The Ship Crew Debate

Way back in 2010 I wrote a post called "The Pod Captain Debate" in which I proposed a compromise position regarding the issue of how exactly we pilot our ships. For as long as Eve has been around this debate regarding how we actually fly our ships and how many crew members does it take to make that happen has raged around the community. There are lore experts, there are charts, and there are those that believe we float in our pod and don't need no stinking crew - even in Capital Ships.

Look, it doesn't really matter. The game is the game. One could argue, and be right, that we should drop the whole issue and move on. It really doesn't matter in the context of the real world, or in the context of playing Eve. Not even a little bit. I get that. But "letting go" isn't really in the DNA of space nerds, is it?

So let us move past the silly logic of being reasonable and try to figure this thing out. I used an image from the Discovery Channel show "Deadliest Catch" for a reason. Let's assume that of the hundreds of ships going out every day into the Alaskan waters to find crab suddenly have to deal with New Eden levels of danger. An already dangerous job suddenly turns into Eve levels of destruction. In the current scenario that most people cling to, this means that the vast majority of ships going out each day simply do not return. And of those, about 75% of the crew members perish. Now let us imagine the social, political, and economic impact that such devastation would cause around the world. I suggest that rather quickly, people would stop signing up to go out there. In fact, the outcry of such levels of death would be incredible. The entire industry would shut down until we figured out what the heck was happening.

If every crew member serving on spaceships in Eve dies, no matter what the specific numbers might be, people would stop serving on ships. Period. People are not stupid. Not that stupid.

So what we are left with is two choices. Either the vast majority, like in Alaskan fishing today, survive - or we fly our ships alone in our pods. The lone pod option has problems. For one thing it doesn't address the thousands of NPC ship explosions each and every day. Thousands. There are nearly 30,000 ship losses a day in New Eden on average. I suggest that it is ludicrous to assume a high mortality rate among those ships. I don't care how big the universe is, or how many people there are, no one is signing up to serve in a death trap.

So ships must have crews, even if those numbers are mitigated by a demi-god flying it. And those ships must have a means of increasing the odds of survival for those crews serving on them. A process that is more or less stable, predictable, and reliable. A crew member has to feel they have a good shot at living to serve again, to go home to their family, and be able to spend the money they've made. Just like real people do today.

Let me suggest a solution based on perception. As Capsuleers we perceive the universe in a special way, as immortals we are different than the average Joe. This is to be expected. We have a lot to deal with. Information is flowing to us, thru us, and must be dealt with quickly. We don't have time, or the need, to add to that mountain of data. Hence we just ignore those things that do not matter to us. Such as eating, such as shopping for toiletries, and such as the survival of our crew members. We don't have to worry, because it is taken care of. We have more important things to deal with.

I believe that even in our pods, we need crew. A small crew of tightly knit men and women that serve with us because of the benefits doing so bring to them. The fame and fortune and social elevation that such duty imparts to their lives. Yes, it is extremely dangerous. And sometimes one of them does not make it back alive. But it is rare. I believe that in the moments before a ship explodes that each crew member has the chance to escape the ship and be jettisoned into space along with us. That such data does not appear on our overviews because why would it? It has no direct impact on our decision making process, we have a pod to get safe. Just like they do. Although theirs is more like the one C3PO and R2D2 use in the opening of Star Wars. At least that is how I choose to imagine it.

This is the only solution that makes sense. Space is dangerous, no doubt about it. But it cannot function if it is fatal. Period.

In the final analysis it truly doesn't matter. But in my mind, when I am playing Eve, this is how things work. My crew has been with me, for the most part, a very long time. I trust them and they trust me. I've made them, the survivors at least, very very wealthy. And they keep me alive, my ships functioning, and those long hours in space bearable. It is, for all of us, a win-win situation.

You can choose to live in a universe where everyone on board a ship dies horribly every time one is lost, or you can choose to imagine the vast majority of them slipping out of danger in their escape pods. For me, I choose to believe the only thing that makes any sense.

PS: interesting lore about Escape Pods


  1. I've always found the concept of crews interesting in a lore sense. I do believe every ship does have a 'skeleton crew' when flown by a capsuleer, but there are a few things that I'm left to wonder. I think when a ship explodes, the survivors are ejected in life pods, then I think the SOE picks them up and they return to a station somewhere. But what happens to them in a wormhole where it's unknown? Do the SoE survey every wormhole looking for survivors?

    Also, who pays these crews? Does it come out of the cost of your ship? or maybe insurance? Do they even get paid ISK, or some other local currency?

