So an anonymous commenter dropped a rather flippant little question into my most recent CSM update that I feel deserves a longer response than I can give in the comments:
How about this… in the broadest of terms, what can we expect for the summer expansion in terms of its scope. From 1 to 10, with 1 being Inferbiconyssey and 10 being Apocrypha (5 years ago), where would you put this summer’s release?
OK, I can’t directly answer this question because doing so would be NDA-breaking. The things that I like and I dislike about EVE are pretty well known at this point. If I say I like this expansion and would rate it highly, that would allow people to read between the lines about the sorts of things that will be in the expansion. I don’t want to pre-announce.
But in a way, the question being asked is asking something a lot more specific and that’s the question I’d like to answer in more detail.
If you take a step way back and really look at it, the Apocrypha expansion really only had four features: the skill queue, a new scanning system, wormholes, and T3 ships. A number of things that Apocrypha is remembered for — sized rigs, epic mission arcs, remaps — weren’t in the Apocrypha release at all. Most or all of them were in Apocrypha 1.5 which for all intents and purposes was a separate expansion with a different theme. Step back further still and you’ll realize that Apocrypha introduced space which the vast majority of EVE players don’t live in. The content — as such — was repetitive and rather wretched (and is still with us!). The scanning system has since been revamped again. And of course T3s are a major factor in a lot of different ways of playing the game.
But that was it: exactly four features, one or two of which most EVE players don’t use. And yet a lot of EVE players (including myself and former EVE EP CCP Unifex) rate it as one of EVE Online’s best expansions.
Meanwhile, the features list of the Inferbiconyssey (I love that!) expansions is miles long. Yet a lot of EVE players (again including myself) generally consider them “caretaker expansions” mostly intended to be fan service and to try to call back lapsed players rather than bring in a lot of new ones or add big ideas to the game.
In all the time I’ve been playing, EVE has never been about content. There’s an interesting new article published by polygon.com about EVE. The whole article is really really worth your time; it’s well-written and interesting.(1) But it makes the point again and again that EVE’s “content” are the players and the player relationships. What CCP does in terms of game development is almost secondary.
With that in mind, in my opinion one of the big reasons Apocrypha was a successful expansion was because it “created new nodes” in those relationships. Suddenly, there was a brand new type of EVE player, completely different from other types of EVE players. In that way, Apocrypha created content for every type of EVE player: suddenly every player in the game had to account for how they were going to deal (or not deal) with the new class of w-space players. W-space players had to decide how they were going to deal with each other. Apocrypha created “content” but most of that content had absolutely nothing to do with shooting Sleepers… or really, with anything the devs did.
But it could have crashed and burned. It was a risky move. Had w-space not panned out, T3s would have been outrageously expensive, the scanning system would have gone unused, and players would have bitched that they waited six months for an expansion with one real feature: skill queues.
Know what other recent expansion was attempting to create new nodes and create an entirely new type of EVE player, and in doing so create a lot of new inter-player content? Incarna! Incarna was also a risky move. And of course, Incarna did crash and burn.(2)
Since then, CCP has been a lot more cautious. But they’re coming out of that phase now.
I’ve said before: big ideas are coming. And I don’t have to break NDA to say that. CCP Seagull‘s vision of player-built star gates, and various interviews with CCP employees about what might lie beyond those new star gates are public knowledge. What this will eventually look like and how it will work and when it will happen has not been announced and I’m not going to announce it. But I am looking forward to seeing these big ideas implemented in game. Done well, this vision could very well result in another successful expansion of inter-player content.
How much of that will be done for summer and what the “scope” of the summer expansion will be, you can expect me to talk about more when the theme of the thing is actually announced. At that time, I assure you I’ll have a lot to say.
Sorry I couldn’t answer your question more directly, Anonymous, but now hopefully you understand why. Thanks for asking it, though! Got me thinking!
If you would like to read more we invite you to visit his blog here.
(1) Seriously, go read it.
(2) In the middle is the Incursion expansion. That one successfully
created a new type of EVE player… but it was a type of EVE player that a lot of other EVE players resent.