Saturday, February 4, 2012




2012: This Time Next Year

There has been a lot of discussion about the upcoming Winter Expansion around the community lately, and it certainly deserves to be discussed, debated, and considered. CCP has taken a big step in returning the game to its roots and at least attempting a major FiS focused expansion. And they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the attempt. But I'd like to take a deep look beyond this Winter's expansion and gaze into the crystal ball. Where will we be a year from now?

As things stand right now we have to make mention of several unanswered questions that will impact the future course of events in Eve development. Where exactly does WiS stand? And when exactly will DUST514 hit the market?

Those two questions and the corresponding minutia of answers, inter-woven complexities, and fall-out will have a huge impact on what happens after the 2011 Winter Expansion.  For the sake of this article I'm going to take control and tell you what I think should happen and see where those decisions lead us.  This article isn't intended as a predictive model of the future as much as it is an outline of consequences.

When it comes to WiS I have a very clear vision of what I believe will happen in the Spring. WiS cannot be totally abandoned since it is integral to the support of DUST. It is also obvious that WiS expansion plans have been slowed down almost to a complete stand-still in pursuit of FiS solutions. It is easy to predict that our first establishment will be revealed sometime in the Spring. That establishment will be a sort of "Command Center" ( As hinted at in the future vision video we've all seen ) that will allow coordination between the Eve players and the DUST players. The exact nature of the relationship is starting to become clear and will lainly focus on planetary territorial engagements. To what exact benefit to either side remains dubious at the moment. But only because we don't know.

I would also think that some type of "Communal" room would also be introduced along with the Command Center. The likely hood of this depends greatly on the WiS issues being resolved and that is far from certain at this point. So we'll leave that idea to the maybe, possible, could be bin for now.

So coordination with DUST certainly seems to be the main driver for Spring/Summer plans. If this is the blueprint for future development cycles, it isn't a bad one. Spring/Summer Eve/Dust focus and Fall/Winter FiS focused. And just because Spring/Summer is DUST focused doesn't mean it doesn't include FiS elements, it will and it should. Ignoring the foundation of Eve is what brought us to this past Summer in the first place, I'd be hard pressed to believe CCP would do that again.

Corporations and Alliances are fighting over planetary territories for some benefit to the Eve Community.  DUST is on the shelves and hopefully selling like hot-cakes. ( If you are a Eve player you want DUST to do well, believe me. ) So what else does 2012 hold in store?

There will be plenty to keep CCP busy during the next year. Further balancing, V3 deplnyments ( which means new models to stations, gates, ships, modules, etc.), T3 Frigates and further work on inter-space modifications to Null, Low and High-Sec. These are all exciting, needed and welcomed changes. But they simply aren't enough to generate the level of excitement, energy and public relations needed to seriously impact growth for Eve. But what could do that?

Next year's Winter Expansion will be monumental, will echo through-out the world and raise the stakes within New Eden to levels unheard of before.  Why?  Because this time next year the Jovians become a playable race and take their rightful place alongside the Caldari, Amarr, Minnie and Gal as the fifth race in New Eden. Jovian space is opened and a brand new world unfolds over a three month period of time, in a slow, deliberate and measured roll-out of new characters, ships, modules, space and time.

Why the Jovians?  Well, you might as well ask, why not the Jovians? It is the empty corner, it is the big tease, the last remaining unknown, the new thing, the big deal. And here is the kicker, the Jovian ships will require not only new skills to fly, but skills from all four other races to fly.  That's right, if you want to fly a Jovian ship - in most, but not all bases - you'll need skills from the other four races. While it will be posshble to choose Jovian as your starting race, the true benefit of flying a Jovian ship will fall into the needy hands of the Bitter Vets alone.

This is for two main reasons. 1) It provides a new shiny to an increasingly older and extremely dedicated audience of subscribers, and 2) It provides the "aspirational" incentive that any large-scale universe requires, something to work towards, a goal$2C an objective beyond "this is cool" that can help drive players to achieve long-term subscriptions.,/span>

You can say all you want about the obvious challenges inherent in bringing the Jovian race into New Eden, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't some, but those can be overcome rather easily given the proper ground work.  We've seen that type of ground work before from CCP when it came to the Sansha incursions, so the model for how it can happen has been tested.

