Monday, May 16, 2016

BB 75: What Does Project Nova Need to be Successful?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 75th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

At Fanfest CCP showcased their current iteration of the FPS set in the Eve Universe. Following on from DUST514 and Project Legion, Project Nova is shaping up to be a solid FPS with CCP taking the decision to get the game mechanics right first. However with so many FPS out there what will Nova need in order to stand out from a very large crowd and be successful? What are the opportunities and perhaps more importantly, the dangers for CCP? How can Nova compete against CoD, Battlefront and Titanfall to name a few?

Hello, folks!

Just a few weeks ago, at the EVE Fanfest 2016, there was an announcement about Project Nova - the FPS experience set in the EVE universe. We had a sneak peek on how it looks at this particular point of development and we had some really encouraging words from our devs, who are hard at work to make this project a full fledged game.

Actually our devs have made their claim long ago when they stated that: long term they aim to provide an ultimate Sci-Fi experience, one which extends from the ground all the way up into space and on every vehicle in between. That is pretty much enough for me and I have no doubts that the experiences that we share in the world of EVE will evolve further with all this new gameplay added. We are getting there. And we will get there sooner if we just keep contributing to this the best way we can. We are in this together.

And just in the spirit of contribution I want to share some of my ideas, in no particular order, answering the question: What Does Project Nova Need to be Successful?

Let’s get started.

How will Project Nova stand out among all other FPS games out there and how will it leave its mark on the field?

I think the strongest part of EVE games is the setting, the solid lore behind all aspects of the gameplay and the innovative way that CCP have approached the playerbase for all these 13 + years. Interconnected gameplay will be one of the keys to the success of Project Nova - having player actions ripple across the galaxy, no matter how humble or bold these actions are. When we have such system working, and when things get seamlessly connected to the rest of the EVE universe and the overall MMO experience, there will be a great level of sandbox gameplay, providing opportunities for all of us to enjoy both in our dropsuits and all the way up in our spaceships. All this together, will stand as a bright beacon of light, attracting players to a great adventure.

These things will take their time to develop. I will note down some of the aspects that I feel to be key points in the process. 

Open Worlds

There will be districts or maps where clone troopers will fight to complete mercenary contracts. This is okay. But we need the freedom to roam the planets, search and explore them, be it on foot or with various vehicles. And, who knows, maybe it will be good if we can build our own structures on these planets, be it bases of operation, hideouts, resource extraction buildings, research stations and so on. The open world structure of each planet will deliver infinite gameplay options. And this may also lead to the completion of mercenary contracts on various districts, that are actually player built places. Things can be interconnected, there are no limits here.

One more thing will be the option to have an unlimited number of people at one place at a time. Most MMO shooters have “instances” where a limited number of people can be at the same location all at once. Well we might see such things in Nova initially, but as technology advances, it will be a good idea to let go of this limit and allow for an interesting asymmetric gameplay where you can outplay and outmaneuver large groups of players, even if you are solo or small gang, using the environment to your advantage.

Being able to go anywhere on a planet and look for whatever you are looking for, gives a sense of immersion. Yes, we have a lot of planets in EVE and it may be difficult to make them open worlds all at once, but I am sure that with combined efforts of devs and players this can be achieved.  At the beginning there may be some limited free roam areas, which will expand to cover most of the planet at a certain point. It may require careful steps, lots of work, but it will be all worth it.

There are many things one can do on a planet and with the EVE playerbase growing, I am sure we can bring these planets to life.

That leads to the next thing that might be very important.

Planetary Missions and Epic Arcs

No matter how good the mercenary contracts between player teams are, there will always be a need of some PVE missions. Just like we have them in the spaceship experience. This will require crafting some new and very good AI for the NPCs, crafting of all the locations, making storyline scenarios and so on. This will add more gameplay options and a source of income for many clone troopers and will give them exciting adventures to enjoy. Especially with Planetary Epic Arcs! They will greatly help with immersion and roleplay.

This is where I want to add some notes. Walking around on a planet with a gun in your hand and shooting at your enemies may be exciting, but this is not everything that we will want to do down there. Reaching remote places, climbing or swimming, overcoming various natural obstacles, surviving in a hostile environment, meeting various flora and fauna, searching and exploring, or just visiting some remarkable sites - these are also things that I am sure many of us would love to do. The option to put your weapon down and just roam - this is something as good as the rest of the player interactions.

