It’s way late for me, so I apologize if this isn’t as concise as I’d like it to be, but I want to get it out there before I forget. This won’t be a perfect concept, but I think it’s worth talking about in light of recent changes.
In light of the changes to Drone Aggression in PvE, and the talk about AFK Ratting and the desire to have people more engaged in the game, no matter what they are doing, it got me thinking about some ideas that I, and others, have had for overhauling Eve’s PvE content. Specifically, these are changes that would be made to Anomalies, DED Sites, and Missions.
Eve’s PvE content is boring. Let’s be real. It’s too mundane, too tedious, and you have to kill so many ships that it makes us look like an NFL Runningback playing against an Under 10 Youth Football team. Too much Quantity, and not enough Quality. And CCP has stated that they want combat against NPCs to prepare players for PvP. Make hostile NPCs not only more challenging, but also more rewarding.
The answer seems pretty straight-forward. Make Anoms, DED Sites, and Missions less about the monotonous task of killing wave after wave after wave of meaningless NPC ships, and more about facing a small number of dangerous, capable ships that are more unique, more intelligent, more challenging, and much more rewarding. Everything that a player could face in PvP should be faced in PvE in a manner that teaches players how to deal with it when facing other players.
Most of this stems from evolving, expanding, or mixing, the content that you get from Burner Missions and/or the Response fleets that NPC miners call in. Essentially, each instance (Anom, DED site, or Mission) would contain a “Boss” NPC that is either very capable on their own, or supported by a small gang or fleet of support ships that work together.
Instead of paying out bounties per NPC, pay out per completed site or mission. You could even apply something like the Bounty System and the Bounty Office to PvE. Bounty Contracts could be placed by CONCORD or the Empires in certain stations, or in their Capital Systems with the location of high-level, unique, or exceptionally valuable Targets in Sites that need to be cleared, perhaps ranging from random systems in High and Low Sec, to NPC Null (scaling accordingly). These contracts could potentially see competition between “Bounty Hunters” and add more PvP content. They could also be used to get the location of the sites and camp the location, so there may have to be something implemented to foster competition and content without griefing.
And, as these PvE sites and missions are meant to emulate PvP and teach its skills, the fact that more ships and players will be fit for and more familiar with PvP could very well mean that “Ratters” are less likely to simply run at the first sight of a possible hostile, and quite possibly more eager to take a real fight.
The general idea is Quality over Quantity. Less grinding, less tedium, less AFK, and more Challenging, more Educating, more Rewarding, and more Engaging.
These would remain the “simplest” form of NPC combat in the game. The basic concept can scale in ship class and difficulty by site. From Frigates (T1 to Faction to T2), Destroyers (T1 to T2 to T3), all the way up the classes to Battleships (T1 to Faction to T2), and even Capitals and beyond, with the difficulty scaling with the class and Tech level. Just as Anoms have Levels within each Tier of difficulty, each class would increase by Tech Level. Not a hard limit, mind you. You could still take your badass Merlin into a site meant for Faction or T2 ships, or you can go overkill and bring your T3C into a site meant for T1 Destroyer. This is a sandbox, after all. This would mean that everything from basic T1 ships to blinged out Faction and T2 ships would still be used and around.
For DED Sites
You can add the extra difficulty of even stronger/smarter NPCs with support from various structures that either do additional damage, use EWAR, or whatever else. Possibly add in some hacking mini-games (either Data or something that doesn’t require a module) for variety and and extra challenge to beat the site to finish the site and get the payout. Of course, Loot drops would still be a thing for both Anoms and DED sites. (That’s kinda their thing, after all.)
And missions? Missions need the biggest overhaul, imo.
Personally, I see missions as the Flagship for NPC content in any game. When I first started the game and started diving into PvE content, I assumed that it would progress, at least in depth, scope, and quality, from Anoms to DED Sites to Missions. I assumed the Missions would follow the same template as any mission or quest in any game would follow: something immersive, in-depth, engaging, challenging, and rewarding. Missions have always been what drives us deeper into the lore and backstory of any game, at least in my experience. So, apply all aspects of PvE content and expand further upon the same concept as DED Sites by increasing the scale and variety within the mission (based on level and relative to the story arch), as well as sprinkling in some ACTUAL story archs and decisions that affect their outcomes and rewards.
Eve’s Epic Arch missions are a GREAT place to start. They have the beginning of those elements or, at least, the closest things to them. And, to prevent the tedium of grinding missions, as well as farming the same missions over and over, day in and day out, perhaps each mission or set of missions could have a cool-down period (say, a day, a week, a month, or however long), with payouts high enough that players can make enough Isk from the time they spend running missions to spend the Cool-down period roaming around, putting the PvP skills they learned from PvE to use.