EV/EVO Chronicles: Opinion: Should EV/EVO be Updated?

As I read the webboards, one of the most prevalent themes is the question of the future of Escape Velocity and EV Override. Many people feel that an update is a good idea, and some even seem to believe it is necessary. Ambrosia has said that they will not update EV/EVO after EVO 1.0.2, so most of this is just speculation as to how such a project would turn out, and how it would be implemented.

In this article, I am going to attempt to give an un-biased view of the pros, cons, and issues involved in creating an update to EV or EVO. I hope I don't receive flames for this. I am merely laying out the situation as I see it, and I respect your opinion, whatever it may be. I apologize if I miss your ideas in my list, but I can't put in everything that has ever appeared on the webboards.

Some of the information included here is slightly technical, and is best understood by those who are fairly experienced users of EV and EVO, and are familiar with Ambrosia Software in general.

There have been three main types of updates suggested, and several combinations of any number of these. The three main suggested EV/EVO updates are:

  1. Update the game engine, to provide better graphics, smarter AIs, and more complexity, much like the EVO 1.0.2 update, which is still in beta testing.

  2. Make EV 3-Dimensional, from either an in-cockpit view, or and outside view. Referred to as 3Dev.

  3. Make EV support multiplayer, either over a local area network, or massively multiplayer on the internet, a lá Ultima Online.

Updated game engine
Many of the suggestions for this area deal mainly with graphics, although others have been proposed as well. Some of the suggestions include:

- Ambient animations, such as rotating planets, ship thrusters, and blinking lights.
- 16-bit graphics.
- Scalable graphics, like those in Ares.
- Making projectiles, such as missiles and torpedoes shootable.
- Small RTS game-within-a-game for boarding ships.

This would by far be the easiest upgrade to make, and could be done by modifying the existing EV source code. However, some of the ideas, such as scalable graphics and an RTS for boarding ships make little sense. If you want scalable graphics, play Ares. If you want real-time strategy, play Myth, or something. Both of these ideas concentrate very heavily on in-system action, which is just a small piece of the amazing complexity of EV. Players should not be spending so much time boarding ships or trying to find the right scale for their view that they forget about the overall gameplay.

The other ideas, such as ambient animations, and shootable missiles, however, would be a nice touch. They would add an extra bit of reality to the game, and make it that much more appealing to first time users as well as experienced ones.

The blinking lights and ship thrusters, however, would require a bit of reworking for plugin makers. To do lights really correctly would entail either making two spďn resources per ship, with lights on and off, or to implement a way to define a pixel in a ship sprite as a light. This would require extra parameters in the shďp resources. Ship thrusters would follow much the same idea. Of course, we could always just have Ben Spees implement realtime dynamic lighting.

3 Dimensional Escape Velocity
These ideas include mainly what they sound like - ideas for making Escape Velocity 3D.

- Expand upon the Exobattle code to create a cockpit view style 3Dev.
- This would include using 3DMF files instead of spďn resources, and would also probably support
network play in some fashion.
- Create a 3Dev entirely from scratch.
- Interactive spaceports, where one could walk around and perform actions.
- First person shooter boarding of ships: you get to go in there and take 'em out yourself.
- Other out-of-ship experiences, such as walking around on asteroids, or doing repair work.
- Detection of different parts of ships, allowing for various areas of ships, such as guns, life support, etc., to be targeted and destroyed.
- Outside camera view, mimicking the original EV, but with all the nifty features offered by 3D.

This idea has a huge amount of potential. Graphics would be better, and 3-dimensional space combat would be very interesting, whether from in the cockpit, or outside of the ship. Interactivity with the gaming environment could be much greater. In fact, the complexity MUST be increased, if a 3Dev is created. Without a major change to gameplay to take advantage of 3D, making EV 3-dimensional is a pointless exercise.

However, including elements of the original Escape Velocity gameplay, as well as added enhancements for 3D would require a very large investment of time, and possibly money as well. First, everything that is so easy in EV would be very different in 3Dev. For instance, take boarding a ship. In 3D, you can't just fly close to a ship and punch 'B' to board it. To be realistic, you would have to pilot yourself up next to the airlock, and hold it long enough to extend the umbilical cord between the two ships. Of course, you could opt for a Star Trek style boarding maneuver, where all the marines are beamed aboard, but that wouldn't be consistent with the level of technology generally portrayed in EV, and would be largely avoiding the problem, instead of solving it. Once your marines were on board, if you opted to include a first person shooter game as well, you'd have to create handheld weapons, and marine AIs, all of which would require more time.

