There are some questions that I’d love to ask to specific people involved in Eve’s game and software design sometime in the past, which I’ll probably never get any answers for, seeing as how tracking the people responsible is nontrivial, and they might not really have answers. Not everything is part of a grand design in the first place, so some answers might not really exist.
Some things just are because it’s cooler that way, others are because they’re inherited from indirect causes long forgotten, yet others are because the principle of least difference has to be obeyed for a narrative environment to be understood at all, so if prior writers have established something like lasers that go pew, you are obliged to have lasers that go pew if you want to stay in the genre.
But I’d love to ask them anyway, in order from the deeper to nitpicky. If you have rumour or sources on any of that, or a good theory, feel free to chip in.
Why is Eve a game with so much perfect information?
In game theory, games are divided into games with ‘perfect information’, where all players have complete information on the state of all game elements, and ‘imperfect information’, where the state of certain game elements is concealed from one or more players. This division drastically alters the optimal strategies all on it’s own. Games of perfect information generally require absolutely equal starting conditions to be good games — having sufficient information on the state of the game allows players to discern the advantages of their opponents they themselves don’t have much easier, which makes them more reluctant to play at all if they are at a disadvantage.
Eve doesn’t have absolutely perfect information, but it generally offers more than it has to. Local channel, directional scanner that gives exact information on enemy ship type, almost exact data on the state of enemy shields, armor and structure,1 exact lists of people in stations, not only these are examples of fairly complete information, they’re also invariably faultless. If you see it on scan, you can bet it’s actually there. If you see that person in local, he’s definitely somewhere close by. There’s no chance your sensors would get you inconclusive or incomplete results.
It’s not terribly surprising that Eve forgoes the chance to present erroneous or inconclusive information when that chance presents itself, very few other games do. But it is a question why Eve presents certain information at all — in some cases, like the local channel, this is neatly explained by there being no way to find anyone to fight otherwise, but in others, not quite so much.
What was the original vision for nullsec?
And for that matter, was there one at all? The ‘small feuding fiefs’ vision has been voiced recently, but prior to that, I can’t remember a distinct vision being described at all. Maybe I missed something. But prior game design decisions preclude the small fiefs version from having ever been feasible.
Player-constructable structures are considerably weaker than NPC-owned structures for just about any industrial purpose, constructing a completely self-sufficient nullsec holding is suboptimal and impractical. The resource distribution across the map of New Eden promotes trade more than it promotes conquest. For small feuding fiefs to work, a region set aside for such a fief has to be capable of subsistence economy on it’s own, which implies resource distribution following something clever like a 4-color theorem, clearly not the case.
So what, exactly, was nullsec supposed to be, when it was just starting out?
What was the original vision for lowsec?
I already wrote about the self-defense problem of lowsec — as it currently stands, lowsec cannot be anything but the Fight Club. For an ecosystem with it’s predators and herbivores to exist, there need to be, well, herbivores in it. There are herbs, so to speak, but no sufficient survival chance for herbivores because of the self-defense problem — current industrial activity in lowsec is an exact reflection of the scale of the survival chance that does exist. Transportation through lowsec is often quicker, but is avoided more often than not, for the simple reason that the time gained is typically not worth the very high probability of loss of cargo. Rumour has it, that long ago, NPC empires were separated with pockets of lowsec, which would sort of work to ensure that predators would always have something to feed on, even though this would be a great detriment to getting into trade for newer players.2 However, I can’t seem to find a reference to this ever having been the case — the Yulai incident has apparently occurred in 2004, and resulted in the removal of highway gate routes. Which means that they have presumably had to exist for at least some time prior to the Yulai incident itself, and while highway gate routes existed, empires certainly were not separated by pockets of lowsec.
So was the lowsec piracy a desired or undesired practice? Just how much desired it was?
Why are regional gates bigger than regular ones?
Eve’s gate network is subdivided into constellations, which are grouped into regions, and constellation gates are slightly bigger than regular gates, while regional gates that connect regions are bigger still. Border gates on the borders of the NPC empires are even bigger than that. Which, at a first glance, makes sense, as these are probably meant to handle higher traffic, even though in practice they often do not, and in fact, it’s not quite certain that when they were constructed, they could have been anticipated to have higher traffic in the future.
Most objects in Eve are ellipsoids, with distance to object measured not from it’s center, but from the surface of the ellipsoid. Ships arriving through a gate appear in a random point a certain distance from the gate, but that distance is measured from the gate’s surface too. The size of the gate, therefore, determines the volume of space a ship jumping in through a gate might appear in, and the maximum possible distance from the tackle waiting in any given point, making it much more practical to camp a regular gate than a regional one.
If the constellations were not intended to be natural space subdivisions, why is there such a thing as a constellation-local chat channel, which nobody ever seems to use? If they were intended to be such, why gates inside a constellation are easier to camp than the gates between them? Same logic for regions, really. I.e. why, what should be a natural chokepoint, normally isn’t?3
Why is there no such thing as a non-corp-affiliated capsuleer?
I basically can’t imagine the reasons for this decision, other than possibly technical reasons. Even these seem kind of weak. The existent crutch of NPC corporations is just that, a crutch to emulate not being affiliated to a player group, and unintended consequences, like NPC corp hauling alts, see wide use. This is a practice pretty much exclusive to Eve as far as I can remember.
There had to have been some logic.
Why do capsuleer ships have crews?
I’m not sure when this actually got decided, really. For the longest time, nothing in the lore seemed to clearly suggest capsuleer ships have any crew beside the capsuleer. Nothing in the game’s interface suggests anything of the sort either. I was strongly convinced I was meant to be alone in there, until people actually told me otherwise. Later on, there came a chronicle that settled the question explicitly.
Unfortunately this is one of the biggest barriers in reconciling the reality of the game as it is played, and the game fiction. The crew complement numbers given officially are so high, and the expected survival rates are so low — and previously cited crew complements were even higher, while there was no mention of expected survival rates — that a typical mission runner in a productive day of missioning kills tens of thousands people, if not hundreds. The thousands of mission runners active in New Eden daily kill so many, that the death toll in important storyline incidents publicised in game fiction doesn’t even begin to compare and looks positively silly.
What, exactly, was the point of saying that capsuleer ships have any crew whatsoever? This isn’t getting used for any dramatic or storyline effect anywhere that I can see, except in certain scattered chronicles. Even there, it does not seem to matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Why are meta 4 modules so often better than T2?
This is the case for quite a few T2 modules, and only the turrets and launchers always offer a mission critical benefit. For some modules, T2 does not offer a significant increase in performance to justify the extra cost, but for quite a few, a meta 4 variation is outright superior. While for certain modules, this is a later rebalancing artifact, like with MWD, for others, like target painters, this appears to have been that way from the beginning. As far as I can see, meta items predate T2 by quite some time, as do the original loot tables, so there should have been a reason for it, but it’s very much not clear.
And speaking of silly things about modules, why are smartbombs called smart?
Which, as a side note, MMOs are generally reluctant to offer.↩
Older players would just use jump freighters. Then again, there was a time when those didn’t exist either, I suppose.↩
I do have a theory on that one, though. Before warp to zero, everyone was expected to slowboat 15km to the gate. As a result, camps were typically waiting for people warping towards the gate, with ample time to intercept them, rather than people jumping through the gate, so the size of the gate and the volume of space a ship might appear in simply did not matter. Well, now they do.↩