Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Friday, March 1, 2013

This fine ship, this fine crew

Every once in a while, you get a suggestion that EVE ships should have crews and that the actions you take in game should improve the abilities of the crew and from there, improve the abilities of your ship.  Just to get it on the record, I thought I'd mention a few reasons why this idea -- while indisputably awesome -- would be a bad idea for EVE.

First, let's get past the notion that some people have that EVE ships don't have crews.  They do.  It's not something that comes up in the lore very often, but it does appear part of the earliest lore of the game.  What the capsuleer aboard a ship does is reduce the crew needs of a ship, not eliminate them.  Dig enough and you'll eventually come upon this chart that gets bandied about:

The chart even goes to a bit of trouble to give you the survival chances of this unseen crew.  You may cue the appropriate scene from Starship Troopers in your head... now.  So capsuleer ships have crews.  Should the abilities of these crews improve?  I don't think they should, and it's for four reasons.

First, the crew system -- whatever it was -- would be gamed to hell and back.  This is something that EVE players excel at.  Even if you only improved crew stats for PvP, and even if it only improved by miniscule percentages per fight, you'd have super-carrier pilots out there giving their alt 100 T1 cruisers and blapping them slowly with fighters one by one by one for hours on end.  Whatever rules that CCP tried to put in place to minimize this sort of thing, players would find ways to avoid and sidestep them.  That's what EVE players do, after all.

That brings me to the second problem with this idea: it would further widen the gap between veteran players and novice players.  It'd be the vets out there with a few more percentage points of speed, damage, and tank, whereas the newer players would have none of it.  The vets already have huge advantages in these areas; why make those advantages even bigger?

CCP would have to decide if ships retained their crew statistics when traded or contracted and would almost certainly come to the conclusion that they would have to.  Otherwise, what happens to your crew when the ship gets tossed into a carrier or the like?  Since the crew stats would remain, they'd have to remain for contract or sale to other players as well.  While this would create an interesting new profession, it would open a Pandora's Box in another way.  What would most likely happen to most of these high-bonus crews is that they'd soon find themselves in high-sec, being used to increase the efficiency of missioning and incursioning.  Those would be the players most likely to have the ISK to spend on high-efficiency crews.  Why risk a valuable asset in PvP when it can contribute to your money-making activities?

Finally, on those occasions when they were used in PvP, ships with high-efficiency crews would tend to push the pilots to be even more risk averse.  If you have a valuable high-efficiency crew, you're not going to want to risk it on a questionable fight.  Better to save a difficult-to-replace resource only for fights you're sure you're going to win.

Anyway, the idea of EVE ships with crews is extremely fun to think about.  But in my view, it would create more negative consequences than positive ones.  And all of this assumes that CCP could balance the crew system in the first place.  With ship balancing still going on and likely to continue for the next couple of years at least, I'd say there are enough game balance questions -- and enough game balance work! -- for the foreseeable future.


  1. Totally agree.

    What I think could be an interesting take on crews though is where the crew need to be PAYED! If not, the efficiency of the ship goes down.

    In my EVE, this would apply to all ships from T2 and faction battleships and up. Increasing cost as the number of crew increase. T2/faction battleship crews should be relatively cheap, while titan crews should be quite expensive.
    Strategic cruicers could perhaps also be included where the number of crew could be affected by the choice of subsystems?

    You would still be able to use your ship even if you do not pay the crew, but with reduced efficiency in one or more areas and the reduction should hurt - say down to 90% efficiency on a BS and 70% efficiency on a titan - for applied DPS, for speed, for shield recharge or the likes.

    This would be an ISK sink ("laybour tax") for veteran and wealthy players and not apply to the novices and the space poor who can not afford these expensive ships in the first place. Granted, it would make the hill higher to climb financially to get into these ships, but certainly not impoissible for the lower affected ship classes (as I said, BS crew should be much cheaper than titan crews).

    The necessary mechanics for collecting the crew payment is already in game as would be the same as insurance, so almost copy paste there. The part they need to add is the "dampening" mechanics and given they are just that they have also been implemented already and probably lots of code can be reused in this area also.

    Making EVE more complex you say, well yes, but again only for the (semi-)veterans and they are the ones that complain of EVE beeing dumbed down so I'm sure they won't mind ;-)

  2. Why only think about crews as a way to get some boosts? I would rather use the concept to close the gap between veterans and noobs. Crews are necessary to operate a ship. However, they are also a liability. A crew needs to be hired. They want a pay. They need to be fed. This would be a nice ISK sink, scaling with the size of ships flown (yes, Titan-pilots you will whine. I don't care). There are all kinds of schemes how the upkeep of a crew could be implemented. Crew prizes could be subjected to the market, or not.
    Another issue is the survivability thing. What consequences could there be if you loose a crew? Maybe there should be none, for the sake of not fostering risk averseness. But what if crew (in safety-boats) could be looted/rescued ? Just some wild ideas...

  3. I'm curious if you read my "proposal" for crew back when you suggested opening Jove space. At the time I wasn't too keen on the Jove theme and so instead of being a negative Nancy I just decided to make a counter proposal.


    Unlike the crew system you described I think mine side steps the problem of crew improving by simply not having crew "level up" and instead using a system of specialists working with crew to improve a ships characteristics.