Many aspects of EV gameplay would have to be re-thought if a 3Dev was created. Eventually, I believe that the end product would resemble the original EV very little, and would probably appeal more to those who enjoy shooter games instead of people who are empire builders, like most EV fans. The game would become mainly a combat game, and lose the more subtle side of being able to choose a life for yourself. In addition, 3Dev would be a project on too great a scale to be taken on by Ambrosia. They just don't have the manpower to create such a game. Finally, it would place an extra burden on plugin developers to create 3D models to be used in gameplay. Since EV graphics are made using 3D rendering programs anyway, this shouldn't be too much of a stretch, but then, plugin developers will also have to create environments for the interiors of ships, and the spaceports.

I believe that while 3Dev sounds really great as an idea, if it is truly produced, it will become yet another space shooter, and it will lose the great following of plugin developers that EV now has. In essence, it will cease to be EV, and will destroy the special appeal that only EV has.

Multiplayer Escape Velocity
This idea is actually seperated into two distinct parts - arena style multiplayer, and massively multiplayer EV.

- Massively Multiplayer EV
- This would be a large, online-only game, resembling Ultima Online, and other online games which create a virtual online world.

- Arena-Style Multiplayer EV
- This would give players the option of battling each other in a single system, without any of the other features which regular EV provides.

Arena EV might work. A large part of the original game engine could probably be used in it, and most of the programming would have to do with support for internet/network play. It would require some time, but it could probably be done, without writing a completely new game from scratch. Although I don't know how EV works, exactly, I'm guessing that Arena EV would require hacking it so that user input would be accepted for control of a non-player ship, instead of AI scripting routines. Unfortunately, the game would never be good enough to release as a product completely seperate from EV. It just wouldn't have enough appeal. No one wants to fight an endless series of battles with another opponent. Most fights would probably last only a few minutes, and the user would get bored quickly.

There would be a problem with plugins. If one player has a cheater plugin giving him an invincible ship, then the other player is toast. However, if plugins are not allowed at all in multiplayer, someone who wants to play as an X-Wing will be out of luck. I think the best idea would be to allow players to configure their own ship before combat, and allow the players to use any ship or upgrade supported by any plugin on either player's computer. Ship graphics and data would be transmitted as needed over the internet, and stored either in RAM or in a temporary file of some sort.

Arena EV would almost certainly have to be attached to EV, either as part of the game, or as a sister program, that would be included along with the EV package, allowing for pilot file importing, and possibly using the same data files. I, for one, would probably buy such a package, if it was released.


Massively Multiplayer EV would be another story entirely. I think the possibilities available for a massively multiplayer EV are nearly endless, and greater than those of 3Dev. But it would be far too much work for one person to do, and possibly even for the entire Ambrosia staff working together. This is how I believe massively multiplayer EV would best be implemented:

The game would have to be hosted on a large network of powerful computers, all hooked up via ethernet. One computer would NEVER be able to handle hundreds of systems, each with potentially hundreds of ships in it at once, so the universe would have to be split up. Each computer would have jurisdiction over several systems, and would act as a router for ship movements, attacks, and hails in those systems. It would also control any nonplayer ships in those systems. As a player hyperspaced around, they would be handed off from one computer to another.

That brings up the issue of how to sync hyperspace jumps in EV. If you have played EV or EVO, you know that although they seem instantaneous for the player, hyperspace jumps take several days in "EV time". Obviously, this would be impossible to implement in a multiplayer EV. The only way to do hyperspacing, as I see it, is to do it like Ares. The player will speed up to incredibly high speeds, although they will still have control over their ship. It would then take maybe a minute in hyperspace to reach an adjacent system. Bigger ships would have slower hyperspace speeds, but they couldn't be too slow, because making the jumps too long would be boring for the player. Therefore, the whole universe would be open and interconnected, and a player could even get from one system to another without hyperspacing, if they so desired. In order to preserve the use of hyperspace as an escape mechanism, ships in hyperspace would have to be invisible on radar, and probably on the main screen as well. This would have the added benefit of removing the annoyance of watching other players flash across your screen all the time.

A massively multiplayer EV would have to have a gigantic, highly dynamic universe. The government of planets would be changing constantly, new governments would be created, governments would be destroyed, government alliances would change, and players would change allegiances. Everything would be changing all the time. Support would have to be made for transfer of credits from one player's account to another's.

To keep things interesting, random events would have to occur, somewhat like the "disasters" in EV and EVO. This would require a large group of system administrators, to think up new ideas, create new technologies, add new systems, races, etc. The Galactic News Network would be an invaluable resource in a universe this big, and that would require a full time administrator to keep it up to the minute.

