YARRBQ - My fanfest experience, Red Moon Rising, Kali and China

The second EVE Fanfest is over, people are flying home and I already miss all of the attendees. I met so many people from all over the world and I wish we could have had more time to talk and drink - incidentally, the latter was used by some groups of players to gank me to their tables :)

Ok ... this has to be the longest blog ever. Sorry for that :/

Festivities

The Fanfest schedule was much more packed this year, with the Friday rivalling the Saturday in many aspects. We'll look at getting the presentations online and stuff like the frapsed championship battles. However, the highlight of the Fanfest in my opinion was when Ramius Monteagne proposed to Caytlyn Rose, congratulations both! They were also the players from far-far-away, counting 30 hours of travel from New Zealand.

I attended 3 Roundtables, which were quite interesting and many good ideas and opinions came out of that. There are so many possibilities in EVE and we've just barely scratched the surface. I went to the RealX concert which was awesome, was able to grab some of the Tech Track lectures - of which Torfi was incredibly fun with his puppets :D

The EVE Collectible Card Game was demo'd all Friday alongside the EVE Tournaments which was to my surprise far more attended than I hoped. Lessons learned there is that we're probably doing a 3 vs 3 next year, with 8 or 16 teams being given their accoounts at registration, thus allowing ship selection and fitting immediately, rather than just before the bout. This should allow us to make it a special evening event which doesn't conflict with things such as the Roundtables or Tech Track.

That should make it more interesting than the duels which tended to get more and more predictable as the rounds finished, the "best" loadouts for the MK2 ships - especially the Caracal - spread out.

The fifth med-slot was discussed quite a lot and we're considering boosting it in another way than giving it the fifth med slot, since it turned it into a missile / ewar platform which is not really what we wanted.

It's not overpowered as such in my opinion except in a pre-arranged duel format. The jury is out on it and we're just gonna wait and see how the upgraded MK2 testing pans out on Singularity. Kudos to Shin Ra for winnig, even more to Tyrrax for sticking with his Amarr setups throughout the tournament and most to them both for making the finals more interesting with varying format in the rounds :)

My presentation was about the upcoming content expansion, Red Moon Rising, slated for December this year and our full expansion, codenamed Kali which is tentatively scheduled for late Q2 2006. We wanted to divide and conquer, splitting Kali up into two releases.

We have a lot of optimizations, fixes and general improvements that we want out and releasing the Kali features which are already done decreases a lot of risk factors. It also enables us to focus on the major things we want to release in Kali.

Red Moon Rising

The name signifies the total lunar eclipse where it turns blood red. It fits well with the escalation towards war and the arms race of the factions. What we'll see in Red Moon Rising is mainly optimizations, fixes and improvements but there are a couple of features in there and a lot of content.

On the Optimizations front we have the Turrets & Effects system rewrite ongoing and much of that will be released in RMR. We also have the Next-Gen Manufacturing & Research Facilities rewrite which should result in 5% of 140 cpu's being freed up.

On the Improvements side, you'll see Starbase Roles, MK2 Ships and a number of UI Improvements both new stuff and feedback from useability tests and of course we have tons of bugfixes. We're also adding more Corporation logos and if we have time, we're going to check out if we can make logos viewable on the ships when you do "look at".

We have a number of Tech 2 ships coming in Red Moon Rising, The Interdictor, which is the Tech 2 Destroyer and is a warp scrambling bubble ship, the Recon and Force Recon cruisers Tech 2 Cruisers, EW platforms where one of them has covert ops cloaking ability and bonsues to cynosural field generation.

We're also doing two Tech 2 Battlecruisers, the Command Ship and the Fleet Command ship, where the former is more combat focused while the latter is a pure tanking and leadership platform. In addition to that we will probably be able to get Tech 2 ammunition into RMR.

