Trapped on Planet Horror

This post is part of the EVE Blog Banter, a monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to him. The twelfth topic comes from CrazyKinux, who asks us: "First there was the MMO on the PC, and now with the recent announcement of DUST 514, EVE will soon be moving onto consoles. But what about mobile? Allow your imagination to run wild for a second and describe how you would see EVE being ported to mobile devices, whether the iPhone/iPod touch, Blackberrys or Android-based devices. Dream the impossible for us!"

The most important thing
First of all, of course, we need a title for this wondrous smartphone game. I spent a lot of time on the brainstorming and I am very proud of the result. The imaginary game will bear the name of Planet Horror. (To be pronounced in two steps: first "planet" in a casual voice then "horror" in a terror-struck moan.)

Gaming for multitaskers
Before actually coming up with an idea, let's consider iPhones and the like as gaming platforms: those are pocket-sized computers, used by their owners at home, at work and (almost) everywhere in-between. It should be possible to start and finish a game at a moment's notice and to enjoy gaming sessions as short as one minute, perhaps even a few seconds. The pace of the game could be, for example, similar to trading in Eve Online, when you log on to sell your wares 0.01 isk cheaper than the competition. Playing the game should not require undivided attention, instead allowing to watch a TV show or keep a child at the same time.

Not a support app
Smartphones are very good for support applications, but the goal here is, like for DUST 514, to reach a new audience (new friends!) and expand the reach of the brand, aiming for synergy and not cannibalism/raising average revenue. Thus, the idea is to design an autonomous and ambitious game and not to build the ultimate "playing Eve docked" software featuring Evemon, EFT and Capsuleer and other community-made apps can do that.

A pet game with a twist
Pet management games perform really well on small handheld platforms, such as the GameBoy -think about the bestselling Pokémon series. Another example is the success of the Tamagotchi, virtual pets you need to nurture and prevent from dying (and don't you forget to bury them on the Internet). The genre is known to function well. In Planet Horror -hey, that's why they call it a working title, ok?, your pet is a human being, born into the Eve universe and who now faces very detrimental conditions such as malnutrition, carnivorous flora or being Caldari. More specifically, he along with every other player character was kidnapped/bought from slavers and dropped on the surface of a prison planet by powerful criminal cartels/the media/Jovian scientists. Planet Horror could be located in high-sec and guarded by CONCORD or hidden in the depths of space, never to be found until the end of times and the return of INNOMINATE NIGHTMARE.
Your task is to ensure the continuing survival of your character and, eventually, his or her evasion from the planet. At a very basic level, it means that your character needs to find food (his reserve depletes in real time and not in game time) and shelter, and occasionally run from raptors or other amusing animals. If your character dies, there is no coming back but there are plenty more where it comes from (the game, like Tamagotchi, would feature perma-death). The endgame would be provided by the quest to craft or appropriate a spaceship in order to escape the planet and reach the orbital space station. Any character reaching the station is granted freedom, riches and relocation to a Gallente pleasure hub of his choice.

The gps mayonnaise
A new pet game would need to differentiate itself from the established competition. Trailblazing into augmented reality gaming is the way to do it. Augmented reality (AR) is a buzzword but also an actual phenomenon which promises to deliver new experiences by layering information or graphics upon our environment. An app using GPS to locate a friend on Google Maps is a crude example of augmented reality. Now wait until Apple releases the iGlasses and night club owners redesign AR deco every night. There will be much dancing between pink elephants. The point is, this fast evolving technology leaves a lot of room for evolution.
When you will connect to Planet Horror, the game will automatically download information about your surroundings. The premise is that the virtual and the real environment are architecturally similar. If you are in Paris under the Eiffel Tower, the game will not show otherwise (the Jovians recreated Earth!); it might also show/inform you that Champ-de-Mars is flooded with acid mud and you need to mitigate the effects or suffer the consequences.
You will need to choose how to react in an appropriate way, though the game will not require or incite you to actually move anywhere as it could prove dangerous and inconvenient. You will also be able to detect the other player avatars in the vicinity, but not to pinpoint their exact location (a bit like the Local channel but without any possibility to probe) in order to protect the privacy.

The link to Eve: bets
Planet Horror is a big reality show -the kind of shows that blends Survivor, SLA Industries and the Ultimate Fighting championships. I have still a little bit of trouble explaining why the Jovians would recreate a replica of Earth to study evolution and then stuff it with cameras and sell the rights to the Scope, but heh, Planet Horror.
Eve players would be able to run bets on the results of each season of Planet Horror. They would also have the opportunity to know that all the slaves or militants in their cargohold have a chance for a new challenging life on Planet Horror, thereby giving meaning to what used to be senseless trafficking.

Plenty more to say
And never enough time. The player could direct his or her character by ordering him around. A character can only do one thing at a time. At this point I hesitate between going the full Killer way, with characters doing their best to survive and prosper in a Mad Max environment, or mimicking more closely a game like Survivor, where everybody needs to balance his need of the other players' help against his need to get rid of her before she gets rid of him.

Look, you can change the rules of the game if you want, but the title stays!

Check other Eve Blog Banter articles on the same topic.

