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Jester’s Trek: The Social Network
One of the fun things about the Alliance Tournament is the fact that CCP uses it as a marketing effort just as much as a PvP tournament. Between matches, they bring in devs to chat about what they’re working on and try to create some buzz. It’s a good strategy.
A good example is this video (and to a lesser extent, this one) with CCP QC and CCP Soundwave talking about the new API, CREST. If you’ve been following CREST development at all, you know the big change it would introduce: the ability to write data to the EVE database instead of just reading it. With today’s API, all you can do is read selected information about your character or corp. About the new API, right off the bat, CCP QC says “The idea here is that anything you can do in the client, we COULD — the big word is ‘could’ here — let you do with that new API.”
Make no mistake: this is huge.
CCP has been dancing around how to build EVE’s social and interactive network for more than a year now, and it really has not come into focus yet. And I’ve written about CCP’s relationship with their third-party developers several times before. In the former area, we’ve got EVE Gate and we’ve got a new website, but there just hasn’t been a big draw to it yet. There isn’t an EVE Gate app for either iPhone or Android, which means you’re still tethered to a laptop or desktop. On the latter front, with their third-party developers, CCP has been alternating between good strategy, bad strategy, and no strategy. As a result, there haven’t been any new third-party apps in a while.
And the mobile app market for EVE is a bit of a wasteland, right at the moment that virtually all of us are trying to drop our laptops in favor of phones or tablets. CCP has only the vaguest sort of strategy around this right now.
I know the guys at Aideron Robotics, Marcel Devereux in particular, feel very strongly about both of these topics. Aideron is the developer of what I still consider the finest mobile third-party app for EVE out there, Aura. But as good as it is, it’s funny how much of it is still under construction or still more theoretical than real. I can watch the skills my characters are training, but I can’t change them. I can see what market orders I have running, but not how they compare to others in the same station. I can review theoretical ship fittings, but I can’t apply them to ships in my hangar. I can read my EVE mail but I can’t respond. And I can’t access my corp or alliance in-game chat at all.
Adding to the irony, DUST 514 will have an excellent app that offers many of these capabilities at launch. The CREST API is obviously looking to change some of that. BUT (there’s always a but) there’s some interesting dangers inherent in the possibilities as well.
Poetic Stanziel lightly brushes on the least of these issues in a post over the weekend: if you can change your skills from outside of EVE, would you ever need to log into EVE at all? After all, in EVEmon or EVEHQ, most of us have extremely long skill queues, far longer than the 24 hour queue that EVE allows. If CREST allowed EVEmon or EVEHQ to alter your skill queue, it could immediately add your next skill to the in-game queue the moment you had more than a minute free. There wouldn’t be any need to log into EVE from far-away places when you’re on vacation to update your queue, or add extremely long skills to compensate for times when you’re far away from your home computer.
That’s obviously a huge positive. Another good one would be the ability to respond to EVEmails without the need for EVE Gate. As I said, CCP hasn’t allowed the social aspect of interacting with EVE players leave the game to a far enough extent. Many of us skip it entirely, and interact with corp-mates far more on mobile IRC, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, or the like rather than using EVE Gate to do it. Pulling some of this ability to interact — perhaps even to chat in in-game corp or alliance chat channels — would also have a huge social impact. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get people to log into the game if they can watch an intel channel, for instance, and see that someone has a carrier or a freighter tackled. Right now, those of us that are doing this are doing it in any way other than EVE-based apps.
But of course CCP has to be careful, because there’s a dark side as well. I’d love the ability to monitor and modify market orders from outside the game client. Frankly, the in-game UI around working with the EVE market is pretty terrible. Just the ability to quickly identify your own market orders by visually highlighting them was the best improvement CCP has made to this part of the game in at least three years. Giving players the ability to monitor and modify market orders from outside the game would be a big improvement… but of course it makes writing market bots a trivial exercise. As a result, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see this capability added to CREST. Or if it is added, I’d expect to see major limitations applied to it.
Similarly, in the DUST 514 support app, there will be the ability to configure and buy fittings for drop-suits and vehicles. The ability to do this with an app would also be really helpful for a lot of EVE players out there. But if this capability was added to a phone app and I lose my phone, am I going to log into the game to find someone has spent all of my ISK on stuff they had for sale at ridiculous prices? And if so, can I petition that loss? It’s another danger that CCP has to worry about.
Even beyond this, CCP has to step fairly carefully from an in-game content perspective. Logged in players are in-game content. But EVE Online has always been a little quirky in that it’s a game that you’re rewarded for not playing. Only at a pretty high level of play do you become a better frigate pilot by actually flying frigates. Early in your career, you become a better frigate pilot by putting a lot of frigate skills into your skill queue and then going off to play some other game. Pulling the ability to do this out of the game is only going to encourage the sort of player that wants to invest six or eight months training a pilot before actually undocking for the first time. That doesn’t help in-game content.
To his credit, CCP QC recognizes these issues right off. In the video, he makes it clear that the goal is to allow players to handle “book-keeping” tasks with CREST. That way, once they actually log into the game, they can immediately undock. But I suspect there’s going to be some false starts with this technology as CCP carefully picks and chooses what they enable “write access” to in CREST and what they don’t. As a result, I think we’re all going to have to be patient with the new API and see what gets enabled first. Don’t expect things to be thrown open right away.
Now, about that stuff that CCP Veritas said about POSes…