If I named every post after a Doctor Who episode, I’d be set for catchy post titles for life. Especially if I’m not above using the silly names like "The Deadly Assassin". I probably should run with it. :) Ahem.
This post grew out of a random twitter conversation where Poetic Stanziel coined a phrase, "But the seed is there, if CCP wants to water it." There are lots of such seeds in Eve, relatively small things that could and probably should exist, but for some reason do not, even though they would enrich it and drastically change the landscape.
So let me list a few things I do believe are such seeds, lost sparks of potential that could blossom into something beneficial for the game as a whole, if they were just given some serious thought.
Amusingly, every single one that came to my mind while I was writing this starts with "S". Maybe next time I’ll go with a different letter just to keep a theme.
There are anecdotal reports that up until a certain point, smuggling, that is, the practice of hauling stuff that is illegal to carry, while being opposed by customs agents,1 actually existed in Eve. At least, back when I started out, I distinctly remember hearing that you could smuggle illegal drugs — boosters did not exist then — in covert ops ships, which were believed to stop the NPCs from scanning you if you kept your wits quick. I found no clear evidence it ever seriously helped though, and smuggling was just a lottery, yet another variation on the space trading ISK faucet — at the time, there were still lots and lots of NPC-only trade goods, and one could make a profit by exploiting the NPC-generated natural trade routes, of which the illegal drugs was just one.
Expansions came and went, NPC trade withered and died, and in came booster drugs. Laying aside the rather silly mechanic wherein they randomly manifest side effects upon consumption, instead of the normal biochemical high-low cycle one would expect that would be a sign of physiological addiction, which detracted from their popularity, they would be prime candidates for smuggling, because people anywhere would find them useful. High sec players would love them if they could just purchase them locally in their favourite mission hub, lowsec people would thrive on them. Only nullsec people use them on a wide scale, as far as I know, precisely because there’s no longer a way to smuggle anything and ferrying illegal cargo is just a pain in the posterior.
There was, for a time, a means of carrying them undetected in the corporate hangar of an Orca, but as far as I heard, it doesn’t exist anymore. Why? Booster manufacture is a black art. In all my combat career, short as it is, I’ve only got a chance to use a booster once. In …Jita. Apparently, right where it has been manufactured.
There are other useful things beyond boosters that can be illegal and which would be important industries for lowsec in particular. While I can understand how making ship hulls or modules illegal would be technologically problematic (jettison what?) I really see no reason that certain kinds of ammunition could not be illegal. There’s a lot of potential here. I forget which particular anime series that was,2 but I can’t forget that superweapon that used the life force of millions of fluffy bunnies as fuel. Eve players would love something like that, and you bet in many localities it would be illegal to use. Laser crystals condensed from slave blood, burning the infidels with the dark horror of souls tortured by God? Dark matter faction ammo for hybrids, using which destabilizes vacuum balance and is illegal because it supposedly has one in a trillion chance to cause a systemwide catastrophe? People would put up with a lot for extra 5% DPS. Similarly, faction mining crystals could also be illegal, if they existed. You know, for ecological reasons. Not to mention certain implants could be illegal to carry.3
The problem here is more about working out a smuggling mechanic that is neither a cakewalk nor a pointless nuisance nor just a monetary tax on the smuggler, while at the same time not requiring a special headache to implement. But there’s little doubt a suggestion that would work is somewhere in the depths of Features and Ideas forum, forgotten and ignored.
The original Titan doomsday was a game breaker as soon as there were enough of them out there. While a doomsday device is obviously meant to be a Wave Motion Gun there are some rather odd differences between them, and the Wave Motion Guns found in fiction:
- The original doomsday device would fire and then have an hour long cooldown time. A typical Wave Motion Gun works in reverse, it needs to be charged up for a significant period before firing. This dramatically changes the tactics of the group relying on such a weapon — the goal becomes to bring the gun to bear and then defend it while it’s charging.
- Titans were the only superweapons in Eve when they came out, and remained such. In fiction, far from all Wave Motion Guns are mounted on spaceships. While handheld versions are their own ball of wax, a lot are immobile and vulnerable, and serve as focal points for the plot.
- Most Wave Motion Guns aren’t just expensive or rare, but explicitly unique, proliferation is outright impossible.
