The commonly held answer to making space worth living in is to make things more valuable in that space thus enticing people to live there. But time and time again, it seems to be that when the discussion of wealth appears, there is a notion that perhaps too much value has the exact opposite effect. Wormhole farming holes, moon mining, and a variety of other activities generate some very large income streams for players. My own minor foray into industry has netted me a larger income stream than anything I have generated in wormhole space for seemingly far less effort and certainly less risk. And this was not even a skill intensive or organizationally difficult thing to do. If the wealthy only get wealthier as income is buffed to increase the desirability of space, at what point does the income discourage people from occupying space because they already have enough wealth?
Enter the newbro
Our corporation has traditionally been made up of older players with a strong RL > EVE slant to our playstyle. I've blogged here about this before and it continues to be a major part of our identity. But I am also someone that believes strongly in the health of EVE and that lies in newer players. As I have dabbled recently in using OpenShift to run LMEVE for my industry efforts, I used this as an opportunity to do a bit of data mining, for lack of a better phrase, of zKillboard's API for wormhole kills. Without going into too much detail, I have a nice integration with our Slack chat for the corporation that gives me some insight into players who are involved in their first PvP in wormhole space. Most of this takes the form you would expect of a player being violenced while performing another activity. What surprised me was both the quantity of these "first" deaths as well as the high percentage of them that were very very new players. Whether this is a side effect of the new opportunities system or something else, it is hard to say, but I am consistently seeing players less than a week old who find themselves in wormhole space only to meet an unfortunate end.
I've started reaching out to these players both as a possible recruitment vehicle, but additionally to be a kind of olive branch for wormhole space. It isn't uncommon for wormholers who violence new players to repay their victim's losses. We are an honorable bunch for the most part. But I certainly don't want people to shy away from wormhole space just because their first or their early encounters with it were unfavorable. The efforts have been encouraging and I am enjoying being able to talk with these players and give advice on living in wormhole space or just surviving in it. I admire the work I see CSM members like Sugar Kyle and Mike Azariah helping in Rookie Help or with Mike's Magic School Bus program. Being able to do something myself on a smaller scale is very enjoyable.
One thing that has come up repeatedly with newer players is, of course, income. As new players without much knowledge of game mechanics, their options appear limited. They have dreams of PLEXing their accounts without much of a chance of doing that especially now that PLEX prices are over 1B and climbing (more on that later). When we have brought new players into the corporation and set them on a path that includes T2 cloak, gas harvesting, and Hacking V, their income from activities they were doing before (exploration and mining in HS) to wormhole based activities (exploration and gas mining in wormholes), it is seems to me to be a bit like this
Of course, in light of my previous musings, it stuck out to me. He's probably right. As the newest of players with a minimum of skills and being steered by us into support skills and not the next ship class, he probably didn't have anything he really could spend his money on. He wasn't speed training to fly a battleship like many high-sec dwellers do, he wasn't losing ships to NPC rats in level 3 missions before he could adequately run them. Maybe he's losing a scanning ship here or there to other wormhole hunters, but the value of those ships is typically covered by one round on ninja gas mining in our static C5 or one relic site in our static C3. As far as the average newbro was concerned, it does seem that our efforts to bring them into wormhole space results in some very quick income but from a couple limited sources. Where they go wrong is jumping into a combat ship and trying to take on sleepers only to be insta-popped.
The players who are not trying to PLEX an account very quickly get into a place where they have more money than they know what to do with... which I have to wonder if it is a good thing or not. I find myself in a similar situation many times. I am not chasing the ever costlier PLEX demon. My reason for logging in, therefore, isn't to make ISK. I have enough ISK. A few exploration sites here and there or some gas in my hold covers me for quite a while as long as I'm not out whelping ships into sleepers or other players. This makes me think back to our null-sec brothers above. A few ratting sites here and there or those same exploration sites we find in wormhole space now, and they too probably have enough ISK to survive. Add in Ship Replacement Programs and where is the motivation to log on when you have all that you need?
