With Incursion giving us glimpses of what Incarna will have to offer (the the Character Creator), this month’s topic, by @Minerpewpew, comes just at the right time. He asks “What are your thoughts on how Incarna will effect the current EVE Online social dynamic?” I’d like to see this questioning go a bit further. How will this affect EVE’s player base? Who will Incarna attract? New players to the genre? Seduce old players back into the game? Will we see new players come in that will never leave their station?
It’s probably too early to really answer this. I am first of all hopeful that the CSM’s current efforts will be successful in getting CCP to actually lay out the gameplay implications. Depending on what their answers are, Incarna will either be a fascinating, ambitious new direction for the game or a complete flop that is far more flash than substance. If it is poorly executed, I expect to see no use, no gain, and probably a slight loss in interest (to say nothing of a lot of money down the drain for CCP). If it’s well executed, it could add minor interest – or start a whole new world within Eve that could drive a renaissance.
What I would like to see is that whatever they do, they execute in a quality fashion and with something compelling. I give them credit for being smart enough to release the new character creator in Incursion to give it time to continue to mature and gain acceptance before it is truly required in Incarna.
So … if we acknowledge that there’s not enough substance yet to have any idea what will actually happen, we can still theorize on what would be good to see.
Let’s start with the worst case first. I have twitchy nightmares of beautifully executed graphic characters (this already looks promising) who do nothing but walk around a common area, talk in cartoon bubbles, engage in angsty bad dialog and cheesy pseudo-sexual character bumping that is suggestive only in the manner of banging Barbie and Ken dolls together. And to make it worse, one player is a guy and the other is a GIRL (Guy In Real Life). I would not leave my pod.
So how about a more minimalist good case? I think CCP could do an excellent job with a very limited scope out of the gate. Give the character their own quarters with a handful of added features that can only be used there. These items would all be optional but useful. It would not require any wandering of the station and you could be stuck in your room with nowhere else to go (or maybe a couple-room suite) for starters. I like Cailais’ suggestion of an “FC command post” here, although that doesn’t really require a “body”. CCP could then designate a “common room” space in a very small handful of locations – Jita, Rens, Hek, Amarr and Dodixie, say. Places where the volume would justify it. This could be a very simple “common” space with whatever makes sense for interactive play without the cheesy overtones. What about a direct way to play Eve Online Hold ‘Em? Well executed, this could be enough for launch.
Compelling? Not really. But CCP clearly wants “avatars”, and that would accomplish the end.
So what would be compelling? Something much, much deeper. Almost a second game within Eve. So to contrast the above, what is a more optimal case?
What if each station had (as it presumably does in subtext now) an economy of its own, particularly the trade hubs? Those more comfortable walking can buy things from the capsuleers and trade them to shop owners and peddlers of other sorts. Spies could gather intel. Gun runners could move weaponry to Dust players – or interrupt that flow. Contraband could be bought and sold at locations within the station particularly suited to it (see also the Jita 4-4 Chronicle). NPC items like frozen food would actually be useful and in demand.
It also potentially gives rise to a whole new class of player – the non-capsuleer citizen. The “just a human” character. Maybe able to fly but with less capability – but potentially with entire new sets of capabilites around planetary management, station management, empire politics, etc. This gives a barrier between “in space” and “in station/planet” that is only semi-permeable. In effect, like CCP is suggesting with Dust, you would have two separate games with an interface (a trading location within station).
Then add in the ability for both capsuleers and “normals” to interact (including PVP) in real functional spaces and for players to truly build those spaces. Back when MMOs were called MUDs, I was an administrator of one (GarouMUSH, based on White Wolf’s Werewolf game – yes, CCP, I am available to help produce WW content for a fee!). In that space, one of the most awesome things was that you could build a space and create things (like NPCs) that could interact with characters and provide services and capabilites. It became truly yours, even as you shared it with the rest of the world. You could build a truly functional space, with multiple rooms, that people would want to come to. With the right controls and oversight, this could be an awe-inspiring way for players to create truly interactive spaces that could then be sold for ISK just like any business. It would also be very easy to monetize, both in game (for players) and out (for CCP – what if you get one public room free but had to pay for additional space?). A whole new world that could open up to cater to the various communities.
The underbelly of all of this could be pretty amazing. What if you could break into someone else’s quarters? What if you had keys that could be stolen or passed? What if you could hack into an organization’s books – especially NPC corps like CONCORD, the Jove, or the Sansha, and get real, actionable data? What if you could sabotage, so when someone jumps in their ship and flies out, they suddenly find they have damaged equipment to contend with if they didn’t properly secure their hangar, or were in a “public hangar”? The potential here is endless.
Finally, I think this gives at long last a real new pilot career, if CCP chooses to put in the time and effort – which I would encourage. Eve needs smugglers. Pilots who have real, serious bonuses to getting past CONCORD and Customs. People who can land at corporate POS structures to deliver goods. When I first came to Eve, I wanted to be a smuggler. I’ve been sorely disappointed in the support and capability to do this in any sort of programmatic fashion.
It will be interesting to see if CCP is going to step up to this level … or leave us with Barbie in Space.