New year, new guard but old values?

This entry is written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the development of EVE-Online.

Happy new year!  I’m a couple of days late saying that but a couple of weeks overdue on posting!  Sorry about that but the festive season has been stealing my EVE time….

There have been a couple of interesting changes at CCP, the first being something of a bitter-sweet moment in the publishing announcement of Templar One, the third EVE novel.  This should be an interesting landmark for EVE’s backstory as it will lay the foundations for the launch of Dust514 which may well bring a large breath of fresh air for EVE’s roleplay fans as well as an expansion in the depth of the universe for all the story fans, of which EVE has many lurking in its player base.  So I’m looking forwards to it.

But that same announcement revealed that Tony Gonzalez, EVE/CCP’s Intellectual Property Manager was a casualty of ‘the 20 Percent’.  To be honest, I never completely understood what that title meant exactly and just assumed that TonyG was the man calling the final shots on EVE’s plot developments in between writing novels.  I had mixed feelings over Empyrean Age (and how it made fiction almost external to the game and so near unusable for RP’ers)  and in how CCP have been handling story telling in EVE for some time now, but I found this sad news.  I do wonder what this means for EVE’s storytelling going forwards.

In a matter of weeks we get the newly designed/expanded wiki fiction section and a new novel, both of which are hugely positive events.  I hope that CCP’s ongoing internal shake up will allow for a reinvigoration of EVE’s storytelling in the coming months.

Meanwhile, somewhere less fictional….

Another announcement was both surprising and not at all surprising all at once.  CCP Zulu has stood down as EVE’s senior producer.  That is obviously a big deal for CCP and many will draw the assumptions that best fit their view point on the reasons behind it.  Maybe Zulu is too much ‘damaged goods’ to remain in the post, maybe he decided he’s had enough grief from the player base.  Maybe he lost at arm wrestling to CCP Unifex, who knows?

I have met him before at Fanfest and he’s a nice guy (probable RP’er from what he said on that encounter), but I do think that his standing down is probably a wise choice.  CCP’s reputation with their player base was brutally mauled in 2011 and, sadly, Zulu was very much the face of EVE in that time and is publicly closely linked to the bad times that CCP needs to put behind them.

I am pleased however that CCP Zulu appears to be remaining as CCP Zulu and not leaving CCP entirely as far I have seen.  Good luck to you Zulu, may your new post bestow less hate mail upon you and more cool stuff upon EVE.

So it seems that Crucible has more goodness in store for us yet with another round of ‘little things’ to come.  Under the direction of CCP Unifex we have this to look forwards to;

Finally, we will be concentrating on those features we already have in the game after 8 years of development. Yes, we will be iterating (it‘s not a dirty word) on those features which need some polish, balance, fixes and general love.

The releases throughout 2012 will be an extension of the type of release we had with Crucible with the addition of a theme to help us scope and tie the work into a really compelling and coherent package. The first theme is going to be War and everyone is getting very excited about it.

Iteration is indeed not a dirty word, although it has been something of a bad joke in EVE’s long history.  But, I’m really starting to dare hope that they really do mean it this time!  And that ‘soon’ really might mean soon.  Here are a few things I expect to see addressed very soon in the impending batch of new year dev blogs.

  • Factional warfare is I think going to be receiving some fairly minor tweaks (possibly admitting alliances) in a short term release with a more far reaching overhaul later in 2012, perhaps under the summer expansion.
  • We are going to see another wave of ship rebalancing starting with assault frigate buffs that are already starting to slip into the public eye.
  • I think we’ll see Incursions revisited in the short term, with an eye towards curbing the size of the ISK payout per hour.  I think that we might see the dominantly popular sites reduced in reward and the less run sites buffed/reworked.  Hopefully a few new sites will be added as well.
  • A full scale starbase (POS) overhaul announced but not for deployment until late 2012.  POS have always been an unsatisfying game play element with terrible interaction.  But its a big job, so won’t happen overnight.
  • Tech 3 frigates and a rebalance of current T3 cruisers.  CCP want to put new ships into the game and T3 Frigs would be very attention grabbing.  Tier 3 BC’s were very popular with the players and quicker to produce in the time available for Crucible.
  • Planetary Interaction – Dust514 cometh, expect PI to undergo some changes.

All in all, as successful as it has been Crucible only tackled relatively small scale features and changes.  Many quick to make changes and additions were pumped out in a short time span.  In 2012 we will surely see more of that but it will be vital to EVE’s development and health for several major and far reaching changes/additions to be undertaken as well, you can only polish features so much before people want to see something more substantial.

We are going to see CCP digging down into EVE’s game play foundations for the first time in a long time.  What they choose to do there could be very exciting indeed.

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