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Monday, January 16, 2012

Invention - a proposal.

"One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But... I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success." - Thomas A. Edison 
Following my post concerning random chance invention (Invention - the mother of all mothers), I couldn't get off my mind the notion that there were really two separate topics in that post.

The first was obviously a slightly frustrated rant about how invention is handled in EVE. The second was a more general expression of a desire to see EVE industry get the same attention and love that pew-pew is getting right now.

Now, I was taught in a previous life that one should never complain about an issue unless they already have a suggested resolution to recommend. The second topic is not something that is strictly broken - only neglected. The first topic, invention, is broken and so it is recumbent upon me to offer a solution. 

It is something I've thought about in the past from time to time. This weekend I thought about it in earnest. To that end, I reacquainted myself with Thomas Edison. I hope you all know who he is. If not, here's a link to help you out. There's even a picture.
Thomas A. Edison
So why Edison? Well, first off, he invented a LOT of stuff. Secondly, this is how he described invention, 
"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."
That, I think, is the essence of true invention. He did not throw things together and hope they simply worked by some random convergence of the cosmos. He tried a specific thing and it either worked or didn't. Either result was important to his efforts. Failure increases the chance of success on the next attempt by showing you what not to do. The random chance of EVE's current invention mechanism completely negates that most important facet of the act of invention! That is why I hate it so.

What EVE needs is a method for inventing something that replicates that concept: that failure can be as important as success. Random chance must be eliminated from the equation. The inventor must be able to take concrete steps to bring ultimate success. No one can knows exactly what those steps are. Let me say that again because it's important. No one can know what those steps are. 

Well, no one can know until after someone invents a thing. So how does this work in EVE? Not easily I'm afraid to say. Unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle for all the current in-game items. They are all Henry Ford's automobiles at this point. They've already been invented and now all we do is manufacture them in any color people want so long as it's black... but I digress.

Back to invention. This idea will be easier to implement during a major expansion to the game. There has already been some conjecture about a potential expansion by Rixx Javix. In his blog, he mentions T3 frigates. I'd like to use that - so I will. If T3 frigates were to happen, it would be an excellent place to revamp invention.

Ask yourself, "How do I get T3 frigates from T2 frigates?" You invent them! You have to spend time tweaking T2 frigates in new and imaginative ways. If you do it right, you get a T3 frigate for your effort! If you do it wrong, you get a pile of junk that says not to do that again. But you get one step closer to success! This is the nature of invention. You fail 10,000 times but you learn something about WHY you failed. Then you try again, taking your new knowledge into account, and hopefully succeed. It's not for the faint of heart.

And what sort of mechanic does EVE need to make this happen? Well, we already know what material a T2 frigate requires for production. We start from there. A check-box on the setup screen, where we select the BPC to use, would let the manufacturer move into invention mode. Extra slots would open on the bill of material. The number of slots would be the only indication of what is needed. Three slots mean three things must be added. The inventor starts adding items in an attempt to invent the T3 frigate. The added items must be logical. If the T3 frigate is to have better armor, then more Crystalline Carbonide Armor Plate is needed. Higher power needs more Fusion Reactor Units. More shields require more Pulse Shield Emitters and so forth. The actual requirements need to be uniquely calculated for the BPC once it's put into invention mode: more on that in a bit.

If the inventor guesses wrong, all T2 frigate components are lost but not the BPC. In a kind universe a character with, say, Scrapmetal Processing could retrieve most of the raw minerals but that will not recoup the total loss as any recycling specialist knows. There should always be significant risk to attempting invention. It must take perseverance, the scientific method (as in keeping track of your outcomes) and ISK to be a successful inventor. It is not for the weekend tinkerer. Tinkerers build rigs, not entire integrated combat platforms: 'nuf said.

In fact, even when invention does succeed, all the inventor gets is a T3 frigate - one (1) T3 frigate. Just because you succeed in invention doesn't mean you can automatically repeat the success. You can either recoup your expenses then and there by selling your T3 frigate. Or, you can try and reverse engineer it. Even that should not be pure chance though chance will be a part of that particular equation. I know how a fine Swiss watch is made. I know what makes it tick - pardon the pun. I can't make one. I'd have to disassemble hundreds (thousands?) of expensive Swiss watches to even have a chance.

Therefore, the more T3 frigates you have on hand, the greater your chance of understanding all the engineering needed to create a BPO. That's right, a BPO. That should be the ultimate goal of invention. Only those that take the risk with the isk get the prize. There should never be a gimme (I'm sorry, the official EVE term is lottery I believe but that was before my time) for that sort of thing. An inventor decides how many T3 frigates to ruin when s/he sets up the attempt. The details of that do not belong in this post though.

That takes me back to the sentence above concerning uniquely calculated invention requirements for each BPC. If there is any randomness in invention, it should be in not knowing what precisely will bring success on any given attempt. Thomas Edison tried many, many different filaments in his experiments. Many of them glowed, but not for long. They were in fact successes if the intent was to generate light. Those count. Requiring slightly different recipes for each T2 BPC insures that invention remains an experiment in EVE. That it does not become cookie-cutter. Cookie-cutter was the bread and butter of Henry Ford but is the antithesis of invention. I'll concede a small about of "randomness with a purpose" to negate it. That insures invention and production remain distinctly different jobs - as they should be.

So that's my proposal. Would it work? You tell me.

Fly careful.

1 comment:

  1. I complete agree that the current process of invention in EVE doesn't mirror real-life.

    I think that some changes can be made to make it more intuitive, and reward players that put in more time and effort.

    1. Rewarding players with a BPO could have devastating effects... as soon as a few players have it... the market effectively becomes a T1 market... minerals in... item/ship out.
    2. I don't quite understand the 'no one knows what these steps are' part... unless they are randomized for each 'invention' time... otherwise as soon as a few people know them, one will write a blog, or a calculator website, demonstrating the process, duration, materials, skills etc down to the t.

    In the real world no-one invents microprocessors or binoculars anymore, they're done and finished... There are always new things to invent... I think this aspect of the real work would be very, very difficult to implement in New Eden; and that’s partly why invention in EVE will never mirror this aspect of RL.


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