Saturday, June 27, 2015

Coffee Politics and Incursions

At work, there are few things worse than what I call Coffee Politics.

We have a small break area with one of those monster coffee makers and several pots.  The coffee itself is free but they do take up a collection here and there for "bonus supplies" like creamer and sugar.  I'm a coffee drinker, but I haven't participated in the Coffee pool for 4-5 years.  I get up every morning and make my own Folger's (French Roast) and bring it in a thermos.

Why?  It's just easier to bring my own and watch the natives self destruct over little things.  Who left the coffee pot on overnight?  Who took the last pour and didn't make more??  There are fights about how best to make the coffee (how strong, how weak, how much water).  There are fights over when to clean the pot (some guys like a mildly dirty pot, yuck).  Why are there grounds in the pot again??  There are fights over getting the supplies from the centralized closet up front.  Who made a pot late in the day and then didn't drink any?  Who left the pot on again over the weekend and left the pot to evaporate down to tar?

This results in two conclusions:
a) I could never, ever, work at Starbucks.  People are too picky about coffee.
b) If the coffee is the most controversial thing my coworkers have to bitch about, then we're probably not doing too bad.

I typed all that so I could make this comparison:  There are topics in EVE that I compare to Coffee Politics; these are things that I'd rather not write about.  I'll just "bring my own Thermos" and watch from the sidelines as the natives self destruct.  At face value, that's maybe cowardly.  The point of this blog has been a PVE/mission focus, and I try hard not to write about things that I don't know about or that are outside my realm of direct expertise.

Like most, I have opinions on most of the contentious topics, some of which run counter to popular "accepted" responses.  If you ask, I'll tell you what I think.  But most of the time the pot is being stirred enough, and the right answers do (most of the time) come bubbling up.

There is a topic that I watch with interest, because I do know at least a little bit about them - Incursions.

Incursions are an interesting topic for me because I agree with both sides.  I think that Incursions are a great melting pot of players.  The community that's built around the content made a positive impact on me and my game play.  In general, I like the mechanics and the progress bar, and the notion of beating back an aggressor that's surged into "good guy space."  But mostly I like that there's "endgame" large Fleet activity that's available to (in WoW terms) a pickup group.

But I also agree with the detractors that say that Incursions are too grindy, too easy, and offer too large of a reward for the relative risk.  (Incursion defenders will quickly stand up and say that ships are lost all the time, and they are.  But, the rate really doesn't make a meaningful impact in the overall profitability).

Where I differ with most detractors is what I'd do to improve the situation.  The Incursion haters would nerf the payout to the ground, clap their hands in glee, and be done.

I would tone down the payout, but I'd do it via lost efficiency and more lost ships.  So, I'd make several passes of light nerfs, primarily to the difficulty level.  Our guys have gotten better (more efficient) at beating Sansha.  Our opponent hasn't adapted.  That means we run Fleets like clockwork to min/max the payout.  I'd look at changes both inside the pocket (spawn types and behavior), as well as making the Influence ticker take longer to push down (making folks run in suboptimal "high influence fits" longer).

When the Incursion runners throw their hands up in despair, I'd throw them a bone.  I'd also look at adding features that makes Sansha's presence scale UP to meet the challenge - i.e. able to support more Fleets in a given Incursion if there is demand for it.  Having the Fleets step on each other and compete against one another is good in small doses.  But seeing the waitlists on a busy night has always been discouraging.  Rule #1 - don't give players a reason to logout; give them 3 to stay logged in.  The system needs to support more players without taking away the feeling of having another Fleet breathing down your neck.

I'd also take a note from Burners and assemble some new small-ship content for Frigates and Cruisers.  Imagine 40+/- AFs or Destroyers taking the field.

So, the TLDR at the bottom:  Less time in waitlists, but harder encounters, more lost ships, new emphasis on different ship types.  Overall net impact of neutral to slightly less payout for the average player.

I'm probably completely off base in my suggestions, I'm sure.  Enjoy the coffee, and I'll go back to my thermos.


  1. I'd also drop the Mom from being the trigger to end the Incursion. It should be part of it, but I'd add a 'boss' or special encounter to each Incursion type. Then just make it a flat 3/4ths completed with an hour or two over-run to get for a 4/4 if everyone so chooses to go for it. I don't like HQ groups having all the power over that. It's led to stupid arguments, and if we're going to have stupid arguments about it, at least let them be democratic stupid arguments.

    1. That's a fair catch; something should be done with the "Mom politics"

      Personally, I'm conflicted on it. The philosophical part of me likes the political aspect of the player interactions that it drives. Making the incursion sites themselves a resource to be squabbled over isn't a bad thing from the perspective of sandbox/mmo interaction.

      The part that bothers me is that the current player behavior is actually taking advantage of a loophole in how the incursion spawn/despawn process works to extend the encounter's availability.

      So, while I'm generally ok with an Incursion spawn that lasts for a few/several days (and my suggestion to extend the Influence ticker would do that), and I like the community interaction/bickering, I don't like the notion that we're "exploiting" the game mechanics for full farming value, and I dislike the thought that one disgruntled group can shut down an incursion without meaningful reprisal.

      I don't have good solutions to that entire ball of yarn of problems. I know that there have been miles and miles of forum posts written about it by the community leadership, so I'd defer to the experts if there was going to be an attempt at changing spawn/despawn mechanics. I do think it would take several iteration passes to make right without beating up the existing community too badly.


Alpha State

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."  That's one of my favorite quotes from the Matrix 2.  It has to do with the ...