The Pod Captain Debate

Who are we inside our ships?  There seem to be two distinct schools of thought regarding the Capsuleer inside his star ship.  The first states that the pilot is suspended inside his pod within the ship, floating in a sea of liquid, hooked up to the machines that run his craft.  The second, probably best popularized in the video series Clear Skies, is the standard Star Trek view of people wandering around like they do in an Aircraft Carrier today. 


I'd like to propose a third view.  One that encompasses both of those views, allowing for a more romantic ideal than the first, but fitting more within game mechanics than the second.  I call my proposed view, "The Vader View" of Eve Captains.


We all remember the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Vader is pulled from within his dark isolation chamber to deal with his flunky crew.  It has become a very iconic moment in cinema history.  My proposal is very similar to this moment, with some variations of course, but I think it is important to have this in mind.


But let's step back a moment and consider one ship in the Eve universe.  The Dominix.  I picked it because it's a pretty typical ship and I had to pick something.  The area of the ship indicated as the Bridge is FIVE STORIES tall, if we go by the rows of lights on the model, which I do.  The ship is listed as having 1,812 crew members!  That is a lot of people running a Battleship.  ( The USS Nimitz has a crew of over 5,000 if you include the air wing, for comparison. )  The Dominix is typical of ships in Eve, as it is very, very big.  I would imagine that it is also extremely complex.


Now, according to most established Eve cannon, upon destruction of this massive ship - everyone dies.  Except the Captain.  Who somehow manages to escape in his trusty pod.  This is the major reason, I believe, for the first view of the Captain swimming in his pod juices.  I don't like it.  It stinks of lazy writing in my opinion.  The whole crew dies?!  C'mon.  How can I be expected to raise a good crew for my Null Space missions if everyone dies when my ship goes ka-blooie?  A crew dumb enough to fall for that one would be too stupid to fly the ship.  The universe may be very big, but no matter how big it is, there is a finite number of people qualified to be my crew.


The second view doesn't work either.  If we were all running around the Bridge then sometimes the Captain would die.  And since we ALWAYS escape in our pod, that can't be true.  Why would the Captain sometimes die?  Think of the scene in Starship Troopers were the Heinlien is exploding above the Bug Planet and the crew is desperately trying to get to their escape pods.  Some of them don't make it, including the Captain.  Things don't always go as planned and sometimes those darn blast doors fall on the wrong person.  


What I am proposing is simply an imagination game anyway, since none of this really matters.  But it is kinda important, since many of us like to write and read Eve fiction.  So let me explain and you can decide for yourself what you think.


I imagine the Captain (us) sitting on the Bridge of that Dominix surrounded by his trusty Command staff, people he has probably flown with many, many times.  Each of them, including the Captain, is mind-linked into the ship.  Awesome special-effect virtual charts and data float everyone around them.  The Bridge is massive, sprawling and a cyber-tech punk's wet dream.  Now imagine the "Vader View" from above, except much cooler and more hi-tech and massive.  The bottom half forms the Captain's Command Console, the top half forms the ceiling above him.  Probably where all the mind-link apparatus resides, the computer and other tech stuff as well.  The rest of the Command Staff has similar set-ups.  The remainder of the crew, who need the freedom to walk around, have to rely on Common Pods that seat more than one.


Now, something bad has happened.  Klaxons are sounding through-out the ship.  Those nasty Nostromo lights are screaming everywhere, the ship has hit critical structure.  It can't be saved.  As fast as a Blast Door in the Death Star the top and bottom halves slam together and the pods begin to fill with life-saving juices.  The crew rush to their designated Common Pods, sadly not all of them will make it, but enough to ensure word gets back to Empire that serving on a crew isn't a death sentence.  The ship explodes and every single pod micro-jumps in place milli-seconds before the explosion, ensuring that they are not harmed by the explosion.  (That's my theory anyway.)


All we see, all we care about since this story is about us, is our pod escape.  But in reality, hundreds of pods are in space around us, warping off to safe haven.  To meet up and do it all over again.  If their pods aren't warp scrambled and kilt.  Hate when that happens.


Like I said, this is just a mental game.  How this all happens isn't important to game play and it really isn't all that important to anything else either.  But I find it fascinating and worthy of some thought.  If only to give the fiction writers something to think about.


So what are your thoughts?  I'd be anxious to hear what my fellow Capsuleers think.

19 comments:

  1. Certainly more romantic then a guy floating in fetal position nude in an egg...

    ReplyDelete
  2. .."Certainly more romantic then a guy floating in fetal position nude in an egg..."