    Also, is it possible to exit your pod inside your ship to interact with your crew? Can you even breathe the same air as them if the air on stations have not been decontaminated for Capsuleer use as the unopenable door suggests?

    I'm not really asking you, just posing some questions to ponder.

    1. I think in Wormholes and probably in most of Null the pods simply return to POS or Stations. That seems to make the most sense, that they would have a homing beacon of sorts, a gps capability that would return them to safety.

      As far as pay goes, I believe that I pay my crew and share the loot profits with them. Again I think that it is such a small percentage that it is relatively hidden from our accounting, but built into our costs.

      As for the rest, I think it really comes down to how you want to perceive it. I personally choose to believe our pods are open and serve as our command center inside the ship, that we are wired cyberneticaly into them, but exposed and able to interact with our crew. Much as I outlined in the previous post from 2010.

    2. If we can interact with our crew, as I read somewhere there is a gantry inside the ships that hold the pods, then where in lore does the message on the unopenable door come from? Maybe it's something that CCP just stuck on there that doesn't mean anything.

      *Places tin foil hat on head*

    3. Sain, as far as I am concerned once the Templar (Dust 415) implants became available I immediately had ALL of my Med and Jump clones implanted so that I no longer have to stay in my pod. I walk the bridge and corridors of my ships with my crew. We fly and live and fight together and they have their escape pods and I have mine... I am no longer trapped in my pod, cut off from the people who risk their actual lives with me to find our fortunes out in the black...

      And for those who want that Matrix hardwired-into-the-ship experience... my collectors edition "The Kirk" captains chair has all the hooks ups required... though in my case, all of my clones have full a suite of NEOCOM Wireless LSN (Local Ship Network) implants also... so no wires needed for me to be fully integrated with the ships systems. =]

    4. Incoming wall of text

      From what we have been told by various members of CCP, capital ships are the only ship classes with the means to enter and exit the capsule while on board and that most of that is generally done at stations. They also mentioned that disconnecting from a capsule in mid flight could cause big issues with the ship systems (perhaps why the ships we eject from remain still in space, basically stranding the crew)

      Having said that, the capsule inside the captain quarters does not really look like it requires much in the way of special equipment to unload a capsuleer. Whether this is purposeful of not I'm unsure, but I know most people like to RP the ability to walk around and command the ship on the bridge with a crew.

      Personally I prefer to think that my character is in her pod the majority of the time. In a world like EVE, where you are always at risk of being caught in a battle, it would be silly not to fly around without the advanced responses the pod allows.

      I would agree with Rixx that the majority of the crews survive, 60-70% seems about right to me, but also take into account the dozens to hundreds of ships we have sitting in our hangers all over the game. Often those crews are getting paid crazy amounts to sit on standby for days or sometimes months. Signing up doesn't sound so bad now does it?

      In terms of costs for us. It has been stated that 1 isk is equivalent to the average amount a person makes a year in New Eden (I don't actually remember if it was person or family, but you get the idea). Lets say I have 100 people manning my cruiser. That's 100isk per year assuming we pay them an average wage, but it has been stated that they get paid a lot more. Even so, at 5 or 10 times the rate you are only paying out amounts around 500-1000isk per ship per year. Safe to say those numbers get incorporated into the base cost for buying ships, or insurance or some other thing.

  2. EVE is a universe where people take drugs to become super intelligent for 2 weeks until their brain boils over, just so that their ancestors can live a better live then they did (I am talking about industry teams, which have been removed now but that was their lore explanation, Look and ).

    So, I think that our ships do have a crew. Maybe not gallente frigates (because gallente ships are supposed to be highly automatic) but everything bigger defiantely does. The survival rates are far from high, especially in circumstances where you get killed really really fast (suicide ganks, smartbomb gatecamps, bombing runs, etc.). The amount of wealth people get for being on our ships is so high though, that we dont have a shortage of adventurers and/or desperate people.

    o7 Charlie

  3. Crewed by robots, like C3P0 type robots. then there is no death toll, just someone somewhere is making a hell of a lot of robots.

  4. God, how I wish CCP would give us crew management as a game feature! I've written about this a couple times on my blog: I think it would add a whole new dimension to EVE Online. Imagine if each capsuleer had to recruit, develop, pay, house and feed their crews, and in exchange, we get improved performance and greater returns for our efforts. According to the lore, people sign up for crews because life is cheap, and even with all the danger of being on a capsuleer ship, the rewards are vast. And yet, we see nothing of this in the game mechanics. I think we are really missing an opportunity for some great gameplay options here.

