Eve-Online to add potions, socketed items and the Auction House

I’ve read in the past that the auctions in WoW could be considered a form of player-driven questing (“bring me three gems and I’ll give you three gold coins”), I’ve also imagined a reversed system where the crafters don’t just have an unified marketplace, but where the buyers post orders directly (the consignment system) that then the crafters can take and fulfill. It would be a system more driven by the demand than the offer and that I think would be more usable.

One of the main features of Kali (Eve’s next expansion that will be delivered in smaller chunks along the next months) is a “Contract System” that seems to unify some of those ideas.

But let’s go in order. In the last weeks the devs have been quite prolific with their blogging and have released more details about what they are working on. I’m going to parse the interesting bits.

To begin with, the first Kali “chunk” should be still on track for a September release. It is unsure if it will include even some updates to the graphic engine that are almost ready or if they’ll deliver them all at once at a later date.

Before this first patch that is going to add some significant new features there will be another one that, I suppose, should be out for mid/end of July. Its content wasn’t really specified:

One of the first thing we’re considering to do is release our Dragon code branch to Tranquility. Currently you are in the Red Moon Rising/Blood code branch. Dragon is the branch which has the localization and translation framework, tons of improvements, optimizations and a couple of minor features. This is the code branch currently running on Serenity in China and is approaching a release state.

The reasons to release it are numerous. We want to seperate it from the first Kali release to minimize risk. The Dragon branch contains a lot of refactoring and rewriting of code and we don’t want to be troubleshooting that at the same time as the new big features in Kali 1. The second is that it contains previously mentioned optimizations. These are general improvements rather than any specific thing. It also allows us to concentrate our testing efforts on current core functionality.

So they split the patch in two even here. A first part to be delivered within the next few weeks with general tweaks and improvements and another one still slated for September that will plug in the game some of the new features planned for “Kali”.

What are these new features?

In the recent dev blogs they have written about Combat Boosters, System Scanning, Invention & Reverse Engineering, Salvaging & Ship Rigging and the Contract System.

The “Combat Boosters” are supposed to be something tailored for experienced PvP players that have access to high-end resources. Even if there will be different kinds of boosters, more or less accessible, I believe that even the simplest version isn’t something that will be simple to obtain.

From their description they will be temporary bonuses (think about potions) that may trigger negative side-effects if you are unlucky (random dice rolls). The goal is: “Ideally, they would not be so powerful that everyone wants to have them to PvP but good enough so they are worth manufacturing”.

From a design point of view I’m not sure how adding an higher degree of randomness can add to the fun (not having control is frustrating), but these combat boosters are supposed to be occasional and slightly situational, so they may still fill a role in combat that is appropriate instead of disruptive. Though they also say that the effects should last “hours”, which would lead to another frustrating mechanic if a player is unlucky and triggers some nasty negative effects without any way to purge them. One thing is about using them *during combat*, with the effect lasting some minutes. Another is having them as an incentive to min/maxing BEFORE combat, trying to get the optimal result and only then move out to look for the action. So I really do hope they change this part of the design to make these boosters more situational.

If you think about it, this could lead to similar issues of buffbotting, where players never move out to fight till they are all full buffed and ready. The real point is about designing these booster to be in-combat items instead of preemptive out-of-combat setups. And this can only happen if the duration expires in the arc of a few minutes at max.

As I said it doesn’t look like these items will be easily available for all players. To manufacture even the simple booster you need to be in 0.0 space (open PvP area) and have access to a player-driven starbase with the modules to create boosters active. Plus ingredients that are again only available in 0.0 special regions (COSMOS).

System Scanning will lead to changes to the UI and changes to the gameplay. There should be a new “seamless” map that allows you to zoom out of the whole universe and in till inside a solar system.

The new feature about the System Scanning is also related to the addition of new things to discover (they call this “exploration”). To scan a solar system for these new “objects” you’ll need to deploy probes. Before you needed three of them: “three probes to create a pizza-alike triangle to find objects within”. With the new system each probe will work as a “singleton”, with two statistics: scan radius, scan strength. With a possibility of mistakes (inaccuracy) depending on the stats of the probe and the stats of the object to find.

With the new seamless map you’ll also be able to monitor the probes radiuses. And they also merged the types of objects to scan into only five categories. So, concretely, usability changes and some new content added.

Invention & Reverse Engineering. Reverse Engineering won’t be in the September patch, while Invention will. The two should still be somewhat related.

