It's been a long time since I've been excited about EVE, and as a consequence, it's been a long time since I've written about EVE. Phoebe got close to making me excited, I saw the potential for change, but it just wasn't enough. FozzieSov on the other hand has gotten me very excited about EVE.
Fozzie recentlyreleased a request for feedback about the new system, and if you haven't already responded, you really should. Be warned though, the survey site has a 90 minute timer! If you need to make a longer response than that allows, be sure to type your answers out in a separate document and copy paste them in.
This survey and its prompts really forced me to sit down and think about my concerns for the new system. Overall, I'm pretty positive about it, but there are a couple glaring concerns, let's dig in.
FozzieSov's Timezone Mechanics have really worried a fair number of people. For the purposes of this blog, we'll call the new timezone mechanic FozzieTime. FozzieTime introduces several concerns, some of the most vocalized being centered around aussies being unable to take sov.
I'm not going to say that aussies won't have issues taking sov, but I think this isn't too big a deal. It is my understanding that right now people fear that aussies won't be able to find content as a result of FozzieTime. I think that's wrong. Players have historically repositioned themselves in game to congregate where content is found. We can look back and see evidence of this in the great dog piles of old; BoB War One, BoB War Two, DRF vs NC and more recently in Goonswarm Vs TEST 'we're just here for good fights' and the Halloween War.
If we take the notion of players moving around for content as fact, then it is safe to say that players will shuffle themselves into whatever configuration ensures content. This means that people playing in the AU timezones will likely want to be neighbors with those playing in China, India, Japan and Vladivostok Russia. This conclusion is drawn from the way timezones wrap the world. If you take a look at the map below, you can quickly determine where in the world you'll want your adversaries to be from to ensure content.
This means that over time we should expect to see nullsec reshaping itself to have adversaries within overlapping timezones relatively nearby. The specifics of this are hard to pin down. However, given the relative ease of taking sov and the difficulties of holding it I would expect to see empires contract such that appropriate adversaries can be found in less than fifteen jumps.
There are also concerns about the difficulty of holding sovereignty under the FozzieSov system. The relative difficulty of retaining sov demands that players congregate in smaller areas of space. This need to centralize combined with the timezone specialization created by FozzieTime means that there will be a vastly increased number of simultaneously active players in a given system. This introduces what we'll call the Concurrent Highsec Parity problem.
In between PVP encounters, players like to build up their isk, they also like to minimize their risk and maximize their isk. In nullsec, this most commonly takes the form of running anomolies. However the current system has a relative concurrency cap. This is a deep issue, so stick with me.
Nullsec isking for the average player has to compete with all other forms of isking. The general measure of isking is isk/hour, and while everyone has different numbers, nullsec isking is generally considered to be on-par or below highsec isking for the average player. That is, nullsec isking is generally considered to be at or below highsec parity. It is important to note that not all anomolies are created equal and not all systems spawn the same number of anomolies. Currently, a nullsec system may be in one of five 'security bands'. Each security band spawns different numbers of sites and different types of sites. These spawns are further influenced by the military index and the associated upgrades.
Depending on ship type and location, different sites will pay out the highest isk/hour. However it is generally agreed that fully upgraded systems in the bottom two bands (0.0 to -0.4) are capable of supporting between one and three concurrent ratters at highsec parity. Meanwhile a fully upgraded system in the top band (-0.9 to -1.0) is generally considered to be able to support between 8 and 15 concurrent ratters at or above highsec parity. It is important to note that if you exceed the maximum number of concurrent ratters everyone's isk/hour goes down. This is because there aren't enough of the optimal sites to go around, so players have to use less optimal sites or race each other to claim a site. Put enough concurrent ratters in a system and everyone's isk/hour sinks below highsec parity.
Currently, nullsec alliance ratters spread out across the alliance's space to avoid this problem. As you can see in the map of Deklein below, there are ratters active all across the region. Imagine what would happen if you tried to cram them all in a single constellation.
While there are a lot of nifty design elements at work in the current anomoly system, when you combined FozzieSov with it, you have a problem. As stated earlier, FozzieSov makes alliances want to minimize and centralize their space, then fill it with as many pilots as possible. FozzieTime makes alliances want to have all those people online in the same four hour chunk of time. When those pilots aren't fighting, they'll be isking and that means lots of concurrent ratters in very few systems. As discussed above, that will force everyone's isk/hour below highsec parity. This will in turn see players going back to highsec claiming the isk was better there.
This poses a significant issue to FozzieSov as it will reduce the number of players in nullsec. As you can imagine, this runs counter to CCP's stated goal of increasing the nullsecpopulation.