    1. I agree with this. As Capsuleers, we deal with the risk vs reward aspect all the time. It would make sense for crews to do the same as an explanation of why they do it.

      Maybe a mechanic where they can change teams into crews that increase ship performance at the cost of an amount of isk per day because they specialize in certain aspects like gunnery, engineering, etc. Then when you lose your ship, the survivors of the crew might choose to not return to your ship, or negotiate a higher salary, etc.

      For those who don't want to pay salaries, a standard crew wouldn't cost anything. (paid by union perhaps?)

    2. Neville... I had a wonderful idea (in the comments on Rixx's last post)…

      Wouldn’t it be a hoot if CCP added crew mechanics such that only players who actually took care of their crews and paid well, meaning players who didn’t suicide gank or "Leroy" in without good cause, or make dumbass mistakes, etc., etc. ... IE players who had a good “reputation”… what if they got good crews who boosted their ships abilities and what if...

      Players who weren’t good to their crews, didn't pay them, buy food and hookers for them and lost ships suicide ganking and dumb stuff... what if they got crews that were, well, the scum of the space lanes and mebbe even sabotaged them… LOL OMG THAT would be amazing!!!

    3. I had suggested an incremental (up to 5%) bonus for a crew type that could be specialized i.e gunnery crew, tracking dependent on the age of the ship. The longer they survive, the better they get. One (and only one) crew per system type in a manner similar to implants.

      Not too overpowered (imho), but a small reward for flying well. Would also probably need to be linked to amount of usage now I think about it.

  5. I'm with you when we're talking about crew, but i differ in the explanation. here is mine :D
    We capsuleers are clones .. as such these clones are genetically specialized for interacting with a Pod and through this Pod we can communicate with every system in our ships.
    So we are good communicators, thats also the reason why the socalled capsuleer is allowed to have a clone that can walk through a station. ;)
    But each second in our life as capsuleers, we have to train some skills.. and it's astounding what we can learn and memorize..
    My approach is the idea of a clone-crew with genetically specialized abilitys for handling a module, doing an industrial job, talking to traiders, using turret, etc. and they are all handled through communication with the centered communication-module every ship has, the pod. Building a genetical spezialized dna needs time, skilltime. It's like generating a tool for the productionline.

    that, i think, is also the reason why the baseliners are not allowed to have clones. When you dedicate your life to the immortality of a capsuleer you have to leave the baseline society. (Check 'baselining' in evelopedia for that)

    and following that thought we have a great base lore for the next threat within our universe.. drifters ..or 'The Revenge of the Crew-Clones' as i call it :D

  6. There are approx. 5000 systems in Eve. Let's consider two cases. Case 1: Every third system has a largely inhabited planet, within an order of magnitude of Earth population. That would give us approx. 4.5 million deaths due to violence (war, suicide and murder each accounting for 1/3) assuming planets are as violent as Earth. Even if they are substantially less violent than Earth it is still insanely easy to find enough people to crew the ships. Even assuming only 1 third of Empire space has a single populated planet and each planet is 1/10 as violent as Earth that still gives us 190k violent deaths, 63k war deaths per day.

    The problem with these numbers is that we're used to thinking in terms of local experience, human statistics quickly become silly when considering thousands of planets.

    1. Add into the fact that not every system in EvE has a stargate. According to lore, not all systems have the correct star type to permit a stargate. so why we can visit 5000 systems in EvE, the empires have many times more systems that that to draw population from.

  7. Perhaps, for us Capsuleers, crew survival rate statistics merely report how many of the lost ship’s crew sign back up with us. From our Demi-God position, that’s all that really matters. We lose a boat, some crew returns, some doesn’t. Why those who don’t return don’t return is inconsequential. Maybe they quit. Maybe they died. Details.

    “Don’t get me wrong,” sighs DireNecessity, “They can be adorable fun, but they’re only human. I don’t obsessively calculate what percentage of modules survive ship loss either. Rather I just scoop up what’s available and get on with business.”

  8. Just an FYI, but this particular post of Rixx's i believe stemmed from a bit of the old back-n-forth in the comments of his most previous post, Comet Cut-Away

    JIC anyone here dint see that post, doubtful but possible, my thoughts and the discussion between myself and Raphael (who holds a differing opinion) on this topic are there…

    And, if I may... Dire, you are (the exception I hope) that fulfills Raphael's opinion about how we Empyreans act toward mortals and why we are rightfully hated by them... and it is not to our credit. Not in the least.

