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

  1. lol… totally missed that… I’ve put your blog in my feeds so hopefully won’t miss stuff like that again! Great minds, I guess! My idea would step away from the usual MMO idiom of you, as the player, controlling an avatar directly. You don’t get to do that in EvE, so like EvE, you would be commanding others — you don’t think you’re alone on those giant starships, do you?

    I do believe a Fantasy EvE-like game could be something amazing, just replacing starships with armies and planets with city-states… It could work!

  2. Just wait until your picture is all over this blog when you’re playing Rock Band next week. THEN you’ll have something to say :)

  3. Thanks for that link, Nuyan. I’d seen that article but forgotten about it.

    My point with both Syncaine’s and Mr. Rossignol’s ideas is that it doesn’t abstract you, the player, enough. In both, you’re the hero, doing heroic stuff — in their articles, fantasy hero = EvE starship.

    But in EvE, you don’t fight — you just pick targets for your guns and missiles, direct the autopilot to stay within your effective firing range and out of the enemy’s, start the repair bots or the shield enhancers… you’re the captain, you’re the commander, you’re Picard, and all your mount points and stuff are your bridge crew.

    In my “Evecraft”, you would gain the ability to command people of certain talents, build larger cities, enhance your reputation to attract more people, and so on — one step removed, just like EvE. And you as the player would be even one step further removed as, like in EvE, your city would grow and your avatar would study while you were offline; your avatar and your army would travel from place to place on their own if you told them where to go…

    So really, in my “Evecraft”, you’re some omniscient being, commanding your avatar, who then commands his army on your behalf — just like EvE. Instead of a starship, you can learn to command larger and more diverse armies comprising more powerful warriors, priests, sorcerers, knights, cavalry and so on.

    It’s that little extra remove that gives EvE some of its flavor.

  4. From another perspective:

    If Eve was a fantasy game it would be at least twice as popular in the worst case. But this is a false truth because it would also cost four times more, so it wouldn’t exist. Eve-Online was launched as a failure and managed to find its own space from there. If it was a fantasy game it would have ended like “Wish”.

    Eve has almost no worldbuilding, no complex animations, no practice of the details. It’s also very light on bandwidth requirements as the movement is almost completely client-side.

    Fantasy games don’t have a comparable complexity for two reasons. The first is that game companies decided not to dare going down that path, the second is that there are prerequisites before you start contemplating those complex layers.

    There was a recent discussion on the forum where people said WoW was successful because how smooth and fluid it moved. It’s true. Eve-Online is a game that got the complex layer before the basics. In fact the basics of Eve still sort of suck, and the reason why is still a niche game. Relevant but niche.

  5. @Abalieno — what EvE did was take their inspiration from a long line of space trading simulators — all the way back to Star Command, Sundog, Freelancer and Privateer — and make it into an MMO. Trading was the emphasis. Combat was something you generally did only when you had to. A more WoWish game would have come at it from the space combat simulator line — Wing Commander, X-Wing, Tie Fighter and so on. I guess Earth & Beyond and Jumpgate are titles like that.

    EvE Online is actually far more like a Real Time Strategy game than anything else. If you modeled your “Evecraft” from Heroes of Might and Magic, you might well come up with something as deep as EvE in a fantasy setting — and that might do really well indeed.

  6. Heh, I’ve started down the road to writing this sort of post myself several times. I think we even discussed EVE as fantasy a bit during SUWT #4.

    EVE has much to recommend it and I like to pick on a feature and try to translate it into a world of swords and elves.

    A worthy topic with room for many more posts and discussions.

    I had not considered an entity + entourage view as part of the translation. Interesting. I’ll have to go off and ponder that.

  7. If EVE were a fantasy MMO, I’ve gotta confess, I’d probably be playing it. I appreciate the concept, but the cold emptiness of space falls flat for me as a stage for a game. I never even liked Asteroids as a kid.

  8. the ability to warp away in eve pvp is far superior to the normal fantasy pvp escape mechanisms, that has to be incorporated somehow.

  9. You’re in a bad situation, you choose a POI from the list, hit warp and pray you make it away before your pod is sucked in by the twisted debris that used to be your billion ISK ship?

    When you think you have lost all you can lose, suddenly there arises an opportunity to lose even *more* :)

    But I got ya covered here. In dire circumstances, you pray for divine intervention; and if you have been devout and your chosen deity isn’t off in the forest carousing with the nature spirits, your avatar and what remains of your fighting force will be delivered to the lavish temple in your home city.