  4. In my experience the larger the organisation and the longer said group have been together the less efficient it gets and more slackers/freeloaders seem to accumulate. So what if ships crew's had a small positive influence that gradually degraded to some sub optimal level over time? (One could then exaggerate this fluctuation depending on the type of type of space the ship is flown in. The rational being high sec is dull so the crew are less motivated to work hard and more likely to burn out, where as the excitement/risk of low null and w-space inspire the crew to achieve more but burn out faster)

    As shown in the table small ships (and the ones that the majority of new players would be flying have small crews and so the effect would be negligible) but for suppers this would have a more dramatic effect over time...

    Maybe docking up at certain npc stations would enable refreshing the crews facilities. This would then leave null residents and super cap pilots to conduct raids/recruitment missions to planets while sat in orbit.

    Hence you are faced with the decision to accept the fall off in performance over time or risk spending a few minutes sucking a new crew out off a planet. Maybe people would be more game for a fight if their fleet has just started a roam, and take more risks early in an op while their crews are fresh?

    Since the effect is less dramatic in areas where there is ready access to fresh crews there remains a semblance of balance keeping high sec fairly similar yet gradually increasing risks and rewards in other space...

    But yes I agree that a pure buff from a crew would be not a good idea for the game.

  5. there is no reason why a system couldnt be designed to incorporate crews into the game that did not unduly benefit vets. Eve is a game of destructible resources. When a ship is destroyed so would be the crew - thus creating a need for a new crew. Crews could be "grown" and trained through the pi system - using temperate planets with a system of universities and schools. Then the players that grew the crews could trade them on the open market making them available at different quality levels to all players new and vet alike. As for the risk aversion issue - this cuts both ways - ccp could have used a crew system to curtail negative player activities - for instance - crews would probably mutiny at the thought of suicide ganking - meaning that a pilot that wanted to suicide gank would have to operate without a trained crew at a disadvantage which of course would act as a break on the practice of suicide ganking --- imo such a system would have been preferable to the nerfs that ccp imposed to the aggro system to date.

  6. This may be a duplicate post, if so, please delete it.

    Instead of making them a base attribute of the ship, crews could be treated as another module slot. Let them be manufactured (Probably from PI and some of those consumer goods that already exist in game, maybe this would be another place for Dust integration) and dropped like any other module, and require them to be sized for the ship. Don't let them gain experience to avoid the grinding issue, but do let them have different attributes, such as Standard, Offensive, Defensive, E-War, Logistics, Command, etc. These attributes should not show up on ship scanners. This would give you the added immersion of having a crew, but also give them meaning. Imagine a T1 cruiser roam, for example, that just brought combat and attack cruisers, but which included several ships with logistics and e-war crews and the rest with defensive crews. That would make for a nasty surprise.

  7. Naturally, the idea of crew have been discussed endlessly over the years. The suggestions always fall within three categories:
    - another bonus for the ship (as the example given).
    - "fuel", that is, penalties for going below the minimum, and ways to replenish it.
    - just cosmetic.

    You can imagine that the supporters of each type give no short amount of counter-arguments against the others.

  8. As you say, this is EVE. Thus, the crews should get more and more bitter with experience, becoming less effective with experience.

    Is a bad idea's opposite a good idea?? It, by definition solves all the problems you pointed out ;)

    After extensive use, the bitter vet crew would AWOX you from within your own ship, podding you and putting their ship up for sale on the market.

  9. Ah... Galaxy Quest... a most entertaining film. :)

    What about adding the Omega 13 device, as a new ship module? lol...

  10. Personally speaking, I find that most of the game mechanics only make any kind of sense at all if you treat the ships as being fully automated with the capsuleer controlling it.


  11. There are ways, like above, for making this a boon for newer pilots and not such a boon for veterans.

    One, if you do XP it should be based on ISK destroyed based on ISK of the destroying ship and crews would be non-transferrable.

    Crew costs should go up exponentially with ship size and/or cost.

    T2 crews might be cheaper, but with a much more limited range of benefits (in line with specialization).

    Another possibility is to tie crew XP gain to only accounts that are actively training.

    Crews would need to be paid on any assembled ship. The more you are in a ship in a month the cheaper it becomes for crew costs as they are 'learning'. Sitting around becomes expensive.

    So people with dozens of expensive ships just lying around would be taxed highly. New players with many fewer ships would not be.

    EVE can and will be gamed, but CCP shouldn't drop an idea just because it will be. It's always going to be a challenge and they'll have to keep at it to stop the gaming of the system.

  12. The WHOLE article and opinion is based on design assumptions of the feature. Yes, including the "can be gamed" part.

    It is true, any feature of EVE -- were there one -- tied to player action (only action, not isk, not proportionally at least) is gamed. We've seen it lately in a grand scale with the FW loyalty store prices I believe.

    But there have been design proposals, approved by PvP players and environmentalists alike, which avoid this : http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Ship_Crews_(CSM)

    EVE players will game a crew feature where the crew improves with a ship's actions ? Simply do NOT improve ship crews with a pilot's actions ! Instead, send the crew to an academy. Improvement there is based on time and money put into it. Yes, it takes away one portion of realism, but it adds crew nonetheless as a more realistic feature.

    I think the benefit is a PvP aspect : crews should entice to EJECT EARLY and abandon ship. Allow the enemy to take the ship. Not the crew, mind you ! Early eject will save the crew with (invisible) pods and they will always make it to a station.

    Also, crews could make the political system more visible, which is so underdeveloped in EVE : crews have affiliations based on their origin, after all. Want to change affiliation ? Send them to a training camp, too (see above for stat improvement). This should be true for a reworked null-sec sovereignty (=crew affiliation to that ruler).


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