Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Haulers, Wormholes, and Other Matters

The rebalancing of haulers seems to be a hot topic lately. Should they be sturdy so that highsec gankers have a harder time popping them? Should focus be placed on what they carry, making special bays and the sort?

You have the sob story of the guy who lost his entire net worth in his hauler, and is promptly quitting the game, alongside the exciting pirate tale of how an expensive bounty was made by carefully hunting down, and targeting some unsuspecting hauler on his way to market.

And thus the debate goes on about how tanky haulers should be. How expensive they should be, what their roles should or should not be, and how they should or should not be used.

But what about the actual gameplay of logistics in general? What about the fact that hauling stuff across empire is one of the most uninteresting, mind-numbing activities in the game?

While I am not an advocate for making things safer, in general, I do have to sympathize with hauler pilots. Pirates…gankers…have all the fun. The thrill of the hunt. Of setting things up just so, and swooping in for a bountiful kill. There is some skill involved…some thrill.

But hauling? There’s no thrill in being a successful highsec hauler pilot. There’s little skill involved, beyond attempting to fit your hauler with the limited slots you have. You can’t jump through the gate ‘better’ or get skilled in the tactics of warping. And all that lies before you, is the eons of space you must cross.

So what am I suggesting? I am suggesting we think outside the box a little, and not just focus on the ship, but the gameplay as well.

‘Alternate’ Trade Routes

What if wormholes that led to other settled space (non wormhole space) were significantly more ‘stable’ then those leading to unknown space? They could have significant amounts of mass to pass through them before collapsing, and some could last days…upwards to a week.

Not only would these wormholes come in handy in hauling items all over the universe, but they would also be a high commodity to find. Explorers could sell bookmarks to these locations and make a mini profession out of finding good routes to various areas, and selling them to logistics corporations and pilots.

Tech 3 Haulers

Haulers seems like a good ship class that could benefit from the modularity of tech 3 ships. Instead of pre defining roles for everything, and pumping out a ship of every flavor, why not just let pilots build their own?

You could add a module that adds another 3k m3 to your cargo space, or a module that increases your tank. You could add a module that adds +2 to your warp core strength, or a module that make you more agile. You could add ‘specific’ modules that allow shipment of certain items more efficiently –such as a ship bay module, fuel module, or a drone module.

Just the building of the ship would be interesting gameplay, and would broaden the potential market for wormhole dwellers, giving them additional options of things to make and sell.

Obviously, these types of ships would be a lot more expensive than our current haulers, and we’d still have to have some basic, tech 1 haulers. But, it would give logistics pilots something interesting to work towards and play with. And it would put something into the huge gap between hauler/transport ships and freighters.

Want To Courier Contracts

Transport and logistics pilots need more basic tools. Instead of relying on personal contracts, or on finding courier contracts that others have setup, why not allow pilots to put up generic ‘Want to Courier’ Contracts.

They can specify the maximum M3 they will carry, how much ISK per M3, and/or how much ISK per jump. They can restrict routes by security status (only routes in highsec for example) or give specific routes they will do, such as Amarr to Jita, or Rens to Amarr, etc. They can also restrict maximum collateral, to limit the worth of what they will be carrying.

This will give haulers and logistic pilots more tools to actually perform business operations like other pilots do in EVE, and even add a little competition into the mix.

The point of the matter is that logistics and hauling has developed (and is still developing) as a profession in EVE, and it should be given a little more consideration then merely tweaking a few tech 1 ships.


  1. Hmm interesting suggestions , I think the trade route idea could be cool.
    How about in null and lowsec there could be rare warp gates that end at another part of the region and are only active for days or weeks depending on usage ?

  2. There are some really great ideas in this post. The game has needed a ship somewhere between a hauler and a freighter for some time. The Orca really isn't big enough to fit the job. That T3 hauler idea might be a good idea for this niche.

  3. There are actually quite a few players who enjoy hauling stuff around high-sec and are generally happy with the existing gameplay. You are making the same mistake as CCP Rise, and the other PVP-oriented devs and players, who assume, wrongly, that hauling - like mining - is something that no one really wants to do full-time in the game and thus the whole "mini" profession needs be addressed/changed.

    As a manufacturer/trader, I put up an average of 50 courier contracts a day, to move my stuff around high sec. Every day, all of these contracts are picked up and completed, often within a few hours of going up. And, these contracts are not all being picked up by the same players. I was rather surprised myself, at first, but, over the past 5 years, it has become very apparent to me that there are literally thousands of players who like to play space trucker rather than space warrior. Is this really a "mini" profession? I think not.

    As far as the hauler changes are concerned, I believe that CCP should be soliciting feedback from the players who like to haul stuff 23.5/7, rather than the PVP players. CCP Rise's changes fail to address any of the long-standing concerns/issues of the haulers - he really only sees the ships from a ganking perspective.

    In fact, the task of rebalancing the long-neglected haulers should be given to another dev, preferably one who is not so focused on only a PVP point-of-view and is willing to put in the time to fix them correctly now, rather than later. CCP, learn to use the right tool for the job, please. After all, no one (except maybe CCP Rise) would seriously consider allowing supercaps to be rebalanced by art team, eh? So, why would you ask an ex-PVP player to fix haulers or mining ships?

