The Abyss: A Place to Lose Yourself

Submission 2018-11-17

This article comes to us from Dantelion Shinoni. Art by Empanada.

Good Day, Capsuleers!

Today, I will tackle a subject that has been on my mind for a very long time: Abyssal Deadspace.

As many have, I participated in the early testing. I argued plenty with some people about some aspects of the implementation (hello Salvos!), and I stopped playing them quickly when I realized that they did not pay that much, before picking them up again when the rewards got better.

The very first thing I thought when I saw their introduction at Fanfest was “This needs to be able to be done with a fleet and they need to allow PvP.”  At that time they were limited to a single cruiser and they only permitted PvE, because only the starting pilot could be in the pocket.

But enthusiastic remarks from CCP pointed to a future where those Abyssal areas could be done with others and CCP would allow you to fight other pilots.

With the recent revelations from EVE Vegas 2018, that future is very much here. Now, 3-frigate fleet Abyssal runs are a reality, and 1-cruiser Abyssal runs will have a special gate leading to any survivalist’s favorite place, The Thunderdome!

Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves

Anyone who has spent enough time in EVE knows that EVE, at its core, is a game about competition (and freedom only incidentally). The introduction of a feature where players would be free from interactions with other players, and therefore could not be shot by them, was, and still is, deemed heretical.  Abyssal Deadspace introduced the dreaded Instancing, sacrilege to the One Server, One Universe principle. It allowed you to be alone in your own Universe, cut out from the rest of the server.

CCP also introduced something largely reviled by a significant portion of the EVE player base: a lack of competition. Nobody could harm you in your little pocket except yourself and your poor life choices. Both those two aspects of the feature made them controversial to many. Two very important credos of EVE were being violated right in front of every player.

However, despite their controversial nature, Abyssal Deadspace fulfilled a need, for low-on-time, infrequent players looking for something to do quickly in EVE, before logging out and taking care of the wife, kids, or work. These encounters were something that only took half-an-hour, provided a clear challenge, and boasted rewards that were pleasing and encouraged the pilot to then sub if they wanted to pilot the Trig ship that they just won. Nice job CCP.

I would say, thanks to that quick-play, quick-reward aspect, they warranted any and all the credos CCP violated, as they pandered to a demographic that is important (has money, is willing to spend it, and are more stable than a 20-alts machine that could unsubscribe them all at the drop of the slightest perceived provocation).

And in a way, Abyssal Deadspaces are not that isolated from the One Server, One Universe.

The goods coming from them participate in the creation of the intriguing Triglavian ships, each finding its niche in multiple activities around New Eden. Therefore, Abyssal spaces influence New Eden indirectly. Also, they participate in the destruction part of the EVE cycle by being a considerable material sink, considering the billions of ISK in ships, implants, and materials they destroy.

So, in a way, Abyssal Deadspaces play their part in the EVE orchestra in the same way as null (through resources), wormholes (through T3), and highsec (through trade hubs).

Still, the interaction aspect was still sorely lacking. And this is something both frigate-fleet Abyssal Runs and Thunderdome Abyssal rooms will help with.

Through frigate-fleet runs you finally get to make this a social activity, which is the whole freaking point of a MMO, and through the Thunderdome, you make it a competitive activity, something that is also very much the point of an MMO.

But those additions are still very modest. Having three players in a run is hardly socializing, and limiting encounters to frigates is not impressive. The Thunderdome will lack the depth of all ship specializations out there: logi, damps, links, and so on.

So, for now, what Abyssal Deadspaces offer is still understandably timid, as CCP is very much testing the waters with those changes noted above.

What can we ask for, for the foreseeable future?

What about 100-man Abyssal Runs? What about no restrictions on ship sizes? What about frequent invasions of your pocket by enterprising capsuleers or dedicated corps? What about pockets where you can reside for MONTHS?

The one crucial aspect of A-Space, due to its isolated and temporary nature, is that each of those scenarios is possible.

A-Space being instanced and temporary makes it the perfect place where, as CCP said, additions, changes, and concepts can be tested without throwing off the entire rest of the EVE Ecosystem.

To me, there are two needs Abyssal Deadspaces can fulfill (almost) better than all other spaces out there: the need for expeditions and the need for structured PvP.

Out There, In the Jungle

Although many who play EVE will disagree, those are needs that exist within the EVE ecosystem.

Most will say that EVE was not made for structured PvP, that combat being unfair is a core principle of the game. And they would be right.

EVE made the bet very early that negative and arduous situations were the best way to create meaningful and heroic moments. Some victories matter even more because the fights were unequal; you were overwhelmed, you were cornered, and yet . . . you . . . won.

So EVE decided to focus on that. Destruction has a place in the cycle; loss is a part of the experience; unfairness is the tool used by both.

However . . .

As much as destruction has a part in the cycle, creation has a part too, and thus, as much as unfairness has to be used to create those situations, fairness has to be used too.

Fairness can play a role in the EVE experience by providing accessible entertainment which can prepare people to deal with destruction, loss, and unfairness. And even in fairness there is competition, so fairness does not violate all the tenets of EVE.

From my point of view, A-Space is the perfect place to provide fairness in the EVE experience (along with faction warfare).

Since A-space remains isolated from the rest of the Universe, fairness does not drip out too much into areas where it doesn’t belong, like nullsec.

Below I have multiple examples on how A-Space could be used to provide fairness, based on the kind of strange, crazy ideas for A-Space I just listed above.

But primarily, I want to present you cases that show how A-Space could play a role in EVE.

Plenty of other games do similar things, and these cases show that there is a demand for what A-Space could provide.

