BB #74: Fanfest 2016's Biggest Reveal

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 74th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

So when this Blog Banter goes live, Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a "nerd-boner".  What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

Clearly, the focus of Fanfest this year was on Citadels, which add whole new levels of player control and game play options. When the expansion is released this week, I'm certain there will be a massive rush to try out all the new features of the new structures.

Citadels are the first of an entirely new line of structures, and will soon be followed by more specialized industry, mining and other platforms. Structures will likely change how players interact in EVE in many profound and unpredictable ways. 

But Citadels and structures are not the biggest new things shown at Fanfest this year. Two other reveals were much more important to the future success of CCP Games and EVE Online.

I want to be Tron

The first of these is Project Arena. Though not yet completely ready for general release, this virtual reality (VR) game could be a bigger hit in that rapidly emerging market than EVE:Valkyrie. I had a chance to try the demo and found it to be very easy to understand while being challenging and fun to play. Think of the flying disc scene in the original Tron movie and you get an idea of what Project Arena feels like.

This is the kind of game that appeals to a very wide audience. If it were to become the reason that people buy a couple sets of VR goggles, then it could become a huge moneymaker for CCP. Project Arena has that kind of mass appeal.

Fixing the Leaky Bucket

The second big reveal was the introduction of CCP Ghost, who will be leading the new Team Genesis on refining the new player experience (NPE). According to him, EVE has no trouble attracting new players. Nearly 1.4 million people tried EVE Online last year. The problem is keeping them - more than half gave up in less than two hours. 

CCP Ghost

CCP Ghost

The opportunity system introduced last year succeeded in providing help and guidance to novices as they were flying in space, but it did not go far enough. Those opportunities covered the essential mechanics, but they did so without context.

CCP Ghost believes that new players want a safe zone in which to be guided to mastery when first starting the game, then relaxing that support as players become more proficient. One way to do this is to put the new player in a narrative, in which they complete tasks that are relevant to an emerging story. This approach not only explains how to do things correctly, but also provides reasons why one would do them.

This would help new players to develop an emotional connection to their character and give them a greater sense of achievement. The rich backstory of EVE Online provides ample opportunities for engaging players in the game, and also provides a way to show how they can create their own meaningful story inside that universe. 

in addition, CCP Ghost wants to give new players more "pinnacle moments" of deep, exciting engagement. Many new players join EVE after reading or hearing about large battles or wars, but then they discover that they may not have such an experience in the game immediately, and drop out. By giving a new player a taste of such experiences - in a simulation or an NPC scenario, perhaps - that interest is reinforced, and the player remains, wanting more,.

This is the kind of NPE that EVE Online needs badly. Today, plenty of new blood is pouring into the game, but like a bucket with big holes drilled into it, EVE's current NPE is letting far too many of those players to leak out far too quickly. If CCP Ghost and Team Genesis can close those holes, then the impact on the game would be extraordinary.

Imagine what EVE would be like with double its current population, and the funds for new feature development that growth would provide to CCP. It would change everything.

Fly safe! o7



BB #73: More EVE-Inspired Games, Please

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 73rd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

So soon™ we will have Eve Online, Valkyrie, Gunjack and the as yet untitled FPS to replace DUST514/Project Legion. Are we missing anything else? Are then any other games CCP should be looking into? Colony building simulators in the style of Sim City or Rimworld? Should it be on a grander scale link Civilization or Stronghold Kingdoms? How about RTS games like Command and Conquer? Survival games such as Rust? Planet-based combat like World of Tanks? Would you like to see other game types expanding the Eve Universe, or should CCP stick to what it knows?

More games inspired by the EVE universe? Yes, please!

At past Fanfests, CCP Games have displayed some EVE Online-inspired arcade games, which attendees could play. I always took the opportunity to give them a whirl, and they were fun, though they are laughably much less sophisticated than EVE Online, both in graphics quality and in gameplay.

EVE Offline, an EVE-inspired arcade game displayed at Fanfest 2013.

Still, despite their relative simple side-scrolling designs, I liked playing them, mostly because they were tenuously connected to the EVE universe. And I'm a sucker for just about anything fun that is somehow affiliated with EVE.

At last year's Fanfest, I had the opportunity to try the prototype Gunjack game, and though its gameplay was very similar in feel to the arcade games, it was a completely different and much more entertaining experience, thanks to the 3-D virtual reality design.

