emergent gameplay

EVE Vegas 2017: Pirate factions will hunt you down in new EVE PvE

If your experience with EVE Online‘s PvE is of grinding through waves of predictable NPC pirates firing space pea shooters at you, get ready for that to change. CCP Games has been working on advanced AI for the past few years with the aim of turning those mindless drones we fight in PvE into intelligent actors similar to players. The first stage of this was shown off with the roaming Drifter battleships and later with the Blood Raider Shipyard and NPC mining operations that will form up counter-defense fleets and try to drive you out of the star system.

The next step in this plan is landing with the Lifeblood expansion on October 24th with Pirate Forward Operating Bases (or FOBs for short) and a new Resource Wars PvE system. We learned more about these new features this weekend at EVE Vegas 2017, and they’re beginning to sound pretty epic. Read on for a breakdown of both features and details of how the Blood Raider and Guristas pirate factions may soon be actively hunting you down.

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EVE Evolved: The single-shard sandbox economy

The debate about what makes a good sandbox game is as old as the term itself, and everyone seems to have a different view on where the gameplay priorities should lie. Some insist that a proper sandbox must have open-world PvP everywhere and even that a brutal scheme of item loss on death is essential. Others point to games that prioritise world-building and environment-shaping tools that put the focus on collaboration over conflict, or that focus on exploration of environmental content. I would argue that the specific gameplay is less important than how actively a game encourages emergent gameplay, and in that regard I believe the most important feature is a complex player-run economic system.

EVE Online‘s core design philosophy is to put lots of players in a box with limited resources and see what happens, the result being resource-driven conflict, complex economics, and sociopolitical shenanigans that often mirror the real world in shocking detail. Much has been made of EVE‘s economy over the years in both the online and print media, and it’s even been the target of research papers and studies in sociology and economics. EVE isn’t the only sandbox game out there, and it certainly isn’t the only one with an interesting economy, but its single-shard server structure makes it an intriguing case and has led to some interesting gameplay over the years.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how EVE Online‘s single-shard server structure has affected the game’s complex economics, politics, and professions.

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Colonize the darkest reaches of space in 3001SQ

Outer space is so quiet and lacking in any useful facilities. It’s going to be your job to change that in 3001SQ, an upcoming space colonization simulator from Paris studio Société des Mondes Virtuels.

3001SQ will allow you to flit between planets and other galactic objects to mine, build structures, engage in a player economy, and even wage war. Players will have a programmable computer on their ship that can automate some tasks, even when the player is offline.

The team hopes that 3001SQ will suck you into its virtual universe: “Our vision for the game has a strong emphasis on immersion. Every item in the world will have a purpose, or relay actual game-world data. It will be played entirely from a first-person perspective, allowing you to move seamlessly inside of, and between, vessels and planetary surfaces.”

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EVE Evolved: Is EVE becoming less emergent?

I’ve often heard it said that EVE Online is more fun to read about than to actually play, and for the vast majority of gamers I’m sure that statement would hold true. Some truly incredible stories of theft and politics have come out of EVE over the years, but most players will never get to be an integral part of events such as those. For every player who pulls off a massive scam or accidentally kick-starts a battle that makes its way into the record books, there are thousands just going about the everyday business of manufacturing, mining, and smashing spaceships together for fun and profit. The huge stories that hit the news are often months or years in the making, and represent EVE‘s highlight reel rather than its everyday reality. Nevertheless, the possibility of becoming part of one of those emergent stories is a huge part of the reason people sign up to the game.

When EVE launched back in 2003, a lot of players were hooked by the potential of a massive sandbox universe that was largely under player control. With barely any content to speak of and only a handful of ships and modules, EVE quickly became a game where motivated players could make a name for themselves. Corporations became known for particular strategies, pirates gained infamy, and certain star systems specialised into manufacturing centres, marketplaces, or pirate hotspots to be avoided. This was all completely emergent gameplay, unscripted and often unexpected by the game’s developers, and it’s what made EVE special. The past few years have introduced a ton of content and improved gameplay, but I’m beginning to think that it’s come at the cost of the game’s core emergent gameplay.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why emergence is such a big deal in EVE and ask whether the game has actually become less supportive of emergent gameplay over the years.

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