Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (3/4): Stages of a Mission

So let’s continue this conversation about how to create new PvE missions in Eve that are more engaging, interesting, and just generally “better” by applying the fundamental rules of PvP as explained by Ripard Teg over here. This is the last the of “mapping” posts; the final post will give examples of the kinds of missions we could get out of this method.

Stages of a Mission

From Ripard:

All PvP in EVE comes down to five basic stages:

  • Preparation
  • Travel
  • Engagement
  • Combat
  • Disengagement

Make no mistake: all PvP in EVE operates within these five stages in one way or another. If you’re not the one following these steps, your enemy is.

Preparation

This is where you decide what ship you’re going to bring for the job at hand, and a place where Eve Missions truly fail to reflect every other area of the game. Missions as they stand right now are simple: bring the biggest fucking thing you can squeeze through the acceleration gate. I if doing level 4 missions, just make sure you ship can put out some combination of sustained tanking + sustained damage that equals about 1000 dps. The end.

This teaches terrible lessons to a new player to the game in terms of making good ship selection for the task at hand.

“There are war-dec pilots camping our station in snipe battlecruisers.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“We have hostiles on our static wormhole in cloaky tech 3 cruisers.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“The FC is doing a frigate roam.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“There’s an enemy destroyer in the Medium Complex in system.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“Does anyone have a cyno ship handy?”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“I need someone to scout ahead of the fleet.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

It also leads to frustration on the part of anyone dealing with such a pilot, because they say things like:

“Man, I feel so cheap and ghetto in this frigate.”

Consider: the guys you’re flying with might spend 90% of their time in those ghetto frigates you’re talking about, successfully killing idiots in Battleships that think they can beat every other sub-capital ship in the game. You are not endearing yourself. Some of the best solo and small-gang groups in the game fly frigates ninety percent of the time, not despite the fact that frigates are twitchy, hyper-responsive, relatively fragile, and the ship class most unforgiving of mistakes, but because of that.

We can address this issue in new missions in a number of ways, but the main one is this: Disconnect the size of the ship from the level of the mission.

Instead, the level of the mission should determine how much personal research the player needs to do to figure out what sort of ship they need to bring to the mission.
  • Level 1 and any Training missions: “Okay, this is the situation, in Detail. Because of those Details, that means you need a ship that can do X, Y, and Z. So: get a ship of [this class] and [this role], which includes ships like the [names here], and make sure that it has [this module], [this module], and [this module]. If you don’t have that stuff, you’re going to have a rough time.”
  • Level 2 missions: “This is the situation, in Detail. You will need to do [These Things], which probably means [this general ship class] with appropriate modules to do [X, Y, Z]. I leave it up to you to make sure you can perform as needed.
  • Level 3 missions: “This is the situation, pretty much. This is what you have to be able to do. Handle it.”
  • Level 4 missions: “This is what little intel we have. Further instructions once you arrive and can give use eyes on the site. Good luck. We trust you.”

To quote:

Your first job is to understand what kinds of ships the FC wants and to comply with that. If the FC is asking for cruisers and below, respect that. Do not bring your battleship.

Some of the requirements of the missions may hinge on:

  • Flying style — “Hit approach and F1” should not be the only tactic people need to know.
  • Range of the engagement (brawling, point range, skirmish range, sniper range).
  • The job you’re supposed to actually perform.

Travel

Holy crap do some high-sec people bitch about having to travel a couple jumps. They’re like the New Englanders of Eve. Sometimes trouble will come right to you and you’ll fight in your home system. But sometimes you need to travel.

Why the HELL are the missions always defensive? If, in Gallente missions, I’m fighting Amarr anyway, why the hell am I not being sent on away missions to Amarr space sometimes? Genesis is, like, five jumps away! Take the fight to them once in awhile. Sheesh.

The way missions work right now sets up bad expectations in pilots encountering PvP for the first time.

“Where are we going?”
“Roam’s forming in Rens. We’ll check out twenty or thirty systems in Great Wildlands, then up into Curse and maybe Scalding Pass, then we’ll see how it’s looking by then.”
“I… think I’ll sit this one out.”

I’m not saying every mission should be 15 jumps away, but cut the fucking apron strings sometimes: take some cues from the Gurista and Sisters of Eve epic story arcs. Travel is a part of (say it with me) every other part of the game.

If you really want to do something unspeakably cool: set up a mission where the pilot gets to take a Titan bridge. That would be excellent. Bonus points if the mission agent chews you out for bumping the titan out of position.

