Sunday, May 27, 2012

BB36: The Expanding Universe

Welcome to the thirty-sixth edition of the EVE Blog Banter, the community discussion that brings the collective minds of the EVE blogosphere together to chew the cud, exchange opinions or troll the world.

"With the Inferno expansion upon us, new seeds have been planted in the ongoing evolution of EVE Online. With every expansion comes new trials and challenges, game-changing mechanics and fresh ideas. After nine years and seventeen expansions, EVE has grown far more than most other MMOGs can hope for. Which expansions have brought the highs and lows, which have been the best and the worst for EVE Online?"


 Closing in on the beginning of my fourth year of Eve, I've had a few expansions under my belt at this point. My first character was started on June 20, 2009, as I was spurred on by a few very excited coworkers at an internship. This was just after Apocrypha came out, with the introduction of all of the wormholes and T3 Cruisers. Read that again. Three years ago, CCP introduced 2500 new systems, an entirely new mechanic for transportation between systems, and some of the most versatile ships in the game. I'd say that's some pretty solid expansion right there.

For me, it comes down to a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let's break it down. I've been through Apocrypha, Dominion, Tyrranis, Incursions, Incarna, Crucible, and now Inferno. That's 7 expansions, and its been quite a mix in quality.

The Good
Apocrypha: As alluded to above, Apocrypha was a fantastic expansion, and I didn't know how good it was until subsequent ones came out. In fact, I'd argue that its the best one to date that I've been around for. The magnitude of what CCP did with this one is absolutely unreal. Wormholes & T3's. Enough said.

Incursion I've never actually participated in an Incursion, but the expansion itself was pretty solid. It brought a much needed new NPC challenge, the character creator and the removal of learning skills. None of these are "incredible! WOW!" features, but they have all made the game better.

Crucible: Crucible introduced almost zero new content outside of the Tier 3 Battlecruisers, but it was one of the most successful expansions to date. It fixed a ridiculous amount of things the players wanted done, and it did it well. Eve can't live on expansions like this long term, but this was a much needed one.

The Bad
Dominion: On my first patch day misery, Dominion was released. Honestly, as a carebear in highsec, I was hardly concerned about Sov mechanics, but its still something that many people complain about.  Having just reread the patch notes, the only thing I found of interest was the introduction of Navy Battleships (Tier 1). It had lots of little fixes as well, but not nearly on the level of significance as Crucible.

Tyrannis: Farmville in space and Spacebook. I looked into doing Planetary Interaction once, but it didn't seem worth the trouble. I am one of the few that actually does use Eve Gate, but it is still flawed, and this has been almost two years now. Outside of PI, I find nothing really memorable about this expansion.

The Ugly
(We all know which one was saved for this category.)
Incarna: This was a shit storm. Walking in stations turned into walking in one and a half rooms by yourself, graphics cards were fried and Jita rioted. This can be termed as the expansion where CCP totally lost focus. Subscriber numbers dropped and CCP knew it. Trying to pass off WiS as an expansion was a joke, and the players knew it. Worst expansion to date.

To lay out my career in term of Eve expansions, it started off with a bang, sunk for about a year, recovered, tanked and recovered. Where does this leave us? Well that's the thing that people don't realize. It has almost always left us at least marginally better, still playing the same ridiculously awesome internet spaceship game. I mean look at the Dominion Patch Notes. The very same patch notes that I earlier described as "a lot of nothing" have a ton of little fixes that made this game better. With the exception of Incarna frying GPU cards, CCP has worked hard and made the game better. Even if you don't like the new content introduced, you can usually ignore it if its not for you (although that's clearly not the goal with these expansions). We have a great core game, and the expansions are icing on the cake, giving us new features to play with.

Inferno brings the return of Faction Warfare amongst new modules, ship rebalancing, and war mechanics changes. It has all the makings of a pretty solid expansion, though not a ton of it affects me (outside of the new modules). FW has a few thousand players, and to be honest I don't think that war declarations are that important. They only really apply to a subset of highsec warfare. Again, I'm not saying the changes are bad, I'm just not sure it was the most necessary thing possible.

What should Eve expansions be then? My proposal is that each expansion should be some cross between Apocrypha and Crucible. Things should be changed and rebalanced as necessary (per Crucible standards), but significant new content should be introduced like Apocrypha. And when I say "significant new content," I mean content related to spaceships and combat. I have no interest in harvesting planets or walking in stations. Its perfectly fine to add these things to the game, but not as the focus of an expansion. Inferno has come close to doing this, but I'm not sure it quite made it. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction. I'm much happier with CCP's current path as opposed to recent years, and like I said, we still have the fantastic core game without expansions. At the end of the day, its all about MOAR COMBAT and MOAR SHIPS. If CCP can keep that going, it'll be smooth sailing for years to come. Cheers to Inferno!

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