First, let's take a look at the "4X" game style: Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate. Got that? The important parts of that description to me are complexity and (compelling) gameplay. Complexity (of some kinds) is good in an MMO (as opposed to a multiplayer turn-based game) since extra complexity provides room for delegation, and thus the necessity to trust others, and the advantage of having a large group of friends to work with.
So taking the 4X model from Sins of a Solar Empire or Galactic Civilizations, how can we adapt that to EVE? Rather than AI governors for your planets, just use other players: that much is simple enough to grasp: micromanagement avoidance as it applies in 4X multiplayer games isn't applicable to EVE since it's a real time, massively multiplayer game. Of course, too much micromanagement will lead to "WTF? GTFO!" moments.
NB: I'm proceeding with this mind dump of ideas that have been bubbling away on a back burner for some time, never really brought out into the light of public scrutiny, not for the purpose of solving a problem but simply to point out: here is a different way of doing things. If there was a problem to solve it would be primarily that logistics is so easy that it's taken for granted. Now back to the article.
The "exterminate" part of the 4X play style is already handled by the flying-in-space part of EVE and, soon, the shooting-stuff part of Dust 514. So that's not necessary as part of a discussion about industry in EVE. So onto these issues of Exploring, Expanding, Exploiting.
There is more to "exploring" the universe in the 4X sense than simply wandering around probing for cosmic signatures. There are resources on planets, there are resources elsewhere to be exploited too. Since "exploration" is a pretty clearly defined and specific activity in EVE, I'll refer to this phase as "discovery".
Part of exploiting a resource is extracting it from the source, carrying it to a refining point, producing materials, and then doing stuff with those materials. In my opinion, these portions of "Exploit" deserve their own treatment in the EVE universe, thus "extract", "carry", "refine", "manufacture" and "develop" (since you can do more with a manufactured thing once it is manufactured).
So there we have the elements to consider: Discover, Extract, Carry, Refine, Manufacture, Develop.
Before you can exploit any kind of resource, you have to discover it.
The traditional resources are asteroids, moon goo, (NPC) loot, (NPC) salvage, NPC tags, exploration sites, and planetary resources. I refer to NPCs as optional since players will also drop loot and salvage, so we do need to keep that in mind when making any kind of adjustment to the handling of loot and salvage in the game.
First on the list: Asteroids
Asteroids are found in space. Typically, they are found at marked locations in most systems, and you will rock up to find a bunch of objects labelled "Asteroid (Veldspar)" and so forth. This to me is the essence of boredom: why do we have survey scanners if the asteroids are already defined for us? So step one in asteroid modifications: remove the labels and leave it up to the miners to survey the field to determine what is available.
How many miners will take the time to survey the field and then just mine the biggest, fattest asteroids? What usually happens at present is you turn up to the belt and start the lasers, vacuuming everything in your path (this is how every mining operation I've been in has worked, having no pressure of time). Tech 1 strip miners FTW! This is AFK mining at its best: you don't give a thought towards ISK/hr, profitability, opportunity cost or any other economic gobbledygook. You vacuum up all the rocks, because they are there!
|© Allie Brosh http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com|
I would like to have all mining moved to exploration sites, but a great many AFK miners would cry out in anger if that was actually done. Perhaps a compromise position would be to move most mining to exploration sites, leaving only the the bare essential of Veldspar as asteroids in belts.
Why move asteroids to grav sites? Because warping to a belt is too easily automated. Some of you will argue that probing is automatable too, but all the reports I've read indicate that such bots require code injection or protocol snooping. Raising the bar a little is part of the eternal arms race that will always happen between umpires and cheaters.
On the positive side, moving asteroid belts to exploration sites opens up the opportunity for explorers to make a bit of pin money. In time, I would expect communities to be built on the exchange of bookmarks to mining sites. Whether this occurs through the contract system, chat channels, in-station trading or other means is beyond the scope of this rambling essay. The players will find a way to exchange effort for ISK.
From the miner's point of view, they can either warp to a belt and mine veldspar until the cows come home, or invest a little effort and collect bookmarks (ideally, the explorer selling bookmarks will identify the approximate extend of the grav site). Then the miner(s) will set off to extract the ore from the grav sites, and we get back to the point of hauling that ore somewhere to do something with it.
