From the Minutes, there seems to be lots of issues with what CCP/CSM thinks this game’s main problems are, and how to fix them. Here, I’ll talk about one problem regarding the latter. Even when we successfully identify a problem in Eve, how should CCP approach to fixing it?
Problem: Many balance patches actually make the game worse because they aren’t holistically planned.
At some point (after Incarna maybe?) CCP decided that they would do smaller and more frequent balance passes instead of big ones. However, this philosophy causes issues when the fix is applied to an item in a domain which is related to many other domains in Eve.
Some domains in Eve are independent and isolated. For example, everyone unanimously welcomes UI fixes, bug fixes, NPE improvements and so on. Let’s call these isolated domains. Frequent and small changes are most welcome in these domains. Many other domains are not that isolated. Once you touch them you have to consider a variety of other domains to not mess things up. For example, the reason why AFK cloaking haven’t been addressed for so long is that any change to fix it would also be really intrusive to other ways of cloaking. Let’s call these areas interrelated domains.
The problem is that CCP treats interrelated domains as isolated, and does not take the interrelations into account when discussing/making changes. This in turn often yields the opposite of what was intended with the change. Below are some such examples.
1. Ship Changes
One domain that easily illustrates my point is ship changes. Ships are used in different contexts such as solo, PvE, small fleet, large fleet, tidifest, non-consensual or consensual PvP, structure bashes and so on. Usually changes address or cater to one or two of these domains. And the interrelations of ships to different areas are mostly ignored.
1.1. HIC Balance:
One easy example is HIC changes and how it ignored the way wormholers used it. In that case the change didn’t even favor the majority usage of the ship, like it normally does. The way how CCP/CSM could even propose this to the playerbase is the indicator of how CCP/CSM ignores interrelational issues when making balance changes. Luckily this time sufficient outrage was achieved. We acquired our special case module.
1.2. T3Cs and Falcons:
Another is how T3C changes ignored worries with covert hunting (for a blops or a large fleet), and made it overall harder by making hunting ships less survivable. Yet another is how Falcon changes ignore jamming being one of the only counters for a subcap fleet vs. fighters. The thing is, when taken the entire Eve ecosystem into account, there being subcap counters to fighters and there being ways of killing PvE capitals is equally (if not more) important than all those domains and situations which CCP/CSM cared about (e.g. large fleet comps of T3Cs, solo/small fleet situations for jams) when discussing how these ships should be balanced (PS: to give credit to where its due, some CSM members did actually propose jamming changes should include a special case exclusion for fighters).
Citadels are designed non-holistically to directly cater for sov null and have been extremely suboptimal with respect to the flow of content in FW and wormholes. I won’t repeat all the arguments here as they are widely accepted.
1.4. The Takeaway/Suggestion: Special Case Rules Are Actually Good
There is a prejudice against such rules on CCP/CSM level. Perhaps it’s because of the complexity it brings to the casual player (or even vets). The thing is, there are already such rules. In wormholes there is no asset safety. Almost nobody kills a citadel in wormhole yet is surprised by all the assets dropping. HICs can go into small wormholes. Even if that might create a surprise in the new player, it’s not a huge deal for him to learn it. People do learn about special case rules and adapt to them.
This repulsion from special case rules is almost irrational given the benefits of having your cake and eating it too. Make jams still work vs. fighters. Don’t touch covert T3Cs even when nerfing their uses large fleet compositions. Citadel mechanics should be specialized to wormholes, hisec, nullsec and FW. If CCP/CSM is to pay due respect to the complexity of all emergent and valuable gameplays in Eve, one very legitimate way to non-intrusively get things better is special case rules.
2. Balances to ISKMaking Activities
To assess a method of ISKmaking, people care about different variables (isk/hour/account, AFK friendliness, investment, risk, etc.). But these assessments are always relative. If there is a better way to earn your ISK elsewhere, statistically speaking, people will go do that activity instead. So if you “fix” one ISKmaking method in one domain, without caring about the overall balance, acting like it is an isolated domain, you are effectively making decisions which will determine the next meta. It will drive people to or away from different playstyles. If you do these decisions badly, then you will kill the much-valuable variety and richness in the game. Below are some concrete examples of this phenomenon.
2.1 Moon Goo + Rorquals + Fozzie Anoms + SP Changes:
I can’t even talk about these changes one by one due to how interrelated they are.
When making moon goo changes, CCP/CSM was talking about how much of a content-deny offline ISKmaking was. When Rorquals were being introduced, CCP/CSM anticipated how much extra content people would be getting. When Fozzie Anoms were introduced, CCP/CSM talked about how it will help the little guy to carve his space in nullsec by shrinking mega empires. When SP changes were introduced, we were being told how someone could merely buy the character from the bazaar and it is the same thing. All these arguments sounded good. Except they weren’t holistically thought. They didn’t take interactions of all these domains with others into account. And the results were the opposite of what was intended.
