Space Commander

Late last year I proposed an idea for a ground commander feature, that utilized a sim city style builder to create the settings for ground combat, and then both those features together would provide the setting for dust514 / Project Nova to flourish. In that some post, I also mentioned the possibility of using that same rts game play concept for space game play, but at the time I was unsure how to implement it without unbalancing the game in a way that would be detrimental to the game play experience all of you are enjoying right now.

At this point in time, I believe I’ve come up with a concept that could bring this plan to fruition in a fun and meaningful way by not only creating different gameplay than what we’re used to in the eve universe, but also allowing for Valkyrie to become implemented seamlessly into tranquility without some of the challenges we might normally associate with this type of asymmetrical gameplay.

The why:

  1. EVE is a fantastic experience but its also a niche game in a lot of ways; by broadening the scope of how a person can play EVE, we create more opportunities for people to enjoy the universe and interact with the community. Space Commander targets the fanbase of Homeworld, and gives them a persistent world to play in.

  2. PVE (in any game, but certainly in EVE) can get pretty stale with the limited ai available to us. It will get better with time, but bringing that to EVE would take a lot in development resources and time. Even if intelligent ai were implemented faithfully into New Eden, it would still take a back seat to how players can come up with the most ridiculous things.

  3. By giving players access to mission / cosmic site control, we create a more dynamic environment that’s truly in the spirit of what EVE has always been, a state that’s somewhere between PVP and PVE, a sort of PVPcE (player vs. player controlled environment, or a Dungeon Master for you nerds who like D&D.)

  4. CCP has always wanted a living universe where players can truly feel immersed in the game as if it were a real place. By creating systems that expand that immersion, we can come ever closer to that goal.

  5. By tying Space Commander and Valkyrie together, we create an environment that is somewhat similar to multi crewed spaceships, which is a feature that has been requested from the community in the past. This won’t prevent Valkyrie from operating independently, as the same ideas expressed here with Space Command creating the battlefields for dynamic zones to fight in, can be utilized by the npc’s of faction warfare, so they’ll never be left without content.

  6. As for the economy, there is also potential to use Space Commander as a lead in to tie game play to the huge isk sink that is the addition of crew, rather than just punishing players with taxes for playing the markets. If successful within the Space commander feature, the crew module could be ported over to capsuleer ships.

  7. Finally, the reason to focus on this instead of the feature I mentioned at the top of this post, which brings planetary environments into the game, is all of the assets are already in the game for the Space Commander feature. Most of the programming required to make this feature work, is interface related, and much of the other code can be borrowed from other parts of the game.

The Plan:

  1. Firstly, I believe its imperative this feature be entirely accessible to alpha players. If you pay wall part of the game play, you’ll run into the same effect I faced when I played Swtor years ago. I saw the paywall, and then stopped playing. Eve is marketed as a free to play game, and while I understand and empathize with those who want EVE to retain its roots as a subscription model, f2p games bring a lot of eyes to a product. These f2p players will be the content for this proposed feature, players all of you with Omega status will be able to kill repeatedly.

  1. The above is a graphic indicating the rock-paper-scissors food chain that would be implemented with this feature. Capsuleers would trash the player controlled npc forces of the Space Commander (the ships I gave the rat faces to,) who in turn would create the mission sites Valkyrie players could join, which would in turn destroy Capsuleers by targeting specific ship subsystems they can see within their own game. That isn’t to say things would work out that way every time, but I think this is a good goal to aim for in terms of balance.

  2. Space commander forces (both ships and crew) are designed to be disposable in the same way units in any rts are disposable. Low time to produce, but the units are generally weak compared to capsuleer Ships. The entire fleet on grid should be somewhere in the range of a L3-4 mission in strength depending on how the developers wish to balance it.

  3. Progression based on xp rather than skill ques. While I like the skill ques for EVE, the Space Commander feature is a different type of game that lends itself toward fast paced action, not the slow methodical thought process of planning out a skill plan.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The Crew:

  1. When the player loads up Space Commander, whether its in the Eve Client or a stand alone client specifically for this feature, the player will be asked to create a company. Name, logo, chairman (could be the capsuleer character, or some other npc.)

  2. Next, we run through a basic rts style tutorial (with the option to skip) to get used to the control interface. I imagine it being somewhat based off of the Homeworld interface for 3d movement of rts objects, though there may be better options available.

  3. Regardless if the tutorial is skipped, the player will receive a handful of officers, basic crew with no stats (think of those marine or militant items we have in game currently,) ships, and other equipment.

