Sometimes you need to take a step back to take two forward, and sometimes your server infrastructure is such a colossal mess of interconnected software systems that you just have to hack out a bloody great chunk of it before anything can be improved.
In order to upgrade their server software to 64-bit standard, EVE Online studio CCP are officially saying goodbye to Eve Voice, their integrated voice comms client, and moving their regular text-chat system outside of their gameplay server infrastructure.
According to CCP, the death of EVE Voice is no great loss, with only 0.4% of players using it. The vast majority have long-since used third-party tools such as Teamspeak and Mumble, with Discord rapidly moving in to take its place as the dominant group communication tool. By externalizing text chat as well (apparently it will run via its own Amazon server cluster), it means that no matter how strained servers get, players should at least be able to stay in contact, lag-free.
This isn't even close to the first time that EVE has made cuts and down-scaled on plans in order to support the whole. The largest feature to be left behind has to be the ability to walk around inside ships and stations. Originally planned as a whole on-foot layer to the game, they eventually pared it back to just a captain's cabin aboard your ship, and then dropped it entirely after very few players ended up using the feature. Around the same time, they also axed Twitch integration, a seldom used and largely unnecessary feature.
Probably the largest concession EVE makes in terms of gameplay is Time Dilation. In order to save their servers from bursting into flames during larger battles (encounters on a scale quite unparalleled in the genre), time itself is slowed down as more ships congregate in a given area. During the largest of encounters, the game goes into super-slow-motion as missiles lazily swim through space and super-capital class ships maneuver at a glacial pace. Case in point: The battle in the video above.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn't very major news, but it's yet another example of CCP being willing to be clear and open with their audience about what needs to be changed in order to keep the lights on for the enormo-scale space sandbox.
EVE Online is now free to play, with an optional subscription allowing access to larger and more specialized (although not necessarily better) ships.