Like most ten-year-olds, EVE celebrated its birthday on the nearest weekend (just past), rather than the actual date (today), in order to maximize the fun.
I’m pretty glad they did.
My mom-in-law’s in town, the kids had a cool brass concert to go to, I’m wrapping up a bunch of MFA projects at the moment, and had a book review go up at the Mittani — all of which meant that while I was at my computer a lot this weekend, it wasn’t as often as it might have been, and I wasn’t always logged into the game.
But I tried.
Saturday was the Tuskers third Frigate Free For all, which was extremely conveniently located all of one jump away from one of our lowsec staging systems. I brought over one ship (a super-long-range Atron that lived a lot longer than I expected), and after that I made use of the prefit ships provided by the Tuskers for the event, trying my best to fly ships from every faction, and as many different kinds as I could. Some of the prefit ships were a little kooky (or shamefully short of ammo), but they were all fun in their own way (probably the most fun was a microwarpdrive + blaster fit Incursus), it was SO NICE to just dock up and say “give me something Gallente” and just get it, and I had a ball, as did the other pilots from our corp who joined in. A couple mis-clicks cost me a few decimal points of security status, but I’ll live.
I could only stay for about one-sixth of the event’s duration due to aforementioned kid’s brass concert, so I left my corp mates to the carnage and headed out.
(You know: CCP really needs to make it easier to get into a new ship after you lose one. For a lot of pilots, it isn’t the loss of a ship that’s the problem: it’s the pain in the ass logistics of getting together the parts and assembling a new one. Even if you pre-fit a bunch of ships to be ready for whatever happens, all you’re really doing is time-shifting that preparation effort, and you always end up with ships you never fly. Some way to click on a saved fitting and say “Give me one of these, purchased from THIS station, and already assembled. Go!” I can’t help but think that would make it easier for people to jump into space and take a fight.)
After the concert, I found out the FFA was still going on, having upgraded to destroyers in my absence, so I ran over to our staging station and picked up a sniping catalyst that has been gathering dust in my hangar and flew around sniping at random stuff, which unexpectedly led to a fun 1v1 fight between me and someone from Black Rebel Rifter Club, above a lonely moon on the edge of the system. Good fight, and I called a personal end to the event with that.
Final tally: due to my limited participation, “only” racked up 60 kills and 14 ship losses. Two of my corp mates made the top 25 killers for the event (one in the top ten), and our corporation registered 252 kills (including a Thanatos carrier) and 49 cheap-o losses. So much fun.
Saturday night, I decided to take the advice of someone from the EVE303 google group (Eve players in Denver) and did a long haul across enemy territory to HED-GP, a null-sec system where “things happen.” I noticed a lot of pilots from Bombers Bar in the system, and as I’m known to them, I joined their fleet and spent a little time plinking at various TEST pilots and trying to save as many tactical bookmarks as I could. (Meanwhile, back in our normal stomping grounds, Meg and Sthaz took part in massacring a pirate Battlecruiser fleet, so probably I selected the wrong activity for the night. Oh well.) I left the bomber in a station over in that area, in case I feel the need to terrorize TESTies again, and headed home.
Sunday was a big day, with lots of activities planned around New Eden to celebrate the game’s ten year anniversary. The big one was the Flight of 1000 Rifters, in which Marlona Sky arranged to sacrifice a super-carrier to whatever pilots showed up to take the ship down.
Red vs. Blue planned to be there, and started up the day with an early roam/ship move once the location of the event was announced — I joined their fleet simply to have a couple hundred allies in the impending brawl. Having flown in the Free For All the day before, I wanted to make sure I’d have more than enough ships on hand, and risked a cheap hauler to bring twenty executioners into the just-announced system, then hopped into an Ares interceptor to join the RvB gang on a roam to kill time until the 1000 Rifters event.
After a bit of meandering, the fleet managed to intercept a CCP Developer Fleet that was flying around in brand new Gnosis battlecruisers (prize ships given out to pilots for the 10th year anniversary). Many, many ships exploded, and honestly I’m not as happy about the CCP devs I got to shoot as I am about this ship loss.
I’ll say this about the Dev fleet (led by, I’m assuming, CCP Fozzie): they had good target discipline. I was locked, targeted, and then single-volleyed off the field at the precise moment one of the Devs managed to pull my into a hard turn that slowed my Ares down juuuust enough to hit. POP goes the interceptor.
Once we got done shooting devs (I logged a shameful number of CCP kills in a rookie frigate I picked up after losing the Ares), it was time to get to the supercarrier killing.
How to sum this up:
2300 people in system.
OMG so much lag.
Frigate Free For All: brought 1 ship, used 14. Thousand Rifter event: brought 20 ships, used 1. Oops. (Also: now I need to move ~20 frigates back out to somewhere more useful.)
Most of the shooting wasn’t really directed at the supercarrier as much as the other pilots (in true Eve style), so many many ships exploded, none of which were mine (surprisingly).
Somewhere in there, Eve set a new record for concurrent connected players, just north of 65 thousand players.
I’m glad I did the 1000 Rifters event, but it was not nearly as fun (thanks to time dilation and unavoidable lag) as the (admittedly smaller, with “only” 300 pilots) Free For All the day before.
Logged out, played with the kids, wrote some more of my final paper, watched Doctor Who, and saw an email from CB that we had some visitors to the wormhole. No one was in comms when I logged in, but I spotted a few unfamiliar ships on scan. After about 15 minutes of stalking, I found a Noctis salvaging ship sucking up wrecks in a Sleeper site, and watched as his four battlecruiser bodyguards warped out and left him all alone.
Ooops. I crept up on the Noctis in a stealthy little Tengu strategic cruiser named (of course) Bad Penny, and a half-dozen volleys later I had a dead ship, a hold full of sleeper loot, and a nice little bow with which to wrap up the weekend.
Happy Birthday, Eve Online. Here’s to the second decade.
It wasn’t, in my opinion, that we were flying any worse, but we were making poor decisions, often fueled by desperation for some action. Everyone has nights like that in Eve, I think, but in this case we had about eight days of it, and it had gotten a little ridiculous. Familiarity had bred too much contempt, I suppose — it seemed the (vanishingly few) Amarr-held systems were full of nothing but off-grid fleet boosters, up-shipping nonsense, or (most often) pilots who simply wouldn’t engage.