Note that grav sites expire with time: they'll naturally expire after some days, they'll expire a few hours after someone has visited them, and some will expire "immediately" when they are "completed" and all player controlled assets have left the grid (in wormholes, the grav sites are "completed" when you kill all the sleepers, or used to be when I lived there).
So grav sites provide a natural means of controlling resource density and availability: if you want to bias Pyroxeres to appearing in Amarr space, you ensure that each region has a respawn "table" which guarantees (over time) a certain proportion of sites will contain Pyroxeres, with that proportion being significantly higher in Amarr space than Minmatar space for example. In addition, sites in hisec would contain poorer quality ore (e.g.: plain Pyroxeres) while sites in low sec and null would contain higher quality ore (e.g: Solid or Viscous Pyroxeres). But I'd also be stricter about the security level availability of ores: Jaspet, Hemorphite and Hedbergite would only appear in low sec, for example. Veldspar, being the holy ore, would appear everywhere.
I would then adjust the ore qualities so that the difference in yield between plain, Solid and Viscous Pyroxeres (and the other 5% and 10% variant ores) would be much higher. So you have far less of the richer ores, but they are in fact richer. I'd boost them by a factor of ten: the 5% variants would actually have 50% better yield, the 10% variants would have 100% better yield.
So in summary: remove labels from asteroids, move most asteroids to grav sites (leave only a token bundle of asteroids in marked belts), increase the value of denser ores, and be stricter about empire/security distribution of ores.
There are, of course, as many suggestions for "fixing" mining as there are non-miners. Check the forums.
Second: Moon Goo
At present, to find moon goo you consult the Moon Map Project or the Alliance's equivalent thereof. Nobody actually surveys moons except to fill gaps in the moon survey project, or to double check something that they don't believe (e.g.: someone claims to have a "more up to date" moon map which exposes glaring errors in the Moon Map Project). The point is, once you know that a moon contains Technetium, that moon's Technetium content does not change. Not ever. There's no mining it out. There's no expiry of the deadspace pocket, there's no threat of someone else warping to your moon and mining the moon goo before you can, and there's certainly no threat of being suicide ganked while you're watching a movie or playing with the cat (reinforcement timers mean you have heaps of notice).
There are plenty of suggestions for "fixing" moon goo. The ones I like the most are to spawn moon goo in certain quantities, adjust the survey probing mechanism to indicate what volume of a particular goo or goos is available in that moon, and then allow as many moon harvesters as possible to be pointed at that moon and set to extract a particular goo. If someone wants to "ninja mine" a moon they can set up a POS, install a bunch of harvesters all dumping their goo into a coupling array chain, then the ninja miners can clear out that small technetium deposit in a few hours, shovelling the output into their Orca as it is mined, and be gone.
Moon goo is essential to the entire economy, so I wouldn't futz with it too much. Besides the transient nature of moon goo, I would consider requiring the harvesters to be outside the POS bubble so they can be blown up by passing fleets, or hacked by ninjas to steal their output. Would this lead to moon goo harvesting being a corporation-level activity rather than an alliance-level activity? Well, before you can mine the moon you have to put a POS there. If someone else already has a POS there? Well, it's time to call the alliance in to help you get rid of it.
It might be nice to add some small quantities of moon goo to exploration sites, such as comets which can yield limited quantities of moon goo amongst the various ices present. Overall, I'd envisage transient moon goo as an extra driver to conflict in null sec. The Mittani tells us that conflict in null sec is driven by hate, but that's because he doesn't understand the economic pressure of not having something you need, because he's a spoilt rich kid who has all the technetium that anyone could possibly want, in a boy's club of other spoilt rich kids who have all the technetium that they could want.
When you have to routinely move your moon harvesting operations, you'll have people constantly surveying moons. Black ops will be surveying the other team's moons (and their black ops will be surveying yours). If you want the money to keep funding that super capital acquisition programme, you'll need to be a bit less friendly with the folks next door who promised to split tech moons 50/50 with you, but are actually giving you 30/70. The bastards!
|Your friends lied to you about the tech moons?|
(I'm relying on basic human greed to set the stage for that conflict)
Third: Loot, Salvage and Tags
Pop quiz: where do minerals come from?
Everyone who answered "asteroids", you fail. Minerals currently come from: Drone poo, NPC drops, and mining.