The typical wormhole resident will probably shout "PvP!" in response which, in many cases, is correct. PvP incurs losses, requires ISK to replace, and is the catalyst that makes people have to engage their income streams to replenish their wallets. If the cries of null-sec residents are to believed, fights are few and far between or people are simply not motivated to find them or seek them out as the case may be. Many a wormhole resident will tell you the same story, that wormhole space is a wasteland and finding people to engage is harder and harder. Of course, not everyone desires or is cut out for the life of a combat pilot. For all those players, I do have to wonder where the motivation to play comes from when the wallet is fat and things are plentiful. Most of my EVE career was spent in days of squalor where I never seemed to have enough ISK so I was constantly hunting for more.
We've almost come full circle now. Players ask for system to be worth more to give them a reason to take them (conflict driver). Systems are worth more resulting in players having enough ISK to sustain their play. Players are no longer motivated to seek more wealth. Conflict dies due to a lack of reasons to engage in it.
This is a very generalized view of things but there is some truth, I think, in it. Take a look at the PLEX market. 1.1B and climbing. PLEX prices rise when there is decreased supply and when there is increased demand.
PLEX supply comes from players purchasing PLEX for ISK. I would presume that players paying for their accounts outright do not do so by buying PLEX and redeeming them, for the most part. So if more players are experiencing enough wealth in game to sustain their activity, they do not have a need to purchase PLEX for additional income.
PLEX demand comes from players PLEXing their accounts or PLEX investors buying it as part of their market strategy. As prices increase, however, one has to think that PLEX demand from players PLEXing their accounts decreases. This may seem backwards from my earlier statements on wealth, but there is a difference between having adequate income to fund your in-game playstyle and having adequate income to fund your account game time. Both of these things combine to put upward pressure on PLEX. Now I am no economist and these are very general observations.
As I mentioned at the beginning, these are a series of thoughts that have been percolating around in my head. They may be a bit of rambling, but I am very interested in some of the things I see on the horizon from CCP. One of them being Drifter Incursions, currently disabled on Tranquility. On the surface, they appear to be an unwinnable contest, very different from Sansha incursions which are pointed to consistently as a negative in EVE due to their massive income potential. Drifter Incursions do not seem to be able to be beaten in the traditional sense and that the only way to consistently "win" is to actually lose ships to them as you beat them with others. You can come out ahead if you are efficient in your losses, but it is not likely to ever be a big money gain unless we are missing something fundamental in our style of fighting drifters. Add to that the fact that the Drifter Incursion spreads if not dealt with and you have a very interesting NPC dynamic never seen before in EVE. One where players are almost required to lose ships in battle in order to fight back an in game foe. The implications of this for the NPC side of EVE are very interesting. It invokes the idea that PvE content is not entirely about endless income, but about actually engaging in a storyline for the betterment of all of EVE because the alternative would have very real negative consequences in game. As far as conflict drivers go, this certainly is one way to generate conflict through PvE with players fighting against a relentless and unbeatable foe in the traditional sense of PvE combat. Imagine if more and more PvE in EVE becomes this attrition style combat. Those would be interesting times indeed.
On the player versus player side, I think the answer to conflict is far more complex. Certainly PvE ties in as that is the very thing that players ask for and CCP provides to make space worth something. Upcoming changes moving from POS structures to Citadels and new structures have an opportunity to shake up many income levels of EVE from mining to moon harvesting. Changes that impact income streams have the greatest possibility for real change in how players behave within the game. I am very hopeful as we enter into the end of this year that we will see some very impactful shifts in EVE that will have far reaching consequences that will improve the overall health of the game. Some of these changes may not, on their surface, be seen as positives, much like Drifter Incursions, but deep down, these adjustments are fundamental to the game. I'm hopeful that our corporation will continue to adjust and thrive through these changes and I'm looking towards these new players as a fresh source of life and will be doing all I can to continue to encourage them in this game that I have come to love so much.