In short, we felt we knew the enemy’s standard ploys and found them tiresome.
A change of scenery was called for. New territory, new faces, different pirates to shoot. Tuskers and Black Rebel Rifter Club active in the area — generally always a plus. Gallente loyalty points to earn. More familiarity with the whole war, and basically doubles the space we can effectively roam.
Everyone seemed to agree, and off we went. Carriers were unlimbered, beacons were lit, and the HMS Marmoset set out for the “other front” in the war.
Things went moderately well. Probably at least two weeks were chewed up trying to figure out where the best options lay in terms of good opponents, but we slowly managed to pull ourselves out of the hole we’d gotten into.
There were also some cultural shifts to deal with.
Gallente seem to think actually capturing vulnerable systems is too much work, and are content to sit at a relatively weak level of war zone control, earning decidedly ‘meh’ levels of LP for their efforts, when they could easily upgrade.
“Nous sommes trop fatigués,” come the whispers. “Eet ees too hhhhard.”
Running missions is much more challenging — not impossible, but trickier. Basically, no one in the Gallente forces runs them, and honestly many of our own guys avoid them as well, as they are the quickest route to tanking personal standings with the Caldari to the point where (compounded with our anti-Amarr activities) pilots would be locked out of half of all known space even if they left the war.
Our opponent’s ship selection is quite different than the Amarr we’re used to. Assault Frigates are as thick as gnats. Someone is making a killing on selling Corax destroyers, I imagine. Caldari Navy Hookbills have always been a go-to ship for many pilots, but they are (perhaps understandably) everywhere in Caldari space, as are Condors.
Pirate presence and activity in this warzone is much higher.
Random visits from null-sec gangs is more common, as the Gallente-Caldari warzone has at least four connections to null-sec space, while the Minmatar-Amarr front has… zero.
Eventually (following another smaller move where we settled into more permanent digs), we found a hot pocket (heh) of Caldari resistance that seemed to suit us right down to the ground. It called for a fairly significant shift away from frigates and into destroyers, but we’d wanted to try that sort of thing out anyway. The tail end of April saw us back in the brisk business of explosions.
Our ship losses for April were down slightly from March and February, and the total and average value of the ships lost was lower, even though we’ve started flying larger classes of hulls. Our wins for the month didn’t match the ridiculous totals we tallied up in March, but they beat February both in raw volume and value — the first truly active “post Ushra’Khan” months. The rough, rough start of the month hurt us, and it took us awhile to find our feet in the new war zone, but we still ended up ~65% efficient for the month. Several pilots went inactive when we moved to the Gallente front, which affected our numbers slightly, but our active pilots certainly picked up the slack.
Solo kills were down a bit, which I attribute to a general unfamiliarity with the war zone and not knowing if an apparently solo opponent was actually solo or just bait, but started to pick up near the end of the month.
Top ships flown:
Friga — wait what? Actually, the most-flown ship for April was a destroyer. We racked up almost three times the number of wins in a Talwar then we did in any other hull type, and five other destroyer hulls made the list as well, whereas in March we didn’t (successfully) fly any.
Once again, escape pods made the Top 10 list for “ships flown by a pilot during a successful fight.” I call this the “putting skin in the game” statistic.
How about me, personally?
My statistics pretty much mirror the corp. April was all right: not my best month, but easily in the top three. I lost a few more ships than I have in the previous two months, but at the same time April marks the third month in a row where the total ISK value of my lost ships has gone down. Overall, I pulled my all-time efficiency up.
I didn’t fly quite as many different ships has I have in previous months, but I did vary a bit more in ship classes. Talwars topped the list, followed by Fed Navy Comets. I got wins in some other types of destroyers, one quite memorable fight in a Vexor cruiser, a couple in a Prophecy battlecruiser, and a single very special kill in stealth bomber that earned me both a bounty and a string of invective-filled evemails that culminated in this zinger:
“I hope you die of cancer.”
And what about the War?
I’ve already talked about the differences between the Calliente war zone versus the Minmatar/Amarr, and why our old stomping grounds got a little bit too trampled to bring the fun. I still don’t know if I love the new area, but we’ve got stuff to shoot at, and maybe some null-sec roams in our future, so we’ll see how it goes.
As a side note: if you’re interested in trying this kind of gameplay out, drop me a comment. The corp has no assets, no bank account, and no intel worth the effort of a spy, so we’re pretty welcoming to anyone interested in learning how to blow up, take some guys down with you, and have fun as you explode. So far, our ‘new’ recruits include former wormholers, ex null-bloc soldiers, people we’ve blown up and then recruited, and one random guy who opened comms with me as we flew through the system he was in and shouted “Please take me with you!”
Generally speaking, just don’t be dick, don’t talk in local, don’t whine when your shit blows up, and we can talk.
Part 2.5 answered some questions that parts 1 and 2 generated.
Part 3 talked about the ways Ripard’s “stages of PvP” could map to “stages of a mission.”
From that, I want to boil down some of the rules and guidelines for making new missions based on the precepts of Eve PvP.
Current PvE missions are kind of terrible. Outside of the UI, it is in PvE mission content that Eve truly shows its age: dated, primitive, simplistic, and boring.
Aside from being boring, all but a few of the missions teach piloting behavior at direct odds to every other part of the game. Yes, running missions will teach you how to interact with Eve’s UI, but in all other respects missions actively train that player in ways that makes them demonstrably and steadily worse at every other kind of play in the game, including:
Poor ship fitting choices. (Cap rechargers! Propulsion modules are pointless! What’s a Warp Scrambler?)
Poor target selection/situational awareness. (Shoot the battleship first: it’s got the biggest bounty. What do these icons over my HUD mean? Nevermind, don’t care!)
Poor threat assessment. (There’s only fifty of them and one of me. No problem!)
Poor or non-existent manual piloting skills, let alone an understanding of transveral and/or signature/speed tanking. (I’ll just approach the next acceleration gate and slowboat that way as I kill everything.)
I’m not talking about missions getting harder, unless by “harder” you mean “requiring some preparation and thought.”
