Monday, December 21, 2015

Empires or Nomads

One problem with PvP MMOs is that they can fall into stagnant states. Each major entity has their own empire. The empire generates enough resources to maintain that power. The empires are unwilling to fully engage other empires in war, because there's a chance they might lose. Instead they'll skirmish on the borders to relieve boredom.

In theory, new entities could challenge the existing empires. In practice though, long-standing empires are usually structured better than the challengers. The empires have been around longer, and have seen what works and what doesn't work. If a challenger does arise, they are usually beaten into submission quite quickly.

When you get into the stagnant state, the real threat to an Empire's survival is not other players, but internal drama. It's arguable that Eve Online has fallen into this state now.

Perhaps the problem is the very concept of empire itself. Once an empire is in a steady state, it usually stands until something major changes. Things like the emperor dying or succession struggles. But these sorts of events are unlikely in PvP games.

A better structure for PvP MMOs might be "nomadic tribes" rather than empires. Under the nomadic model, resources in a given area are consumed faster than they are generated. Thus when the resources run out, the nomads must move on to new regions.

That movement brings them into contact and competition with other tribes, making conflict and war more likely and more necessary.

Imagine that all the CFC's territory in Eve Online suddenly stopped producing resources. The CFC would have to move, and that would generate a huge amount of PvP.

But there is an attraction to holding territory, to claiming "your" space. I'm not sure that a nomadic game would have the same attraction that the empire games do.


  1. Or maybe a hybrid system: every region continues generating a base level of resources, but a rotating region generates 400% more. Does one empire send an expedition force to follow it around? Do they try and claim all the regions they can, to maximize the odds that they get the good region?

    Might suck for a small empire just doing its thing off in a remote corner of space, and suddenly they get a target painted on their face for a month or whatever. But narratively? Makes for interesting stories.

    1. I don't know. I rather think the empires will just build themselves around the baseline, and whoever gets the bonus region gets lucky for a month. At all costs they want to avoid total loss. The nomadic system is more stick than carrot.

  2. Seems like you're deftly summarizing a few thousand years of real history. I would guess that most of the nomads really wanted to settle down if they could, and I seem to recall many historical instances of them doing just that. And it seems like empires generally did endure until internal factors did them in, though outside forces sometimes gave a shove.

    Maybe this is an example of players being their own worst enemy. Nomadic PvP would be more fun but everyone wants to empire build even if that ends up in a more boring static PvP environment.

    1. I thought about bringing history into it, but history is full of irrational outliers. In particular, World War I causes this theory a lot of problems. A system of empires, all of which had a lot to lose, got dragged into a full war.

  3. The main problem with games in general is monetizing. In structured games like WoW, this can be concealed. You raid is unaffected if the other raid is selling spots for real money. In a PvP game you are strongly affected as your group is in competition with the groups that are bound together via real world interest. In EVE the CFC, Pandemic Legion and Legion of xXDeath will never fight, because it's against their real world monetization interest.

    It can be only solved by the dev coming down hard on any attempt to monetize the game, even in so harmless way as selling a logoed cup.

    1. I'm not sure I fully follow your logic. Let's say that CFC has their own monetization scheme CFC-RMT. And then Pandemic Legion has their monetization PL-RMT.

      Why does PL-RMT depend on the existence of the CFC?

      If anything, the CFC-RMT and PL-RMT schemes are competitors. If PL manages to break the CFC, surely PL-RMT will make more money?

      If it's a simple RMT oligarchy, where both sides refuse to challenge each other to avoid loss, that's not a lot different from an in-game oligarchy where they avoid in-game loss.

      I guess I just don't see how monetization and RMT makes a specific difference.

  4. If PL breaks CFC, PL LOSES MONEY. This is Especially true back in the OTEC days.

    PL is CFC, CFC is PL. Their freaking leaders talk to each other in private channels all the time. They aren't exactly polite to each other, but they are one big Cartel.

    If the cartel breaks, all cartel members lose.

    Eve is doing the correct thing nowadays. Changing key mechanics to disenfranchise bittervets and take the temporary loss in total pop for the longer term prospects of a better game.