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