CCP's Lead Content Designer Scott Holden waxed eloquent over the Dominion Release due in the November / December time frame. A former freelance writer for White Wolf, Scott has been with EVE Online for about two and a half years.
"We have some major features we are releasing toward the end of the year, and as always, expansions are free," said Scott, describing them for me.
1. Changes in sovereignty in null security space
The goal is to allow players in alliances to control the benefits they gain from sovereignty. For example, they can control the resources and be able to mine more material in the area. Players have asked for more than just bragging rights. This is a change that has been in the works for a while and this is the first stage of sovereignty changes over the next year and a half.
2. New rebalancing of capital class ships
"Players considered them as glorified freighters and were using them only to carry smaller ships around," said Scott, which was not the original plan for them. Each type should have a different role and the original concept was that they would have their particular places in the hierarchy of ships and in the roles they played. "It's a constant state of checks and balances. The game evolves and so do the ships. The capital ships just didn't go where we meant them to."
3. New Epic Arc content
CCP has developed a new tool to build missions in game and they are using it. The first was introduced at the Apocrypha and 2 more are being done for the Dominion release of level 3 difficulty. These are "speed boat" missions and will involve the use of smaller, speedy and agile ships in lower and null security space as players work for the Pirate factions in game.
4. Expanded tutorial material
The tutorial was rebuilt in Apocrypha and Dominion adds on to it. "We've added career path information," said Scott. The tutorial will ease players into the game a little better. A more comprehensive tutorial, it is also goal oriented and the player can go through all the arcs to see what is possible in the game, and the career paths of Industry, Business, Military and Exploration, as well as PvP.
"We needed players to know what to expect from the game and we want them to understand that it's okay to lose ships and that they will lose ships." Scott explained. "EVE Online is such a complex game that most new players didn't know what they were doing after they came out of the tutorial, got blown up, got mad and went away mad."
The tutorial takes about an hour and at the end of that hour, players will earn a new ship and a set of skills and ship components depending on the path they choose.
Cosmos is the name of CCP's Communications platform. This is their first step, with a fully functional web-browser in the game client. "The larger product vision is for players to be able to monitor the market, by and sell, change skills, etc. from outside the game," said Scott.
We turned to future projects and developments coming down the road. "There's no EVE 2," said Scott. "We're constantly improving the graphics and game engine. It may sound a little facetious, but what you are looking at and playing today [actually] is EVE 2."
There will be entirely new art for the planets in the coming expansion as well. Scott then asked what else we wanted to know.
"Walking on space stations," I said. "You knew that was coming." "I did," Scott replied.
Incarna is the name of this initiative and it has been in development for a long time. It has come far, far along and according to Scott, looks fantastic. Shown for the first time at FanFest last year, much more will be show in this year's FanFest in Reykjavik, Iceland. "It took time for us to develop the technology to make this possible, and not just possible, it had to be good."
Asking players for feedback, Scott told me that the developers read the forums religiously. "We do listen to the players. Talk to the player council. Give us constructive criticism and offer suggestions."
EVE Online continues to look better and better each and every time I've looked at it. CCP looks to architecture and industrial design when they design their ships, not to other games. The game does not begin to look dated when they release new art which brings another "Wow!" to viewers. I am one of those guilty of giving up on the tutorial and not completing it, much less play the game when EVE first launched, but with a loyal fanbase, a dedicated and passionate development team and constant improvements, I find myself tempted to try the new tutorial system.