I’m not talking about replacing all the old missions, because the old missions form a backbone of salvage that the market needs. That said, those missions where you’re fighting 50 on 1 should CLEARLY MENTION that you’re not fighting a credible threat like capsuleers, and mention this OFTEN.
Corollary to this: mission agents should be dismissive of the threat of normal fleets to a capsuleer, and if anything overreact to the possible threat from even a small group of ‘capsuleer’ NPCs in a mission.
Higher level missions do not automatically (or even often) equate to ‘you need a bigger ship’.
The level of the mission should determine how much “ship fitting” hand-holding the player gets beforehand.
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 bad 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 perform [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 us eyes on the site. Good luck. We trust you.”
Important: This is about bringing the skillset of the PvE pilot closer to skillset of the PvP pilot, so that acclimation from one mode of play to another is easier and, thus, more likely to see crossover.
This is not about moving higher level missions to low- or null-sec. Doing that won’t ‘force’ anyone in the game anywhere, except “out of the game.” It’s a GAME, people will play how they want, and if you try to force them, you’re just hurting the game.
Now, with all that TL;DR summary in place, let’s talk some specifics.
1. It’s Not the Size of the Ship…
Different ships fit different roles. Each class of ship has areas were they excel, and others where they are weaker. Bring only one type of ship to a fight, and you are that much more likely to encounter a “hard counter” that will annihilate you.
Missions should drive home an understanding of the strengths of various ship classes.
FF (Frigates): Excellent Tackle. Excellent Scout. Decent bait, provided support is nearby. Moderate to Good EWAR platform. Not-bad support option, in some situations. Reasonably good damage mitigation versus larger ships, thanks to high speed, but otherwise comparatively fragile. Comparatively poor damage.
DD (Destroyers): Serviceable tackle, if nothing else if available. Serviceable Scout, if nothing better is available. Decent bait, provided support is nearby.Generally poor EWAR platform. All but non-existent support capability. Moderate to poor damage mitigation (tank can be matched by some frigates, too slow to speed tank very well.) Comparatively OUTSTANDING damage: Excellent versus frigates or other destroyers. Excellent cost-to-damage option versus larger targets.
CC (Cruisers): Generally poor tackle versus smaller targets, good “heavy” tackle versus bigger targets. Not recommended for scouting, but often decent bait. Potentially excellent EWAR platform. Potentially excellent support capability. Good to great damage mitigation. Good to great damage (though you probably won’t get that AND good mitigation). Great all-around ship versus moderate resistance, and can tweak fittings to deal with many different types of ships. Best versatility for cost.
BC (Battlecruisers): Generally as a cruiser, but more so. Exceptions: poor EWAR or support except in gimmick small-gang fits. Even more flexible options in terms of modules makes it potentially more versatile than a Cruiser (giving up less to get what it needs) at higher cost that may or may not be worth it.
BB (Battleships): Poor tackle. Terrible scout. Obvious bait. Rarely used as ewar, except on dedicated ships. Support options are often somewhat gimmick fits. Great damage mitigation. Great damage (and can easily do both at once, by comparison to smaller ships), though applying damage to any smaller targets may require specific modules (webs, scramblers, target painters, et cetera).
One of the main reasons to make sure missions continue to ask for all classes of ship, regardless of mission level: it helps players understand that no class of ship ever becomes ‘useless’, regardless of the level of play you reach.
2. Your Role in this Mission, Should You Accept It…
Damage: We have a lot of missions like this already, and if any more are added, they should be against “capsuleer”- grade opponents, to teach pilots to access threats in way that more closely represents every other part of the game: one-tenth the number of ships for the same amount of overall threat.
1v1: Get capsuleers challenged to 1v1 “duels” versus NPC capsuleer opponents (or arrange for them to “challenge” an NPC via the agent). This can be balanced by level of mission, with ship restrictions to ensure the player doesn’t steamroll. Even better: don’t worry about the ship restrictions, and just have the NPC warp out if you show up in an inappropriate level of ship or bring backup. Have this sort of thing cause the failure of the mission, since the point is to get the guy to fight, pin him down, and kill him, whereas scaring him off will “set our pursuit back by months, if not years.” HOWEVER: if you can get a scram on the guy and THEN bring in backup, that should work. It does in the rest of the game. Honor-shmonor.
I’m not going to do more of these, because most of them show up in some other area: Damage dealing is requisite.
Wait, one more consideration: Range. Some missions should specifically call for sniper fits, mid-range fits, or brawler fits, and what the means should be different for different classes of ships.
Tackle: Oh what fun we can have here.
First guy through the accel gate. Sort of like ‘cheating’ at the 1v1 above. The idea is to go in on an otherwise superior opponent and get a tackle, holding it until your (NPC) backup arrives. Higher level missions provide the NPC target with webs, neuts, scrams, smartbombs, backup of his own, and may mean the backup takes longer to arrive.
“I was there.”
Speaking of giving your NPC forces a chance to warp in, why the hell don’t we have a mission like this?
That would be cool.
“There are pilots camping our station in snipe battlecruisers.” – I’d love to see a way to do this right in high-sec, right on the station where the Agent is at. “Enemy” NPCs show up outside the station. You need to get tackle on them so NPC support can come in and finish them off. Instant-undocks can make getting away from the fire of the ship much easier (maybe an earlier mission walks the player through making one for a ‘scouting/lookout’ mission). Get tackle and let the NPCs mop up. All NPCs involved would be impossible for others to shoot without being CONCORDed, to prevent mission griefing.
In-mission variation: The mission is in a non-gated deadspace pocket, and the pilot is encouraged to warp in at range to land on top of the offending ship. Those that don’t do that get a quick lesson in how to spiral approach. 🙂
In fact, seeing the way in which the UI can be affected by the new scanner overlay coming out soon, I have NO DOUBT that a ‘how to spiral approach’ tutorial missions could be built, with blinky box overlays on the HUD to show where to manually pilot in order to keep from getting splatted by a distant sniper.
Catch that guy before he gets out of range! Basically, get scram/web tackle before the NPC leaves. The best idea here is if you have a mission where the enemy have set up a Stargate (See: “Halt the Invasion”) and the enemy ships appear through the stargate and land in your trap. If you get both scram/web, the target dies. If you get only one, he might make it out. If you get neither, he’s gone, and you fail.