    1. “Oh Tur, we’ve had similar discussion before and while I find your unwavering dedication to your puppies absolutely adorable, they remain puppies just the same.”

      Out Of Character Elaboration:
      The lore around Capsuleer immortality makes for wonderful narrative to mine if one chooses to spelunk there. Tur approaches via heartfelt struggle to retain his humanity. DireNecessity, noting things are different now, casually tosses her humanity aside. Fun stuff to be uncovered exploring such intriguing fictions, if one chooses to go there.

    2. (OOC AGREEMENT!!! but) I'd still kill you on sight out of principle... =\

  9. Oh, there's so many ways to skin this cat.

    For one, I think that CCP's intention is that yes, there is crew, yes, they die with the ship (proportional to speed at which the ship dies... getting alpha'd or doomsdayed probably kills the crew outright). It's likely that crews left behind in wormholes die (or worse, are harvested for biomass) and the canonical gist of things is that capsuleers just don't care. Much like the Imperium in Warhammer 40K who, in at least one iteration of the lore, sacrifices thousands of psykers daily just to sustain their Emperor and regularly dispatches their armies to certain doom or glasses entire planets just to be sure, life is cheap and the universe is a dark, dark place. Certainly the client depiction of ship explosions suggests no survivors- maybe capsuleers insist that all crew hold their posts to the very end.

    As for motivation, it's not too hard to imagine that capsuleers have the means to pay incredibly well for servicing crew, but also foot the bill for life insurance sufficient to benefit a whole family for life sufficient to make it a worthwhile sacrifice for some. Consider how many ships lay idle in hangers, how many ships don't get blown up contrasted to how many do, and maybe the odds for survival aren't nearly as slim as you make them out to be.

    Arguing that the numbers don't add doesn't change the intention, merely indicates that CCP need to revise the specifics of their canon.

    Regardless, leaving enough room for head-canon will probably make everyone happier and I'm not in any hurry to press the official lore nerds for a resolution to this debate. Maybe Rixx has imaginary friends to soothe his conscience for all the deaths he incurs by being a pirate...

  10. Perhaps a capsuleer's crew moves from ship to ship with their boss. Or the crew are employees of the corp or faction to which the pilot belongs, and are assigned from a large pool to the ships that are active at any given moment. Small maintenance crews would take care of ships not in use at the moment, so full crews for all ships would not be required.

  11. In complete agreement with you, Rixx. There has to be a probable chance that crew will survive in a ship in EVE. Of any class. Otherwise, exactly, nobody in their right mind would sign on. Nobody with a clue and a heartbeat.

    I'd go so far as to eschew present EVE lore on the subject of crew including CCP's survivability rates. Screw it, their logic and conclusions are seriously flawed. Rather, provide a means that allows regular non-capsuleer crew to probably survive the destruction of most ships under the wide majority of violent end results. Why not provide crew their own pods? Say the pods are their stations and its only in imminent danger that their station transforms into an enclosed escape pod. And, leave it right there.

  12. Having read some of the books and lore and seen how downright evil even the most innocuous things we do in New Eden really are once we take a closer look.... My thought on it was always sub humans. Vat grown clone crews genetically modified to do a job and nothing else. They aren't really seen as slaves like the Minmatar by New Eden, but biological machines.

    I mean, all the cloning technology that keeps us and dust mercs going can't be it. Has to be something else it's used for to keep the cost low enough a newbie can afford it. I've always had a headcannon that there's an entire market around vat grown humans outside of what we have contact with, we're just a higher level product line with a few special bits added in.

  13. Personally I ignore the lore and assume I am all alone on my spaceship. Any decent AI and some droids can control and maintain a ship.

    Alternatively, my ship is crewed by expandable clones. Some planetbound engineer gets paid handsomely to allow me access to half a dozen clones of him that keep my ship running. Here we just have to deal with the ethics that non-capsuleer clones are just bags of meat and not real individuals with rights. But in the EVE universe a life is not worth much.

  14. I tend to think skeleton crew overseeing an army of robots doing the hard work. And I like to imagine that the human crew have nanosuits of some kind that can insta-seal in the case of a hull fracture and provide life support for a few days and a beacon that broadcasts their location so they can be rescued. It's not impossible that rescue drones exist which are deployed in every system as part of the preliminaries to battle which then monitor for signals from the biosuits and go fetch the stranded humans.