Monday, April 4, 2011

Eve's Cosmic Anomaly Nerf: A Hidden Agenda?

Tomorrow Wednesday Incursion patch 1.4 goes live, with the controversial null sec cosmic anomaly nerf the highlight (or lowlight, depending on your point of view) of the patch.  But as an Eve Online player, I've learned that CCP usually tries to accomplish more than one goal with an action.  So let me put on my tin foil hat for a couple of minutes and explain part of what I think is happening.

First, what is the change?  From CCP Greyscale's dev blog:
We've batched nullsec up into five security bands, based on the current truesec values that are already available via the datadump: 0.0 to -0.2, -0.3 to -0.4, -0.5 to -0.6, -0.7 to -0.8 and -0.9 to -1.0. (And yes, we're rounding in the same way that we do in the UI currently, so the boundaries actually lie at -0.25, -0.45 and so on.)

Firstly, we've evened out the upgrades so each one has four sites in it now, rather than five in the first and four in the rest. We're also retaining a mix of the sites that we're aware are regarded as "filler" by high-end players, for several reasons: to act as genuine filler so the earlier upgrades in some systems aren't empty; to give newer players resources they can use without much competition; and to give people running anomalies a little more safety from marauding enemies.

In terms of the high-end sites that high-end players are after - Havens and Sanctums for normal factions, and Hordes for drones - the break-even compared to the current system's maximum of four is around the 3rd and 4th band (-0.5 to -0.8 space), which are -1 and +1 respectively. Below this, things get worse (0.0 to -0.2 systems won't get any high-end sites after the change), but the -0.9 to -1.0 band can potentially gain an extra six top sites with full upgrades. 26 of the 34 regions have at least one system in this security band, with half having 5 or more.

Next, the stated reason for the change.  CCP Greyscale gave five things he expects to see from players once the patch goes live:
  • Some alliances will immediately start wanting to look for better space
  • In the longer run, there'll be more conflicts going on, with more localized goals
  • Newer alliances will have an easier time getting a foothold in nullsec
  • Coalitions will be marginally less stable
  • Alliances will have to choose more carefully what space they develop, where their staging systems are, and so on (low truesec systems generally tend to be in strategically inconvenient places)

The one mention I don't see concerns the isk flow into the game.  Bounties currently are the biggest isk faucet in the game.  In fact, the current 2-3% monthly growth in the money supply is higher than Eve Online's chief economist CCP Dr.EyjoG would like to see.  In his address on the economy at Fanfest, Dr.EyjoG said the following:
"My recommendation to the development team to them is to think about sinks.  How can you sink more stuff in terms of isk out of the economy?  I do not see it as a threat to the economy at this point, but it is definitely something the development team should be thinking about in the upcoming release patch."
(8:54 - 9:14 of the posted video)

I'm pretty sure that Dr.EyjoG was referring to Incarna, but is there any reason not to implement changes for economic reasons now?  And if the development teams cannot institute new isk sinks before Incarna, they can try to stem the flow of the faucets down to a trickle.  I really have the feeling that CCP has data showing that this change will reduce the flow of isk into the economy. 

I also suspect that CCP believes that this change will slow down the botters by reducing the number of systems that the botters can operate and obtain maximum rewards.  At the very least AFK cloakers can narrow down the number of systems they deploy in, thus causing some uncertainty for mission bots' decision algorithms.  These moves may not stop those botters working for RMT sites, but the move may make the cost the RMT sites charge higher, thus making the official PLEX market more competitive and thus used by more players.

Of course, I could be completely wrong and the reasons that CCP Greyscale listed in his blog may indeed be the only reasons for the anomaly change.  But I really think some changes are about to take place concerning the economy and I think patch 1.4 is just the beginning.

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