A New Frontier: EVE Online Doing Away With Expansions

By Nathan Grayson on May 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Is it possible to announce that you’re done with expansions while simultaneously announcing 10 new expansions? Is that allowed? I’m asking for a friend. That friend is CCP, and– oh they just went ahead and did it anyway. So right then: EVE Online will no longer be expanded in the traditional fashion – the one handed down to us by our forefathers, and to them by Vikings or aliens or something – but will instead receive ten annual updates. The first is called Kronos, and it’s launching this June.

Here’s the skinny on the upcoming totally-not-an-expansion, which will still be quite large on account of it originally being intended as a traditional expansion:

“Vast industrial operations are behind the famous player wars that rage across EVE’s sprawling universe, while smaller individual efforts generate wealth, meaning and power at a personal level. Kronos will create dynamic shifts in the industrial landscape by adding cost-scale differences, specialized workers and teams, changes to reprocessing, and more. Players’ activity will begin to affect the industrial palette of solar systems, allowing for more meaningful decisions and giving them more reasons to interact with each other in cooperative or adversarial ways. New players will be able to get into Industry more quickly as manufacturing opens up and the user interface is reworked.”

“Kronos will also offer other features in CCP’s ongoing commitment to improve EVE Online year after year. New Mordu’s Legion ships (frigate, cruiser, and battleship) are coming alongside a new mining frigate, the Prospect. Rebalancing efforts will change heat, transport ships, freighters, pirate faction ships, and drones. A new in-game store will prepare for even more customization options in the future, and other changes from sound customization to solar flares and warp effects will complete the release.”

So basically, industry’s getting a total overhaul. You thought you knew industry? WELL INDUSTRY AGAIN.

CCP has already named and dated the next nine updates as well. Here’s what to expect, assuming delays don’t put the whole schedule through some crazy blender tornado.

  • Kronos – 3rd June
  • Crius – 19th August
  • Hyperion – 23rd September
  • Oceanus – 4th November
  • Phoebe – 9th December
  • Rhea – 20th January 2015
  • Tethys – 7th February
  • Theia – 17th March
  • Themis – 4th April

So that’s the next year of EVE covered, if only in the vaguest fashion possible. This new schedule makes sense, though. Rolling out heaps of new systems all at once is asking for needless trouble with little benefit beyond promotional hoopla. Can’t fault CCP for wanting to do things at a more measured pace. Granted, it already rolled out smaller updates between expansions, but not with this sort of roadmap.

What do you think, EVE faithful? Is this arrangement better for your endless, frighteningly political universe overall?

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30 Comments »

  1. phuzz says:

    I can see how it would help, if a large feature isn’t quite polished enough, they can just delay it until the next expansion in just over a month, rather than rushing it out for the summer expansion. Likewise, small updates can be rolled out as soon as they’re done, without waiting 6 months.
    Not much for me personally in the upcoming expansion though.

    • Gesadt says:

      industry expansion maybe isnt as sexy as ships blowing up, but by god this part of eve is long overdue for overhaul (probably hasnt changed much since game launch 11 years ago) and is large part of why moniker spreadsheets in space or whatever exists. not only stuff is reworked and rebalanced, the goddafwul UI is actually getting modernized.
      also new update cycle is healthy for the game, now you will get smaller but more polished features, instead of big half finished ones, that ccp never followed up on.

      • Luciferous says:

        I don’t think it has changed, been playing on and off for most of the games life and most of that has been as a small industrial player making a fortune off of salvage.

  2. Myrdinn says:

    EVE is one of those games that I can’t seem to really enjoy because of time (and effort) constraints (I’ve played for a week or so). Yet I still love all the bits of news about the game and the player interactions in them. Also the idea to connect multiple (genres of) games into one universe is friggin brilliant and I have no clue why not more developers are picking up on it. Heck, it’s basically the same thing that Disney does with it’s Marvel Cinematic universe.

    • Noburu says:

      Im in the same boat. Maybe one day when the kids are older i can actually ahve time to play.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        Retiring into EVE will be mandatory in the grim darkness of the far future’s geriatrics system. Just stuff our failing bodies into the VR pods to dream of electric space sheep for the remainder of our days. Then they auto-recycle us into base chemicals when the end comes (it’s counted toward inherited in-game credits for our relatives).
        We have much to look forward to. :)

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          I hate visiting Grandpa. Once upon a time I’d just turn up at the old folks’ home and read a book until the time had passed, but now he’s stored in one of those biological maintenance pod complexes in Iceland. Yeah, Iceland. I’m a bit proud of that, to tell you the truth. He didn’t retire to Azeroth, like most of the oldsters. He’s in Eve, and that should tell you something about this cranky, mischievous old man.

    • GettCouped says:

      It is probably because what CCP is doing is very difficult. It requires tremendous ingenuity on both the server side and the development side.
      They are paving the way for a highly interactive and cohesive virtual world crossing multiple platforms and perspectives.
      Many of us don’t appreciate this tremendous undertaking; largely because we don’t fully comprehend the specifics.

