I know this is a huge post and sorry for it. Most of you won’t have time for reading the entire thing. But you can actually skip sections 1 and 2 by just reading TLDRs. The main idea is in section 3. Sections 1 and 2 is merely talking about the problems that 3 is trying to solve.
–TLDR of the entire post–
There are some problems currently with the Eve ecosystem such as lack of daily content/major conflict, no bottlenecks for exponential growth for largest groups, lack of meaningful choices in alliance management, capital proliferation, ISK reserve inflation, PLEX inflation and others. They can be fully or partially addressed by introducing an adaptive anomaly respawn system. In this proposal the number of anomalies spawning in a sov nullsec system is a function of the system’s indexes, and the total farming done in nullsec.
–TLDR of the entire post–
1. Some History
–Section 1 TLDR–
This section is strictly peripheral to my idea, but feel free to read if you want to understand how the 2018 Eve came to be what it is.
–Section 1 TLDR–
I’m a medium range vet now, having shortly played Eve in 2009, then coming back to it for good in 2014. But I have bad memory. I don’t remember at which update CCP implemented the current nullsec anomaly respawn rates. When did they decide exactly how much farm should a nullsec system provide? Was it Phoebe? I went to Eve Expansions wiki, and then Eve-Uni wiki. Couldn’t find anything. Then went to the individual update sites. Searched for terms like “anomaly”, “index” or “respawn”. Couldn’t find much, except that in the Mosaic update (Apr 2015) they changed the amount of activity needs to be done to improve Sov Indexes of a system. When exactly was System Indexes introduced? I think it was Phoebe, but Phoebe patch notes don’t talk about this. Or maybe I missed. The important thig is how little talk there is in patch notes about such a key decision. Did they not realize how important it was?
I remember bits and pieces though. An “in development” video I watched, a forum post I have read. A conversation I have had. About the famous “Fozzie Sov”. I remember people were complaining about Blue Donuts. I remember /u/ccp_falcon wanting to “make room for the little guy”. I remember people overly focusing on mechanics on how to capture sov, as people were at war and entosis was painful. But I remember them not paying much attention on the economics of what happens when people have sov.
What was is like before Fozzie sov? I remember hunting in nullsec, and nullsec inhabitants being fairly distributed. I remember being able to find targets in most regions. I remember coalitions occupying large spaces. Then there are mechanics older than my Eve career. I heard talk about resources were “specialized to region”, how nullsec inhabitants were not self-sufficient and had to trade with each other to produce ships and assets, and how people monopolized these resources. I heard it as something people don’t want to go back to. I agree.
2. Current Problems in Eve
–Section 2 TLDR–
There are some problems currently with the Eve ecosystem such as lack of daily content/major conflict, no bottlenecks for exponential growth for largest groups, lack of meaningful choices in alliance management, capital proliferation, ISK reserve inflation, PLEX inflation and others If you agree with the most of these problems, then feel free to skip this part. If you disagree that those problems are actually problems, then please read this section carefully before engaging with me.
–Section 2 TLDR–
2.1. The Blue
Donut Balls of Iridium
If you take a look at the 2014 sov map and the current map perhaps you might think that Fozzie sov has achieved what it wanted. There seems to be more “little guys” on the map. That might as well be true. But we also know that it’s not the sov map but the political allegiances that matters when it comes to content. If you are not allowed to kill ships or attack structures of another corp, then it doesn’t matter that you are different colors on the sov map. You are part of the “blue donut”. And if you are a huge blue donut in player size but your sov space shrank on the map, you are still the same blue donut.
From dotlan, we also know that currently the 3 largest sov holding coalitions (Imperium, Legacy and the North) have 78% of all nullsec’s accounts, making only the 22% the “little independent guys”. And most of these have semi-coalitional arrangements with the big 3. 2 of the largest coalitions (Goons and TEST = 55%) haven’t been at war for a long time. And the 3rd one is infighting, because the other two is too big to fight. All in all, alliances seem to have shrunken on the map, but they did not shrink (but perhaps grown) when it comes to their proportions compared to the entire nullsec population. So the blue donut on the map might be gone, but something much dense and impenetrable has replaced it. Iridium is the second dense material on Earth. Blue balls because lack of content. You can call this new phenomenon whatever you want. Fozziesov did not meet its goal. A great proportion of nullsec is still blue to each other.
