Kazanir and the Progression Curve in EVE Online

With The Mittani gone we have been having some different people speak at the weekly coalition fireside meetings, which take place on Sunday at the meeting point between EUTZ and USTZ peak times.  So we have had TheAdj, Asher, and this past week, Apple Pear speak to the coalition about what is going on.  It is usually war and policy updates, calls for help on specific fronts (more PI production please!), and a few questions from the audience.

This week, after Apple Pear’s terse comments… he is a man of few words and we respect that… we got a second speaker, Kazanir.

Kazanir is on the GSF finance team and also a new member of the CSM, having been at the top of the Imperium ballot in the CSM17 election.

The CSM17 Winners

Kazanir wanted to speak to us about EVE Online, its current issues, and what he thinks the problems might be.

I know, everybody has their pet theory about why “EVE is dying” this week.  I know I do.  If there isn’t a Reddit thread about it on any given day it is a minor miracle.  Most of them focus on symptoms and quick fixes or wishful thinking about turning back the clock to a more glorious era when we didn’t have… *checks notes*… warp to zero as an option.

Seriously, people are still bringing that up and that has been gone since the Revelations expansion back in 2006.

Anyway, Kazanir, who came back to EVE Online for World War Bee and got deeply involved in helping keep the coalition afloat and able to pay its bills, took his election to the CSM seriously and began to research what has happened over the years and how we got to where we are today.

His first discovery was that, so far as null sec is concerned at least, all the elements of the game have pretty much been in place since 2005’s Red Moon Rising expansion.  By that point the game had dreadnoughts, carriers, supercarriers (motherships back then), titans, tech II production, moon mining, player owned structures, null sec sovereignty, and the basics of everything that makes null sec what it is even today.

Yes, things have changed since then.  There is no AOE titan doomsdays through cynos obliterating whole subcap fleets… something else that gets asked for now and then on Reddit… and moon sovereignty is now two sov systems ago.  But the essentials were in place.

And with that things carried on and wars were fought about which books have been published.

Until they didn’t.  So the question became what changed, and Kazanir has two working theories on what is missing from the game.

  • Progression – The Curse of Cheap Capitals and Easy Skill Points

The first item Kazanir brought up was progression.  For a long time titans, while not as rare as CCP thought they would be, were still pretty special ships.  The battle at B-R5RB probably had more impact on the game than the two battles at M2-XFE because titans were just tougher to get back then.

Getting into a titan took a lot of time and planning and ISK.  Time and ISK were a barrier to capital proliferation and made titans an aspirational goal.  You had to work and wait to get one.  Even if you bought a titan pilot at the character bazaar, there was still ISK to be earned for both the pilot and the hull.

That went away for with some often discussed changes.  Rorquals, skill injectors, and the opening of the ISK faucet with super ratting all combined to make titans much more easily obtained.

If you could get into a carrier… and even I was able to get into a carrier before these changes… you could bulk up your wallet and spend the ISK on skill injectors to make a titan alt right away.  Or you could just buy PLEX and sell it on the market.  ISK was all around us.

Meanwhile, Rorqual mining… also a big ISK earner for pilots, though not an ISK faucet… made collecting all the minerals required to build capitals, all the way up to titans, but faster and cheaper.

Somewhere I have a screen shot of the price list from a capital building service in Delve back in the heyday of the titan boom and titan hulls were maybe 60 billion ISK, while supercarriers were under 20 billion.  It was a bonanza for pilots who wanted to fly big iron.

For Reavers Secret Santa a couple of years back I gave somebody a fully fit Apostle because it wasn’t even a 2 billion ISK spend.  Somebody gave me a Ninazu the next year.  No big deal.

It was clearly out of hand and CCP felt they had to do something about it.  After two years of slow nerfs to Rorquals and capital ratting, CCP decided to really bring the hammer down and we got austerity as a permanent feature of New Eden.