    • harvy666 says:

      tried EVE for a few times alone its just a glorified chat simulator, thank god we have an option for you sir

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sciencegroen/a-history-of-the-great-empires-of-eve-online

  3. Artist says:

    This kind of planning ahead didnt work well for the USSR so I doubt it will end well for CCP. Just a matter of time till they stumble over their own release dates. And what then? Push back? Release prematurely? Im curious.

    • Dunbine says:

      Your comment seemed like an ideal opportunity to make some kind of Soviet “CCCP” vs “CCP” joke.

      How about, what if the CCCP named each of their Five Year Plans like CCP names their patches?
      1. “Caryopsis” (ie, grain)
      2. “Trahere” (latin root for tractor)
      3. “Thales” (discoverer of electricity)

      and so on…

    • WarKiel says:

      This release plan was created exactly to avoid those problems.

      Different teams work on different kinds of stuff. When stuff is done, they put it into upcoming update. If stuff isn’t done in time for update, but say a couple of months later, they need to wait for the update after that to release it.

      This way, if they need to push back a release, it’s no problem. The update releases stuff that is done, and all the other stuff gets to wait 6 weeks instead of 6 months.

      If anything, the old 6 month system was more like the USSR planned economy.
      Locking their economy for 5 years on the assumption that it will develop as they expect it to.
      Had they gone with 1-year plans instead of 5, they might have fared better.

    • jalf says:

      This kind of planning ahead didnt work well for the USSR so I doubt it will end well for CCP. Just a matter of time till they stumble over their own release dates. And what then? Push back? Release prematurely? Im curious.

      You mean the kind of planning where you go “ok, next month, we’ll ship the features we have ready. The month after that, we’ll ship the features we have ready by then”? Yeah, that’s real hard to plan for. ;)

      That’s really the fundamental shift as I see it:

      Rather than saying “we are going to ship a huge exciting expansion, and it is going to contain these 15 awesome new features” (which makes it almost impossible to plan, because you can’t then simply ship it with just 14 features if the 15th one turns out to take longer than expected), it’s going to be “we know *when* we’re shipping the next update, so let’s see which features are ready by then. The ones that aren’t ready? No problem, those will go in a future update”

      Updates are basically going to be defined by their launch date, rather than the feature list. When it is time to ship an update, you ship anything that’s ready to ship. And anything that is not ready to ship does not get shipped at that point.

  4. LordXaras says:

    This is a good plan. Other games like Guild Wars 2 have adopted a model like this with great success.

    A major issue with EVE’s expansion releases has been that when a feature is “done” for release, teams are often redistributed to work on something for the next expansion. When the expansion is then released, it turns out that the feature was broken, but the teams couldn’t be pulled away from their new projects, which led to broken features languishing for a year or more.

    With an agile release schedule, a feature can be released, and if it doesn’t work as intended a fix can be released in a matter of weeks or months at most. It also means that teams are “freed” at a much faster pace. As soon as a team releases a finished feature, they can go on to fixing known problems. The team turnaround isn’t six months or more.

    It of course also means that features can be tested much more rapidly, and the need to rush something for release becomes almost nonexistent. A team can work on a feature until it’s done, and release it as soon as they’re ready.

    In fact, for the past several years, EVE has already been using point releases ahead and after an expansion, very much for these reasons. If a feature needs to be done for a new thing to work, release that ahead of the expansion. If a feature cannot be finished in time, release it after the expansion. This new schedule simply means that this practice is no longer ad-hoc, and instead of releasing features piecemeal they can release several things together, which makes releases easier to publicize, and probably reduces the headache on the operations team as they have fixed dates for releases.

    There is one major issue with this method though: expansions are excellent ways to get publicity. Expansions have names, themes, and long lists of cool features that make it easy for news sites to write about them. Guild Wars 2 has suffered from not having a reliable way to get these publicity waves. They’ve tried with the contextualization of their living world updates, but outside of Massively it’s rare to see regular coverage of these releases. So people who don’t play the game never get a sense that anything is happening. There are a lot of people who think that Guild Wars 2 is a dead game, when in fact it’s better than ever and the amount of content they’ve releases in their rolling updates far surpasses that of any MMO expansion.

    But for the people playing the game, there’s an amazing vibrancy and sense of development. Players see a rapid turnaround on feature and story development, and that makes it easy to maintain player retention. GW2 has a very rigid release schedule though, with players knowing to expect a release every other tuesday and a major update every or every other month.

    I think this is going to be good both for CCP’s developers and for the fans. No more “soon(tm)”, because the devs don’t know when a feature will be ready. No more getting disappointed in expansions because features had to be cut for deadline. CCP can focus on features instead of massive thematic updates, and so can the players.

    • GettCouped says:

      Great well thought out reply. You even used examples to support your perspective.

