Tuesday, February 19, 2013
EVE Online is an Ecosystem
This post isn't specifically about the recent Xander Phoena interview with CSM candidate James 315, but it is about a few of the points he brought up. Points that I am very much in agreement with.
(I do have to say that I think that, out of the sixteen interviews Xander has completed, this is the bad apple in the bunch. He expected to interview a loon, and he attacked James' ideas as though he were a loon, even when James demonstrated anything but loonery. Xander seemed more intent on demonstrating James as a loon and/or troll candidate than investigating and understanding his proposals and viewpoints. Xander has certainly demonstrated a strong aptitude for investigative reporting in his many previous interviews, but I believe he came into this interview with too many preconceptions and he was unable to depart from them.)
Back to the EVE Online ecosystem.
Let's talk relative safety first. There's always talk that nullsec mining is far more safe than highsec mining. That may very well be true in certain circumstances and locations, but is by no means true of all nullsec. What is true, is that highsec safety is free, there is no work or time or money that a highsec miner has to spend or perform to acquire that level of safety. On the other hand, nullsec safety, as it exists, is not supplied by game mechanics, but directly via the efforts of players. A miner or missioner is safe in nullsec only because of the efforts of their alliance. The alliance supplies that level of safety through members logged on and in space, via alliance intel channels, via alliance gate camps, via roving bands of alliance PvPers hunting intruders. Nullsec safety, unlike highsec safety, requires player effort and coordination. Nullsec safety comes at a cost. Highsec safety is free.
A highsec miner can mine for long periods of time with very little interaction with the game. What are the chances that a miner is going to be ganked in highsec in any twelve hour period? Consider the number of miners in highsec during a twelve hour time interval, consider how many ganks occur in that twelve hour time period. The chance that any particular miner is going to be singled out is statistically very low.
Nullsec miners, on the other hand, to ensure their safety, have to be far more involved with the game client during the period that they are mining. They need to pay more attention to local intel, they need to pay attention to alliance intel channels. A nullsec miner that engages in AFK gameplay is far more likely to end up dead than their highsec counterpart.
The question then becomes, how long can a player mine in a relatively inactive state throughout a given day, versus mining in a state where they need to actively pay attention to the game? A highsec miner can multitask quite effectively. They can mine 8-12 hours per day, while getting many other tasks done: their job, playing another game, watching a movie, making sure their kids don't stab themselves. The nullsec miner can't multitask as effectively, if at all. The time they can spend mining is far more limited.
So, if you can spend 8-12 hours per day, earning 25M ISK per hour in a generally AFK activity in highsec, versus spending 3-4 hours per day, earning 60M ISK per hour in nullsec, what do you choose? Low effort for 250M ISK per day, or greater effort for 210M ISK per day? This is why most nullsec alts are based out of highsec. Low effort, high reward, very low risk.
Not everyone is going to leave highsec. That's cool. But there are certainly people who would leave highsec to perform their industry or their PvEing if the reward was large enough. Yet, the reward for leaving highsec is rarely worth the effort it involves.
Miners and missioners. These people are part of the EVE ecosystem. They're the producers. These folks are the bottom of the food chain. They don't necessarily need to be eaten, but their very presence does spur activity among the consumers.
There are few producers in lowsec and nullsec, and the PvP ecosystem is becoming stale. Some of the consumer types are an endangered species. It's consumers on consumers, and the consumer population is dwindling as a result. You see this in forum posts and blog posts, people becoming bored of fighting the same people over and over again. The variety is causing burn-out and a general malaise with the game.
Producers encourage primary consumers (gankers) to roam. The majority of producers can avoid being victimized by the primary consumers, but having producers in areas that are not inherently safe acts as enticement for the primary consumer population to grow, flourish and be active. These consumers cull the odd producer from the herd (the ones who get up to have a bio, or go AFK for whatever reason, who didn't see the reds spike in local.) These occasional acts of culling keep the primary consumers fed, and hungry for more. Their population increases as a result.
An increase in the primary consumer population in turn increases the secondary consumer population (the PvPers and the pirates), who make their living hunting the primary consumers.
An increase in the overall consumer population in turn increases the scavenger population (the killmail whores, the folks looking to salvage and sweep up the detritus of battles.) Scavengers are preyed upon by consumers as well.
People are going to say "You just want easy ganks! No thanks." The thing is, most producers do not become victims. If there are an extra 200 producers in lowsec per evening, and if only 1 in 50 (or 1 in 25) of those are ganked per day, that probably increases the primary consumer population by double the number of producers, which in turn increases the secondary consumer population by double the number of primary consumers. The producer losses remain low, because these are the smart players, and the rewards are such that their occasional losses make the risk worth the effort and reward. The overall effect is to increase PvP across the board, and as such the PvP becomes more varied. The overall health of the game increases, fewer players experience burn-out and malaise.
The EVE Online ecosystem is sick. It's in ill-health. The delicate balance is out-of-whack. The risk to reward ratio has to return to a reasonable level. There are producers who will brave lowsec and nullsec (lowsec in particular,) but the reward for doing so has to outweigh the rewards currently available to highsec. Producers are the people who jump start PvP, they're the carrot. The game needs more carrots venturing outside of highsec. More reward; carrots for carrots.