Sunday, 2 November 2008

A bit of an essay...

Three things happened this weekend that led to this post:
- a short conversation with someone about the fact that neither of us ever updated our blogs;
- a conversation with someone over the pricing of a tech 2 BPO; and
- a thread on the EVE University forums that had a side-discussion over whether it would be right or not to move all level 4 missions to low sec.

As a result, I'm going to write a fairly long post that resolves point 1 for the short-term, addresses my thoughts on playing styles and shares point 2 and also gives my own view on point 3. Not necessarily in that order. ;)

Apologies in advance for my long and rambling style. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the viewpoint I raise on playing styles - I care less about the specific issue addressed...I use it mainly to show how my viewpoint is applied to an issue.

Risk vs Reward

Any discussion about changes in EVE usually comes down to people arguing over risk vs reward. I've used the argument myself in the past. However, it leads to rather "vigorous" discussions that usually don't go anywhere.

The better discussions I have seen move on from there to considering whether people are "risk-averse" or "risk-seeking". Usually in the context of the chance that your ship gets blown up. :)

However, I think that this is a red herring.

My own view is that when considering making changes to the game, the most important thing is to bear in mind people's different "playing styles" (for want of a better description).

This stems from remembering that this is a game that we are playing and that actually risk and reward, profit, isk, PvP, mining, missions, exploring, travelling to luminaire to see the caldari titan, are all done with one aim - enjoyment.

Narrowing down decisions on which approach is better to a concept such a risk vs reward is, quite frankly, a load of rubbish.

Playing style

I'll give you an example of what I mean using a non-PvP vs PvE analogy by sharing a conversation I had with someone the other day concerning the pricing of a tech 2 BPO.

For one reason or another, I was in the public Blueprint channel (Anyone want to buy a 10-run Onyx BPC, drop me a line *grin*) in-game and someone was trying to sell a tech 2 missile blueprint for 2.5bil isk.

General comments were being made by some people regarding the price being way too much. Tech 2 BPOs are shiny, but they are not all isk-printing machines.

I figured I'd have a look at the cost of producing the missiles and compare them to their market average to see how profitable it might be (numbers are illustrative, but you'll get the idea):
- the missiles cost 70isk per missile to produce
- the average price of the missiles is 40isk and there are loads for sale at Jita

So, I can buy all the missiles I like in Jita at a lot less than the cost of building them. To my mind, there is no profit from production.

I dropped the guy an evemail pointing this out and also pointing out that I could see situations where it might be strategically advantageous for an alliance or corporation to hold the BPO to produce ammo for themselves at locations away from Jita. However, how is the price arrived at from a commercial point of view?

I wasn't arguing against his setting the price but I was interested in understanding how the high value was arrived at.

As it happens, the guy convoed me and we had a good chat.

It turns out that at the location that the guy is producing, he produces from his own components as he has a nice corporation setup. At that location, he can sell the missiles at a higher price, let's say 150 per unit.

Now, you could argue that you could buy the missiles in Jita and haul them and sell them and make more profit. If you are trying to maximise return, looking at it from a purely economic viewpoint, that is what you would do.

However, he is playing a game and he doesn't enjoy hauling or travelling to Jita (well, who does?). He's in it for the fun of producing items and the blueprint allows him to do this at profit.

While you might argue that it is actually a trade profit he is making, it doesn't matter. Profit is being made and the blueprint permits this activity for him as he would not otherwise be doing the hauling and reselling.

The important thing here is that it is the way that he plays the game and wants to play the game that dictates his actions, not a strict market decision. Looked at another way, in the game of EVE, enjoyment is an important economic commodity.

It was an interesting conversation and I am glad he took the time out to chat to me as it made me think about the way that I approach the game and also ponder a lot more issues in a different light.

My argument, or I guess my point of view, is that when considering any change in EVE, the important thing to think about is that people have different playing styles.

I think we ought to be considering changes more often from the point of view of what is needed to make the game more fun, rather than arguing against other people's playing styles in favour of our own. As a net effect, we ought to be looking at how a potential change affects different groups' enjoyment of the game, not focussing on specific elements of measure as justification for the change in our favour.

