All this recent talk about escalations...

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All this recent talk about escalations...

Postby spcnmtry » 02 Jul 2017, 12:06

..Is inevitably reminding me of another game I recently started playing called Eve Online. The name might sound cheesy but don't let that fool you: Eve is a very complex game with (I think) a few striking similarities to Diplomacy, so I thought I'd take a moment to tell you folks about it.

The basic premise of Eve is fairly straightforward: you're a spaceship pilot in a fictional galaxy inhabited by other players like you. You choose what you want to do for a living (as it were): you can harvest space rocks to refine (quite boring), buy refined minerals to manufacture into stuff like weapons and ships that you can then sell on to others (or simply be a middleman, buying and selling for profit without building anything of your own).
Or you can buy said weapons and ships from the aforementioned individuals in order to (attempt to) blow them up (or often enough, get blown up by other bloodthirsty thugs like yourself with the same idea).

However, here's where it gets interesting (and where the similarities to Diplomacy come in). The fictional galaxy I mentioned is divided into several distinct areas of space, with varying degrees of safety to the player. There are relatively secure areas under the control of a handful of computer-controlled governments. In this "high security" space, player-on-player aggression is punished (but not completely banned).

However, most of the richest resources are found in the outskirts of the galaxy, vast lawless areas outside the computer nations' control. Large, often massive player groups form to settle these regions, the miners and manufacturers providing ships and supplies to support the combat pilots who protect them.
Neighboring player groups form alliances with each other for mutual aid and protection - or to kick out other neighbors they dislike. I find the relationship-building, cooperation, and intrigue that routinely takes place between these groups to be very interesting.

So here is where "escalations" come in. One of the key concepts of the game is that losses are final. Every ship, no matter how expensive it is or how long it took to build, goes "poof" once destroyed, and can't be brought back. Many of the best-in-class ships, whether for combat or resource harvesting, require weeks or months of material gathering and construction time. Deployed without the proper support, a fleet of such top-tier ships can be wiped out in mere minutes, inflicting a painful financial and morale loss.

An escalation is basically when in a combat engagement (precipitated by say, an enemy combat fleet finding and pinning down a group of top-tier mining ships), one side decides to commit some (or most, or all) of their bigger, more powerful, more expensive, and more vulnerable combat assets (a class of ship called capital ships) to the fight in the hope of turning the balance decisively in their favor.

Depending on the situation, the other side may then counter-escalate (indeed, their first-place objective may have been to draw out and attempt to destroy capitals owned by the other party) and drop their own superior ships into the fray. The first side may then counter-counter-escalate, and so on.
Eventually, one side decides to try to cut their losses, extracting a few of their capitals and losing the rest in a ball of fire.

Although one side's good leadership and decision-making can do a lot to tip the scales, the victor in these "escalations" generally tends to be the party that can field the most capital assets. This doesn't necessarily mean that they own all of them themselves; on the contrary, it's common in situations like this for people to call their friends for help (who in turn may possibly even call some of their friends).

Who, if anyone, you're able to call on for assistance depends on how good you are at building relationships, which depends (aside from your diplomatic skills :P) on your perceived competence and grasp of the game, what assistance you may have provided to the other party in the past, and so on.

Long story short, it's complicated and takes some time to learn but is a pretty interesting game. Most people tend to give up on it pretty quickly, finding it either too no-frills ("spreadsheets in space" is one popular nickname for Eve) or too complex.

Having said that, although I've taken the time to describe one of the "end game" concepts above (which is quite costly for someone wishing to get into it), once you've got a basic understanding of the fundamentals, Eve can be a surprising amount of fun for very little time investment, in particular compared to what is the norm for many other multiplayer games.

Here are a couple of videos that do a good job showcasing what Eve is like, along with a bit of background/context. They do have some profane language, which I apologize for.

If you're an experienced Eve player this well-produced video is a joy to watch - but sadly it's unlikely to make much sense to a layperson so don't feel like you need to watch the whole thing. Basically, it shows a formidable group called Hard Knocks taking a "subcapital" fleet into an ongoing engagement and pinning down a few stranded enemy capitals.
Instead of killing them, they bide their time in the hope of enticing the enemy to commit more capitals to rescue their comrades, which the other side duly does. At this point HK begin preparing to drop their own capitals into the fight, which is complicated by a couple of factors that I won't go to the trouble of explaining here.

(If you're impatient, skip to 5 minutes in the video to see the beginning of the enemy escalation and HK's response, skip to 9 minutes in to see the beginning of the actual capital vs capital engagement).

I chose this one partly because it does a good job showing what the game looks like zoomed in - typically whenever there are more than half a dozen ships in the vicinity players will play with the camera zoomed out. I feel like this might be a big reason behind Eve's "spreadsheets in space" reputation - also like with the above video don't feel like you have to watch the entirety of this one either.

Pandemic Legion are an even more formidable group; in this video they drop several Titans (the largest and by far most costly class of capital ship) onto what's known as a "public fleet" (basically a group of otherwise unaffiliated players who form an impromptu fleet together in order to find a fight) led by a well-known player named as Bjorn Bee, who is a good sport.
Considering that Titans are used almost exclusively (and quite rarely at that) against other capitals and otherwise kept well hidden from view, this is essentially ludicrous overkill (comparable to dispatching a group of AC-130 gunships to take out a swarm of ants), and - if it were anyone other than PL - an exceptionally foolhardy risk.

This video has all the information you require to be a successful Eve Online player.
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Re: All this recent talk about escalations...

Postby I Love Italy » 02 Jul 2017, 17:49

Oh. You play Eve. Kudos, it's not something I could do.
I have special eyes.
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