In addition, player-to-player interactions would have to be much more advanced than the current EV, and a chat interface wouldn't be feasible, except when a player was on a planet. The amount of action in EV wouldn't give a player time to chat with someone else, because that would leave them vulnerable to hostile ships. And pre-recorded messages wouldn't be sufficient, either. Therefore, I believe massively multiplayer EV would have to support some form of voice communications, such as speech recognition, or real-time voice transmission. This alone would be a rather difficult task.

Once successful players had played the game for a while, they would probably be the controllers of large numbers of ships, and possibly even planets. Eventually they would even control their own governments. That would mean that management capabilities would have to be included in the game. Rulers would be able to order ships from system to system, to put bounties on enemies' heads, to pardon enemies, to declare war on other governments, and to hire freelancers. It would also entail the designing of new ships and upgrades, subject to the review of the system administrators.

Massively multiplayer EV would almost certainly require a high speed internet connection. In a hypothetical battle in a system, there might be several hundred ships. With each ship firing at once, that would entail several thousand shots per second. At a minimum, the data that would have to be transmitted to the server, and every other player in the system, for one shot, would be the fact that a shot was fired, who fired it, what type of shot it was, and what direction it was going, and at what speed. If each of those pieces of data took up 1 byte, and a medium sized ship can fire maybe 15 shots a second, and there are 250 ships in a system, then in a big battle, you are transmitting about 146kbits/sec, just for shooting, which is three times what a 56k modem can receive. Granted, these calculations may be way off, but they demonstrate how quickly the data can pile up. Then add in realtime voice transmission, and miscellaneous other data, and you are easily into DSL or cable modem range. The amount of bandwidth needed could be cut down by limiting the number of ships in a system, but for massively muliplayer EV, the original 32 ship maximum is not nearly enough.

In other words, a massively multiplayer EV would require a large full-time management staff, a large number of servers to handle all the traffic, high speed internet connections, and the creation of a completely new EV program, which could allow for hundreds of ships in a system at once, and the management of governments by players.


The bottom line for an update to EV is whether Ambrosia can do it, and whether it would be worth their time.

An updated game engine would be the easiest way to update EV, but it probably wouldn't be a large enough change to merit upgrade fees, and therefore wouldn't be worth Ambrosia's time to implement it. Most current users of EV would probably upgrade, and would like it, but it most likely would not attract new customers.

A 3Dev would be difficult to create, and probably would end up being a completely different game from EV. It would almost certainly be a disappointment to anyone expecting classic EV gameplay.

An Arena EV or EV: Arena (heh heh), would be a fairly difficult project, but not impossible. It would be a big upgrade to the EV engine, and would not only attract new customers, but would also be a large enough change to allow Ambrosia to charge an upgrade fee. Therefore, this option would be most worth Ambrosia's time.

A Massively Multiplayer EV would be the absolute best of these options if it could actually be done. It would almost certainly be worth Ambrosia's time, especially if they charged a monthly subscription fee of a few dollars. Every time I think of this, my eyes light up with dollar signs. But due to the incredible complexity and cost of this project, it is too big a project for Ambrosia to undertake. To take Massively Multiplayer EV to its fullest, it would probably have to be made for PC, also, to ensure a large enrollment of players. This is experience that Ambrosia doesn't have. To hand off the idea to a larger corporation for development might be a good idea, but traditional Ambrosia fans might stay away from it, based on their Mac only ideals, regardless of the quality of the product. Unfortunately, I don't see a Massively Multiplayer EV occuring any time soon, if ever, and certainly not until high speed internet connections become widespread.

To Ambrosia: You have stated that there will never be an update to EV/EVO after 1.0.2, because you guys want to follow your own projects. That is absolutely cool. I can't wait to see what your creative minds will come up with next. However, if any of you ever run out of ideas, I think an Arena style update to EV would be welcomed by the Macintosh gaming community.

Sounds pretty good, but with one problem : Pc Users. Mind you, this isn't some weird bigot stuff, but the sheer # of players would already be a big problem. Adding the big sweaty mass of collective PC users, and the system will get lagged up. Never mind all those PC users building hacks, trainers, etc. to get their cheating asses further ahead...


All hail the Keeper Of Souls, owner of all things true!

I can see a few updates to the EV engine that are ostensibly very plausible.

