I first realized that my trip to the
Vegas was going to be light on href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve/" target="_blank">EVE
and heavy on Vegas when, while seated at the Baccarat Bar in the
Bellagio, my newly-minted CEO Zapawork began instructing me in the fine
art of whorespotting - how to distinguish the seemingly ubiquitous call
girls from the merely tarted-up. It was a Thursday night. By this point
we'd already discussed potential business ventures, downed a dizzying
array of frighteningly expensive drinks, and stayed up until 3 AM
waiting for our favorite Russian space-oligarch, UAxDeath - leader of
Legion of xXDeathXx - to arrive on his red-eye flight from New York.
Yet not a word had been breathed by either of us about spaceships, and
I dimly realized through the alcoholic haze that I was committed to
bashing out a column full of 'spaceship words' - preferably exciting,
feature-laden ones - about an event that seemed to be devoid of
anything of the spaceship variety.
Friday was no better. The first official event of EVE Vegas saw fifty
people or so jammed into a dingy upstairs conference room in that
dingiest of Strip casinos, the Imperial Palace. Its claim to fame was
that it had the least expensive rooms on the walk, and it showed.
Having wallowed in the splendor of the Bellagio all Thursday, the
Imperial Palace added a dose of architectural whiplash to the mix of
things already clouding my brain - alcohol, column dread and
the crepes we had for lunch. This three-hour 'meet and greet' had a
cash bar that was substantially more expensive than the downstairs
casino bars, resulting in frequent expeditions back and forth. This did
not augur well.
Attempting to break out of the clique I had arrived with, I noticed a
table full of goons hanging out with Avalloc. I approached, announced
something like "And who do we have here?" only to discover that I'd
blundered into the developers - Oveur, Alli, Soundwave, Navigator and
the 'Mystery Dev', an as-yet-unrevealed CCP employee on the game design
team. As my jaw dropped, I recognized the Mystery Dev as my old bete
noir Seleene, infamous former leader of the Mercenary Coalition and for
many years a staunch foe of the Swarm. I had staggered onto my first
source of spaceship words, and found it extremely awkward.
However, through the magic of me drinking a lot, Seleene and I managed
to hit it off famously. I have no idea what his incomprehensible "Dev
Name" is, but I did learn that he had a significant hand in the design
and conception of the wormhole space which has revolutionized PvE in
EVE. Better still, he's working on a major reform of supercapital
ships, coming up with multiple new superweapons in an attempt to
deemphasize doomsdays on Titans and give motherships a purpose besides
being just a bigger carrier.
After the meet and greet, we headed to dinner en masse. I sat down
across from the devs, but rather than extracting spaceship secrets from
them like a proper gaming journalist would, I joined in the group as we
occupied our time shouting imprecations about Darius Johnson's peeling
face down to the other end of the long table. We also speculated about
the extent of Navigator's poker winnings and kvetched about
seven-dollar macaroni and cheese. Navigator eventually joined the
group, $500 dollar richer from winning his tournament. We moved on.
After 10 PM on Friday - time for some serious drinking. The party moved
to the Rockhouse bar in front of the Imperial Palace. Expectations were
in the gutter - this place was lame, the crowd listless, the space
cramped. Then the organizer of EVE Vegas put our ticket money to good
use, acquiring bottle service in a private booth for the group, service
provided by a cage dancer - in a booth directly behind said cage. As
soon as the Grey Goose was poured, a go-go dancer began swinging on a
tire chained to the ceiling. I don't remember many more details besides
the drinks being excellent and a significant amount of speculation
about the exact wording of our server's partially obscured crotch
tattoo - was it 'The High Life'? 'The Good Life'? 'Restricted Access'?
Reports varied wildly. It probably didn't involve spaceships.
Saturday, the main event of EVE Vegas
begins at 10 AM. I show up an
hour late and stare at the iced coffee I snagged from Starbucks with
bleary certitude, head pounding. We're back in the dingy conference
room at the Imperial Palace, but the crowd is much larger than Friday
and Oveur and the other devs have a projector; Oveur was giving a
presentation about the various development ideas that were mocked up
and then discarded over the years. It was probably fascinating for
people who do not have sharp stabbing pain behind their eyes.
During the lunch break I desperately tried to clear my head with greasy
hashbrowns from a stereotypical Vegas buffet. Oveur mentioned something
about a game design workshop we'd be participating in, some sort of
group brainstorming session. I informed him that I'll be terrible at
this because the only game design advice I can think of is "remove
doomsdays," then I went back to shoveling overpriced breakfast food
down my throat.
The idea of the game design workshop was to teach us something of what
the devs themselves do when thinking of an expansion. If we didn't come
up with something good, Oveur warned us, the devs will inflict the
dreaded 'Space Monster' expansion on the playerbase. The participants
were given a number and separated into groups to prevent friends
clustering together; we are told to appoint a spokesman for each group.
Despite my raging hangover and exceedingly cranky demeanor, I ended up
as spokesman. Then they tell me that at the end of the process there
will be a presentation that I'll have to give, and - even better - a
vote as to which group designed the best expansion.
