The End of Entitlement

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

I Wait in Hope, So Far

Serious revisions to industry will be the theme of the coming summer expansion for EVE Online, according to CCP Games. As of the writing of this post, the first two of a planned six dev blogs about all the changes to research and manufacturing have been released. While the full impact of each set of new features won't be known until all six dev blogs are published, the changes announced so far clearly show that manufacturers in New Eden will have to rethink just about everything they do. So far, it appears that this is a good thing.

CCP Games has published two of a planned six dev blogs on industry changes, so far.

CCP Games has published two of a planned six dev blogs on industry changes, so far.

Reprocessing Reprocessing

The EVE University wiki is going to need some significant updates - and I couldn't be happier about it. The mechanics of refining and reprocessing have always struck me as odd, because they allow unnatural things to happen, including:

  • absolutely perfect extraction of minerals with zero waste (under the right conditions)
  • reprocessing items into raw materials which then have a total volume greater than the original item

These quirks encourage bizarre behaviors, like manufacturing large railguns simply because they are a more efficient way to transport raw materials. But this all changes with the summer expansion.

When released, the new system will reduce base reprocessing efficiency significantly from current levels, and also reduce the degree to which skills and implants improve reprocessing abilities. A character with maximized skills will see reprocessing rates decline by by 27.6 percent. This sounds like bad news for industrialists, but the reprocessing efficiency reductions are offset somewhat by a boost in minerals and ice products gained from reprocessing ore and ice blocks by more than 38 percent.

In short, ores and ice will have more good stuff, but it will be harder for industrialists to extract that stuff out of them. The dev blog includes some helpful before-and-after tables showing the precise amounts and effects of these changes.

As someone who makes most of his ISK income from manufacturing, I think that the net effects of reprocessing changes are all welcome, even though they will require more investments:

  • There is now a good reason to maximize reprocessing-related skills. Under the current system, one can achieve perfect refine without taking all the needed skills to level V. I am now training my industrial characters to level V in all Ore Processing specialty skills. Under the new system, there will always be some incremental improvement achieved with each skill level trained.
  • There is now a good reason to buy and use reprocessing-related implants. After the first dev blog was published, I immediately ran to Jita and purchased Zainou 'Beancounter' Refining RX-804 implants for all my refining characters. Any serious industrialist should do the same.

Doing industrial activities in starbases and outposts will also get some love. Reprocessing arrays will become easier to use and provide more base efficiency. In addition, CCP Games is making compression of ores and ice products sensible by improving ratios. Further, a new Compression Array that provides Rorqual-equivalent performance in player-owned starbases now makes it more logical to actually compress ores for efficient shipping, instead of manufacturing an item and then reprocessing it at the shipment destination. Compression blueprints will no longer be required in POS arrays or for the Rorqual. The new Compression Array will be available anywhere - even in high sec space.

The revised UI for reprocessing - still in development. It certainly looks a lot prettier - but will it reduce the number of clicks required?

The revised UI for reprocessing - still in development. It certainly looks a lot prettier - but will it reduce the number of clicks required?

CCP Games teased us with a glimpse of a new user interface for reprocessing. They promise that it will be more intuitive and easier to use, with drag-and-drop functionality, and more information provided to the user. It certainly looks more colorful and graphical than the dull text-based click-fest UI we have to endure today.

I like all of the planned reprocessing changes. The physics now make sense. They encourage more investment in all the processing-related skills. They don't impact miners and industrialists too adversely, though we will have to be more serious about developing production-focused characters. And they provide some new opportunities. I'm looking forward to experimenting with the POS arrays for reprocessing and compression, though I'm not entirely certain what affects they will have yet on resource management practices. Regardless, it'll be fun to tinker with it and figure it out.

Remaking Manufacturing

The second dev blog provided a preview of planned changes for the manufacturing system in EVE Online. This post shows the degree of change that CCP Games' developers have in mind for improving industry in the game, and the full scope of planned revisions is extensive.

I'm all for making manufacturing easier in EVE Online. Today, many aspects of that system are quite arcane, and take more effort than should be required to master. It's clear that CCP understands this, and intends to make industry a more accessible career option for more players.

To this end, the summer expansion will include many improvements in consistency and ease of use for industry functions. For example, the word "refining" will disappear, and all material transformations will be a form of "reprocessing" - this kind of consistency appeals to my OCD nature, so this is a good thing. The market listings of items related to manufacturing will be reorganized into three logical groups - materials, components and research equipment. Thank goodness for this - hunting for what I needed in the nonsensical structure of the market's Manufacture & Research category was always a pain.

Some aspects of the manufacturing process are being simplified. For example, Robotic Assembly Modules (R.A.M.) and Research Database (R.Db) items, which are used in building things, will no longer be damaged in manufacturing. They will simply be another blueprint-required item for making something. In addition, "Extra Materials" in certain blueprints will be incorporated into the regular materials required. Candidly, that distinction never made sense to me anyway, so I welcome this simplification.

