Friday, February 11, 2011

CCP Greyscale's Vision

The harder we can make logistics, the better for the game viewed as an abstract system. It would be much better for the game if we got rid of freighters, but we have to balance what is good for the game at a higher systemic level with making the player's lives a living hell. Forcing people to do convoys with lots of industrials would, from a higher level systemic view, be awesome. But for the individual players, it would suck balls.

[CCP has] gone [too far] in the direction of making players lives easy – we've got jump freighters and jump bridges and all this [stuff] – and I think there is an agreement here [at CCP] that we want to pull back from that. We would like to pull back as far as we can get away with. But how far can we go?” The underlying point is the need to get a balance between avoiding frustration and getting desirable macro-scale outcomes.

--CCP Greyscale - CSM Minutes, December 2010

Desirable macro-scale outcomes.

It's one of the things that CCP holds fairly tight to the vest. Greyscale spends a lot of time talking in terms of what is good for "the game at an abstract level", or "a higher level systemic view". "Desirable macro scale outcomes" sounds quite impressive. What it actually means, however, is "Play the game we think you should play, not the game you want to play."

If you sort through Greyscale's comments in the CSM minutes, you get hints of what he thinks an "awesome" nullsec would look like.

Alliances would be very small from a geographic standpoint. Dominion has made a good start on the alliance reduction program in its first year and I think we'll see further reductions in the second year. The fall of some larger territorial alliances such as Atlas, IT Alliance and Against All Authorities has resulted in a redistribution of their former space, largely into smaller parcels. The Initiative attempted to recreate -A-'s expansive empire and failed primarily because it was more space than they could control. The Drone Russian Federation has quietly scooped up large swaths of territory lost by those alliances. Given their current PvP population, I'd say they're occupying more space than they can hold should they be attacked on multiple fronts. 

What the optimal size of an alliance is remains to be seen. There's a lot of experimentation going on, however CCP seems too impatient to let that play out. Likely because of the rise of the coalition.

No matter how small alliances get, as long as they can band together effectively to protect their collective interests, Greyscale and company are going to be unhappy. They appear to favor small, pocket kingdoms incessantly fighting over scarce resources to moderate-sized alliances collaborating in a manner that supports industry, trade and a common defense.

Greyscale wants logistics to be hard. Really hard. So in addition to small kingdoms at constant war with each other, his desirable macro scale outcomes involve making trade in nullsec a cost and labor intensive activity, fraught with risk.

Now. Petty kingdoms at constant war. Populations clustered around strategic strong points.Scarce resources. Transport and trade as high cost, high risk activities. High barriers to cooperative action.

Sounds like Europe around 400 - 500 CE. In effect, CCP Greyscale's nullsec wonderland is a highly dysfunctional, post-apocalyptic society that has suffered a major economic collapse. Cool to read about. Not a fun place to live unless you're the local strong man pissing all over the peasants. And even then....

As Dr. Eyjólfur might be able to explain to his game designer, robust economies require institutions that keep the means of production and transportation secure. CCP did not provide those institutions to nullsec, so the players have evolved them over time. Despite the insecure nature of nullsec, a player can move with relative safety within the boundaries of space with which his alliance has a non-aggression pact. Dangers are there, but the coalition works together to minimize them. This makes some nullsec coalitions a good place to do business. In fact an ongoing concern with lowsec is the tendency of non-PvP players to leap over lowsec, where space is nominally less dangerous but harder to control, directly to nullsec.

Take away the ability of nullsec players to provide those institutions and the producers and traders will leave nullsec for places where they can ply their trades. This is what happens when businesses can no longer operate in safety. Some brave souls will remain as high risk can result in high profits, however the local economies will become largely non-functional.

It would certainly be awesome from a systemic level if Iceland had to go back to importing goods from off-shore using Viking era Knarr ships. Especially if we forced them to sail through various choke points heavily populated by pirates. Mind, it would totally "suck balls" for people living in Iceland. But then, they chose to live out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

If someone in the EU suggested that scenario were a desirable macro-scale outcome, I'm sure a few folk in Reykjavik might object. 


  1. Got a chuckle out of that last paragraph, Mord. Succintly put, and neatly sarcastic. +1

    From an analysis standpoint, one thing you may be missing (certainly in this essay, if not overall in mind) is the impact throughout the game such a 'dial-back' would have if Greyscale gets his heart's desire and removes all methods of mass transportation (i.e. not just JFs but freighters and - one would have to think - possibly even Orcae as well). Essentially, you preclude the possibility that the single player - or the smaller groups of them - can reasonably be an economic force of any sort. This would apply I think disastrously to high sec.

