Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (2/?)

So here’s the premise:

  1. PvE mission content in Eve comprises some of the weakest PvE content in any MMO, and is inarguably one of the weakest, least-fun parts of Eve itself.
  2. PvP in Eve is pulse-pounding, adrenaline-dumping, heart-beating-like-sneakers-in-a-clothes-dryer stuff.
  3. We can improve the PvE in Eve by adopting some of the fundamental guidelines of PvP, and in the process make it much less of a shock for a PvE-experienced player to PvP.

In the last post, I talked about how a couple of the fundamentals mentioned by Jester can apply to missions, specifically:

Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose 

Bigger is not always better. In Eve, going Bigger can be a wildly inappropriate and/or stupid choice. Missions should call for lots of different sized ships, depending on the mission and irrespective of the LEVEL of the mission: there is no reason we can’t have Level 4 missions where a tech 1 Atron frigate is a viable option — maybe the best option — and many good reasons why we should have them.

Assume what you’re flying is lost the moment you undock

Variations in mission content should surprise pilots routinely and cost pilots resources beyond ammo. Sometimes ships blow up. Some missions (like the one in “Advanced Combat” Tutorials) should require a ship be sacrificed for the greater good.Truly demanding missions where death is likely should have commensurate rewards if you can pull it off without losing the ship.

In fact, why not get rid of the idiocy of Ship Insurance and just have missions with a high chance of ship loss pay out at least as well as Platinum Insurance on the most appropriate class of ship for the mission? That way, you’re compensated if you lose the ship, and dancing a jig if you don’t.

“But what if the pilot brings friends?”


90% of PvP in EVE is preparation

PvE players learn no sense of PvP threat scale from doing PvE: they tank 15 battleships, 20 cruisers, and 10 frigates in a mission and can’t figure out why five condors flown by regular players can kill them in about three minutes. Back-of-napkin calculations suggest PvE mission opponents should be ten times more dangerous and one tenth as numerous, ballpark.

But that’s just the last post. What about Jester’s other fundamentals?

Don’t blame others for what happens in PvP

I’m not really sure what you can do with this in PvE, except shutting down appeals for losing a ship to a mission you had no business taking. HTFU, people.

I know someone who lost a cruiser when they charged into their first Level 3 mission. They appealed it, and the GM replaced the ship.

I was, in a word, appalled. I’m plenty new-player-friendly, but come on. The player fucked up, they should deal with the consequences. Obviously. If they don’t want to lose ships, they should stay docked.

If you are flying with an FC, the FC’s word is law 

This isn’t even that complicated: LOTS of MMOs have complex instructions for their missions; by comparison, the missions in Eve are insultingly simple and boring. Give the players complex instructions for missions and either penalize the HELL out of their rewards if they screw it up or (just as acceptable) provide large bonuses if they get them all right — think of it as Hard Mode for a mission, with rewards for better performance, and the stuff the agent asks for is the same stuff that is routinely required in (say it with me) every other part of the game:

“Shoot only Target X. Leave everyone else standing. Yes, even the annoying bastards webbing you. Focus. Fucking. Fire.”

Sneak into the complex. Stay cloaked. Get within 10 km of Your Target, decloak, and Activate your [Mission Cyno]. Try not to die until the Module stops running, then warp out, but even if you get blown up, mission accomplished.  Forgot to stay cloaked, or just tried to kill everyone yourself? Everyone warps away, and you fail.

“Shoot Target X. STOP! Shoot Target Y! STOP! Shoot Target X again! X! X X X! Now Z, but keep a web on X! WEB ON X! STOP SHOOTING Z AND KILL X! KILL! X! GOOD! X is down! NOW RUUUUUUUUUUN!”

Movement is life

This goes back to ideas for several of the other principles. Small, fast ships should sometimes be the perfect solution for high-level missions. Also, with mission NPCs should be tougher, harder hitting, and less numerous, making movement more effective as a defensive measure.

