Ratting, or killing NPCs, in EVE Online is one of the easiest ways for any player to make ISK. The results of killing rats come in three forms. A direct ISK payment relative to the difficulty of killing the NPC is first. More dangerous systems—like those in NullSec— are the most prized, but there are other rewards as well. Loot from the NPC ships comes in the form of modules and items. And players can even salvage wrecks for valuable industry material.
And for many, ratting in a safe system is the holy grail of making ISK. Entire empires of rental systems are built on the back of providing safe systems where renters can print ISK. Renters are notoriously risk-averse in the game, and these systems are often graveyards for PvP content. This has also given rise to bots, as the RMT game is way too appealing when considered against the relative safety of ratting. Bots can easily be programmed to flee in the presence of enemy players, thus making them all but immune to countering. CCP has devised a new system called the Dynamic Bounty System to counter these problems.
Here’s how CCP describes the system in practice:
Every solar system will now have an ever-changing bounty multiplier that is applied to any bounty payout earned in the system. As an example, if the solar system multiplier is at 110% and you kill a pirate that has 100,000 ISK bounty, the payout will now be 110,000 ISK. However, some of that will be captured by the revamped Encounter Surveillance System (ESS), which you will hear more about next week.
This multiplier will always be visible via the starmap so that you can locate high-value solar systems in which to hunt pirates.
What’s the impact?
The obvious goal here is to hit two main areas for CCP: Nerfing botting income by reducing bounty payments in “farming” systems, and to offer an alternative for hunters to gain a small advantage. Usually, the best way to disrupt both of these is through the use of cloaky camping, or parking an alt in a ratting system to discourage risk-averse pilots from venturing out.
That only has so much impact, especially for larger groups that put time and money into defensive fleets. The new Dynamic Bounty System will encourage a form of offensive ratting where players can earn more ISK by ratting in new systems. The goal for CCP is clearly to offer a new form of asymmetrical warfare to tip the scales in NullSec, which offers the chance for more active playstyle when it comes to countering the strength of PvE.
Having dedicated farming systems at the end of a chain will be less appealing when those systems see lowered bounty payouts for killing NPCs. This will encourage players to spread out, making it harder to defend multiple ratting systems. This will also lead to ADMs (Activity Defense Multipliers) being increased, making it slightly easier to hold sovereignty in a region.
Also, with a bonus for PvP in a ratting system, it could help to incentivize players to do quick PvE runs closer to the front lines of active conflict. Although in practice most big Null blocs already do this is a manner of speaking by having players engage in activities in defensible systems for the sake of ADMs. I can’t really see a minor increase in ISK generation encouraging the use of expensive ratting in more exposed systems. If CCP were to unbalance the bounty rewards to such a degree that it would encourage this, all other activities would be indirectly nerfed. If it’s more profitable to rat than anything else, why would players do that other stuff?
The impact of this can also be felt in other systems, like Wormholes. There are so many otherwise empty systems out there that are going to be used for nothing but ratting, and they could be getting a big nerf when the Dynamic Bounty System drops.
Resource scarcity normally breeds conflict in the real world, but EVE Online has consistently shown to be a wholly unique beast. Combine this new plan with the already implemented massive nerfs to mining, and PvE is taking a huge hit in 2020. The full shakeout of this change is harder to predict. It could run into the “bodybuilder problem”, CCP could make it so much harder for smaller groups to cope while trying to nerf the big guys. This would in turn actually be a net benefit for larger groups who have the numbers to project power over a region.
CCP still clearly sits firmly in the camp of supporting balkanizing NullSec, but it’s hard to say for sure if these changes will achieve that. The most obvious conclusion seems to be that larger null groups will retract into a tighter footprint, where their supercapital fleets can better protect the large assets. So in a way, CCP is on target, but it’s not like a small group will want to move in right next door to a massive Null bloc on their own.