EVE Evolved: Does EVE Online need more conflict-drivers?

Of all the terminology associated with EVE Online, the one thing that’s always made me a bit uncomfortable is to hear players describe PvP as “generating content.” It’s an oddly sterile euphemism that seemed to surface years ago during the era of the blue donut when large alliances organised faux wars for the entertainment of their restless troops, and it doesn’t sit right with me. PvP in EVE is supposed to be about real conflict for solid reasons, not generating content for its own sake. It’s about smashing a gang of battleships into a pirate blockade to get revenge, suicide ganking an idiot for transporting PLEX in a frigate, or forcibly dismantling another alliance’s station because you just hate them so much.

EVE PvP can be visceral and highly personal, not just something fun to do or a game of strategy but a way to settle old grudges and punish people for whatever the hell you want. World War Bee was a brutal mix of Machiavellian politics and massive fleets of highly motivated players coming together, not just for some fun gameplay but to try and completely annihilate the goons. So what the hell happened? Why are so many people sitting in nullsec fortresses and farming ISK, building huge capital fleets and complaining about the “lack of content” in PvP today? Does EVE‘s conflict engine need a tune-up?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors limiting real conflict in EVE today and suggest three possibly controversial changes that would drive further conflict in New Eden.

Conflict is still happening

I don’t want to over-reach with my point here and claim that all conflict in EVE is dead or meaningless; real conflicts are definitely still happening in EVE on all scales. Nullsec systems are still changing hands regularly on the official influence map, faction warfare corps are still kicking each other’s asses up and down Black Rise, pirates are still camping the hell out of chokepoints, and those dudes hanging out around Jita 4-4 with suspect timers are still bait.

Huge battles are still happening when there’s sufficient motivation for it or something to trigger it, such as with The Imperium’s battle at an FCON citadel just a few days ago. The social impetus for war is something that I think will never go away in EVE, as players are always going to want to kick each other’s heads in for a variety of reasons, but we have to accept that there are forces in play to limit the scope of conflict in EVE and perhaps not all of them are necessary. At the same time, some opportunities to introduce new conflict-drivers have been squandered and others may be just over the horizon.

Factors limiting conflict

I’ve written a lot recently about how EVE‘s current sovereignty system and the citadel warfare mechanics may actually dissuade conflict rather than enabling it. The asset safety system in citadels removes most of the financial motivation from kicking over someone’s sandcastle and excessive reinforcement timers make destroying them a lengthy chore for no good reason, but these aren’t the only factors limiting conflict. The local channel is the biggest limiter, for example, letting people instantly know when hostiles or neutrals enter the system.

Jump fatigue was introduced as a deliberate conflict-limiter to prevent alliances from projecting fleets across the map without committing them, and it also makes fielding them in any PvP scenario more complicated. Then there are smaller and more indirect conflict limiters, like the fact that players can farm endless streams of cosmic anomalies in nullsec without moving between systems and can use jump bridges and portals to travel without passing through stargates. The damage caps on citadels also limit conflict as you can reach the limit easily with a subcapital fleet and committing capitals or supercapitals to the field won’t speed up the structure grind, reducing the potential for escalation into a B-R style conflict.

Suggestion: Jump fatigue overhaul

Jump fatigue was introduced in 2014 to stop alliances from rapidly moving capital ships across the map to give someone a bloody nose and still getting home in time to defend their own space, but all it really does is slow down and complicate capital ship movement. The ideal solution would allow alliances to deploy capitals either offensively away from home or defensively at home but not both at the same time, and there are far simpler ways to achieve that with fewer side-effects. For example, CCP could introduce a new Jump Beacon structure that enables a pilot to jump to any cynosural fields within a 10 lightyear radius with no fatigue.

Each pilot would be able to synchronise to only one beacon at a time, with a 7-day cooldown before they could switch to another beacon even if the beacon is destroyed and syncronisation is lost. Alliances would be able to deploy their capitals in a given operational area with no complicated penalties and commit to any fights in that area. The current jump fatigue system could be completely removed and replaced with a long jump timer for all jumps ending outside your beacon’s operational area, and jump ranges could also easily be increased without any negative consequences. The beacon itself would also become a high-priority target for PvP, adding a new conflict-driver to nullsec warfare.

Suggestion: Remove damage caps

In the old days of sovereignty warfare, system ownership went to the alliance with the most starbases at moons in the system and players often formed large fleets to burn through the huge hitpoint pools of starbases. People sometimes fielded carriers or fleets of Ospreys to repair the shield of the starbase and draw out the length of the battle, but mostly people either turned up in force to defend the structure or abandoned it and let the enemy slowly grind it down. This was a perfectly good system for fighting over structures, the main problem being that there was a huge grind even if the defender chose not to turn up.

Upwell structures use the same hitpoint-based approach but with a strange damage mitigation mechanic that limits the maximum amount of DPS the structure can take. This feels like a dirty hack and an effort to control the duration and format of the fight. It’s supposed to neutralise the advantage of bringing a huge fleet and blobbing a structure, but in turn it’s also removed all need to ever bring high-damage ships like supercapitals if you have enough pilots to hit the cap in smaller ships. Some of the biggest conflicts in EVE‘s history have been spawned just because someone fielded a supercapital, so anything that makes fielding them pointless is a bit of a conflict-limiter.

Players have come up with some great alternatives to hard damage caps, such as logarithmic damage reduction so that any additional DPS has some effect. I’d personally like to see the return of structures being repaired using logistics ships, and maybe even some new active tanking standup modules. The structure’s resistances could be increased to magnify the effective hitpoints from all sources of repair, and raw hitpoints balanced so that the structure is easily destroyed if nobody turns up to defend it. You’d pretty much have to field remote repair ships to save your structure, and the enemy would have to kill them before moving on to the structure. If nothing else, it would create some interesting fights and remove a lot of boring time-dilated structure-bashing time when the field is already won.

Suggestion: Resource overhaul

One of the most exciting ideas to come out of the latest EVE Fanfest was the moon mining overhaul, which is due to land this winter and will add a new scheduled mining event game mechanic. This has the potential to be a fantastic driver of conflict, as moon mining corps will have to put mining ships on the field in order to gather the moon goo and will be vulnerable to a well-coordinated attack. The timing of the event can also be seen by enemies to within certain limits, as you can see the huge chunk of moon material being pulled toward the refinery in space. It’s also going to drive conflict between mining corps as multiple corps can have refineries around a moon but only one can actually mine it at a time.

I want to see more of EVE‘s resource-gathering gameplay overhauled in this manner, with scheduled events and static resources becoming the new standard. Mindless and infinite resource streams such as nullsec anomalies and ore sites that can currently be created out of thin air in any star system should be completely replaced with static resources that can be claimed and conquered. We could get a Serpentis smuggler gate that they send a convoy through every week at a certain time, or an ancient Jove sensor array that can search out DED complexes regularly, or an NPC agent who lives on a planet and offers services to one station in orbit. Every type of farming style gameplay should have some kind of timed event with big rewards that players can fight over and disrupt, or a strategic resource stream that can only be used by the alliance that claims it.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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