EVE Online has an image as a hardcore, dog eat dog, sandbox, PvP MMORPG. While that is certainly a part of what EVE Online is, it's not everything and at this year's EVE Fan Fest, CCP seemed determined to show the world that social activity and friends are actually at the heart of the game.
The developers really started trying to show the new face of EVE back at the end of July when they publicly launched a new game trailer titled, "The Butterfly Effect." Instead of highlighting the hardcore nature of the game (though the video certainly makes reference to it), the video talks about the choices that players will make within the game and how that all plays in to the friends that can and will be made by players as the fly through EVE's universe.
CCP has released a new promotional video giving players and non players alike a unique overview of what the game is about.
The developers point directly at their single-shard, sandbox set-up as the number one contributor to their success as a social game: "With smaller groupings," said EVE's Torfi Frans Olafsson, talking about other MMOs with multiple servers, "you don't get the same social behavior."
"The sense of community is so rich [in EVE], and we've taken that approach with design," Frans continued. Indeed, CCP has made it a design philosophy to release changes in EVE in small patches, allowing them to assess the way that the players interact with the new tools and further developing based upon player want and need, including in the social areas of the game.
One such new development that focuses on the social needs to EVE Online players in New Eden, the system formerly known as COSMOS. The goal of this new addition to the EVE universe is to, "break down the barrier between the game and real life."
Basically, this new feature boils down to what the developers described as "EVE away from EVE," or "EVE on the web." From the few images that we saw of the new program, it looked and sounded a lot like Facebook for EVE characters (not players, mind you). Spacebook, maybe?
Jokes aside, this new web service will allow players both in and out of game access to character profiles, skills and training information, friend information, corporation information and more. It will feature a new calendar system that will allow everyone from individual players to large corporations better access to organizational tools. New Eden will also see the launch of a new mail system. The old one, which players have deemed essentially useless, will be replaced with a system that will allow players such modern luxuries as "sort by date" and labels.The developers were pretty good about teasing themselves about the original system's problems throughout the weekend. That should give non-players an idea of how terrible the currently implemented system actually is.
The real meat of New Eden though is in its friend system. Players will be able to make friends (again, a similar concept to what we've seen from recent social networking giants), and enemies (something Facebook has yet to offer). The idea is that by using this new feature, players should be able to look at someone's profile and have access to who his friends are, who his enemies are, who his friend's friends are, who his enemy's enemies are. Simply picture this scenario taken from "The Butterfly Effect" video that was discussed earlier:
Imagine that you are flying through space, and you see a helpless mining barge under attack from pirates. You quickly look at the barge's info and find that you share a friend in common. While this guy doesn't mean anything to you, obviously he's got some kind of attachment to a guy who helped you out of a jam once, so you decide to help him out...
The new contacts system will actually fuse the game's original buddy system with the Player 2 Player standing system to create a new, two-way contact list.
Fan Fest attendees were told first that some version of all of this information will be available directly in-game. Second, they were told that the first iteration of New Eden was scheduled for launch in Q! of 2010.
The developers were very clear that this, like many of the other initiatives and new systems that they put out, is a work in progress and while they will continue to react tot eh ways in which players use the new tools, there are some clear plans for the future of New Eden as well:
The developers also have their sights set on ideas like: file hosting, blogs, enhanced kill boards and the like.
In the end, the developers are looking to expand the EVE universe not only as a space combat simulator, but as a social place as well, and with New Eden they hope to expand the scope of the game outside of the client and into player homes, cell phones and (if you're stealthy) workplaces.