      You are a shining beacon rising above internet filth!

    • po says:

      I can see marketing having an issue with not having expansions, because they can’t wind up the hype machine properly without big new features to promote.

      Except we’re talking about CCP here, not Blizzard. They don’t sell their expansions, they’re free to all, and they also promised ‘No more Jesus Features’, which leaves marketing without much to promote for each expansion anyway.

      As someone who’s played both WoW and EVE a fair bit, (and someone who takes an interest in those graphs of player/subscriber numbers), it’s become pretty obvious that expansions are clearly just hype. All too often they contain incomplete, rushed features, and while the graphs peak for expansions, they also drop off very fast. WoW: Cataclysm being a great example of this. It’s the expansion that got me to quit WoW, at least until most of the way through MoP, and I’m not playing anywhere near as much as I used to, or subscribing full time (I was multiboxing 5 accounts before Cata, now I’m playing starter edition accounts, and occasionally subbing just one account).

      For a company not making anything from expansion box sales, there’s not much point in winding up that hype machine. There’s no real benefit to be had from getting people onboard for a short duration, before they get sick of waiting for the patches that will fix the buggy expansion changes, or if they’re a returning vet, coming back to find a whole load of bugs haven’t been fixed.

      I think CCP have a far more sensible, and long-term outlook, constantly making smaller improvements, and releasing features when they are complete, tested, and really ready to be released, as they will be in a state where they can be gratefully accepted by players, rather than causing explosions of forum complaints because of all their faults.

      It says a lot about a company, that after an expansion like Incarna, which saw players cancelling subscriptions by the thousand, they learned their lesson, to the point where the next expansion saw forum complaints from ‘Bitter-vets’ along the lines of “We have nothing left to complain about” and , “Now I’ll have to resubscribe, quit my job, and move back into my mom’s basement”.

      I think CCP dropping expansions is a sign that they’re still learning. I can’t wait for the upcoming changes, especially now that the wait is going to be a lot shorter.

    • kevmscotland says:

      Your comment about GW2′s visibility is dead on.

      I played it a lot at launch, then fell out of love with it and moved on. Little in the way of news made we want to go back.

      on a spur of the moment decision last week I decided to update and load it up, just for a quick hour or so.
      Logged into my character who had been left idle at Lions Arch………

      ……… wtf happened to Lions Arch ……….

      …. I’ll say no more for those that haven’t been online for a long time.

  5. Bull0 says:

    Obligatory “I’d love to get in to EVE but wouldn’t know where to start, think I’d be too far behind to enjoy it and don’t really play well with others” comment

    • TidiusFF says:

      Obligatory “You are not far behind older people, you can catch them fast in specific domain, they are only much versatile” reply.

    • mandrill says:

      Dammit TidiusFF, beat me to it.

      The main difference between new players and older players in EVE, apart from the aforementioned versatility, is knowledge. The longer you’ve been playing, the more real knowledge, experience and social connections with other players you’ll have.

      The playfield across newer and older players is pretty balanced from the perspective of the game’s mechanics. Its the unquantifiable values mentioned above which mean the difference between success and failure in EVE/Legion/Valkyrie, not how many level 5 skills you have.

      • po says:

        And the number of level 5 skills you have can be a lot if you just buy a character. Skill points don’t help you play the game though, anywhere near as much as either horizontal or vertical progression will in another MMO.

        I’ve got a friend who used to play EVE only using trial accounts, so he learned how to play to a high standard with characters with very low skill points, and he focuses on 1v1 PvP, where a lot of players are swimming in skill points, and are making use of very expensive ship modules and cybernetic implants for their character.

        EVE is a game that stands out among MMOs, because its progression is far more down to the players’ learning the game’s mechanincs, rather than through gaining more levels or equipment.

  6. Retro says:

    “but will instead receive ten annual updates”

    uhh.. that would mean one update per year, for the next 10 years..

  7. nitehawk says:

    Kronos release… does not change Kronos Battleship.

    Of course Marauders just got updated last year, so they are not due yet.

    Anyhow, I guess CCP figures since they release buggy features no matter how long they spend on them, might as well make more frequent updates to keep the hype machine rolling.

  8. killmachine says:

    i don’t know if or how bad it would be but they should offer an unlimited trial for the game. something similar to world of warcraft’s starter edition. there’s a max level, your ability to use the chat is limited, you have limited gold, limited access to the auction house etc… but no limit on time.

    sometimes i just have this itch to play eve but i won’t pay a sub for this itch. so i have to create a new trial account for 10 or so days each time i have this itch. would be much easier with an unlimited trial account.

  9. Notelpats says:

    I really love Eve, and subbed for a couple of months a few years ago. That was enough to teach me that I should probably never play this game again if I have any regard for real-life productivity, social connections and health. Even so, I regularly get the itch to jump back in… and then I remember my girlfriend will probably kill me in my sleep.. if I’m lucky.

  10. racccoon says:

    CCP = LOL

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