Monday, March 2, 2015

A Look at the History of Expansions - Part Twenty One


Previous Entry: Tyrannis

With Tyrannis came Planetary Interaction, a new source of materials and industrial efforts for Eve Online. Launched at the end of June, Tyrannis is one of five expansions spread over a two and a half year period of frantic and large development from Eve. The patch notes include some interesting little things. The Scorpion for instance is redesigned for Tyrannis to look more like an actual Scorpion. The Dominix also gets turrets and thruster animations which is had been lacking. With its launch, CCP turned towards their next expansion.

The Primea for instance, is released on June 29th, a month after Tyrannis' release as a celebration of the expansion. A ship that is given to everyone with an active subscription to the game the Primea is a celebration of Planetary Interaction. June was also the anniversary of Apocrypha, released a year before. With Apocrypha came the introduction of wormholes and strategic cruisers. Now a year along, the quarterly economic report has a special feature focusing on wormhole and strategic cruiser usage.

There was once an idealistic time in Eve's life where you could not undock with PLEX and lose it in loss mails that made people feel faint. That time is ending. CCP is removing the restrictions on PLEX and while they are doing it they are upgrading the redemption system so that things can be redeemed in player stations as well a NPC stations.
• We will remove the restriction on undocking from a station with a PLEX in your cargo hold
• We will remove the restriction that PLEX cannot be put into courier contracts
• We will remove the restriction that items (including PLEX) can only be redeemed into NPC stations
• We will remove the restriction that items (including PLEX) can only be reverse-redeemed from NPC stations
• We will remove the restriction that ETC can only be converted into PLEX while inside an NPC station
Normally I take these stories week by week but something interesting happens in the middle of the summer. First, CCP takes a moment out to explain what is coming in 2011 and to give an update on Incarna. It is 2010 and we do not yet know what the expansion will be. The second thing is that after CCP does this, the next three months become devoted to development blogs about combating the lag problem in Eve.

But first, in July of 2010 CCP Zulu outlines the future and explains where the development teams are working.

  • First off, Incarna.  (9 teams, approximately 70 developers)
  • Dust 514/EVE link (1 team, approximately 7 developers)
  • In-space features (3 teams, approximately 22 developers)
  • EVE Gate (1 team, approximately 10 developers)
  • The others! (4 teams, approximately 15 developers)
He then goes on to discuss Incarna. They have been teasing it for years now and showing bits and pieces at Fanfest.
"Development of Incarna is something that CCP has committed to for multiple reasons, but the most prominent one is fairly simple.
To achieve our goal of EVE being a complete sci-fi experience we must have full body avatars. When we talk to people who like the concept of science fiction games but aren't attracted to EVE, it becomes obvious that there is a need gap that can best be filled by having a character to associate with rather than a spaceship, and I would venture there are many existing players who want this option as well."
There is a lot of promise for the future but the players are not all happy. CCP Zulu continues in his development blog to say:
"So what about prioritization? Where‘s the iteration on feature "x"?
We have seen a number of players talking about us moving from new feature development into iteration in the year 2012, but until then we‘ll be pumping new features into the system. This is not an accurate description of how a 200-person development team works. In the 2011 winter expansion we‘ll certainly focus more than ever before on iterating and polishing up all the features that EVE has expanded to in the then eight years. What those specific systems are, I don‘t know as we haven‘t started the planning phase for that yet."
Eve's future is bright and exciting. CCP has multiple projects on its plate. Eve. Dust. Eve Gate. Another game they are developing. They are also aggressively hiring new developers. There is one more thing of note in CCP Zulu's development blog near the end. He is at odds with the CSM's meeting minutes during their Summer Summit and does not understand why he saw it as a fantastic time and the CSM seems unhappy with the results.

Eve's Economy also has some strange hiccups as outlined in the economic report. But the main focus is on lag. In August, CCP Zulu says that the next blogs will focus on CCP's war against lag and he is not exaggerating. There are ten development blogs between August and the end of September detailing the fight against lag, the hardware and software that CCP is using to update itself and combat lag and notes about Jita as a test subject for their work as it crests 2000 players.

Here and there other development blogs are thrown into the vast lag discussion. CCP Soundwave for instance forgot to tell the CSM that they were removing ghost datacores. Ghost data cores like ghost-training is accumulating an item while no longer subscribed to the game. The GM team also sits down to write a development blog reviewing their structure and how they plan to integrate advice and ideas presented to them by the CSM on behalf of the player base.

The Noctis is born out of the Primea hull being amazing looking. it is also one of the first breaths of what will be in the winter release. A trilogy of API blogs is also released. 32 bit is updated to 64. An API test server is created so that developers can update sooner than after each expansion.

It is the end of September, 2010 and CCP releases a development blog that outlines the Winter Expansion. Born out of his enjoyment of cooperative PvE but his irritation at push button receive bacon, Eve Online: Incursion will focus on large scale team PvE. And it will start with being able to change your panties.

The Character Creator has not been updated since Eve was launched. With Incursion, a new Character creator is coming. It will be so customization that you will be able to change your underwear.  It is not Incarna, it is just one of the first steps towards what will take multiple releases. And the future for Avatars is bright. In the development blog CCP Soundwave says:
 "It‘s not impossible to think that in the future you may clone jump into bodies (clones) of different races, bloodlines and even genders, but that function will not be available on Incursion launch."
With the new future so close, CCP also accidentally broke the UI during the Tyrannis 1.1 update. They did it because they didn't know how else they were going to get it updated. So they broke it and it dragged along slowly healing as players burned in anger. However, all better now, let's move along and look at the pretty things coming in Incursions.