They are quite original ways to toy with the crafting process. New interesting and definitely appropriate (for the setting) patterns. Reverse Engineering will let you “break” an item to study it, with the possibility to figure out its recipe. While “Invention” is a type of research made through new skills and modules that lets you discover higher quality recipes by studying basic modules (from T1 to T2 tech).

Even here it is unsure how much they will be accessible. “Invention” will depend on a side-profession that is only available in special systems (COSMOS), while the other component should be simpler to get since it is acquired by running research missions (then it depends on the level of the mission, I guess).

Salvaging & Ship Rigging. Even here the system is curious because inspired directly to Diablo’s socketed items/jewelcrafring that will also be one main feature of WoW’s first expansion. Each ship will have some free slots: “T1 ships will be given 2 slots for ship modification and T2 ships get 3 slots”. Then you can plug “rigs”/jewels into these slots, that will be permanent and won’t be removed anymore. To craft “rigs”/jewels you’ll need a new skill/profession (“salvaging”) that will be used on the “wrecks” of the enemy ships you destroy to extract those materials that you’ll need in the manufacturing process.

The other interesting part of this new feature is that the ships won’t leave anymore just a loot container when they explode, but a more realistic “wreck”. Quoting:

This feature has me pretty excited because it addresses one thing that’s always bugged me about EVE. When your ship blows up a pristine can floats in space with some modules inside it. This immersion breaking feature will be no more when Kali1 hits. When your ship blows up a smoldering wreck will be left behind. The wreck will have a few modules intact of course but will also have other items of value only extractable by a skilled salvager.

Due to technical / architectural constraints on the client and server, most of the ways that you could do individual wreck models for each ship type would be bad (inability to preload in warp / type spam in the DB / increased disk access / extra CPU load ).

It’s likely that we’ll see something like a wreck type per race and class, ie. “Amarr Cruisers”. It’s a fact of life that we have to evaluate everything not just by how neat an idea it is, but also by the practicality of implementation (in game design, typically a wider self-critical analysis as well) in ways that can be inscrutable from the outside – lots of nice ideas return from that fight somewhat worse for wear.

And finally the “Contract System”. This one will have a significant role when the Factional Warfare will arrive in the game next year, since it will be the backbone of the new, “automated”, mission system. But already this September it should have a relevant impact on the organization of players’ corporations and the interaction outside, toward other players.

The latest news is what I’ve anticipated above, they will integrate the new mission system with a type of orders that look exactly like WoW’s Auction House. See this image. You have “Current Bid”, “Buyout Price”, owner of the order and a vague “Time Left” definition as in WoW. The only two differences I notice aren’t so small, though. The first is that in your auction you can bundle different items together instead of just one (or stacks of the same type) as in WoW, the second is that the AH in WoW is an unified place and items are delivered right into your mailbox, just a few meters away. In Eve the “Auction House” should be just an interface, always accessible (in WoW you have to walk to it), but where you need then to travel to the system where the item is located if you want it, instead of have it delivered to you (time for automated NPC transport systems?).

My first worry is that this could overlap with Eve’s complex market structure. I’m not sure how this new Auction House fits with the way the current market works and which role it will take. So I see this as a risk and CCP should be careful to implement such a thing.

Despite the possible problems it is quite interesting to see the devs taking ideas from a game so different from Eve. We have potions, jewelcrafting and the Auction House, all perfectly adapted and integrated that they may finish to feel more appropriate in Eve than in WoW. As I said there’s a risk about the AH, but the rest looks like solid design and not just a mess that contradicts the premises of the game, trying to steer it in a direction that doesn’t belong to it.

Oh, and don’t forget the BattleGrounds, that should become a reality the next year, with the arrive of the Factional Warfare.

Again CCP seems committed to let the game develop as it needs, focusing all their resources and reinvesting on it. Doing a very good work in particular with that seventh commandment that is so important for these kind of games and that CCP respected better than everyone else in the mmorpg space till today.

While a menacing cloud appears on the horizon:

As long as there are players playing EVE, we’ll be there evolving it, but we also have plans for world domination, like all respectable game developers have (right?) so there will be other titles.

Please don’t be so stupid. Do not ruin the recipe for success that you used till now. Don’t throw everything away like that. Don’t start to sound exactly like every other, clueless mmorpg producer.

I fear the success they are currently having will ruin things in the end.

And you know, I would love to write these kinds of comments about a bunch of juicy features every few weeks even for other mmorpgs, but it looks like CCP has no competition on this front. Everyone else is asleep.

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