Monday, January 20, 2014

Planetary Interaction V3

"Drack, do you play Stronghold Kingdoms?"

A simple message on Facebook from an old mate who also played Eve. I replied nope and I'd never heard of it. He messaged again that there were a few ex-Eve players playing it and wondered if I was one.

I looked it up, having played Stronghold a long, long time ago (11 years to be specific). I remember the original game. It was a fantastic RTS in the golden age of RTS games. Build up your village, collected resources, build a big castle and lay siege to others whilst defending your own.

Apparently 'Kingdoms' is a game based on the original but as a 'realtime' MMO. You place woodcutters, iron mines and quarries. You build homes for your peasents and farms to feed them. You build workshops to build weapons and armour. You use merchants to trade goods to get gold. You undertake research to unlock more buildings, units and upgrades. All the time gathering more and more resources to build your castle. It is free-to-play with the ability to buy 'cards' to enhance the game. For example you have cards that increase stone quarrying for 12 hours or provide you with research points. I thought I'd give it a go.

You can check my Eve Online killboard if you want to see what I thought of Stronghold Kingdoms this last week! Seriously, I like my bed, but I'm setting the alarm clock for 5 minutes earlier so I can check on my village and castle and queue up some research and construction jobs before work! Cracking little game!

It is also 'always on'. Right now I'm probably at work as this draft is set to autopost on Monday (Blogger works on west coast USA times I think. So posts here don't appear as the same day unless I post them after midday local time for me). My PC may be switched off, but there is no rest for my peasents. The quarries are producing stone, the woodcutters are cutting wood, the fletchers are building longbows and the farmers are farming! When I get home and log in, I'll have a load of resourses to use. I may have been attacked, I hope my defenses are strong enough! I've managed to build a stone wall two blocks thick around my keep with a small tower in each corner with a handcul of archers on top. Stonghold Kingdoms is a great little game that is long term, but doesn't need massive time investment. Log on, see what has happened whilst you have been away. Queue up some research, set some construction going, give orders to your units and log off.

Now one of my thoughts was, why can't Eve planetry interaction be like this. I tried PI when it came out and after a day thought "sod that". I tried it again when they revamped it. Still nope.

Now I'm not saying that a Stonghold Kingdoms type game could be slotted into the Eve Online Client. Because it cannot be without a mega re-write of the code. But what about a seperate game built from scratch that links into Eve Online? PI can exist as per current for us capsuleers. But what about a more in-depth RTS/strategy game where you don't play as an immortal pilot, but as a normal person starting a colony. The PI output could be higher than that from capsuleers, but it requires more time and carries more risk - your colony can be attacked or random events could happen like the "Tama VI Plague" or an infestation of furriers!

The pitch is simple enough - You and your followers are selling up in Empire and heading into the great unknown to start a colony. You head to null-sec with your recently bought Quaffe Corporation "Instant Colony Centre(TM)" habitat and land on a new planet and deploy it.

First thing is resources! You'll need to get some tritanium extractors activated. You'll need a lot of the stuff to build more buildings so some seperate mine structures are an early 'must'. Those hydroponic pods in your "Instant Colony Centre(TM)" are fine for you and your small group of intrepid colonists. But as you attract more people to join you, you'll need more food. But all this needs power, you are going to need to build some power generation soon(TM). And what about that other colony someone has deployed 50km west of here. Damn Amarrians, who let them onto the planet? Its only a matter of time before that asshat tries something. So do I build some defenses and train up an armed security services wing, or concentrate on making lots of money and I'll hire some DUST mercenaries to kick his ass if he tries something. Mmmmmm so need to decide on researching energy turrets or improved brokerage then. May be I should upgrade the research labs and speed things up. Damn, I really need a level 1 spaceport too, but that is expensive. But then again it is really cheap compared to the space-elevator. May be one day.... Oh yeah, the colonists, they want a bar and sports hall and.... damn they are needy!

Think a long-term MMO, free-to-play in the Eve-O universe. It could feature:-

Colony building
There is a good selection of buildings of which each can be upgraded. Not exactly Sim City. Think more of Total AnihilationSupreme Commander//Comand and Conquer than Starcraft. You need to produce resources, have factories to build, spaceports to trade plus you need to keep your colonists happy. You don't want a Tibus Heth style riot do you?

Are you going to maximise factory production to make money, or invest in colony defenses? There are others on this world who are competing against you. But don't neglect your own people, they came here for a better life and are expecting you to provide it.

From resource gatherers to light tanks. Each unit can also be improved by research. Drones are the basic unit and there are various varients from scout to heavy combat.

Combat - PvE
Those damn pirates get everywhere! Serpentis, Guristas, Angels. All doing the same as you, making a base to produce stuff on a planet. Their outposts pop up at random and have a negative effect on the area. Your colonists feel less safe and things slow down (factory output, research etc). The pirates will also raid and attack your colony, the bastards! When they do you will get a notification that pirates are approaching and how long before they get there (2 or 3 hours normally). You don't need to be there as there is nothing you can do. You do not control the defenders, you simply set them up and position them and leave them to it. After the event you can watch the battle or just read the notification mail about what happened. Example Serpentis sent 30 marines against you and they got horribly slaughtered by your perimiter defense drones, or, they managed to overcome your defenses and stole X credits. Y minerals and Z finished products. Yeah, also your vehicle factory producing DUST tanks was damaged and needs repairs too before it can restart.

