What if EvE Online were a Fantasy MMORPG?

What if we took EvE Online, and made a fantasy game out of it — using all of EvE’s mechanisms, as closely as possible? Syncaine claims that EvE has solved nearly all MMO problems. Fine, let’s turn that around.

In EvE, you fly ships from system to system, battling, exploring, gathering resources, trading, or any other purpose you can find. You, though, are not your ship. Your ship can be blowed up. You can try to escape, but maybe you get blowed up, too. But not to worry. Upon word of your untimely demise, a clone will arise from a vat to carry on where you left off.

An eternal warrior, who though all his companions might be killed, though he himself may die, will live again. That drips of fable and fantasy.

Story kind of writes itself from here, doesn’t it?

You start your adult life in your family home on the outskirts of a village. The masters and wizards in the village can teach you much, but their knowledge has limits, and soon you will have to set out from your home in search of your destiny.

You won’t set out alone, though. You’ll have a cart, and a horse. An old sword you inherited from your father. A wooden shield, once painted white. A leather jerkin. And some hired hands — a trained woodsman, who can forage and hunt food for the trip, and maybe an old fighter who has asked to come along on one last adventure.

If you stay on the King’s roads, you’ll be safe, and can find your fortune in the world, never worrying about the wider, wilder, world outside the cities. You’ll find more people who wish to join you as your fame and knowledge grows; more fighters and better ones; a healer; perhaps even wizards to cast spells of divination and warding for you. You’ll bring them back to your village, which will become a city; and your cottage, which will become a castle.

Soon you will have a small army, and now, perhaps, you want to venture off the King’s roads and into the Wild, where monsters dwell and treasure hides. You gather your army and set off. One night, you camp at the edge of an ancient swamp, with crumbling ruins poking from it that resemble the broken ribs of some gigantic creature in the smoky moonlight.

The fog thickens… and from that fog comes a spectral army, slaughtering and slaying and catching you entirely unaware… your army fights back, bravely, but their weapons are no match for the ghostly crew that assails them. The screams of your men and the dead cackle of the specters chase you through the forest, back to the King’s road and back to your city. You rest, set your wizards to finding out who commanded that dread legion, and then slowly begin to amass an army, even greater, to get your revenge…

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Tipa

Web developer for a Connecticut-based insurance company that's over 200 years old! Also a bicycler, a blogger, a kayaker, and a hunter of bridges.

29 thoughts on “What if EvE Online were a Fantasy MMORPG?”

  1. DAoC had the challenge of making two very different games in one. First was a rather ordinary EQ clone with groups and dungeons and camps and stuff like that. The second was siege warfare and massive battles. These two games had vastly different requirements. If they’d JUST done the massive battle game, they could perhaps have used an overhead or isometric view, or in some other way simplified the view to handle that many people. I remember those battles. They were a lot of fun but man, it was a slideshow.

    In my “Evecraft”, you would have a godlike view of your army — just like in EvE, you are outside of your ship with a wide view of your surroundings, not inside. A first/third person view is an awful perspective on a battle, anyway. You wouldn’t really want to limit yourself to only what your avatar happened to be looking at.

    If you built your game such that you make the compromises necessary to allow massive numbers of units on the screen at once — if your very first task was to demo a hundred units on the screen at the same time — you could do it. Heck, RTS games do it all the time. And like RTS games, in Evecraft, your units would probably not be very unique. Your avatar might be, but when you hire a mounted knight to be part of your team, he’ll have your blazon on his shield and his livery in your colors, but will probably be pretty similar to every other mounted knight on the field — the same as in EvE, every 150mm chaingun is like another.

    Now there’s the matter of the vastness of space becoming the vastness of a world.

    When flying, I want the window seat, so I can look down and see the world pass beneath. It is so, so big. Start a group at Boston and send them to Los Angeles, and they’d take awhile, assuming Homeland Security didn’t catch them. Waypoints at NYC, Philadelphia, Columbus, Chicago, etc. It’s just like EvE. The challenge in a fantasy world would be finding anyone else in that world by chance.