With all those changes holistically combined, they overvalidated the vertical farming playstyle. In contrast, the playstyle of selectively recruiting skilled PvP-oriented players was invalidated. Moon goo is directly taken away from them. Rental income is invalidated because with Fozzie anomalies the rental model is now outdated. They can’t even operate supercap trade hubs because they’ll get curbstomped. If you don’t want your Keepstars at the mercy of Goons, the only legitimate empire model that is left is their vertical farming. So if you don’t want to play together with any mouthbreathing miner you can get, constantly providing safe crabbing spaces for them, you are already out of luck.
But even if you wanted the Goon model that’s not accessible to alliances with smaller capital umbrellas. So instead, every one of those join their ranks. At this point it is highly unlikely for an alliance to duplicate the Goon model. Because they’ll be Goons’ first target. That’s what happened with GOTG. That will happen if another rival intends to replicate the model. I expect Aryth and Goon leadership turn on TEST once they run out of all other content and much needed enemies, as TEST is the most successful competitor in the vertical farming model thanks to their blue status. When all non-blue Keepstars are dead, Goons will realize they can’t play Ultra Safe Capital PvE Online.
So what kind of results did these changes achieve? They pushed 1/2 of all economic activity, 1/3 of all PvE capitals, and 1/5 of all nullsec characters crammed in the same region. And these accounts their activities under immense safety provided by an uncontestable supercap umbrella. Small alliances can’t meaningfully exist on their own but have to join mega blobs. And they extinguished several valuable playstyles, which is one of the prime causes why the amount of real people playing Eve is much lower now (even compared to the decline in subs from 500k to 300k since 2013). There barely is any solo blopsing anymore. Almost nobody rolls high class wormholes for content. Even wars are reduced to the bashing of a few structures. Selective recruiting is dead. Many others I forgot to list there. All these were actually valuable playstyles which kept people playing.
And there is actually less content due to the umbrella mechanics. Having almost ½ of all farm done, Delve loses only about %3-4 of that value as content. In comparison, this ratio is about %25 in regions like Malpais. %15 in Fountain and Querious. %14 in Esoteria. %13 in Vale. You might see numerically more PvE supers and Rorquals dying. But the fact is a lesser amount of nullsec farm converts to content now thanks to extensive use of umbrellas.
So we have strayed so far away from the initial goals of all those singular changes. We don’t have less blobbing but more. We don’t have more content but less. We don’t have more variation of playstyles but less. That’s because CCP/CSM discussed all these changes in isolation with each other, and didn’t try sufficiently to predict their overall interactional results.
2.2. Wormholes ISKmaking
Wormholers wonder why wormholes are stale. Escalation balance pass was another domain which CCP/CSM had all the good arguments about how OP it was in isolation. But now the vertical farming model is relatively so superior, most wormholers do their PvE in nullsec. My wormholer buddies have Delve Rorqual alts. Others rent systems in null. People like HK/Lazers had to carve their nullsec sov. All these people, who would otherwise become clusters of content in wormholes, are gone to nullsec because the superiority of the AFK ultra safe farm from Rorquals model. So the staleness in wormholes is never only a wormholes problem. It is a holistic problem about interrelations between all spaces.
2.3. FW Missions
So now the same arguments are being made about FW missions. How mission runners devalue LP and the only thing they care about is farm. That’s entirely true in isolation. It just ignores how this too is an alternative way to vertical farming. Once you kill FW missions, you’ll force these farmers into null as well.
2.4. The Takeaway/Suggestion: Balance All ISKmaking Methods Holistically with Respect To Each Other
The takeaway is that CCP/CSM should never talk about one way of moneymaking in isolation from others. CCP shouldn’t discuss FW missions only in a session regarding FW, or WH escalations in a session regarding wormholes. They should also have categories such as ISKmaking and compare overall viability of each common ways of moneymaking with respect to the other, and consider a balance between them. Further examples of such categories should include “ecosystem” (how much content people are getting, how to keep them playing the game, and what can be done to drive further content).
And finally, for the love of God it is time to do something about vertical farming. If it keeps its privileged lucrativeness over other playstyles for 2 more years, this game will be too far gone. 1/5 of all accounts and ½ of all farming moving into a single nullsec region is already horrible for the Eve’s ecosystem in many ways I can’t cover here. In CSM minutes people are talking about Rorqual safety. Statistically, Rorquals are safe only because of vertical farming. And no, you won’t fix it with PANIC module reduction. There is no reason for PANIC to be that long, but the reduction won’t change much. If you want to fix Rorqual safety or vertical farming, you’ll need input from people who actually hunt them on a daily basis. Not empire builders. You’ll need to talk to Penifsmash, or whoever FCs NC whaling fleets, or Outlaws, or Bombers Bar FCs, or other wormholer whalers who roam null UNDER capital umbrellas that they can’t contest/intimidate. And then you’ll need to do something about supercaps as well. A good start is rethinking cyno inhibition. The reduction to 1 minute will only marginally help.
“Frequent but small changes” philosophy can still be maintained for isolated domains. For interrelated domains, small changes can still come one after another. But they need to be planned and discussed holistically. And special case rules should be used to preserve valuable and non-harmful playstyles.
TLDR: The Title.