EVE Development Roadmap - PI - NEW commander feature - Dust514

(Sorry for the book. TLDR; make buildy things and shooty things go boom.)

It seems as though this is the season for CCP to revisit old systems and attempt to fix / reiterate on them with the new NPE that was released with the last major update. Hopefully they will continue with that trend and fix the career agents as many of those missions are outdated, just flat out give incorrect information, or were poorly designed in the first place as many of the missions do not help players learn game mechanics.

With that said, I believe it is time to talk about how to give some of the other lagging systems in the game some new life, and hopefully give new players a game mode that will provide some much needed player retention.

-[Phase 1] PI: Sim City
-[Phase 2] New Game Play Mode: Ground Commander
-[Phase 3] Re-Introduce Dust514 / Project Nova
-[Optional] New Game Play Mode: Space Commander
-[Phase 4] Planetary introduction into Nullsec Sov mechanics

One thing PI and Dust have in common, is they never fully lived up to the initial game design concept that was put forth when they were marketed to the player base. PI was supposed to be a driving factor for conflict as people fight over resources and Dust was supposed to tie in seamlessly with the rest of the game.

Part of the issue was lack of resources put forth to implement these visions, but I believe it’s also true that there was a lack of framework around the gameplay features to really bring them into what they could be, if fully realized.

[Phase 1]
PI has been around for a while, and to my knowledge hasn’t changed much (if at all) since it was implemented over 10 years ago. This gives it ample room for growth and will serve as the foundation stone for this development plan. And to do that, we first need to bring some life to the 5000+ planetary bodies that inhabit New Eden.

So I propose the first phase start with the development of a sim city clone. It doesn’t need to overly involved with complicated mechanics, as the main problem it’s trying to solve is to provide dynamic maps for people to battle on for phase 2 and 3. The game play feature should also provide a sizeable isk sink for the overall economy once fully implemented.

The idea is to release the game mode as a stand alone feature at first, to allow players to create different sized cities. For example, npc population sizes of 100-5k, 10k-50k, 1M-50M, ect.

Once the assets have been created by the community, they can be dynamically placed on the various planets as the native npc cities based on server information. Areas with higher EVE market traffic, will likely have a higher npc planetary population, though this could also be fudged a bit for the purposes of EVE lore.

Once the assets have been placed, the planets can be dynamically rendered based on their previous renderings, and the city asset data.

The second part of phase 1 deals with the implementation of Residential, Commercial, and Industrial zones into PI as it is only natural for cities to spawn up around the PI nodes which players have placed on planets.

Commercial and industrial zones will attract npc populations to cities which players will need to hire for their PI investments. Residential zones are obviously housing for your city population and for the player’s PI node. Industrial zones in PI nodes and NPC cities will also allow players of phase 2 to purchase / rent land from the city owner (npc or player) to build game items for ground commander.

Most of the labor force could just show up as a continuing operational cost. (ie: 100 factory workers, - 400k Planetary Kredits per week paid directly from PI account fund.) (My general idea is 1M Planetary Kredits = 1 ISK, but I’m sure Mr. EVE Economist would have his own ideas about balancing issues. Monetary transfer between currencies would incur a 20% default surcharge fee which could be reduced by skills and other factors, but it’s main purpose is to serve as an isk sink for EVE players who want to flood phase 2 with EVE isk.)

For important offices however, I’m taking inspiration from the turn based Battletech video game and other squad based games like it. The factory owner (PI or zoned industry) would need to hire specialized personnel from the global pool. As long as these people are employed and oversee projects, they will gain experience in the form of SP which will be automatically implemented.

[Phase 2]
Ground Commander is something I envision as an rts version of that same BattleTech game with dust514 game assets. A squad builder, with npcs that grow as you use them. They would develop skills based on what you have them doing, though certain skills would be perquisites for certain activities, such as piloting.

This game mode could potentially be part of the eve client, and fall under the purview of what capsuleers can attain, however I believe it would be better served as a stand alone client and marketed as a separate game, although all game assets would live on the same server, and when transferred between planets, actually fly through space.