PvE mission runners should understand that sometimes just getting to Point B as fast as possible is “Winning”, and they should learn that even when you bring a big ship, slow = dead. Afterburners are just as much a damage mitigation module as they are movement boosting.

Related to this, get rid of the 40-minute slugfests. Any “real” fight in Eve that a solo pilot or small gang has the slightest chance of winning  is going to be Nasty, Brutish, and Short. PvE pilots should have the same expectations in this regard as PvP pilots: if a fight goes past 5 minutes, it’s probably because something is going wrong, and they should consider getting out before reinforcements arrive.

(Yes, I know big fleets are sometimes different, but solo PvE teaches solo PvP in this case, right?)

Maintain situational awareness

Since we’ve got fewer NPCs on the field, we can make them meaner. More Neutralizers. More Webs. More Scrams. More Ewar. (Fewer ships on field mean that even the much-hated ECM NPCs can be dealt with with some Eletronic Counter Countermeasures ‘tank’ and target prioritization.)  Teach the pilots to pay attention to everything that’s happening and react to the problems in order of threat level, not just “shoot the biggest guys first.”

You are not your ship. You are not your pod

This just goes back to not flying what you can’t afford to lose. Ships are disposable, when it comes right down to it, and while losing them always sucks, quite often the win you pull off by sacrificing your ship makes the loss MORE than worth it. Big rewards for ‘sacrifice’ missions will take the sting out of it, I suspect: people are running missions to make isk, after all.

Learn from your defeats. Learn from your victories

Mission-writers can do some heavy lifting here. If the pilot takes a mission where ship-loss is highly likely, but saving the ship is possible, and the pilot fails to save the ship, have the mission-agent offer some tips and advice on how NOT to lose their ship the next time – yes, this is an opportunity to talk about transversal, spiral approaches, gun tracking, optimal ranges, and other such advanced stuff.

But That’s Not All…

I suspect this series will be in four parts. Part Three will cover the five Stages of a Mission, and I’ll wrap up in Part Four with suggestions for new missions, stolen directly from common solo and small-gang PvP scenarios. See you then.


  1. You made me think back to my missioning times… while they did initially suck me in, I never flew them just for their own sake – instead, I tried to use them to learn about more the ships I was flying by pushing to their limits and beyond.

    Meaning: whenever I could fly the next higher level missions, I did not upgrade my current ship until I lost it. I once spent six hours fighting through Recon I, just to figure out how my underpowered ship could outmaneuver the (for once) superior firepower of the NPCs. Later on, I helped my corp with L4s in my cruisers and battlecruisers, getting a first taste of working in a fleet.

    Of course my ISK/hour was dreadfully low, so I think professional mission runners would consider me a scrub for not min-maxing the game mechanics. And when it comes to PvP, the missions tought me hardly any actual mechanics. But I did use them to teach myself to take risks, and the mindset that goes along with it. And even now, years later, whenever I step into a new ship or learn a new weapons system, I fly a few missions just to get a first feel for it.

    I think my point is: Yes, PvE in EVE is lacking in a multitude of ways, foremost that they don’t teach anything even closely resembling PvP mechanics. But at the same time, the complacent mindset of players averse to any self-imposed additional challenge is another big stumbling block.

    One core aspect of PvP is evaluating and taking a risk against ultimately unknown odds – namely your human, unpredictable opponent. No AI will ever be able to emulate that, no matter how PvP-like the mechanics are. PvE would have to simulate the inventiveness of real players to clear this hurdle, and I don’t see it happening in any game.

    …hmm, was it LotRO which invented Monster-vs-Player style PvP? They might be on to something.

  2. I don’t agree that you can improve EVE PVE content by making it more like PVP. PVE players and PVP players want different things and trying to turn one into the other will just annoy both.

