This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the expected impact of the imminent Rubicon expansion for EVE-Online.
A few months ago now when the Rubicon expansion was first announced, my expectations for it were not exactly high. I felt that we were looking at a solid but unremarkable expansion that would deliver good things but nothing much to get overly excited about. I’m starting to get the feeling that I may have been a bit quick to dismiss.
Luckily, I was far from alone. Within days of the initial announcement I was at the Veto EVE meet in London where someone (a blogger or fan news site reporter) had sent their wife around the pub with a notepad and pen asking everyone a couple of simple questions about the announcement. The one that I remember stood out was “how do you think that Rubicon will affect you?”. The answer was almost depressingly identical every time “it probably won’t”.
It wasn’t so much that people didn’t like what was in that initial announcement, they just didn’t think that what few things were announced back then was going to have any real impact on how they play the game. It was regarded as a list of ‘nice to have’ but not very exciting things. I was left thinking that Rubicon would be a similar story to Odyssey, which generally delivered a nice set of improvements to the game but little to really shake things up 0r push the game decisively forwards. Its flagship feature was an exploration revamp which is something I still like to tinker with occasionally but for most players goes largely ignored.
On this, the night before deployment, Rubicon doesn’t feel like it has a flagship feature as such. The cinematic trailer is all about Ghost sites and the shiny new SoE hulls, but I don’t think either will be game changing features. I may well find myself flying an SoE ships and chancing Ghost sites from time to time, but once the novelty wears off I think most people will go back to other things and largely ignore them.
The other poster boy feature is the four new deployable structures. They both look pretty and bring new functionality to the game that I think we will really have to wait and see just what impact they will actually have. It occurred to me while playing yesterday that I might actually have a use for a mobile depot to stash exploration loot in as the hold of my cov ops frig does start to fill up quickly once I get going. On the other hand it might be more hassle than its worth. I dunno, will need to experiment!
But there is what will likely prove to be a game changer in this expansion, and that is the warp speed changes. This is a far reaching change that will impact everyone and likely will influence their choice of ships and fleet doctrines. I think it may be the biggest change to EVE since Crimewatch 2.0 and hopefully it will prove as successful. In this respect, I’m starting to think that Rubicon could be another Retribution.
When Retribution launched, the Bounty Hunting feature was placed front and centre and drummed up the initial excitement along with new destroyer hulls, much like Ghost Sites/SoE ships are doing now. But it turned out that the big win was in Crimewatch 2.0 and the way it freed up low sec PVP from many of the hassles of the old system. Warp speed changes could have a similarly reinvigorating effect in making combat much more fluid and regular as tackle frigates will be able to close in on their prey much faster reducing the chance of targets slipping away. If it works out as hoped, we might find that players are increasingly forced to turn and fight when they might have allowed over-cautious instinct to let them avoid the fight before.
Another thing that Rubicon has going for it is that it is a winter expansion. Of the last four releases, the winter expansions (Retribution, Crucible) have each had a greater player response than the summer releases (Odyssey, Inferno). I can’t help but note that the winter releases also had new ship hulls, while none of the summer releases did. That is probably a significant factor for internet spaceship fans. 😉
Another positive factor emerging lately is that CCP clearly have plans set and work started on Rubicon 1.1 even before the release of 1.0. A couple of times now CCP have referred to work already under way on a second set of deployable structures for the 1.1 release. This kind of forward planning is a great sign that Rubicon will be able to sustain interest over the coming months with a tangible amount of additional content still to come. It also implies that CCP have come a long way in developing a steady work rate and have managed their development resources well enough to get Rubicon 1.0 finished off with enough time to get going on 1.1 before shipping the first instalment. I like this thought a lot!
I also like that we really are seeing CCP show a pattern of commitment to iteration over a long period of time now. As the Factional warfare revamp saw development spread across three expansion cycles, we are now seeing the new ISIS (Interbus Ship Identification System) feature cap off a similar three part delivery. ISIS looks to be a very useful tool for a great many players to help visualise what ships and skills there are in the game and how they fit together. But it comes on the back of the previously reworked skill tree (ship skills in particular) and now the revamped certificates announced in September. CCP do seem to be getting better at breaking problems down into steps that can be tackled in order to build better systems out of.
As time passes I am becoming more confident that CCP have a sound roadmap and that they are learning how to tackle it one piece at a time while bringing those elements together to make EVE a better and more cohesive experience. I’m curious indeed to get my hands on Rubicon, much more than I thought I would be a couple of months ago. It really is nice to say that.