Thursday, August 18, 2011

Industrial Revolution or Bad Luck?

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

"This is known as 'bad luck.'"

While Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has used Robert Heinlein's quote to make political points for years, I'd like to drag it back into the realm of science fiction, or at least the sci-fi MMORPG Eve Online.  Recently CCP came out with two dev blogs detailing a future vision for null security space.  For those unfamiliar with Eve, null security space is the "anything goes" area of the Eve universe that players have made their own, building and destroying empires there on a regular basis.  The ideas presented in the blog posts, if implemented, would change the economy of Eve.

While the game's developers wish to have large numbers of players roaming null security space participating in the great wars, as of the end of 2010 only 11.3% of characters in Eve resided in null sec regions.  79.6% of characters resided in the high security space of the game's four non-player controlled empires under the umbrella of CONCORD, the game's police force.  Many of those living in Empire space are engaged in economic activity and just want to go out and make money.  So the challenge for the game developers is to entice these industrialists to enter space in which they are considered prey and must rely on other players for protection.

The solution the developers came up with is an industrial revolution that will take 5 or more years to phase in.  I call it a revolution for good reason.  Currently null security space is not exactly a friendly environment for industrialists.  After the proposed changes, null sec would become the only source of high end materials required for the lucrative production of tech 2 items and ships.  In fact, null sec would become almost self-sufficient in items, only needing a few low bulk items from Empire space.  Industrialists will flock to null sec to reap the profits, right?

Well, CCP can change the game mechanics, but can they change players attitudes?  The industrialists CCP wants to entice to null sec are called something else by the players who currently make up the corporations and alliances that control the null sec empires.  Carebears.  Yes, these industrialists are frequently despised, often condemned and almost always opposed by right-thinking pilots who cannot understand the ways and thoughts of those who do not wish to engage in player vs. player combat.  Organized events such as Jihadswarm and Hulkageddon have targeted miners and others who engage in economic activity.  For many alliance leaders, industrialists might be tolerated as members of renter alliances, meaning they are second-class citizens.  If those industrialists are not willing to fight, out they go.

One of the features that sets Eve Online apart from other MMORPGs is the advanced economic system in which a huge number of industrialists manage to support the epic wars in null sec.  Throughout the history of MMORPGs good economic systems are the exception, not the rule.  While CCP can create systems that make economic activity attractive in null security space, players still have to use the systems as intended.  And in the sandbox known as New Eden, players frequently surprise the developers.  The fact that CCP is working on a long timeline gives them a greater chance of success than if they sprung all the changes upon the player base at once.  But if they cannot change the attitudes of players, large numbers of industrialists may leave the game.  If enough leave, the economy will suffer.  In technical terms, that is known as bad luck.


  1. tbh, I think nerfing empire outpost production and buffing 0.0 outpost production (slot availability, cost, efficiency, ability to produce T2) would go a huge way towards making this happen, and those would be relatively easy changes.

  2. @Tom While it would provide an incentive, I don't think it's enough. Not as long as 0.0 can't think beyond its Hardcore Elite PvP nose.