The release of the Apocrypha 1.5 update is imminent, with all its associated rig tweaking, factional warfare changes, and specialised ship bays, but the hulking presence of this year's winter expansion is lurking just over the horizon. With only a few months to go before release, its contents still remain quite ambiguous, with only a revamp of the 0.0 sovereignty mechanics being confirmed, until now. The drip-feed of information has begun (which hopefully means more information will surface after the 1.5 "mini-expansion" is out of the way) and, just in case you were looking for a way for EVE to consume even more of your life, CCP have just announced COSMOS, their own social networking service for EVE characters.
I say just announced, but COSMOS has been talked about for years- most recently as part of one of the presentations at last year's FanFest- and, for some bizarre reason, shares the name of an existing feature (COSMOS is the codename for a series of constellations in the EVE universe, where special faction agents, or booster resources can be found). Although this is apparently just a working title, and it's possible that, despite COSMOS being an appropriate name, it may be renamed to something less confusing before release.
Half of the first version of COSMOS is going to be not unlike every other social networking website you've seen before, with pages for characters (and/or that player's army of alts), corporations, and alliances. Think "EVEbook", "MyEVE", or whatever you want to call it. The beneficial thing about this is that any corporation/alliance worth its salt has a website or forum of some description, and with COSMOS anyone will be able to easily set up a public page for their group, without having to fork out for web hosting. As someone who's part of a team that's shooting at a new corporation almost every week, the ability to access COSMOS and bring up information on our targets is going to be a massive step up from trawling through websites, forums, and killboards.
Looking at the comments thread accompanying the COSMOS dev blog, some people appeared to have recoiled in horror at the mere mention of a social networking site- and if it was just "EVEbook", then I could understand players not really seeing the point, except that it's more than that. People freaking out about it are clearly missing that it's basically taking a lot features that are already available in-game and making them accessible from their internet browser. Obviously, this is going to be wrapped up with all the usual social networking tools, but it's hardly something that's worth bringing out the torches and pitchforks over.
Perhaps the most interesting features of the initial COSMOS release, are actually updates to the game itself. There will be a brand new mail client, that will allow players to access their EVEmails via the COSMOS site. The contacts system, or buddies list is going to be rebuilt, and an updated internet browser will also be introduced- one that's better suited for using the new COSMOS features while you're in-game. COSMOS is obviously going to be an integral part of EVE, which raises the question: how much of it will replace the current interface? Will the "show info" option bring up the same old character sheet, or will it bring up the COSMOS page for that pilot instead?
3rd party applications, such as EVEmon, use the API to take character information from the game so that players can plan their skills, or see how long it will take before they are able to pilot a certain ship, but it doesn't work both ways, and the in-game skill queue cannot be changed without logging in. Further updates to COSMOS could change all that, with the possibility that we may one day be able to change skills, and even alter contracts or market orders from the website. It's even been suggested that we could also be able to use in-game chat and voice channels, but these are all ideas for what could go into later updates to the service- so we'll have to wait a bit longer for, what I personally think is, the more exciting stuff. The best we expect at the moment, is that features such as the profile pages and mail client make it into the winter expansion.
COSMOS is something that could evolve into a versatile, "in/out-of-game" client, but it's difficult to continue talking about how it's going to change the game until we get some fresh information. Which should be soon, as we've been told there will be a new dev blog every couple of weeks to highlight the various facets of this new service. We can just hope that it doesn't turn out like the other COSMOS system, or Factional Warfare- a skeletal system that hasn't seen a proper update since it was released. I'm cautiously optimistic, though, as Apocrypha appeared to show that CCP is now more prepared to adjust new systems in the months after release.
Anyway, I could bang on all day about the possibilities for COSMOS, but we're talking about future updates for something that hasn't even been released yet. So, what do you think about the COSMOS announcement, and what features would you like to see included?
(Although it's not something I'd be interested in, EVE does have a thriving blogging community, and it'd be nice to see CCP take advantage of that by including some kind of blogging functionality)