First Case: Albion Online’s Hellgates

Albion Online features PvP zones called Hellgates that can only be accessed through a portal in the open world. Those zones contain npc demons that have to be vanquished to be looted. This victory also makes a chest appear at the center of the zone. A Hellgate can be accessed by two teams of players with a maximum fixed size (2, 5, and 20-man in the near future). Only one of those teams will be able to reap the rewards: two teams enter, one team leaves.

Essentially, you have a structured PvEvP competition where two teams have to fight for resources (the loot and buffs dropped by the demons) and for an ultimate reward.

What are those zones good for? First, they provide a fair competition accessible through the open-world. You actually have to work for access to the zone, as it involves finding it and then killing the demon guarding the place where the Hellgate entrance spawns. Second, they provide a source for a unique resource, Runes, which creates a legit career for people who are interested in specializing in them.

EVE’s A-space, then, functions similarly to Albion’s Hellgates.

Second Case: Destiny 2’s Gambits

The last expansion of Destiny 2, Forsaken, features a new mode that has aspect of  both  PvP and PvE: Gambit. The principle of that mode is simple. Each team is in its own pocket: you kill npc enemies to collect a resource called “Motes,” which you use to summon bigger enemies that will give you more motes.

Once you have enough motes, you can do something unique to the mode: You can invade the other team’s pocket. Invasion of course involves you trying to kill the enemy team or annoy them enough so that they lag behind in motes collection and boss slaying. The point here is more on the collection of motes than the actual PvP. The invading player provides some element of surprise in that you never know what kind of player will come into your pocket and what kind of annoyance, or straight-up threat, he will bring.

For now, A-Space only revolves around npc-slaying. There is no resource collection aspect and invasion is limited to the Thunderdome room that you have to enter voluntarily. You cannot invade the Abyssal run of another player while they are doing it. At least for now.

Third Case: Crowfall’s Campaigns

The upcoming sandbox PvP MMO features something unique for their servers: Campaigns. A Campaign will be the equivalent of a server with a specific rule set and an expiration date, meaning that the campaign will eventually end and a victor will be crowned.

So, each Campaign is a completely different experience with different rules and they all exist in an instance separated from all other Campaigns. Once a player chooses to be in a Campaign, he is committed to it until the Campaign ends and Campaigns can last for months.

This is a novel concept, in that it solves the eternal mechanism of the soft/gear reset employed by most theme park MMOs, in that the item/power level cap has to be eternally raised in order to entertain the audience.

In Crowfall, the world is destroyed and you start anew.

More importantly, you can import objects won through your previous Campaigns; conversely, you can export objects from your current campaign if you are victorious. This situation gives an incentive to go into those Campaigns and win, as the more Campaigns you win, the more objects you will be able to export to aid your future ones (and raise your e-peen through the constructions of castles, monuments, and such in the Eternal Kingdoms).

This gameplay makes sure that the strongest entities don’t remain the strongest forever. A new Campaign is started periodically and the Guild or Alliance that won the last Campaign starts from the bottom, like everyone else. It also provides the excitement of a new server to explore, settle in, and then dominate.

Outside of the randomization aspect of each Campaign, this has not much to do with A-Space as it is right now, but it is very much relevant to what A-Space could become. The same way Crowfall Campaigns allow for unique resources to be exported back, in A-Space we gain access to the Triglavian items and ships to bring back to the rest of the EVE Universe.

What if we had, in the same way as Campaigns, Abyssal rifts that asked for weeks or months of commitment, with hundreds of pockets to explore, and unique resources and ships to gather, craft, and use? Eventually, that Abyssal rift would close, ejecting everyone, while still allowing them to export back to the Cluster their hard-earned resources.

Would you be willing to do such a “campaign” if one of those resources was a Triglavian titan?

As with the Campaigns, the separated and isolated nature of each rift would allow for experimentation, with different rulesets, items, resources, and victory conditions. Each instance could allow for a very unique experience.

A Place To Lose Yourself

A-Space offers to the game something that no other spaces can: a place for experimentation and unique experiences.

The amount of things that are possible in the Abyss is mind-numbing, so much so that you could get lost in it, thinking up each one of them. Although the first forays of CCP are timid, they have been open to future ones and they have not done anything yet that would jeopardize that potential. We should be glad for that.

Despite what many detractors of the feature will see as violations of the EVE formula, A-Space has something to offer to EVE that can be of use to it and from which it can profit. An interesting question will be whether or not those who are so concerned with defending the EVE formula will allow A-Space to provide everything it can provide to the game.

That will be all for today. Next time I will go in depth around two Abyssal features I thought out to better illustrate the points I have been discussing in this article.

Until then, Stay Golden!

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  • Asia Park

    Interesting article. Regarding your comment: “An interesting question will be whether or not those who are so concerned with defending the EVE formula will allow A-Space to provide everything it can provide to the game.” These types of players risk going the way of the dinosaur if they can’t adapt. I think CCP is on the right track with A-Space!

    November 17, 2018 at 1:48 PM
  • Jon Beckham

    A-space will be something to watch. With so much of the vocal player base being risk adverse, much of what seems a majority of players should tire of loosing ships. After all we know how prevalent the “hide and run away if seen” scavenger predator (think coyotes) mindset run through the core of the player base.

    There are no miners in A-space to provide risk free kills. Nullification to flee and cloaking to hide from danger are also not an option. As well I doubt there will be many deployables either, so where is the low risk killboard padding mainstays that make up so much of the player base’s efforts?

    As it is now the game seems full of hyenas with a feature that requires one be a lion. Is my impression wrong? Do these players have the balls to fight and die? Will the feature wither and die? I can’t wait to see.

    November 17, 2018 at 4:08 PM
  • Libluini

    A small correction: E-War and logi-frigates exist, so it’s not that this experience is missing from those 3-frigate fleets.

    November 19, 2018 at 9:58 AM