The new Vanguard update comes out on Tuesday, and it includes some nice features: adjustments to null-sec sovereignty and movement, a multiple item purchase capability (a.k.a., "multibuy"), new burner missions, a couple handy graphical timers - and of most interest to me: a re-balance of battlecruisers, which hopefully will revitalize interest in them once again.
CCP Games have done an outstanding job in providing an impressive number of new features and updates over the last year. The Vanguard update is a good example of incremental improvements coming out of CCP's more frequent release cycle. I always read the patch notes of each new release, looking for hidden gems. There is one particular area of potential improvement that I always look for, but so far, I've been disappointed. It's a mundane, simple thing, but one that every single EVE Online player uses - in-game EVE mail.
The Value of Corp Mail
When I was a director for EVE University, in-game mail was both my primary connection to my fellow Unistas, and also the biggest pain in my daily duties. When you have more than a couple thousand members needing attention to their various concerns, in-game e-mail is indispensable. E-UNI has its own forum with integrated direct messaging as well, but the majority of members used the EVE mail system in the client to communicate with corporate leadership. It was an odd day that I didn't have at least a couple dozen or more new messages in my inbox.
To be honest, managing the never-ending inflow of mail contributed to the decidedly un-fun parts of being a director of a large corp, and is one of the reasons why I left E-UNI to pursue a solo career in New Eden.
Nevertheless, if you are in corporate leadership, the in-game mail client is a valuable tool for keeping in touch with your corpmates, and for helping to maintain a unified culture. We regularly transmitted corporation-wide bulletins about new classes and events, and pointed people to posts on our forums for more details. You can't expect everyone to read the forums all the time, but you can be sure that they will get a notification ping the next time they log in if you send a mail bulletin.
Some Little Used Niceties of EVE Mail
I became a master of using labels in EVE mail to classify and sort various types of messages, so I wouldn't lose track of them. In this regard, the EVE Mail system is a nice way to organize communications by project. At one time, I had a couple dozen different labels, each related to some new corporate initiative. It's a feature that too few people know about or use.
Mailing lists are also a source of useful information in the game, but are infrequently used, sadly. I belong to the Arek'Jalaan mailing list, for example, and find the role-playing contributions from the various player characters to be fascinating. This has enabled me to keep ahead of some of the most recent developments in the lore, often before the official in-game news bulletins have been published.
I also use EVE Gate to access in-game mail, from time to time. This is an underutilized feature that has proven to be extraordinarily handy when I'm traveling in Real Life and can't log in on the client for a while. You can just use your browser to log into EVE Gate, and select the mail feature. You can examine and update your corporate calendar there, too.
My Wish List for EVE Mail
There are a few features I'd like to see incorporated into EVE Mail.
Selective Mass Mailings
Ever tried to send the same mail to a group of selected people in EVE Mail, other than to the entire corporation or alliance? It's awful. Each character name you enter in the "To" line gets individually validated, as you enter them. Generally, this is a good thing, as it prevents you from using incorrect character names, but it really makes sending the same message to a couple dozen people slow and difficult. It is easier, most of the time, to just copy the body of the message, and send individual mails to each character, pasting the main message in each. Is this clunky and time-consuming? Definitely.
I'm sure that CCP Games does not support on-the-fly selective mass mailing to prevent people from spamming people into oblivion, and to keep the use of EVE mail at a minimum for client performance optimization - both good reasons - but this definitely makes the use of in-game mail less useful. I've tried setting up a variety of mailing lists to handle selective mass mailings, but if you have volatile groups of people coming and going, as we did at E-UNI, this becomes a bigger headache than help.
This whole issue would go away if there was full support for out-of-game email clients - see below.
Searchable Mailing Lists
Ever try to find a mailing list? You can't do it in the EVE Mail client. There's no listing provided, and there's no way to search for one. This is a shame, as there are a number of useful public mailing lists in game that could be of interest to players. I'd like to see a way to search for these lists, preferably in the client, or at least through something outside the client like EVE Gate.
Forwarding of Communications
"Communications" are different than regular EVE Mail - they are messages from non-player-characters and alerts about in-game occurances, such as when a war has been declared or when your POS is about to run out of fuel. Currently, these communications are not visible outside of the client, which is a major inconvenience.
I would love to see the option of either copying or redirecting selected communications to my inbox, so that I can get an out-of-game alert via EVE Gate whenever one of these important events occurs. I know that CCP Games would prefer that we all log in regularly to see these kinds of things, but imagine how much more convenient it would be if we didn't have to.
Full E-mail Client Support
In my ideal world, I would have an official in-game EVE email address - "NevilleSmit@EVEOnline.com", for example (this is an invalid address, by the way, so don't try to use it). All my in-game mail and communications would go to this address, and I could pull this up in the Real World on my Microsoft Outlook email application or on my iPhone, without having to use my browser to access EVE Gate. In short, I'd love to see full POP3 / SMTP support for in-game EVE mail. Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?
I suspect that CCP Games does not want to get into the third-party email services business, and so they have avoided this degree of openness with in-game mail. Still, I Iong for the convenience this kind of in-game mail access would provide.
The Future of EVE Mail
I scoured the latest CSM Summit Meeting minutes, and found only one reference to EVE mail:
Mike [Azariah] - Do you have anything to do with in game mail? Is there the ability to put in forwarding?
CCP Foxfour - You'll need to contact CCP karkur or CC Punkturis for this.
Perhaps future EVE Mail improvements might appear in the countless "little things" of invaluable fixes and additions that we've been seeing over the last year or so. Admittedly, this is not a glamorous area of interest for most of the EVE Online player community, and not a developer priority. But I think most people just don't realize what they are missing. Improving and extending the functionality of EVE Mail beyond the game client would provide more connection and access to the game, and keep people engaged. I hope CCP Foxfour's comment in the Summit Meeting minutes means that they are working on such functionality. I, for one, would love to see it.
Fly safe! o7
The ever-responsive CCP karkur gave me a helpful workaround for selected mass mailings, via Twitter:
Yeah, a little awkward, but definitely a better option! Thanks, CCP karkur!