The cool part? And this is just my own wishful thinking. ANY character can become Jovian if they wish.  A bar would have to be set, say perhaps 100m skill-points, but it is well within the established ( with some minor tweaking ) to assume Jovian technology could achieve such an outcome. So come next Winter your 100m sp Caldari avatar can undergo a transformation (one that might even cost a PLEX or two) into a pure Jovian avatar.

In the end, whatever happens next year is going to be impacted greatly by what happens in less than two months. And then, again, by what happens in the Spring.  To me the road seems more clearly defined than it was at this time last year, so progress has been made.

As for me, I'm looking forward to it.  And to awesome new Jovian ships.

So what are you looking for next year, and what do you think of the Jovian expansion?

2012: Follow Up

If you haven't read yesterday's post yet, I would encourage you to do so.

My attempt to lay the ground-work for the course of Eve in 2012 came down to several core concepts, the details of which are not as important in the strategic sense. In the planning/idea phase you are better off keeping your attention on the big ideas, the over-arching themes, and let the details form when it comes time to develop tactics to support the strategy.

The major themes for Eve in 2012 are, in my opinion:

• DUST integration
• Subscriber growth

Tomorrow I'm planning on outlining my thoughts on building new-subscriber growth in 2012. Today however, while we are still in the strategy phase, I'd like to revisit some of the core ideas that I presented yesterday.

I believe it is time to introduce another race to New Eden. We have many to choose from, the Enheduanni, Yan Jung, Takmahl, Talocan, Sansha, and of course, the Jovians themselves.  I chose the Jovians for my example simply because they have space. Certainly the folks at CCP could give any of the races additional space simply by adding it to the universe. Which is one of the great things about LORE VS. CANON. 

Lore is the fictional backstory that supports Canon. Lore is constantly changing, being updated and manipulated to serve Canon. It doesn't work the other way around. Canon is the factual information present in-game. It is also constantly changing, but slower than Lore and usually in a more subtle way.

Whatever the Jovians, or any of the other races, may be in Lore can be altered, updated or modified based on Canon. So, for example, some lone ship gets sucked into a WH and pops out into Jovian space only to find it strangely empty. From that single sentence there are dozens of good writers that could form the foundation for getting the Jovians actually into the universe of New Eden. It's called imagination.

But that isn't even the point. A new playable race has been hinted at as long as WiS and it is time for it to happen. Personally I think the idea of a race based on Cross-trained multi-racial skills is extremely interesting and valid. This wouldn't limit the new race to only older players as some have suggested, you need to think differently. A Rookie player that chooses the new race would train skills the same way we all did, only he would choose from the skill sets from all four of the other races and his own.  Heck, I know many players that decided to cross-train virtually from day one. This is no different.

Certainly the older players would have some benefit. Which is their right, since they are older players. But it would only be an availability issue, not one of distinct individual advantage. This kind of thing exists already. When the new BC/BS enter the game in a few weeks I will be able to fly all four of the ships from Day One. (And I plan on it!) Does that give me an unfair advantage?

And then there is the aspect that I didn't touch on yesterday, which is what to do with the newly discovered or recently available new space?  My suggestion is this, since FW has been largely ignored for so long, we strive to make the new space a FW playground. Think about it for a second, newly discovered space? I think all four races would be extremely interested in taking possession of such new treasure and would fight hard to do so. So (and let's continue using the Jovians) newly opened Jovian space could be contested space.  Originally it would be discovered without Gates and only accessed by jumping to cynos brought in thru newly discovered WH. But each faction now has the ability to build and control Gates for themselves. Said Gates will directly connect to their faction space in Empire only as long as they control the Gate. 

Man, I am so full of idears. Heck, given that scenario I might even join a Faction and play in Jovian space for awhile.  Obviously we'd need something really awesome and cool in there to make all the fighting worthwhile... and that would be the missing element. The one thing you need to build Jovian tech which can only be found in Jovian space?  I dunno, I'm not as smart about industry things and anytime I try I tend to make people angry. So you guys figure that one out.

A new playable race by this time next year?