Would I have enjoyed Gunjack as much if it was not set in the EVE universe? I doubt it - using my turret to defend against an onslaught of EVE ships was a special thrill. If they had been generic sci-fi ships or monsters, I'm sure it would still be interesting, but not nearly as immersive for me, as I was already familiar with the enemy ship designs.

If CCP Games continues to leverage the art assets from the EVE Online world in other kinds of games, it can only help more players to feel that kind of connection to the EVE Universe. After more people play EVE: Valkyrie, for example, and become more familiar the ship designs, they will probably feel the kind of connection in another EVE-inspired title, even if they never try EVE Online.

In a previous blog post, I described an idea for a "game within the game" in EVE Online: an enhancement or replacement for planetary interaction that would simulate the struggle for capsuleer control of planetary surfaces - the opportunity to become a regent of an entire world, or of many worlds. I envisioned something that would play like a simplified version of multiplayer Civilization, integrated into the EVE Online client. But it wouldn't have to operate that way - it could be separated entirely from the EVE client, and run with a different interface altogether.

At one time, CCP Games played with the idea of mobile-device based games and services connected to EVE Online. But this project lost steam after CCP Unifex left. Perhaps it is time to take another look at this idea, and use different platforms to interact with different aspects of New Eden. Why can't I update my planetary interaction or market orders on my iPad, for example? Or use my mobile phone to log orders for planetary surface conquests within EVE Online?

When DUST 514 came out, I wanted to try it, but I don't own a game console and have no desire to get one. I play games on my PC. When Project Legion was described a couple Fanfests ago, I was excited, even though it was a kick in the teeth to the Playstation users. I'd like to be able to use my PC to play both EVE Online and whatever EVE-inspired first-person shooter that CCP ultimately releases. Ideally, I'd like to see these integrated into the same universe, but I'll play the EVE-inspired FPS even if it isn't directly connected to my exploits in EVE Online.

After the Incarna expansion disaster, CCP gave up on developing "walking in stations" - ever since, the station door in our captains quarters has remained closed. But now I wonder if CCP could build upon its expertise in VR development, and make the captains quarters and walking in stations a virtual reality experience?

Imagine docking in station, accessing the captains quarters, and then strapping on an Oculus Rift to experience that as a first-person three-dimensional virtual world, and then being able to open the door to interact with other player avatars in a realistic setting? I can see how players could interact in casinos and markets, talk to agents, or swap intel with each other. I can see how some games could be simulated into this virtual world. At Fanfest last year, CCP demonstrated a prototype VR game where two players hurled fireballs at each other - it was a lot of fun, once you got the hang of it. I can see how this could be expanded for use within a simulated station environment in EVE Online - perhaps even as Mind Clash bouts between players, with significant wagering options. I know I'd certainly give it a try.

The opportunity for more EVE-inspired games, either standalone or integrated in some way with EVE Online, is limitless. I hope CCP Games' new commercial ventures - EVE: Valkyrie and Gunjack - are successful, so they can continue to experiment with more game experience ideas. It's going to be a lot of fun to see where they go.

Fly safe! o7

BB #72: What's Your Roadmap?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 72nd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

This month's blog banter is inspired by Sugar Kyle's recent post on her blog, Lowsec Lifestyle:

In the producer session [at the Council of Stellar Management summit meeting]... we discussed the [EVE Online development] roadmap.

We discussed what 'our' ideal roadmap would be. This breaks down into the individual roadmaps for each member of the CSM. After all, we are individuals and we have different dreams for EVE. We have different goals and features that we want to move forward or go back to.

How close are we to what CCP is looking at and planning? We discussed their safety measures to weigh the value of features. What will this feature do for EVE? It is not enough to have an ideal roadmap of things you want. Those things have to have value and that value needs to be enough to dedicate the time to the feature.

Do you have an ideal roadmap? A path for Eve to head in the next year or two once we move past [the] Citadel [update in the spring]?

I have always liked CCP Seagull's roadmap for EVE Online. When she first revealed it at Fanfest in 2014, it gave me confidence that the future of the game was in good hands. Here's what that original roadmap looked like:

Since then, as parts of this grand plan have come to fruition, the roadmap has evolved, though it is still driving towards new space to explore. The latest version looks like this:

This revised roadmap still depicts an ambitious and exciting direction for EVE Online, and I generally like how it is being manifest in the game. With the Citadel update in the spring, we will see the first of the new structures in space, and capital ship warfare will be redefined (and hopefully, dramatically improved). CCP Seagull's vision is actually being realized, albeit more slowly than I'm sure everyone would like to see.