    1. This is actually a really common attitude I’ve noticed amongst the industrial crowd. “You can’t possibly understand our mechanics because you don’t play with them 24 hours a day.”

      It’s na├»ve to think that CCP will always put some sort of ‘specialist’ to code each and every piece of the game. And this is a good thing, the reason which you have inadvertently displayed in your comment. With such people who spend 23.5/7 doing one thing in the game comes a certain amount of bias, not to mention a little protectiveness toward even bad mechanics. And we certainly don’t want biased, protective devs mucking thing about.

    2. Susan, you're clearly biased as well. If you could actually explain hauling as something other warp/jump/repeat, your comment might hold more weight. The devs are already biased. They haven't a clue what haulers are really about. If they did, they would recognize that tank on a hauler is a relatively pointless bonus. Once you're scrammed, your done. The only thing tank does is change the parameters of the gank/risk calculation. If they knew what they were doing with haulers, they wouldn't have combined speed with tank but not agility (as if an AP hauler would survive a gank somehow). Haulers have gotten the sh!t end of the stick for a very long time. It's about time someone at least TALK to the haulers before screwing with their ships. Considering how much time is put into the back and forth with players on all the PvP ships, its the least they could do for the haulers. - Zaxix

    3. I think you skipped the part of this post where I say that the hauling profession needs more

  4. "But hauling? There’s no thrill in being a successful highsec hauler pilot." I found this personally insulting (I'll get over it :P). As a long time Frog director and the founder of Black Frog, my hauling skills aren't in the ship, they're in business. Hauling is a business unless you're doing it for yourself. The thrill I got out of being a hauler was being part of building the single most successful, long-lived, and mind-boggling huge company in EVE. That success wasn't the result of just pushing WTZ, jump, repeat. There is an incredible effort going on in the background that most players in EVE don't know about and never thought about. BTW, if you don't think there is a massive adrenaline rush in running 10B isk packages on a Blue Frog run through Niarja with Bats in system, try it sometime. -Zaxix

    1. I meant exactly what I said, which had nothing to do with the ‘business’ of it all. Marking trade orders up and down could be seen as very mind numbing and ‘Spreadsheet Online.’ But I love trading –the business of the thing, so I’m right there with you on that point.

      What I don’t get, and what I want, is why you think the specific ideas I’ve proposed are wrong, or will hurt your business in some way? And what kinds of things you would propose instead?

      It seems like having a whole new tier of Hauling ship that you can customize to fit your own needs would be a very good thing, for everyone. And having wormholes that could cut off dozens of jumps you have to take –that also seems like a good thing.
      And how could advertising your business through ‘Want to Courier’ contracts do anything but help you?

      If you feel that your entire profession is ‘good’ and that all that is needed is a few tweaks to haulers, then so be it. I certainly don’t want CCP putting attention on a community that doesn’t want anything.

      But don’t dismiss ideas, and ruin the opportunity to have a conversation about potential good things for your community just because you’re insulted someone called hauling boring. That’s just silly.

    2. When you see :P, you should recognize sarcasm. I was speaking only of the mindset that somehow hauling is boring and that there's nothing to it. Hauling is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn't commenting directly on your proposals, but I'll do so now, since you've asked for it specifically.

      There is a kernel in your Want To idea that I've already been working on promoting, which is the idea that a corporation should be able to set minimum/maximum collateral on incoming contracts. The simplest problem with the basic Want To is "When"? If someone takes/accepts/feeds/whatever your Want To, I presume the clock starts ticking on the job. Since the smallest time increment is 24hrs, most people would be forced into setting their Want To for longer times. Which is the last thing in the world a customer wants. The basic Want To concept is far less efficient from the customer viewpoint. He can currently just put up a contract. You accept or not. Under this model, he'd have to hunt for a hauler type who's specs his contract fit. He'd also be committing to a single hauler rather than whoever is avaiable and willing. If it were setup as a set of filters a corp could apply to incoming contracts, thus eliminating uncollateralized packages or stopping people from spamming VFK destination contracts, I could get behind that.

      You can already haul with a T3. You can get in the 1k+ range and have nullifiers, stabs, cloaks, etc. If you get much beyond that in m3, you're in the cloaky hauler range, which raises some balance/design questions. I don't think there's anything wrong with the basic idea, but you can do almost everything you're suggesting with the upcoming hauler changes and some fitting choices. And you can do it much cheaper. At the end of the day, while all the talk about cloaky haulers and sub-cap haulers is focused on survivability, the truth is very few people are risking much of value in them. It just makes too much sense to JF your really valuable stuff. Given the volumes of stuff that need moving on a daily basis, nerfing JFs to open a niche just isn't realistic.

      Alternate trade routes is just a fancy way of saying Alternate Gate camps. Because they will be camped. Oh yes, they will be camped. Nice concept, but reality will render them pointless for their intended role. Nice fleet movement buff though!