This leads to the next step.

Planetary Exploration and Archaeology

With all the nice lore that we have in EVE it will be very good if we can land on a planet and use some dedicated equipment to find various hidden places, look for treasures and clues, find some information that may affect the storyline and so on. There are many options here. Exploring planets can be tightly linked to Archaeology. Finding remnants of ancient civilizations, hidden treasures, evading insidious traps and dangers in various installations… will be exciting. This is where archaeology can thrive - one thing leading to another, hidden clues that lead to the next step, some easy to miss and so on. Various places - temples, tombs, installations, hideouts, caves, forests, rivers and so on. We need this. This can bring things like Treasure Hunting into the world of EVE and will be amazing.

Of course all these things must be developed carefully. May take time and resources. All of this is getting really huge as a project. But I am sure it can be done.

Dedicated Loot and Salvage Mechanics

I have seen how DUST players gather salvage at the end of each match. It is pretty random as far as I have observed. But in Nova, as things go forward, there will be a need for a nice loot/salvage system for us to enjoy. Every fallen trooper and every destroyed vehicle should leave something behind for the victorious ones to take. This means that instead of immediately dissolving, corpses and destroyed vehicles should remain on the map, at least for a while. Then there must be some dedicated salvage equipment that will allow us to gather some stuff from the battlefield. Well, to make things a little bit easier, troopers should be also able to salvage without special equipment, at least to some degree. Of course the dedicated salvage equipment should return far better results.

Sophisticated Player Communication Tools

This is something of a great importance. Having chat channels where we can type messages will be OK, but as troopers we will definitely need some really well developed voice comms. We will be busy shooting at each other, we won’t always be able to type. Not to mention that the chat messages boxes should be able to be minimized in order to let us have space on our screens - to see our environment. I am sure there is already a solid solution in the works for that aspect of the gameplay. But let’s get back to the voice comms.

Voice chat in Nova should be something stable, reliable, and easy to modify. Squad forming, just like fleet mechanics for capsuleers, then setting up the comms.

I am even thinking of an option where troopers will be able to speak to someone outside their squad, a stranger for example, and if that stranger is in the (ingame) area of hearing range he would get their voice message and be able to reply the same way. Well, at least in the rare cases when troopers decide to talk within hearing range and not use their dropsuit integrated comms. I will call this thing “Open Voice” or something. There will be situations where this thing will be definitely needed. For example when a group of troopers, on an exploration journey, find another group and they want to talk first and shoot later... I bet it will be tricky to develop. There should be some limitations in order to avoid some nasty exploits. Maybe some options to hail another trooper and then open a temporary voice comms channel or something.

From what I have seen in DUST, people were having comms that were working just fine. Not sure how was this developed, but I have confidence that our devs have some cool stuff in mind.

Sophisticated Player Detection Tools

Just like in space, we need player detection tools on the ground as well. Not sure what exactly it may be, maybe something like D-Scan, who knows. There are various ways to detect a trooper, be it with heat sensors, movement sensors, long range radars or something else like dropsuit signature detection, or maybe detecting the dropsuits shield technology, since it will be some kind of anomaly compared to the planet environment. In the last case maybe there would be an option for troopers to shut down their shields in order to be less detectable, but that would actually make them more vulnerable to attacks - may lead to interesting gameplay. Probably it would be cool if some of the dropsuit modules use increase the dropsuit signature so it will be easily detected, there are many options here. When we include vehicles, things may get even more interesting. And when both the spaceship experience and the FPS one merge together, there may be some tools that help a pilot locate a trooper down on a planet and vice versa. Things may get more immersive. But that is in the far future I guess. Is it really that far?

There can be various dropsuit camouflage tools such as cloaks or chameleon armors, heat concealing membranes, who knows. Even some vehicles can be cloaky. Imagine hunting a group of players out in the jungles of Intaki Prime. Hehe, will be exciting.

