Wednesday, February 20

Moms, Farms and ISK Faucets

So, Evelgrivion tweeted something earlier that caught my attention.
As someone who actually enjoys the Incursion content (my objections to the way the storyline was herpderped into existence aside), this is an issue I've spent a bunch of time thinking about.

As a roleplayer in EVE, this is an issue that I've probably spent too much time thinking about.

Not-so-ninja-edit: The answer, in my opinion, is both yes and no. My short answer was this (gathered from my tweets): "Yes and no. Yes in that there should be more incentives for the community to destroy the mothership before the 'last minute.' No, in that it is a major pain in the ass to pick up and move all your shit when the mom pops, and it's a non-PVP activity that people enjoy doing in groups for hours on end several days a week."

Here's the short and sweet version of how Incursion farming works.

At any given moment, there can be up to seven Incursions in New Eden. The distribution of these incursions is always constant: up to three in high-security constellations, up to three in null-security constellations, and one in low-security constellations.

Incursions last roughly a week after they spawn, and have three "phases." First, there is the "Established" phase. This lasts roughly three to four days after the Incursion spawns in a constellation. After that, the Incursion switches to the "Mobilized" phase, which lasts roughly two days. The last phase is called the "Withdrawing" phase, and lasts exactly one day. When the Withdrawing phase is over, an Incursion disappears. At any point during any of these phases, if the Nation supercarrier is destroyed, the Incursion disappears. (This site only becomes visible after the Nation influence level drops below a certain point. I am not sure what this point is.)

Good, right?

Not quite.

Incursions pay out to players in two different ways at the same time: ISK and CONCORD LP. The ISK is paid out at the completion of a site, directly into the wallets of the pilots in the fleet that is deemed to have "won" the site. (If there are multiple fleets in a given site, the fleet that does the most damage total is the fleet that "wins.") LP, on the other hand, is placed into a pool that can be viewed in a player's Journal, under either the Global Report or Loyalty Point Log tabs in the Incursions section. This pool is kept in escrow by CONCORD until the Incursion is gone. If the Nation supercarrier ("Kundalini Manifest" or "Ouroborus") is destroyed, this LP is paid out to the players. If the Incursion successfully withdraws without the supercarrier being destroyed, CONCORD retains the LP and the players get nothing. They are allowed to keep the ISK.

This here is one root of the problem of Incursion farming: there is no incentive to destroy the supercarrier before the last minute, because time spent traveling between Incursions is time spent not making money. You will make the same amount of LP per site no matter what phase the Incursion is in, and there is no 'bonus' for clearing it early. In effect, farming Incursions to the last drop is encouraged by the game mechanics.

Why should I force myself and several hundred other players to waste time schlepping to another Incursion 20 jumps away when there's several more days I could spend farming the one I'm currently in?

There's the obvious "because griefing carebears is fucking hilarious" answer, sure. But what if you're someone who's using the Incursions to make money to pay for PLEX or ships? There just isn't a good, justifiable reason. There's absolutely no gameplay/mechanics-based reason to do so. (There are, however, roleplay/in-character reasons to do so, but I'll get into those in a bit.)

Okay, so what can we do about it? What incentives can CCP provide to make it worthwhile to the pilots in an Incursion to clear it early?

There's a bunch. But as I remarked to Mynnna and Evel, they all come with flaws.

Let's start with a couple that Evel suggested (which were similar to some of mine), and then another of mine. I'll let other people who participate in this come up with some others.

What if destroying the supercarrier early will give a chance of dropping a BPC for the Revenant, the player version of the Nation supercarrier? (Evel)

Pros: The Revenant BPC currently only can be dropped from the supercarrier in lowsec Incursions, and it doesn't always do this. This would help increase the availability of an incredibly rare ship that many collectors would love to get their hands on.

Cons: The problem with Incursion loot, is that there is none, except from the supercarrier. Many highsec Incursion communities currently scoop all of the loot, and then auction it off to the fleet to fund ship replacement programs. This won't work with a Revenant BPC. It's a blueprint for a ship worth tens of billions of ISK that actually has a very low demand. The sheer worth of the blueprint alone makes it near-impossible to expect anyone to be able to purchase it in an auction, let alone sell the thing easily. In the end, it's a solution that will most likely only benefit one person in what was a team effort. It also doesn't benefit any of the other people who spent hours of their time keeping the influence levels down in the constellation.