      The issues with courier work (as opposed to just talking about what a ship can haul) tend to be focused on the business end, like the filters mentioned above, and with mechanics that are unlikely to go away (e.g. incorp ganks). It's good to see them work on T1 haulers, but in many ways, they've missed the point. A scrammed hauler is a dead hauler, regardless of the EHP. It comes down to a gank vs. cargo value calculation in hisec. Everywhere else, they're just dead. It comes down to cloaks, which is to say, it comes down to being targeted. But, to see it from the hunter's side, making ships that can warp gate to gate without any risk seems pointless too.

      The one thing that needs a solution more than any other, is the one unlikely to change: bumping. It's the only form of unflagged aggression, but it can be used to completely take a freighter out of service without any risk or losses.

  5. I love your suggestions but in your comment I think that you are showing your own bias as a more PvP-focused player. "You just don't understand" is actually a really common attitude I've noticed among every crowd in EVE (and in life for that matter). PvPers, explorers, logistics, manufacturers, lowsec dwellers, nullsec dwellers, WH dwellers, 0.01 market warriors, incursionistas, etc. - you name it, and pretty much everyone trots it out to any perceived outside interference in their playstyle. As a dabbler I tend to find that they are all at least a bit right at it too. You might figure out 95% of their mechanics quickly but there are usually tricks that someone more experienced at that particular playstyle will have sussed out that you may not ever notice, especially when it is a style with no public metrics available for comparison (as is the case for hauling).

    Also your logic of not wanting a specialist dev in charge because they will be biased flies in the face of recent successes, I'd say. I for one am extremely glad that CCP put experienced PvPers at the core of the combat ship rebalancing effort. Overall I find the t1 ship changes to be fantastic, and I credit that to a combination of devs that understand the give and take of combat and combat fitting and a willingness to engage the community for feedback and actually take that feedback to heart. If the devs in charge of the combat rebalancing were taken from the security or performance teams, I do not think we would have ended up with nearly as good a result as the "biased" devs brought us.

    In the case of the indy rebalance, instead we got the biases of a non-specialist dev making changes in a playstyle for which he is not an advocate. I think it is hard to disagree that a vocal and sizeable part of the community does feel like his first draft was mucking things up indeed. OTOH it is quite possible that no one at CCP is a dedicated hauler so they may not have anyone better available as an internal advocate, and thankfully Rise has proven repeatedly that he will listen to the community so he probably is as good a choice as can be made.

    And for Anonymous saying that CCP should be soliciting feedback from haulers: there's a new feedback thread in Features & Ideas for Round 2. Shockingly it's not restricted to PvPers so please go and give some constructive feedback there on what you want out of the rebalance. You may have already, but I'm just throwing that out since you seem far more negative than I am about the process & CCP Rise. From what I have seen CCP Rise actually does listen.

    1. LOL, I’m not sure I can win this one. But honestly, I wasn’t trying to imply that industrialists are biased and pvpers are not. You are right that everyone is usually biased in one way or another.

      And I was NOT suggesting that they should throw a dev into development that is not a good fit. But having a developer that is specifically ‘specialized’ might prove to be difficult. CCP doesn’t have THAT many developers…lol.

      You seem to be annoyed about a specific situation. One that I wasn’t writing about, or really implying anything about, honestly. I don’t read the forums a whole lot, because it’s often hard to sort out valid discussions from rubbish.

      I just heard that hauler rebalancing was ‘a thing’ and since *gasp* I actually have a secret life involving an alliance shop, a tens of billions ISK worth trade operation, a transport ship, a freighter, and an Anshar, I thought I’d weigh in on a couple random ideas I had.

      I’m glad you liked my ideas though. ;)

      And if it helps this conversation I take back that hauling is boring! It’s exciting. It’s fun. We’re all happy!

      /me backs away slowly with her hands up.

    2. I was not trying to "win" anything, and sorry about scaring you off. I hope that unlike a lot of online interactions, most people posting on a blog they follow are more interested in swapping perspectives than in arguments or trolling. I was trying to point out that the converse side holds too - that specialization isn't always bad and that biases against are as dangerous as biases towards.

      If I am annoyed at anything it was the anonymous poster sour-grapesing about CCP Rise as that's something I might actually get into an argument about. ;-) I may not agree with all of Rise's decisions but he is excellent about soliciting community feedback and incorporating it into the changes we see in the game, and at explaining why he disagrees with suggestions and listening to the followup feedback. He also seems to be good at managing expectations by doing things like stating specific changes that cannot be done, and usually gives reasons for them. He gets a double thumbs up from me so far.

      BTW, I share the "it's just hauling" bias because that is not my playstyle either but I try to look at issues from as many sides as possible (or maybe I just have a multiple personality disorder thing going on). My one contribution to the official forum threads takes that stance, being basically "I can live with homogenization, but please let me keep using my Mammoth!" and the volume of the response was a bit surprising to me and has encouraged me to think about it a bit more. I was just, um, passing on some of the fruits of that introspection.

    3. I'm not scared off, lol. I was just surprised by some of the responses I was getting. It seemed like people were assuming that I'm in some way being negative about the hauling community, when the entire point of my post was that they could use more attention.