Monday, November 23, 2015

Suspension of Belief

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.
Because of Space-Magic
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?
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CCP has done a marvelous job at combining game mechanics and the game's lore over ten years.

Want to have players simply respawn? Cloning and neural transfers. Want players to learn skills over time? Implants. Want players to be considered near-god-like figures in the universe? Capsuleers with perfect control over their ships. The list goes on and the environment is rich for additional extrapolation with near god-like technical abilities that the people of New Eden have access to. I have tried my hand at combining game mechanics and lore in the past as well:
Common Damage Types Used in Naval Parlance
Essay - The Unintended Rise of the Capsuleer and its Effects On Cluster Politics
The Non-Signatory Factions to the Yulai Convention
Time Dilation
Stargates - Introduction to Cluster Politics

However, there are some instances where it falls down and no amount of techno-babble or hand waving can save grace. How massive ships are assembled in seconds in stations, for example, or why the empires allow capsuleers to wage massive destruction within their borders, or why suicide ganking is considered a viable form of gameplay (although that last one can be explained by 'capsuleers are all psychotic crazies' which is not far from the truth).

Its these instances of stretches of imagination that somewhat break the suspension of disbelief and pull us out of the game's environment, but its a necessary evil because no one really wants to play a realistic game that puts all the same constraints and limitations on us that real life already does. Suspension of belief in these cases is required to allow us to continue to enjoy the game due to the mechanics and gameplay as opposed to the explanation behind it.

Which brings us to Citadels.

CCP was faced with a difficult problem. They wanted to create massive player built structures that could effectively replace outposts of starbases but didn't want to accept the risk-reward model of either one: outposts have relatively high risk (high price tag and risk when deploying the egg) and high reward (all the functionality of a station and is invulnerable and you don't lose your stuff but can be locked from it); while starbases have low risk (low price tag, relatively fast and quiet setup) and low reward (living out of a POS is painful and requires fueling, vulnerable to attack). In order to cleave this problem cleanly for citadels they opted for a middle road where citadels offer a lot of the reward of outposts with some of the risk of starbases (i.e. destruction).

All is well and good except a roadblock to the hybrid model presented itself. Players, either individually or via corporations/alliances, store massive amounts of stuff in stations and outposts, dwarfing the piddly amounts found in starbases. The added risk of complete and utter loss of material could be enough risk to prevent widespread adoption of citadels which was directly opposed to CCP's plans. The hybrid reward model needed a hybrid risk model and thus born was the mechanic that your stuff in citadels didn't get lost, but rather simply impounded at the nearest NPC station and liberated for a fee. (Super capitals, wormholes, exceptions, etcetera) But how do you explain this via the lore? What possible reason could there be for this mechanic in the universe that houses the game?

One solution would be to simply accept that mechanic needs trump lore needs and that a suspension of belief is called for to resolve the issue. Another option, which I suspect CCP will lean toward, is to posit that the new NPC corporation that is providing the background for the introduction of citadels will also provide the in game infrastructure for securing and transporting player/corporation assets in the event of a catastrophic citadel failure, and that capsuleers pay for this insurance via fees and everyone understands that interfering with any asset recovery will mean immediate lockout from all citadels in New Eden (much how I try to explain why players do not directly interfere with stargates).

In the end, the important overriding concern is if the game is fun. All else can be sacrificed on the altar to ensure this goal.


  1. I always thought the expression was "suspension of disbelief" i.e. for a short time, you will not disbelieve what you are being told.

    1. It is "suspension of disbelief"... I believe (right Kirith?) that Kirith was going for a kindof pawky irony... The list of physics breakers in EVE is long and impressive... NPC Stations that cannot begin to hold anywhere near the number of ships they do... submarines in space... POS'es with Corp Hangars that are physically smaller than many of the ships in the game... lasers and guns that ignore friendlies, missiles that could 'dodge' but don't and fly right through friendlies also... warping THROUGH planets and moons FFS... just to name a few.

      All the above are one reason I spend part of my limited free time on Elite Dangerous. Not that it is ANYTHING like EVE in the far more important social and emergent players aspects... (and it really isn't but then again, it never tried to be so meh...) but the flight mechanics are SOOOOOOOOOOOO DAMN GOOD!

      In ED every station, smallest to largest, is actually BIG enough to credibly hold the ships that land at it. The flight mechanics are based on powerful thrusters that push as needed to force the ships into a curved flight path while the main engines give the forward acceleration required for the transition to superluminal flight and the transition to trans-solar warp. You can even turn off the flight assist (computer aided thruster management) and fly under true Einsteinian 3-space physics.

      If a planet or any physical body in space is between you and your set waypoint, you get cock-blocked. Period. You have to work around planets and moons and such... thankfully, with intrasolar superluminal flight, this is not a huge time burden, and makes the game much moar REAL...

      Friendly fire is a thing in ED... you have to careful where you point the sharp end of things... just like IRL.

      There is, in the physics, a lot less "suspension of disbelief" required of us in ED than in EVE... but there is almost nothing in ED that comes anywhere close to the social, emergent player aspects on EVE... ED cannot replace EVE, it is just kinda nice to not have to work at 'suspending' so hard when flying is all.

    2. Yes, I was trying to be clever switching the saying on its head, but on second reading I was more clever in the conception than execution. :p