They are rare, but you need to be on your toes when a Sansha's Nation colony appears. They are even worse than a rogue drone hive! They'll come and try and steal your colonists! But if you can attack and destroy them, the rewards can be great!

When you attack a NPC outpost the combat works the same. You form the attack force, point them in the direction, and send them off. After an hour or two (depending on distance and speed of your force) you will get the results which you can watch as a 'replay' or just read the summary stats.

Combat - PvP
Like the PvE, fighting in the game is AI controlled, even the PvP. You are not the commander of the armed forces, you simply say what to attack and with what, your troops do the rest. You can send a force over to attack another player but it will take time to reach them depending on the distance, unit type and any research you have carried out on troop speed. The attack occurs at the set time (unless you call your forces back) and you can see the battle played out as a replay whenever you want after the event. If you want to destroy a specific building or steal specific things, you'll need to hire DUST mercenaries. This takes even longer as there is a 24 hour timer and the target gets a notification so that he can hire mercs to defend if he so wishes. You do not get to see the DUST battle obviously, just a simple stats screen telling you the outcome.

You cannot completely destroy another players colony, but you can certainly hurt it.

Your "Instant Colony Centre(TM)" allows you to hire 'specialists' on the market for a limited time. For example you can hire a geo-extraction specialist for 12 hours that will give you a 50% increase to tritanium output. Or how about a group of research scientists. 30% faster research for 6 hours. These 'hires' are paid in Aurum. So whilst the game is free to play, it makes its money through these micro transactions. Another avenue would be to have limited queues for manufacture and research. You can rent an advanced colony AI. This AI gives you the ability to queue up research and construction projects, automatically send out scouting drones etc even when offline. Availible in one week or one month flavours. Again, you don't need to use these, but if you are willing to buy AUR with your hard earnt real-life cash, you can get a decent boost and an easier life!

One Universe-One War
Is that asshat over there expanding into your terratory? Hire some DUST mercs to attack one of his factories. They are not cheap, but they are effective... unless he hires some DUST mercs to defend the site!

Is that too subtle? Are you Matari and prefer HUGE guns? You might be right, DUST guns aren't big enough! So if you like your relaiation more "in your face" then put a contract out for a capsuleer to give his colony some "Thrasher Lurvin". An orbital bombardment by EMP should cool his jets for a while. Unless he has orbital defenses built. Then that capsuleer might get a nasty surprise. Making nanite paste? Well you'll want to get that to Jita won't you. You can rely on the NPC shipments but they are slow and don't carry much. A capsuleer can ferry your goods much faster and in much greater quantaties. Those DUST514 weapons you are building would fetch a better price in Black Rise. Capsuleer hauling contract is the only way to do that! Enemy colony has a space elevator? A Eve Valykerie attack on the orbital section could shut it down for a day!

Corporations and Allainces
Same as Eve and DUST. You can have a colony-only corporation or alliance or you can be part of a bigger one involving all three games.

There is so much more that could be done with this idea. I see it as a long-term strategy game. It has huge potential to bring people into the Eve-O universe. Much more than DUST ever will. This idea is a PC game in a market that is not already satuated by the same genre.


  1. Me likey!
    One thing I'd add though is having a random planet starter spawn so you couldn't just get 10 friends spawning together. If you want to keep your plot of land or expand on the planet then you'll need to do war or be a diplomat with those around you.

    Maybe only way to get someone off same planet is with DUST Mercs. And their insurance will grant them a new planet plot somewhere else.

    If an alliance/Corp controls a whole planet you can 'sell up' your plot to them and start again on a new random planet plot. Or when you control a whole planet you can hire DUST Mercs to get you a beach head on another planet you pick, will be harder on planets who are controlled by one corp/alliance.

    Must stop, the ideas keep coming!
    At least it would give use something fun to do eve related while sitting on a titan. ]: )

  2. I'd love to see something like this implemented. I've often flirted with the possibilities offered by Planetary Interaction, both in my fiction (my 2012 fiction contest entry Clouded Judgement looked at the worst case scenario for colonists vs. environment on a gas planet) and other stuff (in my Incarna parody text adventure, the PI section consisted of dealing with a colonist uprising).

    There are so many possibilities which would be more engaging than the current version. I too have long been a fan of the base-building aspects of many a RTS and Stronghold's slow-burning tower defence gameplay holds a place in my heart too.

    As I recall, your references to being able to call upon DUST mercs is pretty close the the original roadmap for EVE/DUST interaction. Of course, that was before the Jesus feature bubble burst. Now they've gone in a different direction and I can't see those dots being connected easily in the near future.

    I believe, when he was Executive Producer, a certain Mr Lander spoke of his ambitions to do something with PI (along the lines of 'rip it out of EVE and put it on a tablet' - you can find the exact quote in a CSM Summit minutes somewhere). Now he's in charge of CCP's mobile strategy, this could very well be up for serious consideration.

    Well, we can hope.

  3. I like it.

    I watched all the PI vids out there, even talked to a "resident carebear expert" about what I needed to do....and promptly gave PI the "one finger salute" after 15 minutes of wasting my time...

    Would be nice to have another aspect of the game without having to resort to craptastic console gameplay (I.e. DUST) or becoming a full-time carebear to get something out of it...

  4. Really, really, good idea.

  5. While the idea is nice, the market is already quite saturated in similar games.
    If done right, it could benefit the universe and make a decent money for CCP tho.