Space, is big
Tricky question indeed. I first had to check the features of Factional Warfare and, no, lag is not officially listed among them. I then began to ponder about the way I would grant every capsuleer full Learning skills, effectively removing them from the game and allowing new players to focus on ingame activities, while compensating the learned ones with Ambulation-related flavour skills. But it did not seem exciting enough. Not, how to put it, blasting. I knew I wanted more adventures, more space, more where-no-one-has-gone-before!
I thought about removing stations. Ships would have needed to be on the move, or to die. AFK tanking would have become a thing of the past. But stations do provide useful services and, besides, how to stage grand attacks against them if they are removed? So, I settled with the sloppier option of removing jumpgates.
Hey! Jumpgates are not a game mechanic! They are game objects. Good point, so the exact mechanic would be jumpgate-based interstellar travel. From the point of its removal on, only ship engines would enable travel between star systems. Space is huge, and jumpgates make it look small. That is their crime. They are a defining feature of Eve Online (proof is the way the competition labels itself as Jumpgate Evolution, I say), but the game should thrive and prosper without them.
"Just keep it pointed, we'll be here by end of summer!"
I do not mean to prevent ships to navigate the entirety of low-sec space in an evening, or to cross the star cluster in one day. Players should still be able to reach their friends relatively quickly. The point is not to make space travel slower. At a speed of let's say 6 astronomical units / second, you would need about one day to cross 8 lightyears. Asking a player to spend one day traveling from one stellar system to another does not make sense. To address that background-wise, let's upgrade just about every ship with engines capable of folding space/navigating hyperspace/planoforming non-space/you know the drill. Let's devise systems to chart routes through the depths of space, align and enter "superwarp mode" or whatever.
What is the point of this change then? First, let us consider the nature of space in Eve nowadays and the way it shapes gameplay.
The current situation of space in the game reminds me of the cosmos in the World of Tiers series. In his novels, Philip José Farmer described how a very ancient race used advanced technology to create bubbles of space, fill them with artificial matter, bio-engineered fauna and flora, and play god games. These self-contained "private cosmos" are linked between each other by dimensional doors, which can be used to travel from universe to universe. These doors are often trapped and hostile guardians wait in ambush behind, but there is no other way to travel. Invisible "space walls" mark unpassable boundaries. In the New Eve cluster, jumpgates function as doors and the emptiness of space you crawl into at 1 or 2 km/second replaces the cosmic walls. There is no distant celestial object to align and warp to. The gods do not wish to be disturbed.
Let's break the walls of space
In Eve Online, few things happen at the center. Space, once again, is big. Conflicts happen on the edge of things, in the transitory moments, on the frontier. The riskiest moments are when you jump a gate or undock from a station, because those are choke points. But the transition from one system to another, from a station to open space, does always involve loading a full grid of ships and collidable objects. And, in the current state of networking technology, the process takes some time. Lag is a bigger threat when a party needs to load the environment. The fact that capsuleer-versus-capsuleer combat usually takes place at the boundaries also rewards complacent and predictable behaviour and makes for a sometimes dull gameplay. Bubbling a gate, camping the undock point of a station is a boring and passive way to make warfare. Intel and patience are the names of the game and everything else is accessory. More often than not, either you should engage, or you should not but, once you have jumped, there are not that many choices left for you to make.
Instead, I would prefer the fray to take place more often that not in the middle of space. When you play Counter-Strike, your rush or calculated approach to the center of the map implies interesting tactical choices regarding the position you aim to reach and how much you are willing to expose yourself in the process. You have plenty of choices available to you, not merely to orbit the gate at the best distance and remember to overload your warp disruptor; or to engage, warp out or burn back to the gate. I am being caricatural, but the point remains that you cannot play much with the environment when you are at the frontier of things, where space ends.The fact that the organisation of space by limited stellar systems is, as far as I understand, a technical necessity is, indeed, a technicality, irrelevant to this discussion - and, besides, I still meet people who deny a single shard massively multiplayer online game is even possible.
Jumpgates do serve a purpose. They allow people to actually find each other, but at a terrible price, shattering the dreams of young pilots with a strong Gallente accent who just ache to explore deep space by themselves. Without them, intercepting ships on their way from one system to another one should still be possible, but would require a more proactive behaviour. Low-sec and null-sec space would still be hostile and dangerous to the uninvited, but less players would become brain dead waiting for a prey.
