This week, CCP Games published a couple of development blogs on the current state and future direction of structures in EVE Online. Since the introduction of Citadels almost a year ago, players have embraced the new structures with enthusiasm, erecting many thousands of them throughout all of New Eden. CCP now intends to focus more developer energy towards bug fixes and current feature improvements on existing structure designs, and less on the introduction of new structures to the game.
One exception to this shift in developmental direction remains, however: CCP described the general mechanics of the new refinery structures, which will be the optimal platforms for resource gathering and reprocessing, to be introduced sometime Soon™, in classic CCP fashion:
I’ll start out by addressing the question of release date. Refineries are firmly scheduled for “when they’re done” and we are not planning on rushing them out before they are ready.
No doubt refineries will be a principal topic at Fanfest in a couple of weeks, and perhaps the mechanics as described may change between now and whenever they are eventually released. Nevertheless, the announced functionality of refineries indicates one clear intention by CCP - the era of entitlement to passive income is drawing to a close.
The Passivity Purge
Last summer, I speculated about the rising trend of eliminating rewards for inactive gameplay in EVE Online. I recall at Fanfest 2012 when CCP Soundwave described his strong desire to remove all passive income sources, including those mechanics which reward "away from keyboard" (i.e., AFK) gameplay. So it should come as no surprise when CCP finally suggests new moon mining mechanics that eliminate nearly all of the passive income-generating aspects that players enjoy today.
While most players are embracing this shift to active mechanics, others are less enthusiastic. Those who have become used to mostly automatic income streams from harvesting "moon goo", required for lucrative T2 and T3 item manufacturing, are predicting cataclysmic price rises, among other dire consequences, as a result of the proposed mechanics. Others suggest that these changes will make low-sec space even more unattractive.
Regardless, it's clear that CCP has faith in the strength of EVE's economy to absorb any effects of the proposed active resource gathering mechanics. More likely, they simply believe, in general, that rewarding active gameplay will make EVE Online a better game in the long run, regardless of short-term consequences in the player-driven economy. If the prices of Tech II items skyrocket as a result, so be it - that will only provide more incentive to try the new mechanics as the reward-to-risk ratio rises.
Still, CCP is hedging their bets by not extending the new moon mining mechanics to wormholes or high-sec space - as they say in the dev blog: "We want to be careful not to dilute the regional value of tech two resource collection too much."
Another Nail in Entrepreneurs' Coffins
Overall, I like CCP's commitment to replacing passive game mechanics with greater rewards for active interaction, and the proposed shift in resource gathering as described in the dev blog is a healthy direction. But I'm disappointed that these new mechanics will be limited to null-sec and low-sec space.
Further, the proposed moon mining changes are, quite candidly, a gift to null-sec alliances, who will be the only groups large enough to coordinate the required numbers to take full advantage of the generated mining operations. It appears that the proposed active mechanics do not scale to smaller sizes, and instead emphasize the coordination of bigger groups.
Once again, CCP is continuing to squeeze out solo and small groups from industry options in EVE Online. There will be no small (and more affordable) refinery option - only medium and large sizes. Using the current moon mining mechanics, small groups in low-sec can generate some income to finance PvP activity using small POS towers. With the new refinery mechanics, that will no longer be a viable option. And moon mining will continue to be unavailable in w-space and high-sec. The message is clear: if you want to reap any rewards from moon goo, join a big null-sec alliance - period.
As a player who once enjoyed mastering small-scale invention and Tech II manufacturing in high-sec, this trend saddens me. I was hoping to see a more scalable option that would make use of small refineries available for solo players or small corporations.
Come on, CCP. If you won't let us earn a decent income from manufacturing items outside of null-sec, at least give us a small-scale option to reap some meager rewards from active resource gathering and reprocessing, in any kind of space.
Alas, while I support CCP's move towards more active gameplay rewards, it's clear that I won't be using the new refinery structures, unless things change significantly. As someone who plays mostly in wormholes and high-sec space, the proposed new structures have nothing to offer.
Fly safe! o7