Thursday, 25 August 2011

Suddenly Combat: World of Spaceships


"You enter the bar and are confronted with a barrage of light and noise. You note wryly that for an establishment purported to be a place of relaxation for capsuleers, Kodachi's famous 'Batman Orange One' club is not short of stimulation. Beyond the gathering of drunk Matari gambling loudly over a game of strategy and nestled between busy poker tables and a gyrating Jin-Mei pole-dancer surrounded by admirers, you spy what you seek:

The Virtual Combat Hub. No wrecks, no capsules, no CONCORD, just pure combat."


Along with giving us the charmingly bonkers phrase of "threat level orange on a scale of one to Batman", Kirith Kodachi has recently been comparing and contrasting EVE Online to World of Tanks on his blog, Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah.

Whilst pointing out that they are very different games and highlighting the strengths of each, I certainly agree with Kirith's sentiment that EVE could stand to benefit from providing the denizens of New Eden with some kind of similar casual, drop-in/drop-out combat mechanic.

The difficulty in implementing this would be doing so without compromising or devaluing EVE's existing combat dynamic which, whilst more exhilarating, is also more time-consuming and complex.

I think I have a solution that might please many.

Welcome to the Pleasure Dome

We know that in the hopefully not too distant future, those mysterious doors in our Captain's Quarters will open, giving us access to more of the station environment which is to include "establishments".

The activities which might be available in such areas may include the previously showcased hex-based strategy game SecWars and perhaps some variation of poker. Whether pole-dancers can (or indeed should) be entertainingly interactive is an entirely separate topic.

But what if capsuleers also had access to 'combat simulation booths'? Accessing these devices could allow the player to join a variety multiplayer ship combat scenarios for a quick fix of casual combat in automatically generated arena death-matches.

In order to set the experience apart from 'real' combat, the ship-types available could be limited to Tech 1 ships and modules, perhaps with preset fittings and standardised skillsets. The graphics could be wireframe or skinned with the hyper-real 'Tron-esque' neon textures seen in the Alliance Tournament title sequences.

Establishments could rent these virtual combat hubs from NPC suppliers and charge for their use or allow them to be free to attract customers. Perhaps establishment owners could organise competitions or sponsor a team for inter-establishment leagues. The possibilities are endless.

How and Why

Although not a programmer, it seems to me that this would not be impossible to implement and is a relatively scaleable concept. The majority of the code is already in place, with a simple click on a start button 'undocking' your virtual ship into an instanced 'system' with the other combatants where the usual combat engine would take over. The majority of the new code required would be for the UI element and the player-matching system.

Such a virtual combat arena would have the following benefits:
  • It can give players a taste of ship combat without the expense and time required to participate in the real thing.
  • It would give more meaning to the Incarna avatar experience, perhaps even attracting those who fanatically favour "flying in space" over "walking in stations".
  • It would foster combat confidence amongst a new breed of virtually-trained players who otherwise might be unwilling or unable to find real combat.
  • It would provide the opportunity to participate in Alliance Tournament style battles, broadening the appeal and understanding of the yearly competition.
  • It would be a social focus that could create a sub-culture of competition and gambling that could attract the more casual player to EVE whilst staying true to the roots of "flying in space".
  • It could offer an in-game playtesting environment similar to the Singularity server.
  • It would give the CCP's art department an opportunity to re-use those sexy AT9 ship textures (which I can't find a screenshot of anywhere).
Perhaps a pipedream, but I would dearly love to see something like this implemented in the future. I think it could introduce a lot of exciting new gameplay possibilities whilst appeasing a lot of critics.

[With credit for images to Tentonhammer.com, Wotlankor.com and CCP.]

9 comments:

  1. "Batman Orange One" as a bar name!? I LoVE IT!

    My post today will touch on what you talked here, I'll link your piece in.

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  2. I think that instanced PvP would help a lot of new players like myself. I understand why the vets are so anti the idea, but I agree with your view that it may make more people confident to try 'real' PvP.

    Learning to PvP can be a bit demoralising in EvE to be honest, and anything that makes it easier to get experience is a good thing I think.

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  3. Just have the combat simulator not generate kill mails and remove any sort of ranking system from it (let it be 'true emulation') and I don't really see what the bitter vets could have against it!

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  4. Agreed that no killmails is a must, but instead of removing the ranking system, have two modes, one where it's "free play", join and play as you wish, and the other is a tournament system with pilot/team rankings and W/L records.

    Also, if this happens, I might never undock again... One idea though is instead of letting them fly only T1 ships, have all t1 ships available to everyone, but t2 and t3 ships are limited to the ones you can already fly, maybe. Or CCP can charge Aurum for the ability to fly one of the t2/t3 ships that you really really want to in the simulation world only.

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  5. So essentially I would be playing Eve while playing Eve?

    I wonder what would happen to small ship PVP in lowsec (and, well, everywhere for that matter) if that were to be implemented as described. It might get more people pewing, but it would also seem to take a lot out of the attraction to Eve PVP, which is that there is actual loss and setbacks as a result of losing.

    Not sure I like it much, tbh.

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  6. I like the idea. Being able to train, practice and try out some of the theory.

    After many months I'm still learning, but it is difficult when most combat in EVE involves "30mins to organise the roam. an hour wanding around with scouts looking. Then 30secs of combat".
    Being able to try combat again and again without worrying about the financial loss while learning, would be great

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  7. The bittervets will always be bitter, there's no point in worrying too much about trying to placate them. I agree with Bandsaw and David, learning PvP is a demoralising time-sink.

    There's some great ideas in these here comments (removal of killmails, alternative modes, possible Aurum involvement) which proves to me that there is value to this idea, as long as the 'simulated combat' is neutered so as not to replace the real thing.

    I honestly don't think a concept like this would hurt existing gameplay, acting more to support and feed it than to compete with it. But in the unlikely event that it did still have an impact on small ship low-sec PvP as Marc Scaurus fears, then surely that would just highlight how unsatisfying the current experience is.

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  8. Generally like the idea! A few remarks:

    -pvp is also an ISK sink, and as such important for the economy. The same should hold true for instanced pvp. There could be a starting fee payable to Concord or an ISK penalty for ships lost, for instance - with no insurance payout of course :)

    -Killmails: don't remove them for instanced pvp, but change them. People will want to be able to keep scores, and the km system is usable for that task. But, I'd take a look at a separate kind of km's for instanced pvp, so that they appear separate on killboards etcetera.

    -the proposed system could be expanded to AT style arenas where corps/alliances go at it.

    -Question: would you be able to choose an opponent? Or would it be a random adversary? I'd say that upon entering the simulator, you'd have a choice to play against 'publicly available pvp pilots' which shows you a list of pilots willing to pvp with anyone, or 'private, invitation only' which lets you request a pvp match with a specific pilot.

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  9. Just got done posting a bit on the new Blog Banter, and just wanted to say, great idea!

    I had the same idea as well. But you had it posted first lol.

    I like some of what you put in, actually changing the graphics and having some standardization, kinda like a fighting game I guess, would help separate this more from the "real" pvp.

    We can only dream though right?

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Lay it on me.