In Eve, we put the summary at the beginning!
Especially in realllly long posts…
TLDR: In large scale fighting, we’ve stripped almost all of the player selected choices away from the players and reduced them to “F1 Monkies”. The facade of individual choice in scale fighting needs to be addressed, and in order to streamline larger fights, we need to adopt formation flying and install this new mechanic of Squadrons. Players can go afk, make dinner, babysit the kids, do some homework, all while watching the battle unfold, ready to take the space-tesla off of autopilot in the event of a failure. FCs get to play space chess, people get to enjoy non-laggy fleet fights. Everyone is happy.
After participating for many years in all scales of combat as both a line member and a fleet commander, I’ve found certain aspects of the largest scales of combat to be the most prudent in bringing new players into the game, but also the most misleading in terms of how much compelling gameplay exists there. My idea is to bring several issues to the forefront of discussion, and then crush them all with one (hopefully possible, technically speaking) sweeping blow.
I will hope to address the following:
- The intrigue and appeal of large scale fighting (media, news, etc)
- The issue of server loading, necessity for calculations, (and TiDi)
- The actual strategy (and tools of strategy) for these large scale battles
- Individual pilot choices during, and gameplay enjoyment of this aspect
Preface: What are you trying to accomplish here?
I want large scale fights to be exactly as they’re marketed. I want a lag-free experience, at full, real-time speed, and I want to be able to control my fleets (sometimes multiple) with pinpoint accuracy. The overarching goal (and issue) is this awkward juxtaposition between a wide sandbox style of gameplay where every individual’s choices have an impact, and the necessity to take every single action away from players during large scale combat. In trying to accomplish both goals, we not only misrepresent the game to people, but we overload servers, crash nodes, drag battles out and make them particularly un-fun, and also out of reach for many players.
From a server’s point of view, we’re individually calculating every ship’s topography, movements, and actions, including some very complex calculations, only to have them all fit the same ship, with the same skills, approach the same person, and shoot the same target. This is madness.
This is how we can fix it:
A new UI element is introduced to fleet menus: “Join a Squadron”
(except this label has been used, alternates maybe like: section, brigade, division, regiment, suggest others as needed cause I feel these are all awful)
A new mechanic is introduced, the Squadron
(Again, it’s been used but we’ll work on it!)
a. Squadrons accept ships of similar archetype, perhaps by weapon type or something, and the server then groups them together for calculation in every aspect. Imagine they’re something like individual fighters of a squadron of fighters, the squadron is calculated as a unit, while representing individual segments adequately in terms of the effectiveness to the whole (hp, damage, etc).
Note: This might get tricky when it comes to certain actions like docking and undocking, movement across gates, how logistics ships fit in, etc. For now, I’ve imagined this weapon-type based grouping which only encompasses your mainline DPS ships which make up maybe 80% of most large fleets. By grouping these, we will reduce a lot of calculations.
b. Squadrons are manipulated by a fleet commander on a live battlefield grid in terms of positioning, with the introduction of a second new mechanic: the Formation. One FC can also preside over the positions of multiple fleets, in an RTS-style (or existing fighter control style) UI.
c. Weapons systems control can be split off to an additional fleet commander, who controls the targets of the group.
New marketing is released for Eve Online: Squadron Age
Focusing on new player experience, highlight the largest possible battles in history and illustrate single ships as part of a formation/squadron. Use terms like “Don’t just watch the battle unfold, man your station.”, and describe in detail how your character becomes part of a massive battle, with full featured autopilot and auto-targeting options
What have we just done?
For a lot of people, nothing. By requiring an opt-in, we haven’t really taken anything out of the hands of players, that wasn’t already removed. Only on the largest of scales, those so-called “potato-mode” fights, the FC would request that everyone opt-in to the relevant squadron, at which point calculations can be significantly streamlined. Extremely complex large battles can be made-up of completely beautiful formations of ships clashing with one another, and topography can be generated, rather than reported by individual pilot’s movements.
We can take this concept as far down the rabbit hole as we like, I do think even logstics ships, support ships, gate jumping, docking and undocking can be included by design if it’s possible technically speaking to create, without really removing anything from the otherwise “compelling gameplay” that making these actions based on the guy screaming at you already hadn’t removed. In other words, we’ve already stripped almost every player action from the player in these large battles, this change only brings it out into the open where we can look at things like:
- How many actions do we want to leave up to the player on these battles
- Are there certain ships or roles which benefit from still being under their own command
- Would smaller scales of combat also see this as a beneift, by enabling a better game/life balance?
My predictions, if this were to be implemented
Alpha weapons for fleet fighting would continue to reign supreme (again, nothing new here, see also: Muninns online), TiDi would still be required, although the scale of battle would have gone up, potentially several folds depending on how many factors are able to reduced to group calculations and procedurally generated topography of movements based on formations. A lot more people would be available for larger battles, knowing they could simply step away, take care of the kids, shower, empty your battle bottles. Fleet commanders would have an elevated level of control over the battlefield, and the “3d chess” aspect could also be well marketed, it fits well with the overall design of the game anyway.
What do you think we should call the formations?