The Case For Collisions

EVE Online is an environment of unlimited resources and little to no competition where replication takes precedent over innovation.

A persisting problem in the mechanics of EVE Online ships is the lack of strategy behind limiting fleet sizes. The scale of historical warfare is typically limited by logistics. Bigger naval fleets have to handle different challenges than do smaller ones. Aside from the considerations of crew, fuel and food, navigating great numbers of ships long distances is also usually a serious concern.

Scaled down further we can examine the logistical limitations of personal ships. Cars, boats, and planes can all be deployed in crowded configurations, but it’s much more dangerous, and therefor not preferred. The reason is simple.

Collisions.

Compared to a leisurely drive on a secluded road in a remote area, gridlocked traffic downtown is a lot more stressful. Cars run into things all the time, and when they do, it’s expensive and dangerous. Even a small vehicle traveling as slow as 25 mph is capable of maiming or killing a person; it stands to reason that a gigantic space vessel traveling orders of magnitude faster would cause catastrophic damage on impact of another object.

In EVE Online, ships colliding is relatively inconsequential. There’s an uneven transfer of kinetic energy between the ships and the geometry is skewed. It’s almost like shooting pool while robotripping, but one of the balls has a big hollow spot and rolls in hilariously unexpected directions when struck. Regardless of the size, type, or configuration of ship, there’s never any actual damage that occurs. It makes unrealistically large fleets easily possible in cramped spaces while placing undue strain on the hardware infrastructure of EVE Online. An environment in which a 200 member fleet can instantly warp to and jump through gate after gate without paying any attention at all to spatial positioning runs strident to immersion.

Undocking a spaceship from a huge, heavily populated space station in EVE Online without any form of station traffic control is also quite straightforward. Even backing out of a parking spot requires some coordination with the members of traffic already driving around the car. The more cars are involved, the more care must be taken to ensure the safety of the passengers of each. At intersections, there are stop signs and traffic lights. Highways have straighter trajectories and higher speed limits to facilitate longer trips. There’s a lot of thought and care that goes into systematically preventing collisions.

Pulling out of a parking lot into traffic requires coordination and care; launching a ship into space from a heavily populated space station might also require some level of coordination. A smaller frigate might get away with pulling out with abandon, in much the same way as a motorcyclist might weave between cars in stopped traffic take advantage of their smaller footprint. Of course, if that motorcyclist gets hit by another vehicle while they’re doing this, it’s likely they’ll be clobbered much worse without airbags and a chasis around them.

But being a party to a collision isn’t always an indicator of debilitating damage. Some collisions are slight, only causing superficial damage, whereas others at higher speeds might cause significant structure damage in exchange for causing damage to the collided party and a transfer of kinetic energy to them. Collision mechanics in EVE Online could apply to large fleets, but also to individuals and small gangs as well. A larger fleet might be more likely to suffer attrition through collisions during travel, while a smaller group traveling a similar distance would likely stand to suffer greater consequences per collision.

A frigate traveling at 4km/s, upon slamming into a hauler, simply bounces-yes, bounces– off the hauler, causing no damage, but effects the trajectory of both ships. One might expect catastrophic kinetic damage to the frigate, at the very least, or possibly some reduction in kinetic damage defenses…but certainly not a bounce.

Given the current set of circumstances, there’s no limit to the size of fleets, besides the bandwidth of the servers. With a fresh look at collisions, commanders of fleets might be forced to use more strategy, and eventually, more discretion in selecting fleet compositions, limiting the upper limits of fleet sizes and balancing the advantages with realistic logistical consequences. There would be no real targeted disadvantage to any type of playstyle, as even the solo space captain would likely need to reexamine module and ship selection in the face of a collision mechanic revamp,

Aside from limiting fleet sizes and escalation responses, a new collision mechanic would have an effect on all EVE Online ships in space. Miners in the asteroid belts would be able to use the environment as a shield against enemy gankers screaming out of warp, while those same gankers would have an oportunity to strategize cutting off the escape of their prey. Every close range brawl would require a new level of consideration, especially with smaller ships. Tackling interceptors would still be effective, but would require more than a single command to pursue and safely engage ships it’s trying to catch. It’s not exactly a nerf to the gatecamp in this example either; bumping a target ship and causing damage could be just as useful a mechanic to exploit.

Regardless of their demoralizing effects on targets, blobs should persist, but with painful and expensive potential consequence that scales exponentially with their size. Two battleships within 1000 meters of each other should be forced to coordinate to avoid colliding, turning gradually at first to not swing a tail wide and smash a heavy blaster and render it immobile; thirty ships simultaneously crashing a gate should be a big liabilty to a fleet commander.

The currently governing mechanics are too heavily skewed to reward replication in battle, as opposed to innovation. A reexamination of collisions could give EVE Online the fresh take that it desperately needs in the face of stiff competition from other, newer space mmos.

Written by Hannibal

Hannibal is a devout freedom fighter, an accomplished space captain, a famed psychonautic explorer, and the self appointed "Lord Of Sashimi."

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