2012: New Recruits

In this, the last of the 2012 posts, I want to take a look at the single most important element of 2012 for Eve - getting new subscribers.  That statement being solely predicated on the assumption that the upcoming Winter Expansion and the adoption of my predictions for 2012 are in the bag, which will stabilize the subscriber base. But we don't want stability, we want growth.

So how do we get new people to not only try Eve but, more importantly, subscribe to Eve? Arguably the most complex, dense, non-inviting, dark, dangerous, incomprehensible and intimidating MMO based on a not-super popular niche genre game on the planet?

Whew. Luckily, I've had more difficult assignments. Try convincing people to give you their internal organs someday! Talk about difficult.

Getting those new subscribers is going to take some hard work, luck and serious strategic and tactical planning, but it can be done. The entire plan hinges on several important factors that need to happen to help it along:

1) We need walking, interacting Avatars in Eve.
You all know I am a huge FiS player and couldn't care less about WiS, but it is crucial to further growth of our beloved game. This is the whole reason why CCP went down this road in the first place - and I mean before WOD and DUST. Go back to the original idea, the original dream, and make it happen. A game without people in it is a turn-off to the vast majority of potential players.

There are 2 smart things about DUST. First of all it is set in the Eve Universe. And while that won't directly help subscribers come into the MMO Eve (Consol vs Comp, we all know the debate there. And while there will be some cross traffic, it won't be much). However, there will be a tremendous indirect benefit if DUST is even slightly successful. Taking advantage of that will require some clever PR/Marketing, but it can be done. Secondly, DUST is on the PS3, and while that might make some XBox people angry it is huge for the potential rewards... IN ASIA. Heck, XBox is considering not even selling in Japan next year. The Asian market is the largest single potential source of new players for Eve. See a connection here?

So we have further WiS development happening in the Spring which will coincide with DUST hitting the shelves (or should) and then tons of new players will jump on board the Eve train?  Well, no.  It isn't going to be that easy.

There will be a new sub bump in the Spring when these things happen. Heck, there will be a new sub bump at the end of this year from the Winter Expansion. Some of that will be re-subs though, but still, this is looking like a great FiS expansion so CCP will reap some benefits. Maybe 4-5%? Hard to say at the moment. ( The global economy has so much to do with all of this tbh. Family, Shelter, Food, Transportation, Entertainment and then some other stuff and then Eve - it is pretty far down the list.)

CCP has always done a good job with the promotional push, the offers, the bundles, the friends referrals, the incentives. And they have worked to make the new player experience better over the years. Increased training speeds, better tutorials, etc., all have made scary starter Eve less scary for the new player.

I actually have a lot of ideas in regards to the new player experience (so this actually might not be the last post about 2012 after all), but I have one new one that came to me this morning that I'd like to share first.

I call the idea SANCTUARY. Every race has its rookie systems, for me it was Todaki up in Caladri space. ( Oh Todaki we adore you, blinky lights of Gold... sorry, memories of the HS fight song. ) So each Rookie system becomes a Sanctuary system designed to protect Rookies from any potential harm while they are engaged in the Rookie tutorial program. Once a Rookie signs up for the training tutorials they are immune to harm within the Rookie system. The Rookie Training system would need some updates to take advantage of this, I see Rookie combat arenas being set-up to teach basic PvP skills - were Rookies can fight other Rookies IN SHIPS THEY CAN'T FLY YET! And this is the critical part, give them (within the context of the training program) the opportunity to train against each other in Cruisers, Battlecruisers and then Battleships. This is the great tease, the promise of what is to come, the destination objective. Train hard, work hard and one day soon you can fly this ship.

I liken this to the Danger Room from the X-Men comic books. This only works given some major overhauls of the Training Program, but it could be a relatively easy way for new players to be introduced to game mechanics, possible career paths (The PvP element wouldn't be the only one, you could easily set up scenarios in other paths. Imagine a tutorial where a veteran player falls ill and cannot deliver vital goods in his Providence, and it is up to the Rookie to do it! The mind races at the possibilities!)

Being a Rookie in Eve should be hard, we all did it. And I'd be the last person to suggest taking that away, but we also need to make the initial experience impact meaningful enough that they want to stay on course. Making the new player experience into a sort of "mini-game" on its own would be one way to accomplish that.

