Friday, May 3, 2013

Farms and fields will never happen

"Farms and fields" is a long-lasting plan in EVE, shared by both (certain) players and developers. In short, it means that nullsec empires live on PvE done by the members (the peasants on the farms) and roaming marauder gangs plunder them for fun and profit. The only problem is that it doesn't seem to work. Yet another idea was published, but I'm sure it won't work either.

This post isn't the 1589th idea how to implement farms and fields. It's about why the idea can't be implemented and must be abandoned. The short version is: no PvE player will ever fight a roaming gang, because there is no profit in it, there is no chance to win such fight and he can't fight at the first place.

Let's start with "no profit" and compare it with the nullsec blob fights that actually happen. Why there is a profit in engaging a huge enemy fleet and no profit in engaging a small gang? The answer is that for the individual pilot there is no profit in huge fleet battles either, but the pilots are fighting not for profit, but for their "friends". Most social people don't want to be the one who abandoned their friends in the hours of need, even if they rationally know that fighting is a bad idea. On the other hand there is no such social pressure on fighting against a roaming gang. The decision to fight or not is made purely on financial basis and the answer is always "dock up, log highsec alt".

Secondly, you can win a blob fight. Structures are often saved, objectives denided from the attackers. Also the reimbursement of losses can overwhelm the enemy alliance wallet. Forming up and getting hammered can make line members not log in, slowly eating the enemy away. On the other hand, no one ever in the history of EVE defeated a roaming gang as their goal is "shoot stuff, explode and chat with bros". That goal cannot be defeated. Their ships have little value, they don't expect to keep them and they have nothing better to do with their time. You can destroy their fleet hundred times and they will still come back.

Finally a blob fight needs one to anchor up and press F1. It can be done by a miner. Engaging in small-gang PvP needs both skillpoints and game knowledge that the average "farms and fields peasant" do not have. So he cannot engage in combat even if he wants to.

No game mechanics change can force nullsec PvE players to defend their income from roaming gangs. If the changes allow roamers to make serious damage, it can make the PvE to stop and move to highsec, but nothing ever will make a miner or ratter undock a combat ship into a small-gang PvP situation.

Please note that I did not say that there can't be meaningful PvE in nullsec or an alliance can't base itself on farming members (or renters). I'm just saying that they will not provide any fights, they will either handle the PvP-er problem by using disposable ships (Retreivers, Ventures) or by docking up when any threat is present. This behavior makes roaming boring enough that only very bored people do it, therefore their threat is minimal.

17 comments:

Foo said...

At risk of being the 1589th idea, I am not sure I agree.

First of all, there is already a farms and fields zone : currently called the Caldari ice fields.

It might be ganking rather than fighting, but many players seem content with that.

Penny from www.tigerears.org seems to take great delight in hunting down PVE'ers in wormholes.

With an added element of tower defense to afk gankable ships (at the expense of yield), they could almost be a fight.

I am not claiming that these are 'real fights'; though I am not sure how many players actually seek those.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Goblin,

as a industrial myself, i see a little glimpse of hope if the "bounty" or "mercenary" system could undergo yet more changes, so that those are actually "bounty" and "mercenary" systems and not some sick and twisted gameplay joke.

This simply means if i can "reliably" hire mercenary's or "guns" to protect my investment and keep my production lines going and if those "hire" cost are smaller or equal than the loss of shutting down or move my indy operation. I personally would even accept some losses, if the interaction with "pirates" and mercenaries can break my monotone indy live.

In short: Change POS/Bounty/Contract systems in a way, which will make hiring mercenaries a actual valid alternative to dock up or shut down a operation.

I know that this is kinda wishful thinking given the complexity of the problem, but at least i don't think its impossible given EvE's sandbox mechanics.


bye



Anonymous said...

Make farming be the means by which you maintain your sov.

Suddenly farming will happen, defending farmers will happen, attacking farmers will happen and horrible structure grinds will go away.

Gevlon said...

Wrong. Awful lot of posts will happen where alliance leaders tell their line members to go farm in their space to protect their sov.

The line members can't care less about Sov, so if Null farming isn't fun/profitable for them, they won't do it.

Anonymous said...

I thought about that yesterday. And what the problem really boils down to in my opinion is how much ships depend on being either PvE or PvP fitted in Eve.
It severely undermines players flexibility and willingness to just go out, be creative and see what happens.
Why can't i go out and run some sites and if someone tries to jump me i can defend myself in a fair fight? No i have to be paranoid, constantly check my dscan and flee if someone tries to find me. Or the other way around why can't i go out on a roam and if i find no targets run some sites or do some ratting instead? Of course i can try both but a mixed ship is compromised in both aspects.

