Low-security PvE is not PvE
Council of Stellar Management candidate Mynxee (of Life in Low Sec fame, much more famous than me) is everywhere. She has been displaying an amazing capacity to reach out to players in all facets of EVE. She’s held focus groups, asked for feedback on her blog and even posted numerous threads across the EVE online forums. One of these threads sought feedback about missions in low-security space.
Missions don’t appeal to everybody; but regardless of whether you like them or not, everybody has done missions. There are myriad reasons a pilot might run missions, but chief among these reasons is to secure funds — either to buy the stuff required to shoot other players or to buy the stuff required to shoot more computer generated bad guys.
In their current incarnation, missions in low-security space are not conducive to actually earning ISK because of the inherent risk. I’m not only talking about the risk of losing a ship, but the additional losses incurred if a mission is failed.
The odds are stacked against a mission runner in low-security space for these (non-comprehensive list) reasons:
- A ship fit for running missions is configured vastly differently from a ship fit for fighting off other players. Missions require a ship to endure a large amount of damage for a very long time with less emphasis on the amount of damage output; they also do not require electronic warfare modules such as stasis webifiers and warp scramblers.
- A mission, once started, must be completed or the mission runner will receive a standings hit from the agent who offered the mission. If the mission site is probed by criminals, the mission runner must leave the site for safety and cannot resume the mission until the criminals have left the area — which may not happen during a play session.
- Even if a mission runner has escaped and is able to resume the mission, it is possible that required mission loot has been pilfered by the criminals during their incursion, ensuring that the mission runner either fails the mission or is extorted into paying outrageous sums for the return of the required item.
- If a mission runner is caught in a mission, the rats will continue to fire, aiding the criminals in the destruction of the mission runner’s vessel. Even if the mission runner should gain the upper hand during this stacked conflict, he will likely not have the electronic warfare modules required to win (introduce the criminal’s escape pod to open space).
- High level missions require a slow-moving battlecruiser or battleship which is an easy target for opportunistic criminals on a star gate. Because of the differences between deadspace and normal space, mission-fit ships will not often have a microwarp drive which might enable escape from a gate camp. These ships are also easy to probe due to their size.
This boils down to mission runners being in a cumbersome ship without the appropriate tools to combat criminal incursions who are, at best, forced to sit idle for periods of time or, at worst, lose their ship; these factors often mean an ISK loss rather than an ISK gain. For all of these risks, there is a small percentage increase in the monetary and loyalty point reward, the rat bounties are slightly higher and the loot tends to be of better quality — if you have the capability to retrieve it while dodging criminals.
Add to all of this that the low-security systems with a decent number of good quality agents are easily found by all EVE players (especially with tools like the EVE-Online Agent Finder) and the result is that the decent places are crammed with criminals who prey on the mission runners who decide to take a chance in low-security space; the overabundance of predators tends to make the prey extinct.
There is no single change that will bring mission running pilots to low-security space; it will take a number of changes and a good helping of time for these changes to be absorbed by the EVE community. Here is a (non-comprehensive) list of basic tenets that might change how ISK-earners might view low-security space:
- Increase the population of law-abiding pilots in low-security space; this is a classic case of the chicken and egg problem. If law-abiding pilots don’t live in low-security space, law-abiding pilots won’t move to low-security space — something has to draw them there in the first place and this pressure will equalize.
- Decrease the amount of time necessary to spend in space for a low-security mission; this drastically decreases the possibility that the mission site will be probed and the mission failed. It also increases the number of missions which ban be run which will decrease the pain of failure.
- Change missions and the rats in such a way that PvP fits are required or at least viable for mission completion. Instead of a vast armada of battleships and support craft, make the missions target an individual or small group where they may flee the battle if not properly tackled. This will also make small, specialized ships such as assault frigates, which are much more viable in low-security space, an option for these missions.
- Use the sleeper AI for low-security missions so that when a Falcon warps on top of our hero, the rats see a juicy target instead of continuing to pound on the hero’s relentless tank — or when the hero falls, the Falcon is targeted and warp scrambled.
- Spread out the quality agents. Many low-security dwellers can pack their gear into a ship and strike off to a new constellation if their current home becomes a more hostile than they are willing to accept. New entrants to low-security space are likely to take up this lifestyle if it leads to more reward.
- Keep low-security missions out of deadspace so that microwarp drives are useful to mission runners.
If this was my feature to design, I would add a new ‘bounty hunter’ agent type to low-security constellations; these agents would be accessible from space (assign and allow completion of missions without requiring a player to dock) and would provide missions in random locations throughout the constellation. Missions assigned by these agents would target a single high-value rat or a very small gang at a randomly generated ‘dungeon’ in space (as missions are now).
These missions ought to be long enough for an active criminal gang to successfully probe, but short enough that several gangs shouldn’t stumble through the system while the same mission is in progress. This would ensure that the likely event of a periodic failure wouldn’t cause irreparable damage to the pilot’s reputation; it would have the interesting side effect of making travel between systems or to stations would happen more often and increase the likelihood of pilots actually meeting in space.
I would also tie these agents to a new bounty hunting system. Make these missions available in various levels with very low-end content in high-security space as a gateway to the higher-end content only available in low-security space.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not the only change I think low-security space should see, but it’s one of many that I think will bring new pilots into a place where PvP is common and do so ensuring these new pilots are equipped with the appropriate tools to handle the dangers lurking there.