It's been an exciting time for CCP, the company behind the sci-fi sandbox MMO, EVE Online. It seems as though they are constantly working at changing and evolving their game to make the EVE universe a better place to be for their players. Recently, the company launched the Empyrian Age expansion that brought a structured war to the universe.
First, I wanted to give you a quick preview of the videos that you are going to see over the next few days. They're interviews that were taken from the show floor at Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany. The first, is the Council of Stellar management, the second is the Empyrean Age expansion and the last is the much-talked about and long-awaited Walking in Stations feature:
The CSM and EA interviews will be available soon in their entirety on video at MMORPG.com:
Council of Stellar Management
Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, CCP's Lead Economist, took a few minutes to tell us about the most recent events surrounding the Council of Stellar Management. The CSM, for those who might not know, is the introduction of democracy into EVE as players can run for council positions that are voted on by the players.
The Council's responsibilities culminate in a series of meetings with CCP developers about the game. This is a chance for the players (or at least their representatives) to voice their concerns about their games and their suggestions for the future.
The nine representatives that were elected recently flew to Iceland for some pretty intensive meetings with the developers. Twenty hours worth of meetings, to be specific, on over thirty different topics that the council members wanted the team to address.
Dr Eyo, as he is often called, told us that while there were some suggestions that just couldn't be implemented (mostly due to technical reasons), the meetings will result in a number of helpful changes. CCP, we are told, is thrilled with the success of this first CSM event and looks forward to the next.
Empyrean Age was launched back in April and the team is very happy with it. We were told by Associate Producer Arend Stuhrmann that the addition was designed to give people the opportunity to participate in a lower risk PvP environment. The idea is to bring people in to this side of the game who may have shied away in the past.
"It has met its aim very well," Stuhrmann told us. "We had over 40,000 players sign up for factional warfare in the first few weeks and that trend has stayed strong."
So, what are we looking toward for the future?
Looming most closely on the horizon is Empyrean Age 1.1 set to release in September, this update is focused on small comments, suggestions and details that needed to be addressed. While there may not be too many obvious changes, there should be, "small things that have changed here and there that will hopefully make your life a whole lot easier."
On the heels of EA 1.1 will be EA 1.2, which will make up for the lack of obvious content by bringing in new missions, and a new certificate system that will allow players to actually produce credentials (like a university degree or diploma) that proves to other players what skills your player possesses. Not only is it good for this use, we are told, but it also gives newer players something to work toward in terms of their skill advancement.
After this, we will be introduced to December's as-yet-unnamed expansion. This new addition will be focused primarily on industry. The team has been looking at making management and production of industry easier to understand, new possibly ship types and the like.
After talking about the CSM and Empyrean Age, there is still one aspect of EVE that we discussed with the team in Leipzig, but couldn't show you on video:
Walking in Stations
Perhaps the most talked-about upcoming feature for Eve is their Ambulation project, otherwise known as "Walking in Stations". This feature will allow players to leave their ships for the first time and step into a 3D world where their avatars can interact and socialize.
While we still don't have a firm date on the project, Stuhrmann told us that the company has put a great deal of time and energy making sure that the feature will "fit in" with the rest of the already existing universe.
When it comes to WIS (Walking in Stations), the developers are trying to make it as grandiose and welcoming as possible while still maintaining EVE's technological and "spacey" feel. They find that they are having to consider elements like architecture and culture when trying to find the right look for any given element on WIS. The basis or this is, of course, the current design for the ships of the game's various races. If the ships are sleek and clean-looking, for example, there's a good chance that a bar or a station or a shop of the same race will have a similar feel. If the ships look more like they're slapped together from handy materials, that's how the bar is going to look.
For anyone who might doubt that CCP is working very hard to maintain the feeling of their universe in these new environments, it should be noted that they have hired a number of consultants to help in their endeavours:
First, they are working with real-world architects to make sure that the spirit of the races and cultures are preserved in non-space environments. We were also told that this is helpful because the game's interiors will now be informed by real-world logic (ie: you can't put that pillar there, it disrupts the entire flow of the room and people would have trouble getting through).
The developers aren't just talking about the interiors and architecture. Obviously, the avatars themselves are going to be a very important element of the Walking in Stations feature. What is one of the first things we think of when we think of avatars? Costumes (or outfits):
In discussion of outfits, we learned that the developers have hired on three fashion designers and a tailor to make sure that the clothing worn reflects the characters as much as possible and that they would be something that people could wear in real life.
I think that the highlight of this demonstration was seeing that there are indeed a character model (we saw a screen of a character creation screen). The character models themselves are planned to make use of subtle details to set them apart from others and to take advantage of the dynamic nature of EVE. For example, characters who gain weight (from, for example piloting a ship all the time) will actually see a difference in their avatar. They are also hoping that the character's gait (the way they walk) will change as well.
The last time that we were told (and so the last thing that you are being told) is that the developers currently have a working version of the system in-house. While we don't know exactly when this new feature will make an appearance in the game, the developers have been making progress. Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say at EVE's next Fan Fest.