    In EVE, romance usually ends with one lover emptying out the other's account, stealing their ships, and then selling their secrets to a criminal cartel. ;)

    The idea of the all-powerful godly pod-pilot having to be naked and fetus-like inside his/her pod just 'feels' like EVE. For every great advance, there's some sort of cold, nasty side-effect, or some sacrifice that exists. Like having Immortality with the risk of not updating a clone and forgetting years of your life.

    Not sure about the whole crew being 'plugged in', I'd imagine the pod-captain and his/her command officers with implants would be able to transmit data automatically to relevant crew-member's special-effect floating data screen things, and that would do the trick.

    I kind of like the "Pod is on the bridge" idea, in which the command officers have their stations situated around the pod, which is closed with the pilot floating (nekkid) inside, and the officers receive streaming data straight from the pilots mind, via their own implants or some computer terminal. That way, conversation during peacetime is possible, and other such space-ship bonding activities. Also, that would allot the podder to get out of his/her pod (nekkid!) on occasion, and let someone else take watch for a bit.

    I agree that entire crews dying every time a ship blows up would cause null/low-seccers to fly only frigate-class ships, which CCP says need only the podder to fly them. And high-sec gankers wouldn't be able to gank at all, if they tried to convince a thousand or so people to fly to absolutely certain death (they might lie to the crew about their intentions, but word gets around in an age of instant information and FTL communication, and there are only so many pod pilots who actually suicide gank).

    Awesome idea all around, though.

    ---Creep

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks guys. It's only an idea and worthy of debate certainly. I find the "pod" only pilot idea a bit like the Dune process, although granted not as drug based.

    I admit that a big part of me likes the idea of being able to look my crew in the eyes when we are in battle. Even if the idea of doing that isn't needed in a super hi-tech universe. Of course, given that, people probably aren't all that necessary either and star ships would be piloted by AI computers... but who wants that?

    ReplyDelete
  4. There is no romance. It's a pod, with goo. The trailers for incarna have already shown the process of getting out of your pod, and it makes safe the assumption that the process of getting in it is similarly messy, disorienting and time consuming.

    That being said, that has nothing at all to do with the crew. They aren't plugged in. The run around, jump on escape pods when their ship blows up etc. The difference is, that unlike the pod pilot, if they're too slow, if they're too close to an explosion, lose oxygen etc, they don't get restored from a clone. There is no guarantee of safety for them, and they work a job with a high mortality rate, generally because it pays very well.

    Now, in addition to all of that, it's worth noting that there is no such thing as a "pod pilot only" ship. All the pirate rats you see flying battleships etc, are all piloted by non pod pilot captains. So there is nothing at all stopping a pod pilot flying that way as well.

    If the captain is willing to take the risk of getting back in to their pod to save their skin, instead of focusing on the battle right when their crew needs them the most, then sure, they can probably walk around the bridge like Star Trek, and still avoid death, but in the internal reality of EVE, they're risking their immortal lives assuming that they'll never get ambushed, ganked, or suffer from sheer bad luck and get killed before they can pod up.

    It's also worth pointing out that the Clear Skies crew were never claimed to be pod pilots. The story works just fine if we assume they're not one of the elite, in fact, it works better, given that their dirt poor. They are just normal people, flying a ship, outclassed by podpilots and risking their lives

    Yet for all of that, Dust 514 is going to change everything. In Dust, you play a guy running around a battlefield getting shot, that then insta-clones when he dies, and does this without the benefit of a pod. However this works (one can assume there is fiction that will be written to explain it) it potentially has the other benefit of changing the way pilots can captain their ship, letting them do the romantic, dramatic walk around the bridge without risking their immortality.

    Of course, for myself, I am more interested in what the flow on effect of wide spread immortality (The current technology requiring pods & technology the size of a house, thus not portable)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sure Belamar, I can write my way out of a paper bag also. It's one of the classic examples of why science-fiction doesn't get the respect some people (myself included) often think it deserves. Cause writers are often lazy and write themselves out of paper bags with garbage that doesn't stick and doesn't really mean anything.

    That isn't an attack on you, I understand everything you are saying. But that doesn't make me happy about it.

    Like I said, one idea.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is one of the things I love about EVE; like a good book, it doesn't attempt to cover every detail, but paints the picture and inspires our imaginations to fill in the rest.

    I've always subscribed to the theory that the internal workings of any ship can be modified to whatever control system suits the user. That way, it's a flexible enough idea that can accommodate everyone's visions without defying canon.

    This way a ship may have an entirely traditional (and mortal) captain and crew like the NPC ships, or a completely isolated, hard-wired capsuleer suspended in fluid. The crew could be replaced with machinery, robots and drones, essentially creating a crewless ship. Or the crew could just as easily be human, be they brainwashed religious acolytes happy to die in the service of their 'god' or a willing crew with access to adequate escape facilities.

