The Rivals
Duncan Ringill

LOLCaps057

EVE=PvP is a charmingly limited view, and “villain” is as adorable a handle for a pretend destroyer of pretend spaceships as “teacher” is pretentious. (But go learn how to fly a Cynabal–good stuff there.)

PvP is a small subset of war, but I’ll happily grant Dex the pride of the infantry grunt invoking the favor of the Queen of Battle.  The officer corps has its own swagger, to be sure, and rightly so.  Nothing, however, matches the arrogance of the war profiteer who moves the chess pieces.  The masters making trillions off the efforts of PvPers like Dex do not spare a thought for his chimpanzee fun, as he in turn may care little for the grand games they play.

Standing to the side are the markets, whose warriors enjoy quieter conflict.  I can imagine racing hearts even there, though, as the combatants sift buy and sell orders to try to divine the hearts of their enemies.  The struggle for resources that is EVE is nowhere so exemplified as in the marketeers, for whom everything has a price.  The masters of war bow to the need for fun, but the economy rules all.

EVE is therefore more a trading game than it is a war game, and far more than it is a PvP game.  Spaceship combat is simply what gets Dex’ juices flowing these days, but rather than argue with his passion I’ll encourage him to wallow in it–because when we break it all down, there’s a secret depth that no one talks much about: we are the nascent gods of New Eden, indulging every whim to live larger than do the NPC inhabitants of this little universe.  To do, in a word, anything.

What EVE is really, really about is being awesome in any of a ton of possible careers.

Spoiled Rich Kids
Duncan Ringill

Ask your parents.

Ask your parents.

Art reminds us once again that one of EVE’s greatest potential strengths–its lore–lies rusting at the bottom of a corroded dev bucket.  It’s a vast yet unfinished science fiction universe underpinning the game we know and love, and yes, it’s also a source of frustration.  Why didn’t CCP get around to finishing it…or if they did, why didn’t they bother to set it in motion?

The answer, of course, is that that’s supposed to be our job.  We are the ones who invest hearts and minds into making all the space politics go.  NPCs, their corps and even their alliances are supposed to dance with us, fight us, and perhaps be bent to our will.

It’s been a colossal failure, hasn’t it?  Perhaps you’re having too much fun to have noticed.

The one thing NPCs have in common with each other is that they all have jobs.  Their behavior is oriented around activities that would further the economic or political interests of their bosses.  This is convenient for our player characters, because the NPCs can be counted on to be in certain places, doing certain things.

Time was, there would be news posted.  A bit of power would change hands here or there.  Sometimes it would be written around faction warfare or live events.  I never paid it much attention, because it didn’t seem to intersect with my game-play.  You see, I didn’t notice the gaping hole where lore should be, either, being too busy flying pretty spaceships with my friends.  Art seems to think this disconnect is potentially fatal.  Surely not.  Surely?  A decade ago, it was a marketing slogan; in what may be EVE’s twilight years I think it is a lost opportunity.

I didn’t need EVE to be any more than it was, and perhaps I still don’t.  I didn’t have a job, either, beyond the occasional mining ops with my crew.  In that respect, I am a little like the HTFUest pilots out there.  What fun there was to be had, I helped make, and I made it on my own terms, because I didn’t have a job.

While considering how my and Art’s points of view could be so similar and yet so different, I think I came up with a theory: capsuleers are not part of New Eden.  While some of us have jobs (shout-out to miners, faction warriors, DUSTies and industrialists everywhere), the socioeconomic background of the game doesn’t really touch most of us.  At all.  NPCs are busy working for a living 24/7.  Guess who that makes us?  That’s right; we are the spoiled rich kids driving the Rolls into the swimming pool.  We are the interchangeable Britneys and Shias, grabbing headlines for what amounts to less than nothing, unless a lot of ISK being destroyed or stolen counts.

Art’s already made the connection before, but the one thing that might cause us to reconsider the pool as parking is standings.  Without some responsibility to NPCs (beyond a few crabby agents), we are rootless inhabitants of the playground the working folks have to live in.  Standings are what could force us to engage with the opinions of non-capsuleers and thereby become citizens of New Eden rather than its vacationing assholes.

Give us standings, CCP!  Give our standings hits and buffs when we interact with your myriad NPCs.  Make those standings matter.  Make it expensive to live beyond the law; make it less remunerative to operate within empires, and make the back-and-forth between these spaces be difficult to cross at a whim.  Make the CFC (along with perhaps all PC and NPC sovereignty) a de facto empire; they’ve long since earned that status, and while you’re at it sov that can shelter carebears in relative safety need not give up as much loot as the wilder spaces.

That crew I just lost came aboard my battlecruiser in a station, where people still remember them and who may resent my stewardship.  I might be able to buy a replacement ship in that station, but it will come at a cost, and my next crew’s loyalty will also be expensive.  Where are the colonies and outposts who could use a helping hand from a capsuleer, and who will remember his or her name after a service done them?  Should I be able to run for political office on Luminaire, leveraging my standings from the war into a lucrative income or a place at a strategy table?

Come on, CCP!  Reward daring and ingenious players by working them into the lore.  They belong on the screen in my CQ, not just on a statue in the parking lot.  Let them drag NPC corps into their schemes.  Make governments take notice or take flight.

That’s how to make your lore live, breathe, shout, fight, shit and fuck.  Maybe it will even feature in a real-world news story someday.

Blog Banter 57a,b,c: Arenas!
Duncan Ringill

Your Name HereKirith Kodachi summed up his takeaways on the latest Banter, and proposes arena combat for low-risk PvP training.  I’m not sure what it is he finds so wrong with “just use Sisi,” but I certainly agree that we shouldn’t force new players to set up a Singularity launcher for what would likely be a valuable game feature.  Game-changer, if Kirith is correct.

