in a system. I wondered, if we laid down the star map and used pockets or dead end systems could we create a varied terrain of options for people to use as a reason to set up shop? A system with only one entrance is somewhat defensible.

Last week, we didn't notice a fleet because of the mobile scan inhibitor. It was an interesting mistake and one we will not make again (hopefully). It does show that terrain (for this is what some mobile structures are creating) has a place in Eve.

The goal is to create a reason to put roots down but not so great that everyone is in one spot. A reason to deal with fights. For spaceship violence must always be a focus point. A reason for travel. It gets people into the middle and deep edges instead all cluttered in pipes and boarder systems. It may mean changing the layout of some reasons. If anything, Faction Warfare has shown that changing gate layout is not automatically a terrible thing. Eve's world map was created by a random generator. Inside of this idea it may be time to look over more regions and think of some structural (aka gate) changes would create more options and interests. Be it something that spawns, station services... things that somehow are interesting... I don't know yet what that may be.

The carrot is the stick.

And thus ends this installment of random idea.



    This might be off topic. But I have thought about how the layout of various star systems within regions could effect the communities which thrive within them. Maybe CCP needs an ecologist to go with their economist? :P

    1. Maybe :)

      The world that we live in is just as important as what we do in it. It can easily be used to help define what we do with it. One of the greatest complaints is changes or things that do not make sense. It seems that we can use the terrain to cause decisions to have acceptable reasons.

    2. I think you're actually looking for a geographer.

  2. Ecologist - I wonder if there is a PhD paper in it? that would be compatible with CCPs commercial interests.

  3. "What makes an industrialist want to be in a situation where they are in danger all of the time?"

    Let me try that from a different perspective: What would make a PvPer think of an industrialist as a potential ally rather than a sheep to be slaughtered?

    Speaking as an industrialist who'd like to have a reason to leave high-sec, I can see three ways to persuade people like me to move to low-sec:

    1) Pay us an obscene amount of ISK
    2) Make it (effectively) impossible to do industry in high-sec
    3) Make us feel valued in low-sec as something other than punching-bags

    Option number one would mean prices going through the roof, since the only place said ISK can come from is the wallets of the people buying our goods. I'm guessing this would not be acceptable to the High Priestess of the Cult of Reasonable Prices.

    Option two effectively degenerates to option one, through the simple mechanism of making industrialists quit the game until those left behind can charge high enough prices to make the extra worth their while - see above.

    That leaves option three - which brings us back to my question above. What would persuade you and your boys to create that Oasis for an industrial group, and on what terms?

    I would be willing to accept 'supply us with ISK/goods' if and only if it is an alliance of equals, not rent being paid to a superior. If I want to be treated as a lower-class citizen, Goonswarm have that covered already - and they have better resources to sell.

    It's probably worth pointing out that this does not mean you have to agree to stop shooting at industrialists in general - just at 'your' industrialists. It's also worth bearing in mind that the corp next door would presumably be doing the same thing, and you would be under absolutely no obligation to leave their operations unpillaged...

    1. Equals? Why do you care about that? Someone who can shut you down is not your equal, unless you can and will shut him down tit-for-tat. But an industrialist is not going to spend time tit-for-tatting just to prove a point. He's an industrialist. And in any case, you are not going to "shut down" a pirate corp the same way they can shut you down. They can shut you down much more easily because you have to fly ships with large cargoholds.

      Yes, you can go and rent space from Goonswarm. The point should be that you prefer something that lowsec has over what Goonswarm can provide. Presumably, this would be the large numbers of essentially free manufacturing and research slots that exist in lowsec. Or the easy access to highsec. This can be incentivized by pricing Empire station services competitively.

    2. One of the biggest hurdles in the question of, "What would make my corp house industrialists" is that we already are industrialists. We can build and supply almost everything we need in house already. We simply do not have motivation to do all of it. Many of my corp members do various T2 manufacturing for ISK and the simple pleasure of making things.

      Some of this is a cultural shift but I'm not sure how viable that is. I think one reason corps thrive is by specializing down their cores.

    3. @Von Kegai: one of the rules for living a happy life is 'never piss off the cook or the quartermaster'. I entirely agree with you that 'equals' requires both parties to be interdependant rather than one having the upper hand - which means that what I'm suggesting would require that PvPers become as vulnerable to economic warfare as industrialists are to conventional warfare.

      As for why I care, that is what would entice me to low-sec without being paid in ISK: a position as a valued member of a group.