1. Physics. I'm not talking anything elaborate, just a nod in the general direction of celestial mechanics. Here's what I had in mind:
a. Speed. Space is a vacuum, which means the only limit to your speed is c (lightspeed). Ships should not have a top speed; instead, acceleration should be determined by mass/thrust. This would also make the precise mass of ships something more than a hyperspace time controller.
b. Gravity. It is impossible to remain motionless in orbit; if you ever stopped, you'd fall into the sun (or planet, or moon). Moons would orbit thier primary. This motion would be realisticly slow. The biggest impact, though, would be on gameplay. Ships' motion paths would arc, and when you reversed directions, you would fall closer to the nearest gravitational well.

These two enhancements would add considerable depth and challenge to the current basic EV battle, and would do more than improved AI (unless the AI were improved drastically). I won't take time to describe the implications as I see them; you can imagine them well enough I'm sure.

The other subject of this response is an idea for Massively EVMP.

Ambrosia would not need to have a huge pool of servers; the processing power they need is in the hundreds of clients hooked up to the system. The way I see it, the Ambrosia server would be nothing more than a gatekeeper, handing off custody of certain resources and synching everything up.

Unoccupied systems require no attention. The first person to enter an empty system is given custody of that system, and becomes responsible for the synching everyone after him.

The presence of several hundred ships in a system would be made possible by dividing it up into zones, whose size and distribution would be determined by the density of the system's occupants. The first to enter a zone is given custody of that zone. Like a military chain of command: the original system custodian becomes responsible for synching the zone custodians, and the ZC's synce ships within their zone. This way, no one computer would bear too much of a load, only concerning itself with the ships in its immediate vicinity. Oh, and custodianship would probably best be handed to the person with the best connection/most processing power.

As for the roleplaying aspect of the game, I would model it on a MUD that I used to frequent. New users would create characters. Spaceports would be staging areas for general roleplaying. This aspect would best be implemented in a text-based form, like a MUD.

Every spaceport would have public as well as private bulletins, and everyone would have their own messagebox. Sending email accross hyperspace would probably incur a charge.

Of course users could always to stock missions, but the best times would come from the ones arranged by players themselves. This would probably come by giving people the power to reserve systems for a certain amount of time, and then given staging abillities to put on the show.

As for the administrators, they would be taken care of by volunteer "immortal" characters, which have nearly absolute power over the players and the world. They would take care of big events and massive missions.

Anyway, I won't take the time to really describe it all; it's a very complex business, and since it won't happen anyway, I won't.

However, on feasibillity: The biggest part would be coding the space environment. The roleplaying (spaceport) aspect could be done by fusing in code from one of the many open-source MUD servers out there. Time-wise, (though I admittedly know nothing of the development cycle of games), It would probably take a bit longer than coding an entire new Ambrosia game from scratch. If I know anything (and I don't), it's entirely plausible.

Anyway, what say ye? Likest thou mine ideas? 😉

These ideas are great. It would really improve EV/EVO. One thing that I keep on whishing will happen but never will would be EV/EVO for Windows. It wouldn't take that long to upgrade and would attract much more customers. I would buy it at the first possible chance. But since that would never happen, I have no reason to wish anymore. :frown: I think that if they were going to do something, they should do the mass multiplayer game over the net. They could even add new systems and make them uncharted territory that you must explore yourself. For those people who want to be a trader/pirate, there could be little alliances. For the traders, they could help each other out in protection and be able to transport lots more goods from one place to another. Pirates could join together and take down giant ships, getting a fraction of what the ship had on board that they could salvage. That would probobly be the best idea if possible that Chrestomanci had.

EV should be updated toatlly!!!!!

I am with all the three ideas for Updating EV and EVO

I am replying to the Multi-Player idea

I see two ways EV could go multiplayer,

1: Set up a large supportin server which allows people to come and go, (Like Unreal Tournament and WC2 Bnet)


2: Use Gameranger Great service which already support Ares over the net. Check it out u mac gamers if u don't know of it at (url="http://"http://www.gameranger.com")www.gameranger.com(/url)

With all the other ideas, i perticully like the idea of cocpit view, making the space truely 3D like Wing Commander, X-Wing, and ExoBattle, also the boarding of ships, manual repairing etc, though it does take a lot of work, and instead of an update, that will probably come out as a new game altogether.


I think that if EVOMP (good name?) has any hope, it would have to emulate Asheron's Call or Everquest (peecee) If too many people were in a single system at once, some would be "portal stormed" out. That was Asheron's Call's idea aainst lag.
Of course, Asheron's call is one of those "massively multiplayer" RPGs. Of course, instead of leveling, you could just uprade armor and stuff with money got from doing missions and stuff.
EVOMP would be the greatest thing that happens to EVO, but it is doubtful that it would get much support from designers.