    Heavy lift capacity is the only thing that truly makes the success of small operators feasible in high sec, much less anywhere else. Being able to move minerals (or mineral-generating materials) en masse from trade hubs to production facilities and finished products in the reverse is really only made economically feasible by the ability to utilize these large units. By removing that capability, you now force that small guy to either a) spend a great deal of time to make many more flights to transport the same amount of materials/goods (some of which, btw, it will not be possible to bring to market - like larger ships), b) band together with enough others to spread the damage and reduce time wastage (although not really - if they are all working with those resources, it still averages out in time lost simply moving the stuff; just spreads the pain out over more time) ... or c) leave that sector of the game altogether.

    Basically, it's hard to see this idea doing anything other than destroying an entire sector of EVE's economy. Would something replace it? Yes. Would it be either nearly as effective or lucrative to the potential player (and gankers - nice fat freighters full of delicious goodness ... ^_^) as we have today? Hardly.

    I believe you're 100% correct, Mord - the good doctor needs to instruct his errant designer / closet economist (FAIL) in the realities of how these things operate. Greyscale needs to leave his theories of what would mke him happy about the game's economics and how everyone should play the game safely in the permanently locked steel firebox where they belong.

  2. Dear lord how I would like for YOU to run for CSM, with nothing OTHER than this exact platform to run with.

    Words fail me at this point as there is nothing else I can add to your point that I ahve been trying ( and probably failing to make) for a long time.

    Excellent post!! Now if I can just get him to read your post all would be right in the world.

  3. Relax scardy bears. CCP will not take away your precious drakes. Or your ubiquitous jump bridges. You will still never have to use a gate again and can rat in complete safety, just like you always wanted.

    Eve is changing - it always is. Some will say dieing because their playstyle is losing out. Eve was a game built around PVP and risk. Don't fly it if you can't afford to lose it. No where, not even 1.0 Concord sov is 100% safe. Its now a game built around PVE - safe, essentially riskless PVE literally covers 90% of 0.0. With IT's collapse, NC bots controls Fountain through Gem, and the DRF bots control Gem around through nearly the rest of the south.

    If you don't see how hilariously easy logistics - 20 region spanning Jump Bridge networks, with many regions packed so tight with JBs that gates are literally completely unnecessary, then, well, you will enjoy your endless sanctums and space gold too. Manasi, you especially - you just lost your space in large part because of the ease with which the NC can project force from one end of the map to the other.

    Enjoy your PVE game Fiddle, Manasi. You've worked hard and you've earned it.

  4. When I moved to 0.0, I was disappointed to find that there isn't much reason to do much conventional manufacture there because it is relatively easy to just haul stuff in if your coalition controls a gateway and a good jump bridge network -- that in fact in many cases it is smarter to haul minerals out and bring finished products in instead of building stuff there.

    There isn't even much incentive to haul stuff into 0.0 and sell it at a plausible markup because in many cases people can just slip into Empire and go shopping themselves they won't consistently pay the kind of markup you'd expect to find on the frontier.

    My sense is that what they want, and what I'd like to see, is deep 0.0 operating much more economically independently from Empire. I'd like to see more lively intermediate market hubs throughout 0.0 so that, for example, I might live on the quiet edge of nowhere and, without the benefit of jump bridge networks, may have to just do all my buying and selling in the regional hub because of the distances involved. With jump bridges, Empire is never to far if you have the right connections.

    Also, think about the impact this might have on botting in deep 0.0 -- the local prices of commodities will go down and finished products will go up, botters will have to risk big logistical convoys to take full advantage of their operations, etc.

    Put another way, if logistics become harder, trade becomes more valuable.

  5. This blog entry is largely stupid. Does Greyscale's vision extend too far? Probably. However, the things that Greyscale wants to look at are the enabling tools that must be addressed to fix Eve's current macro-economic and 0.0 combat woes. Easy transit of raw materials is what allows for the bulk construction of supercapitals, and is the direct cause of the centralization of market forces to Jita. As Tom said, as logistics become more difficult, trade becomes more valuable.

    The tools that players love so much, and make it easy for the average player to get what they want, are completely counter productive to long term enjoyment of the game.

  6. I think the only people that would even agree with this are the people that don't live in null-sec.

    I really hope this isn't going to go through, at least not in the forms outlined in his vision.