  1. CrazyKinux's Musing - Tying the dots and locking me in!
  2. A Merry Life and a Short One - I Don’t Own a Working Phone
  3. Yarrbear Tales - EVE on Mobile Devices? Eh.
  4. Hands Off, My Loots! - EVE Mobile…Possibility?
  5. Rettic’s Log - The Cronofile – Blog Banter: EVE Mobile
  6. A Mule in EVE - EVE Mobility
  7. Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah - EVE Mobile
  8. My Life in EVE - 12th Blog Banter
  9. My God, it’s Full of Stars! - 12th EVE Blog Banter
  10. The Wandering Druid of Tranquility - WOW, look at that ‘micro-Dust’
  11. Adventures in Mission Running - 12th EVE Blog Banter
  12. Ecliptic Rift - EVE Everywhere
  13. Roc’s Ramblings - EVE Mobile
  14. EVE Monkey - EVE on a Mobile Device?
  15. Nashh Kadavr’s EVE Blog - I-pod Capsuleer
  16. Escoce – EVE Trade - Dynamic System Security
  17. Break Vol - EVE Blog Banter 12
  18. Mikeazariah - EVE Mobility
  19. Pods and Pills - The 12th EVE Blog Banter: EVE on the MOVE!
  20. Lords of Space - EVE on my Iphone?
  21. Cle Demaari - Is that EVE in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
  22. Life in Low Sec - Wormholes On the Go
  23. The Elitist - EVE On Mobile Devices
  24. Into the unknown with gun and camera - Blog Banter 12: Glue
  25. Zero Kelvin - A year of banting!
  26. Corrupted Datacore - Blog Banter #12: MyEVE

Player-owned arenas

Does Eve need arenas? Kirith Kodachi thinks it does. He lists both the reasons (give the players the option to self-organize consensual pvp) and the tools (similar to those currently used in Alliance tournaments).

There are multiple ways to consider arenas. Let's forget a bit about consensual pvp and stick with the exciting word "arena", the associated concepts and the way they fit with the setting. The way I see it, an arena is:

a) destructive and therefore underground. Ships are blown up for no strategic purpose. Thousands of productive citizens die in space to satisfy the dark urges of humankind. Even though the high-sec states may conduct panem et circenses policies, I don't think they would actively encourage such a waste of resources. However, they might not outlaw it. Just remember the punishment inflicted upon Admiral Eturrer by the Gallente Federation, arguably the most humane empire. New Eve is a harsh place.

b) serious business: when I think "arenas", I think "Circus Maximus, thousands of spectators, hundreds of guards"; in a modern setting, I think "illegal fights organized by criminal organizations", as it happens in Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan; or I think about the sports leagues and the billions they generate. Ultimate fighting is a business with dedicated structures and an entry price.

Wish list
Instead of contracts, I would prefer CCP to introduce a set of physical mechanisms to organize arenas, allowing players to parameter the actual rules as they see fit, from 1 vs 1 to deathmatch. One such mechanism could be a starbase module which, when active:
- enlarges the force field by a factor of ten or more; the new boundaries would be delimited by a "daughter module" setting at the periphery of the new force field. This module, in arena mode, would be targetable by ships located outside the force field. When the arena is deactivated, the module would fly back to the main module. (This way, the arena can still be sieged by anybody in the mood for breaking the party;)
- allows targeting between ships inside the force field;
- generates a bubble wherein 0.0 rules apply (no security standings penalty, no CONCORD in high-sec). This bubble would also prevent warpouts;
- acts as a remote camera enabling every authorized pilot to watch the fight. To access this camera would require an invite, similar to a fleet invite but the arena owner would be able to charge camera access on acceptance of the invitation.
Guns and missiles batteries usually meant to protect the starbase could be directed against rule-breakers and troublemakers. Some new modules could function as "props" and flavor the setting of the arena.

With this solution, arenas are starbases that can provide both entertainment and, if popular enough, revenue. Asteroid fields and safespots with cans would still be places of choices for small-time shootings; but business-minded criminals would be able to set up their own arenas of death and organize leagues and championships without further intervention from high above. I, for one, would welcome our new arena overlords: you.

Worlds of Darkness 6: day and night

The hard parts
There is an ongoing discussion thread in the Planet Vampire forum about how the designers of the World of Darkness MMO would deal with the "hard parts" of the setting. What elements of the pen-and-paper Vampire: The Requiem roleplaying game would be difficult to adapt into an MMO format?

Daylight makes vampires fun
The day and night cycle features in the list. The question boils down to: should the MMO include a day and night cycle with, well, both night and day, and should vampire characters be penalized during daytime at the risk of detracting from the fun of playing them?

Horror literature and tradition list sunlight as the supreme bane of vampirekind. Firstly, basking in sunlight is, for vampires, akin to taking a plunge into a pool of acid. Not something you want to try out, but these anathema creatures don't get that much of a choice in all those movies. Secondly, they feel compelled to sleep in lightproof refuges during daytime. These characteristics are part of the very definition of vampires. They serve a purpose in regard to the theme (symbols), to the story (find the coffin before the sun sets, get rescued by sunlight) and why not to the game (dynamic tension).