The primary argument for a separate client is the game play will be significantly different from the rest of EVE, but also the terrestrial environments involved may be done more effectively on a different game engine. (Dust was developed on unreal if I’m not mistaken.) This will also allow CCP to market the game mode as a separate game which will allow their marketing team more freedom without potential players having preconceived ideas.

New Player Experience:
When the player enters the game for the first time they will be taken through a series of missions that should be relatively familiar with players who have played any rts. During these missions, the player would not only be shown how to move the camera around and move their individual units, but also how to take mission objectives, and be informed on any other relevant game mechanics the player would need to know.

After the tutorial portion is done, the units the player was training with would be transferred to the player’s “company” (Ground Commander’s version of a capsuleer, companies can join corporations.)

General Game Design:
The cities and PI nodes from phase 1 would be filled with various strategic poi that may become npc or player mission objectives. Power plants, water treatment facilities, sewage, transportation infrastructure, military infrastructure, surveillance monitoring systems, factories, administration offices, or hirable npcs might all become targets for offensive or defensive action.

An example of phase 4 implementation might be Alliance A wants to destroy a structure on a planet because it’s providing a bonus to sov structures in the system. While they might be able to hammer down the city’s planetary shield with orbital bombardment, they don’t want to wait through the timers. Instead, the alliance launches an offensive ground commander mission to sabotage the building.

While the mission doesn’t necessarily need to be a covert ops mission, the alliance elects to do so anyway and the ground commander tries to solid snake his way through the mission objectives. However, before the operatives are able to plant the explosives on the shield generator, an npc guard notices what the player is doing and raises the alarm. Cardboard boxes aren’t very good camouflage.

This launches a defensive mission for Alliance B and their ground commanders scramble to defend the objectives. The whole thing devolves into a large scale planetary assault where the defenders put up a good fight, but ultimately are defeated and the shield comes down making the pathway open to orbital bombardment.

Squad builder:
Once again, I’m taking inspiration from BattleTech here as I think their squad builder is relatively simple, yet effective. Every npc personnel for ground commander would have their own set of skills that give passive bonuses to their task, and potentially an active skill as well (such as a gunner’s ability to overheat weapons or squad leader to inspire their men.)

These npc’s, just like the factory administration from phase 1, would need to be paid, probably on a monthly basis (amount based on total SP and skills). If the player doesn’t pay them, they would reappear in the global pool, allowing other players to take the npc for themselves.

As for how many personnel your company can support, I was initially thinking around 20 - 25 units at maximum. Of course, units like tanks, might require a crew of 5 (tank commander, driver, com officer, 2 gunners) so your actually personnel roster might be 100+. To regulate what kind of units can be brought to the battlefield, the dev team could use an EVE style commander skill system and fitting window for a command bunker.

Fitting Window Template:
Basically, EVE’s saved ship fittings. A player would create a template using a clone of the fitting window, and then run it through the factory process. This is meant to be a much less involved process, as Ground Commander units are meant to be somewhat disposable. The resource collection might involve mining operations for materials, or it might just be streamlined to a PK / ISK cost if he appropriate facilities are present. Ultimately, that type of balancing is up to the Dev team anyway.

Units:
Military units could use a modified fitting window to act as a unit manager, where various equipment, vehicles and personnel could be attached to the unit.

An infantry squad for example wouldn’t have a vehicle attached to it, but it would have personnel, an infantry kit for each soldier, and any support equipment the squad might have. If the player wanted a mechanized infantry unit, they would attach an appropriate vehicle (such as an apc, 3-4 Humvee equivalents, or a drop ship) and the infantry squad the player created above.

Option for no hassle gameplay:
While the game design around New Eden is built around emergent gameplay, I do think it is wise to include pvp and pve match making systems for more casual players who just want to spend an hour blowing things up without the hassle of trying to find content. These matches would still create missions in the physical world where other players could interfere if they so wanted, but it is unlikely for it to happen, unless specially to troll.

