Senior Producer Torfi Frans Olafsson offered EVE fans the first real-time demo of the Walking in Stations (WIS, formerly the Ambulation Project) at FanFest 2008. If you check out the video (and you should!), what you'll be seeing is pre-alpha and in real time, so be gracious regarding the bugs and hiccups you'll see (mostly left in for comedy value, even though I promised CCP's Val Massey that I'd use the camera for good and not evil).
After a little trouble entering the station and getting dressed in the Captain's Quarters (now tied to the station rather than your ship, as was previously announced, and customizable with colors, trim, and cool props like a frozen corpse display case), we entered the Promenade - a three-level mall of sorts where players can rent one of sixteen sockets and set up shop. Bars (of the alcoholic and PG-13 erotic variety), Amarrian cleansing facilities (to reduce that unsightly fat you gather while lounging and drinking in the bars), tattoo parlors, and clothing shops were all mentioned as possible socket locations, though the final list and much of the conceptual planning in the project isn't complete (share your suggestions in the EVE official forums). NPC bots you hire can give and accept items or money based on the conditions you set. You could make a bar into your own mission hub, if you like.
Only pod pilots (not the lesser human NPCs, which you can only interact with at lower levels deep inside the station) are admitted to the Promenade, and they always keep their cool and always walk, never run. To counteract the lengthy walking time between your ship and the shops and establishments, CCP plans to add a number of moving walkways. Why not make the promenade smaller instead? Good question, but such a move would probably make a station feel much smaller than what you see from space.
Though you pay upkeep for these sockets, you keep whatever income they generate. And, should you wish to relocate to a more profitable station, Olafssen stated that you'd be able to store or download a customization template for future use. Players can also set permissions for entry into these sockets - e.g. Amarr have to pay a cover or Minmatar are refused admittance - and incorporate custom signs for the facades of each socket to draw more pilots in.
Mini-games will be available for placement within your establishments, complete with single player- and multiplayer-modes (participants can bet on the multiplayer games). Olafssen demonstrated his favorite to-date, SecWars, a sort of turn-based Risk-type game where expansion into two or more clusters of hexes nets you more points to upgrade your units, which you then use to fortify your hexes and attack enemy hexes. Mini-games like SecWars don't port you into another instance to play - so you can observe games in progress just like you would any tabletop game in real life.
Corporate areas - the foyer (used for reception and recruiting if you like, complete with bots for hire that have independently customizable dialog trees) and meeting room (complete with tactical maps) wasn't shown, but is definitely in the works. All areas will have props (placeable, possibly interactive items such as chairs and tables).
Olafsson emphasized that the growth of the Walking In Stations project will be gradual, and much of it will be up to players themselves. Combat and other balance-disruptive activities are still out, and the core of the game will still be space combat. "'Flying in space' as we call it today is still the most important part of EVE; it's where the gameplay happens, it's where the dynamic balance cannot be disturbed."
No word yet on the release date of Walking in Stations except for a vague quote in an earlier press briefing from Olafsson: "In two years, I would like for a new player - someone coming to EVE for the first time - to never realize that there was an EVE Online without Walking in Stations." So... within two years? Hopefully we can narrow that down further today. And for those grognards who view WIS purely as a waste of development time, stay tuned. We're told that the annual "World Domination" keynote by CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson will have something just for you.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EVE Online Game Page.