Needful things for mining coming in Red Moon Rising, 4 skills, 3 leadership modules, 2 mining upgrade modules - one for Ice and one for regular mining. 4 hardwiring implants and a leadership implant (mindlink). We also have Tech 2 Mining Barges and we added named ice-, strip- and Deep Core miners in addition to named mining upgrade modules. <br
With the Nex-Gen Manufacturing & Research Facilities coming in RMR, we will deploy Manufacturing & Research Starbase structures which allow for specialization, a reward for the added risk. If we have time, we'd like to add special manufacturing modules for some of the Capital ships allowing them for example to replenish their supply of Fighters but currently we're focusing on the Starbase structures and getting them ready.

We have 4 new bloodlines coming in RMR, one for each race, male and female. They look quite good at the moment but as was frequently asked about, you will not able to switch between bloodlines.

NPCs are revisited, we're adding elite pirates in Tech 2-ish ships and adding a number of ship classes like Destroyers and Dreadnoughts, too. We're enabling players to affect them with cap drainers and other offensive modules, but the NPCs are going to be able to retaliate in kind.

We're trying move to fewer but stronger NPCs which not only should make it more fun but also drastically reduce server load and client performance in high-end encounters but this is more of a long-term project so don't expect everything to be like this in RMR.

Eye for an Eye is a new system, which allows you to revenge the podding of your character if it happens under unlawful circumstances, such as in empire and not at war. You get a time limited contract, most likely a month, to revenge your death.

We're also flagging can's by ownership, criminally flagging you against the owner of the can, enabling him to shoot you without CONCORDOKEN for stealing his ore or loot.

Combat Revisited is a big and ongoing project, now focusing on prolonging combat by adding new defensive skills and improvements on a lot of defensive modules. We made some modules useful, like the damage controls and are looking at a number of other modules, making them a more viable choice in combat.

Prolonging combat should not only make it more fun but also enable us to take new paths in future expansions to deepen combat, like allowing players to overload modules at the risk of them getting damaged or destroyed and even allowing targeting of certain ship sub-systems - something which the current combat times does not offer you.

The flagship features of Red Moon Rising are Carriers and Titans. They fully personify the arms race of the empires, where you have the massive fleet support ships and a newer, more practical version of Titans which don't require depleting moons (well, not as much anyways).

There are 8 Carriers coming in RMR, 2 for each Empire eace. The Carrier is quite affordable in terms of Capital Ship and we expect most major corps to have at least one or two of these in their engagements, but we also have the Mothership which are considerably bigger version of the Carrier.

Motherships feature Ship Maintenace Array functionality allowing you to store ships and fit modules in space around it. They also have an corp hangar-ish ability so that you can get modules from it in space depending on your access rights.

You also get X-Large logistics modules for Carriers which should have drastic effects in fleet engagements and Fighters, the X-Large drones. We're also adding new drone functionality, which ones will make it into RMR is unknown at this point. The often mentioned salvage drone will not come since we're planning on doing a tractor beam for RMR allowing you to drag in your loot cans.

Player Titans are a less resource intensive version of Empire Titans requiring less depletion of the universe's resources but are just as big and more powerful in many ways than the older empire versions. They feature most of the main benefits of Carriers but have the added ability of fitting X-Large turrets and has a massive Superweapon.

Both Carriers and Titans are Tech 1 ships, so they will be available to everyone from day one. We might do something else with Titans but I think the sheer mineral logistics and costs associated with it should in itself keep them few and rare.

Kali - Q2 2006

I went over our main features for Kali and a couple that we really want in there. We're focusing on Factional Warfare in Kali since it includes Combat Organization, the project name for better fighting hierarchies and gang abilities, Medals and Certifications both for awarding by EVE through factional warfare but also for corps or alliances to give internally, Ranks for better visible organizations which should also benefit corporations and a number or ranking lists, such as the EVE Combat Rating which is ELO based.

One of the biggest changes to EVE in Kali will be the Contracts system, which not only enables complex contracts between parties which do not have established lines of trust - such as BYOM manufacturing contracts - but also enable organizations with established trust, like corporations or alliances to create "mission" like contracts, milestones and allow them to track achievement and empower players which are even more trusted without having to give full access to corp hangars.