There is less ISK coming into the economy, everything costs more, and the resources to build things are harder to come by.  Did this solve the problem?

Kazanir says “no.”

What he sees is an end to progression.  After years of titans rolling off the assembly line like sausages, they are now very expensive to build or replace.  PLEX is more expensive.  Skill injectors are more expensive.  To get from new player to titan pilot is now a much more arduous journey… or expensive if you want to credit card your way into the big hulls.

Pilots, corps, and alliances that got in on the boom years now have a leg up.  Kazanir says that austerity helped us win World War Bee because the Imperium held enough of a capital advantage that we couldn’t be overwhelmed and the economy no longer supported the ability to catch up even though we were stuck in a single constellation in Delve.

So what should CCP do?

Kazanir’s idea is to restore progression, which means loosening up the economy and minerals at one end of things while adding more progression at the other end.  Tech II capitals, supers, and titans, more faction capitals, maybe something beyond titans… something to give people an aspiration goal, including those who already have a few titans sitting in hangars… that will also push the economy by increasing demand.  The velocity of ISK has been on a long downward trend, and now the concurrent player numbers have joined its slide.

He says that it can’t be a WoW-like progression treadmill.  But right now there is just stagnation due to CCP’s dramatic clamp down on the economy.

  • Moon Mining and the Value of Space

The other item that Kazanir brought up was that holding null sec space doesn’t have any particular value.  This was due to changes made by CCP to moon mining.

Moons used to be a big conflict driver.  We invaded Fountain and fought TEST back in 2013 ostensibly because we wanted their moons.  Treaties and unlikely alliances and wars of aggression were fought over moons.

One of the big Upwell structure changes was drilling platforms replacing the old moon mining POS arrays.  Moon mining went from a passive activity to a very active one where you needed multiple pilots to collect the yield of a frack.  As CCP Rattati told us all on Reddit, “solo moon mining isn’t a god given right.”

The problem, as Kazanir lays it out, is that there is no way to turn space profitable by taking it in any sort of reasonable time frame.  Back in the day you could bash somebody’s POS, replace it with your own, and be mining moon goo right away.  There is no conflict driver because moons take a month to get spun up, need a fleet to mine out, and the output is not all that valuable any more.

So there needs to be a new conflict driver in null sec that makes space worth holding, that makes it worth a small group grabbing some distant constellation or even a system so they can do something with it beyond planting a flag.

We’re out burning down FI.RE space right now, but we have no intention of keeping it.  It adds no value and is too far from home for us to hold and maintain and farm.

Does that mean we should go back to passive POS mining?  Probably not.  But something needs to drive conflict beyond the major powers just shooting each other in order to burn down some structures and go home.

  • Now What?

Is any of this true?  I mean, it sounds reasonable.  Certainly the traditional way for an MMO to get out of economic stagnation is to grow and inflate itself out the problem, to give players more money and expensive new toys to build or buy.  Players don’t love it when it becomes a recurring endless treadmill of progression.  But right now the veteran player base, the core of any game, has no real progression at all.

Likewise, the current structure and sovereignty system has been seen as more of an impediment that an incentive for war.  I’ve been on eight hour long sov tug of war battles where it is just a grind to see which side will get tired and go home.  That isn’t sparkling game play.

Can Kazanir do anything about this on the CSM?  Probably not.

He can bring his ideas to CCP, but they have to be receptive and, the current team running the game has been sticking to its guns that the only way to preserve the game is to keep the economy stuck in low gear lest players advance too quickly.

Anyway, it will be something to watch in the coming year.

I have tried to transmit Kazanir’s ideas to a blog post, but I fear I have not done him justice.  The fireside was recorded however, and that recording is up on a public server if you want to listen to him speak yourself.  It is about a 15 minute listen.

Kazanir starts speaking at the 5:40 mark if you wish to jump ahead and get straight to that.

