Shoot and destroy
For many years, avid fans of CCP’s On-line game, Eve-Online, have shared in a massive fantasy, richly painted with space ships, armadas of them, planets, moons, suns and asteroid belts. For countless thousands of players, the fictional three dimensional space enabling players to shoot at, and destroy, opposing players space ships, has masked CCP’s inability to actually create something that was not there.
Players get so, ‘wrapped’ up in the imaginative environment, hurtling through space at impossible speeds, passing suns and planets in their static silent orbits, piloting space ships as large as city blocks, or scuttling along on small space craft no larger than a family car, meeting other pilots on the same team, at some point in deep space, then sharing nuclear tipped weaponry and descending upon opposing players to shoot, kill and destroy them.
Children from the age of four have been running around the house ‘shooting’ at their brothers and sisters with fingers pointed ahead of them gun style. CCP have extended those fun times to the adults of today, to enable harmless fun of killing other people with no cost, in a sandbox where the players rich imagination have filled in all the missing blanks. Godmodding, had found a home.
Even in a sandbox, things can go wrong. Maybe a player does not want to square up too those wanting to shoot his ships from the sky, so he headed for the safety of a nearby space station, for once in the space station, he could ignore those taunting him to come out and fight.
The player could choose to answer back verbally over the communications systems, or choose to ‘jump’ to another station, or even log off and introduce another character in another place unknown to his aggressors. The space station was a very real place. You could hang around outside of them waiting for your prey to come out and play, or you could hide in them. They existed for all intents and purposes, and to suggest they only existed in the players imagination, would have conflicted with the ‘sandbox’ medium we have been given to play in.
Every player has been given a three dimensional space, a room in a space station, with a bed, chair and a filthy ashtray. The player can walk around in the room with a puppet of their design. The room is in the space station, not on board a ship, not in a ‘porta-kabin’ lashed to the outside bulkheads of the station, but ‘in the station’.
The concept of every player having their own room, set aside for their personal use, on every space station in the game would mean hundreds of thousands of empty rooms waiting for their owner occupier to make use of them. The logistics are mind boggling. Players can have three characters per account, ergo, the number of rooms available to players has to be increased three fold. The numbers become staggering.
For Captains Quarters to exist, the logical place for them has to be on the players computer. The players computer only has to create the room when the player ‘docks’ in a station, so the room does not need to exist while the player is in space. This means the mindboggling numbers of captains quarters waiting to be occupied is negated. Space stations don’t have any quarters in them, Captains or otherwise.
The space station is nothing more than a three dimensional externally rendered graphic. We know this, but the illusion was that it was a safe place we could dock, to hide, or trade, or refine ores, or build ships.
Now, the space station, with its huge volume of graphical content, is housed on the players computer. The better the computer, the better the quality of the environment. Simply put, a weak computer means the ‘mirror’ is a bland slab on the wall with no reflective ability whatsoever, but the more expensive powerful computer, can internally render the mirror correctly and fabricate the reflections accurately. Your processing power is needed to create the illusion.
Why have reflections in a mirror?
The only reason for the mirror, is to enable you to see your characters puppet from the front and the rear at the same time, and what it would look like if it you purchased the in-game dressing up products CCP are doing their best to cajole you into paying real money for. It is a marketing exercise.
What is the cost?
The cost of rendering the Captains Quarters is borne totally by the end user. It is a huge download and relies totally on the user have the best graphics cards available if they want to experience the immersive reality of the imaginative display. The sandbox is being taken away and being replaced with a storefront where you, the player, are expected to be the customer.
CCP are letting players believe that the Captains Quarters will be a sharable space, and that outside of the quarters, inside the station, will be a space for players to meet each other and interact. Now we have to ask ourselves, on who’s PC will we meet our friends in Captains Quarters?
If my pc is weaker and on a slower connection, the technical cost of hosting the room space for my friends to visit me might be untenable. And do I want to extra traffic as players send their image to meet mine and then return it to them? If I elect to meet my friends on their pc, then I have to accept the lag and delay caused by sending my image to their PC, and aiting for it to return to be rendered on my pc. This is getting complicated. Too complicated for anything more than one or two players.
The concept of a team leader, bringing together twenty or thirty players to meet up in ‘his quarters’ is a technical challenge rarely met even in real world boardrooms. Where countless tens of thousands have been spent on IT infrastructure to enable ‘face to face’ boardroom meetings when players are all over the world.
If the rooms are ‘not’ in the space station, then the space stations are just empty graphics, just as we know they are, and just the way we want them, little to create on the pc and little overhead in having them there.
If the space stations are going to have substance, space for player to player interaction, (read shops, malls, advertising), then that is two more things to concern players, a larger download, with more bandwidth being used to interchange updates in players positions and movements, and a hosting issue for CCP creating these ‘spaces’ to enable players to find them, and meet in them. Just imagine Jita, currently slowed to crawl by the large numbers of players ships interacting with each other, imagine that with player models, each with different clothes, shapes, features, all vying for processor time, and each character needing to be constantly downloaded and updated on every pc.
Linden Labs, Second Life.
Linden Labs introduced a workable model described above, in ‘Second Life’ over ten years ago, and to this day still suffers immense lag when multiple players try to interact with each other, and where boundary crossing can cause nightmarish update lag. The sad thing for most players in Second Life, was the huge amounts of data being constantly downloaded in real time. Players in England often found they exceeded their cap limit from their ISP and found the penalty for enjoying ‘Second Life’ was the imposition of strict download limits from their ISP.
In ‘Second Life’ players could choose all the characteristics of their avatar, height, weight, shape, skin colour, eye colour and in more ways than CCP permit, and with good reason, ‘Second Life’ was about the avatar, Eve-online is about shooting at other players in deep space where ships are the size of city blocks, and the players are in tiny capsules embedded in those gargantuan vessels.
CCP does not need that, Eve-online users do not want that. The marketing guys waiting to sell players all sorts of stuff are screaming out for it so they can showcase their digital goods to tease the customer into parting with their real money.
Eve-online finally has near decent working turrets on the ships flown by capsuleers, and it is a good thing, long awaited and long wanted. Somehow I think the value of the introduction of new turrets is going to be lost while people wonder what happened to their PC as it crawls along limping through megabytes of graphics, in scenes that are dark, dour, prison like and unfriendly in the extreme.