Over in Eve Online, they’re experimenting with alternate color patterns for ships.
Now I think this is a good idea. I’ve lamented how they have a LOT of character customization that nobody sees, but in the main play area everyone looks the same except for a profile next to the chat message.
But while it’s a good idea CCP is doing a couple of things wrong. Well, one isn’t necessarily wrong in principle, but…
They’re dipping their toe in the water – in principle a good thing – but because they’ve set the prices of the alternate patterns so high they can’t really tell if the water’s fine or not. I’m sorry, I can’t stretch that analogy any further (well i could but it’d get surreal).
So anyway, they’ve only got a handful of ships on which these changes can be made, they’re appearance only, and they cost a LOT.
1) Make them cheap, but (as with all things EVE) make them per-ship. And make them available for all the ships.
2) Down the road, make a ‘tint your own’ that marks highlights. Combine this with more alternate base patterns for the ships. Still a fixed pallette, though, of not more than half a dozen bases and a dozen or so highlights.
3) Really down the road, go nuts.
3a) By go nuts I mean right back to character creation. At the same time you’re picking your race and colors and build and complexion and costume and profile background, add an ‘identifying icon’. Add a shield or rondel or even a small set of geometric shapes and let the players apply either a pre-designed pattern or paint one of their own. Paint with a large if not full spectrum of colors. And every ship they own gets this icon added to it for absolutely free. It sits in a common location – two to five of them, so regardless of angle you have a chance of seeing who’s ship it is.
3b) Oh, I’m not stopping there. See, I want to be able to change those icons down the road. Doing that would cost a chunk for the redesign because it’s going on every ship without extra effort or cost. But I want to be able to buy and sell the designs. There are artists among the players who could start getting good ISK for this.
3c) Not done yet. Corporations get their icons, too. Logos if you will, things that say “this is a Goon ship” or “Pandemic Legion member”.
3d) personal, corporate, or both – allow individual paint schemes. These, like the schemes of 1 and 2, are a per-ship cost. Because they’re effort intensive they should cost more than a standard or even common variation.
So what are the downside?
Biggest, bar none, is the programmer headache. Second biggest is probably the server load, though there are a few graphic sharing tricks that would help. Third is an adminnistrative headache watching for infringement of copyright/trademark and offensive/obscene artwork. That last is, well, “is it porn or art?”
On the other hand, it’s a massive draw. It’s a personal involvement in not only the character but the ships being flown. And it’s (probably) an ISK sink, a trade opportunity, and an alternate form of competition in a game filled with competitions – sorry, combats.
Just a thought.