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8 thoughts on “Kazanir and the Progression Curve in EVE Online

  1. Angry Onions

    No matter what a company does, PvP will only drive a game so far. PvP games die once they run out of potential defeated or run into guaranteed winners.

    EVE Online just hit both dead ends. New players can’t win and Goons won’t lose. And PvP players surely made sure that PvE was never a thing that detracted from their gameplay.

    Also didn’t help Hilmar putting lipstick on the old pig with the big sell of Rorqual piloting plus books and goodies plus whatever could convince a sucker to throw money at CCP’s one game and success.

    But all in all, there is no reason why a new player should start playing EVE Online today, as EVE Online has only one reason to be played, and that reason has reached its natural conclusion. Someone won and the rest lost. You can’t win against the stacked wealth of knowledge, assets and manpower of the big players and the biggest player of all won’t lose. The EVE puzzle is solved, check for another game.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Angry Onions – I’m going to disagree on a couple of larger points.

    First, given the company has managed to get by on PvP for almost 20 years at this point, your statement that “PvP will only drive a game so far” seems unsupported. After all, PvE needs constant new content and progression, a whole new set of objectives every other year, if we use WoW as a model, that pretty much invalidate what went before. That isn’t the only alternative, but it is the most common one, and it has a lot of issues on its own. Again, WoW is your guide there. PvE will only carry you so far as well, unless you renew it somehow.

    Second, your statement rests heavily on the idea that null sec PvP is the only thing worth doing in EVE Online. While null sec is the splashy, headline grabbing part of the game, I would guess that only a quarter to a third of the players are part of that aspect of it. There are a lot of other things to do and some larger groups get involved in wormhole space, faction warfare, low sec battles, industry, mining, and the range of PvE options that CCP provides. They are inter-linked through the economy and a huge null sec battle can impact the market in Jita. But defeating Goons isn’t the end game objective and I would guess that nearly half the people who play the game don’t know or care about Goons.

    That said, you basic premise, that it isn’t worth starting to play now, might not be wholly wrong in the context of this post. Kazanir’s argument is that CCP first made progression too easy a few years back, allowing Goons and other big groups to jump to the end of the current content cycle, then turned around and nerfed progression so badly that a new player has little chance of reaching that pinnacle without spending a lot of real world money on the task. CCP has made sure you can buy your way to the top.

    The proposal is that CCP needs to add more progression so that even those at the top of the current food chain have work to do in order to stay on top. Right now a bunch of people have titans and there is nowhere further to go. CCP shouldn’t add something that makes all past progression meaningless, the way WoW does with expansions, but they need something for long time player to work towards. And, in doing that, they should also loosen up progression towards the current peak so that newer players and groups have some chance of getting there.

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  3. Nogamara

    On the danger of sounding like a broken record, there’s also a middle ground of players who have (completely) missed this age of prosperity – often newer players (when did scarcity officially begin?), or idiots like me who were just unsubscribed for exactly those 2b caps days. And I can’t actually complain because I managed to snag a single unfitted Minokawa for 1b, just as the price spiked, simply because I had finished my months’ long training at exactly that point.

    I’m not really complaining that I have it so hard and the old players have it so easy, no it’s mostly this “several alliances have so much money, we simply can’t compete” – but maybe if they only were smaller it wouldn’t be quite so bad. We saw it with the Imperium becoming so big and menacing that 2/3 of the server banded together… and still didn’t win, and apparently rebuilding worked, but now again we have 3 main players and it’s the same.

    I guess I’m mostly agreeing with those points you quoted Kazanir on, I’m just not sure if Titan was really the real final goal for most players. I know quite a few who have flown caps and went back to Frigate 1v1s, and many more who want a Titan just to bridge and look at it. But T2 Caps would indeed be an interesting idea.