  4. New officers could be created from basic crew when enough experience has been accrued.

  1. The mechanics surrounding the handling of officers will be something like this screen shot I’ve stolen out of a BattleTech gameplay video. These officers have traits which will provide different effects to the ships they are stationed on, and those ships will have requirements for the officers which are commanding those ships. (A rookie ship wouldn’t have any requirements, while a battlecruiser would be much more demanding.)

  2. A minimum of a 1 month contract will be signed for an officers employment, (that payment will be paid by the tutorial npc during the npe for the first batch of officers the player receives.)

  3. The player is going to go through a lot of officers during their game play, since the Space Commander gameplay will be designed around losing and replacing a lot of units. With this in mind, an officer market place would be required to sort through the available candidates from a local and global pool of applicants. (I imagine this as a mix of the EVE market with the filters of contracts.)

  4. If the player does not keep up with the contract when payment is due, the officer will remove itself from the player’s employment and list itself in the officer market. Player’s could also voluntarily allow other players to buy out their officer’s contracts (for a set price paid to the initial Space Commander player plus the additional minimum 1 month contract price.)

  5. XP will be gained on a per ship basis, based on the events that that ship partakes in. While the officers crewing the ship will gain traits based on the events they partake in, the experience the ship earns may additionally be spent on the officers to level them up even faster. This experience can be also be spent on upgrading basic crew to officers, as I mentioned earlier. (I suggest creating a template which will automatically level up the crew as it happens, so the player doesn’t have to mess with it mid battle.)

The Ships:

  1. The fail fit above is an example of what the ship fitting window for Space Commander could look like. Obviously you’re all familiar with it’s appearance, as the only addition is that of the officer slots. Only tech 1 modules can be fit to Space Commander ships.

  2. The code for rigs could be copied and then repurposed for the use of officers, calibration being used as a measure for which officers are qualified for officer slots on that ship.

  3. As was mentioned earlier, my initial thought process for ship balance, would be to put the max strength of a Space Commander fleet, somewhere in the range of a level 3 or 4 mission, though that would be dependent on the balance team.

  4. Since Space Commander ships are so weak, they also would be easily and cheaply produced in mass. Material requirements would be lower for non-capsuleer ships, but also the fact the scale of industry could be scaled up quickly utilizing the same graphic assets CCP already uses for missions would allow for quick production of SC assets.

  5. Instead of just building an empty ship, a template could be created with the fitting window, and allow the Space Commander (or EVE industry players) to build prefit basic t1 modules along with the ship when its produced.

  6. Ship experience could be spent to upgrade those basic modules to the better named t1 variant, which could in turn, give the ship’s engineering officer some sort of perk related to the event.

The Fleet:

  1. The fitting window can once again be repurposed for a fleet window. The proposed uses for the slots are merely suggestions.

  2. Different fleet capabilities could be accomplished by various means, company xp, officer traits and skills, administration staff officers, or a whole host of other possible combinations.

  3. I’ve selected to use the various module slots for ships, basic crew (who are not officers,) and slots related to logistical concerns such as auxiliary equipment and supplies. However, there are many other options that could be used here as well, such as ammunition, fuel, drones and fighters, or even smaller fleets of frigates to act as escorts for the larger ships in the primary fleet slots.

  4. I left the rig slots blank in the picture, but those slots should be used for fleet officers. The fleet officers would determine what types of ships were allowed in the fleet. This is primarily to prevent the abuse of massing ewar ships.

  5. The fleet fitting window would once again act as a template, so even when a Space Commander fleet has been wiped out it can be reshipped easily and sent back out.

The Command Bunker:

  1. The command bunker is the top level administration category for Space Commander.

  2. Command staff skills and traits will determine how many and what kind of fleets a Space Commander can field.

  3. The bunker itself will need a crew compliment, and these slots will be determined based on the types of fleets your bunker is supporting.

  4. Lastly, we once again have logistical concerns, which are filled utilizing the traditional midslot layout.

The Game Play:

  1. The thing that should be foremost in our minds, is not to overshadow Capsuleers. They are the devastating catastrophe waiting to happen, and everyone else is just trying to stay out of their way.

  2. Capsuleers (or stand alone Space Commanders) can only access the the Space Commander feature while docked in a station or other dockable structure. While they will have access to the local chat channel, it will only be the local channel they are in, not their fleet, so this feature will not be able to be used to gather intel unless the player’s fleet is physically on grid with something.

  3. Past game mechanics have been used to call npc’s dumb, but we can make use of some of these mechanics and incorporate them into the lore to enrich the gameplay experience.