EWAR/Support: Sometimes damage isn’t the point. In this situation, you’re asked to come in as support for an NPC gang or even a solo pilot. Specific types of EWAR will probably be called for, and the reasons for the need given:
“We need target painters to get a bead on those little bastards.”
“We need tracking disruptors so we can get under the guns of those big bastards.”
“We need energy neutralizers to break the enemy’s self-repair capability.”
“We need ECM so the enemy rages in local and leaves.”
Support modules (repairs, etc) are called for in something like one training mission to sort of ‘resurrect’ a damaged ship. It’s terrible. Missions for logi/support pilots should exist, and thanks to the new support frigates and tech1 cruisers, can start right away. The job is simple: wait for the NPC to shout for help, get in there and keep him standing. Alternately, warp into an ongoing battle and try to turn the tide of the fight with your amazing rep skills.
Setting up the conditions of the fight to be favorable to your side — a great player skill to train. This is an excellent opportunity to build missions 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, so you get an idea of what’s needed (“Warp to Planet 1 at 100. Now Align to the Sun. Warp to the Sun at 0. Now warp to the Asteroid belt on Planet 1 at 50. Now 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.”
Non-bait scouting might be more of a tutorial, and teach the player to use d-scan on 360 max range, narrow beam long range. 360 short, and so on.
“Does anyone have a cyno ship handy?”
Combine any of the tackle/bait ideas with a “prototype (nee: civilian) cynosural field generator” and have the player call in their backup with a full-blown cyno. (No beacon in local, and ‘works’ in high-sec — hence “prototype”.) This is a mission — one of the few — that should send the player to nearby space held by the enemy faction. Some missions might be a “bait, get them to attack, then light the fire and hope you live” situation, while others would be more of a ‘sneak our forces in behind enemy lines” scenario which, if done correctly, would result in no combat all. “Tiptoe in, tiptoe out. Like a cat, one might say.” Obviously, as with the rest of the game, any size ship might be appropriate for a cyno job, depending on the type of mission.
There is, not for nothing, an excellent opportunity here to tie this kind of mission into the lore of everything that’s happening in New Eden right now. Tensions between the empires are rising, and these sorts of behind the scenes sneak attacks would be great to get into the game.
Would it be cool to be able to call Hot Drop O’clock on an enemy force you tricked into engaging? Sure.
You know what else would be cool?
What if you take a mission from the Minmatar, and they want you to sneaky-cyno a fleet of their ships into Gallente space? No combat, of course — it’s all just ‘training maneuvers’ — completely legitimate. Still, probably better not to ask any questions, though you might be able to guess their reasons.
All classes of ships used, in all levels of missions.
Jobs to perform that mirror the roles you play in PvP, and the play priorities.
Sometimes, the need to run after you win. Sometimes that means having missions where you kill a specific target and get out, and sometimes it means MANY missions should have stupidly overwhelming backup arrive on the field about a few minutes after the last NPC dies. Angry backup.
No real changes to the current missions. (Except making sure players understand that non-capsuleers are NOT in the same classes as the pilots “like you”… and making low-sec mission rewards actually provide rewards comparable to the risk/cost of living in lowsec, so they’re worth it.)
Fitting priorities and expectations more in line with every other part of the game. Basically, short and brutal fights where mobility, buffer, and burst tanks far outweigh the importance of cap stability, and tackle modules actually AFFECT THE NPCS. (I’m looking at you, Faction Warfare destroyers that fly 5500 meters/second while scrammed. So stupid.)
I have trouble explaining to my non-Eve-playing gamer friends what it is about the game that I find so compelling. It’s everything. It’s one little thing. It’s that other little thing that I love, except when I hate it. It’s the people, because they’re awesome. It’s the people, because they’re horrible.
I’ve been playing for two and a half years, and I still find myself sort of chuckling every few days as I mutter “I am so bad at this game.” I just try to enjoy the time I have and do better than the day before. There are worse things to take away from a game, I guess.
If I am asked to explain it – to sum up the backstory, or to convey the adrenaline dump from a good fight, or the goosebumps I get when I catch a glimpse of the sheer scope of a game created as much by the players as the company – from here on out, I’m just going to show people the Origins video.
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
All PvP in EVE comes down to five basic stages:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The last couple posts have attracted some good questions and feedback, and raise some points I want to address before I move forward.
The questions came in from all over, however, so apologies if I don’t attribute the questions to the right speaker in all cases.
I would personally LOVE for missions to get harder.
That’s… fine, but it’s really not what I’m talking about. When I said the mission NPCs should get about 10 times harder, I also said there should be about one-tenth as many of them. That isn’t about difficulty, but about teaching players in missions that five ships can be a credible and dangerous threat, so that when they see five players coming at them, they don’t think “oh, I can tank 50 NPCs — I’ve got this in the bag.”
More about his further into the post, actually.
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.
Absolutely. There’s really no way the AI is going to get as good or as hard as playing against another good player (it can easily simulate fighting a bad player, though) — you can rebalance the NPCs to be generally harder to defeat, however, and use fewer OF them, to teach players better threat recognition.
Also, far more of what I’m talking about for these missions is about what the player’s are called on to do, not what they’re going to fight. Missions right now are stupidly, stupidly simple: go in, kill everything, and (sometimes) grab A Thing and bring it back or (rarely) deliver a thing to a box. It’s fucking terrible.
More on that further down.
… or move more missions to low sec but increase the rewards to reflect the increased risk from PvP ambush.
Two thoughts on this:
I don’t personally believe that moving currently-highsec missions to lowsec will do any good — ultimately, I think it will harm the game, to be honest, because there are people playing the game who, if forced to travel to Low or Null sec to continue doing what they enjoy doing (missions), will simply quit playing. Most of us know we don’t want that, and the people that say they do are idiots. Multiplayer games only work with multiple players.
With that said, I do think missions in low-sec should have higher payouts than they do currently. Missions given in highsec but going to lowsec should pay better than highsec going to highsec, and lowsec-located agents sending you to lowsec should pay very well indeed — in Loyalty Points, especially.
I don’t believe in forcing players a certain direction, but I do believe in luring them. 🙂
What I’m advocating in this series of posts are mission changes that call for techniques and ship fitting philosophies that have use and merit valuable in areas of the game OTHER than PvE.
