The PvE Experience: Part I – Stagnation


This is the first of a three-part opinion series where I will look at my experiences of PvE in EVE Online, suggest where and why it is broken and stagnant, how to improve it for players in highsec and finally how to improve it for players in nullsec.

When push comes to shove, I’m a carebear.

Despite spending, what is now the majority of my six-and-a-half years in New Eden, living in nullsec, I am still a carebear.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to jump into fleets regardless of their size, I even enjoy fitting up random frigates or destroyers and hunting for targets in nearby Factional Warfare space.

But the majority of the time I’ve spent logged into EVE Online has been spent missioning, mining or farming NPC’s for ISK in nullsec anomalies. As something that is such an integral part of the game both for new players and old alike, PvE needs to be challenging, it needs to be engaging and most importantly it needs to be fun.

Missions as they stand have become, for most players, a case of pick up mission, tab to eve-survival or similar, read up on the triggers and refit hardeners and ammo as appropriate.


Eve-Survival, every mission at every level listed alphabetically.

From that point it’s simply a case of warping in, killing everything in sight and managing the DPS by deciding when to trigger the next wave, before handing in the mission and collecting the LP, ISK and standing boost.

In the case of nullsec anomalies, it’s even easier.  Where I live, in Fade, all a player needs to do is warp his or her Ishtar into any Forsaken Hub, drop heavy drones and hit orbit.  From that point on you can nip to make a coffee or grab a beer, returning in 15 or so minutes to a fatter wallet and a field of wrecks; occasionally your own wreck if you’ve missed that roaming gang that popped up in Intel channels – but you make enough ISK to not have to worry.


Despite a number of frigates warp scrambling my Ishtar, I’m in no danger.

This style of gameplay, something we all likely do at some point or another to bring in ISK, is boring and stagnant and is often the biggest reason I, and I imagine others, take breaks from the game.

I imagine it is also a big factor in player retention.

I started playing just days before the introduction of Sleepers and wormholes in the Apocrypha expansion, arguably the largest PvE content expansion to date.


The Sleepers themselves provided a challenging new PvE experience for players. They were new, they reacted unpredictably and they had no one weakness that could be exploited like standard faction pirate NPCs.

The unpredictability went away as players worked to understand exactly how the Sleeper AI worked; while we may not fully understand every aspect of it, we have removed the challenging element of the sites and are now able to farm wormholes in the same way players farm missions and the long-since removed DED lowsec beacons.

Sansha Incursions, introduced in late 2010,  built upon this more complex AI and brought it to known space for the first time.


The Incursion expansion brought the new AI to known space.

As with wormholes and Sleepers they initially brought a new challenge to EVE Online – I even remember the day they were introduced, travelling 20 or so jumps in my active-tank Brutix and diving headfirst into one of the sites without any sense of what was going to happen. There was no fleet, no organisation, just players wanting to try out the new PvE challenge.

I died … quickly. As did dozens of others in that site.  Sansha were just able to alpha most of us off the field.

However, as players, we mastered the Incursions. Nowadays we have large groups, like The Valhalla Project, running organised, fast-paced fleets with specific fits, logistics and T3 boosters to farm the sites and bring in ISK. Through player skill we have removed the challenge from Incursions.

Recently, when Sansha decided to set up shop in my corporation’s home system, my prior experience – despite being two years previous – was enough to whip ten players with no experience of Vanguard sites into a fleet and farm the system without so much as second thought.

While running the sites with my corporation Applied Anarchy was enjoyable, that came from the purely from the social interaction with other players, not from the gameplay itself.

Sansha Incursions, which from what I can understand, were designed to provide fun, challenging group content are now no longer fun or challenging.

The day this point hit many years ago, the point at which players were able to farm the sites with ease, should have triggered a process at CCP to remove them from the game – perhaps to be replaced with another faction and a minor tweak to the AI to keep them fresh.

So why do players put up with this stagnant and boring PvE experience, a question I put to my nullsec-based corporation, Applied Anarchy.

The first response, from t3hwarrior, sums up quiet accurately what the majority of nullsec players think.

“EVE PvE is shit.”

Adding: “You only rat to achieve a goal, get ISK, to get it blown up. You can’t get things blown up if you’re poor.”

In short, nullsec players only run anomalies to get ISK, so they can PvP – it’s a means to an end, and it’s understandable. The majority of people live in nullsec take part in PvP on a weekly, if not daily basis.

But for the countless thousands of players that log on everyday PvP is not something they want to do, so they live in high security space. They want to run missions, to experience EVE’s PvE content and importantly have fun.

Many are not, and personally I link this stagnant PvE system to the recent decline in active players and the drop in average weekly PCU (Peak Concurrent Users).


Youtuber Roxanne Le guin takes on the Sansha Burner in a Vengeance.

While the introduction of Burner Missions in 2014 and the recent re-launch of the Drifter Incursions in Amarr space are a step in the right direction for CCP and EVE Online, the key has to be an active development team watching what we, as players, are doing and how we are adapting to these new challenges.

So what could CCP do to fix the experience and make it more enjoyable but still challenging?

In my opinion, a drastic slate wiping is needed and this revamp needs to start in highsec.