    You DID make it lavish, right? And now you’re going to have to make it MORE lavish and import that really, REALLY pricey priest from Far Hegemonia to bless it… and that’s going to be ANOTHER long trip you have to do :)

    I should turn this on Syncaine… can he suggest an EvE mechanism that could not be duplicated in a fantasy setting?

  10. If Eve were on 10 different servers, it wouldn’t have even 1/2 the subscribers is does today. That is the really special thing that sets it apart – there is only one ‘space’ where everyone interacts. I don’t believe there is any way to duplicate that in a fantasy MMO setting.

    To support 10’s of thousands of players on a single server – almost everything that involved gaining experience or needed items would have to be instanced. Or the world would have to be literally as big as Texas. And what if 2000 characters got together in the same place at the same time – what hardware could handle that, client or server side?

    Without instancing everything that was quest, experience, item gaining related (Guild Wars anyone?), its just not possible given all the details fantasy settings need vs empty space and space ships. As Abalieno said “Eve has almost no worldbuilding, no complex animations, no practice of the details.”

  11. The first thing I thought when I saw the title was “Well, I suppose you’d be playing a horse, or perhaps a wagon.”

    In any case, the design that you discuss is really interesting. The idea of gradually growing from a band of adventurers to and army is certainly interesting. However, wonder if this sort of game would be doomed to suffer from some of the basic design problems that keep me out of EVE? Steep learning curve, non-consensual PvP that can destroy days or weeks of progress, newer players at an insurmountable disadvantage versus older players. And I wonder what games like Lineage or RTS MMOs where you do in fact build up an army (I could have sworn I’ve read of at least one) have to teach about whether such a game would be fun to most players.

  12. Ultimately most art assests in fantasy games are a fixed, unchanging backdrop too, with the handy advantage of being able to assume most players are locked on the surface…

    A modern client, with good level of detail mangement, could probably display a disturbingly large number of units in a fantasy-themed universe – consider Supreme Commander on a strong PC, which even in extremis manages frames per second that fleet-combat pilots in EVE only seem able to dream about. As someone said, it’s probably the escalating O(n) bandwidth requirements that cause EVE so much server-side hell, that and the current poor client design. The animation/world detail levels for an terrain-based fantasy universe just change the angle on the graph toward bandwidth catastrophe.

    EVE uses guildwars style instancing already for for most missions – every mission-runner gets their own instance of that mission in a unique location in space. Someone can locate the player, and join them to run the mission as a gang, or just grief them, but there’s no occurences of all five thousand people currently doing Mission 5 of Kill Ten Pirates all hanging around in a single location in space. In black 3D space, that’s semi-credible (though rather lonely). In a terrain-based environment that would be immersion-breaking, and ruin the sense of a single world. But that’s PVE, the horrors of scaling in EVE are issues with trade hubs (Jita) and massive fleet combat (hundreds of players jumping into the same firefight) over territory.

    Ultimately a highly-populated world needs compelling reasons to distribute its population over a geographical area with “manageable” density otherwise, even if it were possibly technically, it just looks damn silly. One thousand hobbits packed inside the Prancing Pony as if it were the London Underground in rush hour, doesn’t make for a convincing world.

    It’s telling that, in the initial designs for EVE’s ambulation project, environments (shops, bars, corporation offices) are going to be limited to 65 (strange number) avatars at any one time. Since there’s to be no combat in these almost purely social environments, and CCP keep talking about realism, architecture, and emotional avatar interaction, I think that’s about immersion management as much as the bandwidth issues.

  13. Well what Supreme Commander does as far as units doesn’t at all approximate a comparable number of actual individual avatars, since for the most part many are duplicates. And none of them occasionally /dance or /wave, neither do they engage in melee where each individual style is calculated for damage, resistances, evades, parries, blocks, ect. If you ever played Dark Age of Camelot, where castle/keep/relic sieges happen daily, having even 100 avatars on screen at once slows down even the hardiest system. Then there is siege works going on, melee happening all over the keeps, keep wall damage being shown – it was hell to try and depend on timing during those large battles, since you were seeing 2-10 frames a second : / The server side calculations going on just to keep track of who is where in relation to everyone else is taxing in and of itself (from what DAOC devs were saying – not an IT professional myself at all).

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