Monday, May 12, 2014

EVE: Legion and the Future of the Sandbox

CCP's new "Project Legion" gives us the ability to look at the last couple years of Dust514 development and use our perfect 20/20 hindsight to see where things went wrong. I think a big pain point is the current iteration of Planetary Conquest. While awesome in theory (Dust players owning districts, bombardments from EVE, bonuses that affect EVE and Dust, strategic planning, huge potential for backstabbing, complex metagame), the application sort of falls short.

Current Problems

Under the current system, the game mode favors passive ISK accumulation over risk. It also takes an existing lobby game mode with team count limits, time limits (in the form of MCC health) and run-of-the-mill arbitrary objective capturing. It also allows the defenders to consolidate all the players from a specific time zone into a single, then pick a reinforcement timer that is inconvenient for the rest of the player base, and then grab half the land, so they can sit unopposed on their mountain of ISK.

Enter Legion's Sandbox Mode

I propose coupling the proposed sandbox mode for lowsec/NPC null and Planetary Conquest into a single entity. It would allow for players to explore districts owned by corporations, killing NPC's for ISK and looting NPC wrecks for items to sell. The district owners would be able to receive a flat tax on activities within this district as a means of generating income. Players that want a piece of that action could then attack the district outright during a new, improved, dynamic, Vulnerability Window.

Hopping Around New Eden

Moving in EVE is a pain in the ass, thus CCP created jump clones to help alleviate some of that. They have an added benefit of saving implants, but that's not the part that's important to dust. CCP also limited this movement by adding a cool down timer to restrict players form hopping back and forth across the galaxy every few minutes.

Movement needs to be permitted in Dust, as location is a key component in my concept for the Sandbox. Dust players should have more freedom of choosing where their starting system is, following the jump clone philosophy, and the time restriction should be in place, as well as an ISK cost to traverse the distance. I've worked out that any clone transfers should be restricted to 10,000 ISK per jump, simulating the potential risk involved when flying through New Eden as an EVE pilots (suicide ganks, gate camps, smartbombing on gates, war targets hunting you down, incursion NPC's snagging you, etc). Going from there, we can work into the mechanics of deploying to a battlefield. Consolidating your corporation into tactically advantageous systems now is beneficial.

When launching into a Sandbox zone, this 10,000 ISK/jump will be calculate based off of the "home" location of your clone. If you deploy with a squad, you will pay your own fare. If you don't have the ISK, you will not be permitted to deploy. Whether this blocks the whole squad's deployment, allowing interesting grief potential, or just disallows you to launch as an individual is a minor detail to look into/debate. Also, there should be a timer, ~30 seconds per jump that should be built into the system, to avoid rapid-fire deployments. This can be skipped if tactically critical, but the price-per-jump should skyrocket to counter balance it the ease.

When entering a Sandbox district, each member of the squad brings with them 5 clones that are added to your group's clone count. If your squad is part of a platoon (more on this later), these initial clones are the starting pool for the platoon. You will drop into the battle zone into a random area of the fully-expanded map. No red zone, no MCC's, much freedom... wow.

An example of the options for going 10 Jumps to System X:
1) Cost: 100,000 ISK (10,000 per jump) Time: 5 Minutes (30 seconds per jump)
2) Cost 1,000,000 ISK (100,000 per jump) Time: 0 Minutes
3) Cost: 0 ISK Time: 0 Minutes [EVE Pilot on District] (more on this later)

Freedom of Choice - Grind, Capture, Lurk, Harass


Now, if your squad only wanted to kill some NPC's and collect loot, a majority of your task is complete. You can run around the map, exploring, looking for NPC's to kill, and loot caches to raid. If you deployed with 5 squad members, your pool of clones is 25. Dying to NPC's will diminish that count, and respawning after the initial deployment can spawn you randomly (dropping from the sky) anywhere on the map. It is unwise to let your squad mates die. If your clone pool is emptied, you have no ability to reenter the district for free. You must wait for your squad leader to redeploy the squad, pay the bill, wait the applicable time, and reenter the district with the 5 clones per player a you had the first time.