2.2. No Bottlenecks
Just how much can you grow your entity in terms of people and assets (including characters and accounts)? Previously there were bottlenecks for alliance growth, most important being SP. In 2018 there are none. SP is buyable. Plenty of ISK-making methods are multiboxable and scale really well. Resources are virtually unlimited as you can fit 30% of all nullsec’s characters into one region, do %40 of all nullsec’s mining, and still use that region perhaps only at %60ish efficiency. So there is nothing barring growth except the amount of real people you can get, and their computational power for multiboxing. And this becomes important in combination with some other changes.
2.3. Cyno Mechanics
Meanwhile, the cyno mechanics grandfathered into this situation allowed alliances to protect entire regions using one supercap fleet. Previously, without all the exponential growth and proliferation, this meant that some regions were really tough to break PvE capitals in. Then again, a crowded bomber fleet or a huge dreadbomb would do the job. These dreadbombs were hard to organize, and didn’t happen every day. But when they did, they created the much needed risks, checks and balances for nullsec PvE farm for even the largest of alliances.
Today, the same cyno mechanics rendered some regions are virtually impenetrable. Dreadbombs don’t work anymore since enough FAXes have been proliferated. This means that, if you are in the safest region, the only way for your PvE capital to die is if you are pure afk. And pure afk here means being afk enough to get cyno inhibited, or more afk, as apposed to being less afk just enough to get tackled. If you get tackled in these regions, there is no way you die. This is why the inhabitants have the luxury to not even care about neutrals in local.
And the other detail about providing protection via cyno mechanics is that they rely on large, uncontestable supercap forces. If your force is contestable, then someone will contest it and kill it. For example, right after Rorqual changes, farmers of drone regions (InPanic/Solar) were mining almost as much as Goons in Malpais and Cobalt Edge. But their umbrella was not that large and they kept losing supers to entities like Hard Knocks and V0lta. They quickly realized using Rorquals is extremely risky without the umbrella, and stopped growing. This meant that if you want to go into vertical farming you are at the mercy of alliances larger than you. If they move their capital fleet to your region, they can bar you from farming. Only the alliance with the largest supercap umbrella was exempt from this rule by definition. And although perhaps 2 years ago the North had a larger supercap force, that force was spread and wasn’t being used as a unified “umbrella” to defend a single region. Perhaps they failed to foresee how Eve mechanics have changed, or perhaps they merely didn’t want to play the vertical farming game. It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is vertical farming became accessible to only Goons and Delve, and their blues.
2.4. The Safety Gap
All this created a huge gap between safety in top regions and the rest. For example, you can analyze the MER’s and zkill to realize that only 2-3% of all Delve’s farming (mining+ratting) converts into killmails. Whereas it is about 10% in Esoteria, Querious etc. And up to 20-25% in most undefended regions. People realized this risk gap, and most capital PvE’ers flocked under this safety and wanted a piece of the riskless farm.
Even if you die in Delve, it’s totally your fault. If you get excavators killed/stolen, it’s totally your fault. So Delve promised everyone that if you are not faulty, you are 100% safe during nullsec farm. This is not the case for anywhere else. Rorquals can be tackled easily, and supers relatively harder but still at the minimal fault to their owner by elaborate traps etc. So every farmer moved into these regions. All those PvE pilots at FCON or SOLAR or InPanic or BOT, who have provided lots of content to the general populace, are now in the safest region. Even many people from Serenity, after macroeconomically breaking their own server, came to Delve.
All in all, when it comes to safety, Fozziesov ignored that there are two kinds of safety in null. The safety of your ships and the safety of your structures. Fozziesov made it so that small guys have a higher amount of structure safety, by removing the motivation of mega empires to go bash them. Meanwhile, it ignored ship safety. Particularly with Rorquals, it became impossible for the small guy to mine competetively. The large guy could multibox Rorquals, the small guy could only multibox barges, because if he multiboxed Rorquals he would lose so much ISK that it wouldn’t be sustainable. So there was only a single meaningful choice for the small guy. Join the large guy. Hence why we still have the condensed blue donut today.
