Star Citizen is not EVE online. And neither should It be.
Star Citizen for those of you who don’t know, is the upcoming space simulator game from Chris Roberts and his new company, Cloud Imperium Games. I say Space Simulator, because that’s what it is. It takes the world of the universe which it creates, and simulates it as closely as possible. Physics, economics, combat, immersion, the works.
So far the came has gained fame for being the most successful crowd funded games of all time, just crossing the 25 million mark today. It’s expanding at an incredibly rapid pace, and already has a large (280,000+), dedicated and extremely enthusiastic community biding their time on the forums for the release of the first major instalment of the alpha, the “dogfighting module” which is meant to arrive sometime in late december.
And it’s revealed something interesting.
While Star Citizen has people from all manner of backgrounds (the game looks to be absolutely fantastic, and my hat off to CIG for making this truly spectacular game) already two distinct groups have emerged. In one corner we have the veterans of the original Wing Commander and Freelancer games, the people who signed on with Star Citizen because they had heard he was back in the business, and were keen on seeing a game like Freelancer and Wing Commander given modern technology.
The Second group are immigrants from the current ruler of the “deep” science fiction MMORPG territory, EVE online. Which in turn is unsurprising. While EVE may only have a few hundred thousand subscribers relatively few given it’s age and influence, many times that number have at one point at least tried EVE online. Needless to say, EVE is somewhat of a niche game. EVE is infamous for it’s appalling beginner retention, ridiculous learning curve, hardcore economics, intricate metagame, massive capital fleet battles, and a collection of player groups which for their ruthlessness, size, cohesion, dedication, organisation, and “pragmatic” (read, employ any means necessary) approach to the game have often been likened to intelligence agencies (google “Goonswarm is literally the CIA”- okay it was a gaffe by american conspiracy theorists, but the phrase gained credence in the community for a reason).
This Group is playing Star Citizen because they are keen on seeing a game, that is like EVE.
But this raises a question? If you’re playing EVE, why would you jump ship to Star Citizen? Although Star Citizen looks fantastic and is exactly the kind of game that would appeal to anyone that is a big fan of science fiction games, the jump equal lies due to well, not exactly flaws within EVE, but more like a Intrinsic part of it’s nature.
To explain it simply, I’ve played EVE with about 10 friends in the past. Nearly all of them have said that if there was a new EVE server, where everyone was starting from square one again, then they’d play for certain. As it is, in EVE at the moment where the game is dominated by players that have been in there for up to 10 years, and possess a wealth of SP, ISK and most importantly experience and standing within the existing nullsec alliances and coalitions.
There’s a perception in EVE, which unfortunately only increases with time, that newer players almost by definition can never catch up with older ones. While not entirely true, it certainly appears to be the driving factor behind the large EVE presence within Star Citizen.
And their influence is already being felt, even at this early stage. The now definitive trailer of the game that showed off the Bengal class Carrier and it’s fighter jets had two different reactions. From the Freelancer crowd, the prospect of living on the Bengal, basing out of it like you might a station was attractive, but they really more interested in flying the small craft (Particularly the Hornet) that featured extensively throughout the trailer.
The EVE players looked at the Bengal and said “I wanna fly that”. Tellingly, what were originally intended to be comparatively minor features in the finished game (or at least areas for future development), like larger ships, station management, economics, were included in the stretch goals, in fact they make up the majority of the aims.
I’m a EVE player myself, on and off, so I suppose you could peg me to that group, and I can’t deny that the prospect of capital ship warfare is a strong point for me. I can’t see myself fighting battles in the cockpit of a fighter if there’s a Cruiser or Carrier bridge to sit upon.
But, please, please don’t cheapen the experience. What I am saying? At the moment the constellation takes at least three, possibly four people to properly crew (One pilot, Two turret gunners, Attatched snub fighter pilot). And that’s one of the things I like best about the constellation, It’s a ship that requires a team in order to work. Many EVE players are already grumbling about the relative scarcity of Capital ships as they currently are, and the price of what they consider fairly small ships, as Frigate is the smallest combat ship class in EVE, and every self respecting player has flown at least a Battleship, and most veterans have the skills and funds for a carrier.
However, Star Citizen is not EVE. The Scale is fundamentally different, and the game play dynamics are built from a much smaller level.
The Idris Corvette, and the various larger ships planned should capitalise on this facet of the game. In my opinion, a Ship like the Bengal should require at least 30 crew members in order to run effectively, non fighter craft inclusive. We’re talking about a Captain, a Helmsmen, A XO, a Shield operator, a Engine man, Radar and Sensor Officers, Fighter Craft Co-ordinators, a at least a dozen turret gunners, and a ton of marines for boarding/counter boarding actions and battle repair.
I want to be involved in Larger ships, as do many people. I would cringe if these ships were prohibitatively expensive, but also if they were easy to attain. In my mind, the solution isn’t necessarily to increase capital ship proliferation, but rather to increase the manpower required to make those ships functional, making the primary “price” of a bengal not “Do I have X money” but rather “Do I have a crew for it?”. That way the balance of power between capital ships and smaller craft would be preserved, because while a capital ship might be vastly more powerful than one hornet, the number of people required to run it in itself would be the balancing factor.
Basically, if the question comes for a military problem “We can field or Bengal, or we can field it’s crew in Single-seater Craft”, the answer shouldn’t always be the Bengal.
However, this approach does leave RSI with an interesting challenge. What kind of gameplay mechanics could members of the crew of a capital ship do? beside from the Strategic command view of the Command and Control Centres added in the 13 million Stretch goal, the Gunner positions and the helmsman, what else can be done? The 26 million dollar stretch goal gives us some indication-
Enhanced Capital Ship Systems – In addition to the command and control systems we’ve already outlined, we’re going to expand capital ship functions! Lead a damage control team to fight fires and repair key systems during battle, control internal bulkheads to slow boarders and man a number of consoles, like navigation and engineering, that will make commanding a capital ship feel even more immersive.
Suggesting that Capital Ship combat will turn each capitalship into large FPS battle fields in their own right. Which is quite frankly, an excellent thing, given the fact that Capital Ships are big, big beasties with lots of gorgeous spaces inside, and it would really take a long drawn out boarding action to appreciate that properly, now wouldn’t it.
However, the role of the other functions might be interesting as well. Shield operators for example could be responsible for redistributing “shield energy” among the various sections of the ship’s shields, reinforcing sections under heavy fire while stripping away energy from sections that aren’t.
Which, when you think about it would be pretty awesome. This would give formation and flanking real meaning in capital ship combat, as Flanking would force the defending ship to split it’s shield power between two approaches, while through canny formations, a ship’s side and flank could be covered. It would also present a real danger to capital ships from smaller craft that managed to successfully surprise them, for example a stealth ship sticking a pair of torpedoes in it’s engines at minimal shields.
But I digress.
Star Citizen is not EVE, players shouldn’t expect to be able to fly battlecruisers solo, and RSI should be careful not to make it so. Star Citizen and CIG has the beginning of something amazing with the current teamwork based nature of larger ships, and it should be careful not to dilute this nature to appease players with the mind to make turn this new game into a reiteration of a old one.