These missions would not include the players personal squad, as this mode is merely meant to get the player into the action quickly without the need for logistical concerns. The pve missions would have the player command npc forces from highsec and the pvp missions would have the player command empire forces involved in the lowsec faction war.

These game modes are particularly important, because if the player loses all of their assets, and doesn’t have corporation support or an eve account to feed it isk, the player will need to have some way of making pk / isk again.

Transportation:
The obvious thing here is to let EVE pilots move stuff around for ground commanders, which is a good plan, but one game shouldn’t be totally reliant on the other, even if they are intertwined. For this reason, I suggest an optional transportation mode of letting npcs haul gear and personnel from one location to another, which would primarily be the PI hubs.

Monetization:
If CCP decides to go the route of including phase 2 into the eve client and give the commander abilities to capsuleers, I highly suggest the entire game mode that involves combat be alpha clone enabled. Otherwise, The game should be marketed as free to play. The main reason for this is because Phase 2 is the core of this development plan. It puts assets into space and is designed to get players excited about New Eden.

Obviously skins can be sold, and might get more people interested as they should be more visible during gameplay. Another option, is to allow the purchase of cities / territories on planets for a small amount of plex and isk, in the realm of 10 - 50 Plex. The Plex fee would be waved for EVE Omega clones (or a discount applied.)

[Phase 3]
Phase 1 and 2 provide the framework to make a true fpsmmo work properly. Without dynamic cities from phase 1, every match would just feel like the same type of gameplay you get from other fps shooters, a set of 10 maps, and almost entirely disconnected from whatever mmo the dev team claims it to be attached to.

Phase 2 provides interesting asymmetric gameplay for the dust mercs in terms of combat. Potentially thousands of ongoing dynamic pvp missions all utilizing the different maps that phase 1 provided.

Where this all comes together is in that moment, when a Ground Commander or group of ground commanders have an active pve/pvp mission up, and a dust merc drops into the area. It’s that moment when the rts player gets to experience what it must be like to be a level 4 mission confronted by a capsuleer. Except the whole thing is emergent; it’s not scripted. Even if the dust merc would technically be fighting npcs, there’s human intelligence behind the tactics used. And the rts players get the opportunity to try to fight a unscripted boss that dropped in the middle of their mission.

Transportation:
This mirrors Phase 2. Either have an EVE pilot haul around the dust gear, or let an npc do it.

Monetization:
I know Dust was free to play before, but due to the increased value phase 1 and 2 bring to phase 3, I think CCP could get away with Alpha and Omega clone states for this. (As long as they put the game on PC.)

The Alpha clone would just include the quick match making modes that I suggested for phase 2, where as the omega clone state would allow for assembling your own gear and requiring travel through space to the various mission locations. Of course, Dust mercs could launch their own dynamic missions as well, just like the Ground commanders, by attacking pois in cities or PI installations.

{Optional - Space Command}
I marked this as optional, because it’s not necessary for the plan to come together, and also brings balance issues along with it. The general idea is ground command, but with space ships, to give the player the power of a roaming level 3 - 4 mission. If enacted correctly, Space Command could give a framework to slot Valkyrie into the wider universe just like Ground Command did with Dust.

Space Marines:
A similar concept as ground command, but allows for ship boarding actions and station fighting. Once again, provides a framework to slot dust into. This particular feature probably would not be worth the development time to make all the legacy code work with the new features unless it’s implemented to make sov grinding more enjoyable.

[Phase 4]
I gave an example earlier of what sov mechanics could look like with the addition of Ground Command. Attach Dust to that as well, and you’ll end up with a truly dynamic situation, and ultimately, a roadmap for what I believe was the game design team’s original plan for some of these game features.

Sov mechanics have long been ridiculed for being a boring structure grind so I believe this would be a vast improvement to revitalize these systems with new game play options. I hope this was coherent enough for those who care enough to read. :slight_smile:

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