Team Avatar has tinkered..

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the latest from Team Avatar and their post-Incarna prototyping efforts in the field of getting out of our internet spaceships…

Back in July I wrote a piece summing up the comments I found made by the dev’s who form CCP’s Team Avatar.  In case you forget, Team Avatar is a small group who were put together following the ‘Summer of Rage’ who set about prototyping new directions for avatar-based game play in EVE-Online.  As projects go it was a small scale invest on CCP’s part to explore the options for what they could do with their avatar technology in future while focusing on EVE’s core game play and Dust515 for the short to medium term.

Despite a Dev blog being allegedly imminent back in July, it was later quietly announced that CCP’s management had decided not release the blog at all.  They were clearly concerned that it would send out the wrong messages to talk about avatars given all the promises they had so recently made about being focused on spaceships.

Well, there is now a new discussion thread up.  Team Avatar has completed their prototyping phase and identified a direction that many in CCP reportedly believe would add clear value to the game.  They have also looked into what it would take to deliver the feature(s).

Not-so-long-story-short: CCP don’t have the resources available to do it without detracting from the flying in space game and bringing Dust514 to market.  It is off the development table for another year or two by the looks of things.  That decision is sure to delight as many people as it disappoints.  I think that it is the right call even if I do want to see meaningful avatar-based gameplay in EVE, I just don’t think that CCP have the resources to run so many projects at once until they get another revenue stream open.  And that has to mean making Dust514 into a successful product first (doesn’t necessarily have to be a mega-hit, just start to pay its own way).

So this the announcement.  There is a good explanation there by CCP Bayesian about what the team has been doing and what they hoped to get out of it.  Then there is a post by CCP Unifex.  That part is particularly important as it is he who draws a line under Incarna’s forseeable future.  He is now taking it firmly off the table as even a consideration for 2013 (not that it was ever likely given the starbase revamp) and I suspect probably 2014 as well.  This should not surprise anyone to be honest, but at least the speculation is over.  What this does mean is that there are a few more hands being put to more direct use on EVE.

CCP Unifex:

So, all that being said, we have a great concept to expand the EVE Universe but now is not the right time for us to take that step. It’s a step I very much want to take but I want to take it when it won’t mean removing developers and focus from flying in space. So, for the time being, watch this space with regards to exploration gameplay for EVE avatars. The Avatar team will now be turning its attention to features it can put out for EVE in our winter expansion and beyond.

Now, what else is there in this thread…

CCP t0rfifrans:

Hey guys, thanks for the positive reaction. Like stated above, our vision is to make the EVE Universe the ultimate science fiction simulator. Saying that EVE is just about spaceships, is a bit like saying that phones should only be about making voice phone calls one on one with other people. Indeed they did start out like that, but as technology evolved, they become something much bigger. We hope you guys stay with us long enough for that dream to materialize.

Oh and to someone that asked if it can be safe. Sorry, nope. The EVA gameplay is not safe, it’s as safe as going into a wormhole. That’s also what makes it interesting.

Well its nice to hear that the creative director is still aiming for the aspirational sci-fi simulator dream.  And that he wants people to die alot, EVE just wouldn’t be EVE if t0rfi went soft. 😉

CCP t0rfifrans:

If possible we’d like to allow for a hands-on playtest at fanfest. More will be revealed as the hour draws near.

I’d be surprised to see it but hey, might be cool to have a look at this prototype of theirs.  I really do think that CCP need to keep this idea firmly in mind as a long term goal and it is something they need to gradually get the players on-board with.  Letting people try it out themselves would probably be a very good move.

And so far, that’s all the dev’s wrote.  My hope at this point is that once the POS revamp gets under way in earnest, and some months after Dust514 has gone live, CCP will take the time to evaluate a return to avatar game play.  By then we should be in mid-2013 and over 18 months into focused polishing and fixing of EVE’s core gameplay.  I don’t expect to see the POs revamp delivered until winter 2013 and next year should see focus shifted onto iterating null sec mechanics.

So maybe, just maybe, we might see CCP reopening the development pipeline for avatar development in EVE.  Who knows where World of Darkness will be by the end of 2013, with any luck the backburner work on WoD (its still out there, somewhere) will push the Carbon avatar tech forwards a bit in the meantime.  CCP have invested a lot on this stuff over the years, it really is just a question of how much longer before they finally get somewhere with it all.

 

 

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