Monday, April 14, 2014

A Look at the History of Expansions - Part Three

A Look at the History of Expansions - The Series

Previous Entry: Castor

The second expansion, Castor landed with barely a ripple in the water of Eve space physics. Eve Online was launched in the days of Ultima Online. Ultima was at its peak in 2003. World of Warcraft would not enter the scene until 2004 and EverQuest was king. But Eve was a spaceship MMO and it was churning through a world of uneven reviews while hitting its first year.

Currently, CCP is on a bi-yearly expansion schedule. However, there were eleven long months' between Castor's launch and the release of the next expansion: Exodus. Eleven months is a long time. Why so long? It turned out that the answer was not what I expected.

Following Castor CCP was not sitting back and hoping that Eve would run along smoothly. There are eleven patches that create the Castor expansion and one hundred and four dev blogs written during 2004. Exodus's release date is December of 2004. I was curious about why it took CCP so long to do their next expansion? I thought that it was a side effect of  a time when bi-yearly expansions were not a normal event. Many people still purchased Eve off of the shelves. That alone is going to slow down any production cycle for an expansion. But it turns out that no, it was not that at all.

There is a missing expansion and it was called: Shiva.

Come walk with me through time.

It is now 2004. This is a more common time to find players starting from. Eve was in a weird spot. A gamespot review from June of 2003 is labeled, "There's something to be said for EVE's unusually slow-paced approach to the online role-playing genre, but a strong recommendation isn't it." People were used to being handed a goal and missions and the lack was startling. However, it is a review from April of 2004 that shows Eve has appeal to a certain type of player:
"Many people when playing this game for the first time FAIL to see the depth of the game. There is a lot going on here. Very much of the game can be, if you want it to be, politics between rival corporations and alliances of corporations. Huge wars and many minor fights are going on often."
That sounds awful familiar. It is obvious that Eve at its start is still Eve at its current. The soul of the game is the same. The words typed by reviewers are identical to the ones today. But, the mechanics must keep the soul in the body and the mechanics are what we looked at before the release of the third expansion.

According to the above reviewer, most of the launch bugs had been worked out. That is good. It must be noted that he wrote in April. That means people were dealing with these bugs for a full year. That is going to mean a lot of frustrated people chomping at the bit. Buggy launches are the norm now and they frustrate us. I can only imagine the frustration back in 2003 when games tended to be released well polished.

It is January, a month after Castor's release. It is also January 1st, the New Year and Eve players are celebrating in game. All five thousand, six hundred and five of them. Hellmar is optimistic. Eve will capture the world record of players playing in the same world in no time. I smile because I know the future. But what I also notice in the Dev blogs from this time is that CCP is in touch with their player base. Requsts for images, videos, blogs, and write ups are made to the player base. They ask about reviews. MMORPG rated them at 6.9 for fun. It is now up to 7.4 but it reflects the truth. Eve is fun but Eve is more interesting than fun. When we sit down and describe this game and drown in the depths of it fun is one of the last words many use. Intense, deep, absorbing, fascinating, vast, may all fall from the lips or trail from finger tips. But fun? "Yeah, we do have fun in there, but we are busy doing stuff. It will be fun later."

Alliances were in the game. I was not sure if alliances, like coalitions, were player made instead of game supported. However, from this Dev blog comes our current standing systems and makes it seem that alliances appear to have existed. It seems that standings, originally, were  from -10 to +10. They changed it to a series of .5 jumps. This is the same standings system we still work from. This is also one of the longer Dev blogs that I have seen. They start to flesh out a bit after this, depending on who is writing them. Hellmar has a tendency for short notes to the players. He does better now.

But the alliance system was messy. The initial alliance system appears to have been standings based. That changed a few weeks later and CCP decided to introduce what is amost the current alliance system which is a mirror of the corporation system. Instead of players as the members, corporations are the members. This was also back when war costs were dictated by the number of players in the corporations. With these chances an entire alliance would gain the wars of a corporation. That sounds rather familiar.

It is now the end of January, 2004 and Eve is about to break seven thousand consecutive users in one universe. CCP is obviously excited about this. Just under two weeks later they create the first Buddy Invites. Three days free for a friend to get a taste of Eve Online. It is new. It is bold. It is inventive and it is still here and one of the ways that we draw people into the game.

The patches are also hitting the game at a fairly steady pace and Eve is stablizing somewhat. Content is coming with each patch they add. New missions, better agents, new items. The agents were nicer then as well.
High sec agents won't send you to low sec areas, specifically an agent cannot send you deeper into pirate space than current sec status - 0.25.
Gyrostabalizers used to give a rate of fire bonus. Missiles no longer have splash damage except for Torpeods. Area effects are mostly being removed already. There is too much lag and basically, people are killing each other with it. Whoops.

Missions were more interesting. Level 4 agents are being introduced. But notes such as, "NPCs now sometimes drop Ships logs giving directions to scenarios," show an interest in PvE. In storylines and an interconnected world. There are escrow missions that you have a week to complete. Insurance policies are now three months long and base line insurance has been added. That faucet is an old faucet.

