Eve-Online @ E3 – Expansion details, great movie, voice chat, new engines

All the latest announces were already in the air. Beside the bad news.

Condensed news:

– Kali is going to be broken in different patches that should start in Q2 06 and will end in 2007.
Factional Warfare won’t happen this year.
– Voice chat support in-game through “premium service option”. (Vivox)

The E3 video is quite impressing, showing some of the huge ships that were added in the recent patches. Still, most of the scenes are obviously scripted and even the flight of the ships was manipulated and not really reflecting what you see (and play) in the game. I think some of the models are the also the new ones that will be added with the engines upgrade. Overall it’s still a great video. I just wish the game could move steps in the direction of what is shown (I always repeat how the combat is graphically poor and abstracted in Eve).

Beside this I’m really deluded. I had high expecations for Kali (the upcoming patch) and now they announce that the most significant feature of it won’t arrive before the next year:

The upcoming expansion to EVE Online—codenamed Kali—will introduce an innovative Advanced Reactive Content System (ARCS), in which the political landscape and physical borders of nation-states within the game can be altered dynamically through the collective outcome of player actions, thus directly controlling the game universe destiny and resulting storyline.

“Games either provide active content, in which the player reacts to artificial changes in the game universe, or they provide reactive content, in which the entire game universe reacts to the actions that players decide for themselves,” said Magnus Bergsson, CMO of CCP Games. “CCP believes strongly that the players should be the center focus of the storyline and control the evolution of the game universe. The Path to Kali will lead EVE Online to great heights in reactive content and further establish EVE Online as the premium free-form MMOG on the market today.”

The final component of Kali will be factional warfare, in which players will have the option to align themselves with an NPC faction. Also included in the Path to Kali will be the opening of new regions in the game universe, the addition of significant exploration content, next-generation player R&D that includes reverse engineering capabilities, additional ship upgrades and player professions, the introduction of combat boosters, and the addition of new warships.

The Path to Kali will begin in Q2 2006 with the first release, and end in 2007 with the factional warfare implementation.

Knowing CCP and how the patches gets always delayed I guess I cannot expect the “factional warfare” anytime soon. Just for comparison Kali was planned to be released this past December. Then they decided to split it in two, with the first part becoming the “Blood Moon Rising” patch and the second planned for June. And now it gets even more fragmented to go on for at least another full year. Blah.

Following this, there’s the announce of the two new engines in the work, one for DirectX 9 that should be out this year and the other for Windows Vista.

CCP will also release a newer version of the current award-winning graphics engine for EVE Online, which will take advantage of the latest DirectX 9 features to produce superior imagery and detail than the existing client. This Herculean effort requires that the game’s three hundred plus starships—each of which is composed of millions of triangles—be remodeled in ultra-high resolution. Players will then see these ships rendered by the power of per-pixel lighting, HDR, and soft-self shadowing.

Parallel development of an entirely new graphics engine called “EVE Vista” is also underway. The new graphics engine—named “Trinity II”—will take full advantage of the new features and optimizations offered by DirectX 10, which will ship with the new Windows Vista OS. The highly anticipated graphics API will give Trinity II the ability to render far greater detail by leveraging the fully programmable shader pipeline and utilizing the API’s built-in instancing support. The combined technologies will allow CCP to continue building dynamic environments with visual effects that will surpass the already stunning graphical presentation of the game.

I already wrote about the two engines since they were already announced. On the first link above there are screenshots from both version. The DirectX 10 – Vista stuff looks promising but, as Foton would say: “I’m not much interested in what I might be able to buy some day. Tell me what I can buy NOW.”

The last announce is about the voice chat integration that I also anticipated (same link about the graphic engine). CCP partners with Vivox and it looks like this service will require a special subscriptions considering that they talk of “premium service option”.

I’m glad, at least it could reveal to be an utter failure. Surely I won’t pay for it. There are bigger than expected design implications about the integration of voice chat and I still think it severely damage the community. From the press release it looks like CCP has a different opinion:

CCP Games and Vivox today announced that subscribers of the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) EVE Online will soon have real-time, in-game voice communication as the result of a technology integration agreement between the two companies. Vivox will provide CCP with game-embedded voice communication services customized for and integrated into EVE.

EVE players will be able to speak with each other in-game, create audio conference channels for their gang, corporation or alliance, and start, leave or rejoin voice conversations during game play without impacting game performance. On-screen indicators will show the gamer which channels are monitoring audio communications and which player within a channel is speaking. Players will also have moderator privileges to kick, mute, ban and un-ban other players, all synchronized with the rights of existing EVE moderator and user roles.

“Players of EVE are attracted by its unique role playing and space simulation features,” said Hilmar V. Petursson, CEO of CCP. “But when players unite to form corporations and alliances, the game’s dynamic, immersive experience really comes alive. Now users will be able to talk, strategize, plot and negotiate naturally with each other. To deliver this functionality to our subscribers, we wanted a partner with expertise in delivering voice communications with a simple, scalable and high quality solution so that we could focus on our core expertise of building game content.”

Unlike other MMOGs, the entire EVE player base shares the same server cluster. With Vivox providing the in-game voice services and managing the required infrastructure, there are no resource implications that could impact game server performance. This new feature will be a premium service option for game subscribers and, because of itts tight integration into the game, ease of use, and massive scalability, presents a tremendous improvement over burdening gamers with maintainings their own voice servers with third party applications, as some EVE player corporations and alliances currently do.

“With its concurrent users numbering in the tens of thousands, and the game’s distinct depth and challenges, EVE is a stellar stage for our voice technology,” said Vivox CEO Rob Seaver. “Adding real-time voice to a game like EVE makes for an MMOG experience that grabs users and immerses them in game play that’s challenging and entertaining, and creates a sense of community and camaraderie. It’s this kind of technology that’s going to keep gamers heavily-invested in EVE and excited about the future of MMOGs.”

It’s the opposite, voice chat selects and segregates, it doesn’t integrate anything.

I have the suspect Mythic will do the same announce for DAoC this summer.

Maybe it’s just me. But this E3 sucks.

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