2.5. Exponential Growth
So now we are in a situation where Eve mechanics favor the coalition with the largest umbrella, that should they want to go in this route, they could use their mechanics to exponentially grow. Having the umbrella meant having a safer region. A safer region meant more farmers flocking in. More farmers flocking in meant bigger umbrella. Bigger umbrella meant more safety, and even more farmers. And the previous farmers getting into more farming ships. Delve has started with 2t/mo mining at the end of 2016, and arrived at 18t/mo by October 2018. No such growth has been experienced in any other region. This is because due to above-explained mechanics, this model was only accessible to one group in Eve. Today, if you take a look at those MER’s and don’t say “there is something wrong with the macroeconomic balance of this game”, then you are part of the problem. A single null region doing 38% of all mining in the game should be a red flag for every virtual space economy.
So currently there is only one model that works. “Grow as large as possible, condense your farmers with an uncontestable umbrella, protect them at all costs”. But this renders Eve an uninteresting game. There is no advantage of selective recruiting. And you can’t pursue this model unless you are either (a) the largest alliance or (b) blue to the largest alliance, as your umbrella becomes contestable by definition. If there is just one way of doing things right, and that way is only accessible to one coalition, then this emerges an uninteresting. Both for those who are doing things right, and those who aren’t. There just isn’t any meaningful choice anymore.
All kinds of derivative macroeconomic problems arise from here. The value of ISK gets lower with more bounties farmed, which causes inflation in for non-T1 items, including PLEX. Due to safe exponentially growing mining, mineral values decrease, so you can buy a supercap for as cheap as 12 billion. And keep in mind the value of ISK is also lower. To realize how worthless capitals have become, a good statistic is how you needed 31 PLEX for a Nyx (25b/800m) during the B-R times, and now you need 7.5 PLEX (12b/1.6b). That is a 75% reduction in value. So capital proliferation is due to safe vertical farming.
All kinds of content problems also arise. Exponentially growing entities become too large to fight. So major conflicts are denied. Meanwhile, most of the farming occurs in heavily guarded spaces and most farmers move there. So everyday content is denied as well.
Yet another issue is how there is one way to manage an alliance to “win” in the sov nullsec scheme. The only good model is “recruit as many people as possible, shrink your farmed space under the same capital umbrella, and protect your capital PvE’rs at all costs”. There is no value in selective recruiting. There is no value in expanding your space, or taking over other people’s space. But a sandbox worthy to play should include multiple meaningful choices. Nobody would play this game if there was one superior ship, or one superior career.
Eve subs has reduced from 500k to 200/300k since 2014. “Online counts” see a similar reduction. And the reduction in real people playing is much greater (as a greater proportion of these subs and online characters are now alts). I think, behind all this reduction, there are these chronic issues with Eve macroeconomy. If the only valid way to play this game is Rorqual multiboxing, then it is natural for those who don’t want to play that way to quit. Now, you don’t have to agree with me on blaming the above problems for the reduction in Eve playerbase. It’s sufficient for me that you agree that above problems are problems.
2.6. The Goons
Here is what I don’t want to be misunderstood on. Particularly due to my posting history. This topic is not a Delve/Goons issue. This is an issue in which the game offers us mechanics in which the largest alliance can exponentially grow. Goons used the mechanics that the game offered to them to the best of their ability. And they won. And now we need to sit down and talk whether this is healthy for Eve’s future.
Here is a question Goons like to ask a lot. “Why don’t the others use their space as much as Delve?” They can’t, because they don’t have the largest umbrella. So their farming is contestable, unlike yours. And secondly, just because of this fact, most farmers moved in Delve to begin with. And here is another question. “Why should I be punished just because I worked hard to make my region safe”? But this is not a legitimate question. Because the question we should ask is not “when I work hard to organize the defense of my ships, shouldn’t I be safe?” The question is “when I work hard to organize the defense of my ships, shouldn’t I be safe enough to create a situation of imbalanced growth, lack of content, macroeconomical issues and eventual collapse of our server”? The answer to this question is No. No, you shouldn’t be that safe even with the best of organizations. So the answer here is not that organization shouldn’t be rewarded. But that organization shouldn’t be rewarded at the expense of breaking the game.