If you like this district, your squad is part of a platoon, and the district is unclaimed, you can capture a CRU. Individuals and single squads can NOT capture structures, neutral or not. CRU's are randomly placed all over the district. Unclaimed CRU's start with a clone reserve of 25 clones, and accumulate clones at an unbonused (more on that with Surface Infrastructure) rate of 1 clone per CRU per minute up to an unbonused cap of 50 clones. They are immediately added to your platoon's clone pool and you can now spawn at this CRU. In addition, drop uplinks can be now be deployed as they pull from the closest CRU's clone supply. Now, if that CRU is taken by another platoon, the clones present in it are immediately transferred to the new owner and deducted from your clone count. Destroyed CRU's take their clones with them, adding them to no one's pool but removing them from their owner's. They will respawn at random intervals, dropping from the sky to a random place, and start out unclaimed with 25 clones. Once your platoon holds a majority of the CRU's on the district, ownership flips, and bonuses from the installed Surface Infrastructure immediately begin applying to you.

If a district is already claimed, and you want to take it, you must wait for their district to be vulnerable (more on this later) before you can capture any structures their Alliance owns. If it IS vulnerable, then all you have to do is capture a majority of the CRU's for the district to flip. Fluidity is key in this model, not a binary win/loss! The district should have the ability to flip back and forth rapidly until a platoon is ultimately pushed out of the district. They can then redeploy from station and try again, or redirect their efforts elsewhere.

Currently, the process of capturing CRU's is much too quick to fit into this PC model, and could lead to no fights and just drop ships flying from point to point with a scout constantly hacking. So their hacking method needs a rework. They should incorporate a timer, similar to that of the current null cannons, but the time to flip should escalate depending on the percentage of CRU's owned by the hacking platoon. If they already own a majority, the hack time needs to be painfully slow, so they are forced to defend the CRU's they own more than leap frogging with a scout swarm. Thanks to Maylar Snow for pointing out the potential for scout/DS spam!

Platoons

Platoons are basically a group of squads. The squad leaders in the platoon must be all in the same Alliance. A squad leader can only form a platoon if they are given the role to do so. 

Platoons replace current team structure. There can be multiple platoons, individual players, or independent squads on a district, but they will all view each other as hostile. There can not be more than one platoon from a single Alliance deployed to a single district at a time, so it is critically important that roles are only given to those you trust, otherwise a single griefer could deploy into the district with a 1 man squad in a 1 squad platoon and block access to that district for your Alliance.

The squad leader that forms the platoon can invite other squads into it from his Alliance. Anything captured on a planet is done on behalf of the corporation that first formed the platoon, regardless of what corp the capturing player is in. Ringers are still permitted, but the squad leader MUST be a member of the Alliance that first formed the platoon. If a squad leader disconnects and no one in the squad is in the forming Alliance, the squad is removed from the platoon.

The limit of squads per platoon is up to CCP, but I'd like it to be at least 3. I'd also like to see there be no limit for number of platoons, single squads, or independent players on a district.

District Vulnerability (Death to One Hour Timers!)

At first I thought I didn't want any timers whatsoever, that a roaming gang can come along and just flip any ol' district whenever they felt like it. But that could lead to the burn-out problem I have with Planetside 2: Why am I capturing all this stuff only to have to be completely flipped when I log on again. So I thought about it, and came up with this:

  • A district is vulnerable whenever the owner has Corporation members operating within it.
  • The vulnerability window is 6 hours by default, starting the first time a Corporation member enters the district after downtime.
  • A district is also vulnerable 24 hours after the last Corporation member left it, to avoid districts being unused in an attempt to perma-lock them.
  • The vulnerability window is be reduced based off of friendly activity within the district!

That last part is the most important part of it all. Sitting on a district and not doing anything on it, leaves it HUGELY open to invasion. So, use it or lose it. It is also important to note that Alliance mates being present in the district can count towards the activity counter, but not towards triggering vulnerability. This allows multi-timezone Alliances to share districts for grinding without accidentally exposing each other to risk.