  7. 0.0 IS SAFE! Safe dammit! Too damn safe and easy! Jump bridges make it that way! Calderus Rex says so! But they also made Manasi lose his space.

    Perfect logic.

  8. Also, anyone who disagrees with Rex's point of view must be afraid to pvp!!!111 Therefore they are pathetic carebears!!!111 This is pure reason, and Calderus Rex is not some protypical goodfightz eleetplayur with tunnel-vision into his monochromatic playstyle.

    RE: Tom's comment, I largely agree with your basic observations and wouldn't mind seeing more economic independence from high sec, either, but nerfing jumpbridges isn't axiomatically the answer. In fact, you could make a good argument that it's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    And, btw, "the right connections" come at their own price, and not everyone has them. Not everyone wants to trade the necessitating of 10,000 brosefs for tidy logistics. Jump logistics make a variety of playstyles available where there wouldn't otherwise be. That actually plays to a more fractious nullsec, per Grayscale/CCP's desire.

    J's comment begins to "stupidly" to be taken seriously. There are yet any number of points and counterpoints to be made. You'd have to be an idiot to miss that.

  9. This is a slight rip off from the idea of Ms Pacman AKA Extreme from EOG currently running for CSM.
    He actually posted the idea on his facebook account before CSM canidates were being accepted.
    His campaighn is to destroy the coalitions that are dominating the game eventually reducing it to 2-3 choices for 0.0 pilots as far as what alliance to join. As well as other alliances that cant break into thier own space they are forced to become pets or renters from a larger entity. Do as Ms Pacman suggests make alliances unable to blue each other when they reside in 0.0 sec space, limit the number of corps or players in an alliance. That will open more 0.0 space to pilots than ever before.

  10. In addition the to the point of the post it is simply a lame excuse of CCP to rid themselves of things they think are cause lag issues between nodes. Why dont you just concentrate on not more content but the quality of what you already have?
    It seems to me to be the biggest complaint the community has the second being the coalition snowball effect.

  11. Good blog! In this instance though you seem to have tunnel vision IMO.

    Trucks deliver the vast majority of goods in most countries, not trains. Why? Because trucks are more versatile. Routes can be reconfigured quickly. Businesses can be anywhere a road is and not constrained to rail stations. Trains are nice for the long haul but they suck for local delivery.

    Concerning convoys, in WWII goods crossed the Atlantic in small ships bunched together. This was not so they could be protected by the escorts. There was no protection against a determined Wolf Pack: period. It was sheep tactics. The U-boats could only fire on a few of the many ships. The rest sailed out of harms way... for that day. More goods got through than didn't because not all the eggs were in one basket so to speak. If the allies had put all their eggs into one giant freighter it would have been popped and all of their hopes would have went down somewhere off Iceland's rocky shores.

    I hope I don't offend as it's not my intent, but you see the game through your own crimson lenses - as do I. But ask yourself one question, could small fiefdoms like you describe have pulled off a transatlantic convoy? Would the Wolf Pack have been adopted if U-boats could still be successful by themselves? Evolution requires hardship. What you would have seems more like a road to extinction to me. Thanks for letting me take some of your time.

  12. I'm in agreement with Tom Hoffman.

    Personally, I'd love to see physically smaller empires with a higher population density. And that means functional regional markets. Functional regional markets also need other framework to support them, but it's a worthy goal!

  13. I'd like to add support to the notion of regional trade hubs. But I also want to disagree with the author's point that Greyscale's macro-vision is bad.

    I think the macro is the coolest thing about EVE. To me, the idea of 10-freighter convoy rolling out to resupply a distant alliance is awesome. The journey is dangerous, and the freighters need protection from a small alliance force that snuck it's way out of null-sec to provide cover. This happens once a week, and eventually enemy alliances catch on. One day, the enemy ambushes the convoy, wreaking havoc on our alliance in need of supply and allows the enemy alliance to invade and take their space while our alliance is in a weakened state.

    That sounds really cool, something that works great in the macro. It turns wrong when we go micro, however: every week, 30 pilots moving at a freighter's pace to bring skillbooks and faction ammo from Jita to a null-sec system 30 jumps away. Blech.

    I think we need pockets of NPC null-sec scattered throughout the exterior of the galaxy. These pockets would be equipped with missions, full stations, and market infrastructure. Alliances would compete for access to these systems, which would be supplied by entrepreneurial freighter pilots looking to make a pretty penny.