So this isn’t an issue of “PvE’rs vs. PvP’ers”. Because you can be farming at one time and place, and hunting at another. The lack of PvP content is an issue for both PvE’rs and PvP’ers. All those titans people train months into need to mean something. And this isn’t an issue of “Goons vs. the North” either. That war is done and over anyway. If we keep the game as it is, there won’t be a great war of “Goons vs North” anymore. So these are the kinds of things I’ve been trying to say past 2 years. But I am memefied as a “Goon hater and Grr Goons”. In actuality, even Goons need to hear these issues out if they want to be able to play this game for another 3 years.
3. The Solution: Adaptive Anomaly Respawns
–Section 3 TLDR–
A nullsec system should respawn 1.5 times of all nullsec’s total farm per day, per system, averaged for the last week. The respawns should be designed as “queues” which would yield new anomalies once previous ones are run. The queued anomalies should expire in 24 hours. This motivates spreading out of mega empires by preventing “cycling regions” in a scarcity scenario. Meanwhile it still motivates mega empires to leave room for smaller entities, because even with the theoretical complete blue donut (100% of the null population in a single coalition) inhabiting larger than 2/3 of all sov null space is mathematically unnecessary. This proposal is really easy to balance, it makes botting harder, it ensures everyday content, it is a natural conflict driver, and it creates an environment sustainable with different amount of players playing Eve. There is pretty much no downside except the initial adjustment.
–Section 3 TLDR–
3.1. Malcanis’ Law Isn’t True
There is this thing called Malcanis’ Law, that some people cite whenever they want to convey an idea. The idea is that whatever you do to help the “small guy”, will benefit the large guys at least as much or more. That is true in many cases. But I don’t think it’s true for all cases. To realize this, I think we should look at the real world. In thousands of years of human history, we couldn’t manage gather under a single government. The larger empires have grown; the more issues they had governing every single area. Sometimes, like the Roman Empire, there wasn’t any point of keeping it as one. I think this game can imitate the same mechanic. In Eve ecosystem, how do you prevent the exponential growth and introduce diminishing returns for growing larger and larger?
3.2. Anomaly Respawns Are Key to Spread Mega Alliances Out
Imagine that nullsec systems didn’t support this many farming ships. It would be harder to protect farming ships with just a single umbrella. Mega empires would need to spread out again, divide their umbrellas, thus be exposed to attacking subcap fleets and dreadbombs again. A few conditions would emerge here.
First of all, large alliances would have to solve issues and provide safety locally. This means every region having its own safety organization. If local corporations don’t need to depend on the large alliance for ship safety, then there might not be any point for that corp in being in that alliance. There is the issue of structure safety, but that is typically solved by batphones and coalitions. So we would replicate the real life “Roman Empire” effect. A diminishing return for growing larger.
As the safety gap is reduced, “join the largest alliance” wouldn’t be the only single meaningful choice for a capital PvE player. There is less safety gap between large coalitions and the rest. In fact, a medium sized group of skilled PvP’ers would be better defenders if they are more organized an active.
There would be also be a meaningful choice now for alliances as well. Do you selective recruit, or do you recruit anyone? Should you grow your space larger to provide more farm, or should you shrink it to provide better safety? These all would become meaningful questions with not a single true answer. Multiple valid playstyles.
3.3. But Largest Coalitions Should Still Be Motivated to Let Room for Small Entities
It’s easy to demand scarcity. We had proposals like hard limiting the anomaly respawn rate or going back to “specialized resources” kind of system where different regions dropped different components which could be used to produce different assets. These were bad ideas because they didn’t take what Fozziesov achieved into account. Null empires should still be self-sufficient, and there should still be empty space for small entities to take. But also null empires should be motivated to spread out. So we want large empires to spread out, but we also want them to leave room for the small guy. Hard limits or resource scarcity ignores this latter thing we want.
How do we achieve both? I think wormhole space is a great example of how both is achieved. You can’t infinitely stack thousands of players in a wormhole and infinitely farm there. Being in HK or Lazers mean great farm safety and advantages, but they can’t and are not motivated to recruit 1/5 of all wormhole players and do 1/2 of all wormhole farming like Goons did. And that is thanks to wormhole mechanics, which block that kind of exponential growth. Due to a single reason, you can’t fit lots of people in the same wormhole: Wormhole anomaly respawns depend on farming done in other wormholes. So what if anomaly spawns in a nullsec system depended on how many anomalies are being done in other areas?