The PVE vs. PVP dichotomy conditions players who happen so sit in the wrong fit or chose the "wrong profession" to be paranoid and avoid risk. We could do without most of hisec if the players who chose to do a pve activity had proper means to defend themself. For instance give haulers and miners the option to hire protection. Could be NPC ships if it doesn't work with real players. Give low and null miners an extra bay for small sentry or missile batteries that they can anchor in the belts. Stuff like that. And the easiest fix would be to make NPC rats in missions and sites more like player PvP ships. Way smaller numbers but stronger and a little more intelligent. Bam you can run your missions and sites in a PvP ship and decide on the fly if you want to fight another player.

tangurena said...

I think that your perception of nullsec and what PvEers will/won't do is colored too much by your tenure with Test. Test pretty much had no security and roaming gangs would have to get really bad before Test would do anything. In addition, renters were not permitted to participate in fleet operations.

In other nullsec regions that we've rented in, renters would participate in clearing roamers that managed to squeeze past the bubbles and gate camps. I don't recall seeing *any* of those during our tenancy in Fountain.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

Properly mixing PvP and PvE is something of a Holy Grail in MMO design. The business potential for actually achieving proper unity between the two playerbases easily dwarfs most current MMO offerings.

I can't recall any games that managed to achieve this in any stable sort of way. The only thing that comes close is Travian in which PvE takes the form of plundering cities left behind by players that left the game (so is in itself a form of PvP).

Still, lack of success shouldn't stop game developers from trying to achieve it.

As for how to do it, i believe the answer is to treat pve as a kind of a stealth game against pvpers. That is, making situations of disempowerement fun through a dynamic that allows to play for loss minimisation, with smart play leading to slow accumulation of wealth even against constant PvP attacks (and thus inviting attacks from stronger PvPers).

Von Keigai said...

the problem... is how much ships depend on being either PvE or PvP fitted in Eve.
It severely undermines players flexibility and willingness to just go out, be creative and see what happens. [T]he easiest fix would be to make NPC rats in missions and sites more like player PvP ships. Way smaller numbers but stronger and a little more intelligent. Bam you can run your missions and sites in a PvP ship and decide on the fly if you want to fight another player.


Hear hear.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to go back and do a bit more reading Gevlon.

You are 100% correct, farms and fields will break up large alliances because the vast majority wont want to participate in farming to keep their alliance's sov. This is precisely a stated goal of CCP.

Soundwave stopped the concept of an official "treaty" mechanism to formalize coalitions on the grounds that he doesn't like the idea of a few large blocs.

Getting more smaller fractured groups into nulsec means more fights, more epic stories etc. Eve worked just fine before there were only a handful of major powers, with groups banding together for major fights and then punching each other in the face not long after.

If farms and fields makes coordinated groups the size of which we have now a thing of the past and we get back to smaller less coordinated groups then Op Success.

Anonymous said...

"Properly mixing PvP and PvE is something of a Holy Grail in MMO design. The business potential for actually achieving proper unity between the two playerbases easily dwarfs most current MMO offerings."

Question is why the PvP vs. PvE dichotomy in its current shape was established in the first place. I think it has mostly to do with the piss poor AI. The game is quite old now. At the time it probably was the best solution for lack of a proper AI to just throw tons of dumb NPC ships at the PvE players. Way less load on the server as well i think, but i'm not a coder. Just a hunch.

That said it's probably too late now to make any radical changes even if today it was technically possible. The gaming culture in Eve has developed around the mechanics as they are over the last ten years. It will take a different game to try it differently from the start.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

[quote]Question is why the PvP vs. PvE dichotomy in its current shape was established in the first place. I think it has mostly to do with the piss poor AI.[/quote]
No it doesn't.
Game developers had capacity to create AIs that would crush most players easily for over a decade. There is a reason why it is only rarely implemented in games, though.

PvP and PvE are fundamentally different ways to enjoy the game. PvP is all about victory and dominance and proving that you are the best. PvE is more about sensory stimulation, exploration and getting to know the world.

These approaches a mutually exclusive to a very large extent, because in order to satisfy them, a game needs to be good at opposite things.
It is fairly common for people who enjoy PvP more than PvE to limit themselves to just one map in the map pool and reduce graphic detail as much as possible for highest processing accuracy. PvE players, on another hand, nearly always exhibit opposite desires and behaviour patterns.

When PvPers is forced to play PvE, he is trying to dominate the world. When PvEer is forced to play PvP, he is trying to get to know his opponents and enjoy time spent together.

It is a hard thing to reconcile. So far it has been easier to just keep the velociraptors away from the triceratopses.

Anonymous said...

Carrier rat with friends spread out over many systems. As soon as a small gang lands, cyno up and have everyone jump to you. Instant slowcat fleet.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: the solution is making a choice and develop the game for one type. There is no problem in Counterstrike or Lego has no such problems.

Anonymous said...