And then kick them out into the real universe to be killed.

2012: Sanctuary Training Program

This idea won't leave me alone and keeps running around in my head, so I thought it was worthy of some additional thoughts and discussion.  Starting out in Eve is difficult and getting new players involved, engaged and ready to face the HTFU universe is an extreme challenge. One which has not been cracked to date.

My core idea is relatively simple. Turn the initial days of a Rookie's life into a "Mini-Game" that exists inside of Eve. Combine the best of the Tutorials, along with some serious updates and revisions, into a Training Program. Think Danger Room from Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters for an idea of what I'm on about.

The idea is to slowly engage the new player into the world, the concepts and the functions of Eve, while also giving them a real taste of what lies ahead. And this is the radical step that is missing from today's engagement - letting the new player have a chance to fly ships he might not get to fly for years.

It makes sense. Think about training a Capsuleer, how much effort is involved, how much technology, expense and pure resources go into a Capsuleer's training. Do you think they just drop you into a Rookie ship and say, "Fly Safe"?  Let's turn the experience of the new player into an experience more akin to Capsuleer Training. For real.

This is a unique situation and a unique opportunity, to engage the new player in our universe in ways unheard of in the MMO environment. A system of training that goes beyond the Tutorial boredom into an engaging, exciting and memorable experience!

So, how does it work?  

First, every Rookie system is a Sanctuary for every Rookie signed into the Training Program. No one else. So it is not an exploitable situation. There are no kill-mails in the Sanctuary Training Program (STP), no loots (other than those provided to other STP participants) and no way for anyone other than brand spanking new players to get into the STP. While in the STP the Rookie player is immune to the rest of Eve while IN the STP system. This is also important to avoid exploitation. Any Rookie that leaves the STP system can be killed just like anyone else.

The STP has a stepped and tiered program that introduces the new player to the various play styles open to them as players in Eve. A PvP program, an Industry program and so on. Completion of each program is necessary for graduation.

The PvP program would involve Arena Combat. In yet another brilliant move, this program involves introducing the player to other players, building connections on the FIRST day! Such connections as we all know are critical to jeeping players engaged over the long haul. The STP is designed to foster such connections in every program step.

Aura would guide the combat, slowly revealing new systems, tactics and basic fundamentals regarding ship to ship combat. And here is the important thing, while it would start with Frigates, the program would escalate into Cruisers, BCs and perhaps even other ship classes. Perhaps the student would choose PvP as their "graduate program" and more complex tactics would be revealed. The same would hold true in the other programs, students that had no interest in combat might choose Industry as their "graduate program" and be brought into more complex industrial concepts.

The idea is to show the new player a taste of what the big picture Eve is all about. Engage them in the world, while protected from it. The entire STP would only last a few days, but it would be an amazing and unique experience for the new player. It would provide that most important of elements - desire. 

Of course, the Rookie player could also choose to opt out of the STP and just undock and fly off. But I don't think many, other than those created as alts, would do so.

The ideas inherent in this system are numberless, limitless and with great possibilities. I'm extremely excited about the STP concept and I can't stop thinking about it. Once completed the STP Graduate would be uniquely qualified as a new Eve pilot and ready to face the challenges of New Eden in ways that we were not.

Imagine being a new player and asked to take over the piloting of a huge transport like the Providence? Or being able to slug it out in Drakes against another Rookie player? Imagine the bonds that could be built between players, the desire to get out there and make something or yourself, to change the sandbox.

I'm sure there are holes in this and those that will poo-poo, but given some serious development and thought I believe this could easily form the foundation for a new player experience that would set the standard for the industry and engage new players in ways unheard of, especially for Eve.

I continue thinking and look forward to your thoughts and ideas.

Gooder Eve: Time to Clean the Database

This is a quick one, but no less powerful and much needed for being so.

Eve is getting a bit long in the tooth in some ways, a universe that has been going strong for almost a decade now and it is slowly getting filled up with junk. One example is the sheer amount of old, dead, defunct Corporations and Alliances still in the Database. I was helping someone name a new Corporation on Friday and I can't tell you the number of times we came up with a name that was already taken - but the Corporation was long since dead. Or the single player holding it hadn't played Eve in over three years.