3.4. Adaptive Respawns: The Proposal
Here is how I think anomalies should respawn.
The anomaly respawn rates in a single system is a function of the systems’ military/industry indexes and the amount of same type of anomalies being run in the rest of the nullsec.
With maximum indexes, a nullsec system would spawn 1.5 times of the amount of anomalies were run across the entire sov nullsec, per day, per sov nullsec system, on last week’s average. Here is how it works. Suppose there is a total of 2000 (for the sake of simplicity - it’s actually about 2700) sov null systems. Suppose 15000, 16000, 20000, 10000, 12000, 12000 and 13000 havens were ran each day of the last week in 2000 nullsec systems. This means on average, 7 havens were run last week per system per day [(15000 + 16000 + 20000 + 1000 +, 12000 + 12000 + 13000) / 7 / 2000). So today, any maximally upgraded system would spawn 1.5 times of that amount. That means 1 haven per 137 minutes, and 10.5 havens for 1 day. Remember these numbers are just placeholders, and I don’t know how many havens are run each day.
Now here is further important stuff. Instead of spawning right away, these systems would “queue” anomalies. At any given time, there would be just 1 haven in the system. Every 205 minutes, other havens would “queue” up. If you ran that one haven, the next one would spawn as long as there is one in the queue. So you would be able to run the next one in the queue, until your queue finishes. And anomalies would be removed from the queue after 24 hours.
Other anomalies would work in the same manner, including mining anomalies. The higher class of anomalies would be “unlocked” when the system’s military/industry indexes go up.
The respawn rate depends on the farming done the entire last week, as opposed to last day or last hour. This is to make sure farming in AUTZ or weekdays is not discouraged.
And since anomalies queue up, you can run all your system’s anomalies your available time window of the day. So if you have 2 hours that day, you can still run all anomalies that spawned that day.
If you want to mine but not rat (or vice versa), perhaps it should be possible to increase your mining respawn rate multiplier from from 1.5 to 2 by giving up your ratting respawn rate via sov upgrades. If you want certain anomalies over others (e.g. you don’t want havens and sanctums but you want lower grade anomalies), perhaps you should be able to give up others and get those anomalies you want.
Now let’s talk advantages.
3.5. Adaptive Respawns: Why It Would Be Really Good
The proposal makes sure that there is incentive to spread out. In this proposal, people can’t “locustfleet” null anomalies, going in huge fleets system to system due to how there is 1 haven at a given time. Also, queues expire in 24 hours, so we don’t have these “systems full of untouched farm” like we do in the wormholes, again to prevent cyclical kind of farming. All in all, this creates a good incentive to spread out and stay that way, which is to be balanced with the incentive to shrink (for security). Voila. Now there are multiple meaningful choices. “Grow as much as you can and shrink under one supercap umbrella” stops being the single choice. The diminishing return achieved. The Roman Empire effect achieved.
This proposal also makes sure there is room for the small guy. This is the part where this proposal is better than other “scarcity” proposals, which were falling victim to Malcanis’ law. Suppose an alliance has a manpower to do 50% of entire Eve’s farm (suppose 500/1000 havens). If all nullsec has been doing 1000 havens a day, then 1500 of them would spawn each day in entire nullsec. So this alliance would need 1/3 of all nullsec systems to run 500 havens. Suppose they doubled their farm, and are now doing 66% of all farm (1000/1500 havens) while the rest of Eve is watching. They’d only need 44% of all nullsec. Suppose the ultimate blue donut is completed, and they are doing 100% of all farming. They would need 66% of all nullsec. The rest is up for grabs by the smaller entities. And if smaller entities began farming, this is actually good for the mega empires too because their systems would spawn more anomalies. So “invading all the space” is never a good thing under this system.