And how about gate-to-gate-to-gate escort missions, designed on the lines of basic fleet scouting? Yes, some mission griefing is possible in that situation, but it could be mitigated by making sure Players shooting the escort NPC was a Concord-able offense.

Engagement

Setting up the conditions of the fight to be favorable to your side.

This is an excellent opportunity to build a mission around flying around a system “Looking like bait.”  Try to get the NPC enemies to engage you by looking helpless and alone, then tackle them when they show up and your backup jumps in. Level 1 versions of this mission might lead you by the nose (“Warp to Planet 1 at 100. Now Align to the Sun. Warp to the Sun at 0. Now warp to the Acceleration gate and jump through. Hold there. Here they come!”), while higher level missions merely tell you “Get their attention and lure them into the complex before you call us in.”

Try to look helpless.

Combat

We already have LOTS of fights where you have to kill everybody and their pet dog. Far more interesting and useful are situations where you’re getting messages from your Mission Agent about different targets. Level 1 missions start out with one guy you need to kill and can then leave, while Level 4s might get to the point where you need to tackle two different guys and put damage on a third to keep him interested until your NPC backup arrives, followed by methodically working through a randomized list of named targets.

EXPLAIN, IN THE MISSIONS, WHAT THE HELL “Yellow boxed” and “Red boxed” are, and what they indicate. Have Aura do a damned tutorial, with proper animations.

(Unrelated: for your colorblind players, the UI really needs to be updated so players can change the colors for “yellow” and “red” boxes… and damn near anything else.)

For Bonus Points:

Have fights where your job is logistics, with NPCs calling for reps. Start with Logi frigates and one guy you need to protect, to level 4 missions with Logi Cruisers, 30 friendlies on the field, and randomized broadcasts for repair (this would need some kind of UI additions, probably, but it would still be extremely valuable and pretty damn fun).

For MORE bonus points:

Have missions where you don’t get support from NPC repair ships without using your fleet “Broadcast” buttons and/or hotkeys.

Disengagement

Sometimes, winning means knowing when to get out. That means (a) having missions where you kill a specific target and GTFO, but it also means that many, MANY missions should have stupidly overwhelming backup arrive on the field about [rand(7-15)] minutes after the last NPC dies. Angry backup.

The enemy now knows exactly where you are, exactly what your composition is, exactly how many of your ships they have destroyed, and they are probably watching you. You are extraordinarily vulnerable at this moment.

Mission Agents will direct you to recall drones, “scoop loot”, and will be advised to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. If an allied NPC fleet of ships is on the field, they may advise you to stay fairly close to them until they’re “ready to leave.”

These new missions, the way they are structured, will not substantively add to the overall “NPC Loot” intake in the overall game: we have missions for that, so these missions are about ISK, Loyalty Points, and a few nice drops off a few key ships. These are not missions where it’s a good idea to reship into a Noctis.

Almost Done!

Did any of this give you cool ideas for new missions? Share them in comments, and I’ll add them to the fourth-and-final post.

6 Replies to “Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (3/4): Stages of a Mission”

  1. How about a bombing run missions with varying degrees of difficulty. Starts out giving you a couple objects to warp to align to, queue when to launch the bomb, etc. Later missions will have you leading the bombing run, when you launch your bomb a few npc bombers launch with you, so if you’re not lined up right, your fleet misses the targets. Your reward is based on how many of the clustered ships your squad manages to bomb. Quick and effective training for the real thing.

    FC missions, you lead a squad of ships against another fleet. Maybe you have to pin it down, whatever. It has logi, bait, and dps ships. as you mark targets in the UI, your gang starts shooting the targets, you’ll need to pick the squishy dps and get it off the field before logi can get on it. This could benefit greatly from expanded UI commands/markers, but you get the idea.

    Last, but not least. Your mission is to assassinate a target, but he’s AFK at a safe. Load up that combat probe launcher, if you’re probes get too close for too long, he moves safes. Scan him down and kill him.

  2. Ok you are beginning to win me around. These sound like a lot of fun. Well all except the travel bit. I know long travel is “pvp realistic” but it sure isn’t fun. Would it really be a good idea to include it?

    One other thing that really really needs to be done to missions is to remove all standing penalties for mission failure. In fact that should have been done along time ago because it is the single biggest impediment to missioneers trying out something new that might be a little bit outside their comfort zone. Losing the ships your choose to bring is penalty enough.