I don’t care where people live. At all. I definitely don’t see the ‘natural flow’ of the game to be High -> Low -> Null. That’s just group-think from a (very) organized minority in the game.
What I do care about is whether or not players feel as though they are suitably equipped to take a weekend roam into low-sec, or spend a month ‘deployed’ to the constellation controlled by Mordu’s Legion. Missions don’t do that right now, they could, and really they should.
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.
Forcing some hi-sec distribution-mission-running hauler to go into low-sec 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.
As I said, I have no interest in trying to force all high level missions into more dangerous space. That is often the solution that people talking about this come up with, especially if they just happen to be from nullsec. 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, why you’d want one over the other in different situations, and how it interacts and/or complements a Stasis Web… or a tracking disruptor… or whatever. More, there should be missions that call on players to use one or the other (or, for a real challenge, both at the same time on two different targets).
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 forever, 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 either a specialty-fit ship or a happy accident. Active Capacitor Booster modules are a mystery to Mission Runners, because why would you use something that only keeps you Cap Stable until the charges ran out… and fill up your hold with the Charges in the meantime? THAT’S WHERE MISSION LOOT GOES. Conversely, passive 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 — closer to the sweet spot for PvP-teaching PvE content than anything else out there right now: 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, and more to the point, I’m fit in such a way as to be a semi-credible threat if I happen to get attacked while running sites.
Those are a couple examples. I’ll have more in part four of the series.
The point of all that is this: when a pilot decides to join some friends for pvp roam, and the FC says “Just bring something fast with short range guns, MWD, scram/web, and a buffer armor tank”, the pilot in question can say something besides “Whut?”
Your posts got me thinking about one of the things I’ve always disliked about Eve.
5 low investment, low cost ships can and will demolish far more massive and expensive ships.
To this day I think that the cost of ships is out of balance in Eve. If a ships material cost is going to be 10x more than another ship, it needs to bring the firepower, armor and abilities at 10x the magnitude. Eve doesn’t do this, except in PvE.
I don’t know if you agree or disagree, but I’d love to hear you address the ship size/cost imbalance in PvP.
Man, there is so much to talk about here that it could easily be its own post, but I’m going to stick to my guns and get all these comments addressed.
So let me just break this into tiny parts and talk about each one.
5 low investment, low cost ships can and will demolish far more massive and expensive ships.
First, I will challenge the term “low investment.” If you’re talking about skill points, Frigates use EXACTLY the same gunnery, missile, and tanking support skills as battleships. Especially when it comes to tanking skills, a well-skilled Frigate pilot and well-skilled Battleship pilot are IDENTICAL.
Further, with the skill tree changes, there is very little training time ‘distance’ between a well-skilled frigate pilot and a well-skilled battleship pilot in terms of just flying the ships around. The Navigation skills for a good pilot of either are identical, and training distance from level 4 Racial Frigate to Level 4 Racial battleship is ~12 days.
So the only truly significant difference in training time is the guns, because right now, if you want to shoot tech 2 large guns, you need to train both tech 2 small guns and tech 2 medium guns. I think it’s important to mention that because once the new expansion drops, guns will be only thing in the game that works that way. Missile systems and Drones have never worked that way, and all the Ship skill trees that work that way today (you need tech2 Assault Frigates to fly tech 2 Heavy Assault Cruisers) are being changed in a month or so. I think it won’t be long before the Gunnery skill tree changes as well — it sure as hell should change, because it’s stupid to have it work differently than everything else in the game.
Anyway, ignoring guns (which I am), you’re talking about less than two weeks of training time between a well-skilled frigate-only pilot and well-skilled battleship pilot, so I’m dismissing the idea of “low investment” in terms of skills, because in the “five frigates versus one battleship” example you give, the amount of training represented by either side is — all other things being equal — vastly in favor of the five frigate pilots.
What about cost?
There’s a tendency, when comparing ships, to just look at hull costs, and that’s terribly misleading, because ships have fittings, and those fittings narrow the cost gap between ships immensely, even if you fight on a budget.
For example, almost every one of the frigates I fly — all of whose naked hulls cost about half a million isk, give or take — will be worth about 12 to 13 million isk once they are fully fitted and supplied with appropriate amounts of ammunition for PvP (read: enough for two reloads, most of which will never be used before the ship explodes). If I’m flying a Fed Navy Comet (which I can acquire for rougly 1.5 million isk via Faction Warfare, but which retails on the open market for roughly 13 to 14 million for just the hull), the value of the ship goes up to about 22 million, all told — roughly the same value as the Destroyers I fly.
(Yes, you can fly them cheaper. You can also fit them more expensively. I’m using my fitting standards as the baseline, because it’s what I know.)
By comparison to my average Comet, this Vexor we killed is actually the cheap ship — the hull plus fittings were only 15 million. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost Tormentors more expensive than that, and I don’t really even like Tormentors.
“But,” you protest, “that’s a bargain basement fit for a cruiser. That’s hardly a fair comparison to your frigate, which is fit with mostly tech 2 modules.”
Sure. This Thorax is closer to 40 million — about the cost of three of my frigates or two of my destroyers, and as a general rule I would think it fair to expect it to BEAT or drive away three of my frigates or two of my destroyers in an otherwise-even fight.
But if three frigates brought exactly what they need to fight a thorax (read: a lot of tracking disruptors and enough webs to keep me from jumping a gate), I might die without killing any of them. That’s just preparation on their part and poor target-selection on mine: that particular thorax is a terrible choice for fighting frigates, and in any case that’s not what I built it for. (I didn’t build it to fight two battlecruisers and two tech 3 cruisers either, unfortunately, even though that’s what I ended up facing.)
On the flipside, I might take a Vexor (which is now entirely comparable to and a better brawler than the thorax) against worse odds — three destroyers, for example — and hope to kill one and escape the other two. These things happen.
Let’s get to bigger ships, though. How about this Myrmidon? Aside from some changes I’d made to the tackle modules, there’s really nothing wrong with that fit as far as PvP goes — it’s a fairly traditional triple-rep Myrm, and comes in at right around 105 to 110 million isk. (I’m adding a bit, because of the drones he was attacking with that don’t show up on the kill.) Based on the value of the ship, that should be the match of 8 to 10 of my 12-13 million isk frigates, right?
