Implementing Ship Crews

EVE lore claims that each ship has a full crew. In practice, that’s not even close. The capsuleer alone pushes all the buttons with little feedback; flavor of gameplay does not make one feel like the captain of a ship. Being a fighter jockey in a frigate is pretty sweet, and big ships cool factor comes from feeling large. Part of this is the feeling of the command deck. Think about the drama that occurred on the Enterprise’s bridge or the Battlestar Galactica’s command deck. Instead, the big ships feel emptier than they need to be, and we’re missing out on golden opportunities to instruct new players.

Let us fix this

I propose the creation of officer level crew. They will report to the capsuleer, keeping the player updated and informed. They will not have any effect on ship stats and they will not automate any functions. For an example, let me introduce Lt. S. Red, a slightly excitable tactical officer. When given an officer’s position on a ship he will make the following statements. “Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down.”— (On being equipped to a ship.) “Captain, there are enemies on grid!”— (Outside of highsec space when a neutral or red ship comes out of warp or decloaks or in highsec in regards to war targets. He will not repeat this for two minutes; he will not repeat this as long as the original enemy remains on grid; he will not repeat this if an additional enemy comes on grid or if the original enemy leaves grid while other enemies are still on grid.) “They are out of range, Captain.”— (When the player activates a weapon system that does not have enough range to hit the selected target. He will not repeat this for one minute.) “S-Sir! The enemy fleet is locking us!”— (When 10 or more non-friendly ships lock the ship. He will not repeat this for two minutes.) “I don’t want to die!!”— (When the ship enters structure. He will not repeat this for five minutes.) Each officer will have an area of expertise. A miner might tell you when the ore hold is full. An engineer might inform you when the capacitor booster has finished reloading. A tourist will “ooh” and “ah” at the celestial wonders he sees before screaming in terror as the ship goes into combat. In the meantime, your mechanic will be clamoring for you to turn on your armor hardeners.

Why do we need this?

This is about the user interface. All the information (except the terrified screaming) presented here is vital to keeping track when you play the game. You need to know what enemies are on grid, and make sure you turn on your hardeners. You have to do a million tiny things and keep track of all manner of information to play EVE right. As a veteran, you know all this. But a new player might get confused. A panel of advisors giving simple updates and advice will make a newbie’s life so much better. In short, the plan is to hold a new player’s hand. At the same time this provides great flavor for a veteran. We can ask, “What advantage does a newbie assisted by Lt. Red have over a newbie that is on his own?” For starters, the Lieutenant’s urgent tone at the beginning of a possible PvP encounter will signal to the newbie that something important, even exciting, is happening. He then tells the newbie if he is not using the weapon system correctly. The player without Lt. Red may not understand the importance of any PvP encounter, may not see the enemy on grid, and might be in the dark when it comes to using his weapons. Next, if a newbie gets into a fleet action, Lt. Red helps him understand that he is about to be the primary target. Even his fear is informative to the player. For one, he clearly indicates to the player when the ship is dangerously close to dying. It can also help the player cope with losing a ship. Instead of being frustrated, the newbie can say to himself, “At least I died with more dignity than Lt. Red.” The new player will subconsciously understand that PvP losses are a core part of the game. After all, CCP went to the effort of programming NPC’s to react to their imminent death. I cannot stress the importance of this last part enough. Dying in PvP is a huge turn off to new players. Putting losses into context, even making them slightly humorous, will help players adjust to this part of EVE. Ship Crews in New Eden 1

How would we implement this cheaply?

We do not need star level voice actors for this project. Having CCP employees record a few statements for each character would probably be the cheapest implementation. Player volunteers would work, but there are some sticky legal issues. Portraits can be generated the same way player portraits are made. Furthermore, all calculations could be done client-side, and server load is not increased. This is not something that can be cheated for any real advantage. The only barrier then is the level of programing difficulty. I would suggest though, that a new player would enjoy this far more than tweaks to how he could be warped around in a fleet. This is also a good reason to refrain from making crews apply stat changes to a ship, as it adds to the programming complexity. It will make balancing harder and more time consuming. It is not necessary, because we currently have many ways of modify our ships.

What about technical AI limitations?