    Having thought about that last point I find myself shifting back towards my original position. The problem with trying to make missions better is that a heck of a lot of missioneers don’t really want fun. They want repetitive grinding gameplay that allows them to advance their character. Risk versus reward is everything to these players. I know you might be tempted to say that they are playing the wrong game but the hordes of folk who jump into every ISK faucet exploit in the game are hard to ignore. I would even argue that a heck of a lot of big alliance null seccers have sold out on “fun” for repetitive low risk high reward gameplay.

  3. I can agree with what you’re saying, if we can concede two things:

    1. There’s a percentage of current players who would appreciate better gameplay in a new ‘generation’ of missions.
    2. We are only talking about current Eve players, when we say all that stuff about low-risk high reward.

    (Also: high reward is deceptive. Mission income is rotten and I honestly don’t get why nullsec people bitch about it. Anyway.)

    The reason I talk about points 1 and especially 2 is this:

    1. Eve has pretty much retained everyone in the MMO arena that it’s GOING to retain, with the current gameplay that it offers to new players.
    2. I’d guess that at least 95% those that have tried it and left after a 14 day trial pretty much ONLY experienced the PvE game, which is, as I’ve said, some of the worst content in the game.
    3. By providing a more diverse, deeper, richer array of PvE content, you snag more new players, and give them a much better impression of what the REST of the game contains; right now the current Mission content is pretty much useless for showing off every other part of the game.

    And no: not every mission needs to have lots of travel. 🙂 Travel should be appropriate to the mission, and there’s one in particular where I think a little bit of travel would make a LOT of sense, and there’s no reason that the added hassle can’t be compensated.

  4. This mission revamp of yours actually sounds engaging. Like something I wouldn’t completely hate doing if all else fails. A couple of questions keep nagging at me, though: What would this do to the salvage industry, and what would this do to the number of meta modules on the market?

    I don’t have to tell you that fitting T2 tackle and ewar on ships smaller than battleships can be a real pain with those extra fitting requirements. Though I do vaguely recall something about CCP wanting to reduce the number of meta modules on the market. I don’t know, but should the changes significantly impact salvage and meta modules, we may find the isk gap between frigates and battleships narrow even more.

    All of that assumes, of course, that the number of missions with a GTFO factor will compose a large percentage of total mission options. Meh. I’m just nit-picking at this point.

  5. Basically, all the current missions would remain about the same, and these would be added to the mix, so the fact that many of these wouldn’t be good missions for looting, they wouldn’t be significantly cutting down on overall mission loot drops.

  6. These would be pretty cool, some ideas of my own;

    An Fc mission like Meg suggested but not just bombers can be any class for instance destroyers. The mission starts by saying you are leading a destroyer fleet meeting in Rens you then travel to a system where you have to enter an acceleration gate to 3-6 “rooms”. You then have to make a Fc decision on whether to engage or not. There would be loads of possible fleets you could meet. But the idea that sticks in my mind is the only ship in the rooms is a Battleship and you instantly think don’t engage but using the imaginary fleet command system you tell a npc fleet mate to use a ship scanner this shows the Battleship as being a pretty crap fits so you can possibly engage. For added flavor sometimes it its a really good fit and sometimes it is just bait and as you engage a massive fleet decloaks/warps in. The mission reward would be a relatively low reward with the bonus being dependent on isk value of ships killed minus how many fleet mates died(An email from each podded fleet mate calling you a noob is optional) Also the possibility that your fleet comp isn’t always the same for instance instead of a ship scanner maybe a cargo scanner or even a cyno i.e you jump into a room and see a lit cyno. Do you risk it and kill the cyno ship only to have a huge fleet jump you do you burn you own cyno and have no enemies jump through. Pretty complex I know but I would have to program it so I don’t care.

    Another idea I had was inspired by the video of the Asakai battle were they say the only way to scram the titan is with a heavy interdictor so you get told this in the mission brief it gives you a contract to rent a heavy interdictor if you don’t own one as well as a contract for a prototype implant/pill that would allow you to fly it if you don’t have the skills yet. I am not sure how you would do it but you would have to make it so the implant/pill doesn’t work outside of the mission and the ship is returned at the end. The mission would be scram the titan or whatever and hold it for a set time for the friendly fleet to arrive and kill it. It doesn’t have to be a heavy interdictor could be a frig logi or a hulk the idea just being letting a one month old account fly something cool and kill something cool.I think the renting idea should only be for L1/2 and in some L3/4 you wouldn’t be allowed to fly a heavy interdictor and would have to bump it to keep it there.

    And a mission in which you smart bomb half a npc fleet would be hilarious.

    Less preparing for pvp and luring them into specializations

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