Freedom of Movement

Having the ability to shoot, run, sprint, jump and crouch is just not enough in a contemporary FPS. As clone troopers, in our dropsuits, we need to be able to climb, swim, hide behind things, use the environment in our advantage and who knows, maybe even fly to some degree. Not to mention climbing and hiding on trees. It is VERY important! Also - jumping from tree to tree while cloaked or not, Predator style - we need this. Some set of Parkour moves would be also greatly appreciated as well as acrobatics. We would be able to achieve all this with various equipment and skills.

I really like the way DUST troopers can jump from a great height and land using some gravity compensating technology. The same can be used to make us able to climb obstacles, reach various locations, swim and so on.

Also - it will be good if we can get some evasive movements like prone, and rolling. Let’s remember the ground slide that Vanguard Six performed in the video - we need that move too.  Would be nice if we get some propulsion elements on our dropsuits in order to be able to move in zero gravity conditions, helping us make long jumps, climb or swim better in water.

And there must be some things that affect our movement - the option to be knocked down, or slowed down by some gun shots, explosions or environmental elements, like storms, floods and earthquakes. We need this in order to have some realistic experience.

All must be done in a good way and make us feel comfortable in our armored clone bodies. Making us take on any environmental challenge we face.

Strong Environment Interactions

Rains, storms, snow storms, lightning storms, floods, earthquakes, fogs, falling rocks, sand storms, tornadoes, fiery tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, lava rivers, wild water rivers, waterfalls, quick sands, gas clouds, explosive gas clouds, diamond rains and lava rains (on some planets with harsher conditions), crashing ice, electromagnetic storms, gravity anomalies - there is a lot of things we can encounter planetside. All these things must affect the gameplay.

Not just the extreme weather conditions. The calm weather also needs some good touch. We can have all these beautiful sights of various planetary Nature.  Also - day and night cycle is a must. Planets in EVE are static, currently they do not orbit in real time, but they spin around their axis, which totally allows for day-night cycles. And of course - this would lead to climate changes in real time. Creating such system may be challenging and will be all worth it.

Further in time, when all the planets, moons, stations, asteroids etc. start orbiting in real time… well it will be a game changer. A stressful one for some of us, hehe. And it will open a whole new plethora of weather and environment conditions. Remember the Gruul Shatan meteor storm described in the Theodicy novella by Tony Gonzales? Well we might be able to see it for ourselves! And much more.

Probably would be nice if we have some modules that would help us take advantage of the environment, or protect ourselves from some natural occurrences. And there must be various ways that we can interact with the environment, be it in combat or as we explore, interacting to environment with our vehicles or structures and so on. Speaking of structures - maybe have wind plants on windy planets, geothermal plants on hot planets and places, water plants and so on - all helping us bring energy to our structures.

Growing and Ever Changing Set of Planetary Equipment, Vehicles and Structures

This is natural for a game in the world of EVE. At the beginning in Nova there may be some limited equipment, but with time the variety will grow tremendously, adding new levels of immersion.

With all the creative Devs and creative Community members, we can have an infinite source of things to come. We just have to keep contributing.

When I speak of equipment I don’t necessarily mean tools of destruction, but also tools for survival and tools for creation. With all the environmental dangers on planets, we will have to be prepared. I am particularly excited by the option to have marine and underwater vehicles. I would totally go to a temperate or oceanic planet and use my Nautilus to roam the deep blue, enjoying the underwater flora and fauna, exploring around and so on.

It is also worth to note that some of these vehicles should be large enough to accommodate a group of people in their journey. So vehicle interior will be something to come along the way.

Also I want to mention that we will need some resource harvesting equipment. Which leads to the next things.

Freedom to Build Structures on Planets

Just like in space a lot of us will need to build structures on planets, be it for resource harvesting or defense, simple settlements or fortified towers, bases of operation and so on. This may open some new gameplay when it comes to Planetary Interaction between capsuleers and clone troopers.

When we have the planets converted to open worlds, some of us may want to build hideouts out in the wild - places to settle down and relax maybe. Or some sophisticated laboratories for crazy scientists. Some of us will want to build large industrial complexes for planetary equipment production. They will need to be well defended and so on. When developed properly this may bring huge varieties of gameplay for everyone. Again - it must all be interconnected.

This leads to the next step.

Capsuleers and Clone Troopers Being Able to Build and Maintain Cities and Colonies on Planets, Moons and Asteroids

This may take a lot of time and resources as well as some thorough research. Okay, this is already getting really huge. But it will be fantastic when we get there.

