On the third day of Fanfest, the developers rested. Well, not really. Instead, CCP went for the big reveal: a presentation that juxtaposed their plans for the next expansion in EVE Online with a video explaining their long-term "end-goal" vision for EVE Online.
We don't know what the next expansion is called, yet, but we do know a good portion of the features that are likely to be included, both from the Fanfest presentations and from developer blogs on the EVE forums. Enjoy.
In times long past, cosmic anomalies were crappy encounters that most players ignored in favor of more lucrative activities. Those times are long since past. These days, the modal average of players living in null-sec probably make their ISK by running "sanctum" anomaly encounters.
Unfortunately, there were some problems with how these were implemented, and CCP has decided to rectify them. Problems include: anomalies introduce too much raw ISK into EVE (compared to missions that are part ISK, part loyalty point, part salvage), are too easily run with bots, and most importantly, they are equally available in every null-sec system that has been upgraded. By making the best "member-level" way to earn ISK equally available, a major source of contention between alliances was removed.
CCP has given us a major look into the future of EVE Online.
On the one hand, it is good that alliances have an incentive to stuff people into their space: the best way to get people into null-sec is to incentivize it on the personal and alliance levels. But there are the problems mentioned above, and there is no real reason to fight over space since if you don't have technetium moons, most any space is the same as everyone else. And though there is some disagreement on this point, it seems clear that there is a need for more reasons to fight, not less.
CCP Greyscale is the face on the markedly unpopular decision to reverse this state of affairs. According to his blog and subsequent posts made in the comments thread, the quality of cosmic anomaly will now be tied to the truesec of the solar system where it resides. This means that good systems will remain good and may even be better (the blog seems to imply this), but systems with worse truesec may get less high-end anomalies, and those with really crappy truesec (especially -.02 and higher) won't have any of the good sites at all.
Understandably, large amounts of players are not happy. This is the null-sec equivalent of tinkering with with level four missions: most people in alliances rely on these anomalies for their income, and they are pissed. The comments thread is at sixty pages of almost entirely negative replies, despite being up for less than a week. Nevertheless, CCP is going full steam ahead. I can't really fault them for this, since what is lucrative or effective for players does not always make for the most fun game or stable economy. But this does seem poised to reduce the total number of people in null-sec, and I really doubt that it will make the truly large alliances any less stable. Nor can one fault the players: they just want a way to make ISK in null-sec that is lucrative enough to offset ship losses to gankers or defending space. This will certainly increase the internal pressure most alliances feel over NPC-killing rights, and make alliances less tolerant of botting. I just hope this doesn't push a big chunk of players out of null-sec.
The Ongoing Incarna
Barring some catastrophe, the next expansion will feature the "captain quarters" portion of Incarna, as shown in CCP's keynote preview. We will take a more in-depth look at what CCP showed us about this, in a later article.
The new expansion will also have additional character options, probably including facial piercings, racial tattoos, casual tattoos, sleeve tattoos, distinctive scars, and facial hair. There will also be more clothes. It was explained that the clothes currently available are deliberately generic, and that later clothes will be much more particular and stylistic. There may even be entire fashion lines released. It is also possible that there will be cigarettes, cigars, bloodstains, blood spatters, and colored light, at least if the previews are any indication. There's no telling whether any given example of these features will be in this next expansion or a later one, though.
Also, though I don't expect it in the next expansion, it was mentioned that corporate decals will eventually be available to put on ships in space, as well as Incarna clothing. Longer-term we will see many ways to re-skin and personalize ships.
CCP does a really great job at keeping their game looking fresh. Consider that it was released in 2003, but looks visually better than games that are coming out right now, or games whose space combat portion is currently being released. As part of that continuing process, CCP is doing two things: updating their turret graphics, and updating the nebulas that make up the background images of solar systems.
Yeah, these new nebulas are going to look pretty cool.
According to some of CCP's art team, the old nebulas took some ur-computer days or even weeks to render, back in 2003. Now, they are being partially outsourced to some company that does high-intensity rendering for Hollywood movie studios. Fair enough. The new nebulas will look great, will have visual differentiate between the space controlled by the various factions, and will make low-sec and null-sec look more and more evil as you get farther out. The new nebulas are more or less visually identical to NASA pictures.
Revised User Interface
Thank god, they are finally changing the font. The days where a hard to read font would discourage botting are long gone, and there is no reason why we should still be using a wretched font with piles of nearly identical letter pairs.
The UI changes will also be changed to be more in line with what we have seen in some of the more recent EVE advertisements, with more pleasing locked ship icons and generally cleaner looks.
We are also promised a more simple UI that gives a larger degree of control to the players. It is unclear what this will be like, but it is sure to be a welcome change as long as it does not remove any functionality.
The Little Things
The product of Team Best Friends Forever, led by ex-goon wunderkind CCP Soundwave, the little things is the name of the initiative to reach for as much "low-hanging fruit" features and fixes that won't take much effort but will make players' lives better. A host of these potential upcoming features have been explained to us, already.
The most popular improvements (for my money) will be a revision of the agent systems. First, say goodbye to the old mission divisions. Agents will now only give one type of mission, be it combat, hauling, mining, whatever. The old system with percentile chances was wretched, and I will not miss it.
The other big tweak to agents is that they are removing agent quality and level completely. Players will be able to select what level they wish to play at. This is interesting because it means that high-sec mission-runners will be able to live at nearly any place they wish, not just Motsu or another mission hub. Since high-sec can't be conquered and territorial aspirations are not a source of drama there, it doesn't matter if all high-sec is the same. It will make it a bit more difficult to gank mission runners or build a market around them, but that is a small price to pay to allow players to be able to live pretty much wherever they way in high-sec.
Another change, and I'm not sure if this is good or not, is that the onboard scanner is being replaced. The new system will involve probes that have very short cycle times with comparable ranges to the onboard scanner (perhaps the full 14 AU). Is this something that players are going to enjoy constantly mashing while running sites in w-space? I really doubt it. Is it a precursor to removing local from null-sec? I suspect so. If so, that's quite a hornet nest that CCP is riling. I guess we'll just have to see.
Three other changes will have a kind of small impact on the game but will be a relief to their target audience. First, blueprints and blueprint copies will have different icons, making it much easier for new players to figure them out. Second, players will not need to turn off their skill training in order to plug in implants. Thank goodness, that was really annoying. Third, tech three ships will be able to refit their subsystems at POS ship maintenance arrays. This means that tech three ships will not need to leave wormhole space to refit. Finally, a bone is thrown to the players living in wormholes.
Throw in CCP's promised system enhancements and this next expansion will be a win for old players and new, though many older players will likely be a bit curmudgeonly about Incarna. Plenty of things to look forward to, even for older players. I just hope the anomaly changes have a silver lining.