Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making NPCs Matter - Blog Banter 46

"EVE Online is a unique piece of science fiction that is ‘participatory’." - CCP Seagull, December 2012
EVE Online is heading into its Second Decade with renewed vigour and a new development strategy. At the CSM Summit in December, Executive Producer CCP Unifex and Development Director CCP Seagull explained how future development and expansions will be broader in scope than recent "collections of features" stating that CCP "want to create something more inspirational, that players aspire to play."
With the return of Live Events such as the Battle for Caldari Prime, clearly the prime fiction of EVE is back in favour as part of this new thematic approach to expansions. However, EVE's story is very much a tale of two playstyles, with an entirely player-driven narrative unfolding daily in parallel to the reinvigorated backstory. Often, they do not mix well. How can these two disparate elements be united or at least comfortably co-exist in a single sandbox universe?

The biggest disconnect between the lore of Eve and the Reality of Eve, in my mind, is that nothing players do has much impact of the NPCs of New Eden, aside from making an endless supply of red crosses explode. The following is a rather fanciful reimagining of how corporations, both player and NPC, could give players tools to influence the continuing narrative of Eve.  What if Eve stock actually had a point besides corporate takeovers? Here are some thoughts:

Player owned stock is, generally speaking, a joke. You use it to hold control of your corp, and you might use it to provide voting rights for corp members and leadership. Although every entity in the game is a “corporation”, there is no real stock market in which players can act., and there are very limited reasons to ever do anything with corporation stock after making a new corp and giving yourself all 1000 sahres to prevent some methods of hostile takeover. Let’s change that!

First change: All military NPC factions become actual militaries instead of corps.

So the FDU, the Amarr Navy, and other such orgs get turned into actual, honest to goodness militaries without a corp ticker. They remain sub-factions of the main Empires, but get removed from the big basket of “corps”. I’m not sure how to handle Pirate corps/factions. I think there could be some interesting room to play with sec status here.

Second change: All NPC corps get a chunk of stock allocated to the public.

Probably less than 50%, and it goes into a stock market much like the normal market. If you buy stock, you get a dividend per share each quarter. You would tie quarterly dividends to a combination of mission completion and market activity in stations owned by each corp. This dividend could be based from the previous quarter. If the combined metric goes up, money gets paid out to shareholders. If the combined metric goes down or is static, nothing gets paid out. Players would determine the relative value of the stock, and market players could find opportunities to game the system, much like the real world.

Third change: Station control via NPC corps becomes dynamic.

NPC corps want to control more, just like players. Industry corps want to spread refining and manufacturing. Security corps want to increase their area of control. Shipping corps want to open up more hubs. Missions completed for each corp allow for a sort of faction-warfare style tug of war for control of station anchor points. This should be a slow, but noticeable process that players influence. It also gives players a say in shaping the universe. If your mining corp really wants to push for a station in their home system, mission for the NPC corp that wants to open up shop there. Hate those stupid carebears? Keeping killing them while they try to complete their missions, and force the station to close. This could also lead to more diversity in missions, allowing mining and targeted security missions to focus on goals besides just isk. Perhaps your mining mission becomes “Refine x ore in station Y”, with a larger LP reward instead of straight isk, and contributes to future station expansion, or flipping control of stations. Pirate players could take PvP-related missions to kill other players while engaged in mission pockets.

Fourth change: Make more diverse rewards for supporting NPC corps.

Let players choose between isk and preferred stock that allows them to vote for target systems. Perhaps preferred stock has better payouts each quarter. Allow turn ins for LP that increase your standing with NPC corps and give special perks, such as reserved station slots for a period of time, or better refining for your corp for a time.

Fifth Change: Player corps can be public, or private.

Public companies have voting and non-voting stock. Public corps would be traded on the open stock market. The directors could choose to pay or not pay dividends. Alliances could work the same way. This would open up a lot of investment options, and some political ones. It would make corporations actually corporations, and not just the de-facto guild or clan structures they are now. Alliances may demand a certain number of shares, or entice members with shares in the alliance to provide some method of input and leadership.

Sixth Change: Let players and player corps align with NPC factions and corps in a meaningful way beyond the current dynamics of FW.

There could be a lot of fun emergent roleplaying mechanics here, especially if NPC corps become dynamic. More militaristic corporations would provide a sort of FW-lite, allowing open conflict between players. Some corporations would be non-profit, non-violent affairs, like the Universities and rookie corps. In this way, players would be able to actively take part in the corporate machinations implied in the lore of Eve, in corps that are actually a part of the lore.


The point of all this is to let players use the corporation framework to interact with NPCs in a dynamic way. It would allow roleplayers, or just savvy manipulators, the tools to change the political map of Eve’s story. You might have to fight to keep your stations going. The NPC lore of Eve would become something players actively engage, influence, and react to. The disconnect between static Empire space and the ever-changing and developing world of null sec, FW, and WH space would be less stark.

Obviously there would need to be ways for CCP to keep their thumb on the scale and make sure a large bloc doesn’t just wipe out Empire. There would need to be limits to how far NPC corps could go, either in gaining or losing space to other NPC corps. But I have a feeling that enough players would contest each other out of desires for isk and fame that the system would find some sort of fluid equilibrium.

Eve has a huge swath of Empire space that just sits there, and nothing we do has any impact on the lore-based conflicts CCP has presented. Let’s change that, and add a little bit of reality to the static spacelanes.


  1. I love these ideas - Factional Industry and Empire PLCs. It really would make New Eden's NPC elements come alive.

  2. I'm sorry to be late to this, but just read it. I think these ideas are genius! I'd want to explore the specifics a bit, but I wish CCP would consider following these recommendations.

    1. Thanks! This is obviously a high level approach, I'm sure there are a lot of issues that would need to be tweaked :).