Maybe. Or maybe it really isn’t that hard to find a single frigate that’s worth just as much. Are those two ships comparable? Could one kill the other?
Is the Isk value any kind of indicator of the correct answer?
Of course not. That’s no more relevant than the fact that Guardians in LotRO have really expensive gear and Loremaster’s armor is relatively inexpensive by comparison. Remember one of the Principles from yesterday: You are not your ship.
To this day I think that the cost of ships is out of balance in Eve.
Bottom line: don’t try to tell me that the Isk value of the ship’s naked hull is any relevant indicator of its threat level. If you point me at a Battleship, I’ll point you at a frigate that cost more, and I won’t even have to look that hard — that fight was last night, and frankly I’d rather try to solo the Armageddon than the Hawk.
If a ship’s material cost is going to be 10x more than another ship, it needs to bring the firepower, armor and abilities at 10x the magnitude.
The fittings on the ships level out actual difference in ship values in many cases, and even if they didn’t, ISK value is no indication of actual worth, any more than Plate Mail should mean that you always beat the guy wearing the robe. It helps, but it doesn’t determine the winner.
Second, when it comes to little ships killing bigger ships, I have two words for you: Star Wars. Here’s another two: Battlestar Galactica. How about…
Actually, no: it’s easier to say that the idea of smaller ships being able to hurt larger ships if they can get in close enough to get “under” their larger, slower guns is one well-established in the genre, and leave it at that. Big ships expecting to fight smaller ships either need support from smaller ships, or need to fit themselves in such a way as to be able to deal with little ships.
Which brings me to…
Third, when you’re talking about battleships getting demolished by five frigates, your usually not talking about a PvP-fit battleship — you’re talking about a PvE fit battleships who think they are badass and are actually incredibly poorly fit for PvP.
The video’s sadly been taken off Youtube because of the background music used (which is stupid: that background music encouraged me to buy three of that band’s albums), but I’ve seen a solo Dominix pilot fight a gang consisting of a Brutix, Hurricane, three Rupture cruisers, and a Stiletto interceptor, kill all but two of the ships, and leave the field intact.
Would I do as well in such a ship? No, obviously, but that’s on me, not the ship — I’m bad at Eve. With the introduction of the Micro Jump Drive, battleships really have a new lease on life in solo and small-gang PvP, because they can force engagements into their best effective range (where things like Heavy Neuts can be applied to pesky small ships) or, if their opponent won’t come in and hold them down, they simply leave the field with the MJD. And all of that really ignores the updates coming to the Battleships with the summer expansion.
Battleships are better than frigates. Frigates cannot be fit in a such a way as to deal with every eventuality, from fighting a battleship to fighting frigates. Battleships can be – making them quite literally a bristling island of threat versus whatever they might face.
Can they deal with 50 opponents at a time, like they can in PvE? Of course not, because PvE missions are incredibly misleading.
If a ship’s material cost is going to be 10x more than another ship, it needs to bring the firepower, armor and abilities at 10x the magnitude. Eve doesn’t do this, except in PvE.
This is where a tremendous amount of the disconnect comes between PvE missions and PvP. Missions set a terrible expectation for new Eve pilots, and the first time a PvPer shows them the reality of the situation, it is a cold slap in the face.
The problem is, I know exactly why the missions are set up the way they are and (worse) given the reason for it, I can even understand and conceptually agree with it.
The thing you ABSOLUTELY MUST remember about current mission NPC is this:
You Are Not Fighting Capsuleers
Now, as soon as I say this, everyone who knows anything about the lore of the game will nod their heads and say “right, right…” but how often do you really think about that in the game? Almost never.
But the fact of the matter is, YOU are playing someone who, with little or no crew (depending on the size of the ship) is controlling a space craft the way you would control your own body. It is your body, for all intents and purposes, and when you face mundane ships crewed with mundane humans, who all have to do everything so incredibly slowly, you fucking destroy them, because you are quite literally a god among mortals — an adult challenging first graders.
Yes, you are the match for fifty or sixty or even more of these insects. Good for you.
The problem is, you kick the shit out of grade-schoolers for months on end, and you start to think this is normal — that this is how the whole universe matches up to you — 50:1, with the advantage to the 1.
Suddenly you run into someone else like you.
They aren’t slow. They aren’t weak.
And they haven’t been spending their time fighting seven-year-olds at recess. They’ve been fighting with other grown-ups.
I call this the Amberite Issue — a tribute to the Amber series by Roger Zelazny — also known as “What do you mean there are other gods?” In short, you are immortal and impossibly powerful to nearly anyone you’ll meet in whole universe… except for the other people like you. To them, you’re just another young punk who needs to get his ass whupped a couple times to learn some respect and actually become marginally useful.
I know why CCP does this: you are a god, and you should get a chance to feel like one. I get that. Some of those ridiculous “50 vs. 1” missions need to stay, if only for flavor.
But when they come, they should REALLY be pointed out by the mission agent.
“Listen, they have an entire fleet defending this base — support craft, battleships, missile batteries, everything — but they don’t have any capsuleers, so really this is going to be a walk in the park.”
(I mean, that’s why Sleepers are so nasty — they’re almost capsuleers.)
Then do a mission where the whole defense force is, say, “a small squad of five novice capsuleers” and have it be just as hard as the full fleet of normal pilots.
When that’s done, make sure the mission agent mentions that while that was hard, at least they weren’t actual full-fledged capusleers like yourself.
Make sure they say that, and make sure they say it a lot.
That, plus getting the pilots some experience with tactics and modules, might help with the shock of trying PvP.
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?”
YES. WE SHOULD PROBABLY TEACH PLAYERS THAT BRINGING FRIENDS TO HELP WITH TOUGH FIGHTS IS A GOOD IDEA.
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.
When I first started playing Eve in earnest (which does not count the attempt some seven years ago) I went through all tutorials (this was only a few years ago, right after the new avatars, but before Incarna, so the tutorials weren’t as utterly terrible as they had once been), then did the Sister’s Epic Arc, and then started running missions.
I mean, that’s what you do in MMOs, right? Tutorial, then the mission chain the tutorials send you to, then take missions from whoever seems interested.