At first, our methods of brainstorming were halting. We began from the
premise of 'what sucks about EVE', from the perspective of a table full
of PvP addicts and one erstwhile spy. PvE sucks. Missions suck. Maybe
we should do something about that. No one has any idea. Lowsec sucks.
It's full of pirates but they're only ganking people passing through to
0.0 or Empire; the space has no purpose. There's no reason at all to go
to lowsec for its own merits. Wouldn't it be cool if it was actually
kind of criminal? Sort of a Han Solo thing, a place for smugglers? Star
Wars Galaxies got everyone all excited about smuggling but Sony Online
never did anything with the class and it was a disaster. EVE has
pirates and 'anti-pirates' but they don't really have anything to fight
over, or do. Why don't we try to make Lowsec unique? Give it a reason
to be there, turn it into a hive of scum and villany, a focus for
criminality. A unique resource for it, some items that can only be used
Within minutes, our table - full of players who had nothing but
contempt for lowsec - was in a frenzy of creativity. "If this ever
actually gets made, I would live in lowsec and never leave," several of
us vowed. The Corruption expansion was sketched out - and proceeded to
easily win the competition as a crowd favorite.
The core mechanic of the Corruption
expansion is the 'system corruption
level' that the forces of good and evil fight over - except that the
forces of 'good' are vigilantes and privateers, not easily
distinguished from the corrupters who they combat. Players enlist as
either Corrupters or Vigilantes and slaughter each other to adjust the
system corruption level. Criminal-themed missions can also be run, but
PvE impacts corruption level at a much slower rate than PvP. As the
corruption level of a system changes, Corrupter or Vigilante-themed
abilities are unlocked. For example, Corrupters are able to bribe
station managers into secretly increasing the docking timer on another
player, adding an abrupt and panicked end to anyone trying to play the
undock-redock game. Bombings and sabotage are also an option.
Vigilantes unlock Concord payouts from destroying Corruptor ships,
allowing them to truly be bounty hunters, since podkilling someone in
lowsec without a dictor bubble is nearly impossible. Either side can
pervert a system's sentry guns to shoot the opposing group, assuming a
system has swung to them.
But this isn't enough to make lowsec unique; the winning group decided
that lowsec needed a defining resource, something that would attract a
black market separate from hisec hubs. The answer was drugs, lots and
lots of drugs. Fill lowsec with harvestable gas and give boosters -
currently a virtually ignored part of the economy - a huge buff, but
limit the use of the 'enhanced' boosters to lowsec only. To make drug
production less arduous and give corrupters and vigilantes something to
fight over, introduce a capital industrial ship like a jury-rigged
Rorqual that flies into a gas cloud, enters siege mode, and produces
boosters, putting itself at risk of attack for ten minutes at a time.
"Like a capital meth lab?" asked one of the crowd, and the "Methnaught"
was born. Meanwhile, the rest of the lowsec economy could be made
unique through the use of lowsec-only items, banned in highsec, such as
'Smuggler's Cloaks' which temporarily remove a ship from the local
channel. Kill rights - currently of not much use - could be
commoditized and sold to other players, creating a market for bounty
hunting that leaks into hisec.
To add interest in the PvE side of Corruption, missions specific to
Vigilantes and Corrupters could be created. LP and rat drops could
offer lowsec-only items. One particularly unique idea was that - with
the proper Bribery or Extortion skills - belt rats could be bribed by
players, paying them off to not attack a mining op, or to immediately
gang up on anyone newly entering the area. Taking the criminal theme
further, stations could offer a variety of in-game gambling and casinos
against the house - creating a much-needed isk sink.
Drugs, gambling, crime - Corruption was a vision of Vegas itself.
Better yet, I had my spaceship words at last. Oveur turned the 'Dev
Q&A' on its head and spent the first fifteen minutes personally
interrogating our group about Corruption, rather than answering
questions from players. One can only hope that this is a sign that, at
some point in the future, the Methnaught may stalk the skies of EVE,
crapping out endless supplies of high-grade smack for the playerbase.
The real Dev Q&A had a number of enlightening moments. The
reason behind the refusal to add another turret to the Naglfar?
Apparently the art department pointed out how many thousands and
thousands of polygons this would muck up, making a ship model change
resulting in a nightmarish amount of man-hours. Freespace
2-esque 'mega beam' lasers were offered as a possible supercapital
weapon, and it was hinted that something similar might be in
consideration as part of the new superweapons. The lack of
proliferation of T3 ships was registered as a disappointment among the
dev team, and something might be looked into to increase their spread.
After the Q&A, the event finished up with three hours of open
bar, swiftly degenerating into drunken Vegas-style chaos. It seemed
like the vast majority of our ticket money had gone to providing booze
and an excuse to party; I dived right back in, and events became
pleasantly unclear. I'll be back next year, and perhaps by then - if
we're lucky - we'll begin to see hints of Corruption taking hold in New
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