There is also a rather interesting conclusion to be made here as well. With the current anomoly system, FozzieSov will actually create a relatively rigid maximum alliance size. That is it will be difficult for alliances to sustain numbers that exceed their space's maximum concurrent ratter at highsec parity limit. This of course runs counter to FozzieSov's stated desire not to enforce some arbitrarylimit on the number of friends or allies you can have. (Goal #3, Paragraph 3)
FozzieSov obviously intends to contract empires, and I think that's a very admirable goal. However constricting the player count at the same time is a very unwelcome change. To get around this, FozzieSov needs to include a solution to the Concurrent Highsec Parity problem.
Solving Concurrent Highsec Parity
As with everything, we need to take a deep look at the system before we change it. The Concurrent Highsec Parity problem results from FozzieSov forcing players together and the Anomoly system forcing people to spread out.
We know from Fozzie's blogs that CCP wants more people in nullsec and that they don't want to force arbitrary limits on the players. What we don't know is whether CCP wants the players to have to spread out for isking. For the purposes of this discussion, let's look at the current system and contrast it against the apparent effects of the new system. First off, let's look at the influence map, specifically the top left corner.
Given the changes FozzieSov brings to the table, I think it's safe to say that the monolithic Goonswarm Federation owning one and a half to two regions is not desired. It appears to me that FozzieSov is intended to reshape the map to look more like Tribute & Vale of the Silent, with six alliances in them.
If we take this to be fact, then I think it is safe to say that CCP wants alliances to have to spread out a bit, but not beyond a few constellations.
This conclusion forces us to acknowledge that systems shouldn't have an infinite concurrent highsec parity limit. If they did, there would be little to no incentive for players to expand. It is worth noting that Concurrent Highsec Parity is very good at inciting players to move and expand. We can see it at work in every well populated nullsec region in the game today. It doesn't actually limit the number of players in a system, and it doesn't abruptly stop players from doing things. Since this exists in the game, I think it's fair to say that CCP actually wants to retain it. This assumption could even be backed up by Fozzie stating that nullsec income is fine. (Phase 3, first quote box)
Moving forward with this assumption, what are the dials that can be turned to increase or decrease the number of players anoming happily?
- Increase the amount of isk in all anomolies so that more types of sites provide income at or above highsec parity. This would definitely raise the number of concurrent ratters at or above highsec parity. CCP also has a lot of tools available to increase the amount of isk in an anomoly, my preferred method for this would to add LP as opposed to higher bounties, 'blue loot', salvage or better drops.
- Increase the number of high end anomolies being spawned. With more anomolies, more players can rat at or above highsec parity. This wouldn't change the isk/hour of any given pilot beyond what is currently expected.
- Do both One & Two
You'll notice that there are really only a few solutions here. Yet CCP still has a number of options when it comes to exact implementation.
We are left with one glaring question though. We know how to change the maximum number of concurrent ratters at high sec parity, but we don't know what we want that number to look like.
So really, the question here isn't how or what do we do to fix this problem. The question is how many players do we want to rat in a single system? We of course have to be aware that the answer to this question will impact how far alliances spread.
If I had to pick a number, I would say the ideal minimum is ten. I say ten because that would allow an active, but small corp to make its home in a single nullsec system without problem. The maximum should be based on system rarity. That is, we know that systems with lower security are rarer, so the number of concurrent ratters at or above highsec parity should increase as security goes down. Perhaps with a multiplicative effect?
This will provide an incentive at the alliance leadership level to fight for lower sec space. More members in a smaller space makes it easier to defend and more easily manage logistics.
While history has shown that leadership motivation is all that is needed to make alliances do things, it is worth noting that there is an opportunity here to help drive more people into nullsec. If the average isk/hour was always above highsec parity, even in the first and second security bands, there would be more incentive for the average player to move to nullsec. I would advocate adding a new ihub upgrade that adds LP to rat kill payouts.
There are many ways to make an LP system work. But the core goal is to add more isk for anom rats without impacting other parts of EVE while still requiring extra player work somewhere.
I think making these changes would help craft EVE's nullsec into a much more vibrant community.
On a more personal note
Discussing the value of adding more isk reminds me of when the drone lands were first added. There was all kinds of consternation about the logistics problems of shipping loot to highsec. Yet as soon as word got out about the billions in Zydrine being shipped back, EVERYONE ran to check it out. It was literally the only thing people were talking about. I recall my first GSC was worth something like 800 million. It was a true gold rush, and it got players out into those new regions like you wouldn't believe.
That kind of environment is where I'd like to see EVE going. A place where nullsec is the promised land. Yeah, you get your shit pushed in constantly, but damn if you aren't still getting rich doing it!