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No-Sov: Storytelling Devices vs Game Mechanics

The CSM9 Summer Summit Minutes are out and so I can return to my favourite EVE pastime: musing about the development of the game. So here is a quick one:

I love the idea of a No-Sov system. I am excited that CCP is seriously looking into this and I hope that they will not let themselves be easily dragged down from their ambitions. Because getting this right certainly is an ambitious project.

I was surprised that the CSM was in the majority expressing preference for the occupancy based system. The reasons given in the minutes condense around a specific point, namely that players want to “have their name on the map”.  There seemed to be concern that a completely free flowing system without a mechanic to capture a system would lack this motivator.

I can see that this might be a problem. I was quite surprised that this was so prominent in the discussion. My surprise sent me thinking and I hit a rather obvious truth: in order to properly discuss such a freestyle game design we need a broader language.

I believe we need to distinguish more clearly between Game Mechanics and Storytelling Devices. Let me illustrate what I mean by this by looking at the prime story telling device in EVE: Killmails. A killmail is not a game mechanic. It is simply a report of an event in the game – the destruction of a ship or structure. It captures the involved parties and provides some statistics on the event. For anyone involved in PvP killmails are a part of everyday life. Indeed the community has developed a whole host of out-of-game tools that mine the killmail data to create killboards and even whole battle reports. Many a blog-post has been written around a single killmail, spelling out the story about a particular encounter. A prominent example is TMC’s ALOD series. Without doubt killmails are the prime storytelling device in EVE.

Planting your flag into a system to put your name onto the sovereignty map is another story telling action. Yes – there hopefully is some interesting and fun game mechanics behind it – but if I understand the comments of the CSM correctly, the deep motivator to engage in sov 0.0 for many is that they want to be able to tell the story of how they captured a chunk of space for themselves. Indeed many people have endured soul crashing game mechanics just to reach this goal. And currently the only story telling device that will support them telling their story is their name appearing as the sov-holder in the solar system data published by the game.

If CCP want’s to try their hands on a No-Sov game mechanics system, they could use the opportunity to provide new devices to help players tell their stories. EVE has a great tradition of letting players build their own tools around the game. It is probably the best way to have the community implement the story telling platforms. But the game has to publish the data that allows this in an exciting way. The data will be created by some yet to be discussed game mechanics but there probably needs to be an intermediate layer inside the game that collects the data and presents it in a way that inspires story telling. Just like the killmails successfully do. An exciting No-Sov system will need more reporting than just the killmails from the battles. It will also need more than a simple “flag” saying “we are here”. Maybe we will have “deploy reports” and “infrastructure disclosures”. Maybe alliances will be able to decide for themselves which information will be publicly available. Certainly there is a whole design field here, balancing story-telling ambitions with security issues and information management.

As players giving feedback to CCP we should as well distinguish between the stories we would like to tell – such as “despite the relentless fire and severe losses we endure, we prevailed and finally took over the system, expelling our enemies and claiming it as ours.” – the storytelling devices that make it possible to found the story on data from the game, and the game mechanics that we experience while playing.

I would really be curious to see how CCP imagines a No-Sov system to be augmented with new storytelling devices.

What do you think?

Fly smart, Chira.

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About chiralityeve

A rookie capsuleer exploring the depths of New Eden

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