The last year has seen numerous changes to the game world and many momentous events in the EVE Universe, from the First Titan made to the first destroyed. While some of these changes have been both for the better and long anticipated by the community, they have also caused a bit of angst and frustration both in the community and amongst the CCP Family.
First, I had to ask what we were going to be seeing with new clients in the near future? Will we see a Linux Client? I was pleasantly informed that we will most likely see the Vista/DX10 Client this summer but much depends on how quickly things get fixed with Vista as there are several issues (particularly in Europe) that are slowing development down. They are however working with Microsoft and nVidia closely to ensure as smooth a launch as possible. In addition they are looking at introducing several new clients in the upcoming months including a Linux Client (in around 3 weeks) and a Mac client sometime this summer. The Linux client is mainly being targeted at Eastern Europe where they may be running on older hardware with Linux while the Mac Client has been a joint project with Transgaming.
One of the core systems of the EVE Universe is the Corporation system. Revelations has brought many changes to the game, with significantly more on the way. While I think many players would like some additional tools in the corporation system Magnus indicated that while they have made some recent modifications to the system that they believe will help corporations in the addition of contracts, which has features specifically designed to aid corporations in distributing materials/responsibilities to their members, the vast majority of players are not directors of corporations and would not benefit from a further overhaul of the system. Where they do believe attention should be paid is the Alliance system. The corporation system was designed by CCP at inception, but the Alliance system was driven and created by the players. This means that as alliances have increased in size they have been come both unwieldy and harder for their Executors to maintain; this situation will be come even more complex with the introduction of Faction Warfare. While he didn't indicate what the changes will be at this time, they are aware that some changes need to be made.
Because so much of EVE's systems have grown organically from player actions, I asked how they dealt with the changes? Apparently, the players have driven not only alliances but the Game Time Cards (GTC) trading as well. Recently, Sr. GM Guard posted a blog that addressed Real Money Transfer (RMT) ISK purchases and how they can adversely affect the game. This brought up the question of why CCP felt that the trading of GTC is ok but the direct purchase of ISK was a problem. To this Magnus mentioned that while the intent of the GTC was to allow those players who may not otherwise be able to play the game (such as those in Eastern European countries who may earn less then $50 a week) another avenue to play the game with out spending real money. To this they decided to support these transactions in an organized manner so that those players in a situation such as this can still play the game.
The game's AI and encounters have remained largely static since launch, with NPCs reacting in a fairly dumb way. However recently several developers mentioned changes to the AI system of the game, when can we expect to see these changes? Unfortunately, the NPCs currently in space won't be "educated" any time in the near future. While these changes are looked for, Mangus stated unequivocally that they'd be spending their time putting their energies into the NPCs on the stations for the Ambulation Project; touching those in space would require a change to the core code of the game and they avoid this whenever possible. It simply comes down to resource allocation and they see a richer game experience occurring by creating depth in the Ambulation Project then by touching the older content due to time constraints.
With so much focus paid on 0.0 space, it's often easy to forget that some players intentionally avoid the strife and spend time in Empire where gangs are not of importance. Because of this, there's no advantage or impetus to join a gang. I asked Magnus what was in the pipeline to change this? His reaction was amusing. He was honestly surprised as, like many EVE developers, he had moved on from Empire and lives in 0.0; it simply hadn't occurred to him that many players weren't ganging up since in 0.0 space gangs are essential to survive. While he didn't have an answer (though he promised to take this back to the developers) to this he suspects that the changes to missions and factional warfare encourage even players in the Empire into gangs earlier on.
I had to ask; you know I had to. The accusations of Kugutsumen and how they have effected the company, the community and the game. How did it happen? What's going on now? He was very much in earnest when he talked about it. The entire episode occurred during the summer when much of management was out of town on summer holiday. What was never clear from these blogs and what has cause much of the angst for them is that when they returned, the management remained in the dark regarding the details and was unaware of the decisions that had been made until Kugutsumen's reports.
Magnus agrees the entire situation was handled poorly and looked badly to the community, but he went on to say that much of the problem stemmed from a certain level of naпvetй. They truly believed that no one at CCP would be capable of that sort of behavior: it's not only anti-CCP it's anti-Icelandic. At the time that it occurred, they had no company policy in place and therefore no defined policy on how to handle it. They do now for the future.
Now for the good stuff. Questions over, grilling done, Magnus got out the shinies. The Ambulation Project. He opened his laptop, brought out Media Player and we saw…people, walking. In EVE. Full bodied, natural looking people. They've gone through great pains to get the movement correct. Hours of motion capture show distinct differences in gait between the male and female. Subtle differences in shoulder height, arm movement, head tilt - the effort to get it right is obvious. When they walk out on to a docking platform the sheer massive scale shown between a person and a ship is awe inspiring.
The good news? You won't be "stuck" with the thumbnail avatar you have now. You'll get to go through the character creation process again, including face, body and clothing. They haven't been this excited in a very long time.
It's been a great past year CCP. In addition to the changes with Eve they also recently completed 4 months of negotiations that lead to the acquisition of White Wolf games a US based maker of Pen & Paper Role playing games. This will be leading to several exciting changes within the company in the next few months, from a EVE Online Board game to the start of a new development team to work on the new World of Darkness MMO. It's readily apparent that the upcoming year will bring a lot of exciting changes not only to EVE, but CCP as well.