An example, the lvl 4 missions to low-sec debate

This was a side discussion on the EVE Uni forums (probably still is!) and it piqued my interest, particularly since those posting were people who I respect and their views were well thought out and set out.

To summarise the discussion briefly as it stoood last time I checked (in no particular order).

- EVE is a PvP game and there ought to be a risk in earning isk
- Lvl 4s were not supposed to be solo missions, they were supposed to be group missions when they were introduced, so the current game mechanic is broken
- High sec missions are being farmed for isk
- If lvl 4 agents are moved, people will choose either to take the hit in their wallets or move to low sec
- Bringing more people into low sec is needed as low sec is very underpopulated

- People should not be forced to PvP when they don't want to
- A PvE fit is not going to be any good for PvP, so a move to low sec doesn't encourage PvP, it increases targets
- If you are going to argue Risk vs Reward, you are discounting trading, which is entirely risk free and a lot more profitable
- I don't want to go to low sec to do something I enjoy already

There were a lot more points made, but the above illustrates enough for now.

The point I'd make is, people are putting forward good, well thought out arguments on that forum. You can see their indvidual viewpoints in the thread and it's a good, friendly discussion. However, more often that not, they are looking at an arbitrary measure that is important to them to make their point.

Now, as far as I see it, there are actually two conflicting playing styles commenting on the potential change (with shades of grey between)with a view to how it affects them.
- there are people for whom PvP combat is enjoyable and to get the most out of the game, they need the opportunity to fight; and
- there are people for whom running missions is enjoyable, either enjoyment from running the missions themselves or because they are aiming to earn lots of isk.

Remember that people do various things in the game but the aim is enjoyment.

But, what about the problems raised by the individuals? Well, so far as I see it, there are potentially four issues raised in the discussion that may need to be addressed:
- there is a wish to get more people into low sec, to increase the enjoyment of those whose playing style dictates they live in low sec;
- there is a wish to make use of low sec as a location for people to play in, as it is currently under-used;
- there is a wish to address the potential for people to farm lvl4 missions for isk; and
- the original intention was to introduce lvl 4s for group missioning, not as a solo endeavour.

So, if you ask me where I stand on the issue of moving level 4 missions to low sec, I'd say it potentially addresses all of the issues set out above but it does by adversely affecting the playing style of one group of people in favour of another group - and in my opinion the adverse effect is too great to justify it.

However, I'd also go one stage further and say that, if those issues need to be addressed, then is there a way they can be addressed that deals with them but doesn't discriminate against a particular style of play as much in favour of another?

Off the top of my head:
- Introduce something to low sec that might attract people looking for a bit of enjoyment down into low sec but do it in a manner in which they are going to be prepared properly for PvP. How about introducing a "new breed" of low-sec lvl 4 agent that gives a different style of mission for which a PvP fitting is appropriate. It doesn't force people to play the game in a different manner, it introduces the possibility of a new style of play - and it gets more people down into low-sec.
- Introduce a diminishing return over time to high sec missions on a player by player basis. For example, reduce the mission reward and bounties for the rats based on how many missions a player has run that day. This could be done in such a way that casual mission runners (which haven't been identified as a problem as yet) are not affected, but farmers (who have been identified as an problem) are.
- I think the introduction of lvl 5 missions has addressed the wish for a lvl of mission that needs cooperation to complete and with the new more powerful ships in-game these days, the fact that lvl 4s are soloable may not have been an intention but isn't a problem as long as farming potential is addressed.

Now, you can debate these and I haven't thought through the details - I don't really want to, to be honest.

My point is that I think it's more important to decide on what the problems are from all viewpoints and then address them from the point of view of enhancing game enjoyment for as many people as possible, bearing in mind individual playing styles, rather than use an arbitrary measure to decide if one idea is good or not.

After all, we are here to play a game.

Hopefully the above isn't too rambling - without seeing it printed out, I'm not sure if I've set out my point in as clear a manner as I might and I will think through and perhaps edit this post later if I feel it is needed.

Anyway - I was overdue a post on my blog and this is it. :)

All the best