The path forward - EVE Voice, Lite, Vista, Kali and World Domination

We're back from E3 and it's time to spill the beans. I've been checking the forums and the speculation has gone rampant. Accusations are flying back and forth, the main message of course being us in our featured role as the root of all evil, cause of world hunger, and so on and so forth :)

E3 and the information released

The first thing which came up was the fact that we released information to the press first at E3. I can understand some getting frustrated by this move, but just to clarify: this was our first real E3 presence in years and releasing new information is kinda what the whole thing is all about.

To get the attention of the press, you have to tell them something new, something they don't know. Remember, we're competing for news spots with strange things that possess names like "Wii". If the information had already been available before E3, the press wouldn't have covered us. Old news don't sell well. Old news, in fact, is an oxymoron. I don't think those sell well, either.

The information continued: Kali release

Actually, from the forum posts I read, the main point of Kali's delay isn't such a bad thing. TQ is doing well and a good stable Kali release is the best thing for everyone. However, Factional Warfare seems to be the main object of frustration. While it's great to see such enthusiasm for a single feature within EVE, there is a boatload of reasons for the segmented release.

EVE China and its chain effect

China is a very big project. We realized that it would be big, but never this big! The China release was not supposed to have any effect on Tranquility - and to try and ensure that, we doubled the number of developers here at CCP. We're now up to 96 people.

Still, because of EVE's complexity, there is a need for a lot of the talent to work on the China release at some point in time, which has caused a cascade of resource shifts. With the expectations of the China market and the nature of the MMO industry over there, you only get one chance (the China MMO market alone is bigger than its entire western counterpart).

We therefore switched the focus points of a number of core developers to make sure we would be successful. And I'm sure you would ask why; how can EVE China be in a position to cause delays for Tranquility projects?

It's really simple at its core. If EVE is successful in China, the revenue which would become available to fuel the evolution of EVE would skyrocket. Note, there are a lot of reasons for this, one for example being that EVE China is a duplicate of the Tranquility universe, something which drastically decreases development cost.

In addition, EVE China is on a delayed release schedule, receiving the same expansions as Tranquility does, but at a later date. This means all development effort directly benefits both universes.

Oh, and of course, we want to be able to dance in stations, do Real-Time Strategy on planet surfaces and do joystick navigation combat inside massive comets or planetary dungeons. This you read here first.

Prioritize, dammit! Factional Warfare is God!

As much as I agree with this point, it's also the most risky project we have done for a while. We don't want a situation where 120.000 subscribers start doing Factional Warfare only. (Remember level 4 agent missions?)

Likewise, there are a number of core features that need to be in place for us to be in a position to release Factional Warfare. Better Combat Organization is one, the Contract system is another. This simply needs to be taken in steps.

The main frustration comes from the timeline, since the path to Kali spans the next year from now and Factional Warfare would be at the end of that. Well, this isn't exactly how it is today, but plans tend to change. This is why I'm going to show you a rough timeline so you can get a better feel for the current plans. I'd like to point out, however, that this is subject to change; it is shown here as an orientation and not as a hard promise of release dates.

Kali One Release - September 2006

This is what we're aiming to release in Kali One. The list is created from a number of criteria, the main factors being a "Prerequisite for future release", "low risk, short development, big bang" or "we really need to get this done" project.

  • Contracts
    This is the most extensive addition in this release, something which will affect players of all ages. Gives you the ability to manage corporations offline and create "missions" for players and corporations alike.
  • Combat Organization
    The new seamless map with new system scanning, new gang features and better facilities for situational awareness.
  • Exploration
    Rewarding exploration of space, utilizing new system scanning and the new seamless view (see above), enabling you to discover escalating paths. This is a prerequisite for Next-Gen R&D, which will be used for gathering a plethora of R&D items.
  • Next-gen Research & Development
    We're opening up this aspect of EVE with Reverse Engineering and Invention, enabling you to create Tech II blueprint copies by gathering knowledge and technology through various means, such as exploration.
  • Combat Boosters
    Creates regional uniqueness for 8 regions, from 0.0 COSMOS constellations with unique resources to mini-professions and specialized starbase structures. A whole value chain will be created around these items, enabling players of all "ages" to be part of the bigger process.
  • Ship Upgrades & Salvaging of Shipwrecks
    This instantly creates content throughout the whole EVE universe. By making all destroyed ships - player and NPC alike - drop new ingredients, which are salvageable with the right profession skills and tools, we create a massive market for ingredients and ship upgrades, which the average EVE player can now utilize to further upgrade his own ship.
  • Tier-3 Battleships
    The third battleship will be added to all races. Battleships are one of the most frequently used ship classes in-game and the class has only had 2 ships for each race. It's time for the third Tier.
  • Tier-2 BattleCruisers
    This popular ship class receives its second battlecruiser to all races.
  • Eight New Regions
    We'll be opening up the eight existing but closed regions in the "top right" section of the universe (No, not Jove, just below them). They won't be owned by any NPC faction and there will be no conquerable stations, only ore and stuff. This is done to make room for more players. It will include various rogue NPC entities.

This is our goal for September. Some of this will in all likelihood not make it, but now you have an idea of our intentions and what we want to achieve.

Kali Two Release - December 2006

Factional Warfare. Nothing else.

Kali Three Release - April 2007

Our final graphics engine upgrades and a similar feature set to Kali One. To clarify a bit, EVE "Classic" is a DirectX 9 engine, which is getting an upgrade. We then have the EVE Vista DirectX 10 engine, which is being created from the EVE Classic engine, but with a focus on utilizing the new features and optimizations in Windows Vista. Both will continue to live, both will have the same content. You don't have to use EVE Vista unless you want to. Note, also, that EVE Classic graphics engine upgrades might be released earlier than Kali Three.

