What Happens in EVE Vegas...

EVE Vegas, previously a player-run event and now managed directly by CCP Games, has become the unofficial "Fanfest for North America". With now more than 500 attendees, it has been growing every year, and has become an important venue for announcing news about developments for EVE Online. A more frequent expansion release schedule, begun this year, also provides CCP Games with more opportunities to reveal plans for upcoming features, and they took advantage of this year's EVE Vegas event to do exactly that.

In a keynote presentation by CCP Seagull, Executive Producer for EVE Online, accompanied by developer CCP Fozzie, some important additional features were unveiled for Pheobe, to be released on November 4th:

  • New exploration content - for expert explorers, Pheobe will introduce new places in space that will be more challenging to find (and presumptively, more lucrative).
  • New "glass cannon" modules - these will be Tech II modules that greatly enhance weapons, but take defensive resists to zero - there were a lot of enthusiastic oohs and ahhs uttered at this announcement. CCP Fozzie was quick to say that these modules would be expensive, and not cost-effective for suicide ganking, but it will be interesting to see how these are applied by creative capsuleers.
  • Corporate kick queue - the first part of a planned series of changes to improve the atrocious corporate management functions in EVE Online. This will enable corp directors to kick unwanted members at downtime. This new capability addresses a headache that has long plagued corp leaders who want to swiftly kick AWOXers and other troublemakers from their ranks.

CCP Fozzie also teased a few features planned for the Rhea release, planned for December:

  • New ship designs - the Blackbird (and its variants, the Falcon and Rook) will get a new ship skin that looks more like a mean, sensor-encrusted electronic warfare ship.
Concept art of a head-on view of the new Blackbird ship skin - angular and bristling with antennae.

Concept art of a head-on view of the new Blackbird ship skin - angular and bristling with antennae.

  • The "Tug" - a new, specialized freighter with a huge Ship Maintenance Array, enough to carry several fitted battleships, for hauling ships around for rapid deployment. Incursion runners will find this very useful, as well as any group who wants to rapidly relocate many ships to new bases.
The "Tug" (not the final name) is a freighter-sized ship with a massive Ship Maintenance Bay.

The "Tug" (not the final name) is a freighter-sized ship with a massive Ship Maintenance Bay.

  • Tech III Tactical Destroyers - the result of the recent "research race" live event, these new ships will become available to the Amarr first, then the Minmatar, then the Caldari, and finally, to the Gallente. (Fozzie gave a well-deserved special mention to Guillome Renard, who tried to organize an independent capsuleer effort as part of the event, though he came up short.) These new destroyers will not work like Tech III Strategic Cruisers - that is, they will not have subsystems. Instead, they will have three modes that can be rapidly switched in space: Defensive (higher resists and lower signature), Speed (higher velocity and agility), and Sniper (longer range, shorter lock times and stronger sensors). Further, the ships will have animations that show the different modes that have been activated, similar to how Marauders change for bastion mode.
Early conceptual designs for an Amarr Tech III Tactical Destroyer, showing possible ship configurations for different modes: defensive, speed and sniper.

Early conceptual designs for an Amarr Tech III Tactical Destroyer, showing possible ship configurations for different modes: defensive, speed and sniper.

Look for the Future

While the announcements for new features in the next couple of expansion releases are interesting, they are less important than CCP Seagull's comments on the strategic direction of EVE Online.

  • Game mechanics in EVE Online should have more unpredictable outcomes - CCP Seagull emphasized that developers will be changing the game in ways that produce less predictable outcomes. The intention is to enable players to succeed by outplaying other players in the game, not by simply mastering the mechanics of the game.
  • Challenging old truths - CCP devs are questioning long-standing opinions and game mechanic designs in EVE Online. CCP Seagull said several times that big changes are in store for how things work in the sandbox - I suspect that this is especially true in whatever "new world" will be opened by the planned player-built stargates. In CCP Rise's presentation on the new player experience, he described a side project investigating introduction of a "permadeath" option to players - these characters would have faster skill training and perhaps other advantages, but would lose all or most of their skills when dying. There's no planned date for releasing this, but it's a good example of how CCP devs are looking at game mechanics in new ways.
  • Develop for every style of play in the EVE Online sandbox - while many of the recent changes have been focused on null sec space, CCP Seagull pointed out that there will be more content coming through 2015 for solo players, small gangs, and inhabitants for every kind of space in New Eden.
  • The roadmap is evolving - Seagull showed a revised strategic roadmap for development of new game capabilities. Essentially, it shows a more immediate timetable for sovereignty, corporations and alliances, and on stations. Previously, these were listed sequentially, but as CCP Games gets more experience with their 10-times-a-year release schedule, they are beginning to address key aspects of the game faster than previously anticipated.

CCP Seagull's revised strategic roadmap for development of EVE Online

  • Lore is becoming even more important - Both Fozzie and Seagull repeated that players should look for clues about future developments in in-game news reports, not just in official dev blogs. As the recent live event showed, introductions of changes and new features will be preceded by announcements in the in-game lore. Players have to pay attention to the backstory of EVE Online if they want to stay a step ahead and anticipate changes before they happen.

I attended EVE Vegas two years ago, and had a good time there, but I decided to watch it on the Twitch live stream this time. After seeing how much the event has grown, and how CCP Games is investing in it to make it a meaningful experience, I think I may make a pilgrimage to Vegas next year. If it continues to offer the substantive content that I've seen thus far, it will be worth the investment.

Fly safe! o7