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.


14 Responses to “The Incarna Contradiction”

  1. I thought your idea of the “command post” was quite interesting. For low sec roams or huge alliance fleet battles having some sort of multi-system view seems both powerful, useful, and very entertaining. Also having oversight of a big mining operation is also interesting. It reminds me of Battlefield 2’s commander mode, which was always really entertaining. Yet, this could be on such a greater scale with more impact.

    Always a pleasure to read your posts!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Grant, Eve Bloggers and Cailais, Cailais. Cailais said: Latest, and a bit delayed, hydrostatic blog post. Read, digest, enjoy. 🙂 […]

  3. i always hoped for something along the lines of your command post idea. to be honest, there’ll be people who complain whatever happens but if there isn’t something that SOMEONE can use to further their game in it then i don’t see the point whatsoever. sure, we don’t want to give people too many excuses to stationhug any more than they already to but having a larger scale tactical view of things and being able to convey messages to several different fleets through a visual interface would be a pretty awesome tool for a higher level fleet commander to use.

    it could also be used as a step on in eve’s contract and bounty hunting transition that seems to be ongoing over the years. first we had escrow, then contracts- what if players could act as ‘agents’ of sorts, with people going to see their contact instation and get missions assigned to them in a more dynamic, player based way. face of mankind has been trying and failing to get something like this figured out for years and it’ll probably never work in any game, let alone eve, but it’d be an interesting mechanic if it was used and worked.

    i dunno, i’m just thinking aloud really.
    easy hombre

  4. Jenni Concarnadine Says:

    Surely one of the key possibilities is for the merchants — rather than having to search through the market for what’s on offer cheaply at a station, let the merchants display what they reckon are their top-rank offers on a rolling display outside their office. If you’re paying 10% less for your Rifter, are you going to mind paying 1% over the odds for ammo ?

    And how are you going to compare-and-contrast your avatar’s possible fashion purchases unless you can *see* what you’ll (supposedly) be wearing ??

    • Retail, or shop fronts, seem an excellent fit into Incarna – but things like that are hamstrung by the current wave of opinion that nothing ‘space related’ should be inaccessible from ‘space’ (i.e requiring you to enter the incarna environment) and that’s the main thrust behind this article. You could call it ‘in space elitism’ or just simple conservative attitudes but it creates a series of obstacles for the development of Incarna that don’t actually have to be there.

      Personally I would love to see both store fronts and corporate branding for the retail trader in EVE enabling a true merchant profession but I fear we are a long way from that becoming a reality.


      • in terms of corporate branding, a cheap trick that would nevertheless make a lot of people happy ( i think ) would be to let people advertise on billboards FINALLY. just to be able to stick your name, services and address up on a billboard once an hour would be awesome, whether or not it actually brought any business in, which i think it probably would once people got used to actually looking at billboards.

  5. I’m not sure I agree with the popular premise that Incarna shouldn’t give an in-Space advantage. Maybe I don’t really understand what is meant by that. After all, isn’t EVE the kingdom of meta-gaming? Wouldn’t it be better if some of the meta-gaming was at least part of in game mechanics in Incarna?

    I could have sworn at one point CCP said something about “off-grid” transactions as part of Incarna. I assumed that this would be related to black market style trading. Also seems to hint at espionage. If Incarna ends up being about buying new clothes for my avatar then I’m not interested (hopefully). Also, I agree with you that this sort of direction doesn’t feel particularly substantial.

    If EVE grows in complexity then perhaps Incarna could be the game area for harvesting information? When I first heard about Incarna my first thought was of “The Finn” in Neuromancer. Anything along those lines and Incarna would immediately hook me in.

    • Your comments regarding The Finn from Neuromancer are spot on – I fervently hope CCP have this type of environment in mind for Incarna although mechanically it will be a significant challenge to implement – not least because of the howls of protest that will erupt if there is a suggestion anyone could access previously hidden information (such as contact lists etc). Nevertheless in my mind its the only substantial game play option open when you remove the traditional ‘pvp’ in stations concept.

      My fear is CCP haven’t even begun to consider this element of Incarna, and wont do, until a few weeks before release. We’ll most likely get the “shinneys” but everything else will go onto the mountainous ‘soon tm’ list.


  6. […] Challenge: #CKMadeItTo800—-(Blog Post) The Hyrdrostatic Capsule – The Incarna Contradiction Incarna and the path CCP has planned (or NOT planned) for its gameplay.(Garheade Off-Topic […]

  7. […] be stuck in your room with nowhere else to go (or maybe a couple-room suite) for starters. I like Cailais’ suggestion of an “FC command post” here, although that doesn’t really require a […]

  8. Does anyone remember EA’s Earth & Beyond? All those players running around stations to get missions and meet/trade with each other. It was a novelty at first, but that wore off.

    Although E&B was rather cartoonish with walking in station implementation, it seems to be what CCP are eventually heading for … though with much better graphics and hopefully better dance moves.

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