Let’s say, then, that there would be an arena in a high-sec system, or an arena at a moon in each of many systems (at least one per empire).  Maybe one in every system in which a new capsuleer can be born.  AURA can guide the player there, adding a helpful bookmark.  I like this.

One can’t enter the arena in anything but a n00b hull fitted with civilian modules, Kirith suggests.  Every one of these ships that is blown up in an (any) arena is instantly replaced in the home station (or a station in the arena’s system).  One has to warp to the arena, popping out at a random location inside (or at a staging point as one waits for a match).  Once in, there’s also a suitable orientation delay of seconds during which the entering ship cannot target or be targeted.  Sound good?  Something tells me we’re missing something.  Uh-oh.

What do we expect will happen outside this hypothetical arena, in a system known to contain new players flying uniquely vulnerable ships?  Oh yeah, that.  The griefers will flock to the gates and lurk around the stations; they’ll bookmark and warp to points just beyond the Arena (which I’ll now capitalize because I think, as does Kirith, that this feature is fucking important to the future of the game).  Griefers will do their best to ensure that Mister Arena never gets used for his intended purpose, and they will do it in the name of “education” or “content creation”–because this is EVE, where the pigeons poop on all available statues.

No, we can’t very well have ganks, if our purpose is low-risk combat training for new New Edeners.  We’re led, then, to a necessary corollary: perfect-sec systems, in which PvP outside the arena is impossible.  Or just more swiftly policed by CONCORD, if the last idea puts sand in your sandbox.  The orchards where the newbie trees grow ought to have 1+ security ratings, or whatever it takes to hold the ganks down to an arbitrarily dull roar.  Or, if even that is intolerable to you emergent game-players, let’s try something else that gets the zero-SP toon  to and from the Arena without an unscheduled fight.  Suzariel has just suggested that the arena might not need to be any appreciable distance from the station.  A character in an appropriate ship sees an “undock to Arena” button.

Kirith also envisions a “match system and points calculator” to keep things interesting.  I’ll see that and raise him the next logical steps.  Since this is now a sport, how about wagering?  “Four hundred quatloos on the newcomer!”  Bet against the house AI (which of course knows whether or not that new toon is a vet player’s) or against other capsuleers in what could be an emergent parimutuel system run by third parties.

Are you not entertained?Not sure about the long-term fun in betting on n00bs, so let’s open this useful system to vets as well.  There could be veteran arenas, also with some protection against mere gankers, and with so much ISK at stake, what will emerge is a new career: high-sec gladiator.  NPC corps could offer missions against AIs, of course, perhaps located in the Arena, but the real attraction would be the pick-up 1v1 matches.

Imagine dueling as it is today, but permanently on display in places where the rest of the subscribers can find it, watch it and stream it.  Picture ship and module restrictions to level the playing field.  Imagine a points system not so very unlike that in the Alliance Tournament, with automated match-making and scoring, and you have competition for fame as well as fortune.  Balkanize it as needed so that there are always many, many more arenas and titles than there are win-button alliances to dominate them.  Limit alliances’ members to participation in a few arenas each; the idea, after all, is for individuals to win bragging rights rather than to duplicate the Alliance Tournament.

points1As did the knights of old, elite 1v1ers could strike out on their own, and they would have to do so if they wanted to travel a large arena circuit and try to win everywhere.  The rewards would be their winnings, the titles, and the donations of sighing fans.

Next, let’s plug it all into the lore, and have the arenas administered by various NPC corps and governments, perhaps with varying restrictions on ships, modules and toons (“Hey, Mom!  I won Best Sebiestor in T1 Cruiser Fit Without DCII in Hek on a Tuesday!”)  For extra credit, allow player corps to fire up and profit from their own arenas, and to offer their own championship trophies and other prizes.  Watch occasional reports flicker by on your CQ screens.

Or just hope that CCP sponsors an official tourney.

If you think EVE is a PvP game, though, you want this, and you want it badly.  You’re wondering, in fact, why we don’t already have something like it.  Capsuleers are the nascent gods of New Eden, and because these gods are still human, they want to prove it, and to prove it on TV!

The Bloodbath of B-R5RB, Gaming’s Most Destructive Battle Ever
Duncan Ringill

Analysis by CCP Dolan:

In the early hours of January 27th, 2014 CONCORD (the NPC “police force”) came to collect the sovereignty bill for a dead-end system in the Immensea region called B-R5RB. One of over 7,500 in game, this particular system with its 9 planets, 66 moons and 12 asteroid belts had recently been transferred to a player corporation called H A V O C, a corp used by the alliance Pandemic Legion to handle sovereignty transfers between Alliances (which are collections of Corporations). Unfortunately, when CONCORD tried to extract the ISK (EVE’s currency) that would maintain sovereignty in the system for another month, they found that H A V O C had left their automatic payment unchecked. Without the necessary payment, sovereignty in the system immediately dropped leaving the system up for grabs….

Sensing this moment of unexpected weakness in a strategically critical location, the opposing Coalition comprised of the CFC Alliance and Russian-heavy coalition forces scrambled to get a foothold in the system. The message went out. Thousands logged in and fleeted up. If the CFC and Russian fleets could capture the station in system, they would trap Pandemic Legion assets inside, including hundreds of capital and sub-capital fleet hulls, rendering them unavailable for the wider conflict….

Unlike nearly every other large scale super-capital engagement up till this point, both sides thought they could win. They continued trying to get every single pilot into system with the most powerful warships they could bring to bear. After a few hours, the field was being lit up by doomsdays and the glittering hulls of hundreds of Titans and Supercarriers and thousands of Dreadnaughts and Carriers and smaller ships….

Much more at the link.