  4. Capsuleer tech plays havoc with non-capsuleer ship systems. Unless a Space Commander ship has a warpcore stabilizer fit to it, it will not be able to enter warp when a Capsuleer is on grid with it. This is to emulate and give a lore reason why mission ships don’t flee when EVE players run missions.

  5. Going along with the previous point, Capsleers have priority in tidi situations, even to the point where a Space Commander may lose contact with the fleet all together, with a notification telling the SC of the tidi influence. Once tidi is done, if the fleet is still alive, the SC will be able to reconnect to the lost fleet.

  6. Space Commanders have the option to create a mission grid where their fleet is located, which will have the effect of allowing the SC to build a base using mission asset structures. Shipyards (only for building SC ships,) defensive turrets, hackable data center structures, habitats, brothels, casinos, green house modules, there are many options to choose from mission structures.

  7. To keep too many fleets from occupying a single place, CCP could place a limit on the number of Space Commander fleets on grid. My initial thought was to only allow one friendly SC fleet and one SC fleet filling the role of an attacker, but that’s something for the balance team to sort out.

  8. Capsuleers and other Space Commanders would be free to attack Space Commander assets in highsec 0.7 -0.5 systems, as well as in low and null security systems. Highsec attacks would result in a suspect flag for the Capsuleer but no lowered Concord standing.

  9. For one month following the attack, The Space Commander has free license to retaliate against the Capsuleer anywhere in space, including highsec. Captain Ahab must find his white whale.

Valkyrie Integration:

  1. Integration would be something slotted for an expansion, as its not necessary for the Capsuleer / Space Commander interaction. (Valkyrie is still operational btw, and you don’t need VR to play it.)

  2. Valkyrie players would have two main modes of playing. The first is through the faction warfare system, the npcs in the warzone opening up battlegrounds for players pledged to a faction to fight over. The results of the battle would push the warzone in one direction or the other. The second is for the Valkyrie player to spawn on a Space Commander mission grid from a carrier that is either owned by the Space Commander player, or an NPC carrier that was called in by that player for the purpose of creating a Valkyrie match.

  3. Space Commander or npc carriers will be used to launch games for Valkyrie, creating a seamless interaction between the two games. Because the battle will be visible to the SC, and have the ability to interact with the Valkyrie pilots on an individual level, the interaction wont feel as disconnected as the prior artillery strikes from dust did.

  4. Once the match has been started, any thing on the mission grid will show up in the Valkyrie match, and any damage the Valkyrie players do, will be reflected in the EVE client.

  5. Since server technology is a limiting factor in allowing fps players free roam all over New Eden, we can make up some lore reason why Valkyries don’t have warp drive (unless that’s already been established, I’m not familiar.)

Looking Ahead - Space Marines and Project Nova:

  1. In my previous post, I detailed a bit about using a city builder to create a setting on a planet, and implementing a ground commander game play feature to create the setting dust players would be able to play in.

  2. Using the development cycle outlined in this post, we’re able to create systems that can be modified later for other purposes, while still delivering things the player base desires in a more timely manner than my previous post.

  3. The Space Commander feature, has code that can be modified to be used in a space marine feature which would be primarily for the purpose of capturing sov structures without destroying them.

  4. The previous point would necessitate creating station interiors. While CCP could create some cookie cutter designs, it would be far more interesting if we were given a city builder, for station interiors, so the players could create the settings in which these conflicts would occur. This interface would also be useful in managing the station environment as well. Industry, corporation offices, recreation areas (I like the idea of bringing the battle bots arena from one of the eve short stories into the game.)

  5. Once the setting is primed, Project Nova can be implemented with the same server architecture that handled the Space Commander / Valkyrie interaction. Space Marines setting up a battlefield, and the dust mercs from Project Nova bringing the pain.

  6. After these things are in game, we can finally take a look at the terrestrial environments. Code that is governing the Space Marine feature would very easily be ported over to the Ground Commander feature I proposed in my previous post. And the city builder for station environments could easily be utilized in creating terrestrial cities to make PI feel more alive.

  7. Once these things are in game, we can once again do the Ground Commander setting up a dust merc match. Feel free to take a look at the outlined plan for the proposed GC feature that is linked at the top of this post.

Ultimately all these suggestions are about making eve feel more alive. It’s about giving people more reasons to enjoy the world of New Eden. Many people have said they love EVE but the gameplay surrounding EVE online isn’t for them. By giving people different game modes, a fast paced star craft style rts, an fps, and even a city builder, we can reach across genres and draw them into the universe many of us are so enamored with.

The key to this, is it’s all connected. That’s what makes EVE unique. It’s the butterfly effect.

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