Gaming has evolved from simple three-button shooters, through early home computer games that asked the player to imagine more than the platform was capable of, to today's multi-million dollar simulations of heightened realities. Yet the gamer's hunger for those simpler times remains strong. The wealth of gaming options available on smartphones and social media sites is testament to this.
EVE Online continues to challenge gaming boundaries, pushing forward with its peerless emergent social gameplay and potentially revolutionising cross-platform integration with its console shooter DUST514. Yet the developers CCP Games stand aloof from a potentially lucrative market which could provide a perfect entry point to their New Eden IP.
Already on this platform are a host of third party applications which provide a wide range of tools for the EVE player. By accessing EVE's publicly available in-game API data, players are able to monitor market prices, browse item databases, view battle statistics and much more. Talented coders have devised ship-fitting tools, character development planners and email clients. These are fantastic tools, but they are only of use to existing EVE Online subscribers.
Free-to-Play EVE Online which could work alongside the existing subscription model. Around the same time, I was fighting an addiction to Tiny Tower on my iPhone. This was a simple game which allowed the user to manage a tower block, rent out apartments and employ the residents in the various businesses that could be built on each floor. It reminded me of old games like Little Computer People and SimCity. But like most video games, I'm sure the concept would work better on a spaceship.
Clear Skies: The Game
Imagine, if you will, that you've just downloaded CCP's new smartphone title New Eden Explorer. Rather than try to be a trimmed-down version of EVE, it approaches gameplay from the opposite direction whilst providing many of the tools found in existing EVE apps. It's a single-player turn-based exploration, trading and combat game in which you aren't an immortal capsuleer with access to WMDs and the buying power of a nation. You are a normal, mortal denizen of New Eden. You are also the captain of an old, beaten-up frigate. Not a fancy capsuleer one, just a rusty old bucket that was built out of salvaged parts from some warzone. You are New Eden's answer to Han Solo, Mal Reynolds, John Rourke or Zaphod Beeblebrox (yes, I realise John Rourke is actually New Eden's answer to John Rourke).
The concept of command crews is covered in more detail in the aforementioned Free-to-Play EVE Online article, but in essence they would work in lieu of skills, with each officer bringing certain static skills (unlike capsuleers, normal folk can't just learn new spaceships in a few minutes) to the team to enable particular functions. However, they also come with personality traits, which may make them work well together, improving ship performance or they might end up at each other's throats. As much of the gameplay would take place onboard the ship as off it. Without careful crew management, you might start a turn with “Your Engineering Officer has had enough of the Weapons Officer's smart mouth and has ejected him out of the airlock. Weapons will function at half efficiency until you dock and find a replacement.”
The NeX Recruitment Academy
Crewmen would be necessary too, playing a role in the normal performance of the ship. They would be assigned to officers as a means of resource distribution. If the command crew don't look after them, they may die in combat (should've hired a medical officer) or leave due to low morale (your Captain character needs better leadership skills). Experienced crew would be valuable to retain, providing increased performance bonuses. They might demand more pay too though.
Exploring the Universe
This provides a wealth of information that could be integrated into the game, allowing for missions, turn-based combat a storyline campaign and perhaps even a player-driven ship personnel market for that MMO-esque social contact element.
Whilst New Eden Explorer would be a single-player experience and would not affect the "real" EVE Online gameworld, it would provide a window into the multiplayer world of EVE Online and could entice a whole new generation of players into the full game.
N.B. I was inspired to dig out my F2P notes and write this post after reading tweets from @Rotosequence (Evelgrivion) and @PaulOosterman (CaldariPrimePonyClub). Paul has had similar thoughts which led him to make the fantastic concept art shown below and this ambitious post on Failheap Challenge.
[Post now duplicated along with the earlier F2P EVE Online article on the EVE-O forums in the vain hope that a CCP dev might one day think these ideas are good enough to implement in some way.]
Directors Cut Alternative Ending
If this is something CCP categorically will not touch, then the effort of building something based around their IP could lead to problems. Alternatively, the EVE-related elements could be removed and I still believe an engaging game could be produced with the crew management elements and trade/exploration/combat gameplay. Although perhaps a bigger task, this would certainly give more creative scope to imagine an alternative universe to explore. I'd code it myself if I knew how, but I'd certainly like to be on the project team to provide creative design and written content if this is a concept that has any legs.