Implementing this correctly will require careful consideration of what trigger conditions should exist for a given statement. Fortunately, there is a lot of forgiveness in the implementation. If a crew member gets annoying or makes inappropriate statements because of an edge case, a player can turn them off just like they would disable a module. They could unequip the NPC. The system does not have to be perfect because players can mix and match NPCs until they get a crew that works. One example might be having two different kinds of engineers. The first engineer tells the player when they have one minute of capacitor left. The other engineer shouts when the cap booster is ready to be activated again. The second would be more appropriate for a cap boosted ship, and the first would be more helpful when the ship does not have a cap booster equipped. Because both of them are optional, we do not have to implement a logic system that first looks at whether a capacitor booster is equipped or not. The player can simply decide what is appropriate. If somebody asks, “Why are there hundreds of copies of Lt. Red running around?”, the answer is simple. They are all clones of some poor sod (fated to die over and over). A deaf player can enjoy the benefits by having officers type their messages to him in the local chat box, the same way that some other NPCs communicate with players.

Miscellaneous details

Since we want this to be newbie friendly, T1 frigates should have enough slots to fill a useful roster. However, it would be very thematic to create more slots on bigger ships, particularly those with bonuses for running command modules. Slots would be ranked from highest rank to lowest rank so that an officer given a higher rank will speak over those of lower rank. We can also have variance in the quality of crew. There could be a choice between cheaper greener candidates and more expensive seasoned veterans. (The difference may be purely cosmetic, with Veterans being more confident and less panicky.) Getting newbies the right mix of officers for their profession would be a community matter—“Reddit says that for a Caldari missile frigate I, should put John the tactical officer, Kate who does shields, and Henry the engineer.” Still, the basic officers should be so cheap that a newbie without advice would be comfortable trying them all out until they get the information they need. Next time you elect to put a space tourist in your cargo hold and fly into certain death, think about the possibilities. And as always, good luck out there.
Tags: crew, implementation, NPE

About the author

Mukk Barovian

Mukk is a long time skirmish FC with a penchant for overpropping his ships.

  • Druik Arbosa

    How much do you think these should cost?
    I like the idea, particularly getting told he the capacitor volume and the cap booster being reloaded and ready for use.

    • MukkBarovian

      I think that a basic crew member should probably only cost a few thousand ISK to ‘Hire’. Getting someone on board should be so cheap that a day one noobie can do it in 10 minutes.

      I think that you could scale up a great deal by having more desirable crew at much higher values, whatever the market will bear really. The noobie versions should be functional, and aesthetically appealing. They are the face of the game for the noobie after all. A cheap crewmember might be someone just out of the academy. An expensive one might be an unflappable grizzled veteran.

      • Captain Crutches

        I agree, they should be pretty cheap – I’m pretty sure the lore says WE actually pay them in ISK, but it’s so little that our wallets don’t even see it, and ISK is worth so much that even that little bit means if the crew member survives he’s set for life. Perhaps we then pay them more for the privilege of speaking directly to us 😛

        • dee

          According to the Lore, 1 ISK is enough to feed a family of four for a year on a “normal” planet.

          Therefore, even the amount of starting ISK that you get as a capsuleer is unimaginable to the average citizen. Hiring a crew member should cost no more than 5-10 ISK.

  • Erosian Aideron

    Nothing like the terrified screams of your crew and a troupe of exotic dancers to supplement the screech of the ships hull warning alarm.

    All jokes aside, I agree that there could be some merit in a system like this for newer players and veterans alike.

  • Oddsodz

    If I can get a voice over pack of CCP Bettkic, That would be amazballs

  • Malakai

    Give us a “siri” and let us set the alerts we want and having default sets of alerts would be excellent and selectable voice packs for sets of alerts.

  • It would be a great idea… only thing is that they should not be cloned. This is the privilege of capsuleers, and should remain so. May be some of the industrial team code could be used for that.

  • Billy G

    This would certainly add some nice flavor to the game. Gives us a good reason to turn audio back on

  • Captain Crutches

    Very interesting idea – I can see different CCPers doing voiceovers for different roles, and vets mixing and matching crews based on voice provider and not role. “My crew shall be Team Five-0!” “I’m gonna keep cycling through officers until they’re ALL SEAGULL.”

    The most important part of this is that it’s purely cosmetic – has no effect on stats, and is completely optional.

  • Interestingly enough, was in the midst of writing a sermon regarding four types of death, and the third type is called ‘Death of Gamblers’. Gamblers, meaning Capsuleer Ship Crews and the ethics of dealing with their deaths.

    Here is a preview I’ll share with your readers…

    Mortal human crews have a choice. What if you lived your entire life, and then found out you were doing it all wrong. What is it that gives you purpose? Is it duty? Is it money? Is it to provide for your family? Is it for power?