Incursions are going to be on Sisi and a mass test is planned. Planetary Interaction is also receiving a second pass created from player and CSM feedback of the system. The Shortcut system is also receiving an overhaul. It will recognize more mouse buttons. They are adding combat shortcuts in sot hat the overview isn't the only way to interact with things and you can use ALT+SPACE to simulate a mouse click. There are also some rebalance changes to Tech II ammo and rockets. Fighter bombers are getting some tweaks to make them kinder to the server since super carriers can field twenty of them. Also, faction ships can now be sold on the regular market instead of contracts.

The Eve Gate plans are also puttering along. The two notable point in this to me is the fact that contacts go up from 300 to 1024 and a new forum system is going to be implemented. In the area of community, API security is also discussed. CCP Fallout has also decided to write a monthly community focused blog on the broader community of Eve who write blogs and make videos or news sites.

October has been a busy month with a reasonable amount of announcements. On this list comes one from CCP Hunter about downtime decreasing from 60 minutes to 30.
"Why does EVE even have daily downtime?
Tranquility is one of the largest single-sharded Massively Multiplayer Online Games in operation. The database it runs on is 1.5 Terabytes and in order to maintain the core systems of the game, we perform daily cleanups during these downtimes. Most of these cleanups are "under the hood" kind of operations which are not noticed by the users but are needed to maintain good health of the database.
In addition to database cleanup some essential operations are also performed during downtime such as asteroid reseeding, outpost building, NPC standing updates, etc.
Lastly, during downtimes, the load balancer is also updated and fleet fight systems made dedicated."
 The study of lag is ongoing. On October 30th they managed to shove 3,242 players into a system. It was an awful experience but the node held. The following day they had a 1,200 player fight. It was awful as well but the node held. CCP Veritas explains what lag is in Eve and spins some thoughts about what they can do to combat it.

November 10th brings a development blog by CCP Yitterbium outlining how Incursions will affect a system. It also discuses how incursions will work, system control, and the incursion log that will be available to everyone. Next, CCP Zulu announces that Eve Online: Incursion will be released on November 30th. However, Eve Online: Incursion will not include incursions. Those are coming in January. Eve Online: Incursion will be an update.

CCP is releasing a new box version of Eve titled the Commissioned Officer Edition. They are adding a Cerebral Accelerator to it so that new players can get a skill point boost. If you lose it you can petition for it back.

In case you had not gotten enough of lag, CCP Veritas returns from his musings with some graphs of how they have reduced CPU usage in his quest to narrow down what needs to happen to improve Eve's performance.

Have you ever wanted to buy a neural remap for PLEX? Well, for a moment in November of 2010 you almost could.
"...we wanted to explain our thinking a little more. It‘s always been the intent of CCP to continue diversifying EVE Online's business model and we‘ve been looking at various options to do so. This started with the introduction of PLEX, which was an innovative way for players to exchange in-game assets for subscription on a fully player driven marketplace. Since we introduced the PLEX item we've monitored its trading, price and velocity closely. It's now time for us to take the next evolutionary step."
The community and CSM backlash was enormous and CCP backed away to lick their singed finger tips and reevaluate their monotization goals.
"It‘s clear that it‘s the will of the community to keep virtual goods sales outside the spectrum of what we classify as the "merit economy". That refers to skills gained over time or items that have a gameplay impact. So after discussions, designs, brainstorming and all sorts of processes we‘ve come up with a strategy that we‘ve already polished with the help of the CSM and would now want to present to the larger community."
Basically, CCP wanted to sell more things for money and the player base said no making them back up and focus on vanity items.
"Virtual goods sales in EVE Online will evolve through sales of vanity items, first in Incarna but later in-space features. The scope will be (and there‘s no design has been done around this, we‘re just talking strategy now) that anything that doesn‘t affect gameplay directly can be, potentially, sold for PLEX or other means. Ideas that have come up include Incarna clothing and furniture, logos on spaceships and swapping out portraits. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it a commitment that said items will be available for sale, I mention these as an example for what type of items we‘re thinking about."
And it would be fine except that it is now 2015 and not 2010 and this last paragraph has more meaning then I'd like it to have.
"It‘s important to clarify that virtual goods sales isn‘t an arbitrary - or particularly greedy - decision. There is a constantly decreasing number of MMO‘s out there that don‘t incorporate virtual goods sales at some level. - games that aren't responding to this trend are dying out. Diversifying the business model allows us to offer our players the services and features they desire in ways that are conducive to how they wish to spend their entertainment dollars. The result is that we provide a wider range of options to our subscribers which, in turn, leaves us better positioned to react to future seismic shifts in the market.
If we don‘t react to the wishes of the market we will simply become the dinosaurs of the industry. And everyone knows what happens to dinosaurs. God makes them disappear. Through MAGIC. "
In five days the release, Eve Online: Incursion minus the Incursions that it was named for, will be released. But CCP slips in a little surprise. Learning skills are going away. Right now. The skill books are being taken out of the system and the skill points will be refunded to the players.

Eve Online: Incursion launches on November 30th, 2010. While missing its key point they do release a trailer. We'll see the actual content in another two months.


Resources:
Eve Online 2010 Dev Blogs
Eve Online 2010 Patch Notes
Official CCP Youtube Trailer Eve Online: Incursion

1 comment:

  1. PLEX to buy a neural remap doesn't really sound any more broken, abusive or pay-to-win as what we already have.

    ReplyDelete