August 12, 2013

Where is the Ambulation Discussion?

It's time we moved past the up-in-arms attitude (if you still have it) regarding Incarna.  Yes, it was a fiasco, and yes it was a very low point in CCPs history, and yes we should never forget it lest we repeat it. CCP has shown that it understood the problem and has worked very hard to lay the foundation for a better system of updates and patches.  Unless CCP suddenly goes dark again, releasing things that were never discussed in public, I don't think we'll have to worry about where the direction of the game goes.  But when is CCP going to feel they can work on Ambulation again (I'd prefer to call it Ambulation vs Walking in Stations because hey, there's no reason to restrict yourself)?

There's a lot of ill-will still felt towards the Summer of 2011, and it's justified, but it's aimed at the wrong place.  It wasn't Walking in Stations that was the real issue, it was CCP's unwillingness to listen or discuss their ideas.  It was their arrogance that they felt their work was perfect, without flaw, and above critique from lowly subscribers like us.  It was the disregard of the CSM and the minimizing of their efforts.  Walking in Stations was simply the target for our anger.

So yes, I think that Incarna was implemented poorly, and the idea itself was wholly unfinished and totally superfluous - two things EVE players generally dislike, especially when combined.  But it's time CCP revisited the topic publicly.  Surely there are still people at CCP who are working on this thing, right?  What are they doing? What are their thoughts and plans? How do they see Ambulation fitting into the grand scheme?

I saw a video a while back of CCP presenting a video to a group of people; I've never been able to find it again.  I think it was an Eastern European or maybe Russian meet up.  It was recorded pretty poorly, and the video was just protected onto a screen, so the quality wasn't great.  But what CCP showed was very interesting.  It was simply a proof of concept that used stick-like figures and basic polygons for objects, but the gameplay was structured around moving through very dangerous areas (usually abandoned stations or something like that) in search of items that can be returned to your ship and sold.  Other players could obviously be a threat, and you wouldn't know if they were friendly or not until perhaps it's too late.  Cooperative play definitely made things easier.  There was always danger: your ship could be stolen out of its docking station, your character could die from the radioactive waves released by the items you hunted, other players may be wandering around the station too.  It was basically DayZ, but the video was posted on Youtube before DayZ's release.

So now, a year or so after that video, why hasn't CCP made any more public statements regarding their vision for it? Was this proof of concept scrapped for something else? Was it refined?  We've seen games like Pay Day and Pay Day 2 (which are a lot of fun, definitely pick it up if you haven't) which focuses on co-operative play to steal and rob banks, jewelry stores, etc.  DayZ is getting its own game now.  There's obviously a market for this type of gameplay, and I would definitely be interested in doing this in EVE.  CCP needs to HTFU and face their fanbase and let us know what they're doing in this regard.  We're ready to hear it.

Potential Issues

Of course, it won't be easy to dovetail a game like that into EVE.  There are a lot of things that would have to be done, and it wouldn't be quick.  I'm certainly not expecting something to be released for a few years. There are quite a few hurdles to overcome, both lore-wise and mechanically.

Let's start with lore issues first, I guess.  Why not?

For starters, a capsuleer is not immortal outside of his ship.  Of course, technology has advanced since capsuleers first arrived on the scene and we now have DUST soldiers who can be cloned without an entire pod.  The technology was discovered through the very exploration of derelict space stations, even. This technology hasn't spread to capsuleers because they need the pod to control the ship.  Even if a capsuleer had the work done to have the implant placed inside of his head that let him become immortal without a pod, he'd never be able to compete with other pod pilots in space.  So without his pod, if he died on a station, he'd have lost whatever memories he gained since his last clone date.

Mechanically, that would mean lost skill points.  Definitely doable, as proved by T3 ships, but just something to keep in mind.

Secondly, our capsuleers are not trained foot soldiers.  They fly massive ships; they don't have shoot-em-ups.  This obstacle is pretty easily overcome - new skills.  Kind of annoying though.  It's pretty EVE-like to do so, I guess. You could have skills that could improve things like accuracy, recoil, reload speed, etc etc - all the stats you see in other shooters.  Personally, I'd prefer our pilots to all be fairly mediocre at this though.  A capsuleer is a very expensive investment.  They're chosen after a very rigorous and challenging program, that not every applicant survives.  It doesn't sit well with me that an organization would front the money for a capsuleer who is just going to pick up a gun.  Why not just make a DUST soldier at that point?  I mean, it's fine to branch out, but a capsuleer's main job is to be a pilot.  Unless you're a station trader, I guess. Cowards.

It would be pretty neat to have a little cross over between DUST and EVE though.  Some of the weapons used by DUST mercenaries could easily be used by EVE capsuleers separated from their precious ships, of course, but others specifically state that they require special suits to use (ie the heaviest of the weapons in DUST 514), but pistols and medium weapons would be easy to wield for our puny pod pilots.  There could be special EVE-only weapons too, perhaps, which DUST soldiers would view as useless or inferior.

This is probably the second largest mechanical issue: how to balance weapon usage.  You don't want to have too much cross-over with DUST, or you have some serious issues.  Shooting guns in EVE should be a clumsy affair.  Third-person view would be best; it fits with EVE, looking at the outside of your ship, and it provides a less precise movement and aiming scheme, which fits with my above points.

Of course, the golden rule of anything in EVE is that it has to matter in some way.  Does it provide engaging, fun, and dynamic gameplay? Does it add to the overall game, mainly by way of the economy?  If so, then let's start the conversation up again, CCP.