    Well, you know when there’s other players in your system in EvE. And so there will be some way of telling when people are in your area, and you can choose to confront them or ignore them; and maybe sometimes you DON’T know they’re there.

    EvE’s space is black and empty. It’s definitely a lot easier to render than complex fantasy environments :) In Evecraft, the random landscapes would be just that — procedurally generated landscapes, grown from a random seed and the general parameters of the region. You could have trails branch off for mission instances, instant battlefields when people meet… it could be done.

    You’ll hardly ever find yourself in a crowded city with everyone’s entourage around them. In cities, it’d just be your avatar.

    I really think this game could work! Sort of a sandbox-y, RTS-y, MMORPG-y fantasy game. Now, someone should tell me where to go to play it… or pay me to help write it!

  2. Pfft, there’s like two hundred MMOs out now or in development according to the lists at MMORPG.com. It’s impossible to be familiar with all of them. Does Darkfall support squad-based battles where, as you gain skill, you learn how to attract better talent and field better armies? That’s the RTS meets MMORPG vibe that EvE has and I would like to see in a fantasy game and hey, if Darkfall has that, I am SO there.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

    Hmm, work blocks that site. I’ll check it out at home. Luckily the weekend is here…

  3. I chose Supreme Commander because it was an example of a highly-concurrent dynamic environment, probably the most audacious of the current RTSs. It tracks actual particle trajactories, and calculates damage based on genuine physical targetting. A fascinating game design decision, and surely one of the reasons why it has scaling issues on even quite high-end machines. A four way Supreme Commander game will be running over a thousand units, hundreds of damageable buildings, potentially thousands of particles in flight simultaneously, deformable terrain, from a pallete of over a hundred animated models, whilst providing a smooth (ish) zoom out and into any part of the viewable battlefield. SC also scales somewhat across multiple client-side cores, something DAOC likely doesn’t. ;)

    As you say, it’s far from an exact analogue of the avatar presentation we’d be talking about, but the same raw client-side power that SC harnesses could be channeled in a different direction and – I would assert – work quite well. :)

    The damage/resistences/evades/parries/blocks for MMOs (EVE too) are hopefully all server-side number-crunching – and relatively simple ones at that. We’re talking precomputable lookup tables rather than silly 3d physics. In most avatar games a single character generally effects a small number of other characters during a given damage cycle with the exception of AOE which do do horrible things (smart bombs in EVE appear to cause lag issues, the Titan’s full-grid 250 km radius Doomday is apparently a total horror).

    A sane client with proper LOD scaling, good line-of-sight management and animation culling could chop down hugely on the effort required for on avatar rendering during high-population periods. Emotes, total avatar customisation, and the correct style of blue cloak are great for immersion, but can be filtered with small impact game-play when the client is under stress. Provided characters are reasonably recognisable (and a name floating over a heads always helps) people already do accept compromises in the level of graphical detail on their screen if it results in a useable game.

    Upshot, I think the client-side issues are manageable enough to make a high-population game useable for sane levels of population, provided arbitrary levels of bandwidth and server-side scaling were available. Obviously, they’re not, and although highly scaleable SMP machines are available which might be able to deal with the some of the highly populated environments we’re considering, they’re also enormously more expensive per CPU unit than the average dense Intel server blade. That would substantially alter the cost proposition of the games we’re playing, until Intel and AMD push the core-density up another level.

    And, after all my wishful handwaving, however far we enable the game to scale, inevitably players will blob (it’s even a BF2 tactic, who knew?) beyond the system’s ability to cope, and we will get “too many” people at one place at one time for either the server side or client side to cope. It doesn’t really matter where the limit is, it will be reached. So,

    a) how do we manage that eventuality without crashing the game?

    b) more interestingly how do we provide players with more interesting and entertaining ways to play the game than doing that blobbing the world to death?