MMOs are open 23/7
Should this weakness significantly affect the way players can play their characters? Some argue that the "rule of fun" should prevail. The rule of fun dictates that, in a game, realism must take a back step to entertainment value. In Counter-Strike for example, a game which aims to recreate somewhat realistic ballistics, wounded characters are not incapacitated in any fashion. In Eve Online, a ship with 1% structure left is still as efficient as the one fresh out of the assembly array. In the same spirit, in World of Darkness, the rule of fun could dictate that vampire characters should not be exposed half of the day to something that would penalize and impair them in a significant way.
Some kind of compromise can always be made. The vampires of the Kindred TV series are distinctly different from the vampires of Vampire: The Masquerade. If a vampire is playable at all time, it could be for one of the reasons below or any other:

a) there is only night ("Icelandic winter")
A little suspension of disbelief goes a long way to enhance fun. If World of Darkness is exclusively about vampires, the answer would be a no-brainer: night-time all over the place. Apart from, for example, a one hour daily maintenance period, labelled as "daytime", night would reign and ensure vampire characters are not hindered.
Even if mages or werewolves are part of the plans for the MMO, they have no fear of darkness. Eternal night would be quite thematic for a game set in a World of Darkness.

b) sunlight does not affect vampires ("it never did")
What if creatures such as prometheans (though a minor component of the World of Darkness) ever become part of the playable cast? How to reconcile the Divine Fire and eternal night? The weakness to sunlight would be dismissed as another of these myths surrounding the vampire condition, like White Wolf already chose to do with garlic allergy and cannot-enter-into-your-place-uninvited in their pen-and-paper games.

c) vampires have "alts" for daytime
Vampires could use mental powers to direct the actions of an "alt" (alternate character) during daytime, when their undead bodies rest in some basement. Ghouls, mortals bound by the mystical power of a vampire's blood, make good choices. Vampire-possessed ghouls would be slightly more powerful than vanilla humans, but not as formidable as vampires.
While interesting on paper, this solution would deprive some players of the possibility to directly play vampires due to conflicting schedules, a most frustrating proposition. Also, playstyles are playstyles, and some players will just scoff at the idea of playing a ghoul.

d) daytime repels vampires to ghettos
The night belongs to vampires. If there is only night, vampires lose a part of what makes them special. What if vampires can shrug off the need to sleep and survive in daylight, but their monstrous nature becomes apparent to all (burnt skin, shrivelled flesh), forcing them to hide in the darkest of alleys to avoid breaches of the Masquerade (enforced the CONCORD way)? The mortal world would become forbidden to them half of the day, but they would still be able to find poor sustenance in the worst and most secluded slums of the city, and to congregate in subterranean places.

Vampires: capes or no capes?
Compromising to abide by the rule of fun might be necessary, but hopefully game designers will make sure the vampire theme retains the symbolic components which resonate in our reptilian brains. Vampires in the shop mall at noon? No, thanks! Getting rid of the sun vulnerability altogether would lessen the intensity of the Requiem, the vampire's journey into the endless night. For the same reason I think that "taming" werewolves would destroy part of what makes a werewolf an interesting monster: a creature with urges it cannot fully repress. Each supernatural creature has characteristics that define its very nature. Making the vampires into blood-sucking super-villains, or werewolves into shapeshifting shamans, does not add to their appeal, on the contrary.

So, even if perma-night were to become the rule in World of Darkness, I hope the threat of the sun would still be used as a reminder that the vampire's continuing existence is stolen and that the very universe frowns upon it. I hope our mortal characters will be able to search for the resting places of vampires. I hope there will be times our vampire characters will run in the streets, desperate because their refuge has been located and they need another resting place within five minutes. I hope our mage characters will be able to carry attacks on the resting places of vampires at noon, provided they managed to locate them -even if it means that the attack is not played out but carried during server maintenance, leaving the vampire to deal with the consequences when he logs back to the game. Sunlight should be embraced as a tool for exciting adventures. I am sure it could be as fun for vampire players to avoid the sun as for hunters to hurry before the sun sets down.

You would not want to miss a good ominous sunset, would you? You know monsters are going to crawl out of their basements, and you are frightened because you are running out of time. But, if the sun never goes up, then the sun never sets. And that would be a shame.

Clone monologues 13

Speculation. I used to hate the very word. Stealing money, that's what I used to think it was. Now, I think of speculation as a socially useful activity. By speculating, I bring the prices to less unnatural levels, making sure items are easier to buy and to sell. I remunerate myself in the process. I am the middle man, and I take my fee.
To be honest, I make very little money. Mere millions. But it is only the beginning and, by helping the prices adjust to a sensible level, I hope to make many more in the future. A future basked in a glorious vision: a rain of Arbitrators, of Pilgrims, of Abaddons... All of them fitted with the latest in decadent Amarr furnitures, hand-painted by an army of subcontractors and serviced by the most competent and generously equipped waitresses Gallente pleasure hubs can provide.
You realize I am working for you, don't you? There is no way this body will not be floating in space or stored in some pirate's station container by the time this vision comes true.
Please remember to update the buy orders.