Sins of a Solar Spymaster #46 The Facebook Expansion
It's been a few weeks since the release of Tyrannis, and I find myself
continually finding excuses to delay writing a review of it. First I
put it off because the entire focus of Tyrannis - its headline feature,
Planetary Interaction (PI) - wasn't actually available until a week
after the patch went live. Then I put it off because I was hoping to
see what impact PI would have on the markets, but CCP hasn't removed
the NPC-seeded goods from the pre-Tyrannis economy, and it's not clear
that they'll do so anytime soon. Finally I realized that I was delaying
the review simply because I did not want to admit, in print, the truth:
Tyrannis is basically Facebook for style="font-style: italic;">EVE,
complete with it's own
It's an ugly realization, because you then inevitably imagine some CCP
devs goofing off at the office and messing about on Facebook and
playing Farmville. Then one of them has an Eureka moment and blurts
out, "Hey! Let's do this, but IN SPACE!" Six months later and an awful
lot of hype we have Tyrannis, which brings us Eve Gate (ie: Spacebook)
and Planetary Interaction (Planetville?). And a new Scorpion
model. I had written a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/83514" id="h1-5"
several months ago warning against this development direction, and
sadly here we are. With gritted teeth, it's time to get it over with
and examine the micro-level impact of this patch, and see if it has any
interesting implications for nullsec dwellers.
Gate! It's Facebook. In space. It looks like Facebook, it has contacts
like Facebook. The good thing is that I can finally check my evemail
via the web. All the same, it's hard to get folks excited about a
reskinned Facebook. Next!
Planetary Interaction: Obligatory
Planetville joke aside, PI deserves a more serious review than Eve Gate.
First of all, I respect one of the intentions of PI greatly; it was
designed to allow people to have something to fiddle with while in
fleets or on ops. You can now move your little planet-harvesters around
while chilling on a gate or listening to your FC freak out about
something; EVE has always lacked for minigames to give pilots something
to do during the 'boring bits', and PI is our first Bejeweled or
Farmville timewaster that's actually inside the game client.
The problem is that PI could have been so much more. Perhaps it will
develop into something greater in time, but as it stands right now it's
frighteningly similar to the aforementioned farming browser game. You
mine some stuff; you build a little network of extractors which go into
factories which spits out, well, POS mods, mostly. If we were going to
have a timewaster minigame, couldn't it have had more game and less
timewaster? There are many other browser games that CCP could have
cribbed design notes from (city-level Civilization clones seem
particularly popular at the moment); these at least provide a challenge
greater than 'scan mineral source, adjust extractor location'.
That said, PI has several implications for the entire game. It shows
CCP's intent to have a completely player-created economy, removing many
of the NPC-seeded items. This is, broadly, a good thing; it means there
is more chaos and involvement and opportunity for things to Go
Hellishly Wrong, which is what makes EVE interesting. Logistically PI
provides nullsec alliances the ability to locally produce outposts,
control towers and cumbersome mods such as Capital Assembly Arrays;
this allows alliances with organized PI setups to completely skip
freighter ops through chokepoints. Alliances won't even need to do the
PI themselves; they can ship PI-produced modules to nullsec in a jump
freighter from empire, then assemble the bulky components which would
ordinarily be manually freightered on site. This makes nullsec
logistics even easier and safer - and thus possibly more stagnant,
depending on how you view the optimum risk/reward spectrum.
The implementation of the PI system has been - to put it charitably -
rocky. When first patched, tower modules could be refined, which
allowed players to reprocess certain mods to create mass numbers of PI
modules; this essentially allowed many alliances to create outpost eggs
out of thin air. Right now you can set up a PI network to produce
items, but every item produced by PI can presently be purchased from
NPCs at a fixed rate; until the seeded items are removed, the entire PI
economy is a sham. This means that we can't judge what that economy
will be like, and the seeds also allow speculators to stockpile an
endless number of seeded mods at a vastly discounted rate.
Empire Mission Stealth Nerf: This
is one of my favorite features of Tyrannis, and is probably better for
the health of the game than anything else. The loot tables for empire
missions have been nerfed broadly - by expanding the drop rates for
named modules and removing mineral-heavy 'meta 0' drops. This means
that the isk value of named mods have plummeted, and the risk-free
iskmaking of the average empire dweller has taken a huge hit. As a
nullsec dweller it's always rubbed me the wrong way that Raven pilots
in the Forge can hoover up isk without putting anything on the line,
while in nullsec we live in relative poverty; slowly the balance seems
to be shifting.
Insurance Adjustment: My
eyes glaze over at the mention of insurance rates, but this is actually
a significant change. For a long time, 'insurance fraud' has
artificially inflated the costs of highend minerals; by increasing T2
insurance payouts and reducing T1 insurance, the bottom has fallen out
of the highend mineral market. Similarly, certain ships which were
previously only used at great cost are now worth using in mass fleets;
expect a lot more HAC ops called, because they now cost about as much
to lose as a battleship.
The Scorpion: There's
a CCP dev whose name is sadly unknown to me. He sketched out the
Scorpion, as well as designed for the Alliance Tournament prize ships.
The new Scorpion is hands-down the best looking ship in EVE, and
whoever this dev is, he needs to be immediately re-tasked to updating
the older ship designs. There's an obvious talent there, a gift, and
that talent needs to fix the Raven. And the Bellicose hulls. And the
Dominix. You get the idea. I've never seen so many Scorpions on ops
before, and it's the closest thing to an unmitigated crowd-pleaser that
Tyrannis has to offer.
So, the verdict? Tyrannis could have been so much more. Perhaps it will
be eventually, one of those 'organic growth' patches which we are
presently underwhelmed with, but eventually some 'really cool stuff'
comes out of it. The shift to having the economy being entirely
player-based is good; the nerfing of risk-free empire missions is good,
and the Scorpion owns. But it's hard to say that this is an expansion
in the sense that Dominion was, where the game was radically altered
and major new features were added that affected everyone; Tyrannis
feels more like a bugfix with Spacebook and Planetville tacked on.
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