PvP

This isn’t about whether PvP should be on, off, variable or customisable in-game, but instead considers what could beĀ a realistic scenario that leads up to a PvP engagement.

So here goes (and this is purely speculative as I have no knowledge of the planning taking place inside the DDF)…

You’re floating around in The Black and a ship pops up on your scanner. As soon as it does, its computer swaps an initial set of identification data with yours.

Data protection is still important, even in the far future so what would that initial data exchange look like? Chances are, the only details that are “open” would be the class of ship, its registration mark and maybe the year and place of manufacture or registration[1] so there isn’t much to go on when it comes to deciding whether it’s a viable target for plundering or whether it should be avoided.

So far, so real.

Now we need to be able to check out this other ship and to do that we’re going to have to run a search against police / galactic or local government systems. Your computer would send the other ship’s identity information and wait while records are checked for outstanding warrants, bounties etc. Chances are the other ship is also doing this with your data at the same time.

Question: Should these kinds of comms always be available or are there dead spots when you’re just too far out? Maybe really long-range comms can be achieved by peer-to-peer relay via other ships’ comms subsystems, if there are any within range. Does this open doors for message sniffing or faking?

So by now you’ll either have some very basic info about the ship, or you’ll be none the wiser, depending on how the comms thing worked out. In either case, you’ve probably got a handful of viable options: 1) Hang back and watch the ship to try to work out what they’re doing, where they’re going etc, 2) try to open a comms channel and talk to them (this may be unsatisfactory for NPC encounters) 3) move in for a closer look. At this stage you still may not know for sure whether it’s an NPC or another player, unless the NPC behaviour is unconvincing of course.

You could also choose to open fire on the other ship at this point, if you have a long enough ranged weapon, and if your arrival on their scanner hasn’t already scared them into activating their jump engines. But assume that as soon as you do open fire, the ship has the opportunity to broadcast your identity data[4] over an emergency channel with an appropriate mayday message. Also assume that anyone can listen to that channel[5], and that the authorities always do, so the single ship you were sizing up before may be somewhat better supported by others (that you may not necessarily be able to detect yet) in relatively short order.

On the other hand, maybe the other ship will delay sending a mayday message if they’re planning to retaliate, in which case full PvP ensues and the encounter will play out through normal combat.

And then there’s the situation that you’re one of the ships within range of a mayday distress call and choose to join in. But will you help the victim, or add to their troubles?

Under this scenario the precursor to engaging another player in combat is such that it would hopefully be discouraging to bullies by making it quite a bit less certain that the encounter will end profitably for the aggressor.

Of course this scenario is dependent on quite a large number of factors, many of which are related to the number of other ships in the vicinity. If you roam the most remote corners of the universe and someone picks a fight you’d better be prepared to make a fight or flight decision pretty quickly.

Notes:

[1] The data packets exchanged between ships do contain all the data about the ship, its owner (not necessarily the pilot), its known equipment and cargo[2]. This would likely be encrypted, so although you have it, you can’t necessarily make use of it. Unless you have acquired a police-grade scanner[3].

[2] You probably wouldn’t pick up contraband items or weapons from a vendor who’s going to log that transaction with the authorities. Maybe ship-to-ship trades and shady junk yard deals will be used to acquire the off-the-radar items you desire.

[3] As in real life, there will probably be a never-ending technological arms race playing out between the authorities and the underworld. The police upgrade their encryption algorithms, pirates work to crack the codes. Ship owners have the opportunity to install or ignore these official upgrades, or swap out their factory-fitted computers with hacked replacements.

[4] Identity information can be faked in real life, and presumably there may be methods to enable identity fraud in-game. Maybe sifting the wreckage of a ship would yield its identity transponder, assuming it wasn’t installed in the escape pod and left with the pilot when they ejected.

[5] When you shout mayday, those who pick up your broadcast may not all be friendly, so the situation for the victim may worsen as a result. What started as a one-on-one engagement may descend into all kinds of chaos as good / bad / indifferent ships join the melee, and the original attacker may well find themselves falling prey to a larger more powerful foe. While this is all going on the original victim may slip away to safety.

 

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