Some CCP devs have also given us some tantalizing hints about how other aspects of the roadmap are progressing, including changes to the standings system, further refinements of corporations and alliances (including, perhaps, support for informal social societies), development of dynamic PvE content, better NPC interaction, and incorporation of player-built stargates. Beyond that is still a mystery, but we seem inexorably moving closer to unexplored new space.

All this good work is very welcome, but there are a few things that I would love to see added explicitly to the official framework. Perhaps some of these are already part of the overarching plan, but it's difficult to discern, as they've not been explicitly mentioned.

  • Wardec mechanics: After capital ship combat is redefined, I think it's time to also take another look at war declaration mechanics, which haven't been changed significantly since the Inferno update in April 2012. I've written about this in a prior post, and there are some good ideas being collected and debated over on Jason Quixos' blog
  • PvE: I know that CCP Affinity and other devs are working on improving player-versus-environment content, specifically missions, ratting and exploration, among other things, but I think this is perhaps the most important "next big thing" for CCP to emphasize, as it will affect the largest number of players in the game, especially new ones. I'd like to see more unpredictable, dynamic and engaging PvE designed both for solo and team play.
  • Mining and resource gathering: While we're on the subject of PvE activities, let's not forget about mining, please. At the very least, can we please have some other options for finding and gathering resources - like harvesting planetary rings, comets and remote Oort cloud phenomena? And can we get some additional mechanics for team-based mining activities? Finally, shall we take a hard look at the passive ISK generator known as moon mining?
  • Player organizations and social groups: This is already on the official roadmap under "Corporations & Alliances", but I hope that includes full in-game support for corporations, alliances and coalitions, and also for cross-corporation social societies like NPSI groups.
  • Planetary management: This is a pet project of mine, but one that I think would provide a whole new and popular dimension to EVE Online. See my last post for details.
  • More realistic NPC interactions/options: This may sound like a variant of PvE enhancement, but what I mean here is that players need more meaningful interactions with NPC entities. If I start killing off all the pirate anomalies in a system, I should expect to see some increasing resistance and reinforcement against my efforts, for example. And I'd like to see more options for using NPCs in useful ways, such as securing their services for escort duty or for structure protection. They may never match the capability of flying with other players, to be sure, but at least that would provide some interesting options for players. And here's a crazy idea: allow players to hire NPC mercenaries to target other players or corporations, anonymously - imagine the possibilities.
  • Fix the standings system: The current standings system needs a serious revamp. Player actions should have realistic consequences, everywhere, with serious and immediate implications for relations with NPC entities - both positively and negatively.
  • Enable more solo PvP: We need more gladiators in EVE Online! The lone 1-on-1 engagement is becoming too rare in EVE Online. The ability to duel was a good first step, but I think we need some more formal in-game mechanics to enable solo combat scenarios - simple mission rooms that only allow two players in them, for example, with a system-wide challenge issued when one player enters such a room. Formal 1-on-1 (or perhaps even 2-on-2, 3-on-3, or other options) arena combat facilities in various empire systems. Let's make it easier for individual pilots to find and get more good fights, and for small groups to find fights of similar size, too.
  • Expand the NPE framework: The opportunity-based new player experience was a good start, but it needs to go further, and also include links to more substantive tutorials, where warranted.
  • Give Faction Warfare some love: Getting into FW is a little clunky, at present - that needs to be made a lot clearer and easier, especially for new players unfamiliar with EVE Online. Some additional iteration here would be a good thing.
  • Deep space exploration: I don't mean new regions of space here, which is the ultimate goal of the current roadmap, but new exploration content. The present system is basically a variant of mission rooms. I would like to see the option to go into deep space at the very fringes of systems - or even longer-term trips in-between current star systems - using designated science vessels in search of new discoveries: new anomalies, rogue planets, dark matter, black holes, strange new wormholes to who knows where, giant space whales (just kidding - but perhaps not really?). Who wouldn't be interested in the opportunity "to boldly go where no one has gone before", in EVE Online? Perhaps this could be a precursor to the final stage of the current roadmap, leading to genuinely new space, which players could then construct stargates to reach directly.

That's my wish list for roadmap additions. As I said, some of these may already be in development, but we just don't know yet. But I suspect there may be a few ideas here that might be welcome additions. Feel free to take any ideas, CCP Games - I'll just be delighted to see some of them come to fruition.

Fly safe! o7