Yesterday at EVE FanFest, members of the press were given a presentation on the upcoming "Walking in Stations" feature for EVE Online that will see players of the sci-fi sandbox game able to step out of their ships for the first time to interact, do business and socialize in a more conventional way, through their 3D avatars.
While we still do not have a definitive launch date for the feature, we have seen progress made even since we last spoke to the folks at CCP about it at this year's Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany and progress is moving forward.
When the game was first conceptualized in 1999, the small team's goal had been to create an online environment that would allow players to take part in an experience that was reminiscent of a classic sci-fi movie. Technology at the time being what it was and the team being as small in size as it was then, the early developers had to settle for the original ships-only design.
Torfi Frans Olafsson, the game's Senior Producer, described the game as it was on its 2003 launch as, "just shooting people and mining rocks". Since then, the game has evolved in a number of ways, growing in size and scope along with its community as the developers have endeavoured to continue to evolve the game into something that more closely resembles that interactive sci-fi flick.
This brings us to where we stand today, with the company talking more and more about the pending addition of 3D avatars and station environments. A couple of things, we were told, have led to Walking in Stations becoming a reality. First, advancements in technology that have allowed the team to create avatars and environments of a quality that they would want for the game and second, the transition of many special effects artists from the world of television and movies into the video game medium, a number of whom have been brought on to the team at CCP.
In the Leipzig interview, we told you that in the hopes of accomplishing a more realistic flavor for the Walking in Stations feature, the company had hired both a real-world costume designer to create the concepts for the clothing in the game, as well as real world architects to help with the interior designs.
Hiring the costume designer has resulted in the game's clothing not only matching the stylistic feel of the game's eclectic cultures, but has also resulted in design detail which insures that everything, right down to where the virtual seams are placed, would be realistic enough to actually create and function in the real world.
The use of an architect on the project has allowed the developers to create station environments that use the virtual space to bring people together and make them more visible to other players. In short, the spaces are designed to promote socialization and interaction, the two main functions of the project. In the name of socialization and interaction, players will not be able to engage in combat while on board stations. We were told that we should think about stations the same way that we think about modern airports in terms of their security. In short, no weapons allowed.
So, now that we know what players will not be able to do when their characters take 3D form for the first time, it's time to talk about some of what will be available within the new feature:
When players enter a station, the first room that they will enter will be their captain's or pilot's room. You should think of this in much the same way that you would think about player housing in a standard MMO. It is a private space that you will be able to decorate and personalize in a number of different ways. Not to worry though, you'll be able to invite others over to look at your creation.
Once you leave your quarters, you will enter the station's promenade. We were told to think of this part of the feature a little bit alike a mall (or for those of you who might be familiar with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, think of that).
Within the station, there will be numerous spaces that are available for players to rent (think about the way that stores line up in a mall). Players and / or corporations will be able to purchase these spaces in order to create their own areas or businesses. The example that we were given was of a bar. If you want to establish a watering hole, you would first rent the space. You would then purchase or acquire a blueprint for a bar. This would allow you to construct your establishment.
Similar to your quarters, the establishment will also be customizable (within confines... sorry folks, no hot pink walls for you). Taking it one step further though will be the NPCs available for purchase that will populate your space. Players will be able to create their own dialogue trees for these characters so that other players will interact with them. They will be able to take and receive items / money and should allow players to use their establishments for any number of things, including creating their own missions. The Walking in stations system also features a number of mini-games that can serve not only to entertain folks and give them another avenue for socialization, but as a money-maker as well... a gambling system has been implemented to make things a little bit more interesting.
Bars won't be the only things that players can make on the stations. Another example that was given told us that corporations will be able to create their own corp spaces as well. Think of them like a corporate headquarters. There will be a front lobby area that is open to the public which could be populated with NPCs informing players of recruitment guidelines, mission statements, handing out freebies or what have you. In the back though will be a "members only" kind of room where the corporations can meet and gather their members. In the future, CCP hopes to be able to provide dynamic tactical battle maps and other similar nifty gadgets as well.
Those of you reading this article who might be concerned that all of this additional material might slow down the game's performance outside of the station environment, or that stations located in highly space-populated areas might lag on the inside, needn't worry. We were told that the stations themselves will exist apart from the space game and shouldn't cause one another problems.
While yesterday's information came only from a presentation, we are told that during the run of this FanFest, we will be able to go for our own walk in a station and will be able to update you with our opinions of this upcoming feature in action.