    Many people go to jobs that they hate, working jobs that do not challenge them and they get sick thinking about going to that job. They see the glass ceiling, and they know how far they can go, they see the dead end. It erodes your self esteem, it lowers your sense of self, it creates inner turmoil, it crates an emptiness. They believe this is what they must do.

    I say your life is worth finding, in this they don’t hear me. There are those that disagree with me for they in their minds carry and argue made-up valid answers to the questions I have asked above.

    As a Capsuleer, I can offer riches to these gamblers. The gamblers that fly with me knowing that they have a chance to survive, but also have a great chance at death.

    Every time I undock, I don’t just take their lives upon my decisions or fate… I undock with the ghosts of their ideas, their abilities, their gifts, their talents, and their dreams. These are the ghosts I see when my ship is being destroyed.

    I am only consoled in the fact, the hard fact, the pure truth that I have honored their decision of free choice. The ultimate gamble. I cannot pity nor morn for them. I can only honor their decision, and do my best to never see these haunting ghosts.

    For that reason, I limit how many missions my crew can accompany me on before I forcefully retire them. When they leave my employ, they are set for life, what they do after my charge is again their choice and I shan’t be haunted by those five ghosts. The gamblers live and die for their bet.

    • Druik Arbosa

      Damn, you almost have me signing up for your religion!

    • Kamar Raimo

      “I am only consoled in the fact, the hard fact, the pure truth that I have honored their decision of free choice. ”

      Right. Especially the slave crews on your Amarr ships 😛

      • Someone has not done their homework.

        Press Release 4/17/YC117
        Proclamations 2 and 3

        Journalists. #sigh 🙂

        • Kamar Raimo

          The only press statement from that day I am aware of deals with the capture of a disguised Serpentis vessel.

          Maybe you can enlighten me further on what else you could be referring to. I know you Amarr like preaching, so please indulge me.

  • Maruk

    We already have beeps and other sound warning for shield and cap low level. I’d know more if only I would play with sound enabled.

  • Johnny Twelvebore

    The “Dread pirate Roberts” could shout Yarr a lot and urge you to go for a ransom:)

  • Serinas Setzuni

    Every other time I’ve heard mentions of ship crews, I just rolled my eyes and said ‘No…’

    Congratulations on being the first time I’ve laughed and said ‘Why aren’t these already in the game?’ Ship it!

  • Kamar Raimo

    Great idea. The do have something like that in Valkyrie where the squad leader tells you to “watch your six” and other warnings.

    Also, I request that all Gallente personnel are voice acted by French CCP employees. I always wanted to take Basement Ben and Tara for a spin through lowsec 🙂

  • teppers

    Should start a GoFundMe page for this, give the money to CCP, and say get it done!

  • Saratje

    It would be particularly interesting if crew members can be trained to execute certain macro commands, taking some micro-management off the player’s hands but with a risk that the more complicated the macro is, the more likely an inexperienced crew member ends up messing their macro up. This may result in a forced cooldown cycle or even friendly fire accidents. Imagine a tense situation of a temporary truce and Ensign Redshirt accidentally fires a missile instead of quietly targeting ships for scanning purposes. Another ship’s macro detects the act and fires defenders. Then, hell breaks lose.

    What of troop morale? Do Calradi officers perform better when other Calradi ships are nearby, getting nationalistic pride? And perhaps Amarr crews start singing prayers at fixed times when within certain ‘holy’ star systems?

  • marisol

    i love this idea

  • Sard Caid

    This is the first time I’ve heard of ship crews being recommended as a tool to teach players rather than another kind of “fitting” for players to enhance their ships. Very cool idea.

  • Strata Maslav

    This is a really nice idea, giving us audio feedback for the activation of guns

    -deactivation of modules due to range, “Sir we have lost our warp scramble”,

    -incoming ewar or reps, “We are being stasis webbed!”

    -ship status “The engineer reports we are bellow 60% capacitor!”

    -whether or not the target is too close or too far for weapon to hit effectively “We cannot track them!”

    Beyond the helpful aspects for newer players it would give the feel of grad to the game.

    You are not a single pilot in a tiny frigate, you are a commander of a frigate sized galactic vessel with an 100 man crew.

    • ThoolooExpress

      Frigs only have 3-5 man crews.

  • ThoolooExpress

    It would be cool if there were tour guide missions, where you had to take a rich non-capsuleer around in a shuttle. Naturally, the tourist would be a total pita, and complain about everything. You’d get paid based on how satisfied they were, but of course, they would be so funny when they get scared that nobody would really bother to complete the mission properly.