Oceanus: Nice

Tomorrow, CCP Games releases Oceanus, the latest expansion for EVE Online. Earlier this year, the company changed from unveiling two big updates per year to a more rapid release schedule, now about every six weeks. Oceanus is the third such release since the development policy change, and is arguably lighter in content than the preceding two expansions. Still, it contains some useful features worth a quick study.

Module Rebalancing, Part I

Perhaps the most significant feature in Oceanus is the beginning of reorganizing variants of modules for ships into specific roles, rather than only by meta level. This means that different variants of the same type of module will have specific individual advantages, such as better capacitor efficiency, improved range, better tracking or easier fitting. The possible variant advantages will differ based on the module type, and some of the "named" (meta 1-4) modules will be eliminated or consolidated where warranted.

Multiple levels of "names" and "faction" module variants will start to be streamlined and consolidated, beginning with the Oceanus expansion.

Module variants will also use a consistent naming scheme, to make it easier for players to know what bonuses are being applied to each variant. Players will no longer have to memorize arbitrary names (e.g., "Limos" or "Arbalest") to understand what their module variant does for their ship.

In the Crius expansion, the following module types are being rebalanced:

  • Capacitor Flux Coils
  • Cargo Scanners
  • Ship Scanners
  • Survey Scanners
  • Co-processors
  • Reactor Control Units
  • Micro Auxiliary Power Cores
  • Light Missile Launchers

There are some interesting changes included in this iteration of module rebalancing that are worth noting. The Scoped Survey Scanner now offers a significantly longer scan range (20km), which will be of interest to miners. Ship scanner variants also got a bit of an improvement to their range. Most of the Capacitor Flux Coil variants got significantly buffed for cap capacity and recharge rate, and with easier fitting requirements. MAPCs got slightly easier to fit, as well. However, Light Missile Launchers got nerfed with a longer activation time.

This is just the beginning of the module tiercide initiative, and it will require many expansions to see it come to completion. Players are well advised to read CCP Fozzie's dev blog on this project, and to examine the Oceanus patch notes for details on module changes in this update.

Turning Burners to 11

With the popularity of the tough Level 4 "burner missions" released in Hyperion, Oceanus will include some new variants that add logistics support for NPC targets, which should make them even more challenging.

Since the burner missions were partly intended to provide a bridge to the more difficult challenge of player-versus-player (PvP) combat, the reaction of players must be pleasing to CCP Games' devs. Pilots are learning to take burner missions on with better optimized fits, and increasingly, in small gangs.

As for me, I find burner missions to be a tough nut to crack as a solo pilot. Nevertheless, I must admit that I've enjoyed them, even after losing a couple assault frigates in the process. I'm looking forward to trying the variants with logistics ships, though they sound even harder than the first batch.

Pretty Pictures, Seen and Unseen

Oceanus will include some graphics improvements, including new nebulae backgrounds for wormholes, and a slick new ship cloaking effect. Initial reaction to the new wormhole backgrounds has been mixed, as some of their colors do not make the class of a wormhole immediately apparent, as before. The new ship cloak effect, however, is a big improvement over the old transparent outline - pilots can now see the orientation of their cloaked ships easier, and the animations for cloaking and uncloaking are more elaborate.

Perhaps more significant is a change to the underlying file structure for ships, even though players will see no visual results in the game - yet. This change provides a foundation for future ship customization options - a feature that pilots have been demanding for a long time. It's good to see CCP Games making progress on this - though when we will actually be able to tweak the appearance of our ships is, as yet, unknown.

CCP Mankiller teased us with a picture showing the potential of a universe in which EVE Online pilots get to put custom paint jobs and logos on their ships. Soon™ - (drool!)

People who like to dress up their avatar or ship will now be able to view items in three dimensions in the New Eden Store, before they purchase clothing or a new ship skin. That should help make the shopping experience a little more compelling for obsessive collectors like me, who are motivated to own at least one of everything - much to the delight of CCP Games, no doubt.

Better Notifications

Oceanus will include an opt-in feature for a new consolidated notification system. Although this feature is designed to help new players, I am planning to turn it on, as I've noticed a lot of inconsistency about the various kinds of notifications in the game: new contracts received, insurance expiration, industry messages, etc. I hope the improved notification system provides more uniformity for in-game messages, and I'm keen to give it a try.

Help for EFT Warriors

I am a big fan of the free utility application, EVE Fitting Tool (EFT), and I use it often to play with various ship configurations. Oceanus will provide the ability to import and export in-game fittings from and to third-party fitting applications, including EFT and Pyfa. Now you will be able to set up the perfect fit in EFT, and export it easily into a stored fitting in game.

For "EFT warriors" like myself, this is will save a lot of time and effort. Kudos to CCP Karkur for adding this convenience to the game!

Little Things Make a Difference

There are a variety of the usual small corrections and tweaks also included in Oceanus, but one merits special mention: the ability to name different jump clones. Whenever I do a clone jump, I find myself checking and double-checking my implants in multiple clones, to make sure I'm jumping into the right one. Now, I can add a descriptive name, like "Interceptor Pilot" or "Orca Support", and know exactly what clone I want. It's a little thing, but one that will make jump clone management and execution of jumps a lot less stressful.

It's Nice

Overall, Oceanus is a nice little expansion, with several attractive features and improvements. But that is just about all I can say about it - it's nice. There's nothing in it that makes me think that the average daily log-in counts will go either up or down. There's nothing deeply offensive about it - nor is there anything that will draw hordes of unwashed masses into the EVE Online universe.

It's just... nice.

While I appreciate the value of a more frequent release schedule, in alignment with agile development methods, I am beginning to worry about what kind of features that CCP Games is planning for EVE Online. Is there anything on the horizon that will wow the public and draw lots of enthusiastic new blood into the game? Or will we continue to see mostly small incremental improvements, with relatively little fanfare? Not that improvements are a bad thing - not at all - but I think that the long-term success of EVE Online depends on both little and big releases. And that makes me wonder: what is the next big thing?

While the industry revamp in Hyperion/Crius was no doubt pretty big - as shown by the significant increase in players running industrial jobs - it wasn't the kind of new, exciting feature that draws in a lot of new players. Will the planned changes to corporation management, starbases, and null-sec sovereignty be big enough to stimulate more interest in EVE Online? Or will they simply appease the current player base enough to keep their subscriptions running? I strongly suspect that the latter is more likely.

So, thanks, CCP Games, for Oceanus. It looks solid - nice job. Keep up the good work. I sure hope you've got something big and impressive cooking in the back room, though.

Fly safe! o7