Eve-Online has one of the deepest and most intricate combat systems I’ve ever seen. It’s also heavily balanced for fleet combat, so that every ship type is not only effective but necessary. From the smallest to the largest, everything has a role it can fill effectively. Given that it’s an MMO, in general it’s one person per role, and one person per ship. Which can be extremely chaotic at times. Of course, Eve’s PVP is amongst the best PVP experiences I’ve ever had, and I go back to it when I can. But for each great combat engagement, there can be literally hours of cat and mouse, hopping from system to system, gathering intel, and chasing people who don’t want to be found. The ten minutes of frenetic action more than makes up for those hours spent preparing and gathering and finding a fight… but you will spend significantly more time doing tense – but boring – maneuvering.
Enter the Eve-Online Action RTS! People who don’t like Eve always talk about how much fun it would be if they could actually pilot a ship directly. Well, if you did that, you’d lose a lot of what makes Eve Eve. But not if you kept the mechanics, and went the RTS route. A lot of the fun is the military structure that Eve-Online forms as part of PVP. But very few people ever get to be fleet commanders, and of those, only a few are good enough to actually win battles. But if you’ve been a part of one of those fleets, you can probably see where this is going.
If you haven’t been a part of one of those, then there’s a small chance, being a sci-fi game fan, that you played Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. It’s similar to what I’d see for an Eve-Online Action RTS. If you haven’t played that… well, you should’ve, but that’s a topic for another time.
So the main idea would be to keep all the mechanics that make Eve what it is, but wrap it in a layer of RTS controls. For the uninitiated, Eve is all about filling a fleet with ships which fill particular roles. A simplified list is Electronic Warfare (the act of disrupting the enemy’s ability to attack), Support (remotely repairing shield/hull), Tackling (preventing enemies from warping away), Damage (duh), and Command. Oddly enough, this last is rarely utilized in Eve Online, in favor of other roles, but it adds bonuses to all other ships. A lot of ships are built assuming a particular role, but can be set up in different fashions to fill different roles.
Now, beyond specific roles, damage in Eve is set up in a peculiar fashion which doesn’t make sense until you view it in the face of large-scale warfare. Small ships can’t do significant damage against large ships, and it’s hard for large ships to damage small ships. This has the effect of requiring a very balanced set of ships for a lot of combat engagements.
So now with the background, how does Eve-Online, the Action RTS, work?
First, you pick and build your command ship. It doesn’t have to be a Command Ship per se, just any ship you’d like to fly. Big or small. Then you’d have a budget for your fleet (or a fleet assigned by a campaign/mission). You would then arrange your fleet in to particular groups, assign roles, and setup some basic AI controls for them to follow on their own. Then you’d head out hunting. Using the standard gate/system setup from Eve-Online, you’d spread out scouts, who could find the enemy fleet, while the enemy fleet tried to get the drop on you as well. Missions could be set up so that you had to attack bases, defend bases, escort a ship, or simply destroy an enemy fleet. Any of the standard tropes.
You would, for the most part, only control your ship, giving orders to individuals only when necessary. If you choose to align, everyone aligns. If you warp, they warp. When combat starts, it would be structured effectively like actual Eve-Online combat. You’d assign a primary and secondary target, you’d distribute “points” (what Eve pilots call it when a tackler prevents a ship from warping), focus your EWar on particular enemy targets. And then just watch the fireworks until it’s done or you run. There would be room for micro management if you really wanted, but for the actual experience, you should really just give very basic and open orders concerning particular enemy or friendly ships.
Ultimately, it would be the majority of the Eve-Online combat experience, without the overhead of the actual MMO, or the downtime associated with mining, making money, or trade. You could even have multiplayer with multiple people controlling multiple fleets. Different sized space areas could result in more or less cat and mouse. Heck, you could even build co-op in to it, where you command different parts of a fleet. It would draw a whole new audience to the Eve-Online system. Hell, if this game were ever made, CCP could actually tie it in to the MMO in some fashion, as they are apparently doing with their tie-in FPS Dust 514.
Above and beyond the basic game, there’s still a lot of room to create a complex and engaging strategy game. Most of the gameplay from Eve-Online could be brought in. Scanning, hunting, even salvage and loot. You could add a layer for AI pilots for particular ships, who gain experience, or who are better at some tasks. Keeping them alive lets you grow your fleet to be more deadly. You could even incorporate podding.
All in all, a game I’d love to play.