We also have Combat Boosters. Think time-limited hardwire implants with drawbacks. They are creating a whole new value chain since the foundation of Combat Boosters are new ingredients found in 0.0 COSMOS regions, which then require Starbases with Drug or Chemical labs to create.

The 0.0 COSMOS regions all have the basic ingredients gathered with mini-professions, have a single unique ingredient, which allows you to create that regions special line of Combat Boosters and formulas for creating them all.

Get more unique ingredients from other COSMOS regions and you'll be able to make even more powerfull Combat Boosters. That should either lead to trading contracts - or simply people killing each other for them :)

On the list of what we really want to get into Kali is Next-Gen R&D moving us away from the free dish outs of blueprints and involving the player more in the gamplay. It also includes customization and modding of ships as well as more complex research of bleuprints and branding of the products.

We'd like to do rewarding Exploration, with system scanning and escalating paths (both seen under the drawingboard, New Environments which are also listed there but are really big projects requiring a lot of effort which we haven't been in the position to do and probably won't be in the near future. We'd also like to see Tier-3 Battleships and Tier-2 Battlecruisers.

Planetary Flight will not be in Kali, the effort required to make that the way we want to do it and how EVE deserves it makes all of Red Moon Rising pale in comparison. We might have to notch it down a bit in the end but it's currently post-Kali and requires a full expansion in itself.

China

Hellmar covered some China points and I'm sure he'll spill the beans on that when we have more firm details on that partnership, but I'd like to share a couple of points which we have decided on and the reasons why we're doing that since a lot of that affects our abilities to deliver content and full expansions.

The first major decision is that the universes are twins, they are identical except for a new resource distribution. There are a number of reasons for this. First and most obvious, is that all content and features created for Tranquility work directly in China, minimizing all porting and integration to a China universe, so we can instead focus our resources on creating rather than adjusting it all to fit both universes.

It's also financial and manpower. With a unified development path for both universe, we can leverage all the incoming revenue on increasing the team to create more content and finally be able to do bigger projects like Planetary Flight without it taking three years and half the company's manpower.

We're also seeing a different legislation and regulatory environment, where we would need to adjust Tranquility to conform to the new environment. This is not something we want to do, Tranquility has a set universe based on the gameplay which has existed there for 3 years and we don't want to disturb that balance.

We also see the China market is far bigger than all the western market combined, so that even a very moderate success for EVE there would result in 70% of the Tranquility population speaking Chinese. This is simple fact, the language barrier is enormous and as Hilmar pointed out, he had more luck talking Icelandic than English in China :)
We don't want that to happen either.

More on the barrier, everything has to be in Chinese. Agent missions, ships, modules, system names, everything. It can be done technically to see the universe with different langauges on the same cluster but "WTB Tempest Yulai" is not going to work anymore :)

It's also technical. When you're playing from China you have serious latency issues if you're trying to reach the broader market. Some cities have sufficient high quality connections but the majority don't. We have to take this into consideration.

Additionally, China has a very low penetration of credit cards so simply paying for the game is a huge barrier. You require massive marketing, distribution and store/internet cafe partners to get scratch cards into the hands of the player. This has the side-effect on gameplay that you pay for hours played in China while we traditionally subscribe for the month regardless of how much you play.

Last, but not least, Gaming culture in east Asia is radically different from their western counterparts. Buying ingame assets is considered a part of the games, be that from the provider of the game or from other players.

If we have to allow this for success in the China market we don't want to force this on Tranquility to conform to the asian gaming culture. I'm not saying buying ingame items is right or wrong, I'm simply not going judge other cultures against the values of my own.

Summing it up, China is nothing but good news for Tranquility players. It means more revenue to take on more staff which results in greater projects being done within EVE in a shorter timespan. I think it's time for us to welcome Tranquility's twin sister, Serenity.

Hope I see you all again next year, it was a blast. Thank you all, for making EVE possible. It's thanks to you that EVE is still going strong, bigger than ever.</br