A new year is upon us, more improvements, more performance, more hardware and more speed
Martin Luther King Jr. said;
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
It's now 2007 in the real world but in EVE, we're supposedly quite more advanced and ... yet this quote somehow still makes sense, doesn't it? Well, maybe not for the Amarr :)
What's interesting to note from us these days is planning and scheduling for the upcoming year. We're pondering questions like "what should really be in Revelations chapter 2 and 3?", "how can warfare be warfare without warfare, and what is warfare without warfare?" and "who took my mountain dew?". All terribly important questions, mind you.
Yet, this is only a small part of what we're doing. We're preparing Revelations 1.3 for release at the end of the month. We're focusing on fixes and improvements in 1.3 and performance on many levels (more on that later). Later we will see Revelations 1.4, again focusing on fixes, improvements and performance issues, which you should see somewhere in March.
OK, so next expansion is in 2013?
Almost. Following Revelations 1.4, we'll be refocusing our efforts on Revelations 2. It was covered at fanfest, that we have the hots for warfare in Revelations 2 on all levels. But what does warfare & the increased emphasis on improving current content rather than adding new stuff really mean?
Of course, the fact that we spend more resources on improving instead of expanding EVE means expansions get less attention and improving gets more. We see this as a good thing and believe this is the right thing to do for EVE today. In reality, it means a more sharper focus on what's being expanded upon in Revelations 2 and a far bigger emphasis on improving what's already in EVE. But lets take a look at hot warfare (No, not that kind of hot. OK, maybe a little bit).
Warfare is achieving a goal
In our opinion, wars have goals. The best goals are the ones which you achieve, but by achieving that goal, you are creating a goal for your opponents and an inspiration for others to achieve or surpass that goal.
An Outpost is a good example of this, when you manage to build up such a massive infrastructure to raise an Outpost, but at the same time, you also create a large goal for your opponents.
We want to improve the goalsetting in warfare, by improving and adding options to player buildable infrastructure. This means improving Starbases, Outposts, Stations and Sovereignty. However, Warfare also needs something to fight with, so we want more tactical and strategic components there.
As you can imagine, this isn't only for the people shooting, this creates goals for everyone, a fighter can't survive without his industrial backbone. The industrialists must build the infrastructure and the merchants are there to supply the essentials you can't acquire yourself. It's all interconnected.
Tell us more about combat specifically
Sure. We'd like to see things like Heat, which is the ability to overload your modules for higher efficiency - at the potential cost damaging your modules and your ship.
It also works the other way around. Heat needs to be dispersed, otherwise it will blow stuff up. You can then decrease the yield of other modules and adjust your setup on the fly. Need more tanking? Increase it at the cost of your missile launchers.
We don't want Heat to be just yet another level of complexity for new players but rather to expand functionality that is already intuitive to the more experienced players. To do that we need to make it an option for more skilled players but not to make it too powerful so less skilled pilots can still compete.
We'd also like to see tactical starbase structures and modules, which deploy their effects remotely. No, this isn't a miniature Doomsday device, there is more than damage to deal out. Also on this line of thought, think "anti-blob" weapon, something which is bad for your fleet if you are all bunched up somewhere in one place.
Wait, you said anti-blob!?
Yes, quite right. The direction combat has been moving in the last year is a direction we don't like. It's becoming more and more important that you rack up 50+ ships to be able to do anything meaningful, preferably with 10 or more capital ships and astro-glide to get them into the solar system (what a suitable name for the space universe btw).
This isn't only hard on your real-life schedule (Well, I wouldn't know, I don't have one any more) but it's also affecting your gameplay. Who wan's to wait for 3 hours while a fleet is assembled?
Intermediate goals to the rescue
If you look at how player infrastructure is built, there are intermediate goals already in place. You need Starbases to build an Outpost. The problem is, that there aren't that many of them, especially not combat-wise. There aren't really any goals to achieve against the larger player infrastructure when you are a part of a roaming 5-man fleet. We want that to happen, there should be goals for smaller fleets. Note that this is specifically about "fixed" goals, not taking out industrials or camping a gate.
Small fleets are fun. Roaming around, no need to wait for people, just gather some friends and start some skirmishes, deep infiltrations, war of attrition, mischief, mayhem and soap. This is achieved by adding more ways to affect player infrastructure, not just the only option of full destruction.