    There is already one type of mission in the game which meets most of your criteria: the universally reviled low sec courier mission. Courier missions bring PVE players face to face with the reality of PVP. I can personally vouch for the fact that trying to get a hauler full of irreplaceable mission loot through Amamake is heart pounding stuff requiring extremely careful preparation and situational awareness. It is also something that dedicated mission runners avoid like the plague. They have no interest in that kind of gameplay.

    So I am afraid that if you want to make missions better for the people who actually fly them the answer isn’t to make them more like PVP. It is probably to make them less like PVP and more like the sort of theme park quests you get in other games. Whether or not this would be good for EVE overall I don’t know.

    1. Also, for what it’s worth, Amamake is a piece of cake in a hauler. Just put Ossogur on your autopilot’s avoid list, and you’ll be routed around the only gate the Amamake players camp with any regularity.

  3. MBP, I think you misunderstand what I’m going for with these posts.

    Forcing some hauler to go into lowsec for a mission isn’t “making the missions more like PvP” — that’s just taking someone and throwing them into an environment where they don’t know what to do. That’s not what I’m after at all. I’m not trying to force all high level missions into more dangerous space, either – I can see how you’d read it that way, because it’s often the solution that people talking about this come up with.

    I think, personally, it’s a bad solution.

    What I’m talking about is changing the design of PvE missions so that they can be completed following the same basic approach and fitting philosophy as PvP. For instance:

    – Mission runners should know the difference between a Warp Disruptor and Warp Scrambler, and why you’d want one over the other in different situations. More, there should be missions that call on them to use one or the other (or, for a real challenge, both at the same time on two different targets). Something similar can be said regard afterburners and microwarpdrives.

    – One of the primary design differences between PvP and PvE fittings is Cap Stability, or how long you can run everything on the ship before you run out of juice. Standard Mission Fits go for 100% cap stability, because slow and steady wins the day. In the process, however, you sacrifice so much on your ship fitting that your ship is laughably easy to destroy in PvP. PvP ships, conversely, aim for about 2 minutes of functionality in a solo or small-gang situation, and if they get more that’s a happy accident. Cap Rechargers are horrible, horrible things to see on a ship that’s intended to be used against other players, and I see them on people’s ships ALL THE TIME. I think Sleeper-killing PvE ships are quite close to a happy medium between the two — a good sweet spot for PvP-teaching Pve content: my alt’s Drake can run everything on the ship for about eight minutes, which is just about enough to clear a Class Two sleeper site, solo. If I’m not solo, it’s even easier, because I can flip off some of my tank in between.

    Those are a couple examples. I’ll have more in part four of the series.

  4. OK I can see how you could make mission combat more interesting by getting players to use more of the richness and complexity of EVE’s modules and ships. In fact I would argue that missioning is a lot of fun when you start out simply because you have to learn about modules and tanking and so on. Of course the limitations of npcs and the lack of any real AI means you pretty soon get to the point where every mission is select hardeners and go.

    So I guess I agree mission combat combat could be a lot more interesting but I still think the different motivations of pve and PvP players id’s going to keep the two games and two communities apart.

    1. Eve missions could be made more interesting by getting players to use more of the complexity and richness of Farmville, in my opinion. 🙂

      That’s not to say I like Farmville – I hate it – that’s an expression of how terrible I think Eve missions generally are.

      Yes, the mission combat can be interesting when you first start out, because you’re learning about how the game works and how the modules work (I remember a guy who didn’t know you had to turn on the Damage Control for about the first six months he played).

      But that fun is a function of learning the game, NOT the missions themselves.

  5. QUOTE (I remember a guy who didn’t know you had to turn on the Damage Control for about the first six months he played).

    That was me 🙂
    I thought the DC was a passive module until I took my laptop top to the EVE meet in Manchester and explained why I could not undock from Rens because of being perma station camped.
    So a friendly Goon gave me a Caracal and told me to undock, then asked why I had not switched on the DC ……..
    Those were the days, such innocence lol

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