"Military experts call this a clusterfuck"
I can already visualise the Scope video titled 'Joves Attack'. Our estranged cousins, troubled by the possibility that new technological breakthroughs may allow other empires to attack them, or annoyed by the escalation of the Gallente/Caldari and Minmatar/Amarr conflicts to genocidal levels, decide to strike first by disabling or destroying jumpgates. There would be plenty of explosion footage and the video would be interrupted before the end. Once the cosmic dust would have settled down, the cluster would need to adapt or face ruin and decadence. Space lanes would be quickly established between affluent solar systems, but the more remote systems would become hard to reach. Pilots liberated from the tyranny of the gates would just set a course to infinity and hope to actually reach something.
A similar event takes place in the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons (spoiler alert). When the farcaster network is put down to prevent a great threat to humankind, civilisation collapses. That is a very common and very powerful theme in science-fiction. Witnessing Babylon burn would be a great lot of fun, but I don't ask as much. I would just like an universe without jumpgates, where space retains a bit more of its wild and savage quality, and where gate camps are a thing of the past, replaced by whirling dogfights in some place yet to be defined (moons, belts, probed locations). Secret empires! Hidden treasures! Here be space bears!
So, what is the logical conclusion of this analysis? Yep: an aggro timer should prevent logistic vessels which repair other ships in combat from re-docking instantly. Wait, no. I meant: destroy jumpgates, "we-will-still-be-around-in-50-years" Eve. Not necessarily now or in the near future, but someday. Blow them up. Make space big again. Boom!
Check other Eve Blog Banter articles on the same topic:
- Diary of a Space Jockey, Blog Banter: BE GONE!
- EVE Newb, (EVE) Remove You
- Miner With Fangs, Blog Banter - It's the Scotch
- The Eden Explorer, Blog Banter: The Map! The Map!
- The Wandering Druid of Tranquility, "Beacons, beacons, beacons, beacons, beacons, mushroom, MUSHROOM!!!"
- Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah, Kill the Rats
- Mercspector @ EVE, Scotty
- EVE's Weekend Warrior, EVE Blog Banter #9
- Miner with Fangs, Blog Banter - It's the Scotch
- A Merry Life and a Short One, Eve Blog Banter #9: Why Won't You Die?
- Into the unknown with gun and camera, Blog Banter – The Hokey Cokey
- The Flightless Geek, EVE Blog Banter #9: Remove a Game Mechanic
- Sweet Little Bad Girl, Blog Banter 9: Who is Nibbling at My House?
- One Man and His Spaceship, Blog Banter 9: What could you do without?
- Life in Low Sec, EVE Blog Banter #9: Stop Tarnishing My Halo
- Cle Demaari: Citizen, Blog Banter #9: Training for all my men!
- A Mule in EVE, He who giveth, also taketh away?
- Dense Veldspar, Blog Banter 9
- Morphisat’s Blog, Blog Banter #9 – Randomness Be Gone !
- Facepalm's Blog, EVE Blog Banter #9: What a new pilot could do without
- Memoires of New Eden, You're Fired
- Kyle Langdon's Journeys in EVE, EVE Blog Banter #9 Titans? What's a Titan?
- Speed Fairy, EVE Blog Banter #9: Down with Downtime!
- I am Keith Neilson, EVE Blog Banter #9-F**K Da Police
- Ripe Lacunae, The UI… Where do I begin… (Eve Blog Banter #9)
- Clown Punchers, EvE Blogs: What game mechanic would you get rid of?
- Estel Arador Corp Services, You've got mail
- Epic Slant, Let Mom and Pop Play: EVE Blog Banter #9
- Deaf Plasma's EVE Musings, Blog Banter #9 - Removal of Anchoring Delay of POS modules
- Podded Once Again, Blog Banter #9 - Do we really need to go AFK?
- Postcards from EVE, 2009.07.02.00.29.06
- Harbinger Zero, Blog Banter #9 – War Declarations & Sec Status
- Warp Scrammed, Blog Banter 9 – Never Too Fast
- Ecaf Ersa (EVE Mag), Can a Tractor Tractor a Can?
- Thoughts from an Accidental Minmatar Revolutionary, EVE Blog Banter #9 - Aggression timers, WTs and Stargates
- Mike Azariah, I don't put much stock in it...
- Rettic's Log, Blog Banter: Overview Overload
- A Sebiestor Scholar, [OOC] EVE Blog Banter #9: Slaves
- Diary of a pod pilot, [OOC] EVE blog banter #9: Because of Falcon
- Roc's Ramblings, Blog Banter #9 – Taking Things Slow
- The Gaming-Griefer, EVE Sucks, But I Love It: The Memoir of a Masochist
- Letrange's EVE Blog, Blog Banter #9: Bye Bye Learning Skills
- Lyietfinvar, Remove that monopoly
- Sceadugenga, Blog Banter #9
- Industrialist with Teeth, EVE Blog Banter #9