We'd like to give you the ability to upgrade individual parts of an Outpost but likewise allow your opponents to disable that specific part. If it's a factory, it might put all jobs on hold until you repair the facility. Don't worry, there would also be defenses at the Outpost, but I think you get the idea. More goals and more stuff for smaller groups to achieve.
Sure, big fleet encounters are still in there, but there should be a more natural escalation towards the fleet encounter, it shouldn't be the only option. A large fleet encounter should also span multiple solar systems, have tactical and strategic goals, it should be worth something to flank your opponents constellation, right? Right.
How does this improve EVE performance?
As you might be wondering now, earlier we're talking about improvements, fixes and performance issues. All this simply adds more problems, right?
Well, no, that's the fun thing here. Everything listed improves performance. Smaller intermediate goals means less reason to blob, which is good for performance on all levels. Spreading out the force between multiple solar systems because that's better for the fleet results in better server performance. It's all part of this year's initiative, the "need for speed".
Need for speed?
This year, everything we do is determined by the need for speed initiative. We're improving current content out there, replacing 100 NPCs with 10 bigger ones. This doesn't only improve server performance 10-fold, it also improves client performance considerably.
Optimizing deadspace structures, utilizing fewer structures and optimizing environmental effects have the same effects. I'm sure some people enjoy the pretty slide-shows and taking out cruiser after cruiser, but hey. It's time to bring out some heavy-hitting NPCs, they just might get a clue and bring out some capital ships.
We'll also be overhauling old content to utilize the new features, such as triggers and events, less predictable NPC groups. It will change some of your old favorite missions, but we will strive to make them more fun, and more challenging while also improving your game experience and performance.
We'll also be doing more world-shaping, where we're dispersing some activity from certain hotspots. Moving agents around, so that there are less people per solar system, defusing market hubs with Interbus allowing you get delivery within a Constellation for example.
Removing asteroid belts from overcrowded systems will also happen, it not only makes sense from a roleplay perspective, their existence is also unnecessary. There are 4999 other solar systems with asteroid belts out there, you don't have to mine in Jita :)
Changing and adding jumps is also part of this. We need to reroute some traffic from the major hubs today, add more alternate routes around them and so forth. Much of these content improvements, as part of the need for speed, are in Revelations 1.3 and will continue throughout the year.
As noted before, all Warfare improvements in Revelations 2 are aiming for the same thing. Even though it's improving current features, it's encouraging gameplay which not only is more fun and easier to jump into, it's also good for the general performance of EVE.
But the improvement and performance work isn't only done in Content, it's a three-pronged approach. We have two full software cells now working on our core and client technology. The need for speed, improvements and performance is essential there.
The third is hardware. Part of the planning and scheduling now is determining the time and size of the 2-3 major hardware upgrades happening this year. And who can say no to hardware? We just have to figure out what hardware, how long we need to wait for the next-generation of hardware to replace current TQ and how we can make use of some more juicy stuff, like Infiniband or whatever we can get our hands on. And stuff. Ok, we admit it we're geeks. But we're proud of it, and EVE deserves only the best. I'm sure you agree :)
Sum that up please, can't be bothered to read all that
We're not safisfied with the current performance of EVE, we're not happy with the state of some features and we want to improve a lot of other aspects of EVE.
To be satisfied, to be happy, we will look inwards and keep on our focus, no - improve it even further, with awareness on all levels, content, software and hardware.
But if you made it all the way through to the end of this blog, you deserve a cookie. Part of our graphics engine upgrades, which also focus on performance, enables you to see the EVE universe in all it's glory. You have to remember that the engine is now 5 years old. Even though we're adding this (optional, mind you) stuff, we've found some room for improvement along the way and that's making it in.
This gives you an idea of how detailed our renovated large ships are, capital ships especially. As this picture obviously shows, we've now started doing stations, along with gates, starbases and environmental objects.
And talking about capital ships, the rumour is that ORE have one in the works. Unofficial sources state that it's not a miner per se, but is something every industrialist wants to have in his backyard.
So, signing off, pilots, we salute you! Till next time, same bat tim... oops, wrong setting. Uhm, Engage?