The activity should be defined as an ISK value that must be met every 30 minutes starting at the beginning of the vulnerability window, taking into account both PVP and PVE kills. If it is met, an hour is shaved off the end of the timer. If all quotas are met, the timer is only 2 hours wide and your Corp/Alliance was present and killing stuff the entire time, making use of the district. Hooray! Risk + effort = max rewards!

Why Own Districts (But What About My Passive ISK?)

Largely for bragging rights, and the ability to configure SI is a pretty good motivator as well, but inherent bonuses would be icing on the cake:

  • Ability to deploy to the district for free, instantly. Each spawn takes 1 from the clone count, however, so be wise.
  • Notifications when a force larger than a squad deploys to your district, or a ship enters orbit and connects. A single player or small recon squad should avoid detection. This motivates district holders to keep patrols rolling inside of their land, and doesn't discourage activity from the player base.
  • Ability for Alliance mates to deploy from anywhere to another district on the same planet instantly for 10,000 ISK.
  • Increased NPC payouts to Alliance members, increased loot drop chance.
  • Ability to set a tax on NPC's destroyed within the district, based on standings. (Up to 50%). This would be the primary "passive" ISK faucet for the corporation owning the district.

Surface Infrastructure

The existing SI mechanics are awesome if you are talking about sitting on a pile of clones and abstractly using a menu to deploy them from a storage facility of some kind onto an MCC that magically appears 24 hours later on a district. Instead, I'm opting to make the bonuses work for those fighting ON the districts as opposed to those that manage the money (read: steal it all and line their pockets).

Cargo Hub:
Increased capacity of friendly CRU's by 10 clones each. Applies system-wide. If a CRU is captured/owned in the same system as a friendly district with a Cargo Hub installed, it will have their max capacity increased from 50 up to a maximum of 100, depending on how many Cargo Hubs are owned and operational in the system. If a CRU is captured, and the capturing Alliance does not own a Cargo Hub in the current system, the clones will begin to diminish rapidly from their bonused amount down to 50. 

Production Facility:
Increased rate of friendly CRU clone production by 10 seconds per clone. Applies system-wide. If a CRU is captured/owned in the same system as a friendly district with a Production Facility installed, it will have their clone production speed decreased from 60 seconds up to a maximum of 30 seconds per clone. Also increases the rate at which destroyed CRU's respawn.

Research Lab:
Clones can be transferred instantly to any district within 5 jumps. 
In addition, starting clone counts are increased by 1 per player and jump cost is reduced by 1,000 ISK per jump if the district you deploy to is within the 5 jump radius of the Research Lab. These bonuses stack up to a max of 10 starting clones per player and 5,000 ISK per jump.

Ideas For Others:
More NPC drone spawns / Faster drone spawns / Stronger clones / Full map radar, possibilities are huge.

These bonuses should be capable of being disabled during the vulnerability stage of a district, and will remain offline for 6 hours after being disabled, regardless of transfer of district ownership. Disabling the bonuses should be done by hacking consoles inside of the Surface Infrastructure facility within the district. This can be similar to the way the current Null cannons work. Only when all the consoles are hacked and a countdown is completed (10 minutes), will the SI be disabled and bonuses no longer applied.

EVE Influence

Having an EVE pilot from your Alliance on the district before your squad deploys makes the third deploy option available. It can only be used once for the Alliance (either an individual or a squad) every thirty minutes, per district.

Also, having ships in orbit increases the starting clone pool depending on ship hull and number of ships connected. Combat ships should be less efficient, with haulers adding a bigger benefit:
Frigates - 10
Destroyers - 15
Cruisers  - 25
Battlecruisers - 35
Battleships - 50
Industrials - 75
The max added benefit should cap out around 150 clones. These ships must be connected to the district for the clones to remain in the pool. Destruction/disconnect of the ship should remove the clones from the platoon's pool and they cannot be regained. It's a one-time add, but easy loss.

Also, physical interaction needs to be expanded, greatly. The timer idea for OB's was great, but being able to do anything else (scan surface, jam enemy radar, etc) would be good as well. The OB timer should scale depending on the opposition, as well.