Mostly, I did those missions on my own, but I was sometimes joined (and often advised) by Gor, who was a veteran of High-sec PvE and any-sec industry. I remember the first time he actually rendezvoused with me in a system (Nine jumps away! The vast distance! Travel takes so long!), stoically floating next to my trusty Vexor cruiser in his slowly pulsating Megathron Navy Issue battleship. Many times, he would lead the way into a mission, knowing the massive bulk of his ship could handle virtually anything the NPCs could throw at him, and that I could safely proceed to pick off the small stuff without fear of reprisal.
Time passed, and I became interested in Exploration and eventually Wormholes. Once I’d gotten to what was probably the absolute BARE minimum level of skill for handling the most basic of Wormhole anomalies, I went hunting for them, and convinced Gor and CB to come along on a little daytrip into the first uninhabited system I found.
Gor brought one of his mission-running battleships.
It wasn’t pretty.
Gone was the idea that anyone was ‘safe’ in the site. Anyone on the field was a valid target, because the Sleepers switched primaries randomly, and even if they hadn’t, none of us could really handle the incoming damage: if you had a hole in your defenses – ANY kind of hole – the sleepers found it, bored in, and tore you to pieces from the inside.
After a dozen attempts at the site, we finally prevailed, looted the field, and limped back to known space. I’m fairly sure most of us were on fire.
Gor was, to put it mildly, peeved. Insulted, really. The way the sleepers had manhandled one of his best mission-running ships was just… well, it was clearly broken, is what it was — it was just ridiculous — he hadn’t been that close to losing a ship against an NPC in years.
Eventually (it didn’t even really take that long) we figured out how to fit ships that could handle sleepers, and we adapted our play to their little foibles as well. There were some painful losses along the way (and not all or even most to Sleepers), but we managed. Eventually, it all became routine — even the most challenging of PvE in Eve is pretty predictable, manageable stuff.
Later, I dropped into a random site in known space and was struck (shocked, really) by how EASY it was — compared to Sleepers, these known-space NPCs were a walk in the park. I even ran a couple missions — easily destroying objectives in an Ishkur frigate that I had once struggled to complete in a Myrmidon battlecruiser. Some of that was my increased training, yes, but far more was the simple fact that I’d been forced to up my game.
“I understand your frustration now,” I said to Gor. “These guys don’t prepare you for Sleepers in the least.”
“I know,” he said, sounding disgusted. “I almost didn’t come back to wormholes when you wanted to try again.”
Now imagine how much worse the shock is if, as someone new to PvP, you jump into a fight thinking that missions have prepared you for what’s to come.
What’s that going to be like for the new PvPer?
Well, they’d be insulted. The way the other player(s) manhandled their ship was just… well, it’s clearly broken, is what it is — just ridiculous.
And that impression is not the fault of the PvP — it’s the way in which missions (and really any of the currently designed PvE) completely fails to prepare you for everything else in the game.
So how can you fix that in such a way as to make the PvE suck less (it is, honestly, quite poor — ironically the worst 10% of the game, yet all that 90% of new players ever experience) while preparing players for the sorts of the gameplay you’ll regularly encounter in PvP?
You Play the Way You Practice
Recently, Jester started up a PvP 101 series that I’m going to use as a sort of brainstorming blueprint for improving PvE in Eve. Jester’s guide is very good, and the things he mentions a player needs to consider are important regardless of what you’re doing in the game, so why not use the missions to teach those lessons, since that is where players coming in from other MMOs will start anyway?
The goal is three-fold, and the results are all beneficial: reduce or eliminate the profound culture shock that players experience when moving from missions to PvP, actually familiarize them with the skills and techniques they’ll use in that environment (beyond just “this is what a web is”), and improve the missions themselves by making them more interesting and engaging.
Jester said this best, so let’s just let him explain it:
Player-versus-player combat in EVE is a rush that is very difficult or impossible to duplicate in other games. Your first few times in PvP battle, your heart rate will go up, your hands will shake, and you will have a visceral emotional reaction to what’s going on. Even after months or years, from time to time you will still have this reaction. When you are killed, you will feel compelled to obsess about why it happened and when you succeed, it is something that will cause you to smile for hours or days afterward.
Compare this to Eve’s PvE experience, which involves missions so boring that players routinely fall asleep if they run them for too long, and win anyway.
Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.
One of the first and most profound differences between PvP and PvE in Eve is that, with PvE, Bigger is Always Better. This calls back to most traditional MMO designs in which the bigger and badder a mission is, the bigger and badder you need to be to defeat it. Think of any MMO where someone figures out how to beat a high-level mission on a low-level toon, and that method will quickly be labeled an exploit, a patch will be applied, and the innovative player in question should count themselves lucky they weren’t banned.
That’s… not how Eve works.
First of all, innovation in play is sort of the point.
But more importantly, this idiotic ship progression requirement in missions is teaching players the best ship for any given situation is the biggest fucking thing they can undock, and that is simply not the case in any other part of the game. Sometimes, you need something small and fast. Sometimes, you need something tough, and damage doesn’t matter. Often, you need something that’s got a bit of a bonus for a particular role.
Some faction warfare missions kind of work this way: in almost all of the highest-level faction warfare missions, the best ship for the task is the incredibly fragile stealth bomber frigate. That’s a fine start, but it’s ultimately a bad example, because it’s still just one ship type that must be used.
There’s a mission, for example, called The Reprisal, where you have to kill a commander flying a battleship. It’s one of several missions of this type in Faction Warfare, but in this case the target you need to kill flies quite fast (reducing the damage sustained from the bomber’s torpedoes) and actively repairs damage (eliminating what little damage he does take).
The solution to this problem in every other part of the game would be to get a fast interceptor or attack frigate to haul ass after the target, get a web and a warp scrambler on the guy, and pin him down while the bombers do their work.
Doesn’t work. NPCs don’t work like real ships, and can just go as fast as they like for as long as they like. Scramblers don’t work to shut down the high speed of the target, and without that a web doesn’t work nearly well enough.
So: the mission fails to teach players anything about how every other part of the game works.
How do the players deal with it?
They just decline the mission, because it’s terrible. Not worth the effort, and introduces no interesting game play.
