We have entered that last critical phase before the release of the next major expansion in EVE, Tyrannis. Considering the chaos and hijinks that preceded the release of Dominion, Tyrannis has so far been a bit of a damp squib in the drama department. While this good order may seem like a fortunate thing for both CCP and the playerbase, the lack of controversy over Tyrannis stems primarily from the expansion's bland incrementalism - and bland is one resource New Eden doesn't need more of. What follows is my pre-patch wishlist, which - much in the vein of my columns before Dominion - amounts to shouting warnings before the dev team passes the point of no return.
The Planetary Interaction system doesn't feel like a competitive minigame as pitched.
*Planetary Interaction: The signature feature of Tyrannis makes mockery of the expansion's very name. Planetary interaction has shifted drastically from its original design pitch as a competitive minigame where players compete and employ mercenaries (via DUST) to seize and contest valuable planetary resources. What we are presently faced with is a completely noncompetitive instanced production interface - I won't go so far as to call it a 'minigame'. Any player can harvest materials from any planet, even if thousands of other players are harvesting from that same rock.
Perhaps the PI interface is being intended by some of the developers as a tutorial of sorts for newer players to learn the counterintuitive and spreadsheet-intensive method of using POSes to mine and produce advanced materials for T2 production. That makes a certain amount of sense, as PI involves wiring together 'extractors' and 'processors' in a nearly identical way that we presently link silos, harvesters and reactors on POSes.
I had extremely high hopes for PI, not only to provide a new avenue of competitive gameplay in EVE (always good) but to alleviate what is, in my mind, the game's single greatest flaw - boring PvE. As much of as PvP-focused player as I am, I don't think that PvE in EVE should be neglected or confined to grinders or Excel-abusing Aspergers sufferers. Even a direct copy of a Civilization or SimCity onto the planets would improve EVE's PvE a thousandfold. Failing redemption of the game's PvE, I had at least hoped that PI would be a wholly new and different type of activity. Yet what we've seen in the relatively advanced models of PI on SiSi is merely a POS production chain rendered in 2D with some glowy graphics superimposed over a planet.
The reception on the Test Server Feedback forum for PI has been a combination of players saying "Hey, this interface is really confusing!" (no surprise, if they are virgins to the nightmares of POS production) and, for those select few who have managed to figure out the process of linking, routing, and extracting, "Hey, where's the game?"
CCP had to backpedal on their initial statement about the Deep Safe nerf.
So, for PI, this is my Cassandra-esque prophetic warning to CCP: You have less than a month to turn the PI process into a game. It's the headliner for the expansion, and if it's released in a fashion even broadly similar to what it is now, it's going to be a pile of crap.
*Deep Safe Nerf: It is becoming a rule that we're confronted with some kind of ham-handed public relations disaster every time a new patch is rolled out. This time, CCP's foot-in-mouth incident comes from the nerf of deep safespots. Rather than simply saying 'everything in a deep safe will be moved to a non-deep safe location', a dev blog loudly proclaimed that any items or ships in deep safespots would be summarily destroyed on patch day. Coming as a massive surprise to people in Reykjavik and approximately nowhere else, this caused an outcry among players, who accurately pointed out that people who happen to be unsubscribed in a deep safe would be rather torqued to return to the game only to find their ships arbitrarily destroyed. After a couple of weeks, CCP backpedaled and has announced that they'll simply move any of the offending deep safe items to an acceptable range. This is the Tyrannis version of the Nozh vs Abathur Supercapital Nonsense from Dominion - a completely avoidable and predictable bout of idiocy.
*Spacebook: Oops, I mean 'EVE Gate'. No one will call it that; it's Facebook for spaceships. It's a good feature and should help bring the community together, as well as help corps without their own forums set up ops and plan events with the calendar feature. However, there's nothing to be particularly worked up about here unless you've never used Facebook. Both of you.
Lag is still plaguing the game and hindering large scale space fights.
*Fix The Damn Lag: With PI looking to be a borefest and Spacebook being, well, Spacebook, the best we could hope for is that Tyrannis addresses the single biggest issue facing New Eden: the crippling lag introduced into the game by the Dominion patch. We're going on five months since Dominion now and the lag remains at Apocrypha levels; fleet fights of more than 200 people lag the game to oblivion, where pre-Dominion you could have a 500-on-500 fight with relative ease. This is the elephant in the room which official types are busy Not Talking About, because it's brought the dynamic gameplay in nullsec to a near standstill. In my previous column I hopefully predicted several grand wars, and while CVA has since met an ugly demise, the great 'Northern Coalition vs Southern Coalition' invasion has resulted in little more than mass lag-deaths and frustration on all sides at CCP, rather than at our in-game enemies. Fix it, or at least address the issue in a dev blog explaining why this has become so difficult.
Now we collectively cross our fingers and hope that what unfolds on the Singularity server in the next four weeks is radically different from what we see right now.