Today CCP held a videocast Q&A session with CCP Mannbjorn, CCP Soundwave, CCP Solomon and CCP Sisyphos. Go and have a look – it’s an interesting session about the general development direction of the game, including some of the changes that will be coming in Odyssey.
[tl;dr Musing on the possibilities of a player driven political system for empire space]
While there were a few quite interesting hints barely visible between the lines of what the producers said, many of the ideas tossed around fall into the category sweet dreams and spitballs. I expect the hints on mineral re-balancing, ice as the “oil” of EVE, new unexplored space and the influence of missioning in empire space on the status of the systems to be analysed by my fellow bloggers (Poetic published this while I was still editing my article) and here want to jump on an idea that CCP Soundwave almost casually dropped as a side note to a discussion on destructible starbases. Be warned: this is nothing that will happen soon and maybe will never make it into the game. If you don’t enjoy entertaining crazy ideas better stop reading now….
Otherwise …. go to 20:15 in the videocast and listen to Soundwave….
The first component of his idea is to give the factions in Empire space more impact, to make it count more which faction controls which systems. For him the faction militias are just the military arms of the factions in their own space. So does he imply we might see player operated faction police at some point? Well, he continues to develop the idea in the following, extremely interesting way:
“If I’d have my way, we’d have elections and have people essentially run empire space and have the interesting social dynamics of 0.0 space just within some different constraints.” (CCP Soundwave)
Now that is something that is even more interesting than destructible starbases. If you have followed this blog for a bit you might see why this is getting me excited. I have spitballed ideas on a political system for high sec in several previous posts. The first time such a thing occurred to me was in my Epic Plots post about possible expansion themes. In this post the possibility of a political system was still only a side remark as I was trying to construct a counter-concept to the impeding “Final Frontier” expansion theme. Also in the follow up The Apocalyptic Sandbox I was focusing more on the possibilities a strongly dystopian theme could offer than elaborating on the political system. With Odyssey CCP indeed selected the “Final Frontier” theme for this year’s summer expansion with hints on new explorable space abounding. But apparently Soundwave took away some ideas beyond that from the discussions in December and January. And the idea of adding more player control, more mechanic which fosters emergent gameplay beyond combat PvP to the game is indeed intriguing.
Time for a short video break…
Coming from a completely different angle, namely the question how to solve the alleged tension between the PvPer and the Carebear I returned to the idea of a player driven political system in my post Ganking Red Herrings. That post is a terrible wall of text and the important section is under Empower the Economist and the Politician.
A Player Driven Political System for Empire Space
There is one component in high security space that I find strangely missing. It is something that has the potential to embrace everybody from the most social highsec player to the solo mission runner.
It’s politics. Yes, plain old politics.
An MMORPG with an exceptionally complex economic basis and a strong tradition in collaborative, competitive player interaction gameplay needs a politics system! Politics would happen anytime where groups of people interact, it just needs the game mechanics to support its emergence. Politics does not need to be restricted to nullsec. I believe player driven politics could open a whole new field of gameplay in empire space.
If politics does not sound exciting, watch another movie…
Imagine if players could be involved in such events through special political game mechanics, tightly integrated with CCP life events?
Let’s face it, capsuleers might not be the governments of the four empires, but a group with their demigod-like abilities will definitely have a big political influence. Maybe there are capsuleer councils that at least advice the governments and have a say in capsuleer related issues?
Each empire would have a slightly different political system.
- The Galente will have extensive democratic structures with the most sophisticated voting system, possibly practicing basic democracy for a lot of decisions.
- Minmatar will have local tribe assemblies where decision are taken by those who are present. Decisions would only affect the constellation inhabited by the tribe, though.
- The Amarr will have a system where influence is based on standing towards important Amarrian factions. There are regular votes, but not everybody’s voice is equally regarded. There will be a strong hand from the life events / role playing department at CCP in this.
- Finally the Caldari will have a system in which corporations can vote on decisions. True to their tradition even the voting system they invented is based on market mechanisms with different competing proposals being bought into by voting corporations. However, the current dictator Tibus Heth will also have a say in this process. Maybe being the one to initiate new bills.
But what would the capsuleers be deciding? That is the most difficult question and will require a profound change to how high security space works. It is important that, for the system to have any chance of functioning, there must be handles and knobs to turn and there have to be consequences on decisions that impact the live of Bob the miner. On the other hand, the political system has to be robust against exploits. I believe nothing like this has been ever attempted in gaming history (that’s why we have to do it in EVE) so it would make sense to start with small knobs. Taxes are an obvious issue that could be voted on. So first of all split taxes in highsec into an empire part and the corporation part. The corp tax may remain as it is in the current system. Empire tax is voted on by the residents of the respective empire (using different voting systems). But what are the consequences we were talking about? What happens if one tries to do away with taxes?
Well, taxes are spend on infrastructure. If players choose to down vote taxes infrastructure will start to deteriorate. There will be longer waiting times at jump gates or for docking. The number of industry slots in stations decreases. The reach of visible market orders is reduced to constellation level. Jump gates go down for periods of time. Police service gets delayed or even ceases to exist. Security status of systems plummets. There are all kinds of nasty things that could happen based on tax-payer money. Incursions would be a huge sink of tax money. Especially if they are not dealt with.
At later stages interesting opportunities might arise when such a political system is tied together with faction warfare. After all, who pays for all these nice faction ships available in the militia LP-stores? Depending on how well the system works, there could be several budgets of tax money that need to be filled (police, jump gates, CONCORD, station infrastructure, communication infrastructure…) and votes would go out for the distribution of tax money onto the different areas.
All This would make the world of EVE more dynamic and if done well, in the sense that the voting tool has to be put right under the nose of the players, would include much more players in actual emergent gameplay in ways that might be more appealing to many than combat PvP.
It is important that one does not look at the player driven political system in isolation! The concept has its greatest potential when combined and integrated with the existing game mechanics of faction warfare, crime watch, incursions, the whole economy and even life events. Actually a wide integration, a holistic approach, as Soundwave calls it, is needed to make something like that work. I urge CCP game designers to start reading up Keynesian Economics.
For the sceptics among you, let me remark that having players vote on additional rules of a game is a prominent feature of many of the best board games out there. The political cards of Twilight Imperium are just one example that shows that such a system can indeed work very well. What is important though, is the frequency at which votes would be held. This is a balancing issue and would have to be tried out. Once per month seems reasonable but it very much depends on how the system is implemented.
Yes, this is a crazy idea. But it is the idea that has the deepest potential for resolving one of the biggest contradictions within the EVE sandbox, namely how to expand the idea of emergent, player controlled gameplay further beyond building and tearing down sandcastles and punching each other in the back with ornate “Rubix cubes”.
Fly smart! Chira.