After that, you'll see dozens of Orcas pass you, on their way to the next incursion. It's like a migration, sort of like the return of the swallows to Capistrano, only this migration is a bit more Battlestar Galactica. A rag-tag fleet, a caravan of the heavens, is not seeking Earth, but instead is seeking the next big pile of ISK. ;-) The Orcas carry T3s, logis, and Command Ships -- sometimes escorted by a battleship, often not -- from one incursion to the next, to the next, to the next.(1) The pilots that don't have Orca alts or don't want to risk their expensive T3s in them will also fly by you in their ships.
A couple of times on this blog, I've advocated slightly reducing the frequency of high-sec incursions, in favor of increasing the frequency of low-sec incursions. I catch heat for this when I say it, but I stand by the statement and I'd like to finally get around to explaining why.
First, let's make one thing clear. Incursions are -- overall -- good for the EVE economy and good for the game. That includes high-sec incursions. I am not a high-sec incursion-hater: far from it. I'm probably the most experienced blogger there is at running incursions, and in my way I've made it easy for dozens, if not hundreds of EVE players to get into them. I use them myself from time to time if I need a quick injection of ISK for some project or to replace some exploded ship. I'm in favor of more players trying them out, and more newer players being able to try them.
So, you incursion-runners can save your brick-bats: I'm not out to destroy your lives.
Still, the "caravan of the heavens" approach to incursions is -- overall -- not good for EVE as a game. You can see this when the number of high-sec incursions in New Eden dwindle to one and the incursion gets impossibly crowded. You'll see 120 or more people in each of the Vanguard fleets as eight or ten or more fleets fight over the five sites. People will get frustrated by this, fleets will break up, and finally, people will dock up. A few incursion-runners move on to other in-game activities.
But most of them just log off and play something else.
Sure, they'll be back in a day or two to see if the number of high-sec incursions has gone back up, but in the meantime, if they can't make 60 or 75 or 100 million ISK an hour, they're just not interested. Someone can try to explain to me how this is good for the game, but I don't think you'll succeed.
What's even worse is watching the public incursion channels for a while in situations where there's only one or two incursions. You'll see people that are clearly off playing Minecraft or Tanks or League of Legends or Skyrim... but still posting their incursion fit into the channel every three or four minutes, checking to see if an FC is going to invite them into a fleet. That's not so great for the game, either.
It's an addiction, and it's probably past time for an intervention. So yes, while I'm pro-incursion and even pro-high-sec incursion, their frequency needs to be dialed back a bit. The kind of process that inspires dozens of players to load Orcas full of ships and head for some remote part of the galaxy should be a big deal -- almost an event -- not a routine (and for some, the only) part of playing EVE Online.
So, after my long experience with incursions myself, I have some suggestions for how CCP can adjust them.
1) As I said, reduce the frequency of high-sec incursion spawns. I'd say reduce the frequency by about 40% or so for day-to-day incursions. That will mean that most of the time there will be zero, one, or (rarely) two active high-sec incursions instead of between one and three.
2) More than this, though, I think incursions would work better if they were more "event-like". Periodically, have the game kick off an "incursion event". This wouldn't be a full GM-controlled live event. Instead, have four or five or six high-sec incursions spawn, all at the same time, all with reduced life-spans... say four days or so, instead of the six to seven days that is currently average. This should happen 20 or so times a year, but not on any kind of predictable schedule. Counting the "events", the overall reduction in high-sec incursions should be about 25%.
3) Make high-sec incursions harder by making constellation control harder to change. In all the months I've been running incursions, I've never even seen a high-sec incursion that hadn't had its Sansha control bar pushed to full blue, meaning there's no impact on player resistances or damage. I simply have never reached a high-sec incursion soon enough to even see a red bar! So many sites are run so quickly in high-sec now that it only takes hours to make this happen. That's just silly. A Sansha invasion should be a big thing, with lots of Sansha resources committed. It should take days and days to drive down that bar, not hours.
4) As I said, make low-sec incursions spawn much more often. Right now, it's typical to see two or three high-sec incursions and one low-sec incursion. Other than the events above, this average number should be reversed. Seriously, incursion-runners are making tons and tons of ISK. I know it. They know it. Everyone knows it. They can stand to lose ships, particularly with the increased money that's made in low-sec sites. This will drive the low-sec incursion runners toward PvP behaviors and ships, which is also good for the game overall. And it will serve as a buff for low-sec, both in terms of the PvP that happens there and for the people that already live there.
These changes would have a lot of advantages:
- It would nudge incursion-runners into other game activities when the events weren't running. Sure, the truly addicted will still be able to get their fix, but it'll be harder. But the more casual incursion-runners will be pushed to other parts of the game, or into low-sec incursions.
- When the incursion events spawned, it would cause players to have to be more social to decide who's going to tackle which event. During the events, there would be plenty of sites for everyone... so many, in fact, that even more cooperation would be needed to tackle them than what's happening today.
- Doing it this way just makes more sense from an in-game story stand-point. The Sansha should be more active where CONCORD is not, and when they do come into high-sec, it should be a much bigger deal than it is now.
- This approach would drive incursion-runners toward even more cooperation, and even more competition. With only one high-sec incursion most of the time, competing for those few high-sec sites would become hard-core, similar to the current high-sec complexes. This would foster the creation of incursion-running corps in low-sec. Sure, you could war-dec them... but you'd have to come to low-sec yourself to really attack them.
- Finally, the increase in low-sec sites would create more targets for low-sec PvP corps to attack... maybe even too many to attack to attack them effectively. The low-sec incursion corps would naturally start creating intel channels and the like...
The main disadvantage that I can see? Newer players would be hurt somewhat by this. I know there are a lot of people with only a month or two of play time under their belts already trying to get into incursion fleets. Call me elitist, though, but I don't think players this new should be jumping into incursions right away. And if they insist, then fine: they should be competing with the longer-term EVE players, just like for everything else. The large number of high-sec incursions currently makes it too easy for sub-par fittings to nevertheless find slots in fleets.
Please note one thing that I'm not suggesting: I'm not suggesting that the pay-offs be reduced or changed to something other than ISK. As I said at the top of the piece, I think incursion ISK is healthy for the economy and good for EVE Online overall. It's just the behaviors that ISK is driving that aren't.
OK, I know some of you are dying to scream at me. Go ahead. Discuss.
(1) BTW, you suicide gankers? If you really cared about tears more than you care about ISK or kill-mails, these are the ships you'd be destroying. A good third to half of them probably have five or ten billion ISK aboard each, and ten percent of them probably have 20. But of course, you don't want tears... not really... do you? You want loot. Don't worry: I understand.