      It's certainly not the only way to get industrialists to move - I said that above. But the move will be paid for, one way or another. If it's not paid for in social currency, it will be paid for in hard cash... and my own belief is that most of the 'get industry out of highsec' brigade is significantly underestimating the effect that paying in ISK would have on the in-game economy.

      @Sugar: that's my point. Lowsec residents don't need industry, so an industrialist's only value to them is as a punching-bag. Since we have no interest in being a punching bag, it follows that we have no interest in dealing with lowsec.

      "I think one reason corps thrive is by specializing down their cores."
      Yet you seem to be arguing that all industrialists should also be forced to be PvPers...

    4. See that's the thing 7-2, while a PvP corp houses many people that wear two hats, we have people that construct capitals, we have a well known successful lowsec merchant queen and drug baroness. I personally used to run a 30+ planet PI empire I still run a 9 tower reaction farm and build T2 Minmater and Amarr Assault Frigates. Oh and I also kill lots of ships just because I can and think that's fun.

      While I'd be happy to house some primary industrialists when fights over strategic assets happen I'd expect them to show up and know at least as much about PvP as I do about industry, because else what value do they actually add? I mean I'd be fine with them not logging into "just PvP" but when something big does go down... Nobody needs dead-weight. I don't even mean be in a combat role persé just be a really good covops scout and you'd add real value. And for us to make you feel valued, well you need to actually add value I think that's fair at least.

  4. I've heard that for the most part, profit margins for straight-up manufacturing are very thin, especially if you are sourcing minerals from a market.
    As it stands, this doesn't stop current high-sec industrialists from producing.
    What I think would entice industry folk to ply their trade in lowsec would be a direct boost to those margins.
    You can think or it somewhat like the difference between 1st vs 3rd world manufacturing. The less developed parts of the world are often known for less regulation, less pay and benefits for workers, less safety standards. Many corporations take advantage of this to gain a competitive edge, either in increased production, reduced cost, or both.
    The EVE equivalent could be dramatically increased production speed (due to relaxed safety and labor guidelines?) maybe with a bit of reduced production cost.
    It may even be interesting to think of something like illegal/counterfeit blueprint copies/originals, to parallel things like poorly developed licensing/copyright law. This could manifest as either reduced material requirements (lower quality standards) or increased runs/batch sizes (basically just bootlegging).
    No doubt, in real-world material refineries and mining facilities there are safety and health regulations that result in lower yield and productivity than if those guidelines were ignored entirely. This absolutely sounds like a feature I could imagine for lowsec. I haven't personally done much mining, but I strongly suspect those that do would value being able to extract, refine, and manufacture all in the same system at significantly higher efficiency than they could in highsec, with less competition for facilities, belts, etc.
    I could absolutely imagine an alliance forming in lowsec around a group of players of all interests aiming to establish, maintain, and protect a large-scale manufacturing and export operation. Surely some product could go to local markets, but on a large enough scale there would be enough product to export to major trade hubs, only at much more attractive margins.

  5. Lowsec needs hotspots. Something like a few static DED sites around lowsec that'll cause conflicts.

    Eve should also be more dynamic. No one accepting your missions? You'd probably increase the reward until people do. No one touching an asteroid belt? It would probably slowly grow bigger until someone found and mined it. Imagine this: Amamake has been untouched for months and the asteroids belts are huge with a high mineral concentration. A scout from a mining corporation found out you'd get approximately 400m/h mining there, so they hire a mercenary group for protection and make a giant mining operation. You now have huge risks and huge rewards, exciting mining. and content for everyone.

    1. They took our static sites and won't give them back. We've asked.

      I love the dynamic space ideas.

  6. I am CEO of a small high sec focused newbie training corp and the question of low sec comes up for us all the time. In fact, we have our HQ nestled up against a low sec island in high sec that we've noticed gets very little traffic. Our industrialists regularly take tanked procurers out there to mine and we've even shot at the POCOS there with intent to put up our own (that was stopped by being hotdropped by dreads/carriers from a major null sec alliance we just can't overpower). When I'm asked by my newbies if it's worth going to low sec I usually tell them "It depends!." I enjoy low sec. I do PI there, and I like mining in my bait procurer with reinforcements logged off in the belt with me. Getting top damage on a killmail with a procurer just makes me happy. Of course, I lose more than a few procurers doing this from time to time. Is mining solo in low sec worth it? Not usually. In a fleet, yes. Especially if you have backup on hand. The issue is that PvP pilots get bored watching the miners and end up too many jumps out to make it back in time. Is PI in low sec worth it? You betcha! An Epithal is cheap to lose and easy to get a new pilot into. I would happily make an agreement with a low sec corporation if it meant "safe" access to a certain low sec system (or systems). We don't expect them to come running if we get shot at, but if we provide content for them and they feel like partaking, then great! We just expect that the people who spend the most time in that system won't be shooting us all the time. We've also got some budding manufacturers, so we would definitely be willing to stock a station or even provide low cost ships and such on contract. Shoot... I'd even be willing to take a battleship into low sec if I had the reasonable assurance that the locals wouldn't gank it and might even come to help me fight off gankers. I get to run low sec exploration sites and the locals (might) get the chance to counter attack gankers. Then again, finding a low sec corp that is cool giving up targets is a hard sell in my experience.

