Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Look at the History of Expansions - Part Twenty-Three

A Look at the History of Expansions

Previous Entry: Intro to Incarna

2011 is a year of change. Eve is nearing its second decade and as an eight year old game it has to change things up a bit to keep in the running. The development pace of the last two years has been a frantic ride of features and additions to the universe. They are moving fast. Very fast. Incursion has just finished being released in January of 2011 due to the new developmental schedule which allows point releases. There is cleanup to be done but in truth, the entire focus of development switches to Incarna. The long awaited future of Eve Online.

On Febuary 11th, 2011 CCP Zulu wraps up Incursion with a Producer's blog. He announces the introduction to Incarna with the first blog about the Captain's Quarters written by CCP Chiliad, from the Alanta office in the United States.

Eve Online has never had avatar gameplay. The player has always started in a ship or capsule. Their only interaction with their physical body was when they first created their pilot. After that, their world was defined by the spaceship that they slipped into. Incarna is going to change that. Players will be catapulted from their spaceships into reality with a set of rooms, interactive three dimensional tools, and a sweeping vista to look upon their ship from.


It is a missing piece of immersion. The place where the player becomes the pilot and the pilot becomes the ship. The Minmatar quarters are up for early looks into what will be available on the test server. Speaking of the test server, the usage rules have been updated in an attempt to make a smoother process. The test server is there to test upon and CCP wishes for the players to test things there. However, they do not want them trying to break the game just for the hell of it and rules such as no mass stacking and mass production are put in.

It is not all about avatar gameplay. Exploration DED Complexes are being added to the game. There have been static sites in the game for a long time. Many of these static sites have been stolen and used in other places. For instance, the 6 of 10 and higher sites were taken from the static spots and added to sovereignty as a PvE bonus. CCP will be filling in the missing sites and adding new modules that will only come from these dead space locations. One of the most interesting notes is that these are designed as group content but they are not as severe as incursion content.

Quietly, in the background the Eve Gate project is progressing. The forums are within its reach and an entirely new forum will be coming to Eve Online. The goal is for a better interactive experience. The old forums will be archived. At the same time, as they look at better ways to interact with customers in a more effective manner such as the changes to Singularity and improved forums, CCP has added Hours for PLEX.

PLEX (Pilots License EXtension) have done well. The demand is high and CCP received stacks of petitions every day asking for accounts to be activated so that players can access their PLEX to subscribe or buy one off of the market to reactivate their account. There has been no measure built into the system before this and requests were handled by hand. Hours for PLEX will create an automated four hour window for a PLEX to be purchased and used. It is one time per deactivated account. Unfortunately, the feature was disabled for a short period of time after some players used the activation of their accounts to vote for the Sixth Council of Stellar Management.

Incarna does show an uptick in development blogs. 2011 hosts 177 dev blogs compared to 2010's 104 and 2009's 99. It is an important time because several threads are being tied together. Game development is moving forward and introducing avatar gameplay. That means the back end has to be faster and the machines better. CCP has been fighting a war against lag and information storage and access. The database rework that started in 2010 is ongoing.

Duality, a public facing event server is launched. Unlike Serenity, the current test server, Duality is for scheduled events and will not be available on a day to day basis. CCP is also continuing the little things initiative, adding photos to things like conversation requests and trades, you can strip fittings off of ships you are not sitting in, way points are highlighted when selecting a route, along with a handful of other little changes in day to day convenience. There is also some flexibility added into the character customization that will allow players to change their portraits whenever they wish, something that will be important with the usage of Avatar's in more day to day gameplay.

CCP is also bringing a PvE change to null sec. The goal is to make space more desirable. One of the little things added was the status of a systems true sec. A system before showed as 0.0 security or null security giving rise to the name of null sec. However, those systems have a hidden security status that ranges down to -1.0. That hidden status was accessible by the game API and CCP went ahead and handed it to all players. Now, the anomalies in null sec will spawn based on the true sec of the system. This will make some places more lucrative to live in and thus give reason for conflict.

In April, the old Eve Forums close down and bring rise to the New Eve forums. This is right in time for the first tests of the Captain's Quarters to be released. Featuring the Minmatar racial style they also come with new tutorials. It will also be a debut event on Duality. What caught my attention most about this development blog was CCP's usage of the infamous learning cliff jpg in their dev blog.

This is all complimented by an update to the in game browser.
 Bear in mind though that our rule of thumb for IGB functionality is not to provide functions that cannot be performed manually in the game client itself.
Players have been creating tools for years that interact with their client through their game browser. These tools make it easier to buy things, list things, check things, and keep track of the ocean of information that Eve Online provides.

While things have been steaming ahead there have been unfortunate hiccups. The new forums came down for a bit due to security and access holes. This is a serious mistake and it is addressed by a development blog written by the security team to discuss what happened and what is being done to correct the situation.

A major change has come to the game. It is one that will change everything for any group that has ever tried to wage a major battle. It will become both a relief and an utterly hated addition. I find it interesting that it is not in Incarna's feature list. That may be because for all of its scope, it is a highly technical change that players will understand. CCP introduces Lag into Eve in the form of TiDi (Time Dilatation). It is a brilliantly horrible solution that will change the face of every major fight in the game.

Happy eighth birthday Eve. It is May 6th, 2011. CCP celebrates by giving every player a super chemical mixed soda by the Quafe Corporation. The feeling of togetherness is followed up with a new feature to the buddy invite program. Now, when someone subscribed you will have the chance to gain a PLEX as your reward for the invite.

For contentious changes, CCP has decided to change how jump bridges work. Jump bridges are an item only available to a group that holds sovereignty in null security space. Along with the earlier change to anomalies this is an enormous shakeup in how null sec alliances move around and what they invest in the space that they hold.