Solution: change around the missions to let pvp modules (and pvp-style fittings) have significant impact. Have agents offer hints and suggestions to that effect. Level 1 missions might be as simple as flying a tackle frig in and holding down a target until the NPC battleship can land and take him down… but the exact same mission can be offered at level 4, except now the target in question has a web he uses on you, a heavy neutralizer he uses to cap you out, and let’s say five aggressive frigates flying escort that you need to deal with WHILE keeping the target pinned down.
That would be interesting. More, it would mean that the best solution for a level 4 mission isn’t whatever damned battleship you have in the hangar. Sometimes you need an Ares interceptor.
Assume what you’re flying is lost the moment you undock.
And sometimes, you need something cheap and very, very disposable, because you know you’re going to lose it.
THAT is the thing that all but one mission in the whole game fails to teach:
Ships blow up. Pods blow up. They aren’t you and it isn’t the end of the world. You are immortal, so act like: reship and get back in the goddamn fight.
Missions should have unexpected twists and unknown triggers that may result in ship loss. To be somewhat balanced, those unexpected twists should happen more often when (a) the best ship for the mission is cheap and/or (b) the mission level is higher, or where the threat is clear and obvious in the mission text.
Adjust rewards to compensate, if you like, but ship loss should happen, and it should be no big deal.
90% of PvP in EVE is preparation.
Thanks to the eve-surivival website, you can prepare up to your eyeballs for missions, but the preparation you do is completely unrelated to the preparation you do for any other part of the game.
Missions set up some of the most unrealistic expectations in terms of your ship survivability. How many level 4 missions in the game involve warping into a site and seeing a kitchen sink collection of fifty ships on your overview, from frigates to battleships?
You know what mission runners do in that situation?
Target the closest guy and start firing. They already know they aren’t going to lose the ship.
You know how that same fight goes in a PvP situation?
Without support, your ship will be scrap before you lock your first target.
Imagine the culture shock when some experienced mission runner jumps through a gate, sees five pirates on his overview, and those five ships — one tenth the number of NPCs he just destroyed in his last mission — wipe him out before he can even get back to the gate.
“Unfair. Broken. Unfun. Impossible. Never going to do PvP.”
Solution: First, change up missions (again) so you aren’t always bringing your biggest, most expensive ships. Second, use the missions to set realistic expectations. That means cut the number of opponents in missions by a factor of ten, but increase the relative difficulty of “pure combat” missions by 10%, overall. A player familiar with missions should have learned how to assess threat levels in every other part of the game by participating in missions — it should be fun, but it should also bestow relevant experience.
There’s a mission — I think it’s the second to last mission in the Sisters of Eve epic arc — that kills a lot of ships. It’s a tough fight, especially for one player in a tech1 frigate.
And it’s just one guy.
“One guy,” this mission says, “can be a credible threat.”
It’s a good mission. It has value.
… and then you get done with the arc, and you go to normal missions, and get something called The Barricade and learn you can ignore all that “single ship is credible threat” bullshit.
But Wait, There’s More
This post is going on a lot longer than I’d expected, so lets break it up into multiple posts and see where we end up.
In the meantime, grab a frigate, look up a friend in game who does that scary PvP stuff, and see if you can tag along.
“So this is a done deal?” CB sprawled across my couch, watching an animated children’s show on the main display screen, the sound either muted or piped directly through his Aura VI interface.
“Pretty much,” I sat at the desk, tapping my way through a briefing document that I should have sent out several days ago.
To help us through the move to the Gallente/Caldari front (hereafter the Caliente Zone), I’ve put together a basic guide with what little I know or have picked up about the war zone, both in terms of population and —
“Did everyone vote in favor?”
“Yeah.” I stopped, thought about that for a second, then shrugged. “Or voted ‘I don’t care.’ Same difference really.”
CB scratched at the collar of the formal jacket he insisted on wearing whenever he wasn’t in his pod. “Rather be shooting Caldari anyway.”
“Good,” I replied. “Then you can start figuring out how we’re going to deal with all the frakking Condors these bastards fly.”
People We’re Likely to Find Ourselves Shooting At
I frowned, trying to remember the rules of grammar I’d gotten drilled into me several lifetimes ago.
People at Whom We’re Likely to Find Oursel —
“Well that’s terrible,” I muttered.
“Didn’t you and the guys kill something like ten Condors in ten minutes last night?”
“Five,” I corrected. “In five minutes.” I couldn’t quite keep from grinning. “Pretty good start to the night.”
“The Rupture was more fun.”
My grin stretched. “Yes it was.”
CB, his back to me, raised his glass, mostly empty. “Welcome to the warzone.”
“Welcome to the Warzone,” I repeated.
In addition to the Caldari and Amarr, there are quite a few solo/small gang/pirate groups active in the area. The two best known are probably The Tuskers and Black Rebel Rifter Club — both groups we’ve studied in the past. I’ve flagged these corps so everyone can easily recognize them in local, not as a warning, but to point out an opportunity for a fight. They generally embrace solo and small gang combat, and scorn the same practices we dislike. I’m excited to see them in the area.
Placid Region makes up the majority of Gallente half of the warzone. It connects to three different null-sec regions (Syndicate, Pure Blind, and Cloud Ring), which we’ll be making use of, and to Stacmon and Orvolle, minor high-sec trade hubs.
Black Rise is the Caldari’s largest —
“Where we heading tonight?”
“Everywhere?” I shrugged. “I’m just going to point us toward systems where stuff’s exploding.”
“Whatever. I haven’t memorized the map.”
“Yet,” I agreed, since it was probably inevitable.
I looked around my new quarters, not missing the rust-chic of our mothballed Auga office nearly as much as I’d expected. The room shouted “Gallente” from every contoured chrome corner, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it felt good to be back under familiar stars.
I suspected we’d be here awhile.
Gambit Roulette is now flying under the auspices of the Federal Defense Union, the Gallente version of Matar’s Tribal Liberation Force. Some stuff we moved, but most of our pilots fly light enough it was easier to simply duplicate supplies and hangars in our second home in Essence, and leave jump clones and supplies in Auga.
Basically, this isn’t so much changing sides as it is moving to the other front in the same war. Some new faces to shoot at (and some old), different tactics from our opponents, new stars overhead — that’s the short term benefit. The long-term: by duplicating rather than moving our office, we’ve basically doubled (or more) our arena of operation.