Two words that conjure up images of miners and missioners. In other words, people taking part in EVE’s player versus environment content. Content that, in my experience, is useful but without challenge. Hell, to put it bluntly, it is too damn easy.
Now before I go into what my own ideal PvE experience would entail, allow me to go over my own history with regards to both mining and missions in EVE.
I started playing EVE back in 2006. Like many other players, I stayed in my “safe” NPC corporation and followed the advice of many of the veterans there. That advice was to stay put and learn how to mine and mission while training learning skills (remember those?), until some mythical point in time when “you can be useful in pvp” or “are able to join a good corp.”
Mining was pretty straightforward to grasp. Land near rocks, lock on, use mining lasers, get ore. This was followed by train X skill to get a better ship to mine with, Y skill to improve my yield from refining and Z skill to allow me to use T2 mining crystals. Around this time the need for an alt, or a friend to move ore, developed. Before you know it your logistical chain is all set up and you are making money from the refined minerals, or using them to build ships and ammo for yourself and friends. The only challenge is finding belts that are not frequented by bot armadas.
Missioning was even easier to understand. Especially with the then-nascent EVE Survival site. It was, and still is, a matter of knowing what damage to tank, what damage to deal, and what not to shoot first. I found myself looking for some challenge, using a Rokh of all things, which way back was a terrible idea due to hybrids not being the best of weapons.
Nowadays, in addition to mining and mission running (which really have not changed much in seven years), you have incursions. Incursions are group PvE content against NPCs that actively use electronic and capacitor warfare to easily break an unwary group.
Despite changes made by CCP in the past couple of years, including the addition of an element of randomisation, incursions have been reduced to something simple to run with the minimum of thought as long as everyone is fit a particular way (often blingy), understands their role, and follows the commands of their raid leader (or FC if you want to be nice about it).
One positive that I have seen come out of incursions is an increasing number of pilots that, when PvPing following a stint doing incursions, know how to follow orders, understand broadcasts, are pretty good logistics pilots and have even grasped the importance of transversal.
For me, and I say as this someone who does not PvE in EVE and has not for several years, I would love to see better, more challenging experiences; things that would make me want to engage in PvE in EVE. And not for any particular reward beyond a sense of satisfaction that I, and a group of my friends, overcame something together. Something that evokes the same type of emotion achieved after triumphing in a particularly hard PvP encounter.
Personally I think missions against NPCs that are fit for PvP, that react more like players to your actions or ship types would be great. NPCs that would require a small group to work against, NPCs that would be variable enough that you could not min/max against them. Yes, this is something you see touted around quite a lot, and yes it is something would require a huge AI rework – dev time that arguably could be spent better elsewhere – but what attracted me to EVE in the first place was spaceships. Not the PvP, but spaceships. And if the PvE was as interesting as the PvP can be, I would probably still be doing it today. That would be worth dev time in my opinion.
Obviously the above is a pipe dream if I am truly honest, so how about a refactor of combat missions at level 3 and higher that replaces the current rats with ones that utilise the Sansha AI? Fewer rats and more group activity could possibly provide “mission” corps an actual reason to exist, as well as teach players the positives I listed above that are currently learned in incursions. Such a change would also have to feature a refactor of mission income to accommodate groups, but as to how such a thing should work, I am no economist.
It is my experience that PvE in EVE is easy. You do it to make ISK, or to get the minerals to build “stuff”, or maybe as a way to socialise with a group of people who share your ideals. But you most certainly do not do it as a challenge and I think that should change. Games should make you think. If you disagree with me, then let me know in the comments, while you AFK just one more mission.