Changes keep flowing in. The little things inititive has grown a bit and is bringing forth a new wave of features. Things will be easier to use like probes and the fleet window. Some changes make sense, such as not showing anyone who walks by what your standings are to any group, player, or NPC. It also brings a huge change to PvE play. Agent quality has been removed and all agents are for the most part, similar. The divisions have also been cleaned up so that players who wish for combat missions will no longer be able to clear asteroid belts in a calming session of mining. Also for a moment, bookmarks were going to be added to the overview.

It is now May of 2011 and Incarna is only a month away. Things are going well with the captain's quarters. The tutorials are better, 3D holographic images of ships are available. Character movement has improved (the male characters are getting the fine details first) and there will be no more right click menus to interact with things. And with character's comes CCP's new virtual good store, the NEX Store. The Nobel Exchange will have every bit of personalization a player could want for their new avatars. Only, they will cost real money. However, they can also be sold on the market, so like PLEX players will still be able to use in game currency for these items. In the Dev Blog by CCP Zulu he explains:
So how will it work?
There will be a store, and it will have all kinds of stuff for sale: clothes and accessories for your character, custom paint jobs or logo placement on your ships or a fishtank/stripper pole for your Captain's Quarters. You'll browse through the list of items available and, when you're ready to make a purchase, you'll use a new currency called Aurum (AUR).
Eve Online: Incarna is arriving June 21st, 2011. It is no longer about dreams and concepts. It is now a thing of pure reality.

This video of Incarna features the rich depth and gorgeously illustrated graphics. Without some of the fine details. It is being supported by the CarbonUI that CCP has been working towards. This will give the UI greater customization and move away from the endless clicking and menus. It will also bring in better blueprint sorting and usage for both players and CCP. From little things like changing the color of blueprint copies to a lighter scuffed version to how the game processes the players endless stacks.

The new forums are back, again. This time they should be more secure but they are again in a testing stage. Preformance is a buzzword around players. With the changes to loading and starting that Incarna brings with the Captain's Quarters, players have asked what will they do when they are using multiple copies of the game at the same time. CCP Zulu addresses this by announcing the decision to allow players to not load the Incarna environment until they can figure out a way not to kill older graphics cards with the demands.

The last wave of development blogs are released on launch day. Incarna will include an all new agent finder that compliments the changes to the agent system. Players will be able to find agents without seeking help from a hermit atop a mountain. Also, everyone undocking and going into battle will find that they have received a turret upgrade. Not only are they cooler looking but they coincide with the high slot position they have been fit into. And as if Eve Online: Incarna is not a grand enough venture, CCP announces that Dust 514, their First Person Shooter will arrive in 2012 for the Play Station 3.

It is June 21st, 2011 and Eve Online: Incarna is launched. It brings with it a new game of Eve. One where the player can fully submerge themselves into the virtual world they have entered into.



Resources:
Eve Online 2011  Dev Blogs
Eve Online Patch Notes

6 comments:

  1. I suppose those of us that were around for Incarna are supposed to have our “What were you doing when Incarna Dropped” story. Accordingly, here’s mine . . .

    I started playing Eve in May of 2009 which puts my birth solidly within Aprocrypha. In those initial month’s I played exclusively with a real life local friend meaning that though I was aware there were other players in the game they were only so much background as I was mostly interacting with the flesh fellow sitting near me. This isolated interest approach to Eve carried me through my first expansion Dominion. The real life friend and I ended up going our separate ways late in Dominion meaning I soloed through the next expansion Tyrranis. By the time Incursion dropped I had technically linked up with a very small group of in game friends but only by 27 days. Importantly, the in game friends and I, unlike my previous play, hunted other players. Eve was growing into a different game for me, one that centered the existence of other players. Accordingly, when Incarna dropped I’d be prepped to see expansions a little differently than I had in the past. Even so, when Incarna actually arrived it was nothing like I was expecting . . .

    My most stark memory of Incarna is actually chatting with my real life not an Eve player brother over lunch about the absolutely astounding player revolt it generated including crazy ass things like conducting in game riots. Though I’d been playing Eve for slightly over two years my view of the game had remained very small – me and a real life friend, me solo, me and a few space friends. Incarna changed that. Incarna introduced me to ‘the meta’. Incarna made Eve big for me. When Incarna dropped, Eve for me truly became alive.

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  2. I applaud you for maintaining your time-sense in this article. How many times did you write a sentence about what Incarna "will bring" and chuckle to yourself as you imagined the next post talking about the colossal letdown? :)

    I love the idea of Incarna. I was sad to see it sit in limbo.

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  3. While the Dev Blog might have talked about TiDi before Incarna, going back to patch notes (using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine) it looks like TiDi didn't actually get introduced until after Crucible. Key passage from Crucible patch notes:

    "Due to the dangerous nature of altering the fabric of spacetime in such ways, the feature will be turned on at a slightly later date. This is to provide isolation from other fundamental alterations to the machinations of the universe in order to reduce the chances of total protonic reversal."

    I seem to recall it actually getting turned on at some point in January of 2012, as I had just gone to null in December, had been in a couple of pre-TiDi big fights, and then there was this new thing.

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  4. The single clearest memory I have of Incarna is the sense of horror as release date closed in and what I was seeing at Singularity was in no way ready for launch.

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    Replies
    1. Ssssh Angry, Sssssh...

      Incarna is over, Incarna rage is over. Go back to sleeeeeep, there's no reason to be angry.

      To cheer you up:

      I was scouting a PL titan earlier, and just as I narrowed the moon down, my sub ran out!

      RNJesus hates even the best of us. *wipes away a tear, and crosses off another character on his watchlist*

      Rob K.

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  5. I remember the riot, and firing a few rounds into the monument too, it took awhile to calm down after that...

    Some people have still not come back... (sad)

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