The most intriguing change to manufacturing is the elimination of limited numbers of research or production lines, or "slots". In fact, the concept of "slots" for different kinds of manufacturing and research jobs is going away entirely. In the current system, you have to queue up jobs behind others if all the slots are filled, resulting in long wait times. In the new system, submitted jobs will start right away, but if there is a lot of demand for those kinds of jobs in a particular location, the costs will be higher.

I love this change. No more waiting for available production lines! Instead, I will need to consider the costs of submitting jobs in stations, in order to preserve profit margins. According to the dev blog, costs should range between zero and 14 percent of the base item being produced. But this still provides more control and more options - both of which are good game design. It will also encourage players to seek lower-cost production options in a wider diversity of stations, spreading the demand across a larger number of facilities in New Eden. It should also provide incentives to players to build or enhance POSes for manufacturing and research, in order to control variable production costs better.

In addition, the manufacturing UI is getting some attention, too. While not yet complete, the prototype that CCP Games shared in the dev blog is certainly striking.

This looks far too pretty to be the real user interface for industry. Where is all the text? Where are all the buttons to click? What are these picture icon thingies?

This looks far too pretty to be the real user interface for industry. Where is all the text? Where are all the buttons to click? What are these picture icon thingies?

POSes for Everybody!

With the removal of slots for research and production jobs, the demand for putting up mobile laboratories in player-owned starbases should normally decrease, as players will be able to start research jobs in stations more easily. To offset this, CCP Games will adjust the risk-reward ratio to encourage the use of POS-based facilities. Essentially, this means that industrialists will need to chose between between the safety and convenience of using facilities at NPC stations or using higher efficiency facilities in starbases, but with a higher risk of loss.

Currently, industrialists may keep blueprint originals in station hangars and run research jobs on them in POS facilities remotely, thus keeping the BPO secure. With the summer expansion, this will no longer be possible - research and copying jobs will require the BPOs to be located in starbase structures.

To compensate for this exposure, Mobile Laboratories and Assembly Arrays will be more efficient - although the exact numbers have not been released by CCP Games.

To provide further incentives to players to set up POS facilities in high sec space, CCP will remove requirements for standings, and POSes may be set up in any system (with a few exceptions including Jita or new player starting systems). This means that players will not have to grind missions to attain enough faction standings to set up their own POS in empire space.

Will the summer expansion bring a dramatic increase in the number of player-owned starbase towers to EVE Online?

Will the summer expansion bring a dramatic increase in the number of player-owned starbase towers to EVE Online?

I have mixed feelings about these changes. Requiring BPOs to be placed in POS structures as part of research and production jobs exposes those valuable assets to risk of theft by other corp members. If there was a way to lock down BPOs within a POS structure, that would help minimize this risk, but that is not currently possible. Instead, this change will likely force more players to set up their own 1-person corporation and use that to establish their own POS for private, personal use only. This is exactly what I have done with my own production alt character. We may see the the use of POSes by teams greatly decline - and the number of POSes explode.

Players are also asking CCP Games to make it easier to destroy inactive POSes now established. The devs have said they are looking into this, but have not yet indicated if or how this might be accommodated.

Until we see the actual performance numbers on revised POS-based facilities, it's impossible to know if this is a horrible change, or the greatest thing ever. I shall wait in hope.

What's next?

I am eager to see what else CCP Games has planned for industrialists in the summer expansion. The next dev blog will cover the new user interface in detail. Will it finally allow batch submission of multiple research or manufacturing jobs? Currently, if I have ten blueprint copies that I want to run Invention jobs on, I have to click the same pattern of buttons and text items ten times. I've gotten used to it, but after sixty or so clicks, it becomes really annoying. If only I could drag and drop all the items and blueprints for all ten jobs to a POS structure, let the client sort it out for me, and then press one "Submit" button to start them all.

If the new industry UI lets me do that, I think I shall shed a tear of happiness - maybe two, in fact.

I'm very curious to see the details on job cost scaling, too. This is where the new model could go horribly wrong. If the emphasis swings too far towards rewarding "higher risk" production in null sec space, while penalizing "lower risk" production in high sec space, I shall be one very concerned capsuleer. I'm all for boosting industry in all lower-security spaces - 0.0, low-sec and w-space - but I hope that does not mean that high-sec production is going to become nonviable as a possible ISK-earning career.

I'm probably worrying too much about this. Until we see the final numbers, it's impossible to evaluate properly. Again, I shall wait in hope.

Most intriguing to me is the last planned dev blog on coming industry changes - the one that will describe "Teams" - "the workforce used for industry jobs in the new system."

In a prior blog post, Where are all the people? - Part II, I proposed incorporating population as a resource for use in a wide variety of game elements, including the operation of industry in starbases and POSes. Did CCP Soniclover read my blog post? Am I indeed the original source for what is likely the greatest addition to EVE Online game design ever?

Or will I be blamed for the worst idea yet introduced to the game, and become the despised pariah of all industrialists in New Eden?

Who knows? We'll have to wait for that dev blog to find out. Until then, I shall wait in hope.

Fly safe!  o7