I would seriously like to get rid of minerals from drone poo and NPC drops. Some people want to nerd refining (WTF?). Others want to get rid of drone poo and replace it with CONCORD bounties (lol? CONCORD bounties? On stuff in null sec that none actually cares about?)
I have a better idea: convert all NPC drops (pirates and rogue drones alike) into sleeper-type drops. Some items are in demand from NPCs, other items contribute to invention. More about that later, but the short version is: no longer will 'Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive' drop from NPCs, it will be reverse engineered by capsuleers.
As for rogue drones, I have a special role for them: the loot that they drop will no longer refine to minerals, it will be used as part of the process of manufacturing drone-related stuff: implants, modules and rigs that improve drone DPS, activation range, non-warp speed, etc. The implants thing I'll come back to later.
The primary aim of all of this is two-fold: first, reinforce the role of mining as the source of minerals (the introduction of rogue drones destroyed the value of Jaspet and Omber), secondly add new industry based on sleeper reverse engineering to allow capsuleers to build non-T2 high-meta modules (everything from meta 1 to 15 or whatever the officer modules go for these days). This would also have the side effect of making POS bashing much more rewarding.
Look! We're done with that point. Wasn't that easy?
Fourth: Planetary Resources
One of the background "I can't believe they didn't …" topics during the Incarna fiasco was the incredulity over clothing being introduced into the game without any capsuleer involvement. To address this, I would want to modify the PI manufacturing process to require schematics to be acquired (and researched) in the same way as blueprints.
When schematics can operate like blueprints, we'll be able to make decisions about shoving a schematic original into that PI facility, or only a copy. We might not have a choice, since the Serpentis certainly aren't going to give us an original schematic for their dress uniform! So you get the Noble Exchange Monocle schematic copy from the Noble Exchange LP store, shove it in your PI facility … then some idiot Dust Bunny blows up your factory and steals your billion-ISK income generator! THE NERVE!
|Real friends are the ones who help you keep your secrets.|
So the future of PI industry? More complex manufacturing. Sure, you can keep using the "came in the box" schematics. But the ones you buy on the market are better, as are the ones you extract from the newly built facility, research in your POS, then shove back in the facility with less waste and shorter build times.
Oh, and implants. I definitely want to move implants from "buy the whole item from the LP store" towards "buy key components from the LP store, assemble the damned thing in China … or Aunia, or whichever planet you happen to have going." So take those NPC tags I mentioned earlier, combine them with transcranial microprocessors, a few nanites, some "navigation subroutines" from the LP store: there you have your Rogue CY-1 implant to give you 1-3% more speed.
I'd like to introduce a new resource type into the game: the type referenced by the Resurrection Men, which is extracted expertise. The idea with this would be either that you shove heaps of "livestock" through your extraction facility ("livestock," you ask? you know, janitors, militants, homeless) to get some low-grade extracted subroutines, or find a better grade of livestock and send Dust Bunnies after that source to secure that better grade extracted subroutine.
As an example of how discovery might work: you're in the implant business (you've built at least one implant, or you have at least one implant assembly facility operational). As a result, your establishment (or corporate headquarters) gets visited by a "Shady Dealer" type (or perhaps he just emails you). You are somehow given a lead (for a cash payment, of course): there is this guy in this city on planet X who is real good with computers/fast cars/whatever, and he's hanging around in some dive over there.
Skipping to extraction, that might work like this: If you're fast enough, you can contract some Dust Bunnies to send a team down there, shoot up any other Dust Bunnies who happen to be after the same target (you think the Shady Dealer offers exclusive deals? LOL), capture the hapless soul whose brain you are about to steal, run the extraction process (for game purposes, this could be a few minutes) at the completion of which they have "extracted subroutines" and "contaminated biomass" as outputs.
The Dust Bunnies can then do what they want with the contaminated biomass, but deliver the extracted subroutines back to you (immortal brain-stealing capsuleer you are) so you can then shove that extracted subroutine right back into a special facility on your planet to assemble that 5%/6% implant.
Well, that was how it was supposed to go down. Except your friend Scumbag Steve heard about the transaction, realised there was a 150M ISK implant up for grabs, and organised a lightning strike with his Dust Bunny friends to grab that implant from your facility once it was finished, and split the proceeds 50/50 (but then the Dust Bunnies made off with the implant and left Steve with the bill, because Steve is dumb and paid up front for the equipment the Dust Bunnies needed).
But I'm getting ahead of myself.