    What Greyscale wants is to make the journey from Jita to null-sec more difficult. As of now, being in null-sec isn't a big issue logistically; just ask your corporation to stick some rigs in the jump freighter for you.

    (Now, I've never actually lived in null-sec, though I am headed there now, but this reflects my n00b views of everything.)

  14. +1 vote for you to run for CSM!

    I am so glad you wrote this as I have really disagreed with the ideas that CCP has been floating on nullsec but lacked the eloquence to explain just exactly why it was so stupid.

  15. Aren't games supposed to be fun ? The greyscale vision sounds like work, more than anything.

  16. If CCP really wants to have many small, localized trade hubs instead of a few massive trade hubs, then they are going to have to completely redesign the manufacturing mechanics of the game.

    Back when I started playing EVE in 2004, 0.0 was seen as the place where you went to find all of the rare raw materials. Empire space was where you took those raw materials for manufacture and trade. And the manufacturing mechanics reflect that concept. People's concept of 0.0 has been changing into something else, but the industry mechanics have remained the same.

    For example: I build Carriers, Dreads, and Industrial Capital Ships. However, I only do this in empire. This is due to the insanely cheap cost of manufacture that can be found in empire. In empire space it costs me about 150,000 isk to use the manufacturing slots needed to build a carrier from raw materials. It would cost me about 60 million to do the same thing in a POS in 0.0, and that is after using the economy of scale to minimize my costs.

    The descrepancy is the same in man-hours. It takes me an average of 1.5 man hours to buy the raw materials, haul them, make BPC copies, and build a carrier in empire. In 0.0 it would take about 190 man-hours to make the PI, mine, refine, and haul the ice, purchase minerals, haul them, make BPC copies, and build a carrier in a POS.

    I do not include outpost manufacture slots in the comparison simply because the access to the manufacturing slots in an outpost is too limited or too expensive to use in 0.0.

    You can also kiss most T2 manufacturing goodbye. The only reason why T2 manufacture is as cheap as it is right now (and it IS cheap, despite the increase in price seen since t2 ammo was buffed) is because moon goo is shipped in from all regions of space and sold to 0.0 and low sec reaction manufacturers at the large trade hubs that CCP wants to nerf. If 0.0 and low sec reaction manufacturers could only rely on the moon goo that is available locally, not enough reactions will be possible to sustain even a small alliance.

    If CCP really wants localized trade hubs then they will have to change the industry mechanics such that 0.0 can compete with empire manufacturing costs. They would also need to change T2 so that either players can manufacture everything with local moon goo at a higher expense (alchemy writ large) or the moon goo is redistributed so that all types are available in a high enough quantity within the area of a trade hub's influence.

  17. Everyone, grab your Il Principe and start studying how Europe was run in the Middle Ages.

    Ceterum Censeo, Mord Fiddle to CSM.

  18. Your post is just as one sided and short-sighted as the comment by Greyscale that you're attacking.
    The current ease with which 0.0 can buy from High-Sec trade hubs rules out entire styles of play, styles intended from day 1.

    You cannot be a reasonably effective industrial/market character in 0.0 - it's cheaper, easier and safer to just do that in HS.

    You cannot reasonably fight in small gangs - you will be blobbed, maybe not every time, but often.
    You cannot pick out an out-of-the-way bit of space and grow from a small entity to a significant one - you're either part of the NAP-chains or you're an easy target for anyone on your half of the map who's bored.

    You cannot have small scale wars - it's all or nothing, if you don't bring in every ally you have, your opponent will.

    Now - I'll admit I'm not in 0.0 myself, so you're welcome to disregard my comments completely. I'm sure you will. But there's a reason that I'm not - it's because it sounds like a whole bunch of boring as it is right now. I think W-Space is for me.

  19. That's a neat summary of everything I find frustrating about nullsec as it is Diamond

  20. That's hilarious, you're totally right.

    Ironically, I think the method to decrease stability in Eve is to make it...easier?

    Players will provide an equal and opposite reaction to the difficulty of the system: no matter HOW difficult you make a mission, they will find the minimum requirement to complete that mission without ever dying. If there is ONE ship in the entire game that can do it (cough, tengu) they will migrate en masse to that ship.

    If you want to have smaller groups in nullsec, you need to make it so a small group can go to nullsec, control a few systems for a few months, get TOTALLY curb-stomped by a big alliance, and still head back to hisec with a profit. If it's a stupid thing to do, people won't do it. And forming small kingdoms that constantly fight is a stupid thing to do when you have to pay for new ships. This isn't WOW, the same setup won't work here