    It all works and nobody needs to be wrong. I now view Rixx Javixx's Dominix to be designed as described. The technology certainly exists within the canon, so with enough funds, why the hell not.

    I really like the stationary micro-warp explanation as to how the pods survive. I'd never really thought about pod survival before, just assuming it was made out of really tough materials. But if that were the case, why not just build ships out of it. Micro-jumps work much better.

    Personally, my mind's eye always adds in the crews' escape pods whenever I destroy an NPC ship or lose one myself. Although I don't reckon Seismic Stan's crew would have anything as high-tech as the Javix system. My lot'd be lucky to get an air-tight rowing boat.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Belamar is right. http://www.eveonline.com/background/potw/default.asp?cid=20-04-09

    That chronicle states that the crew also have their pods, but they probably have to run to them (not always making it), and they have no clones.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Stan - I like your idea, that ships are customizable, good one. And why not? We are talking about significantly advanced technology.

    Also, to your point, none of this applies to Minmitar ships. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. The way I read the literature, Capsuleers control the ship by themselves - no crew. Hence why they are so superior to ships with crew. No where in any of the Chronicles do they ever talk about a Capsuleer having a crew, they're always referred to as a single entity in conjunction with their ship.

    As someone else said, there's no romance in EVE - just as there's no strong pop pilot captain looking into the eyes of his trusty crew telling them to "fire ze missiles"

    This is why we (capsuleers) are so much better than the NPC ships in the game. In missions/belts/complexes you blow them up by the 100's, often by yourself... if we were supposed to be on equal footing that just wouldn't be possible.

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is such a bummer man. I agree that what you are saying is probably true to the strict cannon, but what a shame.

    Oh well. The cool part about Eve is that I can think about it anyway I want and it doesn't affect the game one single iota.

    ReplyDelete
  11. There is no crew. There is me and I am one with the ship. Fiction often dictates that we fill in the holes and create some sort of something. My ships are empty save me and when it goes boom I warp away. No escape pods, no useless corpse's me and my pod. The reason I have the pod is to be able to control the whole ship to begin with :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well I certainly enjoy the simplicity of that view.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bryan, I should point out that none of my comment was personal opinion, it's all gleaned from the EVE backstory over the years.

    It's also one of the things that drew me to EVE. A bit of hard sci fi that gives a genuine, real reason for why the PCs are immortal, yet the rest of the world isn't, and acknowledges the impact this would have on the world. That level of internal consistency is a rare thing, and it's something I appreciate in my games and my fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I totally agree belamar. my post was mostly a reaction to the opposite of that, seeing many many examples of crew listings and walking around on bridges and trying to find a compromise that allowed for it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm with manasi. In my view, the pod technology replaces the entire crew by hooking the capsuleer directly and completely into his ship's systems.

    I like the idea that a pod pilot is not only able to give his ship mental commands, but also the movement of every muscle is detected and translated by the computer -- the pilot raises his right index finger, and "engine 7" throttles up. He twitches his left eyelid, and his Shield Booster kicks in. He makes a fist, and all of his weapons engage on his target.

    Seems to me that there are more than enough nerves in the human body to control a ship's functions. It just takes a lot of practice and discipline, but that's why capsuleers are special!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hang on, for those commenters that are claiming there is no such thing as capsuleer ship crew according to the canon, you seem to have ignored the anonymously posted comment above which cites an official chronicle that features a pod pilot talking to one of his crew.

    http://www.eveonline.com/background/potw/default.asp?cid=20-04-09

    I'm sure there are also official references to capsule-only controlled vessels and to non-capsuleer ships, so everyone is right.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've certainly never seen a reference to a ship without a crew in any of the EVE backstory. There are references where the existence of crew is never mentioned, or even implied, but there is nothing categorically stating they fly without crew. If there is such a story, please point it out

    There are certainly non capsuleer controlled ships, because that is what was flown before capsule technology became widespread http://www.eveonline.com/background/eggers/. It's worth noting that article does actually imply that pod controlled ships have less crew than regular ships, and perhaps at the time of writing it was intended to imply that they have no crew, but that particular take on it was made impossible by later stories that made the existence of crew explicit

    Ships need crews, even if every gun and thruster is controlled by the mind of the pod pilot, guns get jammed, things break, automated control breaks down when things take damage etc. All of these require at least some form of crew to keep things fully operational in less than ideal circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Belamar, I can't direct you to a specific body of text detailing evidence of crewless ships, however the existence of rogue drones in-game surely indicates that the technology exists to fully automate a vessel if the pilot so chose. Therefore the canon supports crewed and crewless ships in principle.

    ReplyDelete