What if Incursions were modified so that if influence levels were kept below a certain point for some amount of time, it started withdrawing early? (Evel)

Pros: Given the nature of farming, this could work extremely well. Incursions would enter withdraw within a day or so of the Incursion communities arriving. They'd appear and disappear in a few days instead of lasting a whole week.

Cons: Incursions don't respawn immediately. After an Incursion disappears, regardless of whether it was due to player action or inaction, it takes between 24 and 36 hours to spawn a replacement. On top of that, one of the pros turns into a con - given the speed at which the influence level goes down, there suddenly wouldn't be any money to make because the Incursions would disappear too quickly. And there's nothing Incursion communities hate more than having to go do something else for a couple days because there aren't any Incursions up. Except maybe when there's only one highsec Incursion active, and it's located in a highsec island like Solitude. The end result would be Incursions become even more of a playground for elitist douchebaggery than they already are, and the reduced "uptime" would just make it harder for people to get involved.

What if the final payment from CONCORD were scaled by the length of the Incursion, where destroying the supercarrier earlier would result in an increased LP and/or ISK payout, but leaving it until the last minute would result in a penalty?

Pros: This could helps offset the lost payouts from the previous two options. If destroying the supercarrier early means that some of the otherwise lost payout is regained, people might go for it.

Cons: Predictably, this arrangement would end up being minmaxed to the point where the communities would find the "sweet spot" and just farm to that point, and we'd be back to square one. In effect, all it would do is reduce the length of the average Incursion - it wouldn't affect the "farming" or "ISK faucet" situations at all. On top of that, you'd effectively be getting free ISK/LP for sites you didn't complete - not something I'm particularly fond of. Then there's the issue of who gets the bonus payout (or penalty) - everyone who completed sites, or just the people in the winning fleet in the supercarrier site? I can guarantee that the latter would not go over well.

So, we haven't even looked at the storyline end of things yet.

How the fuck can CONCORD afford to keep paying us constantly for this? Surely it would make sense to pay us in a fashion that encouraged getting the job done efficiently, not bleeding the Assembly's wallet dry.

Well, yeah. No shit. So why not?

It wouldn't make for good gameplay. What's the point of this grand, end-game group PVE content if it doesn't last long enough for lots of people to get involved in it? (Time for a little detour.)

It sure as shit isn't storyline development. CCP dug themselves into a real deep hole with this one: Incursions are essentially a flagship/Jesus feature. The entire storyline (live events included) leading up to the expansion's release was centered around this one single feature! As a result, CCP can't progress the storyline in this respect without jeopardizing the existence of Incursions.

Well, sure, they could have the Sansha Incursions die off and be replaced with another pirate faction's NPCs. None of them really make quite as much sense, however - with the possible exception of the Equilibrium of Mankind (courtesy of the "Gone Berserk" missions), who were the original antagonists for the Incursion expansion before the focus was switched to Sansha's Nation. But that's a lot of work for the Art and Content teams to put in. And I mean a lot. There's currently 15 different Incursion sites, each unique. Assume another 15 or so for another faction. And don't forget the unique pirate faction supercapital. (And subcaps, in the EoM's case.)

Now imagine what would have to go into it if they decided to make the Incursion system available to all pirate factions, and instead of it just being Sansha that has the limelight, similar Incursions could appear in various places, instigated by the other pirate factions?

Multiply the amount of work for the previous thing, between 4 and 6 times. We already have Sansha's Nation. We'd be adding the following: Guristas, Serpentis, Blood Raiders, Angel Cartel, and possibly EoM and/or Rogue Drones.

That is a lot of work for the Art and Content teams.

I think the Sansha storyline's going to be stuck sitting with its thumb up its ass for a while yet, as far as Incursions go.

And now that I've derailed myself I need to wander back to the tracks. So!

The point of this grand, end-game group PVE content is to get people to play together. You cannot solo Incursion sites. (Except maybe the "Scout" level sites. Which pay less than L2/L3 missions. Possibly even less than L1s.) You need to be in a fleet to do Incursions effectively.

It's to expose people who don't normally do PVP, to PVP concepts, like fleet mechanics, logistics, comms discipline, etc. in a more consensual environment.

And to have fun.

And, of course, to get paid doing so.

... Which eventually turns into farming when people want to get as much gain for as little input as possible.

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