    EVE does this by letting the the high-blob endgame become so painful it hurts. That’s aversion therapy, not really a solution. EVE’s other crowd-management tactic – providing instanced PvE – would work less convincingly in a terrain based environment and hurts immersion. Tradehub issues could be resolved by having creative trader systems (a distributed tradehub, with magic gnomes aka Postal Service that move actual goods within the hub).

    Going single-shard doesn’t really make any new problems (if everyone on a WoW server turned up in Stormwind, I bet it would lag horribly and crash) it just makes them much easier to encounter.

    Gosh, rambling. :)

  4. Well I never did play SupCOm, but I experienced several large 100-150 person raids and sieges in DAOC, and I promise, unless everyone is just moving in a straight line (follow the leader), the chaos of all those people suddenly doing there own thing or engaging in melee – it was gameplay breakingly laggy. I have never played WoW on my new machine, but I imagine walking into Ironforge into a crowd of 100+ people even milling around in front of the mailbox/AH, things would grind.

    It sounds like Eve has plenty of room to avoid that kind of congestion, yet gameplay and FPS still suffers greatly when it does occasionally happen. So hardware on both sides of the wire still need tweeking to enjoy the great detail of seeing the rivets on an avatars armor, or the huge explosions of ships, in any great numbers on screen at once.

    That leaves either what Guild Wars does – instanced cities – or maybe what Tipa suggested – some way to simulate peeps instead of the 1st person view that we are used to. Bleh. Stick figure MMO anyone?

  5. Who knows how the DAoC client was written, but it originates in a world of (now) antique graphics cards, when a home SMP box was a rare thing. Machines are enormously more capable then they were three, left alone five years ago. EVE’s client design is ten years old – the new client (released Real Soon Now) will make the client-side massively more scalable, so the devs are saying. That seems to be unusual for an MMO – getting major infrastructure and asset improvements during its lifespan, but then EVE is an odd data point.

    Guild Wars instanced world model was, I suspect, partially a response to their business model. Without subscriptions to support their ongoing operations, I think all their backend systems would have to be a low-cost and backend-light as possible. Minimising the number of interacting players keeps that O(n) nice and low, with bandwidth and CPU-levels consumed down to a minimum.

    Tipa’s RTS elements sound something like Dreamlords done right, not that I’ve never played it. The idea of an RTS MMO appealed to me greatly, but it seems to solve the hybridising of the MMO and RTS elements in a “Civ Versus Warcraft” way that doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’d love to be able to play a Homeworld Online-style game or Warcraft 2 Online), but it has to be done in a way that encourages a seamless world and “realistic” interaction.

  6. Hmmm…if the actual gameplay were deep enough, a top down RTS style RPG MMO could work. Either with 100’s of units that you control like Tipa is suggesting, or just your 1 avatar with 100’s if not 1000’s or other player controlled all existing in one world (server). You could really ramp up the size of the world as the population grows, and even make building your own cities via player housing wherever you wanted to set down roots, with a building type crafting skill to determine what sort of dwelling you could make. But lets say a weapon crafter could put up a booth automatically anywhere he wanted to sell his gear, which would then work like an seller/buyer NPC. And if more then a certain number of these booths are layed down in a given area, they automatically merge into 1 to keep congestion of duplicate booths down. Players who craft beverages/food could build a pub : )

    Probably just a nitch market for that though “/

  7. Darkfall is skill-based (no character levels) with 500 skills & spells, with total freedom about what you can use at any time. Squad-based battles are the order of the day in Darkfall, since the game is clan-versus-clan (clans = guilds) wars over actual in-world territorial control. Clans build cities and clan politics will be a huge thing in Darkfall. Gaining and donning items have a less importance than in other MMORPGs since items are cheap and the game is full-loot so you drop everything if you are killed. But the items are easily replaced, so its no so much of a big deal. There will be hundred-person seiges in Darkfall but the frame-rates wont be so bad since they have rather medium-graphics.

    Darkfall is part RTS, part MMO, part RPG.

    Go to youtube and look up the video called “Darkfall is coming” by muffins.

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