EVE Classic, EVE Vista, EVE Mobile?

Yes, that's right. A client strategy is being molded, where we will be able to have different interfaces to the universe of EVE. "EVE Mobile" is probably a misnomer for the client shown at E3. "EVE Lite" would perhaps be more appropriate, since the E3 client is only a PDA client, for Windows Mobile 5 and has nothing to do with mobile phones.

EVE Lite is our way of providing a simplified client with a core set of functionality which does not necessarily require a 3D interface to use. Think EVE mail, Chat, Market, Assets, upcoming Contracts, Corporation Management and so forth. You'll be able to do a lot of things without having to have a laptop.

The reason we started with Windows Mobile 5 as a platform is because it was very similar to what we do inhouse, it's quite easy to work with and Microsoft helps us out a lot. However, the server-side groundwork opens up possibilities for other clients to be written.

Which ones? I don't know. Personally, I'd like to be able to check my contracts and train a skill on my Xbox 360 between playing Oblivion and PGR. Or on my smartphone. My PSP? DS? At work on my EVE Lite PC client? ("Uhm, this is the newest MSN messenger ... it has a market ... and stuff ..."). Let your imagination go wild. I know mine is. I'm thinking voice chat with my Directors in-game via my EVE PC Lite. :)

This can all still change

In addition to the features listed, all releases contain balancing, improvements, optimizations and fixes. Tuxford has given a glimpse of the upcoming balancing and you should see a lot of improvements showing up on Singularity when we deploy the first test builds.

The purpose of this list is to show you what we are working on now. You'll continue to get further updates, via blogs and forum posts, about individual features scheduled for the September release.

What about the voice?

This was one of the more interesting points. Why are we working on voice when "nobody wants it" and "it's already free?" This couldn't be further from the truth - including the part with us "working on it."

You see, we're working with the guys at Vivox to deliver this. As an example, the demo shown at E3 was almost entirely done by them - save for some hours of us giving them pointers on where to modify the code. It was great! We were like, "DAMN, that was fast (not to mention cool)!"

The final integration will require more than a couple of hours from us, simply because both of us have some really crazy ideas for all this, but in the larger picture, the effort is minimal from our side. We're getting the ability to listen to multiple voice channels and a mute all when gang leader/ceo/director/moderate speaks.

Thinking about future features, I mean, these guys can make us sound like the hawt chix we are in-game! (Not sure we want that tho ...) How about recordings of alliance meetings? Or voicemail in your EVEmail? These guys are hard-core and are providing some really scalable stuff; stuff we can't achieve elsewhere and certainly stuff we can't achieve on our own.

The second point was "nobody really wants it." This rationale looks to me like it's mainly spun from the "why are you working on this" question. A lot of people I know use voice chat in some form or to some extent to play EVE, be it Teamspeak, Ventrilo, Skype, or MSN Voice. If they don't, it's usually because of the hassle involved.

But that only covers voice, in a third-party application, where you may have problems getting larger organizations to meet. EVE Voice is much more than that.

Just remember this point, the next time your corp needs to change TS servers for a joint op:
Dude 1> What's the IP of the TS Server?
Dude 2: 32.567.83.89
Dude 1: kk
Dude 1: what's pw?
Dude 2: insecure channel, see pm
Dude 1: kthnx
Dude 1: could you get an op to drag drag me to the fleet chan?
Dude 2> omg die
Been there? I have :)

Sure, not everyone wants it. That's one of the main reasons why only those that do want it will have to pay for it. It's optional. There will be opportunities for a corp to enable it for all its members, which is really our main target group.

Which brings up the main point of "free". This simply isn't true for the current voice services, though it can be in certain circumstances. Skype is free for up to four persons in a conference, Teamspeak/Ventrilo can be free for you if someone else is paying for the hosting cost of the server (or able to host it freely). The software itself is free too, but not much use if you don't have a server to connect to.

But then again, this is exactly what we're talking about here too with EVE Voice and Vivox. Vivox hosts the voice servers and provides the bandwidth for the service and thus doesn't affect the EVE game servers. It's not about paying for the software; it's about covering the direct cost associated with the voice usage.

I'm going to leave the discussion at this point, since I'd like EVE Voice to prove itself on its own. The level of integration, ease of use and eventual feature set will speak for itself (no pun intended). If you are not convinced at that point, nobody is forcing you to use it; all your corp mates can still use any other voice service you feel fulfills your needs.

Summing it up

Information flow. Sometimes we simply have to keep secrets. It's not fun for us, it's not fun for you and we always try to share as much as we possibly can. However, some opportunities require an amount of exclusivity. That's how the industry works and we're not in a position to change that ... yet :)

Upcoming major releases. We tried to prevent EVE China from affecting the Tranquility release schedule and diverted considerable sums of our revenue into trying to ensure that. However, it still happened. Fortunately, EVE China will get launched over the next month and the effects of a successful EVE China will bring EVE to new station-dancing, planet-bombing, asteroid-bursting heights.

EVE Voice? I urge you to wait till you try it out. There will be ways to check it out without paying for it.

EVE Vista/Classic/Lite/Mobile. Wait for the revolution. Nobody will force you into Vista or DirectX 10, it's your choice. Do it when you feel like it.

Oh, and speaking of clients and platforms - and this is actually just on the rumour stage, but we want to share it anyway - we hooked up with Transgaming at E3 and they told us about some really cool upcoming stuff. I can't tell you about it, but EVE works quite well today on Linux with their CEDEGA platform :)

We're still here. Just a bit jet-lagged, been busy with resource-intensive and very costly hardware upgrades, trying to hit September with all the features we want in and make sure EVE China is going to be the benefit it should be for EVE as a whole.

We want to continue our path to EVE's world domination with you, since you made it all possible.

Hope you all stay along for the ride.