This post has been heavily edited to incorporate a lot of the discussion back into the original post. Thanks for helping me refine the process!
What problem does this solve?
Researching, as it is right now, exists almost exclusively as series of hoops to jump through to participate in increasing material and time efficiency for blueprints. Or just simply copying blueprints. There is no semblance of any real decision-making or “invention” in the profession.
Researchers don’t have much options in the way of making ISK, other than purchasing BPOs wholesale, increasing their efficiency, and selling copies. Furthering this is the barrier with clunky contract system. Researching and selling BPOs/copies it’s not a very lucrative or very exciting. Again, the researching side of Eve is lacking in content.
There is an issue with stagnation in Eve. Higher-tier ships require more complicated industry components, and most of these are geared towards SOV/citadel structures or capitals. Enticing people into different regions to accommodate new metas could help reduce this stagnation.
Part of what makes Eve fun and engaging for many is theory crafting and experimenting with fleet doctrines, and figuring out interesting ways in getting the upper hand instead of just blobbing. Lately that has not been the case, as most FCs can tell at-a-glance whether they’re going to win or lose based off of enemy fleet composition. A side effect of ship specialization.
Most “vanity” ships are cost prohibitive. People really enjoy customizing their ships, but there’s only a few limited ways to do that in Eve at present. Aside from simple fits, or blinging out, you’re flying a boring old cookie-cutter ship. Skins have helped with this a bit, and goes to show that there’s a demand for customization.
How might this be implemented?
A new line of “Faction” ship hull BPOs that are relatively generic and – at first glance – fairly boring. They have a unique look and feel. Let’s call them “Derivative” ships for fun, more on the name later. Think frigate, destroyer, cruiser, battlecruiser, battleship. Kind of like the Gnosis, the main benefit is that (at first glance) they’re pretty flexible to fit but they don’t really excel at anything.
There’s a pretty big twist on them, though: Character researchers can research “derivative engineering modifications” or DEMs for short. These are used to permanently “alter” their BPOs into a derivative work that has both special bonus and drawbacks. These can be contracted out for ISK.
A Derivative hull BPO has a specific number of “slots” that can accept a DEM, maybe 8-10 max. A DEM can be permanently and irreversibly added to a Derivative BPO to add specific benefits and drawbacks. Kind of like rigs, but more on a BPO level that weaves attributes into the very fabric of the hull itself – “locking in” the changes through the base BPO.
At first, the “integration” process of merging a DEM into a BPO slot is pretty short. Each additional DEM slot, however, has exponential or logarithmic time to incorporate. Anyone who works on complicated projects knows that this somewhat mirrors real life. So something like:
Merging 1st DEM slot on BPO: ~1 week of integration research
2nd DEM slot on BPO: ~2 weeks
3rd DEM slot on BPO: ~4 weeks
4th DEM slot on BPO: ~8 weeks… and so on.
This imposes some pretty serious restrictions, as a very modified hull would take literally months to materialize. Additionally, you cannot copy the BPO while a DEM is being integrated into it. So you have to make a choice – continue integrating DEMs into the BPO, or if that’s going to take really long time, make copy runs to put some of the ships into production? For this reason, some of the more rare and well-researched Derivative BPOs will likely be pretty expensive.
And if you happen to research a rare DEM with really killer drone control bonuses that you were hoping for? You can put it on the market and make bank, or you can build an entire ship line around it – and then market and sell your custom BPCs and/or hulls for even MORE bank.
Example DEMs, just brainstorming:
- One additional high slot that is also a turret hardpoint. One mid slot is removed. Requires additional Neodymium for construction.
- 25% bonus to missile damage. 50 drone bandwidth removed (cannot go below 0). Requires additional Promethium for construction.
- 20/15/10/5 Thermal/EM/Kinetic shield bonuses less stacking penalties. 10% signature radius increase. Base 25% armor reduction. Requires additional Dysprosium for construction.
- 20% mass reduction. 15% less armor. 5% less hull. Requires additional strontium clathrates for construction.
- 20% extra armor. 15% extra mass. Requires additional Titanium and Platinum for construction.
- 20% signature radius reduction. 15% less shields. Requires additional Thulium for construction.
Many of the bonuses can stack with diminishing returns. I’ll let the experts dream up what the DEMs will actually be.
You could even PLEX-purchase special skins to dress your Derivative BPOs with, to put a custom feel for your special line. And it can also include your corporation/alliance logo. You could also have the opportunity to rename your ship “variant” to whatever you want, and this is tied to the BPO.
Derivative hulls will, in time, evolve to fit specific types of doctrines for large alliance fleets – specific to that alliance. Ship/BPC thefts may occur for really niche ships. And certain organizations may make their own niche hull for a specific purpose (think about how the Monitor was custom-created to solve a specific niche: Fleet Commanders). Some may make garbage derivative hulls that are silly, counter-intuitive, and are mocked on zkillboard.
Balance. Some may believe that chaos will reign supreme. However, the time limitations to create a deeply-customized line of ships will lead to gentle implementation. Overly powerful individual bonuses can easily be nerfed by CCP if need be. And keep in mind that modified Derivative ships are not supposed to be the BEST at niche roles that have ships already specifically suited for that particular role; just potentially competitive. Compare this to T3 ships. They may not be the best at missioning, but they can be crafted to mission. They may not be the best at EWAR, but they can be crafted to EWAR.
While we can play armchair developer and claim how difficult this is for CCP, I don’t want to speak for them by making technical assumptions. However, there admittedly may be limitations to how the current backend database is currently structured. That, and custom-line ships may be difficult to search for and purchase on the market. While the contract system can be a crutch to this, it’s not ideal. Ideally, I could see an implementation of this also including a search for custom attributes – an added bonus is that type of search could pair well and play nice with mutaplasmid-modified modules.
Why not mutaplasmids being applied to hulls?
It’s a possible shallow implementation of the idea, though I’m personally not a fan of the randomness of mutaplasmid effects. The whole reason I suggested being able to modify a custom line of generic ships was to avoid the power creep and weird, potentially-overpowered side-effects that could occur applying random mutaplasmids to existing ships that already have baked-in bonuses for their particular role.
Thanks for reading!