This post is a reply to Blog Banter 36: The Expansion of EVE
Welcome to the thirty-sixth edition of the EVE Blog Banter, the community discussion that brings the collective minds of the EVE blogosphere together to chew the cud, exchange opinions or troll the world.
"With the Inferno expansion upon us, new seeds have been planted in the ongoing evolution of EVE Online. With every expansion comes new trials and challenges, game-changing mechanics and fresh ideas. After nine years and seventeen expansions, EVE has grown far more than most other MMOGs can hope for. Which expansions have brought the highs and lows, which have been the best and the worst for EVE Online?"
As the blogosphere warm themselves by the blazing Inferno, they stare wistfully into the flames and conjure memories of expansions past...
It takes a lot of bricks to build a house, and it takes 17 expansions to build a game as successful as EVE Online.
Internet Spaceships Game has received more expansions than World of Warcraft and Star Trek Online combined. When I started playing EVE, expansions were not something happening every 6 months. The amount of new content was varying from expansion to expansion as well, with one expansion that was, well... a very tiny one. Quantum Rise happened mostly on the server side (Stackless IO & EVE 64), just one new ship was introduced (the Orca) and stargate models have been iterated upon. The amount of new content, however, is not a true measure of success. Everything depends on player perception of that content.
The most epic failure, which almost everyone heard about, was the long awaited Incarna. CCP was mentioning "walking in stations" for a long time and during many events. To be honest, I've been waiting for this since I've started playing in 2005. I don't say that EVE desperately needs avatar gameplay, because it's a game about spaceships. I do think, however, that chatting with corp mates and other in-game friends would be done so much better in a bar scenery rather than in a hangar, while watching your ship spin. Not that ship spinning is bad, you know; I like spinning my ships, but what I really love is to fly them. Unfortunately the way Incarna delivered walking in stations, was miserable at best. Not to mention failed attempt to introduce microstransactions (wait, is 70 USD micro?) to the game. Most of us know how bad the freemium/premium model would be for established games such as EVE. I do not want to delve deep into why Incarna has received so much negative feedback from the playerbase, because 1) I have written an extensive post about Incarna backlash last summer and 2) CCP understood their mistakes and delivered two mind-blowing expansions after Incarna.
I think the best expansion of EVE Online so far was the Crucible, with Revelations, Apocrypha and Incursion as runner-ups. Crucible was successful because of many things. First off, CCP wanted to repair their public image after Incarna's failure, so a lot of human resources have been redirected from WoD and Dust project to work on EVE instead. Second thing was a ton of small fixes, that made the game a lot better and more enjoyable to play (Loot All!!). The third reason is ships: four new ships. Crucible has delivered four new battlecruisers, very different from the ones already existing in the game. Fast and agile, but paper thin "glass cannons" with damage output comparable with the biggest Battleships. The fourth reason is the new backgrounds and V3 shaders, that made EVE look like a real-time rendered sci-fi movie. Crucible has also delivered more walking-in-stations than Incarna did.
Apocrypha's success was not just the Tech III modular ships; it came from added space, which is governed by a bit different rules, compared to the existing New Eden galaxy. Before Apocrypha, many players complained about Local channel being the main source of intel. Many tactics were used to circumvent Local, logon traps being the most obvious one. W-space, or Anoikis (as roleplayers call it) has a different local; one that does not give away presence (until someone speaks up). Before Apocrypha, CCP had also mentioned an idea of environmental phenomena, that would bend the rules of the game. Wormhole space was a perfect place to introduce these effects. With the Sleepers, PvE pilots have received a new AI to fight against, one that behaves more like other players rather than dumb drones.
Incursion brought even more "smart" and hard to beat NPCs, which require people to band together. The Sansha themed expansion has also removed quality of Agents, making missions more accessible and mission hubs less crowded. The main success of this expansion was the amount of rewards people could gain by running Incursions. Even though many players complained (and even tried to fight against it), majority was happy with this new steady source of ISK. Even though EVE economy suffered a bit from an additional ISK faucet, the overall community perception was positive.
When talking about new space and new ships, one can't forget the Revelations. Surely many players like their Abaddons and Rokhs. Almost everyone loves their Drakes and Hurricanes. This is the expansion, which brought them into existence. CCP did not only deliver eight new ships; they have also opened access to eight new regions of space (now known as the Drone regions). Did you know, that prior to this expansion there were no Rigs and no ship wrecks? Both NPC and player ships would leave a Cargo Container when destroyed, which contained all the loot.
I have almost forgotten about the last one, Trinity. Trinity has delivered most of the ship models you fly these days. V3 is mostly a texture change, but it was the Trinity that brought all the new models. EVE was a completely different looking game before 2007. Fifty man-years of work have been put into re-modelling all the ships, bringing them back onto the cutting edge of graphics awesomeness. If not for this expansion, your ships would look like this:
Not that EVE was not pretty before Trinity 😉 It just got a whole lot prettier.
If CCP still has the graphical assets from the pre-Trinity EVE (which I'm sure they do) it would make a great EVE-themed tablet game. Both iPad 2 & 3 and Tegra based tablets would handle this kind of GFX easily (check out Galaxy on Fire II - it's possible). Just an idea for the CCP 😉
As you can see, EVE Online in itself is a success. It's an achievement that has been built with many blocks - individual expansions. It is hard to tell which one of them was the best one, because they are only parts of the whole. The game itself is a big success and I think this is all that should matter to the players. CCP's willingness to improve and iterate and most of all - willingness to listen what community has to say is the foundation upon all these blocks are built. Take that foundation away, community will collapse, and the game will die just like many others did. Sooo... keep up the good work, CCP!
PS. Over the years I have collected EVE splash screens from each and every one EVE Online expansion - make sure to have a look 🙂