This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss Blog Banter 36.
“With the Inferno expansion upon us, new seeds have been planted in the ongoing evolution of EVE Online. With every expansion comes new trials and challenges, game-changing mechanics and fresh ideas. After nine years and seventeen expansions, EVE has grown far more than most other MMOGs can hope for. Which expansions have brought the highs and lows, which have been the best and the worst for EVE Online?”
Hmmmm. In retrospect, many of EVE’s expansions have brought with them a mixed bag of feelings, successes and failings along with maybe a few missed opportunities.
Incarna will of course top everybody’s list as EVE’s worst expansion, as it was the expansion that very nearly killed EVE. While true, the reasons for that are a bit unfair. I have said before that I think Incarna was woefully miss-sold to the players and was focused on the wrong things. It was an expansion aimed at new players introducing radically new content (ambulation) at a time when EVE desperately needed fixes and renovation of old ‘core gameplay’ features. To make it worse, Incarna failed to deliver much of the content it was meant to have.
By comparison many players will see Crucible as one the best expansions as it delivered a long list of fixes, tweaks and welcome new stuff such as tier 3 battlecruisers. Personally, I see Crucible as a simply a highly effective application of triage that delivered a huge amount of small and simple things. It was definitely the right expansion for the time, but it benefited greatly from following Incarna. The new nebulae backdrops, the racial captains quarters and more were all stuff that slipped out of Incarna’s schedule so badly that they became core features of the following expansion. Crucible was an exercise in delivering all of that stuff that CCP had promised to do before but never got round to. It was a catch-up expansion.
Apocrypha holds the crown as being the champion innovator of ‘modern’ EVE. Wormholes and tech 3 ships were substantial and wholly new things that had never been seen before, and was the product of CCP throwing the entire company at one project to push EVE forwards.
Red Moon Rising is perhaps one of my more fondly remembered expansions, but I think it in part paved the way for a future problem. RMR delivered something like 40+ new ships to the game in one hit. When you are making a game about internet spaceships, that is pretty damned awesome! But you cant do that every expansion. And that has been a problem for the game in more recent years, there are already so many ships in the game that it becomes harder to find uses for new ship classes that don’t simply replace what is there already. More recent and indeed future expansions attempt to rebalance existing ships to make the underwhelming ships more relevant. While good work, tweaking something old will never be as exciting as bringing out a new hull. Maybe CCP would have been wiser to introduce new classes more slowly in the early days and focus more on balancing what ships were already in the game. I of course would have been shot for suggesting such a thing back then, oh well. 😉
There has been a shift over the years in a similar vein; in the early days there was more stuff to add to the game and less pressing need to iterate what was already there. It is easy to point to the earlier expansions laying down fundamentally huge and new features and call them ‘superior’ for the size of new content. But as EVE has developed, the game has become more complex with an increasing need to go back and rework existing features. And as I said before, you can’t keep adding new ships if they aren’t needed.
But EVE did reach a tipping point during the infamous :18 months: leading to Incarna which brought us to Crucible and Inferno. At some point, you have to stop adding new things and work hard on polishing. There was a long time where it seemed that CCP felt that they thought that simply meant graphical improvements.
I think that is a point that always brings me mixed feelings in expansion feature lists. Graphical improvements. Graphics are great, and I love EVE’s visuals dearly, but the wow factor doesn’t last as long as new or improved game play. Take the Captains Quarters for example; I love the look but it did nothing much for my deeper enjoyment of the game itself as the environment brought no new functionality.
With each expansion I look beyond the screenshots and videos looking for what it is going to let me do. Red Moon Rising’s 40 new ships let us do quite alot. 😉