Mostly this hinges on the five letter Corp Ticker, there are only so many combinations available to us and most of them have been taken. 

It is time to clean house. Any Corporation or Alliance that has been inactive for more than three years needs to be wiped from the Database and archived. Any holding players that remain transfered into a NPC Corporation in the off chance they return to the game. This will free up the Corp Tickers and names for new use.

Simple. Clean and much needed.

2012: A New Type of Space

The ideas just keep rolling here on Eveoganda!  Today, with one bold stroke, we shall re-invigorate one of the long ignored areas of play within the Eve universe. Faction Warfare.

Within New Eden we have four types of space - Hi-Sec (Empire), Low-Sec, Null and WH. (NPC Null and a few variants, but those are really the big four.)  I am suggesting the addition of a new type of space - Contested Space.

If you've been following along with the 2012 Series (and why wouldn't you, they are friggin' brilliant!) then you know I've been talking about the Jovian race. Now this could be any race, even a brand spanking newly made up one, but the Jovians just happen to be a great example. Mostly because they already have an entire region of space to themselves. So I'm going to continue using them as an EXAMPLE. Get with the program people.

So, what is Contested Space?

Imagine for a moment that at some point next year reports start to emerge from Empire of ships that entered a WH only to emerge deep within Jovian space... and return? Suddenly these reports are confirmed as intrepid players themselves chance upon these newly opened pathways. At first the WH's are the only way in to this vast new region of space. It isn't Null space (since the normal Sov mechanics don't seem to work there, huh.) and it isn't Empire space - no CONCORD. So what is it?

Well at first no one knows. But then a few strange things start to become obvious. Newly discovered BPOs from those that brave the Jovian rats reveal something unexpected. Apparently you might just be able to build Faction Controlled Gates (FCG), the key ingredient of which is a newly discovered mineral that only appears in certain Asteroid belts and PI processes within Jovian space and no where else. In addition, there appears to be a new type of Probe that can be built - the Explorer Probe.

This new region of space is vast, rich and extremely hard to get to. But all of the Empires want it to themselves, certainly possession could tip the balance of power significantly to one side or the other and settle centuries long conflicts.  It isn't long before players realize that by using the Explorer Probes (with the right skills) one can determine the exact location where their Faction should build a Gate. Now these Jovian gates are special in that they can be manned, they can be built with special defenses that normal gates do not have, and they can be contested. Just because you build one, doesn't mean you get to keep it.

But once these gates start connecting to Empire space, the flood is on. And this opens up another new game aspect - The Treaty. Treaties have been talked about for ages, but now we have the perfect situation to implement them.  Let's say you have an Industrial Corporation that would like to move into Amarr Contested Space within the new Jovian region. In order to be protected and gain access thru the FCG, you'll need to sign a treaty with the Amarr Empire. The terms of that treaty will be negotiated and agreed upon by their representatives the Amarr Faction. But most likely will include monthly fees and percentages from your operations. In return you gain access to new materials, belts, rats, the whole ball of wax. Including new BPOs to build those new Jovian ships the new Jovian players want to fly.

And yes, Pirates are a problem. And yes, other factions will be able to not only attack, but gain control of systems by controlling the gates into those systems. Let's say XYZ system's gate leads directly to Gal space, but the Minnie Faction takes over the gate... well now that gate leads directly to Minnie space.

Suddenly FW has a purpose and directly and POWERFULLY impacts the entire universe of New Eden... something that it truly needs and has never had. And the new Jovian region becomes an interesting, vital, important new arena for a brand new type of combat in Eve.

There are literally hundreds of other ideas inherent in the above, what about the Jovian's themselves, what about Stations, missions, and every other aspect of game-play?

I'm no expert at Faction Warfare, it is the one play style that I haven't tried. So I'll leave the details to those that know and the ideas on how this new system could grow, evolve and adapt will remain to be seen. But I do know that something needs to be done and within the confines of the other ideas I've already outlined in the 2012 Series - the new playable race, the Sanctuary Training Program and the others - that Contested Space is just another piece of the puzzle that would make for a very exciting 2012.

And, more importantly, keep Eve a growing vital game.

What are your thoughts about Contested Space?