BB #69: Because of Space-Magic

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 69th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

CCP sometimes get stuck between a veldspar 'roid and a hard place when they try to blend realism with sensible game mechanics in our sci-fi simulator. Sometimes they create a scientific answer such as 4th dimensional drag to explain our 'submarines in space'. Other times, not so much. When a null-sec Citadel is destroyed, players 'stuffz' is to be magicked to another station. Why should a citadel be different to a titan? Should CCP ensure that 'space magic' always has a plausible explanation or do we need just to say "Well, its only a game!" and engage the willing suspension of disbelief? How should it work when a citadel goes boom, how do we balance risk with reward, and how should any "space-magic" be explained?

magic-wand.png

I have to give CCP Games fairly high marks for not relying solely on incomprehensible techno-babble to explain game mechanics in EVE Online, and for maintaining continuity within the explanations they have established. It's a science-fiction game, and so, everything that happens is based at least somewhat on fictionalized physics. It would be easy to dismiss these physics as beyond our understanding, but this happens infrequently, surprisingly.

Inconsistencies do happen, however. For example, the ability to clone jump into Thera bothers me. Do fluid routers work between known space and w-space, allowing clone information to be transmitted? I always thought you needed a stargate to establish an interstellar network connection between systems, but Thera disproves that. It's in these kinds of situations within the game world that we have to shrug our shoulders, attribute the mechanics to some kind of "space magic", and leave the underlying explanations to the die-hard lore experts to speculate upon.

I suspect that most players smooth over these kinds of incongruities within their own "mind canons", if they worry about them at all. For example, I rationalize that my alt characters all exchange money with each other by telling myself they were all once part of the same foster family, and have therefore developed a secret support network. I understand that this kind of rationalization is totally unnecessary, but it saves me from obsessing over why these kinds of things happen in New Eden, so I can get on with simply enjoying the game.

I have found that researching why things work the ways they do in New Eden to be an enjoyable pastime, on occasion. While I'm not a lore expert by any means, I find that dipping into the Evelopedia and the chronicles to gain insight about how different mechanics are explained to be yet another way to appreciate the depth of EVE Online.

But practically speaking, we do not need to know the details of how things work in order to enjoy doing them. I honestly have only a rough idea how my internal combustion engine on my car actually operates, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy driving somewhere. To me, much of what happens under the hood is "car magic", and that's OK with me, as long as it works as expected. I suspect that few EVE Online players think about the details of in-game mechanics as they fly their ships. For most players, as long as the ship moves as expected, and the weapons fire when commanded, everything is hunky-dory. Sometimes, overthinking things just gets in the way of having fun.

On the Matter of Citadels

Still, there seems to be more debate than expected about the proposed mechanic for transporting player-owned stuff instantly away from destroyed Citadels. The principal argument is that it sounds dumb to magically transport goods, albeit with some losses, with no rational in-game explanation.

As for me, I simply explain the proposed mechanics with more "head canon" - a built-in safety mechanism in Citadels, where cargo hangers are jettisoned as large escape pods, which warp away instantly and automatically to the nearest starbase, whenever destruction is imminent. The losses of items are a result of some pods not surviving in the explosion. In fact, it might be interesting for CCP to actually create an animation of cargo pods emerging and warping off as part of a Citadel explosion.

But as someone wise once told me, "If you want to get to the real truth, always follow the money." And I suspect that most of the supposed concerns about inconsistencies in the proposed Citadel mechanics are just a smokescreen for the real motivation: people just want all the loot because it will make blowing up a Citadel more profitable.

Perhaps I'm being excessively cynical, but when a plausible explanation for the proposed behavior of Citadel mechanics is so easily created, the argument that they are based on "space magic" dissipates quickly as a dissembling facade. It is far more honest, and more productive, to argue about the merits of a higher amount of player items dropping as loot, as some more straightforward dissenters are doing.

Nevertheless, I understand why CCP has suggested the item dispersal mechanic. Without it, then it becomes very risky for anyone to store anything in a Citadel, and this could discourage their adoption and use. CCP clearly wants Citadels to be installed widely throughout all of New Eden.

Rather than resist the proposed transport mechanic, dissenting players would be on firmer footing if they pointed out the potential missed opportunity for CCP to develop this more fully, as a better system for balancing risk and reward. Specifically, what if jettisoned cargo escape pods were paid for by players who use a Citadel, as an exponentially increasing expense? A small investment would provide a low degree of asset protection, but a large payment would provide more comprehensive safety. This payment could be a monthly recurring charge, which would not be available if a Citadel fell under attack. You could even limit the number of cargo escape pods available in a Citadel, with their use allocated to the highest bidders. Those players who want to protect almost all of their assets could do so, but only with a commensurate expenditure of ISK. Those players who are willing to assume more risk, in order to maximize their profits from Citadel-based operations, would do so with the specter of a potentially devastating loss hanging over them.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the beautiful things about EVE Online is that it operates with a fairly high degree of internal consistency. And where inconsistencies do appear, most players either gloss over them, or CCP eventually fills the gap with a plausible explanation or a refined game mechanic. Regardless, most players rightly ignore the minor incongruities, and simply enjoy playing the game.

As for me, whenever I find something that feels like "space magic", I see it as an opportunity to learn more, to be a little creative, or to suggest possible improvements to CCP developers. EVE Online is an evolving story. If we see something that doesn't fit within the narrative, we have the opportunity to help the authors make adjustments, or to contribute our own suggestions for improvement. To me, "space magic" offers chances for more engagement in the ongoing development of EVE Online.

Fly safe! o7