EVE Online. While it's possible to play EVE solo, it's the players who make most of the game's meaningful content, and it's only in your emergent interactions with other players that I think the game truly comes to life. Some time ago, I wrote about the importance of CCP supporting EVE's power players, the corporation owners, fleet commanders, and event organisers who give the rest of us something fun to do. Now it looks like CCP is starting to deliver that support, with developers currently looking at updating EVE's archaic corp management tools.
CCP Punkturis recently asked corporation owners for a list of the most annoying "little things" they'd like to see fixed with the corporation management interface and was instead flooded with requests for big features and complete overhauls. Developers later confirmed on The o7 Show that at least one highly requested big feature is definitely on its way: CEOs will soon be able to switch off friendly-fire between corp members. The threat of corporate infiltrators attacking corp members has been a massive barrier preventing corps from recruiting new players, so its removal is good news for everyone (except spies). So now that corporation management is finally back on the drawing board, what other features do corp owners need?
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at a few ideas for corporation tools and features that would make EVE a better place for everyone.
The corporation interface is irredeemably terrible
When people joke about EVE Online being the world's biggest multiplayer spreadsheet, I usually ask if they've seen it recently and point out that as the UI has been overhauled piece by piece over the past several years. Unfortunately, not every part of the game has received the attention it probably should have. The corporation management interface is largely the same tangle of confusing checkboxes and dropdown lists that it was when EVE released in 2003. Considering that this interface is used to give members of your corp rights to access the corp's assets and the ability to do things on behalf of the organisation, I think it really needs to be easier to use!
CCP's call for feedback on the corp UI specifically singled out little things in this interface that could be easily fixed, such as adding tooltips or repairing broken text boxes, but I think that's short-sighted. Corporation management can't be noticeably improved with minor quality-of-life tweaks because it's something we use infrequently enough that we can tolerate those small inconveniences. This is a system that needs to be completely redesigned from the ground up, and CCP has already promised to overhaul it as part of its ongoing development plan toward player-owned stargates. The entire corporation interface will probably need to be demolished and rebuilt in the near future, so why bother with tiny tweaks now?
Redesigning roles and titles
The consensus within the EVE community is that the biggest problem with corp management is the confusing and broken roles system. Roles let a CEO give corp members access to communal hangars and rights to do things like manufacturing and refueling starbases on behalf of the corporation, and right now the whole system is a mess. Many corporate infiltrators and thieves rely on the fact that most players don't understand what half the roles actually do or how they interact with hangar and wallet access. As a result of the system's lack of intuitiveness, most CEOs give their corp members few or no roles and then give full director rights to anyone they trust.
Player RoAnnon came up with the interesting suggestion of having a visual corporation heirarchy page that shows various corp ranks and lets the CEO drag and drop members into particular ranks. This could be visually similar to the ISIS screen that lets us see the ship skill hierarchy, and each rank could be designed by the CEO with a given set of permissions. I think we should also be able to create new corp hangars and drag them into each rank, with a simple toggle switch to flick between view-only and full hangar access. Each hangar would have its own name and description and should be physically located at a single space station. This would make a completely freeform system that's easy to understand, and it would then be up to the CEO to decide how to use it.
Corporate goals and targets
I've written before about how the best gameplay in EVE comes from members of a corporation working together toward a common goal, such as mining the minerals to build a capital ship, running a wormhole starbase, taking over a nullsec system, or just grinding ISK to buy a blueprint for corp use. EVE is essentially a game of setting yourself goals and then working toward them, but these goals have always been abstract and not actually displayed anywhere other than corp mails and websites. As long as we're entertaining the notion of a complete corporation mechanic rebuild, why not actually implement this as an official game mechanic and give those goals a bit of visibility?
The CEO could be able to create corp goals that every member could immediately see when they open the corp window. Each goal would have a name, a description, a logo, and an optional percentage completion meter. A freeform goal's completion meter would be manually updated by the goal creator, but there are some common goals that CCP could easily implement formal tracking mechanics for. We could create an ISK goal, for example, which would increase the corp tax percentage and siphon that money into a particular fund, with the option for corp members to donate directly to the fund. Or we could make a war campaign kill value goal that updates automatically with each kill, or a group mission loyalty point goal, faction warfare system ownership, minerals in a corp hangar, or any number of other things.
Taking it one step further, goals could be made optional by the CEO, and only those signed up to it would be subject to things like the additional corp tax. Players signed up to a particular corp goal could have their names displayed under it along with a progress meter showing their contributions, and they could get notifications about progress updates. We could even add medals to each goal so that those who are signed up and have at least a certain amount of participation will automatically get the medal.
Helping new players
The announcement that corps will soon be able to disable friendly-fire among members has major implications for new players, as corps will now be able to recruit without worrying as much about infiltration. I feel like this is a huge step foward and that the focus of any corp revamp has to continue to be on new players. Tycho Bheskagor on the EVE forum suggested an interesting feature that would really help new players get to grips with ship design. The idea is to let corps create training certificates for particular corp ship setups, providing new players with useful skill-training goals and giving fleet commanders the ability to see if a member is fleet-ready.
I can't help but feel that it should be easier for corps to provide assistance to all members, including newbies. Why not let corps build up a communal skillbook bank that members can train skills from for free, for example? To do that right now would require you to make a public hangar full of skillbooks that any member could just steal. And why not have a corp blueprint bank that any member can build from without having to mess around with access to hangars, lockdown votes, and rights to manufacture on behalf of the corp?
Taking it one step further, why not have a corporation ship bank that members can freely take ships from? The ships could be automatically corp-insured so that the corporation collects the insurance payouts if they're destroyed. To prevent abuse, members could be limited to a certain number of ships withdrawn at a time, and there could be daily withdrawal limits and deposits to pay on withdrawing some ships that would be paid back once a ship is returned or the corp collects the insurance on it.
several public corporations in my decade-long space captain career, and each time I've been disappointed with how complicated and limiting the corporation management system is. I've been forced to suspend recruitment during wormhole expeditions for fear of corporate infiltration and to deny newbies access to modules and ships in a training corp because someone thought 25 million ISK worth of tech 1 garbage was worth stealing. I've also had to fill the role of quartermaster, manually reimbursing PvP losses and handing out ships to members each day because there's no secure way to let players do it themselves.
All of this busywork takes a toll on the corporation owners that CCP needs to keep active and motivated, and removing it should be a high priority. Developers are currently trying to fix the small user interface and quality-of-life issues that plague corp owners, but I honestly think anything short of a complete rebuild from the ground up is not going to be enough. If CCP wants EVE to be accessible and engaging to new players, then it has to give corporations the tools to make that happen.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the bi-weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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EVE Evolved: Rebuilding EVE's corporation tools