The interface is still primitive. Unassembled modules will not assemble themselves and fit to the ship. Not yet, anyway. But what strikes my interest is the note about what happens if you fit a module to your ship in space.
Previously, it was possible to load an unassembled module on a ship. Now, if a ship has an unassembled module fitted to it, the module will be moved into the cargo hold. If there is insufficient space in the cargo hold and the ship is in space, the module will be jettisoned. Otherwise, the module will be destroyed. This is a bug fix. (Castor V.1413)
Does this mean we could once refit on the fly without station, capital, or POS module?

A live event happened. What familiar names! CCP t0rfifrans enters with a Dev blog looking back over an event. Sadly, the links are all broken to the screenshots collected by the players during the siege of Crielere. There is a video link to the Event, with a note about how Dev's used to run Live Events.

Oh ECM, our ECM... welcome the birth of Falcon.
The modules in the category of Electronic Warfare are: ECM Target Jammers, Jump Scramblers, Stasis Webifiers, Remote Sensor Dampeners and Tracking Disruptors. The changes wanted are dimmishing effectness by range and a random factor. The proposed change is to give these modules Optimal Range (where effectiveness of stats are 100%) and add to it Fall Off Range (where the effectivness would dimmish from max at end of Optimal Range to 0 at the end of the Fall Off Range).
We are only a quarter through the year. CCP is working hard at the game. The official patch note archives are announced. What is now casual reading once did not exist. And the first incarnation of the Eve store was formed. That one, we were told, was handled by the front desk of the office shipping out orders as they had spare time.

The content is still pouring in. Medium drones are added. Hulls are getting dual bonuses. The T2 ships are in the game and being used. Undocking speed enters the game so that ships leave the station at a constant speed no matter the size. Cloaking restrictions happen and warping to bookmarks is very much a thing.

The Guardian-Vexor, oh holy of holy drone boats, is born.

It looks as if Officers spawns are introduced here too, but they are introduced as pirate faction spawns that may sometimes dropped named loot and:
Advanced Learning Skills that boost character attributes are now available on the market. (Cator v.1755)
Learning skills! Yay! Now everyone will train faster with just the tiniest of time investments for a big payoff. I'm sure the game is overcome with delight.

Eve has broken eight thousand players on at one time. The ISD system is created. They are already debating player retention and flirt with the idea of giving ISK to groups that take in new players. In this day and age I cringe, but Eve was a simpler more innocent game then. The buddy invite extends to seven days from three. The first rounds of rebalancing starts. The goal is to make frigates more survivable against larger guns. The very core of Eve, the abandonment of a rigid advancement system is right here. Mines, something that do not exist now, once did. They were meant to be used as well, mine fields. Scattered around gates and outposts they would help defend the player possession.

Eve is now a year old. There is no celebration blog. Instead,  just after Eve's first birthday a series of Event Missions went up involving the buying and selling of Jovian bodyparts. This is interesting considering CCP has recently removed a lot of Jovian art assets from the game. Players were introduced to the Jovian's in Eve's first year and now, into the eleventh, Jove is still a something that has never been fully realized. This particular subject is also one of the dev events that older players speak of.

There is an expansion looming. It is named Eve Online: Shiva after a Hinud God. Does anyone have warm memories of Shiva? The name is unfamiliar on the tongue. It is the expansion that never was. Due the summer of 2004 Shiva suffered from testing problems. Eve was having stability issues. Shiva was delayed from its original summer schedule. The last patches for Castor were hitting instead. Shiva was supposed to be a thing. But all the links lead to nothing. It is Eve Online's missing expansion.

In current times we stand upon the edge of an abyss labeled, "Power Projection". It is a dark, dark place and one that we will be diving head first into soon. In July of 2004 Eve was involved in a love and hate situation with instabookmarks. That's right, bookmarks that let you just warp to a gate and jump, bypassing gatelock downs by groups and the important travel time that made Eve feel big and tasks matter. It was risk free movement. Who wanted such a thing?

During this time there were also lots of hardware fixes. Eve was breaking the machines it was running on. With so many people in the game (50,000 subscribers) and people who had subpar machines with 256megs of ram trying to run a game such as Eve, a lot of work was going into reducing lag and improving performance both client and server side. Eve is is now flirting with periods of 10,000 consecutive users.

The first Fanfest is scheduled. In the summer. Not in the cold, cold bitter not really summer but they said it is so its still snowing lol that Fanfest is now. The tickets were also fifty US dollars. Oh the sweet days a decade ago. How cheap a Fedo hunt was back then.

The first year is done. The first Fanfest has come and gone. It is now August and Shiva? Well Shiva has been delayed again. It has been six month's and the expansion keeps getting pushed back and back and back. Behind it, CCP is struggling with hardware problems as they attempt to handle the load Eve is putting on the servers. They are behind and they are having service issues and hardware problems. The last Castor patch is pushed and winter is far, far away.

But there is a promise to be delivered. There are features that CCP is determined to bring forward. But we know there is no expansion named Shiva on CCP's list of expansions for Eve Online. Somewhere, in the next six months, Exodus will be born.
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Resourses:
2004 Eve Online Dev Blogs
Eve Online Launch Review (Gamespot)
Neoseeker Reviews
MMORPH Eve Online Review
Eve Online News: Crielere Labs --The End of the Experiment?
The Spirit of Crielere - Lore
Eve Travel - The Crelere Project
Crielere Event (YouTube)

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