Every mission needs to be removed and replaced with a new system that features scalability – the more people you bring to a mission, the harder it gets, and the quicker and more efficiently you complete a mission influences how hard the next mission you receive will be.

They need to be dynamic and unpredictable. Missions like we have now involving warp to point and kill a specific faction need to go.  There needs to be a sense of unknown and randomness to the missions. The fact that something along these lines was discussed by CCP Affinity during a roundtable at EveVegas is reassuring.

You could warp in and be faced initially with Blood Raiders, before a force of Angel Cartel ships warp in at 0. Deciding to keep focus on the Blood Raiders, refit and take up arms against the Angels or just kill everything on field, should result in differing rewards and a differing story chain for you to follow.

The exact details themselves are worthy of an entirely separate blog and something that I will tackle taking ideas from around the community and approach in Part 2.

PvE content in this game should not be farmable, it should not be easy.  EVE, after all, has a reputation for being a hard game for those that want a challenge.  CCP needs to make sure it lives up to this reputation.

Feel free to comment below with what you would do to improve the PvE content in EVE Online

Tags: MainDrain, pve

About the author


MainDrain has played EVE Online since early 2009 and flies with SMA. In his time he has FC’d mainline fleets, bomber fleets and support fleets, but always returns to being a line member and shooting red crosses/triangles.

  • Niko Lorenzio

    How can you blame pve for dropping PCU when it has been this way since the beginning?

  • bajskorv

    Reads walkthrough, complains about things being stagnant.
    How about not reading any walkthroughs and figure out everything for yourself? Would keep you busy for a good while.

    • Dave Stark

      have you tried a level 4 mission?

      literally every single one is just “turn up, shoot all the red crosses, maybe loot an item from a can” rinse, repeat.

      even without a guide it tells you who you’re fighting, so you know what hardeners/ammo to take – and there’s literally no variation on “shoot everything and maybe pick up an item”.

      even as far as triggers go, i’m not sure there’s a mission that you can’t just brute force down in a t2 fit marauder.

  • Viince_Snetterton

    And, of course, you want to start with burning high sec PVE to the ground. Your credibility might be a tad higher if you suggested starting with null sec PvE. You just admitted null sec PvE can be done AFK. Try going AFK for 15 minutes in an Incursion fleet and see how that works out.

    You sound like all the rest of the null sec propagandists: “High sec must be destroyed to improve the game”…..sure, that will work.

  • Bill Bones

    Why remove the current missions? The only wrong with them is that they’re old. A common request is to add more missions exactly as the current ones. I’ve seen nobody ask to remove them… specially since they’re the highsec equivalent (with lower reward and marginally higher risk) of nullsec AFKstar farming. Highseccers also use them as means to an end.

    Then more things can be added, but there is nothing wrong with farmable missions, other than they’ve been farmed for 10 years. Adding new ones would be the best and fastest bang per buck CCP could get from taking seriously the highsec milk cows who’ve been financing the game since forever, rather than fiddle with numbers and pretend that it’s OK to have less PCU since some number magic shows that player activity is increasing.

  • Kiandoshia

    At this rate, you might as well get rid of all PvE and give every player a base income but that would be silly 😛

    I think a good first step would be to get rid of the situations in which you have to destroy 50 stupid NPCs that can be ignored when they’re on their own and replace those 50 with 5 harder ones and I don’t mean drifters or Sanshas or Sleepers maybe smarter NPCs.

  • Nou

    LOL at the comments cherry picking arguments.
    Well, I agree PvE is somewhat the base activity in most MMO games, therefore in EVE PvE should be engaging and fun. Then i dont know if the farming grounds should be completely removed (mining?).
    I think at the very least should be better rewards for the ones actively (not AFK) running content.
    This changes should hit EVE in every place (wh, hs, ls and ns) at the same time.


  • Dermeisen

    Totally agree, thanks I’ve been bagging on that missioning needs to:
    Scale, be unpredictable, have fewer smarter rats with drones and the rest, set up narrative chains, be effected by standing, integrate and lead to other aspects of game play and cooperative play, be integrated with smart chat bot mission givers that approach players and give rewards with some awareness of the players play style and therefore perhaps motives?

  • callduron

    I think this illustrates why players don’t always make good game designers.

    As a player your concern is What do I want? What do I like?

    Designing for a diverse population of players needs to be based around What do they like? If you throw out whole sections of the game because they’re boring you kill the gameplay of thousands of players many of whom would rather move to a different game than move to a different playstyle.

    • Dermeisen

      I disagree some I suppose will go play another game but most will adapt and enjoy a deeper more engaging game. I believe it’s possible to at least provide some support for those who prefer to play while not playing, i.e. watching a movie or putting the kids to bed etc. that will be about balancing the rewards. However for those who need to reposition there alt armies, who have min maxed themselves into a very specify game, they will adapt because that’s the spirit that drove them to find those efficiencies in the first place.

  • Kamar Raimo

    I am asked to submit my opinion on what I think can be improved on PvE. Well, let me link my own wall of text on that very site here:

    Actually, to my positive surprise, I think CCP are actually trying to work into the direction I suggest. Not saying it was my idea, but I am totally on board with where they appear to be going.

    • Dermeisen

      Great article, I too believe that pve will get the love it needs to make eve competitive.