While we will encourage and foster PvP activities in the Dual Universe, we also want to find a way to let less action-driven players, or simply beginners, to enjoy other types of gameplay. Some of those would incidentally be essential to the mechanisms of a player-driven economy. To give you a few examples, we could mention architectural/artistic and building activities, politics, science, exploration & research, or financial organizations. None of these can easily develop in a war zone. At the same time, we want rare resources to be hard to secure, exploring the unknown to be challenging, and territory control to be central for Alliances and Empires. How can we reconcile these two extremes?
Often times in the design of the game, I like to look at the real world for inspiration. In most industrialized countries, we are enjoying a relatively stable peaceful environment, but it was not always the case. Originally, people used to gather in small towns characterized by high protecting walls, internal police and usually a garrison of military forces ready to defend the city. The goal was to define a collective force of defense, and a “secure” perimeter, presumably easier to defend and therefore more peaceful than an isolated house in the forest where bandits could attack at any time. Today’s industrialized world has developed similar protections at the scale of a country: frontiers, military forces and collectively financed weapons to discourage any aggression. Modern countries typically also add economical interdependencies with other countries, creating a commercial network that encourages cooperation rather than aggression.
This is the kind of emergent security we would like to witness in the game. However, building cities and then nations will undoubtedly take a lot of time. Maybe several years of game time. If we don’t bootstrap the process, the game will be a sort of Mad Max world for so long that we might never get there.
The backstory is going to help here: you are a colonist who just arrived on a new planet, in a gigantic arkship that transported you and hundreds of thousands of other colonists through the universe for millennia. The arkship was designed in Kyrium, a super-resistant, graviton-absorbent semi-transparent material able to manage any type of brutal deceleration for the ship or its passengers. It is programmed to literally and frontally crash in the planet’s ground, becoming an impressive 10km tall high tower lurking over the landscape. Digging deep for geothermic energy harvesting, and standing high in the skies, the arkship is meant to become the universal beacon for your new civilization. As the ship designers expected, your nascent world would need supervision and defense regulation, at least around the arkship, to be able to bootstrap rapidly a self-secured civilization: as a consequence, there is no aggression possible in a perimeter of 20km around the arkship, no PvP.
The ship’s autonomous AI will constantly monitor every action performed in its action radius and neutralize any attempt of aggression or unauthorized destruction. Beyond that zone, it’s PvP free-for-all. You only go there if you’re well prepared. We might introduce intermediary zones before the full PvP area, where certain levels of protection remain, but this is not yet decided.
The arkship is self-powered and impossible to destroy (no one knows how Kyrium is made or harvested, but it’s clearly not something that plays in the same league as any other materials you will encounter or craft in the game). So, this safe area is impossible to deactivate. However, it is not impossible to build another one somewhere else in the unsafe zone or on some other planet, power it and defend it. The AI-shield technology that the arkship uses is documented in the blueprints available for download, and with the right skills it can be rebuilt. However, the energy cost of such a gigantic device, as well as the military protection that will be necessary to protect it against frontal attacks or sabotage, does not make it something you can just build in your garden with some friends. It will typically be requested to support some strategic mining operation or some political plan that makes it worth the effort. This is the kind of construct that will require a very large number of players and resources to create, and will be made available in the game much later. But it will be in principle possible to settle a new safe zone anywhere on any planet (except in another safe zone), if enough players are willing to contribute to its building and maintenance.
Strategically, a secondary arkship-like defense tower and safe zone will obviously be a target of choice, either for military purposes or simply by griefers eager to set the world on fire. The first type of attack could in principle be settled without much damage for the inhabitants of the zone, if they consent to transfer territory control to the attacker when he has proven to be stronger than the existing defenses. In the second case, ultimate destruction could be the goal of the hostile forces. Players will always be encouraged to take electronic snapshots of their constructions, if not blueprints when appropriate (the difference is that a snapshot cannot be traded, it’s a personal asset), together with insurances, in order to be able to rebuild if necessary. However, rebuilding after destruction is costly, as neither the materials nor the time required by the auto-rebuilder can be avoided. It would be better to lose a bit of time and money, rather than losing your magnificent neo-renaissance imperial castle on top of the mountain.
Ultimately, for a group of players outside of the range of the arkship protection zone, the best way to insure their safety is to invest in powerful defensive weapons, secure energy sources or backups, and cultivate a network of diplomatic links to be able to call for reinforcements when hell will knock at the door. I wonder who will be the first to settle on another planet and how long it will take!