While making something explicitly unique in Eve also means it probably won’t be part of the picture for very long, not to mention raises uncomfortable questions on how would players come by it in the first place, the other two qualities common to a Wave Motion Gun, namely, the long charge up time and immobility, would appear to fit in much better than the original Titan doomsday devices, or even their current incarnation. Something like a POS cannon that can seriously hurt most of the grid, or wipe out a dreadnought in one shot, but requires a player to give the order, and needs the tower to drop shields for ten minutes to charge before doing that, could make a POS grind an exciting gamble, rather than a boring activity it is now.
Spying in Eve has historically been done with alts. While there’s a lot to be said both for and against the infiltration metagame, one thing I do have to say against it this time is that lots of it just unnecessarily pollutes the character namespace, chewing up far too much system resources for the extra the gameplay it provides. I have an alt who’s sole purpose is to listen to enemy militia channels for random bits of intel that float by, capable of doing nothing else. Lots of other militia members do the same. That’s extra database space and extra server memory I’m consuming that could be put to a better use if I could do that in some other manner — which could also make me more accountable for the practice and more vulnerable while doing it. My throwaway alt makes me perfectly anonymous instead.
But there’s no such option that would be more convenient, so I naturally have to use the metagaming method, I don’t have any others. It’s one of those cases where you can’t stop it, because people will do it anyway, and shouldn’t stop it, because it provides extra gameplay, but you’d better tax it to limit the effects that actually are harmful to the game’s continued existence.
The only mechanic that currently exists that allows players any measure of surveillance not reliant on alts is locator agents, something very rudimentary, tied to success in PVE for some silly reason, and apparently meant to replace the idea of ‘keeping contacts’ which could tell you things. You can’t really simulate that with NPCs and you probably shouldn’t try. What you can simulate with NPCs and other in-game objects is electronic intelligence:
- Listening to chat channels by keeping a scanning ship or a deployable spysat somewhere next to a routing hub in a known location.
- Sending drones to follow enemy fleets around, something they can find and shoot, knowing who sent it.
- That nice idea of a constellation jump log that Rhavas included in his comprehensive local replacement proposal. Competing surveillance networks across regions and shooting each other’s listening devices would make for some interesting gameplay.
There’s a lot of possibilities here, some of them should be simple enough to implement. Make in-game ways to do what metagaming does, and in most cases they will win, leaving metagaming to the truly spectacular things and bringing the rest under control.
All the attempts of creating an actual stock market in Eve I have heard of so far have turned to scams.4 Partly, the inflexibility of corporation charters is to blame,5 as they allow absolutely no alterations to the rules of voting on corporation activities or rules of profit sharing, nor public accounting, but having no ability to actually sell shares6 is probably enough frustration on it’s own. Doing a job that a computer should be doing will eventually make you feel you aren’t getting enough for it, no matter how much you actually are.
But the fact that such attempts existed clearly imply there is a demand for it and that there are people in Eve who want to play spreadsheets and exert influence on the game world through them, rather than by shooting things directly. What hinders them is the same thing that hinders stock market outside Eve, but in spades — contract enforcement. It’s not that Eve is the only place where people build Ponzi schemes and pyramids, or declare bankruptcy and run with the money, far from it. It’s just that when people do it outside Eve, they have to contend with regulatory organs that attempt to stop them — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Eve simply doesn’t have any regulatory organs even though it has the Secure Commerce Commission, which could probably enforce whatever it wished just by allowing or disallowing transactions.
Right now, the only way to enforce contracts of this nature is by force of arms, and while it’s possible, though prohibitively expensive, to stop someone from playing a character who swindled you out of your ISK in this manner, there’s nothing to stop them from using that ISK to purchase a new one, which puts a damper on the whole universe of economic gameplay that could grow if capital could be put to work.
NPCs, as it happens. Getting players to do it is possible in theory, but sounds even more like a day job than the camping they already do, so it’s unlikely it could ever become popular.↩
Memory seems to point towards Outlaw Star, but it’s been ages.↩
As a side note, making PLEX illegal anywhere would make an epic troll. Since it enters the game through the redeeming system and can be activated on any of the three possible alts per account, it wouldn’t change much, though.↩
But that deserves it’s own special post. If anyone cares about my opinion, corporation mechanics need to be programmable. Just like a corporation charter outside Eve is essentially a program in a formal language called legalese, so it could be in Eve, allowing the corporation to set up itself and it’s internal economic business whichever way it pleases, and creating options for a corporation that actually works like one, rather than a paranoid version of a commune. There’s a lot of problems in implementing that, but as long as there’s CREST, there’s a chance one could build something close enough for all practical purposes anyway.↩
Right now, you can only give them.↩