Large cities, built and governed by players. All interacting with each other, having their impact on the economy. It will be good if players can settle in these cities, roam them, have missions in them, fight for control over them, meet each other at various social places and so on. Once again - immersion. How good it would be if we could build cities not just on the planet surface, but underwater for example? We already have such cities described in the lore.

Same with colonies. Not just on planets, but maybe on moons and asteroids. Extracting resources, researching and so on.

Sovereignty Mechanics and Player Interactions

Some of the core gameplay in our world comes from this. Our Devs and Community have proven to be very effective in this sphere, creating gameplay that is immersive and exciting for everyone.

Planetary defense structures, planetary space control, industrial competition, resource harvesting competition, planetary infrastructures, governing population, cities, colonies and so on. Having all these things to play with, we can have a challenging and deep experience ingame.

I am not much into this yet, so I can’t give some particular examples, but looking at the player interactions that we currently have in space, I am sure that we can come up with something really good for Nova.

Interconnected Market and Industry Tool

This is very important and I am sure that our devs are already in the process of developing such tools for the FPS. We all know how vital is the role of the market and industry aspect of EVE. Having new capsuleers and clone troopers coming in, the economy will experience some good growth.

The industry aspect for clone troopers can be just as good as the industry capsuleers have - producing trooper equipment, structures and vehicles with blueprints, inventing, researching and so on. Various new industry options may be developed, there can be really a lot of stuff. Both capsuleer and trooper markets will definitely be interconnected, adding nice ways for interaction. Having all this will give us a strong foundation for a solid economy that will empower us in our adventures.

Smooth Performance in an Optimized Game

Some technical stuff. Graphics and sound must stand out. Game optimization is a must if we want smooth and nice gameplay. Contemporary games have really high hardware requirements, sometimes this is okay, but only when the game is really well optimized even allowing some not that high-end machines to run it. Our Devs have proven themselves to be really effective in this sphere, so I am confident about this aspect of the game.

Well maybe, at some point in the future, there may be some sort of merge between the EVE Trinity engine with the CARBON technology and Unreal Engine. Since DUST 514, Project Legion and Project Nova are developed in Unreal engine, this might be a natural step. I am confident that CCP will come with some elegant solution.

Just wanted to note this particular thing, because it is very important.

One Universe // One War - Seriously?

“One Universe // One War” - this is the headline of DUST 514. Well it might be exciting for us, players, to shoot each other in the face, maybe we even like to wage wars with each other, but we should not identify ourselves with war. We want to have a game experience that is more meaningful than real life, so we must be careful about our choices. It is a common thing for EVE players to make parallels between the game and the real world. This is where the motto “One Universe // One War” spreads the poison of real life war among us. Even with the words separated with slashes. And real life war is bad. We lost Vile Rat and other members of our Community in a real life war. Can you imagine the whole universe at war? Would you be happy with it?

In the golden wisdom of EVE Lore we see war as something as horrible as real life war, and we got a higher perspective of a capsuleer elite or a clone trooper, seeing a larger part of the picture. Well, there will be conflicts, but we can see them as a challenge to overcome our differences and prejudices, become wiser, see that violence does not solve problems, then we will be awarded with golden knowledge and inner peace.

Clashes between us are epic and exciting, but in the game we got the advantage of immortality - this allows us to learn better. Sometimes I think that we are addicted to excitement and we want to feed our addiction with extreme things, like extreme sports and games with extreme events, but we rarely do it with a great risk to our lives. The epic cycle of battles and peace - maybe this will never change. Is it natural? Whatever it is we must proceed wisely when we implement it in our games.

So I would choose a different headline.

Easy Steps for Connecting EVE and Project Nova Accounts

Yes, this is very important. When the game goes out, there will be EVE players that will be eager to jump their capsuleer characters in a dropsuit, and there will be Nova players that will be interested in joining capsuleers.

For example - I have just one toon that I play EVE with. And when Nova comes out, I will ask for a way to play it with my EVE character. There should be an easy and intuitive way for this to happen. Same for Nova players that want to try capsuleer life. Actually CCP have already begun to look for options in this sphere, and are also developing the technology that will get us there.

Such transition options will be fundamental for providing smooth and seamless player experience. 