Maxim i disagree. The culture in Eve (carebears, gankers, blobs etc) is something that has developed as a result of the mechanics. It's not designed towards purpossefully in my opinion. It just feels so natural now because thats what Eve players are used to.

Of course i could be wrong but let me explain why i think otherwise.

Immersion plays a big role in every RPG. Idealy the game world should feel like a living, breathing and consistent thing to achieve this. PvE (or PvP in viceversa) in Eve breaks this immersion. In one moment you are super badass starship commander, taking on dozens of ships at the same time, tanking half a fleet of battleships. The next moment you get jumped and ganked in one alpha by some guy in a cheap ship.

Or when you have to dock and switch ships for PvP. Why? A combat ship should be a combat ship. It's like the US Navy going back to home and switching their fleet when they realise "oh today we're not gonna fight Iraq but North Korea so switch ships because the current fleet is useless against North Korea".

You say the PvE and PvP approaches are mutualy exclusive. I disagree. In every singleplayer game thers only one set of rules and that worked for decades. In a sandbox game like Skyrim you have a lot of choice what to do. You can play warrior, you can play stealthy, you can just walk around enjoying the landscape killing nothing. All with one set of rules. And the world feels consistent and immersive. If some of the NPC's were replaced by real players it wouldn't feel much different. Actualy it would feel even better.

So if you're good at shooting NPC spaceships why do you have to be afraid of real players spaceships? Because of the artificiality of the two different rule sets. It's schizophrenic. Even more so when you think about that many pvpers have themself carebear accounts to farm isk.

"Game developers had capacity to create AIs that would crush most players easily for over a decade. There is a reason why it is only rarely implemented in games, though."

I think in Eve its hard to implement with the current system because everybody plays on the same shard and can come into your "dungeon". So the AI has to be calculated on the server side.

Thats really what it boils down to imo why the mechanics in Eve are as they are.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

@Gevlon
This is not the solution, but rather avoiding a problem that you don't know how to solve.

All i'm saying here is that there is a game design challenge here that is potentially worth a lot of money.

It is true that the only solution we have available for us at the moment is to keep PvE and PvP separate. Doesn't mean we should stop looking for something different.

Think of it as a gamedesign equivalent of a Millenium problem in math :D


@Anon just above

I'll try to put it as nicely as i can.
You seem to have a very naive and simplistic view of what it takes to design a compelling game experience.

You can't just add multiplayer to a single-player RPG and expect it to become a great MMO. By the same token, you can't just add AI pilots to Eve and expect it to become a great single-player game.

Sure, a single mechanic can support multiple kinds of experience. But a single mechanic can also kill multiple kinds of experience. And as it turns out, mechanics that support PvE experience tend to kill PvP experience and vice-versa.

There is a reason why in Journey you are only allowed to interact with other players through white pings.

Anonymous said...

"I'll try to put it as nicely as i can.
You seem to have a very naive and simplistic view of what it takes to design a compelling game experience."

I make a living designing games. Granted i have mostly first person and third person shooters on my CV. It's far less complex then a MMORPG.

If you find my view simplistic and naiv, well a comment in a blog isn't the same as a 500 page game design document. It's bound to express ideas in a more broad fashion.

That said i have tremendous respect for the amount of balancing that the guys at CCP have to deal with. Within the mechanics that they have put in place they did a fantastic job balancing the ships and fits. For us players its easy to complain about imbalances that are "so obvious" and "easy to fix". (not excluding myself)

However i stand by my opinion that the PvP vs. PVE dichotomy is at the core of many things that plague Eve. Of course you're right that sp and mp games can't be compared so easily. But for my example with Skyrim. Imagine it was an MMO. You are doing a dungeon, then another player comes in. Instead of fighting him right away you run out of the dungeon into the next town, switch your sword and set of armor and then run back. Another example you succesfully fight a dragon in shiny armor with a magical sword then comes a half naked goblin ;) and knocks you out from behind with a single hit of a wooden club. Both examples sound ridiculous, right? But that's exactly how Eve works.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

@Anon
We already have plenty MMOs which do forced separation of PvP and PvE, foremost among them WoW.

Eve is interesting precisely because it's the most prominent MMO among those who don't do forced separation outside of general security level of specific game zones. And even then you can still gank in highsec :)

Either way, as you correctly pointed out, you can't separate PvE from PvP in current Eve without completely ruining the Eve experience. But then the interesting question is this.

Would you rather:
- Eve developers looked for ways to strengthen their unique selling point by making PvP and PvE parts of the game work better together,
-- or --
- Eve developers looked for ways to dissociate Eve PvP from Eve PvE, for example by making it impossible to encounter a non-AI pilot in some PvE situations?

I'm more interested in 1st, because 2nd is simply WoW in space.

-------
P.S: if you need 500 page design document to make a solid point that doesn't appear simplistic or naive, you are doing it wrong.

Subscribe to the goblinish wisdom