    Kinda torn on the “space needs to be meaningful” – and it’s as much of a meme as anything else, if you have renters you have use for space, at least that’s still Fraternity’s offical casus belli for Pure Blind, Fade, Deklein.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Nogamara – Certainly on the “space needs to be meaningful” part, that is something I’ll cop to most of the game not caring about directly. And the Imperium has taken a hard line of being against renting. But I do get the whole “moons as conflict drives” part of the argument. Look at the value of moon mining for the July MER, which I just posted about today. I make more on PI than most regions generate in moon mining value. Whether or not you think passive moon mining was bad, at that level of value moons are not driving any conflicts.

    For the rest of it, I mostly thought it was an interesting look at progression and I can see his points. It probably shouldn’t be limited to capitals and supers, or to null sec related things because there is a wider audience in New Eden. The progression idea aligns with my gut feeling on CCP’s austerity plan, that you can’t go back the way they are trying to, that you can really only go forward and ride the inflation in order to keep the game viable.

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  5. Nogamara

    I’m sorry, I don’t really follow your math here at all.

    So the graph at [1] has Querious at nearly exactly _1b m3_ of Ore mined.
    Dotlan [2] says there are 95 moons in Querious and around 34 of them are R64.

    I’m not really a proficient miner but when we had 2 R64s in Querious we had 2 week pulls, so I think I mined (2-3 accounts times 2 pulls times 2 moons times 2 hours) for maybe 20 hours a month, and that’s stretching it. And I walked out with billions per month. I have no idea how much of the stuff (especially R16…) was left on the field but all BRAVE’s public moons were absolutely 100% picked clean. So just from projecting my back of the hand numbers we’d have a couple people each making 2-5 bil on 2 moons, that times 16, just for R64, so a very very conservative estimate would be 200b just for Querious. Either my math is off or you are really, really proficient with PI ;)

    My suspicion is that any ISK values for mining are based on Moon _ORE_ where the Jita Buy is literal pennies and not based on Moon _GOO_. That’s how you calculate “2-3h of work for 1b”, which I find more realistic.

    [1]: https://images.ctfassets.net/7lhcm73ukv5p/6kYTKrG0x3QjL1TCIDSFiP/837d1ca488739add19d87654e54219e3/3_moon_ore_mined_by_region.png
    [2]: https://evemaps.dotlan.net/region/Querious/moons

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  6. Nogamara

    Oops, I had missd the “Total mining value per region” graphic [1] – which has Querious at 268b – so my estimate didn’t seem to be too far off – but now I understand your paragraph about the July numbers even less, I’m sorry. Maybe it’s all my fault, but I find 16-600b per region pretty realistic,and millions does not work at all. Also last addition: my yield and price numbers were obviously from spring 2021, when we held Querious, but I know of no huge mining changes since then (the lowsec split was before that, and moon mining looks unchanged).

    [1] https://images.ctfassets.net/7lhcm73ukv5p/7j51PpZvP2kW2caMqZEWoG/4c23560a4e1d1bbc2c28c084623f235d/3_mining_value_by_region.png

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Nogamara – You’re looking at total mining, which includes anomalies (asteroid and ice) as well as gas mining, with that chart. In the regional stats .csv file there is now a column for moon mining total value, which gives the top ten regions by value of moon ore mined as:

    Vale of the Silent – 257 million
    Delve – 198 million
    Perrigen Falls – 146 million
    The Kalevala Expanse – 137 million
    Domain – 135 million
    The Citadel – 131 million
    Malpais – 119 million
    Insmother – 111 million
    Genesis – 93 million
    Metropolis – 89 million

    Remember, as part of austerity or whatever we call it, CCP took all normal minerals out of moon fracks. It is just moon goo now.

    Now, CCP could be totally wrong with those numbers I suppose, but those are the numbers they are providing which make it seem like moon mining isn’t a very big deal. Moon goo isn’t very valuable right now, which is why we all fly HACs because they are cheap relative to battleships.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I also added a link to Dunk Dinkle’s new post about the state of EVE in 2022 to this end of this post as it covers some of the same ground, though proposes more radical alternatives.

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