**How would this proposal work with real numbers? ** Goons and friends (Imperium + Red Alliance + QFC) did about 50% of all mining in October (and a lesser ratio of ratting). Assume that is just t1 mining (in reality, moon mining goes into it I think). Delve inhabitants now would need about 1/3 of all nullsec to secure that farm. I think it’s a fair mechanic that you should be spreading to 1/3 of the space if you do 50% of the farm. But they wouldn’t want to spread further, because the further you spread the less safe your farmers get. Goons and friends actually have about 300 systems. They’d need to enlarge to about 900. Meanwhile, TEST did about 9% of all mining and would need 162 systems. They already have 134, so it wouldn’t change that much with them, except they would need to actually use most of their systems. Same goes for an alliance like NC. So most people would find their space sufficient except Goons. Maybe then you’ll say this proposal targets Goons. But remember that this proposal is trying to fix issues like exponential growth, safety gap, content denial, uncontestable umbrellas, and so forth. Goons have been the prime beneficiary of these mechanics. Naturally they’d need to adjust. However, I don’t think it creates a situation anyone can’t adapt to.
This proposal would make Eve nullsec feel alive again. Currently, there are perhaps 400 heavily guarded and occupied systems and the other 2300 is mostly empty. With this proposal, there will be someone regularly in space in at least 2/3 of all sov null.
This proposal would make botting harder. In this system there wouldn’t be enough support in a single system for 24/7 VNI bot. They’d need to switch systems. Of course a bot can also be written for that, but now hunters could catch them in gates. In case there are enough anoms for botters like KWG, they would still need to use all their systems and run one bot per system. Meanwhile their space will now be valuable to those who want to invade.
This proposal would bring daily content back. Part of how Eve ecosystem works is that people undock in risky space for farm, then die and become content for their hunters. Then they can go and hunt others too. This is just a super essential part of why this game is fun. “Super krabbing regions under uncontestable umbrellas” deny that content. It is safe to say that ratio of the total nullsec farm that converts to content is at an all-time low. By spreading umbrellas, this proposal makes sure content is available again. This is good for both mega empires and others. Mega empires too, like to hunt Rorquals and supers etc.
This proposal is a natural conflict driver. Alliances’ manpower, size and needs change every day. Right now any region is fit to provide all kinds of such needs. Space is worthless, and if you had one region you could provide for %100 of Eve’s null population’s needs. Under my proposal space becomes somewhat valuable again. Growing alliances would need to take space (but not all the space), shrinking alliances would need to give it up. Space would now be a legitimate reason to fight over, and we’d see more fights that is not about artificially pushed reasons or propaganda.
With this proposal, Eve’s ecosystem is no longer dependent on the online player amount. One of the really nice things about it is that if there were last 1000 accounts playing this game in nullsec, they would still have to spread out and space would still feel nonempty. Meanwhile, if nullsec’s population miraculously tripled thanks to PA and its marketing in Korea, the mechanics would still work the same and sustain the farm for everyone. Under no other “scarcity” proposal this kind of sustainability is taken into account.
This proposal is really easy to balance. Once CCP implements it, all they would need to balance it would be changing the respawn multiplier (which I offered as 1.5). If it feels like mega empires violate small alliances’ space, change make the multiplier 1.7 or 2 or higher. If it feels like people should spread out more, then lower it again.
Rorqual multiboxing would still be possible under this proposal. My thoughts are mixed about Rorqual multiboxing and it’s macroeconomic effects. But it is clearly valuable to CCP as people PLEX lots of accounts for it. Under this proposal, Rorquals could still be multiboxed. It’s just you need to have a certain amount of systems for your own use, and either farm 1 Rorqual per system, or keep jumping system to system.
There are literally no disadvantages for this proposal. I will go bold and make this claim. Yes, Goons would need to enlarge a little, but they certainly have power to do so. Meanwhile, for most others their daily lives would be the same except maybe they farm with less people per space. Organization and military skill is still rewarded with safety. You can still maintain and use supercap umbrellas. But perhaps not hundreds of them at the same time. Perhaps you can fit only 600 characters instead of 40.000 in the same region. But that is still a good amount to provide defense. And remember, much like defenders, the hunters will be spread out too.
Thanks for reading.
- BONUS: Olmeca, why are you doing this? When I came to the end of this 4000 words essay, I asked myself this question. Also, I mean you guys know by now vertical farming is my source of income. I think I am just fascinated by the Eve ecosystem and it gives me some kind of pleasure to think about ways of how to maintain it in a sustainable way. I also like to construct theories and defend them, although I sometimes wish people cared more about my arguments and less about who I am etc.