Oh, and this:


Benefits from owning districts EVE-side should not be tied to the surface infrastructure, either. Instead, district owning corporations should be permitted to anchor a mini-infrastructure hub on the district satellite where they can customize various bonuses that apply system-wide for the owners. The bonuses should vary more than POS-based benefits, including rat bounty payouts, greater mining yield, faster PI timers, faster blueprint research, quicker warp speeds, etc.

The hubs should be destructible, with a set reinforcement timer, like POCO's. Ownership over the structure should automatically flip to whoever controls the ground, so destroying them is for denial purposes only. Only the owner can swap out the upgrade selections, of course.

Closing Thoughts

My goal was to create a more fluid version of Planetary Conquest that penalizes inactivity, allows for smaller groups to harass or spy against bigger groups, permits multiple groups to fight it out against each other, allows continuous wars of attrition for hours, disconnects from the lobby-shooter team vs team mechanics, removes the desk job of clone movement/storage to attack/defend districts, and allow those that value high risk for high reward to sneak onto a player owned district to make some quick ISK while under the constant threat of being caught.

CCP Praetorian stated what he wants to spread the districts out "like butter" across all of New Eden to maximize EVE interaction. I hope that he does this to some extent, but I would like it if Molden Heath's district distribution was not changed. This is a personal desire, of course, but it would be interesting to the game if the spacing of Dust planets wasn't a flat 5 jumps in between each, all uniform and uninteresting. Clusters with several planets within a couple jumps, with Molden Heath being the most densely packed would make for different groups (EVE and Dust) to see how they fare when competition is right next door.

5 comments:

  1. You didn't start this Blog with "For Fuck's Sake" there for it can't be real....

    Great Ideas, what about anchorable defences at the beacon? Also, what if Eve players had to haul clones from Dodixie or where ever they were made them to the fight to add to the drone pool. In the latest videos they showed Troop Transports! Having combat ships in orbit makes sence, having clones in orbit makes more!

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    1. I would love if turrets and other things were added to the player-owned structures like scan inhibitors and the like. That would be one step closed to modular structures anywhere and away from POS nonsense.

      As far as actual physical clone transport, I figure that would come later on. In my last blog about Planetary Conquest, I rolled with the idea that clones were a physical entity that could be traded to EVE, but it was clinging to the old PC concept. However, it would be cool if clones were items that Dust could create in a district with a specific infrastructure, or EVE players could create with Planetary Interaction, and they could be stored in ships in orbit.

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    2. Agreed the fusion of Dust and Eve to create this rare commodity. Own the district, unlock the commodity. Then with the tactics of war stockpiling, trading, and depolying in spacific regions that would best benifit your alliance and end game.

      By only allowing one ship type, "Warbarges" or Troop Transports to attain, transport and deploy this commodity in Eve would make them a HUGE target for any and all griefers. It would make Dust "real" to more Eve players.

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    3. I think to keep things balanced, it would be better to give Warbarges (should they be added to game) the exclusive benefit of increasing the clone pool on the ground by 300, and allow any number of squads to deploy from it instantly instead of a 30 minute cooldown as per every other ship. You are certainly on to something.

      I also don't want to clone commodity to be a Dust item per se, like they are currently used to attack districts. It should ONLY be a Dust/EVE linked item, like you describe. Maybe a combination of surface infrastructure + specific bonus module installed in the mini-ihub unlocks the ability to mass produce clones in PI installation?

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    4. Warbarges/Troop transports are the future of Eve / Dust / Legion merger, there has to be something if no space elevator! I think there is a hole in the Dystroyer class of ships this can be the space to fill the void in the diversity of Eve. In Eve make them like mining barges, clunky, slow align, warp and vulnerable. The fleet has to protect them on district and enroute.

      I agree with the balance aspect of the cool down. Never want to make anything to OP, but its great to get a concept started.

      Or once you have an infrastructure over a district you use the mini hub. You can drop and PI --> Clones through a recipe!

      100 Smartfab Units + 100 Planetary Vechiles + 10 Nanofactorys = 50 Clones....this is just spitball idea but I think the concept is solid.

      Materials made in Eve give the +300(or however many cones are in the Warbarge) bonuses if used...if handedly victorious and not used the leftovers can be stockplied for a later date.

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