Thursday, August 11, 2011

Customisable Ship Crews in Eve and Zakree Part 1 - The Loss

This blog post has two parts. First my thoughts on how customisable crews could work in Eve Online. Then half way down is a little geeky (OK, may be a lot geeky) fan-fiction on the subject!

Ships in Eve do have crews. Whilst the smaller shuttles and frigates may only have the capsuleer and may be a couple of others, anything bigger has a more substantial crew. Whilst their numbers are much smaller compared to a comparable ship piloted by a non-capsuleer (ie by a captain stood at a bridge), there are still a lot of people on board that ship of yours. In fact there are around 6000 people in a normal capsuleer piloted battleship! You can find plenty of references in the Chronicles on the main Eve-O website to the crews of capsuleer vessels such as here (where I got the 6k from).

However, currently in-game we don't have anything to do with them. We assume the crew come with the ship, their pay is taken care of (some how), and when we lose the ship they all die.... horribly.... in a fire.... screaming.

Customisable spaceship crews is something that's been suggest for a long time by some players. Basically they could work like another rig slot on the ship. Your ship comes with a standard crew but you can always hire a better crew. They could make a slight increase to the power grid, may be they could make tanking or DPS better. Not a huge buff, but something small, and like rigs they are lost when your ship is destroyed. May be they could be specialised in some areas?

  • Engineering Specialist Crew - X% bonus to powergrid, max capacitor, capacitor recharge and shield recharge.
  • Gunnery Specialist Crew - Y% bonus to tracking speed, optimal range and rate of fire
  • Armour Specialist Crew - Z% bonus to armour repair amount, armour repairer capacitor use, armour resists.
Or may be we could be racial about it. Trained, Experienced and Elite Faction Crews. Each giving a slightly better bonus.

  • Elite Caldari Crew - 4% bonus to missile damage, shield HP's, shield recharge and shield boost amount.
  • Experienced Minmatar Crew - 3% bonus to ship max velocity, projectile turret damage and duct-tape (nanite paste) application.
  • Trained Amarrian Crew - 2% bonus to armour amount, energy weapon optimal range and armour repair amount.

There could even be faction Navy crews requiring loyalty points from the militia. The Gallente specialised in armour tanking and hybrid weapons, the Minmatar on ship speed and projectile weapons, the Amarr in gathering up all their mates to blob you and the Caldari specialised in fitting warp core stabs and cloaking devices to BC's and generally running away. ;)

You might need a specific skill to use the right crew "Crew Liaison" might need to be trained to 5 to use the Elite crews.

There could be crew offices in the stations, you have to go down yourself to find one of these crews (when Incarna properly deploys). You cannot sell them on, they are non-transferable. When you "buy" one you have to select the ship at that point and they are assigned to that ship and that ship alone. System generated, random availability (better chance in 0.0 NPC space of an elite crew than hi-sec) and also acts as an ISK sink to keep in-game inflation under control. You can go down to the crewing office but you have no idea what you'll find available. May be there will be an Elite crew available for the style of ship you want it for. May be there will be nothing you are interested in, you will just have to try another time. They could also be rather expensive.

There are a few ideas on how customisable ship crews could work. Or we could simply go the "Drackarn Way"...

My crew don't help the ship in any way but the Captains Quarters are THE place to be when docked up. Giggity!

I got onto this the other day, as I lost a BS. "Whoops there goes another 6000 people. Oh well at least I made it out alive!" And that got me thinking that if CCP ever did implement customisable crews to Eve, us PvP addicts would struggle to find them if it was kept realistic!

"Hi would like a job on a starship?"
"Yeah, that would be great. What do you do? Mine? Mission? Haul?"
"Erm, actually I'm into low-sec piracy. To be honest I thought the eye-patch, peg-leg and the parrot might have given it away!"
"Oh yeah, right.... and how long do your ships usually last? A year? 6 Months?....... A month?"
"Erm.... yeah sometimes... if I don't use them that much"
"OK I'll put it another way, how many of your crews have died in a fire this year so far?"
"Only about 48 or so"
"And we are only 32 weeks in to that year."
"Yes but it has been a FUN 32 weeks. OK, may be not for the crews"
"Thanks for the offer, but your crews appear to have a life expectancy of around 4 days.............."
"Yes, but, wait! There's free beer in the ship's bar! Wait! WAIT!!!! We have exotic dancers!"

So then I got thinking that actually most low and null sec PvP capsuleer crews must actually be either suicidal, mad as a badger or utterly desperate for work. Surely they are constantly looking for a way off these death-trap ships!

I ended up writing a short piece about a crewman trying his "big chance" at getting out of capsuleer crewing before he ends up a frozen corpse and losing his girlfriend who cannot stand not knowing if he'll return each time he leaves on the ship. After I wrote it I didn't think I fully expressed his real need to get out of capsuleer crewing and why. But I didn't want to add anymore to that one, so thought I'd do a preamble to flesh it out a bit. Hopefully this will help in understanding his need a bit better when I post Part 2 - The Gamble.


Zakree Part 1 - The Loss

The ship shuck violently as another salvo of missiles slammed into the shields. One of the warheads found a gap through the energy field and exploded onto the ships armour plating.