Trooper Character Building Using the Great EVE Character Creator

Yes, we need this in Nova. The EVE Character Creator is such a great tool and having it in Nova will let us add the personal touch we need for our troopers. Then there will be infinite variety of characters just like among capsuleers. This will add to the immersion and will be appreciated by everyone, especially roleplayers. I don’t think I should explain this thoroughly, it is just something basic, but vital, that we must have.

One more very important thing: Interconnected EVE and Project Nova Forums!

Yes! In order to provide feedback we need forums that let us have both our EVE and Nova characters in one place. Having all of us capsuleers and troopers together will make a strong foundation for a good communication between devs and players. Something that is crucial for a good development. So get us together!

Probably it would be a nice idea to include all the Nova players in the EVE Gate site and let them communicate freely (this is actually already implemented for DUST players). Yes, we should have an easy visual way to distinguish troopers and capsuleers, but all must be in one place in order to share the good spirit. Actually with the smooth character transition between EVE games, there will be no need to distinguish capsuleers from troopers, there will be just EVE players.  

What Should We Start With?

Well, this is a good question. Not sure I am the right person to answer this but I will try.

I feel that for Project Nova, the development should start with the basic but vital aspects such as Character creation, player-to-player interactions and communications, then move on to player-environment interactions. The troopers access to market activities should come somewhere in between those things, then Industry.

Troopers travelling between different systems is something that should be decided early on. When these things are set in stone, the next steps maybe should be in adding some rich variety of player equipment and vehicles.

And then as all these things progress further, the other aspects that I described above should be added with time.

All the stuff is really interconnected here, so it will be a complex task to develop something that can be playable early on. I am sure that CCP Devs already have a roadmap for Nova. But for me, the first things that should be developed early on, are the aspects of interactions between players.

Not to mention that this is not just Devs task, player contribution and player patience is required too. We should keep and improve the nice communications between players and devs in order to develop something that we all can be satisfied with.

What are the opportunities and what are the dangers for this project?

The opportunities? To bring a brand new, immersive and complex game in the Universe of EVE, with features and depth never before achieved in an FPS! Seriously, if you just look at our spaceship experiences you will notice more than 13 (probably more than 20) years  of ongoing development with rich and living gameplay in a myriad of different game aspects - PvP, PvE, Sovereignty Mechanics, Industry, Research, Structures, more structures coming, Exploration, Wormholes, Scammers, a living player driven Economy, Corporations, Alliances, Coalitions, Roleplay, plus much more... and the best Community a game universe can have!

All of this will be coming to Nova!

The dangers? We all remember old school shooters. They were more focused on the PvE experience and the storyline, rather than on multiplayer gameplay. And for their particular time, they were awesome! Some time after that, things started to change and the focus got shifted to more multiplayer interactions. But some games kept the old school approach and provided both a single player campaign to remember and a good multiplayer to enjoy. Nova will have to do exactly that - have a great story, have a great PvE and of course, have a great PvP. All three things will have to go side by side and there will be a danger in the balance between them. And the key to succeed in this balance will be in the communication between players and devs.

Another danger will be in gameplay iterations. Nova will have to provide an ever changing set of game modes and player interactions that can keep the troopers engaged. This will be the main challenge. For this aspect I am quite confident in our devs and players ability to provide interesting ideas for an awesome game experience. We have proven this with our great Community.

There will be risks. We need to be patient and have understanding. It is all worth it. We have a solid game setting and a really good opportunity to make this FPS epic. 

When all these things that I mention above come together, there will be a myriad of opportunities for capsuleers and clone troopers. We should note here that EVE and Nova will eventually merge in one game. When we get there we will have seamless, fluid experience in our exciting Sci-Fi world. Great immersion! Oh man, will be fantastic!

These are the overal things that I think we need in order to have a successful Project Nova. I may have not delved into too much detail, but I think you get the idea. There can be a lot of discussion about this and I am sure that we can come up with great ideas to help us make the world of EVE even more exciting. I keep saying that - all we need to do is contribute - the best way we can - be it with art, fiction, ideas, books, some combination of these - it matters. We are getting there.

Read the posts of the other contributors as well.

EDIT: I made a follow up post with more ideas on the topic. Check it out.

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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