  7. I'll keep mine short. How about comets that appear in lowsec and have as much, if not more, value then the moons of nullsec. These comets can be harvested for ore/moon goo. The thing about these comets is that they are moving and they fly from one solar system to the next. Hmm that would be interesting, you'd have to figure out its trajactory and then secure that next solar system. A moving valuable resource....

  8. Hey!

    Some random from a highsec graybeard:

    - You can't "fix" lowsec, but you can improve it. Baby steps.

    - The feedback above is already pretty good. I like words like "dynamic content." I would love to see more PVE throughout the map like mini-incursions and asteroid belts and comets that appear and disappear. When it was redone in ~2006/7, scanning/exploration was supposed to provide this "dynamic" content, but tbh, it never panned out that way.

    - As a highsec player, I don't often come to lowsec because it's a hassle. Realities dictate that I login for an hour or two at a time, and I am a very goal-oriented player. I want to be able to login and work on XYZ and make meaningful progress towards it, and then logoffski again. I have tried null/low over the years (been here since beta7) and the inconvenience of logging in to find that "I can't do XYZ like I planned because of ABC" where ABC is a gatecamp, roving Fleet, territory war, etc., I pack up and move back to 0.5+.

    - The reason why PVE in lowsec is such a hassle is because whether I'm missioning or mining or whatever, I'm a relatively static target and easily scanned. If I am going to do PVE in lowsec, then I need to have half a chance by giving me some activity that involves moving constantly.

    - Players love to jump straight into design/implementation details. It might be wise to take a philosophical step back and ask: what kind of environment would attract and retain new players? Screw the established playerbase - let's make lowsec the key to player retention (how cool would that be?).

    Example: tons of nerds romanticize about flying in space like Han Solo or Malcom Reynolds -- the scrappy, independent anti-hero with a scruffy ship and flexible morals. People like ship titles like "blockade runner," and "smuggler." Yet those sorts of play don't exist (widely) in EVE. Why not? What could be done to encourage the Freelancer style of play and get some bodies into lowsec?

    An idea I've been toying with fleshing out more is the idea of "Expert Missions." I've been blitzing SOE lvl3's lately in a Sacrilege. It's not as much isk/hr as lvl4's but I'm having a blast in the nimble ship and the LP is nice. It struck me that mission runners and Incursion junkies live in the Battleship world, yet there are so many fun small ships that barely get used for PVE. So, what if you had a new set of "hard" agents - level 2E (expert), 3E, and 4E. For the 4E missions, let's say it's the same roster of missions (save the damsel, oh dear) but the ship restriction list now goes no higher than HACs (no BCs, no tech3). Same idea for 2E and 3E, adjusted accordingly. (Btw, balance the isk & lp per hour around current lvl4's so they're an option not a new isk faucet.) Layer a certificate system on top so I have some bragging rights, maybe.

    Mission runners HATE losing their ships, but I might be inclined to risk a t2 fit assault frigate trying to earn a 2E certificate while enjoying some PVE frigate fighting. (There's nothing from stopping me from doing lvl2's or 3's now in an AF... except the poor rewards).

    Anyway: I typed all that so I could type this: As example "blockade runner" content, give me a "expert" level 2 or 3 lowsec courier mission that's worth a damn, do-able in a fast nimble ship, and I might send a guy to lowsec to PVE it up and try to run some PVP blockades.

    1. I probably shouldn't give out any secrets, but I found that low sec courier missions give out about 50% more ISK and LP than those in high sec. Combine that with belt mining and I'm able to manufacture and sell faction ammo in Sugar's station at a reasonable price and make a reasonable profit. Thankfully Sugar doesn't mind too much :)

    2. Just a idea after reading your post. You might want to look at pirate arcs. They generally consist of a stream of easy missions that can be done in a assault frigate or something, take you all trough a region and have some pretty decent rewards.