The Incarna Contradiction
The Incarna Contradiction? Sounds like a Robert Ludlum book title, ah well too late I’ve committed myself now…
Incarna and CCP however do have a problem and its contradictory nature sits at the heart of ‘walking in stations’. Namely what is Incarna for? There are currently two polar view points on Incarna, on the one hand are the ardent Roleplaying immersion loving players for whom the opportunity to act out the political intrigues with full bodied avatars is mana from heaven and on the other hand there are the interweb spaceship fanatics for whom anything, anything at all, that digresses away from super smooth null sec pvp battle with spaceships is an anathema.
Incarna quite clearly easily surpasses the acceptance test for the roleplaying community whilst it will probably never gain acceptance from the interwebs spaceships fanatics. The question mark that lies like a shadow over Incarna though is how it is received by the vast majority who sit in neither of these two camps but are wondering what functionality and “game play” Incarna will bring to the table. Most worryingly for this community is CCPs revelation that to date:
“Nothing had been decided about the actual functionality and it was not possible to commit in any form or fashion to functionalities. CCP turned the question around and asked the CSM what they would be able to do in their quarters? Several things were mentioned; gambling, tactical management, view of the outside of the station (but stations in New Eden don‟t have windows!), access to station services, planetary interaction interface and customization of characters. Realistically this cannot be answered spontaneously so this will remain an open question for the time being.” – CCP
Part of the problem CCP faces is that a vocal portion of the community does not want Incarna to have any influence whatsoever with the ‘in space’ element of the game. Much of this line of argument makes sense – few of us would want to dock, walk around a station, find an agent, select a mission, walk back to our ship and undock. Whilst that might have a novelty factor at first over time it is likely to become increasingly wearing (not least if, like me, you forget to accept the mission and only realise that’s the case when you’re 5 jumps away….).
But if there is nothing you can do in Incarna that you cannot do in space – what’s the point in Incarna? Remember we are discounting the general ‘RP’ element here.
Ultimately we are left with very few immediate options – clothing and player housing is one are of course to be exploited. Plenty of players will be keen to show of their epeen and ISK wealth to acquire rare or expensive clothing options or housing items – we do it with ships and in other MMO titles so that makes some sense here. There are also the social aspects that may emerge from avatar based interaction – players (especially those with experience of other MMO titles) may find interaction easier and more familiar through avatars and avatar recognition. And finally we have the ‘mini-game’ like poker or drafts that could be accessed exclusively through Incarna.
My difficulty with all this however is that none of it feels particularly substantial. I ask myself the question – would I subscribe to EVE purely for Incarna? Could a player exist and enjoy the EVE universe through this portal alone?
Our erstwhile representatives on the CSM expressed their view “that Incarna should not be forced on players, and it should not give you a flying in space advantage to use Incarna”. This rather paints CCP into a corner as to what can be developed in terms of game play and removes the possibility at least of encouraging use of Incarna through rewards or incentives. Without adding those rewards / incentives as many other features in EVE have demonstrated could shackle the initial release of Incarna and seems a retrograde step.
Of course CCP could turn that statement on its head and apply mechanisms where by in space activities benefit a player within Incarna. For example resources found in Low Sec might have a high premium for in station activities.
One of the primary areas that I would suggest is ripe for expansion through Incarna is situational awareness of what is occurring across New Eden. An example of this might be a ‘Command Post’ environment where ‘FC’s’ can command and gain a wide angle overview of ship deployments and engagements across a given area of space. This “style” of environment could equally apply to other activities and enhance them – perhaps coordinating mining operations, or exploration through active interaction – rather like a ‘gang warfare link’ but on a grander scale.
The second area which offers some tantalising prospects is that of espionage. Whilst direct ‘pvp’ and combat has been ruled out by CCP for now, the subtle arts of spying and infiltration could be applied within the Incarna environment -tailing enemies, gathering information such as contacts, finances etc from in station portals. Again though we risk running into the constraint of potentially gaining an ‘in space’ advantage through such mechanics.
Incarna has a considerable amount of potential inherent within its general premise – but that potential cannot be realised if we, the players, continue to enforce constraints upon CCP as to how it relates to the current incarnation (see what I did there…?) of EVE as we know it today.