"This is not good" thought Zakree.

The Hurricane class battlecruiser was caught by two Drake class battlecruisers. They had them webbed and scammed. They weren't getting away.

A rumble resonated through the ship as the 720mm Howitzer artillery fired into one of the Drakes. It's shields we're nearly gone, but the other Drake was practically unscathed. The Hurricane shields were well below peak recharge and the low shield warning alarm had already gone off.

"Divert more power to the shield resistance modules and the binders" yelled Zakree.

Technician 2nd Class Kathreen went to work on the power distribution board. They were the last two in engineering. The others had moved to gunnery where the capsuleer had been overheating the guns for some time or had evacuated due to smoke or from injuries caused by the frequent explosions.

"I'm giving it all she's got" screamed Kathreen over the alarms and the crackle of the sparking power conduits. The 21-year old looked panicky.

Zakree looked at the engineering read outs. The other Drake might go down, but unless backup arrived sharpish, their ship was doomed. Engineering was already in bad shape. Smoke, small fires and showers of sparks erupted all around them. He needed to calm the inexperienced girl down, she was his only assistance down there now.

"Keep it up. Help is on the way" Zakree lied. He had no idea if help was coming or not. The capsuleer, floating in his Hydrostatic pod in the centre of the ship was the only one who knew. All Zakree knew was that unless it was here in 30 seconds there would be no point in them coming at all.

The engineering section was racked with a series of small explosions. The last volley of missiles had taken the shields down and now was hitting armour. Power conduits along the walls blew out as the shields gave way.

"See if you can divert auxiliary power from the warp drive to the shield extenders" Zakree shouted.


Zakree turned round and saw Kathreen turn slowly away from the power distribution board towards him. Her face was white. She tried to speak but only foaming blood past her lips. Zakree saw a conduit section that had blown out from the wall. It had pierced her through the midrift. She held the jagged, bloodied metal pipe protruding from her stomach with both hands. She tried to speak again before falling to the ground.

Zakree didn't think about it. He ran to the control board and tried to divert the power. As he engaged the switches the console sparked, burning his hand. He returned to the engineering station stepping over Kathreen's body. Zakree didn't know if she was still alive, but it didn't matter. They were all likely to be dead within seconds and there was nothing he could do for her. The time to grieve would be later, if any of them survived.

He saw one of the Drakes had been destroyed. The smoldering wreck span slowly off the port bow. The second Drake had taken some shield damage but the Hurricanes armour was about to fail. Help had not arrived.

Zakree glanced at the escape pod hatches. The red light indicated that the damn capsuleer had not activated them. They never did until the last possible moment. Until they were sure the ship was utterly lost. You didn't want your crew abandoning ship every time you got fired on was the reasoning behind it. Zak knew the ship was lost, surely the capsuleer knew that too. Why didn't he let the crew abandon ship now whilst they still had time.

A strike from another salvo of missiles set off the low armour warning. The Damage Control system was still online so the structure would hold, but two more volleys like that and they were all dead. The ship was already dying. Zakree could feel he was lighter, the artificial gravity on the ship was failing.

He glanced over at Kathreen. She lay on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood. Zakree knew she was dead, and he was actually glad for her. Contrary to popular belief, death in the hard vacuum of space was not instantaneous. You survived for a good few seconds as your outer flesh froze but the decreased pressure made your blood boil. It was not a pleasant death freezing on the outside and boiling to death on the inside as your lungs and eyeballs exploded.

Another salvo stuck. Warning sirens went off as the structure of the ship began to fail. Zakree saw the red light turn green. The escape pods were active. He dashed to one of the small hatches and hit the button. The hatch opened and using the grab bar Zakree slung his body through the small opening. As his feet hit the bottom of the torpedo style capsule the hatch automatically closed and the escape pod launched.

As the pod exited the ship Zakree realised he was out on the port side with the Drake. He could see the heavy assault missiles from it streaking towards the Hurricane. He looked through the narrow back viewport in the hatch as the missiles passed him either side. As the missiles detonated on their target, the hurricane erupted in flames and explosions.

As the ship broke apart, within the smoldering wreckage he saw it. The olive-green coloured pod. Compared to other ship construction it looked so alien with it's bulbous curves and not a straight line in sight. Inside was the captain, a capsuleer, probably willing his pod to escape right now. The pod aligned out and slipped into warp. The Drake closing in on the burning wreck to loot what it could.

Zakree's escape pod was too small to be seen by the Drake. But it didn't matter. The capsuleer on board that ship had no interest in him whatsoever. He was insignificant and not even worth considering. The readout in his escape capsule was showing a total of 155 beacons from crew-pods in the area. Some of them were probably from the Drake they downed. Probably no more than 70-80 of the Hurricanes crew had made it.

The small screen inside the escape capsule bleeped as an incoming message arrived. A standard message from the Sisters of Eve to say they had detected his escape pod's beacon and a rescue ship would be arriving within 4 hours. Unlike the much larger capsuleer pod, these escape pods didn't have warp drives or engines. Just some basic maneuvering thrusters that would keep the pod out of harms way until a rescue ship arrived.

Zakree leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He now had time to grieve for his dead crew-mates.

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